From:"josette Grover"
            Date:Fri, 13 Oct 2006 13:21:09 -0400
            Subject:[imaginings] Hey Vo, an couple evil bunniesy just jumped me--

          Offshoot of Miami Connections--What if Father Benis had succeeded in getting custody of Xander when he was born?  What kind of life would Xander have had with Patrick and his Sire?

I love you, Josette.  You gave me bad dreams.  Again.  ::sigh::


Miami's Good Boy.

Horatio looked around the small shopping center.  Something was off.  It was a pretty spring day.  It had rained the last few days and now people were out doing things and chatting in the sunshine.  As he was.  He checked, his badge was on straight.  It was fairly new to have the gold shield.  He had only made detective six months ago.  He heard a quiet sniffle and tracked it to a child staring around.  "Hey," he said gently, squatting down.  "What's wrong?"

The boy, all black mop of hair and big brown eyes with a few freckles across his nose, gave him a stare.  Then he grinned.  "My bodyguard is lost."

"He is?  How did he get lost?"

"He was chatting to some guy and it was boring so I went to pet a puppy dog and he never came back," he said.

Horatio smiled.  "What's your name, so we can see if we can find him for you?"


"Xanner?  Or Xander?"

"Xanner," he said, nodding proudly.  He turned and showed him the name on the inside of his shirt.

"Okay, Xander.  I'm a police officer."  He showed him his badge.  "Let's see if we can help you find your lost bodyguard.  I know sometimes adults get lost and get panicked if they can't find their kids."  Xander took his hand when he stood up, letting him walk him off.  "Where were you petting the dog?"  He pointed so Horatio went that way.  After an hour there was still no adult looking for him.  "I tell you what.  Let's go back to my police station and we'll see if he's there waiting on you?  That's a good place to look for lost adults."

"Okay," he agreed, beaming at him.  "Do you always carry a gun?  My bodyguard doesn't.  He said I'm mean and might touch it again."

"I have to, it's part of the job," Horatio said patiently, walking him to his car.  "Okay.  You're still little so I'm going to put you in the backseat, okay?"  Xander nodded, crawling right in.  He looked around with a frown.  "I know, there's no booster seat but I think it'll be okay for the ride to the station to find your lost bodyguard."  He buckled him in and then closed the door gently, walking around to get in and drive.  He smiled back at the boy before starting the car, heading to his desk in the homicide division.  He parked and got out, walking Xander inside.  He saw a few familiar faces.

"Couldn't stay away on your day off?"

"He's helping me find my lost bodyguard," Xander said politely.  "He wandered off when I went to pet a puppy dog."  His grandfather would be proud about how polite he was being.

The man who had spoken smiled at him.  "You're very smart.  How old are you?"


"You're very smart for five," he said, handing him a breath mint.  "There, it's all the candy I have, kid."

"Thank you, Officer."  He stuck it into his mouth, following Horatio to his desk.  He let Horatio sit him in the spare chair and kicked his feet, watching him sit down to make some calls.  "Did he report himself missing?"

"Not yet but I wanted to ask you some questions.  Maybe we can try your house, see if he went there.  Would that be okay?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Okay, do you know your last name?"


"Benis?  Good."  He wrote that down.  "What's your father's name?"  Xander sniffled.  "Hey, it's all right."  He touched his hand. "It's all right. You can tell me."

"Grandpa made Daddy go away 'cause he was bad and mean and evil and nasty," he said firmly.  "Mommy too.  She's stupid too."

Horatio nodded, looking very solemn.  "That can happen sometimes.  It sounds like your grandfather takes good care of you, Xander."  He beamed and nodded again.  "What's your grandfather's first name?"


"Father?" he asked, looking at him.  "Is your grandfather a priest?"  Xander nodded.  "Okay.  Do you know where he works?"

"The study."

Horatio blinked a few times, hearing a female laugh somewhere nearby.  "Yelina?" he called.  She came over, smiling at the young boy.  "This is Xander Benis.  His bodyguard got lost when he went to pet a dog."

"He was making chocolatey gooey eyes at his boyfriend," Xander said. "It was boring."

Yelina smiled, stroking over his hair.  "I'm sure you were very good and tried to wait," she said gently.   He beamed and nodded, then petted her stomach.  "I'm not pregnant, Xander."

"Yes you are."

"No, I'm not."

Horatio looked at her.  "Then define what you ate for lunch, Yelina?" he asked.  He looked at the boy.  "Does your grandfather live with a man or a woman?"

"Sire," he said proudly.  "He's pretty neat.  He spoils me and he plays with me and he lets Grandpa read to me when Grandpa should be taking a nap so he takes one.  I make a very good bedtime helper."

"Hmm.  Okay."  He found a phonebook, looking up the last name of Benis.  There was only one.  "Is your grandfather's first name Patrick as well as Father?"

"How'd you know?" he asked.

"A lucky guess," he said.  "Why... why doesn't Yelina take you to look out the window for a minute while I call him?"

"Okay."  He hugged her stomach then climbed down and let her walk him off.

Horatio dialed the number.  "Is this the Benis residence?"  He smiled.  "This is Detective Caine down in homicide.  I was out and ran into a young boy by the name of Xander who seems to have a lost bodyguard.  He said his bodyguard got lost when he went to pet a dog."  He smiled at the screaming going on in the background.  "He's safe, he's here at homicide with us, sir.  I would need his legal guardian to pick him up, yes, sir.  That's the law.  Thank you.  Of course we'll be here.  Thank you, sir."  He hung up and went to find them.  He found Xander staring at someone, his head tipped to the side.  "Do you know him, Xander?"

"Yeah, that's my poor bodyguard's boyfriend.  Sire made him send him away.  He said he was a shitbag."

Yelina coughed. "That's a bad word, Xander.  Only adults can say it," she said firmly.

He blinked up at her. "Okay," he said quietly.  She picked him up to hug him.  "You smell nice.  Ooh, a kitty."  They both turned and saw a small kitten.  "Where did yo come from?  Is your mommy lost like my bodyguard is?"  He wiggled his way down and went to pet the kitten, crawling after her.  He crawled back under the nice detective's desk, heading to the hole she had went in.  "Ewww!"

"What's back there, Xander?" Yelina called.  "And come out of there!"

"There's kitties and a napping guy!"  He crawled back out.  "The kitties are all curled around the mommy.  The napping guy stinks."

Horatio blinked.  "Frank, move please?"  He got out of the way and Horatio got down there to look with Frank's flashlight.  "See the plastic bin there?"  Xander looked where he was pointing and nodded.  "Can you put the kitties in there and push it out to me please, Xander?  That way we can find them a very good home.  The mother should follow them."  He nodded, going to do that for him.  The mother hissed.  "Hey," Horatio snapped.  "Don't hiss at him."  The boy smiled shyly and went back to placing the kittens into the tub.  He pushed it out so Horatio could catch it.  The mother followed so he stuck her in there and handed the bin off.  "Okay, Xander.  Do you see another doorway?"

"Um...."  He looked around and pointed.  "There's a piece of wood here that doesn't look like a door but it's propped up."

"Go ahead and push on it.  Let's see if we can find a bigger hole."  Xander did that and he heard the crash so he went to get him out of the utility closet.  "Thank you, Xander. That's a very good boy.  Now, go play with the kittens for a few minutes, okay?  Let me make sure he's okay."  Xander nodded, going to do that with Yelina at Horatio's desk on the other side of the room.  He checked the body.  "Frank, we have a stabbing victim."

"I'll call the ME.  You want it?"

"It's my day off, Frank."

"Fine, I'll take it since it led to my desk.  Any idea if he's one of us?"

"I think he's maintenance."  He got out, letting him see it.  Horatio called Dispatch. "This is Caine in homicide.  We found a dead body in our utility closet.  Need an ME, yes.  Thank you."  He hung up and went to wash his hands then help Xander do the same since he was dancing around.  "Need to use the bathroom?"  He nodded and ran that way, making Yelina and Horatio both smile.  It was cute.  He helped the boy into the lone working stall, him listening for the young boy to need help.  Xander came out and only needed his pants zipped.  "Can't quite get it?" he asked.

"It's stuck.  It hates me.  I hate these pants."

Horatio smiled, zipping him up.  "There you go.  Let's wash our hands, okay?"  Xander nodded, doing that with him.  "Good boy."  He walked him back out, running into the back of a frantic man.  "You are?"

"Xander!" he said, picking him up to hug him.  "You are in such deep shit for wandering off."

"I went to pet the puppy because you were making chocolatey gooey eyes at the mean guy Sire made you send away.  But I found Horatio.   He wasn't lost like you were and we found kittens together and a smelly, napping guy."

The young man looked at Horatio.  "Thank you.  He's got attention problems and likes to wander off when he's bored."

Horatio shook his hand.  "It's not a problem but the law does say that only his legal guardian can claim him."

"He's on his way.  I've already gotten an earful."  He hugged Xander again.  "You're going to be spanked when you get home, young man."

"Why?  You're the one who got lost."  He got free by kicking him in the stomach then went back to playing with Yelin and the cats.

Horatio helped him up off the ground.  "We do still need to have his legal guardian down here to claim him."

"His grandfather's ill, he doesn't get out of house much anymore," he said quietly.

"Then we'll need documentation from his grandfather or whoever has custody saying that you or whoever can take him home."  He looked over as the body was taken away.  "He'll be safe here if you need to go home to get that."

"Ahhh."  He looked at the kid then shook his head.  "I'm sorry he came to you."

"I found him looking around by himself," Horatio said, staring him down.  The man flinched back.  "He said you were busy and didn't see him wander off."

"He likes to wander.  He's a pain."

"He's a very smart little boy."

"Who uses it to smart off," the bodyguard complained.

"He's very good," Horatio told him.  "He has been for me all the time I've had him."

"He's a holy terror, Detective.  You have no idea what he's like at home.  His grandfather should beat the crap out of him to make him quit wandering off."

"Perhaps it's more that he needs things to keep his attention," Horatio said, staring him down.  The man wilted.  "We need either his legal guardian or a document authorizing his release."  He walked back over there, finding Xander talking to her stomach.  "Hmm.  You're very careful with her baby, Xander."

"I'm not pregnant," Yelina said with a sweet smile.

"You had tunafish with pickles for lunch," he told her.  "On mac'n'cheese, Yelina."  Xander made a grossed out face.  "Take a test.  It's not that hard."  He picked Xander up, standing him on the desk.  "Your bodyguard is going to have to get some paperwork so he can take you back to your grandfather.  He will be back in a few minutes."

"Okay.  Can I play with the kitties?" he asked happily.  "All we have is a puppy dog at home and she's all slobbery and icky.  I can't really play with her because Sire's afraid she'll slobber on me or I'll make her quit working."

"Sure.  If you want," he agreed, putting him back down.  "Stay here in this cubicle.  Don't wander off, Xander.  You wouldn't want to make us be lost too."  He nodded, sitting down to play with the kittens and mother cat very gently.  He looked at her.  "Test?" he suggested.  She huffed off.  She came back ten minutes later scowling.  "Was there a reason for the disgusting lunch?"

"Yes," she complained.  Xander beamed at her.  "You are a very smart little boy," she said, patting him on the head.  "How did you know I was pregnant?"

"The baby said so."

"Okay."  She smiled and gave him another pat.  "I'll go see if anyone has anything good for you to drink or nibble on."  He beamed and bounced a bit but nodded.  "Good boy, you stay here."  She walked off, heading outside once she asked the receptionist to find him something to nibble on.  She looked up and let out a shriek of anger.  "I'll kill my husband."  The nearby officers glared at her so she glared back.  "If you see my spouse, tell him he's a dead man."

"Pregnant?" one guessed.  She gritted her teeth but nodded.  "Congrats, Detective."  He fled inside to call her husband's desk in patrol.  He was going to be doing some very major sucking up tonight.

Yelina waited, spotting a limo pulling in.  That wasn't the usual car you saw at homicide.  An older man got out once the driver had an umbrella over his head to block out the sun. She smiled at him.  "You're here for Xander?" she asked.

"I am.  Where is my grandson?" he asked quietly.

"Inside at Detective Caine's desk playing with some kittens he found."

"Thank you, Detective."  He walked inside, the umbrella being put up.  Another man hurried inside after him and the bodyguard as well.  "Detective Caine?" he asked.  He got pointed in the right direction, smiling at the man and the boy playing together.  "Xander, how did you make your bodyguard lost?"

"SIRE!" he squealed, hugging him.  "Hi!  Hi, Gordon!" he said cheerfully, waving at him.  "Come see the kitties I found."  He led Sire over to the kitties so he could see them.

"They are quite adorable but just babies, Xander.  I'm sure they have a home."  Xander pouted.  "Sonya would eat them.  She doesn't like cats."

"She stays out in the gardens and around the walls," he pouted.  "The kitties could live in the house.  Grandfather could play with them with me."

"Xander," the bodyguard snapped.  "No whining."

"Shut up, poopie head."  He looked at Sire.  "Pretty please, Sire?  Just one kitty?"  He held up his favorite.  "He likes to give my fingers kitty baths."

Horatio coughed.  "As far as we know they are homeless," he said quietly.  The older man looked at him.  "Animal control will be here once he goes home."

"That's reasonable."  He looked at Xander and sighed.  "Fine.  You can take the cats home.  If you can talk your grandfather into it they can stay."

"But...that's a reward and he wandered off," the bodyguard complained.  "Again!"

Sire glared at him.  "Shut up."  He slunk back, shrinking down behind Gordon.  He looked at the redheaded man next to him.  "Detective Caine I presume?"

"I am," he agreed, shaking his hand.  "I think we should talk for a minute.  If you do have the paperwork?"  He snapped his fingers and Gordon handed them over.  "DA Prescott.  He didn't say he knew you or I would've called you directly," he offered, looking it over.  He smiled and put it aside.  "That'll do nicely.  Now, Xander, can you and Gordon take the kitties to the car?"

Xander gave him a strong hug.  "I'll miss you.  You're neat."

"You're neat too," he agreed, smiling at him.  "If you need help or if you get lost again you can have them call me here, okay?  Have them ask for Detective Horatio Caine."

"I will."  He gathered the escaping mother cat.  "Come on, kitties, we'll go see if Grandfather will play with you too."  He beamed at Gordon.  "Hi.  He was lost."

"That happens now and then," he agreed.  "Thanks, Caine."

"Not a problem.  He was a great help."  He waited until they were gone before standing up and helping the other man up.  "Xander's bodyguard yelled at him," he said quietly.  "Not that I think he should be wandering off, but it was fairly clear that the boy has attention span problems.  He indicated it wasn't the first time?"

Sire shook his head.  "We know the boy has ADHD, Detective.  We're working on it at home.  He's got medicines but they're not working right at the moment."

"Then I would suggest an identity bracelet," Horatio offered. "With his grandfather's or your name and a phone number.  If you put his name on it someone can use it to get too friendly with him.  Frankly, I found him in the middle of an outdoor shopping center about three hundred meters from where he said he wandered off to because his bodyguard was apparently having ...congress with his boyfriend.  He did say some mean things about him as well."

"Oh, he's getting spanked for that.  His bodyguard knew better.  We told him to dump the idiot last month."  Horatio smiled.  "The ID bracelet is a good idea.  Did anything happen?"

"He told one of our detectives she was pregnant.  He was right."  Sire groaned.  "He followed the cats into the now-open crawl space and found a dead body as well.  We let him believe he was napping and stinky as he put it."

Sire smiled.  "Thank you, Detective.  We'll deal with the little hellion."

"Honestly, he was a good boy for me.  He talked to me once he saw the badge.  He told me what his name was and showed me the name in his shirt.  He gave me very good descriptions."

"The boy's smart."

"He is.  Very well spoken for his age too."

"That's Patrick's thing," he admitted with a small smile.  "I'll tell him you said he was a good boy.  Thank you."

"Not a problem.  He can call me if he gets lost again.  This way I know who to call."  That got a nod and the other man walked off with Horatio escorting him.  He waved at Xander, who was standing on the seat and hanging out the window of the limo.  "You be a good boy, Xander.  I'll miss you."

"Miss you too!  Thank you for finding the lost one for me!"  He waved and got back inside when his sire and his umbrella holder came back.

Horatio smiled at Yelina.  "I hope my nephew is as smart as he is."

"I can only hope so too."  They both waved as the limo pulled out, smiling at it.  "He was a good boy."

"He was."  He gave her a pat on the arm. "Tell me when to come pick up his mutilated corpse so we can celebrate."  He walked back inside to write the short report and hand it to his boss with the release form.  He hadn't heard the name before so he did a search through the old, junky computers they had, finding out more about the family.  No wonder the boy had bodyguards.


Xander walked into his grandfather's study.  "I'm home."

"You're also grounded," his grandfather said firmly.  Xander gave him a hurt look.  "You know better than to wander off, grandson."


"No," he said firmly.  "You know better than to wander off."

"He was being stupid with his boyfriend!  It was gooey and sickening.  They were kissing and groping and stuff.  I only went to play with the dog.  He could still see me if he looked."

"Xander," he said quietly.  Xander broke down in tears, running up to his room.  Patrick sighed, leaning back in his favorite chair.  "Sire?"

He walked in with the cats.  "We need to fix his attention problem and his bodyguard. We've both said it.  With him taking the dirtbag back, we definitely do not want him around Xander," he said quietly.  He pointed at the bin.  "He found them at the station and thought you'd like to play with them with him."

"I would like that.  Bring him back down here?"  He nodded, going to grab the boy from his room.  He smiled at the cats, letting the mother sniff his hand.  She hissed.  "I know, they're precious to you.  The same as Xander is to me."

"Really?" Xander sniffled.

"Yes, really.  Come here, grandson."  He came over and crawled into his lap, ignoring the bodyguard's protest that he shouldn't be crawling all over him since he was ill.  "Sire, please."  He led him off to talk to him.  He smiled at his grandson.  "You know why you should not ever leave your bodyguard's side, Xander."

He pouted, resting his head against his shoulder.  "Bad guys might take me," he said pitifully.  "But it was a puppy.  They were doing icky stuff and I didn't want to watch.  It took *forever*!"

"How long was forever this time?" Sire asked as he came back in.

"The guy playing the banjo played six whole songs."

"That is a long time," Patrick agreed, smoothing down the wild dark hair.  "You still should have stayed by him, not wandered off."

"I wandered for a long time.  He got me a cheeseburger and we were going to eat before I wandered off."

Sire checked his watch.  "It's five.  How long did Caine have you?"

"Long time but not as long," he pouted.  "We looked in the park first.  I couldn't find the puppy again to show him."

"That's okay.  You did a good thing trusting the policeman, Xander.  You're still grounded to the house for the next three days for wandering off however," Patrick told him.  Xander gave him the most pitiful look.  "You're not supposed to wander off."

"His boyfriend told me to go 'way."

"Then I'm going to spank him," Sire promised.  "You're still grounded."

"Can't I be spanked instead?  I can take spankings."

"You need to learn this lesson, grandson.  Last time it didn't help.  This time I want you to remember it."

"He told me to go 'way.  I was doing what I was told, which makes me a good boy," he reasoned.

Patrick smiled.  "He's in trouble for saying that and you still knew better than to follow that order."  Xander nodded, hanging his head.  Sire handed him one of the kittens, which got petted listlessly.  "It's all right.  We still love you even though you did wander off again."

"The nice detective suggested an ID bracelet, Patrick," Sire said quietly.  "Plus looking into something to help his ADHD."

"I don't like the idea of drugging him."

Xander frowned at him.  "No more pills," he begged.  "I'll be extra specially good if I don't have to take more pills, Grandfather.  Please?"

"Who's been giving you pills?"

"Cook does at breakfast, then Gordon does at lunch, and then the idiot does when he takes me out.  They make me feel funny and my head hurts.  I get confused."

"Okay.  No more pills," Patrick assured him.  "Not until we find a way for you to be less confused."

"I'll gather them and yell," Sire promised, going to do that.

Patrick smiled.  "Now, you're still grounded but we still love you."  Xander nodded, giving him a hug.  "Good boy, Xander."

"Can we still play with the kitties?" he asked in a tiny voice.

"I think we should.  All God's creatures need love, kitties and puppies more than most."  The boy beamed and helped him get down to pet and play with the cats.  "Do you think Gordon would like a cat, Xander?"

"Yup, and maybe Cook too?" he asked hopefully.  "She could use someone to spoil and fuss over since you won't let her fuss over you."

Patrick laughed.  "That she could.  When they're a bit older and their mother doesn't have to feed them anymore, we'll let those two and the other nice ones pick out a cat, all right?  We'll keep one or two out of the nine?"  Xander beamed and nodded, hugging him again.  "That's my good boy."  Sire came back in.  "We will need litter boxes until some of them are adopted out among the staff."

"But not the poopie head," Xander ordered.  "He's stupid and he does gooey things in public like grope."

"Not him," Patrick agreed.  "Quit calling people names."

"Yes, sir."

"Good boy."  He patted him.  "We've reached an agreement.  We'll play with the cats tonight and then Xander's going to be grounded for three days for wandering off again."

"That sounds fair."  He came over to help.  "Xander?"  The boy looked at him.  "Repeat the detective's name so you remember it?  Just in case someone gets lost on you again?"

"Detective Horatio Caine."  He beamed proudly.  "Did I get it right?"

"You did," Sire praised, stroking over his hair.  "Good boy.  Cook, we need something for the cats," he called.

"She needs someone to fuss over since Grandfather won't let her fuss over him," Xander said seriously.

"You're a very smart little boy, Xander."  Sire patted him again, earning a beaming smile. "The detective was very good.  Xander told one of the female detectives she was pregnant."

"And I was right," Xander said proudly. "The baby said so and I told her that."  He went back to dangling a string in front of the kittens, making them try to pounce it.  "I saw the kitties and I chased one down since I didn't think detectives played with kitties at work.  They have to arrest mean people who would hurt the kitties so I didn't think they kept them there.  When I chased them into the wall there was a smelly, napping guy by them.  The nice detective was very helpful.  He told me how to make sure the kitties weren't hurt by him when he rolled over in his sleep and how they wouldn't get stinky like he was and then we went back to his desk to play with them with the nice mommy detective."  He beamed at the older men.  "She even found someone who gave me an apple."

"That was very nice of her, grandson," Patrick said happily.  "Did anything else happen?"

"The big guy detective I met first when we got there gave me a breath mint.  It was minty and cold in my mouth and he had the kitties behind his desk and the wall.  I had to crawl under there to rescue them from the stinky, sleeping guy."

"I'm sure you did a very good job," Sire said.  Xander grinned and went back to playing.  Cook came in with a bowl of milk, one of water, and one of chopped up meat.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  We'll get a litter box set up in about an hour.  We had to run to the store.  I sent the stupid one."

"See, she agrees with me," Xander said.

"It's still not polite, grandson," Patrick said firmly.  "You must be polite or else people can be mean back."

"Yes, grandfather."  He sighed and went back to playing.  "Even if he is a stupid head."

"Xander," Sire warned.

"Yes, Sire."

The cook shook her head, heading back to the kitchen.  She smiled when she found one of the kittens had followed her shoelaces.  "Aren't you smart?" she teased, picking it up to cuddle.  "You're very smart."  She smiled when Xander came looking.  "She followed my shoes."

"Wow.  You're very smart.  Nearly as smart as Willow is," he praised, walking her back to the study.  "Someday I'll be as smart as a kitty cat."

"You're already smarter than the cat, Grandson," Sire said patiently.  "I wish you would believe that."

"It takes time," Patrick said quietly.  "We've only had him for six months, Sire."

"Point."  He smiled when Xander brought over a book.  "I thought you wanted to play with the cats."

"The cats can have a story too.  I'm tired," he complained.  "The headache came back and I feel confused headed again."

"Okay," Patrick agreed.  He let the boy into his lap with the book while Sire went to see what he had been given in what strengths. "We need to write your rescuer a thank you note tonight too."  Xander beamed and nodded.  He liked to write.  "Good boy."  He opened the book.  "Curious George?"

"Kitties are curious.  They should like George."

"They should," he agreed, smiling at that bit of reasoning.  Sometimes his grandson was far beyond his years in reasoning.  Even if he didn't like to watch people kiss.  Even het couples.


Two weeks later Horatio got a frantic phone call.  "Horatio."  He listened.  "No, I haven't seen him yet, Father Benis.  I'll ask Dispatch if he's been sighted.  Let me put you on hold."  He did that and switched lines to call Dispatch.  "It's Detective Caine in homicide.  Has anyone found a five-year-old boy wandering and looking for me?"  He smiled.  "That would be perfect, thank you.  Yes, I'm at my desk.  Thank you."  He hung up and went back to the prior line.  "Father, he's on his way down to me right now.   The officer who found him reported no sign of an adult near him and no answer at the number on his ID bracelet.  Dispatch is routing him to me.  It should be about half an hour.  That would be fine.  Should I assume it'll be a different bodyguard?"  He smiled.  "That's fine, I've worked with Gordon on cases in the past.  I have no problem with that since you told me that.  Thank you.  I will.  I'll be right here."  He hung up and went to watch for the boy outside.  The cruiser pulled in and Xander got out of the front, running for him. "Xander."  He beamed up at him.  "What are you doing out?  Thank you, Officer... Speedle?" he said after a look at his ID tag.  That got a grin.  "He was okay?"

"He was lost.  Well, he said his bodyguard is lost."  Horatio smiled and nodded.  "He flagged me down and said that his bodyguard was lost and I was supposed to find a Detective Horatio Caine for him.  He didn't know you worked here."

"That's fine.  His ID bracelet?"

"It went to an answering machine, I left a message."  That got a nod.  "He was a good boy.  He answered all my questions."

Horatio looked down at the tired boy.  "Xander," he said, squatting down in front of him.  "Did you wander off again?"  He yawned and shook his head.  "Where did your bodyguard go?"

"His boyfriend.  He told me to sit on the bench and wait."  He rested against his shoulder.  "I hate the confused head feeling."

"What confused head feeling?" Speedle asked.

"He's got a fairly severe case of ADHD," Horatio said quietly.  That got an understanding nod.  "I'm assuming they gave him some medicine."

"Some of that stuff is toxic on the body."  He saw a car pulling in at high speed and looked over.  "I should ticket them," he muttered.

