Date:Wed, 13 Dec 2006 02:42:15 -0000
Subject:[imaginings] Re: Bunny epidemic..
I'll offer one up too.
Why does it always have to be a baby Xander? Can you have a Willow oops moment and have her deage someone else? Or have someone make a wish for Xander to have someone to love and to love him and he gets a baby. Maybe a baby Speed or Eric or Danny or
Greg? He can develop a relationship with someone after getting the baby.
I think Xander would be a great father.
I think it should be Speed so he gets another chance at life.
Seconded. I think a baby Greg would be hilarious with Xander as the father. ADHD father raising ADHD genius kid
I'm also for Xander with baby Speed... but, and this is a somewhat shudder worthy, what the hell am I on, type idea... I keep getting the feeling this is one of those drunken wishes
and seeing Andrew making it with him as well... Xander ending up with Speed and Andrew getting baby Greg. Of course, and while I'm not usually a Xandrew person, I could see the pair of them hooking up over the course of caring for the tots.
Okay. Now I'm going to go and read some fanfic to drown out the image of Andrew trying to raise a toddler. *twitch* Not that he couldn't... but. *twitch*
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 02:26:26 EST
Subject: Re: [imaginings] Re: Bunny epidemic..
How about Xander raising a baby Aiden since she was murdered by the suspect she almost compromised some evidence on.
Date:Wed, 13 Dec 2006 08:11:28 -0000
Subject:[imaginings] Re: Bunny epidemic..
Well, I guess I need to put in my big, bunny bite as well. It has been infecting my mind for too long. What if(the magic fanfic words)not only Ray was killed by Riaz but Yelina as well and now he is after Jr.? What if the only way for Jr. to survive is for Hallie to turn him into a baby and leave him for Xander to find. Xander is now working in South America and finds the baby abandoned and immediately recognizes him as 'pack' and as belonging to him and his 'mate'. Can we say over protective to the max? He knows he must leave South America so he heads for Florida. Oh, the lovely battles between Horatio and the maternal, hyena-spirited Xan because the 'alpha male' would have to prove to Xan that he can take care of them. I can write Buffy characters but I can't write CSI characters to save my life so please someone adopt my little bunny.
Wish Granted, Ladies and Gentlemen... Vo (Because the muses need help!)
The Sons of Geeks.
Xander looked up, seriously drunk now. It had been a bad month. His friends were brats - even in his mind Willow had conditioned him not to call them the names they deserved. They were disrespecting him. He knew what they were doing. They were trying to destroy him. So now he was looking up at the pretty twinkling stars. He was on the hood of his car, had been since he had parked outside the radius of Sunnydale's badness. He had also had a bottle of Thunderbird since he had parked. Thankfully he was sure he was pretty safe here. He blinked at the stars, finding a shooting one just starting. So he did the traditional thing without thinking. He made a wish.
"All I wanted was someone to love me," he whispered. "Please?"
A twinkling started next to him, making him blink at the woman standing there giving him a sad look. "How much do you want it?"
"Can I leave and never let them near me again?" he asked her. He knew who she was. She had come to visit his present girlfriend, the.... Again with the Willow conditioning so he couldn't call her what she truly was. Hallie giggled and nodded. "You can't say something to her?"
"Sweetie, it'd only make it worse. You'd die, Xander."
"Good point." He forced himself to sit up, looking at her. "How much do I want what?"
"Someone to love you." She moved closer, stroking his cheek. "Are you willing to risk your life to get it, Xander?" He stared at her then nodded slowly. "Are you willing to give up a bit of sanity?"
"I have some left?" he asked.
"More than you think, dear." She gave him a look. "Seriously. We have need of someone very special to do something greatly important for us. They've got to be protective and possessive. They've got to make them their cubs," she said gently. "But they can't happen here and they'll drive you insane. In doing so, you will find a mate worthy of you."
He swallowed and thought about it. "My life's already in danger. I found Anya putting funny stuff in my food."
She nodded. "She did."
"Was it poison?"
"Nothing you're not immune to." She stroked his cheek again. "Yes or no, Xander?"
"Will they *love* me? Not Willow love or Anya love, but really love *me*?"
She stared at him then she smiled. "You'll drive him nuts, Xander. He'll respect you and your temper. He'll love you more than anything and he'll keep trying to protect you, even if you do want to lock him in the closet because he does stupid stuff now and then for work reasons and to help others. He'll love all of you once he figures you out. Before then... He'll just be a bit frustrated by you." She stared at him, listening to him think. "It has to be tonight, Xander. One of them has to be acted on very quickly to save him."
Xander looked at her. "My crap?"
"I'll forward it. It comes with a stipend and a benefit package," she said with a wink.
"So did Anya," he said dryly.
"Something better than that one, Xander. Though you could still call her for sex if you wanted. This won't help her get her powers back." He grinned meanly at that. "Yes or no?"
"Wish granted, baby. Thank you." She kissed him and he blacked out. She smiled and went to arrange everything. By the time he woke up, he'd have a clue or six.
Xander woke up with a thundering headache. He groaned, holding it as he stood up. That's when he realized someone was knocking. "What?" he called. Someone said something in Portugese. "Espanol?" he called, going over to the door to open it. He looked at the boy. "Spanish?" The boy repeated it in Spanish, getting a nod. He took the envelope and handed him a few bucks American, watching him run off. He sat down to read the letter. He smiled at the feminine handwriting. "Okay, so I'm in Brazil," he said dryly. He kept going. "I have three fated ... excuse me?" He looked up. "I get to be a daddy too?" he asked quietly. "You do know that they'll be the biggest geeks after Andrew and his evil trio?" He went back to reading, smiling at what he saw. It described the boy he was going to save. "All right. If this is what it takes. As long as I don't have to deal with Buffy." He folded it up and put it into his vest pocket. He stripped off and went to get a shower. Then he came out and found a backpack of clothes, documents, and money waiting on him. "Hmm." He put on the clean clothes, putting the letter in the front pocket. He noticed the weapons in the bottom of the bag and decided to hide the gun on his back waistband for now. He might need it. Then he left his motel room, locking it behind him. He nodded at the innkeeper. "I was told to go to the forest in the city?" he said in Spanish. "How do I get there? I'm meeting a friend for a talk."
"You take the tram," he said, pointing at it. "They'll tell you which one."
Xander nodded and left, heading to the closest tram station. He glanced back at the hotel but it was gone. "Huh." He walked up to the woman behind the window. "I'm meeting a friend in the forest in the city. How do I get there?" he asked in Spanish. She looked clueless. He found a schedule when she pointed at it after he tried English. He brought it back and pulled her pen over to draw a picture of a tree like a kid would, then pointed at it. Then at the trams. Then at the city. "In the city?"
She got an understanding look and printed him a ticket, letting him pay for it. She waved and took the schedule for the next tourist who needed it.
Xander got onto the right tram and watched the city go underneath him. Some of Rio was very pretty. Some of it was very dirty. Some of it was exciting and loud. Some of it was very dangerous. Some of it was all four. He found where he was going and got off, hiking down a trail because it felt right to him. He looked around at the beautiful life. There were flowers here he had never seen or thought could exist. The trees were huge and ancient. If he could talk to trees, he'd have spent a whole day talking to these because they must've seen everything since people landed on this bit of the world. Around lunchtime he found a small fountain and paused to get a drink. That's when he heard the sound he hated. Someone screaming in pain. He took off at a run, finding a man and a woman being tortured. "Hey!" he shouted in English, pulling the gun. The man turned to sneer at him. "Fat chance, idiot. Let them go."
"Who are you to interfere?" he sneered. "You're just a boy. You won't shoot me."
"Bet me." He shot him in the leg, watching him scream and fall over holding the bleeding spot. "I've seen worse than you and fought them too, buddy." He walked in to check the family. Both parents were gone. There was a young teen crying in his ropes. "Hey," he said gently, making the kid look at him. "I'm here to help you, kid. I'm not going to hurt you. What's your name?"
"Huh?" he asked, staring at him. "Why didn't you come sooner? You're not my uncle," he said, starting to cry. "Uncle Horatio!"
"Shh," Xander soothed, getting him free so he could hold him. He listened, no one was coming to answer the screams or the gunshot. He looked at the boy then up. "Him, Hallie?" She appeared and nodded. "What do I need to do?"
"He's your pack, Xander. He needs to be your pack."
Xander looked at the boy then at her. "I need permission to have him treated. He'll die. I'm not that good, Hallie."
"I know, Xander. We've made...arrangements." She made Ray look at her. "Son, wish it out loud," she prompted. "He can help you. He will protect you. You'll never know about this."
"I wish ... I wish it wasn't like this. I want to be a normal kid," he hiccuped.
"Shh, baby, wish granted," she soothed, nodding at Xander to hold onto him. She made him glow and Xander was left with an infant. "There. Now he'll never know, Xander. He has one relative. He gave you the clue you need. You're going back to the same city. Repeat after me...."
"I make up better stories than you do, Hallie." He stood up, shouldering his pack, putting the baby against his chest. "Let me handle that part." She smiled and nodded. He looked at the parents, then at her. "What do I do?"
"You found them like this."
"Coming. Cautiously." He nodded and she disappeared.
Xander looked out the door. "HELP!" Someone in a uniform came running. He pointed at the man on the ground. He was praying to be saved from the demons. "He was torturing the family. She gave me her child before he killed her. I came looking for him. I'm supposed to be hiding him but she took him back for a visit." The police officer looked at him. "I'm American, I can barely handle Spanish. Please speak one of those languages."
The officer made a call on his radio, bringing others. Xander was stared at by one and the officer said something. He pointed at them and the new officers led him off but didn't try to take the baby. He was led back to the fountain where he tasted the water before letting the baby drink some from his hand. The baby cooed and he smiled at him. "Sir?" one asked in accented english. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"My name is Alexander Lavelle Harris. The woman in there came to me for help. She handed me her son to protect him because she thought something bad was going to happen." He nodded at that. "She picked him up for a visit and then they both disappeared. I was looking for her. I found that man on the floor torturing them. I heard her scream and followed. She was barely alive when I stopped him by shooting him in the leg." He pulled his gun and put it beside him. The officer took it from him. "I'm not going to harm you. I'm going to protect this one." He gave the baby a squeeze. "The man on the floor was torturing them. The baby was in there with them. He heard it all," he said, sounding miserable about it. "I don't know who she is." A name appeared in his mind. "She said her name was Yelina Salas from Miami but I don't know more than that about what was going on. She said there was an evil man after her family. I think something about the police or something."
"All right. That's reasonable. Did you try to help them?"
"By the time I shot the guy in the leg, she quit breathing and I went for the child. He could still be helped." He looked him over, showing him the scratches on the baby's stomach and back. The remains of the torture he had suffered; she had healed them down to scratches and a few bruises. The officer nodded, making note of it. "I'm sorry I couldn't help his parents. Ray's a special little guy."
"That's fine, sir. Are you staying here in the city?"
"I am. For at least a few more days if he need me to. Then I'm heading to Miami."
"Does he have other relatives?"
"An uncle I think. I'm not real sure." That got a nod and he made a note of that. "I know this puts you in a bad position."
"It's not the first time, sir. The man you shot in the leg was a drug lord. They either owed him money...." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No, not Yelina. She wasn't like that. She moved like an officer," he said when another fact entered his mind. "I think she was an officer herself."
"I can check on that," he promised, smiling at him. "Are you a PI?"
Xander looked at him then pulled out his wallet, showing him the California ID. The man went pale. "I hunted there. I'm a protector. I protect others. She knew me from that. The child will be safe with me and I'll find his relative if I can. If not, I'll have a son I'll love and cherish." That got a nod and the officer walked off to tell the others. They agreed it was better to leave the child with a known hunter. That town was mythical but Rio had their own spots like that. Xander smiled at the baby, getting a tired coo back. "I know, Ray. We'll work it out. Even if I have not a clue what I'm going to need for you. We'll work it out and I'll change diapers and feed you lots of nummies and all that stuff. You rest, little guy. You had a bad day." He went back to stroking his arm and hair, humming quietly to him. The baby yawned and fell asleep in his arms. "My pack," he whispered. "My cub." He nuzzled his hair then kissed him on top of it. "We'll make the best pack ever, Ray." The officer came back and he looked at him. "Getting him to sleep," he said quietly.
"That's fine, sir. Can we take you to your hotel?"
"I checked out of my old one this morning because I wasn't sure how far upcountry I was going to have to go. If you can recommend somewhere modestly priced I'd appreciate it." He nodded, waving a hand so Xander carefully walked off holding the baby. "Carseat?"
"He'll be fine on the ride over. I'll be very careful."
"Thank you. I know you know Americans worry about that stuff." The officer smiled and nodded. "Do you have children?"
"My sister and brother both do."
"I've only babysat him for a while," he sighed. "I didn't quite get into the routine yet. I need to pick up diapers and stuff for him."
"I'm sure the hotel can guide you where you'll need to go," he promised. He took him to somewhere inexpensive but in a decent part of town. "I wouldn't advise walking around after dark here in Rio. Our dangers are different."
Xander looked at him and nodded. "I don't think he'd let me. I doubt he'd coo at me for dusting vampires." The officer smiled and nodded. "Thank you." He shook his hand. "I'll be here three days or do you need me for longer?"
"Three should be fine," he promised. "We'll let you know." Xander nodded and took his pack inside with the baby. He watched until the boy had checked in and waved at him then he went back to report to his boss and search those names. He knew the name Yelina Salas from somewhere. What he found didn't surprise him. The boy had said she had been an officer. Apparently he was right, she had been a detective. He did shoot an email off to her former department's union, that way they could find her next of kin to tell them and someone could claim the body. No one deserved to go unclaimed.
Xander looked down at Ray later that night. He was wide awake. "You're a night baby too?" he asked, leaning on the foot of the crib. "Don't blame you. The sun's really bright down here during the daytime." He stroked over his foot, earning a small flinch. "Hey, it's still me, Ray." He stroked over it again and the baby yawned. "Good boy," he said soothingly. He crooned until the baby fell asleep then Xander fell down onto the bed again, letting himself drift off. He had new pack members. He had spent the afternoon embedding his smell and image into his mind so even the most feral parts of him recognized the boy as his cub. Even if his hyena side came out again he'd be fine. He finally fell asleep, not realizing he got up during the night to sleep in front of the crib. At least until Ray woke him up at five with a dirty diaper. "Geez, Ray. Throw a fit." He got him changed and back into the crib, letting him fall back asleep. "Good boy. That's my good cub." He dropped back onto the floor, entirely comfortable with it.
Horatio Caine heard the knock on his house's door, leaving his bed to go answer it. He frowned at the man standing there. "Stanley, what can I do for you?" he asked, moving so he could step inside. "What's happened? One of my team?"
"Yelina, Horatio." Horatio stiffened and looked at him. "She was in Rio with her new husband?"
He coughed. "Ray went undercover for the Feds," he said quietly. "I had to evacuate them late last year. Why?" He was gently sat down and he knew then it was horrible news. "What happened?"
"A man named Riaz. One you've been hunting. Did Yelina have another son?"
"Not that I've been told. Why?"
"There was an American there. He said Yelina gave him her son to protect because someone was after her. He's the one who told them who she was."
"Pictures?" he asked, his heart dropping. "Ray Junior?"
"They didn't say anything about Ray Junior," he admitted, handing over the pictures he carried. "I'm sorry, Horatio."
He looked at them then at him. He nodded. "That's her and Ray." He handed it back. "I need to go claim them."
"Of course. The young man has her younger son. He was noted as being an infant, Horatio. He claimed he didn't know why she was ...hurt."
"He tortured her?"
"The kid shot Riaz in the leg to get him off her but she died before help got there. He went to help the baby. They sent his ID to me as well so I could check with you. Do you know an Alexander Harris out of Sunnydale, California?"
Horatio started to say no but something took over his mouth and he swallowed instead and nodded. "I'll see him when he gets back. I've got to handle my family," he said, taking control back from whatever again. Stanley, his union rep, nodded and handed him an information sheet. "Thank you."
"I'm so sorry, Horatio. I really am." He patted him on the shoulder. "I've already called the chief, he's approved you having three weeks leave for this. He said if you need more, call him."
"I will. Thank you, Stanley." He stood up and walked him out, locking the door behind him. He looked at the information sheet then up. "I know you're here. The same as I know you're not holy."
Hallie appeared. "Xander is one of my protectors, Horatio Caine. He is protecting your nephew."
"Ray's not an infant."
"Are you sure?" she countered, staring him down. "He's safe, he's loved, and he'll never have the picture of his mother being tortured in front of him because of his father," she said quietly. "Xander is my choice in this matter."
"I will fight him."
She smiled sweetly. "Of course you will. You can help him as well. That is a later decision. For right now, you need to go to your family."
"He's a later issue, Horatio Caine. Right now, the dead need your help. Riaz can get out of this." She disappeared.
He let the grief wash over him then he found his phone, calling someone. "Calleigh, Horatio. I've got to Rio. Someone found Yelina," he said, his voice cracking on the last syllable. He nodded. "I'll be safe. I'll be back in a few weeks. Hold it together for me please." He hung up and went to look up the number to the international airline he liked. "I need to book a seat to Rio," he said quietly. "I'll be coming back with two bodies in a few days. Please. The day after tomorrow is fine. It'll give me time to set things up." He wrote down the information. Then he pulled his wallet over and read off the number on his credit card. He wrote down the confirmation number. "Thank you. That would be an acceptable return date as far as I know. If not, I'll try to give a few days warning. Thank you, ma'am." He hung up and went to pack some clothes.
Then he called the funeral home they had buried Ray through the first time. The one he had buried Speed through when he had died. "This is Horatio Caine... No, more family," he said quietly, holding his head. "Yelina and Ray. He was undercover, Father. Please. Rio. I'm heading down the day after tomorrow. I'm coming back with them on the eighth. Please. That's fine. I'll be in tomorrow to make full arrangements, please pull something tasteful for them both? Closed casket probably. I'll let you know when I get them." He swallowed and forced himself not to cry. "We're not sure yet, Father. Thank you for the worry about my nephew. I will. I'll see you tomorrow." He hung up and went to watch the water from his back porch. That way the gentle rain falling outside could mask the tears he was letting fall.
His nephew would only be raised by him.
He was his family.
Mr. Harris had another thing coming when he found him.
Xander stepped off the plane in Miami, smiling at the Customs agent waiting on him. "I was told paperwork was faxed ahead?" he said quietly. "The child is in my custody after his mother died." The agent nodded, leading him off to a small room. "My passport's in my backpack." He dug it out and let him see it, then he put the sleeping Ray on the table in his carrier. "This is Raymond."
"Thank you, Mr. Harris. I know this is going to be an awkward time. How did you come to be in possession of the baby?"
"His mother gave him to me. She was being hunted by someone. She's a former officer here in Miami." The agent nodded. "Yelina Salas?"
"I think I worked with her team once," he admitted. "I know where she worked anyway. She came to you?"
