"Sir, we don't really function as a gay club," one of the bouncers told Warrick. "There's a really nice one about a block away if you wanted to try there."
Warrick shook his head. "I'm not. I promise, I'm not."
"What made you think he was?" Nick asked.
"Both of you really, sir. You're both matching and you have...very well put together outfits. We don't want any trouble and we don't really want a reputation."
"It's fine, we've got style sense because we're young professionals," Greg offered.
"If you say so, sir. You're not our usual sort."
"We're celebrating me getting hired on to Chicago's PD."
"Oh. That's wonderful," the bouncer agreed. "Go ahead in," he offered, moving the rope out of their way.
The other bouncer looked over once they were inside. "I thought they were two couples too," he admitted quietly. "That was a delicate way of putting it and a good suggestion of where they could go. Nice work."
"Thank you." He looked at the next group, all girls, and let them in. Boss's orders.
Inside, Xander had gotten himself a drink and headed onto the dance floor, Greg not far behind him. Nick and Warrick were looking at each other. Nick headed to the bar to watch while Warrick went to find a pretty woman and make her pay attention to him.
"You guys together?" the bartender asked him as he walked up to the bar.
"Coworkers. We're CSI."
"Oh. You're one of those lab tech boys. Saw something on your job in the paper. Whatcha need?"
"Beer. Light beer."
"Sure thing, buddy." He got it and took the two bucks for it. "That young one with the light hair is cute."
"He's straight and dating someone," Nick said dryly, smirking at him. "Really, we all are."
"If you say so." He went back to serving others, keeping an eye on them. Someone might bother the nice guys in the closet. They didn't need that sort of reputation.
Out on the dance floor, Xander's partner was smiling at him. "What do you do?" she asked over the music.
"I'm with the police department."
"You're a cop?"
"No, I'm a lab tech."
"I thought only the gay guys and the geeks got those jobs."
"I am a geek," he said with a grin. "I'm a ballistics tech."
"I say which gun shot which person."
"So you get to play with guns every day and get paid for it?" she teased. He grinned and nodded. "Do you get to stroke them?"
"Only when I'm cleaning my own," he shot back with a small smirk. "I'm not allowed to stroke the guns at work." She laughed and moved closer, blatantly feeling him up. "We're celebrating. I'm moving to Chicago in a few months."
"It'll be cold up there."
"That's okay, I've never seen snow." He winked and she beamed, moving closer. He felt someone brush against his back and looked back there, finding Greg back there. "Back off, you can't steal my partner."
"Wasn't going to." He danced his partner off.
"One of my coworkers. Him, the guy at the bar and the yummy, tightly packed dark guy in the corner." He pointed at Warrick and she drooled. "Go ahead. He needs a new girl. Hasn't had one in a while. Work's been hell on him and he needs to relax."
She danced that way, going to hit on him. "Hi. The nice guy said you needed to relax," she said with a cute grin as she moved next to him.
"I do," he agreed, grinning at her. "Which nice guy?"
"The ballistics guy. He's nice but he said you're yummy and good."
"I don't know who he heard that from, but I am," he agreed with a grin, liking this one. She was bold. "What else did he say?"
"That you needed some stress relief because work had been hard recently."
"It has been," he assured her. "Very hard." She moved closer and he let her, knowing what she wanted. He wasn't against that idea, but he was supposed to be watching Xander. He glanced at Nick, nodding out there before taking the girl off. "Sorry, we're supposed to be watching out for him. Only bad girls like him."
"It's all the guns," she purred, leaning against his side. "He said he can't stroke them at work, but he does his own when he cleans them."
"I'm sure he does," he agreed, letting her do whatever she wanted, as long as she quit talking about Xander and sex. He didn't want to know that much about the guy.
Nick came out onto the floor and nearly got pounced by two girls. "Hey," he said with a boyish grin. "New to the city?"
They nodded and led him off to dance with him. One of them noticed his checking on Xander. "With him?" she pouted.
"No, he's a coworker but bad girls love to try to hurt him so we're keeping an eye on him tonight." They cooed at him and danced him off to a dark corner and a table.
Greg looked over at Xander, then at his date, winking at her. "Got five minutes?" She nodded, leading him off.
Xander looked at the person dancing with him. "So, how evil are you?" he asked with a small smirk. "Only bad and evil people really like me. Since you licked me, I'd say you're either a vampire or really, really naughty."
"I'm just naughty," she offered, moving closer to rub against him. "Being good is so *boring*." He nodded, smirking as he danced with her the way she wanted. She shivered and clung to him, letting herself rub against him and make him hot. By the end of that song she was biting into his neck to muffle her gasps of pleasure. Then she moved off, letting another woman have him. She licked the blood off her lips and went to clean up, finding a nice guy getting some in the bathroom with a girl she'd seen the guy she just rubbed off on earlier. She rinsed her mouth and went to the bar to get another drink before going back onto the floor for a new target.
Xander turned to find out who had just grabbed his waist and saw a familiar body standing there. "Faith," he said dryly, shrugging. "I'm celebrating. I just got a new job. Oh, Greg's here."
"Smart guy you did the last time you were here? Really, really smart guy, like smarter than Willow smart guy. Blondish?"
"Oh, Greggy," she said with a grin, winking at him. "He's cute. Like him?"
"He's one of my buddies." He moved her closer, staring at her. "Why are you here?"
"Willow said you had to do the deed," she offered back. "She and Buffy wanted to see you."
"That's what I said." She kissed him, then pulled back. "Man, I can feel evil me coming out. Gotta go." She hurried off. She knew Xander could make her go bad. She'd watched others go bad just for lusting after him. And he was hot tonight. He smelled like sex and smoke. She almost went back but some inner voice told her to walk away before bad girl Faith came back out. She ran into Greg and kissed him to distract him, then hurried out, going somewhere less fun. Just in case. She couldn't afford to go bad again.
Greg shook his head and looked over at Xander, who had some woman wearing a leather cat suit pressed against his front. "That was Faith." He watched as the leather woman licked up Xander's neck, making him shiver. He looked at his dance partner. "She was my ex, and he's my coworker, think we should save him?"
"No, he looks like he's having fun." She walked him up to the bar to buy them a round. She was a modern and liberated woman. Besides his mouth had to be dry with the way he had pleased her. She always rewarded good service.
Xander looked at his partner, smirking down at her. "Needed more?" he asked in his most sexy and deep voice. She moaned and clung to him, letting him dance her off to a corner. She vamped out and he tapped her brow ridge. "Naughty you," he said playfully. "You don't attack a Knight, honey. It's a bad thing." She backed off and changed back, then ran off. He shrugged and went to get another drink, he liked the virgin fruity stuff they served here. He walked up to the bar. "Can I have another one of those redberry fruity virgin things you gave me the last time?"
"Sure," the bartender agreed with a grin. "She ran off too?"
"She wanted to bite and I've already done that tonight." He started to pull his wallet but a woman winked and put down a five for him. "Hi."
"Hi. You're adorable."
"Thank you. My buddies in the PD labs say the same thing." Her eyes went wide and he licked his lips, making her do the same and then wipe off the cocaine trail on her top lip. "Thanks for the drink."
"Welcome." She watched him walk off, nearly drooling. He was fine! Too bad he was proper and uptight that way. She looked at the bartender. "You get some hot guys in here. I'll have to come back." She left, heading home so she could cool down. He'd never take her now but maybe next time she'd be his. He seemed to do a lot for women by the way the one dancing with him now was nearly pissing herself in pleasure. She looked over as an unmarked car pulled up and hurried off. She didn't want to be around real cops.
Xander found a new dance partner, a blonde, and was shaking it with her, making little quipish comments now and then when she asked stuff, making her grin and want him more. Eventually she drug him off to a quiet corner and was kissing him when someone coughed and pulled him off. "Hi, Cap, am I in trouble?"
"No, but she is trouble. Daughter."
"Dad," she said grimly. "Go away." She looked up at him. "You work with him?"
"Yeah, I'm the ballistic intern." He grinned at her and kissed her, making her moan. "I can't defile a young and pure beauty like yourself in front of her daddy. Especially not when I respect him for being such a tough guy. So I'll leave you alone with that last pleasure." He walked off, heading back onto the floor.
"How did you know I was in town, dad?" she asked, staring at him with glazed eyes. "You couldn't have waited?"
"No. His last date turned stalker on him. I don't want him to turn you bad too." He walked her out to his car to talk with her. "Why go in there?"
"No cover and it had a quickly moving line, plus they were letting in all the women."
"Ah." He nodded. "Well, it's a good reason but I think I'll protect you from him. He's a nice guy but he's looking for a serious thing with a woman who won't turn bad."
"I'd turn good for him," she offered, staring at the club. "How did you find me?"
"Your tracker and his tracker were in the same building. I figured I'd make sure you were still normal." He patted her on the back of the head. "Forget about him, Ellie, he's just a fantasy. A very good fantasy."
"Oooh, he certainly is that and I'm going to be having good dreams for weeks," she purred. She grinned at her father. "So, I'm back for a few months. That cool with you?"
"Just fine," he said blandly. "Want to have lunch with me? I'm off right now."
"Sure. I need my energy to stalk that one." She let her father walk her off, hoping he'd spill more dirt. Men didn't act like that with her often and he was very cute. She'd have to pop around on her father to see him again.
Inside, Xander was babbling at Warrick. "I just made a pass at the Cap's daughter," he finished. "Now she's gonna go bad and he's gonna hate me and I'm gonna be in deep crap."
"You're not," he promised. "Ellie's already got a dark streak. You'll be fine, Xander. Now go play." Xander nodded, going to go play with someone else. Warrick looked over at Nick, who was still being flirted with by the two women, then at Greg, who was back on the dance floor with his girl of choice. "Maybe we should switch spots," he decided, going to gather the others. He tried Nick first. "Ellie's here."
"Clampet?" one of the girls asked. "I saw that movie, I didn't know it was based on reality."
"No, our captain's daughter," Warrick told her. "She just had to be drug away from Xander."
"Brass will set her straight," he said with a grin. "We'll be fine."
"I was thinking maybe we should switch spots. That's six girls who've hit on Xander and tried to take him." He looked around. "Where is he?"
"Out the back door," the other girl said. "With the leather chick from earlier. He must like them tough."
"He only dates evil women," Nick assured her. "He's even had to turn some bad." He smirked at Warrick. "He's fine. He's got very good defense mechanisms."
"Fine." He went off, going to the bar. They'd track Xander if he wasn't back in a few minutes. Maybe they'd go to one of his favorite places instead. Much more calm and steady there. He noticed Greg looking around and caught his eye, nodding out back. Greg frowned and went that way, dragging a panting Xander back in. "What happened?"
"Vampire. Wanted me to stake her," Xander said with a shrug. "Cute and all but not the sort I wanted to stake tonight." The bartender grinned and handed him another drink. "Thanks, man, but I think we're heading to a new place." A few of the women pouted. "Sorry, but I don't want to hurt anyone and she was mean to me." A few of them broke off from the pack at the bar and took him back onto the floor to make him feel better.
"I thought I was good," Greg said in awe. He looked at the bartender. "What is he drinking?"
"Virgin mixed fruit drinks."
"Wow. I'll have what he's having." That got a grin. "We're buddies, but I never got hit on like that." He took the drink and paid for it, going back out to the floor. One of Xander's women broke from the herd and came to cull him from the group, making him one happy guy within twenty minutes.
Nick finally got away from the girls and gathered Greg from where he was resting at a table, Warrick from the bar where he was talking music with someone, and they went into the bathroom to save Xander together. The girls were in that hazy-afterglow spot, but Xander was cleaning himself up. "Were you careful?" he asked.
"Nick, I grew up clubbing in LA and Sunnydale. I take all known protections and precautions. But thanks, dad." He took a paper towel to wipe his hands and face off. "We moving on?" They nodded. "Thank you, ladies, I needed that," he said with a smug grin for them. "Have fun without me and call my name?" They moaned and got up to kiss him, going back to pick up new targets. Xander followed the guys out, letting Greg drive again. "Where to now?"
"Somewhere calmer," Nick said. "I didn't realize those two were only sixteen."
"They looked twenty," Warrick offered.
"They did. They said they're freshmen. I thought it was at the college." Xander chuckled at that. "Anywhere calmer you know?"
"Sorry, I only hit places with good dance music. Calm isn't why I go to clubs. I get calm at the library."
"I don't think we can hang out there tonight," Greg told him, starting the car and backing out. "Who was that one Captain Brass drug off earlier?"
"His daughter," Xander said grimly. "And I was hitting on her hard when he showed up. She had her hand down my pants and her tongue halfway down my throat and he's going to kill me tomorrow."
"Nah, he likes you," Nick promised, grinning at him. "Hey, Greg. Let's head to the club inside the Venetian."
"Hell no," Warrick said dryly. "I'm all sexed out, guys."
"We can drop you off at home," Xander offered with a grin. "That way you can nap."
"I already rested, but how are you still conscious?"
"Lots of practice," Xander said smugly. "Mostly fighting. Builds stamina like you wouldn't believe. That and Anya had this contest against a certain pink bunny to see who lasted the longest." That had been the weirdest bragging session he had ever heard, her against the pink bunny demon who punished bad children. "Hodges knows this one place, and he seems like the sort to favor calmer places."
"I can't imagine Hodges clubbing," Nick admitted, shaking his head. "Maybe a martini bar, but not clubbing."
"That's the sort of place we need so we can calm down, have a snack, and then move back into somewhere more fun," Warrick said.
Greg nodded. "I could use some food. I'm wiped."
"Sure, I could eat," Xander agreed. "Just not anyplace too low key or I might nap due to the music." He grinned. "Hey, Greg, there's a Lords concert coming up. Wanna go with me?"
"Sure, we'll go," he agreed. "When?"
"The twenty-ninth. I have it off already."
"I can be there," he agreed. "I'll beg to be on-call."
"Lords?" Nick asked. "Like Traci Lords?"
"No, like Lords of Acid," Xander said with a bright grin.
"They're often described as porno soundtrack rock," Greg offered, turning a corner. "Where are we heading? Warrick, you like jazz places."
"Ah. The Pharaoh's Tomb?"
"I've been there," Nick agreed. "It's nice. Easy, comfortable chairs and pretty girls. Background music."
"Sure," Xander agreed. "I'm still hungry. That vampire chick bit really hard and then the real vampire tried for a nibble too." Greg stopped at a light and looked back at him. "I'm fine. Faith ran off because she said she felt her evil self coming back. Green light."
Greg started moving again, shaking his head. "I wondered. Why was she in town?"
"Delivery girl. Buffy and Willow want to see me."
"Only if we can arrest them for being mean to you," Nick promised, patting him on the thigh. "Let's go somewhere we don't have to defend ourselves and our straightness."
"That's a good place for that," Warrick promised. He pointed it out and Greg pulled into the valet parking, letting them all get out and handing the car over. "Hey, Xander, thanks for sending that one girl to me. I don't know you know that I'm yummy and good to my women, but thank you. She was very nice."
"I heard Catherine and Sarah chatting in the halls," he quipped, grinning at the bouncer. "We're on break between clubs."
"I can see that," he offered. "You're a bit sweaty, sir."
"It's water, I hosed down before we left." He pushed back his hair, then wiped his hands off. "Better?"
"Much. Thank you." They paid their cover and he let them in, watching as they went to find a table and something to drink and nibble. He shook his head. "They're a cute set of couples. Such nice gay men usually tip well."
Xander flirted with the waitress as she came over to serve them. "Do you have anything virgin? I've got to work tomorrow and we can be tested now and then."
"We've got daiquiris that can be made virgin or we have coffee." She smiled at him. "Whichever you prefer."
"Can I have a cherry daiquiri?" She nodded. "And something to nibble? Maybe something soft, and warm and gooey?"
"Sure," she agreed with a wink for him. She looked at Warrick. "I haven't seen you in a while. The usual?"
"Sure, and bring us an appetizer tray. We're on break between clubs."
"Of course. For you?" she asked, grinning at Greg.
"I'll have what he's having. He's got good taste and switching to his stuff got me one of his castoffs."
Nick looked at him. "It did?" Greg nodded. "Why?"
"I don't know, but she was very nice and polite."
"Then my innate nature sent her off," Xander said with a grin. "Otherwise she'd have been dirty and naughty by the end of the night." Nick snorted and Warrick groaned, shaking his head. "We all remember the last one I dated. She went stalker."
"Point," Nick agreed, looking at their waitress. "Can I have a coffee, light cream, one sugar?" She nodded, taking their orders back to the kitchen. "I still want to see if anyone can figure out why and how you do that to them, Xander."
"I don't know," he said with a small shrug. "Maybe I just radiate vibes that only draw the girls who want to be bad."
"Maybe it's something less sinister and it's in your sweat," Hodges said as he pulled a chair over. "Hey, guys. Having fun?"
"Yeah, we've been dancing with the girls who can't be naughty enough for Xander," Warrick said. "You?"
"Escaping the station. Ecklie had a screaming, jumping up and down, fit in the center of the hallway. They came to take him away." He sipped his drink. "You don't drink, Xander?"
"Not often. I had my beer for the month earlier." He gave him a smug look. "We're heading somewhere else in a bit. Wanna join in?"
"Sure. I've got nothing better to do for the rest of the night." He looked at Xander's neck. "You need a band-aid."
"Yeah, I know. Some girl bit me and then a vampire tried to help clean it up and nibbled." He took a napkin and blotted it, looking at the blood. "I should go clean that up. Be right back." He stood up and paused to let the woman in the diamonds go past, heading around her to go to the bathroom. By the time he came back, he had food and a drink, Hodges was getting the stories from earlier in the evening, and Nick was blushing hard. "What? The two teenagers hit on you?" he teased.
"Yeah, they did. I swear I thought they were older."
"It was the makeup. Too much camouflage." He sat back down and looked at his food. "Ooh, cheese. Is this a pick up with my fingers thing?" he asked, looking at it.
"Use a fork, Xander," Hodges ordered. "It's always socially polite unless you're at a picnic or in a deli." He looked at Warrick, then back at his buddy. "When did those two say Warrick was yummy again? I didn't hear that one."
"They were talking about the upcoming bachelor auction. Sarah did say they had to keep me out of it and away from the bidders." He grinned at him. "Apparently they don't want any other problems."
"I didn't know you had signed up for that," Greg told Warrick. "I thought I was the only CSI in it."
"I didn't know I was in it either," he admitted. "Am I?" he asked Xander.
"They were talking about who'd bring in good money," he said as he tried to cut a piece off.
The waitress came back and whispered in his ear. "It's temptation food, sweetie, bite and lick." He moaned and nodded, doing just that, making her smile. "Good boy." She smiled at Warrick. "If you do get auctioned off, I want to know the day and time so I can bid." She winked and refilled Nick's coffee before leaving again.
"Switch places with me," Hodges said, smirking at Warrick. "That way some of his magic wears off on me."
"It's every man for himself against the women who want Xander," Nick told him. "Including Brass's daughter." Xander blushed and ate another bite, licking off the cheese string. He nearly moaned and he was straight. "How do you do that?"
"Practice. I eat out a lot," he reminded them. "I eat a lot of pizza."
"I don't think that's what he was talking about," Hodges told him. The woman with the diamonds came back and handed Xander her number before walking on. They all waited until she and her husband were gone to stare at him. "Hey, threesome," Hodges said dryly.
"Not the first offer," Xander said, tucking it into his pocket. "We'll see. She was cute but he looked older and unhealthy." He ate another bite, then sipped his drink. "I like that," he said, looking at it. "Very cherry." He took another sip and went back to his nibbling. "Eat, guys. You're making me self-conscious."
Warrick shook his head, clearing that thought out of his mind before he found something to nibble too. "Go ahead and dig in Hodges. Any ideas where we're going to next?"
"Somewhere with a good dance floor," Greg suggested.
"The Rodeo Club?" Xander offered.
"No country music," Hodges reminded him. "You'll make Greg break out in hives."
"I can stand some light country," he defended. "Nick always puts it on when we go out on a scene together."
"That's because yours gives me a headache," Nick said firmly. "Somewhere not metal, please?"
"There's a nice place with a dance music night. I think it's tonight but it's over by the bad section of town," Xander offered. "Called the Playground?"
Warrick looked at him. "I know that club. I know some of the gang members who go there. They let you in?"
"Yeah," he said, shrugging a bit. "Why wouldn't they? I only go on dance music night, not on rap night or open mic night. There's plenty of people allowed in on dance music night."
"Still, I don't feel like getting shot tonight. I'm a bit too white-guy to go there, Xander," Greg defended. "Hodges would never get in. How about the Zone?"
"Sports bar?" Warrick asked.
"No, not that one, the Latin club."
"I can almost salsa dance," Xander offered.
"They've got some beautiful women there," Nick agreed.
"It's a nice place to sit and watch too," Hodges offered.
"Sure, we'll go there," Warrick agreed. "Where is it? I've never been."
"The other side of King Arthur's stables," Xander told him. "I pass by it on the bus all the time. Maybe I'll get a new car before I head out there."
"It'd make it easier to move," Nick agreed. "Or a U-Haul."
"I don't have that much stuff. I barely fill the trunk with my safe in the back seat."
"Safe?" Hodges asked.
"Oh, that end table you have. Gotcha."
"What end table?" Warrick asked.
"The safe's got a flat top and it takes up room if you don't double-duty it," Xander told him. "It's the one the ugly lamp is on."
"I saw the lamp. I didn't realize that was a safe." He ate another bite of his cheese stick and looked around. "It's a slow night here."
"It is," Xander agreed, picking up his other hot, cheesy thing to nibble on and suck the cheese off. He heard a moan and looked around but no one was that close. He took another bite and heard another moan, finding her finally. He grinned at her and she winked, sipping her wine. "'Scuse me, gentlemen. I'll be right back." He walked over there to talk to her, making her giggle and blush, then kiss him and pass him something. He handed it back with a wink. "I don't need that," the guys heard.
"I insist. Even if it's not your profession, you obviously deserve it."
"Yes, but you could get me in trouble. I'm not allowed to accept gifts from just anybody," he said in his best shy boy voice. "I work with the police and they frown on that."
"Do you help them with the serve part of their motto or the protect part?" she asked, putting the roll of money back into his hand. "Really, you'll need it." She stood up and kissed him, making herself moan when he did it properly. She pulled back and tipped her head up to breath, then kissed him again before walking off, walking very funny. The valet looked at her and walked around to help her into her car, and she gave him a reward when he gave her a helping finger. "He's good," she moaned, kissing him on the cheek and tipping him handsomely. "Thank you, dear. Remember me." She drove off.
Xander sat back down and put the money on Warrick's plate. "Here, for dinner."
"This place is expensive but not that much," he said, handing it back. "We all heard you protest and tell her you weren't for sale. Consider it a tip." He saw the blush. "Hey, it's not a bad thing."
"Yeah, it is," he muttered. "I'm not for sale. I only like fun women." The waitress came back and he tipped her half of it. "For dinner."
She looked at the six hundred dollar bills, then at him. "The next time you come back, ask for me," she offered, kissing him herself. It was more than worth it. She walked off, paying for their check and pocketing the rest.
"That's it, tomorrow I'm doing a hormone, spit, and sweat analysis. If I can bottle that, I'll split the profits with you guys," Greg said to break the staring they were all doing at the very red Xander.
Nick chuckled and nodded. "I'll help you collect samples."
Hodges took another drink of his martini. "Well, Xander, we knew you were in high demand as a ballistics tech, but this puts whole new meaning into the phrase a warm gun is a happy home."
Xander blushed ever brighter and headed into the bathroom to calm down. Maybe he should let Greg figure this out for him, before he got into real trouble again. When he came back, they packed up and headed to the next place, going to watch and see how he did it. Xander's shy boy routine there, mostly because he was still flustered, got him pounced by someone who called him kitten and demanded he purr for her.
Xander walked into Grissom's office the next night, handing him a statement. "Here, just in case I get into trouble for last night. I protested that I didn't want paid for dancing with them. I protested that no one had to pay me to kiss them. The guys heard me protest that most of the times. I didn't ask for it, I didn't want it, and I'll hand over everything but what I gave our waitress last night and the fee for my new bus pass."
