Only a Threat to Some.

Speed picked up his cellphone, calling a long-liked number.  "It's me.  The new t-shirt is *not* a threat, even if it looks like one.  He's very happy and bouncy that he's going to go out with bomb squad today with you.  So don't let anyone panic, H."  He hung up, getting back to his studying.  DNA was a lot different than he thought.

Horatio Caine hung up his phone, looking at it oddly for a minute, then around at the rest of the people on the scene with him.  "Tim said Xander's new shirt is not a threat," he announced.  "He's apparently got a new one and he's happy."

"Uh-huh," Eric said grimly.  "I'm sure it is a threat but not to us."  He picked up a piece of tissue.  "Someone had a bloody nose, H."

"Hopefully it's the killer, Eric.  I would like to catch this one."  He looked over at the ME and Calleigh gathering the pieces of the body.  This was not going to make Miami happy.


Xander bounced into the station, taking off his headphones when he saw Frank, beaming at him.  "Hi!"

"Why are you wearing a threat t-shirt when you're happy?" he asked, looking a bit confused.  "We barely got used to the regular t-shirt code, kid."

Xander looked down at his shirt, then at him.  'Explosives are cool, especially when people go boom too'.  He looked at Frank.  "It's not a threat.  Horatio and I are going to play with the bomb squad guys today for the cross-training stuff.  I have another one that is the threat t-shirt but it says 'fire pretty, especially when you add people to it'.  I'm being a good boy."

"I doubt it."  He walked off shaking his head.  Xander was strange, that was a given with his other field of expertise, but this was just off the charts for him.  He called Horatio.  "He's wearing a threat t-shirt but he's bouncy and happy, Horatio.  Yeah, a new one."  He listened to him.  "Explosives are cool, especially when people go boom too.  He said the threat t-shirt was his roasting humans one."  He shuddered.  "Fine.  Whatever.  He's bouncy and happy.  Thank you."  He hung up, looking around but Xander was gone.  He called the lab.  "Wolfe, tell bouncy boy that Horatio needs him on the scene, they'll leave from there.  Don't check out a hummer, just have a cruiser drive him."  He hung up, putting his head down for a rest.

Ryan hung up and looked around.  "Xander?" he called, walking out of the lab.  "Xander?"  He came out of AV, letting him see his t-shirt.  "Why are you having a bad day?" he asked cautiously.  "Because if it's a relationship thing, you know you can talk to me, right?  I make a really good wall for you to talk about that stuff with."

"I'm happy, Ryan.  Chill.  It's cross-training day."

"Uh-huh.  That's still a threat t-shirt and you're trying to confuse us.  That's not nice to do to your friends, Xander.  It's really not.  You're being mean and evil to us."

Xander grimaced.  "I try very hard not to."

"Try harder.  H said to grab a ride to his scene with a cruiser and he'd drive you both over.  I might change though.  They won't like that one."  Xander sighed, going to get one of his ballistics t-shirts from his locker.  'My sanity and your sanity are from different realities, go rejoin yours before mine has an allergic reaction.'  "NO!  Go change that!" Ryan ordered, pointing and tapping a foot.  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Now!  Right now!"  Xander huffed, but went back to change, making Ryan shake his head.  He knew Xander only kept three or four t-shirts in his locker.  The next one wasn't any better.  'Chaos. Disorder. Anarchy. *contented sigh* My work here is done.'  "Absolutely not!  They'll start to think we're all like that."  Xander gave him a heated look.  "I do not want to have bomb squad look at me funny.  They might decide a preemptive strike was in order to cure us."  Xander walked off, coming out in the original one.  "NO!  No way in hell I'm letting you wear that.  Eric, do you have a spare shirt?" he called.

"He's out with Horatio already," Valera called back.  She came out and winced.  "No, Xander.  They'll be insulted, dear."  She came over to ruffle his hair.  "Don't you have a good button-up shirt in there?"

"Itchy, tight court clothes," he complained.  "I'm not wearing that to disarm bombs.  Sorry!"  He started to walk off but Ryan caught his wrist and drug him into the locker room, getting into his own locker.  He handed Xander his t-shirt, taking that one off him and walking off once his locker was closed again.  "But this is yours!"

"So?  Wear it anyway!"  He walked back into the lab he had been working in, putting Xander's t-shirt off to the side so nothing would get on it and ruin it.  Not that it wasn't a good idea...but Xander spanked very hard.  Xander came out of the locker room in his t- shirt, making Ryan look.  "That's a lot less tight on me," he called.  "But acceptable.  Now go find H."

"Yes, mother!"  He walked off shaking his head.  He went to the patrol desk.  "Hi, Horatio hath summoned.  Can I hitch a ride with the next guy going that way?"

"Aren't you supposed to be cross-training today?" the shift supervisor asked.

"Yeah but he said he'd drive me over so I didn't scare anyone."

The supervisor looked at him.  "We'll give you a ride to the exercise and then tell him."  Xander beamed so he checked his shirt.  "Caine put his foot down?"

"Ryan fusses like a teenage girl before the prom," he said dryly.  The guy snickered, waving someone over to give him a ride.  "Hi, going to cross-train with bomb squad and the boss is worried we won't have enough hummers."

"Sure, Harris.  Come on."  He walked him out to his cruiser, taking him over there.  "Bomb squad, right?"

"Yeah, not the one on the docks with ATF.  I went to their last one and nearly made the guy pass  out because he was dumb.  He thought an RPG rocket and a smart bomb could be the same device."

"Well, at least bomb squad could come in handy with the way you guys get into trouble."

Xander grinned. "I've already got a lot of explosives knowledge.  I used to work construction."  The guy gave him an odd look.  "I did.  Plus my mentor in high school taught me so we could blow up things in the desert.  He hunted vampires."

"Okay then," he decided, speeding up some.  "Is that your shirt?  If so, you need to get a new one.  It's tight and getting a bit worn around the collar."

"Wolfe's.  He fussed like a teenage girl over my shirt today."

"Yeah, I'm guessing OCD can be like that sometimes."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "Sayings?"

"Yes!  I even got a new one and he wouldn't let me wear it."

"Maybe someday soon," he offered, changing lanes and speeding up a bit more.  He finally got him to where the exercise was taking place, letting the person checking them in get Xander.  "CSI Harris.  I'm dropping him off."

"I've got him on the list.  Where is Lieutenant Caine?"

Xander leaned forward.  "Crime scene.  I can call."

"Sure, we don't want to hold it up."  He pointed.  "In there, CSI Harris."

"Thanks.  Thanks, Murphy, kiss the wifey for me."  He got out, heading inside.  The guy facing off with everyone gave him an odd look.  "Cross-training?"

"It is.  Are you Screwmans?"

"No, I'm Harris.  Ballistics under Caine."  He looked down the line.  "I'm guessing it's the guy on the end or the lady I don't know."  He looked at him again then down the other side.  "Hey, Peter, can you yell at Ryan?  He wouldn't let me wear the shirt you said I could."

"I can do that.  Where is H?"

"Scene.  Calleigh and Eric are there."

"As interesting as this is," the trainer sneered.  "We can get the lieutenant caught up.  He knows what he's doing.  I know I have at least one newbie."  The female raised her hand.  "How new?"

"Fairly, this is my first training exercise, sir.  I just signed on last week."

"You are?"


"Uh-huh."  He looked at Harris.  "You're not a newbie?"  Xander shook his head.  "What's your best time?"

"I don't keep track of that shit.  My goal is to get it disarmed before the clock's done and I get blown up.  I'm in the really good but not really fast category."  The guy blinked.  "I am.  Ask Peter."  He pointed at him.

"You ever blown anything up?"

"I refuse to comment on that due to the fact that the statute of limitations has not run out yet," he said coolly, staring him down.  "Want that in another language?"

The guy sneered at him.  "You're a smartass."  Xander nodded, smirking back.  "Where, on the table in front of me, have you disarmed up to?"  Xander looked then pointed.  "Excuse me?"

"What?  It was in an airport.  I had to get some help.  The green and blue wires on that model were twisted and I couldn't be sure where they went because there was an additional opaque housing over their destination point.  Since it only had three minutes there was no time to get gear there.  By myself, about three back.  I have missed the blue one in front of you.  Is that the new Helix design?"

The guy blinked.  "Are you from the Midwest?"

"Three hours outside LA."

"Ganger?" he sneered.

"Hell no.  Want me to take off the t-shirt so you can search for tattoos among the scars?  I'm from near the desert.  My mentor taught me C-4 by helping blow up snakes and things."  The man gave him a horrified look.  "He hunted vampires," he said with a grin.

"What did you blow up, boy?"

"I am not going to answer that question due to the statute of limitations still being in effect."  A hand covered his mouth so he looked back.  "It is."  He uncovered his mouth.  "Ask me in five years."

"I may be dead by then," he said bluntly.

"Then that's a reason not to get dead, huh?" Xander shot back.  "Now, the last guy's here, can we get on with it?  Please?"  He grinned sweetly.  "I'm only scary if you piss me off."

"You're in what field?"

Xander gave him this innocent little smile.  "Ballistics."

The guy shuddered.  "At least you brought your boss so he can leash you."

"No, he used to be bomb squad."

The guy moaned.  "Fine.  You know so much,  you work with the rookies for a few minutes.  Prove it."

"Sure.  Come on, kids.  Then I'll get the new Helix bomb and that blue one if that's not it.  Ooooh, and are we going over the multiplex bomb that they had to disarm?  It was an odd design."

"It was a Tomahawk inserted sideways," one of the guys said.  "They put the timer in the back and laid it on the capacitor."

"Oh.  It looked different."

He shrugged.  "We thought so too until we dismantled it."  Xander nodded, leading the kids off to the side to start with the easiest things:  things with fuses.  He looked at Horatio.  "Man, you have *quite* the boy there, H."

"I know.  He's a credit to the lab and the department.  I see someone made him change?"

"Wolfe fussed," Peter told him with a grin.  "He said that's his shirt too.  He's a lot tougher than he looks, Agent Brennan."

"If you say so.  Most of those sort think too much."

"No, he's very action oriented," Horatio assured him.  "That chase last month, that was him."  He picked up the blue example.  "Is this the new Helix design?"  It got snatched and the agent shook his head.  "He and I would both like to look at that one."

"We'll get there."  He looked around.  "Since we're all here, let's start with the review of what we do know, make sure everyone's up to date."  He looked at Horatio, getting stared at back.

"Horatio was one of us for three years," another guy said patiently.  "He's does the work and now when they like to try to blow him up."

"That's why we had a magnetized mine on one of the hummers the other day," Xander called.  "It made a pretty discus."

"Are you gay?" Screwmans asked.

Xander looked at her.  "It doesn't really matter, I wouldn't hit on you anyway.  You don't like guns."  She gave him a horrified look.  "Now, can we get back to work or is your paranoia going to make you do stupid shit?"  He stared her down and she sneered.  So he did something and handed it over.  "Fix it."  She looked at the bomb then at him. "Now.  Right now. You've only got another minute."  She fumbled but got the switches out.  "Good.  Now, can you do the same thing?" he asked the other guy, who made his own.  "Good.  Let's move on."  He got them moving into the next harder group.  He looked at the trainer.  "Got any wires and cutters?"  He gave him a horrified look.  "How else am I supposed to teach them?  That's how I was taught.  You make and then you unmake."  Horatio nodded that was how he had learned too.

"That is not how we do things."

"Then  you teach them so I can learn nifty new things," Xander said dryly.  "Because I already know this part very well."  He walked back over, taking the demonstration model the others were working with, leaning on the table.  "If I threw this against the wall, aiming to hit the blue button, what would happen?" he asked Horatio.

"It would probably explode.  It's got a mercury trigger."

"That's connected to the blue button," he said, pointing it out to him.  "What else does the blue button go to?" he asked the trainer.

Peter leaned over, pointing at something.  "It goes to that and it'd make the mercury switch break, which may or may not set it off since it's a level switch.  So you'd have to throw it perfectly level."

"Okay."  He went back over it.  "Do I cut the green wire?"

"The cut ones are always red with him," Peter told him.  Xander frowned so he showed him.  "There, Xander."

"That makes no sense.  Why cut that one when it leads nowhere?"  He showed him.  It led to the ground.  "It's the ground wire.  Wouldn't that make it go boom?"

Peter took it to look at, nodding.  "You've got a point."  He looked at the trainer.  "Miswired this one, Agent Brennan."

"I did not."

"Cutting the ground wouldn't interrupt the circuit.  It'd get us shocked," Xander told him simply.  "Before you ask, yes I can rewire my stereo as well," he said blandly when he opened his mouth.  "Had to, Giles couldn't do his own."  He took it back.  "Was it supposed to be the battery, to the mercury switch, or to the timer?"

Horatio took it to look at.  "To the switch, Xander."  He showed him.  "That one."

Xander nodded.  "I can do that."  He looked it over, then at the parts.  "Just keep stripping until you find it?"  They all nodded. "I can do that too but I need a new screwdriver.  I ran mine into the wall the other day when something popped up that needed to be stabbed."  He took the next one, then put it aside.  "Done that one recently.  Horatio, can you hand me the red one two down that way?"  It was handed over. "Thanks."  He looked at it, starting the taking apart process.  "Hmm.  Another red ground wire."  Peter looked then nodded.  He looked at the agent.  "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"  He stomped off, nearly smoking in his anger.  "Okay then.  Sorry!" he called, absently waving a hand while he got back to work.  "This one?" he suggested.

Peter looked.  "Secondary.  Look at the mass.  Get the charge wire then that one, Xander."  Xander frowned, finding it, then nodded.  "That is a new design."  Someone else walked in and slammed the building's door.  "Hey, Agent Tipps."

Xander looked back and waved.  "Hey, Bob.  He kept coding the ground wire red."  He got back to work.  "Cut or pull?"

"Cut to be safe and make sure it can't get back together again."

"Okay, so cut and duct tape," he agreed, letting Horatio have that one.  Agent Bob grabbed him by the shoulder, making him kick back at him.  "Get off!  You're not my roommate!"  He glared.  "Are you possessed?"  Horatio coughed.  "He looks possessed."

"He's not possessed, I think he's mad, Xander," Horatio offered calmly.

Xander looked at Bob.  "Are you sure you're not possessed?"  The man grunted and drug him off to yell at him.  "What!  Peter said the cut wires were red.  He was coding the ground wires red instead.  Of course I pointed it out!"

"You can't tell us what you blew up?" he asked.

"Not for five more years."

"What?" he asked impatiently.

"It was necessary."

"I know your other speciality, Harris.  What?"


"Figures."  He walked back to the table shaking his head.  "At least it was solved."

"With a low death rate that had nothing to do with the explosion," Xander agreed, following him back.  He showed him the design.  "See?"

"He did color code them wrong.  Go help the newbies."

"He didn't like that I was teaching them to make the bombs first."

He looked over then at him.  "I don't blame him, you're dangerous and odd.  Go help the new kids.  I'll get you the manuals so you can go over them with Horatio.  That way you don't warp the bomb squad guys."  They all laughed and shook their heads.  "Yes, he will.  Exposure does that to others.  Look at Wolfe."

"Not fair," Xander complained, going over there.  He looked at the table, then at the sheepish guy.  "Okay, when I said to make them so you could take them apart, that meant you should be able to take them apart before they go off.  I would do that right this second."  The guy moaned, getting down to undo what he had done.  Xander took the clippers and clipped it, then walked him over to Horatio.  "Here, you have patience.  This is why I'll never have kids for Willow to warp."  He went back to teaching her.  "Okay, let's go to the next one."  He built something slowly, letting her see it.  "Undo it."  She looked then snipped a wire.  He shook his head, pointing at the counter.  Still going.  She whimpered and looked around.  "Boom.  Battery."  She moaned, finding it and cutting it.  "Good.  Much better.  Now you do it.  From scratch."  She nodded, settling in on her stool to build her own and then disarm it.  He was a demanding teacher but she had wanted to be on bomb squad and he was teaching her what she needed to know.


Xander walked into the house that night.  "Agent Bob said I'm an asshole.  If I ever have kids he's telling CPS I have no patience and should not have them."

"If you have kids, Willow's in trouble," Speed called from the kitchen. "I'll kill her myself."  He leaned out of the kitchen, looking at him.  "What happened?"

"The trainer was coding the wires we're to cut wrong.  A few of us pointed it out but I'm not one of the guys."  He grimaced.  "So I ended up mostly teaching the new kids things.  Though I did get to see a few new designs.  We'll see if they stick in my head or not."  He sat down at their table, looking at the man cooking.  "How was class?"

"Boring.  Very boring.  I swear the teacher has sleeping pills in her sweat."  He shook his head, going back to browning the hamburger.  "We're having a casserole."

"Like I care."

"Point.  It won't be poisonous, so you won't care."  He looked at him.  "That is not your t- shirt."

"Ryan wouldn't let me change back."

"I knew I liked the substitute for a reason."  Xander growled.  "Don't even think about it. Your t-shirt earlier could have insulted someone."

"One of them helped me pick it out."

"Even then it could have insulted someone."

Xander shrugged.  "Yay.  I could've worn one of the others but he wouldn't let me do that either.  So instead I got hit on all day at my later crime scene."

"That is a bit tight."

"Not like he's built like me."

"Also true.  Then again, you're not as cut as he is."  Xander glared at him.  "You're not. You're the one who doesn't do all the situps."

"Bite me."

Speed smirked at him.  "Ah, an uncomfortable truth."  Xander took off his shirt, showing off his very well-built chest muscles.  "You've gained weight in the last year or so, Xander.  Since you had that flu."

"It's your fault.  You're the cook."  He got up, heading upstairs to change and put on comfortable clothing.  He came back down when someone knocked, letting Horatio in.  "What's up?"

"Manuals?"  He handed them over.  "Bob did apologize to me, Xander."

"I'm glad he did because I'm still not sorry I kicked his ass."

Horatio gave him a gentle smile.  "Me either.  Are you all right?"

"Just tired."  He got his forehead tested.  "It's not a return of the flu I get every two years."

"As long as you're sure."  He gave him a look.  "Ryan was also talked to about his fit this morning on your t-shirt.  He's sticking to his complaints on this one.  He thinks it's a threat too."  Xander shook his head.  "I know.  Peter told the rest of us it was supposed to be a joke shirt."  He got a smirk from Speed.  "Though he did warn me this morning that you were wearing it."

"Then someone's getting thumped all night with nightmares."

"Don't be too mean to him," Horatio offered.  "He was trying to help."

"He just called me fat too."  He put the manuals in the living room and came back.  "Staying for dinner?  He said he's making some sort of casserole stuff."

Horatio gave him a look.  "No, I think I'll let you pounce him for the fat comment."  Xander shook his head.  "You will."

"I won't be.  I know I'm better built than Wolfe is."

"You are both very well built.  The differences could be biological."  Xander shook his head.  "Fine.  You two can have a tiff tonight.  Call and tell me if things get out of hand."

"I won't hurt him."

"I know that, but that doesn't mean you haven't ended up on my doorstep at two in the morning before," he reminded him gently.  Xander grimaced but nodded.  "Good boy.  I'll let you to have that fight.  I'll see you tomorrow, Xander."  He gave him a pat on the arm then left, going home.

"See, even he said you're wrong."

"No, he said it was a different biology that made Wolfe more cut," Speed shot back.

"It's not like he's demonic."

"Thankfully.  Hate to see him scared of you."  Xander glared and went back upstairs.  "I'll call when it's dinner time."

"No need, thanks."  He slammed the bedroom door, making Speed wince.

"Yup, I'm getting thumped all night with nightmares," he sighed, going back to work.  He was still hungry and Xander would need lunch.


Xander looked at Maxine the next morning.  "Can you beat the shit out of Tim for me?  He said I'm fat."

She nodded slowly.  "Sure.  I can do that."  He beamed and went to work.  She went to call Tim.  "You called my boy fat?"  He muttered something and hung up.  So she called back.  "You called Xander fat?"  She listened to the complaining teacher.  "Who in the hell are you to get in the middle of this personal disagreement?  Good!  Then get off your ass, I can teach him better and I *am* a DNA Goddess, buddy."  The man on the other end shuddered and hung up on her.  She smirked.  She'd get Tim back for her poor boy later.  She went to talk to Alexx.  "I'm going to have to thump Tim for Xander.  So you can fuss if you want."

