Xander woke up in the emergency room, blinking at the nurse.  "Did I do a time loop?" he asked.  She smiled and shook her head.  "Was I beaten while at work?  Because the last thing I remember I was at work."

"No, you collapsed at work."

"Why?  I'm not usually a fainter."

"We think it had something to do with the small explosion that went off in your lab."

"EXCUSE ME!" he demanded.  He sat up, swatting at her.  "Where's my people?  I need to know what happened."

"So do they, they said to tell you they'd be back in about an hour.  You've been out now for three hours, Mr. Harris, and it's nearly five."

"I missed my lunchtime antibiotic?  Maxine is going to throttle me."

"No, she said you took it.  She's pacing in the waiting room.  I kept running into her so I'm making her wait out there.  Your girlfriend?"


"Ah.  Okay.  Now, let's do some cognitive checks, okay?  It's not unusual to be missing a few hours."

"I've been in explosions before," he complained. "The same as I've had concussions."  He rubbed the side of his head.  "I've got a new dent?"

"You hit a table fairly hard, Mr. Harris."

"Xander.  Mr. Harris is a shitbag sperm donor.  I'm not."

"Okay.  Xander then."  She started with his pulse, then his blood pressure, then she looked into his eyes.  "Well, it's not looking too bad."  He gave her an odd look.  "I used to work in Pediatrics."

"Ah.  No wonder you're treating me like a puppy."  She grinned and nodded.  "Okay.  Let's try this.  Are we done?"  She shook her head.  "Don't even think I'm staying overnight."

"Probably not."

"Good.  Max!" he called plaintively.  She rushed in.  "What the hell happened?" he mouthed.

She shrugged.  "I don't know, Xander.  We know it wasn't in ballistics.  We think it was in the evidence locker behind the firing pen.  It got my lab and yours."  She came over to hug him but he struggled.  "Hey," she pouted.

"Too many cuddles today.  I need to hunt and maim."

"I'll tell Horatio you want to hunt and maim but you're still staying until they release you.  Horatio and the Chief said so and he got Tim to back it up as an order."

"Whatever."  He laid back down, wincing at the ache in his head.  "Can I have some tylenol?"

"You may," the nurse agreed, going to get him some.  She came back with the doctor.  "He'll be the one to make sure you're able to go home later on, Xander."

The doctor gave her an odd look.  "With a concussion?"

"It's like my seventh," Xander told him.

"Ah.  I see."  He came over to check him over.  "Localized pain in your head?"  He nodded.  "How's the shoulder?  I saw one of my coworkers did an excellent job last night."  Maxine snapped her fingers and handed over his discharge orders.  "Girlfriend?  Wife?"


"That's his cute way of saying I worry about him."  Maxine listened to Horatio.  "Thanks.  The doctor's here now."  She hung up.  "Tim's there as a recruit and trainee helping sift through the rubble of our labs.  That would be his boyfriend," she told the doctor, who just nodded.  "I'm standing in."

"You know, someone thought I should have kids," Xander said seriously.

She smiled. "You'd turn me evil too," she promised, pinching him on the cheek.  "The kid would turn into Ryan."  He snickered, nodding a bit.  "You rest.  They're figuring it out now."  She looked at the doctor.  "When can I take him home?"

"Later on.  I want to keep him here for a while longer."  Xander huffed.  "I don't care how many you've had, Xander.  You're staying.  If you try to sneak out I get to handcuff and restrain you.  Am I clear?"

"That might be a very bad idea," Maxine told him.  "He's seen a bunch of combat and he's been kidnaped a few times, Doc."

"I've seen combat myself.  I hate being a patient too.  Sometimes you have to.  So you're staying.  Am I clear, Xander?"

"Yes, Generale," he said, rolling the G.  That got a smirk and the doctor walked out making notes.  He looked at Maxine once they were alone.  "Did you drive?"

"No, I got into the ambulance with you since I have some cuts on my upper chest and arms."  She let him see, earning a hum.  "Glass."

"I hate the new lab design."

"Well, yeah, Natalia helped."

"No wonder."  He grimaced, sitting up again.  "I'm bored."  She laughed, shaking her head.  "I am."

"It doesn't matter if you are or not."  She pinched his cheek.  "If you move from that bed, Alexx has promised she'll be paddling you this time.  She heard what you did last night."

"Isn't that a crappy teen movie?"

"Nearly."  She ruffled his hair.  "Time for a trim."

He snorted, shaking his head.  "Maybe I'll let it grow.  So, what do you think?  I have the option of a cute little family home a bit further out than we're living now. There was a three story townhouse but it's long and narrow."

"Like Tim?" she teased.

"He's not that big."   She giggled.  "Or there's two condos that can be bought together and made into one house-sized apartment.  The only drawback there is the construction needed to knock down a few walls.  Though, Tim might like some stress relief."

"How big's the house?"

"One story, two bedrooms.  It's a bit bigger than our apartment now but not much.  Think a one story version of Mr. Wilson's house on tv."

"Okay."  She considered it.  "The townhouse have more room?"  He shrugged.  "You're not sure?"

"They said so but it feels enclosed to me."

"What did Tim say?"

"He didn't care as long as we hired movers this time for everything but the weapons."

"There's nothing that caught your attention even better?"

"Yeah but I'd have to take out the longer mortgage. A twenty year anything scares me."

"It does me too, that's why I'm not planning on having kids anytime soon."  He grinned at that.  Tim walked in.  "Did you find out what happened?"  He nodded.  "That bad?"

"Yeah.  Non-Felony had a chemical leak that they didn't quite get everything up from.  Wolfe had a scene that included a lot of heavy metals in the evidence pool."  Xander moaned. "Then we had the small gunpowder spill?"

"Not in my lab," Xander told him.  "I would've cleaned that up immediately."  He leaned toward him.   "You know I make Ryan proud with how often I clean my lab."

"Could it be residue?" Valera asked.

"No, that's exploded gunpowder," Xander said, staring at Tim.  "Where was it?"

"Along the wall between your lab and evidence three."

"Uh-uh.  That's exemplar storage.  I haven't been back there in a few days but I always glance in whenever I have to go out for more than ten minutes."

"Okay."  He went to find the nurse.  "I need you to run a tox screen on CSI Harris," he said.  "The explosion was in an odd place with reasons that don't make sense."  She handed it over.  He looked.  "Sedatives?"  She nodded.  "When did we get this back?"

"An hour into his unscheduled nap.  It's probably why he was blown sideways into a table.  You are?"

"Tim."  He smiled at her grin.  "They told you?"  She nodded. "I'm also a CSI trainee."  He walked off, calling Horatio once he got into the cubicle, letting Xander and Maxine have the paperwork.  "H, it's me.  He was sedated."  He nodded.  "Thanks."  He looked out at the nurse.  "Did anyone do the forensic processing?"

"We figured you might need it if some evidence was compromised.  I had our SART nurse do it for you.  She's fully certified and I figure she's the next best thing to one of you since she does our assault kits."  He grinned at that.  "It's bagged in security waiting on his boss."

"Thank you."  He put the phone back against his ear.  "H, yeah, they had the SART nurse do it."  He smirked at Xander. "It's waiting on you at security.  No, I'm about to have to hold Xander down."  Xander looked at him and nodded. "He's a bit pissed," he said, hanging up.  "We'll get whoever did this, Xander.  You know we will."

"Not if I get there first.  Someone's going to die for touching my lab."

"You know very well they won't let you work on it," Maxine reminded him.  "You've still got to clear the Marsh homicide so he'll put you on that until the lab's fixed."

"I'm waiting on the FreeMasons to tell me who did it."

"They called and left a message on the machine.  I told them to go to Ryan and sicced John on him.  I told John to possess him if he had to but that Ryan would be polite about it."

Xander grinned.  "That's an odd thought.  John inside Ryan?"

"He's probably swearing right now if he heard that," Maxine said, shaking her head quickly.  "Tell him about the nice places you found."

"I don't care as long as I can move in and have someone else haul and tote," Tim told her.

"There's a small house.  There's a long, thin townhouse with three floors, or there's a set of next-door condos we can buy together for the same price as the other two and knock down a few walls to have a decent sized place."

"Do we have a favorite?"

"Yeah but we'd have to go for the twenty year mortgage," he said weakly.  "It's this cute little bungalow with a good view of a park.  It's about the same size we have now unless we convert the attic, which has stairs up to it, into a master bedroom.  Then we can add a small balcony off the windows, maybe make them something you can open wider so we can have a fantastic view?" he offered hopefully.

"That sounds like a lot of work."

"But if we're going to be living there for ten or twenty years we should be able to have some plans."

"How many mortgage offers did we get?" Tim asked, sitting on the foot of the bed.

"I'm not eligible for the one through the police union.  The guy at the office sneered and said they wouldn't finance me to live with my boyfriend or to do disgusting things that would look bad or discredit the rest of the officers.  I got an offer from another bank but it was more in fees even if they would let us take out more."

"That sucks," Maxine said.  "Our union's supposed to help us with those things."

"He tried to say they'd be taking my insurance too," Xander said quietly.  "They're very anti-Xander and Tim."

"We've dealt with this issue before," Tim said quietly.  "I'll talk to Frank, make sure he knows that they're threatening you because of me.  Maybe he or Horatio can bust some heads."

"I hate running to someone like they're my parent and I'm a toddler."

"You're not and they're not," Maxine said firmly. "It's their job to get in the way of the stupid folk who do stupid things."

"What she said," Speed agreed.  "Plus we can check with the gay union and see if they've got anything."

"I did.  They do have an alternate insurance plan since they've done it to others.  They don't know of any banks that are more gay friendly."  He shifted around, leaning against Tim's thigh.  "I'm trying really hard, Tim, but this is going to get really expensive, even if they will only let us use thirty percent of my income."

"What about down payments?" he asked gently, stroking through the dark hair.

"We've got the extra we saved from New York.  We've got the stuff we've been saving down here.  That and a full paycheck will give us about twenty thousand."  He smiled at that.  "But the car needs fixed too."

"If we're only using thirty percent of our income it'll be okay," Speed reminded him.  He went back to petting him, nodding when Frank and Horatio walked in.  "Did you know the PD union was trying to take away his insurance because of me?"

"You're not the first.  The gay union has their own version and it's a better plan anyway," Frank promised. "Lower deductible too.  I've thought about saying I had a hidden male lover to get it instead."  He looked at Xander.  "Headache?"  He nodded.  "Anything else wrong?"

"Small dent.  They said I hit a table?"

"Yeah, you went flying," Tim agreed, looking down at him. "Good thing you were knocked out.  You were too limp to resist."  He looked at them.  "Could this be related to that or his other speciality?"

"That's what I was gonna ask," Frank admitted.  "Any threats?"

"Depends, are we going to count the officer last night who refused to help and only tossed over cuffs?" Maxine retorted.  Horatio frowned.  "He was worried Buffy was a strange thing."

"I remember the question being asked."  Horatio looked at Xander.  "Found something outside the price range?"

"Yup but I know we can't afford it.  It'd take both of us working at my salary to afford it."  He looked at Tim.  "It was prettier."

"We don't have time for a lot of lawn care, Xander," Speed said gently.

"It had a covered porch and a swing."

"That might be a nice thing.  Front or back?"

"Back.  Gated front.  Chainlink in the back but it can be fixed.  It had its own garage.  Sixty grand higher than we can spend and it was snapped up already."

"Any others near that park?" Maxine asked.

"Only a big monstrosity of a house we'd have to have a whole kennel of dogs to fill up."

"One dog, Xander.  Only one dog."

"Yes, Tim."  The curtain opened and he looked back at Stetler.  "Find anything good yet and can I help?"

"Yes and no.  In that order.  You've gotten a recent threat?"

"I have?"

"In your office voicemail, Harris."

"I have a voicemail set up?" he asked, looking at Horatio, who nodded.  "Who uses it?"

"We all know better since you never answer it or memos," Frank told him.  "What about the gay union?  They don't offer a good mortgage?"  Xander shook his head.  "Huh.  Seems like they should."

"The regular union does," Rick said impatiently.

"They don't want to finance us living together or me doing anything that might make the uniforms look bad," Xander told him.  "That's why they're thinking about how to cut my insurance off too."

Rick shook his head.  "No, that'll be stopped."

"That's happened a few times, Rick," Horatio told him.

"It'll be stopped," he promised.  "I know the person over it.  It's my boss.  It'll be stopped.  No one else wants to deal with what he does.  They can go back to looking the other way for those things."  He pulled out a form, handing it over.  "That's a transcript off your voicemail.  Recognize the wording?"

Xander looked then shook his head.  "No."  He handed it back.  "No name given?"

"Unfortunately he wasn't that stupid.  He only gave us his precinct.  Said they all wanted you gone."  He put it back into his pocket.  "Any other problems?"

"Last night the officer wouldn't help him subdue Buffy," Maxine told him.  "He tossed over cuffs but he wanted to make sure she wasn't a strange thing as he put it."

"He the guy that got knocked out by her?" Frank asked.  She gave an evil little smirk and nodded.  "Good.  Serves him right for not helping."  He looked at Stetler.  "Think it's the same guy?"

"I don't know yet.  I'll look into it being him."  He looked at the couple on the bed.  "They should be releasing you soon. You are barred from the lab until we're done processing, Harris.  Am I clear?"

"Can I come in to work in Trace?"

"No.  I want you far away from them. You two can guard each other and I'm sure you've got...ways of protecting yourself otherwise. I don't want them to try the lab again."  Xander nodded, looking solemn about that.  "Thank you."  He looked at Horatio.  "I want your findings the minute they're stitched together.  Do not even *attempt* to question without me."

"I won't, Rick.  Thank you for not causing more problems."

"We'll see who it was first."  He walked off, going back to the lab.

Horatio looked at the boys.  "Let's get you home."  They nodded.  "You can look at the houses online tonight.  We'll sit a cruiser outside your doors.  Someone we trust."  He went to get the nurse.  "Can he go home yet?"  She handed over the evidence box, shaking her head.  "When?"

"When the doctor says so.  He was thinking it'd be a few hours."

"We found out he was threatened.  We need to get him somewhere more secure.  One of his mother hens is our ME.  Would that satisfy him?"

"You can ask him, he's coming up the hall now, Lieutenant."  Horatio nodded, going to do that.  She watched the doctor frown, then shake his head.  Horatio made a good arguer, he was still going.  The doctor finally gave in and let him sign himself out while Horatio took the evidence back to the lab.


Tim looked at Xander later that night.  "I'd like something with a bit more room," he said gently, not wanting to upset him.

Xander opened up another browser window to show him the condos they could build together, letting him see them.  "That's the biggest we had in the price range.  But if we get something smaller we can add on later, Tim."  He cuddled against his back while he looked.  "Since it's a former industrial space it's not going that fast."  He kissed his neck.  "Unless you wanted to buy a warehouse and convert it?  That way we'd have the storage and the garage area."  Tim looked at him.  "You could get a new bike," he offered hesitantly.  "Eric was wondering when you were going to."

He snuck a kiss.  "Once I start working."  He went back to looking.  "That'll take a lot of work to put up walls and finish out some of the space."

"It's far enough under our budget that we could hire someone to do that for us," Xander said.

"I didn't mind doing that when we were here during your internship.  What's our budget?"

"She said thirty percent of our gross income over ten years."

Tim got onto another site he had found, typing in the amount and the radius they needed on the map.  He looked through the offerings.  "This is where I found our first one."  He found something, clicking on it.  "That's many steps."

"For not a lot of square feet," Xander added.

"True, but it's an artist's building."  He backed out, going back to the lists.  He came to one without a picture and read it over more carefully.  That one seemed enormous for the price.  He called the number.  "Hi, I was just on the apartment finder site and ran into your ad for the loft?"  He listened, nodding in a few places.  "Can we look at it tomorrow?"  He smiled.  "Actually it's me and my roommie.  He's with the crime lab and I'm a forensics student."  He smirked at the spluttering.  "Felony.  He's the ballistics tech," he admitted.  "We could easily do that," he promised.  "Thank you."  He hung up.  "He choked on his bong hit.  That is an idea though."  He went to the drug seizure website, looking it over.  "No houses this time.  They're all pre-bid."  He went to another seizure website, finding something nice.

Xander looked.  "That's the one I liked that was out of price range.  When was it seized?"

"Yesterday."  He looked it over.  It was nice, or it had the potential to be nice.  He marked it in the favorites and then went onto the other stuff they had.  A bike like his only in dark midnight blue was on there and he moaned.  He checked the price.  Pre-bid.  He checked on the bid price, moaning a bit.

"We can put less down on the house," Xander said quietly, nuzzling him again.  Tim smiled and put in his own bid.  It was two dollars over the other person's top limit.  Xander pointed at one other listing.  "Where's that?"

He opened it and let him see.  "The 'Glades.  Way too far out."

"Pity.  It has pretty land."

"It does," he agreed, sneaking a kiss with a smile.  Their email beeped and he opened it, looking over the bid acknowledgment.  He sent back the required information and the bid was accepted.  They went back to the housing listings.  He found one he adored and let Xander see it.  "It's expensive."

"It's huge.  We'd need a whole kennel of dogs, Tim."

"It's not that big."

"It's got four bedrooms."

"Your office, my office."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "Why do I need an office?"

"For all the swords and stuff you keep in the desk?"

"Oh yeah."  He went back to looking.  "No master suite?"

"Any bedroom can be a master suite and we're not going to be worrying about a lot of family coming down."

"Point."  He rested his head on his shoulder again.  "What's attracting you to it?"

"The kitchen.  The space.  The small back yard so we can set up somewhere to sit and maybe a swing."  He reached back to pet him, earning a lick.  "You're not the puppy we're going to get."

"Yes, dear."  He backed out, going to their original site, showing him the bigger one by the park.  "Three bedrooms.  Small kitchen but it can be changed around.  Small yard.  On a park.  Good views.  Sturdy construction."

Speed looked it over.  "We'd have to do some renovations in the kitchen."

"It'll be *our* place, Tim.  We can renovate and paint all we want.  We'll have it for ten or twenty years."

"That's a good point," he admitted.  He looked it over again, eyeing what he'd like to do.  "We'd have to strip the wallpaper."  Xander nodded.  "We'd have to update the kitchen."  Xander nodded again.  "That tub is staying as long as the overflow is okay.  I don't mind the old cast iron tubs."  He gave it a more critical eye, comparing it to the other house.  "Mine's cheaper."

"Yours is in the middle of a right wing neighborhood where we'd be egged every day," Xander said gently.  "They've had two different gay couples driven out of there."

"How did you find that out?"

"The realtor warned me when I asked about her discluding a few areas."

"Oh.  Good to know."  He went back to the one house.  "It's expensive."

"It's on the park.  You can walk across the street and be in there.  There's also a small grocery store and a little walking mall up the road by about five blocks."

"That's a nice area.  Is it still up?"

"It's too expensive for most starter families.  Plus most of them don't like the neighborhood because it's a bit loud with the park traffic."

"But we're gone all day and nighttime traffic doesn't bother either of us."  He smiled back at him.  "Get off.  Can we drive by there tomorrow?"

"I can have Lisa take us through it together."

"Cool.  I need to see our realtor anyway."  He stole a kiss with a smile.  "Good idea, Xan."

"Thanks."  He beamed and snuggled in, opening up another window.  "She suggested this one was going on tax auction."

"That's huge," he said dryly.  "We don't need something the size of the Playboy mansion."

"You sure?  We could let Calleigh lie around in a bikini and things."

Speed poked him, shaking his head.  "No, Xander."

"Okay, if you're sure.  It'll be cheaper on tax auction."

"I know.  Pity."  He called the realtor.  "Hi, it's Xander and his boyfriend."

"I told her you were Darren," he mouthed.

"Yeah, we were looking at a three bedroom on the park in your listings.  We both have tomorrow off.  Can we look at it then?"  He smiled.  "That'll work.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "She'll be in the office at ten, drop in anytime."

"Cool."  He snuggled in better.  "Are you sure you don't want a condo or a townhouse?  I know you prefer having some things taken care of for us."

"What were you thinking?"

Xander opened up another site, letting him see.  "We'd have a two week housing gap that we could stay at a motel for.  They're filling up, they're gay friendly.  They allow pets.  They'll have a small park and it'll be an enclosed neighborhood.  Safer for us."