"She knew she was being hunted. I'm a protector." He shrugged. "I have been for quite a while. She heard of me through mutual contacts and knew I could protect him. She came to pick him up for a visit and then apparently they got snatched. I went to find them. I found her nearly dead, the guy with her fully dead, and the baby was blood spattered in a corner. So I shot the guy torturing her in the leg and took the baby. The police agreed I should have custody pending me finding any family. She had left a letter at her house saying he was in my custody if something happened to her."
"That's reasonable and that does match what they sent over to us." He stamped his passport. "How old is he?"
Xander looked at the baby then at him, shrugging a bit. "She never told me his birthday." The agent snickered a bit. "Sorry, my first cub."
"I'm a pack person. I'm the alpha bitch and he's my cub."
"Oh. Okay." He nodded, understanding what he was saying but he was a bit odd in the head. "You will be in for a fight with social services."
"Not really. They're probably going to pretty much like me. I'm a nice guy. I'm a steady guy. I'm not even sure if she has family or if his daddy did. I know where I can go to talk to someone about it," he offered. "Then we'd be working it out between us." That got a smile and a nod. "I know, I'm an odd foster parent. It's not the usual thing."
"It's not, sir, but you do have the paperwork they faxed, including from their social workers and the judge down there giving you custody." He handed over copies but Xander waved them off. "You have one?"
"Of course. I suspiciously horde every piece of legal paper I've ever gotten."
"That's probably reasonable in this case. Good luck finding his family."
"If not, I've got a cub I'll love and adore like I gave birth to him myself," he admitted with a gentle smile. "It'll be someone who loves me." He picked Ray up carefully, taking his stamped passport back. "Thank you." He was shown out and Xander went to grab his bag, heading for the non-secure areas of the airport. He found a driver with a sign bearing his name and walked up to him. "For me?"
"Yes, sir, rented for you, sir. This way." He led him off, taking the bags so he only had the baby. "What's his name?"
"He seems like a good boy."
Xander grinned. "Most of the time but he hated the MTV station in Rio." That got a smile and a nod. He got them into the car, helping Xander lock the carrier in as a carseat. Then he headed off. "You know where I'm going?"
"Of course, sir. The secretary who called on your behalf gave me the address."
"Thank you." He looked at Ray. "Going home, cub. You'll like it there I'm sure." He smoothed down some of the soft hair. "Then we'll get dinner later on and figure out if you're sleeping in my room tonight or your own." The driver pulled up in front of a small square building. "Thank you." He gave him a tip and got out with the baby, letting him carry the bags up. He felt the keys land in his pocket and pulled them out to open the door. He looked around the bottom floor, wincing. "Something needs more work," he muttered. He walked the baby up the stairs, finding a living area. It was clean. It had his ratty old couch. He put the baby carrier on the floor and let it rock while he went to get the bags, smiling at the driver as he drove off. He went to drop them in his room, looking around the rest of the building.
"Thought I'd get bored?" he called. The baby screamed so he went to check on him, finding a stray cat sniffing him. "Hi, kitty." He reached down but the cat scurried off. "Sure, you can hide." He found an envelope taped to the fridge and walked over to open it, finding bank account information, his address, Ray's new birth certificate, and a few other things, including that yes, she thought he'd be bored just doing baby care so he could fix up the building all he wanted. Plus the other two would be twins coming in two weeks. He looked up. "Okay." He looked in the fridge. "Tacos, hey. Cool. Thanks, Hallie. Is the kitty ours too?" He went to nibble while Ray went back to sleep. There was some lumber downstairs and he could definitely use the stress relief.
Babies were a lot of work!
No wonder he was an only child.
Horatio got off the plane back from Rio, finding a priest waiting on him once he cleared Customs. "Father." He shook his hand. "Here to help me claim the bodies?"
"Yes, Horatio. I'm very sorry that you lost them." He walked him to where they needed to go. "He's claiming the bodies. They're going with me," he told the woman behind the window, letting Horatio hand over his ticket stubs.
"Please sign these forms, sir." She handed them over. "I'm sorry for your loss, sir."
"Thank you." He signed everything he needed to, letting the priest sign for the funeral home. Then they went to watch the bodies be offloaded and taken to the waiting hearse. He looked at him. "Am I following?"
"Come tonight, Horatio. Give them time to acclimate to Miami. Open or closed?" he asked quietly.
Horatio swallowed the newest bout of crying. "Closed, Father." He nodded and patted him on the arm. "I'll be over once I've changed."
"Whenever you're ready. We'll treat them like family, Horatio." He got into the hearse and headed off with them while Horatio watched.
Horatio walked out of the airport, finding someone waiting against his hummer. "Eric."
"H." He gave him a hug. "Calleigh told us. We're here if you need us to be." Horatio nodded. "I'm here to drive you home. That way you have time to decompress." Horatio looked at him. "Calleigh ordered and she'll beat me with my own gun." Horatio cracked a small smile. "I had to handcuff Wolfe in the closet so he couldn't come put his foot in his mouth." He opened the door, letting Horatio get in with his bag. He walked around to drive. "Any word on your nephew?"
"Only strange things," he admitted quietly. "Yelina gave a young infant to a man I don't know but apparently she did so he would protect him." Eric frowned at him. "I'm not sure yet. I have the contact information he left so I can talk to him after the funerals."
"Good. If you need backup let us know."
Horatio nodded. "I will, Eric. Thank you." He relaxed, putting his head back while he thought. He wasn't sure where his nephew had went or if he was the new infant. He looked at him. "Your father knows some of the darker areas of the city, yes?"
"Yeah, why?" he asked, turning off the interstate.
"The protector she chose was from Sunnydale. I know it's dark and it's dangerous there."
Eric muttered something in Spanish then pulled off the side of the road to look at him. "You know that one neighborhood no patrol officer will ever drive through?" Horatio nodded slowly. "Sunnydale is like that neighborhood. Every day, all the time, more of them than humans."
"Oh." He considered it. "Then how did Yelina know him?"
Eric coughed. "Horatio, is it maybe relevant?"
"I'd hope not. It was the Mala Noche, Eric."
Eric just nodded. "Rio's got its own spot like that. A lot of it. Did she run into him up here or down there? It's entirely possible he was protecting things and people down there." Horatio frowned then it cleared up. "Want us to find him for you?"
"For some reason I think he'll be at the funeral," he said quietly. "Thank you."
"Welcome, H." He started them moving again, heading to Horatio's house to drop him off. He kept the keys when Horatio held out a hand. "No. We'll come back and drive you. You need to lean on us for a few days, H. At least until the funeral."
"I'm fine, Eric."
"You look like shit, H. You haven't slept, you probably haven't eaten. Alexx left you food inside. Get a shower, eat something, then call and I'll come drive you to the funeral home." Horatio groaned but went to do that. That more than anything told him that Horatio was tired and needed the rest. They'd all be there for him. They all liked Yelina. He called Calleigh. "He's back and I told him about Alexx's food. I'll be here."
Horatio looked around the wake's visitors. He knew everyone there but one young man in the back. He nodded at someone, accepting their condolences with a quiet 'thank you' and a nod. He sighed and looked at the dual caskets. One sealed so no one could see the damage that had been done. One open since they were able to make Yelina presentable. He watched as people went up to say their goodbyes, staring at them. Yelina's mother had broken down earlier and had to be taken home by Ryan Wolfe. Finally, everyone but him and the young man cleared out. He looked at him. "I know who you are," he said quietly.
He walked up and sat beside him, looking at him. "I'm sorry, Horatio."
"I am." He looked at him. "Heal and grieve, Horatio. The cub's fine with me until you're ready."
"I want to see him." Xander handed over a picture. He looked at the baby that looked just like his nephew. "How?"
Xander patted him on the hand. "To protect him. To let him not have the memory of what happened." He handed him the picture again. "That's yours. Our address is on the back. The cub is happy and content, Horatio. I'm working on the bottom floor because it needs some work, but he's happy and content. When you're ready, you come see the cub." He got up and went to say his send off wishes. He touched Yelina's forehead. "He's safe with me, Yelina. He's happy and content. Hallie made sure he'd be okay," he whispered. Then he left. He walked back to the house, listening to his new city around him. He walked in and smiled at his work. It looked a lot better now that he had been working on it. He walked upstairs, paying the babysitter off so she could go. He smiled at the blonde lady. "Tell Horatio what you saw," he ordered when she walked off. He looked back at her. "By the way, did you get into the vault or not?"
"I couldn't figure out the combination." She looked at him. "Who are you?"
"A protector. You've been down to Regent?" She shuddered and shook her head. "I'm from somewhere like that. I protect people. She put him into my care because of that. By the way, I've been working on the house, it'll be a few more weeks before I'm fully finished. Ray likes to watch me hammer." She just nodded and walked out. He smiled at the sleeping cub. "It's all right, cub. We'll be fine and your uncle will come love on you soon." He adjusted the sheet and went to do a bit more of the quiet work. He spun when he heard someone coming down the stairs, smiling at Hallie. "Did I screw up something?"
"No, you did fine. He's frustrated but right now he almost knows you're right. That's why he sent his coworker."
"I looked up his people in the lab," he admitted, walking over to hug her. "How's the gang?"
"Just as frustrated. Buffy finally realized you weren't there when she broke her crossbow again. You didn't magically appear to fix it."
"Pity. It took her three weeks?" Hallie nodded. "Definitely a pity. Do you like it?"
"I do," she said, kissing him on the cheek. "Are you ready for more?"
"Sure, why not."
She laughed and led him upstairs, watching as he caught sight of the twins laying on the couch. He cooed and walked over to kneel in front of them. "They're not originally twins," she said quietly, coming over to sit next to him. "This is Greg, who needed to heal from people who didn't like him enough to trust him. He was a genius but they tossed him aside. The other... He's special," she said with a smile, stroking his little chubby leg. "He's special to the area and to the same people." Xander looked at her. "Very special. Like Jesse would be for you, Xander." He smiled gently and nodded. "This is his second chance. They're smart in the same way." She stroked his cheek. "I know you'll do great and the nursery will turn out great." She faded out.
Xander looked at the boys. "Okay. What's your name, sweetie?" Two envelopes floated down. He looked at the birth certificates. "Greggy and Timmy. So cute," he cooed, picking them up to carry them into the nursery. It was plain, he hadn't even painted in there yet. He had made sure he had enough cribs for them. Timmy started to fuss so he picked him back up, sitting down in the rocking chair to hold him. "Shh, Timmy." The baby let out a loud wail. He smiled. "It'll be okay, Tim. I'm Xander. I'm the one who's going to protect and help you make a great second-go-round." He kissed him on the head and the baby settled down. He went back to humming to him, looking up when he heard the footsteps. "Hello?" he called quietly. Horatio came in. He nodded at Ray. "He's asleep."
"Who are they?"
"Others who needed a protector and a chance. Hallie?" She reappeared. "Can I tell him?"
"I will in a few days. He needs to handle some things first." She patted him on the cheek. "Jumping the gun, Horatio." He looked at her. "You know me."
"I do. You came when I needed you as a teenager," he said quietly. She nodded. "Why come for my nephew?"
"Because he was there when they died," Xander said quietly. "He was trying to protect them before they got taken. Your brother...."
"I heard." He moved closer. "Then who are these two?"
"This is Tim and that is Greg," Hallie told him. "They both needed a second chance to find someone who loves them." She stroked his back. "Your nephew is safe and loved, Horatio. Right now, you need to heal. You need to take some time and think, heal, and learn to love."
"He's my family," Horatio said calmly. "I should raise him."
"Right now, you're emotional and ready to snap," Xander told him.
"How would you know?" he asked sharply. Tim started to fuss and Xander looked down, and the baby quit. "I'm sorry."
Xander looked at him. "Look up my town, Horatio. Look up my graduation. Look up the death statistics. I've lost about twenty of the people I started school with. Some of them in a battle I commanded." Horatio went pale at that. "Some of them to the monsters roaming around on our streets out there. Some of them turned into the monsters that used to roam the streets out there, until we had to do something about them." Horatio went even more pale. "I made the same wish they did. To have someone to love and care for me, to help me heal. I'm doing that by helping them heal and giving them a second chance. This is for all of us. Even you and your nephew. I'm not going to keep you from him. You can change him all you want. Like right now even."
Horatio went to look at Greg, then at his nephew. "Ray," he said quietly. Ray blinked up at him. He smiled and picked him up. "Let's change you, nephew." He moved to the changing table. "You haven't painted?"
"I've been working on fixing the entryway. It had stud walls when I got here. I've been doing a lot of fixing. Ray likes to watch me work." He smiled down at Tim, making him coo. "You're a good boy, Tim." He kissed him on the head. "Ready to try the napping thing again?" The baby burbled so he stood up slowly and carefully put him down, covering him up with a sheet.
"He never could sleep on his back," Hallie sighed. "But he'll soon learn to flip onto his side." She smiled at the ease Horatio had with the diapering. "You'll do. Just give it time, Horatio. To them, they're Xander's pack. They're his cubs now." She patted him on the arm and disappeared. "By the way, I blanked out the tape when I got here," she called.
"Thank you," Horatio offered quietly. He took the rocking chair and Xander left him to it while he went back to work. He smiled at his nephew, watching him fall back asleep. "I remember when you were this age the first time. You never would sleep. Your mother kept fussing over you," he said quietly. "It's too bad you won't remember her but in some ways it's a good thing, Ray." He let the pain go slowly, letting the baby soothe his soul. Xander came in and handed him a glass of juice then silently left after a look at the babies. He smiled and sipped it, watching the other two babies nap. For some reason they felt familiar. He saw the way one face scrunched up in his sleep and he knew. He looked up. "Thank you for giving him a second chance," he said quietly. He went back to rocking his nephew. He could hug his former friend in a few minutes when he woke up. Speed never did sleep very long, even as an adult.
Xander came in a few hours later, gently covering uncle and nephew with a blanket but leaving them there while he went to watch them from the living room. His pack was whole, if only Horatio knew it.
Horatio came over a week after the funeral, finally having gotten some real rest and now he was more than ready to do battle for his nephew's custody. He found Xander working on painting a wall while the three kids watched, smiling at the looks on their faces. Greg was staring in fascination. Speed, well, he was scowling at the color. His nephew was watching the way the boy's arm moved as he painted. He cleared his throat.
"I heard you come in," Xander noted. He kept painting. "Tim hates the sound of me hammering."
"I could babysit."
Xander looked at him. "No you can't. They're not going out of the house yet. Miami is a dangerous city and there's way too many who think your red hair is a target." Horatio looked stunned. "The same as Riaz's people are still in town. Or was I wrong when I shot one's tires out?"
"That was you?"
"That was me because they tried to come here. Big, huge mistake." He went back to painting, smiling at the boys. "Look who's here, guys. It's Horatio," he said brightly. Tim flinched. "You, calm down." He picked him up to kiss him on the nose. "You're a good boy, Tim. I love you and it'll be just fine. I'll protect you and all that, even from the big meany who wants to cuddle you if you decide you don't want cuddles. You're my cub. I'm like that." Speed grinned at him and farted. "Sure, you can do that too. Want him to change you or me?" Speed cooed and reached for Horatio. "Okay, you can change him," he said handing him over. He went back to painting. "I've got to run out to get more wipes so don't use the rest of them please."
Horatio stared at him then at Speed. "Fine, let's change you, Speed."
"Tim. He won't remember his last life, Horatio." He watched him go then went back to painting. Greg cooed and he smiled at him. "Do you like the color I chose, Cub? I do too." Ray burped. "I know. You want me to paint faster." He went back to it, making both babies happy. Horatio came back with Tim under his arm, facing outward. "If you squeeze him like that he belches."
"I noticed. What did he have for breakfast?"
"They're all still in the bottle stage. So they all had some nummy formula." Greg fussed at that. "Okay, or not so nummy formula, but it's all your little tummies will digest, guys. Pretty soon it'll be real food. Give it a few months." He grinned before brushing some sweat off his cheek. "Does it ever cool down? The desert gets colder at night at least."
"Not often," he admitted, putting Tim back in his carrier. He checked Ray but he was happy. Greg was happy if laying a bit funny. He straightened him out but he wiggled until he was comfortable again. He shook his head and stood up. "You could get an air conditioner."
"I will. I'm waiting to see how the finances work out." He finished that wall and moved to the next one but Greg lost interest and started to fuss. "He's clearly bored. Can you take the pack into the living room? They like to lay on the furry rug and stare out the window."
"If you want. You'll be explaining some things later however."
"Sure." He waved a hand and went back to it, painting faster now that he didn't have to amuse three infants. He got done and walked back there, getting them both bottles of water. "Sorry." He flopped down, taking Ray to hold. "Hi, cub." Ray gooed at him and sucked on his finger. "Good boy! Are you trying to flip over to pounce Timmy again?" he asked, letting him have a sip of his water. Ray cooed and wiggled until he put him down. "There you go, you suck on Tim's finger for him, Ray." Ray did that and they were both happy. "Tim's a very tactile baby."
"I can see that." He leaned against the front of the couch. "Pack?" he asked finally.
"Pack," he agreed. "Pack structures make sense to me."
"Why not parents?"
Xander looked at him. "I had bad statues to stare at." He pulled Greg over to check his diaper, making him giggle. "I know, you don't care if you're wet, but I do. Remember that and let me know, Greg." He teased his belly before getting up to get a diaper. He came back out with that and a washcloth. "You used the last five?"
"There were only two left."
"I'll take them out tonight to get some."
"I can watch them."
Xander looked at him. "They're my pack, Horatio. It's my job to protect them. They're my cubs. Besides, they could use some time in the park. I've even got a cute stroller for them." He changed Greg, then got up to toss away the diaper, putting the washcloth in the washer. "There, all better."
"Some day I'll want to take care of Ray myself," he said gently.
Xander snickered. "Sure, the day you quit the lab and quit pissing off the criminals." He stared him down, seeing Horatio shudder. "You work how many hours a week?" he asked more gently. "You have how many death threats a year? How many times do you get shot at?" Horatio opened his mouth. "This is his second chance, Horatio. You can be here. You can cuddle him, help me, do all that stuff, but you're not taking him from me. You can be a second parent if you want, but you should probably fix that little problem with the people who think you're a target first. Before one of them gets him. I know you don't want that again."
"No, I don't," he agreed. "He is still my family."
"Yup, he is. Which is why you can come love on him all you want. All babies need love. Every last one of them. Hallie warned me they'd drive me nuts." Horatio smirked at that and nodded a bit. "Can't be any worse than Buffy did."
"You don't want to hear that discussion," he noted. "Speaking of, because I am slightly empathic, if you call her, you'll lose your nephew to the system. I'm not sure you can prove genetic relativity." Horatio stared in horror. "I'm not sure how she did it, Horatio. You can try if you want, as long as it doesn't hurt him." Horatio nodded at that, pulling out a swab from his inner jacket pocket. "Ear or mouth?"
"Mouth." Xander held Ray while he took the swab. He capped it and put it back. "You're very certain your own past won't come in contact with them?"
"No one here knows who I am, Horatio. Your city has its own protectors. The only people who could out me are you and my former friends. Which would put them all in jeopardy. I'm not letting the cubs be hurt."
Horatio stared at him. "One of the strange things you dealt with took you over."
