Horatio tapped on Aiden's door, giving her a hug. "I heard," he said quietly. He tipped her face up. "We've all had cases like that. Why didn't you call?"
"Because I couldn't."
"You could. We'll look it over for you." She nodded. "The same as you're still more than welcome to come visit Xander." She nodded, smiling at him. "Is he here?"
"He wouldn't let go of Mac. Not even Sheldon and Don could get our son free from Mac's influence. He's got good taste for his first gayboy crush."
Horatio smiled. "He does. We'll be in town for the next few days."
"Thanks, Horatio. Our boy missed you two."
"We missed him." He kissed her on the head. "Let us know if we can help, Aiden."
"I don't want to work in a lab anymore. I'm so tired of having to see the bad things, ya know?"
"I understand. What about other forms of investigative or chemical work?" She smiled and nodded. "Let us know so we can help." He smoothed down some of her hair. "Now, we were going to dinner tonight with most of the family up here."
"I'm not up to it."
"It'll be awkward."
"Xander will bite anyone who gets upset. He does at home. He bit Marisol the other day when she got upset. He hates crying people." She nodded, going to change clothes. He waited, texting Speed, who said he was looking over the case file. There literally wasn't anything but paint thinner fumes. He put his phone away, smiling at the dress she was wearing. "You look very nice." She grabbed her handbag, keys, and all that stuff, stuffing it into the purse on her way out the door. She locked it and took his arm to walk down to their rental hummer. "Xander probably missed ours," he teased.
"We didn't see any. We didn't go out much." She settled into the passenger seat, smiling at the comfort of the thing. "These are comfortable for being gas hogs and bad to the environment."
"It keeps us safer." He headed back to the lab, giving her a look. He called Mac. "Aiden and I are here." He smiled. "Thank you." He hung up. "Come on." He walked her inside, taking both their visitors passes. Speed had already signed them in. The receptionist gave Aiden a look. He smiled at her and walked her on. "There we are. Where's Xander?"
They looked around and groaned, Mac paging the lab staff. "Someone find Xander. He wandered out while we were talking." They got up and headed in different directions.
Sheldon found a stuffed elephant in the stairwell and groaned. "Xander!" he called. He walked back into the morgue. "People, we have a missing year-old toddler. He's apparently wandering around. I found his stuffed friend in the stairwell. Let's do a search," he ordered. They got to look in all the drawers and the big freezer as well. He checked the offices, finding him in Sid's. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Because it would have upset him. I knew you'd be coming sometime soon." He stroked down the back. "He does love stories."
"He does," Sheldon agreed. "Xander, Daddy Horatio's here with Mommy." Xander beamed at him and gave Sid another hug then wiggled his way down, taking his elephant from Sheldon's hand. "Good boy. Come on. Found him!" he announced. "He was getting stories from Sid." That got some laughs and they walked him back up to Mac's office, making Mac call off the search and hug the little boy. "He got into the stairwell."
"That's talented," Speed agreed, grabbing his son. "No more escaping, son." He kissed him on the forehead then turned him around, making him squeal and bounce until he could get to Horatio, who smiled and picked him up to spare Speed's thighs the bouncing. "Thanks."
"We found a second stuffed elephant," Danny said, bringing in the bag. "Someone bagged it?"
"He's got his," Horatio admitted. "Was it maybe from a case?"
"Not that I remember."
Sheldon looked at the name then at him. "The hit and run, Danny." He moaned. "It was with the mother if I remember right." He took it and walked it back to one of the labs, leaving them to talk. He'd talk to them later. He heard little footsteps and looked back, stopping Xander to give him a hug. "Are you following me?" he teased.
"Sid!" he said happily.
"Oh, you wanted Sid." He grinned and kissed him on the cheek, walking him back to the office. "Cuddle the daddies. You can see Uncle Sid tomorrow, Xander. The daddies need cuddles." Xander went to pounce his fathers and Sheldon wisely closed the door this time. Then he went back to the morgue to pout. "He loves you more than me."
"He only knows that I tell stories, Sheldon. He loves you like an uncle. If I had found him in the halls he would've screamed if I had tried to pick him up. You he would've come to and hugged."
"Point," he agreed, sounding a bit happier. At least the boy did love him. Maybe he should learn how to tell stories before he had kids.
Horatio looked at his son. "Suck up to Uncle Sheldon tonight, Xander. He loves you too." Xander beamed and babbled at him, still clutching his thigh. He smiled and picked him up to cuddle, kissing him on the forehead. "Good boy but no more wandering off." He patted him on the back. "Anything, Speed?"
"Trying to figure out if we can match brands of paint thinner by scent composition." Mac shook his head. "Too common?"
"Unfortunately." He watched as the fathers switched places so Horatio could sit and hold his boy. "Did you get him a new carrier?"
"Stroller at his age, but a new carseat is waiting at home," Speed offered. "He's too big for the stomach snuggler too. We'll have to go to the backpack system with metal supports."
"Which means you can't really ride with him," Horatio reminded him.
"Bet me," he snorted. "It'll be just as safe as it was before." He stole his son. "C'mere, son. Daddy Horatio has funny thoughts." His son snuggled in and beamed at Mac. "Were you a good boy for Mommy and Uncle Mac?"
"He was an excellent boy for me, even though he did crawl into bed with me instead of sleeping on the couch. I woke up and found him snuggled into my stomach, one hand up my t-shirt to try to grab some chest hair." Horatio nodded at that. "Figured he did it to one of you."
"I'm not that hairy, Mac," Speed said with a smirk. "Aiden?"
"Only the showering stuff. He kept sneaking in on me. That and the first night."
"He does like to shower," Horatio agreed, smiling at her.
"I let him clean most of himself up," Mac offered. "That first morning she had to call for help because he was in the shower and she wasn't sure how to clean him in certain areas."
"Not like I've got an uncut dick, Mac," she said bluntly. Speed snickered. "I don't!"
"I'd hope not." Horatio swatted at him. "He pouts when I don't let him try to clean himself first."
"That's what I did that first morning then he got in various lewd positions to rinse off and danced around in the water," Mac agreed.
"After he's clean is playtime," Horatio agreed. "Now and then you will get him into a bath but it usually takes bubbles."
"Bubbles?" Xander said, his head popping up. "Me bubbles?"
"You can have bubbles tonight," Speed said, grinning at him. "We'll take a bubble bath together, how about that?" Xander beamed and kissed him then let his elephant friend kiss him before putting his head back down with a yawn. "He's very sharing."
"Kept trying to feed him the cookies the night I watched him," Mac agreed. "Oh, he did like the sugar wafers."
"Good," Horatio agreed. "We can switch to those since we're finally out of the cookies Alexx made us last month when she was on a baking kick."
"I almost thought she was pregnant again," Speed told him. Mac smiled at that. "Even Xander was in awe of all the cookies." Xander giggled but he sounded very sleepy. "We're going to dinner, right?"
"We are and our reservations are in an hour. Mac?"
"I'll page everyone. Where are we going?" He handed over the reservation slip. "That's a decent place that's not too pricey." He smiled as the family walked out together. Xander had reached over to pet the back of Horatio's hair. The boy looked so much happier with his family. Hopefully they wouldn't have to send him back up for a while. He saw Stella watching and smiling so he got up to find the others. "We were invited to dinner with them here in an hour," he said, holding up the slip.
"Sure. Watching them is almost incentive enough to date someone nice." She walked off to tell Don while he got Danny and Sheldon, plus maybe Sid Hammerback.
Ryan stood up straighter when he saw the two officers and their son come off the plane. "Lieutenant. The Chief wants you," he said quietly, handing over a note. "He also said I'm lurking outside your house tonight to make sure nothing happens."
"That's fine, Ryan. We'll go there, grocery shopping, then home. You can follow or wait there." That got a nod and Ryan smiled at the baby, getting spit at but a smile. "Be nice, son." He walked out, letting Speed get their bag since he had Xander. "He had fun."
"Good. It's always good when they have fun," he agreed happily. "I'm still sorry."
"I wasn't your fault, Ryan," Speed promised when he returned. "We've all made that same mistake." He patted him on the back. "Calm down about it. We'll work to keep you two apart."
"Please. I don't want to say something stupid in front of her by accident." Horatio looked at him. "An old friend I dumped long ago."
"Ah." He nodded. "I've had a few of those." He found his hummer outside and smiled. "Drove her out of short term parking?"
"Yes, sir. Figured I'd save you some time and the parking fees. I also made sure the carseat's in there properly. It was a bit loose." That got a nod and they got Xander into it, letting him frown at the new carseat. "You outgrew the other one," he said with a smile, getting in beside him.
"Yours, son," Horatio agreed with a smile. "Watch out, he's been petting recently."
"That's fine." They got in, Horatio driving, and headed for the main office. "My car's at your place already."
"Then you can go with us and guard us," Speed agreed. "It'll keep the kid occupied to pick on you." He smirked at the unhappy grunt, but then he saw Xander reaching over to pet him in the rearview mirror. Ryan tipped his head down for the baby, earning a smile. "You're good."
"All babies like textures. Hair's an odd scratchy, yet soft texture. Most kids like hair." Xander grabbed a handful to pull his head closer then let it go to go back to petting. "He's very strong willed," he said.
"He is," Horatio agreed, holding in his smile. "Nieces and nephews, Mr. Wolfe?"
"No, boss. No siblings."
"Want mine?" Speed offered. "He's a pain in the ass."
"Speed," Horatio chastised.
"Fuck!" Xander said proudly.
Even Horatio looked back at him. "Well, he was in New York," Ryan offered. "Maybe a cabbie said it," he said at the dual dirty looks the parents gave him.
"No, it was probably his mother," Speed sighed. "You can't say that word, son."
"Yes, we love you too. Pet the Ryan some more. Then you can see Uncle Eric for a while." Xander squealed, patting Ryan's head then going back to petting him since Daddy had said so. Ryan snickered. "You should've seen Christmas dinner. He threw food at everyone. Got Delko in the ear so many times he had to have someone rinse his ear out to get all the food out."
"Babies can do that. Better the ear than up the nose."
"True," Horatio agreed. "If you ever have to babysit him, he does not like beans."
"Those were his favorite missile at Eric though," Speed reminded him. "Has anyone seen Ray Junior?"
"On your couch the last I knew," Ryan admitted. "He claimed he was housesitting."
"I'll call him while you talk to the boss," Speed offered. Horatio nodded, parking in front of City Hall. He looked up. "His lights aren't on."
Horatio called his number. "Sir, we're back. You wanted a conference? We are. Thank you." He hung up. "He's in a Council meeting, he'll be out in ten minutes." He looked at them. "Stay." He got out and headed inside, nodding at the officers standing around. He saw Rick Stetler and mentally groaned but didn't physically show anything. "Problems while I was gone?"
"Where is your nephew?"
He glared at him. "His mother wants him home."
"Then we'll talk to him tonight, pay him for the housesitting, give her good reviews of how he did hopefully, and send him there, Rick." He looked at his boss as he came out. "They did a wonderful job protecting him."
"I heard his mother got fired," he admitted quietly, looking at him.
"She had a case where she knew who had done it but couldn't fully prove it." That got a nod. "She's burnt out and looking at other options."
"That's fine. How is your son?" he asked, leading him off.
"Very well. He did learn a swear word but we'll handle that tonight." He noticed Rick following and looked at his boss. "Was there a problem while we were gone?"
"No, not really." He walked them into his office and shut the door with Rick outside. "He claims you're harboring a runaway?"
"My nephew is housesitting for us," he said. "Even so, this is my nephew and I'm going to talk to him first, sir."
"Agreed. I'm hoping he has the sense you do. Housesitting?"
"Someone's got to water the plants."
That got a smirk. "Nice save," he said quietly. He stared at him. "Wolfe doing okay?"
"Fine. He's still extremely upset that they did that to him. We now know he's got a problem with opening his mouth so we'll restrict the press's access to him." That got a nod. "That was a suggestion he made as well, sir. Why?"
"Just wondering. Poor kid's barely on the job and does that."
"They were more than far enough away that they shouldn't have heard it. It's not like he was shouting."
"Good point." He looked at him. "Horatio, it's going to be messy in a few months."
"You have an information leak."
"It's not Wolfe."
"No, it's not Wolfe. He's not trusted enough yet. You still have one."
"A full mole or just a leak?"
"Both really. I needed to warn you to be careful, that the brass is coming down to visit soon. You need to make sure they work together."
"I'll get my team together tonight to talk to them. It'd be appropriate with just getting Xander back." That got a smile. "Any idea who?"
"No. Not a single clue. I know someone called in a tip to the Feds." Horatio nodded once at that. "I also know that someone has a very big mouth, Horatio."
"I understand." He considered it quickly. "Was that the reason Rick was down here?"
"I have no idea why he's lurking except for your nephew, Horatio."
"Thank you, sir. I'll handle that situation as well. Yelina knows Ray Junior is always welcome to my couch." That got a nod and he let him out. He walked off thinking hard until he got into the hummer. Then he put in his earbud and hooked it into his phone. "Groceries, right?"
"Let me drive," Speed ordered. They got out and changed places. He settled in to drive. "Groceries. You call Ray?"
Horatio nodded, calling home. "Ray." He listened to him explain what was going on. He sighed. "As far as I'm concerned you are housesitting. I'll call her. Thank you." He hung up and let out a small growl. Speed gave him a sideways look. He shook his head and called Yelina. "We're going to...."
"Pierson's grocery, Yelina. Please join us. Yes, that was an order." He hung up and looked at him, then back at Ryan. "We have to talk about something as a lab tonight."
"Sure, I can hang back with the cart and your son while you two talk to Detective Salas as well," Ryan assured him. That got a smile. "Is this what the irritating brat mentioned about a leak?"
"It is," he agreed. "We have a leak and a mole. No idea if they're the same people."
"Can I kill them?" Speed asked.
"That might be a possibility, depending on the reason." He called the other two on conference call. "We're going to grocery shop then head home. We should have a team dinner tonight, kids. Yes, that was an order, Eric. I'm sure she's quite stunning. You can leave early." He hung up on Calleigh protesting too. "Apparently it's date night."
"At least she'll be happy," Speed said with a grimace. He pulled into the parking lot and nodded inside so Ryan got Xander out and headed inside. "What?"
"Ray Junior saw them fighting, heard Rick cutting her down, and tried to step in the middle. She's got a black eye."
"From Stetler or Ray?"
"I'll kill the bastard, Horatio. You know that."
"You and me both." They saw Yelina pull in and walked over to her car, him tipping her face up. She pulled her chin out of the way. "Of course my nephew is welcome to stay with us, Yelina. You know that."
"I only wanted to talk to him. Rick turned you in for harboring a runaway."
"No, he was housesitting," Speed told her. She sighed in displeasure. "Can I kick his ass, just the once, H?"
"No, Speed. That's my fun. She is my family," he said with a small smile for him. Speed grumbled, going inside to help his son steal grapes. It was his favorite thing. Xander was already protesting that he couldn't get near the grapes, strawberries, or tomatoes. Horatio looked at her. "You are still family, Yelina. If you were my sister instead of sister-in-law he'd already be dead."
"I kicked him out but Ray won't even answer the phone to let me tell him that."
"We're having a family meeting tonight. You and Frank should attend or we'll tell you tomorrow." That got a nod and she followed him inside. He found Speed trying to pry an onion bulb out of their son's hand. "Son, you can't eat those. Those are plants, like the green things in the kitchen." Xander pouted but handed it over. "Thank you." He patted him on the head. "What are we cooking tonight?"
Horatio looked at him. "What am I cooking tonight?"
Speed grinned. "Whatever you feel like."
"Fine." He took the cart and walked their son off, shaking his head when Ryan was filling his own basket. "Didn't do your own?"
"I have no food in my house," he admitted. "I haven't in days. I've been living on takeout and my stomach's upset." He grabbed the minute rice and followed. Nothing that would spoil in his car but some staples. Plus a small jug of milk for him to drink. Xander made pleading noises so he got him one too, smiling at the tolerant fathers. "It's good for him."
"It is," Speed agreed. "He had to have water on the plane and he hated it. Didn't really like the plane either."
"He didn't on the way up. Played with his left ear the whole way."
"We'll get it checked out," Horatio assured him. He did pick up some milk then went back for some chicken, heading for the check out. Xander made pointing and grabbing motions at the ice cream aisle, getting a look. "We should have some of that at home if your cousin hasn't eaten it all." Xander beamed and went back to drinking his milk. The cashier smiled and he took it to let her ring it up, then handed it back, getting a pat for that. "We have to pay for it, son, like we do the grapes you usually steal."
"Ryan had him in the middle of the aisle, he couldn't reach anything," Speed said with a grin.
"I'm impressed," the cashier said with a smile. "Usually he eats almost a half pound of them." She finished ringing him up, letting Horatio pay, then got Ryan since they were apparently together. He paid with his debit card and it didn't go through. He stared at it then shook his head and pulled out cash. "It happens."
"Paycheck was supposed to be in there today, just late I guess," he covered with a small sigh. She took the cash and gave him the change and receipt plus the bag. "Thank you." He headed out, going to see how he was going to beat Eric to death. Horatio gave him a look. "Paycheck wasn't on the card yet."
"Had that happen a few times," Speed agreed. "Usually when Xander was out of diapers." Horatio nodded at that. "If your future kids ever gets the runs, and they will, do not start by trying cheese first, Wolfe. Start with the medicine then add cheese. Trust me on this." Horatio nodded harder at that as he backed out, followed by Yelina. "She good?"
"No. She and Rick had a very bad fight. She kicked him out but Ray won't talk to her."
"I'll put up the groceries while you talk to him."
"Thank you." He patted him on the knee, giving him a smile.
"I already know you're together, guys," Ryan pointed out. "Calleigh pulled me aside to warn me that if I said anything I'd be beaten and then shot. I told her I had no problems with it and I don't. I volunteer to work the Pride Parade every year." That got a smirk from Speed. "I'm not, a friend is."
"That's fine, Ryan. So the reporter brat?"
Ryan moaned. "Tasted very good for almost a whole semester back in college."
"Ah." He nodded. "That makes more sense. I had one of those too. Her name was Pam. Caused me no end of problems."
"Only when you came in wearing the same clothes two days in a row and commando, Speed," Horatio said dryly. He turned onto his street, finding Calleigh already there and resting against her car. He parked in his spot. "Grocery shopping," he excused.
"That's fine. Ray's inside?" He nodded. "Okay. We'll let you two talk." She grabbed some of the bags, giving Xander a kiss when she walked past him. "Hi, sweetie." He beamed at her. "Did you steal grapes?"
"No, Ryan kept him from it, but he did get some milk," Speed offered, carrying in the rest. "Ray!" The door opened and their nephew let him in. "Thanks. Horatio's got the yard and your mom's on the way." He gave him a smirk. "Warn us first."
"Yes, sir." He went out to talk to his uncle, who gave him a hug and whispered in his ear. "I don't care! He's still an asshole and I'm still going to kill him! Mom wouldn't even let me yell at him."
"That's because you're still underaged, Raymond."
"That is a very dangerous slope to start down, nephew." He stared him down. "If he comes back around, you call me and we'll do it together." Ray nodded. "Now, I know you need to talk."
"I could," he agreed, slumping some.
"Then we'll do that and later on you and your mother can talk. You can help me cook since Speed's tired." That got a nod and he walked inside with his uncle. Though he did open the door when he heard another car, smiling at Eric when he walked in looking very grouchy. "Eric." He looked at Ray, who went to wash his hands in the bathroom. "Calleigh?" She came in from playing with Xander with Ryan behind her. "I got told today we have a leak, ladies and gentlemen."
"Like someone called the Feds about an improper lab practice?" she asked, looking confused.
"We did get one of those, yes. We also may have a full mole. We're not sure yet if it's the same person or not." Eric gaped in horror. "That means we're going to be getting visited by the lab brass in the next few months. Am I clear?"
"So we need to work a bit tighter?" Eric asked, glaring at Ryan. Speed popped him on the head. "Hey!"
"They shouldn't have been able to get him on microphone, Eric," Speed reminded him.
"He knows the reporter!"
"I dated her for a few months," Ryan agreed. "Doesn't mean we're still dating." Eric glared at him. "I know you have exes, Delko. I'm sure you've got one you blurt shit out in front of too."
"No swearing in the house," Speed said. He looked at Horatio. "Okay, so we run a drill with a pop case." That got a nod. "Even if we do have to handcuff those two together until they get along."
"That is starting to look like an idea," Horatio admitted, glaring at Eric. Who wilted. He looked at Ryan. "We'll work it out, Ryan. Help you two learn to get along better."
"Yes, Horatio. I'd welcome the help."
"Good boy. Now, go stop Xander from heading outside please?" He jogged to catch the toddler. He looked at Eric and Calleigh. "Do we have other problems?"
"How do we know it's not him?" Eric asked.
"Because no one trusts him yet," Calleigh pointed out. "What was turned in?"
"I don't know yet."
"Hmm. We'll have to figure that out first."