"What did my boy do this time?" she sighed, shaking her head.

"Called Xander fat."

Alexx shook her head.  "The boy's not."

"Probably complaining about the t-shirt yesterday," she admitted.  Horatio walked in.  "I'll go thump Tim at lunch."

"They had a disagreement because Tim thought that Mr. Wolfe was a bit more cut."

She giggled, shaking her head, Alexx doing the same.  "Nope, sorry.  Ryan's built but Xander's stacked.  Tim needs his eyes checked."  Alexx nodded at that.  "So, I'll thump him, Alexx can baby him later on, and then Xander will quit pouting.  All around lunch."  She walked out, going back to work.

Horatio shook his head.  "I don't want to know," he decided.  "Alexx, do you have anything yet?"

"I may have magic fingers, but she's my second body today, Horatio.  Not yet."

"I'll come back later then.  Page me if you get done before then."  He walked off, going to take a tylenol and tell Xander to turn his music back down.  He found the music going in ballistics but no Xander.  "Xander?" he called, moving back into the hallway.  "Valera?"  She leaned out of DNA.  "Have you seen Xander?"

"No.  His music went up a minute ago but I don't know where he went, Horatio."  Xander appeared behind him, smoking around the edges and looking discontent.  "Sudden call?"

"Willow," he agreed, looking at Horatio.  "She's very sorry she summoned me like I'm the remote and so is the demon.  Next time she'll know how to handle the simple thing."  He walked into his lab, turning down the music again.

Horatio went to take that tylenol.  He didn't want to know what had happened or why Xander was smoking.  He looked down there, he was still smoking.  He walked down there.  "Xander, you're going to set off the smoke detectors."

"It's holy smoke, Horatio.  Dry ice."  He took off his t-shirt, flicking off a piece so it could smoke on the floor.  "Give me ten more?"

"Go ahead."

Xander nodded, walking outside to shake his shirt off.  It was hotter outside so it evaporated more quickly.  One of the patrol officers gave him an odd look.  "Dry ice."


He looked at him.  "Another one of those things you don't usually want to hear about, Charles."

"Oh, good!  I like those when I don't have to hear about them."  He walked inside much happier with that.  Though he did notice a lot of women were staring outside.  He leaned next to one.  "He's still gay."

"He's eye candy, what do I care?" she shot back.  "You never see how good he looks under those loose t-shirts of his."  He turned around, pulling on his shirt.  "Shoot."

"He could use some more definition."

"He has bloating and his Tim baby cooks too much," she told him.  She smirked at him.  "Give him two midols and in a few hours he'll look very good."  She went to conspire with her fellow females on the male appreciation society.  One did give Xander some water with the explanation that he looked a bit dehydrated.  He smiled and went back to work, letting them all turn to look at his ass.  Wolfe and Delko came in later and Wolfe got a few looks.  His t-shirt was a bit tight today.  It hinted at how he was built.  Delko gave them all smirks.  They didn't care.  Caine had good taste in his boys.


Xander walked in that night, weathering the glare.  "Someone asked me to wear clubbing clothes in again.  She thinks I've got a bit of bloat."

"You do."  Tim moved the ice pack to the other side of his bruised arm.  "I should spank you for making Maxine hit me."

"Next time don't call me fat."  He went upstairs to try on his favorite leathers.  They were a bit tight but not around the waist. They were looser around the waist.  They were tighter across his butt and thighs.  He came back down, holding out the waist.  "It moved to my ass."

Speed looked, then shook his head.  "No, not in the least, Xander.  I can see muscle mass from here."  Xander blushed at that.  "Try on the other ones."  Xander nodded, going to do that.  He came down with them buttoned, the first time in a year for that, and very stretched over his thighs.  "Someone gained muscle in other areas."

"That means I have to go shopping again," Xander complained.

"Yup, sure will," Speed agreed, staring at the ass of doom.  "Then why aren't your abs showing up properly?"

"One of them thought that's where I'm bloated."

"Not really."  He shrugged then got up to run a hand over his property.  "Can you even dance in those?"  Xander nodded, moving for him.  "Hmmm."  Xander grinned, backing off.  "Meany."

Xander winked.  "Of course I am.  I did get dared to wear clubbing clothes to work."

"Horatio would make you change."

"I'm not due in the field."

"No, Xander.  He would scream at you for letting the perverts at the station get their fill of the eye candy."


"I know.  But it'd still happen.  C'mere?"  Xander moved closer again, letting him run another hand over the firm ass, giving it a squeeze.  "Not as squeezable as usual."  Xander pouted.  "It's harder.  What are you doing for exercise?"  Xander shrugged, going to take them off and then go down to the gym they had in this building.  That's why they had come to this apartment after two weeks of looking.  It had a gym for the residents and it had security if something was going to happen.  Tim put his ice pack back into the freezer, going down to watch him.  "Do more of the crunch stuff, Xander."

"I think they're right and it's too much water weight."

"It could be.  Do them anyway."  Xander went to do those.  Speed leaned against a wall to watch him, appreciating the view very much.  His cellphone rang, making him pat himself down until he found it.  "Yeah?"  He listened.  "We're in the gym, Eric.  Yeah, there.  Thanks."  He hung up but he was still watching.  "Eric's on his way down."

"Okay."  He got back to work.  "You could join me."

"Are you saying I'm fat?"

"No, just that you'll have to pass that physical next month, dear."  He grinned at him.  "Can you?"

"Yeah, the same as you can."  He came over, getting to work on the arm pulls. They were his weaker area at the moment.  Eric walked in.  "Hey."

"Hey."  He stared at Xander, then shook his head quickly.  "No wonder the women stare."

"He got dared to wear clubbing clothes in tomorrow."

"I bet.  I know someone taunted Wolfe that his current clothes were going to make them all pout."  He came over, not staring at Xander's ass anymore.  Speed was possessive.  "Horatio said that you're not to wear anything too tight.  The underground got back to him and he's upset that they're treating us like eye candy."

"Is he jealous?" Speed asked.

"H?  Probably not.  Though if he comes in wearing that one blue suit tomorrow...."  He grinned, patting Xander on the back.  "You can't erase months of not doing them in one night."

Xander gave him a confused look.  "I always do two hundred crunches, Eric."  He went back to them.  "Are you taking Tim again?"

"I am.  There's a basketball game on and I wanted to know if he wanted to watch it with me."

"I can do that," Tim agreed, grinning at Xander.  "Don't wait up."

"I never do.  I snuggle when you get in."  Tim smiled, walking out with Eric while Xander got back to his crunches.  He had forgotten them for nearly a week.


Eric looked at the book on the table at his newest scene a few days later, picking it up to look at the title.  He put it back down after noting it on his notepad.  Then he moved on.  He wasn't aware he had picked up a contagion.  He felt perfectly normal, until the dreams started that night.

Two days later he looked like hell.  He knew he looked like hell.  That's why he went to Horatio.  "Do I look as bad as I feel?"

"You look like you haven't slept in a week," he said, giving him a once-over.  His clothes were less than immaculate.  He looked tired.  "Nightmares?"  Eric nodded, flopping down into the chair across from him.  "About a case?"

"No, I wish.  Roman times."

Horatio blinked.  "Excuse me?"

"That's what's keeping me up.  I keep waking up screaming and I don't know why, H.  All I know is I'm in a really short toga looking thing.  My hair's kinda long and a bit curly.  I'm serving wine to a group of men.  I turn when I feel a touch to my shoulder and I wake up screaming every single time.  Four and five times a night.  Once so loud the neighbors called the cops."  He scrubbed his face.  "I don't know what this is."

"Should you maybe talk to  a psychologist?" he offered.

"I'm wondering if I shouldn't talk to the family priest."

"I'll call Tim."

"He'll laugh, H.  You know he will."

"It's work related, he'll laugh afterward."

"No, he'll snicker while he works."

"Fine, I'll call Xander."  He called down to ballistics.  "Can I have Xander in my office for a few, Calleigh?  Thank you."  He hung up and Xander came trotting up a few minutes later.  "Tell him."

Xander looked at him.  "Nightmares?"  He closed the door.  "I make a hell of a therapist, Eric."

"Dreams.  Roman slaveboy dreams."

Xander blinked, then just nodded.  "Okay.  Are you waking up because of something you're doing in the dreams, something someone else is doing in the dreams, and do you know if this sort of past-life overflow has happened before?  Or are you thinking possession?"

"I don't know.  I don't care," he told him.  "Just make it stop?" he pleaded.

"The easiest way is usually to let the dream play through," Xander admitted.

"Someone touches my shoulder in it and I wake up screaming," Eric told him.  "Like got the cops called on me screaming."

"Hey, John?" Xander called.  He phased in, looking confused.  "Can you see if Eric's carrying a passenger?"

"If he's pregnant, someone's in trouble."

"Not that sort," he complained.  John shrugged, floating over to look at Eric, then pointing.  Xander came over to cast a small tell.  "Yeah, you're possessed.  How does it feel to suck in spirits like I do, Eric?"   The poor guy moaned, leaning forward to put his head on the desk.

"Can we cure this, Xander?" Horatio asked.

"Sure, but I need to know what he got it from."

"I haven't done anything out of the ordinary except for scenes," Eric said, lifting his head to look at him.  "I've had three scenes.  You can go through the evidence."

"I can do that.  Go to my house.  It's shielded.  John, can you make sure he makes it there?"

"Sure, kid.  C'mon, Delko.  Let's head home.  The shields could help some.  Or at least make you quit waking up."  Eric nodded, heading out with him, John phasing back out of sight so no one would wonder.

Xander looked at Horatio.  "Has anyone else felt anything odd?"

"No.  One case he worked with me, one with Calleigh, and one with Ryan."

"Okay.  Let me figure out where it came from.  I need my other case."  He went to grab it from Trace, it had the bigger locking cabinet.  He saw Maxine's terrified look.  "Nothing attacking.  Something odd I need to check from a few scenes," he soothed.  She smiled at that and nodded.  "Just ignore me."  He headed into the evidence locker, finding Ryan in there.  "I need all the evidence from Eric's last three cases.  Do you know which one they are?"

Ryan gave him an odd look.  "Please tell me it's not another slime in the machine test?" he begged.

"No, I think something was tainted.  You'd be surprised how many tainted and demon- containing things the average home has in it."  He found things sealed in Eric's name with the right date.  "Yours with him?  We can start there so I can weed it out first."

"Um, here," he said, shoving over his.  He put two of the boxes back, getting another two.  One was in the layout room being worked on so he shrugged at the tech.  "Xander said something at one of Delko's last three cases was tainted.  He needs to check it over."

The tech stepped away, holding up his hands.  "I'm not touching it until he clears it.  That's worse than radiation to me, Wolfe."

"Thanks.  Xander?"  He came in, shaking a small aerosol can.  "Will that damage evidence?"

"No, it's a new holy water application Willow is trying out.  If not, I might have to holy smoke it to make sure."  The tech nodded at that, getting out of the way.  "Holy water is water with salt and a blessing on it, guys.  Really.  She made it from purified water."  He started on one end, moving down the table.  He found a few things and put them aside.  He put on the special glasses Willow had sent for his birthday.  "Telling spells on them," he explained.  One other thing shone at him.  He held it up.  "Was this person doing magic?  These are working clothes.  That's a robe."

"It looks like a long tunic," Ryan said.

"Most working clothes aren't that fancy, Ryan.  Just all natural and hand-made if possible."  He put it aside.  "You need to see if she was a Wiccan."

"Um, she didn't have a cat or a lot of candles," Ryan said.

Xander glared at him.  "Bad stereotypes, Ryan."

"Sorry.  I'll go ask her girlfriend."

"Please.  And ask her if her working attire was near her when she died?"

"These aren't from the victim, they're from the person doing the killing," Ryan said.

"Yeah, I was fuming for blood," the tech admitted.

Xander looked at it then grabbed the blacklight to look at the robe, handing it over. "That's probably animal blood.  You'll need to check."  He went back to the other stuff.  He sniffed one.  "Working attire."  He looked at the next one, sniffing it.  Then he turned and sneezed.  "Cleaning ritual," he said, coughing a bit.  "She smudged herself."  He handed that over.  He got into the last one, shaking his head.  "Just nasty on this one.  Check it for blood."  He handed it over, going back to evidence.  He found Calleigh in there fussing things.  "Do not touch!"  She backed off.  "Eric may have gotten hit with something."  She backed away farther.  "Thank you.  Your case with him?"

"Yeah.  That's mine."  He misted the spray over it.  "What is that?"

"Holy spray."  He grinned.  "Willow before you ask."  He got back to work, finding something.  He held up the small pendant.  Then he pulled out a small jar from his other case, dipping the necklace inside it.  It screamed and smoked but the demon died.  "It had something in it.  Did Eric touch this one?"

"No.  No, I gathered that.  I remember gathering it."

He looked at her, then misted the spray over her.  "You're fine.  It couldn't get through the gloves."  He went back to looking, letting her seal back up the pendant.  He came to the last case, looking it over.  He frowned, picking up something.  He misted it.  Nothing.  Nothing from his glasses.  "Crap."  He walked it to fingerprints.  "Can I borrow the spare fumer?"

"Will it turn everything purple for the next week again?" she demanded.  He nodded. "Then go find a box, Xander.  Make your own."

He grabbed an empty box from the corner and a little tin to put the superglue fuming solution into, heading outside with the thing.  He came back and grabbed the book, getting frowns.  "Have we swabbed these for DNA and trace?  Gotten fingerprints?"  Calleigh nodded.  "Good."  He headed back outside, noticing one of the patrol guys was standing there.  "Fuming it specially but it can turn things purple."

"Won't it damage the book?"

"No, not unless it was holding something before."  He stuck them both into the box, then lit the herbs he put in the fuming tin, sliding it into the top of the box.  He stepped back, watching as the purpley/green smoke floated out, coming back a minute later to look.  "Oh, shit," he said.  The officer backed away in a hurry. "No, you.  Not dangerous to you."  He lifted the box, letting the herb tin fall onto the pavement.  "Let it burn out, it won't hurt anything."  That got a nod and Xander walked the box inside, right up to Horatio's office.  "Your case with him?" he said.  Horatio looked then nodded quickly.  "Good.  Wonderful.  The book held a soul.  The dress in there held a different soul."  He looked at him, then went to get his case, bringing it back up there, using the misting can to go over Horatio's head, making him flinch and moan when it hit him.  "Huh.  You react to holy water, boss."

Horatio moaned.  "How bad?"

"Very in your case.  Head to my house.  I'll need to go herb shopping on the way home this afternoon.  If Tim's there, tell him to lock you two away from each other.  If you're in the same room I don't know if those two want to hurt each other or not.  Take the box.  John?"  He phased back in. "Another one to bring home."

"You sure?"

"He flinched at holy water."

"Okay then.  We know he's not demonic."  He followed Horatio down to his hummer with the box, phasing back in once he was inside.  "Interesting.  I'm wondering which one of you got which."

"I don't care at the moment as long as it doesn't make me crash or hurt Eric," Horatio told him, backing out of his space.  He felt a pull and groaned.  John settled into his body, taking him over to drive them home.  He even got him inside the house, where Horatio went limp as the other thing quit trying to take him over.  "Thank you, John."

"Not an issue.  Hit the working room, Caine.  Eric's in their room."  He nodded, bringing the box that way.  Speed rushed in a half-hour later.  "Hey, Eric's napping on your bed fighting to stay asleep from his dream.  I had to possess Horatio to get him here.  The holy smoke in a can works well too."

"Good!"  He went to check on Eric first, stroking over his hair.  It worked with Xander when he had nightmares.  Eric suddenly sat up, panting and screaming.  "Hey, noisy."  Eric looked at him.  "Let's go over the dream first, Eric.  Let's get all the details you can remember, okay?  If we have to, we can move to hypnosis to get them."  Eric hugged him.  "I know but we'll handle it."

"I hope so.  I want to sleep."

John floated in.  "Bright boy found two things in one of your cases.  Horatio's in the work area," he told Speed.

"It's more heavily shielded.  It's a good place for H," he agreed, getting back to it.  "Now, let's start in detail."

Eric sighed but nodded, settling in to tell him everything, even if he did giggle about him waking up before the gay stuff started.


Xander walked up to the house, frowning at the broken tape.  He rang the bell, looking at the woman who answered. "CSI Harris, ma'am, secondary CSI on this case.  I need to look at a few things to compare them to the photos."   He stepped inside.  "I wasn't aware the house had been released."

"Our lawyer told us that it was once the body was released."

"No, ma'am, not while there's an evidence sticker on the door.  Breaking that sticker could put you in jail and make you pay a fairy hefty fine for messing with a crime scene," he said, taking off his sunglasses, hanging them on his t-shirt's collar.  "I'll need you and whoever else is in here to step outside please?"

"This is our house now," a man said.

"Sir, it's still an open crime scene since the sticker's on the door.  You're not supposed to be in here."

"I want you to leave."

"Officers?" Xander called.  One stepped in.  "Please call to see if this house was indeed released?"  He nodded, using his shoulder radio to do that.  "Until then, I need to compare some spots to some of the crime scene photos."  He walked past him, glancing into the various rooms.  He walked into the sitting room, looking at the table, taking out his little can to spray over it.  His glasses showed a slight residue and he used the special digital camera and filter system to take pictures of it.  He moved on.  "That old book, he had it simply sitting out on that table all the time?"

"He had recently bought it.  He was a bit...odd, claiming it had something stuffed inside it."

Xander looked at her.  "I know the provenance of that book, ma'am."  She gaped.  "I used to work with the organization the former owner worked with.  I'm well aware of what he had in his private library and why.  That's why I got put onto this case.  He didn't keep things like that in a special locking system, in a special bookcase?  Nothing like that?  Most owners of those type of materials do so."  They both shook their heads, gaping in horror.  "Ah."  He walked on, going to look for others.  He found the matching spirit in another one.  "We found a wedding dress, circa 1880, near the body.  Do you know when he got that?"

"Do you think it's related to those sort of buys?" the male said.

Xander looked at him.  "It wouldn't be the first time, sir.  How much did he pay for the book?"

"About sixty thousand dollars thrown away on a mediocre story because of it supposedly being possessed," he said grimly.

"It was originally valued at over half a million because of the spirit supposedly trapped in the book.  The dress, do we know anything about it?  A family heirloom perhaps?"  The female shook her head slowly again.  "Do you know where he kept his file of artifacts he bought?  That could help some."

"In his office," she said, leading him that way.

The officer stepped in.  "The house was not released," he reported.

"Thank you.  Please get the name of the lawyer who told them it was because he got them into trouble.  You can have as much fun threatening him as you want, Officer."  That got a smirk.  "Thank you."  He walked into the office, looking around.  He saw a small urn encased in a solid plastic box, smiling.  "Probably the best place for that; most of the people who do those sort of things would've used silver so it couldn't ever be gotten free."  He hummed, heading over to get the buy file.  He found the wedding dress and grimaced.  "Not good."

"Do you think they did it?"

"No, but the same organization keeps track of people who dabble for lack of a better word in these sort of artifacts and this dress has a history as well.  See, that's a link to the specialized database we helped set up one year."  He looked over it again, bagging the folder.  "Okay.  The house is still supposed to be sealed.  I can let you pack an outfit for his funeral, get some specific things for few nights stay, or any vital paperwork, like wills, but I will have to check it before you take it out and I will have to seal the house again since it was not released, ma'am."

"We don't live here," the man said from the doorway, sounding scoffing.  "We would never live here.  We came to find his dog Muffy."

Xander whistled.  "Muffy!" he bellowed.  The dog trotted out, looking very bad for a zombie.  "Huh."  They looked and she screamed, passing out.  He looked down at her.  "There's worse than that in this room alone," he said blandly.  He looked at the husband.  "Did you want to pick out something for him to wear at the funeral as well?"  He put down the evidence bag and his case, picking her up to hand her over.  "Sit, Muffy."  She sat, barking at him.  "Good zombie dog."  He smiled.  "Stay."  He looked at the stunned man.  "He dabbled.  I worked with ones who were *much* worse.  Do you need to grab anything like his will?  I'll have to check anything you bring out."

