Ryan walked back into the lab.  "What did he have to kill?"

"There was a something eating people and furniture, plus a poodle, at a hotel downtown," Eric told him.  "The officers were staring in horror when Xander jumped in to kill it."

"He got a call," Horatio told him.  "I don't know from who, probably his roommate."  He looked at him.  "Did you talk to him?"

"He said to leave him alone for now.  He's still pretty pissed."  He sat down.  "So, what else happened?  Because what Stetler said is now all over the PD.  I got asked on the way out and I told them the truth.  Some delusional woman decided to pay him for dancing with her."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  We need to discuss the boy anyway.  Calleigh, did you count his hours?"

"Technically, post-graduate internship hours don't start until after you've actually graduated.  He can count that ten weeks of jumping in if he wants to because there is a loophole.  Converting his eighty hour weeks there to internship hours, he's already a good portion of the way through.  If he counts his *other* hours from that other certificate, since he did work as a field CSI during it, then he's about out of hours."

Eric looked at her.  "He did?"  She slid it down so he could see.  "He did.  Wow."  He passed them to Ryan.  "H, you were here when Speed came in, right?"  He nodded.  "Didn't he have to go the same route?"

"He did, but he was much more normal as an intern, Eric.  Xander is not."  He took them to look over.  "He's still missing six hundred?"

"About six-thirty that I found," Calleigh told him.  "The fact he never mentioned this means he either expected us to do that much research and read the reports they wrote more carefully than we did, or he wasn't going to count it originally."  She looked at the boys.  "Now, what the heck happened?"

"Stetler heard about the club problem he has," Ryan told her.  "Got into it with him outside the station at the top of his lungs.  Accused Xander of being a prostitute and other things."  She nodded slowly.  "From what I heard after that he went to the gym, Horatio following after trying to diffuse it.  They apparently had a fight there, then Xander left to file a complaint against Stetler with the Chief.  He came back here and tried to get lost in the work but Horatio came down to talk to him again."

"I was trying to work things out, Mr. Wolfe."

"I'm sure you were but Xander's incoherent in his anger at the moment."

"He was worse this morning."  He looked at them.  "Should he come back...."

"That's a big if," Calleigh told him.  "Eric, did he talk to you?"

"No, I got a text message from Tim saying that Xander was very upset and to the point of wanting to drink.  I sent back that it wasn't me, he said it didn't matter."  He looked at Horatio.  "Are we keeping him or not?  Because if we are, we're apparently going to have to start treating him like he's got some sense."

"I've always treated him like that," Ryan pointed out.

"I heard that earlier.  Thank you, Ryan," Calleigh said, patting him on the hand.  "Even Alexx did it, guys.  This isn't like us or her."

Horatio nodded.  "Perhaps it's a personality issue."

She gave him a look.  "No it's not.  Alexx read the boy wrong and tried for light and teasing.  Xander was raised by girls.  He's like an extra violent version of Xena."

Ryan nodded.  "Yeah, he kinda is," he agreed, considering it.  "He has leather too."  She swatted at him this time.  "He does.  If Xena and Joxer had a kid, it'd be Xander."

Eric shook his head to clear that thought.  "He was raised by the sort of girls who have stupid names for their cats," he pointed out.  "So what do we do, H?  Do we work with him, do we try to keep him?  With Stetler's thing it's going to be incredibly hard in the field on the kid."

"I'm hoping we can counter that."

"There's no way we can counter it for everyone," Ryan pointed out.  "If he comes in wearing new clothes they're going to wonder.  I want Xander to stay," he said at the looks aimed his way.  "I more than any of you want Xander to stay.  I like the kid.  He'll be a great tech some day soon.  He's the sort who'll never hesitate to shoot back if we get shot at."  Among other things.  Speed really needed to come into the open.

"I want to keep him, Horatio.  It's been building since his third day here.  We all treat him like he's a normal, average intern and he's never been one.  He wasn't when we interviewed him and we knew that then."

"I'd love to keep him," Horatio agreed.  "I want nothing more than to keep the boy and make sure he finds a home that he's comfortable with.  He's not comfortable here."

Ryan looked at him.  "That's because he feels like he's stupid," he said bluntly.

"I heard that this morning, Mr. Wolfe."

"Then maybe the rest of them need to hear, Horatio."   He pulled out a tape and handed it to Eric.  "From the gym this morning.  One of the officers gave it to me."

"How bad is it?" Calleigh asked.

"He said coming down here might've been a bad decision.  He said we all treat him like he's retarded.  He flipped Horatio when he grabbed him."

"Was part of his training combat training?"

Ryan cleared his throat and leaned closer.  "I asked him about why they wanted *him* to go.  Just because he grew up somewhere that had strange stuff doesn't make an automatic connection.  Otherwise half of New York City would be going."  She nodded slowly.  "Xander fought with the protection patrol out there since tenth grade.  When they decided he was worthless because he lost his eye, he went to LA and fought with the spin-off group there while in college.  Until the day he graduated."  She shuddered.  "He's twenty-seven.  Tenth grade was probably sixteen......"

"Crap," she muttered.

"And it's not a now and then thing, it was nightly patrols and a lot of times when the world could end.  That's why he knows explosives.  That's why his high school graduation had a sudden gas main explosion when something attacked it," he finished quietly.  "So we have one very damaged young man who was warped thoroughly by girls with a very long combat history, and one person who actually gives a damn about him, who you guys have never met.  Tim's a nice guy and he's trying but they're not together.  Xander needs someone who gives a damn and wants to nurture the good parts of his life and instincts.  We can do that, but we're going to have to treat him like one of us.  Xander is one of us."

"He is," Horatio agreed.  "Perhaps we should talk to him tonight as well."  He called Xander's phone, getting a grunt.  "Tim, it's Horatio.  We want to talk to Xander to work this out."  Xander took the phone.  "Xander, we want to work it out so you'll stay.  Can you come back tonight so we can sit down and talk?  You're right, we do have some things we need to talk about.  Including how we see you and other issues."  He listened to him and nodded.  "That might be for the best, yes.  We'll see you tomorrow for breakfast.  Your place is good.  That's fine.  We'll be there at eight, Xander.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "We're going over for breakfast.  He said you didn't have to bring anything."  They all nodded.  "Good.  Now, do any of you feel uncomfortable working with him in the field?"

"I'm worried that his eye means he can't cover as well on one side if it's something like a drive-by.  I have no doubt the boy can handle it if it's a run-up or anything like that.  With the Mala Noche threat...."

"Xander was tutored in a few classes by a Crypt and one other one by a Blood," Ryan told her.

"Then I wouldn't care to work with him, but a drive-by is one situation we have to be careful of."

"I'm not about to send any of you out alone," Horatio reminded them.  "Him either."

"Then it should be fine," she agreed.  Eric just nodded.  "You think you can work with him?"

"With the way he is in the lab?  Even if he does tell some bad jokes now and then it'll be fine," he agreed.  "I'm more worried about this Tim person since he's leaning on him so much."

"He was in biochem before he became people unfriendly," Ryan told him.  "I went over there one night and surprised him, he couldn't hide fast enough."

"Is he a nice guy?" Calleigh asked.

"Fairly so.  A bit on the dry and sarcastic side.  He hates Xander's shirts as much as Calleigh does.  I went over the day Horatio made him go shopping.  They both dug into his closet to straighten it out.  Tim was lounging around in sweats and a loose t-shirt."

"So he's a normal guy," Horatio decided.  "Do we know what field he used to work in?"  Ryan shook his head.  "He didn't say?"

"I didn't ask."

"Hmm."  He stood up.  "I'll see you there in the morning at eight," he said, heading to his office.  He sat down to do a general search with the name and any lab-related field.  One name made him close his eyes for a moment but he weeded it out.  There was no way Speed was involved in this.


Speed watched as Xander calmed himself down for real this time.  "So?"

"They're coming over for breakfast.  I have to get groceries."

Speed snorted.  "They're not going to eat anything you cook, Xander. I had Priscilla have everyone write them about your cooking.  Nice try though.  That's one way to get into the field."  He patted him on the back when the boy pouted.  "I know you don't mean to."

"I don't but I was thinking about going to the bakery section of the store and buying bagels and cinnamon rolls.  We can do that."

"Just get me the stuff, I'll cook then hide."

"Fine.  If you want to.  I don't want to be grumped at for it."

"You won't be.  I'll have to get up early in the morning to hide anyway."  He held out his hand.  "Wallet?"

"Shouldn't I go?"

"We'll go together, get the stuff in the can."  Xander nodded and stood up.  "Your hand?"

Xander snorted.  "Am I driving?"

"Hell no.  You drive worse than that chick on tv."  He took the keys from him and walked off shaking his head.  "Hi, Mrs. Tumie," he called as he walked out, waving at the nosy neighbor on the left.  She watched out for them.  He looked back, finding Xander looking at a new box on the porch.  "Another one?"

He nodded and put it inside before closing and locking the door so he could follow.  "We're going to the store, need anything, Mrs. Tumie?" he called as he walked.

"No, boys, I'm good," she called, smiling and waving.  "Such nice boys!"  She saw another boy sneaking that way.  "You just drop that nasty gun off, Raul, I'll make sure it don't disappear on you."  He nodded, going to slide it into their mailbox.  "Good boy!"  He smiled and left, going to file the serial number off his new one.


Horatio knocked the next morning, smiling at Xander when he bounced down the stairs to let them in.  "Good morning."

"Well, it's morning," he said dryly.  "We'll wait to see if it's good or not."  He saw Eric's look at his mailbox and came out to look.  "Oh, hey, the neighborhood kids are getting rid of a few more."  He brought them inside to put with the box he already had.  "Come into the kitchen, guys.  I didn't cook anything."  They followed him that way.

"This is a great house, Xander," Calleigh said, smiling at him.

"Thanks.  We've been doing some fixing up for the landlord for cheaper rent."  He laid everything out.  "Go ahead and dig in, people.  I'm not formal about stuff.  Coffee's dripping and there's milk and juice in the fridge.  Glasses are beside it."

Horatio got those who he knew would want it coffee, including Xander.  Ryan got milk, Calleigh took juice, and they dug in to eat and talk.  "No Tim?"

"He went back to bed.  He doesn't like mornings."  He stuffed his mouth.

Ryan looked around.  "The last time I was here you needed to do dishes."

"I was working on them that night," he defended. "I do them most every night.  The house is clean, Ryan.  Quit trying to outdo me."

"Sorry."  He ate another bite.  "These are good."

"I'll leave him a note," he said with a grin.  He heard someone go into the bathroom then back to their room and close the door, with the lock clicking afterward.  "He's seriously grumpy this morning.  Sorry."

"It's all right.  If he's up he can come join us," Horatio offered.

Xander looked at him.  "He won't, Horatio.  Just quit trying, please.  Before I have to hear him complain again."  He ate another bite.  "So, how did things go with Stetler yesterday?"

"He tried to say something else and his boss came down from Central to have a talk with him," Ryan offered.  "You really filed a complaint?"

"I really filed a two page complaint," Xander said.  "With a taped statement attached."  He sipped some of his coffee and got up to get the sugar, adding it.  "Some day someone will figure out how to add sugar when coffee brews," he said dryly.  "Am I still employed?"

"You are," Horatio agreed.  "As long as you talk to me in the future instead of blowing up and attacking the heavy bag."  Xander nodded.  "Also as long as you get your hand fixed."

Xander looked at it then used his coffee cup to put pressure on it until it popped back in, making Calleigh and Eric shudder.  "Better?"

"Most people would have went to the hospital and gotten a brace, Xander."  Xander gave him a look.  "Haven't you ever been?"

"Yeah, the last time I had a broken arm but I've went.  A rebreak of an older one."

"You need to take better care of yourself," Ryan ordered.  "Or else I will nag like Tim."

"Yes, father."

"Thanks," he said with a grin.  "So, did Willow and them have a cat?  Eric wanted to know."

"Miss Kitty Fantastico."  Calleigh paid Eric five dollars.  "Tara named her and I loved Tara like a sister.   We pick on Tara at your own risk."

"Did she help with that cute name you call football?" Eric asked.  Xander shrugged at that and drank more coffee.  "Uh-huh.  Can we yell at the others?"

"Please do. They're in Cleveland.  I'll run if I have to see them."

"We'll help you hide," Calleigh promised, smoothing down some of his hair.  "What we worked out last night after dinner was that you'd be doing your thirty hours a week in ballistics, ten or fifteen in trace, and then two cases a month.  That meets with the guidelines we have to follow and doesn't overload you.  Can that work for you?"

"That's full time on normal jobs," he admitted.

"If you run into too much overtime we're going to ask the chief to add to your stipend," Horatio offered.  "On a monthly basis because we do know there are some weeks like that."  Xander nodded.  "They leave you guns?"

"There's a gang that runs the neighborhoods around here.  They know I'm a ballistics tech because I told our neighbor, who gossips. So they hand me guns they want to dump. I did tell her I'd be trying to find the owners and users."

"That's reasonable," Horatio decided, smiling at him.  "How many have you gotten?"

"That's three, four, and five."

"Good.  It's good for the department."  He reached over to smooth down some of Xander's hair again.  "I know it's hard on you to pretend to be a normal tech, Xander, but now and then we do need you to conform to some standards.  The clothing issue, the hours issue, and staying out of Stetler's way.  He can still find ways to irritate you, even with the reprimand he got yesterday."

"Especially with the reprimand he got yesterday," Eric reminded him.

"It's not like I wanted his attention before then.  I would've loved to be ignored by him but *someone* gave him the forms from LA."

"I called out there to get the information on what you did in the lab, Xander.  They must have thought it'd be necessary."  He sipped his coffee.  "The clothes for the last three days have been excellent.  I do like that as long as you can work outside in them."

"I don't see a problem with that.  I can change into a t-shirt if I have to.  I've got some in my locker, I told you that."

"You did but you don't always have time to change," Horatio reminded him.

"Then I'll sweat, Horatio.  It's not the first time.  I lost forty pounds every summer while working on houses and things."

"Point."  He smiled.  "Do tell Tim he did an excellent job on the cinnamon rolls."

"I will.  Am I coming in today?"

"As long as you get some sort of brace on your hand," he noted firmly, staring him down.  Xander sighed and wiggled his fingers. "Tough.  It can still bother you."

"Then I'll ice it for lunch.  I can use it.  I was using it last night."

"I heard the moan of pain when you took the phone.  I want it in a brace, Xander."

"Fine.  You fuss worse than Willow."

"It comes with command."

"I think it comes with the red hair," he shot back, giving him a look.

"Possibly," he agreed.  "Doesn't matter, you still have to have one before you come in today."  Something thumped at the end of the stairs.  "I think we're keeping him up."

"Could be."  He went to check, finding the brace.  He came back and waved it.  "There, better?"

"As long as it finds its way onto your hand and stays there.  Otherwise I will have to tell Alexx and Maxine."

"I can run and hide from them too," he pointed out dryly, saluting him with his cup.

"I'm sure you'd try," Calleigh said, "but I'll fuss too, Xander."

"I hate fussing.  Keep it up and I'll have to go date someone to give you a new serial killer to catch."

"Want help going to the pound?" Eric asked.

"No, Tim said we can't have a dog until we get somewhere settled.   Until then I get to date."  He beamed at them.

"Tim, can he have a dog now?" Calleigh called.  "Please?  He's threatening to date so we can't fuss over him."

Xander's phone rang with a text message.  He giggled and handed it to her.

"I'll get him a boyfriend," she read.  Then she blushed and handed it back.  "Well, that's one way to keep eating, Xander."

Xander looked at her.  "It's been suggested but he doesn't like to let me cuddle.  Cuddles are important to the proper emotional health of a Xander."

"I'll let you cuddle as long as you don't date any more women," Ryan offered.  Xander gave him a hug.  "Calleigh was right, you do hug nice."  Xander beamed at them.  "So, today, boss?"

"Today I want Xander to finish doing his shopping so no one can say anything about new clothes."

"Bad news, I still need to get a new car, Horatio," Xander reminded him.

"Get something old and a bit beaten up," Eric ordered. "We can work on that this weekend."

"You're on this weekend, Eric," Horatio reminded him.  "So is Xander."  They both smiled at that.  "Good.  Today I want Xander to finish his clothes shopping and all that other shopping."

"I've got more clothes than the girls do."

"Do you have things for court?" Eric asked.

"Yeah, Tim said that two of my outfits were okay enough for it."

"They like suits, Xander," Calleigh told him.  He shuddered.  "Ah, one of those.  Well, nice dress pants, nice dress shirt, properly buttoned, tie if you can stand it, and no fussy hair."

"I can do that but no ties.  Ties are evil.  Ties lead to kidnaping me and then I get them used on me."

"We'd like to keep that problem down as well, Xander," Horatio offered.  "Does Tim go out with you?"  Xander nodded, grinning slightly. "Can he not stop them?"

"He tries really hard.  Last time we went out together I got offers to do porn.  Someone tried to make sure I'd go."  His phone rang and he looked at it then at Horatio.  "He said he'll try to keep me from going to the clubs but now and then I need to be around a lot of people being happy and slutty.  That way I don't have to sleep with so many of them."

Horatio took it to text back to Tim, getting back a smiley face.  "He'll try to keep your clubbing habits down and encourage other social activities.  Like movies."

"I like movies but movies are more expensive than going to the club."

"They can be, but you can go out to do some of those and rent others," Calleigh offered.  "Or come watch movies with us."

"I like action and comedies but not the really stupid ones, and fantasy movies."

"Okay then you can go watch movies with the boys," she decided.  "I like dramas."

"Most girls do.  I watched many of them."  She giggled.  "Really.  Thanks to them I know how to help a woman into a corset."  Eric gave him a shoulder squeeze.  "Is that like an Aragorn special shoulder squeeze?"  Ryan burst out cackling, shaking his head.  "Maybe I'll go watch movies with Ryan then."

Eric smirked at him.  "I should bring you home to Mama.  See if she'll feed you more often."

"Then she might make me fuss over your sisters."

"No, Mama says that's her job.  You can come over tonight, right?  Bring Tim if you want."

"Sure.  I guess."  He texted that to Tim, getting a 'go for it'.  "He said it'd be good."

"Good."  He found his phone and called his mother.  "Mama, I'm bringing home Xander tonight," he said.  "Dinner, Mama.  Xander, the new boy in the lab who drives us nuts.  No, I'm not introducing him to Mari, Mama.  He turns women evil.  His last one turned into a serial killer.  I don't want to have to arrest Mari, she'd look bad in prison orange."  He grinned.  "That'll work."  He hung up.  "We're having ribs."

"Okay."  He ate another bite.  "He'll grump if he has to clean up too much food, guys."  They all dug in and finished breakfast.  "I really don't need clothes, Horatio."

"Then go used car looking, Xander," he offered. "I'm assuming your roommate would like his car back."

"Probably.  Maybe I'll buy it off him and let him get a new one."

"That would also work."

"You'd need to clean the backseat," Ryan told him.

Xander sighed and shook his head.  Calleigh swatted him.  "Some cars accumulate stuff, Ryan."

"His has mushrooms."

"Literally," Xander agreed.

"Clean it then get rid of it," Eric told him.  "Maybe you can ride a bike."

Xander looked at him.  "Tim said I'm reckless and I'd get my stupid ass killed.  That's a quote."

Eric ruffled his hair.  "We'll figure it out, Xander.  We haven't had a great intern out of this sort of program since Speedle was with us.  The rest of us clawed our way over from the regular PD."

"Most of the rest of them will be usual techs," Xander reminded him.  "The QD intern is probably going to go Fed.  She wants to do document work in her heart.  Your field tech is a damn moron.  Can I spank him?"  Horatio nodded, smiling a little bit.  "I'm sorry, but he is."

"He can be," Calleigh sighed.  "Definite lack of common sense too.  I'm waiting to see what you lack in the field to make the same remark."

Xander grinned at her.  "You'd be surprised."

"I'm hoping so.  The next innocuous scene is ours so we can do an evaluation."  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Now, do you plan on staying afterward?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted.

"We can see about that in seven more months," Horatio reminded him.  "We might not have the budget at that time to hire.  If we do, I would consider the most qualified first."

"That means I can't kill Stetler, right?"

"Very true," Horatio agreed.

"If H and I can't, you can't," Eric agreed.

"Pity.  Are you sure I can't have him eaten?"

They all nodded so he sighed.  "We'll work out how to make him leave you alone," Ryan promised.  "If we have to, we'll announce you're going out one night and let him lurk to see for himself.  Maybe one of them will take him."

"Probably the only action he's ever seen," Eric said.

Xander looked at him.  "He seems more like the prison rape sort to me.  Pays to have someone play act it with him."

"As far as I know that's not the case, boys," Horatio offered.  "He did date Yelina."

"Who?" Xander asked.

"Detective Salas," Eric told him.  "You probably didn't get to meet her yet.  You will soon I'm sure."

"Probably during our case," Calleigh agreed.  "She's very thorough.  Little bit of a temper."

Xander got up and got a picture, handing it to her.  "That's my ex Cordelia.  She used to be the queen of the school.  She once flayed a vampire with her tongue and made him beg to be staked to get away from her."  He sat down again.  "I've had this problem since we broke up.  Before you ask, it's not her curse.  She used to swear at them when we were both in LA working with Angel."

"Where did she end up?"

"A higher plane."  He shrugged.  "She ascended out of a coma.  She's a funky messenger thingy now and Angel still gets nagged by her now and then.  Are you sure I can't come in today?  It's check day."

"I know it is and you can come in to get it but nothing else, Xander," Horatio ordered.  "As long as you wear your brace today and tomorrow, you can have the next case after that."  Xander sighed and put it on.  "Thank you.  We want you to take good care of yourself."

"I am."

"Injuries still need taken care of."

"I am."

"You're not," he countered.  "Behave."

"Fine.  Anything else I need to shop for today?"

"No, just the standard basics so no one can say anything.  Come in looking like a college student."  Xander nodded.  "Good."  He finished up his breakfast.  "We should get in for the day.  We'll see you after lunch to pick up your check."  The others finished up and Ryan helped run dish water until Eric pulled him out of the house.

"That is not an excuse to traumatize them with a t-shirt," Speed called from his bedroom once they were gone.

"We'll see."


Xander walked up to the reception desk, weathering the look at his t-shirt.  "Horatio said it's payday and I'm off so I need to pick up the miniscule thing.  Do you have them?"

"No, they're in your mailbox, Xander."  He nodded and walked off to grab it.  She just shook her head very quickly.

Xander walked past the detective he knew.  "Hi.  Payday?"

"They're out," he agreed, not looking up.  He heard a suspect come in fighting and looked over.  "What did that one do?"

"He killed someone in front of us for ramming his car," the patrol guy said, trying to keep the guy from lunging at someone else.

Xander walked up behind the suspect and pressed on his neck until he went limp.  "That should keep him for about ten minutes.  Drag him somewhere, guys."  He went back to hunting down his mailbox.  He'd only ever seen it once.  The suddenly disappearing mailbox was not making him happy.

Detective Tripp walked into the mail room and turned the boy around.  "What did you do?"

"Applied gentle pressure to this point in his throat that stunned the nerves.  Not a vein pinch or anything but a nerve overload that led to him passing out.  It's very handy."