"That is one of our rising prosecutors, Officer.  He'd have it fixed.  He's here for him so a bit of panic is good."  Speedle laughed.  "I would like to know where."

"Canal Park, near the ducks.  There was no adult matching his description and no car nearby that I found.  I looked for a good twenty, Detective."  He nodded at the man who came up.  "He was abandoned.  Does this happen a lot?"

"No but when I find his bodyguard I'm going to kill him," he said.  "He's worn out?  Usually he's bouncing."

"He said he had a confused head feeling," Horatio said quietly.

"That mother fucking bastard!" Gordon shouted.  Xander flinched at that.  "Not you, Scott," he said, taking him to hold and pat the back of.  "Where?"

"Canal Park, by the ducks," Speedle told him.  "Xander said he told him to sit on a bench and wait for him.  I couldn't find him or his car, sir."

Horatio stood up.  "I would be more than happy to do the paperwork charging him with endangering the boy's life.  Especially since he's so lethargic and it sounds like he got drugged."

"I'm going to kill the bastard and I'll do the paperwork, Horatio.  Thank you."  He walked Xander off.  "We're going to the ER if anyone calls."

"I can tell them that," Horatio agreed.  He looked at the officer.  "Thank you."

"People like that suck.  They should be beaten before their arrests," Speedle said simply, going back to his car.  "I'll make notes."

"Thank you.  I will be too."  He went to do that.  He did think to call out to the boy's house.  "Father Benis please?  Horatio Caine.  Yes it is important unless he's running out the door.  About his grandson."  The phone was handed over.  "Gordon has picked him up but Xander was incredibly exhausted and Gordon thought he might've been drugged.  He's taking him to an ER.  Sinai's the closest," he offered.  "That would be a good idea, yes.  Also, the Officer said he found no sign of his bodyguard this time.  No car, no body, no living person.   Gordon did say he'd file the paperwork but if you need me to I can.  I hope he's all right," he said.  "No, the officer said he flagged him down.  The bodyguard told him to wait on a bench near the ducks in Canal....  Exactly.  Thank you."  He hung up, hanging his head for a minute.  "If there's a third time I'm going to beat the bodyguard myself," he muttered.  Yelina came over to give him a hug.  "This time he outright abandoned the boy in a park," he said grimly.

"They'll handle it.  His grandfather has a reputation for handling people who hurt his people."  He nodded, smiling at her.  "Has your brother been on your couch?"

"Twice.  He's hidden somewhere else the other nights.  I know he's at his desk today.  I asked his commander to ground him to it so you could find him and tell him the good news."

She smiled and went to find the father of her child.  When she did, she took off her shoe and beat his head and shoulders until he begged.  His commander grabbed her but she got free and went after him with her nails for making her pregnant.  They had agreed, no children for another five years.  They finally locked her in the office while they got an ME to make sure he didn't need the hospital.  The other guys congratulated him and promised her they'd deal with him if he upset her again when she got released.  You did not upset pregnant Brazilian women.  They would kill you.  That particular one would enjoy it and she probably knew how to hide bodies since she was in Homicide.


Patrick smiled at his grandson as he was brought back in by Gordon.  "Is he all right?"

"No," he said bluntly.  "Scott was giving him a full day's dosage at once.  They found at least three others had been dosing him too."  He handed over the boy.  "Cook!"  He walked into the kitchen, making her give him a scared look.  "Did you dose Xander today?"

"Scott said he wasn't going to.  They told me to.  We decided I would."  She came closer.  "Why?"

"At least three people dosed him today.  He OD'd after the cop found him.  I just brought him home after Scott abandoned the boy in the park."

"Excuse me?" Sire asked as he came in.  "He did what to my grandson?"

"He told him to wait on a bench and watch the ducks," Gordon told him.  "Horatio's even livid about this.  He offered to arrest him for us."

"They had better pray that they find his mutilated corpse then."

"When the doctor asked Xander, the boy said he had the sniffles," Gordon said.  "If he's not dead, he's going to jail, Sire."

"Agreed.  Where is he?"

"I handed him to Patrick.  At least three people drugged him by the hospital's bloodwork.  Full day dosages."

"I'm supposed to give him one pill every morning," Cook reminded him.

"You are.  That's all he's supposed to have all day."  He went to find the pill bottle and count them.  He checked the fill date and groaned.  "We have eighteen pills missing.  It was only filled last week," he announced.  He went to find Xander.  "Xander, baby, who gave you the other pills?"

"Scott gave me them crushed in cocoa.  Peter gave me them before we went out in a brownie.  They tasted nasty.  It made the brownie unholy."  Patrick smiled at that. "Chocolate is holy.  Cook said so.  The drugs made it not holy."

"That's a good way of putting it, grandson.  Anyone else today?"  He thought then nodded slowly.  "Who?"




"Who's Abigail?" Sire asked, looking at Patrick.

"Rooney's mommy."

"The dog next door's mother?" he asked.  Xander nodded, beaming at him.  "Why did she give you medicine?"

"She said Peter didn't 'cause I was bouncing.  She was talking to Peter but he had to chase down Sonya for a minute so she gave me the pills in the car."

"I'm going to go kill people," Sire said, sliding off the boy's bed and heading downstairs.  "Peter!"  He came running in with the dog.  The dog saw one of the kittens and growled but a yank on her leash made her quit.  "You gave Xander his medicine?"

"Scott said he hadn't had any," he defended.  "They were going out and the boy likes to wander if he hasn't had them."  Sire vamped out, making him cringe.  "Oh, no.  Oh please tell me he's okay?" he begged.  "I love the little guy, you know that, Raphael.  Please?"

"He was ODing on it when he was picked up in the park," he said grimly, going back to his human face.  He heard Xander giggle.  "You, bed."


"In a few minutes.  Peter can carry them up to you."  Xander ran back to his bedroom.  He looked at the guard.  "Cook is the only one allowed to dose him.  Make sure *everyone* knows that.  She gave him some, you gave him some, the nice lady next door you were talking to got into the car to give him some when you were chasing the dog, and then Scott gave him some.  Also, if you see the walking pile of ash, I am to be told *immediately*.  Am I clear?" he demanded.

"Yes, Sire.  I'm so sorry," he begged.  "Scott said...."

"He's a dead man when I see him," Patrick said as he came down the stairs.  "Sonya, don't lick the cat.  You'll get hairballs."  He stared at his guard.  "Cook and only Cook is to administer any and all medicines in this house from now on.  Mine, yours, everyone's."

"Yes, Father.  I'm sorry."

"I know, Peter.  You didn't mean to harm him.  We're lucky the nice detective and Gordon caught it."  That got a swallow and a nod then he went to get sick, the dog following him.  "Sire, go find the walking dead man.  I want a word with him."  Raphael nodded, heading out to do that.  Patrick gathered up the cats, taking them and the dog up to Xander's room.  He loved the animals.  He felt comfortable with them.  They could help him nap.  He did slide in a litter box as well, just in case so they didn't have to clean up a mess on his carpet.  Then he went to wait.  Peter came out of the bathroom.  "She's upstairs with Xander and the cats since she doesn't seem to want to harm them."

"One of the kittens got her tail last night.  Thought it was a great toy," he said with a small grin.  He sat at his feet.  "I'm so sorry, Father.  You know I love Xander.  Hell, I offered to adopt him for you if you needed me to."

"I know.  We've got to work out something other than those pills anyway.  They're not working."  He patted him.  "We need to find someone to put in Scott's place as well," he said quietly.  "I cannot believe he abandoned my grandson in a park."  Peter hopped up, staring at him in open-mouthed shocked.  "Told him to sit on a bench and wait on him.  Xander said he was sniffing a lot."

"You made him send away his ex for his drugs," he reminded him.

"Yes and apparently the boy took him back," Patrick said grimly.  "That's the second time Xander has run into him."

"I'll help you kill him if you need me to," he promised.  "How dare he hurt the boy!"

"What did Miss Manester want?"

"To talk about Sonya not getting over near her prize pit bull again," he said grimly.  "I told her it's not Sonya since she's female.  I even showed her.  He said she did...."  Patrick nodded.  "It was probably in retaliation for the ugly puppies her purebred just gave birth to.  Looks like the Lloyd's dog really."

"That is an ugly combination.  Not even Xander could find them pretty."  He shuddered.  "A Chinese crested and pit bull cross?  That's got to be hideous."

"Big heads, scrawny bodies," Peter agreed.  Sonya came back down the stairs with a kitten attached to her collar and one in her mouth.  "What are you doing, Sonya?"  He got them both free.  The cats ran off to hide.  He glared at his dog.  "No more.  I mean it."  The dog sat down next to Patrick, letting herself be soothed.  "Those kittens are mean."

"They are.  They were guarding a dead body at the police station inside the walls," Patrick agreed.  Peter laughed.  "Xander saw one and followed.  He called him the stinky, sleeping person."

"I wondered who that was."  He sat down to pet his own dog.  "He all right?"


"I'll never do it again, Father.  You know that."

"I do."  He patted him too.  The dog barked and crawled closer to get her attention back, earning a smile.  "Jealous of your master, dear?"  He went back to petting her.  "Maybe Sire would like a new dog," he mused.

"Don't do that.  It's mean to poor Raphael's nerves," Peter complained. "He'll feel honor bound to look at the ugly thing until it dies."

"True.  I don't want anything that ugly here. Those dogs have got to be hideous."  He heard a noise and got up to look, finding the front door open.  He rushed as fast as he could in his weakened state, finding Xander's bedroom door open. "Peter, find him!" he yelled, coming back down the stairs.  He and Sonya were already headed out.  He called Raphael.  "The boy wandered off.  Yes, from here!"  He hung up and went to check the rest of the house.

Peter let Sonya track the scent of the boy to the next door neighbor's house, grimacing at the gate guard.  "Xander over here?  He seems to have escaped and he's sick."

"How sick?" he asked, letting him inside.

"We all gave him his ADHD medicine today, including Abigail from the other side of us," he admitted grimly. "He's just back from the ER.  He's in his pajamas so probably super heros again."  That got a nod and he called the others on the security detail.  Sonya pulled so he followed her.

The guard caught up, catching him by the arm.  "Mistress hired someone with a sex crime record," he said quietly.  "He's a gardener."

"Show me."  He nodded, leading that way.  The dog seemed to agree for most of the way.  She pulled them toward some trees and they found Xander in there talking to the gardener about the kitties.  "Xander," he complained, picking him up.  "Why are you over here?"

"Grandpa said I was ugly," he pouted.

"No, not you, Abigail's puppies are ugly.  They're the Lloyd's dog and hers mated together."

"Eww," he complained, putting his head down.  "He was keeping me company."

"I can see that."  He smiled at the guard.  "Thank you."  He walked him off, Sonya following behind.  He walked into their gate and up to the house.  "Tell him we were talking about the puppies, Father."

"Yes, we were talking about the puppies, Xander.  There is no way you will ever be ugly."

"Momma...."  Patrick growled and vamped out.  "You're all growly," he said timidly.

Patrick calmed himself down until he went back to his human guise.  "Xander, your mother was very wrong. You are a beautiful little boy."

"The gardener said so too," he admitted.

"Their gate guard heard that he had a sex crime record," Peter said quietly.  "He was talking with Xander in their little bit of woods.  I have the feeling that's going to be fixed soon."

Patrick smiled.  "Good."  He sat down with Xander, putting him in his lap.  "You have a beautiful soul, Xander.  Even if you were horribly disfigured you'd still be beautiful."

"Like the bellringer?" he asked, giving him the big eyed look.

"Yes, even if you looked like him you'd still be beautiful," he promised.  Xander smiled.  "You're not hurt like he was though so there's no reason for you to be thinking that you're ugly."  Raphael stormed in.  "He heard us talking about the ugly puppies next door and thought we were talking about him."

"I will ...."  He stomped off before he traumatized Xander by describing how he wanted to kill his parents.  He called Gordon.  "I want them destroyed," he said quietly.  "I don't care how."  He smiled.  "Yes, them.  They told Xander he was ugly as well."  He just nodded.  "Thank you.  Yes, he was next door on the other side."  He listened to the quiet conversation.  "With a sex criminal.  I'm sure Peter told their guard or he already knew.  No, he's fine.  Still in his pajamas."  He hung up, going to pound his fist through one of the stone walls until he felt better.  He felt little arms go around his leg and looked down.  "I'm not mad at you, Xander, but your parents have a lot to answer for."

"They're stupid heads," he said.  "Grandpa said so."

"I agree, they are."  He picked him up.  "Come on, you should be in bed."

"Can I have a cookie?  It was scary.  It's all dark outside and they scared me when they came to find me."

"Sure."  He went to grab a cookie for the boy and take him back upstairs.  They had to make the cats move so he had room to lay down but he stayed with him until he fell asleep this time.  He looked over as Patrick came in.  "I ordered Gordon to do his worst."

"Good.  They'd taste funny or I'd have them eaten as a favor to us."  He came in to kiss Xander's head, making him sigh in his sleep and smile.  "Good boy.  You sleep tonight, Xander."  He looked at his sire.  "Bed?"

"Please."  He got up, going with him.  They were woken by screaming four hours later but Raphael finally got to take some anger out on someone.  The stupid bodyguard had come back and was yelling at Xander.  "I've had enough," he snarled, grabbing him by the throat and dragging him off.  "He's very wrong, Xander.  Go climb in with Patrick until I've dealt with him."

"Yes, Sire," he said weakly, heading to the bedroom.  Patrick held up the comforter and Xander crawled underneath, getting cuddled.  "What was his problem?"

"He's an idiot and he's blaming you for him being a bad guy."

"Oh.  A stupid head."

Patrick kissed him on the top of the head.  "Quit calling people names, Xander."

"Willow taught me."

"I'm sure she did but you can't do that down here."

"Can we bring Willow down?  She'd love to play in the house with me.  She likes kitties too."

"I'll see what I can do this summer."  He smiled at him. "Okay?"  He nodded, snuggling in again.  He fell asleep like that but Patrick waited up.  Raphael brought him up some fresh blood, making him smile.  "Do I have to cover up something?"

"No, he did it to himself.  We simply gathered."  He laid down once his childe had drained the cup and put it aside. He looked at the little one then at Patrick.  "He needs a new doctor.  One with a clue."

"Agreed," he said quietly.  "I'll look tomorrow."  That got a nod and Raphael settled in behind Xander to hold both his boys.


It was almost seven months before Xander ran into his big protector again.  He saw the redheaded detective and squealed, taking off running to pounce him.  "Xander!" Raphael yelled, chasing after him.

"Horatio!" he said happily, beaming at him.  "Hi."

"Hi, Xander."  He gave him a hug and smiled at the older man.  "You have a very good pounce on you."

"He's also incredibly fast," their bodyguard of the day noted.  "Detective."

Horatio smiled at him.  "I believe I could say the same thing."  He smiled at Xander.  "What have you been doing?"

"Playing mostly.  I start icky school again next year.  Why are you out tonight?"

"I am out buying a new shirt."

Xander grimaced.  "We're buying me a suit because I have to watch the stupid horsies run up and down the field and up and down the field over and over again until I'm really bored and then I have to hang around with all the older, boring people who make me want to take a nap even though I'm not that little anymore."

Horatio chuckled.  "It's not the suit's fault that you're bored."

"Yes it is, whenever I'm in one I'm bored.  It's the suit's fault."

"I wear suits every day."

"Do you have to watch the stupid horsies run back and forth and deal with the boring people?"

"No, when I wear suits I have to talk to the bad people."

"Can I come talk to the bad people instead?  At least they'd be more fun and I wouldn't be bored."

"Maybe when you get older you can."

"Okay."  He wiggled so Horatio let him down.  "I suppose we should go buy me another ugly suit I'll hate."

Raphael looked down at him.  "If we leave you at home you get into trouble."

"Grandfather said it was nice I was trying to paint your bedroom and he thought it was a good idea to switch some of the flowers around when I started that," he said with a small pout.

"You know, you could read."

Xander looked at him.  "Not for that long.  They take *forever* when they go to watch the stupid horses run back and forth and talk to the boring people.  Last time I went I wanted to go lay down on the field so the horsies would run me over.  At least then someone would have some fun and the horses would quit running back and forth."

Raphael picked him up, shaking his head.  "You know your grandfather wants you to get used to your new life down here, Xander, and that's what he does most of the time."

Xander put his hands on both sides of his face, staring him in the eyes.  "Grandfather doesn't get bored.  He said so," he said slowly and clearly.  "I'm not Grandfather.  I'm Xander," he said, shaking his head, earning a smile.  "Xanders get bored easily.  Even you said that."

"I did," he agreed, kissing him on the forehead.  "Would you like to invite the nice detective along?"

Xander beamed at him. "Would you like to come ugly suit shopping?  Maybe then I won't have to get an ugly one so it won't make me so bored.  Then Sire's taking us out for pizza and ice cream and donuts."

"I am?" he asked, looking amused.  "Why am I taking you out for food when we have all those things at home?"

Xander looked at him.  "Because then you have to go watch Grandfather be more stubborn and pout at you.  Besides, I deserve a treat in advance if I have to deal with the people who make me want to take a nap, even though I'm not that little anymore."

"I suppose, since I have to get a new shirt, that we could shop at the same store and then your Grandsire can take you out for treats, how about that, Xander?"  He nodded and leaned over to give him a hug, letting Horatio take him back.  "Good boy.  Come on, let's let your Grandsire pick the store."

"His grandfather likes Armani," he complained.  Xander spit.  "I know.  He hates them, claims they make him feel like he's wearing a diaper."

Horatio snickered and nodded, pointing at a store.  "I usually shop there.  They do have a children's line."  That got a nod and they went in there, him letting Xander down since he was anxious to not be seen as that young.

Xander looked at the amused salesman.  "I have to watch the stupid horsies run back and forth and then talk to the people that give me headaches and make me wanna nap even though I'm not that little anymore."

"I think we can handle that, young man.  Horatio, I didn't know you had a son."

"I don't.  His grandsire was behind us," he said, nodding outside.  He was on the phone calling someone.  "That's his grandsire."

"Ah.  Then you would be Xander," he said knowingly.  Xander beamed and nodded.  "I think we can find you something adorable that would make the women cuddle you instead of talk to you.  How about that?"

"That might be nice.  Some of them are kind of nice."  He followed him and Horatio found his shirt fairly quickly.  His grandsire came in and Xander held up one he liked.  "How about this one?"

"That is for a nighttime event," he said plainly.

"Actually, it's made of a looser weave of cotton so it will breathe during the day, plus hold up to an active child's lifestyle, Father."

"I'm Raphael, the other one in the family."  That got a knowing smile and a nod.  "Are you sure?  You could have one of the nice tan ones."

"I look silly," he complained.  "Horatio?"  He looked over, smiling at him.  "Don't you think I'd look pretty in blue?"

"I think," he said, handing over a green one.  "That one might look better on you."  Xander beamed and went to try it on with the bodyguard's help.  "He's been a good boy?"

"Most of the time," Raphael admitted.  "Now and then we still have problems.  Usually that's solved by grounding.  It seems to work with him.  He hates having to sit still."  Xander came back out.  "You do look very good in that."

"It doesn't really play up to his eyes," the salesman said, frowning a bit.  "Hmm.  You do have very big eyes, Xander."

"Which light up when he sees food," the bodyguard quipped, handing Xander something.  "Try that one on."  He nodded, going to do that, keeping on the same shirt.  This one was black and the jade green shirt went well with it.

"I like that," Raphael decided.  "Get one your Grandfather will coo over you in too, Xander."  He found another one and tried it on, coming out waving his arms.  "That'll work," he agreed.  The chocolate brown outfit with the black shirt did look adorable on him.

"I like that one too," Horatio agreed, smiling at him.  "Good choice."   The boy beamed and went to change out of the suits, letting his bodyguard take them.  He smiled at the salesman.  "Easy sales tonight."

"I do like it when they're easy.  I've had some people who have tried on everything four and five times before making a decision."  He led them to the registers, ringing up the young man first, then watching as Horatio said goodbye and told Xander to write him letters since it would help with his reading and writing abilities.  The boy agreed, threw out a promise to write soon, and then left with the two adults.  "He is very active."

"He is."

The salesman gave him a look.  "You do know that they're gay?"

"Yes and I know that they're better parents than a lot of straight ones I see at work," Horatio said.  "Xander's a good boy most of the time."

The salesman gave him an odd look.  "You two hang out?"

"I had to help rescue Xander a few times when his bodyguard got lost."

"Ah. Good to know."  He rang him up and handed over the bag and the change.  "There you go, Detective."

"Thank you.  I'll see you in a few weeks when I ruin another one at work."  He walked out, heading home much happier now.  Xander did lighten one's spirit incredibly well.  He even decided to stop in to see his nephew for a bit, making his mother more than happy because it meant she could rest while he watched him.


Xander looked around the police station.  It hadn't seemed so big the last time he had been there.  But like a big boy he walked up to the reception desk and smiled at the woman who leaned down to see him.  "Is Detective Caine in please?"

"He's not at the moment, but let me call him to see where he is, sir."  She called.  "Detective, there's a young gentleman here to see you.  Yes, that about describes him."  She looked down.  "He wanted to know what was wrong."

"I was with Gordon when he passed out so they dropped me off here while they went to the hospital with him."  He shrugged.  "I'm only six, they don't explain things to me."

She smiled.  "Adults are sometimes silly that way," she agreed, putting the phone back up to her ear.  "I can do that, Detective.  I know she's here.  She's on desk duty.  Thank you."  She hung up.  "He will be back in about an hour but do you remember Detective Yelina?"  He beamed and nodded.  "She's here if you wanted to wait with her."

"Thank you.  Which way please?"

"I can escort you, young man."  She came around to walk him that way, earning a few smiles since the boy was nearly strutting.  "Detective Salas?"  She smiled at her then at the boy.  "Someone dropped him off here for Detective Caine but he's on a scene for about another hour."

"I heard."  She looked at him.  "You're Xander, right?"  He smiled and nodded.  "It's good to see you again, Xander."  She sat him in her interview chair.  "Who dropped you off?"

"The guys going with Gordon to the hospital.  He fell down and didn't want to breathe right.  They said he collapsed.  I'm six so they never tell me anything," he finished dryly, making her chuckle.  "Did you have a baby?"

"I did.  I had a little boy we named Ray Junior," she said, letting him see the picture.  "That's him last week."

"He's adorable," he cooed, grinning at him.  "I hope he ends up smarter than I am."

"I think you're very smart, Xander, and I think that my son will be just as smart as you are."  He gave her a sheepish look but she looked at his hand.  "What happened to your wrist?"

He looked then covered it with his other hand.  "Accident."  She stared at him.  "It was."

"Yours or the adult's?" she asked.


"Did you tell your grandfather?"

"He's been really sick and Sire's out of town because Grandfather being really sick upsets him and he growls at people all the time, even me."

She got up and picked him up.  "Come on, we'll go talk to them.  I want to talk to the person who had the accident to make sure it will never happen again."

"Then can I see Horatio?"

"I think we can arrange that."  She grabbed her purse, gun, and keys, walking out with him.  She got him into the back. "You're big enough not to need a booster seat now."  He nodded, looking so proud.  "Soon you'll be as big as Horatio is."  She got into the front once he was buckled in, starting the engine and backing out.  She took him home, pulling up to the gate.  The intercom was pretty standard so she pressed the button.  "Detective Salas to see Patrick Benis please."

"Detective, is there a problem?" a male voice asked.

"Yes."  The gate opened and she drove through then parked, smiling at Xander.  She walked around to get him out, carrying him inside.

"Don't yell at him, he didn't know," Xander whispered against her neck.

"He's not the one I want to yell at, Xander.  You know that."  She kissed him on the temple as they walked inside.  The man waiting on them gave them a look then groaned.  She hauled off and slapped him. "How dare you let someone hurt this precious little boy!" she spat.  He backed away.  "Now, where is his grandfather?"

"This way, Detective."  He hurried on and she followed more sedately, smiling at the boy.

She walked in there and nodded.  "Apparently Gordon collapsed so they brought him to Horatio while they were taking Gordon to the ER?"

"I'll have someone spanked," he agreed.  "Who hurt my grandson?"  She sat down on his footstool, settling Xander in her lap while she rolled up her sleeve.  "Xander, dear, who did that?"

"It was an accident," he said quietly.

"Xander, he needs to know who had the accident,"  Yelina said gently.  "Then I can go yell at them so they never hurt you again."  He looked at her.  "Really."

"Can I come play with your son?"

"If your grandfather agrees I think it would be good for you to help take care of something smaller and more delicate.  It's a good set of lessons for a young man to learn."  He gave her a shy smile.  "Now, who hurt you?"

"Paul," he said weakly.  "And Timmy."

"Timmy?" Patrick said, looking confused.  "The boy in school?"  Xander nodded.  "Did he do your wrist?"  Xander tugged off his shirt, letting him see the bruises.  "Oh, dear.  Xander, did he get in trouble for that?"

"No and he said if I tell anyone I'm a big baby and he's going to make me puke next time and then lick it up with my tongue like a kitty would.  He said I'm a baby anyway, Grandfather."

Yelina made the boy look at her.  "Just because you're six doesn't mean you're a baby.  Ray Junior is a baby.  You are not."  He gave her the most blinding smile and she had to give him a hug.  "That boy is a bully and needs his mother to spank him until he begs for mercy for hurting you that way.   Is he in your grade?"

"Fourth grade," he admitted.

"Detective, I will be having a long talk with that young man, as well as his current caregiver when I'm unable."  He gave her a gentle smile.  "Thank you for bringing it to my attention."

"It's not a problem.  Though I was wondering why they dropped him off for Horatio?"

"I like Horatio.  He's a good man," Xander said quietly, looking at her.  "I want to grow up like him because he helps people and he does neat things and he doesn't have to wear ugly suits or listen to boring people talk about boring things, like their surgeries.  Who cares if you had a penis implant put in?  I certainly don't."  Patrick laughed so hard he choked.  People rushed in.

"Xander!  You need to leave your grandfather alone, he's fragile!" one man snapped.  "Go to your room."

"Shut up," Yelina ordered coolly, making him flinch away from her.  She stood up.  "Are you the one who bruised his arms?"  He shook his head.  "Xander, was it him?"

"No, he's just mean.  He needs a new boyfriend so he'll be happy again."  He climbed onto his grandfather's lap, looking at him.  "Don't make me call Sire on you if you get worse."  He got a cuddle, letting him sink into the loving arms.  "He won't like it if I have to call him."

