An idea came across on the Sylum list for a trio of telepathic CSI...  Well, how about an offshoot to demon ballistics?  ::groan::


Damn Good.

Xander walked into his advisor's office, frowning at her.  "What?" he asked, sounding a bit cranky.

"Eat your own cooking?" she taunted without looking up.

"No, I got a sudden dream to come see you?"  She gave him an odd look so he stared back.  "Yeah, me.  Why?"

"I knew we had *one*," she said quietly, looking him over.

"Uh-huh.  That's why I lost my eye, so I'd be able to see," he said bitterly.  He flopped down in her student chair, looking at her.  "So why the summoning?"

"Because we need you to use your special skills and combine them with your major, Xander."

"Why?" he asked cautiously.  "Can't I just play with the guns?"

"Now and then we all need the helping hand."  She looked him over again.  "How are you staying in shape?"

"Combat," he said bluntly.  She gaped.  "I work with the city's defenders against the strange crap."

"The Powers....."

"Loathe me.  I feel the same way.  Again, why?"

"Because....."  She pulled out something, handing it over.  "They have need of one but they won't admit it."

Xander looked at it then at her.  "I can't do all that.  Now and then I get a vision of something coming up, usually world ending.  I'm not a micro vision person."

"Can it be retuned?"  He gave her an odd look.  "Not like I have a clue."

Xander looked up.  "You wanna answer her?" he called.  Nothing happened.  He coughed. "Now, please. You owe my ass," he said quietly.  "Or else I'm feeding Angel sick blood and sending him to you."  A book fell on the table.  "Thank you.  Go back to your preordained boredom."  He flipped open the book, finding what he needed, handing it over.  "There."

She read it, then groaned.  "No retuning?"

"Nope.  Not without a boon from the Powers, who loathe me.  It seems when they ordained my life they didn't realize how stubborn and strong it was going to make me."

"Oh."  She handed it back.  "Anything else you can do?"

"Be possessed often.  Fire guns."

"Fine.  If you get cases like that would you help?"

"Of course.  Not that I'm expecting it unless someone trips over something that'll end the world.  Then I'll show up with my nifty sword and crossbow collection.  Maybe even some artillery.  Who knows."  He stood up, tucking the book under his arm.  "Need me for anything else?"

"Not yet, Xander.  Thank you."


"Do we have another?"

Xander gave her another odd look.  "What makes you think we sit around and talk about this stuff?"  He walked off shaking his head.  One of his other teachers gave him an odd look.  "Got asked what I do in my off-time," he said dryly.  That teacher shuddered.  He had saved her a few times since they had met.  She's the one who had suggested he could do what he liked doing and get paid for it by a major city or corporation.  He got outside, going to his car, taking the book back to where the Oracles were hiding.  He walked through their portal, handing the female figure the book back.  "Thanks for the lending.  She wanted a micro visionary if you know any who want to be ballistics techs."  He walked off humming, leaving them looking confused and flustered.  They really did hate him.  He made it back to Wolfram and Hart, grinning at Angel.  "They wanted a micro-visionary if we know any who want to be CSI."

Angel whimpered, walking off shaking his head.  "Go away," he moaned.

"Dose that mean I can go play with Fred in the lab?" he called after his vampire boss.

"I don't care. Don't end the world and if you do, don't let me know first so I won't stop you two."

"Cool," he breathed, going down there.  "Oh, Winifred, my dear evil mentor, we have free reign as long as we don't tell Angel we're going to end the world first."

She looked over from her chemistry experiment.  "What did you do?" she asked, frowning like a good mother should.  She had adopted Xander.  He needed a mothering figure.

"My teacher wanted a micro-visionary for an open forensics spot."  He put on his lab coat and glasses, coming over to help her.  "Hmm.  Funny putty?"  She smiled and nodded, letting him hold the beaker.  "I had to borrow a book from the Powers but I gave it back already."  She nearly dropped the beaker she was pouring from.  "What?"

"You and the Oracles need to stay apart," she said bluntly.  "Please?  They keep trying to end the world when you go to see them."

Xander cackled.  "That's beyond even my powers," he said happily.   "I told them what she needed so they could route someone this way if necessary.  She needed someone to talk to spirits hanging around at crime scenes and get spot visions like they did on Profiler."  She whimpered.  "I pointed out I'm a macro-visionary, not a micro.  If I see it, I'll need artillery."

"Did you eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast again?" she demanded.

"No, I had a bagel with you," he reminded her, grinning. "Why?"

"How many candy bars did you have on the way to the college?"  He shook his head slowly.  "You promise?"  The other techs in there gave her an evil look.  "Xander?"

"I promise, no candy on the way there, Fred.  Really.  I'm simply in a good mood."  He beamed.  "Oooooh, look what I learned how to make."  He grabbed some test tubes and got to work on making a different thing, then added her putty.

"Um, Xander, demonic putty," she complained, but it was too late.  The ball was formed and he bounced it, letting it bounce around the room.  She watched, following it with her head as it kept bouncing.  A few test tubes and things got broken.  The mass spec got a dinged screen.  Then someone wisely let it out of the room so it could go play with others in the building.  "He's sorry," Fred called.   "He won't do it again."

Xander went to grab the broom.  "My bad.  Didn't know she was mixing demonic putty, thought it was regular fun putty."  He got to work cleaning up his mess.

Fred got a call a few minutes later from someone.  "Winifred...."  She listened, then giggled.  "No, Xander learned how to make it but he didn't know I was making new demonic putty instead of the regular putty.  Sorry, Angel."  She hung up.  "Xander, the guards herded it toward the senior offices.  Go retrieve your toy.  Angel said it was a pitiful attempt to take over the world."

"Until you light it and then it's a pretty explosion," he said with a manic grin.

One of the other researches pulled open her drawer, handing Xander a candy bar.  "Go away, Xander.  Please?"  She took the broom, using it to give him a shove.  She wouldn't directly touch him because she had heard he tainted half-demons and former demons into making them obsess over him.  "Pretty please?"

He walked out nibbling the candy bar all the way up the elevator ride to the senior partner's offices.  He caught his ball, grinning at Angel, taking his last bite.  "You know, if I add electricity, it'll go boom very prettily."  He walked off, handing the wrapper to a guard.  "I got told to quit distracting the germ people."  He went to play somewhere else instead.  The weapons locker was *his* area and no one could run him out. He brought a requisition back.  "Sorry, meant to hand that in last night."  He grinned at Angel.

"Why do we need a rocket launcher?" Angel asked tiredly.

"Because the next demon, or the one after that, is fifty foot tall and likes to lick buildings, then try to blow them.  It'll freak out people since it's a daytime demon.  We can explode it pretty easily when it comes out of the ground or even blow it back into the ground so it can't come up here.  Then it'd go bother San Diego but I'd tell them how to deal with it too since I did an internship down there."  He beamed and walked off whistling.

Angel put his head down on the desk, putting both arms over it.  "Wesley," he said into the wood.  "Come here please?"

The guard leaned in.  "Did you want Wes, Angel?"  He nodded, pounding his head on the desk.  "I'll find him and have him sent in."  He called his boss, who forwarded that to the library.  Wesley came off the elevators a few minutes later.  "Harris gave him a requisition for the next threat, Wes."

"Wonderful."  He walked in, looking it over. "What's coming?"

"Fifty foot tall daytime demon," the guard told him.  Angel moaned.  "Xander said it liked to lick and, um, suck on buildings.  That it could be blown back into the ground or the hole destroyed so it'd go to San Diego instead."

"Hmm."  He walked the requisition off to look up the demon.  He came back an hour later with the copied notes, handing them and the requisition to Angel.  "We'll need it."

"Doesn't he have one?" Angel complained.

"In his personal stash but you know how the boy feels about his weapons, Angel," Wesley chastised.  "He'd pout for weeks if he had to use his personal collection for something as trivial as this."

Angel looked up.  "Can't we make him go away?  Cleveland?  Africa, anywhere?"

"No, we need him.  No on else has as much explosives and ballistics experience, plus time in with various police departments as he does," he chastised gently.  "It'll be horrible when we lose him."  Xander leaned in.  "Yes, you, dear."

"I'm almost graduated, why?"

"I was telling him we'd be struggling when we lost you to your real future," he said, smiling at his beaming grin.  "Oh."  He handed over the ball from his pocket.  "Bounced into the jars we keep in there, Xander.  Do be more careful."

"Sorry.  If I add electricity it 'splodes," he said proudly.  "I learned how in chem class."

"Wonderful," Wesley agreed.

"If I ask, would you go on vacation or something?" Angel demanded, looking at the young man.

"No.  I have class," Xander said, sounding like it should've been apparent.  "I can't take off until spring break and the convention for interns so I can find an internship and then later a job."

"Job?" Angel asked weakly.

"Yes, Angel, that's why I'm going to college," he said dryly.  "So I can get a job.  Support myself.  Retire from all this fun and games and play with guns all day?  Sounding familiar?"  Angel glared at him.  "If you try to send me away now, I'll be three credits short of graduation and I want to graduate.  I want to shove it back in the face of my former friends who dumped me here for only having one eye.  They didn't manage more than a year, even the really smart one.  I'm going to actually graduate near the top of my field, if not the college as a whole.  I had to work my ass off for my grades and I'm graduating this spring.  You can get rid of me then."

"When is she coming, Xander?" Wesley asked.

Xander shrugged.  "Not like I get a time code to visions, Wes.  All I know is that she'll be here, it'll be bright and sunny, and a lot of traffic is going to back up, plus an emergency won't get taken care of, which will endanger thousands of lives over the long run since it's a chemical spill."

"Okay.  Do we know when?"

"I suggest we get the rocket launcher and sit on her hole," he offered.  "Did the books say she came up during a particular time of year?"

"Not really.  When it's warm."

"It's always warm.  LA is next to hell."

"Point," Wesley admitted. "This one is next?"

"Or the one after.  For some reason I think it's the one after but I'm not sure."

"Thank you."

"Why can't we use yours?" Angel demanded.

"My toys, my babies, and I will smack you around and then paint you pink before shipping you off naked to Buffy in Cleveland," he said, staring him down.  "My babies."  He went back to his weekly inventory.

"Fine," he grumbled.

"When he leaves we'll loose his collection totally I'm afraid," Wesley said.  "Unless you wanted to buy some of it from him."  He walked off.  "I'll try to get a more precise time code for her to sprout," he promised as he walked.

"Thank you."  He thumped his head on the desk again, hoping silently that Xander went far, far away on his internship.  He didn't want to deal with him anymore.  It'd been four and a half years.


Xander looked at Wesley then at the cop who had grumbled but followed them out there.  "See, big demon head," he said dryly, pointing at the hair coming up through the huge hole in the ground.  "That's her, right, Wes?  Not one of the major worms?"

"They don't have hair that I know of and none have lavender hair, Xander."

"Okay, so aim at the nose?"  He flipped open the sight on his RPG missile launcher, sighting along her head.  "Hey, turn around!" he called.  The demon did it and he fired, blowing her head up.  The rest of her fell back into the hole.  He went to look down in there.  "Ewww.  Nasty green brains.  She won't regrow, right, Wes?"

"No, nor will she be detrimental to the ground water supply," he said, closing the book.  He smiled at the officer.  "Plant some trees or something.  It can only help the environment.  I'm partial to maples."

"I like birch and lighter trees, maybe a few pine trees since we don't get many evergreens naturally around here," Xander told him.  He shook his hand with a smile.  "You're welcome.   Now, remember, there's going to be a chemical spill later on today or tomorrow.  She would've kept you guys from answering.  Something about a cargo container on the Ventura?"  That got a single nod from the wary looking officer.  Xander slid on his sunglasses.  "Don't worry.  I'm actually studying to be one of you guys, one of the guys in the lab," he said proudly, putting the launcher over his shoulder and walking off with Wesley.

The cop walked over to look in the hole, calling his boss over the radio.  "Dispatch, put me through to Detective Greens please?"he asked calmly.  "Or have him call my cell.  This is Pretty."  He hung up, staring at the unmoving huge body and the green bits.  His cellphone rang.  "Sir, ran into someone....  How did you know?"  He smiled.  "Yeah, big, huge ugly body that had purple hair until they blew her head off.  He said we're going to have a chemical leak today on the Ventura, today or tomorrow.  A cargo container was what he said.  Yeah, Harris, how did you know?"  He smiled at the reassurance they all felt that way.  "The Brit guy....  Okay, him, said it wasn't going to contaminate anything and to plant trees.  He suggested maple, the Harris kid suggested pine or birch.  Did you know he's in a program to become a lab tech?"  He nodded.  "Yeah, exactly. Thank you.  Can I have today off?  I...want to go find God again."  He smiled.  "Thanks, boss."  He hung up and took his cruiser back to the station, going to find a good priest.  His had never said anything about things like that.  His boss even had a church for him to go to first.  He hugged him before walking off clutching the name and address.  No one in Sunday School had ever mentioned demons were huge and liked to blow the buildings for fun.


Xander woke up, holding his head.  "Ow," he whispered.  He made himself sit up, still holding his head.  "Where in the hell am I?"  He saw someone come to the door of his room and coughed. "Get in here?"  Someone peeked in, looking confused.  "Where am I?"

"Dude, how did you sneak in here?"

"I have no idea where here is, dude.  I'm from LA.  I'm used to the strange but really.  I went to bed last night perfectly sober and straight and woke up... here.  Which is where?"

"You're in Miami."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at himself, noticing his t-shirt had writing.  He patted himself down, finding his glasses so he could read it.  He didn't normally need it but his head was throbbing.  He frowned, taking it off to look at.  "What the hell?"

"That's my question," he said.  "Let me get the boss?"

"Please.  And check if someone filed a missing persons on me or something?"


"Harris.  Xander Harris.  Alexander if you want to be fully named and all that. From LA.  I'm in UCLA in the CSI program."

"Well, you're in a lab," he offered, walking off, closing the door behind him.  "Horatio!" he yelled as he walked.  "Problems!"  He came out of his office.  "You're going to want to talk to this one in person."  He came down the stairs from his office.  "Um, just got called into the storeroom by the guy who just woke up in there?  He said he's a CSI trainee from UCLA and he went to bed last night in LA, specified straight and sober.  He asked me to look for missing persons cases?"

"Please do.  Let me go talk to him."

"Sure, boss.  Better you than me.  His head's pounding like a tequila nightmare."  He walked off to do that for him.  This was getting really strange.

Horatio tapped then walked in.  "You are?"

Xander looked at him, handing him the shirt.  "I woke up with that on me.  I'm Xander Harris, out of the UCLA program."  He squinted a bit.  "I think I'm supposed to interview with you at the internship convention coming up," he admitted.  "I'm a ballistics tech in training."  He scooted around on the box, crossing his legs, going back to holding his head. "How did I get here?"

"I do not know.  You weren't in here earlier when someone came in to get something."  He read the shirt, then looked at him.  "Your idea of a joke?"

"I have many t-shirts with sayings.  One that says I'm yours isn't one of my collection.  I go for smartass and mentally distracting ones really."  He looked at him again.  "Please don't hold this against me unless somehow I did this?  I know my boss wanted me to go away a few times recently.  Speaking of which, is it Wednesday yet?  I've got a chem test then."

"It's actually Friday.  When did you go to sleep?"

"Um, Monday."  He looked at his wrists.  "No watch."  He patted himself down, finding it in his pocket with his wallet.  "Huh."  He looked at the diploma.  "How did that happen?"  He handed it over.  "This is either the best prank ever or something really bad's going to happen."

"Okay."  He looked it over, taking his ID as well.  "Well, Mr. Harris..."

"Xander, please.  We're in the same field even if I am a trainee.  You don't have to treat me like a civie."


Xander looked at him for a minute then shook his head.  "Not standard.  Ever hear of a lawfirm called Wolfram and Hart?"  He shuddered.  "I work for their LA branch since it was taken over by the city's paranormal defenders.  The last I knew, I helped blow up a huge demon, went home to a decent dinner cooked by Winifred, then went to bed after a cup of cocoa."  He looked miserable, he could tell by the look on the older man's face.  "I'm sorry you got dragged into the strange crap.  I know the guys in LA hate it when we do this to them."

"No, it's better to get this straightened out.  Come up to my office, Xander?"

"Okay."  He followed him, squinting at the light. "I thought LA was next to hell.  Apparently the sun's on this side of the US."

Horatio snickered. "It can be," he admitted, letting him into his office.  "Want to call your friends?"  Xander found his cellphone, waving it.  "Go ahead."

"Sure."  Xander pushed the button he needed.  "Wesley, why the fuck am I in another city?" he asked quietly.  "Sorry for swearing, Lieutenant, but this one deserves it."  He listened to him.  "Not funny, Wes.  I'm not a micro one."  He listened, then groaned, handing it over.  "Here, someone gave him a better explanation and you deserve the headache too."

He took the cellphone.  "Who am I speaking to?"  He listened.  "I've seen your agency in the past, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce.  I'm Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade Crime Lab."

"They fired him years ago," Xander said, waving a hand.  He went back to holding his head.  "He works with us now."

"Why did your friend wake up in our store room with a diploma he thinks he doesn't have yet?"  He blinked.  "He did?"

"I did not!" he said firmly.  "I did not make a wish.  I know I'm not missing that much time."  He stood up with a blonde woman walked in.  "You're Duquesne.  Xander Harris, out of the UCLA program," he said, shaking her hand.  "Sorry, a bit of strange stuff that somehow made me move from LA out here without waking me up."  He sat down again, watching Horatio listen to Wesley.  He winced at the incredulous look and then the angry look.  "Wes, this is my career, he's in the same field," he called.  The first guy walked in.  "Am I missing?"

"You were."  He handed it over to him.  "Know them?"

He looked.  "Yeah, two of my teachers," he admitted, handing it over to Horatio.  "Ask him how I got my diploma when I needed three credit hours and I wasn't due to graduate until this spring?"

"He wanted to know about graduation?"  He listened then nodded once.  "I think he meant college.  His mini-diploma was in his wallet, sir."  He nodded, sitting down to hold his head.  "Thank you.  Yes, we'll figure that out later."  He hung up, tossing the phone back.  "His explanation left a lot to be desired."

"Did it mention Powers, Oracles, or my teachers?"

"All three.  He'll fax the pertinent documents to us in a few moments.  What can I do for you, Calleigh?"

"I heard we had an intruder."  Xander raised his hand.  "How did you get in?"

"I have no clue," he said honestly.  "I have God's own headache after she gave birth to the world and I have no clue how I'm here instead of LA.  That's what we're trying to figure out.  Would you like to yell at my friends?"

"Maybe later."  She smiled at him.  "Relax, we're all good at what we do."

Xander nodded.  "I know I am.  I was second in my program until ...whatever happened."  He flicked a hand again.  "No offense but I didn't want to meet you this way.  I wanted to meet you at the internship convention like a normal person.  I was going to retire from the strange stuff."

"I understand," she promised. "I'll leave you guys alone to talk."  She walked out, taking the AV tech with her.  "Do a background on him," she said quietly.  He nodded, going to do that.  She went to tell the others what little they knew.

Xander looked at Horatio.  "I would've bowed at your feet at the convention to be her intern," he admitted quietly.  "I know this has blown it all to hell and back."

"Quite possibly," he admitted.  "He's faxing out your resume and transcripts too.  He's calling your teachers as well."

"Sure.  Maybe they know how I graduated when I had a chem test two days ago."  Horatio smiled.  "I really did not want this to happen."

"As long as it wasn't alcohol or drugs, Xander, they can't really hold it against you."

Xander snorted.  "I live in reality.  No department wants to deal with the strange crap and me retiring means I get to get a job in my actual fields."

"Double major?"

"Major, two minors," he admitted.  His head started to throb again, making him hold it.  "I want the little tinker in there to stop."  He winced as the vision started, grabbing onto the chair to give himself something to keep him centered.  It flashed and he came down, slowly panting through the pain until he could grab a pen and some of the paper on the desk, writing it out before he lost it.  "No wonder I got sent."  He looked at him, letting him have the notes.  "That's the strange crap in my life.  You'll need a sword," he said quietly, going back to holding his head.


"I speak from five years' experience.  Not even morphine will help, thank you anyway."  He gave him a weak smile.  "Now I know why Cordy kept trying to rip her own head off when she had these."  He went back to holding onto his forehead until the after-pains stopped and he quit feeling dizzy.  The guy from earlier came in, handing Horatio something.  He squinted at him.  "Transcripts, Wesley's babbling information in Watcher speak, or a background check?"

"Background check," he admitted.  "You really are a ballistics tech?"

"With a minor in trace and a minor in field work," he admitted dryly.  "This just ruined most of my working chances and there's a higher power somewhere who's going to be hearing from me soon."  That got a snicker as the guy walked out.  "Before you ask, yes I can get to them.  They hate me but I can find them again."

Horatio looked at him then at the background check.  "Interesting."  Xander reached over to take it, snorting, shaking his head.  "Not you?"

"Buffy.  Not me."  He waved a hand at the computer, getting a nod.  Xander came over to open a few windows, pulling up his own resume, skills sheets, transcripts, and evaluations.  "I put them all on a website but I had a packet made up for the convention.  This way they could refer back to it if they needed to.  It's pretty simple but it lists everything.  Basically, I got bored one night and Fred was being helpful and nosy at the same time.  Before you ask, yes, I did have tutors.  I don't do well in lecture classes.  Hands-on is my thing."  He got into another screen, pulling something else up.  "This is a classified file.  It was recently updated by a hacker I know with my known proficiencies as far as *she* knew.  Which isn't saying much, but it links to my other one and I can't remember the page the demons use for my profile."  He got into that one.  "That's my real profile for what I've been doing."  He went back to his chair.  "They didn't discount me like some did."

Horatio looked it all over, then finally looked at him.  "You've had a lot of combat experience, Xander."  He nodded at that, looking calm.  "You wanted to go into the field?"

"No, I wanted to be a ballistics tech who could fill in now and then," he said honestly.  "Now and then you need a guy like me in the field and since I can handle cases that most departments don't want to admit to having I thought it'd be a good cover and a good way to get employed after I legitimately graduated.  My minor in trace was my first idea and I do love doing the work, though I do need more experience in there.  My teachers have been a lot of theoretical people.  I've done all the time I could but I know there's things I still need to learn.  Ballistics is like my bitch," he said honestly.  "I eat, sleep, and live ballistics back at Wolfram and Hart and here.  My personal collection are my babies."  That got a smile.  "Someday I wanted to be a tech in a small department raising a dog or two."

"This hasn't totally blown it, Xander.  Trust me."

Xander gave him a look.  "Again, Lieutenant, even if you don't tell anyone this'll leak out and no department wants a guy who deals with this stuff openly.  I've scared more than my fair share of LAPD guys even though their labs would beg to have me.  San Diego too.  I'm realistic, not idealistic anymore."

Horatio looked at him. "What do you think happened?"

"My teacher put out a special call for those with gifts," he said quietly.  "She was saying Orlando needed a person who had the profiling, vision, and other skills I had to work within the system and the lab to help them with their recent surges of oddness.  I'm not sure if anyone else got called to talk about it, but I did.  I pointed out I don't have spot visions.  I have macro level visions.  If I see it, something's going to try to take over or end the world.  Or at least a city."  That got a nod.  "The Powers, those people over those of us who fight the way I used to, don't like me.  I've screwed their plans many times by surviving, winning, and going on.  I've screwed so many prophecies I'm now listed as a hazard to some of them."

"I saw that on the one site," he admitted, smiling a bit.  "I can't see that as a bad thing."

"It is when they're playing a giant chess game with humanity," he said bluntly.  "I'm the power behind one of the groups and the former power behind another group until they dumped me for being injured," he admitted.  "I've screwed their moves all to hell a few times."

"Which does upset the plans they had.  Would it upset the natural order?"

"I've helped keep the natural order," he said quietly.  "I've been fighting the bad things since tenth grade, Lieutenant.  If it's tried to take over the west coast, I was probably there, all but twice I think."  That got a small smile.  "They were going to use it to promote a stronger line in the future.  Instead I kept the old line in power and kept them winning.  They literally hate me with everything in themselves.  If I have a kid, it's going to go to them by their decision.  It'll be the one to topple the old order probably but it'll go to them.  They've screwed up things, they've sent things to attack us during important events, like finals.  And I still kept going," he said with a small, bitter sounding laugh.  "Now they do this to screw up my future since I did it to theirs."  He looked up.  "I'm so going to get rid of you guys," he hissed.  He looked at him again.  "Sorry, ongoing vendetta.  I didn't mean to lay that on you."

"No, it sounded like you needed to get that out."

"Yeah, but a former prospective boss isn't the person to do that to.  That's what journals are for."

"Sometimes a real person helps.  A priest?"

"They don't particularly like us.  We kinda upset their view of the world.   Our kind don't want to, usually, take over the world.  They just want their own spot in it.  The Watchers Council and the Catholic Church have had a long lover's quarrel.  Since about .... 380 CE or so."  That got a nod.  "The Masons like us from what I'm told.  Otherwise."  He shrugged.  "We do what we do because we have to."  He stood up.  "I have money, can I go get a soda?  I'm babbling and that's a sign of needing caffeine."

"It's downstairs.  I'll walk you so no one starts to ask the odd questions."  He stood up, walking him down there.  "You were going to apply with us?"  Xander nodded.  "Second in UCLA's program is very good, Xander.  It's a tough program.  Tougher than our local one."  Xander gave him a gentle smile.  "Even with a tutor now and then that's a good accomplishment."

"Yeah, and now I'm going to find something else to do," he said dryly.  He put money into the machine and it spit it out.  He sighed and used the side of the machine to iron it out.  It didn't work then either.  He found some coins and got it that way instead, walking back with him.  "I'm still waiting on Wes's explanation."

"As I am.  I'm looking forward to it actually," he admitted.  He walked him past the front desk.  "Is there a fax from LA?"  It was handed over.  "Thank you."  He walked off reading it.  He smiled at the cover page and the praise it had for Xander's working with them.  He handed that over and Xander crumpled it.  "It was a good thing."

"If they helped I'm going to go off on them like I did the friends who dumped me," he said quietly.

"How did they dump you?"  He looked at him.  "By the way, I did see about your injury."

"Yup, that's why they dumped me," Xander said bitterly.  "They decided I was helpless, left me in LA when they went to Cleveland.  I proved myself worthy in LA and it only took them four and a half years to quit appreciating me there.  It took about three in Sunnydale.  I shouldn't be surprised."  He felt like crying; his whole future had just been tanked by one imperious decision by the Powers.  They were so getting it when he found the Oracles again.  They walked back into the office, finding someone in there. He nodded at him, sitting down.  "Anything decent that won't make you swear?"

"I try hard not to do that in public."

"So do I but it's one of those days, ya know?"  He took another sip, putting the can down next to him.  He looked at the new, scowling person.  "You are?" he asked calmly, holding out a hand.  "Xander Harris."

"Xander, that's our Chief of Police," Horatio said.  "Sir, we're working on how he got in here.  He's a CSI intern and we think his friends had something to do with it."

"I can see the t-shirt."

Xander took it off and turned it inside out before putting it back on.  "I woke up in it," he said dryly.  "I'm going to give the LAPD a few new cases when I get back there for this."

"Are you sure you want to do that?"  He leaned on the front of the desk.  "I saw what Horatio had pulled up on you."  Horatio looked at him.  "I'm well aware of Orlando's problem, Horatio."  He looked at Xander again.  "You know that life," he said quietly.

"I was kinda hoping to retire from it when I graduated," he admitted.  He looked at him. "I know a good bit, but not everything about it.  Even I need research time now and then, sir.  Right now, I'm swearing at a few higher beings."

He nodded.  "I think that's pretty reasonable."  He tapped the paper.  "When?"

"The leaves were really crisp, like new leaves in spring crisp if that makes sense.  Other than that I don't get a time code usually.  I look at my watch and it was about six at night.  The one I have in my visions is my old one, no date function."

"Can you change that?"

"I've been trying since I got the first one," he said honestly.  "It's very hard when you're somewhere that only has one season."

"Well, we have two.  Hurricane and summer."  Xander cracked a small smile at that.  "You're an intern?"

"That depends on how I got the mini-diploma," he told him.  "The last time I knew I had three credits left and then I'm an intern candidate."

"Hmm.  Horatio?"

He went back to looking over the papers.  "It says here they gave examples of his work out- of-school to get him those credit hours," he said, looking at Xander.  "Chemistry, Geography, and History?"

"Work in the lab, not a clue, and research stuff?  Maybe?" he said, shrugging a bit.  "Not a clue.  The last I knew it was a Monday."  He looked at the Chief.  "I'm a realistic person, sir.  The best I can hope for is that Horatio doesn't hold this against me when I interview.  Even subconsciously though he's got to know that this stuff will happen and I'll end up having bad things around me.  Especially if I date."

"I saw that mention too," Horatio said, looking at him.  "Serial killer?"

"Sixteen bodies. All looking like my former friends who're in Cleveland.  Can't wait until the next one starts on the people I knew in LA."

"Ah."  He went back to reading, finally handing it over to Xander.  "Summarize that please."  He looked at his boss.  "I don't know how we're going to handle this, sir."

"The convention for interns is when?" he asked.

"Two weeks," Xander told him.  "Unless I'm skipping weeks?"  Horatio shook his head.  "All I'd ask is that he not tell anyone about this mess, sir."