"I'm sure it is."  He looked at the boy's shirt then at him.  _I know exactly what I think about all this, but I can never find words to put it in. Maybe if I get a little drunk I could dance it for you?_   "Uh-huh."  Xander grinned.  "You always like this, kid?"



"I'm from Sunnydale."  Tripp moaned at that.  "Heard of us?"

"Unfortunately once."

"That's why they forced me to get the strange crap certification.  Which is where I learned that neck pinch from."

Frank just sighed and walked off.   "Yours is on this wall, Harris."

"Thanks, Detective."  He finally found his box and grabbed his check and the memo.  He frowned at it and went to bring it to Horatio.  "Who wanted to know what?"

Horatio took it to look at, then he spotted the t-shirt.  He looked at Xander.  "You may not wear that to work, Xander."

"You said I had to take the day off."

"I also said you had to wear the brace."

"Whine, boss.  My hand is perfectly fine.  See?"  He let him see it.  It only had a little bit of bruising left.  "I'm good at healing.  I've done a lot of it over the years."

"I'm sure you have but you may not work when you've had a serious injury like that without proper medical care.  That is for your own health and for our safety, Xander.  Especially in the field."

"If it was bothering me I'd tell you."  Horatio gave him a look.  "I would."

"I hope you would."  He looked at his t-shirt again and sighed.  "Tell me that's the worst?"

Xander beamed.  "You'll have to wait and see."  He walked off, ignoring the memo that had been left for him.  If someone rude wanted to know about his finances they could either ask the IRS or ask him directly.  Leaving a memo for him only wasted their time and his.  He went to the bank to open a new account since this was his first check, finding the people at the bank Tim recommended were fairly nice, but fairly distant. They even let him import his account from his old bank, though he was surprised at the balance.  Apparently Tim had to pay a few bills before he left?  On the way to the car he called him.  "Got the new account set up.  Transported the one from LA out.  Where did two grand go?"  He listened to him tell what had happened.  "That wasn't our fault.  He can't charge us for storm damage.  That's why it's an apartment.  We didn't cause the storm."  He sighed at the repeat of the argument they had had.  "No, I don't like it.  Yes I'm going to complain since he was on the college's list of good places to rent.   Yeah, that list.  Sure if you're that bored.  What do I need to do?"  He made mental notes.  "Sure, be home soon."  He hung up and got into the car, still shaking his head.  His landlord couldn't charge him for storm related damage.  They didn't cause the storm.  Maybe they'd sic angel on him.  Angel could have fun for a little while.


Xander stumbled in the next morning, looking at his boss.  "I don't feel so good."

"Too much day off?" he asked dryly, looking him over.

"No.  Didn't eat my own cooking either."  He let Horatio check his forehead, weathering the frown.  "Tim said I'm stupid for showing up today."

"We'll see what Alexx says," he decided, walking him that way.

She looked at the duo walking in.  "If he's going to be sick, aim him at the trash can."

"I'm more worried about the fever and the fact he's admitting he doesn't feel well, Alexx."

She came over to check him over, nodding.  "Looks like the flu, or he ate his own cooking."  Xander shook his head slowly.  "Why did you come in?"

"Have to.  It's the job."

"You can't work like that."


"Doesn't matter, you can't here," she said firmly.  Maxine walked in and looked at Xander, then kissed him on the forehead before dragging him off.  She looked stunned then at Horatio.  "That's not the one I'd expect to mother the boy."

"Yet she does it very well.  Even Calleigh says so," he admitted with a small smile.  "Flu?"

"Probably.  He'll be fine in a few days I'm sure.  What happened to his hand?"

"When Rick accused him of being a prostitute he went to beat a heavy bag in the gym and dislocated one of the small bones in the bottom of his hand."  She gave him a look.  He nodded.  "He put it back in place with a coffee cup and wasn't wearing a brace, Alexx."

"That boy needs..."  The door opened.  "He'll probably be okay to work tomorrow."

"He's already ahead on hours so I can make an exception for the flu.  Thank you, Alexx."

"Welcome, sugar."  She looked at her boss.  "One of the interns came in dragging butt and looking like he was gonna puke."

"I saw Harris.  He okay?"

"Probably the flu.  Said he didn't eat his own cooking."  She shrugged.  "It happens now and then to all of us."  She looked at the clipboard in his hand.  "Come on in.  First body hasn't shown up yet."  He came in to do his inventory while she went back to making sure her operating area was clean and neat for her first patient of the day.  That's when she realized her boss, the Chief Medical Examiner, knew Xander's name.  He never worked with Horatio's team.


Xander parked the car and got out, pausing to cough up a lung.   The door opened and Speed stared out at him.  "Don't say it," he gasped between coughs.

"Fine, I won't.  Get your ass in here so you can take a hot bath."  Xander shook his head.  "Now.  Hi, Mrs. Tumie," he said when she came off her porch and around theirs.  "He's got the flu."

"Sounds like he's got pneumonia!"  She patted the boy all the way inside, helping poor Tim put him into bed.  "There, you stay there and sleep, Xander.  You hear me?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said weakly.

"Good boy!"  She walked out, going back to her porch.

Tim went to lock the door, getting him something for it.  He brought the medicine back up and handed it over.  "Here, take that.   You'll nap and not cough."  Xander grimaced but took the medicine and wiggled his way out of most of his clothes so he could sleep. Tim tucked him back in and watched as he drifted off.  This was not a good thing to have happen.  Especially not on the cusp of a possible apocalypse.


Calleigh frowned and looked around then went to find Horatio.  "Where is my intern?"

"Miss Valera sent him home," he said with a small smile.  She scowled at DNA.  "He has the flu, Calleigh."

"How?  He was perfectly fine yesterday!"

"He was pale, shaky, looked like he was going to vomit," Maxine called.  "Had a fever, I sent him home to be babied by Tim.  Even Alexx thought he was sick."

"She did."

"Fine."  She stomped back to her lab, calling out there.  "Tim, it's Calleigh," she said on the machine.  "You make him go to the doctor's to get an excuse.  You hear me?  Get me my intern back as fast as you can, young man."  She hung up and went to work.  Happy and camper weren't in her vocabulary today.


Tim watched as the paramedics took Xander to the ER, shaking his head.  "I don't like that rapid progression," he said quietly.  He went to do something with the magic supplies Xander kept around, weaving a protection around him to block out harmful magic.  He hoped it worked and that was the cause.  If not, someone was in deep crap.  That wasn't the average case of the flu.

Willow appeared, frowning at him.  "Who're you?"

"His White Lighter.  Why are you here, Willow?"

She scowled.  "Because he's sick and someone's working magic on him."

"I was blocking harmful magic on him since it started overnight."

"No, he gets the flu like that," she admitted.  She shrugged.  "Coughing?"

"Yup, lots and lots, can't breathe.  I saw he had it before."

She nodded, sitting down across from him.  "Yuppers.  Sucked too.  So he's going to the hospital?"  Tim nodded.  "Why aren't you going with him?"

"Because I'm supposedly dead down here and it was pretty well televised."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "Fine, I'll go."  She stood up again.  "We'll talk later."

He glared at her. "If you upset him in the fragile condition he's in I will kick your ass.  I can do that.  Are we clear?"  She nodded but smirked.  He pulled out something Xander had made, making her shudder before she disappeared.  He finished his first spell then started a second one.  He wanted Willow gone, out of Miami, and away from his Xander. That thought made him pause.  His Xander?  Huh?


Willow walked into Xander's cubicle, looking at her friend then at his nurse.  "How is he?"

"Are you his family?"

"They're all dead.  I'm as close as you're getting.  I'm his best friend Willow."

"He said we can only tell his boss and his roommate, ma'am."

She sighed then muttered something. "Speak," she said once the spell took effect.

"He has rapid onset lung congestion and Mr. Harris is a bit dehydrated.  We've started fluid and medicine already.  He should be fine within a few days but we're keeping him overnight since he said he only started to cough last night.  What did you do to me?"

"Small compulsion, sorry."  She canceled it and looked at her.  "Thank you."  She bent down to get nearer to Xander's ear.  "Want some chicken soup?"  He smacked her hard then grunted and flipped onto his side, the nurse helping him with the IV tube.  "I'm sorry, Xander."


She stood up and looked at him.  "I'm trying to apologize."

"Just because I'm dying doesn't make it all better.  You threw me away.  You're a cunt.  Get out of my room," he rasped.  "Before I call my boss to arrest you."

"No, you're going to let me apologize and we're going to get better as friends!" she said firmly, coming to his other side to look at him.  "This is just a convenient time.  My new girlfriend said I had to so I was better and more able to love her."

Xander blinked at her.  "Why would I care?"

"Xander," she complained.

"Tough, woman!  You threw me away as a friend.  You used me, you treated me like crap.  You and her both.  I don't want to see either of you.  So go the fuck away."

"There are children down the hall, please modulate your language," the nurse ordered.

"I'm done.  That's all I had to say," Xander said, closing his eyes again.  "Can't I sleep on my stomach?"

"No, Mr. Harris, you'll suffocate."  She helped him back onto his back.  "The medicine should be making you sleepy."  He pointed at Willow.  "I'll have her sent off."  She glared at Willow.  "Out, now.  I'm having you banned."  She huffed but stomped off.  "There, that's better," she soothed, stroking his head.  "We'll make sure you're all right."  He nodded, letting the medicine work now so he could sleep.  "That's a good boy, Xander.  You sleep and let the medicine work."  When he was finally down she went to make notes in his chart about his friend and that he was an active sleeper.  People like them often pulled out their IV while napping.  She looked at her boss.  "Should we call his work for him?  He's with the lab."

"He has a roommate, right?  He sent him to us?"  She nodded.  "Then let him."

"Fine.  I banished his friend for upsetting him."

"That's fine.  We'll have a bed open in observation in a few minutes.  They're cleaning it now."  That got a smile and she went to make sure Xander could be moved upstairs.


Tim checked the clock then sighed and called Horatio's cellphone.  He would be tired and less apt to recognize his voice.  The computer was down or he'd have emailed it yesterday.  "Horatio, Xander's in Dade Memorial in Observation for pre-pneumonia.  Computer's down or I'd have emailed you yesterday."  He hung up.  There, now his roomie would get the fussing he couldn't do.  And hey, maybe they'd run into Willow and stop her too.

Horatio hung up and looked at his phone then at the scene around them.  "Xander's in the hospital for his flu," he announced.  Calleigh growled.  "That was Tim.  He's at Dade Memorial."

"That's not the flu," Eric complained.

"He said they're trying to keep it from going to pneumonia."

"I'm going after we get done here," Calleigh announced.  Eric nodded.  "Good."  She finished up her portion and handed it to Horatio, who smiled.  "I'll let you know how he is."  She headed off, taking the hummer with her.  They had the other one.  The reception desk pointed her in the right direction and she went up to the room, watching her intern sweat and sleep it off.  "Oh, Xander," she sighed, coming over to check his forehead. "You're still warm."

A nurse peeked in.  "Are you the other friend he said we'd have to kick out?  All he told us was blonde and small, ma'am."  She held up her badge.  "Oh, you're one of his coworkers.  That's fine then.  He keeps rolling over and pulling out his IV.  Can you make him calm down?  His heartrate just spiked."  Calleigh nodded and went back to petting him.  She left, going to check on her other patients.  She saw two very determined women storming up the halls.  She knew the dark skinned woman from somewhere but the other one was young and cute.  They went into the same room and she could hear one of them cooing over him.  Ah, mother hens.  That was fine then.  The boy could use fussed over.  Men never got fussing right and all he had was that stupid girl who needed to be smacked around and his male roommate.  She checked on them a few minutes later, smiling at the boy on the bed.  "He'll be fine, ladies.  He needs to rest and let the medicine work.  His roommate did the right thing sending him in."

"Have you seen his roommate?" Calleigh asked.  She shook her head.  "Huh.  Xander?"

"Hates people," he reminded her weakly.  "He was babying me at home."

"Fine.  I won't yell at him even though he didn't tell us until this morning."  She looked at her.  "How long are you going to keep him?"

"Probably today and tomorrow.  The medicine's working on his congestion issue and he's sleeping the worst of it off.  Providing that friend of his doesn't come back and he gets a lot of rest."

"Excuse me?  One of the evil twins was here?" Valera asked.  The nurse giggled but nodded.  "Which one?"

"Redhead.  He told me to watch out for blondes."

"Oh, it's not me," Calleigh promised.  "We'll get her if we see her, Maxine."

"Yes, we will," she agreed.  She looked at Alexx.  "The friend who raised him decided he was dryer lint, her words, and useless to them."

"Really?" she asked, smirking back.  "Sounds like *someone* needs to have a talk with the young lady in question."

"I'll let you do that.  She's back again," the nurse admitted.  "Just no screaming, no torturing I'll have to clean up, and let Xander sleep, ladies, please."  She got out of the way and pointed.  "In there."  Willow smiled at finally being admitted, at least until the door shut.   She stayed nearby.  She heard at least one slap.  Only quiet voices though.  Oh, yeah, that little problem was going to be *fixed*.  She smiled at the man walking up the hall.  "The ladies are in there talking to his old friend, sir."

"I see."  He smirked.  "I'm his supervisor, Horatio Caine."

"We were told we could tell you what was going on.  Come to the desk for a moment?"  He nodded, following her so she could get the folder.  "He came in late yesterday afternoon because he was coughing up too much stuff and unable to breathe.  We found he had a slight fever, the congestion, and he was a bit dehydrated.  It had onset the night before so we were worried and kept him for observation.  So far the medicine is helping him.  We'll probably let him go tomorrow once it's all gone."  He nodded.  "Does he have insurance through the department?"

"He does," he agreed.  "Was this a bad case of the flu?"  She nodded.  "That's fine then.  How long should he be off work so I can enforce it?"

She smiled.  "He keeps trying to sleep on his stomach too.  He's a stubborn young man.  He's pulled out his IV a few times moving around in his sleep."  She heard another slap.  "Hmm.  The ladies who came before you are in there with his former friend who keeps showing up.  I thought it better to let them handle it this time instead of security."  He nodded once.  "He told her to go away when she showed up the first time.  Didn't seem very fond of her."

"I've heard a bit of that story," he admitted.  "This week?"

"He'll be out all week if he's smart.  I'd say three days after he leaves here.  Check him for the usual flu signs. If he can't eat and keep down food he can't come back yet."  He nodded at that and headed over there, tapping before walking in.  She whistled. "He'll definitely solve that problem," she decided happily.  She found her floor manager coming up the hall.  "That problem friend is being talked to by his coworkers," she offered.  "They're even being quiet about it."  That got a smile and she listened then nodded.  Someone was saying what needed to be said to the woman.


Xander came in his first day out of the hospital, unshaved, hair messy and a bit dirty, dirty, loose jeans and a dark blue t-shirt that had a small fairy with a crown and wings with her wand in her hand and sparkles coming off it.  At least it was a manly shirt but the saying made the receptionist choke. _Every child has many wishes. Some include a wallet, two chicks and a cigar, but that's another story_   He looked at her. "Handing in my excuse," he croaked.

"I'll get Horatio down here for you, Xander.  Go ahead and curl up in the sun," she offered.  He nodded, going to lay down on the couch in front of the window for now.  She paged Horatio, getting Eric.  "He has his medical excuse."

Eric looked at him then at her.  "He's asleep."

"He probably still needs it."

"Point."  He walked over there, looking at him.  It wasn't in his hands and he wasn't about to frisk the kid.  He saw their detectives get off the elevator after the meeting in their pod.  "Shh," he ordered.  Frank looked then snorted.  "He only got out of the hospital last night, Frank.  He came in to hand in his excuse.  Xander?" he called quietly.  Xander patted down a pocket and handed something over.  "Thank you.  I'll give that to H, Xander.  Want driven home?"  He shook his head and flipped the other way, going back to sleep.  "Okay then."  He backed away slowly, running into Stetler.  "You say *one* thing to him and I will gut you with one of Alex's picks," he said coldly.  "He's just out of the hospital.  Shoo, go!  Now!"  Tripp made him walk off.  "Thank you."

"We heard what he said to the kid.  Didn't make any of us happy," Tripp told him.  "He okay?"

"They were fighting the suddenly appearing chest congestion that nearly turned into pneumonia.  He was in for two days."  Xander shifted and let out a small whimper.  "Hey, none of that.  Those can't happen here," he ordered.

"That's a nightmare, Delko," Hagen said, going over there but Yelina beat him.  Xander pulled away from her so he got to wake the boy up.  "Hey, kid."  Xander blinked at him and yawned.  "No nightmares at the station unless you want to hit the department shrink, okay?"  Xander nodded, putting his head back down and going back to sleep.  He smiled.  You had to.  He looked like a little kid.  "Maybe it'll help," he told Eric.

Eric paged Horatio and Maxine.  Valera came out looking confused until he moved.  "Awww, poor baby," she said, coming over to wake him again.  "Come on, you can sleep in the break room. It's a comfier couch and someone will make sure you get home later, Xander.   Why are you in?"

"Excuse," he mumbled, resting his head on her shoulder.

"That's fine, dear.  Come on.  We'll let you nap in the break room for a little while until we can get you home."  She walked him that way slowly, letting Yelina help her steer. They got him down onto the old couch in the breakroom and he snuggled in again, letting them cover him with the throw Alexx had put in there a while back.  "You rest.  I'll make sure you get home, Xander."  He nodded, starting to snore again.

Yelina smiled.  "That's Calleigh's intern?"

"Yup, that's Super Xander."  She smiled and they left, closing the door most of the way so he wouldn't be bothered by the usual noise.  "Horatio, I put Xander in the breakroom on the couch," she called as she walked past his office's doorway.

"That's fine.  Thank you."  He frowned.  "Why was he here?"

"He gave Eric his excuse."

"Oh."  He went to get it from Eric, finding the two detectives grilling him about Xander.  "He's an odd, private subject, gentlemen.  Especially his roommate."  He took the note to look at, then blinked and folded it up again.  "He had this?"

"He pulled it out of his pocket.  Not his excuse?"

"Not quite."  He looked at the detectives.  "He'll be fine in a few days.  I'm surprised Tim let him out of the house.  I'll be back in a while, Eric.  Make sure he doesn't wander or work."  Eric just nodded.  Horatio went to find Ryan Wolfe, finding him in the morgue.  "Mr. Wolfe, a word please?" he asked.  He smiled and came out to join him in the hallway.  He handed him the paper, letting him read it.  Ryan went pale so he took it back.  "You've known?"

"He said I couldn't tell, Horatio," he said in a near-whisper.  "I would have if I could've done it.  He said it was important so I couldn't.  Part of his other certificate."

"I see."  He nodded.  "We'll be talking later."

"I've been giving hints."

"I realize that now.  Thank you for trying to make it easier on us."  He walked off, going out to his hummer.  It wasn't a short drive with the way traffic was moving but it gave him time to calm down.  He walked into the house when he got there, looking around.  "Timothy Speedle, get your tail down here now!" he yelled.  Speed jumped, he could hear him land on the floor.  He walked into the sitting room, glaring at him, hands on his hips.  "How dare you not tell us."

"I wasn't sure I could and I am still supposedly dead," he reminded him.  "I got pulled back to be Xander's White Lighter, a partner that evens him out.  Do you know how hard it is not to cuddle that boy now and then?"  Horatio gaped.  "Exactly."  He put his book down.  "I was still dead, Horatio."

"You could have told us."

"It would've hurt you more.  Otherwise you wouldn't have stormed over here that way or yelled.  Actually, I'm kinda surprised Ryan didn't tell any of you.  How is Eric doing?"

"You can tell him yourself."

"No I can't."

"You can and you will," he said firmly.

Speed looked at him.  "He's still an intern," he said finally, gently even.  Horatio growled.  "I'm bound to him, Horatio.  There's every chance that if he dies I do too, again.  I'm here to help him fight the nasties in the world that endanger others.  Speaking of, we've got one coming up but I'm hoping Cleveland doesn't need help.  I'll never manage to keep him from hitting them."

"Maxine, Alexx, and Calleigh had a discussion with Miss Rosenburg while he was in the hospital."

"I heard, he still wants to hit her himself."  He stood up.  "I would've told you, Horatio, but it's only going to hurt more."

"It won't.  You're staying."

"If you keep Xander because of me you'll destroy the boy," he said coolly.  "I can't let you do that."  Horatio groaned, rubbing a hand over his face.  "I sent him down here because I thought you guys would be good to him."  He slapped him.  "Try harder.  You hurt my boy again and I'm going to have to get mean and evil.  I might hate phasing in and out but I will make your life a living hell, H."

"I didn't mean to hurt him, Speed."

"And I believe that too, Horatio.  Your head's up your ass again.  Pull it out.  Wipe the shit out of your eyes and nose.  Wake up and smell the world.  Now, where is my boy?"

"Sleeping in the breakroom.  He fell asleep when he came in to hand in his excuse."

"Damn it, that note."  Horatio gave him a smug look.  "He wrote it."

"I noticed it was his handwriting while I was stuck in traffic on the way here."  He looked him over.  Then into his eyes.  "Are you all right?" he asked.

"A bit horrified.  Something bad's going to come of this, I'm sure of it."

"As optimistic as ever," he said grimly.  He took a deep breath.  "We need to talk, not yell."

"You need to get off your ass and see how special and wonderful Xander is before you lose him to Taylor.  Because I can almost guarantee Mac'll want him, even for the strange stuff."

"With your luck he'd date Stella," he countered.

Speed could only shrug at that.  "Whatever happens does.  I don't get those sort of visions. I hear they hurt."

Horatio moaned again and sat down.  "Speed."

"Don't look at me.  The three who were up for White Lighter for Xander and his classmate decided it should be someone with specialist knowledge."

"You're the only CSI in heaven?"

"No, but I'm the one they decided could best handle the kid.  He's a good kid, Horatio.  Hell, he tries very hard to be impressive.  He's been trying to impress Buffy and Willow for years, since he met Buffy.  Hasn't worked because she's a bitch but he's been trying.  The same as he's worked his ass off trying to impress you guys and the only one he got was Ryan.  By the way, about Ryan."  He smacked him again.   "Because you deserve it for treating him like he's retarded.  Even if he does have a problem with the press that's not the best way to solve it.  Is it?"  Horatio glared at him.  "Good!  Been wanting to do that since I started looking over the lab again."  He sat down again.  "I feel better now."

"I should repay those."

"Try.  Xander will protect me."

Horatio looked at him.  "Do we perhaps want Xander as our own?" he suggested dryly.

Tim shrugged.  "I don't know.  He's a great boy.   A bit on the fussy and cuddly side.  He's fairly clingy once you're his.  I'm not sure I can put up with the traumas he's been through but I got to see them all so I'd understand how he works now and then."

"Did it help?"

"Yeah, up until you made him go into drama queen mode because you're a bastard to him."  Horatio frowned again.  "Not like you're giving my boy a chance to prove himself, H.  You're not.  You're trying to make him fit into a very tiny, Calleigh-shadow mold.  He'll never fit into her jeans.  He's taller.  He's also *exactly* like I was in Trace, only he likes guns too.  You've never watched the kid work.  You knew he was good when you hired him as an intern and then you made him feel like it was all a mistake.  That's a good way to get a quitting intern.  I'm sure you've had at least one other who was better than average."