"No he won't," he promised.  "Get Paul in here.  Laurence, please get me something for Xander's bruises?"  He nodded, rushing off to do that and to get away from Yelina.   He smiled at her.  "Trust me, Detective Salas.  I will be stopping this issue.  I will be paddling someone later."  Xander's 'ooh' made the watching bodyguard crack up.  Patrick looked down at him.  "Did you ask to go see Horatio or did you demand?"

"I said making me wait in the ER was trouble so I suggested we let me go see Horatio since I hadn't seen him in a few weeks.  Not since he helped me pick out those not ugly suits."

"That's fine," Yelina promised, smiling at him.  "I'm quite sure that Horatio will stop by tonight to see you since we had to leave before he got back.  Would that be all right, Father?"

"It would be most acceptable," he assured her, smiling a bit.  "I do believe he's more than a good role model for my grandson."

She pinched Patrick on the cheek.  "Good.  Now, I'll be checking on him periodically and if I find another person has hurt him, they will be getting the full force of my temper unleashed on them and you will hear about it when I send you the dry cleaning bill."

"I would be delighted to pay for it if you do find something like that.  Let me know so I can watch."

"It's good we understand each other."  She stroked over Xander's hair.  "You should write to Horatio more often.  He saves your letters.  They make him smile."  She gave him a hug.  "Now, I have to go back to work before someone worries about me finding trouble."  She tweaked his ear.  "You be a good boy and I'll make sure Horatio comes to see you tonight."  He nodded and she left, leaving it in very good hands.  As the door closed behind her she heard someone yelping in pain.  She got back to the office and found Horatio pulling in.  "I told Xander you'd stop by to see him tonight."

"What happened?"

"Gordon apparently collapsed so his bodyguard dropped him off here."

"You took him home?"

"I found a few bruises.  I went to beat someone," she said honestly.  He smiled at that, nodding a bit.  "His grandfather is beating his own people for me and the bully that's been picking on him."  She patted him on the arm.  "He said you're a good role model, Horatio, and I have to agree.  I did tell him that you save his letters since they make you smile."

"Thank you.  I'll pop around before dinner.  How is his grandfather?"

"Curled up in a chair looking pasty.  He was still very much in charge however."

"Good to know. Thank you, Yelina."

"You're welcome.  It was good to go make someone scared."  She walked inside, heading back to her desk.  The receptionist gave her an odd look.  "I took him home to talk to his grandfather about a bully he has."

"That's a good reason to see Detective Caine," she agreed.  "He's going to make a fantastic father some day."

"If God is kind," Yelina agreed.

Horatio just smiled.  He liked that compliment.


Xander was ten the next time he ran into Horatio for more than a quick visit or a letter.  He looked around the alley he was in, being a bit scared.  It was dark, he was alone, the alley smelled funny, and he had no idea what was going on.  He was sore and starting to ache.  He heard a noise and squealed, turning to look.  "Not good.  Not good.  Very not good."  He found the phone the person who had shoved him in here had given him, dialing 911.  "I need help.  Can I please talk to Detective Caine?  He knows me.  Xander."  He waited while they connected him.  "Detective, it's Xander.  Yes, that Xander.  I have no idea where I am," he said, starting to tear up. "It's an alley.  Some big guys in a van shoved me in here and handed me a phone. I don't know."  He looked around.  "I can't even see the end of the alley and it's dark and it's scary."  He nodded, heading for the brighter lights.  "Um, there's some women hanging around.  Sure, I can do that."  He walked over to one, getting a confused look.  "Where am I?"

"Baby, you're much too young to be out here."

"Some men dropped me off... here, he's going to help me get home."

"Okay."  She took the phone.  "Hello?"  She listened to the authoritative voice on the other end.  "He's still really little.  Yeah, that's him.  Okay.  We're on West.  I'm Holly, we'll be at Krump's Diner.  You come get him."  She listened.  "Okay."  She handed the phone back.  "He said he's in the middle of doing something dangerous to save someone."  Xander started to sniffle.  "But he knows someone who can come get you.  Someone you've met before, okay?"  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Come with me, honey, we'll go sit down in the nice, warm diner.  It'll be soon."  He nodded, taking her hand to walk off with her.  Her pimp glared.  "He's got a cop coming to pick him up.  He was kidnaped.  I'm taking him to the diner.  I can do that and if you don't like it, shove it."  She walked off with him, taking him to the warm, bright spot.  The woman behind the counter gave her an odd look.  "Someone dropped the poor baby off in the alley.  Someone's coming to get him."

"Good."  She got the boy a small bowl of ice cream and the hooker some coffee with a smile and a wink.  "Gotta have a good reason to hang around if the boss shows."  She went back to her reading, keeping an eye out for the kid.

Holly smiled at the boy.  "Xander?"  He looked at her, eating listlessly.  "Why did they snatch you, baby?"

"I don't know.  I was at school and two of my friends and I were talking to some older kids and they said they'd give us a ride home.  Then I woke up when they shoved me out and one of the guys handed me a phone and then they left."

"I saw the van leave," the waitress admitted.  "We'll talk to the officer when they get here."

"Okay," he said weakly.  "I hope my friends are okay."

"I hope so too," Holly said, patting his hand.  A young man walked in and looked around then smiled.  "You here for Xander?"

"I am."  He walked over, squatting next to him.  "Xander, you might not remember me."

It took him a minute.  "You saved me from the park."

"I did," he agreed.  He grinned.  "Are you okay?  Did they hurt you?"

"I don't know.  I was asleep," he said miserably.  "Where are my friends?"

"We'll find that out.  Thank you, ma'am," he said, taking the boy with him.  "He owe anything?"

"No but the van I saw peel out was a green panel van and it had something lighter stenciled on the back.  Looked kinda blurry, even at the stoplight."

"Good to know.  Did you get a plate?"  She shook her head.  "Thank you.  I'll put that out too."  She smiled and nodded and he smiled at Xander.  "Come on.  Horatio will meet us back at the lab when he's done with the bomb."

"Bomb?" Xander asked.

"Yeah, a few months back he got moved to bomb squad instead of homicide."  He walked him out to the hummer, letting him get inside.  "I know it's a big step."  He walked around to get in and drive, looking at him. "Buckle up."  Xander did that and they took off, heading back to the lab.  "Okay, first of all, my name's Speed, okay?"

"Did your mother name you that?"

He smirked.  The kid was just as much a smartass as he was.  "No, it's a nickname."

"I get called Xan," he offered shyly.

Horatio had told him this kid was smart and pretty cool.  So he'd be extra nice to him.  He still looked terrified.  "That's a cool nickname," he agreed, smiling when he turned a corner.  He turned on the lights.  "I hate traffic."  Xander giggled.  "What I do is I investigate crime scenes.  I'm the guy who takes the pictures, collects the evidence, that stuff.  Horatio is the guy who used to go question the suspects.  Got it?"  The boy nodded.  "So what we're going to do is go back to the lab.  We're going to talk about what happened after I look you over to make sure you're okay and to see if they left anything on you.  Things like hairs and stuff."

"He dusted me off before he shoved me out."

"That's okay.  Some stuff clings better than others.  Now, while I'm doing that, we'll be waiting on Horatio to get back and we'll call your family, got it?"

"Thank you, Speed."

"You're welcome, Xan."  The boy gave his wrist a squeeze.  "This is not your fault."

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He pulled onto the Causeway and sped up.  Traffic here was lighter.  Xander giggled as they had to swerve around someone.  "Drunken idiot."  He looked in the mirror as he grabbed the radio.  "Dispatch, this is CSI Speedle. We have a drunken moron on the Causeway who's going to cause a wreck soon.  He's weaving pretty bad.  Black Caddy, John Tango Charlie 389.  Scare the piss outta him please?"  He let go of the button.

"I'll send cruisers, CSI Speedle."

"Thank you."  He hung the radio back up and watched as a few cruisers headed their way and the nighttime chopper spotlighted him.  Xander 'ooh'ed and he laughed. "Serves him right.  Plus it's good practice for the chopper crew."

Xander grinned at him.  "You're neat."

"Thank you.  So you're how old now?"


"The last time I saw you you were about five."


"Did they fire that guy who left you in the park?"

"Yup, he came back to yell at me then cut his own throat.   Grandsire was not happy."

"He probably wanted to hit him a few times. I know I did."  He pulled into the parking lot and turned off the lights and sirens.  "Okay.  Let's go into the lab."

"Sure."  He unbuckled and hopped out, walking around to let Tim walk him inside.  He smiled and waved at someone.  "Hi, Detective Yelina!" he called.  She looked over and stared, storming their way.

"He was kidnaped, Yelina.  I'm going to process him now.  Horatio's on his way."

"Good!"  She looked down at Xander. "You're very brave, Xander."

"I was asleep," he said miserably.

"It's okay.  You're still very brave and it's not your fault but I'm sure Tim is going to find a lot of information.  He is very good at what he does."  Xander grinned and nodded, letting Tim take him to the lab.  She went back to her desk to call someone.  The number was now unlisted but they had the special database.  She found the number and called.  "Father Benis please.  Detective Yelina Salas.  We've found his grandson after he got kidnaped."  She listened to the spluttering.  "Really?  Then why is here?  Where are his grandparents?"  She grimaced.  "Who is his caretaker?  Thank you."  She hung up and called another number.  "ADA Prescott, get your ass to the lab this instant," she ordered.  "You mean like the boy in your charge was kidnaped and found?"  He growled.  "Speedle is processing him and I expect to see you in ten minutes or less.  Am I clear?"  She nodded and smirked.  "Good."  She hung up and went to help.  The boy could talk to her.  She tapped on the door.

"I'm nearly naked, you can't come in," Xander squeaked.

"It's me, Xander," she called.

"You're a girl, you can't see me naked, Grandfather said so."

"Okay, I'll wait until you're not nearly naked.  I called Gordon."

"Is he still working?"

"Not anymore.  He's on his way over."

"Okay.  He said he'll be done in a minute."

"That's fine, I'll wait out here."  She walked off, finding Horatio coming off the elevator.  "He's fine.  He said I couldn't go in since he was nearly naked."

"He's ten, that's normal from what I understand."  He walked over to the room Speed liked to use, tapping on the door. "Xander, Speed?"  The door opened and Xander stared at him.  "Hey."  He walked inside. "Let's let Tim finish the processing stuff, okay?"  Xander closed the door and nodded, letting Horatio help.  They gave him some sweats and the boy slid into them, then they sat down with Yelina while Speed went to start things running.  "Okay, buddy, what happened?"

"Me, Tom, and Barry were at school.  I was waiting to be picked up and Henry," he pronounced it in the French manner, "was running late, like always.  Barry's neighbor is a junior and he and his buddies showed up.  They were talking to us, they were pretty cool.  Barry knew him pretty well so we thought it'd be okay if they gave us a ride home."  Yelina snapped her pencil. "I didn't see them when they woke me up, Horatio.  I want to make sure they're okay."

"I'm going to do everything in my power to see that they are, Xander.  Do you remember the driver's name?"

"Tommy.  He was a junior like Barry's friend Kurt."  Yelina used her half pencil to take notes.  "Kurt lives on Barry's block and he's in a band.  He's pretty cool.  He doesn't smoke weed or so Barry said but they said he's pretty cool anyway.  Tommy drives a really hideous shade of puke green van without windows.  The lady at the coffee shop we, Holly and I, were waiting at said it had something painted on the back but it looked blurry."

Yelina smiled.  "Did you see the license plate?"

Xander shook his head.  "No, it was in the back window.  I noticed the spot there before the funny taste came and I took a nap."

"Okay," Yelina said.  "What are Barry and Tom's last names?"

"Barry is a Jacoby.  Tom's..."  He frowned.  Then he took her pencil to write it.  "He said I say it funny."

"Do you know their home addresses so we can check with their parents first?"  Horatio asked.  Someone knocked then walked in.  "Gordon, nice to see you again."

"You too, Horatio.  Xander."  He gave him a hug.  "What did you do?"

"One of his friend's neighbors offered to give the boys a ride home since their rides were running late," Yelina said.  She pushed the notes over.  "Do you know them?"

"I know the senior Jacoby.  He's a judge."  He sat down to call him, finding his number in his cellphone.  "Judge Jacoby...  This is and I know it's not your night on-call.  I'm here with one of your son's friends and he was kidnaped earlier.  I'm doing a wellness check for the Police."  Xander took Horatio's hand to hold.  "Please."  He smiled.  "Barry, it's Gordon Prescott.  I'm with the District Attorney's office and I'm taking care of Xander while his grandparents are out of town."  The boy burst out crying.  "He's next to me, Barry.  He's okay.  We need to know what happened.  Go ahead and give him the phone.  Your Honor, we're down at the CSI labs.  We would like to know so we can prosecute the scum sucking bastards who hurt Xander."  He smiled.  "Yes, that Xander."  He looked at the notes then at the boy.  "His neighbor?"

"Yeah, the one in the band," he said quietly.

Gordon listened.  "Please.  I'll be here.  There's a detective here, and also it looks like Tom Decca-Hovanith was involved too.  Please.  I don't have their number.  Thank you, sir."  He hung up.  "Barry was very worried about you."  Xander looked at him.  "We'll find out why, Xander."  He nodded, relaxing, squeezing Horatio's hand.  He looked at Horatio.  "They're out of town for a funeral this week.  An older acquaintance died," he said quietly.  "I left him with his caretaker."

"Do I need to hit that one too?" Yelina asked.  Xander giggled.

"No, I'm sure they're going to be eaten when his grandparents get home."  He looked over as Speed walked in.  "Anything?"

"Running it now."  He looked at the notes.  "Xander, what time do you get out of school?"

"Two-thirty.  It was nearly three-thirty when the boys came."

"I'll be having a talk with the school about added security as well," Gordon promised.  Xander patted him with his free hand.  "Want to trade places so you're closer to Horatio?"  The boy nodded so he let him.  He looked at Speed.  "Should we be thinking about a trip to the ER?"

"No.  Nothing suggested he was hurt that way," Speed said.  Yelina let out a sigh of relief.  "Though I did scrub the words off him after I took pictures."  He handed them over to Gordon.

Gordon handed them back.  "It'll be dealt with," he said quietly.  "They dropped him in an alley?"

Xander nodded. "They woke me up and dusted me off before shoving me out of the van.  Tommy handed me the cellphone and then they sped off.  It was really dark and really creepy."  Horatio gave him a gentle hug around the shoulders.  "So I called Horatio.  That's what he said to do when I was younger and I'd wander off when I was bored."

"It was the right thing to do," Horatio promised.  Xander gave him a gentle, loving smile and a hug.  "He said he couldn't find an alley opening so I had him go toward the brighter lights.  He found a working girl and asked her where he was for me.  She took the phone and we talked.  She took him to a diner to protect him until Speed got there for me since I was on a scene."

Gordon nodded, looking at Speedle.  "I want her name so we can reward her."

"Her name was Holly and she's by this really nice smelling dinner named Krump's," Xander told him.  "Did I have the phone?"  Speed nodded.  "Shoot."

"It's okay, Xander.  We'll give her a good reward for helping you," Gordon promised.  Xander smiled and nodded, yawning a bit.  "Did we need to draw blood?"

"Alexx, our ME, is coming up to do that," he promised.  "She needed to find a needle."

"Ow," Xander said in advance.

"She's very gentle, Xander," Horatio promised.  The boy gave him a trusting look then rested against his arm again.  Someone knocked and walked in, a thirtyish African- American woman.  "Alexx."

"Horatio."  She gave him a hug around the neck.  "Who's this?"

"This is Xander.  He is the grandson of Patrick Benis.  He was kidnaped earlier," Horatio said quietly.

"I'm here to take some blood from you then, sweetie."  She knelt beside him. "Can I have your arm?"  He held it out but didn't look.  "I'm very gentle, Xander."  She found the vein and popped in the needle without more than a small flinch.  She got her vial of blood and pulled it out, laying it on the table while she put on a bandaid.  "There you go.  I only had Snoopy but my kids like it."  Xander gave her a smile and she winked, grabbing everything. "Let us go run this, precious.  We'll see what happened while you were sleeping."  He nodded, standing up when she left.  Then he sat down and cuddled up again.

"You have very good manners," Horatio praised.  Xander smiled at that. "Speed?"

"They're running, it'll take about a half hour.  Do we have witnesses?"

"They're on their way down," Gordon promised.  "I called Judge Jacoby myself."

"Thank you."  He went to check, finding one pulling in and another one signing in.  He looked at the boy then at the father.  "Here about the Benis case?"  The father pressed his lips together.  "Okay, let's go find a room so we can talk.  I'm CSI Speedle.  You can have me or Detective Salas.  Whichever your son would feel more comfortable with.  She's in with Xander right now."

"I think he'd do better with her," he said calmly.

"Sure."  He let them into a room and went to get Yelina.  "Two."  She nodded, going that way, stopping to get a new pencil.  He went to get the other family, nodding and shaking the judge's hand.  "Sir.  This way.  Sign in please."  He did that and Speed walked him into another interrogation room, sitting across from the young man.  "Barry, Xander's fine.  He's up the hall.  We need to know what happened."

"I don't know," he sighed.  He held his head.  "My neighbor Kurt and his buddies...."

"The stupid little brat up the street who thinks he can play a saxophone?" his father demanded.  Barry looked at him and nodded.  "Didn't I say to stay away from him?"

"Your secretary wasn't there yet.  We'd been waiting an hour, dad, and they offered us a ride home."

"Do you know the third guy's name?" Speed asked, starting to take notes.

"I wanna say Jesus but I'm not sure," Barry admitted.  "I've only seen him a few times at Kurt's.  We were bored stupid and wanted to go home.  We all have some massive homework due tomorrow."  He yawned.  "We got into the van.  The one I don't know the name of put something over Xander's mouth and started to badmouth his grandparents.  Tom protested but they thumped him around the back of the van a bit, just shoving, until he quit.  They dropped us at Tom's house since it was closer and drove off."

"Why didn't you call someone?" Speed asked.

"Tom told his mom and she took another drink," Barry said bluntly.  "Apparently it wasn't important enough to get between her and her scotch and soda."  His father moaned.  "Tom tried to tell his father but he was busy day trading.  I wanted to tell my parents but my father was in a royal shitty mood earlier thanks to a trial and you guys."

"Night shift was unclear on the evidence they collected and it's a pedophile," the judge said weakly.

"We heard," Speed assured him.  "Megan went to the morgue and swore."  He looked at the boy.  "I need all the details you have on the boys, what they were wearing, and on the van.  Can you do that?"  He nodded, taking the pen to start writing.  "For future reference,  you call 911 if something like this happens.  Even if the adults aren't listening.  Am I clear, Barry?"  The boy nodded, looking miserable.  "It's a good thing Xander's okay.  We don't want anyone else to have to go through this though."

"Yes, sir."  He finished writing and handed it back.  "Kurt took orders from the guy I didn't know.  Tommy, the driver, sounded a bit drunk or something.  Not slurring drunk like Tom's mother, but that happy stage of tipsy after the first few.  He was cheering.  Our Tom suggested he get pompoms and got smacked on the head for it."

"That's good to know as well," Speed said, making that note.  "Let me talk to Detective Salas to see what she got from your friend."

Barry looked at him.  "Get rid of his father.  He's probably huffing.  He doesn't believe smart women exist and none of them should have any power over him."

"I'll see if that helps," he agreed.  "For now, stay in here.  If we need an excuse for the homework I'll write your school myself."  He walked out, going to listen to Yelina's.  The father was protesting so he walked inside and closed the door.  He handed Yelina the note.  "Tom, why didn't you tell anyone besides your mother?  Call the police, tell the housekeeper, anyone?"

"I tried to tell my father, he was busy trading Sony," he said bitterly.  His father gaped at him.  "He could've died because you didn't listen."  He got up and walked around to sit next to Yelina.  "Can we talk without him?"

"I need someone who can act in your best interests," she said gently.  "That's the law and we do have to do that or else these boys won't go to jail."

"Don't scare him," the father sneered.

Speed picked him up and walked him out by force, sending him back into reception.  He saw the receptionist call someone to come get him.  "You can stay out here, sir.  We have a judge in, we can use him since he's a father."  He went to get him, nodding up the hall.  "His father's been ejected.  Can we have you act as loco parentis?"

"Of course.  Come on, Barry."  He got up, heading that way.  The boy gave him a scared look.  "I'm disappointed one of you didn't call the cops but you're only ten.  Next time, you'll know to start screaming at someone, kids."  He sat down.  "I'm Barry's dad, Tom.  I'm here to act in your best interests so you don't get pushed into saying things you shouldn't.  Understand?"  He nodded, bucking up again.  "Good boy.  Now, please tell Detective Salas and CSI Speedle what happened and everything you remember about what happened today.  I know my son Barry says that you have a fantastic memory."

"Is Xander okay?" he asked.

"He's up the hall and he'll be fine," Speed promised.  "They only roughed him up a bit."  They nodded and Tom started to talk, letting them have a lot more detail than Barry had given.  The boy had an artistic touch and he knew what the drawing on the back of the van had been.  They took pictures of his bruises and they were released.  Speed went to talk to Gordon and Horatio, both of whom agreed that arresting them at the school would make a better impact and get things happening faster.  The school would be notified of a problem without a parent ranting.  The boys could be found there easier.  And they could let them know Xander wouldn't be back for a few days.


Horatio looked up from his reading as the front door opened two nights later, walking out to meet the returning grandparents.

"Oh, God, please tell me Xander's all right," Patrick said, gripping the rail to the stairs.

"He's fine.  A bit shaken up.  Having some nightmares.  I thought you might want to hear it from me since Gordon got pulled to the capitol to deal with an appeal.  He's had me staying with him since Xander didn't want to let me go."  They dropped their bags and followed him back to the study.  "The three boys...."

"Start from the beginning," Patrick said, getting comfortable.  "Is he asleep?"

"He is.  He should be waking up in about an hour with the new nightmares," Horatio admitted.  "We've worked through a few of them.  Your grandson was gay bashed."   He leaned forward.  "The driver Gordon assigned to pick him up was very late.  According to Xander this has happened in the past.  Not passing any judgements.  I'm not Yelina to smack someone around."

"That sister-in-law of yours has a lot of fire," Raphael praised.

"She's also the one who filed the arrest report," Horatio told him.  "Xander and his two friends were stranded at school for over an hour waiting on their rides.  One of Barry Jacoby's neighbors showed up and since Barry was one of the boys the three agreed to let the older boys drive them home."  Patrick moaned.  "They cowed the other two into submission after gassing Xander.  They dropped the boys off and then got to work bruising and painting on Xander."  He handed over the pictures.  "Tim Speedle, the CSI I called when Xander called me on a bomb scene, wiped it off after taking pictures.  A few hours went by but that's the extent of his injuries outside of the nightmares."

"The two boys didn't say anything?"

"They tried.  Their parents weren't all that interested," Horatio said bluntly.  "Judge Jacoby would have been if his son had dared to talk to him while he was in a foul mood.  Tom's mother was told and she just took another drink according to him.  His father was day trading and sneered about you two anyway.  He got ejected from the room when they were talking to his son.  The boys knew enough information to give CSI Speedle their identities.  They were arrested the next day at school in front of everyone."

"What else happened?" Patrick demanded.

"The boys woke him and dropped him in an alley.  They gave him a toss-away cellphone to call you two.  He called me.  I got him out of the alley and he found a helpful prostitute who took him to a nearby diner and waited with him until Speedle got there. I was on my way to disarm a bomb so I called him.  He's the one who rescued him from the park years ago," he finished.

"Where was Gordon?" Patrick asked.

"A neverending case briefing by his boss, who tried to keep him even when Yelina called."

"That man is out of office as soon as I get my hands on the Mayor," Patrick vowed.

"He didn't want to charge the boys either but another DA stepped in to help Gordon," Horatio said quietly.  He looked up.  "That's Xander."  They rushed up to comfort him and Horatio smiled.  He went back to his reading until they came back down.  He put down the book properly and looked at them.  "I said I'd see him at breakfast if you don't mind."

"We have twelve guest rooms, Horatio, use one," Raphael said bluntly.  "How has he handled it?"

"We didn't tell him about the gay bashing part. He was already scared enough without it.  Their parents were wiser than their children were.  They all took deals, basically got four years probation and three thousand hours community service.  Judge Margolis gave them a two hour lecture on their stupidity.  One son was publically disavowed by his parents in the courtroom on the transcripts.  One son was screamed at in Spanish and Italian and had to duck before he got beaten to death by his parents.  The other got a very quiet 'we'll speak at home' but the father didn't look too affected by it.  Xander hasn't been back to school since then and Gordon was thinking about making him switch."  He stood up.  "I'll let you two catch up with your staff.  Xander should have another nightmare in about an hour.  He usually has three a night and that was his second.  Have a better night, gentlemen."

"You too, Horatio, and thank you for watching out for him for us," Patrick said, giving his wrist a squeeze.

"It wasn't a hardship.  Xander's very easy to love," he said, heading up to his borrowed room.

Raphael looked at him.  "Do you want the school or the Mayor?"

"I believe I want the Mayor tomorrow at the luncheon," he said, standing up.  "I'm going to go sit with Xander for a while.  Deal with the house please."  He went to do that while Raphael got all the information they needed to deal with the children if it should become a bigger problem. He did like that Gordon had rewarded the prostitute.  She deserved it.


Xander came down to breakfast the next morning, giving Horatio a hug.  "Hi."

"Good morning."  He smiled at him.  "Hurry up and eat.  Your grandparents are back."

Xander gave him a shy grin.  "Grandfather slept around me," he admitted.  "It helped."  Horatio smoothed down his hair.  "So I guess you're going home, huh?"

"I probably should," he agreed gently.  "That doesn't mean you can't still write me.  Even though I'm not in homicide I can still answer letters."

Xander perked up and nodded.  "I can do that," he agreed.  "Thank you for staying with me.  Gordon was giving me pitiful looks and I can't stand that."

"I understand, Xander."  He patted him on the hand.  "Eat."  He dug in, eating like a preteen boy would.  Horatio finished his bagels and coffee, then gave Xander a hug.  "Remember, if you need me, call me, Xander."  That got a nod and a hug back.  "I'll write to you soon.  Try to keep up the science grade, okay?"