"I was kinda thinking Wolfe would be the perfect person to do that," Speed offered. "He's new, he's got to worm his way into other's chest cavities anyway." That got a nod from Horatio. "So we'll let him be our head spy. You two can report back to all of us of course."
"Sure," Eric agreed. "Thank you, H."
"You're welcome, Eric. Remember, you can all come talk to me when you have problems. Or you can talk to Speed."
"The last time I did that he told me I needed better taste in men," Calleigh complained.
"He told me to get over it and go find a different girl who wouldn't stalk me," Eric told her.
"It was sound advice in both cases," Speed said with a smirk. "Now, who's staying for dinner? H is cooking."
"I've got a date," Eric told him. That got a nod so he left, Ryan following him out. "What, Wolfe?" he sighed, looking at him.
"The check you gave me bounced," he said quietly.
"I'll get it to you in a few days."
"Thanks. I wasn't going to say anything in there."
"Thank you." He walked off, a bit happier. Horatio had the new guy's leash firmly in hand. Speed was going to get the new guy off to a better start too. Though he did stop to check his account. It was already empty. He sighed and went to tap into his savings. Maybe he did need to talk to Horatio.
Later that night, they both looked down as their bedroom door opened, finding their son toddling in. "How did you get out of your crib?" Speed asked. Xander climbed up using the slightly open drawer of the bedside table, like always. The thing was stuck. Then he plopped down between them and hid his face in Horatio's chest, snuggling in. "Shh, we've got you," Speed murmured, petting his back. Horatio got them all covered up and it was nice. He got a kiss and a smile. "Nightmares?"
"Maybe," Horatio agreed, stroking over their son's hair with a hand. "Sleep, son. It's all right. Daddies are here." Xander blinked up at him. "Bad dreams?" He nodded and snuggled in again. "Okay. You can sleep with us tonight."
"Thankfully we're both still dressed," Speed offered quietly.
"Hmm. I was about to cure that for us too." He took another kiss, getting smiled at. "He's more important."
"He is." Xander kicked him on the stomach so he moved closer, pinning him there. Xander sighed in pleasure and drifted off again. They went back to kissing but kept it there.
Speed walked into Horatio's office a few days later and closed the door, pulling the blinds as well. Then he walked over and gave his lover a strong hug. "Ryan's fine," he whispered. Horatio nodded, still tense. "It'll be okay. It won't end his career. Eric appreciates him more now."
"Marisol's sick," he said quietly.
"He told me last night." He gave him another hug. "We'll figure it out, Horatio. We always do. You told me that even tragedies have reasons." Horatio nodded, starting to relax. At least until someone knocked. "What!" he demanded. The doorknob rattled so he went to open it. "What's wrong, Valera?"
"Someone shot at your house," she said quietly. "Frank couldn't get him on his phone so he headed out." Horatio pushed past her, Speed right behind him. She went back to her lab, stopping to find Calleigh. "Someone shot at Horatio's house."
Calleigh walked off muttering things that no lady should ever say about certain gang members. Or whoever was the problem this time. She was sure it was fine. She called Yelina. "Someone shot at Horatio's house." She hung up and hurried out to her hummer to go help them. There was a scene to process and Horatio and Speed wouldn't be able to. She got there and it wasn't as bad as she expected. A few holes in the walls. "Everyone all right?" she asked the officer doing the tape.
"So far. Um, did you know those two were living together?"
"Yeah, and raising Speedle's son. And?" she asked.
"Nothing, ma'am, just a shock to me."
"Uh-huh. Don't worry about it, it doesn't affect things on the job." She walked up there to look at the first hole, then went inside. "Everyone okay?"
"Xander was in the park with Rachel," Speed said from the kitchen. He was handcuffed to the refrigerator. "Horatio's a bit upset. Can I have my keys?" She grabbed them off the far counter and tossed them to him. "Thanks. He headed out again. Frank's with him."
"Okay. Then let me process this scene." He nodded, helping her look for the one bullet that had gotten through. The rest they'd have to dig out. Horatio and Frank came back an hour later, while she was prying out the last bullet. "All nine mils, Horatio." He looked at her and nodded. "Do we have any idea who?"
"I have a few good ideas. Why?"
"The Mala Noche wouldn't hit your house," she pointed out. "They'd hit you in the hummer." He nodded once at that logic. "Also, I called to check on Ryan. Eric said he's stoned on his pain killers but he's in bed. He's staying there for a few hours to make sure he's all right when he wakes up."
"Why didn't they keep him?" Speed asked.
"I don't know," Calleigh admitted. "That seemed a bit odd to me too." She looked at him. "We got the person who did it right before this, Horatio. Calm down."
"Alexx has the baby," Speed agreed. "I asked, she's babysitting tonight."
"Thank you, both of you." He went to call her, just in case. Then he came back out to look at his house from the street. He found the skid marks and got to work on them. He wanted to know who he was going to have a ...talk with. A very long talk with.
Horatio walked in a few days later, right to the Chief's office. He put down the tape, the signed confession, then the person's badge and gun. "For once, when I actually wanted him there, Stetler was nowhere to be found." He turned and walked out.
The Chief looked at his back until he was sure he was gone then he read the confession. He moaned and went to talk to someone about this. He knew who was in charge of this movement. He found him scowling at the back of Horatio's hummer. He cleared his throat. "Being anti-gay is fine, that is your right," he said calmly. "Shooting at the head of my crime lab is not. Nor is shooting at his house when his son might be inside." The man gave him a horrified look. "We have a taped confession from one of your boys. My office, now, Captain."
"Officers!" he called. There were always a few around since the courthouse was inside. Two or three came running, one later. "Take him to my office now please. If he struggles, feel free to cuff him." The Captain started to struggle so he was cuffed and drug up there. Cops hated dirty cops. He called Rick Stetler personally. "The one time you needed to lurk around Caine and you weren't?" he asked. "Even he said that when he presented me with someone's badge, Stetler. My office. Now." He hung up and took in another breath of semi-fresh air before going back inside. He knew that Horatio was going to kill them all if he didn't fix this, and then he'd sue the department for letting them do this. Stetler jogged in a few minutes later. "Good timing." He let him read the confession.
Stetler looked at the Captain. "That group of his has been under watch now for a month. What did they do?"
"Shot Horatio's house. Fortunately his son was in the park playing with his housekeeper."
Stetler looked at him. "And he's alive?"
"The officer in custody is. This one is implicated."
"I'll handle it, sir."
"You will and I'll have more people behind bars is necessary. If not, bring me transfer orders."
"Agreed." He took those things, leaving the badge and gun there, and let the officers walk the Captain down to his car. "Thank you, boys."
"What did he do?" one asked quietly.
"He shot at Caine's house for being gay."
The officers all shuddered. One shook his head. "I don't like gay officers but damned if I'm gonna go against that one." Stetler stared at him. "I'm more a friendly persuasion sort," he admitted. "Not my partner. I've had two transferred because of it."
"They're here to stay, you should get used to it," he said dryly, going around to get in and drive off. His boss would want to help with this. It always looked good on IAB. Even if the officer did commit suicide later that night in the private cell.
Mac came down that November, looking at the small family. "Horatio, can I have Speed?" he asked quietly. That got a nod and Horatio walked his son outside. November in Miami was still beautiful weather and his son liked to watch the ocean with him. "Speed." He sat down in front of him, just staring for a moment. "I thought I should tell you in person. We found a body recently. Charred. Had been beaten severely."
"Aiden," he said quietly. Mac nodded. "Why?"
"She went after the rapist. He led her into a trap. We have him now because of that. He'll be staying in jail. We'll make sure of it." That got a single nod. "That does not mean that the rest of us want to quit being uncles and aunts. Stella threatened to kidnap him if she didn't get to see him at Christmas." Speed let out a small smile at that. "All right?" He nodded. "I'm sorry."
"So am I. You're sure he'll stay?"
"She gave us every single clue, Speed. We have him. He's already taking a deal."
Speed nodded. "Thank you for coming down to tell me."
"You deserved to hear it in person instead of over the phone." He looked outside and caught Horatio's eye, letting him back inside. "Aiden went after him." Horatio sat down, letting Xander sit between them, though Speed took him to cuddle. "He trapped her but we have him because of it."
"Is she all right?" Speed shook his head. "He'll stay in jail?"
"He's taking a deal today, Horatio. I wanted to come to you with that as well. I didn't want you guys to hear over the phone." Horatio nodded once at that, then pulled Speed and Xander closer. "I'm sorry, guys. She didn't come to us. If she had, I'd have helped her trap him."
"She didn't come to us either," Speed admitted into Xander's hair. "Funeral?"
"We'll be there," Horatio promised. That got a nod and Mac left them alone. He called his boss. "It's me." He listened to the happy chatter about the upcoming budget. "Xander's mother was killed. Her funeral's in two days," he said quietly. He nodded. "Thank you." He hung up. "We both have a week," he said quietly.
"Thank you." He took a kiss then kissed his son's head. "He's too young."
"He can come. He won't understand but he won't babble through it. He's very good at sensing moods." That got a nod and Speed went to pack for them while he held Xander. "I'm sorry, baby. We didn't want you to have to go through this."
Xander wiggled his way free of his father's clutches once they were in the station, seeing his uncle walking up the halls. He squealed and ran after him, pouncing him from behind. Don smiled down at him. "Got you!"
"You did get me. You have a very good pounce, little man." He picked him up to cuddle, smiling at the tolerant fathers. "I'm sorry, guys. If she had *told* us...."
"We know. We feel the same way," Horatio assured him. He smiled at his son. "He wanted to see Stella. Chanted her name the whole flight."
"Okay. C'mon, little man." He kissed him on the temple, walking them over to the labs. He found her in one and pointed. "Go pounce her," he whispered. Xander wiggled so he let him down and watched as the boy snuck in there, though Danny did catch sight of him and got waved and smiled at. He pounced Stella, making her shriek and him giggle. "They said he wanted to see you."
"I can tell. Hi, Xander." She picked him up to cuddle, getting him away from the table. "You pounce very well."
"Got you," he said, smiling at her. He looked at her face then kissed her on the cheek. "No booboos?"
"No, I don't have a booboo. Why?" She looked at the parents, who shrugged. "Okay then. Did you have a dream that I had a booboo?" He nodded, looking very serious. "I'm okay, little guy. I promise." She gave him a cuddle and turned him over to Danny when he came out to get his own. "Thanks, guys, I needed that."
"He's one of the best remedies to a scarred soul," Horatio agreed, giving her his own hug. "Are you all right?"
"I'm okay. Why did he dream I was hurt?"
"I don't know. He chanted your name the whole flight up. We checked in with Don first and he brought us over."
"He's got a good pounce," Danny said with a grin. "He'll be a good cop some year." He got a pat. "What?" Xander patted down his hair then looked at him. "What?"
"Yeah, I know, I had ta use gel this morning." Don snickered at that. He slugged him on the arm. "Tell your uncle his hair's funny too." He handed him off. "Mac is on a scene with Lindsey and Doc."
"Sheldon moved up?" Speed asked. They all nodded. "Why?"
"He wanted to see the whole thing," Danny said with a small shrug. That got nod from Horatio, who shook his head afterward. "My feeling too. Anyway, you should check in with him. Or we can take a short break."
"I will," Stella said, smiling at him. "You go back to finding that spot's origin." He nodded, going to reglove and do that. "Come on, guys. Our break room's not much but it's there." She led them that way, calling Mac. "I got pounced by Xander." She hung up on his laughter. "He needed the bit of cheer too."
"We could all use some Xander pouncing," Speed agreed. Xander smiled at him. "Yes, you. Don, no cookies," he warned when he and Xander headed for the machine. "Get something semi-healthy. He didn't eat on the plane."
"If I must." He looked then got them something to share, making Xander grin at him. "I know, I'm the nice uncle. I give you treats."
"You should've seen his Halloween costume," Horatio offered, pulling out pictures. "We let him pick which one he wanted on the name tag."
"Awww, you went as me for Halloween. I like that!" he said with a beam for his favorite nephew. He sat down so they could share the pretzels. "Can I get a copy of that?"
"That is," Speed assured him. Stella smiled at that and took it to AV to have it copied for her and Mac too. Then she came back. "Copies?"
"Of course." She gave Xander a kiss on the head. "You're so adorable." Mac and Lindsey walked in but Sheldon kept going. "Doc?" He came back and beamed, coming in to hug Xander. "He pounced me. He dreamed I had a booboo on my cheek."
"That's a good reason to pounce you in the labs," he agreed. "I'm sure he didn't get near any evidence."
"No, not in the least, we watched him," Speed said, shaking his hand. "Hi, Mac."
"Speed, Horatio. Sheldon, go log that in then you can take a break to play with him."
"We came to check in. You guys can play with us tonight," Horatio promised. That got a smile and Sheldon walked off. He looked at Stella. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Dreams like that need to be shown to be false, or else he'll worry." She stroked down the baby's hair. "I'll see you guys in a few hours." They nodded so she kissed Xander, stole a pretzel, and went back to work.
"Lindsey, these are Horatio and Speed, from Miami's lab. This is their son Xander."
"He's adorable." Xander looked at her and spit, then ate another pretzel. "And obviously nearly two," she said with a grin. She patted him on the head. "Hi, Xander. I'm Lindsey."
He stared at her, then cackled and blew another raspberry.
"Son," Speed warned. "Be nicer."
Xander blew kisses then leaned his head on Don's shoulder, giving her his best cute look.
"You're good," she said, smiling at them. "Bodies wait for no one so I'll let you guys catch up." She walked out, finding Sheldon already starting on their case. "You guys all know him?"
"Yeah, Aiden was his mom," he said quietly, looking at her. She slumped and nodded at that. "It'll be fine. We've all babysat him. He had to come up when his fathers were under death threat a few months back, Lindsey. They're up for her funeral."
"I get that. It's kinda sad to lose his mom at his age."
"He's got plenty of aunts and uncles. Their whole team is like a family down there. Even Sid likes the boy. Xander adores his stories." That got a small smile. "So we'll work it out and it'll be okay. Even if he is having bad dreams that Stella was hurt."
"Maybe it's a transfer from what happened to his mother?"
"I don't think they told him what happened to her. He's just over two." He got back to work, smiling when Danny came in. "Did you get to see Xander?"
"I did. They let him sneak into the lab we're in to pounce Stella. Made her squeal and everything." That got a few smiles. "He's a good boy, Monroe. He's like the lab's kid some days. His first Christmas we all went down to play with the boy."
"That was a fun dinner," Sheldon agreed with a grin. "A food fight. Ray Junior." Danny snickered at that. He looked at him. "Are you all right?"
"I'm good enough," he admitted. That got a nod. "We need the computers in here. You guys usin' 'em?"
"Thanks, Doc." He went to get the sample and bring it back. The searching database was only in this lab for some reason.
Horatio, Speed, and the baby made it home a few days later and found a note on their door to please cal the Chief. He sighed and helped Speed put the baby down then went to find his boss. He found him at dinner and sat down across from him, handing over one of the remembrance cards. "You needed to talk this badly?" he asked quietly.
"I think we should. How is your son?"
Horatio stared at him for a moment then shrugged. "He's too young to understand he just lost his mother. Fortunately he has a lot of females in his life still."
"Yes, it's been said that you're using your people to babysit him."
"None of my team's babysat him yet, except for Alexx the night our house got shot up and she demanded," he said, frowning a bit. He glanced around then back at him. "The last time anyone babysat was when we were on paternity leave."
He stared at his guy. "We have a sworn statement saying that Calleigh did babysit him recently."
"Not that I remember." He texted that to Speed, who sent back a 'not that I know of'. He showed it to his boss. "Neither one of us remember that. When was this?"
"The day the Dumont case came up to trial. She was late."
"She was late because her car had a flat tire," he corrected patiently. "Eric had to help her change it because the lugnuts were stuck and the auto club wasn't going to be able to get to her for hours." He stared at him. "I'd like to hear this from Calleigh's own mouth."
"See, with that statement...."
"I'd also like to hear that," he assured him.
"Fine, we can do that." He pulled out his cellphone and called her, putting her on speaker. "CSI Duquesne."
"Chief. What can I do for you tonight? Is Horatio going to be back late?"
He looked at him and held up a hand. "No, he's back. I heard he just landed. This concerns a matter I got a sworn statement on. Have you babysat their son recently?"
"No," she said, starting to laugh. "I haven't seen Xander since they got back after the Mala Noche thing," she assured him. "Then I got cuddled for a few minutes. Who said I did?"
"More to the point, Calleigh, who wrote you did," Horatio told her quietly. "Someone sent him a signed statement saying I was making you babysit and that's why you were late for the Dumont hearing."
"I had a flat tire," she said firmly. "You know that."
"I do," he assured her. "The same as I told him. The problem is that someone forged your signature on a statement to him that I'm forcing you to babysit my son."
"That is bad," she agreed. "Can I see it tomorrow?"
"I'd like to do that as well," Horatio agreed. "May we, Chief?"
"You may. You both may," he agreed. "As well as Speedle since I got sent one saying you were blackmailing him into a relationship using something he did wrong in the lab."
"No, I'm not," Horatio assured him. "You can ask him yourself."
"I will in the morning. Calleigh, I need you and the others in tomorrow for a meeting. Can you? First thing in Horatio's office?"
"What happens if we get a scene?"
"I'll send Ryan," Horatio told her. "If we have to, we'll excuse whoever's already gone."
"Okay, I can do that," she agreed. "I'll let Eric know. How's Xander?"
"He's all right. He's too young to know anything other than all his uncles and aunts are sad. He's down for the night at the moment but Speed's at home with him."
"I'll call to tell him too. And Ryan. Are you all right?"
"They got the person who did it and I plan on doing the same in this case," he said with a small, mean smirk at his boss.
"I agree, you should," he said quietly. "Thank you, Calleigh."
"Not a problem. I want that rumor stopped cold," she said firmly then she hung up.
Horatio looked at his boss. "Who?"
"Stetler's boss," he said quietly.
"Interesting." He stood up. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Please. Bright and early."
"Of course." He walked off, heading for his hummer and then home. He found Speed pacing. "There was a second statement saying I'm blackmailing you into our relationship."
"Really? Wish someone had told me you had major blackmail material," he said bitterly, looking at him. "Who?"
"Yay us," he said flatly. "We do what?"
"Right now, we sleep. We have a meeting first thing with him."
"Sure, I can see that. Calleigh was ranting."
"As would I." He gave him a kiss. "We'll work it out, Speed. Even if I do end up suing the department." That got a nod and Speed relaxed, cuddling in. "It'll be all right," he promised quietly. "He down?"
"Fully asleep." He looked up. "C'mon. I'll give you a shoulder rub, Master," he teased.
Horatio smirked. "I could use one. In some other places as well." He led him to the bedroom, getting down to relieve some stress.
Horatio looked at his boss the next morning, looking up from his paperwork. He paged the others, letting them come in. "Forgot we start earlier than shift change?"
"I did," he admitted. He put down the folder. "These have been given to myself or my assistant in the last few days," he said, looking at the others.
"If he was blackmailing me, I'd spank him," Speed told him dryly, staring at their boss. "He's not. I'm not in this for anything but the sex and cuddles, plus our kid."
"Good to know," he said, trying not to smile at that image. Speed spanking Horatio was a bit cute to his mind. "Delko, it says that he's pressured you to decide some cases his way."
"Fat chance," he snorted. "I'm more stubborn than anyone here, even H."
Horatio looked at the signatures. "They were signed by the same person," he said calmly. Ryan took it to compare against each other, separating one out. "What's wrong with that one?"
"Different handwriting totally, Horatio," he said, handing it back. "That's the personal blackmail letter." He looked at Calleigh. "You babysit?"
"Me either, and my mother pouts about that," Eric said dryly.
Speed looked at him. "He could use cheered up. This weekend?"
"Momma would love it," he promised with a grin. "They okay up there?"
"Bummed, what I'd expect. Xander gave out a lot of hugs while we were up for the funeral. Also, he had a dream that Stella was bruised so he spent the whole time rubbing her cheek. We even let him pounce her. She squealed very pretty." That got a grin from Eric and Calleigh. "You'll meet the New York team sometime soon, Wolfe."
"Sure. Looking forward to it." He handed the letters down. "Before anyone asks, the letter they wrote about me is false too."
"Are you sure?" Eric asked.
Ryan glared at him. "Yes, Eric, I'm very sure I'm not sleeping with half the patrol officers and Detective Tripp. If I was being paid for it, I'd live in a nicer place and have a housekeeper with OCD too."
The Chief snickered at that. "That one showed up in my mailbox this morning, Officer Wolfe."
"Charming. Can I have just one hit when we find the guy?"
"If you want," he promised, looking at Horatio, who was not looking pleased. "I know who handed over that one about the babysitting. The others I can't be sure."
"I'll be finding out. Did you keep the envelopes?" The bag of them were handed over. "Thank you. We'll run this immediately."
"I'll know as soon as you do?"
"I'll present them to you," Horatio promised. That got a nod and he left. "So, not only do we have a mole, we have a problem."