"Do you want to work in Miami, son?"

Xander looked at him.  "Yeah but with how many people know how I got here it's going to freak a lot of people out, sir.  I'd hate to give the department mental problems or make them not want to work with me."

"I think that's reasonable.  You're willing to go to the convention, interview normally?"

"Of course.  I plan on it," he promised.  He gave him a small grin.  "I'm hoping like hell this hasn't totally ruined my future.  Not like I'm asking for much.  Being able to play with guns every day, have a dog, maybe not taint a woman or maybe find a nice boyfriend someday instead.  Not that big of an order on the cosmic scale."  He went back to reading, frowning at it.  "Could he have put this any drier," he complained, grabbing a pen and the notepad to take notes, marking a line under the vision.  He finally handed it over to them.  "Here.  Basically the Powers sent me because they decided Miami's going to be the next hot spot of activity and there's not a fireman in sight who can put it out."  That got a nod.  "So they sent me down here to stop the big events, let the Overlord handle the small ones, and to get me away from LA before I ended up in one of the epic battles with Angel which could kill us all."

"All right," Horatio agreed.  "To do that they did what?"

"Apparently teleported my sleeping body into your storeroom.  Wes mentioned that they might have set up somewhere for me to live.  Not sure yet.  Which means I'd have to figure out how to work an internship and live down here to handle things.  Maybe I'll go biochem instead.  It pays well even if it is boring crap."

"Xander, we'll let you interview like a normal tech," Horatio promised.

Xander looked at him.  "Can you honestly say this won't cloud how you judge me?" he asked quietly.

"No but seeing your qualifications I have to believe there's a reason."

Xander smiled.  "Thank you for the compliment, Horatio."  He stood up.  "I need to go find where Wesley stuck me so I can make sure my collections came with me."

"Collections?" the Chief asked.

Xander smiled.  "My guns are my babies, sir, that's why I'm a ballistics tech in training."  That got a smile and a nod.  "With your leave, Lieutenant?  I'll call later to let you know where I am so you can ask more questions when we have them."  That got a nod and Horatio handed over his card.  "Thank you.  Sir."  He nodded, shaking his hand.  "I'm sorry this stuff had to infect you."  He walked off, taking the forms and his soda with him.  He ran into Calleigh again.  "Don't worry.  We're getting it straightened out."

"What happened?"

"My friends and their bosses decided I needed to be here to help you guys with stuff instead of being in LA helping them with stuff," he said.  "As for how I got into the building?  Not a clue yet."  She nodded.  "I'm going to see if they set me up somewhere or not.  Thank you for being kind earlier."  He walked off, heading outside to call him.  "Wesley," he said calmly.  Wesley let out a verbal flinch at that.  "Where am I heading?"  He nodded.  "Might be a good idea, yes," he said dryly.  "Now.  Then we'll talk."  He hung up, going over to flag down the cab that had let someone off.  He got in.  "I was told to go to 112 Hacienda?"  That got an odd look.  "I don't know, dude.  I'm new in town.  That's where I was told to go."  That got a nod and the cabbie drove him down to a fairly scummy part of town.  He paid the fare and got out, looking at the building.  It wasn't huge but it was an apartment building.  He walked inside, knocking the door that said manager.  "I'm Xander Harris, I was told to come here?  That someone had rented me an apartment?"  He grunted, handing over some keys.  "Okay, how much am I paying a month in rent?  He didn't give me any details."

"Prepaid all year, kid.  You're in 2b.  Upstairs on the left."  That got a nod.  "Don't play your music too loud.  Don't do anything that'll get us noticed by the cops.  I hate repairing things when they kick in doors."

"I'm a CSI trainee," he said with a small grin.  "It'd be friends if they do come over."  That got a nod.  "Did they send my stuff?"  He nodded.  "Okay, thank you.  Have a good day.  Let me know if I'm annoying please."  He walked off frowning, going up to his apartment.  His clothes were there.  A good selection of books were there.  More notes were there in Fred's handwriting this time.  Babbling but he could understand that.  He looked around then called back.  "Wesley, where's my babies?" he asked coolly.  "Now, Wesley.  If I have to come out there and get them, Angel won't have to worry about the last huge battle for the world.  Yes, I'm entirely serious, Wes.  Think about it and then compare how I got to LA," he said dryly.  "Now, where's the rest of my shit."  He hung up and paced, looking in the kitchen.  Plenty of frozen stuff.  His bedroom had sheets that smelled clean.  He heard a few thumps and went to look, finding a few new boxes.  "And the rest too," he called quietly.  "They've got a monster coming too, Wes, dear.  I can hide the other stuff."  A magic book landed and he groaned, going to set up things for his storage area back in LA.  He had been studying magic with Fred for a while.  Not that Wes knew....  Oh well.


Horatio knocked that night, looking at the well furnished apartment.  He walked in, looking around.  "Bad furniture?" he asked, pointing at the tarp.

"Things  you probably shouldn't see," he admitted.  "Welcome to my temporary home.  Don't worry about the furniture, it's mine.  It was leftover from Sunnydale."  He heard something thump in the bedroom and went to look, frowning at the briefcase.  He opened it, groaning a bit.  "Fine.  Thank you.  Where's the rest?"  Another one thumped down.  "And this is for?" he called. A  note floated down.  "You took my kids?"  He looked up.  "Not a chance you needed it, Wesley."  Another one dropped and this time with a bigger padded case.  "Thank you.  I hate being mean."  He looked inside, shoving that one under the bed.  The two briefcases got put onto the dresser and he walked out.  "Sorry, getting the rest of my babies from LA is proving a bit difficult.  I'll have to head back there and take them back most likely."

Horatio sat down, looking at him.  "Anything new?"  He got handed the other notes.  "This one's a lot less dry."

"Fred babbles like I do," he admitted, smiling a bit.  "I have some milk and soda, want some?"

"No thank you."

"Okay.  I'm going to go arrange things while you read."  He went back to it, walking through the small portal he had put up, carrying out his other things.  Angel was in for a very rude shock in the morning.  A few floating spells and he was done.  He looked around the warehouse then grinned, skipping out to turn in his keys.  They gave him the rest of his deposit back and he carried it back through, letting everything else drop.  He flopped onto the bed, groaning a bit.  "I hate magic."  He waved when Horatio looked in.  "Getting into my warehouse in LA."  He relaxed again, yawning.  "I had to stretch some boundaries today, sorry."

"Don't be.  It's probably better you're away from your friends if they don't want you around."  He looked at a case.  "That's an Israeli RPG, Xander."

"I know that.  It comes in handy now and then."  He gave him a long look then a blink.  "It's kinda been necessary now and then in the life.  It handles a lot of bigger things that claim they can't be destroyed by any weapon man made.  It's also easier to store one for future use than it is to go steal another one from a military base."

"I see."  He came in to look at the other boxes.  A few more cases of RPG missiles.  Another launcher.  A few ballistics carrying cases.  He opened one without asking, gaping at the contents.  "Xander?"

"Mine, my babies; yes, I'll keep them stored very well so no one takes them.  No, no one else will know I have them unless I need to use one to save everyone in the city or the landmass.  No, I'm not selling them."  A bag landed on his stomach, letting him sniff.  "Winifred," he said, smiling.  "I'll miss her.  She wasn't in on this problem.  Tacos?"

"Um, no thanks you."  He closed that case.  "How many guns do you have?"  Xander pointed at the binder on the dresser, letting him open it to look through.  It was a detailed list, including serial number, condition, and maker/caliber/model names.  He looked at him.  "The artillery?"

"The green one," he admitted.  "Half of it's at Wolfram and Hart still.  It'll be here later and I'll work on hiding it."

"Thank you."  He looked that one over, blinking at some things.  "You're a very dangerous man, Xander."

"Only when the world's going to bend over and take it," he offered, getting a small smile.  "Yes, I'm blunt.  Sometimes I'm funny or sarcastic, sometimes cynical, but I'm usually blunt.  You sure you don't want a taco?"

"I've had dinner.  Thank you anyway."  He sat down across from him on the bed.  "That's a check for?"

"The remaining time on my old storage space."  He let him see it.  "I'll start an account and it'll go in there."

"That's fine.  It's a normal thing to have happen when you move."

"I've only moved once and it was after the town got sucked into a portal to hell.  I got most of my stuff out but it was sitting in storage."  A duffle bag fell.  "Swords," he said before Horatio could ask.  His bouncy ball appeared and he caught it on the second try.  "Sorry.  Ever going ball that'll explode if I add a charge to it."

Horatio took it to look over.  "Interesting.  How big?"

"About Central Park size," he admitted. "I tested a smaller one in the desert.  It was a pretty explosion."

"I'm sure it was."  He carefully put it down so it wouldn't start again.  He looked at him.  "The convention?"

"I'll be there."

"Thank you."  He smiled.  "We'll see what happens then, Xander.  I did pass on your qualifications when I talked to Calleigh earlier.  She makes the primary intern decisions and I did tell her it was your friends who had done that to you."  That got a smile.  "I did not tell her more than you had a combat history due to a bad hometown."  Xander nodded, still smiling.  "I did tell her you liked guns and called your collection your babies."

"She'll understand.  A lot of us are like this," he admitted, giving him a smile.  "Thank you for trying to understand, Horatio."

"It's not a problem, Xander."  Another duffel bag clanged down.  "More swords?"  Xander nodded.  "How many do you need?"

"As many as it takes," he said dryly.  "Those are probably the spares and the practice blades anyway.  You can fit four-to-six in each bag so mine, my axe, a few others."  He took a bite.  "Sorry, starved with the energy output."

"Don't apologize for that.  You've been hard at work...however you did it."  He stood up.  "I will talk to you at the convention."

"I figured out something about that vision.  It's a sooner instead of later.  That day, look for the barometer to act really funny.  It'll say it's going to rain but it'll be a clear sky.  The weather guy might tip you off that morning.  If so, come borrow a sword."  That got a smile and a nod, letting Horatio leave.  Xander finished the taco.  He had a lot of work moving and hiding the artillery.  He'd need a new hidden area down here sometime soon.  This was only one storage area.  He still had the other.  That one he had promised to get everything out of by the end of the weekend.  He ate another taco while he worked on the illusion.  It would be good enough.  He even remembered to block off the unnecessary window, saving him some sun exposure. The window itself was blocked with cardboard so no one could see any markings on the cases.  It made a good spare wall.


Xander smiled at Calleigh when he ran into her at the convention.  "Should I even hope for an interview?"

"You're on my list," she told him.  "You mailed in an application so I'm going to interview you."

He grinned.  "Whenever you have time then please," he agreed.

"What's your next topic?"

"Dressing for Success.  I'll tell you now, I have a bad habit of owning sayings t-shirts.  Not slogans but sayings."  He opened up his suit coat and dress shirt to show the one he was presently wearing, making her giggle.  He rebuttoned it.  "I'm like that most of the time.  The day you saw me was a very bad day."

She looked him over.  "You clearly know how to put on a suit so let's talk now."  He nodded, following her, handing her a packet of information.  "Hmm, transcripts."

"Evals from all my internships, the people at the LAPD I temped in for a few times, and past job evals where I could get them."

"Wow."  She sat down on a bench with him, looking it over.  "It doesn't mention your combat history?"

He shook his head. "My combat history is why I got sent to Miami," he said quietly, glancing around.  "It's not regular military."

"I figured that out," she admitted dryly, giving him a look.  "Which means you know something about my hometown of New Orleans."

"I'm from Sunnydale."  She went pale.  "I fought with our little blonde slayer girl.  Yeah.  Then she dumped me and I worked with the crew in LA."

"Oh, dear.  No wonder you don't claim it."

"Personally, I'd like to retire from it someday soon," he said, sounding a bit wistful.  "I'd love to retire from it.  Just ignore it like the normal people do."

She patted him on the hand.  "I can understand that.  How long?"

"Tenth grade."  She shuddered.  "Yeah, I've done everything for the world but die.  Sorry."

"No, I think that's a good thing, Xander.  You show a lot of promise as a ballistics tech."

"But you can't stand the strange stuff."

"Well, no.  Orlando could."

"Orlando's got their eye on a female tech out of New Jersey."  She grimaced.  "See, I knew the Powers were going to pay me back some day for saving the world.  No good deed goes unpunished and all that."  He sighed.  "I hope you find someone you can work with.  If you need a temp or a fill-in, let me know, okay?"  She nodded, watching him walk off.  He went to the lecture a bit late, sliding into a back row seat, wondering why he was even trying.  The Powers wanted him in Miami.  Miami didn't want him.  The lecturer asked him something.  "What?  I was thinking."

"What brand suit is that?"

He looked at the label then shrugged.  "Whatever my ex girlfriend bought me before she died."  He looked horrified.  "Sorry, life can be like that for some of us.  I think I'll skip the rest of this one since I do know how to tie a tie."  He got up and walked out, dropping his stuff upstairs and heading out into the city.  He had no idea why they were in Cleveland but it sucked badly.   He walked into the shop, sneering at Willow.  "So, how does it feel to be behind me educationally?" he asked her, getting a gasp.  "Because hey, I graduated.  Officially even."  He turned and walked out, feeling a bit better but still pretty miserable.  He went to a park, going for a walk, running into the hellmouth there.  He frowned at it, putting a hand over it.  He was even nice enough to call there.  "You guys know the hellmouth's cracked open, right?  That you can see a tentacle waving around?"

He hung up and patted the tentacle.  "I don't need slimed today.  Dry cleaning is expensive, kraken buddy."  The tentacle shuddered and he walked off.  He could hear Buffy complaining.  He took a long walk, thinking about what he could do.  He could go back to construction.  He could go to work for any number of chemical companies around Miami.  He could do alarm systems.  He could sit home and play with his guns all day if he had to.  He'd find something to do but nothing was going to compare to being a gun tech since that's who he was in his heart.  "Well, maybe their tech will bottom out or something," he muttered to himself.  "Then I can be a temp at least.  Get some of my internship hours in."  He went to get an ice cream cone then headed back to the hotel, running into Horatio.  "Hey."  He took a lick.  "It's a pretty hotel."

Horatio looked at him.  "What's happened?"

"Nothing much.  This is Cleveland.  I went to brag about graduating.  Didn't make me feel better but the look on her face was kinda sweet after being told I was worthless."  He took another long lick.  "I'm going to go up to my room.  I'll see you at the stuff later, Lieutenant."  He walked off, going up to sulk to the cartoon channel.  Maybe he'd clean the gun he had brought with him.  It always calmed him down.

Horatio found Calleigh talking to an intern, hovering close by until she was done with her.  "Any luck?"

"I wouldn't care to work with the boy, Horatio, but he's got some personal issues he needs to work out."

"He's been abandoned by two sets of friends now, Calleigh," he said quietly.

"The strange stuff is still going to get to me, Horatio," she nearly hissed.

He nodded.  "Unfortunately it looks like we may need it.  Could you work with him when he's not doing that?"

"Maybe.  I'd have to actually work with him to see that."

"Can we give the top three choices a test weekend?" he suggested.

She considered it.  "I could do that if they'd be willing.  I suggested Orlando but he said they've already all-but announced their choice."

"Placements are limited this year," he agreed.  He looked around.  "Who is that?"  He pointed at the redhead stomping in.  "I don't recognize her."

"Oh, I do."  She stopped her.  "You leave that boy alone, Miss Rosenburg."  She gave her a stunned look.  "I mean it.  He doesn't need you this weekend.  He's had a crappy month."  She let her go.  "Now shoo.  This is for forensics intern candidates and prospective labs."

"Then why is he here?" she demanded.

"Xander is a ballistics tech," Horatio told her.  "One of the top candidates in the country."  She shook her head. He nodded.  "Yes, he is, and if your friends hadn't played such a mean trick on him, he'd have a few very good job offers."

"Xander can't play with guns all day."

"He can and does," Horatio told her.  "He did for someone he called Wolfram and Hart?  Out in LA."  She gave him a horrified look.  "Now, you're not part of this convention.  He does not need your stress.  Please leave."

A security guard came over.  "Problems, sir?"

Horatio flashed his lab ID.  "She's not part of the convention but she's looking to upset one of the intern candidates.  We don't need them that stressed out this weekend."

"That's fine.  Ma'am, if you'll please go?  Before we escort you out?"  She stomped off in a huff.  "Thank you, sir."

"Not an issue," he agreed.  He looked at her.  "That was telling," he noted.

"It was.  I wanted to protect the boy."  She frowned.  "I don't know, Horatio."

"Give him a weekend trial, Calleigh.  Go talk to him about the job not the other things.  Look at him solely on that basis.  Even if he does have to do things in Miami we probably won't be involved the same way."

"If you're sure."  She checked her schedule.  She had a few free hours planned for some shopping so she went up to talk to him.  She found his room number from the front desk and headed up in the elevator, mentally preparing herself.  He answered the door with his gun in hand, stripped down to his pants and t-shirt.  "Not going to use that, right?"

"Cleaning it.  It's soothing."  He let her inside, sitting on the bed again, going back to his cleaning.  "What's up?  Need help?"

"Willow was just here."  He stiffened, looking at her.  "I did some checking when I heard your name and the field that was related," she admitted.

"I'm sorry.  Did she turn you into something too?"

"What caused the split?"

"I didn't go to college with them?  Kissing her back in high school when she panicked about moving on?  Special girl syndrome?  Now and then she does care but she's back on her special girl kick.  In the next year or so it'll be fixed and I'll get apology cookies until I talk to her again.  Why?"  He went back to his swabbing the barrel, then put the cleaning cloth and rod away, putting his gun back together.  "Wanna check it?"

"No, it looks like you did it right," she said.  "Put it away?"  He dropped it on top of his jacket.  "I meant in the bag."

"Too far to reach."  He looked at her.  "I'm not suicidal.  Quit stressing.  You'll get wrinkles."

She snorted.  "I've already got some of those from the sun, dear."  He smirked at that.  "Okay, you want to be a ballistics tech.  Horatio wants to give my top three choices a weekend trial."  He nodded at that.  "Can you do that?"

"I got stationed in Miami."  He wrote down his address, handing it over.  "Tell me when you need me."

"No special requirements?"

"I lost the eye before I trained, Detective. I trained myself to do the job without it.  The only things I need are my glasses for close detail work and my lab coats, which are still packed.  If you ask anyone who wrote an eval for me, they'll tell you the same thing.  So will most of the other people I worked with while I was wherever.  I pull my own weight.  The only time I haven't I had a fever of 103 and I apologized later for messing up on pulling a fingerprint."

"I looked at the evaluations.  They all said they wanted you back.  Why Miami?"

"Two reasons.  One, I got stationed there.  You can't just walk away from something like that, even if you do want to retire with every bone in your body.  Or at least I can't walk away when every person on the planet could be killed if I don't do something.  The other?  If they've seen me working in the *other* field, they're going to freak out seeing me be one of them.  Back in LA we had this one precinct we worked with most of the time.  We freaked out one, the rumors spread but they tried to keep it in-house.  So we kept going back to them.  The last time I needed artillery.  The guy who was with us went to find a priest."  She nodded at that.  "Out of all the officers in that precinct, someone in our group sent them all to a priest.  I was the gear guy out there, I was in Sunnydale, Calleigh.  I can't stand to be in the field and have the officers who're supposed to protect me shy away from me because I had to save them from something.  It'll create dissent and make working harder.  Then I'd end up quitting and that's not good for the department either."

"True, but it could get you through the internship."

He shook his head.  "Then what?  The last one I killed has made the rumor rounds to Vegas, DC, and New York.  The guy in New York asked me bluntly about it and I told him very bluntly what I had been doing.  He nodded and said he remembered when they had that problem.  I said I wanted to retire and he told me that's not something you can retire from.  I pointed out I'm a very old veteran and all I wanted was to do my real, true field and that I'd handle it quietly if it came up.  He said he'd think about it."

She grimaced but nodded.  "That's about how we feel too.  I hadn't heard that one at least."

"Your AV tech did.  I got an email from him asking about it."

"Oh.  Well, he is a big gossip hog," she admitted.  She looked at him, reaching over to take his hand.  "There's always small labs, Xander."

He gave her a look, pulling away.  "I'm the fifth rated intern in the US right now," he said dryly.  "If they see me going to a lesser lab, they're all going to know there was a problem with me.  Then I don't have a future job."  She nodded that he was right.  "So my choices are not work now or not work later.  Great choices.  Thank the Powers That Be."

"I'm still going to give you the weekend trial."

"Why?"  She gave him a confused look.  "You just told me you couldn't work with me because of the strange stuff, Calleigh.  Why?  To compare me with the others?  Use me as a measuring stick?  Would it come back and help me if your intern failed?"

"I don't think like that, Xander."

"And I'm still realistic.  A quarter of all the interns in this hotel this weekend are going to bottom out of their internships within six months.  Drinking, failed drug tests, mismarking evidence, general screwing up to the point where it endangered cases or lives.  A few'll snap mentally.  A few'll decide the job's too hard for them.  If that happens and I do good that weekend, would you actually consider me?"

She stared at him.  "I would."

"You're sure?  Even if you had to see me solving another problem?  Because Miami's got one coming up Tuesday I think."

"I'm not like that."

"Then I'd like to come for that weekend."  She stared at him.  "I don't want it for pity.  I don't want to be the barometer for everyone else.  I want to be judged for who I am and what I can do in the lab and in the field.  That's all I ever wanted.  That's why I was planning on retiring."  She nodded.  "If you can do that then I'd love to come be tested."

"Then I'll send you a notice," she said, standing up.  She ruffled his hair.  "You need a trim."

"This is trimmed."

"It's messy," she said with a small smile.

"So am I now and then.  I'm a guy.  I'm told we're all like that."  She snorted.  "The only clean thing about me is really my weapons.  I do them every week."  She smiled at that, letting him walk her out.  He came back to lay down on the bed.  He was miserable now.  It was a pity offer.  It was nice of her boss to make her offer it to him but it was still a pity offer.  "Maybe I should go to San Diego.  They wanted me back."  He got up, putting back on the shirt and suit jacket, heading downstairs to talk to them.  He'd deal with the Miami problems somehow or the Powers could have him replaced.  He ran into the manager.  "Is there a problem?  Was I too loud?"

"No.  You are Mr.  Harris?"  He nodded, showing off his convention ID.  "There's a young woman pestering the desk to see you.  Would you so she can be sent away?"

"If I must."  He walked that way, nodding at her.  "What?"

"You didn't graduate yet."  He pulled out his mini-diploma, shielding the number from her.  "How?"

"I ended up on an emergency trip to Miami so my last three credit hours I got credit for work outside the school."  He put it back, looking at her.  "So yeah, I have graduated.  I'm here working on my future, Willow."

"You're injured.  Do they know that?"

"Some of the people here trained me to work with it instead of paying attention to it.  Besides, I had compensated for it by the time I took my first field class.  Hunting does that now and then."

"You did not."

"Ask Angel and them."

"I can't.  They're busy."

"I heard they've got a bad situation coming up.  I'm hoping Connor and them can help at the very least."  She gaped.  "Anything else?  I need to talk to one of my mentors about a clothing issue."  She scowled.  "I don't care, Willow.  Not anymore.  Not even if you apologize."  He walked off, heading to find his mentor.  He found him interviewing and went to get him a mug of tea, bringing it back about the same time she disappeared.  He handed it over.  "With milk, like you liked."

"Thanks, kid."  He looked at him.  "I heard they had to prove you out early."

"I got sent to Miami because of the strange stuff issues.  Miami didn't have anyone," he said quietly, sitting next to him.  "Were you guys serious?"

"Won't they need you?"

"I won't have a job down there.  The people who sent me knocked me out and stuffed me in their storage room.  That's how they met me."  He shuddered.  "Exactly."  He looked at him.  "Were you guys serious?"

"We were but you know you'll have problems."

"That's what's keeping me out of LA," he admitted, glancing around then back at him.  "If I could get through a year I could go find a lab in the middle of nowhere and raise dogs.  As long as I could play with guns all day."  He got a pat on the back.  "It sucks."

"It does but you're strong."

He looked at him.  "Am I?"

"You made it through CSI training and the mini-academy classes without an eye.  You're stronger than a lot of the people in here."

"Doesn't mean I wouldn't like to retire."

"Good point.  What about New York?"

"Heard about my last hunt in LA?"


"So did they," Xander said bitterly.  "I got reminded this isn't something one can retire from."  He glanced around then back at him.  "Keep me in mind?"

"I'll tell the boss you're thinking about coming back our way if you can't get on down there."  That got a smile.  "You could take a year off."

"Next year there'll be more candidates who're fresh out of school."

"The rumors could've died down."

"Only if I don't have to hunt down there."

"Point.  You'll figure it out, kid, but I'll tell the boss."

"Thanks, Griffy.  Don't say anything to the Miami guys, okay?"

"I won't.  I told them what a good kid you were and how good you were going to become.  That's all they should need to hear from me."  Xander gave him a smile and walked off, heading to get some more ice cream.  He groaned, taking another drink of his tea.  He did go to find the guy from New York to talk to him.  "You didn't like Xander?"

"I did like Xander.  A lot.  I didn't like his past combat history," he admitted.

"None of us do but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do," he reminded him.

"I did many times in the Corps," he agreed.  "Why?"

"Because of him having to do those things or die, everyone's a lot like you today."

"I'm sorry for the kid."

"It's not his fault."

"No, it's not.  It's the fault of the people who made him go do that."

"Since tenth grade.  He was doing pretty good planning on retiring unless it happened in front of him too."

"Are whoever going to let him?"

"If he can get out of Miami, possibly.  They stationed him there.  Reupped his commission you might say."

"Without his permission?"

"The way I heard it, he woke up in the lab in Miami's storeroom because of that stuff."

"Poor Horatio.  Must've driven him nuts."

"No, his weapons collection will," Griffy admitted.  Mac Taylor looked a bit amused.  "He's a gun and artillery tech, Taylor.  You didn't think he hated them, did you?  He's a guy who cleans his whole collection every week.  Calls them his babies.  He hates having to use them.  Said it makes them hurt one night when I watched him get a bit morose and stupid."

Mac nodded.  "I've got him on my maybe list but if he wants to retire New York isn't the area.  We still have a good bit of problems."

"Yeah, well, LA is about to have a major one from the warnings I got from their PD.   All he wants is someone to judge him on what he can do."

Mac looked at him.  "How is he disabled?"

Griffy smirked.  "Lost an eye years ago.  Trained fully without it.  A year or so before he began school.   You know how he was trained."

"So it wouldn't bother him in the field."

"I couldn't tell the difference when he told me at the end of the first day.  Hell, that first day I thought he worked more like a post-grad intern.  He pulled his own weight every single time."

"He's on my maybe list."

"That's all he wanted."

"I know."

"With him being so highly ranked, they're going to be watching him."

"He is?"

"Fourth or fifth intern, yeah."

"Crap.  If he goes somewhere like Minnesota and their smaller labs he'll never find a job later on."

"Exactly.  Those labs are great but they have lower case levels, they don't need someone of Xander's qualities.  By the way, did he tell you he knows explosives, artillery, and construction stuff?"



"Artillery in construction?"  He got a look.  "Really?"  He looked around.  "Calleigh?  Horatio?" he called.  She pointed and then got him to bring him over.  "That Harris boy has artillery experience?"

"He has an RPG launcher and two cases of missiles in his house," Horatio admitted.  "Among other things. They're all meticulously documented, the same way his gun collection is.  Why?"  Calleigh was staring at him in horror.  "He's needed it."

"But," she said.

"His personal gun collection is about two hundred strong," Griffy told her.  Mac gaped at that.  "Handguns.  I have no idea if or how many autos he's got.  They're his babies."  Horatio nodded.  "You did know he has construction experience?"

"I saw that on his application," she admitted quietly, glancing around.  "He brought a gun with him."

"He's a top rated ballistics tech," Mac reminded her.  "That high and you either love guns or you loathe them and you're trying to get them all off the streets."  She nodded that was true.   He looked at Horatio.  "You know about his eye?"

"I do."  He looked at Griffy.  "How was he really in the field?"

"I found out end of his first day.  Couldn't tell a difference.  The kid buckled in like a post- grad intern, told some jokes.  Wore some really bad t-shirts that say things that'll give you headaches.  Worked real well to break people."  That got a smile from Mac and Calleigh.

"He was wearing one under his shirt today," she admitted. "He really pulls his own weight?  Doesn't fly off to do that other stuff?"

Griffy shook his head.  "Until one came up on us at a scene I had no idea.  Then I heard some rumors.  He's known as a guy who does what he has to do and then moves on with his life.  The same as Taylor here is."

"The Marines aren't something you retire from either," Mac pointed out.

"I remember.  Doesn't mean the kid doesn't know that.  He's seriously wanting to retire, guys.  All he wants is to be judged on who he is and what he can do.  That's all he ever wanted from us.  He's asked if we were serious about wanting him back.  I'd love to have two more like Xander.  We had a ganger run up on our scene and he drew before me, got him talked down and cuffed while I was still trying to get someone to give us backup.  He's got street cred since one tutored him in Econ or something."  He shrugged, finishing his tea.  "He's a good kid, guys.  He's a great tech in the making.  He'll be one of the ones we'll point to and say 'be like him' or we'll mourn horribly but say 'well, he saved so and so but we miss him' a lot."  That got some nods. "So if you guys don't want him, I'm going to talk the boss into taking him back.  She's wary of his other stuff too but hell, at least then he could move to a Dakota, have little stress, have a few dogs so he never dates again, and probably at least be slightly happy."

