Notes: Discussion of dead people in this story.

Ballistic in Chicago

Xander pressed the button the intercom, frowning a bit. "What's wrong, Jacques?"  He let it go so the doorman could speak.  They had to move into this very nicely secure building a few months back because of the evil women around him in his life.

"There's a young lady here to see you, Xander," the doorman said.  "Very pretty, brunette, says her name is Dawn?"

"Dawn?  Why is she here?"  He glanced at Hodges, who was looking a bit wary.  "I've got to get dressed.  Tell her to give me ten."

"That's fine. I saw Detective Vecchio pull around to park."

"He can escort her up.  Thanks, man."  He let go of the button and headed for the bedroom.  "Guess I'm putting on clothes."

"You're seeing her?"

"Dawn wasn't part of that stuff," he protested.  "Dawn's only about twenty right now and she was ignored as much as I was, David."

"Fine."  He got up to answer the door when someone knocked, looking at the detective standing there.  "He's putting on clothes.  Is he following you around to pick up bullets?"

"No, not today."  He walked in, letting Dawn come in with the stroller.  "The doorman said to bring her up with me."

"Sure, Xander said so.  He's getting dressed.  You must be Dawn.  He's told me a bit about you," he offered, shaking her hand.

She smiled.  "There's probably not much he could tell.  He's been out of the loop for the last two years.  Including this one," she said, nodding down at the toddler in the stroller.  She smiled at the dog coming out to sniff her.  "Hello, baby.  This is Amanda.  Isn't that a pretty doggy, Mandy?"  The baby looked at the dog, then grinned, reaching out for it.  "Gently," she said quietly.  "Just pat, dear. Like you do for Trevor's Woof."  The baby patted the dog on the head and the dog gave it an odd look before heading to the couch.  "Can I sit?" she asked.  "It's been a long bus ride."

"Sure." Hodges closed the door after her and looked at the detective.  "Your Ma needed him?"

"I'm going to try ta explain basketball to him again," he said dryly.  "Xander, hurry up!"

"I'm coming.  My shirt is being picky about buttons."  He walked out doing up the buttons and looked up, then stopped dead.  "That's a baby."  He looked at Dawn.  "Explanations?"

"The father's a shitbag who left three days after the delivery.  He's in Arizona somewhere skipping child support.  Buffy kicked me out when I came home from the doctor's crying after having what I thought was the flu.  I came to see you, to see if you're still okay, catch up, and see if you could give some mom-like advice."

"I see."  He shrugged.  "Okay.  Start from the top, Dawnie."  She sniffled.  "Do not do that.  I've lost my tolerance for crying women," he complained, handing her a tissue.

"I...No one calls me that anymore."

"Do you even talk to Buffy or Willow?" Hodges asked gently, sitting down beside their poor dog again. She crawled into his lap so he petted her.

"No.  I had an accident, and I fully admit it was an accident. I was on the pill, I forgot a few times apparently and the condom doth break grandly."  Vecchio nodded at that, sitting down as well.  "So I start getting sick, feel really rundown.  I head into the doctor's since I'm on a medical card being undeaged and Buffy not working at that time, again. I get the bad news, come home crying and bawling.  Buffy takes one look at me and tells me to get out and that she never wants to see me again.  I head to a shelter for the next three nights.  They work on finding me a place within the system.  She shows up when I'm about six months along, asks me if I'm having an abortion or adopting it out.  I say neither and walk away.  I haven't seen her since."

Hodges and Ray both looked at Xander, who nodded. "Sounds like her.  Your mom would've been pissed but I can't see her kicking you out for that."

"Me either but she's still dead," she reminded him.  "I wish she weren't.  I really wish she weren't.  But we're surviving.  Amanda here is just about to turn three."  She smiled at her daughter, who beamed at her.  She pulled her out and sat her on her lap, weathering the wiggling.  "No, you stay sitting."

"She can wander.  The house is puppy proofed," Hodges assured her.  "Plus, we do occasionally babysit for Ray's sister."

"Thanks.  She probably just wants to see the dog, she doesn't get to see many of those.  She was a bit premie so she's got some breathing troubles."  She let her down, watching as she walked over to stare at the dog.  "We're living in public housing," she told Xander.  "It's not as bad as it could be.  I know about four of my hundred and thirty neighbors.  I switch off now and then with another mother.  She's got twins with Downs."  Xander moaned at that.  "So we switch off so she gets some time to watch normal kids now and then.  But my social worker wants me to put her into Head Start and to start rebuilding my life, and I don't know where to start."

"High school?" Hodges asked.

"Hard to do, I spent about six weeks out in my junior year.  I ended up having to drop out completely when she came out a month early.  My social worker just says it's time to start making things happen, but doesn't tell me how."

"GED," Xander told her.  "Community college or Vo-Tech for a bit, maybe moving onto a better college."

"See, you have advice.  Is that hard to get?"

"No," Ray told her.  "Tony has one.  It's set at about the eighth grade level in most places.  If you made it to being a Junior, you should be able to do a bit of refreshing and pass easily."

"Okay.  How do I do that?  Do I call the school board?  Um, the social workers?"

Xander sat down across from her.  "Call the local library.  They've got the books and usually someone there has a flier or something about any classes and when and where to take it.  You should be able to get the fee, if there is one, waived."  He stared her down.  "Are you two doing okay?"

"Just lonely," she said gently, giving him a smile. "I miss you, you big idiot."

"Sorry, Dawn."

"I know. You had to get a life.  Mine forced me to move on.  I'm glad I did in a way.  I'd probably be dead by now if I hadn't.  Do they, um, know?"

"Intimately.  Hodges was there the night I had to do Giles."

"I'm sorry, Xander.  If I had heard, I would have done it for you.  It was cruel of Buffy to send him your way and crueler of Willow to make you do it."  He slumped and nodded.  "You didn't know?"

"No.  The only thing I knew was that Willow showed up and told me, then begged me to fix it for her. I had to shoot him, he was in the station."

"You're a cop?"

"CSI, ballistics," he said proudly.  "With a side of Trace, which is my man's field," he said, nodding toward Hodges.  He smiled at the baby.  "Hi, Amanda.  That's our doggy, Sarah.  Isn't she pretty?"  The baby beamed and pointed at the dog, babbling some nonsense.  "Yes, she's a pretty doggy."  He looked at Dawn.  "Is she all right?"

"More or less. A bit late with most things, but not that bad.  Within normal for premature babies.  She just doesn't like to talk.  She likes to listen. I'm hoping she becomes a shrink."  She sniffled.  "Sorry."  She took a tissue and blew her nose.  "It's just been a long week."  She looked at him.  "I'm taking four days away from the projects while they fix my door.  Buffy came looking for me and kicked it in, in broad daylight, in front of two cops who were there to arrest someone else.  Even though I have a restraining order through the social workers since she asked me that and they witnessed it.  That was a fucking wonderful birthday present by the way."

"So you're hiding?" Ray asked.  He'd be upset with her sister too, a bit of swearing never bothered him in the right circumstances.  He glanced at the baby but she was paying attention to the dog.

She shrugged. "I'm taking a vacation.  I haven't had one since the year my mother died."

"You were fourteen then," Xander agreed.  "I wish I could have stayed, Dawn."

"So do I, but you needed a life."  She shrugged. "I understood.  I understand even better now.  Sometimes you have to move on.  The same way we had to move on when Sunnydale died."  He nodded at that, getting up to give her a hug.  "Thanks," she whispered.

"Not a problem.  Sarah, do not chew on that," he warned.  "No eating the remote."  He let her go, looking down at her.  "Are you hiding?"

"No, I'm staying at a motel.  I'm on vacation.  My social worker suggested it when the cops called her.  She even got me bus tickets.  So, are the projects here worse than Cleveland's?"

"Probably," Ray offered. "We've got a violence and drug problem here."

"We do there.  My neighbor on the left is a Blood.  The one on the right is from some Asian gang, or at least the girlfriend of.  They got into it on my front porch a few times and I blatantly walked out there with a shotgun and told them I didn't care, but they weren't doing it around my kid.  To take it away from my place.  So they leave me alone now."

"You threatened gang members with a gun?" Hodges asked.  It had to be something with living in Sunnydale.  No normal people did things like that.

"Amanda had colic.  I was cranky," she said dryly.  "It was unloaded but they didn't know that.  All they saw was a cranky woman with a gun who hadn't showered in four days and hadn't slept in about a week.  They took it across the street."  Xander snickered at that.  "I did what you would have," she admitted.  "I pulled up that touch of Xander-ness that I carry around and used it."

He chuckled. "Dangerous, but happy I could help."  He grinned at her.  "Where are you staying?"

"About three blocks from the bus station," she told him.  "It's not that cheap of a place and it's near a park and the college and things.  How do I figure out what I want to do?"

"What do you like to do?"

"I used to like to shop," Dawn told him.  "I don't do that anymore for obvious reasons."

"Being poor sucks," Xander agreed.  "Is she okay?"

"A bit asthmatic now and then.  Nothing too bad.  She had a good bout of lung problems her first year.  This year's been okay so far except for the spring thaw and rainy times.  Right now we're in high heat and humidity.  She seems to be okay most of the time.  Why?  Is she sounding raspy?"

Xander listened, then nodded.  "Yup, a bit."

"I'll pay attention to it.  I've got stuff for her if necessary.  Thank you, Xander."

"Not an issue, Dawnie.  I missed you too.  No one could taunt King Hair Gel the way you could."

"Who?" Hodges asked.

"Angel," they said in unison.

"Oh, him," Hodges said, nodding and petting his dog.  "I remember you talking about him."

"He's back with Buffy," Dawn told him.  "I'm guessing they wanted Amanda for something vile and evil.  At least she doesn't have the birthmark."

"That's a good thing," Xander agreed.  "How have you been?"

"Tired.  I'm a single mother and I don't begrudge her coming to life, but there are days when I just want to hand her to someone and disappear.  If that doesn't sound mean."

"My sister's got four.  She feels the same way now and then and she's got a husband and Ma," Ray assured her.  "All mothers have those days.  Those are the days for babysitters."

She nodded.  "That's when we switch off."  She shifted some.  "I figured out I had it a lot better than some of the people down there," Dawn told them.  "My mother loved me unconditionally for the greater part of my life.  I had you and Tara, Xander, for a few more years.  I was nearly spoiled by some of those people's standards.  Just because I had a loving parent. I want to move on and have a real life, but there's this locked door in front of me and I don't know how to get past it.  That's why I came to visit. I called Gunn and he said you were here."

"I am here," he agreed, smiling at her.  "So, should I take the day off and show you around?"

"No," she said firmly.  "You do good work.  Go do good work.  We can pop around for lunch tomorrow if you want?"

"Sure, that'd be fine," Xander agreed, grinning at her.  "Take the number 4 bus and ride it around today.  It goes through some pretty neighborhoods.  It also goes right by the big Vo- Tech center here.  They'd probably have a list too, maybe not for the Cleveland area, but they might know who to talk to."  She nodded at that.  "Think about doing hair.  You're good with fashion and it's a steady job you can do with a kid in the building, and it pays decently."

"That's not a bad idea," she agreed softly.  "Thank you, Xander."

"You're welcome, Dawnie.  You know you're like my own sister most of the time."

"I know.  That's why I figured I could pop in unannounced.  This is a really nice place.  My place is about half this size."

"We're here because *someone* drew another evil and merciless bitch to him," Hodges said dryly, smirking at his boyfriend.  "Didn't we?"

"Hey, all I did was go out to dinner with you and Turnbull.  That's all I did."

"Man, it's like Anya cursed you after all," Dawn teased, smirking at him.  "Still bad women?"

He sighed and grinned.  "Still.  I get a lot more variety than I used to.  Apparently the whole 'boyfriend' thing works for them too."  Someone buzzed the apartment and Xander got up to get it.  "Who now, Jacques?"

"A blonde lady.  Very pushy," he offered.  "Very, very pushy."

"Let me in!" a female voice called.

"Um, no," Xander told the doorman, shaking his head. "I'm not dealing with her today.  I'm getting ready to head to work.  I'm sorry but I'm naked and heading for a shower.  If she's still around I'll see her tomorrow."  He let the button go and headed back there, looking at Dawn.  "Followed much?"

"Not that I knew of.  She's supposed to be under arrest."

"So she jumped bail," Ray said, nodding at that.  "Think she'll make it up here?"

"Buffy?  Yeah," Dawn told him. "She kicked my door off the hinges, Detective.  She'll probably knock out the doorman."  She looked over as someone pounded on the door.  "See?"  She looked at Xander, then at the baby and the stroller.  "Hand her over."  Hodges handed the baby back and she took her into the bedroom, coming out to get the stroller before Xander could open the door.  "I'm hiding.  I don't think we need this fight."  She went into the bedroom and closed the door, taking her daughter into the bathroom just in case she got noisy.  "Shh," she whispered.  "Aunty Buffy, the bad lady, is here."  Her daughter stuck her fingers in her mouth and stared at her.

Xander looked at Hodges.  Then at Ray.  "I'm not letting her in."

"Good," Hodges agreed. "If the door starts to buckle, you might change that decision."  The door was pounded on again, shaking in the frame.

"Let me," Ray offered, getting up and answering it.  "What, lady?" he demanded.

"Where's Xander?  The guy downstairs said this was his place."

"Yeah, and I'm Ray, I stay here a lot too.  And?"  He looked her over, then pulled out his badge, making her back up.  "You're disturbing the peace and he don't want you here."

"All I want is my niece."

"Fat chance," Xander told her.  "Very fat chance, Buffy."  He came to stand behind Ray.  "Not a chance in hell as a matter of fact.  I don't care what's going on.  I'm not getting in the middle of it.  So take it back to Cleveland."

"I can't!  We need the kid!"  She stared at him.  "You should still understand things like this, Xander.  It happened often enough."

"She's still not being given to anyone," Xander said firmly.  "No way in hell.  Now, leave. Before I let Ray arrest you for threatening to kidnap and torture that baby I haven't seen yet."

"She's here.  The doorman said so."

"Buffy, I swear to God if you don't leave, I'm going to fucking well move again," he said coldly.  She backed off, looking stunned. "Go away.  Ray, close the door.  She's not worth the paperwork you'd have to do."  He went back to beside his mate and cuddled up with him.  "Hi."

"Hi," he said, patting him gently.  "It'll be okay, Xander.  I promise it will be."  Xander looked up at him.  "We're going to have to get involved?" he guessed.

"Maybe not directly," he offered.  He went back to thinking.  He had met a tech at the convention who worked in Cleveland.  They had a good few hours of chatting.  He could send her a head's up about Buffy skipping town.  He could pass it back into the right ears.  He discarded that one.  Why would he want to get involved in what was quickly looking more and more like a sister-on-sister domestic dispute?  That could be dangerous for careers.  Hodges had made him see how some people thought about their careers.  He looked at Ray, who was checking the hall.  "She still out there?"  He nodded. "Then we'll go out as a group.  Unless you want to do paperwork?"

"Threatening to take the kid is pretty borderline."

"You've got stalking," Hodges offered.  "She did follow her here from Cleveland. She's probably skipping bail to do that."

"I can call Cleveland to see if she is skipping bail."

"So can I, and I'm going to be less busy than you tonight," Xander reminded him.  He picked up the phone and dialed information.  "Hi, I need the number for the main police department in Cleveland?"  He wrote it down.  "Thank you."  He hung up and dialed it, smirking at the distracted sounding person on the other end.  "Hi, this is CSI Harris, out of Chicago, and I think we just got assaulted by someone who was recently arrested out there?  I need to talk to someone to see if she's on bail or not."  He smiled.  "Thank you."  He wrote down that number and called it, getting them.  "Hi, my name is Xander Harris and I work with the Chicago PD and I was just assaulted by a young woman whose sister is visiting me.  The sister did say that you guys had to arrest her out there for kicking in a door in the projects to yell at her and try to take her child.  The assaulter?  Buffy Summers.  Middle name Anne if it matters."  He listened.  "ROR.  Is she allowed to leave the city?  Because she's here.  She was just trying to break in my door to get to her niece.  No, not that I could see.  No, she's here.  She did say there's a restraining order.  That's why I'm calling, sir.  Of course, detective, sorry.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "She's ROR at the moment.  She's not supposed to leave the city and if they can be brought proof she did she's going back to jail on the destruction of property and assault charges.  Dawn?"  She came out of the bedroom.  "Baby okay?"  She nodded.  "The cops were told she was protecting the baby from a horrible mother."

"Wonderful.  I'm a good mother though."  She wheeled the stroller back into the corner and sat down with the baby in her arms.  "Aren't you usually a happy baby, Mandy?"  Her daughter smiled up at her.  "Thank you."  She kissed her on the temple.  "I don't know what to do about her but I'm tired of this."

"File to have the restraining order tightened," Ray offered.  "They can arrest her if you can prove she was here."  Dawn nodded at that.  "You gonna be okay?"

"I'll be fine.  I'm sure you guys respond very quickly if she tries something."

"Why does she want the baby?" Hodges asked.

"I'm betting some sort of prophecy," Xander said bitterly.  "So apparently the baby's either the key to the prophecy being stopped or she's what the bad guy wants."

"She's just a baby," Hodges complained.

Xander looked up at him.  "I know.  It happened to Dawn when she was thirteen.  She nearly died."  He shivered at the very matter-of-fact tone in his lover's voice.  "We stopped things like that."

Dawn nodded. "I still do some now and then with the Wiccan thing, but not that much. It's expensive to do magic so I really only get to do my herbalism and herb-healing stuff that Tara started to teach me."

"Yeah, proper setups are expensive," Xander sighed.  "Even stakes are expensive here in town.  I have a big board I've started carving into my own again."

"I was wondering why we had lumber in the spare bedroom," Hodges said dryly.  He looked at Dawn, then at Xander, who only arched an eyebrow up.  He shrugged slightly.  Then he looked at her again.  "Dawn, we do have a spare bedroom, you're welcome to stay."

"No, she's still a bit fussy and it would drive you guys insane," she said with a gentle smile.  "Thank you though.  So, the number four bus route?"  Xander nodded.  "I can do that.  Thank you, Xander."  She got up and kissed them all on the cheek before putting Mandy in the stroller.  "I don't want to keep you guys from going to work."

"It'll probably be a few more minutes," Xander told her with a smirk.  He looked at Ray.  "Did you come to spare Hodges from cooking?" he asked hopefully.

Ray snorted.  "Hell no. You're his boy, he gets to feed you until you get sick next time."  Hodges smirked at that.  "Speaking of, leash training not going well?  He was off in the field again last night."

"Mort sent him out into the field.  No choice with how busy we were," Hodges said dryly.  "We've got the couple out on a renewal honeymoon and this guy needed the field time anyway."

"Fine.  Just keep him out of trouble," Ray told him.  "He gives me no end of paperwork."  He looked at Dawn, who was quietly snickering.  "Did he do that for you guys too?"

"No, Buffy and Willow pretty much ignored him, but he went behind their backs to do things quite often.  Then again, I was just thinking about Anya and what she'd say about this Xander."

"I'm good in bed?" he suggested with a smirk.  "I'm better in bed now."

"You're very good but if you ever tickle me again, I'm going to have to punish you," Hodges said firmly, blushing a bit.  "Which one was Anya?  The one you nearly married?"  Xander beamed and nodded. He rolled his eyes.  "I've got to send dirty thoughts to her for making you this way."  Dawn snickered.  "He was worse?"

"She used to complain about him all the time, how she was only getting five or six orgasms, as she called them each and every time, a night.   It was never sex, it was always about the O for Anya."

Xander nodded, laughing and looking up.  "Yeah, it was.  She used to embarrass me horribly.  All the time."

"Well, yeah.  I still like how she complained about them in front of Angel."

"I put her up to that," Xander said smugly.  "I wanted to see if vampires could have a heart attack."

"Stroke but not a heart attack," she teased back, grinning at him.  "Tara used to give her looks now and then like 'I'll turn you into something you'd hate to be' to make her stop embarrassing her."  She continued to laugh as Xander answered his phone.

"Yeah?"  He frowned a bit.  "What happened?"  He listened. "Yes, she is.  And she's trying to harm her niece, her sister's daughter.  I have no idea why.  She's just really frantic to get the kid and the baby's not harmed and not ill.  No, I'm sitting here looking at the baby and the mother.  Perfectly happy and normal.  Yes, you can also tell her she's violating her bond and can be arrested again.  We checked.  We can arrest her for them and ship her back too.  Sure.  Thanks, man.  Is my order in yet?  Okay.  Laters."  He hung up.  "My new meditation candle is in."

"Xander, magic?" Dawn asked patiently.

He shook his head.  "Hell no!  Shielding. Evil women shielding."

"Fine."  She smiled at him.  "I was worried you might turn into Willow."

"Ick.  No thanks.  I'd look horrible as a redhead lesbian witch."

Hodges looked at him oddly.  "You might look okay as a rehead but no witches, please."

"Sure."  He grinned at him.  "I won't change gender for you, dear."

"Good ta know," Ray announced, getting up.  "Come on, Xander.  Since your keeper there has tonight off, he gets to lounge around. You don't.  Dawn, can we give you a ride?  It's pretty late this afternoon."

"If it's not any problem," she offered.

"Nah, the Riv's held plenty of kids over the years," he promised, smiling as she gathered up everything and hurried over to give Hodges a hug and whisper in his ear, then follow them out with the baby.  "She did what?"

"She went to the local store that deals with stuff like her," Xander said dryly.  "Later, love."

"You too."  He got up to close the door and lock it after them.  He wasn't going to take any chances.  She might come back.


Ray walked through the door into the CSI unit's area, nodding at Mort.  "He back there?"  He got a tolerant nod. "Good.  Hodges isn't home and Turnbull just called.  Their door's off the hinges."  He walked back to Xander's area, tapping before walking in.  He winced at the test fire. "You don't yell?"

"I did. You didn't hear."  He fished out the bullet and put it under the scope, making notes about it and which gun it came from.  "What?"

"Your door's off the hinges and Hodges isn't in."

"Excuse me?" he demanded, looking at him.  Ray nodded.  "We know this how?"

"Turnbull.  He came to drop off a casserole he was trying out.  He found your doorman tied up and unconscious, and the door kicked in."

"Oh, wonderful," Xander said bitterly.  "Fine.  Let's go."   He finished making notes and slid the bullet into an envelope, stapling it to the gun's tag.  He walked out, taking off his jacket and putting it in his cubby.  "I left one out on my desk, bullet stapled to the gun, Mort.  I may be back, I may not.  It depends on if I'm under arrest for homicide."  He stomped out to the car, finding Stan out there already.  "Hey."

"Hey.  We're here to walk you through it. You're not our case.  You're Huey's."

"Fucking wonderful," he said bitterly.  "Buffy showed up earlier to try to snatch Dawn's kid since she's here to hide from her for a few days."

"I checked on Dawn already," Ray offered.  "I just came back from there.  She's fine.  Still."

"Yay."  He got into the Riv and waited while Ray got in to drive.  "So does it look like the blonde or does it look the normal evil women?"

"Could be either so far," he admitted, letting Stan get into the back of his car.  They headed back to Xander's.  Huey was watching as they loaded the doorman into an ambulance.  He got out and they flanked Xander, making Huey look their way.  "Anything?"

"What blonde?  Today's blonde I should say."

"Buffy Anne Summers.  Her sister's in town hiding from her with her daughter. Buffy wants to take the kid for something," Ray reported.   "Dawn's at the eyesore by the bus station."

Huey wrote that down.  "Okay, what's going on?  Something odd?"

"Buffy and Dawn are sisters," Xander said bitterly.  "Dawn's a very young mother, by my standards, and Buffy kicked her out, there's a restraining order in place because of the way she treated Dawn.  Then suddenly she's got a hard-on for taking the kid by force.  Kicked in her door there so Dawn ran this way to hide and get advice," Xander explained.  "Sarah?"

"Not up there," he admitted.  "We're checking the rest of the building as well.  I'm hoping she dropped her off somewhere."

"Hopefully Sarah bit her many times," Xander said dryly.  "She's not usually mean to animals, or at least she didn't used to be."  He went to look at his place, finding the obvious signs of a struggle.  Then he saw it.  "Blood.  Someone's injured," he announced, pointing at it for his fellow techs.  He walked around, finding something on the bed.  "No one made it to our bedroom yet?" he asked.

"No, not yet," their top field tech asked as he walked that way.  He saw the note and came over to open it, reading it quickly.  "Who's Dawn?" he asked as he slid it into a bag.

"The bitch wants her kid," Xander said bitterly.  He read it, noticing the blood on the corner.  "We've got blood on here too."  He reread it, then walked it to Ray and held it up so he could read it.

"I'll grab Dawn," Ray promised, heading to do that.  "Stan, stay with Xander."

Xander looked at one of the officers, then at his crew.  "Phil, I'm taking one of the cars for a few minutes!" he yelled.  "I've got to check a source!"