Eric looked at Ryan. "Are you gay?"
"Can I smack you too?" he asked.
"He'd like it," Speed told him, rereading the letters. Eric swatted him so he glared at him. "Ask him out later, Eric. We've got to find this person." Horatio tossed over the envelopes. "Right to DNA," he agreed, taking them and the letters with him. The other he came back to get. They went to Questionable Documents to verify the signatures were a match and see if the odd one out was as well. Then fingerprints, DNA, and finally the reports were gathered and handed to Horatio that night. "Forget Wolfe hitting him, I get to hit him."
"I'm sure that compromise could be reached," he agreed, paging his boss. He showed up a half hour later. He handed over the reports. "That one letter?" he asked Speed.
"If he can find a handwriting sample he'll match it," he told him. "I already had him test against everyone in the lab. He had samples on all of us already."
"That's fine." He looked at his boss. "Why this time?"
"As far as I know it's about you two being together," he admitted quietly, looking outside then at the couple. "I don't care, boys, you know that." Horatio nodded and handed over a card. "You've got an attorney?"
"I've had an attorney. She's a very old and dear friend, Chief." He stood up and looked at him. "I do not know why they decided to focus on us."
"You're visible, you're clearly out, and you're effective," Speed reminded him. "If it was Eric or Calleigh, they wouldn't care but you're in the media, H."
"So I'm too visible and they're worried that my relationship will make people think the rest of us are gay?"
"Probably," the Chief admitted. "How did you get his handwriting sample?"
"He's got a handwritten note as part of his webpage."
"At least we can formally ask him for one."
"I did. I got Delko to sweet talk his secretary into one." That got a smirk. "Something he had given her so it's admissible." That got a nod and he walked out. "We want to be there."
"Agreed. It'll be tomorrow." Horatio nodded at that. "Go home, both of you." He headed out, going back to his office. This ongoing harassment was starting to bother him. This was the third officer he'd be losing thanks to them harassing Speedle and Caine about being together. He decided to stop in on the union rep for their gay officer's union. "Can we speak?" he asked.
"We can." He walked him outside after nodding at his boss. "What's up, boss?"
"Caine's been experiencing a lot of harassment."
"Openly?" He let him see a letter. "Interesting. Untrue, but interesting." He handed it back and looked at him again. "We get things like being beaten and ignored when we plea for help. He gets more overt actions. Though IAB does harass us all the time."
"This'll make the third officer I'm firing due to them picking on that couple specifically."
"They're trying to discredit the lab, boss. If it was one of us, they'd be using physical force. Using that on Caine gets you hurt." That got a nod. He shrugged. "What do you want me to tell you? Yes, it's just as widespread as it is for us. The two you didn't stick up for last year are still going to sue you, personally, and the department. Hearing this they might call them as witnesses. It's not at an epidemic level but it's not that quiet around here. I've turned over copies of all the threatening notes I've gotten over the years and nothing got done until one guy tried to kill me. Then I had to push and force someone to do something."
"So it's not unreasonable by the levels the other union members get?"
"I get the same only I get threats of violence. If I get killed some day, I want Caine boys and girls to investigate before IAB. At least they won't back off because of who did it."
"I'll make note of that." He paused to study him. "Then why do you stay?"
"Because I'm good at the work and the victims need me," he said bluntly. "Not like the homophobic bastards are going to protect them."
"Point." He nodded. "Thank you for your advice."
"Not a problem. Are there any in IAB who're actually going to do anything?"
"Stetler's against Caine due to family history. I'm not sure about his relationship. You could try him or me."
He snickered. "Sir, if we handed over the threat file I've got, you'd never do anything else." He walked back inside to call Stetler. "It's Parks. Yup, him. Because anytime I hand over threats nothing gets done. I was wondering if you wanted them instead. If not, who am I going through? Because if that one hits on me again I'm going to kick his ass," he said honestly. "He's also married. I don't do the other woman." He smirked. "That'll work. Thank you. I'll forward copies to you tonight." He hung up and went to photocopy the ones he kept in his desk, sending them over through inter-office mail. Maybe he'd do something. It was only two percent of the force but it wasn't a good thing to anyone. Gay or straight.
Horatio walked in the next morning, nodding at Rick. "Why are you here?"
"Gary Parks forwarded me his threat file." He handed over the envelope.
Horatio looked then handed it back. "Did you want my people to investigate for you?"
"No, I will be. Did you tell him to come to me?"
"I did," the Chief told him. "Since the usual person in IAB the union talks to isn't doing anything. You're usually fair to anyone but Caine's lab." That got a nod. "Anything else, Sergeant?"
"No, sir. I'll get on this tonight."
"What about those sworn statements of misconduct in the labs?" Horatio gave him a look. "What?" The Chief let him read one and he snickered. "Badly done." He pulled a file out of his briefcase and handed them over. "I got sent those recently."
He flipped through them. "The second signature it looks like. Don't you think, Horatio?" Horatio looked then nodded after he compared one to the original document. "Who sent those?"
"I don't know. They came through inter-office mail. A few were emails I printed off, sir. Do we think it's the same problem?" Horatio nodded. "How many people hate you?" he asked bluntly.
"Those who don't like me being effective," Horatio said blandly, looking at him. "I would like to know who, Rick."
"Two percent of the force is very anti-gay, Horatio. It could be any of them."
"That's too many for a handwriting comparison."
Rick looked at him. "At least one came from Homicide."
"Welcome." He looked at his boss. "How deep do you want me to go, sir?"
"I want this cleaned up. We're being sued over this, Sergeant."
"I heard. Disciplinary boards or further?"
"Whatever action is warranted. I want it cleaned up."
"Fine." He walked out with the files, heading back to his office to get to work. He would let the QD and other lab techs help him.
The Chief looked at his present headache. "Speedle?"
"Scene," he admitted. "We had a triple car wreck from a drunk driver."
"So was I. Three of them were children." That got a nod and the boss paged the thorn in his side. The officer appeared a few minutes later but Horatio was against the wall on the couch.
"Come in, Joe." He walked in and glanced at Horatio, who only stared back. "It has come to our attention that some incriminating and false statements have been made about misconduct in the lab." He pulled out the original letters. "We think you know something about them."
"They came through my office," he admitted.
"According to QD, they came from your hand," Horatio corrected. The man sneered at him. "All but one. Who was the writer of the other one, Joe?" He stood up and walked closer. "By the way, the officers in question would like to hit you. Especially Officer Wolfe."
"Not like he dates," he sneered. "We all know."
"He's got OCD. Relationships are very complicated for them," Horatio said patiently, hands drifting up to his hips. "Now, who wrote them?"
"I'm not telling you anything."
"You will or I'm going to sue the department," Horatio assured him. He got a horrified look. "I'm assured that those letters are enough to bankrupt this department for the next decade, Joe. So I'll ask one last time before you're asked on a stand in front of a judge. Who was the writer? Both or all of them." He stepped marginally closer, tipping his head a bit to the right.
"I would like to know as well, and I will add that your badge is on the line," the Chief said. He got a horrified look. "I don't care. These are patently false. I've asked the officers, they never wrote those."
"You're going to stick up for *him*! He's *gay*! He's bringing this whole department down!" he shouted.
"I may be bisexual, but that has nothing to do with how I do my job, Joe," Horatio said calmly. "It never has. I've even taken steps to insure that Speed's performance reviews are done by someone else." He got a cold look and the guy put down his badge and stomped out. He looked at his boss. He took a deep breath. "Can we arrest him?"
"We can. I have officers out there waiting," he admitted. "I'd like this to calm down, Horatio."
"As would I, sir. As would I. I'd love nothing more than to be left alone, permanently. It's not like I broadcast our relationship. No one knew until Xander came. I was getting threats before then but nothing like this."
"You can't blame him."
"I don't," he promised. "I've never blamed our son for anything. Whoever took Aiden's eggs and had him created I blame. I was still getting threats before then. I simply handled them more quietly. Now I have to think about Xander."
"I understand. I don't want this to impact your job, Horatio."
"I don't want that either, sir. I'm hoping this new round of problems is going to solve most of it and we don't end up sending him back to New York for his safety anytime soon."
The Chief sighed. "I doubt they'd do that, Horatio."
"It wasn't the Mala Noche who shot at my house, Chief." He put down a folded paper. "Ballistics matched the bullets. She was trying to figure out an alternate way for that to have happened." He turned and walked out. He was seething. He truly was. He went to cuddle his son, calming himself down. "None of this is your fault," he promised quietly, just holding him for a few minutes. The housekeeper retreated to clean Xander's room, leaving him to cuddle and love his son. He needed the love and comfort. Speed walked in and looked at him. "I'm taking an early lunch."
"I figured you were. He got fired?"
"He quit. I'm hoping the Chief wasn't lying and he was arrested."
"He was. Calleigh was down there watching. She came in to verify the ballistics report you were going to give him." He hugged them both. "It'll be okay, H. Even if we do end up suing the department and moving to help Mac it'll be fine." Horatio nodded, calming himself down again. "It'll be okay," he whispered, kissing him on the head.
"Kissie me, daddy," Xander giggled. Speed smiled and kissed him too. "Poo! Lovies!" He wiggled until his fathers put him down, letting him go help the housekeeper. He liked to help her clean things.
"I love you too," Speed called, then he smiled at Horatio. "You too."
"He pointed out I can't blame him for making us more open."
"Not like they didn't know before," he said dryly. He shrugged. "We both got threats before then, Horatio." He gave him a kiss. "Come on, we've got work to do. Xander, we'll see you tonight. Be a good boy."
Horatio smiled and let Speed pull him back to his feet and give him a shove toward the door. He headed back to work a lot happier. Even if he did find a new threatening letter in his mailbox. He handed it to Rick and walked off shaking his head. No one was going to hurt his son. Not without him being one very vindictive father and Rick knew that about him.
Rick Stetler looked at the letter then shuddered. Someone was going to die for that one.
Horatio woke up, which was a strange thing to him at the moment. The blurry figure in white above him was even stranger. He grabbed the hand stroking his forehead and gave a silent glare. "What happened?" he croaked.
"Someone tried to run you off the road, sir. Do you know your name?"
"Lieutenant Horatio Caine, Crime Lab. Call Speedle. Medical contact," he ground out, his throat was sore and scratchy.
"Is he with the lab as well?" she asked. He nodded at that. "Is he in your phone?"
He nodded again and swallowed. "Husband," he whispered.
"Oh, I see. That's fine. He has your paperwork and all that?" He nodded weakly. "Then I'll call him right now, Lieutenant. You rest and I'll be right back." She walked out and went to the desk, looking up the number for the police stations. "Anyone know the number of the crime lab?"
"There's an officer down in the ER," another nurse offered. "He might."
She called down there. "Can you please put the nice officer on the line? I need a number he might have. Thank you. Hi, this is Nurse Gloria up on 3. I have someone who says he's from the crime lab. Do you know the number right off?" She wrote down the number. "Thank you." She hung up and called that number. "Hmm, Homicide, not where I wanted to be. No, this is Mt. Sinai Hospital. I'm up on 3 and I have a very nice man here who just woke up after an auto accident. He says he's with the crime lab.... Redhead, yes. That's who he asked for. Of course I'll tell them right away, Detective... All right. I'll make a note of that. Of course. Thank you." She hung up and called security. "This is Nurse Gloria on 3. I need someone to come guard a room. One of our new patients is an officer who was attacked. Thank you," she finished cheerfully. She looked around and spotted her supervisor. "My new case is an officer," she said, walking over there. "The officer downstairs put me in touch with a Homicide detective who said to guard him. Apparently he got run off the road on the way to a crime scene and they've been looking everywhere for him. They think it was another officer," she finished very quietly. "I've alerted security, they're on their way." That got a nod. "Also, he's got a husband."
"That's fine, as long as he has paperwork." She nodded. "Good plan of action. Go baby him for a bit." She nodded, going back there. She made her own notes. They'd had problem patients in the ward before.
Gloria leaned down next to Horatio's ear. "I talked to a Detective Salas," she said quietly. Horatio moaned at that name. "She said they knew what happened, you're getting a guard on your door. They'll get your boy up here as soon as they can. All right?" He nodded. "Want a few sips of water?" He nodded again, blinking at her. "Fuzzy images?" she guessed. He grunted. "Sore throat too probably." She got him some water and let him sip, smiling at the officer who came up. "Security sent you?"
"Yes, ma'am, he's one of ours." Horatio lifted his head slightly. "Lieutenant, I was told my life would be over and my badge was going to be yanked off me and shoved up a very dark, small hole if I let anything happen to you before your people got here. Consider me a doorstop, sir." Horatio put his head back down with a sigh. He smiled at her. "It was a pretty nasty scene. We had no idea where he had gotten to when we found the crashed hummer." Horatio raised his head again. "Um, no, sir, you weren't found in it, that's why there's a hunt out for you. I have no idea about anything else yet. I got a drunk who tried to paw a woman and got the crap beaten out of him so I've been downstairs for the last two hours." Horatio gave a pointed look at his arm, then at him. "It's... six. Nearly six, sir. It's still Monday if that's your next question." Horatio put his head down again but the nurse raised the bed a bit for him, getting a small smile. The officer heard something over his mic and listened, then pulled it off his shoulder. "Henderson reporting in from Mt. Sinai. Found him, he's here. He's been admitted. Nurses have notified the lab. Repeat they have notified the lab, call off the hunt unless you find who had him taken out of the wreck." He let go of the button, hearing the chatter. He nodded. "He's here, I'm on guard," he reported to dispatch. "He's awake and not happy too." He let it go and put it back on his shoulder. "Two of your boys nearly had a wreck in the parking lot and they're still looking for who wrecked you, sir."
Horatio nodded once. "Speed?"
"Is one of the ones who nearly wrecked. Way I heard it, that blonde little spitfire of yours shoved him out of the driver's seat and is bringing him."
Horatio let out a small smile and nodded. "Good. Thank you."
"Welcome. You rest, Lieutenant. We need you to figure out who did this so you can chew them a new one. How's your boy?" Horatio smiled. "Good?" He nodded. "Excellent. It's good when they're okay. I'm expecting my first one in two and a half months. Can't wait."
"Diapers. Nasty diapers," he said, shuddering, then wincing. The officer laughed. "You'll say the same."
"I'm sure I will, Lieutenant." He plastered himself against the wall so the person running in wouldn't hit him too. "Delko. Wolfe," he greeted. "The other two?"
"Calleigh's getting his effects from the ER and property clerk. Speed's on his way up in the next elevator." Ryan walked in and looked at Horatio. "It's mine and Calleigh's case, Horatio. I need to take the bad photos of you." Horatio looked at the nurse, who nodded him to the desk to get what they had. "Thank you."
"Not a problem. The nurse heard he was run off the road and figured you'd come looking sooner or later." She patted him on the arm as another guy came jogging up the hall and slid into the room. The woman following him smiled. "He'll be fine. A lot sore for a while but he'll be fine. Which one's his spouse?"
"The one who just ran in," Ryan said quietly. "We think that's why they got him."
She just nodded once. "That's a bad thing to do, even if you don't like it. He has the paperwork?" She walked that way. "Mr. Speedle, you have paperwork to treat him?"
"Yeah, um...." He patted himself down but Eric sighed and handed over his wallet for him. "Thanks. Behind the pictures of our son. Small laminated card." He got to work fussing over his mate. "What the hell?" he asked finally. Horatio shrugged and sipped more water. "Uh-huh. What do you remember?"
Horatio whispered in his ear then kissed him on the nose. "I want a vacation."
"You need a vacation and you're on medical leave anyway," he said dryly. "Wolfe, you done yet?" he called.
"Seeing what they took in the ER." He came back and let Horatio see the pictures, but he handed them off to Speed. "I need to do another quick set to make sure no new bruises have popped up." That got a nod and they left, all but Speed. "You can stay but stay out of the shots. I'll need that hand first. Then you can have it back." He got to work doing a full view of his body, then put his camera away and pulled out a small bag from his other pocket. "The last time I was in here I needed something for the sore throat," he offered, putting them on the bedside table. "Sugar free too, just in case someone wants to steal one." He grinned. "Let me go back to the hummer. I'll let you guys know what I find first." That got a nod and a small smile from Horatio. "Speaking of first, Stetler is livid, the Chief if livid and pacing in worry." He walked off, going back to the lab.
Eric peeked back in. "He's right, they are." He walked in followed by Calleigh. "The nurse said he's going to be fine, Speed. It's mostly bruises and things."
"It had better be," he assured him. "Or else you'll be hunting me down."
"We'll get who did this," Calleigh said firmly. "There's a hunt for his head, Speed, you know that." That got a shrug. "Okay, well, you let us know." She gave Horatio a gentle hug then tugged on Eric's arm. "We'll be back tonight during visiting hours. So will Frank and Yelina. We're assigning a door guard with this new one. One *we* trust." That got a small nod from Horatio. "Do you know who hit you?" Speed whispered in her ear, getting a frown. "You're sure, Horatio?" He nodded slowly. "Okay." She walked off, going to find that camera. She didn't know the hummers had cameras in them. Eric smiled and fussed a bit then left them alone too. She gave him a ride back to the station. Ryan had taken their hummer and she had driven Speed. It'd be fine for now. Speed could always cab when they sent him home for the night.
Speed looked over as the night shift nurse came in, nodding at her, but going back to reading to Horatio while he rested with his eyes closed.
"He should be sleeping," she chastised.
"He will when I take him home. When will that be?"
"Not for a few days. Are you his brother?"
"I'm the only family you're getting," he said, glaring at her. "There's a copy of my card to treat him in his file. Fat chance I'm moving." He went back to his reading, smiling when Horatio shifted. "Want me to stop? It's nearly time for Jeopardy. That's a good waste of time in here." Horatio gave him a one-eyed look. "It is. It's that or animal planet."
Horatio snorted. "Xander would be happy."
"Alexx has him for tonight, Horatio. He'll be fine. He thinks it's a great adventure that she's babysitting him." He smoothed down his hair. "It'll be okay and we'll be home soon." Horatio nodded and reached for his cup of water but Speed intercepted it and let him have some to drink. "There, how's that?"
"Better. I hate being this thirsty."
"Whoever removed you probably gave you some sort of sedative," Speed offered.
"He'll feel much better if he rests."
Speed looked at her. "If people were meant to rest in hospitals it wouldn't be as loud, overcrowded, smelly with the disinfectant, and you guys wouldn't come in every hour," he pointed out. "He's never been able to sleep in a hospital. Neither have I. So the faster he gets to go home the better. Especially since someone sent death threats." She gasped. "He's a lieutenant with the crime lab."
"Oh, dear. No wonder we have officers on the door. All right. We'll try to keep it down but he must sleep."
"He will. He did earlier." She nodded, leaving them alone. He looked at Horatio. "See, told you I wasn't moving."
Horatio gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Quit worrying."
"No. Not happening." He opened the book and went back to reading it to his mate. Horatio rolled his eyes. "If you don't get to go home soon we'll have to bring Xander in."
"He'd hate the hospital."
"We all hate hospitals," Speed said patiently, looking at him. "Doesn't mean he won't worry if we're gone that long. Especially you." He looked down and got back into the story. Horatio reached over and petted him, earning a smile. "I know, I need to calm down, but yay. Not today I'm not." He tipped his head into the stroking hand. It was comforting both of them.
Speed walked into the Chief's office the next morning, seeing the startled look. "You do realize my man is the *nice* one of us?" he asked dryly as he put himself in front of the desk. "He's also the calm one. He's also the one who wanted to let the system work this time, but ya see, we've had a few talks with the other guys." He stared him down, seeing that their boss had too. "It's now to the point where lawsuit is sounding good and I'm the vindictive one. With H in the hospital...." He stared at him, sure he got the point. He shuddered. "So, which office would you like the summons to be sent to?"
"I don't want this to become a circus. We're trying."
"Not very hard," he noted dryly. "Especially since it was one of the anti-gay cops who was sitting watch on our house this morning. You know, where our son, who we will kill to protect, lives?" That got another small shudder at the perfectly reasonable tone of voice Speed was using. "Now, you have *a* day to fix this shit. You know who did it. I know who did it. The entire lab knows who did it. You not fixing it means that we'll have to fix it and if I have to bring down this department while Horatio heals, I will." He smiled sweetly. "Because he thinks I'm at home with the kid at the moment. Good thing he's being babysat, huh?"
"Very," he agreed quietly. "I don't think we need to take such drastic steps..."
"Gee, then H wasn't run off the road, pulled out of his hummer, beaten somewhere else, and then dropped off at the ER? I suppose that would mitigate the premeditated attempted murder of an officer charge...." he said thoughtfully, considering it. "No, any good DA will add that because they did plan this out since three officers had to knowingly deviate from their routes."
"Do you know how wide-spread this problem is?"
"I'd hope you do since you've said you've been working on it now for years." He looked at him. "You have until he's released. He gets out tomorrow. Either they're in jail, the ones who did it and who had knowledge, or we're going to destroy this city," he said quietly, sounding extremely calm. "Then we'll go work for another lab and take our gift giving people with us. I'm sure Xander's uncles can help us find another lab to work for." He turned and walked off, going to visit his son, who was with Eric's family. Xander came running out smiling and happy. "Hey, squirt. Are you having fun?"