"You were."

"Then give him the same chances and attention you gave me."

"I can do that," he decided.  He looked outside then at him.  "So much more makes sense now."

"Yeah, well, shit happens, Horatio.  Not like I wanted to let you know.  You'll treat him differently because of me."

"He won't know, Tim.  I won't tell him I know."

"I'll have to, especially if we get that special call to go to Cleveland to save the world."

"I'd rather you both stayed," he said quietly.  "Xander said he wanted to retire."

"You obviously haven't been watching him.  Xander does what's necessary, even if it's not perfectly correct, good for him, or right.  He's the stopgap that'll keep the world from ending some year.  I'm here to make sure he comes out the other side, even if it means I end up going again.  After all, not quite fully alive according to my research."

"You have a pulse?"


"Then you're alive, even if you're now thought of as demonic."

"Angelic," he countered with a smirk.  "Like on the show with the witches, H."

Horatio shook his head quickly.  "I don't watch that sort of show, Speed, you know that."  He heard a door slam.  "Ryan?" he asked, looking back.

"Yup.  Speaking of, if I have to mentor them both, I'm so kicking your ass sometime soon.  You used to be better, H.  Grief isn't an excuse."  He got up to let him and Xander in.  "Did you nap?" he asked.  Xander nodded, hugging him.  "Shhh, let's get you to bed."

"He's having nightmares, Speed.  Fighting, struggling, beating people nightmares."

"He has those.  Thanks, Ryan."

"Welcome.  Since you're not hiding and I see H's hummer, he knows?"

"He does.  I'm about ready to kick his ass.  Want to stay for dinner?"

"I've got to head back but I'll pop back around if you really want me to."  He grinned.  "Not like I had plans and you could probably use a break on the Xander cuddling."  Speed nodded.  "Let me wrap up my current one.  I'm down to reports thanks to your boy's help with that bomb case."  He winked and walked off happier.  Now all they had to do was tell the two CSI with tempers what was going on, and he could duck out of that talk for a very long time.

Speed shut the door, walking Xander into the sitting room to cuddle up with him.  Xander snuggled into his lap instead, earning an eye roll.

"He looks good on you, Tim," Horatio said quietly.  He stood up.  "I'm going to think.  We'll talk about it this weekend?"

"Not like I'm doing a lot."  Horatio nodded and left, letting him shift around until Xander was comfortable in his lap.  "There, we'll nap, no more nightmares," he whispered.  Xander snuffled him and shifted down, laying on his chest instead.  "Good boy, Xander.  You nap until I have to get up and fix dinner."

"Order," he mumbled.

"Or I can do that," he agreed, stroking over his hair.  "Did the last of your fever break?  You're all sweaty.  You should shower."

"Water bad.  Turn me fishy monster."

"No, the water in Miami won't turn you into a fish monster," he sighed. "That water's back in Sunnydale and it's all gone."  Xander smiled and got more comfortable.  "Sure, you do that, kid."  He patted him, going back to his reading, one hand still in the dark, damp hair.  He needed to make plans for hiding from Eric and Calleigh for a while longer.  And Alexx.  Because she would take a shoe to his behind for this.


Horatio stopped Xander when he came in, looking at him.  "How are you feeling?"

"Better.  Still a bit tired but I can do lab work at the very least and hit the field maybe tomorrow?"

"I think we could work that out," he agreed.  "Go to Trace."  Xander nodded, heading that way.  He watched him walk.  He wasn't walking like someone who had gotten more than cuddles.  Maybe he would have to prompt Tim about that.  The boy definitely needed someone in his life.  He saw Ryan walk in and groaned.  "Mr. Wolfe, are you feeling all right?"

"Peachy," he croaked.  "Just tired."  He went to get things from his locker, including the newest dose of medicine, and went to Trace as well.

Eric took one look at him.  "If you're that sick, go home."

"Can't.  Xander's not fit for the field yet and my day off's not until Thursday."  He sniffled and then went to blow his nose in the hall, coming in to wash his hands and put on gloves.  "There, I'm better."

Calleigh walked in and pulled Xander out by the arm.  "You're not fit to be in here.  You either, Ryan.  Now!"  He followed her meekly, showing how bad he felt.  She walked them both down to Alexx.  "Unless you say they can work, they're both going home.  Eric and I will manage with the rookie intern who has a thing for putting leaves in as evidence."

Alexx gave her a look.  "Xander, were you cleared by the doctor?"

"They said when I felt better I could come back.  I'm only a little tired.  Even Tim said I could probably handle today as long as I pulled no more than normal shift, Alexx."

"Hmm.  This Tim a doctor?"

"Worked in a lab," he admitted, yawning.

"Hmm."  She came over to check them, shaking her head.  "Nope.  Both of you go let Tim fuss over you.  Neither of you are fit for duty.  Shoo, go, before I get sick too."  Horatio walked in.  "Xander's still wiped and Ryan's medicine is making him lightheaded and yawn.  No way I want them here, I might catch the same flu."

"I can agree with that, boys.  We can handle it today without you."

"But that means I'm not getting my paycheck," Xander complained.

"It's a stipend, Xander. You get it if I say so and you're already over hours so they can't complain and they can't take it from you for being sick.  Shoo.  You can drive Mr. Wolfe to your house since he's wobbling on his feet.  He probably shouldn't drive."  Xander huffed but drug Ryan off.  "Thank you, boys."  He shook his head.  "Good catch, Calleigh."

"I hate cold medicine.  It makes you unfit to do anything but nap."  She went back to ballistics.

Xander and Ryan ran into Stetler and Tripp in the entry and Xander groaned a bit.  Ryan gave him a look then looked where he was.   "Huh."

Xander groaned and grabbed his stomach then puked on Stetler.  "Sorry, just out of the hospital for the flu," he moaned, letting Ryan prop him up.  "Really sorry."  Stetler stood there making angry, squeaky noises.

"Come on, I'll drive," Ryan ordered.  "He's sorry, he's just now back from the flu and I caught it from him.  Let's go, Xander, before I get sick from that."

"How about I get a patrol guy to drive you both," Tripp said, walking them off to the patrol desk.   "One of you guys drive the flu twins here back to Harris's house?"  Xander gave him his keys.  "He's so sick he just puked on IAB."  An officer took the keys and walked them out, his partner following behind so he could pick him up at their house.  Then Frank found a quiet corner and howled in laughter.   John Hagen looked over.   "Harris's flu.  He just puked on Stetler," he hissed.  Hagen snickered and nodded.  "Wolfe's got the flu too."

John Hagen dialed Horatio.  "Um, you might wanna hide," he said, starting to laugh again.  "Because your boy got sick on IAB," he said quietly, then he cackled and hung up.

Up in his office Horatio kept his laughter quiet.  He'd have to talk to the boy but that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that he could legitimately get away with.


Ryan waved at the officer and they pulled off, letting him open the door.  "Tim, we feel miserable," he called as he walked in and laid down on the couch.

Speed came out of the kitchen.  "Don't you have a home, Wolfe?"

"Horatio said to bring him here," Xander said, giving him a hug.  "I got Stetler for you.  I puked on it."  He grinned and went to brush his teeth.  Then he went to curl up on Speed's bed.  He had a fan in his room and it made him feel better.

Speed grinned.  "Love you too, Xander.  Thank you for doing that for me."  He went to check on Ryan.  "Don't make me send you to the ER too."

"Won't.  Have medicine."

"Good."  He checked his forehead and nodded.   "Did it have tylenol?"  Ryan nodded.  "Good.  You sleep.  Get out of your shoes and jacket first."  He sat up to do that and Speed covered him with an afghan Xander had found in a thrift shop, going to check on his boy.  He found him where he expected - facing his fan so he got more air.  "We'll get you your own," he said quietly, tucking him in.

"We can share.  Stipend will be small this time."  He yawned and pulled him down to cuddle.  "Better."

"I've got stuff in the oven."

"Pity.  We can rebuild the house."  He snuggled in and fell asleep comfortable.

Speed stroked his back, listening for the timer. When it went off he wiggled out and went to take the bread out of the oven.  Then he went back because Xander would be whimpering and waiting on him.  He slid back in and Xander got comfortable again.  It was sweet, it was nice, and Xander wasn't pushy but it was good.  Maybe it'd stay good when he got better and then he'd have to see if it went anywhere.


Horatio came over that night, looking in the living room.  Ryan was still asleep.  He looked in the kitchen, catching Speed's eyes.  "He okay?" he asked quietly, walking into the kitchen.  "Where's Xander?"

"Napping in front of my fan.  It's helping him breathe."

"He said you thought he could come back."

Speed gave him a look.  "I gave up fighting.  Xander is more stubborn than a whole fleet of Marines.  Dinner?"

"Please."  He put his suit coat on the back of the chair and came over to help.  "We have missed you.  Eric was saying today that if you were in the lab you'd have taken them both into hand and made them both not sick.  Our other intern has some thing about leaves."

Xander stumbled in.  "He's trying to prove you can use leaf degeneration like you can bugs."  He gave Horatio a hug, getting a pat on the back, then he was handed to Speed.  "Can't sleep.  Too many nightmares."   He frowned at Horatio.  "Hi."

"Hi."  He smoothed down his hair.  "Why don't you try to nap on Ryan?"  He heard the small growl.  "Or go take a shower to finish waking up?  Then we can eat so you can go back to bed."

Xander grumbled but went to take a shower, coming down in sweat shorts and a t-shirt that even Speed groaned at.   "My low self esteem t-shirt.  Leave it alone," he grumped.  He showed it to Horatio - My inferiority complex is not as good as yours.

"I can't say as I like that one either, Xander.  You have no reason to be inferior."  He gave him a pat on the back.   "Sit down, let us finish dinner.  We'll get Ryan up when it's time."  Xander curled up in the chair, watching them cook.  "Have you ever figured out why he couldn't cook?"

"Nope.  I've tried, I've even taken some stuff into the lab at UCLA to analyze it.  I don't know why he's poisonous to normal mortals who aren't himself."

"Made myself sick before too," he mumbled.

"Okay, sometimes all mortals."  He grinned at Horatio.  "Are they good?"

"No," he said bluntly.  "Eric's still not over your death.  Calleigh's having other problems.  Your death came at a very bad time."

"Not like I wanted it to happen, H."

"Then perhaps we should have cleaned our gun?"

Speed looked at him.  "I was cleaning it once a month."

"Not often enough."

"Every week," Xander mumbled, nearly asleep again.

"Every two is fine," Horatio said.  Xander shook his head so he smiled.  "Okay, not to you but it is for us."  He looked at Speed.  "She will hit you.  I should."

"I did clean it."

"Not often enough."

Xander lifted his head.  "Fate sucks sometimes," he noted patiently.  "Maybe it happened because we needed him as a White Lighter."  He put his head back down on the table.

"It could be.  I was cleaning it once a month, H.  I swear I was."

Horatio looked at him then nodded.  "Good.  Then I won't kick your ass myself."

"Have to protest and protect him," Xander mumbled.

Horatio smiled at the boy then at Speed.  "You're very lucky."

"I know."   He grinned and went back to cooking. "Wolfe, if you're eating, go take a shower.  You can borrow some of Xander's clothes."

Ryan wobbled up the stairs, going to do as ordered.  He still felt nasty.  He came down twenty minutes later in a pair of sweats and a plain t-shirt.  He sat down.  "Thank you for taking care of me today, Speed," he said, sounding stuffed up.  Horatio checked his forehead.  "I'm fine."

"You're not fine, Mr. Wolfe.  You have the flu and you will stay home until you are better so the rest of us don't catch it.  It's bad enough that you and he both have it.  Speaking of, move his head some?  He's panting."  Speed poked Xander on the side, making him shift.  He was still panting so he and Horatio stood him up.  "Perhaps you should go back?"

"Wolfe, go get the fan from my room please?"  He nodded, going to do that.  "He's taking his antibiotics.  I wake him up to take them, H."

"Sometimes chest problems don't clear all that quickly.  He's already ahead on hours and I can keep him out of the field until he's better."  Xander whimpered.  "Not until you quit having problems breathing, Xander.  I can't risk your life for something like this.  Once you're better."

"I'm fine. I just can't breathe when I lay down, which I won't be doing in the field."

"No good boss would let you work when you're in this sort of condition," Speed told him.  "Before you say a *word* I nearly killed Prac for letting you work the night you were throwing up from eating your own cooking.  H is a much better boss than that."  He stared him down.

"It could be weeks before the chest congestion clears up," Xander told him.  "Like it was the last time."

He nodded.  "I remember seeing that.  No one says you can't work in the lab as long as you're better, but you can't go into the field like that."

"I'm running out of hours.  They can't let me work over the internship allotment."

Horatio coughed.  "We're going to be discussing that later on, Xander.  Xander looked at him.  "I know it's early but there is one tech who I think we're about to let go."

"QD?" he asked dryly.

"No.  She's a bit odd but she knows her area.  Even if she does commune with the paper."  Speed snickered but Ryan nodded.  "The other one needs a bit of a mental exam," he shared.  "No telling him but I'm about to pull him aside to talk about it."

Xander shrugged.  "He's trying to prove that you can have greenery degeneration the same way you can prove timeline by bugs."

"That's nice but he's going about it the wrong way.  I'll be talking to him tomorrow while you two take another day of rest."

"I can't afford that, Horatio."

"I've already talked to the Chief, Xander, and pointed out that you're ahead on hours, that it wasn't your fault you got the flu, that you had been hospitalized, and that you're one of the best hires we've ever had.  You're still getting your stipend.  Don't worry about that.  You can take tomorrow off if you need to, and it looks like you do."  He reached over to stroke down his hair.  "I'm worried about this breathing thing.  I don't want you to die on us."

"I'll be better and I can come in tomorrow."  Ryan started to cough.  "You can have my bed.  I'm going to sleep wherever the fan is," Xander offered.  Ryan shook his head.  "You should stay, Ryan.  That way you're not going to die alone."

"I'll be fine."

"Don't make me knock you out.  I did it to Eric, I did it to Calleigh, I'll do it to you too."

"Thanks, it makes me feel like part of the lab," he quipped, but Speed only stared at him.  "It does."

"That's it, I need to kick Eric's ass.  Again."  He took Xander's keys.  "Take that out when it buzzes, H."  He headed off, going to find Eric.  Thankfully Xander had made sure he was just as skilled at knocking around people as Xander himself was.  He found him at his apartment, alone thankfully, and pulled something off the end of the keychain, sliding it under the door.  He smiled at the woman who came out of the apartment across the hall.  "Needing to yell at Eric.  He's an idiot."

"He's a young man, most of you are," she agreed, smirking at him.  "Lurking?"

"Making sure I don't go knock his head off."

"Ah, one of those.  Remember, he is an officer."

Speed smirked.  "So was I."  He heard the thump and pulled out the lock gun that had been in the glovebox, using it to get inside.  He smiled and waved before closing the door.  Eric was on the floor so he drug him to the couch, laying him down and sitting on the chair across from him.  "Morning," he said at the first groan.

"Speed?" he breathed, sitting up.  He held his head.  "Am I dead?"

"No, but the thought had crossed my mind recently," he said blandly, staring him down.  Eric flinched.  "What part of 'you're a bigger asshole than I ever was' did you think made you a good coworker?"


"Not me.  Yeah.  His ex is a reporter.  He says stupid shit around her.  He's trying really hard."

"Did you get sent to make me feel bad?"

"No.  Technically I got sent to give you a swift kick in the ass."  Eric nodded.  "And Xander now and then."  Eric's head came up.  "Part of the strange stuff certificate. You get someone dead who's watching over you and wants to thump you now and then."

"Has he seen you?"

"A few times."

"Are you living?"

"No comment."  Eric glared at him.  "I'm still debating that," he admitted.  "That's not why I'm here.  I'm here because you needed my foot up your butt sideways.  Repeatedly.  You and Wolfe have got to work it out, Eric.  Xander had a point, you treat him like he's retarded."

"I'm working on getting to know Xander better."

"Not him, Wolfe."

"Oh."  He slumped again.  "I'm trying."

"To join me watching people fight demons?  Because you're headed quickly for the stage where you're doing stupid shit to feel alive."

"With Marisol...."

"What did she do this time?"  Eric looked at him.  "Not like I'm her White Lighter."

"Like on the show with the witches?"

"Yeah but I don't get the visions or the teleportation stuff.  Visions hurt so I'm lucky.  What's wrong with your sister?"

"She's sick."

"I'm sorry."  Eric looked at him.  "No one should be forced to watch their relatives fight for their lives, Eric.  It's mean.  It's soul destroying.  Which yours is getting closer to."  He leaned forward, touching his cheek.  "You can't take that out on Wolfe because he's not me."

"If I pray would you hear me?"

"I'll try to pop around more often."

"Are you often found at Xander's place?"

"Someone's got to make the kid eat."  Eric smirked at that.  "He's poisonous!  I've seen him poison himself with it.  Besides, right now I'm babying him and Wolfe because he's sick too.   Can you maybe quit treating them like they're stupid?  Xander has grown on everyone but you guys."

"Calleigh loves him.  Maxine is babying him."

"Good!  Get the other witch in DNA off his ass if you can."

"I like Natalia."

Speed looked at him then leaned over and smacked him on the forehead.  "I thought Xander had bad taste."  Eric blushed.  "You had better taste in the past, Eric.  She's part of that doing something stupid to feel alive thing.  Quit it.  Before I have to make Xander do something."

"Like date?" he joked.

"Exactly."  He smirked at him.  He looked at the hallway.  "Company.  I should go."

"Can I come see you at Xander's?"

"If I'm there.  Now and then I'm not at the house.  Still haven't figured out what I'm doing all day long since Xander doesn't have to deal with all the strange crap."  Willow appeared, looking confused.  "Why are you back in Miami?" he demanded.

"I came to talk to you about Xander.  I....I was kinda wrong."

"Ya think?" he asked sarcastically.  "Would that be because you practically raised him and then you destroyed him by deciding he was helpless and worthless?"  She slumped but nodded, looking at the carpet.  "Uh-huh.  We'll see if this attitude lasts."  Eric coughed.  "This is Willow, Eric.  Calleigh, Alexx, and Maxine all had a talk with her while Xander was in the hospital."

Eric glared at her.  "Do you know how badly you warped that guy?  Most of us can't decide if we like him, are scared of him, or if he's able to be around normal people!"  He stood up.  "You made it so normal guys can't even understand him, woman!"

"I'm sorry!" she said, glaring at him.  "I didn't mean to hurt him that way."

"Yeah, well, Wolfe said he's like a kid between Xena and Joxer, only with more leather."  She blushed at that.  "Speed...."

"I'll be seeing you soon," he assured him.  "Willow, Xander's still very sick and off work.  Leave him alone."  He stood up, then looked up.  "Think I can orb to the parking lot?" he asked.  He disappeared and landed beside the car.  "Thanks."  He got in to drive, heading home.  He walked in and found Horatio watching both boys sleep.  "Willow's back," he said quietly in his ear.  "I left her with Eric."

"That's fine.  What does a White Lighter do?"

"It depends on if they're full time warriors for the light or not.  Xander's only a part-timer so I don't get the painful visions.  If there's a battle it's my job to be his backup, helper, and to make up for areas he lacks - cooking, potions, that stuff."  Horatio nodded once. "Other than that I'm his research support when he doesn't have time.  We're partners."  Someone pounded on the door.  "Oh, what now?"  He turned on the monitor for the camera he had set up.  "Landlord."  He went to open the door.  "What's wrong?"

"I've heard you've had a few visitors and an ambulance here, Tim."

"Xander got mild pneumonia from the flu.  He's still healing.  His boss and coworker, who's also sick, is inside if you wanted to come in."  He shook his head quickly.  "It's mostly his coworkers.  Xander had a crappy week before he got sick."

"That's reasonable.  How is the fixing going?"  Tim let him inside so he could look.  "That's coming along very nicely.  When are you going to finish the wallpapering?"

"Work got a bit hectic," Horatio offered, coming out of the kitchen.  "I've needed him for longer hours so he's been coming home tired."

"That's more than reasonable, sir.  You're with the lab?"

"I'm Lieutenant Caine.  I run the lab."  He shook his hand.  "I noticed he's finished with the kitchen."

"We need to put on new cabinet pulls," Tim told him.  "That way it looks more up to date."  He looked at the landlord.  "Planning on selling it?" He nodded.  "Come see."  He led him that way, letting him see the major changes in there.  "I'll be painting the living room once he goes back to work."  That got a nod. "We were thinking stainless steel?"

"Depends on the style."  Tim found the samples he had found at the store, letting him see.  One got tapped.  "Those would go nicely."

Tim held up his choice.  "Xander and I thought this one.  That fits better with the style of the cabinets.  Especially if you ignore the table."

He held it up against the cabinet.  "Not bad," he decided.  "Which is more expensive?"  Tim held up the stainless steel.  "Then get yours.  Give me a receipt."  Tim nodded.  "Anything else he can think of?"

"You're probably going to want to update both bathrooms.  He said that'd take a crew a week though."

"We can do that when you're both out," he agreed.  He looked at Horatio then at the napping boys.  "The flu?"  Tim nodded.  "Poor kids."

"Xander spent two days in Dade Memorial for his lungs," Horatio said quietly.

"At least he got better.  Tim, about this month's rent?"

"He didn't pay it?  I know he made out a money order."

"No, he did, about three days late."

"That's when payday was," he assured him.  "Interns are paid on the city's schedule, like the rest of the PD.  When's the next one, H?"

"Next week."

"That's fine," he agreed.  "I can stand that.  Any other changes you wanted to make for me?"

"Xander had to fix the ceiling in the basement so he could hang up his heavy bag for stress."

"Sure.  That's fine.  Could've used it anyway I'm sure."  Tim nodded.  "Someday soon we'll go over the rest of everything to see what else he can do.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Have a better night."

"What's this I hear about guns?"

"Xander has been letting the local gang members turn used guns into him so he can have them destroyed and find the users," Horatio told him.

"That's good, I like that."  He nodded and left them alone, closing the door behind himself.  He was very happy with the work so far.  The boys did good work.

Tim looked at Horatio.  "We do need a more secure box for that."

"Get a locking mailbox," Ryan offered, looking at him. "I can go home."  Horatio popped him on the head. "Ow.  That's sore."

"You're staying," Horatio assured him.  He looked at Tim.  "Your car's at the station."

"We'll figure it out."

"Good."  They both looked at the door when someone knocked.  "That can't be good."  He went to open it.  "Calleigh."

"Horatio."  She looked over his shoulder then at him. "Does Xander live with a ghost?"

"He got assigned to help him when he passed that one certification."  He let her inside.  "He shows up now and then to make sure he eats."  He closed the door, staying out there until she had stared at him then hauled off and hit him a few times.  Xander had to stop her and carried her back to the doorway.  "Xander, go rest."   Xander nodded, going to haul Ryan up to his room and then take the fan to Tim's so he could curl up in there.  He looked at her.  "He said he was cleaning it once a month."


Speed came out with an ice pack.  "You gained muscle."  She glared at him.  "I was.  I was cleaning it once a month, Calleigh.  Xander thinks they needed me as a White Lighter."

"You're his Tim."

"I am.  I've been watching over him for a while now.  The boy can't cook."