"What?" Grissom asked, reading it. He stared, then looked up at Xander. "They did what?"
"They decided I was for rent. Even though I'm not and we all know I'm not for rent, they decided I was for rent and made me take it. Even when I protested and tried to run away they still protested and gave me tips for dancing with them. I don't know why, but it was odd and the PD can have it if they want it, minus the bus pass money and the stuff I gave to the waitress after the first one," he babbled.
"Was this before or after Captain Brass's daughter hit on you?" he asked patiently.
"After. We left that place after some nice nookie in the bathroom, carefully of course, and went to a nice, calm bar where we could have a snack. Which I did. A woman there flirted, I flirted back, went over to talk to her, she tried to pay me. I told her I couldn't accept gifts, that you guys would mind. She insisted, I told her no, she put it into my hand, kissed me twice, then left!"
"How much did she give you?" Sarah asked from the doorway.
"Twelve hundred. I gave the waitress six of it and she gave me a kiss too." He looked at Grissom. "Then we went to that place behind King Arthur's stables and salsa danced. And it happened a few more times, even though I protested. I protested a lot, I even let Warrick protest one of them for me. They still did it and none of them wanted more than a kiss. I don't know what I did last night or what got on me, but I swear, I didn't ask for it, I didn't offer it, I didn't solicit it. I just got given it."
"Maybe you should join our bachelor auction," Grissom offered.
"No, Grissom, think about a high society woman going evil like his last one," Sarah protested. "Please don't do that to us." She got out of Captain Brass's way. "Convince him we don't need Xander in the bachelor auction because we don't need more naughty rich people."
Brass looked at the kid. "What happened after I drug my daughter away from you?" Grissom handed over the statement. "Nick told me about that." He looked at the kid. "As long as you didn't solicit it and tried to protest, it's a gift and you can keep it. Use it to buy a new car."
"I can buy a Beamer for what I got given last night," he complained. "I already thought about paying my rent ahead but I wasn't about to get into trouble for it. It's bad enough Stanley laughs at me for it. I had one woman there give me her diamond earrings and suggest I use them to give myself good piercings so I could play with them and remember her. I didn't do more than flirt with her." He looked at Grissom again. "Greg wants to know how I do this. Can we figure that out so I can stop it? Before someone tries to kidnap me again?"
"Again?" Sarah asked.
"Yeah, when I was broken down one of my customers at the club wanted me more than the dancers because I brought him good beer. He tried, really hard, but he was a bit too drunk and I walked off before he noticed." He shrugged. "I don't know why."
"Calm down, Xander," Brass told him. "They heard you saying no, right?" He nodded quickly. "Each and every time?"
"They might not have heard all of them," he offered.
"Yes we did," Greg called from the hallway. "That's why Hodges was lurking near you. That and to figure out what lines you were using." He stuck his head in. "We did hear most of them and Hodges heard all of the later ones, Captain. He really did protest very hard. He even made a few of them take it back, and they pouted horribly at him for it. So, Xander, new car tonight?"
"Yeah, we can do that," Xander agreed. "They want me in some bachelor auction."
"No, your allure is up close and personal, not in mass quantities. You'd also have to offer them a dinner and a night out on the town."
"I can find a good restaurant and order," Xander reminded him.
"Yeah, but you'd have to use good manners all night and that means Hodges would have to brush you up on it again and then the rumors would come back."
"I don't know why, Greg, considering everyone thought we were two couples going out together last night," he said dryly. "And later a trio and a couple going out together." Brass snickered at that. "They did! The first club's bouncer thought we were two couples going out together and offered us the address of a nice gay club."
"Don't remind me," Nick said from the hallway. He walked in and handed over a few envelopes. "From the front desk. You didn't get your messages or badge." He looked at Brass. "That about how the women *insisted* he take money?" He nodded. "He okay?"
"As long as someone heard him protest."
"Oh, we did," Nick assured him. "Quite often. Warrick and I had to drag him out of the salsa club and take him to a harder place so the rich women would leave him alone."
Xander opened the first envelope and whimpered, handing them to Captain Brass. "Here, you need a new car," he said, walking off, going back to the ballistics lab. "Can I actually come back today?" he asked.
"Yes, you can, and there's nothing to do yet. I just finished one. Go ahead and check the filed guns and then clean our stock pieces."
"Sure." He went to check on the guns they had filed away as active cases. "We're missing the Bergstrom? There's a file and no gun or bullets."
"I just finished it, I'm doing the report."
"Cool." He moved onto the next cabinet, looking through there. "Enis?"
"Done. Handed over and done."
"Sure." He moved on, then moved to look at their supply of stock guns. They were dusty again and he could use the time cleaning them. He pulled over a stool and the small table he used for this, along with the supplies and pulled down the first one to work over.
"Hey, Xander, want to be in the bachelor auction?" Catherine called. She leaned in the door. "I'll put in there that you need a mothering and gentle touch because you're shy and delicate."
His eyes went wide. "I don't need picked on about last night," he complained.
"I'm not. We're short a few people. What happened last night?" He mumbled something. "What?"
"He said people gave him money even though he protested," Hodges said from behind her. "He protested a lot and they still did it. We ended up having to save him from that at the salsa club." He walked the envelopes inside and put them on Xander's usual spot. "Captain Brass said he couldn't accept the gift either but that you could buy dinner the next time you and he went to the sports bar."
"Sure," Xander said weakly, staring at them. "There's more?"
"Two of them came in Warrick's name. One came in Greg's name, and three were in my box," Hodges told him. "Overflow. They apparently forgot your name but remembered your lips and hips." He smirked at him. "So, what are you ordering Greg and I for lunch today?" Xander whimpered and put his head down, shaking it. "Sure, we'll decide later, Xander." He patted him on the back and went back to work, satisfied that he had finally gotten to pick on him about something.
"Hold on. Women gave you money, even though you protested, and you didn't sleep with them?" Bobby asked. Xander nodded, banging his head on the table. "Why?"
"Ask Greg, he's trying to figure that out."
"If I asked, would you rub yourself on me after work tonight so I can go out clubbing?" Catherine asked. "You'll need a tux for the auction, Xander. Rentals are fine. Give me an idea of where you're willing to take the young lady who wins you on a date within two weeks please." She left, going to chat with Grissom and tell him about the other envelopes, but he and Brass were already chatting about it. "Is it against regulations if I have him rub himself against me so I can go out clubbing and find someone to date tonight?"
"Probably not, but it could be seen as sexual harassment," Brass told her smugly. "Where is he?"
"Hiding in ballistics, head down, banging it on a table." She heard a louder bang and winced. "Or maybe he just hit a filing cabinet, I'm not sure."
"That was me," Warrick shouted. "Sorry! Filing cabinet tipped."
"Are you all right?" she called back.
"Fine. I caught it in time." He came down to the doorway. "How's Xander?"
"Banging his head on a table."
"Yeah, I would too. He had to send us his castoffs at the first club. The second club got him paid for no reason and a stolen kiss, and then the salsa club thing happened. Then he gets stuff sent to him in my name today because they couldn't remember his, just my first one and that he worked down here."
"And my daughter hit on him," Brass noted. "I drug her out of there before he made her want to go really bad."
"Good! Hopefully she's careful and we can make sure she stays good. There's got to be some sort of rehab for that poor guy's former girls." He snapped his fingers. "Oh, Greg said someone named Faith was in town and that a Buffy and a Willow wanted to see him? She left before she could go bad again he said."
Brass shrugged a bit. "His former friends, the ones with the interesting ideas on sports. Buffy's the blond. Willow was the redhead who came here."
"Okay then. If they show up, we'll help hide him away. Catherine, remember, he's shy, nice, sweet, kind, gentle, and makes women cream themselves with a kiss. Plus he can't cook."
"I remember." He went back to work, while she mentally prepared his intro for the auction since she was doing the MC job this year. "Someone make sure he gets a tux." She went back to add his name to her list, then went to talk to Nick and Warrick about joining in. It would be good for the unit. Archie had already been blackmailed into it.
"Do you wonder if we'll be bored after he's gone?" Brass asked.
"No, then we'll have to deal with the pouting and angry people he's leaving behind," Grissom said fondly, smirking at him. "We'll be stormed by the women demanding we bring him back."
"Yeah, we probably will," he agreed, getting up and heading back to his office, shaking his head the whole way when he heard Xander whining about evil women to Bobby.
Vecchio opened his latest report from Vegas and stopped to reread it. "Huh?" he asked, staring at the simple black letters. They didn't make any sense to him. "Stanley, didn't you take Xander out to show him the nightlife?" he asked plainly.
"Yeah, why? The kid got along well in the clubs, people hit on him, and that one woman gave him her diamond earrings after dancing with him so he could use them to pierce himself and remember her fondly forever. Why?"
"Huh?" he asked again.
Stanley nodded, grinning at him. "He tried to tell her no."
"He got tipped last night by some women at a salsa club and they wouldn't take it back."
"Basically the same thing as the diamonds. He okay?"
"Hiding in misery. Remind me to have him put on anytime we have to do one of those cheesy auctions here."
"Sure, Ray. I'm sure he'll bring in a lot of money for us." He turned back around to go back to work. "He okay really? I know he moaned and groaned for hours about those."
"Yeah, it says he's okay and Hodges made him buy him and Greg lunch so Greg could figure out why that stuff happened to him. Warrick said that he passed his castoffs along to the rest of them too." He shook his head. "Lucky guy. Must be like winning at the tables."
"Yeah, I guess, and he's in the right city for that," Stan agreed dryly.
Their fellow detective looked over at them. "Who is this?"
"Xander, our new ballistics tech," Stanley told him. "He protests to the point of whining at them to try to make them leave him alone."
"Yeah, we don't want the guy to date, ever," Vecchio agreed. "He seems to draw bad girls to him, the sort that stalk or hurt others to make him happy and content."
"They should just feed him. He'd follow them around like a puppy dog if they did," Stan pointed out happily. "I can't wait until he has to take your mother shopping the first time. He's gonna be givin' her looks like she's a saint for weeks.'
"Why?" the other detective asked.
"He can't cook," Vecchio told him. "No stove in their home, can't do a thing with them. Didn't know what to do with a home cooked meal when Ma fed him the first time. His manners have improved, I've got to give it to Hodges that he has helped him a lot."
"Why do these people like you?" the other detective asked.
"Xander sees me like a big brother and mentor." Stanley gave him a long look. "He does," he said firmly.
"Mm-hm. Among other things. Benny noticed him giving you that same look of awe after you waxed the Riv with him that time."
"He likes my car, he's got good taste in that, Stanley," he defended. "He's not odd like that."
"The kid's words were that he could appreciate about one out of ever ten thousand men or so, but he didn't think he could stick with one permanently because they'd turn bad too. Oh, Renny backed him up. Turnbull said that he felt that same slip toward improper behavior while they were watching curling the last time."
"He watches curling?" the other detective asked. "Why?"
"Because he was basically raised by his female friends," Ray said dryly. "He thought football had something to do with gay sex."
"Yeah, that's why we had that crash," Stanley muttered. Ray stared at him. "I wasn't prepared for it," he defended. "Benny says some odd things but not that bad. Again, Turnbull agrees with his definition of American football and soccer both. Aggression with sexual overtones he calls them."
"That's it, no more hanging out at the Canadian consulate for you," Welsh said from his doorway. "What's going on?"
"Xander had women offer him money last night and they wouldn't take no for an answer," Stanley told him. "Just like with the earrings."
"I wondered where those had went to," Welsh said.
Vecchio groaned and shook his head. "I don't. He gave them to my mother for teaching him how to boil pasta. I wondered about those."
"He told her some woman gave them to him after making a suggestive and sexual pass, but that he had turned her down and she insisted he keep them. Since he couldn't wear earrings and not look silly, he thought she should have them and be beautiful, plus purify them into a suitable thing for real women to own," Stanley reported. "We were watching ball when he gave them to her."
"So, this kid'll fit right in with our insanity and the Mounties?" the other detective asked.
They all nodded. "Yeah," they agreed. "Definitely."
"We just gotta watch the dating thing so no more serial killers, stalkers, or other assorted bad girls like him," Stanley told him. "Otherwise we'll be overrun with them."
"Sure. I'll help you run background checks on whoever he dates," Welsh promised.
"We need ta start with Turnbull," Stanley told him. "He called the kid cool, refreshing water on the parched soul. Thatcher likes him though."
"Oh, no, we're not losing him to Canada," Vecchio said firmly. "They can get their own ballistics tech with a trace minor."
"So this kid is good, he's talented, he's obviously a lover. Anything I should watch out for?"
"Yeah, he' also a fighter and he's protective of what he considers his."
"I'd hate to be the next idiot who tries him," Welsh agreed. "Impressive fighting ability."
"What is he, Ares, God of War?" the other detective asked.
"Not quite," Stan said dryly. "More like son of God of War and Mischief. The love child nobody dares speak of," he finished with a smirk at Vecchio. "Who likes him."
"It's a mentor/big brother thing," Vecchio insisted.
"If it's not, I don't care," Welsh told him. "Just no groping and no turning evil." He went back to his desk.
"Is that what's wrong with Frannie?" the other detective asked. Ray and Stan both nodded. "When will it break?"
"Probably not until she's decided he's too much trouble," Vecchio sighed, shaking his head. That poor kid. He wrote him a note back to check on him.
Xander finished up his final report and handed it over, then hugged Bobby. "I'll miss you guys."
"We'll miss you and your mental problems too," Bobby assured him, hugging him back. "Go ahead. Say good bye to the others. I know Hodges and Greg got theirs in last night, that's why they're not here today." Xander nodded, going to find the others he wanted to say goodbye to. "He'll be back," he assured himself. "At least to visit now and then."
Xander found the captain and hugged him. "Bye, Cap. I'll miss you."
"We'll miss you too, Xander." He patted him on the back. "Remember, you can call and write. Or visit now and then."
"I will. My first vacation I'll be back."
"Good. You all packed?"
"Everything's in the parking lot in my car. Even my gun safe."
"Good job. Hodges and Sanders?"
"Didn't come in today. I told them bye last night though."
"That's fine. Go find the others, kid."
"Yes, sir. I'll miss you." He hugged him again and headed off to find the others. They were mostly out in the field, but he did get to hug Warrick and tell him bye. He didn't even try to hug Sarah, just told her. He was still scared of her. He left the notes he had written out last night at the front desk and hugged Patricia. She got in a good grope of his butt but he relented and allowed it. Then he handed in his pass and left, heading out to leave the city of lights and head for one that had snow, which he had never seen before. He had an apartment waiting on him already, he'd found one his last trip back there and Ray and Stan had both approved of the neighborhood. He backed his car out and headed off, going toward the interstate. He really would miss Vegas, he'd have to come back all the time and guilt Hodges and Greg to come visit him too.
Xander parked behind the twenty-seventh precinct and got out, watching the insanity as it flowed past him. A few cops gave him a tired smile. "Bad week?"
"Yeah, gang thing on Racine," one of them offered. "Vecchio's upstairs."
"Cool." He locked his car and put on his alarm. "My gun safe's still in there but it's got a fingerprint code on it." The cops nodded at that, watching him walk inside. He wove through the gang members, smiling at a few who were backing away from him. "Yes, it's me." He jogged up the steps and pushed open the doors, looking at the people staring at him. "What? I come here to work and slave for you and you stare like I'm an alien?"
"Well, you are strange," Stanley offered from his desk. "You in for good?"
"Yup, sure am," he said happily. He walked into the head office and saluted. "Reporting for duty, sir."
"You found a place and moved and all that stuff?"
"All I have to do is unload my car. It's not like I have a lot of stuff. I have a place though. It's just gonna be another two days before I can move in. They're painting."
"Fine." He looked up at the kid. "Final evaluations?"
"I'm assuming they're being sent. Grissom was in the field and Captain Brass didn't hand me any."
"That's fine, Xander. When can you start?"
"Um, now?" he suggested. "Since you're overrun with gang kids?"
"They were taking baseball bats to each other. No guns. You still have your pass and ID?" He nodded, pulling them out and putting them around his neck. "Good. Go check in with Mort, go unload your car, and he'll tell you when you can start."
"Sure. Thanks, Lieutenant." He walked out, heading back down the stairs, after he refilled Ray's empty coffee cup since he was nodding off at his desk. He walked into the lab and looked around, smiling at the pretty new walls. "I like, it even has that clean smell the last lab missed." Mort laughed from his office, coming out. "I'm here. I have to unload my car sometime this week but otherwise I'm here."
"That's good. We don't need you today. The last person doesn't leave for a week and you've already worked out everything with her, or so she said?" He nodded quickly. "Good. Any luck on us stealing Hodges?"
"I offered him a chance to come with me but he decided he should probably stay for now. I am going to make him come out to visit and he knows he's got an open offer here if something goes wrong there and he has to leave, like his new neighbor finishes trying to kill him."
"Yeah, they're swingers and the wife doesn't like cops, especially since he won't play with her. So she's decided he must go."
"Well, if that boy needs it, he's welcome here," Mort assured him. "How's your replacement?"
"They were choosing her when I left. It was between the lady from Miami and the guy from Texas. He was uptight and smiled a whole lot with too many teeth and reminded me a lot of a defense attorney I got to help arrest, she was a babbling nice lady but she was a bit odd. She asked Bobby if Sarah were gay, said she pinged her 'dar. She had never dated because she was so focused on her school work, but she thought she liked girls. So Bobby told her the plain truth. Sarah's sexual preference is Nope. My personal opnion was Impossible, as in she'd never let anyone that close and never take even an hour off to get some. The only thing more impossible in the universe than Sarah having sex would be us to grow another sun and find out Mars had living plant creatures who liked Barney and were what Prozac was made from. This woman has never taken a day off that wasn't forced on her. If she's ever had willing, consensual sex since she started working as a CSI, I'd be fucking amazed."
Mort laughed at that. "We've had a few like that. We usually call them focused."
"I called her Captain Impossible. You couldn't please her most of the time. She was sexless, didn't really like to get close to anyone, and didn't laugh at my jokes most of the time. Captain Obvious, or Greg, was usually a lot more fun to be around after hours or on shift."
Mort smiled at him. "I'm sure they'll pick her. It'd be an easier transition after having you there. So, Monday?"
"Saturday? Sure," he agreed, grinning at him.
"She'll still be here then, Xander."
"Yes, but if I can come in on Saturday, she'll have time to say some goodbyes and goodbyes are important. I found that out long ago. So, Saturday? Half day, full day? You got a preference?"
"No, not really." He picked up the ringing phone. "Yes?" He smiled. "That would be fine, Lieutenant. He's still down here. I'll send him right up." He hung up and looked at Xander. "Vecchio's asleep at his desk. He wanted you to take him home."
"Sure. Not an issue. Let me go move the gun safe so he doesn't have to nap on it." He pulled out his keys as he walked. "Noon, Saturday?"
"That's fine, Xander. Thank you." He nodded, waving as he walked off. He rolled his eyes. "That boy is something else, but very good at what he does." He went back to the office to make a note of when Xander should be in.
Xander walked up to his car, finding someone trying to get in the back door. He looked at the cop watching him, looking amused. Then at the crook. He coughed. "Excuse me, but that's a *gun* safe, not a money safe," he said blandly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Even if you were to break into my car, it's got a fingerprint coded lock and a security passcode to input. Since you have neither my finger nor that code, it won't do you much good. It's not drillable, burnable, or even explodeable. I tested one before I bought it." The crook glared at him and pulled out a gun. "Oh, so now you're going to make more work for me. Sure, go ahead. Shoot someone, I'm the guy they'll give the gun to so I can convict you."
"What?" he demanded.
"I'm the new ballistics tech, moron magnet. It's my job to prove that your gun shot someone when you do. That means if you fire off that little pop cap gun, it'll be my job to put you away." He looked him over. "Did the moron tower fall on you to make sure you got the wrong signal this morning? Because you obviously have over-indulged on the moron vibe."
"Shut up!" he shouted, shooting into the ground at Xander's feet.
Xander held up a hand to stop the cop from moving. "No, don't bother." He walked forward, taking the gun and kneeing the guy in the stomach. "You might want to reconsider trying a person who just told you they handle many weapons every day. Considering what I can do to a weapon, that means I can cause pretty amounts of hell in return for you shooting at my feet. By the way, your gun aims to the right. Next time, check your aim before you fire or you might end up hitting something you didn't want to, like the only person who could save your life. You know, like that cop." He made him stand up, looking into his eyes.
"Yeah, you and the moron signal tower had a bit too much fun together last night. So let's let you dry out and then you'll be a good boy and tell them how mean I was, and then tell everyone in your cell block how mean I was. Remember me, moron. I'm Harris. I'm CSI Harris. I dismantle bombs. I do ballistics, I do trace, and I'm a marksman with guns and artillery. I'm the one who can make any crook's life a living fucking nightmare and it gets me off," he hissed. "So spread it around so I don't have to be quite the asshole in the future. You got that?" He nodded quickly and Xander patted him on the cheek. "Good dog. Now sit!" The man sat and stared up at him as the cop handcuffed him. "Good boy. You remember to tell the others I'm here and that Vecchio brought me here to help him." The man burst out crying. "Good boy. You just tell the others so they know." He walked around him, getting into the back seat so he could move the gun safe to the floor once he had pushed the front seat forward. "There, much better napping spot." He got out, turning to find the Lieutenant. "I was making him a more comfy napping spot."
"Has it occurred to you that you're not a cop?" Xander looked confused. "That you're not wearing a vest and he could have shot you?"
"With the way he was holding that gun, you could tell he only had one bullet, that he had not a clue what to do with a gun, and with how limp-wristed he was holding it on us, I doubt he didn't damage himself with the minimal recoil that thing had. He couldn't have hit me, or the cop standing there, because he didn't know how to aim. He was in more danger of an accidental firing than an intentional one. I know what I'm doing, Lieutenant. Really. I've faced off with bigger and badder than him and made them piss themselves in fear." He stepped a bit closer. "Among the strange and unusual happenings community, I'm known very well. They know I'm no longer actively hunting but that I used to. That I was good. They know not to come near me and tempt me as well. Having one person in too much touch with the moron signal tower prove it to the rest of them isn't going to harm things and it'll keep people from trying me. That's why he broke out crying. I'm not helpless. I'm actually very good and I did do some limited training with SWAT in Vegas since they allowed me to. He had less chance of shooting me than he did of shooting himself. Now, let me go get the nice detective so I can carry him home. That guy couldn't even open my back door correctly."
He closed the door and headed up the stairs, going to wake Ray up. He gave him a light nudge to the shoulder, getting a sleepy complaint. "Hey, Ray, it's Xander. Wanna go home and nap? That chair's gonna hurt your neck and I'm not the best at neck rubs. Come on, I'll drive you home, buddy. My back seat's all cleared just for you and you can nap until Ma gets hold of you." He helped him up and down the stairs, letting him curl up in the back of his car. "There you go. Watch your feet." He closed the door and got around to drive, heading up to Ray's mother's house. He took a few wrong turns but he'd only driven this way himself a few times. He even got to drive past the consulate and beeped at Turnbull standing guard. He finally made it to Ray's house and parked in the driveway, smiling at the guy who opened the door. "Hey, Tony. Ray fell asleep at work. Let me get him inside."
"No, we're good." He moved back to open the door by his feet, patting him on the ankles. "We're here, Ray. Come on. Come toward your feet so I can help you inside. Ma's waiting on you and so's Tony." Vecchio mumbled something and he pulled him up, but Ray reached for his gun. Xander caught his hand. "Ray, it's Xander. You can't shoot me your mother will get mad at you. You know that. Besides, then Turnbull will have to go evil and be mean and snarky on you. Come on, buddy. Let's go inside and I'll put your gun away for you." Ray made a whining noise. "Tough. Come on. You can nap on the special couch." He got him up and walking into the house, laying him down on the couch he had once napped on. He patted him down, emptying his pockets, putting his guns aside, and taking off his shoes. He looked up as Tony came back in. "I hope you didn't lock it. I can't pick locks."
"No, I just closed the back door. What sort of safe was that?"
"Gun safe. It's mine." He picked up Ray's guns. "Where's his?"
"His room. Lockbox in his closet. Keys are on his ring."