"I try but it's really hard and I don't understand," he admitted.

Horatio smiled.  "You can't be good at everything but you can try your best. That's all we expect."

"Yes, Horatio.  Thank you.  Should I walk you out?"

"No, it'll be fine.  You eat.  You need to eat.  If you change schools you've got to go shopping."

"Eww."  Horatio walked out chuckling, heading to check in with his boss.  He had a very understanding boss who agreed someone who gave a damn should stay with the child.  Gordon didn't understand children at all.  Horatio liked the young boy.  He was smart, a bit sarcastic, but he held his own.  "Maybe one day he'll follow me into the force," he said as he drove off.  "It'd be nice, almost like having my own son there."

Xander looked up as Gordon strode in.  "Horatio just left."

"I saw.  You okay?"

"I'm better.  Must I really go shopping if I change schools?"

"For uniforms, yes.  Where's the grandparents?"

"I woke up Grandfather when I got out of his crushing grip and Grandsire was on the piano the last time I heard him around four."

"Thank you, Xander.  Eat up, it's going to be a tiring, hugging day."  He nodded, letting out a small sigh.  No boy his age liked to be hugged.  It made them feel like little kids again.  Gordon went to find Sire, finding him asleep on a love seat.  "Your neck will cramp and then you'll be fussy."

"All the better to eat the school with," he complained, sitting up.  "Xander?"

"Breakfast.  Horatio ate with him and then left a few minutes ago."

"That's fine.  It's better he got his goodbyes out in private."  He looked at the family's legal counselor.  "No offense but we're not leaving Xander with you again."

"I don't understand children," he agreed.  "I can make some suggestions.  Xander needs his own personal driver, not the family one.  That way we don't have to worry about Henry being late."

"I can see that happening," Raphael said quietly, nodding outside.  "You're old enough to have some say, Xander.  Get in here."  He walked in and cuddled up next to him.  "You okay?"

"A bit sad.  I like spending time with Horatio.  He listens to me."

"Some day a lot of people will listen to you, grandson.  What else, Gordon?"

"Xander should have his own bodyguard," he said.

"I had one of those.  He abandoned me in the park," Xander reminded him.

Raphael looked down at him.  "We can assign David strictly to you, Xander."

"Um, no thanks.  Rather not, he's got a temper.  I'm still ten."

"How about Mortran and DiRosa?" Gordon suggested.

"DiRosa's Sire's bodyguard," Xander reminded him.  "I wouldn't mind Mortran though.  He's nice.  Quiet.  Steady.  Likes my jokes."

"Okay, we'll assign him to you.  How about Black as a driver?"

"Why can't Mortran?  It's not like I'm going to be out and about for a few more years.  Give him the keys to one of the family cars and he can hike me all over like he's my Special OPs nanny."

"I can see that," Patrick agreed as he walked in.  He kissed Xander on the head.  "Did you eat?"

"Yes, Grandfather, did you?"

"I'm going to do that now," he said, smiling at him.  "We also need to see if there's anything like an after-school activity you want to participate in."

"I suck at sports," Xander reminded him.

"You could take up fencing, riding lessons," Gordon offered.  "Diving since you're very good at that and swimming.  Speaking of, Krems has a swim team."

"No way in hell am I going to the psycho Christian academy from Hell," Xander said bluntly.  "I'd rather be eaten by the big, slimy thing that crawled out of the ocean last year."

"Goodacre?" his grandfather suggested.  He got a look like he was insane.

"Holliwell?" Raphael suggested.  "It's a good school but not religious."

"I like that part but they're snobs," Xander reminded him.  "Even though I should be one I'm not.  Pace?"

"It's decent educationally," Gordon agreed.  "Non-religious since that's been bothering you."

"I don't need some nun telling me that my grandparents are going to hell," Xander told him.  "Unless you want me to become one of those behavior cases that show up in the press?"  They all shook their heads.  "Pace is good enough for me.  Let's face it, I'm not a brain.  Sending me to a brain trust school will only cause me stress.  It'll also make me feel really dumb next to most of my class.  Sending me somewhere like Pace means I'm the middle of the road academically.  Plus they offer three martial arts clubs and an anime guild."

"I think you're a bit young for anime," Patrick said.  "I don't mind Pace.  Isn't it less expensive?"  Gordon nodded.  "Then we'll schedule a few hours this week to talk to them."  He gave Xander a cuddle, earning a grin.  "Anything else?"

"Can I quit going to social events?  I'm so stupidly bored by the ugly folk who can't get over a hangnail as a child.  I'm about ready to snap back at some of the matrons who think I should be enthusiastic that some of the girls there are trying to hit on me when I'm only ten.  I don't care about a political marriage and I'm sure as hell not marrying one of those society cows.  I'd cut my dick off first."

"We can let you ease back to some of the charity events," Patrick agreed.  "Remember, some day you'll have to run all this, Xander."

Xander looked at him.  "If I'm under a hundred you're in deep shit."

Patrick looked stunned but Raphael burst out giggling.  "Yes, he is definitely your blood, Patrick," Sire giggled.  "That was something you'd say to me."   He got up, going to find the boy's new bodyguard.  "Mortran!" he called from the back doorway.  He jogged in.  "We're reassigning you."

"New York?"

"Xander's bodyguard and driver."  He found the keys and looked, plucking off the stylish Caddy.  He tossed them over.  "They're yours.  You're to be on Xander's behind the whole time he's out of the house.  You drive him, you pick him up, you watch him in public."  The man gaped.  "No?"

"That's one hell of a job, Sire!"

Sire just shrugged and grinned. "Not really.  He doesn't really like to go out.   He asked to cut back his social obligations too."

"Okay.  We'll try," he decided.  "If it won't work then I'll go to New York to guard the nephew?"

"That's reasonable.  We've got to tell him someday soon."  He walked off, going to make more plans.

Mortran leaned into the sitting room.  "Are you sure, Father?"

"Xander and I agreed on you," he said with a smile for his grandson.  "Gordon decided it would be better and easier to have someone dedicated to his life."

"You can be my very own Special Ops nanny," Xander quipped.

Mortran smirked, shaking his head.  "Nanny I am not, kid."  He looked at Patrick again.   "If you want, Father.  We'll try it."  He went to change clothes.  Casual jeans and an Army t-shirt weren't good enough for anywhere but around the house.  The kid was perking back up again and it meant he'd have to follow him somewhere soon.  Xander still couldn't sit still.


Xander found his way around the luncheon that afternoon.  He hated them.  He watched his grandfather walk up to one of the kids who had hurt him's mother and slap her, growling at her that it was for her son, to pass it on.  He shook his head, finding the Chief of Police.  He had a request to make.  He walked over there.  "Chief, may I have a moment to talk to you?" he asked politely.  The older man smiled and nodded, walking him away from his wife.  "I have a request to make."  He turned to face him.  "Detective Caine has protected me from the first day he met me at five.  I had managed to walk away from a groping and kissing bodyguard and got lost.  He took good care of me then, even standing up to the rabidly overprotective family members at that point," he said quietly.  "He did it later on when I was hurt.  He and Detective Salas have always been there for me.  Especially with this last incident three months ago."  He sipped his water from his water bottle.  "Horatio has always spoken out for the victims, even me.  He came straight from a scene to help me last time."

"You want him to get a reward?" he asked.

"Actually, I want to see the man happy and I'm not sure he is," Xander said gently.  He moved closer, looking up at him.  "He seems sad now.  I know it's been a while since I've seen him in person but we do write about every week.   He hasn't been as happy in bomb squad as he was before.  Yes, I do want him rewarded but I want it to be something other than a shiny certificate to hang up.  That would insult the man for taking care of me.  He even stayed with me because Gordon has *no* idea what to do with me."   That got a smirk.  "He even took days off to stay with me so I wouldn't be surrounded by the guards and everyone but no one to talk to.  I don't know what I'm asking but I know that it'll come up sometime in the near future."

"If something comes up that I think will be a suitable reward, I'll see what I can do," he agreed.  He held out a hand.  "He is a good detective."

Xander shook his hand.  "He's a great detective, a good friend, and very kind to a scared kid.  Then again, Yelina once slapped some of Grandfather's people around because I was being bruised by them."  That got a laugh and the Chief walked off.  Xander went back to finding a place to get away from the people.  He was starting to seriously hate people.  His bodyguard gave him a look.  "What?"

"He might pout that you did that."

"He deserves it.  The good people who change society are never acknowledged until after they're gone.  Look at saints."

"Good point."  He sat beside him.  "You could be hanging with the other kids."

"Not if I want to stay out of trouble."  He looked then pointed.  "That one's already drinking.  Her bigger sister is into cocaine and her oldest sister is into the lawn boy, who's about two years older than I am."  He looked then pointed at one of the boys.  "He likes to hack computers, which I don't mind, but he was trying to hack the Pentagon the last time I knew so he could paint everything a cherry red smiley face.  That way he could prove he'd been there."  He pointed at another one, this time slightly older.  "Her parents are really weird and I think Yelina would like to slap her parents around too.  I think she'd have fun."  He pointed more discreetly at one.  "She's about ready to snap and kill everyone.  Her parents expect her to be God.  They want all 'A's.  They want her to do three sports and at least two other extra-curricular activities every week.  They're trying to push her to go to their college choice and they're also pushing her to date who they want her to date.  She's going to kill them soon."  He finished his water and put the bottle down.  "Her and strange girl could use the help."

"Girls like her have shrinks.  If you get involved it could cause more problems."

Xander looked at him.  "No one deserves to grow up in a family like my natural parents," he said quietly.  "I'm glad Sire had them eaten."  He looked again, studying the one girl.  "She's gained weight again.  Her mother must be freaking out."  He looked at the other girl, the one who was studying him, and nodded her over.  "Chill, relax.  We're in a safe zone here," he said when she got there.  "I don't want to make small talk but you were looking like you were going to gouge some eyes out."

She sat down delicately beside him on the windowsill.  "It's been a long day," she admitted.

Xander's bodyguard looked at her.  "You look like you could use a nap."

"I could use about ten naps.  I was up late last night writing a thirty page paper on the reasons for the overthrow of the Tzarist states in Russia."  Xander whimpered.  "It's an additional paper on top of my homework that my mother wanted to show off."

Xander patted her on the wrist.  "You can come hide at our place now and then if you want.  It's not like I'm going to be interested in you but we're not like that.  I've got two near failing grades no matter how hard I try."

She smiled.  "Thank you, Xander.  That's a kind offer.  I may take you up with that after I stab them."

Xander leaned closer. "Before you do that, see if they can be fixed."

"No one would ever believe me.  They'll say they're giving me a better life."  She stared.  "Bethany gained weight?  I thought she had been sick."  Mortran coughed and walked over to talk to Patrick.  She looked at him.  "You hate being here."

"Grandfather said some day I'll have to run all his stuff.  He does charity work."  He found a marker in his pocket.  "Got paper?"  She found a piece in her purse and he wrote out a number.  "That is the line to Detective Salas in homicide."  He capped the marker and put it back into his pocket, looking up at her.  "She found out that one of my bodyguards had been bruising me and came to slap the hell out of everyone in the house until Grandfather promised he'd do it for her."

She smiled.  "I"ll keep that in mind, Xander.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Remember, we have guest rooms and low expectations.  We only expect you to do your best."

"I'll remember."  She kissed him on the top of the head and wandered off, running into her mother.

"Ah, there you are.  I was just telling Kelly about your paper on Venetian customs."

"You had me do it on the Tzarist overthrow, mother."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."  She looked at 'Kelly' and shrugged.  "Maybe that's a future unnecessary paper she wants me to write.  If you'll excuse me, I need some caffeine. I was up late last night writing about overthrowing Russia."  She walked off, grabbing some coffee.  She found Patrick watching her.  "If I beg, would you uphold Xander's offer of a quiet place to actually get some sleep now and then?"

He smiled and nodded.  "Of course. I've noticed it as well.  Better hiding than stabbing or something equally unsavory."  She walked off smiling.   "I have to watch that one.  She has a bright future."  He watched his grandson hover on the edges and talk to those who walked over to him, who were mostly older women who wanted to make sure he wasn't feeling left out by his face.  One was clearly upsetting him so he walked over there.  "Xander?"

"I was just telling this nice matron that I wasn't ready to meet daughters. That I'm only ten and I could care less about daughters or sons for at least three more years."

"I think that's reasonable," he agreed.

"It would give him someone to hang out with."

Xander looked at her.  "I have plenty of people to hang out with," he promised. "I have friends from school and a lot of others.  Frankly, your child is scary.  She was talking about wedding dresses the last time I saw her two years ago.  I doubt she'd have anything to play that I'd want to play."

"She does like video games.  We've recently gotten her interested in them since so many of her peers are."

Xander blinked.  "While that's nice, it's not me and you do know that my grandfather runs *gay* charities, right?"  She went pink and walked off.  He looked at his grandfather.  "I'm withdrawing from polite society for at least two years.  Do you mind?"

"No, Xander, I think it's a reasonable decision," he said, smiling at him.  "Go ahead and escape."

"Sure."  He got up, summoning his bodyguard back from his new helper friend.  "Bring her," he mouthed.  "We're escaping."  He walked over to her mother, smiling as he touched her hand.  "Your daughter's a bit tired so I was going to give her a ride home since I'm escaping," he said quietly.

"Thank you, Xander.  That's very kind of you."

"I was going to see if she could help me in science.  Would that bother you?"

She beamed.  "I think it would do her good to tutor someone else.  We'll work on arranging her schedule."  He nodded and walked with her and his bodyguard.  Her daughter did look like she was out on her feet.  She smiled at Patrick.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome and she can use our extensive library for research for her school papers as well," he agreed.  "That would let her gracefully bow out of some things that haven't been making her very happy as activities.  After all, colleges like tutoring more than they do sports from what I heard.  You should ask her."  She looked stunned.  He walked her away.  "Xander noticed something," he said quietly, nodding at the one girl.  "Wasn't she just ill?"  She grimaced but nodded. "She's gained ten pounds since she was ill?"  He looked at her.  "Also, how did she get the flu since none of us have been sick and she's a virtual prisoner in her home?" he asked quietly.

"You think something's going on."

"I think someone needs to have her parents talked to by CPS," he agreed quietly.  "I don't want to start a scandal but I think someone more subtle could help her and get her away from them if we're right.  She's not covering the bruise on her cheek very well according to my bodyguard."

She looked around and walked over to a nearby older woman, whispering in her ear.  She got a regal nod and the woman walked over there, smiling at the children.  The one girl gave her a panicked look but she gave her a gentle smile and walked her off, taking her to talk to her in private.  "Thank you," she said as she walked past him.

"Of course.  No one should be scared of their family," he agreed.  He went back to his snubbing the parents of the boys who had hurt his grandson.   He knew his grandson was plotting how to keep the other one from snapping and killing her whole family and if she could help Xander understand science he'd be all the more enthusiastic about it.


Six months later Xander came off his final dive and felt content.  If he had gotten anywhere near a good score he had won the state championship in his age group of about twelve other kids.  He got out of the pool and cramped, grabbing his hip, going to one knee.  His coach ran over to help him up.  "Cramp," he explained.

"I'm hoping it's a growing pain," he complained, walking him over to the bench.  He looked him over.  He smiled at the scores.  "Congratulations, Xander."

Xander looked at the board and smiled, nodding.  He looked at his coach.  "I came out content."

He looked at him.  "Then you cramped?"

"A few minutes later."  He looked at his hip. "That hurts."

"We'll have it checked over by your doctor after the podium.  Think you can stand?"  Xander tried and wobbled.  His bodyguard came over.  "He cramped."

"He's had a few pains there," Mortran said quietly.  He looked at the kid.  "Get your medal and we'll have someone check."  Xander nodded, biting his lip as he stood up.  Then he suddenly shivered and stood straighter.  "The pain stopped?"

"A small pop....."  He was picked up and walked off.  "What?"

Mortran handed him to one of the waiting paramedics.  They had to have them at each sporting event.  "He had cramps around his right hip that ended with a sudden pop."

"Does he still have his appendix?"

"Yes," Mortran agreed.

"Okay, let's check."  He pushed and Xander whimpered.  "I think you're right."

"I'll get your medal and we'll be right there, Xander."  He nodded, letting himself be loaded and taken off.  He walked back inside, talking to the coach and confused judge.  "His appendix just popped," he announced.

"I'll get you his medal," the judge agreed.  "I hope he's okay."

"Us too.  The kid never complains unless he's in a lot of pain."  He looked at the coach, giving him a small smile.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  I'll check on him later tonight.  Did you send someone else after him?"

"We had another one here with us."  He took the medal and shook their hands.  "Thank you, I know he was happy he won."

"He said he had that suddenly content feeling," the coach admitted.  "Go."  He watched the overprotective bodyguard walk off and looked at the judges.  "Sorry."

"It's okay.  Not his problem."  He walked back there, smiling at the others gathered.  "His appendix burst."  They got some groans.  "So we'll let him off accepting his medal this year.  Let's continue on."  They nodded, getting into position for the official ceremony.


Xander woke up in his hospital room, blinking at his grandfather.  "It was just an appendix."  His grandfather pointed so he looked at his medal.  He took it off and handed it over.  "I was content when I completed my last dive," he said quietly.

"Are you taking some time off?"

Xander considered it then nodded.  "I am.  The world's a big place.  The coach said I've been having growing pains again so that does give me a good excuse to wait until after I'm no longer gangly and stupid looking."

"You won't be stupid looking," he promised, stroking over his hair.  "You did very good, grandson, and we are all very proud of you."  Xander beamed.  He handed him something.  "It came for you today."

Xander opened the letter, smiling at Horatio's neat handwriting.  It was so much better than his own scrawl.  He giggled. "He got a promotion."  He kept reading and smiled.  "Can I...."  He got given his box of stationary and got to work writing back to him.  A very long letter this time since he told him about the diving and deciding to take some time off and said he deserved the promotion even if Horatio did think he had asked the Chief for it.  Which he'd never admit to.  You couldn't do subtle good works if you got outed.  He reread it and sealed it, letting his grandfather mail it for him.  He snuggled down in the bed, turning on the tv.  There was nothing on but he tried.  His grandfather went back to a station he had passed over.  "What's coming on?"

"In about twenty minutes there's a show on how they build race cars," he offered.

"That could be cool."  He moved the stationary box off to the side and took his hand to hold.  A nurse came in to check him over and he stared when she stared at him.  "What?"

"Your father?"

"Grandfather.  My father's gone from life."  She nodded, making note of that.  "The other guys were my bodyguards.  I'd appreciate them being able to get in when they need to.  How long am I in here for anyway?"

"At least tomorrow, possibly the next day to make sure your incision isn't infected and the fluid from your appendix isn't infecting your intestines, Grandson," Patrick said.  The nurse nodded.

"If I must.  Can I have real food?"

"Nope," the nurse said.  "That's why it's called spoiling when you get home."  She finished fluffing his pillows and checking him over, heading back to her desk.  "His grandfather has custody?"  The floor supervisor nodded.   "Okay, I didn't know that.  The bodyguard?"

"Getting dinner for a while," she said, looking at her.  "That's Father Benis.  He's big in gay rights."  The nurse gaped.  "That's his grandson, Xander.  He came off a dive earlier and his appendix burst."  She giggled.  "Seriously.  I'm sure they're anxious to get back to Miami but it'll be fine.  His bodyguard is the quiet, big type."  That got a nod and they got back to work.   She smiled when the bodyguard came back and went to sit with the family.  He was good about hovering without hovering.


Xander walked into the house and saw Sire pacing.  "I wasn't in that much danger," he said, looking confused when he got hugged.  "What happened?"  He made the vampire look at him.  "Did I screw up?"

"No, grandson, I did."

"Is Grandfather going to spank you?"

Sire smiled.  "Maybe."  He sat down, making the boy look at him.  "I didn't have your parents eaten."

"They probably would've tasted funny according to Mortran."

He nodded. "Probably made the one eating them drunk too," he agreed.  He straightened his shirt out.  "You made national news with your appendix bursting."

Xander just nodded.   "So now they're back?"

"They are."

"It's crass but can we pay them off?" Mortran asked.

"I've tried.  They claim they want him back."

"Which means they want a continued allowance," Mortran pointed out.  "Strategically that's all they can want."

"Maybe.  His wife wants him brought back into the family."

Xander shook his head.  "No thanks."  He walked off, heading for the kitchen.  "Cook, can I have some cocoa?" he called as he walked in.  She squealed and hugged him, getting him a cup of cocoa and a cookie.  "Thanks."  He grinned and headed back out, finding the adults in his grandfather's sitting room.  He sat on his grandfather's lap, getting comfortable.  "You know, he's still going to have to accept the gay things.  There's no saying I won't be."  He nibbled on his cookie, weathering the shocked looks.  "Not like I'm finding a reason for girls to exist other than to annoy the crap outta me."  He took a sip.  "Plenty of the older spoiled brats have an allowance system that they get from a lawyer as well.  Though, if he tries to push it in court, you did remove me for a very good reason.  I'm sure you had paperwork and evidence, all that stuff that Horatio said Melody needed to get away from her parents."

They all smiled and nodded.  They did have that.  "We don't want this to go too public," Patrick said.  "It could hurt you."

Xander looked at him.  "I can snub with the best of them," he said dryly.  "Let it get to a judge.  I'll let him see my back."  He finished his cocoa and gave him a hug.  "Why would I want to go back to Sunnydale?"  He looked at them.  "Find the biggest, meanest, bastard of a lawyer and sic him on them.  Making them cry might be pretty."

"Xander, your violent urges are coming out again," Mortran said dryly.

Xander shrugged.  "It happens."  He looked at his grandsire.  "Or invite them here.  Show them I'm not leaving."

"They'll try to claim our lifestyle is detrimental to you and why you have violent urges."

"What did I do the second day I was here?" Xander asked.

"You went after me with a shoe for trying to get you dressed," Mortan said.  "And Cook.  We can prove he was violent before we got to him.  It's under much better control now.  Personally I like his idea.  Get someone who makes God cry with his meanness and make him deal with the parents."

Xander looked at him.  "Does this mean we can finally meet my cousin in New York?"

"It could," he admitted.  He gave him a hug.  "All right.  We'll do that as an opening move.  It'll look good to consult an attorney over that matter.  They'd have to file locally."

Xander made his grandfather look at him then grinned. "Then call Jennifer.  Ask her opinion, Grandfather.  She just went through a messy divorce.  See who her lawyer was and call him for a recommendation."  He slid off his lap, stretching.  "I'm going to take a nap.  I'll see you guys at dinner."  He headed up to his room, letting them make plans together.

Patrick pulled out his society phone book, finding the number he wanted.  "Jennifer," he said when the phone was answered.  "Patrick Benis.  No, we're good, Xander's fine, dear.  He's napping off the strain of coming home and having cocoa.  No, I have need of a recommendation.  His winning the State meet brought his parents back into his life," he said quietly.  "Exactly."  He wrote down a number on the paper Mortran gave him. "Thank you, dear.  Of course.  I'll see you then."  He made a note of that as well as he hung up, dialing the new number.  "This is Patrick Benis, I need to talk to a Mr. Henry about a custody matter.  If he could that would be good.  That is our number.  Thank you."  He hung up and looked at his Sire.  "We'll do everything we can short of having them killed."

"It'd look bad anyway," Mortran offered.  "Do it in a few months when you can give them a satisfied 'you lost' as well."  He walked off to get some coffee and check in with the head of security.  "I'm back, Thomas.  Xander's napping."

"We're getting a new guard dog this week," he said with a smile.

"That'll be nice.  Xander likes them.  I'll have to remind him guard dogs aren't pets."

Sire walked in with a new name.  "He called back and said that the constraints of the case would be better handled by this one, and Patrick did say he said he was very tough and mean.  Make sure?"  That got a nod, Thomas going to call around about him.  He looked at Mortran.  "You're good with him."

"He's a good kid.  If he was one of the society hellions I'd have quit by now, Raphael."  He walked off laughing.  "Are we going to talk about pets?" he called after him.

"He has two cats somewhere."

"Good point."  He went to get more coffee and settle in to help Thomas with a background check on the new lawyer and a new guard Patrick had adopted.


Xander looked at the people across from him, feeling a bit disgusted.  He clearly got his looks from his grandfather.  He looked at his bodyguard, who nodded for him to turn back around.  They had been over this already a few times.  "Why was I forced to meet with you?" he asked calmly.

"You're coming home, where you belong," his mother said.  "They've taught you to be snotty and too good for your parents."

"Actually, I was too good for you when I was born and you walked off and conveniently forgot me at the hospital," Xander told her.  She flinched.  "I'm also too good for the people who beat a child bad enough to scar them before they were able to walk."  He leaned on the table.  "I'm not going anywhere with you, I could care less what sort of ploy this is.  You have nothing you can blackmail Grandfather with."

"I know what he is, boy," his father sneered.

Xander shrugged.  "So?  From what I've heard about the town you live in, there's a lot of them there."  His father gaped.  "In preparation for this meeting I did some research.  It's what school taught me."  He looked at his mother again.  "Even if you did, you wouldn't have access to any of my money.  It'll all be put into a trust that only paid my schooling expenses.  Grandfather would have to approve every single transaction and I'd still have a bodyguard."  He pointed at him.  "Him."  He saw the hatred.  "You're not the first to try shit, that's why I have him.  Someone took me from school."

"Liked it?" his father sneered.

Xander stood up.  "Meeting over.  You're not getting me.  Even if the judge ordered it I can escape."  He walked off, his bodyguard going with him.  "Can I talk to the judge over this idiocy?"

"Not yet."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "We'll work on it, Xander."

Xander looked at him once they got outside.  "Teach me how to escape."

He stared at him then nodded  "Agreed."  The current idiot judges had an equal chance of handing him to his birth parents even though they were violent alcoholics thanks to the gay issue.  He took the boy to where he hung out in his off-times, making the other former military guys smirk.  "His parents showed up again, guys.  He needs to know how to get away from them if necessary.  It's time to start his training in how to take care of himself."  They nodded.  "He's got a good hand at simple strategy so far."

"We can work with that," one agreed.  "How would you think about getting out?"

"They're violent drunks.  So either the window or sneaking past them once they're unconscious," Xander said quietly, staring at him.  "That's why I need taught."  That got a smirk and a nod.  "Just don't press on my side please.  I had my appendix taken out two weeks ago and I'm still a bit sore there at the moment."

