Notes: I got begged to do a Miami version of the story _Childhood_.  I started it then the list decided it needed to start a different way so I'm giving them what they wanted.

Someone To Love Me.

"NO!  I don't care how it happened, why it happened, or who it happened to," Dawn shouted.  "He is not going back to those assholes who hurt him!  I'll make a wish first!"

"You can't," Buffy said, trying to stay calm.  "He's their son."

"I don't like them but she's right," Willow agreed.  "It's not good for him and we can't take care of him, Dawnie, not even you."

"So you'd let him be raised by the drunken bastards again?  Will he survive this time?" she sneered.  Willow went pale.  "I wish Xander had better parents this time, someone who gave a damn, would protect and love him, and someone who would keep him from these bitches!" she yelled, dodging her sister's attempt to shut her up.

Halfrek showed up, looking at her nails.  "Agreed," she said.  Dawn smiled at her.  "It's a good thing too.  He would've died within a few months, ladies."  She picked up the baby, preventing them from getting anywhere near her or him.  "Dawn, run."  She ran out of the store while she held them there.  She stared at the slayer and her witch.  "She had a good reason, ladies, and I will not have this problem.  Nor will I let her be hurt for being unselfish and good to her friend.  Tara, sweetie?"  She gave her a scared look.  "Would you mind being the mother?"

"On...only if I got to raise him," she stuttered.

Hallie nodded.  "That's also reasonable.  Okay."  She winked at her.  "He'll be very safe and loved."  She disappeared with the baby.

"No, get back here!" Willow shouted, stomping a foot, starting a summoning but Tara stopped her, making her wilt.  "It's not right," she whined. "He'll be gone."

"You should've thought of that before you tried out that spell and deaged him," she said quietly.  "Maybe you should have a talk with the Goddess about the magic stuff, Willow."  She walked away, going back to the dorm by herself.  She would be locking Willow out tonight.  She and the cat needed to have some ice cream and rethink this girlfriend thing she had going.

Buffy looked at Willow. "Don't look at me!  It was your irreversible spell!"  She stomped off to find Dawn and yell at her for making a wish like that, but their mother already had her and glared her into submission, pointing out that Xander would be safe and loved by the constraints of the wish.


Horatio looked up as someone walked up to his office door, frowning at her.  "Yes, ma'am?"

"Lieutenant Horatio Caine?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I'm Hallie Halston, CPS."  She shook his hand.  "We have to talk."

"Is there a problem with my nephew?"

"No, the problem is that one of your people has a child and we can't find him."

"Which?" he asked quietly.

"Tim Speedle?"

He blinked a few times. "He's on a scene but I'll have him come back immediately.  How old is this child and is there a problem?"

"He's six weeks old."   Horatio frowned at that.  "I can tell him more when he gets here, sir."

"Of course.  Please sit while I call him."  He sat down again and called his lover's cellphone.  "Speed, me.  There's a social worker here about your six week old son?"  The 'excuse me' didn't take him by surprise.  "We need you back here as soon as possible, Speed.  We'll talk when you get here."  The sudden swearing made him pull the phone away from his ear.  "Then come back here and we'll talk," he ordered, hanging up.  "It won't be too long.  Do we know the mother?"

"I do," she admitted, pulling out some papers to look at.  "We have her listed as an Aiden Burns, from New York?"  She looked up and caught his shocked expression.  She smiled.  "I'm sure it can be easily fixed."

"Where is the child?" he asked.

"In protective custody.  We're still trying to figure out what happened up there but apparently the person who had him got him from the hospital."  Speed stomped in.  "Mr. Speedle," she said, standing up and holding out her hand.  "Hallie Halston, CPS."

"It's not mine!  I haven't slept with a woman in well over a year, lady.  I don't care what whacked out test you have."

"Speed, sit," Horatio said calmly.  His second-in-command glared at him.  "Now."  Speed sat down, looking sulky.  "Can we see the tests?"

"Of course."  She handed over a copy.  "That's your copy.  I know you'd want to confirm it with the lab so I brought the raw blood as well," she admitted, handing over a vial.  "I'm sure you can get her DNA profile from the lab up there?"

"I can," he agreed.  Speed looked at him.  "She said his mother is Aiden, from Mac's lab?"

"I haven't seen Aiden, Horatio.  We've only talked on the phone," he pointed out.  "How in the hell?"

"I don't know, Speed.  Let's run the test first.  Can the child be brought here tonight?  We have a video conferencing system."  She nodded, shaking their hands and walking out.  He looked at Speed.  "I know you haven't met her in person."

"I know that too!  So how?"

"I don't know.  Let's rerun the tests, Speed."  He walked out, taking the blood down to DNA.  "I have a very private, personal rush job, Maxine."  Maxine Valera gave him an odd look.  Him using her first name meant it was going to be something she might not like but it was important.  "A social worker just showed up claiming that Speed is the father of a child with a woman he's never met, only talked to on the phone for a few cases."  He handed over the blood.  "I need to know and so does he before he explodes."  He heard something break.

"I think it's too late for that," she admitted, moving to start that test.  "I can do it and let you know in a few hours, Horatio.  Do we know the mother?"

"CSI Burns out of Mac Taylor's lab."

"Interesting.  I heard him say she's a glam smartass with puffy lips."  Horatio smiled at that and nodded.  "Let me run it.  You go calm Speed down."

"Definitely."  He headed back up to his office, closing the door and pulling the blinds down.  "Speed, calm down," he ordered, pulling him into his arms to hold.  "We'll figure this out.  She's running the test and we'll know in a few hours."

"We need to call Mac and Aiden," he said quietly.

"We do," Horatio agreed.  He sat down and let Speed pace while he called Mac, putting him on speaker.  "It's me."

"Horatio, how are you?" Mac's cheerful voice asked.  "You caught me at a good time.  I can ignore a meeting."

"Hmm.  Definitely good timing.  We're having one ourselves but we need to speak to you and Aiden, Mac."


"Because someone claiming to be CPS just showed up and said I've got a son with her, Mac," Speed said sarcastically.  Mac chuckled at that.

"He's not kidding, Mac.  We're rerunning the test right now," Horatio admitted.

"I didn't think those two had met," Mac said, sounding a bit confused.

"We haven't even had phone sex, Mac," Speed said grimly.  "We've conspired on a case or three, but nothing more than that.  So yeah, kinda need to tell Aiden she was pregnant and had the baby stolen from the hospital."

"Uh-huh.  Let me page her.  I'm putting you two on hold."  Music came onto the line.

Horatio pulled Speed closer to kiss and calm him down some more.  "It'll be okay."

"No it won't!  I can't be a father!"

"Calm down," he ordered quietly.

"What do you mean I'm a mother!  I'd know if I had been pregnant!  I've never been pregnant once in my life!" Aiden shouted when the hold music stopped.

Speed snickered.  "I know that feeling, Aiden, especially since they said it's mine," he noted dryly.

"Was she really a CPS worker?" Mac asked calmly.  Horatio got into his computer then grunted.  "Was that a yes?"

"With the way he's scowling at the monitor, yup," Speed admitted, coming over to look.

"Senior CPS agent.  She's listed as handling kidnaping cases, Mac," Horatio noted.  "She did say the boy had been stolen from the hospital.  She's on our end by the way."

"Charming," Aiden said bitterly.  "I still never had kids.  I think I'd remember the stretch marks and the labor, guys.  Get the fuck out, Messer!  Now!"  The door on their end closed.  "Sorry, nosy CSI."  She sighed.  "How soon will we know?"

"A few hours," Horatio told her.  "I have our DNA tech running it.  I need to make sure her profile is on the system, Mac."

"All my lab's is," he assured them.  "What happens if this is, by some strange way, theirs?"

"She's down here," Speed admitted.  "I don't know.  I mean...."  He looked at Horatio, who smiled.

"I figured that part out, guys," Mac assured them.  "Aiden, did you want to do anything with custody or visitation?"

"I'm not prepared to think about that shit, Mac."  Then the door slammed again, making them all wince when the glass clearly broke.

"She's a bit upset," Mac admitted.  "Speed?"

"If it's my son, I want at least visitation," he said.  "I'm not sure I can handle a baby, Mac."

"It would be loved," Horatio assured him, giving him a gentle squeeze to the hand.  "Yelina will fuss for ages and let Ray Junior babysit to augment his allowance."  Speed did smile at that.  "It'll be fine.  Do you want to have custody?"

"If he's mine and she doesn't...  I guess.  I don't know, Horatio!  I've got one hell of a headache.  This should be Eric getting this call!"  He stomped off, going to sulk outside.

Horatio sighed and looked at the phone.  "I told her to bring the baby here later today, Mac.  We've got video conferencing."

"Mine's up for a change," he admitted.  "Send me an email with your contact number."  Horatio logged into his server and did that.  "Got it, thanks," he said a minute later.

Horatio smiled at the text/IM address he got in return.  "I'll let you know the results of the test immediately.  We'll both be calming down some very upset techs.  Eric's going to pick on him for ages about this."

"Flack and Danny are already trying to calm her down and get her to talk, it's not working," Mac assumed.  "Thank you, Horatio.  Talk to you tonight."  He hung up.  Then he went to follow the fuming cloud that she had left.  As predicted, both guys were trying to get her to quit ranting in Italian at the walls as she paced in the break room.  He nodded and Flack drug Danny out.  "Aiden."

"Sorry about the door, Mac, but this sucks, ya know?  I know I wasn't.  I know damn well I wasn't!  I haven't even had phone sex with Speed, Mac!  We've only worked on a few cases!  I've never even been in the same room as him that I know of!"

"Then we'll figure it out.  Has it ever been possible for someone to take some of your eggs?"  She looked at him and shook her head.  "Are you sure?"

She nodded. "Yeah, I never went that route, Mac."  She pushed back her hair.  "Now what?  I can't think," she said bitterly.  "All I can do is get stuck on the thought that I might be someone's mommy."

"Stay in here.  We'll know in a few hours.  Horatio will text me to let me know. Then we'll video conference tonight."

"I can't be here.  This is disrupting the lab.  Both chuckleheads are fussing already."

"That's fine, then go walk in the park.  The paternity test usually takes about two hours."  She nodded, walking out to go outside.  He went to stop the detective and CSI.  "Let her go, boys."

"She was muttering about being pregnant," Danny said.  "Is she okay?"

Mac sighed.  "We'll explain it later but she's not presently pregnant, Danny.  Just let her simmer for now.  We're waiting on some test results then we'll see."  He nodded at that. "Good.  She'll be back in a few hours.  She might be throwing another one then, then we'll work on it together so she can tell you."  They both nodded.  "Try to get to work.  I've got to clean up the remains of my office door."  He went to do that, finding Stella sweeping up glass.  "I was coming back to do that."

"I saw Aiden stomp off.  I thought you'd be calming her down.  What's going on?"  She stared at him.  "That wasn't a work related issue, Mac," she said when he was silent.  She did relinquish the broom.

"We're not sure what's going on yet, Stella.  We're waiting on some test results to find out." She nodded.  "Before you ask, she's not ill."

"Good!  I'd hate to lose her."  She patted him on the arm.  "I'll get one of the sticky pads for the rest of the glass dust."  She went to do that, leaving him to think and sweep for now.


Horatio dialed into the NY lab, smiling at the people gathered around. "You told them?"

"I had to, her scream of outrage echoed," Mac admitted.  "Your team?"

"Don't know yet," Horatio admitted. "She's here and he's walking her up here at the moment."  He looked back when Eric leaned in.  "No.  Not yet."

"There's a lady with a baby and a fuming Speed, H.  What is going on?"  Speed popped him on the top of the head.  "Hey!"

"Move, Eric.  I'm not playing."  He got out of the way.  "I'll tell you guys later."  He shut and locked the door, looking at the social worker.  "Okay, we're here. The test were positive, even though this is the first time I've seen more than Aiden's picture in her personnel file."  She shuddered at that.  "Sorry, wanted to put a face to the voice."  He looked at the social worker again. "How?"

"I don't know.  I don't handle that part, Mr. Speedle.  All I know is that a woman was arrested and the baby was in her possession.  She was very worried about him and the arresting officer found out that she had stolen him."  She put down the carrier and pulled out the baby to show him.  "We ran the DNA tests against CODIS using the federal labs since it's a kidnaping.  It came up with you two, as yours did.  I don't know how.  I don't care how.  I care about what we're doing with this little guy."  She held him out and Speed gave her a panicked look.

Horatio took the baby.  "We'll sit here while they talk with the other people," he soothed to calm him down.  Speed gave him a look.  "Babies feel emotions.  Each time Yelina screamed at Ray, Ray Junior would scream back."  He moved the baby so the other lab could see him.  "What's his name?"

"Alexander.  She was calling him Xander."  She looked at him then at the mother.  "There's no way he's yours?"

"I've never donated eggs.  I've never had a surgery where they could've taken them during it and been sneaky.  I'd remember having been pregnant and especially the labor."

"She's never been pregnant.  We've seen her every day for the last few years," Don said loyally.  "We'd have noticed the mood swings and stuff."  She glared at him.  "We do.  Some of the guys around here keep PMS calendars on you and Stella," he defended.  She hit him on the arm and Stella got the other one.  "OW!  Mean wenches!"

Mac shook his head.  "Children," he ordered.  He looked at the social worker. "You need a wider camera, Horatio."  Speed came over to shift it back.  "That's better."  He stared at her.  "Miss Halston, do you have a sister who works up here?"

"First cousin actually," she offered with a smile.  "My father's brother's second daughter."  That got a nod.  "Anyway, we do have to do a house study.  We also have to determine who would have custody."

"I... I can't," Aiden told her.  "I work hellish hours. I live in a tiny apartment.  I barely make it on my salary, much less with him.  I wouldn't mind visitation but I can't handle a baby, Miss Halston."

Speed looked at her, then at Horatio.  He looked so comfortable with the baby in his arms.  "Is he healthy?"

"Very.  He loves to eat.  He's a very loving little boy.  He spent most of the day with his hand in my hair in my office."  She gave him a look.  "It looks like it's either you or a foster home."

Speed looked at her.  "Is there one?"

"Not at the moment," she admitted.  "He'd have to go into a larger situation until a suitable family was found."

"No," Horatio ordered.  "If Aiden can't, we will.  Even if Speed does panic and leave for a few weeks, I will."  He looked at Speed.  "The system has flaws, Speed.  I don't want to lose him to them," he ordered quietly.  "Even if he could find one of the great families it wouldn't be his."

"I don't want to put him there, Horatio, but we're not ready for a kid!"

"Not like we'd be doing it alone," he pointed out.  "Yelina, Alexx, and Calleigh will make sure of that.  So will Eric's mother and Eric."  That got a small smile.  All of those women would fuss and Eric would be the dutiful son carting his mother around so she could fuss over them all.  "I don't think putting him in an institution is good for him."

Speed nodded.  "Okay.  I can see that point.  Aiden?"  He looked at her and she shrugged. "You mind?"

"No, you two are cute together," she agreed with a small smirk.  "Does he cuddle?"

"He does," Horatio agreed with a small smile.  "It doesn't bother you?"  She shook her head.  "Good.  Thank you.  Miss Halston?"

"Not like I care, Lieutenant.  I want him to have a good home and it's not like you're adopting him as a couple.  You could adopt him as your son once he's got custody, but that could be a bit iffy."  He nodded.  "I would insist on paperwork for you to be able to treat him and things immediately."

"Of course," he agreed.  Someone tapped on the door.  "Not yet!" he yelled.  Then he smiled at the baby.  "That's probably one of the fussy ones," he told the infant.  "You'll get to know them soon enough."  He looked at Speed, who wilted at the look in his eyes.  He couldn't beg out loud in front of others but he could definitely give him the most begging looks he had ever pulled out.  "Yes?"

"Fine," he agreed.  "You get to tell everyone."  He looked at Mac and them.  "Aiden, we'll figure out how he came to be later."

"Sure.  Please do.  I've got no damn clue."  Everyone looked at her.  "Really.  There's no way he could've come to be, guys.  I swear it."

Speed nodded. "On my end either.  Home study and those things?"

She smiled.  "Address?"  Horatio wrote it out for her.  He and Speed filled out the forms.  "Okay, I'll go ahead and file for temporary custody for you two.  I'll do the home study in a few days.  That way you have a chance to set him up his own area so he's not sleeping on the couch."

"Laundry basket tonight," Speed said dryly.  "We've got to clean a space out for him."

"We have the guest room," Horatio said quietly.  He looked at Aiden.  "Come down soon?"

"Sure.  Or you two can come up.  Whatever.  I'll let you two call the shots and take a lot of visitation or when you need him out of harm's way."  That got a dual nod and a smile from the social worker.  "Will I have paperwork?"

"Of course," she agreed with a smile.  "I can fax them to the lab up there.  I looked up the number while we waited to come over."  That got a nod from Mac.  "Thank you for making the right decision in a timely manner."  She gathered up the rest.  "Should I tell them anything?"

"No, I will," Horatio promised. "Thank you."  He shook her hand.  "Safe journeys."

"You as well, Lieutenant.  Mr. Speedle."  She left, heading back to her car, which would disappear with her once she got out of sight.

"I swear I know her from somewhere," Danny admitted.  Stella nodded.  "Okay, now what?"

"We get him settled in, tell the lab down here, and then we arrange the first visitation," Horatio admitted.  "We will need to take a few days off on this end."  Speed snorted but nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  It's good you have a calm head."  He gave him a gentle kiss on the temple. "Thanks, guys.  See you soon somehow."   He logged them off then picked up the carrier to look inside. It had his medical records, a few other papers.  "His birth certificate.  He was born in New Jersey?"  He shuddered but took the baby to put into the carrier.  "How do I do this?"

"It's been years and Ray didn't have one of these," Horatio admitted.  They figured out how to strap him in.  "Call a meeting for my office in about thirty minutes."  Speed slipped out to do that while he and the baby slipped out to head to the boss's office downtown.  He walked in and his secretary gave him an odd look.  "Long story.  He in?"

"Sam is, but he's got a headache, Lieutenant."

"Not going to get much better," he admitted, knocking before walking in.  "Sir."

"Lieutenant Caine...."  He spotted the baby and trailed off.  "Yours?" he asked, looking at him.

"In a manner of speaking.  Speed's actually."

"I already know, Horatio.  It doesn't affect anything at the lab that I'm aware of."  That got a small nod.  "How?"

"We're not sure.  He's never met the mother in person but we did run the paternity test again to make sure."  He put the carrier into a chair and rubbed his arm.  "That's heavy."

"That's why my wife used a stomach carrier," he admitted. "Though that can turn into a car seat with the right base.  My daughter uses one."  That got a small nod.  "How?"

"All we know is a social worker showed up today with him.  Said he was stolen from the hospital.  The mother and father both checked out but they've never met in person and she has never been pregnant.  We couldn't let him go into an institution, Sam."

His boss nodded. "I can understand that.  You're a guy whose family is more important than his career."  He looked at the baby then at him.  "So, you and Speedle need some time off?"

"Yes, sir."

"You do know that there's federally granted family leave?"

"I do.  I'd like to take some of that and he'll need to arrange for some as well."

"I can do that.  You've got eleven weeks mandated by law plus it allows you to use any vacation you have saved.  Do you need all of it?"

Horatio looked at the baby then at him.  "The lab would fall apart with me out for three months."


"Would be more reasonable.  I'm hoping for more like four.  He's six weeks old."

"Then we'll file for six and if you need more you'll tell me," he ordered.  "For both of you?"  Horatio nodded.  "That's fine.  I need his cell number to make sure of the number for him."  Horatio dialed it for him.  "Speedle, yes, this is.  You have up to eleven weeks mandated by law, Speedle....."  He smiled.  "Six.  You can tell me if you need more.  That's fine.  Quite reasonable.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He agreed."  He found the papers and filled them out, letting Horatio sign them and forge Speed's signature.  "Next time he can do yours."

"He has in the past."  He handed back the pen.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Take care of him."

"I'm going to try.  His mother will be down soon to visit with him."  He picked up the carrier and looked at the baby.  "That is not a good face, Alexander."  He walked out, going back to the station with a quick stomp to pick up some necessities.  Diapers and some bottles.  He walked in and up to his office, shaking his head at the curious looks.  "Long story."  He walked in and put the baby on the desk, making everyone stare.  He looked at Speed.  "Didn't get around to telling them yet?"

"Not quite.  I got to 'you know Aiden up in Mac's lab, right' and then went blank."

"Is that what I think it is?" Alexx demanded, getting up to look.  "Oooh, you are, and you're making the poopy face too," she offered, pulling him out to look at him.  "How old are you, precious?"

"Six weeks according to the social worker," Speed admitted.  "Before anyone asks, I've never met Aiden in person."

"The test said you two were the parents," Valera reminded him.  "I don't know how but you are."  She looked at Eric, nudging him so his mouth would close.  "There's flies buzzing to get in," she said with a small grin.

He frowned at her then at Speed.  "We found out when?"

"A few hours ago," Speed admitted.  "We were talking to Mac's lab when you tried to help."

"So, somehow you two had a child even though you've never met her in person, and you're saying he was found by a social worker," Calleigh said slowly.  Horatio and Speed both nodded.  "Okay, any other shocks, like aliens?"

Speed looked at Horatio, who smiled, then stroked a lock of messy hair down.  "That too," Speed admitted.  Eric went back to gaping.  Speed took the baby from Alexx and put him into Eric's hands, making him smirk and shake his head but get a diaper.

"Come on, you might as well learn how to do this now," Eric complained.  He showed them how to change the diaper and clean the tiny butt.  "Well, he's nicely built.  Baby buddah belly and all."  He teased the small stomach once a clean diaper was on.  "Whoever had him he was being well taken care of."

"The social worker said he liked to eat," Horatio agreed.  "This brings up the second point."

"Leave?" Calleigh asked.  Horatio nodded.  "All eleven weeks the feds allow us?"

"We'll start with six and then see," Horatio admitted.

"I'm taking seven," Speed offered.

"I saw that," Horatio agreed, looking at him.  "I don't mind, Speed."  That got a nod.   "At the least Aiden will be down soon to visit.  Needless to say we may accept offers of babysitting and things but it is not mandatory for your jobs."

Yelina and Frank walked in, frowning at him.  "You couldn't wait?" Frank pouted.

"Where were you?" Calleigh asked.

"Home.  We go home at normal hours, unlike you folk."

"What is that?" Yelina demanded.

"Somehow I had a baby with a woman I've only talked to during cases in another city's lab," Speed told her.  "His name's Alexander."  She glared at him.  "What?  You wanted me to run away screaming?"  She glared harder.  "Oh, shut up, Yelina!"

"Speed," Horatio said calmly.  "Yelina?"  She turned and walked out.  He sighed.  "It was a shock.  She'll come back soon."  He looked at Frank.  "Yes, we have a son.  His name is Alexander.  He's six weeks old according to the social worker who gave him to us.  She'll be doing a home study in a few days so we have time to refit the guest room."  Yelina came back with two officers.  "Yes, Officers?"

"Sir, we saw the social worker," one said.  "Is there a problem?"

"Kid I didn't know I had," Speed admitted. "Stolen from his mother.  I've got custody now."  That got a single nod.  "Just found out today, guys.  Sorry, she's still in shock."

"It happens, she was out screeching in the atrium," the second offered sheepishly.  That got a small smile from Horatio.  "Can we see?"  Speed took him from Frank, who had stolen him to look at and walked him over, letting him smile at the cuteness. "He's adorable, Speed.  Good luck with him."  He patted him on the arm.  "Watch the advice books, not all of them are equal and just because you've been a pediatrician for decades doesn't mean you've got a clue how to be a good parent."

"I've got some good examples and probably plenty of help when I want to ask," he said, nodding back at the lab.  That got a smile and a nod then the officers left Yelina there.  He walked her inside and shut the door.  "You done?" he asked bluntly.  "Because I don't need this, Horatio doesn't need this, it's been a long day full of shocks already."  She frowned at him. "Oh, get over it, Yelina.  Yes, I pounce your brother-in-law all the time.  Every night if I can.  He's good and he likes it.  He also likes to take my books from me to pounce me."  She frowned but it was more of a pout.  "Now we've got the child and we don't know how he came to be in our lives.  You can help or not but if you hurt Horatio over this I will let him take Ray Junior to raise until you become rational.  Am I clear?"  She nodded.  "Good, then we won't be airing more family business in public, not even in front of the labs again," he finished.  She nodded again and took the baby.  "Thanks, arms were getting tired."  He looked at Horatio, who was giving him a look saying he would probably be yelled at later.  "It's fixed," he reminded him.  "Sorry, guys.  Shouldn't air family problems in public.  Anyway," he sighed.  "I have no idea what we need to do tonight."