"Thanks." He took Ray's keys and his guns upstairs, unloading them and storing them properly in the lockbox. He sealed it, checked it, then took the keys back downstairs to put back with his stuff. Tony was covering him with a throw. "He'll be uncomfortable in his jacket."
"He'll wake up soon. He's been napping a few times recently. There's been a lot of stakeouts and long hours."
"That's one of the reasons why I'm here," he promised, patting him on the arm. "Okay, I'm going back to the Holiday Inn. They're doing the painting of my place today. I've got my phone and it's still a Vegas number so I'll get that switched later or tomorrow. Let him rest, he looks like he could use a full day and the Lieutenant told me to bring him home." Tony nodded at that. "Cool beans. I'll call from the hotel to tell you my room number." He left, jogging back out to his car. He retraced his route, ending up in front of the consulate. He parked and turned on his flashers, heading up to look at Turnbull. "I'm back and I'm here for good," he said with a grin. "Listen, I'm heading to the Holiday Inn, but if you want lunch with me today, just call there. I'm usually on the lower floor. Have a happy guard shift." He headed back to his car and headed to his hotel. Checking in was easily done and his three bags and his safe were quickly carried in. He called Ray's house to tell them what room he was in, then sat down to watch some tv while he checked his normal gear out and put it on. His gun, his license in his wallet. His backup on his ankle, which Ray had shown him how to do and not limp alarmingly. His new vest got pulled out and set aside. His pass got set on top of it. His duffle bag for his locker also got set on top of it with his pass on top of that and wrapped around the handle. Someone knocked on his door so he walked over to open it, grinning at Stan. "I promised Turnbull first lunch if he wanted it, but you can join us."
"Nah, I'm not here for that." He walked inside and looked at the vest, then at him. "You scared that poor putz badly," he said once the door was closed, smirking at him. "Feel better?"
"Hell yeah. Scaring and a good rep means people won't try you to test themselves against you. I'd rather be thought of as scary than nerdy and weak by the stupid and criminal elements."
"I agree," he offered. "Welsh don't."
"Yay. That's why I'm a tech. Mort knew I'd do something like this. He said so the last time I was in. That's why I helped interrogate that one guy."
"Point," Stan agreed. "Welsh got reminded of that by Benny, who said the same thing you did. He'll relent. You shouldn't need tha vest."
"Point," he agreed. "So, no apartment yet?"
"Already done, waiting to be delivered when the landlord calls them to tell them it's painted and dry. All I need to do is bed shop. They wouldn't hold an order even if I did pay for it in advance. I know what I want so I'll go get it tomorrow and have it delivered then since they said it'd just have to dry tomorrow."
"Good. Anything else you gotta do?"
"I need more gun oil," he offered. "I did my licenses already. My driver's license is done, I did that my last trip too." He considered it. "Other than maybe doing a bit of clothes shopping or finding a good laundromat, no."
"Laundry's not a problem. Ray knows a good dry cleaner. I've got a good place to go to wash. You've got a case this afternoon. The old one said give it to you so she wouldn't be kept and you wouldn't have to redo her work."
"Sure. What is it?"
"Homicide, strange weapon," he said, holding up the crime scene photo.
Xander looked at it. "Wood splinters looks like. Staked. In the right spot too. Is she a hunter or was her spouse?"
"Really? Interesting." He took it and the others. "Yeah, it's a stake," he offered, looking up at him. "Garden variety it looks like. It's got flat sides by the internal parts of the hole." He went back to studying it. "I'm betting there's probably dirt in it unless someone planned this out. If you can find dirt, we can do a soil analysis to find out which garden it came from. It's almost got to be someone who knows her. The average person doesn't stake someone inside their own house. Friend, relative, someone they're dating or sleeping with."
"Well, that narrows it down a lot," Stan noted dryly. "Nothing else right off?"
"If there's wood splinters, we can tell you what type and that could narrow down the gardens to look in or where they got them from, but most of them these days are commercially available and plywood or something treated with an herbal bug destroyer." He handed them back. "We can test any samples and do a trace search for which brands those are and where they sell them."
"Thanks, Xander. That's really helpful. There's a girl at the sixteenth who heard your name and shrieked, then stomped off muttering. I told her you'd be in this weekend and to stop in and say hi because you didn't do that anymore, leaving out what 'that' was. She promised she would. I'm guessing she deals in what you used to too. That's why we got told to give this one to you. Anything like this comes to you automatically as a CSI. So you'll be in when to run those samples?"
"Later this afternoon good?"
"Sure, fine with me. Mort said whenever." He shrugged and grinned. "Welcome home."
"Thanks. You made me feel really loved already," he teased back. "I'm still going to lunch with Turnbull. At the latest I'll have the report on your desk in the morning. I'm still stuck on evening shift."
"Sure. That's fine. You sure you got everything you need but gun oil?"
"Yup, I'm sure. Thanks, Stan. I'll let you bring me to the pound in a few weeks."
"No problem. Just call." He grinned and left him the pictures, walking out to head back and report in. Xander was good, he'd have this one solved within a week.
Xander wandered into the comic shop Turnbull had found that dealt with the real strange stuff, nodding politely at the proprietor. "I'm looking for stakes," he said.
"Because I'm tired of making my own," he said honestly. He pulled out his new business card, handing it over. The guy read the front and flinched, then the back and frowned. "I'm also searching for one for a case." He handed over the picture of the wound. "It's square with rounded corners. That tells me it's not a garden stake and it's been made to be used. I hear you know about such things and I was checking in anyway."
"Knight," he said, swallowing. "I...."
"It's like a former life for me," he said gently. "I still retain the memories but they're going to come out only when it's a world fucking emergency. As in the world is bending over to take it up the ass. Got it?" The guy nodded quickly. "Good. You keep that. It's got my new cell number on it." He looked around, then back at him. "Who's the local stake maker?"
"I am," he admitted. "I do round off the corners so they're more comfortable to use and carry. Who is this?" He showed the picture of the victim's face. "I know her. Her niece is a slayer."
"Where is she?"
"No one's seen her in a few days," he admitted quietly. "Let me get you her address."
"Do they live together?"
"Sometimes but she's also up at the college." He wrote it down, sliding the card under his register. He handed over the address. "There you go. Do you need anything else?"
"Yeah, I still need a few stakes. I lost my last one," he said dryly. "I prefer round though." He tapped a plastic one. "Very good work on whoever molded that."
"It's a case over a real one," he offered, opening it to show him. "It's yew so it's fragile."
"It's adorable. Got any in oak? I need something sturdy I won't crush in my hand. I'm not one of the ladies of the night but I could have sworn I heard Dru cackling earlier."
"She is in town," he admitted, glancing around again. "She knows you?"
"Yup, I'm her Dark Kitten. She loves me. Then again, Spike loved me when he was tied to my chair too." He shrugged. "Oak?" He nodded, heading into the back. When he came back, Xander tested the weight and the balance, then smiled. "I like. I'll take three. How much?"
"Ten each, Knight."
"Xander," he corrected. "I'm only a Knight when the world is bending over and grabbing its ankles."
"What about the city?" he asked quietly.
"If I'm needed. Nothing less." He nodded quickly. He handed over thirty and put the three stakes into his pocket, tucking the address into the file he carried. "Thank you. Be safe and be well." He walked out into the weak afternoon sunlight, looking up at the sky. "A perfect night for hunting. I guess I'm not going clubbing tonight." He got into his car and headed for the address. He knew vaguely where it was and there were signs pointing to the college. He found the right dorm building and walked in, nodding politely at the security guards. "Hi. CSI Harris." He shook their hands. "One of the residents had an aunt who just died and I need to ask her about something we found. Is she here?"
"I know the one you want. She's been locked in her room all day," one of them offered. "She's still crying. Poor thing."
"That's fine. Can you let me up there and in?" He nodded, walking him that way once Xander had signed in. Xander knocked and the door opened a bit. "Tiffany. I'm Xander Harris." She opened the door fully, staring at him. "We need to ask you a few questions. May I?" She raised an eyebrow and he walked in. "I promise, I'm not here to upset you more."
"I know." She gave the guard a weak smile. "Thank you." He nodded and left, letting her shut the door. "Why are you here? I've heard of you."
"Because I saw the marks on your aunt and I was handed the case because I'm the ballistics tech for the second district." She shivered. "Did she startle you?"
She burst out crying, nodding. "I heard a noise and I heard glass breaking so I ran down the stairs and I staked before I knew why because that stupid vampiress is following me!" she sobbed, clinging to him.
"Shh, little one. I understand. I dealt with Faith. I..." He sighed. "I have to take you in, Tiffany. You still killed someone and it's been noted." She looked up at him. "I can't not do my job. I can give you to someone who'll understand and try to help you plea to something like probation. It sounds like it was a real accident." She nodded. "Now, put on shoes and let's go."
"I can't... I can't go to jail."
He stared her down. "If you come peacefully, you might not. If you fight, I'll have to arrest you and bring you in. That'll look bad and they'll be less likely to give you a light slap on the wrist. You don't want to make me be mean, right?" She shook her head, wiping off her eyes. "Then let's go."
"I can't." She picked up a stake. "I can't do that," she said with a hysterical laugh. "I'm so sorry!" She tried to stake him but he ducked and broke her wrist. She screamed and started to cry again. "Why!"
"Because it's my job." He opened the door at the pounding, letting the guard in. "Her aunt startled her," he said gently, holding the girl against his chest. "It was an accident." He gaped. "She just tried to get away and I grabbed her wrong. Can you get her shoes and jacket?" He nodded, pushing her shoes over and grabbing her jacket off the back of the door. He gave him her wallet and keys as well. "Thank you," he said quietly, walking her out and down to his car. He got her in and buckled up, then squatted down beside her. "You'll be fine within a few hours," he said gently.
"I know, but you still...."
"Tiffany, I am a Knight. I will protect myself and others when I must." She nodded, slumping down. "I won't tell Stanley what happened unless he asks. It'll look bad on you and it was a hysterical movement on your part. All right?"
"You just don't want me to tell on you."
"Honey, I'm not a cop. I'm a CSI guy. I'm a ballistics tech. What're they gonna do, tell me I can't play with the guns?" She grimaced. "Besides, they know I'll defend myself."
"The city'll be overrun without me," she said frantically.
"No it won't. There's others here and a new girl always comes. They did on the hellmouth and it was worse. Besides, I'm gonna go have a talk with Dru." He stood up and shut the door, walking around to get in and drive. He got them back to the station and walked her up the stairs, taking her right to Stanley's desk, ignoring the person sitting there. "We need to talk to you. It was an accident. Someone was stalking her and she heard someone enter and a glass break."
Stanley looked up at the girl, then at Xander. "I wasn't sure if it wasn't," he admitted. "Is she okay?"
"She got a bit hysterical and I had to grab her, I did it wrong and hurt her wrist. She'll be fine. Where do you want to sit her?"
"Interrogation two is free. I'll be right there. Yo, Huey, come do this form for me? He just broke my homicide." He got up to follow them after having a word with Welsh about it. He got a nod. He grabbed the file and went to talk to the poor kid. He was way too soft, her eyes said she was going mad and would kill again. Or maybe he'd seen it before since he was telling her about someone named Faith. He walked in and shut the door behind him, sitting across from her. "Hi, Tiffany. I'm Stan Kowalski. I'm the detective handling your aunt's murder."
"It was an accident," she cried.
"I thought it could be," he agreed gently. Xander whispered in his ear and he nodded. "That's fine. Welsh said accidents happen but this had better be the only one this year." Xander whispered something else and he nodded. "Thought so." He looked at him, raising an eyebrow. "How was lunch?"
"Good. Tonight I'm free but I have someone I need to hunt down and talk to. I'll be free after ten." He grinned lightly and walked out, going to fill out the form at Ray's desk since it was free. He printed it and walked it in to Welsh. "She did try to attack me," he said gently. "She's confused, she's slowly going insane, and I'm calling in someone to help her."
"She deals with the strange crap?"
"She's the front line of defense in the strange crap and someone was stalking her she said." Welsh nodded at that. "It'll be fine. I'll get Faith up here to talk to her and help her through this when she can. That's what I found, where I found her, what happened minus the attempted assault since she was hysterical at that time and it'll only cause her more harm, and how we got here. Need me for anything else before Saturday?"
"No, kid. You did good. No more like that this year."
"Thank you." He watched the kid walk out and hop down the first few stairs. Then he slowly shook his head as he read the report. It was good, concise, and read well. The DA would love it since he had done it immediately and it didn't sound like someone had written it with their toes while they sucked on the end of the pen. Unlike some of the guy's reports. He called down to Mort to tell him they had a suspect in custody on that case and left it there. He'd figure out they had given it to Xander and Xander would back it up with reasonable proof for the court. Hopefully the kid would plead for a mental health sentence.
Xander walked into his new place and looked around. "Nice," he praised, looking at his new furniture, his new bed, everything was where it should be. He put down his bags, then went to get his safe and bring it up. It went into the spare bedroom and then he went to call for takeout. Ray had gotten him every menu he could find and put them all on his counter for him. Just so he'd feel at home.
Xander leaned on the evidence table, looking at the pictures. "That's an impossible shot, Mort. There's no gun that can go that long. It had to be closer and by the angle had to come from about thirty degrees higher than the guy's head was pointing already. That means I'd say one of these six," he said, pointing at a few buildings. "They're in range, their view isn't blocked, they're high enough to have a tenth or higher story, and they're accessible. Unless he had federal access cards, he couldn't have gotten in the FBI center and used their upper levels." His phone rang and he answered it. "Hey," he said happily. "Hodges, my man, what's going on?" He stood up, scratching the back of his head. "What do you mean you've got a stalker?" He took a deep breath. "Do they know? Then you come visit me suddenly. They can track anyone coming or going from the city if they follow and if not, it'll break her pattern. Yes, I do mean now." The phone hung up suddenly and he looked at it. "Signal's fine. Battery's fine." He dialed it again. No answer. He hung up and tried again. Busy. He dialed another number. "Sarah, it's Xander. What just happened? I was on the phone with Hodges, helping him with ideas for his stalker and the line suddenly cut. Yes, I'm serious. Then check, Sarah, I can wait." He looked down at his dog, picking her up to hold her. "It's all right. You'll like Hodges when he comes out to help us," he whispered, keeping the phone next to his ear. She came back. "Anything?" He went perfectly still. "I'm on the next plane out. If you need me to work it, I will. If not, I'm there for them." He hung up. "Mort...."
"Go," he ordered. "Bring them back if they want to come. We've got open spots anyway." Xander nodded, taking his dog with him out to the car. He called upstairs. "Detective, something just happened to some of Xander's friends. He's headed back to Vegas, you'll have to tell your mother he can't make Saturday dinner this week. No, he said stalker, then called someone else. He said he'd help work the case or not if they needed him, but he'd be there for them otherwise." He smiled. "Of course. Let me know when you know something." He hung up and marked the buildings Xander had mentioned, going to send his field techs out to look them over. "Xander said that's too long of a distance for that sort of shot." They all groaned. "So now we have a position but no crime and a crime without a known position. He did say it'd have to be at least a tenth story and have an unblocked view. He picked out a few buildings within probable range." He handed over the list. "Go for it. He'll be back in a few days. Something just happened in Vegas."
"Are they okay?" one of them asked, pulling on her jacket.
"I don't know yet. They were talking and the line went dead." They shivered. "Go." They headed out and he went back to work. Fortunately he had the backup ME for days like today.
Xander walked off the plane and found Captain Brass standing there. "What happened?"
"Hodges' stalker," he said grimly. "Come on. I'll drive you to the hospital. Gil said you could help him find the explosive device." Xander's bag barked and he looked at the little head that popped out. "Hey, how are you?"
"That's Sarah but she's got balls. Reminded me a lot of her." He got into the car he knew so very well, buckling in automatically. The captain got in to drive and they were off. "What happened? In sequence if possible. I was on the phone with Hodges when it went dead."
"There was an explosion. Someone mined the air conditioning system with an explosive. It blew through the pipes, ripping the building to shreds."
"If it did that much damage there must have been more than one device, probably smaller, more focused ones," he said thoughtfully. "The ducts blowing would create damage but not like I saw on the news broadcast."
"We think so but we can't prove it. They vaporized from what I saw."
"Can't get close enough yet. Fire Marshal ran us off."
"Okay. Who's hurt?"
"Nick's got a leg injury. Greg's got a head injury. Hodges is badly injured but mostly a bunch of little ones together. Bobby nearly got an arm taken off. Archie's in surgery the last I knew. Mia has some burns, the lab exploded around her. Worse than Greg had when he had his. Grissom was in the field with Warrick and Catherine. Sarah had one of her days off in a blue moon. The others made it and are mostly okay. The cops were mostly in the field. The holding cells were the other hardest hit area."
"I need blueprints. Unless there was a major trunk there...."
"There's not and we're not sure why."
"Well, holding does mirror the unit's position on the other side," Xander said thoughtfully. "Which means the person's never been inside so they don't know which side they're on."
"I hadn't thought of that." He pulled into the hospital parking lot and watched as Xander got out before he had stopped the engine. The dog was back in his bag and Xander was heading for the elevators when he walked in. "Five West, Xander. They're all together in a closed off unit."
"Thanks." He pushed the button a few times until the door opened, then he got on and held it for him. "Do they need anything?"
"Not yet. Maybe some sanity," he offered as the elevator stopped. "Right." Xander headed right, stopped by the cop at the door. "That's CSI Harris. He interned with us last year. He's always admitted, no matter what." The guard made a note of that and let them in. "Bobby's in 512, Hodges is in 514, Greg may still be up in ICU. Archie's in 516 if he's back. The new tech intern is in 518 if she's here."
Xander tossed his bag at Sarah. "Don't upset my dog." He headed into Hodges' room first, staring at him. "Did one of my evil women come after you?" he asked plainly.
Hodges gave him a weak smile. "I wish. This one wanted me because I'm the one who found out she killed her three kids and her husband for the insurance money." He moaned as he held up an arm. "Can I have a hug?"
"Of course." He walked over to hug him as hard as he dared, getting a small moan but he didn't ease up. "Are you okay?" he asked gently.
"No. I hate women."
"Me too, buddy. Me too." He pulled back to look him over. "What's wrong?"
"Sixteen stitches in my side. I lost my spleen."
"It didn't do much anyway," he promised. "Anything else?"
"I do whenever I'm in here too." He brushed some of his hair out of the way of his bandaged forehead. "You look like you need someone to fuss."
"I do," he agreed.
"Good, then you'll be coming back with me while you heal so I can fuss. It's not like they can rebuild the entire station within a day and you'll need time to heal and someone to watch over you."
"I can do that here."
"Fat chance. You won't let anyone but me fuss over you. You said so. Unless you want Greg to fuss over you?" he asked with a small grin. "Or Catherine?"
"No, I'll come home with you so you can fuss until I'm better." He heard the bark. "What's that?"
"My dog, Sarah."
"You named your dog after me?" Sarah asked from the doorway. "He's cute."
"He's a she, his former mommy was putting balls on him. She reminded me a lot of you when I found her at the pound." She smiled at that. "Where's Greg?"
"ICU. He won't wake up." She brought the dog in, watching as the little thing walked up Hodges' chest and sat down on it so she could lick his face until he pushed her away. "She's loving. A lot more loving than me."
"She loves what I love," he said dryly. "She bit someone threatening me the other day." He grinned at her. "She's a lot like you most of the time. Even the wolf likes her. He lets her ride on his back to go for walks outside and steal food from the detectives' desks." He patted his dog's back. "You guard him while I go check on Greg and Bobby, Sarah. I'll be right back." She barked and laid down on Hodges's stomach, curled up and staring at him. "She does that to me every night. You'll learn to sleep through it soon." He got up with one last pat. "Be right back." He walked out and down the hall, popping in on Bobby. "Damn," he said, staring at his arm. "That fucking sucks."
"Yeah, but it's saveable," he said, looking at the place on his arm where they had to stitch it back together again. He looked at Xander. "You're doing ballistics."
"Of course I am. You're injured. Your intern is injured. I'm good on bombs, construction, and all this stuff. You rest, let me work." Bobby grinned. "I'd hug you but you usually try to swat me. I'll let my dog come kiss you later."
"Sure," he offered with a grin. "Go check on Greg." He nodded, hurrying out. A few minutes later he heard little nails clicking his way and a small dog jumped up on his bed, coming up to sniff him then give him a few kisses before going back to Hodges' room. "Must be his. I don't think she's a hospital dog.
Xander walked into the ICU unit, hugging Greg's mother. "I'm here to help. How is he?"
"Bad, Xander." She led him into the room, glaring at the nurse looking their way. "I don't know why he won't wake up and neither do they." She noticed Xander was staring just above his body and pulled his head down. "Is he out of it?" He nodded. "Can you make him go back?"
"I think I can," he offered. He moved closer, taking out a small pin to poke Greg's finger with. He leaned down next to his ear. "If you do not get back in your body, I will cook and make you eat it by shoving it through your feeding tube," he hissed. "I will let my dog lick it first and then do it." He saw Greg smile at that. "Follow the cord, Greg." The spirit Greg held it up, showing the frayed edge. "It's still got a thread, there's always a thread. If you die, I'm bringing you back as a zombie." Greg groaned, his physical body groaned. "Good boy. Now follow it back and dive back into your body, Greg. Make me a happy Xander so you and Hodges can both come stay with me until you're better." He saw Greg slowly working his way back and tapped the pin on his hand a few more times. Finally he got a moan and Greg's eyelids moving. "Come on, you can do it. Head toward those too- bright lights and I might even make you good coffee." The eyes opened a bit and the head barely turned to glare at him. He grinned. "I mean it. Don't do that again." He leaned down to kiss him on the forehead. "Come on back to me, Greg. I promise, the pain's bad but worth it. Otherwise you're going to be dogged by my dog, Sarah. Her mother was putting balls on her so they took her away. She reminds me a lot of Sidle. She's a fierce little thing who helps Diefenbaker steal food." Greg groaned. "No, don't you dare," he said, pinching him on the ear. "I'll find someone to lock you in there."
Greg blinked at him, then growled. He snorted and looked at his mother, nodding weakly at Xander. "I know, dear, but he's helping. You almost died on me." She kissed him on the cheek. "I'd almost rather you went to Chicago. This is the third time you've gotten hurt here in Vegas, Greg. I don't like it."
"He got shot in the leg a few months back," she said primly.
Xander looked down. "And you didn't tell me why?"
"You'd fuss," Greg mouthed.
"Yeah, and now you're in for it big time. You think I woulda fussed before, just wait. You and Hodges are coming home with me until you're both well. If you try to flee or escape, I will handcuff you and bring you back. I'm sure Ray would help me, he thinks I'm losing my fun side anyway."
"Fine," he mouthed. "Air tube?"
"Hey, nurse?" She came in. "He's awake, can he breathe on his own now?"
She came over to check on him, noticing the marks on his hand. "What did you do?"
"Poked him to produce stimulus that in addition to my voice woke him. We're buddies."
"I see." She stared at him, then at Greg. "Fine, boyfriends are more than allowed full visitation. Let me get the doctor, Mr. Sanders. We'll see if we can pull that. Open up, let me spray some more numbing stuff around it so you don't gag." He did so and she sprayed something that smelled like chocolate. "There you go, give me ten minutes. Okay?" He shook his head. "Tough, he's playing golf." She went to call, smiling the whole way back.
Xander leaned down again, kissing him on the forehead. "Talk to your mom, I'm going to go visit with Hodges again. I'll bring my dog up the next time I come up and we'll be fine. I'm working on this. Bobby said so." Greg smiled at that. "So stay in there this time," he ordered, giving him a small grin. "I'll be back in about an hour, okay?" Greg nodded slowly. "Good, Greg. Very good, Greg." He stroked his hair and left, hurrying back down the floor, taking his dog back from the nurse. "Thank you. She is house and houseplant trained though. I wanted her guarding him. She's a very clean dog." He walked back into the waiting area. "Greg's awake." Brass relaxed. Grissom hurried out. "Bobby said I'm helping. We have it official?"
"We do," Brass agreed. "You and Sarah."
"Fine. I want blueprints, and I want photos so I can figure out where the secondaries were originally. Also, shoo off the Fire Marshal. It's pretty evident what caused it, it's a no brainer."