"Um, please," he agreed, going to find it in his desk.  The important papers folder was checked and Xander took out two things.  "That's part of his will."

"No, that's who to call to take care of the house.  I'll make the call myself so they know what's going on."  That got a smirk.  "Really.  Unless you want to explain Muffy to him?"

"No, I'd rather not," he admitted, gathering his wife and heading out.  "Can you, um, have someone deal with that?"

"I can.  Do you want her buried here?"

"Not if she'll come back like some bad Stephen King book."

He considered it, leaning against the doorframe.  "No, shouldn't happen."

"Then please.  That can't be normal."

"Got it."  He handed over his card.  "You can call me personally and I'll put you in touch with the people who are going to be cleaning up the mess he left lying around. All right?"  They nodded, her being awake enough to get down and scramble into the car.  He followed.  Xander called Calleigh.  "It's me, boss.  Pull out my blue phone book and call the entry for Gunn please?"  He waited while she did that, patching him through. "It's Xander.  Do you guys have Ty and them out there?  I've got a whole house full of artifacts and a zombie dog.  Newly dead guy and he wanted Ty's former boss Eric to deal with it. Two possessed coworkers, Gunn.  Yeah, call me when they get to Miami.  I'm having the house sealed."  He hung up, looking at the officer.  "This house is to be sealed. The next person in here had better be me or someone I bring."  The officer nodded, going to call his boss to have someone sit on the house.  Xander found a sword, testing it before picking it up.  It didn't react to the holy water spray.  He walked back to the study.  "Hate to do this to you, girl, but better now than later, right?  That way you're at peace.  Hold still."  She barked, growling at him.  He stared her down.  She lunged and he cut off her head.  The dust floated down and he sighed.  "At least she was easy."  He went to finish searching the desk for what he needed.  He held up the key.  "Oh, damn it, to the London building's vaults.  I'll have to deal with Giles again," he complained, bagging that as well.  Someone would break in here to get that.  He walked out the new evidence, coming back to double seal the door this time.  He signed it 'CSI Harris' and looked at the officer.  "Someone may try to sneak in.  If you catch them, refer them to me."

"What about the dog?  I heard the bark."  Xander dusted his shirt off and he gaped.  "It was a what?"

"Bad Stephen King remake.  Zombie.  Just stay out of the house, keep everyone else out of the house, I'll be at the office and then at home if you need me.  I've got my cell."  That got a quick nod.  "Now you know why I brought you.  You have sense.  One of the other guys tried to go in after I told him not to."

"He dead?"

"Nearly.  Fortunately I look good with a sword so I stay in practice."  He walked the evidence out to his hummer, getting in to head back to the office.  Once there he called from ballistics.  "It's me," he announced.  "I double sealed the house with my personal name on it, Horatio.  Because he had enough Watchery stuff in there to draw them to raid the house.  Actually, I did confiscate something they'd be searching for.  Just in case.  I ran the family off by calling the dog.  It was a zombie."  He heard the splutter.  "I dusted it.  We're all good there.  His papers had who he wanted to clean things up for him.  It'll stay sealed until I bring them over there.  The family fled.  They thought he was a crackpot but he was a dabbler."  He hung up, heading down to the morgue.  "Hey, Alexx, do we have Horatio and Eric's case?  The old guy who dabbled in the Watchery stuff?"  The kids in there on the anti-drunk driving tour gave him an odd look.  "Sorry.  Point?"  She pointed and he opened the door, looking at the body.  He found the marks on his arms.  "Hmm.  Mason."  He found a few more than got the blacklight and the special glasses, looking for blacklight tattoos.  They were newer but he knew a good grouping of paranormal people were using them now for ID.  He had his old Sunnydale driver's license, it was enough.  He found the one he was looking for on the guy's foot, grimacing.  "Crap."  He took a picture of it and closed the drawer, grabbing one of the tags.  "I need to special process this one, Alexx."

"I'll have him pulled out tonight.  He leaves tomorrow, sugar."

"Good to know.  Scared his family to death when I found them in his house."  He walked off, going to bring up the picture and call up the information on that book and the dress.  Calleigh and Ryan both walked into the lab he was in.  "Hey."

"What's that?"

"The new Watcher's database.  When the original group got blown to hell and a bunch of them were killed before Sunnydale fell it let a lot of strange crap into the hands of dabblers, like this guy.  We've got a database of things we knew had gotten into the wrong hands in case they came up."  He called with one hand while he typed with the other.  "Willow, I need the password please.  No, I had a Frederick J. Marsh down here in Miami who died.  Houseful.  He said to let Ty's people clean it.  Two possessions," he admitted.  "Dusted the zombie dog.  Yeah, that one."  He waited while she added him.  "Thank you.  Tell Giles not to let them come.  His vault key to the London Vault is in police custody and if they raid the station we'll kill them.  His family is freaked out.  Muffy was a clear zombie when she bounced out to greet them."  He hung up, finding the entries.  He printed off the information files on both and one other thing, then made another note into that file.  Sealed in solid plastic made it pretty to look at but if it could be cracked they were all in trouble when that demon got free.  He added notes about where the other two had been found and he had other artifacts awaiting cleaning by Ty, though he put his full name, and then logged off, taking them off with him.  He grabbed his old case, waving.  "Heading home, boss.  Call me, I've got my cell.  I sealed the house personally," he called as he walked past ballistics.

"I want a report," she called.

"Yell it at Tim.  I'm going to be exhausted when I come in tomorrow," he called back, getting onto the elevator with Frank, who shuddered at the sight of his demon ballistics case.  "Yeah, one of those things."

"Is that where Horatio is?"

"Yuppers.  My work room."

"Great.  I'll follow you home."

Xander looked at him, turning off the elevator before the doors opened.  "He's possessed right now, Frank," he said quietly.  "He would've crashed the hummer if John hadn't stepped in."

"Never mind, I'll get with him tomorrow sometime," he decided, turning back on the elevator.  The doors opened and Xander waved before hiking out to his car with his case.  Frank shuddered, getting off to go stand in the sun until he felt warm again.


Xander made it home an hour later, finding a vampire in his house.  "Hey, Spike."  He nodded, walking around him.  "How's death going?"

"Pretty fair. Ty's people got attacked earlier."

"Pity.  He said them or Grungy Boys."

"They've been gone now for over a year."

Xander looked at him.  "Does Giles want me to do it?"  Spike nodded.  "Does everyone else want me to deal with it?"  That got a smirk and a nod.  "Great.  Go home."  Spike nodded, touching the thing at his neck, telling Willow he needed to come home.  He walked into his work area, finding them together.  "Hey, looks like we may have to clean the crime scene.  He was a dabbler.  A wannabe Watcher.  Though he did have access to the vault.  He was a FreeMason as well."  He set down his case, laying out the new purchases.  "Eric?" he called.  He came jogging down the stairs.  "It'll be a while, we will have to go through the entire dream.  The book had a soul trapped and it's showing you what happened.  Since there's a mystery about what happened to him, you'll have to relive it under hypnosis.  Tim can do that or I can do that, but he'll have to drop you for me.  I'm no good at it."

"I'll let him."

"Okay."  He handed over the sheet to him.  "Hand that to Tim."  He handed over a bag.  "That was waiting on him at the usual store.  Tell him Ty's group got attacked and apparently we're cleaning the house."  He nodded, going to pass on that message.  He closed the door, looking at Horatio.  He sighed.  "Yours... well, there was a bit of an issue."  He let him read the information sheet.  "I took the time to look it up in the artifact guide the Watchers put out a few decades back.  The girl was not going to marry him.  She was being made to marry.  She had her lover.  Her very feminine lady's maid.  They were going to run away but her mother caught them and had the priest drug her until the marriage.  She woke up beforehand and killed herself in the wedding dress you touched.  Have you had odd dreams?  Odd feelings?  The desire to go dance with Calleigh because that was one of her favorite things to do.  Sneak into the garden to dance with her girlfriend."

Horatio sat down, frowning.  "I have wanted to dance with Calleigh," he admitted.  "How did you know?"

"Her lover was blonde."  He moved closer.  "We have two choices.  You're more fully possessed than Eric.  She tried to crash the car on you out of panic."  He could see his hands balling up into fists and put his hands over them.  "Merry, it's Xander.  I'm here to help you.  You staying in him will only hurt Horatio.  Can you talk to me?"  He saw Horatio's eyes change.  Not the color or the size, just the expression in them.  "Merry?  I'm a Watcher, sweetie.  I'm here to *help*.  I'm not going to force you to marry anyone.  All I want to do is to get you out of Horatio."  He nodded.  "You can talk to me.  My white lighter is upstairs.  I'm not trying to gang up on you, I don't want to hurt you or harm you.  I'm not here to do what your mother did either. Okay?"  She nodded.  "Good girl.  Now, what do you need to move on?"

"Her," she said in a tiny voice.

"Just a dance?"

"I miss her."

"I know you do."  He stroked Horatio's forehead.  "The problem is that you're in a guy's body."  She nodded, biting her lip.  "So, we need to get you out of there.  Before it hurts him.  I like Horatio, he puts up with me."  She giggled and smiled.  "Okay, so if I can arrange a dance, would you come out?"  She nodded.  "No harming Horatio at all?"

"No, I won't hurt him," she promised. "I panicked earlier.  We were in a cage."

"That's a horseless carriage," Xander told her.  "It's the twenty-first century."  She gaped then started to cry.  "Shhh, we have someone here who looks kinda like your girlfriend and if we can we'll let her come down to dance with you.  If not, maybe she'll be enough for you to call her back to you?"

"Do you think you can?"

"It depends on if she's moved on or not, sweetie.  Okay, let's try this and if it doesn't work I'll have you move to something better to inhabit than that dress."  He heard Eric yell.  "Quit!" he bellowed.  He looked at her again. "Sorry, he got possessed by a book."

She smiled. "I saw the book.  The poor boy."  She stroked his cheek.  "Can I dance with the pretty blonde one?"

"You can dance with the pretty blonde one if you want," he promised, smiling at her.  "Do you know who killed the person who bought and stored the dress?"

She nodded.  "He had the tattoo."  She touched his arm.  "Here.  He stripped down to clean up the mess."

"I'll look into that."  He smiled. "Okay, you can wander around but leave Eric alone, okay?"  She smiled and nodded, walking Horatio out to look around the kitchen and then outside.  Xander jogged up the stairs, tapping before walking in.  "Problems?"

"Yeah, he had an extreme aversion to the gay stuff that went on before he died," Speed told him.

"Ah.  One of those.  Remind him it's not him it's being done to, it's the one in him.  I've got Merry set up to do one last dance with Calleigh later on.  I've got to call and tell her that.  We should be fine there."  He closed the door and headed downstairs, answering the knock at the door.  "Hi, Officer.  Helping CSI Delko with his nightmare problem.  I'm a good therapist as well as all my other callings.  It'll probably be a bit loud tonight.  A few comings and goings as well."  That got a nod and he looked back at Horatio since s/he was hovering. "Waiting to make sure Delko's fine."

"That's fine, Harris.  Try to keep the yelling down."

"He had strange dreams about being eaten by a dog."

"I've had that one.  Does it have a meaning?"

"I always took it as a stress overtaking your life.  You have to fight it off to break the stress point."

"No wonder I got it right before I got married.  Okay, I'll tell your neighbors you're doing some dream interpretation stuff under hypnosis."  He walked off to do that.

Xander closed the door, leaning against it.  She laughed and he smiled. "Yeah.  Basically.  Long day already."  He went to call Calleigh.  "'Tis me.  I need your help. You won't get slimy but you will get to dance in the moonlight in a formal dress to help Horatio."  He hung up and went to the kitchen, finding something to drink.  "You can do whatever you want in here, I'm literally poisonous so if you're hungry or he's hungry, scrounge."  She nodded.  "Thanks.  I've got to help with Eric and find some decent music for tonight."  She smiled, smoothing down his hair.  "I know, I'm stressed."  Spike reappeared.  "Get out of Miami!"  He eeped and disappeared again.  "I hate Spike."  He walked upstairs, going to help Speed.  "Hey."  He settled in next to the bed, getting the notes he was making.  He wrote an idea and Speed nodded that he was working toward it.  He wrote out another one, getting another nod.  "Book's downstairs if he needs it to feel comforted or anything."  He got up, heading down to answer the door.  His neighbor gave him an odd look.  "What?  It's from where I worked in LA."

"Dream interpretation?"

"Yeah, he keeps being eaten by a dog."

"Oh."  She grimaced.  "I do wish you were more quiet usually, Xander."

"When am I home to be noisy?"  She stomped off in a huff.  "Sorry but I'm never home.  I'll tell Tim though, thank you."  He closed the door, going to stare out at his car for a few minutes, trying to remember where they had stored all the music in the house.  Tim had hidden it on him a few times over the years they'd been together.  John appeared with a CD case.  "What's this?"

"The only classical stuff you have around here."

He looked then nodded.  "Okay.  It'll have to do."  He grabbed his portable CD player, listening to it.  He found a few songs he liked and that could probably be danced to.  He put the headphones on Horatio's ears.  "Pick something on there."  He went to let his landlord in when he stomped up.  "What?" he demanded.  "When am I noisy?"

"You have nightmares?"

"I'm a combat veteran.  She's lucky I only have nightmares that I thump Tim during."  He went pale.  "Yeah, exactly.  So sorry I have nightmares, can't really help them.  Why is she listening that closely to my walls?  I can't hear her."

"I don't know."  He heard the bellow.  "Who's that?"

"One of my coworkers is having odd dreams of a dog eating him so Tim and I are going at the nightmares through hypnosis."

"No one else can hear you but her."

"Then maybe she should quit listening so hard."

"She said you have a third guy living here?"  John phased in and waved, making him go pale.  "A ghost?"  Xander nodded.  "Did he come from LA too?"

"No, former coworker but I work with his girlfriend."  That just got a nod.  "Sorry."

"Have you ever thought about buying a house?"

"Yeah but call-in distance means I can't be that far out.  Do you know how expensive houses are near the station?"  He just nodded at that, walking off.  "Sorry.  Tell her to quit spying."  He closed the door, looking at John.  "If we get evicted, you're helping haul and tote, John."  Merry giggled at that.  "He is."  Someone else knocked so he opened it, smiling at Calleigh.  "Come on in."  He let her in, closing the door again.  "This is Merry.  She was in the wedding dress they found."

"Hi," she said, holding out a hand.  "What can I do to help?"  Merry pulled her over to the couch to giggle and talk to her.  "Sure, I'd be honored to dance with you, Merry.  I hope she comes down for you."  She patted her on the hand.   "When?"

"Under the moonlight," Xander called as he walked past the doorway.  Eric yelped again, making him moan.  He looked at John.  "Let me guess, it's a good dream until he dies?"

John looked up then sighed and nodded.  "Yeah.  Lots and lots of good dreams for the wine boy."  He floated off to talk to Merry and Calleigh.  "I won't hurt you.  I'll be helping guard you two tonight.  Calleigh used to be mine before I got stupid."  Merry took his hand to hold, making him smile.  "Thank you."

Xander heard his cellphone go off so he went to answer it.  "Harris."  He listened to the fuming lawyer.  "You had no right to release a crime scene, sir.  It was still sealed.  Then they could have asked us and we would have gotten in there with them to get the dog and his will.  No, I don't have his will, they do.  I have the forms for who he wanted to clean the house out.  So I could contact them.  Because I'm a Watcher," he said bluntly.  The man spluttered.  "Okay?  Any other questions?  No, one team's dead and the other we're seeing if anyone survived whatever happened to them earlier today.  If not, I'll be doing it personally.  Because that is my training, sir.  I did go to the school in San Francisco after working at Wolfram and Hart in LA for four years.  That was after ten in Sunnydale."  The man moaned and whimpered.  "Giles said so, basically," he agreed.  "Now, I do have some questions for you.  He was a FreeMason.  We will need to talk to some of them."  He was hung up on.  "Huh."  He shrugged and sighed, going to grab something from his closet and change.  The sun was starting to go down and he was going to have a long night.  He waved at Tim.  "Be back very late."  He walked downstairs, letting Merry and Calleigh both stand up.  "Get pretty?  We'll go watch the sunset."  She nodded, going to do that with the dress she had stored in her trunk earlier.  He looked at Merry.  "Go freshen up.  If you need help, ask John."  She nodded, walking her borrowed body off.  He looked at John.  "The dabbler was a FreeMason."

"Crap," he muttered.  "You know where they hang."

"I do."  They came out together and he waved a hand.  "Down to the horseless carriage, ladies.  We'll go to the park and watch the sunset for a while."  He grabbed his CD player and some external speakers, heading out to drive them.  They were in the back chatting and it was nice.  Calleigh was happy.  The spirit was happier.  Hopefully they'd be able to solve this.  Xander pulled into a section of the park, nodding at the patrol officer.  "We're having a CSI meeting in the grotto," he told him.  "Unless it's God in person..."

"We'll leave you guys alone," the patrol officer agreed, leaning his bike for a few minutes.  "Bad things?"

"Yeah, one of those cases.  Hence the outer air meeting."  He walked them off, nodding at them to follow.  Both ladies smiled at the grotto.  It was a favorite trysting place for couples.  He settled down with them to watch the sun set, letting them sit farther away and Merry tell Calleigh what her life had been like.  The sky darkened slowly and Xander turned on the music, not looking or watching. This was between them.  He watched the moon come up, the stars come out, then he heard Horatio sobbing.  He looked over, smiling at the new spirit.  "She was hoping you waited for her," he said gently.  "She's free."

"The dress stands," the new spirit told him.

"Not if I have my way about it," he agreed.  "If at all possible since it's evidence in the death.  If not, no one will ever have it again and it'll be locked in a box until it's destroyed."  They both nodded and Merry walked out of Horatio, taking her girlfriend's hand to hold.  She waved shyly at Calleigh, who waved back.  Then they disappeared.  Xander stood up, dusting himself off.  "Stay out here, calm down, do whatever you need to do to feel like yourself again.  We'll talk about the rest tomorrow, Horatio."  He left the music on, heading to his car.  They could cab.  Calleigh was a smart woman so she had money on her.  If not, they'd cab back and Tim would pay for it then she'd drive him home.  He heard a kiss and smiled, glancing back.  They did look fantastic together.  He headed off at a faster walk.  It was getting late and his next stop would be shut down soon.  They were mostly older guys down here.  He got in and drove to the local FreeMason temple, getting out with a sigh.  He pulled on a pendant, walking up to the door.  "Let me in," he told the guardian.  "I come with news and questions."

"You are not one of us."

Xander held up his pendant.  "I'm a Watcher.  One of you recently died and it's my case."  That got him in the door.  He nodded at the robed man who came out of the inner sanctuary.  "Sir."

"Why are you here, son?"

Xander looked at him.  "Mr. Marsh is now my case.  He was one of you and dabbled as one of us."  That got a solemn nod.  "You have heard he was killed?"

"I have.  He had no relatives."

"There was a man and a woman there earlier.  Not close to him."

"His nephew and his wife.  They were mean to him," he said quietly.

Xander nodded, holding out a hand.  "Walk with me, Senior; one of the spirits noticed a problem when I talked with her earlier."

"You can talk to spirits?" the door guardian asked, looking confused.

Xander looked at him.  "Yes, I can."  He walked the senior out of hearing.  "One of the spirits said that the one who cleaned up the spilled blood had the marks on his shoulder."  He stiffened.  "If they did, I must know.  I do not want to go on a witch hunt.  I do not want to ruin the temple here.  I do need to know why he was killed.  I do need to know who.  I also need to know if he had a third choice to clean out his collection since the last two were attacked and mostly killed from what I was told earlier.  Can and will you help me?  Before I have to make it official?"

"There are two it could be," he admitted.

"I have no need to be let into your mysteries.  I get plenty working as a CSI."  That got a small grin.  "I'm CSI Harris if it ever comes up."

"You come from where?"