Speed looked it over.  "It seems kinda...fake, Xander."  Xander opened up the floorplan and he fell in love.  "Oooh."

"That's what I wanted and they've got three other developments with openings.  This is the only one with this floorplan but one of the others is this one."  He clicked on the link, letting him see it.  "It's a bit bigger, which means a bit more expensive, but it's downtown.  It's thirty from the campus so you'd get a good ride.  It's ten from the lab not using the Causeway. Twenty if I went that way."  Tim looked at him.  "It's got a pool.  It's near everything we liked.  It's withstood six hurricanes, including a major one.  It's a good size enclave.  It's not that ugly.  The colors are a bit bright on the buildings.  There's a small monthly maintenance fee but it's nothing outrageous with the payments we'd have.  Lisa suggested it.  They do allow dogs.  There's a dog walking park not two blocks away and a real park about five.  They've only had two break-ins they've reported.  Us being officers would give us a ten percent discount on the price and there's three units open in the enclave."

"How big?"  Xander pointed so he looked at the announcement.  He went over the pictures of each one.  "You weren't kidding, that's South Beach Baby Blue."  He loved the area.  It had a lot of shops he liked to goof of in.  "No porch swing."

"Actually, one does have an enclosed back area," he admitted.  "It's the four bedroom so it's the most expensive and it's on the end.  We'd have to go past everyone to park.  It's also got a good storage area."  He snuggled in again, letting Tim pet him.  "Calleigh and I both looked at the area."

"It's a good area."  He kept going, finding the four bedroom.  "Crappy kitchen."

"It's only ninety, we have up to one-forty if we want it," Xander said quietly.  "We can fix the kitchen."

"True."  He kept going.  "What about the other community?"

"It's in a bit seedier of an area, so therefore cheaper, and it's got some families."  He went back to the original page then headed down that link, showing him.  "About the same distance but switched around for my ride.  Ten on the Causeway or twenty the other way."

"Still a nice-ish neighborhood."  He looked it over.  "I like this one better."  He let Xander click on the one he liked.  "That should go to one of those families that has eight kids."

"You wanted space," he teased.  He backed out and went to another one.  "Small, very small, yard.  Dogs allowed.  Five hundred a month maintenance fee," he said, nibbling on an earlobe.  He got swatted for it.  "The neighborhood's not that bad.  Still the ten percent off."

Speed moaned, letting him nibble some more while he looked.  "I want to look at them."

"We can pop around whenever we want, Speed.  Still near all your favorite places but closer to Horatio's end of the city."

"There's been a small crime surge there."

"Not that bad.  A few home invasions.  Then again, I'm with the department.  You will be some year soon."  Tim smiled at that.  "They don't mind gay families.  Not ones with dogs or kids.  One of our neighbors there would be a gay family that has three kids.  His wife's a bit of an issue.  The guy showing them apologized while they were dragging her off for screaming in front of the house."

"Everywhere has people like that.  How's the sound quality?"

"I could not hear a thing."  Tim smiled.  "These ones made it through Andrew and only needed new roofs."

"That's saying something but that makes it older construction."

"It still looked and felt solid to me."

"We'll go see tomorrow."  He took a kiss while putting the laptop off to the side, letting Xander pounce.  "You're a good house hunter."  Xander smiled.  "If we ever have to leave the lab, go for your real estate license."  Xander poked him and snuggled into his arms, getting comfortable.  "No napping on the couch tonight or you won't get screwed into the bed for a week."  Xander laughed, getting up and leading him up to their bed.  That was a promise he could appreciate.


Tim looked over at Horatio when he joined him in the park.  "We're torn between that one," he said, pointing at the house across the street.  "Or the gray one two up from the double homicide and kidnaping this morning."


"Xander said they had kids and the wife had been screaming yesterday."

"I'll look into that."  He looked at the house.  "It's a nice size."

"It is, but the other one is *there*."

He smiled at him.  "How many renovations would you have to do?"

"Some light fixtures.  The kitchen but we'd have to do the same in there."  He grinned.  "So, which do you think?  Xander's letting me make the final decision and I'm torn."

"The other one offers a department discount.  Is Xander eligible?"

"I asked and he said lab staff were included.  That brings that one far down below this one.  The one I loved that Xander said was too big was going for eighty.  This one's nearly one-eighty and we'd have to take out the fifteen or twenty year mortgage."

"Which one did you dance about?"

"Both," he complained.  "The other's nice, even with the homicide this morning.  It's in a worse neighborhood but this one's got noise issues.  This is where they hold the fireworks every year and there's tons of traffic."

"The other?"

"The other is quieter, better built, the same square footage if you count that little odd place in the living room by the stairs.  The one Xander liked of them was cheaper, it was a bit smaller and next to the pool."   Horatio smiled.  "I don't know."

"What did John say?"

"He said the one I liked was echoing.  The one Xander liked was only three bedrooms.  That means we'd have to share an office or my office would have to be a guest room too."

"How many guests are you expecting?"

"I know but it's important in case we need to."  He frowned.  "We both vetoed the one out there.  It's *huge*.  We could play Xander's version of football in the bedroom."  Horatio snickered, shaking his head.  "We could but we agreed it was too big for us.  The agent gave us an odd look when Xander said that.  I had to cover and say he had been raised by girls."  He sighed, looking at the house then at him.  "This one will only go up in value.  The others' a townhouse.  They can go up or down."

"Find the one that speaks to you, Speed.  Real estate in Florida will *always* go up as long as this is the place to retire."

"Good point."  He looked at him.  "Wanna go see?"

"I'll even give you a ride."

"Thanks, Xander's looking at the other places he had just in case something else snuck up on us and he liked it better."

"Maintenance fees?"

"Five hundred a month.  Our utilities are pretty low.  That one's got central air, which I miss."  He headed for the hummer, giving him time to get in before going on.  "It's got a kitchen I could live with.  A few things would need changed but we could do that ourselves over the weekend."  He called Xander.  "I'm taking H to see the gray one."  He smiled.  "He said another one was just put up in that same neighborhood so he's looking at it."  Horatio smiled, driving them over there.  "It's near my old place and all the places I used to like to shop.  My bookstore.  My kitchen place.  My grocery store."

"You have ID saying you're Speed's brother."

"I know."  He shifted some, looking at something.  "What're they putting up there?"

"No telling," he admitted.  "I'm hoping it's not another Wal-Mart."

"I wouldn't mind a Sam's Club."

"Costco, Speed.  Costco."

"I like the other better even if they are both evil stores."   He pointed and Horatio pulled in behind their car.  Xander came out shaking his head.  "No?"

"No.  I like the gray one or the blue one better."

Speed grinned, giving him a short kiss.  "We'll let Horatio decide since we both liked them both."  The agent smiled, leading them through both of them.   The blue one was smaller but it had the bigger kitchen and slice of back yard.  The gray one was bigger but it had a few architectural odd spots.

Horatio looked at the one in the living room.  "What would you put there?"

"Bookcase," Xander told him.  "Maybe in an 'L' shape since we don't have parties to need the bar."

"It'd need cabinets for a bar," Speed said.

Xander shrugged.  "That's easily done.  I want carpeting too."

"Carpeting is nice," Speed agreed.  He went to stare around the kitchen.  It had been updated five years earlier.  It wasn't *too* bad.  He could live with it for a while.   It had no view out the back.  It faced some of the downtown buildings but the wrong direction for sunsets.  He went back to the living room, letting him picture himself in here.  He could picture himself working on a crime scene in here.  It'd be easy enough to do.  But could he picture himself living here?  He went upstairs, trying to shake his professional view from his mind.  He found Horatio admiring the master suite, which Xander had wanted. Why it had three closets he wasn't sure.  He looked at the agent.  "Did it belong to a trio?"

"Well, a couple and their sub," he admitted.  "That little nook used to house their play equipment area."

Tim just nodded.  "Okay.  That makes more sense."

"Especially with the way that one closet bar is braced," Xander agreed.  "I could hang all my swords on it."

"No sharp, pointy things in the bedroom, Xander," Speed ordered.

"Yes, dear."  He blew a kiss and went to look out their windows.  "What about putting a balcony out here?  For snacks and breakfasts and things?"

"We wouldn't mind," the agent told him.  "As long as it looks tasteful."

Speed went to look.  "You'd have to plant another column out there to support it," Tim pointed out.  Xander nodded, resting against his shoulder.  "H?"

He came out of the bathroom.  "There's a small gap in the bathroom."

"I saw," Xander admitted.  "Not that hard to fix."  That got a smile.  "I can do it over a weekend."  He looked at Tim, who smirked.  Then at Horatio, who nodded.  He looked at the agent.  "Let's sign papers.  I can call the real estate agent to see where she got our loan pre-approved through."

"We offer one of our own, let's compare," he agreed, leading them back to the office.  Xander had to step outside when he pulled up a credit report and there were charges in another city.  They were quickly countered on the credit report so it was better.  He walked back in. "Identity theft?"

"Yeah by my former friends," he admitted.  "But I'll let someone else kill them. I'm kinda happy today."  He sat down next to Tim, watching as he input things into the system.  The loan came up.  "How much would the monthly payments be?"  He let him see the screen, watching him wince.  "That's high."

Tim looked.  "PD discount since he's with the lab and I'm moving to work there within the next two years?"

"Forgot that."  He corrected it, and it did bring the price down below the bracket.  "We have a bracket system for interest rates.  The more of your loan the higher bracket you start in."  He let them see.  "Plus the five hundred a month maintenance fees, boys.  Plus your water and electric.  No gas in this one."

Horatio looked.  "That's well within your salary, Xander."

"No student loans left to pay off either."  Xander looked at Tim, who shrugged.  "We can put down about ten thousand at the moment.  That's without robbing our retirement funds."

"That's with no money down.  If you want to put some down...."  The agent corrected it, smiling when it came back even better. "Much nicer."  He let them see, getting smiles.  "I can process the paperwork today if you're sure.  Remember, there's no returns on housing purchases."

Xander looked at Tim, who looked a bit scared.  "I know, it's a big thing."  He gave his hand a squeeze.  "I'm ready to settle down though.  I like being retired from the former job and being in the new one."

Tim looked at him, nodding.  "You're right.  Plus it's a good investment."  The agent smiled and printed things off, letting them read it over and sign.  Horatio signed as a witness where needed.  "Now what?"

"Now, we take these to the head office this afternoon and I call Xander or you with the good news.  Do you guys have just the one car?  We have parking stickers for who's supposed to be here for our guard."

"I've got a bid on something through a seizure site," Tim admitted.  "I'm hoping I get it."

"Okay, then I'll pick up two, just in case.  Go have lunch, boys, let me call my people."  They nodded and walked out with Horatio.  He called the office.  "I sold the gray one to a very nice couple of gay boys who work with the police department," he said happily.  She squealed.  "One's working on going into the lab.  He'll be there within two years.  The other is Caine's ballistics tech.   No, the boy.  They even brought Caine down to look at their last two choices.   That or the blue one.  They liked the gray one.  I've got the paperwork signed.  There was a small glitch when we opened the one guy's credit report.  Identity theft but he called and they're investigating so they took those off pending the investigation."  He smiled.  "All signed.  I can do that."  He faxed them over, getting back an approval letter an hour later.  The bank approved them formally, everything was fine.  He called Xander.  "When can we exchange the keys for a check, Xander?"  He heard the squeal and smiled.  "Sure, I can be here."  He hung up, pulling out two parking passes.


Xander bounced into Eric.  "I got the house!"

"Congrats.  Get off!" he complained but he was smiling.  The officers around them eating lunch too gave them odd looks.  "He bought his first house.  They approved it today."  That got some smiles and nods.  "Where?"

"The gray house up the street from where you and Ryan had this morning."

"That's not a bad neighborhood," he admitted.  He smiled at Calleigh.  "They got something."

"I heard a squeal," she teased, giving him a hug.   "Good?"

"Very nice."  He beamed at Horatio when he and Ryan came out with Frank trailing them.  "We got it.  He just called."  Horatio smiled.  "Did you find his wife?"

"She was escorted off and released," Ryan agreed.  "She has the kids."  He sat down.  "You're moving up the street from our scene this morning?"

"Yeah, the gray house," Xander said proudly.  "It's a four bedroom. The kitchen is one he can live with.  It's all good."  He smiled at Calleigh.  "We've even got a small yard and the blue one is still open.  Plus they do give PD discounts."

"I'll look there.  I've seen some of theirs in the past.  Maintenance fees?"

"Five hundred a month."

"Definitely not bad."

"Central air," Ryan teased.  She swatted him.  "Or the Burbank building is going condo next month.  I've been looking there.  They're going to be cheaper but it's a fantastic old building."

She smiled at that.  "I'm not sure I could stand having you as a neighbor, Ryan.  All your cleaning would keep me up," she teased.

"Not likely.  I'm a good neighbor.  I live around a bunch of retired people right now."  He dug into his lunch.  "So, when are you guys moving in?"

"I've got to drop off our down payment today and I can exchange it for the keys," Xander said proudly.  He called Tim.  "We got it."  He beamed.  "Yeah, that's what they need.  I think we talked about that earlier.  It looked like we got enough in the loan to cover all the closing and all those costs."  He smiled.  "You can ask.  You're better at that stuff anyway.  Sure, love you too."  He hung up.  "He'll drag the check over there tonight and find us a mover.  Payday's next week, right?"  Horatio nodded.  "Then I can take that check and use it to move and to put in carpeting we both like."

Horatio smiled at him.  "Good job, Xander."

"Thank you."  He beamed at Frank since he had been dawdling and talking to someone on his cell.  "I got the house."

"Congrats.  Where?"

"A few up from our scene this morning," Eric told him.

"Which is looking more and more like it's a relative," Ryan added.

"Even better.  Horatio said they had kids."

"They were dragging the screaming ex-wife off this morning when I went to tour," Xander said.  "We'll be in the gray one."

"That was a nice size."

"They offer a PD discount too," Xander told him.  That got a smile.  "Oh, Tim's got a bid in on something from a seizure site so we might have more squealing later.  The auction closes tonight at ten."

"A better car?" Ryan teased.  Xander nodded.  "Good,  your engine needs work."

"I know.  I was going to beg Eric to come change my oil this weekend."

Eric gave him an amused look.  "What form would this begging take?"

"Not having to help us lift the bed this time?"

"I'll take that," he agreed.  "What happened to the one in New York?"

"Tim sold it.  Made about three hundred too.  He didn't want to move the furniture so he sold it to the people in the lab and the local station.  Less of a u-haul to drive."  They all smiled at that.  "He insisted.  That's why he's insisting we hire movers this time or I'm doing it all."

"Remember your stitches," Calleigh said.  Maxine and Alexx came out.  "He got the house they wanted," she called.  Maxine squealed and came to pounce Xander, letting him bounce around with her.

Alexx shook her head.  "It's good to see him happy.  Horatio, Stetler was looking in your office a minute ago."

He pulled out his phone, looking up the number to call.  "You wanted something?"  He listened.  "Redhead or the blonde?"  He snapped his fingers, bringing Xander back, letting him listen to the description.

"Willow."  He handed it back, heading inside.  The receptionist gave him an odd look.  "Another friend snuck in."

"Hopefully this one won't stab you."

"No, probably not.  Scream a bit maybe."  He walked past her without signing in.  "I'm not allowed to work today, but we got the house."

"Congrats," she called after him.

Xander walked up the stairs to Horatio's office, tapping before walking in.  "Hey, Wills."

"Why is your button up here?"

"So I don't accidentally hit it.  It's safer in his desk."

"Oh, I guess that's okay.  Where's Buffy?  Giles sent me to bail her out."

"I think she's still under mental eval," he admitted.  Willow gaped so he took off his shirt, then the bandage, making her hiss and shake her head.  "Somehow she got stuck on the idea I'd be her white lighter if she killed me.  Or that she could somehow treat John like a puppy that you can snatch from a yard then claim is yours."  He stared her down.  "By the way, killed your capturing dagger when it nearly stabbed me at the house."

She groaned, sitting down.  "She's been feeling old and weak."

"Then let her teach," Stetler said coolly.  "You still should not be in here."

"I was tracking my easy button," she defended.  "I expected it to be at Xander's house."

"I usually get called from work," Xander admitted.  He looked at Stetler.  "If she was going to attack, she'd have done it by now.  Walk her outside with me?"

"Good idea."  He hauled her up and walked her out with him.  "You look pleased."

"I signed on our house this morning," Xander said happily.  "It's ours and the bank's."

"That's a good step.  You could use the settling down."

"They offer a PD discount too," Xander told him.  "So if you know anyone who's looking, I got the house up from Delko's scene this morning and they're putting up a new development, plus they've got mine and one other one downtown.  Like ten minutes from here by the back way."

"I do know someone who's looking.  I'll let them know."  He handed Willow to Horatio. "She was in your office looking for her easy button?"

"The big red button.  Like on the commercial?" Willow suggested.  He walked off shaking his head.  "He needs to relax."  She sat down, looking at Horatio.  "What can I do to get Buffy back to Cleveland?"

"There's not much," he admitted.  "She's been charged with assaulting with intent to kill.  There's an additional charge of assaulting a member of the department."

"He showed me.  She snapped.  She's getting old and can't quite do the job the same way.  She got it in her head that a white lighter of her own would help her."

"I doubt she'll get mine or me as hers," Xander said, sitting down again.  He stole one of Ryan's chips.  "So, wanna help me move stuff, Ryan?"

"We'll, see," he said tolerantly.  "As long as I get quid pro quo when I move next time."

"He's the one who helped my mother move the ancient bed they bought," Eric told him.  "He's still got construction worker muscles."

Ryan nodded.  "I could like that.  Sure, I'll help.  What about the Marsh case?"

"I got their suspect and their inquest transcripts," Frank said, looking at Xander.  "Are they sure?"

"If they screwed it up on purpose we do get to go back over it and I do know who they thought it could be.  I'll look it over.  I've got to clean all the artifacts out of there anyway.  Gee, Wills, since you're down here and I'm injured...."  She punched him on the side.  "Do it again," he encouraged, staring her down  "It's a conflict of interest for me to clear the house of artifacts.  I already had to dust the zombie dog."

"Fine, I'll do that.  What're you doing with them?"

"He left them to the containment company.  Since Ty's people got attacked and eaten...."

"You know, that's not a bad job," she admitted. "Buffy and I could do that.  Huh.  Thanks, Xander."  She kissed him on the cheek.

"Now apologize for hitting him," Maxine said firmly, staring her down.


"Now, Miss Rosenburg," she ordered.

"Okay, I'm sorry I hit the Xander.  It was just a playful swat."

"Want one back?" Calleigh asked.

"You guys mother Xander?"  She looked at him.  "You let them?"

"Maxine is like the adopto-mom.  She's even better at it than Joyce was."


"Alexx does everyone else and Calleigh's my official boss."

"Huh."  She beamed.  "Good job, ladies.  It took Joyce nearly forever to get Xander used to mothering.  It's good he likes you guys that much."  She smiled at him. "This house?"

"We can head.  Boss?"

"You're not allowed to work today anyway, Xander."

"Did we ever find out who blew up my lab hoping to kill me?"  Maxine opened her mouth. "Why sedate me, Max?  Besides, I got a good look at the blast coverage, it was aimed toward ballistics.  You guys were a side effect, not the target."  He looked at Horatio, who nodded.  "Do we know them?"

"You do and they're already begging."

"So can I come back to work tomorrow?  Even in Trace?"

"Monday.  That way you have time to heal and move some things."  Xander sighed but nodded.  "Go clean that house, report to me when you're done so we can have it unsealed and the guard removed."  Xander nodded, getting up and dragging Willow off.  He smiled at Maxine.  "Nice job.  That's the first time she's apologized to him," he said with her still in hearing.  She needed to hear that.

"She needs her hind end beaten for warping the boy," Alexx complained.

"So I take it that's the redhead?" Frank asked.  They all nodded. "Huh.  Doesn't look that bad.  Then again, neither did the blonde.  I'll find out when her hearing is so he can tell her."

"Thank you, Frank."  Horatio smiled at them.  "Now, what are we getting the boys for a housewarming present?  They have a very small slice of yard but it's already got a porch swing.  Tim's going to live with the kitchen until he decides if he wants to redo it.  They're putting in carpeting soon.  It has a huge trio of closets upstairs."  Alexx looked confused.