"Crib," Calleigh said.

Alexx nodded. "That's just the start of the stuff.  Does he have anything from wherever he was?"

"Not that we've seen," Horatio admitted.

"That's fine, even if there were some clothes you'll need more."

"Sounds like someone's raiding the retirement fund tonight," Frank teased.

"We'll have to give baby shower gifts," Calleigh reminded him.  "It's tradition."   That got a grin from Eric.  "Are we going to get help?  I've never seen a new parent that wasn't exhausted.  Plus, six or seven weeks without you guys."

"I didn't ask," Horatio admitted. "I'll let you borrow from another lab if you want."  She nodded that she could do that.  "That's fine then.  You might ask Virginia first.  She's a level two so she wouldn't need the hand-holding a newer tech might, plus she seems to get along well with you and Eric."

"Plus we'll be bored out of our minds now and then," Speed offered.  "So you can still come over, nag, get advice, and other things."  That got a smirk from Eric.  "You can."

"You're going to be too tired to be bored," he promised.  "Remember, you can't shake the baby.  You can't bounce the baby.  Even if he's been up all night screaming his head off."

"I remember teething and colic from my nephew," Horatio promised.  "Quite well."

"Good, then you can calm me down when it happens," Speed promised.  He looked at the carrier then at him.  "Is that also a carseat?"

"It usually has a snap-on base," Eric told him.  "Some switch between that and a stroller even."

"Wonderful."  He took his son again, getting a content noise.  "Hey, kiddo.  Wanna go home?"

"Shopping then home," Horatio ordered. Speed nodded he agreed.  "So, we'll be doing that."

"We can help you shop," Alexx promised.  Calleigh and Frank both nodded.

"We should introduce him to Ray Junior," Yelina said, sounding more positive now that she had processed this.

"We can eat after doing some shopping," Eric told him.  "I remember hefting and toting for a sister so it'll be fine."  That got another nod from Horatio and Speed.  "Does that room already have a bed?"

"Bed and dresser," Speed admitted.

"The crib can go off to the side for now then," he decided.  "Changing table can go out of the way too."  He got up.  "Can we keep the hummers checked out for the night?"

"Mine always goes home with me," Horatio reminded him.

"I've got the bike here," Speed pointed out.  That got a nod and he settled the baby back into the carrier, getting a small pout.  "We're going to pick you up stuff, kid.  It'll be fun.  Your aunts can coo and tease you about wearing pink stuff."   It took him a few minutes but he got him buckled in and headed out with him and the rest of them following.  The receptionist handed over a frame of some sort and a folded stroller.  "Social worker?"  She nodded, peering at the baby.  He let her see and she grinned at the baby, waving her fingers.  "He's only six weeks old."

"They're precious at that age unless they get colic," she said happily.  "There were some coupons in today's paper."  She dug them out and handed them to Horatio.  "There, that should help some, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, Morgan."  He looked at them then at her.  "Is the baby place that expensive?"

"It can be," she agreed. "My sister had a decorator do her nursery.  She's horrible at decorating."

Horatio just nodded.  "He'll have a simple life with us.  Thank you."  She grinned at that.  "He'll have the guest room."

"That's wonderful though.  It'll help him a lot and you'll have a good chance he'll sleep through the night."

"We can only hope so," Horatio agreed, taking the stroller and the base with him.  They'd have to go into the hummer anyway.  He got the base onto the back seat and looked at it, but Eric came over to hitch it down and show him how to put in the carrier so it'd be secure, getting a nod.  The stroller went in front of him, Eric got in front, then they headed off with Speed following.  Xander's first day with them was finished by the girls all cooing over him in the store and Alexx keeping Yelina and Calleigh from buying all the 'cute' clothes he'd only wear in pictures.  Instead he got a lot of practical clothes and some stuff Speed liked.  Horatio gave him another 'I'll spank you when we get home look' for the baby biker outfit but Speed just grinned and patted his son on the stomach.  Frank and Eric laughed from where they were looking at cribs.  Speed pointed at one's color and they found one in a near shade for their guest room.   Then they all went home with the hummer packed with baby gear and things to have dinner, put it together, put things away, and make sure the baby was comfy in his new home.


Speed woke up the next morning at the sound of fussing over the baby monitor, heading over to his son's room.  "Hey, Al."  Xander kicked up a fuss at that.  "Sorry, Alex?"  The baby still fussed.  "Alan?"  Even louder fussing.  "Xander?"  The baby quieted some.  "Fine, you can be a Xander."  He picked him up and sniffed.  "I'd cry if that was my mess too," he assured him, taking him into the bathroom to clean him up.  There was no way a wet wipe was going to do it this time.  It was going to take a full blown bath with the way the diaper was hanging low. And he was right, because it was seriously making him reconsider his stance on nuclear waste being bad.  Nothing was as bad as this diaper was so therefore it couldn't be all bad to have nuclear waste under their house, right?  It might even smell less.  He realized he was rambling mentally and adjusted the water in the shower until it was human temperatured, then he and the baby got in together.  Xander squealed in joy and flailed for him.  "Calm down. It's a bath the quick way."  Horatio came in and stared then took a picture with a smile. "Thanks, really.  Toss that somewhere?"

"Gladly."  The diaper went into a plastic bag and into the trash compactor outside.  He wasn't putting that in the kitchen.  He came back, hearing Xander still squealing in happiness.  So he fixed him a bottle for when he got out and went to pull out a diaper and clothes for their son's first full day with them.  After twenty minutes he went to check, finding Xander being rinsed off.  "Here, I'll dress him."

"Thanks.  I'll finish in here."  That got a nod and he took the baby to dry off, making him a less than happy baby.  "Go with Daddy Horatio, Xander.  He'll get you dressed and warm again."  He found the spare bottle of shampoo they kept and got to work on his own hair.

Horatio carried out the bundle of towel, putting him onto the changing table.  "There, now let's work on the diaper, son."  He got him diapered and smiled at the sound of him wetting it.  "I know, you liked the shower.  We can do that again later."  He changed him and cleaned him up then rediapered him and got him into one of the one-piece outfits with a train on the shoulder.  "There, that's adorable."  He picked him up and brought him out to the living room.  The bottle was grabbed on the way past and he sat down to feed him.  Xander blinked his big dark blue eyes at him.  "Are they going to stay that color?"

"Probably not," Speed admitted as he came out in a towel.  He stole a kiss.  Then he took a picture of them, earning a smile.  "That's my boy."  He went to pull on jeans and a t-shirt, not bothering with socks or underwear.  They weren't leaving the house and whoever came over would be family.  He walked out and found Horatio had shifted, letting the baby lay on his stomach while he laid down again.  "Comfy?" he teased, taking another picture.

"Very.  He's not old enough to move a lot apparently."

"We can check the book Alexx and Yelina agreed on."  He found it on the table and sat down to look at it. "Hmm.  No, he's not mobile for another few months.  Should stay on his back when let down until he can flip himself over, but stomach on top of us is fine as long as he's not sleeping that way."  That got a single nod from Horatio, who patted the baby's back since he was on his stomach on top of him.  "Breakfast?"

"Would be appreciated since we got to sleep in," Horatio agreed with a small yawn.  Speed smiled as they both fell back asleep, taking another picture.  Then he went to make himself breakfast.  He was hungry this morning.  They'd been up late last night talking about how they wanted things to be done with the baby.  He heard a sniffle.  "I'm in here, Xander.  You rest."  He came out to give him back the bottle at the second sniffle then went back to his bacon and eggs.  They were nearly done when he heard the knock at the door.  He went to get it, staring at their nephew.  "Are you cutting school?"

"Hell yes," he said, walking in.  "Food?"

"I can put more in," he agreed, going to save their breakfast.  Horatio's went into the microwave and more got put in for Ray Junior.  "Did your mom tell you?"

"She did."  He stared at the baby until his uncle woke up.  "Hi," he said quietly.  "He's asleep."

"Thankfully," Horatio agreed.  "Shouldn't you be in school?"

"Probably but I'm keeping myself from slugging a nun for being a sanctimonious bitch," he admitted.

"Hey," Speed complained.  "Language."

"Sorry.  She's decided that gay people are creatures that Satan put in when he stole the innocent babies from their mother's wombs.  So I walked out yesterday.  I'm staying out today and I told the principal why.  He said he'd have a talk with her before mom had to have a talk with her."  He shrugged.  "So I'm here today if you need to go pick up stuff or something.  I've babysat for one of my fellow students in the past."  He carefully took the baby, waking him up.  "I'm sorry," he cooed, taking the bottle to finish feeding him.  "I'm your cousin Ray.  The loud, dark haired one is my mommy."  The baby yawned but went back to sucking.  "You should probably be burped."  He found a dish towel and got to work on that, smiling at the bit of spitup.  "Good job!"  He cleaned off his mouth then gave him back the bottle, which he attacked like he was starving.  "Now that the nasty gas bubble is gone you can have some more nummies."  He settled in while the older guys stared at him.   "One of the girls in my class has twins.  She's my science partner."

"Ah," Horatio said.  He went to get his breakfast, letting Ray Junior have his plate, which got put near his free hand so he could nibble one handed.  "I need to learn how to do that."

"You will," Ray promised.  Speed came out to sit and eat too.  "So, I know Mom and everyone went shopping last night.  Did you get everything?"

"We're not sure yet," Horatio admitted. "Two cases of diapers, one of formula.  A few more bottles.  Clothes, furniture."

"Pacifiers, toys, sheets for the crib?" Ray prompted.  That got a groan from Speed.  "Pacifiers are gold, trust me on this.  He's not going to be really active with toys but a small stuffed animal for when he's awake is nice; he can cuddle it or you can tease him with it.  I do with hers.  You can also go somewhere less than a baby boutique and get it reasonably priced."  That got a smile from Horatio.  "I know, the first impulse is to go to the better and more expensive place.  You might also get some clothes the next size up.  He'll wake up and suddenly be larger according to her.  Her twins went up a size over a weekend and on different days."  That got a nod from Horatio.  "Go find one of the bigger outlet stores or somewhere like a department store or a mega-store, guys.  I can watch him."  That got a smile.  "Also, buy the baby book and at least one other photo album.  Or you'll be like mom and still have baby pictures in shoe boxes."

That got a grin from Speed. "Thanks, Ray.  The ladies got him cute clothes."

"Which are fine for visiting and pictures, but he's going to be wearing stuff like this for the next year mostly."

"That's what Eric said," Horatio agreed.  He finished up, took Speed's empty plate.  "Are you sure you don't mind?"

"I charge ten bucks an hour, Uncle H.  It'll be fine."  That got a smile and they headed out.  "Hey, goofing off money," he told the baby, who seemed to smile.  "Good boy, Xander."  He patted his belly and got another belch.  "Time for that again?  We can do that."  He put the cloth back onto his shoulder and burped him again.  Then the baby went back to eating, just slower this time.  "Wonderful boy!"  The baby wiggled some but finished his bottle.  Then Ray Junior turned on the tv.  "We'll watch some talk shows.  That way you know what not to do."


Horatio looked around the mega-store's baby section, frowning.  "Clothes first," he decided.  He and Speed hit their t-shirts and underwear needs for work, then they went back to the baby section. A few crib sheets were found that Speed liked, even if Horatio thought they were corny personally.  Why did the baby need anything but plain sheets?  "A mobile?"

"Could help but how would we hang it?" Speed asked.

"A hook from the ceiling," a nearby woman noted patiently.  "Yes, they're good for babies, keeps them occupied, helps develop their visual skills, and mental processing capabilities.  They say bright colors in simple shapes or black and white with big swirls are best."  She looked over.  "Baby shower?"

"Just found out I had a son," Speed told her.  "We went to the baby boutique by the causeway last night."

She patted him on the hand.  "Real parents don't spend that much, boys.  How old?"

"Six weeks," Horatio said quietly.

She just nodded.  "Okay, too young for most toys.  You can get him a soft thing to cuddle when he's awake but it's bad for in the cribs."  She found that pile. "Pick a color you like.  He won't care at his age.  He's more into tactile expressions and scent."  That got a nod and they found one they liked.  "Good.  Now, for the future, teething toys.  Rattles are nice but very hard when you get hit with them, try the plastic keys.  They make nearly as much noise but they don't hurt as much.  Think about any toy being stepped on in the middle of the night, because you will."  She led them down to the clothes.  "Pick out things his size and the next size up.  Go for practical.  For the next year he's going to be held or on the floor playing."  That got a nod and they loaded up on some more practical clothes, making her smile.  "Use that brand of diapers. They're cheaper," she said with a point. "Just as good and cheaper is better with how many you'll be changing.  Also, look at the babyproofing stuff for when he starts to crawl.  You'll need it sooner than you think."  She patted Speed on the back.  "There's a single parent's group out in Biscayne and South Beach has a gay parent's group, boys.  Whichever you are.  They'll help if you get stuck.  Both have websites and the gay one is really cute and funny most of the time.  It's run by a very good drag queen.  I used it a few times with my eight and my first grandchild."  She smiled and got what she needed, then headed to check out.

They moved the cart to look at the babyproofing things.  "Gates, plug covers, cabinet hitches," he said, looking them over.  "How would we gate the few stairs up to our room?"

"I don't know," Horatio admitted.  "We'll consult the baby book," he decided.  They nodded and looked at the carrying devices.  They both decided that carrier was heavy.  Speed picked up the pappoose system, holding it up.  Horatio looked at him.  "You still can't ride him on the bike in one, Speed."

"I looked last night while I was throwing a fit.  They make baby seats for bikes."

"It'd throw off your balance and I'm sure it's not safe," he complained.  Speed shrugged. "Fine.  We'll see."  He looked at the carrier again then at him.  "Think it could help?"

"We can take him jogging in it unless you wanted to put him into the stroller to do that?"  Another woman walked past him and took that box, handing him another one.  "Thank you," he said dryly.

She just smirked and walked off again.  "I've had two.  I've went through three of them.  The first one was for older infants.  They also make jogging strollers."

"No thanks," Horatio said, looking at the carrier.  "That does look comfortable."

"It does."  It was all fabric where the other had metal supports.  "Probably better for him too."  They put that into the cart and went to look at other things for the future. The bouncing-from-the-doorways seat was looked at and Horatio noted how much it was for later.  As well as the walker.  "Home?" Speed asked.

"Let's pick up food.  We didn't pick up any groceries and they have some here," Horatio admitted.  That got a nod and they went to do that as well.  The baby had plenty of formula, they had frozen meat and pasta at the moment.

They got home and found Ray Junior explaining the court show to their son.  "See, that's why you don't want to date women like your Uncle Eric does," he pointed out.  "They do things like that because they're skanks," he said, sounding perfectly serious.  The baby cooed at him.  "Yeah, they are.  You hopefully won't have as many of those as Uncle Eric and Daddy Speed had."

"I had a low skank threshold," Speed said, carrying in a few bags.  Horatio got the rest.  "Thanks for the advice, kid."

"Welcome, Uncle Speed.  Did Mom just figure you two out?"  They nodded.  "Well, only a few months behind the times."  He shrugged and grinned at the baby, who was either thinking very hard or doing mean things to his diaper.  "Do you have to think to lay one?" he teased, poking his belly.   Nothing hard so he wasn't straining for the diaper.  "It'll be okay, Xander."  He kissed him on the head and settled him into his lap.  The soft blue bear was handed over and he put the baby's hand on it.  "That's your friend, Xander.  He's a bear."  The baby squeezed then flailed that hand.  Ray danced it around his stomach with a small, musical hum, making him a happy baby.  He gave it another squeeze and it was good.  "Yeah, you'll like that one."

"Let us put up stuff," Horatio ordered, going to help him do that.  Xander's dresser was now full.  By the time he came out they had a sleepy baby and Ray walked in to put him down.  Horatio and Speed both collapsed on the couch but Horatio did pay him for the two hours.  "Thanks, Ray."

"Not a problem, Uncle H.  Remember, next time it'll only be diapers and a bag of stuff when he starts to grow and sprout.  You can donate the old stuff if you wanted or even do the thrift shops for some."  That got a smile.  "Need more help?"

"We're good so far," Speed agreed.

"Then I'm going to go not hit the nun in the park for a while then head to the mall nearer to the end of school since they'd turn us in if we skip there."  He headed off with his pocket money and his allowance.  It was a good day, he was solvent, it wasn't raining, and he had gotten to play with the baby for a bit.

They shared a look and Speed brought out the fast food, giving Horatio his.  They were too tired to cook anything.  "Now I know why new parents gain weight," Horatio said, taking a bite of his burger.

Speed nodded while he chewed.  "Definitely."  He ate another bite and settled in while Horatio changed the channel.  "Promise me to screw me senseless if you catch me watching soaps?"

"Definitely."  The baby sniffled but went back to sleep apparently so it was good with them.  They settled on the discovery channel and the cooking show there. They usually had 'home' shows that had baby tips. They'd have to look up other ones through the tv guide tonight.


Eric came over that weekend, grinning at the sleepy fathers.  "I'll sit with him, go back to bed."

"Thank you," Speed said, giving him a hug.  He trudged back to bed and flopped back down beside his boyfriend, one arm over his chest, nearly asleep as he fell.

Eric went to check on the baby, finding him awake and playing with his toes.  "Those are fun toys," he agreed, smiling at the baby.  "Want to get up and go outside?"  The baby squealed so he picked him up, changed him as only an experienced uncle can, and took him out to sit on the back porch so he could watch the water. A few minutes later he came in to get him a bottle of juice then went back out with him.  The baby settled in to sip and watch the water, making him a happy uncle.  "Yeah, we can do this and later or my Momma wanted to see you."  He heard the phone ring and went to get it before it woke them up.  "Caine's house."  He smiled.  "It is me, Frank.  Momma wanted to see him and they're back in bed."

"Who wanted him?" Horatio called.

"My mother and Frank and his wife."

"Frank can visit your mother and so can Xander.  Diaper bag's in his closet, so's the stroller," Speed called.  "Thank you.  We'll fall at her feet later."

Eric grinned.  "Frank, why don't you come over to Momma's?  We're having a cookout.  Yeah, there.  I'll bring the baby.  Sure."  He hung up and went to pack him a diaper bag.  Two bottles, seven diapers, two outfits, the stroller went into the car.  The carrier was in the back of the hummer so he got the carseat loose and put it into his car, making sure the hummer was locked afterward.  Then he got the baby into the carseat and hitched him, taking him back to his mother's.  He pulled in and his sisters all piled out of the house like eager puppies.  "Easy!  He's only about seven weeks!  Horatio and Speed are back in bed sleeping."  That got some knowing looks.  "Possibly but Speed looked like the walking dead while Xander was playing with his toes."  He handed one the diaper bag to one, one the stroller.  "Momma, Frank and his wife wanted to see him too so they're coming over."

"Not a problem.  Give me the bambino."  He did and she cooed.  "Aren't you so handsome," she said, walking him inside.  Eric followed the posse of women.  It was what sane men did when they were in high squeal mode over babies.  They settled down to introduce his nieces and nephews on the floor and get in their own playing time.

Frank came over an hour later and smiled at the little guy being hugged by one of Eric's nieces like he was a teddy bear.  "He a good cuddle, little one?"   She nodded.  "Good job."  He handed her the pacifier from the floor and the baby beamed at him and stuck it into his mouth, getting a happier cuddled boy.  "That's a good boy, Xander."  He nudged Eric.  "You sure your mother doesn't mind?"

"Momma, Frank's here," he called into the kitchen.  She came out to hug him and lead his wife back to the kitchen.  "See?"  His father came home and gave them an odd look. "Momma wanted to see Horatio and Speed's son, Poppi.  That's Xander being used as a nap encouragement."

He looked at the baby.  "You're a good boy.  She's got a really strong grip, son."  He patted his granddaughter on the head.  "Be gentle."  She scowled just like her grandmother did.  "Fine.  I'm sure your uncle is watching you."  He went to put his things in his office and change into something less work-related.  He came back out a few minutes later.  "Where're his fathers?"

"Sleeping," Eric said with a grin.  "I'm babysitting since Momma wanted to see him and so did Frank.  Oh, this is Detective Frank Tripp.  I work with him, Popapi."

"Mr. Delko," he said, shaking his hand.

"Welcome to our home.  How old is he?"

"Seven weeks," Eric said with a smirk.

"Ah, that age.  Of course the parents are sleeping.  They're also hopefully having a meal that takes two hands to eat so they can appreciate it."  He went into the kitchen but got shooed out by the gaggle of women in there.  "They're scary today."

Alexx knocked on the door and smiled.  "Hi, Eric, Mr. Delko, Frank.  My two wanted to play with Xander too."

"We can go to the park, that way everyone can if they want," Eric offered.  She smiled and nodded.  "Momma, Alexx wants her kids to play with Xander too.  Wanna go to the park?"

"That's a charming idea," his oldest sister agreed, coming out to kiss him on the head.  "We'll meet you by the playground in the one by the college?"  She nodded and headed off.  She smiled at her sleepy daughter.  "Can Uncle Eric have the baby back?"  Her daughter shook her head.  "Want to go to the park with the baby?"  She got a sleepy nod.  "Then give Uncle Eric the baby so he can head.  We'll go in a minute when we get all you guys together with the food."  Eric got up and took the baby back, heading out with Frank and his wife.  She looked at her father.  "He's adorable."

"Have another one," he encouraged.  She swatted him and went to help her mother finish lunch for a picnic with the kids.  Then they piled into the various cars and headed out with the kids and grandparents.  They found Alexx already had help from Calleigh so it was good.  Their kids ran to play with Alexx's kids.  Xander got passed around to all the aunts and uncles to nuzzle and cuddle while one parent kept an eye on the kids playing in the playground area. A fight turned into a game of shoving tag but that was normal for kids.

Eric's mother looked at them. "Quieter!" she ordered. They quieted down.  "Some others would like to enjoy the park without shrieking."  They nodded and ran off again to go back to playing.  Her word was law.  One of the youngest ones came over to curl up in her lap, sleepily clutching her blouse in her little fist while she fell asleep.  "Aww."

Frank took a picture with a grin.  His wife shook her head and took the camera from him, putting it aside.  "It's adorable."

"It is.  You can take one of him on Speed's bike with him."  Eric snickered at that.  "You know he will."

"He will.  He's already ran the bike-safe carseat by me."  That got a head shake from Frank and the parents.  "That's just Speed for you.  He did get a stomach snuggler.  I saw it in there."

"Might be more practical on his bike but he'd have to wear protective gear over the baby," Frank complained. "He'd hate that."

"Probably true," Eric sighed.  "Doesn't mean he won't try it, Frank."

"Point.  Has anyone told Stetler yet?  Just so I can see his face?"

"Not that I know of," Calleigh admitted with a mildly evil smirk.  "But I'd love to see the look on his face the first time Xander pukes on him."  They all laughed at that.


Horatio woke up and stretched, then smiled at the body on his side.  "Speed?"  Speed blinked at him.  "We're taking a longer than average nap today?"

"Shit, the baby!"  He sat up...  Then he remembered.  "Eric has him."  He laid back down, getting comfortable again.  "What time is it?"

"Nearly noon."  He stroked down his back, getting a smile for it.  "That's a nice look on you."

"Can we really handle this?"

"We can and we will.  It's less challenging than the job, Speed."

"I can only hope so," he complained, stealing a kiss.  "Want to nap some more?"

"Not particularly."  He rolled to kiss him better.  "I'd rather do more of that than sleep."

"I'm with you on that."  The phone rang and he groaned, grabbing it from behind Horatio's back.  "What?" he asked, sounding grumpy.  "We just got up, Alexx."  He grinned.  "All the Delko heathens and your heathens?  Xander's got to be fussed over.  Give us an hour."  He hung up and nuzzled under Horatio's chin again.  "They're all in the park."

"We'll go in a few minutes, once I've had a proper wake up."  Speed snickered and let him do whatever he wanted, this time.  He'd retaliate later.