"Back in tenth grade," he agreed. "A hyena spirit. It was kinda nice being the pack leader." He shrugged. "They're still my cubs. Hallie said so. I'll gladly let you help, let you visit, let you move in if you want but you have to decorate your own room. I'm not going to let the cubs be hurt by anyone. Not even us. Not even your teammates. By the way, she's a very good babysitter. Ray cooed at the blonde lady we saw at the store last night when I ran out for formula."
Horatio considered the young man in front of him. "I can agree to that, for now."
"But I'm not sure you're stable enough to handle them, Xander."
Xander snickered. "I'm a lot more stable than most people think, Horatio. Mostly because they don't see *me*. They see a lot of not-me's. Some semi-me's. Not a whole lot of me in them though." He stared him down again, watching him shiver. "Remember, this is my second chance too, Horatio. I'm not going to hurt them," he said quietly.
"I can understand that, but you're not the average young father."
"No, you're right, I'm not. I'm a combat veteran. I also don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, and I'm not violent unless someone's threatening what's mine. Especially my pack. At which point in time I have enough experience to back it up or protect them." That got a single nod. "Like I said, you're more than welcome to come help. You're more than welcome to bring your team over. I looked them up online when I got back. If you want to integrate them into this pack, then that's your thing. I'm not going to do anything about it unless they try to harm the kids, they put them in danger, or they're assholes. Then I will spank and throw them off the porch. He's still not going home with you because your life isn't at home. It's at the office and it's in your hummer and it's on a crime scene with people who want to keep you from finding out what bad things they did."
"What bad things have you done?"
"I protected others, Horatio. You tell me how I did that job since I was sixteen." Horatio shuddered more openly. "With friends who don't appreciate me. It took Buffy three weeks to figure out I was gone. Something broke." Horatio let out a small moan. "So, no. They're my pack. I'm protecting them. They get hurt over my dead body. Am I clear?"
"You are." He looked at him. "I'm welcome?"
"As long as you don't bring danger to them."
"You're welcome. I know he's your nephew. No sane judge would ever give him to you unless you retired."
"That is a good point," he admitted quietly, considering his options. "Where did Greg come from?"
"His friends were like my friends," he said quietly, teasing Tim's tummy to make him giggle. He looked so serious. "Play and laugh, Timmy. It's a good thing." He looked at him again. "All I know is that those two had something in common and they're twins now. His friends underappreciated him to the point where it was starting to eat his soul. It was going to get him dead some day soon." He shrugged. "Like the other two, he needed love. Someone who saw him and appreciated him and loved him for who he was and is." He went back to teasing them. "Want to go to the store with us?"
"I wouldn't mind," he said quietly, still staring at him. He definitely had some thinking to do about this young man. He stood up and Xander pointed at the stroller in the corner. "Do we need to hit a home improvement place for more paint?"
"It's keeping me from being bored," he said with a small grin. "I've gotten a lot done." He got the babies ready to go out, letting him help put them in the stroller. Then they carried it down the stairs and out to Xander's car. The three carseats were lined up in the back. "Greg goes in the center. Tim likes driver's side. Ray doesn't care as long as he can see out a window."
Horatio crawled in to get Greg in while Xander got Speed. He got Ray in, smiling at the baby squeals of delight. "They do seem content and happy."
"I'd hope so." He got out and closed the door, making sure Speed's hand wasn't anywhere near it. "Want to drive?"
"Please." He took the keys and got in, letting Xander walk around the front. He was very tempted to lock the doors so he couldn't get in but it was a petty urge and he knew that. The kid had been right, his life was no place for a child. Especially one that took so much care. "Bank first?"
"Debit card." Horatio nodded, starting the engine and driving off, checking the mirrors now and then when the kids got quiet. Xander looked back. "Ah, the miracles of a car ride," he said fondly. "I'll remember this when they've got colic."
Horatio snorted. "Ray had the worst case when he was eight months old. It took us nearly three weeks to get him back into a sleeping pattern." Xander moaned. "Regretting?"
"No, realizing now why Hallie said I'd go nuts," he sighed. "Oh well. Can't have everything. When they're older I'll have to start working again too. The money she gave us will only last a few years," he said at the curious look. "I'm being careful with it but babies take a lot of work and a lot of stuff." Horatio nodded. "So I'm looking at what I can do. Maybe I'll try college by then," he decided. "I might miss the hell that was school."
"What were you doing before?"
Horatio smiled. "It shows. The entry looks very nice, Xander."
"Thank you. I used the stuff she left down there. Fortunately the rest just needed painted. So I'll need to get some stencils or something soon but it's not critical at this point." Horatio nodded. "No, that wasn't a hint."
"I know it wasn't. You're very independent."
"Most of the time the girls called me a bitch, even if it did fit them better. Willow conditioned me not to call them that though. Or any other name that fit." Horatio looked at him at a stoplight. "Green light." Horatio moved on. "I'm not going to project. I'm going to do everything opposite of what I'd normally see, Horatio. You can make sure of it."
"I will be." He parked in the parking lot of the nearest supermarket, going to get the babies out and into the stroller. He took it, Xander got the cart, and they went to find baby diapers and wipes, plus adult food. Even though he did wince at Xander's purely microwaveable diet. "Cooking school?" he suggested.
"I can cook, I see no reason to cook until they're old enough to eat with me. Eating and cooking for one is sucky." They ran into someone he had seen on the webpage. "Your idea?" Horatio made an assenting noise. "That's cool. Hi. Xander Harris."
"Frank Tripp." He shook his hand and looked at the babies then at the boy. "Calleigh said there was only Ray."
"The other two were waiting on me to come back. That's Tim and Greg." He grinned and walked on. "Ah, sweet Goddess soda," he sighed, pulling down a few twelve packs to put into the cart. Horatio gave him another odd look. "They get the milk, I get the caffeine, and we've still got juice mix and water at home." He moved on, putting in some pepperoni sticks and some cheese as well. "There, I'm done." He looked back at Frank. "You can follow if you want. I'm done painting for the day."
"Sure, kid." He and Horatio shared another look once the boy moved on. "Is he stable?" he hissed. Horatio nodded. "You sure?"
"I'm fun loving, get it right," Xander called in a sing-song voice. "I can make Barney look straight."
Frank shuddered at that thought. "Those poor kids."
Horatio smiled. "He calls them his cubs." He pushed the stroller on, letting Frank help with the baby seats while Xander put thing in the trunk. He looked at the diapers then at him. "Get enough?" he teased.
"For a week," he agreed. "They go through a *lot* of diapers with three butts." He closed the trunk and walked around to check, tightening one strap back down. "There, that way you can't wiggle out, Ray." He grinned at Frank. "We are going home, I'm sure you know where that is." He got in to drive, taking the keys while Horatio got into the passenger's seat. They pulled out and he drove them home. "So," he said when they were halfway there. "Still freaked?"
"Very." He glanced back, seeing all the babies watching him. Then he looked at the man sitting next to him. "Are you sure you can handle them? Ray wasn't a science genius but he was bright. Speed was very special and very intelligent. I'm sure Greg was if she made them twins."
"I can do that," Xander assured him. "If I have to, we'll learn together." That got a nod. "When they're older I'll put a play area downstairs, that way they have room to roam and play and pounce each other."
"That would be fun. Daycare?"
"If we can afford it at that time," he agreed. "I know I hated Headstart but hopefully they'll like it more than I did. Even if I do have to do their textbooks with them." He shrugged. "It'll help I guess."
"You're planning on home schooling them?"
"Not necessarily. If it becomes important to help them with a sucky school situation, yeah." He glanced back in the mirror. "Guys, no more staring through people please." He turned on the radio and Greg squealed and bounced. Tim let out a quiet grumble but he settled in to listen. Ray fell asleep. He smiled. "They like music."
"Music is nice at that age," he agreed. They parked and he got out, taking the kids out one at a time and coming back for the stroller while Xander got the groceries and diapers. He settled in to play with them some more, letting Ray nap on the couch for now. He did look very content and happy. The others were wiggling so he reached over and flipped on the stereo, turning it down some. Speed made another quiet grumbling noise, making him smile and change the station. Greg quit pouting too. "They don't like Country music?"
"Nope." He came out once he was done, sitting down with a soda. He checked Ray over, then pulled the throw off the back of the couch. "His legs get cold." He sipped his soda, watching his cubs play and relax for a while. Frank knocked and Horatio went to let him in, one hand on the gun he was wearing. He looked at the two on the floor. "It'll be okay. It's just more people who want to cuddle you." Tim let out another grumbling noise so he got up, going to get him a bottle. Greg moaned and reached, then started to cry so he got him one and got one for Ray too because he was going to be waking up soon from the fussing. He handed Ray's to Horatio and sat down to feed the twins. "Hi, guys. Is it hungry time again?" he asked dryly.
"How do you do it when they all want fed at the same time?" Horatio asked.
"I sit them in their carriers, adjust the handles to prop the bottles and come back to burp them a few times. It's good." Horatio smiled at that. "Usually they go one at a time. Half the time I have to make Tim eat. Greg loves to eat whenever he sees the bottles. Ray's happy to eat or not eat as long as he's being held. Tim hates being held while he eats so I do his this way then I get Greg and Ray together in my lap if they go off at the same time."
Horatio nodded. "That sounds reasonable." He smiled at his sleepy nephew. "You rest, Ray." Frank looked over. "Those are Tim and Greg."
"Hi, boys," he said, waving at them. Greg flailed an arm, making him laugh. "Aren't you brilliant?" he teased. Greg burst out crying.
"Hey, that was a compliment," Xander complained, picking him up to hold him. "You can be brilliant and we'll still love you, cub. You know that. You can be as smart as you want and I'm there for you." Greg settled down, watching him. "Really. It was a nice thing, like him saying you're pretty." He smoothed down the blond hair, smiling at him. "Now, quit being mean to the nice man who works with Ray's uncle. Let him feed you." He handed him and the bottle over, pulling Tim closer. "Did you scoot?" he teased, sticking the bottle back in his mouth. "You need to eat." He sucked on it, staring at him. "I know, you don't like formula. If I was nursing I'd do that for you instead, Tim." He pulled his shirt down and put him into his lap. Tim huffed and spit out the bottle to fuss. "Tough, it's just you and me this time. That means you get to eat in the lap or be held." He tried that and he wailed. So he put him back onto the floor and handed him the bottle again. "Fussy," he teased. Timmy just smirked and sucked harder.
"Apparently he is fussy," Frank agreed, settling in to sit with Greg. "Nice job with the entryway. I looked at this place before and it was bare."
Xander gave him a sheepish grin. "Ray likes to watch me hammer. The others like to watch me paint. I want it all done before they can crawl." He saw a shadow slinking around. "That is a stray who lived here. Now and then she'll come over to sniff one of the kids but she doesn't like people so she usually won't when I'm here."
"Maybe you scare her," Horatio offered quietly, holding out a hand. "Here, kitty." The cat sniffed in his direction but stayed in the shadows. "Do we think she'll be dangerous to the boys?"
"No, I think she'll be just fine," Xander assured him, smiling at the cat. "I put down more food, sweetie." She slunk that way, going to check the bowls. "There's a small open window in the attic that she comes and goes through." The older men both nodded at that. "She's always checking on them."
"Hopefully she'll treat them like she would her kittens," Frank said, looking down at Greg, who was nearly asleep. "Where's the crib?"
"Back that way," Horatio said with a nod. "Don't forget to let him belch."
"Sit him upright, he'll belch," Xander assured him. Frank did that and Greg did belch nicely for him. "Awww, someone sucked a lot of air this time. His is the one with green flowers." Frank nodded, carefully carrying him that way. He looked down at the one in front of him. "Want to lay out here or bed?" Tim flailed his arms. "Was that a vote for bed?" He flailed again. "Okay, we can do that. Finish up the baba." Tim sucked harder and let himself drift off too. "Such a good boy, Timmy. We'll paint some more later and then have some nummies for dinner." He picked him up to burp him on the way to bed, waking him slightly but he was fully gone again by the time he laid him down and covered him with his sheet. "Thanks, Frank." He walked out, going to look at Ray. "That's another sleepy baby."
"I'll stay with him. You go paint," he offered. Xander nodded, going back to his home repair projects. He looked down at his nephew. He was so precious at this age. Just adorable, even though he was laying a messy diaper. He sighed and got up to find the new box of diapers and wipes. Using them both earned him a happy nephew and a smiling friend. "I need to be able to prove I can handle him."
"I'm sure you can until he starts to scream sometime," Frank said, patting him on the back. They went back to the living room. "Have you told Alexx yet?" Horatio shook his head. "You should. She'll help."
Horatio frowned at where he could barely see Xander working with a power sprayer. "I think she'll nag and he'll tense up about it," he admitted, looking at him. "I don't know why I think that but I do think that's what will happen."
"Then have her not nag. If you tell her beforehand she won't, Horatio."
"We'll see, Frank. I'm sure Calleigh's told her something. Eric as well."
"Is Eric the young hottie?" Xander called.
Horatio stomped down on the sudden feeling of jealousy he had. "Yes, why?"
"Calleigh drug him over last night to see all three of them." He made another pass with the sprayer. "She was very good at cuddling but he was excellent at diapering."
"Interesting. Did he say anything?" Frank asked.
Xander turned off the feed, looking out at him. "That his mother would squeal for days about a guy my age raising triplet boys their age." He went back to his painting once they were laughing. "Horatio, did you find the cheese in the bag with the diapers?"
"I can go look, Xander." He went to do that, finding it hidden in the bottom of a bag. He tossed it into the fridge for him then came back to sit in the nursery and watch them sleep. When he was finally ready to head home, Xander had finished all the painting downstairs and in the main living area. They were both ignoring the attic. It could wait until the boys were older. He saw the cat slink in and look around, staying still while she went to sniff the cribs. She hopped up to look at Greg, staring down at him. He shifted in his sleep so she slunk down into the crib, sitting at his feet to sniff his toes. Said toes wiggled but she didn't back down. She did lick one. Greg sighed and smiled in his sleep. She settled down to nap right there. Xander peeked in and Horatio motioned him to stillness. He snuck over, looking in the crib. "She does like them."
"She does," he agreed quietly. He reached in to pet her. "I don't mind if you snuggle up at their feet, just don't hurt the boys, kitty." He left, going out to the kitchen. "Detective, are you staying for dinner? I can warm you up something."
"No, that's all right, I should get home to my wife," he admitted, smiling at him. "Thanks for letting me have some playtime."
"Not a problem. You guys all have to make sure I'm a good and fit guardian for your friend's son." He smiled. "I'm not a mean person unless you threaten the cubs."
"Good ta know." He walked out, leaving them alone.
Horatio came out a few hours later with the cat in his arms. "She tried to eat Greg's hair."
"That's scent marking him as hers," Xander said, looking at her. "They can be your kittens and my cubs, sweetie. Want some tuna tonight?" She meowed so he put some down for her. "There you go." She settled in to eat for him. He smiled at Horatio. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." He watched him pull food out of the microwave. "I should probably head home."
"I didn't presume to cook for you, Horatio. I don't know what you like to eat."
He smiled and nodded. "Then I'll see you in a few days. I've got to start work on Monday."
"Be safe. We'll be here." He nodded, leaving it there for now. He needed to have a long think and become a world's expert on hyena behavior before he came back. It might come in handy with the signs Xander was showing of that behavior and how he called them cubs. He microwaved his own dinner and settled in front of his computer to research him. Starting with a background check through the PD system. He put down the DNA swabs he had taken of the other two so they could be run Monday as well. He had to know some things before he reacted.
Xander was walked back to where Horatio was hovering in DNA, getting an odd look. "Hallie's in for an hour, she told me to come." He smiled at the tech in the lab. "Hi, Xander Harris, guardian to his nephew at the moment." He waved. "I won't try to shake hands."
"That's probably a good idea since I'm wearing gloves." She frowned. "Horatio, this was just odd."
"I know," he admitted, coming inside and pulling Xander with him but shutting everyone else out. "Is it Ray Junior?"
"Yeah, an exact match to the anti-kidnaping kit's DNA sample. The other two matched in the system. Could they be clones?" she hissed quietly.
He shrugged. "I don't know myself or pretend to understand, Maxine. Who are the other two?"
"The one you had marked 'Greg' was a Greg Sanders, out of Las Vegas. He's their missing DNA tech and field trainee."
"How long did it take them to report him missing?" Xander asked. She looked startled. "It's important."
"Six days from the suspected date of disappearance," she admitted. She looked at Horatio again. "I ran them all three times, Horatio. The other one came up Speed." She let him see the screen.
He nodded. "Erase those from the system," he ordered quietly.
"Even Mr. Sanders' test? It could help find who took him."
"I think I know," he admitted. "I have friends out there. I'll let them know privately." She nodded, erasing the searches. "Thank you."
"Welcome. I hope you can figure out what's going on," she offered. She smiled at Xander. "Unless you know?"
"I think I kinda do," he admitted. "I also think it'll be okay." She nodded, watching Horatio walk the strange young man off. "Now we know who Greg was." Horatio glared at him. "Horatio, he won't remember," he said quietly. "None of them will."
Horatio took a deep breath. "I know that."
"Good." He patted him on the hand. "It'll be all right. They'll grow up without the problems they had before and be happy and content young men." He nodded once. "He might even come back to here."
"He might," he agreed with a small sigh. He walked him outside, looking at him. "Why did Hallie said to come down here?" He shrugged. "You take orders?"
"From her." He gave him a small grin. "I trust her not to screw me over since I'm working for her."
"That's a reasonable assumption." He looked at him. "You do know that they're looking for you?"
"Yup and I know very well Willow can track me her way and probably has at least once since I had to remove a trace from Greg's body last night," he said quietly. "Hallie and I are working on that today." He nodded at that. "If they come down, they're not getting anywhere near the boys. You don't have to worry about that."
"That's not what I'm worried about, Xander." He tipped his head slightly to the side, studying him. "I'm still not sure you're that healthy to do this."
"Have you seen me do something wrong?"
"What happens when and if they get colic or won't sleep for hours? When you're frustrated?"
"That was day two of having all three of them," he said dryly. "I huffed and went to have some cocoa while I calmed down. I'm not going to be like my parents, Horatio. The only thing from my old life that's touching those boys is Hallie and that stray cat." Horatio looked stunned. "I'm pretty sure that's Tara taking her over now and then and if she comes down in human form I'll let her see the boys. I adored Tara. She's the only one out there I consider a pack member. The rest of them were snobby bitches who decided I was worthless." He shrugged. "Not an issue."
"Fine. We'll talk tonight."
"I want them to be seen by a doctor. Ray has the start of a cold."
"I haven't figured out who they're going to yet," he admitted. "But I can agree to that. Babies need shots and things." That got a nod. "Any other demands?"
"You'll find I'm reasonable to requests too," he offered, patting him on the arm before he walked off.
"I'll get a good recommendation," Horatio called after him. Xander waved a hand. He growled but calmed himself down. He knew the boy wasn't going to hurt the boys but there was too much floating around him that could. He went to talk to Alexx, finding her cleaning after doing an autopsy. "Do you have a few minutes?"
"Of course! Are you moving to take custody of your nephew?"