She hit him again.  "Bastard!"

He sighed and gave her a hug.  "I'm sorry.  I wouldn't let him tell you."


"I wouldn't let him tell you either.  I was hoping you guys would be *good* to my partner."  He gave her a squeeze.  "Eric knows.  I went to beat him earlier."  She relaxed against him.  "It's all right.  I'm kinda here."  She checked for a pulse.  "Yeah, I'm like on that show with the witches."  She pinched him and he looked down at her.  "Keep it up and I'm using his gear to tie you down."  She went limp and gave him a hug.  "Thank you.  Finally!  You can even tell Alexx."

"I think I had better," Horatio offered.  "That way you and Xander can both hide from her."  Speed shuddered.  "Exactly."  He shook his head, gently pulling Calleigh off him.  "Come on.  I'll make sure you get home," he told her.

"Can you do something about the other tech?" she asked Speed.

He shook his head.  "Sorry.  They assigned me to Xander.  All I can do is lecture and even that's better done by Xander himself.  He's damn good at it and teaching newbies.  Some day he'll have interns of his own."  She smiled at that.  "If you get your head out of your ass."

"I had it removed for me," she assured him.  "Where is he?"

"Probably in my bed.  I sleep with a fan on and he's having problems breathing when he's lying down so he's been curling up in front of my fan."

"Awww.  I'm sure you two are cute together."

"Not sure about that yet."

"I am.  You're probably the only one he can't turn evil."

"True," he admitted, smirking at her.  "I'll think about it.  Shoo, go think.  I'll be here helping fix this place up so the landlord can sell it."

"We can help."

"Xander worked construction for almost three years.  He's a pro at it," he said with a smirk.  "So, how did Stetler like being puked on, H?"

She giggled. "He growled all day long!  Even at Yelina.  Poor boys."  He smirked.  "On purpose?"  He shrugged.  "Awww.  He deserves a cuddle for that."

"Second door on the left," he said, nodding up the stairs.  She snorted and walked outside, going to her jeep.  He looked at Horatio.  "I'll keep them both here tomorrow."

"Thank you.  Let me know if Xander needs more time off.  Now that you don't have to hide  yourself."  He gave him a look then a smile.  "An excellent dinner, Speed."

"Welcome.  Shoo, go home."  He nodded, going to do that.  Speed went to the computer, which was now working again after he had called in an old favor.  He sat down to write Alexx an email.  She was probably online if she was home.


Alexx looked at her email when it beeped, frowning at the blank header.  It was from Xander so she opened it, finding a simple question.  'Have you ever watched the show with the three witches, Alexx?'  She frowned and looked the show up online, finding a lot on it.  The fan sites were the most comprehensive.  She was interrupted by a knock at the door and one of her kids pelting to answer it.  "Who is it?" she called.

"Your boss, Mommy."

She got up and went to the door.  "Horatio."  She smiled and let him in.  "Did something happen tot he team?"

"Not exactly."  He followed her back into her office, smiling at the kids.  "Let me hog her for a bit then you can have her back, okay?"

"Go play, kids."  They went to do that for her.  She closed the door.  "I got the strangest email from Xander."

"Probably not directly from him since he was sleeping in his roommate's bed.  He's got a fan and he breathes better with it on him.  Mr. Wolfe is in Xander's bed for the night but I doubt we'll have him at work tomorrow."  She nodded at that.  "What did he write?"

"He asked if I had ever seen the show with the three witches."

"Hmm.  Yes, that show was set in the same area where Xander got his extra certificate."  She looked confused.  "There's a minor forensics area out there to deal with the strange things in the world, Alexx.  His teachers made Xander go."

"I already knew he did strange stuff.  How does my boss know him?"

"I do no not know," he admitted, looking confused.  "He does?"

"Called him by name the day he got dragged out."

"Hmm.  I'll ask the next time I pop over to see Tim, his White Lighter."

"Excuse me?" she asked.   He nodded.  "As in like the show?"

"He said he can't teleport and he doesn't have visions."  She went pale so he helped her sit down.  "He wasn't allowed to tell us.  Tim said he couldn't."

"Timmy?  My Timmy?"  He nodded quickly.  "Why couldn't he tell us?"

"He didn't want to hurt us, Alexx."

"But, Ryan..."

"He made him not tell us too.  He knew it'd cause us pain and he did not want to see you cry.  Apparently they assigned him to Xander because they compliment each other's skills.  I also heard that he had been cleaning his gun once a month."

"Not often enough!" she said hotly, standing back up.

"Xander thought that perhaps someone higher up knew he'd be needed," he said quietly.  "I do know that he's been helping Xander with the home improvement projects that they're doing for the landlord.  I also know that Tim's probably hiding in the basement by now in case you come to hit him.  Calleigh found out earlier and he needed an ice pack."

"Oh, he'll need one in a few places when I get done with him!  Xander too!"

"Xander was not allowed to tell us, Alexx.  Speed said so," he said quietly.   "He did not want to hurt us.  We were never supposed to know."

She slumped then nodded.  "It's thoughtful but my boy's stupid."

He smiled and nodded.  "He can be.  He's still denying that he likes Xander as more than a partner in the strange things they both have to fight now and then."

"Uh-huh.  Can you watch the kids?  Peter should be home soon."

"Why don't you sleep on it tonight, calm down some, and then stop over before you come in tomorrow morning?  Both boys are staying home because they're still sick."

She nodded.  "I can do that.  Does he phase in and out too?"

"Not that I've seen."  He considered it.  "If he could we'd never have known about him."

"Good point.  My poor baby.  Stuck with Xander."

He gave her a look.  "They do suit each other very well.  He nags the boy like you did to him.  He cooks for him so he can eat something other than take out.  He lets the boy cuddle.  He yells at his former friends since he said Willow was left with Eric earlier."

"So we all know?"

"The field team and you know," he admitted.  "No one else."

She sighed and nodded.  "My poor baby.  He's gonna need a pillow when I'm done with his behind."  He smiled at that.  "Thank you, Horatio."

"Remember, he didn't want you to be this upset."

"Too late for that."  She frowned.  "Did he turn Xander onto Trace?"

"No, he was doing trace as his minor before then.  He went to San Francisco before his last year."

"The papers?"

"I didn't ask but I'd assume Tim guided him there as well.  I do know that Tim decided he should come down here so we could work on some of the oddness in Xander's life.  Especially where those girls warped him."  She nodded at that.  "He is very cuddly with Tim, Alexx.  Tim's not sure what he can and can't do but they are very good together."

"Uh-huh.  Then I'll accept Xander as a very odd son-in-law.  The boy's a bit odd," she said at his look.

"Yes, that's because he was raised by girls, warped by girls, and then abandoned by them while still having to fight beside them to save the world."  She gaped.  "Exactly.  He was severely warped by those girls in his life.  That's why he's so odd."

"I thought it was his cooking and his t-shirts rotting his mind."

"That's possible but they could be an effect, not a cause," he teased back.  She shook her head.  "Then again, he could've been odd before then and they added to it."  She nodded, smirking at him.  "I thought you should hear that from me instead of anyone else."

"Thank you, Horatio."  She gave him a hug.  "You go home and rest.  I need to hug my kids and then think for a while."  He nodded, heading out.  "At least he'll have a lifetime of fun with him."

"He'll always have something he can complain about," Horatio agreed, smirking at her.  She smiled back and closed the door behind him.  He was much happier now.  Everything would be fine and Alexx would check on the boys for him in the morning.  He got into the hummer and called the house.  "Tim, how did Alexx's boss know Xander?"  He listened.  "Excuse me?"  He sighed and nodded once.  "Thank you for telling me that.  No, I hadn't heard."  He hung up and went to the office to face down his nightshift counterpart, glaring at her when he found her.  "You've been taking my intern?"


"Harris is Calleigh's intern," he reminded her.

"So?  We've been short, he's got the skills, and interns are grunts, Horatio."

"He's been pulling full tech hours with my shift," he complained.  "No wonder he got so sick he was in the hospital."

She blanched.  "That's where he's been?"

He nodded.  "He got mild pneumonia from the flu."


"I want an evaluation, I want a summary of his hours, and I want you to tell the Chief so he can get paid for them."  She shook her head.  "Oh, yes, or I'll have to.  It's not fair that he's been working hours like Eric does or I do on top of yours."

"I've only had him here half shifts."

"I do not care.  Interns are supposed to do thirty a week, half that if they have a minor field as well.  We have been abusing the boy.  Now, how did the Chief ME know about him?"

"I had him working field last month and he ended up coming on a case when our ME was out sick."

"I see.  How many field cases does he get from you?"

"Six, seven a month.  Why?  He said you don't send him out."

"No, I hadn't been.  I was letting him do hours in ballistics and trace."

"So what's the problem?"

"The problem is that he did ninety hours the week before he got sick.  He's only being paid the usual intern stipend of two thousand a month.  That's not right and it's not healthy for the boy."

"Sorry!  Fine, I'll get that for you!"  She walked off shaking her head, muttering about redheaded drama queens.   She could feel the glare at her back but oh well.  She didn't like Horatio that much anyway.  That's why she stole his staff.  The other field intern had been a flake but she'd try to get Xander off him instead.


Alexx knocked on the door the next morning, glaring at the young man who opened it.  "I'm going to tan your behind until you can't sit, Ryan Wolfe."

"He told me I couldn't tell you."

"I do not care!"  She pushed her way inside.  "Where is he?"

"In bed.  He's not exactly a morning person."  She gave him a dirty look.  "I spent it in Xander's room before you can ask."

"I know they're not your type, sugar.  You'd never put up with the bounciness that Xander has or the sarcasm that is Speed."  She headed up the stairs, stopping at the doorway to watch the boys sleep.  Xander was facing the fan, head tilted and propped so he could get a breeze.   Speed's face was buried in Xander's hair, one arm was around his waist, and the other was underneath him.  She could see a hand moving under the blankets, stroking Xander's stomach gently.  She coughed and Xander jumped, reaching for the knife under his pillow.  "You finish that move and I'll do my best work to date on you," she vowed.  He panted, staring at her.  "You awake?"

"I could've killed you!" he shouted.  "Don't do that!"

She stepped back.  "I see."

"Alexx, he hunted bad things for nearly ten years, not counting time off," Speed said quietly.  "You wouldn't sneak up on a combat veteran either."  He looked at her.  "I remember buying you that shirt.  Xander, down.  Relax.  It's not a problem."  Xander dropped the knife and groaned, sitting on the side of the bed.  He glared at her and she backed off.  "Go start coffee for me please."  She nodded, going to do that and check Ryan over.  He made Xander look at him.  "She should've realized but she wasn't thinking about that."

Xander looked at him.   "Why did you want to come to Miami if you weren't going to tell them?"

"I thought they'd help you be one of the best techs ever," he said honestly.  "Help unwarp a few of the things that you don't really like about yourself.  Plus they're very protective of each other."  Xander slumped but nodded at that.  "Good boy."  He gave him a cuddle.  "Go back to sleep.  H said you're taking today off too."


"Shut up, Xander.  You're still having problems breathing, I want you in bed."  He stood up and pulled on a shirt, heading down to talk to Alexx and Ryan.  "Ryan, H said you're taking today off."

"I feel a lot better."

"I don't care."

Alexx snorted at that.  "You sound an awful lot like me this morning."

"I learned from the best," he quipped back dryly, giving her a look.  "Should I expect anyone else?"

"No, just us.  Maybe Eric if he doesn't know."

"I went to browbeat him last night."  He gave her a gentle hug.  "I missed you," he whispered.  She sniffled and hugged him back.  "Now, can you maybe get along with my boy?"

"I'll treat him like some odd son-in-law," she promised.

"Not that way," he moaned.

"You two are so cute."  She smiled and pinched his cheek, then smiled at Xander when he wobbled in.  "Are you really feeling better?"  He shrugged.  "No, yes?  Want me to look you over?"

"No thanks."  He got some coffee and wobbled off again.  "Going to the living room.  I'll paint later."

"I can paint, Xander."  He looked at her. "He is more stubborn than a two-year-old wanting candy in the middle of the store."

She nodded.  "I'm not surprised."  She stroked his cheek.  "We need to have a long talk."

"After he's better."

"That's fine with me.  I can take a day off when he's better to come sit and talk with you, and spank you until you beg for mercy."  She smiled sweetly.  "I'm sure I can have someone help me."  He groaned.  "That's my good boy.  Now, you eat breakfast. Ryan, you are not fit for work yet.  Go in tomorrow if you still feel better."  She walked off, going to her car so she could head to work.  She found Horatio in his office.  "I popped in on them.  Ryan swears he feels better but he can't taste the coffee yet.  Xander's wobbling a little bit.  They're both still at home."

"That's fine.  He's been pulling ninety hour weeks."  She gaped.  "Melody needed an extra hand for field cases."   He handed over the reports.  "That's how your boss knew him."

"I see."  She read it over then looked at him.  "No wonder he got so sick!"  He nodded.  "Does anyone else know?"

"The Chief will within an hour."

"Good!  Get that boy paid for it too.  No wonder he was so upset.  She was treating him like a full tech and we were treating him like leaf boy."  She walked off, going down to the morgue.  She found Eric pacing and stopped him, looking at him.  "I saw him too."  He let out his breath and nodded, looking down.  "He's not too bad.  Cuter than the one on that show."

"Did you talk to him?"

"Um-huh.  Went to check both sick ones too.  Xander is more stubborn than Speedy ever was.  He's been pulling extra hours for Melody."  He gaped.  "Yup.  Field hours too."

"I'm going to strangle Xander.  You mind?"

"Tim might."

He wobbled.  Then he grinned.  "They would be cute together," he agreed.  Then he giggled.  "I got to meet his former friend Willow last night.  I have a much higher regard for Xander.  He put up with her for years and I wanted to kill her within minutes."

"The ladies and I had a talk with her as well," she offered, grinning meanly.  "Didn't seem to help since she came back."

"She said she taught Xander stubbornness by exposure to her resolve face."

"Uh-huh," she said blandly.  "We'll see."

"No, I think he's more stubborn.  Plus, he got to fulfill a dream.  He puked on Stetler."

She giggled. "I heard.  That poor boy's stomach just got turned by his stench."  Eric walked out much happier, going back to work while she got down to her first body of the day.


Horatio finished with his boss and sighed.  "We could use him."

"Then you can either forget those hours and not have him paid for them, or determine that he needs more...."

"That would hurt his later hiring."

"Or you can keep him as an intern, Horatio.  Your choice.  No one said you had to count those in his internship hours since *you* hired him for *your* lab."

"True.  I don't think he should go uncompensated however."

"Neither do I.  I'll pay the boy for this but make sure he knows he's to stick to internship hours, or nearly so.  Your budget won't stretch that far."

"What about afterward?"

"You hire interns because they're cheaper than the new tech you can't afford," he reminded him.  "I can't make your budget stretch any farther and even grants would run out."

Horatio nodded.  "I know.  If he works out the way I want him to, I wouldn't mind keeping him."

"Then make the budget stretch to include him, Horatio, but that means you'd have to cut something else."  He gave him a look.  "You're one of the three departments that always goes over-budget.  You know that."

"I do.  I wish it weren't so but I do know why and I know it's necessary."

"That may be but unless we get a lot of money suddenly your new tech is low on the priority list."

"It would cut down on overtime."

"I doubt it."  He gave him a look. "If the boy's doing more than he should now, what will he be doing then?"

He nodded and walked out, going to talk to Xander.  He found him handcuffed to Ryan on the couch and had to smile at that picture.  "Tried to go out?"


Horatio pulled out his universal key to get them free, watching as Ryan walked off.  "I talked to the Chief after talking to Melody."  Xander moaned.  "Yes, I know.  Now."  He gave him a look then sat next to him.  "The Chief and I had a short talk about you as well.  The fact that you should be paid for those hours but I won't be counting them in your internship file.  That way you can stay with us for a bit longer."

Tim leaned in.  "Any chance of a miracle budget stretch?"

"Not according to him."

"Damn.  I was kinda hoping not to have to move again."

Xander gave them a confused look.  "Huh?"

"The lab's budget is so tight that they wanted us to count sheets of paper we use in the printers, Xander."

"Oh."  He looked down.  "No room in the budget means no new techs, right?"  Horatio nodded.  "And it means I have to conform to the really short, boring hours?"

"Most of the time, yes."  He stroked over his arm, then patted him on the shoulder.  "However it was given with evaluation copies so wherever I let you go after this they will be appreciating you from the first moment.  Am I clear?"  Xander looked at him and nodded. "Good."  He smiled.  "We'll work out the other stuff later.  You being sick means that you're doing all right on hours, Xander.  You've got about six hundred left for my internship that I'll count so you've got time to narrow down your list."

"Any nearby?" Speed asked.  "Sheriff in the next county or anything?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  The Keys might have one.  I know Mac's going to be hiring soon.  Chicago's still looking for good people since they were nearly crippled by that mandatory retirement clause last year.  Grissom might need another one, I'm not sure."  They both nodded.  "I do know he's not going to a 'B' level lab, boys.  There's no way I'd let that happen."  He smiled at Xander.  "You get better and then come back.  We'll work on your   list with Speed."

"Yes, sir."

"Good boy."   He gave him one last pat and left, going to tell the others.  He and Calleigh would have to find creative ways of lessening his hours for him. It would look good that he finished his hours so soon but the best labs all expected to have openings at the normal end of the internship process and that would leave him without a paycheck for too long.


Calleigh smiled tightly at the two boys who came in the next morning.  "We're already planning on being backed up today.  Xander, I need you to run ballistics for me."

"You don't need me in the field?"

"We could use you," she admitted.  "Tim said you're still breathing funny."

"Only when I lay down.  I don't usually do that in the field."

"Okay.  If Horatio clears you."

"Horatio, I'm going into the field on the next call," he yelled.  He looked at her.  "I need my glasses."  He went to find them in his locker, and his sunglasses too.  He found his kit and checked it, still stocked.  He came out and walked back to ballistics, putting them on the table.  His phone went on top of it.  He checked, it wasn't on vibrate.  It was on a very loud, annoying ring.  "Okay, I'm ready."

"Good.  All stocked, right?  Or restocked?"

"Yup.  All stocked, sanitized, all that."

"Good."  She came over to check it, looking at the spare bullets then at him.  "Uh-huh."

"Not like I can quit being what I am, dear."  He blew a kiss and got to work on the first envelope someone had left for them.  He held it up.  "This isn't a bullet unless someone's using sporks."

She looked then snorted.  "Not hardly.  Rebag it, get it to Trace."

He did that and walked it up the hall then came back to find his phone ringing.  He grabbed it.  "Harris."  He wrote down the address on a sticky note, putting it on top of his case.  "Be right there, boss."  He hung up.  "He's calling Eric, I'll see you later."  He breezed out, going to the hummer parking lot.  Eric was coming out when he was so he jogged to catch up.  "You're with me."

"I heard.  It's all stocked and everything, right?"

"Stocked, sanitized, all that.  Calleigh even checked it on me."

"Good."  He got in to drive, taking the address from Xander's case.  "That can sit in the back."

"No it can't."

"Fine."  He backed out and headed for the scene, mentally sighing.  Even with what he had heard he wasn't sure Xander was ready for the field.  "You tell jokes?"

"Only to lighten the mood when necessary.  Then again, I do quip while I slay.  I learned that from Buffy."

"Remind me to never meet her, okay?"

"Probably a good idea, she might hit on you."

Eric shuddered.  "Eww."  They got to the scene and Xander signed them in before going under the tape and to the spot where the bodies were.  "Did someone import a meat grinder?" Eric asked.

"Possibly," Horatio admitted.  "Xander, I heard about your photo problem."

"I've got a camera that tapes.  I can pull stills.  Tim suggested it when we were working on it at UCLA.  I had to wait to save up for the stupid thing."

"That's reasonable."  He checked the focus and nodded, letting him do what he needed to do.  Xander took one of the bodies, Eric took one, and he took the other.

Alexx joined them.  "I see you've finally made it out here in the daylight," she teased.

"Yup, sure have."  He looked over.  "Should I collect this sample on her inner thigh now or wait for you to do it?"

She came over to look then at him.  "Good eyesight, sugar."

"I try."  He grinned.  "Now or then?"

"I'll do it then.  With the lack of panties and what I can see, I'll need to do an assault kit anyway."  He nodded, handing over one of his larger collection sheets.  "What's this for?"

"For the stuff in her pubic hair that's going to fall out if the breeze picks up.  I don't want to overstep."

She looked.  "Huh.  Looks like...glitter maybe?"  She used the sheet to pick it up, letting him seal it.   "Anything else?"

"Yeah, bite mark," he said, pointing at it.  "I'm not so sure this one wasn't a cannibal."

"Could be.  Wouldn't be the first one."  She smiled at him.  "Good catch, Xander.  Let me take her liver temp."  He offered his knife but she shook her head.  "I've got a scalpel, baby."  She cut into her stomach and inserted her thermometer.  "Horatio, 93."

He nodded.  "I've found more of the glitter-like substance on mine as well," he admitted.  She came over to check his while the body handlers got the body for Xander.  At one point he stopped them to take a sample off her back, using a sticky pad to cover the area in case they needed more.  His initial went onto it and it was all good for her.   "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure he's not right.  They either grated her to conceal her identity or because they wanted chunks."

"Eww," Eric noted.

"The topic or did you find something worse?" Xander asked, finishing up with his portion of the scene.  "Boss, want me to look for tire tracks or anything?"

"Help Eric, Xander."  He nodded, moving to do that, getting around the body for him.  "Eric?"

"I found what looks like a piece of chewed up meat inside her wound."

Xander looked.  "That rates an eww from me too.  Damn glad my stomach's settled."

"Us too, puking on the bodies makes it harder to find out who killed them," Eric quipped back.  "Hey, H, did you talk to the other new kid?"

"I have.  Did he do something else?"

"Making sure.  If he's got Wolfe, he'll come in pouting."

"Again?" Xander asked dryly.  "He came in to ask me how I did it.  I told him and he just shook his head and said that can't be the right way.  Before we go can I have the rookie, boss?"

"We'll see, Xander."  He and Alexx shared a look.

"I found hairs," Xander announced a minute later.  "Blond, short."  He carefully collected them into an envelope.

"Try not to get the hairs in contact with the flap, just in case the air added a contaminant," Eric instructed.

"That's a depth perception problem and that's the only way I can do that," he said quietly.

"Sorry.  Forgot."

Xander grinned.  "Told you it didn't really matter in the field."  He looked around.  "No press?"

"Huh?" Alexx asked.

"Wouldn't three mangled bodies rate press attention?"

Horatio looked at him then around.  "Usually, yes."  He went to check with the officers guarding the tape.  "Did you run off the press?  Usually the vultures are here by now."

"No, sir, they went to the other scene since it was more fantastic.  A body strung up on a playground with invisible wires so it looked like they were hanging in midair."

Horatio sighed.  "Which one went?"

"CSI Duquesne and the other intern, sir.  She called over the radio to say she was there."

"Thank you."  He went back there.  "They're at the other scene.  It's more fantastic."

"Huh.  Guess we lucked out," Eric said happily.  "Wolfe there?"

"No, Eric," he said patiently.  "That is a sin we all have committed.  Get over it."