Horatio walked into the park, looking at his son's scrunched up face.  "Is it loud, son?"  The baby started and looked around.  "Xander," he said quietly, taking him from Alexx's lap.  "Hi.  Are you being fussed over?"  He sat down with the baby, letting him snuggle in.  "Such a good boy."

Speed strolled over with a bag of sodas and things.  "Here, to give them more sugar rushes."

"Gee, thanks," Eric complained but he did start pouring out drinks.

"Hey, kiddo.   Did you have a good morning being babysat by Eric and his whole family?"  The baby burbled but he was too comfortable and sleepy to do much more than that.  "Sure, you rest.  This is your first time surrounded by the extended group.  It's a good thing."  He smiled.  "Thanks, guys.  We needed the nap.  He's not mastered the art of sleeping through the night yet."

Alexx looked at him.  "He should be about ready to."

"Please tell us how that trick is accomplished," Horatio said, giving her a look.

"Standard schedules."

"He's on one," Speed assured her.

"Some babies are just night babies," Eric's middle sister pointed out.  "I had one of those.  Still do."

They both groaned.  Speed looked at Calleigh.  "Want to move to night shift with us if that's true?"

"I don't like night shift," she said with a small pout.  She took the baby back, smiling down at him.  "I'm making sure I don't have to have one for another year."

"If you can do it, more power to you," Eric's youngest sister offered.  "I almost want one with how sweet he is."

Speed snorted. "He's only sweet at the moment.  He was a wailing ball of terror this morning at three."

"Nightmares?" Eric asked, frowning a bit.  "At his age?"

His mother gave him a look.  "Sometimes God has to reuse souls," she said firmly.  "Sometimes babies do have nightmares from their last go-round; they usually grow out of them."

"I hope so," Horatio said, looking down at the napping baby.  "Want me to take him?"

"I'm fine, Horatio.  I never figured you to be the fussy daddy."  She grinned at him and he smirked back.  "I know, I just got a horrible case."  He nodded and Speed laughed.  "That's fine."

"You're braver than I am," Eric assured her.  "Let me."

"You have nieces and nephews," she complained. "Hug one of them."

"They're not at that cute age."

Frank looked at the boys.  "They've been like this all morning," he told them, cracking Mrs. Delko up.  "I got there and the one staring at you from the tree had him like he was her teddy bear."  They smiled at the little girl, who glared and stomped off instead.

"Someone's ready for a nap," Eric called.  His niece started to sniffle.  "I'm the wrong uncle for that to work on."  She went to get her other uncle into it, making him come steal the baby for her.  "You remember Horatio and Speed, right?"

"I do."  He shook their hands.  "You've got quite a boy there.  Can she snuggle him again?"

"She can snuggle the both of us," Calleigh offered.  The girl scowled at her and she gave it back, making her crack a smile.  "Keep it up and your face'll freeze like that."  The baby sniffled and sat next to her, but Calleigh let her into her lap so they could hold the baby together.  "There, how's that?"

"You comfy.  Unclie Eric pointy."  She shifted sideways and decided it was a good time for a nap since she was being cuddled and cuddling something soft and squishy.  "Mommy, we need baby."

"No we don't," her mother said firmly.  Her father laughed and took the other father back with him to the play area.  "We don't!" she called after them.

"Up to you, dear."

Eric was snicking into Horatio's shoulder, letting Speed pat him on the back.  Then Speed went to try to get the baby because he was making that face, even asleep.  The little girl wasn't going to let him go.  "Can I change him?"

"No!"  She swatted at him. "Mine!"

"No, he's ours," Horatio told her gently.  "He'll need changed soon."

"I do it."

"Sure, you can help us change a diaper, princess," Alexx promised, smoothing down her hair.  She smiled at her mother.  "My oldest got that way for a few weeks then she ran off screaming at the second one."  That got a smirk.  "Stopped her asking for another one the time she tried too."  Mrs. Delko laughed at that.

Horatio looked at her.  "For the obvious reasons, he's staying a single child unless we adopt Ray Junior."

"He did pretty good when he came over to see him," Speed admitted.  "Bit high on the babysitting costs at ten an hour."

"Have you thought about a daycare for him yet?" Alexx pressed.

"No, but we thought about a nanny," Horatio told her.  "Daycares imply you have standard office hours."

"True."  She nodded.  "Plus the single caregiver would be a better idea anyway.  Have you contacted anyone?"

"I called one of the agencies we haven't had to bust someone in yet, they're sending someone out next week to interview."

"Good!  I hope she's good.  I also know you're not going to be working the same insane hours you used to."

They both shook their heads.  They couldn't do that anymore.  Eric smirked at them.  "One day you'll have this too," Calleigh reminded him.  "So will I probably."

"Maybe around the same time I run the lab," he shot back with an evil smirk.

"I'll be retired by then so oh well," she agreed happily.  "We'll watch you terrorize the new CSI from afar."

Speed and Horatio nodded, cracking Alexx and Frank up.  Xander woke up with a sniffle, then a full blown wail but the little one holding him got him calmed down and just uncomfortable again.  Speed picked her and the baby up to go change him in the back of the hummer.  She gave him funny looks then looked at him.  "What?"

"I don't look like that."

"Ask your mother."

"Mommy!  Why don't I look like that!" she called as she stomped that way.  "He's got little dangly things!"

Speed smirked as he finished wiping the butt.  "Morning, son, feel better?"  He dodged the missile of pee. "Gee, thanks.  Really."  He got him cleaned up again and rediapered, then dressed in something cleaner since he had made a bit too big of a mess this time.  The old clothes went into the plastic bag inside the diaper bag.  The old diaper got thrown out, and the baby got brought back to the table.  Where Horatio promptly stole him.  "I could've held him."

"I can do what she did and hold you both," he offered.

"Not in public.  The boss would freak."

"He knew."

"I know but having it captured by the news is a totally different thing."  He took the baby back and grinned at him.  "Did the other daddy steal you so you'd wear a suit some day?"  The baby smiled at him and he grinned back.  "Good job, son!"  His beard was patted.  "Yes, that's me."

"You're pointy," one of the other kids said.

Speed looked at her then nodded.  "That's how you tell me and Eric apart.  I'm pointy and he's less intelligent than I am."  Eric swatted at him behind Horatio.  "You are."

"You rigged that IQ test," he said firmly.

"Did not."

"No, you didn't, the tech who found it did," Horatio agreed.  He shook his head.  "Old play argument.  Stop it, boys, we don't want the son to pick up that bad habit."

"Eeh, my son called Eric Uncle Sluttoy this morning," one of his sisters said dryly.  "Eric's used to it.  That's why he's the baby of the family."  Eric snorted and gave her a look.  "You could settle down."

"I haven't found anyone I like yet."

"Since you don't talk to them, you only play with them, that doesn't surprise me," his mother agreed.  "You should quit playing, Eric."

"But they're such fun toys, Momma."

"Swat him, Horatio."  Horatio did that for her.  "Thank you."  She looked up and said a not so silent prayer for her son's future spouse.  They were going to be driven insane by her son.

Eric looked down at his mother. "You know, Momma, there's been a rash of women in their fifties and sixties having babies; you could always have another son," he offered.  His father choked on his water.  The sisters went to save their father and his mother looked at Horatio so he got swatted again.  "They have."

"Eric, that's cruel!" Marisol complained.  "Momma's well past child bearing."

"If some woman in Israel can do it at sixty-four, she can definitely do it at fifty-eight."

"That woman needed her head examined," she said firmly, glaring at her son.  "I have a son.  He'll be a good son or else I'll have to think about foreign brides."

Eric gave her a shit-eating grin. "Doesn't mean you'll get grandkids, Momma.  Ever."  She sighed and went to let her husband calm her down.  "Hey, at least no social worker came up to me the way they did Speed," he complained.

"We expected that years ago," Marisol shot back.  "I'm very shocked you haven't had one of those calls, Eric."  She gave him a look and went to help soothe her mother.  "It's all right, Momma.  We know you're well past childbearing."  Her father nodded because he was even if she wasn't.

Horatio looked at his son.  "Don't worry, we won't be pressing for grandchildren, even when you're Eric's age, son."  He smoothed down a piece of hair.

"I think that's going to be more like 'no, you can't make me a grandfather' instead of we won't press him.  I can't imagine being Grandpa Speed."

"That is a bad mental image," Horatio admitted.  Alexx giggled.  "But you'd get to start all the grandkids off with a love of motorcycles, books, and cooking."

Speed looked at him.  "I'm sleeping on the couch tonight."  Alexx laughed louder at that.  "I am," he told her.  "That's just scary and wrong."  He looked at his son.  "Come on, we'll go watch the other kids before Daddy Horatio has more bad thoughts that he'll need spanked for."  He kissed him on the head and went to find a swing.  He had liked swings.  His son cooed while they swung so it was a good thing.  "Maybe we should get one of those wind-up swings for the house," he offered.  The baby cooed louder and he watched what he was.  "The fuzzy lump is a horse, Xander.  You can't have a horse."  The patrol officer looked over and he shrugged.  "Mine."

"You have kids, Speedle?"

"Somehow.  Don't remember meeting the mother.  She's a CSI from another city."  He walked his son over, watching as he laid a hand on the horse's side.  "That's a horse."  Xander's fingers tried to grab the hair then he leaned forward to suck on it.  "No, he's not edible."  He backed his son off.  "He's seven weeks old."

"He's adorable."  He reached down to pat him on the head.  "Good boy.  You'll be a good CSI when your time comes."  He smiled.  "Watch out, there's been some guy in a silver car who's been found wanking off in the parking lot now and then.   He's always gone by the time we get here and no one ever thinks to get a license plate number for us."  That got a nod.  "Thanks."  He clicked his tongue and his horse moved on but the baby fussed so he grinned back.  "She's a good girl too."

"Yes, you can ride a horse when you're older," Speed promised, going back to his swing.  It calmed the baby down and made him coo again.  "Guys?"  The fathers looked over.  "Spread it around, there's been some idiot in a silver car that's been exposing himself but no one ever thinks to get his license plate."  That got a nod and one went to tell the others back at the table.  He looked down.  "If one of them comes near you, your Daddy Horatio is going to shoot them," he promised.

"Yes I will."  Horatio sat in the swing next to him.  "We need that wind-up swing, don't we?"

"Might be a good investment.  Maybe Alexx still has hers?"

"I'll see."   He smiled at the calm, content son.  "He's a good boy."

"He is and he tried to suck on the horse."

"I'll get him a bottle."  He smoothed down the baby's hair. "He's got your hair."  He walked off smiling and happy.

Speed looked down.  "Don't worry, messy bedhair is always in style and girls love it."  He kissed him on the temple and went back to the gentle swinging with him. "We should put on the stomach snuggler and go for a ride later.  Yes we should," he said quietly.

"Only if you put it under a jacket," Horatio ordered as he came back.  "Just in case you crash."  That got a nod and Speed grinned at him. "I do mean heavy leather, Speed."

"I have one.  It's too hot to wear it most of the time."  Horatio gave him a look.  "I'll make an exception for rides with him.  So, can we get the bike baby seat?"

"When he's older," he sighed, walking off shaking his head.

"Taking him for a ride on the Ducatti tonight?" Eric teased.

"Yes, he is."  Alexx shook her head.  "He's going to be safe."

"There's no safe way to take a baby for a bike ride," she said grimly.

"They do make safety seats for them," Eric told her.  "I looked."

"So!  Bikes are still dangerous!" she complained.

"I'm not giving up my bike," Speed called.  "You'll be doing my autopsy before then," he called.  She glared at him and he looked back at her.  "Tough!"

"We did want to know if you kept your wind-up swing and if we could buy it off you," Horatio offered, changing the subject before the mothers all ganged up on Speed for his after-dinner plans.

"I did," she agreed, smiling at him. "It's in a closet with the bouncy doorway chair."  He grinned at that.  "I'll even let you two buy it cheaply because they're a lot more expensive now than they were when mine were Xander's age."

"Ah, inflation," Eric's oldest sister sighed.  "I remember buying diapers for five bucks a pack."  The other mothers nodded too.

"My nephew sent us to a mega-store to get pacifiers and to look at the babyproofing supplies," Horatio admitted.  "They were cheaper than they were at the baby boutique."

"Yes, but the baby needed special stuff for his furniture," Calleigh reminded him.  "You go to the special baby places for the special things and the cute outfits.  You go to Wal- mart for the other stuff."  The mothers and Frank all nodded at that.  They looked at Frank.

"I go for baby shower stuff for the office.  Plus I'm in charge of the emergency packs."

"We need ours refilled," Calleigh admitted. "Thanks for reminding me, Frank."

"Welcome, Calleigh."  He patted her on the back.  "We should probably go before the wife decides to try what those desperate mothers in the Middle East are doing and we have one at fifty-two."  He stood up once his wife had swatted him.  "Later, guys."  He walked her over to look at the happy baby.  "We're going to head."

"Thanks for helping watch him, Frank.  Here, get a last hug."  He let her hold him first, getting a smile from Frank.  "Your wife likes babies more than you do," he pointed out.

"I think they're adorable but I'm glad we can't have one."  He kissed the baby on the head and handed him back.  "We might be talked into babysitting now and then though."  He grinned and walked his wife off, his wife talking about how adorable he was.  So maybe he'd get cuddles tonight as well.

Speed came back over with the hungry baby, letting Horatio burp him.  He was better at it for some reason.  The baby burped, didn't spit up on his suit, and got handed back. "I want to know how you do that."

"So do I," Eric agreed.  Eric's mother nodded too.

Horatio smirked. "It's the suit."

"Well, we've said they're mythical," Calleigh teased.  "They seem to be nearly bulletproof too."

"He'd better start wearing his vest," Speed said firmly.

"Yes, dear," Horatio said patiently.  "I do try."  His CSIs all laughed at that.  "I said I try."

"Not hard enough," Eric assured him.  "The next time you go into one of those, think about Speed being a single father."

"See, there's a solution for you," Calleigh said.  "If he is, you can adopt him and keep Speed safe for Horatio, thereby giving your mother Xander as a grandbaby."

Eric looked at her.  "You've had too much sun."

Speed looked at her.  "He'd never let me tie him down."

Horatio took their son. "Neither do I, Speed."  He smiled down at him.  "Let's let you eat with me for a while before you pick up Daddy Speed's funny mood."

Calleigh stole him and got an arched eyebrow behind the sunglasses.  She grinned and went back to feeding him, at least until he tried to use her as a food source.  "I don't think those work the way you think they do, Xander."  She stuck the bottle back in his mouth.

Eric's father shook his head.  "It's instinctive.  Eric tried to feed off me a few times when he was little."

Eric looked at him.  "Thanks, Popi, really."

Calleigh grinned at him.  "Aww, that must've been cute.  Pictures?"

"Hell.  No."

"Of course I do," his mother corrected with a smile.  "How else would we assure his future wife they'll have adorable babies?"

"Now I'm seeing why I don't bring women home," Eric said, shaking his head.  "I think I've had too much sun."  He started to get up but the kids drug him over to play with them instead.

Calleigh snickered.  "That's so mean.  Can I get a copy to put up in the locker room?"

"We'll see, dear.  You know, you could marry Eric."

"No I can't.  I couldn't work with him and I'd have to straighten him out a lot.  Sorry, Eric's not my type.  I like bigger, buffer guys who like guns too."  She went back to playing with the baby.  "Has Yelina come over?"

"Not yet," Speed admitted, stealing him back the next time he tried to eat off her.  "She's not the mommy, son.  The mommy's coming down in a few days."  She gave him a look. "She is."

"How is Aiden doing?"

"Pretty good considering she's not sure where he came from either."  All the Delkos frowned.  "We think someone took samples and had him created.  She's never been pregnant, I've never met her in person.  We've only talked over the phone due to cases.  But the DNA tests were positive when we ran them."  That got a nod.  "So I'm letting Aiden figure that out.  She's scarier than Calleigh without sleep."

"She'll tell Mac, who'll let us help her hunt them," Horatio said calmly.  "It'll be an exercise in lab cooperation."

"Yes it will," Calleigh agreed, brushing the wetness off her shirt.  "Because we'll help."  Eric headed for the cars.  "Don't forget you've got the baby seat and stuff."

"I'm going to switch that first," he agreed, coming to get the keys from Horatio.  "So, is the momma coming down?"

"In a few days.  With Mac if he can," Horatio agreed.  "He wanted to see the baby too."

"Are they together?" Mrs. Delko asked.

"No, he's still grieving for his late wife," Horatio told her.  That got a knowing look.  "But he is a very nice man and will be a loving uncle if we have to send this one out of danger for some reason."  That got a mass of smiles.  "He would."

"He definitely would," Speed agreed.  "That's a good plan and Stella would love on him for weeks on end.  Not to mention the other guys."

"Probably true," Horatio agreed.  He smoothed down some of the baby's hair.  "You definitely have your daddy's hair.  Maybe we'll let you grow yours out."

Speed looked at him.  "I like grunge, not eighties' hair metal," he said dryly.  Calleigh snickered at that.  Eric came back to kiss his parents and sisters on the cheek before leaving, and to give Horatio back his keys.  He let the parents and Calleigh fuss over them for a while longer before going home to nap in his crib while the daddies finished cleaning up the house.  Neither one of them could stand huge messes and they still had unpacking detritus laying around the living room and kitchen.  When Xander got tired of napping, Horatio sat down to tell him a story while Speed cooked for them, getting smiled at.  "Let's try for some PC-ish stories.  That way it's not just the princess who needs saved and she can kick ass too," he called.

"Of course.  Because we all know Goldilock's Mother showed up in a platinum hummer with a twelve gauge shotgun to save her daughter."  He grinned back at his lover, who just shook his head and went back to chopping. "Can I help?"

"No.  You play with him for now.  I'll cook.  Tomorrow we can switch off."  That got a nod and it was good.  Horatio was good about bending the fairytales so that the women could actually be stronger than they used to be.  Though Xander did not like Hanzel and Gretel when he started that one.  He wouldn't quit crying.


Horatio walked into the station with their son in his arms.  "Here to pick up paychecks," he told the desk sergeant, who just nodded and pointed.  "Thanks."  He walked his son that way, finding them where they should be.  He turned around and found Yelina standing there.  "Hi."

"Hi."  She came in and smiled at the baby.  "Hi, Xander."  He blinked at her.  "I'm your Auntie Yelina.  Ray's my baby boy."  She played with his hair. "I'm sorry."

"It was a lot to process for us too."  He grinned.  "Want to hold him so I can check my check?"  She took the baby to hold while he did that, smiling at the note inside his envelope from the Human Resources department reminding him to put the baby onto his paperwork.  "I'll do that today."  He slid them both inside his inner jacket pocket then looked at his sister-in-law.  "Ray's already promised he could babysit and did for two hours."

"I heard."  She handed the baby back carefully.  "He's sweet."

"He thought Calleigh was a bottle the other day in the park," he countered.  She laughed at that.  "He did."  He patted him on the back.  "You're more than welcome over, Yelina."

"I'll come over tonight."

He smiled.  "Speed's picking up his mother at the moment.  They're going to have a ride and a talk before heading home."

"That's probably a good idea.  I'll give you a few days so she can bond."  She patted him on the arm and turned, finding the bane of their existence standing there.  "Rick.  Did you come to see Speedle's son?"

"Not really.  Just came for my check."  He looked at the baby.  "So that's the thing they've been talking about?"  Horatio nodded, turning him so he could see him.  "He's quiet."

"He's sleepy.  The ride over was calming."

"Ray Junior used to fall asleep in the car all the time," Yelina agreed.  Someone screamed and they all flinched but she stopped Horatio from moving.  "You can't, not with him."  She went to check on it and help the situation.

Horatio looked at his son. "I'll have to get used to not jumping in."  He patted him on the back and let him have his pacifier back when he spit it out.  "Keep that for now.  The bottles are at home, son."  He looked at Rick, who was staring out there.  "It safe?"

"Mostly."  He looked back at him.  "So, now you've got a live-in boyfriend and a son.  You content?" he sneered.

"I was before we got Xander, Rick.  It didn't take being a father to make me content."  He looked out and saw the suspect heading their way. He casually tripped him and looked down at him.  "Don't make me hand my son off.  You won't like what I'd do next."  The man gave him a horrified look.  "Boys?"  They moved forward to get their suspect up and cuffed again.  "Thank you."  They all stopped to coo over Xander.  "Yes, this is Speed's son."

"He looks content," one said.

"He take him on the bike yet?" another asked.  Horatio gave him a look and he smirked.  "Thanks, Lieutenant."  Horatio walked off shaking his head but smiling.  "Who won the pool?"

"We'll see later," another guy promised, leading the suspect off by his bound arms. "How stupid was that!  You ran right toward the most dangerous of all of us!  Who had his newborn son in!"  A few guys looked at him oddly. "You didn't think he was on *family* leave just to help Speedle, right?" he taunted.  No one nodded.

Their suspect whimpered.


Horatio walked into Human Resources with the baby.  "It's better than a picture," he said when the secretary squealed at the cuteness.  "They wanted me to amend forms?"

"Many of them," the head of HR said, coming out of her office.  "You're going around with him today?"

"Speed's picking up his mother.  They're having a talk."

"That's fine."  She let him back into her office.  "No carrier?"

"I didn't feel like unhitching it again.  Once we get to the grocery store."  That got a smile.  "It's heavy."

"They often are."  She found his personnel file in the computer then Speed's, printing it out.  "This is what we have for you, Lieutenant."  He gave her a look.  "I know you haven't updated it in years, Horatio, but we need you to.  Especially for his sake."

"I can't put down that I'm living with his father."

"You can and you will otherwise the Chief can take you off leave," she said quietly.  "Not like we didn't all know.  The gossip chain had you having a harem in CSI."  He shook his head quickly.  "We do need him on your paperwork and you on his."

"I'll bring his home."

"That's more than acceptable.  Do you realize how high the betting pool was over which one you were actually seeing?"  He blushed slightly and shook his head.  "Let's just say some people lost thousands of dollars.  Not in this office.  Marjorie, the person I took over for, only lost fifty when she found out Delko's dating habits weren't cover for him being gay."  He groaned a bit and shifted.  She grinned.  "So let's do this.  Speed has a separate mailing address.  That way you can't get into official trouble for being with him.  They can't remove him from your shift if you're not blatantly cohabitating."  He nodded at that.  She looked through everything.  "I see you're already his Power of Attorney.  What's his name so I can add him into the dependent's section?"  He pulled out the birth certificate she'd need for the records, making her smile.  "I like you, you're always prepared."  She typed in everything they needed.  "Am I putting him on as your dependent and Power of Attorney, Horatio?  Right now you've got your brother listed."  He hissed.  "Sorry."


That got a nod and she filled that in for him.  "All right.  Are you going to officially adopt him as yours?"

"We're thinking about it."

"Good!"  She smiled at him. "How about his mother?"

"Can come visit anytime she wants," he assured her.  "The head of her lab was adamant we'd be bringing him up to visit soon."  That got another gentle smile.  "She's out of Taylor's lab."  She made a note of that in case it became pertinent.  "Did anything else need fixed?"

"I need Speed's signature and I can't let you forge it."  He nodded at that, taking the copies of the paperwork she printed off.  "There you go, Horatio.  Did you pick up a benefits package?"  He looked confused.  "You're going to have to change your insurance to cover him.  At least one will."

"Can both?"

"I think so.  We have with other officers' children when both parents are in the department."  That got a nod.  "You'll have to make sure his pediatrician takes our plan of course, the same as you did with your personal one."

"Right now we're going to Alexx."  She frowned at him.  "I know.  We're looking."   She wrote out three names.  "They take our plan?"

"They do and I've heard all three are pretty decent.  Check with Alexx to see if she's heard differently."  He nodded at that.  "Good.  You can also put Speed on your insurance or you can list Xander as you beneficiary.  Because I've got you listed in the system as that's going to your brother as well."  He hummed.  "How long have you two been together?  If you don't mind my asking."

"A bit over a year," he admitted quietly.

"Then it was more than time to do these changes, Horatio."  He nodded at that.  "What about Speed's parents?"

"I don't know.  They don't speak."

"Grandchildren often change that," she said wisely.  "My mother-in-law can't stand me to this day but she adores the kids so she puts up with me being with her son for that reason alone."  That got a single nod.  "Also, you might think about a nice commitment ceremony since there's a few who still want you to be theirs."