"In the hospital. Would you like to see him? He had a car accident." Xander frowned at him. "You know how you like to slam your trucks into the couch?" he asked, sitting on the front porch with him. Xander nodded. "Well, Daddy's hummer did something like that. So he's got a few booboos but he'll be out tomorrow. Now, you can wait until then and we can throw him a huge welcome home party, or you can come with me today and we'll still throw him a welcome home party."
"Party?" he asked, leaning closer. "Cake?"
"Yes, with cake," he agreed, smiling just a bit. "We know you and Daddy both like cake. We might even get a really big, huge cake." Xander beamed at that. "So, do you want to visit him in the hospital or wait until he can come home?"
"See daddy now?" He nuzzled his father's cheek. "Smell like daddy."
"Okay. We can go let you hug daddy so you can smell like him." He looked back to see Eric's father watching them. "We're going to arrange for H's homecoming then I'll bring him back," he said quietly. That got a nod. "The officer this morning was a bit on the bigoted side."
"That's fine, son. When things like this happen you've got to do something."
"Yeah, and it's coming down to a lawsuit and move or not." He stood up, taking Xander back to their car, putting him into his seat. "You'll be back later."
"Okay." He went to get them, shaking his head on his way back out. "Here we go." Xander smiled as he hugged his friends. "They can cheer up daddy too," he assured him, closing the door and getting in to drive. "It'll be a few hours."
"Thank you," Mr. Delko said, waving at them. He went back inside to help his wife clean up the small messes. "They're going to the hospital and arranging for Horatio's homecoming."
"I heard. It'll be fine." She stroked his cheek with a smile. "I know it will be."
"I hope so." He smiled and they finished with the kitchen. Xander had helped them make toast, which somehow translated into the invisible geese getting some pieces of it when it fell on the floor. The boy had a good imagination. They went to put the pieces in the backyard, finding some geese were flying overhead for some reason. "Hmm." He put down the bread because they or some squirrels would definitely eat it. Then he went back inside to his paper. He hadn't gotten to read much of it and what he had he had read to the boy. It was a good indication of him being as bright as his fathers were.
Xander walked past the woman, frowning at her. "Daddy?" She smiled and pointed. "Fank you." He walked in and squealed, having a bit of help up onto the bed since his hands were full of animals. He crawled up the bed and handed Daddy his favorite friend. "'Phant needs hug," he said, staring at him. He did it every night before he went to bed.
Horatio smiled and gave the stuffed elephant a hug. "Thank you, Xander. I'm sure he's helping me feel better too." He pulled his son down to cuddle him with his stuffed friends, hugging him just like he did them. "Daddy loves you and I'm fine."
Xander looked at him. "Bad man?"
"I told him you crashed the hummer like he crashes trucks into the couch," Speed offered as he walked in. He pulled his usual chair over, sitting next to them, smiling at his son's comfy resting spot. "You okay?"
"I'm better now." He stroked over Xander's back, earning a smile. "Are you having fun with Daddy Speed?"
"Auntie!" he said with a scowl.
"Which auntie, son?"
"Mrs. Delko agreed to watch him today."
"Ah. So he's been playing with her. No wonder, Eric said his mother didn't hug his stuffed friends very often." Xander grinned at him.
"There was toast on the floor so apparently the invisible geese came back," Speed told him, earning a moan. "It'll be fine. We're going to arrange things for you to come home tomorrow. Eric's already presented a report on who did it and why they're going to be screwed if I get my hands on them." Horatio gave him a look. "They will be."
"I'm sure they won't be coming back."
"I wish, they're still on duty," Speed sighed, slumping some to look at his mate. "Can we go bug Mac?"
"I'm not going to be on duty for a few weeks," Horatio said quietly. "Not with my broken ribs and the concussion."
"Then I definitely want you and the little guy there to go visiting the uncles."
"Stella?" Xander asked, perking up.
"Sure, you can go see Auntie Stella too," Speed agreed with a small smile. Horatio smiled at that too. "At least I'll know you'll be safe."
"You should come too."
"I should sue."
"You can't sue. It'll make it worse."
"Bet me," he snorted. "It'll get fixed or I'm going to Bob. I've had enough, Horatio. The guy watching the house last night was one of them," he said quietly. "That's why Xander went to see Eric's mommy today."
"Geese," Xander said, nodding some.
"And saw some geese flying overhead."
Horatio kissed their son on the head. "I understand the urge."
Speed leaned forward. "I'm going to hurt them. One way or another, H. Which way would you like me to hurt them? They hurt what was mine."
Horatio swallowed and nodded. "Lawsuits are a last resort," he reminded him. "They make it so we have to move departments."
"I know. Trust me I do know. I saw the last one. Still hasn't been fixed yet either." That got a nod and Speed looked out in the hall at the sound of heavier footsteps. "Did your guard come back?"
"No. I told him I was awake enough to protect myself earlier and sent him back to shift."
Speed got up and looked out in the halls. "Hi," he said, smirking just a bit. "Is there a problem, Officer?"
"The Chief wanted to see Lieutenant Caine."
"Lieutenant Caine is in his hospital bed and is staying there. If he wants to see him, he can get off his fat ass." The officer looked shocked. "You can repeat that verbatim if you need to. Tell him the rest of the crime lab said so."
The officer just nodded once. "Sure, I'll tell him he can't be released yet."
"And won't be until tomorrow."
"Understood, sir." He turned and walked off, calling someone. "He's got a very fierce protector. Tomorrow." He hung up and went back to his cruiser.
Speed glared after him. He called Eric. "It's me. We're here. Giving your mother a break. Invisible geese, Eric." He smirked. "That'd be fine. You can come stay on the couch tonight. You, Calleigh, whoever." He hung up and went back to Horatio's side, watching him read the sports section to their son. Like he did every morning.
Speed woke up to an odd sound in his bedroom, staring at the person standing there. "Mac?"
Mac sat on the foot of his bed. "Eric called. Told us everything. Where's Xander?"
"With Calleigh in his room."
"Good." He smiled. "I can help you two find spots in our labs."
"I'm about to take you up on that. Did you pop in to see H?" he asked, pushing himself up.
"I did. He's growling. Bad tv on tonight."
"In other words someone tried to remove him from the hospital again?"
"Yup." He looked at him. "This is about to be messy."
"We love you guys," Speed reminded him. "H is going back with you for a few days at the very least."
"The whole lab is in lockdown," he offered quietly.
"I heard. Actually, I ordered." That got a nod. "Eric nearly got left at a scene." Mac moaned at that. "So yeah, I ordered. Someone's going to get my foot up their ass. Is H there or here?"
"On his way here. I let Don and Stella drive him while I came ahead to warn you."
"Xander will flip in the morning," he said with a fond smile. "Thank you."
"Welcome. It's what friends do for each other." He patted him on the foot. "Now, Xander's probably going to need a great breakfast."
"He'll want the cake we bought for it," he said dryly. "He loves cake. He wanted to see Stella too."
"Stella," he said, sighing a bit. "Just had a bad breakup."
"Hmmm. Really?" Mac nodded. "She okay?"
"Didn't he say something about bruises the last time he was up?"
"Yeah, on her cheek. He kept patting it."
"And there they are," Flack said as he walked Horatio into the bedroom. "She's going to take first watch, guys. Here, one cranky person." Horatio got put into the bed and Speed got him down and fluffed his pillows for him. "Good!" He grinned. "Where's my nephew?"
"In bed hopefully," Horatio told him.
"Yeah, right, he's got hug sensing radar," Flack said dryly, sneaking that way to look. He looked at Eric, who was still asleep. He could only shake his head at that. Calleigh had a gun in her hand when he peeked in. "Just us." She smiled and put the gun back under her pillow. "He in here?"
She looked then under her covers, shaking her head. "He's in with me. Hey, sneaky, Stella and the other uncles are here," she called into her sheets. A little head popped up on the other end, a teddybear's head. "Yeah, you too, Bear. Daddy's home." Xander and his bear both ran out of the bed and across the living room so he could pounce his daddy. Speed caught him before he could really take a flying pounce and let him hug his daddy gently. She grinned. "He was a good boy."
"I'm glad." He winked. "Cute jammies, Calleigh." He strolled, ducking the thrown pillow. "They are. I wouldn't expect you to wear Strawberry Shortcake ones."
"They were gifts from Speed," she complained, getting out of bed. She found Stella by the windows and gave her a hug. "Hi."
"Hi." She smiled at her. "Speed picking on you?"
"He said I'm berry berry nice."
Stella giggled and nodded. "I can see how he thinks that." She patted her on the shoulder. "It'll be okay."
"No Sheldon and Danny?"
"They drew the short straws," Stella admitted. "I'm down on vacation. Mac's down to liaison and protect you guys and Flack's hiding from his mother, who wants to adopt Xander too."
"She can't have him, he's ours," Eric complained, flipping onto his side. "Cute jammies, Calleigh." She swatted him but he only grinned. "Thanks for the happy dreams."
"You do that on our couch and I'm letting the dog hump you," Speed called. Eric chuckled at that.
"Speaking of, where is the dog?" Calleigh asked.
Speed looked at her then pointed outside. "He got removed from his line last night."
"Oh, crap," she muttered, heading off to call someone and let them know. Ryan was somewhere outside watching the house tonight along with an officer they trusted. She came back. "He's fine. He's at the pound. Ryan said he called them earlier to tell them he was your dog but you guys were in the middle of a violent moment here so to hold him until tomorrow." Horatio smiled at that. "Then he can accompany you to New York for a short vacation."
"I hope it won't be a permanent one," he admitted quietly. "I like working with my lab."
"I know," Mac assured him. "We all know, Horatio, and it'll be solved. I have faith it'll be solved." Horatio nodded, going back to cuddling his son. "We're going to find a semi- soft spot and crash." He stood up. "You get some rest. We'll see you at breakfast." He walked out. "Calleigh, you are unbelievably adorable in those," he said with a smile. She hit him on the arm and huffed back to bed. "There's two chairs and a couch in the office."
"I'm up," Flack promised. Stella nodded she was. "We'll tag when we get sleepy."
Mac nodded, going to take a rest for now. He was woken a few hours later by a knock on the door, getting up to see who it was. Speed was already lounging in the doorway. "What's going on?"
"An officer checking on us," Speed told him, looking at the officer. "We're fine. We have family in for when Horatio comes home."
"Um, Speedle, you know he's not at the hospital anymore, right?" he offered quietly. "Because, I mean, some of us are good guys."
"He's fine," Speed assured him. That got a small smile. "Not here but fine." That got a nod and the officer left. "Thanks, man. We like that some of you guys are still behind us."
"Some of us are," he assured him. "Tell him I said to feel better, Speedle."
"Will do." He closed the door and looked at the others. "It'll be okay. I'm not expecting an attack here."
"We are," Don assured him happily. "Mac, since you're up, I'm stealing your cot." He headed that way, going to stretch out on the small couch in the office.
Eric yawned and stood up. "I'm up too. Stella? Ladies first?" She smiled and took his blanket and pillow. He looked at Speed, then toward the kid's bedroom. "Xander still in with you two?"
"He's not letting go of his stuffed friends or Horatio. He's almost having nightmares," he offered. He nodded. "I should get back. Eric, no touching the cake or Xander will scowl at you forever."
"Fine, I won't touch the cake." He headed to start some coffee for him and Mac, then they sent some out to Ryan since he was probably half-asleep by now. He tapped on the window and handed in the mug. "Black, no sugar."
"Thanks, Eric," he said quietly, taking a sip. "They good?"
"Xander's having a few light nightmares but nothing else."
"It'll be fine," he said with a small smile. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He went back inside, closing the door gently. "Wolfe looks less sleepy than I did on my last stakeout."
Mac smiled. "The way around that is mental games that won't distract you."
"I tried to think about women but it didn't work."
"That *don't* distract you," Stella reminded him. "Unless you were busy playing with their shoes?"
"No, that's not what I like about women." He heard Xander cackle, smiling some. "See, even he knows." He came over to tuck her in then went back to fuss in the kitchen. The others would be up within a few hours. He felt Xander slip past him and picked him up. "No cake yet, Xander. Go cuddle the daddies." He turned him around and put him back down, giving him a little shove.
"Have cake now. No cake later. Bad guys," he said, looking perfectly serious.
"That's why Mac and them are here," Eric said patiently. "Go cuddle the daddies." Xander huffed but went back there. He shook his head at Mac's curious look. "His nightmares make him like that."
"That's a subject I'm starting to find fascinating." Eric gave him a look and he shook his head. "I'm not sure yet."
Eric walked over there. "Momma thinks he might be seeing things. Something about invisible geese and them flying over the house later." Mac nodded. "Why?"
"He had nightmares about Stella's last boyfriend," he noted quietly. "Kept rubbing the same cheek she's got injuries on." Eric nodded at that. "Has he had any others?" Eric nodded. "Is he right?"
"Usually later on. In hindsight, but that's not definitive."
"It's still a good reason to make some plans," Mac offered.
"Sounds like someone's going to break in," Eric offered.
Stella sat up and looked at them. "Besides the fact that we can't prove it, that's why we're here, Mac."
"I know. We'll take any and all precautions, Stella. Take a nap."
"I'm trying, you're loud." She laid back down and found Xander wiggling up onto her stomach. "Hi, Xander," she said, lifting her blanket. "Need a cuddle?" He grinned and cuddled in with his friends. "Okay." She cuddled him, shifting onto her side so she could hold him. "We'll cuddle." She yawned and he yawned, snuggling into her. "Good boy."
Mac and Eric smiled, Mac taking a picture before going to get more coffee.
When someone kicked in the door later, they were ready for them and Stella had the baby covered before they could get in the door. Of course, they didn't quite make it in the door. Mac, Eric, and Horatio all had guns, not to mention Calleigh covering them and Ryan calling for backup while coming up behind them. Within minutes they were fixed and Xander looked up at the guys now on the floor. "Have cake now?" he called in the sudden silence.
Calleigh looked at the boy, shaking her head. "Some day, we'll look back at this and laugh at him."
Horatio looked at her. "He's very special."
"Very," Stella agreed, letting him up so he could hug his fathers. "Speed?"
"Fine," he called. "He locked me in the closet." Eric went to let him out. "He thought Xander would come with me."
"He came to snuggle Stella," Mac told him. Xander grinned and waved at him then at Ryan. "Thank you, Officer Wolfe."
"Welcome. Anything for the boss, you know." Officers came running. "Guys, welcome to Lieutenant Caine's house." That got a groan. "They, for some reason, decided to kick in his door and start shooting."
"Nearly got cake," Xander said, looking very serious.
The lead officer looked at him, then at his father. "You let him have cake for breakfast, Lieutenant?"
"No," he said dryly. "He knows today's a special day since I just got out of the hospital."
"Ah. So it's a special cake then." Xander beamed and nodded. "He's how old?" Horatio held up two fingers. "Understood, sir. You're a good boy, Xander. Why don't you help your daddy fix the rest of breakfast, then you can have the cake." Xander beamed and pulled on his father's hand until he drug him into the kitchen, making Horatio laugh when he tugged open the refrigerator to show him the cake.
"Speed, you got me a cake with toy cars?"
"No, Xander got you a cake with toy cars. I wanted a nice, simple cake but he wanted the toys." He looked at the officer. "Don't look at me. He locked me in a closet."
"That's fine. We'll gladly remove these boys, and girl, and sit a new guard on the house."
"Thanks, I'm kinda tired," Ryan offered, yawning a bit. "Need more cuffs?"
"No, we have it. Just waiting on an ambulance, Wolfe. Go nap." Ryan nodded, heading to the kid's room to nap. He looked at the people he didn't know. "SWAT?"
"New York crime lab and homicide," Don said with a small wave. "His momma worked with us. We came down to have cake too." That got a small grin and the officer got to work reading people their rights while the paramedics piled out and came running. He went to help Horatio. "I make a mean scrambled egg," he offered.
"Please." Horatio sipped more coffee, staring down at his son. "You're a good boy but cake is for after you eat breakfast, Xander." Xander beamed and went back to dancing around the kitchen with his stuffed friends. Horatio got more coffee and started another pot. "I'm making more coffee if anyone needs some. Offer it to the officers outside as well," he ordered, helping Don with breakfast. His son...well, he was *Speed's* son. You had to admit there'd be some demented moments.
Horatio walked into his boss's office a few days later with Xander. "You bellowed?" he asked.
"How are you feeling?" Xander spit at him. "Be nice, young man."
"Nope. My teddy not like you."
Horatio looked at him. "Be nice," he said more firmly. "Even if he doesn't like him."
Xander pouted. "But he mean to you."
"He's not mean to me. He's the one who gives me time off to play with you."
Xander scowled at the man. "You make daddy work!"
"No, your father chooses to work, Xander." He looked at him. "He's very defensive of you."
"He usually is," he admitted, sitting down with Xander in his lap. "I'm not cleared for duty yet. They're saying it'll be another week."
"That happens. I'm sure Speed's been bringing you home things to do." Horatio nodded. "Good. Now, what are we going to do about this, Horatio?"
"Officers attacked me," he said bluntly. "I've done what I should. I'm waiting on the department to do their part."
"IAB has them and they're being charged today."
"The ones who ran me off the road or the ones who broke in to shoot us the day I got out?"
"The ones who broke in to shoot you. We can't find out which one ran you off the road."
"The others knowingly deviated from their routes to aid and abet." The Chief looked stunned. "Call Eric, put him on speaker," he said patiently. Really he was talking to him like he would Xander when he wouldn't get out of the bath willingly. The chief scowled and he glared back. The same result happened as when he used it on his son, he got an instant capitulation.
"Delko," he answered, sounding happy.
"Eric, was the officer who ran me off the road not found?" Horatio asked.
"No, we found him. We turned him in. I've also told his supe since he's still walking around with his badge and gun. The same as the other four who deviated all got told to IAB and their supes. One's feeling a lot of pressure to retire at the moment, the others are still here. I'm wondering when IAB is going to do their jobs. Why?"
"I hadn't been briefed," the Chief admitted.
"Really? I sent the full file to your secretary, Chief Johnson."
He coughed. "Madeline!" She came to the door. "Did you get a file from the crime lab on Lieutenant Caine's accident?" Eric and Horatio both snorted.
"I did, I put it on your desk, sir." She came in to find it, handing it over. "You filed it with the manpower statements." She smiled at Xander. "Should I take him? I've got a few larger suckers in my desk, Lieutenant."
"He's had more than enough candy," he promised. Xander looked up at him, giving him the 'are you insane' look. He looked at him. "No. You can go sit out there but no more candy." Xander pouted but went with her. "Thank you, Madeline."
"Welcome, Horatio. He's an adorable little scamp."
"He is that." She closed the door behind them and he looked at his boss again. "Thank you, Eric." He hung up the phone and relaxed. "Filed it?"
"It was an accident."
"Unfortunately what happened to me and my hummer wasn't."
"Autopool is fixing it."
"I wish them all the luck in the world," he assured him. "The lab needs it back." The Chief started to sweat. "You're right to worry. Speed's... Speed's got a temper. I have one but mine's ...subtle." He stood up with a small wince. "Now, I'm going back to my recovery. After which I'll be restricted to lab-only duties for another two weeks, which will give me enough time to catch up on the paperwork Speed isn't bringing me. Will I have more problems?"
"No," he said quietly. "You won't."
"You could retire. This is a good reason."
Horatio stared at him for a moment, then smirked and slid on his sunglasses. "Retirement's such a nasty word, Chief." He walked out, grabbing his son since he was standing on the couch. "You know better. Thank Madeline."
"Fank you!" he called, waving and smiling. "Nice you!"
"You're welcome, Xander." She smiled and waved back, then snickered when Horatio let the door close behind him. "He's such a good boy most of the time." Her boss came out. "Should I call our lawyers, sir?"
"What makes you think we'll need them?" he asked.
She looked at him. "Because you're letting the people who hurt him and those who want to hurt his mate and child go free," she said bluntly. "I may not be a cop, but I'm not stupid. Even I can add." She handed over the folder on their legal fund. "This is our current budget for legal matters, including the lawyer's number, sir."
"Thank you, Madeline. Did you give him sugar?"
"No, he's two. They're like that. It gives them greater patience when they need it with criminals." He headed back into his office, slamming the door. She got back to work updating her resume. She was not a happy assistant to the Chief of Police. Maybe the crime lab needed one?
Speed walked up to where Stetler was having coffee. "I need to know if anything's going to be done to the guys who hurt him first."
"Because if I don't hear something by tonight I'm calling in a favor." The IAB asshole glared at him. "Not that sort, but I do know someone who could," he said thoughtfully. "No, best to leave the ex-girlfriend alone this time. I'll go with one of the other ones." He pulled out her card and held it up. "Her." Stetler looked then went very, very pale, dropping his coffee. "So, is anything going to be done?"