"Sure, Xander." Brass went to make those calls, watching as he went back to sit with Hodges. "Sheriff, it's Jim. Xander Harris is back, he has volunteered. He said he wants photos, overhead and hallway probably, and blueprints. Yeah, he used to work construction. Best person for this one. No, Sanders is awake he reported. I'm going to have him moved down to room with Hodges so Xander doesn't have to go that far to fuss. Also, he said kick the Fire Marshal out. He said it's evident what happened, he can write the report from his truck by now. Thanks. Yeah, of course. No, he and his dog are here. No, not sniffing that I know of. A little miniature something he found at the pound. Named it after Sidle, said it reminded him of her. Sure. Thanks, sir. First thing tomorrow. Sure thing." He hung up. "Xander, you'll have the footage from the hallways as soon as they can get the tapes back from the Feds. Overhead photos are coming and so are blueprints."
"I'll be in here or with Greg."
"Sure." He looked at the dog as it came out, letting her sniff his hand. "Hi, Sarah. How are you." He patted her on the head. "You seem very nice and like you love Xander. He needs that." He looked at the sleeping person on the couch. "Go nap with him, okay? He needs it too." She walked over and jumped up on Warrick's side, sniffing him a few times before laying on his head. Warrick pushed at her so she licked his hand, then stretched out on his side instead. He didn't move and slept on. "Where's Nick?" Brass asked.
"Home with his mother. She took him home for his six weeks of recovery," Sarah told him. "Why me and not Cat, Grissom, or Warrick?"
"They were in the building that day, you weren't. You're more objective, plus you're not a supervisor. You're as picky as he is and just as meticulous in your reports. You go in tomorrow, once he's had a chance to look at things so he can pinpoint where you need to look in all that mess."
"Okay. Sure. We can do that. Has he been in the field?"
Xander came to the door. "We're down to two field techs a shift and I'm the only trace or ballistics person, Sarah. A detective went off the deep end when evidence uprooted his theory and he shot our trace tech and one of the field techs on the other shift, plus the other shift's tech is going to Germany to teach over there with the other ballistics tech. I do a lot more field work than I probably should. We'll figure out methodology of working together after I see the photos and the site. There could be safety concerns and we could need gear."
"Sure. You know more about the construction stuff. I'll let you lead there and you let me lead collecting while you process and piece together."
"Fine with me. Not an issue." His dog let out a quiet yip. "No, Sarah, you sleep there on Warrick. He needs the lovies more than Ray did last week. You cuddle him. Where's Nick?"
"Home, at his mother's. She came in and walked out with him after yelling at Grissom and the doctors."
"It happens," he said dryly. "We're all in danger every day of our lives. Even being CSI we're still in danger." He looked over as the nurse came storming back. "Hi. Need Hodges?"
"No, but you cannot have that dog in here."
"Lady, my dog's staying, and if you don't like it, the window opens so you can jump," he said firmly. "Beside the fact that you're not a nurse." She looked stunned. "I remember you. I also remember that you're his former neighbor. Cap, she's not a nurse. She's that swinger bitch who was hunting him when I left."
"Thanks. I wondered where I saw her before." He grabbed her before she could move. "Come on, let's go." He walked her down the hall to an empty room and handcuffed her to a bedrail, calling it in. Then he went to find a real nurse and have a word with her. He also went up to check on Greg, finding Grissom staring down at him. "He okay? We just got Hodges' old stalker down there. Xander spotted her."
"He does know about those things," Greg said weakly. "Gris, I love you like my dad, but can you please quit petting me?" he asked weakly. "Xander did that too. The nurse thought we were dating."
"You probably could have," Grissom admitted, stopping his petting. "I'm sorry, Greg."
"Not your fault, bossman." He looked at his mother. "Was it?" She glared back. "Mom."
"Fine, it wasn't directly his fault, but you're still in danger. I think somewhere like LA would be safer."
"Mother, quit," he ordered. She snorted. He looked up at Grissom. "Xander ordered me to stay with him while I healed."
"He told Hodges the same thing," Brass promised. "We knew you guys might as well be a trio anyway," he teased. Greg blushed at that. "You need anything?"
"You'll learn to like it, Greg, the same as Xander did," Grissom assured him. "You've been hurt one too many times and we hate that." Greg nodded, looking up at him. "There's not going to be lab for at least six months. Even if we switch buildings, we'll have to get all new equipment and things. That'll take at least five. You'll have paid leave time and if you want you can work with Xander for a few months once you're well. You and Hodges both. I know they need you guys."
"Xander just said he's been doing a lot of field work," Brass admitted. "Something about a detective who blew his stack over the evidence contradicting him. He apparently shot some and they lost more to that new school in Germany."
"I got offered but I'd be teaching DNA," Greg admitted with a yawn. "I need a nap."
"You do, but can you wait until they move you down to the ward we've taken over?" Brass asked. Greg shook his head. "Then sleep, kid. Xander will be there when you wake up." He grinned at that and patted Grissom's hand, putting it back in his hair before falling asleep.
"His Grandfather did the same thing," his mother sighed. "Fussed and fussed and fussed until it was time to rest while he was injured. Then he wanted to be fussed over." She looked at Brass. "I noticed Xander looked more fragile than when we were introduced."
"He's tired, that's probably all it is. They've gotten a bit behind and there's only three CSI units in Chicago. He said he's been doing a lot of field work."
"He did ninety hours last week," Greg said tiredly. "They have two field techs, no trace people and only him on ballistics. He's tired."
"I'd be exhausted too," Brass agreed.
"You can help him while we rebuild," Grissom promised. Greg nodded, leaning into his hand so he went back to his petting. "Wait until you see his dog."
"I saw pictures when he got her."
Brass snickered. "Sarah's still giving it funny looks. Poor thing, abused by the former owner and now living with Xander's insanity."
"She steals food with the wolf," Greg said sleepily, yawning a bit. "Night."
"Night, kid." He looked at Grissom. "We're getting him pictures. The sheriff said Sidle and Xander are working the case."
"That's fine. I'll help wherever I can."
"Good. I'm heading back down there. Come down with him." He headed back downstairs, being stopped by the nurse and being handed the dog. "He'll fight you."
"I know, but she came out to steal food. What's with that tumor?"
"Xander said her former owner was putting balls on her. Apparently she's a transgendered dog. He said the shelter he found her at didn't remove them and it's been too long so Sarah here is just like that now. But yeah, she and the precinct's wolf like to steal food together. From what I hear, they're very good at it." Sarah barked and wagged her tail. "I know. They put in locking drawers and things and she figured out how to get food out of them and pass it back to the wolf, who shares his haul with her. He gives her rides around and things too."
"That's fine, we'll keep that in mind when we see her. Will she steal medicine?"
"Only if it's sugary or meat flavored. That's what the wolf likes."
"I'll hide my cookies then." She patted the dog on the head. "You behave and don't growl at the nurses. If you behave, you can stay." The dog barked and licked her fingers, then allowed herself to be carried into the room to nap with her daddy's friend. She liked this one, he smelled good. She gave a slight woof since he was asleep and curled up on his stomach, looking at her daddy. He reached down to pet her, making her one happy dog, even though he was looking at those things she couldn't see.
"That...looks dirty, Xander," Brass noted.
Xander looked at his dog, then at him. "Not my fault she wanted to nap there. She likes warm spots. Loves Ray's chest and Stan's hair." He went back to petting and reading. This was why she came to work with him. She helped him get ideas.
Greg had fussed the whole flight back and Hodges was sleeping, so Greg went up to go sleep on the new bed while Xander woke up Hodges and helped him up the stairs with the dog and their bags. Greg ran into a taut back and paused, looking him over. "Move, Mountie statue person." The Mountie looked startled but moved and Greg headed for the couch, laying down and falling back asleep. He still ached.
Xander grinned at Turnbull. "Hi. Guarding my apartment as a Canadian treasure now?"
"I would if you'd ask us to make you a citizen. We could use you." He picked Hodges up and carried him back to the master bedroom, letting him lay on that bed. "Hello, Sarah," he said, giving her a gentle pet. She licked his fingers before laying down on Hodges' stomach and getting comfortable. "That's fine, you guard him. We'll be in the living room." He walked out, going to lift the other one up and carry him to the other bed. Xander came back with the bags and he helped with that, then smiled at him. "Detective Vecchio wanted a call. He said that short one you gave him three weeks ago only made him worry more. Detective Kowalski is dead asleep behind the wheel of his car at the station and no one can get him out without him reaching for his gun, not even his ex-wife or Constable Fraser. Lieutenant Welsh said that he wanted a call when you returned about when he can expect you back at work, though he did understand that this came first. Also, Inspector Thatcher wanted to know if you knew how to cure root rot on her potted plants."
"I don't know much about plants, but you could ask Greg. He's got some friends who do herbal stuff and he might know."
"I shall when he wakes. Thank you, Xander."
"You're welcome. Let me pop over there. Can you watch things here or are you expected back?"
"I am but she did say I could give you an extra hour to run errands, like to pharmacies and things."
"Sure. Thanks, Turnbull." He kissed him on the cheek and grabbed his keys, running out.
"Get dog food, you're out."
"Yup, sure will." He hopped into his car, heading for the pharmacy he used when he needed things, dropping off he prescriptions. The tech there gave him an odd look. "They're my friends and fellow CSI from Vegas. They were both injured in the bombing." That got a sympathetic nod. "Put it on my card and send it there? Turnbull's there."
"Of course, Mr. Harris. Are you back?"
"More or less. Why? Am I due for a refill?"
"I pulled up your file when I saw you and it does say you're due for another set of allergy medicine and that antibiotic should be gone so you're supposed to call to get a refill."
"Thanks. I'll do that tomorrow. Send a note with the drugs to my place?" She smiled and nodded. "Thanks, dear." He headed back to his car, going to the station. He saw the guard in front of Stan's car, waving him back. He walked over and slowly opened the door, making Stan mumble and reach for his gun. "Stan," he whispered plaintively. "It's Xander, can you come out and play with me?"
"Sleep now, play later, Xander. Play real good."
Xander beamed. "I know we will. We'll play scrabble with made up words." That got a grin. "But you're in your car and you're scaring people. Can you quit being such a scary guy and let the nice officer drive you home?" Stan frowned and muttered. "I promise," he vowed. "Right home and right to bed. He can even pick up Dief so you have the furry blanket." That got a grin. "Good boy. Now, I'm going to take your gun, that way you don't hurt your car." He slowly inched it out, then tucked it into his back waistband. "There you go. Now, scoot over, let the officer in so he can drive." He helped Stanley move and nodded at the officer. "Know where he lives?" He nodded quickly. "Good. Get Diefenbaker and take him home."
"Wolf!" the cop yelled. "We're taking him home." He ran out and gave Xander's hand a lick before climbing in to sit in Stan's lap. "Thank you, sir."
"I'll give his gun to his Lieutenant. Be careful, Stan bites sometimes." He walked off, heading up the stairs and into the office. "I'm back, but I'm not sure how long it'll be before I'm *back*," he offered, leaning in the door. "They're both still needing some care. I'm thinking a week at most, maybe two days at best, but I'm still going to have to cut back my hours."
"We need you to anyway. We've had you on unpaid leave for the last two weeks to make up for all the overtime you've been doing. How are you managing?"
"I sleep now and then. The good news is, they can sub in until their lab is rebuilt in about five more months. That'll give us time to hire. Greg is a field tech now, did DNA before, and Hodges does Trace. That'll free me back to ballistics and part-time trace and part- time field, which'll also cut down on my hours and then you'll be okay."
"Good. I like that plan. A week?"
"Probably. Greg'll need a few more days of sleep to heal enough to stand up for more than ten minutes. Hodges needs his stitches pulled in about ten days but he's mobile, just cranky. I sent Stan home, here's his gun," he offered, handing it over properly. "I didn't check for a backup. I sent Dief home with him and an officer driving him."
"That's fine. Thank you. We haven't gotten him up in nearly a day."
"I promised to play more made up word Scrabble with him," he said happily. "Ray?"
"Fine. Tell him I'm fine. I'm heading home. Case solved. Person begging for mercy because I lost my temper while we were interrogating her. Scared her lawyer too. He protested to the judge she pled with. Judge said she deserved it for that loss of life and property. Since she's rich she's also helping rebuild the station. I may get to go back for a few days once they get to, just to look the old place over, make sure it's okay, that stuff."
"Fine. If you have any leave time left."
"You can call it Family Leave," he offered. "They're as close as I'm getting beyond my dog."
"I'll see if I can. The Chief may not go for it."
"If he's still scared of me, then I'm sorry for him, and if he's mad at Sarah for having a piss in his roses on his desk, then yay. She's a dog, he wouldn't let us take a five minute break. He knew she was in there with me, he had us snatched off the street during her walk." He shrugged and waved. "Laters. I'm headed home. There's a pharmacy delivery coming." He turned and ran into Ray. "Hi. I'm back, but not working for probably another week. She's crying and pleading. She begged for mercy but pled. I scared her and her lawyer, and he complained but the judge said he deserved it." He gave the stiff man a hug. "Fine, you're upset. I'm sorry I didn't call," he sighed. "I thought about it but it was always in the middle of the night and I didn't want to wake anyone."
"So instead you worry us?" he demanded. "Ma was worried sick."
Xander looked at him. "It was me and one other CSI working, Ray." He shook his head and moaned. "So, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you. I promise I didn't. You can come over tonight but they're both grumpy, fair warning." He gave him another hug and bounded down to his car and back to his place with a quick stop at the store to pick up stuff to drink and stuff to nibble on. Even if Ma didn't send food, he'd order take out. The good thing about working eighteen hours a day was the overtime. He was ahead on his rent by nearly a year. He ran back up the steps, grinning at Benny when he saw him outside his door. "Dief went with Stan to be his furry blanket. Ray's back in the station. I'm back, kinda, and you can come in but they're grumpy." He walked in and grinned at Turnbull, heading for the kitchen with the bags. "Okay, I'm back," he sighed, leaning on the counter. "Drugs get here?" He nodded. "You told Thatcher that?" He nodded again, grinning at him. "Good. All momentary problems solved." He looked over as Maria, Ray's older sister, came out of the back bedroom. "Did Ray send you?"
"Hell yes. You never have any food in the house and these poor men need fussing over better than you can do with your schedule."
"I'll be cutting back," he promised.
"So?" She stared him down. "Only women can fuss properly. So until you become a woman, you won't fuss enough."
"Ray fusses very well," Xander protested.
"That's because you worked yourself sick and got pneumonia. Ma couldn't come near you. Sit down, rest, and get better, Xander. You dying from overwork means that Ray'll quit smiling again." She pinched his cheek. "Next time, call! We don't care if it's four in the morning. We're used to Ray's phone going off then." She walked him over to a chair and forced him to sit down then put his feet up for him. "There." She went to look in the kitchen, sighing and shaking her head as she found some paper and a pen. "You're hopeless, Xander. At least you bought milk and bottled water."
"You had pneumonia?" Hodges asked from his new spot on the couch. "When?"
"Last month. Middle of last month," he sighed. "Right after the shooting."
"Ah. No wonder you didn't call." He looked him over. "You've lost weight. I didn't want to say anything. Captain Brass and Grissom both noticed and told me to nag Ray to feed you more."
"We have been, he's been working eighteen hours days," Maria called. "Isn't that right, Turnbull?"
"Usually I see him after sixteen hour ones, ma'am," he said respectfully. "Then he asks me to come to lunch with him so he doesn't fall asleep behind the wheel on the way home."
"That's not why I take you to lunch. You let me ramble on," Xander defended.
"Usually because you're too tired," Hodges agreed. "You did that with me too. Not that we minded," he offered with a grin. "I can start in the next few days."
"I can, the doctor said so. I just have to take it easy and no lifting or bending."
"Trace is set up pretty nicely," Xander offered. "There's a sliding door between the two labs so I can pop over and help. I've mostly been keeping it open unless I'm doing a test fire."
"That's because you work too hard," Greg said as he came out. Xander hopped up but he shoved him back down. "You've done more than I have recently. There's a free chair. How are we doing beds?"
"I can take the couch," Xander assured him. "It's very comfy and I sleep there most nights anyway."
"I thought the bed looked a bit too neat to belong to you," Hodges said dryly. "By the way. Dog!" Sarah came trotting out with something stuffed. "I don't know what that is but she looks quite smug. I can't call her by Sarah's name, the last time I did they both came in while I was naked."
Xander took the stuffed thing to look at it, then at his dog. "Sure, you can play with the sock puppet of love." He tossed it and she scrambled after it, bringing it back. He grinned. "You need to play, don't you?" He tossed it again and she ran after it, bringing it back. "Good girl." He patted her on the head and did it again. "We do this in the lab sometimes while I'm thinking. She loves my blue marker set."
"You bring your dog into the lab?"
"Into the main areas. Not into trace or ballistics. Though she does like to hide under the mass spec in DNA. The tech in there has her dog under there too so they curl up." He grabbed the sock puppet and tossed it for her, earning a bark because it hit Turnbull, who was her alternate walking buddy. He tossed it and she caught it mid-air, bringing it back to the daddy, wagging her tail and seeming to grin. "I love you too, princess," he offered, picking her up to kiss and hug her. She gave him a lick so he put her down and tossed the sock puppet back into the hall for her, watching her run after it. She brought it back and Maria came out to grab the dog and put her leash on her. "Hey! I was playing with her."
"She's going to come play with the kids. Wanna go see Ma, Sarah?" She barked and licked her ardently, loving her for that. She loved to play with the kids at the house. "Okay, we'll go there. Turnbull, go ahead back to the consulate if you need to. Benny's still outside." He nodded, going to do that. "You three, do not move. I'll be back in an hour with food."
"Yes, ma'am," Hodges agreed, watching as she left. "Wow. Who's she?"
"Ray's older sister. Four kids, a husband, and she still treats me like I'm ten."
"You are ten; somewhere in your head is a little ten-year-old guy waiting to come out and play pranks," Greg said dryly, putting his feet up. "Pneumonia?" Xander sighed and nodded. "How bad is your department?"
"We had a detective who had a theory blown by us so he came down and shot those responsible. We lost two more to Germany and then had to rebalance the shifts. I'm the only trace and the only ballistics person we have. We won't be hiring for a few more weeks at least. Field positions first."
"So you're doing three jobs," Hodges said dryly. Xander nodded. "Why didn't you call?"
"Nothing you could do about it. I did write Grissom and asked him to spread the news that we are actively hiring immediately."
"He did announce you guys were looking for field techs," Greg admitted. "He told us to write our friends to tell the others. That we could send them to your email address."
"I got two from Nick and one from Warrick. That one's an intern for DNA. He's already been hired. One of Nick's decided he didn't like the benefits package so he backed out and the other one's up before the hiring committee. My shift gets him first."
"Which shift is that?" Hodges asked.
"Days. All single techs got moved to days." He grimaced and stretched, then winced. "Ow. Sorry. Slept funny on the plane. The detectives are just as bad with that one missing. Stan was asleep in his car and hadn't been woken up in a day because he kept reaching for his gun. The city just enacted an older mandatory retirement clause. They lost a tenth of their police force and techs." They both moaned. "Yeah, so we're hiring actively. We'll even have snow soon. They got a last minute reprieve for any higher people, like supervisors and Mort since he runs our lab. They've got another two years to put someone in their places. We've got one coming in from Vermont, we've got two recent graduates coming in, and then the biggest graduating class at the academy in the last fifty years coming out. Those three techs may or may not stay. They're temping too. I'm hoping the one from Vermont can teach me how to drive on snow soon."
Hodges and Greg shared a look. "We'll be in when you go back," they assured him in unison.
"You don't have to. You could just rest and recuperate," he offered. "That way I have someone to talk to all the time."
"I'll be looking over your kid's shoulder for a few weeks," Greg reminded him. "I'm in no shape to go into the field."
Hodges nodded. "Me too. I'll be in the lab all day with you in the next one."
Xander sniffled. "I love you guys."
"We love you too but if you hug us again, we'll have to pop you one," Greg said firmly, making Xander laugh. "I haven't been hugged that much since my first incident in the lab at high school."
"It's those girls and where they warped him," Hodges reminded him. "The same as he probably still thinks football is about gay sex."
"It looks like it is," he defended.
"Maybe we can get Nick to come up and see if he wants to slowly take over this lab," Greg offered.
"We can't," Xander told him. "I promised him he'd never run a lab where he had to be over me. But please, don't ask Sarah to come take over. She'd be this ruling block of power. The same as Hodges would be for the first week."
"At least you think I'd change," Hodges offered. "By the way, the new intern said she was told not to suck up to me, just to be herself because I'd hate her anyway. Bobby told her so. She's not too bad but she's a really girly girl at times. Wanted me to cry on her shoulder a few weeks back and things."
"They can be like that," Greg reminded him. "If you dated more, you'd see that."
"Guys, no arguing over dating. We don't want to bring up my dating record, right?" They both shook their heads. "Then we'll be fine." Someone pounded on the door so he got up with a moan of protest to answer it. "Hey, Ray." He got out of his way since he was carrying stuff. "Maria made you come?"
"Ma made me come. She's coming later." He looked at the other two guys. "Hey. You okay now?"
"More or less," Hodges offered. "I've still got some staples."
"I'm just sore and achy," Greg told him. "Poor Mia's still in the hospital. I went in to talk to her about when I was burned and she said it didn't help any."
"She was always being compared to you," Xander reminded him. "Even Ecklie did it a few times, though he complimented her on better music tastes."
"It's been over a year. They need to get over it," Greg said firmly. "I'm never going to be a full time DNA tech again if I can help it." He looked back at Ray. "Though I will let you talk me into temping in there until I'm fit to do field work."
"Really? You'd let me talk you into sparing Xander? That way he could learn what the inside of his apartment looked like and remember the fact that his dog hates chicken?"
"I saw my dog more than I saw you," Xander said dryly. "She came to the lab with me and it's Mort who feeds her chicken and gives her gas."
"When was the last time you slept in your bed, kid?" Ray demanded.
"In any bed? Back in Vegas about two days ago."
"I said your bed, Xander," he said firmly.
"While I was coughing up solid crap for two weeks. It's not my fault we're backed up. They could have made it a gradual removal but they didn't. You and Stan have been just as busy as me so don't you stand there and preach."
"I'm not trying to, Xander, just trying to get you to look out for yourself. You take care of us, have the Mounties take care of us, and then keep going on your own."
"I'm younger than you are," he defended. "I have tons more energy and the ability to keep going now and then. It's not like I'm making mistakes and when I do, I take a nap."
"When was the last time he got a full day's sleep?" Greg asked.
"We're not sure he ever did," Ray told them.
"We'll watch out for him, Ray," Hodges said patiently. "We did it back in Vegas when things happened, we'll be coming in to help him here so he can sleep and eat and all that good stuff again too."
"We'll even pay you something," he promised. "Even if it's just for four months." They nodded. "How long before you get rebuilt?"
"Five at the minimum. That's to get the machines and possibly move us into a new building temporarily," Greg told him.
"Thank you, God. Let me call Mort, see where he wants you guys."
"I'll be in the field within a month," Greg offered.
"Greg, to be honest, field people we've got. The intern we got filed a complaint about her hours and the new one can't start for another four months."
"Sure, I can go back for a few months but I want to keep up my field training."
"Sure. I'll bring you with me if I have to." He called the station. "Put me through to Mort. I don't care if he's armpit deep in a dead body. Now." He paused. "Mort, Ray. Yeah, they said they could. They won't be rebuilt for five months at the earliest. They're willing to help. Greg said he could go back into the DNA lab but he wants to do some field work to keep his training going. When and where do you want them?"
"Give us a week," Hodges said gently. "We're still sore."
"They asked for a week, that okay?" He grinned at them and nodded. "Thanks, Mort." He hung up. "One week from now, all three of you are to reappear for night shift. That's from six until midnight, maybe one on some rare Fridays or Saturdays. That good?"
"That's fine with us," Hodges agreed. "We're used to pulling ten hours."
Ray snorted. "We wouldn't do that to our people. Local rules, eight hours max in the lab unless it's an emergency."
"So that's why Xander went into the field so often," Greg said.