"What about DC's labs?" Horatio asked.

"Alphabet soup," he said dryly.  "Plus he's got that pesky federal sealed file saying he bites."  They all gaped.  "There was a military/NSA project that came to their town.  They tortured the beings out there.  His group got mad, drove 'em off.  They don't like the boy in DC.  No one in DC likes the boy.  He and Abby might be scary together but no one up there would let the boy work for the feds with that 'I bite' rating.  Like I said, he's a guy to do what he has to do.  I had to keep him from working overtime on a case.  Twice in six weeks.  Ask Elenore in LA."  He looked around, whistling and pointing at someone, making her smile and wave before coming over.  "Xander's still free."

"Where is he?"

"In his room sulking.  His other stuff came to light."

"Aw, crap," she muttered.  "Hell, I'll take him anyway.  The guy filled in when he was bored last summer and we had a tech on maternity leave.  Pulled eighty hour weeks when we needed him to.  Did it once when we didn't need him to.  He thought it was expected.  Worked field cases.  Apologized a lot when we found out he didn't lift a print right because of his 103 fever that day.  Can't cook.  The boy's poisonous.  We nearly got sued because someone fed a suspect his cooking on purpose.  Speaking of, does he know what's going on in our town?"  Griffy nodded.  "Think he'll tell me?"

"To go find a spare room somewhere else," Xander said from behind her.  "There's a Sunnydale style battle coming up.  Think Graduation only worse, like the end of Sunnydale worse."  She shuddered.  "It's why I got sent to Miami.  Griffy?"

"I've been bragging that we might get you, kid."

"If he doesn't, I do," Elenore told him.  "I want to know first, Griffy, so I can have the paperwork drawn up.  Even if he stays in the ballistics lab it'll be worth it."  Xander gave her a hug and a smile, then walked off.  She looked at Mac, then at Horatio.  "What's wrong with you two?"

"His other calling would bite him in New York," Mac told her quietly.

She snorted. "He took out a six-foot head the last time we heard from him in LA.  We still love the boy.  I don't know what's wrong with you but I want to bring Xander home and baby him.  I'd trust him to babysit my kids."  Horatio smiled at that.  "I would.  The guy's a good kid.  Smart, got his head on straight."

"He's twenty-seven," Calleigh said.  "I'd hope so."

"He's got crew lead experience.  He hasn't called off a day yet," Elenore told her.  "I needed him for eight weeks, I got him for ten when she called off suddenly and he told his teachers I needed him.  He got excused so he could keep up with my shift's hours.  I don't care if I'm full on techs, I'll get him back somehow.  Let me know, Griffy."

"I will.  Thanks, Elenore."  She smiled and walked off, going back to her appointed interviewing spot.  He grinned at his next one, who was hovering just out of hearing.  He looked at Horatio again.  "His work and his *work* personalities are very different.  You'll get jokes, you'll get odd t-shirts, you'll get a happy, bouncy, carefree boy in the lab.  If you get him during an emergency, you'll get a field commander and a knight."  He walked off, leaving it there.

Mac looked at Horatio.  "I still don't think he'd like New York that much," he said quietly.

"Apparently Miami's getting the same sort of stress with our retirees from New York," Horatio said, giving him a look, getting a smile.  "Keep it up there, Mac, please?"

"If I can.  He appeared in the storeroom?"

"Asleep," Horatio agreed, walking him off to talk to him.  Ballistics was Calleigh's decision first.  Then his.


Xander showed up for his weekend trial, smiling as he signed in.  The receptionist gave him an odd look.  "CSI Duquesne called me in for a trial weekend?" he said quietly.

"The others got here yesterday, sir."

"I'm local and she said to come in today."  He handed over his letter.

"That's fine, I'll call her."  She called.  "Calleigh, I have an intern here with a letter saying to come in today?"  She smiled.  "Sure."  She hung up.  "She'll be right out.  Put on the pass please."  He clipped it to his shirt pocket, getting a nod.  Eric Delko came out so she handed over the letter.  "Calleigh send you?"

"Yup.  She's got a maze of guns."  He looked it over.  "She did date this one differently."

"Maybe she wanted to see us individually," Xander offered.  He grinned.  "Hi, Xander Harris."

"You're a ballistics tech?"

"With a minor in trace and field work," he admitted.  "Can we?  I've got my lab coat and glasses."

"Sure."  He walked him back there, watching as he put on the lab coat and grabbed gloves as soon as he walked in.  He handed Calleigh the letter, getting an eye roll.  "Misdated?" he teased.

"Yes.  Sorry, Xander."

"I'm impressive enough without the extra day," he said with a small grin.  "Where do you want me?"  She pointed at a scope so he went there, checking the envelopes around it.  "Original is on the left?"

"That is the protocol," she agreed.

He bent down to look at it, fiddling with the magnification.  "They're not the same.  Same brand but scuff marks."  The other interns snickered so he put it up onto the screen.  "See, scuff marks," he said, pointing at them.  "The envelope didn't say it was a ricochet or anything about a silencer."  He looked at Calleigh, who shook her head.  "Same model but different gun.  Do we have the original gun?"

"We do.  That's a test from an old one.  He's right, kids."  They gaped.  She nodded.  "Yeah.  Next test is on scope three, Xander."  She pointed and he went to it.

He bent down to look then frowned.  "They're not even the same species," he said dryly.  Eric snickered, walking out.  "One's a thirty-eight, one's a forty-five.  Same lans and grooves though.  Left is a Smith and Wesson revolver.  Right is...."  He turned it a few times.  "I'd say a Luger or a Kalishnikov."  He kept looking.  "Never mind, the bullet's Russian.  Kalishnakov."  He looked at her, getting a nod.  He beamed.  "More?  And can we clean the exemplar?  I want to compare to my babies."

"You're such a suckup," one of the other two complained.  "There's no way you can tell that by sight."

"It's called practice," Xander told her.

"He used to work with guns," Calleigh told them.

"No, I worked with artillery, explosives, and construction stuff," Xander corrected.  "To learn guns this way I went to pawn shops, firing ranges, and I did my in-school at a military testing facility and school."  Calleigh smiled at him.  "I spent a lot of free time at various pawn shops all around LA.  I can name quite a few in most cabinets on sight.  Their bullets as well because that's what knowing a gun means."  They both stared.  "The same as in this profession you either love guns or you want to take them all off the streets."  He looked at her.  "More?"

She pointed at another scope.  "That's one's closer."

He bent down to look, then at the envelopes.  "Ah, the classic bullet's the same size but not quite the same weight trick," he said, grinning at her.  She smirked back, crossing her arms.  He put that one up on the screen to show them.  "See, the one on the left is original to the gun.  The one on the right is a reload.  Now, they're the same gun but the reload is a tiny fraction bigger around.  So it distorts it."

"And what do you call that in a report?" Horatio asked as he walked in.

Xander looked at it.  "Ninety-six percent match I'd say, and then list the reload characteristics by weight, length, and width to explain why it's still the same gun."  He looked at Calleigh, who nodded.  "Can we play with the exemplar now or can we get to work on actual cases?  I know we've all done our in-school stuff."

She pointed at a plastic bin.  "We had a few drug dealers busted last night.  Those are the weapons that were on them.  We have to classify each one, invoice it, test fire, find any matches in the system, and then store them as evidence, kids."

Xander raised a hand.  "Fingerprints and Trace have been over them?"

"We know who they came off of.  Why would you want to?"

"Who said they're the original owner," Xander pointed out.  "Street guns are often traded and sold around.  The LAPD ballistics center saw cases with two and three owners, sometimes a few more, before they got found.  Usually with multiple uses from each."

She nodded.  "That is true.  I would have expected them to wipe them down or clean them."

"Trace can still be found under the hammer.  Half the idiots who use guns don't know not to get their hand in the way."

"True.  You can do that since you do have a minor in trace.  I'll let them test fire since you've had more experience there.  Then we can all compare and do some finding in the system.  Agreed?" Calleigh asked.  They all nodded and Xander got to work on the first one, pulling over a magnifying glass to help him.  She got him some swabs and lift sheets just in case and had the others seal the bullets she had out, watching how they did.  "Sign them," she ordered.  "That's protocol in every lab."  She looked at one then at her.  "What's your first name?  The full one?"  She grimaced and put that on there.  "I know you go by a nickname, the same as Xander does, but that's federal protocol, guys.  We all have to do it, even Horatio when he works in here."  Xander nodded, handing over the first one.  "You sure?"

"The only thing wrong with that one that I found was rust in the slide.  It had some sand in the trigger and I collected it in case it becomes relevant," he said, holding up that swab case.  It was already written and notated on so she passed that one on. He frowned at the next one, looking it over.  "What are you?  Mutant gun?"

She came over to look.  "That's our new remake model," she explained.  "See, you take this," she said, pulling it apart to show him.  "These parts are from one gun, these parts are from another gun, and then these two are from another."

He looked at her.  "Do we write this out fully?  Just to make sure it's known and in case we find the other matching parts?"

"How would you tell?" Horatio asked from the corner he had snuck into again.

"Wear patterns maybe?  Aging and thickness of the metal?"  That got a nod.  "I mean, if we want to get truly techie about it, we can do what they do to battleships to find weaknesses in the metal.  That, the age, and type of gun should give us a fairly accurate match, right?"

Horatio nodded.  "It could but we don't need to do that for this case.  We'd save that for things like guns that were stolen out of evidence and broken down."  Xander nodded, getting back to work checking for trace.  He smiled at Calleigh.  Xander lifted a print and kept going, finding a bit of skin as well.  "I thought we knew the owners."

"He had a point.  We might be able to find trace on the former owners before them.  We know statistically speaking at least sixty percent of guns on the street have been used before by someone else."

"What do you do if you have two hundred guns backlogged?" the female intern candidate asked.

"The same thing and order dinner," Xander told her.  "Ballistics is one of the fastest clearing fields but the LAPD ballistics center had at least a day backlog most of the time."  He looked at her.  "I temped in there one summer for a maternity leave.  The judges hate it but the prosecutors expect it to be done in a relatively quick manner.  In Miami that's...."

"Twenty-four to thirty-six hours of us getting them," Calleigh told him.  "My goal is to have this lab clear on the same shift it came in on.  With non-felony having their own that makes it easier on us to do that.  Unless we have a whole truckload of guns and we have in the past," she assured them.  Xander put that one back together and handed it off with the box.  "Xander, box?"  He pointed, looking at her.  "Fine."

"He's free to test fire immediately or I would've sealed it back up."  He went back to work, frowning at the next one.  "Someone dunked this gun or tried to eat it.  It's salty."  He scraped some with a swab and got back to work.  Nothing else on that one so he boxed it up and handed it over after resealing it.  His notepad had a lot of notes in his special version of shorthand, but it did have case number and name.  He flinched at one sound.  "That's not that Frankenstein gun, right?"

"No, I'm not sure what that was," she admitted, going to look.  "What did you fire off?"  The male intern gave her a sheepish look, letting her have the gun.  "Where was that?"

"In here."

She looked at the tag then at him.  "In here where?"  He pointed.  "Horatio, the night shift idiot left out evidence," she complained, bringing it out to him.  "Gather that bullet and bring it out to compare."  He did that.  She looked then at the bullet.  "You fire, then you collect before the other fires.  That's a nine mil, this is a thirty-eight."  She let Xander see it.   "Well?"

"Well....  I'm guessing Frankenstein gun since the powder wasn't fully burnt off?"  She nodded, going to get it.  He looked at him.  "You're taking notes for the report, right?"  He winced, starting on that.  He got back to work, shaking his head slightly.  He finally got done in the in-box, taking the last few for his own test firing.  He waited until she got done with hers, watching her collect, bag, tag, and then do the next one after her notes.  Once she had cleared out he donned the protective ear muffs and checked each one, firing and collecting, making his own notes about pull, the grip being loose and shifting on one, and depth of penetration.  He came out with them resealed from the tape in there and initialed, taking someone's pen to do his last envelope.  "Mine's dry," he explained.  He settled down at the spare scope and computer to do his work, running each one through the system, pulling up a few reports, and putting them aside for the later reports he'd be writing.   Some more notes and he was quickly done, then looked at Calleigh.  "Do we write reports on these?"  She nodded, getting him into the word processing system.  "Form or not form?"

"Not form.  Actual reports."

He nodded.  "Okay."  He got to work on his first one, following his notes, finding the reports he had made notes on as well.  He saved each one down under his last name and the case number then went onto the second one while that one sat behind it and waited for him to spell and grammar check.   He got his four done and then did all his usual checks, going back over his facts and notes to make sure.  He had to add one more note to one and that was rechecked for spelling and grammar, then he printed and signed, handing them over and the sealed envelopes, plus the sealed boxes.  She gave him an odd look.  "I'll go run the samples in trace or should I hand them over?"

"Go ahead and hand them over this time, Xander."  He nodded, walking out to do that.  She sat down to look over the reports.  They were concise, easy to read, set up well.  Had case and names in it where needed.  He came back.  "Do you always write like this?"

"Yup.  That's how Professor Destra worked it out with me.  I used to write really crappy ones."  He sat down, looking at her.

She pointed at the exemplar, getting a smile and him going to work in there.  "Goofball," she muttered but she was smiling.  The male intern looked at her.  "Take as much time as you need.  Xander has experience on you guys where he filled in for that maternity leave."  That got a nod.  "Xander's at the level where I'd expect you to be at least by the fourth month of your internship, if not before then.  You'll get there."  Xander brought out one with a confused look.  "Custom made for prosthetic hand," she told him.  He nodded, going back.  He brought out another.  "Kemper.  Fairly old."  He beamed and went back, petting the others, pulling out the gun cleaning kits to get to work and make himself useful.  She glanced in on him once and smiled.  He was gently stroking the gun while he cleaned it, talking to it quietly.  He was such a goofball.  She came back to get reports, reading them over.  "Charlene, case numbers?"  She groaned, taking it back to put those in.  The male intern gave her a hopeful look, letting her look his over.  "Not bad," she admitted.  "A bit wordy but that's usual with interns.  You'll shorten it on the days when you have this many guns and you're alone.  It's a fairly natural progression."  She took the rest of the reports and their notes to look over.  Xander's notes were frowned at.  "He uses personal shorthand."  He leaned out.  "I'd rather your notes be in something else."

"Okay, I can do that."  He went back to the guns.  "You guys can come help me clean if you're done and everything's put up."  They whimpered, sealing the bullets properly and the gun boxes as well.   Then they went to help clean.

"Why didn't you stay in LA?" Charlene complained.  "You're making us look bad."

Xander looked at her.  "Someone needed me to be down here.  You've only had an in- school internship.  You'll get better.  In about four months, you'll be about where I am.  Where I had a minor I had to pull extra internship hours and plus I subbed in.  You guys'll grow into this."

"How long are days?" the guy complained.

"Eight or ten hours, depending on your lab," Xander told him.  "Weekends at the LAPD we rotated the three techs so they got twelve hour shifts and one got the weekend off."  That got a shudder. "It's a nice paycheck and they were short.  It was right before intern season last year."  He checked the present gun.  "Calleigh, this one has burrs."

"I know.  It's fine."

"Okay, making sure."  He finished it and put it back together, hanging it on the wall.  "Think of me as a  yardstick for your first four months. By then your reports should only have to be glanced over by her, she'll be checking every few cases by then if you're good.  You'll be doing the grunt work, like this stuff, without her having to nag.  There's also bullet sorting for cases, things going to the Prosecutor and not yet.  They had a special area for each stage:  unsolved, solved but not in court yet, in trial, and solved, trial's done.  It's grunt work to file and sort.  Plus since she's a field tech you guys'll have the lab to yourselves once she feels you're ready at least once a week while she's on cases."

"How do you handle hangovers?" Charlene asked quietly.

"I don't drink.  I had alcoholic parents."  She grimaced.  "The best answer is do it the night before the day you're off.  Feel lucky, interns get shorter hours than full techs.  We'll only be working thirty, maybe forty a week.  She'll be pulling whatever's needed hours."  They whimpered.  "It's a good field but you've got to know the truth, kids."

"You're our age," the guy complained.

"I'm twenty-seven.  I'm old enough to be your big brother," Xander said, giving him a look.  "Put the pin in backwards."  He looked then fixed it.  Calleigh came in with two reports, making him wince when one was his.  "What did I do?"

"The name on one."  She pointed, then handed him his notes.  "Letter switch."  He nodded, going to fix that.  She looked at Charlene. "He's right about the drinking.  There's been a lot of interns let go over the years for too many hangovers."  She handed the other male tech one.  "You did the same thing.  It's an easy mistake to make."  He nodded, going to fix it.  She sat down across from her, taking Xander's gun to finish cleaning.  "It's a good field, he's right about that."

"Then why wasn't he chosen first off?" she asked.

"Because Xander has a combat history," she told her honestly.  "And that's a bit distracting to him now and then in a bad way.  I have no doubt he can handle the job but I'm worried that the other stuff might show up and interfere with the work.  The same as your boyfriend or girlfriend can with you."

"His combat history's his lover?"

"No, my last girlfriend turned serial killer," Xander told her as he came back, handing it over.  "Did a find and replace, boss."

"Thank you, Xander."  She looked it over.  "You changed another word too."  He groaned.  She smiled and patted him on the arm.  "Whiteout."

"Fat chance."

"It wastes paper.  They expect one now and then."  He nodded, going to do that.  "It's an easy mistake to make when you're pushing yourself.  He was right about another thing.  There's going to be days when you'll be in here by yourself with that many guns and more.  The least I've ever had on a good day was five.  The most was, I think, fifty-eight from my shift."  Charlene whimpered. "Those days we expect them clear within a day."

"Forty-five minutes each gun," she complained.

"Half hour," Xander told her.  "If you're doing them one at a time you fire, you bring back, you run, you type your report while it's searching, then  you add in the appropriate information, seal, print, go on."  He sat down again, taking the other guy's gun back.  "He wanted to look over mine."

"That's fine.  I liked your style.  It was easy to read and not too technical."  He beamed at that, going back to work.  "Eighty hour weeks in LA?" she asked gently.

"We were in the 'hood' ballistics lab," he said grimly.  "Non-split so we had drug dealers, felonies, B&E's, all that together.  They were backed up because she had to go on maternity leave suddenly.  They hoped for twenty-four and it was more like forty-eight to clear so three days without a tech on one shift screwed that badly.  That's why they asked for the relief pitcher and I volunteered for the paycheck.  They knew me and it was cool with them so I subbed."  He shrugged. "It was good for me and them."

"So I've heard."  She smiled and got back to work when Horatio walked the other one back there.  "Problems?"

"Rick's hovering trying to get into Xander's sealed federal file."

"It contains a warning that I bite."  He grinned at him.  "You do not come to my town and torture people, especially not people we then end up taking care of.  Nor do you use people to try to separate out your target and eliminate the rest one way or another.  I got pissed. We did it together."

"I'll tell him you said that.  Military?"

"Started out NSA.  Went to military.  Sealed during the inquest," he agreed.  He went back to cleaning. "So, what's your personal collection like, Charlene?"

"I don't have one," she admitted.  "I didn't think we did."

"Most ballistics people who are on the love guns side do have at least a few," Calleigh admitted.  "Xander's got a personal exemplar."  Xander grinned and nodded, getting a swat from her.  "Quit showing off."

"I love my babies.  They've protected me often."

"I'm sure they have," Horatio agreed, going to deal with that.  "Rick, I asked him."

"What's in it?"

"Apparently there was a group that started out NSA and went to military funding who was experimenting on the people in his former town," he said quietly, walking him off.  "Xander and a few of his friends objected.  They ran them out of town.  It was sealed during the inquest.  He said it contains the rating that he bites."

"He bites?" he asked flatly.  "Harris?" he called.  Xander leaned out of ballistics a moment later.  "You bite?"

"The soldier's gun I took off him misfired so I used it to club one guy and then bit another one."  He grinned sweetly.  "You don't come to my hometown and torture people.  We didn't like that."  He went back to work.

Stetler followed.  "I want that file."

"It was sealed by the inquest committee," he said, sounding very patient.  "I do not know your security rating, I cannot give it to you.  You can write the guys in DC who did the inquest and see if they'll hand it over."  He looked at him.  "I only bite when I have to.  I'm known to jump in when I think I can help but biting is for special occasions.  Like the NSA freaks implanting behavior control chips."  Stetler shuddered.  "Exactly. Which is why myself, three female friends, and a librarian ran them off.  One of their guys who changed sides to be with one of the girls on my team helped with the second dose of running off."

"Where are you from?" he demanded.

"Sunnydale."  He grinned.  "Three hours from LA."  Rick went pale.  "Heard of us?" he asked brightly.  He shuddered as he walked off, hugging himself to get warm again.  "Huh.  Must've been the librarian part."  He got back to work, humming a bit until Calleigh bopped him on the arm.  "Sorry.  It's like meditation for me."

"Hum something other than a Disney tune," Charlene complained.

"Yes, dear," he quipped back, making her growl.  "Sorry, not for real.  I may tease, I may tempt, but I do not date where I work.  Actually I simply do not date at the moment since my last one killed sixteen people."  He put that gun back together again and put it back onto the wall, picking out one of the heavier ones.  Calleigh gave him a look.  "The last one was too small for my hand. This one's more comfortable."

"If you say so."  She got back to work, shaking her head.  "Librarian?"

"Buffy's friend Giles," he said blandly, giving her a look.

"Oh, him.  Yeah, I heard about him.  That explains a lot.  She was dating one of them?"

"A team leader," he agreed.  "Those were all sorts of not-fun days."

She shook her head.  "Why don't you count your subbing in time, Xander?"

"I'll still need six-hundred-sixty hours of internship time in ballistics and a full half- internship for each minor," he pointed out.  "There's still stuff I need to learn in Trace.  Most of our teachers were theoretical people.  I didn't get near as much lab time as I really needed.  Some of the stuff I can do by rote but I don't understand why.  Even if I count this weekend I'll still need hours to be hireable.  Even for the small, non-demanding labs."

"Maybe we should head to lunch," Charlene offered.

"It's all right," Xander told her. "I know very well my combat history freaks some people out.  The same as you guys deserve a good lab to try to make a go of it and this is one of the best in the country."  They both nodded.  "You guys have probably worked just as hard as I have to get here today."

Calleigh coughed.  "UCLA's program is harder than either of their's and it's harder to get into," she told him.  He shrugged.  "Plus, didn't you have a tutor?  I heard something about Econ?"

"Yeah, I had a Blood tutoring me in there.  He was really nice about trying to make me see the world was a wider place.  Sunnydale wasn't very diverse so he took me down to the hood and their bars and introduced me around.  I was there when a rival gang came in to kill everyone and helped stop that and called for backup so both sides got arrested equally.  They even respected me for that.  I treated them all the same, no matter what gang they came from.  Since I treated them like people instead of like cows they really liked that about me," he finished quietly, going back to his cleaning.

"You could go back to LA," Charlene pointed out.

"San Diego actually.  LA has some bad memories at the moment," he told her.  He put that one back together and got another one down to clean.

"Boss, can we have lunch anyway?" the other guy asked.

"Sure.  Break room's up the hall, guys.   You can go too, Xander."

"I got here late.  Besides, I got breakfast on the way in.  I'll be fine until four or five.  Or did you want us working later?"

"Go get a soda," she offered more gently.  He nodded, putting that gun back together and up on the wall, then taking off his gloves and coat so he could go get lunch.  She put hers down too, going to find Horatio.  "I have an idea."

"All right.  I'm all up for it."

"The satellite lab."  He frowned.  "The satellite lab."

"I know what you're talking about.  Why are we talking about it?"

"Xander needs six-hundred-sixty hours in ballistics, half-time in trace and field work.  They've almost got a trace person full time there.  Xander can do the ballistics department all by himself.  The only thing I got him on today was a few letter switches in a name.  He knows his guns like I do.  I think the satellite lab would be for the best.  It'd give him everything but field hours and if we're in overflow we can easily call him for backup.  I need him tested in trace though.  He said his people were lecture and he's a hands-on guy.  So a few afternoons with Speed and he'll be good.  Since Speed's recovering it should be good for him.  He can even work out there for a while.  Their guy wanted to go on vacation but couldn't because Speed got shot."

He considered it.  "Let me talk to Speed, see if he'll do it.  They are a lot alike."

"I want to hurt whoever hurt him, Horatio.  I want to cuddle the boy.  Alexx will want to cuddle the boy.  Stetler can't find fault with him.  He's got federal ratings already since he did an internship at a military academy and testing center.  It'd give Xander a little out of the way area he can work in and it won't bother others even if he does have to settle things.  He won't get much work but it'll be something.  The other two deserve a chance.  They need a closer mentor.  Xander's almost able to handle it on his own at the moment.  I'd be doing oversight every few cases but otherwise I'm sure he can handle it.  Plus I know he's not going to be an idiot and call off every payday."

"I'll talk to the Chief, see if they can afford it.  Then get onto Speed."

"Thank you."  She smiled and went down there, pulling Xander outside to talk to him.  "You're about ready to head your own lab, Xander.  With the hours you can already count I should be able to leave you alone all by yourself."

"They did in LA all the time," he admitted.  "I worked full shift out there by myself for the most part."

She smiled.  "We have a small satellite lab.  It's for cases on the other end of the county.  It does generalized, non-split testing."  He nodded. "You can get your hours in ballistics, you can get your hours in trace out there, but we are going to talk to our favorite trace person, and the guy who trained Delko, to see if he'll test you in trace and make sure you know everything you need to know."  Xander nodded once, starting to look more perky.  "Good.  Horatio's checking to see if they can afford a tech."

"I've got a pre-paid apartment," Xander told her quietly.  "As long as I'm making a little something it'll be okay."

She smiled and patted him on the arm.  "Of course it will be.  We'll do what we can. You do deserve a chance.  So do they and they need me more."  He nodded.  "What did you think?"

"I think you'll end up losing one but I'm not sure which," he admitted quietly.  "Her eyes are bloodshot so either she's not sleeping or she's been drinking a lot.  He's twitchy and jumpy, very unsure of himself or he's hiding something.  Would I be doing field work?"

"As backup when we needed someone," she agreed.  "Did you sleep?  Nightmares?"

"Nightmares imply that I get sleep," he admitted.  "Which I don't get too much of.  A lot of broken sleep.  What happens if I have a funeral to go to out in LA?"

"You'll tell the boss, you'll tell Horatio, he'll arrange things.  Right now it's all coming here.  I could use you out there."  He smiled, a true, warm smile, and nodded.  "Let's go talk to Horatio."  She walked him back inside.  "No sodas in that lab either," she reminded him.

"Even capped?"

"Even capped.  That's Miami law."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good boy."  She walked him up to Horatio's office.  "He could take a lesser salary if necessary," she said quietly.

"The Chief's thinking about it.  He wanted to know why so I was honest, Xander.  He does remember you.  Fondly even."  Xander grinned at that.  "Are there things we should talk about?"


"You have to wear some but you'll hardly ever be out of the lab," he admitted.  "If you are, be presentable."

Xander nodded.  "There's the possibility of needing funerals soon in LA.  I should go."

"How bad?"

"If I'm right, they're SOL out there.  I'll have a few within a few months.  That final world-ending battle for the century is going to be a bad one.  It may be down to the last few by then."

He nodded.  "If so, you tell me.  We'll see what we can work out."  Xander nodded at that.  "In return, I do want oversight on your artillery and explosives collection."

"Agreed.  It's in the binders."

"All of it?"  He nodded.  "You're sure?"

"Very.  Well, not the ball.  That's kinda new.  Fred and I made it in the lab a few months back."  He licked his lips.  "She died last night," he admitted quietly.  He nodded at that.  "I'm going back on Monday for hers late that evening.  Then I'll be back on Wednesday.  There's some things I have to pick up that didn't get sent and it'll require me kicking some pasty, pale, undead ass to get it probably."

"If you want," he agreed.  "As long as you don't get arrested."  That got a nod. "Good.  Go back to lunch."  He held up his soda.  "Eat, Xander.  We do fuss around here."

"We'll sic our ME on you.  She's a good mother," Calleigh said, walking him off.


Calleigh walked into her boss's office that night.  "I will beg," she said bluntly.  "Xander deserves a chance.  He's the fifth highest tech in the country right now.  Otherwise we lose our protection from him."

"Is that the only reason you want him?"

"No.  I honestly think Xander would be happier in a lab than he is doing whatever he does that I don't want to know about.  He's good."  She put down some of the reports.  "That's his from earlier.  This is one of the other two interns' I had in today.  He's already done over half his hours by subbing in before graduation.  It's a loophole but he can count it."

He looked them over, looking at her.  "Oversight?"

"I'd stare over his shoulder when necessary.  He'd need more in trace.  He admitted there's some stuff he only does by rote in there because the teachers didn't want to take him into the lab to show him.  We're siccing Speed on him if you'll agree."

"It's an easy job for someone who's on the injured list to start back at," he sighed, looking at her.  "Are you sure?  Interns are expensive."

"New techs are more expensive.  The only problem he's foreseeing is that his friends and former coworkers are in some sort of epic battle situation.  He's going back early Monday for a funeral that night.  Please?  He deserves a chance at a great future.  After this, he might end up somewhere non-demanding and raise dogs and protect the local area. For right now, we need him here and he needs us.  His friends doing that to him cut his chances to work for a good lab down to this and that's it.  If it wasn't for that and me finding out what he's had to do, I'd have snatched the boy up immediately, sir.  Please?"

"Fine.  I'll set him out there and let Speedle work on Trace with him," he agreed.  She smiled and nodded.  "You'll be doing close oversight?"

"The usual once a day random case check.  Why?  Did you hear something?"

"Stetler's uneasy about the boy."

"He found out Xander bites."


"The sealed federal file was where he and a few friends ran a bunch of torturing creatures out of their town.  The inquest panel sealed it.  He admitted one of the guns he picked up to defend himself jammed so he used it as a club and then bit someone."

"Ah.  Charming."

"It helped.  I wouldn't want some NSA group putting behavior chips in my head either, sir."

"Fine.  Whatever.  Tell him to mind his manners or else Stetler is going to beat him."

"Yes, sir.  Thank you."  She walked out, going to find Xander and tell him the good news.  She found him holding his head, sitting in his car at the station.  "Headache?"

"Wesley," he admitted, looking at her.  "You look like you took Fred's perky pills."

"You have the ballistics lab at the satellite lab."  He sighed, nodding and smiling.  "Not happy?"

"Wes was killed today.  That means they're down to two vampires, one exceptional son, Gunn, who's a street kid, and a demonic karoake bar owner."

"Do you need to go?"

"No.  I'm banned from going.  Wes left a voicemail on my system telling me that before he died."

"Why?"  He shrugged.  "You know, when we have bigger problems, we all end up talking to Horatio about things."

"I don't want to lay this battle onto someone else," Xander admitted.  "Besides, I barely know the guy."  He started the car.  "I'll see you tomorrow to help them and then the following Monday for work?"

"Sure, that's what we told the boss.  You sure?"

He smiled a bit but nodded.  "I don't even know him enough to have given him a headache from some of my t-shirts.  I'll handle it.  Thanks anyway.  See you bright and early tomorrow."

"Seven," she ordered.  He nodded as he backed his car out.  She watched him go before heading up to Horatio's office.  "He's just heard that two of his friends have died in this other battle and he's not allowed to help."

"Is he going back for the funerals?"  She nodded.  "Then we'll see what we can do before then.  Do you need him tomorrow?"

"I think he kinda irked the kids today by playing big brother.  Charlene told me she felt a bit threatened by Xander's gun nutjob attitude.  We got to talking automatics and he freaked out the other kid by admitting he had fired off a good many of them.  Even though he did point out that his in-school for ballistics was at an artillery center and military academy.  Neither one is in their right mind over him.  They're both very threatened by how good he already is.  They're seeing the greatness gap and it's pissing them off really."

"Not everyone can be great," he offered.

"I know, and I pointed out the world is full of simply wonderful techs who aren't great but they get the job done.  It offended their egos."

"They'll get over it and figure out he probably told them the truth in a few months.  I'm going to talk to Speed tonight."

"Can I call and gush on him?"

"Go right ahead."  She smiled and went to do that while he finished up his paperwork so he could head over there.  "Speed," he said at the doorway.

"Who is this kid, Rambo?"

"No, he's not like that usually.  Only when he has to be.  Though he does speak better."  He walked inside, smiling at him.  He handed over the information packet he had on him, watching him sit down to read it.  "He's a hands-on learner, Speed.  We know he's at least at minimum standards.  He passed his certification test very highly."  He sat down, watching him pace and read.  "He did say he could use some oversight in Trace.  You being there to go over things with him could help him a lot."

"It's his minor?"

"That and field work."  Speed gave him an odd look.  "He wanted the first two, he took the other because it was only a few more classes and it looks good, plus it'll get him out of the lab now and then.  What we're going to do is give him the ballistics lab in the satellite lab.  He could get his trace hours in out there too."  He handed over a report from earlier.  "He's only got another six-hundred-sixty hours for his ballistics internship and a full set for the trace side.  He did say he's doing some things by rote because he doesn't understand them.   His teachers went into lecture mode more often than they did the lab classes, at least for his peace of mind.  I'm sure he's farther ahead than he thinks."

"So you want me to make sure he's up to date in Trace and then oversight him?" he asked.

"Which would get you back to the satellite lab at least for a while, until you're closer to coming back to us," he said gently.

"Then what're we doing with the kid?  Calleigh let slip that there was something odd about his past.  She said combat history, not military service."

"He didn't want that to come into the open," he said, looking at him.  "He doesn't want it to matter."


"He's off to see two friends into the afterlife in a few days," he admitted quietly, staring at him.  "He's part of the protection society out in LA."



"No?" he asked, considering it.  "Strange crap?"  He got a nod.  "How bad?"

"Tenth grade.  He wants to retire but he's the guy we found was sent to our storeroom."

"I heard about that.  How did he get in there?"  Horatio shrugged.  "Ah, one of those.  Great."

"Which was about his opinion as well," Horatio admitted.   He stood up.  "Calleigh said if she hadn't known that about him she'd have a prized intern.  We would've signed him during the intern convention.  She does and she's got two chicks she's trying to nurse into a better placement."  Speed shuddered.  "I think you'll find Xander isn't as young as you think.  Even if he does wear t-shirts he said can cause headaches."

"He's how old?"

"Twenty-seven," he said with a small smile.  "This is his second career."

"Oh."  He sat down, going over it again.  He looked at him.  "These evals from his in- school...."

"San Diego offered to have him back and Elenore in LA begged to have him if we didn't take him."

"Even knowing the strange stuff?"

"Even knowing the strange stuff," he agreed quietly.

"Then I'll give the kid a chance.  When am I getting him?"

"He's leaving Monday for a few funerals.  He'll be back Thursday probably.  He'll be starting out there the following Monday barring another issue."  That got a nod.  "Give him a chance without that."

"I will."  Horatio nodded, heading out and home.

Speed leaned back to look things over, then decided to call the kid.  "Hey, I'm your future mentor, Speedle."  He smiled at the babble going on.  "You okay?"  He nodded.  "When you get back I want you to call me so we can go tour that facility and then we'll see what you do and don't know in Trace."  He took down the address.  "I can look that over.  You okay?"  He nodded.  "It's hard losing friends.  Sure, you can talk to me.  Like H, you can babble at me and I'll listen.  He taught me how to do that."  He listened to what the kid was saying.  "Even if he did do that to you, was he still a friend?"  He nodded.  "That makes sense and I'd be pissed as hell too, kid.  But think, now he's dead.  Is he going to come back to haunt you?  Then go to his funeral."  He winced at the new information.  "Can you get around that?"  He smirked.  The kid had balls.

"Sure. When you get back, call me.  We'll go see it and I'll bring stuff we've already done so I can see how good you really are.  Yeah, H said you're a hands-on kid.  No, I had that same problem now and then but I do know the theoretical.  Sometimes it didn't make sense until I had done it....  You had a who tutor you in Chem 3?"  He blinked.  "That's a new one.  So you've got street cred too, huh?"  He snickered.  "I think we'll get along just fine, Xander.   Sure.  I'll be here.  That's me.   Call me when you're ready to deal with it.  I'll see you then.  T-shirts are fine.  I wear them all the time out there.  The lab head out there isn't that picky.  You too.  Get some rest, kid.  The other trainees are probably tiring you out."  He smirked.  "Good to know.  You don't have Rambo syndrome, right?"  He laughed.  "Good one!"  He hung up, smiling but shaking his head.  So far the kid could keep up with his sense of humor.  It'd do for a start.


Xander walked into the satellite lab, taking off his sunglasses.  "Hi, um, I'm the new ballistics intern tech out here?" he told the receptionist, who gave him a horrified look.  "What?"

"Your t-shirt, sir."

He looked down then grinned at her.  "Speed said it'd be fine."

"Uh-huh.  Okay.  Do you have your ID?"  He handed the newly created thing over.  "Okay.  Sign in please?"  He did that.  "What's in the bag?"

"Locker stuff."

"It's to the right, but you'll have to get it assigned."  She called someone.  "Bob, your new ballistics intern is here."  She hung up and he jogged out.  "This is him," she said when he looked around.

"I was expecting a giant."

"Just me," Xander told him, grinning a bit.  "Xander Harris."

"Bob Reynolds."  He walked him back there, looking at the bag.  "Coats?"

"Locker stuff too.  Speedle said to come in today and take the tour, stuff my locker, that stuff.  He's going over the trace stuff to make sure I'm okay in there."

"You've got a minor?"  Xander held up two fingers.  "How?"

"Field minor was only three more classes.  Why not take it."

"Wow.  You went where?"

"UCLA."  He got blinked at.  "Did someone blow up the college and I wasn't told?"

"No, we don't usually get people from that far away."

"It's a great lab," he said happily, smiling at him.  "Did you get my evals?  If not, I've got a copy."

"Please."  Xander handed over the packet.  He looked them over, then stared at him.  "That's high praise.  I know Elenore."

"I talked to her last night after a funeral," he admitted quietly.

"You okay?"

"I want to find a certain set of higher powers and kill them repeatedly since they're immortal but yeah."  That got a nod.  Someone knocked then came in.  "Hi," he said, holding out a hand.  "Xander Harris, ballistics and trace."

The guy looked at him then snorted.  "I know who you are," he sneered.

Xander looked at him.  "Gee, you know which former friend?"

That got a snort.  "I know why you're here, not them.  They're unworthy creatures."

"They thought I was dryer lint too.  Oh well.  I take a very easy approach.  You can like me or you can be socially polite with me.  If I have to start a snark war, I learned from the Queen of it and dated another."  That got an odd look.  "I nearly married Anyanka," he said quietly.

The man gaped.  "Never mind.  We'll get along just fine."

Xander smiled.  "I thought we could work together.  You're in where?"

"AV.  I'm Gerald."  He shook his hand.  "Nice to have you.  You start when?"

"Monday.  Is there a backlog?"

"Two guns. I'm sure you can clear it today after the tour."

"Probably.  I'm waiting on Speedle to come in.  He's going to make sure I'm up to date in Trace and go over a few things I still had questions on since it's my minor."

Gerald gave him a look.  "You went where?"

"UCLA.  I graduated second in their class."

That got a nod.  "Congrats."  He looked at Bob.  "The traffic cam system is down again."

"I'll call someone, Gerry.  Thanks."  He nodded and walked out.  "He's got a bit of a genius complex."

Xander shrugged. "Like I said, you either like me or you're socially polite and so am I."  That got a smile.  "So, locker then show me around?"  That got a nod and they went to find him a locker.  They were very old lockers but he didn't care.  He loaded everything in there, including a first aid kit and a few guns.  Then he handed him the spare key to his lock.  That got a nod and they walked out together, going to tour the facility.  It had a lot of older machines and a few were older than even the training stuff he had learned on, but that was fine.  They came out of ballistics to find Speedle signing in.  "Hi.  Xander Harris."

"I saw your picture on your site with the evals."  He shook his hand.  "Tim Speedle."  He smiled at Bob.  "You were going on vacation?  I'm going to be assigned here on lab-only duty until I'm cleared for field work to oversight him in Trace."

"Hallelujah, thank you, Speed."  He gave him a hug, shook Xander's hand.  "Let me know the minute you get in Monday morning, Xander."  He hurried off to call his boss to get permission.

"Before you ask, I'm more picky than he is."

Xander stepped closer.  "I get to clean too, right?"

"Please do.  You OCD?"

"Hell no.  But I am a bitch about protocol in my lab."  That got an evil smirk.  "The only thing I wish we could break was the capped soda rule."

"Wish I could let you.  Use the box outside your lab for that.  You'll have the door open anyway, kid."

"True."  He grinned, looking into the trace lab.  "Do you want to start today?"

"Yup, that's why I rode over."


Speed smirked, shaking his head.  "No, I'm not a princess this week.  Thanks for asking," he said sarcastically.  "You?"

"I *am* the princess of ballistics according to some of my fellow students."  He went that way with him, grabbing the jacket he had put in ballistics and his glasses, coming in to glove up and prove what he could do and what he did by rote.  Speed made him slow down a few times but that was fine.  He got to work on his depth perception problem too.  By the end of the day Speed could appreciate having him there and it was all good.  Xander stayed long enough to clear the now three gun backlog and send the reports directly to Calleigh for her approval.  Then he headed back out to his car.  He found Speed leaning against the side of his bike. "Cleaning up the backlog in ballistics."

"You never have to justify clearing a backlog to me, Xander.  I expect you to act like a full tech.  Calleigh said you did.  The same as I don't care if you play quiet music."  That got a smile.  "The first time I find lyrics in a report you're getting paddled.  I do hit hard before you ask."

"I figured you did," he offered with a grin, leaning against the side of his card.  "I know, it's a POS car.  It was cheap and it runs."

"That happens now and then."  He stroked his bike.  "This is my baby."

"Mine's my personal exemplar."

"So you are a scary gun nutjob sort, huh?"

"With a history of having to use artillery," he quipped, grinning at him.  "We'll do fine, Speed.  By the way, this is the nicer t-shirt I own."

He looked at the saying then at him.  "Do your worst."  Xander smirked back, bowing a bit.  "You gay?"

"Bi.  I'm not dating presently.  My last one went serial killer and killed sixteen people before I finally convinced the LAPD that she was doing that."  Speed gaped.  "She was a stripper before that.  She could cook."

"You can't?"

"I'm poisonous in the kitchen," Xander told him.  "Literally.  No one knows why but I've sent a whole department to the ER with a bake sale and some brownies I made from a mix, even with someone watching me."  Speed gaped and whimpered.  "So no, I nuke and I order."

Speed nodded at that.  "Probably a good idea.  I cook so I'll bring you food now and then."

"Sure.  I live on caffeine anymore."

"What happened in LA?"

"I got into a shouting match with one of the last people in my former group, telling him about the concept of backup.  He didn't want to listen."  Speed nodded slowly at that.  "It's going to be another funeral within a few months.  We're not sure when yet but it'll be sometime in the near future," he finished quietly, staring at him.  "And I'm told that I can't go back for that one.  So I'll toast them and pour blood wine into the ocean for them."

Speed walked over, facing him down.  "You need to talk."

"I have a journal."

"People give you feedback."

"I want to scream but not at you.  The people I want to scream at are either already dead, or a higher power who set this up and made sure I couldn't help.  That's who sent me here."

"How was his funeral?"

Xander shrugged.  "I kept wanting to jump up and scream at his body."  That got a nod.  "Wouldn't have helped any and the others there would've minded.  One of them kept giving me wary looks.  I did get the rest of my stuff.  I came back with it and shipped the rest."

"Rest?  Horatio told me your exemplar includes a lot of cased stuff."

Xander nodded.  "It does.  I gave him oversight to make sure none of it disappears because he asked."  He stared at him.  "I'm not going to let it cloud me here at work unless he starts to haunt me, Speed.  They were doing the same things my original friends were and low and behold they tried to send me away too.  By the time I finish my hours down here I'm hoping that I can find somewhere that won't happen.  Then I'll get a dog or two and settle down that way."

"Sounds lonely."

Xander shrugged.  "I'm tired of tainting women.  Making one a money grubbing nympho and then the serial killer who wanted to kill my former friends was enough.  I've given up on women."

"Sure.  I get that.  Want to head out to a club tonight?  Miami's party central."

Xander grinned.  "I don't feel like being kidnaped tonight so I'm going to go home and nuke something then watch something on tv.  I had to ship that back.  Wes forgot it."  He swallowed, looking at him.  "Thank you for offering.  Let me know if you need help with your shoulder.  I've had a few fairly tragic injuries over my life."

"Sure, as long as you talk to me if it starts to interfere with the work."

"I will."  He nodded, backing off.  "Night."

"Night.  See you tomorrow to go over a few higher ideas."  That got a nod.  "We might have to go to the other lab."

"I freaked the people out with my introduction to Miami," he said bluntly.  "It's better if they forget me."  He got into his car.  "If you can arrange it otherwise I'm all for it.  You have my cell number?"  Speed nodded.  "Then I'll either see you tomorrow at ten or whenever you want me?"


"Bob said shift starts at ten.  Ten to seven with an hour lunch."

Speed hummed.  "That's a nice perk.  Sure.  I can do that.  Go play with the babies."  Xander smiled a gentle smile and nodded, starting his car so he could back out of his parking spot and head home.  Speed got onto his bike, heading to Horatio's house.  He frowned when he opened the door at the sound of his bike, waving him inside, leaving the door open.  He got off the bike and walked inside, closing it behind him.  "Can I bring the kid in to test him on the higher machines?  We've got the rejects after our last upgrade out there."

"Give it a few more months, Speed.  Let's let the others forget him."

"Sure.  I guess we can do that.  Why was he worried about kidnaping if he went clubbing?  I didn't think LA was that dangerous to techs."

"You didn't see the other site," he sighed, going to pull it up the same way Xander did.  He got into the demonic profile, letting him read it over.  "That's his profile by the people who he hunted and others."  He went into the kitchen.  "I'm warming up a frozen lasagna.  Want some?"

"Sure.  I'm hungry.  That lab's dusty and the first thing the kid asked me was if he could clean.  He stayed to clear up the few guns they had in backlog too."   He sat down at the computer desk, looking at the information.  "Wow.  High kill count."

"Probably not something he thinks about."

"Some people would dwell."

"Some people don't.  That makes them have different nightmares.  I'm sure his are from not saving someone or not being in the right place at the right time."  He pulled out the lasagna, putting it on top of the stove.  "It's done on top and frozen in the center, of course."

"Cover it with foil."  Horatio nodded, doing that and putting it back into the oven.  He kept reading.  He finally looked over.  "It lists 'clubbing problem'?"

"I found a 'contact the administrator' button and wrote him an email to clarify that.  Apparently people give him things in the club and want him so they take him now and then."

"Charming.  Like weapons?"

"Like money."  He came out to show him the email.  "That's from his last few months in LA.  He may or may not have been using it consciously to supplement a college student's limited income."  He gave him a squeeze to the injured shoulder. "How does it feel?"

"I'm still numb down part of my arm."  He read it over, then looked at him.  "I'm not going out with him, just in case."

"That's fine.  You'd probably draw the same sort of trouble."  He went back to check on it.  "How do you know if it's done?"


"I don't have one of those."

Speed sniffed. "Twenty more, Horatio."  He went back to rereading the profile, nodding finally.  He looked at Horatio.  "You weren't kidding about the t-shirts.  His today said
_my mommy said I can kill you_."

"Hmm.  I'm sure it'll get better sometime.  You can advise him in proper lab attire, Speed."

"Where do we see him going and do you want me to make him do double duty in trace?"

"He should get enough hours when he's clear in ballistics."

"Good point.  So, intern hours or full time hours?"

"Whatever you need him to do.  Is Bob going?"

"Yeah.  With Xander starting Monday and me coming in too it means he can take his wife on that cruise.  Finally."  He smirked and went back to the other site.  "Did they know about that?"

"I sent an email to Griffy, out in San Diego.  He sent back a groan and a story about Xander going out with a prostitute and her trying to take a lab tech hostage to get him back."

Speed shook his head.  "I'll help him pick out dogs."  He turned to look at his friend. "Unless we think a boyfriend would be better?  He did say he was bi."

"I'm not sure it wouldn't be the same thing.  Click on the button that says dating history."  He used the back button to get there, reading over it.  He finally shuddered.  "I'm not sure a boyfriend would be much different."

Speed just nodded.  "I can see him settling down with a few hyper, bouncy dogs somewhere upcountry that didn't have a whole lot of problems."

"The problem is that someone wanted him here to handle ours since Orlando is spilling over."

"Who did they get?"

"Someone from Cleveland came down to work at one of the MGM parks."  He sniffed at the stove.  "Are you sure that long?  It smells like it's burning."

"Your oven's set too high then."  Horatio looked at the box, then at the oven, groaning and turning it down.  "Take it out and put it into the microwave for a few minutes for the middle section."  He did that instead, remembering to take off the foil.  He looked at him again.  "Do we think he'll have problems retiring?"

"Mac said that retiring from something like that isn't really retiring, it's like laying in wait for the next bad thing to happen.  I'd be surprised if he wasn't out tonight taking some of the problems and emotions out on it."

"Could be.  He opened a bit but said he wasn't going to burden anyone but his journal."

"He brought a gun to the convention.  Calleigh was almost worried he was going to use it," he said more quietly, coming out.  "Them doing that to him did ruin his chances of most departments taking him.  Even if San Diego and LA want him back, would they be able to handle it?"

"What do we think is going to happen?"

"I think that there's going to be a few more deaths.  He seemed fairly certain of it."

"He told me he can't go back for the other funerals."

"I'm wondering if he really does know how to get to these higher powers who're over people like him.  When we found him he said he knew how to get to them."

"Can they be blown up?"

"I don't know but Xander's got the skills to do it if they can."  He looked at him.  "That's what I'm worried about.  The snap and the twang of the tension afterward."

"He'll make it through.  He's lived through a lot."

"He told me he's messed up their plans time and again," Horatio said quietly, tapping the table.  "He's not sure why they didn't take him into account, especially after the first time, but he said he's messed up so many prophecies it's not funny.  That if he ever had children they'd be taking out the old order and setting in the new one."

"As long as there's people in Cleveland doing what they're doing I'm doubting it'll ever be fully out of place.  Is the group in LA the old order?"

"Not from what he's said.  Then again he hasn't said much.  I'll try to get him to talk.  It could help him."

The microwave went off.  "It's done."  Horatio went to plate things while he thought about his new intern.  "What did Calleigh want to do?"

"Hug and cuddle the boy, introduce him to Alexx so she can mother him too."

"Calleigh's not usually the fussy one," he said, starting to frown.

"She thinks he needs one.  I doubt Alexx would understand his love of guns or all the artillery in his apartment."

"He does?"

"Oh yes.  I have oversight."

"Good.  Hopefully it'll be enough."

"He won't use it, Speed.  They're his babies.  I have this feeling using them is like one dying to him."  He brought out plates then sat down.  "Get whatever you want to drink."  Speed got up to get himself something to drink, bringing back a beer.  Horatio got his own and they ate dinner, talking quietly about the new intern candidates.  There was another one in trace but he wasn't going to handle them until he got cleared back to the original lab.


Xander walked in the next Monday, looking around.  Then he walked into trace and shut the door.  "The next time you talk about my babies, do it somewhere there's not a listening sort of bug.  Please?  Stetler thinks Horatio was lied to."  He walked out, going over to ballistics to see what he had.  He only had a few bullets so he settled in to run them and do his reports.

Speed called Horatio.  "Has Stetler pounced you yet?  He pounced Xander over his babies.  That's what he said.  He probably thinks you were lied to."  He nodded, hanging up. "Thanks for the warning, Xander.  Get in here when you're clear."

"After I clean too!" he called.

"Sure, I can wait that long.  It needs it.  The last guy had GSR everywhere in there."  He went back to cleaning his own lab.  He was not going to put up with the dust or the grime on some of the walls.  Though a few he did save samples of so they could see what it was and so Xander could run them.   Xander didn't come over within two hours so he went to see.  He was scrubbing everything in his lab.  "That's been soaked in for years, Xander."

"I don't care!  It's nasty!  I will not work in this filth.  I'm sorry but I'm cleaning shit."  He got back to work, spraying the section again and then the scrubbing pad to get back to work.  He slowly inched over, smiling when that whole counter was finally clean.  He did a clean water rinse too and then went to clean the windows he had in there.   He squeezed the lemons by hand too.  He didn't care if there was pulp, they were going to be clean.

"I thought you were supposed to use vinegar."

"The citrus will help keep out the bugs from what I saw online."  He got to work, smiling when the crud on the glass came off and he had *windows*.   "I'll get shades tonight."  He kept going, climbing up on a chair to get the top pane.  Then down and the other one, then onto the same chair to get the top.  Then down to do the shiny surfaces.  He finished by mopping.  Over and over until all the grime came up, then a final rinse wash with clean water.  Xander backed himself out of the lab with that one, closing the door and taking his soda from his inbox, going to trace.  He put it in the inbox out there, handing Speed the sample that had appeared.  "Yours I believe."

"Try yours.  I want to watch you work, Xander."  He nodded, getting to work on the samples he had laid out.  "Only one has a case number, worry about a report on that one.  The others are samples I took from in here."

"Then someone's really gross."  He handed it over. "The one from the wall was a fecal sample."  He got back to work, letting Speed shudder.  "Want the mop and bucket?"

"Yeah, I'll get it in a few."  He watched him work, turning on the radio since he was humming.  He got a bright grin and the boy danced while he worked, just his hips.  "I got into your profile on that one sight."

"Now you know why I shouldn't club but now and then I can't resist the lure of going out to get some."

"Yeah, I can.  Did you know about the pro that took a hostage?"

"Yeah, I talked her down and pointed out why I wasn't good for her.  Including the fact that she'd have to give up her career for mine.  She didn't like that and pouted all the way into her cell.  She probably joined my ex and my former fellow classmate in the mental home."  He handed over another report.  "Same fecal material.  Can we do a DNA test on it?"

"You think there is any?"

"Shed cells."

"I'll see if we can try.  How are you in there?"

"Baseline.  Same as I am in fingerprints."

"That's actually reasonable.  How did you take fieldwork classes with your eye?"

"I told them I had it and asked them to train me so I could go without it.  I lost it before I moved to LA.  That's why I got left in LA.  They decided that made me useless for a while."

"I think it makes you rare.  Most guys would've went on disability for a while."

Xander gave him a manic grin.  "They said I'm too sane."  He let out a cackle and got back to work once Speed had shaken his head and laughed.  He looked at his newest result.  "Huh.  Demon blood."  He handed that over.  "A few are in the classification tables.  They got run into on scenes and someone had a clue."  He handed over another.  "I can tell you that one's quicksilver without running it."  He kept going.  Speed put it back down.  "You sure?"

"I am."  He nodded, working on that one next.  It came out as he said, letting him hand it over once he had marked it on the box.   Someone leaned in.  "Hey, Gerald.  Speed, this is Gerald, he's the AV tech here."

"Hey," he said, waving a hand.  "I'm in charge while Bob's gone."

"Of course you are.  You're Horatio's bitch," he said dryly.  "Why is the mop in the hall?"

"I'm getting ready to mop in here.  He got done with ballistics."

"You mop?" he sneered at Xander.

Xander looked at him.  "Did you see how filthy that place was?"  That got a shrug.  "I *am* the bitch of protocol in my lab.  There's no way I'm going to allow my lab to be that nasty and gross.  It could compromise something.  Like the fecal samples he found in here could have."  That got a shudder.  "So, no, we're cleaning today.  Why?  Need it for yours?"

"No thanks.  Get it out of the hall, Harris.  It's a hazard."

"Going to dump it and refill it for him in a minute," he promised, getting back to work on that last sample.  Then he took it outside to dump in the grass while he finished his soda.  He wheeled it back inside, handing it to Speed.  "Hose in the locker room."

"Thanks, kid."  He went to refill it, walking it back to his lab with a wave for the receptionist.  "Horatio would throw fits if our lab looked like this."  She whimpered.  "Yes, I am Horatio's second-in-command.  We'll be living on the Horatio Caine standard while I'm here.  Am I clear?"  She nodded. "Good.  Though I don't personally care about t- shirts as long as you're not in the field.  I'll tell the others."  He walked back there to mop, smiling when the floor didn't turn out that bad.  Xander came in and poured something, using the mop to swish it around. It removed the grimy wax and that was better.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  He went to check on his floor, finding it still damp in places.  "Need me more or can I clean the exemplar?  It's pitiful."

"Go ahead," he called.  He poured more of the bottle on the floor and got back to work.  "I should write someone up," he muttered.  "But I hate paperwork."   He suddenly smirked.  "Let's do an inspection by someone," he decided, texting that to a number he had looked up for a report one time.  He got back a 'how did you get my text id' so he sent back who he was and why.   He went back to cleaning his floor.  Stetler stomped in thirty minutes later.  "I'm taking up my wax," he admitted.  "Harris is cleaning his exemplar.  It took him three hours to get it as clean as it is."  He waved a hand at the gathered samples.  "I had to do a check on what some of it was to test him in trace."  That got a groan and he too them to look over.  "Have fun with that."

"His artillery?" he demanded, staring him down.

"Why do you think I've been over to his place?  I'm not dating him and I've only known him since Thursday."  He snorted and got back to the last corner, looking at his floor.  "Much better," he decided, going to empty out that water and run clean to come back and clean the floor for real this time.  "Four hours of cleaning later," he quipped dryly when Xander came back.

"I know.  It's amazing.  My counters are gray, not black."  He pointed.  "The Internal Affairs guy is here?"

Speed smirked.  "I live by the Horatio standard."

"Ah."  He nodded.  "I'm a protocol bitch."  He went back to his lab, and his exemplar cleaning.  Stetler walked in, shutting the door.  "My soda's in the inbox before you nag."

"What are you doing?"

"Hasn't been cleaned recently," he said.  "This is like meditation for me."  He put that one back together and back into its spot, going to the next one.  "Why?  Wanted to help?"

"I want you to teach Speedle and drill him in that skill."

"Why?"  He looked at him.  "Is there some doubt?"


"Can't Horatio?  They're friends.  I don't want to seem like I'm overstepping my boundaries since he's my minor's oversight person."

"What artillery?" he countered.

Xander looked at him then rolled his chair over to his computer, logging onto the internet to find that site again.  He let him see it.  "That should answer any and all questions that remain, Stetler.  They're like my babies.  It's not like I'm going to use them or sell them."  He got back to his cleaning, humming quietly with the radio he had on.  Stetler looked at him when he was done.  "You did click on the 'dating history' button, right?" he asked without looking up.  He heard the mouse click and a groan.  "Before I started today I needed all my minor hours for my internship and six-hundred-sixty for my major," he said quietly, putting that gun back together again and putting it up.  He looked to face him.  "I'm a damn good tech and I wanted to retire from that.  That got in the way of me being hired normally."


"Not that you'll ever see.  None of it's daytime blackouts.  Nightmares when I can sleep."

"That hinders your job."

"I've never slept, Stetler.  Before that was alcoholic parents.  I'll settle in some small lab somewhere and raise a few dogs.  Can we learn to get along?"

"Your artillery?"

"Safe.  I pet everything and clean all my guns once a week."  That got a nod and a stare.  "Unless I have to come out of retirement to handle something or I get another vision of something coming, they're my babies."

"Fine.  Horatio has oversight?"  Xander nodded.  "How are you hiding them?"

"Magic."  He walked off moaning.  "Sorry.  Like my cleaning job?"

"Much better than a few."  He looked in Trace.  "I want him evaluated for PTSD."

Speed looked at him.  "I know almost nothing except what I've read.  If he wants to talk about it, I'm sure he's got people he can do that to and I've offered for him to talk to me if he wants to.  I know Horatio has.  What department shrink do you think is going to help him?"

"Point," he said grimly.  "You'll handle it?"

"Of course.  He's very competent and he's not a danger to others, Stetler.  I called you down here because I found samples on the walls I had to test to identify and they came up someone's shit."  That got a nod.  "He suggested trying for DNA."

"I'll have Valera test it and tell Caine.  Why not call him?"

"And get his temper down on them?"  He snorted.  "Yeah.  I run on the Horatio standard, only I dress down more often.  Out.  Go away."

"Fine."  He walked off, going to file those reports.  A few of the accessory labs were still filthy.  He was sure they'd be cleaned by someone soon.  The boy seemed a bit anal about his cleaning.  Or Caine would browbeat Speedle into doing it.  He walked into Horatio's office twenty minutes later, handing him the reports on the substances.  "Speedle found those on the walls."

He looked at them then at him.  "Bob's already on the cruise?"

"They've spent the morning cleaning."

"With this I'm not surprised," he admitted.  He put the reports down.  "Anything else?"

He closed the door and came back.  "Harris admitted he has PTSD."

"I'd suppose it was probably a problem he's had for years, Rick.  I've offered him the chance to talk to me if he needs to."

That got a nod.  "Good.  He spent four hours to get ballistics looking semi-decent.  Are their counters gray naturally?"

"Off-white. What color were they?"

"He joked they were gray instead of black."

Horatio sighed.  "Speed will fix that.  He knows the standards I set and he lives them."

"Good.  Make sure of it.  Harris is still your lab's intern."  He glanced at the doorway then at him.  "Did you see things about his clubbing habits?"

"Now and then it happens that he's gifted from what I was told.  Or kidnaped on occasion."

"Wonderful," he said flatly.  "I'll let you handle that.  Bob's on vacation.  I'm having Valera run the fecal for DNA."  He walked off with the swabs, taking them to her.  "We found those on a lab wall.  See if there's DNA.  I want a report on which lab tech it was."

"Ours?" she demanded, grimacing at the listing of what it was.

"The satellite lab.  Speedle's there until he's cleared and he's handling a gifted intern."

"I heard Calleigh got three and I only got one."

"Harris is halfway through with his, Valera.  Just run the damn samples so I know who to yell at."  He walked off.

"Yes, Captain Blye," she said dryly, doing it then to get it off her counter.  She handed them to Horatio before she went home.  "Here, for the pain in your ass."  She smiled.  "How's Speed?"

"Good.  He's spent today cleaning apparently."

"Not that I blame with what he found on the walls, Horatio."  She walked off, waving over her shoulder.  "I'm off."

"Have a good night."  He looked at the reports then went to hand them to Rick on his way over there.  He found Xander finishing the exemplar cabinet.  He checked his inbox, smiling at the soda.  "Good place for it."

"Thank you."  He looked up, putting that last gun back together again.  "Look, it's clean."

"The counters were originally off-white and the stuff on the windows was to cover up the sun."

"I'll buy shades and something to bleach them tomorrow."  He grinned.  "Did she get my reports?"

He nodded.  "She's already proofed them and sent them on after looking at your samples in the system, Xander.  She said it was what she expected of you."  He preened.  "Speed?"  He leaned in.  "Calleigh is getting his reports.  She proofed them over lunch."  He looked at him.  "I gave Rick the reports from DNA.  Someone's going to have a reprimand."

"H, come see," he said, leading him to the layout room.  "This is layout.  It's about our only work area.  Xander's looked like this when he got here."

"He's done an amazing job so far," he agreed, smiling at them both.  "Is that what I think it is on the wall?"

"Yeah, like it was in trace and chem.  I'm sorry but if I have to scrub this place, it's going to live up to OCD standards and everyone here will be cleaning.  Gerald?"  He came out of his lab.  "Are you clean in there?"

"Mostly.  My trashcan needs taken out.  I am OCD."  He looked in the layout room then at them, smirking.  "I use the all natural orange stuff."

"I use industrial strength stuff," Xander admitted, staring in horror.  "That's my job tomorrow.  Let me stop at a hardware store, guys."  That got a nod.  "I'll get more wax stripper too."  That got another nod.  He looked at Horatio.  "We need a new mop too.  Should I buy one and then fill out the forms?"

"I'll get maintenance to get whatever you need," he promised.  Xander pulled out some paper and made a list for him, handing it over.  "By brand name?"

"Yup.  What we used on the construction site and to clean up after a battle.  All but the last one can be found anywhere.  That one's special order probably if they don't have it.  It's got an online address if they look it up or Lowes carries it."

He nodded, making that note.  He unclicked his pen, putting it back into his pocket.  "I'll drop this off tonight."  He took a picture and walked off, smiling.  "You two did good work today.  Let me know when you're up to fully clean so I can start sending things back this way."

"You can forward ballistics back," Xander told him.  "It's not that much and I'm clean enough until I scrub, Horatio.  I'll have it surgical in there soon but it won't matter in most things."  That got a nod and he walked out.  He looked at Speed.  "Do you want to rewax things?"

"Not really.  I hate the buffer machine."

"Not my biggest joy either," he admitted, going back to his lab.  He came out without his jacket and his sunglasses on but nearly hanging off his nose.  "Want to watch me order dinner?"

"Sure."  He went to clock out.  "You did use the timeclock, right?"

"Yeah, I got the HR tutorial when I went to get my ID badge."  He looked in AV.  "Hey, Gerald, if you want to use what I do to clean, you're more than welcome to bum some."  That got a nod and a wave.  "Want us to buff in here too?"

"Could use it.  It's in the closet."

"Okay, that'll probably be the end of the week."


"Happy soaps, man."  He walked out, following Speed outside.  He took a breath of fresh air.  "Ah."  He grinned at him.  "I'm on Hacienda."

"You live where?"

"112 Hacienda." Speed shuddered. "It's an okay building.  He knows I'm a lab tech so he knows I'm not going to cause trouble."  He grinned as he got into his car, pushing his sunglasses back up his nose so he could drive and not be blinded.

Speed climbed onto his racing bike and headed after him, reminding himself he had an alarm on it.  No one was going to touch his bike.  When he got there Xander put something around his handlebars, earning a funny look.

"Magical alarms.  It'll electroshock anyone who touches your bike that's not me."  He grinned.  "I know I live in a low rent neighborhood, Speed."  He let him up to his apartment, letting him inside.

"Is there another apartment on your other side?" he asked, staring at one wall.  "There was a window there."

"It's behind the artillery."

"Oh."  He just nodded and went to finish looking around.  He came out.  "What's with the CIA briefcase system?"

"Wes sent me some money when he moved me down here."  He looked up from his menu gathering.  "Want Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Southern comfort, duck, fried chicken and fixings, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, calzones, Russian, Chinese, or pizza?"

Speed blinked.  "You really can't cook, can you?"

"Nope, like I said, I'm poisonous in the kitchen.  I was impressed when it didn't carry over to chem."  He grinned.  "Or there's two frozen pizzas and a bag of chicken wings that you only have to heat up."


"Alchie parents."

"Reasonable.  Pizza?"  Xander nodded, letting him see those.  "Which one do you like best?"  He pushed one closer.  "That's the expensive one."

"The chef's from Italy.  He makes real pizza and american pizza.  Plus I cleaned the sprites out of their kitchen so I get a discount.  My treat, don't worry about the price."

"As long as it's got mushrooms I'm good with it.  Organic?"

"Yeah, they are."  He grinned and dialed, smiling when the female voice answered.  "Hi, it's Xander Harris...."  Her 'it's that young guy who can't cook again' call made him smile.  "Yup, me.  I need two specials with the organic mushrooms.  Yeah that one.  And I need one of those flat ones with the crispier crust with the 'shrooms and cheese too please."  He nodded.  "I can do that.  Yes, I'll either have better change or she can have the rest as a tip," he promised.  "Sorry about that last time."  He smiled.  "That'll be fine.  I'm at home and I've got a work friend in."  He hung up.  "Twenty minutes."  He bounced over.  "I've got soda, milk, juice, coffee but it's ancient from this morning, and tea bags.  It's a bad habit Giles made me start for him."

"You've about stocked all the necessities."

"I'd offer you blood if you were goth but I don't take you as that sort."

"No, I'm not really."  He gave him an odd look.  "Did you have to do that?"

"Yeah, when we had Spike back in Sunnydale I got to vamp-sit a few times.  So I kept some in the freezer for him so he wouldn't ask for a nibble.  Though he did like to pour it in my cereal and drink it that way, which was very disgusting.  He did it a few times in LA and Angel banished him from his sight when he added cocoa pebbles.  I told him it was a chocolate sacrilege but he laughed."  His phone rang.  "House 'o Xander guns.  What's your caliber?"  He listened.  "Gunn, my suggestion is still the same," he said, slipping back into serious mode.  "There's thirty girls in Cleveland, it's their job too.  Tell Buffy how romantic it is.  She can die with the love of her life who she can't have sex with or he'll lose his soul again.  Or hey, unsoul him and let him attack then."  He shrugged.  "It's an 'end of the world' event, Gunn.  They'll pout if you don't let them help. You know that."  He listened.

"No, I'm in Miami getting ready to have dinner with a new coworker named Tim.  Why?  No, not a date," he said patiently, cracking Speed up. "I only met him Thursday and because he's heard of what I did with you guys he'd never date me."  He quirked up an eyebrow. "You don't want to get into that discussion, Gunn.  You really don't.  Gee, I don't know.  Let me do something to you that'll take away any chances you have of ever finding a job in your field and then make fun of you and tell you it was necessary.  Like I said, you didn't want to go there.  Anything else?  I've got to gather money for pizza."  He nodded slowly.  "Why did Wes put me in his will?  Before or after he sent me down here and tried to ruin my life and career?  Gunn, you nearly lost me that day in a permanent manner.  Are you getting the clue?"

He smirked.  "Good!  Now, why would I care?"  He gaped.  "Afterward.  Uh-huh.  Salving his guilt?"  He just nodded. "Whatever.  Send it here.  I'm still in the same place.  What did he leave me and where did those briefcases come from?"  He blinked.  "I didn't know I made that sort of cash clubbing but thank you.  I suppose."  Someone knocked.  "The pizzas are early.  Call back in a few hours after you call Cleveland. Yeah, I'll be here.  Sure."  He hung up, standing up.  "Give me a second."  He pulled out his wallet and opened the door, looking at Horatio.  "Good thing I ordered extra.  Come on in."  He got out of the way, counting the cash in his wallet, heading back to the bedroom and coming out with the cash he needed.  She'd get a good tip this time he guessed.  He took the food and handed it over.  "The rest is a tip.  I thought I had broken more."  She smirked and walked off, heading back to her car.  He closed the door and put the food on the table, getting them plates.  "Come eat, guys.  Get drinks from the fridge."  He sat down with his, looking at his bosses.  "What's up?"

Horatio put down a form.  "You're not the only person with your clubbing problem in Miami, Xander.  Stetler said to fill that out whenever you go out.  I'd need to see whatever you got to verify it and then it's yours."

"LA made me put anything jewelry in Lost and Found for thirty days."

"If you want to, that's up to you," he said, watching Speed go check out the pizzas.  "Talking?"
"Letting him get to know the me that's not in the lab.  I'm slightly more serious in there."  His phone rang.  "Yup?" he answered, listening.  "I'm still here.  Yeah, that's me.  Why?"  He nodded once.  "Aim for the bed, not the table. It's got food on it.  No, I ordered pizza," he sighed.  "Thanks for checking to make sure I wasn't going to poison my coworkers, Connor.  Yes I'm sure I ordered and if you come through too you can snatch a piece."  He hung up, shaking his head.  "Wesley apparently left me something."  He dialed another number.  "Kimberly, Xander.  Do not say my name out loud.  Tell Buffy that Angel's going to die by the Powers' orders in the last 'century' battle.   If she's there, there's a good chance he won't.  Angel's stubborn.  That's why I got shoved to Miami without warning and they nearly ruined my life for me.  Sure.  Welcome."  She hung up and so did he.  "Sorry, stubborn bastards I used to work with are afraid of backup.  Get food.  You can get to know me as more than my crisis personality too."

"MPD?" Speed asked.

"No, but did the guys joke about that before you went to Miami-Dade?"

"Now and then," Speed admitted dryly, sitting down to eat.  He moaned.  "Oh, this guy's good.  I've got to remember this one."  Xander got him the menu, earning a smile.  "Thanks, kiddo."

"Welcome, Speed.  Horatio, don't make me nag.  It's an underused skill.  It's rusty. You might need a tetanus shot."

"I'm heading out on a date, Xander.  Don't worry about me.  I have gotten your supplies and I dropped them off in ballistics for you to use them tomorrow.  Including a better mop.  You'll let me know if you need anything else?"

"Sure.  I'll give the list to Speed and he can give it to you at a time when it'll make you not- growly."  He ate another bite, getting another smile.

"Good.  Thank you.  Have a good night, boys."  He headed out, heading to his date.

"Did he lie?"

"No, he did have a date.  He's casually seeing some lawyer."

"I bet his boyfriend's cute."

Speed choked, shaking his head.  "Straight," he croaked.  Xander patted him on the back until he calmed down.  "He's straight, Xander.  Sorry if that was a fantasy or something."

"I don't date at the office.  It leads to bad things when they snap and go psycho."  He ate another bite, smiling at him.  "What?" he asked at the odd look.

"I'm going to tattoo a hazardous to your mental health warning on your forehead.  You're worse than Eric is."  He ate another bite, savoring it.  It was the good stuff, it was great pizza.  He went to see what the other thing was.  It was pizza without the sauce on a thinner, crispier crust.  He got a piece of that too and it was just as good.  A younger, light brunette guy came out of the bedroom dragging two trunks, which he dropped.  Then he grabbed a slice of pizza and walked off.  Speed saw him walk through and drop something on the bed then bring something out to Xander.

"Signing stuff?"

"A Wes-planation."

"Does that mean it's in Latin?"  Connor nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Gunn wanted to know if you were mad at him too."

"I don't know yet," he admitted.  He looked up at him.  "I'm not sure how mad I am at everyone.  This was the second time I got betrayed by my friends.  I should be mad enough to scream at everyone involved, even if they weren't involved."

"Understandable.  Remember, Wes tried to save me too and it didn't quite work out like that.  You and him, a lot alike in that doing what they feel is necessary stuff."

"Which is why your stepmom's coming."

"Aw, crap," he muttered.  "I left the cash in there.  Someone sent you a check at work.  She wants you to come back and talk more poodle grooming with her.  I'm pretending it's about sex so I don't have to go there mentally."  He walked off.  "Gunn said Wes left you everything.  If you buy a sports car he'll laugh."

"Thanks for the warning."  He put the explanation aside once the portal was closed.  "Angel's son."

"How does an old vampire have a son?"

"Screwing by the old Wolfram and Hart out there.  They gave Angel the LA branch out there when what they did started the world going to hell, literally.  He was raised off-realm by some vampire hunter psycho who taught him to hate Angel."  He ate another bite.  "He really does not understand girls.  Cordelia tried while she was around but oh well.  He'll figure it out when he gets snared by one."

"Did you ever live a normal life?"

"Before tenth grade.  That was a long time ago."  He looked at him.  "Let's move to happier topics, okay?"

"Poodle grooming?"

"Yeah, she kidnaped me.  She made me help her groom and trim her three dyed pink poodles.  Apparently that was her version of foreplay.  Didn't do a thing for me."  Speed choked again.  "Quit trying to inhale the solid stuff.  Otherwise Horatio will have to come oversee me and it'll get him messy.  His suits will get all messed up from the grime in the halls.  His lawyer friend would pout at me.  Then I'd be banished to work somewhere even worse, like a federal lab.  Or Utah's state lab with all the uptight Mormons who'd hate me and my future dogs.  But hey, I could date out there and they'd see it was God's plan.  I guess."  He frowned a bit but Speed covered his mouth, shaking his head.

"No, you're probably staying in Miami, Xander.  We'll try to figure out this clubbing thing of yours and set you up with people who won't go bad."

"The last setup I had was a really nice officer.  I didn't hold it against her at all when she tried to stalk me and nearly stabbed Wesley to get to me when he was trying to find me."

"Then we'll set you up with some nice guys, just don't babble like that at me.  My brain doesn't work that fast."  Xander shrugged and nodded.  "Thanks."  He nudged him with his hand.  "Babble at Calleigh.  She understands babble."

"I babbled about my newest gun my last day of that trial.  She squealed and hugged me because I got it," he said proudly.  "By the way, Stetler said I'm to drill you in cleaning your gun and run sims?"

"I've learned my lesson.  Really I have."

Xander gave him a shoulder nudge back.  "Bring it to me.  I like to clean guns.  It's meditation for me."  That got a smile and a nod.  "I do all mine once a week."

"How many do you have?"  Xander got up to get the binder, handing it to him.  He flipped through it slowly.  "We don't have some of these in our exemplar," he complained.

"I figured I'd need a comparison sample some day."

"I can see that."  He put it down, looking at him.  "Does the ATF have you registered on a  list?"

"No, they ignore me."

"Were you dating one of them?"

"Uh-uh.  Wish demon."  He finished that slice, getting up to get more.  "Ready for more?"

"Sure, give me a piece of the flat stuff."  He got handed one and Xander sat back down with his and a new soda.  "You really do live on caffeine."

"I learned how in college.  It used to make me bouncy.  Chocolate still does."

"I'll keep that in mind," he promised, nibbling on his pizza.  "Like sports?"

"Gymnastics.  Swimming.  Diving."

"Football, basketball, soccer?"

"Gay sex in teams?"  Speed choked again.  "Speed!"

Someone pounded on the door.  "Quit trying to make him take it all at once!  I'm tired of hearing him choke!" the landlord yelled.

"We were talking about sports.  Sorry!"  He helped him breathe, helping him calm down.   The landlord stomped off.  "I don't know why he thought we're having sex.  I don't take Horatio as your pimp."

Speed got up to choke in the bathroom so he could finally breathe again.   That forehead tattoo was looking more and more necessary all the time.


Speed knocked on his buddy's door, looking at him. "Speed," he said smugly.  "I heard H has you on special assignment with some tech that he wants to hide from the rest of us."  He let him inside.  "What's wrong?"

"He's toxic in the kitchen, he's a gun nutjob sort, he dates worse than you, he's turned a stripper into a serial killer by dating her, he thinks football is like gay sex in teams, basketball cheerleaders look like hookers to him, he's not adverse to hookers, we've got to figure out why people pay and kidnap him when he goes clubbing, we need to set him up with someone nice who'll cook for him and make sure he's taken back, he thought H was gay and it was cute, and he's got a major and two minor fields.  We spent the day cleaning and I spent three hours talking to him just now," he said, nearly babbling to get it all out of his head.

"So that's Calleigh's third tech?" he guessed.  "Beer?"

"Please.  He doesn't drink."

"At all?"


"Never mind."  He got him a beer, sitting down with him.  "Tell me more."

"We need Calleigh for this one.  He needs set up desperately."

"How did he turn a stripper into a serial killer?"

"I wanted to kill his friends.  Of course she did after longer exposure."

He gave him a look.  "Is this the same guy who appeared in the storage closet?"  Speed nodded, opening his beer to take a long drink.  Eric laughed.  "No wonder they're hiding him."

"He's half done with his ballistics internship.  He's running ballistics at the satellite lab and I'm overseeing his minor internship for trace and field work."

"Define toxic?"

"Not even he can eat all of his own cooking.  He's sent a whole college department to the hospital with food poisoning from a brownie he made for a bake sale at school.  It was mix stuff you only have to add water and stir."  That got a shudder.  "He called his stack of menus Mom, Eric.  He identified some of them by the only good things on the menu."  He took another long drink.  "He made me choke four different times.  I'm going to have to tattoo a warning on his head but we've got to get him set up with someone decent."

"New kid?"

"Is he gay?"

"Not real sure," Eric admitted. "He's quiet and annoying."

"Quiet and annoying doesn't mean gay."

"It's a start.  Maybe he knows someone.  I don't.  What about girls?"

"He turned a stripper into a serial killer."

"Never mind."

"He rented a pro and she took a hostage to get him back."

"Does he give lessons?  I'll stop before I get there."  Speed swatted at him.  "What?  That's got to be a gift."

"It's a curse."  He relaxed finally.  "He's a good kid, a nice guy.  I'd hang with him even though he does like his guns a bit too much."

"How too much?"

"He's got a fake wall of artillery cases," he said, looking at him again.  "His exemplar at home is larger than Cal's at the office."  Eric gaped.  "They're his babies.  H has oversight before you ask. Think your mother knows anyone?"

"My mother's not that fond of gay boys."

"Even your mother would see it'd be better if he never dated another woman ever again."

Eric snickered. "It can't be that bad."

"You've heard about that guy in the translator corps?  The one with the problem when he goes out to club?"  Eric smirked but nodded.  "So does Xander."

"That's another gift I wouldn't mind."

"The boy's been kidnaped repeatedly, Eric.  Yes you would.  If not, we would mind for you."  He finished his beer, putting down the can, tipping his head back.  "Your mother would fuss over him.  He's skinny, he can't cook.  He lives on takeout.  He wants to raise dogs.  He's a nice guy, who probably loves to cuddle, and he's a sweet guy until someone threatens what's his.  Someone described him in that mood as Satan on crack and acid."  Eric snickered.  "I doubt they were kidding.  It was his ex."

"He's had more than one?"

"A few who tried to kill him, one cheerleader that was the Queen of Snark, made me look like an apprentice apparently, and a former demon who turned into a nympho ho who wanted paid according to him.  Then the stripper."

"No wonder he's willing to switch sides."

"Which is why you've got to cough up some numbers."  Eric gave him an amused look.  "Not like I've dated half the city.  It's you or one of the detectives.  Oh, we've got to get him straightened out about sports before he meets any of the detectives.  He was raised by some warping girls."

"Introducing him to Alexx?"

"She hates strange things and she'd never fuss over me again if I did.  She'd be focused on making the new son normal."

"Then you'd pout."  Speed gave him a look.  "How is he in the lab?"

"Focused, fast, sometimes a bit too quicky and zippy.  I made him slow down a few times today.  Then we cleaned.  We found fecal samples on a wall."  Eric shuddered.  "Ballistics was gothic with all the GSR laying around.  All it needed was black lights."  That got a deeper shudder.  "Layout still has to be cleaned.  Remember those old off-white tables we had?"  He nodded slowly.  "They got moved over there.  They're now various shades of brown, gray, and black."

"Eww.  No wonder Stetler came in to write you guys up."

"Hell, I called him!" he said.  "We cleaned for four hours earlier and we've still got some more stuff coming from H tomorrow to do it better.  Xander took lunch to get some scrubbing pads.  His lab's went from black to light gray after three hours of scrubbing and then mopping.  I told H earlier I wasn't going to work in that filth when he came to see.  He wouldn't even step into layout because we hadn't touched it yet.  Bob's in for a bad shock when he comes back."

"Valera said he had found those samples in a lab."

"Yeah, my lab.  It was so nasty."

Eric gave him a shoulder squeeze.  "You'll fix it up to Horatio's standards and then he'll make sure it stays that way.  Is he OCD?"

"No, just meticulous.  He calls himself the protocol bitch."  Eric snickered.  "Called himself the ballistics princess too.  His classmates gave him that name.  He even showed me the tiara."

"Then maybe Calleigh will have to settle who's queen."

"I doubt it.  She gets him perfectly.  Squealed with him when he got a new gun."  He shook his head.  "I'm going to introduce him to your mom so she has someone to fuss over.  That way she can nag him about dating."

"Don't do that to her," he complained. "I won't get fussed over.  Introduce him to Alexx and warn her he's never had a mother."

"He does, it's his stack of menus," he said dryly.

"It'll give her a reason to make more cookies or fudge," Eric offered.

"Might be nice," he said, thinking about it.  "I'll talk to her and Calleigh tomorrow before shift.  We don't start until ten."

"Cherry assignment," he said dryly.

"He's only getting about ten guns a week so I'll have plenty of time to watch him work in Trace."

"I heard he had field work as his minor."

"His second one," Speed told him.  "He said after the mandatory ones it was only three more classes."

"Good for him," Eric said with a smile.  "Want to call Calleigh?"

"She's got her hands full with two snot-nosed brats.  Xander was ten minutes early, doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, cleaned his lab without nagging, did his exemplar fully, took notes on any issues he had, and helped me clean mine with the mopping stuff.  He's our age and he used to lead his crew when he was in construction.  He's not going to be slacking off for playtime."  He shifted some.  "Get this, he asked questions, relevant, intelligent questions.  From an intern."

Eric snickered.  "I've had one do that."

"Out of how many?  The only time Xander wasn't so relevant he was trying to make me laugh.  He was suggesting we make smoke bombs to get whoever had messed up the lab so badly."

"Sounds like a cherry assignment to me," Eric teased.

"Only until I heal.  He's only got twenty-five weeks of work total, splitting it.  Six-sixty left in ballistics, a half for a minor is seven hundred hours."

"So six months out there," Eric agreed.  "Then what?"

"I haven't asked that question yet."  He looked at him.  "You'd like the kid.  Even with the strange stuff you'd like the kid.  He used a rapier earlier to stab a mouse.  Killed it instantly too.  Hunted it for a few seconds before stabbing it and then tossed it outside, came back in to clean his blade immediately."

"So the kid's Super Intern Man," he joked.  "Word's still gotten around."

"I heard.  I got asked by the guy who stopped me to give me a speeding ticket.  He only wanted to talk about him.  If he's not staying we need to help him find a decent department somewhere and take him to the pound."

"I'm sure we'll work it out," he said.  "Isn't it usually me panicking and you calming me down?"

"I think his hyperactivity is contagious.  The weekend Calleigh worked with him she came home bouncier too.  How are her interns?"

"Interns," he said blandly, giving him a look.  Speed shuddered.  "One came in hung over to celebrate her first day.  One came in and twitched all day.  I'm starting to wonder if he's got a twitching disease.  His hand's constantly going for the gun he's not wearing too.  Made Horatio stare at him for almost an hour from the walkway.  Every time someone walked past him he reached for the gun he's not wearing."

"Xander said he thought he was hiding something."

"Maybe.  It was really that dirty?"

"Oh yeah.  Ballistics hadn't been used in a few weeks.  Not since Cal fired that one guy for being an asshole."

"Then maybe he'll be some lab's chief someday."

"We might need him to stay here."

"Well, that lab could use a tech," he noted dryly.

"True."  He relaxed again.  "He thought H was gay."  Eric snickered.  "Said his boyfriend was probably cute."

"I'll have to tell him that tomorrow."

"Don't mess it up for him, Eric."

"You'd taunt him too.  He's warped you already."

"Stetler ordered him to do random gun checks."

"Him and me both, buddy.  Speaking of?"  Speed groaned, handing it over.  He looked at it then handed it back.  "It's nearly spotless."

"Xander cleans guns as his meditation.  I let him do mine earlier."

"He missed a spot."

"No, that was road grit.  There's dirt blowing tonight."

"Ah."  He gave him another pat.  "Want another beer?"

"Sure.  I'll nap on the couch and head home to change in the morning."  Eric went to get him another beer, bringing out his own at the same time.  "No date tonight?"

"No, no date tonight.  She canceled."

"Xander had one that kidnaped him who made him groom her poodles with her as foreplay."  Eric spluttered, choking on his drink.  Speed nodded.  "He said it didn't do anything for him.  That and the comment about football being like gay sex in teams made me choke too.  His landlord came up to complain and tell him not to make me take it all at once next time."

"We'll protect you, Speed.  I promise we will."

"Thanks, buddy.  Knew I could count on you."

"Welcome, man.  Go in snarky tomorrow."

"Your couch does give me neck aches."

They shared a smirk.  Let's see what the newbie could handle.


Horatio came back a week later, finding everything spotless in the lab.  He smiled at Speed.  "How is it going?"

"We're keeping him," he said bluntly.  "I don't care what sort of demon we have to summon to Miami so we can keep him, we're keeping him."  Xander leaned in, giving him an odd look.  "You're staying.  You're the first good tech we've hired in years."

"We do have Miss Boa Vista," he offered.  Speed snickered, shaking his head.  "She is good."

"She's sleeping with Eric, H."

"Half the department has," he pointed out gently.  "You can come in, Xander."

"No I can't.  I've got a sample out.  I'll be back in a second."  He went back to it, finishing his report before coming over.  "Okay.  Have to proofread it."  He pulled out a stool to sit on, leaning on the table.  "When are we getting our samples back?"

"This is," Speed told him.  Xander shrugged at that.  He looked at Horatio.  "Please?"

"If I can."  He smiled at him.  "How has your first week been?"

"Dishpan hands," he said dryly, making Speed snicker.  "Other than that I've done all the trace samples with Speed watching me.  He only had to tell me to slow down once this time."

"Good," Horatio agreed.  "How is ballistics going?"

"It's going pretty well.  Is Calleigh still getting my reports?  I haven't heard anything."

"She won't tell you unless you screw up," Speed assured him.  He dialed her.  "Xander wanted to check in to make sure he's still doing okay."

"He's doing fine," she said perkily over the speaker.  "All his reports have been good.  All spell checked.  Sending them all in one batch has worked out well for me, Xander.  I only found one typo and it was in your name so I fixed it for you."

"Thank you, Calleigh."

"Welcome.  How many have you had this week?  Eight?"

"Eight guns, four bullets.  You'll be getting two reports tonight.  I've got to proof them before I send them."

"That's fine," she agreed.  "Want some extra hours here this weekend?  I could use you."

"If you're backed up, I can proof those and hand-carry them over," Xander offered.  "It's not a problem, really."

"No, that's not the problem," she said, losing a bit of cheer.  "Charlene, please write in technical english, not valley girl english," she called.  Something soft thumped on that side and she sighed.  "Sorry.  Please?"

"Sunday or Saturday?" Speed asked.  "I have things I need to teach him over there anyway."

"Either's fine, Speed.  Oh, Alexx wanted introduced."

"I'm sure she does."  Xander gave him a hesitant look.  "She's the department mother."

"I have one of those."

"Yes but a stack of menus can't make cookies."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "I doubt your mother did."

"Cookies are for guilt."

"No, cookies are nice," Calleigh told him.  "By the way, heard from one of your friends who found you.  I told her off for you since she sent it to my official email address.  If she snaps at you, you forward it to me, dear."

"Okay.  I don't usually check my email anymore."

"That's fine. Check the departmental one once a day in case there's a memo.  Speaking of, Horatio, are interns paid this time or next?"

"Next I think."

"They're going to pout.  Thanks, guys."  Something crashed.  "That was a monitor, Horatio.  I'll have your forms when you get back."  She hung up.

"How did you tip one of those over?" Speed asked.

"One was on a loose bolt and frame," Xander admitted.  "Couldn't been knocked over."

"If you say so."  He patted him on the back.  "Saturday we'll take a field trip so I can introduce you to my trace lab and all the advanced equipment."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Good.  Ten?"

"Ten's fine.  Or a real shift, I don't mind."

"You're working real hours here," Speed agreed.   Horatio shook his head.  "He has this week."

"I'm on stipend, I don't get overtime," Xander pointed out.

"No, Xander.  Intern hours are thirty per week so we don't lose you sooner."  Horatio stared at him.  "How are you getting along with Gerald?"

"We have a non-blowing up pact.  It's working well," he admitted with a smile.  "Do I get to do field hours if we get a call out here?"

"As long as Speed's with you," he promised.  That got a nod from Speed.  "Which means you need cleared to be supervising in the field."

"I can get that tonight from Alexx."

"Thank you.  The labs look very good, boys.  Good job."  He put back on his sunglasses.  "I'm going to go beat some interns," he quipped, leaving to help Calleigh spank them both.  If Eric hadn't.

Speed smirked at him.  "He likes to throw out one-liners.  Don't know why.  You get used to that along with the on/off thing with his sunglasses."  Xander nodded, going back to ballistics to finish the reports.  He sat down with his book again.  They were out of work for the day.  It was the most cherry assignment ever.


Xander smiled at the receptionist at the main lab.  "And here I am back again," he said cheerfully.  "I'm to help Speed and Calleigh today."

"Speed's working at the satellite lab, sir."  He held up his ID.  "OH!  So he's bringing you here to work on a few problems?"

"Some advanced techniques we can't do out there.  That and I'm helping Calleigh as well.  Is she in?"

"The interns are."

Xander looked at her.  "Is Speed yet?"

"Not yet.  When is he expected?"

"About ten.  That's when we start shift out there.  Let me go handle the interns."  She snickered and he signed in, heading that way.  He walked into ballistics, getting horrified looks.  "Until Speed gets here or Calleigh does, let's get to work, kids."

"There's only samples in the night shift inbox," Charlene said.

"So?  They're samples that have to be done.  If they only want night shift to do them then they'll be marked specially.  Now, shoo."  They groaned but got to work.  He pulled on his lab coat and glasses, then gloved up, coming over to help compare the first one.  He got done and had his report done before Charlene had the bullet in the system.  The other kid was reading the envelope.  "Problem is?" he asked quietly.

"You're not the boss," Charlene told him.

He looked at her.  "I don't give a damn if I am.  This is the job.  Some day you'll get to do this alllllll by yourself.  In a timely manner.  Because they can release people to do bad things again if your don't get your shit in on time.  Those bullets have to be reported and to the supervisor before a day is out.  Otherwise they can contest the evidence."  She huffed off.  He looked at the male intern, who shrugged.  "Work, we'll figure her out later."

"She's always like that.  Calleigh's really nice."

"Good.  I'm a protocol bitch.  Work."  He held up the envelope.  "That's fine, there's other samples.  Grab one."  He put that one back and grabbed another one.  "Did you open that one?"

"No, Xander."

"Good.  That shows sense."  He finished up his next one, looking in the bin.  Only two more samples.  He got them cleared up and was working on the report when Speed came in.  "Since you weren't here and Calleigh was on a field call I came in to sub."

"That's fine, Xander."  He looked around, looking at the last sample. "That'll work.  I'll let Cal know she's got a special processing one."  He looked at the unmanned microscope then at Xander.  "Yours?"



"Nope," the other guy said.  He looked at him.  "Charlene huffed off because Xander assumed command of the lab."

"Huh.  Yeah, well, he's running the satellite lab's ballistics department at the moment.  Even if all interns are supposedly on the same level, there's some that're already ahead.  You'll be where?"

"I'm trying, sir."

"Speed, kid."

"You're Speedle?"  He smirked and nodded.  "Please, Goddess, straighten out Calleigh?" he begged.  Xander gave him an odd look.  "She babbles!  She's bouncy!"

"Some people are like that.  So's Xander.  You get used to it, kid.  That is one issue I would talk to her about.  Tell her it's a personality clash.  Let her see if one of the other shifts could use you."  He beamed and nodded.  "Now, where's the other one?"

"Somewhere," Xander muttered.  "Sorry.  I can't let things like that go, Speed."

"No, it was the right thing to do, Xander.  You done?"  He turned and finished his reports while Speed watched, then did all the grammar checks.  When he was done he printed them out and paperclipped them to their samples.  That got a nod and Speed led him off, nodding at the other kid.  "I'm up in Trace.  You get stuck, you come see me."

"Yes, Speed."

"Good.  That the last?"

"Except for the special processing one."

"I'll let her know," Xander promised.  That got a smirk.  "Including that the other one stomped off," he admitted dryly, calling her.  "'Tis me and I'm usually wonderful.  You've only got a special processing envelope in the night inbox."  He smiled at her happy comment.  "No, you had seven.  Now you have the one special processing one and the one Charlene left on her 'scope when she huffed off because I kinda assumed command."  He handed the phone to Speed.  "Here, you tell her."

He listened then nodded.  "Even if that were true, Cal, they were in here with books out.  Yeah and he does run one, even with oversight.  He's more than good enough to watch these two.  Sure.  That'll work.  Come find us, we'll be in Trace."  He hung up, handing the phone back.  "She'll be back in an hour.  She wants you to sit there until either I shove Xander out of trace or someone more senior comes in."

"Yes, Speed."

"Thank you."  He walked Xander out.  "Any GSR?"

"Nope.  All bullet matches today."  He glanced around then nodded at DNA.  Speed rolled his eyes.  "So, what're you teaching me today, oh great one?" he joked.

"How to not to wear a t-shirt that causes a migraine," Eric called.  Xander looked at his t- shirt then at him, shaking his head.  "I saw the one you wore yesterday, kid."

Xander shrugged.  "I thought it was cute."

"Uh-huh.  Which is why you should be spanked," Eric assured him.  "Trace is all yours, Speed."

"Thanks.  We're going over some of the higher end tests so the others can come work around us."  He nodded, going to tell the others.  "Cal's in the field with the new kid."

"I know."  He went to tell Horatio.  "Speed and his trainee are here."

"I saw.  What happened in ballistics?  I saw you listening?"

"She had a 'you're not the mommy' fit."

"Hmm," Horatio said, considering it. "Have him leave whatever she left out for Calleigh."  He nodded, going to do that.  Horatio went to talk to Maxine for a minute since the young lady had retired to another lab.  "Miss Valera?"

"Spank the little brat," she said bluntly.


"No, the one who came in to take over," she snorted.

"He's running the satellite lab," he said quietly.  She stared at him, looking unhappy.  "He's the fifth rated intern in the country for a reason and has had a lot of temping experience in LA before we hired him."

"Please tell me that's not the guy from the storage room?" the other one said.

"That was not his doing.  That was his friends' doing and they're now mostly dead," he said bluntly.  She blushed and looked down.  He looked at Valera.  "Are you backed up?"

"No, I've only got two samples.  Why?"

"I need you to keep an eye on ballistics for Calleigh.  Do not touch anything."  She nodded, going to do that.  "Miss Boa Vista, Xander is more than qualified in his three areas.  What happened that day was not his fault and holding it against him only causes more problems."

"I heard he's gay."

"He's bi," Speed said as he walked in.  "Now, anything else or can your gaping, dual cock sucking mouth shut?"  She made a shocked sound, backing away from her.  "See, being injured I've heard from all the ones you're playing."  She went pale.  "Am I clear?" he demanded coldly.  She nodded, taking another step back.  "Good.  I'm glad we have an understanding."  He looked at Horatio.  "We need samples to run through the higher end tests.  What do you have in for cases?"

"I'll go look."  He walked Speed off.  "Tact," he said gently.

"Not known for it.  Simply saying what Alexx wanted to, H."  He took the samples and went back to Trace, finding the other kid in there.  "Valera run you out?"

"I finished my reports and I wanted Xander to proof them since I'm changing my style a bit.  People seem to like his more than mine."

"Mine's simpler, and that's something we all started out having problems with," Xander assured him, getting a smile.  He went over it with a pen.  "Okay, repeating is bad," he pointed out.  That got a nod.  "Name and case number is easier, that way they have multiple ways of searching.  Where you've only got one  you can only use one but try to have both if you can."  He circled that area, and the other one.  "Also, not enough room to sign your name."  He handed it back.  "Overall pretty good.  Just a bit wordy.  Think about it like making an oral report to a supe.  You want it to not waste time, hit the highlights, and then leave them alone.  A fleshed-out outline really."

He nodded.  "I can do that.  Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome.  Make sure Calleigh agrees."  He nodded, heading back to work on those with Valera offering advice.  He smiled at Speed.  "I like teaching," he said quietly.

"Some day you'll get to," he promised.  He laid out the samples, smirking at him.  "Let's see what you can do now, Harris."

"Xander, please.  Mr. Harris was a fugly sperm donor who drinks."  Speed snickered, nodding at that.  "Which is first?"

"They're all the same priority."  Xander picked up the one that would normally be closest to the starting line of the things that needed to be done.  He looked at the information, frowning at the notes.  Speed looked then at him.  "That's comparison sampling."

"That's the two tubes, two samples, five grid chart?"  Speed nodded so he got to work on that one, making notes as he went.  "Slower, right?" he asked when Speed opened his mouth.

"No, I wasn't going to say that.  I was yawning, Xander.  Later on I'll introduce you to Alexx."

"If you're sure she won't  mind."

"She doesn't."  He handed over a special bottle, getting a nod.  "That's local protocol."

"Okay."  He did what he had to do, selecting the right test, letting him see and approve before he hit enter.

"Xander, who left out the sample?" Calleigh called before she walked in.

"Not us guys."

She looked at him.  "You let her?"

"She huffed off," Speed told her.  "I'm not letting him cover for her."

"Fine.  At least someone's been in there?"

"Yup, the other guy's been in there all but about two minutes when he wanted report writing advice," Xander assured her.

She smiled.  "That'll work then.  Yours?"

"Under the sticky pad."  He caught the report, frowning at it.  "This isn't the same chart."

Speed looked, then pointed.  "No match, extra spaces."

"Oh!"  He nodded.  "We only worked with things that matched in school."  He put those down with the samples overtop of them, getting to work on his report right then.  Calleigh smiled.  "I proofed mine for you already."

"I'll read them over," she promised.  She went to do that, finding Charlene back in there with Horatio.  "Normally, all interns are on the same dirt-bottom level.  Xander has special status because he is over halfway done.  Yes, I brought him in  here to help you guys with some sticky points.  Am I clear?"  They both nodded.  "Good.  Let's see the new report style, Brad."  He handed it over, making her smile.  "Very simple, I like that.  Horatio?"

He took it to look over, smiling and nodding.  "That'll do very well," he agreed, handing it back.  "Did you misspell  your name?"  He looked then nodded, getting in there to fix it.  "Good job.  Anything for me?"

"In Xander's stack were some you had initials on, Lieutenant," Brad said.

Calleigh got into them, finding his.  She read it over, then snickered.  "Xander's having a slightly odd day."  She showed him the line and he groaned.  She pulled it up to take that out then handed it back over.  "Lack of caffeine, Horatio.  Speed's noticed it once before too."

Eric leaned in.  "He did what?"

"He was humming while typing and included the song lyrics," she said with a smile.  "He needs more caffeine."

"I'll tell Speed, just in case."

"That was his second report.  Let me check the others."  She went over them, only having to fix one spelling mistake for him.  She reprinted and handed them off.  "Common word switch."

"Thank you, Calleigh."  He walked off to deliver the others.  He walked into Trace.  "Xander, this problem with song lyrics."  He groaned, putting his head down on the table away from the samples.  "Only one this morning.  And one word switch."

"I'm sorry," he said, looking at him.  "I don't mean to do that."

"I know.  Watch out for it, get more caffeine on break, Xander."  He nodded, letting him walk off again.  He smiled when he ran into Eric and his soda.  "None in the lab, Eric."

"He can gulp it in the hallway.  Xander?"  He came out to take the soda, swallowing half of it within a minute then putting the bottle into the inbox out there.  Eric gave him an odd look.  "Is that how you do that out there?"

"Yup.  That way I don't have to trek for it later."

"That's workable as long as it won't drip and it's sealed," Horatio agreed.  Eric shrugged at that, leaving it in his hands while he went to work on his own trace samples.  Horatio walked off smiling, running into Valera.  "Problems?"

"I wanted to see his reports.  Calleigh brags."  He let her see, getting a nod.  "Those are nice.  Very concise. I like that."  She smiled at him.  "Soda in the inbox?"  He nodded.  "I've done that too."  She walked off, going back to her lab.  "Xander's got a good report style too.  Very concise and to the point without being too choppy."  Xander brought in a swab.  "From Trace?"

"We need it cross-checked with DNA please.  It's a biological."  He put down a copy of the report.  "That's what we found and Speed wanted to know if you could find something since you're one of the future Goddesses of DNA."

She smiled.  "You're adorable."

"Yes, but I've turned a stripper into a serial killer so I'll raise dogs even if I do flirt," he said with a grin, making her cackle.  "Seriously."  He shrugged, heading back to their lab.  "He said to page him," he called.

"I can do that."  She went back over the initial report then started that sample.

"How do you turn a stripper into a serial killer?" Boa Vista asked.

"I'm sensing a story," Valera admitted.  "I've only heard a little bit from the detective who got the notice she was out."

"I wonder if the rest of us know," her counterpart said dryly.

Valera looked at her.  "She won't come for you.  She's only killing redheads and blondes."  She got back to work.  Eric brought over another sample.  "From the adorable one?"

"No, wrong stack," he admitted.  "What did he say?  I heard the giggle."

"He called me a future Goddess of DNA."  She smiled. "You could flirt too.  It does cheer my day up greatly."

He grinned.  "You'd think I was hitting on you if I flirted, Max."  He pinched her on the arm.   "We'd never get together.  You're a lot more wild than I am."

She beamed.  "Thank you."

"How did the kid turn a stripper into a serial killer?" Natalia asked him.

Eric gave her a look then shrugged.  "I don't know.  Ask Speed.  He talked to him and I've only seen him around."  He walked off again.  "Xander, there's a question about your last ex," he said as he walked back into trace.

"The pro who took hostages, or my former stripper ex?" he asked absently while he looked at something under a microscope.  "I want to say salt," he told Speed, letting him look.  "But it's the wrong crystal structure to me."

"That's because that's rock salt instead of sea or table salt."  Xander nodded, making notes for his personal use.  He looked at Eric.  "Why do they want to know?"

"Natalia asked."

"She got very mad at how his female friends warped him while they raised him," Speed told him.  "Went to kill them over and over since she doesn't like airplanes.  Thinks that they're being held up by something like faith."

"Oh.  Okay.  You do know she's out, right, Xander?"

He looked at him then nodded.  "Yeah, I called the Marshals when she showed up at my door last night to get laid, Eric."  He gaped.  "It was fun but they came to get her again.  Whether or not they still have her I don't know."  He whimpered.  "It kept her there and hey, haven't had any in months.  Thanks anyway."  He grinned sweetly.  "Speed wants to take me clubbing to see the club problem in action.  Would you like to back him up taking me back?"

"Sure," he decided, nodding.  "Where would we get rock salt from, Speed?"

He looked at the sample case then at him.  "Your case, Delko."  He held it up.

"Would this be closer to pickling salt or like found in a quarry of ancient sea salt sort of rock salt?  Or is this like road salt up north?"

Speed looked, adjusting the magnification.  "Looks like road salt."  He looked at him.  "Good question.  Pickling salt is usually the same sort of stuff you find on the table, only a different grind and possibly a different way of curing it down to salt."  He nodded, making another note of that.

"Where would you get road salt in Miami?" Eric asked, frowning.

"They can sometimes mix some in with the asphalt," Xander told him.  "Like they do with the reflective bits now and then.  I've also seen people putting it into grout and those textured paints instead of other things.  Or check the big chain hardware places.  Maybe a bag in a trunk as a counterweight?"

"Have you had to do that?" Speed asked.

"No, I have a rocket launcher if I need counterweight in my trunk," he told him with a grin.

Eric walked off shaking his head, going to call the department of roads to see if they had an idea about road salt.  It was the wrong time of year to have it from a non-native sample traveling to get away from snow.

Speed patted him on the back.  "More work, less happiness.  Slave for the department, Xander."  He nodded, getting to work running a small sample to see if there were any other ingredients and then started on the report while that ran.  He got done and went to his next sample to start preparing it.  Horatio and Frank Tripp both came in.  "Do they still have his girlfriend?"

"She escaped at the airport," Frank said grimly.

"She's scared to death of planes," Xander told him, turning to look at him.  "She thinks physics is like faith and if only faith is holding the plane up it'll fall if you doubt.  Since she doubts...."  He got a nod for that.  "But she's not real bright.  She's a former stripper.  She can cook pretty well, which was why I dated her besides how pretty she was.  Anyone check the train station yet?  She likes trains.  She thinks they're like vibrators and the women who invented them did it for fun travel."

Horatio coughed, blushing a bit.  "I'll check on that, Xander.  What did she decide were their sins?"

"How they warped me.  She didn't like my thought that cheerleaders looked like hos shaking it for money in the middle of the basketball game.  She always wanted to be one." The machine spit out a report and he got to work on his report, putting it aside once it was done.  Then he ran the next sample, smiling at them.  "You might send her picture around to the strip clubs.  She didn't take any money from me and she'll need cash.  She won't rob her kills, she won't turn tricks, never did as a stripper, and she loathes drugs except for some mild acid now and then when she's having nightmares.  She said it helps her work them out better."  Frank nodded, taking notes.  "She went by Candy on the pole."

"I can do that.  I'm sure they took a new picture last night," Frank agreed.  Xander dug one out for him, handing it over.  "Even better.  Thanks, kid.  I'll bring this back."  He looked at the other one, holding it up.  "Blonde and redhead?"

He nodded.  "I'll run if they show up."

"Good to know," Horatio said, looking at them before handing it back, watching as Xander regloved before taking his new report and getting to work on it.

"We're taking Xander out to see if we can pinpoint his clubbing problem tonight, H.  Want to help?"

"If you need me, you'll call me, Speed."  He walked off smiling.

Valera leaned in.  "We are so having lunch.  Calleigh never said you were funny too."  Xander grinned and shrugged.  "Speed?"

"We got here at ten, that means you'd have to take the late one."

"I'm already on for the late one, I didn't get here until nine."  She blew a kiss, going back to her lab and planning on who to invite to lunch with them.  Some of the other techs would have a break about then.


Xander smiled at the techs sitting with him.  "Hi, guys.  I'm a Xander tech."  They all smiled at that.  "So, I'm getting the sucking feeling of pumping for information?"  He unwrapped his sandwich from the deli at the grocery store, checking it before taking a bite.

"Xander, that meat is a bit off," Valera warned.

"I'm poisonous in the kitchen.  Only I can make myself sick," he told her.  "Even arsenic didn't make me that sick."  She took the sandwich anyway, handing over half of her salad.  "Okay, I can eat girl food.  I have many times in the past."

"Gay?" the AV tech asked.

"Bi, strong leaning.  For some reason I seem to turn nice girls homicidal," he said with a small frown, nibbling using his fingers.  "I try really hard but then they get warped and they try to kidnap people or kill people, or kill me.  That's not really all that fun so I'm about given up and I'll have dogs."

Valera looked at him.  "Why would they kill you?"

"Because they're like that.  Most girls seem to be.  I've had three Xander-killing girlfriends, one Xander soul destroying girlfriend, one Xander nympho-ho girlfriend that used to be demonic and torture men instead, until apparently I was good or something, and then there was the stripper who went serial killer.  Oh, and one pro who took hostages to get me back," he finished with a shrug.  "Before you ask, I have no idea how I do it.  I think it's where the girls who raised me warped me.  I learned the importance of shoe and bra shopping by being dragged along.  A lot."  He ate another bite, licking off his fingers.

The AV tech was gaping.  "How?" he finally squeaked.

"If I knew I'd stop it," Xander assured him.  "I figure other guys are going without because I seem to get all the strange ones."

"No, normal guys don't mind not having the strange ones," he said.  "By the way, I'm Dan Cooper.  Call me DC."

"Okay. You're much nicer than Gerald."

"I'm sure there's minions of Satan nicer than Gerald," he said dryly.

Xander considered it then shrugged.  "Some are okay.   Some of Anya's friends were nice."  Eric came over to join them.  "Hi again."

"Hi, Xander.  Stole some salad?"

"His sandwich had green meat," Valera told him.  "I stole it so I fed him."

"That's nice of you," Eric assured him. "Speed wanted to know if you wanted introduced to my single sister."

"Is she going to turn into a bad girl and try to kill me or others too?"

Eric frowned.  "I heard about that from him and I don't believe it.  Sorry."

Xander took out his wallet, showing pictures.  "That's Ampata.  She tried to kill Buffy and me.  That's the second Xander killing girlfriend.  Well, the first just wanted to eat me but not really date me.  At sixteen, I didn't care."  He turned the picture.  "That's Faith.  She was my first and she was into choking.  Especially me.  Twice.  Basically climbed on top, rode me for five minutes then tossed me out.  The second time she simply choked me."  He changed the picture.  "That's Cordelia.  She's a soul sucking bitch.  Always putting me down and others too.  It was her fun of the day.  She agreed with how Willow was warping me though.  I've known her since first grade, the same as the ones across from her, Buffy and Willow.  Willow basically raised me and then Buffy came along and I kinda followed her into a lot of things I probably shouldn't have but it was sometimes rewarding, but I'll still run from them if they show up.  I'll give an Olympic time performance if they show up."  He changed the picture.  "That's Anyanka.  I nearly married her.  She went from torturing guys who dumped their girlfriends to a nympho slut who stole all my paychecks and demanded everything be her way.  She didn't try to kill me except for sex.  We lost her when Sunnydale fell, long after we had broken up because I left her at the altar."  He turned the picture.  "That's the last girlfriend.  The stripper.  She kept wanting to kill Buffy and Willow."

Eric looked at him.  "Did you ever try to date *normal* girls?  Because I've met your Anyanka in the past."

"She told me lots about what she used to do then demanded sex," Xander admitted.  "I thought I was dating normal girls really.  Except for her.  Kinda knew what I was getting into there but she showed up for sex one day and never quite left."  He put his wallet back, then reached over to close Maxine's mouth for her.  "That's why I'll have dogs."  She made squeaky noises. "What?"

"No!  No, no, no," she said finally, shaking her head.  "I've met Anyanka."

"Yeah, I nearly married her," he sighed.  "Then I found out I'd turn into my father if I did.  I'd hate that more than her coming back to kill me for dumping her."

She gave him an odd look.  So Cooper tried to change the subject.  "Xander, like any football teams?  We've got a pretty decent one this year."

Xander gave him a confused look.  "Gay sex wasn't bad but I like the one-on-one thing, not playing it in teams for spectators," he said, looking totally confused but serious.

Cooper gaped.  "What?"

"Football is like gay sex in teams.  Willow was right about that."

"Gotta ask how you get that one," Eric said.  Mentally he was cackling.  No one could shut Cooper up usually.  Xander had done it in under three minutes of knowing him.  The shocked and confused look was almost adorable on him.

"See, the center positions are all in the 'bend over and take it' position. There's a lot of patting, a lot of bumping up to rub against each other for good games.  There's the whole 'toss it back between my legs' move which I've seen lots of gay strippers do thanks to Buffy and Willow.  Usually with their pants but they do that same move.  Then the guy getting the tossed stuff cradles it and runs his hands over it.  The only straight guys are the guys who run out to catch the ball shaped like two tits back to back.  Sorry, breasts, been living with a bunch of guys who're lawyers for the last few years.  And one british guy but mostly guys who're lawyers and other fighters.  He catches the ball shaped like two breasts joined at the back end and runs off to prove he's still heterosexual until it's his turn in the center being patted, caressed, talked to sweetly in lover's code.  All that stuff."

Maxine fell off the bench.  Cooper whimpered.  Eric just stared at him.  "You're very unique, Xander.  Has anyone ever told you that?"

"Yes, right before I got the Princess of Ballistics tiara from my classmates."  He nibbled on another piece of salad, grinning at Cooper.  "I do like some of the Strongman events and horse jumping, gymnastics, those things.  Lifetime and I are friends too.  You can come watch if you want."

He let out another whimper, shaking his head.  He finally got his mouth to work and patted him on the hand.  "We'll fix what they did to you, Xander.  There'll be no more evil women around you."

"They're all evil, that's why they're women.  That's why they shop or so I was told by Willow's girlfriend Tara.  Women are meant to shop.  All women are evil.  Therefore shopping is evil and taints women each time they go.  It's mathematical somehow.  I didn't really get math all that well."  He grinned when he saw Speed and someone else.  "Hi, Speed."

"Xander, why is Valera on the ground?" Speed asked.

"He told us about football," Eric said, nodding a bit.  "How it was just like gay sex."

"With all that patting going on?  I can see how one would think that," Alexx said, coming over to sit next to the boy. "I'm Alexx.  I'm the ME, Xander."

He kissed her on the cheek.  "Speed said you were like his mommy."

"I am.  Do you like cookies?"

Xander looked confused, then nodded.  "Yeah, but cookies are for guilt.  What did I do wrong?"

"No, sweetie, I bake cookies because I want to bake cookies.  When I feel guilty I apologize."

"Can you teach my former friends how to do that?"

"If I see them I'll beat it into them," she promised.  "Like peanut butter?"

"I like all cookies," he said with a grin.  "But if I eat too much chocolate I bounce.  Speed said I had to warn you."

"I'll remember that."  She looked at the salad.  "You finish up.  You're too skinny."

"He lives on takeout, Alexx," Speed said, sitting next to Eric.  He looked down at Valera.  "Want a pillow or a blanket?"

"CPR?" she asked weakly.

Xander stood up to look down at her. "I can do that but you might end up warped and being on the Xander killing society."  Alexx pulled him back down.  "They have been."

"Who has been?" she asked.

"Almost all his exes," Eric told her.  "Remember that problem woman I had to go to my family priest about?"  She grimaced but nodded. "He nearly married her."

"Yeah, Anya was the nicest of them," Speed told her.

Alexx gave Xander a look then shook her head.  "Ever think about boys?"

"A few times but I can only appreciate about one out of every ten thousand.  Though I did use it to get my car fixed faster when I was stranded and having to strip to get it fixed."

Valera made another squeaky noise.  Eric pulled her back up.  "Xander, sweetie, can I have your friend's phone number?"

"That would mean I have it," he pointed out.  "I can look it up."  He took her pen and wrote out the name.  "They're usually there."  He handed the pen back, then checked his watch, inhaling the rest of his borrowed salad.  "Gotta go.  Don't want to be late."  He grinned at Alexx.  "I'm down where Speed is."

"I'll send Speedy in with cookies Monday morning, baby.  You go back to work."

"Go help Calleigh for a while," Speed ordered.  "Until I get back."  He nodded, bouncing inside.  Speed looked at Valera.  "Now you know why his stripper ex turned into a serial killer."

"I wouldn't kill them, just maim them horribly."  Eric took the napkin Xander had written on from her.  "Hey!  I need that!  Someone has to straighten him out before Frank asks him about sports."

"Frank's already wondering why he's so odd since Tanya, his ex, is out."  Cooper whimpered at that.  "It's okay, she only wants to kill his former friends.  She got away from the Marshals last night after he called them to pick her up.  She came over for sex."

"We're taking him clubbing tonight," Eric offered.  "Anyone want to come?"

"Please get the boy laid," Cooper said quietly.  "It could help him."

"He got some last night, it didn't seem to," Speed said, giving him a look.  "Doesn't help you either, DC."

"Hey!  I've got a girlfriend."

"Does she still inflate or are you on the solid ones?" Speed asked sarcastically.  "Just remember, you too can turn into a Xander."   He shuddered at that, hugging himself.

"I'll warn Frank to warn the others not to ask Xander about sports.  Though we did get the quick summary of his ex girlfriends," Eric said, getting up and going inside to find something for his headache and to warn Frank and Horatio first.  Someone had to warn them.  He heard Valera and Speed explaining gay sex=football to Alexx, making him shake his head quickly.  "H?"  He looked over from the front desk.  "It might be better if Xander didn't have to explain why football equaled gay sex to anyone else.  Can you warn Frank and the others?"

Horatio looked at him then sighed and nodded.  "I've heard that theory."  He went to warn Frank about that.  "Frank?"  He looked over with a grin.  "I was reminded to warn you not to ask Xander his views on sports."

"He's anti-sports?"

"He was raised by some very warping young women," Alexx said as she joined them.  "He thinks football is exactly like gay sex and only the receivers are hetero because they catch the ball that's like two breasts back to back to take home.  At least until it's their turn."  Frank choked.  Hagen choked in his cubicle.  "Hey, John.  Didn't mean to get you too."

"He's joking, right?" John begged.

"No, he's not," Alexx sighed, leaning on a dividing half-wall.  "He was raised by some very warping girls who used to make him go bra shopping with them.  That's why his ex is presently being sought to go back into custody so she can't go kill his friends, or anyone who looks like his friends.  We really should warn Calleigh."

"Warn her why?" John demanded.

"One of the girls who warped him was small and blonde," Horatio told him. "She knows.  She met Tanya earlier on a scene but Tanya said she's better for Xander than Buffy was so she'll only watch her and make sure she doesn't try to warp him further.  Because, as she quoted, her snuggly one was fairly strange but if he got warped any more he wouldn't be as good in bed and throwing away a man with an oral fetish was wrong and evil of women."  He held a hand up at the snickers.  "She recorded it when she realized who she was."  He looked at John.  "He's got a fairly unstandard view of a lot of issues, John.  He's also got some very warping t-shirts."

"So he's a warped gun junkie?" John asked.  Horatio nodded.  "Is he any good in the lab?"

"He's half done," Horatio told him.  "LAPD let him sub in theirs.  The other labs wanted him back."  They all moaned.  "He's the fifth highest tech in the intern class at the moment.  He's out at the satellite lab."

"I'll keep that in mind," John promised, shaking his head quickly.  "Does Calleigh know?"

"She probably agreed with the cheerleaders equaling hookers shaking it for money," Horatio told him.  "Again, a direct quote."  They just nodded and Frank took an antacid, offering them to Horatio and Alexx, who took one.

"The boy can't cook, he thought cookies were for guilt, and he looks very confused now and then," Alexx told them.

"He calls his menu collection mom," Horatio told her.  "She apparently couldn't cook either."  She huffed, walking off to figure out what to make the boy.  Interns made crap wages, he couldn't afford to live on takeout.  Horatio looked at the detectives.  "Someone warn Yelina?"  John nodded but groaned a bit.  "Thank you.  I have to get Miss Valera and Cooper to quit conspiring."  He went to do that, finding them in the hallway hissing at each other.  "Exposure is the best way," he said quietly.  "Go back to work."  They went back to their labs, IM'ing back and forth about how to expose Xander to good, manly things.  Though, Cooper did suggest she get Natalia to hit on him.  He didn't like her and they could arrest her if she went bad.  Valera went to swat him in person for that idea.


Xander grabbed his forehead and the counter, wincing as the vision started.  "Speed?" he called.  "Help?"  He came strolling in, putting Xander into his desk chair when he saw what was going on.  Xander suffered through it, then panted as he came down, taking the paper and pen Speed had to write out what he could.  Some of it he couldn't describe.  He hesitated.

"Do what you need to so the point gets across, even if it's not a real word," Speed soothed, coming over to rub over the back of his neck.  He nodded, putting down the rest of it.  It wasn't very good english but it was very descriptive.  He called Horatio.  "You're right, he's still having them."  He hung up.

"Cordy cursed me," he complained, holding his forehead. "Thank you."

"Welcome.  How often do you have these?"

"Depends on how often someone attacks," he said, looking at him.  "I'll be okay in a few minutes.  Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He let his neck go, looking at the vision.  "Part of the city?"

"Docks."  He held his forehead.  "Cruise ship.  Didn't I put that in there?"

Speed shook his head, grabbing a tape recorder and coming back.  "Okay, from the top, Xander.  Where were you?"

"Docks.  A disney cruise ship was there."  He held his forehead, the throbbing was coming back.  "There's three guys wearing cheap armani knock offs.  They don't quite look like they're together but their body language said they're guarding someone.  I'm not sure if it's them or not.  It's in the carry ons.  They were scanned but they're shielded somehow."  He used the palm of his hands to rub his eyes.  "They're walking onto the ship and someone runs up behind them, saying that one of them had dropped his wallet.  The kid was being a good kid.  The guy panicked and set off his bomb.  It blew the reception area and the dock.  The other two blew theirs in their last few seconds to take out the rest of the ship and the dock area.  The building was a bit damaged.  For some reason the explosion came out as a purple mist that seemed to eat things.  I think it's chemical but I can't be sure what.  It was kinda sparkly and moved like the clouds in Fantasia, the ones that were vertical lines in the earlier stuff.  Not like regular clouds.  It was the purple cloud that damaged the building.  Mostly the glass on it."

"Do you have any idea which ship it is?  There's a few disney cruises a week."

"No," he said, looking miserable.  "I know it's hot, humid.  Like late afternoon hot and humid."  He looked at him.  "I don't get a time code usually.  I couldn't even make myself look at my watch."

"Do you usually get these because  the plan was just set or it's about to happen?"

"I usually get enough time to fix it, but not much more than a few days' warning. This time it may be a bit later.  They could switch their tickets.  I think that's why I got it.  Before I couldn't have stopped it maybe but they switched targets?  I'm not sure but that's an odd feeling and it feels right."

"That's fine.  It could be important.  Could you describe the men?"

"Cheap knock-off Armani suits.  Dark with white shirts.  Dark hair.  One had on red hightops."  He looked confused.  "One had a watch that seemed to sparkle at me.  I don't know why."

"Diamonds?" Speed suggested.

"No.  It had the 'important thing' glow around it.  They were in this pattern," he said, using things on his desk to lay out their walking pattern.  "There was a person between the first guy, the point guy, and the back two were kinda not walking next to each other but in the same general line of the crowd to board."  Speed nodded, taking a picture of that.  "That watch is going to drive me insane."

"We can check in a few minutes.  What did it look like?"

"Silver.  Blue dial."

"Close your eyes," Horatio said from the doorway.  "Let's see if we can get anything off it."  Xander nodded, concentrating.  Speed went back to rubbing his shoulders.  "Okay, Xander.  Describe the watch," he ordered, coming in to sit across from him.

"It looked like the one I was considering at Wal-mart the other day," he said quietly.  "It was silver, had a blue dial.  Had the numbers around the outer edge of the face instead of on the dial.  It almost looked like it had multiple buttons.  He opened his eyes and sketched it out.  "I'm horrible at drawing.  It looks like that."

Horatio nodded.  "Okay.  Did it have a date function?" he asked.  Xander closed his eyes and concentrated, then nodded slowly.  "Can you see it?"  Xander nodded, marking that down and the time.  "Okay.  Was it right?"

"I don't know," he admitted, looking at him. "Even when I'm wearing one in there it's sometimes off by a few hours."

"Were they booked together?" Speed asked.  "Could you see their tickets?"  He went back to rubbing out the knots, letting him concentrate, smiling at the small moan.  "Concentrate on the tickets, Xander."

"It's really fuzzy.  Usually it means I'm not meant to see that part.  I can see it's a 2-1-3?"  He frowned, drawing out what he saw.  Then he shook his head.  "It's gone."

Horatio turned off the tape player.  "It's enough for us to start looking," Horatio promised.  He gave him a pat on the arm.  "Take a break and come back to the lab in a few minutes, Xander."  He nodded, going to grab his soda from the inbox so he could lounge in the sun for a few minutes. "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He looked at the ticket.  "Is that normal?"

"I don't know."  He took it with him, and the tape.  He knew someone who would listen to it.  They had even been on a disney cruise so they'd know.  He tapped before walking into their office.  "Got ten?"

"For you, yes.  Why?"

Horatio closed the door.  "One of my lab staff is afflicted with visions," he said quietly. "His first one that I've seen was right."

"Interesting.  And?"  He handed over the picture and the tape player.  He rewound it, letting him hear it and read Xander's words.  He studied the picture of the ticket, pulling out his own stub.  "That's a room number."  Horatio nodded.  "How sure is he on the date?"

"He's not.  He said it could be wrong, even when he's been able to see others they've been off by a few hours."

"But that does give us a way to start.  The purple haze?"

"I don't know, it sounds chemical but I don't know what it could be right off the top of my head."  He called Xander. "Did you get any other sense from the cloud?  Was it hurting bodies?  Or simply metal?  Did it have a taste?  An odor?" He made notes.  "Anything else about it?"  He nodded, making that note as well.  "Any help on the time?"  He smiled.  "I had to try.  Thank you.  I am."  He hung up and pushed it over.  "It's against the metal and concrete.  I'm guessing it eats one of the heavier metals or something.  He did say it was sparkly because he thinks it's partially in a crystal form, which would explain how it was released."

"Very interesting.  How accurate is he?"

"So far I've only seen one.  He was off by about two hours.  If not, it can be used as a drill.  He was sure that the guys panicked, that's why they released it there."

"It almost seems like they dropped it on purpose.  That's their code maybe?"  He put it down, looking at him.  "Let me do some quiet checking.  Who?"

"I'd rather keep him hidden."

"The one who ended up in your supply closet without reason?"  Horatio nodded.  "He's where?"

"Satellite lab.  He's a ballistics intern with a trace minor and a minor in field work."

"You and Speed did good talking him down.  I'll guard his secret.  Come to me with any others."  Horatio nodded, leaving it with him.  He called around.  "Did you see anything about a disney cruise?"   She whimpered.  "I need more concrete details, especially about which one.   Someone Caine knows has them as well," he said quietly, taking notes.  He smiled.  "Please. That way I can compare.  I'm here."  He hung up, looking up upcoming cruises.


Xander watched the news, biting his lip.  Speed walked up behind him, patting him on the back.  "They found the guys.  They're in a standoff."

"They were warned they had biological weapons in their things," Speed said quietly.  "It'll be okay, Xander.  They cleared it just in case."  That got a nod and Xander gave him a hug, going back to his lab.  Speed winced when one went off but they had a containment system to put around them.  That's why they had trapped them in that area.  The other two were stopped before they could blow themselves up.  He smiled when he saw Horatio there taking care of the bags.  The inflatable containment bubble went around the area.  It was a good catch.  He breathed a sigh of relief.  Someone had listened very well.  He called him.  "Horatio, there's some of the purple stuff on you by the cameras.  I am.  He went back to ballistics to worry himself to death.  Let me know if I can help."  He hung up and Horatio ordered them to contain him as well.  They heard it over the cameras.  They rushed him and the bags off together to be cleaned and put into quarantine.  Horatio would do the processing if he could.  Xander came back.  "It's all right.  H is doing the processing himself."

"He was affected?"

"No, he was covered in some of it," he said, looking at him.  "It'll be all right, Xander.  He'll be fine."  Xander nodded, going back to watching.  "Nothing new?"

"No.  Not yet."  He sipped his soda, going back to watching it happen.  Gerald walked in and gave them a look since they were in his AV lab.  "Docks.  Someone was trying to use a chemical weapon."

"Wow."  He looked then at him.  "How long have you had visions?"

"Cordy passed hers onto me."  He grimaced.  "They're not fun."

"I heard they hurt like hell."  Speed's phone rang.  "Shoo, boys.  I'll let you know how it ends."

"Speedle," he answered.  "What's up, Chief?  I'm in the satellite lab working with Harris actually.  I can do that.  No, I don't think it'll hurt Horatio.   I think it'll hurt buildings.  Just something that struck me with how it dispersed," he lied.  "I can do that."  He hung up.  "I've got to go back to the main lab, Xander.  Anything you don't know, do not touch.  I'll come gather them later."  He nodded, letting him head out to his bike so he could go back.

Xander went back to watching the video.  "At least they stopped them."

"It could have been much worse," Gerald agreed dryly.  "Now, go back to your own lab, kid."

"Sorry, Horatio was covered."

"That's fine.  I'm sure Speedle will tell us.  Out!"  He nodded, heading out to go back to ballistics.  He sighed, watching it for him.  It preempted his soaps anyway.  He did run the traffic cameras for the morning rush hour to pick out any anomalies on another screen.  That way it looked like he was working while he was watching the life sized soap opera.


Horatio stepped into the satellite lab, smiling at Xander.  "See, I'm fine."  Xander smiled and hugged him.  "You did very good, Xander.  Thank you."

"You're fine?"

"I'm fine.  It ate my suit but I'm fine."  Xander grinned and nodded, giving him a squeeze before backing up.  "From now on, if you have one I need to know.  No matter what time of the day or night, all right?"  He nodded.  "No more handling them on your own.  I heard Eric saw you handling one.  That you handed him some silver bullets?"

"It was a small invasion of demonic rats."

"Fine.  Let me know the next time."  He nodded at that.  "How is everything else going?"

"It's all right, Horatio.  I'm doing okay."

"Good."  He smiled and slid back into his sunglasses.  "I'm going to go save Speed from my desk of doom.  Anything that I need to carry that way?"  Xander went to get three samples, handing them to him.  He looked then at him.  "You can't run that here?"

"I could if the machine worked.  It blew a fuse and I can't get it to stay in no matter what I've tried.  I've even done the bad thing and unplugged it."

"I'll get someone to come look at it if it's still off in the morning."  Xander nodded at that.  "Any reports?"

"I didn't have anything all day."


"Am I getting field hours?"

"I'll see if something happens down this way."  Xander nodded at that, grinning again.  "Good job."  He left, taking the samples back to his lab.  He walked in, weathering the looks Stetler gave him.  "My office."  He headed up there, handing Speed the samples.  "Your machine there blew a fuse.  Xander said he tried everything, up to and including unplugging it.  One looks resealed."

"He was probably in the middle of processing when it blew," he admitted.  "Did he send the sample bottle?"  Horatio shook his head.  "If I have to I'll get that from him."  He called over.  "Xander, send over the sample bottle that it blew while doing."  He listened, frowning.  "Was it printing?"  He nodded.  "Did you get the report? All but the bottom header and the last name but it came out on another page after the third restart?  That's fine.  No, put a sign up and if I can't get it working I'll call someone tomorrow.  Yeah.  I'll be there.  Go home on time."  He hung up.  "It was printing fortunately."  He got up, letting Horatio have his chair.  "I'll go run these."  He went to do that.

Horatio sat down with a groan of pleasure.  "Much better than a decontamination chamber."

"Are you all right?" Rick asked patiently.

"I'm fine.  It ate my suit but nothing else.  It was meant to eat certain types of industrial fibers."

"Interesting.  How did you know to run the drill that day?"

"No comment."  He stared at him.  "I'm not telling you."

"Who are you protecting?  They could be part of this."

Horatio pulled out the tape, putting it into the shredder.  He had another copy stored.  "They're not part of it.  They're afflicted."

"Blackmail?" he demanded.

"No.  He's not involved in any way, Rick.  Believe it or not he dreamed it."  Rick snorted, giving him a dirty look.  "I knew you didn't want to hear.  I took it to someone who could corroborate.  They found enough evidence to move people into position in case.  It's about as valid as any other form of tip."

"So you trusted a *dream* someone had?"

"It's not the first right one he's had," Horatio admitted quietly, staring him down.  He groaned, stomping off.  "Sorry," he called after him, waving a hand.  "That's why I'm not telling you who."  He looked at the paperwork Speed had so lovingly left him.  It got a sigh.  He hated paperwork.  Maybe he could talk Xander into doing it?  No, that was misuse of an intern.


Xander wobbled into the main lab the next morning, dragging the woman handcuffed to him.  "Horatio wanted to talk to her," he told the officer who tried to stop him.  He held up his ID badge.  "Is he in yet?"

"He's at a scene," someone called, coming out of the detective's area.  He looked at him then at the yawning woman behind him.  "Lost the keys?"

"Horatio wanted to talk to her about her trying to kidnap me at gunpoint last night."

"Ah."  The detective nodded.  "Let me get one of his more favored detectives to handle that, kid.  Hagen?"  He called.  He came out, giving Xander a look.  "He said Horatio wanted to talk to her about her kidnaping attempt?"

"Sure.  Come on, kid."  He walked them both that way, looking at her.  "You couldn't cuff her the regular way?"

"I dislocated her shoulder earlier while I was trying to get away," he admitted.

"That's reasonable at least," he said, uncuffing them and cuffing her to the chair.  She growled at him.  "Xander, why don't I get Frank to take your statement since he's half asleep.  You can wake him up."  Xander nodded, going where he pointed.  He looked at her, opening up the proper form.  "Now,  you tried to kidnap him at gunpoint?  Kid, gun?"

"Um, backseat of my car," Xander called.  "Bagged, not boxed.  Not unloaded either.  It was only three hours ago, sorry.  I have my field kit but not boxes."  Frank took the keys to go do that and the other stuff he had back there when he saw it.  He brought it back, handing it to him.  "Hers.  She had her brother, or someone she called her brother, open up his pawn shop so she could take me shopping at gunpoint."

John looked at him then at her.  "I want your side."

"He's mine," she said simply.  "No  one else can have him. He understands a woman's needs.  He also has very good taste in jewelry for me to steal."

"So,  you stole the jewelry?" John asked, making notes so he could type this in later.

"Well, yeah, not like I make CEO money," she said snidely.  "I make less than you do."

He looked at her.  "Then what makes you think you could afford that kid?  He's got a gun habit."

"He's so cute with them too," she cooed, then quit grinning and went back to scowling.  "I'll be taking my boy back now, thank you."

"He's got to appear at work today."  Frank's phone rang.  "This guy who opened the store, did he know you were going to steal it?"

"No, and Xander didn't know I shot him either."  She smiled sweetly.  "I locked him in the car when I went back to get the last bag."

"Ah."  He called Horatio to tell him that.  "Are you at a pawn shop homicide and robbery?" he asked.  "Because I have the woman who did it while she had your prized intern in cuffs."  He hung up, looking at her again.  "Where did you meet him?"


"The club, right?"  She nodded, smirking a bit.  He made a note of that.  "And what drew you to him?  We've been trying to figure that out."

"He's very well packed and one girl got off from dancing with him."  She beamed.  "He's very good."

"Did you two have sex?"

"I danced with him and he's the right height.  Besides, my mental fairies loved him.  They said so."

Xander looked over at her.  "This is the first I've heard of mental fairies, Donna.  Last time I asked you told me I was  hot enough to make you wet without knowing what I smelled like."  He went back to Frank's questions.  Though he did think to text Speed that he'd be late this morning.   He looked at Frank.  "I was out at a gay club to avoid women."

Frank snickered.  "Looks like you failed."

"Yeah and her girlfriend was pissed when she took her purse gun to kidnap me plus her handcuffs from her purse to kidnap me."

John looked over.  "Do we know this girlfriend?"

"Cute, blonde, looked a bit post-op by facial features.  She was apparently well known since they have metal detectors there and they still let her in with the gun.  If she wants, I'll have her gun replaced since it'll have to be destroyed since it's evidence."

"I'll let her know when I find her, kid," John promised, making a note of that as well.  He looked at her.  "Your girlfriend, won't she mind?"

"No, she knew I'd go back to dicks sometime.  She was good but had a crappy rhythm.  Xander has an excellent one.  Did you know he had to correct me four times on his name?  I thought he was a Steve."

"No, I didn't know that."  He made a note of that too until Horatio stomped in.  "Hey, Horatio, come meet Donna.  She took your boy from Colorful last night because he was trying to be good and avoid women."

Horatio looked at Xander.  "You did try?"

"I did try until she stuck the twenty-two in my ribs and cuffed me," he admitted.  "What else did she do?"

"She shot the pawn shop owner."

Frank pointed at the bags.  "These were in his backseat."

"I wasn't going to let her take *her* car," Xander said dryly.  "Less chance of me getting away."

"How did you get her into yours?" Frank asked.

"He was mean.  He promised me backseat sex as the sun came up and we're here," she pouted.

"When the sun came up she had us out in the Everglades.  I went 'ooh, cougar' and pointed," Xander said dryly.  "Kept me from having to fake it."  Frank smiled.  "I know this means my POS car is going to be impounded for evidence for a while.  Can I get a lift out to the other lab?"

"I'll make sure you get to work, Xander," Horatio promised, patting him on the back.   John handed him the notes he had been making, getting a smile.  "Let's make this an official statement, John."  He nodded, getting her up and walking her to an interrogation room so they could tape it.  "Xander, is anything in that bag not from her?"

"No, that stuff went into the glove box," Xander admitted.  "She patted me down and put it in there.  Oh, I dislocated her shoulder when I got away.  I was nice enough to put it back for her."

"That's fine," he agreed, going to listen to the statement being made.  She was so sure Xander was hers.  John pressed her on her mental fairies story and she caved on it.  When she was done and Frank had Xander sign his statement he drove him back to the satellite lab, walking him inside.  Bob came out and Horatio stared at him from behind his glasses.  "He was kidnaped and brought in the person who had him," he said calmly.

"Wonderful," he agreed.  "Thank you for cleaning too, Xander."

Xander nodded.  "I had to clean.  It was nasty.  I got transfer from my microscope."  Bob nodded at that.  "I'm going to go change clothes.  Horatio, do you need these?"

"Please," he agreed. Xander went to change clothes and bag those with Speed's help.  He took the bag when Xander came back out in a t-shirt that made his head hurt and a pair of jeans, plus his lab coat.  He got a hug and Xander went to work.  He looked at Bob.  "Let me put this in the hummer and I'll be right back so we can talk, Bob."  He went to do that and came back with the pictures Speed had taken of the labs before they had really started to clean.  It had been an hour into the cleaning and it was still defying logical assumptions of appropriate cleanliness.   He saw Eric come in two hours later while they were still going over how to clean a lab and pointed at ballistics, getting a nod.

Eric leaned into ballistics.  "You clear?"

Xander looked over from his reading.  "Yup. Speed said to take a break in here so I am."  He put his feet down off the spare stool.  "Need more statements?"

"No, we got your stuff from the glovebox."  He handed over the baggie.  "Why do you have four checks in there?"

"Someone slipped them into my pocket," he said grimly.  He shrugged.  "Someone wanted me and I turned them down."

Speed walked in.  "The night you missed going  out with us thanks to your mother I taped for Stetler.  He choked and nearly had to go to the ER for help.  They do that for some reason.  Where were you?"

"Colorful.  I went to a gay bar so I could avoid straight women."

Eric just nodded.  "You were only there?"  Xander nodded.  "How long?"

"Three hours when she took me."

Eric sighed a bit.  "Frank wanted that information included when we found the wad of cash.  Stetler's already sniffing around."

"I told him he could go out with me one night to see it in person," Xander said with a small shrug.  "Is she going to get help?"

"She's already taken a deal for seven years on the kidnaping and ten on the homicide," Eric told him.  Xander grimaced.  "They were being nice."

"I want to know what I do to make them do that.  Oh, Horatio has my clothes in the hummer.  If it's sweat based, like a teacher thought, you might not want to let Calleigh open it.  I'd hate to see her go bad and stalk me too."

Eric smirked.  "I'll make sure she doesn't, Xander."  He nodded at the bag.  "What's your protocol for that stuff?"

"LA made me fill out a form and put anything jewelry in the lost and found for thirty days.  Cash was mine.  Checks I usually ignored."

Speed walked out, going to talk to Horatio.  "Do we have a local protocol for the Xander tipping situation?"

"I have a form in my office for it.  Stetler's boss found it when he saw the tape.  He's not the only one we have who has that problem."

"Do we know why?"

"It's thought to be pheromone based," he admitted.  "Other than that, no.  Why?"

"You have sweaty clothes ripening in the hummer," Speed reminded him.  "Calleigh?"

"I'll keep her off it until I've collected sweat samples."  Speed nodded, going to tell the boy that.  "I'll fax the form in a while, Speed.  Keep one handy and help him fill it out."

"Checks, H?" Eric called.

"Up to him.  Jewelry as well," he called back, looking at the confused local head.  "Xander has a unique problem when he goes clubbing.  He gets tipped."

"I heard about that guy in Vice who had that problem," he said grimly.

Horatio nodded.  "He went to a gay bar last night to avoid straight women due to it."  He stood up.  "I'm sure Speed can help him do that form later on."

"I'll try to make it better, Horatio.  It's really the night person's...."  Horatio gave him a look before putting on his sunglasses.  "I'll let them clean all they want."

"Thank you.  I'll make sure you have a janitor again as well."  He walked out, going to look at Xander's gift bag.  "Getting a new car?" he asked, pointing at the keys.

"I don't know what those go to.  Did we find *my* keys?"  Horatio patted them.  "Thank you.  I don't to break into my own apartment tonight."  He looked at him.  "I tried."

"I know you did."  He patted him on the back.  "No work?"

"No scenes this way and we're caught up but Speed's still waiting on someone to come fix a machine.  I was doing one of the journals but I only brought one."

"That's fine, Xander."  He gave him another pat then left, going back to the lab.  He walked the clothes inside, finding Calleigh waiting.  "You may not handle Xander's clothes, just in case whatever drew her to him is on them."

"He has that same problem as the guy in Vice and the one in the translator corps?"  Horatio nodded.  "Wow.  Yeah, I can stand far, far away.  I don't want to be his stalker."

Horatio smiled at her.  "He called?"

"Yup.  He was very nice when he explained why and I agree."  She looked around then at him.  "How much did he make?"

"Who did his glovebox?"

"Ryan.  Ryan?"  He came out of layout.  "What was in his glovebox?"

"Besides the nine millimeter?"  He found the list and the box, handing them to her.  "I wasn't sure if it was his or not.  We found a revolver under the seat and a shotgun in the trunk."

"He's a ballistics tech," Horatio noted.  "He does have a personal exemplar."

"I haven't run registration yet," Ryan admitted.  "I'm still working on the video from the shop.  He was handcuffed and complaining while she asked his opinion."  He looked at the bag.  "His clothes?"

"Yes, and he has that same problem as the person in Vice does," Horatio said quietly.

"I'll take a small sweat sample to see if we can find out why," he said, taking the bag.  "He made about sixty thousand counting money and checks, there were three sets of keys in there, a diamond ring, and a cock ring as well.  I did not take a swab of it since I thought it was probably his."

"He went to a gay bar to get away from straight women last night," Calleigh told him.

"Should I go get it and swab it?" Ryan asked.

"He's at the satellite lab.  He can if we need him to," Horatio assured him.  "What was the red box?"

"It had a single Ford key inside."  He shrugged.  "I'd ask what caused the problem but I'm not sure I want to know.  It's got to make you want to be a hermit."  He walked off again.  "Stetler's been here and sneered then left and vowed to come back later," he called as he walked.

"Thank you for the warning," Calleigh called after him.  She looked at Horatio, letting him see the list.  He shook his head, walking off to call Xander while she ran the registration on the guns.  When one didn't come up as his she called.  "Who is David Gunn?"  He told her and she nodded, marking that down.  "No, the shotgun's not registered to you, it's in his name."  She nodded again. "Please do."  She hung up.  That meant they could go back to him.  Horatio came in to get her report on that.  "I want to see his exemplar."

He smiled.  "He has some of it hidden as a fake wall, Calleigh."  He took the guns with him to put back into the car.  Stetler found him down there.  "Making sure she didn't drop anything else."

"Wolfe miss anything?" he sneered.

"No."  He came back out.  "We have to give this back to the victim."

"He went to a gay bar?"

"To get away from the women who normally tip him,"  Horatio agreed.  "He was trying to be good.  She took her girlfriend's gun and handcuffs."

"Whatever," he growled.  "The tape?"

"Mr. Wolfe was doing that."  He paged him to come down.  Ryan came down with the clothes rebagged.  "We're giving them back?"

"She took a plea," he pointed out.  "Besides, that t-shirt will warp the other evidence by proxy."  He held up the refolded and properly bagged t-shirt so Stetler could see the saying, watching him blanche.  "Yeah, that's why it's going home with him."  He tossed it onto the guns.  "The tapes show him in cuffs, protesting, and her asking his opinion.  At one point he did snap at her, which made her sniffle.  He got the kicked puppy look and gave her an opinion, getting a kiss for it.  She told him she was going to get the last bag of things while he waited in the car, walking him out and locking him in it.  Then she came back and shot the owner out of his sight.  He had no idea until this morning from what Detective Tripp said."  Stetler nodded once at that.  "He was very good at doing the complaining.  He clearly did not want to be there.  His statement of how he got free matched her statement.  He did fix the injury he caused while getting free, that's why he drug her in cuffed to him instead of properly cuffed.  She had dislocated her shoulder during the melee in the backseat."

"How often do I have to deal with these things?" Stetler demanded of Horatio.

Horatio shrugged. "He tries very hard not to go out, Rick.  He is a social sort who needs people around him.  Down in the satellite lab he only has Gerald and Speed."  He shuddered at that.  "By the way, I talked with Bob."

"I'll be doing it later," he vowed.

"Make sure he has a janitor."  He looked at Ryan.  "Anything that would indicate Xander was a cooperative hostage?"

"No, he looked really bored.  A been there, done this bored."

"By his own words, this is the third one this year," Horatio told him.

"No wonder he was bored.  Other than that everything clears him, boss."  He looked at Stetler.  "Do you need my reports too?"


"Sure, I can do that."  He went to make copies for him.

Horatio looked at him.  "He did try."  Rick stomped off, heading out to the lab to talk to Bob in person and get some of this aggression out.  Horatio tapped an officer who was wandering around to take Xander's car back to him.   Then he went to talk to Frank and John.  He was sure they had questions as well.  Xander trudged in an hour later.  "Xander?"

"Stetler had me kicked out of my lab for the week."


"I don't know.  I was hoping you did.  Was I fired for being kidnaped?"

"I'll ask," he promised.  "Sit, Xander."  Xander sat down, waving listlessly at Frank and John.  He called him personally.  "Rick, why did you remove my intern from his lab?"  He listened to him.  "He doesn't need counseling, Rick."

"I need a milkshake.  It's my usual therapy after these things," Xander said grimly.  He scowled at Calleigh.  "Butt IAB boy kicked me out of my lab."

She snatched the phone from Horatio.  "You had better have a *damn* good reason for interfering with my intern's job," she said coldly.  She listened to him splutter.  "Yes you will.  He's under my control as my intern and Speedle's.  You want him out of that lab  you'd better bring evidence and you'd better bring the Chief.  I'll expect you within two hours."  She hung up and gave Xander a hug.  "It's all right, Xander.  Come on, you can work with Charlene."

"All my coats are there."

"We have a few spares.  You can wear Eric's spare one."  She hauled him up and walked him that way.  "Eric, he's borrowing your spare lab coat," she called before grabbing it.

He waved a hand.  "Sure."  He smiled at her back.  "She's in full out mother hen mode," he told Valera, who nodded.  "I wonder what happened now?"

"I don't know."  They watched Stetler stomp in and winced when he slammed the door to Ballistics, then Charlene came scurrying out.  She waved her inside.  "What's going on?"

"Stetler thinks Xander needs therapy, which I won't argue with."  She smoothed down her hair.  "I'm going to hide before he decides he's warped the rest of us."  She went to the break room, nodding at Horatio and Frank, pointing.  "They're in there."

Horatio walked into ballistics, letting Frank guard the door.  "Rick," he said calmly.  "I doubt therapy is going to help him."

"This problem...."

"Is pheromone based," Calleigh told him.  "I ran the sweat samples myself."  She glared at him, making him back off.  "He could probably use some for the combat trauma, what those girls did to him, and that stuff but I doubt he needs it because of this since it's been going on for a few years now."

"Nine," Xander put in.  "Post graduation road trip was the first time.  I was stripping that night and I sucked, but I made almost three grand.  Even though I didn't get fully naked and I had no rhythm."

Stetler looked at him.  "Why were you stripping?"

"My car blew up.  I had to make money to get it fixed somehow.  I also slept with the mechanic to get six hundred knocked off the cost and to get it fixed faster.  It was expedient."

"That's under the heading of 'we all make stupid mistakes at eighteen'," she assured him, giving him a pat on the back.  "Sit down, Xander."  He sat down, looking at her.  "Now, do you think therapy could help you with anything?"

"I doubt a therapist would understand what I used to fight and what happened.  As for the rest, I clean my guns.  It's good meditation."   She smiled at him and pointed for Stetler's benefit.  He looked at him. "I know you know what I used to do."

"Now," he admitted, crossing his arms.

"Do you really think some PD shrink is going to understand that?"

"No," he admitted.  "I think your former friends probably knew a few."

"They got blown up a few years back.  They were also in England."  Stetler grimaced.  "Sorry, that was a precursor to the last battle in Sunnydale.  They blew up the Watchers...."  He groaned and grabbed his head, grabbing Calleigh to hold onto.  He panted, breathing through it.  "We're going to get raided here."  He looked at Horatio.  "Not today, but soon.  We'll be raided.   It's ... masks, guns, tech 9's.   Skater?"  He came out of it, breathing deeply, calming himself down.  "You were wearing black.  I don't know when it was.  I know they're going to come in through the elevator.  Skaters and a game show up prominently.  Ryan was playing a video game."

Horatio nodded.  "If we catch a case where we need those things, I'll make sure we have extra security."

"Speed was here.  Someone's tampering with his gun."  He looked at Calleigh.  "I cleaned it for him last week and it worked but today it was gummy inside.  He didn't know how.  I took fingerprints for him and had Gerald send them back quietly to you guys."

"I'll check," Horatio promised.  "Did you do his apartment?"

"No, he said he didn't think they got it there.  Maybe in his locker out at the lab."

"I'll make sure," Horatio promised. "Did you see anything else?"

"A funny looking mask.  Not ski masks, other mask.  Painted red and black.  I couldn't identify it, it was blurred."

"Anything shine out as important?"

"Ryan playing a video game and a skater.  The shoe skates."

"I'll keep that in mind," Horatio promised. "Need anything?"

"Sanity.  To beat my ex that blessed me with these."  He looked at him.  "Do the dead really hear when we curse their names?"

"Possibly," he admitted.  Xander nodded, resting against his arm.  "Go get a soda, Xander."  He shook his head.  "No?"

"No, just tired.  It was a long night.  I had plans on going to sleep after my apartment started to drive me nuts."  He yawned.  "Sorry.  Don't mean to look bad."

"You were kidnaped, Xander.  I didn't figure you got any sleep," Calleigh assured him.  "Go nap in the firing pen or the exemplar."  He nodded, going to do that.  She looked at Stetler.  "Well?  Anything else you want to try to make him do that won't help him?"

"He can get help with the combat trauma if we prep the shrink right," he noted coolly.  "It could help him in other ways.  Plus help where those girls warped him.  His theory on football got back to me."

Horatio smirked.  "He's twenty-eight, Rick.  At this age, what is it going to matter?  He's not going to marry a woman.  He wants to raise dogs."

"That's probably a better idea," Stetler said grimly.

"If he needs to talk, he can talk to Speed, me, or Horatio," she reminded him.

"Fine.  I want him watched more closely for those things."  He glared at Horatio.  "No wonder you didn't want to tell me."

"It's one of the reasons he got sent to our storage room," Calleigh said quietly.  "Then most of his friends died in a final battle."  Stetler went pale.  "One he wasn't allowed to help in.  So butt out."

"Fine.  You have it under control.  What about afterward?"

"Can we remove Bob from the satellite lab, put Speed in charge out there, and leave him out there?" Calleigh suggested.

"Speed would kill you," Horatio said patiently.

"So?  Bob let someone spread fecal material on a wall!  I'm sorry but I don't want that lab associated with this one until he's gone."

"Agreed," Horatio said.  "I talked to him for three hours this morning."  She snorted, giving him a look.  "It will be fixed, Calleigh.  I'm doing spot inspections."

"Uh-huh.  I'll have Ryan go do it."  She went to find Ryan.  "Ryan?"  He grinned at her.  "Go do a spot inspection of ballistics and trace at the satellite lab for me please?"  She smiled sweetly.  "Bob's back.  Oh, tell him Xander will be back tomorrow.  Stetler wanted him to seek incident counseling but has relented under pressure from reality."  He nodded, going to do that for her.  She went back to ballistics.  "There, Ryan will do very well to do the spot inspections, Horatio."  She smiled sweetly.  "He's also telling Bob that Xander will be back tomorrow since Rick has so nicely seen the error of incident counseling being necessary for him."

"Thank you, Calleigh," he said.  Rick growled but left.  "That was so bad."

"Yay."   She went to peek in on Xander, smiling at his light snoring and how he was cuddled around a machine gun.  She waved Horatio in, letting her grab her camera so she could take a picture of it.  She went to have it printed off and put next to her computer while he walked out shaking his head, going to check on those fingerprints. She'd get Xander up when she went home later that night, and make sure he ate.


Ryan walked into the satellite lab, taking off his sunglasses.  "Hi, Speed."  He looked out of Trace.  "Calleigh sent me to do a spot check of Xander's labs and to tell you that Stetler has said he does not need incident counseling.  He'll be back tomorrow.  She has him napping in the exemplar cabinet at the moment."  He showed the picture she had sent to his phone, making Speed smirk.  "Ballistics?"

"It's not necessary.  I made sure it's clean earlier."

"I think they wanted me because I'm Miami's only OCD tech."  Speed shook his head, pointing at AV.  "I forgot Gerald was down here.  Gerald, need anything cleaning wise?"

"New janitor."

"H said he was getting you guys one."  He went into ballistics to snoop around.  He found a few samples of something but nothing unusual for a day's work.  "He cleans when?"

"Usually every morning and again before he goes home," Speed said from the doorway.  "Really, I can do this.  Any word on the fingerprints?"

"He told Horatio and Calleigh.  I was eavesdropping.  How would they have gotten to your gun?" he asked more quietly.   He grimaced.  "Never mind.  Eric said you leave yours at night.  You could call H and check.  Stetler stomped off about when I left."

Speed called him.  "It's me.  She sicced Ryan on us?"  He listened then laughed.  "That'll work.  Any word on who?"  He smirked.  "I like that answer.  Thank you.  Yeah, he showed me the picture.  That's fine.  As long as he makes it in tomorrow.  Want me to tell Bob anything?"  He listened, then shook his head.  "Spank her for me."  He hung up.  "Bob, Xander's been cleared for duty again starting tomorrow.  Right now he's napping in Calleigh's exemplar closet around an AK."

"Why was he taken out?" he asked from his office.

"Stetler wanted him to get post-incident counseling for the kidnaping," Ryan told him.  He came out and went to Trace.  He blinked.  "Where's the machines?"

Speed snickered.  "This is what the lab used to look like, Wolfe.  Horatio sent us this when your lab got updated.  Though one is missing.  It blew a fuse and wouldn't come back on.  The tech took it back to the shop for a few days."

"Man!  If you need stuff run priority, send it to me."

"I'll send Xander to run it in person," he agreed dryly.  Ryan gave him an odd look.  "It's his minor.  That and field work."

"Wow.  I didn't even have the option of a minor."  He shook his head. "UCLA's program must be a lot more strict than the one I went through."  He took a swab and capped it.  "Left a sample out?"

"I was running it.  Has the machine spit out an answer yet?"  Ryan put it next to it.  "Thanks.  Anything else, OCD one?" he asked dryly.

"Not that I can see.  I saw the original pictures."  He shrugged.  "She'll probably send me back now and then to make spot inspections of his work areas to make sure.  It's one thing the OCD is good for."

Bob gave him an odd look. "Caine knows you're OCD, right?"

"Yeah, it's a good thing around the lab.  It means I'm very meticulous."

"I'd never put up with that.  Gerald and I fight about his."

Ryan snickered.  "I'm much worse than Gerald is.  That's why I got sent to inspect his work areas for Calleigh."  Bob just nodded.  "Anyway, he'll be back in the morning on time we hope.  How has he been doing?" he asked Speed.  "Alexx wanted to know."

"He's good.  He's fast.  He's accurate.  The only problem I've ever had with Xander was he wanted to work faster than he should a few times.  He's probably as trained as you are.  He had some areas he was weaker in but I drilled those into his head when we were at the main lab that weekend."

"Cool.  If you want a copy of that picture I'm sure she'd make you one."  He waved.  "I'm going to head back to the main lab.  Need me to bring anything that way?"

"He had two reports he was working on," Speed admitted, going to look them over.  He was mid-spell check on one.  So he finished then printed it.  "Tell her he was checking them over for her."  He handed them and the samples over.  "All hers."

"Thanks, Speed.  Let me know if you need our lab."  He walked out, taking them back to Calleigh to check over.  It was a nice afternoon for a drive.  Traffic was light.  He even got a burger on the way back, nibbling in the hummer.  He had missed lunch.  He walked in, making sure he didn't look like he had eaten a burger.  That would be counted as misuse of county property and IAB was still hanging around.  "Calleigh, his samples of the day.  Speed said he was running a check on them.  He finished a spell check."  She nodded, taking them to put onto her desk.  "Both labs and layout were very clean.  Xander had some daily use grit on one table but nothing that spoke of it being built up.  Though the counters are a bit dingy.  The floor too.  Could use some new wax."  She nodded at that, smiling a bit.  "Bob looked really horrified at me having OCD.  I showed Speed the picture and he grinned.  Anything else?"

"Nope, that's good enough for me.  Thank you."

"You're welcome.  I told him to call you if he wanted his own copy."  She smiled and nodded so he went to tell Horatio the same thing before he went back to work wrapping up his last case.  The judge would still need their paperwork even though she had taken a deal.


Horatio drove Xander home that night.  He was still too tired to fully wake up.  It was adorable and they told the guards to leave his car alone, that he was an exhausted intern.  He walked him inside, much to his landlord's amusement.  "He was kidnaped last night," he said quietly.  He took Xander's keys out of his pocket and let him into his apartment, seeing a late teenage, dark blond boy in there.  "You are?"

"Connor.  What happened to Xander?"  He took him and pointed him at the bed.  "Look, bed."  Xander grumbled but went to lay on the couch.  "Okay."  He shrugged.  "You would be?"

"Lieutenant Caine."

"The Horatio he spoke of?"  Horatio nodded.  "Cool.  See that he reads that tomorrow.  We found it in one of the books and we wanted to make sure he knew.  Since he's still mad at us...."

"Do you blame him?" Horatio asked.

"Not really.  It was a mean way of sending him down."

"It nearly did make it so no one would ever hire him."

"We would've taken care of him."


"Really.  Oh, tell him Wes's lawyer wants a call too."

"Why?" Xander mumbled.

"Your inheritance, dipshit."

Xander flipped him off.  "Go lay a squid."

"No, she's dead, remember."  Xander flipped him off again, flipping onto his other side.  "Anyway, he needs that and to call Wes's lawyer.  Plus someone sent him stuff at the office so we left it on his bed."  Horatio nodded.  "Is he well taken care of?"

"He is, or at least I think he is."

"Good.  I see his mom is already set up out here," he said, nodding at the stack of menus.  "Try to get him to eat a more varied diet?  He complains when he's had too much cheese and it's really TMI.  Even Gunn thought it was TMI."  Xander grunted.  "No, you sleep.  Eat pizza later."  He looked at Horatio again.   "Good luck.  He's a great guy, just kinda odd and a bit picky."  He left through the extra doorway in the back of the closet, closing it so it'd disappear.

Horatio looked at the envelope, putting it and the ones from the bed together.  He smiled at Xander's snoring.  He was cute this way.  He looked much younger and more carefree.  Xander grunted again.  "Just me, Xander," he said quietly, pulling down a throw to cover him.  Xander snuffled his arm then patted it.  "Good boy.  You sleep.  I'll talk to you tomorrow.  Read your mail when you get up."  Xander nodded, flipping in the other direction.  "Good boy.  We do appreciate you."   He left, making sure the door was locked behind him.  He ran into the landlord in the entry again.  "He was too tired to drive."

"It happens now and then I guess.  What's that extra wall?  The insurance guy wanted to know."

"It's a collection he likes to hide from others," he told him.  "I'm trying to find him a better and more secure place to put it."

"Makes sense.  You are?"  Horatio held up his badge.  "Ah.  He said he was with the lab."

"I'm over the dayshift lab."

"Good ta know.  Should I stuff his full mailbox of stuff up under his door?"

"Possibly," he admitted.  "Are we concerned about it?"

"Not really.  Mostly ads.  The mailman was giving it an odd look earlier."

"Then I would do that," he agreed.  The guy handed him the stack.  Horatio looked at the package.  "Any idea?"

"Not a one."

Horatio went back upstairs to put it in with the other mail.  His door was very easily popped with an ID card.  Xander threw something at him.  "Just me, Xander.  I picked up your mail.  Read it before you come in tomorrow.  Connor left you something."

"Fucking hell," he muttered, giving him a bleary look.  "How did I get home?"

"I drove you."

"My car?"

"The lab.  Cab over tomorrow to get it."  Xander nodded.  "Plus your paycheck."  Xander nodded again.  "Good boy.  Now, rest.  Eat dinner later."  He snorted, sitting up to take the mail.  "The plain one came from Connor.  The others were on your bed."

"Wonderful."  He opened that one to glance over, handing it to him.  "You wanted to know."  He opened up the other three.  "Any other mystical messages of doom?"

"Call Wesley's lawyer about your inheritance."

"I can do that."  He frowned at one card.  "Who in the bloody hell were you?" he muttered, looking at the picture.  "I don't know you, woman.  I haven't even been in LA recently."  He handed it to Horatio, dirty picture, check, and all.  "I don't want that."  He opened the other one, looking at the cash.  "Huh."  He looked at the note then snorted, handing it to him as well.  "This one was a bribe.  I'm not even on that case."

Horatio smirked. "I'll let someone know."  He handed back the first one.  "I don't think that's a bribe."

"No, I think she was one of Tanya's coworkers or something."  He shrugged.  "I don't need the six hundred bucks."  Horatio walked out smiling.  Xander went through the rest of the mail, smiling at his new brush kit for his field kit, and then got to work on the prophecy they had found.   Someone was going to have to solve it.  That's what he was there for.  Someone tapped on his door so he went to look out the peephole, groaning a bit.  "Tanya, I'm not up for company, dear.  Go away.  Remember, I am a cop and I will have to turn you back in."

"But, Xander, I love you and I miss your tongue," she complained.  "Please, baby?  They can arrest me after sex.  Just like last time."

Xander groaned, texting Speed before he opened the door.  He looked at her.  "Why don't you run like a normal criminal?"

"That takes money."  She shrugged.  "I'm only average down here.  Way too many breast jobs."  She walked in, seeing the picture.  "Hey, Sweetie Pie.  How is she?"

"Not a clue, she mailed that to Gunn."  She beamed and kissed him.  He groaned.  "I've had a shitty day, Tan.  I got kidnaped again last night."

"Oooh, poor Xanny."  She curled up in his lap to make it all better.  Once he was nearly unconscious again she went to cook dinner for him.  Someone knocked and she bounced over, smiling at the two men there.  "Hi.  Does Xanny know you?"

"Ma'am, I'm Ryan Wolfe and this is CSI Delko, we're with the crime lab.  Can we come in?"

"Sure.  Do you work with Xanny?  I know he does that.  He looks so hot with a gun," she hissed, making Eric smirk and nod.  "Is he doing okay?"

"He's doing just fine," Eric assured her.  "You're Tanya, aren't you?  He told us you were very good to him while you were dating."

She patted him on the arm.  "We're still dating.  Let me rescue dinner from the oven and then we can talk about Xanny's lab stuff.  Not that I understand it really but it looks cool on the tv in the mental center I was in."  She went to do that, coming out to tuck Xander in again.  "Sorry, I wore him out."

"That's perfectly reasonable.  He had a bad day," Ryan assured her.  "You do know that we should arrest you, right?"

"Well, yeah," she admitted, giving him a sheepish look.  "But can I cook for him?  He'll *starve* if I don't.  He'll wither away and then his next girlfriend won't get that really great tongue of his and no one will get to dance with him or help him buy new t-shirts or anything.  Pwease?"

"One hour," Eric ordered.  She beamed and hugged him, going to do that.  He sat down where he could watch her, looking at the fake wall behind him.  "What's this?"

"Oh, that's probably my pookie's artillery.  He's like that," she said happily.  "If you think he's hot with a gun you should see him with a sword or an RPG launcher."  She beamed and went back to chopping stuff.

Ryan pulled out his phone to show her the picture from earlier, making her coo.  "I'll see if I can get you a copy to take with you."

"Thank you, sweetie."   She pinched his cheek and got back to work.  "Should I make you guys something too?  I'm sure you work very hard.  Xanny always did.  Always with the eighty hour weeks and all the bad guys he helped bring in while he was on field work assignments and the four terrorists he helped capture."

"He did?" Ryan asked.  "He didn't tell us about those."

"It's very hush-hush.  He was helping the FBI with a guy who sold weapons.  They noticed he was a bit odd colored and didn't know what to do so they asked around and got told to ask my pookie.  So Xander went undercover and helped bust him.  Oooh, and that's how he got the garlic bombs and the holy water bombs too."  She beamed proudly and went back to work.  "Besides, he spent a lot of time knocking bad guys off my breasts.  He was very sweet to do that when they wanted to taste them because I never turn tricks."

"He told us you didn't," Eric agreed.  She got back to work.  "Any other special assignments he had out there?"

"Well, there was the one on the docks but I think that was for Angel or something."  She flicked a hand in the air.  "Angel appreciated my Xanny but he always wanted him to go away.  They were not good friends.  Angel spent a lot of time groaning at my Xanny's t- shirt of the day.  He just didn't understand his sense of humor at all or how humor can make even bad things better for a while."  She looked at him.  "Who had my pookie this time?"

"She's in jail," Ryan assured her.  "She took him to go rob a pawn shop so she could get sparkly things."

"Huh.  If I see her she's toasty.  No one hurts my Xanny and he hates being handcuffed.  It gives him nightmares from Angel."  She pouted, but went back to work.  "Can I have a teensy bit longer?  This one needs to cook for fifty minutes."

"Sure," Eric agreed.  She beamed and got back to work on the casserole.  Then she started on a few more things that would get done about the same time.  The microwave almost woke Xander.  "Sleep,  Xander.  H had us come watch over you."  Xander grunted and shifted, sprawling out like a kitty cat before going back to sleep.

She smiled at him, coming out to pounce him again since all she could do was wait for things to get done.  He growled in her ear.  "Let me, Xanny.  It's all good."  She went down on him, making him have happy dreams and pat her on the head.  "Should I bark?"

"No, barking bad.  Dogs nice but not like that," he mumbled, opening his eyes partway.  "What are you still doing here?"

"Cooking."  She smiled and went down on him again, making him hum and fall back asleep when he came.  "There, that's better."  She got up to turn on his alarm clock just in case he didn't get up tonight - like he usually did - and went to check on the other food.  When things came out she let Ryan help her wrap them in the foil she found for the fridge.  She was finally done and started some dish water, leaving the dirty dishes in there for him.  "There, that's better.  He likes to do dishes now and then when I cook.  It's how we worked things out," she shared to Ryan.

"That seems like a good way to do it.  You done?"

She looked around, making sure the stove was off.  Then she beamed and nodded, letting them walk her out.  She even gave them the spare keys she had made the last time she was in so they could lock her poor baby in.  She beamed at Eric.  "So, what do you do in the lab?"

"I'm a field person," he told her.

"Wow.  I bet that's hard work."

"It is.  A lot of bending over and searching.  Some lifting."  He got her into the back of the hummer, Ryan in front with him.  "We really should handcuff you."

"I'll be a good girl and I won't even share smutty Xanny thoughts with you," she promised, holding up three fingers.  "Girl Scout's honor."

"I think it'll be okay with that promise," Ryan told him.

"Let's hope so."

"If I broke it Xanny would become mean and spank me.  I haven't broken it since the last time when he told me I could not go after the person who shot at him on a scene.  He spanks really hard.  Though the nice detective didn't believe I had stabbed him for hurting my pookie."

"That's fine, we can tell Detective Hagen.  He's waiting to hear all about that stuff," Ryan told her.

"Cool.  Do you think I'm still pretty?  Xander said I was but the home wasn't very good for my skin.  They wouldn't even let me have lotion after I used it to choke the girl who tried to give my Xanny drugs that could kill him or turn him into a carrot."

"I think you could use a bit of lotion but otherwise you're still very pretty, Tanya," Eric assured her, pulling out into traffic to get her back to the station.  She chatted happily the whole trip, making them both smile.  She sounded like a bit of an airhead but a very devoted and loving girlfriend.  Who just happened to have killed twenty-one people to protect her boyfriend.  They walked her in, waving at Hagen to follow them.  He joined them with a tape recorder and some tapes.  Eric smiled.  "Detective John Hagen, this is Tanya, Xander's ex-girlfriend.  She has all sorts of Xander stories she wants to tell someone about because we didn't know he had worked with the FBI, taken down a terrorist, or anything like that."

"He doesn't get to do that down here?" she asked.

"He's mostly been in the lab," Ryan said, pulling out a chair.  "Here you go.  It's not very comfortable."

"That's okay.  Pookie said I had a very well padded butt, perfect for squeezing.  The chair won't ruin that tonight."  She smiled at John.  "What did you want to know?  About him going undercover to bust a big, meany arms dealer?  Or the terrorists?  Or what he helped Angel with?"

"Let's start with some general questions, make sure you're who you say you are.  Someone somewhere will want to know," he told her.  He sat across from her, turning on the tape recorder.  "I'm here with Tanya..."

"Pertusin.  That's one 's' and one 't'."

John made that note on the next tape.  "That'll work.  Now, you escaped a federal mental health facility, right?"

"I missed my pookie.  He was starving without me to cook for him and all sorts of women were hitting on him to warp him more.  He didn't need that.  One of them might have warped him so his tongue wasn't as special and good as it used to be.  Then what would women do without it?"  She leaned closer.  "He's *very* good in bed.  Or the couch,  or the kitchen.  Or my dressing room, or really anywhere.  Though I did have to talk him into sex outside a few times.  His ex, the stupid one, almost ruined that fun for me."

"I can see how that's a problem," John agreed.  Mentally he was shaking his head.  He'd never date a girl like her.  "So, how did you meet Xander?"

"He came in one night.  His buddies that he worked with wanted him to forget the poodle lady that had taken him the night before and made him groom her puppies as foreplay."  He nodded once.  "So they brought him in and I gave him the super special lap dance that I only do for the really nice guys who tip very well.  He tipped and he bought me a drink because he used to strip when his car was broken down so he understood about me drinking virgin stuff that night.  We talked and Xander told me he can't cook.  The poor boy was going to starve.  He needed me!"

"She cooked him a lot of food for the next few days while we watched her," Ryan told him.

"That's good of her," John agreed.  "The mother hens around here worry about him eating too.  Especially since he calls his menu collection mom."

"His parents didn't even own a stove," she said with a small shrug.  "She was apparently very evil in the kitchen too.  Did you know that Xander nearly poisoned a whole floor of the FBI by accident?"  They all shook their heads.  "One of them stole his lunch and another one nibbled before Xander realized it.  Then another one tried to see what was wrong with it. By the time Xander realized it about twelve agents were on their way to the ER."  John smiled at that.  "Have you eaten his cooking?  Now and then he used to bring something to work that he had cooked for suspects.  He said it helped sometimes."

"I think he's talked to Horatio about that," Eric told her.  He was so getting blackmail material on Xander for the next time he wore an ungodly t-shirt!

"Is he the yummy redhead in the really nice suit?" she asked him, getting a nod.  "He was kinda a sweetie.  He brought Xander home tonight.  Walked him up there, talked to snarling boy, tucked him in.  He's very sweet.  They would look very hot together."

"I think he's taken," Ryan told her.  Eric nodded, giving him an odd look behind her back.  Ryan grinned.  "I saw him out on a date last month," he told Eric.  "Not like I'm one to care who he's seeing but he looked happy at the fair."

"Good to know," Eric said dryly.

"Let's get back to talking to her about Xander," John ordered.  "We can talk about Horatio's love life later, boys."  He looked at her.  "Sorry, sometimes they're boys."

"All boys are like that.  I'm sure you get that way now and then with the balding one."

He nodded.  "Now and then with Horatio too."  He smiled.  "He worked with the FBI?"

"Xanny?  Yeah, a few times.  They needed him."


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