"Try harder. I need an answer by the end of business today. She's seeing me first thing in the morning. I'll need to give her time to cancel and sleep in." He headed off, going back to Horatio's office. He found Horatio waiting on him. "My ex offered to work for us pro- bono."
"Terry?" Speed made a humming sound and nodded, picking up their dancing son to hug. "I think that's a bit extreme."
"I don't. I'm seeing her tomorrow morning."
"H, they broke into our house. This is the time to kick their asses and make them cry. I've had enough and my son is in danger. Not to mention us."
"Point. I was going to talk with Bob tonight, have him start doing the paperwork."
"Terry's scarier and cheaper."
"She would be." He looked at him. "Why does she want to work for us for free?"
"It's an image thing. Gets her back in the news, even if we do demand she do so quietly. She's running for a judge's spot in the State Court of Appeals."
"Ah." He nodded, going back to the paperwork. "Then I'd accept as long as it wasn't glaringly put into the press."
"Sure." He gave him a kiss on top of the head, letting Xander do the same. "Alexx wanted to see him."
"Not in the morgue," he ordered as Speed walked out with their son.
"Ryan!" Xander squealed, then Ryan groaned.
"No pouncing, son. That's mean. They could drop you if they're not ready," Speed complained, but he was grinning at Ryan. "Thanks for catching him."
"Hard not to, he jumped and landed around my neck." He gave the boy a cuddle and handed him back. "How about we eat lunch together if you're still here then?" Xander beamed and nodded. "Good boy. I'll see you soon. Alexx is out on a call with Eric and Calleigh," he said quietly.
"Pity, she wanted to see him."
"We can see him at lunch," Ryan said with a smile. "Go talk to H in the office for a bit. You're clear." Speed smirked and headed back to do that.
Valera peeked out of her lab. "Was that Xander? He's grown since the last time I saw him."
"That was. He's got a good pounce." He walked in there. "I was coming to see you."
"Aww, I feel special," she teased back. She plucked a dog hair off him and he groaned. "Apparently they found the dog?"
"Yeah, someone snatched him and put him in the pound."
"He's fine. He's back and they know it was a jealous bastard who has issues." He shrugged. "So, got anything nifty for me?"
"Hmmm. Nifty? Welllll...." She smiled and handed over a report. "All yours, Ryan."
"Thanks." He walked off reading, his case had just been busted open. He ran into Frank coming off the elevator. "H and Xander are in the office."
"Gotta love the little boy," he said with a grin. "Everything good?"
Ryan looked up. "We have DNA on the Peters case."
"Excellent. Can we use it?"
Ryan smirked. "Very nicely even. After lunch? Xander pounced and I promised him lunch."
"Sure. Easier to catch him then. He'll be slow and at home." He headed up to see the baby. "Hi, Xander," he said, grinning at him. Xander ran over and hugged him around the thighs. "You're getting pretty big there," he said, picking him up to cuddle him.
"No candy, Frank. He's had plenty," Horatio said firmly.
"Wouldn't dream of it." He kissed the baby on the temple then put him down, watching him go back to dancing with his stuffed friends. "No trunked-one today?"
"He's soaking up the sun on the couch," Horatio said, giving him a look. "Our housekeeper said he needed a bath too."
"Sometimes that happens to stuffed friends. My mother used to give mine a bath once a week even if he didn't need it."
Speed looked at him. "Xander's still very sharing with his friends." He looked at his son. "Since Uncle Ryan said we're having lunch together, what did you want to eat, kid?"
Xander beamed at him, moving closer. "Pizza for boy?"
"Pizza for the boy?" Speed asked, looking amused. "I don't know, H. Was he a good boy at City Hall?"
"Until Madeline let him climb up on her couch. Pizza's fine for the boy," he said with a small smile for their son, getting a huge grin back. "You've been a pretty good boy today." Xander, of course, cackled at that statement. "Behave or sandwiches for lunch, Xander."
"Yes, Daddy!" He went back to dancing with his friend.
"Now all he needs is music," Frank teased.
"He's got plenty in his head," Speed assured him. "He's always humming too. Some year someone's going to be talking to us about ADHD." Xander burst out crying. "Hey!" he complained, picking him up. "Not like we're going to relent. We'll let you follow your cousin around a soccer field first, Xander." Xander gave him a pitiful look. "I promise." Xander nodded, resting against his shoulder. "No one's going to drug you," he soothed, stroking his back. "It's all right."
Horatio looked at Frank, shrugging a bit. "We don't know why he reacts that way yet. We're still trying to figure that and some of the more obscure nightmares out. He was having one about rabid bunnies the other day."
"Horror movies? Too much after school tv?" Frank suggested.
"The housekeeper hates tv," Speed told him. "She unplugs it most of the time so he can't turn it on."
"Oh. Okay. Maybe we should ask someone?"
"I have," Horatio sighed. "The department psychologist thinks that someone around him was talking about it and set off some nightmares. The problem being that none of us watch horror movies and we don't know anyone with ADHD."
"Hmm. Definitely not your crew," Frank agreed. "Yelina's boy maybe?"
"He hasn't been around recently," Speed offered. "Which means he's probably in trouble again."
Horatio shook his head. "I talked to Ray. He's fine. Studying hard. Trying to be good." He smiled at their son. "Come give me a hug too?" Xander wiggled down and came over to give him one. "No matter what you've heard, son, we're not mad if you do have ADHD. We're not going to drug you. Nothing like that," he said quietly. Xander stared up at him. "I promise we won't." Xander snuggled in again. "Good boy. Now, go hug Uncle Frank and invite him to lunch."
Xander wandered over, hugging him again and grinning up at him. "Pizza for boy you?"
"Sure, I'll have pizza with you, Xander." Xander beamed and went to cuddle his injured daddy again. "He's some kid, Horatio."
"He is," he agreed happily, smiling at Speed. "Even Mac wanted to bring him home."
"Not that I blame him," Speed offered. "He loves Xander like his own too. The same as Wolfe does." Ryan leaned in. "Yes, you, goofball."
Ryan grinned. "Thanks, Speed. Eric just called me. Their scene turned into a double after an accident hit it. They'll be back late. Alexx was thankfully there and pronounced on the scene."
"Hit and run."
"Even better. We have pictures?" Horatio asked. Ryan nodded. "Good. It'll be easily solved hopefully. We're ordering from the pizza place if you wanted to order with us."
"Get me a ham and cheese sandwich please, no mayo." He walked off again.
Horatio wrote that down. "Frank?"
"Order a pie and I'll take a few slabs," he offered, heading back to his desk. He smiled at Yelina. "Your nephew's in."
"I heard Horatio came to see how bad his office is."
"Xander's dancing with his bear in the office under the watchful gaze of both poppas."
"Good." She went to check on him, smiling when Xander pounced her. "Hello, Xander."
"Auntie!" He grinned at her. "Bear here."
"I can see your bear is here." She picked him up with a groan. "You're getting very big, nephew." He beamed at that. "Such a good boy." She kissed him on the cheek and let Speed steal him with a tickle. "Are we having lunch or is there a problem?"
"We're in for lunch, we got done early," Horatio said with a smile. "Apparently we're having pizza."
"I'll go in on that," she agreed, smiling at the boy, who beamed and waved his teddy bear before going back to dancing and humming. "Maybe he'll be a musician instead of an officer."
"Could be," Speed agreed happily. "He does like music. Even Barney. Flack let him watch some and traumatized us all with it for the rest of the day since it got stuck in his uncle's head."
Horatio snickered. "It's meant to do that so the children learn it faster, Speed."
"Yeah, well, duct tape still works on Flack too," Speed reminded him, giving him an angelic smile. "Stella and I agreed." Xander poked him but went back to dancing. "We're having lunch with Ryan and Frank."
"That's fine. I don't mind that company." She smiled at Xander again. "I'll see you in a little bit for lunch, Xander." He beamed and waved his bear's arm, letting her go. She closed the door behind her so he couldn't get free, running into Eric on his way in. "Xander's in with Horatio."
"They're doing pizza."
"I can go in on that. Hey, H, get the really large one so I can have some too," he called as he walked underneath the office door. He heard the giggling and smiled at Valera. "Are you having lunch with Xander?"
"I can. He's an adorable little boy. He lunged over and pounced Ryan around the throat."
Eric snickered. "He wanted him to be out of breath. My nieces do that all the time. They said my voice is prettier to girls when I'm out of breath." She snickered at that, going back to work.
"Then you need to quit working out so you can keep one," Speed called down. "Pepperoni."
"Fine," he agreed happily. "How's my nephew?"
"Dancing with his bear."
"Aww," Calleigh said as she joined Eric. "Did Ryan tell you about the double?" Speed nodded. "Okay. We've got pictures but they might be a bit blurry. They were weaving and going pretty fast."
"Traffic cams," Speed reminded them. "Find them and toast them. Come for lunch, kids." He looked around then went to hunt Xander down, finding him in DNA hugging Valera. "Damn you're fast," he joked, hauling him back to the office, then he came back to get the bear as well. "Sorry."
"He's a good boy. It's not like we mind, Speed." That got a smirk and Speed carried their son off, letting his other father make the pizza order for them all while he told Alexx. It was easier that way.
Horatio settled in beside Speed that night, looking at him. "Mac thinks his nightmares are prophetic."
"They are," Speed agreed, turning away from his book to look at him. "We've seen it a few times. Sorta like how he went to cuddle with Stella when our bedroom got shot."
Horatio nodded at that. "I'm starting to wonder where he came from again," he admitted quietly.
Speed kissed him. "Doesn't matter. He's our boy. Strange dreams, demented humming, Aiden never being pregnant, and all, Horatio. It doesn't matter," he reminded him. Horatio nodded, giving him a gentle kiss. They both heard Xander start to cry and got up to calm him down again. This was the third night of nightmares. "Hey," he soothed, letting the baby cling to him. "What's wrong?" Xander sniffled something in his ear. "What?" Xander sniffled it again. "Okay. H, go pack." Horatio nodded, going to do that. "We'll go somewhere else tonight, Xander. I promise we will." Xander looked at him. "We will." Xander nodded, clutching all three of his friends. One of his stuffed elephants only stayed in his crib because it was so 'sick' from all the times through the washer. They headed out to the car Speed had leased for their downtimes, settling him into the back with his friends. Horatio came out with two bags. "You packed for both of us?"
"Including your shampoo, toothbrush, and book." He slid in to drive, Speed getting in the back with their son. "We in?"
"We're in." He slid the bags onto the floor and they headed off. He glanced behind them. "Is it me or is that a tail?"
"It's a tail," he said quietly. He called Ryan. "We are coming past your house. We need a break with our tail. That'll work. Thank you, Mr. Wolfe." He hung up and swung the car that way, heading to Ryan's house, watching as he cut their tail off. He waved and Ryan nodded for him to keep going while he handled this. They relaxed but still went to a hotel. A good one with security. They were not risking Xander on anything. "We go together tomorrow," Horatio ordered once they were in their room.
Speed gave him a kiss. "Of course we are. We do everything together." That got a smile and a nod. They got Xander back into his crib with his three animals and their bags went onto the dresser. "How long?"
"I checked us in for two days. By then we should have it stopped."
"I can only hope so. Why can't the other gay officers get really loud? Or someone higher up come out and support us?"
Xander blinked at him. "Ask Hallie."
"Hallie?" Horatio asked, looking at him. "Who's Hallie?" Xander yawned and turned onto his side. "Xander, who's Hallie?"
"Hallie's Hallie. She's nice. Likes kids." He yawned again, closing his eyes, clutching his friends. "Helps kids."
Speed stiffened. "He was too young to remember the social worker," he said quietly. Horatio stared at him. "He is."
"He is." He went to look up her number, giving her a call. They had talked a few times about how Xander was settling in and during the secondary adoption trial but she hadn't seen him since before he had learned to crawl. "Miss Halston, Horatio Caine. No, he's fine, I was wondering if anyone had found anything more about his background actually. No, he's had some nightmares and things. Rabid bunnies. Vampires. That sort of thing. He also has some strong reactions to the phrase ADHD and others." He listened to her stammer. "Please. That would be fine. Tomorrow. Where can we meet you?" He smiled at that and made a note. "That's fine. Thank you." He hung up. "We'll meet her at ten in the park."
"We should be done with Terry by then," Speed agreed. He came over to tease Horatio by unbuttoning his shirt. "We should go to bed."
"We should," he agreed, smiling a bit. "Even though we can only cuddle tonight."
"We can do more tomorrow night," he promised, smiling at him and pushing Horatio onto the bed, making him bounce. "That's a good boy." He got down to his t-shirt and boxers, then helped Horatio out of his clothes, snuggling in with him to quietly stroke his stomach and cock, that way neither one would wake their son up. They didn't want to explain sex to him yet.
Horatio walked up to the bench the next morning, letting his son down so he could pounce the woman. He wanted to know a few things.
"Hallie!" Xander creeled, running over to pounce here. "Hi."
"Hi, Xander," she said, grinning at him. "How are you today?"
"Okay, but peoples shoot at the daddies." He grinned back at Horatio, and Speed, who had been a bit lagging behind because he had wanted a drink. Then he looked at her. "I have bad dreams."
"I heard." She kissed him on the forehead and put him back down. "Play where we can see you." Xander nodded, going to steal some of his father's soda, then sit down to play in the dirt. "Hi," she said quietly, smiling at them.
Speed sat down, Horatio on her other side. "Miss Halston, I'd like the truth about where he came from," he said firmly but quietly.
"Bad poopie head Willow," Xander said dryly, coming over to get more soda.
"No more caffeine today, Xander. You can have some of my water," Horatio ordered. Xander pouted and he gave him a look. "Tough. You can't destroy the hotel room today."
"Go office? Pizza for boy with Aunties and Unclie?"
"Not today, kiddo," Speed said, pulling him into his lap. He kissed him on the back of the head, then looked at the 'social worker' again. "So?"
She sighed and pulled out a file. "He's right but this cannot get out."
"What can't?" Horatio asked. She handed him the file. "Who's this?" He looked at the picture in it then at their son. Then at her. "Relative?"
"Him," she told him.
"Bad poopie head Willow messed up 'nother spell," Xander sighed, shrugging a bit. "She's idiot."
"No calling people names," Speed ordered.
Speed gave him a hug. "It's all right but it's a bad thing to call people names." He looked at her. "So, the ADHD fits?"
"Let's just say his parents weren't enthusiastic when they found out the first time." Speed and Horatio both glared. "They weren't the best of human beings. I know some demons who're nicer," she admitted. She smiled at Xander. "You, go play." He wiggled down and went back to making roads in the dirt. She looked at them again. "Right now, he's got partial memories. They'll fade as he makes more of them."
"The rabid bunny nightmares?" Horatio asked.
"Courtesy of his ex. She has a bunny phobia."
"Why is he having them?"
"She's like me, she shared," she said grimly. She shifted to look at Horatio easier. "Before you ask, I'm a wish demon, I'm over lost childhoods and innocence," she said quietly. "You've run into my handiwork before, Lieutenant." He shuddered. "Exactly. In this case his friend Willow is a very strong witch. She deaged him with a botched, irreversible spell. One of his true friends made a very unselfish wish that this time he'd have great parents who'd love him like he deserved. Xander is one of the most special young men ever. No one else would jump into a war that wasn't his business, his fight, or his right to fight, and help the right side win for six years straight."
"His dark, shadowy nightmares," Speed realized.
She nodded. "Again, as he gets older those'll fade. So will the association with certain phrases. One of them is someone calling him a boy. His father did that a lot." That got dual nods. "I know it's an imposition but you three are the perfect parents for him."
"I heard. She's with us." She gave him a look. "She is *very* good at taking care of those who've done very bad things to others. She's over victims." That got a small smile from Horatio. "Mr. Taylor's about to get a rude awakening the next time she's got to work in his city. She likes leaving him little treats and clues. Flack found one and he does know now."
"So his prophetic dreams?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "He might've had them all along." She shrugged. "With his family they probably got suppressed very quickly. You ever read the Harry Potter books?" They both nodded. "That's Harry."
"Oh," Speed said quietly, looking at his son. "So, we were chosen at random?"
"No. Not hardly." She patted him on the thigh. "Some of the higher of us can see into other realms. There he's your adopted son and you've made *such* a difference, Speed. You and Aiden both did. He went from a very confused, shy, hurt young man with a combat history and limited violence issues to a stunning young man with a beautiful and enduring love that made some vengeance demons and some succuba weep with joy." That got a blush from Horatio. "So no, you weren't chosen at random. You three were the best of the best. You'll love him like nothing ever seen. You'll take care of him. You'll nurture and cherish him. The wish was to give him parents who would love and take care of him this time. You're the best of the best. Plus you're making quite a difference in the world. He'll continue that." She stroked his cheek. "Don't be mad at me?"
"I'm not. I can't imagine what life would've been like without him," he assured her. "I'm just confused."
"That folder is Xander's former history with the school out there. The system in Sunnydale was designed to create victims for the nightlife population. They knew at a very young age that Xander was special. There've been people who've watched him for years about becoming a future sacrifice. Sunnydale is...odd like that." She looked at Horatio again. "No, none of that will hit him here. It shouldn't. You don't have too many magic workers down here."
"Saw Ethan meany," Xander called. "He say I'm cute." He looked at her. "I spitted."
"That's a good one to spit on," she agreed with a grin for him. "He's protecting you or else he'll never get his Ripper toy back, Xander. You don't have to worry about Ethan." Xander beamed at that. "Good boy. Go back to designing a new highway there." He went back to it. She looked at the parents again. "As he ages, this will fade," she assured them calmly. "Right now, he doesn't have too many other memories. He may keep his fondness for weapons and explosives. I'm not sure." Horatio nodded slowly at that. "Do be aware that yes, he has ADHD. He's also a bit dyslexic. Very mildly." Speed nodded at that. "Easily overcome with some patience and work. School sucked for him before. Fully sucked. Also, when he's old enough to date, it'll be messy." She shrugged. "He seems drawn to the dangerous ones. That might change, I'm not sure if that's nature or nurture. I do know that he'll grow up perfectly normal and happy if you let him. Use what he *was* as a guideline for what he *is*."
Horatio nodded once. "I can do that."
"So can I," Speed assured her. "Doesn't mean I like that circumstance."
Hallie looked at him. Then she brushed a hand over his forehead, letting him see some of Xander's teenage years.
"No fair," Xander complained.
"You, hush," she ordered. "Or else you can't go visit New York next summer." Xander pouted but went back to it. Horatio gave her an amused look. "You're definitely changing things, Horatio, and for the better. By the way, the assassin is now gone. Delko, who is a cutie to a lot of the women scorned vengeance demons, caught him breaking into your house in about ten minutes." She had her hand removed by Speed. She grinned at him. "That's what he *was*. Not who he'll be. Not if you're good parents."
He nodded quickly. "Okay. I can agree to that. Will it be coming for him?"
"No. The only one connected with Sunnydale who knows where he is is Ethan Rayne. He's protecting Xander as part of a deal to gain more power. Or else he'll die. That was the deal he made with the Higher." She stood up. "Remember, what he was is fading quickly. As he grows, he'll be all yours. The product of your upbringing. The product of your love. All you have to do is love your son like you would the next one that's coming."
"Next one?" Horatio asked, blinking.
She smiled at him. "Not the natural way. Don't worry." She winked. Then she walked off and faded.
Xander came back over and crawled up onto the bench with some help from his fathers. "We have lunch?"
Horatio looked at him. "We can have lunch in a bit. Would you like to swing?" Speed stole the folder. "I'd like to know."
Speed looked at him. "No you don't. You'll blow the town up." Xander giggled. "With his friends mostly in it." He looked at him. "Who made the wish?"
"I liked her." He kissed him on the head. "You're our son now, Xander. We're not like them. Forget you had a last life," he ordered. "Or maybe we'll go to hypnosis to suppress it." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"Fine. We'll be fine." He smiled when Ryan came over. "Tailing us?"
"Yup." He picked Xander up. "Come on, we'll go swing." Xander beamed at him and let one of his favorite uncles take him to play. "You two finish your heavy discussion."
Horatio looked at Speed. "How bad?" he asked quietly.
"If I was telepathic, I'd show you." He shifted closer to whisper to him, making his husband shudder. "Exactly. It was an unselfish wish, Horatio, and I can't blame them for it."
"I don't either." He stroked his cheek. "You needed to shave this morning." He smiled and went to play with their son. He'd run into other strange things in the past, this wasn't going to bother him for very long. Xander was his son and that was all there was to it. No matter who had him before. Though the prophecy about the next one was going to bother him.
Speed read through the file. It gave them a lot to think about for Xander's future education and where they'd have to get him some help. Because his son was not going to be the smartass warrior he had been before. There was no way he was letting his son turn into one of them. He got up to follow, still reading. His phone rang and he answered it. "Speedle." He listened. "I heard. You okay?" He frowned then grinned. "Thanks, Eric. Yeah, I'll tell him. How's the dog?" He beamed. "We forgot him last night. Thank you. Feed him for us, okay?" He hung up and looked at Horatio and Ryan. "Eric just shot the person sneaking into our house with the pistol and poison vial. He's feeding the dog."