Xander nodded. "I was needed. I did my eight hours, cleared as much as I could, then headed out to help the others. It was the only way we were keeping marginally in control of the situation. Who did she complain to?"
"The Chief. Filed a written complaint. He called Mort, who gave him the honest truth, which made him scowl. This'll ease that. He's calling him to say that it's getting a bit better by the end of this week. He announced that and everyone cheered. Now, food." He turned to start unloading the bags he had been carrying. "Plates, Xander?"
"Probably still in the dishwasher," he admitted. "It's not like I've been eating here."
"You've been sleeping at the station?" Greg suggested.
"At least three days a week we all do," Ray agreed. "That stupid rule screwed up way too many things. They should have done it gradually. Started off with the thirty year people and over guys this year, the twenty-five through nine next year, and on down. Now you can only be 64 and under to work in the city."
"I feel like I am," Xander admitted, yawning a bit. Ray gave him a look. "I'm fine. I'll nap in a while on the couch."
"There's only two beds, how are we handling that?" Greg asked Hodges.
"It's unfair to make him sleep out here."
"It's a good napping spot, guys, I promise. It's very comfortable."
"It's got a loose spring," Hodges complained, shifting some.
"Reach down and push on that spot, it'll pop back in place. You just bounced too hard," Xander told him. "There's a new one coming next week."
"Thankfully," Ray agreed. "It is comfortable. I've spent a few nights on it recently. It's closer than home for me or Stan. Stan's gun?"
"Welsh." He accepted his plate with some drool. "Wow. You cooked with Ma?"
"Yeah, I started, she had to go to the store." He handed over the other plates. "Wonder boy there has milk, soda, water, and coffee."
"Milk please," Hodges requested as he sat up to eat.
"That's fine for me too," Greg agreed. He took a bite and moaned. "This is good. I've got to get a recipe."
"I'll write 'em all down for you before you go home, Greg. Xander?" He looked over, watching him devour the food. "Xander, nod, soda?" He got a quick nod and carried out the container to let him dish out some more. "Eat. You've lost fifty pounds since we got you." He went back to make himself a small plate and bring Xander a soda, coming out to take up the free end of the couch. "It's been a rough time but we are turning it around," he offered quietly. "We have the lab reset up. We were doing good until that detective went off."
"Mort's got to find a successor," Xander pointed out. "He's under the supervisor's clause." He looked at his friends. "I have third highest seniority in the lab," he said proudly. "You'll have to let me know when Bobby's wedding is."
Hodges looked at him. "Who is he marrying?"
"He was really coddling his intern and she was cooing over him," Xander told him. "He was lapping it up like Sarah does beer. My Sarah, not yours."
"Never bring that dog to a barbeque," Ray advised. "She will steal your beer, your seat, and your plate. That's how she and Diefenbaker got together. He tried to steal the ribs she'd stolen off my plate."
"Now she rides on his back to give him access to higher foods," Xander agreed dryly. "They're very cute together. He even licks her incision now and then."
"Eww," Greg noted.
"Sorry. I'm working under an ME, we get meals like that." He dug in again, finishing up that plate. Then he opened his soda and drank it more slowly. "Ah," he sighed, grinning at Ray. "You cook great."
"One of these days, you'll have the time to learn," he quipped. "That way Ma won't worry about you."
"If she didn't worry about you or me, then she'd be bored all day and get sick and die sooner," Xander defended.
"Probably true," Ray agreed, giving him a small smile. "At least you're trying reasoning, it shows that you got some sleep."
"He was working with Sarah Sidle out there," Greg told him before eating another bite.
"They were probably working about the same hours as he is here," Hodges finished.
"That'll stop or Welsh said he can't have overtime. By the way, the Chief said you could have a week when they went back to escort them back, look around, make sure everything was okay, but that you couldn't count them under Family Leave time. The Feds wrote that one too tightly. Only immediate family, like brothers or spouses."
"So if he claims we're together, that'll work?" Hodges asked sarcastically.
"The Chief offered Welsh that but Welsh had to admit he wasn't sure if you three were together in some way. If so, he said no groping in the labs where anyone can catch you."
"They made the married couple go on separate shifts when they were caught in the morgue's storage room. She got switched back about two weeks later."
"I thought our lab was like a soap opera," Hodges said in amazement. "What's going on now?"
"Well, the married couple are fighting because they don't get to have sex anymore because of the hours. Apparently it's straining their relationship too much. Mort's wife said either he starts coming home every night or she's going to come kill the rest of us so he won't have to worry about it. She did see me and ask him if I was his forgotten love child, but he only laughed and claimed I was the younger brother he needed so he would have turned out normal. He can't cook either." He took another sip of his soda and took a long blink as well. "Then, um, Harrison, upstairs, squad sergeant for midnights, is dating the remaining field tech." He had another long blink. He felt someone take the soda from his hands and swatted at them.
"Let's put you on the couch," Ray offered in his ear. "That way you can finally rest. I'll wait on Ma and tell them the rest of the gossip." Xander nodded, letting himself be moved. "Good boy, Xander. Ma would be proud of you." He got a grin and put Xander on the end he was sitting on, letting Hodges move him however so they were both comfortable. Hodges was getting ready to nap too. He and Greg watched as Hodges slid down and Xander immediately cuddled up to him, even flipping over to hold him. "Ah," he said happily.
"There were a lot of rumors about them getting together back in Vegas," Greg said quietly. "They usually did things to make fun of them." He looked at Ray. "I'm not sure he'll stay if he's asked."
"I don't know either." He shrugged. "Xander will recover."
"No he won't." Greg stood up with a wince. "Remember his past, he won't recover. I'm going to take a shower and hit the spare bed. Don't worry about waking them. They'll sleep through nearly anything. His pain meds are good at that and Xander's exhausted. We'll try to make him rest with us." He headed back to the bathroom. "Night, Ray."
"Night, Greg." He watched them cuddle, keeping watch until his mother came up the stairs. He'd listened to her walk too many times in their own house to not recognize that tread, and the one behind her must be Benny. He got up and opened the door, nodding behind him at the sleeping couple. "Greg just slid into his."
"That's fine, Caro," Ma said, smiling at the sleeping couple. She went into the kitchen to fill the cabinets with food and the refrigerator with cooked food. All three of those poor babies needed it and so did her family. She looked over the kitchen and sighed, shaking her head. "Raymondo, he has no plates."
"He has plates, Ma, they were just using them." He gathered up the dirty dishes and came in to load them into the dishwasher for her. "See, plenty of plates and cups. I made sure Xander bought real plates and cups when I found him eating off paper plates and drinking out of plastic cups." She smiled and pinched his cheek. "Thanks, Ma. Anything else you see?"
"The water smells funny here."
"We know. He's got some bottled water for cooking and drinking, Ma."
"Good. That's smart of him." She cleaned up the kitchen then went to check on them, covering the boys on the couch with a sheet from the main bedroom. They were adorable together.
Hodges looked around the setup in his lab. "This is nice," he admitted respectfully. It was great. Everything was arranged logically and easily within reach. The table was nice and large, but also was a light table on one side if he needed it. The lab was stocked with everything he could need. He turned when he heard a door slide open. "Already done?"
"No. I've got sixteen guns to match tonight," he admitted dryly. "At least someone did test fires and taped the bullets to the tags on the guns. You?"
"Looks like four bagged things and a few boxes." He looked at him. "Need help?"
"No, I'm good for this," he admitted. "You sure you're okay to start working."
Hodges pulled down his head and kissed him on top of it. "Go work, Xander. Pout later." He nodded, going back to work. Hodges closed the door so they wouldn't get any contamination between the labs and settled in to look at his first item. Pretty standard, find the stuff on it and analyze it. He could do this stuff in his sleep.
Greg stuck his head in a few minutes later. "You should see the DNA lab. I never had it so good. Everything's fixed, brand new, working, even the phone works right. It also plays CD's."
"I noticed that ours did too," he agreed. He heard Xander's start up. "Comedy. That's a good sign. Did you forget anything?"
"Of course not. I've filled in when Mia was out." He smirked at him. "The day shift girl hugged me. Got down on her knees and hugged my knees, crying." He went back across the hall to get to work. It was good to start simply again. He was still a bit sore but he could sit down and run things his way and it was nice. If he didn't want to go back in the field, he wanted this lab at home. He decided he'd borrow Xander's new video camera to tape this lab and send it back to Grissom with the note saying he wanted this for the new DNA lab. Plus, Mort liked to listen to him ramble and present findings so far. He had smiled and told it was a good job and that it was concise and to the point. That he had style and they liked that around there. If he ever wanted to be a DNA tech again, he'd want to stay here. Then again, he liked being a field tech. He liked it a lot. It was his dream. And he'd get to go back to it in a few weeks once they caught up. Mort had promised him at least three days a week in the field. The fourth he could clear up any backlog and work with Xander or Hodges if he wanted. He looked down as Sarah came in and crawled underneath a machine, grinning at her. "Tired, baby?" She gave a weak bark and snuggled in to get comfortable on the bed down there. "You rest. I know how that is. I was there recently." He started on his second sample, working on getting it ready for processing. He heard a swear. "What happened, Xander?" he called.
"How did you trip?" Hodges asked, going over to check on him. He found him on the floor and made him look up at him. "You look like hell. What happened?" Xander shrugged. "Did you black out?" Another shrug. "Xander," he said firmly. Another shrug. "Fine. Mort? Xander tripped, I think he blacked out again."
"That's the third one this month, Xander. Didn't I tell you to see someone about that?"
"I'm fine. He said to cut down on my hours and take nap."
Mort came in to look him over, frowning a bit. "Greg, come run some bloodwork for me please?"
"Sure, Mort." He brought in a few vials and a needle. "You want me to stick him?"
"No, I can. I do keep in practice. I do a few nights in the local ER's every month." He gently withdrew the blood and wrote on them what he wanted done, giving them back to the Greg. "They should already be standard on the computer."
"Sure, Mort." He went back to run those for him, gathering the results as they came out. They were Greek to him but Mort frowned at Xander, who curled up in a small ball. "Is he sick again?"
"Still is more correct I believe." He picked up the phone and called upstairs. "Detective, this is Mort. No, he's blacking out again. I did some blood work and it appears he's still a bit sick. Yes, classic infection. Does he have a fever, Hodges?" He checked, then nodded, swatting Xander on the back of the head. "He'll be fine. It's just the end of the pneumonia I believe. Can you come take him to your mother's?"
"I'm fine," Xander protested, standing up. He blacked out again and woke up on the floor looking up at the detective and the coroner. "I'm fine."
"Bullshit," Ray snorted. "Come on, Xander."
"I'm fine and I've got a backlog."
"When you get back from the ER, you can handle it," Ray assured him. "Now, let's go or it's an ambulance ride again." Xander groaned and let himself be helped up. "He'll be back soon." He walked the boy out, forcing him out to the car and inside so he could take him to the ER. "You can't be this stubborn," he said as they drove off. "You getting sicker means that Hodges has to take care of you, not the other way around."
"That's why I'm ignoring it."
"Ignoring it doesn't make it better, kid, it makes it worse. Now, settle in and let's do this as fast as we can. Then you may be able to go back tonight. If not, it'll keep for tomorrow."
"Some of those cases needed to be done tonight."
"You're all the excuse Stella needs, Xander. I called her before I came down and she's going to tell the judge you've worked yourself sick. That means that it's a legitimate way to kill time. Even if the judge does call you down to yell at you for it, again, you can point out that you've worked more hours than he has this year since the last time he called you down to yell at you for passing out at work."
"Maybe," he complained, sighing as they pulled into the ER. "Must I? It'll take forever."
"It won't." He parked and got out, going around to pull Xander out and inside, pointing him at the registration desk. "He's blacking out. He just had pneumonia a few months back. He's working himself sick again."
"Harris. Xander Harris," Xander sighed. "You saw me the last time too."
"I see your file right here," she promised with a small smile. "Have a seat. When was his last blackout?"
"Right before I put him in the car," Ray told her. "A good, solid five minutes of him being gone. They're still working him like a dog. He had the week off and I made him eat and sleep but I don't think it's helping any. Oh, Mort said he ran some tests," he offered, handing over the forms. "He ran them on the lab's machines after his first one tonight. We came after his second."
"Are you sure he doesn't have seizures?"
"I never have."
"Hmm." She looked at them. "I'll let the nurse see these when she calls you back. Here, let me do the usual checks before we put you in a chair to wait on a room." She took his blood pressure, looking at the number, then at Xander. Then she took his temperature. Then she called an orderly to come bring him back. "Mr. Harris needs a room immediately. Here's some bloodwork he had done at work. He's blacking out, the detective may sit with him," she said. "Use Trauma two since it appears to be empty."
"Yes, ma'am," he agreed, walking the young man back. The doctor filling out paperwork in there gave them an odd look. "The receptionist said so, sir. Said he's blacking out and he had some bloodwork done earlier."
The doctor took the forms while Vecchio forced Xander onto the bed. He looked at Xander. "I remember you. You had exhaustion and pneumonia, right?" Xander sighed and nodded. "What was his temperature?" Vecchio shrugged and Xander only groaned, holding his head. He went to the doorway and found a nurse walking his way with the file. "Harris?" She nodded. "Full file?" She nodded again, handing it over. "Thank you." He walked back in to review it, then looked at the young man on the bed. "You work how many hours a week?"
"He's just had a week off and we're slowly fixing the problem," Vecchio offered. "He's back to working a single shift a day now, which is supposed to be eight. He's also back to only doing one or two jobs, like he's supposed to."
"I see. The smoke inhalation was when?"
"I had a bombing case in Vegas starting a month ago," Xander said quietly, looking at him. "I wore a mask."
"Yes, but you still got chemical inhalation, young man." He looked him over, checking everything and listening to his lungs. "Antibiotics?"
"I'm still on them. My boss refilled them the day I got back."
"Your boss is who?"
"The local ME," Vecchio noted. "He's a ballistics tech."
"I know Mort. Has he rested and eaten recently?"
"He had the last week off," Ray swore. "I made sure he ate and rested with the guys from Vegas he was helping rest and heal. I got him to do all that stuff you wanted him to do last time."
"Well," he said, shaking his head. "It's helped some but not enough. Though, the machine needs calibrated. It says he's pregnant." He handed that sheet over. "Show that to Mort." He looked at Xander. "When was the last time he ate?"
"Two hours ago. I had a chicken sandwich," Xander offered.
"You had fast food after Ma's been cooking for you for the last week?" Ray asked impatiently.
"The fridge was empty. We ate it all," Xander defended. He looked at the doc. "I still have sixteen guns to match tonight, doc. Do I need stronger antibiotics? Stronger diet modification? What do I need?"
"Shot," he said dryly, frowning at him. "You're running a fever, your blood pressure is through the roof, your bloodwork shows malnutrition and exhaustion in addition to chemical inhalation. Are you taking steroids?"
"Only if you gave me some or it's in my soda."
"Fine. We're moving you to observation and if you whine, I'll let him shoot you," he said at the opening mouth. "If you go back tonight you could die. Choose."
"People are counting on me."
"Yes, but they'll still be counting on you next week when you're dead too," he said firmly. "It'll be an overnight, you can go back tomorrow, maybe. Depending on why you're still sick. And if you argue, I will turn around to let him shoot you non-fatally somewhere I won't have to close." Xander glared and he sighed. "One night could save your life if we can figure out how to combat what's wrong, Mr. Harris. Don't you want to live?"
"Yes, but I don't want to make anyone else do my work either."
"Xander, you worked like a dog for the department for the last four months," Vecchio told him. "For us, for Vegas, for all of us. You're wearing yourself down. Now, quit complaining or else I will shootcha. Ma'll only fuss at me for a few minutes when I tell her you blacked out twice tonight."
"What was the interval between them?" the doctor asked.
"Maybe ten minutes at the most," Ray told him. "The first one was momentary, like he tripped. The second one lasted a good five minutes."
"Then he's definitely going up to observation. I will be calling his boss to tell him I'm keeping him and why. Now, are you going to go willingly?" Xander shook his head. "Fine. Detective? He's now becoming a danger to himself and possibly others. Please take his license and his keys. There's no way he can drive and not kill someone like this."
"Sure." He patted the kid down, taking his guns, his wallet, his keys, his necklace, and even his glasses. "There you go. All yours. Let me call Mort and Welsh and I'll follow him upstairs."
"We've got a courtesy phone up there," he promised, writing out the admittance order. "We've seen a few officers recently but most of them were cured with a single night's sleep. The fact that you had a week means that you're not going to get better without more stringent control. We'll figure out why and release you to minimal work hours. All right?" Xander nodded, hanging his head. "Good." He paged an orderly. "He goes up to observation. He's already been frisked for weapons." He finished the order and handed it over. "If Trisha's on tonight, give that to her. If not, give it to MaryJane." The orderly nodded, helping Xander into a wheelchair and out of the room. "Not your fault, detective. You tried but we missed something somewhere." He went back to make notes about that on the nightly log and went to find his next patient. "Warn me the next time that you're sending the walking dead back to where I'm doing charts," he told the receptionist. "He went up to observation if anyone calls for him." She nodded and he went to find his next patient.
Mort hung up and looked at the two worried men. "They're taking him into observation now. He was running a fever and his blood pressure was up. Greg, I need you to calibrate that machine. It said one of you needs to pass out cigars."
"That's one piece of news I never thought I'd hear," Greg quipped. "Congrats, Hodges."
"Funny. Not." He looked at Mort. "Is he all right?"
"They're figuring that out now. Ray said if they can figure it out he may be able to come back tomorrow night with some restrictions. I have the number for observation written down and you can bother the nurses hourly checking on him, all right?" They nodded, taking the number back to their lab, Hodges going to help Greg calibrate that machine. Mort got the pleasant task of calling Welsh and the DA's office to tell them that their ballistics tech was now in the hospital. He called upstairs, getting Frannie. "Dear, has your brother called Welsh yet?" He smiled. "No, that's fine. Thank you. No, I'm going to call the DA instead. Oh, she's there? That's fine, please." The phone was handed over. "DA Kowalski? Yes, it is. No, he's in observation at the hospital. Because he blacked out. No, the doctors won't release him. Ray said the doctor told him to shoot him if he fussed or whined about not coming back tonight. That's fine, remind the judge that if he dies, it's going to be a very long time before we get another tech here. He can wait a few more days or wait for months. Yes, you can tell him I said that. Dear, he was so sick his body was registering as pregnant on our machines. Now do you want him well or dead?" He smiled.
"I thought as much. Tell him it'll be a few days. I'm sure he'll be back by then as long as they don't kill him for trying to escape back here to slave away for you some more. Dear, he did ninety hours his last week here. He did at least that many each week he was working on the bombing case in Vegas. The boy has basically been this crime lab for the last month. You tell your boss if he has any problems then he can step on the hiring board and make them work faster. We only have one ballistics tech. We only have one trace tech and he's a sub until his lab back in Vegas is rebuilt. We have two DNA techs and he's expecting to go back into the field soon since that's where he moved to recently. We're working at a third of our staff, DA Kowalski. Be thankful anything gets done in a timely manner at the moment. Tell your boss to kick the hiring board in the hind-end and make them work faster. That's the only thing that'll clear this up sooner. I'm sure he'll be fine. High fever, high blood pressure. Apparently the nurse sent him back right away with what we told him. No, he blacked out twice within ten minutes. Of course. Thank you for your cooperation. You have a nice night, DA Kowalski. Tell your husband what's going on if he hasn't heard please. I know they're close." He hung up and went to help calibrate the machine. "The fact he came up pregnant made DA Kowalski quit complaining nicely," he told them. "How is he?"
"The nurses said he's fine," Hodges told him. "Ray forced him to nap somehow."
"Good. He was probably fussing over you two too much."
"No, every time I woke up, Xander was napping too," Hodges admitted.
Greg nodded. "He was. He'd just sit down and suddenly nap."
"That's usually a good thing. That means his body's catching back up to what he needs. I'm sure he'll be fine and Ray's mother will be able to help him with any food needs he has this time."
"Hopefully," Greg agreed. "I can cook but she's way better than I am."
"Me too," Hodges agreed. "Should we warn Vecchio that we called Captain Brass?"
"No, he can handle the man. They're much alike in their attitude toward the boy. They both see him as something like their wayward child."
The door slammed inward and Stanley Kowalski walked in. "Where's Xander?"
"Observation," Greg told him calmly. "He blacked out a few times."
"And he's pregnant how? He is a guy, right? Not like his dog?" He heard Sarah bark. "You, hush." He looked at them again.
"He is fully male, we think the machine is miscalibrated," Hodges explained.
"It'd better be! He don't need that on topa everything else!"
"Detective, it's probably still the exhaustion of overwork. His body's still catching up," Mort offered. "Go sit with him so Detective Vecchio can tell his mother."
"Yeah, I'll do that. I'll call you guys if there's a problem." He stormed out, heading that way.
"Now those two I can see together. Those two play together and like each other."
"Xander sees him as a big brother and Ray as lustworthy," Greg told him.
"Indeed? Then it's fully fitting that Detective Vecchio has taken him home to meet his family and they've adopted him. I wonder if his mother knows. She's a delightful woman."
"We know, she's come over every day to fuss," Hodges agreed.
"So have Ray and Turnbull," Greg reminded him. "Could be he's seeing it too."
"Your hint wasn't very subtle, Greg."
"I wasn't trying to be subtle, I was trying to get the point across. Ray doesn't seem to do subtle hints."
"No, he never has," Mort agreed. "Are we ready to test?" They both finished up resetting the dials and keypad and they did the first test, running it with Xander's blood. It came up a bit differently this time. "Well, that does explain things a bit better." He took it to call the hospital. "Run the others please, Greg."
"Sure, Mort." He ran the other tests as ordered, coming up with mostly the same things. Once they were done he brought them to him, nodding at the phone. "He okay?"
"Oh, yes, and they've found that result themselves so they're running further tests to make sure. He's still fine. They let me talk to Ray and he's said Stanley hasn't made it yet. Must have a wreck in the way." He smiled. "It's fine, Greg. You can call in about a half-hour when they get the bloodwork back."
"Sure." He went back to work, going to clear out the backlog. For an intern, the girl hadn't done too bad by herself, but there were some things he'd have to teach her when they overlapped tomorrow for an hour. When a half-hour was up, he went over to Hodges's lab. "They should have the new bloodwork back by now."
"Ray said they did and that it looked okay. That it was easily cured with some diet modifications and that Stanley did finally make it but he had stopped to get Turnbull to help him watch the stubborn one." He smirked at him. "How did Xander do all this by himself?"
"He's amazing? That's why he's in the hospital?"
"They think that may be more from the chemicals he inhaled from the building in Vegas. They found trace amounts of it in his lungs."
"Did you tell Brass that too?"
"Yeah and he said Sarah's had a cough and wheeze for the last few weeks too. He hopes Xander gets better and we can slug him if he fusses too much about any restrictions."
"Sure. Why don't we just tie him down and baby him?"
"Because he might like that," Hodges sighed. "Who arranged the labs so they'd be perfectly in order, everything placed where we wanted them?"
"Stanley. Xander told him where everything should go. That way we'd feel comfortable," Greg said, shrugging a bit. "I'm waiting to see how I feel."
"Yeah, me too. I don't know. There's not much tying me there personally but I like working with Grissom and Brass. And even occasionally you, Warrick, and Nick."
"So we'll give it a try and see if the feelings are there," Greg agreed. "If not, we'll have to tell Xander."
"You know, he doesn't expect you to stay with him," Turnbull said from the doorway. "He told the detective that earlier. That he didn't expect you to want to stay and he wasn't going to make you stay, but if you wanted to stay he'd be happy." He grinned. "We rearranged the labs so neither of you would have to move so much with how you hurt. He told us how you had yours set up in the past." He walked in. "As of this moment, according to the doctors, his body is readjusting itself. He basically needs to keep eating, resting, and drinking."
"So his desire to be helpful to everyone at once is competing against what's left of his common sense?" Hodges asked.
"Basically," he agreed. "His common sense is shutting him down to win the argument. As long as it continues to make progress, it'll ease off on his body. If it loses another argument, well, it could get quite upset and throw a tantrum or throw the board."