"Sunnydale, under Giles.  Then LA for my training, a short stint in San Francisco, where I learned of you and the deeper connection between the Watchers and your holy laws, then here."

"You were in New York."

"I was.  I had to transfer out for a while because there was no job open here at the time.  I remember the fallen one up there.  I was happy it was solved quickly."

That got a nod.  "You did what you could to keep the officers out of the temple."  He looked at him.  "I will have them brought to a room so we may speak in private."

"That would be most agreeable.  I thank you."  He bowed and let him lead him to a room.  He snapped his fingers and the candles lit.  That let him sit down, waiting on him to bring in the two members.  The senior looked at the candles so he smiled.  "I couldn't find the light switch."

"Who are you?" one demanded.  "You had us summoned?"

"I'm CSI Xander Harris, Watcher and demon ballistics tech."  He stood up.  "I'm the CSI over Senior Marsh's death, now.  After two others got possessed...."  He let it trail off, seeing who shuddered.  "We have reason to suspect that someone in this organization did at the very least try to cover up the death."

"We both knew Marsh," the second man stuttered.  "But, kill?"

Xander stared at him then the other man.  "Your ego does not speak well of your skills as a builder," he said quietly to the first man.  "Would you swear on all your oaths, all that you hold sacred and holy here, that you did not kill him or help cover up his death?"

"I would."

The other man nodded.  "I would also."  Xander stepped out of the way, watching as something hit the second guy on the head.

The senior sighed.  He looked at the first one, who was shaking.  "Are you sure you wish to make that oath?  If they find out otherwise you will be removed with prejudice.  All brothers will shun you.  You will get no aid.  None of your offspring would be welcome for killing another brother."

He nodded, looking scared.  "I have no fear from an inquest," he agreed.

The senior looked at Xander.  "We will be conducting our own."

Xander handed over one of his cards.  "Whoever did it, I need to know within three days please.  I'll be there, that's my cell number.  Or you can reach me at the lab."  He helped the man on the ground up.  "Do you wish to talk to him first?"

"We will.  Within three days, CSI Harris."

Xander bowed. "I thank you for your indulgence, Senior.  May your plans always come out square."  That got a smile.  "I did carpentry for about three years.  Things always went off  plumb on the site.  I respect all masons."  That got a laugh.  "Good humors, gentlemen."  He walked out, letting the door guard walk him out to his car.  "I thank you."

"Thank you for coming in respectful of our ways."

Xander looked at him. "I know the history of the organization and the ones they work with.  I would never trash a history that diverse and beneficial."  He got into his car, heading back to the house.  He walked in and found Spike there.  "What now?" he demanded.

"Dru's gone batty, thinks she's preggers."

"Congrats, I hope it's a girl and doesn't turn out like Buffy."  Spike shuddered.  "Go hide somewhere other than my house, Spike.  I don't like you that much.  Unless there's another message from Giles?"  He shook his head, trotting out.  He closed the door, leaning against it.  John smiled from the kitchen.  "They still having fun?"  He nodded.  "Well, they'll figure it out tomorrow.  It's probably comforting."  He walked that way, finding him making a sandwich.  "Thanks.  How's Eric doing?"

"He's going over every single incident in the kid's life since he was sold at fourteen.  But he has quit yelping at the sex scenes."

"Mental porn can be nice.  Any idea who killed him?"

"Nope, not yet."  He made another one, handing it over too.  "Masons?"

"Yeah, Marsh was one of theirs."  He called out to LA, sitting down to nibble while he listened to the babbling going on.  "Don't be so happy to hear from me, Wes.  Any idea if anyone in the containment fields are still alive out there?"  He ate another bite while he listened.  "PB&J, Wes.  John made it for me.  My white lighter.  No, Tim descended.  He's better boyfriend material.  He swore a lot at the various types of slime we got into."  He smiled.  "Yeah, that reason.  I did.  Um, put in that the dress is going to be destroyed.  The soul has moved on.  The book we're working on upstairs."  He ate another bite, smiling at his complaint that it was rude to eat on the phone.  "I haven't had food since seven this morning, Wes.  Bite me.  Oh, tell Deadboy that Spike was here.  He said Dru said she's preggers."  He ate another bite while he spluttered and screamed that at Angel.  "I told him to go away.  He's somewhere in Miami again."  He finished that one, taking the soda John got for him with a smile.  "Thanks, John."

"Not an issue.  I like you with caffeine, kid."  He went to check on Speed and Eric, finding Eric was kissing Speed.  "No wonder he's not yelping."  He phased out, heading off before he got in the middle of that fight.  He went to check on Horatio and Calleigh.  They were cuddled up, post sex cuddled up, and he was gently stroking her hair where it was on his shoulder.  He phased in, nodding at him.  "Not like I mind, Horatio.  Keep track of her though?  She gets into  a lot of trouble."  He phased back out.

"Can you beat a ghost to death?" Calleigh asked quietly.

"You'd have to ask Xander.  I don't know."  She laughed while giving him a squeeze around the chest.  "We'll figure it out, Cal."

"We will," she agreed.  "I wonder how Eric's doing with the gay Roman wine boy stuff."

"I'm not sure I want to know," he admitted.  She laughed again, pinching him this time.  "We'll find out tomorrow.  Hopefully he'll get some sleep.  Xander will get some sleep."  He saw the blond thug walk into their grotto smoking.  "We don't need smoke inhalation.  Go away."

"Bugger off, mate.  This is my town now."

Horatio sat up, looking at him.  "I work with Xander.  He has told us how to stake things."  The vampire backed off slowly and carefully.  "Keep going, Spike."  He pouted.  "Yes, he told us.  John was already here."  He turned and ran off.  Horatio let himself be pulled back down, looking at her.  "Needed more hugging?"

"Hugging is nice but I was wondering if you'd like to hug on your or my couch instead of out here where any old vampire can wander up on us."  She smiled.  "Either's good with me."

"We can cuddle on my couch."  He stood up, helping her up.  "I do like you in that dress."  She smiled.  He was thoughtful enough to grab the CD player and speakers, and even hail the cab, but she paid this time since his wallet was back in his desk at work.

Xander walked up the stairs later, looking at the two guilty looking men in his bed. "Re- enactment?"  Speed nodded.  "It help?"

"He's still in there."

Xander looked at Eric, then sighed, coming over to get onto his other side.  "Wine boy?" he whispered in his ear.  Eric shuddered, waking up.  He looked at himself then glared.  "You were acting out what you were dreaming, Eric.  Not our fault you jumped Speed."  He curled up on his shoulder.  "How close to his death did you get?"

"Within hours."

"Do you know who did it?"

"There's at least three possibles.  What about the Marsh death?"

"He had a zombie dog, Eric."

"If I had known that I would've called you immediately."  He looked at them. "I should go."

"No you shouldn't," Xander told him.  "There's every chance we'll free the spirit when you have the rest of the dream tonight."

"Um, no, he was mostly a sex slave," he admitted.

"Duh, Eric.  You were squealing every time he had sex earlier on.  The neighbor called the cops.  I told Henrick that I was doing dream interpretation under hypnosis and you were being chased by a big dog before being eaten."  Eric relaxed again.  "Now, let's go back down," he whispered in his ear.  Tim sat up to help him drag Eric back into his mind, letting him take control for now.  "It's the last night, Eric.  Who are you with?"

"Desdimona," he moaned, arching up.  "The head lady of the Emperor's palace. She wanted me as a present and was granted it by her husband, who won me in a poker game."  He arched up again, feeling the hands going over his chest and stomach.

"Go forward, Eric, see yourself serving again.  Where are you?"

"The Emperor's room.  I'm serving his personal thinkers."  He jerked but Xander was stroking his stomach.  "No, I will not do that to my mistress or master," he complained.  Then he jerked upright gasping for air. He rubbed his throat.  "I...he turned down the wrong person."

"Emperor?" Speed asked.

"His head guard.  The emperor told him to take me out and have fun with me."  He kept rubbing his throat.  Xander moved his hand, making him look at it.  "No blood."  He flopped backward.  "Is he still in there?"

"Silen," Speed whispered.  "Come here please?"  Eric stiffened.  "Don't fight him, Eric.  Let it happen.  We're trying to get you free, remember?"  Eric relaxed under Xander's stomach stroking.  "Silen?"  He heard a quiet hum.  "Silen?"  He nodded, humming again.  "You're in the wrong body."

"The book is foul," he whispered.  "People who do not care for their masters."  He stretched, looking at Xander.  "You care for your slaves, I can tell."

"I don't have slaves, Silen.  No one has in generations," he said gently.  "Roma has long fallen from an empire to a mere city."  The boy shook his head, starting to cry.  Xander hugged him. "Shh, we're trying to get you where you need to go, to help you pass on.  What sticks you here?"

"The book!" he sobbed.  "The witch trapped me in there when I would not agree to be her husband's."

"The guard's wife or Desdimona?" Speed asked gently.


"Then we'll cure it.  If we destroy the book?"  His hand was grabbed and the boy shook his head.  "What about transferring you to something else then?  Something more comfortable?"

"I would serve my Masters faithfully, as I always have," he begged.  "Please?"

"The only problem is that there are no masters," Xander said gently.  "Otherwise we would gladly try to find you a loaner body.  The one you're in right now is rather important.  He's a guardian of the masses.  An officer that finds who hurts others."  Silen looked at him.  "That's the problem.  You're in a friend's body and we need him back so we need to move you somewhere you would be better off."

He swallowed, nodding.  "I understand.  I do not like the dark.  I do not want to go into the dark.  Not alone."

"I think I can help you there," Xander said with a gentle smile.  "If I can get someone to walk with you?  Someone with a light?  Would that help?"  He nodded.  "Okay, come with me to the living room, Silen.  We'll see if we can get you a guardian for the dark."  He got up, heading down to his work area.  He grabbed a few things and a candle, walking out into the living room.  He settled in to call back a spirit, hoping for someone like Tara.  Silen whimpered when he saw who it was and Xander smiled gently.  "Joyce."

"Xander.  And a new one who's scared of the dark?"  He nodded.  She floated over to him, kneeling in front of him.  "You have no need to fear with me, dear.  I've raised two beautiful, strong girls.  I can protect you from the dark.  Nothing in there will harm you."

"Bad slaves are confined to it for eternity," he whispered.

She smiled gently.  "But you weren't bad, Silen.  Here, hop out of his body.  You can float with me for a while.  If we still can't cross you over, Xander, that one, will help you find something better to live in than a dirty book."  He gave her a shy smile and a nod, taking her hand, floating out of Eric until Eric collapsed.  "All of you," she chided.  He finished coming out, looking around.  "Now, is it dark?  Because I can see plenty of light."

"Some of it may be his perceptions," Speed said quietly. "Silen, it's only dark for a moment.  As long as you know you've been good you have nothing to fear and the light will come in a few minutes."  He clutched to Joyce's arm, looking around.  "Relax, let it happen. It should be calling to you."

Xander lowered the protections he had on the house and Silen squeaked, hiding behind her.  "Joyce?"

"I think he needs an intermediary step."

Xander got up, nodding for the ghosts to follow him around the house.  "Find something that's better for your, Silen.  We'll house you until you're ready."  He got a spectral hug and the boy dove into a small urn.  He came back out shaking his head, moving on.

Speed got up, handing him something.  "This was ancient but Egyptian."  Silen shied away from it.  "Hmm.  True, they didn't treat their slaves the same way."  He walked around.  "Xander?"

"Use the green glass urn," Xander said quietly, looking at Joyce, who smiled. "I'm sorry I did that."

"I understand, Xander.  It's better not to be left alone.  All the destruction was giving me a headache anyway."  She looked at the urn, then at the boy next to her.  "That's my mortal remains.  You can keep them company until you're ready to join me.  All you have to do is call and I'll be back for you.  All right?"  He nodded, giving her a gentle hug before slipping inside the urn.  "Thank you, boys."

"Welcome, Joyce."  Xander grinned.  "So, what do you think of my boy?"

"I like you and Tim, Xander.  Much better than you and Anya or Cordy or any of the others.  Give my daughters a hug?"

"Dawn's hiding from her sister and I'm about to kill your other one," he admitted.  "Otherwise I might.  I'll send them your love."

"That'll do.  Let me go haunt my elder one until she sees sense.  Again."  She faded out once Tim had blown out the candle, heading to scare someone in Cleveland.

Speed hugged Xander.  "He wasn't ready."

"Hopefully he'll be ready sometime soon."  He snuck a kiss, smiling at him.  "I need to destroy the dress."

"Let Horatio do it.  It was his body she was using."  He walked off, leading him by the hand.  "Eric, bed," he called.  He hauled him off the floor, walking him up there as well.  "Sorry, Xander."

"It wasn't your fault.  He probably yearned for the feel of contact again," Xander said patiently.  "It had better never happen again or I'm calling Doug."

"I won't cheat on you.  You know that.  You don't have to call the guy over scorned boyfriends."  Xander nodded, stripping down to his boxers and climbing in on one side of Eric.  Speed got the other side.  Eric, still naked, got the center and laid there snoring no matter how many times Xander used him as pillow or tried to fluff him into being less bulky.


Eric woke up, looking at the ceiling.  It wasn't his.  He knew it but it wasn't coming to him yet.  He looked down at the feeling of someone snoring into his chest, frowning when he saw the dark hair.  He lifted the blanket, noticing three things.  Speed was really well built.  Xander wore ugly boxers, and he was naked.  "Why am I naked?"  He poked Xander until he woke up and blinked at him.  "Why am I naked?"

"You re-enacted something with Speed last night."  He put his head back down.  "Hours still.  Shh."

Eric looked at the alarm behind Speed, shaking his head.  "Uh-uh."  He yawned.  "Why am I still tired?"

"Because you can't make up for half a week of sleep in one night, Eric," Speed said, glaring at him.  "Go back to sleep."  He put his head back down, closing his eyes again.  "Your butt was too heavy to lift down to the couch."

"Oh, okay."  He closed his eyes, smiling when the alarm went off.  It was floated up then slammed against a wall.  He snickered.

"You're buying a new one," Xander said firmly.

"Yes, dear," Speed complained, glaring at the remains of the clock.  "That was my alarm, guys.  We missed Xander's.  You're going to be late."

Xander groaned but got up, heading for the shower.  "Eric, the only bathroom is this way.  I won't scrub your back for you."

"Good to know."  He looked at Speed, who had rolled over to sit on the side of the bed.  "Um..."

"We're fine, I'm not some clingy girl, and it was the ghost inside you, Eric.  He's down in the green urn if you wanted to talk to him yourself."

"I think I need to process."  He got up, heading for the bathroom when he heard Xander yelp.  "You okay?"

"Not shaving today.  It's going to be a bad day."  He got out of the shower dripping, letting him have it.  He was even nice enough to get Eric a spare towel. He trudged downstairs, finding the mess in the living room from last night.  "Crap."

"I've got it," John called.  He phased in.  "Horatio's dragging butt this morning too.  Calleigh's cheerful."

"I can growl," Xander promised, heading to put on clothes.  He came back down, wincing as he stretched.  "Eric, hurry up!"

"I need to go home, I don't have any clean ....  Never mind.  Thanks, Tim."  He came down ten minutes later in some of Tim's pants and one of the button-up shirts Xander never wore.  "Thanks, Xander."

"It's scratchy.  Have fun with that one."  He grabbed his keys and everything he needed, heading down to the car.  He was even nice enough to go through a drive-thru for breakfast so they could eat on the way in.  He trudged into the office, signing in and waving at the receptionist, who handed him a memo.  He looked then snickered.  "I will kill someone today," he told her.  "You can pass on that message that half of us are grumpy and the other half is Calleigh."  He walked up to Horatio, holding up the message.

He took it back, shaking his head.  "This is not good."

"Really?  Couldn't have guessed."  He walked down to his lab, finding the Chief in there.  "We had a really long night, please excuse me while I bite someone."

The Chief gave him an odd look.  "Why?"

"Two possessed people and talking to the people who're doing their own investigation into the Marsh case.  Plus yelling at someone on the West coast so I don't have to do artifact removal on my next weekend off."

"Do I need to get involved?  IAB perhaps?"

Xander gave him a look for a minute.  "FreeMason and it looked like one of them had something to do with it.  He dabbled in my *other* areas as well."

"Oh," he said flatly, grimacing.  "No wonder you had a long night.  When will you know?"

"I gave them three days or else I'm going to have to get mean and investigate it myself.  They're doing their own inquest then handing over by then."

"That's fine.  Such organizations often have their reasons."  Xander nodded, pulling out his stool to sit on.  "You do have work to do."

Xander looked in his in-box, then at the basket by one of the scopes.  "Is there anything after the purple separator?"  The Chief looked then shook his head.  "Then no I don't.  Calleigh's marked the rest for her to do.  She's got to reup her certifications and wanted some time to do some.  She said she'd spank."

"Oh."  He smiled a bit.  "I did want to talk to you."

"I gave Horatio your memo with the warning I would probably be biting later."

The Chief laughed, walking over to close the door.  "You really did have a long night."

"I did.  What's wrong?"

"The budget," he sighed.

Xander gave him an odd look.  "You guys hired me at under the US average pay rate," he pointed out.  "I was making ten grand more a year in New York, plus overtime."

"While that's true...."

Xander glared at him.  "Spit it out.  I don't have the patience this morning, boss.  I got up a half hour ago.  I've had fast food.  I'm exhausted.  I'm going to react badly no matter what you say unless it's really great news like I'm going to be paid like the tech I am."

The Chief gave him a long look.  "Maybe we should have waited on some of that?"

"The two possessed people got possessed on the Marsh case."


"Eric's a lumpy pillow and he doesn't cuddle.  I had nightmares most of last night."

"I see.  I thought you were...."  Xander nodded.  "Couldn't move him?"

"No.  He hasn't slept in a few days either."

"That's reasonable I guess.  I can hold off this talk."

"Maybe we should have it with Horatio?"

"We probably should.  With his recent ...issues with a city employee...."

"How could he afford ten grand a hooker?"

The Chief blinked.  "I don't know."

"Neither did Horatio."

"I'll look into that.  It might help.  Until then, he's threatening budget cuts."

"I'm in the mood today to have someone eaten and then laugh.  Because I'm the only hunter down here if something happens."

"Oh, dear," he sighed.  "He's insisting we're going to be cutting the lab's budget."

Xander snorted, shaking his head.  "No, he's mad and we can be much more public in some of our investigations.  Like Horatio, I don't play politics unless I *really* have to.  I've pissed off judges being myself.  I've pissed off senators and congressmen being myself.  I can piss off a council member or a supervisor being myself.  I can even have fun doing it."

The Chief smiled.  "I'll take that under advisement, Xander.  Perhaps you should take the day off?"

He snorted.  "Yeah, right."

"You do have to be at that hearing this afternoon."


"He's claiming...."  He smiled.  "Let's go talk to Horatio."

"Sure.  Fair warning, he's not in any better of a mood."

"That'll make for a charming meeting I'm sure."  He walked up there.  "Get a soda and join us, Harris."

"Yes, sir."  He saw the curious look.  "The first political ploy," he told Calleigh, finding a phone number very fast on his way to the soda machine.  He even called from the breakroom.  "It's Harris in CSI.  I need everything you did for the Chief on that asshole supervisor.  Yeah, him.  Even the stuff you didn't give him or use.  Please.  Because he's decided he's going to try *me* now.   I wasn't on that case.  I'm the ballistics tech but I'm going to be in a very bad mood at a Council meeting later."  He grinned.  "No, plain English is good.  I had to have  a Blood tutor me in Econ back in my undergrad.  Thanks, man."  He hung up and got himself a soda.

The Chief walked into Horatio's office.  "Long night?"

"Very."  He looked at him.  "He's made his move?"  He nodded.  "Who?"

"Your prized tech, the one you begged for."

"That would cause some pain."

"Did you have to partake of Harris' other skills last night?" he asked bluntly.  Horatio nodded.  "Did you spend it at his house too?"

"No, mine."  Xander came in.  "I do need an update."