"Not at the moment. He has some valid points. Including that the Mala Noche threat is still around."
"The longer you leave him there, the more your nephew will bond to him, Horatio. It'll be traumatic to break them apart."
He grimaced. "I think it's already too late for that, Alexx, and I'm not sure breaking them apart is the right thing. The only thing I am sure of is that the boy has some very bad influences in his former life and he left them to go protect others." She nodded at that. "I..."
"You see a lot of yourself in the boy?" she suggested, leading him into her office. "Tell me, sugar."
He settled in to tell her everything. She looked startled at some of it, but by the end she was nodding. "I just don't know what to do, Alexx. Ray seems so *happy* there. He's content. He hasn't been that happy since before Ray Senior died," he said quietly. "Plus I'm worried about his former friends coming down."
She reached over to smooth down some of his hair. "Let him handle his friends unless he asks, Horatio. As for the Vegas team, don't tell them a thing. They won't accept it and they'll try to fight to get him back. Or his parents might." He looked at her. "There's got to be a reason he asked," she reminded him. "I'm glad Timmy's getting a second chance."
He smiled. "He's so like Speed. He grumbles at types of music. He hates to cuddle. He scrunches up his face that same way. But he's not."
"Then think of him like he's Speed's son," she ordered gently. "Because that's basically what he is, Horatio. He's the son of my poor boy Speedy." He nodded, accepting that. "He'll never be the same Speed but he'll be a happier version of him. Some things won't be changing. His mind, his instincts probably won't. I'm sure that boy will teach him all he needs to know about protecting himself and hunting."
"Plus cleaning his gun," Calleigh said from the doorway. "He filed for his licences. They're in the system, Horatio." She handed over that report. "He's listing three shotguns, four handguns, and a crossbow for hunting purposes." She came in and sat down. "How are the kids?"
"They're doing good. I told him to take Ray to someone since he's starting to sniffle."
"I'm not sure if they'll need their shots again or not," Alexx admitted. "I'll have to look that up. I'll be over to look at them tonight for you." He smiled and nodded. "Anything else?"
"They like to watch him paint," he admitted with a small smile. "Timmy kept scowling at the color choices." Both women smiled at that. He looked at her. "You talked to Maxine?"
"Yeah, of course I did. Eric and I both pounced her with Frank." She stroked his arm. "What're you going to do, Horatio? Eric's claiming he's an uncle to Speed."
"He won't be Speed," he reminded her. "He won't remember anything that used to make him Speed."
"So, like Alexx said, we'll treat him like the son of Speed and tell him stories about his daddy," Eric said from the doorway. "Sorry, lurking asshole got to me. Maxine finished erasing the searches and all that stuff, including tossing the swabs after marking them useless." Horatio smiled. "Now what?"
"Now, I go meet my grandbabies," Alexx said firmly. "All four of them. Even if the boy doesn't like it." She looked at Horatio. "He's got to know other pack leaders exist."
"I talked about you a few times," he admitted. She smiled at that. "You can go over tonight. Right now he and Hallie are doing something to further protect them from his friends."
"Yeah, his friends. There's a topic of discussion," Eric said grimly. Calleigh looked at him. "I have contacts down there through my dad, who did some work with a company who does some work for them. Asked about the boy." He looked at Horatio. "They all think he can't fight."
Horatio snorted. "He also said that his former friends disrespected and loathed him, Eric. That they didn't appreciate what he could do. I'm pretty sure the boy can fight."
"Yeah, they said evidence showed that he could but his *known* skills that were put around weren't that great. Except for the fact that he gets possessed and kidnaped now and then."
"Not any more, he gave it up," Horatio assured him. That got smiles all around. "Now, if they should come down Xander has promised to make sure that his former friends don't come anywhere near the boys, except for Tara."
"She's said to be sweet and nice, untouchably pure," Eric agreed. "Very motherly as well. One of them called her a pure reflection of the Mother Goddess."
Horatio smiled. "He said she's the only one he considered a pack member out there." He stood up and looked out at the sound of a door opening. "Rick, is there a problem?"
"We're having staff meetings down here now?" he demanded. Horatio just stared at him. "Yelina's boy, did you do a paternity test?"
"He's Ray Junior's son," he said quietly. Rick Stetler looked stunned. "They're still looking for Ray. She named him Ray the third."
"Fine," he agreed. "Are you taking custody?"
"He and I have an agreement right now. I'm working insane hours. There's still the Mala Noche threat. Right now we're both content to leave him there until things even out in my life." That got a single nod. "I have seen him nearly every single day since a week after the funeral. Ray's well taken care of, he's a happy and content baby with the twins Xander's raising. They're been watching him paint." Rick walked off shaking his head. He shrugged and sat down again, smiling at her. "Should I drive you over?"
"I'm sure I can find the way."
"Xander admitted he looked us up on the website," Calleigh offered. "I don't know if it was the official PD one since I don't think there's any pictures of the lab on it."
"Some publicity ones where we had the open house after the update," Eric reminded her. "Speaking of, Wolfe?"
"I don't know how he'd take it," he admitted. "I'll talk to him about it later today." They nodded and his two CSI left. He looked at Alexx. "I know he's not hurting them."
"No but he's a first time parent and he can come to me for advice, Horatio. Every parent needs some now and then."
He nodded, smiling at her. He got up with a kiss to her cheek and went to find his other tech. He found him in a lab scowling at something and nodded Eric to leave. "Mr. Wolfe."
He looked over. "What? Am I doing something wrong?"
"No, I wanted you to know something that's going on right now."
"I heard about your sister-in-law. I'm sorry, Horatio. She was a great detective." He smiled at that. "Did they find your nephew?"
"No, and they don't think they will," he sighed, closing the door. "There is a small matter that has been floating around however."
"What?" He leaned on the table. "Something relating back to the Mala Noche?"
"More relating back to my family. Ray Junior left an infant son."
"I heard something about that. That was the dark haired guy in today, right?" Horatio nodded. "Are you going to fight for custody? Because I'll definitely write you a letter and all that if you need me to."
"Right now we're working things out," he assured him. "He pointed out that I do work a lot of unpredictable hours. That there is still a threat."
"Yeah, but then again he shot at a gang member last night and lit him on fire," Ryan offered. Horatio looked stunned. "One of the local biker gangs has been trying his neighborhood on for size. They decided to try him late last night. He came to the door with a shotgun to stop them. Stomped on one guy's chest when he tried to make it past him. Another guy came up with a gas canister to burn the house. He shot the gas canister and boom, barbequed thug. My former partner was the guy who arrested the thugs. They decided what he did was self-defense since they were clearly going to commit arson with the kids in the house."
Horatio relaxed and nodded. "Xander is very protective."
"Ya think?" Ryan joked, giving him a look. "My partner did a search on his name. Did you know about the sealed federal file?"
"No. Military service?"
"No, former special ops group that went out to his town to play around with mind control. He and his friends stopped it." He shrugged. "His brother's in Army Intelligence and he found that part."
"I would like to see that."
"I told him you would. It's probably being mailed to you. Is he going to be okay with the boys?"
"He's fine, Mr. Wolfe. He's a great father. Very attentive and protective." He smiled. "There is one other thing you should be aware of. One of the other ones he got asked to hold is the son of the tech you replaced."
"No wonder Calleigh was crying in her lab earlier." Horatio nodded, swallowing some. "If you need me to help babysit or something, I'm there. I don't care who the kids are, were, or will be." Horatio gave him a look and he grinned. "I'm a bit more connected to that. My uncle kinda dated a High Priestess on and off for about twenty years. She initiated me and I'm still not claiming or using it. I don't have the right sort of willpower according to her."
"Thank you for telling me that." He looked at him. "If you wanted to visit he did say that he would allow all the team to come over."
"If he wants or needs me to, one of you will tell me."
"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe."
"Welcome, Horatio. Can you tell what this is?" he asked, sliding over a picture. "It's driving me nuts."
"It looks like it's a tire impression."
"Yeah but it was under the blood. I only got that because I scooped so much of the blood up and it's still not clear enough for the computer to match."
"See if Tyler can remove the blood residue from the picture or enhance the treads," he suggested.
"Thanks, boss." He smiled and took it over there.
Horatio went up to his office to check through the inter-office mail. That boy's past was becoming more and more interesting by the day. He did call out there. "Thugs on fire?" he asked in greeting. Xander grunted something then hung up. He had heard a baby fussing in the background so he guessed he was busy.
Alexx looked at the young man who answered the door. "Calleigh didn't say you were just a baby yourself!" she complained, pushing her way inside.
"And you are?" he called after her, checking outside before closing the door. He followed her up the stairs. "And I repeat again before I have to protect them from you. You are?"
"Alexx Woods, Horatio's team's ME." She smiled at him. "Adoptive Momma to Timmy when he was a bigger boy."
"Ah. Hallie said you'd probably be dropping by. Do they need new booster shots?"
"It probably wouldn't hurt," she admitted, sitting down to look them over. "This is Ray?" He nodded. "He could probably use a decongestant. That can be gotten at any good drug store. Ask the pharmacist." He nodded at that, sitting across from her. "Who's the third one?"
"Hi, Greg." He cooed from behind his bottle. She smiled. "You're good."
"I had to learn. It's not often they all three want it together but now and then..." He smiled at her. "Anything else I should watch out for?"
"No, so far they look okay." She looked at him. "How are you doing school records?"
"We haven't talked about that yet. His birth certificate is in the kitchen. I haven't filed it," he admitted. "Horatio and I are probably going to have a fight about that. I know I can't file the same name he had in the system."
"True. That leaves a 'third' situation or a new last name."
Xander nodded. "I was thinking of making Caine his middle name. I know Horatio will hate it but it could protect him more."
"You're right, he'll hate it. Since you're treating them like the sons of their former selves, a third would be okay."
"Maybe. We'll fight about that the next time he's over." She smiled and nodded. "Any other wise advice?"
"Got a swing yet?"
"Waiting to be put together," he admitted dryly. "Plus some crawling baby play areas."
"Good idea, baby." She stroked his cheek. "It'll be fine and I've got two of my own. You can ask me questions when you get stuck."
"Why doesn't Tim like to eat now and then?"
"He *never* ate enough before. He'd go all day and forget to eat if he was doing something," she assured him dryly, shaking her head. "That's why I adopted the boy."
He smiled. "Anymore I make sure if one's eating he's getting a bottle too." She smiled at that. "He grumbles at me."
"He did that to me a few times too," she promised. She smiled at Ray, who was snuggling in for a nap. "Aww, aren't you sweet?"
"Today. He peed on the cop taking statements last night."
"We heard." He groaned and put his face in his hands, shaking his head. "You okay?"
"I've seen and done worse, Alexx." He looked at her. "I'm used to protecting others. I thought he'd drop the can. Stupid me."
"He probably deserved it."
"They tried the old lady up the street and the plant nursery place up the block too," he admitted. "I put tacks down to get them once and a chain got them the second time. I know they didn't trace it back."
"A single father would be just as helpless to their way of thinking as a grandmother and some plants, Xander. You were next on their list anyway." He nodded at that wisdom. "Now, have you eaten?"
"Yeah, I had a Lean Cuisine for lunch already," he said. She gave him a look. "I can cook but cooking for just me sucks. I'll start cooking again when they start being able to handle solid food."
"They're how close to six months?"
"Greg and Tim are both almost there. Or just over. I'd have to do the math. Ray's a month from it." He got up to check. "Tim and Greg are both six and a half months. Ray's four and three-quarters."
"At this age a lot of parents go by weeks."
"That takes more math," he called, bringing out some water for her and some soda for himself. "Time for solid food?" She nodded. "Cereal?"
"Make it very thin the first few times," she advised. "Then you can get into baby food."
He nodded. "I can do that." She smiled and patted him on the cheek again. "I'm fine. Really. I'm a good daddy."
"I can tell you are." She smiled at Ray, handing him back, watching as he got up to put him into his crib. "Nap time?"
"Oh, yeah. Then we'll watch some more painting this afternoon. Though I nearly painted Greg yesterday when he cried at the noise. I forgot to let the trigger go." She giggled. "After I'm done painting I'm sanding the floors down and refinishing them. That way they can't be hurt."
"I like that idea," she assured him. "That way they can't crawl and help you too." He nodded at that. "The paint fumes don't bother them?"
"I'm using low fume paint and have a fan pointed at the walls. I used to work construction."
"Good! What about the stain?"
"I'm figuring on starting back in my bedroom and I'll sleep on the couch that night, then slowly moving out. The day I do the living room they'll be in the kitchen." She nodded at that wisdom. "Then we'll go play in the park." She smiled at that. "It'll be good for them to get some fresh air." He looked around at the beaten up flooring. "It's old but it's sturdy and has character."
"It does." She helped him put the other two down, burping Timmy for him. "There you go, sweetness." He made a grumbling noise, making both parents smile. "Your daddy Speedy would've been so proud of that noise," she teased, pulling down his shirt. She led him back out after checking the supplies in the nursery. "So far you're doing very good, Xander. Had any problems with diapers?"
"Greg had the runs and he did not like me cleaning him as fully as he needed to. He's uncut."
She nodded at that. "Sometimes babies can be fussy about that." She sat down next to him on the couch. "You need a new couch."
"I know but Hallie only gave me so much of a stipend and I'll need to make it last for a few more years." Hallie appeared, giving him a 'dumbass' look. "What?" he defended. "I'll have to go back to work some day."
"They are your work, Xander. Furnish and finish the house. That way if you have to pull a sudden move to protect them it'll be easily sold for traveling money." He nodded, getting that. "Thank you! Are you going to keep the floors?"
"I like the old wood. It could use refinished but I think it'll hold up to it well." She smiled and nodded. "Then I'm putting up a play area downstairs behind the stairway. That way they can have a place to play when we can't go out."
"I like that idea," she assured him, kissing him on the cheek. "Even if something happens to me, it should still continue until they're sixteen. Then it'll turn into a college fund."
"I set some aside for that already," he admitted. She sighed and nodded, disappearing again. "I keep anticipating stuff and she gets frustrated now and then," he told her.
"You're being a good daddy and that's all that should matter," she promised, patting him on the hand. "What are you thinking about daycare?"
"I don't know. I hated headstart. If we an afford it and I can find a good one, of course they can go." She smiled and nodded at that. "If not, then we'll be working on it at home. Even if I do have to learn math again right along with them." She smiled at that. "I'm not making plans that far in advance yet. I saw the movie with the ad executive in New York that ended up making baby food. I'm not going to one of those sort of baby daycares where they're forced to learn Shakespear as a toddler."
"Good idea," she agreed. "What about languages?"
"Miami's pretty diverse. They'll pick it up." She smiled at that. "They might also learn Klingon from me because I tend to swear in it." She giggled and gave him a hug. "Thanks, Alexx. Did you want to play with them some more?"
"No, I should get back to work. Remember to get the decongestant."
She kissed him on the cheek and got up, going to report back to Horatio when she got called to his current scene. "That boy is a sweetie, Horatio. A bit odd. He said he swears in Klingon so the boys'll pick it up off him too." He smothered a smile at that. "Also, have the talk about names. He knows he's got to do a bit of changing."
"Ray's staying a Caine," he said firmly.
"He wasn't sure if he shouldn't bury it as his middle name," she said gently. "To protect him more."
"I'm sure it won't be necessary," he told her. He called Xander. "Should I pick up anything before we fight tonight?" He smiled. "I can do that. Anything else?" He made a mental list. "Fine. He's staying a Caine, Xander." He listened to his reasons and sighed. "While that might be true, him being a third would do the same thing," he said quietly. "I would prefer it, yes. The same with Tim. Actually, I can see his middle name being something like that. Thank you. We'll talk tonight." He hung up and got back to work. "Thank you, Alexx."
"Welcome, sweetie." She got to work. "Well, what happened to you?" she complained. She checked the bruises. "Looks like someone took a bat to you, sugar. Were you a bad girl or were they really mad?"
"I'm guessing mad," Calleigh offered, pointing at the evidence around them. "They splintered the bat beating her."
"That does mean someone was *very* mad," she agreed. "You poor thing." She gathered her patient and they went off together.
Horatio finally got the last of the information he needed on the young man, settling in to read it. They had decided Greg's name was going to be Greg Olaf Harris. Greg's friends had all said that he talked about his Grandfather Olaf all the time. It was a fitting tribute to his last life. Tim was now Timothy Harley Harris. They couldn't name him Speed and it was close enough for Horatio's sense of humor. Ray became Raymond James Caine the Third. A bit pretentious but it'd be fine. The completed background check was very interesting. It led him to want to drink in a lot of places. One of them made him get up to get a drink. Now he knew what he had said about commanding a battle. He sipped his beer while he read the rest. It only got worse from there. The person doing the search had noted that the girls were clearly ignoring him. They decided he must have done something to split the group but from what clues Xander had given, it hadn't been his doing. Or at least not entirely his doing.
He stayed up most of the night reading, thinking about the boy. He was a strong boy. He had survived situations that would've made him piss himself. He had known the love of someone who had helped raise him when his parents had failed and then had it stripped away later on. The person who had done his background check for the Initiative had seen it going to hell back in high school. He had no idea how the boy had survived. Or why he had went back after he had left for a few months. Then again, he would have went back to his friends, even if they would treat him bad. There was always the hope they would smarten up. The information on his friends was more promising. They were now starting to smarten up. They were seeing what they had lost at the very least. He did like that one girl Tara. Xander had spoken highly of her and so had the person gathering the intelligence. He would like to meet her. Without the others but he would gladly meet with her. She seemed...pure. That was the feeling he got from what was said.
It was dawn when he woke himself out of his thoughts. He called his boss. "I need to take some time to talk to the man raising my nephew," he said quietly. "No, nothing wrong. He's done excellently, but he has made some points about me taking control of him. Thank you, sir." He hung up and went to shower and change. He came out in a clean suit and ready for the day. He drove over and managed to get Xander up. A very sleepy young man was wandering out of his bedroom when he walked up the stairs. "It's just me, Xander. Go wake up."
Xander looked at him. "You're too chipper to be a pack member this morning. Go sit down." He glared until Horatio retreated to the living room. He grunted and went to check on the boys. "Boys, Horatio's here. Wanna see him?" Timmy yawned and wiggled so he got him out and went to hand him off. "The other two are still sleeping. Like you should be." He flopped down on the couch next to him, going back to sleep. "Tired."
"I'll watch the boys for a few hours. You can trust me to guard your pack, Xander." Xander yawned and looked at him. "Even senior pack females have to trust the males to guard the pack now and then," he said gently. "I'll watch him." Xander nodded, falling asleep right there. He smiled at Tim. "Good morning, cub." Tim cooed at him and flailed an arm. "I know, you're not a morning person but that's okay. We'll handle that." Greg squealed so he got up to look at him, finding the stray cat in there licking his toes. "He could've slept, kitty." He petted her. He plucked Greg up to carry him out too. "Come on, Greg." He settled them both in his lap, ignoring the looks Timmy gave him. "Yes, you have to cuddle. It's good for you." He stroked their backs. "Did you have good rest?" he whispered. Xander had shifted at the sound of his voice. The boy sniffed then shifted again. He reached over to stroke his leg. "It's me, Xander." Xander sniffed him then shifted so his head was on his hip. "Relax and sleep, Xander," he soothed, stroking over his hair.