"That would make them a bigger target," he said quietly.

"True, it could.  Especially a grand, open one.  A quiet one with your lab might make everything feel more settled and family-like instead of lovers living together.  We wouldn't be putting that into the files for the obvious reasons, you'd lose him to night shift or another lab."  He nodded at that.  "Up to you but just a suggestion.  Also, if you draw up a custody agreement or do the official adoption, you might need one."  That got a small smile.  "It is something to think about.  Plus to ask whoever does your will."

"It is," he agreed.  He stood up.  "Thank you, Helen."

"Not a problem, Horatio.  You're not the first who got the call from the social worker.  Tell Delko he needs to update his too.  He hasn't updated to include any children."

"He said he doesn't have any that he knows of."  She gave him an incredulous look.  "So he says."

"Damn.  How?"  He shrugged. "Maybe it's all rumor then."  He shook his head, cracking her up.  "If you say so.  He must use the indestructible condoms.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'll have him sign these and bring them both back."  She nodded so he left with the papers, going to hitch the baby back into the back of the hummer.  Someone was watching over his shoulder, he could feel it, so he looked back at the Sergeant at Arms.  "Morning."

"Morning.  So that's Speed's son?"  Horatio nodded.  "He's a cute boy.  Looks strong."  He handed over a present.  "From the precinct under you guys. They didn't want to appear mushy and cooing over baby things."  He grinned and walked off.

Horatio smiled.  "Thank them for us."

"Of course."

Horatio looked at the baby, putting the present next to him.  "You are going to be one well-watched baby, son.  You'll never be able to get into trouble."  He finished buckling him in and closed the door, walking around to get in and go grocery shopping.


Speed waved at Aiden, getting a smile as she came out.  "Hey."

"Hey."  She stared at him. "This is fucking awkward," she said finally.  He laughed and nodded, giving her a hug.  "Thanks.  Let me get my bag."

"I'm on the bike."  She gave him a look.  "I take it everywhere.  Just like H does his hummer."  That got a smirk and she got her suitcase, which was strapped across the back behind her once she settled on.  He climbed on and started the engine, taking them out for a short ride and so they could talk, because they needed to.  He finally parked in the park they had taken the kids to and turned off the engine.  She got off and he followed her over to a nearby bench.  "So," he sighed, looking at her.  He was mimicking how Horatio sat when he thought: elbows on knees, hands clasped but hanging between his legs, head down.  "What the hell?"

"Yeah, that was my first thought too," she admitted.  She patted him on the back. "I went back through my medical history.  Unless they caught a lucky one during a Pap there's no way they could've taken an egg."

Speed nodded.  "I admit I donated to a sperm bank three times when I was younger, but man!"  She smiled at that.  "This is not the talk I ever expected to be having."  She went back to patting him on the back.  He looked over at her.  "So, how do we do this?"

"I can't be a full-time mom, Speed.  I don't have the support you guys do.  I work with single people who have baby allergies.  Mac's still giving me odd looks.  Flack's been bouncing, wants to see the son.  Danny and Stella have both been cautious but supportive.  Hawkes, our ME, has been bouncing off the walls with things I should be thinking about doing for him.  He'll make one fussy daddy some day."  Speed smiled at that.  "I'm not even dating at the moment."

"Which is reasonable.  I've got Horatio and Alexx, plus the Delkos who wanted him as a spare grandson."  She smiled at that. "Eric came over to steal him Saturday so his mother could meet him.  One of his nieces decided Xander was her teddy bear.  Used him to nap with on Calleigh's lap.  Alexx and Mrs. Delko, plus all of Eric's sisters, all loved on him and pouted when we took him home.  He's a good boy," he assured her.  "Soaked up the attention and didn't fuss at all."

"That's good.  Some kids are all fuss and whine."  He smiled at that.  "So, I can keep visiting?"  He nodded. "Good!"  She patted him on the back again.  "How's Horatio handling it?"

"He's stealing him from me," he admitted.  "He's the one who decided we were taking him in before I could get to that thought.  He's a very active father to our boy.  He adores him.  Xander loves him just as much," he said with a small smile.  She grinned back.  "His nephew and sister-in-law all like him.  Yelina hasn't come over but she's called to express her support.  Ray Junior came to babysit the first morning we had him.  We had forgotten some stuff and he sent us to a mega-store to pick it up.  He said he's been helping his lab partner, who has twins."  She shuddered. "Yeah, good thing, huh?" he agreed happily.  She nodded.  "Anyway, he's a good boy but I thought we should talk first."

"We're good, Speed.  I have no right to say shit all to you about anything.  You're going to be a great daddy.  You said Horatio's already got it down too."  He nodded.  "Then you'll be fine and I'll pop down all I can, or you guys can come up on vacations.  If something happens, since we all know trouble's drawn to your boy's red hair like it's a target, you can send him up and we'll watch over him."  He smiled at that.  "It's all good.  I'm going to be pretty laid back about this.  Like a really close auntie with mommy privileges."

"That works for us," he assured her, making her smile.  "Come on. You can stay in Xander's room since it's the guest room.  He won't mind."  He got up and hauled her up, taking her back to the house.  They got there just before Horatio did.  He was closing the door when he saw him pull in so he went to help carry the groceries while Aiden got the baby out and went to sit and stare at him for a few.  He smiled at Horatio, who smiled and kissed him back.  "How were things?"

"We had to update the personnel records.  I still had Ray on mine," he said quietly.  "You've got things to sign but your official address hasn't changed."  That got a smile. "Helen said a lot of people were betting on which of my best CSIs I was sleeping with."  He took another kiss.  "Into the kitchen, Speed.  I even got you granola cereal."  That got a smile and they headed inside with the groceries.  He came out and got the last few things, carrying them inside once the hummer was locked up again.  He closed the door and let Speed have the paperwork.  "Sign and let me sign mine so we can hand them back to Helen."  That got a nod.  He smiled at Aiden.  "Hi."

"Hi, Horatio."  She smiled at him.  "Nice to see you again."

"It is."  He came over to give her a hug.  "He should probably be ready to eat.  Want a bottle?"

"Sure.  I can handle that.  Not sure if I can do diapers yet but I can handle feeding stuff."  He smiled and Speed brought out the one he had been working on.  "Thanks, guys."

"Get used to him.  He's a good little boy," Horatio assured her.  He headed in to help Speed and talk to him about what Helen had said.  "Am I adopting him officially?" he asked quietly.  Speed looked at him, frowning.  "He's on my paperwork as well, Speed, but to do that we may have to prove to the judge we have a lasting commitment."

"I haven't even gotten that far yet," he said, shaking his head quickly.  "I don't know, H."

"Then we'll think and talk.  She mentioned that plus she mentioned the insurance forms we'll have to amend."  He moaned. "He can go on both of ours.  She also gave me the name of some pediatricians."  He nodded, accepting that.  "She said we're not the first couple that've been to see her because of that."  He handed over the stubs.  "I deposited them both."

"Thanks."  He stole a kiss.  "Slower than this.  One small shock at a time, Horatio."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Thanks."  He took another kiss. "Cereal?"  Horatio handed it over. "Thanks, babe."  He put it up and looked at the fridge and freezer.  "Salads?"

"I can do lunch.  You and Aiden probably need to talk."  He nodded, surrendering the kitchen to him while he went to chat with his baby's mother.  With that thought came the thought that he's not usually that hip and he felt like he should be putting on more jewelry.  He shook his head quickly.  He didn't want to feel like some cheap gansta thug rapper.


Aiden walked out to join Speed and Horatio later that night on the porch.  "He's a good little boy," she said before sitting down.

"He is," Horatio agreed happily. "He's easily satisfied as well."  Speed nodded that he agreed and it was a good thing.  He smiled at her.  "We can draw up the official paperwork whenever you're ready, Aiden."  She pulled some out of her pocket and handed them over.  "Thank you."  He looked it over and nodded.  "More than fair.  Speed?"  He took them to look over then his lover's pen to sign, letting him have them back.  He signed and gave them back to her.  She signed and put the pen back into his pocket for him and the papers went back into her back pocket again.  "So, it's settled."

"It is, but Mac wanted to see the little booger up close.  The Chief wouldn't give him the time off to come down so he wanted to know if you three could come up.  Besides, it'd make Flack quit bouncing."

"We do have a few more weeks of leave," Horatio admitted.  "We'll see what we can do."  She smiled at that.  "How are things up there?"

"Complicated."  They both nodded at that.  "How about down here?"

"The usual but Eric and Calleigh are borrowing a tech to replace us for a few days," Speed offered.  She smiled at that.  "It's kind of necessary."  He heard the sniffle without the baby monitor and sighed, getting up to handle it.  "Another nightmare?" he asked.  He stroked his stomach and the baby calmed down, going back to sleep.  He started the mobile they had chosen, watching as it spun and played quiet music, plus let out a small light onto the walls.  He turned that in the direction Xander's head was pointing then snuck back out.  "I started the mobile."

"That's fine," Horatio agreed.  "That's why we got that one."  Aiden grinned at that.  "He does seem to have nightmares."

"I'm guessing some babies do."  She leaned more on the table.  "So, would you two like a full day off just being boyfriends?  I can probably handle it and I can call Eric or someone for advice if I can't."  They both smiled and nodded.  "Good, go get massages or something.  Speaking of, go be noisy in bed, guys.  Not like I mind."  They headed off and she went to watch her son sleep.  He was precious.  It was making her ache in a few different ways.  She'd definitely be cuddling him when he woke up.  She was going to have to fight herself not to bring him home.  She smelled a really nasty stench and grimaced, waiting until he sighed in pleasure before getting up to change him.  No, she didn't want to bring him home anymore.  Not really.  Not when he laid loads like that.


Aiden walked back into work, pushing her sunglasses up onto her hair.  "Where's everyone?" she asked Stella when she ran into her.

"Morning briefing, why?"

"I brought someone with me."  She nodded back at Speed and Horatio, plus the baby.  Stella squealed and came over to see him.  She grinned.  "Come on, it's morning briefing."  They took the baby carrier from her but she undid the baby and walked him off cooing at him.  "So you'll babysit if he has to come up due ta danger, right, Stel?" she teased.

"Of course I will!"  She walked in and the guys all smiled at her.  "He's up for a visit."  She sat down next to Mac, letting him see the baby.  To her surprise he took him from her and sat down to hold him.  "You look good like that."

"He's a good boy.  Hi, guys."

"Hi, Mac.  You said you wanted a visit," Speed offered.  "Someone call the other fussy, bouncy ones."  Danny did that and stole the baby to look at, grinning at him.

"Watch out, he ate about ten minutes ago," Horatio warned, putting the carrier down.  Then he rubbed his arms.  "Those are much too heavy."

"Wait until he's older," Stella offered with a grin.  "I know mothers who use those until their kids are nine and ten months old."  They both shuddered at that.  She stole the baby back.  "Hi, Xander."  He cooed and leaned forward to suck on her cheek.  "Such a good boy and you already have good taste too."

Mac laughed.  "If you want one of those, let me know when you have to go on leave, Stella."  She gave him a horrified look so he took the baby.  At least until Don jogged in and stole him to coo and nuzzle noses with.  "I can hold him."

"You've already had a turn," Don complained.  "I just got here."  He grinned and the baby beamed back.  "You're obviously a happy baby, Xander.  Did you love the mommy?"

"He just tried to eat Stella," Danny teased.  Sheldon leaned in.  "Yes, they're here."

"I can see that."  He came in and grinned at the baby.  "Hi, Xander."  Xander squealed and batted at him.  "I'm Uncle Sheldon.  You'll probably get to see me for the awkward questions the parents can't answer."  He took him to hold.  "Sorry if I'm a bit chilly.  The morgue's chilly today."  He sat down to carefully hold him.  "You're very tiny."

"He's only eight weeks old," Horatio offered.  Sheldon smiled at him.  "Yes, we came too."  He handed Mac a folder.  "From our labs.  They're apparently yours and we can't get anyone to notify them."

"I'll send someone to do it today," he agreed, looking it over.  Don stole the baby back, making everyone smile.  "You'll be a good uncle, Don."

"Yeah, well, I'm practicing for the some day when my Ma finally wins the argument and sets me up with a nice girl."

"Stella's got baby envy," Aiden teased.

Don looked at her.  "Nah, Aiden.  If it's my baby, it'll be my wife's baby too.  I'm not one of the modern thugs with a baby's momma somewhere."

"I had that thought the other day myself," Horatio admitted.  "Decided I'd look stupid in the jewelry."  Speed snickered, leaning on Aiden's shoulder to laugh.  "I would."

"You need more sleep," Aiden said with a grin.  She saw the face and grimaced.  "Again, son?"  Don gave the baby the most comical look and handed him to Mac since he clearly wanted the baby back.

"I'm not scared of diapers," Mac assured him. "I have a niece who was just older than you when I saw her."  He took the diaper bag and went to change him, with some help from Hawkes.

"How long are you guys in for?" Stella asked.

"Two days," Speed offered with a grin.  "That way Aiden can easily give up the fussing and get back to work."

"We'll make sure she's got plenty of time off to come down and see him," Don promised with a grin.  Danny nodded at that.  "Can we have him now and then too?"

"She's allowed to bring him up for short periods of time and if we're in danger he's coming up," Horatio agreed.  That got mass smiles from everyone.  Mac and the baby came back in with Sheldon right behind him.  He took his son to hold, making him coo happily.  "Feel better, son?"

"Much after he tried to anoint Mac," Sheldon teased.  Danny pouted so Horatio gave him the baby back, letting him hold him.  "Some day I'll have one of those."

"And you'll be the fussiest father ever," Aiden assured him.  "The baby'll be in all those baby and daddy classes, learning languages at three, all that stuff."

Sheldon smirked at her.  "I'll accept that compliment happily, Aiden, because I know my kid will also play and be happy and safe."

"Sure," she agreed, nodding.  "I'm sure he will.  I hope this one will."

"He will be," Horatio assured her.   "We're not going to be pushy parents about languages, sports, and those things."  Speed looked at him.  "At least I'm not."

"I'd like for him to try to see if he likes them," he offered.

"That's what gym class is for in school," Don reminded him.

"True," Speed agreed.  He looked at the nearly asleep son then at Mac.  "Sorry we interrupted, Stella insisted when we brought Aiden back."

"That's fine.  He's a good livening up.  We could use that around here."  He smiled at the baby.  "Where are you two staying?"

Horatio smiled.  "The Regal.  It's a vacation after all."  He put back on his sunglasses and took the baby back.  "You can come play tonight," he said to ease the mass pouting.  "Change all the diapers you want, you can even feed him if you want."  He hitched him back into the carrier.  "We'll see you guys tonight."  He walked out with the baby, smiling at the curious people.  "Aiden's son," he explained.

Speed walked out shaking his head, muttering about drama queens.  The shocked officer gave him a look.  "Yes, that's my son.  What?"  He squeaked and sat down suddenly.  Speed walked off much happier.  That was a good reaction to his son.  Maybe he'd grow up to be president, a respected and worthy one.  Or maybe a rockstar, who could tell.  He'd be happy as long as he wasn't a criminal.  He got the baby hitched into the back since he had less trouble than Horatio did, then slid in to ride on the passenger's side.  "Did I tell you he squealed the whole bike ride?"

"You did and I heard."  He started the car, checking the baby before heading out to their hotel so they could all take a nap.  It was going to become pertinent soon.  "I'm still wondering why he won't sleep through the night."

"He'll learn, H.  We'll deal with it."  That got a nod and he checked the very quiet baby.  "What?  Pouting already?  You'll see them tonight."  The baby gave him a tired sounding coo.  "Sleep, son.  We'll carry you upstairs in a few minutes."  He turned back around.  "So, this is a nice place?"

"Very nice.  In room hottub nice."  Speed grinned at that.  "This is a vacation."

"It is," he agreed.  "That's what naps are for."

"Indeed it is."


Horatio woke up with a moan the next morning, grabbing his cellphone.  "Horatio."  He listened, then stiffened.  "Anyone else hurt, Calleigh?  We'll be flying out tonight.  Keep me informed."  He hung up and looked back at Speed.  "Virginia got shot during questioning a suspect in the field," he said quietly.

"Damn it."

"Definitely."  He patted him on the foot.  "Calleigh said she had a small graze but otherwise she's fine.  Kidnaping case.  They've already claimed Virginia's body."  Speed covered his face, then sat up.  "We're flying back tonight. We'll go in and help if they need us to."  Speed nodded at that.  "He can sit in his carrier and play with his toes."

"Sure.  We can do that," he agreed.  He went to check on the baby, finding a note in the crib.  "Horatio?"  He walked out to look at the note.  "Mac's sneakier than we thought."

"He is."  He read the short 'we picked him up for lunch' note then shook his head.  "We can yell at him later.  He should have at least woken us up."

"Talk about stealth training," Speed said dryly.  He walked toward the bathroom, knowing that Horatio's head was tilting slightly to the left while he watched him walk.  "Shower?" he asked with a wicked smirk, not having to turn around.

"Delighted to."  He followed, going to molest his lover for a bit longer.  They trusted Mac to protect their kid.  He was a good babysitter.  "If he ever wants to retire, we can hire him as the nanny."

Speed cackled. "I won't tell him you said that," he said, patting him on the cheek.  "I really won't."  Horatio kissed him and adjusted the water, winning that daily argument by the simple expedient of pushing Speed under the spray and following his lips so he didn't have the air to complain.


Horatio and Speed walked back into the station very late that night, shaking his head at the guard.  "Anyone in?"

"Delko," the receptionist said.  She watched them walk off, this time Speed had the carrier.  It was good to see fathers so involved but in the lab?

Horatio walked into the lab Eric was working in.  "What happened?"

He looked confused.  "They snuck out of the back room.  Why are you here?"

"Do you need us?" Speed asked patiently.

"Could but...."  He spotted the baby.  "He shouldn't be here."

"Brief us, go take a nap in my office with him, Eric."  Eric nodded and let them see what he was doing then he went to take the baby upstairs so he could get some rest.  Horatio slid out of his suitcoat and into a labcoat so he could start the real work.  Speed mirrored him on the other side of the table.  They had a child to find and someone to find so they would have some answers about why a CSI had been shot.

Speed looked at him.  "If we had been here, it probably would've been us," Speed said quietly.  Horatio looked at him then nodded.  That was true, he wouldn't have sent the others to do anything on that case.  "I'm a bit freaked."

"Is your gun clean?"

"You watched me."

"And I'll be watching you again tonight too," he assured him.  He got back to work.  Speed sighed but did the same.  "We would have survived, Speed.  I'm faster on the draw than Calleigh is and Virginia barely made qualifications.  You do better than that."

"Not by much."

"We'll work on it.  We have a reason to now."  Speed nodded, agreeing to that idea.  Horatio frowned at something.  "That's interesting."  He let Speed see the result, getting a hum of curiosity as well.  "Let's work on that idea."  They both got to work on that idea.  Though they both looked up when the baby cried.  It stopped after a minute so they got back to work.  Eric was an experienced uncle.  He could handle nightmares, diapers, and feedings if he got starved.


As always, the first Christmas came, and Speed was staring at the rows of toys.  Many too many toys to choose from.  He knew Horatio was going with some practical and cute gifts.  He knew what Aiden was getting the poor little guy.  But what did he want his six-month- old son to have?

"You should get your child the Tickle Me Elmo," one mother chastised.  "That should be apparent."

Speed looked at her.  "My son's only six-months-old.  By the time he's ready to appreciate one there'll be six more versions of them.  If he even likes them because I'm finding them pretty useless as toys."  Usually, mothers helped him when he looked that clueless.

"It's still the present to have this year," she said firmly.  "You're depriving him of a great present!"

He gave her a dirty, scathing look.  "Lady, my son's only into fuzzy things he can cuddle.  He doesn't even like Sesame Street yet.  He has no idea who Elmo is, why you'd want to touch him, or hear his high-pitched giggles.  His thing is more cuddleable stuffed animals at his age.  Tactilly helpful toys.  But thanks for the help.  Do you mind picking something in his actual age range?"

"He'll be deprived!"

"No, he's not deprived of anything except the stupidity surrounding being a socially climbing asshole who no one really cares about the mass-created opinion of.  My son's going to be the one blowing the grade curves in your kids classes in a few years."  She stomped off.  He shook his head.

Another mother giggled.  "Her child is probably just like her.  It's a pity."  Speed looked over and nodded.  "How old?"

"Six months.  His favorite toy right now is a stuffed elephant.  I really should get another one because his is getting kind of thin after the washings."  He found one and that went into his cart.

"They really should separate the age groups better," she admitted.  "But look at the fabric books.  Some of them are tactile oriented and some are picture oriented.  You could also start to get him moving things that he can chase.  Balls.  A walker."  He grinned and hugged her, going into that section to raid it.  Some of the picture books, a walker, a huge colorful ball.  He found a few things that made him stare again, one his head tipped to the side since the box was.  He took a picture with his phone and sent it to Horatio, who sent back a very simple 'no'.  So he passed it by and went to look at the other 'baby' toys.  He found one rattling, jiggling, soft jack looking toy and got it in case his boy liked it, then found him a few other stuffed friends.  That and gift certificates for Eric's family and Alexx's family were good enough for him.  That way the kids could get what *they* wanted because he realized he had no idea how to shop for a child.  He had figured that out long ago but he usually tried harder.  Right now, he hated this store, the music it was playing, and he wanted out.  He went to check out, avoiding getting behind the woman who thought his son was deprived and found a very understanding, motherly looking cashier headed his line.  "Hi."

"Awww, first Christmas?"  He grinned and nodded.  "Good choices."  He beamed at that.  "How much did you want on the gift cards?"

"Fifty each?"

She nodded, running them through.  He had to use his credit card, he had no idea how expensive a walker was, but that was fine.  It was the first Christmas after all.  "You also might want to put velvet bows and things.  Babies in the pre-toddler age like to eat the wrapping paper but they also like to play with the bows and the bottom layers of the tree."

"Thank you.  He's six months."  She grinned back and let him sign his slip.  "One woman was very helpful even if the other one did want me to give him an age inappropriate toy and considers him deprived if he doesn't get it."

"Some parents are like that.  Their kids are also in beauty pageants at six."

He shuddered and handed the slip back, then took his bags to put back into the cart, heading out to his car.  He stuffed them into the back of the hummer and put the cart where it was supposed to go, heading home in it.  He smiled when his son squealed.  "Hi, Xander."  He gave him a cuddle, grinning at the housekeeper.  "Has he been good?"

"He's been excellent.  I did do some patching work on his friend while he napped."

"I got him a second one," he admitted quietly, making her smile.  "Thank you.  I'm home if you wanted to go home early."  She patted him on the back, leaving them alone.  "You are a very lucky little boy, son, mostly because you don't have a stupid bitch for a mother, but you're a very lucky little boy."  Xander smiled at him.  "You are. You also have a very good friend."  He went to get him one of his new stuffed friends, making his son beam and grab him to chew on the ear of.  "That's a good way to greet new friends," he agreed happily, moving to put everything else up.  The walker went into the study.  Then he settled in to play with him.  He could wrap presents later.  Bonding was more important than wrapping presents, but he did send a text message to Horatio about wrapping paper would get eaten and someone suggested fuzzy bows.


Horatio looked at the text message and smiled then at Eric since they were on the same scene.  "Kids eat wrapping paper?"

"Yup," he said, smirking and nodding.  "Only one of my nephews didn't and that's because his mother got him some edible, fruit scented paper."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Also, fuzzy bows are cute.  They'll play with those for weeks on end.  And remember, even crawling kids can reach twice their height somehow when it's a sparkly, delicate, or breakable ornament."

Horatio nodded, looking solemn.  "We're putting up the tree this weekend."  He got back to work.  At least until he got a page from the office.  "What now?" he complained, looking at it.  "I'm needed back at the office, Eric."

"Go ahead.  I've got the evidence."  He took the bag Horatio had just sealed and watched him walk off.

Horatio didn't quite speed back to the office but he figured it was probably important since it had come from Frank.  "What?" he asked, seeing him on the front stairs.

"Social Worker," he said blandly.

"The one who gave him to us?"

"No.  Different one.   This is a nice, normal, amused sounding social worker."