"Sure, Xander.  Just bring it back," he called.  "Take the blue one.  The other's got the spare gear in it."

Xander nodded, heading that way, pulling out his keyring.  He had a key for each of the cars, just in case.  Phil was great about locking the keys inside the car, so it was practical in his mind.  Even if Mort did give him funny looks.  He headed off toward his favorite occult/comic shop and looked at the closed sign.  "I doubt it."  He got out and walked over there, knocking.  He heard someone moving around and the owner opened the door.  "Dear," he said, pushing him inside.  "We need to talk.  Buffy took my mate hostage."

"Oh, shit," he muttered.  He looked at him and saw the fury in the cold brown eyes.  "She said something about soup and the baby."

"The baby's not soup," Xander said firmly.  "There's no baby soup on my watch.  Why did she want the baby?"


"I knew that," Xander said bitterly.  "Why else?"

"There's a demon coming for it.  It wants her as a future consort."

"And?" Xander asked dryly.  "That wouldn't make Buffy kick in the door since she didn't want the baby to be born."  The owner looked at him.  "And?" he repeated.

"It's to keep the demon off the plane, man," he said quietly. "To use as a lure."

"Bet me," Xander said bitterly, heading out.  "Soup.  Soup?"

"There's a former canning plant," Stan offered.  "I don't know why she'd go there, it's a wreck."

"Then it's a vampire hangout probably," he decided, heading that way.  He called Ray on the way.  "Yes, it's about the baby. It's a sacrifice to keep a demon off the world.  To be its future consort."  He hung up and looked at Stan.  "We'll check then call."

"Fine," he agreed.  "Fair enough.  You're not going in."

"If there's vampires, I am," Xander said firmly.  "You can't stake worth a damn and Turnbull's not here."

"You took my Mountie hunting vampires!" he shouted.  "Are you nuts?"

"Depends on the day?" Xander suggested dryly.  "He asked and I instructed, then let him help me."

"You're givin' me mental problems, Xander."

"He's perfectly safe.  He's a better hunter than I am," he pointed out.  "He's trained."  He looked at the intersection.  "Which way?"

"Left."  Xander turned.  "Toward the stock areas."  Xander nodded, heading that way.  They found the former factory, which was a wreck of a building.  Xander parked and got out, going to the trunk to change clips.  He found his small bag he kept in the back of all the cars and pulled out the two clips.  "Stan, what're you carrying?"

"The usual.  Why?"  Xander handed over a clip of...wooden bullets?  "I'm not that great a shot."

"It's a distraction and if you are, it'll kill 'em," he said, pulling out the crossbow too.  "Let's go look."  He looked inside, scanning around the factory.  "Here, vampy vampy vampy," he whispered.  "Come eat me."  He stepped inside and one tried to pounce him.  "Hi, babe.  Is my man here?  Kinda very grumpy, light brunette, small issue with his hair?"  He kicked her backward, getting some space to move.  "Well?"

"Yeah, he's back in the canning area.  On one of the conveyors."  She lunged again. "You won't get to him."

Xander snorted and staked her, then put his stake back.  "If you say so."  He looked back at Stan.  "Confirmation enough?"

"Not with hostiles in here!  Huey can't stake things!"

"Fine, we'll clean."  He moved into a shaft of light from an unbroken window.  It was a nice night.  Too much moonlight for a decent hunt though.  "I'm tasty," he called.  A few more lunged and he got them, then looked around. "Come on.  I'm very tasty and I beg prettily."

"You certainly do," Buffy agreed as she came out of the shadows.  "You always did.  Now, you can beg for your little gay friend."

"Actually, I turned him gay, Buffy.  It was in reaction to all the evil bitches I'd been around in my life, like you."  She shrieked and attacked so he fended her off while Stan called for back up.  He even heard them warn the dispatcher to only let Vecchio in at first.  That something was going on.  That was so nice of him.  He continued to fight Buffy.  "How were you going to explain it when you lost the baby to the demon, Buffy?  Just that you had lost and hadn't saved your own niece?"

"We both know she's not."

"She is.  They made her of you, Buffy.  She's your family.  Your mother's got to be tapping her foot and scowling somewhere."  He backhanded her and moved back, moving the body behind him but not staking it since it was Stan.   He heard running feet. "Stan, go stop them unless it's Ray."

"Of course."  He went to do that, staking someone on the way out.  Turnbull was running their way.  "Ray stopped ta get you?" he asked, looking confused.

"Yes, dear.  He got the message loud and clear.  Xander?"

"Fighting the twat."  Turnbull groaned and went inside, going to clean the space before any cops could get eaten.  Then he jumped Buffy from behind, knocking her down.

"Get off me!" she shouted.

"Fat chance," Xander said bitterly.  He looked at Turnbull.  "No more?"  He shook his head.  "Hodges?  David? Are you all right?"

"No!" he called back.  "I'm going to kick her ass!"

"I'm coming."

"You'd better be soothing instead," Turnbull joked.

"Eww! Gay men!  Get off me!"

"Shut up, dear.  It's women like you who turned Xander gay," Turnbull assured her in his very reasonable voice - the one he used on bureaucrats.  "Besides, we don't want you."  He watched as Xander hurried off.  He turned her over to Stan once he came in with Huey.  "Here she is, Detectives."

"Thank you, Turnbull," Huey said.  "Why did you get to come in here?"

"Well, it has to do with Xander's past activities on a paramilitary front," he offered gently.

"Oh, them."  He nodded once. "Okay.  Is the cranky one fine?"

"He yelled a few minutes ago and Xander was going to him."  He nodded behind him and headed that way with Buffy being drug along.  Xander was still fine, but fighting a few things.  "Oh, hell," Turnbull said, jumping in.  Xander was tired and pissed, it wasn't the best combination.

Buffy stared.  "He can't do that!" she shouted, wiggling.  "He's not that good!"

"He is that good," Stan told her.  "Shuddup."  They watched them fight and one of them rushed Xander's back, making him flinch and yell, "Watch out!" at the same time Buffy did.  He glared at her.  "I told ya ta shuddup!"  She flinched and shrunk away from him.  Xander had gotten that one and was fighting one last one while Turnbull got Hodges untied.  Xander took a heavy swing at the guy and he lunged under it, meeting the dagger in Xander's other hand.  This one bled.  "Sit," he said, coming over to help him.  "Who the fuck are you!" he demanded, flipping him over.

Xander brushed back some of his hair, panting as he leaned against the conveyor.  "Angel," he panted.  "Alive."  He looked at his boyfriend, pulling him over to hug and kiss him.  "'Kay?" he whispered.  Hodges nodded, letting him cling for now.  "Did you get bitten or anything?"

"No, I'm fine.  Sarah bit her a few times, but she was dropped off at the vet's up the street.  She kicked in the door and threw her inside when she heard someone in there."  He glared at Buffy.  Then gave Xander a softer look.  "I've never seen you fight."

"Most people don't," he agreed, looking up at him. "You're sure you're okay?"  He moved his shirt collar, looking for bite marks.  Nothing there.  He was moving his shirt out of the way when Huey came over to get them. "Sorry," he apologized.

"It's normal to make sure he's fine," he promised, leading them off, letting the paramedics take that Angel guy off.  He was bleeding from the wound in the stomach and had been kicked a few good times.  A vampire pounced out of the shadows at them and Hodges glared.

"Do you really think you should be doing that at a Knight?" he demanded.  She squeaked and ran out of the building.  He looked at Xander.  "You're right, your rep works very well," he said with a slight grin.  Xander hugged him again.  "I'm fine.  You're not fussing me to death."  He walked him to the cars, letting him lean against Stan's.  "You stay there."  He looked at the paramedics.  "I've got some rope burns but I'm fine."  He was led off to be checked and Detective Dewey came over to take his statement.

Turnbull hung up Stan's cellphone and looked at Xander.  "Someone did find Sarah.  She's not that badly hurt.  The doctor came running when he found out his office had been broken into and took care of her since she was an innocent bystander.  He did note that she bit someone but I told him she was defending her people."  Xander relaxed and nodded at that.  "Are you all right?"

"Muscle strain.  Nothing a hot shower won't cure," he promised, moving his shoulders a bit.  "It's been a while since I've been on that wild of a hunt.  Usually it's one or two at once and then move on."

"Sometimes life calls on you to do the wild things," Ray offered.  "David?"

"He said he's only got some rope burns," Xander told him.  "He also told me I can't fuss."

"You can so fuss. I taught you how to fuss.  You'll do it very well."  He walked over there to check on him.  "You okay?"

"Fine, detective.  Thank you.  Do not let him fuss."

"Fat chance," Ray snorted.  "He's been waiting for a chance to and you know it."

"I don't like being fussed over."

"Yay, live with it.  Xander's going to be fussing for weeks.  Hope he orders instead of trying to cook again."  He walked off, going to talk to Huey.  "Xander, where are you staying tonight?"

"Hotel I guess.  Hon?"  Hodges looked at him.  "The house is a crime scene."

"Hotel's good enough," he agreed.  "That way you can't fuss too much."

Xander snorted.  "Bet me!"  He smirked.  "You go with the nice paramedics and I'll follow after finding us a place to sleep and checking on the puppy."  Hodges shook his head slowly.  "Yes, dear.  Now."  He walked over and lifted his boyfriend up, putting him into the back of the ambulance.  "I want him to have the best care possible.  He's not only a kidnaping victim, but he is a CSI with me.  I will get pissed and take heads if he's hurt further."  He stared down one of the paramedics, who blanched and nodded, getting in while the other went to drive. Xander blew a kiss.  "I'll see you in a few minutes," he called as he closed the door.  He waved, smiling happily.  Then he smiled at Stan, Ray, and Turnbull.  "Any vampires left?"

"Yeah, but they fled," Stan offered.

"Fuck.  I'm going to go kill something harmful to the world.  I'll make hotel reservations in a few minutes."  He walked off, heading into the night.  Phil and the guys had already gotten here, they could repossess the car now.  He walked down the road and found another abandoned warehouse.  This section of the city was full of them.  He walked inside and blatantly smiled at the demons in there.  "Hi."  They all slowly backed away.  "I'm still angry.  I need a fight.  Anyone around here...expendable?"

"Um, yeah, kinda," one vampire offered.  "There's a slayer...."

"She's the one I'm mad at, kiddo.  She took my mate.  I nearly killed her already.  I'm working off that stress," he said pleasantly.  "Anyone else?"

"Uh," another male said, staring at him.  "Big, hoofed thing up the road about a mile.  Really nasty and gross, but not the least bit nice or patient.  Seems to like to eat us.  You could protect us too."

"We'll see. That's a good idea," Xander agreed.  "Thank you."  He walked up the road, heading to check on that demon.  What he found didn't surprise him, but it was a huge, powerful, nasty, mean, and bad guy demon.  Who for some reason had the DA and Stan's exwife and was trying to get them to submit to him.  Xander walked up behind it, listening to it.  "You're arguing with lawyers about submissions?" he asked.  The demon spun and looked at him, then got the universal 'oh shit' look on its face.  "Hi.  I'm pissed.  You're here.  You're big."  He smiled sweetly.  "Can we fight now?  I just nearly killed a slayer for daring to touch what was mine."

"Uh, sure," he agreed, backing away.  Xander lunged at him, and the demon had to fight back.  He was outclassed.  He was out-fought, and Xander was a happy guy by the time it was dead.  Xander walked over and released the lawyers then headed out to call his boss and ask him for hotel suggestions and pick up his dog.


Hodges looked up from his reading as a plate appeared in front of him.  He looked at the food, then at his mate, who only grinned. "Ordered?" he asked hopefully.

"Taste it and see."

Hodges ate a carefully small bite, then winced and grabbed his glass of water.  "Too hot," he gasped, gulping it down.  He tried the bread but it had jalepenos in it too and he was going to die.  Xander got him some milk and handed it over.  "Thanks," he said, wiping off his watering eyes.  "Please tell me you cooked that?"

"Yes, I cooked that," he said miserably, moving the plate and laying down beside him.  "I tried."

"You try very hard," he agreed, stroking Xander's back and arm.  "Thank you, Xander."  Someone pounded on their replaced door.  "What!" he yelled.  "I'm getting fussed over!"

Xander walked out and opened the door, looking at their landlord.  "I don't owe you anything," he said, looking confused.

"Yes, you do.  An explanation!"

"Oh.  Um, bad people.  We're with the PD as CSI."


Hodges came out of the bedroom.  "We work with the cops as Criminalists.  Usually in the labs, but we're the people who solve the crimes and put people away."

"You said you weren't cops."

"We're not, we're lab techs," Xander told him.  "I told you I was a lab tech and that Hodges was a lab tech.  I told you all this when I signed the lease."

"I don't remember that."

"Uh-huh," Xander said dryly.  He looked at Hodges, who shrugged and grimaced, then looked at the landlord again.  "We paid for the repairs to the apartment.  I actually did most of the work myself."

"Are you licensed for that?"

"Yeah, that's what I did before I went to college."  He smiled sweetly.  "I spent a good few years doing construction."

"Oh."  He looked at the doorframe, not able to find anything wrong with it.  "Fine.  Will this ever happen again?"

"That depends.  Can you honestly say that no stalkers will pick me up in a club for being cute?  Or that something at the PD won't happen and that one of my cases won't come back to haunt me?" Xander asked.  The landlord glared at him.  "It can happen to anyone, man.  Seriously."

"I still don't like it."

"Think about how we feel," Hodges complained.  "I didn't *like* being kidnaped."

"I still don't like it.  One more problem out of you two and you're out of here.  Prepaid rent or not."  He stomped off.

Xander slammed the door and looked at his mate.  "I'll start looking tonight when I head in."

Hodges nodded. "I'll look on the computer."

"House?" Xander suggested hopefully.

"I'm still not ready for that yet, Xander.  I told you that when I came back."

"I know," he sighed, heading over to hug him.  "I'm sorry I nearly killed you again.  Where should I order you dinner from?"

"Giovanni's is good," he suggested, smiling at him.  "Get yourself a sandwich for later so you don't eat junk out of the machine."  Xander nodded, heading for the phone and the menu.  "You fight really well."

Xander looked at him and shrugged.  "For me, it's like breathing well, honey.  I had to so I could live.  It's part of my life now and then but not as often as it used to be."  He dialed.  "Want the usual or the lasagna?"

"Lasagna, I need something a bit fattening tonight."  He came over to give him a hug.  "I wasn't criticizing, I was praising," he said softly.  "You fight very well and I had never seen you do it before.  You impressed the hell out of me, Xander."  He gave him a kiss on the cheek and heard the person on the other end giggle.  "Yes, it's us.  Lasagna and get him a sandwich of some sort?"

"Ham," Xander said, shaking himself free of that dirty thought he was having.  "No mustard, like usual.  Yeah, go ahead and put it on our debit card.  Thanks."  He hung up and looked at his mate, smiling gently.  "I'm a stud?"

"You could say that," he agreed dryly.  "I was going to say talented but if you want to say stud and sexy, that's all you, Xander."  He winked and headed back to his bedroom, watching their poor dog sniff that plate.  She looked at him and barked softly, then stole Xander's pillow and watched it like it was going to move. "Xander, why don't you bring this in for Diefenbaker or someone," he called.

"That's an evil thought," he called in a sing-song way.  "Though, Dewey was picking on me."  He came in and grabbed the plate, stealing a kiss.  "There's more too.  I can feed Ray and Stan too."  He didn't include Huey, he didn't eat anything he didn't see fixed anymore, not after the last time Xander had tried to, feed him.  He had sworn many times he hadn't wanted to hurt him, even though he had ended up vomiting for four days straight after that attempted rice, cheese, and mushroom soup casserole. He bundled the dinner up into plastic containers and set it on top of his badge and his new supply of clean jackets in their dry cleaning wrappers.  He even went to answer the door when it was knocked on, smiling and taking the meal, giving her a nice tip when he signed the slip.

"What did you try to cook?" she asked.

"Hamburger helper with this bread mix I found online."

"Ah.  We included some antacids, in case he needed them.  Plus some complimentary bread sticks."  She grinned and wandered off, heading back to her car to go back to the restaurant up the street.

"Ah, another person who knows not to let you cook," Hodges said from the doorway.  "That was hamburger helper?"

"Yes, dear," he said, taking his sandwich and handing over the other food and the antacids.  "Sorry," he offered sheepishly.  "Let me head into work."

"Fine.  Come home soon and be safe tonight."  They shared a gentle kiss and Sarah came trotting out to go with him.  "Yes, you protect him, dear."  He watched them go, then broke down in snickers once he was sure Xander was on the elevator and couldn't hear him.  His poor man, he still couldn't cook. He really should warn Stan about dinner, but then again...  He was being a bit too smug recently, he deserved it.


Xander snuck up the stairs to the detective's squad, placing the food in the refrigerator.  Detective Huey looked at him and winced.  "Do I want to know?" he asked.

"Hamburger helper," he offered.  "Mix bread?"

"Fat chance, Xander," he said dryly.  "Shoo, before I get you for intentionally trying to kill us."

Xander kissed the dark-skinned man on the cheek.  "Love you too, detective.  Anything of yours on my desk?"

"Not yet.  I'm hoping it's a slow night."  He watched Xander skip off and thought about telling Ray that Xander had tried to cook, but...nah, he was being a bit smug and surly recently.  He deserved it.  He really did.  He did warn Welsh, but he had to know in case they had to take more detectives to the hospital.

Xander stuck his head into his boss's office. "Mort, I cooked," he said happily.  "Bread and hamburger helper.  I left some upstairs."

He handed over a sheet.  "Go into the field, Xander.  To preserve your life and hide, go into the field tonight."

Upstairs, Stan's voice drifted out of the break room.  "Whose hamburger stuff?" he called.

"Free for the taking," Huey called back.  "Someone cooked too much."  He glanced around. "There's bread too!"

"Yes!  I don't have to buy dinner," he said as he walked out a microwaved plate of the food.  He sat down at his desk, grinning at Dewey came in.  "Free food in the fridge.  Someone overcooked.  The hamburger stuff and the bread."

"Cool.  One less meal I have to buy."  He went in there to get his own, finding Ray in there looking at it.  "Is it bad?"

"No, but I'm trying to figure out what it is."

"Stan said hamburger stuff.  Said someone overcooked.  There's bread too."  He found that and pulled down his own paper plate, microwaving some for himself.  Then he smirked at Ray.  "Go ahead.  You know how Huey is now."  He walked back to his desk, sitting down to nibble.

Welsh came to the door at the first spluttering noise, watching Dewey drinking all his diet Mountain Dew.  Ray was wincing and trying to swallow.  Stanley was just giving them funny looks and continuing to eat.  At least until he ate some of the bread with some of the stuff on his plate.  Then he choked and Welsh shook his head.  "Tell me if we have to transport anyone."  He went back to his desk, watching through the doorway as Stanley tried so hard to quench whatever was wrong.  Straight, black, hot coffee wasn't helping much apparently.  Huey was snickering.  Ray was at the water fountain, refilling his mug repeatedly.  Welsh let out a small laugh and shook his head, looking at Sarah as she trotted into his office.  "Hello, sweetness.  No wolf tonight?"  She barked and wagged her tail, hopping into his lap to get cuddled. "Is your daddy doing stuff?" he asked cutely.

"Who cooked that!" Ray shouted.  "That should be against the law!"

"Xander had some earlier," Huey said innocently.  "He said it was fine. Stan was eating the meat stuff until he had the bread."

"Hot peppers," he moaned, waving a hand in front of his mouth.  "Oh, God, hot peppers in both."  He went for the water fountain this time, nudging Dewey out of his way so he could fill his cup.  "You okay?"

"No," he gasped, taking another drink and rinsing and spitting.  "Not at all.  What was that?"

Ray looked at the plate, then at Stan. "You could stomach that meat stuff?"  He nodded.  "Then that must be Xander food," he said, shuddering a bit.  "How did he do that?"

"He said it was hamburger helper and bread he found in a mix," Huey offered dryly, smirking at them.  "I should laugh the same way you guys did when he did it to me."

"That's mean, man!" Stanley complained.

"Hey, you can stomach his cooking, I don't know why he didn't pick you for his mate," Huey said dryly.  "Then you'd never have to worry about takeout again."

"Oh, yes we would," Stan said firmly. He called down to the lab, then got Mort when it flipped over.  "Where is that sneaky freak?" he demanded.  "He tried ta kill us!"  He listened to what case Xander was on.  "Uh-huh.  No, hamburger helper and some bread with hot peppers.  Sure, you can test it to see if it's toxic," he said bitterly, hanging up.  "He's in the field tonight. Mort said it was probably safer if he went into the field."

"I'm taking some home to Ma so she can see why the poor boy needs cooking lessons," Ray said, bundling his plate up and putting it away.  With a note on top of the dish that said 'Xander cooking, do not eat' in plain sight.  By the end of the night, someone had still taken half and he almost shuddered to think about how much they must be hurting at that moment.


Hodges looked up as the apartment door opened and Xander walked in, one arm in a sling.  "What happened?  Field work?"

"Yeah, Mort sent me out to save my life."  He flopped down, looking at his arm, then at his mate.  "It's nothing.  Just a few good scratches.  We've got an over-anxious new ME resident with Mort."

"Uh-huh.  Take it off, Xander," he said firmly.  Xander never got little scratches.  He got huge gashes.  So if he said they were good scratches, well, he was expecting to see bone.  Then again, he did see stitches so maybe the new ME wasn't *so* bad. "What happened?" he asked patiently.

"Nothing much.  I was out on a B&E when someone came out of the back and tried to push me through the deli's window.  Oh, I picked up a new menu," he offered, pulling it out of his bag and handing it over with a slight grin.  "He lost.  The cop who didn't clear the scene got chewed a new one.  And I'm still fine.  Just a few cuts from the window."

"Uh-huh.  Was bone showing?"

"No, just some muscles," he said weakly.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem.  Let's get you into a warm bath, Xander."

"I'm supposed to be fussing."

"I'm perfectly fine, you're the one with new stitches.  Into the bath!"  Xander pouted so he hauled him up and swatted him on the ass.  "I said go run a bath.  I'll bring you a snack."  He headed into the kitchen, stopping to answer the door.  "Hi, Ma."  He looked at Xander, who was now doing as ordered.  "Did Ray give you some of the dinner he cooked for me?" he asked sweetly.

She sighed and nodded.  "Yes, he did.  My caro, such a worrywart, but this time I do believe I should help the boy.  Where is he?"

"Starting a bath, Ma."  He closed the door once she was inside.  "Xander!  Front and center!"

"Let me finish using the bathroom," he called, coming out a few minutes later. "Hi, Ma."  He gave her a one-armed hug.  "I tried.  I tried really hard.  I even followed the directions."

"I know, caro.  We'll figure it out together.  Are you off this Saturday?"  He nodded.  "Good, you and your man are coming over for a real cooking lessons."  She pinched his cheek with a smile for him.  "You try so hard, bambino.  We'll figure it out together, okay?"  He nodded, grinning at her.  "Good boy.  Now, I'm off to bring Maria and the bambino home from the Emergency Room."

"Did he eat it and get sick?" Xander asked, his eyes comically wide.

"No, caro, he ate something from on a shelf and we weren't sure what it was until he started to get sick.  I'll go pick them up.  I'll see you Saturday."  He nodded, hugging her again.  "Good boy.  At least Ray knew not to eat that."  She walked out shaking her head.  That poor baby, he was just not meant to cook.

"What did you add to it?" Hodges asked.

"It said to add pepper."  He went to the cabinet and pulled down the pepper he had used.  "That's the only one I found."

Hodges looked at the jar of flaked Anaheim chilies suspended in olive oil that had been a weird present from their former coworker Sarah - the one their dog was named after.  "That's not pepper, honey, that's what pepper spray is made from," he said gently.  "Speaking of dogs?  Where's ours?"

"She went home with Ray.  Followed him out to his car and refused to get out since Diefenbaker was going.  I'm so glad that she's fixed now."

Hodges nodded quickly.  "Me too!  No more puppies!"  He took the jar of peppers and oil, tossing them into the back of the cabinet.  "Let's get you into a warm bath, I'll make you a snack, and then we'll cuddle if Stan, Ray, or someone else doesn't come to kill you for cooking."  He led him into the bathroom, starting the bath for him so he'd have to get into it.  Then he went to stick some frozen stuffed mushrooms and cheese sticks into the oven to warm up for him.  He checked that jar, making sure it was sealed.  He even got some packing tape to make sure it was sealed.  Xander would not be doing that again.  While he was waiting for the food to finish warming, he called Stan to apologize.  You didn't alienate friends like Stan and Ray by nearly killing them with dinner.


The next night, Xander peeked around the precinct door, catching the desk sergeant's eye.  "It safe?" he mouthed.  He shook his head and Xander ducked back out, letting Detective Dewey walk past.  He peeked in a few minutes later and got another head shake.  So he ducked back out.  Ray caught him the third time, dragging him inside and up the stairs, making Hodges sigh and follow.  "I'm sorry," he said as he was drug through the door.  "It said to add pepper.  I added the only pepper I found in the cabinets."

Stan handed him a nicely tied box.  "This is so you never, ever get near the kitchen again," he said with a fond grin.  "Those are the menus to each and every place that delivers food in the Greater Chicago area.  I checked, they'll all deliver here and to your house.  That way you never go near the stove again," he said slowly and clearly, making his point clear.

"It's partially my fault," Hodges admitted.  "I hid the pepper shaker to wash it and hadn't refilled it.  He only found the jar of Anaheim chilies the Sarah sent us from Vegas.  The ones suspended in olive oil from some wacked out gourmet shop.  He substituted."

"We've even talked to Ray's Ma.  She's not allowed to teach him to cook," Welsh told him.  "That way he can't get near a stove ever again.  Because if he does, we might have to arrest him for the patrol officer who suddenly had explosive, painful diarrhea last night while in her car.  Or the cop who apparently ate some off her plate and had his on his bike.  So let's not ever let Xander near the stove again.  That way we don't have to arrest him for assaulting officers.  Okay?" he offered.

"Sure, he'll take that deal," Hodges agreed.  "He's very sorry."  Xander nodded, looking quite pitiful.  "He was trying to spoil me some more."

"Yay," Ray noted.  "We talked to Ma, Hodges, she'll teach *you* how to cook this Saturday if you've got it off."

"Yeah, I've got it off.  I'm still on the four day schedule."  He shrugged. "I don't know why."

"That's fine," Stan agreed.  "Just make sure he never tries to cook again.  Take the menus, use them well, get something exotic tonight for dinner, guys."

"Is that Lebanese place in there?" Xander asked, looking like a kicked puppy.  Stan nodded, rolling his eyes.  "Is my dog here?"

"She's curled up on Ma's stomach," Ray told him.  "Ma had a headache, she's playing guard dog."

"Okay," he agreed.  "Thank you, guys, for the great present, and I'm really sorry."

"I'm never going to pick on you again, Xander.  You're a dangerous man," Dewey told him.  "Outside of the fighting and the gun thing, you're a very dangerous man."  Xander gave him a little grin.  "Now shoo."  They headed back down the stairs with their new menus.  "Anaheim chilies?"

"The dried things that are on those strings at Begoli's," Ray told him.

"Oh, those things.  No wonder!"

"It does explain why both officers said they crapped fire," Welsh agreed.

"It wasn't that bad until you added the bread," Stan offered.  Everyone stared at him.  "What?  I used ta eat Stella's cooking!"

"Yeah, that's another one who could stand Xander in the kitchen.  Let's make sure that those two *never* have to bring anything to any precinct picnic, okay?" Ray demanded.  Everyone nodded.  They could enter into that conspiracy, it was for the good of the public.

Mort stopped Xander on his way in the door.  "I remembered to restock the medical kit because of you, thank you, Xander."

"I was trying to be good," he protested weakly.

"I know you were.  Trust me, that meal you cooked last night wasn't poisonous, but it was quite dangerous.  The most dangerous dinner I've ever seen outside of something poisoned.  Good job!"  He went back to his next dead body, leaving the embarrassed boy to slink into his lab and hide in there.

Hodges just shook his head and went to his own lab, writing a note back to Las Vegas to tell Grissom and Brass about this one.  They loved to hear these sort of things about Xander.


In Las Vegas, Catherine opened Gil Grissom's email when a new message icon popped up, seeing it was from Hodges.  She read it, then shuddered and printed it off, going to hand it to Sarah.  "I don't want to know where you got it from, but don't do that to the poor detectives again.  He shared it around."  She walked on.

Sarah read the email, pouting a bit. "At least he used my gift," she offered, going to give it to Bobby and Archie since they liked to hear about this stuff.  She ran into Greg, who had come back after his six months leave was done.  Hodges had come back for three days but then left for Chicago again.  He had realized he wanted to stay with Xander and that he felt safer and more at home there.  Or so he had said when he said goodbye formally.  Bobby read it and burst out laughing.  "At least he used my gift."

"I went practical. I got him a really nice planner for the office," Bobby told her.

Archie nodded.  "I sent him a gift certificate to a good AV store for DVD's and things.  He likes gadgets."  He read the email and shook his head. "Those poor men.  I'm hoping Immodium worked on them."

Warrick leaned his head in.  "Catherine said there was a new email from Hodges?"  It was handed to him and he burst out laughing.  "Oh, damn, those poor detectives. That boy is so bad."  He walked off to tell Nick, which meant telling Grissom and Brass since they were all in the break room.  "New message from Hodges," he announced.  Nick put down his can of soda and Brass put down his coffee cup.  "Apparently Xander was trying to spoil him on his night off so he made some bread he found in a mix, which contained jalepenos, and some hamburger helper stuff, with one small problem.  The pepper shaker wasn't in sight so he used Sarah's gift in the hamburger helper instead.  Two patrol officers who shared a plate had an explosive and painful accident while on patrol, and the three detectives got together to get the poor guy a menu from every place that delivers in Chicago.  They've *forbidden* him to go near a stove ever again or they're going to charge him with assaulting the police officers he nearly killed last night.  Bobby's got the actual email."

Brass burst out laughing, leaning against the wall to shake his head.  "That poor kid."

"Yeah," Grissom agreed.  "Those poor detectives."  He knew what Sarah's gift had been.

"How easy is it to make that sort of mistake with hamburger helper?" Nick asked, still laughing.  His eyes were watering and he had to wipe off his cheeks.  "That poor kid.  He's never going to be able to survive on his own."

"What was Sarah's gift?" Brass asked once he had calmed down.

"Anaheim chilies in olive oil, flaked and cleaned up," Grissom told him.

"No wonder it hurt," Brass said, starting to laugh again.  "Oh, those poor patrol officers."

"According to the email, one car patrol and one bike patrol," Warrick told him dryly, smirking at him, making Grissom shudder in horror at that and Nick burst out laughing again.  "I'd hate to be the guy who had to clean that up."

"Well, if we see Xander again, we'll know to let him order some more," Brass noted, grabbing his coffee and heading out, going to laugh in his office about that.  He found an email from the kid himself, complaining about his lack of skills and how he had tried.  "I'm sure you did, kid.  I'm sure you did," he said fondly, writing him back.  The one from the Sheriff could wait.


"I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys'r'us kid, there's a million toys in here that I can play with," Xander sang as he walked up to his door, noticing it was open.  He put away his keys and pulled his gun, moving inside slowly.  "Hodges?  Sarah?" he called quietly.  His dog barked from the closet so he let her out.  "Shh, baby.  Where's daddy?"  She barked and ran for the bedroom.  Xander hurried that way, grabbing the phone on his way.  "Fuck," he growled, dialing the station.  "Ray, me.  Hodges is knocked out.  There's no blood but he's not waking up even though I'm standing right here.  No, open door.  Yeah.  Thanks."  He hung up and bent down to check him.  He was breathing okay.  He looked at his dog, picking her up to look her over. "Who was here, baby?"  He put her beside the daddy and went to the door to wait on someone official to show up.

Phil came off the elevator first.  "Cleared the scene?"

"Released my dog from the closet and found him.  I doubt they stayed," he said bitterly.  "Would have liked it so I could shoot 'em."  He got out of the way. "He's in the bedroom.  Sarah was in the closet around the corner."

"He need an ambulance?"

"No.  Probably not.  At least I'm not being paranoid and making him go this time.  He complained so much last time."

Phil nodded, walking around the apartment to check on things.  He checked Hodges himself, nodding that it seemed like he was asleep.  He called dispatch, ordering the detectives in with an ambulance.  Then he got to work.  The ambulance crew came in and checked him over, moving him after a quiet word with Xander, which made him dent the wall with a fist.  Then they handed him the dog because she was in their way.  Xander sat down and cuddled her until Stan came, sitting down to hug him.  "No note, detective."

"I didn't figure it for a suicide attempt," he said bitterly.  "Xander? Have you gotten any threats?" he asked gently.

"The usual and that trial case," he offered with a small shrug.  "'If you put me away I'm going to get you.'  That trial he stated it in front of the whole courtroom, yelling about it.  That was after his attorney asked me about Hodges and if we had worked together on this case.  I pointed out that I was trained to do Trace and I often helped him when he got backed up and I was free.  This was one of those cases."  He shrugged again and went back to cuddling his poor baby.  "She was in the closet."

"I'm sure she was," Stan soothed, looking over as Huey came in.  "Yours?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  Hodges was in the bedroom.  Phil's in there."

"Thanks.  Xander?" Xander looked up at him.  "No threats?  No more evil women?"  Xander shook his head.  "Are you sure?"  He nodded.  "Absolutely positive?"

"Yeah.  Perfectly sure," Xander agreed.  "I haven't been out clubbing in nearly a year, Huey."

"That's fine, kid.  Let us work the angles and we'll see what we come up with, okay?  Why don't you let Stan take you and Sarah there to the hospital?"


"He'll need ya," Stan said gently.

"I'm still a...."

Stan patted him on the cheek. "You are, but you can't work your own case.  Now, let's go."  He nodded, getting up to follow him.  They ran into the landlord, who was fuming at Dewey in the lobby.  "Any ideas?"

"Not Buffy, not female.  Could be related to one of the random idiots around here who hate gay men.  We're not sure.  Xander, he'll be fine. The paramedics didn't even have to hurry off."

Xander nodded, sighing a bit.  "He'd better be.  I'm one possessive and jealous bitch of a lover when what's mine is hurt."  He headed out to Stan's car.

Stan looked at the landlord.  "It coulda really been worse.  They didn't break in.  He was gently knocked out.  He wasn't dead."  He walked off.

"I don't want that sort of thing in my building!" he shouted after him.

"That's against the law," Stan reminded him, letting the door slam.  Stan's phone rang when he got outside and he listened.  "Hell no, Phil. You know that.  Neither one's like that."  He hung up and got into the car.  "Someone planted some minor drugs in your bedside table."

"He has a 'scrip for Xanax for the really bad days," Xander offered quietly.

"We're talkin' some weed and it looked like it had been dusted with something.  A few unknown pills in a baggie.  I told him you didn't do those things.  He's bagging them and taking them in as evidence."

"Thanks."  He hugged him.  "I don't know what the hell is going on, Stan, but I want it to stop.  My glasses were missing earlier today at work.  Someone broke into my locker last week."

"Excuse me?" he demanded, looking at him.  "Why didn't you say anything?"

"I did, to Mort and Welsh.  They said it was probably nothing, just pranking or something.  Nothing had been put into my locker but one of my lab coats was missing.  My glasses were missing today, and I reported them."

"I don't think this is a prank."  He started the car with one hand, dialing Huey with the other.  "Hey, me.  Xan had his locker broken into and one of his lab coats taken, then his glasses were lifted today from the station.  Yeah, he told Welsh and Mort.  Sure."  He hung up, backing out.  "It'll be fine, Xander.  We'll figure it out and help you move again."

"Sure."  He looked up.  "I hate moving."

"Yeah, me too," he admitted.  "Got any ideas?"

"I looked at a nice, but fairly plain, apartment in a small gated community.  It's within my salary range.  Barely.  There were two in unsecured buildings.  Then there was one in Thatcher's building.  But I'm not sure I want to do that.  She keeps staring at me."

"Cook for her sometime, she'll quit," he said dryly, merging into traffic to head to the hospital.


Huey hung up and looked at his partner.  "Xander had his locker broken into and a lab coat stolen.  His glasses were stolen today."

"He tell anyone?"

"Welsh and Mort, who probably told him it was a prank."

"This isn't a prank," Dewey said patiently.  He looked at the scene tech.  "Anything?"

"A few fingerprints," he offered absently.  "Why would someone want to pretend to be Xander?"

"That's a really good question," Huey agreed.  He looked around. "I'm thinking he's going to be moving again soon."

"That's fine," Dewey agreed.  "Know anyplace nice?"

"There's a gay-themed building complex that's a safe haven and has good security.  Not too bad on prices from what I overheard," he offered.

Phil looked at them.  "Hodges would kill you.  I can't see him taking on a flaming queen some days."

They chuckled at that.  "No, but then again they don't associate with the neighbors much either," Huey reminded him.  "Hodges doesn't really like people and Xander's worried that he'll attract another stalker."  He looked at his partner again.  "That wife.  Is she still in town?"  He nodded.  "Good.  We need to pull that file.  If it's one of his fan club, they're probably in the system somehow.  He's good about noting them."

"He is," Phil agreed.  "The file's on Mort's shelf, beside his DSM IV."  He went back to dusting for prints. "He looks through it when he's having a bad day to chuckle at it."

"Then I'm sure he knows it by heart now," Dewey noted. "I'll get it when we get back."  He headed to make note of what Phil had bagged already.


"I'm fine!" Hodges shouted.  "I'm leaving!"

"Babe," Xander said as he walked up the halls, Sarah held in his arms.  "What did they want you to do?"

"Stay overnight," he said grimly.  "I'm fine. I'm not dizzy.  You said I didn't have a concussion.  What's the problem?"

Xander looked at the nurse.  "I'd like to know that too."

"It says he's unmarried, so he won't have anyone to watch over him tonight."

"I'm his lover.  I'm quite sure I can wake him up at two-hour intervals and make sure he fully wakes up.  I'm also quite competent in making sure he takes any and all medicine prescribed.  I can also guard us because I seriously doubt there's not going to be a gun near me tonight.  Any other concerns?"  She shook her head, blushing a bit.  "Thank you for your concern, nurse.  It's very nice that you were worried about him, but that's kinda my job," he offered more gently.  "Let's get him moving.  We're taking him somewhere safe tonight."  She nodded, handing him the paperwork he needed to check out.  "Thank you."  He gave her a gentle smile.  "It's all right.  I understood."  He walked Hodges out to where Stan was waiting on them.  "It was given to Huey and Dewey."

"Good!  What's this about drugs?"

"Someone planted some in your bedside drawer," Xander said bitterly.  "Some weed, some pills."

"Fucking hell," Hodges muttered.  He looked at Xander.  "This has to do with your coat and stuff?"

"Probably," he said grimly.  Stan stood up as they came into view, leading them out to the car.  Xander got into the back and Sarah jumped over once Hodges was buckled in and the door was shut to cuddle him.  "Sorry, I've been holding her since I found you.  She was in the closet."

"That's fine," Hodges agreed quietly.  "Stan, hotel?"

"I've got a spare room," he reminded them. "Benny does sleep in there sometimes but he can sleep with us tonight."

"Sure," Hodges agreed.  "Xan?"

"Fine with me.  More protection."  He got comfortable, thinking over all the options.  "Hodges, didn't you get that odd set of notes recently?"

"The mash notes? Yeah, why?"

"Well, if they stole my coat, they stole my glasses, they're trying to make you look bad so I leave you, isolating you from everything by the way they had Sarah in the closet, then either someone thinks you're not good enough for me, or they think I'm not good enough for you.  Or at least that's my take at the moment."

"Could be," Stan agreed.  "Sounds reasonable."

Hodges looked back at his lover, giving him a totally serious look.  "You never said having evil women after you was spreadable, Xander," he said flatly.

"It wasn't as far as I knew," he defended weakly.  "I'm sorry you got a stalker."

"Yeah, me too.  So, where are we moving?"

"I talked ta Huey and Dewey a few minutes before you came out," Stan offered.  "You're missing a few clothes that we've seen you in, David."  Hodges shuddered.  "Also, he said that there's a gay complex in town."

"I knew that," Xander said dryly.  "It's the 'perfection' issue some of us have."

"Not that sort, dear," Hodges sighed irritably. "No more bad jokes tonight."

"Sorry.  Just trying to lighten the mood."

"I know, and I love you for it, but it's annoying right now."  He looked at Stan.  "How gay?"

"Very gay and only gay couples and singles can live there," Stan told him.  "Security, high- rise living with a gym and all that.  Pool somewhere."  He shrugged as he turned a corner.  "He heard a patrol talking about it last week and about how he'd turn sides to move there."  He turned on his blinker to pull into his parking lot. "What about the one you looked at, Xander?"

"Fairly sterile, plain, unimaginative.  Barely within my salary range," he told him.  "A couple of non-secured buildings as well."

"No.  No no nononononono," Hodges said, shaking his head.  "Secured only.  I want someone or something there to stop people."

"I agree," Xander assured him.  "There were these little cottages, but they're very...cutesy.  As in I nearly puked at them," he offered.

"I'm still not ready for a mortgage," Hodges reminded him patiently.

"I know, just mentioning them," Xander defended. "Besides, if I wanted a house for real, I want the one on the corner of Racine and East...."  Hodges looked back at him.  "The one with the fairy tale tower."  He grinned.  "I'm a princess, I should have a tower."

"You're a princess?" Hodges snorted.

"Didn't you know that?  I'm definitely a princess."  He smirked at him.

"Then you're in the wrong relationship.  I'm not a prince," David told him dryly, staring at him.

"I think you are.  You help me be snarky and explain things to me.  My kingdom is not vast, but it's a fun and rewarding place to live."

"I can tell.   It has all sorts of evil bastards living in there," he agreed sarcastically.  "No more letting your minions of evil out, Xander.  Keep them within your country's borders to protect the rest of the world.  Okay?"

"I'll try," he offered, leaning forward to kiss him on the cheek.  "Are you all right?" he asked gently.

"A headache, nothing more so far," he promised.  "I'll be fine and you can fuss - as long as you don't try to cook."

"Not even if I have Turnbull watching me?"

"My Mounties, quit trying to corrupt them, Xander," Stan said fondly.  He pulled into his parking lot and got out, letting Xander out so he could help with Hodges.  "You and Renny are really odd together at times."

"He's like a brother," Xander protested. "I'm not corrupting him to become like me.  I'd have to have more girls around if I did."  He grinned as Turnbull opened the bottom door.  "Tell him I'm not corrupting you to the dark side."

"I can't see how you could."  He picked Hodges up, making him squeak.  "The stairs are a bit shaky and the light's out," he offered, carrying him up to their spare room.  He settled him on the bed and Xander moved in to help relieve him of some of his clothing, which got put into bags for later looking over, just in case.  Then he went to get his baby some coffee and steal a donut for him to nibble on for dinner, smiling happily at him when Hodges took a sip.  "I'll be right back."

"Sure."  He waited until Xander was gone, leaving Turnbull.  "Can you please untuck me a bit?  I can't move."

"I believe that was his intention," he offered as he untucked the poor man.  "He does make very good coffee."

"Greg taught him, very patiently taught him, how to make good coffee," Hodges told him.

"I was making good coffee before then," Xander said from the doorway.  "I just had a different version of excellence than his.  I wanted mine a bit more strong than his mild sipping stuff."  He came in to tuck back in what Turnbull had untucked and grinned before heading to the bathroom.  Turnbull untucked him and sat on the foot of the bed so hopefully Xander wouldn't notice.  Xander came back in and tucked him in again around Turnbull, kissing him on the temple before laying down on top of the blankets to hold him.  "There, all done."

"No gun, I'm impressed," Hodges said as he finished his coffee and donut.

"It might go off, so I'm wearing my back holster," he said proudly, grinning at him.  He kicked at Turnbull.  "Retuck the corner you just untucked."

"Xander, I don't need a straight jacket," Hodges complained.

"This way you're warm and snuggly without me getting so clingy all night again, which you complained about before.  Besides, this way it'll take a minor act of God to get you out of this bed without me noticing."

"While that may be true," he argued, "I'd like to be able to move around during the night, Xander."

"You only move to get away from me when I try to cuddle and since I can't, you won't have to move," he said happily, beaming at him.  Then he wrapped himself around his boyfriend's body and cuddled him.  "Thanks, Turnbull."

"You're welcome," he said with a soft grin and a wink for David, letting him know he'd be back later to help him again.  He left them alone, closing the door most of the way.

"I really don't need to be tied down tonight," he noted.

"Yes, you do.  This way it'll be harder for someone to steal you while I'm sleeping," Xander told his stomach.  "We both know I can sleep like the dead sometimes, and if tonight's one of those nights, not that I think it will be, this'll give me extra time to wake up or an extra notice that something's wrong.  Therefore, you're being swaddled."

"You swaddle the dead.  I'm not dead."

"No, but you need it," Xander said firmly, closing his eyes.  "Night, David."

"Good night, Xander," he sighed, not getting his way yet again. He didn't seem to win many arguments with his lover for some reason.  He wasn't sure why.  He was smarter and more able to debate, but he still didn't win.


David took the report he had just finished up to the detective's room, waving it at the detective he wanted.  "All done.  Do you have a blonde woman with shoulder-length hair that was probably dyed very well?"

"Not yet, but I'll see what I can find," he offered.  "Thank you."


"What are you doing up here?" Turnbull said as he came up the stairs.  "You should be at home."

"I'm fine," he said firmly.

"You're not fine and Xander's going to have puppies when he finds out.  Little yapping ones who'll all yap at you for getting out of the bed he made for you."

"I was being strangled."

"Xander saw somewhere that they wrap babies up like that in the nursery so they feel like they're being held.  He wanted to make sure you felt safe and secure while he came to work today.  Which you're not if you're here."  He picked him up and walked him down the stairs, taking him to Stan's car, since he was still down there.  "Here.  He escaped."

"I can see that.  Not like being cuddled ta death by the blankets?" Stan asked dryly.

"No, I don't. I don't like being held that tightly.  It's bad enough Xander turns into an octopus when he's worried about you.  The blankets with him on top of me was suffocating."

"Yeah, well, once the boy learned how to fuss, he took right to it," Stan said dryly.  "I'll drop you off on the way out."  He drove off, mentally shaking his head and cackling.  Halfway there, his phone rang.  "Yeah?" he answered.  He listened.  "Address?"  He nodded once.  "Be right there."  He hung up.  "Xander," he said to ease the worried look.  "He thinks he found a place for you two."  He turned them around and headed in the other direction, back toward Ray's Ma's house.  He pulled down the alley and stopped in front of a garage with an apartment overtop of it.  "That's not too bad looking," he offered. " Good neighborhood."

"Security?" Hodges asked as he got out.  He looked up.  "If I looked around in our paperwork stuff, would I find a mortgage?"

"No," Xander said patiently.  "It's a rental, David.  The owners live in the brown house just up the street.  Two of our neighbors are cops in the fourteenth."  He opened a garage door.  "Let me show you around, I told them you had the final decision."  He pointed at the security system.  "There's a house-wide system. All doors, all windows, even the garage doors.  The remotes deactivate it and they're very specific so you can't get it off the street somewhere."  David nodded, looking around the two car garage, which was fairly nice.  He followed Xander up the stairs to the apartment part, whistling. It was an open design and it was quite nice.  The kitchen was good sized.  There was a dining table already.  The living room area had a carpet that would actually go with their furniture and was very nice looking.  He checked, the sliding door off to the small porch over the garage had a locking bar for safety and was wired for the alarm as well.  He followed Xander into the bedroom area, looking around.  There was one master suite, two guest bedrooms/offices, and two bathrooms.  It was a very nice place.  Xander looked at him.  "Rent's about two-thirds of what we're paying now and electric.  It's all electric and they cover water, sewer, and trash."  He smiled and opened his arms.  "Can I tell them yes?  Sarah's presently sucking up to the older lady of the couple.  She was making cookies."

Hodges smiled and nodded.  "I do like this.  The rent's cheaper, same other bills in addition to the rent.  It's nicer than our place.  We can get a bit loud if we have to.  We can park inside for a change too."  He hugged Xander. "You did good."

"Thanks."  He beamed.  "Let's go sign the paperwork.  I've got my checkbook so I can cover the deposit and stuff."

"Are we getting anything back from the other guy?"

"We are or I'm suing him," Xander offered, leading the way down.  "The only thing I saw wrong was the narrowness of the stairs, but I guess we'll get used to it."

"It's fine.  You just can't carry humongous things up.  Are we moving things?  If we are, we should probably plan to get the couch and things up over the porch."

"No, I'm hiring movers," Xander said firmly.  "I hate moving, this way they can pack, move us, and unpack."  David snickered at that.  "Hey, we'll be working," he pointed out, taking his arm with a grin.  "By the way, we're roomies," he said quietly.

"That's fine," he agreed.  "We won't have sex on the porch or anything."  He smiled at his lover. "I can be discreet."  He smiled at the couple coming out to meet them.  "Hi, David Hodges," he introduced himself, shaking their hands.  "Was our puppy a good girl?"

"She was most excellent, but a bit of a begger," the older woman said with a smile.  She handed the dog back.  "So, did you like it?"

"Quite a lot," Xander agreed happily.  He looked at David, who nodded.  "Let's sign a lease."  They smiled and led them inside, going to fill out the lease and make out the check.