The boys stared up at him. "Yes, the other daddy is resting." He heard Ray fuss so he let Xander hold the boys for a few minutes. He went to get Ray and change him, bringing him back out. He shifted so he could hold them all, letting Xander have his thigh to rest on. He smiled at them, getting happy baby boys looking back. "Such good boys," he soothed, stroking over their hairs. "We're going to do okay and let Xander sleep, boys. We're going to talk." He smiled at them. "I know this is all strange to you guys, but I'm Horatio. You've seen me a lot and you're going to continue to see me, you especially, Ray." Ray snuffled his chest like the pack daddy did. Horatio smiled, he knew exactly where he had learned that move. "Did the daddy teach you that?" he asked. Xander blinked up at him. "We're talking. Go back to sleep."
"Work?" he asked tiredly.
"No, you're not working."
Xander blinked at him. "I meant yours."
"I'm taking today off to spend with the boys. You're tired."
"That's because it's barely dawn, Horatio. We're night people out in Sunnydale. I only got to bed at three." He closed his eyes again. "You guys be good for the pack beta. He'll take good care of you. I would change Tim. That stink is only going to get worse." He took the other two while Horatio went to change him then changed Greg since he hadn't yet. Xander settled back next to his hip. "Good job. Alexx said we can start them on very thin mush. Cereal's in the cabinet. Mix it like you would insta-spuds only thinner." He yawned again. "Then watch out for flying food. Greg hates it unless you put some of the dried fruit flakes in it."
"I'll do that in a few minutes. Do we have high chairs?" A hand pointed at the carseats. "We should get them high chairs."
"Go for it," he agreed tiredly, drifting off again. "Stroller's in closet," he sighed before he started to snore quietly.
Horatio smiled at the boys. "Let's do that then we'll let daddy nap." He got them into their seats and into the kitchen with him. He found the cereal and the fruit flakes. He read the directions and made enough for one large bowl. He put the fruit flakes on half in case Tim turned out to be the fussy eater - and he wasn't, Ray was. Tim placidly ate for him. Greg squealed and got demanding for the food. Ray hated the fruit. He ended up with two spoons going so he could interchange, working out a rhythm so Greg quit being so loud. Finally the bowl was clean, the babies weren't clean, and definitely needed a washcloth at the very least, and a new shirt in two cases. "How about, how about we clean you three up and go find high chairs?" he suggested quietly. Tim gave him a horrified look. "It'll be fine. You'll like being in the hummer, Tim. Your daddy did. He used to joke it was like riding elephants."
He tickled him but got them all cleaned up. He drug them down to the car, then came back to get the stroller with the last one. Then he had to rest beside the hummer for a minute. That was hard work! No wonder Xander hardly ever went out! He got in to drive, checking them. All three were staring at him. "We're going shopping, boys. Do we need anything other than high chairs? Clothes, diapers, anything?" No one even cooed. "Okay, it'll be at my discretion then." He started the engine and Greg fussed until he put on music. "Better?" He pulled out, heading for one of those mega stores that liked to pollute the city. It'd be cheaper and have more selection. He got all three of them into the stroller when he got there, pushing them inside. The greeter gave him a horrified look. "I know."
"We do have carts that can hold all three of them plus stuff," she offered, pointing at the train-looking cart. "That has seat belts even so they can't escape."
"They're not crawling yet." She nodded and helped get them into there, then the stroller went into the thin basket underneath for strollers. He felt so very odd pushing that thing but it was fun listening to the boys squeal at all the blonde women they met. "I'll see if Aunt Calleigh will come over tonight," he promised. Greg made a lunge at a really hideous shirt. "No, Greg." He put it back and looked down at him. Greg fussed. "Quit please? We'll get daddy food as a present instead of a shirt." He walked them on, taking them to the baby section. Speed pouted the entire time. He did find high chairs that were reasonably priced so he got three. The nearby parents looked at him then in the stroller then back at him. "One's my nephew, the others are twins. I'm babysitting and running errands."
"You're a great uncle," one mother assured him. "I'm so sorry for their mother."
"Oh, dear," she sighed, shuddering. "That poor boy. Give him my condolences?"
"Of course." He smiled gently and moved them on to look at clothes. He saw Tim still scowling. "You will quit giving everyone evil looks or I'm putting you in Pooh," he said quietly. Tim glared at him instead. He held up a pink shirt and Tim fussed. "Good boy. That's better." He picked out some cute outfits for the boys, nothing with Pooh on it but Greg did get Tigger, and then he went to look at the toys. He knew what Xander had stashed in his closet for when they were older. He found something new and put it into the cart too, then went to look at baby food. There had to be something better than oatmeal. He found one brand that was rated by age, picking out three of each flavor, just in case they all liked one. He also picked up juice boxes with actual juice instead of fruit drink. Then he called Alexx. "Can they have the big tootsie rolls at their ages?" He smiled. "High chairs. He's been using the carriers to feed them. We did that this morning. Ray hated fruit flakes in his cereal. Tim wouldn't eat any without it and neither would Greg." He smiled and picked out what she suggested. "Thank you, Alexx. I do remember cheerios everywhere for a snack." He put it into the basket too and walked them on. "No, I'm taking today off. The boys have been cooing at every blonde woman they run into so would you ask Calleigh if she'd like to come play with them tonight? I told them I'd ask." He smiled. "Thank you." He hung up and went back to shopping for the tiring trio.
He had the sudden bad thought: they'd be walking soon. Then they'd have to chase them.
Oh, damn, it *was* going to drive him and Xander insane.
Xander woke up to the smell of real food, blinking at Horatio. "You cooked?"
"I did. I was hungry." Xander came padding in, looking at the trio in their high chairs. He smiled. "Cheerios make good baby snacks."
"I can see that." He stole one from Greg's tray, getting an angry squeal. He got him a few more from the box and earned a smug look. "Eat more, show me how good you three eat." Even Tim stuffed his face with the cheerios in his fist, earning a smile. "Good job!" He took the bottles of juice, looking at them then at Horatio. "They can drink juice?"
"They can and often do."
"Wow." He let them have the bottles too. Dry cheerios were a bit like sawdust in your throat. Horatio set food in front of him and sat down across from him next to Tim. His plate got put down too. "Thank you for cooking."
"It wasn't a problem," he assured him. "They did have a lot of fun cooing at the blondes."
"They often do. If she's coming over I should clean. Last time she caught me sorting laundry and told me I had better clean better or she was turning me in to CPS." He ate a bite of his breakfast. "Hmmm, good cook. Thank you," he mumbled between bites.
"Slow down and chew, Xander. I have the whole day off." Someone knocked so he went to get it. "Yes, sir?" he asked the electric company worker.
"Sir, we have a bill that needs to be paid," he said grimly.
Xander came jogging down the stairs with a check. "Sorry, man, I just got custody of my triplets, it skipped my mind totally. I'm arranging to have it auto drafted." That got a smile and the man walked off. "Sorry. Forgot the water too. He woke me up yesterday from my nap." He walked back up the stairs. "I am having it auto drafted, I promise. The bank's set it up for next month."
"That's fine, Xander." He closed the door and followed him. "You haven't been here that long."
"She was apparently using this house before," he admitted. He checked on the boys, all slurping or nibbling happily, and sat down to eat his own food. "Did you pick up more regular cereal?"
"I did and they had these nice other sorts of food too." Xander gave him an awed look. "They said they're for babies their age." He showed him the full cabinet. "See?"
"Wow. You hunt and gather very well for the pack. Give me the receipt and I'll pay you back."
"Don't worry about it, Xander." He patted him on the head and sat down to eat. "Including some fruit packs so they can suck on those too."
"Do you think they're not getting enough vitamins and stuff?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I know Ray used to suck down cheerios and applesauce all the time." He shrugged. "If not, the others should like it or it won't hurt you."
"Good point." He finished his dinner and went to put his dish in the sink, then he got one of the pouches of applesauce, coming over to feed the trio of terrors. "Here, nummies." Ray ate some and hummed, diving forward to get the spoon back. Greg got impatient so he got his. Then Tim took a careful bite, licking his lips and scowling. "Tough, try some more." He fed him another bite then moved back down the line. Back and forth until it was done. Tim was the one who fussed for more. Horatio got some more and took the spoon to feed them this time. "How did you do it earlier?"
"Whichever had his mouth open."
"I tried that but Tim didn't eat as much. I felt he was being deprived." He snuck a french fry off Horatio's plate and nibbled on it, patting Greg on the head when he begged for it. "You are not a puppy to beg for table scraps, Greggy." Greg pouted. "Tough. Eat the applesauce and your cheerios." He shoved in a few with his applesauce, making Horatio smile. "They're good boys most of the time."
"It seems like they are," he agreed. He finished that bowl and Tim didn't complain this time. Greg didn't complain either, but he did accept his bottle back. So did Ray. Xander got them cleaned up and out onto the furry rug for a nap while he went to clean his bedroom and start some laundry. Horatio put the dishes in the dishwasher and went to watch the boys nap. They looked so sweet and innocent when they slept. Too bad they weren't always like that. He wouldn't tell Xander how Ray had tried to take some woman's underwear with him by grabbing the part she had sticking out of her pants. Or how Tim reached over to help. Or even how Greg cackled when she squealed and tried to get free. He really did need to pay more attention to them when he had them out.
Calleigh came over around dinner time. "Easy day," she assured him, looking around. "No laundry this time."
"He said he was sorting it the last time, Calleigh."
"My mother kept the place spotless," she assured him.
"My mother didn't," Xander said as he came out of the nursery, "and there was only one of you."
"Good point," she sighed. "Still, try harder."
"I was sorting. It had been two days since I did any."
"They go through that many changes of clothes in a day?" she asked.
Xander nodded. "Usually right after meals." He looked at the sleeping tots, checking their foreheads. "Not warm."
"Let them sleep. Sleeping babies are a gift from God," Horatio said quietly, looking up from his magazine. Calleigh smiled and nodded. "They flirted with every single blonde woman they saw in the store."
"Awww." She sat down to look at them, straightening out Greg's shirt since it was bunched up. He burped and she picked him up to clean his mouth, getting a sleepy baby staring at her. "Did you want to see me, snookums?" He smiled and patted her cheek, then snuggled into her shoulder to complete his nap. "We must be hitting a growth spurt."
"Fortunately I got them some clothes that were bigger," Horatio admitted.
Xander looked at him. "Half their stuff already is bigger, Horatio. I've got some stuff stored up to the one year size. Though, if the Tigger shirt was your idea, it's not going on Tim. He hates anything Pooh related."
"I thought it'd go well on Greg. He's the bouncy one," he offered with a smile. "Go fix dinner?"
"Sure." Greg perked up at that. "Yes, I'll get her stuff for you too, greedy." He went to turn food into a feast and got her some of the baby food and spoons for her feeding pleasure. Greg kept trying to get the food with his fingers and ended up flinging it at her chest. "Sorry," he called, safely out of range. Horatio got hit a few times with some flung food but he was nice enough not to say anything.
"I think he wants to play," she complained.
"He wants to feed himself," Horatio corrected. "Suck it off your fingers, Greg." He stuck the fingers in the boy's mouth, watching as he tasted it and licked them. "See?" He handed her a paper towel. "Here, I'm not even going to try to help you clean that off."
She looked down at her chest then at the baby. "You have very good aim. Maybe you'll be a gun tech like me, sweetness." Tim flipped over. "Hey, you rolled," she said happily.
Xander came out to look at where Tim was now using Ray as a pillow. "Comfy, Timmy?" Tim spit. "Good boy. I'm proud you rolled over." He stroked over his hair. "Auntie has food if you're hungry." The boy gave her a look and she held out the spoon, making Greg squeal and try to get it back. "Greedy, share," Xander ordered. Greg saw a bit of food on her neck and leaned down to suck it off for her, making her squeal and hand the baby off suddenly. Both guys laughed. "You have good taste, Greg. She's pretty and smart." He took over feeding duties while she went to clean up and borrow one of his t-shirts. Ray woke up and got some of the food too, but he just blinked and made a face, spitting it back out. It got fed to Tim instead and he gobbled it, Ray spit and all. "Okay, that works too. Calleigh, can you come change Ray?" She came out to grab the pillow baby, taking him into the nursery to change. He handed Horatio the spoon and went to stir. Then he came back and took over feeding duties again. Greg was full, he wanted the attention and Horatio could do that very well. She came out and pulled the food off the stove, putting out plates. The kids went into the high chairs, with some more cheerios, and they sat down to eat. Even if Calleigh's soup did end up with some damp cheerios being thrown at it by Tim. "He's good," he said happily.
"Very," she agreed, eating it anyway. She smiled and the babies all cooed at her. "Who wants a bath tonight? I can help with that."
"You and I can do baths while Xander changes crib sheets," Horatio offered.
By the end of the night, Horatio had to borrow pants and a shirt and Calleigh needed another shirt but she couldn't fit into anything but his running shorts. Calleigh left when they were finally asleep in their cribs, heading home. Horatio settled into the rocking chair to watch them sleep. Xander covered him up again on his way to bed. It worked for them.
Horatio walked in the next morning, finding Eric pacing in front of his office. "Is there a problem?"
"My mother wants to meet the trio."
Horatio looked at him. "I don't have a problem with it if Xander doesn't."
"I don't know." He frowned, following him into the office. "I have no idea but he sniffed my shirt, said no, and walked away with Ray." He grimaced. "I really don't understand the shirt sniffing."
"He's used to hunting things, Eric."
"Point but to sniff things? Was he an animal?"
"He tends to live on pack principles. Let me talk to him. I do like your mother." Eric slumped and nodded. "He didn't give any reason?"
"No. He lets Alexx visit."
"Alexx doesn't try to take over and your mother would," Ryan said from the doorway. "Your mother's another adoptive pack alpha, Eric. He's probably worried she'll try to take the boys from him. Fair warning, Stetler is talking to a Fed down in reception. I walked around to get away from him." He walked off.
"Another charming day," Horatio noted dryly, making Eric smile. "They're fine, Eric. I'll talk to him. Maybe she can come over to visit instead of us going to her house." Eric nodded, letting it go at that so he could get back to work. Horatio got caught up on what he missed yesterday, signing the few reports. Then he went to check on the current cases. "Mr. Wolfe?" Ryan looked over. "What are you working on?"
"Hit and run, Horatio. Got a fifteen-year-old girl who is presently hospitalized with multiple broken bones. I think it's a revenge thing. She's not lucid enough to answer questions but an eyewitness said it saw a school's parking sticker on the window." That got a nod. "Plus I've got the McManus murder case still on my desk waiting on a report from out of town."
"That's fine. Keep me informed." He got a nod so he went to ballistics. "Calleigh?"
She smiled. "I've got Xander's spare clothes in the car. All washed and dried," she promised, smiling at him. "It's amazing how far Tim can splash you and make Greg cackle."
"You should've seen them when they spotted a pretty girl with her underwear hanging out at the store," he moaned, shaking his head. She giggled. "Ray saw it and made a grab, Tim helped, and Greg cackled. He's apparently the inspiration of the trio."
She shivered. "That's almost a bad thought," she teased. "It'll be fine. Just wait until they start walking." She smiled at Stetler when he walked in, but not as warm or as friendly of a smile. "Good morning, Sergeant. What can I do for you?"
"You've taken up jogging?" he asked.
"No, the clothes in my car were borrowed when I was helping give a set of triplets a bath last night and I got soaked."
Horatio coughed. "My nephew and the twins he lives with," he offered. "We both got soaked giving them a bath. They were in the mood to play." He looked at the agent walking in. "Can I help you with something?"
"You can tell me where that bastard Harris is so I can drag him home to help the stupid brats he left," the agent said bluntly.
"He's got a trio of infants he's raising and he said they can handle it on their own," Horatio said quietly. "I can call and ask him if he knows who can step into his place."
"Please do," he said, glaring at him. "What triplets? His former girlfriend didn't say he had any children."
"He was gifted a set of twins for him to raise when their mother disappeared and my nephew was given to him by his grandmother because she was being hunted. I'm supposing that's how you tracked him to Miami." He called Xander. "It's me. There's apparently some sort of problem back in Sunnydale." He listened then nodded once. "Hold on." He looked at him. "He said to get the people at Angel Investigations in LA to go help."
"They're the ones who filed the missing persons report on him." He took the phone. "Mr. Harris, Agent Dietrich. Your ex, Miss Chase, was the one who filed the missing person's report." He blinked at the honestly blunt speech on her. "I see. No, they need you for something. No one said anything about children." He shuddered. "Of course, sir. I'll tell them that. Thank you." He hung up and handed the phone back. "He's not happy."
"I wouldn't be either," Horatio assured him. "He's not going back. He's needed here."
"Of course he is. One of the kids was crying in the background. Sounded pretty mad."
"Probably needed changed again," Calleigh offered. "With three he spends a lot of time seeing naked butts."
The agent smirked at her. "Did you babysit?"
"I went to play with them last night. They're adorable little boys. Hellions, but adorably sweet little things." Stetler coughed to hide his laugh. "They are."
"They are," Horatio agreed. "Ray and Tim decided to grab some woman's underwear yesterday when I took them out to find high chairs. They tried to bring her home."
Stetler walked out snickering.
The agent shook his head. "I'll tell them he's otherwise engaged."
"Tell Miss Chase if she doubts to talk to his last ex, Anya. She knows. Also if you run into Tara give her my address here so *she* can write him a letter. Not the others."
"Of course. Thank you for your assistance, Lieutenant. How did he get to Brazil?" Horatio shrugged. "Fine." He walked out shaking his head. He hated that his department handled these issues. He really wanted to transfer to a normal department. He would pass on that message. It'd make Chase scream and rant. She clearly needed to get it out of her system.
Xander woke up a few days later to the sound of a 'thump' getting up quietly and sneaking toward the nursery. All three boys were asleep. He found his gun in the living room and checked the rest of the house, going to the door to check outside. He opened it, pointing his gun in the face of the man standing there. "You are?" he demanded.
"I'm Ryan, I work with Horatio," he said calmly, holding his hands up. "He wanted me to come check on you guys. There was a shooting up the street and the Mala Noches were thought to be involved." Xander lowered the gun, letting him show him his ID. "I'm the one who came when Tim Speedle got shot. Eric said to tell you that." Xander let him inside. "Thank you, Mr. Harris."
"Xander. The boys were asleep when I was up there. What was the thump?"
"A cruiser stopping someone by running into one of the cars doing the drive-by." He followed him up the stairs, smiling at the trio of napping babies. "They're adorable." He smiled at him again. "They're good?"
"They should be fine. Should I leave the door unlocked for Horatio or is he going to make it home tonight?"
"I'll tell him. Does he have a key?"
"Yeah but I had the security system on."
"Write and seal the code for me. I'll give it to him." Xander stared at him then sniffed and nodded, going to do that. He put it into his pocket. "Sorry to have woken you, Mr. Harris."
"It's all right, Ryan. You're pack."