"Trio?" Calleigh asked.  "That's odd."

"The last owners used to be a monogamous couple with a submissive," Horatio told her.  "It's specially braced and all that.  Xander joked he could hang all his swords in there but Tim said no.  He does need to do a bit of work on the bathroom."

"How about a gift certificate from one of the home places?" Eric asked.  "That way they could fix that stuff and do whatever they wanted."

"We'd have to make Xander hold off on fixing things," Ryan pointed out.  "It's easier to do with nothing in the house."

"What about pet supplies for their new pet?" Maxine suggested.

"What did happen to Barney?" Calleigh asked.  "He  was so happy when he found the mini pincher."

"One of the techs up there decided that Barney was a New York dog and should stay in New York," Horatio said dryly.

"So, Tim gave away his dog?" Eric asked.  Horatio nodded.  "Does he know?"

"He's probably pouted him to death about it.  They're planning on getting another one."

"Why didn't he like Barney?" Calleigh asked.  "He was a good dog."

"He was a yappy little lap sausage," Frank complained.  "That's a quote by the way."  He finished his lunch.  "I'm liking the home depot gift card idea," he said.  "That way they could use it for things like a grill or something."  The ladies all rolled their eyes.  "They're guys, of course they'll have a grill.  Speed knows how to use one."

One of the officers at the next table choked.  "Him too?" he demanded.  "Like Hagen did?"

Horatio looked at him. "His younger brother Darren is Xander boyfriend," he said patiently.  "They've just bought their first house and Darren is in training to come work with Miss Valera in DNA."

"We found out after Xander had that bout of the flu," Alexx told him, giving him a gentle smile.  "Shocked the heck out of us all.   He even suggested they move here.  They met in San Francisco and he moved with Xander back to LA when he went back to UCLA.  Been with him ever since."

"Wow.   So he's following in his big brother's footsteps?"  They all smiled and nodded.  "Then we'll be on watch for him and I'll make sure they don't think it's like the ghost thing."   He went to start that rumor so no one would wonder.  It was good to have a Speedle back.  It clearly made the lab's people happier.

"That's one way no one'll stare when he shows up," Eric noted, getting swatted by Maxine.  "Ow!  Didn't you just yell at Willow about doing that?"

"I'm better than her and not always mean to you."  She looked at the group.  "Which one of them decorates?"

"Xander," Calleigh said.  "Darren's former decorating habits were bookshelves.  Isn't that near that bookstore?"  Horatio smiled and nodded.  "He's got to be in heaven.  He's been avoiding it since they knew him so well."

"He's been ordering online," Eric said.  "I've picked up a few for him."  That got a smile.  "I want a picture of him from when they first met."

Horatio shook his head.  "I'm still trying to convince Xander to give me one from the convention we hired him during.  Speed dyed his hair."

"Oooh, that's right, he said it was so odd, he thought Buffy had a sex change when he first saw it," Calleigh reminded him.

Ryan shuddered but Frank choked.  "Don't say that while I'm eating!"

"You're not eating," Alexx said with a grin.  "But he would look strange.  My baby was not meant to be a blond boy."

"Well, since we can help him move, we can find it," Ryan offered.

"It's in an old photo album," Horatio told him.  "I think it's blue suede."

"I'll look."  He grinned at the others.  "So, when are we going to pounce them?"

"We can help them move, that way we make sure Xander's t-shirts don't come back to infect us more often," Calleigh said.  Ryan snickered.  "I know you saw the fire pretty shirt again."

"Yeah, this morning when I went to check on them and give them an update."  He looked down at Frank.  "Give me the Marsh file and I'll look it over for him."

"Sure.  There's some sort of odd connection but I'm not sure why.  I haven't gotten in- depth with the transcripts."

"I'm free, I'll do it," Ryan promised.  Frank grinned and nodded.  "So, we're all agreed, Home Depot?"  They all nodded.  "Good."   He called Tim.  "Don't let Xander fix anything at the new place yet."  He hung up.  "That should be enough warning."

"Probably," Eric agreed.  He got up.  "Gotta go back to work."  He headed back inside.

The others headed in when they were done, chatting and talking most of the way.  Ryan was listening to the gossip.  Apparently everyone had wondered who Horatio had pulled to do the investigation into the explosion.  He paused by one desk, leaning down.  "He's becoming a DNA tech.  He's about a year from his internship and Maxine's already drooling about getting him into her lab.  He is thinking about hitting the field within a few years as well," he shared.  "We've all been mentoring him."  He stood up and walked on, letting her spread that back.  He listened as it hit a few new desks on his way to Frank's, smiling at him.  "Helping the gossip chain."

"You're good at it too," he said dryly.  "Don't get him in trouble."

"I'm not.  I told her we've all mentored him, he's coming to DNA in about a year for his internship, and Maxine's drooling about getting him in there until he joins us in the field in a few years."

"All the truth," he agreed, handing over the files.  "He's been booked but I'm still not sure."

"I'll look."  He walked off reading, frowning at something.  He called Xander.  "Didn't you say both guys were older, around Marsh's age?"  He nodded at that.  "So you did call the guy out there?"  He smirked.  "Thanks."  He hung up, going back to his reading.  It was the full transcript to clear the two that had been suspected.  The one that had tried to stop him had tried to cover it up.  That was good to know.   He checked on him, he was listed as being under active investigation in the file.


Rupert Giles walked into the Miami-Dade lab, smiling at the receptionist. "Is Lieutenant Caine here please?  I'd like a word with him."

"He's in his office but I think he's in a teleconference, let me page him."  She did that, getting a nod.  She hung up.  "He's in a teleconference but it should be over in about forty minutes if you'd like to come back or wait."

"I wouldn't care to wait.  Is CSI Harris in?"

She blinked at him.  "Are you like the redhead who appeared in Lieutenant Caine's office without warning?"

"No, I have more tact and couth," he assured her dryly.  "Is she under arrest as well?"

"No, he drug her out of here to talk to the boss."  He smiled at that.  "Then they left together to do something."

"Probably the dratted house he had to help remove the artifacts from," he admitted.  "Thank you.  I can call him myself if necessary."

"Sure."  She pointed.  "You can wait over there, sir."

"Thank you."  He went to sit over there, which was in the sunlight but not directly in the overpowering sunlight they had down here.  He noticed a man getting off the elevator and smiled at the no-nonsense detective.  Buffy had described him well.   He stood up when the detective walked over to him.  "I was going to talk to you later about the Summer's case, Detective."

"It's in the judge's hands now," he admitted.  "You here to bother the boy too?"

"No, I have no intention of it," he assured him.  "Frankly I'm here about some of the Marsh evidence.  Some of it was quite detrimental to human beings and I was interesting in seeing if we could arrange for them to be stored somewhere more secure."

"That's up to Horatio and the guy's lawyer.  I know the boy's there with your girl to clean it out."

"As she called and told me," he admitted, taking off his glasses.  "To be truthful there's a smaller thing that could be quite useful and others will feel the need to break it out one way or another.  I'm here more for that than the others unless something's extremely dangerous.  Then we'd arrange it with the executor.  A great number of things came into the open when the original group got blown up a few years back."

"Xander never mentioned an explosion."

"Not our part of the group; the main Council got blown up.  It was part of the actions leading up to the fall of Sunnydale," he said quietly.  "They were attacked as we were and we became the fall-back spot."

"He told me some stories about all the girls in one house," John said dryly.  He stared him down.  "You should know that Buffy also tried to trap and steal his white lighter."

"I have no idea what's wrong with the girl.  She's been fascinated by the subject recently but she won't listen to others about them."

"Yeah, she wouldn't listen to him either.  That's why she tried to stab him and tried to keep me in an enchanted tea pot."  Giles gaped.  "Taking a lesson from Tim's playbook.  What are you really here for, Rupert Giles?"

"The vault key and anything extremely harmful.  Xander noted there was at least one thing that should be hidden again.  He had it encased in plastic but that won't hold it forever."

"That's between you and his executor.  We'll see.  I'll get the papers and bring them to Horatio.  He's in a budget thing.  You stay here."  He faded out, heading up to ballistics, scaring the crap out of Calleigh again.  "Giles is here.  Some of the things in the Marsh house are really dangerous."

"Of course they are.  Two of them possessed others."

"Plus there's a vault key that the Watchers want back.  He said some would be likely to steal it."  He found the papers Xander had brought back, fading out, heading up to Horatio's office, laying them in front of him with a note on top saying Giles was looking for the vault key and some of the artifacts.  Horatio nodded at him, listening to the complaining.  John faded out, going to find the key.  He brought that to Horatio too, putting it on top of the papers.

"Hold on a second, sir, someone needs my approval."  He put the call on hold.  "Why?"

"He said someone wants to steal it.  If it's to the vaults under the old Council building they might need it back.  I figure it's better here where you can monitor it instead of in the evidence vault where we'll get attacked for it.  Maybe you can let him make an impression or something."


"The dress?"

"I've already burned it.   Rick knows since he's looking over our shoulder on this case.  Go tell him Giles is here about Buffy's case and this stuff.  I'll be done in about twenty, I hope."  He went back to the call. "Sorry, had to sign off on a case so it can be moved on."

John faded out, going to find Stetler.  He had to track him for a bit, he was wandering around sneering.  He finally trapped him in the boy's room, fading back in, scaring him.  "Don't die.  You'd make a horrible white lighter."  Stetler glared at him.  "Someone's here about the Marsh case's artifacts, including one that's in custody."


"The original Council has a lot of vaults under their former building.  A lot of working spaces, storage areas for some really nasty things. The keys were held by the head of the Council, who got blown up in the explosion that took them out, or..."  He nodded at the guy who came out of the stall.  "Hey."  He looked at Stetler again.  "Or they're held by the keepers of the vault.  Marsh had a vault key.  He's also here about Buffy's case.  It's Giles, the former mentor of the group.  He's waiting on H to get done with the teleconference about the budget."

"Thank you for warning me.  I'll head that way as soon as I'm done here.  You mind?"

"Not like I care, Stetler.  You're not the one I want to look at."  He faded out.

Stetler glared at the other guy.  "The Marsh homicide got him called back to bother Harris."

"I heard.  Seeing is a bit different though.  At least he's happy in the afterlife apparently."  He went to wash his hands and go back to work, it was a good place to think about matters of faith.

Stetler finished up in there, shaking his head.  He hated strange things more than most cops did.  Harris was going to drive him to drink.


Horatio finally hung up, smiling at the man being shown in.  "Mr. Giles."  He stood up to shake his hand.  "What can we do for you?"

"I'm sure Jonathan has briefed you?"

"Detective Hagen did," he admitted.  He looked at the key then at him.  "Xander took it as evidence because he believed it would be dangerous to keep it there."

"It is.  There are retired Watchers who would feel no compunction to attack the lab to get that little piece of metal back.  In the possession of the present Council we would see what was in there then probably seal it again."

"The problem is that he did log it in as evidence.  We would need it for the trial," he admitted.  "I would not be against you taking photos, possibly taking an impression."

"Part of the key is a spell placed upon it," he said quietly.  "That bypasses the security system on the vault."

"Do you have another way around it?"

"No.  Nor do I know the spell or how it was placed.  They were built long ago, back during what most consider the Dark Ages.  We've been doing our duty since before people wrote.  The girls even longer.  There's transcribed copies of oral stories stating that the first girl was a neanderthal."  He shifted slightly.  "Buffy herself ran into that at one point thanks to the Initiative."

"I can check with the prosecutor."

"Wolfe has the case again," Stetler reminded him.  "You might also yell at Harris and Hagen.  That makes twice Hagen's shown up here in the open."

"He knows.  He's linked it back to the Marsh case so once it's fully solved he'll quit being so open.  Tim couldn't phase at all."

"No wonder you guys caught him," he said dryly.  He saw someone outside.  "Wolfe!"  He looked up and he pointed. "Bring the Marsh case."  He got a nod and Ryan walked off to grab it and come up with it.  He got out of the way.  "This is ...."

"I've seen the pictures.  Mr. Giles."  He shook his hand.  "I took the opportunity to call Xander on the way up here.  He said it's about a two day job.  There's a lot to contain.  He's pretty sure the papers he had left them to the containment company."

"That would be most helpful.  So many dreadful things got into the open when the original council blew up.  Do we know what killed him?"

"It appears it was the person they caught and one other was helping cover it up.  He thought the dabbling was putting a bad spin on the FreeMasons and their ways."  He handed it to Horatio.  "I went over it and I was on my way down to talk to him to make sure."  Horatio nodded.  "The one that was covering it up is still listed as open.  I'm not sure if we should charge him or not.  Neither was the DA."

"Okay," Horatio agreed, glancing through the transcripts.  "Who did these?"

"The FreeMasons themselves," Ryan told him.  "Xander went to them when he found out there was a link.  After he dropped you off in the park, boss."

"There has been a long association between them and our group," Giles told them all.  "We have members who have been both for generations and those who have dabbled on both sides.   Xander was taught of that in San Francisco.  He asked me if I was one.  I said no but I did give him my pendant; it's a pass and a notice that Xander would be there on official Council business."  That got a smile and a nod.  "I'm sure he was entirely respectful of them."

"From what Xander said, he  let them run their own inquest and turn over their own member since this was going to delve into their group's mysteries and outing them would only cause more trouble."

"Is this the same group that's supposed to be behind a bunch of conspiracy theories about the government?" Stetler asked.

"Yes," Ryan agreed.

"And some of that is true," Giles admitted.  "They and the Council of old both.  There's not a government formed before 2003 that doesn't know of both our groups."  Stetler gaped.  "The old Council found it...expedient to take the slayers not yet called into their training at as early of an age as possible.  To do that they did do some odd things.  Also, we've had people handling things in various governments for centuries in some cases. Were Xander inclined to go to a federal lab instead of this one it would have been his task.  Anything paranormal that would've shown up would've been sent to his hand to deal with or to have us deal with.  That's how we kept track of migration patterns and kept it from the public view for centuries, Detective.  Fortunately, most US cities have a good underground and some sort of overseeing being."

"Miami has an overlord," Ryan agreed.  "Xander told us he knows he's here and he knows when to call him."

"As is proper," Giles agreed. "Even without the training."  He smiled at him.  "It is an old way that we do intend to keep to.  It solves many headaches from normal people like most of the department."

"I've had that one recently," Stetler admitted dryly.  "Caine, can't you keep Harris in the lab for a while?"

"I have been, Rick."  He looked over the information again.  "Give us a day?"  Giles agreed, standing up and shaking his hand.  He called Frank.  "Come to my office please.  It's about the Marsh case."  He hung up, looking at Ryan.  "Go make sure."  He nodded, taking the forms he had brought to do that.  "Well?  You were interested in this case."

"I'm finding myself having a headache," he said.  "Plus the need for a fifth of scotch.  You?"

"I've had that feeling a few times about this case."  Frank walked in.  "The Watcher's Council just showed up for this one piece of evidence and anything dangerous in the Marsh house."

"Okay.  Wolfe read it over?"

"He's going to make sure the guy told the truth," Stetler said.  "Did the DA say anything?"

"The guy was trying to plea so she couldn't bring the Masons into this," Frank told him. "Which is why the boy went to them I guess."

"There's apparently a cooperative agreement between them and the old Council," Horatio told him, getting a stare.  "Exactly.  Which DA had it?"

"West.  Why does she still have a job?"

"They could prove she did do the telling but not that she took money for it," Stetler said.  "She's under probation."

"There is one thing that could help us," Horatio said.  He made a call.  "Horace please.  Horatio Caine, CSI Harris' boss."  He was put through.  "Horace, Horatio.  We have who the temple said did it.  DA West has the case and the Watcher's have sent someone down to gather some of the evidence from his house.  They're claiming it's harmful.  So far she hasn't.  I think that might be helpful, yes.  I'm not sure of her motives in this case.  The detective on the case, myself, and Xander all agree it's best if we keep his group affiliations out of this.  I'm not sure.  That would be up to DA West," he admitted.  "He had a vault key to one of the vaults under the old Council building according to Mr. Giles.  Yes, he's in town.  Thank you.  Please do.  Mr. Wolfe is verifying what the temple sent now and then we'll release it to her fully.  Thank you."  He hung up. "He's going to talk to her about letting him make a deal.  It would look very bad on a number of senators if she pushed and prodded at the temple's ideology and mysteries."

"Then a lot of senators are members?" Rick asked.  Horatio nodded.  "How do you know?"

"I've noticed it a few times.  A ring here, a pendant there, a few tattoos for those who couldn't wear the ring openly.  A few similar fraternities in the right schools."  He looked at Frank.  "Do you care?"

"I want it off my desk," Frank told him.  "I don't care if something in the house comes out and eats everyone but Harris involved in it.  I don't like dealing with the strange stuff."

John faded in laughing.  "It's all right, Xander's already beaten off the thing in the house that would eat people.  Willow accidentally let it out because she didn't realize magic around it would unseal it."  He grinned.  "I told Giles, he's swearing at his girl too."  Horatio nodded.  "I was watching the inquest.  He did it."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Xander suggested he make a deal too.  He doesn't want to have to explain all this to a jury.  Not the Watchers, not Buffy, none of it.  The same as he's not sure he wants Buffy to do time down here.  Right now he's still very pissed at her and he's trying hard not to let it out on Willow.  She's not seeing it at all.  He did get to take it out on the demon however.  Oh, he ripped some of the stitches.  He's claiming he doesn't believe in the existence of ER's."

Horatio called Xander's phone.  "Go to the ER, Xander.  Get the stitches fixed.  If you have not within an hour I am telling Alexx to check them while Maxine fusses."  He hung up on the swearing.  "It'll be fixed."

"Willow could probably stitch him," John offered.  "She used to.  She played nurse from the textbooks.  Her parents were screwed up in whole new ways from Harris'.  They're even shrinks."

He shook his head.  "That whole town is messed up," Frank told him.  "Can you be a bit less open?  The chaplain has been busy recently."

"I linked it to this case.  I'll fade out better next time."

"Thank you."  He looked at Horatio.  Then at the phone when it rang.  "Harris?"

"Wolfe."  He answered it.  "Horatio."  He listened then nodded.  "Thank you.  Yes, do so."  He hung up.  "DA West was down there and did grudgingly accept his plea bargain.  Mr. Wolfe said she looked very pale and shaky for some reason."  John snickered.  "You?"

"Nope.  You get a call from the VP and you tend to get that way when you've done bad things."

"The Vice President?" Stetler asked.  John nodded.  "Listening?" John smirked and nodded.  "Is she going on a sudden trip with him?"

"No.  He told her she's letting him take a deal or he's sending down a federal prosecutor to take the case instead.  Claimed it was national security issues and if she didn't want to take a sudden trip she'd toe the line this time."  John smirked at Horatio.  "Which would mean any evidence would be up to you to deal with."

"That book needs to be stored as well," Horatio said thoughtfully.  "Even though the spirit is in an urn at Xander's house."

"I heard Delko yelled at someone who wasn't there earlier," Frank admitted.

"Silen's a nice boy but he came to talk to him.  He's also a very smart boy.  He showed Eric that there were still slaves in today's world, just for different reasons.  Made a really convincing argument too," John told them.  "Delko and he had a talk about perceptions of the dark.  He might be ready to move on soon, he's not sure yet.  He kinda likes Eric.  Feels some kinship with him."  He looked up.  "Willow's saying she's got most everything cleared out.  She'll come back in the morning to check when she's not tired."  That got a nod from Horatio.  "So it's up to you once the deal's taken."

"I'll keep it under advisement," he decided.

"I don't care.  Hide the stuff when it's closed," Stetler staid, stomping out.

"I agree with him, even if it does turn my stomach," Frank said, shrugging a bit.  "It was too strange for me."

"Feel lucky you're not in New York," John said.  "There's been three up there who've died.  Giles had to call the LA crew up to help with that."  He looked at Horatio.  "They could use the key to good use.  Giles isn't like the old bastards who were 'you're expendable unless you're an asset' guys."

"I'll deal with it then," he decided.  "Thank you.  John, do have fun helping them move."

"Of course."  He shook his head, heading back to the house to help whoever was in there pack.  Tim was looking through the photo albums.  "I confiscated the one of you as a blond and the one of you as a redhead."