Stan came out and locked the door behind himself, shaking his head.  Xander came back with one of the garage door controllers and put that down, and then they headed back to the station with him, so they could head back to work and he could go out on a case.  Xander grinned at Mort.  "Hi.  I found us a new place."  He handed over the address. "For the records."

"That's fine, Xander.  Does it have good security?"

"Excellent security, a monitored whole-house system that covers everything, including the garage doors with special codes built into the remotes."

"Good. You need someplace like that."  He handed over a case file.  "No report?"

Xander grimaced and went to print it for him, bringing it back.  "Sorry.  Not a match to the one they sent us, but a match to some other things."  He shrugged and went back to his lab to get back to work.  Then he backtracked and looked in DNA, frowning at the woman asleep in there.  He looked back down the hall, catching Mort's eye as he came out of his office, nodding him to come there and look.  They both went 'awww' at the cute sight.  "We should take pictures for the next newsletter."

"She'd kill you, Xander."  He patted him on the back, letting him get back to work while he went in to check on her.

Xander looked in on his boyfriend.  "Aren't you supposed to be resting?"

"I'm fine," he said patiently.

"I thought I was bad about that," Xander teased.  "Looks like my boyfriend is worse at resting than I am."

Hodges looked at him.  "I'm too old to be a *boyfriend*, Xander.  Lover, yes.  Boyfriends are for teenagers."

Xander beamed.  "I'm not that old so therefore you are," he said smugly, smirking at him.  "Argue with me and I'm getting you Valentine's day stuff.  The most mushy and glittery stuff I can find plus roses and having them delivered here."

"Fine," he complained dryly.  "You can have your delusions."  He went back to his work, shaking his head.  His lover was something else mentally some days.  He wasn't sure *what*, but something definitely.

Xander beamed and kissed him on the cheek before going back to his lab.  "Sophia was asleep."

"Poor girl.  Wonder what happened at her house last night."

"Me too.  She's always throwing really good parties."

They looked at each other.  "I'm not running DNA tonight," Hodges yelled.

"Of course you're not," Mort yelled back.  "Dayshift is on their way in, David.  Relax."

"Mort, tell him he's a worrywart," Xander complained.

"Of course he is, Xander," Mort said, coming to the door of Trace.  "He has to worry about you and those who hunt you."  Hodges smirked at that.  "By the way, Huey has an idea, roughly, of who it was who tried to hurt you, David.  He said he wanted to talk to you sometime tonight if possible.  He said to call him at home."

"Sure, thanks, Mort."

"Welcome, dear boy.  Now, I'm off to call someone for that poor dear.  It really is too bad that she happens to smell quite a lot like pot."  He walked off, heading to make that call.

Xander and Hodges shared another look and Xander shook his head.  "I can't run DNA," he pointed out.  "I can run the Trace tests, but that's it."

"Which is a good thing, or else Greg might be out of a job too," Hodges joked.   He got back to work, shaking his head.  How had he ended up with someone like Xander?  "How much do I owe you for my half of the security deposit."

"I told you, you take care of the other things and I'll do rent. You do the electric, the groceries, the dry cleaning, all that stuff."

"Which doesn't come out even," Hodges reminded him.

"And?"  He frowned at him.  "Since when has that mattered to me?"

Hodges looked at him.  "Honey, I'm not Anya.  I'm not going to be kept.  We can share the rent, I'll just take a slightly lesser one to cover the hundred and fifty I spend on the other stuff each month."

Xander shook his head.  "That's okay."

Hodges groaned, walking over there to make Xander look at him.  "You're used to girls who refuse to pay their own way," he said gently.  "I'm not a girl, and I do pay my own way.  I feel like I'm some boytoy that you're keeping and I'm not boytoy material, Xander.  So therefore we're going to work out the rent so we're each paying about half.  I'll take a slightly lesser half so I still cover the electric and all that, but I'm paying for part of it.  I'm not letting you keep me."  Xander looked confused.  "I know, this is what those girls trained you to do.  I'm not a girl though."

"I can tell," Ray said from the doorway, smirking at them.  "Troubles?"

"We have an agreement, I pay rent, he pays for all the other stuff," Xander told him, shrugging.  "I don't know why he has a problem. It's good that he pays for the other stuff."

Ray just nodded once.  "Xander, even married couples split expenses evenly.  That way they can *both* have money in savings."  Xander opened his mouth.  "Ah!  Let me finish.  Your savings should go towards things like medical bills the next time you're kidnaped.  Okay?"  He nodded slowly.  "Let him cover part of the rent so you can start doing a retirement fund."

"I have one of those through here," he said, looking really confused now.  "I'm supposed to pay the rent.  Right?" he asked his boyfriend, who sighed.

"We're supposed to *split* the expenses, Xander," he told him.  He nodded a bit and Xander nodded.  "We're not splitting it evenly.  I want it to be more even."

"Then you can't afford to go back and visit Greg next month."

"I can so. I make more than you do."  Xander frowned.  "Experience means I make more."

"I got that part," he said, frowning at him.  "I'm not quite that dumb.  It's fine the way it is, David."

"Xander, I'm going to insist.  I'm paying for slightly less than half of the rent.  Okay?"  He shook his head.  "Why?"

"Because I said I was going to."

"Yeah, but those sort of agreements can change.  I'm paying for half the rent.  Minus the other monthly bills like the groceries, dry cleaning, cable/phone, and electric.  That's fair to both of us.  Really."  Xander pouted.  "Don't do that.  It won't work."

"But I don't mind."

"I do!"

"I make more than enough....."

"Xander, hush," David ordered, making him quit protesting.  "I said I am and I mean it.  Do not argue.  I want this to be more equal."

"You cook!  That's the other half of your rent.  You do most of the cleaning too because I don't.  That's more than enough."

"No, it's not. I feel like I'm being bad and unfair to you."

"But you're not."

"I don't care.  Don't argue with me."  Xander sighed and nodded.  "Good boy."  He gave him a gentle kiss, then a hug and a squeeze.  "Thank you for not making me feel like I'm a girl."


"That's okay.  That's the way you were trained.  The same way you can't understand guy sports."  He let him go, smiling at him.  "Okay?"  Xander nodded and sighed.  "Good boy."  He went back to his lab.  "Ray, something for me?"

"Checking on you. You should be at home resting."

"We've got to hire movers," Xander told him.

"We can help you move, Xander.  We did the last time," Ray said sarcastically.

"We have a narrow staircase from the garages to the apartment," he told him.

"Okay, I'll get someone to give you an estimate," he offered.  "So they're going to have to lift the big stuff?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  I know a few guys."  Xander beamed.  "Washer and dryer hookup?"

"Washer and dryer included," Xander said proudly.  "Not that much farther away either."

"Good.  Excellent job.  Stan said it was a nice place."  Xander nodded, smiling at him.   He came in to look at Hodges.  "Did you get to see it too?"

"I got final decision and it's a nice place, but he's right, the staircase from the garage is a bit small.  We'd have to get stuff up to the second floor with a pulley."  He looked over.  "When will the old place be released?"

"By the end of the month according to Phil.  Your landlord hates you, you know that, right?"  Both men nodded. "How far ahead were you paying?"

"Four months," Xander told him.  "Plus the deposit.  Which if I don't get back within a week after we move, I'm going to sue."

Ray nodded at that.  "I understand fully, Xander.  Let me call those guys and have them call you.  David, you do not leave this office without me, Stan, or Xander with you.  And I do mean this office, not the building, this office."

"Fine," he complained.  "I'll be fine."

"Yeah, but if it's who Huey thinks it is, you're not safe here," he said simply.  David looked at him.  "Seriously."

"I'll take that into account.  Patrol?"  He nodded.  "Fine.  Thank you, Ray."

"You're welcome, kids.  You stay safe, and I mean it."  He walked out, going to talk to Mort about what Huey thought.  If he was right, it was pretty pitiful that no one had caught her at it before.  Then he went back upstairs, going to see if Huey had come back yet.  He was muttering as he looked in his desk.  "David's downstairs."

"He came to work?"

"Yeah, he said Xander was gonna fuss and smother him ta death this time."

"Wonderful.  I'll head down there to talk to him.  They get a new place?"

"Stan said they found a nice one with a garage underneath."

"Wonderful.  Security system?"

"Oh, yeah," Xander said as he came in with a few reports.  "Por vous, por vous," he said, handing them to Dewey and Ray.  "And three for Welsh to sigh and sign."  He grinned.  "David's in the lab and I left him my panic button.  It goes right to my phone."  He headed into the office with a quick knock.  "Sigh at, sign it, and then take an aspirin," he ordered with a 'sorry' look. "Not the right guns."  He handed them over to the out-stretched hand.  "Sorry, Lieutenant."

"Not an issue, kid.  How's your guy?"

"Well, he just insisted on paying an equal amount of the expenses, even though I pointed out he covered the rest by cooking and doing most of the cleaning.  Since I hate to clean," he offered dryly.  "And he says he's not my boyfriend because that's a teenage thing but I convinced him if he fussed I was going to be making a big deal out of valentine's day."  He grinned.  "Do you have the name of a good, eat in, nice restaurant?"

"Six or seven," he admitted with a smirk.  "Open the phone book to page 83 of the yellow pages, there's a chart in there.  It tells you prices, types of food, eat in, reservations, that sort of thing."

"Thanks, Welsh.  I needed that suggestion."  He beamed and headed back down to his office.

"He doesn't clean?" Huey asked.

"He's claimed he's allergic to dusting," Ray told him.  "Told Ma that.  She suggested he hire someone since David's too tired to clean.  I think he's going to soon."

"Hopefully so.  Then again, David's a neat freak."

"Very true," Ray agreed dryly, smirking at him.  "That's how they balance it out."  He went to his desk, pulling out his phone book to call someone.  "Yo, Angelo.  It's Ray Vecchio.  I got a couple here who're movin' here in the next two weeks, but the new place has a narrow staircase to the apartment part.  No, apartment to apartment."  He nodded, writing down a few figures.  "Yeah, Harris.  One of our CSI's downstairs."  He raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, the dark haired guy drooling behind Ma the last time she went shopping.  She's adopted him so he eats.  He can't cook.  No, I mean he's poisonous.  As in he poisoned a few cops who ate some of his hamburger helper.  Yeah, *really* can't cook."  He smirked.  "Sure.  Yeah, if you come down here in about a week, he can let you see the other place.  It was broken into.  It's still under CSI control.  No, just a move job.  Maybe packing but maybe not.  Thanks."  He hung up and leaned back, beaming in satisfaction.  "The last time he took Ma and Maria shopping he was pushing the cart and staring in wonder at all the things in the store."  The other detectives laughed.  "Angelo and his wife were shoppin' and he said it was nearly comical.  Thought the guy was kinda mental, but since he can't cook he figures he's never seen the inside of a real grocery store."

"He buys his chips from the corner place up the street from him," Dewey told him.  "Where is this new place?"

"You'd have to ask Stan," he offered.  "He drove David over."

"I'm headed down there anyway," Huey noted, doing as he said he would.  He walked down there and pulled David into the office to talk to him about the case, also letting him know that Ray had called someone about moving them.


Xander walked into the first night at their new apartment and looked around at all the candles.  "No electricity?"

"Not at the moment," Hodges called from the bedroom.  "I called them, they said they got backlogged today and it'll be on first thing tomorrow.  So I'm leaving a radio on just in case.  What does our security system run on?"

"Electric but it's got a battery backup and a phone connection.  I can stay up tonight.  I'm off tomorrow."

"Sure."  They shared a kiss.  "Come on.  There's a nice bath waiting for you."  Xander beamed and followed, letting David spoil him horribly.  Xander moaned as his lover worked on his shoulders, relaxing into his touch.  "What were you going to do for valentine's?"

"I was thinking a nice dinner out since we both had it off.  I know I'm on call that night, just in case Crissy goes into labor, but it should be okay."  David nodded.  "Any type of place you'd like to eat?  Italian?  Korean?  Mexican?  Really expensive with the delicate crystal stuff?  Warfield's former place that I was warned about?"

"I like that spot, but not that much," he promised, working a bit lower.  "Just pick somewhere nice.  Upscale.  Suit and tie place, Xan."

"Sure."  He grinned back at him.  "Kylie's?"

"Sounds good to me."  He put a kiss on the back of Xander's neck.  "You did good in the field today."

"Thank you.  I tried really hard to stay out of trouble too.  Fraser was there pointing out stuff and I didn't even beat him for it."

"Good job," he agreed with a smirk.  Fraser could be really annoying about pointing out stuff you hadn't gotten to yet.  The other field guys made him go away until they're done and then let him come back.  Xander and he were friends so he had pouted at Xander so he got to stay.  "What case?"

"Duggerson.  Domestic.  He was trying to leave, she beat the shit out of him and his car.  Broke the window with a baseball bat then drug him out to beat him.  He'll be fine.  A few of his neighbors called the cops and they showed up pretty fast."

"Good," he agreed happily.  "Kids?"

"Two.  With his mother.  Who made me shudder in horror at what she was yelling at her son," he admitted sadly.  "At the hospital, I slipped him the number of the shelter that does fathers with kids.  They've got counselors and others there to help him."  His phone went off.  "Fuck."  He answered it with, "I'm not on call."  He listened and groaned.  "Who?"  He nodded.  "Yeah, I was.  Um, Vecchio had it.  Yeah.  I'll call him and meet you down at the hospital.  Thanks."  He hung up and looked at David.  "She broke in and stabbed him.  It's a homicide now."

David gave him a kiss and handed him a towel.  "Go get her.  She deserves the worst we can do to her."  He nodded, kissing his lover again then heading out.  David watched him go, noticing that a uniform was now parked across the street.  He called the precinct, getting the night supervisor.  "Are we under watch?  There's a patrol car across the street from our new place," he said quietly.  "Please.  Sure, that's fine.  No, they called Xander already.  If he didn't call Ray too, Xander will.  Sure."  He hung up and watched, waiting while one of the night shift detectives came out to see who it was and why they were there.  The detective looked up and nodded, shaking his head and going back to his car.  The call a few minutes later told him that they were watching a suspected drug pusher next door and they'd watch over him too.  He thanked them and hung up, waiting for Xander to get back, but blowing out most of the candles.


Xander looked at the hospital room and sighed, putting on his plastic booties and then his gloves.  He looked at Ray.  "Spatter everywhere.  I've got spare booties in my case."  Ray nodded, grabbing some to put over his sneakers and gloves for himself, walking inside after Xander.  "He wasn't stabbed, he was eviscerated," he said bitterly, looking at the body.  He took pictures first, carefully moving around one side of the bed, then the other, taking distance photos of both the body and the floor.  Then he had to change film and went back to the detail work.   "Is she still in the can?"

"Yeah, still in central holding.  Hasn't come up to ride to court yet," he admitted bitterly.  He looked at Xander.  "A few years back, we had a few of these.  We thought it was organ harvesting but the guy had a taste for livers and appendixes.  We never caught him."

"Hell," Xander muttered, shaking his head.  "I love psychos with a plan."  He moved to the window, looking out it since it was open.  "Ray."  He came over and looked at the body hanging out there on a very thin line.  The rope was around the neck, and the body was dead.  "I'm not scaling the side of the building to take photos."

Ray patted him on the back.  "I want a more experienced guy here anyway.  This is starting to look bad."  Xander nodded, removing a glove to dial his phone, then changing that glove for a new one, carefully bagging the glove in case it had come into contact with anything.  A few minutes later, a nurse stuck her head in.  "It's gonna be a while," he told her.  "Like days."

"We'll need the room.  We're nearly full, detective."

Xander looked at her.  "Nurse, do you know how the guy hanging out this window got there?"  She looked stunned and slowly shook her head.  "Until we do, it's our room.  Unfortunately I'd love to release it early but I can't.  The only ones allowed in here are CSI and in a few minutes the ME."  She nodded, going to tell the shift supervisor this new bit of information. Xander looked over as the night shift ME stuck his head around the corner.  "You're gonna hate me.  Got some strong guys?"

"No, just me."

"You'll need some strong guys," Ray told him, pointing out the window.  "One hanging."

"Oh, wonderful.  I'll let them know and get some haulers here."  He went to make that call from the desk, coming back a few minutes later to slide under the tape Xander had put up.  He carefully moved around the edge of the room, glancing at the body. "That looks familiar."

"About two years ago, liver and appendix guy."

"Wonderful," he said sarcastically.  He shifted over to look out the window, then shook his head.  "I have no idea how we'll get him down without more trauma."

"Cherry picker?" Xander suggested.  "Or ladder fire truck.  Your choice, you make the call," he said dryly.  "Once a more senior CSI gets here, I'm going to secondary."

"That's fine, Xander.  I understand fully.  This is not your main field."  Someone coughed from the doorway.  "Ah, detective.  Yours?"  He nodded.

"Mine earlier," Ray told him.  "Beaten by his woman."

The other detective muttered.  "Yay.  Now?"

"Opened belly, blood spatter," Xander told him, shrugging a bit.  "Which senior CSI is coming?"

"Tracy was outside.  He was pulling out his gear case."

Xander shook his head.  "No, we need a *senior* CSI.  I'm not sure Tracy's ever handled a serial either."  He looked at his teammate as he came in.  "Possible serial."

"I'm not touchin' it," he agreed.  "I'll do secondary."  He nodded.  "Xander?"

"I called," he admitted.  "It was a domestic earlier that I worked."

"Fine.  Let me get booties and gloves on.  Bad splatter.  No gaps?"

"One," Xander said, pointing it out.  "I've taken some pictures, changed film and started again.  We've got a second body out the window too."

"I'll get a ladder truck," he promised, going to make the call before he put on his gloves.  Their top, senior CSI, the guy who transferred in with twenty years of experience already, walked up the hall, sighing loudly.  "Vecchio said it looks like a repeat of a few years ago," he offered.

"I wasn't here then," he noted.  He looked in the room and put on booties and gloves as well, walking under the tape with the detective behind him.  "What have we here?"

"Missing parts and a guy on a thread, Tyler," Xander said, nodding outside.  He pointed at the gap.  "I'm guessing medical equipment rolling stand by the shape.  Or a bed table."  He handed over his camera.  "I've already snapped a roll and changed it.  I got the body, the floor, the blood, any details in the blood, a distance shot from the corner, but no shots of the hanging guy."

"That's fine, Xander."  He moved over there to look out, taking a few pictures.  "Interesting.  That cord shouldn't hold him.  If he was alive when he went down, it should have snapped.  Where is it anchored?"  Xander pointed at the nearby awning anchor.  That's what they used to hang banners off the front of the hospital with.  "Is that steel thread?"

Xander shrugged and looked at the window.  "I haven't even dusted for prints yet."

"That's fine.  You'll find a great many I'm sure.  Do the window as well.  Tracy, come here and do detail drawings of the blood and the body.  Then when Xander's done dusting, I'll let him climb out there to look at the rope and take pictures of that."  Xander gave him a look.  "Are you afraid of heights?"

"No, I'm afraid of falling off the narrow ass ledge," he said honestly.  "Only with safety equipment."

"Of course."  He looked at Ray.  "Your involvement?"

"He was a domestic earlier.  His wife beat him and his car to get to him."

"Wonderful.  She is....?"

"In Holding."

"Hell.  And the possible serial?"

"Two years ago.  Guy who liked to cut so he could have livers and appendixes.  I don't know why.  I didn't get to catch him.  Narco caught him buying the drug he used to knock them out first. I'll get the file and send it down."

"That's fine.  I'd welcome the comparison to see if it's him."   He went back to looking at the body while Xander worked on the window, smiling because the boy was also doing the outer edge.  Very ingenious.  Being out there, he could have braced on it. Xander got his safety equipment with Ray holding the end of his line, and dusted the outside of the window, finding a few more prints.  Then he went to dust the holder the line was tied to.  "What sort of rope is that, Xander?"

"Steel thread with what looks like silk outer casing," he called back.  "Climber's rope.  Speciality stuff."  He waved at the fire truck coming up, looking at the guy in the basket.  "Hey."

"Do you often get to do this stuff, Harris?"

"Hell no," he snorted.  "We need him down the easiest and least harmed and contaminated you can.  Got a sheet?"

"Yeah.  We stole one from the clean laundry pile.  The nurses okayed it.  Wrap him and then bring him?"

"That's fine.  It's got a steel core.  It's a specialty climbing rope, like for when you're doing heavy climbing or hanging your hammock."

"Even better.  Thanks for the warning.  Leave the rope around his neck?"

"If possible.  If not, I'll untie and you can wind it up and bag it."  The fireman nodded, moving the basket closer to the body.  He pulled out the sheet and started behind the body, closing it over the front and pinning it a few times to the victim's clothing.  Then he looked at the cord.  Xander looked at him when he shook his head.  "Can't cut it?"

"No, not easily."

"Fine.  Grab him.  I'm going to untie."  The fireman got the body into the basket and he lifted it a bit, giving Xander some slack to deal with the knot.

They both looked up at the sound of crying.  "Shit," they muttered.

Xander tossed down the rope, watching as the fireman bagged it neatly with the body, then moved the basket up.  "Need help?" he asked as they passed him.

"No, get inside before we have to rescue you too."

"Yes, sir.  One more print to lift."  He lifted that one and covered it, then slowly inched back inside.  "Attempting jumper above us," he reported.  "Fireman's up there now."  Ray groaned.  "Tyler, we couldn't cut the cord...."

"I heard, that's fine, Xander.  Get anything?"

"About four good and one or two partial," he admitted, looking at what he had lifted.  "And two smudges that might be able to be clarified."  He put them into the envelope and handed them to Tyler, then went into the bathroom to check it.  "Ewwww!" he called, backing out.  "Was he pregnant?"

The ME looked.  "No, he's male."

"Then we've got a missing baby too."  He pointed and shook his head.  "I don't wanna know," he announced.

"I understand," Tyler agreed, heading to work on that one himself.  "Xander, I'll see you at shift change tomorrow.  Work with Hodges on Trace on this one.  Write your preliminary report tonight.  I want it carried in with him if you're going to be late."

"Tomorrow's my day off," Xander said dryly.  Tyler looked at him.  "I'll send in the report and be there if I'm needed.  I can't process fingerprints.  Hodges was clear as of when we left."

"Really?  How?" Tyler asked.

"Easy, I had a light night."

"Oh, that's fine.  Look over his shoulder, even if you only come in for lunch," he ordered, smiling at him.  "Bring him something to eat."

"Yes, sir."  He carefully walked out and took off his gloves and booties, bagging them with his first glove and repacking.  He looked at the nurse.  "There's another body," he whispered.  "It's gonna be at least two days."  She sighed and nodded, heading to report that.  "Also, attempted jumper with the fireman."

"We heard," she called back.  "He was freaked out by the body on the way down, agreed to get help."  She shook her head as Xander walked out.


Xander came home a few hours later, smiling at his sleeping lover on the couch, covering him gently and sitting in front of him to work on his report.  He detailed the earlier call again, up to what he had found and where, and included the jumper.   He hoped this was somehow related.  When he was done, he was yawning, but he emailed it to Mort and Tyler, with a note on the bottom saying he'd print it once he found his printer.  Then he checked the time on the small display, finding it was fairly late.  He looked at David, who was soundly sleeping, and smiled, curling up down there on the floor.  There was a spare couch pillow and he was warm enough.


David woke up and yawned, pausing when he saw the open laptop.  He looked down, finding the deeply asleep Xander so looked at the report, frowning a bit.  That was one hell of a scene, and it was definitely something he remembered.  He called Tyler at home.  "It's David," he reported.  "Call Vegas.  We had one almost exactly like that, down to the baby in the bathroom, about eight months before we got Xander.  Yeah, I mean exactly.  Drove Catherine and Warrick nuts.  Not that I remember, but you should still call them.  They might have an idea and can maybe compare the two?"  He nodded.  "Sure.  Look in your inbox.  I see his email open.  Thanks, man."  He hung up and laid down, watching Xander sleep like the dead.  He saw a gentle smile start and brushed a finger down the ridge of Xander's nose.  "Wakey wakey.  Your back's going to be killing you."  Xander moaned and moved, capturing his finger.  "Xander, no time for morning playing."

Xander blinked up at him, letting go of the finger.  "Yes there is."

"No there's not," he said with a small grin.  "We're both going to have to go in today."

"Damn it."

"I know."  He leaned down to kiss him.  "We can at least shower together."

Xander looked at the display on his clock, then at his mate.  "We've got four hours."

"We have to unpack the clothes."


Hodges laughed and nodded.  "I know.  Let's shower together, then do that, okay?"

"Okay."  He heaved himself up, wincing a bit as his back settled again.  "Oooh, floor hard."

"Floor very hard," he agreed, letting Xander help him up and into the bathroom.  Fortunately the electric was on so he didn't have to heat water again.  It was even a fairly roomy shower, which was good since he liked to let Xander scrub his back.


Gil Grissom answered his cellphone.  "Grissom."  He blinked a few times.  "Hodges?"  He listened to him outline a familiar sounding case.  "I remember that one.  Yeah.  Who had it?"  He looked it up in his private notes.  "I'll send you a summary of what we have.  Sure.  Who's primary CSI?"  He smiled.  "That's fine.  Who's secondary?  They let Xander handle this sort of case as secondary?"  He listened to the explanation.  "Ah.  I understand.  That happens here too.  Sure.  As soon as I can get Catherine or Warrick into the office to get it for you.  Sure.  Write more often.  Greg was pouting."  He smiled.  "Congratulations.  Have a good day."  He hung up and called Warrick, he'd still be up.  "Warrick, Grissom.  Remember that case with the hospital, the dead guy, the hanging body, and the baby?  Chicago just got one like that.  Hodges told their lead CSI and they want to compare.  Yeah, that one.  Sure.  Thanks."  He hung up and smiled.  He'd tell Greg he had heard from them later, if he remembered.  Xander being in the field surprised him but they were still a bit understaffed and Xander was anxious to help when and where he could.


Xander looked up as the fax came across.  It was in his office because his phone line was the one that had the split.  It was a booboo in the construction, but that was fine with him.  He looked at it as it came out.  "Hodges?  Similar case from Vegas?"

"Yeah.  Give those to Tyler."

"Sure.  Tyler!  Fax from Vegas!"

"Coming."  He jogged in and gathered things as they came through, flipping through them.  "Nearly the same," he said, agreeing with Hodges on this.  One last page came through and he smiled, handing that to Xander.  "I'd say that was a pouting Greg."

"Me too," he agreed, going to show his boyfriend.  Hodges grinned at that.  "Call on our lunch?"

"Sure."  He took it and put it on his board.  Xander would probably remember but he'd get caught up in something.  "I could use some help."

"Sure."  He came in to help with the rope, going inch by inch under the microscope looking for samples.  He found a few hairs, but they didn't have roots.  He put them down anyway.  He got a swab for ephithelials from the knot around the neck and rushed that to DNA and the dayshift fill-in.  Then the rest of it went by the numbers.  Searching clothes for clues.  Tape lifting.  Someone coughed from his lab.  "In here," he called.

"CSI Harris?" the man asked, looking at him.  Xander glanced at him and nodded.  "I heard you were ballistics."

"With a minor in Trace.  I'm helping.  What's wrong?"

"Federal Agent Ford."

Xander glanced at him again.  "Ray's told me about you."

"I'm sure it was very charming, sir.  May I have a moment?"

"When I'm finished with this sample so I don't lose my place and make the other guy do it all."  He went back to tape lifting the front of the shirt, doing the sleeves and the sides as well.  Then he flipped it over.  "Hodges, I got the front, sides, and sleeves.  All that's left is the back," he said, folding his tape properly and putting it in an envelope, marking it with the 'what, how, and who' markings they used.  Then he walked back into his lab, closing the door between the two.  "What's up?  New ballistics samples?"

"No, sir, we got a report about a warehouse out in LA that's being rented by you that has some munitions?"

"Yeah, they're mine," he agreed.  "They're out there because I wasn't sure how to move them here without getting you guys busting in my door at two in the morning."

"I see."  He frowned at him.  "Why would you need such ordinance, sir?"

"First, hobby.  I am a ballistics person.  I like guns and weapons.  Second, hallmark of my former life."

"Former life? Were you in a gang or a terrorist cell, sir?"

"No.  Actually I used to work for Wolfram and Hart out there when it was under Angel's control."


Xander smirked.  "Do a background search on me first, Agent Ford.  It's usually more helpful first when you're dealing with me.  That's what I always suggest."

"I did, sir.  I didn't find a single thing.  Including your educational record.  Though UCLA did say you did graduate with high marks and near honors."

"Um, honors.  Top ten percent honors."

"They said near."

Xander pulled down his diploma and showed it to him.  "Honors," he said, pointing at that line.  "They said so."

"Okay, if you say so.  I thought UCLA's were blue."

"That's the home copy.  The framing copy is very light blue, I've got it in a tinted pane."  He released it and let him look at it.  "See?"

"I do, sir.  Thank you.  Um, could you come with me?"

"Hell no.  Do you have a warrant?"  He smiled sweetly.  The agent shook his head.  "Then I've answered your questions.  Were any of those things illegal?"  He shook his head.  "Stolen?"  He shook his head again.  "Then I'm storing them until such a time as I can bring them where I live, in case I have to deal with something else that's going to make the world end.   Now, if you'd like references, you can talk to the people I interned under in Las Vegas.  One of who is next door.  I told them I had them but I didn't know how to move them closer without being guilty of taking them across state lines."

"Sir. What did you do before?" he asked.

Xander sighed and shook his head.  "Go upstairs.  Talk to Welsh."

"He said talk to you."

"Come on.  David, heading upstairs with the Fed."  He walked him up the stairs, taking him to Welsh and closing the door.  "In the presence of my superior office, I'm going to share some information."

"I'm on with the mayor.  Bad timing, Xander."

"Sorry."  He looked at him.  "What do....  Are you local?"  He nodded quickly.  "What do you know about places like the temple down on Ash?"

"Um, nothing.  I didn't know there was a temple down there."

"That's fine."  He looked at Welsh, who held up a finger and said something, then hung up.  He looked at the agent again.  "Okay.  There's a temple on Ash.  It's devoted to those who have passed on.  It's got a very calm feel for ninety percent of the population."

"Are you saying you're psychic?"

"Actually, I am a medium," he admitted.  "I'm also one of those who handle things like what roams around down on Drew."

"I've seen some odd things down there," he admitted carefully.  "Funny colored people and the like."

Xander groaned, looking at Welsh for advice.

"Take him out there, Harris.  It's the only you won't get into trouble."

"Fine.  Then I'm taking an hour and taking him down to Bezoar's."  He walked the agent out, pulling him out to his car.  He got him into his car and down the road before he protested.  "I'm taking you somewhere you can get some proof of why I have such good weapons," he said at the opening mouth.  "Just relax.  They won't hurt you.  I know they won't."  He parked a few minutes later and walked the Fed inside, looking at the bartender.  "Tell me this isn't a dead day."

"Not in the least, it's just early," the bartender told him, putting out a rootbeer for him.  "What's in it for the suit?"

"Someone found my warehouse with my weapons."

"You should have magiced them here, kid."

"I know but that's still illegal," he pointed out dryly.  "I'd have to arrest myself."  He walked him around to the back room with his rootbeer, tapping with his foot before opening the door.  "Hi, guys.  This is Agent Ford."  They all stared then smiled and waved.  "He found my weapons."

"Wonderful," one of the demons said.

"Hmm.  Going to move them?" another asked in an upper crust British accent.

"I wish I could."  He looked at the sweating agent.  "Do they look like funny colored people now, Agent Ford?"  He whimpered and shook his head. "Unfortunately these guys are the good guys, the nice guys.  There are bad guys among their kind too.  It used to be part of my calling to help take care of the bad guys.  The ones who ate people like you for shits and giggles.  There were some of them who tried to take over the city, the world, and end it all.  I dealt with that too."

He looked at him.  "Why aren't you in Cleveland?"

"Because Buffy Summers can kiss my ass.  She didn't appreciate me when she had me, she doesn't deserve me now for kidnaping David Hodges."  Ford nodded quickly.  "Now, if you'd like to help me move my weapons here, I wouldn't mind," he offered with a slight grin.  "I'm actually retired from that life now.  Unless the city's grabbing its ankles and bending over to take it up the ass, I don't do that anymore."

Agent Ford swallowed and looked at the demons, then at him.  "I understand, CSI Harris.   You were from Sunnydale?"

"My class had the school blow up," he said grimly.  "I was there."

"All right.  I'll accept that and put it back to my superiors that you, as a ballistics person, do have a small collection going but were unable to figure out how to transport them legally across state lines.  I'll see if we can help you with that."  He looked at him.  "Why is Cleveland under a cloud of misery?"

"Hmm.  Not a clue," he admitted.  "I've stayed out of Cleveland.  Ya know what, there's a young woman there who would know but isn't connected to Buffy any longer either.  Her younger sister, Dawn.  She's in one of the housing developments there.  You can ask her those questions."

"Thank you.  Is this city in danger?"

"If it was, would I be smiling?"

"No.  I don't think you would be.  Can we come to you for this stuff?"

"I'm retired, honey.  There's people in the PD who handle that and I do occasionally help them when needed."  He nodded quickly and backed out.  "Thanks, guys."  He smirked at them.  "David's fine by the way and we just moved.  So you guys only get the cell number from now on.  Unfortunately someone broke in and drugged him and I went into super fuss mode."

The demons smiled. The British one winked.  "We already know where you moved, Knight.  It's not an issue.  Be safe, Agent Ford.  Remember, you can be transferred to the real X Files now that you know."  He shuddered and turned, running out.  "Better?"

"I don't know why they wanted to know about legal weapons," Xander said grimly.  "I have no idea.  Thanks, guys."  He walked out sipping his rootbeer, tipping the bartender.  "Laters."


"Oooh, bad case.  Not unless I come in crying from it," he said plainly.  He shrugged a bit.  "Dead kid."  He walked out to his car, noticing the agent was already inside.  He got in to drive him back to the precinct, then went inside to report to Welsh what had happened and that he might get his weapons after all.  Then he went back to work.

"You missed some on the sides," Hodges said as he walked in.

"Sorry.  I couldn't find the forms to stretch it over.  I used my hand.  Badly missed?"

"A few more hairs without tags."  He shrugged.  "Happens to the best of us.  That's why I checked."  He stole a kiss. "Have fun?"

"Yeah.  Kinda."  He grinned.  "I might get my stuff from LA."  He went back to helping, making sure his rootbeer was well away from everything.


Warrick looked at the preliminary notes that had been sent from Chicago.  "It's exactly the same," he decided.  "Same ways killed, same positions of the bodies, nothing with DNA left.  Exactly the same."

Catherine and Grissom both nodded at him.  "So we're booking you on a flight with the evidence we collected," Grissom told him.  "I can let one person go with you.  Your choice."

Warrick gave him a slight smirk.  "Greg would kill you if you didn't let him go."

"He's eligible to go," Grissom admitted with a smirk of his own.  "I had holding pull all the boxes and the bags, they're all boxed up in a sealed case for you.  Remember to act professionally and don't let Xander squeal too much in the field."

"He's in the field now too?" Warrick said, looking confused.

"They're still a bit understaffed and Mort says that he wants Xander to keep all his training fresh and active.  So he does about a day a week in the field with the detectives.  This case started out as a domestic, which was his case, and then moved to this once the poor guy was admitted," Grissom told him.  "They've got three CSI's on this case at the moment.  Xander voluntarily stepped back from primary when they thought it might be a local serial from a few years ago. Apparently they had a person who stole livers and appendixes."

"Fine.  I'll make sure no one else wanted to go with me," Warrick decided as he stood up.  "Thanks, Grissom.  They can put me up?"

"I've already talked to Hodges.  As long as you can stand his cooking and keep Xander away from the stove, yes," Catherine said with a small grin.  "They've got two spare rooms in their new place."

"That's fine."  He headed out, going to look at the size of the case the evidence was in, then go talk to the others, who were basically in the lounge for shift change.  "I've got to head to Chicago for a serial case.  Anyone besides Greg wanna go?"  Nick snickered and shook his head.  Sarah looked alarm and shook hers quickly.  He looked at their former Oversight, now CSI person, who smiled and shook her head.  "Okay.  Greg, you've got an hour.  Pack for at least a week.  I'm sure we can do laundry at Xander's.  Then we're flying out with the evidence to liaison.  No squealing."

"Yes, sir," he said happily, going to pick up his puppy and do all that.  He was back within an hour and Warrick looked at the carrying case.  "He wanted to see his mommy."

"I'm still not sure why you got Nick's namesake," he said, shaking his head.  "It's just a bit odd."

"He liked to curl up on my stomach," Greg reminded him with a grin.  "I called my advisor too, told him I'd be gone for at least a week.  He said he'd talk to my other teachers."  Warrick nodded at that.  "So, bad case?"

"Remember the hospital case with the baby and the hanging guy?"

"Yeah," Greg said slowly.

"Same thing, different city."  He checked the mirrors and pulled out, heading for the airport.  Once there, the case was examined under their careful watch, locked again, then loaded onto their plane while they checked in.  Warrick got the window seat; Greg was hyper and he'd bounce the entire trip.


Xander looked up and grinned as the door opened and two patrol officers carried in a locking case.  "Well, if it's not a Warrick person," he said with a fond smirk.  "And a Greg."

"Yup, 'tis us," Greg said happily, hugging him.  "I brought little Nick with me too."  He put the dog down on the counter, letting him out so he could be loved by the grandfather.  His dog finally wiggled down and went to find a houseplant, marking his new territory, then went to find his mother, curling up with her in Xander's lab.  "What's going on?"

"Nothing much.  Just got moved again.  Hodges!  Mort!"

"I heard, I'll be right out," Hodges called.

"Xander, I'm elbow deep," Mort complained as he came to the door.  "Ah.  You're here," he offered with a smile.  "Good.  Xander, Tyler?"

"Not at home, didn't answer his cell about a half hour ago.  I was going to try again so we could have a preliminary meeting."

"Of course.  Use one of the interrogation rooms upstairs, Xander. That way the detectives don't have to travel."  He looked at the case.  "Move that into the empty corner, we'll break it out in a few minutes."  He went back to his body and his opera.

Warrick listened, then shook his head.  "He does music during autopsies?"

"Yeah, he likes Opera.  I got him this massive box set for the holidays last year."  He tried Tyler's cellphone again, getting his voicemail.  "It's Xander," he greeted.  "Warrick and Greg are here from Vegas.  We're having a meeting.  Hurry back."  He hung up.  "Voicemail.  It's his night off."  He finished what he was doing then bundled up the large piece of fabric, putting all the tape lifts away.  "I should just take a lint roller to it, but ours is out."  The fabric sample was put into a bag and retaped, marked as unfinished, then put into Xander's spot on the shelves.  He went to grab their files from Tyler's office, then Hodges, then they headed up the stairs to coopt Vecchio before he went home and the other guy since he should already be in.  He found them arguing over that case.  "Then let's compare with the identical one from Las Vegas, shall we?" he interrupted.  "Now, if you wouldn't mind?  Tape lifting is more exciting than watching you two argue."  They both snorted and followed him.  "I've called Tyler, he's not answering.  Tracy's in the field as well.  Fortunately I'm still listed as a secondary."  His pager went off and he looked at it.  "Fuck me.  SWAT.  Be right back."  He rushed up the stairs, heading up to see what was wrong.  "Yeah?" he demanded.

"Xander, qualifications are due tonight," he said gently.

"I handed the folder over last month, and we're dealing with a multiple homicide and a similar case from Vegas.  Can't find the folder?"

"No."  He looked at his very neat and clean desk.  "Did the day shift person have it?"

Xander shrugged.  "How should I know?"

"Point.  Go back to what you were doing."  He nodded, heading that way.  He shook his head.  Xander's file would be found.  He called the office, just to make sure it wasn't already there and found it was, but it was missing a few things.  So he went to get those from Mort's master file and found it missing.  He went to talk to Mort, ignoring the body on the table. "Xander's file is missing?"

"It shouldn't be.  It was on my bookshelf, right next to the _Art of War_."

"I'll go look again.  His file to the demo board was light."  He went to look and found it there, and full.  So he faxed that over to them, then carefully hid the file again.  With the trouble Xander got into, it was probably a better idea to hide those sort of things.  He noticed the large case in the corner and looked at it as Tracy came in.  "What's that?"

"Traditionally an evidence mover.  Where's Xander?"

"Upstairs.  Something about a case with Vegas?"

"Yup, that's mine too," he said bitterly, heading up there with his notes.  He tapped on the door he heard the shouting in, walking in at the quiet.  "Sorry.  Slight case of gang stupidity.  Xander, I've got four guns lying down on the main table for you."

"Wonderful.  I love presents," he said with a smirk.

"That'll keep him out of my hair for a few minutes at least," Hodges said dryly, smirking at Tracy.  "Seen Tyler?"


"He's not answering his cell," Xander said.

Tracy pulled out his, calling him at home.  "No answer," he said after a few minutes.  He looked at Xander, who looked worried.  "You're paranoid."

"Yeah, but usually with good reason," he reminded him.  He got up and went down to the front desk.  "Can someone swing by CSI Tyler's place and see if he's just ignoring us?" he asked politely.  "We need him in for a conference."

The desk sergeant looked at him and shook his head.  "Kinda hard to do.  He was just in an auto accident.  No need for you guys."

"Excuse me?" he demanded.  "One of us was in an accident and you didn't tell us?"

"Son, it was much too late," he said as gently as he could.

Xander took a deep breath, then turned and hit the wall next to the desk.  He looked at the sergeant again, calmer now.  "We're dealing with a serial, multiple homicide case.  They've switched cities.  Alert someone downstairs so they can go to the scene and process it."


"Now," Xander growled.  "You don't do this to your own and you don't do this to the other people who work for the department."

"It was a simple auto accident."

"Was it a hit and run?"

"Well, yeah."

"Then it's our domain anyway!" he shouted.  The sergeant backed off.  "How dare you!"  He stomped off, heading downstairs.  "Guys!" he shouted, bringing Mort running.  He looked at him.  "The desk didn't call down.  Tyler was in a hit and run," he said quietly. Mort opened his mouth and he shook his head.

"I'll send someone to talk to his wife and someone to process the scene," Mort agreed.  "Go back upstairs, Xander.  I'll talk to Welsh."

"Why?  He's in our conference anyway."  He stomped off, heading past the silent patrol officers with a glare.  Then he slammed back in upstairs, looking at Tracy.  "He was in a hit and run."

"Who's responding?"

"Desk never told us.  Mort's assigning now."

"Is he..." Welsh started.  Xander shook his head, still looking pissed.  "They never told you?"

"The sergeant said it wasn't our sort of case basically, that it didn't matter."

"Someone and I are going to have a long talk," Welsh said firmly.  "Sit, Xander.  We'll start in a few minutes, when you're calmer.  It's probably not related."

Xander looked at him.  "The Myers case is going next week," he said simply.  "So is that domestic with the murderer.  So's that arsonist."

"Hell," Welsh muttered.  "So's that one case with the dirty cop," he pointed out.  Xander nodded.  "Fine.  I'll make sure I know why you guys weren't called."

"Xander, why is your hand red?" Greg asked.

"I hit a wall."

"Want some ice?" David offered.

Xander shook his head.  "Not even bruised.  It's more my blood pressure at the moment."  He looked at Welsh.  "I generously pointed out that they didn't do that to you guys or anyone else that worked here, so doing it to us was wrong.  They were a bit quiet when I came back up."

"How many of these cases were yours too?" Greg asked.

"Most involved me somehow.  The arsonist and the dirty cop case were mine and his only."  He grimaced at David.  "If it's either one of them, you're coming armed."

"Speaking of, you need to do your range qualification," Welsh reminded him.

"Can I shoot the people responsible?"

"Nope, sorry.  Do that tonight. It'll help blow off some steam."

"I need to get my eyes checked first."

"Fine.  Do it once you've done that.  Just do it by the end of the month."

"That's in three days!"

"And?" Welsh demanded.  "We sent you a memo."

"I never got it," he sighed, rubbing his face.  "SWAT's captain said my folder for the demo board was missing."

"Then it's probably the dirty cop case," Vecchio agreed.  "Your new place is safe, right?"  Xander and Hodges both nodded.  "You sure?"

"Yeah, and we've got two cops as neighbors.  We're fine," David told him. He looked at his lover, giving him a long stare.  Xander calmed himself.  "Okay, these distractions aside, we've got to get down to this case. Hopefully before he strikes again."

Xander nodded, rubbing his face.  "Let's see.  Earlier in the day it was mine and Ray's case.  A domestic.  He was being beaten by his wife."  He looked at Warrick.  "Sorry."

"Not a problem.  These things happen to us too."  He looked in his folder.  "Ours wasn't an earlier case, but she did have a bad check warrant out for her.  The hanging one was not in the system at all, but did have ID in his pocket.  The child was from the nursery."

Xander flipped open his notes.  "Our hanging guy was a priest, the hospital's chaplain, and the baby was miscarried earlier.  Hadn't been picked up yet."  They exchanged notes, looking them over.  "Similar looks to the victims."

"Similar types of people too," Warrick agreed.  "Coincidence?"

"Probably not.  It'd have been easier to reach that hanger from the next room over," Xander admitted.  "Ray, did you get the autopsy reports?"

"On all three," he admitted, looking at them.  "Bed guy was eviscerated, blood loss was cause of death.  Part of his small intestine was missing as was his stomach and one tooth, not sure if that was then or during the assault according to the notes Mort gave me.  Hanging guy was a broken neck, hanging was post mortem but only by minutes.  Some minor bruising, but mostly from the fall Mort thought.  Broken blood vessels shortly after death, before they could congeal."  Everyone nodded at that.  "Mort's notes about the baby stated that it died due to drug allergy?  Something the mother was taking compromised it and made it seize according to what he saw."  He looked at Warrick.  "Miscarriage was cause of death.  Unviable when born."

Warrick looked at Greg, who had the autopsy reports in his bag.  "Ours?" he prompted.

Greg looked at them.  "Um, bed guy was cut in the throat post mortem, stomach wound was cause of blood loss that killed him.  Exsanguination. Missing parts of his stomach by the cuts made.  No other vital organs listed as injured except for what Doc Robbins thought was an incidental cut from the opening of the stomach in the small intestines.  Hanging guy was a broken neck, then hung immediately afterward.  Baby was smothered."  He looked at Ray.  "Evidence?"

Xander looked at him and shook his head.  "Some broken hairs.  No DNA tags that we could find in the lot of them.  Hairs on the t-shirt the guy in the bed was wearing.  Some on the climbing rope.  Warrick, what sort of rope was used?"

"Household, dollar-ninety-nine at Walmart, silk and cotton."

"Ours was a specialty climbing rope," Xander offered.  "Steel shaft.  Heavy lifting sort."

"It was reported late that night that it had been stolen from the locker of someone," Tracy offered quietly.

"So, rope was at hand," the other detective offered, shaking his head.  "Similar victims, same posing, possibly the same injuries - just not finished on that first case.  Xander, I know you.  Did you do a profile search?"

"I don't have access to that, but I did call them," Xander offered.  "The main guy's in the field in Texas, won't be back until tomorrow.  The person answering said it didn't sound familiar but...."  He trailed off, shaking his head.  "It can't be the dirty cop case.  None of them got bond."  Welsh looked at him. "They're all still in a cell.  In solitary with monitored meetings."  He shrugged.  "They couldn't have done this.  So it's not that case."  He sat up.  "Oh, damn."  He looked at Greg.  "We've got an appeal coming.  You should have gotten a subpoena?"

"I did," he agreed.  "For that jerk Jenkins and his many wives and daughters and cult...."  He groaned and shook his head.  "You're sure?"

"Pretty.  Yeah."  He looked at Ray, then at Welsh.  "That was Tyler's case, my case, Evelyn's case, and Greg's case."

"Evelyn died of a stroke a few weeks back," Tracy said quietly.

"Actually," Welsh admitted.  "The autopsy was inconclusive.  Yeah, she had a stroke, but there was medicine in her system that could have provoked a stroke.  Mort wasn't sure so he ruled it a natural death and warned me, just in case."  Tracy just gaped, then stared at Xander, who nodded.

Greg looked at him.  "Helping Mort with the paperwork?"

"Typing while he ate actually.  He was backlogged and I was free. We share that honor now and then."

"I hate the medical terminology," Hodges agreed. "That was my duty last night."

"Mort needs a helper," Welsh said, making a note of that on the pad in front of him, along with Xander's hypothesis.

"Um, the two year rule doth apply," Xander pointed out grimly.  Tracy gaped at him.  "You guys all got hired after me."

"Oh, shit," Tracy said, shuddering.  "Please, Lieutenant, help poor Mort find someone so we're not subjected to Xander running us?" he pleaded.

"I'm still looking," he admitted.  He looked at him.  "The mayor likes him, he does paperwork on time.  He's got good PR since he's gay too.  Makes us look less like neanderthals to the public."  Xander just smiled sweetly at them.

"Hey, he could use the raise," Hodges said dryly.  "I'll only get spoiled more.  Maybe we'll get a housekeeper."

Xander looked at him.  "Sure.  Find one and tell me," he agreed.  "We can afford it, right?"  Hodges nodded.  "Then I'm fine with it."

"Thanks, Xander," he offered with a smile.  "See, I get spoiled," he told Warrick.

"I can see that," he agreed dryly.

The other detective gave them all odd looks.  "I take it you worked with Xander in the past?"

"He did his year's internship there," Welsh told him.  "That's why we got LVPD to sub in for us when we had that manpower thing."