"We can do that," another one agreed, leading them back to the training simulation area.  Mortran followed to teach him what he knew as well.


Xander looked at the judge, standing tall.  "I'm not going with them," he said when the judge said he was.  "I'm sorry but if I wanted to be killed, I'd run away from home and live on the streets."  The judge gaped.  "Not only does their town not offer any sort of decent education, I refuse to be hurt by anyone.  The first time someone hits me, they'll be getting it back."  His father tried to grab him and he ducked, then kicked him in the side.  His martial arts clubs had paid off.  His father went down and he sneered at him.  "You are so beneath me.  You deny what you are, you walked away from Grandfather for grieving for Grandmother, your own mother.  How dare you."   He looked at the judge.  "If you'll excuse me, I have homework I'd rather be doing."  He walked over his father's body, heading out.  He could hear the lawyers screaming.   He stayed to listen then nodded when the idea of a psychological evaluation.  "That'll do."  He walked off to meet his bodyguard, who hadn't been allowed in the courtroom by order of the judge.  "I kicked him."


"To make the judge change his mind and hold off on sending me today like he wanted.  I've got a shrink coming up."

"It's a weak ploy."

"It gives me more time."

"True."  He walked him outside to the limo, getting into the back and heading back to the house.  The lawyer got there shortly after them and he held up a hand.  "It was a weak ploy but it worked."

"It did, but now they're going to say you've been training him."

"I'm in three martial arts clubs at school," Xander told her.  "I'm actually a black belt in two."  She gaped.  "Besides, the day I got here I was trying to beat people.  I've calmed down a lot.  Let the shrink come.  I'm a darling of local society.  Which isn't such a bad idea," he said thoughtfully.

"True, it's not," she agreed.  Someone knocked on the door and a guard opened it.  "Yes, Officer?"

"Ma'am, he's supposed to be with his parents tonight as supervised visitation?" the officer said, holding out the order.  "I was told to pick him up."

"Can I kill him this time?" Xander asked.

"No, son.  It looks bad," Mortran said.

Xander nodded, walking out with him.  He did stop to grab his backpack and keys, plus some cash from his bodyguard's wallet.  The officer gave him a sideways look.  "Violent alcoholics versus my grandparents, who're together."

"I heard.  It's been in the papers."

"I kicked his butt just now in the courtroom," Xander admitted.  "Why did the judge decide I had to be with them?"

"To apologize probably."

"Never.  Are we going to the courthouse?"  That got a nod.  "That'll do."  He relaxed in the front of the cruiser, making mental plans.  He was walked into the judge's chambers.  "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Son, you're very violent."

"I was when they took me away from them.  I learned it from the source."  He stared him down.  "You know very well that I'm not usually violent.  You've seen me for years growing up in polite society.  I'm the best kid there is until someone attacks me."  That got a nod.  "After being gay bashed a few years back, I got the bodyguard.  He keeps me out of even more trouble."

"How did you know how to hurt him?"

"I'm a black belt in two martial arts and a brown in another."  The judge gaped.  "It's offered at school.  I forced grandfather to let me take them to help me control the urges they gave me."  He lifted his shirt, turning around.  "Those scars on my back weren't done after I got to Miami."  He put down his shirt and turned around.  "The only scars I've gotten since I've been here are my appendix and two on my knees from rollerblading."

"The one on your shoulder," the judge reminded him.

"Oh, yeah, when what's-her-name's exotic cat decided to knead me and got my shoulder."  He tucked his shirt back in.  "I'm sorry but if I have to go there I'm going to learn how to defend myself better and some day soon it'll end up in a tragedy," he said quietly.  "I'm happy and content where I am."

"There's a worry that you'll be turned gay."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "What makes you think that *uncle* out there isn't his gay lover since they're both single children?" he said.  The judge gaped.  "It could be genetic, at which point in time I was already that way.  At this age, what do I care about sex?  If I am gay Miami's probably a better place for me too."

"You could be straight."

"I could puke on girls too.  Mostly because they keep getting shoved at me in social circles.  Why do you think I cut back?"  The judge stared in shock.  "Yeah, me.  They kept trying to push and force the girls onto me.  If I take on a girlfriend some day it won't be because I'm forced into it by some society matron with ideas of my grandparents' money.   I'll be gay first and proud of it.  He knew very well Grandfather was gay before he huffed off.  He left because Grandfather went into the church when my grandmother, his mother, died.  He huffed off because Grandfather refused to give him his inheritance before he went into the church."  The judge nodded.  "So, no.  Also, did you do any checking on their town?  I did.  It's got a *very* high death rate.  Twice Miami's.  I'm safer down here and I'll be damned if I'm going to let some drunk, slobbering, greedy person kill me.  If you send me back there, I'll be back in Miami within a month, Mr. Jacoby.  You know that.  You knew that when Barry and I were friends."

"I do, Xander.  Calm down."

Xander gave him an odd look. "I am calm."  The judge smirked.  "I am.  It's amazing, the first thing they did when I got here was take me to see someone about my hyperactivity. My parents didn't even know I was more than stupid.  As they told me repeatedly.  And ugly and never going to amount to anything.  I'm sorry but my grandparents are thousands of eons better than my birth parents.  Just because they're snuggled together most nights doesn't mean anything.  Yes, Grandfather's ill.  He's been hanging on for years.  I hope he continues."

"So do I," the judge agreed.  "You still have to apologize and I want to have some supervised visitation."

"The last time I sat with them they called me snotty and sneered that I'd be brought back to my place.   They asked me if I liked it when I was kidnaped.  That was with my bodyguard in the room."

"There'll be an officer there with you all night," the judge said firmly.

"Can I specify which ones?"


"Can we see if Detective Salas would like dinner with me?"  He smiled.  "She beat the last person who hurt me."

The officer laughed, turning around.  "Good one, kid."

"She did," the judge admitted.  "He's got close ties to the lab."  He looked at him. "Regular officers, Xander.  They're tied up in a very bad case.  We need them to solve it."

"I saw the sniper on tv," he admitted quietly, staring at him.  "Fine.  As long as the officer knows that they're violent."  The judge nodded.   "I'd come armed actually."

"We're always armed, kid.  I'll take the next few," the officer said.

"That's reasonable.  I'll make sure you're reimbursed for dinner, Officer."  That got a nod so he looked at Xander.  "You could get to know them."

"No I can't.  I might get filthy from their greed."  He grabbed his backpack.  "I'm going to go ignore them before I suddenly become very rude."

"That's up to you."  Xander nodded, walking out with the officer once he had the address.  He watched him go.  The kid was older than his years.  Having a sick grandfather was making him take on some adult responsibilities.  The kid did his grandparents proud but you could see he was going to snap soon.


Xander sat down on the couch, looking at his parents, who were already sneering.  "Just because I got ordered to sit with you tonight doesn't mean you won."

"You're ours," the mother said.  "We'll get you fixed yet."

Xander blinked at her.  "Fixed?  Excuse me?  I don't need children, woman."  He rolled his eyes, pulling out his history textbook.  At least it was something to do.

"You're *studying*?" his father sneered.

"Yes, I have to keep up my grades to stay in Judo club," he said blandly.  His father slapped at him but he used the book to block it.  "The officer is here to tell the judge you do things like that."  He glared at him.  "You do know I loathe you, correct?  Just to make that perfectly clear."

"Someone will fix this attitude.  Then you'll see they're wrong."

Xander blinked.  "Oh, don't tell me you're going to one of those supposedly fixing the gay people places.  How trite!"  He sneered.  "If I'm gay, it's because I was born this way.  Thank you anyway.  After all, from what I understand *Uncle* Rory serves much the same function in your house."  She went pale.  He stared her down.  "At this point in time I can't say whether or not I'm gay.  I have girls shoved at me all the time and I can't stand them.  I can't see much use for any sex at the moment.  Then again, I'm only ten."

"You're eleven."

"I won't be eleven for six days," Xander said.  He got back to his history homework.  He found his notebook and got to work making notes with a small sigh.  "Officer, is there any soda?  I could use a drink.  I can hit the machine if I need to."

"None in here, kid."

"Thank you."  He grabbed all the money and keys out of his backpack, heading out to get a soda, coming back to find them going through his things.  "Feel better?"  He sat down with his homework, sipping his soda while he made notes.

"Why do you have money?" his father said.

Xander looked at him.  "So I can get to school tomorrow.  That way my bodyguard can sleep in and finish the in-depth background checks on you guys."  They both went pale.  He went back to his studying but his book was snatched and thrown.  He sighed and looked at him.  "I'm trying to do what I need to do so my grades don't fall.  Do you mind?"  He got up to get it but his father grabbed him by the back of the neck.

"You're a snotty little kid.  Your attitude will be fixed when you come home."

Xander elbowed his stomach, making him groan.  He looked at him.  "No, I'm not.  Actually I'm not usually like this.  It's only when I'm put into danger that I'm not a nice, sweet, good kid.  For some reason I see you both as threats.  Therefore I'm acting to protect myself."  His mother sniffled.  "Oh, shut up!  You locked me in a closet for four days once.  Then you got angry when I screamed in hunger."  He walked to get his book, coming back to do his homework.  He heard them move and got up, going to sit by the officer.  "I think it's safer if I'm over here," he said quietly.  That got a nod.  He settled in on the table, getting back to his homework.  He patted himself down and concentrated, making the keys fly back to him.   His mother shrieked.  He looked over.  "What?  It's a magnetic retrieval system."  He stuffed them back into his pocket and got back to work.  The officer coughed so he showed him.  "See, matching magnets. It works up to ten feet."

He looked at it, smiling a bit.  "I could use that."

"It's a tester system."  He grinned and put it back.  "Mortran got tired of me losing my keys around the house."  That got a laugh.  "Seriously."  He shrugged.  He got back to work.  He sighed a few minutes later and ran a hand through his hair.  "I hate history."  The officer laughed.  "I do.  I don't like school."  He got back to work anyway.  He knew he needed to keep his grades up.

"What else do you besides dive, Xander?" his mother asked.

He looked over.  "Martial arts.  I help with the new guard dog's training now and then so I don't play with her and ruin it.  I've got a few social obligations with charity events.  The pound, the children's hospital, things that a boy my age should care about.  I've got a friend I'm helping save from her parents because they're driving her insane.   Mostly I'm a normal kid with a few after school activities.  By the way, I'm not diving this upcoming season.  I'm in the middle of a growth spurt.  The coach agreed I should let it settle first."  He took another drink of his soda.  "And there's no endorsements of underage sports people.  It's against the law."  He got back to work.  "I hate the American Revolution.  At least ancient history had interesting customs."

"Puritans had some pretty strange customs," the officer told him.  Xander perked up at that.  "Really.  They often shared the same room.  New England's cold in the winter and they didn't have central heat back then.  Just a fireplace or something.  So the whole family shared the same bed."  Xander looked at him.  "Plus they had some pretty strict rules and a double standard for women."

"I knew about that part.  My teacher's a strong one about pointing out how women were treated.  My next report's going to be on the female soldiers during the Revolutionary war."   That got a smile.  "I know, it's a bit of sucking up but my grades suck this year and I need to keep them up if I want to stay in my clubs.  School rules."  That got a nod.  "Thank you."  He grinned and got back to work.  "I'll research that when I get home.  We've got a few huge, boring books on colonial history in the library."  The officer ruffled his hair and he straightened it out.  "Gotta look good.  Otherwise the matrons fuss and ask me if I'm sick."  That got a laugh.  "They do, then they force their daughters on me."  He shook his head.  "If they keep it up I'm never going to be around women."  He finally got done with his chapter and went to get the other books and start on the next subject.  He grimaced.  "Chemistry, yay me."  He tapped his fingers and got on with it.  Might as well, nothing else to do.  His stomach grumbled and he looked at the officer.  "Dinner?" he asked quietly.

"That's a good point.  Where are we going for dinner?  I can get my own but it's almost eight and kids his age need to eat on a set schedule.  Plus I'm sure he's got a bedtime soon?"

"Ten," Xander lied.  The officer looked at him.  "Nine-thirty to be in my room but I can stay up and read until ten."

"Fine."  He looked at the parents.  "You've got to feed him too."

"We can go through a fast food place," Xander said quietly.  "I won't care as long as it's not poisonous."

"We've already eaten, we expected him to as well," the mother said.  "He got here at four."

"He was in court until three-thirty," Xander said dryly.  "Not like I had any time to eat."  He looked at him.  "You have to have someone switch out with you, right?"  He nodded.  "Can he bring it?  I'll pay him back."

"Sure, kid.  I can do that.  My partner's coming in about an hour.  Want anything in particular?"

"No onions on the burger?"  That got a nod and he called him from the room phone.  Xander handed him a ten from his pocket.  "Thank you."  That got a nod and he watched as the kid got back to work.  He tapped something.  "I remember this from college.  You have to balance things.  Chemistry is like karma.  It needs a balance to come out right."  Xander smiled and nodded, working on that problem again.  "Tutor?"

"It was  a consideration.  Last quarter of physical science was physics and I'm not the best in math.  My grades are a bit low and the headmaster had to warn me about them.  I pointed out I'm doing my best but I'm not getting physics or any other science.  I'm better at hands-on things.  They're arranging my schedule next semester so I've got a different gym and a more project oriented set of classes.  I only have to endure through this one for another three weeks."  That got a smile.  "As long as I pass."  He got back to work.  He finally got done, even though he knew half of it was wrong.  "I guess I can claim the stress is making my grades slip," he decided, putting that book back and pulling out his English workbook.   "Oh, gee, diagraming sentences."  He grimaced but got on with it.  Someone knocked on the door and the officer went to see who it was.  He smiled at the officer coming in, taking his dinner.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome, kid."  He talked to his partner in the hall then came back.  "Want to go over your science homework?"

Xander looked at him.  "Would it help?"

"Probably.  I've actually got a science degree."  Xander pulled it back out, nibbling on a fry while he let him see.  "Ah, here it is."  He took the pencil to circle something.  "When you add this to this one, you get bubbles. When you add this to that," he said, pointing at something else, "you get an explosion.  If you add those three together, you get brown stuff that smells bad."  Xander frowned, going back to it.  "Let's break it down from the start."  He took some clean paper and wrote out the first one in the more expanded chemical formula.  "Do you know what those are?"

"Vaguely."  He looked at him.  "I hate science."  That got a smile.  "Let's see, that's chlorine, and that's oxygen and hydrogen.  Wouldn't those two combine to make water?"

"Too many atoms in the hydrogen spot."  He let him see.  "If they did that then you'd have this," he said, rewriting it.  "The stuff inside the brackets wouldn't combine.  It makes a sulphur."


"Basically."  He let him see.  "Look at how they're combining and in what order, Xander."  He nodded.  "Group it like you do math."

"Another subject I'm not fluent in."  He did it anyway, reworking that problem, getting a nod.  "So I'd end up with smelly stuff anyway?"

"You would," he agreed.  "Try the others."  He nodded, getting to work on the rest of them.  He looked at one, frowning.  "I don't know why she gave you that formula.  It's the start of making something bad."

"Maybe to see who knew," Xander offered.  That got a smile and a nod.  He finished it and let him check it, getting a nod.  "Thank you.  I might pass tomorrow."  He put it back and got back to his dinner and grammar assignment.  By the time he was done he was yawning.  "Where am I crashing?" he asked, looking at the hissing parents.  They were having a conversation.  "Am I sleeping on the couch?" he asked a bit louder.  That got a nod.  "That's fine."  He looked at the officer.  "Let me give you my backpack," he said quietly, emptying his pockets and handing them over to him under the table.  He got a knowing look.  "Thank you.  You can borrow my science book if you want.  Or I have history in there."  He looked.  "And _The Jungle Book_ for my next English paper."

"I'll sit over here and go over your science textbook," he said, tucking the things into his shirt pocket.  Xander nodded, heading to the bathroom then he came out to steal a pillow from the closet and settle down on the couch.  He watched the family conspire, making mental notes.  When the parents went to bed he made formal notes, handing them to his replacement in the morning.  Along with the cash, keys, and debit card.  "They're the kid's.  He didn't want the parents to have access to them," he said quietly in the hallway.

"That's fine.  How much of a brat is he?"

"He's not.  He's a sweet kid but I have the feeling if they threaten him they're in trouble.  His backpack has his brown belt for his gi."

The new officer nodded in appreciation.  "Can't be too careful," he agreed.  "He asleep?"

"He was.  On the couch.  He did his homework last night.  I had to pick up his dinner."  That got a nod and he left, letting the new guy take over while he went to hand the judge's assistant his notes.  She looked then at him.  "I had to pick up his dinner.  The boy's a good boy."

"He attacked his father in the courtroom and walked over him like he was garbage."

"They were threatening him," he said.  "We're lucky that's all he did."

"I'll let him know, Officer Wolfe.  Thank you.  Have a good day."

"You too."  He headed off, going to check in before he left for the day.

The new officer woke Xander up at six.  "When do you have to be at school?"

"Seven-thirty," he moaned, sitting up.  He held his head.  "I need to shower and then change.  Did I remember clothes?"  The backpack was handed over.  "Apparently not but I have spare clothes in my locker for after practice."  He smiled.  "I'll be right out.  Are you taking me to school?"

"I can."  Xander nodded, going to take a shower.  He looked over as the parents came out of the bedroom.  "He's showering so he can get to school.  Where are we going for breakfast so I can plan my later route to get him to school?"

"He's staying with us today."

Xander came out without his shirt on.  "No I'm not.  I have to be at school.  I don't have an excused absence and I'm not tanking my grades by skipping for this exercise in...."  He shook his head and went back to his shower.  He came out clean and grabbed his backpack, making sure it was packed.  "Are we having breakfast together?  If not, I need to eat before school."

"I said you're not going, boy.  The judge said...."

"No he didn't.  He said last night, not during school."  He walked out with the officer behind him.  "Did he give you my money and stuff?"  The officer handed it back.  "Thank you.  I go to Pace Academy."

"I know where that is, Mr. Benis."

"Xander, please.  This is going to give me an ulcer.  I'm too young for ulcers.  It'd be easier to just kill them and bury them somewhere."  The officer gave him an odd look.  "They taught me that before my grandfather took me from them.  That's only one reason."

"I saw your back."

"Him.  I was four with the higher ones.  Two with the lower."  He looked at him.  "I'm sorry you're getting dragged into their plan for greed."

"It's Miami, we get people like that."  He let him into his cruiser and Xander slid in, buckling up.  "Your bodyguard?"

"Doing a deeper background check I'm sure.  I'll be picked up by him after school."  That got a nod.  "It's easier with Mortran being assigned to me and only me."

"Want fast food or right to school?"

"Oh, please, sweet, merciful Goddess, at least get me a soda?"

The officer smiled.  "Sure, kid."  He drove them through a place on the way and Xander paid, then nibbled on the way to the school.  He got a hug and the boy got out, heading inside.  He watched until he was in there then pulled off, going to tell the judge what had happened.

Xander came out of changing and ran into his Judo instructor.  "I had mandatory supervised visitation last night," he said grimly.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm at that vibrating with a need to do something or destroy the threat stage, but otherwise, no."  He walked around him.  "I'll see you later.  I'm trying to keep my grades up.  I won't even use this as an excuse because that would make me whiny and take advantage of the situation."

"That's fine, Xander.  Why don't you go do katas for an hour or so?  It's only seven."  Xander looked at him.  "I'll excuse you from home room."  Xander nodded, going to do that in the gym.  He went to talk to the Headmaster.  "Benis is here."

"Already?"  He checked his watch.  It was ten til seven.   "He's early."

"He had supervised mandatory visitation according to him.  I caught him changing clothes."

"How is he?"

"Vibrating with anger.  I had him go do katas.  I said I'd excuse him from home room."

"That's acceptable," he said, looking out his window.  "This is going to drive him nuts."

"He said he wasn't going to use it as an excuse for his low grades.  That'd make him whiny and taking advantage of the situation."

"It's a good trait," the headmaster agreed.  "I know he sucks at science and math.  That's why I switched him next semester to business math and physical geography instead of science.  I doubt his grandfather would mind."

"Probably not."  He walked off, going to monitor the boy.  He was in the right mental spot and his bodily control was perfect.   He let him go until the bells brought him out.  "You better?"

"More rational.  Now I'm thinking.  Thank you."  He grabbed his bookbag, heading to class.  The teacher gave him an odd look.  "I was in the gym calming down.  The Judo coach said he'd excuse me, ma'am."

"That's fine, Xander.  Sit please."  He sat down, putting his head down.  "No sleeping."

"I'm not."  He looked at her. "I'm steeling myself for next battle with my biological parents."  She gave him a horrified look.  "Sorry but truth."  He went back to his planning, following one of his classmates to his next class.  He dug out his science homework.  "The officer supervising the visitation last night checked it for me."

He looked at it.  "It's better," he agreed, giving him a gentle smile.  "Are you okay?"

"Can you teach me to make explosives so I can blow them up?" he countered.

"No, nor am I allowed to let you ask.  I'll forget it this time."

Xander shook his head.  "I need to get it out.  I'm sorry."  He handed two others his other homework.  "Hand that in for me please?  I need to go blow off some stress."  He walked out, heading to his locker.  His debit card and keys were gotten and he went to see the headmaster.  "I'm having violent urges.  I need to get them out.  I'm going to skip today.  You can tell my grandparents but tell them I'm going to go wear it out."  That got a nod.  "Thank you.  Tell Mortran I've got my keys?  He's got a GPS to them."  He held them up.  "Plus my debit card.  I'll be fine and safe.  I promise."  He headed out, dodging and sneaking around the guards to leave the school.  He went to meditate in the park, getting down into the proper mental spot about the same time he heard someone screaming up the way.  He got up and went to help.  He was that sort of kid.  The guy attacking the woman had his back to him so he viciously attacked, getting him down.  "Ma'am, are you all right?" he asked.  She just cried.  "Someone get her some help!" he yelled.  A cop came riding up on his bike.  "He was trying to stab her," he told the officer.  "I stomped his ass and I feel better now."  The officer gaped.  "She was attacked, dude!  Ambulance, those sort?"  He called it in and came over to cuff the guy.  Xander came over to hold the woman, making her cry on him.  "Shh, it's all right, ma'am.  It'll be fine."

"You saved me."

He grinned.  "It's the sort of kid I am."  He smoothed her hair off her forehead like his grandfather did to him.  "Here's some paramedics," he said gently.  "He was trying to stab her.  I think she's just shaken."  They nodded and let him untangle her.  He looked at the officer.  "I was meditating and heard her scream."

That got a nod.  "How did you bring him down?"

"I have two black belts and one brown belt," he said.  "And I'm in the middle of the worst custody battle in the universe at the moment.  He's better than a heavy bag and more socially acceptable."  He walked off, going back to his spot.  He found his keys still there, checking for his debit card.  They both got buttoned into his shirt pocket so he couldn't lose them again.  He went back to his meditation.  It was easier now.  He'd have to talk to Sire about that later.  Around lunch he heard a cough and looked over.  "Hi, Horatio."

Horatio sat beside him.  "Why are you skipping?"

"I was going to be violent in the school.  I don't need expelled.  It'd look bad in the middle of the custody horror."  He leaned against his arm.  "Am I in trouble for helping that lady?"

"No," he said, giving him a hug.  "You're in trouble for skipping school.  Your grandparents are frantic."

"I told him to tell them I have my keys.  Mortran has a GPS on it."

"Good to know."  He smoothed down his hair.  "Are you calmer?"

Xander looked at him.  "Is wrong to defend myself when they try something if someone gets hurt?"

"You don't ask the easy ones."

Xander shrugged. "It's bound to happen, Horatio."

"Try to incapacitate.  You're good enough for that."

"I am, but they were making plans last night while the officers were watching me."  Horatio nodded.  "You heard?"

"I did.  I was called as a reference about your character and how you're growing up."  Xander grinned.  "Come on, I'll let you pick where I drive you through for lunch on the way home."

Xander nodded.  "That'll work.  I'll go do katas in the garden all afternoon so I stay calm."  Horatio gave him a look.  "They're going to try something.  I'm their goose."

"They might give up."

"He's been poor for a while, Horatio.  They're violent alcoholics.  There's no giving up on their dream of being rich.  They'll do something stupid first."

"Are you sure?"  Xander nodded.  "Then why leave the protected spot of the school?"

Xander grimaced.  He knew his other reasons.  "Because I'm not so sure they wouldn't hurt someone else.  Not that they'd care.  I doubt they'd pay money to have someone good do it for them, someone like my bodyguards who'd care that about innocents."

"You've been training with him?"

"Since they showed back up.  It's safer if something happens."  Horatio nodded, walking him off.  "I'm not sure why the judge kept it since his son and I used to be best friends."

"I remember."  He gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder.  "Maybe he thinks he has your best interests at heart."

"He's getting a lot of pressure from his political buddies to hand me to my parents.  It's the gay thing," he said quietly.  "For how liberal we are, Florida's got tight ass syndrome about that."  Horatio frowned.  "It's a quote."

"I'm sure it was, Xander."  He got him into the hummer, walking around to get in and take him to lunch.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm so angry I'm cold.  I'm not numb, which is good but I'm cold.  Why didn't Sire have them killed or something?  It would've been easier."

"Perhaps," Horatio said.  "But good people don't think in those terms."

"Point," he agreed, calming himself again.  They drove though somewhere and Xander paid.  He even got Horatio lunch.  Then they went back to the house.  "Maybe you should teach Sire how to track me?" he teased.

"It might help," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Come on.  You could talk to them."

"They've got their own issues at the moment.  They don't need mine on top of it."  He slid out, walking inside.  "I was only in the park," he called.  "Now I'm going to the gardens."  He walked that way, taking off his shirt and finishing his lunch as he stretched, then he calmed himself and moved into the first kata.

Raphael walked into the garden room, finding Horatio watching him.  "Thank you for finding him."

"It's not a problem."  He looked at him.  "You do know that he's making emergency plans and that he's so angry he said he's cold?"  Raphael groaned.  "He thinks they're going to try something."

"I wouldn't be surprised.  We're on guard for it."

"So is he.  He asked me if it was wrong if he had to hurt someone to protect himself."

"Not in my eyes."  He shook Horatio's hand.  "Want to come back for dinner?  That's the calmest he's been in days."