"Wonderful," he said flatly, heading in to his office.  Frank would've stashed her there.  He walked in.  "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Well, Lieutenant, someone kindly reported that your son was being deprived of things all children consider necessary and normal, plus the joy of the holidays."

He stared for a second then burst out laughing.  "Excuse me?"

"I didn't figure it was a true problem but I do have to follow up complaints like that."  He nodded.  "Now, where is your son right now?"

"Home with the housekeeper or possibly his other father."

"All right.  Can we check?"

Horatio dialed Speed, putting him on speaker.  "We have a social worker here why?"

Speed snickered.  "Some woman in the store decided I was depriving him by not buying him one of those stupid Tickle Me Elmo dolls even though he's not old enough for them yet.  We got turned in for that?"

"You did," she agreed, moving closer.  "You're not depriving him of a holiday?"

"No, just a mass marketed toy that's outside of his age range and understanding.  Oh, Horatio, I got him a walker, it's in your office."

"Thank you, Speed.  How is he?"

"Gumming his new stuffed friend's ear while clutching his stuffed elephant in his other hand."

"That's talented for that age," the social worker assured him.  "What other sort of presents did you give him?"

"A large ball, a few new stuffed friends, some fabric books that had different textures and colors.  A walker.  This jiggling, rattling jack thing that he's staring at to make sure it won't eat him."

She smiled. "That sounds more than reasonable.  Is your tree up yet?"

"This weekend," Horatio told her. "We've been a bit busy with the usual holiday slayings."

"The father works here?" she asked.

"I'm his second-in-command," Speed agreed.  "We keep home and work separate most of the time."

"That's wonderful.  I noticed there wasn't any pictures of him in here."

"That way no one can see them and go after him," Horatio agreed.  He pulled one out of his desk.  "Here, his last big family dinner.  Someone gave him spaghetti."  She smiled at the messy little boy.  "He's fully healthy and I can give you his pediatrician's name if you want."

"That's fine."  She handed it back.  "It sounds like he's fine."  Over the speaker a baby squealed and babbled.  She laughed.  "Hello, dear.  Are you a happy baby?"  The baby squealed again then the phone was removed.  "Thank you, guys.  I had to check, those are the rules."  Horatio nodded.  "Have fun and watch out for the type of bows.  Some babies have separated some out and tried to swallow them."

"That's fine," Horatio agreed.  "We will."  He shook her hand.  "At least it was an easy and soothing visit."

"It was.  Thank you, gentlemen.  Happy holidays."  She walked out.

Horatio sat down, looking at the picture.  "She thought he was deprived because he wasn't getting one of those stupid, giggling things?"

"Yup.  Nearly shrieked at me in the store.  I told her my son didn't need that, he'd be blowing the grade curve so therefore he needed smarter toys."  Horatio smiled and chuckled.  "He's fine.  He just batted at me with the new friend, but his old one is carefully under his armpit.  Also, I got him a new one just in case. Rachel had to do some stitching."

"We need to quit washing him so much," Horatio agreed.  "We'll keep the new one back for a while."

"Sure.  The walker's in your office so don't trip over it when you get home."

"I won't.  I'll be home in a few hours."  He hung up and put the picture back, looking over to find Alexx in his doorway.  "Some woman turned him in for not buying the baby a Tickle Me Elmo doll.  Said he was *deprived* if he didn't get one."

"Women like that have kids who end up on milk cartons after they run away from the unrealistic parents," she assured him.  "Unless that's what your baby truly wants.  He good?"

"He's fine."  He smiled.  "Speed did some of the holiday shopping."  She beamed back.  "So you'll probably get the usual present."

"That's more than fine," she assured him, coming in to give him a hug.  "Remember to get stuff for the tree on the way home."

"I am."   She left after handing over a report.

He smiled at it and got back to work.  Frank gave him an odd look.  "We're being mean to him and depriving him of a good Christmas because we're not getting him the newest, hot toy," he said blandly.

"Those are all for later toddlers and the school aged crowd," he said, looking confused.

"The social worker agreed with us."  He walked off shaking his head and Horatio smiled.  "We'll be home all Christmas day since Aiden will be down," he announced to his retreating back.  "Yelina, we're having dinner at my place this year."  She smiled.  "Bring Ray over, he can help clean up the wrapping paper."

"If you want.   Can I bring anything?"  He shrugged and walked off.  "I'll call Speed," she decided, doing that.  "Horatio said you're hosting the holiday dinner.  Can I bring anything?"  She smiled and made notes.  "That's fine, Speed.  We'll be there just after Mass.  Maybe noon or about one?"  She beamed.  "Wonderful."  She listened to the toy in the background.  "What is that?"  He described it and she shook her head.  "I don't know.  Ask Ray, he seems to know about those things since he's helping his lab partner a lot recently."  She smiled and hung up, working on a grocery list.  She knew she had almost no food in the house.  Ray Junior was fifteen, she never did.


Mac tapped on Horatio's house door, giving him a look.  "Our lab's being sprayed this weekend."  Horatio smiled and let everyone inside.  "Before you say anything, we're staying at a very nice hotel uptown."

"Thank you.  We only have the one guest room.  Sheldon looks like he cuddles."

Mac smiled.  "He does."  He looked outside and waved.  "The baby here?"

"Out for a ride with Dad.  He just got done with a nasty case."  That got a smile and everyone else piled in.  "They'll be back in a few minutes.  Speed's out for a ride with the baby."

"He put a baby seat on the Ducatti?" Stella asked.

"No, Xander's in a stomach snuggler under his leather jacket," Horatio admitted, giving her a hug.  "He's got his own leather jacket and baby helmet on too."  She giggled at that.  "Pile in, people.  Make yourself at home."  Don came in dragging a large bag.  "That is a lot of toys."

"Yup, all for our nephew," Don said proudly, settling in to put things under the tree with Sheldon's help.  Aiden bounced outside when she heard the bike pull in, going to repossess her son.  She brought him back in, making them all smile and take pictures of him in his cool baby jacket and helmet, but pantless.  "Are you gonna be a streaker?" Don cooed, taking him.  "We got you stuff so you could play," he teased, playing with his belly.  Xander squealed from behind his helmet.  The others took another picture then Don got him out of it, letting him settle in his lap while Sheldon got the rest of the presents.

"Did we shut down the city?" Speed asked as he walked in.  He shut the door.  "Don, watch out, he nearly crapped a hole through the diaper earlier.  Something Rachel fed him gave him massive gas."

"It happens to all of us," he said happily, beaming at the baby.  "Hi, Xander."  He patted him and cooed.  "That's right, I need to have more people cooing over me."  He handed him a package, getting a confused look as the baby stared at it.  He banged it a few times against his leg.  Don opened it and the baby caught the open part, ripping it more.  Everyone clapped and took more pictures.  He felt a fuzzy thing and patted it so Don finished opening it for him and let him have it.  He squealed and beat him with it then gnawed on its nose.  "Awww."

"My turn," Stella complained, taking the baby to hold.  She had tied her hair back, she knew about fingers in her curls.  "Do you like Uncle Sheldon's furry friend the puppy dog?"

Xander beamed at her and went back to chewing on his new friend's nose.

Horatio smiled. "He'll be getting a lot of new friends this time," he pointed out.  "We'll be able to take one of those pictures of him surrounded by furry new friends."

Aiden grinned.  "Not much in the itty bitty baby section," she complained.  "Can I help?"

"Of course."  She went to help Speed get drinks and make more coffee.  He looked at Mac.  "You can sit and not stand guard."

"I can," he agreed, taking off his jacket and getting down to sit beside Stella.  Danny was watching and waiting to pounce from the couch so it was good.  "How has he been?"

"Pretty good.  A few small fevers for almost no reason.  Probably related to his teething according to Alexx and Eric's mother.  Someone turned Speed in to CPS for not giving him a hot new toy that the mother wanted to get her own child and probably couldn't."  Everyone stared at him.  He nodded.  "She made sure he was going to have a holiday with appropriate presents and then went back to the office."

"That's good," Danny agreed happily.  He snatched the baby when Mac reached up, smiling at him.  "Hi, Xander."  Xander beamed at him and patted him too.  "Thank you, baby boy.  I need the blessin' to get a good woman so I can have one of you, huh?"

"Maybe Aiden wants to give him a baby brother or sister," Stella teased.

Aiden came out of the kitchen, giving her a look.  "No.  Hell no."  She went back into the kitchen shaking her head.  Speed gave her a hug and it was good again.  Horatio snickered at that, shaking his head.  "Move, studly.  I've got the coffee stuff."  Horatio got out of the way, letting her bring it out and the guys help themselves.  She picked up her son, sitting down halfway between Danny and Mac.  The other fussy uncles could gather around.  Xander snuggled into her shoulder, still gnawing on his new friend's nose but he was content and cuddly now, he even yawned a few times.  Then she heard the fart.  "Eww."

"Rachel fed him something that gave him gas," Horatio excused, taking him to change his diaper.  Just in case.

Speed came in to take him once he was dressed again, letting Mac have him this time.  So when the sound turned into the fury of the upset tummy, he got covered.  Mac gently took him into the bathroom with him while Stella went to get him something clean to wear.


Alexx walked her two kids into the already full house Christmas morning, smiling at the boy among the presents.  "Someone cleaned up," she teased, picking him up to kiss him.  "Hi, Xander."  He beamed at her and sucked on her nose.  "Such a good boy.  Did people give you a zoo?"

"Put him down and watch the new trick he figured out earlier when no one realized he had lost his original friend."  She put him outside the mass of friends and watched as he crawled back in and gave them all shit-eating grins.  "Good job, son," Speed said, patting him on the head.  "Want a cookie?"  He walked off, going to get him one.  Xander crawled into Don's lap and stole the one he was nibbling to suck on, smiling at him.

"You're good," Don praised.  "I can't pull that off with anyone at my age."  He gave him a cuddle.  "Hey, kids."  They both smiled at him.  "I'm Don, I work with Xander's mommy."  They both waved shyly then went to hide with their mother and father.  He smiled at Xander.  "I guess we're just too handsome for them to do more than blush and hide from, huh, kid?"  Alexx swatted him on her way past.  "I am."

"You are," she agreed, "but the baby's cuter."

"Of course, he's a baby," Don agreed.  Mac snuck over and stole Xander, handing him another cookie so he'd settle in on him for a while.  Xander fell asleep on him, very content, hand fisted in Mac's t-shirt.  "Huh, we wore him out already."

"It was all the cookies," Aiden teased.  Danny and Sheldon came in from their trip to the store for Speed.  "Any more bags?"  Danny nodded so she went to go get them, kicking the door shut on her way into the kitchen.  Speed grinned at her.  "He's nappin' on Mac again."

"He loves his Mac pillow," Danny said with a grin.  He went to check on Stella, who was taking a real nap.  She hadn't gotten any sleep last night after some bad shrimp at a bar.  She was starting to wake up so he went to get her some coffee, handing it over.  "The baby's on Mac's lap."

"I'll go steal him in a few," she agreed, heading for the bathroom.  She came out and found Eric there as well.  "No nieces and nephews?"

"The house would be packed," he joked.  "So we'll take pictures and I got sent as the missionary of presents."  He handed over the box to Horatio.  "His.  Though I can see everyone decided he needed more furry friends."

Horatio smiled and nodded.  "It was the easiest choice.  Though he did learn to crawl this morning."

"He's knocked out from all the cookies," Mac said with a smile.  Xander blinked up at him.  "Uncle Eric's here, Xander."  Xander yawned and held his arms up, getting a cuddle from that uncle, making him smile.

"You're a good boy," Eric soothed, patting his back.  "You're so tired from all the excitement."  He sat down next to Mac, letting Xander grab his shirt again.  Mac smiled at him.  "He likes you."

"He does."  Xander looked up at someone, spitting at Alexx's son.  "Be nice," he chastised.

Alexx's son patted him.  "He needs more hair."  The adults all smiled and nodded.  "Hopefully he'll get more soon."  He ran off again.  "The baby spit at me."

"You did it to me, sweetie," his mother assured him.

"The baby needs more hair."

"He'll grow more soon," Horatio said with a smile.  "He'll have his daddy's hair."

"Unless he grows it out, then he'll have my hair," Aiden pointed out with a grin.  Horatio gave her a look.  "He can grow it when he's older."

"When he's older," Horatio agreed.  She chuckled and batted him on the arm then went to help Speed.  "Speed, need more help?"

"No, I'm good."

"You sure?" Horatio asked.  "Alexx is here."

"I got hugs."  He came out to get another one.  "Everything's ready but the ham."  He went back into the kitchen.  "Someone can set the tables."  Horatio nodded, letting Danny, Don, and Sheldon help with that.

Horatio gave him a hug. "You've done excellent with the expanded dinner," he said quietly.

Speed smiled.  "It's worth it to have the family down here."  He winked.  "You can help by doing dishes later."  He checked the ham, having to bend down while still being held.  Horatio gave him a squeeze, earning him a wink.  "Thanks."

"Always happy to have your back."  He carried out pitches of tea, water, and milk for the kids.  Stella came in to help with the food.  "Are you sure you should do that?"

"I'm fine.  The bad shrimp from the bar is out of my system now."  She carried out another covered dish.  Then she found the high chair and set it up next to the head of the table. Speed pulled out the ham.  "Okay, let's get everyone back over this way," Stella called.  She looked around. "Yelina and your nephew?"

Horatio looked at the clock then at her.  "Should be here within ten minutes."  That got a smile but he saw Speed page her.  "It'll be fine.  She can be a bit late."  His nephew ran in and gave him a hug.  "Hi, Ray."

"Mom's in a mood," he hissed.  Then he hid behind his other uncle.  "Can I help?"

Speed looked at him.  "What did you do?"

"I winked at a girl across church after communion."

Horatio shook his head.  Yelina strolled in and closed the door.  "He's a young man.  At least he didn't kiss her, like his father did at his age," he said in her ear.

"It's still not done in church," she pointed out.

"He's fifteen, Yelina."  Stella smiled at her.  "He could've done a lot worse than wink.  One of the girls smacked the youth minister on the rear the other night."

"True."  She smiled and came in to look at the baby, who was back asleep.  "Come on, Xander.  Let's go eat."  She put him into his highchair, making him wake up and look around, then let out a demanding noise.  "In a moment."

Horatio sat down beside him, giving him a piece of meat from the ham and potato casserole.  It was good for him to gum on.  The rest got carried out and everyone gathered around.  Calleigh ran in a few minutes late but she had a seat ready.  "How's your father?"

"A pain," she admitted.  "I was bragging on Xander and he wants a grandchild now.  I had to point out six different times I'm not married and I don't see it happening in the next two years."  Eric grinned at her.  "No Frank?"

"At his mother-in-law's," Speed reminded her.  "Horatio?"  Horatio said grace for those who did, even if Xander was humming while he chewed on the ham.  He let Mac cut into the ham since he was closer.  "Just out of the oven, guys."  Mac smiled and dug into it, cutting off pretty slices so they could be handed out.  Then the rest got passed around and they settled in to have a full family dinner.  He watched who was talking with who.  Eric was hitting on Aiden, making her giggle.  Calleigh and Don were chatting, but Danny was nearly worshiping her with his eyes.  He caught Horatio's eyes and got a grin.  "Feed him something more than ham, H."

"I'm trying.  He likes the ham."  He handed over a piece of cooked carrot.  Xander gummed it and made a face, throwing it at Eric.  "See?"

Eric looked at him, picking the carrot out of his ear.  "Kid, that's not nice."  He used his roll plate to put some mashed potatoes and some bean casserole on.  Then he handed it over.  "There, eat.  Let him play, Horatio."

"You'll get more in your hair," Horatio warned.  Xander stuck his fist into the beans then sucked it off.  "That's fine, you can eat that, son."  He dug into his own lunch, dodging a bean getting thrown at him.  "What?"

"I think he likes it when people pay attention to him," Calleigh said, looking at the boy.  "I promise, you're a good boy.  Eat for us and then we'll play and cuddle, Xander."  Xander stuck his face in the plate to eat from it.  "Okay, that works too."  Everyone laughed and Ray got a spoon for his uncle, shaking his head.   He shifted with his mother, getting next to the baby so he could help feed him.  "You're so good," Calleigh offered.

"My lab partner has twins and mono at the moment," Ray offered, giving her a look.  "I've learned."  The table all nodded at that wisdom.

"He's an expensive sitter but he's a good one and Xander loves him," Horatio agreed, smiling at his nephew.  Ray just grinned.  "I know, things are getting expensive in your life.  Try to get him to eat some of the more solid stuff?"  Ray spooned some of the other veggies in and let him have some.  That got a better response and Eric only got one bean thrown at him, making him shudder and wipe it off his ear.  "Sorry, Eric."

"That's okay."

"At least he knows who he can pick on," Speed offered with a grin.  The others laughed.  "Like daddy like son."

Eric looked at him.  "Next dumpster case is yours, buddy, thanks."

Horatio snickered.  "We'll see."  Calleigh giggled, leaning on Don's arm.  He patted her and helped her sit upright again and he noticed Danny looked a bit happier.  "You know, sometime soon he'll be running up the halls when he comes to visit the New York lab."

"He'll squeal the whole way," Sheldon agreed happily.  "Because he knows at the end is Mac to nap on and cookies from Don's desk."  The two in question grinned at that.  "Guys, his tray's wobbling."

Ray got it adjusted and it quit.  "No escaping. You can escape to cuddle the pretty ones later, cousin."  Xander beamed at him and babbled.  "Good boy!  Now, let's eat."

"You eat too," his mother reminded him.

"Oh, I won't forget," he promised dryly.  He ate a bite and Xander whimpered.  So he fed him a bite of what he was eating, making him a happy boy.

"We should also post a warning on the door," Speed pointed out.  "He learned how to crawl this morning from frustration."

"And immediately went to steal cookies from Don once he had his elephant friend," Danny teased.

"He did," Don agreed. "He's got good taste in who he sucks up to."

Calleigh looked at him.  "You're nearly as bad as Eric."  He just beamed at that.  She shook her head, looking at Stella.  "Is he always like that?"

"Don's still sure he's as cute as Xander because the tawdry women check his butt out," Stella told him.  Aiden and Danny both snickered and leaned on each other for that one.

"Please!  I get more than the nasty women.  I get plenty of women who check me out.  Eric and the others should get so lucky."

Eric looked at him.  "I've got my own hunting grounds, but thanks for the invite, Don.   If I came up, they'd all be too tired to check you out."

Calleigh swatted him.  "Quit!"

"Tell his mother he's been seeing triplets again," Alexx offered with a smirk for Eric.  Who shuddered.

"Never mind, he's worse than I am," Don offered.   "I haven't done twins since college and my dad about kicked my butt across campus when he found out."

"My father threatened to kill two of them and make me marry the last one," Eric offered. "Momma made him."

"That's because she would've killed all three," Alexx assured him.  Eric beamed and nodded, getting another bean in the ear.  "Even he knows you're only supposed to have *one* at a time."

"I guess he doesn't like the white beans," Ray Junior said with a grin.  "Sorry, Eric."

"Better that than the stomach of doom you guys called my mother about," he joked back.

"I had to do laundry," Mac agreed.  "Three times."

"But he loves you," Sheldon teased.

Mac looked at him.  "You know, I hear the siren's call of dumpster duty, Sheldon."

"Not like I took the pictures, Mac," he shot back with a smirk.  Xander's next missile hit him.  "Hi, Xander."  He grinned at him and the baby beamed back, going back to eating.  "Good boy!"

"Maybe he will be president since he likes to be the center of attention," Speed said happily, beaming at his son before he tried to hit him and got someone else.  "Eat, Xander."  Xander dug in and ate another bite from his fist.  "Good boy!"

Xander cooed and reached over his messy hand to pet his other father's hair, earning a head shake from Horatio.

"Awww, look, he learned how to share already," Aiden teased.

"He does it very well," Horatio agreed, earning some smirks when Xander did it again. "Thank you, son.  I needed the petting.  Now, eat for us please?"  Xander beamed and dug in again.  He saw Speed snickering.  "Want to trade places for a while, Speed?"

"No thanks.  I'm having fun watching him pet you."  He grinned back.  "It's clear he loves you."

Alexx looked down at him.  "Remember, he'll do it to you someday, then he can retaliate."

"I know, but that'll be in a while.  I can enjoy it today."  Xander threw some mashed potatoes at the window.  "And help clean it up later," he promised at Horatio's look.  He looked around the laughing adults.  "We should probably start planning his birthday soon," he noted.  "Summer's always horrible for us."

Mac nodded.  "He could come up for his birthday."

"We might be able to swing that, have his party down here first and then fly up," Horatio offered.  His team all nodded at that.  "What are they spraying for?"

"The derelict buildings up the street are being torn down," Don offered. "So all the critters in them have migrated and proclaimed citizenship in the station.  Holding got overrun with rats."  They all moaned at that.

"They had to tent the whole building and pulled out the strongest stuff they could," Danny agreed.  "Even humans would be killed by this stuff so we're hoping it'll kill the rats too."

"New York rats can be superhuman," Stella agreed.

"Hey, at least you guys don't have alligators coming up through the toilets," Calleigh offered.  "We have at least two of those a year."

"I got to stitch the last one," Alexx agreed, making her husband giggle at her.  "I did!  I did not want to see that pasty butt either."

"At least I haven't been bitten yet," Eric teased.

She looked at him.  "No, they come for you when you're wearing latex, sugar."

"Does that mean he's fixed himself so he doesn't have to use the other good stuff with his ladies?" Ray Junior asked.  His mother dropped her fork and moaned, holding her head.  Eric and Alexx both stared in shock but Speed let out this high-pitched giggle and nearly fell out of his seat, leaning on Mac's arm.

"Eat more, nephew, you're clearly starving," Horatio ordered patiently.  Ray blushed but dug into his food, making Xander complain and throw things at Eric again, making him sit up.  Calleigh and Aiden both started to giggle too.  The others slowly blended in.  Horatio shook his head, giving his nephew a look, getting a small shrug back.  "Behave," he mouthed.  "Don't teach Xander that stuff."

"Not until he's ready," he promised, stuffing his mouth then the baby's mouth.  Everyone got seconds and changed the subject so Eric could quit blushing.  At least until he got hit with more food missiles.  "Maybe Xander likes Eric," Ray Junior teased.

Eric looked at him.  "Sorry, I'm still straight.  Very straight.  Never even wondered, Ray.  But thanks for the thought.  If he does turn out gay, we'll gladly help him pick out good boys to date.  That way you can't set him up with boy toys."

Ray looked at him.  "What makes you think I know about toys, Eric?  I'm not quite that old or that experienced yet."  His mother walked off to hide in the bathroom and cry for a few minutes.  "Sorry, mom.  Oh, hey, I have a girlfriend and she's very sweet," he announced.  "I can't do more than kiss her and hold her hand, but she's very sweet."

"We'll be talking later, nephew," Horatio assured him blandly, eating another bite then stuffing his son's mouth.  Then Ray's mouth before Xander learned bad habits off his cousin.

"At least you two won't let Xander turn into Eric for real," Calleigh offered.  "He'll date real women who don't stalk him."

"I only had one of those," Eric complained.  Yelina came back out and sat down.

Ray looked down at him.  "Then I definitely won't be taking dating tips from you, man.  I don't need that and my mother would kill me."

His mother stared at him, then nodded.  "Tonight good for you, son?"

"Not really.  I've got a history test the day I get back, Mom."

"If you go back," his mother reminded him.

He smiled sweetly.  "Then you'll never be a grandmother.  You'll have to have another baby and your mother's still pressuring you so she'd win faster."  His mother glared at him.  "She is!"

Horatio stuck another fork full of food in his nephew's mouth.  "Shut up, Ray.  Now.  Before she has to start asking for donated samples."  He ate a bite and fed his son one.  Yelina glared at him.  "I could've suggested Rick," he offered.  She shook her head, digging in again.

"Not even Mom or Calleigh's genes could make that a pretty baby, Uncle H," Ray Junior protested.  "Don't curse my future sister to being so ugly.  Suggest one of the cute guys down the table so it'll be a happy, smart, pretty baby."

"Thanks for the compliment, kiddo," Don said with a grin.  "See, I knew I was pretty."

Calleigh patted him on the hand.  "It's all right.  Some day some woman will make you calm down and worship her properly, Don."  Danny snickered at that.  "You too, dear."