"Hmmmm."  He looked at Xander.  "Do I even want to know?"

"Probably not, but I won't share how I nearly tied Greg to a chair to keep him too."

"Greedy," Greg snorted.  "Hodges wouldn't share you."

"More than I needed to know," Warrick announced.

"He's just picking on Xander," David assured him smugly.  "Greg got all of Xander's castoffs in the club.  Like that night with the salsa club."

"That night we *all* got Xander's castoffs," Warrick reminded him.  "How was yours?"

"Cute. Simpering, but cute.  She liked geeks."

Ray looked at Xander.  "Why can't you do that here and take me?"

"I did. You growled at the woman I sent you," he offered with a smirk.  "We can go again but you've got to ask permission for me."

Ray looked at Hodges.  "Can I take him out for a night so he can find me a woman?"

"Sure. Go right ahead," he agreed. "You know the Xander care and feeding instructions as well as I do.  You helped perfect them."

"True," Ray agreed, smirking at Xander.

"What am I, one of those pre-gremlin mugwais?"

"No, you're much more dangerous, dear," Hodges assured him with a smirk.  "That's why people want to keep you."

"Just for that, I'm thinking singing telegram."

"Do it and sleep on the floor for a month and eat your own cooking," Hodges said firmly.

"No letting him near the stove," Welsh reminded him quickly.  "Or else we'll have to arrest him for assaulting those officers who ate the food he put into the refrigerator the last time.  By the way, there were four of them, two more called off sick."

"I tried," Xander defended.  "It wasn't my fault I couldn't find the pepper shaker, I only substituted light peppers."

"We heard about that," Warrick admitted.  "That shouldn't have done that much damage."

"He didn't drain it very well and there were hot peppers in the bread too," Hodges assured him.  "I'm very sorry Xander did that to them.  I'll keep my poor puppy on a better leash in the future, Lieutenant."

"See that you do, CSI Hodges.  Though he is adorable when he's begging Ray for food, he needs a bit more obedience training so he doesn't rush into a firefight without his vest."  They both looked at Xander's now empty seat.  He was now under the table.

"At least I had a gun," he offered.  "Stan didn't."

"He and Vecchio should both go out armed each time they leave the house, along with carrying multiple sets of handcuffs," the Lieutenant said firmly, glaring at Ray, who only smirked back.  "Get back up here, Harris."

"Yes, sir," he offered weakly as he climbed back into his seat.  He saw the look his boyfriend was giving him.  "I told you about that," he defended.  "I told you I came up to where Stan and Rennie were out at the movies and were being shot at and helped them."

"You didn't say you had went in without a vest on, Xander."

"It's not like I wear it all the time," he complained.  "I only went out for ice cream."

"You went armed for ice cream?" Greg asked.

"He was being stalked at the time," Hodges told him.  "I insisted.  Next time I'll insist on a vest too."

"Yes, dear," he said with a pitiful look.  "Back to the case."  He shook his head.  "Um, no DNA.  Minimal trace elements in the blood pool.  Small gap from a bedside table it looked like.  I'm thinkin' he had a bag or some dishes, something like that.  Do you think he ate the parts?"

"That's gross, Xander," Ray said firmly.  "Some of us were heading home to eat dinner."

"Sorry," he said, looking down again, going back to Warrick's meticulous notes.  He frowned and grabbed his back, comparing them, then looked at Warrick.  "Some Trace in common too.  Dirt in the blood pool."

"Dirt?" Warrick asked, looking at the notes, getting up to look over his shoulder.  Xander pointed it out.  "There is.  Photo B."  He found it and looked at it, then at Xander's stack.  "Same shape too."

Xander frowned.  "That's not a magic mark in any language I've seen.  Just a clump.  I'll find that sample later so we can run it, see if we can compare them and find a source."

"Did that," Hodges announced.  "It was moist from more than blood.  Had a good bit of purified water in it."

"It's from consecrated ground?" Vecchio asked. "Like a graveyard?"

"Could be," Xander admitted. "Or just dirt from his yard and he was watering it."

"High phosphorus content," Hodges told him, nodding at Ray.  "I like his better unless he's using scorching fertilizer."

"Burning off old lawn to lay down new sod?" Xander suggested.

"Too heavy."  He looked at his notes, then passed them over to him.  "Here."

He and Warrick looked at it.  "Yeah, that's graveyard dirt," Warrick agreed.  He looked at Xander.  "It was just a little lump though."

"Not anywhere else in any of the blood," Xander reminded him.  "If it had fallen off his clothes it would have been more spread out."  He looked at it again.  "They found a crystal at theirs.  Tracy?"

"Not a one," he admitted, looking at his own notes.  "No, hold on.  On the baby.  We thought the mother had put it on there," he said, pushing the picture over.

"That's shaped like ours," Warrick agreed.  "Triangles?"

"Pyramids," Greg said patiently. "Keys and gates to the afterworld?" he offered.

"Mystical symbols of reincarnation," Xander agreed.  "Was there an age gap in yours?" he asked Warrick, handing him the folders.

"Some.  The vic on the bed and the hanging vic were about the same age."

"Why three?" Greg asked.

"Watching too much Charmed?" Xander quipped.  Welsh glared at him.  "Mystical in number, but not necessarily combined with the pyramid thing that I know of.  I'll look."

"There are three Great pyramids in Egypt together," Hodges pointed out.  "They were the starting point."

"So we've got a semi bad guy, a good guy, and an unclaimed and unbaptized infant?" Vecchio asked.

"We never asked," Warrick noted.

"Us either," Tracy offered. "I can though.  The mother wasn't particularly religious from what I remember.  No crossing herself, no cross worn, no prayers in my presence."  He looked at his notes.  "I didn't note anything about her mentioning it but I don't usually pay attention to that unless they say it every other sentence or something."

Xander shook his head.  "It wouldn't matter if they're not going on Christian ideology.  Remember, the world is a big place with many faiths.  Some of which used to do pyramids.  Mayans, Egyptians, there's some in some of the oldest of the old steppe temples and those ancient ones in Thailand too if I remember right.  I'll do a search tonight through the odd stuff databanks."

"Thanks, Xander.  Saves me from having to be traumatized and having to go to confession," the second detective offered.  "You know you're welcome in my church whenever you want to come, right?"

"Sure, and your priest still hates me.  Father Behan, Ray's family priest, took one look at me, crossed himself, and asked Ma why she let someone so unholy and not Catholic rest in her house."  Ray snickered.  "Ma told him I was still doing God's work, just from a different set of steps."  He grinned at him.  "I think Father Behan believes I'm a Satanist for some reason.  I don't know why.  Do you, Ray?"

"Yeah," he agreed, smirking at him.  "The gay thing, the longer hair, which needs a haircut, the guns.  He thinks you're a cult member out to steal his flock.  He asked me what faith you partook of so he could warn the others about you.  I told him you were a nice, normal ballistics guy who had some run-ins with things best left alone.  He said you stink of moral and soul decay."

"I only dated former demons when I could," he complained.  "It's not like Anya corrupted me or something."

"Dear," Hodges said patiently.  "I'm sure he's just being silly."

"I'd hope so.  I'm wondering how he can sense I'm from Sunnydale though."  He looked at Ray.  "The friendly neighborhood exorcist?"

"Sometimes he does seem to know a bit about that," Ray admitted.  "Want me to tell him?"

"Sure."  He shrugged.  "I'm still retired for the most part."

"Huh?" the second detective asked.

"I used to deal with the strange and unusual all the time.  I'm retired from that though.  The day I graduated was the day I retired."

"Oh, good," he agreed. "Is that why Stella thinks you're dragging Kowalski into a cult too?"  He nodded, smirking at him.  "Just don't do it to me.  I don't need ta know."

"My feelings exactly," Xander agreed.

David nodded.  "Mine too.  Though I do want you and Turnbull to quit going trolling."

"We weren't *trolling*," Xander defended.  Hodges stared him down and he slunk down a bit.  "I was teaching him?" he offered.  Hodges added some heat to the glare.  "Sorry, dear.  Just trying to keep in shape.  It's a good workout."


"Yes, dear."

"Did you tell Rennie he's not allowed to come over and play anymore?" Ray joked.

"No, but Stan did.  He was shouting at Renfield that he was doing dangerous stuff and that he wanted him to stop before he got hurt."

"Was this before or after Saturday?" Xander asked.


"Shit," Xander muttered.  "It was only a scratch!"

"Yay.  Stan's as fussy as you are."

"Yes, dear," he offered, giving him a slight grin.  "I'll let you come so you can babysit us."

"Fat chance," David snorted.  "I saw more than enough of that after Buffy took me."

"She was here?" Greg demanded.

Hodges nodded, looking at him.  "She followed her sister Dawn, who was hiding from her with her daughter in tow.  I got taken so he would hand over Dawn's daughter.  I got to see Xander and Turnbull fight first hand that night."

"I went to wear it out after that," Xander muttered.

"Excuse me?" Ray demanded.  "You did what?"

"Wore out the nervous tension by pacing," he offered, smiling sweetly.

"Xander, I have your rolodex," Hodges reminded him.  Xander shut up then.  "Good boy.  Just for that, you can have the treat of unpacking the library tonight."

"Yes, dear."  He looked at Warrick and Greg.  "We're putting you two up, right?"  They nodded. "I'll find the box with the towels too."

"Thanks, man," Greg said with a grin.  "You two are insane."

Hodges nodded, but Xander hopped up and hurried out with Ray right behind him because someone was screaming at the top of their lungs in the squad room.  Xander stopped, looking at the person yelling at her.  "Shut up!" he shouted, breaking into it.  He glared at the man, then at the girl.  "Sit down and shut up, you goth idiots!"

"Who are you to...." the man snarled but Xander slammed him against the wall, glaring at him.

"I'm beloved by the Master's children," he hissed, moving closer. "If you know anything about the underworld, you should know a Knight when you see one.  Now sit your pretty, petty ass down, little boy, before I show you what a *real* master looks like," he growled.  The goth wannabe sat down and stared up at him obediently.  "You too," he snapped, looking at the girl.  She sat, staring at him.  "Good.  Now behave!  We're doing more important things than this tonight.  I've got a serial killer to catch and you're distracting me."  He stomped off, going back to the meeting.

Ray walked in a few minutes later after getting someone to come process those two. "The next time I have to deal with the Goth crap, I'm taking you," he said before sitting down.

"They're wannabes who don't have a fucking clue and would piss themselves if they came into contact with a real vampire.  Of course I'll go," Xander agreed bitterly.

Hodges looked at Ray.  "If you let him get hurt, I'd have to beat you."

"I know. I doubt they will."  He looked at Welsh.  "The two kids from earlier.  He snarled in the supposed Master's face."

"Good work, Harris.  We like it when you scare the suspects without having to hurt them."

"She jerked wrong," he defended.

"I know.  Still."

"First case here," Hodges told Warrick.  "She tried to get away from him."  He nodded, accepting that.  "Broken wrist."

"It happens," he agreed.  "Brass had one of those last month."  He looked at the notes.  "Okay, so tonight we're going over the evidence we brought you.  We'll do those searches.  We'll...."  The door opened and someone stuck their head in.  "Yes?" he asked patiently.

"Lieutenant, I'm with IA.  We had a complaint about one of your people attacking a sergeant?"

"No, I attacked a wall so I didn't hit him," Xander told him.  "They were covering up the fact that one of our CSI had been in a hit and run and hadn't bothered to call us or tell us."

"I see.  Not you, Harris."  He smiled at him.  "Though, that note after that night out at the club was most amusing.  I got to catalog that onto our 'that stuff happens to me' list."  He looked at Welsh.  "It was Kowalski and Luren?  Something about a fight in the dressing room?"

"Luren was gay bashing and took the first swing," he assured him.  "He's sorry now.  He's also suspended for a week since he started it and Stan's got a day too."

"That's fine.  Could we have a report?  The mayor's worried that the gay thing is going to get out of hand again."

"Why?  Is he being bashed?" Hodges asked.

"Well, no, he's still insisting he's straight," he admitted dryly, smirking at them.  "The same sort of thing that happened at the twenty-third two days ago."  Xander nodded, he'd heard.  "Very well then.  I'd just like a report.  I know I make you all nervous so I'm not going to wait around for it.  Email or mail it."  He headed out, closing the door behind him.

Xander looked down at his former coworkers.  "He's kinda new.  He's not learned how to growl at us yet."

Greg grinned.  "Had me worried there for a second, Xander."

"Nah, they joke about those things like the salsa club incident.  Oh, Welsh, I did get my weapons, they were delivered today with the proper federal paperwork.  Do I have to file that with them?"

"Probably should," he agreed.

"Sure.  I already told SWAT and told them it was off limits."

"Is that what those cases were?" Hodges asked.  Xander nodded.  "Fine, just make sure I don't trip over them and no one can steal them."

"Fully spelled," he promised.

"Good."  He nudged the second detective out of his confusion.  "Those things happen around Xander.  He's stalked all the time.  Bad women like him."

"I wondered what turned him gay," he admitted dryly. "I'd probably turn too if half of what I heard was true."  He looked at Ray, who shuddered but nodded.  "Poor boy."

"Usually," Hodges agreed dryly.

"Back to business," Welsh decided.  "Before another one comes up here."  They heard screaming and someone yelling for Hodges and Xander got up to look, then snorted and slammed the door.  "What's going on?"

"His stalker bitch, Happiness.  Oh, she's wearing my old glasses, Welsh."

"I'll tell them that."  He wrote that down on his notepad too.  Meetings with Xander were often surreal, but never boring.  He heard the continued screaming then it suddenly stopped and someone went running so he got up to check, finding her with her gun drawn. "Put it down or I'm letting Xander come out," he ordered firmly.  She whimpered and put it down, giving up right then and there.  She knew she couldn't beat Xander.


Xander smiled as the two CSI's came out of the guest bedroom the next afternoon, handing them cups of coffee.  "Here ya go.  I didn't figure you two would be doing days.  David?"

"Coming.  I was ordering breakfast," he complained as he came out of the bedroom.  "You sent cards to all the places we routinely order from?"

"Easier than reminding them each time," he defended.  "Just little notes to say we've moved and giving the new address."  He sipped his coffee.  "I put up the security camera you wanted too.  The monitor's next to the fridge for the moment."

"Thanks."  He went to turn it on and check the placement.  "Little high, Xan."

"It'll catch the road.  Turn to channel five.  That's over the door."  David did so and he smirked.  "Just in case."

"It works for us," Greg admitted.  "So, how many stalkers since I left?"

"Only four," Xander said proudly.  "And one for David."

"Stan just pulled up," David announced. "He's got breakfast."

"I'll pay him back," Xander promised, going to let him in.  "Come on."

"I should swat you for making Rennie more dangerous," he complained as he headed up the stairs.  "Here. I was there when you called."  David paid him and he relaxed.  "Xander, no more taking Turnbull out.  He could get really hurt and I don't wanna have ta shoot ya for it."

"I'd hate that too," he agreed.  "I only take him on minor things, when things get too bad."

"Tough," Stan said firmly, running a hand through his blond hair.  "No more hunting vampires with my Mounties.  It's way too dangerous and I'd like to keep them.  Even if he begs and pleads, no more."

"Yes, dear.  I'll start going alone again," he sighed.

"Fat.  Chance."  David looked at him.  "No more hunting unless it's necessary."

"It usually is," Xander pointed out.

"So?  Where's the local slayer?"

"My first case.  She staked her aunt.  Faith's in town but she's not exactly doing the slayer thing at the moment."  He sipped his coffee while staring at his mate.  "I have to."

"Sometimes," David countered.  "Not all the time."

"I only go twice a month."

"Do the gym, it's better for you," Greg offered.

"I can't get some of the anger and aggression out at the gym," Xander pointed out.  "Weight machines make me feel weak and puny, not less tense and angry."

"Then take up a martial art in your spare time," Hodges ordered. "No more hunting.  You promised you retired, Xander.  I don't want to have to identify you and your bite marks."

"Or be turned?" Warrick joked.

"Or that if he was turned," he agreed bitterly.  "No more."

"Yes, dear.  I'll try," he promised, kissing him gently.  "Feed me?"

"Of course," he said, giving his head a shove.  "Bastard."

"Yeah, but a cute one," he said with a small grin.

"That won't keep you out of trouble with me," Stanley said firmly.  "Rennie went hunting by himself last night."  Xander winced.  "He's fine."

"He's not ready for that yet."

"Well, yay," Stan said bitterly.  "No more letting him go."

"He'll just go on his own," David reminded him patiently.  "Again.  If he must go out, I'd rather he took Xander and was honest about it and shared their route."  Stan gave him a hurt look.  "Listen, Turnbull is one of those guys who'll do what's necessary, right?  Him and Xander both.  So if they *must* go out, then I'd rather they tell us, give us their route in case they're too late back, and possibly take one of us to drive them, than I would them sneaking out and going off on their own or even together."

Stanley sighed and nodded. "If it's necessary, I'll let 'em go together, with knowing what's going on and where they're going."

Xander gave him a gentle hug.  "Thank you, Stanley."

"Welcome.  Take him out ice skating instead."  He gave him a little shove away.  "Freak."

Xander grinned. "You say the nicest things."  He answered the ringing phone.  "Yuppers?"  He listened.  Then he nodded.  "Sure, Ray.  Of course.  Laters."  He hung up.  "He's got to go bust the rest of those goth kids tonight, dear.  Can I be scary?"

"Fine, be scary," he sighed, watching as Xander beamed and went to put on clothes.  He looked at Greg.  "He found clothes to be scary in."

"I figured as much."  He finished his coffee and got more.  "When do you two go in?"

"In about an hour and a half.  Xander, don't forget you're going to be eating.  Don't wear the really tight ones," he called.

"They're looser now that they've been worn a few times.  I wore them to a scene last month."

"I'm sure someone was amused," he called back, rolling his eyes and looking up.  "Why me?"

"Because he loves ya for the cranky guy ya are," Stan said dryly.  "Are these real vampires?"

"No, the goth kids I had to scare last night," Xander said as he came out, pulling on a black silk overshirt over his black cotton wifebeater and his black leather pants.  His black hiking boots rounded out the outfit.  "I went for comfortable shoes.  Think they'll notice?"

"They shouldn't," Greg said, staring at him.  Xander looked different now.  He did look dangerous.  "Maybe I should get some leather pants.  They do good things for your body."

Xander gave him his goofy grin and winked.  "It's all an attitude, Greg.  Can you be a bad boy?  Or would your momma be upset?" he cooed, making Greg giggle and Warrick shake his head with a moan of complaint.  "Let's eat.  Dishes?"

"Second cabinet next to the sink," Hodges said patiently, digging out the food to feed them all.  "Stan?"

"Sure. I could nibble," he admitted, taking a few pieces of toast and getting the milk and juice for the table.


Ray walked in first, and the heads turned to stare at him, a few of the goth kids hissing.  He snapped his fingers and Turnbull and Xander walked in, Xander staring them down.  The hissing stopped and most of them just stared.  "This whole group is under arrest for multiple charges, including drug peddling and using.  If you don't come along quietly, Xander gets to arrest you.  If you do, I will.  Your choice."

Xander stalked forward, looking at them, picking the biggest and the baddest to pull up and get into the face of.  "Did you want to try something?" he offered sweetly, smirking at him.  "You could try.  I won't let you do more than try, but if you wanted, you could try."

"Leave him alone," one of the women said, kicking at Xander's leg.  He caught her leg and flipped her over, then hauled her up to get into her face.  "He's a pussy cat and my feeder.  My childe. You have no rights here."  She sniffed at him.  "You're not one of us."

Xander smirked. "You're right.  I'm a Knight," he said with a smirk.  She went paler.  "I'm here in case one of you is *really* dangerous.  Or bad.  Which you're not.  Now, get your acid smokin' little lace covered ass over to Vecchio and be thankful I brought him."

"Who...who are you?" one of the girls stuttered from her pillow on the floor.

He looked down at her and smirked.  "I'm Harris."

"You knew Angelus," she said in awe.  "You worked with him."

"I also nearly killed him and helped send him to hell that once," he purred, smirking at her.  "Yes, I'm that Harris.  Now, go quietly or not?"

"I'll go quietly," she offered, standing up and wandering over to Ray and Turnbull, who handcuffed her and put her aside.  A few more followed and what was left was the Masters of the group, all staring at Xander.

Xander smirked at them, crossing his arms over his chest.  "I've withstood four Masters attempting to take me.  You won't."  A few tried to rush him and he got them pinned down with a bit of moving and flipping them.  Then he looked at the rest.  "If Angelus and Spike couldn't, if Darla couldn't, if Dracula couldn't, what makes you think you can?  Or for that matter that you will?"  The rest gave up, going to get cuffed and taken away.  Renfield grabbed the two on the floor and took them off.  Xander went wandering around the place, finding a few more hiding under beds, in closets, and one in the shower.  Then he let everyone else in and went to help them into the wagon coming to take them all away.   Not a gun in sight, it was going to be a pleasant night after all.  He caught a ride back with the wagon, heading back to the office.  He watched as everyone was walked into holding, then headed down the stairs, finding everyone milling around.  "What?  Problems?"

"Mort's out sick," Hodges called from his lab.  He came out and smirked at him.  "We were waiting for you, oh great second in command."

"Wonderful.  Um."  He looked around. "Let's do the weekly meeting then."  He clapped his hands and everyone looked stunned.  "Now!  Crime doesn't stop because our ME and boss is sniffling and coughing."  They got their stuff and came to the main table.  "Okay."  He looked at The List.  It was the list of all active and open cases.  "Shit, it's not that long," he said happily.  "I see I've got four?"  He looked up, catching the nods.  "Anything on my table, David?"

"Yeah, about ten boxes."

"Good deal.  What about yours?"

"I'm a bit backed up doing the Trace from the hospital case.  When you're done, I'll let you do the new stuff."

"Cool beans.  Sheila, DNA?"

"I've got six cases left from day," she offered.  "I've got four of my own and a quick rush-it from the Fed Center.  I'll be caught up by end of shift unless the doo-doo hits the fan tonight."

"We just raided a bunch of goth kids with drugs," he offered.  "You could be really busy.  Want my coffeemaker?"

"Greg's brought in a few good cups," she offered with a grin at Greg.

Xander grinned at Greg.  "Thanks.  Feel free to use my machine.  I'm going to be in Trace most of the night if I'm not upstairs.  Okay, let us see.  Fingerprints?"   He looked up.  "Missing.  Anyone hear from him?"

"Kid's got measles, he's still in the hospital.  Days is covering well," Sheila offered.

"Even better. AV?"

"Not a thing except some footage from an ATM and I'm nearly done," he reported, leaning back.  "Want me to help somewhere?"

"Can you do fingerprints?"  He shook his head.  "What's your other areas?"


"Go for it if we've got one," he offered.  He looked around.  Then at the last person.  "Yours?" he asked computers.


"How bad?"

"Six crashed pedophile drives that suddenly acquired a virus when I tried to run them.  Got my main system."

"Steal one from Region 1."

"I tried.  They got fussy."

Xander looked at him.  "Yay," he said dryly.  "I'll call in a few."  He looked at the others.  "Okay, guys.  We're going to get to the serious stuff."  They all sat up and looked attentive.  "For those of you who don't know, Tyler was in a hit and run last night."  That got some moans.  "Patrol didn't call us."

"They're claiming it was oversight," Hodges offered quietly.

"Yay," Xander repeated, looking at him.  "I'm paranoid, but it's for a good thing."  He looked around.  "There's an open investigation with his car.  Tracy has it."  They all nodded at that.  "So help the poor guy, okay?"  They all nodded.  "Also, there's a crossover case.  That's why we've got the wonderful Warrick and Greg here with us.  It's a multiple homicide with a kid."  They all shivered at that.  "So we're here if you need it.  It's going to be rough, it's probably not going to be that nice.  I'm there when I can be."  They all nodded at that.  "Any other notable cases?"

"The case coming to appeal," Greg offered.

"True.  Personal opinion, the crash was related to that," Xander offered. "Nothing we should all have to worry about, but let's be there because I'm sure his wife's coming in within the next few days.  Help where we can, and honey, stay away from her.  You're not the most comforting.  Please?"  He nodded, accepting that.  He knew he wasn't that comforting to victims.  "Okay.  The list is short.  We're not that backed up.  Let's clear this up for days and our poor overnight people.  Go back to it, guys.  Good luck, yell at me if I'm in the way, hovering, or you need me."  They all nodded, going back to their labs.  "Let me call Region 1.  Be right back."  He grabbed a quick kiss and headed to the office, calling the computer person over there.  "Dave," he said happily.  "Xander.  Did you hear about the pedophile virus?"  He smirked.  "Who said you couldn't help by sending over your third backup?"  He nodded.  "That's fine, hit him upside the pointy head and remind him that if they're not cracked soon, the guys go back to neighborhoods right near where he lives.  Sure.  Anytime.  We're here.  Thanks."  He hung up and stuck his head out of the office.  "His third backup system is coming," he called.  He looked at those two.  "Okay, any new evidence processed?"