"Should he be working?"
"That's fine as long as he takes it easy. One job, possibly two at the most, not every job in the lab. Not all the jobs in the lab at once. Then again, that should be easier since he has no more overtime budgeted for this year. Even with him being on unpaid leave for the last few weeks." They both groaned and shook their heads. "He'll be fine. Make him stick to his hours and he'll be wonderful. By the way, he does think he could be more than friends with a few of you. You've proven that you're not going to turn fully evil by being with him. You two, Stanley, myself, and Ray fit into that category so far. So if you do have to hurt him, make it gentle. The rest of us would appreciate that."
Greg looked at him. "That was the most polite 'I'll kick your ass if you hurt my man' I've ever heard, Renfield."
Turnbull smiled. "I do try to stay polite. It's part of the calling you know." He smiled at Hodges. "That went for you as well." He clapped his hands. "Now, I was asked to come lift things for you. What things shall I begin hefting and toting for your pleasure?"
"Sweaty men never turned me on," Greg told him. "But there's some boxes in my lab that have to be moved back into storage."
"Right away, Greg." He went to do that.
Hodges looked at Greg. "His manners would improve." Greg pinched him. "Ow!"
"Renfield wouldn't take him out for a run in the park or let him play on the swingsets like I did." He went back to his lab, going back to work.
"Actually, I find pushing him on the swing to be quite enjoyable. It gives me a chance to touch him."
"Offer to give him backrubs. He's a sucker for them," Greg said dryly, looking at him. "We're not sure about that either."
"Of course. It's not the usual thing for you and you have to consider all your options and your career. Canada is much more practical. We've gotten over the somber puritan morals and moved on with the reality of the world around us. Even my Inspector likes Xander. Thinks he's very good at what he does and he makes me focus more."
"Yeah, well, I heard about your boss from Stanley. She'd probably try to make you leave him alone as a punishment for not dusting enough or something."
"Probably for not ironing the drapes correctly but should someone try that with me, I'd have to get quite upset. Constable Fraser said to warn him should I become that upset so he could evacuate our little corner of Canada."
"Yeah, I'd like that warning too," he agreed. "I'll make sure Ray and Stan get it too."
Turnbull smiled at him. "Would you? That would be very helpful of you." He lifted the next box of supplies and put them away. "Was everything refilled?"
"I've got enough stuff here so I can do every bit of DNA work for the next two years, Renny. Don't worry about it. The only thing I don't have enough of is alcohol pads for slide cleaning, but I've got cleaning solution."
He checked the boxes. "Those are in the last box on the bottom, with the towelettes. I'll put some of each out for you. Anything else?"
"No, I'm good," he assured him. "Thank you. I wish I had you back at home."
He smiled. "I don't think I could stand the desert. Going without snow would bother me after too long." He went back to his chores, putting out the needed supplies when he came to them. "Well, I'm off to dust and straighten out Her Majesty's rooms tonight. Do have fun. Yell if you need more help."
"Sure. Thanks." He nodded and left, going to report that the mess they had left was now cleaned up.
Xander looked up on the last day Hodges and Greg would be with him, seeing the indecisive faces. "I don't expect you guys to stay," he said quietly. "You guys got Grissom and the Cap, and even Sarah."
"Yeah, but you guys bend over backwards for us," Greg said, sitting on one side of him, Hodges on the other.
"The salary sucks, the official benefits package is weak, but the private benefits are great," Hodges admitted. "I don't know, Xander. Let me spend a week back there, see if I can stand it. I might not be able to stand the pressure that I'm under out there anymore. With the lab going off like that, they had to hire some new techs and I'm not counting on any of them having any sense."
"The DNA tech does," Greg assured him. "I had a hand in them coming in." He looked at Xander. "You could come back with us."
"If Bobby ever really retires, I might," he promised. "Here, I've got so much." He sighed. "I've got seniority with Tammy leaving next month. I've got my lab. I've got Ray and his Ma. I've got Stan and his Mounties." He chuckled. "I don't think Stan realized that the Mounties were both panting after him until they got into that fight in the closet and Stan caught 'em going at it politely about who was going to ask him to that formal banquet. I've got most everything I want here."
"But you don't have anyone to cuddle up with other than your dog," Greg agreed. "If I don't like what's going on, I'll be back," he promised. "I told Mort I'd be back. He'll hold off hiring a new DNA tech until the semester ends. That gives me three weeks to tell him one way or another." He shrugged. "I don't know. The only thing holding me in Las Vegas is the people. I'd miss Gris. Hell I might even miss Sarah."
Xander gave him a sad grin. "I understand."
Hodges gave him a hug. "It'll be okay, Xander. We're not abandoning you. You can always come out with us."
"It'll be too hard to do that. It'll be like leaving after my internship again."
"Well, you could come visit us," Hodges reminded him. "I'm sure Sarah would like to visit Warrick some more."
Xander looked at him. "He said he'd turn her into a hamburger if she tried to lick his ear that way again," he said dryly.
"He just needs to date more often," Greg said smugly. "We've got to work on getting him and Nick dating again. He gave him a hug. "You're not really ready, Xander. Your life is still too insane doing everyone else's job for them all the time. You don't have time to juggle a lover and work. One would get slighted with the schedule you carry. Your mate would always have to fight for your attention. Relax, give yourself time to have some fun and enjoy being young. You're only twenty-eight. Be twenty-eight for a bit and see how that works, then go looking for someone serious."
"We could still be coming back, but we won't know until we get back and have a chance to see any changes. With Grissom and Brass running the lab, you never know what's going to go wrong."
"They did it for years."
"Yes, but it could have gotten worse. We're not sure about the new building, any changes for protocol, how many staff changes there were. I'm giving myself two weeks. If I don't like it, I'm coming back."
"You can have the spare bed," Xander promised. "Or wherever."
Hodges grinned. "Thanks. You make a good pillow." He pinched him on the arm. "Now, let's go to the airport."
"Stan said he was driving you so I didn't have to get mushy there."
"Where is he?" Greg asked.
"Probably sitting downstairs reading." Xander got up to look. "Yup, he's downstairs waiting." He grinned at them and gave them last hugs. "You guys be safe. I don't want to have to visit you guys in the hospital or come talk to headstones. Got it?" They nodded, grabbing their things and heading out.
Hodges paused at the door. "You be safe too, Xander. No more killing yourself for work." He gave him a knowing look and walked off, leaving the door open.
Ray walked in and shut it, pulling Xander away from the window. "It'll hurt more if you watch." He sat down on the couch with him, letting Xander curl up against his side. "Ma invited you over tonight but I told her you were going to be sad and here. She suggested I come sit with you to make sure you didn't go to work tonight."
"I have to go to work tonight."
"There's only been a beating all day. Mort said you weren't coming in tonight." He gave him a squeeze. "It'll be fine. They'll come back or you'll end up back there some day. At least one of them will."
"Yeah, maybe," he admitted, letting Ray support him for now. "It still sucks."
"Yeah, well, that's life, kid." Xander hit him. "Ow! What was that for."
"For the bullshit advice."
"Sorry." He grinned down at him. "Did you know Turnbull threatened to bring you home with him tonight if Stanley didn't drive those two and make one last pitch to keep them?"
"No, but I kinda figured he did. Turnbull's cute but it's cuter watching him stalk Stan around the office now and then."
"Well, yeah," he agreed sarcastically. "Makes Frannie laugh too. Especially when Fraser gets between them and reminds him that hunting Stan in the office is improper unless they're in Canada because gay relations down here are not allowed. Therefore they must bring him back to Canada to be able to hunt him officially. That's usually when Stan tries to sneak off but they catch him and take him to dinner back at the consulate." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "You'll be okay. I promise you'll be okay."
"I know I'll be okay but it still sucks ass."
"Well, yeah, with the relationship you three seem to have, that would be one of those things you could do." Xander hit him again. "Just for that, I'm going to make you play ball with me again this weekend."
Xander looked up at him. "The last time you did that I went home very confused and had to ask Brass if basketball that way was supposed to feel like a gay come on and rough foreplay. You should send Catherine a card for sparing him answering that question."
Ray snorted. "You still don't play it right, kid."
"Yeah, well, since I come home wearing more of your sweat than you do, that's reasonable."
"Not really. If you shoved back...."
"You'd be moaning about your back and your ass hurting after I shoved you to the ground."
"Possibly true," he admitted dryly. "Maybe. I doubt you could do that."
"Did I not flip that three hundred pound guy the other day?" Ray nodded. "Do you weigh more than him?"
"No, but you can't grab me like that on the court."
"No, but there's no rules about tickling either."
"I'm not ticklish."
"Your mother said you are."
"Ma said what? When?"
"Last week when she wanted to know if she should enlarge your room or if you were thinking about moving in here. She said it was obvious to her and most of the people in church."
"I'm not..." He let out a growl of frustration. "Sorry, kid, not my ways."
"I know," he sighed, leaning against him again. "You or Jim Brass. There's very few men I'd consider sleeping with, all of them much smarter than I am. Two of them think I'm a little kid, even though I'm nearly thirty. Two of them just went back to Vegas, and the other two are sleeping with the guy the rest of the station thinks you're sleeping with. All but Mort, Welsh, and Stan."
"They're still on that?"
"Yup. I got warned not to become a home-wrecking boyfriend by making you cheat on him by one of the patrol cops."
"Shit," he muttered, giving the kid a squeeze. "We'll figure it out some day."
"Sure. Take another guy I can't turn evil away from me."
"Oh, I've already got enough evil in me," he said smugly. "You can't warp me that much." He gave him a kiss on the forehead. "We'll figure it out, Xander. Even if I have to find you a real lover and staple them to your side."
"That might hurt."
"Probably but it'd keep you off scenes at four in the morning when you're supposed to be out of the office."
"There's nothing else for me to do. The cable here sucks. It's a good thing I found other reasons to stay. I'd be bored forever."
"Yeah, uh-huh. Your mouth blows a storm that covers the rocks in your head." Xander looked up, giving him his most innocent look. "Keep that look, kid, it might work on someone some day."
Xander snuggled in. "It gets me cookies from your mother. That's all I expect it to do."
Brass looked up as the two techs came off the plane. "No tans?"
"No, no tans. It's been rainy the last week," Hodges told him. He looked around. "No brass band?"
"Nope, sorry. Grissom did tell me I could arrest you if you dawdled though."
"Ya know, we have standing offers to go back there," Greg said dryly. "They sent their detectives to beg and plead at our feet."
"We pay better, have casinos and sunshine, and Sarah's running day shift."
"Then I'm booking a flight back tonight," Hodges told him. "Xander's going to end up running his in two years unless they find someone else. He's got seniority."
"So, how was it?" he asked as he walked them off.
"The pay sucked, but the people were great. As odd as you ever wanted to work with but they pulled their own weight. Their full team finally came together," Greg told him. "Their newest field tech has more years in the field than Grissom does and he taught me a lot while he worked with me. I got to mentor the intern all the time. Hodges got a few admirers among the cops who only wanted to take care of him and make him feel loved."
"Plus Xander's dog," Hodges reminded him.
"Plus Sarah the dog," he agreed happily. "She had to go to Ray's mother's last night so she wouldn't whine at us today when we left. She was whimpering pitifully while we packed to make us stay."
"Sounds like it's good for the kid."
"He's still lonely," Hodges said quietly. "Ray thinks of him like you do."
"Stan's got two Mounties hunting him night and day," Greg added. "That was his pool of friends."
"Damn, poor kid," Brass sighed. He let them get their bags, watching them move. They both looked well rested and happy, even a bit content. "What did they offer you to stay?"
"The labs we had with all new equipment, set up perfectly for us," Hodges told him. "An intern next year. Free run to make Xander behave and slow down his hours."
"Three days a week in the field with a day in the lab," Greg told him. "Plus paid court time." Brass looked impressed at that. "They'd be paying me as a field tech but they make slightly more there. It's the lab techs who make less. I'd be able to use the lab for research purposes if it wasn't in use for a case or in our off peak hours."
Hodges nodded. "I got that offered too. So did Xander."
"So why didn't you stay?" Brass asked.
"We're giving you a few weeks to measure the offer against what we already have," Hodges told him honestly. "The only thing keeping me here is my contract and a very few of the people."
Greg nodded. "Me too. The people mostly. My contract year's almost up."
Brass considered is as they headed out to his car. "How long do we have?"
"A few weeks," Hodges told him. "We told him by end of semester. That's when most people pick their interns."
"So it'll be you or an intern, who Xander'll have to help train?" he asked. They nodded. "Is he all right?"
"Hell no," Greg said bitterly. "Ray was waiting on us to leave so he wouldn't get too upset. I doubt it worked."
"Me too," Brass agreed, opening the doors to his car. "In. We'll take you by so you can look at the new building. It's on the same lot. Just give us a chance, guys."
"You got two weeks," Greg reminded him. "I love Grissom. I love working with Grissom and Nick and Warrick and Cat and sometimes Sarah. I had autonomy there that I don't here. They enjoyed my music."
"Not to mention the dueling t-shirts you had going with Xander," Hodges reminded him.
"True. If I had more of my collection at hand, I would have won." He sneezed. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," Brass agreed. He started the engine and took off, heading back to the station. "You guys want to go in today to look around or just head home?"
"We should probably look over the labs," Hodges admitted. "At least I should. That way I know what I still need to bring from home."
"How's Mia, Brass?"
"She's okay but she had to retire. She can't move her hands delicately enough to manipulate the test tubes and measuring pips anymore. We're getting the intern from Chicago in as her replacement. That does mean you'll be doing some lab time unfortunately, Greg. Grissom wanted to ask you personally if you would. If not, he'll get an intern and ask you to check on them." He made a non-committal noise. "Sorry."
"Not an issue. She'll be here within a month." He sneezed again. "Stupid plane air conditioning. Sarah's really running day shift?"
"It's temporary." He turned at the light. "So, do you think Xander would come back if Bobby has to retire?"
"There's a lot keeping him there," Hodges said plainly. "Ray and his family. The lab he loves and helped design. People who respect him. Seniority with a supervisor who's go to leave in two years. The guy with more experience doesn't want it if they look at total time in."
"Is Bobby not fully back?" Greg asked.
"He doesn't have full use of that arm," Brass admitted. "He can do his job one-handed but it's a pain. His intern is going to the state police. Xander was right, he did propose while in the hospital."
"When's the wedding?"
"Once she graduates from her internship. They haven't made any other plans yet." He pulled into the station's lot, going slowly. "As you can see, our parking lot now has an automated pass system for parking. It's your new badge." He held his up to the reader and went to his assigned space. "We've all got assigned spaces now."
"Nick's not in today?" Greg asked, looking around.
"No, not today. He's off helping someone move." He parked and turned off the engine, looking at his techs. "We want you two to stay. I'm not going to lie to you. I want you to stay, Grissom wants you to stay, everyone wants you to stay. If you feel pulled toward Xander, that's something I get. I switched departments because of my wife. I get that fully." They both nodded. "Give us the full two weeks and see how things settle in. It might be okay. There's not that many changes. We're just a little more secure now." He got out and let them out of the car, walking them toward the building. "I'll drive you home in a bit." He pointed at the entrance. "This is the staff entrance. Again, the pass is on your ID badge." He held his up to the reader and it let them in, so he walked them back to the reception area. "Got theirs, Patricia?"
"Sure do, Captain Brass." She found them and handed them over. "In the envelope is also your temporary pin so you can code things on your ID, like if you want to put money on it so you can use the machines without having to worry about change." She smiled at them. "How's Xander?"
"Healthy again," Greg offered with a small grin. "He's okay and he's mostly happy."
"Good! It's good for him to be happy. Is he dating?"
"Not really," Hodges told her. "He was working hours that would make most people die. The ones he likes aren't for him and the other possible ones are thinking." She pursed her lips. "He'll be fine."
"I hope so. He doesn't deserve to be that upset. He's a nice guy. Remember to wear your badge at all times and tell us if it falls off or gets lost. It takes a couple of days to make a new one and get it encoded in the system."
Brass nodded. "It does. I already lost one. Come on." He led them back to their unit, which had locking doors. "We now have a guard. If your hands are full, you hit the red button and he'll let you in. Put on your badges." They clipped them on and he let them back inside, letting them see the posters asking 'where's your badge'. "They're temporary," he assured them. "How's the security there?"
"Like our old one was," Hodges admitted. "We're in the basement of that precinct."
"I guess that's okay. Is it safe?"
"Yeah, the cops on the main floor have a desk sergeant at all times and the door down is in plain sight so anyone walking down or up it is spotted immediately."
"The cops got really hostile to us the first couple of days until they learned who we were," Greg agreed. "They're very over protective of us and the detectives upstairs. One even told Xander not to go up at that time because it was a problem time of the day. Told him to wait an hour."
"That's...that's good," Brass agreed. "I wish we could still do that here but the sheriff is now paranoid."
"I don't blame him," Greg admitted. "We've been attacked how many times in recent years?"
"Point." He walked them back to the lab section. "Everything's laid out about the same. There's an extra auxiliary room if you didn't notice. There's a separate breakroom and vending area. That way we don't all get crunched in there at break time and we can still hold meetings in there." He opened the DNA lab door. "Greg, Chem and DNA. Hodges, you're across the hall and one up." He opened that door, letting him inside. He stopped him and looked at him. "I miss the kid too," he said quietly. "If he ever wants to come back, if you don't head there, I'd welcome him immediately. Even if he was wanted for murder. Got it?" Hodges nodded at that and walked inside. "As you can see, they replaced the junky computer with a brand new one, not refurbished but donated. None of Xander's porn on this one either." Hodges smirked at that and looked around, noticing the few changes. "We tried to make it exact but I wasn't sure how the cabinets were before."
"No, this is good. It's fixed a few problems I had." He looked at the table. "That's not really acceptable. No leg area?"
"There's one on the end," he offered. "That panel can be removed or moved back, but the wiring's back there. This table has multiple light functions." He popped open the panel to show him the various settings. "It's not the one I wanted or Gris wanted, but it's the one the sheriff wanted and he was paying for it with grant money."
"It won't do me much good to light most things from the bottom. Are there any normal tables?"
"A few," he agreed. "We can move this one into the corner for you and move a normal table in. That's why I left that space open, for a rolling or moved table." Hodges nodded at that and turned on his computer. "Same password and user name."
"Thank you." He typed it in, seeing the picture on the monitor, which made him look at the captain. "His dog?"
"The administrator liked his dog. Thought it was pitiful that someone had done that. You can't control your own background for some reason. I think he's trying to block more Xander porn."
"We have spyware?"
"For now. It's supposed to relax within the month. When we went through the old systems we found some people doing some online gambling, and some people doing some illegal picture fixing. We found evidence of blackmail on one computer. Plus we found Xander's picture of Oral Roberts and the Teletubbies on quite a few machines." Hodges smirked at that. "I liked it," he offered. "I know it was on mine. I had him save it for me." He nodded. "Come on, I'll show you the break area. We're almost deluxe now. Plus we still have the table and shade trees outside." He walked him that way, stopping to get Greg from another lab, and headed for the break room. It had another old, tired couch someone had brought in. It had a large table with chairs. Had the tv, fridges, and microwaves. It had a nice view. Next to it was a room full of vending machines. Food, soda, snacks, instant cameras, change machine, one video game that was Mrs. Pacman and Asteroids. Greg snorted and caressed the old relic. Brass shrugged. "Nick wanted something to do to think with. He got used to playing fetch with Xander' dog. By the way, she's still a bit upset at that." He walked them back to the garages and out the side door. "Our picnic area. No smoking here, but otherwise it's all good. No one said anything when they found a couple of cops christening it." They nodded and he took them inside to the locker area. "It's a bit bigger. The interns get their own row, that way they can sit and groan about you full techs together by themselves."
"They go out to the bar for that," Hodges said dryly. "How many do we have?"
"Ten coming in. Two field, one day shift DNA, who Greg'll be mentoring if he stays. One more for Bobby. Two for Archie because he desperately needed them. Four still to be decided on this summer."
"Was I planned on getting one?" Hodges asked.
"No," Brass said honestly. "We didn't think you'd want one. We did get you a day shift Trace person who knows something though."
"Finally. Where are they from?"
"Maine. Portland, Maine. Pretty country up there." Hodges nodded at that. "Snow."
"Xander said to tell you he's looking forward to snow because he's never seen any, but he's hoping someone teaches him to drive on it," Greg offered.
"It's tricky the first few winters," Brass agreed. "I wrecked my second time driving in snow. I hit an icy patch and slid off the interstate." He grimaced. "My mother yelled for months about that. She reminded me of it on her death bed." He shook that thought off. "Come on, Grissom wanted to talk to you two too. That way he can give you the amended new rules list, which the Sheriff thoughtfully changed after we all walked out one night, and the amended computer policy memo to warn you about the spyware issue." He led them back to Grissom's office. "He's replaced the ones he couldn't save," he said when he saw Greg looking around. "Gris?" His head popped up. "We also got him his own refrigerator so he wouldn't put any more experiments in the break room."
"That's an improvement I like," Greg agreed with a grin. "We're back. Xander said hi and he's glad you're still okay. He wanted a letter because you keep forgetting to write him. You missed all the fun. We got to take him to a carnival. A real one, his first real one, and his first circus. He wanted to share pictures with you but he said your email bounced."
"They gave me a new user name," he said grimly. "I can't remember it." He looked at them. "What did they offer you?"
"A hell of a lot," Greg told him. "Including research rights and time in the lab one day a week with three days in the field."
"We have special labs there that are set up perfectly for us. Mine and ballistics have a sliding door between them. He's got seniority by hire time there."
"That's impressive," Grissom agreed. "So why did you come back?"
"We're giving it a trial to see which suits us better now," Hodges said honestly.
"Good. A fair trial is all we ask." He looked at them both. "Greg, I'm sorry, but we're short a DNA tech. Can I get you to fill in now and then?" He nodded. "Can you mentor an intern next year?"
"Maybe. The first few months should be spent with them and only by their side correcting things. I was helping the one in Chicago learn new things and ideas."
"Well, if you can't, let me know within a few weeks and we'll arrange something," he promised. "Hodges, you're not due for an intern but there's a spot open if you wanted one. I didn't want to intrude on you with one, I know you don't like to teach that much. Fortunately your day shift counterpart has fifteen years experience, but she's got the beginnings of arthritis in her hips and knees so she needed somewhere warm. She's from a smaller department but she was their top tech there." He smiled and nodded at that. "I hope you two can at least get along professionally?"
"I'd hope so too. How does she feel about an intern mucking up the lab?"
"She doesn't mind. She's had four in the past. If we do get a Trace intern applying she's asked for them if you didn't want them." His phone rang and he looked at the number. "I'm not talking to him today." He looked at his techs again. "How long do we have?"
"Two weeks," Greg said honestly. "We told Mort we'd let him know by the end of the local semester."
"That's fine. By then your contract is up and Hodges's runs out about ten weeks later?"
"Nine," he corrected. "He knows."
"Good." He leaned back in his chair. "I'm sorry everything is so overwhelming at the moment. We tried to calm down the paranoia. It didn't help much but we don't have cameras in the bathrooms or in the showers. That nearly got a lawsuit so that idea was dropped fairly quickly." He looked at them. "Want to start tonight?" They shook their heads and he smiled. "I didn't think so. Go home, come back tomorrow night and remember to wear your badges. We're supposed to be doing spot checks." Greg nodded and walked out with Brass. "Hodges?" he asked.
"He's lonely," he said quietly. "The few people he could be with are either taken, straight, or us."
"If you decide to go, I'll let you break your contract," he promised. "How is he otherwise?"
"We got him to slow down and now they've got a full crew, minus us, so they're back to only letting him work one shift. He had been doing eighteen hour days. The first night back he collapsed after blacking out. They decided his body was saying fix it or we're dying now." He walked closer. "It's a similar offer, Grissom. I'm not lying. Greg has more reason to go back than I do."
"I know. Your reason for going back is the same reason he won't move back here. The people. I understand. If you want to go, tell me. Don't just disappear and call from the plane though, okay? Give me at least an hour's warning?" Hodges nodded. "Good. Watch out for Sarah, she's on a power trip. He really has seniority?"