"That's Mr.-I-don't-cuddle," Don teased.  "He'll never settle down because women like cuddles."

Danny looked at him.  "I nearly settled down once, thanks anyway."  He stuffed his mouth while all his coworkers stared at him.  "Long time ago."

"Should we watch out for her to come in and scream at you?" Sheldon teased.

"No, she can't."

"I'm sorry," he sighed, patting him on the arm.

"Nah, not for that.  Her dad decided my dad was scum so he went after her with a knife.  She got him back."  He shrugged.  "She left when they decided it was self defense.  She was sweet, always baking coffee cakes and things.  Made a really good strudel too."

"How old were you?" Stella asked.

"Sophomore in college."

"Long time ago," she decided.  "We'll help you find someone just as nice," she promised, smiling at him.  He shrugged and ate another bite.  Xander threw stuff at him, hitting him and Sheldon.   "Hey!" she complained.  Xander cackled and threw things at her instead. "Someone needs a nap."

"He needs a bath first," Horatio admitted, taking away the food from him since he was only playing.  He handed him one of the new, plastic toys and let him bang it and suck on it all he wanted.  "Eric, you missed a few pieces," he offered.  Eric went to clean up his ear and hair, making the others smile but Xander fussed.  Horatio let him down once he had gotten the dish cloth to clean his hands and face off, watching him crawl after Eric to torment him some more.  He shook his head but Aiden cackled.  "Does he get that from you?"

"You always torment and pick on the ones you like," she agreed happily.  Eric yelped then carried out the baby a minute later, going back to the bathroom.  No one mentioned anything about his belt being undone.  "You're very helpful, son.  Help Auntie Yelina remember what babies are like so she gives her boy another one."  He went to suck up to his auntie when she pointed.

Yelina pulled him into her lap, letting him steal some of her food.  Though she did move him the first time some of it went down her shirt.  "Thank you, Xander.  I needed that scented."

Her son looked down at her and opened his mouth but Horatio fed him another bite of ham then ate one himself, cracking some people up.


Later that night, Horatio stepped out of the shower with the baby, handing him off to his father.  "Here, now we're both food free.  How he got some in the crack of his butt I'm not sure."  He got to work drying his hair, smiling when Speed gave him a gentle kiss.  The baby got pulled out to his room to be put into a diaper and clothes, then put down with his elephant.  Aiden was already crashed after the party and the clean-up.  Horatio came out and found Speed stretched naked across the bed, the door closed and locked, and the lube blatantly out on the bedside table.  "Need another present?" he teased.

"Seeing him picking on Eric was one of the best ever," he teased back, spreading his legs, "but I could use another one.  I'm greedy that way."  Horatio smirked and dropped his towel, coming over to play with him.  Aiden was in there with him when he started to fuss so they ignored it.  Horatio was buried in his boy when someone knocked.  "Busy!" Speed called.

"Sure."  Aiden walked off with the fussy one again, heading outside.  She looked at him.  "You've got bad timing, kiddo.  They need ta cuddle too."  She sat down to cuddle him, falling back asleep out there with him.  It was safe enough here on the porch.  Hopefully.


Horatio woke up in the morning, frowning at the lack of noise from the baby monitor.  No snoring, no cooing, no screaming.  He got up and grabbed his robe, heading over to look, but something on his porch made him pause and head that way.  The dog sitting out there staring at their table wasn't that usual.  Then again, the neighborhood stray loved to come clean up any mess they left.  This time he was sitting guard on something.  He opened the door and the dog whimpered.  He glanced where he was staring then smiled.  "Good boy," he said quietly, letting the dog sniff his hand then petting him gently.  "Very good boy.  Let me get you something to eat."  He went to do that, the dog following him into the kitchen.  He smiled and put down the food for him, smiling as Speed walked out looking confused.  "Don't yell."

"Isn't that the neighborhood vacuum?"

"Yes, but he's a good boy today."

"Why?"  Horatio nodded and he looked outside, then blinked a few times.  "Hey, um, Aiden?" he called loudly enough to wake her up.  Her starting made the baby jump then scream.  "Hey!  Too much noise," he complained, coming out to get his son.  The dog came to nose the baby, making him calm down.  "Thanks, mutt."   He patted him on the head.  "Good boy!  Go eat, I've got it."  The dog followed him back inside, going back to his dinner once Aiden was in.  He gave her a look.  "Morning," he said with some fake cheer.

"Sorry.  We fell asleep when he tried to interrupt I guess."  She yawned and stretched up, swatting at Horatio when he gave her a hug.  "Where did the dog come from?"

"He's the neighborhood clean up patrol," Speed told her.

"He was guarding you two when I found you," Horatio told her.  She smiled and went to love the dog for a bit.  He looked at Speed and his son, who was yawning and trying to nuzzle his way back to sleep on his father's shoulder.  "Did you take today off?"

"Today and tomorrow.  You?"

"Just today."  He sat down on the same side as the baby, resting against his lover's shoulder.  Their son grabbed his hair with his free hand and grinned, just holding it, not even pulling.  Even when the dog came over to cuddle up too.

"If he's staying, he's getting a bath and a long trip to the vet's," Speed said firmly.  "He'll be *your* dog."

The dog looked at him and barked quietly, then licked the baby's foot, making him move it but sigh in pleasure.

"I think he's going to be Xander's dog," Horatio said dryly.  "The other two demands are more than reasonable, Speed."

Speed looked at him.  "You're enjoying being this whitebread American ideal guy, aren't you?" he asked.

Horatio looked at him. "I'm content having a family and the dog doesn't bother me," he told him.  "Most children do like animals, I don't mind animals.  They're good and he's very protective of him."  Speed rolled his eyes.  "I'm sorry you never saw yourself being a father, Speed, but I wanted a family for a very long time."

"I know.  Which is why you're so much better at this than I am."

Horatio leaned over to give him a kiss.  "You can have idealistic fantasies all you want.  It's not like we'll be raising him as some yuppie brat."  Speed relaxed, grumbling more quietly at that. "We'll raise him to be a smart, sensitive young man with a good future.  Even if he does want to race motorcycles professionally."  Speed smiled a bit at that.  "I told you before if you wanted a few weeks off, you could do that.   I'll take care of him.  You know that."

"I know.  I'm feeling unsettled but not quite that bad yet."  He looked down at his sleeping son.  "About time, kid."  Horatio gave him another kiss and the dog shifted to get some attention of his own.  Horatio smiled and petted him, earning one happy dog.  "Bathe him then take him to the vets."

"We'll do that today," he agreed.  He got up and took the dog with him into the bathroom, Aiden's bathroom since it would be easier to clean up.  She was crashed on the bed so she wouldn't really care.  At least until the very wet dog escaped and came to sleep with her, resting his head on her butt.  "Bath," he ordered, pointing at the bathroom.

Aiden woke up and looked at the dog. "Many men want that but I'll cut your balls off if you try to take it, dog."  The dog scampered back to where Horatio wanted him, letting her get up and go sleep in the living room since the bed was now damp in spots.  "Sorry, the dog left wet spots."

"No one likes to sleep in the wet spot," he agreed.  She pinched him but took the baby to sleep with, making him move to a chair so she could stretch out.


Horatio watched as Speed went out of town for a minor conference, not expecting anything else.  It was March, he was stressed, the baby had colic, and Speed needed a break.  So he was fine and the dog was helping.  So were Alexx and Eric.  He settled in to love the baby in the office, letting him coo tiredly at those around him. "Did the stomachache finally end?" he asked quietly.  Someone leaned in his door.  "Jessop?"

"Is that Speed's son?"

"That he is."  He let him come in to see him.  "Speed's off for a conference and he's got colic."

"Ah.  I've heard how bad that can be."  He picked him up and looked at him.  "Hey, Xander," he said quietly.  The baby stared for a minute then tried to push a spitted on finger up his nose.  Jessop smiled and handed him back.  "There you go, play with that daddy."  He grinned at him.  "Rumors are flying that he's walked out and left you like a bad country song."

"Short vacation, nothing more," he assured him.  Jessop smiled and went to spread that rumor back.  He looked at his son.  "Not even walking yet and you're already starting rumors.  They must think you're very cute, son."   He let his son help him with some things he had to proofread and finish up, ignoring the man who stomped in.  "My office is not a free show," he said finally.

"What is that?" Stetler sneered.

Horatio looked around then at him.  "What that, Rick?"  He got back to work.

"The spitting thing in your lap."

Horatio looked down then at him.  "That would be my son.  Our housekeeper had a doctor's appointment and I've got to watch him for a bit. We're going home in a few minutes."

Rick sneered.  "Who's the mother?"

"Go look it up," he said firmly.  He finished signing something then put it into his outbox before standing up and looking down at his son.  "Would you like to say hello to Rick, son?"  Xander stuck his finger in his own mouth and stared, then opened his mouth and belched.  "That's not nice or polite, son."  He handed him over.  "Hold him so I can put on my jacket please."  Rick took him, grimacing in distaste.  Horatio slid into his jacket and adjusted his collars, but it only gave Xander enough time to vomit on him.  "Okay, that's it, it's time to go see Auntie Alexx," he sighed, taking him back.  "Sorry.  You know how babies are."  He stomped off so Horatio locked the door and brought him down to see her.  "Alexx, he just threw up on Rick Stetler."

"He makes a good target.  I'm sure he would've pulled up a diaper like the time he got fed hot peppers by one of Eric's nieces if he could have."  She finished up and cleaned up before taking him to check over.  "Colic?"  He nodded.  "That's an upset tummy so a bit of baby puking is allowable.  Try to get his fever down tonight, sugar."  She handed him back.

"Thank you.  Say night-night, Xander."  Xander waved and grinned.

She waved back.  "Have a good night at home, Xander.  We love you.  Even Daddy Speed loves you."

"He needed a short vacation."

"I needed one and I'm a bit more maternal than even you are," she said dryly.  He smiled before walking out, putting on his sunglasses.  His son's sunglasses were found in the hummer and he put them on him while he strapped him into his carseat. He did have to pause to grab his cellphone. "Horatio," he answered quietly.  "No, I'm going home on time tonight, boss.  Why?  He's had colic.  Speed's off for a conference.  He'll be back Tuesday."  He rolled his eyes.  "I had no idea my son was going to vomit on him or I'd never have handed him over so I could put on my jacket."  He cleaned up the new spot of drool.  "We can pull by there, yes, sir."  He hung up and slid his cellphone into his pocket, then smiled and finished buckling him in.  "There.  We'll go see the boss so he can coo over you too."  He closed the door and walked around to get in and drive off.  His boss met him outside City Hall so he parked, then rolled down both windows on that side.  "Sorry, the breeze might help him some."

"That's fine."  He looked at the boy, who did look a bit nasty.  "He okay?"

"Alexx thinks he's running a small fever from the colic.  He hasn't slept in a few days."

"Is that why Speedle went to the conference?"

"Mostly," he admitted.  Their boss looked at him.  "If he gets too stressful for me, I'll send him up to his mother for a few days."  The boss smiled.  "I still didn't anticipate him vomiting on Rick, sir.  Even if the look on his face was fairly comical.  You'd think nothing ever threw on him before."

"Probably not."  He moved to stroke the baby's hair.  "I see you've already gotten him his sunglasses.  Teaching him the proper respect?"

"I do try."  He looked back at his son.  "He's going to blow again, sir."  He got out a cloth and handed it back when it happened.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I remember being puked on by drunks in my rookie patrol days," he said patiently.  He looked at his boy.  Then back at the baby again. "You shouldn't have him at the station."

"Speed brought him in before he left because the housekeeper has the day off."

"Stay home with him this weekend, Horatio."

"I had every plan of doing that anyway.   I'm not even on call."

"Good."  He tossed back the cloth.  "There you go.  Have a good night and consider him chastised for having an upset stomach."  That got a smile.  "Let me know if it's something more serious and you need time off."

"I'd hope not."

"So would I."  He stepped back and watched as the baby's window was rolled up first.  He found a dropped dollar and picked it up, handing it over.  "Was under your hummer."  He went back inside as Horatio drove off, going back to his office to smile at the cuteness in private.  That was one cute baby.  Even when he was sick and feeling miserable.  Especially in his sunglasses.


Horatio called Alexx later that night. "He's still running a fever, he's vomited for the last hour.  ER?"  He smiled.  "Thank you."  He hung up and found what he'd need to admit him just in case.  They had to draw up paperwork so he could have him treated in emergencies and so Horatio could formally adopt him with Tim.  That was going through in the next few days.  He walked his son out to the hummer and got in, taking him to the ER.  The nurse smiled at him.  "He's been vomiting most of the day, small fever.  He's had colic for the last few nights."

"Your wife?"

"He's my partner's son.  I've got paperwork to treat."

She nodded, taking that to photocopy then worked on seeing how bad he was.  They weren't critical so there was a small wait but it was fine.  He was back there pretty shortly and the nurses all cooed over him.  "When did he first start to puke?"

"Around four this afternoon.  He anointed a coworker."  She nodded and wrote that down.  "He's done it a few times since then but he's thrown up three times in the last hour and a half.  It seems to have slowed down since we came in.  I tried to feed him some apple juice but he brought it back up."

"That's always a wise thing."  She went back to checking him over.  "Adopting him together?"

"No, it's his natural son but I'm in the process of adopting him."

"That's wonderful."  She smiled and pressed gently on his stomach, making the baby cry.  "Oooh, you had the bad bellies," she soothed, letting daddy have him back.  Horatio got him calmed down really quickly so she smiled.  It was clear who was the 'mommy' in that relationship.  She made her notes.  "Let me get the doctor, it'll be a few minutes."  He nodded and she left.  The doctor on call looked at the notes then at her.  "Stepdaddy."

"No wonder there's paperwork in here."  She walked that way, smiling at the sniffling going on.  "It's all right.  Colic happens to the best of us."

"He's had it now for about a week."  He let her have the baby, watching what she did.  "I have no idea why he suddenly started to vomit earlier."

"His mother?"

"I'm with his father.  I'm adopting him as my own."

"That's fine, I have no right to judge, Mr. Caine."

"Lieutenant."  She gave him a startled look.  "I'm with the crime lab," he said quietly.

"Any access to chemicals?"

"No, I was in the office all day.  He was in the office with me for about an hour."

She nodded and finished checking him over.  "It looks like his stomach being upset caused it.  A side effect of the colic basically.   I'm sure you've treated vomiting before?"

"We have but he did it three times in an hour before we came in."

She nodded.  "They can do that.  It's a pernicious little thing.  I can write you some antibiotics.  I would suggest sports drinks or plain water instead of juice for him."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Definitely call his pediatrician if he's still going in the morning."

"She's out of town this weekend and I've never met her on-call."

"That's reasonable.  Do you know any one else?"

"We work very closely with an ME, who thought it was colic based earlier when he first did it."

She nodded and smiled, writing out what he'd need.  "That's reasonable.  If you have to, bring him back.  This should calm down his stomach within a few doses."  She handed it over.  "Try to keep him out of the lab.  Babies are incredibly fast at getting into what they shouldn't."

"I do."

"Good."  She made notes then left them alone.

Horatio stuffed the prescription down into his pocket and picked up the baby, making him smile at him.  "Come on, let's go get you medicine."  He walked him off, checking his watch.  His usual pharmacy was closed at the moment.  He stopped at the checkout desk.  "Do we know of an open pharmacy?"

"The hospital one is open.  Wal-mart's open for another hour.  That's usually going to be the cheaper alternative."  He nodded, taking the papers once he had signed them, then leaving.  She smiled and waved at the baby, who spit at her, making her laugh.  "Someone will be just fine."  She finished off the file and put it aside.  They saw plenty of puking babies every year.  It was normal.


Horatio opened the door the next morning, smiling at Eric.  "Do not feed him anything.  He's still got a very touchy stomach."

"Momma sent over some soup that worked well with us."

"He threw up most of last night, Eric.  But thank her for me."  Eric nodded, going to put it   into the fridge and call his mother to see if he could still have it.  Horatio checked outside before closing the door and coming back to reading with his son, who was more than happy to have him back.  "Uncle Eric's here."  He put him down onto the floor, watching his son crawl to the couch and pull himself up.  "That's a good boy.  Good job."  The dog looked over at him.  "You are too, Homer," he assured him.  The dog's head went back down.  Horatio found the readied video camera and smiled as Xander shifted around the couch.  "Eric?"

Eric looked and grinned.  "Come see me, little man.  I've got Grandma Delko on the phone.  She wants to talk to you."  He waved it and Xander squealed, flailing a hand.  "Come on, you can do it."  The baby shifted away from the couch, then back to it.  Horatio started to film, moving silently to get a better shot.   "Come on," Eric offered.  "Come talk to Grandma."  Xander stepped away then back at the couch again.  Then he stepped away and toddled that way, clinging to his legs.  "Good job!" he praised, smiling down at him. He let him have the phone so he could babble baby nonsense at his mother.  "Very good boy!"  He grinned at Horatio.  "Of course he wanted to talk to my mother.  He loves her."

"He does," he agreed, shutting off the camera and putting it away.  "I'm very proud, son.  We'll have to send that to the mommy."  He kissed the back of his head.  "Very good boy.  Want a popsicle?"  His son squealed so he got him one and handed it over, letting Eric have back his phone.  "Speed will be very proud of you when he gets back. Yes he will."  Xander headed for the doors and he smiled.  "Sure, you can make a mess out there."  They both went to watch him eat it on the porch, the dog following him to help clean up the mess.

Eric flopped down and grinned at him.  "Good work.  How's his stomach?"

"He threw up for a bit longer this morning.  It's stopped since then.  Those are gatoraid since the doctor thought it'd be better for him."  He heard the doorbell ring and went to answer it.  "Yes, Officer?"  He nodded at the social worker.  "Is there a problem?"

"Wondering if he's all right.  We got a call that he was in the lab yesterday, lieutenant?"

"No, he was in my office for about an hour with me."  He let them inside.  "We're on the porch.  He's having a popsicle to soothe his stomach.  He's had colic."

"Why did you have him at the station?" the officer asked, looking confused.

"His other father is at a conference and our housekeeper had the day off for a doctor's appointment.  I had him in my office, which is fully separate from the lab and clearly not infected with chemicals."  He walked back out there, smiling at his son.  "You eat it, don't let the dog eat it."  The boy went back to sucking on his own treat, and the dog only got his arms and face instead.  "Thank you.  Sit, Homer."  He sat and looked at him.  "Let him finish first, dog."  He sat down again.  "As you can see, he's feeling much better since he started the antibiotics."

"I can see that."  She looked him over.  "What's his name?"

"Xander."  Xander looked at him.  "Talk to the lady, Xander.  He's just now figured out how to walk."

"That does deserve a treat."  She squatted down to look at him.  "Hi, Xander."  He beamed at her and gave her a messy hug then pointed at the water again and went back to watching it.  She looked at him.  "He smells off."

"He has since late last night.  It started about an hour after his antibiotic."

"I did that when I was younger too," Eric agreed.  "Whatever I was eating I'd sweat out really fast.  Is he running a fever?"

"Not that our thermometer says."  He got up to get it, letting her check.  She shook her head.  "I'm guessing it's the nasty flavoring they use in the medicines for children."

"Quite possibly."  She handed it back and stood up again.  "No access to chemicals?"

Eric raised a hand.  "I work in the lab as well, I'm an honorary uncle.  My mother dotes on him," he offered with a smile.  "There's no way chemicals could've gotten up to H's office.  We take a lot of precautions and we don't often work with those sort of chemicals.  We work with samples and machines more than chemicals."

"Oh, that's good.  We did have to respond when calls are made," she pointed out.  "I noticed there was another call?"

Horatio grimaced.  "Some woman claimed he was being deprived for not getting a Tickle Me Elmo for the holidays."  She rolled her eyes at that.  "I assure you, even though I'm with his father, I'm a very good father to him, ma'am.  Most of the department can tell you that.  All of my people can as well," he said dryly.

"I've heard that you're a very active and good father," the officer admitted.  "When I got the notice I asked some of our gossips.  By the way, I told them he was a bit sick, that's why we were coming out."

"Thank you."  He smiled at him.  "I know how these things happen.  Why they happen."

"Are you implying that I'm prejudice?" the social worker asked.

"No, I'm saying that the system in this state is inherently prejudice.  It starts from the top and moves down through the ranks."  He stared at her until she looked away.  "Before you ask, his mother is a field CSI up in New York's labs.  His father's at a conference this weekend so he could take a short vacation, and yes, I'm moving to adopt him as my own as well.  We have the final hearing on that coming up."

"I understand.  There's no reason to be hostile."

"Yes there is," Eric told her.  "He takes the baby in for puking while having colic and you show up the next day.  Does this not seem wrong to you?  Because trust me, there's all the aunts and my family down here, all the lab up there, and we'd all protest and beat their asses if we even *suspected* something was going wrong.  Horatio's a very good father.  He always has been.  Even if his son did sit in his office for an hour and throw up on a prejudice bastard in IAB."  The officer snickered.  "He got Stetler yesterday."

"I stupidly let Rick hold him while I put on my jacket," Horatio agreed.  "He got him first.  Then Alexx said it was colic."

"This Alexx...."

"Is our ME," Eric said dryly.  "Mother of two great kids.  She's been there before in both ways."

"Fine, though I do not appreciate the implications."

Horatio stared her down.  "Think about it, ma'am."  She frowned at him.  "Really.  It does look bad."  She stomped off.  He looked at the officer.  "Thank you."

"She had you confused with your brother, sir," he said quietly.  "I had to point out twice you're Horatio and not Ray Caine."  He walked off shaking his head.

Horatio waited until they were gone. "I'm going to kill Stetler for that."

Eric looked at him.  "You're sure it was him?"

"The doctor wasn't pleased that I'm a second father.  The nurses were happy that I'm such a good father.  You guys wouldn't have said a word, you'd have come to me first and then taken the baby from us.  That leaves him or the Chief and the Chief likes Xander."  His son came over to curl up in his lap now that the dog had cleaned him up.  He smiled at him.  "You're a good boy.  Eric, can you toddlersit for a few minutes?"

"Sure."  He took the baby to hold.  "Such a big boy, Xander."  Xander beamed at him.  "Come on, we'll watch the water and pet the dog."   He watched as Horatio got up and headed for the hummer with the tape in hand.  "Huh, going to make copies."  He smiled at him and let the baby nap on him since the water was so soothing.  "We'll be fine."


Horatio walked into the boss's office with a smile and a copy of the tape.  "Is he in?"

"He is and frustrated."

Horatio smiled before knocking and walking in.  He handed over a copy of the tape.  "Xander just learned how to walk."

"Congratulations."  He smiled at him.  "I heard a social worker came out?"

"Because Rick Stetler is still confusing myself and my brother."

"Ah.  Pity."  He looked at the tape then at him.  "That's a very weak bribe, Horatio."

Horatio smirked at him.  "Well, I could be mean and file harassment charges, sir.  Or even sue the department for his harassment since it wasn't me who went undercover in that meth ring.  Nor was it me who got hooked while undercover in that meth ring."  His boss shuddered.  "Nor was it me who called the social worker about him throwing up after having some colic."   He stared him down.  "I don't ask for much."

"Beyond a high budget and a lot of toys," he countered.

"The results the lab gets due to those toys speaks for itself," he reminded him.  That got a nod.  "Beyond that, I don't ask for much and I only come begging once a year.  If he tries this again, I'm going to have to take action that you won't like.  I'm considering this a fair warning and using the opportunity to brag about my son."  He stared at him.  "Also, I did hand in the paperwork about the court date?"

"You did.  Personally."  He smiled.  "I like you being a father, Horatio.  You're a lot calmer.  We like this about you."

"He managed to get a very prejudice social worker to come out," he warned.  "I'm not happy or calm at this moment and I do know who to blame, even though she didn't outright say it.  If there's a problem with how we're raising Xander, my lab will step in.  He doesn't need to concern himself with him."

"Of course not.  He shouldn't have called for no reason.  It's nearly as bad as the mother who claimed he was deprived for not getting one of those dolls."  He shuddered.  "I can't stand toys like that."  Horatio let out a small smile.  "How many stuffed animals did he get?"

"About thirty."  That got a smile from his boss. "All I want from you is to reprimand him.  Firmly.  Before I'm forced to protect my son in a way that'll not make anyone happy."