"Lots and lots," Warrick offered, smirking at him.  "Nice work."

"They know me here and sometimes try to understand," Xander quipped, coming back to the table.  "Hold on, let me call Welsh."  He called up there.  "Hey, me.  Mort called off.  Not a clue, my man.  Already done, waiting down here.  Of course."  He smirked.  "We're expecting someone from Region 1 with a loaner computer. I went with Turnbull and Vecchio to get the goth kids.  They're in holding.  We're down here going over the new evidence.  Of course I'm fine," he sighed.  "I'm not even hyper."  He snorted and hung up.  "David, you're under orders to keep me from bouncing this precinct apart," he called.  "Welsh said so."  He went back to the table, leaning on it to look at the new sheets of evidence.  "Okay.  What have we got?"

"We have got lots and lots of stuff," Greg said happily.  "Have I mentioned yet that you look really dangerous in those?"

"I'm always happy to hear that," he said sweetly.  "So, dirt?"

"Graveyard and the day guy pinpointed which one by the tree sap in it," Warrick said happily.  "It's the one near Vecchio's church.  According to Sheila, they've been having a few problems over there with teenagers looting the graveyard.  They've installed cameras."

"Which is in AV but he may not realize it yet," Greg offered.  "We pulled for the week before the homicide in the hospital."  They heard a ding and he looked up.  "Desk?"

Xander nodded, heading up there at a trot.  "Yup?"  He looked at the person standing at the desk.  "Him?"  The sergeant nodded and moved away.  Xander turned to look at him.  "You are?"

"Here to talk to a CSI Harris."

"Which would be me."  He shook his hand.  "Sorry, we had to bust some goth kids.  You are?"

"Oh, Agent Miller.  Psychological profiling corps."  He handed over a file.  "That look familiar?"

Xander looked and nodded, walking away with it.  "Come on down, Agent.  The Vegas guys are down here too."  He followed, nodding politely at the people down there waiting on him.  "This is Agent Miller.  Profiler group."  He handed over the folder to Warrick.  "Familiar, but old."

"Old?" he asked as he opened it.  "Huh.  Nearly twenty years old."  He looked at the agent.  "Any other info on this?"

"That was before we started to track, but I'm doubting it's the same guy.  We didn't get too many of those and it's too old to really be the same person unless he was a teenager then and middle aged now."  He pulled over a stool and sat down.  "You guys did really nice on the revamp."

"Thanks," Xander said with a shy grin.  "I helped design some of the changes."  He heard the fax machine start and looked down the hall, smirking as David came out.  "Good?"

"Bad.  Very bad."  He handed it over.  "Death threat to the department."

"Wonderful."  Xander walked over to the phone and hit the speaker, dialing.  "And I read," he said.  "The pigs and the innocents will die because they have violated the trust of the people by hiring those who would bend the law to their wills.  My vengeance will be measured in explosive lights and sirens that are the voices of the unjustly charged and held, those who were raped and beaten by those who were unclean and too unholy to do the job with the faith of the people.  Sounds like an English major to me," he said dryly.

"Where did that come from!" the Mayor demanded.

"Our fax machine, just now.  Come and get it.  Still sounds like a yuppie English major. Need help with the goth kids?"

"Not yet.  Most are whispering your name and asking if you're one of the Heralds of Becoming or something," Welsh offered.

"I've not heard of them but I'll check the books.  Go me.  We've got new evidence.  Laters."  He hung up and came back to the table.  "Okay, dirt from a graveyard in a convenient little pile.  Crystal pyramids."

Agent Miller frowned.  "That's not in the original."

"So it's a copycat or a relative," Warrick suggested, handing the file back to Xander.  "Definitely more New Age than not.  Anything in the strange crap databases?"

"No, not that I could find.  Doesn't seem to fit any known major religion then or now.  Probably more like one he's making up as he goes."  He grimaced and looked at the folder again.  "More oddness.  This one doesn't have the child link.  It was an older child."  He looked at the Agent.  "Any suspects?"

"We got one doing it, he was arrested, put to death.  God Bless the death penalty."  He pulled that file out of his briefcase and handed it over.

"What about kids of his, or any apprentice psychos?" Hodges asked.

"Kids yes," Agent Miller offered.  "Three, all girls."

"That body wasn't that heavy," Xander admitted.  "Fairly light.  Any of these girls big?"

"All three," he admitted.  "Mom used to lift weights for Russia.  Mail order bride back in the day."  He looked at Hodges.  "Any other little things that aren't the same?"

Xander nodded, putting the file onto the table and pointing at something.  "This one," he said, looking at it.  "No semen this time."  He looked at Warrick when he took it.  They both looked at Agent Miller, who squirmed a bit.  "So," Xander said with a happy grin.  "Agent Miller, work with Agent Ford much?"

"No, not ever.  Why?"

Warrick coughed and pointed at him.  "Him, Xander?"

"Yup."  He looked back, then pointed at the mirrored case across from them.  "Come on in, Agent Ford."

"I heard there was a case that crossed state lines.  I came to see if you needed Federal help."

"Not yet," Xander offered. "Do you know Agent Miller?"

"No, I don't," he said, shaking his hand.  "From which department?"

"Psych profiling."

"Ah."  He nodded.  He looked at Xander.  "May I?"  The file was handed over and he grabbed the guy's collar, sitting him there.  "Wonderful.  This isn't on our paper.  We use the cheap stuff. It smears.  Always has."  He looked at Agent Miller.  "Also, the mayor called me.  You got a threat?"

Hodges handed it over.  "Xan said it sounded like a yuppie English major."

"Fine with me," he agreed, dragging the other agent off with the file and the threat.  "I'll be right back with this," he offered smugly.

Xander looked at Warrick.  "Okay, so let's get back to the evidence."  They just stared at him.  "We've had a few of these.  They're big Profiler fans.  We actually had one blonde woman who claimed to have visions at scenes," he offered dryly.

"Xander looked at her and asked her who the dead person following her was, Jack," Hodges admitted with a smirk.  "Why do they like you?"

"I look and act like what they think a tech is," he admitted.  "Either that or they think I'm a Fed in disguise, which is a sickening thought."  He looked at the new evidence, then smirked, passing something over.  "Interesting."

"Very," Greg agreed after looking at it, then at Warrick, then at Hodges and smirking.  "You couldn't brag?"

"Not really.  Xander pinches when I get too smug."  He smiled at his mate, who blew a kiss.  "So, that trace of rag is a good thing?"

"Very," Xander agreed.

"Money grade rag," Warrick said happily.  "In the blood too."  He shook his head and put that sheet down.  "Narrows it down."

"Yes, it does," Xander said dryly.  "And there's a printer in Vegas and a printer here."  They all smiled at each other and Xander hit the button for upstairs again.  "Send Agent Ford back please?  We just found some money paper in the blood."

"Sure," Stan offered.  "Getting chewed a new one.  Wanna come help?"

"Sure.  Who?"


"Wonderful."  Xander went from looking dangerous to looking like a shy puppy in about three seconds, even stopping to take the dogs upstairs with him.  He smiled sweetly at Inspector Thatcher and kissed her on the cheek, letting Stan have the dogs.  "Inspector, what brings you from your noble shores today?  Is there something I can help your boys with?"

"Why was Turnbull limping today?" she demanded.

He shrugged.  "I haven't seen Rennie in a few days, Inspector," he said honestly.  He looked at Stan.  "Why was Rennie limping?"

"That going out alone thing.  He turned his ankle."

"Ah."  He looked at the Inspector again.  "I'm working on his tracking in an urban environment skills and apparently he went out for some practice alone.  If Stan said he turned his ankle, I'm sure he'll be fine.  Did you need me to come baby him for you?"

She frowned at him, staring him in the eyes.  Then she blinked a few times and looked again. "One's glass?"  He nodded.  "I'm sorry."

"So was the person who did it after he died."  He shrugged.  "It happens to the best of us.  That was my worst injury through the bad years."

She looked him over.  "That's an unusual dress for the office," she said dryly.

"Ray needed my help to raid a goth club full of acid popping wannabes."

"So, you went to bust the living vampires?" she asked.  "Like you do the undead?"

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, basically. Why? Got one bothering the consulate?"

"No," she said patiently.  She frowned at him again, lips pursed tightly together.  "Turnbull knows what you do?"

"I'm slowly teaching him," he admitted.  "There's been a recent influx of suspiciously pulse-lacking people.  There's no one in town to really take care of it."

"I see.  What is Detective Kowalski's role in this endeavor?"

"Worried person.  He's seen me hunt before."

"I see."  She frowned harder at him.  "Do not risk my Constable's lives with this, CSI Harris."

He hugged her.  "I'm trying very hard not to, ma'am.  You know I love Rennie like a big brother who can open mayonnaise jars."  He pulled back to grin at her.  "I'm officially retired from that life.  Rennie wanted to know and he had a night when Stan was busy playing with Fraser and Ray so I took him with me.  I taught him the correct way to stake and all that.  I'm slowly teaching him all my skills."  She rolled her eyes. "I take very good care of Rennie."

"I thought you were dating David," she said sarcastically.  "If I had known Turnbull would do it for you, I'd have offered him as incentive to switch countries and come work with us."

"I am.  Rennie's just so cute when he's curled up on the couch in his hockey sweatshirt and flannel pants."

"More than I needed to know," she said patiently.  She looked at Kowalski.  "I thought Turnbull was sleeping in your spare room."

"No, Fraser usually sleeps in there.  He's got a mental issue thing with a threesome unless it's a good night or he needs comforted."

She blinked, then looked at Xander, who nodded.  "You knew about this?"

"From day one when they were fighting in the closet about who got to bring him to a dinner.  Stan butted in and shouted at them that he wasn't some bingo prize and stomped off.  Fraser came out to calm him down, kissing him gently.  He tried to run off and Rennie got him downstairs, kissing him so hard he nearly passed out in the middle of the hallway.  The rest of us just cheered for the Mounties that got their man."

She turned pale, yet a fetching shade of green, stuck her fingers in her ears and stomped off.

"Inspector, do you need a ride back?" Xander called.  "We don't want you to crash."

"No!"  She found Vecchio in the hallway, glaring at him.  "I suppose it's really a foursome?" she demanded.

He slowly shook his head.  "The thing that Kowalski's got with the Mounties?  Not to my knowledge.  Unless David gave them Xander for being too bad for him.  As far as I know it's not."

She let out a whimper and sat down right there, looking at him.

Xander hurried out.  "Inspector, come rest for a few minutes," he said soothingly, picking her up and carrying her in to put her on Welsh's couch.  It was the place where he put everyone he did that to anymore.  Welsh never seemed to mind him coopting his couch for the confused or mentally injured people.  "There," he offered, covering her with his overshirt.  "You rest.  We'll leave you alone so you can rest."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "It's okay.  I promise, he's good to your constables and they're good to him.  He's not playing around with them or anything.  You just rest and process."  He backed out, taking Stan with him.  He even shut the door and looked at him.  "I just had a Disney flashback."  He walked off shaking his head.

"Huh?" Stan asked Ray.

"Ecklie.  Disney music?"

"Oh, that."  He nodded.  "Gotcha.  She's resting."

"Good.  She probably needs it.  Did you have to spring that on her?"

"I didn't!  Turnbull did."  He went to call the consulate, getting Benny.  "Yell at him," he demanded.  "Your boss is napping on Welsh's couch.  She had one of those sit down in the middle of the hall moments."  He smiled.  "He okay?"  He grinned. "Good.  Bring 'im for lunch.  Miss you too.  Later."  He hung up and looked at Ray.  "We're heading for the deli for lunch.  Wanna join?"

"Sure."  He went to do something and check on Thatcher by handing in some paperwork.  He looked at Welsh, who was taking some aspirin.  "I've got some aleeve in my desk."

"No thanks.  This'll do.  Tell Harris to put on another overshirt or his jacket."  He frowned at him.  "You knew about this?"

Ray nodded.  "Kinda hard not to.  Benny was trying to talk around his mental difficulties.  He doesn't think threesomes are natural and it's spooking him a bit.  So he's usually in the guest room but every once in a while Kowalski gets cute and jumps him."

"Fine. More than I wanted to know."

"Me too, but I have ta hear it now and then.  Sorta like David and Xander.  Too cute for words.  What happened?"

"Turnbull turned an ankle going out alone."

"Ah.  I'm sure they've already yelled at him and Xander for that."  He went back to his desk, mentally smirking and shaking his head.  If Xander didn't have David, he and Renfield Turnbull would be perpetually cute together.


Xander got the call and groaned, rubbing his forehead.  "You're sure?" he asked the officer.  He listened to the details.  "Yeah, be right there."  He hung up.  "Tracy!"  He came jogging out of their break room. "There's been another. Get your shit and let's go.  It's the hospital next to the consulate."  He looked over as Warrick and Greg joined him.  Then tossed them some keys.  "Here.  Take one of ours.  We keep a full kit in the trunk.  Remind me, we need more film.  I've got to stop and get some."  He headed out, Greg taking the keys to drive since he knew the city.  Tracy met him at their car, getting in to drive.  "Film.  Have to stop for film."

"Sure, Xander.  I thought we had a case of it in storage."

"I can't find it."  He buckled up.  "Cases refilled?"

"I had the rookies do it," he promised, heading out to the nearest drug store on the way in.  "Get some gloves too, just in case."

Xander nodded and got out, going in to get some film and gloves.  He ran into Thatcher, who was getting a prescription filled.  "Hey."  She gave him a pained look and he moved past her to the film, checking boxes and what he knew they used.  He picked out ten boxes and some gloves, then took it up to the register.  The girl gave him an odd look so he pulled his badge.  "Not for kinky sex," he assured her.

"Didn't think it was for that," she agreed.  "Thirty-five mil?"  He nodded, going out to get a box from his case.  When he came back, they compared and she got him what he actually needed, then took his debit card.  "There you go," she said with a smile, handing him the bag and the receipt.  "Have a nice night, detective."

"CSI," he said with a small grin of his own, heading back to the car.  He got in and shook his head.  "She flirted with me," he said proudly.

"Good, then we'll be seeing her as your next stalker," Tracy offered as he started the car.  Xander got his door closed and they were off, heading to the scene.   They found the other two already in there and geared up, including booties.  Not as big of a blood pool this time, but still there.  He ducked under the tape.  "The checkout girl flirted with him."

"Hey, a new stalker," Warrick said dryly, taking pictures.  "Film?"

Xander handed over the bag.  "Here, and some spare gloves."  He ducked in and started to work on the window, checking the body.  "Did we call the fire department?"

"Not yet," everyone agreed.

Tracy headed for the bathroom.  "Not nursery aged," he announced.  "Probably about crawling if size is indicative."

"Tell the nurses," Xander ordered.  "Tell 'em to call the fire department too."  He shook his head and went back to work on the window and fingerprint powdering.  He looked at how the rope was tied around the handle of the window.  "Oh, this is going to slip.  Have them hurry."

"On it," Greg agreed, moving carefully back to the door.  "Hey," he asked a nurse.  "The kid was probably not a newborn if that helps."  She sniffled but nodded.  "And can you get the fire department here pretty quickly to get the body, it's about to fall."

"Yes, sir."  She hurried back to the desk to do that, sniffling into the phone as she called 911 again.  Then she called the Head Nurse and told her that the crime scene guys thought it wasn't a newborn.  She went back to wait.  Surely they'd want to talk to them all.

"Go ahead on rounds," Xander called suddenly.  "We'll come get you.  Just make sure we know your name and address if you have to leave before we're done."

"Yes, sir," a few of them said, going back to their duties for now.  This was horrible.

The backup ME ducked under the tape and looked at the scene.  "Oh, hell.  Another one?"

"Yeah and this one's about to fall," Xander told him, going back to his tape lifting.  "Got a handy cherry picker?"

"No.  The fire department's all out on a call," he admitted. "They said to tell you."

Xander looked at him. "Then do we let the body fall?"

Warrick looked at him. "Is there enough rope to lower him to the ground?"

"Her, and nope.  One more story maybe.  We're four up."

"Crap."  He shrugged. "What do you guys have?"

Xander called Welsh.  "We have a dangling body, the fire department is all busy, and it's about to fall.  Got any ideas?"  He listened.  "If they wouldn't mind.  Sure."  He hung up.  "They're bringing the suicide stuff."

"That's a good idea," Greg admitted.  "How long?"

"Rope's slipping a few millimeters every few minutes.  Probably ten if we're lucky."  He saw a few cop cars pull up and waved, pointing at the body.  They nodded and started inflating the cushion.  It fell about halfway to full inflation but the body bounced.  "Good job," he called.  "Thanks.  Be down soon!"

"I'll send the guys to go pick it up, " the ME said dryly, going to do that.  He came back and looked at the body on the bed.  "Interesting cut pattern."

"Really?" Xander asked, coming over to look at it.  "Huh.  Are those teeth marks?"

"Blade marks, serrated tip," the ME corrected.  "Big steak knife by the looks.  They sawed through the layers."  He looked under the sheets.  "Female."

"Body out the window was female," Xander agreed.  "Tracy, what's the baby?"

"Female."  He came to the door.  "Switch with me."

Xander nodded, switching off with him to do the hard one.  He knew Tracy had a toddler at home.  This had to be eating him up.


Xander came back to the lab and flopped down in a chair, looking over at Welsh as he came in.  "Bad."

"I figured as much.  You okay?  We got shrinks here."

"I'm not that bad," he pointed out.  He looked behind him as the bodies were rolled in.  Then he looked at his boss again.  "Where's Mort?"

"Flu.  Probably be a few days."  He patted Xander on the shoulder.  "Good work so far.  That Miller guy was Barney Miller and Profiler together."  He went to check with the ME, then came back out, finding Xander looking at a new file.  "What's that?"

"Officer shooting."  He stood up.  "They didn't take his backup weapon."  He walked up to the desk, grabbing one of the guys by the collar.  "Where's Preston?"

"In the locker room."

Xander nodded, heading that way.  "Hey," he said as he walked in.  The officer stared at him in horror.  "Not here for that."  He sat down next to him.  "It's protocol that we take all weapons when something like this happens," he said gently, staring at him.

"I didn't pull my backup," he said miserably.

Xander sighed then shifted so he was straddling the bench, taking the guy's hand.  "Listen.  I've been where you are right now, only not being an officer.  There's a reason why we take all the weapons.  It's that moment when you realize that you killed someone.  Because the next moment is usually a struggle not to reach for something."  The officer looked horrified.  "It's a natural response.  I've done it when I had to."

"Me too, kid," an older officer offered as he joined them.  "I've had a few of them and each time the thought came to me that I could remove this unclean and unholy guy in the mirror who had just ended a life.  That there was a spare gun in the drawer beside my easy chair."  He patted him on the back.  "It's natural and why they take them all.  Just in case."

Xander nodded.  "So I don't want to, but I need to take it from you.  Then I want someone to drive you home, not stopping at the bar.  That's the other hidey hole that most people fall into."

"How do you know?" the officer asked.

Xander considered telling him.  "Did you hear about my first visit in?  Before I signed on downstairs?"

"No," he said quietly.

"Ray Vecchio was taking me to be vetted by his mother and to be fed.  We were traveling up West Racine after dropping me at the Holiday Inn.  There was a gang fight in the middle of the street and none of you guys yet.  I pulled faster than Vecchio did."  The man looked horrified. "I shot to wound, but that wasn't my first time and there's a reason why I pull faster than Vecchio or Kowalski.  I've also got a history of having to deal with things that make me hurt them to save others.  That wasn't my first shooting.  Ask Hodges, he saw me take out a few people in the middle of Vegas's building that were threatening others."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Now, I *have* to take your backups.  Even though I don't want to.  Then I want you to take your suspension starting tonight and head home, kid.  Don't drink, don't drive yourself, but head home for the night and work through it in your mind however you do that.  With your priest or whoever.  Because you can talk to those of us here who've had one but the shrink's are kinda not up to it most of the time."  That got a nod and a small grin.  "Good enough?"  He nodded and pulled the rest of his weapons, including his pocket knife, handing them over.  "Good boy.  Now you go home and you call us if you need us.  I'll be done with your main weapon by the time you come back and I shouldn't have to do more than note serial numbers on the other's unless it's something to make a ballistics tech like me drool and get hard to fire.  Okay?"  He nodded and Xander left with the weapons, taking them down to personally bag and tag them.

"What happened?" David asked from the doorway.

"Officer involved shooting.  They only took his main weapon."  He looked at him.  "Right after the thought hits you and you realize you *killed* someone, the next thought is usually 'I've got to stop myself before I do it again'.  That's why wise people take all the weapons."

"I get that," he agreed, coming in to hug Xander.  "You okay?"

"Yeah," he agreed, giving him a squeeze.  "I had to do the kid.  Tracy has a toddler."

"I heard.  He broke in the office.  Warrick went to talk to him."  He stroked his face.  "Come sit with me and we'll have lunch when you're done."  He nodded, so he went back to his lab.  Greg was working on the new samples.  "Officer involved shooting."

"Those happen," Greg admitted.  "I had to last week.  Brass took me out for a beer that night and thankfully got me really drunk and calmed down again.  I was a bit hysterical."  Xander walked in and hugged him.  "Thanks. I nearly called but I figured you'd be asleep then."  He looked up at him.  "You're not mad at me?"

"I can't be mad at you, Greg."  He ruffled his hair.  "It's getting long again."  He went back to his lab.  A few minutes later, 'firing one' came across and the sound of a gunshot.

David pulled the door shut before anything could contaminate his lab, then looked at Greg.  "You okay?"

"No," he admitted.  "The review cleared me.  I didn't have a choice.  He had Sarah at gunpoint and started to pull the hammer."  He put down the sample he was working on.  "It was necessary, not of the happy making."

"You sure you want to be in the field after all?" Hodges asked.

Greg looked at him.  "Yeah.  Most of the time.  Every now and then a hurt hits me and I forget. Then I remember I nearly got blown up in the lab so it's not much better.  At least I only had one guy with a baseball bat come at me for trying to help his wife."

"Domestic?" Hodges asked with a wince.  Greg nodded.  "Braver than I am."

"We were removing her and he came after me and the ambulance crew.  He got one of them and tried me but Xander was working on my self-defense there for a bit.  I got him in the jaw and he fell over.  Grissom just gave me a clap on the back and said at least I protected myself."  He shrugged and went back to work.  "It happens."

"Not if you're not in the field."

"Yeah, but I feel satisfaction when I'm there," he admitted quietly.  "I like solving the crimes for real, not just doing the little things."  He went back to preparing the sample.  "How have things been here?"

"Pretty good.  Xander insisted on calling me his boyfriend the other day.  When I protested he threatened me with gaudy valentine's day traps."  Greg smirked at that.  "So I'm leaving that alone for now.  You saw the mock fight last night too.  About that level of stuff really.  It's been okay.  I had to fight to pay some of the rent last night too."


"Because all I was doing was cooking, doing the occasional cleaning thing, and paying for groceries, the electric bill, and dry cleaning."

"Most people wouldn't complain."

"I felt like I was being kept."

"Eh.  Xander's a fussy guy."

"Oh, yeah," he agreed dryly.  "Cuddled me to death when I got drugged and our apartment was broken into by the girl the other night."

"You did?"

"Yeah, she wanted to take Xander's place by becoming Xander.  She knocked me out and left the door open when she left.  Xander was not happy with her, that's why we moved recently and no one will tell him which prison she pled and was sent to."

"That's wise of somebody," Greg agreed.  He shook his head.  "Was she really muscular too?"

"Nope," Hodges said dryly.  "Happiness was not muscular.  She was a bit heavy.  She was a nice enough girl, but fairly giggly and high schoolish still.  She was a patrol officer from Traffic."

"So, too nice to be one of Xander's girls so she went for the next biggest geek in the city?" Greg teased.

"Yup," Hodges agreed with a smirk.  "My first real stalker, one who wanted me not just wanted me dead.  I wasn't really impressed.  Now I know why Xander just snorts, rolls his eyes, and wanders off on them."

"If she ever gets out, I get to show her why she could never be me," Xander called in a sing- song voice from next door.  "Graphically."

"Sure, you can show her the tattoo of the anime character on your butt," Hodges called back.   He rolled his eyes.  "Some days, I still wonder how I took up with him."

"He makes you happy and smiling," Greg reminded him.  "He puts up with your snark and your comments and your ambitious nature and he loves you because of it.  You're his Snape and he's your Weasley."

"No wonder I'm irritated at him some nights," Hodges said dryly.  "Which Weasley do you think he is?"

"I'd say Charlie, just because he's got to love dragons with how he is.  He can't be Percy, he's not quite prankish enough for the twins. So he's either Bill, Charlie, or Ron."