"The two last techs that were left were both injured in the field. Xander shot the guys shooting them from the window. Apparently he didn't want any cops anywhere on his street, even scene techs. Xander was heading home with Ray when they got the call and they responded. He's got a new graze that's healing well on his arm and one on the side of his neck. He rode back to the station with Ray once the cleanup was done and got Mort to bandage it for him and went back to work after some pain killers. Greg and I got to pounce him for that and make him go home with Stan and the Mounties. They took him to their place and spoiled him rotten."
"Good. It's good that he's found new friends there. I'm happy for him."
"The Canadians wanted him to switch citizenship and become one of them and a Mountie."
Grissom grinned at that. "I can't see him in the uniform daily."
"Neither could he. He said it'd be too much like being a stripper again." He shrugged. "I'll see you tomorrow." He headed out, going back to Brass's car. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. I figure the kid gave you some messages for everyone."
"He did tell me to kiss you and shock you to death, but I can't do that, Captain," Hodges said dryly.
"Thanks for that. Really." He got in to drive, watching as Hodges stared at the building for a minute before getting in. "You okay?"
"I don't know yet." He buckled up. "Bad habit, Ray and Stan are both insane drivers. Ray doesn't believe in red lights."
"We found out why Xander had that wreck that wrenched his knee. He was telling Stan about his thoughts on football and made him crash." Brass laughed. "He still thinks that but curling isn't half bad."
"It's boring, Greg."
"Maybe, but it's a calm sport, one you can nap to on Sunday afternoon without worrying about the announcers going wild and being too noisy. Then again, they watched curling and Stan and I went to make cheese sticks the old fashioned way."
"Which made Turnbull pant," Hodges reminded him.
"Which nearly got Xander jumped by him," Greg agreed. "Which made Stan jealous and bagged him a Mountie sandwich that night."
"Yeah, Benny and Renfield," Hodges told him. "Nice guys, very polite. Turnbull even helps Xander when he's floundering with manners and things. Jokes about him becoming Canadian and a Mountie."
"I can't see the kid in the uniform," Brass admitted, shaking his head. He started the car and backed out. "Let's see, you're closer, Hodges?" He nodded. "We'll drop you off first, then I'll hit Greg's."
Xander trudged in three days later after his mandatory time off and looked at his boss. "Am I done being exiled for whining?"
"You're still whining but you're not exiled anymore," he promised. "Ray's waiting on you, he's got a new case for you."
"Hmm, wonderful," he said dryly, grabbing his jacket and glasses from his usual nook on the wall, heading back there while he put them on. He walked in and looked at Ray. "Anything interesting or the usual?"
"The usual," he admitted. "Someone stuck up a strip joint." He handed over the case and the two bagged guns. "You're extra proof. We have him on tape. One of the girls there kicked his ass."
"Good. Strippers are fierce, drunken women and men." He sat down at his work table to look at the results, noticing that Trace had already done it. He frowned, looking at him, then at the forms. Then at the sliding wall. He walked over and opened it, finding Hodges in there. "You didn't let me pick you up?"
"I brought you dinner too," he said, giving him a sideways look. "That way you eat." He smirked as Xander squealed and hugged him.
"Hey, not in front of the straight people," Ray complained. "I picked him up earlier. Stan's dancing around because you're not going to take his Mountie from him." He walked in and patted Xander on the back. "Whenever you've got time to do those, kid. Enjoy him for a few more minutes so he can get back to work." He left them there, smirking at Mort on his way out. "He saw the name on the form."
"Ah. Young love," he sighed, going back to his own job. "Remember to do some work tonight, Xander."
"I work harder than you do," he called back.
"Not any more you don't," Hodges shot back. "I will not have an absentee boyfriend. Do we have a clear understanding, Xander?" He beamed and nodded. "Good. I'm on a six- month leave of absence with Vegas. Grissom agreed to it and Brass kept asking me why I came back." He kissed him hard, then let him go. "Go to work, we'll talk after work. No nookie in the lab."
"Yes, dear. Greg?"
"Greedy," he snorted.
"Just asking," he said with a small blush.
"Back there still. They gave him an intern and the kid from here is going out there. He's still got a few weeks left." He winked. "Go back to work."
"Yes, dear." He shut the sliding wall and got down to working on Ray's cases for him. When he was done, he walked the reports out, leaving a copy on Mort's desk and the rest heading upstairs to Ray's desk. He found him at his desk, napping, so slid it next to him and snuck back downstairs. He didn't have anything else yet so he went in to help Hodges, just like old times. "All done."
"Xander," the DNA tech called pitifully. "Help!"
Xander rolled his eyes. "Coming." He headed that way through the door, going to help the poor girl look up what test she needed and how to do it. He knew what it was, but this one needed her hand held constantly. He went back to his office and wrote a quick memo to Mort, going to put it in with his copy of the paperwork, but not inside the folder in case someone else picked it up. Mort walked in so he handed it over instead, shaking his head. "She needs another year with someone. Someone firm."
"She's got one coming. She's going to Vegas."
"She'll be all alone in Vegas. All night and all day, with an intern from what I hear."
"Oh, dear." He went to call Grissom and check on that, then went to talk to her. "Dear," he said. "Are you busy?"
"I'm trying to be." She grinned at him. "Did Xander insult me or something?"
"He just told me something that I hadn't realized. You'll be doing this same sort of work in Las Vegas, by yourself, without an intern director, but there'll be an intern in the office with you. I wanted to make sure you knew that since you still have some days when you're not confident in here."
She shook her head slowly. "I can't teach someone else this yet, Mort."
"I realize that, dear. You won't be handling the intern, but he'll be in and out on your shift. He's going to day shift most likely."
"What about Greg?"
"He's a field tech. He's gone about ninety percent of the time," Hodges said from the doorway. "Yeah, you'll have an intern, if not two, in there with you." She went pale and shook her head. "You can back out of the contract and ask for another year of internship or find a secondary internship that specializes. Trace has many of those. I did one of those myself." She relaxed a bit. "So, I'd start looking. You're running a bit behind if Mort doesn't have room in the budget."
"If she went somewhere that did paternity cases, she could do a lot of good," Xander called. "Or going to work for CODIS and the Feds. She hasn't made any overt mistakes that weren't covered by the quiet reviews Greg did. She could do a second one in paternity cases and find a lab that specialized in them."
"Do you think so?"
"Yeah, there's one up the street," Xander reminded her. "We had to ship to them for a few weeks before you came."
"Point." She looked at Mort. "What do you suggest, Mort?"
"I suggest you talk with Gil Grissom first," he said firmly. "Get his opinion and Greg's. Then if they think it's a good idea, that's an excellent place for you, dear."
"Thank you, Mort. I'll call on my lunch."
"Call now. I just talked to him so I know he's in the office."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, Hodges and Xander."
"Welcome." Hodges went back to his lab, giving Xander a look when he came in. "Paternity?" he whispered.
"Same test over and over," he hissed back. "She's good at paternity and family testing."
"Point. Very good point." They went back to work, side by side, giving each other looks now and then until Xander finally broke and stole a kiss with a grin before plucking off another hair and bagging it. "Naughty, Xander."
"And no porn in sight," he quipped.
"Very true. Where's the dog?"
"Under the mass spec again."
"I think she's having a litter but I'm not sure and Mort told me to leave her there. I'm not sure why or whose they are. I'm hoping they're not Dief's."
"If they are, that was one strange mating," he said dryly, finding another sample and plucking it off to bag. "Eww, now I have that thought stuck in my head."
Xander gave him a little nudge. "Think about later. Are you sleeping alone tonight?"
"I'd hope not. I didn't the whole time I was here." He nudged him back. "Someone's in your lab."
"I shoot people," Xander called.
"If ya shoot me, I'm siccing my Mounties on you," Stan said as he moved the wall, holding up a full bag of guns. "Found in the trunk of a car that hit mine."
"Drug dealer?" Hodges asked.
"So, you came back?" he asked smugly.
"Wipe it or I'm pouncing and tickling you."
"Fine, sorry," he said sheepishly. Xander would do it upstairs and embarrass him in front of everybody. "Not a drug dealer and the baggie looks familiar. I think we've seen them in here before."
"Sure," Xander agreed, taking them to run serial numbers. He got down the acid and the swabs just in case but the first one he pulled out had one still on it. He ran it and smirked. "Mort, region one's got a leak. Stan found some of their guns."
"Oh, wonderful. Their smug bastard will gloat for weeks to the mayor until you punch him," Mort said, walking in. He looked at the report. "Destroyed eh? Hmm." He called Welsh. "Come down to Xander's lab, now. With the police chief if possible." He hung up and watched as Xander printed that report out then moved to the next one, acid etching it to get the number. He tagged it and searched that one. Also destroyed by region one's lab. "Xander, I want you to check our protocols this week. I want a report on if they're good or not."
"I followed our last batch in and tossed them in myself," Xander assured him. "It was nice playing with the pretty fire. Ours are fine. Region three's fine. Region one and the snotty upper crust assholes there aren't." He looked over as Welsh came in. "Destroyed guns found by Stan after an auto accident. Were they claiming they were on the way to the destruction incinerator?"
"No, they're claiming they were stolen," he said dryly. "No one's believing them."
"Hmm. Yeah, me either. Have a seat. It'll only take me a few more minutes." He went back to searching, tagging the weapons and printing the reports.
Hodges shook his head and got back to work. Xander wouldn't forget about him. It was all good between them. He heard a crash and a crying woman and groaned. "Mort? Is that in DNA?"
"Yes." He went over there, finding her looking in fear at the puppies. "Are they all right?" He got down to look, finding one that had fallen out of the small basket they had put down there. "Any more, Sarah?" She barked and licked his fingers, but looked quite pleased with herself. "Very nicely done, dear." He checked again, finding something that might be a puppy and might not. "Here, let's clean this up," he ordered, handing it off.
Xander came over to clean up the mess, that was a dead puppy but the rest looked okay. She had cleaned them and was nursing. "Nice job, Sarah. Who's the daddy doggy?" She barked and wagged her tail weakly. "How did you and Dief do that?" he asked, shaking his head and taking her and the basket back with him. He put her under an unused corner table. "We'll go show the daddy later," he promised. "Let me get you some water."
"I will," Welsh said, getting her a small dish of water, watching as Mort opened up a can of wet food for her. Then he went back to watching the reports come out as each gun was gone through. "Anything really good?"
"The Donovan homicide that made headlines for weeks." He handed that gun over. "We'll need to fingerprint those so be careful."
"Sure." He put that gun down, watching as the last two were done. Then Xander rebagged them and handed him the reports. "You're so nice. You want a Mountie?"
"Yes, and his other daddies too." He looked at Mort, who waved at him. "I'll be right back." He picked up the basket. "Let's go see the daddies." Up the stairs, smiling at the cops who stopped to admire the dog and the puppies, and into the detective's room, kicking the door open. "Diefenbaker!" he shouted. "Where are you, you raping lothario dog!"
"He's deaf, Xander, I doubt he heard you," Stanley said dryly. The basket was put in front of him. "Whoa. What're those?"
"Puppies. Dief!" he snapped. He slunk out from under Ray's desk so he picked him up and let him see. "Do you see what you did? You made me a grandfather." He put him down and frowned at him. "I'm going to have to report you to your Mountie for this. You're not supposed to have lust on duty by the manual."
"He's a dog, he don't follow the manual," Stanley said weakly, counting the puppies again. "There's a lot of puppies."
"No shit, fellow grandfather. That makes us in-laws too." He heard footsteps and looked back. "Benton Fraser, get your ass in here." He looked startled but walked in. Xander pointed at the basket. "What do you have to say to your furry half?"
He looked at the puppies, then at Diefenbaker. "How was that accomplished?"
"Hodges wanted to know that too," he said dryly. "We are now in-laws. I'll expect you to take equal amounts of care and help me raise them."
"Yes, Xander," he said meekly. "We should call Ray."
"Only if we want Ma to raise the puppies for us."
Stanley dialed as quickly as he could, getting Ray on the house phone. "Puppies," he said desperately. "Dief and Sarah puppies. Lots of puppies." He looked at the basket. "Zillions it looks like. Little gray lumps of hair mostly."
Xander looked and counted. "Twelve."
"Twelve?" he said, looking upset.
"Probably were thirteen but one died and the DNA tech freaked out at the sight of them."
"Is she all right?" Benny asked. He glared at Diefenbaker. "We'll be talking later, young man."
"Yes you will and it'll be an illegitimate set of grandchildren too because I never wanna see that sight again."
"Yes, Xander," they agreed.
"Can we name one basketball? It seems like an appropriate name for a dog."
"If you'd like," Benton agreed. "I insist on naming at least one after Inspector Thatcher however. She demanded if there were ever more puppies born from Diefenbaker."
"Sure. Pick the runt of the litter," Xander offered.
Hodges came up the stairs. "Can you guys babysit? We need Xander. There's a fight in ballistics."
"Sure, go ahead and leave us with the zillion puppies."
"We'll have to name one after Nick," Hodges said as he pulled Xander off. "The other director came and he said you're full of it."
"He's full of it and about to get fuller when I shove my foot up his ass," he said dryly. He walked in and took the reports, looking through them. Then he looked at the shouting people. "If they're listed as destroyed and they're not, which you're not supposed to list them as until they are officially destroyed and witnessed the burning and melting part of it, then why are they laying on my desk?" The directors glared at him. "As a matter of federal protocol for this system, destroyed weapons are to be listed as such only after a representative of the department has witnessed them being destroyed, either by melting, exploding, or being chopped into component pieces. If they are listed as destroyed before such destruction begins, that is a Federal criminal offense that requires not less than one year and not more than five years in a federally secure installation for each violation of the weapon's code.
"Weapons in transit are to be listed as in transit for destruction. That way proper records can be maintained when and where such weapons are stolen, misplaced, or otherwise lost in the system so each department can keep track of such matters and relate back to such statistics to find ways of fixing these problems. If it is not done so properly, each department is in violation of the federal code, is at risk of losing all federally gifted funds, and does risk not having access to said database. That is chapter and verse from the fucking manual. Now take it the hell out of my lab before I report region one's fuckup to the admins over the database!" he shouted, pointing at the hallway. "I will not have such childish behavior in my lab, especially not from someone who flounts and pushes themselves as being better than anyone else because he was born with money and proper manners. You are distracting the lab personnel and you are endangering lives by that distraction. That will get you sued, gentlemen. Now, get out, take it out into the parking lot like a bunch of pimps, and do it far the hell away from me, my lab, and my precinct. Region two and three are in compliance. We can report region one and I did take an oath to do so. You've got two damn days to fix this problem of yours or else I am reporting you to the admins and I hope like hell they give your funds to the tolerance movements." The director gasped. "I mean it!" He walked out. "You forgot the repots, dipshit!"
"I'll expect a faxed over copy later, CSI Harris."
"Good. If I have to fix this leak, you're not going to like the sight of my foot coming out of your mouth covered in your shit. I don't have the time or the energy to deal with region one's mistakes and improper handling. You just risked sixteen cases which can now be put up for review or appeal. I hope like hell you're prepared." He went even more pale. "Did you want to wait for those copies? I can run you off one."
"Please," he ground out. Xander stuck them into the copier, letting them copy. "Thank you," he said, teeth still gritted together.
"Dear, smile when you say that. It adds veracity to the act of the lie," he said smugly, staring him down. "We handle more cases every year than you do in a decade. Making us deal with your shit too, well, it makes me cranky because I can't go home to my lover tonight." He backed up and ran out. "Good!" He went back to his lab, looking at Welsh and the Chief of Police. "I mean it, two days and then I am required by law to report him. If I do not, I can lose my license and go to jail. I'm not doing that for this department. I may die for you, but I'm not going to be the new bitch on the block."
"Fine," he said mildly. "I agree. They have two days to fix such errors and I'll expect a report, which I'll forward to you if you don't get a copy. Thank you for that, CSI Harris. You're a great asset to this department and this precinct. Do you hope to run it some day?"
Xander snorted. "Unless Mort finds a replacement, I've got seniority." Mort stifled a snicker at that. "Don't I?" He nodded, smirking at the chief. Then Xander grinned at Welsh. "I promise to treat the new detectives gently the first few times."
"Thank you, Xander. That's very nice of you. You fit in here very well. You might as well be a Vecchio."
"With my dog and Dief having puppies, I'm now an in-law of Kowalski's. Think I can tell Stella that?"
Welsh smothered his laughs. "You do that." He patted him on the arm. "Good job," he offered, walking out with the chief. "He's a real asset, sir. Jumped in beautifully when we had that manpower problem. He was pulling eighteen hour days with pneumonia there for a bit. He did field work, trace, and ballistics during that crisis plus got us help from Vegas. Which means we kept one of the best trace techs in the US today. CSI Hodges, this is the Police Chief. I'm not sure if you met yet."
"Not yet. Pleasure to meet you, sir," he said, shaking his hand. "I helped train Xander during his internship year in Vegas. He's a great worker and I enjoy working with him. We work very well together."
"I'm glad. Harris seems like he's got his stuff together and he knows what he's doing. Quoted chapter and verse to me as well. I'm quite impressed with the way Mort's rebuilt this unit, especially if he managed to bag such an asset as yourself and CSI Harris. Welcome to the family and feel free to tell me if your lab needs anything."
"No, we're doing very well, sir. We mesh very well here. Mort and Lieutenant Welsh made sure of it before they recommended anyone."
"Good! I like that," he said happily, clapping Welsh on the back. "Come on, let's go talk about this, Welsh. Your office have scotch?"
"No, sir. I had to quit keeping it up there due to a problem detective. I believe I have puppies though."
"They're being petted by Stanley at his desk," Hodges offered. "We're in-laws now." He smiled and went back to his lab.
"And gay too, married no less, that'll score us major public relation points with that union," the chief said happily. "I like him for second in command down here. You?"
"He's not got many years on the job, but Mort's doing good teaching him, sir." He led the way upstairs, going to check on the puppies. "They're adorable, Sarah." She barked and licked his fingers. "I'll bring you some lunch meat in a few minutes." He led the chief into his office and even pointed at the good chair.
"Xander, if you're going to be my second in command, you have to start helping me do paperwork and you'll have to go to conventions to talk up the department," Mort offered.
"We need to name one of the puppies after Bobby, Hodges."
"True. After Greg too. Conventions are fun. At least Trace ones are."
"There's specific ones?" Xander asked, sounding awed. "I thought there were only CSI ones and cop ones."
"No, there's specific conventions for each speciality then the big CSI one," Hodges said with a grin. "We can go." Xander hugged him, bouncing a bit. "Control it, Xander. You know the rules about bouncing in the lab."
"Yes, dear. Mort, what paperwork?"
"I'll show you over the next few weeks," he promised, going to go back to work now that the excitement was over with. He walked into his office and found Gil Grissom standing there. "You were very fast."
"I was on the plane when you called. I was coming out to talk to our new DNA tech." He shrugged. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. Xander handled that problem very well. We won't have to deal with an IAD matter, and they'll have to fix themselves or face retribution when their funds are canceled."
Grissom smiled. "It's always better than playing politicks," he agreed. "She wasn't in her lab. Do you know where she went?"
"She was disgusted by the puppy that was born."
"Ah." He nodded. "A DNA tech afraid of blood. Interesting."
"He says that about Xander a lot too," Greg said from behind him. "Hey. Still need me?" Mort nodded quickly. "Cool. Still four days a week so I can go for my PhD?"
"If you'd like, Gregory. Grissom, I'm sorry for such atrocious poaching."
"I'm not. It's not the same in the new building. Besides, they just shut us down for improper building codes again. So we're free for the next six months until they fix the foundations."
"I'm doing the same thing Hodges is," Greg admitted. "Six months leave."
"That's fine, Gregory. All we wanted was a good shot. What will Las Vegas do?"
"They've got a secondary unit," he admitted, "like you do here. Plus the state police. Where's the girl?"
"She got disgusted at the sight of the new puppies being born," Xander said, hugging him. "Hi. Are you back?"
"Six months. We're shut down due to improper building codes. The sheriff had a heart attack when he was told that. Ecklie's probably still laughing in his little padded room."
"Him and my serial killer ex."
"No, she's here," Grissom told him. "We tracked her, she's following Hodges." He smiled. "We also handed her over to Ray earlier. He was not happy with her and started off by yelling at her until she cried."
Xander giggled. "Good." He grinned at his boss. "Is it official?"
"You do have seniority and the only person with more time in doesn't want it. Unless I can find someone who just administrates, yes. You're my second." He waved. "Shoo. Take Greg. I'll do paperwork with him later."
"Yes, sir." He walked him down to his lab. "Hey, Hodges, Grissom and Greg are here. My ex, the serial killer, is out but Ray has her. They got shut down for building violations."
"Doesn't surprise me with all the surveillance," he said, nodding at Greg. "The twit screamed at the sight of blood. She had to ask Xander how to do a standard test."
"Damn," he muttered, shaking his head. "Well, I'm here for six months. Same as you're doing. I still say Sarah pissed off the inspector so he shut us down because of her. Speaking of, where's the baby?"
"She had puppies, she's up on Stan's desk with the new in-laws. I've got to send Stella flowers," he said, going to do that from his computer.
Two days later, Stanley looked up as his ex wife walked into the precinct, looking very confused. "You got Xander'd," he said fondly.
"How did you know? And what does he mean?"
"His puppy Sarah had puppies with Dief, who I'm dating the daddy of."
"And that makes us in-laws?"
Stanley opened his drawer to show the small horde of dogs nestled in his bottom drawer. "You're my ex, they're my grandkids, that makes you in-laws," he agreed.
"Stanley, do you remember when I called your D&D friends odd?" He grinned and nodded. "I was wrong. Keep these new and odder friends far, far from me. I don't even want to talk to him about cases, all right?"
"Sure, but he's the second down there now."
"Then the city will fall into a big, black hole and we'll all be out of our misery." She stomped off.
Xander looked over at her. "I promised to help those events so the city doesn't have to bend over and grab its ankles," he said with a fond grin. "Don't worry, it won't happen anytime in the near future, Stella. Do you need anything from any of the cases? We'd doing a filing thing tonight. I'll need a list."
"I'll email it," she said gruffly, escaping before he could turn her odd too. Stan, her poor Stan, was gone now. Nothing could unwarp him and she'd miss him, but she wasn't going to get sucked into Xander's sphere of influence. It was like a cult and she had never been a joiner. Poor Stan, she'd miss him stalking her now and then.
Xander giggled, grinning at Stan, who was howling and rolling around on the floor. "You owe me lunch," he said happily, coming in to take his dogs back. "Hey, guys. Where's Nick and Warrick?" The mommy barked and got off them. "Ah, there they are. Under the females. Of course. That's just like them. Come on, let's go back downstairs. Daddy's nearly done for the day. Then we can go to a convention and see everyone," he said excitedly. "You'll like seeing your namesakes." He led them down the stairs, letting Hodges load them into the carrying case. "Now you guys behave. Water bottle?"
"In there." He carried it out to the car, getting in to drive. Xander had picked up bad driving habits from Ray and Stan. They were all packed and all they had to do was leave. If the hooker would quit sitting on the hood of the car. He beeped and she grinned back at him.
Xander stuck his head out the window. "Honey, we don't like your gender. Can you please move the extra hole before we have to turn my car gay too?" She got up with a laugh. "Thank you, love, and remember, no working the parking lot. They can find you at the pizza place easier." She strolled off and he rolled back up the window as they took off. "Sorry."
"Not a problem, Xander. I'd like to see how you made the car gay."
"Park it really closely between the Riv and the GTO?" he asked with a grin.
"No, that'd just make it envious," he offered. He got them onto the interstate, not wanting to be downtown when the rush happened. The conference was in their city so they were hosting a party for their friends later that night. They had to go home and pick up. They found Greg had already done that and picked up the food they had ordered and let everyone in. Hodges walked in with the carrying case while Xander got their briefcases. "No hugs, let me put down the dogs."
"Did you raid the pound?" Catherine teased.
"No, Diefenbaker and Sarah got into it together. We're still not sure how that mating happened since she's so small and he's not. They're pretty puppies though." Sarah gave him an odd look. "Like I know why the deaf wolf liked your namesake? Oh, Nick, watch out for yours. He likes to hide under shirts and cuddle, but mostly on women still." He put their briefcases in the office and came out to help remove the puppies, finding the last two hidden in a fold. "Are you guys sick? You're always hiding," he said, rubbing noses with them. He counted. "One's missing."