"Agreed," he assured him. "I'll have a word with Stetler today."  Horatio nodded and left, letting him relax again.  He only saw Horatio once or twice a year.  Seeing him two days in a row, the second time pissed, was enough to make his blood pressure sky rocket again.  He did call over there, smiling when he got the man.  "Come see me please, Sergeant."  He hung up and put in the tape, smiling at the little boy.  He was such a card, so very happy.


Horatio sat down and took his son back.  "There, hopefully fixed."

"I'd hope so.  I called a social worker I dated once and had her check.  She laughed at the other mention in the file.  This new one she looked it over and said the social worker mentioned that she thought it was a harassment this time, mostly due to your sexuality, and that the baby was healthy, happy, and well.  So she couldn't do anything but a note was made about the adoption hearing."

"I'm told it's only a formality."

"I hope so," Eric agreed. "You know we're all there with you."  He stood up.  "I should go.  Give him that soup about two hours before bed.  That's what Momma told me to tell you."  He smiled at the boy.  "He does like his stories."

"He does."  He smiled.  "Thank you, Eric."

"Welcome, H.  Can I yell at Speed?"

"No.  This has been building for a while, ever since we got Xander."  That got a nod and Eric left, heading for his place.  He looked at his son. "Did the Uncle Eric tell you a story?"  His son beamed.  "Good!  We like that.  Let's watch the news for a few minutes then we'll get you a bath.  I can still smell the popsicle on you."  He turned on the news, letting his son snuggle in for a while.  Even if he fell asleep like that, they could both bathe later.


Horatio looked up when the judge walked into the courtroom, standing up as was proper.  He checked his watch, they still had ten minutes and Speed still wasn't there yet.  He called him.  "You're late."  He smiled and hung up.  "Sorry, the hotel forgot to give him a wake- up."

"That's fine," his lawyer assured him.  The judge looked down.  "The biological father is on his way over, Your Honor, the hotel forgot to wake him up."

"He was off taking a vacation?"

"Our son had colic for over a week."  The judge hissed at that.  "We had a conference that he could attend so he went to that and spent a few extra days with my blessing and cooperation."

"That's more than reasonable.  I went to Hawaii when my daughter had colic.  My wife was not amused."  Speed strolled in wearing a clean, logoless t-shirt and clean, pressed jeans.  "Not very dressed up, Mr. Speedle."

"I don't like suits.  That's Horatio's thing."  He nodded politely.  "Sorry to keep you guys waiting."  He took his son, getting a squeal of delight.  "Yes, I'm back," he said with a grin.  "Good boy!"  Xander kissed him and he grinned at Horatio.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  He figured out how to walk.  I got it on tape for you."  Speed grinned at that.  Horatio smiled back and took their son, getting a coo and petted.  "Leave my hair alone, son.  Straighten out your father's."  Xander got shifted so he played with Speed's hair, making him grin at his boy.  "Sorry."

"That's all right," the judge agreed.  "I have here paperwork for you to adopt him with your ...partner?"

"You do," Horatio agreed.

"I also have a statement from the mother and a copy of your custody agreement, plus statements from other officers in your station, your boss, and even a state senator?"  He looked at him and noticed the biological father was as well.  "You didn't know?"

"Not really.  I didn't ask.  I asked Eric and Frank to write one.  I asked Doctor Woods to write one but I handed that to our attorney."

"I have that with me.  She said she had trouble finding words to say how great a father they both were."  He handed it to the bailiff.  The judge smiled at that.  "I also have another one from another former senator."  He handed that over.  "Everyone appreciates the crime lab and being a father makes Horatio happy and content.  Most everyone thinks they're adorable, even if they don't like gay unions, and everyone has agreed that there's a lot less growling going on in the lab when the baby's had a good night's sleep," he finished with a joke and a grin.

The judge smiled back.  "As I've heard in the past."  He looked at another small pile.  "I do have three letters asking me not to grant this.  One from Judge Ratner?"

"I nearly had him for a legitimate homicide claim but he wiggled around it," Horatio said quietly.  "I'm still working on it."

"Okay.  That's reasonable.  I have one here from an IAB officer?"

"Who hated my brother.  He was undercover in a meth ring and got hooked.  He died from it."  He tried very hard not to fidget.

"That's also reasonable.  He's persecuting you?"

"He's the reason I've nearly sued the department a few times.  At this point I'm letting the Chief deal with him for me."

"Okay, I can see that.  The last is from a group here in Florida that doesn't like gay families."  He held up the thick packet.  "Including research citing that gay parents often don't raise stable children."

"Really?  Is it *real* research or just a half-assed attempt at research?" Speed asked.  "I ask because we do deal with real research and facts every day."

The judge looked at him.  "No swearing in front of your son."

"That's about the only one he hears."

"Fine."  He looked at them.  "Right now I'm inclined to vote on the side of granting it.   I would like to know why you two want it."

"It's already fact," Speed told him.  "Horatio's a better father than I am.  I was shocked at first and he took care of our son like he was his own from day one.  Personally I didn't think this was going to be a necessary step but with the recent problem we had with someone calling social services because we're together and cops, I realized it was necessary and was in fact needed."  He stood up.  "I could care less what that group or anyone else says about this.  Xander is my son.  Horatio is my man.   He's been an excellent father.  We see it as a matter of already existing.  Having official approval has never mattered to me.  To Horatio it means a lot and I'd do nearly anything for him."

"I understand.  How did he come to be?  We have statements saying  you were together when he was conceived."

Speed shrugged. "We're still debating that.  His mother's never been pregnant but we've run the DNA testing six different times."  The judge looked stunned.  "She's also never donated eggs.  All we know is that a social worker named Hallie Halston found him with someone who had taken him from a hospital and the DNA test came up ours.  No other parents have stepped forward.  She tried for a week before coming to us."

"You know how fantastic that sounds?"

"I do, but it's the truth."

"It is, Your Honor.  I have a statement from her," Horatio said, handing it over. "The same as no one's put in a missing person's claim on the child since he was born.  He's nearly a year old."

"He's ours by right of he's ours, and Horatio's mine by right of love.  He's Xander's father by right of doing an incredible job, even above and beyond what the fussy mother sorts around us expected," Speed agreed.

The judge looked at the form, seeing the double images.  He looked at the signature at the bottom then read both versions.  He had seen such things before from that source during particulary messy custody hearings.  He looked at them.  "It looks like it's in order.  How often does he see his mother?"

"Whenever she wants or we get some extra time off to go up.  She calls every few days and we chat via email all the time," Speed offered.  That got a smile and a nod.  "I know this isn't a popular state for this sort of plea.  I don't care what others think.  I never have.  If I did, I'd be a lot more uptight."

"Good reasoning and it's clear you two are together.  Can you hand the baby back to him?"

Speed untangled the fingers from his hair, making Xander pout.  "Go see Daddy."  He handed him over and Xander beamed at his father, kissing him before snuggling in to play with his shirt buttons.

"It's clear he loves you, Lieutenant Caine."  Horatio nodded at that.  "What happens if work gets in the way of raising him?"

"If it's a day-to-day thing we have a housekeeper who acts as his nanny," he said calmly and quietly.  "If you're asking about dangerous situations, he'll be going up to visit his mother.  We've already made plans in case something like that happens."

"I understand.  Have you taken any steps to remove some of the burden on yourself at work?"

"I'm pushing to get another person into the lab.  I'm not in the field as often as I used to be, Your Honor.  I've been doing a lot more supervising than I have lab work.  We, the lab staff and I, have been talking about hours anyway since we use more overtime than the rest of the station around us per year.  We've both had to pull overnight cases.  Anything after a reasonable hour he comes to us in the labs and sits in the office with one of us so he's not exposed to anything in the labs.  It gives the others a chance to take breaks, take a nap on my couch, and other things.  We were doing it before but he's a great stress break when you've got a murdered family and children."

"It sounds like you've got a good handle of dealing with this so far.  Let me read over these new letters."  Speed sat down and Horatio gave him a simple touch on the arm, getting a smile.  The baby didn't feel the need to switch back to his father, he just waved and grinned, making his father smile at them.  He looked over.  "How likely is it that one of you will die on the job?"

"The same as it is for any officer, which makes this all the more important to us," Horatio told him.  "That way the system can't take him unfairly.  His mother would help us if that happened but this way we're sure it can't."

"So a good chance, a poor chance?"

"Fairly poor.  We're supposed to work on cleared scenes with officers standing around.  Now and then it doesn't always happen when we go to question suspects, but most of us do bring officers with us," Speed admitted.  "Miami-Dade lost three officers in the last year and one CSI."

"So, not an unreasonably high chance, like for a firefighter?"

"Not that high," Horatio assured him.  "I've got a very scary reputation; if my lab staff aren't backed up, I will chew people up and make them beg for mercy if they're hurt."  Speed nodded at that, cracking the judge up.  "The CSI we had die was shot during questioning a suspect at their store.  They had no idea there were others in the building who had guns.  There had been no reason for them to clear that place to talk to him."

"I see.  How about you, Lieutenant?"

"I've made enemies but they don't come near him and most of the people I piss off end up in jail."

"Good point.  How many death threats have you gotten in the last year?"

"Two.  One from a family member of someone I put away.  One from a suspect verbally.  He was arrested for that.  It gave us the time we needed to process the evidence linking him to a rape/homicide case.  I'm well aware that I have pissed off half the criminals in Miami and a good quarter of them are scared of me.  That means I'm effective in my job.  Sometimes I have to so we get the bad guys.  It doesn't mean that most of them know about Xander and Speed.  His picture's kept hidden in my office so no one who shouldn't see him does."

"If you had to give it up to protect him, would you?"

"Yes," he said simply.  "He's too important to risk that way."

"Good."  He looked at the lawyer.  "No motion to seal the proceedings?"

"Oh, I do, but I was going to wait."  He handed over that motion.  "Plus I've already got one to appeal if you're not seeing what the rest of us do."

The judge smiled.  "I don't think that's necessary.  I believe Horatio is more than fit as a parent.  It's clear the little boy loves him with everything in him.  Even as much as he does his father.  It's also clear that he's the stable one in the relationship and that Detective Speedle is a bit more wild."  Speed nodded at that.  "Which I'm sure Horatio tries to keep down."

"Now and then," Speed admitted.  But he was grinning.

"Good.  I hope your son grows up well-loved and cared for, gentlemen.  I do grant this petition and I'll seal the records."

"Thank you, sir," Horatio said, standing up with Speed.  He smiled at Xander.  "When can we have the paperwork?  We'll have to file it with the insurance company since he's my beneficiary and to put him on my health insurance."

"He's on both?"

Speed nodded.  "He is.  Sometimes it's necessary."

"We'll get it to your attorney within a few days, boys.  Go celebrate."  They smiled and walked out together, Xander still safely in his father's arms.  "Stop recording."  The court recorder quit.  "They're adorable together."

"They are and Horatio's quite a strong father, Paul.  He has been.  He fathers everyone in the lab with Alexx Woods."

That got a smile.  "So I heard.  I didn't know Ratzner was under a homicide charge."

"Manslaughter.  The DA didn't want to go that far."

"Ah."  He nodded, signing what was needed to be signed.  "Reporter, we are going to seal these records.  Please provide only their attorney and myself a copy."

"Yes, sir."

"Thank you."  He gathered everything.  "Did you see their packet?"

"I did.  I laughed at most of it.  Lined my son's gerbil cage with it."  That got a smile and the judge left, so he gathered up his briefcase and left as well, smiling at the reporter.  "Send it to my office, to me personally.  My partner's a bastard this week about gay things.  His daughter just came out with her girlfriend in the media."

"Of course, sir."  She made note of that.


Horatio walked into the station with the son, smiling at Frank when he ran into him.  "We are going to dinner tonight to celebrate.  Everyone can get their own meals but the family is more than welcome to join us at the steak house."

Frank smiled and took the baby.  "Hi, Xander.  Congratulations."  Xander beamed and stroked over his bald head.  "I know, I need more hair."  He kissed him on the head and handed him back.  "Wouldn't miss it unless the wife fusses."  He grinned.  "Congrats."

"Thank you, Francis.  Tell the others?  We couldn't get them on their cells."

"The Chief wanted a conference about new CSI."  Horatio smiled and headed back out, taking Xander to the meeting.  Frank texted someone over there to warn them.

Eric looked over as Horatio walked in, taking the baby from him.  "Hi, Xander."  Xander squealed and kissed him.  "Thank you, baby.  I needed that.  I haven't even had time to date recently."

The Chief looked at him.  "Don't lay it on too thick, Delko.  Horatio, how did it go?"

"We're having a celebration dinner tonight at the steak house.  They're responsible for their own dinners."  That got a smile back.  "We'll have the forms in a few days."

"That's fine.  Sit."  Horatio sat and Xander got up onto the table, walking over to Calleigh to pounce her with a wicked giggle.  "I see he's in a good mood."

"Very.  The judge thought he was cute too.  I can have another CSI?"

"How much overtime would that cut?"

"Maybe twenty hours a month if we're lucky.  Some cases you have to pull the extreme hours, sir."

"I know.  Unfortunately I do know."  He leaned on the table, watching Xander place kisses around Calleigh's face.  "Xander, we have to work, son.  You can kiss her later."  Xander pouted at him.  "Tough, kiss her later, son."  Xander snuggled into her lap.  "Are you all right?"

"He loves to do that to me.  He thinks my hair's shiny."

"Good."  He looked at Horatio.  "We still have to replace Virginia."

"You should," he agreed.

"Her team says they're fine without her."

"Which was why we borrowed from that team when they went on leave," Calleigh agreed.  "We could use another guy.  Or girl.  It's lonely being the only one."

"You could."  He smiled at her.  "All right, we have the pay at the moment, but perhaps not in the next few years, to do two open spots."  Horatio relaxed at that.  "But again, the budget is looking very tight and we might have to cut spots next near or the year after, Horatio."

"Can one be a lab tech who does the field part time?" he offered.

"That we could do," he agreed.  "That would be a better split of funds since your lab tech budget is a bit looser."  That got a smile.  "Now I know why you did that."

"So I can transfer it over for overtime."

That got a laugh.  "I want to quit paying you guys overtime."

"You'll never get it all out, Chief, but a good portion we wouldn't mind," Eric offered.

"Me either, Delko."  He tapped the papers a few times to straighten them out.  "Okay.  We'll do one and a half-time field tech.  Find someone, Horatio."  That got a mass of smiles.  "No Speedle?"

"He was at a hotel, he had to check out," Horatio offered.  "Thank you, Chief."

"You're welcome."  The others walked out, Horatio having to steal the baby back.  "What?"

"Rick Stetler wrote a letter to the judge urging him to turn down the petition?"

"He did?"  Horatio nodded.  "I'll look into it, Horatio."  He gave him a look.  "You know, you could retire."

"I could and I will some day.  If it becomes necessary to protect Xander I definitely will."

"Good.  I like that you're such a good father."  He smiled at him.  "I'll look into it, Caine."

"Thank you, Chief."  He got up and let his son get a hug before taking him home.

The Chief called the judge.  "Paul, it's me.  I did hear, thank you.  It does calm him down and make him quit growling at others.  I haven't seen an officer duck away from him in days," he joked.   "No, I did need something.  Horatio told me privately that someone filed a letter against him out of IAB?  I'd like that.  I'd go through the boys' attorney but he'd have to tell them.  No, Horatio said it was discrimination and harassment.  I'd like to see."  It was read for him and he sighed, shaking his head.  "That is an ongoing problem," he agreed.  "Please.  Even a faxed copy if you can.  No, Horatio's already warned me he's thinking in terms of lawsuits because of that man.  I'd hate to lose him, but what the officer's doing isn't right. Thank you."  He hung up and went to get the fax personally before someone else could see it.  His secretary gave him an odd look.  "Please get Sergeant Stetler down here sometime tomorrow?"

"Of course, sir.  Should I work up an excuse or tell him that you'd like to talk to him?"
"Don't tell him any reason."  She nodded and made the call while he went to read over the full two page letter.  It was not pretty and it did lay allegations that he knew were untrue.  Caine didn't use drugs.  That had been Raymond's sin.  Horatio's sin was Speedle.


Horatio smiled as Yelina came in after they had gotten home.  "Hi."

"You turned Rick in?"

"He wrote a fairly bad letter against us," Speed said, digging out a copy and handing it over.  "He's lucky we're not suing the department and him."

"Then we'd go work for Mac so Aiden could have Xander more often," Horatio said with a small smile.

"Eric's mother would kill us if we took Xander out of the city."

"She can move with us.  So can Calleigh and Eric, maybe even Frank and Yelina."

Yelina looked at him.  "I remember New York quite well," she assured him, going back to reading.  She looked at them when she was done.  "I can't believe he did that."

"I can," Horatio told her.  "He's the one who turned us into social services the second time because we're together."  She sighed.  "I'm sorry, Yelina, but I'm letting the Chief handle this matter.  It's to the point of doing that or a lawsuit against Rick personally and professionally."

"I still say we should find a way to discredit him.  Not like he hasn't left plenty of clues that he plays favorites on who he targets," Speed complained.

"True," Horatio agreed, "but that's not ethical, Speed.  I don't want to drop myself to his level."

"Point."  He looked at the baby next to him.  "Ready for bed?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?   You should be tired.  You snuggled everyone until they were."

"Momma!" he said, scowling at him.

"Huh.  Congrats, son."  He picked him up to cuddle him, nuzzling noses with him. "When did you learn that?"

"I don't know," Horatio admitted.  He smiled and took their son to kiss on the cheek.  "Good job, Xander.  Speaking is good."  The baby beamed at him and started to babble.  "You do that."  He settled him between them, letting Xander babble at his hand since he wanted to play with it.  "I'm not asking you to pick a side, Yelina."

"I'll have to."  She handed it back.  "Thank you, Horatio."

"Welcome.  Remember, Ray Junior can camp on our couch if we need him to."  She nodded, heading home to get into a screaming match with her boyfriend.

"I don't like them together," Speed admitted.

"I never have.  It smacks of using her since he was against Ray."  He looked down at his son, seeing him yawning.  "It looks like it's time for a bedtime story."  Xander beamed at him.  "Help daddy get you jammies and come out."  Xander wiggled off the couch and pulled his father with him. They came back with him dressed in pajamas and Speed got a book, but Xander took it and handed it back to him with a sweet smile.  "He can read to both of us tonight," Horatio assured him, picking up Xander to cuddle while Speed read to them.

Speed smiled at him.  "Suck up."

"You can.  You have a very nice voice."

Speed blushed just a bit but he did open the book for his son's pleasure.  Horatio's eyes told him what his pleasure was going to be in a while, not that he minded.


Mac Taylor looked at his phone when it rang, seeing who it was.  "Horatio, what's wrong?" he asked, sounding concerned.  It was nine at night.  This time of night for a CSI had to be a case or a personal issue.  Since the adoption had went through two months earlier, it probably wasn't personal.  He scowled.  "Is he all right?  Definitely.  Send him up today.  However's best for you, Horatio.  I can meet him at the airport in the morning if you want.  Please."  He checked his watch again.  "I can do that.  Thanks, Horatio."  He hung up and called Stella and Aiden, they were out drinking together.  "Ladies, Horatio's lab just pissed off the Mala Noches.  He's on his way up right now, Stella.  Yes, get sober immediately.  I'll pick him up.  Come to my place about eleven."  He hung up and headed for his keys and jacket, going out to pick up his 'nephew'.  He knew how bad this was going to be.  He found Horatio's new guy on the plane with the kid.  "What happened?"

Ryan Wolfe swallowed.  "They shot up a comrade's mother's funeral," he sighed.  "To get him."  That got a single nod.  "Between that and how the press got me with a parabolic microphone from a good thousand yards away when I said they were cowards, they're not very pleased with us.  It's totally my fault."

Mac shook his head.  "They are cowards.  Let me have him."  Ryan gave him the baby carrier.  "Going back tonight?"

"Tomorrow, first flight out.  I've already got a room waiting on me."  He handed over an envelope.  "Permission to treat, temporary custody amendment to Aiden.  Medical records in case it becomes necessary for some sort of accident."  Mac smiled at that.  "I'm so damn sorry, Detective Taylor."

"It's all right, Ryan.  It happens.  Not like you expected her to get you at that distance."  He clapped him on the shoulder.  "Go rest and go back in the morning.  Horatio will need you sharp when you get back."

"Thanks, Detective."  He headed off.

Mac looked at the sleepy baby.  "Hi, Xander."  He walked him out, slipping the envelope into his inner jacket pocket.  He came out and found Don leaning against his car.  "How did you get here?"

"Subway.  It's this amazing invention that started back in the late eighteen hundreds."  He took the baby.  "Hi, snookums.  Don't you worry about daddy."

"Mommy!" he pouted.

"Or him," he agreed with a smile.  He got the baby hitched into the back then got into the passenger's side.  "What happened?  Stella was drunkenly babbling when she called."

"Horatio's lab got green lighted by the Mala Noches," he said quietly.


"Basically.  Don't swear in front of the kid."

"Sorry."  He held his head.  "How?"

"They shot up a funeral to get him.  The press got one of the new CSI down there on parabolic saying they were cowards from over a thousand feet away."

"He should've been safe to say it," he decided, shaking his head.  "How long do we think?"

"I think Horatio's going to burn through them like a fire in the Everglades," he admitted.  He put the car in drive and headed off after glancing at the sleeping baby.  "It'll be fine, Don.  It won't last that long."

"Sheldon will pout."

"He might," he agreed with a small smile.  "So will Sid Hammerback.  He loves Aiden's stories about her little boy."

"He's a good boy," Don agreed, glancing back at him.  "He's a bit big for the carrier."

"I'm sure he'll be getting a bigger one soon," Mac said quietly.  He headed for his house, finding Stella doing a credible impersonation of sober.  Aiden wasn't quite as credible as sober.  "Ladies."  Don walked in with the baby.  He looked at Aiden.  "The Mala Noches green lighted the lab," he told her.

She moaned and sat down, staring at him.  "Are they okay?"

"Yeah, one of them got caught on camera from a distance," Don told her.  He put the baby down and let Stella hold him, making the baby sigh and snuggle into her chest.  "He's definitely going to be a tough guy.  We all wanna do that."  Stella hit him, scowling on top of it, but she smiled at the baby.  "You look good like that, Stella."

"No, Don.  I won't get your mother off your back," she said dryly.  Aiden leaned on her shoulder.  "Sleep it off, Aiden.  We can camp here for tonight."

"Okay.  Diaper bag?"

"Ryan apparently didn't have one," Mac said, frowning a bit.  He texted that he had the baby but no diaper bag.  Speed sent back that it had been shot at on the way to the airport.  "Never mind.  He'll be fine."  He looked at Don, tossing him his keys and wallet.  "Milk, regular milk, diapers, sippy cup."  Don nodded, going to mine an all-night convenience store for what they'd need.  "Ladies, crash in here."  He took the baby with him, letting him nap beside him on the bed.  He didn't move at night.  The baby would be perfectly safe.  He'd bite him if he got in the way.  He had the last time Aiden had napped with him.  He got down to sweats and a t-shirt, plus socks because his floors were freezing for some reason.  Then he climbed in next to him and let the baby curl up against his chest.  "There we go, Xander.  It'll be okay, little guy.  We'll protect you from the bad guys."  Xander sighed again and snuggled in better, wrapping one hand into his t-shirt.  "Good boy.  You sleep, Xander."  Stella leaned in.  "We're fine."

She nodded. "I've got the couch, she's got the loveseat.  Are you sure it's good to do that?"

"He bit her the last time she moved while napping with him.  We'll be fine."

"Okay."  She went to sleep on her couch, not even waking when Don snuck back in with his supplies.  He had went a bit overboard but no one would blame him.  They all loved Xander and it could all be used.


Mac woke up to the feeling of someone staring at him.  Then he got pounced.  "Morning, Xander," he moaned, patting the baby on the head.  Xander sucked on his finger for him.  He looked up at him.  "Have a good sleep?"


"In Miami.  You're up to visit Aiden for a while."  He put him onto the floor and pointed. "Aiden's in the living room.  Go pounce her."  He beamed and went to find his ladies.  He heard Stella shriek.  Then a wicked giggle.  Then Aiden yelled.  "Aiden!" he snapped.  She quit.  He got up to shower and change into something reasonable.  He came out to find Stella cooking.  "Your head okay?"

"Just fine."  She glanced in the living room then back at Mac.  "Is he staying with her?"

"He should.  It's her son," he said quietly.  She gave him a look.  "We'll figure that out, Stella."  He took his plate and a smaller one for the boy, going out to the table.  He came back to get his new cup to fill, coming out to find Xander standing in his chair eating from Mac's own plate.  "Close enough," he decided, handing him his cup and switching plates. Xander pouted.  "Eat yours then you can have more of mine."  Stella came out with her plate and Xander stole a piece of her toast with a grin.  "He's good."

"He's very good but he needs to eat his food before I have to."  Xander dug into his breakfast, then looked at the cup, then at Mac, making a sucking face. "It's the same thing, Xander, only no nipple."  She held it, helping him drink from it.  He looked awed and grabbed it to try it again.  She and Mac both made sure he didn't tip himself, the chair, or the cup over, but he was okay.  Aiden came out of the bathroom.  "You feeling more human?"

"Barely.  Tequila bad."  She sat down under Xander, letting him have her lap.  "Morning, son."  He beamed at her and held up a piece of bacon.  She shuddered.  "No, Mommy's not hungry, you eat it for me, Xander."  He nibbled and took another drink, liking this cup thing.  Then he finished off his breakfast and stared at Mac until he smiled and handed over some of his eggs.  "Say thank you."


"Close enough," Stella said with a grin.  "He probably can't say thank you yet."  Aiden hugged her son, just shaking her head.  "His diaper bag?"

"Speed said it got shot on the way to the airport."

"Bastards," Aiden muttered.

"Fuck!" Xander said happily.

"No," Mac said firmly, staring him down.  "Don't say that word."  He glared at Aiden too.  "You're more than old enough to know better, even if he isn't."

"Fine.  Sorry, son.  You can't say what I did either."  She looked at him then at Mac.  "Okay, so I guess I need today off to get some stuff?"

"Probably should," Mac agreed.  "A playpen would be good for him to sleep in and it folds up."  She smiled at that.  "They do.  Some clothes as well.  Don got some diapers so he'll probably need changed soon."  That got a nod from both ladies.  "Did Don stay?"  They shook their heads.  "Okay.  I'll make sure I have my keys back from him later."  He smiled at the boy.  "I'll go with you, Aiden.  I've got nieces and nephews."

"Sure.  Thanks, Mac."  The phone rang and they all groaned while Mac leaned back to grab it off the table it was on.

"Mac Taylor."  He listened.  "No, sir, I can't.  Because my honorary nephew, Aiden Burns' son, got sent up from Miami last night for his own safety.  Mala Noches are targeting their lab.  That's why he's up here, sir.  So she and I are both going to be off today.  She doesn't have any baby care items at her apartment.  Of course.  I'll be on-call if something happens."  He nodded once.  "Of course, sir.  It shouldn't be that long and we do have the necessary paperwork if there's any accidents.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "We've got a long weekend, Aiden."  She smiled at that.  "It'll be okay.  We'll handle this and Horatio's very upset."

Stella nodded.  "He's got a temper too.  There's going to be some roasting gang members by tomorrow if he has his way."  Mac smiled at that.  "Not to mention Speed and Alexx.  The new guy okay?"

"He's fine.  Horatio made him bring Xander up so he could brief me.  He flew back on the first flight this morning.  They got him with a parabolic from over a thousand yards away."

"Slimy reporter...." Aiden started but both older people glared at her so she didn't call her what she wanted to.  "This is going to be really difficult," she said with a small grin for her son.  "You need a bath."  He squealed and bounced, beaming at her and nodding.  "Do we have anything for him to put on, Mac?"

"Diapers.  One of my shirts if he wants," he offered. She nodded, taking him into the bathroom.  He heard the water start then Aiden shrieked when the shower came on.  "Looks like he likes his showers."

"Mac!" she called. "Please come do this!  I don't know how to clean him!"

He finished his breakfast and went in there to help.  "Just like you would yourself, Aiden."

"He's not cut.  I don't have a clue about that stuff!"

Mac looked at her.  "It'll be fine.  Go dry your hair off."  She nodded, going to do that while he watched the boy dance around.  He handed him a soapy washcloth.  "Clean your butt, Xander."  He beamed and leaned down to do that, hitting all the spots he thought he should.  Mac finished it for him then rinsed and resoaped the cloth to do his back and chest, then his arms.  Xander giggled and continued to dance around.  "That's better."  Xander turned around and bent over so the water could rinse off his butt too.  "Very cute, Xander."  He shook his head but adjusted the showerhead down at a better angle for him.  Xander spluttered but he didn't seem to mind.  He got him rinsed off and turned off the water, weathering the pout.  "You and Aiden can play in the water later.  For now we've got to get you some clothes, young man."  He picked him up in the towel, walking him out to his bed to finish drying him off.  Xander laid there with his legs splayed obediently.  "Good boy."  He got him diapered then found a shrunken t-shirt for him to put on, earning a happy baby.  "You're such a good boy."  He put him onto the floor, watching him wince.  "I know, the floors are cold.  We'll get you some socks and slippers.  Go cuddle Mommy and Stella."  He ran out there to pounce Stella.  He loved her hair.  Once he had a hand tangled in her curls he waved at his mother.

"Hi, baby.  I see you.  Did you have a good bath?"


"I can handle that part," she admitted.  Mac patted her on the shoulder on his way back to his own seat.  Then to the door because someone was knocking politely.  Clearly not Don.  Sheldon walked in dragging Danny with him.  "Hey, boys.  The Mala Noche hate Horatio's hair."

"Poor little guy," Sheldon cooed, picking him up to cuddle.  "Someone had a bath," he said with a grin.

"Both of us because he wanted a shower and I didn't know that," Aiden assured him.  Danny and Stella both tried not to laugh.  "Next time one of you guys gets the sudden shower."  She took her son back, looking at Danny.  "He drag you?"

"Yup.  I'm not on until this afternoon so I figured you'd need help."

"I'm taking her baby shopping," Mac offered.  "Can you come in a bit early today?  The Chief gave us both three days off."

"Sure," he agreed.  "That means it's gonna be just Stella on Sunday though."

"I'll do some overtime," Sheldon promised with a grin for Stella.  "I can drive."

"You can fuss over him after work, Sheldon," Aiden said firmly.  He sighed and nodded, pouting a bit.  "You can.  You can spoil him all you want after work."  He nodded and handed over something.  "What's that?"

"His birthday present."  He grinned at the boy, who cooed at the pretty paper.  He even ripped and tried to eat it.

"Clothes," Mac said, smiling at him.  "Thank you, Sheldon."

"Including shoes, Mac.  Your neighbor is using the gross electrical product of the city with her A/C at the moment."

"I noticed."  He took Xander to put him into real clothes but the boy clutched the t-shirt so he settled on pants underneath it and socks and shoes.  "There."  He let him run back out, making Sheldon grin at him.  "He insisted."

"It's good for him to do that, makes him more creative," Danny agreed.  "If you need me ta sit, Aiden, all you gotta do is call."  She nodded and gave him a short hug.  He got one from the baby too, who cooed in his ear.  "Good boy."  He patted him on the head.  "Be good for Mommy Aiden and Uncle Mac today."  He shook his head hard.  "I sounded like someone's mother," he sighed, heading for the door.  "I'll be there at ten, Mac."

"Thank you, Danny."

"POO!" Xander called, waving after him, cracking the adults up.


"How in the hell do they put up with you when you're in these moods?" Aiden moaned, putting her head down on her desk.  Xander was sitting up there refusing to go to sleep, no matter what she did.  Her son thoughtfully reached over to pet her hair, cooing at her.  "You're starting to scarily remind me of my mother, son."  She looked at him and he smiled.  "How about another story?  Sure, it'll be story number six, but that's all right, right?"  She smiled and he grinned back.  "We can even lay down together."  She gave him a kiss on the nose and picked him up, carrying him out to the living room.  Mac had promised her that he'd heard Horatio reading to Xander and he had went down almost immediately in the past. That the same book over and over was fine for little people his age. Because it was either one of the four books they had gotten him at the thrift store, one of the rare romance novels laying around the house, or a textbook.  That would hurt him when she fell asleep from it and it slipped out of her hands.  She laid down on the couch, letting him lay on her stomach so he could suck his thumb or whatever while she read to him.

Ten minutes later and he was staring at her like there should be *more* to the book.  "Please sleep?" she begged.  Xander wiggled up and petted her again, making her whimper.  She thumped her head and snuggled him.  At least she didn't have to work tomorrow unless there was a major catastrophe.  She finally fell asleep, but he was still wide awake.  Xander stared at his mother, smiling at how pretty she was.  She was pretty even if she wasn't his Aunties.  She kinda looked like Auntie Yelina, but she didn't snore like her.  Auntie Pretty was much cooler and smelled nice, like Mommy did, but still nice.  He snuggled in to cuddle and think.  He knew Daddies would be home eventually.  He could wait on them.  Even if he was a bit tired.   He looked around the small apartment.  She had set him up a playpen to nap in.  It was comfortable.  It had a thick, soft blanket on the bottom to make it more comfortable.  She had put a nice smelling sheet over it so he couldn't get tangled in it, then it had a nice sheet on top for him to curl under.  But the daddies weren't there.

He checked on Mommy, still napping, so he wiggled down and went to look around.  He hadn't been here before and Mommy had stopped him exploring earlier.  He got into the kitchen and behind the sink.  It was dusty and not even the nice kind.  He wiggled his way out, getting a small scrape.  It hurt but no one was going to baby it so why fuss this time.  He wandered into the office and climbed in her desk chair, patting her computer like the daddies did when they were in the office.  It beeped a lot but nothing else.  That did give him an idea.  The loud thing!  It could make the daddies come home so he could nap!  He wiggled his way back onto the floor, nearly bumping his head but he was still okay.  He found her loud thing and looked at it.  Their one at home was higher up and didn't quite look the same.  The doggy kept chewing on it but this one didn't have any spit or anything.  It was even leashed to itself, which he thought was very strange.  Not even Homer wore a leash unless they were going to the park or he was a bad dog.  So maybe it was a bad loud thing?  But then he wouldn't want it near his daddies.  Though, his Daddy Horatio would growl and it would be a better bad thing, like he did the Homer friend.  So maybe it'd be okay.  He looked at it.  A few of them had pictures.  He grinned and pressed the one for the nice guy with the tickling fingers, babbling at him when he answered.


Sheldon looked at his phone.  Then he put it back against his ear.  "Xander, is that you?" he asked, making Don and Stella both choke on their beers.  He grinned and nodded.  "Is mommy napping, Xander?"  He chuckled.  "Okay, we'll come put you down.  I promise we will. We'll even call the daddies to see where they are, okay?" he asked at the 'daddy?' question Xander asked.  "I promise.  Just behave for the next twenty minutes and I'll be right there.  Good boy!"  He hung up and put down some money.  "Aiden apparently conked out before he did."  He headed off shaking his head.  It was a fast drive over thankfully.  Who knew what the baby would get into.  He got there and knocked until a sleepy, makeup-smeared woman answered the door.  "He got into your makeup kit?" he asked as he walked inside.  He captured the little boy and his lipstick of choice, keeping himself from being marked.  "Thanks, Xander, but it's not quite my shade."  He put it down and called the daddies, getting a growling one.

Xander giggled.  "Daddy!"

"Yes I am," Speed agreed.  "Why are you still up?"

"How do you put up with him when he won't sleep?" Aiden nearly sobbed.  "I've read to him six times.  I've put him down.  I've let him lay on me while I read to him.  I gave him the elephant you sent up with him.  How?"

"Xander," he sighed.

Sheldon kissed him on the head.  "It's all right, he's not mad at you, Xander."

"You two are together, huh?" he said dryly.  "Lost my bet in that pool."  You could hear someone spanking him.  "Hey!  Talking to the non-sleeping son!  Daddy loves you, Xander.  Go to sleep for Mommy and we'll see you in a few days, okay?  Be good for Mommy and we love you.  Here's Daddy Horatio."

Horatio cleared his throat.  "Xander, why aren't you sleeping?"  He babbled excitedly.  "Did Mommy feed you chocolate?"

"No," she whimpered. "Mommy fed him pizza.  He liked pizza.  Especially the pepperoni.  He just won't sleep, Horatio.  He called Sheldon apparently."  She went to look at her face then came back.  "He got into the really ugly lipstick I have and it's all over me.  How do I get him to sleep?"

"Have you tried reading?" he asked patiently.

"Six times."

"Aah.  Is he in pajamas?"

"Yeah.  Why?"

"Babies need a bit of a set schedule, Aiden.  That was sent up in the paperwork we sent you.   We usually bathe him at seven-thirty, cuddle him for an hour, read him a story, and he's in bed by nine."

She looked at the clock then at the phone.  "I gave him a bath at eight.  He was horribly messy.  Then I put him into pajamas.  I cuddled, I read to him, I put him down, he fussed and wailed until the neighbor called the cops on me.  So I picked him up to cuddle him and read to him again.  I fell asleep during number six."

"He's probably missing them," Sheldon offered.  Xander looked up at him.  "You wanted Daddy to read to you, didn't you?"  Xander smiled and patted him.  "Okay.  We're going to put you into bed once I clean off your hands.  Then Daddy Horatio can read you a story, all right?"  Horatio made an assenting noise.  "He called me while Aiden was asleep, guys."  He went to clean up the boy's lipstick covered hands and face, then brought him back out.  He tucked him in with a smile, making sure he had his elephant friend.  "There we go, Horatio.  Lower the lights, Aiden."  She did that, leaving on her office light and the bathroom light.  Horatio's quiet voice came out and they settled in to watch while Xander slowly drifted off with a few nice yawns.

"I love you guys.  Want another kid?"

"No, one's plenty," Horatio assured her.  "We're hoping the main danger will be gone within a week, Aiden."

"Thank you!  I love you guys."

"I'll put her to bed, Horatio.  Thanks."

"Welcome.  Next time let Mac try.  It's very calming to read to him.  He'll let you read anything you want as long as you look at him and explain things to him."

"Sure.  Night."

"Night, guys.  By the way, you do make a cute couple."  He hung up.

"Not even close," she sighed.  She rested her head on his shoulder. "Thanks, Doc."

"You're welcome, Aiden."  He gave her a squeeze.  "I'm going to head home.  Call if you need me."

"I will."  She yawned and he tucked her in too then headed for his place.

Mac looked at the report then at Aiden the next day.  "You have him?"

"Of course I have him.  Who else is going to sit him for a few hours?"  She walked in and closed the door, letting Xander down.  "Behave."   She looked at him.  "You wanted to see me, Mac?"  He held up the evidence envelope.  "I didn't plant it, Mac.  You gotta believe me.  I wanted to.  I really wanted to."

"I know, Aiden, and that's the problem," he pointed out.  She slumped.  "I know this is coming at a horrible time."

She looked at him.  "Ya think?"

"I wish I didn't have to do this, Aiden, but I can't have the lab exposed like this."  She swallowed and looked at the baby then back at him.  "He'll be fine.  Horatio made a major bust of the Mala Noches today.  If I need to, I'll take him tonight so you can have a good, long brood, but I can't have this in the lab," he finished firmly.  "You knew that when you opened the envelope, Aiden."

"Mac, he's gonna walk!  We both know he did it!"  Xander came over to hug her leg.  "I'm fine, Xander."  She looked at him.  "I know I'm burnt out."

"It's only going to get worse, Aiden.  Crime's not going down by that much."  She nodded and put down her badge and gun.  "I wish I didn't have to."

"I know."  She looked at him.  "You guys can still be honorary aunts and stuff."

"Thanks.  Want me to take him for tonight?"

"He won't sleep for you either."

"He might."  He smiled at the boy.  "Xander, would you like to come nap with me tonight so Mommy can brood and think?"

"More like mommy's gonna get drunk," she admitted.  She looked at him.  "Wanna stay with Uncle Mac tonight?"  He beamed and walked over to hug him.  "You sure?"

"I wouldn't have offered if I wasn't, Aiden.  The same as I offered you to come to me when you needed to."

"I did, you gave me BS advice, Mac."  He frowned.  "You did.  You're right, I can't take it anymore anyway."  She handed over the diaper bag.  "I'll get him in the morning."

"That's fine.  I'm sorry, Aiden.  The file will be sitting right on top of my stack until I get him."

"I know."  She walked out, heading to her car and then home.

Mac looked at Xander.  "Well, looks like I'll be getting to read the new forensics journal anyway," he said happily enough.  Danny walked in looking confused.  "Not a good time, Danny."

"I see the little guy there.  Where's his mom?"

"She's gone."

"As in had a car crash?"  He pointed at the badge still on the desk.  "Or as in she snapped and quit?"

He looked at him.  "I can't tell you details, Danny, it's not what a good supervisor does."

"So you're gonna let her walk away?"

"She was fired, Danny," he said quietly.  Danny gave him a stunned look.  "I'm watching Xander tonight so she can brood and get drunk without him having to see that."


"Danny, that is between me and her," he said firmly.  He stormed out and Mac winced.  "Ow."  He looked at Xander, who looked a bit concerned.  "He's not mad at you, precious.  He's mad at me," he sighed, getting up and putting the badge and gun away before anyone else walked in.  Stella gave him an odd look.  "I had to fire her."

"It sucks," she agreed.  "It's wrong."

"It was wrong of her to compromise evidence."

"And you have her kid why?"

"So she can react without him having to see her crying or drunk, Stella."

"That's reasonable at least.  Want me to take him tonight?  You'll probably brood too."

"I'm good with him.  I'll open some stew for both of us, read him some forensic journals, then put him down on the couch."

"Sure.  I'll start temper control."  She could see Danny pacing and huffing while on the phone.  "This isn't going to make anyone happy."

"I had to, Stella.  She was going to tamper with evidence."  She nodded at that and walked out.  He looked at the boy.  "I'm not one for retreats but this time I think it's safer for you."  He grabbed the diaper bag and his briefcase, carrying them out.  The receptionist gave him an odd look.  "I'm babysitting."  He headed out to his car, which had the carseat inside it somehow.  His doors were unlocked too.  He looked around and found Don Flack walking over. "You?"

"Yup.  You had to?"

"Yes, to protect the lab," he sighed.

He nodded.  "Still sucks."

"It does but he doesn't need to see her break down tonight."

"I agree.  Have fun babysitting him tonight.  Call me if you need me.  I'll be with Aiden as the designated driver."  He walked off, going to find Aiden and Danny.  Danny was probably already in contact with her.  His screaming rant in the hallways said he was.  "C'mon.  I'll drive all night," he promised.  Danny looked at him.  "I'll be the DD.  Let's get her and go."  Danny said something more quietly then hung up and led the way out to Don's car.  Don nodded at Sheldon, who sighed and shook his head, but walked off.  It was not going to be a good night.


Mac smiled at the baby later that night.  "How about we do your bath?"  Xander shook his head.  "No?"  Xander snuggled into his side and grinned, going back to watching tv with him.  "Okay, half an hour more then bath and bedtime story, Xander."  He patted the baby on the back.  "Think you'll like to sleep on the couch tonight?"  Xander shook his head.  "You can have either one you want."  Xander shook his head again and shifted so he was laying with his head on Mac's thigh.  "Sleepy?"  Xander shook his head again, he wasn't tired, he was restless, but he was watching the moving picture things.  They were kinda nice and the guy's voice was really nice.  He clutched his elephant when they showed a lab.  The daddies had one of those.   But no daddies.  "Daddies?"

"That's right, Daddies work in a lab," Mac praised.  "That's not their lab.  That's out in Las Vegas, Xander.  Not Daddies' lab.  Far, far away."  Xander settled down to watch it again.   He smiled at him.  "You are one lucky little guy.  If you had been around while I still had Claire, she would've talked me into having one of you."  He smiled when the baby looked up at him, getting a smile back.  "She would have.  Claire would've loved you a whole lot, Xander.  She would've fussed over you and Aiden never would've had you.  She would've mailed you cookies every month too."

"Cookies?" he asked, his interest switching rapidly.  He stood up to get into his uncle's face.  "Cookies?  Poo cookies?"

"I didn't know you used poo to say you.  You usually speak so well."  He kissed him on the head.  "We'll go see what we can find."  He picked him up and carried him into the kitchen, finding he did have a few sugar wafers.  He nibbled now and then with some cocoa.  It's not like you could tell when they were stale.  He carried them and the boy back to the couch, putting him back down and sitting back down.  Xander curled up with his head on his thigh again and accepted a cookie, letting his elephant have a 'nibble' first.  "That's a good boy to share," he praised, stroking over his hair again.  "I'm sure your elephant friend likes cookies too."  Xander grinned and nibbled, humming along with the music on the commercial.  Then the lab came back.  He squealed.  He knew that lab!  "Yup, that's Daddy's lab."  He pointed.  "See, there's Uncle Ryan and Auntie Calleigh."  They kept going and showed his father, making him reach a hand out.  "Very soon, Xander.  He'll be up very soon.  He still loves you."  Xander gave him a pitiful look so he called down there.  "We were watching the lab special and he saw them," he told Eric.  It had to be Eric w ho had grunted.

"They're in the middle of a meeting but let me text H," Eric told him.  A few beeps later. "There, texted him.  Ah, he's nearly done.  He'll call in a few, Mac."

"Thanks.  Xander, did you want to talk to Uncle Eric?"

"Poo!  Cookies!"

"Cookies are good," Eric agreed, sounding like he was smiling.  "You're a good boy, Xander.  A very good boy.  Now, be good for Uncle Mac and Daddy will call in a minute, okay?"  Xander giggled and blew kisses.  "Love you too, kiddo.  Be a good boy for us.  We'll see you soon."  He hung up.

Xander looked at Mac.  "Loves!"

"Yes, Uncle Eric does love you."  He smiled and answered the phone again.  "We saw the lab special with you guys.  He started to whimper and reach for the tv."

"Ah," Speed said.  His son squealed and got up to get closer, not even stealing another cookie to share with his elephant.  "You're babysitting?"

"I am," he agreed.  "It's been a bad day for Aiden."

"That's reasonable.  I know you'll take care of my boy.  How are you, Xander?  Are you having fun staying with Uncle Mac?"

"Cookies!  Loves, poo!  Daddy!"

"It's all right, Xander.  We'll see you in two whole days.  Two more dark times and then we'll have you again.  Daddy promises, okay?  Just relax and let mommy spoil you for two more dark times."

Xander petted the phone.  "Daddy?"

"Love you too, son.  You know that, daddy loves you."  Xander beamed at that.

"He has the biggest, brightest smile right now."

"I like that about my boy.  He's very sharing and loving."

"He tried to share cookies with his elephant."

"He often does.  And everything else too, that's why he gets washed so often."  Mac smiled at that.  "There's H.  Our boy saw the lab special.  Started whimpering at Mac."

"Xander," Horatio said quietly. "Are you okay?"

"Love daddies."  He patted the phone again.  "Daddy!"

"I'm here, son, and I love you too.  You're a good boy and we'll see you in two story times, okay?  Just two more story times."  Xander smiled at his voice.  "Why is Uncle Mac sitting you?"

"Aiden had a very bad day," Mac said quietly.  "She was going to tamper."

"I'm sorry, Mac."

"So was I.  She's out with the boys so I have him tonight.  We were wearing him out with the discovery channel special."

"He likes those.  We hardly ever get around to watching tv here.  Xander, are you being a good boy?"

"He's got his thinking face on but so far he's been an excellent boy for me.  He ate and didn't spread it around the house.  He curled right up with me once he had his elephant friend back.  He somehow wandered off during dinner into the bathtub.  We've been talking about his nightly bath."

"He usually has it at seven-thirty," Speed offered.

Mac looked at the clock. "It's about seventy-forty-five, not far off his schedule and I'm a special treat."

"Good point.  Daddy loves you, Xander.  He really does."

"Daddy poo lovies!" Xander said, beaming at the phone.  "Good boy!"

"That's right, you're a very good boy," Horatio praised.  "Now, go take your bath for me?"  Xander squealed and ran that way.  "Thanks, Mac.  I needed that infusion."

"So did he, Horatio.  See you in a few days."  He hung up and went to help the boy out of his clothes and into the shower.  Since he liked showers more that was fine with him.  He could scrub him just as easily that way.  Plus less water spread around his bathroom from the splashing.


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