Horatio nodded. "Good to know." He called the lawyer they had met with earlier to let her know about that situation. It would only help their suit.
Horatio's lawyer preceded them into the Mayor's office, letting them sit down together while she stood. They all saw the horrified looks. "Not like you left them an option. After all, it's not often one officer has to shoot another one for breaking into a house to poison the entire family. Or the ones who shot at their house. The ones who have been stalking them. The ones who hurt Lieutenant Caine. I'm sure you get the point by now. Should I continue?" she asked.
"No, please don't," the Mayor said quietly. He called his Police Chief. "Come to my office, alone." He hung up and looked at them. "What's the damage going to be?"
"Real, actual change," Speed told him. "Because if one more person comes up and asks me if my son is my playtoy I'm going to hurt them. Badly."
Horatio nodded. "The removal of all the officers involved in my beating, running me off the road, the ones who shot at our house, and the one who tried to commit homicide yesterday. Plus the ones who knowingly ignored it." The Chief came in and paused, then muttered.
"Bad word," Xander said without looking up. "Poopie head."
"Xander," Speed warned. "Do you really want to take an extra long nap today?" He shook his head, giving him the pitiful look. "You know better than to call people names. Even if they deserve it." He glared at the Chief. "I'd had enough when they shot at the house. Trying to suspend Eric for having to stop the guy who going in to kill us? That's a bit low. We want him reinstated, with pay, and an official apology as well."
"You can," Terry, their lawyer, assured him. "You won't. Big difference."
The Chief swallowed. "It'll unbalance the system to fire twenty-six officers."
"Twenty-nine," Horatio said patiently. "Including the three who knowingly diverted from their routes so I could be run off the road and beaten. Your choice is that or a very messy suit that will cost the department one hell of a lot of money. Which we will win. We have statements from *all* the officers involved. The DA offered them a deal if they confessed and got us the transcripts." The Chief moaned. "Including yours where you sent the officer to our house yesterday." He stood up, looking at him. "Now I know why you never stopped Stetler," he said simply.
"Your brother was high when he died."
"He was undercover. I'm not him."
"Whatever. I want you gone."
"No. Sorry." He stared him down. "You have no say in that matter and I am more stubborn than that entire department. If I have to ruin this department to have it fixed, I will help rebuild it from the rubble."
"Horatio, calm down," Speed ordered. "Getting mad at him won't help since there's an arrest warrant with his name on it."
"What transcript of him?" the Mayor asked.
"The officer he sent taped it." He pulled out a tape recorder and played it, making him wince at the offer going on. "So no. Not good. By the way, Ryan Wolfe is one of Xander's favorite uncles. You won't get him to turn either."
"You're going to destroy this department!" the Chief yelled. "Don't you care!"
"I did. Until the department turned on me," Horatio said smoothly. "After all, it's not like I've got one of the highest arrest rates in the department. Or that my unit is one of the most effected, lauded by both the state and the federal government. Is it?" The Chief went pale. "Because we've already bundled all this up for their investigation as well. As is proper procedure when you've got dirty cops in IAB and the State Troopers. Your choice if it goes out today or not." He saw him reach for his gun and stopped his hand. "I wouldn't. Especially not with my son in the room." The man backed away from him. He went for his gun again. "Permission, sir?"
"Granted. I don't feel like being shot either," the mayor noted. "Hand me the child, Speedle." He got handed over and Speed pounced their Chief, taking the gun from him and Horatio got him handcuffed. He looked at the boy in his lap, who was clapping. "Your fathers are very good officers, son. It's right to praise them that way." He looked at Terry. "How much to make it go away?" She handed over their offer and he winced. "Are you firm?"
"Each day it goes up so Xander can go to Harvard," she said simply. She walked over the Chief, opening the door. "Ah, agents, just in time. He's in here, boys." They came in and she presented them with the arrest warrant. "He stupidly went for his gun when faced down about the allegations. By the way, there's multiple copies of him contracting a murder of this family on tape. So if you lose one, we've got others," she assured them.
The mayor looked at her. "State Senate?" he asked.
"No, I'm launching a campaign for the State Court of Appeals. Why be a politician when I can make policy?" That got a single nod and she took Xander from him. "Let him read the important papers, Xander. Your daddies will read to you in a while." Xander beamed and snuggled into her chest, patting the free side. "Don't even think about it, kid. I'm not lunch."
"He was never breastfed," Speed said with a bright grin. "To him you're just a toy."
"Wonderful. My ex said the same thing before he found all his stuff on the curb one afternoon when he came home." She looked at the boy. "Treat women better, Xander. We appreciate that and help you."
"Lunch with boy?"
"Sure, I'll have lunch with you," she promised with a smile. He beamed and put his head back down on the snuggly spot.
Horatio shook his head. "He does like dangerous women," he teased, taking him back. "Thank you, Mayor, and Terry."
Terry looked at the agents, then at the Mayor, who flicked a hand. "There's been a widespread problem, boys. This family has been attacked repeatedly, including by that man." She handed over the thick manilla envelope. "Evidence from Horatio's own team in the felony lab. It's got what happened, all the evidence lists, the evidence reports, and their profiles from the system. Plus transcripts of their confessions to the DA when we caught them. There's also an unrelated problem with one IAB officer who can't distinguish between Horatio and his brother Raymond." She knew Horatio saw the flinch she did. "Did you have some information on that case?"
"No, ma'am," he assured her. "Just heard about it in the papers." He drug the Chief out, letting his fellow agent get the folder. "Thank you for your help in gathering this. We'll take it from here, ma'am. Lieutenant, detective." They fled.
"Interesting," Horatio said quietly. He looked at his son then at Speed. "Come on, let's go to lunch."
"I'll be right there." She looked at him. "Your choices are that or it goes up. We'll expect to hear from you by tomorrow night. The family is in a safe location and will be staying there while this is pending, that way no one can think about retaliation." He nodded so she closed her briefcase and left.
The mayor called an office up the hall. "Come here please. We've got issues. Get the PD's lawyers as well. I have the feeling they can brief you." He hung up and read back over the offer. It wasn't bad as lawsuits went. Their insurance would cover it. The city's attorney walked in so he held out the form. "A gay officer, his lover, and their son have been attacked. Repeatedly."
"I got warned Caine was coming." He read it over. "Not as bad as it could be. These officers?"
"Are apparently mostly in the sights of the DA. They handed the information over to the Feds." That got a nod. "Along with our former police chief, who reached for his gun with Horatio's son in the room." That got a shudder. "Exactly," he agreed quietly. "We have until tomorrow night to tell them yes or no, but it'll go up from here. They had the old Chief on tape soliciting their murder," he finished quietly. "We're screwed in this case. It's an on-going problem."
"As long as they don't join any later suit unless it relates to another incident, then we might be able to dodge their union getting involved. Have you talked to them? They've been holding off suing for a while now while we tried to fix it."
"Someone shot into Caine's house. Officers broke into Caine's house firing weapons around him, his mate Speedle, their son, and friends from the NYPD. They have the old Chief on tape soliciting their homicides in exchange for favors and later rank raises. They ran Caine off the road in a crime lab hummer and beat him. The union will look the other way for this one. They'll use it to say that we're trying to fix it. With these changes we can say that. Start a sensitivity program maybe. Definitely work on the ones in the academy."
"Which that union has been asking for," their lawyer agreed. "They're actually fairly reasonable terms. The amount of money is probably going to be going to fixing their house. It's just punitive enough to hurt us but not so punitive that we'd have to shut down operations."
"Worse, their lawyer is running for a spot on the State Court of Appeals."
"So keeping this out of the media is Caine's doing," he decided. "Is their son all right?"
"He was just fine earlier. He called the Chief poopie head." That got a small smirk. "Speedle corrected him right away."
"Which one's son is he?"
"Speedle's but Caine adopted him."
"Which is pretty standard in that sort of thing. Okay. This is actually an offer we can stand and the union will like us for making the changes listed in it. The insurance company should pay out since part of it was to fire the officers involved but not for the city to admit guilt. That would raise our rates. The downside is us not showing progress after this. The union can point back at this agreement and say that we're in default. Open it back up. Give them more."
"We need to make the changes anyway," the mayor admitted. "This has been going on since before Speedle got handed his son. The thing with Stetler has been going on longer." That got a nod. "So no, I'd like to see these changes made. Do we have a deputy chief? Last I knew he had a heart attack and had to resign but no one had been named."
"No one's named but Crutchfield's third. Johnson's after him."
"I like Johnson and he'll fix it." That got a nod and he went to find him and inform the other council members. They'd see this was the only way.
"Horatio," Horatio answered his cellphone. "They've both been supportive of the lab. Whichever one he thinks would do better for the whole is fine with us. I'm not going to ask to dictate that. I don't want that sort of burden." Speed looked over. "They hadn't replaced the deputy chief yet."
"Speed said he liked Sam better if it's an option, Terry, but we still don't want that burden." He listened then smiled at Speed, nodding at his curious look. Xander got up and danced around cheering. "Yes, that's Xander. Thank you, Terry. We're still at the hotel, yes. Because we don't seem to have a door at the moment. No, our dog is with Eric Delko. Thank you. I will. Thank you, dear." He hung up. "The insurance company will pay it very shortly."
"Good. We could use it to fix the door. That way this one can go back to his own bed." Xander cackled and pounced him. Speed held him off, letting Horatio take their active little boy to his crib so he could be put down. Speed rubbed his stomach. "Chocolate before bed stops at an hour and a half before bath time," he noted quietly.
Horatio smiled and nodded. "Might be a good idea unless we unleash him on Yelina for the night." He took a kiss. "He's already snuggled down and has the blanket over his head. He told me we're noisy and keep him up." Speed snickered. "He wanted to call Mac and tell him that."
"I'm sure Mac already knows." He gave him a kiss and a smile. "How long for the fallout?"
"A few weeks. Then we can get back to normal things." He straddled his boy's legs, taking another kiss. "Think we can celebrate quietly?" he teased.
"You make me want to scream, Horatio. I'm not sure I can be that quiet." He took another kiss. "But I'll gladly try."
"Daddies, no kissie him, kissie me," Xander called.
Horatio looked over. "Son, I don't kiss you the way I kiss him. It's a different sort of love." Xander looked over at them. "Like how we can kiss Auntie Yelina or Auntie Calleigh and it's not the same as when we kiss you. It's not the same as those two when I kiss your father. Now, go to sleep."
"Not kiss Auntie 'Lina, Daddy. She scary."
"That she is, son," Horatio said dryly. "Sleep so you can let Ray Junior skip tomorrow." Xander covered his head up and pretended to snore, making them both smile and shake their heads. Fortunately he really did start to snore a few minutes later so they could get back to their quiet celebration without waking him back up. It took a nightmare or an explosion to wake Xander up.
Four Years Old:
Xander snuck back into his father's office. "Daddy, Auntie Calleigh said to leave her alone for a few hours please. She said she's got upset belly hurts and she's cranky today."
Horatio looked over at his son. "When did you sneak out?"
"When stupid man come."
"Don't call people names," he said firmly.
"Sorry, daddy." He climbed back onto the couch and picked up his workbook. "I went to see if Auntie Calleigh wanted to have lunch with us."
"Uh-huh. What's wrong with her?"
"Upset belly hurts."
"Upset belly hurts?"
"Her belly hurts and it's making it upset too. Gives her bad poopies too. I followed her into the bathroom." Horatio still looked confused. "She said she have upset belly hurts. You ask her." He went back to his workbook. "Why is this one trains?"
"Because the person who wrote it wanted trains." He called Calleigh. "Are you really sick? He said upset belly hurts." He listened to her complain she couldn't explain PMS to him and her stomach did hurt from the cramps. Then she hung up. "Maybe we'll be nice
and send her lunch. Go find your father without going into any lab, and see what he wants me to order for lunch." Xander slid down and went to do that. He shook his head.
Xander found Uncle Eric. "Where's Dad? Daddy wanted to know what he was ordering."
"He's with Auntie Alexx in the morgue. You can wait," Eric said, looking at the boy. Xander beamed. "You're being good staying out there."
"Daddy said to. Especially after I went to make Auntie Calleigh feel better. She has upset belly hurts."
"Upset belly hurts?" Xander beamed and nodded. He considered that then checked his watch. "OH!" He nodded. "That's a good way of describing that." He grinned. "Wolfe, is Speed with you?"
"Behind me." Xander ran off to pounce his father. "Calleigh?" he called, walking that way. He had seen Speed warning her he was coming earlier and he'd follow that lead. She came to the door of her lab. "Two bullets from Alexx." He handed them over. "Let me know if you find anything?" She nodded so he hurried off.
"Upset belly hurts?" Speed asked her.
"Can you explain it any other way?"
"No," he admitted. "Want lunch with us?"
"Just to be left alone, thanks anyway, boys." She grinned at Xander. "You, no more following women into the bathroom, Xander." He nodded, giving her a hug gently. "Thank you, dear. Now, go bother your father in the office." He drug Speed that way. She smiled at the cute picture. Speed made a great dad. Xander was a well-behaved, smart, curious little boy. He'd make someone a good boyfriend someday with the way he tried to pamper her.
Speed walked into the office, closing them in. "Thankfully I know why she's cranky."
"Definitely. What did you want for lunch?" Speed shrugged. "Want to run out or order in?"
"I'll ride out to get a sandwich." He looked at his son. "Turkey?"
"Turkey?" Speed suggested again. His son pouted. "You belch louder than I do when you eat pepperoni, son. Last time it echoed and Eric tried to outdo you."
"Fine, I'll eat Turkey but there'd better be cheese," he demanded, scowling at his father.
"And chips if I don't smoosh 'em," he promised, patting him on the head. He looked at Horatio. "You?"
"Go to Julio's get me the usual?" He handed over a twenty, getting a nod. "I'm not paying for Eric or Ryan's."
"Sure." He walked out, making sure Xander stayed in. "I'm doing lunch orders for Julio's!" he called. "We're not buying."
Eric came out with his order and Ryan's order and money. "I need to get into my locker."
"Sure. As long as you pay me back," he ordered, giving him a look. Eric nodded, going back to work. "Cal?"
"Okay." He left, going to take one of the hummers. He couldn't ride his bike with this much food. He got her some pudding anyway. It was only nice and would keep him sane when he had to help her later on.
A few weeks Xander got to go up to New York to visit his family up there. His fathers let him down at the receptionist's desk, letting him run up the hall with a squeal. Sheldon saw him first and came out to hug him. "Hi, Xander!"
"Hi, Uncle Sheldon!" He wiggled. "Have dinner us?"
"Sure, we can have dinner tonight. Uncles Don and Danny are in Trace," he said with a point. "Uncle Mac's in fingerprints. Auntie Stella's in Layout." He pointed at those doors.
Xander beamed and ran to fingerprints, going to sneak in and pounce Mac from behind. "Got you!"
"Hi, Xander." He smiled at him. "What are you doing up here?"
"Daddies say so. They bringed me." He continued to hug and grin at him.
Mac groaned as he picked him up. "It'll be a good visit," he promised, kissing him on the head. "Good boy. Go find the daddies."
"Gotta go pounce others." He wiggled down and ran off, finding the other three together. He squealed as he flung himself at his Uncle Don, earning a laugh from the big detective. "Hi!" he said, grinning and waving. "I pounced Uncle Mac."
"You did very good sneaking up on him," Speed said from the doorway. "We're inviting you guys to bring takeout over tonight to share with our takeout."
"We can do that," Danny agreed happily, taking the boy to hug him. "Ooooh, missed you."
"Missed you too, Uncle Danny!" He grinned at his Auntie Stella. "Hug?"
"I'm not feeling too good, Xander. I'll hug you tonight."
"Are you having upset belly hurts like Auntie Calleigh does?" He wiggled down and came over to hug her around the stomach. "It's all right. I know upset belly hurts are bad but it's all right. I'll make you feel better."
"You definitely do," she agreed, smiling at him. "You're very good at making me feel better." She looked at Speed. "Upset belly hurts?"
Don coughed. "You had those last week, Stella."
"Oh!" She nodded. "That's a good way to put it." She finished cuddling Xander. "It's not that sort of belly hurts, Xander. I had a mean guy who kicked me trying to get away."
"I'll hurt him!" he said fiercely, scowling at her. "No one hurts you! I said so!"
Speed picked up his son. "I'm sure Mac got him for her, son."
"He better have or I will!"
Mac leaned out of fingerprints. "Uncle Don got the guy who hurt Auntie Stella, Xander. I promise, he's in jail for being a bad guy." Xander beamed at Don for that brilliance. "Good boy. We'll protect Auntie Stella together."
"Yes we will. At least she doesn't have upset belly hurts. Auntie Calleigh said those are mean to her most months."
Mac smothered a laugh. "No, she doesn't get those very often." He pulled back into fingerprints, snickering against the wall.
"Do you get them as often as Auntie Calleigh does?" Xander asked Stella.
She blushed and shook her head. "Not that often. Don't worry about those, Xander." She patted him on the back and ran back to her lab before the little kid could embarrass her further.
Sheldon came out of his lab. "What's wrong? I heard him saying he was going to hurt someone."
"He asked Stella if she upset belly hurts when he found out she's got a sore stomach," Don said with a grin. "When we told him she had gotten hurt by a suspect he claimed he was going to hurt the guy for her."
"Uncle Don saved her," Xander told him, beaming at his favorite uncle. "He's a good uncle to my Auntie."
"Yes, I am," he agreed.
"We're going to the usual hotel. Horatio's up too. Come see us when you guys get off." He walked his son off, talking very quietly. "We don't like to spread around when girls have upset belly hurts, Xander. That's something most of them keep quiet," he said as they walked out, hearing Sheldon start to laugh behind them. "C'mon, let's go see what Daddy Horatio wants for lunch." Xander nodded and hummed, waving at those he knew or thought he knew. He'd be telling Horatio this when he got home. Horatio had more tact than he did about these things. He walked Xander into their suite and put him down. "Pounce the daddy." Xander ran into the bedroom and pounced Horatio, making him moan when he caught him. "Tell him about Aunt Stella, son." He got Horatio some water and glanced into the room, finding Horatio smiling at their son's recital. He went to make Xander's room up for him. Including his stuffed friends so he could have a nap. Naps were nice for couples. Xander came running out and went to bed without a fuss, for a change. "Thanks, dear."
"Daddy say I come tell my friends about this so you two can cuddle." He grinned. "Can I have a baby sister?"
"Only if one of us suddenly turns into a girl."
"Can we ask Auntie Stella? She'd make me a pretty baby sister."
"You can ask her tonight, son." He heard Horatio moan at that. "We'll talk about it tonight, okay?" Xander nodded. "Good boy, stay in here." He closed the door then their door, going to get in his own pounce. "It would be a pretty little sister for him."
"No more kids."
"She said....." Horatio shut him up with a kiss, letting himself be flipped over so he was on the bottom this time. All thoughts of baby sisters were quickly driven out of his head. Even if he was missing the little cuddly one that Xander used to be. He could read, he wasn't a baby anymore.
Sheldon came in last. "Sorry, long arrest report." He put down his contribution and everyone handed him something to eat from theirs. "So, how was your first day?"
"Good," Horatio admitted. "We went to play in the park after a nap." He ate a bite, nudging Xander. "Apologize?" he suggested when Xander looked at him.
"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Auntie Stella. Daddy Horatio said that things like upset belly hurts are private things and I shouldn't ask about them in public." He gave her a hug. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Xander. You're still little. You're still learning," she promised, smiling at him.
"Thank you. Now, can we talk about a baby sister?" Speed and Horatio both groaned. "You'd give me a pretty baby sister. She'd be loved like my stuffed friends and everything."
She smiled at him. "Maybe some day. Right now I'm not ready for baby sisters." He pouted. "When I am, I'll talk to your daddies first, okay?" He nodded, going to lunge himself at Speed.
Speed moaned, but he did catch him. "We'll talk about this desire for baby sisters later, Xander."
"Yes, daddy." He snuggled in, grinning at everyone. He looked at Don's plate then leaned over and stole a fry with a grin. "Fank you."
"Next time ask," Horatio ordered.
"Sorry, Unclie Don." He accepted his plate from Danny and Mac once it had more food on it, snuggling in to eat and grin at everyone. "We should play tonight. Twister, Daddy?" he asked, looking at Horatio.
Horatio looked at him. "Ask them, not me, son. I can't bend that way."
"Play twister with me?" Xander asked the room at large.
"If we can," Stella agreed. Xander squealed and hugged her again. Then he went back to his plate, cuddling into Don's lap to eat, grinning at him.
"Some day you'll be as cute as I am."
"Uncle Eric said the same thing but I'm already cuter," Xander assured him with a grin. "His niece say so. She said Uncle Eric not cute, he too old to be anything but a sextoy for girls."
Horatio choked. Speed moaned and shook his head. "No more hanging out with Teia, Xander," Speed ordered. "No telling Eric that either."