"I've got him," Sarah said, holding him up. "He came over to pee on me."
"Chrétien does that a lot," Hodges admitted. "He loved doing it to Grissom." He sorted them out, giving everyone their namesake and holding the others himself. "No Brass? He promised he'd be here."
"He is, he's shopping," Nick said, looking at his namesake. "Hey, little guy. You are a guy, right?" he asked, checking to make sure.
"We usually do name gender appropriate names," Xander pointed out. "Catherine, your little girl there likes to lay on top of Warrick's head. Nick's likes to hide under shirts. Or under the mommy."
"At least he's straight," Nick offered, smiling at his puppy. The dog yipped and licked his fingers, then settled in to nap on his chest. "Too much excitement?"
"They like to hang out in Stan's desk during the workday," Xander told them. "They get to bark at the stupid people."
"That's always fun," Greg said dryly. "I like to bark at the stupid people. By the way, you missed region one's director."
"On purpose," Xander agreed happily. "What did he want pulled out of his ass this time?"
"The moron signal tower," Hodges said dryly. "He said it's unfair that we have such a well-qualified team and he had to make due with the academy people."
"He can recruit," Xander said dryly. "We did."
"It's beneath his Armani loafers."
"Yeah, well, Ray's look better on him and he still managed it." Someone knocked. "Open." Brass stuck his head in. "Come meet your namesake. We named a kid after you. Not sure if he's first born or not, but he's still adorable." He handed that one over with a grin. "There you go."
"You are cute," he offered, patting the small thing. He handed Xander the bag he was carrying. "Here, since you're putting up with those two."
"Not a problem. We like putting up with them," he said happily, looking inside the bag. He blushed and handed it to Hodges, who looked and shook his head, going to put it in their bedroom. A football shaped pillow. Definitely appropriate for Xander to pounce on.
Xander looked at the artillery lecture panel, then raised his hand again. "Have you ever fired off one of those? The recoil is fifty pounds per second and the thing weighs nearly two hundred pounds. It's supposed to be vehicle mounted for a reason, dude. It's fun to shoot off, and it makes the prettiest explosion I've seen recently but it's a mounted weapon. You'd need a harness or something and that would make it easier to catch them."
"Who are you?" the woman on the panel asked.
"CSI Harris. Local, region two. You trained my successor for my internship." She smiled at that. "It's still too heavy to not be mounted. Not too many people can hold two hundred pounds on one shoulder."
"How can you?" she asked.
"I worked construction."
"Ah." She nodded. "That makes sense. You're stronger than I am. I still pound nails with my shoe."
"You can get some good pressure with a stiletto. We've seen people killed with them by holing their skull with one."
"Yeah, me too," she said, pushing some blonde hair behind her ear. "If what he says is true, then it's not really an applicable point to this discussion. We're here about shoulder mounted or carryable artillery, boys."
"Fine, what's your favorite?" the offended person asked snidely.
"I'm for the tried and true. Surface to air rocket or LANS rockets."
"Oooh, pretty," Xander agreed happily. "Personally I like grenade launchers and claymores. You can carry them, you just have to have a bag. They're not that heavy and even if you misaim, you still hit something and cause a lot of damage. Besides, for vehicle mounted, I prefer the smaller sidewinder systems that're just now being put into use. They're smaller, more compact, and they have a bigger bang for the buck. Plus you can reload on the go since you have more than one missile tube."
"Definitely," Calleigh agreed happily. "Plus they're small enough to fit on a jeep or out the side of a van."
"The exhaust could blow the other side out. You'd need a dual doored van," Xander offered.
"Point, but I've seen it done."
"So have I, but the body damage was very telling.
"Well, yeah, but if crooks were smart it'd be harder to catch them."
"That's so true!" he agreed, leaning forward. "We had a guy with a grenade launcher walk up to the front of our precinct and stand there for a good ten minutes trying to figure out where he wanted to hit. Finally, the cops got tired of watching him be odd and called me and I came up and showed up how to put up the little scope, then took it from him. He whined all the way up the stairs because I spoiled his fun."
"What do you like in assault rifles?" another ballistics tech asked.
"AK's," they said in unison.
"Good range, easy to fire," Xander told him.
"Easy to buy bullets for and practical in street warfare."
"Uzis have no range," Bobby agreed from the back of the room. "But you see a lot of them."
"They're cheap and easy to find," Xander reminded him. "You guys are on the major north/south drug and gun highway, Bobby. Here we get Canadian ones."
"We get Cuban and South American ones," Calleigh said with a small shrug and a grin. "They're kinda neat. A lot of them are taped closed and totally unusable."
"We get some of those but more hunting related stuff. Those guys who need to shoot fifty rounds a minute at a squirrel to feel like manly men," he said with a grin. "With armor piercing bullets if possible."
"We get some of those going after the gators. Poachers are just as dumb most of the time. We get some of the most under-educated people in the world as poachers."
"We don't have wildlife here, but I hear from some Mounties that they get about the same sort, but mostly it's for food. Every now and then you get the rich, stupid people who've been partaking of the moron signal tower's vibes too often. Moron magnets who carry their hauls into town and expect the locals to not care."
"That's so disrespectful," she complained.
"Of them?" Bobby asked. "I've heard him call them worse."
"No, the hunters of the locals. Hell, I'm going to start using that expression back at work. Where'd you get it?"
"From one of my teachers at UCLA."
"Cool. Thank you. I think we've got a big ol' moron signal tower in the center of Miami some days, centered in the rich part."
Xander grinned. "We get some of that too, but I don't have to deal with it. I have poor people crimes, but Vegas got some truly stupid people who thought the slogan 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas' meant they could do anything they wanted and we'd never look." Bobby laughed and nodded. "Hey, Bobby, man, when's the wedding?"
"Next week. We're going to a small chapel before work and just bringing in the picnic lunch. She said she didn't want anyone there."
"Sure. I'll get a nice present for you."
"You interned under him?"
Xander nodded, grinning at her. "Your fisher girl was his last intern and his future wife. She followed in my glorious footsteps."
"She did, but he never hit on me thankfully," Bobby said dryly. "Xander, do I have a puppy?"
"Yeah, he likes to pounce Nick and nibble on his tail for fun."
"Oh, good. Was I the last one?"
"No, the prime ministers got named last. The last one was Tupper. The prime ministers came from the in-laws. The daddy's side of the family."
"You have a dog?" Calleigh asked.
"Yeah, she's lounging on the couch with the dogs, laying on the remote until it flips to Oprah. She does it about every day we leave her and the puppies home. We come home to Leno." She giggled at that. "She's a very liberated dog. Her former owner started a skin graft procedure and then attached balls to her. Poor Sarah is just like her namesake some days. Very tough and bossy, yet guarding what's hers with terror and barks."
"I'm telling her you said that," Bobby said dryly.
"Go ahead. I don't work for Vegas anymore. Ha!" He looked back. "Some day I'll take over a lab and they'll all be like me!" He added an evil chuckle on the end.
"When that happens, I want tape of the programming you've got to do to them," Bobby told him. "Just to see how you make other men think football is like gay sex."
"Excuse me," she said, hurrying out before she had an accident. She almost made it too but she started to laugh, fortunately it was only a small one and easily covered up.
"So, we now know that Las Vegas, Chicago, and Miami are full of odd techs," another tech noted dryly. "Any other cities we should beware of recruiting from?"
"We train our interns fully, dear," Xander said with a fond smirk. "Ours come out knowing how to do the job, do it quietly, do it excellently, and even run the lab if they have to. Personally, mine also gets some field time in now and then too so they're reminded why they're matching bullets and guns."
"You came in over trained, Xander," Bobby told him. "He's also got demolitions, construction, artillery, and trace work under his belt. When I ended up with a personal problem, he stepped in to fully run my lab."
"How is your mom?"
"In full remission. They told her yesterday. I'll tell her you said hi."
"Good, give her a hug for me too. She deserves it for beating that nasty cancer."
"Welcome." He grinned back at him and winked. "Wanna come see your puppy later?"
"Sure. How odd are they? Sarah was a miniature something."
"Diefenbaker is mostly wolf. He works with a Mountie."
"You guys have Mounties in Chicago?" the New York guy asked. Xander beamed and nodded. "Why?"
"Consulate's up the street."
"Oh." He nodded. "That's understandable. Does he drug or bomb sniff?"
"Mostly he Happy Meal and fried chicken sniffs, but I like to have him help me track idiots who ran. Our favorite game is 'fetch the mugger'."
"I'll have to remember that one for later."
Bobby laughed. "You're so bad, Xander. Corrupting Mounties now?"
"I am not," he defended. "They asked me if I wanted to jump countries though."
"I can't see you being a Mountie. You'd look odd in the uniform."
"Yeah, I figure it'd be like I looked in the cop uniform when I was stripping to get out of a town."
"Probably," Bobby agreed. Everyone stared at him. "Post high school road trip. He broke down."
"It paid the bills and to get the car fixed," Xander said with a shrug. "Besides, strippers are good sources of information. People tell them all sorts of stuff for no reason."
"That is true," Calleigh said as she came back. "Sorry about that." She took her seat again. "So, carryable artillery. Um, next topic?"
"I think we've about covered them all," the discussion chair offered gently. "Let's all go get lunch, guys, and ladies."
"Sure, I could eat. Xander, is there a good steak place around here?"
"Sure there is," he agreed happily. "Bobby, join us?"
"Sure, Xander." He followed him out, grinning at her. "You did an excellent job with Bethany."
"Thank you," she said proudly. "I knew she'd be special. I'm the first CSI she ever saw working and she took notes."
"She told me," he agreed. "Let me call her. She's in the self-defense seminar."
"They're already out," Greg called. He held up a dog. "This one snuck into my bag."
"He's a naughty prime minister," Xander agreed, taking his dog. "Did you want to go to class, Mackenzie? Shame on you, sneaking away from the mommy. She must be very worried. Did you call the house?"
"I did. He said Mackenzie is the only one missing. Lunch?"
"Great. I'll get Bethany and Hodges." He went to do that, getting Brass as well. They all went to the steak place, the dog comfy in Xander's pocket.
"Can I see?" Calleigh asked. The dog was handed over. "You're an adorable mixed up puppy, aren't you?" she asked happily, rubbing noses with it. The dog licked. "Very loving too."
"They're all lab trained," Greg told her. "Born under the mass spec."
"You get to take her into the lab?"
"She never touches anything in a bag, a box, or a file. She mostly steals lunch from the detectives," Xander offered, putting him back in his pocket at someone's dirty look. "He's not even weaned yet and he snuck off." He looked at her. "So, how's Miami this time of year?"
"Hot. Humid. Nasty. The same as it about ten months out of the year."
"We'll have snow soon and I'm looking forward to seeing it."
"I'm hoping it's while I'm here so it cools me down," she said with a grin for him. "How did you lab train her mother?"
"She took right to it. The closest she ever got was crawling into my desk chair to lap at my coffee. Squirt gun worked wonders. The pups all come in with us every day to lay in either a drawer to watch the idiots upstairs try to play stump the detective. Or they come down and lay in a corner of my ballistics lab. Their momma barks each time I have to do a test fire. Not in protest, just a happy little bark."
"She does. It's distracting," Greg agreed. "DNA's across the hall from him."
"Padding's not thick enough?"
"Some padding, insulated glass walls," Xander told her. "With curtains for when I'm having a cranky day."
"How do you handle those now?" Brass asked. "More random swearing?"
"No, those are the days I get to follow Greg around to pick up guns and shells. I occasionally go wax Ray's car for him. Once I painted it pink with washable paint because he had picked on me that morning."
"That day he got to scrub his car," Greg agreed dryly, smirking at Xander. "Escaping prime minister."
"Mackenzie," Xander snapped. The dog came trotting back and nuzzled his leg. "Let me take him outside for a minute, just in case." He used his belt to create a leash and took him outside to use the plants.
"Her mother is also house plant trained for times when we can't walk her fast enough," Greg offered. "Though she does occasionally go in desk plants and once in a flower vase because the chief wouldn't let Xander take her out for four minutes while he was being yelled at. Those roses did not prosper from her help."
"I bet," she agreed with a smile, taking the puppy back when she came back. "How old are we?"
"A few weeks. Our DNA intern took one look at the blood and screamed, running away from it."
"I'd be more scared of semen," she said, considering it. "With all the gross things we deal with daily, blood isn't the worst."
"No, it's not, but some of us still have weak stomachs. That's why we went into guns," Bobby offered. "Bethany," he said happily, getting up to help her into a chair. "Honey, you remember me talking about Xander. This is Xander. That's his puppy Mackenzie. He snuck off."
"Ooh, you're adorable," she said, pinching Xander's cheek. "And so's the puppy." Her future spouse looked at her. "He made Hodges ungrumpy, I like him for that alone."
"I did," Xander agreed.
"Let's not go into why Hodges is ungrumpy," Greg said dryly. "If we did, we'd have to talk about all the evil women who wanted to play with you."
"I haven't had one since two weeks after I got here," Xander said proudly.
"You're dating a guy, I'd hope not," Brass said firmly.
"I picked my diss topic because of you, Xander. Hormonal responses to behavior modification methods."
Xander grinned. "Good! I expect to be a chapter."
"Oh, you will be," Greg assured him. Brass laughed at that. "How many stalkers did he end up with?"
"Twelve, fourteen, something like that."
"Yeah, just because you danced with them, or went to dinner with them."
"Man, you didn't even have to sleep with them?" Bethany asked.
Xander shook his head. "No. Those ones turned really evil. Hey, Cap, how's your daughter?"
"Plotting a way to get you back. Still. She's working to earn enough money to afford you." He took another sip of his water. "He kissed her. Well, she kissed and groped him," he admitted. "In a club." The waiter brought their food and he accepted his plate. "Thanks."
Xander grinned. "Thank you, Agent Ford. Did you need something today?"
"No," he squeaked, heading off again.
"Local Feeb," Xander said dryly. "Which case is it this time, Greg?"
"Paternity. They had us run it last night. Mob case." He dug into his steak, eating heartily. "I missed breakfast," he explained at the amused looks.
"Did Xander actually cook?" Brass asked.
"Hell no," Xander snorted. "Xander can still not cook. Hodges can cook very well though. Plus Ray's Ma still likes me. She demanded babysitting rights for the puppies."
"I always knew she was a sensible woman," Brass agreed. He looked at Calleigh. "This guy has never cooked. He can't cook. He lives on takeout, literally."
"Some people can't. Usually they marry chefs." She grinned and stole the puppy back so it could sit in her lap and lick the juice off her fingers. "You're so adorable."
"Up for adoption," Xander offered. "As long as he gets a good home."
"We'll see. I work really long hours too."
"They refuse to let me work them anymore."
"That's because you nearly died, again," Greg said firmly. "Eighteen hour days," he told their visitors. "For months on end. Had pneumonia and worked through it the same way. Came out when we got bombed by the jealous person, who by the way was a stalker of yours going after me. She thought we were together too, Xander." He blushed and ducked his head. "He came out to do the case for us, volunteered and rushed out with his momma dog. Totally flummoxed the nurses because she kept stealing their snack cakes and donuts."
Brass laughed at that. "At least she shared with her pack."
"She did, she brought us a donut to share, me and Hodges since we were in the same room and Xander was sleeping in a chair between us," Greg said dryly, making Xander blush more. "He solves ours, brings Hodges and me back to heal here, and then we find out what he's been doing. A week off and he starts to black out. His body's decided it's had enough and it's going to take over. He's going to finish a real nap or else. And what does he do?"
"Protest that it's not anything and that you're fussing?" Bobby suggested.
"Yup. Hodges and I either had to crawl in bed to keep him in it or handcuff him to it if we needed to be up and at work. He still kept trying to get up and go to work."
"You needed me," Xander defended.
"Yes, but we needed you alive," he said with a fond grin. "Just like now. So no more stupid stuff."
"Yes, dear," he said meekly, grinning at him. "I'm fully house broken now."
"Did the spray bottle work on you too?" Calleigh teased.
Xander nodded. "Very well."
"Hodges cooks so therefore he gets to make the rules," Greg said with a smug grin. "He's now working eight or ten hour shifts and being good most of the time."
"That's okay, he got plenty of mischief out while he was with us," Bobby reminded him. "That 'confused with the Xander' look used to be epidemic at times."
"Only when we tried to explain sports to him," Brass reminded him.
"Not my fault I was raised by girly girls," Xander mumbled, blushing so hotly now he could feel it radiating.
"Guy can't dress himself so he matches but he can discuss the most delicate detail of fashion with the ladies," Brass told their visitors.
Greg nodded. "Goes shopping with Ray and talks him into buying this one suit. Looks wonderful on him. Light peach, slightly darker shirt. Looks marvelous on him, makes him glow. Xander, well, he was wearing a hawaiian shirt and jeans with old sneakers again," he admitted.
"Some people are like that," Bethany agreed. "I don't care what I'm wearing as long as I'm covered."
"I don't care much about clothes," Xander assured her. "Only the stuff for work and my sterile packs."
Calleigh grinned at him. "Can you help me find something for the dinner, Xander?"
"Sure. Price range?"
"I know just the place," he promised with a grin. "They're even used to Sarah there because I had to help Ray's Ma shop recently."
"Sure, you, me, and the puppy will go." She looked down and the puppy gave her the most adoring look. "You're so cute," she cooed.
Calleigh walked back into her unit, the puppy in her pocket snuggled in.
"Couldn't find a lunch box?" her boss asked, making her jump.
She grinned at him and pulled out the puppy. "Isn't Mackenzie adorable?" she cooed, beaming at him. "He's also lab trained by his daddy. He knows just how to behave. He's very protective of me and tried it bite someone who wanted to feel me up at the dance."
"The last time I knew you weren't a socialite who had to travel with a small dog so she'd have someone who spoke on her intelligence level," he said patiently. "Lab trained?"
"Yeah, his daddy's a ballistics tech up there. He was born under their mass spec and he's been around the office and the labs his whole life. He was in my artillery board but this little one snuck out to meet me." She smiled and patted him, putting him back in her pocket. "He knows not to go near anything that looks like evidence. He's also plant trained and outdoor trained. He's a very good boy."
"He's still not allowed in the lab. Even the ballistics lab, Calleigh."
"No. No dogs in the lab. I don't want to take the chance of him contaminating something."
"But I've brought him in every day since we got back a week ago and he's been perfect so far," she said with a smile.
"Wolfe found a dog hair. He's not that perfect."
"He wasn't in his lab!"
"No, he was in the garage."
"Well, yeah, he went to cheer up Alexx yesterday. So far he's been very good. Please? He's cute and small and he fits in my pocket."
CSI Wolfe, the new guy on the unit, came out to look at the dog. "I only found one of your hairs in this whole complex," he said, petting him behind the ears. "You're very tiny."
"His daddy was a ballistic's tech and his actual daddy was a deaf mostly-wolf who works with the Canadians."
"So his father was Xander Harris," Horatio said dryly. "And his actual father must have been Diefenbaker. I met him during a lecture. He came over to steal my danish."
"He does that. This one's mom and he teamed up to steal the detective's food from their desks."
"Theft is still theft and it's wrong, and he's still a dog and can't be in here. Take him home."
"He's too small to be left alone."
"You should have thought of that before you adopted him." He looked at the dog. "Sorry, little guy." The dog growled at him. "That won't help you."
The dog jumped down and went to bark at the person sneaking up on them with the sharp, pointy thing. He knew those were bad, his mommy had said so.
Horatio turned and disarmed the woman, getting her onto the ground. He looked at the dog, who was wagging his tail happily. "Good dog," he praised. "When you're older you can train to do that."
"He's a CSI dog, it's in his blood. Come on, Mackenzie, let's go to the locker room. Maybe Alexx is in again." He trotted after her, wagging his tail happily the whole way.
"He's actually a very smart dog," Wolfe said. "Must be the wolf part of his heritage." He grinned at his own joke and headed off. The dog had stayed out of his carefully controlled area so he was all right with him. He noticed the dog in his lab but it was under a machine staring at him. "You stay there."
"He was born under one of those," Calleigh said as she came in. "He's been fully lab trained by his ballistics and trace tech daddy."
"Wow. Double major?"
"Major and minor."
"Really wow. Very different fields too." He looked down at the dog, who was watching everything he did. "He seems very smart."
"Is that a rat?" someone called from the doorway.
"Sic him, Mackenzie," Wolfe said. The dog came out and attacked the pantsleg, making the guy scream and run away. The dog barked a few more times then came in to rub against his mommy's leg and hide again. He knew gloves meant she couldn't pet him but he'd get some later. "He is very well trained," he said in awe.
"Good boy," Calleigh said happily. "He knows that gloves mean petting comes later too. His daddy taught him very well."
"Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Is he planning more litters?"
"I don't know. This one was an accident." They got down to work.
Horatio stopped by a few minutes later with the poor guy that had been attacked. "Calleigh," he said patiently.
"I didn't tell him to."
"He called him a rat and he's obviously not. I wouldn't let a rat into my lab. Mackenzie is very well trained. He even knows he won't get petted while she's wearing gloves."
"I'm impressed, but it's still a dog in the lab. Dogs carry germs and hair that can get on evidence."
"He can also save her life and yours," Wolfe defended. "Besides, I found a single hair in the garage from a canine sample. I'd have to compare it to his to see if they matched but the color was wrong now that I've seen him."
"I brush him every day right before we come in," she promised. "He doesn't shed that much. His mommy does bark happily when her daddy shoots test rounds."
"I'd expect as much from a ballistics dog."
Horatio looked at them. "If you can convince the chief detective to let him stay, he may. But the first time he compromises evidence he goes. Got me, you two?"
"Sure," Calleigh agreed. She took off her gloves and her dog came out, letting her pick him up and pet him. "Eric?" He came closer and the dog sniffed him then sneezed. "Tacos for breakfast again?"
"Busted," he said happily, giving him a little pet. "You're adorable."
"I know," she said happily. She walked out to find the chief detective, finding him in the break room. "Frank? Detective Salas?" They both looked and smiled at the dog and her happy grin. "He saved Horatio's life today and he tried to protect me and Wolfe from Eric. He's a very good boy, he doesn't shed a bit, and he's lab broken and plant trained if I can't get him outside. Horatio said the final decision was yours."
"Lab trained?" Detective Salas asked, letting him sniff her fingers. She got a happy yip and petted him. "You're very cute."
"His daddy was a ballistic and trace tech at the convention. He was in my artillery board. This little guy was born under a mass spectrometer and he's been around a very busy precinct ever since. He's stayed with the detective now and then and in the lab. His daddy taught him what not to touch and where not go and to not come up for lovies while the mommy's wearing gloves. He taught him how to use plants if I can't get him outside fast enough and he's very possessive of me."
"Caine must be having a heart attack," Frank said dryly.
"Yes, but then she saved him from the knife woman earlier."
"I heard." The detectives looked at each other. "As long as he stays trained and nothing gets tainted."
"It won't," she said happily. "Thank you." She smiled at the small redheaded girl coming in. "Hi. How are you?"
"That's a pretty dog. Can I pet him?"
"Sure." She let the little girl pet her. The dog sniffed and then looked back at the detective, who raised an eyebrow. The dog sneezed and snuggled back in, accepting the attention. "There you go. You have fun today and behave. I'll tell Horatio that you're here."
"Thank you, Miss Calleigh." She smiled at the detective. "Hi."
"Hi. Horatio said he was taking you shopping today. That you're starting school?" The girl nodded, beaming at her. "I know you'll do very well. You seem very smart." She patted her on the head. "You can wait in here if you want."
"Thank you, Detective." She went in to sit at the table, looking very proper and calm, only her feet swinging since they didn't touch the floor yet.
Frank noticed his fellow detective watching her and leaned closer. "Why is that look so familiar?"
"It's a family trait," she said quietly, going back to her desk to think. Not that she wanted to think but she needed to think apparently. She also apparently needed to hit her former brother-in-law for keeping this from her. He was probably trying to be nice, but she'd still hurt him over this.
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