Xander looked at Eric.  "Some day Ryan wants to be Chief, Eric.  That means he's got to get the recognition of doing good now and then."

"It's still annoying."

"I'm sure all the others working around the current chiefs felt the same way."

"Fine.  You don't talk to press, right?"

"I don't like people."

"Good."  He beamed.  "Then we can work together more often."  He bent down over something.  "What is that?"

"The same stuff that I found on mine's inner thigh."  He handed over a swab collector.  "Here."

"Thanks."  He collected a sample and labeled it then put it into his case.  "Any other ideas?"

"Something interrupted them," Xander told him.  "If it was a cannibal he wouldn't have spit out his food, like you found.  So either he decided they weren't to his taste, they were done for some other reason, or this guy is still perfecting his ideal situation.  There's too many dissimilarities to be a serial killer with a ritual.  That's why I was thinking cannibal."

Horatio looked over.  "You took the profiling classes?"

"As a hobby at night trying to understand what I did to Tanya."

"Who?" Alexx asked.

"The stripper I was dating who decided she wanted to kill my friends over and over again.  Got twelve officially, sixteen that I know of.  Took me forever to get them to listen to me.  I had to have Doctor Sherill help."  He grinned at her.  "They decided she was sweet and nice, too nice to kill others, but she was also pretty dumb so when the detective asked her she answered."

Horatio snorted.  "Dumb criminals are good for us, Xander.  Don't knock it."

"I didn't date her for her brains, Horatio."

"Eric's said the same thing in the past," Alexx told him.

"Many times," Eric sighed.  "Some day I'll learn too."

Xander looked at him.  "I'd date you but you being evil would upset your mother horribly."

"You have no idea."  He finished with his body and Alexx came over to gather her.  Horatio's was being packed up as well.   He looked around.  "Was anyone questioning anybody, H?"

"Anonymous tip to 911, Eric."

"So we don't have anything yet.  We can do that.  I call the parking area."  Xander handed him his camera.  "You sure?"

"I'm sure.  There's only two ways he could've gotten them here.  The other is in the brush and I'll drop it.  I'll call if I need it."  Eric nodded, looking it over.  "That button tapes," Xander said quietly then he went to look at the brush around the area.  He found a few disturbances.  One dead.  "Horatio, we have a dead dog," he called.  Alexx came over to look, bagging him too just in case.  A few more minor trails of things wandering around, low to the ground so probably pets.  One caught his eye and he stared at it, moving closer.  "Found a footprint," he called.  Eric came back with his camera, watching him take a picture then take one with his measuring square.  He followed them to a tree, which had a body spiked to it.  "Aw, shit."  He called Tim.  "Hold on for a picture."  He took another one and plugged his phone into his camera, sending that last one to him.  He listened, then nodded. "Spike.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "May be totally unrelated," he offered when Horatio joined them. "It does mean that Spike's still in town."

"How do you know?"

"Spike was in Sunnydale with us.  This was his favorite way of killing people when he was a younger vampire.  Then some unkind person in the military captured him and put a control chip in his head that meant he couldn't hunt or hurt humans.  So we ended up working with him.  I got to tie him into my recliner and chain him in Giles' tub many days."  His phone beeping made him look at it.  "Willow said his chip's still active.  So maybe Dru?"  He grimaced.  "We'll have to do some research in my other area after I get home.  See who I'm hunting down this time."

"Can you bring them in?" Eric asked.

"They go whoosh in the sunlight, Eric.  Probably not."  He looked at him.  "That is paperwork I do not want to see."

Eric shuddered.  "I can agree with that.  Now what?"

"The spikes should pull out pretty easily.  Unless we want to bring the tree?"  They both shook their heads.  Xander handed off his camera.  "Get it before I do anything."  Eric filmed it then Xander grabbed one spike and braced himself, pulling it out.  "Not very deep.  He wasn't trying very hard to impale."

"That could mean a weaker attacker," Eric said, grabbing the other one to pull.  He couldn't.  Xander got it out.  "You're stronger than you look."

"Construction worker muscles," he teased with a grin.  "Plus lots and lots of sword and artillery work.  Comes in handy when the thing you have to behead is twice your height," he said at Alexx's odd look.

"There really are demons?" she asked.

Xander looked at her and nodded.  "Yeah.  Lots and lots of them.  Some of them are smart, some of them aren't.  Some of them are nice, some of them are sex demons, some of them aren't either."  He shrugged.  "It's like humans only differing species.  We've got hive cultures, pack cultures, all sorts of things.  Fortunately I only routinely have to hunt down about ten percent, the most violent and those hunting humans.  Even though I still want to retire from it."

"I think you had enough fighting since you went for a knife when I woke you up," she agreed.  "I know better now.  I'll call from the doorway but out of range."

"I react worse to women," he admitted.

"After meeting Willow, I'm not shocked," Eric quipped happily.  "Alexx, any idea on him?"

"He's very pale, I don't see lividity marks."  She moved closer to check him over.  "Not a single lividity mark."

"Which means I'll need to stake something later," Xander agreed.

"Only after telling me so we can back you up, Xander," Horatio ordered calmly.

He looked at him.  "That's why I got given a Tim of my very own."

"Having one of those is good, but having someone who can arrest a regular person trying to stop you would help as well."

"Point.  I'll tell him you said that."

"Thank you.  I can do that myself however."  He helped Alexx bag the body.  "Let us know.  We'll be back soon."  She nodded, taking him back to the morgue with her.  They examined the tree and the surrounding area, Xander finding something odd.  "What's that?"

"Velvet."  He bagged it once he had pictures.  "I'll work on this case after hours, Horatio.  I've got to check a source on Spike's chip."

"If you want."

"Oh, I don't want, but I may have to."

"That's fine then."  They finished up and drug all the evidence back to the lab, getting to work processing it.

Ryan leaned in.  "Heard you guys had a better case than my murder-suicide."

"Kids?" Xander asked absently.

"Thankfully not.   Just wife.  Left a note."  He came in.

"Xander found a vampire kill looking for evidence on our chewed bodies," Eric told him.  "Husband on wife?"

"Yup.  Vampire kill?"  Eric nodded.  "Neat.  Cannibals?"

"We think so.  You already done?"

"With the note?  Pretty muchly.  I'm waiting on reports so I can positively prove it."  They nodded.  "What was the other one?  I didn't see a single reporter even on the street with mine."

"Something about a wired body in the park," Xander said, looking at him.  "Let me guess, you want to help?"

"Can I?"

"Sure, dive in," Eric agreed.  "Xander's got the two main trace samples so pick something."

"I can do that."  He found the small bit of chewed tissue and went to run it first.  He came back twenty minutes later after having dropped a sample off at DNA.  "It was human.  I gave Valera a sample.  Xander, she wanted to have lunch with you."

"Have her come get me."

"That's what I said.  She said she'd do that and Cooper might be joining you.  I asked him to see if there were any registered cameras near there."

"This glitter is annoying me," Xander announced suddenly.  "The machines won't pick up the sample.  Not even suspended in fluid or on a slide mount."

"Why would it?" Eric asked, looking confused.  "It's glitter."

"It's glitter suspended in something, Eric."  He let him see it.  "That's not body paint.  Or stripper glitter.  That's like little kid art project glitter.  The machine should still be able to pick up what it was suspended in."

"No, it's not stripper glitter," he agreed.  He sniffed it then handed it off suddenly to turn and sneeze.  "I want to know what that is.  We found it on a chihuahua once."

"Hopefully we can figure that out."  Ryan came over to help Xander.  "Could it get a reading on the other stuff?"

"No," he said miserably.  Eric looked at them, then leaned out and looked around, going to find Horatio.   "I don't think it's radioactive.  I don't have a big enough sample to start playing 'what chemical am I' either."  He frowned, staring at the sample.

"Did you try to have it broken down by component?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, I tried that test too.  It's like the machine isn't seeing it.  In either type of presentation."

Horatio walked in.  "What's going on?"

"Nothing," Xander told him.  "Absolutely nothing.  The machines won't read this slimy stuff or what the glitter was suspended in."  He let him have both samples so he could try.  They got the same beeps.

"Could it be reflecting the beams?" Ryan asked.

"I've run reflective body paint through that machine, well the one at UCLA, before and it worked then," Xander told them.  "I've run titanium and silver paints both through it.  I've run a quicksilver sample through it too.  I'm hoping that it's either the machine needs fixed or the glitter and this stuff is the same stuff but this was thicker."

"We can check the first easiest," Ryan noted, going to get the sample kit that they calibrated with.  Xander took it and ran the first few, they came out okay.  He came to one that had a higher reflective index and ran that one.  It came out okay.  "Okay, so it's the sample.  How big of one do we have?"

"I could probably get Alexx to get another swab but it was only a few inches of smear."

"Can we try doing a stain?  Like add iodine to it?" Eric suggested.

"Let me do one more thing," Xander said, walking out, heading for his car.  He brought back his other kit, putting it onto the end of the table.  He got inside, pulling out a small zippered pouch.  He set up the field testing dish and the line of chemicals in their propr order, then took another small bit of the sample on the swab to start testing it that way.  He finally came up with something.  "I'll be damned.  It's slime."  They stared at him and he came over to take the bottled sample, selecting one simple, complex test that almost always registered.  "Someone created a synthetic ectoplasm," he said while he worked.  He put the sample in and the printer spit out this time, making him smile.  "There.  That's what it is."  He let them see it, getting to work cleaning up his small mess.

"What sort of kit is that?" Calleigh asked from the doorway.

"Um, the strange crap kind.  It's my necromancy and field magic kit."  He finished putting things away and it went into a corner. "It's the most expensive part of that program.  It cost me just over four grand to outfit that one case."

Horatio gave him a look.  "What's in there?"

"A few fairly rare potions."

"Oh."  He looked at the chemical breakdown.  "You're sure this is synthetic?"

"Yeah, if it was natural it'd be spiking in the organic sections," he said, pointing at the low markers.  "Depending on what the originating source was, that spike would be from two to five and the one next to it would be spiked as well."


"It's the same test that shows the chemical composition of snail and slug slime," Ryan said, looking at the machine.

"That's basically organic ectoplasm too," Xander agreed.

"Does this help us with the case?" Eric asked.

"Not sure yet," Xander admitted.  "They've got to have some chemistry background somewhere to make this stuff.  It's not a formula you'd get off the 'net or something to play with.  Not like floam or anything."

Eric took the readout.  "Some of that would be harder to find.  Maybe we can find the chemical warehouses to see who bought some of them?"

"We should be able to," Ryan agreed.

Calleigh smiled.  "It's good that you're going to get this one, guys.  Ryan, if you're not busy can I borrow you for mine?"

"Sure.  Yell if you need more help, guys."  He went with her, Eric taking over his experiment to work on it.

Xander looked at Horatio.  "I'm sorry today has been an intersecting day for my past."

Horatio smiled. "It's good that you could figure it out, Xander."  He walked out, thinking about that.  He went to talk to Alexx.  "Do we have anything?"

"Not yet.  A few samples and an oddness.  This one's liver had been cooked."  She showed him the sample.  "I'd say microwaved."

"Inside the body?"

"No.  They were dead when it was pulled out.  I found a small, round stab wound on the back of the neck."  She moved the body so he could see that.  "I'm still looking for other things.  Did the boys find anything?"

"Synthetic ectoplasm according to Xander.   It's what was on the glitter as well as the smear he found."

"Synthetic ectoplasm?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"I don't know but he said that snail and slug slime was an organic version, but not similar to this one."

"Huh.  Can he figure out what type it's a synthetic of?"  He called up there.  "Any way to tell what it was a knock-off of, Xander?"  She listened while he got out a book and flipped through it.  "Interesting.  Thank you."  She hung up.  "A sea mollusk."

"Very interesting.  Hopefully it'll help.  Page me when you're done with the first one, Alexx."

"I can do that.  Should I page the two boys too?"

"If you want."  He smiled at her before walking out, going to check on them.  Xander had pulled up information on the mollusk, which he was explaining was a half-demon crossbreed that was basically like a mule genetically speaking - it couldn't reproduce.  That thought made his head hurt so he walked in.  "Do we eat them?"

"Nope.  Not edible.  Decorative."  He let him see the information sheet Eric had been reading.  "Sea World has a few.  I was going to get them to send us a sample of it so I could compare the two for a positive ID."  Eric looked at him oddly.  "I can't say I know what it is from alchemy and necromancy class, Eric.  No jury would ever believe me."

"Point."  He nodded.  "Okay.  I'll call.  You get to work identifying the type of glitter."

"It's pretty standard art store glitter.  Nothing with serial numbers.  I can get samples to test against."

"Go to the nearest art store and do that," Horatio agreed.  "We've had to do that in the past."  Xander nodded, taking his other kit with him back to his car, then taking one of the hummers.  "Get that sample, Eric."

"Sure, H.  Why would anyone want to use a mollusk slime and put glitter in it?"

"I do not know, but we can ask him that when we find him."

"Oh, I'm sure I will."  He went to look up the number for Sea World.  He wanted to get a look at the other kit's contents.  There had to be odd things in there.


Xander walked in that night and flopped down on the couch, looking at Tim and their visitor.  "Cannibals who like half-demon mollusks."

"Eww," Tim said.

"Basically, yeah.   Eric thinks he's found someone."

"Good.  What about you?"

"I got asked what state my license was from.  I never got it changed over.  So I'm DMV bound in the morning."

"That's fine.  Dinner's on the stove if you think you can eat."

"Have in the past.  Had to bring in the other kit to test the sample though."  He got up and went to get dinner, ignoring the person following him.  "Did you write out there to see if Spike's chip still works?"

"I called.  Fred said it was.  She saw him late last week before he came down here and he had wanted to kill her for being perky, her words, but couldn't.  Did we find an ID on that guy?"

"Yeah, he's military," he admitted.  He found a fork for his dinner, bringing it back to the living room.  "The ID's in my case."

"That's fine.  Anything else?"

"Small piece of pink velvet."  He took a bite.  Willow huffed and he looked at Tim again.  "Anyway," he sighed.  "My cannibal is confused."  He ate another bite.

"It happens.  I hope they stayed confused.  How long were you in the field today?"

"Three hours this morning.  Why?"

"I noticed the shirt change."

"Cooper spluttered on me."  He ate another bite then grinned.  "I got to gross Maxine out too.  Hence the spittage.  She asked though so it was her fault.  Eric asked me if I kept shrunken heads in the necromancy kit."

"Well, there's that iguana head from that cult," Speed admitted, considering it.  "Otherwise no."

"I'm glad we don't have to deal with that cult anymore.  It was nice of them to kill themselves for being assholes."

"It was," Speed agreed.  "You did see we had a visitor?"

"I was wondering why you were entertaining spectral beings.  If you want to deal with ghosts, that's your thing.  I only feel sad for them and I don't have the best luck getting them to move on.  Never have."  He shrugged and finished dinner then leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.  "Thank you, Tim."

"Welcome.  Get the laptop and we'll work on finding out if it was Dru for Spike or not."  Xander nodded, going to get his kit since he had put the pictures in there.  He looked at Willow.  "I doubt he's going to talk to you today.  Shoo."

"He'll need my help to dust Dru.  Dru likes him."

Xander came back in.  "Dru may like me but I doubt it'll be that much of a problem, ghost.  Don't worry about it.  After all, I'm trained to do this."  He settled down with the kit, glaring at her.  "Out, Willow.  I can't show non-lab personnel evidence photos.  You're keeping me from working."  She huffed but disappeared.  He shook his head, handing over what they had.  "I think he's got a mini-Dru he's working on.  There were living skin cells on the spikes and they weren't driven in very far.  Female vamps are still stronger than female living people."

Tim looked it over, then nodded.  "Who pulled them?"

"I did.  Eric couldn't."

Tim shook his head.  "Construction worker muscles are good."

"Plus artillery muscles.  I kinda let on that I knew a bit about it, said it was easier when you had to behead something twice your size."

"It did come in handy for that too," Speed agreed, nodding.  "Any DNA matches?"

"Not yet.  We found a hair.  She's a dark brunette.  I'm thinking a goth kid doing it for Spike's pleasure or to prove she could be his next dark princess."

"Could be," he agreed.  "We can go hunting if you're up to it."

"Of course I am."

"Then change.  We'll go."  Xander nodded, repacking everything so the kit could go back into the car once he had put on better hunting clothes.   He came down in the 'official' outfit he and Tim had chosen, so Tim knew it wasn't a fun night they had planned.  Though, they were good enough to possibly go clubbing after they had caught her.  If Xander didn't write his reports immediately.


Xander walked into the blood bar he found, scanning the crowd.  He hated these places.  A  few of them turned to look at him and he gave them an impassive look.  He walked up to the bartender.  "Where's the brunette Spike's training?" he asked.

"Who're you?  You're not one of us."  Xander put down his card.  "Um..."

"She's wanted in a homicide investigation, dude.  Now, where is she?  Either you tell me or I call patrol down here to bust everyone, and I do mean *everyone*," he assured him.  The man swallowed and pointed.  He looked.  "Huh, he's got more than one."  He took off his sunglasses then held up his card.  "See the name?  I hunted with Buffy."

"You're Andrew?"

Xander smacked him on the side of the head.  "No, dumbass, I'm Xander."  He went pale and stepped back.  "Now, where are Spike and Dru and where is his trainee, the dark brunette with the ten inch hair?"

He pointed a shaky hand toward a back room.  "Spike's back there, sir."

"Thank you.  I'd suggest you close the doors and do not let anyone else out.  Am I perfectly clear?" he hissed.  He nodded quickly.  "Good."  He walked to the back room, casually kicking it in.  "Oh, Spike," he said dryly.  Spike gave him a horrified look.  Dru purred. "You're in my city, dumbass.  I don't care if you do have the chip, you're still in my city.  You're in my city killing people."

"Have not."

"Bullshit."  He moved closer, feeling Timmy behind him.  He suddenly lunged and smacked him hard across the face, watching as he vamped out and tried to lunge back.  "Uh-huh.  That chip's still working beautifully," he said dryly.  He punched him then turned and got Dru when she shrieked and started for him.  "Sorry, sweetie, not my type."

Tim grabbed his forehead as the vision came.  "The chip had a short.  We can fix that," he noted, kicking Spike on side of the head.  The energy transferred over.  Spike screamed and grabbed his head.  "I'm having fun, you, Xan?"

"Kinda.  This is nearly as good as chaining him to Giles' bathtub."  He looked at Dru.  "I will give you *one* chance.  Pull your happy meal ass out of my town, Dru.  You can bring Spike.  You can bring the humans you're playing with as long as they haven't killed another human yet.  I would prefer that they write letters to someone so the PD doesn't get missing persons calls, but that's up to you."

"Who are you to demand anything!" a female voice said from behind Tim.

Xander looked back.  "Xander Harris.  CSI Xander Harris.  Deamon ballistics tech Harris."  She went pale.  "Tim, there's our killer," he said, handing him cuffs.  Tim went to stop her.  He glared at the girl.  "If you're his and you haven't killed, then you're free to leave Miami.  If they're in Miami tomorrow night I'm going to have to stake them.  He can even take you guys to Cleveland so the others can baby him some more.  Just get him out of my city."

"You wouldn't."  Xander pulled a stake and palmed it.  "You fought beside him."

"Yeah and he was harmless then.  He's not now.  I've already found one human body.  If I find more, I'll have to act because Stupid and Loony in there have brought this to the attention of the cops."  She went paler.  "Since I took the certificate out of 'Frisco, I'm going to be sent to deal with this.  This is my way of doing it.  Now, take you and your bitches and go.  If you start now, you can be near the top of the state by dawn."  She nodded, going to help Spike to his feet with Dru.  He walked out, going to look at the girl.  "She living?"


"Good, makes it easier to arrest her for killing someone."  He put the stake back into his back pocket. Xander pulled out his cellphone, dialing the first number.  No answer on Horatio's.  No answer on Eric's.  He looked at Tim.  "Calleigh has PMS."

"Call Tripp," Tim ordered.  "I don't want to see you beaten for taking her away from her ice cream."  He looked at the girl.   "I did that once when I was still alive.  She was not happy and I spent the next two days on a couch with an ice pack."

Xander looked at him.  "Last time I checked you were re-alived," he said, dialing the number.  "Detective Tripp?  Xander.  I have a suspect in custody for the second homicide we found on our multiple scene this morning."  He smiled.  "Because Horatio's on a date, Eric's on a date, and Calleigh has PMS.  You're the next best thing to Horatio."  He smiled.  "Blood bar actually.  The one down on Surfside?"  He nodded.  "Meet you out front, Detective."  He hung up and took her.  "Heading out, Tim?"

"I'll meet you at the usual place," he agreed, taking Xander's cash.  "That way I can cab and pay cover.  You've got some in the glovebox."  He walked off, heading out the door the bouncers were guarding.  "Nice night, guys."

Xander looked at the bartender, then around.  "All Spike's bitches should probably go with them unless you've killed someone for them.  If you have, then you should probably turn yourself in tomorrow so I don't have to hunt you too.  I'm having a bored night tonight but you'll be a funner prey."  He walked her outside, smiling at the detective pulling up.  "Sorry to bug you."

"No, I don't mind being the next best thing to Horatio," he admitted.  He looked at her.  "What did she do?  I was on Calleigh's scene."

"I didn't see a detective on ours so I don't know who it got assigned to.  They were probably in court," he said at the curious look.  "We got the cannibal site and we found her victim off to the side of the park.  He was staked to a tree with railroad spikes."

"Spike was proud," she hissed.  Then she gave a kitty hiss.

He smirked.  "Baby girl, I used to tie Spike to my chair for fun at night."  She whimpered.  "I'm *that* whelp, yeah."  She shivered and shrank down.  "Now, you can do this the hard way or the fun way, or you can confess to the nice detective.  Your choice."

She looked at him.   "I could eat you too."

"Uh-huh.  Wasn't that one bloodless?"  Xander nodded.  "Where did it go?"

"Detective, this is a blood bar.  Where do you think it went?"

"Eww.  Any idea if it happened here?"

"No.  No evidence in the back room.  But I'm proud to say that Spike is a strange thing certificate case."

"Oh, wonderful. So he'll get away?"

"If you can stop him and his harem go for it.  I told them to run for the hills before I killed them all.  He helped in Sunnydale.  I suggested he go to Cleveland.  We made sure his chip's still working so he can't physically hurt anyone.  Just talk the wanting into serving him."  He handed her over.  "Up to you and Horatio.  We can track Spike.  Or Dru really."  That got a nod.  "I did have them lock the bar down, just in case."

Tripp smiled.  "That's mean and evil, boy."

"I'm a good boy, Detective," he said with a grin.  "After all, I fought with other good boys and girls in the past."  He patted her on the back.  "Just think, it could be worse."

"No, Spike can't save me if he's out of town.  I'll never be saved and live the life of blood."

Frank put her in the back of his car.  "Think we should close it down?"

"I can't be sure he wasn't killed here.  Instincts say he wasn't but you might find some of his blood in there.  You'd have to check every single packet and all the blood wine, plus the blood pops."

"Blood pops?"

"Someone dilutes them and makes popsicles out of them."