"Bill, please," Xander said as he slid open the door with a smirk.  "Because he's the baddass of the family.  Maybe he's a younger Snape and I'm James Potter."

"You're more Remus Lupin," Greg taunted.  "All puppy eyes and sadness that needs love."

"And new clothes," Hodges said, looking at Xander's outfit.  "Go put on a real shirt."

"I can't. I don't have any more in my locker."

"Xander," Hodges sighed.

"I only put it over Thatcher when she needed a sudden nap.  Turnbull told her about the threesome and hunting and she came to nag.  Stan confirmed the threesome and she about went over."  He grimaced.  "Besides, I'm sure I could find a bigger bad ass.  Maybe I'm Draco."

"You're evil enough when you put your mind to it," Hodges agreed.  He looked at Greg.  "The precinct picnic last week he walked up the stairs carrying bags of food.  Everyone stopped and stared at him until he said he had bought it.  He's now *forbidden* to cook.  Ever. They gave us copies of every menu from everyone in the city who delivers.  Even Ma's given up on him."  Greg looked impressed at that.  "Somehow he managed to make her muffins come out like lead."

"I did it while she was watching and checking my measurements too," Xander reminded him.  "They weren't even overcooked."

"True, but they were still like lead," Hodges reminded him with an evil smirk.  "I think one of the kids painted a face on his and is using it as a pet rock."

"That's entirely possible," Xander agreed dryly, going back to his lab.  "Tell him about the cocoa incident.  He could use a giggle."

Hodges moaned and held his head.  "He made me cocoa.  An 'open packet-add water' cocoa."  Greg snickered.  "Added cinnamon on top.  I don't know how he messed it up, but it was soooooo bad."  He groaned and shook his head.  "I sat there and watched him do it too.  I had stomach pains for *weeks* after that."

Greg giggled, holding onto the table so he wouldn't fall off his stool.

"What happened?" Sheila asked as she joined them.

"Xan said to tell him about the cocoa incident," Hodges said dryly.

She burst out in giggles and hugged Greg.  "It was so bad Mort sent him to the ER to be checked for food poisoning or other poisoning."  She let him go with a grin for him.  "I've got to test about nine hundred samples for drugs.  So if you need that machine, I'll hold off for about an hour."

"Sure," he agreed happily.  "What did he do?"

"We're not sure.  He used bottled water.  He used actual cinnamon.  He used packet cocoa."  She shrugged.  "He's Xander and no one's quite sure why food hates him."  She went back to work.  "Ooh, a Happiness sample, Hodges."

"Burn it," he called.

"Can't do that," she called back sweetly. "They're checking tox."

"She wasn't on drugs, she needed drugs," he called back, walking over to close the door.  "So it's not boring by any stretch of the imagination."

"I can tell.  You guys have trouble with your last landlord?"

"Yeah, he hated the fact that we got broken into.  Xander's got to threaten him for our prepaid rent."  He went back to work checking the samples and helping Greg prepare a bunch of them.

Next door, Xander was looking thoughtful.  "Maybe one of the wannabes is a law student," he said finally, pushing that thought to the back burner for now.  If not, he could probably bribe Ray into going over there for him.  He had that old family charm that usually worked well in these circumstances.


Stan came jogging in.  "Xander!" he panted.  Xander came up the hallway, looking at him.  "Bad things," he gasped, grabbing his arm.  "Canada.  Invaders.  Help?"  He nodded, going to get his weapons out of his desk drawer, then followed Stan back out.  His silk shirt was in Stan's car so he put it on, it was dark out, the black silk would help hide him if necessary.  They sped up, lights going and the siren sounding off as they drove.  They pulled up, finding the standoff.

Xander got out, pulling his main weapon, and snuck around to follow an officer inside, nodding at him.  "Go," he whispered.  "If it's clear.  I've got your back."  He got a nod and they walked in together, finding the person screaming at them that she wanted Fraser, that he was hers and she was going to take him or kill them all and then take him.  Xander put his glasses on, noticing they were blurry.  So he took them back off just as she turned around.  She shrieked and pulled her gun up.  He and the cop both fired, and they both got hit.  His was in his outer shoulder and the cop got hit in the vest.  He fired a second round, making sure she was down since she was wobbling.  She fell to her knees, then onto her face, bleeding all over the carpet.  Xander just sat down, holding his arm.  "Any more?" he asked when Turnbull rushed over.

"No, just her, we got the others," he promised, checking him.  "Oh, dear.  Oh, dear.  Oh, bloody hell," he said when he got the shirt peeled away from the injury.  "We need an ambulance!" he shouted outside.  "She's down!"  More cops rushed in and he went back to trying to help Xander, putting pressure on the injury.  "You're all right," he promised gently, staring him down.  "I promise, you're all right, Xander.  It's a minor wound.  The bullet is still inside but it'll be fine.  I promise it'll be fine."  He smoothed Xander's hair back from his sweaty forehead. "Where is the ambulance!" he demanded when someone came over to help the other guy, who was checking his vest and holding his stomach.  "The bullet's still in there," he reported to the paramedic walking through the door.  "He's not bleeding heavily."

"That's fine, Constable.  May I?"  Turnbull shifted, holding Xander's other hand and continuing to baby him.  "He yours?"

"No, David Hodges, fellow CSI," he reported.  "I can call him.  Where are you taking him?"

"Just up the street.  You're right, he'll be fine.  Just stay calm."  They got Xander onto a gurney and out the door with Turnbull with him.  He was too uptight not to bring and he was keeping the other man calm.  In fact, Xander looked like he was meditating.  "Pain control?" the paramedic asked.   Xander nodded.  "You got allergies?"

"Morphine. I'm missing an eye and I've been known to have high blood pressure."

"That's fine, sir."

"CSI Harris."

"Ah.  I've heard good things about you from other scenes, Harris.  Just stay calm like you are.  We'll be there within a few minutes.  There's just a small traffic block ahead."  He ducked and covered Xander's body when he heard the gunshots.  "What the hell?  They don't usually fire on us."

Xander sat up, pulling his gun off his back beltline and handing it to Turnbull.  "Hold that for me."  He laid back down.  "I've got another on my ankle.  There's a dagger on my back as well."

"Of course."

"Don't cut off the pants.  I'll never hear the end of it.  I can take 'em off."

"Why don't we do that while we go around," he suggested, a bit freaked out but Xander was now keeping him calm and the Mountie looked like he knew what he was doing with that pistol.  Fortunately.  They were cops but not all cops were that comfortable with guns.  He helped the boy sit up and strip off, putting all his clothes into a bag for him.  The sheet was enough for the ER. Xander went back to meditating, willing away the pain.  They backed into the ER and he got him out.  "He insisted we not cut his clothes off so we helped him strip," he said as he walked him in.  "This is CSI Harris.  Gunshot to the right outer shoulder.  Constable Turnbull said that the bullet's still in there but I couldn't see it, though there is no exit wound.  Blood pressure's a bit high, he said he's prone to that and is allergic to morphine.  Took us a bit, someone shot at us."

"We heard."  The female doctor leaned over to look at Xander's injury.  "Usually they're screaming."

"I'm used to pain.  Pain is like my ex.  She's a cranky bitch who is obsessed with me.  That's why I'm now gay.  Can we please not freak my man out?" he said bitterly. "He's not really a drama queen but he will start yelling."

"I'll do my best," she promised, taking his vitals again while the paramedic left to get a drink.  "Do you need pain killers?"

"Every day of my life," he said bitterly.  "But I manage. I'd like some soon, but I'm good if you need an x-ray first."

"Sure."  She was glad he was so calm.  They had a few more shooting victims coming and she was basically alone with one nurse to help.  She got the x-ray people to come do him first, then called a surgeon.  Maybe they could take it out down here and free up an operating room.  The surgeon banged in.  "Single wound, right outer shoulder.  Still in there.  He's calm and not in pain.  If you can pull it, I'll close him down here."

The surgeon looked at the x-ray, then nodded.  "Maybe.  It's in the joint.  Let me see.  We've got seven others now."  He probed the wound then grabbed some tweezers and gently eased it out, making Xander's arm go limp.  "He should be fine.  Admit him in case."  She nodded, putting the bullet into the bag from the tray.  "He's not screaming."

"Pain is like my ex, an obsessive bitch," he complained, taking another deep breath.  "But I could use some pain killers, just to blunt the headache when my man hears."

"Sure."  He smirked at him and walked off shaking his head.  "I hate gang kids.  They've done this too many times."  He stopped the nurse.  "Get her a stitching kit, I pulled that gang kid's out for her.  He's being admitted."

"He's a cop, not a gang banger," the nurse said with a scowl.  "He does CSI.  He was here with that homicide.  Very polite."

"Sorry."  He went to see his next one, taking them upstairs.  They had one in their lung, he wasn't going to be pulling that out down here.


Turnbull sat down in the waiting area, then hopped up to call Hodges and Welsh.  He got Hodges first, he was growling so you knew it was him if Xander was elsewhere.  "He's fine," he started off.  "The wound was minor.  It's in his shoulder.  The bullet was still in there but not too badly.  I'm sure he'll be fine, David."  He winced as he listened.  "Actually, I have his clothes and his weapons in a bag with me.  Of course I will.  Of course, I'll be here.  Yes, I'll stay until you can get down here.  No, he's lucid and meditating away the pain.  I'm sure.  He wasn't even screaming or crying.  Thank you kindly."  He hung up and limped back to his seat, hugging the bag of clothes while he waited.  A nurse stopped in front of him and he looked up at her, giving her a shy smile.  "News on Harris?"

"No, sir, I saw you were limping.  Did you sign in?"

"I twisted it last night running a bit," he offered.  "I'm fine.  Is there any news on Mr. Harris?  Gunshot wound to the shoulder?"

"I'll find out for you.  Need an ice pack or an ace bandage?"

"I have one on.  I'm fine, really.  Just a bit shaken up.  We had someone holding us hostage and shooting randomly over our heads.  She got my hat."

"I'm sorry."  She went to find out then came back with a small smile.  "He's fine, sir.  We've already removed the bullet and they're stitching him but he'll be kept overnight.  You should probably find him some pajamas or something."

"Oh, I'm not his boyfriend.  I'm standing in for him until he gets here.  Xander's like my little brother.  Who can't open jars of pickles, but still like my little brother."  Stan rushed in.  "He's fine."

"CSI Harris?" he demanded.  "He is all right?"

"Yes, sir.  He's a cop?"

"CSI.  Crime scene guy," he corrected.  "He's really fine?"

"Are you his spouse?"

"No, he's coming.  Vecchio has him.  We're gonna be the ones ta calm him down. He's really fine?"

"He's fine.  He'll be kept for observation but he's just fine."

"Oh, good," he sighed, slumping a bit.  He saw the bag and looked at Turnbull.  "Rennie, what's that?"

"His clothes and weapons. He didn't want them cut off."

"Fine.  Give 'em ta David when he shows up."  He hugged the nurse.  "When can we see him?"

"Soon, gentlemen.  We're in a bit of a rush with the other shooting."

"Yeah, they stopped his ambulance and tried ta shoot it too," Stan admitted.  Hodges rushed in with Ray behind.  "She said he's fine."

"Bet me, he was shot!" he shouted, glaring at the nurse.  "Where is my man?" he demanded.  "Right now, where is he?"

She blinked at him.  "Back in one of the bays being stitched.  We'll keep him overnight, you can stay with him.  He should have some pajamas or something.  He's fairly naked."

"You cut those leather pants off him?  How tough are your scissors?" he asked.

"I have them," Turnbull admitted.  "He didn't want them to cut them off so the paramedic helped him remove them."  David snatched the bag.  "His weapons are also in there, David.  Be careful."

"Sure."  He looked at the nurse.  "Take me to him."

"I can't, sir, not until we move him."

"He's being stalked at the moment.  Do you want to lose more people?"  She raised an eyebrow.

"He is," Ray admitted.  "Let him check on him then bring him back.  We'll be right here to keep him calm."  She nodded, walking David off to see his man.  Ray rubbed the back of his neck.  "That went better than I had expected."  He took the gun from Turnbull's lap and put the safety on, then stuck it in his waistband.  "Don't pet it.  You're not Xander."

"It's his," he protested. "He asked me to hold it for him."

"Yay," Vecchio said dryly.   "You okay?  Benny said your stetson was holed."

Turnbull went pale and ran to find a bathroom or a trash can.

"Okay then," Stan said, following him to be a supportive guy.  He was like that.

Ray sat down to wait.  He was the calm one.  He'd calm David down and take the statements from everyone here.  Later, when they were all more calm again.  David came back, clutching the clothes like a kid clutches a teddy bear.  "He okay?"  Hodges nodded, sitting down next to him.  "What's wrong?"

"They've got him a bit stoned," he admitted dryly.  "He wanted his gun to sleep with tonight, just in case the guy picked him."  Ray patted him on the back and he leaned against him.  "He'll be fine.  The x-ray they had up showed it was in the joint.  The surgeon pulled it and he was fine."

"Good.  Then we can get statements from them about what happened."  Hodges gave him a dirty look.  "Has to happen," he reminded him.  "That's police work."


Xander woke up as the door opened, grabbing the dagger he had under his hand tightly.  He heard a dragging noise and opened one eye carefully, then lunged up and tried to hit the person.  The man in there screamed, dropping his mop.

The nurses came running, putting Xander back onto his back and taking the dagger from him.  "What are you doing?"

"I'm one of the field techs who had to deal with that homicide," he said bitterly.

"You'd be the guy out the window anyway," the nurse protested.  "Now shut up and lie back!"  She took the dagger, putting it into her pocket.  "We should have let your man stay, he'd make you see you were an idiot."  She checked his wound, then his vitals while the nurses checked their janitor.  He was clutching his chest but appeared fine.  "You're damn lucky you didn't hit him," she said angrily.  "You know better!"

"All I *know* was that he was working in the dark and was dragging something heavy," he shouted back.  "I don't want to be killed today, thank you!  I have plenty of stalkers for that already!"

"What was he dragging?" a young male nurse asked.  "His bucket's got wheels."

"It was something sliding," Xander told him.  "I heard something being *drug*, not rolled. It sounded soft, not like a cranky wheel on a cart at the store."

"Okay," she agreed, going to look around.  She found a large bag under the bed and pointed at it.  "What's that?"

Xander leaned over but the mean nurse pulled him back. "She asked!"  He looked again.  "Not mine.  I don't have any luggage with me."

The head nurse looked and then looked at the janitor, who was pale.  "What is that?"

"My stuff.  I can't leave it in the locker area, it gets stolen," he defended.

"You also can't mop in the dark," Xander countered coldly.  "It's against OSHA regs and impossible to see what you're smearing around."  The man went pale.  "Before anyone else tells you, I'm a scene tech with the PD.  You might as well tell us now."  The man whimpered and pointed at his bucket, so the male nurse went to empty it in the bathroom, gasping.  "Jewelry?" he called.

"Yes.  Rings and bracelets."  He came out with the bucket, showing them to the nurse.  Who then opened the bag and grimaced at the stolen clothes in there.  "We were wondering who was doing that."

The mean nurse hauled the janitor up and took the bag and the bucket with them down to security, but she also took the dagger.  They could give it back to the lunatic upstairs when he left tomorrow.

The male nurse tucked Xander back in and wiped off his forehead. "Do you need anything?" he asked gently, smiling a bit.

"I could use some water.  My mouth's dry."

"That's fine," he promised, going to get him some from the tap.  He came back and helped Xander drink it, then got him settled in again.  "You try to sleep.  It's going to be a long few days with that arm, Mr. Harris."  He walked out, turning off the lights again.

Xander looked at the door, slowly relaxing again.  He didn't want to drift off but he was so tired. He really should stay up in case that guy came for him again, but he just wasn't up to it.


Lieutenant Welsh walked into Xander's hospital room, finding him asleep and curled up like the innocent little boy he pretended to be.  He snorted and Xander sat up, reaching for something.  "Looking for your knife?"

"Yeah, sorry," he said quietly, rubbing his eyes.  "What time is it?"

"Early.  I came to see you before I went in."  He walked in and looked at him.  "Can't you behave for just one night?"

"He came in!" he defended.

"Xander," he chastised.  Xander shrunk down some.  "Thank you."  He patted him on the head.  "You're a good boy.  Most of the time.  That's why I won't tell David on you. I'll give your knife to Kowalski later.  Okay?"  Xander nodded, laying back down with a bit of help.  "How are you feeling?"

"I ache."

"I figured as much.  Need help into the john?"  Xander nodded so he helped him that way, then back into bed once he came back out.  "Now, go back to sleep and continue to be good.  The guy won't come for you."  Xander nodded.  "He won't.  I promise he's not like the usual bad guys who are drawn to you.  Just relax, enjoy it while it lasts.  Let David fuss a bit then come back in tomorrow night."

"Have to come in tonight.  There's paperwork due and Mort won't be in."

"I can wait for it or David can do it," he promised, patting him on the head again.  "You rest and behave.  Try to stay out of trouble."  He left him there, going back down to his car so he could head to work.  Once there he tossed the sheathed dagger at Kowalski.  "Xander had a janitor break in on him last night to steal from him."

"Huh?" he asked, looking confused.

"He had that with him and nearly stabbed the guy," he said patiently.  "The nurses took it from him."  He went into his office and slammed the door, calling David.  "I checked on him, he's fine," he greeted.  "He was even resting when I stopped by.  I helped him into the bathroom and then back into bed.  No, he was a good boy all last night."  He raised an eyebrow.  "What paper?"  He groaned and shook his head.  "Well, yeah, but Kowalski has it now.  He'll be fine.  He didn't actually stab him."  He smirked.  "I told him I wouldn't tell."  He hung up with a chuckle.  He was sure David would get Xander for that stunt.


Ma was in the kitchen when Xander walked up the stairs, followed by Ray.  "Hi, Ma," he said, giving her a one-armed hug.  His other was in a sling he was about to take off.

"Ooh, you poor bambino," she cooed, sitting him down.  She stopped him from taking off the sling.  "You need that."

"I've only got stitches, Ma.  I'll be fine."  He finished taking it off and laid it aside, letting her see the bandage.  "See, just a small ouchie."

David lowered his paper to look at him, then at the bandage.  "How many stitches?"

"Forty-three inside and out."  Ma gave him another hug and went back to the kitchen.  "I'm really okay."

"So that's why you nearly stabbed the thieving janitor?"  He handed down the newspaper with the article prominently showing.  Xander muttered something and David smirked.  "You okay?"

"I wasn't so sure the guy wasn't going to come for me.  He was dragging something."

"It says that."  He got up to give him a hug.  "You're staying in tonight and I'll fuss over you before I head in to take your place for a few hours.  Then I'll come back and fuss some more."  He kissed him gently, smiling at him.  "You're in so much trouble for the sheet thing."

"I was trying to make you feel better," Xander protested weakly.  David smirked at him and he knew he was going to be begging by that night.  That might not be such a bad thing but David was going to hold this over his head for months. Which he appreciated. It was nice to be the one fussed over for a change.  He looked at the plate that was put in front of him.  "Ma, are we having company?"

She pinched him on the cheek.  "Eat all that, Xander.  You're too skinny."  She gave him another hug and went back into the kitchen to make some more food for poor David.  The poor boy probably needed some too and her Ray was usually hungry.

Ray sat down, looking at Xander's feast.  "Ma, can I have some toast?"

"Of course," she agreed happily, coming out with a plate for him as well, adding some toast to it.  "There you go, Raimundo."  She went to find David and drag him out to the table, feeding him, then the other two poor dears who joined them.  They were all so skinny and frail!  Did no one take care of these men?  Greg had lost all the weight he had put on under her care. She clucked her tongue and fussed some more.

Warrick said it best.  "Man, the last time I saw this much food, I was at a breakfast buffet at one of the casinos."  He dug in though, he was hungry and she was a great cook.  "Ray's Ma, can you come back with us?  Catherine could use some food too."

"Catherine needs a new man, not food," Greg told him.  Warrick frowned at him.  "She does.  She's lonely.  She's working too hard. A boyfriend would cure that.  If she was lucky he'd even feed her romantic dinners."

"See, if Cat can have a boyfriend, so can I," Xander said smugly, smirking at David.

David only looked at him for a moment. "Just for that, I'm going to embarrass the hell out of you at work when you come back."  Then he smiled sweetly.

"Okay," Xander said with a slight shrug and a small wince.  "I'm good, as long as you don't tie me down and spank me.  I'm coming in tonight anyway to do that paperwork."

"Fat chance," Ray told him.  "Welsh said you're not to come in tonight and it's already done.  Mort did it at home."  He pointed at him with his fork.  "You're gonna rest and like it, Xander Harris.  Or else I'll bring the nieces and nephews to fuss too."  He noticed Xander didn't look scared, he was actually looking a bit happy about that.

"As long as they don't destroy the house," Hodges said firmly.  He heard a knock and wiped off his mouth as he walked down the stairs to answer it, smiling at their landlords.  "Hi.  Come on in."  They walked in and looked around. "Xander's just back from the hospital.  He got a bit banged up last night at work.  Is there something wrong?"

"No, dear.  We just saw the extra car and are making sure you're okay," the wife offered.

"We're just fine.  We've got a few friends in from out of town working on a case with us.  They're using our new guest beds."  That got a smile.  "Want me to introduce you?  Ray and his mother are here since Xander just got back."

"No, we won't interrupt," the husband promised.  "Is he all right? I saw something in the paper."

"That was him," he admitted dryly, smirking a bit.  "He's fine.  He got hit in the shoulder at the Canadian Consulate last night.  It was pulled out in the ER and he was just under observation."

"That's fine then," the wife agreed.  "Tell him to have a speedy recovery."  She smiled and they left, heading back to their place.  "They're very nice boys with very nice friends.  Even if one was one of those black people," she told her husband.

Hodges jogged up the stairs.  "Sorry, our landlords.  They're a bit old fashioned," he told Warrick.  "They were checking on us to make sure you weren't one of those evil boys from a gang like they ranted about the other day when Sarah went to help her garden."

"Ah."  He nodded. "I've heard some older people with those views before," he admitted. "It's fine."

Xander nodded. "They're very nice, just a bit old fashioned in a few ways," he offered.  "A silent supporter really."

Warrick shrugged.  "We got those too.  You learn to live with it."  He sipped his juice.  "Ray, are you sure we can't borrow your mother?"

"Yes," he said firmly. "I'd have to come arrest you for kidnaping her and bring her back."

"Fine," Greg sighed. "Make me continue to eat like Xander."

"What?  You don't cook either?" Ray snorted.

"No time to cook," Greg complained.   "We don't really do shifts, we're more a 'you're done when you're done' field.  The day we flew out, I got home at nine and came in to work at two because we were short on Warrick's shift with Nick out for the day."

"They've got to hate us back at home right now," Warrick admitted.  "We should call to update them."

"I did last night and Catherine sighed at me."

"I'll call to check in later," Warrick promised him.  Greg shrugged and nodded, going back to eating.  "Our shifts are more about which scenes you get given.  Night shift in Vegas is a lot more moody and dead bodies than days."

Xander nodded. "Very true.  You rob during the day or the early evening because many people are asleep to escape the heat and to recover from the night before."

Hodges nodded.  "Night shift was always more interesting."

"What do you two boys do out there?" Ma asked as she brought out the milk to refill glasses.  "Eat, boys."  They all dug in.  "Warrick?"

"We're scene techs, Mrs. Vecchio.  We're the ones who go to the scenes and gather things for Hodges and Xander to test.  Greg used to do DNA but he's not doing much of that anymore."  Greg beamed at him. "He's getting better in the field."

Ma looked at Xander.  "Don't you do that too?"

"Now and then.  Mort wanted me to keep up with my training.  That way I can sub in when we need me to," he admitted.  "I kinda do all three with my main two being ballistics and Trace.  Which is what David does.  I only spend the occasional case in the field.  Usually with one of the guys who works with Ray."

"Dewey said you did really good, Xander," Ray praised.  "He said you were very professional and very polite to the guy you were helping him with.  You help me a lot now and then."  Xander grinned at him.  "We abuse and overuse Xander shamelessly, Ma."

"Poor thing."  She gave him kiss on the cheek and some more bacon.  "Eat, bambino.  You need it to heal."  She sat down with a plate of her own, watching as the boys ate like they were starved.  Someone really had to take better care of them. Her Ray would starve when she was gone and so would Xander and David.  The other two just needed someone like her at home to take care of them.  Too many hours wore a boy down and he would never find a good girl to marry.  Or in Xander's case, a good boy.  Then again, Xander would be one of those fathers who ruined a child by spoiling it too much so she was more than happy if he was with David.  Even if her priest hated it.  She smiled at David and got a grin in return.  "Eat."

"I am, Ma."  He ate another bite and grinned down at Xander, making plans on how to get back at the fussy one so he hopefully wouldn't do it again.


To part 2