Xander pouted at him. "I did and Unclie Ryan laughed. It made Auntie Calleigh's upset belly hurts feel better when she laughed too."
"I'm sure it did." Horatio looked at his son. "Don't repeat that either, son."
"Yes, daddy." He beamed. "Please play twister?"
"I'll spin," he promised. Xander went back to eating off plates, getting handed his own after each time he snatched food.
Speed walked up to Eric the day they got back. "You need to straighten out Teia. She told my son you were too old to be anything but a sextoy."
"I wondered which one it was. I'll have a talk with her mother," he promised, grinning at him. "How was New York?"
"Good. He spoiled everyone. He played twister." Eric chuckled, the boy was a monster at twister. "He asked Stella if she upset belly hurts in the lab. We need to monitor what we say around him."
"I'll get onto Teia."
"And watch my own mouth," he promised, clapping him on the arm. "You've got a brilliant little mind in your home." He walked off grinning. Now he knew which niece he needed to have his mother spank. He pulled out his phone. "Mama, can you please spank Teia and tell her not to call me a sextoy to Xander again?" His mother started to rant at his niece and her mother. He hung up with a laugh. Yeah, that was going to stop.
Epilogue: First Day of School:
Xander trudged home, giving his father a look. "Can I study at home?"
"No. Why would you want to?"
"Teacher's mean. Kids are mean. Kids are stupid and mean." He pouted, sitting down to let his father give him a cookie. "Thanks, daddy."
"Welcome." Horatio ruffled his hair. "What did the teacher do?"
"Wouldn't let me play." He took a bite and pointed at his bag. "Got a note. Other kids picked on me because of it."
Horatio found the notes from the teacher. One was a memo on acceptable behavior. One was a taped note. One was a memo on an upcoming class project. He opened the taped construction paper note, reading the regular paper inside. Apparently she made her own stationary sets. He looked at his son. "Were you bouncy?"
"Bored," he complained. "She talked and talked and talked about stupid stuff." He scowled. "I don't care about her pet cat. I was even quiet."
"I'll talk with her, Xander. Did you do anything today?"
"Got workbooks." His father pulled them out. "Need to do some stuff." He found his big pencil and opened it, staring at the math. "Can I cry?"
Horatio sat down to go over it with him using his fingers. "Five, plus three," he said, holding those fingers up, "is how many?"
He counted. "Eight?"
His father nodded so he wrote that and tried the next one, smiling a bit. "Good boy." He gave him a kiss on the head. He went to his office to call the teacher. "This is Horatio Caine. Yes, Xander's other father," he assured her. "I'd like your side of the story." He listened to her tell about her yearly story so the students got to know her a little bit better. "No, he loves stories but he doesn't seem to like female storytellers," he admitted. He saw his son peeking in and pointed, making him go back to his homework. "He said he was bored. He also said he wasn't trying to disturb the class. We know, we're working on it. So far the adjustive therapies are working quite well. We'll gladly bring you into the next conference. His behavior therapist talks to him on Saturday afternoon and we'll call?" He wrote down her number. "That's more than reasonable. No, he's usually very skilled at sneaking around. How long did it take you to realize he was missing?" He smiled at her answer of 'I saw him being bored and was focusing on him'.
"That's usually the best way. Now, he does excellent in hands-on education. He always has." He saw his son's shadow coming closer. "We started out doing a page in his math workbook. I am teaching him the finger method but he'll be able to transfer it once he's used to it. The therapist has suggested that he get a full week's assignments at once. That way he can do what he needs to do in whatever order he wants, as long as it gets turned in on time. Reading is better for him than math. We worked on his reading for over a year. Slightly. Very slightly dyslexic. He's still not comfortable reading out loud but he can spit back what he read and the content or moral depending on what he's reading. It also turned into a lot of work on his handwriting." He smiled at his son's peek. "Yes, yours, Xander. Are you done with that page?" He shook his head. "Stuck?" He nodded, bringing it in. He cradled the phone between his ear and shoulder. "Okay, that is a hard one. He's doing the challenge question. Your hands have ten fingers, right?" He nodded. "So think about it this way. What's ten from fifteen?"
Xander frowned and counted then beamed at him. "Five!"
"Then think about it like having an extra hand." Xander nodded. "Now, take seven from the three hands of fingers." Xander counted it down and wrote the answer. "Good job!" He kissed him on the head. "Go find your next assignment." She said something. "You have a reading assignment." Xander beamed and bounced out to get that book and sit down to read it. "Thank you. That is how we do it. We set a deadline. You have to have this task done by, say, Thursday, so you can work on it in little bits or however you want as long as it's done by Thursday. Exactly. He usually saves the subjects he hates for last. Math he's still iffy on but he'll get there." He smiled. "That would be most reasonable," he agreed. "Maps. He hates maps. Likes to hear stories about other places from his uncles and aunts, but he hates maps." He grinned.
"Of course. Thank you, Miss Kendrick. We'll talk to you Saturday afternoon." He hung up and finished making that note on his desk pad. Then he went to check on his son and dinner. Speed drug in a few hours later, flopping down to help Xander with his reading assignment. "He did good on his first day. He was a bit bored so he snuck off to play and we got a note to talk to her. We'll be conferencing her in this Saturday." Speed grunted and nodded. "She said she's seen worse cases and we went over some his worse areas and how we set a deadline schedule for him. She agreed she could hand him his week's assignments at a time. She didn't think he'd have too much trouble moving back to a regular schedule since it's the same thing basically just not stated." He flipped the meat, looking out there to find his son looking for another workbook. "You only had a math sheet and the reading sheet due tomorrow, Xander."
"Oops." He gave him a sheepish look. "Will she be mad that I read ahead?"
"Not unless she wants to hear us growl," Speed offered, kissing him on the head. "I wondered why you were starting in the back of the book." Horatio came out to look, finding it all filled out. "It was fairly easy. He went through that one last year, H."
"He did." He gave them both kisses then he went back to his meat. "Are you dropping him off tomorrow?"
"Yup." He grinned at his son. "I'm proud you did it all since you got home." Xander beamed and pounced him, tickling him. "Hey, don't attack the daddy!" he complained, getting him back. Xander squealed and ran away, prompting his father to chase him around the house, making Horatio smile but shake his head.
Speed walked Xander into his classroom the next morning. "Horatio checked his math for you." He handed over the workbooks. "We weren't paying attention and he did a workbook like that last year. Sorry." She flipped through it then stared at him. "We didn't check over that one. He's doing a few years ahead in that subject."
"Wonderful. That's marvelous," she said with a smile. She sat down to go over it, smiling at him. "I see he still needs some work with spelling."
Speed looked. "Oh, yeah, Peyton was working on that with him. She's British. She's an ME up in New York who's an honorary aunt with a few others in the crime lab. When he went to visit Mac he let her come over to play with him."
She giggled. "I've seen it before. Xander, do you know the difference between American spelling and British spelling?"
"Too many 'u's in British spelling?"
"Quite often," she agreed, kissing him on the head. He gave her a shy smile and hid behind his father. "I think this is excellent work." He handed over their workbook from home. "The one his therapist uses?"
"He suggested that series but he said to let Xander go through it at his own pace. He does about one a month or so." She nodded. "He's pretty good for it. Xander, you've got to spell like you do for the Leapfrog system for her, okay?" He nodded, grinning at that. "Math's still a beginning subject."
"Your husband went over it while we were on the phone. He did the challenge question." She smiled at him. "I am going to do what they do. Would that be okay?" Xander nodded. "Good." She pulled out a copy of her lesson plan. "Okay, by tomorrow, I'll want pages in these three books. That's what that means. Then this notation means we'll have a short quiz to make sure you're getting it." He beamed and nodded, taking it to put in his desk. "I've got another child like that. Thank you for being a reasonable parent," she said gently.
"I've seen worse parents. Trust me. Speaking of, kiddo, I've got to go bust some bad parents. Hug?" Xander ran over to hug him then went back to his desk. "Also, play breaks? He'll take them if you don't give him enough. He likes hands-on stuff a lot more. Building, destroying." She smiled. "Likes stuffed animals, and all animals, but hates dolls. Absolutely hates dolls. Bopped a friend's niece on the head with his bear when she suggested he could help her play dolls."
"I'll keep that in mind. Violence issues?"
"He'll start to turn purple and scream first. If he gets to screaming you've got an issue."
"Okay. That's also been seen before. Anything else?"
"He likes music."
"That's not uncommon with ADHD cases. I've noticed the humming and the moving."
"He used to hum while dancing around with his teddy bear."
"I've seen that too. We'll talk on Saturday. We'll be fine, Mr. Speedle."
"Thanks." He shook her hand. "Be a good boy for me today, Xander. Both of us will be at work. Okay?" Xander nodded, waving absently, going into his workbook. "That's where I found him last night," he whispered, heading out to his bike.
She went to look over his shoulder. "Is it the story or did you work ahead there too?" she asked.
He looked up. "The story's pretty neat."
"We'll be doing things on different cultures in a few months." She patted him on the head. "Go ahead and play. We'll be doing math first this morning. That's where we'll start most mornings." He nodded and went to play for now. You could never turn down an option to play. She sat down to make more notes in his chart. He had some very good insights in his english workbook. Though she did note he spelled British. She gave him those words in a special spelling list for his parents to work on. The first grade teacher would go nuts if he spelled Brit in her class.
Frank coughed, walking into Horatio's office with Xander a few weeks later. Horatio blinked in confusion. "There was a situation at his school. Non-custodial parent trying to force the issue."
"He was stupid," Xander said firmly. "And he smelled bad, like Uncle Eric when what's- her-name the ho dumped him."
"Son," Horatio warned.
Xander shrugged, he knew better but so? "She was. Even you said that, Daddy."
"Your boy smarted off to the father with the gun," Frank told him. "Then he kicked him in the shin, bit him on the hand, and tried to protect the little girl from him. He's you the next generation, Horatio." He walked off, leaving the father the important task of giving the talk about 'you do not get in front of the person with the gun'.
Horatio stared at his fidgeting son. "While I'm proud you tried to protect someone weaker, son, that was not the way to go about it," he said calmly. Calleigh walked in frowning. "School?"
"Yeah, they said Frank had picked him up. The father's presently screaming about his little girl being taken by your son."
"Eww, girls are gross," Xander complained.
"Aunts are girls, Xander," she assured him.
He looked at her, giving her the same 'dumbass' look his father used now and then. "You're a woman, not a girl. You have woman things that make Uncle Eric blush and stammer, or look like a wolf on a cartoon. Uncle Eric's mommy said that you're not a girl anymore when you have those. So when you get those you become not icky," he said firmly. Then he stuck his tongue out. "So there!" He looked at his father, who was trying hard not to laugh. "Uncle Eric and his mommy said so when I asked."
"I'll talk with Eric about that thought," Calleigh said dryly. "Thought I should warn you."
"Thank you, Calleigh. We're having a talk right now about how you don't get in front of people who have a gun, even to protect someone else." He looked at his son. "What are you supposed to do when you see a gun?"
"Run and hide," he pouted, sitting on the couch. "But she needed it."
"That's why there's adults, Xander."
"He knocked the teacher out!" he defended.
"Then you could've hidden her," Calleigh offered. Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"She loud and noisy. Plus in a cast."
"You still shouldn't stand in front of him, son."
"Tried pouncing, he tried to hit me so I bit him," Xander said, looking very serious. Horatio sighed.
"I know, how about I get a statement from him so you two and him can go over it later, Horatio?" she suggested. "That way you can point out what he should do in that situation?"
"That would be acceptable. Son?" He nodded and bounced out holding her hand. He called Speed. "Our son has learned some bad habits," he offered once he answered. "The school closed early today due to a non-custodial parent with a gun. That our son got in front of." He heard the scream without the phone, wincing at it. "Calm down, Speed. Calm down now. No, he was pouting so Calleigh's taking a statement and we'll go over it with him later, show him what he should have done. He said the teacher was knocked out. I know. I know this is my fault," he sighed. "We'll work on that later as well, okay? Just calm down. Go vent somewhere he can't see, and be aware that the father is claiming the two kids are dating." Speed hung up and he could hear him stomping off and the doors slamming behind him. "That's one unhappy father." He went to check on Xander, finding Speed having a talk with him, still looking very upset. He was pacing and using his hands to talk. Oh, he was pissed. Horatio moaned at some of it. He tapped on the glass and Speed glared so he did it again, bringing him out. "Let him give us what he did so we can go over it in detail. That way we can provide specific examples as well as the ranting we both need to do."
"You're way too damn calm," he sneered.
Horatio kissed him. "That's because I'm letting you rant for me and I'll be in the gym in a bit, Speed. We'll also have to have a small talk about girls since Eric and his mommy told him girls weren't girls anymore when they got woman things." Speed moaned, holding his head. "I know. I know. Let's take the statement so we can work on what he *should* do. Then we can yell and scream during that." He looked in there. "Look at him, Speed. He's ready to cry." Speed sighed and went in there to hug him, calming himself down for his son's benefit while they talked. Horatio listened while they went over what happened and then what he should have done. Xander did defend his actions a few times. Speed still hammered in the point very well - you are not some movie hero, guns could kill you too, you do not jump in front of someone with a gun, you hide instead. He heard other yelling and looked but it was Calleigh yelling at Eric about 'woman things' so it was probably necessary. Though Wolfe was snickering in a corner. He glared at him and he hurried off. "Some days I feel like I run my own kindergarten," he sighed, rubbing his head. It did hurt.
Horatio smiled as his phone was answered. "Mac," he said, putting him on speaker. "I have a request to make."
"Sure, Horatio. Need to borrow someone? Danny's annoying the crap out of me this week, you can have him."
"No, nothing like that," he admitted, smiling a bit. "Xander would love it if he wrote to him though. Him and all of you, especially Sheldon. No, we had a small situation earlier today in Xander's school. A non-custodial parent coming for their kid to kidnap them at gunpoint." Mac moaned. "Xander helped protect the young lady since she has a cast on her leg and couldn't hide. We've talked to him, he knows what he's supposed to do and all that. He's fine, he's not hurt, but we were thinking that maybe something like hunting or camping or one of those things being shown to him might make him a bit more cautious. He's got hiding and sneaking down but I think his skills could use some work. They won't allow him in cub scouts because I'm with Speed before you ask."
"That might make it worse."
"I don't think so. I think it'll make him more aware and cautious. We've done everything we could. He's still defending that he was protecting her, which he did. He couldn't have hidden with her. The teacher was unconscious. One of the other kids was going for another teacher and he was protecting her." He sipped his beer. "But we want him to be more cautious around them. We had the long, long discussion today. Speed nearly had a stroke when he heard. I'm not so sure I wasn't about to either."
"He looks up to me and I'm the only one you know with the proper training," Mac finished. "I can see taking him camping. I try to go once a year. Actually, I'm going to go deer hunting this year so I can take him camping then if you'd like. Maybe a weekend?"
"I wouldn't mind and he's ahead in class at the moment. We had to give both the principal and the teacher the assurance that he wasn't like that normally." He finished his beer and Speed brought Xander in. "Xander, you know how you seem to have some instincts that you were using today?" Their son nodded. "Well, I'm asking Uncle Mac if he can take you camping."
"Is he going to yell too?"
"No, he might talk to you about it but he won't yell," Speed promised. "Right, Mac?"
"I don't yell, Xander," he agreed, sounding like he was smiling. "You're ahead in school?"
"He did his whole english workbook the first night," Speed said proudly, letting Horatio have him. "Time for bed."
Horatio kissed him on the forehead. "You have good dreams tonight, no nightmares, son."
Xander nodded. "Night, Uncle Mac. Thank you for taking me camping."
"You're welcome, Xander. Your fathers think it'll make you understand a bit better."
"She still needed it," he pouted.
"You're too young to do that," Mac pointed out. "That's why your fathers and I carry badges and guns, so we can do that. Your job is to stay safe, ours is to protect the little girl. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," he sighed.
"Good boy. Have good dreams."
"You too." He went to his room, climbing in and letting his father kiss him on the head and tuck him in among his many stuffed animals. "Night, daddy."
"Night, kiddo. We love you and we're not mad. Remember that." He closed the door most of the way and got his own beer.
"Mac, not only did he do his whole workbook, he used a lot of Brit spelling," Horatio said blandly.
"I'll tell Peyton she infected him with that," he teased. "He okay?"
"He seems perfectly normal. In that situation he was right, he couldn't have gotten her to hide. She had a cast on one leg and the father got in there before they could be alerted. I don't like that he pounced the guy, or bit him, or stood between him and her with the gun in his chest." He took Speed's beer to take a sip then handed it back.
"So the hunter's instincts and methodology might help him a lot. Because it was necessary but not totally correct," Mac finished. "Sure, I can see doing that. It'll be like his own personal cub scouts." Speed laughed at that. "The troop leader won't let him in because he thinks he'll be gay?"
"He doesn't want to risk it since we are," Speed admitted. "I threw a fit with him," he offered. "And with the regional leader. He stuck up for his decision. I'd like him to have something like that. I'm not too sure about martial arts at the moment. Every now and then he gets that strange look on his face and wants to be violent because someone he likes got hurt. He tried to attack the person who punched Wolfe last month, did we tell you?"
"You did. Your son will do the badge proud some day, guys. He's a great kid." You could hear the smile again. "I'll make arrangements in a few weeks, when I figure out when I can go. Have a long cuddle and relax. The danger's gone." He hung up.
Horatio pulled Speed into his lap, taking the rest of his beer to gulp. "I still want to rant and scream," he admitted into the warm neck. Speed shivered. "Make me calm down?"
"Gladly," Speed promised, getting up and pulling Horatio to their room, closing the door and locking it so their son had to knock to get in. Then he laid Horatio out and turned him into a puddle of purring goo before taking him. It was good for them. It had been a stressful month.
Mac hung up and looked at Stella and Danny when they came in, Sheldon behind them. They had lost Lindsey a year ago to a federal lab, who had lost her totally. "That was Horatio."
"The sprout okay?" Danny demanded.
"He's fine. Thankfully. He ended up having to get between a parent with a gun and their child to protect her." They all gaped. "We were just talking about me taking him camping to give him a way to train those instincts before they get him into trouble."
"Cub scouts?" Sheldon suggested.
"The troop leader won't let him in because his parents are both male."
"Pity," he said grimly. "Martial arts?"
"Xander's a bit violent when he feels it's necessary to protect someone," Danny pointed out. "Remember the woman who slapped Flack and what he did to her?" They all shuddered. The kid had screamed and yanked her hair out by the handful for slapping his favorite uncle. "Sports?"
"After I take him camping and teach him to respect and fear guns," Mac said. "He's still a summer sport kid, swimming and running." He shrugged. "I called a staff meeting, right?" They all nodded and he pulled out what he needed. "I've got to hire a new tech, guys. Will you be nice to this one, Danny? You drove the last three off."
"Did not," he complained. "Two were pukes without a shred of ability or sense. Don drove the other one off."
"Okay, Don drove off Lindsey," he agreed. "You still rode the other two until they gave in and left." He looked at him. "Are you going to do the same if I hire another one? We're getting a bad reputation."
"Not if you hire someone with a clue," he snorted. "The last one looked at a body and went 'eew, blood'," he finished in a falsetto, "then she passed out. From a GSW, not even a nasty one, Mac. Just a normal shot to the chest. She'd never have stood up to a jumper or somethin'."
"Point. The other one?" Stella asked. Danny growled. "What? She hit on you?" she teased.
Danny gave her a bland look. "And then some. Broke into my house to pounce. I gave her the choice of asking to change shifts or a sexual harassment suit and charges for B&E."
"I remember that paper, I handed the report to her new boss unofficially since it never got filed," Mac admitted. "Fine, I'll let you guys look over our pool of candidates once I've got them shrunk down."
"Have them work a day with the team," Danny offered. "That way we make sure we don't have no more snakes in the grass."
"I can do that as well," Mac agreed. A glimmering body started next to Sheldon. "If that's what I think it is, we can all go out for beers tonight. Aiden," he sighed. The others stared at her. "What's wrong?"
"Kids, what's my usual thing?" she asked dryly. "Yes, my son could use the protection lessons. He's damn good at it. Now that I'm over here I know why." She beamed at Stella. "You, sister, are dating a shitbag who hurts his kids. You want him or me?"
"Physically, mentally, or sexually?" she asked.
"Yes, yes, and probably. I've only just been called by one of the kids. She won't tell me."
"Oh, he's mine," she promised. "Bring the twins in here tomorrow. I'll get a statement off them and arrest his ass faster than Danny and Don can clean out a hotdog vendor."
"Sure. I'm good for that. I'll let 'em know. Also, did you know you have a cousin Dawn?" She disappeared.
"I do?" Stella shrugged. "News to me. Wish I had known," she called, looking up. A newspaper clipping floated down out of thin air, landing in her hair. She looked it over then nodded. "Okay. I'll get in touch with her. See if she wants to meet and we can figure out where we're related." Sheldon gave her a gentle shoulder squeeze. "Thanks, Sheldon." She smiled at him. "So, apparently I have a case tomorrow." Mac nodded at that, making shooing motions. "I'll get them during school, Mac. He's there tonight and he'll scare them if I go over. Actually, you know what, let me go over there to spend some time with them and offer to drive them to school."