"Well, it's that, blood wine, blood in various mixed drinks, blood straight up, or simply feeding it to the real vampires.  Your choice.  I can process the back rooms if I have to.  You've got some runaways statistically speaking as well."

"Let me ask."  He leaned against his car and called his boss.  "Chief, Tripp.  Harris just found a killer for us in a blood bar?"  Xander nodded.  "Yeah, a goth place where..."

"It's their equivalent of a martini bar, Detective.  It's their social club.  Where they go to hang out with other vampires, the higher vampires find minions, and those things."

"What he said," he said, putting the phone back against his ear.  He had held it so the chief could hear it from the horse's mouth.  "He said he doesn't think the poor guy the girl killed was killed here but it's a blood bar, they're serving blood to drink and there's probably some runaways."  He listened.  "Good for me.  Sure."  He hung up.  "He'll send Vice.  This is more their thing than homicide, hopefully?"

"I warned them I'd hunt the others down if I had to, I suggested strongly they turn themselves in.  Oh, my report..." he said moving closer.  "Is going to exclude my helper."  He looked at him.  "As part of the certificate program I got given a helper, called a White Lighter."

"My daughter watches that show with the witches," he said grimly.

Xander grinned.  "I've got my own Leo, yeah.  Though he can't teleport."

"Good ta know.  Your roommate Tim?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Uh-huh.  Would that be why Alexx looked like she had been crying?"

"Um, yup," he sighed.

"Oh, fuck," he sighed, shaking his head.  "They all know?"

"Horatio, Calleigh, Ryan, and Eric, plus her.  Now you."

"Fine with me, kid.  You keep Speed out of the report."

"I will."  He grinned.  "Should I mention that I threatened Spike?"

"Probably not.  I'll proofread it for you to make sure the ADA won't freak."

"Thanks.  I was going to let Horatio do it."

Frank smirked at him.  "He'll have a headache."

"Hey, I've got cannibals with Eric," he said dryly.  He shrugged.  A few patrol cars pulled up and he waved.  "Blood bar," he said, pointing.

"How many are real vampires?" one of them asked them.

Xander beamed.  "I'm Harris, out of Sunnydale and that program in 'Frisco."  That got a moan.  He pointed at his suspect.  "She killed someone on Spike's orders.  I only saw four in there.  Spike and Dru were in the back and I told them to leave before I had to stake them.  I saw two interviewing new female minions in the back area.  Since they have better hearing and I had the bartender lock down the club or else...."

"Gotcha."  She walked over.  "Boys, we've got a blood bar to raid.  We know at least one person that had been in there was probably handing her kill's blood over."  They shuddered.

"You might want a cooler for the blood pops," Xander called.  They nodded at that.  "Need me, I'm a CSI intern?"

"No, we'll get night shift, Harris," one of them promised.  "Shoo, take your suspect and go.  Night, Detective."

"You too," he agreed.  "Need a ride, kid?"

"Nah, Tim left my car.  I'll go out with him later."  That got a nod and Frank got in to drive them to the station while Xander followed, turning on some music since it was a happy night.  While he was working he even got an idea about what was going on in his other case.  He called Tim and they went to stake him out together.  He *knew* something had been wrong with this guy when he had ran into him.


Horatio looked up as Xander walked a suspect in wearing handcuffs.  "Xander?" he called, following him.  "What did he do?"

"He ate our suspects.  We caught him going after a new one last night.  She claims she was willing to be eaten.  She's with Eric.  I got him up *really* early this morning.  He's not a happy boy camper."

"That happens now and then."  He looked at the man in cuffs then him.  "Put him into a room."  Xander let the patrol guys take him.  "You went out alone?"

"No, Tim and I had to go fix the other one," he reminded him quietly.  "Since you were on a date I called Detective Tripp.  By the way he knows.  I figured you two get along well together so he's just as good as you."

"That's fine.  That was the right thing to do.  I also saw your name attached to a raid at a goth club?"

"Yeah, Spike's handmaiden was there.  So were Spike and Dru.  They were captured but managed to get away thanks to Dru.  Some of their other handmaidens probably did too.  I know a few confessed because I pointed out if I had to hunt them it wasn't going to be pleasant for anyone.  Since we can't really charge Spike I suggested he hightail it to Cleveland again."

"That's reasonable," he agreed.  "I got briefed on that by Frank this morning actually."  He smiled at him, patting him on the shoulder.  "How did you know it was him?"

He glanced around them moved closer.  "I ran into him out and about a few weeks back at a club," he said quietly.  "He smelled like death.  He smelled like a vulture to me.  It clicked and I told Tim.  We staked him out, watched him out hunting.  He had that other victim who was willing to be eaten.  If it's not him he probably knows."

"There can't be that many cannibals in the city," Eric agreed as he joined them.  "By the way, Alexx is playing in his fridge.  She's very unhappy at the moment.  Her phrase of 'not even morning sickness made me this sick' is seconded by the guys gathering the parts for transport."  Horatio nodded at that.  "He had parts, H.  So if it's not him, we have a clear reason to keep him on the others."

"Can they throw it out?"

"For me suspecting he was a cannibal and tailing him?" Xander asked.  "Nothing I did was illegal and you don't need a warrant to watch someone, right?"  They both shook their heads.  "I saw and listened to him talk the girl into being his next victim.  That's stopping him in the act.  We watched them go inside.  He had his curtains open.  I called backup then Eric when I saw him pull a short sword.  He was using it to pray over her while readying to slice her throat symbolically before he drained her blood."

"Then it should hold up, Xander.  Write the report for me while Eric and I question him?"

"Can I?  I need work on that."

"Sure, you can help," Eric agreed.  "We need to know if they're from the victims we already have or not."

"I'm hoping he's the only one we have in the city," Horatio complained, going to talk to the victim, who was insisting it was consensual and if she wanted to provide nourishment then it was her call and she was all for it.  He came back to find Xander sitting and staring at their suspect.  Finally Xander smiled and said something quietly.  The man started to shake.  Eric was staring at him, arms crossed over his chest, leaning against a window.  Xander tipped his head to the side then said something else and pushed over a picture.  The man started to shake his head frantically and started to babble.  Eric uncurled and came over to start on him.  He went back to shaking his head and babbling.  Xander stood up and leaned down, making the guy babble something else and Eric take notes.  Then Xander walked out.  "It him?"

"No but he knows who it was.  Eric's got his statement, I'm going to search out our other guy."

"Please do."  He smiled at his back.  Xander was still in clothes from the hunt last night.  He did look very good in them.  Very dangerous.  He saw Hagen look at the boy's back and point while giving him a curious look.  "That is Xander in hunting mode, John."

"Good ta know."  He came over, looking at the guy.  "I wasn't there yesterday, I was in court."

"As he thought," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Xander got a ping of instinct that scented him as a cannibal so he staked him out and caught him talking his newest victim into it.  He just gave Xander and Eric the name of who our suspect is."

"Interesting.  I heard he busted one last night with Frank."

"He did.  He got the killer of the second scene at our crime scene."

"Wonderful.  Anything I need to know about that?"


Hagen looked at him.  "Tell me you're kidding."

"No, he's the reason that blood bar was busted last night."

"Yeah, I heard they found about fifty runaways.  Found blood from about four scenes."

"I need a report on that," he decided, going to call.  That way he'd have to do less paperwork later.  Or Xander would really.


Xander walked in that night. "Please tell me the delivery guy has already come or you made me food?" he called.

"Fridge, Xander," Tim called from the basement.

Xander opened the fridge.  "I love you and if Willow has an oops I'll bear you babies."   He pulled out the extra-large sandwich and sat down with it and a bottle of soda.

Tim came up the stairs with a basket of laundry.  "Babies are scary creatures," he said dryly.  "That was for the party tonight."  Xander ate another bite, giving him a confused look.  "The others on the team?  Your first case solved?"  Xander grinned and went back to eating.  "Fine, I'll get more.  Did you skip lunch?"  Xander nodded.  Speed watched him wolf down the food.  "Did you eat since dinner last night?"  Xander shook his head and finished the sandwich, going hunting for more.  "Freezer, get into the hot pocket stash."  Xander did that and microwaved two, going up to take a shower with his soda.  Speed shook his head, dropping the basket on the table and moving to fix food for the party.  Xander came back down for an antacid but that was fine.  "Clothes, Xander.  Calleigh would appreciate the view too much."   He nodded, going back upstairs, pausing to open the door on his way past.

Eric leaned in.  "He's going to get dressed, right?"  Speed nodded.  "Good."  He walked inside.  "Need help?"

"Yeah.  He ate the food I had planned."  Xander came back down in jeans that he had to stare at.  "Aren't those tight?" he called.


"Okay then."  He shook his head.  Eric giggled.  "If he's comfy it's his house too."

"Yup, and you two are cute together.  Even Alexx thinks so."

"She said that.  We're not that way."  Xander came in with the mail, frowning at something.  "I saw the letter from Giles.  What's in it?"

"Money."  He held it out and Speed wiped off his hands so he could take it.  He looked at the letter.  "He said it was from the Council, that all of us from Sunnydale got a back payment but he hasn't gotten around to sending me mine yet because he thought Angel was taking care of me."  He looked up.  "Which means he thought I'd die in LA."  He went back to it.  "He wanted us, me and my white lighter, because he mentioned you, to set up a nice house wherever we end up so we can borrow books as necessary and he did remind me to not follow Willow's example with magic."  He let him have the letter.  "So no, not sure what I should do about that."  He walked off again.  "The cable bill is past due?"

"I paid it earlier," he called.  He put the check and letter in the fridge for now.  Eric chuckled.  "Safest place for it. He won't eat it.  I won't eat it.  No one snoops in there but Alexx.  It's pretty safe."  Someone else knocked.  "Go get that?"

"Sure."  He went to answer it.  "Hey, John.  What's up?"

"Question for you and Harris...."  He spotted a person then looked around.  "Ghosts too?  Not just vampires?"

"I got assigned to him," Tim sighed, shaking his head.  "I got sent back to help him.  Food?"

"Later.  Let me process this."

Xander leaned out of the living room.  "Want to help me paint while you do that?"

"Um, no."  He walked that way.  "Our people eater's lawyer said that you were following him for specious reasons."

"Probably true.  He smelled like a vulture."  He shrugged.  "Carrion eaters all smell the same."

"How did you *smell* him?"

"Past possession."

Hagen shook his head quickly.  "Do I want to know?"


"Okay.  That's a good answer, I like that answer."  He smiled as Horatio came in.  "The lawyer still trying?"

"No.  The State DA said he's staying.  She agreed that it was a specious reason to follow him but that it paid off and since Xander did see him making a deal to eat someone it was a good arrest.  Especially since he waited to see him endangering the witness, that way she didn't have to testify.  She's in the hospital for rehab."

"Good," Xander agreed.  "Because your life sucks when you volunteer to be eaten."  He looked at the paint cans.  "We're painting it light caramel?" he called.

"That's what he bought."

"Okay then."  He shrugged.  "Wanna help me paint, Horatio?"

"Not tonight, Xander," Eric ordered, coming in with food.  "Staying, Hagen?"

"I wouldn't care to.  Your first two cases solved in one day, I'm proud kid."

"Only the first ones on day shift," he said with a wicked grin.

"True, you should see his reports from where he was temping at night," Horatio agreed dryly.  "By the way, Melody swore at me this morning because  you left that mess for her."

"Did they find proof he was killed there?"

"No.  They did at her house.  She's going away as well.  Still moaning about not being saved in the blood," Hagen said.  He sat down.  "What did you learn in this other certificate program?"  Xander pointed at the bookshelf so he looked.  "Alchemy?  Necromancy...  Demonic chemistry?"  He pulled that one down.  "I heard about the ectoplasm thing."

"That's how I learned how to do that," he agreed. "It comes in handy."

"I bet it does," Hagen agreed, putting the book back.  Horatio took it to look through.  "Didn't look before?"  Horatio shook his head, sitting down to flip through it.  He looked at Xander.  "What else did you learn?"

"Self-defense, hunting skills.  They worked on my compensation skills.  Mostly I spent the time going 'um, handled that and here's how' so I got to skip a year of the program."  Horatio looked at him.  "Real world experience," he said dryly.

"I bet," he agreed.

"Compensation skills?" Hagen asked.

"Yeah, I had a small injury in the past," Xander told him.  "Doesn't affect nearly anything in the field, Detective."

"Try John, kid.  What sort of injury?"

Xander grinned.  "If I tell you, you'll start treating me like I'm handicapped too.  Even Horatio did until I ended up screaming at him one day."  Horatio nodded at that.  "See?"

"It doesn't affect him very often in the field, unless he's sick," Horatio agreed blandly.

"I couldn't tell at all," Eric agreed.  "I'm wondering if the inability to take good pictures is somehow related to whatever it is that ruins food, even when you do things right."

"Maybe," Xander admitted.  He shrugged.  "If so, is it related to my stupid club problem?"

"Hmm," Eric said, looking at Speed.  "Got an idea?"

"Not really.  Now and then it's very fun to watch."  Xander scowled at him.  "It is.  You get really flustered."

"Gee thanks," he said, going from scowl to glare.  "Maybe we should go out tonight?"

"Eeehhhhh, if you want to," Speed decided.  "I'll hang out here."  He grinned.  "That way they can see you in action."

Hagen coughed.  "I heard about that problem.  They give you stuff for not doing anything?"

"They give him stuff when he complains, when he throws fits, when he tries to get away from them," Speed agreed. "Makes paying bills easier on his stipend.  Recently I've been taking him to gay clubs so you guys wouldn't catch us."

Eric looked at him.  "I heard.  One of the patrol guys caught you and thought it was odd that you were going into one.  I told them it was because women around you turned evil and serial killer.  He said it was probably easier."  Someone else knocked and he looked out the window.  "It's open, Frank."  He walked in.  "Come on in."

"Thanks, guys.  Painting?"

"Landlord's letting us do some fixing up so the rent is reasonable," Speed agreed, waving at him.  "He said you knew."

"Knowing and seeing..."  He checked his pulse.  "Well, you're alive."

"For the moment.  Xander, Cleveland might be calling, or LA."


"LA has a major demon that wants to kill everyone."

"They've got Connor.  Connor's better than I am."

"Point.  Cleveland's got an opening problem."

"They've got Willow.  They don't need me either."

"Okay.  I'll tell them that.  Are you going to talk to Willow?"

Xander gave him a look like he was a freak.  "Nope."  He looked at Frank.  "What's going on?"

"Came for the party."  He sat down.  "What're we doing?"

"Talking about the strange crap classes I took."

"Ehh, not my cup of tea.  Need help in the kitchen, Speed?"

"Nope.  I made more sandwiches."  He pointed.  "We can change the topic."

"Good.  So, any idea where you're heading after Miami?"

"I was thinking New York," Tim admitted.  "The only problem is the closeness to Cleveland and all the strange crap up there.  If we could get Taylor to agree not to send him it'd be better.  If not, Chicago's looking.  There's a spot in Key West but it's field with a specialty.  LA wants him back."

"Then I'd end up back with Angel."

"Not an option I like either.  You'll like New York."

"My fellow student Dumbass ended up dealing with the strange things up there.  He'll be dead within the end of the year.  That means I'd end up having to deal with it and I'd rather stay as a backup."

"I'd like that too," Speed agreed. "Maybe we can talk Taylor into ignoring that one?"

"I can talk to Mac about it," Horatio agreed.  "That would be a good position but he will know that I want Xander back if at all possible."

Xander grinned at him.  "Does that mean I can have a day off during the spring break cavalcade to go hit on the hotties?"

"We all take one of those, kid," Hagen said with a grin. "Delko takes six or seven."

"Not this year."  Ryan and Calleigh walked in.  "We're in here."

"I see everyone's here," Calleigh teased. "Hi, John."

"Hey, Calleigh.  Speed made sandwiches."

"We *all* know not to eat Xander's cooking," she assured him with a bright smile, giving him a hug.  "I'm proud!"

"Thank you."  He grinned at Ryan.  "Want a cuddle too?"

"No thanks.  I'm good on cuddles today."  He sat down.  "More painting?"  Speed nodded.  "I'll come help Sunday, I'm off."

"We can do it.  He's got a power painter," Speed said with an evil smirk.  "The benefits of living with a construction worker.  That and he can open damn near any jar."

"That's another handy benefit," Calleigh agreed.  "Plus no pounding nails with a shoe."

"High heels can be deadly," Xander told her.  "I helped in a case where a girl killed her cheating man with her stiletto.  I could've written a country song about it."

Speed looked at him.  "No more country music."  Xander stuck his tongue out.  "I can cut that off.  Then you'd have to find a way to teach future techs in ten years."

"I'll have someone witchly replace it.  I might even got a super tongue, then we'll see what I can do to turn women evil."

"You ever date another woman and I'm slaying her," Speed told him.  "Then I'll give her body to Alexx to hide."

Calleigh giggled.  "It can't be all of them, Timmy."

He looked at her and nodded.  "Yeah, it can."

"You know, there's a cure for that," Horatio said, giving him a look.  Speed shifted and blushed a little bit.  "That would solve it."

"I got told that's not allowed unless I give up my spot."

"I don't need a White Lighter if I retire," Xander pointed out.

"Do I sense some interest?" John teased.

Xander blushed and shrugged.  "Tried it before, didn't thrill me.  Speed understands me better though.  Last time it was to get my car fixed faster and cheaper."  He looked down.  "Sorry, guys.  Self interest."

"He was stranded in Oxnard stripping to pay for the room and the car repairs," Speed told them.

Calleigh went bright pink.  "You stripped?"

"And sucked at it," Xander assured her, nodding hard.  "Really badly sucked at it.  I got pity drink sales."

"Not everyone can be as good at it as Speed was," Eric said dryly.  Speed threw a can of soda at his head.  Eric only smirked at him.  "You did."

"Please don't bring up that woman's retirement party," Frank moaned, holding his forehead.  "Pretty please, guys?"

Xander looked at Speed.  "You dance better than me too."

"That's because you learned how to dance from Buffy."

"Buffy?" John asked.

"The little blonde who he fought with," Speed told him.  He got up and found a picture.  "That's Willow and Buffy.  If you see them, warn us so we can run."

John looked at it then handed it on.  "They're cute."

"They're the ones who screwed him up," Eric agreed.  "Speaking of, Xander, I saw Cooper trying to teach you about sports again."

"He tries very hard," Xander sighed, shaking his head.  "It won't work.  I know very well football is exactly like gay sex in teams."  John and Frank both choked.  "It is!  It's the same position, it's the same butt spanking, it's all about the crotch action and pouncing.  It's gay sex in teams so they can't have a real orgy because the coaches and the teams make sure it's a repressed urge.  If they were somewhere less restrictive it'd probably turn into one."  He took a drink of his soda.  "Though, Willow's girlfriend did email me to say she thought it was more like men pushing out babies and then tossing them.  The whole squatting action and then the delivery for the hike, then the way you cradle the ball while you run.  Some sort of fertility ritual to ensure the male species will continue."

John whimpered and looked at Horatio.  "Has he always been like that?"

"Those two girls warped him," Horatio said, smirking at him.

Speed nodded.  "Willow raised him.  Buffy came in and helped.  He only watches girl sports."

"I watch swimming."

"True, you do watch swimming," Speed agreed. "And ice skating, horse jumping, gymnastics."

"Ooh!  There's a college event next week, can we go since it's my day off?" Xander asked.

"Sure.  Get tickets," he agreed.  Xander beamed and wiggled.  "Calm down.  No chocolate either."

"I haven't had any in days."

Speed looked up.  "Thank you."  Xander threw his demonic chemistry book at him.  "What!  You bounce, Xander!"

"What book is that?" Calleigh asked, grabbing it off the floor to look at.  "So that's how   you knew how to do the slime."

"Yup.  Teacher was not thrilled with me either.  I do better hands-on and he liked to lecture a lot."

"We went over a lot of it when he needed the help," Tim assured them all.  "Then again it tied into necromancy."

"What is in that kit anyway?" Eric asked.  Xander handed over his keys so he went to get the case and bring it back.  He found a lot of things he expected.  "Holy water?"

"Yeah, I need to go steal some more from a church," Xander admitted.  Horatio looked at him.  "Priests don't like to bless bottles of water, Horatio."

"I'll talk to mine for you, Xander."

"Okay. That'll help.  Thank you."  Eric held up a small vial.  "Holy smoke.  Blessed dry ice."  That got a nod and it was put back.  "Not that one, that's hellish to make it and it costs over a grand an ounce."  It was carefully put back.  The dried iguana's head was held up.  "Cult in Mexico we helped end.  That was part of their idol.  Fortunately they all killed themselves before the cops had to deal with them."

Eric put it back.  "How many cults have you dealt with?"

"Four?"  He looked at Speed.  "Four right?"

"Five," he said after a moment's thought.  "That group of nuns was technically one."

"Five," he said, grinning at Eric.  "It's like how I had to learn about profiling to stop my exes."

"Oh, that's why I came over."  John pulled something out of his jacket, handing it to Horatio.  "Came across the lines."

"Tanya.  Xander, wasn't she the one killing your friends repeatedly?"

"Yup, she's the serial killer I started off by sleeping with," he agreed grimly.  "In town again?"  Horatio nodded, handing it over.  "Okay.  Well, Tim, if you see her...."

"I'll knock the stupid stripper out and handcuff her to the railing, Xander."

"Thank you," Calleigh said.  "Did she ever say why she started off?"  Xander handed over the picture.  "Ah, them.  Okay.  Maybe next time Maxine and Alexx can have her."

"Don't let Tanya near Alexx.  She'll coo and try to pet her."

"If you say so," Frank said dryly.  "I think she'd rip the woman apart."

"Frank, I dated her because she was a stripper, she could cook, and she was pretty.  I can stomp her.  Most of Eric's exes can stomp her.  Tanya will coo over Alexx and try to pet her.  She did it to her coworker all the time because she wanted to quit being white."

"Kid, date Speed, do the world a favor," John ordered.

"The people who gave him to me said I can't," Speed reminded him.  "Otherwise they'd have to give him someone else."

"With your luck one of Eric's exes," Calleigh teased.  "Did he cuddle good while he was sick?"

"He's an excellent cuddle.  Don't you get any?" he taunted back.

"I get as many as I need," she assured him.  "Maybe Horatio could use some more."

"I'm an equal opportunity cuddler," Xander defended.  He looked outside, then walked onto the front porch, pulling the gun out of the mailbox and cocking it.  "Yo, stupid," he called in Spanish, "those cars belong to the cops sitting inside, like I am," he said, waving the gun.  The two kids trying to remove the hubcabs off Horatio's hummer ran off.  "Good idea!"  He brought the gun inside.  "We got another one, Tim."  He slammed the door.  "Horatio, you need to check your hubcaps."

Horatio groaned and went to do that.

Xander put the gun up.  "I'll do that tomorrow."  John gave him an odd look.  "I told the neighbor who watches the neighborhood that I'm a ballistics tech.  She convinced some of the gang kids around here to dump their guns through me, even knowing that I'm going to search for owners.  I come home to them in the mailbox or on the porch."

"If we put a mail slot in the door it might help," Tim suggested.

"I'll ask if we can."

"He suggested that he can do the bathrooms once we're gone."

Xander looked at him.  "If he's serious about selling this house he's got some work beyond that," he said dryly.  "A lot of work, Tim."