"No, I've got a horrible case at the moment."  That got a nod.  "Thank you anyway."  He put on his sunglasses.  "Have him come find me if he's going to explode.  It'd be easier if he didn't have to help save a young woman again.  One might not come in time."

"He did what?" Patrick asked as he walked in.

"Earlier there was a young woman who was attacked in the park.  Xander heard and went to help her.  He's still groaning in the ER."  That just got a nod.  "It probably helped."

"I'm sure it did."  He came to look, sighing at his grandson.  "He's had to grow up so fast thanks to my illness."

"Sometimes children have to, but who said it was that reason?" Horatio asked gently.  Patrick smiled at him.  "Have him call me if he needs to talk."  He walked out, heading back to work.

The two vampires pulled chairs over to watch over their grandson.  They could see when he finally got it out of his system.  The motions became smoother and almost hypnotic instead of looking controlled.


Xander looked at the judge from his seat at the table.  "I was feeling angry and it was better if I wasn't in the school that day.  I went to meditate in the park after handing someone else my homework.  I also told my headmaster and I had ways of having people find me."

The judge looked at him. "You still skipped school, young man."

"The first time in four years," he reminded him.  "I even told my headmaster why.  This is putting me under an undo amount of stress that's making me have urges to do things I should not do.  I wanted far away from anyone who could set it off.  School stress plus this stress is too much stress for me."

"How is school?"

"Sucky, the same way it was when I was younger.  I'm a hands-on learner, not a lecture person.  They're arranging my schedule next month when we change over."

The judge nodded.  "That's good.  What about Sunnydale?"

"All they have is a public school and a high death and disappearance rate," Xander's lawyer told him.  "No decent schools and their school is so far under the state's standards I'm not sure how it wasn't taken over.  They have a twenty-eight percent graduation rate, Your Honor.  Xander's best interests are not served by being there."

"I like most of the teachers at Pace," Xander said quietly.  "I have friends there."

"You can make friends, son," the judge complained.

"No I don't," Xander said.  "It took me nearly three years to make friends at my first school.  Fortunately I knew some of the kids when I changed to Pace.  I still don't have *friends* there but I have people I can hang out with."   He leaned forward.  "I am a  bit solitary by nature."

"I checked, your teachers said you  liked to joke around and things."

"Pure reflex," Xander told him.  "The school psychologist's reports all said that I was a loner and using defense mechanisms.  I broke into her office to read them."

"Why?" the judge asked.

"Because she was hitting on me and I wanted to know if there was proof.  So instead I taped one and turned it in to the headmaster there."

"I remember that incident."  He looked at the parents.  Then at Xander. "I know your grandfather's ill."

"Sire would be here but he got called out of town suddenly last night to handle a situation with a more distant family member."

"You have other family?"

"From Grandfather's second marriage there's a nephew and niece.  The niece he doesn't like, said she's a heathen bitch with rabies when I'm not supposed to be listening, but the nephew's nice."  That got a small laugh from his lawyer.  "I'm told my cousin, or whatever, is an officer with the NYPD.  I haven't gotten to meet him yet.  They haven't told him we're related."

"Interesting.  Any idea why?"

"I think it had to do with his job."

"It could impact him with the department," the judge agreed.  He looked at the parents.  "I got notes from all the officers who sat with Xander," he announced.  "I was not happy.   You didn't offer him dinner?   You didn't want to talk to him?  You didn't want to see what he was doing in school?"

"He attacked me," the father said.

"I got that note as well.  It says you tried to take his schoolbooks and threatened to have him fixed?"  The father sneered.  He sighed.  "I don't find that an acceptable attitude if you want your son.  If you want him, you'd better want all of him, not just the nice parts.  I doubt you're going to see the nice parts for years."

"Your Honor, we have strong objections to two drunks taking the young boy to a town that has a forty-five percent death rate."  The judge blinked at that.  She handed over the information.  "That is definitely not a suitable place for the young man.  He would most certainly die when their attention went back to the alcohol."

He looked it over then nodded.  "Federal statistics."  He put them aside.  "I don't like that figure either."  He looked at the parents. "So I'm going to make a decision.  Unless you move closer this subject is shelved.  There's too much risk to the boy's life.  Now, if they move," he said when he saw Xander sigh in relief, "they can have it reopened, Xander."  Xander nodded at that.  "If they do move we would start making you have visitation with them."

"I can understand that but it won't change matters," Xander pointed out.  "They're still heavy drinkers with violent urges.  That's where I learned mine from."

"Fine.  Whatever as my son says."  Xander nodded at that.  He looked at the parents.  "I think that's more than reasonable.  If you want your son you have to move somewhere more accessible and better for him. Somewhere with good schools.  Somewhere it's easier to get visitation to you.  I would prefer Miami so social services can oversee the visitation but we can arrange it wherever.  I would also suggest that you find treatment for your addictions before you move."  He banged his gavel.  "That's my decision.  Xander, I would like you to talk to someone."

"I'm only like this when I'm threatened," he pointed out.  "If they come back I'll think about it."  He stood up.  "Thank you, Your Honor."  He walked out.

The judge looked at the parents.  "That's one strong boy, he always has been.  Every single judge in this and the surrounding counties has seen him at social events since he was six, helping his grandfather.  He's always been a very strong boy.   If you want him back, I would expect to make some changes in your lives.  He does have needs and a child's needs come first.  His schooling, his upbringing, and his moral education must come first and above your desires.  If you decide to reopen it, file with me."  He got up, heading back to his office.  They had given him a good reason to turn down the petition.  Not even the most forceful anti-gay zealot would want the boy to live somewhere with a forty-five percent death rate.  He filed it and typed out an email to someone so they'd know.  That way he covered his political career as well as the boy's hind end.  He was in trouble.  Even he knew something was coming.  He hoped his grandparents did.


Xander came out of school two weeks later, looking around the yard.  He saw a strange car waiting and looked at the guard.  "New kids?"

"No," he said, looking at the car.  "I have no idea, Benis.  Mortran said he's running late thanks to the engine breaking down on the street here.  You can hang out in sight."

Xander nodded, going to the swingset.  It was just off to the side of the school.  He was swinging when he felt someone come up behind him and felt himself be grabbed "SHIT!"  He bit them, then spat the blood, struggling.  He got in a good kick, making his grabber stumble.  He got away from him and headed for the school.  The guard was unconscious.  "HELP!" he screamed.  He pelted inside, going into the first classroom, math.  The teacher gave him an odd look, she had been getting up.  "The guard's down, someone tried to grab me."  She pointed at her closet and made a call while he hid.  Then she went to check.   Xander calmed his breathing so no one would find him.  He listened.  Someone was in the room with him.  He hid behind some boxes when they came closer.  One of the teachers opened the door.  "Mr. Greer," he said, coming out.  "Are they gone?"

"They are, Xander."  The judo coach pulled him out, looking him over. "You've got a nasty bruise there, kiddo."

"I'll be fine.  I was swinging when they grabbed me."  He showed his hands.  They were scraped from the chains.  "Is the guard okay?"

"He's still unconscious.  Come on."  He walked him outside.  Both teachers were down.  Xander started to move but he incapacitated him.  "You've been a good student but you need to go home, Xander.  Your parents were right, you need to be with them."  He waved the kidnapers over, letting them take him.  "Protect him.  He's a good kid.  He's a good student of mine too," he warned.

"Sure, teach.  You should disappear."  He nodded, going to finish packing his things and leave.  They got the kid into the back of the van and took off.


Horatio got the call.  "Horatio....  When?"  He snapped his fingers.  "I'll be there personally with a CSI.  Wait on me, Mortran."  He hung up.  "Frank, they just snatched the Benis heir from school."  He nodded, following him from the scene.  "Get me Speedle!" he called.  "I know he's on the other kidnaping but I need him. He's used to Xander.  He helped him last time.  The family will trust him."  He climbed into his hummer and headed there, letting Frank call.   He got there and found officers already taping the area.  "What happened?"

"Someone knocked out a math teacher and the guard," one officer reported, looking at him.  "The guard's started to wake up and he asked about Xander first thing, Lieutenant."  That got a nod.  "He was on the swings.  We've got the tapes rerunning.  We had to air out the school.  Someone set off a smoke grenade in the air conditioning system.  Math and the gym aren't connected at the moment due to some faulty pipes."  He handed over what he knew.  "The math teacher was starting to come around.  Xander was in her closet.  He came in running and screaming for help."

"So someone he knew," he said grimly.  "Which teachers aren't here?  Get someone to call them back."  The officer nodded, going to do that.   He went into the classroom that also had tape on the doorway, looking around.  Speedle walked in.  "He was in here when he was removed by someone."

"Okay, I'll start here and then hit the playset so we can get his DNA as a match.  You think it was the family?"

"I know it was the family," Horatio said grimly.  "I'm going to make sure they know not to let him out of the area.  They live out of state."  He went to make that call from the hummer and then came back, taking the materials he'd need to collect from the swingset.  It was clear which one he had been on.  There was blood on the chains from his hands.  Horatio tracked around, looking.  "Blood," he said, gathering it.  "Gravitational but spatter pattern.  Speed, he bit one!" he called.  Speed called the local  hospitals.  The officer whistled and waved him back so he went that way.  "Something new?"

"The Judo coach left his letter of resignation on the desk and the tape's ready for you to see, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, Officer... Wolfe."   He went to do that with Speedle, and Frank since he stomped in.  "He bit one, Frank."

"I already alerted the transit guys."  He looked.  "They look like pros, Horatio."

"That's because they are," he agreed grimly.  "Get me his guard.  He's somewhere stranded on the way from the house here."

"I had someone go get him," Wolfe said.  He watched the screen.  "That's the Judo coach.  The headmaster showed me his picture for reference."

"I want him found, Officer Wolfe."

"I'll have Dispatch put out a BOLO," he agreed, going to get the picture and do that.  Speed came out to send the picture from the back of the hummer for him.  "He'll be fine," he said quietly.  "I sat with him.  He's a strong kid."

"Yeah but his parents are drunks, there's no telling what they'll do," Speed complained.  "This makes two today."

Ryan nodded.  "It'll be okay.  We'll find them both."  He walked off to talk to the officer pulling up.  "Inside to the office if that's his bodyguard.  We know who took him."  Mortran got out and jogged inside.  "Where was he?"

"Someone had shot his engine about eight blocks from here.  He said he called the school to warn them."

"Good.  It can only help."  He looked at Speedle.  "Would the car that got shot help?"

"Yeah, it would," he agreed.  "The bodyguard's car?"  The officer in the car nodded.  "Where?"  The address was handed over.  "I'll be there if Horatio asks."  He headed to do that.  There wasn't anything more he could do here. He could help prove the conspiracy and track down *all* the members.  He would have to ask where the grandparents were later.  It was odd they hadn't run to the school.


Horatio and Speed went to the house that night, barely having the time to knock before Raphael opened the door.  "He's safe so far but they did get him out of the city."

"He's injured."

"He's a strong boy, Raphael."  He let them inside.  "He bit one of them.  We have the kidnapers."

"Thank God," he prayed.  "Did they send him back to Sunnydale?"

Horatio shook his head.  "They transferred him to someone else.  They were transporting him by car but they weren't sure what car."

"Okay," he agreed, leading them to the office.  "Thomas, help Horatio.  He's out of the city."

"Damn it," he muttered.  "Okay, what do you know, Horatio?"  He handed over the file.  He sat down to look at it, nodding.  "I have some contacts in the FBI who can help.  DEA also."  He looked at Speedle.  "Thank you for helping him the last time he got kidnaped."

"Not an issue.  He's a nice kid."

"We hope they can't hurt him," Horatio said.  He looked at him.  "I know you wondered, but they can't go out in the sunlight, Speed."

"Aaaaaaaaahhhhhh," he said, nodding a bit.  "At all?"

Raphael shook his head.  "Not since the Middle Ages."  He looked at Thomas, arms crossed.  "Patrick needs news."

"I'm working, Sire.  Give me a few more please."  He called someone.  "It's Thomas Kincaid."  He listened then smiled.  "Yeah, long time no hear.  No, I'm still working for Father Benis.  His grandson just got taken from school about two hours ago.  They've handed him to a transporter.  Local guys have the guys from here. What I have you have," he promised.  He hung up and went to fax it.  He ran into Patrick coming back.  "He's out of the city."

"I heard."  He walked into the office.  "Horatio, they will be paying?"

"Kidnaping with intent to transport across state lines, two counts of attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit kidnaping and murder," Speed told him.  "Father Benis."

"Detective Speedle.  Thank you for helping us."  He looked at Thomas.  "Anything?"

"They're tracking the likely routes.  They think they're taking him north and then flying him out like he's a sick kid."  He looked at him.  "I called Jorge, Patrick.  Let us do our job while you try not to fret.  Remember, Xander can kick ass in many ways.  He knows what to do and Mortran has had some of his buddies helping train him since they showed up."  Patrick frowned at that.  "At the boy's insistence, Father.  To escape."

"Good.  I'll trust that then."  He looked at Horatio.  "I want to be at their arraignments.  When?"

"Tomorrow morning.  In front of Judge Pellis."

"I'm there," he said, heading to make arrangements.  He ran into Mortran.  "What have they been teaching him?"

"Escape, some strategy.   He's good at it, Father.  He'll be okay until he can get to a phone."

"I hope so.  Horatio's here."

"I've been eavesdropping.  I'm so sorry."

"They took you out, Mortran.  It's not your fault," he said gently, giving him a kiss on the cheek.  "It's not your fault.  They were more prepared and they had more than one man.  Most likely trained like you were."

Horatio came out of the office.  "Three former Marines who used to do extractions and a Navy SEAL planning," he admitted.  "I don't know where they got the money but they were paid up front."

Patrick frowned. "I'll find that out for you.  Give me a few hours, Horatio."  He nodded, heading off with Speedle.  "We'll call you when we find him," he called after him.

"Thank you."  He smiled and walked out, looking over at Speed.  "That's why."

"It's odd."

"Very but it works for them."

"Whatever.  They're clearly protecting the boy better than his natural parents are."  He looked at him.  "You two still talk?"

"Xander sends me letters all the time," he said with a smile.  "Ever since I found him after he had let his bodyguard get lost as a five-year-old boy.  Yelina slapped a few of them for letting Xander be hurt too."  He put back on his sunglasses.  "Let's get back to the lab.  Maybe they came up with something from the handover site or Eric or Frank got something on him."  That got a nod and Speed got into the hummer, letting Horatio drive them back.  It was a silent drive but Speed was a deep thinker.

"So, Xander's not turned, right?"

"No, he's not.  He's very doted on and they try to spoil him all they can.  Patrick's still ill."


"From what Xander's told me, there's some sort of cancer that's still spreading.  It's making him weak.  Raphael is his sire and lover.  Xander's very adult about most things but he's still grossed out by kissing and things."  Speed laughed.  "We need to find where the money came from."

"We will, H.  One of us will.  They have deep intelligence ties?"

"They do.  Thomas used to be a senior FBI agent until he was outed.  A few others in the house have similar ties or ties back to special forces, like his bodyguard."

"Good.  Then hopefully they'll share so we can hurt them too.  Yelina said she wanted a good kick.  Frank had to make her leave before Stetler heard."

"He'll stay out of it.  A kidnaping this high profile and rules get bent," he said quietly.  He turned onto the Causeway.  "They'll have to redrug him soon.  It's been six hours."

"Hopefully the boy can escape then."  They got back to the lab and headed inside.  Now it was a waiting game, waiting for information to come in.  After they exhausted all the tests Horatio went to wait in his office for information, pulling out an old shoe box from his bottom desk drawer.  He sat in his chair, going over all the letters he had saved through the years he had known Xander.  All but one, which had gotten blood spilled on it.


Xander got out of the car, looking around the city.  "This is not Miami," he muttered.  The guy with him gave him a poke.  "Don't poke."

"Shut up," he sneered.  "You'll be picked up from here."  He walked him to a door but Xander tripped him and ran.  "Get back here, you little snot!"   He chased after him.

Xander ducked into an alley to hide, watching him go past.  He looked at the cuffs he had on, grimacing.  He didn't have anything to pick them with.  The guy had made sure after the last time he nearly got away.  He looked around then snuck back to the end of the alley.  He jogged across the street, heading for a more populous area.  He found a police station up the street and saw him lurking near there.  "Crap."  He slunk into the shadows.  Then he saw a woman getting out of a cab.  "Help me," he said, stopping her.  He held up his cuffs.  "I was kidnaped.  Please get a cop, lady?"

"How do I know you're not dangerous?"

Xander looked at her. "I'm eleven.  How dangerous can I be?"

"Point."  She walked him inside.  "Stand there, just in case."  She grabbed the phone and called someone.  "Hi, I'm up the street from the twelfth precinct.  I have a young boy who said he's eleven and has been kidnaped.  He's in cuffs.  He asked for an officer instead of an escort inside."

"He was waiting."  He looked outside, pointing.  "That's the guy who took me from Miami."  He took the phone.  "Ma'am, my name is Xander Benis.  I was taken from Miami, Florida.  You can call Lieutenant Horatio Caine in the crime lab down there to verify that.  I'll wait with her, the guy who took me is outside.  He was dropping me off up around the corner."  He hung up, looking at her.  "Got a bobby pin?"

"Not until the cops get here, just in case, son.  I don't want to get in trouble."

"I understand.  Thank you."  He sat down, watching the guy.  A cop came out of the precinct over there and he frowned.  "I've seen his picture."

"He's a good cop."  She went outside and flagged him down. "Don?  Can you come over here for a minute please?"  He nodded, smiling and walking over.  "Did someone get called about a kidnaped boy who found me?"

"Yeah, they said we should come out and see if someone flagged us down."  She pointed.  "Who's that?"

"The guy who had the kid according to him.  He's in my foyer in handcuffs."

"Okay."  He looked at the guy, noticing he realized he was being watched.  "Get him!" he ordered, pointing.  The officers waiting ran after him and got him within a few houses.  "Where is he?"

"Inside."  She led him that way, finding Xander watching out the window.  "Xander, this is Detective Flack."

"Hey, buddy."  He squatted down to look at the cuffs.  "Come on, I've got a way to open those at my desk.  It was smart to get someone since he was watching you."

Xander looked at him. "I'm eleven, Detective.  I've got a bodyguard who was Special Forces."  He laughed and smiled, helping him up.  "Thank you, ma'am.   Have a better night."  He walked off with the detective, spotting the guy.  He kicked him in the side, breaking something.  "Good," he sneered.  "You might wanna tell them who you were going to give me to."  He tipped his face up.  "Or else my grandparents are going to have you tortured and I'll get to cheerlead."

"You're not from up here, right?" Flack asked, walking him off before the kid hurt him again.

"No, I'm from Miami."

"Then why drop you off up here?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted.  "Can I go to the bathroom?"

"Sure.  Let's get the cuffs off first."  He walked him to the desk. "Got a universal key?"  One was found and handed over and he let the boy go.  "There you go, kid.  C'mon."  He walked him into the bathroom, letting him use a stall.  Don checked his hair while he waited.  He looked back, frowning when he didn't hear anything.  "Xander, you okay?"

"Yeah," he said, trying to calm himself down.  He flushed the toilet and came out, looking at him.  "I'm fine now."

Don looked at him.  "It's all right if you want to break down, Xander.  It's normal."

"I'm not sure if I want to cry or kill."

"That's normal too.  You in martial arts and stuff?"

"I've got two black belts and a brown belt," he said quietly.  "School clubs."

"It's good for you."  He gave him a hug.  "You're safe.  You can relax."  The boy nodded, letting it out.  "Shh, I've got you.  Come on, we'll get you cleaned up and go find his car and figure out why he was going to drop you up here."  Xander nodded, cleaning himself up and blowing his nose.  He followed him out.  "Good boy."

"Not a dog."

"Sorry."  He grinned.  "You're at that strange age."

"I've been here for years," he admitted. "I grew up in polite society.  Treat me like I'm a really smart teenager if you want."  Don laughed and nodded, making a few people look up.  "Yes, I'm fascinating," Xander said.  "And free.  Thank you."  He sat down in the chair Don pointed at.  "Wow, the ones in Miami are all glassed in and a lot brighter."  He looked at him.  "Did anyone call the lab?  I have a friend in the lab who watches out for me."

"We can do that.  You know the number?"

Xander nodded, dialing it for him.  "Horatio Caine please?  Xander Benis.  New York.  I'm with a detective."  Someone snatched the phone.  "And you would be?  Because Horatio's always watched over me, sir.  Just hand it over please.  I know he's worried and my grandparents would be waiting with him."  He was hung up on so he dialed it again, getting the receptionist again.  "Please?" he asked politely.  "Thank you.  I know it wasn't you."  He waited for a few seconds.  "Horatio?"  He smiled.  "I got away.  New York.  Here, the detective who got me."  He handed it over.

"Detective... Oh, Lieutenant Caine.  Don Flack, I work with Mac a lot and he mentioned you."  He ruffled the kid's hair.  "He looks okay so far.  He's a bit shaky, but he got away from him and found someone to call us for him.  Sure, I'm at my desk and I'll have Mac come do the processing stuff personally.  Good deal.  See you soon."  He hung up.  "You know some nice guys."

"He found me when I managed to wander off a few times as a little kid," Xander told him.  "I have *really* bad ADHD.  Got any caffeine?"


"Can I bum fifty cents for a soda until my family gets here?"

"Sure, I can do that.  Cap, can he bum a soda from your fridge?" he called.

"Sure," he called back, bringing one out.  "You okay?"

"Now."  He smiled.  "Thank you.  I need it to keep my attention and it's been days."

"It's all right, I've seen others.  We expecting lab people?"

"Yeah, we need to find out where he was going to be dropped off.  He's not native," Don said.

"Around the corner, three blocks back that way," Xander said with a point.  "Just past the really gross smelling alley to the place with the stone stairs."

"You're good," Don praised.  Xander smiled.   Mac came storming in.  "Mac, this is Xander Benis."

"Horatio called," he said, looking at him.  "You're safe."

"I'd hope I didn't have to hurt anyone else.  They had to switch out kidnapers in North Carolina because I nearly killed the last one trying to get away."  He sipped his soda.  "Do you need to know where he was going to drop me?"

Mac looked at him then smiled.  "Horatio said you were very smart.  We'll go see."  Xander nodded, following him out, Don behind them.  Xander led them back.  He pointed from across the street.  "There?  You're sure?"

"I'm sure.  I tripped him.  His nose bled and I hid in the alley when he rushed past to find me."

Mac went to look, gathering the blood drops.  Don made a call and nodded at him.  "Warrant?" he asked.

"Yup."  He looked at Xander.  "You think you can play along?"

"Scared?"  Don nodded.  "I want all the assholes who did this to suffer.  If you need me to, I'm there."  He walked up beside Mac, who knocked on the door.  He clutched to Mac's arm, looking very scared as he glanced around. And the theater teacher said he couldn't act!

"You were waiting on this one?" Mac asked when a man opened the door.

"I was.  I heard he had problems with the last transporter."  He smiled at Xander.  "It's all right, it's going to be a fun game, Xander, and then your parents are going to take you back.  It'll be like it is at home."  He let them inside.  "It took two of you?"

"The boy's got self-defense training," Don said.

"Some good spankings will help with that, I'm sure," he said with a fond smile.  He tipped Xander's face up. "You'll look so pretty in your new pictures."  Xander got free of him.  "Ah, a bit of spirit."

"That's because no one down there molests me," Xander smarted off, backing away from him like he was still scared.

"Really?  Your parents were so sure."  He hummed.  "I don't usually deal with the pure but we'll be very gentle with you.  Come on.  I've got a nice bedroom for you."

"I don't think so," Don said, pulling out his badge.  The man gaped at him.  "Mac?"

"More than enough for me," he agreed.  The man tried to move but he slammed him into the wall.  "Don, cuffs?"  He handed them over.  "Xander?"

"I'm fine but we're not alone in the house."  He looked up.  "Yo, we're with the police, yell so we can find you!" he called.  He heard a yell and Don took off to find them.  He looked at the man, sneering.  "I will see you castrated and have fun serving them to you," he said coldly.  "My parents too."  He walked out, going to wait outside.  He nodded at the officers pulling up.  "Hi.  Detective Don is inside."

"Are you okay, kid?"

Mac walked out their suspect.  "He's part of the kidnaping plot.  Xander was a kidnaping victim.  We let him help us."  That got a nod and they took the man to their car.  "We need an ambulance.  Don found another kid."

"One's coming," an officer said.  "Want us to watch the kid?"

"I'm pretty sure Don and I can," he promised.  "Let me get more CSI here."  He called.  "Setlla, Mac.  I'm at..."  He looked at the house.  "Twenty-first.  Get here.  Yeah, by the twelfth.  We found where they were going to drop him and another child victim in the house."  He hung up.  He smiled at him.  "Stella will fuss over you."


"She's like that.  Some people are."

"Grandfather is."  He hopped up to sit on the railing, watching as the paramedics pulled in.  "They're here."

"Upstairs, third floor," Mac told them.  "Flack's with her."  They nodded.  He walked Xander off.  "Come on, we'll go back to Don's desk to wait on him and I'll process you to see if we can find the other guy."

"We were in North Carolina.  He opened the trunk to stick me with a needle.  I kicked his nose into his head.  He wobbled back screaming and clutching it, nearly stuck himself, so I got out and took off running.  He caught me.  I kicked his ass," Xander said, grinning at him.  "I've got two black belts and a brown belt."

"You sound like you used it well, Xander."  Xander nodded.  "Are you okay?  Need medical?"

"No, my wrists are sore but I'm fine.  I'll be okay.  I'm a tough little guy."

"Okay."  He led him back inside and to Don's desk, finding the Captain had dropped off another soda.  "Thanks, Captain."

"Welcome."  He looked at the boy.  "Caine's on his way up with your grandparents and personal guard.  They called."

"Okay."  He smiled.  "Thank you.  I'll be really nice and polite and all that stuff."

"Thank you."  He walked off, going back to his office.

Mac sat down behind Xander's desk.  "Let's get to work on your statement, Xander."  Xander nodded, pulling over a pen.  "We can type it.  I can type pretty fast."

Xander looked at him. "I'm eleven, Detective, not six."  He laughed.  "I met Horatio when I was five."  He opened the soda and took a sip.  He knew he was babbling.  "How far back do you want to go?"