"He's a FreeMason and one of the spirits I pulled out last night said that the person cleaning up the blood had the same tatoo on his arm.  They're doing their own inquest and they'll hand me someone within three days."  He sat down, opening his soda.  "Eric's spirit is in an urn at my place.  He wasn't ready to move on yet.  He's a bit scared of the dark.  He was told that's where bad slaves were sent for eternity."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "Yours moved on with her girlfriend.  I need both of you to take communion but Eric's got enough sensitivity to be able to see Silen again if he shows up to talk to him.  Might freak him out but it'll happen."  Horatio nodded again, more slowly this time.  "We do need to destroy the dress.  It's not pertinent to the investigation but someone can use it to pull yours back and that means you can be in danger."

"I can have that done."

"It's still in my workroom, Horatio."

"I'll have that done," he promised.

"Thanks.  We weren't sure if you'd want to or not."

"I do.  She seemed...nice while she had me."

"She was a gentle young woman with a shrew for a mother," Xander agreed.  He looked at the Chief.  "Oh, and I've got the bullets and the blood from the case I got called out on early yesterday.  I'm waiting on reports from DNA, sir."  He reached over, calling down there.  "Did you get my blood evidence from the callgirl murder?"  He blinked.  "Really?  Huh.  Can you send that to Chem?  Have them see if it's a large enough sample to pull any drugs from?  He pays money for hookers, a lot of money for hookers, Max.  He doesn't have that sort of money so it's not a rich guy thing.  That means he's either very kinky or he's hiding something.  Yeah, tell him that.  It's guy code, he'll be proud I used it.  Thanks."  He hung up.  Then he smirked evilly.  "We have an issue now."  He took another sip.

"Tell me that same blood...." Horatio started.  Xander cackled and nodded.  "It matched to him?"

"To his very recent DNA swab that was taken as part of the poor man's intake."  He looked at the Chief, who looked clueless.  "The subject of our discontent left blood evidence at my earlier scene yesterday, a call girl murder."

"Oh, damn," he said.  Xander smirked and nodded.  The Chief sat down.  "Well...."  He considered it.  "That could help."

"It could," Horatio agreed.  "What is he trying to do?"

"Trying to say that the City has to approve of all people who were hired at a substantial income.  Anyone over forty thousand."

"Did we approve of his new secretary?" Xander asked.  He finished his soda and put the can onto the front of the desk.  "I'll recycle that in a few."  Horatio threw it into his trash can, earning a frown.  "Horatio."

"I know, but you'll forget."  He looked at his amused boss.  "He will."  He leaned back some.  "This is probably more than enough to get him out of office.  Being suspected in a murder usually does."

"It's a year until elections, Horatio."

"It was at a higher class hotel.  One where they actually *clean*," Xander told him.  "They wouldn't have left blood evidence lying around there. They didn't leave fingerprints from the last occupant.  Unless he cleaned?"

"I don't know if he's like that or not," the Chief admitted.  "Can you check?"  Xander texted that to someone for them to check.  "Now what do we do?  We need you both at that meeting."

"If at all humanly possible," Horatio agreed.

"If I'm here and stuck, I'll call," Xander promised.  "Horatio, laptop?"  He got given an odd look.  "Please?"  It was pulled out and handed over.  "Thank you."  He plugged it in and got to work on the poor City Supervisor's background check.  "Interesting."  He kept going, following the threads.  He walked it back down to ballistics so he could work in peace, smiling meanly when Calleigh came in.  "My call girl murder yesterday just got mean."

"Oh, no.  Please tell me not another politician?" she pleaded.

"Same politician.  Who is trying to get the city to fire me today by the way."  He got back to work, printing out some things.  He started to draw out connections, then snickered and sent it all to the forensic accounting department, calling them.  "It's Harris again, in my investigation I ran across stuff that's clearly in your area and the Chief was looking for.  I'm not sure if it's the same as you've found or not but I sent it to the Cummin's email address on the page?"  He grinned.  "Thanks.  Sure, I'll hold."  He got back to typing, letting the phone rest between his ear and shoulder while he read.  He cackled.  "Good.  Glad I could help.  Yeah, flow chart's good for me.  There's a council meeting later this afternoon where we've got to present some of this so whatever the Chief wants, man.  Thank you so much.  Have a good day.  Be a bit evil and mean.  I am."  He hung up and snickered, going back to work, sending them more things.  Within ten minutes he had the Supervisor's full background - physical, employment, and monetary - sent to them.  But he did keep a copy just in case.  There were a few other names included.  He got to work running them down as well.  "Interesting.... his attorney."


Xander sat down across from the Supervisor and his lawyer.  "Good afternoon."

"This is a weak ploy, Harris," the supervisor sneered.  "Having me brought here?"

"No ploy.  Your blood was found at the scene of a homicide."  The Supervisor gaped.  He laid out a paper.  "We have a sworn statement from the head of the cleaning staff at the hotel that you, personally, asked for cleaning supplies when you checked in.  She delivered them to you and asked if you wanted the room recleaned and you said no,  you'd do it."  He put down another form, sliding it over.  "We also have your blood, your DNA, on said call girl's body and in a few other droplets around the room."  He leaned on the table, hands clasped lightly together.  "You know, I have to wonder why someone would pay so much money for a call girl.  I mean, when I was dating women and I picked up a few during my college years, if I had to pay over sixty bucks I was doing something strange."  The man gaped.  "Yes, I did.  My last one wanted me back so much she threatened to blow up the San Diego PD to get me back."  He shrugged.  "What can I say, I'm good."  He stared him down.  "So, I did some checking.  We know you don't have rich boy syndrome.  Rich kids wouldn't care about dropping that much on an escort but they tend to go through the really great brothels and the discreet services.  They wouldn't dare risk the exposure of going to a normal strip club and hiring the girls in there.  That's a musician stunt."  He grinned.  "So, we had the blood checked."

"I want my lawyer," he ground out.

"He's sitting next to you, or did you mean you wanted another one since he's involved in some of your other less than savory deals?"  The lawyer gaped.  The phone in the room rang.  "Harris," he answered.  "Hey, boss.  No, I'm here with the Supervisor."  He put him on speaker.  "I'm sorry I can't be there in person at the moment but the victims did call and I'm presently tied up with a murder suspect, ladies and gentlemen."  He looked at him.  "And his embezzlement partner."

"Are you sure?" the Chief asked.  "Very, very sure, Harris?"

"I am, Chief.  I talked to the forensic accounting people.  They laid a bunch of stuff out for me.  So not only do I have the Supervisor on homicide charges...."

"I did not confess," he sneered.

"I have enough to arrest you right now," Xander promised.  "I've got a warrant coming as we speak.  I've also got a warrant coming for embezzlement charges but some of that may end up coming back on a Federal warrant.  See, I only looked for two hours with the forensic accountant guys.  They found your three hidden trust accounts that you've been feeding into.  They found your temporary expense account that's way over budget.  They found the links between a whole host of budget problems and your office.  What *I* found was a house in Jamaica that was purchased with the funds you stole from the homeless and children's shelter.  Directly I might add.  A direct withdrawal to the realtor."  He put a copy of that sale's paperwork down and a copy of the check from the realtor.

"Some of us bought into that with him," one of the other Supervisors said.  "He said it was legitimate."

"Talk to your own lawyers, sir," Xander told him.  "If you didn't know, you may not be liable.  I can't be sure.  That'd be one of the unfortunate federal matters since he moved it out of the US."  He turned over another paper.  "On this one I have a record of where all your expenses have went for the last four years.  It was wise of you to pay taxes on what you embezzled.  Keeps you out of trouble with the IRS.  I do like that account in Hawaii. The one with your lawyer's name on it.  Unless he has a very young son named Junior?"

"He told me it was for the Council's vacation," he said quietly.

"Robert, is that you?" a female voice demanded.  "If it is you are fired from my service.  I want my yearly retainer back and you had *better* hope that I don't find you first."

"Oh, don't worry, ma'am, he'll be in jail as a conspirator to defraud the city," Xander told her, flipping over another one.  "Here I have how you routed all your funds....  No, this is the chem workup on your blood that you left lying around in that hotel room.  Sorry, searching for the reason that you paid ten grand for the hooker, not that hard when you leave nearly half a pint in droplets lying around.  I guess it's nice that you weren't too kinky with the girls.  Just needing the little blue pill."  He looked at it.  "Sorry, the knockoff of the little blue pill.  Does it really work better?"  The supervisor started to make squeaky noises.  "Awww, you're already making noises that they'll love in prison.  I'm so proud," he said facetiously.

"I won't lay down for this!" he shouted.

"I think you'll find laying down might make it worse," he said dryly.  He flipped over the last one.  "Ah, here's my last card in my full house.  Where you've siphoned all the money over the years so the city can confiscate it.  That warrant was put in at the same time."  He looked around, then dialed his cellphone.  "'Tis me.  Where for art thou?"  He smiled. "That'll work.  Thanks.  Come right up, baby."  He hung up.  "Your warrants are presently parking themselves in the parking lot.  You'll have one and about a half a minute to make a statement before we publically arrest you and charge you with the murder of a call girl.  With embezzlement from city funds earmarked for the homeless and abused children.  For embezzlement that went out of the country.  And for conspiracy to commit fraud.  Further charges may be pending.  Go ahead and talk, sir.  Please."  He leaned back, giving him a smug look.

"You'll be fired."

"Then I'll move again.  New York wants me back."

"I have friends up there, they'll never hire you," the supervisor sneered.

"Yes they will.  I solved who killed two of their city's council members with the head of the lab.  I found three serial killers in just about two years.  I helped solve over a hundred homicides by ballistics and trace evidence alone in those same two years.  My record speaks for itself.  Yes, I wanted to come back very badly, Supervisor.  I took a hell of a pay cut doing that.  Then again, my boyfriend has family down here.  The lab down here is like family to both of us.  Even with Stetler trying his shit because I'm bi, doesn't matter."  The supervisor turned red, opening his mouth.  "Yeah, I'm very bi.  See, firing me would be a very bad thing," he said bluntly.  He leaned forward again.  "I'm very dangerous to those who fuck with me.  Just think, I only had two hours to dig into your past today.  Think about what I can do if I focus *all* of my anger on someone.  The way I do with most murders.

"There's a reason mine confess at a higher rate, Supervisor, it's because they know I like the look on their faces when they realize I've just destroyed every single thing they've ever built, they've ever had, and ever will have.  That same look both of you have.  I'm a damn big credit to this department.  You were easy.  You should try searching out gang money sometime.  By the way, your money structure?  The forensic guys said to tell you it was so easy to track it wasn't funny.  One of them said your money management skills sucked too by the way.  Pity but maybe you can write a book in prison."  He waved Ryan in.  "Anything else you want to add before you're publically arrested?  I have to get down to that meeting."   He made more squeaky noises.  "Sure, you practice those for your cell mate.  I'm sure he'll be *very* pleased with them when you see him later."  He stood up, handing it to Ryan.  "I've got head down there.  Chief, give me ten please?"

"Twenty, Causeway's slow," Ryan told him.

"Okay, twenty," he said, hanging up.  "Pity you ruined your family's lives, gentlemen."  He walked out, heading down there.  He got there fifteen minutes later, smiling a bit.  "Sorry, had to run the sirens."  He sat down beside Horatio, grinning at him.  "Very pretty look on his face."

"Thank you, Xander."

"Eeh, not enough sleep recently.  I'm in a bad mood," Xander said, looking at the others.  "Sorry, I hate it when people fuck with me."  That got a few smiles and a nod.  "Plus lack of sleep so I was cranky."  He leaned on the table.  "What can I help you with?"

"That house in Jamaica?" one asked.

Xander shrugged.  "That's up to a federal prosecutor.  I know the one locally was going to start hovering.  ADA West, who still has her job for some reason, was threatening to hand some of it over by what Ryan said when he called a few minutes ago.  I did tell him that some of you had not known and he passed that onto her.  That's not a Miami case, sir.  I can only advise you to seek the counsel of a lawyer."

"I certainly will," the female member agreed.  "Thank you for doing that for us."

Xander shrugged.  "I hate murderers.  People who prey on call girls just make me sicker.  They're already having a craptastic incarnation, why make their lives worse."  Horatio patted him on the back.  "They are."

"They can be but that's not polite."

"Sorry, Willow never taught me polite."  He shrugged a bit, giving them a sheepish grin. "I was raised by girls."  He pointed at Stetler.  "You can ask him."

"He was," he agreed grimly.  He glared at him.  "I'm still watching you."

"Oooh.  Yay," he said flatly, shrugging.  "If that's what does it for you, Stetler.  Just don't make it because of who I'm sleeping with this time."  He looked at them again.  "Sorry, past history."

"He's like this most of the time when you threaten him," the Chief said.  "He did take a very heavy pay cut to come down to us."

"How much?" the female Supervisor asked.

"I was making fifty-four thou a year plus overtime in New York," Xander said.  "Now I'm making just about forty-five without any option for overtime.  Even if I work it I can't get paid for it.  But the people down here are like family to my boyfriend and myself.  Horatio came up to help me when I had to take on something drastic in New York that nearly got me shunned by most of the department up there.  He did the same for my boy a few times."

"We looked at all of your qualifications," one said, giving him an odd look.

"San Francisco?" he asked.  That got a nod.  "Yeah, my teachers made me go.  Thought it'd make me look better.  Thankfully I don't have to do as much of that down here as I did in New York, or even LA."

"I see.  Have you?"

"Something that was eating a tea room at a local hotel.  A few other things.  Nothing major.   Sometimes it comes up on a case.  I've had a few supposedly enriched artifacts on one recently that I'm trying to find someone to handle so I don't have to take my next weekend off to clean it up."

"Interesting.  Would that be the Marsh case?" he asked.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "I heard."

"How is the inquest coming, sir?"

"You'll have them within your three days."

"Thank you.  That's all I asked for."  That got a smile and a nod.  "For future reference, because I know this'll be sealed?"  Everyone nodded.  "Sergeant Stetler can verify some things for you if you need to.  The reason I got forced into that specialized program is because I had ten years of combat experience in the same field before then."  They gaped.  "I was on the front lines of that battle.  I wanted to retire.  They wanted me able to teach the next few generations.  So they made me go.  It took a year out of my undergrad to go there.  So I do have combat experience, just not from the traditional methods.  That's also where I got my artillery and explosives experience.  That and some construction work I did.  It refined what I knew about smaller bombs since we had only used larger ones.  It's also why I've got a very broad knowledge of some ancient weapons and there's some lying around in ballistics at this moment in time.  That and I'm teaching one of the DNA techs how to use a sword."

"So you're pretty close to a full lab?" one asked.

"I'm at the baseline acceptable level in DNA and fingerprints," Xander admitted.  "Some of the tests in chem I still have to look up.  I'm a ballistics tech first and foremost, with a minor emphasis in trace and field work.  That's about like you saying you have a college major in business?  Or I'd guess anyway with your other businesses?"  He nodded.  "And you probably took a minor in college too."

"Accounting.  I can understand it when you put it that way.  Do you want to stay, lower pay and all?"

"Eventually I'll get up to the point where I'm supposed to be paid," he said dryly, making them all laugh.  "I would like my step raise.  Please?  Having to do some dream interpretation recently meant that I had someone shouting about their nightmares and pissed off my neighbors.  They want me to move.  My landlord suggested I buy something more permanent.  Housing is really expensive down here."

They all nodded.  "Comparable to New York," the female member said.

Xander shook his head.  "Our apartment in New York was bigger and higher in the building.  It was three hundred less and only one utility.  Here I'm paying more for less room and all my utilities for having a gym and a parking lot view."  They all winced.  "Yeah, it's expensive.  I don't know how people making minimum wage do it.  We're struggling with my boy going to college right now.  He wants to join us in the lab," he said proudly.

"Who are you dating?" Stetler demanded.

"Speed's youngest brother," Horatio said, giving him a look.  He looked stunned.  "He wants to come in for field and DNA in a few years, Xander?"

"He's got two years left, plus an internship," he agreed.  "Maxine Valera is already planning how to get him in there for that."  He looked at the Council.  "I'm going to be blunt.  People who know me know I'm blunt.  And that I have very little tact," he admitted.  "The lab solves most of the bad cases in this city.  We do things so that the normal cops know who to question and who to arrest.  Anytime the crime rate goes down, it's us.  They're scared of us.  Mostly of Horatio, but the rest of us too.  I've seen a gang kid back away from Calleigh before."  Horatio patted him on the back.  "Sorry, not enough caffeine either today.  When the crime rate goes up, like it did last year, we're forced to pull a lot of overtime hours.  We're sorry about that, but if you want the homicides, the rapes, the assaults, the robberies, all those solved, we've got to work.

"I love this lab.  I love most of Miami.  There's parts I can do without, like my landlord and spying neighbor, but every city has those.  I do want to stay in Miami.  My boy wants to stay in Miami.  I've been a credit to this lab since I was pulling unpaid overtime as an intern.  I've solved cases, I've protected the city and the city's personnel.  I definitely want to stay if the other Supervisor's petty crap is ended.   It's not *our* fault we caught him with his panties down.  Even if he doesn't like it, some of us don't play politics.  It gets messy when you start selecting who's going to get charged.  If Horatio hadn't charged him, then someone else would've used that as their defense.  That would've looked bad on him, on the lab, and on the rest of us.  We don't get to play favorites."

"If a detective you worked with was charged with a felony what would you do?"

"I'd give them the chance to explain it first," Xander told him.  "I don't care if it's my boyfriend charged.  I'd expect him not to be.  I'd support him if he didn't do it and it's a false charge.  If he did it, he's in deep shit," he said bluntly.  That got a smile.  "If you're a friend, a coworker, anything like that, I'd expect them to either come to me to have me prove it false before I had to ask.  Or I'd expect for them to not lie to me so I can see what's really going on.  I do the same thing for my enemies.  If Stetler was charged I'm sure I can handle it just as objectively as if Horatio were charged, or if my boy were charged.  I don't get to play favorites either.  I give everything I have to every single case.  Period.  End of sentence."

"When we first got Xander as an intern, all the departments he had temped in with, all the places he had done his internships, told us if we couldn't keep him they wanted him back," Horatio told them.

"I'm still getting offers from some of them," Xander admitted.  "LA offered me sixty a year to go work for them.  I'd get drawn back into the strange crap and I don't want that.  San Diego wants me back for that trial, Horatio.  She's finally coming up."

"They can subpoena you so we can give you leave time," he assured him. "I've talked to Griffold recently."  Xander smiled at that.  "New York has offered to take him back at his former salary.  No questions asked. We do want to keep Xander.  He's a bright light in our department and the reason we get a lot of intern candidates."  He smiled at him.  "Wish granted."

"Thanks, that's the nicest time I've heard that."  That got a few snickers.  "I'm getting a new intern."  They all smiled at him for that.  "I like getting them off to a good start.  I scare the hell out of them but oh well."  That got a few more snickers.

"I heard you were tutored in Econ?" the Chief said, looking down at him.

"By a Blood, yeah.  He was taking it to figure out what he was doing.  Theory drives me nuts.  I'm a hands-on guy, Chief.   I had tutors in Chemistry too because the teacher was a theory person and going way over my head.  The Crypt who tutored me put it into terms I could get.  Ballistics.  Explosives.  That sort of stuff.  It worked, I passed.  Even the one I took with food poisoning so bad I should've been hospitalized during the final I passed.  Barely but I did."

"Everyone learns differently and the things that he wasn't sure on his internship people went over and we went over with him until he knew it cold," Horatio told them.  "I will note here that Xander is my only hire that did not get a signing bonus because we couldn't."

Xander looked at him.  "Yes we did.  Alexx spoiled us for months with cookies.  So did Max."

He smiled at him.  "I meant a monetary one, Xander."  He patted him again to keep him calm.  "Xander has helped a lot of us through some very bad things.  He was in New York when Detective Hagen died and came back down to comfort us.  He's been injured for us.  Sick for us.  He's been bouncy for us and is today.  He's lost sleep.  He's protected us all.  We want to keep him."

"It's not like I'm going to be pushing to be paid what I should.  Just my step raise I was supposed to get last month," Xander offered.  "I'm presently on a three-year contract with the lab.  It runs out next year."