Ryan smiled and bowed a bit. "Thank you." He walked out, going back to where Horatio was. He handed him the folded paper. "The security code," he said quietly. "In case you end up over there tonight. They're all napping. The blond one is snoring into his fist. The crash woke Xander." Horatio nodded, putting that into his pocket. "They're adorable."
"They are," he agreed. "Process the scene, Ryan." He went to do that while Horatio helped with the clean up efforts. He did not like this happening so close to the kids. He walked up to one of them. "Why this neighborhood?" he asked the driver.
"It's quiet. Quiet offends us. It's also unclaimed," he said, spitting at him. "It's a stepping stone to a higher and better place. More worthy of us."
Horatio nodded. "Take him away, boys. Make sure he realizes that coming here was a big mistake." They nodded, walking him off. One of the patrol officers looked at him. "My nephew lives here," he said quietly.
"We heard about Detective Salas's grandson, sir. Where Wolfe was?" Horatio nodded. "We'll make sure he's on our patrol route, Lieutenant." He went to tell the usual patrol officers here. That way they could make sure to swing by this house often enough. They nodded and made notes in their log. They knew the whole lab was protecting Horatio Caine's great-nephew. The entire lab was going to destroy anyone who hurt them. Or the twins he was being raised with at the moment. Alexx Woods showed up to gather the bodies. "Ma'am," he said respectfully.
"Good morning, Officer. It's a bit early."
"They wanted to use this one as a stepping stone to some other claimed territory."
"That was very stupid of them. I'm surprised we didn't see Mr. Harris out here with a tank gun or something." Horatio heard and gave her an odd look. "Think he wouldn't?"
"No, knowing Xander he might," he admitted. He sighed and walked off thinking about that. Someday soon he was going to have to establish who was the alpha in their small pack. He was still learning pack dynamics. He wasn't going to take orders but the only way around that was to mate and marry the boy. He ignored the way his mind turned that thought into something warmth inducing. It was not who he was. He didn't normally like boys that way. Though, perhaps he could move into the spot without the sexual component. That would mean moving Xander and the boys into his house or him moving here. He'd need to think about that. He heard a door slam and watched as Xander drug someone up the street, gun in one hand, a skinny man in the other. Then Xander put him at Horatio's feet, grunted, and walked off again, his gun still in his hand. "What did he do, Xander?"
"Trying to get in off the back porch." He waved the non-gun hand. "Don't wake me up at seven this time please." He slammed the door on the way back inside and he winced when he heard the crying start. Then it stopped a moment later so apparently it was all good.
Eric nudged one of the open-mouthed, staring officers. "That's Harris. He's the guy raising Caine's nephew," he said quietly.
"Damn," he said in awe.
Horatio glared at him. "Did you need something?"
"No, sir. Breaking and entering?" he suggested, coming over to cuff the guy and cart him off. He was moaning so he was alive. He was unconscious but he didn't want to know why.
Horatio glared at his back then at Eric. "That was him being cranky." Alexx snickered and nodded at his delusion, he could tell from the look on her face. He went up to the house to check on them, using the code in his pocket on the security system. He heard a quiet snuffling so he walked into the nursery, finding Xander on the floor in front of the cribs and Greg rolled to stare down at him. He smiled at him. "Sleep, Greg," he said quietly. Xander sniffed at him then went back to sleep. He covered Greg back up, gave him his pacifier, and watched as he fell back asleep. Horatio checked the other two. Tim was staring at the ceiling. "You sleep as well, Tim." He patted his stomach, getting a grunt of a burp. "Please?" Speed flipped onto his side, staring at Xander, thumb in his mouth to suck while he fell asleep. He checked Ray. His nephew could sleep through anything. He had slept through the onset of a hurricane once. He checked the rest of the house, including the weak spot in the attic. The cat was back and he paused to pet her. Then he went back to the scene after the house was resecured. Ryan gave him an odd look. "I need to be here. They're fine."
"Sure." He handed over the quart plastic zip bag of bullet envelopes. "From the nursery. I've got another one going from the cars. I'm nearly done with that one." Horatio took it to log it into evidence. He was sure Ryan had taken the appropriate pictures and done a sketch. The rest of the evidence started to come back while the sky lightened into a rose color. They had the car towed and were out of the neighborhood before most of them left for work. It was going to be a long day in the lab. Calleigh was not happy when she came in to three hundred ballistics samples, guns and bullets, but it was a day she knew was coming. Ryan smiled at her and handed over the last baggie of envelopes when he came in. "The car samples."
"Gee, thanks. All tagged, pictured, sketched?" He nodded. "Why put them in here?"
"So I could keep them separate. It helped."
"That's fine. It's a good way to do it," she decided, getting to work. "How many guns? I'm seeing two?"
"There's a third buried somewhere. Eric has their cars so he might still have it with him."
"I'll call. What happened?"
"They decided to frighten the neighborhood where Mr. Harris lives." She turned to stare at him, mouth slightly open. "We checked, they're all fine. He brought out someone who was trying to break into their house off the back porch. Drug him out and dropped him at Horatio's feet. The patrol guys decided they'd swing by there more often."
"Good! That's good."
"Alexx said she was surprised he didn't have an anti-tank gun out there to help."
She blinked. "Thinking about it, so am I," she decided, shaking her head and getting back to work. "Thank you, Ryan. If you get free later you can come help match bullets."
"Sure." He walked off, going back to Trace to work. Everyone else had a lot of work to do too. Reception paged him so he had to go down there an hour later, smiling at the man standing there. "What can I do for you, Detective?" he asked, spotting his badge.
"Your name was on a DNA test that was run recently," he said quietly, handing over the entry into the system. "It was later erased. It belonged to our missing tech."
He looked at it then at him. "You need to talk to Horatio. Let's see if I can help you find him." The receptionist signed him in and Ryan led him back into the lab. "Do you work with the lab out there?"
"I do. Very closely. I used to run the lab out there. This is a lot more techno-geek than ours."
"As long as it all works it's a great help," Ryan assured him. He spotted Horatio coming out of fingerprints. "H?" He looked up so they walked over. "This detective is from Las Vegas." He handed over the entry sheet. "He's here about his missing tech and that test that was run."
"I see. Let's go to my office, Detective...."
"I've worked with a few of the team out there on a cross-jurisdictional case. They mentioned you. Thank you, Mr. Wolfe."
"Welcome, Horatio." He went back to work, frowning and considering how bad this was going to be.
Horatio closed them in his office. "It was a paternity test," he said quietly, waving a hand at a seat. "Sit please." He sat behind his desk. "A young man down here was given custody of a set of a twin boys, about four months old at the time, when their mother died. He also gained custody of my great-nephew when his grandmother was being hunted. He managed to save him but not her when she took him for a visit and got captured."
"My brother was undercover with the Feds. They ended up having to hide for their safety." That got a nod. "She was also a detective here. They may have worked with her, Yelina Salas?" He shrugged. "Anyway, she hid my great-nephew, her son's son, with Xander when she knew they were being hunted, but she wanted to see him so she took him for a visit."
"They struck, they got captured, he had to move in to save the baby and couldn't get her," Brass finished. Horatio nodded once. "How did he get the other two?"
"A mother died and left him her twin sons. One's the son of a tech who died down here, Tim Speedle."
"I remember them talking about him," he admitted. "How did he die?"
"Suspects shot him during an interview about a kidnaping."
"We were as well. It turns out that one of the twins was his son and one was your tech, Greg's, son. She named them after their fathers. Xander takes very good care of him but she did say that keeping them from their fathers' lives would be for the best."
"Greg never mentioned he had kids."
"I don't know exactly how they came to be. She is dead."
"At least you didn't make the Star Trek joke," he said dryly, looking at him. "Sanders has living parents."
"Would Greg want them to raise his son?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "They should at least be told."
"I'll tell Xander that there are living parents." Hallie appeared, shaking her head. "Hallie."
"Nope. Not a chance in hell. They're the ones who started Greggy on that problem path." Brass stared at her. "Hi, Jimbo." She grinned at him.
"Why are you involved? You're over Lost Childhoods." It was bad when she showed up on cases. But now?
"And Greg had one. His parents put him in cotton wool and then put safety pads overtop."
"Poor kid. And?"
She kissed him on the forehead. "Greg made a wish to be loved, to find someone who would love him unconditionally, Jim. He's got that now."
"His son...." She nodded. "Oh, damn."
"Exactly. By the way, his parents?" She shook her head. "I like him where he is. I can go tell Catherine if you want."
"You might want to. The others are torn up but she's still pressing like it's a crusade."
"I'll do that. Then again she was about the last straw. She doesn't know that someone else came later." She stroked over his hair. "It'll be okay. He's a lovely little boy. He's so loved and protected. He's also a greedy little food hog according to Xander." She let him see the picture that had been on Horatio's desk. "See? Isn't he adorable?"
"He is," he agreed, smiling at her. Then at Horatio. "Your nephew?"
"Was there when his parents were being tortured to death," he admitted. Brass shuddered. "Which is why Xander has him. He's offered me a position within the family if I want." She beamed and nodded at him. "Really?"
"You'd suit him and he'd finally let someone protect him. Plus you'd get someone who would go bitch on you and protect you, Horatio. Even if you did end up in a closet now and then." She patted him on the head. "I'm having tea with Anya."
"Did the agent give her Xander's message?"
"Oh, I did, and Tara does have your address. She's on her way down this break." She winked and disappeared.
"So, you see," Horatio started.
Brass handed back the picture. "I'll tell them it was a paternity check. How is he really?"
"Happy. Very content. The triplets of terror are very loved. They're all about seven months old now." That got a smile. "Greg's just now trying to move around. Timmy flipped over later than the rest but he's not inclined to movement at the moment. Greg's trying to scoot. Ray's still making begging noises whenever he wants to move. Xander spoils the boys horribly."
"Good. I like that. She'll love that. Will he remember?" Horatio shook his head. "Then he'll be the son of Greg. A word of caution. Greg had a very large coffee habit because it helped control his ADHD. He's one of the fifty percent ritalin and other things worked on. He was also a brilliant mind. Turned toward fun now and then. Used to play games in chem and DNA. Things like 'what chemical am I' and other games that drove Grissom insane. He was bouncy, hyper, and brilliant. It's a dangerous combination now and then. He also wasn't that happy in the field. Grissom made him remake himself." He stood up. "Thank you, Lieutenant."
"It's the least I could do, Detective. If you want more pictures write me here. I'll copy them and mail them up or email them to you, either way."
"Thanks." He smiled. "Some of them may want to come down and be honorary uncles at the holidays." He walked out smiling a bit. A baby Greg? That was a cute picture. He decided to get his medical records out of the PD and send it to him, just in case. That way they'd know about any family illnesses. Just in case it became pertinent. When he got back there later that night he found Catherine waiting on him. "False alarm, sort of."
"How? It was a perfect match, Jim!"
"It was a paternity test. It was his son, Catherine." She stared at him, mouth open. "He's seven months. The mother's dead and he's being guarded by a very fierce young man who loves him more than anything. He's also adorable. He's living with the great-nephew of the Lieutenant over the crime lab down there."
"Caine's?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Did you work with a Detective Salas?"
"Not really. I heard about her."
"Apparently she was Caine's sister-in-law. They had to leave the country for their own safety and she set her grandson with the same guy when she was being hunted. He managed to save the boy when she got captured during a visit." She sighed and nodded, looking down. "Horatio said he'd send all the pictures we wanted. I warned him that someone might want to an honorary uncle or aunt. He did say the mother's instructions said not to tell Greg's parents. That she didn't like them at all."
"Greg never told us he was dating. He would have told the whole world if he was becoming a father."
"Maybe he was a surrogate," he said with a small shrug. "I'm not sure on that part." She sighed and nodded. "We do need to get his medical records to send down there. Just in case there's any family history of stuff."
"I can have that sent," she decided. "Is he okay?"
"Baby Greg's fine. She named him after his daddy. Apparently she had a set of fraternal twins. She had a thing for CSI. Baby Greg's twin is from a Tim Speedle down there."
"Yup, so I'm guessing IVF treatments and sperm donors," he admitted. "He's very loved. Caine's looking over the boy's shoulder since he's got custody of his great-nephew at the moment. Then again, they had a massive drive-by from the Mala Noches last night." She shuddered. "They've got a green light on the lab."
"No wonder Horatio isn't raising his own nephew," she said. She slumped some. "So it was really a false alarm." He nodded. "Do we know anything more?"
"Caine thought that maybe Greg had visited his son before she died. Something Harris said."
"The guy raising baby Greg is named Xander Harris. He's from out by LA originally. They said he's a really nice guy."
She smiled and took his arm. "Thanks, Jim."
"Welcome." He walked her inside so they could tell the others. "It was a false alarm, people," he noted. The guys looked upset. Sarah looked despondent. "It was a paternity test. There's a baby Greg. The mother used something like IVF and sperm donors we think," he said at the opening mouths. "She's dead and she left them with a very nice young man."
"Them?" Nick Stokes asked. "Twins?"
"One of them is Greg's, and she named them after their fathers. The other is from a CSI named Tim Speedle who used to be down there. Plus the same guy's got Caine's nephew so they're all watching him at the lab."
"Why?" Sarah asked.
"The Mala Noche have green lighted that lab," Warrick said quietly. "It's probably safer." Jim nodded. "Is he cute?"
"I saw the trio's picture. They're being raised as triplets. They're all near the same size and the baby Greg is blond and very cute. Horatio said he's a food hog." That got a smile. "I did warn him that Sanders had one of the better cases of bounciness never. I also heard that the mother's will asked that we not tell his parents. That she didn't want them anywhere near the baby because of the way they used to overprotect Greg. He promised to send me all the pictures I wanted." That got a few smiles. "Sorry, guys."
"It's not your fault, Jim," Nick offered quietly. "A baby Greg. He must've been on a high greater than a caffeine high if he knew."
"They think he might've found out," Brass offered. "With the mother dead we can't be sure. I'm assured that the guy rasing the three boys is a great guy. Caine didn't think it'd be a problem if you guys wanted to be uncles and aunts." Grissom swallowed and nodded at that. "So that's what it was. Anything else new?" No one said anything. He looked at Catherine. "Can you send them his medical records?"
"Why?" Warrick asked.
"In case there's a history of disease in the family," Nick reminded him. "Or in case Greg had some specific problems so they're warned and can trace it back to which side it came from. I know Greg was a ritalin addict."
"He had ADHD, it was controlling it," Grissom corrected. "The same as his coffee habit did. Catherine, can you get those?" She nodded, going to make the proper calls. "Thank you, Jim."
"You're welcome. By the way, I saw Hallie." Nick and Grissom both stared at him. "Even she assured me Xander's a great guy and baby Greg is right where she wants him to be. He's from out near LA."
"Interesting. Thank you," he said with a smile. He got up. "Let's get back to work, people. If we want to we can write letters about what Greg was like when he was here." They nodded, going back to their labs to do that while they worked on cases. He looked at Brass. "She did?" He nodded. "Why?" He saw the pointed look at Catherine then back at himself. "I see. He wasn't happy?"
"He wanted to be loved and accepted who he was. Goofball and all. He wanted someone who understood him, loved him, and wanted him to be the guy he was, not someone else," he said quietly. "I'm sorry, Gil. Hallie answered."
He nodded. "I understand. Thank you, Jim. How old?"
"Seven months. I'll get copies of his birth certificate if I can." That got a nod and he went back to his office to write a letter about their former tech. Brass went to his office, finding a file with pictures attached. He printed them off, letting them be passed around by Nick when he came in.
"He's adorable. He's got Greg's nose," he said happily.
"Harris had his last name changed to protect him. He's now Greg Olaf Harris." That got a smile. "What'cha got for me?"
"I've got results on that breaking and entering that turned into a rape in the Sands." He handed it over. "I think we've got a suspect."
"Good. Excellent in fact."
Horatio smiled when Xander looked out of the kitchen. "Dishes?"
"Yup. Dishwasher's broken. We're working on it now." He went back to it. "What's up?"
"I came to talk."
"Okay, can you put the boys onto the rug?"
"I can do that as well." He got them down onto the play rug, watching as Greg tried to scoot some. "Behave, boys. We'll be in the kitchen if you need us." He made sure nothing was out where they could get it and headed back in there. He made Xander sit down by putting him into the chair. "I'm ready for a more active role."
Xander nodded. "Okay. You know you can stay over whenever you want. I told you that already."
"True, you did." He sat down next to Xander, touching his hand. "I've been researching hyena packs." Xander grinned sheepishly at that. "I'm worried about the pack structure."
"Well, either you're my mate or you're my beta, Horatio."
"I'm no one's beta, Xander."
"Then I guess you're applying for mate status?" he suggested with a small smirk.
"I'm still straight. That's the problem I'm seeing."
Xander kissed him on the forehead. "We'll see." He went back to his dishes. "Remember to leave some clothes here for the nights you stay over."
"I will." He stared at his back. "Have you marked anyone else in the lab?"
"Because he's just as much of a beta member as I can find, Horatio. He still needs guidance. He needs a strong leader to smack him around now and then but most of the time he needs someone who'll let him be and let him hunt on his own so he can bring trophies back to the pack. Now and then he needs the pack at his back."
"I hadn't thought about that. What about Eric's mother?"
Xander looked back at him. "There's no way I'm letting another alpha like her get near the kids. Especially not when Eric always smells like he's been around someone ill. Ill alphas make rash decisions that can get their pack hurt."
"It's not his mother that's sick, Xander. It's his unmarried sister." He got up and walked over to where he was washing dishes, making him look at him. "Can he bring her here? She's a big part of his life and he likes to brag on the trio of holy terrors we're raising."
Xander smiled and kissed him again. "Thank you." He looked out at the boys. "I do believe Speed has found a reason to crawl," he said quietly, nodding.
Horatio looked, smiling at where Speed was now sitting on the bookcase's bottom shelf with the books falling around him when he pulled them out. "That is so like him." He went to pick Tim up. "Good job, Timmy," he said, kissing him on the forehead. "That's a very good boy. Would you like a story?" Tim beamed. "That's my good boy." He settled in to read to him. Then he realized why Xander had kissed him.
He had said they were raising the trio.
He had called Tim his son.
He was truly settling himself into the pack.
He smiled at his son. "We'll work out the pack stuff without bothering you guys." He found a book and held it up. "Thomas?" Tim squealed so he opened it and started to read to him. Greg scooted closer, then caught sight of the cat, chasing after her, making Xander cackle in the kitchen. He looked at Ray. "You can crawl if you want to." His nephew scooted over until is uncle could pick him up and read to him too. Even if Timmy did kick him a few times for being there. "Be nice, Tim. Share your stories. Then you can teach him how to crawl." He turned the page, going back to it while Xander took pictures. Greg finally got bored and crawled over until he ran into the chair with his head, making them all look down. "Bored?" Greg helped himself stand on the chair and wobbled, then he fell down with a giggle. "Good boy. Crawl to daddy. He's got juice." Greg took off to the kitchen. He knew what juice was. Xander laughed and got him a bottle, letting him sip it. Horatio went back to his reading, shaking his head.