"Let's start with your parents."

"Hellish custody battle.  Drunken stupid people versus my gay grandparents."

"I saw something about that in the news."  He opened a new report form and got to work on it.  "I'm guessing your grandparents won?"  Xander nodded.  "So what happened?"

"I was at school...."


Horatio walked into the lab and Xander smiled and waved from Mac's office.  "Xander," he said, giving him a hug.  "You had us worried sick."

"I'm okay.  Did you get the one I nearly killed?"

"The FBI did," Mac assured him.  "We told them and they were going to have a lot of fun with him."  Xander grinned.  "Horatio.  No grandparents?"

"One's ill and the other's got a light problem."  He called.  "Mac's lab isn't near as light as ours.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "They'll be here in a few minutes.  They're in the car."  He sat down, hugging Xander.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm okay.  I'm a bit sore and hungry but I'm okay.  They even got the person they were going to hand me over to.  My parents decided that my grandparents or someone was molesting me so they sold me to the guy to pay for my kidnaping.  That way they could fix me better."  Horatio let out a small growl.  "Mac got 'em."

"We did," Mac agreed.  "He showed us where they were going to drop him off and we asked, he let us use him to get inside the house.  The man did say he was going to be very gentle with him and we found another victim in the house.  He'll be gone for a very long time."

"Good.  Thank you.  Detective Flack too."

"It's not a problem, Horatio.  He even broke the ribs of the guy who had him up here when we had him in custody.  You're right, he's very smart.  He hid when the guy came to the police station to stop him.  He got someone else to call and told Dispatch who he was."  Horatio nodded and Mac stood up as two older men walked in with a bodyguard behind them.  "Gentlemen, Xander's fine."

"Grandfather," he said, switching over to hug him.  "Sit your silly butt down before you fall over."  His grandfather laughed and sat down, letting him have a hug once he sat down.  He hugged the others.  He looked at his bodyguard.  "Did they knock you out too?"

"Shot the car."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm just glad you're okay, Xander."

Xander gave him an extra hug.  "You couldn't have been there.  It's all right."  He went back to hugging his grandparents, making both CSI smile.  "What now, Mac?"

"Now, they'll be arraigned tonight.  Did you get the links down in Miami, Horatio?"

"With prejudice," Horatio agreed.  "His parents?" he asked Raphael.

"Don't ask.  You don't want to know, Horatio."

"I knew you should've had them eaten when you took me from them," Xander quipped. Raphael smiled and nodded, taking another hug.  "Can Mac and Don come to dinner with me?  Stella's nice but she plays with my hair and it makes me feel strange."

"Stella's the departmental mother," Mac offered.

Raphael smiled at him and nodded.  "We should bring her but we'll make sure she can't play with your hair.  How about that?"

"Okay.  Can we bring Danny too?  He tried really hard to relate to me but I don't like sports like he does."  Horatio laughed.  "I don't.  He played guy sports and I play softer sports like diving."  He looked at his grandfather.  "Please?  They deserve it for putting up with me when I was pacing and babbling.  I hadn't had caffeine for two days."

"We can do that," Patrick agreed, taking him back to hug.  "Arrange it please, Sire."  He nodded, walking off to do that. "Thank you, Detective."

"It's not a problem.  Xander got away and he's a very smart little boy.  He helped us a lot."  They smiled and nodded, Horatio taking the boy back to hug.  "He said you've known him half his life."

"A little over," Horatio agreed.  Xander grinned at him.  "He had this bad habit of wandering off."

"Some kids do," Don agreed as he walked in.  Patrick got up and hugged him.  "He's okay, really."

Patrick looked at him.  "It was good it was you, Flack."

"Do I know you?"

"I married one of your aunts years ago," he said quietly.

"Wow.  Small world."

"So that's the cousin you keep saying I would meet some day?" Xander asked.  Horatio laughed and nodded. "Wow."  He waved at Don.  "Hi.  Welcome to the family.  You can help me fuss over Grandfather's health too."

"Sure, we can do that."

"We're going to dinner."

"I can do that too," Don agreed, grinning at him.  "He's okay."

"Good.  We'll talk later, Don."  He patted him on the cheek, watching as Sire came back with the others.  "Are we set?"

"We are.  That very nice Italian place you liked so much.  That way Xander can have one of the neverending plates and finally get full."  Xander gave him a sheepish look.  "It's a stage all boys have to go through, Xander."

"Okay.  As long as it's not a problem."  He shook his head.  Xander stood up.  "Come on, Mac.  You need to hide before the paperwork morphs into an anime style monster and you have to slay it."  They all laughed, walking out with them behind him.  He had his grandfather's hand, smiling at the umbrellas that came out once they got to the door.  He ran over to open the door to the limo, letting them get in first.  He climbed in and the others got in as well at the bodyguard's urging.  They took off and Xander leaned over to hug Mac.  "You'll have things back to normal soon.  Stella won't have to play with my hair.  Danny will be unfreaked by mouthy kids.  It'll be fine."  Mac smiled and laughed, giving him a squeeze.

"Not like you were a problem, kiddo," Danny said, grinning at him.  "You behaved a lot better than some we've seen."

"I made sure he'd have good manners," Patrick said, smoothing down Xander's hair.  "You need a trim."

"When we get home," he complained.  "You always get it cut too short and I'll look like a dork in front of the new friends."

"Of course."  He smiled at him.

Xander looked at Horatio.  "The Judo coach?"

"In jail.  He wasn't granted bail," Horatio told him.

"The math teacher?  I hate the woman but not that much."

"She's fine.  Her and the guard both, Xander.  How are you hands?"  He held them up. "Good.  Do they hurt?"

"A bit but their ME is a lot like your Alexx and he came up to fuss over them."

Horatio smiled and nodded.  "It's good to have someone like that."  They stopped and got out, heading inside.  Raphael looked at the greeter, who nearly bowed himself off his hips as he led them back to a private room.   Xander took it all in stride.  It spoke of his upbringing.  He was polite to the servers, that spoke better of him.  Xander ended up on one of Horatio's sides with Mac on the other.  Don was on Xander's other side.  Xander was pelting him with questions.  The two vampires were against the back wall watching.  Mortran was beside them but away from the table.  Stella was on Don's other side next to Patrick and Danny was next to Raphael and Mac. Raphael ordered in Italian and a lot of food came from the kitchen.  Xander's eyes lit up and he dug in, eating like a preteen boy would.  It let his grandparents and bodyguard calm down.  He was fine if he was guzzling pasta and meatballs.


Patrick got up to get the door, letting the two men into his townhouse.  "Don.  Don." He looked outside then closed the door.  "No wife?"

"No, this should be us," Don Flack Senior admitted, looking at him.  "I remember you being about the same age."

"Sometimes things do happen," he said bluntly.  He waved a hand.  "Please, come sit."  He went back to his seat and throw that Xander had tucked around him.  "Xander worries."

"The sprout in bed?" Don asked.

"With Sire next to him to make sure he doesn't have nightmares.  He did the last time he was taken," he said quietly.  He looked at the older Flack.  "Yes, I am what you think."

"And you raise a boy?"

"Very well," Patrick promised.  "He knows.  He shrugged it off years ago.  He picks on Sire for growling at people."  That got a nod.

Don settled into his seat.  "He said you're sick?"

"The cancer I had before I was turned is still around and it does grow a bit each year," he admitted.  "We think I'll make it to around Xander's twentieth at the moment."

"That's got to be rough on him," Don Junior said.

"He knows," Patrick admitted.  "He asked why I was so pale most days."  He smiled.  "He's always been a very smart little boy.  Even if he can't stand school most of the time."  That got a grin from the older Flack.  "Sit, Don."   He sat.  "What did you want to talk about?"

"What happened to my sister?"

"She caught the flu and the local hospitals couldn't get her fever down," he said honestly.  He sighed, looking at his hands then at him.  "I loved her, Don.  Just as much as I did my first wife, my third wife, and Sire.  I was with her the whole time.  I helped by sponging her down and all that I could do.  I know you were about Xander's age when she died.  I'm sorry we lost her."

He stared at him then nodded.  "I'll accept that.  Now what?"

"Well, someone has to take over for me," he admitted.  "You are both family, though your daughter and I will never get along.  She does not like gay men."

"No, she's a bit loud about that," Don agreed.  He looked at his father then at the vampire.  "So we're family?"

"We are," he agreed, smiling at Raphael as he came down with Xander.  "He all right?"

"Couldn't stay asleep."  Xander curled up against his grandfather's side, sharing his lap throw and fell asleep there.  "Boys," he greeted.  "Yes, we're family.  That means you can come down for the holidays and visit for no reason.  All that good family stuff."  Don Junior grinned.  "Xander could use more good role models.  He's got Horatio and us, plus Mortran.  He could use more since he treats the other guards like silly uncles most of the time."

"Especially since the boy was freaked out by Stella huggin' and pettin' him," Don Junior told him.

"He's at the age where he shies away from women," Raphael admitted.  He sat down, putting his feet up.

"He's always had a problem with women.  A lot of the matrons have been trying to force him to like their daughters," Patrick told him. "It's one of the major reasons I let him cut back on the luncheon schedule during the summers."  He looked at Don.  "He's a good boy and he does well but he doesn't really like people all that much.  He likes animals."

"Maybe he'll be a vet," Don Senior offered.

"Perhaps on the side," Raphael admitted.  "He'll have his hands full sitting on the boards Patrick sits on.  He works with a lot of gay charities."

"I'm hoping he'll enjoy some of it," Patrick said, looking down at the little warm body.  "I know I don't always enjoy the meetings."  Don Junior grinned and nodded.  "You would be equally welcome to help him, Don.  We didn't tell you sooner because I know how the NYPD can be.  Even if it's not you being gay it can lead to strife and tension."

"It can but the old man gives me worse," Don said, nodding at his father, who cuffed him on the head.  "Gee, thanks, Dad."  Xander yawned and blinked at him.  "Go back to sleep, sprout.  We came ta talk to the old guys."  Xander grinned and snuggled in again, covering them both better.

"He's so much like Patrick some days," Raphael sighed.  "He can fuss over someone until they run screaming from him but doesn't let anyone fuss over him.  That's probably what bothered him about the lovely Stella."

Patrick sighed.  "If I could still woo a woman, I would definitely woo her."

Don Senior laughed.  "She was a lot like my sister.  Mouthy, a bit loud, caring, and will smack you around if you're being stupid."  His son snickered.  "Isn't she?"

"Yup."  He grinned at him.  "I would like to get to know you two better while we have time."

"We'd appreciate that too," Raphael admitted.  "We'll have to be up here for a while thanks to the trials.  Then you can come visit our beaches and sunshine."

"Bikinis," Xander added.  "School?"

"You can have it mailed to you," Patrick told him.  Xander grimaced.  "It's mostly project based, Xander."

"Thankfully.  Maybe I'll get to have some fun?" he asked, looking at him.

"Of course."  He smiled.  "Horatio will have to go back in two days but he used to live up here.  You could ask him if he wants to go with you tomorrow to look around the city."

"I could like that."  He yawned and put his head back down, waving at Don.  "If I don't fuss he'll never go to bed."  They smiled, watching as he fell back asleep.

"He's a great kid," Don Junior told him.  "He handles himself well.  Someone snarked at him and he smarted back at Aiden.  Politely but made her laugh at it.  Danny told her he was a smartass.  She proved it pretty well.  He was a good boy for me and Mac.  He sat there and watched people.  He offered to go kick someone who needed it."

"Now and then he does get violent urges," Raphael admitted. "They come from his parents."  He looked at Patrick.  "The state police out there arrested them this afternoon their time and they're staying in jail."  That got a smirk and a nod.  "I expect them to die in jail from wanting booze.  Someone already attacked him for daring to hurt his kid that way."

"Good," Patrick said firmly.  "We'll have years of pleasure watching that."  He looked down at Xander then at him. "School?"

"I like his present school.  It wasn't their fault.  The guard did try.  They seem to understand Xander very well and they don't coddle him like Holliwell does to their rich kids.  They'll make sure he doesn't turn into a society brat like some of them."

"Agreed."  He looked  at the two natives, smiling at them.  "He's a very special little boy."

"We'll let you guys talk and rest," Don Junior said.  "Call us up for lunch and stuff and we'll try ta come.  Okay?"  Patrick smiled and nodded.  "Good.  Think you can give me some blackmail on the old man?"

"Some," he admitted, grinning at the vivacious young man.  "Go play and find a good woman, Don."  He walked out beaming, his father behind him.  He looked at Raphael.  "It is strange how things work out."

"I'm glad he could get away.  Mortran?"  He leaned in.  "Continue his education with your friends.  Don't make him violent but I want him able to handle anything that could happen now or in the future.  It can take the place of his martial arts since the clubs were closed down for now."

"I can do that."  He walked off.  "I'll start tomorrow."

"He wanted to have some fun tomorrow," Patrick called after him.  He smiled at Raphael.  "Horatio might as well be family."

"He is."  He leaned over to kiss him.  "Come on, let's put him back to bed and then you."

"He can sleep with us."

"If you want," he agreed tolerantly.  He knew Patrick would fuss and have nightmares if he couldn't check on the boy.  He carried the boy up there, letting Patrick get himself up to the bedroom.  They did try to keep normal hours for appearance's sake.  Even if they did get to bed at three in the morning and got up at about noon.


Horatio walked into his office and smiled at Speedle.  "They're fine.  They're having to stay up there for a few more weeks.  Xander got on well with the lab up there.  Mac said a lot of very nice things about him."  Speed smiled and nodded.  "They met Xander's cousin Don, Detective Flack.  They've been hanging out and settling old family disputes.  He's the son of the brother of Patrick's second wife.  Patrick has a crush on Stella."

"She's one hell of a woman," Speed agreed.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  He's good.  He only let me go at first when the older two got there."  Speed grinned and nodded.  "How were things while I was gone?"

"Stetler and the Chief both want to talk to you."

"I'll get with them later."

"I can hear Stetler stomping this way."  He looked.  "He's still got his jacket on."  He got out of the way.

"What is your connection to that family?"

"I found Xander wandering around when he was five and a few other times.  I've let him call me when he was in trouble," Horatio said patiently.  "Yelina and I both have the same sort of connection to them.  She went to slap someone when she found the boy bruised."

"Nothing else?"

"I'm one of Xander's favorite mentors.  He writes me every few days," Horatio admitted.  That got a single nod.  "Speed, Yelina, and I were all helping him the last time he got kidnaped and gay bashed.  This time was worse."

"The parents?" Speed asked. "And the pedophile they sold him to?"

"They found enough evidence in his house that he made a deal for forty years," Horatio told him. "If he survives that long in prison.  The parents were both arrested by CHP.  They're in jail as well."  That got a smirk and Speed left them alone.  "Why the wonder, Rick?"

"You've never been married and you hang out with a well-known gay couple.  People are drawing conclusions."

"I'm divorced," Horatio told him.  Rick snorted.  "I know it's not common knowledge but I am divorced.  I'm the boy's mentor.  If they want to think that about me, that's their problem.  You know I don't play politics."

"Fine.  The Chief wanted a word."

"I was about to call him when you stomped in.  Speed only told me a minute ago."

"Good."  He walked off, going to make notes.  He would catch him taking bribes or something soon he was sure.

Horatio called his boss.  "Sir, you wanted to speak to me?  I am back.  He's fine.  They're going to have to stay up there for a few more weeks while pleas are accepted; those sort of things."  He listened to him.  It was a good reason to sit down.  "No, sir.  I found Xander wandering when he was five and he's looked up to me since then.  We talk all the time.  We write letters back and forth."  He smirked.  "I was not aware that he asked you to reward me after the last kidnaping."  No wonder he had gotten jumped up on the Lieutenant's scale.  He had wondered but now he knew.  Not that he minded.  It was a sweet gesture from the boy.  Him saying he wanted him to be happy made it a good reward.  "I think the boy looks at me like an uncle, sir.  Yes, I'm well aware of the full details of the case.  I'm also aware that no one hurts that young man at home.  Or else I would let Yelina handle it."  He laughed at his assertion that was a good incentive.  "They're not like that, sir.  No one out there is.  They do thorough background checks on their people.  They have a lot of links to people in the intelligence community.  No, sir, they're very close friends, not sources.  Thank you for your support, sir.  You have a good day too."  He hung up and shook his head.  "Politics," he muttered.  He got up and went to check on the others.


Horatio walked into his boss's office the next Monday.  "You wanted to talk to me, sir?"

"I did, Horatio.  Certain grateful individuals have given your lab a grant."  He tossed over the envelope.  He grinned, watching him read it.  "They're very grateful."

"We helped them find their grandson," he said, looking at him.  "Did you want me to turn it down?  We could use it."

"No, they'd be hurt and I'd never hear the end of it in social circles.  Patrick can rant worse than any pregnant woman now and then.  He also slaps like one."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Do you have any intention of leaving the lab for this office?"

"I'd rather die, sir.  I hate paperwork."

"Good."  He smirked at him.  "The boy also called me in person to suggest that the lab itself be praised for helping find him.  He's got very good reasoning skills for his age.  He talked me into giving you enough of a raise to hire someone."  Horatio gaped.  "As I said, he talked me into it.  Don't make me regret listening to such a young boy?"

"I won't, sir.  Thank you."  He stood up and shook his hand.  "I'll put out the notice today and tell you what I used the grant for."   He walked out, still stunned.  He found his phone and the number in it, calling Patrick's office.  "Can you connect me with Patrick?"  Gordon said 'no' and told him why.  He smiled.  "I didn't need it but ....  Okay, the lab could use it.  Thank Xander for me as well.  He talked the Chief into giving me a new CSI."  He laughed as he got into the hummer.  "Exactly.  Thank you, Gordon, and I'll write a very nice thank you letter when I get done spending it."  He hung up, heading to HR.  He walked in.  "The Chief has given me permission to hire a new level one CSI."  The secretary smiled and helped him fill out the form.  He went to deposit the check into the lab's account and headed back to the lab, going to announce it.  He walked in and found Rick hovering.  "Before you say anything, the worried grandparents gave us a grant for helping save their grandson."  He walked around him, going up to the lab.  He ran into Frank, Yelina, and Hagen.  "People!" he called.  People leaned or came out of their labs.  "The Chief has given me permission to hire a new level one CSI.  If you know someone who wants it the announcement goes out tonight."  They nodded.  "Also, I need a list of what needs fixed or updated.  We've just got given a small grant."  That got a lot more smiles and they went back to work.  He smiled at  Yelina.  "Xander talked the Chief into giving us a new CSI."

"That's one hell of a reward," she said.  "He's all right?"

"He's fine.  A bit scraped up,  a few nightmares.  About as bad as last time.  We talked about him having to hurt the one he got away from.  He's better now."

"Good.  When is he coming back?"

"A few weeks.  They're trying to push for deals up there."

"Less mess than a trial," Hagen agreed.  "Do I know this kid?"

"Xander Benis?" Yelina asked.

"Seen him in the paper, and that custody thing.  He got away?"

"Twice," Horatio said proudly.  "One was coming out of the intensive care unit when they arrested him. The other he managed to get away from and ran for help in New York."  Frank beamed at that.  "Now, why are you up here?"

"Cases," Yelina said grimly.  "They decided to prove you right while you were gone."

"It'll slow down again soon," he reminded her.  She smiled and they left again, leaving him to gather a goodie list.


The next school year was a lot more quiet.  Xander didn't have martial arts anymore so the school's coaches were all eyeing him.  The gymnastics coach found him first.  "Xander," he said, sitting across from him at lunch.

"Coach Bradley."  He put down his fork.  "What's wrong?  Am I doing something wrong in gym?  I know Coach Forette hates me."

"He doesn't, he thinks you're violent."  He grinned.  "I think your experience diving could be a great help on my gymnastics team."

"You know I'm off diving because I'm still growing?"

"I do and it'd help you.  The tumbling would help if you went back to it and it'd keep your arms and legs strong, plus give you an active outlet to play with.  I don't expect you to lead us to a Nationals competition, Xander, but it would help you and I've got a spot open."

Xander looked at him.  "I'll talk to Grandfather about it tonight."

The coach smiled and nodded.  "Thanks, Xander.  I think you could do a lot of good for the team.  Most of my boys are playing around. They've never known what it was like to win."

"It's this feeling of contentment," Xander said quietly.  "I had it right before my appendix burst."

The coach laughed.  "I know, kid.  Come see me when you've decided."  He got up, letting him go back to his lunch.

Xander went back to eating, thinking about it.  Gymnastics did look like playing on a playset most of the time.  Which was fun.  He'd get to do all sorts of flippy things and the tumbling would help him with his diving moves if he went back.  He finished his lunch and went to look up more of the specific events.  The library had stuff on girl's gymnastics but not men's so he went with what they had.  It couldn't be that much different.


Xander looked at his Grandsire that night at dinner.  "Coach Bradley came to see me at lunch."

"The gymnastics coach?" he asked, looking confused.  Xander nodded.  "Why?"

"He wants me to join the team."  Raphael's fork paused mid-travel down to the plate.  "He thinks it could help me a lot if I decided to go back to diving and it'd help with the balance stuff.  Plus he said the guys on the team are slackers.  He thinks I'll give them a good incentive to win."

Raphael considered it.  "If that's what you want we'll let you try it, Xander.  You know that."  Xander grinned.  "Do you want to?"

"It looks like a lot of fun."

"You said the same thing about diving and walked in a great number of times complaining your coach was mean."

"True, but all coaches have to do that now and then."

"Very true," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Okay.  If you want to try it."  He patted him on the head.  "Clear the table before Cook worries you're getting sick."  Xander inhaled the rest of his dinner and all the rest of the food on the table, including his spare roll.  "Tell Mortran before you head up to do homework."

"Can I have a tv in my room?"

"After your thirteenth birthday, Xander.  We agreed on that."  He nodded, kissing him on the cheek before going to find his hiding bodyguard.  Xander had asked him something earlier that had embarrassed him.  Raphael went back to eating his remaining dinner.  "He'll look good," he decided.


Six weeks later, Xander hopped into the house.  "If I ever have to take a physics class on aerodynamics I'm going to ace it," he called.  He hopped into his grandfather's study, weathering the horrified look.  "If you're going too fast and you release you tend to have a trajectory."

Mortran walked in.  "You know how they have the really thick padding underneath the equipment and then a lesser pad a bit farther out?"  Patrick nodded.  "Xander landed three feet past that."  He patted Xander on the back.  "It's only a sprained knee and some bruises.  This time."  He walked off, going to giggle in the backyard.  Thomas gave him a 'go on, share it' look when he found him.  "Xander's been learning the high bar.  That's a seven foot high single bar.  They have release moves."  Thomas snickered.  Mortran held up a hand.  "No, no.  Xander flew off three times today.  He's going too fast when he releases.  He gets a really pretty trajectory.  The last time he went about five feet before he hit the bare floor and sprained his knee."  Thomas walked off laughing.

"Xander, perhaps you should give up on gymnastics," Patrick said gently.

"No, I'm going to conquer that stupid bar and win a damn medal in it," he said stubbornly.  "It's not going to beat me."

"Yes, dear, but it could *kill* you," Patrick complained. "Next time it could be your head."

Xander hopped off shaking his head.  "Cook, I'm going to go soak in a hot bath.  Can I have dinner upstairs?" he called, hopping into the kitchen.  "For obvious reasons, stairs suck."

She looked at him then nodded.  "I can do that.  Ankle?"

"Sprained knee."  He hopped off grinning. "I'm going to conquer that and I'll be at the States next year," he called as he walked past the study.  "But you can come eat dinner in my room with me if you want."

"I'll mark it on the calender," Patrick sighed, doing that.  Xander was stubborn, he'd do what he said.  "Mortran!"  He walked into the study.  "Don't they have safety straps and things?"

"His waist is too small for the guys' set and he's too heavy for the girls'.  They had a spotter but that was the third hit."  Patrick put his head down.  "He's doing okay.  It's only these release moves."  Patrick looked at him.  "You spin, you release the bar, do something, then catch it again."

"He's not in a circus act!" Patrick complained.

"It's a standard move, Father.  Maybe you should get a tape of an event.  I'll show you what he was trying to do.  He's good at the tumbling.  He's been working with the ladies on that."  He grinned.  "By the way, all the skimpy leotards in the world won't make your grandson look at their butts."  He walked off, leaving a happier grandfather.


Two weeks later Xander looked up from his bed in the ER, waving weakly at Raphael.  "Hi, Grandsire."

"Xander," he said calmly, walking in.  "What did you do?"

"I proved Xanders are not meant to fly."  His grandsire sighed, shaking his head.  "I nailed my whole routine.  I just was going too fast for my dismount.  If I had realized I would've added another flip.  Instead I kinda landed really hard because I was going too fast and had too much momentum.  But the good news is that I understand physics so much better now."

"Not funny, Xander."  He looked over as the doctor came in.  "I'm his Grandsire.  How broken is his leg?"

"We'll be putting in pins later tonight."


"Yes," the doctor said.  "I'm thinking five by the x-rays."  He held it up for him to see.  Raphael whimpered.  "At least it's only on one side, sir."  Raphael sat down, holding his head.  "We'll need permission to do the surgery."  He held out a hand and signed the paperwork.  "We'll be keeping him tonight and it's going to be a full leg cast.  He'll probably want comfortable shorts for the next few weeks, if not a month."  That got a nod.  "His shoulder's only a bit pulled.  He did a good job with that one."

"Next time, I'm rotating more," Xander told him.

The doctor looked at him.  "Most kids would give up, Mr. Benis."

Xander looked at him. "I will beat this thing and I will win a medal," he said bluntly.  "Can I have a soda before I go in?"

"No, you can have some water but only a little bit."  He went to tell the nurse and have it scheduled.

Xander looked at his Grandsire.  "Do not say it.  I'm going to beat this sucker even if I do give it up right after that."

"Diving?" he asked.

Xander shrugged. "I don't know.  I've still got a year of growing to do, Grandsire."

"Point."  He stood up, looking at him.  "You keep getting more and more injured.  Next time you could break your neck."

Xander kissed him on the cheek.  "I'll be fine.  I'm very stubborn, just like Grandfather," he said proudly.

"I've had to tie him down a few times for his own good," he warned, fighting not to smile.