"Can we renegotiate now?" the Chief asked.  Xander shrugged.  "Then we'll look that over next month, Harris."

"Okay."  He looked at them.  "I'm sorry he dragged you guys into his personal trauma.  A real man can be caught with his panties down and just shrug and say 'I'm a guy' and walk off after paying the fine.  He didn't even do that."

"I don't see a problem with Horatio hiring  you," one said.  "The budget is very tight however."

"Then go after guys like him who didn't pay their court-ordered fines," Xander told him.  "Get the guys with the multi-billion parking tickets to pay up too.  They're mostly rich guys from what I can tell.  They've got the cash but they're stingy."  That got some smiles. "Put a luxury tax on some expensive things, like polo matches.  Or champagne.  Do it on something that won't hurt the average guy who can barely afford to live here.  Don't put it on gas or anything, but something that people pay out the butt for.  If they can afford five hundred for a bottle of champagne, they can afford a ten percent luxury tax on top of the sales tax."

"Those are the people who get us elected," one noted.

Xander leaned more forward.  "Then point out the city's going to have to go without services and they're going to be robbed without a police department.  Which would they rather have?  A ten percent luxury tax on gaudy crap that no one wants or needs, but they  buy because it's fashionable, or no police department and having their cars smell like the dump because they have to take out their own trash.  You can add a luxury tax to cars over fifty grand.  That'll rule out all the reasonable cars that people buy because they're good to the environment.  Sorry, Horatio.  I know the hummers are really expensive and necessary.  Love them by the way," he said with a sweet grin, getting a snort.  "Tax the purchase of a new house if it's over a million dollars.  Not that it won't hit the middle class, because it will.  It might even drive some of the outrageous housing prices down."  That got a few smiles. "That way I can afford something nice with my boy and our future dogs."

"What did happen to Barney?" Horatio asked.

"He got stolen by one of the other techs," he said dryly.  "He was a New York dog and should stay in New York was the reasoning they had."

"Hmm."  He looked at the rest of the room.  "Those are ideas that could have a lot of money for the city.  I wouldn't even ask for a huge increase in our budget.  The one we had two years ago was probably the best yet.  It let us afford everything and didn't make me hire trustees to clean the halls."

The Chief looked at him.  "Hummer.  Upgrade."

"They're being done next week thanks to that grant, sir." he reminded him.  That got a sigh.  The grant had come in late so they'd had to afford Xander on their own for a year.  He looked at them again.  "Yes, the lab is one of the most expensive departments in the PD.  The machines we use are thousands of times more expensive than garbage trucks or brooms and mops."  Xander laid a hand on his arm, whispering in his ear, getting a look.  "You know...."  Xander gave him a long look.  "You're right, we can work around that somehow."  He looked at them.  "Xander did remind me we have a testing agreement that's about to run out for one of our more expensive labs.  We may be able to work something out so we can pay for that over a few years instead of up front.  I do everything I can to help with that.  Costs go up because crime goes up."

"Crime goes up because the regular force is forced to have budget cuts too," the Chief agreed. "If we took back the money that was embezzled, made his family pay back the rest of it, we could probably fix the current crisis.  Correct?"  Xander handed down his PDA, letting him see the forms he had stored earlier.  He looked at him.  "You weren't kidding."

"Nope, I wasn't.  Oh, did you hear?  The IRS is going to use Miami to test out a new income generation method, sir.  Their idea to tax pimps and make prostitutes pay taxes and file W-2's reached the wrong ears.  They liked it."

He whimpered. "How?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted. "But hey, if it works, maybe we can add on a city tax.  We've got plenty of them."  The female supervisor laughed.  "We do.  It's the least harmless of our sins locally, ma'am.  I'd rather have working girls and call girls than I would drugs or bombers."

"I would as well," she admitted.  "We had a shelter in place to help them and get them medical tests through the health department."

"It went to Hawaii along with the second embezzlement from the children's shelter."

She shook her head.  "I do want to make a motion that we work on getting those moneys back."

"I second," another agreed.  "How much was there?"  The Chief passed down the PDA and his own forms, making him gasp.  "How did we not see this?"

"He filed for reimbursement for part of it.  Some of it he diverted in a sloppy manner," the Chief told him.  "The forensic accounting department's boys and girls agreed with Xander.  The way he did it was sloppy and slipshod."

"They told me it sucked," Xander agreed.

"How did you get the figures on his personal income for them?" the Chief asked.

He grinned.  "A Willow-given gift."


"Remember the redhead?" Horatio asked.  He shuddered but nodded.  "Something she created that Xander has in his possession."

"At least it's going to legal means," he decided.

"There's both my family's attorneys," the female supervisor complained.  "Looks I'm getting a refund before they go to jail."

"I'd do it today, ma'am, they're going today," Xander told her.  "We're not giving them a chance to move it around or change it.  People are watching their accounts to make sure it doesn't suddenly disappear."

She smiled at him.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome, ma'am.  I hope the council can get it all back.  I really do.  It sucked that he robbed the social services that the city needs the most.  Why he didn't rob the rental Ferrari fund I don't know."  That got a few gapes.  "It was mentioned to me," he admitted.  "The same forensic accounting people."

"You definitely don't play politics, son," one of the male members said dryly.

"I never have and hopefully I never will have to.  Unless I lose my mind and run for office."  That got some laughs.  "I have plenty of headaches.  I don't want the ones you guys have too.  That would drive me more nuts than Quantum Mechanics did."

"I still have nightmares about that class," one of the people taking notes said.

Xander grinned at her.  "Are you being attacked by the little whorl thingies too?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Yeah, I nearly kicked my boy out of bed the other night during one of those.  He was not amused."

"None of us are that amused when you're tired, Xander," Horatio said, giving him another pat.  "I believe there's a vote open?"

"All those in favor of burning our missing compatriot until we get the money back say aye."  Everyone said aye.  "Looks like it passed unanimously."  The note takers wrote that down.  "All those in favor of keeping CSI Harris and reexamining the budget, especially the police department budget, say aye."  They all said aye.  "Looks like you got your wish, Chief."

"I hope it's a good one," he said.  "Thank you all."

"Thanks," Xander said with a small grin.  "Is there a good section of the city that's cheaper?"

"I'll help you look, Xander," Horatio promised, standing up.  He put on his sunglasses.  "Thank you for letting us help you with that problem member, ladies and gentlemen.  Please excuse us, but we do have work to do."  He smiled and walked out.

Xander grinned and waved.  "Thanks, guys.  If you need more vengeance, call.  We all have our mean days."  He followed Horatio out, putting on his sunglasses as he walked.

The Chief waited until they were out of hearing.  "Yes, I know, he's a lot like the Son of Caine some days.  All he needs to do is dye his hair."  That got some snickers.  "Let me know when you want to go over it.  I'll bring in my budget person so she can explain it to all of us."

"Meeting next Tuesday morning?" the female member suggested.  He nodded at that, making a note as he walked off.  She tossed him Xander's PDA.  "Make sure he gets that back when you hand him caffeine, Chief."

"Oh, I'm sure Horatio's already ordered him to on the way back to the lab," he said dryly, heading out.  He found an officer stationed outside.  "Send this to the lab.  It's Harris'."  The officer didn't want to touch it.  "It's a normal thing, son.  Just his PDA.  He had crime stats on it."  He nodded, taking it delicately between two fingers, carrying it to his car.  It went into the trunk and he drove off with it.  He shook his head.  "At least they know who to go to when those things happen."  He went to his office to take some tums and something for his headache.  A good four fingers of scotch and half a roll of tums later and he felt better.


Xander walked in that night, flopping down on top of Tim, sneaking a bite of his dinner before closing his eyes and sighing in pleasure.  "We might get to move after all."

"I hate moving."

"I pleaded for my step raise."

"Good!"  He patted him on the head.  "It's very hard to eat while you're laying on top of me."

"Eric's been giving me odd looks all day.  Wolfe has too.  Max too."

"Define odd."

"Odder than normal."  He snuck another bite, eating it before he yawned. "I busted the supervisor guy."


Xander grinned, cuddling him.  "He killed a hooker."

"Who exactly did you beg for your step raise?"

"Get the transcripts," he complained.  "Too snuggly."  He yawned again, falling asleep right there.

Speed looked down at his chest, grimacing.  "Damn it," he muttered, finishing his dinner quickly.  He had found out last week that he could kind of, almost float things magically now and then.  Hence him having bought four alarm clocks in the last two weeks.  He concentrated on the phone, sighing when it went farther away.  "Quit that, John."

John phased in, smirking at him.  "Awww, you're so adorable," he cooed.  He knew Speed hated that.

"Yeah, whatever.  Give me the damn phone."


"What happened earlier?"

"The supervisor H caught diddling the hooker went after your boy.  Your boy with the help of a forensic accountant and with the Chief's blessing decided to ruin him.  Federal and state charges, and one of them was killing the call girl.  He had him in interrogation when the meeting was called to see if they could support Horatio hiring him."  Xander let out a purr and shifted, making John catch the plate before it broke and woke him.  "He laid it out, and yes he did beg for the step raise.  Offered a few money making suggestions.  Taxing Cristal champagne, cars over fifty G's, houses over a mil."  He snickered at the shocked look.  "He did complain that no one can afford to live in Miami.  He did use that as part of his reason to beg for his step raise."

"So, are we being run out of town?"

"Nope."  He looked at the door.  "It's Max."

"Get your butt in here," he called.  She walked in, looking confused.  Then she giggled.  "Yeah, yuck it up.  Why have you been staring at him oddly all day?"

"He's been in destructo-boy mood all day.  We're making sure he's not carrying around explosives while he hums."

"Hums?" he asked, looking pained.

"Hummed while he gathered evidence.  Hummed while he used Willow's laptop.  Hummed while he walked to interrogation to destroy a few lives and had Wolfe getting the arrest warrants for him."

"Ooh.  No caffeine?"

"Yeah, he had caffeine most of the day, though he was a bit bouncy after the council meeting."  She opened the door when it was knocked on.  "Hey, Horatio."

"Miss Valera.  Checking on your young?"

"Yup, making sure he didn't turn feral after eating a human."  Xander blinked at her.  "Hi."

"No.  Drug test next week.  Pissed off Stetler."  He put his head down, waving.  "Night."

"Xander, bed," Speed said firmly.

Xander blinked at him.  "Comfy."  He put his head back down, closing his eyes.  "Raise?"

"Yes, Xander, you got your step raise," Horatio said, shaking his head.  Maxine giggled at that.  "He did ask very nicely and did point out what a costly city Miami is to live in."  He took off his sunglasses.  "He also made at least three lawyers, one City Supervisor, and one accountant go to jail.  He suggested a few go see a different lawyer before the feds came to see them."  Speed gaped.  "Then he was on the speaker with us while he destroyed the City Supervisor's life."

"While he hummed," Maxine added.

"True, he was humming.  Even Mr. Wolfe was making sure he didn't have plastic explosives this time.  He was very bouncy all day as well."

Speed looked down then at them.  "So, does he have tomorrow off?"

Horatio smiled and nodded.  "The Chief did suggest he come down off his destruction high."

"Yeah, might be a good idea.  Get the door?  I can hear the landlord."

Horatio turned and opened the door, looking at the landlord.  "Yes, sir?"

"Tim or Xander in trouble?"

"Telling Tim what went on today," he admitted, letting him inside.  "Xander had to go before the hiring review board."

"Oh, okay.  Was it bad?"

"No, he got his step raise," Maxine said with a smile.  "What's wrong?  Are they being noisy?"

"Well, last night they were. Then their neighbor told everyone in the building that they do those sort of dream interpretation things.  They're not amused."  He looked at Tim.  "I have nothing against you two but she's going to get pushy."

"She does know that Xander is a member of police department?" John asked.  "If they do things like damage their property he can have them arrested?"

The landlord looked at him.  "I looked you up."

"Used to work with Xander.  Love the little guy.  Still trying to straighten out what those girls did to him though."

"I guess that's a good enough reason to hang around."

"You ever hear what he calls football?" John countered.

"Yeah, I have.  Good luck, Detective."  He looked at Tim again.  "They're going to get mean and nasty.  She's got friends all over the city according to her.  I'm really sorry, boys."

Tim waved a hand.  "I've heard worse.  Thanks for giving us some warning."

"I can maybe give you guys next month.  Not like you guys have torn up stuff or anything so I can use the deposit you guys paid."  He grinned.  "I hope you find somewhere just as nice."  He left, leaving them alone.

Tim poked Xander on the side, getting an irritated grunt.  The phone floated over toward them.  "No, not being called in, Xander.  We've got to move."

Xander blinked at him.  "You do that better than I do."

"I know I do.  Do you want to rent or buy?"

"Buy somewhere, it'll save on the problems," Horatio ordered.  "Plus probably be cheaper than your rent here, boys."

Xander blinked at him.  "How much is a step raise?"

"Five percent," Maxine told him.  Xander snorted, putting his head back down.  The phone quit floating when he started to snore.  "I'll help him look, Tim."

"Thanks.  I've got a test tomorrow and then papers due all next week.  I hate your field."  She smiled and left them alone with a giggle.  He looked at Horatio.  "Only five percent?"

"Of his gross, not take home."

"So, that'll maybe cover some of the taxes," he said, shaking his head.

"I looked something up.  Did you know he was claiming two exemptions?" Horatio asked.  Speed rolled his eyes.  "Take him to a good tax place this year, Speed.  Remind him he can't claim you or John."  He put back on his sunglasses.  "He might even be getting a refund from last year if he did it then."  He left, leaving them to talk about it.

"Condo, townhouse, or house?" John asked.  "I can ask Calleigh's and Delko's opinions."

"I don't know.  I'd like some more room than here. At least the size of the place in New York?  Two bedrooms and a study."

"I'll see if they know anywhere."  He phased out, heading to Calleigh's first.  Eric was with his family and they freaked him out.  He phased in, finding Stetler at her door and her shooing him off, or trying to.  He floated over, looking over her shoulder with a grin.

"John, I can feel you doing that, stop it!" she snarled.

"Sorry.  Came to check on you."

Stetler blinked at him.  "Aaaaaah."

"Real intelligent," Hagen sneered.  "I got sent to help the boy."

"Speedle," he groaned.  Hagen only smirked  "His boyfriend?"

"Ask him yourself but he'll shoot you tonight.  Boy didn't get any last night."  He waved.  "Shoo.  Gotta talk to my lady."  Stetler stomped off.  "You might wanna warn H," he said in her ear.  "Oh, and the boys have to move.  Their neighbor got pissy about stuff."  She slammed the door, glaring at him.  "What?"

"Don't do that!"

"Whine.  This way you can do something more pleasurable tonight, like shop."

She rolled her eyes, walking off.  "Not with my personal budget being so tight."

"Does that mean you're moving too?" he asked, floating after her.

"The condo market just went bust in town.  They're going fairly cheap, for Miami, and I was thinking about it."  He beamed at her.  "What happened with their neighbor?"

"Delko yelped while they were working through that dream.  Xander explained they were doing dream interpretation under hypnosis because he was having nightmares about this dog chasing and eating him."

She shook her head, lighting the candle on her countertop.  "Go away, I'll send Tim the page I've been scanning."  He pouted.  "Out!"

"Fine, be that way.  I won't help you shop to replace your pretty white shirt."

"You only want to see me naked."

"Doesn't seem to do as much for me anymore," he complained, giving her a sheepish look.  She pulled out the packet she had gotten from the herb store Xander recommended and he phased out.  "Fine, make me go be traumatized by Delko's family."  He disappeared.

She called Eric.  "Incoming John."  She hung up and called Horatio.  "You might be getting a visit tonight.  John just appeared to Stetler.  He hissed Speed's name.  Yup.  Yeah, I've been thinking about getting a condo," she admitted.  "He went to bother Eric since I'm being mean and won't let him see me naked again."  She smiled.  "I'd love dinner tomorrow night, Horatio.  Thank you."  She hung up, going to pick out clothes for the dinner.  Then she decided she did need to replace that one white shirt.  The mustard had never come out of it.


John phased into Eric's house, making his mother shriek.  "God, woman!"  She held her chest, panting.  "Do you often scream that loud?  No wonder Delko's so loud when he has nightmares."  He looked at Eric.  "The boys are going to be forced out of their place.  The landlord said the neighbor who tried to get them last night is calling around."

"Wonderful.  I'll help them look.  I know Tim didn't like the housing market when they moved back."

"He said at least two bedrooms and a study," he offered.

"I can look," he agreed.  "They good?"

"Xander walked in and collapsed on Tim's chest, he's still there."  That got a smirk from Eric.  "Anyway, Calleigh was about to banish me and watching those two snuggle is really boring.  You doin' anything tonight since she won't even let me help her shop?"

"I was going to go jogging."

"Any cute girls to leer at?"

"He needs to not scare them off," Eric's father said.

"I can be invisible," John said, grinning at him.  "Hi, Mr. Delko."

"Hi, John."

Marisol looked back at him.  "You can help me.  I've got to shop.  I could use an opinion.  As long as no one saw me talking to someone who wasn't there."

"I can do that.  Whenever you're ready call.  I'm going to check on Horatio.  Stetler's throwing a hissy at him."  He phased out, going over there.  "You yelled?" he asked Horatio.

"This is going to be incredibly difficult on Speed, John."

"Maybe Stetler will have a heart attack, then he can go be Buffy's white lighter or something."

"Don't do that to her.  She's never been that evil."  He opened the door at the pounding, looking at the man standing there, getting rudely shoved out of the way.  "Yes, you can come in, Rick," he said dryly, shutting the door.

Rick glared at Hagen.  "When did you come back?"

"The same day I died.  They assigned me to Xander as his white lighter.  I told them myself I had died.  Oh, Horatio, two bedrooms and at least a study for what Tim wants."

"I can help them search," he agreed.  "Rick, want a beer?"  He headed into the kitchen.  He needed a drink tonight.  For some reason he really wanted a drink tonight.  He wasn't sure which cause was the final one though.

"So you do what for the kid?"

"Help him if there's a paranormal fight.  Do his research if he can't get to it.  Point out troubled areas.  Back him up.  That stuff."  He shrugged.  "It's not hard.  The kid's mostly retired and the demonic overlord takes care of his own people most of the time."

"We have a what?"

"There's only about fifty demons, they appointed and voted in an overlord to deal with them if they got out of hand," John told him.  "He knows Xander's in town.  He introduced himself as was proper, and told him when he got back. That way they know who to call when it's something doomsday again.  Or something annoying he can't get to but Xander can."

"Like the Marsh murder?"

"No, he's a bit strange.  A dabbler.  Oh, that's the other thing.  H, tell Speed that yes, he'll have to clean out the house.  The others in the containment industry are all dead.  Attacked and dead."

"I can do that," he agreed, going to email that to him.  It was safer than calling Tim and waking up Xander again.  Or else they'd have another destruction day tomorrow.  He came out.  "Rick, we need to put Xander on this time's gun destruction run."  He went back to his office.

Stetler frowned after him.  "Fat chance.  He's not an officer."  He looked at John again.  "Speedle?"

"His original one.  He got brought back more fully.  I usually end up this way."  He smiled, looking up.  "Gotta go.  Sorry. See ya later."  He faded out, going to help Marisol shop.  Not that he'd look at Delko's sister.  Delko would find a way to kill him further if he did.

Stetler stomped into the office.  "You knew."

"We found out after Xander had the flu, Rick."  He looked up from his scanning of emails.  "Yelina sends her greetings."  He went back to it.  "Since he was brought back we had to arrange it so he's got a new identity."

"The youngest Speedle son," he sneered.

"Exactly."  He smirked at him.  "That'll cause less problems and less confusion.  He is going back through his training."

"His gun?"

"He was cleaning it once a month.  We're not sure how it got that jammed that time.  I could let Xander look it over if you wanted."

"No," he ground out.  "How many are out there?"

Horatio shrugged.  "Xander got given Speed when he went through that special certification program, Rick.  I'm not sure how many have been assigned, I don't know how they're matched or assigned, nor do I want to know."  He smiled at him.  "Ray Junior is doing a lot better now."

"Good to know."  He stepped closer.  "You had someone falsify documents?"