Horatio ran into Eric the next morning. "He's agreed your mother can come over to visit this weekend. By herself." He moved closer. "He did say he could tell someone around you was sick, Eric. He thought it might be her."
"I understand, H. When you live in a pack mentality, sometimes things like that get in the way." He grinned. "So, how are you enjoying your spot in the pack?"
"So far it's all good. They learned how to crawl last night. Tim wanted to rip up some of the books because they wouldn't read to him. Greg chased that cat that sneaks in now and then. Ray scooted but he came over to get read to." Eric grinned. "We'll have to start pulling out the baby gates and toys."
"I'm sure Xander can install a permanent gate. Need help moving?"
"I'm only moving some clothes for right now, Eric." He clapped him on the back. "Calleigh." She smiled. "The boys all figured out how to crawl last night." She beamed and gave him a hug. "There's new pictures."
"I'm sure they're adorable." She pinched him on the cheek and walked off. "I'm done with the analysis of the drive-by."
"Thank you. Do we have proof which one was the shooter?"
"Yup. Fingerprints put guns on two different hands. I've matched all but one bullet and it was matched to an earlier shooting that same day. Apparently the car was there."
"Thank you." He saw Alexx and smiled. "They're crawling."
"I'm so sorry. Just wait until they run."
"Run?" he asked.
"No baby *walks*, sugar," she said dryly. "They all run. They run tiny little baby marathons each and every day. And you've got three doing that." She handed over a file. "From our unlucky one."
"Hmm. Thank you."
"Welcome." She walked off humming. It was a good day. The three little terrors crawling was a good thing. It meant they were on developmental target. She'd have to pop around to make sure Xander had baby gates and things up properly.
Alexx walked into the house when Xander yelled, seeing the one baby down by the door. "What are you doing down here, Gregory?"
"He's picking on Ray so he's in time out," he called. "While I'm doing the gates." He finished pounding in a nail. "Okay, bring him back up. I've got the hinge set." She brought him back up. "There wasn't anything for him to get into down there and the bottom level is going to be their playroom eventually," he offered, closing the built-in gate once she was up there. "Simple latch design," he said, showing her the top latch. "It's a hard push too." She tried it and nodded. "Good enough?"
"Much." She patted him on the head and went to check the rest of the house. "Plug covers, Xander?"
"We're only not using three of them." He went to get the ones he had chosen. "This way we can use them." She smiled at the easy access faceplates he replaced the old ones with. "Good?"
"Very." She went back to snooping, moving the hair dryer off the sink. "Don't leave things with cords or strings hanging around. The babies will pull them on their heads."
"Do I look like the hair dryer sort, Alexx?" he asked dryly.
"I'll talk with Horatio then." She went to the kitchen, Greg looking like one determined baby as he followed her. "Are you hungry?"
"Always," Eric said as he came up. He looked at the gate and opened it, then closed it behind him. "Momma wanted to know if Sunday afternoon was okay with you."
"It's fine with me. I don't know if Horatio does church or not but I'm leaning more toward pagan for the most part, Eric."
"Don't tell Momma that. She'll shriek," he said, patting him on the arm. "Hey, Tim, I heard you're mobile," he called, looking around. "Where did you go?" Xander pointed at the couch. He looked, the baby was trying to crawl inside. "How am I supposed to read to you if you're in there?" The baby came out and grabbed his ankles, smiling at him. "Let's find a book."
"Pick anything, he likes it as long as it's words. Just leave the poltergeist collection alone." Eric nodded and picked a baby book, settling in with him in his lap. Ray looked around and wailed. "What?" Xander complained, hands on hips. "Hungry, need changed, or are you feeling left out?" The baby sniffled so he picked him up. "That better?" The baby smiled and snuggled in to be held. "I love you too, Ray cub. It'll be fine." He patted his back, going to get him a bottle too since Alexx was making some. He offered it to the small hand, getting it snatched and sucked on. "Thought so. Come on, Greg. You can eat on the furry rug." Greg crawled back out, following the food Alexx was carrying. She sat down and Greg was in her lap before she could arrange her clothes so they didn't pinch. "Greedy," Xander teased. "What're you gonna do when you attract bad girls?"
"Give them to Tim," Eric said with a grin. He went back to the story when Tim patted him on the cheek.
Alexx shook her head. "You're going to be insane soon, sugar. Just call and ask, we'll babysit now and then."
"Sure." He sat down on the floor with Ray but Ray crawled over to Alexx, sitting in front of her with his mouth open, the bottle in his lap. She cooed and fed him. Greg smacked Ray. She glared at Greg, who sniffled pitifully. "Greg," Xander warned. Greg sniffled even more pitifully, starting to cry. "You can share. He needs to eat too. Just like when Horatio feeds you guys." She fed him next then Ray a bite. Greg settled down at that. "The boy ate the onions off my Big Mac the other day, Alexx. Tim gummed the burger and Ray loved the bun with the sauces, but that one ate onions."
She nodded. "Anything that can go into his mouth is food." She fed him another bite, earning a smile. She heard someone else coming up. "Home for lunch, Horatio?"
"I was going to check on them. How's the babyproofing going, Xander?"
"I'm about halfway done with the faceplate switch. The gate's installed. The latch is on the top." Horatio found it and pulled it back so he could get inside. Ray stared. "No, you can't go down there without an adult." He patted him on the back. "She said you can't leave the hair dryer on the sink."
"I'll remember that from now on." He settled in to hold Ray, getting a scowl from Greg. "You can sit in my lap as well. You were busy." Greg crawled in and settled in the center. "You're a good boy and you're loved, Greg," he soothed, giving him a hug. He took the food from Alexx, feeding both boys. Ray beamed and Greg switched to Alexx's free lap to be fed from. He grinned at her for being his special seat and held her hands for her so she couldn't tickle him. Horatio fed him another bite. "Good boy, Greg. Good boy, Ray." He fed him another bite. "There we go." Greg opened his mouth as soon as he swallowed. "Yes, I know, you're a bottomless pit. We need to check you for worms, Greg."
"The cub is fine," Xander said patiently. "We can feed him a lot and he'll wear it all off. Remember, he's hyper. He was crawling circles around the other boys earlier then he took off after the cat when she came out of hiding again." Horatio smiled. "He's working it off. I used to be a bottomless pit too." Horatio handed him a letter from his pocket. "Who's this from?"
"Tara." He smiled at him. "I gave her my work address. None of the others but the way you talked about her said she was nice."
Xander smiled and nodded. "Thank you." He settled in to look at the letter. Tim looked over at him, bending backward over Eric's arm. "Let me read it first. I'll read it to you tonight. You guys would love Auntie Tara." He smiled at him. Then he went back to his reading. "Awww. I hope she can come down during the summer break." He put it on the table and reached over to tickle Tim, making him squeal in outrage. "Let Uncle Eric read to you." Eric grinned and cleared his throat. Tim paid more attention to him. Xander grinned at Horatio. "She's going to try to come down and she's told the others that I'm fine and well, plus happy. I simply don't want to see them ever again because it'll screw up my mission. Andrew took my spot on the team. She told him what was going on because he's geeky and never was against me personally, he wanted in Buffy's pants. So we're okay there. Even if Willow is still pouting and trying to find us." He shrugged and joined the ones on the floor. Tim got down and came to sit in his lap. "Aww, I needed the baby cuddle," he agreed, giving him a squeeze. "Such a good boy, Tim. A very good boy. We love the cub. Yes we do." Tim beamed at him and moved over to sit in front of Greg and open his mouth for some too. He got Horatio more food and brought it back out. "There, for the three hungry cubs." He sat down behind Tim, and Horatio fed him a bite of applesauce too. He tasted it. "Not bad. Could be worse." He kissed Tim on the head. "You're a good boy, Tim." He got a smile and opened his mouth for more.
"Go eat, Xander. We've got it," Alexx promised. He went to do that, hiding in there so Greg wouldn't demand his food too. He even stopped the microwave before it beeped to alert the little crawling stomach. Someone else came up. "The latch is on the top, Frank," she said, smiling. "What's up?"
"Looking for Horatio. The Chief said there's a budget meeting?"
"Really? I wish he had told me that." He went back to feeding them. "When?"
"About twenty minutes ago."
"Then I can be another ten late." He scraped the last bit out and showed it to them. "All gone, guys." Greg pouted. "There's more for a snack later." Xander brought out the box of cereal, getting a laugh. Alexx poured out a pile into the empty food containers. Greg settled in to stuff his cheeks full, making her laugh and take a picture. Tim stuffed a few into his mouth and gummed them to death. Ray was falling asleep in his uncle's lap. He let Eric take him and got up, waving at Xander before he left.
Xander finished his lunch and came out to take Ray. "There, that way Uncle Eric can go back to work too." Eric heaved himself up, patting all the boys on the head before he left. He grinned at Frank. "You can come feed them cheerios."
"Thanks but they might get me messy. Crooks would never take me seriously if I had applesauce and cheerio crumbs all over me."
Alexx gave him a look. "They did Horatio when he had plum sauce on his shirt that time." She took Ray and got up to put him down, letting the other two boys play for now. She came back and found Greg on his back still eating his cheerios while Tim laid on his stomach and sucked at the bottle on the floor. "Awww." She took another picture and smiled at Xander. "If you need help, you yell, sweetheart."
"I will. I promise I'm not too manly to yelp now and then." They smiled and left him alone. He looked at the boys, laying down next to them. Tim patted him but stayed where he was. Greg was a just right sized pillow for his head. Xander had to sweep Greg's mouth when he fell asleep mid-chew but Speed sucked it off his fingers. Apparently he didn't mind baby spit. Tim fell asleep on Greg's stomach and Xander fell asleep with an arm over the both of them, in case they moved.
Horatio waited while his boss finished up with the other people in the meeting. "Sorry I was late. I went to check on the babyproofing during lunch," he said quietly. "I didn't remember we had a meeting."
"That's fine, Horatio. Come back to the office with me." They walked back that way, him closing the office door behind them. "It was noted to me that you've been spending an extreme amount of time over there."
"My family's there."
"I see. Are you in a relationship with your nephew's guardian?"
Horatio shook his head. "No, sir. Mostly we've got an alliance. He has said I can stay over any time I desire. I've fallen asleep many times in the nursery rocking chair. We're not in a relationship."
"That's fine, Horatio. I wasn't going to judge, simply letting you know what's being said. If it were my only remaining family I'd be fighting him for custody."
"He had some good points, sir. I do work horrendous hours. I do a dangerous job."
"You do stupid things that get you shot at like your hair is a target, Horatio. Be honest," he said, staring him down.
"I try not to."
"I know. Try harder. So you are forming an alliance of sorts with him but it's not sexual in nature?" Horatio nodded, looking at him. "You still have to amend your paperwork, Horatio. Ray Senior is still listed on it," he said gently.
"I'll do that this afternoon, sir. I don't want rumors to start."
"Most of the officers think that you're keeping him there due to the Mala Noche threat."
"That's one reason," he agreed.
"Which is reasonable and it's also reasonable that you spend so much time over there. How is the building looking? I heard he's renovating?"
"There were some bare stud walls when he moved in. He's fixed those, he's painted most of the building. He's planning on finishing the floors sometime soon if he can keep the babies out of the stain." That got a smile. "He had planned on doing it before they could crawl but they learned that trick two days ago."
"That's about on target." He grinned. "How did they learn?"
"Tim wanted to be read to and the books weren't speaking on their own. He went to pull them off the shelves to find a talking book." The Chief laughed at that. "Greg decided to chase the cat around for a bit. There's a stray that sneaks in now and then. Loves to sleep in his crib. Ray's not quite crawling but he's scooting around."
"Good. Do you want to change your address?"
"I'm not giving up my house."
"That's fine, Horatio. However you decide is best for your family. Now, I heard that the boys love CSI Duquesne?"
"They love all blondes," he moaned. He sat down. "I took them high chair shopping." That got a laugh. "I felt so stupid pushing the train cart, sir, but they cooed and tried to grab every single blonde woman in the store. She came over that night at my request and the boys soaked us both during their bath. We both had to borrow clothes. Greg's hyperactivity is already showing and he's forever eating because he wears himself out. Tim loves most everyone as long as they'll read to him. Ray simply wants to be cuddled. It's a tight family. Tim likes to use the other boys as pillows." That got another chuckle. "I'm not sure what's going to happen in the future."
"Whatever makes you happy, Horatio. They're your family. You can't ignore the twins in favor of Ray if you're around them all."
"I know, sir. I'm trying very hard to be equal to all of them." That got an understanding look. "They are little terrors though." He stood up again. "I'll fix my paperwork today."
"Thank you, Horatio. Do you need to start arranging to have less hours?"
"I'm trying at the moment."
"Tell me if you need more help."
"I will, sir. Thank you for your support during all this."
"It's a family, Horatio. We're here to protect them, even our own." He made shooing motions. "Go do that." Horatio nodded, going to HR to get his forms to update them. He smiled at the thought of the three boys running Horatio until his usually impeccable suits were messed and wrinkled and his hair was out of place. Every man deserved that sort of mess in his life. Having three tots terrorizing his wardrobe would add to the fun for those watching.
Horatio finished dragging in some of his clothes, closing the gate behind himself before Tim could get curious and head down the stairs. "No," he warned. Greg crawled off, following the cat again. Tim followed him to his room. Ray was actually crawling tonight, but slower. He joined him in there a few minutes later dragging a bottle by the nipple. "Thirsty?" he teased. He hung up the suits, letting Tim sit on the top of the dresser to help him put away his socks and underwear. He put Ray on the bed, listening to him giggle as he bounced and rolled around. Tim petted his argyle socks with a grin. "I know, they're soft." He touched his cheek. "You need a bath. You are greasy."
"That's because he decided to do a face plant into my piece of pizza for lunch," Xander called from his room. He came in with a basket. "Here, yours. That bottle will leak." He walked off smiling.
Horatio stuck the bottle back into Ray's mouth, earning a happy baby. "You drink that before it messes up the bed more than you are." He caught Tim when he tried to get off by tipping himself over the side, putting him onto the bed too. He crawled up to Ray and sat on him, taking the bottle to drink. Ray huffed and grabbed it back. Tim scowled and took it for himself again. "Why don't we get you one of your own, Tim?" He picked up both boys, one under each arm, and carried them out to the kitchen. Xander handed over a spare bottle. "There, yours."
Tim stole Ray's again and grinned, letting him have the new one. "Fine," Xander agreed. "You have this strange thing about liking the other two's spit." He shrugged. "Whatever. Greg, want a bottle?" He heard a laugh and looked around, sighing. "He's somewhere inside something."
"I'll start in my room, you do yours, then we'll do the nursery and the living room." Horatio headed back to his room. Greg wasn't in his closet, under the bed, or in the dresser. He saw Xander staring in his closet so he walked that way, finding him staring at Greg, who was nestled among some of Xander's flannel shirts that were folded and piled on the floor. Or they had been until the momma cat had pulled them down to form a nest to have kittens on. "Interesting."
"Probably a few days old," Xander said quietly. "Greg, you can't play with them until they can pounce you back," he ordered. The momma cat hissed at him but he took Grg anyway. "Thanks. We'll keep him out." He closed the closet door most of the way, walking the boys out. "You're going to be the best finder in your school, Greg. You'll find every lost thing and every bit of fun to be had." He handed him the bottle and let Horatio have the cat's dishes to put into his closet with them. "We'll let the momma cat nap. We'll check on her later, boys." He went back to cooking dinner, including theirs. When he was done he put theirs into the food processor, whirring it until it was liquid. He poured it out and put his and Horatio's onto plates, putting the boys in their high chairs until Horatio came out to wash his hands. "Are they okay?"
"They're good. There may be a dead one buried in your shirts," he said quietly.
"As long as it doesn't try to possess me. If you see me cleaning my ears with my fingers and tongue, stop me." He handed him the spoon and bowl. "Your turn. They're having the same thing only processed."
"I'm sure they'll enjoy it." He fed the boys bites between his. They weren't that hungry tonight. "How was their appointment this afternoon?"
"I don't like the pediatrician Alexx recommended. He caught me calling them cubs and suggested that they should be at the vet's. I'm guessing he thought it was funny. He did decide that there was no harm in revaccinating them if they did get the old ones. So we got a few shots today." Tim pouted at them. "See? He said otherwise they're healthy but he did warn me that he'd be watching me to make sure they weren't too much for me to handle, you know, if they showed up with bruises and stuff." Horatio grimaced. "Thankfully one of his cohorts there in the same practice is nicer. The nurse suggested I take the boys to her instead, said her own go to her. Our next appointment was made with her instead. They go back in a month to get the other shots they need." Horatio smiled at that, nodding a bit, feeding Tim a bite of dinner, but he was turning his head away.
"Why aren't you hungry this time? If you don't eat, Horatio can't do baths and read you guys a bedtime story tonight." Tim perked up at that. Greg yawned. "Yeah, you guys have to eat." Ray chirped and got fed another bite, then Greg opened his mouth. He made a face and spit it back out. Horatio fed it to him again. He did it again. "Feed it to Tim, he likes baby spit." He did that but he was grimacing himself. Tim ate it and opened his mouth for a second bite. He finished his dinner and took over spoon duties for now. He got some of the fruit flakes and put a few on Greg's bite, making him like it a lot more. "Sure, you can have beef stew with fruit." He tried it with Ray, the picky eater, and he liked it. Tim liked it so he added it to the bowl and they all ate it. "Good boys! Now, let Daddy Horatio finish eating then it's bath time!" That got a massive giggle. They liked bath time.
"They're definitely picking up your love of the water."
"Most babies like water. It's where they came from." He smoothed down Ray's hair. "You need a trim. Some woman in the park thought you were a girl the other day until Greg pounced her for you." Horatio snickered, nearly choking on his current bite of food. "She did and Greg pounced her so she left him alone." Someone knocked, making him look at Horatio, who shrugged. So he went to see who it was. "What's up, Ryan?"
"Bad crap," he muttered. "Horatio?" He let him inside. He jogged up the stair, coming over to whisper in Horatio's ear. "What do you want me to do about it?"
"I'll handle it." He nodded. "When did this happen?"
"Earlier tonight." He looked at Xander. "Sorry."
"Not your fault, Ryan." He looked at the boys. "Come on, I'll start bath time."
"No, I can do baths." He looked at Ryan. "First thing I need you to do is call Eric. Have him drive *her* home."
"I tried, she wouldn't leave him."
"She will for him. Send him home in a cab. They're used to those problems." Ryan nodded, walking off calling Eric. "Calleigh's father grabbed the wheel thinking they were going the wrong way home."
"It happens. My uncle did it to me once or twice too," he admitted. "You sure?"