"I'll be stuck in bed for the next month anyway," Xander said dryly.  "Can I have the tv early since I'm going to be *really* bored?"

"We'll see."  He went to call Patrick.  "Your stubbornness has passed down undiluted through two generations.  Are you proud?"  He listened to the whimper about it being multiplied, he would've given up. "They're talking five pins."  He pulled the phone away from his ear when Patrick screamed.  "He did say he understood physics so much better now."  He hung up on more screaming, going back to sit and wait with him.  They had obviously given Xander the good drugs since he didn't say anything about aching.  He did send up a silent prayer to weather this new sport.  Only God could be as stubborn as Xander.


Horatio looked up as someone walked into his office late that night.  "Patrick, is Xander all right?"

"He'd like a visit.  He has eight pins in his leg."

"Eight?" he asked, staring.  "Car crash?"

"Human crash.  He's doing gymnastics and didn't stick his landing."  He flopped down, looking at him.  "He's more stubborn than I am.  He's determined that he's going to beat this apparatus and win a medal."  Horatio smiled, shaking his head.  "I know, it's a very Xander thing to do.  He would like a visit soon however.  He'll be in bed for the next six weeks.  We've decided to let him have a tv in his room early and a laptop to do his homework on.  His tv is small but has a VCR player attached if you wanted to bring him a movie or something.  I'm trying to blot out the thought of the whining coming up from the itches.  His cast is ankle to hip."  Horatio winced.  "Five pins in his calf, one in his ankle, and then two in his knee.  My grandson is too stubborn and bordering on stupid."

"He's a passionate young man," Horatio reminded him.  Patrick nodded at that.  "Having those problems?" he teased.

"We think he's going to be gay.  He doesn't try to look at the girls in the skimpy leotards."

Horatio smiled.  "That'll be better.  You won't have to try to describe how a hetero couple have sex."

"True.  Not that I'm ready for that talk yet."  He stood up.  "Tell that nice Detective Salas as well.  He'd love to have visitors.  He's going to go insane with only his homework and daytime tv."

Horatio nodded. "I can do that.  Did you tell Don?"

"I did.  He choked all over Mac on a scene."  He grinned.  "How's the lab?"

"Doing well, Patrick.  Thank you for the grant last year."

"You deserved it."  He walked out, heading back to his car.

Horatio went to find the others.  They had a late night tonight thanks to a late afternoon case.  "Speed?"  He looked over with Ryan - the one Xander had gotten him to hire.  "Xander's doing gymnastics now."

"You told me that with his last letter," he reminded him, getting back to his test.

"He's out of surgery."  Speed moaned, putting things down.  "Eight pins in one leg."

"Eight?" Ryan whimpered.

"Knowing Xander he made a smart remark about understanding physics better now," Horatio said.  "He said he'd like phone calls or visits from his friends.  He'll be confined to bed for about six weeks.  He has an ankle to hip cast."

"That poor kid," Ryan said, shaking his head.

"He's stubborn.  He said he's going to beat this apparatus and win a medal, or so Patrick said," Horatio told them.

"That sounds like Xander," Speed agreed, shaking his head.  "I'll stop by on my next day off.  Tell Yelina yet?"

"Not yet.  You two were closer."  They smiled.  "Though Patrick did say he thinks Xander will end up being gay also.  Apparently he's not hitting on the ladies team."

Speed nodded.  "That's a good indication.  Let us do this and I'll find him something to do on his back."  Horatio walked off smiling.  "If I ever have kids that stubborn, have me get Xander to coach me in how to avoid these situations, okay?"

"Sure," Ryan agreed.  "It's a good idea."  Speed snickered.  "Eight pins?  He's got to be in pain."

"Had any?"

"Two in my arm when I was eight.  I was miserable."

"Fell out of a tree?"

"Pushed out of a tree."  He got back to work.  "My mother said I was so pitiful I lived on milkshakes."

"I'm sure he'll be thoroughly spoiled by the family."


Xander looked up, grinning when the cab stopped.  "Thanks, man."  He handed over the money and slowly got out with the guard's help.  He waved and hopped inside to the office.  "Medical excuse and pills.  Because I ache and I need my drugs now and then."  He hopped off, heading to hand in assignments.  "Watch out!" he snapped.  The kid who nearly ran him over whimpered.  "Thank you!  Trying to hop here."  He went to his home room, sitting down with a sigh of relief.  The teacher gave him an odd look.  "Eight pins."

"Ow," she muttered.  "Okay, take a breather and head to your first class.  You'll get to leave a few minutes early so you don't get run over, Xander."

"Thank you."  He got up and hopped off again, going to accounting.  He waited until all the students had run out then hopped in and flopped down, looking at the lack of seat in front of him.  The teacher gave him an odd look.  "It's easier if I can put my foot up.  Otherwise I swell from the hanging weight."  She got him an empty box.  "Thanks, teach."  He handed in his accumulated homework.  "Here you go."

"Thank you, Xander."  She sat down to grade it.  "You even remembered the state rate of tax this time, I'm impressed."  Xander beamed.  Someone coughed from the door.  "Yes?"

"Xander should still be in bed," Horatio said dryly.  "Xander."

"I need to be in school."

"Not with eight pins in your leg, Xander.  Come on, I'll drive you home."


"You proved your point.  You're not helpless, come on."  He came over to grab his backpack, helping him up and steadying him until his crutches were in place.  Xander handed over the rest of his homework, getting a smile.  "Thank you."  He walked him out, smiling at the headmaster.  "He's stubborn."

"We know," he agreed, handing Horatio the pills.  "We'll send your guard your homework for the next few weeks, Xander.  Don't worry about it."  The boy pouted but let the redheaded cop walk him off.  He shook his head.  "That boy," he sighed.  He went to file an extension on the excuse and make note of who took him out of school.

Horatio walked Xander into the house with a small treat, helping him up to his room, where he tucked him in.  He kissed him on the head.  "I'm coming to visit this weekend.  Be a good boy."  Xander pouted but nodded.  "Look at it as an opportunity to make some plans, maybe draft a new routine, and work it out in your head before you go back."

"Yes, Horatio.  Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He smiled and walked out, heading back to work.  Raphael met him at the door, looking sleepy and confused.  "Xander went to school.  One of the guards called when he realized someone had snuck out."

Raphael walked off shaking his head.  "I knew he was stubborn," he said.  "Thank you, Horatio.  Did you spank him?"

"Got him some chocolate and told him I'd be back this weekend."  He left, going out to the hummer, sliding back into his sunglasses.  He drove back to the lab, smiling when he got out.  Speed and Yelina were outside arguing about something.  "Xander decided to go to school today."

"What?" Speed demanded.  "With eight pins that're only a week old and he hopped to school?"

"Um-huh," Horatio hummed.

Yelina sighed, shaking her head.  "That is one stubborn young man.  Nearly as bad as you, Horatio."  She walked inside, her fight with Speed forgotten for now.

Speed walked off shaking his head.  Eric Delko stopped him. "Xander Benis."

"I remember him.  He's a nice kid from what you guys have said.  He looked pretty good at State a few years back too."

"He's doing gymnastics at the moment."  Eric grinned at that. "Last week he broke his leg.  He has eight pins.  He hopped to school today."  Eric gaped.  "That's the sort of kid Xander is."  He walked off much happier.

"I thought Horatio was stubborn."  Speed snickered when he heard that but he kept going.


Xander finally limped back into his first practice, waving at the coach.  "I'm back!" he called as he limped into the dressing room.  He came out to find the coach looking confused.  "Was I kicked off?"

"No, but don't you need physical therapy for your leg?  If you land like that it's going to break again, kid."

"No it won't.  I asked the doctor.  He cleared me."  He handed that over.  "My knee aches like shit but oh well.  My appendix burst after my last dive and I still won gold."  He went to stretch with the girls.  "Ladies, can I have help stretching?  My knee aches."  They cooed and helped hold his foot straight.  "Thank you."  When he was done he stretched back, rolling into a handstand then to his feet.  "Better.  My knee doesn't ache as much."  He went to chalk his hands and get back onto his bane.

"No!  Do the pommels today, Benis!" the coach yelled.  "We don't need you to fly off again."

"I figured out what I did wrong."  He hopped up there, flipping around the bar a few times to build momentum.  He did a perfect release move and caught it again.  He grinned and did a backward one too, the one where you catch it between your legs.  Then he did a simple dismount.  He had to bend his knees for an extra second this time then he straightened up.  He winced.  "Knee's going to ache for a while, coach.  We'll have to figure that part out."  He went to work out on the pommel horse.  He managed not to get knocked down the by the girl tumbling off course, he caught her and flipped her onto her back instead, looking down at her.  "Don't knock me over," he pouted.  "Grandfather will make me leave and then you won't have me to help spot."  He helped her up.  "You're dizzy.  You're off line."

"I saw."  She gave him a hug.  "It's good to have you back, Xander."  She jogged back to her spot, following the tape line better this time.

Xander redusted his hands and took his bounce off the board onto the pommel horse.  He was still learning what he should be doing on this one.  It was awkward.  The coach came over to show him.  Getting a nod he did it himself.  He kept on that until it was time for the guys to practice tumbling.  He was as good as nearly any of the girls.


Xander looked up at his cheering section at his first meet, grinning and waving.  He got ready for his first event, the vault.  He adjusted his hand grip and rolled his shoulders, wincing a bit.  That stupid pull came back last week and he was still sore.  The guy in front of him cleared and he paused for scoring.  When it came up he took a deep breath and ran for the horse, bouncing off the board and planting his hands.  He flipped, he turned, he landed, only taking a miniscule hop.  He put his arms up and walked off.  Now his knee was aching.  He flopped down beside the coach, taking the insta-heat pack and snapping it open, planting it on his knee.  He got an odd look.  "Residual soreness."

"Stretch more.  That seems to help."  Xander nodded, pulling their alternate over to help him with that.  They did that until he got called to the floor exercise.  There he was like a bouncy spring.  His knee still hurt but it was fine.  He got a good mark there too and went back to wait his turn with the heat pack.  One of the guys was wincing and rubbing his wrist so he handed it over. "Here.  Sprained?"

"Just twisted wrong when I landed my back handspring," he admitted.  "Thanks, Xander."  He got a nod and Xander watched their competition go through the rest of their pommel exercises.  They got that one next while the other team got the vault.  Xander got to go first since he was highest scorer at the moment.  His wasn't that difficult but it stuck all the high points and he did it well.  He dismounted with a simple spin and off landing.  He held up his arms and walked off.  He got a good score so the other guys tried to follow.  The parallel bars were halfway between the pommel horse and the high bar and he did okay there, it only made his shoulder hurt more.  They didn't have to do the rings with this school since they couldn't for insurance reasons.  The last one was the high bar.  Xander looked at the coach, shaking his head.  He didn't want to go first.  The other guy looked at him.  "You sure?"

"Yeah.  I need time to work on my shoulders."  That got a nod and he psyched himself up to go.  Xander stretched his shoulders and worked his arms, then chalked his hands.  It was his turn so he took a running start at the spring board, leaping up at the bar.  He moved around the bar a few times to gain momentum then got to work on his routine, mentally chanting it to himself.  His second release move was a near non-catch.  His landing was stuck perfectly and he beamed, jogging back to sit down and grab the heat pack back.  His knee was really throbbing now.  The coach looked at him.  "I ache," he said quietly.  His score went up and he beamed.  "I thought they were going to count me down for that near not-catch."

"No, they didn't," the coach said.  They went to shake hands with the other team and get their awards.  Xander got first on floor and the high bar and second overall.  He held up his one for the bar with a smirk.  "Benis, practice, two days," the coach ordered, giving him a look.

Xander considered it then nodded.  "Okay.  As long as I quit aching."  That got a nod and they walked off.  Xander got hugged by his grandfather, who was sniffling. "I'm fine."

"You nearly didn't catch the bar.  You would've been badly hurt," he complained.  Horatio gently pulled the boy away from him.  "You did very well.  Now, we'll go tell him you quit."

"At the end of the season," Xander said from his Horatio-given hug.  He grinned at him.  "See, I did good."

"You did very good, Xander.  Much better than I could ever do."  Xander beamed and walked out with the others.  It was dark outside so they went back to dinner.  Xander pulled Horatio inside with him.  "Fine, I'll stay for dinner," he agreed, smiling back at the amused look.  "I can't disappoint him."

"Go shower, Xander, then we'll eat," Patrick ordered.  Xander nodded, heading up the stairs slowly.  "His knee is aching."

"Yup," Raphael admitted.  "You make a good cane, Horatio."

Horatio shook his head.  "Bad pun."

"Sorry, couldn't resist.  Cook, Xander invited Horatio back for dinner.  He's showering."  He went to place the new medals and pictures on Xander's shelf in the study.  They came back and found Xander in a ratty pair of jeans and a t-shirt.  "We do have company."

"Horatio's family, not company," Xander told him, sitting next to his guest.  "So, did I really look okay or are you just being nice?"

"You looked very good but I think your grandfather clawed Raphael's hand when you nearly missed the bar."

"I nearly crapped myself," Xander said dryly.  Patrick moaned.  "I did.  I learned my aerodynamics lessons very well."  He looked at him.  "The first week I was working on release moves I'd let go and I was going so fast I'd get a really nice trajectory."  Horatio winced.  "Sprained my knee that day too.  I managed to land all the way off the padding from the waist down."

"Ow.  That was one long trajectory," Horatio complained.  Xander nodded.  "The same leg?"  Patrick nodded.  "No wonder you ache."

"Oh, I do," Xander agreed.  He looked at his grandfather.  "My old coach called yesterday.  Told me I was going to break myself for diving."

"Are you going back?" Patrick asked.

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  I can't get much higher."

"You can dive in college and make it all the way to the olympics," Horatio told him.

Xander gave him an odd look.  "I'm not that great."

"You won tops in your age group in the state."

"Yeah but that was when I was eleven, Horatio.  There weren't that many of us.  All I had to do to win was be a bit more athletic than some of the younger kids.  The college people are really fierce."

"You could try," Patrick offered.  "It'd give you something else to do after school.  It'd also keep you away from that girl that's trying to nail you to a doorway as you put it."

"Yeah, it would," Xander agreed.  "I only have gymnastics practice twice a week after school.  I could spend that much time in the pool I guess."  Horatio smiled. "You seriously think I could make it to the college leagues?"

"I do."

"Huh."  He frowned and nodded, digging in when Cook brought food out.  "Love you, Cook.  I'm starved."

"You're welcome, Xander.  Patrick, eat something," she ordered, going back into the kitchen.

Xander snickered.  "She's nearly as good at nagging as Grandsire is," he teased.  "Stella asked about you in her last letter.  I told her you were okay and still pining over her beauty and brains."  Raphael snickered and nodded.  "I told her to come down with Uncle Don the next time."

"That's a nice gesture," Patrick agreed, smiling at him.  "I'm too ill to woo a woman, Xander."

"No you're not.  If that old guy who couldn't do anything got that super model, you can get Stella."  He ate another bite, liking how Horatio's giggle sounded.  He didn't often laugh out loud but that was a giggle.  He grinned at him.  "He did."

"He did."  He gave him a shoulder squeeze.  "It'll be okay, Xander."

"Well, maybe they could arrange a surrogate so I'd get a sibling to protect and teach."

Patrick spluttered, choking.  Cook rushed in to help him since Raphael was on the floor cackling.   Horatio just let out a quiet moan at that, smiling at Xander.  "That would be a bit more difficult to arrange, Xander," he said gently.

"I know but dreams are good to have.  Even unreasonable ones."  He ate another bite.  "Grandfather, you need to eat and not choke."

Patrick got up to give him a hug.  "You have a very strange mind, Grandson."  He walked off, going up to bed for the night.  Raphael brought him some blood and tucked him.  "He would be an excellent big brother."

"I know but some year he'll be a wonderful father instead."  He patted him and went back downstairs.  "It was the idea of colic, Xander.  Not of your idea."  He gave him a hug.  "A new baby in the house would give Patrick something more to live for than you and I."  He kissed him on the head.  "Having that wonderful woman be the mother would be outstanding."  He sat down, smiling at Horatio.  "He's fine.  He's pouting.  For some reason both Benis men have low self esteem."

"I don't see why, they have no reason to have it," Horatio said, smiling at the awed look Xander gave him.  "You don't.  Eat."  Xander nodded, inhaling his dinner and limping off to get seconds, which made Cook yell at him for limping.  "They would be adorable children."

Raphael nodded.  "They definitely would.  If we had been able to store some of his natural seed I wouldn't care to make the arrangements.  Instead we'll have to wait until Xander's a father."

"Xander hates girls," Xander called from the kitchen.   He came out with a full plate and smelling like liniment.   "Sorry, she put goop on my knee again."  He sat down, digging back in.  "It'll be a while before I make him a great-grandfather.  What about that cloning stuff?  Can we use a cell and split it like they did on the Discovery channel?"

Horatio looked at him.  "That's a very advanced area of study.  I thought you didn't like science."

"I don't, but it was on all day and I had to do something while I was stuck in bed."  He ate another bite.  "I need to get my arms and hands stronger."

"We'll figure out how to do that, Xander."  Raphael gave him a gentle smile.  "Good boy, now eat."

"I should say the same thing," Xander said, waving his fork.  "Now.  Please."  Raphael dug in, smiling at Horatio.  "Do you really think I looked okay?"

"I think you looked very good.  Especially on the floor exercise."  Xander beamed and wiggled as he finished up, running upstairs to get something.  "Raphael, I know you have arrangements for feeding and things."

"It's a nice offer, Horatio, but we only feed off family."

"You told me I was as near as."  He stared him down.  "Do you need it?"

"I could use it but Patrick needs it more."  Xander bounced back in with a photo album. "Is that your baby book?"  He nodded, sitting down next to Horatio to let him see the pictures.  It was adorable.


A few months later Xander came out of his pool center's changing area, looking at the man standing there with a gun pointed at him and his coach.  "What is your damage, dude?" he asked calmly, thinking hard.  "What do you want?"


"Me?  You're trying to kidnap me?"

"No!" he sneered.  "You took my son's spot!"

Xander looked at the coach, then at him.  "I don't care if he joins us here.  The coach can handle us both."  His bodyguard was off renewing his pass.  The center's security was wandering around somewhere.  He shifted away from his coach.  "I could use a training buddy really.  It'd give me someone to compare myself with besides tapes."

"Not here," he sneered.  "On the gymnastics team for the state!"

"I made the state team?"  He looked confused.  "Since when?  No one told me."

The man growled. "Don't play innocent with me, kid."  He cocked the gun.  "That's my son's spot."

"Will he really want it given to him like this?" the coach demanded.  "Any athlete would hate getting a spot this way."

"I didn't try out for the state team," Xander told him.  "I don't qualify, I had to miss a few matches due to a broken leg, dude.  Besides, ratings don't come out for another two weeks!"  The gun wavered.  "It wasn't me.  Really.  I never even considered trying out when I found out I wasn't eligible.  They can't pick me without me having tried out."

"I saw you."

"I doubt it.  I was in New York that weekend with my uncle, who's a cop.  You're going to be in deep shit.  Uncle Don's going to roast you over an open fire."

"Shut up."  He fired at him and the kid tried to duck.  He got him in the upper shoulder area.  He sneered.  "Let's see you flip with that," he said, kicking him into the pool.  He ran off.

The coach dove in after Xander, pulling him back to the side.  The guards ran in.  "There was a guy with a gun.  Get him some help!"  They ran to call an ambulance and to find the center's physician.  Mortran helped him out.  "The guy said that Xander had taken his kid's spot on the state gymnastics team."

"He was only eligible for the tumbling team."  He held pressure on the wound until the doctor ran in.  "It's a high gunshot wound, doc.  It's not bleeding too badly."

Xander poked the arms holding him down.  "I hurt," he said, sounding a bit hazy.  "Grandfather's going to freak."

"I'll call him when we know you're okay."

"If I can go home, we'll tell him when I get home so he can check me over himself," Xander ordered.  "They won't keep me for this."  The doctor gave him an odd look.  "Tough!"  He got him bandaged until the paramedics got there.  The hospital gave him something for the pain that let him drift on a happy mental cloud.  When he came down he was looking at Speed.  "Hi," he said weakly.  "Did you find out which one his son was so we could send him a sympathy card for having a dad like that?"

"Your coach knew who he was," he promised, stroking over his hair.  "You awake?"

"Yeah, just floaty headed."

"Good painkillers," Speed said with a grin.  "Come on, sit up."  Xander sat up.  "We have the tape.  We need a statement."

"He was psycho but I can do that."  Speed smiled, pulling out a tape recorder and a chair so they could go over it.  Xander looked at his shoulder.  "I'm going to scar, huh?"

"Yup," he agreed.  "They usually have a small pucker.  Not like the ones on your leg."

"Maybe I should give up sports for a while."  Speed shook his head.  "It's not me?"

"No, it's them.  They're jealous because you're so good."  Xander nodded, leaning on his knees to go over what happened.


Mortran opened the door, finding Thomas coming up the hall.  "Go find Sire, have him sit on Father Benis," he ordered quietly.


"Xander got shot," he mouthed.  Thomas opened his mouth.  "He's fine.  Have him sit on Father Benis."  He went to do that.  A quiet word to Raphael and he walked Xander into the room to find them cuddled together.

"Xander," Patrick said.  "What happened?  You smell like a hospital."

"A jealous father of another athlete," Mortran said.  "I was off renewing his pass."

"You haven't felt the urge to date, right?" Raphael asked.  Xander looked confused but shook his head.  "Good.  Are you all right?"

"It went through the upper part of his shoulder.  It's already been closed.  It's a clean wound, we've got some antibiotics and mild painkillers," he offered.  "The jealous father was yelling that Xander took his son's place on the state team."

"Which I'm not eligible for," Xander said.  "I pointed that out a few times.  He didn't want to listen."  He sat down, letting them cuddle him.  "I'm sorry they're drawn to me this year."

"It happens to the best of us, Xander."  Patrick kissed him on the head, looking at his sire.  "No wonder you wanted to cuddle when you've been in a bad mood all day."  He nodded.  "Good idea."  He looked at Mortran.  "Is he under arrest?"

"Speedle said they have him identified through Xander's gymnastics coach.  Apparently his son's been around the circuit for a few years now.  They're hunting him."

"I want to send his kid a sympathy card for having a dad like that," Xander said quietly.

"Let's not be mean."

"It's not his fault, Grandsire."

"You can send him a card saying you don't blame him for his father's actions.  It's more tasteful," Patrick decided.   He hugged Xander tighter.  "It's all right, Mortran.  That center has security and he got past them too."   He nodded, leaving them alone to comfort the boy.

"Do people want to shoot you when you date?" Xander asked a few minutes later.

"There's a family curse," Patrick told him.  Xander looked at him.  "After you find a true mate, you'll be tempted for four years.   Some will fete you, some will court you.  Some will want to steal you.  It's to prove that you have a strong relationship."

"I growled through most of the first three years," Sire agreed.  Xander grinned at him.  "We hope we're here to help you through that, Xander."

"Better be or else I'll drive Horatio nuts having people arrested."

"I'm sure you will," Patrick agreed, giving him a hug.  "We'll help you change the bandage later, dear.  For now you rest.  You've got to be tired."

"They gave me floaty headed drugs."  He snuggled in, getting comfortable with his grandfather holding him and his grandsire patting his back while playing guard dog.


A few weeks later, Xander had to give Raphael a sheepish look as he walked into the Headmaster's office.  "I don't know what I did wrong."

"Was he fighting?" he asked as he sat down.

"No, he was in Home Economics and managed to poison eighteen students and a teacher.  We're not sure how since the teacher was working with him.  He's never seen a stove in operation so she was using him as an example."  Raphael moaned.  "Do we know something?"

"His mother is poisonous in the kitchen," he said, looking at him. "We thought it was just her, not something genetic."

"I'm really sorry," Xander begged.  "Please don't let them sue me?  They're stingy on allowance."

"If we need to, we'll cover the ER bills," Raphael promised.  "Are they going to live?"

"Yes, it caused the usual vomiting and stomach cramps."  He looked at Xander then back at him.  "How poisonous was his mother?"

"She could look at food and ruin it."

"Is she dead?" Xander asked hopefully.  Raphael looked at him oddly.  "You used the past tense."

"She's in jail, Xander."  He looked at the headmaster again.  "She did poison the whole jail with instant potatoes."  He moaned at that.  "Are we removing him from there?"

"I'm going to go ahead and excuse him," he agreed.  That got a smile.  "That will give him an extra study hall."

"Can I take the computer stuff?" Xander asked.  "I know it's a next year class...."

The Headmaster nodded.  "Fine, Xander.  You can take the computer class this year."  Xander beamed.  "He's released early today so no one beats him for making their sibling sick."

"Thank you.  We're very sorry.  Have them route the ER bills to us."  He got up, walking Xander out to where the car was parked under the school's awning.  They got into the back and he sighed, looking at him.  "We didn't even think about that."

"Maybe I should offer some to Uncle Don and Horatio so they can feed it to the bad guys.  It'd make them confess faster."

"It's probably not ethical," Raphael decided after some thought.  They headed home, the tinted windows in the back protecting him.   He walked him into the house from the garage.  "Patrick, do you remember Xander's mother's ability to cook?" he called as they walked in.

He came out of his office.  "I heard about the instant potatoes incident."

Raphael gave Xander a pat on the back.  "The teacher was even working with him in Home Ec."  Patrick moaned, clutching the doorframe.  "All eighteen students and the teacher."  He gave him another pat and walked off.  "He's excused from Home Ec.  He'll get to take a computer class instead.  Tell him your idea, Xander."

"Can I give something I make to Uncle Don and Horatio to feed to the bad guys?"

"Even the worst of the bad people in the world don't deserve to be tortured, grandson.  Torture is wrong.  I had hoped I had gotten that point through to you by now."

"You did but it's not really torture.  It won't kill them."

"It could.  Go to your room and do something."  He went back to his office, taking something for his new headache.  Gordon peeked in when he paged him.  "Expect nineteen ER bills."


"Xander's in Home Ec.  He got all eighteen students and the teacher.  Who was working with him."

"He has his mother's talent?"  Patrick looked at him and nodded. "Well, maybe Horatio could use something."  He walked off to tell the ER nearest to the school to send them to him personally.


to next part.