"No, I explained it to someone in the government who had an idea.  He arranged for it.  He said he wasn't the first."

"I see."  He grimaced.  "You will be keeping better track of him?"

"I have been.  Alexx has been.  Maxine Valera has been since she's mothering Xander horribly.  She is really overprotective of her boy too."  He smiled, sending a response to Yelina's email.  "I told her you sent your love back."

"Thank you."  He glared at him. "You're too calm."

"We figured you'd find out sometime," he said, looking at him.  "After all, you do like to stalk the boy, Rick."  He huffed.  "We were surprised you didn't find out first and tell us."

"I'm not that cruel."  He stared at him.  "His present gun?"

"He's still in college.  Xander said he didn't need one.  Xander does all the gun cleaning in their house."

"I'm not happy."

"That's not my duty to make it so," Horatio said dryly.

"The Chief knows?"

"Probably."  He looked at him.  "Xander does usually call him Tim.  He has probably made the connection.  Remember, he was an officer for a very long time."

"I want nothing to go on that would damage the lab, Horatio.  Nothing at all.  Am I clear?"

"Are the Feds coming back?" he asked grimly.

"Yes, they are. Your boy...."

"ATF knows about him, Rick.  They talked with him in New York about closing some of the loopholes in the hunter's network Xander gets his guns from."

"These are FBI."

"They hate him," Horatio admitted.  "He doesn't play well with them."  He smirked at him.  "I would suggest you warn them he's down here instead of New York.  Mac Taylor had a lab evaluation team in and Xander blatantly walked someone out of his lab and handcuffed him in Mac's office for not putting on gloves and a lab coat.  The next two joined him until one already in a lab coat was sent and she got left alone.  She wisely stayed out of his way as well.  Though I heard Mac had to ask what they had done."  He went back to his emails.  "It'll be fine."

"If you think so.  If not, I want to know *before* they come down with a warrant."

"Whatever."  Rick stomped out, making him wince when the door slammed.  "I need to get Xander to fix that hinge," he said, writing him an email.   He did note about the eval team coming in soon, that way Xander would be warned and hopefully be on his better behavior.  Hopefully.


Xander walked in the next day but Horatio and Frank stopped him, making him turn around and walk off.  "What?  Was I suspended?"

"You were given the day off to go find a realtor," Frank reminded him.

"I need my pay stubs and they're in my desk," he complained.  Horatio and Frank backed off.  "Geez, uptight much?"  He headed inside.

"Xander, leave the agents alone," Horatio called after him.

Xander looked at him.  "Not if they're being dumbasses in my lab."  He headed up to his desk, finding the person in there did have proper coat, gloves, and had her hair back.  "At least you're smarter than the ones in New York," he told her.

"Aren't you late?" Calleigh asked.

"Horatio told me to take today off to find a realtor."

She nodded, handing over a card. "I'm going through her.  She's got a good hand with condos and they're in a bottomed out market so cheaper."

"Are we talking affordable cheaper?"

"Getting there."

"That's better."

"Remember, over ten or twenty years it's easier," she pointed out.

He nodded, sitting down to dig through his desk.  "Tim said I needed my pay stubs.  Where have I been putting them?"

"The trash," she said.

He pouted then got into the HR website to print them out.  "Hey, it's listing my step raise of six percent."

"Wow, so now you're making what?"

"Forty-seven-two-fifty before taxes," he said dryly.  The federal tech looked stunned.  "I took a pay cut to move back here.  The budget was tight."  He finished printing what he needed, looking over as Stetler came in. "What's up this time?"  He gathered what he needed, sorting them by month.  Then he logged off and checked his inter-office mail.  "Remind me to buy glue later when I call in frustration?  Horatio's doorframe is cracking again."

"Sure," Calleigh agreed.

Xander looked at Settler.  "What?  I've got to find a realtor.  My neighbor's a brat who's trying to get me evicted.  Horatio gave me the day off to spare the budget just a bit more."

"You took a nine thousand dollar pay cut to come down here?"

"No, I took a nine thousand dollar plus overtime pay cut to come back down here, Rick."  He closed his drawers and stood up.  "It's family."  He grabbed something.  "I'll be in tomorrow at the usual time, Calleigh."

"Of course you will.  Make sure your cell is on and charged in case we need you."

"Of course.  It always is."  He looked at Rick.  "Anything else?  I've got to find a decent place to live so I can get a new dog.  That way I don't have to have my fixing reversed and talk someone into giving me kids to fuss over."

Stetler gave him a horrified look.  Xander grinned and walked out.  "Relax," Calleigh said.  "Tim's scared to death of kids."  She smiled at him.  "But can't you see his little clones following him around in their versions of his t-shirts?"  He walked out shaking his head.  "He had a problem with Xander's personal relationship."

"Is that why he left New York?"

"No, Horatio got to open a spot for him," she said.  "Tim's got family down here.  Valera's like Xander's mother.  They came back to family.  Taylor threatened to kidnap him from what I heard."  She got back to work.  Her phone rang.  "Duquesne."  She listened, making a note.  "I'm there.  Thanks."  She hung up.  "I've got a field case."  She resealed the one she was working on and took off her jacket to hang up, grabbing her case before taking off her gloves.  She took them off at the door.  "Come on, you can't stay in here.  He'll handcuff you in Horatio's office if he heard."  She walked out shaking her head.  "He did that in New York."

"I heard.  I was in DNA."

"Were they really that stupid that it took three of them before someone got a clue?"

She nodded.  "Stubborn."

"Yeah, Xander's the king of that land."  She closed and locked the door, heading out to grab one of the hummers and hit the scene with Ryan.  She smiled at him.  "Aww, didn't lose yours?" she teased.

"He thinks I'm Xander for some reason."

"No, he's got today off to find a realtor.  He came in to print paystubs."

He snickered.  "That'll help."

"He got a whole six percent for his step raise."

"I'm impressed."  He pointed.  "I've got the new detective wandering around looking for cameras and witnesses so he quit trampling my scene."

"That's fine."  She came over to help, watching where he walked.  "Paramedics?"  He nodded.  "That works for me."  She pulled on a new set of gloves and got to work.  Alexx came over.  "Hi, Alexx.  Got another one."

She looked then nodded.  "I can tell.  At least he's my first today."  She came over to check him, looking at everything.  She frowned.  "I'm not so sure this isn't a suicide, kids."

Calleigh looked at him.  "Is he one of the guys Xander destroyed yesterday in the council meeting?"  Alexx looked at her oddly.  "You didn't hear?"  She shook her head.  "That Supervisor Horatio caught with his panties down, to use a Xander-ism, killed that one call- girl."

"We all checked for plastic explosives since he was humming while he worked to destroy the guy's life," Ryan agreed.  "It was really scary, Alexx."

"No wonder his boy complained about being a pillow last night on the couch."

She smiled, shaking her head.  "I got told he walked in, cuddled up, and fell asleep there.  Horatio gave him today off to find a realtor."  John phased in with messy hair, making the fed pass out.  "What's wrong?"

"Buffy's back."  He sat down.  "I'm not going anywhere near her.  She tried to stab me with a capturing stone made into a knife."

"Where?" Ryan asked, pulling out his phone.

"His place.  Willow gave her the address.  She wants to talk to him."

Ryan called Xander. "It's us.  Buffy's at your place."  He heard the slam of brakes.  "Please don't wreck.  She just tried to destroy John.  Sure, we'll be on our scene.  Feel free to dump her out here if you kill her so we can have an easier trek."  He hung up.  "He's swearing in Russian," he said quietly.  They all shuddered.  Latin was bad.  Greek was worse.  Hebrew was worse than that.  Russian, the one he was learning, meant he was going to snap.  He called Horatio.  "Head's up.  Buffy tried to kill John.  I told him.  He's swearing in Russian.  His place, Horatio.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "He's heading that way instead of here."

Calleigh looked around.  "Depending on where Xander was, Horatio might make it first."

"I hope so," John said.  "I'm not going near that woman.  Last time Tim spanked the hell out of her."

"I want video of that," Ryan muttered, getting back to work, making Alexx give him an odd look.  "The blonde one who warped Xander."

"Oh, I definitely want tape of that," she agreed, making Calleigh laugh.


Xander walked into his house, slamming the door.  "Buffy?"  He heard her upstairs going 'here white lighter, here white lighter' and headed up there.  She turned and raised the dagger, making him stop her thrust.  "Not nice, Buffy."  She gaped at him.  "Let go," he growled.  She stepped back but he kept the knife.  "What are you doing?"

"I need your white lighter."

"Then ask someone to assign you one."  He walked off, going to find his clamps in the toolbox in the kitchen.  The stone dagger got clamped to the table and Xander found his battle axe, coming in to break it.

"Hey!  Willow made that for me!" she complained.  He gave her a shove and swung, cracking it.  A second swing and it broke.  "Willow made that."

"Yay!"  He glared at her, axe still in his hand. "My white lighter is *mine*.  He was assigned to me."

"You have two!"

"No, I have one.  My other one descended.  He's my boyfriend now."  She grimaced.  "Again, yay.  Don't care if you don't like it.  Anything else?"

"You're mean."

"You were trying to hurt my white lighter.  Hell yes I'm going to be mean!"  She flinched away from him.  "Ask them to assign you one, Buffy."

"They don't like me and they aren't listening."

"Then ask the LA crew to get you an appointment to talk about why you might not need one."

"But I do!  I'm getting old."

"Then.  Let. The.  Younger.  Girls.  Do.  It," he said slowly and clearly, making her pout.  "Out of my house, Buffy."

"No!  We're friends."

"Not now we're not."  She glared at him.  "You tried to kill him.  Hell no."

"Just capture him.  I need one."

"Then ask!" he shouted.

"I tried!"

"Them maybe that's a sign you don't need one!  You've got everyone in the world around you.  Why do you need one?"

"It makes you stronger."

"No, he backs me up so I don't have to do things alone anymore."  She glared at him.  "Seriously.  I'm the only Knight in the city."

She stamped a foot.  "You're being meaner.  You need to come back to Cleveland."

"When was I in Cleveland the first time?" he countered.  "If I remember right, you guys left me in LA with Angel.  He saw that I had worth.  It's amazing what I'd do for people who actually didn't see me as helpless."

"You were injured!"

"So?"  He shrugged.  "I was in the battle injured.  I managed to survive it."  She backed up a step and he heard someone open the door.  "We're in the kitchen."  He looked at her.  "Your best chance is to either go through the program in San Francisco or to go to LA and see if they can get you an appointment with the Oracles, Buffy.  Not to try to take mine."  Stetler walked in with his gun drawn.  "You too?  What, now I have a double threat?"

"Horatio sent me.  Said you needed backup."

"Only for my temper."  He glared at her.

"We're friends, you have more than your fair share."

"I need mine and you're not taking Tim either.  You know, with the way you were acting, you could've killed him."


"Yeah, he descended."  She frowned at him.  "Really.  He's the same one who paddled you the last time, Buffy."

"She's one of the two who warped you?" Stetler asked.  Xander nodded.  "You want her arrested for B&E?"

"I'd rather she went back to Cleveland so I don't have to run and hide."  He stared her down.  "You threw me away, Buffy.  You can regret that all you want.  I found a lot of great things because of it.  I even get to play with guns all day long and get paid very well for it."

She pouted.  "You were injured.  You were going to slow us down when we cleaned up the new hellmouth.  You could barely stand upright with the way your eye socket was throbbing after the last battle."

"Yet, that night I went to help stake an enclave."  She glared at him.  "Angel saw my worth immediately.  Enough that he pulled me out of classes, out of sleeping, out of writing papers to help him.  Too bad you didn't."

"You were missing an eye!"

"Yay.  Doesn't seem to bother anyone else," he said dryly.  Stetler gave him an odd look.  "Yes, one's glass.  I've fully compensated for it over the years.  It was popped before I begun my training.  Horatio does know."  He looked at her again.  "Feel better?"  She glared, crossing her arms.  "I don't care, Buffy.  Go home.  Either that or I can have you arrested.  You broke into my house.  You nearly stabbed me with the capturing dagger.  That wouldn't have worked the way you wanted on me or Tim.  Or probably John.  Now, go.  Please."

"You need to come home."

"I am home," he said coolly.  "I'm staying home.  With my Tim and my adopto-mom Maxine and all them.  Now, get out of my house before I have you arrested.  Now.  Right now."  She stomped off.  He leaned down, clutching the table. "If she comes back, you can have her," he said, looking at him.

"Are you fit for field work?"

"I trained without it and learned how to compensate.  Has anything ever suggested I wasn't able to do my job, Stetler?"

He shook his head.  "When did Horatio know?"

"When he hired me.  He found out during the same convention he hired me during."  He stood upright again.  "We had a fight about that.  He kept seeing the injury and not the skills.  It hasn't mattered in five years of fighting at least weekly.  It hasn't mattered in all the hunting I've done.  It hasn't mattered in any of the field work I've done.  I took crappy pictures before I lost it.  I have good compensation skills for the depth perception stuff.  The only thing it routinely hampers is non-solid-surface fingerprint lifting - if I have to hold it while I lift it.  He knows that.  Everyone on the team knows that.  They knew that after you attacked me that first time as an intern."  He nodded, backing off, putting his gun up.  "I've handled drive-bys, I've handled walk-ups and shoots, I've had an officer being shot at next to me and handled it.  You cleared me then.  That was on my blind side.  That's why I have the guy facing that way."

"Fine.  I want clearance from Caine today."

Xander pointed. "He's coming up the stairs.  I can see his hair."

"Horatio, you knew about his eye?"

"I did.  From the time I hired him.  I nearly tried to keep him out of the field because of it, Rick.  Are you all right, Xander?"

"She wanted to steal John so she had her own white lighter.  Nearly stabbed me doing it."

Horatio looked at him.  "Calm down."

"I so want to throw a fit."

"Then go into the Everglades away from people and scream," he ordered.

"She'll follow."

Horatio nodded.  "That could be."

"He wouldn't let me arrest her," Stetler said.

Xander looked at him.  "She used to be like my family, Stetler.  I've known her since tenth grade.  I hunted with her for seven years.  Then she threw me away because of an injury.  Decided I was helpless.  I prove her wrong every single day."

He looked at him.  "Thinking about therapy?"

"I have Tim."

"Whatever."  He looked at Horatio.  "You're sure he's fit?"

"He has been.  Even during his training he was fit.  Most of them said they couldn't tell.  The one time they could he was running a high fever."

"Good.  Then I'll leave this in your hands.  Unless it becomes pertinent."

"Don't spread this one around, okay?" Xander asked dryly.  "I still have to beat an officer now and then who asks me how much I go for."  Stetler glared then stomped off.  "Why is that my fault?  He glared at me for his mistake?"

"He hates to be proven wrong," Horatio said.  He came closer.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, or I will be fine."  He unclamped the dagger, handing over the pieces.  "Willow made it for her."

"How very kind of her," he said, putting it into his pocket.  "Come on.   I'll walk you back downstairs."  Xander nodded, following him out, letting him handle the neighbor.  "One of his former friends broke in.  She's gone now."  Xander locked his door.  "She didn't kick it in?"

"No.  It's possible Willow helped there too."  He waved at his neighbor.  "Leave me alone.  I'm already stressed enough and I'm going to start screaming."  He headed down to his car, looking at his boss.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I wasn't there to help though."

"Having another enemy there kept from hurting the first one."  He got into the car, heading back to his new realtor's office.

Horatio got into his hummer.  "John?"  He appeared.  "She's gone.  He broke the dagger."

"Thank you.  He okay?"

"No.  Can you try to keep him from hunting for a few days?"

"Not an issue.  I'm going to warn the overlord she's here."  He faded out, letting Horatio drive back to work.   John appeared in the plush office, looking around.  "This is nice."  The demon lifted his head to look at him.  "Buffy's in town.  She just tried to capture me so she could have her own white lighter."

"You work with Harris?"  He nodded.  "What happened to his last one?"

"Descended back to boyfriend status."  He grinned.  "He got grumpy whenever you called."

"Good to know that's who growls at me when I call now.  I'll warn the others.  Thank you, Detective."

"Warn them if they run she's in the mood to snap and pounce," he said.  "She's definitely in a killing mood.  Xander's all that kept her from being arrested and shoved back how she treated him in her face.  Oh, the boys are looking for somewhere to move to if you hear about somewhere reasonable."

"Their neighbor must be ecstatic.  She was wary living next to him."

"The one who complained?"

"The one on the other side.  Dream interpretation?"   He looked at John.  "Something from the Marsh house?"  John nodded.  "Poor boy.  Tell him I wish him much patience cleaning that out."

"He's off this weekend so he'll probably be doing it then," he agreed.  "Gotta go hide, I think she's tracking me."  He faded out, going back to hover over Calleigh, finding her driving.  She squeaked. "Don't do that.  Buffy's trying ta track me down."


"She wants to steal me.  She thinks I'm some sort of dog she can claim by taking me home."

"Xander didn't have her arrested for breaking and entering?"

"Nope.  Told Stetler...."  She gave him an odd look, nearly missing the red light.  "Horatio called for backup."

"Was everyone else busy?"

"Apparently.  Oh, she told him about his eye."

"We've all known."

"He didn't."

"Then I'll expect questions."  She saw him shifting.  "What?"

"She's trying to summon me.  I'll be back, I'm going to hide."  He phased out, heading somewhere more protected.  He nodded at the priest in the cemetery, going to sit and talk to a few friends.  She could not take him off holy ground.  If she came, he could phase down and visit his former body or something.  Not that he really wanted to see himself so long after death....  The priest came over.  "Someone's trying to summon me to be her slave."

"Are you stuck, my son?" he asked quietly.

"On special duty as a white lighter, Father."

"Be safe and be well."  He walked off, going back to his parish.  He didn't have to do anything to help this one.


Buffy stalked into the lab, looking around.  She smiled at someone.  "Where's Xander?"

Eric looked at her.  "Not here, Buffy."

"You know me?  He told you guys about us?"

"He did.  You're not supposed to be here."

"I came to clear up the problems from earlier."

"No, I meant in the lab.  You're not a trained person and we can get busted for that," he said, walking her back to the front desk.  "No wonder.  She's on smoke break."  He called Xander.  "It's me.  Buffy's here looking for you to clear up the earlier problems you two had?"  He smirked.  "Should I expect something?  Sure."  He hung up and called someone else.  "Hey, Max.  Front desk?"  He hung up.  "Xander said you could figure out when you two could meet later in public from Maxine.  He's having dinner with her.  That way you know where to meet him."  He looked over as Valera came out.

"Buffy," she said, looking at her.  "Why are you in Miami?"

"I came to see Xander. We had, a, um, small disagreement earlier.  I wanted to make it better."

"I'm having dinner with Xander tonight," she said.  She looked at Eric.  "What did he say?"

"To tell her where so she could show up after you're done to talk to him.  He's with the realtor now."

"Hmm.  We're having dinner at Tuxedo's and then going to Headlight, which is a club.  In between....  How about in front of City Hall?  It's halfway between, convenient to whatever way you're getting around. There won't be anyone there then so if it's something you don't want overheard it'll be fine."  She smiled and nodded.  "We're having dinner about seven so maybe nine?"

"Nine's good.  Thank you, ma'am."  She walked off.

Maxine wailed once she was gone.  "I got ma'amed."

"Xander said she's been trying to get John all day.  She wanted to steal herself a white lighter," he said quietly.

"Yeah," she snorted.  "That'll work."  She walked off to call Xander and warn him.  That way he could make plans.  He was good at battle plans.

Eric went back to work, shaking his head at the agent who came to see where he got lost at.  "One of Harris' old friends showed up.  He's not here so I escorted her off."

"Oh.  Interesting."  She followed him to his next destination, DNA.  Valera handed over the sheets, putting on her new gloves afterward.  "Why did you unglove?"

"I had to tell Xander's former friend where to meet us later so she could get her delusions busted."

"Okay," she said slowly.  "Is he going to require backup?"

"He'll have me," Maxine assured her.  "Xander won't need anything else."  She just nodded and followed Eric out.  She knew Xander would let her have a few swats so it'd be fine.