Tim growled.  "Give it back."

"Hell no," he snorted.  "Unless you wanted Wolfe to find it?"

"No, that's why I want to burn them."

"Fat chance.  It'll be mild blackmail material for *years*," he said smugly.  "Giles is down."

"I got warned already.  Willow too."

"Yup and your existence leaked out so they told everyone that Darren was coming in about a year for an internship."

Speed smirked.  "Yay me.  Housewarming?"

"Home Depot."

"I'll keep Xander from fixing stuff then.  When?"

"The day we move stuff over there."  He smirked.  "Got the keys?"  He held them up.  "Whoo-hoo.  Now what?  You wanted to see Xander sweaty like last time."

"Xander being sweaty and manly is good tv," Speed agreed, considering it.  "What else happened?"

"Giles explained some links, how they've had people in all the governments all over to handle things quietly, and about their link to the FreeMasons.  One of them got called by Horatio and a higher member of the order called West to make her take a good deal for their member.  He's getting life."

"That's a sucky deal."

"Yeah but it won't get the temple drug into the courthouse."

"That's a good deal then.  The evidence?"

"Done.  He and Rosenburg are cleaning it.  By the way, he had to deal with a demon she accidentally released.  She was using magic to safely float artifacts and one got released.  He tore some stitches.  Horatio said if he didn't get it fixed he was going to nag Alexx and Maxine into making him fix it.  He was denying his belief in the existence of ER's."

Speed snickered.  "Sounds like him.  Now can I have the pictures back?"

"Hell no," he said with an evil smirk.  "If you're not a good boy I'll let H see 'em too."  He faded out, going to watch and giggle.

Speed waited until Xander got home, checking his shoulder.  "You do crooked stitches on yourself."  He kissed him.  "I'm only doing this instead of packing so John'll give the pictures back."

Xander kissed him and smiled.  "I need a shower.  Come ...scrub my back?" he asked, heading that way.

Speed watched him walk, deciding a soapy Xander was a good thing instead of packing, even if it was to get the blackmail pictures back.


Xander finished the last repair on the new house, smiling at Ryan when he walked in.  "It all here?"

"Truck's here.  So if everything was in the truck it's here."

"Not everything then.  Speed probably left some stuff back there."  He got out of the tub, heading down to clean his hands and get to work hauling and toting.  "Hey, Eric."

"Hey.  I'll help, just not with the bed."

"Sure."  He handed him boxes of books, making him smirk.  "Not mine.  Mine are lighter."  He grabbed his dolly and loaded books onto it, taking them inside.  "Put them anywhere.  He's still deciding where I'm putting the bookcases."  That got a knowing smirk.  "I know, I'm spoiling him."  They both nodded and headed out to get the next load, coming back with the rest of the living room stuff.  Then the kitchen stuff.  That way they could take a break at the end.

"Didn't you have  a fridge?" Ryan asked.

"It was a show model.  It was also crappy.  Speed knows, he's going to pick out a new one and hopefully they'll be able to deliver it today so he won't complain about takeout all weekend."  They nodded, and he pointed at the stove opening too.  "He's getting his dream stove too."  He headed back once he had finished his water, going to grab more things.  "Ah, upstairs stuff."  He headed up that way with the clothes on hangers, letting the others get the rest of them.  Eric stayed to hang them up, that was his clever plan for not wanting to help with the bed.  Xander and Ryan got it up there, and the guest room bed too.  Xander put that into his office.  He didn't have nearly as many things as Speed did in his.  They took another break and went to lift in the heavier stuff.  The couch.  The chair.  Speed's stupid rolling ottoman that had stuff still packed inside apparently.  "This is where he's hiding all the bodies.  Don't let Alexx look," he joked.

Ryan laughed, shaking his head.  "He knows enough to go dump them in the Everglades so they won't be found."

"Guys," Eric complained.  "Let's not give the new neighbors any ideas."  He pointed at the watching one.  "Hi."

"We're with the lab too," Ryan told them, getting a smile and a wave.  "Eric's single.  His mother's despairing."  He carried in something else, ducking the swat Eric aimed at his head.

"Pain in my ass," Eric muttered, shaking his head.  "Where are we putting the bookcases?"

"This one'll go in the little party nook.  It'll make a good reading spot for him."  That got a nod and they set it up so the recliner, a good lamp, and the bookcase were all in there.  There was just enough room for the bookcase behind the recliner and they could get around it when he needed something different. The desk went upstairs.  They sat down to stare at the empty truck, finishing their water.

"Xander, is your water still off?" Ryan called.

"Only in the upstairs bathroom," he called back.  "I had to fix that leak in the faucet.  The valve's behind the sink's faux front splash."   He heard the water come on and winced.  "What fell off?" he asked, heading up there.  He found Ryan turning it back off.  "Huh.  I thought I had fixed that."  He checked it.  "Stripped.  I did not do that."  He sighed and looked at the other things.  "Why do I think they knew?"

"They may have," Ryan admitted.  "Come on."  Xander nodded, following him down.  "The faucet's handle flew off.  It was stripped."

"That's a pre-move-in problem.  Report it to the agent," Eric ordered.  Xander nodded, adding it to his list.  "Did the papers say anything about 'as is' condition?"  Xander found them and handed them over for him to look at.  "It does but it was supposed to list all physical problems the house already had."  He handed it back. "No inspection done?"

"They had a recent one.  I looked it over and I did check the house."

"Uh-huh."  Eric looked at him.  "Three years in construction doesn't mean that you know everything.  Especially about local codes."  Xander nodded at that.  "Call one?"

"Tomorrow."  He leaned down.  "This means I've got to go to the home place."

"It's a good thing the rest of us are getting you something from there," Ryan teased.  Xander grinned at that.  He called Horatio.  "He's going to need a new faucet for the bathroom sink too.  One of the handles was stripped and came flying off at my head.  No, it's his hair that's the target, Calleigh."  She laughed and hung up, telling Speed that. "He'll add it to the list."

Xander got up, grabbing some paper and making a list of the problems around the house.  He did a thorough inspection, coming back with half the sheet of paper filled.  He sat down to look at it, texing it to Tim's phone so he'd know.  What wasn't covered by the new gift certificate they had some savings for.  Then he called the agent.  "Your inspection didn't mention things like stripped faucets," he said in greeting.  "It is."  He nodded.  "Exactly.  No, if I'm going to have to fix it, someone's going to be paying for it.  Because the paperwork said it was supposed to be listed as a fault in the house.  I'm sitting here looking at it.  Uh-huh.  Remember, we do have to read legalese now and then," he said dryly.  "That's why we're with the lab.  Not just the average football playing patrol guy.  Even though I was in construction for a good while."  He smirked.

"Exactly.  Yes, I do need a copy of that form.  Because I've got about thirteen things that's wrong with the house that I've found or fixed.  If it's not on that form it's your duty to have it fixed.  By your own forms.  Thank you, I would accept it being faxed to me.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He was laughing.  Pity."  He called the receptionist.  "It's Xander.  I'm expecting something from my real estate agent.  Because there's things wrong that his papers didn't list.  Yup, I get to go into vindictive bitch mode again," he said happily.  "I'm going to have fun with this one.  Ryan's going to be checking for semtex for *weeks* this time."  Ryan shuddered.  "Call me when it comes.  Thank you."   He smiled at the neighbor coming over. "Did you have these problems?"

"I moved in when it was new," she admitted.  "I'm Tiffany."

"I'm Xander.  These are my coworkers Eric and Ryan.  My boyfriend Darren's at the home place with our boss and other coworker.  He's in school to join us in the crime lab."

"Another gay couple?"

"Only them," Ryan said with a smile.  "Eric's still very single."  She laughed and he didn't quite duck fast enough this time.  "You are.  Your mother sent out a mass email to everyone in the lab telling us to fix you up with someone, Delko."

Eric shook his head.  "Excuse him.  It's the strain of helping move Xander's bed."

She laughed, smiling at him.  "It happens to the best of us.  Are you guys going to have a loud party tonight?"

"We're not like that, Tiffany," Xander assured her.  "I work too many hours for that and Tim has way too many tests.  Mild party, not college party."

"That's good.  I'll let you get back to swearing at him.  I know he did it to one other person and they got theirs fixed."

Xander smirked evilly.  "I'm affectionately called the vindictive bitch of the lab by most everyone in the lab."  Ryan nodded.  "I cackle pleasingly when I have to destroy people."   She smirked and walked off giggling.  He grinned at Eric.  "Thanks, man."

"Welcome.   Don't go too overboard."

"I won't."  He smiled at Horatio when he pulled in.  "Are we getting a fridge and stove tonight?"

"They'll bring it out around six," Speed promised, getting out of the truck.  He came to look at the list.  "That wasn't listed."  Eric held up the forms, pointing at a section.  "Already called?"

"Yes and I told him I knew construction stuff too.  He giggled."  He smiled sweetly.  "Come see.  I set you up a reading area."  He got up, leading him inside.  "See?"

"I do see."  He moved the recliner out and switched out the lamp.  "This one's got the light I like."  He kissed him.  "Thank you."  Xander beamed.  "What's left at the house?"

"Whatever you didn't pack in the truck."

"Food, a few small things, the swords," Speed said, thinking back.  "We'll head over there later with the truck."  He stole another kiss.  "The bed together?"

"It is.  Ryan helped me while Eric played with my clothes."

Eric laughed.  "Your estate guy is here."

"Good.  Have him explain the sudden crack in the back wall," Speed called.  He walked out to get the list, looking it over with Xander's.  He held up Xander's.  "He used to be a crew lead on a construction site."  The man moaned.  "I'm the nice one.  Xander's hyper.  He's a lot of bounce but he is very good at what he does.  Now, I'd like to see an impartial inspector come in and if it's something that's not already declared your paperwork said you have to fix it.  At your cost.  Without it coming out of the price of the house.  Unless you want to knock it off the price of the house and give us that money.  At which time we'll have it fixed.  You should know I'm three credits from a double major in pre-law and I know *every* lawyer in town because my brother used to work with the lab too.  Your choice."

"Our inspector will be out in an hour."

"As long as he's impartial," Tim said firmly.  That got a quick nod.  "Thank you.  We've still got some stuff to move over here so I'm going to take most of the boys and do that."  He walked off, handing things to Horatio.  "Stay with Xander?  Help him shelve?  It's in order of how it should go in numbered boxes.  Start the fiction behind my new reading chair."

"I can do that."  He smiled, watching as the three boys headed off in the truck.  "Did you check the foundation, Xander?"

"He said there's an inspector coming in an hour.  As far as I could see it was fine.  The crack out back looked like settling."  He found the first box of books and opened it.  "Did he say to start box 1 over there or over here?"

"He said to start the fiction over there."  Xander pointed at the end box, making him smile.  "You sure?"

"That's the box that was in the bathroom, the bedroom, and his study in the old guest room."

"That does sound like him."  He walked over to put those ones up, putting them in reverse order.  The next numbered box came over too.  He watched, Xander was opening it from the bottom.  So he knew Tim's shelving method as well.  They got all the books put onto the shelves, even Xander's.  Then they arranged the living room.  He went up to help him arrange the guest room/Xander's office.  It wasn't much at this point.  The desk chair wasn't there.  "No chair?"

"I think Tim gave it away.  He likes to yard sale before we move for some strange reason.  I'm just really happy we don't have to buy all new furniture again.  Sleeping on the floor for two days sucked the last time."  Horatio turned around, walking off laughing.  He was even nice enough to answer the door.  "Who is it?"

"The inspector," Horatio called.

Xander bounced down the stairs.  "Hi, Xander Harris."

"It's a good start to the list.  How long were you in construction?"

"Three years.  Just over three years.  I was crew lead when I lost an eye."

"I'm sorry to hear that, kid.  Is this the evaluation copy you had?"  Xander looked at it and shook his head.  "That's the one he gave me."

"No, it's not.  Though I didn't know we had a water main break.  That's across the street I think."  The inspector looked then nodded, going back to the office to get the real one.  He came back and Xander nodded.  "That was ours."

He looked it over. "Nothing unusual, looks like living here injuries to the structure."  He walked around, getting into all the spaces.  He came back an hour later, finding the others pulling in.  "You missed two things.  You have a bit of mold upstairs in the attic.  You'll need to basically replace a few feet of the insulation."  Xander nodded.  "And there's another crack in that same faucet."  He let him look it over then sign it.

Speed escorted him back to the office, watching as he looked it over. "We'll know by Monday if you're going to fix it or reimburse us for fixing it?"

"Your boy has a good eye," the inspector praised.  "It's clear why he made crew lead."

Speed smiled.  "He's a smartass too."  That got a laugh.

"I told the owner the inspection was out of date.  He'll be down Monday morning."

"I've got it off class.  That way you don't get a bouncy Xander in your face," he agreed.

"Thank you."

"Welcome.  We still like the house. It's not a problem, but we do not want to have to pay for things we don't need to."  He walked off, going to tell the others.  Xander would pout but he was for destroying bigger problems.  The fridge and stove got there just before six so they were even able to cook dinner before Xander found his stash of take-out menus he called Mom.  Some day they were going to be turned into a small demon and eat him if he didn't watch out. Naming things gave them power over you.  That made Tim follow a strange mental path: takeout menus came from bad places.  Bad places loved Xander.  So maybe it would turn into a demonic mother hen and just kill him instead of him and Xander.


Xander looked at the guy there to fix his lab, then around, then back at him.  "I've cleaned up a bunch of the detritus.  All the shards of glass.  Anything too small to be reused.  The reusable stuff is in the blue boxes and the other stuff we need the dumpster to remove."

"You've worked construction?"

"Three years in Cali."

"Earthquakes," he said.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Okay, let's see the damage...."

"Xander.  Xander Harris, main ballistics tech.  Calleigh's technically my boss.  She won't care as long as it works."  He led him around.  "This was our exemplar area.  I've already cleared the weapons and bullets out of here.  You shouldn't have to worry about it.  Valera cleared all the chemicals out of DNA as well so your guys won't have any problems there."   That got another nod.  "You can see where they laid the gunpowder and fuse then added chemicals to it."

"I did.  The evidence room on the other side is a lot worse."

"I saw.  I helped clean up in there yesterday."  That got a knowing smirk.  "I was drugged before they did that so I've been off work and bored stupid."

"Good to know," he agreed quietly.  He took pictures and made notes, going to the other areas with him escorting him.  The nice Lieutenant said he would get an escort wherever he needed to go once he got into ballistics.  Now he knew why.  He nodded, making his final note.  "What's your estimate?"

"Depends on who pays who to do it.  If the city pays city employees?  We'll be waiting on some of it to go through next year."  The contractor laughed.  "If the insurance company does it, maybe a few weeks.  If they pay us back and we have a decent crew, maybe less?"

"I'd say about two weeks just for those three rooms.  You've got to rebuild a few of the walls, a few of the cabinets as well."  Xander nodded, leading him back to Horatio's office.  "Lieutenant."

"Mr. Simms.  Come in."  He smiled at Xander.  "Yes, you can stay."  Xander sat down.  "How bad?"

"Pretty.  We'll have to rebuild or repair six walls.  The evidence locker will need to be rebuilt.  Part of ballistics and that one wall in DNA.  Fortunately he's already got some of it started by cleaning up for us.  His reusable container will come in handy for smaller things. If I can get a good crew in here, two weeks, maybe three with backed up orders.  Do you want to redo all that glass?"

"Not particularly," he admitted. "I was against all the glass at the start.  We've had tables snap from strain in the past."

"What about using something like countertop material for the tables, Horatio?" Xander suggested.  "I know it's what I'm more familiar with but something like the scratchproof or the Corian stuff?"

"That might be cheaper and easier to have installed," the contractor agreed, smiling at him.  "Not a bad idea.  I know one of the local high schools had something like that installed.  We'd have to make sure it wouldn't react with chemicals."

"I don't use many in ballistics.  We're gunpowder and banging around.  Cleaning chemicals sometimes.  Now and then I have to do some acid etching to get a serial number."  He called Maxine.  "Bring us a list of what chemicals you use please."  He hung up.  "She's got one, it's her supply list."  She brought it up, smiling at the contractor.  "He's thinking two or three weeks."

"Thank you!  I hate using the spare layout room."  He smiled, looking it over.  "I don't care if you replace all the glass, it was dangerous.  We've had a table snap in DNA before from someone laying down a heavy sample too hard."

"It was suggested by your coworker that we get something like kitchen counters."

"As long as it's not butt-ugly and it won't react with the chemicals I don't care," she said bluntly.  He laughed at that.  "Seriously, I don't.  I want my lab back."

"I've sent a letter to one of the ATF agents we met in New York to see if they'd like to donate to our decimated exemplar that was destroyed due to an explosion by someone trying to tamper with evidence," Xander said.  "I'm hoping they say yes."  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "Half of it was twisted metal, Horatio.  Totally unusable.  The spare bullet storage area's the same.  Thankfully the stored bullet evidence cabinets were spared.  Just shaken.  I can't even imagine matching eight hundred bullets to restore that.  Though I am with her.  As long as it's not butt-ugly I don't care what it looks like as long as it works."

"Let me look at some of the material choices and I'll work up an estimate for you by tomorrow morning, Lieutenant."

"Thank you.  The Chief needs a copy as well."

"Of course."  He stood up, shaking his hand and then theirs before he left.

Xander looked at her.  "Need help with the cleaning?"

"No, I've got a trustee to do that for me.  Ryan's been helping me order him around."  She walked off, going back to work.

Xander looked at Horatio.  "I'm done with my cleanup.  Are we routing ours through non- felony?"  He nodded. "Then I'll head down there.  Let me know if you need me, boss."  He headed out, going down to non-felony's section.  "I'm wonderful," he announced as he walked in.  "Maxine and I agreed, as long as it's workable, not butt-ugly, and won't kill us we don't care what it looks like as long as it gets fixed faster."

"Are we cleaned up?" Calleigh asked.

"Yup and I left you a box'o'slag to notate that we lost them."

"Gee, thanks."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "At least the table I got slammed into protected me from the majority of the glass flying around."

"True, it did.  Maxine's shoulder got a few good cuts."

"I saw and babied that night," he admitted.  "Tim turned in our keys last night, talked with the owner of the development this morning, and he's going to take it off our price.  So I'm doing some home improvement projects this month as well once we get that money.  Tim decided it was easier if we still took it out to do the repairs."  She and the ballistics tech in there laughed.  "I'm good at them."  He pulled on his clean jacket and some gloves, coming over to get to work.  "What do you have for me, Teller?"

"Not a lot.  Everyone's scared when the lab gets hit.  Felonies seem to drop off."

"Huh.  Someone's scared of Horatio's temper," he teased. "Oh, Cal, I wrote the ATF agent who came up to talk to me in New York to see if they'd like to donate to our poor exemplar."

"I'm sure we'll get a pretty form letter in about a month," she said, shaking her head. Sometimes Xander had funny ideas.


Xander looked up as the ATF agent walked into his old lab.  "Hey."

"Hey.  This is looking better."

"We ran out of work so I've been sneaking back to work on the walls.  Getting the contractors in is taking forever and I'm tired of the extra hike."  That got a small laugh.  "So, what's up?"

"My boss was highly amused by the letter."

"It never hurts to ask and it would save the department some money."

"It would."  He patted him on the back.  "We can only give away our spare copies.  What about your personal one?"

"I've already had to donate twice to cases," he said, looking a bit sheepish.  "Calleigh had to write a slag report on most everything in here."

"Well, we pulled up your reported exemplar in our system.  We've got spare copies of some of the most usual stuff but not some of the older or rare things."  Xander beamed and hugged him.  "Get off, Harris."

"Sorry, I hug when I get excited," he excused, letting him go.  "When can we come steal them?"

"I can give them to you if you can help me bust three people."  He handed over the list.

"I only know two of them."  He looked at him.  "Who's the guy in the middle?"

"Remember the British guys in New York?"  Xander nodded slowly.  "One of them's exes.  She's set up in business and she's not very discriminating about who she lets buy."

"So she's a Watcher ex?"  He nodded.  "Huh.  I'd say ask the guys at Ellory's to see if they'd like to punish her for leaving the group.  They are a highly secretive organization.   She could be telling people anything."

"I'll ask," he agreed, smirking at him.  "Nothing's worse than your ex, huh?"