"That's fine. Be very careful, you can't act that well," Mac warned. She nodded and left. "Call Don to let him know," he called after her. "He lives in that neighborhood. That way he can pop around if there's an issue." He sighed. "Okay, the other thing. Danny, there's a case from your old neighborhood?"
"I turned it over ta Doc." He head nodded at Sheldon.
"That's reasonable. Thank you. Give him any unofficial help you can." They both nodded. "I'll start weeding down applicants this week. Maybe I can swing a level two instead of a rookie." They both smiled at that. "Be on call for Stella tonight, boys." They nodded, heading to do that while he took something for his headache. Sheldon came back, giving him a look. "What?"
"I want you to see someone about those, Mac. We'd all be devastated if those headaches are a tumor or something," he said quietly. "Sid and I talked, we'll gladly put you in the system down there so you can do it quietly and not have to wait weeks to get in for a scan. Tonight good for you?"
"Your choices are going or I'm going to knock you out and drag your big, heavy butt," he noted calmly. "Your choice of course," he offered with a smile.
"Fine. No one knows?"
"No one knows, not even Peyton."
"Horatio said Xander did his English workbook the first night and spelled like her," he offered with a smile. Sheldon grinned at that. "Apparently he's got a decent teacher."
"Good. Doesn't get you out of it. Don't make me tell Xander you're sick so he comes to pout and fuss." Mac moaned, following him down. Sheldon looked at Sid, who was nearly done. "Now good?" he asked.
"Now's fine. Let me send the others home. Evening shift hasn't gotten here yet." He finished his sewing and found Sheldon had cleared the MRI room already. He was watching it as it ran. "Is that a small growth?"
"A very tiny one," Sheldon admitted. "But it's not the source of the headaches. It's in the wrong spot." The scan continued, letting them see where it was. "That's the problem," he announced. "Skull fracture." Sid looked and nodded. "Must've been during that thing last year where he got kicked in the head. He saved down the views he wanted, beeping into the room. "We're done, Mac, come here please?" He turned off the speaker, letting Mac come up to join them. "How long have you had that growth?" he asked, pointing at it.
"Since the year the towers fell. It's been found a few times. I know it's not the cause of the headaches, guys." Sheldon changed the view and he blinked. "That could be."
"That could be a good reason you should be on my table, Mac," Sid told him bluntly. Mac nodded. "You need to see someone about that."
"You've gotten a bit forgetful too, Mac," Sheldon said gently. "Maybe it'll take some surgical intervention to close. It's not joined correctly. It's also not fully healed. That means it was really bad and probably got burst open again when you hit that door with your head during the fight."
"Point, boys. I'll take that to my doctor this week." Sheldon saved it down for him. "Thanks for being pushy, Sheldon. Beers?"
"Nope. Not for you," Sheldon said dryly, taking him down to his car and driving him home. Where he settled in to fuss his lover to death for being so stubborn. It was the only way to get him to do anything for himself.
Ten Years Old:
Xander came off the plane, jogging over to hug his uncle. "Hi, Uncle Don."
"Hey, kiddo. What's up? Your dads said you needed a vacation." He gathered the kid's bag and walked him out. "You're staying with Mac and Sheldon, right?" Xander looked at him and nodded. "Just needed a vacation?" he teased.
"There's way too many people in this airport for that discussion," he mumbled, taking his hand to drag him outside. "Car?"
"I got one of our Tahoes." He walked him that way, letting him get into the SUV. "Okay, what's wrong?" he asked as he got in. "Another bad guy moment in Miami?"
"Nope. My personal issues." He shifted to look at his uncle. "Daddy doesn't know. All he knows is I've been stressed." He looked around then at him again. "I know what it's like when someone likes you," he said quietly. "I'm freaked out."
"You're only ten!"
"I know that." He pouted. "It's just... wrong. It's bad. It doesn't feel good."
"Okay, we'll talk," he promised. He called Mac. "It's me. I've got Xander. We're gonna stop for ice cream and a talk about something in school. Sure, that'll work instead. Xander, he's making dinner, so we'll talk after dinner?"
"Okay. As long as no one overhears."
"Sure. Yeah, we're on our way back, we'll talk after dinner, Mac. Thanks." He hung up, starting the engine. "Is she in your grade?"
Don turned off the engine. "She's how old?"
"Sixteen," he said sheepishly. "I talked to Ray Junior but I had to stop him from going to kill her, Uncle Don. I think she has problems."
"Yeah, clearly. Your dads talked to you about people who like to hurt kids, right?" Xander grimaced but nodded. "She's like that." He started the engine and backed out of the parking spot, heading to Mac and Sheldon's house. "How long has this been going on?"
"A few weeks."
"Do your parents know?"
"If I told them, they'd freak. They don't even want to talk about sex stuff."
Don reached over to ruffle his hair. "It'll be okay. Want me to talk to them?"
"They'll kill her. They'll team up with Ray Junior and kill her."
"Xander, think for a minute. If she wants to hurt you, what about your classmates and other kids?" he asked quietly. Xander slumped and nodded. "So we'll talk, I'll tell your parents tonight, we'll keep them calm?"
"Can you tell Uncle Ryan instead? He's pretty calm."
"Sure, I can do that. He can let them know once he's got her arrested for tryin' others. That way it keeps you out of the court case." Xander beamed at that. "It's good that you know who you can trust and you came to us to talk. Even though you probably could've talked to your dads."
"I tried to talk about girls. Daddy Speed threw a fit."
"Oh. Okay. We'll figure that part out." He paid their fare to get out of the garage and headed into town. He thought while they drove. "Are there any people you are interested in? Anyone nice?"
"It's okay if you don't know yet. You're only ten."
"I thought I liked her," he admitted. "I'm really confused. It was okay until last week."
"What happened last week?"
"She tried to kiss me and I got this thumping headache suddenly and everything felt really *wrong* and I don't know why. Plus I saw Mom," he finished quietly.
"Yeah, we've seen her around a few times too," Don admitted, reaching over to take his hand. "It'll be okay, Xander. We'll talk. We'll figure it out."
"Did you know Mom had to die to protect kids?" Don nodded. "Why didn't anyone tell me?"
"Because you were really young when she died. We didn't find out for about eight months after she died, but there was a case and Mac found evidence she had been there. By that time, telling you anything would've confused you more or hurt you a lot. So your fathers decided to let you think she was fully gone."
"She said Hallie said hi."
"The vengeance demon who brought me to mom and dad."
"The social worker chick?"
"Yup. I don't know why. I guess whoever had me hurt me or something. Maybe that's why I had the bad headache."
"Maybe. Did you ask your mom?"
"Yup, she said that wasn't why I had the headache. I think she knew why though."
"Maybe she gave it to you to get you away from the girl," he offered.
"Maybe. I didn't think about that." He snuggled into his seat with a yawn. "I hate flying."
"Faster than a train."
"True." He took an off-ramp, heading down into a neighborhood. "Why else did you want to come up?"
"School's really hard. The dads need some time alone with Uncle Eric to smack him around about Elizabeth." Don snickered. They all loved Xander's little sister out of Eric's sister Marisol. "She's okay and I like her, but she's a prissy little princess most of the time."
"She's only five."
"I wasn't a princess."
"Yeah but her mommy thinks she's special because having her gave Marisol a reason to get better," he reminded him.
"She's still a princess. She tried to rip up one of my stuffed animals because she was pissed at me and Uncle Eric stuck up for her. I spanked her anyway in front of the parents then I glared at my fathers and told them she's not allowed in my room. Daddy Speed agreed she shouldn't be allowed in there until she can respect my things and not attack them. Daddy Horatio decided they were right but I was in trouble for spanking her. Uncle Eric threw a fit."
"We'll get your Uncle Eric straightened out again," he promised, smiling at him. "Find me a parking spot."
"There's one," he said, pointing. "She's getting ready to move and that's right in front of Uncle Mac's apartment." Don moved up into position, making it clear he was waiting. The woman gave him a look but did eventually move her car. He parked and they got out, Xander bringing his bag. He walked inside and hugged Uncle Sheldon. "Hi."
"I quit growing again."
"You'll have another few growth spurts. Trust me." He gave Don a grin. "Long flight?"
"Loud flight. Noisy creatures behind me. Even worse than Liz." He looked up. "I had to spank her."
"I saw that email." He grinned. "Mac's in the kitchen." Xander went that way to hug him. "What happened?"
"A few things. Including a girl who likes him," he said quietly.
"Excuse me? At his age?" He went into the kitchen. "You know you can talk to us about that stuff too, right?" Xander grimaced but nodded. "Really. Mac's had to beat off a few girls."
Don came in to join them. "I dropped his bag in the guest room."
"That's fine," Mac agreed, looking at Xander. "Girl?"
"She's sixteen," he said grimly.
"Did you tell your parents?"
"I went to Ray Junior for advice," he defended. "I had to stop him from killing her."
"We agreed, we'll talk and then I'll tell Ryan Wolfe so he can see if she's hurt other kids. That way they keep Xander out of any court case. If he can't he'll warn Horatio before Xander flies back down."
"That works," Sheldon agreed, giving the boy a hug.
"I thought I liked her."
"She's much too old for you, Xander."
"Xander," Mac said, looking at him. He handed Sheldon the spoon and walked the boy into his office, sitting down with him on the couch. "What did you like about her?"
"She was nice. She paid attention to me. She listened to me. She didn't talk to me like I'm a little kid. She listens like you do, Uncle Mac."
"Okay. I can see where that would be nice." He patted him on the back of the head. "That doesn't make her good for you. She's well ahead of you developmentally. She wanted things from you that you're nowhere near ready for yet, Xander." He nodded, understanding that. "Why didn't you go to Horatio?"
"I tried to talk about sex stuff with Daddy Speed and he threw a fit." He pouted. "They need the time to straight out Liz. She tried to rip up my stuffed friends. Even my elephants." He looked at his uncle. "Daddy Horatio and Speed helped me put a hook and eye on my door to keep her out when I'm not there."
"I like that idea."
"She's a spoiled little princess."
"Her mommy got better because she had her, Xander."
"I don't care, she's still a spoiled princess. Even Grandma Delko called her that. Even Auntie Calleigh. She thought it was good I spanked her. Said it was about time."
"I'm sure it was," he agreed, smiling slightly. "Would you like us to tell your parents about her?"
"Can't we let Uncle Ryan handle it?"
"Sure. We can do that." He smiled. "Call them to let them know you're here." Xander grabbed the phone off the desk to call home. "I'm going to check on dinner."
"Okay. Hi, Daddy. I'm at Uncle Mac's house. Yes, I was good on the flight, even though I wanted to beat the mother who kept making her child scream on purpose. She told the stewardess that letting her sleep would make her die from the pressure so she kept pinching her. I can tell them that." He grinned. "Is my room still locked?" He beamed. "Good! Keep it that way. Is she over? Can't Grandma Delko spank her this time?" he begged. "Please? And Uncle Eric?" He snorted. "Make him babysit her for a day. It'll fix both of them." He beamed. "It is so a good plan. Besides, it'll get Uncle Eric away from the stalker chick who won't leave him alone. He can pretend Liz is his and all that." He cackled. "It might. Love you too. It's nearly dinner. Thanks, Daddy." He hung up and went to the kitchen. "I suggested Uncle Eric babysit Liz for a weekend, that way he could see the real problems and quit defending her, plus claiming she's his daughter would mean that his stalker chick would run away in fear."
"Stalker?" Sheldon asked.
"He draws a lot of them," Xander said, looking around. "Uncle Don didn't stay?"
"He'll be back in an hour. Stella needed him for something," Mac said with a smile. "Set the table?" Xander nodded, going to do that with Sheldon's help.
Eric walked up to Speed the next day. "My niece is horrible. Your son's right. She needs spanked."
"That's because your sister refuses to correct her when she becomes a spoiled brat, she treats her like the most precious jewel in the crown. When we all know she's the apple of Satan's eye now and then," Speed quipped back. "Did you fix her?"
"Yeah, after I found her trying to rip up my bedroom. She's got some serious problems. I told Mama, she suggested an exorcism." Speed snickered at that. "She did! She's serious too. My sister is going to be paddled later. Tell your son I'm sorry I stuck up for the brat." He walked off shaking his head. "H, you need to take Liz home on a permanent basis to fix her."
"I'll consider that option, Eric." He gave him a look. "Your kitchen or your bedroom? Those are the two rooms she usually targets."
"My bedroom. Mama's suggested an exorcism. She tried my pictures and got into my condoms to try to rip them up too."
"It might help according to our son." He smiled and patted him on the arm. "It'll get better."
"Sure. Next time I get to hold her while Xander spanks her." He walked off, going back to work.
Horatio smiled at his back. "At least that problem will be solved. Mr. Wolfe. Are you late?" he asked, catching sight of him.
"No, I've been working on a case that got sent to me personally," he admitted, walking over to him. "I think we need to speak in your office." Horatio looked at him. "Xander sent it to me."
"Get Speed. I'll be there in ten minutes." He headed off to get one thing done first, finding both of them up there and Speed looking frustrated. He closed the door. "What happened."
"Do you know that your son has his very own sixteen-year-old stalker?"
"EXCUSE ME!" Speed demanded.
Ryan looked at him. "She's sixteen. He said he was enjoying the attention until she kissed him last week and he got a sudden headache, then she started to get creepy, his words." He looked at Horatio again. "He did admit that was only one reason for the sudden trip to see his uncles and aunt."
"Why couldn't my son come to talk to us about that?" Speed demanded.
"As he put it, he asked about girls and one of you freaked out," Ryan said blandly, giving him a look. He doubted it had been Horatio. Speed groaned and sat down. He looked at Horatio again. "He told Don Flack and Mac both. They had a long talk about her last night. They got him to agree that one of us would look into it to see if there were others she had targeted or not. If so, we could keep him out of it. If not, I could tell you so he wouldn't have to see the fit his father would throw. Xander specified me since I'm not family and Calleigh would've killed her."
"Good to know my son was thinking logically and he knew who he could go to," Horatio admitted quietly. "The outcome of your morning was?"
"She's missing." Horatio sat down behind his desk. "I went to talk to her this morning, found her mother fretting about putting in a missing person's call. When the father came home and heard he wondered why I was there to start with so I told them. He threw a fit. He also threw a punch so I gave him a warning. I didn't mention Xander at all, just that we had reports that she had been having inappropriate conduct with a child much younger than she was. Her mother burst out crying and ran into the girl's room. I followed, I got her to let me search. I found her diary." He pulled it out of his jacket pocket. "She's got a mentor teaching her. Her mother and I scanned the last few entries together. Her mother's on the warpath. She's coming in later today to swear out a warrant. She claims she didn't know who the person was. I sat a car on the house in case. Her diary doesn't mention other kids, other than Xander and she only calls him X in there."
"So we can charge her? Or were you thinking we can use her to get to the mentor?" Speed demanded.
"I was thinking use her but get her help as part of the deal. The girl already needs it." Horatio nodded at that. "Also, when they called last night, Xander admitted he was not going to come to either of you about sex stuff since one of you had thrown a fit. He's very confused at the moment. They're doing good though. Don said he mentioned it as soon as they were alone. Don said he didn't want to talk about it in the open of the airport but told him once they got into the SUV."
"That's good," Horatio agreed. "Our son is very smart. I don't like that he's having these thoughts about girls so young but it's wise that he knows it's not time yet."
"Horatio!" Speed complained.
"It's wise that he knows he's not ready yet," he repeated, giving him a look.
"Um, guys, Xander's not real discriminate yet. He's bi," Ryan told them. "I've caught him looking at Eric in that 'I just realized what a butt was for' look you get on some teenage girls now and then." They both snickered at that. "So, yeah, your son's a bit confused. He'll be okay. They're starting it but Mac was sure you two would take over. Also that you two would keep Liz from tearing up Xander's stuffed elephants since they mean so much to him. He also said that she had only gotten to kissing and stroking his back during the sudden and extreme headache he got during the kiss."
"Sounds like Aiden struck," Speed muttered.
"That's what they thought," Ryan agreed, looking at him. "Xander told Don he knew." He looked at Horatio again. "How far do you want me to push this since your son may be her only victim to date?"
"Try to keep him out of it, but do use him as a threat if you have to," he ordered. Ryan nodded, going to start his report process. He looked at Speed. "I know he's young. We can still give him a short talk."
"I think we should talk to our nephew, Horatio."
Horatio hummed but dialed Ray Junior's home phone. "It's me." He put him on speaker. "Did Xander come to you to talk about girls?"
"Just the one I nearly went to kill," he admitted dryly. "He okay?"
"He's fine. He wanted to talk to Mac and Don about this. He did tell you?"
"Yup, and then he had to hold me down because I was going to thump her ass good. She under arrest?"
"Wolfe has it," Speed told him. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"He said he was going to. He also said he was going to quit hanging around with her when I demanded he do that. That was the day after the headache. He was very confused about why kissing her had given him a headache. He asked me if that's why you two *had a headache* now and then and made giggly noises in your bedroom. I told him no, you just wanted some time alone and needed to make up a parental sounding excuse. He said from now on to just tell him you two wanted sex and he'd go somewhere and listen to music so you two could have some alone time. Which was another reason he wanted to hit New York. That and so you two could straighten out Liz again. Speaking of, can I beat my other cousin?"
"We want to, Eric wants to, why not," Speed said dryly. "What did she do?"
"Tried to rip the pictures in my wallet."
Horatio moaned. "We'll deal with her, Ray. Why didn't you come to us?"
"He promised he'd get away from her. He also said he'd tell you two or another reasonable adult in the lab within two days or else I was going to this weekend."
"Well, he told someone in a lab," Speed shot back, shaking his head. "I'm not ready for him to like girls."
"Uncle Speed, he likes both. And motorcycles for some strange reason," he said dryly, then he hung up.
Speed held his head. "I've got a real headache now."
Calleigh leaned in. "Everything okay?"
"No," Horatio admitted. "Xander has an older admirer."
"Awww," she said with a grin.
"Who's sixteen, Cal," Speed said from behind his hands.
"Excuse me?" Horatio nodded. "Are we roasting her?"
"Wolfe has it. You can help him threaten her," Horatio said, making shooing motions. She went to find Ryan to butt into his case. Horatio closed the door and moved to comfort Speed. "He's not at puberty yet, Speed. We need to have that talk with him first."
Speed looked at him. "It'll be within a few years."
"Yes but you knew he was getting older." Speed pouted. "It'll be fine, Speed. I promise it will be."
"You're way too calm."
"You've accused me of that a few times since we got him," he said dryly, giving him a look. "Our son showed good judgement going to someone he trusted. Even if it had been going on for a while he still went to someone we could trust to give him decent advice in lieu of us."
"He should have come to us."
"You threw a fit when he wanted to talk about girls," Horatio reminded him. "Him being too young was the loudest part of that rant. Of course he went to Ray Junior. I'm surprised he didn't go to Eric."
"He might have went to Eric," Speed sighed, looking at him. "I need to write out that speech."
"It is your day off," he pointed out. "Go do that." Speed nodded, going to write out what he wanted to say to his son. Before he tripped over his words and made it worse. Horatio sat down to do the same. It was going to be a long talk when their son got back.
Xander looked at his father when he got off the plane. "Am I in trouble?"
"Nope," Speed promised, giving him a hug. "We're gonna have a talk but no, you're not in trouble." He grinned and walked him off, letting him grab his bag. Stella had made him shop since he had spilled stuff on a shirt of hers. It was her punishment. That way she had someone to go with. "I brought the bike."
"It's got a strap." He smiled at his father. "You're really not mad?"
"No, I'm not mad. Disappointed that you didn't come to us directly when it first started. Not mad. You showed some sense getting help. Your other dad and I just wish it had been us instead of Don and Mac and Wolfe." He sighed and nodded. "By the way, I'm sorry about freaking out. Sometimes I want you to be small and cuddly again."
"Please don't make me go back to preschool."
"I won't." He gave him a hug and a grin. "C'mon. I even remembered your helmet when your aunt yelled at me." Xander giggled and swatted him but it was good. Someone did try to stop them. "I'm his father, woman. What is your issue?" She went pale and got out of his way.
Xander looked back and waved. "Have a good life." He grinned at his father, not realizing who that was at all. Which was better for him anyway. Speed got them onto the bike and headed for home, only stopping to take a nighttime stroll through the park to talk about the girl and guy stuff. It was easier for him if they were in the open and he had some room to roam. Otherwise he'd pace and look like he was lecturing. It might embarrass his son but oh well. When they got home, Horatio had dinner ready and gave Xander a cuddle as well. They had their talk after dinner and Xander got to ask the questions he had thought up on the ride home. Horatio's was more about waiting and finding someone to make you happy, that you didn't have to rush, but then again, his father was like that sometimes. Look at how long it had taken him to get his daddy.