Xander walked into the small park in front of City Hall, Maxine was behind him to give them some privacy.  "Hey."  He stayed out of hitting range, staring at her.  "You wanted to apologize for breaking into my house?"

"You never minded me getting into your apartment before when I needed things."

"John's not a thing.  Also, I don't live alone and Tim would mind, Buffy."

"You're being all cold and unfriendly. You really need to come home."

"Cleveland's not home.  Miami is home."

"It could be home.  We could use you.  No one makes jokes anymore.  You could even handle our weapons cache."

"I like my job.  The lab is like my family," he said simply.  "They're good to me and Tim."

"Fine, you can bring *Tim* too," she said, looking up.

"Buffy, Tim wouldn't ever move to Cleveland.  Neither am I.  I love Miami.  I'm staying in Miami.  I'm needed in Miami."

"For what!  There's got to be hundreds of people who can play with guns all day.  I could do that."

"I do more than *play* with them, Buffy.  I find out who shot what person.  I help solve murders and things.  They *need* me."

"No, they need someone," she countered.  "You need to come home."

"That's not home.  I'm still waiting for the apology.  So is John."

"He's not here," she said smugly.

"I know that, I had to free him earlier.  I don't want Detective Hagen anywhere near you."

"He's a cop?"

Xander smirked and nodded.  "Yeah.  The same as Tim does the same job I do, Buffy.  We find out who hurt people.  We work a long time finding out who hurt which person and why."

"Like on Law and Order?"

"No, we're the lab staff on Law and Order, the ones the ME brings with her.  We work with the detectives and tell them who to talk to."

"Oh."  She shrugged.  "Sounds boring.  You can do better."

"I love my job.  Why would I want to do better?  Besides the fact that there isn't a higher calling and yeah, I'm needed here.  The only better thing I could be doing is a higher salary in some other city.  I gave that up to come here."

"That's dumb."

"No, it's family."  She glared at him.  "They are.  Maxine's all but adopted me as her son.  I'm still waiting for that apology."

She huffed. "You're coming back to Cleveland.  We need you."

"No, you don't.  You can borrow Connor or another witch.  You don't need me."  He stared her down. "Sorry, but no.  I'm happy here and I'm staying happy, Buffy.  It's a great feeling."

"You sneered at Angel for it."

"Angel knew what was going to happen if he got happy.  He did it anyway.  That's what I sneered about, Buffy.  Now, anything else?"  He put his hands on his hips.  "I've got a good night out planned with my adopted mom and a few friends.  We're going to go over some of the houses we've been looking at buying."

She gaped then shook her head.  "You're coming with me.  I could've sworn I said that."

"I don't care what you said.  I'm staying in Miami, Buffy.  I'm needed here."

"No, you've got a higher calling now," she said, pulling out a knife. "Giles was right.  Some day you'll be a white lighter yourself.  You can be mine.  We work well together."

"Put it down!" he ordered loudly.  "Now, Buffy!"  Maxine came jogging over.  "Max, call someone.  She's got a knife and she wants to make me her white lighter."  She growled.  "Max!"  She dialed Horatio's number.  "Buffy, put it down," he ordered calmly.  "I'm not playing and if I have to disable you, you'll be in a lot of pain."

"You will be my white lighter, Xander.  Giles said so!"

"I'm not going to die tonight so no, I won't.  People need me too much."  She lunged and he ducked, narrowly getting nicked by the blade.  He smacked her on the back of the neck, driving her to the ground.  She got up, grabbing the knife again.  "Buffy, do not do this."  He knew John felt him be nicked.  Speed maybe.  Someone would be coming to find him.  Hopefully before he had to take her out.  "Max!  Backup!"

"Horatio's on his way over.  He's only a few blocks away."

"He's mine!  You can't have him.  Giles said so!"

"Are you desperate because you're getting older?" Maxine demanded.  "You've got a bunch of kids to teach, do that instead of heading to jail, Buffy.  Even if he does die it doesn't mean they'd assign him to you since you'd be the one killing him.  You'll be in jail.  You won't need him."

"No, he's coming back.  Giles said so.  Willow agreed."

"It's ..."  Xander shook his head.  "She's locked onto the idea.  It's like her last hope," he told her.  He ducked another swing, then backhanded her, backing away.  "Stay down, Buffy.  Max, any chance of cuffs?"

"Not on me.  You?"

"No, I stupidly thought this was going to be peaceful."  He looked around. "OFFICER!" he yelled.  "Help!"  The officer looked over, shaking his head.  "She's normal!  She's got a knife!  Could use some cuffs."  They were thrown over.  "Gee, thanks."  He looked at her. "Stay down."

"No.  You're mine.  You're my friend and you're coming home.  Giles said so.  He said you'd be my white lighter."

"I think he said I might be asked to be *a* white lighter.  They can't make you be one."  She shrieked and lunged.  He caught her wrist before she stabbed him, turning it so she had to drop the knife, then he flipped her using her arm as a lever.  He knelt on her back, handcuffing her.  "Thank you for finding lack of reason."  He stood up, flipping her over.  "You gonna live?"

"Not without you!" she screamed.

"You have this long.  You'll continue."  He backed away.  "Max?"

"Horatio's just up the street.  He's got her handcuffed, Horatio."  Xander leaned on her shoulder, head down.  "He's fine."  The officer came over.  "Thanks for the cuffs."

"She's normal?"

"Yeah, his former friend," she admitted quietly, hanging up.  "Lieutenant Caine is coming to bring her in."

"I can help him with that.  Why come here?"

"It's neutral ground but private if they wanted to have a rational talk, with enough safety devices around if she did something," Xander said, looking at him.  "You know, most of the time I do deal with normal things."

"I sat on the Marsh house, sir."

"I'm sorry.  I've got to clean out the strange stuff this weekend."  He put his head back down.  "I've got to call Giles," he told her.  "He needs to know she snapped."

"I'll do it," she soothed, looking away from Buffy.  "Come on, let's go sit for a few minutes.  You're not even sweaty.  I'm impressed."

"Thanks, Max."  He nodded at Horatio, then back at her.  "She's there."

"Thank you, Xander.  It's the right thing to do."

"The officer was looking at the knife," Maxine told him.  She walked Xander off, taking him out of sight.  "It'll be okay."  He nodded, giving her a hug.  That's why she was shocked when Buffy ran up behind them with the knife. "Xander!"  He turned, growling at her.  He got a stab wound but she went down this time.  Knocked out fully.  "Horatio!" Maxine yelled, helping Xander sit, putting pressure on his upper shoulder wound.  "Horatio!"  He came jogging back.  "He was stabbed."

Horatio called that in then got her into an extra pair of cuffs, tightening them this time.  "Xander?" he asked, coming over to check on him.  Xander hummed, looking at him.  "You'll be fine."

"John can feel this.  I had to untrap him earlier."

"I'll make sure he's fine," he promised, stroking his hair.  "Just hang on."

He looked down then at him. "It's not that bad, Horatio.  It's only a little stab wound.  No veins or anything."  Two more officers came running and he looked, then waved.  "Hi, guys."

"Please tell me she's a thing," one of them demanded.

Xander shook his head.  "Nope.  Friend.  Now you see why I date guys, right?"  They nodded, checking his shoulder.  "Tell Tim?"

"If he's not going to meet you there," she promised, being forced out of the way by Horatio.  She turned and kicked Buffy in the side.  "How dare you hurt him!"

"Miss Valera," Horatio said calmly, walking her off.

"How did she get free?"

"The officer was checking her for contraband when she snapped the originals and knocked him out.  She knocked me down and grabbed the knife," he said quietly.  He nodded at the other officers coming.  "He was knocked out but he should be groaning by now."  They went to check, helping him stand up.

"Are you sure she's normal!" that officer demanded.

"Yes," Horatio said patiently.  "I'm sure.  She's strong but normal."   They watched as Xander got walked off.  The officers came for Buffy, putting her into the back of the cruiser.  She would wake up soon enough.  He walked her after the ambulance.  "I'll call Speed,  you call Frank.  Get him back there to handle her.  Boys, to Homicide," he ordered.  They nodded.  That was their precinct, it would be dealt with by their detectives.  She was calling Tripp while he went to follow the ambulance and call Tim.  "It's Lieutenant Caine.  What happened to him?"  He listened.  "That's fine.  No, his boyfriend was just attacked and taken to the hospital.  It looks like Sinai.  Thank you."  He hung up.  The teacher would get Tim that way.   He sped up.  This was not going to be a fun night.  He found Rick in there already screaming at Xander about having her arrested earlier.  "He does not need this."

He backed off.  "He should have had her arrested."

"Giles told her I'd be John for her," Xander said weakly.  He looked at the nurse.  "Can't you stitch me up please?  I'll be much better once I have stitches."

"Once the doctor gets here.  Nowhere else hurts, sir?"

"She only stabbed me there."  He looked at his shoulder then at her.  "If you've got a mirror and a stitching kit I can do them."  She glared.  "Really."

"Xander," Horatio ordered.  He slumped, shaking his head.  "You're about to get pounced by some very fussing people."  She nodded, going to find the doctor.  He looked at Rick.  "How did you get here so fast?"

"Dispatch said they were routing one of your people here after a stabbing."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "Well, they did."  He walked in there, making Xander look at him. "You'll be fine.  I'm letting Frank deal with her."

"You do know his wife wanted to do stuff tonight, right?"

"It shouldn't take him that long."  He nodded, resting against his hand.  "It'll be fine, Xander."

"Sure, Dad."

Horatio smiled.  "Thank you, Xander."  He smoothed over his hair, nodding at the doctor.  "I'm keeping him calm and from doing it himself."

"Let's see what we have."  He looked.  "Barely over a scratch," he teased.  "Only about thirty stitches."

Xander looked at him.  "Got a mirror and a stitching pack?"

"Good joke, CSI Harris."

Xander gave him a look.  "Who's joking?"  The doctor gave him an odd look.  "Horatio!"

"Please do it before he tries to do it himself.  He's very stubborn," Horatio said calmly.

"I can see that."  He got the stitching pack and put on some new gloves, pulling over a stool so he could sit at a better height to do the stitches.  "Need a  local?"

"Maybe later."

"Okay."  He glanced at Horatio, who shrugged.  He took the first stitch and Xander only hissed a few minutes later.  He got done and bandaged it.  "You know the precautions?"  Xander nodded.  "Okay."  He took off the draping the nurse had put on him.  "No wonder."

Xander looked down then at him.  "I'm better now."  He slid off the table.  "Papers and antibiotic so I can go home?  Please?"

"I'll write it out for you."  He looked at Horatio.

"We know.  He's seen combat."  That got a nod and he went to write out the prescription.  Xander did hiss getting back into his t-shirt.  "Are you sure?"

"If I go out there shirtless they'll kidnap me," he joked weakly.  "Need a statement, Stetler?"

"Not now.  I'll get it tomorrow."

"Decent.  Thanks."  He walked out, taking the papers and signing where he needed to.  He wobbled out, running into Tim in the waiting area.  "Stitches.  Frank has her."

"I'm going to have her in a few minutes," he said coolly.  "Home.  Now."

"Please?  Ice cream for dinner?"

"I should spank."

"I had her down, she got free of the handcuffs somehow and came after me again."  He let Tim walk him out, going to whine his way into ice cream.  He had a boo-boo.  He needed ice cream.  "Did I interrupt your test?"

"I can make it up tomorrow."

"Okay.  The realtor thinks we're rich.  She pulled up a lot of possibles."

"Good."  He got him into the back of the car, walking around to drive.  He waved at Horatio.  "Thanks."

"Not a problem."  He watched them go, shaking his head.

"Lieutenant, does that young man need help?" the nurse asked bluntly.  "We do have a social worker we can call."

He looked at her.  "His parents are far out of his life now," he told her.  She smiled at  that.  "Thank you for asking."

"Not too many men can take stitches without a local."

"Xander's very unique," he said with a small smile.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Make sure he takes his antibiotics."

"I'm sure he will.  He's got a few mother hens in the lab."  She smiled, going back inside.  He looked at Rick.  "We all have friends we'd rather help than arrest, Rick.  She's one of his.  Let us handle it."

"She's going away."

"If we can."  He walked off, heading back to the station.  He ran into a scowling Frank.  "Sorry to interrupt."

"Nah, the wife was getting sobby over a chick flick, Horatio."  He looked at the blonde then at him.  "She broke cuffs?"

"She did.  Knocked out an officer, knocked me down.  Got Xander in the shoulder.  They put in twenty-one stitches thanks to her knife."

"She'll have a fun time in jail."

Horatio coughed.  "Xander thought she had snapped mentally.  Apparently her caretaker decided Xander would someday take John's place, even for her if he died early enough," he said quietly.

"Uh-huh," he said slowly, considering it.  "I thought they gave you a choice."

"As far as I know they do."

"Well, she could probably use one where she's going.  Even if she does get declared incompetent."  He walked over there.  "You have the right to make one local phone call."

"Everyone's in Cleveland."

"I'll see what I can do."  Horatio handed over his phone.  "You sure?"

"As long as she isn't on there for an hour.  Xander would be very hurt if she got hurt down here."  Or if she stayed but he wouldn't say that in front of her.  Frank uncuffed her, letting her use the phone.  Horatio looked at him.  "Stetler beat me to the hospital."

"He was lurking here trying to see who knew about the kid's eye.  He only has one?"  Horatio nodded.  Buffy stared.  "What?" he demanded.  "Talk, or don't talk.  Don't stare."  He looked at his friend again.  "I never would've known."

"Yelina said the same thing but she knew."  He smiled.  "It'll be fine, Frank."  He nodded at that.  He took the phone back once Buffy hung up.  "Thank you for handling this."

"Better me than rabid boy over there," he said, nodding at the newbie.  "I heard Wolfe made him go question people instead of being in his way."

"He did," Horatio agreed, smiling some.  "Miss Valera was with them but she followed Tim out the door when he walked Xander off to feed him ice cream for dinner."

"That'll spoil him."

"Xander asked and Tim was trying to hold firm but you know he'll give in."

"We all do," Frank agreed.  Calleigh stormed over.  "Whoa!" he said, getting out of her way, letting Horatio catch her before she could hit her.  "No hitting people in cuffs."

"She stabbed my ballistics tech.  I deserve one good slap!"

"She's going to be arrested," Horatio said soothingly, walking her off.  "Come on.  We'll go talk over dinner."  She looked at him, getting a small smile.  "Twenty-one stitches, he's already out of the ER.  Tim's got him and Maxine followed to baby him."

"In other words he pulled macho bullcrap," she said dryly, staring at him.  He smiled slightly but nodded.  "Uh-huh.  I'll see him tomorrow."

"He should probably take tomorrow off."

"Xander?  What earth did you come from!" she said dryly, walking him out.  "Come on, you can take me to dinner anyway."  He smiled, following her out.

Frank accepted the box of things from her hotel room.  "Her bag?"

"She only had the small one, Detective.  I'm not sure why she had the small teapot but she had one of those too."  He walked off, leaving them alone.

Frank opened the teapot, looking down inside.  "You'd look horrible in the Jeanie outfit," he told the ghost in there.

"Thanks."   He floated out.  "Xander all right?"  He noticed it got very quiet.  "What?  Someone's got to check on the kid.  I was bored."  He glared at Buffy.  "You're in deep."  He looked at Frank.  "He good?"

"Home.  Maxine's with him too probably."

"Good."  He faded out, heading home, finding Maxine fussing enough that Tim was laughing in the chair.  He faded in, shaking his head.  "She caught me again.  Frank got me out of the teapot."

"Bad _I Dream of Jeanie_ remake?" Speed giggled.

"Basically," he said, pouting some.  "You tried, kid, she caught me again.  Oh, he released me in the station."

"The officer earlier didn't want to help him because it might be a strange thing," Maxine told him.

"Cops hate strange things," he reminded her.  "His buddies will tease him about having her kick his butt."  He floated down to look at his shoulder. "It looks good.  By the way, two of the ones you saw today were shielded.  I couldn't get in."  He faded back out, going to check on everyone else.  He found Alexx in the kitchen.  "Don't try to stab me, okay?"

"I wouldn't, John."  She smiled at him. "You're all wrinkled.  Strong wind over there?"

"No, Buffy," he snorted.

"Excuse me?  Small, blonde thing?"

"That stabbed Xander in the shoulder.  He's fine.  Home.  Valera is doing her best to fuss him into a coma."

"Uh-huh.  And the blonde girl?"

"Frank.  He let me out in the station.  I excused it as I got bored so I came to watch Xander now and then."

"Uh-huh.  Does Horatio know?"

"He helped stop her."

"Good!  Then I'll get in mine tomorrow when he stupidly comes to work like a man."  She finished making her peanut butter sandwich and sat down with some milk.  "Go hover."

"I can't.  Speed's giggling.  Max is going to drive him insane, Calleigh's out on a date, Delko's proving he's het yet again, and the boys are going to go nuts soon."

"Where's Horatio?

"With Calleigh."

"Really?  I hadn't heard this piece of gossip."

"Yeah, from his possession.  Hey, Peter.  Just visiting."

"That's fine.  She could use someone to share gossip with, John," he said absently, grabbing a drink and walking off reading again.

She shook her head. "I love my man."

"That's good after all this time," he teased.  She laughed and swatted at him.  "When Horatio was possessed," he started, settling in near her to tell her the juicy gossip.


"Why are you in here if you were stabbed!" Calleigh demanded.

"I've got stitches," he said cautiously, looking at her.  "Why?  Was I suddenly fired or something?"

"You got stabbed."

"I know, I was there.  I'm wondering where they stuffed her or if they shipped her back already."

"Fat chance!"  She walked off.  "Maxine, your boy's in the lab already."

She walked that way, looking at his wound.  "Well, it looks clean.  Did you take your antibiotic?"  He nodded slowly.  "Good boy."  She smiled and patted him on the head.  "You be good and come see me or Alexx when you need to change that."  She went back to work. "It's still clean.  He's fine.  He's taking his antibiotics."

"He shouldn't be at work!"

"He probably ran out before Tim could stop him.  You know the final authority on these things.  Alexx and Horatio."

"Horatio, Xander came in today."

"He's scheduled to work and as long as he's able I'll let him," he called back, shaking his head.  He snuck into ballistics, closing and locking the door.  "That way you get away from the ladies."

"Thank you!  I thought I had wandered into another plane or something.  Calleigh doesn't usually fuss."  He sat down, looking at him. "I'm fine.  A bit stiff but I'm good."

"As I would expect.  Though the stunt you pulled with the doctor last night," he started.

Xander snorted.  "I hate hospitals.  I can't stand being in the ER.  ER's are punishments for screwing up."  Horatio snickered at that, nodding a bit.  "Sorry.  But not really."

"As long as you'll be fine."

"I hope so.  Did he tell you something after I left?"  Horatio shook his head. "Then it's only a little stab, boss, really."  He nodded, getting up to head to the firing pen.  "Lock it behind you please."

"I can do that."  He left him alone, locking the door behind him.  Calleigh gave him an odd look.  "He's hiding."

"Those girls didn't teach him the right things."

"He said he's fine."

"He got stabbed!"

"I know, I was there."  She growled.  "He's fine.  We'll make sure the wound stays clean.  Now, where is she?"

"Her Public Defender suggested she ask for a mental hearing.  She's under evaluation."

"That's good.  We can handle that."  He gave her a gentle pat and walked off.  "Maxine, he's fine.  He said he's fine."

"As long as he stays fine I'll only have to fuss a little bit."

"Thank you."  He went to talk to Alexx, ignoring Ryan and Eric snickering in Trace.  "Alexx?"

"Is Xander in?"  He nodded.  "He okay?"

"Twenty-one stitches later and he said he's fine.  A bit stiff but fine."

"Uh-huh.  John told me what happened."  She patted him on the arm.  "Was it a good date?"

He blushed and smiled.  "It was.  Thank you for asking.  Xander's hiding from all women today."

"Probably a good idea.  Tim wanted to know how to sedate her last night," she admitted.  He laughed, walking out.  She went to talk to Maxine about how to set up a good fussing ritual and schedule.  After all, you had to give them some time away from the fussing or they ran away.


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