"Some of mine?  Yes.  That's why I have my boyfriend now."

"I heard," he joked.  "Tell me what you know about the others."  Xander settled in on the stools he had stolen from Trace to write out what he knew and explain it to him.   In return the agent had his people ship a lot of cases to them.  He walked out and they were both much happier.

"I hadn't thought of them," Xander said, leaning on the table while he called a number Angel had put into his phone.  "Hi, this is Xander Harris, in Miami?"  He grinned at the swearing.  "Actually, I'm not.  Well, ATF is looking for someone's ex-wife.  Does that help?  Because nothing is as vindictive as an ex, ask me about mine.  I should put that on a t- shirt," he said thoughtfully.  He got a groan.  "I'm calling because my ballistics lab down here got exploded.  Yeah, that was my lab.  In my exemplar cabinet actually.  ATF is getting me some of the more standard things.  I was wondering how much you guys would screw me over if I asked you to find me some things."  He tapped his fingers on the table.  "Actually, I'm the only Knight in Miami.  He's in Orlando.  He's with MGM."  He smirked.  "He's in Alabama.  If they have to wait for him to do more than teleport the city would go boom.  Exactly.  That would be handy.  How much?"  He hissed.  "That's a bit much for the outdated stuff.  Yeah, they're getting me the more common stuff.  ATF.  Because Buffy and them turned me in for what I have.  Mostly older stuff," he admitted. "I can see that happening.  Tim hates my storage stuff.  Sure.  Come on down.  It's mostly always pretty down here and you guys are stressed by Giles running things I'm sure.  I'm here.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "I can hear you lurking," he called.

Giles walked in.  "Ellory's?"  Xander nodded, putting his phone away.  "They are a good source."

"Yeah but you're not their sort of Watcher so you probably drive them nuts."

"Oh, I'm sure I do.  I do Bob as well."  He sat across from him.  "They were most sorry they did that when they realized it meant their own supplies would likely be cut off."

Xander grinned.  "That's why I'm known as the vindictive bitch of the lab."

Giles nodded. "I can understand why.  Anya taught you well."

"No, Cordy taught me well."  Giles laughed at that.  "Are they going to let Buffy go back to Cleveland?"  He nodded, smiling at him.  "You're welcome.  I don't want her down here to whine at me to visit."

"I can understand why, Xander, and we're working on her problems.  There was a counselor the old Council worked with and I've called him to work with her.  That way we don't have to break in a new person."

"Use that one police counselor.  He knows now."

"True, he does.  I forgot we had to save him."  He patted him on the hand.  "How are you doing otherwise?"

"I'm okay.  Did the Marsh stuff get worked out?"

"It was in his will to give the artifacts to whomever cleaned them out.  As such, you are probably owed for part of the worth."

"It's a conflict of interest, Giles."

"I see."  He looked at him.  "You have become the man I had always hoped you would, Xander.  A true protector of mankind."  He patted him on the hand again.  "Is there anything I can do to convince you to act in our stead down here?"

"They'd call me anyway," he pointed out.  "Everyone knows I'm the one you call for strange stuff.  I even got a call about the drunk college students on spring break who swear they were probed by aliens."

"Were they?"

"Revenge of the pissed-off girlfriends.  Took their sex toys to 'em."  Giles blushed but chuckled a bit.  "I don't need anything, Giles."

"Even to finish decorating your house?"

Xander considered it then shook his head.  "No, I'm good.  I'm making a great salary.  Not as much as I was in New York but it's family.  She didn't understand that."

"She's lost hers, Xander.  She's still saying Dawn's not hers."  He gave him another pat.  "Tim said yes to that question."

"That's because Tim wants his bike back."

"I thought it was in the driveway."  He smiled at him.  "Do behave."

"Almost always and if not, Tim's usually there."

"Good.  Did you hear what happened to Angel?"  Xander nodded, looking grim.  "Dawn's out there now."

"Good.  She and Connor are a kick-ass team."

He smiled and nodded.  "Still.  She walked in with two of the slayers and beat him verbally until he groaned and gave up.  Called her worse than Cordelia."  He snickered, nodding a bit.  "So she and her daughter are well protected.  You're entitled to the same things she is.  You're doing the job."

"Miami's a null area, Giles."

"Not totally."

"No but we've got an overlord for those things."

"Good point."  He pulled something out, handing it over. "That is yours anyway.  You were doing Rona's work in New York.  Plus we do pay our snitches in various governments."  He got up and walked out, heading out to his rental car.

Xander looked at it, then slid it into his desk.  "Time to go out tonight."  He got up, going to make sure his work was at a stopping point for the night.  When it was, he headed home to change and go out clubbing.  Tim needed some fun.  He walked in and sniffed, moaning.  "Ooh, you made *food*," he moaned, walking back to the kitchen to kiss him.  "I love you."

"I know."  He smirked.  "Wanna go out tonight?"

"That's what I was thinking.  Your semester has been heavy and hellish.  We should go party."  He gave him another kiss.  "How long do I have to take a shower?"

"Thirty minutes or so."  Xander beamed, heading off.   He went back to his stirring, grabbing the phone when it rang.  "What?"  He listened.  "No, that was Giles' bribe to talk to him again, Stetler.  Why?"  He nodded.  "Leave it there if he did.  He had his reasons."  He hung up, going back to his cooking.  It was nice of Giles but it was okay at the moment.  Xander came back down the stairs in clubbing clothes, earning a moan.  "Stetler called."

"I'm going to put mouse traps in my desk next time."

"Do that.  I wanna hear him yell."  He stole another kiss.  "Naughty."

"Of course I am.  I didn't even look inside it.  If you want it, I'll hand it over."

"We'll put it into a CD and let it rotate so it's there if we need it but we don't have to touch it."  Xander smiled and nodded, pulling him close to dance to the song on the radio.  Speed moaned.  "Let's eat first.  I'll need my energy to keep up with you."  Xander winked and sat down, grabbing plates and things, even lighting the candles on the table.  Speed smiled.  His boy was a romantic sap sometimes but it was nice not to do all the wooing, even if he did do all the cooking.  "Thank you for putting the books in correctly."

"I remember last time."  He swatted him on the butt.  "Go change so we can eat.  It'll rest for a few minutes."

Speed went to do that, coming down in his favorite brown leathers and a tight t-shirt that showed he had joined Xander in the gym more than once.  Xander served them and they sat down to eat, talking about his classes mostly.  Comparing them to the ones Xander had taken.  A few of his teachers deserved to be on the curriculum in San Francisco but that was usual in any college.  The one who hit on him got a small growl but Xander drowned it out by taking a drink of milk.  They walked outside, Speed running a hand over his bike.  "Two more days, baby.  Then we'll have you street legal and we'll go for a long ride that weekend."

"Just you and her or us?" Xander asked, getting in to drive.

Speed smiled.  "You'd go for rides with me?"

"If you wanted me to.  I know sometimes bikers like to be alone with their bikes."

"Let us bond first and then I'll take you for a long ride," he promised, stealing another kiss.  "The usual spot?"

"Or the one in South Beach.  We are more than hot enough to get in."

"Didn't Horatio order you to bring a guard if you went there again?"

"Yeah, but we can call Calleigh.  She's been sad."

"I wouldn't mind."  He called her.  "It's us.  We're going out and need a beard.  Wanna be furry?"  He hit himself on the head.  "Sorry, Xander warped my brain tonight."  He smiled when she laughed.  "Sure, we'll pick you up.  Look hot.  We do."  He hung up.  "Swing by her place."

"I can do that."  He checked behind them and backed out of the driveway, heading to her place then to the club once she got into the car.  She did look very adorable in the white slip dress and heels.  The bouncer gave them an odd look. "The boss said I had to bring a bodyguard when I look this hot," he quipped, grinning at him.  "He's mine."

"Fine."  He let them inside, watching the two boys head for the floor and the blonde head for the bar to pick up a dance partner.  It was a mixed club so they'd be fine.  He hoped.  He remembered the last time those two had been here.


Xander walked into Stetler's office, handing over the baggie.  "So you don't have to wonder."  He walked out again, going back to check on his lab.  "Hey, Calleigh, didn't tell you last night but ATF is giving us some more common things they have multiple copies of."  She squealed and hugged him.  "I only had to turn in two people who bugged the crap out of me and tell them to ask the other's ex-husband."  He smiled down at her.  "Come see?  I've got it cleaned."

"I've seen."  She swatted him.  "Let the contractor do it."

"Why?  It's taking forever.  Besides, it's saving the department money."  He walked her down to their temporary hole in non-felony, nodding at Teller.  "Hey, we're back."

"Congratulations on making it in today.  I saw you last night."

"Which one did you see?" Xander asked.  "The one who went after Calleigh and we had to save her?  The one who decided I was sliced cheese?  The one who had the rifle?"

"I stayed to watch after the one with knife, Harris.  How do you do that?"

"It's why I turned a stripper into a serial killer," he quipped, making Calleigh swat him. "Ow, meany.  It is.  I draw bad women."

Stetler walked in, handing over the bag.  "I want a report."

Calleigh held up a finger, digging around in her purse until she found it.  "Here you go."  She smiled and handed over her baggie too.  "See, we're being good today.  Light stress for an early morning."  He growled, stomping off.  "I didn't include any of the hostage takers.  Sorry, Xander."

"Eeh, only two were arrested.  He can check on those himself."  He opened his first envelope, getting to work.  Horatio strolled in a few hours later with the other baggie, the report, and another envelope. "What's that, boss?"

"That is something that was in your mailbox, Xander.  It's been there now for two weeks."

"I keep forgetting it's there unless it's payday."  He shrugged and backed away from his sample to sneeze then take it to open.  He looked at it, blinking.  "Damn," he said finally.  Calleigh snatched the card, blinking at the very explicit picture in there.  "I didn't know females could do that," Xander said, making Calleigh blush and shake her head.

"I can't.  I don't know how she can.  Then again, I'm a good girl."  She handed it to Horatio, bending down to catch the check that fell.  "Here's another good reason to swear."  She handed it to Xander, who blinked at it, then sat down.  "Buy Darren some new books," she ordered. "He'll appreciate that."

"His birthday's coming up."  He let Horatio take it from his hand.  "Well, it's better than the offer/demand to do porn last night," Xander decided.  "Or the one who wanted to use me as a fertility god.  Had to disappoint her a lot when I pointed out I'm snipped."  Teller laughed.  "Hush, Rebecca.  I am.  I didn't want any of the psycho brats I've dated to have access to little Xanders.  There's no telling how they'd warp them.  But hey, I can get a new t-shirt."

Horatio opened Xander's baggie of gifts, looking through it.  "Xander, perhaps you should take the three in my desk and do something with them and this one?" he suggested.


"The bank, Xander," Calleigh told him.  "That way it's in the bank."

"I don't care if they cancel the checks.  I usually hang them on the walls."

She sighed, calling Tim.  "Where's he hiding all the money he gets sent?  He said he's hanging them on the wall?  No, not the stuff in his sock drawer, dear.  Yeah, that stuff.  Sure."  She hung up.  "Tim said he's already taken it to the bank before you guys moved."  She put up her phone, patting Xander on the cheek. "He said to go to the bank for lunch and make sure you get him dinner tonight since it's his late class night and he'll be too tired to cook."

"Okay."  Horatio walked him out.  "I've got samples out, Horatio!"

"Now, Mr. Harris."  He grabbed the other bags to go with the one Calleigh brought up to his office, making Xander count them and bring them to his bank - mostly because he drove him there.

"More clubbing donations?" the teller teased.  Xander nodded, looking unhappy.  "Okay, we'll put those in.  Let's see what your balance is, Xander."  She did that.  "Well, it looks like most of them cleared.  Only two didn't."


"Already taken care of, Xander."  She handed him over a copy of his deposit history. "There you go.  The others are going in today and we'll see in a few days.  The ones with the double entry have cleared.  The ones with parenthesis didn't."

He frowned.  "One's my paycheck."

"That one got fixed," Horatio admitted.  "It should be in there today.  Accounting put the wrong date on the check batch.  They're also talking to the various banks about the fees they caused to see if they're waive them."  He put on his sunglasses again.  "Thank you, ma'am."

"We love Xander, Detective."

Xander pointed. "Lieutenant.  Boss guy."  She laughed, beaming as they walked out.  "I'll let Tim check the statement this time."  He got into the hummer, looking at the balance again.  "Damn."

"Definitely.  Which is why you needed to deposit those," he pointed out.

"I don't like to take them."

"I don't care, Xander."  He drove him back to the office.  "There, go get lunch."  Xander smiled, going to get something off the truck so he could nibble.  Horatio walked the deposit history inside to make a copy of it, putting it with the combined baggies of Xander gifts.


Tim walked in the door later that night.  "Did you cook?" he called. "I smell burnt stuff."

"No, I didn't cook.  I was burning something up here to seal it."

"Okay."  He went into the kitchen, finding a box with his name on it.  "Cookie company?  Xander!"  He came jogging down the stairs.  "Cookie company?"

"Not me," he admitted, glancing at it.  He used a fork to open the lid in case there was something in there that might spring out at him.  "Aww, someone did take your ID.  It's a birthday cookie."  Tim looked then shook his head.   Xander got his dinner out of the freezer, giving him a kiss.  "It's meant to be eaten cold.  It's yummy, not nutritious, and it's good for you to spoil yourself sometimes."  He went back to his fixing the pipes that had broken when he had changed the faucet.

Tim opened the box, smiling at the miniature ice cream birthday cake.  He had even put a candle on it with a fake flame.  He sat down to nibble while he looked at the cookie.  Xander was such a goof sometimes.  He carried his treat into the living room, finding a present waiting on him.  "Did you buy this?"

"Yes.  It's your birthday present two days early because I'm going to die of anticipation to see if you like it."

Tim smiled, sitting down in his reading chair to eat and open it.  The massage unit was perfect and made him smile.  "He'll want to borrow it I'm sure but it'll go very nicely over here."  He got up to put it under him, plugging it in.  He sat down and moaned as it worked on the stress from bending over the table all night.  He went back to his ice cream cake, looking at the bottom of the box.  It had a small card.  He pulled it out to read it.  "Because of all you do for me," he read, then he opened it.  "You're the reason my world sings.  Awww."  He sniffled but blocked it out with more ice cream cake, looking at the gift certificate.  He smiled.  "For books too.  I love my goofball."  Xander leaned around the end of the stairs.  "I love it, thank you."  Xander beamed and blew a kiss, sneaking back upstairs. Tim shifted on his massage unit, getting totally spoiled for the night.  When he went upstairs he found the bathroom worked and there was a tub full of good smelling bubbles and candles waiting on him.  "Xander, you didn't have to."

"Yes I did.  You need it.  You do a lot to help me so you deserved the totally spoiled boyfriend treatment."  Speed smiled, going in there to soak.  Xander brought in a book and sat beside him to read to him, making Tim pet him.  It was a much appreciated relaxation.  Xander even did character voices.


Speed parked his bike in front of the lab, weathering the shocked looks.  He took off his helmet and sunglasses, hanging them on Xander's t-shirt.  For some reason this morning he ended up in his boy's clothes.  He strolled inside, nodding at the staring people.  "Hi."

"You're Speedle's brother, right?" Frank asked.  They had agreed to set up a cover.

"Darren.  You can call me Speed."

"Just like him."

"It's easier on some.  Now and then Calleigh calls me Tim."  He shrugged.  "I'm here for a day of watching Valera pretend to be the Goddess?"

"Upstairs, Speed.  The other guy's already here."

"I had a hot man who ordered me breakfast in bed for my birthday."  He walked up to the elevator, getting off, watching the receptionist pass out.  He walked over to check on her.  "Ma'am?"  She blinked at him.  "You've seen John and you're scared of me?" he mouthed.  She blushed.  "Hi, Darren Speedle to watch Maxine Valera be the Goddess today."

"Sure.  Sign in please?" she said weakly.  He did that, grabbing one of the visitors passes.  "Do you need an escort?"

"I see Ryan Wolfe.  I'll let him.  Need help up?"

"No, I think I'll stay right here," she said weakly, laying down again.

Speed walked off, catching Ryan's arm. "Where's DNA?"

"In there, Speed," he said with a grin, pointing. "She okay?"

"Laying on the floor.  She passed out.  You might wanna tell Alexx.  I know she fussed over my big brother."  He walked in there.  "Sorry I'm late.  Xander ordered me breakfast in bed after totally spoiling me stupid last night.  Plus I managed to break the alarm again."

"That's fine," Maxine agreed, smiling at him.  "I know you know about lab protocol.  I'm sure Xander's went over it all.  He's known as the lab enforcer for a reason after all."  She gave him a hug.  "Welcome home."

"Thanks.  Now, what're we doing today?"

"We are doing sexual assault kits and testing them against the frat house."

"Ooh, fun," he said flatly, grabbing a spare jacket and some gloves from the box to get to work with her.  The other one made whimpering noises. "You've done this in practice.  Step up so she can tell others, that way you get a good internship.  They're competitive and there's a lot fewer of them than there are us."  She nodded, coming to do that.

"Slower," Maxine warned.  She nodded, slowing down.  "You too, Darren."  He slowed down.  "Right over fast.  Even if they're breathing down your throat.  Even Xander can't make the machines go faster with his 'I'm tired of waiting' dance."  Speed turned around, snickering into his arm.  "I take it you've seen that one?"

"At the microwave when he's making cocoa."  He got back to work, shaking his head.  Eric walked in and gave him a pat on the back, taking the sheet Valera handed him. Then he left.  "When's my birthday party so I know when I should go grocery shopping?"

"Two days," she said.  "Xander said he had to spoil you first."

"He so did.  I came home to a miniature ice cream cake with a fake candle on top.  He bought me a massage system for my reading chair.  Inside was a two hundred dollar book gift certificate.  Then I got a bubble bath with candles and him reading to me.  He even did voices."

Maxine cooed.  "I'm so proud of my boy."

"Is he naturally your son?" the other tech wannabe asked.

Maxine looked at her. "Do I look old enough to have someone working here?"  She shook her head quickly.  "I was hoping I didn't.  If so I was going to have to get my hair restyled and trimmed."  Speed nudged her, getting a smirk.  "I would.  Or make Xander go shopping with me."

"I think he did enough of that with the psycho who had the rifle the other night."  She giggled, leaning on his arm. "Seriously.  She took him to Armani too.  He had expensive tastes that night but she bought herself something nice."  He handed her the prepared vial.  She put it into the waiting tray, making a note on her sheet where it had come from and who had prepared it. The other student gave her one.  "How many more do we have?"

"Six.  I've already done fifteen."  She handed them another swab and got to work on her own.  "Where is Xander?"

"Scene.  That's why I got woken up by the guy who delivered breakfast in bed after the wall broke the alarm."

"That's how many now?"

"Eleven," he said dryly, grinning at her.  "Mornings suck."

"Just think what field techs have to do if they get called at four," she teased.

"So I've noticed."  He finished his soaking, letting his sample spin.  He looked at her.  "Calleigh around?"

"Their temporary ballistics office is down in non-felony.  She said she'd see you for lunch if she was here."

"That's good.  We've got to figure out what we're getting Xander."

"When's his?" Maxine asked.

"He said I can't tell you or Alexx, he doesn't celebrate it," he said patiently, grabbing his sample when the centrifuge popped open.  "I'm still getting him something but he doesn't ever celebrate it."

"He's thirty this year, right?" Maxine pressed.  Tim grinned and nodded.  "That boy!" she complained.

"Yeah but that's Xander's thing."  Xander leaned into the lab, giving him a look.  "I didn't tell her when."

"Thank you.  I do not celebrate my birthday.  I have not for years."  He grinned at Tim.  "I'm sorry you're late."

"It happens," he assured him.  "Need a hug?"

"Not in the lab.  Horatio would lock me in the broom closet in the morgue again, this time overnight.  Gay boy kissy germs don't belong in DNA anyway.  Might infect some samples."  He walked down to ballistics, getting back to work.  "I bring back a gun," he announced.  Rebecca gave him a horrified look.  "What?"

She pointed at the evidence bin beside her.  "We had an arms dealer busted."

Xander looked then shrugged. "Okay."  He pulled on his lab coat, gloves, and glasses, getting to work with her.  He took her handwritten notes to incorporate with his report, letting her sign it after him.  Then they got to work on his gun.  By the time they got done with the backlog it was time for lunch and Tim was waiting on him.  Xander grinned at him.  "No more skipping meals.  Alexx will complain.  Then I'll get pouted at."

"She'll pout at me, not you."  He moved closer to kiss him gently.  "I've never watched you work in here before.  You're very focused."  Xander blushed but grinned.  "Come on, I've got time to watch you eat."  Xander nodded, taking off his gloves and jacket, heading outside with him.  "Ride this weekend?  There's a full moon."

"I'd like that," he agreed, grinning at him.  "Maybe a picnic too?"

"I could appreciate that," he agreed, giving his arm a squeeze once they were alone again.  "You do focus on other things the same way.  It's very endearing."  Xander snickered, shaking his head.  "I'm trying to be nice here, not make you want to jump me.  Horatio would never forgive me and you'd end up in that broom closet again.  Like the day you had twelve candy bars."

"I had the nibbles."

"Apparently," he agreed dryly, handing over half his lunch. Xander smiled before digging in.

"Can't you two not do *gay* things here?" one officer sneered.

Xander looked at him.  "And for that you've just gotten a whole unit ballistics review tonight.  Congratulations!"  He stomped off.  He ate another bite of his sandwich, winking at him. "I'm clear anyway and I'm not primary on the case.  There's no trace, it was a knife.  It's in fingerprints and Ryan said he was handling it."

"That'll work.  As long as you remind him you can help."

"I did on the way back.  Rebecca does a lot less work than we do. Well, except for the arms dealer last night but usually she's only got five or ten samples in a day."  He finished his sandwich and opened his soda, smiling when Horatio came out.  "Are we late?" he called.  He got a head shake.  "Hmmm.  Time for quickie car sex?"

"Not at the station, Xander.  Unless you want someone to call Stetler to break us up?"

"Eww.  No thanks.  That killed that urge pretty quickly.  Even worse than the Yoda/Qui Gon story I found last night."  Speed swatted at him, shaking his head as he headed back inside.  Xander grinned, smirking at one of the other patrol guys.  "What?" he asked patiently.

"Who's that?"

"Darren, my boyfriend."

"I thought his name was Tim."

"That's his middle name.  It was helping Eric and Calleigh get over their grief once they found out."

"Oh.  So he's not like Hagen?"

"No, that's Tim Speedle's little brother."

"Good to know," he said, smiling a bit.  "So, boyfriend?"

"My last ex is still wanted by the US Marshals for getting out of her psychiatric hospital after murdering the twelve people that they found her guilty of killing.  She used to be a stripper."  The officer gaped.  "Boys are safer and better for me."

He just nodded, walking off.  He couldn't refute that evidence.  He looked at Horatio.  "Do you keep Harris to create more work?"

"I keep him because he cuts the work around here," he said blandly.  That got a nod and he walked inside.  "Xander?"  He got up and trotted over. "Did you call a pop gun inspection?"

"Yeah, I'm tired of the gay sneers already."  He walked in and headed to get his materials and new gloves, heading over to the patrol unit.  The commander over there groaned.  "Thanks to the big, stupid one I'm calling a pop gun exam," he said cheerfully.  "See who gay baits me again."  They all groaned.  "Front and center.  By the way, Calleigh's out on a case."  He smiled sweetly.  "Let's go."  He sat down at a desk, letting the ones there bring theirs over.  The only one who had a really clean one was the idiot and he was tripped, pinched, hit, and cold-shouldered the whole way over.  Not that he deserved anything less.

They all knew to leave Xander alone about his boy.

Xander was deadly.

Xander was strange.

Strange and deadly was a bad combination.

Xander turned in his report to the commander after he had checked his last, getting a nod.  "The idiot had a really clean one.  Is he OCD like Wolfe?"

"Not that I've noticed but it might be a good thing to start."  He smiled.  "I'll handle it."

"Good.  Make sure I don't have to swat anyone this week."  He walked off happier.  He was also using his pencil to scratch over the impression of his writing so Horatio could have a copy to do whatever he wanted with.  He handed it over.  "There you go, boss.  Going back to ballistics."

"Rebecca's clear and Mr. Wolfe has a suspect in interrogation."

"I saw.  He waved me off."

"Then check her exemplar, Xander."

"Of course."  He went to do that, then snuck back to his lab to do a bit more of the work that needed to be done.


Horatio smiled at his boss when he came to look over his shoulder.  "It'll save us some money," he said quietly.

"I love the boy for affording himself," he sighed.  "The insurance money just came in.  How much more work does his need?"

"The cabinets, the special hanging frames for the guns.  The painting.  Then evidence and the wall between there and DNA."  That got a nod.  "So it has saved us some."

"It has.  Did he bring in supplies?"

"He's been using the recyclable things but now and then he's come in to a piece of sheet rock or something," Horatio said modestly.

"Can we contract him to fix the other things?"

"Only if you clear it with his boyfriend."

"How was his watching day?"

"It went well.  Everyone was very nice to him. The receptionist passed out and he got to tease her a bit."  He grinned, putting on his sunglasses.  "It'll be fine.  He was a bit late since he slammed his alarm clock into a wall.  I asked Xander where he was and he sent him breakfast in bed to wake him up.  He's riding a black Ducatti."  The Chief smiled at that.  "Everyone was fairly tolerant.  Though the officer who did sneer at them for having lunch together, nothing inappropriate just lunch, made Xander call a ballistics check."

"I heard.  The commander complained but agreed his boys should keep their minds out of Harris' bedroom.  Apparently they're a bit scared of him."

"Xander's a very sweet, kind, gentle young man.  He only hurts those people when he has to defend himself, his family, or this lab."  He looked at him.  "Did everything get straightened out?"

"It did.  When his wife killed him, the insurance was used to pay back all the money he had stolen from the city.  Thankfully his kids were older and he had set up trust funds for them."  He smirked.  "So the budget is fixed but you still can't have any more for another two years."


"That's already in your budget, Caine.  When's the new one coming?"

"Two weeks," he admitted, looking around.  "Xander and she will have some problems.  He called her a snotty brat to Calleigh.  She thinks it'll be okay but he said he wasn't going to put up with it and the first time she pulled attitude she'd be warned.  The second he was going to spank."  The Chief walked off laughing.  "I wonder if he heard what happened in New York...." he mused as he walked off.  Xander did do very good work.  Ballistics was going to be done within days if he let him keep sneaking down to work on it.


Xander looked over as the interns were led in.  "Sorry we're all cramped in here, kids, but felony's ballistics lab got blown up by an idiot who wanted to tamper with evidence.  It'll be a few weeks before we can get back.  The reconstruction started today in Evidence."  He waved a hand.  "Welcome to non-felony's ballistics lab.  Ours is about the same.  Get used to it."  He saw the sneer.  "For those who don't know, I'm CSI Harris.  I'm the main ballistics tech since Calleigh's also a field tech.  That means you're going to be seeing me every single day of your internship.  I do go into the field a few times a month to keep my hand in.  By then you should be able to handle a few hours alone with one of us checking over your shoulder when we get back.  It won't be for your first month.  I am hoping that we can work together.  If not, you need to talk to the overall bosses, see if he can get you switched to another lab to complete your internship.  Any questions so far?"  They all shook their heads.  "Good.  Next to me is Lab Tech Rebecca Teller, this is her lab.  You will show her respect while we're borrowing space.  She's just as mean as I am and she can plant a mean stilleto in your thigh if you piss her off.  She did it to someone who broke in here last month.  I have every confidence she'll do it to whoever bothers her this time."

"I'll have fun doing it too," Rebecca said, smiling and waving.  "Stephni, you're still mine, right?"  She nodded.  "Good.   For right now I'll let Xander give the tour and things since his lab's work is already done and he's dancing around trying not to go help with the reconstruction project."  She straightened up.  "Today, you'll take the tour, get your ID's, find your mailboxes...."

Xander looked at her. "My first day I did twenty samples, had to hand-write reports since the computers were down, and then went to look at the rest of the lab."

"You're an over-achiever, Xander."  She patted him on the arm.

"How about the exemplar?"

She considered it.  "That's a good idea.  After their tours."  He nodded. "He'll also be showing you where the locker room is, making sure you have your locker and the Lieutenants get a copy of your keys when you bring in your locks.  He'll show you where the bathrooms, the break room, and the other squads are, plus let you meet our ME.  She's a mother hen so if she adopts you, good.  You probably needed it anyway."  The other tech raised her hand.  "What's your name, sweetie?"

"Melinda Rawls.  Are we all on the same shift?"

Xander pointed at the only male.  "He's in felony on night shift.  That means he's going to be with Tanner and Deitrich."  He grinned.  "You'll meet them when they come in tonight. They'll make sure you know what you're about then you'll start tomorrow night.  We've already arranged this since our lab's being wall boarded today."  That got a nod.  "Good, let's head to ID's first.  We are a set of nosy people about ID's.  You wear them whenever you're in the building.  I don't care if you're only running in for your check on paydays.  You can be stopped and asked.  You will be stopped and asked at least twice your first month until people get used to you.  I'm doing the intern tour!" he bellowed.  "Group up!"  The others sent theirs out, all but one of the DNA interns.  He looked and got waved off.  "Okay, let's head back to my section of the lab.  This, for those who didn't hear, is non- felony.  A few labs are borrowing space due to a recent explosion from someone breaking in.  That'll be fixed in a few days."  He led them back to the felony side.  "This is now felony.  The boss here is Lieutenant Caine.  He's the tall redhead in sunglasses if you don't know him.  I'm doing the intern tour!" he bellowed again.  All their interns came out.  "Max?"

"Got her already, Xander.  Mine and fingerprints; we'll do the tour at lunch.  They've already got ID's."  He nodded, leading them on.  "Listen to him," she called.  "He was our intern before he got hired."

Xander smiled.  "That's true, I was the ballistics intern with trace qualifications about four years ago now," he said proudly.  "We'll expect great things from all of you.  For those of you who don't know, that was temporary DNA.  Real DNA  is the one without the glass on this side of the hall.  Ballistics is the one up the hall.  Across the hall is Trace and Chem, plus a few layout rooms and the testing lab.  You are to get permission before playing in the testing lab from whoever you're working with.  Some of that equipment is highly expensive, new, and even we're trying to figure it out.  If we break it, they won't bitch as much as if an intern breaks it basically," he said, smiling at them.  "Okay, follow me."  He led them on.  "This is the break room.  The machines are okay, the soda machine is constantly out of diet two days after a refill.  We no longer have a lunch thief and if you find we do have one, tell the bosses.  They'll fix it.  Last time the food thieves ended up doing dog crap duty in the park.  They were not amused.

"For those who have food allergies, we would appreciate the bosses knowing and you keeping a dose of your meds in your lab.  In your locker means we have to break the lock to get to it and it's sometimes farther away.   If you have an epipen, definitely keep that where you'll need it."  That got some nods.  "Okay, let's head to the locker room area.  The only bathrooms in the felony lab are behind you.   Yes, we have all complained about that when you're down in the farthest layout room before anyone has to quip and ask.  Especially the last time I cooked something and a few people unknowingly nibbled.  Which is why we no longer have a lunch thief."  He led them to the locker room, taking the tape and marker from the receptionist on the way.   "This is the locker room.  It is unisex.  We expect you to be adults and not peepers.  If we catch you and a complaint is made... well, there went your career basically."  He walked them inside.  "In here are showers, and there is a sign for when the women are showering.  The toilets are the door on the left, the showers on the right.  We have all had to use them after some field cases.  Sometimes the bodies stink.  A lot."

He pointed.  "This is the intern's row.  Find one without tape so we can claim it for you.  Boys are usually against the shower walls."  They went that way and Xander came to check lockers, put tape on them, and note the number on the form in his pocket.  When he was done he led them out, taking them on.  "We're going to do your ID's now.  Make sure we're all here?"  A few had to run to catch up after using the bathrooms.  "We'll expect you guys to have your locker gear in tomorrow.  We do provide soap but it's like hand soap or morgue soap.  It does dry you out if you're worried.  Also, I will warn you this one time.  Miami is the center of the sun.  Sunscren is highly recommended.  You can leave a bottle in your locker to apply for lunches and things.  You can leave aloe gel in your locker for burns, especially you field techs.  Remember if you're going into the field you will be sweating.  Take that into account.  Last year's intern class we had four people end up in the hospital from their sunburns after one scene in the Everglades.  We don't want to have to visit you too so all the bosses agreed to remind you Miami *is* the center of the sun."  He saw his sneering intern start again.  "Other than that, you should be fine," he said, walking them on.

"Intern problems, conflicts of personality or interest, if a case is getting to you, or if you're having doubts, any sort of dilemmas, we are here to help.  You can come to me,  you can come to Calleigh - she's the short blonde woman who also works in my Ballistics lab and is a field tech - she's second in command so she's a good person if you're having problems or issues.  You can come to any of us.  We're here to mentor you, but we can do some hand- holding if you're having problems.  I've sat with one who was so stressed he was going to take the bottle of pills in his hand.  He wisely called and we sat there to stare at it together while he worked it out.  We are here for you if you need us."  He walked them up to IAB, where the ID machine was.  "This is Internal Affairs.  It's a free space most of the time so they put our ID machines up here.  Ignore Sergeant Stetler, he'll be the one growling.  He's paid to make your life miserable if you fuck up."  He opened the door.  "Inside."  He walked in after them, nodding at the secretary. "New intern day," he said with a manic smile.

"He heard.  He's doing them now.  Good luck."

"Just the tour for now.  After here, we're going to hit the detectives' side, the patrol unit, the morgue, then release them back to their labs."  She nodded so he followed.  He smiled at Stetler.  "This is both felony and non-felony in case they didn't tell you.  Oh, I heard congrats were in order.  Congratulations."

He stared at him.  "Thank you for an honest one."

"You deserved it. You did bust the guy who blew up the lab.  You did bust the guys who were creating a public hazard.  Plus you did bust the sick assholes who tried to kill me last month.  You deserve the promotion."

Stetler smirked.  "Don't swear."

"Only about bad things."  He looked at them.  "Yes, now and then one slips out.  Calleigh keeps trying to correct me, hasn't worked yet.  Like the t-shirts, just scowl and shake your head or complain."  He looked at his ID then at the laminating machine, running it through it to reseal an edge that was peeling up.  Stetler scowled.  "Sorry, had to open Maxine's door for her the other day.  I had a corner coming up.  Don't want anyone to try to take it."  Once everyone had theirs and their computer ID codes, the secretary had gotten those while they were being printed and laminated, he walked them out.  "We are going to visit the other departments in this building so you know where people are if something happens or if you get the delivery person job.  First off, to homicide.  So hit the elevators."  They headed that way, making sure they had the right information on their badges.  "Put them on before you get off or you will get stopped.  The receptionist for homicide is a *bear* about that.  She's gotten guys in uniforms and with openly worn badges."  He got onto the last elevator with the nightshift ballistics tech, smiling at him.  "It'll be okay.  They're nice people.  A bit dour and unfun but they're good at what they do.  If you need a fun break, you and ours can switch out for a few days of vacation."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind, CSI Harris."

"Xander.  Say it with me," he said, smirking at him.

"Xander then."  They walked out and into a detective scowling.  "Problems?" he asked quietly.

"Nah, that's just Frank.  Detective Tripp, I'm sure you've seen new intern day before," he said, smiling at him.  "This is this year's crop of new interns.  Guys, this is Detective Tripp, he's the senior detective in homicide.  We see him a lot in felony.  I'm taking them on the tour if you wanted to say anything."

"Two things," he said, looking at them.  "If you come to our side, I do expect some respect for my detectives.  In the past a few interns have sneered because the detectives aren't masters candidates or higher.  We work damn hard to get where we are.  We do good work.  If we don't, Horatio and I chew on them."  That got a few smiles.

"He's not kidding," Xander admitted.  "The one time I nearly sneezed on a scene I got chewed out by him."  That got some shocked looks.  "Detective Tripp works very closely with the field techs in felony.  He's like our adopted mascot for over here.  He can joke around sometimes but if you see the look on his face right now in the field, don't even try.  You'll get chewed on and he's from Texas and has been a detective for a long time.  He can yell for hours from what I've been told."

"Hopefully none of you will deserve it.  Second thing, even if you wanted to, the guy on the right side, sixth desk, is not single.  Two intern classes ago we had a problem with an intern who hit on him until he had to get a restraining order."  A few women burst out laughing.  "Not kidding, ladies.  He did.  Ruined her career, nearly drove him to shoot her a few times.  We're here to be helpful, to be mentors if you need us to be, to help you be the best tech you can be.  We're coworkers.  Remember that please so we don't have to handcuff any of you anytime soon.  Also, those of you who aren't wearing your ID badges in a way we can see them, fix it.  Now."  He looked at Xander, then pointed at the receptionist.  "PD policy.  If you're doing more than dropping off you need to sign in with the receptionist."

"The same as every time you enter or exit the lab, even if it's only for a break, you have to do the same with our receptionists," Xander agreed.  "That's so we can keep track of where you are if something should happen, or your hours if your time sheet's forgotten about.  If you don't, you can be suspended."

"They've gotten me for that," Frank agreed.  "I needed the day off anyway; I was so tired I was dragging butt around after a four-day marathon case."  Xander nodded at that.  "Even the bosses have to sign in.  The same as there are no visitors allowed in the labs."

"That's up to their bosses to enforce," Xander agreed.  "You go out to meet all visitors, then you leave them out there unless they're qualified to be in the labs with you.  Feds hate that and they do pop inspections.  Your lab can be shut down and all the evidence in there called into question if you bring someone in there who's not qualified to be in there.  Defense lawyers are like that.  Shall we, Detective?"  He got a nod and he led them inside.  "This is Homicide.  Not like the show on tv, we're not quite that dirty around here.  No dust in the corners or anything.  They did a remodel a few years ago so they've got too much glass too."  He led them around, letting them talk to everyone who wanted to be talked to.  He led them on and downstairs.  "This is the patrol unit associated with this building.  Some of them are smartasses about things.  Ignore them."  He opened the door.  "New intern day," he shouted, making a few jump.  He grinned.  "Fair warning."

The commander came out to look at the group.  "Thanks for the warning, Harris.  I am the dayshift commander over this patrol unit, ladies and gentlemen.  We are here to protect you and the other citizens of Miami.  Unlike the group about five years ago, you may not ask my boys and girls to help you move.  You cannot use the cruisers for personal use, and no, the sirens aren't for fun and games.  I've heard all those questions before so let's just forget them now.  We run three patrol shifts.  Day, evening, and graveyard.  Or morgue as the case may be.  Those of you going to night shift will be seeing graveyard on scenes.  Evening is actually late afternoon to late evening.  You'll see them on the way home.  My boys and girls do deserve and demand the same respect you would expect us to give you.  I will enforce that.  If I find one of you kids being snotty to my kids, I will complain."

"I only pick on the ones who try stuff," Xander complained, leaning on a cubicle wall.

"That's another point.  If one of my guys starts to make prejudicial remarks, I want to know *first*.  Am I clear?"  They all nodded.  "Then you complain to your lab mentor.  We've had a few stupid ones who've made sexist and gay jokes.  They've been stopped."  Xander smiled and waved a hand.  "Mostly by him.  Sometimes by Stetler if it got that bad.  I do not want to see it get to the point where someone is jumped in the parking lot this year, though it has every single year to date.  If it does this year you had better have a *very* good explanation.  Also,  you guys have the better soda machines.  Ours don't stock diet.  Sorry but no poaching from ours, kids.  Now, we're always like this.  Most of us are out on patrol, a few are here doing arrest paperwork.  Behind us through the gated and guarded door is Holding.  That's where you go when we arrest you for those who don't know and haven't seen one before.  If you need to take that tour, tell me sometime this week and we'll arrange one sometime soon."  That got a few nods.  "I would not take them down to the morgue today, Harris.  Woods just pulled in with a bus accident."

"Transit?" he asked, sounding hopeful.

"Not with the way Delko was swearing at someone," he said simply.

"Okay we're going to skip the morgue on this trip.  The morgue is the next floor down if you ever have to go down there.  The felony shift's ME is named Alexx Woods.  She's a mother of two, she's tough as nails, she's the mother hen of the labs.  She'll also chew you a new one if you need it.  She has when I got a stalker.  Twice now."  The officers gave him odd looks.  "What?  She only had to chew those two new ones.  Oh, did I report I saw my ex last night?"  They all groaned but nodded.  "Good."  He looked at them.  "Alexx is the elegant looking African-American woman with the really good harido if anyone runs into her.  She has pulled a few techs in for tea when they needed to let go of scenes.  She has taken a hairbrush to another one when he was being a brat.  I'd get on her *good* side."  He walked them off.  "We're going back up to the lab floor.  Hit the elevators.  Have fun at work, guys.  Thank you."  He got onto the last one, this time with all three ballistics interns and one other one.  "Hey.  You are?"

"Helena Carter.  Field.  Non-felony."

Xander smiled and waved.  "I do field as my second minor so you'll see me now and then but I keep it at one or two a month to keep my hand in."  She smiled.  "If you need to talk to us, remember to do that.  There's scenes that've made all of us cringe.  You'll have one too and we expect you to come talk to us.  If they're not into it because they're having problems, come see me."  She nodded and they got off.  "Okay, let's head back to your labs, get to your first assignments.  For those doing night shift, it's up to them to keep you and go over individual lab protocol today or let your night people do it.  Tim, I know you're going to be here so you'll do the same exercise the other two are doing then they'll excuse you to get your sleeping pattern right."  That got a nod.  "Hit your labs, people, unless you have questions?"

Ryan coughed.  "Hi, guys.  I'm CSI Ryan Wolfe, field tech here in felony and backup Trace tech.  Our field interns I need to see for your meeting.  Hit the breakroom please."  They walked that way.  "Non-Felony is having their own.  Expect to hit their breakroom."  That got a nod and they headed that way.

Xander walked the ballistics tech into their ballistics department.  "This is ours.  As you can see, we'll be back here soon.  Get to know the layout in here.  We're only putting back in the cabinets and things."  The guy pointed at a set of small drawer cabinets.  "Ballistics evidence from cases not in the morgue, the file room, or that're in trial now.  We go through it every month to weed and switch things out, make sure they're in the right containers, those things."  That got a nod.  "That's a good intern project as well.  I did a lot of that to save Calleigh work.  I will tell you now, you have a hard job to live up to our standards and we do expect you to live up to them.  I know what an internship is like.  I had three in-school and one post-grad plus a speciality one that I broke my undergrad for.  We will expect great things from you guys.  If you feel we're being too harsh on you, tell us.  Especially me.

"You're not my first intern class but the last one said I was the toughest person in here.  I am the lab's protocol enforcer in ballistics.  That means, Melinda, your hair is to be pulled back in here.  When you're anywhere near evidence in either ballistics lab, you will be in a jacket, you will be in gloves.  There are no open toed shoes in here for either sex.  Safe carry and transfer procedures are always enforced.  If you guys have a personal firearm and you're qualified and licensed to carry it, we're going to be making sure you're carrying it safely.  Calleigh and I do for each other. We can and will for you.  Now, behind you is the firing pen."  He pointed.  "There's no set order for which cubicle you stand in, it's a personal preference.  I tend to do the left one.  Calleigh likes the middle.  Pick your favorite spot there, it all ends up in the same spot.  Depending on the needs of the sample we do have the rubber ball pit, we have the gelatin cubes for depth tests. We have the corrugated cardboard looking case too.  Warn us if you're changing it out.  Also, we'll be going over your reports with you this first week to make sure it's got all the pertinent information.  If you're doing good we'll fall back to monitoring every few reports.

"I will tell you now that part of your internship is a night or day left alone in here.  That means you'll have full control of ballistics on your day.  We won't tell you.  We may lurk or we may not.  We will be checking on you.  The others will check for the first few hours to make sure you're handling it okay.  It won't be your first month but it probably will happen by your sixth if you're any good.  My last intern said I was being pushy when I made her do hers in her fourth month.  She was ready but she was scared of messing up.  That's something else you can talk to us about.  Now, the area being rebuilt is the exemplar cabinet.  We'll have desks, tables, microscopes and monitors in the main room when they finish fixing us."  He walked them back out, heading down to non-felony.  "Today, I want you both to do the same thing the other one's doing.  You will take paper, you will go into the exemplar down there...."  He handed Horatio the locker paper as he walked past him.  "We didn't hit the morgue.  We were warned."  He looked at them.

"That's Lieutenant Caine.  He's the guy over the dayshift felony lab.  He's easy to talk to if you've got problems as well.  Today, I want you two to go into the exemplar down here.  You are to write down every single gun's make, model, caliber, serial number, and if it's clean or not.  You don't have to clean it if it's not, just check to make sure it's able to be used if necessary.  Am I clear?"  Melinda gave a slight nod but the guy nodded, grinning a bit.  "Without the manual, guys.  This is your before and after test.  By the time you leave here I want you able to do that.  The best and highest ballistics techs can.  Calleigh can identify some of them by sound.  I can by feel.  I want you guys to at least be able to tell size and manufacturer by sight by the time you leave if you can't now.  Here we are.  No drinks in the lab.  Get one now if you need one then get to work."  He watched them walk inside to do that and went to sit next to Rebecca.  "Alexx had a bus crash," he said quietly.

"Transit?"  He shook his head.  "Damn, I feel sorry for her."

"I'll take her some tea in a bit," he decided.  "I laid down their first assignment.  I gave the tour, they have their lockers.  Horatio has the paperwork.  I introduced them to the felony lab for a few minutes and talked to them in there."  He looked at her.  "Do you think I was too hard on Rain?"

"Yup.  You expect them to be you instead of twenty-three and twenty-four-year-old kids.  You came in overtrained for the job and overeager to get it done."  He grinned at that compliment.  "They're not you."

"Yeah but I can make sure they're at least as good as you and Cal.  Maybe even Vinnie on nights."

"That'd be nice.  We could use more greatness in the field."  She looked at the kids then at him.  "Who picked yours?" she muttered.

"Cal.  I wanted him."

She smiled.  "It'll work itself out.  How's the reconstruction going?"

"Good.  They're starting in evidence, no one's touched mine yet today."  He stood up.  "I'll be back, guys.  I'm bringing Alexx some tea.  Talk to Rebecca now if you want to complain about me."  He walked out, going to empty and clean the coffee maker so he could make Alexx some tea.  She kept a pot in the lunch area for herself and today he'd make sure she got to use it.  He carried it and the strainer, plus a clean mug down to her morgue, walking it into her office.  "Alexx, I made you tea," he said, coming back out.  "I wasn't going to traumatize you more with the kiddies."  He came over to hug her.  "I know.  It's bad.  Someone's going to pay," he reminded her when he realized she was crying.  She nodded, letting go on his shoulder.  "Shhh.  Come on, have some tea.  The dead will speak in a few minutes."  He walked her into the office, letting her sit down and pour herself a mug.  "I even used the loose leaf stuff."

"Thank you, baby."  She kissed him on the cheek. "How's the intern?"

"Sneering.  The nightshift guy is the one I wanted in ours.  We might end up switching."  She gave him a weak smile.  "You know what killed them."

"I do.  I've only got to do cursory ones and stitch holes for the most part.  The engine got blown up."

"Then we'll get the asshole and he'll pay," he reminded her.  "If we can't make him pay right away we'll find something for him to pay for then get him for the rest when he thought it was over with.  Remember, we're like that."  She gave him a real smile.  "Now, call Tim if you need to.  He's off today."  He gave her another hug then went back upstairs, running into Horatio.  "I brought Alexx some tea," he said quietly.

"I figured she'd be stressed.  How are they doing?"

"I'm going to spank the sneering little princess," he said simply.  Horatio nodded.  "You want it done in your office?"

"If it comes to that, bring her to me first.  We'll see what we can do."

"Thanks.  I want the nightshift kid if we do."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Or Barry's still free.  He couldn't report to Cleveland because of his allergies sending him to the hospital.  They wouldn't let him come late even for that reason."

"If we can, Xander."  He nodded, heading back to see if they had work yet.  He walked the box of cookies in his hand down to Alexx, putting them down in front of her.  "You could use it."  He walked off, letting her destress for a bit longer.  It was good when 'kids' fussed over the 'mom'.


It took two days for Xander to decide he'd had enough and to summon Horatio.  Her expression cleared when he walked in.  "Am I needed in the field yet?  Cal's in to handle her."

"Go," he agreed.  "Trace is backed up."

"Thank you."  He left it with him.  An hour later Horatio came to see him in Trace.  "She sneer more?"

"Some.  Mostly about you being an undesirable, undereducated man with no morals since you're gay."

"Can I spank yet?" Xander asked.

Horatio looked at him.  "I called Vinnie, he's willing to switch the two interns.  He did talk to him about you being gay already and apparently the kid's wary."

"Not like I'm going to hit on him.  I have all that I need at home."

"He's young and doesn't understand yet."

"Oh please tell me we don't have another Montana thing," he begged.

"I hope not.  We'll leave it up to him or she can move to non-felony's graveyard.  Which means you could see if Barry was still available."  Xander squealed and hugged him.  "Get off," he said, smiling at him.  "Would that work better?"

"If the kid can't work with me, yes.  Thank you.  Will we have the budget?"

"We will."  He smirked.  "One of your many fans has given us a small grant to get you an intern you like or to make you go shopping so you quit wearing those t-shirts as they put it."  He walked out, going to talk to Calleigh and the other techs involved, including the other intern.  "Calleigh?"  She walked out of fingerprints.  "He's going to spank her," he said quietly.

"I've seen her do it," she admitted.  "Why?"

"He's only got an undergrad, he's gay, no one would want him anyway," he said simply.  "The choices are to switch the two interns' shifts, let her go to non-felony and get in the other one he knows, or to just move her."

"Who's still available?"

"Barry.  Apparently he had some sort of allergy attack and couldn't make log-in day in Cleveland."

"Poor kid.  Whatever Xander wants in this case.  I thought she'd calm it down."  The alarm went off and she frowned, looking around.  "I don't see a fire."  Xander went running past, Ryan following him.  "I'll clear Trace," she said, going to make sure things were up.  She walked into ballistics a minute later.  "Put things back, do not seal.  Let's go."  Melinda did that, following her out.  They found the person with the bomb outside and Xander undoing it, Ryan holding his gun on him, two patrol officers on the ground.  "Shit."  She headed off to help.  "Ryan?"

"Check the officers!"

More came to help since it was apparently cleared.  "Get them away from me," Xander ordered.  "This thing's still going.  I need a screwdriver.  My knife won't fit!"  One was handed over by Horatio.  "Thanks, boss."  He got into it, staring.  "Blue wire, right?"  Horatio made a humming noise.  Xander cut it and moved it apart then got the other one, sighing a bit.  "We're clear!" he announced."  He stood up, patting the guy down.  "No more?"  The guy sneered.  "Answer me or be the stress relief," he growled.  He shook his head.  "Fine.  Ryan, I want him cuffed so we can remove this thing."  He nodded, coming to do that, gun back in the holster.  He checked each strap before cutting it, coming to a smaller, embedded bomb.  "Aw, shit," he said.  Everyone backed off and pulled the interns with them.  "Clear the area!" he announced.  "Five hundred feet, people.  He wired himself!"  They ran.  "Horatio?"

"No clue," he admitted, looking at it.  "Where's the explosive?"  The guy just smirked. "Xander?"

"Let's find it."  He patted his stomach and chest, finding the lumps.  "I don't want to do an autopsy out here.  Alexx!" he bellowed.  She came running.  "What is the safest way to remove these things without killing him?"

"Let an ER doctor do it?"

Xander looked at the timer.  "Seven minutes, Alexx.  Fat chance."

"Um...."  She looked, patting over his skin.  "Which is the explosive?"  He pointed.  "You sure?"

"Yeah, it's still mildly squishy.  Feels like wrapped plastic explosive.  The boards feel like they're here," he said, pointing at another one.

"Take out the plastic, let her do the board," Horatio ordered.  "Mr. Wolfe, hold him very still."

"I need him down," Alexx ordered.  "I can't do it standing,"

Xander kicked his feet out, knocking him out on the way.  "Get us some paramedics, Wolfe.  He's going to be in *really* bad shape in a few."   He made his first cut, handing her his knife when he was done.  "I need that back in a few."  Horatio handed over his.  "That'll work." He cut the connectors, letting Horatio deal with the circuit board.

"What are you doing to the prisoner!" Stetler yelled as he got out of his car.

"He hardwired himself as the bomb, Rick," Horatio called.  "It's inside him.  We're disarming him."  He heard a beep and looked.  "Damn it."

Xander looked then stabbed the backup, making it fizzle and short, but the prisoner scream and buck.  "Yay.  Stupid."  He helped Alexx remove that part as well, handing it to Horatio.  "Here.  Make sure it's all gone."  He got out of Alexx's way, letting her check.  "Not too bad.  He'll be in the hospital for a while but he won't make it explode."  He looked at the backup.  "Is that what I think it is?"  Horatio nodded, letting him see.  "Shit.  Alexx, he had some radiation in this backup."  She gave him a look.  "We'll need a decontam shower."  He heard Ryan calling that in.  He looked at Stetler.  "Radiation."  He backed off.  "Get us someone now."  He nodded, making that call to Dispatch.  "Can someone please call my boyfriend and tell him I'm fine?" he called.  "Tell him I'll be late filling out paperwork for doing something stupid yet brave again?"  Maxine snickered and did that from where she was waiting.  "Back up further.  This thing had some minor radiation built in."  They backed everyone up further, the patrol officers enforcing it.  "So, boss, decontam shower?  Think I can make him jealous enough to pounce me later?"

"I don't think it'll be a problem, Xander," Alexx told him, getting up helped by the boys.  "He can go.  He's clear of explosives."  The paramedics rushed over.  "Part of it had radiation.  Warn the hospital on the way."  Horatio let them see, getting a nod and one taking down the information.  "The one on top had plastic explosive."

"It was wrapped in medical grade plastic sheeting," Xander told them.  "I have no idea how it got in there.  There wasn't enough time to check for scars to cut on."  They nodded, taking him off.  Ryan followed since he had already been exposed and they were his cuffs.  He looked at Stetler.  "Did you get the cookies?"

"I did.  Thank you for not cooking for me."

"Eeh, you needed them.  Everyone needs someone to help them celebrate the happy things now and then, even when you don't like the people congratulating you."  He looked at the radiation team as they pulled in, waving them over.  "He was here.  This is a bomb, it was inside his chest.  The paramedics just took him off with CSI Wolfe to the ER."  They took it, nodding and bringing them over to check them for exposure.  He and Horatio ended up in the decontamination shower but that was fine.  It wasn't the first time.  He came out and the Chief was there and press vans were pulling up.  "Think you can hide us from them, boss?" he called.  "Kinda chilly here.  Don't want to give people the wrong impression."

"Inside," he ordered.  He and Horatio were led inside to the locker room so they could change and hide.  He went to deal with the press, ending up leaving it in Tripp's hands so he could see what had went on.  "Boys?" he asked, walking into the locker room.

"Someone hit the alarm from the front desk," Xander said, looking at him.  "The bomb guy took down two patrol officers and someone hit it from inside instead of rushing out."  That got a nod.  "They called Ryan Wolfe and I personally.   Ryan got him frozen while I got to work on the bomb.  The others traipsed out and got the patrol officers out of the way and checked over.  I was working on the harness bomb when Horatio came over to remind me what I was doing.  It's been a while since I'd seen one of those."

"We both need the refresher course," Horatio agreed tiredly.  He looked at his boss.  "Xander got him cuffed once the harness bomb was neutralized.  Ryan Wolfe cuffed him and Xander got the harness off him."

"Why not cuff him first?"

"If he had an action switch he could've pressed it during it," Xander said.  "Plus with the wire running to the guards on his wrists I didn't want to take the chance of moving them in case it was a trigger.  Ryan blew one cap into the ground between his feet when he tried to move.  He quit when Ryan promised the next one was going to be fatal."  That got a solemn nod.  "I got the harness off him and noticed his stomach was now ticking."  The Chief moaned.  "He had it embedded, Chief.  We had to remove it.  We called Alexx over to give a consult about how to get it out.  We had seven minutes when we started to cut.  By three we had the circuit board out, she did that, and I had the explosives out and disengaged.  Then Horatio was helping her and the backup triggered for some reason.  It had a small dose of radiation and it was on a fast click at ten seconds.  I stabbed the knife into it to stop it.  The timer was still embedded so it shocked the hell out of him I'm happy to report."  That got a weak smile.  "We removed it, the paramedics came after Alexx declared him clear, after Horatio had seen the radioactive cell in the backup.  Ryan went with the moron signal tower sucking idiot."  The door slammed open and he flinched. "Don't do that!" he yelled.

"Sorry," Calleigh called, coming over.  "Are you two okay?"

"No discernable contamination," Horatio said, smiling at her.  "We're fine."

"Good!  Tim's been called by a few of us.  I told him what had happened.  He had to walk out of class from the swearing.  His teacher wanted to know why so he told her you had just disarmed a bomb here.  He got an excused absence and is waiting on you at home."

"I've got paperwork to fill out," Xander said dryly.  "A lot of paperwork.  We had to cut one out of his stomach and chest, Calleigh."


"Very," Xander agreed, leaning against Horatio's arm.  "Or can we do that at home, boss?  I'd like to be fussed over.  Horatio could probably use the stress relief too.  We'll even sneak out the back so no one sees us."

"Go, I'll have it delivered to your house, boys."  They nodded, closing their lockers and heading out, Calleigh going to get someone to drive them home.  He walked outside, going to take over for Tripp.  Frank whispered in his ear, getting a nod.  "Thank you, Detective.  Ladies and gentlemen?"  The press focused on him.  "Apparently the lone assailant here has been neutralized.  He did have a bomb on his person.  He actually had two.  They were disarmed by some quick thinking CSI who have requested the time to flee from you tonight.  They're both very tired and would like some time to destress.  At this point, the other CSI involved in this situation is at the hospital with the suspect.   We would like to congratulate our CSI felony division for the quick thinking in disarming the suspect and his bombs.  Also ME Woods who ended up having to help as the bomber had embedded a small portion of the second device in his abdomen.  That's why they were doing some emergency removal on the lawn.  As of this point, the emergency is over with and I'm quite sure if he had any accomplices they're going to be sorry very shortly."

"Which CSI were involved?" one of the reporters called.

"Originally CSI Harris and Wolfe stopped the subject, after he had taken down two patrol officers."  He looked at Frank, who nodded.  "They're fine?"

"They were unconscious, Chief.  They're up and around now.  The ME's looked them over as soon as they were safely removed."

"Thank you.  Good to know, Detective."  He looked at them again.  "During the disarming process, Lieutenant Caine came over to assist in the disarming.  He's the third CSI involved."  They took note of that.  "I want the people who did this to know they had better enjoy their last seconds of freedom.  It will not be lasting much longer.  You have a good day, I've got to manage the return to duties."  He walked off, Frank following him wisely.  "Send the paperwork to them," he said when he ran into Stetler.  "They've both escaped to their homes.  Wolfe's still probably at the ER."  That got a nod and he went to do that.  He smiled at Alexx, who was letting Eric and Calleigh fuss over her while Maxine assured Tim that Xander was still fine and on his way home now.  "That was good work, Doctor Woods."

"I hope I never have another one, Chief."

"Me too."  He smiled.  "Go home if you're clear."

"I'm not."

"Go home anyway.  You need to hug your kids and the day's nearly done."  She nodded, letting Eric walk her to his car so he could drive her home.   He looked at Frank.  "Were they staying down on orders or were they really out?"

"One was coming around as he was drug off.  The other was still out," Frank reported.  He nodded at the patrol commander.  "Have someone ferry back whatever Wolfe collected.  I want it ASAP.  Harris and Caine have snuck off to destress."

"Harris is a godsend," he said quietly.  "That second one was *inside* him?"  Frank nodded, looking grim.  "Talk about suicide bombs."  He walked off shaking his head.  "Bob, go get anything Wolfe collects and bring it back ASAP."  He nodded jogging for a cruiser.  "Find me his car, Perry.  I want it now!"  He nodded, going to figure out which one was his.  He pulled two aside.  "Go sit on Caine's house.  Go sit on Harris' house," he told the other.  "They both went to destress at home.  I don't want a thing to bother them except the paperwork they'll be giving them tonight."  They nodded, heading to do that.  He went to check on his guys, who were filling out their own forms under Stetler's watchful gaze.  "I sent cruisers to watch over Caine and Harris tonight.  I'll do the same for Wolfe when he gets back."

"That's fine.  They should be fine."  He looked at him.  "It'll be fine.  They'll find whoever did that."

"I hope so."  He saw Wolfe go stomping past.  "Wolfe?"  He came back.  "He dead?"

"In surgery.  There was a uniform there, I have him waiting to call me when he gets out.  It's going to be a few hours so I brought back the evidence to go over now.  I let your guy give me a ride.  He said to tell you he went back to patrol."  That got a nod.  "He was saying his people were going to get us.  I'll be damned if it'll happen again."  He walked off, grabbing Calleigh when she came back.  "This is what he had on him."  She nodded, taking part to look over.  Eric did the same when he came back from dropping off Alexx.  "Horatio and Xander?" he asked.

"Home," Calleigh said.

"Alexx too," Eric agreed.  "The guy?"

"In surgery," Wolfe said.  "The doctor agreed he should live to go to the chair."  That got some tense smiles.  "Think we can get them before Horatio comes in tomorrow?"

"Let's see," Calleigh agreed, lifting a fingerprint.  "Did Xander have on gloves?"  Ryan shook his head. "At all?"

"No.  Not even when he was cutting.  Not enough time."

"Well, he's got to have blood tests anyway," Eric decided.  "Speed'll take care of him."  He lifted his own fingerprint, letting her take it to be run.


Xander walked into the house, looking at Tim. "Hi," he said weakly.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm kinda squicked.  I've never had to cut into someone's stomach to remove plastic explosive before.  Though, by that time I wanted to play in his guts."  He let the door close behind him, resting against it, sliding down to sit on the floor.  "I feel like shit.  I'm still shaking."

"It happens to the best of us."  He came over to pull him up, looking him over.  "Anything I should know?"

"I didn't have time to put on gloves," he said quietly.  He checked his hands, holding them up.  "No cuts."

"Thank God."  He kissed him.  "Upstairs.  We'll shower."  Xander nodded, letting himself be led.  He got Xander into the warm water, making him look at him.  "Tell me."

Xander leaned against his shoulder, going over the whole day.  It had been a crappy day but it was looking to be a better night, as was good for the end of a long day.  He was even treated to the Super Special Tim Speedle Shower Nuzzle.  It definitely made his night better than his day.


Horatio walked in the next morning, running into Xander's intern.  "Melinda, is there a new problem?"

"Xander disarmed that bomb," she said, looking confused.  He nodded, taking off his sunglasses.  "How?"

"He had explosives experience from working construction and has been taking some updating classes with the bomb squad," he said honestly.

"Oh.  Then why isn't he on bomb squad, or even SWAT?"

"Because he's a lab tech and doesn't want to go to the academy to get a badge," Horatio told her.  "That's the sort of tech Xander is.  The same as he's the first person to jump in when there's a problem as long as he thinks he can help."

"Maybe I had him pegged wrong then," she admitted, looking at him.  "All I heard was that he's a disabled tech, that he's gay, and that he never went past the basic forensic classes."

"He's done a lot with the classes he took," he said patiently.  "He has the full undergraduate degree from UCLA's program in his major and minors.  Yes, he is a bit disabled but it means nothing since he's compensated for it fully both here and in the field.  Yes, he is gay but his boyfriend is the younger brother of a tech we lost a few years back, Melinda," he said, shifting a bit, almost looking off to the side now.  He glanced back at her.  "We appreciate Xander and love Xander for his fussing nature.  Xander is a very unique man.  He's very complex.  The day you got here and there was that bus crash?"  She nodded that she remembered.  "He took tea down to the ME so she'd have someone to cry on for a few minutes since there were multiple children on the bus when it was blown up," he said quietly.  "Xander has pulled all of us together after some very bad cases.  He's solved a lot of very bad cases for us when we send him into the field."

"I heard let," she admitted.

"No, that was Xander's choice.  He only wants to go out two or three times a month so he keeps his skills sharp.  Xander is also the first one I go to on serial cases.  He knows a great deal more than you think or you've heard.  When we didn't have a spot for him originally he went to New York to do their felony ballistics lab.  They still want him back.  I got an agitated call from them last night demanding we send Xander back to them because he had been in danger," he said with a small smile.   He saw the young man coming off the elevator.  "Yes, can I help you?"

"I'm here to interview with CSI Harris?" he said respectfully.  "I'm Barry Goldwich, Lieutenant."

"I remember him suggesting you, Barry.  Due to yesterday Xander's going to be a bit late but I'll gladly take over for him for an hour or so."  That got a smile.  He looked at Melinda.  "We'll talk later, after you've done some more thinking, Melinda."  He walked the young man off once he was signed in, taking him up to his office to talk to him.  Xander could handle two interns if he had to.  He was sure the sneering problem was now gone.


Xander walked in two hours later with two duffle bags.  "I need help carting," he called.  Someone leaned out of DNA.  "Now, dear.  Please?  The back of the car and the back seat?  Get some patrols to help you?"

"What is that?" Tim demanded.

"Um, the stuff I traded with the guys at Ellory's," he said with a bright grin.  "Part of our new exemplar."  Tim moaned, heading down to help get the rest of the stuff.  He drug the two bags into his lab, sighing in relief when he got it where it needed to go.  He called Horatio.  "I see someone put up the cabinets and things.  Thank you."  He listened.  "Send him down, boss.  I could use the help.  Well, because I had things I was not totally fond of but that the Watchers who run Ellory's in New York could use and sell to other Watchers or collectors.  They're on the up-and-up.  They traded me for some of my artillery."  He smirked at the spluttering.  "I had it in storage, boss.  Wasn't going to use it anyway, and some of it was collection worthy.  Anyway, I've got a good start on our exemplar and I won't have a tax debt this year.  So send my boy Barry down."  He hung up, smiling at the patrol guys.  "Our new exemplar.  I pulled a few strings and begged very prettily."

"Didn't need that mental image," one said, handing over the box.  "Bullets?"

Xander looked then held up the chains.  "Oh, no, something else.  Sorry. A friend needed these shipped to him."  He put them aside.  "He's a big werewolf fan."  They just nodded and went to get the rest of the stuff, Tim bringing the last bag and the keys.  "Thank you."  He grinned and blew a kiss.  "We have room in the storage building again."

"I hate the Council," Tim complained, coming over to see.  He saw the young man peeking in.  "Come on in, kid.  I'm Darren, his boyfriend and future DNA God.  You?"

"Barry Goldwich."

"My boy," Xander said happily.  "I have managed to beg very prettily for a good new exemplar collection since ours had to be slagged after the explosion destroyed so many of them.  Can you call Calleigh, dear?"  He nodded, going to do that.  "Come help, Barry.  What did you think of Horatio?"

"I was expecting the fiery redhead temper," he admitted, grinning a bit.  "He seemed very nice.  Very calm.  Very strong willed."

"He has to keep us boys under control.  Otherwise Eric hits on women on scenes and Ryan starts to clean things and Maxine hits on the pretty boys and Calleigh just laughs at us," he said as she walked in.  "I traded some of my stuff in storage with the Watchers at Ellory's.  Which is their gear and supply shop in New York."

She looked then hugged him.  "I love you, Xander.  I really do."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "You are?"

"Barry Goldwich, ma'am."

"I'm a Southern girl, Barry, and not that old," she said firmly.

"Yes, Miss Calleigh," he quipped back, making her laugh.  "Lieutenant Caine said there was still an open spot for a ballistics tech."

"Possibly even in my lab," Xander admitted.  "Depending on who moves where.  There's going to be a bit of shifting around."  That got a smile and a nod.  "For right now, I want a list of every single gun.  Make, model, serial number, condition, and caliber."  Barry took the paper Calleigh handed him and got to work, stroking a few now and then.

Even Calleigh stroked a few.  "The new Desert Eagle.  I didn't think this was out yet."

Xander winked.  "They're special up there.  And hey, now we have room in the storage building."  He made his own notes of what they were putting into the exemplar on the form in front of him.  Calleigh had hers, Barry was doing his own section and letting them do checks every few so they could go onto the forms.  They let him do their sections for his homework while he arranged and shelved.  "By caliber," he ordered.  "Heavier on the bottom."  That got a nod and he did that.  "Alphabetize if you want."

"Thank you.  I think I can do that."  He got back to work.  He had to shift some but that was fine as well.

Horatio came in two hours later, seeing the new exemplar wall.  "Xander, there's a few boxes from the ATF?"

Xander beamed.  "They liked my letter, said I was very polite."

"Thank you for being so polite to the agents, but what is it?"

"The rest of our exemplar collection."  Calleigh went to look.  "They said they could only give us doubles of what they had.  Whatever we don't need, Rebecca will, but I'm not sensing much need for overlap."  He got back to work on his new bag.

"Where did this come from?"

Xander gave him a sheepish grin.  "Ellory's."

"Who are?"

"The major Watcher gear shop in New York."


"I traded them some stuff I had in storage."

"Thank you.  Does your contact know that?"

"Yeah, I faxed it to him earlier.  He sent back a thank you and to expect the boxes today or tomorrow."  He beamed and got back to work.  Barry brought him one.  "That is a very old handgun.  It's an old Remington.  Very accurate if you are."  That got a nod and he went back.  He grinned at Horatio again.  "All we need are the scopes and things, boss."

"I'll have them moved back, Xander."  He went to have someone do that and to help Calleigh carry in the boxes of guns.  Melinda was summoned back from the non-felony lab and he looked at her.  "Do you wish to continue working with Xander?"

"I'm not sure.  He is very strict.  He is a stickler about things."  She grimaced at the squeal.  "He makes girl noises now and then."

"I think that was Calleigh," he said, staring her down.  "He was raised by two girls that did warp him horribly."

"He wears saying t-shirts, sir," she complained.

"You are more than welcome to request a change to one of the other shifts or labs."

"Can I go work with Teller?"  He nodded.  "Stepni wants to move to their night shift."

"That would be up to them but I can support you going down there."

"Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome, Melinda.  You can still come to us if you have problems down there."

"I will, sir.  Thank you."  She went to see Xander.  "I'm going to ask to be moved to Teller's shift since Stephni wants moved to their night spot," she said.  She looked at the new guns, frowning.  "I've never seen some of those."

"Now and then Xander has some eclectic tastes," Calleigh said with a smile.  "We have run into all of these in the past.  I'm wondering about the crossbow, Xander?"

"Someone got the idea off that redneck comic's comedy show:  Billy and Willy's semi- nuclear warhead crossbow.  That's the Watchery version of it.  It's a high density, exothermic tip that can blow about half a building up launched by a very high powered crossbow that has an adjustable tension so you can send it father.  I told them we'd field test it so don't include it in the paperwork, guys."  She laughed but he looked up.  "Not kidding, boss.  Really."

She shook her head and rolled her eyes.  "Some of your Watcher friends are very strange, Xander."

"Comes with the calling," he quipped.

"I'll let her know that the exemplar is up and back," Melinda decided.  Xander looked at her.  "You won't complain?"

"No.  If you had kept sneering at me I would've moved to spanking next.  I had to do it to a tech in New York who didn't like me being gay either."  That got a blush and a nod.  "Good.  Tell her I said she can come drool but we won't have much to spread around."  That got a nod and she went to do that.  "So, Barry, think you can live up to my standards and work with me?"

"I think I can, Xander.  You even got my Star Trek joke during my first interview."

Calleigh shook her head.  "Ryan will too," she assured him, giving him a pat to the arm.  "Welcome to the lab."

"Thank you, Miss Calleigh."  She smiled and pinched his cheek.  He held up something.  "Xander, why did you get us a Tommy gun from the ATF?"

"Because they sent what they wanted," he said dryly, looking over at her.  "I only had a say in what came from Ellory's, guys.  Sorry.  Oh, I'm putting a new sword in here.  Deal with it, move on now."  He went back to the forms, sighing when he finally finished, rubbing his sore hand.  Calleigh came over to check it over and sign, letting Barry do the same as the witness.  "Okay, that goes to Horatio then you can come back to play with the guns some more.  I'll call Rebecca and tell her to give us back our stools, scopes, and monitors, and we'll be back in business hopefully today."  Barry nodded, going to hand that to Horatio.  He looked at her. "Welcome."

She gave him a hug. "I love you like a gun nutjob little brother," she said.  Stetler walked in and scowled.  "He traded some of his stored stuff to get us a better exemplar.  It came today.  He's like my gun freak little brother."  Barry came back with the paper.  "He out?"  That got a nod.   "It happens.  Barry, this is Internal Affairs Sergeant...."

Xander coughed.  "He got promoted to Lieutenant two weeks ago."

"Congratulations, Stetler."

"Thank you.  The one in here is?"

"Our new lab intern, Barry Goldwich."

Xander dug out his interview file, handing over the notes.  "Here you go.  His background cleared before I suggested him.  Call when he can get his ID?"

"I'll see."  He walked off to do another background check on the kid.  He did come up clean, though he was reminding him of a less violent version of Harris....


Horatio walked into ballistics later that night, finding Xander cleaning and petting the guns.  "Xander, it's nearly seven.  You should go home.  Tim's expecting you," he said patiently.

"I'm just reassuring the babies we'll be back tomorrow."

"I'm sure you will be and Timothy will take good care of them with Vinnie and Dietrich tonight."  Xander nodded, putting that one back up.  "Go home.  Tim's waiting on you."

"Yes, Horatio."  He gave him a hug.  "I'm so happy to be back."

"I know."  He gave him a pat.  "Shoo.  He's got dinner waiting."  The boy gave him a grin and headed out.  Horatio shook his head, turning off the lights in the exemplar area.  He saw one glowing a bit and looked at it closer.  "Who put a lime scented glow in the dark sticker on a gun?" he muttered, walking out.  He headed back there when the graveyard came in, smiling at the happy noises.  "Xander arranged for it," he said, making them all jump.  "They've already filled out the forms and invoiced everything for the inventory."  That got more smiles, it saved them paperwork.  "Everything but one microscope is working.  That one has a blown bulb.  Timothy, Melinda moved down to work with Rebecca in non-felony.  Stepni's moving to your shift down there, and they've got a young man named Barry Goldwich on their shift.  If you still wanted to go back to days, Xander did say he would welcome having you two and he'd work it out so you two switched back and forth on this shift."

"I didn't think I'd enjoy nights so much but I kinda do," he admitted happily.  "Hug him for us, please?"

"I'll do that tomorrow, Timothy.  Xander did tell Calleigh he was bringing back another sword....."  Dietrich pointed at a corner, making him look then smile at her odd look.  "Well, it is Xander," he pointed out.

"Is that real?" Tim asked.

Horatio nodded. "And very sharp, Timothy.  Xander can use them quite well."  He just nodded at that.  "You won't have to."

"Good to know.  I was kinda hoping I wouldn't have to.  It looks really heavy."  He went to look at the exemplar.  "Who put on the sticker?"

"I don't know but Xander probably had his reasons for leaving it so leave it alone," Vinnie called, shaking his head.  "No one's told him about Xander's other calling," he said quietly.  "So we're up and running?" Horatio nodded.  "Thanks, Caine.  Definitely give him a hug for me too.  I don't need the rumors being started about me taking him from Speedle junior."

"I doubt you could," he admitted with a smile.  "Have a good evening and let him know if something doesn't work.  He was cleaning earlier."  He walked out, finding Calleigh in his office.  "Feel like dinner?"

"I feel like celebrating that we have an exemplar that Bobby would drool over in Las Vegas, or Mac in New York," she teased, smiling at him. "Plus I'm getting to see what a manly, normal version of Xander would be like in Barry.  He's a nice boy.  Next year I'll listen to Xander's instincts here too."  He smiled at that, letting out a small chuckle.  "Would you like to help me celebrate?"

"I would like that, Calleigh."  He grabbed his keys and sunglasses.  "Mine or yours?"

"Yours.  Mine's a mess.  I'm moving to my very first condo."  He smiled at that.  "So dual reasons to celebrate."  He took her arm, walking off with her chatting about her new place.  Once they got back to his place dinner was a quick affair while she gushed over the new guns and Barry. At least until he kissed her.  That was a sure babble stopper for either of his bubbly ballistic techs.




Xander walked into the office a few weeks into the internship period.  "We have a cross- training with bomb squad today and you're still sitting here."

Horatio smiled at him, shaking his head at the t-shirt that said 'Explosives are cool, especially when people go boom too'.  "Didn't we say you couldn't wear that last time?"

"Yeah, but they picked it out."  He grinned, handing him over a small package.  "Yours."  He walked out.  "I'm driving if you don't hurry up and change.  They said t-shirts today since we're outside and in padding."

Horatio moaned but did look at the t-shirt.  "Caution, Redhead:  May (cause things to) Explode Without Warning," he read, smiling at the small arrow that led up to the words in parenthesis above the saying.  He did slip into it and head out, making a few officers gasp and stare in horror.  It was good to shock them now and then, kept them on their feet.

Frank Tripp caught sight of it, shaking his head.  "Harris has warped him," he complained.  "Pretty soon the girls will be treating him like eye candy and we won't see a suit anywhere.  Then we'll see him with a sword or something," he complained.  John faded in, looking at him.  "He got Horatio into a sayings t-shirt."

"He had the guy he goes to for t-shirts add a few words too," he agreed. "Relax, Caine's too old to turn into Xander.  We can't warp him that way.  Now, the new guy...."  He faded back out.

Frank called Calleigh.  "John just said they could warp your new little gun tech there into Xander.  Horatio just walked out wearing a sayings t-shirt," he complained.  "Yes, your boy got it for him, Calleigh.  Who else would give Horatio a t-shirt saying something about redheads exploding?"  He laughed.  "Exactly.  Now they're going to pod your intern."  He smiled and hung up on her promise that she would keep Barry normal and sane and they could save Horatio.  All they needed to do was to send Xander on vacation for a few days.


Rick Stetler showed up at the exercise, watching them work.  "Caine," he called, looking at him.  Horatio walked over, taking off the padded vest.  "I heard you were slacking on your personal hygiene.  I got asked to see if you were depressed?"

"Xander got me a t-shirt," he said, letting him see it.

"It does suit you," he said grimly.  "Quit freaking out people, Horatio.  They're waiting to see if you come in with a sword someday soon."  He walked off shaking his head.  He really needed a drink, even though it was only ten in the morning.  Even if he was on duty, he really needed a drink.

Horatio put back on the vest, smiling at Xander.  "What did he do?" he asked as he rejoined his CSI working on a new model.

"Made insinuations that you and Calleigh are doing dirty things."  He looked at him. "Not that I care, I mean it makes you as happy as I am.  Soon you'll bounce too."  He grinned sweetly.

Horatio stared at him for a moment.  "You know, Mac has asked that you come up on vacation soon, Xander.  How about next week?"

"If you can clear it with my baby."

"He hates it when you call him that," Horatio reminded him.

"Then he should get me a dog to replace the one he gave away."

"I'll let him know."  He gave him a gentle pat on the back.  "Remember, no more freaking out officers.  They tend to get very drunk and then have to leave early."

Xander smiled sweetly. "Not like Rick's doing much."

"Behave, Xander."

"I try," he complained.  "Sometimes it's very hard."  He pouted some.  "Stella, Ryan, and the pookie would've giggled."

"I'll make sure you can go tell her."  He got back to work, mentally making plans.  Calleigh could stay out of the field for a few days so Xander could have some time off this week.  He was even off this weekend.  Once he had Stetler complain that Xander was warping him too, the Chief would agree to some quickly passed time off.  All he had to do was show up in the t-shirt and he'd laugh then sign the papers immediately when Rick complained.  Which he would.  He was sure Tim would appreciate it too since spring break was coming up for him.  Xander did work very hard for the department so they didn't have to, he deserved a vacation to go torment Mac for a while.  Horatio stopped the mental babbling, realizing he was starting to sound like Xander too.  So maybe they were right and he'd come in with a sword someday soon.

Xander nudged him gently.  "You should, just to see Frank's face," he said quietly.  "And Speed's."

Horatio looked at him, shaking his head.  "That's mean."  He got back to work, mentally planning his trip to city hall.  Xander definitely worked too hard recently.

The End.

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