"Point.  Can't have everything though."

"Well, if I had another year I could do that, if he funded it," Xander said dryly. "The roof needs fixed too and I'm not doing that."

"Make a list for him."

"I've already got it started," Xander sighed. "It's long. We'll fix some of it."

"We got approval to do the door handles."

"I thought I did that," he said, looking confused.

"You did.  Just pointing out he's happy as long as it'll make it go for more."

"Oh, it will," Xander said, nodding.  "What about the basement?"

"Could use a new coat of sealant and to finish the walls."

"Paint the concrete you think?"

"Could.  It's not that deep though.  It also floods."

"That's the drain down there.  There's a leak into it somewhere," Xander said, giving a little shrug.  "It happens in high water table areas."

"Can it be fixed?" Eric asked.

"Sure, if we dig up the basement," Xander agreed.  "What do we think about moving the washer up here?"

"There's outlets in that pseudo-pantry," Ryan reminded them.  "Would it fit in there?"

"Yeah, would," Xander agreed.  "I don't think one works but I can check that. It's not a hard fix.  Probably need to turn the water line on."  That got a nod from Tim.  "Did you check it?"

"I did but it's got a small leak behind the stove."

"Which also needs replaced."

"The next owner can do that.  They'll want to replace that and the fridge."

"Probably a good idea."  He blew a kiss at Ryan.  "I owe you that for sticking up for my t- shirts."

"That's because I want to see Eric's face when you wear the elephant one."

"Elephant one?" Eric asked.

Xander went up to put it on while Tim got the bottle of Tylenol.  He came back down wearing _Elephants wear tu-tus so they can hide in pine trees. Did you ever see an elephant in a pine tree? No? Well then, you know it works_.

Horatio read it, frowning, his lips moving as he reread it.  Frank burst out laughing.  John let out a small moan.  Calleigh sighed and took some tylenol, handing the bottle to Horatio, who shook his head to clear it.

Eric read it.  His lips moved.  He blinked and reread it.  "I have a feeling that someone was watching Fantasia when they wrote that."  Xander handed him another one. _I wouldn't mind the wombats nesting in my lingerie drawer, but they WILL insist on wearing my Wonderbra_.   Eric whimpered and took some tylenol.

Horatio looked at it then at Xander.  "Neither one of those are work appropriate, Xander."

"But can't I wear them in and change once Stetler sees them?"

"That's cruel," Calleigh said, taking the other shirt from Eric.  She looked at it then at him.  "Oh, God, I just got the image of Tim in a wonderbra!"  She rubbed her eyes while Horatio and John both rubbed her shoulders.  "Xander!"

He gave her a hug.  "I wasn't getting you.  You were accidental.  I'm sorry."

"It's bad."  She looked at Xander.  "We love you anyway."

"At least you're not going to go evil," Speed said when he came back.  He looked at the second one then swatted Xander on the back.  "Put them back.  No more harming minds."   Xander went to put it back.  "Change too!"

"Yes, mom."  He came down in a different one... _Scotty is smoking the dilithium crystals again, Jim_.  "Better?"

"Much more normal," he agreed.

Horatio looked and nodded.  "I like that one.  It's much better."

John looked and smiled.  "Much, though it does show you're a geek."

"Well, yeah," he agreed.  "It's my skills as a geek that you love me for."  He gave him a sweet smile.  "Are you *sure* I can't wear one of those in front of Stetler, Horatio?"

"Very, Xander.  We try very hard not to be cruel.  Even if he is annoying."

"Annoying has nothing on him," Ryan said grimly.  "Hey, Xander.  Driver's license?"

"Fixed," he promised.  "Who said something?"


"Ah."  He nodded.  "That one he had a small bit of sense about.  I did forget."  He grinned.  "Why don't you guys eat and we'll go have fun somewhere?"

"Works for me," Eric agreed, digging in.  Maybe a cute hottie in the club would take those bad mental images out of his head.

"Since there's so many of us, can you wear those leather pants Tim was scowling about?" Ryan asked.

"Sure, I can do that."  He beamed at Tim.

"As long as at least one of them is armed."  Calleigh patted her gun, Frank, Horatio, and John did the same.  "No geek t-shirts with it, Xander."  Xander sighed and went to change while the others went to the bathroom and nibbled on their way to the cars.  Speed sent up a silent prayer that Xander's posse would be enough.


Horatio walked in the next morning to find two IAB goons waiting on his team.  "Yes?" he asked.  "Problems with the lab?"

"There's been a charge of improper conduct leveled against you," one said.  "You're wanted for a statement, Lieutenant."


"I'm not privy to that, Lieutenant.  If you'll come with us?"

"If I must."  He rolled his eyes and walked that way.  He found Calleigh and Ryan in there.  "Eric?" he asked.

"Not in yet," Stetler said happily as he walked in.  "You're all here because you are having an improper relationship with a member of your lab."

"No I'm not," Horatio told him.  He took off his sunglasses and sat down.  He had the feeling this was going to be a long discussion.  Stetler looked much too happy this time.

"We have *proof*, Horatio.   You're very big on proof I know so we gathered some."  He put down a file of pictures, one spilling out.

She reached over to snatch it.  "I don't believe this.  He initiates the hugs, Stetler.  He was raised and warped by some very girly girls and he's a hugger."

"I don't care.  It's still not allowed."

Xander strolled in.  "Chief, can't I hit him this time?" he asked the man walking behind him.

"No, CSI Harris. You can't."

"Why not?  He's trying to ruin them because I have tactility issues.  Willow!" he bellowed.  She appeared, looking confused.  "I'd change clothes," he said dryly.   She looked at her pajamas and changed them to her usual shirt and jeans.  "Thank you.  You're here to be a witness on my behalf because Internal Affairs doesn't like that I hug people when I'm happy."

"What a moron!" she said, looking at Horatio.   "Who are you?"

"His supervisor, Willow.  We met recently.  When Xander was in the hospital."

"Oh, yeah.  I've still got a headache from that."  She looked where Xander was pointing and glared.  "How dare you try to undo what I taught Xander to do, you slime sucking moron!" she shouted, moving in on him.  "I taught him hugs were nice.  It's not like his parents gave him any!" she sneered.  "What's wrong, you don't know that hugs are nice either?  Let me guess, you played *football*," she said, turning up the coldness in her sneer.  "I like Xander able to hug.  It makes him a better human being.  *Real* people can hug others.  If they didn't want him to, they could make him stop.  It's not that hard.  I did it!  I was wrong when I did it but I did do it."

The Chief coughed.  "You are, ma'am?"

"Willow Rosenburg."  She looked at him.  "Second in command in the Watcher's Council."  He nodded at that.  "Also the one who helped raise Xander since his parents were worse than wolves."  She glared at Stetler again.  "I should turn you into something but my girlfriend would be upset with me.  Then again, I can go one night without the smoochies for this reason."  She raised a hand.

"Willow," Calleigh snapped.  She pouted and sat on the end of the table.  "Thank you."

"Do that later," Xander told her.  He looked at the Chief.  "Please clarify for us all what problem there is that I like to hug people when I'm excited, happy, or need cuddles because I've had a totally shitty day?  I'm fairly certain they can stop me by asking.  I'm reasonable about it."

"You have been from what I've heard."  He looked at the folder of evidence, taking the one from Calleigh.  "Who's this dark haired man?  Delko?"

"No, he's one who said I can't hug him.  That's probably my roommate, Tim."

"Your White Lighter is very gruff," Willow complained.

"We can get into that later," he told her.  He looked at the Chief again.  "It's not wrong of me to hug my boss when I'm excited, right?"

"I've seen many young women who have.  Did you file this complaint?"

"We felt it was reasonable to file it on his behalf," Stetler said, sneering at Xander.  "Are you a little gay boy now?"

Xander pulled out a sword by magic, earning an odd look from Willow.  "Bi, thank you."  Stetler backed up.  "And for that act of gay bashing I'm going to file another charge.  If you keep this up I'll have a very good discrimination suit against the city, Stetler.  That means I won't have to work if I don't want to."  The chief coughed again.  "I've had enough of him.  I don't know how in the hell Horatio puts up with his nose up his ass all the time, because it's always there, but I'm not putting up with him going into my private life if I'm not doing anything wrong!  That oversteps his authority.  I'm not a dirty cop, nor am I a dirty lab tech.  I haven't done anything wrong.  My hours are up to date and on file.  I've complied with every single request, even the ones about my t-shirts not coming into the lab when we could all use a happier day.

"Right now he's hindering the crime lab from being able to do the work by pulling them all in here."  The chief nodded.  "He's unfairly targeting them because I have a hormone condition that attracts attention in the club.  Including him because he was there last night.  One of the people I was out with called him to come see what was going on.  That way he could drop his shit about me being a pro.  He clearly saw me begging one woman to take the money back and her not doing it.  The same as he saw me doing it multiple times with multiple other people.  I'm sorry but I don't know why he's targeting me except for the fact that I am bisexual.  That I have a roommate I'm not sleeping with, except when I had the flu so I could steal his fan.  You can call and ask him if you want."

"He's right.  This persecution should stop, Chief," Calleigh agreed.  "Calm down, Xander.  Please?  Give Horatio the sword before you use it by accident."

"I'm sure he can't," Stetler sneered.  Xander lunged at him and ended up backing him into a corner with it, making him piss himself.  "What are you!"

"From Sunnydale.  We're all like this.  How do you think Willow got here?" he sneered back.  "You piss drinking moron," he hissed.  "I will see you badgeless for this."  He walked the sword over and handed it to Horatio.  "Not that I need it to take him out."

"He fought with our protection patrol for six years and went to fight with Angel's in LA for another four, plus one year off for training," Willow agreed.

"What were you protecting, young lady?" the Chief asked.

"Sunnydale.  We had something called a hellmouth there that drew bad and evil things.  That's why his teachers made him get that extra certificate in strange crap and why he got assigned a roommate named Tim to help him."

"I see."  He nodded, going back over the folder.  "Xander, please calm down.  Horatio, do you feel that you set an uncomfortable or unnatural relationship with your intern?"

"No, sir.  I never have.  Everyone is different.  My whole lab knows if they have a problem with Xander's enthusiasm to go to Xander or to come to me.  If I may ask who reported it?"

"You can't.  It's sealed, Horatio," the Chief told him.

"Well, there's only three people in the lab if it came from there," Xander said dryly.  "One wants me and I've turned her down repeatedly.  She asked me if I was gay the other day, Horatio.  The other field intern who has issues with me because I'm a better tech than he is, even with a former injury, and one of the people on night shift who hates me because I'm good but a bit cocky now and then.  Again, mostly because I work better and faster than he does.  He's their ballistics tech."

The Chief looked then at him.  "No, it was one of the first two, son."  He went back to the pictures.  "Xander, you don't randomly bounce up and hug people usually?"

"When I'm happy I do it to my friends.  I was raised by very girly girls.  Mostly by Willow."  He pointed at her. "That's also how I learned football was like gay sex in teams."

The Chief blinked at that then nodded.  "He has shown other episodes of girlish behavior thanks to their warping, Chief," Calleigh told him.  "He's very good at helping me shop.  He's very good at making face masques and things.  If I need help putting up my hair he can do that very well as well."

The Chief looked at Horatio.  "Do you concur?"

"I do.  It makes him a very unique tech, Chief.  We like Xander, quirks and all."

"Besides, Chief, even if I wanted to sleep with Horatio, Calleigh, Eric, and Ryan, it's not going to impact the work in the lab.  I'm not like that.  It should be *my* right to complain.  Someone else complaining for me smacks of revenge and someone being jealous.  When I was a crew lead, I would have asked the person the complaint was about first.  The *only* time I've ever seen a situation like this it was about revenge."

"In this case it probably is.  You don't feel threatened by him, Horatio?"

"No.  His past combat history hardly ever comes out.  When it does it's for the good of the department.  Xander is very protective of us, sir."

"Good."  He closed the file.  "I'm going to end this matter now.  Yes, Xander, your objections are noted and will be added to another complaint, both against the person who filed it and this officer.  Stetler, I'll be seeing you in my office by the time I get back there for pulling this sort of witch hunt on an officer, even an intern, because he might be gay or bisexual.  I don't care if he's so flamingly gay he sets of fire alarms, son.  He's Horatio's hire and if the lab can put up with him it's none of your business until he does something wrong or he is hurt by someone who is doing something wrong.  Am I clear this time?"


"Sir, I do have to admit we went to the club last night," Xander said more reasonably.  Willow moaned so he smacked her across the back of the head.  "He was there.  One of the people I went with called him so he could witness it for himself.  I do believe Detective Hagen took the statement on what happened and has the bag of things I was handed against my will.  Do you want me to start filing those with you?"

"No, son. I asked around.  We've seen similar cases before, just not as bad as yours."

"Do we know why?  I'd like to stop it."

"I have no clue but I will tell that particular agent to go see him.  We keep a list of folks like that, Xander.  Now, any other concerns?"

"Can we maybe see if the budget will stretch?" he asked hopefully.  "I'd like to stay, sir."

"I know you would.  If it does that's up to Horatio."

"I'd like him to stay," he agreed.  "The next position we have open, Xander's getting it, sir."

"That's fine.  I wish I could make the budget stretch more.  When his time's up we'll see what we have, people.  Now, I'm going to talk to some people.  Xander, are you in the field today?"

"No, sir.  That's a minor and one I only want to use as a backup.  A few cases a month, whenever we need more hands, that sort of thing.  I love being a ballistics and trace tech.  I want to stay a ballistics and trace tech."

"It'd be cheaper if you were a field tech," he offered.

Xander nodded. "I know.  I might be willing to take that pay cut at first?" he offered.

"Then we'll see what we can do."  He walked out, taking Stetler out with him.

Xander looked at Willow.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Can I please apologize?"

"Will it matter?"

"I want to support you, Xander.  I really do.  I was a big poopy head and I don't mean to be."  She handed over a big red button.  "Here, you use that if you need me to come help with a problem."  She disappeared.

Xander handed that to Horatio.  "Hold that for me please?"

"Going to the gym?"

"No, it's my day off," Xander reminded him, getting a smile.  "I'm going to rant to Tim."

"It's all right, Xander.  It's solved."

"Yeah, all except the one who made the complaint on my behalf."

"He left Miami yesterday," Horatio said quietly.  Xander nodded.  "Do we think she's involved in other things?"

"Yup.  I do.  If you want, I can help Ryan look into that."

"Please do, Xander."  He stood up.  "Sword?"

"Put it in the office?  I'll probably need it someday."  He walked off shaking his head.  He ran into Alexx and gave her a hug.  "Someone tried to say me doing that was having an inappropriate relationship with others."  He walked off, going to his car.

Horatio came out of the room.  "Alexx.  You weren't called?"

"No, but I just got told.  What idiot said that?"

"We think we know," she admitted.  "They reported it to Stetler on Xander's behalf," Calleigh finished with a grim look.

"Oh, really?"


"Timmy will get him calmed down again.  Horatio, where's Eric?"

"Hopefully in the lab somewhere," he admitted.  "I'll meet you two back there.  Let me warn John and Frank."  He walked over to their desks, smiling at them.  "John, apparently there's a list of people who have that same problem Xander does.  His name's being put on it and someone will come to look at what he was given and take the statement you two created."

"Sure, I can handle that.  Where did you go?"

"Someone reported that Xander hugging in his excited times was an inappropriate relationship," he said coolly.  John gave him a horrified look and his chair quit being tipped back.  "Keep his sword for me?" he asked, handing it over.

"Sure.  I can do that.  Everyone still alive?"

"So far.  Tell Frank?"

"I can do that.  He went to pick Eric up from the ER.  One of the chicks from last night came after him.  It seems it rubbed off."

"I'll warn Calleigh.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  You okay?"

"I'm just as pissed as the boy is, which is why you have the sword."  He walked off, smiling at Yelina.  "Did you have a good day?"

"I had a wonderful one.  Why?"

"I'm sure you'll hear later," he told her, going to his office.  Ryan leaned in.  "I take it you heard?"

"I did and I was wondering if it had anything to do with our mole?"

"Quite possibly."  He looked at him.  "I'm sure you've heard his complaints about a certain member of the lab who he feels uncomfortable around?" he asked quietly.

Ryan nodded.  "Yup."

"It was either her or the other intern, who just left the city."

"Interesting."  He grinned.  "Let me go tell Maxine before she blows a gasket."  He walked off, going down to DNA.  "Don't stress, everyone's okay."

"Why wouldn't they be?" Natalia asked.

"Someone tried to get Horatio and Calleigh in trouble because Xander hugs them when he's excited."  He looked at Maxine.  "He brought the chief into it and they're fine.  Calleigh's got one of his CD's on in ballistics.  I'm guessing he went home.  I'm hoping he's calming down since this sort of thing would piss him off beyond belief."

"I'd say!  Things like that aren't done unless you're trying to get back at someone," Valera said grimly.  "My poor boy."  She moved to call him.  "Xander, are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Max.  Really.  It got worked out.  I called Willow down to help.  I nearly killed him when he sneered that I couldn't use the sword I pulled.  I'm okay."

"Xander, wanna have lunch?" Ryan asked.

"Sure.  Call me."

"I can do that.  Be careful.  One of the stupid women from last night went after Eric.  He had to get two stitches from what I heard."

"Tim can scowl them all to death.  It's a good roommate skill.  Thanks, guys.  I'll see you tomorrow."  He hung up.

Maxine frowned.  "Everyone's okay?"  Ryan nodded.  "We're sure?"

"Horatio and Calleigh both said so.  There might be problems for whoever reported it."  He noticed Natalia getting suddenly studious with her sample.  He grinned at her.  "Otherwise it'll be okay."

"Good!  I want whoever is doing this head on a stick!  Preferably one that's so long it ripped her head off as it was shoved up her."

"I'm sure that can be arranged.  After all, Xander has ten or so years of combat experience."  She smiled at that and he winked.  "Wanna have lunch with us?"

"If at all possible," she agreed.  She gave him a hug.  "Thank you for telling me, Ryan.  You tell me when you find out who so I can rip a chunk out of them."  He nodded, going to his lab to get to work.  She fumed, looking at Natalia.  "Why would someone want to hurt Xander?  He's a really nice young guy.  So much nicer than half the ones I know.  He's so clearly a bit warped from those girls who raised him.  It's not his fault that they did that to him."

"He's a bit weird," Natalia pointed out.

Maxine glared at her.  "That's because those damn girls hurt him, Natalia!  They did that to him."  She nodded, getting back to work.  Maxine thought and then figured out why Ryan hadn't told her in the hallway.  It started some other questions in her mind.  She and Ryan were *definitely* going to be eating lunch together.


Xander walked back into the house.  "Solved."  He went to his room and his closet, finding a bag he had packed.  He brought it down and sat it in front of Tim.  "Are you any good at computers?"

"Not totally.  Why?"

Xander pulled out the laptop and logged in under one of the secret codes.  "Here.  Willow made it and I took it before the end of Sunnydale."  Speed blinked at him.  "What?"

"I know someone.  What are we looking for?"

"The mole."


"Mole in the lab.  Possibly related to this morning's crap."

"Oh, shit," he muttered, pulling over the computer to look at it.  "Anything else?"

"Can we find dirt on Stetler for Horatio?"

"If I can find any."  He got to work on what he could do.  It was set up so anyone could hack using her program.  "Who turned it in?"

"Either the annoying twat or the other intern that just got dismissed."

"Then let's start with Stetler's computer."  He typed in the address, finding the complaint.  He smiled and printed it then erased that search and went to the other things he wanted to look at.  "What else is on here?"

"Depends on who I log in as."  He went to get a drink, coming back with one for Tim too.  "Here.  Anything yet?"

"No, I'm starting in a fairly common place."  He kept looking, coming up with something.  "Huh," he said, then he copied it and sent it to Horatio's inbox.  He kept looking.  This was *very* interesting.  Especially from the one person who kept trying to divide the male techs on the team.


Horatio looked over as his email beeped, reaching back to reload his inbox.  He looked at the email, then got up to read it closer.  "Interesting," he said quietly.   Another email came in a few minutes later.  He read it as well, then nodded.  "That is what I needed to know."  He paged Ryan, smiling when another one came in, smirking at the information.  "That is very helpful as well."  He printed off the emails he needed. Then he sat down again, smiling at Ryan.  "They found our mole for us.  Apparently Xander has something that lets him hack certain databases."

Ryan nodded.  "He said Willow had a spare laptop with hacking tools on it and he took it before the end of Sunnydale."

"Interesting."  He smirked.  "I think we have all we need for this investigation."

"Should I get Detective Tripp?"

"Please.  Then please ask Miss Boa Vista to join me up here without letting her know about him."

"Sure."  He went out, carrying the emails like it was evidence in a regular investigation.  He found Tripp at his desk and walked into his cubicle, putting the forms in front of him.  Tripp looked at him.  "Horatio wanted you in his office quietly," he said very quietly.  "About that."

Frank looked at it then smirked at him.  "Who?"

"Xander has something that Willow created to help her hack."

"Ooooh."  He stood up and took them with him, going up to the office.  "Hey, Horatio, got two about a case?" he asked happily.

"Of course, Frank.  It should be a few moments."

"That's fine."  He came over to look at the other information, then clicked to forward it to Yelina.  "She should know."

"She should but I was hoping to break it more gently."

"Why?  Let her beat him for us while we watch."

"That could be fun.  Nearly as much fun as Xander going after him with a sword this morning."

"I saw it resting in John's corner.  Very pretty weapon."

"It is.  He nearly gutted him as well, Frank.  Miss Boa Vista, come in please."   He sat down on his couch.   "Frank, the door?"

"Sure."  He walked over to close it.  "You might wanna sit," he told her.

"Have I done something wrong?"

"Some information was sent to me, Natalia," Horatio said smoothly.  She sat down, looking confused.  "It appears, with what I was sent, that you took some of the grant for yourself?  The grant that updated the lab?"

"That was my paycheck. I wrote it into the grant," she told him.  "Who told you that?"

"That's not pertinent at the moment, Natalia," Frank told her.  "I thought you were on the county payroll."

"I am but I wrote a stipend into the grant so I would have some extra in case the renovations went over budget or anything."

"Hmm."  Horatio flipped pages.  "Yet, the forty thousand ended up in your retirement account two weeks before the refurbishment started."  He handed that over.  "Plus another two thousand every month for the last year."  He laid that down as well.  Then he looked at her.  "That is not within the bounds of a county paycheck."

"No, it's from another account that I've recently closed out.  It had a revolving CD platform.  Is there a problem?" she asked.

"Yeah, small problem," Frank agreed.  He handed over the sheet again.  "That's not from a local bank.  The deposits came from a bank out of Washington."  She stood up.  "Sit down."  She shook but sat back down.  "Now, there's been a problem recently."

"Yes, there has been," Horatio agreed.  "A mole in our lab, Natalia.  Is it you?"  He stared her down.

"It was a condition of the grant, Horatio.  I've never told them anything but good things.  I swear!"

"Yet, you've decided to break the team up by playing Delko against Wolfe.  Then you tried on Harris and he wasn't playing so you tried other things to discredit him.  I asked about that one rumor, the one that said he was manipulating evidence.  That came from in the lab too."  Her face fell.  "Was it you?"