"She'll either go home or come here." He nodded. "So I can do baths tonight. It'll cheer me up." He finished his dinner and grabbed the boys, taking them into the bathroom to get them stripped down and into the water. Greg gave it then the toilet a thoughtful look so he sat him on top of it, helping him use it. "That's a good boy, Greg. That's a very important big boy skill." Greg looked amazed, looking down in the water. "You do that in there, not in the tub, Greg." He patted him on the head. He beamed and peed some more. "Good boy!" Greg beamed at the others so Horatio sat him in the tub to soak for a few minutes while he let Tim have the potty. Tim scowled but considered it. He leaked a bit then looked at Horatio. "Excellent boy, Tim." Tim beamed. He put him into the tub. Ray got sat up there and he farted. "That's the other thing you do in there," he agreed happily. One less he had to change in a diaper. He let him go in there, patting him on the head. "That's a good boy, Ray. A very good boy." Ray beamed and let him clean his butt with the wet wipe Xander got him. "Greg was giving the tub looks like it was the toilet." He put Ray in the water then flushed. All the boys clapped at that. "You'll get used to that over time and eventually you'll use it too." Xander walked off smiling. Calleigh and Eric came over, her coming in to help with the bath. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly.
"It's only a bump. It'll be a pretty bruise tomorrow. I'm fine." He looked at her. "I am."
Xander walked in and handed her a small bottle. "What I used to use on my uncle and parents when they got too drunk and wanted to drive. It'll knock them out and it'll give them the world's worst hangover in the morning." He walked off again. "Greg, where were you stashing the pumpkin colored stuff to get it on your sheet?" he called. Greg giggled and splashed Ray, nearly knocking him over but Calleigh caught him and got to work on his back. The vial was in her pocket for later consideration. He came back ten minutes later. "Okay, Greg's bedding is in the wash. The last set of clean sheets are on his bed so I'm doing laundry. Be careful if you recharge the hot water in the tub." He walked off, letting Eric have some of the leftovers. Ryan came back so he fed him too, earning a smile. "Calleigh and Horatio are doing baths."
"Alexx said we're having a family meeting because she wanted to know about the holidays."
"Oooh," Xander said, frowning some. "I haven't even gone there yet. It's not Halloween."
"Better to plan now," Eric assured him. "Otherwise the grabbers in there will start to take tinsel and things."
"Ray's the one who grabs shiny things. Greg likes blondes and Tim just likes the pretty ones."
"Xander, why is Greg calling for a bottle?" Horatio called. "Or at least he's stuttering a constant 'b' sound."
"It's either a bottle or he's commenting on being blond like Calleigh is. He likes blondes." Alexx came up the stairs with Frank. He waved. "Hi."
"Where's the trio of terror?" Frank asked.
"Ah." He went to look in the bathroom. "Hi, boys." They all beamed at him. "Alexx said we're doing the pre-holiday decisions tonight."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed. "I usually start shopping right after Halloween so I miss the crowds." He handed Frank Tim, who was half asleep. He struggled. "Let him dress you. The other two are coming out and all your aunts and uncles are out there. We'll do a story in a minute." Tim let himself be carried off with only a little fuss but Frank sat him in Ryan's lap since he had a book. It stopped that. The other two were brought out and dressed, then Horatio sat down to read once Ryan finished. Tim gave him a sleepy smile. "I know, you like being read to."
"I'm sensing that I'm buying them bookshelves for the holidays," Xander quipped. Alexx nodded. "That's fine. I can do that or build them." He got some paper and pens, putting them out for others to make notes on. Then he drug out the play areas they had already. Tim woke up enough to come investigate one. He showed him how things happened. One pulled down and made a loud 'moo' sound, making him flinch. He switched the sounds to music, teaching him to do it again. This time music came out and he beamed at him. "Better?" He patted him on the head. "We'll figure it out." Frank had to help him get the other one together but it was eventually done and Tim came over to look at that one too. It twirled and made grinding noises and had a baby mirror. He stared at that. He looked then at Tim. "That's you but it's a very blurry image. They'd never give babies real mirrors." Tim frowned at him so he picked him up and took him back into the bathroom, letting him look in the mirror. "See, that's you, Tim." Tim leaned forward, patting the baby in the mirror, then he scowled at Xander. "Yes, that's you, Tim." Tim patted the baby again then patted Xander's face. "And me. Yup. I'm in there too." He kissed him on the head and walked him back out. "Bad mirror on the toy." He put him back down, letting him check out the toys. "Ryan, reach back and slam the gate?" He did that. "Thanks. The momma cat can get over it if she's down there."
"Momma cat?" Frank asked.
"Hmm, five kittens in his closet," Horatio agreed. "She's being fixed once they're weaned, Xander. Even if she does go away again."
"Of course she is." He looked at Alexx. "What about the holidays?"
"We've got to decide who gets you four, or five, during the holidays, sugar. Plus presents and teach you how to do a tree the babies won't get into."
Eric snickered. "You can do that? My mother never learned that trick." Alexx looked at him. "I ate tinsel many years according to my sisters, who still tell anyone I bring home about me crapping purple shiny stuff for weeks on end."
Frank shook his head. "Your sisters are mean, Delko." He looked at Alexx. "We'll be out of town for both with the wife's mother."
"I don't expect them to clean up for Christmas," Xander told them all. "A few books, maybe some shirts or stuff." Horatio smacked him on the head. "Ow! What was that for?"
"Shut up, Xander."
"Fine," he sighed, leaning on his knees, watching Tim play. "I can probably cook one of the two dinners."
Alexx stared at him. "You can cook?"
"I learned from doing many fast food jobs, including cooking the snacks at a strip club," he quipped. Her mouth opened.
"We had a very nice salsberry steak tonight," Horatio agreed. She blinked. "He's a decent cook."
"At least the babies won't starve when they move to normal food," Ryan said.
"They had pureed dinner." Xander looked at her. "I can take one."
"All right, you take Thanksgiving them." He nodded. "We'll make it pot luck so we can bring something if we're coming."
"I try to do the family thing," Calleigh offered. "It usually lasts a few hours."
"I go serve at a senior's center," Ryan admitted. Eric looked at him. "It cheers them up a bit. A lot of them don't have family that visit."
"We have a cookout," Eric admitted.
"So I'll make it dinner instead of lunch," Xander said, making a note. "Turkey, cranberry stuff from a can, and potatoes good?" Everyone nodded. "Okay, I'll do that and two pies. You guys can bring the rest if you're coming over." They all nodded, happier with that. He looked at Horatio. "You're more than welcome to watch my brilliance in action that day as well."
"Ray is my only family, Xander," he said gently.
"Sorry, I didn't know if you went to help somewhere or not."
"No, I used to go pick on Yelina while she was cooking," he said with a sad smile. Frank patted him on the back. "Thank you."
"It's always hardest the first holiday," Xander reminded him. "We're still here though." Horatio nodded, patting him on the head. "Okay, anything *you* have to have for Thanksgiving?"
"I can do that." He put it on his list. "Okay, Yule dinner?" Everyone stared at him. "Yes, I'm a Pagan. I'll put it on Christmas but the boys and I are doing Yule. Which means I'm cleaning that day then letting them help me with the symbolic fire, 'cause no fireplace, and then a dinner that night. Even if I'm not sure I want the sun to come back as strong as it was this year."
Frank looked at him. "Still feel up to cooking on the twenty-fifth too?"
"I don't mind doing it."
"I'll do Christmas lunch," Alexx said firmly. "How big is your dinner?"
"Probably not *huge*. They can't eat most stuff still. So it'll be us unless one of you guys wants to come over."
"My uncle used to date an HP," Ryan said quietly.
"I don't practice but you're more than welcome to come revel with us, Ryan," Xander assured him. That got a smile. "Can you bring fruit stuff?"
"Sure, I can do that." He smiled. "What can I get the boys?"
"Sure, I can do that. We'll compare titles so we don't duplicate them." Eric nodded at that. "What else do you get toddlers?"
"There's all sorts of noisy toys," Eric assured him. "Momma's banned most of them from the house."
"I'm getting Greg a bell necklace," Xander said, looking around. "Greg?" He pounced him from behind. "Hi, Greg. Shouldn't you be asleep?" He looked back as much as he could, getting his ear sucked on. "Need a drink?" Greg cooed. Frank got up to get a bottle. "Just one, they'll share." Greg crawled after him to pounce his ankle and giggle. Frank smiled as he handed it over. Greg crawled off with the nipple in his mouth. He went to pounce the other two, making Tim yawn and steal the bottle. Greg huffed and took it back, settling in on Ray's head. Horatio moved him so Ray wouldn't be crushed, but Ray fussed. Greg spit at him and snuggled in on Tim's head instead. Tim stole the bottle when it bopped him in the nose, but Greg took it back a few minutes later. It bopped Tim on the nose again so he stole it and cuddled it. Greg fussed. "Share," he ordered. "Or get off Tim's head and sleep on his tummy instead." He shifted Greg and he got the bottle while Tim was holding it. It was happier for both of them. Ray yawned and rolled to make Tim sleep on the floor instead, making him laugh. "I know, they abuse you horribly as their pillow, Ray." He stroked over his head until he fell back asleep. "Anymore I let them nap out here on the furry rug. They fuss if I try to separate them."
Alexx smiled. "My babies are going to love watching them over the holidays."
"How many am I cooking Thanksgiving for?"
"Just me," Ryan told him.
"Hmm. Probably just me unless Momma hijacks me and makes me bring her too."
"It'll only be me, Xander," Calleigh assured him with a smile. "Most of us are single."
"I'll still be upstate," Frank offered. "Probably driving back belching. For some reason she adds taco seasoning to the turkey."
Horatio shook his head. "It'll be us here. Alexx, you, Peter, and the kids?"
"That'd be fine if he wouldn't mind." Xander shrugged, making a note of the count. "They won't eat that much. I usually do a huge spread for the neighborhood. We have a cooperative, multi-family cookout that day."
Xander grinned. "That's fine." He looked at Frank. "I'll save you some leftovers. It's a time honored tradition, or so I'm told."
"What was your family one like?" Calleigh asked.
"Beer." He looked at her. "It gave them a day off to drink longer. I think last year I had spam for Thanksgiving." She gave him a hug. "It's all right, I left them to their miserable existences. After all, when I turned eighteen they lost their support checks, food stamps, and health cards." He grinned. "It's the best revenge I could give them." She patted him on the cheek. "Anything you *need* to have?"
"No, I'm good with the usual. Are you going to bake or fry the turkey?"
"I haven't decided yet." He shrugged. "I'll figure that out next week when I find out which one is more work."
Eric shook his head. "You're a braver man than I am, Xander." Xander smirked at that. "No comment."
"Fine. I won't comment on the woman I saw you with when I took the boys out to find more milk the other night. You did know she was a succubus, right?" He nodded. "Okay, as long as you knew. They're fun to play with." He shrugged and looked at Alexx again. "You cannot spoil the boys for the holiday."
"Shut up, Xander," she said with a fond smile. "I can spoil mine and yours."
He huffed but Horatio patted him on the head. "These are the only children that the rest of the single people can spoil, Xander. Let them."
"Fine. But nothing too outrageous." They all stared at him. "We went to the baby store the other day and saw platinum rattles and things. Ray still has this thing for shiny things. He's very good at shoplifting too."
"What were you doing there?" Ryan asked, looking confused.
"Picture clothes. I figured everyone would want new pictures."
"Oh, good point. Are they cute?"
"They are and they'll be ready on the twelfth."
"That'll work," Horatio agreed. "I do have to warn you that we usually get one very bad case right before the holidays."
"It happens, Horatio. If only so some people can get away from their families. I'm sure all that good cheer doesn't extend toward all men on earth."
"No, not usually," Frank admitted. "We get the one guy who comes in to kill while visiting his family for the past four years. We get a bunch of 'I killed my family because they nagged me' cases."
"Usually at least two rapes from all the holiday parties," Ryan offered. Calleigh nodded. "Plus a lot of DUIs."
"Plus the normal gang violence," Calleigh offered.
"By the way, they're filling Yelina's spot, Horatio," Eric told him. He looked at him. "John Hagen's coming back." He ignored Calleigh's blush. "He was carting stuff over today. He'll start tomorrow."
"He's a good detective," Horatio said quietly. Xander stroked his back, earning a smile. "He's an old friend."
"Yeah but it still hurts." He looked around. "Should I bring the boys in for lunch sometime soon and scare the crap out of him with them?"
Calleigh giggled. "He'd back away from them very slowly but not reach for his gun."
Horatio nodded, smiling a bit. "He would. We'll introduce him slowly to the group." He smiled at Xander. "Should I invite him over for Thanksgiving?"
"If he's a nice guy I don't care."
"Welcome." He looked around. "Should I plan on getting toys for crawling or walking babies?"
"Babies don't walk, they run, baby," Alexx assured him. "But get them for the running ones."
"So the playset downstairs should go in soon. Gotcha." Horatio smiled at that. "It'll have slides and things. Maybe even a ball pit for them to play in. It depends on what I can find the plans for." He made a note of that on his list as well. "They're outgrowing their current clothes again," he announced. "Anyone who wants to can buy them clothes. Do not buy Winnie the Pooh stuff except Tigger for Greg. Tim screams if you try to put Tigger on him and any other Pooh character gets another scream from them all. Even if you put them in a regular kangaroo shirt they scream. Though, Tim does like his Smurf shirt quite a lot. He likes to scowl in it, but he likes it a lot."
"That doesn't really surprise me. He hated Smurfs so it's probably a baby 'not' in his mind somewhere."
"Well, yeah, he is Grumpy Smurf," Xander agreed. "Probably growing into Brainy some year."
"With you luck one will end up being a great drag queen," Ryan teased.
"Greg," Xander and Eric said together. Ryan snickered. "Ray will help with the shiny stuff."
Horatio shook his head. "Let's not wish that on the boys." He looked around. "Eric, what are you getting them?"
"Clothes and books."
"I'm going to try for some books and a few toys," Calleigh offered.
"I'll go for toys. I can't pick out good kid's books," Ryan told him. "The last one I picked out was about ancient myths and it had incest in the story." Xander grinned at that and pointed behind him at the shelf. "Yeah, that series. I got him one of the Middle Eastern myths." He pulled down one he hadn't seen before, looking through it. "Wow."
"Very wow. They can have those when they're older, but Greg does like to try to chew on them," Xander admitted. Horatio shook his head again. "They were kid-looking books. They should know history stuff. Mythology has good stories, even if I do have to tame those down for them."
"Let us get them books," Eric offered with a grin. Frank nodded. "You get them their own bookcase that Tim can't crawl up." He looked in his lap at the head butting into his stomach. "What?" He picked him up to hold him. "What's wrong, Tim?" He smiled. "You want another story?" That got a coo so he took the book from Ryan to read it. Even if he did tame it down a lot for the boy. It was a good story, even with the homicide of his children in the center - quickly translated as grounding them to their room, called Tartarus.
Alexx looked at Xander and Ryan. "I'll tell you where I go to get good used books too." She made a note of that on her list. "How do you feel about noisy toys?" Xander shrugged. "They'll be playing with them in the middle of the night at least once."
"All toys go back into the toybox once they're walking," Horatio assured her. "Also, Greg made the connection tonight between the bathtub with water and the toilet with water. So I let him use the toilet. He was very good at it. They all were." That got smiles. "Hopefully that means it'll be easy to potty train." Alexx shook her head. "Shoot."
"It'll be fine. They'll tell us when they're ready," Xander promised. "They'll try to run around naked." He looked at her. "I don't mind noisy toys."
"Yes you will," Eric assured him. "They're like Christmas carols. After the tenth rendition you're tired of them."
"They'd better not irritate me that much," Horatio offered. "So pick them with my ears in mind, guys." That got some nods and a few smiles. "Ray is my nephew and I'm staying over more often to help with the trio."
Xander nodded. "He's got his own room too. He needs more sheets." Horatio gave him a look. "There's only three set of adult sheets in the house."
"That's fine. I can bring over a few more sets." He looked around. "How should we introduce them to John?"
"Invite him over?" Frank suggested. "That way he sees Calleigh cuddling and sighs at them. Then he'll underestimate the hell they cause and be totally shocked when they grab blondes in the store."
Xander looked at him. "That's why I get the carts with the baby jail." Frank looked confused. "You know the ones with the deep basket in the back?" He nodded slowly. "Put Greg and Tim in there. Let Ray have the normal seat to guard things and hand him something shiny. The baby jail keeps Greg and Tim from grabbing most women and Ray's satisfied as long as nothing too shiny attracts his attention. It also keeps Tim from grabbing stuffed animals and Greg from grabbing shirts for me."
"He did have a good time looking at some printed shirts," Horatio admitted, ignoring what the boy was wearing. He had to before he went blind.
Xander looked at him. "Remark on mine and I'll remark on your fascination for the striped pattern."
Horatio looked at him. "Striped pattern?"
"How many shirts do you own that aren't striped?"
"Point," he decided.
"So you two are doing a shirt exchange this year?" Calleigh teased. Horatio nodded and Xander shrugged. "Good. Anything else you need, Xander?"
He looked at her. "Chocolate good." Horatio shuddered and shook his head. "I like chocolate."
"Yes, but you share with Greg and nothing stops you two running around squealing at each other," he said gently. "Even handcuffs the last time, Xander."
"We were playing," he pouted.
Calleigh shook her head. "We'll figure it out, boys." She noticed Alexx trying not to laugh. "Greg does like candy."
"Uh-huh. Horatio started that off when he asked if the boys could have the big tootsie rolls."
"Next year I'll have to figure out how to hang stockings," Xander reminded them. They all nodded and the serious planning started. That way they wouldn't overlap things. Alexx even gave them a weekend to shop so they could compare presents with what was already bought, that way no one would buy two of anything.
Calleigh smiled when John Hagen walked into her lab. "I heard you were back," she teased.
"I am. Who're the kids on your desk? I didn't think anyone around here spawned."
"Oh, that's Tim, Greg, and Ray the third."
"So, Horatio's nephew, but who're the other two?"
"The twins he's being raised with. Tim's Speed's son. Greg's the son of a tech out of Las Vegas. Their mother used IVF or something and left them to Xander when she died."
"Oh." He nodded. "They're cute."
"Until you have to babysit," she said with a smile. "By the way, you were invited for Thanksgiving and Christmas if you wanted."
"I'll consider it." He smiled at her. "You look tired."
"I ended up crashing at Xander's last night. We were having a talk about what to get the kids for the holidays. I fell asleep on the floor with the boys. They all ended up using me as a pillow."
"I bet that was cute. Any pictures?" he teased, moving closer.
"Not if they value their lives," she said sweetly.
Eric leaned in. "Yes, Xander has one and he's keeping it hidden. Hi, John. We are taking the boys to the park this weekend, Calleigh." She gave him a horrified look. "Xander needs to look at play sets in use to gauge what he wants to build. He asked for backup."
"If I'm not on," she said weakly.
He grinned. "Momma's coming out that day too. Just Momma, not the whole heathen pack of Delko babies." He grinned and walked off.
"Oh, my." She shook her head. "Bring cuffs," she told him.
"I can do that. How scary are they?"
"They're eight months old, John. They're very scary. They're crawling too."
"Ooooh. I'll bring multiple sets of cuffs." He smiled. "I'll see you in a while. I'm first up for a case and I heard it'd be yours."
"Probably. Unless Ryan's done then it'd be ours probably." He nodded and left her alone. She shuddered at the thought of Xander and John meeting. Two very alpha dogs would end up fighting. Or something.
To part 2: