Notes: Death Story in the first few pages but I needed it to get the plot where it was going. Had to screw with the timeline of a few things as well because I realized I couldn't have the baby that young.
A Sunnydale Kid in Miami's Lab.
Willow looked around the battle with the First and her minions, watching as her best friend fell. She let out a sob and knew, she just *knew* at that point that there was no saving any of them, even if they won the battle. So she prayed really hard. Because Xander did not deserve to die here. He came in injured. They had tried so hard to keep him from joining them. Even though they had needed him they had tried to save him. The unselfish nature of the prayer and begging hit on high and she felt answered just before the heavy weight hit her on the head. She knew she'd die. She accepted that then as the price. As long as he was all right. There were other slayers, there were other witches, but Xander was unique and special. He was loyal and he had given of himself for so long but they hadn't appreciated him so she knew he deserved a chance at a real life. So she agreed. The heavy weight hit her head, and she fell.
Twelve Years Earlier.
Horatio smiled at his pregnant sister-in-law as he went to answer the door. "Yes?" he asked the unfamiliar redhead standing there. "Can I help you?"
"Are you Horatio?" she asked quietly. He nodded, looking a bit confused. "You won't remember me."
He noticed the wiggling thing on her back and then looked at her. "No, I certainly don't."
She nodded. "I understand. I was wearing a dark wig the night we met." She handed over the papers from her back pocket. "This is sudden, I know, and this is coming out really badly...."
He held up a hand, looking at the papers. "It's not mine, Miss."
"He is yours. Look at the test results. I'll even expect you to retest him. I've already paid for you to do that with the hospital."
He stared at her for a moment then at the papers then back at her. "How did you know it was me?"
She smiled. "You told me who you were, Horatio. Including where you worked. You were pretty drunk." He moaned a bit. "I'm nineteen and ... Well, let's just say I'm about to disappear due to life's circumstances."
"If someone's threatening you, we can help," a female voice said from behind Horatio. She smiled at the young girl.
"I wish it were that simple," she admitted. "My parents are going to try to kill me again." They both looked shocked. "I'm nineteen and a prodigy. I'm in college. They tried before." They both just nodded at that. "I'm not going to do anything until you retest." She pulled the baby around and opened the pocket on the front of the carrier, handing over the blood. "We took extra so you can have it tested there or the lab of your choice. Including the PD lab if you wanted. I'm going to be here for three days," she said, handing over a card. "Then I've got to go." He stared at her again and she stared back. She smiled and opened the top of the carrier, letting him see the little baby inside. "His name's Alexander. He's a good boy. I can't have him killed and it's too much to risk," she said quietly. "Otherwise you'd never have seen him."
"We can protect you," Yelina said gently.
Willow looked at her. Then she shook her head. "No one can save me if they catch me. Fate is fate and I knew this was coming. They vowed it in front of the Goddess." That got a small moan. "So you test the blood," she ordered, putting the carrier back on. "I'll be there for three days." She walked off, leaving him staring at the vial of blood and the papers.
"This is not the celebration I was expecting," a male voice said from behind them.
"Shut up, Ray," Yelina said, scowling at her husband. She pulled Horatio back inside and took the papers to look over. "That is a paternity test. It's on the right forms." He looked at her. "Have the lab run it, Horatio. It's the least you can do. Have your own people run it." He nodded, taking the papers and heading out into the night to go back to work. She looked at her husband. "He was adorable. Dark haired. Sleeping comfortably."
"Do you believe she's in danger?"
"It was in her eyes. She knows she won't live very long," she said quietly, holding out a hand. He came over to sit next to her. "She knew, Ray. She knew it's coming and she's trying to protect the baby."
"Do we think it's his?"
She smiled and nodded. "I do. Something about him looked like Horatio's face. Even scrunched up. Like when he sleeps on the couch." He snorted but let it go, just cuddling her for now. She put a hand over her stomach. "At least ours one won't be lonely."
"No, probably not. He's still single, Yelina."
"We'll work it out. I'll be staying home for a bit with ours." He nodded, accepting that. It's what family did.
Ray got the call to head to a homicide and groaned. He hated that hotel. He found the patrol guys looking sick and moaned. That meant it was really gross at the very least. He walked in and paused, then looked around. "Where's the baby!" he yelled. Everyone looked confused. "She's got a son! I saw her the other day! Find him!" They rushed to find the baby, one of them finding a letter about hoping they had the baby or else the people who had done her in would be killing him as well.
Horatio rushed in and looked. "The baby?"
"Not here." Horatio did his own exam, finding him in a closed drawer in the dresser. He sighed and watched his brother pick up the child. "The tests?"
"Came back this morning," he admitted. He looked at the other CSI coming in. "It's a long story, I can't work this one. He's mine." He walked out to the car, going to examine him with one of the paramedic's help. "He's a newborn."
"A few weeks old," the paramedic corrected then smiled at him. "I've got one who's seven months, Detective." He took the baby to hold, waking him up. The baby blinked at him and sniffled. Horatio stood up and the baby stared at him, just blinking. "He's a quiet one."
"Can he cry?" The paramedic looked at him. "She showed up on Ray's doorstep and said he was mine a few days ago. I just got the test results back this morning."
The paramedic pinched him on the calf and the baby fussed. "He'll have good lungs." He handed him back, watching the fumbling going on. "Support his head," he instructed. Horatio shifted him into a more comfortable position and sat down in the back of the car again. "I'll let you handle him but you're going to need a diaper soon, Detective." He went inside to help gather up the body once the ME had pronounced and the CSI were done with the parts.
Horatio looked over as his boss came screeching in, nodding him over. "You should hear this from me."
"I'd hope so," he agreed. "I heard you were running a paternity test, Horatio." He looked at the baby, who scowled at him. "Yeah, he's yours." Horatio gave him an identical scowl. "What's going on?" he asked patiently.
"Three days ago the victim turns up on Yelina and Ray's doorstep saying he's mine and she's in danger because her parents had vowed to kill her for having him," he said quietly. "She gave me a vial of blood and the first set of test results. Ours agreed with it." That got a slow nod. "She said she'd be here for three days." Ray came out with the bagged letter saying that the baby was Horatio's and to give him to him if something happened to her.
"She knew before." He looked at the baby. "He does look a lot like you," he admitted. "Hi... What did she name him?"
"Hi, Alex." The baby sniffled at that. "Al?"
"Xander?" Horatio suggested. The baby settled down at that, starting to get sleepy. He looked at his boss again. "It broke protocol but we searched for him first."
"Having a potentially live baby is something to break protocol for," he agreed. "Now what, kid? You're single. You live in a tiny walk-up. You make crap wages."
"We'll figure that out," Horatio offered. He looked down at the wetness. "Feel better, Xander?" The baby smiled and sighed in pleasure as he finished wetting his father down. "Thank you." Ray snickered. "Go find me some diapers," he ordered. His brother walked off, going down to the corner store to get him some diapers. He looked at his boss. "For obvious reasons I'll need a few personal days, boss."
"Of course, Horatio. We'll arrange your hours however we need to. Maybe Yelina could sit for a while since she's on leave." He walked off to check with the team in the hotel room. Even he flinched at the sight of the room. He had been doing this since the beginning of forensics and he hadn't seen bodies torn apart like that before. "It's a good thing whatever did this didn't find the boy," he said quietly. His second-in-command looked over. "He's Horatio's. He was where?" The open drawer was pointed at. "So he would've suffocated or died of thirst probably," he said sadly. "Well, he's safe now." He nodded at his boys to keep going and went back down to watch Horatio figure out how to change a diaper. He shook his head and nudged Ray out of the way. "Like this, boys. You'd better both learn with two new ones in the family." He showed them how to put on a diaper and the baby smiled at him. "Thanks, kid. Alexander?"
"Yup," Ray agreed.
Horatio looked at his boss. "Thank you."
"Welcome, Horatio. Go right home with him."
"I was going to get him checked at the hospital."
"Get him into your family doc tomorrow, kid. Go home with him tonight. He'll need comforted and he's fine if he's sucking on his finger that way." Horatio nodded, accepting his advice since he had five girls. "Strange he's not a redhead."
"It runs fifty-fifty in the family," Ray offered with a grin. "Just means he takes after the handsomer side." Horatio snorted at that and carefully walked him off to his car. "I called Yelina, she'll come over with the baby book, Horatio."
"Thank you, Ray." He looked at his car then at his boss. "Carseat?"
"Lay him in the back and buckle around his legs and chest for this trip, Caine," the boss ordered. "It'll do for this single trip." That got a nod and Horatio did that then headed home. He looked at Ray. "You're going to go nuts with them that close together in age." He went to check on them again.
"Probably," Ray agreed. He headed back inside to see what they were doing and who knew what already.
Horatio walked into his apartment and found Yelina warming some milk. "Thank you," he said quietly.
She smiled at him, then at Horatio. "He's adorable."
"He is and he's already peed on me." He slid out of his wet jacket and shirt, leaving on his undershirt and gun. She took the gun from him and put it onto the table, making him smile. "Thank you. I might not want that later."
"Wait until he starts to teeth," she teased. She took the baby to look over. "You are a handsome young man, Alexander."
"He liked Xander," he offered, looking at the milk. "How do I know if it's done?"
"The book says to test it on your wrist." He did that and winced. "Run it under some cold water then." He did that until it came out at a tolerable temperature for him. Xander fussed a bit but he sucked it down. "What happened?"
"The room was a mess, Yelina," he said quietly, giving her a helpless look. "She was in parts." She shuddered but sat down at the table with the baby. "I should learn how to do that, shouldn't I?" She nodded but slid the book over to him with a smile. "I guess he'll be good practice for yours when you're over."
"I'm on leave, Horatio. You can pay me to babysit while you're at work." He smiled at that. "Xander." He blinked at her. "You're a very special little boy, young man. Very soon you will have a cousin and you'll be loved by him as well. Plus my mother will go insane over you." He slurped harder on the bottle.
"It says to stop in the center and burp him," Horatio said, taking him to do that. He did not like the feeling of warm, regurgitated milk down his back. "Yuck, son." She giggled and took him back to feed him some more. "Are you sure he's not full?"
"He'll quit drinking when he is."
"Uh-huh." He went to clean up and came out in a real shirt again, looking at the sleeping baby. "That's a good sign, right?"
"He'll wake up in a few hours," she assured him with a bright smile. "He'll need to eat around four."
"Good thing I'm used to short hours," he said dryly. They both heard the noise they did not like and he grimaced. "Even better." He took him into the bathroom to clean him up, he'd throw away the washcloth later. "Hopefully you only do that once a day like adults," he said, rediapering him. It was a little loose but not too bad for his first try. He carried him back out, tossing out the old one then washing his hands once Yelina had him again. "Those are gross."
"Of course they are, Horatio. Aren't you used to it though?" she teased.
"Too used to it, but it's still sickening." He opened a window to air out the stench then carried down the trash when it continued to stink up the kitchen.
She looked at the boy. "He can stand a two week old body and can't stand a diaper? You poor boy," she soothed. He made sucky faces so she let him have the bottle back, watching as he fell asleep drinking. "Am I supposed to let you do that?" She opened the book but it didn't have it. So she did the next best thing, she called her mother. "Mother?" she asked in Portugese. "Can babies fall asleep with a bottle? No, Horatio's son. Long story, Mother. At his house. Yes, there, Mother. Of course. Come over. We could use some advice on what he'll need to do for the next few days." She hung up and watched Horatio come back in with Ray. "They kicked you off the scene?"
"Since it's the mother of my nephew they said I couldn't work it," he said with a small shrug. "Conflict of interest or something." He looked at the sleeping baby. "Our boy will love you a lot too," he promised, kissing her on the head. "Any food?"
"Probably not," Horatio admitted. "Unless Yelina brought some."
"My mother probably will," she promised. "She'll be over in about twenty more minutes." Both men just nodded at that. Her mother was nice, but loud. Very, very loud. And active. And happy. A rapid knocking on the door and Ray sighed, answering it for them. "Hi, Momma. Come meet Alexander."
"Oooooh!" she squealed, coming in to look at the baby. "My grandbaby," she cooed in Portugese. The baby woke up and stared at her, making her smile. "I'm Grandmother," she said in English. The baby went back to sleep, still sucking on the bottle. "He should be fine to drink while he sleeps tonight, dear. You did all the time." She sat down to mother the baby. "Where did he come from?"
"Apparently my brother got a bit drunk and free in a club one night," Ray said dryly, smirking at Horatio, who glared back.
"I haven't been in a club in over a year, Ray. That's why I can't figure out where I met his mother." Both women stared at him. "I haven't had time to," he defended.
The Grandmother snorted and shook her head. "That will change," she vowed. "Bambinos need time, energy, and diapers."
Yelina snickered. "We've found that last one out already, Momma."
"I smelled," Ray agreed dryly, finishing up the soup he was warning up. He gave Horatio a mug of it and drank his from the counter he was leaning on. He wasn't sure he wanted to get attached to the nephew with his own coming. After all, he was supposed to be having the firstborn child of that generation, not his big brother. "What're you going to do about a mother, Horatio?"
"I don't know," he admitted, sitting down at the table. He held out his hands and took his son back, waking him slightly but he shifted some and went back to sleep once he was comfortable. "Please keep doing that, son. Sleeping is good."
"Yelina can take your gun for the next few days," her mother promised, patting him on the hand. "Now, do you have a crib yet?" He looked horrified. "Never mind. Tonight he can sleep somewhere safe beside you. Maybe a laundry basket. My own babies spent much time sleeping in one while I did laundry." She smiled at him. "Then we can go to the thrift store tomorrow for the things he'll need."
"I can call the Church," Yelina promised. "I know we have things stored for families that have fires and things. Sister Hannah will understand."
"She'll swat him again," Ray said dryly. "She doesn't like unmarried parents."
"Not like I planned him, Ray," Horatio said patiently, glaring at him. His brother piped down at that. "We'll have to baptize him as well." Yelina and her mother both smiled at that. "We'll go to the church in the morning."
"Once you've got a carseat," Yelina ordered.
"Of course. Maybe we should call first? See if they have one?"
She rolled her eyes and pulled the phone over again, dialing the number to the church. It rang a few times and a tired male voice answered. "Father Patrick, it's Yelina Caine." She smiled. "No, I'm still fine, Father, but Horatio's just had a baby handed to him by the mother. She's dead, Father."
"Horribly dead," Ray agreed, taking the phone. "Father, it's Ray. The mother showed up a few days ago saying he was Horatio's and that she was being hunted by her parents. We found her earlier tonight killed very badly." The baby fussed at that. "Sorry, kid." He listened to him. "That's one of the reasons we're calling, also to find out where Horatio needs to go to get stuff for the kid. Few months, Horatio?"
"The paramedic said weeks," he offered quietly, staring down at his son, who went back to sleep feeling safe and protected. He took the phone. "Father, I have no idea where I met the girl. She claimed I was drunk but it's been over a year since I've went out to play like that. The tests say he's mine however and .... It would be able to tell that yes, Father. I'm sure. I ran them twice in the lab. No, it was her last wish he come to me. She left a letter in the room saying if she was found dead to find the baby and bring him to me before he was killed as well." He smiled. "Of course. I'm at home. I can send Ray to pick you up, Father. Of course we'll be baptizing him. That's just one thing we need to deal with. Thank you, Father. Right now, of course." He handed back the phone and Yelina hung it up while Ray grabbed Horatio's keys and headed out to pick up the family priest. They let the baby sleep while Yelina and her mother made out a list of what the baby would need. She could reuse the list for her soon-to-be-born child. Ray let the priest in and Horatio started to stand but the old man waved him back down. "Thank you for coming, Father."
"It's not a problem, Horatio. Things like this are very bad." He looked at the child, smiling when the touch of holy water only made him fuss a bit. "What happened to his mother was evil?"
"His boss flinched, Father," Ray said gently. That got a solemn nod. "Is he all right?"
"He's fine. Not tainted by evil in the least," he soothed. "We can easily baptize him this week, Horatio." That got a nod. "Do you know who you'll name Godparents?"
"I don't yet," he admitted. "Ray, Yelina?" They smiled and nodded.
"That's fine," the priest agreed, taking the boy to hold. The baby woke up and stared at him, fussing a bit. "You are safe, Xander," he soothed. "You are loved and your father will protect you." The baby settled down and stared some more. "I know, it is strange, but you will be fine." He cradled him and anointed him with holy water again. "This will hold you until your baptism. That way none of the evil that took your mother can touch you." He handed him back to Horatio and pulled a list out of his pocket. "Sister Hannah suggested you go here, boys." That got a smile from Yelina and her mother stole the baby. "He will definitely be loved by this family." He looked at Horatio. "Are you ready for fatherhood?"
"No," he said honestly, "but I'll do better than mine did."
"Good man, Horatio." He patted him on the arm. "When do you have to go back to work?"
"My boss gave me a few days off to get him settled."
"Then we'll baptize him Wednesday?"
"That would be fine," Ray agreed. "After four if you can? I've got court that morning." That got a nod and the priest smiled at the picture of father and son. Especially with the look on the son's face. "Eww," Ray said, sniffing. "Damn that's gross."
"Babies do that," Yelina's mother assured him, taking him to change before it ran down Horatio's arm since the diaper was so loose. "Come, Horatio." He followed, going to get another washcloth he could throw away. She cleaned off the last one and used it again, which was fine with him. One less for him to buy more of.
The priest smiled at Yelina. "When will I be seeing yours?"
"Two months," she offered, stroking her stomach. She winced when she got kicked. "Sorry, he's a bit active. He wants to play with his cousin."
The priest smiled. "That's a tight family then, Yelina. It will be fine. Sister Hannah ordered me to tell you to get a car seat first. Go to the second name on the list for that. They give them out to new parents of low income. Since the police don't pay Horatio what he's worth he should be eligible and if not they'll know where to go for the cheapest one." She nodded at that with a smile. "Good woman. I'll see you Wednesday. Raymond?"
"Sure, Father. Horatio, I'm bringing him home." He walked him back out, chatting about baby things. He had no idea babies were so nasty. He wasn't sure if he wanted one or not now. Especially not if they all smelled like that multiple times a day or more often.
Horatio and Yelina's mother came out with the baby clean, dry, and content again. "Ray only got a ten pack of diapers. Will that be enough?"
"Until the morning," she promised, kissing him on the cheek. "You come get me in the morning and we'll go shopping, Horatio." She kissed her daughter on the forehead and left them alone.
Yelina took the baby back. "Might as well practice since I've got someone to do it on."
He smiled. "That's fine, Yelina. I know he won't be stolen by you." She smiled at that. "Would you mind babysitting?"
"Of course not. He's a darling little one. If I do, I'll let you know." He nodded, accepting that. The baby was a darling little one. "I hope my own baby is as sweet and calm as you," she said quietly, smoothing down his hair.
"I hope he sleeps through the night," he offered, making her laugh. He knew it was unrealistic but hope sprung eternal, right?
Horatio looked at his son at six the next morning, his hair messed up, his pajama top messed up, and his son cooing at him happily. "Now I know why she took my gun," he admitted, leaning down to look at his son. "Can't you please sleep just for a few hours, son? Please? Daddy needs some rest too." The baby cooed and farted, but thankfully nothing came out since he was down to two diapers. "Fine, you lay there and be happy." He flopped onto his back and the baby fussed. He glared at the baby. "Sleep, Xander. Now." The baby fussed more. He sighed and picked him up to put on his chest so he could relax again. "Just don't suffocate or anything, all right? We'll nap like this for now." The baby settled down, head over his heart, listening to the familiar noise. "Good boy." He patted his back and finally fell asleep.
Xander looked up at him, then smiled and let himself drift off. The daddy did love him. He didn't love the person who came in to wake them up a few hours later and let it be known at the top of his lungs. His father snapped awake at that and glared at the man in the doorway. Xander continued to scream until his father hugged him and whispered in his ear about idiot friends he worked with, then he settled down to glare at the person who dared wake the daddy up.
"He's quite a boy, Horatio," his friend teased.
"He is. He kept me up all night. Xander, this is Paul." Xander sucked his fingers and continued to listen to Daddy breathe and his heart beat. "Good, you go back to sleep. What's going on?"
"We heard about him and we wanted to give you some presents, like we should have if we had known sooner."
Horatio looked at him. "I only found out three days ago." His friend snickered at that. "I don't remember the mother either, so get it out now." Xander shifted and he stroked his back. "Fine, we'll get up. Someone will let me nap later and Yelina can drive while we get you things you'll need. Including more diapers." He got up with a groan and let his friend have the baby while he went to the bathroom to straighten up.
Paul looked at the baby, smirking at him. "Hey, kid. Liking your family so far? You're lucky your father's such a stand-up guy. Plenty of guys would've denied your mother out of hand."
Horatio shook his head as he took his son back. "I'd never do that to my own child," he said as he headed for the kitchen. He looked at the baby. "If I give you a bottle will you not vomit down my back this time?" The baby smiled at him.
"Ah, gas," Paul said fondly. "Mine had that for a few months before he learned how to smile. Then again I think my son's a bit slow. Comes from his mother's father." He pointed at the couch. "From all of us. We figured it's the most practical gift we could get you two."
Horatio sat down to unwrap the present, smiling at the box of diapers with the package of pacifiers on top. "Thank you. I needed some of them."
Paul nodded. "Probably with the look on his face. He'd be cackling if he could." Horatio looked down and sighed, going to change the wet diaper. "Tip, Horatio, wait five minutes or get sprayed. Little boys aim for the hair and yours is a bright target, buddy."
"Thank you." He did wait and Xander finished up so he could change him. "Good boy." He cleaned his butt up then his tiny penis before diapering him again, getting a happy baby. "Very good boy." He carried him back out. "How is the case on his mother going?"
"Nowhere. No hair, no foreign blood that we've found. Lots and lots of smudges for fingerprints. Mostly hers from what we've seen so far. We're looking but no clue who she is?" Horatio shook his head. "Huh. Anything at all?"
"She said she's nineteen, in college, a prodigy." He found the original paperwork and handed it over. "That's what she gave me for the first paternity test, Paul. I don't think he was born there. She didn't sound like a native of the city or the state. She had a softer accent, almost Midwestern."
"I'll look into it. Lots of college students in the city." He looked at the sleepy baby. "That's a good trick. Wish mine had learned it."
"He kept me up for the last four hours, it's about time we both sleep," Horatio admitted, getting a smile and a nod. "Thanks, Paul. Thank everyone for me."
"Of course. Bring him around the day before you come back."
"He's being baptized Wednesday afternoon. Late afternoon. Ray's got court and asked for it to be after four."
"Even better," he agreed, punching him on the arm before leaving.
Horatio laid down on the couch, letting the son sleep on his chest for now since he seemed to like it. He was nearly asleep when he heard a pathetic sniffle. The package of pacifiers were opened and one was stuck into his mouth, making him satisfied enough for now. When he lost it Horatio found it while still nearly asleep and stuck it back after an attempt to put it into his ear. They managed a whole three hours of sleep before Yelina came over to help them shop. She even managed to take a picture of them before he woke up.
"Go bathe, Horatio." He nodded, trudging that way with the baby. He squealed at the water, apparently it was a good day to shower with the father so she wouldn't say anything for now. She fixed them breakfast while she waited, not looking when he came out in a towel and scurried into the bedroom to get properly dressed. The baby came out naked except for a diaper. "Put a t-shirt on him."
"I don't have any in his size." She gave him a look so he went to get one of his undershirts to put on the baby. It was summer, he didn't want to get him too warm. "Thank you, Yelina." He kissed her on the cheek. "Paul dropped those off." She smiled and handed over the bottle, letting him switch it out for the pacifier. Xander was happier with that and Horatio knew not to let him puke down his back this time. "I guess we'll both learn with him so your son doesn't get the trial and error problems." She smiled and went back to make him some more coffee, bringing it out. "Thank you. Ray at work?"
"Yes," she complained, sitting down carefully. "He patted the baby on the head, patted me on the head, then left for the day. I felt like a dog." He smiled at that, shaking his head slightly. "I know he loves me but he still patted me on the head."
"Next time bite him," he suggested with a small grin. She snickered and smirked back. She even took the baby so he could finish his breakfast. "Where's your mother?"
"She'll be over in an hour. She went to talk to the people about a carseat. That way he can't get hurt in the insane traffic we have in this city."
"I'll thank her later." He finished his coffee and got the dish towel to put over his shoulder so he could take him back and burp him. It worked and none soaked through in the short time it was on him! "Better, son." He took the bottle back and went back to feeding him.
Ray walked into his house that night and found Horatio crashed on the couch and his son watching his wife from a carseat on the table. "I take it the shopping went well?"
"Yes, and he got some darling little outfits," she promised, kissing him on the cheek. "I also picked up some for our son when he's born." She went back to browning the meat while they both watched what she was doing. "Xander kept him up from two this morning," she said when he went to check on Horatio.
"I wondered why he was snoring." Horatio woke up and blinked at him. "Catching up?"
"Storing up for tonight's marathon," he said, closing his eyes again. "Yelina, want me to take him yet?"
"No. He's watching me cook," she called from the kitchen. "Go back to sleep, Horatio." He nodded and drifted off again. She smiled and blew a kiss at the baby. "We'll do just fine." The baby cooed at her and stuck his finger back into his mouth, making her chuckle before draining the meat. "Give me another twenty, Ray. Go shower and change." He went to do that. She rolled her eyes. "One of these days he'll have to cook for himself."
"Probably when you're in the hospital after labor," Horatio said from the couch, making her smile at him. He got up and came to get the son and set the table. Xander went against the wall and he was more than content to watch them from there instead since they were coming closer. He handed him a bottle since it had been a few hours and his son was instantly a happy boy again. She served him and went to get Ray out of the bedroom. "We'll eat, son, then we'll head home where you'll sleep for at least a few hours hopefully."
Ray came out. "He eating with us?"
"He is," Horatio agreed.
"He can't eat the same stuff?"
"He's an infant, Ray. They only drink milk until about six months old," she said patiently. "Then they eat mush, oatmeal, and strained vegetables. It'll be a few years before he eats enchiladas." She sat down and said Grace, then dug in. Horatio ate one-handed but his son was very content the few times he needed to use both hands for something.
Ray sighed and took the baby to feed. "Eat." Horatio smiled and dug in with gusto. "Missed lunch?"
"No, we had lunch," Yelina assured him. "Almost six hours ago but we did all eat." She giggled when Ray got peed on. "Oops."
He looked at the kid. "Must you do that?"
"Not like he can use the toilet," Horatio offered, taking him to change him. Ray went to change himself and clean up the mess on his arm and thigh. "Sorry."
"I'm sure you are. Have a good day off?"
Horatio looked at him. "We had to go to ten different stores, Ray. Just for the crib." That got a shudder. "Eighteen in total. Your nursery is also outfitted."
"Thank you." He looked at the bare baby butt in front of him. "At least you'll grow into a big guy like we are." The yellow arch that shot up hit him on the nose, making him splutter and run into the shower to clean his face off while Horatio snickered quietly. "He did that on purpose!"
"Ray, he's barely over a month old," he chastised. "He can't aim yet, it was the natural trajectory." He got him cleaned up again and rediapered then back to the table. "Ray's cleaning up."
"Momma said boys did that," she said smugly, eating a bite of dinner. She finished up and took Xander, letting him nuzzle into her chest. "Good boy, Xander."
Ray came out scowling. "Do not let him eat off you, Yelina."
"He's not! He's comfortable. They're soft and it's a natural place to rest on one's mother," she defended.
Horatio finished up as quickly as he could and took his son back. "Thank you, Yelina. Should I leave you two alone to share a nice, quiet night?"
"Thanks, big brother," Ray said. He watched as Horatio strapped the baby into the carseat. "That's really complicated."
"You'll learn by the time ours is ready to have his first ride home," Yelina assured him. "It's not that hard."
He looked at her, then shook his head. "No I won't."
"Ray, she'll be very sore coming out of the hospital. Our mother rested for two weeks after she had you. Dad even had to cook and vacuum." Ray shuddered. "Maybe you two should take one of those lamaze classes. I hear they've got films of what happens during labor and things. Plus it can help when the pains get intense."
"Why would she need me?"
"To help her, Ray. Modern fathers get to go into the labor room with the mother," Horatio told him. Ray gave him a horrified look. "Really. They do. Paul went in with all of his. The boss went in with his last two."
"No thanks." His wife swatted him. "I don't want to see that, Yelina!"
"You saw it before I got pregnant and afterward," she complained. "You'll be in there and if you're on a scene I'll have someone drag you in, Raymond."
"You know work's important."
She snorted. "You will be there or I will make your life a living hell," she vowed. He shivered and nodded, seeming to acquiesce. For now. She knew he'd weasel his way out of it. "It's either you or your brother looking at that part of me," she said, playing up to his jealous streak.
"He will not!" he snapped. "You're my wife, not his!"
"Then you'll be there, as a proper husband would be," she said smartly, staring him down. He groaned and nodded, stomping back to the bedroom. She smiled at Horatio, kissing him on the cheek then the baby on the forehead. "You be good and try to sleep tonight, Xander. Your crib looks very comfortable to nap in." The baby sucked on his finger but it looked like he was trying to smile. "I'll see you tomorrow, Horatio," she said quietly. He nodded and left, taking the baby down to his car to strap him in again. She called the hospital to find out when those lamaze classes were. Because her husband would be going with her even if she did have to withhold sex and pull him in there by his nuts.
Horatio smiled and greeted his coworkers who were there for the baby's baptism. Most of his team was there, except the one who refused to step foot in a church ever again. One had almost fallen in on him so he didn't mind too much. He checked his watch but Ray was still missing. He looked at Yelina, who had slipped off to call him, getting a shrug. Ray's partner came in with him in tow, making them both smile. "Case?"
"Paperwork our Lieutenant wanted tonight," he said in his Texan accent, handing over Ray. He looked at the baby. "Hey, little fella. You're wearing a dress." Xander started to fuss.
"He's in a christening gown. He can wear real boy clothes in a few minutes," Yelina assured him.
"I'm sure he will." He sat down beside the CSI's secretary, earning a smile. He was sweet on her. "He's a cute kid."
"He's adorable," she agreed, taking his hand to squeeze. "They're all adorable at that age until they keep you up."
Horatio looked at her. "He didn't sleep for eighteen hours straight yesterday," he told her, making her giggle. "Most of that at night." That got smug looks from all the parents watching them. The priest came up to join them. "Father Patrick."
"Horatio. Ah, little Alexander." He opened his book to start the service and Xander started to howl. "Shh." He looked around then up, then at him, moving them slightly off to the side. There was a picture up there and he supposed it could be scary to such a young child. The baby settled down with a quiet word from his father and they went on. He tossed a fit with the holy water anointing but that was normal baby behavior. They all yelled at that. His Godparents both took their vows and took him to hold briefly.
Ray looked at his nephew. "Don't worry. If something happens to your dad, you can come stay with your cousin. She'll take good care of you, kid."
Yelina stole the baby, glaring at him. "No matter what, you are a child of my heart," she whispered in his ear. "Just like my own will be." He cooed at her and she handed him back, watching as the baby snuggled into Horatio's arms. She smiled at him. "He does love you."
The priest motioned them to turn around. "May I present to you Alexander Adrian Caine." The watchers clapped at that and came up to coo over the baby and hand Horatio a few smaller presents for him. Then they took the new father out to dinner. They all ignored what Yelina was eating because she was having peanut butter on her fish, but that was pregnant women for you.
Horatio came back his first day looking like warmed up crap. His boss gave him a knowing look. "He's a night baby," he explained. He headed for the coffeepot on his way to his locker then got to work on whatever he was assigned. After an hour he called Yelina to check, finding a happy baby and aunt together watching soaps. So that was fine. The next one was at lunch and they had been napping but he was making hungry noises. The chief came in and gave him a look so he excused himself and hung up. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. He awake?"
"Just now. The phone reminded him he's hungry."
"You want to go home at four?"
"My shift ends at six. She knows that."
"Go home at four, Horatio. Then work on making the baby sleep at night instead of the day." He handed him a slip of paper. "The wife said that one worked for our third one." He walked off again. He watched as Horatio went back to work, shaking his head when he found him still working at five. "I said go home," he called as he walked past the doorway.
"Let me finish this one," he complained.
His boss came in and looked in the microscope. "They match. Hallelujah. Go home." Horatio marked that down and retagged the bullet he had been working on before leaving for the day. He shook his head. Horatio was one stubborn guy but it made him a fantastic CSI. They would have to make sure it didn't make him an absentee father and give the pretty Yelina a second son.
Things started to get more normal, and Xander learned to sleep most nights within a few weeks, so he was more ready when Yelina called him at work panting. "Need driven or do you want to call an ambulance?" He smiled. "I'll be right there." He hung up. "Boss, Yelina's in labor!" he yelled. "I've got to drive her because Ray's somewhere! Someone find him!" He hurried out to his car, going to save her and his son since he was over there. She was panting and moaning by the time he got there but that was normal from what he had read. "Come on. Let's get you down to the car. Xander?" She pointed at the car seat. "Good girl, Yelina. Come on." She grabbed her bag, he grabbed the baby, and they headed down the stairs. The lights on the car made the trip to the hospital faster and the ER told him to take her to a special desk up front so he did. "She's in labor. Yelina Caine?" Her name was found, the doctor always planned ahead for pregnant women.
"Is that her son?" the OB nurse asked.
"No, I'm her brother-in-law, he's mine. She was babysitting and I'm staying."
"That's fine. Go ahead and put him down out of the way please. He probably doesn't need to see this."
"I didn't think he could see that well." He called Ray's desk, then his boss's desk. "Where's Ray? It's Horatio, where's my idiot brother hiding? His wife's in labor, that's why." She let out a scream of pain. "See?" He smirked. "Can you please have him drug here in cuffs? Thanks. That's where we're at, yes. No, I've got Xander with me. My boss knows, Lieutenant. Just find my idiot brother. Thank you." He hung up and looked at the baby. "He's worried about you too." He called her mother. "It's Horatio. She's in labor. We're in the hospital."
"I'm not sure if we're going to keep her or not," the nurse offered. "They're still seven minutes apart."
"An hour ago they were ten," she panted.
"Okay. We'll call your doc, see what he says." She nodded so the nurse went to call him. She came back a few minutes later. "He said to keep you and hope your husband can be found."
"He's an officer. If he's that out of touch he'd better be dead," Horatio told her. That got a smile. "He's hiding."
"You've got a few more hours. First babies usually come in eight to ten, but it's not unheard of to be eighteen or twenty." She smiled at her. "Now, do you think you can handle the pain? It goes faster if you don't have pain medicine up front."
"My mother was stoned and I came out in six," she told her. "I want drugs."
"Okay, I'll get someone." She watched her go through this next contraction, Horatio holding her hand and smoothing down her hair, prompting her to relax as much as she could. "You'll do fine until he gets here. Did you two do lamaze?"
"I did. Ray was a bit iffy on it once he saw the film."
"That happens," she agreed. She went to talk to the head nurse about drugs for her and warn her the brother-in-law and his infant were in. That got a smile. Two officers drug in another guy in handcuffs. "Caine?" One of them nodded. She pointed. "In there." They drug him in there and handcuffed him to the railing with Horatio's cuffs then left after a 'good luck' to Yelina. They all loved her around the station. She'd make a great detective some year soon. The nurses snickered at that. Officers should be able to handle a little childbirth.
Horatio was sitting down with the baby when the nurses came back with the medicine tray. "If you need me to I can move his cuffs."
"That's all right, he's not in the way at all." She tapped something into the IV line and smiled. "There, that should help and later on we'll do an epidural." That got a happy smile. "Now, let's see how you're progressing." Horatio got up and moved him and the baby out of the line of sight, going back by her head. "Thank you." She unwrapped a glove and got under the sheets, making Yelina hiss. "Hmm. Dilated five it feels like." She withdrew her hand and took off the glove. "It'll be just fine and you're progressing nicely, Mrs. Caine."
"Salas. I got by my maiden name at work."
"I can do that." She made the note on her chart and the note about her condition. "Sir, there's a caf downstairs if he's going to need milk."
"I can do that later. He's not hungry, he just wanted a pacifier," he said quietly.
"That's always my favorite baby trick too." She smiled at Ray. "It'll be a few hours. Let me move a chair for you, Mr. Caine." She moved a chair over so he could sit down. "Now, when she's in the contraction, go over the breathing exercises with her. It'll help keep her focused." He nodded, taking her hand to hold. Horatio tossed over the keys so she released him and tossed them back. "Good boys." She went to check on her next patient.
"Did you have to embarrass me that way?" Ray complained.
"Yes, you were trying to run," Yelina told him. He pouted at her and she glared back. "You wanted a baby, you're going to help with him." He wilted. "That includes doing things for him and helping more around the house. Because I will be going back to work. My mother's agreed to watch both boys." He nodded at that, looking like a whipped puppy. "Good!" She tensed up.
"Yelina, if you tense it hurts more," Horatio reminded her. She made herself relax and took Ray's hand to squeeze. He shifted closer, letting him have his slightly damp hand from the baby's mouth. She squeezed and he didn't flinch at it. "Breathe. You can do this." He glared at Ray, prompting him to start the progression of breathing exercises. She followed along because it was keeping her attention at the moment. Xander squealed and kicked so he looked down at him. "Yes, your cousin is coming," he agreed quietly. "Pipe down." He fussed and wiggled and tried to get over to help. When the contraction ended he stood up so the baby could see her. "See, she's all right, Xander."
Yelina took the baby to hold, putting him on her stomach. "Tell him to hurry up, Xander. That way he can come cuddle you at Momma's." The baby cooed at her stomach, almost laughing when his cousin kicked him. She tensed up to have another one and the baby cooed some more, staying right there while the Daddy and Uncle helped her. "He's lifting his head on his own," she said with a smile.
"Good boy, son," Horatio prompted. "That's an important step." He patted his son on the back. "Be a good boy for just a minute longer, okay?" The nurse came back. "He wanted to help."
"He can keep his cousin calm and kicking." She smiled at the small family. Once it was done she let Horatio take the baby back and put on the fetal monitor. "There we go. Forgot that earlier," she said with a small wink. She looked at the readouts. "So far he looks okay." Xander nearly wiggled his way back onto her so Horatio sighed and put him beside the lump of stomach. She smiled when the fetal heartrate picked up. "He does love his cousin." She looked at her. "How are you doing on pain?"
"I hurt," she admitted. "But the little bit of relief is nice."
"Good. Your doctor's on the way up. He'll be here in about twenty minutes. Then we'll see about some jell-o for dinner, all right?" That got a nod and she walked back out, going to gossip about the very helpful baby.
The doctor walked in about twenty-five minutes later. "Yelina. Time?"
"It appears to be," she agreed. She patted Xander on the head. "He's being helpful while his father gets him something from the cafeteria to drink."
"That's fine. I don't recommend him being in here when you're delivering, but that's fine." He gently shifted the baby and got a glare from him. "Hmm, I heard Horatio had a new son. You'd be Xander then?" She smiled and nodded, then hissed and the baby cooed at her, kicking gently against her stomach. He noticed the baby's heartrate was staying up. "He's very helpful indeed." He checked her over once it was done. "You're coming along fine. Looks like none of us will get a lot of sleep tonight." Her mother rushed in. "Calm down. You've got about three hours before we make her start to push."
"Why isn't she drugged!" she demanded. "I was!"
"Modern women get by with less drugs and less time in the hospital," he told her. "Not like in the old days where you were in a fog." He smiled when the baby kicked again then cooed. The fetal monitor beeped. "That's actually a pretty good sign. He's a very helpful young man, Yelina." Horatio walked in with a small carton of milk. "He's being very good and helpful, Horatio."
"I like that they'll be close." He fixed the bottle and took his son back, letting him stare at her for now.
"All right, Yelina. Epidural when you're fully efaced and about to crown. The gals here know when it's time so let them tell you." She nodded at that, biting her lip. "Now, your husband is here to abuse. This is when you can get away with yelling stuff at him that you wouldn't normally say. You can also bring him in during your first post-birth checkup to talk about fixing him if you want."
"He will be," she vowed.
He looked at her and shook his head. "You can if you want."
"Son, yours would keep you off work for a day, maybe two. We'd have to admit her and do surgery for hers," the doctor told him, getting a shudder. "She'd be down probably a week and you'd have to take that time off work and do everything for her, including change diapers. Have you been practicing?" Ray gave him a horrified look and he smirked. "Son, she's not going to be moving right for at least a week this time either. Even if I will be letting her go home in two days. There'll be no sex for at least six months. She won't be able to stand long enough to cook for at least a week, possibly two, and she'll be in bed or on a couch for the first four days." Ray pointed at her mother. "You're a father now, step up to do the work. You've got to pay the price for that bit of fun you had nine months ago." Ray whimpered quietly. He smiled. "It'll be fine. Pretty soon you'll be nearly a pro at it, like Horatio seems to be now." He looked at her mother. "You can teach him I'm sure."
"I did those two, I can him." She smiled at her daughter. "Now, how bad does it hurt?"
"I've had some pain killers, Momma. They've been very good about that."
"She's not screaming as much as some women on the floor," Horatio assured her.
"One of them's going natural. Said she felt it was better for the baby to not be stoned too," the doctor said, making notes on the chart. "Okay. I'll be back in about an hour or so. You tell the gals outside if you need anything."
"Can I have a drink?"
"You can have all the ice chips you want, Yelina. Come on, Ray, let's get her some." He nodded, following him out to ask for some. "You've told your boss you've got to take at least a week off?" he prompted. Ray shook his head. So the doctor sighed. "Need me to write an excuse?"
"I might, I don't think my boss did much with his kid either."
"That's fine, Ray." He wrote out one and handed it over. "There. Have your brother hand it in tomorrow for you."
"How did you know that?"
"He's driven her twice recently. Not like she could with how far back she had to sit thanks to the baby." He patted him on the arm. "She wants some ice chips, girls." One of them got some for him. "I'm guessing about three hours. Her mother's in there now. You might wanna dig up the 'new baby in the house' pamphlet. Ray hasn't much thought about that." That got a smile and one of them handed it over to him with the ice chips. "Go back to her." Ray walked back in there. He shook his head. "Some boys you gotta lead by the nose. Some'll run you over." He went to check his other patient on the floor, the one who was going natural. He didn't like it but it was her choice to go through that much pain. He didn't think any woman should suffer for this, especially not with the twins she was having.
Horatio walked into the station the next day, running into both bosses and the shift supervisor waiting on him. "It's a boy. He's healthy. Twenty inches, six and a half pounds." They smiled at that. "Xander helped most of the night by cooing at his cousin before he was born." That got a chuckle from his boss. "Ray didn't fill out forms?" His brother's boss shook his head so he handed over the note. "The doctor kindly pointed out he'd have to do some of the childcare for the next few days. Thank you for the handcuffing."
"I had to be drug there in mine," his boss assured his best CSI. "I became a stupid little twittering virgin who couldn't even figure out how to drive." The other lieutenant laughed at that. "You didn't?"
"Nah, I drove her, then got stuck in a waiting room with a cigar." He shrugged. "I'll fill out Ray's forms, Horatio. How's Yelina?"
"Not beating him yet. I'm impressed with that much alone. Ray passed out during her second hour of labor so I had to stand in." That got a shudder from both men. "They got Ray up and asked if he wanted to cut the cord and he turned green and fled. So he's somewhere at the moment getting a drink for being a new father. If you see him, drive him home please."
"Of course. You need today off?" his boss asked.
"You look like shit, son. You've got the time in." Horatio smiled. "I'll call if it's a really horrible case." That got a nod and Horatio walked back out. They went to tell their respective teams. Everyone liked Yelina. She was a nice girl.
Horatio picked up his son from Yelina's mother, making her smile. "I have the day off unless it's something horrible." He headed home, going to put Xander down for a nap and take one himself. He was definitely used to shorter nights now but it had still been a draining one, even watching had been draining. He didn't even make it out of his clothes, just flopped down and napped once his son was in his crib.
Horatio got the offer a few months later, making him look at his son. "Miami? It's pretty down there and no snow." His son hated the cold weather. Yelina hated the snow as well. It was an offer to consider. His boss wasn't going to retire for years unless he died on the job. Horatio did want to move up and Miami was reorganizing their labs. It was a beautiful city. His last case's victim had been moved down there so he could check on her more often as well. He decided a family dinner was in order so he grabbed Xander and got him dressed, even if he was wiggling and trying to stay mostly naked. His radiator was stuck in the on position and it was roasting in his place. "We're going to see Ray Junior, Xander." That made him fight less. "Thank you." He finally got him into the outfit and headed out with the diaper bag. Yelina smiled when she opened the door. "It's roasting in my place."
"I noticed that earlier." She let him inside. "Ray's at work."
"That's fine. I was thinking a nice family dinner." He put Xander down next to Ray Junior on the carpet, letting him bat at his friend and suck on his fingers for him. "I got an offer to go to Miami."
"Really?" She smiled. "It's a beautiful city."
"I was wondering if you and Ray might like to join me if I went."
"And get away from all the snow? Please, yes." He laughed at that while she called Ray. "Horatio's here to have dinner with us. Yes, and Xander, Raymond." She rolled her eyes. "Where else would he be? He is family. No, he's got an offer to switch departments and wanted to talk about it." She looked at him. "He said only if you take his son since he kept him up last night."
Horatio smirked. "They do that. They're babies."
"Tell me about it. He whined nearly as much as his son did." She heard the spluttering and hung up on him. "He'll be home shortly." He smiled at her blatant trick. "He still doesn't want to do anything around the house."
"Miami pays better, slightly, so maybe you could get a housekeeper." She smiled at that. "Also, I heard earlier that congratulations are in order, Detective Salas." She beamed at him and gave him a hug. "The list comes out tomorrow but I did hear you were on it." Ray came in and she ran over to hug him. "She's on the promotion list."
"Really?" He smiled at his wife. "That means we can hire a housekeeper so I don't have to do dishes, right?"
"No!" She swatted him and carefully walked around the two boys, noticing Xander was flipped onto his stomach and trying to get to his knees. "He's trying to crawl."
"He tried that earlier too. I had to get a splinter out of his knees." She smiled and went back to cooking while he got down to play with the babies. "I got an offer from Miami, Ray."
"Wow. Miami's a pretty city, it's warm. It's humid most of the time." That got a nod. "Why do they want you?"
"They are reorganizing the labs and wanted some fresh blood. It'd give me more opportunity to advance and she'd still have a large Brazilian community around her."
"Momma used to live down there when she was younger," Yelina called from the kitchen.
"It also pays slightly better."
"Then I definitely wouldn't mind checking into it. When do they want to know from you?"
"I can find their HR number and call by then," he agreed. He looked at the babies then shook his head. "You two are going to be holy terrors soon, aren't you?"
"They are merely infants, Ray."
"Fine." He went to change clothes for the night.
Horatio smoothed down some of Ray Junior's hair. "It'll be all right. At the very least you can come visit if they can't move right away." He got up to help Yelina in the kitchen. He couldn't cook well but he could chop and drain stuff while Ray watched the boys.
"Oh, sure, make me deal with messy butt and slobber out here," he complained.
"Xander's had good diapers all day, Ray."
"He's cutting teeth," both good parents noted patiently.
"Wipe it off with the cloth in the diaper bag, Ray, and then hand him the blue ring." Ray did that and sat down to watch some tv while the boys played with each other. Horatio rolled his eyes and said a prayer for patience for his brother. Because he still wasn't doing much with the kid. He probably wouldn't until Ray Junior was old enough for sports. She smiled at him. "Miami is a nice city. About as expensive to live in according to their letter." He let her read it. He didn't care if *she* knew his proposed salary. She gave him a look and he smiled. "The difference is the specialty."
"I should get a chemistry degree."
"How much more do you make?"
"A few thousand a year," Horatio said modestly. Or something like that really because his brother didn't need to know he made a third more than him.
"I'll call their HR department in the morning, Horatio. I've got it off." He smiled at that. "I would like to move somewhere I can't make snowmen on my fire escape."
"You might even be able to get a small house," he offered quietly. She smiled at that. "That way Ray could cut the grass." She giggled and swatted at him, going back to fussing over dinner.
Ray came in to look at the food being prepared. "Why are we having beans?"
"Because you don't cook," she reminded him.
"Oh. That reason. Okay." He set the table, then went back to watching the news and sports. Horatio quirked a small smile as he really helped. Sometimes he was such a little kid himself. "Hey, Horatio, maybe you'll find a woman down there to give Xander a real mother," he called. Then again, sometimes Ray should be stabbed.
"If I do, I do. If not, I'm not the first single parent in the world, Ray. We're doing fine most of the time." The two parents shared a look and got back to their chores. Xander let out a sniffle. "Change him please, Ray."
"Ewww." He grabbed the stuff from the diaper bag and went to change his nephew, coming out holding him at arm's length. "Ray Junior is still less nasty."
"Not hardly," Yelina said dryly. She kissed the baby and he got put back down but Ray Junior liked to compete with Xander so he filled his own diaper in the most smelly way possible. Not even Ray could ignore that stink. She giggled when he glared at his son.
"He's your cousin, quit competing with him. He's older." He got up to change him as well. Before he had to smell more of that stink. "EWW! What were you eating, son! That's it, your grandmother cannot feed you any more!" His son let out a loud wail. "I don't care! That's gross!"
Horatio washed his hands and went to help. "Yelina, it's a bit loose again."
"Medicine's in the cabinet above the sink, boys."
"Thank you." He got it down and dosed him while helping Ray clean up the mess he was making. Because the way he was doing it, it was spreading onto his legs as well. They'd end up bathing and changing the baby at this rate. They finally got him clean and out to the table for dinner. Xander was asleep so they let him lay on the rug for now. They said grace and dug in, talking quietly so they wouldn't disturb Ray Junior, who might be falling asleep as well.
Yelina looked out into the living room, seeing him up and staring at them. "It's all right, Xander. Go back to sleep." He was up on all fours again and pulling himself. "Horatio."
He looked and smiled. "Scooting, another good step, son," he praised, going over to pick him up and kiss him on the head. "Soon you'll be crawling." He came back to eat with him in his lap, letting the baby steal some of his potatoes to suck off his fingers. "You do that. It's good for you."
"Solid food is good for them at his age," she agreed happily.
"It is," he agreed, smoothing down some wild hairs that were standing up on his head. They heard the scream and Yelina got handed Xander while the two men ran to see what was going on. When she heard sirens coming she wrapped their plates up and put them into the fridge, then went to put the boys onto the couch so they could watch Jeopardy with her. It would only make them smarter.
Horatio looked at his new team leader and nodded politely. He'd never had a female boss before. "Good morning."
"You must be Horatio," she said, smiling and shaking his hand. "Welcome to Miami." He smiled back and sat down across from her. "I know it's odd, there's not many women higher up in the NYPD system yet. I've been over the lab now for about a year and it was my idea to get some new blood in."
"Which is often a very good one. It brings in new skills and ideas."
"It does." She passed over a folder. "That's the official stuff you probably already got from HR but I'd like to keep a few of those forms on file here in case something happens. That way I know who to contact in case of an emergency."
"That's reasonable." He pulled some out of his pocket and handed them over. "Copies of all the pertinent forms but the insurance form. That I had to get more information for it." She smiled at that and looked through it, nodding at the folder. He found one in there he hadn't copied and settled in to do it. Then he handed it over. "There you go."
"That's fine, Horatio. How are you doing on a place to live?"
"I'm looking at three different houses today," he admitted. "After I'm done here."
"Good! I see you're divorced." He nodded once. "With a son?"
"Not from that relationship."
"Oh. That's fine. How old is he?"
"Seven months in two more days," he said proudly. "Just learned how to crawl the other night." She smiled at that. "I've already found a reputable daycare for him but I do know how hours can be stretched while on cases. That'll get easier for me when my brother, sister-in-law, and her mother all come down."
"You're not living with someone?" He shook his head. "Oh, I see. So you're a single parent then?" He nodded. "The child was from a close relationship? I don't want to pry...."
He held up a hand. "I have no idea how he came to be. His mother suggested I was drunk one night at a club, which hadn't happened in over a year, but the tests confirm he's my son. She died three days after coming to see me for the first time."
"Oh. All right. Well, hey, it's the nineties, men can be single fathers if women can be single mothers. Let me know if we'll have any problems handling the hours due to that."
"On those days he often comes to work in a backpack with me," he admitted. "He tends to sleep in it." She smiled at that. "His cousin's only two and a half months younger than he is. Her mother usually watches them for me."
"Excellent. That's not a problem for me," she agreed. "I'm sure you've been doing this long enough to be realistic about the issues a single parent will face. You could think about hiring a nanny since you are going to be making more money down here than you did up in New York."
"I'll be getting a housekeeper but that'll take me longer."
"Perfectly reasonable," she agreed. "They made you bring him into the lab?" He nodded. "Even around the chemicals?"
"He sat in his backpack and napped. Every now and then he'd play with my hair. He had his own little mask." She smiled at that. "He thought it was great fun both times it happened." He shifted. "How many others are coming in?"
"I've got to find and hire a new ballistics person within the next year."
"I can fill in there but it's not my main area."
"That's good. That'll give me more time. If you hear about one, let me know, please." He nodded at that. "Good. Let's go tour the lab. Who has him right now?"
"Daycare." He stood up and gathered his folder, making her smile. "I saw the maps."
"Now and then they're handy." She walked him off, taking him around to introduce him to the old guard, as she called them.
He noticed a few of them paid him more attention than her. Most of them seemed to respect her, a few looked scared of her, but they all paid him more attention to him than her. A few asked him his credentials and he rattled them off, impressing some, getting a 'humph' from another. Megan promised she got that all the time. She introduced him to a very nice looking young woman who she said was a single mother as well. He smiled and they shared baby pictures. She had two and they were older so she recommended a few parts of the city to look in. He wrote those down on his folder. They left the lab and she showed him around the precinct. He met the new detectives, clicking very well with one guy about his age from Texas. He seemed nice and he talked up Yelina and Ray for when they came down, making him happy. He promised to have beers with him when he finally got moved in, after his first day at the lab. That got a nod and then he got to head out to see the realtor. He debated picking up Xander, but the call out there said he was napping so he left him for now. He found his realtor in her office and smiled, shaking her hand. "Hi, Horatio Caine. We spoke on the phone."
"We did." She pulled up the searches she had done for him. "Now, you said you needed at least two bedrooms?"
"Preferably three if possible with a study. I have a seven-month-old son."
"Ah, the fun age," she said happily. "Just starting to crawl?" He nodded. "Do you mind stairs?"
"I don't. There's ways to guard them. He does need some room to roam. He's forever running into the walls in the apartment because he runs out of room. He's used to wood floors but I don't care one way or the other. I would like to be able to see water. It calms him down a lot."
"That's usually pretty pricy around here, Horatio. How much is your salary?" He handed over the sheet and the sheets he had gotten from the bank, making her stare at him. "You've saved very well."
"I have," he agreed. "I've lived pretty minimally and he doesn't need that much stuff. Though I do seem to have this annoying habit of spending whole paychecks on diapers." She giggled at that. "He'll quit using those soon."
"In about two years or so," she agreed. She looked at her search, modifying the amount. With that salary and a good bank account like that she could up the top range. She input 'views of water' as well. It came up with three good ones. "Hmm. Let's see. I have a condo. I have a very old house that may need some work. It said it had a window to replace from a recent storm. Or we have a new construction in a gated community." He looked more interested in that. "Let's go there first."
"They are finished?"
"Most of them." She walked him out, letting him drive this time since he had his car. "It says the community's eighty percent done. All individual houses. It would require community agreement but that shouldn't be that hard to get at this stage. It's only got six inhabitants and officers are often seen as very good neighbors. It doesn't say it's got security at the gate, just that it has a gate." He nodded at that, going where she pointed. The gate was wide open and had no actual 'gate' to it. Just bricked walls and where a gate could be. They pulled into the small area and he looked then at her. "They said it was mostly done. I do know a better one. It's a bit outside your range but we'll see. Turn around and head up the road." He nodded, driving where she ordered. The one she liked was up the road. He pulled into the entry and up to a house marked 'office'. "This one is nearly full, and as I said a bit more expensive, but let's see." She got out and led him into the office. "Earl."
"Patricia." He got up to kiss her on the cheek. "Who's this?"
"This is Detective First Grade Horatio Caine. He's with our crime lab and is just moving down here."
"Myself and my seven-month-old son," he admitted, taking off his sunglasses. That got a smile. "Water is a calming thing for both of us."
"It's an excellent thing to use. We're full up on the water side but....." He frowned and turned to look at something. "We just had one repoed at the other site, Horatio. It's a bit closer to the city for you. Let's go there. Patricia, you know where the deer was found?" She smiled and nodded. "That one, the blue one there by the gate." She nodded and led him out, letting him close up the office and follow in his own car. It was closer to town by about twenty minutes, which apparently made him happy. He let them into the house they had repossessed. "The last owner couldn't make the payments. They lost their job and began to use drugs."
"That is a bad thing," he agreed. He walked around the small house. The living room was open. The study was off to the side. The kitchen was small but useable for him. There was a bathroom behind it and then the upstairs was two bedrooms. Well, if Ray and Yelina came over to stay they could have a pull-out in the study. He walked back down the stairs and out onto the back porch and fell in love with the view. He was still staring out there when Earl and Patricia came out. "How much?"
"About a hundred and eighty, son."
Horatio looked at him. "That is very expensive."
"It'll grow in value. Waterfront property goes up every single year. This area hasn't had more than a vandal once in the last year. You and your boy will be safe here and the mothers up the street will fuss him to death. We've got a few retirees." That got a small smile. "There's one larger one but it's about a hundred grand more and this is really the better view." He pointed at the other house they could barely see. His neighbor was screened from him and the ones further out even more so. "The trees'll grow as well. Give you more privacy."
He scanned the other house. "There's someone hanging on the railing of the porch three houses up."
"Crap." He went to check with Horatio behind him. He called Megan first then called Frank since he had his number. He looked at Horatio. "I don't think someone did that to her."
Horatio looked then nodded. "Yes they did but she was already dead when she was hung." He looked at the surprised looks. "I'm with the crime lab." Megan parked and he whistled, bringing her out back. "My new neighbor. Looks like a hanging post mortem. This is Earl and Patricia. She brought me to him to show around the new house. I'll be in the one on the end." That got a smile. "I'll leave you to it, Megan."
"Thanks. Call dispatch instead of detectives personally, Horatio."
He gave her a look. "They'd send you anyway and Peterson was putting things in his coffee that he probably shouldn't," he said quietly. He slid back into his sunglasses and smiled at her. "Next time I will."
She smirked back. "Good man. The one on the end?" He pointed. "It's a pretty view." She got to work while Horatio walked them back up there to go over the paperwork and sign for the loans. "This is way out of the usual price range," she said quietly. "I hope he knows what he's doing." Frank came around the house. "Horatio's getting the house on the end and spotted her."
"Got me out of a meeting with some boring ass people," he offered. "Suicide?"
"No, he pegged it. She was hung post mortem. There's no damage around the rope or bruising." That got a nod and they went to check the house while the ME came to get the body. "I'm wondering how he's affording here."
Horatio came back and gave them a look while he pulled on gloves. "I live in a very small walk-up and Xander doesn't have the wardrobe my sister-in-law wants for him." She jumped. "I've also made some good investments." He gave her a look. "It was also repossessed. Only a hundred and sixty." That got a smirk from Frank. "Over twenty years that's not bad."
"It's not," he agreed. "Especially for Miami and a waterfront house." They watched him work, and he decided he liked his laid back style. Horatio also has the information file Earl kept on the owners for him. So he was prepared and a good guy to work with. He knew what he was doing because even Megan looked surprised at some of the things he did. This guy was not a rookie CSI and he had a dangerous undercurrent that he was sure came out now and then when needed but he seemed too in control to let it out randomly. "So, son?"
"Daycare, Frank. He'll be picked up in about two hours, after I get done here." He smiled at him. "Then we can go have a beer if you want."
"Sure." They got back to work while he traced the other members of the family. He had to stop their son from coming in but the kid burst out swearing at his father so it gave him an opening to ask what he needed to without making the kid cry. Horatio came out to help him since the kid was still swearing but it worked well. The kid told him exactly where his father was and how to get there, then used the phone Horatio cleared to call his grandmother to come get him. Frank said they'd speak when she got there. He did not want to tell this news over the phone. When they got there they were a really old, frail couple that barely managed to get out of the car. Horatio waded in to talk to them, making the father cry and the mother vow vengeance. The grandson hugged them both and they were good to the boy. Got him into the car, fussed over him, gave Horatio their address. He gave them Megan's card so they could call to get an update in about four days, he did ask for that much time so they knew something and promised to have them told if they cleared it before then. That got a nod and they drove the boy off. "Smooth," he told him quietly.
"Not the first time, Frank. My boss refused to do notifications." That got a nod of understanding. "Megan, I gave them your card and said to give you about four days before they called." She gave him a look. "By then we'll at least have the autopsy report and that'll give them time to calm down and make some plans for her. That way they can arrange to have her picked up during the same call."
"With the way the boy was talking about his daddy, it was probably him," Frank told her. "Tell Alexx she'll be finding bruising on her." That got a nod. "I'm off to find the family. You staying, Horatio?"
"No, I should go pick up Xander since I'm not on shift yet." Megan gave him a look. "I'm not."
"You're not." He smiled and walked off with Frank. She rolled her eyes. Getting used to him was going to drive her insane.
Frank got to look inside the house. "He knocked it down?"
"For catching the homicide he knocked off twenty thousand."
"That's nice of him. A lot of retirees. Lots and lots of grandmothers for your boy."
"That's good though." He went back to staring at the view. "He'll love it here."
"Did you meet Alexx yet?"
"Not yet. She was out on a call when Megan pulled me down to the morgue."
"Don't like the morgue?"
"Not my favorite spot," he admitted, looking at him. "I'd rather be in the lab."
"That works for the rest of us. C'mon, let me get the father in there to bust his chops while you go pick up your son. When can you move?"
"I'll have news on the loan tonight. She had me pre-approved." That got a smile. "So I can ship all my things from New York probably this weekend and officially move in right after that. Then buy some new furniture."
"Plus a gate."
"Yes, because my son is smart enough to climb and then hang himself on the wires that make up the railing." That got a smile. "Where should we meet you and when?"
"How about the steak place downtown by the station at seven?" Horatio nodded, letting him out and locking up behind him. They saw some women gathered around watching. "He's moving in," he called. "His name's Horatio, he's single, and he's got a son, ladies." That got some smiles and they came over to introduce themselves to him. He ended up showing off baby pictures to them all, getting promises of cookies when they moved in. Frank had to smile. The guy blushed at the attention. It was kinda cute. He'd have to fix the guy up with some nice women, ones his wife would approve of. Ones Alexx would approve of because she was going to mother him and his son as well. But hey, it got them more information on the family. They all upheld what the son had said. The father was an abusive asshole who beat her for being pretty and stared at by others.
Horatio walked into the daycare, taking off his sunglasses. "Is my son up?"
"You are, sir?"
"Horatio Caine. Xander's mine."
"Ah, the squealy one." She got the infant supervisor, who winked at Horatio when she handed his son to him. "He's been a good boy but he's been squealing at the animal mural for the last few hours."
"He does like animals. I'm surprised he hasn't terrorized the fish tank."
She laughed at that. "We had to pull him away from it before his nap," the infant supervisor offered. She tickled Xander's stomach, earning a smile. "He's a beautiful young boy, Mr. Caine. When are you and the wife moving down here?"
"It's just us now and within a few weeks." That got a smile and a nod. "We found a house today." He looked at his son. "Want to go eat dinner with some of the people Daddy works with?" Xander beamed at him. "His diaper bag?" It was retrieved. "Did he eat?"
"Three times," the attendant agreed. "Because he dove into someone else's dinner while I was changing a diaper. Helped her eat her strained beets."
"I noticed the purple stains. Come on, son." He walked him out to the car, settling him into his carseat. "Did you like them?" Xander patted him on the nose. "Good boy. Let's go back to the hotel to clean you up and then we'll go to dinner, all right?" He closed the door and walked around to get in and head back to their hotel for the next few days. He did call Patricia, getting the happy news he was approved for the loan and she could get him the extra for the original asking price if he wanted her to. That way he could decorate and do some landscaping if he wanted. He considered it then decided to do that. They had to go out to finish signing forms that night, then he took the keys. He looked at his son. "I should go find us a bed for tonight. Mine's staying up there if I have my way." His son beamed at him.
"You'll like the new house, son." They went to do that, him taking the new address written down to a small furniture store. The down payment hadn't taken all of his savings so he had some he could use for this, plus his last two paychecks were in his pocket. He found a nice bed there and a crib. They promised to deliver it within a few hours and he went to do some minor grocery shopping and call the utility companies. The electric had still been on so he only had to get it switched into his name. The water was the same as he found out. Everything was handled by the time the beds were delivered. He tipped them and watched his son watch the water out the glass doors to the porch. "Like it here, Xander?" he asked quietly. Xander turned to smile at him. "This is going to be home. Think you'll like it here?" He got down to look at him. "You're a good boy." Xander smiled at him. He checked his watch and then gathered him and his bag back up. He watched the movers leave and locked up the house, then went to meet Frank. "Sorry we're a bit late, Frank. I signed the final papers today."
"That's fine. It being repossessed must've made it a lot easier. It took me two weeks to get ours."
Horatio smiled and nodded. "It did." He slid Xander into the waiting high chair, making him smile at him. "He loved the view too. We'll be able to move out there tonight."
"Good job. So you'll be officially down when?"
"Two weeks. I've got to go back up there and finish packing, then drive it down with my car."
"Hauling the car behind the truck?"
"If I'm very lucky, I can fit nearly everything into my car," he admitted. "Xander can ride up front with me and if I pack the back seat I'll make it." That got a smile. "That's how I afforded the house. I don't like my present furniture. I'll donate it to my church." Xander squealed at that. "I know, you still don't like the nuns. You'll have to get used to them, son." The waitress came over, all smiles. "I deserve a good meal. I'll get it, Frank."
"Sure. I'll get the beers." She gave him a look. "And the tip if you're nice to the boy." She smiled at that and patted the baby on the head, making both older men laugh at the flirting she was doing. They ordered and she brought them some rolls to nibble and feed the squealing baby. "He's loud."
"He is but he's a good boy. I was told he terrorized the fish tank at the daycare and then he babbled at the mural of animals." Frank snickered at that. "It's a good thing." He smoothed down the hair. "We do need to trim that, son."
Frank shrugged. "You should ask Alexx. She's got one just younger than him." That got a smile. "She's our ME. She's a fierce mothering sort. She'll fuss."
"That's fine. The secretaries all fussed over him when he had the sniffles last month, and his cousin since his mother and father both worked in the unit in the same building." That got a grin. "They'll probably be down within the month."
"That's fine. I'm sure you'll be able to handle it until then." Their food was brought and Xander made a grab for her shirt buttons, making her squeak. "He's got a good grab," he joked, sipping his beer. "Maybe he'll follow you into the department, Horatio."
"Son," Horatio said, giving him a look. "Unhand the young woman. She's too old for you." He let her go with the trade of a bite of broccoli from Frank's plate. The waitress escaped. Xander beamed while he chewed on the broccoli. He shook his head and cut up his meat, giving him two pieces to suck on as well.
"I thought they were supposed to have strained stuff that looked nasty at that age."
"They are," Horatio agreed. He gave him a smug look. "This way he doesn't feel left out, it's too big for him to choke on, and he won't try to steal off our plates. He's very good at sharing."
"Ah. Does he share with others?"
"His cousin Ray Junior. He found a mouse and managed to catch it by the tail. He tried to share it with him. Ray thought it was brilliant by the way he cooed at it. Ray Senior thought it was brilliant he had managed to catch it. Yelina just screamed at him for not killing it and letting it get near the boys."
"Brazilian. She's a powerful woman, Frank. She's a great detective, but I never, ever want to be on the other end of another mood swing. She's vowed no more children because even her mother and our family priest was scared of her while she was pregnant." That got a smile. Xander threw the broccoli at him, earning another look. "We do not throw food, son." He handed it back and his son stared at him. "This is Frank. Daddy will be working with him." Xander stared at Frank, then smiled and threw the broccoli at him.
"You've got good aim, kid." He handed over a piece of baked potato. Horatio nodded that it was fine. The baby dove into that. "Likes his starches."
"He's not a picky eater. He tried to eat the mouse too. That's why Yelina was screaming, he had the head in his mouth and it was so terrified it was frozen." Frank burst out laughing at that, eyes squeezed shut while he laughed. Xander patted him on the hand. "I told him about the mouse, Xander. He's giggling like Ray Junior did. Eat." Xander sucked on the rest of the potato and then some of the steak. Horatio dug in again, smiling at Frank. It was good to make new friends.
Yelina looked around Horatio's new house a month and a half later, smiling at him. "How much did it cost you?"
"A hundred and sixty thousand." She winced. He handed her a card. "That's my realtor. I told her you'd want something more modest with trees and a yard. She's got a whole list for you." She smiled at that. "You two can have the pull-out in the study. Did you find his bear?"
"Sister Hannah did," she admitted, puling it out of her bag for the boy. The boy gave her the most adoring look and clutched it, then went back to show his teddy the view. She smiled at him. "It'll be fine down here, Horatio."
"It will be. Where is my nephew?"
"Sleeping on the father in the car." He laughed and went to help her get them both, letting Ray Junior crawl around and join Xander at the view. He crawled off to explore the couch instead. He didn't like water that much.
Ray Senior looked around and whistled. "I know you make more than me, Horatio, but this is really pricey."
"It was a foreclosure," he said blandly. "My realtor has a list of houses for you and I've talked you both up to detectives I've been working with. Megan, my boss, and Frank, the homicide detective I work with most, are coming over tonight to meet you two."
"That's fine. Can we clean up?" Yelina asked. He nodded at the back area, letting her head that way to the shower.
Ray looked at his son. "Stairs are bad," he warned. Ray Junior didn't listen. Horatio coughed and he quit going that way. "You're good," he said fondly.
"I had two months to get it down and train him to react to the same cues I use on Xander." Xander quit staring at him and went back to the view. He picked up his nephew, getting a smile. "I have not seen you in days, nephew. How have you been?" The baby patted his cheek then put his head down on his shoulder. "Would you like to sleep in Xander's playpen?" He walked him upstairs and put him down, making him a happy baby. "Yell if you need anything. Everyone else is downstairs. Mommy will be out of the shower soon." He backed out and turned, finding his son waiting on him. "Want to take a nap with Ray?" He picked him up and put him into the bed, then caught the bear when his brother tossed it to him. Xander curled around his bear and babbled at Ray Junior, letting him babble and coo baby noises back at him. He closed the door most of the way and headed back down the stairs. "They're both down. There's a pull-out in the study, Ray." He went to make that up for his own nap. Horatio went back to fixing something to nibble on later. Someone rang the bell almost two hours early so he didn't figure it was Frank or Megan. He went to open it, finding his oldest neighbor. "What's wrong, Mrs. Havenshack?"
"My dog's lost, Horatio, have you seen him?"
"I haven't been outside yet. Yelina, I'll be right back, the boys are down and there's food in the oven," he called since the shower was off.
"I'll take care of it," she agreed. She peeked around the corner. "Hi, I'm Yelina, his sister-in-law."
"We saw you pull in, dear. Did you see a little Yorkie?"
"I did when we pulled in. It was under the house with the pink shutters." That got a smile and he walked her that way, going her speed. She went back to finish dressing and came out fully clean and feeling much better than she had on the car trip down. Her mother had decided to drive the U-Haul for their places. She had protested but her mother had insisted. So she had been trapped in the car with her husband and son for the last three days. Motels never had good water pressure. She snuck up to check on the boys, finding them staring in each other's direction but asleep. It was cute so she took a picture then went to check on the things in the oven for him. It was fully brown so she took them out. Horatio came back. "Her dog all right?"
"It's a bit sick and likes to run away and hide. I think she's about to lose him by how stiff and cold he was this time." She sighed but nodded. "It'll be fine. He's nearly nineteen. She's got a young puppy to protect her. Said her Fritz picked him out for her to love when he was gone. So she'll be fine." He kissed her on the cheek. "Ray's down and so are the boys."
"Thank God," she said, making him laugh. "So, Frank?"
"Is the homicide detective I told you about. Megan's my boss."
"A female boss? That's a good sign for my advancement." He smiled. "How are you getting along?"
"Just fine. I haven't had any days where I ended up working all night with him yet. Megan doesn't have kids and we've got another single mother in the department. She's one of the lab techs. Plus our ME is a new mother as well. She adores Xander and uses him to show her daughter what he should be doing." She giggled at that. "She does." He put something else into the oven. Then he called Frank. "It's me. They're here whenever you get off." He smiled. "She need me?" He nodded. "That's fine, Frank. No, I'm here. They're here. Thanks." He hung up. "Megan just ended up losing one of the techs who said she's a woman so therefore is unable to lead anything or plan anything. He stomped off in a huff."
"Do they need you?"
"No. Not unless we have mass mutiny." That got a smile. "When's your appointment?"
"Two days. Ray can look for houses and show me what he likes. Even though I think I'll be doing that as well." He handed over the realtor's card, letting her have the phone to call her. "Are you sure?"
"I've got call waiting. The beep means it's for me." That got a nod and she sat down to call her from the couch. He went back to fussing over dinner. Megan showed up first and he smiled at her. "You knew a few of them were going to mutiny on you."
"I did. We now need a ballistics tech more than ever."
"I've begun looking for you, Megan. I've got it narrowed down to four possibles." She smiled at that. "One's female."
"A female ballistics tech?"
"From New Orleans. Another's a former military sharp shooter." That got a nod. "One of the SWAT guys wanted it. He's getting a bit old for the field."
"Harold?" He nodded. "I'll talk to him first. At the very least I should try to hire from within. Any other candidates from inside the department?"
"One from Texas. He's a longshot."
"I'll talk to Harold tomorrow then. Maybe at the very least he can fill in for the tech portion and we'll fill in the field tech spot that also got vacated when he left." That got a nod. "Any other good news?"
"The local college has a few people who want to become CSI and wanted to come out to talk to us. I told them to come out Saturday and I'd lead them around and answer questions."
"I love you, Horatio. If I wasn't married, I'd kiss you for taking some of the headaches." He smiled and handed her something to eat instead, making her laugh. "Sean's a very secure man thankfully." She sat down to talk with Yelina once she had hung up. "Megan Donner."
"Yelina Salas. Horatio's sister-in-law."
"Go by your maiden name?"
"It's easier. I was in the department before I married the lump in the study." Megan smiled at that. "Our son is upstairs napping with Xander."
"I've seen Xander a few times. Horatio had one late night and he came in to sit on his back and stare at everyone. It was cute, he petted his father when he growled at some test results that weren't what they should be." Yelina snickered at that, and Horatio just moaned and shook his head, going to let Frank in. "This is Frank Tripp. One of our better homicide detectives, and I see he brought John Hagen with him. Another lump in the homicide department."
Yelina stood up to shake their hands. "Yelina Salas."
"Welcome to Miami," Frank said with a smile. "Horatio's talked you two up quite a lot. Where's the little squirt?"
"In bed, Frank. Ray Junior's napping next to him." He went up to check on them, bringing them both back down while Horatio went to wake up Ray Senior.
Ray walked out. "Sorry, long car trip from New York. I'm Ray, Horatio's handsomer and smarter brother." His wife gave him a look. "I am. I got a better SAT score."
"Yes, but I was half-asleep when I took mine, Ray," Horatio reminded him, going back to the kitchen. "Make yourself at home, John."
"Thanks, Horatio. This is a great place."
"The little old ladies up the street all love Xander too," Frank told him. He got run into and looked down. "Hi, Ray." The baby beamed at him. "Your uncle said you just started to move." He picked him up to look at him. "You'll be a smart man like your momma is." Ray snickered at that. "He said she was," he offered with a grin. Megan swatted at him.
Horatio came out to take the baby from him, kissing him on the head before handing him back to Xander to play with and watch. "Stay off the stairs, boys." He went back to making drinks, bringing them out. "Sit, people."
John watched Xander pet Ray. "They're very close."
Yelina looked then rolled her eyes. "For the first month of his life Ray Junior thought he was Xander's teddybear. My mother had to get Xander his own bear so she could take Ray Junior from him to change." That got a laugh from Megan. "Xander is very protective of what's his. But he does pet his father a lot."
"We knew Horatio had a wild streak," Ray teased.
Horatio smirked at him. "I seem to remember you getting into more trouble when we were younger, Ray. Something about cheerleaders?" His brother shuddered and sat down beside his wife. Horatio smiled and went back to get more food, bringing it out. The boys came over to peek at the table. He coughed and Xander quit reaching for something. "No." He picked them up and put them both into the walkers he had found. He gave them what he wanted and let them wander. That got a lot of squeals from Xander. Now he could see more of the water and Ray couldn't get onto the stairs.
John looked at the new couple. "So, you two work together?"
"All the time," Ray agreed. "They don't let us partner but she's got a good hand with the victims and her partner's still pouting that we left. Mine threw us a going away party and hers pouted all through it." That got a smile. "I'm more action oriented and she's more thoughtful."
"That's a common distinction between male and female detectives," Megan offered. "Though we do have one amazon who will chase down any man and beat him senseless if necessary." Horatio snickered at that. "Did she actually hit you?"
"Tried twice. Thought it was great that I took care of Xander." He looked at his son, who looked back at him. "Eat." He stuffed his mouth and went back to cooing and petting his bear while he watched the small storm roll in. "Looks like rain tonight."
Megan looked. "You're going to have a fantastic view of the hurricanes, Horatio."
"I asked. My realtor said it was all steel construction and it's withstood most of them so far." That got a smile and a nod. "That's another reason not to collect a lot of expensive things." Xander rolled back over, patting his knee. "What?" He held up his arms so he picked him up to give him a cuddle. "Xander, do you remember meeting John?"
"Hey, kid," John said, waving at him. Xander shyly smiled then hid his face. "He's a good kid, Horatio. Even if he does ride on your back now and then or pet you."
"The whole lab thought it was cute," Frank shared. "Alexx, our ME, tried to get him to give Xander to her for the night but Xander pouted and grabbed onto his hair, both hands in the back. Then he cooed and petted him when she backed off, smoothing down the mess."
"He knows my hair shouldn't be that messed up, Frank," Horatio teased back.
"You're too pretty, brother," Ray taunted.
"Yeah, but it helps him with the suspects. They always underestimate him," Frank told him with a mean grin for Horatio. "Didn't one think you were too pretty to know how to count?"
"Yup. They were nearly scared when I went into scientific mode." That got a smile from Megan. "She stood there and laughed."
"As I would," Yelina agreed. "A lot of people underestimate you, Horatio. It's a pity but they do. Has anyone set him up with a decent woman?"
"I tried," Frank offered. "She thought he was too smart and was scared of babies." Xander shifted and grabbed onto his arm. "Hey, squirt." He took him to hold. "You know, my wife said she could steal you if Daddy needed a night off. That way she could beg with authority for one of her own."
"That's nearly a horrible thought, Frank," John complained. "Your wife pregnant would be worse than that one woman in patrol when she was." Frank snorted at that. "She would be. That woman knitted an afghan in her cruiser."
"It was very pretty," Horatio offered. "She showed me pictures when she found out I've got him." He looked at his son. "Want to chase Ray out of the kitchen for me?" Xander wiggled so he put him back into the walker and Xander went to chase his cousin out of the kitchen and the bathroom back there. They came back to the parents and made begging noises with open mouths. They got some more food and went back to wandering around where they could. Ray got frustrated that he couldn't go up the stairs but Xander petted and cooed at him so he quit crying.
"That's one natural fusser, Horatio," Frank said with a grin for him. "He'll be as fussy as Alexx is some year."
"It's a good thing for him to be," Yelina agreed happily, smiling at him. "Thank you, Xander. It's a very good boy to soothe Ray Junior." He beamed and petted him some more for her pleasure. Ray finally got free and escaped back to his father's side. Xander chased him.
"What's wrong? He think you're the teddy bear again?" Ray Senior teased, picking him up to hold him for a bit. Xander pouted at him. "Mine, Xander. Go suck up to Yelina and Megan." He went to suck up to John instead, making him shake his head. "You might have a problem there, Horatio."
"John's got peppermints on his desk and Frank's got lifesavers recently," Horatio said. "He wants their candy, not them, Ray." He looked at his son. "Besides you're too young to think about that yet, son." Megan smiled at that. "He is. Eat, please." They all dug in and Xander begged the guys for bites now and then, getting put back into his walker with more food in front of him. Even if he did fuss because it wasn't being given to him like a treat.
Ray pouted at his wife. "How did you get on already?"
"I'm a minority woman, Ray. It makes them look good to hire me. You're just a white guy so they'll hire you soon." He nodded, still pouting. "Did you find a house?"
"I've got it narrowed down to four." He handed over the list and they went to look them over since both boys were in daycare. He watched her look at one and sighed, pulling in so she could look in the windows since it was for sale. It was a small, one story, with a good yard and back yard with a fence. He had went with something a bit flashier but he guessed he could settle for a homey sort of home. He called Patricia and had her meet him at the house so they could go over it. She pulled in behind them. "Patricia, this is Yelina. I know you two have talked a few times. Apparently I judged her interests wrong."
"It's fine, Ray. Husbands and wives often have different ideas." She shook Yelina's hand. "Welcome to Miami."
"Thank you. I got hired today." That got a smile. "How much is this one?"
"This one is about seventy thousand. I looked it up before I came over." She let them inside. "One of our other offices has this one listed but we have keys for them all." She let them walk around and saw the joy on her face. That was the look that got her a commission. "There's a few others like this one we've got listed if you want to look. A few that're even a bit cheaper. They're in slightly less decent neighborhoods. One of them is near Little Havana."
"I'd rather pay more for a good neighborhood with good schools," Yelina offered. "Our son is two months younger than Horatio's son Xander." She smiled at that. "Our son is his teddy bear."
Patricia giggled at that. "I met Xander. He is very cuddly." She looked around and pointed. "There's one up the street you should see as well." She led them up to it, locking this one up. "This one's got slightly less of a front yard but it's got an extra room. It's just under the other's price." She let them in and let her look around. Not quite as happy. Until she saw the backyard. "That is the best feature of this house," she agreed, following her out. The back yard had a built-in grill and awning. It was fenced as well. It had the *perfect* spot for a swing. It was better for a family. "This one is sixty-eight and the other is seventy, Yelina."
"I adore them both."
"We can't afford both," Ray said patiently. He couldn't tell the difference. "This one's cheaper, but if you want the other one...."
Yelina looked at him then went back to looking around the house. It was nearly the same but one of the rooms had been split up. "Can this wall be taken out safely?"
Patricia smiled and nodded. "It can. Are you planning more children?"
"No I will gut him if I ever get pregnant again," she said honestly. Patricia smiled at that. "It really is too much room for the three of us." That got a nod. "Anything else with that sort of back yard?"
"I do." She led the way back to the cars once the house was locked up and took them to a nice house in a charming little whitebread neighborhood. It was a wonderful place, but all the neighbors were older and white people. Ray nodded at a few when he got out with Yelina. "They might be a bit shocked. I don't think they've ever had an interracial couple here," she offered quietly.
"I'm used to it," she promised. She walked in and sighed. Then she gave Ray that look. "I adore this." She walked through the rest of the house and went into the backyard, taking off her shoes to walk around in the grass.
"How much is this one?" Ray asked quietly.
"Sixty five. It's still in a good neighborhood." He nodded at that. "There's some excellent schools in this district."
"About six miles away from the one Horatio was talking about the last time I talked to him." That got a smile and a nod. Yelina came back inside. "This one's about sixty-five and I was telling him we're about six miles away from a private, Catholic school and church, plus there's some excellent public schools in this district. It's a fairly safe neighborhood. There's been a few teenagers being boys now and then who've painted a car or something." That got a nod and a smile. "You being an officer should stop that fairly quickly. As I told Horatio, officers are often very good neighbors. You being here will lower the crime rates."
"I want this one," she told her husband.
"Okay. Let's go back to her office to start on the paperwork so we can get off Horatio's pull-out and our son won't be hugged to death anymore by his son the python."
Patricia smiled. "He was quite cuddly."
"When he goes to the lab with his father he'll ride on his back in a backpack and pet him," Yelina said with a smile. She walked out with him, holding onto his arm. "It's perfect. Just the right size, Ray."
"Good. I didn't want to have to plan renovations this year." She swatted him but he got her into the car and walked around to get in and drive. He saw the neighbors staring but if it didn't bother her it didn't bother him.
Back at the office Patricia had the paperwork already pulled out on her computer. "Do you know how much you'll be making? I will tell you this now," she said quietly, glancing at her coworker then at them. "If I put down that you're the only one working at the moment, they won't approve you. What I'll do is switch your incomes." That got a nod and Ray handed over the sheets they had both gotten from the HR department. She typed it in and sent it, smiling when it came back approved. "They're very on the ball tonight." She got them the other paperwork. "A lot of signing, but it should be a few weeks."
"Should we talk about an inspector or anything?" Ray asked.
"We had one done when we took it on, Ray." She dug it out of the filing cabinet and handed it over. "The roof should be good for the next three years at least, hurricanes willing, and the rest is fairly solid. They said the bathroom could probably stand being redone in one wall."
"Well, I'll be off for at least a month," he offered. Yelina smiled at him and got to work on the forms. He took the rest to write down and filled in his information under 'wife' using her name. If anyone looked closely they might wonder why she had a slightly higher amount of time in but oh well. "Will we need a cosigner?"
"Probably not. If you do, you could probably ask Horatio as a formality." That got a nod and they finished up the paperwork. "I'll submit this tonight and call you in about two days with good news. Then we can do the title transfer." They shook her hand and headed back to Horatio's house for the night. "They're such a nice couple," she sighed.
"They are. Is he working?" her coworker asked.
"They're both detectives but she got hired first. You know minorities will."
"True. They'll be good neighbors. Where?"
"The Freemont house."
"It's a charming little bungalow," she agreed, smiling at her. "They have a child?"
"Two months younger than Horatio Caine's son. That's his brother and sister-in-law."
"Ah. So they followed."
"Plus her mother's coming down," she agreed happily.
Patricia smiled. "I was going to show her mother the Anderson house since she watches both boys. You listed that."
"Thanks. I might have a buyer for the Peters estate too."
"Congratulations." She put the papers into a courier package and sent it to the bank along with the approval letter she had on her computer.
Yelina walked in her first day and smiled at Frank. "I have a house. They called last night and needed Horatio to cosign but it's only a formality." He smiled at that. "So we have one. We'll be here," she said, handing over a copy of the address.
"That's a great neighborhood. Mostly teenagers being teenagers." He showed her to her desk. "This is yours. You'll be my rookie," he teased. "John can have Ray since they think alike." She smiled at that. "It shouldn't be too long before we've got a case."
She sat down and set out two pictures then arranged a few things for her own use, then she looked at him. "I'm ready."
"Good. Get familiar with the forms. They shouldn't be that different." He went back to his desk. He saw Horatio stroll in and hand her a cupcake then disappear again. "He's such a goofball," he called one Horatio was gone.
"He's sweet," she countered. She went to talk to him. "There are a few days I'm not sure I picked the right brother he's so sweet. When Ray Junior was born Horatio was there and Ray had fled to get drunk." He snickered at that. "I had to threaten Ray to take out the trash a few times. He started hiding my gun on me for two weeks." Even John snickered at that one. "Ray is very manly, and very macho, but Horatio is very sweet and gentle until you piss him off."
"We saw that," Frank admitted. "Someone shot at a school. Now I know why Xander thinks he's a pet part of the time." She smiled and shared her cupcake with him then went back to her desk.
Another of the guys came over. "So you're our new detective?"
"Yelina Salas," she said, shaking his hand. "Detective Third Grade. I came down from the NYPD."
"I'm married to his brother."
"Ah! He had his family follow." She nodded, smiling at that. "That's fine. Interesting but fine. Why homicide?"
"Because I have a good feel for the victims and too many of the detectives I knew decided they were just bodies."
"Good answer. You Cuban?"
"Brazilian. Both parents."
"Interesting. Okay. Can you speak Portugese? A few of us speak Spanish but not Portugese around here." She nodded. "Then we'll bug you for translations when we need 'em. Anything we should know?"
Frank leaned over from his desk. "Her son's Xander's teddy bear. Two months younger." That got a smile. "Xander is very fiercely protective of his cousin as well."
"Plus I heard her husband would be joining us at the next open spot," John admitted.
"He will be. They thought it might be a month before one opened." The other guy gave him a look. "We don't work on the same team. He likes to run, pounce, and chase. I like to think and make people cry."
"Even better," he said with a grin. "We could use someone around here to make people beg and cry. Megan's gotten soft." He walked off, going back to his desk.
"Ignore him," John said quietly. "He's scared of women taking his place." She smiled and went back to looking at the forms in her desk. "The spares for when you run out are in the closet behind Frank. He gets the real wall instead of the cubicle because he's supposed to keep track of how many we use."
"That's fine. I do need a new typewriter ribbon." Frank tossed one over, letting her catch it. "Thank you." She installed it expertly and loaded her first arrest form. That way she was prepared when they came in. Frank's phone rang so she got up and followed him out.
"She's gutsy, I like that," John decided with a small smile. Even if he did like Ray better out of that couple. They had clicked better.
Horatio groaned when he walked in with Xander on his back the day before Ray started work. Megan gave him a look. "Daycare had to be evacuated. Chicken pox."
"I'm sorry. Was he exposed?"
"Not that we're aware of. It was one of the kids in the after-school program. They don't usually get near the toddlers but we had to come pick him up and I've got about six hours of work left anyway."
"That's fine, Horatio. You're good about keeping him out of things." She smiled at the baby, who beamed and waved at her. "Hi, Xander." She teased his leg, making him kick and his father grunt. "Sorry."
"It's all right. He thinks he can kick." He went back to work, putting Xander on over his labcoat then pulling on some gloves. The tech in there with him was new so he got a funny look. "The daycare had a child with chicken pox come in after school."
"Poor guy. Think he'll catch it?"
"Hopefully not. He's only nine months old." He got down to work, leaning down to get to the microscope. Xander shifted and he had to brace against the table. "Quit, Xander." He settled down and let him work for now. "Thank you."
"Dada!" he said proudly.
Horatio took him off to look at him. "You spoke."
Xander beamed. "Dada!"
"I am. Good boy." He kissed him and put him back onto his back, then put on different gloves and got back to work, weathering the amused looks. "At least he's not calling me mom."
Megan leaned in. "Want him in the breakroom since he doesn't look like he's going to sleep?"
"Dada!" Xander said, scowling at her.
"When did you start to speak?"
"Just now," Horatio admitted, smiling at her. Xander kicked him again and he frowned back at him. "Do not kick, son. Not with shoes on." His son kicked again and Megan came in to get him and the backpack. "Thank you. I'll get him in a minute."
"Not a problem. I've got a new tech coming in to interview." She went to take Xander to the breakroom. Her office looked down on it and Xander was more than content to go babble at the snack machines and beg it for treats. It was mean because it never gave him any but he did try really hard. The possible new ballistics tech came in and she shook his hand. "Hi, Megan Donner. We spoke on the phone."
"We did." He looked down at the breakroom. "Yours?"
"One of my officer's. He's still got a few hours left and his daycare had to be shut down due to illness. He'll stay in there."
He looked at her. "Widower?"
"That's something to ask Horatio. He's a private man." That got a single nod. "So, you've done ballistics for Orlando. How many years again?"
"Three." He watched as a woman walked in there. "She one of the techs?"
Megan looked then shook her head. "That's Alexx, our ME on the dayshift." She looked at him. "We do have a fairly diverse department here in Miami. She's a great woman."
"Then maybe I'm not the best candidate, ma'am. I'm more of an old school boy if you know what I mean."
"I do and I thank you for being honest," she offered, shaking his hand. "Thank you for coming down."
"Not an issue. It's a nice day trip." He left, keeping away from the break room.
She put her head down and Horatio leaned in. "He's a bigot."
"I could've told you that, Megan. Call the one from Texas or the one from New Orleans." She looked at him. "Seriously. She's good. Very good. She's new but she's a field tech as well. He's a straight tech."
"I'll look at them. Where are the information files you found?" He went to get them for her. "Thank you, Horatio. Alexx has him."
"I saw. She's down teaching him what the machines are I'm sure." He went back to work.
Megan read over the files. She was still wary of a female ballistics tech. Not too many got guns the way guys did. She decided to call the one guy out, see if he was up to the job. Horatio could fill in but he wasn't a real ballistics tech. He had to look some things up.
Horatio settled back into his house, letting the baby nap on the couch for now. It had been a hellishly long day. He flopped down in his chair and fell asleep there. Fortunately his alarm clock was always set so it woke him up in the morning. He looked at his son, finding him still asleep. Something he never did. He tested his forehead and frowned. "Crap." He called Megan. "I've got to be late at the very least. He's running a fever." He hung up on her protests and called the pediatrician. "It's Horatio Caine. My son's running a fever and his daycare got shut down due to chicken pox yesterday. Please." He hung up and gathered Xander, which woke the fussy boy. "Shh, we'll go see Doctor Philip and it'll be okay," he soothed, kissing his forehead. He walked him out to the car with the diaper bag, taking him to the doctor's.
The nurse checked him when they walked in and put him into the 'sick kids' room. He settled in to cuddle him. Xander was pitiful today. "I know you're sick but it'll be okay," he promised, smoothing down his hair. Xander snuggled in with a whimper, letting his father cover him with his jacket. "We should probably change you. The last time I did was ten last night." He took him into the bathroom to check him over. Nothing. His diaper was completely dry. "Not good." He walked out when he heard his name called. "Give me two." He went back to finish doing him up, grabbing everything and taking him back to the exam room. "I just found out he hasn't went to the bathroom since at least ten last night. That was the last time I changed him and it was barely wet then."
"Sometimes babies get UTIs too, Horatio." She checked his vitals then pressed on his stomach, getting a wail of pain. "Shh, Xander. We just needed to see, baby. It'll be okay." Horatio picked him up to cuddle him, patting him on the back, whispering in his ear. "I'll get the doctor for you." He nodded, sitting down on the table with him. "Doctor, Xander Caine is in," she said quietly when he walked in. "Pressing gently on his stomach made him scream in pain. He hasn't wet his diaper since ten last night, he's running one-oh-one, and his father said last night's diaper was practically dry."
"Sounds like a baby UTI." He pulled on his jacket and headed that way, tapping on the door first. Horatio nodded at him. "What's going on?"
"I had him in the lab last night because his daycare got shut down for chicken pox," he said quietly. "One of the after-school kids and they said toddlers shouldn't have been exposed." The doctor nodded at that. "I changed him last night at eight and it was a filled diaper but wasn't wet. I changed him at ten and it was barely wet. We both came home and collapsed last night in the living room. He got the couch, I got a chair, and he didn't go after that."
"That's fine. Let me have Xander." Horatio handed him over and got out of the way. He looked at the baby. "You're getting quite big, young man."
"He spoke for the first time last night," Horatio said proudly. "Didn't even call me mom." The doctor chuckled and gently pressed over his kidneys. That got a small wobble of noise. His stomach got a bigger one. "I know he's not constipated again. Not with the way he filled his diaper last night."
"Been snatching food again?"
"Alexx fed him some crunchy peanut butter."
"Ah." He looked at the baby's eyes. "That looks like a UTI, Horatio."
"That and some antibiotics," he agreed, writing some out for him. "That should also bring down his fever. I know you know what to do for those with the one he had with his earache." That got a nod. "Good man. Now, they probably won't let him in daycare while he's got a fever."
"I'll call off for a few days," he promised. The doctor wrote him out an excuse. "Thank you, Doctor Philip. Want to give the doctor a hug before we go, Xander?" Xander gave him a weak one, looking pitiful. "Come on, we'll get your meds filled and get you some juice, young man." He walked him out, taking him to the pharmacy then work. Megan did not look happy to see the both of them. "He's got a bad UTI and a high fever." He handed over the slip.
"This is not a good time, Horatio."
"Not like I planned for him not to be able to urinate, Megan." She moaned. "What's wrong?"
"The ballistics tech you liked in Texas is very gay and very going to another city."
He shrugged. "Call Calleigh."
"She's from the back country, Megan. She's hunted. She knows her guns." He stared her down. "I can go recruit if you want. That way I've got the time off with him."
"Fine. Bring her back for an interview. I'll have them reimburse you." He nodded, going back home to call her. She called Yelina's desk. "It's Megan. Tell Frank Horatio had to call off sick. Xander's got a fever and a UTI. Yeah, that's what he said. Said he couldn't pee. The baby looked miserable but he was sucking on some cranberry juice." She smiled. "I figured you'd want to watch Ray Junior anyway, Yelina. That's fine. Tell Ray I said hi. No, he's going to go recruit us a new ballistics tech. Thanks." She hung up and put her head back down. This was not going to be a good week. She was short-staffed now.
Horatio walked up the street in New Orleans. Yelina's mother had fiercely protested him bringing Xander on a trip when he was so sick. She agreed to give him the medicine and he'd only be gone a day and a half so it was fine. His boy had snuggled into the grandmother's arms and went to sleep. He found his target at the cafe he had called her to, sitting across from her. "Calleigh Duquesne." She smiled and nodded. "Horatio Caine. Second-in-command in Miami's felony lab."
"I've heard." She shook his hand. "What did you need, Horatio?"
"A ballistics tech with sense. Our last one huffed off because Megan's a female boss." She rolled her eyes. "I will tell you Megan's wary of you because she doesn't think women do guns like guys do, but I've heard some very good things about you." She smiled at that. He pulled out the offer she had sent with him. "This is what we're offering for a good ballistics tech. I've recently moved down there myself so I can tell you about things like housing costs at the moment."
She looked over the offer while she sipped her coffee. "This is very generous. Housing prices that high?"
"About like your more fashionable neighborhoods around here," he admitted. "My sister- in-law and brother just bought a nice two bedroom place in a good neighborhood for sixty- five." She nodded slowly at that. "Rent's about eight or nine hundred in the good buildings at the moment. More if you move somewhere you can touch water or somewhere more fashionable. The department is fairly progressive. Megan's one of the first female supervisors and she reorganized the labs. That's why she recruited me. We *need* someone who can do the field and ballistics, Calleigh. That's what drew me to you, that and you have sense."
"You do know how to flatter a southern woman," she teased, putting it down. "When would she need me?"
"As fast as I can kidnap you back for an interview."
"I can be there this weekend for an interview. I'll promise that much." He smiled and she felt her chest tighten. "How's the single life?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I have a nine-month-old son that I'm raising alone. I have no idea. I hear it's good." She giggled at that. He showed her a picture. "That's my son."
"My sister-in-law's mother has him at the moment. He's got a small bladder issue and she protested me bringing him."
"Flying can make tummies upset."
"The lab is building into a family, Calleigh. We have an ME who will fuss you to death. Megan is trying to be a good mother to the brood. She's got another tech coming in soon she thinks for Trace. Most of the old lab is gone, with a few techs still sticking around. They will look at you for being female but I'm sure you've gotten that."
"Yup, but I blew away my shooting instructor by outshooting him. I get respect for that."
He nodded and smiled. "I respect you for your mind, not your gun, Calleigh. I want a tech I can trust at my back and who can see faults where I'm not thinking right. With the new possible tech coming in, it'll be us two, Megan, and him as field techs."
"Which is an excellent opportunity to advance."
"That's one of the reasons I moved down. Megan's got connections higher up but she doesn't use them. She got her position because she made the boys play nicely with her in the field."
"Then I'll be there Saturday morning to talk to her." She shook his hand. "It's also a bit more than I make now. My mother will pout but maybe I'll find a nice Cuban guy." He smiled and nodded. "Will I be interviewing with you?"
"I'll probably be whipping the new boy into shape. He's coming in today."
"That's fine. I'll see you Saturday, Horatio."
"I look forward to working with you, Calleigh. I'll even let you have my study if you need a cheap place to crash. My son will make sure your virtue is safe." He got up and headed out.
She watched him walk away, then looked over the offer again. It was generous. Very generous. She went back to the office to look up the statistics in Miami. That and a paper from there gave her a good idea of housing costs and a nice few apartments to check on.
Horatio walked into the office the next morning. Megan gave him a look. "Xander's fever's down so he's back in daycare today. The UTI has broken but he's finishing his antibiotics. Calleigh will be in Saturday."
"Thank you. Come on. I got asked to mentor this one. He's newly out of school." She walked him into Trace. "Tim, this is Horatio Caine. He's my second-in-command."
"Hey," Speed said, waving a hand since he had on gloves. "She said you were a quiet guy."
"Now and then," he admitted, looking him over. Band t-shirt. Jeans. Headphones off his ears. "What're you listening to?"
"Stone Temple Pilots at the moment. You?"
"Nothing that hard I'm afraid. I'm more a classical person. As long as you don't hook speakers up I don't care." That got a smirk. "Case?" She handed it to him and he looked it over. "Interesting. Bloater."
"Yup." She patted him on the back. "Have fun with that."
"Oh, I'm sure I will," he sighed, pulling on a labcoat and gloves to get to work. "So, family down here?"
"I'm from upstate New York."
"I grew up just outside the city," he said, smiling at him. "Have you met Yelina yet?"
"The hotty in Homicide? Earlier."
"She's married to my brother Ray, but that's a fair assessment and what the others call her," he agreed with a small smile. "She won't mind," he said at his groan.
"Very. It makes Ray jealous so he pays more attention to her. He's got macho syndrome according to her."
"Some men do. I've never been part of that BS."
Horatio smiled at that. "Me either. Have you met Alexx yet?"
"I have and been fussed over." That got a small laugh. "I take it you get it too?"
"Oh, yes. I'm single so she fusses at me to eat and then tells Yelina to make me eat." That got a smirk. "What brings you down here?"
"Life," Speed said, and that was about all he offered even when he got a look. "Sorry."
"Not an issue. We all have private things, Tim."
"Last name and I ride a Ducatti."
"Nice ride," he offered. He got back to work. He frowned at the silica in front of him. "I do believe that's beach sand." He got to work on the case file. "No reason for it to be there."
"Megan said it was sandy under him and he had broken some small thing with shells and sand when he fell."
"She didn't put that in the notes." He glared up at Megan's office, making her flinch and shrug. He leaned out the door. "Megan?" She leaned out of her office. "Sand was native and reasonable?"
"Not reasonable. It was a heavy glass terrarium with shells and a hermit crab. One of the small ones that sits on a side table. Why?"
"It's not in the notes."
"Want to go back to the scene?"
"Maybe." He went back to work, shaking his head. "Do we have glass from the terrarium?"
"I don't think it's a cause of death. Alexx said it was blunt force trauma from a baseball bat."
Horatio looked at him. "Was it his house?" Speed shook his head. "Then people like to touch those, Speed. It could have a fingerprint." He found the bag and handed it over. "You'll find I'm the fussier person." That got him a look and a nod. "I like Megan."
"So do I. I'm thinking I'm going to learn a lot from both of you."
That got a smile. "I hope you can. We've lost a few good techs who wouldn't work with her because she's female and in charge."
"It does," he agreed. "But that is the way the system is at the moment. There's almost no females at the higher levels." That got a nod. "I was in the NYPD and she's the first female boss I've had."
"Except for Yelina?" he taunted.
"Well, now and then," he agreed dryly, smirking back. "It'll be fine. You'll learn from both of us." He got back to work on the fingerprints, smiling when he found a few. He carried them to fingerprints to lift them and run them.
Speed leaned on the table for a minute. "That man is like a magnetic force," he said quietly. Megan came in. "You weren't kidding. He's forceful."
"He is but he's good. He was trained by a guy who came in at the beginning of forensics."
"That's saying something with how old the field is," he joked.
"The modern forensics, not the ancient ones," Horatio said as he walked back inside. "I'm also telepathic and I eat souls according to some of the rookies." He smiled at him. "You'll do fine, Speed. If I get overbearing, tell me. I like honest people." That got a nod. "Good. Now, we have a fingerprint from a female with a history of robbery." He held up the sheet for Megan's benefit. "Do we know her from the scene?"
"We don't," she admitted. "I'm not even sure why he was in the house. He lived next door."
"According to Toxicology he was three steps from a lush; Alexx said his liver was shot too," Speed offered. "Not that I've ever been drunk enough to walk into the wrong house."
"What was his blood alcohol?" Megan asked.
"Some long term alcoholics can function at that," Horatio said quietly. "It comes with experience. Had he been driving?"
"All indications say he was drinking at home," Megan told him. "Why? You think he stumbled over?"
"I don't know yet. He have anyone living with him?"
"Wife died two years back," Speed offered, looking at him. "Which is a reason people become reclusive and drink. His neighbors all said he worked from home."
"Frank said most of the neighbors hadn't heard or seen him since he walked out of the house six months ago and tried to swim," Megan agreed. "Then they more heard the pool alarm that wouldn't quit going off and the paramedics who came to rescue him."
"Did anyone live in the house he was found in?" Horatio asked.
"Go ask Frank, Horatio," she ordered, getting out of the way. He went that way. "Sorry, sometimes he's intense on a case. Watch him with a child victim and he'll never go home until it's solved."
"I consider that a good thing," he agreed. "Especially if it's the parents who did it." She smiled and left him alone to contemplate the evidence and his other coworker. He got a whole few hours before Horatio came back with a few new bags of evidence. "Did we miss something?"
"I wanted comparison samples from his house," he admitted. "Why don't you get lunch?"
"I'm not hungry yet, dad."
Horatio looked at him. "No, my son wouldn't talk back to me," he said dryly. "Go eat. It's been hours and it'll probably be a late night with just us. Especially if we get another case."
"Whatever." He went to eat his lunch, watching the news in the break room. He watched SWAT taking down somewhere. It was a nice spectacle and there were a lot of people watching. He ate another bite and Megan came in. "Your SWAT teams are good."
She looked and flinched. "Horatio, SWAT raided the daycare!" she called. He rushed out. She sighed. "He'll be back in a few hours."
"Sure. Yelina's son?"
"Is probably also there," she admitted, going back to her office to call around and see what was going on. It was still an active scene, that had been live footage. She warned them Horatio was on his way over. That his son was in there as well as his nephew possibly. That got a groan from both ends.
Horatio slid through the line, vest already on and gun out of his holster. "Hi, guys." They all stared at him in horror. "I know a few of the kids in there. What's going on?"
"One of the workers is doped out. She's got an infant in her arms. The others have been corralled in their areas. We managed to free one room so far," one of them reported. "Aren't you one of the scene geeks?"
Horatio glared at him. "I was a detective first, boys. Let's go. Because I can calm down those kids." That got a nod and they let him follow them in. He was an officer and he clearly had a clue. He was moving just like them. They slipped in through the back room and he nodded a direction, getting a nod and two of the guys going with him. They came out in the kitchen and had a direct line of sight on her through the swinging 'western' doors. The other team came up from both sides. He looked at the baby. "Her name's Miranda and she's got asthma," he whispered to the guy next to him.
"Her or the baby?" was whispered back.
"The baby," he whispered. "Her mother's a secretary down at a bank and her father's in Vice." That got him a look and he pointed. "My brother's son is in there if he's in today." That got a nod. She turned and shrieked that someone had better be fixing the bottles. He slid off his vest and put his gun in his back waistband, going to fix one. He walked out and handed one to her, taking the baby. "Let me, Kylie. She's fussy and you're upsetting her," he said quietly. "I'll make her be quiet and everything." She nodded and smiled. "Good girl. Sit down and rest, okay? I'll let Xander pat her for a while." He walked into the toddler's room and shut the door, locking it. His son and nephew both looked at him. "Hi, boys." He handed off the baby and listened while SWAT took her down. He sighed and opened the door, stopping his very bored son. "Don't even think about it, Xander." He walked out. "Any others hurt?"
"No, Horatio," one of the other workers offered with a sigh. "Thank you."
"I'm glad she didn't have Xander or Ray Junior." He petted the boys clinging to his legs, Ray Junior and someone else's. "Hi, boys. Why don't you have Miss Kelly read to you guys? Maybe about *animals*?" That was a sure favorite with that room. She smiled and got a book for them, getting a very attentive Xander following her across the room until she sat down then he was in her lap and trying to chew on the book. "Good boy, Xander." He got the other baby disengaged. "Go read with Miss Kelly," he prompted, pointing at her. "Look, a book!" The others headed over. He picked up Ray Junior, earning a smile. "Hi, nephew." He beamed and kissed him on the cheek. "Good boy. Go help Xander read." He put him down and Ray crawled over to help her. He checked the floor then put the escaping girl back in there before shutting the door. "My nephew."
The head of SWAT stared at him. "Which science geek are you?"
"As in brother to the guy in homicide?" he asked. Horatio nodded. "That's his son?"
"His son with Detective Salas." That got a shudder. "I'll make sure she knows he was safe." That got a nod and a smile. He took his vest back. "The brunette lady with the bun is the head lady here. They've got cameras and things." He pointed up. "Whatever you guys need." That got a nod and someone went to find her. "Need me for anything else?"
"Bring your nephew back to Yelina so she don't fuss," one guy offered.
Horatio snickered. "She'll be fine. As long as he's fine she'll be fine. The same as the rest of us will be." He walked out, going back to the station. He leaned on her partition since she was having lunch with Ray. "They got the worker who was coked out of her mind and screaming while holding Miranda." Ray dropped his food and groaned. "They got the others into their rooms and closed in. Ray Junior and Xander are both fine. Miss Kelly's reading to them at the moment. It was Kylie."
"They have her?" Yelina demanded. He nodded. "You're sure?"
"I was there with SWAT."
She relaxed and smiled again. "That's fine, Horatio. Thank you." She called the daycare. "This is Yelina Salas. Do we need to pick up the children?" She smiled. "That's fine. I'll send Ray down to get him." She hung up. "Go get the son, Ray."
"Fine. Should I pick up the other brat too?"
"Please. He can wait with Ray Junior at home with you," Horatio agreed. "I've got a new guy in the lab. We also might have a new ballistics tech coming in Saturday to interview." He walked off, heading back to the lab. "She's fixed. She was stoned out of her mind," he reported as he walked past Megan. "Ray's going to pick up the boys."
"That's fine. You went in with SWAT?" He turned and nodded, then went back to his case. "Is Xander fine?"
"If he wasn't, do you think I'd be here?" he prompted. She shook her head and went back to her office.
Horatio pulled back on his lab coat and a new set of gloves. "Sorry, the daycare worker where Yelina's son is was coked out of her mind."
"Welcome to the mid nineties, man."
"Indeed." He called Vice from his desk. "Tell Paul that his daughter was fine when I saw her. Not even wheezing. She's the one Kylie had. She's fine." He hung up and got back to work. "Sorry."
"That's okay. It's good that you know the daycare people where your nephew goes. It shows you give a damn about your family," Speed offered, looking at him. Horatio smiled. "You're not married?"
"I was once, a long time ago. It ended badly."
"I'm not. If you think Alexx can nag? My ex-wife did it much better." That got a small smile. "We divorced when I went back to college for my chemistry degree."
"Oh, well. Most women like educated men." He handed over a report. "What you brought back."
"Thank you. Did it photo luminesce?"
"I didn't check that." He found the lights for him and checked that sample and the older one. "Huh. They match."
"That is because he's been in there a number of times. The owners of the house said he habitually housesat for them. He was drinking to forget his wife died of cancer. He was doing something with computers, they weren't sure, and she was missing some jewelry."
"So, the burglar got him?"
"Quite possibly. Did Megan give Frank that thief's name?" He nodded. "Thank you." He got back to work logging in all the evidence. They'd need it to make sure it was her. A theory always had to be proven true.
A few days later Yelina walked into the lab with a small bundle of wiggling blanket. "Horatio?" she called. He came out of DNA. "He won't quit for my mother. She's in bed with a headache."
"That's fine. Can you get his backpack from my locker?" She handed it over with a smile. "Thank you, Yelina. It'll be fine." She kissed him on the cheek and left them alone. He uncovered his son's head. "Why won't you nap this time?" he asked dryly. Xander just beamed at him. "Bored again?" He put the baby onto his feet then put on the backpack, stopping him from moving. "I know you learned how to run last night, son. I realized that when you woke me up with it. You can't do that today." He put him onto his back and threw the blanket over his head again since he seemed to want it there. Xander giggled and he went back to DNA. "Sorry, he's running Yelina's mother into the ground again. He just learned how to run last night."
"They always seem to run," she agreed, handing over a sheet. "There you go, Horatio. You and your little ghost back there." He smiled and walked off, going back to Trace. He found Speed listening to his discman and doing something. So he gloved up to work on the sample at the microscope next to him.
Xander peeked out from under his camouflage, looking at the guy he didn't know beside him. He had dark hair like him and it was messy. It looked like it was fun to play with. He slowly shifted over to look at him better. Then he reached out to pet him, cooing some.
Speed jumped up and glared at him. "What the fuck!"
"Don't swear in front of my son please," Horatio ordered calmly. "Xander, don't pet Speed. He's not used to being petted." His son cooed and petted him instead. "He wanted to play with your hair, Speed."
"Da... He scared me."
Horatio smiled at him. "He's practicing his stealth today. He learned how to wander last night and woke me up out of a sound sleep to demand a story he had walked down the stairs to get and back up to my room. Say hi, Xander."
"Mommy!" he creeled, holding his arms out.
"Not built like that, little guy." He patted him on the head gently. Xander beamed and pulled his hand down to gnaw on him. "Maybe you shouldn't chew on the gloves, okay?"
Horatio looked over his shoulder. "Let Speed work, Xander." Xander pouted at him. "Behave or you're taking a nap." Xander let him go with a cackle and a blown kiss, going back to petting his father, pulling the blanket back over himself.
Speed slowly came closer. One hand came out to pet him again when he was sitting down. He looked up at the boy barely peeking out at him. "You are very sneaky but I'm not a dog."
"He does it to his cousin as well. He thinks he's a teddy bear."
"I'm not one of those either. I'm not that hairy." He shifted away and the baby pouted. "I don't respond to pouting or begging, Xander. Sorry." He regloved and got back to work, shaking his head. "So, who was the blonde who came in Saturday?"
"Calleigh Duquesne. An excellent ballistics tech."
"She seemed nice and sweet."
"She is but she's still an excellent tech." Megan walked in, looking confused. "He ran Yelina's mother into a headache."
"He's sneaky, Megan. He reached down to pet me."
She smiled at that. "He likes to pet his father's hair too. Especially when he growls." She looked at him. "I liked Calleigh."
"She seems very...nice, Horatio. How would she do on a scene with gang members?"
"Ask her. She does the work now," he reminded her. "She's a fully qualified level one tech."
"New Orleans does have gangs," Speed agreed. "Plus some strange shit."
"Speed," Horatio warned.
"Sorry, kid. You're not allowed to say that word until you can ride a bike of your own." Xander giggled at that and reached over to pet him again. "What is with him?"
"I have never figured out why he likes to pet people," Horatio admitted. "I'm happy he doesn't yank anymore." He looked at Megan again. "We need one and she's one of the best in the country, Megan."
"Fine. I'll hire her on a trial basis." She went to do that, shaking her head the whole way. He had good taste. She was cute and nice and sweet. Calleigh answered her cellphone. "Calleigh, it's Megan Donner. How would you like to come to Miami?" She listened to her say she'd love that but at the moment she was dealing with someone who had shot at her car. Then she hung up. She sat down to wait on her to call back. If she died, she'd have to have Horatio find a different one. Calleigh called back about thirty minutes later sounding calm and happier. "Are you all right?" She had to smile at the chipper 'I'm fine and dandy, Megan' she got back. "Good to know. When can you come to us?" She looked at her calendar. "Nothing sooner?" She smiled at the assurance she'd try. "Thank you, Calleigh. As soon as you can please. Of course I'll have that all ready for you." She heard the 'Horatio gave me the packet of forms already' and rolled her eyes. "Good. Bring them with you your first day. If you need a realtor he knows a decent one." She said she was going to rent. "That's fine. Let me know where. I'll see you when you get in. Thank you." She hung up and leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes. She heard a giggle and groaned. "Xander, not allowed on the stairs," she ordered.
"Raymond Caine Junior, get your butt down here!" Horatio yelled. The giggling stopped and a pitiful sniffling started, then the baby walked back down them.
She came to her doorway. "So that's Yelina and Ray's son?"
"He escaped from Ray. He called around frantic because he had snuck off. I'd let him watch Xander but he'd probably let him go missing too." He put both boys into the break room, turned on PBS, then closed the door and put a sign up of 'tots wandering, be careful' on the door. Then he went to call Ray. "He and Xander are both in our break room. No, he decided to go visit Megan, Raymond. He's fine. Yes, he made it onto the elevator or into the stairs." He shook his head. "Come get them soon, Ray." He hung up and got back to work. "Sorry. Nephew."
"Does he pet people too?"
"No but he's forever in competition with Xander. Xander crawled, Ray crawled within weeks. Xander walked last night and Ray's walking today. Xander spoke and Ray glared until he got out his first 'mama' a few days later, then he was all smiles and light again."
Speed looked at him. "Are you and his father encouraging it?" Horatio shook his head so Speed smiled. "They're close at least."
"Very. Xander was guarding Ray at the daycare the other day. They'll be real terrors some day." Ray came off the elevator already stomping. He pointed and he went in there, already yelling. He sighed and walked in there, smacking him on the head. "Do not yell at your son for learning how to walk and you not paying attention to him, Raymond. He doesn't understand and Xander doesn't deserve it."
"They ran Yelina's mother into the ground!"
"They're toddlers. Of course they did. That's what they do. They're loud, messy, and active. That's a healthy, normal baby. Now, go back to work." Ray stomped off again. He hugged both boys. "It's all right. He didn't mean the mean things he said, boys. It'll be okay and I'll tell your mommy when she gets back, Ray. She'll come love you too." Ray smiled and sucked on his cheek, then went back to the couch. He looked at his son. "You're a good boy, Xander. A very good boy. Even if your uncle is a cranky bastard." Xander beamed and went to cuddle his cousin some more.
Horatio went back to work.
Speed ended up there late that night and went in for some coffee, sitting down at the table to put his head down for a few minutes while it brewed. He felt the small fingers in his hair and looked at Xander. "I haven't seen your father in hours. Did he forget you?" Xander cooed and went back to petting him. "Thanks, kid. It helps the headache." He put his head back down and let him go back to it. It did feel nice. He fell asleep doing that.
Xander snuck out of the break room and headed for the whirry machines that blinked. He liked to watch them more than he did PBS stuff with people who did boring things, like count. He found a locked office. He found an open lab but someone he didn't know so he snuck behind her and went to watch the whirry machine work. It picked up a vial and spun it around to test it, earning a clap and a giggle. The tech jumped and glared at him. Xander beamed and pointed, babbling about the machine.
"HORATIO CAINE, COME GET YOUR SON OUT OF DNA!" the tech yelled. "RIGHT THE HELL NOW!"
"Chill," Speed complained a minute later as he walked in. "He snuck out of the break room while I was napping." He carried him back in there, closing the door this time, then he went to find his father. He found him crashed in the morgue and Alexx giving him 'aren't you adorable' looks. "He alive?"
"Very much so, but he passed out. Why?"
"Xander's in the breakroom and he went to clap at the performance of the machines in DNA."
"Ah." She nodded and nudged Horatio, getting a grunt. "Sugar, Xander's still here?" He moaned and sat up. "Take a cab home, Horatio. Do not try to drive." He yawned and nodded, heading to pick up his son and go home. She rolled her eyes. "You too, Speedy."
"Yes! Now scoot!" He sighed but went to clock out for the night and head home for some rest. She finished up her last autopsy and decided it was well past her own bedtime as well. She put the body back and went home. She found Horatio asleep in the lobby with the baby in his arms. "Uh-huh." She looked at the guard, who came over to help her. They got Xander's carseat out of the back of Horatio's car and slid the father into the back with him while Xander got put into the seat. "Thank you, Bailey."
"Not a problem, Alexx. How long has the kid been here today?"
"Since about four. His caregiver had a headache and had to go to bed." That got a smile and she slid in to drive them home. It was on her way. She got them out and found his keys, removing them without getting more than a grunt from Horatio. "I'm not groping." She got them inside and let Xander loose. Horatio flopped down on the couch. Xander curled up on top of him. She put his keys on the table and headed for her house once she had closed the door after her.
Horatio woke up to the shrill sounds of the phone. "Crap," he muttered. He felt the baby on his chest so he only stretched over to get the cordless. "Horatio." He listened, then looked at his watch. "I'm sorry, Megan. How did I get home?" Her answer of 'Alexx' did not make him happy. "I'll drop him at the daycare and come in. I'll be there within an hour. I'm sorry." He hung up and looked at his awake son, who was staring at him. "Want to go to daycare today?" He shook his head. "Tough. We've got to do that." He got them both into the same shower, which he enjoyed. Xander got to play in the water and try to avoid the soap while stealing his father's bubbles. Even if he did get a swat on the hand for trying to steal some nice ones. Horatio finally got them both clean and dried off, then redressed. Horatio fed him a sandwich while they waited for the cab to come pick them up. Xander looked at the driver, then scowled and fussed. "Quit," Horatio warned. He slid into the back with Xander, having found his car seat on the front step. Alexx must have left it after she had closed the door. "Green Acres daycare then the crime lab please." The cabbie nodded and pulled out, taking them to the daycare first. He walked in and handed his son to the keeper. "Here. We just got up. He's had a sandwich. Thank you."
"Welcome, Horatio. Have a good day at work." She watched as he left, then smiled at the baby. "Hi, Xander. Back again?" He beamed and kissed her, spreading jelly. "That's kinda cool. Come on, let's go play with the other toddlers." She logged him in and took him to his room, letting the handler in there cluck her tongue. "They just got up. He's had a sandwich." She took a babywipe to wipe off the jelly. "Dad forgot his diaper bag."
"That's fine. He's eating food and we have plenty of diapers for him." She smiled and left them alone. "Hi, Xander." She straightened out his clothes. "It smells like you had a bath today. Did you have a good bath?" He beamed and hugged her, then went to pounce the little girl he liked to torment. "Let her sleep, Xander. Come here, I'll read to you." He ran back and she grabbed a book. With any luck he'd go back to sleep.
Horatio paid the cab driver and got out, taking his carseat back to his own car. Then he went inside. "Thank you for helping Alexx last night, Bailey."
"Not a problem, Horatio. You fell asleep waiting on a cab." That got a nod. "Is he keeping you up?"
"No, I didn't get to eat yesterday. I was asleep in the morgue when Alexx sent us home." He shrugged. "He had been napping in the breakroom." He headed up in the elevator. "Sorry, Megan. Hi, Calleigh." He kissed her on the cheek. "Welcome to Miami."
"Thank you. It's full of pretty people, as advertised." She smiled at them. "How's Xander?"
"At the daycare," he said. "I had a late night and ended up on the couch after someone helped me home."
"I saw your car still here when I got in. I almost worried I'd come in to find Xander still in the break room," Megan said, giving him a pointed look.
"He ran Yelina's mother into the ground, Megan. I'm sorry."
"I know. Let's maybe work on a nanny?"
"I've been looking. Her mother gets mad when I suggest it."
"Whatever, just make sure it quits happening, Horatio. I'd rather have you go home than to have him here scaring DNA techs or pinching fingerprint ones." She walked off shaking her head.
Calleigh snickered. "Clearly not a mom," she said quietly. He nodded at that. "Show me around, studly?"
"If you want, ma'am." He walked her into Trace. "This is Trace and our other new tech, Tim Speedle." He patted him on the head.
"You don't look like his son," Speed said, looking at Calleigh. "Hey again."
"Hey." She shook his hand. "I'm here to do all the wonderful gun stuff."
"Cool. It'll give Horatio one less job." He looked at him. "The DNA tech was complaining loudly at Megan this morning."
"I've already got complained at," he assured him. "I'm working on it, Speed." That got a nod. "So, this is Trace. I know you're up to regulation ability in all the other labs." She nodded. "What's your other good areas outside ballistics?"
"I'm pretty decent in fingerprints and okay in chem and DNA."
"Good," Speed agreed. "I'm a major in Trace with excellent skills in chem and some with auto."
"I'm the same with a few mor skills in ballistics," Horatio agreed. "Plus fingerprints." That got a nod. "Megan makes up most of the rest."
"Then we work," she agreed happily. "Come on, show me the rest of this massive complex."
"Horatio!" Megan shrieked.
He came out and found his nephew in her office with a snake. "Raymond!" He put it down when he saw his uncle's hands on his hips. "Is it harmless, Megan?" She nodded, weakly. "Bring him down with it. He can show his mother." She handed him the snake and the baby then went to take something for her headache once she was locked in her office again. "Let's go see Uncle Frank and Daddy, Raymond." He walked him that way, letting him go when he heard Yelina in her cubicle with someone. "Go see Mommy," he whispered in his ear. "Show her the snake." Ray toddled that way, waving it at John Hagen, who just moaned and shook his head. "Who had him?" Horatio asked quietly.
"Ray. The same one who lost him yesterday."
"He's clearly been outside today," Horatio agreed. "Not Uncle Frank, go see Mommy." Ray quit showing Uncle Frank the garden snake and went to show mommy, who shrieked and jumped up to get away from it. He walked off looking very pleased with himself. She would be stopping that problem with Ray losing the boys. Very quickly. Probably with a shoe or a broom but very quickly.
"I didn't have him but he came to show Megan the pretty snake, Yelina."
"Who had my son?"
He looked at her. "I just got here and Xander's in daycare."
"Raymond!" she growled, going to find her husband and kill him this time. Right after her son gave the snake to Frank or John. "Someone please take that...thing from him?"
"Give it here, little man," Frank ordered. Ray smiled and handed him the snake. "Thank you. I'll take very good care of him but why don't you sit down and help Uncle John type a report?" He went to do that. He loved to help type. The keys made pretty noises. Frank went to put the snake out of their misery, finding Ray sitting outside having a smoke. "I'd run."
"Your son brought in a snake, Ray. All the way to Megan. Horatio gave him back to his momma with the snake." Ray moaned and headed inside, but then came running out with Yelina hot on his trail. "You go girl!" Frank yelled, cheering her on. He liked the boys but they should not be at the station. Then again, wasn't today Ray's day off? He watched her beat the crap out of him, wincing some when she got him in the groin. "Oooh, that's gotta hurt with her pointy shoes."
One of the guards came out. "Should we break them up, Detective?"
"Not on your life, son. He wasn't watching their boy. Their boy brought a snake all the way up to Megan." The guard shuddered. "Horatio sent him down to momma with it. Momma don't like snakes."
"Understood. Still, that is assault."
"Yelina, get two more good ones in before someone arrests you for assault!" he called. She punched him twice more and walked back looking calm and happier, pushing her hair off her sweaty face. "You all right now?"
"It's his day off, he should have our son at home," she agreed calmly. "He knows better now."
"Break a nail?" Frank teased.
"Over that?" She snorted. "Not hardly. I save that for the worse things than Raymond." She walked inside, going back to her desk. She brought her son out and handed him to his father after kissing him on the cheek. "You be a good boy for daddy today and make him feed you a real lunch, not just a jelly sandwich." Then she went back inside with Frank.
The guard snickered as he walked over there to help him up. "It's all right, detective. My wife took a broom to me because I left the baby inside while I was outside. At least it wasn't a poisonous snake or an alligator." Ray moaned and walked off with his son under his arm. Ray giggled and waved so he waved back. "Have a good day with daddy, little guy." He went back to his post, wiping his smile when he saw Stetler nosing around. "It was nothing, sir, a breakdown in communication in the family."
"I'm sure." He went to talk to her about abusing her spouse but the way she glared at him he had to back off. "Next time, beat him on your own time and at home."
"Normally he has more sense so I don't have to beat him," she said sweetly, smiling at him. "He was negligent in watching our son. Our son picked up a snake, which could have hurt him. Then he let our son wander all over the building with the snake. He deserved it."
"Fine. Whatever. Do it off property or at home next time, Detective Salas."
She inclined her head and he stomped off. She said something once he was out of hearing, making John burst out laughing. "He is."
"He is. Good one, Yelina. He take the boy home?"
"Yes, he did. Or else I will kill him for real. Then I'll toss him in the bay for the sharks." She got back to work with the suspect she was booking in. "Sorry about that. Now, you did what?"
"Um, I shot my wife," he said weakly, eyes wide as he stared at her. "You have kids? I mean, you're too pretty to have kids."
"Some of us do get back into shape afterwards. I did it so I can chase criminals like you." He just nodded and slunk down a bit.
Horatio made it home on time that night, finding Yelina on his doorstep. "Are you sure you want to leave him with Ray?"
"My mother came over to pout that she didn't have either boy today. Hi, Xander." He beamed and went back to trying to get outside onto the porch to play in the rain. "No." She heard a knock and went to answer it, finding Calleigh and Speed both there. "Get in here before you get drenched, children." She let them in. "Horatio, it's some of your team."
"Hi, guys. Xander, you may not go play in the rain." He pointed and made grunting noises. "No."
Speed looked then at him. "No, you can't play with the alligator out there." The others all groaned and Horatio called someone to get it before it ate a pet or another child. He smiled at the baby, who beamed back. "Nice job." The baby bounced some then saw Calleigh and went over to stare at her.
"I can see why your daddy scares so many criminals if he can stare like that," she teased, tickling his stomach. The baby swatted and scowled, making her smile. "Don't like being tickled?" She did it again and he pounced her, poking her. "Oooh, my! Are you attacking me!" She sat down and the baby climbed up her to pet her hair. "Thank you, Xander."
"That's how I met him too," Speed offered. He looked at Horatio. "We heard Megan going spastic at the chief about the boys."
"I've already had a talk with the Chief of Detectives about how today was Raymond's fault," she offered. "I also explained yesterday when he asked."
"That's good but we just heard her before we drove over," Calleigh told her. "She wants a PD wide daycare. Which could help."
"I'd let Xander go," Horatio agreed. Yelina nodded. "Or if her mother could keep up with them both."
"She went to the doctor today about why she can't and got him past her age," Yelina offered. "She's got something for her headaches now that shouldn't knock her out. I'm still trying to get her to accept money for watching them."
"I pay her for the food she feeds him since I'm not true family," Horatio offered. Calleigh squeaked. "Son, no pinching," he ordered without having to look.
"Just a bit of shirt diving, Horatio." She put the baby back onto the floor, weathering the pout. "No, you go play. Go watch the alligator for us." He ran back to the window when she pointed and she got up to come over. "He's got a good grip. Couldn't get him to let go of my bra strap."
"Our first night in town we went out with Frank," Horatio told her. "That nice steak place I took you to. He grabbed the waitress' shirt. Would not let go." She smiled at that. "I find bribing him works." He watched his son climb up onto the table. "What are you doing?" he asked, starting to move. The baby leapt at Speed, making him grunt and move to cushion him. "Do not do that!" he ordered, glaring at his son. He got a pitiful sniffle and him petting Speed's hair.
"He does look like you," Yelina agreed, helping get Xander down into a chair. "Stay and I'll make you a snack." He pointed at Speed, who sighed and shook his head but picked him up to hold. The baby cooed at him and petted his hair.
"If this keeps up, I'll never need to date," Speed said.
"By the time he's old enough for you, you'll be a dirty old man," Calleigh teased.
Horatio looked at her. "Don't encourage that thought. Please?" He went to make his son dinner, getting an attentive baby, who was still petting his buddy. "Want to eat? You've got to let Speed go." Xander wiggled until Speed put him down and his father put him into his high chair instead. He dug into the spaghetti-ohs. "Thank you, son. Sorry, Speed."
"It's kinda nice to be petted." He shrugged. "Just creepy that it's your son doing it. First time I met the kid, he's riding on Horatio's back in this backpack thing. Has a blanket over him. So he peeks out, sees me and slowly reached an arm out to pet me. I jumped!" She giggled. "Horatio said he was practicing his stealth maneuvers."
Calleigh giggled into Horatio's arm. "That must've been cute."
"It was," Horatio agreed, grinning at Speed. "He likes you."
"I'm glad he's not crapping on me or stuff, H, but the kid in the lab? Probably a bad mix."
"I'm doing all I can to make sure it happens as infrequently as possible."
"I hope you succeed. One of the ME's has been watching him." That got a growl. Xander's head popped up and he wiggled out of the seat and on top of the table to come pet the daddy, giving him concerned looks. "It's all right, Xander. Go back to your dinner. I've got him." Xander looked at him. "Go eat. Before I eat it all." He moved the bowl and the baby scowled, going to save his food. He sat on the table and ate it like a big boy would. "Well, he's almost ready for a booster seat."
"Nearly there," Calleigh agreed, looking at Horatio. "Yelina, your mother, can she watch him on the nights we've got really long hours?"
"She demands to, Calleigh. She fusses when the boys go to daycare or anywhere other than her house. She pouted at Raymond that he had Ray Junior today."
"I heard you beat him," Speed agreed dryly. "Feel good?"
"Quite." Someone knocked on the door so she went to let John Hagen in. "What brings you out here tonight?"
"Ray's looking for you, Yelina."
"He knows I was coming out here."
"He sounded kinda drunk. I grabbed your son on the way out here." She went to get her son and his bag. "Sorry, Horatio."
"It's not a problem," he assured him. "I still have the pull-out in the study." That got a smile. "Did we hear more from the Chief?"
"He's not willing to pay for a daycare but he is willing to have HR help you find a good one or a nanny. Do the backgrounds and things." That got a nod but an eyeroll from Horatio. "You have one?"
"We'll talk to her in the morning when we drop off the boys," Yelina promised, letting Ray Junior down to wander. He came over to hug Calleigh, grinning at her. "Son," she complained.
"He's got good taste, Yelina," John said with a wink for Calleigh. "Anyway, I'll let you guys talk about the kids or whatever. Ray was nearly passed out on tequila when I took the little guy there. He did have good taste in snakes. We had a poisonous one earlier in the parking lot he could've picked up." He left.
Ray Junior smiled at Calleigh again. "Momma!"
"No, I'm not the mommy, that's your mommy," she said, pointing at Yelina. "I don't have any babies."
"I think he's willing to be adopted," Speed offered. Xander leapt onto him again, going back to his petting. "Damn, kid. Take up gymnastics if you want to do that. Oops, sorry. Another word you can't say until you've able to ride a bike, kiddo."
Horatio smiled. "He's heard that one before. Usually when he sneaks into the shower with me to play with the bubbles."
"At least he likes baths. At his age I couldn't stand them and neither could my brother." He looked at Yelina again. "You good at home?"
"I'm fine. He'll be sorry in the morning and I'll stay here." He nodded. "Are you sure you want to ride in that rain, Speed? It's picking up."
"He can have the couch," Horatio assured him. "I'm hoping he parked out of the rain?"
"Under the alcove next to your car," Speed admitted with a grin.
Calleigh shook her head. "We've got to do something about our official cars, Horatio. They're weak. I had to go into the Everglades tonight and I nearly got stuck in a rut on the road."
"I've been talking to Megan and she knows. She's not sure what she wants to file a grant for instead of the cars." He got a journal, handing it over. "These are what they're doing now in military applications."
Speed looked then at him. "SUV's? They destroy the environment."
"This one has a lab in the back," Calleigh said, looking at it. "Wow. That's got to be expensive but we could do some stuff on site." Speed took it to look over, letting her point at what she had seen, leaning on his shoulder.
He looked at her. "Comfy?"
"Very. You're soft in the right spots," she said happily. "I'm sure you make a good pillow too."
Ray tugged on Speed's pants and pointed at Xander. "Want him back?" That got a nod. "Okay. Down, kid." He squatted down and let Xander climb off him with one last pet. Then he hugged Ray and cuddled him, leading him back to the window to sit down and hold him. He stood back up, shaking his head. "He really does like him as his teddybear."
"For the first month of Ray's life Xander was always clutching him," Yelina agreed. "We had to get Xander a real bear so we could get Ray to change him."
"He's loved," Speed reminded her.
"Very much," Horatio agreed. He looked at the boys, shaking his head. "Want him in your room or should I plan on setting up the playpen for him, Yelina?"
"Whatever he wants, Horatio. He's been fussy about where he sleeps recently." She took them to look over. "What about these hummers?" They both looked and Calleigh nearly drooled. She looked at her. "You are the most feminine tomboy I've ever met."
"Thank you." She smiled. "It's good to know that everyone underestimates me as a pretty face and a charming manner. Makes it really good when I have to get mean and evil." Speed shivered at that. "Poor baby, did it scare you?"
"Hell yes. You're a scary woman who likes guns." That got a bright smile. The boys looked over at them. "What?" Xander got up and drug him over so he came over to sit with them with a sigh. "Sorry, boys. Were we ignoring you to drool over the mobile crime labs?" Ray nodded. "Ah, good to know. Won't happen again." He sat down, letting the boys crawl into his lap. He looked down a few minutes later and smiled. "I think they're out," he called quietly.
Yelina came over to get them both into bed, only taking off shoes. Undressing them further would wake them up and they'd be energized.
Calleigh left with the journal and Speed settled onto the couch while the others settled in for the night. That was one of the problems of riding a motorcycle. Heavy rains sucked.
Horatio walked into his unit the next morning, looking at Megan. "The problem with Yelina's mother was fixed. She went to the doctor yesterday and got something for the headaches she's been having." She sighed in relief. "So it will go back to being very rare that you have to see him."
"Thank you, Horatio. I don't want him to have an accident or anything."
"I know. It's not a problem." He saw Calleigh coming in. "Did you bring it?"
"I did." She handed over the journal, the page she wanted already marked. "Go to the post-it. We need those."
She flipped to it then looked at them. "We need the hummer mobile crime labs?" They both nodded. "Why?"
"Everglades. On-site processing of some things. As technology gets better we can keep updating them until we have almost a full lab in each one," Horatio told her. She looked interested.
"So I won't get stuck in a rut in the road," Calleigh told her. "Let's face it, only half our cases are in town, Megan. The rest of it we're out in the middle of nowhere and I want something more substantial than a cruiser with me. Especially on the really early call outs. You've already sent me to the Everglades after dark. There's no telling what's out there. Including some panthers and other big predators. They can and have gotten into cruisers. They can't get into one of those."
"You've been complaining about our cars anyway," Horatio agreed. "Why not think ahead? This way we can update until they run out. Since those don't run out very quickly...."
"Good points. Both of them. I'll talk to the boss, guys. Maybe he'll back us for this grant." She went to talk to her spouse about it.
Horatio and Calleigh shared a smile then they went back to work. Speed came in later, as scheduled, and got to work with them. "Hey," he greeted.
"Look at you," Calleigh said, frowning. "Is that a spot?"
"It's made that way," he assured her.
Horatio looked at him. "While I normally don't care, Speed, that looks a bit worse than normal. You could have borrowed a shirt." Speed gave him a grim look. "We do have to seem competent to the public, and that shirt does not say that."
"Fine. I'll go change. That way you two can't nag."
"Nothing wrong with jeans," Horatio assured him. "Just change the shirt." That got a nod and he went to do that. He shook his head. "It'll get better."
"It will," she promised, patting his jacketed arm. "Besides, everyone stares at your suits, Horatio." He smiled at that, looking a bit shy. "You do dress very nicely."
"Thank you but even I have to get into jeans for some assignments." She nodded, agreeing with that. "What's going on with your case last night?"
"Something ate him."
"Any idea what?"
"Alex was casting a bite for me today. I'm going to see if she's got it done." She went down there, finding Alexx getting sick into the sink. "Are you all right?"
She rinsed out her mouth, giving her a dirty look. "I hate morning sickness." Calleigh squealed and hugged her. "Thank you, dear, but quit before I puke on you." Calleigh stopped. "I've got the cast ready for you. All four of them." She pointed at a covered tray. "Go for it."
"Should I tell Megan?"
"Might be a good idea. Some scenes are enough to make Horatio get sick so I definitely will."
Calleigh nodded, carrying the tray off while she calmed her stomach down. "Megan," she called, smiling and happy. "Alexx said morning sickness is hell on some scenes."
Megan gaped. "She is?" Calleigh nodded. "Damn it, not now." She went to talk to her.
Calleigh walked off shaking her head. "Boys?" They both looked at her. "Alexx is having morning sickness. Said said I should warn you."
"Some scenes have made me wanna puke, I'm sure she'll want to too," Speed agreed.
"We'll watch out for her," Horatio agreed, getting a smile. He looked. "That looks like the panther you mentioned and ... That is an alligator," he identified. "I'm not sure about the other two."
"I'm going to run them now. Alexx said he was strangled then eaten so we'll have to see." She went to do that since she didn't have any open ballistics at the moment.
Horatio and Speed shared a look. "What do you get the second time parent?"
"Something for the first one so they don't get jealous," Horatio offered. "I checked when I thought Yelina might be pregnant again."
"Was she scary?"
"You have no idea," he said, looking very serious. That got a snicker. "Really. We had veteran cops who ran from her with a mood swing. Hardened veterans of both military service and some of the tougher neighborhoods in New York." Speed laughed louder. "Then Ray would piss her off by saying how she'd have fun taking care of the baby. I wisely hid." Speed laughed louder and leaned on the table. "Exactly."
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