She swallowed and nodded.  "I was using that to get information, see who else was talking," she admitted. She sat up straighter.  "I was doing what I was supposed to do.  Half the bad things didn't come from me."

"Who did they come from?"

"They didn't tell me.  Just that they had others who were feeding them information.  They sent me because of information she sent."

"Hmm."  Horatio looked at her.  "I am going to be thinking very hard today, Natalia.  I suggest you do the same."  She nodded and fled the office.  He picked up his desk phone, dialing the boys.  "Do we have any leads on any other leaks?"  Xander said something and he nodded.  "That could be.  Any others?"  He smiled.  "That would work.  Thank you, Timothy."  He hung up.  "He suggested the other one would be someone who hated the lab."

"They've got to be close, know the players and the cases.  A cop?"

"That's one option but who has acted against the lab to try to discredit us, Frank?"

"That DA chick."

"Exactly."  He stood up. "Let me lock those up."  He locked them in his drawer then his door on the way out.  Frank was right behind him.  He found Ryan waiting against his hummer.  "There is apparently another few leaks."

"I figured the eye story would get the minor one," he agreed.

"Plus another bigger one," Horatio agreed.  "We're going to see her now."

"Can I come?"

"No, you work on the lesser leak, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio said with a smile.  "Also, get the hacking computer from Tim."

"On it."  He went to do that first and think.  The minor leak was not going to be easy to weed out but it was personal information they were leaking.   He tapped before walking into the boy's house.  "Guys, Horatio wanted the computer."

Tim shut it down and handed it over.  "It's very tempting.  Xander has multiple log ins for it.  He's out for a run before you ask.  Tell H to check his email about Stetler.  I just sent a few others."

"I can do that."  He took it out to the hummer and headed back to the lab.  He smiled at Eric when he got back.  "We found two of the three or so leaks," he said quietly.  Eric stopped what he was doing to stare at him.  He smirked.  "Think *problem*."  He put the laptop on the table.  "Xander got that from Willow.  H wanted it."

"I can make sure if you're not here."  He looked around.  "Natalia?" he hissed.  Ryan nodded.  "And?"

"They were saying another major player but we've got the one with the personal information leaking.  That one we'll find with who tells about my eye."  He gave him a smug look.  "H and Tripp are off looking for the other one."

"That's a battle I want to see."

Ryan grinned.  "Me too."  He put on gloves.  "Where are we?"

"The ever popular and Xander-squeal inducing soil samples."

"Wonderful.  I can do those."  He dove in, doing his own evaluation.  Maxine leaned in and he smiled.  "Let me do this one?"

"It's not time for lunch yet but Natalia didn't come back after Horatio asked to speak with her.  Do we think there's a problem?"

"Yup," Eric told her.  "We'll talk at lunch."  He grinned at her.  "Don't worry about her, H has it."

"Okay.  As long as I find out sooner instead of later."  She went back to DNA.

Calleigh came in a few minutes later, closing the door.  "We found the mole?"

"One of apparently three," Eric told her.  "One personal information, one worse, and one in the lab."

"Oooooh," she hissed, shaking her head.  "I saw Ryan go up there.  Then Frank, then Natalia?"  Ryan nodded, smirking at her. "Really?"

"Part of the grant," Ryan told her.  "Including a very nice grant stipend."

"How nice?" Eric asked.

"Forty plus a monthly payment of a few grand," Ryan said quietly.

"Well, at least we didn't come cheaply," she decided. She walked out, going back to ballistics.  She was going to take the Xander cure and clean some guns for a little while.  That's when she realized she had been fully warped by Xander, but it made her happy.


Xander walked in the next morning, holding up a hand.  "The roof broke open in my closet.  These are the loosest of my hunting clothes," he explained.

"That's reasonable, Xander.   You don't look too bad," Horatio said with a smile.  "Thank you."

Xander grinned.  "Welcome.  Will I have more problems?"

"I should hope not."  He nodded and Xander followed him to his office.  "This laptop," he said before closing the door.


"I figured that.  Can you show me what's on it?"

"I'm not supposed to."

"Cooper would also like to see.  She is a very good hacker apparently.  We barely noticed someone getting into the complaint's file."  Xander grinned.  "Please."

"Fine.  But you can't keep it."

"That's fine, as long as I can use it."

"While I'm here."

Horatio smiled.  "We're working on it, Xander."  Xander plugged in the laptop and opened it, logging into the main identity.  "That's interesting.  Can you get Cooper up here?"

Xander opened the door.  "Cooper, I'm sharing Willow goodies.  Horatio said you wanted to know."

Cooper came jogging up the stairs and inside the office, slamming the door.  "Let me at it."

"Multiple ID's, DC," Xander cautioned.  "This is the main one."  He sat down to write out the different IDs for them.  He looked at Horatio.  "Can I keep one secret?"  Horatio gave him a look.  "Please?"

"Would it help us?"

"Only if I'm gone."


"Fine."  He wrote that one down too and let them have it.  "There, play.  I get into the third one down for hacking."  He got up and left them alone with the toy.  Calleigh smiled at him.  "They found out I got a toy from Willow."

She hugged him then whispered in his ear.  "Where's the artillery, Xander?"

He beamed.  "Hidden.  I'm not that dumb."

"Good."  She looked at him.  "Why are you wearing that?"

"Roof leaked in my bedroom and closet.  It's the loosest and most professional of the stuff I had stored in the trunk of hunting clothes."

She stared at the tighter than normal jeans, the tight t-shirt, and the boots.  "I think you should stay in the lab today."  He grinned and nodded.  "Good boy."  She went to find the others.  "Ryan, do you have anything on my case yet?"

"Not yet.  Still working on yours.  Mine came first, sorry."

"That's okay."  She heard a gunshot and turned, frowning when she saw Xander in the hall with a gun in his hand.  "Xander?  Dear?" she called, walking back that way.  He pointed at the guy groaning in the corner.  "Who's that?"

"Not a clue.  He came rushing in and tried to grab me.  I was doing a test fire.  It was in my hand.  Horatio!" he called.  "Someone tried to grab me so I hurt him bad."

"Get the paramedics," he called back, coming out of the office.  "Who was it?"

"Not a clue.  He grabbed me just before I was going to do a test fire in the firing pen."  He let him have the gun and the body, getting out of the way.  "At least it's only a flesh wound."

"Thank you, Xander."  He patted him down, finding an ID.  "He is a Fed."  He made the man look at him.  "You grabbed my intern?"

"We want him," he moaned.  "He shot me!"

"Feel lucky he didn't shoot you dead," Calleigh said.  "Why do you want him?"


Xander leaned in.  "I am not!"

"Not you.  You fight evil!"

"Yeah, doesn't mean I can stop all of Congress.  Why did you grab me around the neck?"

"Trying to subdue you."  He hissed and grabbed his knee.  "You shot me!"

Xander looked at him.  "Feel lucky you're not dead."  He got moved out of the way by the paramedics.  "He grabbed me around the throat, guys.  It's a flesh wound."  He walked off.  "Who do you want on this, Horatio?  I'll go get them."

"Get John or Yelina.  Frank's off today," he called after him.

"Sure."  He got onto the elevator, stabbing the button and taking a deep breath.  He got onto the detective's floor, walking over there.  "John, are you clear?"

"Not hardly.  Why?"

"Some idiot Fed grabbed me around the throat in the firing pen while I had a gun in my hand," he said blandly.  Him and a few other cops looked at him.  "Flesh wound."  He glared.  "Horatio wanted you or Yelina?"

"Yelina!" he called.  "Go help Horatio torture the Fed who grabbed Xander."

"All right."  She followed him to the elevator.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  I reacted when he grabbed me around the throat.  He wanted me to go fight evil for the Feds."  He snorted.  "I told him I couldn't take out all of congress."  She giggled, hitting the button once they got inside.  "Sorry but he grabbed me!"

"It's all right, Xander.  You were protecting yourself.  There's not enough room in there to throw someone like I heard you did to Horatio."  She smiled at him.  "I haven't gotten to work with you yet."

"I'm a good boy," he insisted, frowning some.  "Not a happy one at the moment but I'm usually a good boy."  They came off and into the back of IAB.  "He grabbed me around the throat."

"That's what he said," Stetler said grimly.  "Yelina."

"Rick," she said coolly, walking toward ballistics.  "Come on, Xander.  So I can get an account."  He followed behind her.  "You were where?"

"Firing pen.  One on the right."  She let him show her where he was.  "I was going to do a test fire.  I had just logged in the gun."  She took the log sheet to look at.  "I braced myself."  He did that, raising his empty hands.  "Took aim, and felt a hand go over my throat."  She did that and he moved back suddenly then ducked under her arm, shoved her into the wall with his other elbow, then pointed his 'gun' at her and mimicked firing.  "Bang.  On the outside of his knee."

"Which is perfectly reasonable since there's no room in here to defend yourself some other way," she agreed.  She accepted his help up.  "Thank you."  She turned and found Rick watching them.  "Isn't that reasonable to you?"

"Barely.  You talked to him?"

"No.  I stepped out, gun still in my possession, and met Calleigh coming out of Trace.  She came in to handle it while I yelled for Horatio, who came out of his office and *he* talked to him.  He told Horatio he was a Fed and he wanted me to go fight evil."  He shrugged. "I said the first stupid thing that came to my head and told him I couldn't destroy congress that way."  Yelina snickered.  "Sorry, I learned to quip while slaying back in Sunnydale.  It's how we rolled."  He shook his head.  "I'm really sorry.  I knew I wasn't going to really hurt him.  I'm a damn excellent shot."

"You are," Horatio agreed.  "I saw your qualification round."  He patted him on the back.  "No one can blame you for that idiot grabbing you, Xander."  Xander looked at him.  "Get a soda, then hit Trace while Calleigh makes sure nothing else was touched on his way to gather you."  He nodded, going to do that.


"He dealt with things that ate people, Rick."  He got a snort in return.  "You can go with him the next time if you want."  He called Tim.  "It's Horatio.  He's fine."  He hung up.  He heard Xander's phone go off and nodded for Calleigh to give it to the boy.

"I'm fine, Tim.  Because a Fed grabbed me in the firing pen and I ended up using the gun I was going to test fire to graze his knee."  He grinned.  "No, I'm okay.  I promise I'm okay, Tim.  Really."

"Boyfriend?" a listening officer asked.

Xander looked at him.  "No, roommate and primary fusser.  Old friend."  He walked his soda off.  "I'm okay, I promise I am.  Hi, Max."  He gave her a hug.  "I'm okay.  Really."

"Good, what happened?"

"The idiot Fed grabbed me.  Claims he wants me to go fight evil."

"Did you quip?" she teased with a grin.

"It slipped out.  It really did.  I told him I couldn't take out congress but it slipped out."  He looked at his phone. "Tim's having a giggle fit."  He hung up.  "I'm going to trace."  He finished his soda on the way, then grabbed his jacket and gloved up.  "Oooh, soil samples."  Ryan moved so he had a spot to work.  "Thanks, guys."

"It'll be okay, Xander."

"I hope so.  I don't want to go to jail for protecting myself."

Hagen leaned in.  "Xander, Yelina said she's very amused by you," he said with a grin.  "Are you on for field stuff?"

He shrugged. "Ask Horatio."

"Sure.  Horatio, is Xander on for field stuff?  I caught a case in his area."

"Fine," he agreed.

Xander finished what he was doing so Ryan could take over then hung up his jacket, going to grab his case from his locker.  He realized he was still in the bad, tight clothes and sighed.  "Well, if I can fight in them I can crawl in them if necessary."


Xander came back later that afternoon with a steaming bag.  He handed it to Ryan.  "Here, put this somewhere for me.  I need to scrub my hands and arms."


"It was a human and demon working together to kill the human's girlfriend.  The demon tried to protect the human.  The smoke is holy smoke."

"Sure."  He went to put it in a corner, then carefully backed away from it.  "I don't want to know."

Xander came back after scrubbing up and checking with Alexx.  "Sorry, blessed dry ice, cold killed it," he said, undoing the bag to open it.  Ryan moved his experiment down the table.  "It won't hurt you.  It's just clothes that got exposed to blessed dry ice."  John walked in.  "He done crying?"

"Nope.  Still crying that you ran after him and tackled him.  You sure you don't want to play football?"

Xander looked at him.  "I liked gay sex the last time I had it but I don't want to have it in teams.  That would mean I couldn't pick my partner."  John snickered.  Xander pouted.  "It would."  He got back to work.  "Any idea why he was going to have the plant-eating demon try to choke down his girlfriend?"

"He sobbed he and the thing were in love."

"Hmm.  Buffy syndrome."  Ryan gave him an odd look and he grinned.  "Remember me talking about Angel and Spike?"  He nodded slowly.  "She dated them both at different times, as well as one of the military guys who chipped Spike and tortured other demons, little dicked guys like that."

"Wonderful," he drawled, getting back to his own work.

Horatio walked in.  "Xander, why is that smoking?"

"Holy smoke," John said with a grin.  Horatio gave him an unamused look.  "Blessed dry ice.  Cold killed the thing the guy was in love with who helped him kill his girlfriend."

"The demon was a plant-eater too," Xander told him.  "Someone didn't do their research."  He finished swabbing the stains for samples.  He bagged them back up.  "Okay, I've got my stuff done, let's run the samples.  Ryan?"

"Let me do mine first in case yours warp the machine."


"He confessed.  Xander's stuff is just a matter of follow through," John assured him.  "As long as I get it in a reasonable time."

"I'll be done in an hour," Ryan promised.

"That's good enough."  John looked at Horatio.  "How as your morning?"

"Less eventful.  How is the plant demon?"

"Dead.  Xander babbled at it and it lunged so he grabbed the stuff from his spare case and threw it at it.  It screamed really high-pitched screams as it withered and died.  It blew away when it was all brown and nasty."  Xander tossed over a small case.  "Except for this stuff," he offered, handing it over.

Horatio looked at it.  "Heart?"

"Brain," Xander told him.  "They're not that smart.  Generally peaceful too.  We really should ask him how they got together and if he knows how to make them change personality. "   He looked over.  "They don't eat people.  They don't generally do anything but hang out and soak up the sun.  They're pretty handy things because they're good at filtering out smog.  It'd be like doing an elm tree."

"I can ask him," John agreed, going to do that.  He walked into the interrogation room, letting the patrol officers watching him go.  "So, how did you make the elm tree demon love you?"  The man looked stunned.  "I'm told they're generally peaceful, like to filter smog out of the air, and don't tend to be seen by normal people.  So, how did you do it?"

He looked at him and sneered.  "I'll never tell you."

John leaned down.  "You do realize that the guy with me is from Sunnydale, right?" he asked quietly.

"Sunnydale is old news."

John dialed Xander's phone.  "Come here please?"  He hung up and looked at him.  "We'll see what Harris says."

"Harris?" he asked, looking confused.  Xander walked in and he stared, then backed up.  "I know you, man."

"Good."  He slammed the door and put the small jar on the table.  "That's the plant demon's brain.  How in the hell did you get a peaceful, innocuous demon to help you kill?"

"I...  I don't have to talk to you!"

"You do because if I have to hunt tonight, I'm not going to be very happy," he said grimly, leaning closer.  "Do not make Detective Hagen go get my necromancy kit," he hissed.  The man went pale.  "Or go get the alert button that leads to Cleveland."  He swallowed.  "Now, how were you warping an innocent, harmless demon so it killed others?  How many more do you have?"

"This city is mine!" he sneered, leaning back.  John casually pushed him back upright.  "You can't stop me."

"Wrong," Xander said.  "Detective, can we do his body search in here?"

"Sure, won't bother anyone else."  He went to get his other kit from the lab, bringing it back.  Frank shuddered when he saw it.  "Yeah," he said dryly when he passed him.  He tapped then walked in, finding Xander had the man handcuffed to the table, chest down, and nearly naked.  "Having fun?"

"Lots."  He opened it and pulled out the top two trays.   He pulled out a small gel pen.  He shook it slowly, looking over him.  "Can you plug in my UV light?"  John did that and handed it and the glasses to him.  He put on the glasses and shined the light over him, smirking.  "Here, look at this.  He's not only got bad handwriting but he was trying to raise power to make himself a God."  He handed over the glasses.  John looked then at him.  Xander grinned and took them back, getting to work on countering things.  The man hissed and shrieked at one point.  He finally capped the pen and shined the light again.  Nothing.  Only a small mark on his side.  He put the pen up, took off the glasses again and pulled out a lighter.  Then he pulled out a wax stick, melting the top layer.  He rubbed it over the tattoo.

He blew on the stick, then smoothed his finger over it. He put it back once it was solid, then the lighter.  "Okay.  By the time the wax comes off tomorrow the magic in that tattoo will be leached out into the wax.  Dispose of it like you would a bandaid.  It's a low pain, low heat sealing wax so he will not have a burn either."  He snapped his case closed and looked at him.  Then he handed over the handcuff keys.  "There you go, Detective.  All ready for processing.  The blood all over his clothes was human and DNA is working on it."  He took off his gloves with a snap.  He called Maxine.  "Anything for me, Mom?"  He grinned.  "Thank you."  He hung up.  "It is his girlfriend's blood.  The murder weapon had the same blood on it and it was found in his trunk by Ryan just a minute ago."  He beamed.  "I'll get a report to you."  He walked out, going to write that.  One version clean for the prosecutor, one full version for the detective.


Xander walked into the magic shop he went to after work, clearing his throat.  "Excuse me, Marrin?"  She came out of the back.  "Whoever else is creating a plant demon army, tell them to stop.  Before I have to stop it."  She went pale.  "Yeah, found one.  You do know I wanted to *retire*, right?"  She went even more pale.  "Good.  How many?"

"One," she squeaked.  "Ethan."

"Figures.  Where?"  She ducked back into the office and came out with his latest order slip.  "Danka."  He walked out with it.  He got into his car to drive out there.  It was a nice neighborhood.  He parked to give him a moment to look at the house.  Then he got out and walked up to the house, knocking.  A woman answered it.  "Is Ethan here?"  She glared at him.  "He'll talk to me because I'm solving a problem for him, lady.  Where is Ethan."

"Who are you?"

"One of the ones he likes to torment."  She started to close the door but he stopped her and gave her a look.  "Now, lady.  All I need is a quick word with him."

"He told me about you people."

"I retired from that life.  Now he's making my life a living hell.  I'm here so I don't have to return the favor."  She stomped off.  "Yo, Ethan?" he called, staying there.  The sorcerer came out, glaring at him.  He motioned him closer, then slapped him hard.  "I'm retired from the life.  No matter how well I got through the classes in 'Frisco.  No matter how much I like my White Lighter.  I'm retired and working with the police department," he said slowly and clearly.  "You're pissing me off."  Ethan snorted and looked smug.  "If I have to fix that *plant* problem of yours....."  Ethan went pale.  "One of them had his buddy kill his girl," he said quietly.  Ethan moaned.  "Just quit.  I had enough problems with Spike and Dru being here.  Go bug Angel in LA.  They could use you.  They're dealing with a major bad so could use some better news."

"The world will end."

"No it won't.  If it's that bad I'm stepping in again.  I'm concentrating on my life and you guys keep pulling my ass back.  So quit."  He turned and walked back to his car, getting in and going home.  "I'm back," he called as he walked inside.  "Ethan's helping create an army of plant demons.  He says the world's going to end."  Tim moaned so he followed it.  "I told him I'd step in if that was the case but otherwise to quit making me deal with that shit."

Tim looked at him.  "That could help."

"Are you all right?"

"I caught your flu," he told him.

"Tim, you're a higher being. You can't catch the flu.  You're immune, angel dear."  Tim moaned.  "What's wrong?"  He moved closer.  "Tell me or I'm calling LA."

"I didn't ask the right questions."

Xander looked at him.  "Is that why the strange dream people came back?"

"Maybe.  What did you get?"

"I could choose you or choose you."

"Hmm."  He looked at him.  "I'll continue on."

"Tim, if they recall you there's a good chance that you won't."  Tim slumped.  "Did I do it?"

"No."  He turned to look at him.  "I was told I couldn't have you and I lusted."

Xander sighed then looked at him.  He moved closer to kiss him.  "I'd rather have you where I could lust and not have then not have you," he said gently.

"They'll assign you another one."

"No they won't.  I want to be retired.  They know that."

"You'll never fully retire, Xander.  You'll be ninety and teaching others how to stake vampires."  He gave him another kiss, stroking his cheek.  "I don't want to leave you."

"Then don't.  Stay with me."

"That's kinda not my choice."

"Apparently it's mine."  He took another kiss.  Then he backed up and looked up.  "Yo, Powers?  I want him.  However I can have him I want him.  Preferably as mine as a reward for all the shit I've had to go through thanks to you guys, if not as my partner is fine.  I'm keeping him and if you try to take him I'm coming after you."  Tim started to fade and he took off his shirt, going to get something out of his kit.  He came back and looked at Tim.  "Trust me?"

Speed looked at him and nodded. "Yeah, I do."  Xander took his hand and made a slit, then cut his own and joined them.  "You're sure?"

"I'm certain."  He took another kiss then started to chant, weathering the wind they created.  Then Xander took the dagger to something to his side, one scar he kept hidden magically, something the school had put on him.  It hurt like hell but it finally fell to the floor.  The wind stopped.  Tim was solid.   He was tearing up.  Xander pulled him closer to kiss him again. "Mine."

"Yours," he decided, smiling at him.  "Thank you."

"Fuck the Powers.  I'd rather have you than the lab, guns, magic, any of it."  He kissed im again.  "You're mine and my pack."

"I'm yours."  He hugged him.  "Can we bandage the hands now?"

Xander looked at it then at him.  "Why?"  Speed looked then grimaced.  Xander grinned.  "Fine, you can bandage instead of licking it clean."

"Blood is nasty, Xander."  He let their hands go, slowly moving back.  Nothing happened.  He sighed in pleasure.  "I guess I am back."

"I guess you are."  He winked before getting the first aid box, letting Speed do his hand so he could do his.  Then Speed got them something to drink.  "You know, you could see if eating my cooking is good."

"I don't want to die yet, Xander.  I've got a few good years left, I hope."  Xander kissed him again, pulling him into his lap.  "I like those construction worker muscles," he offered with a grin, kissing him harder.  Xander moaned into his mouth, hands going down to steady his hips.  Of course, someone knocked on the door.  "Fuck."

Xander stood up, letting Speed have the chair, going to answer it.  "Hi, boss."  He let him inside.

"What happened to your hand?"

"The Powers decided to be unfair and try to take Tim.  He's mine now."

Horatio smiled.  "Good.  I like that decision.  Is he all right?"

"He'd better stay all right."  He looked up.  "Otherwise I'll get all of your protectors and then what'll you do?"  Tim yelped.  "You okay, honey?"

"Don't call me pet names, Xander."  He came out and handed Horatio a beer.  "Here, go away."

"Fine, I'll talk to him tomorrow."  He walked out, letting them close the door behind him.  He heard Speed cackle and Xander laugh and it was good for him.  He was happy for them.  He called the others.  "Guys, let's leave Tim and Xander alone tonight, okay?  They just worked things out."  He hung up and went to his house, going to watch his favorite movie and enjoy his gifted beer.


To part 3: