Monday Mac decided to take matters deeper. The one he had called had almost laughed at the suggestion. He went to see some people in DC. He walked into the building the top one on the list was at, showing his credentials. "Gibbs in?" That got a nod. "Thank you." He got through security and headed up there. He looked at the man who had been leading his unit when he first joined, nodding at him. "Got a few?"
"Why? We're in the middle of a case."
"Something that I need advice on and your name was mentioned. Among others." That got a nod and Gibbs got up with his coffee, taking him to the elevator, turning it off right after they started to move. "They don't mind when you do this?"
"Do I care?" he countered. "Case or otherwise?"
Mac handed over the folder he had rolled into his inner jacket pocket. "An heir." Gibbs snorted. "To the Benis legacy." Mac got glared at. "The heir is almost seventeen. Next year he'll get his Grandfather's legacy, probably about a year before his grandfather dies. Along with most of his staff who'll follow to protect him in death." The older man gaped. Mac nodded, leaning against the other side of the car. "Xander's a good kid. He's the only seventeen-year-old virgin I know. You know the guy his grandfather's got as head of security. Xander has this unfortunate draw for stalkers. He's got one now. He'll have some social obligations, some modeling stuff, he's an athlete in two sports presently but he only mentioned one, and they're going to need someone with federal contacts to do the work they do. You know how Benis runs his things, Gibbs. I got asked to look at his list."
Gibbs looked over the list then the qualifications. "He doesn't need someone like me."
"His stalker's the daughter of a senator and Miami's mayor," he said quietly. He handed over a small envelope. "His uncle's one of our homicide detectives. Those are from Xander's portfolio. He's bi but he's had women shoved at him for so long he loathes them about half the time. The kid doesn't really seem to get people if that makes sense. He can glad-handle them, he can schmooze like a lifetime politician but he hates it." He popped his neck, smiling at his indrawn breath at some of the pictures. "Hence the stalkers. And one other issue. There's some sort of family curse or something according to his grandfather. When he finally marries someone good, everyone and their mother will be after the boy to take him away from his mate for about four years. Presents, kidnaping attempts, all that. I'm helping him decide who will be taking over as head of security of the Benis legacy. You'll have help down in Miami. Xander's best friends with the head of the lab."
"Caine?" he asked, looking confused.
Mac smiled. "Xander was five and his bodyguard at the time was apparently making out with his boyfriend. Xander has ADHD. He went to pet a dog." Gibbs let out a small grin at that. "Horatio found him a while later; Xander told him his bodyguard had gotten lost. They've written each other for years. He and Horatio have dinner at least once every two weeks, even during the bad weeks. Horatio came up when he came to the junior nationals in gymnastics. They're very tight friends. If I didn't know Caine better I'd say he was waiting on Xander to finish growing up because they're a lot alike now and then. Though, Xander has an expediency switch. He offered to give me something he cooked to help me question the bad suspects. He sent his whole Home Ec class to the ER. All eighteen and the teacher. His teacher was working with him. He's *toxic* in the kitchen."
Gibbs snickered quietly. "Sounds like fun. Can he eat his own?"
"Not always." He shifted some. "As you can see, your name's on the list. When his grandfather dies we're going to need to cushion him. He's going to be devastated."
"They have custody?"
"Since he was five and his parents abused him. They showed up when he was eleven trying to milk the golden cow. Had him kidnaped and paid for it by selling him to a pedophile up in my country. Xander's bodyguard is former Army Special Forces. He's been working with Xander since his parents showed up at eleven. Though he does claim he hates school the kid's good. Danny used him to prove how someone got into a room since he's a great gymnast. He's not dumb by any means even if he is on the jock track."
"Lecture classes don't do it for him. He gets frustrated and throws things. Usually the books from what I was told. If he goes it'll be for the sports stuff."
That got a nod and he looked it over again. The qualifications were high. "I see my name, my senior agent's name, and one I recognize." He wouldn't mention the crossed out name.
"I know you could do the job and be there for the kid. I know DiNozzo could do the job and be there for the kid. I think he and the kid would be very scary when they got along. He'll need a new head of security and he'll need them to staff his security staff. Including a personal bodyguard and driver. I know you're as high as you want to go into admin here, Gibbs. Out of that list you're the top two I'd suggest."
Gibbs turned back on the elevator, going back to his floor. The door opened. "DiNozzo, conference!" He came walking over and got in, and he shut the elevator down again. He handed the head of security page over.
Tony looked it over, humming. "Xander Benis." He looked at Mac. "Detective Taylor. Nice to see you somewhere other than a conference. They're setting him up on his own? Expelled?"
"His grandfather's terminal, Agent DiNozzo. Xander's going to be lucky to make it to graduation with him. When he graduates he gets a foundation to continue his grandfather's good works. I'll be on the board of it because Xander asked very nicely." That got a smile. "He also has a stalker." Gibbs handed over the pictures.
"I saw the goth ads, Abby adores them," he said, handing them back to Mac. "So why come to me?"
"Your name came up as a possible Head of Security." Tony stared at him. "He's in the life you were trained to live. He's an athlete. He'll be in deep grief since this is his only family. You'll have the lab's support down there. He and Caine are best friends. But he does get stalkers, he does have an upcoming family curse that'll apparently hit when he marries or finds the right mate to be with."
"I heard about that one." He leaned against the other wall. "How bad?"
"They're making final plans," Gibbs told him. "He'll be getting his own house when he graduates."
Mac nodded. "Most of Patrick's staff is planning on following to guard him in the afterlife. They love him that much. Xander inspires the same sort of loyalty; we need him to have good people he can count on around him. Personally I'd like to say one of you two. He has been trained by his bodyguard - he was Special Forces. The boy is rated fairly high on shooting skills. Horatio said he's disarmed a bomb but he didn't tell anyone he had done it before leaving the scene. He has an expedience switch in his head. He does what he has to and then apologizes."
"So we'll have a newly rich kid?" Tony asked.
"His grandparents have raised him, Tony. He's been raised rich but he's never been one of the brats of society. Down there he's known as the good boy. That rep followed him last summer when he came up to New York for a vacation. He drank once when someone slipped it to him. No drugs. No alcohol. He's still a virgin." Tony grinned at that. "He's also bi. You'd have to be comfortable dealing with gay issues. He's going to have stalkers. He's got one now who's the daughter of a senator and the mayor down there. He's gotten hate mail since he was a child. You'd be staffing his household with guards and running that part, plus doing backgrounds for the foundation and being on the senior staff for the kid."
"I like being here," Tony said quietly.
Mac nodded. "I know that. We're doing the pre-interviews. He'll get his own house when he graduates after next year."
"He was held back?" Tony asked.
"His grandfather got him when he was five. He said Miami wouldn't let him restart immediately, the birthday cutoff rule."
"Oh." He nodded. "Okay. So he had to start over. Is he going on with the gymnastics stuff?"
"Diving probably. He said he's not olympic quality for the gymnastics. He may be for the diving. I do know his house will have a private practice space. Xander does like to go club for the attention he gets. That's why he models. He needs to be appreciated and tease now and then. The time someone slipped him liquor he ended up go-go dancing and stripping. He made about two grand." Tony snickered at that. "Honestly. He was sixteen then. He's seventeen next week and he'll be a junior this year. He wants to do some traveling after graduation with the family. You'll have the original head of security until Patrick succumbs. He's going to need a cushion, not a handler. He's not a bad kid by any means. I love him like a nephew."
Tony handed it back. "I'll think about it."
Mac nodded. "If something happens abruptly, can we count on you at first at least?"
Tony nodded. "Yeah, you can. What's the salary like?" Mac handed over a card. "Their present guy was FBI?"
"Yup," Mac agreed. "They do a lot of background checks, they do a lot of helping Horatio with cases now and then, and they are very strong in the gay rights movement. The foundation will be scholarships and research to start then everything else once Patrick is gone."
Tony tapped it a few times. "Is he a good kid? I mean nice, all that?"
"Stella likes to tease Xander and he teases her back because Patrick has a crush on her. Now and then he can be a bit of a hellion and a tease. Now and then he's very serious. Underneath it all is steel. His parents were horrible, that's why they lost custody. Two years ago at State he was there with a fractured arm and didn't tell his coach more than it was sprained. The kid's been shot, gay bashed, had minor stalkers that Horatio could solve with some intimidation. Especially after that goth campaign. Recently, one of the kids in band was sucking up so well that Xander bought five cases of candy bars." Gibbs snickered. "He drove up to where Horatio's hummer was at a crime scene, opened the back of the hummer, slid a box in, and told Horatio to have it and keep him from eating it. Horatio made him hand over three more before he destroyed Miami on his sugar high." That got laughs from both of them. "Stella calls him a hyper little goofball with the occasional violent tendency. When he's threatened, he'll go cold and he'll solve it then walk away. He would like someone he can get along with. Someone who tries to understand him. He's a nice kid."
Tony nodded. "Let me think, Detective. Any others?" The list was pointed at. "Gee, competing with the boss?" he teased.
Gibbs shook his head. "I don't think he needs me growling at him when he has a wild day. You have the background, the upbringing, and the training to deal with his life. Plus you two sound a lot alike."
Tony smiled. "We'll see." He handed it all back. "Anything else?"
"Not unless you know good lawyers to advise him."
Tony wrote down a number, handing it over. "Talk to him, Detective. He's a spook but he's got a clue. He's used to it and his department's had a radical budget cut from what I heard."
Mac looked at it then at him. "Simms? The guy who used to gopher at the CIA?"
"He's now a covert agency head," Gibbs told him. "Runs a pretty tight ship but he's got the qualification and the political backing if the kid needs it."
"I'll talk to Xander about seeking him as a paid advisor." That got a grin from Tony. "Their present lawyer used to be a prosecutor."
"Can't get much more nasty than that," Gibbs agreed, turning back on the elevator. "You don't know anything about radiation, do you?"
"A lot actually. That's why I head my lab, Gibbs."
"Good, come look at our case, see if you can help us in return." He got them off, taking them back to his desk. "Here's what we have."
Mac looked at it then pointed. "It came from there. That's the sort of radiation that machine uses." Tony smacked himself on the head and walked off. Mac smiled. "Tired?"
"Very." The director came down to give him an inquisitive look. "Detective Taylor, Manhattan Felony's lab. He heads them," Gibbs said. "He came to talk to us about a job he's heard about that needs good people."
Mac nodded. "It's a consideration but not the only one. It needs to be someone with federal service and contacts." He looked again. "That much radiation had to come from at least one machine, probably more like four," he said. "Those are tracked when they're sold. Only two companies make them."
"That's a lead we needed," Gibbs said, shaking his hand. "I'll keep it in mind too. Have a good trip back."
"Good luck," Mac agreed, nodding politely at the redhead. "Director. Tell me soon, Tony?"
"Of course. That list is pretty short already," he agreed. "Have a good flight. Steal the peanuts for lunch." Mac walked out smiling. Tony found the manufacturer and called them. "Hi, this Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS. I need to track some equipment purchases please. No, not to us, one ended up at a homicide without the radioactive material." He got the serial number from Gibbs, reading it off to him, making notes. "And was that the only unit they bought?" He nodded and made notes. "What about to that address?" He smiled and made another note of those names. "Thank you for your cooperation. You have a good day." He walked it over. "Those four people have bought that particular machine over the last year for that address saying it was a clinic. They paid on a corporate card and one of them matches the name of our dead Lieutenant."
"Have Abby track down any other purchases they've made." Tony nodded, taking it down to her. He looked at the director. "Problems?"
"Who was he recruiting for?"
"The upcoming Benis foundation. The heir's got a federal level stalker, hate mail, they'll be doing background checks, and he needs a good bodyguard."
"No wonder he came to you. Some of your former team members might do good if they could stand the gay angle."
"Plenty of people won't care one way or another, Director. Some of us aren't biased that way." She walked off so he sat down. McGee gave him a small look. "What?"
"The Benis heir is the one Abby drools over, boss?" He nodded. "He's only got *one* stalker?"
"Who has a mother up on the Hill." McGee winced. "He's starting to take over when he graduates. Know anyone who can help him?"
"Actually I do know a lawyer who would love to work for him. He is gay and he likes his grandfather's stance on things. I can give you his name if you want."
"Please. I'll pass it back to Taylor. The kid asked his advice first." That got a nod and McGee wrote it out for him, letting him email it to Mac.
Xander looked at Horatio, smiling. "Are you going house hunting with Mortran and I?"
"I am." He smiled and stroked over his back. "How did the picnic go?"
"It went pretty good."
"Are you going out again?"
"Probably," Xander agreed with a shy grin. "He was nice. We talked a lot. It was...nice. He didn't even think about pressuring me for more than another kiss at the end of the date." He gave him a sideways look. "We did talk about sex stuff. He said he's a top and I've went there once so I understood what he was saying but he didn't seem too put off by me not being near ready yet." Horatio smiled at that. "We'll see. Not too bad for the third time I've dated."
"Not at all," Horatio agreed. He looked at the patient bodyguard. "Where are we looking?"
"We have a list of ten places and a realtor having hissy fits because Xander wants a lot," he said, handing over the list.
"I told her if the house was perfect but missing a few things we could have them put in," Xander reminded him. He got into the limo, pulling Horatio in beside him. Mortran got into the front so Xander leaned against Horatio's arm to look at the list. "I picked out those online."
"What are you looking for, baseline?"
"Ocean view but also other views. I've got to have some space to wander. I'd like some productive trees. I don't want to have to travel forever to get to events. I need safety but not a fortress. I want a gym and a pool." Horatio smiled at that. "I'm still considering the diving stuff. I might go back," he admitted. "After everything's over it might even be a good haven to get my head on straight." That got a nod and Horatio stroked over his arm. "It'll be fine. I know it will be, but I'll be pitiful for years."
"We'll handle it with you, Xander. Remember, you won't be alone."
"The plans made Uncle Don cry." Horatio gave him a hug. "I know, we'll handle it and I'll make him proud. Or else he's promised to haunt me forever and ever. He might even pop in to make fun of my lover if I disappoint him."
"He's not that mean," Horatio assured him. "Have you asked around your society circles?"
"I told one of the upper matrons I was going to be moving out when I graduated, that way I could run Grandfather's things for him without it vexing him while he got worse. She said she'd ask around and warned me to get good security."
"I know Mac talked to two on your list. He also ended up with name of someone who could advise you without being on the staff."
"I talked to him. He had to suggest a few changes with the upcoming rule problems coming from Congress. Grandsire wanted to cuddle him." Horatio smiled at that. "He agreed to do that for me too but he didn't want to quit his agency. I agreed if we had to my guys could help him."
"He runs an important place with seven agents, Horatio. He's on so small a budget their electric got cut while we were talking." Horatio winced. "Gotta love Congress when they give themselves a forty percent pay increase and do that because our security isn't important."
"He sounds like a decent man," Horatio offered. "If he asks for our help we will."
"One of Mac's friends knew him, he's a former Marine." He took his hand to hold as they went past a building, turning his head. "I hate that place." Horatio stroked over his hair. "I really can't stand them."
"I know. They're bad people," he agreed gently. Xander relaxed against his arm, eventually falling asleep. He pushed the button for the driver. "Xander's out, Mortran. How far out are we going?"
"We're trying to find which house the realtor is at since she's not answering the phone," he admitted. "Let him sleep. He hasn't been. Finals were rough on him."
"I can do that." Horatio hung up. He shifted slightly, moving Xander to his chest instead. It was more comfortable than his arm. They finally pulled through a gate and he blinked at the sight of the mansion. He had worked a case here once. It was enormous. Xander would rattle around in it. Xander woke when they stopped. "We're at the first one." Xander nodded, yawning and stretching. Horatio opened the door, holding it for Xander. They walked up to the door with the bodyguard, noticing it was open. "Hold on," he ordered, hand going to his gun. He opened it slowly. "Hello?" he called.
"Girabaldi," Mortran said quietly, pulling his own gun. "Stay, Xander." He nodded, getting out of the way. "I've got your back, Horatio." He nodded, walking inside cautiously. "Mrs. Girabaldi? It's the Benis household."
They found her dead in the pool. Horatio called it in and went to find Xander leaning against the limo, shaking his head. "We'll be seeing Ryan in a few," he said quietly.
"Cool. I'll tell him Peter said hi." That got a smile. "She okay?" He shook his head. "Huh. Any idea why?"
Mortran came out. "She's not wearing her wedding ring, Horatio. I only looked, did not touch, and I did it from the diving board, which won't hold shoe prints. I have learned a bit about your field," he joked.
"Thank you. Ryan's getting called. He's up for the next one." The gate opened automatically. "That's a bad feature." Ryan pulled in and parked, getting out with Eric. "In the pool area, gentlemen."
Ryan looked at the house then at Xander. "Bit huge."
"I'll be running the new foundation when I graduate," Xander said quietly. "Plus have my own security staff."
"If I need to moonlight, I'll come to you," he joked, grinning at him. "Who was in there?"
"Horatio and I," Mortran said. "She's our realtor." He walked them that way, showing them. "I did look from the diving board. She had a gorgeous four carat emerald cut diamond with two rubies around it as her wedding ring and it's not on there. She also wore a necklace with a cameo on it when we met with her the first three times."
Ryan nodded. "That'll help." He looked around. "Eric, do you see a pole?"
"Nope," he admitted. Xander walked in something. "What's that?"
"Weapon from the trunk," he admitted. He looked at Mortran. "Horatio wanted to know if you needed him or either of us. They found the door open when they got here."
"We've got it," Ryan promised. "Thanks, guys. I'll get the staff back to you." That got a nod and Mortran followed Xander out carefully, walking around the edges. "He's good."
"He probably learned off H," Eric said. "He wants somewhere this big?"
"I think it was the pool," Ryan told him. "He's thinking about going back to diving in a few years." He looked around. "I'll take this door then the front door? You get the body?"
"I can do that." Ryan took his kit to the open side door, going to dust it for prints while Eric started with the pool area for footprints.
Xander walked in that night, shaking his head. "We had no luck."
"I did like that one house," Horatio offered, following him inside.
"I'm not sure I like the idea of having the security guys having a bunk house. The guys here live here in their own wing. Is it rude to make them live in a bunkhouse?"
Horatio considered it. "I don't know. That might depend on personality. I'll ask Mac. I don't do much security work." He texted him, getting back a groan and an answer. "He said it would be fine as long as it was fully equipped for them. Either that or let them live in town. If they were in the house you'd trip over them."
"That's why we have a separate wing," Mortran said as he walked around them. "No joy, Sire." Raphael nodded. "Some very nice estates but nothing that even felt close to right or good."
Xander looked at him. "That one house with the ocean view was nicer."
"It was tiny, Xander. You'd end up rebuilding the house by the time you were done." He patted him on the head. "I'm going to go to dinner." He grinned at Patrick. "We did see one hideous house with pink paisley wall paper."
"Bad taste should be eliminated with prejudice," Xander said dryly. Horatio laughed. "You can't tell me that house wasn't hideous."
"No, I cannot lie that way. Not with a straight face." His phone rang and he answered it. "Horatio. Yelina. Xander said hi. I am. What's going on?" He rolled his eyes. "He wanted my opinion, Yelina. We're not dating. He's dating a very nice patrol officer who is still fearing for his life if he upsets him. One of Wolfe's friends. You can tell the gossip harpy I said that." He hung up. "There's now a rumor *we* were house shopping."
Xander looked at him. "Sorry."
"Not a problem, Xander." He followed him into the dining room. "The last two were too far out."
"They were on the list," Xander admitted. "I specified fifteen miles from a certain point in the city." He sat down. "Grandfather, the bigots are massing tonight for a rally. They had signs out and all that. I had the childish urge to moon them from the limo."
"They would probably hate themselves for liking it," Patrick said dryly, scooping out food for the boys. "Will that rumor cause you problems, Horatio?"
"I can point out I'm helping Xander set up a foundation for you. It's the truth and would get people off his back. Everyone important knows we know each other and we have dinner out often."
"The Chief still thinks I'm dating you," Xander said, adding some vegetables to Horatio's then Patrick's plate. "Eat." They both smiled at him. "You did know your boss wants to retire, right?" Horatio shuddered. "Hey, Thomas?" He brought the file he had been compiling. "I can either hand that information file to your boss or to you. It will remove the next three people in line and possibly a fourth if he's linked. We couldn't figure it out."
Horatio took it to glance through, shuddering at a few things. "You hand it to my boss. It'll look better. Less like I'm being pushy."
Patrick smiled. "You could...."
"If you finish that statement I'll make Xander pout," Horatio warned. Patrick laughed at that, giggling really, leaning against Sire's arm.
Sire grinned at him. "We used to feed Xander sugar and sic him on people who had pissed us off. That's one of the reasons the anti-gay league hates us. I sicced a hyper, stuffy Xander on him when he had the flu." Xander beamed proudly. "You did puke wonderfully on him, grandson."
"Three times," Xander agreed. Horatio giggled. "After eating orange jell-o all day. He was wearing tan, so it didn't quite go." Horatio's cackles got louder. "Those were the fun days."
Patrick smiled. "They were and I will be watching over your future children."
Xander gave him a look. "That requires me to find someone I want to knock up."
"Or find a surrogate," Sire reminded him patiently.
"The state's trying to ban that," Xander told him. "Said it's bearing babies for money." He ate a bite, waving his fork. "Don't make me pout." They both dug in, Horatio as well.
Xander got slipped an address during his last day of school. He looked at it then at the female. "What's this?"
"A house. I heard it's nice."
"Cool. I'll check." He tucked it into his shirt pocket, buttoning it closed. The teacher gave him an odd look. "What? She found a possible house." He slumped down. "Why are we having the summer homework for the first time in seven years?"
"Because you lowered our test scores," the teacher shot back.
"Just me? Wow I'm good," Xander said dryly. "They can take out statistical minority scores to compensate. I'm sure he can find a way to weed out me and most of the soccer team." That got some laughs. "It's the truth!" He looked at the teacher again. "Besides, I'm going to be busy this summer. I'm also going to a different class than what you put on the board. Want me to read comics all summer instead?"
The teacher growled, pulling out the new syllabus to look at, then sneered at him. "You can go away now."
"Really?" It was handed over. "If I work really hard and get all these to you at the beginning of school can I have a free period?" he asked with a grin.
"You do that, you go into Classic Lit."
"And then I'm off the gymnastics team," Xander shot back. "The board would be pissed about you taking away their bragging rights with the other people in their in-group."
"Whatever. Go away." Xander whooped as he escaped. "Two more years," he reminded himself.
"Then some year he'll have kids," one of the other jocks shot back. He had to stick up for his fellow jocks. The teacher glared at him. "He will. He'll need an heir."
"I'll quit," he said firmly. "All of you have your assignments. Go away." They ran out too. It was last period, they were done early. It was time to party! He sat down, holding his head. The Headmaster came in. "If and when Benis has children promise me they won't come here?"
"You'll be retired by the time they get here," he soothed, patting him on the back. "Summer homework?"
He looked at him. "He's moving to the jock track. I'll gladly let him go as long as he does all the book reports I want."
The headmaster smiled. "Good, he can rebuild the gymnastics team. We're losing six to graduation." He walked out happier. That was two classes Xander wouldn't have to attend if he worked this summer.
Xander walked around the house with the new realtor, ignoring her hopeful look. "Okay, three things. I want an ocean view. I like to stare at the water sometimes. Sometimes I want to watch trees. We can plant trees, we can't move the ocean." She laughed but nodded. "I can put in a pool but it's going to suck here because the water table's already flooded. Also, not big enough. I'm going to have a security force, Delilah. They're going to have to stay here. Plus I'll have to do some entertaining."
She grimaced. "The only place you haven't seen of the size you want is a former school."
"What school shut down?"
"One of the older ones." She nodded and he followed her out to the cars. If he wanted to look at it.... She led him over there, watching while he slowed down to look at the walls. They pulled up the two mile driveway and parked in front of the old school. "This used to be a house but it was renovated into a finishing school for girls in the late 1930's." She led him inside, letting him see. "It needs some serious updating, that's why they closed it."
He walked around, getting a feel for it. The gym was beautiful. It had a pool that only needed some cracks repaired. There were fantasy murals on the walls done in mosaic. He walked out back, taking a breath. No smog. He couldn't hear the city. He walked her around, finding an old stables and polo field for matches. He found trees, actual real trees not stunted scrawny decorator trees. He looked at the school then at her. "Let me call someone," he said with a happy smile. She gave him a shocked look. "It's got the room. We can renovate it back. The dorm is more than huge enough for the guards if they want it. It has everything I want except for the ocean view."
She pointed. "Remove six trees and have them replanted. It's right on an inlet." Xander jogged over to look, letting her catch up. She checked the price, it was in his price range. "Are you serious, Xander?"
He beamed and nodded. "Yeah, I am." He called. "I found it! Well, you're going to be horrified," he said. "It's huge, old, and used to be a school that used to be a house." His grandfather spluttered. "Can they come see it after dark?"
"I can do that. I also know a contractor I can get to give you an estimate on how much it'll be." Xander nodded, saying that as he went back to watching the water. She supposed the boy needed something to do beyond hand out money. Renovations on this place were going to give him something to do for a long time.
Horatio answered his phone. "Horatio," he said tiredly. He smiled. "Where?" He nodded. "I can slip away long enough for that. That's reasonable." He hung up, a bit happier now. Xander's boyfriend leaned in. "Xander thinks he found his house."
"I'll congratulate him later. Did he call off our date?"
Horatio called him back. "Peters's here. You had a date tonight?" He laughed and nodded. "He did say he'd be meeting with a contractor."
"Where did he find?"
"A very old house that needs work. I'll be going to see it later if you wanted to join us, Peter."
"That's okay. He'll show it to me and gush about all the work he'll have done in a few days. Tell him to call and we'll reschedule." He left, not minding. He'd had a bad day.
Horatio told him that and hung up, getting up to go join him. It wasn't that hard to find. Xander was still wandering around the grounds. "I thought you hated school," he teased in greeting.
"I do but it has everything. Including the ocean a bit away from the house." He led him around. "It used to be a house but they renovated it." He showed him around, including the outbuildings and the stable. "I don't need a horse. We'll figure out what to do with it later." They ended up by the water. "I was thinking a gazebo or somewhere to sit out here," he said quietly, looking at him. "What do you think?"
"I think it's huge and grandiose but if it's what you want it's good," Horatio said, earning a smile. "Will you have a problem with the historic society?"
"Nope, I called the head of that. Mrs. Yearns said she was surprised it wasn't torn down. She said as long as it's tasteful and we don't turn it into a techo palace no one will mind." Horatio shook his head. "I'm not like that. I like Grandfather's study, especially his chair." He walked him back, smiling at the family pulling in. "Was Peter upset?"
"He had the bad day look. Call to reschedule." Xander nodded, going to kiss his grandfather's cheek. He gave them the same tour, listening to the comments they made. Thomas had come too to make notes on the future security risks. Horatio looked at him. "Bad, good?"
"Not half bad. It's got a long perimeter but we can put discreet cameras around to help us there. A few guard dogs. They can have the stable if they want." He smiled at Xander. "I like it." Xander beamed. "How much are the renovations going to cost?"
"There's someone coming to tell us." He looked at his grandparents, giving them the hopeful puppy look. "Plus I can have my own guard dogs, and a real dog too."
Sire smiled, kissing him on the forehead. "It's very quiet out here. Are you sure?"
"I can get cable and radio signals. It's even got a pool with boards."
"I saw." He looked at Patrick, who was smiling and running a hand over a wall. "It's no worse than some British manor houses I've seen. Probably used to be one." The realtor came in with another woman. "The contractor?"
"She is. This is Mirin Achilles. This is Xander Benis and his family."
"Hi, all. What were we thinking?" Xander and Thomas walked her around to tell her what was going to be needed, watching her make notes. It was going to be steep but they could afford it. Patrick sat down to sign the papers with Xander, making him a happy boy as he danced around with Horatio, who was smiling at his joy.
Sire looked at her. "How long?"
"Most of a year if we want to do a *good* job. If we want to be quick? Eight months."
"I want it ready by the time he graduates," Raphael told her. "He's going into his junior year this fall."
"More than able," she promised. "I will have to find a good security firm to do the security upgrades."
"We can find you that," Thomas promised.
"Thank you." She smiled. "That takes one headache. Now all we've got to do is find some good materials to go with it and make a lot of choices."
"I'm here all summer," Xander said happily, beaming at her. He hugged her. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Xander." She patted him on the back. "Let me find you some samples to look over, okay? Are you going to be at the main house this summer?" He nodded. "No trips?"
"If I do I'll tell you. I'm shooting more modeling stuff down here this summer." She smiled and nodded. "Good." He squealed and pounced his grandfather. "I love you even when you don't indulge me but thank you for indulging my quirky nature."
"I want you to be happy, Grandson. Come on, let's go celebrate. Horatio?"
"I still have a few hours of work coming up. I'll be out for Saturday dinner?" That got a bunch of smiles and a nod from Xander. "Don't forget to warn Don," he teased, giving him a gentle pat to the arm. He went back to the office, smiling when he ran into Ryan. "Xander has found a house. It'll be renovated in about a year."
"Where did he find?"
"The Broussard School for Genteel Ladies," he said.
Ryan snickered. "I remember when they were still open. There were a bunch of snobby twits in there. It's nice?"
"It needs updating. The dorms are being renovated for the guards. He's going to add a gazebo and update the kitchen. It'll take a year but it is very nice. It's quiet. It's far enough away from downtown that the air is clean. You could hold a scout jamboree on the lawn." Ryan laughed at that, walking away. Horatio emailed Mac.
Mac looked up as Stella walked into the break room. He was trying to figure out what he wanted for dinner from the bad selection they had in the machines. "Your email is still forwarded to mine," she said, bopping him on the arm. He gave her a look. "Horatio emailed. Xander found a house. Well, a school that used to be a house and will once again be a house."
"We'll get to pick on him about his brains?" he suggested.
"Possibly. Horatio said it'll take a year then we'll be invited down for the open house. It was switched over in the thirties. He said it's a huge estate, has grounds and a former stable plus a polo field. The contractor's made an initial estimate and they signed papers tonight. He found it earlier. He said the grounds are bigger than some state parks he's seen. It used to be a finishing school for girls."
"Another oddness in Xander's life," he said with a smile. "I'll congratulate him later." He decided and pushed the buttons, getting his dinner. "I'll fix the email problem too."
"That's fine. Who's Gibbs?"
"One of the applicants for Xander's head of security," he said quietly. She nodded and left it there. He went back to his office to fix the email forwarding issue and to write Xander, then Gibbs.
Gibbs looked at the new email then at Tony. "Benis picked a house," he said quietly. Tony came over to look over his shoulder, both of them smiling at the description of the new house. It sounded peaceful. He looked at him. "Up to you, DiNozzo."
"I need to meet with him first. I won't take it if we can't get along." That got a knowing nod. The director came down the stairs. "So far I like the idea." He went back to his desk. "Forward that to me, boss?" He smiled at the email beep that came as soon as he sat down. "Thanks." He opened it to do a search for the school to see if he could find maps or pictures. "Some weddings have taken place there."
"Thinking about the job offer?" the director asked. Tony looked up and nodded. "You do know that NCIS can withhold benefits from you since we are technically under the banner of the Navy for outing yourself?"
"I don't have to be gay to work for a gay rights group, Director."
"His grandfather only hired gay men, DiNozzo."
"No, his grandfather adopted and mentored gay men," Gibbs corrected while he worked on something else. "He took them in, gave them love and acceptance, helped them find careers that they liked and some came back," he said, looking up at her. "That was his grandfather, not the grandson. The heir has stated in many interviews he's bisexual. That means he'd have no problem working with straight or gay people. DiNozzo's well qualified for the position. It pays twice what we get here for team leaders with nineteen years of experience. It's also a lot more relaxed. Doing backgrounds, handling complex security arrangements, and dealing with hate mail is a lot less demanding than solving homicides. Where is McGee?" he asked.
"Helping Abby crack that computer, still, boss. They had some funky system encrypting it, something neither had seen." He looked at the director. "The young man is trying to make a difference in the world. He's already started making a difference since he's been supporting the ASPCA for years. Including doing some ads for them." She rolled her eyes as she walked off. "Boss?" he asked quietly. "I have time off, right?"
"Get hit in the head again, then you can take it without notice," he said, looking at him.
"I think it'll probably be soon."
"It usually is. Go hurry up McGee."
"On it, boss." He went to do that.
Tony walked into the warehouse where Xander was shooting today, looking around. He had heard about the house two weeks earlier and now he had the time to come down and meet with his prospective boss. "Lax security," he muttered. He saw someone watching from the shadows, giving him a polite nod. "Current bodyguard?"
"Yup. His actual one is at the doc's today. Xander?" He looked over from getting body powdered. "C'mere for ten?"
"Can't it wait?" the photographer complained.
Xander looked at him. "That's the applicant for my head of security job," he said quietly. That got a single nod and he was released. He walked over. "Hi. Xander Benis."
Xander frowned. "You're not like your father, right? I met him once."
"No, he kicked me out for being a free thinker."
"Good, then I won't apologize to you for puking on him." Tony snickered at that. He grinned. "I know, we have lax security here but this is the one point where having a stalker has helped. She's killed three other rivals for my attention but they can't prove it."
"The local guys can't?"
"The lab can't and I know Horatio *very* well. We're best friends." Tony nodded at that. "Most guys would've remarked about the age difference."
"Why? I've never seen age as a hindrance to anything." Xander beamed and hugged him, bouncing off again. "When are you getting off?"
"Two hours if I'm lucky. Four if I'm pouty or too pissed. I'm supposed to be mad, not pissed," Xander called from the powdering helpers.
"Okay. Who's handling the security upgrades for the new house?" He followed. He didn't mind a hugger. It was nice to have positive contact with someone.
"Thomas has two companies he's interviewing. He claims he can get past both of them. So he's calling the guy you gave to Mac to see if he knows someone better."
"I can think of four or five right off the top of my head." He smiled at him. "What else are you doing today?"
"Taking you to lunch? Or dinner if we run late? We can talk there, make sure we click well?"
"That'll work," he agreed, watching him go be angry. The other guard came over to talk to him, pulling him aside to go over the kid's summer schedule. It wasn't too hectic but not a vacation either. He also put him on with the present head of security so they could talk security companies. DC had a lot of paranoid people. Xander needed to be like one now and then but not feel like part of their club. Xander got done in an hour and a half, making Tony smile. "Did you drive?"
"Rental car. I can follow."
"Don, take his rental back to the house please?" He nodded, taking the keys. "Thanks." He grinned. "Let me get dressed. If I go out like this, someone's going to squeal and take the clothes off me. Again." He ducked behind a divider to change into street clothes. Which were a pair of jogging shorts and a loose t-shirt. "I got called in from my morning run but I know somewhere they'll let me in." He walked out with Tony to the limo, smiling when he was allowed in first. He settled into his usual spot, middle of the back. "Paul, we're going to Hacienda," he called. "Text ahead, tell them I'm in running clothes and I'm having dinner with a new work friend." The driver nodded and put up the screen. "That way we can have the back room if it's not busy. They have *great* food and I have a huge credit there from my birthday."
"No, I don't do much of that. Now and then with my team but not really." That got a smile and a nod. "I would but most of the society brats are just that, brats. I had to specify my birthday was drug and alcohol free. The guards still got to carry some of them out to toss into the street. Very few of my classmates got that treatment." The dividing window went down. "Problems?" The driver nodded. Xander patted himself down but Tony found his wallet. "Thanks, man." He checked it over. "I've got eighty, pick somewhere nice we can talk privately." The window went back up. "Sorry."
"He doesn't speak?"
"His jaw's broken. We had one of the local anti-gay league break into the house and kick him in the jaw when he was trying to make them go away. My usual guard has a broken arm. I nearly killed all three of them."
"You do know self defense?" Xander grinned. "Martial arts club?" He held up three fingers. "Three?" he asked, looking impressed.
"Second and third degree black belts. I'm hyper and it was a good way to wear out energy. Did you see the new house?"
"I did on the way to meet you. It's beautiful." Xander beamed. "You're going to have dogs?"
"You do know guard dogs aren't pets?"
"I've had at least one at the manor since I got there."
"Good. Regular pets?"
"There's two cats who live in the garden. Gordon sneezes on them and they hate that so they don't come in except to eat and suck up to Sire now and then. I do plan on getting a dog or cat. I'm a firm supporter of the pound."
"I saw those ads." Xander grinned a goofy grin. "They were cute."
"They were and one of the first I did," he said proudly. "I like them as a charity. Them, the children's hospital, and a few others are my main support, plus the gay charities. There's very few events I can't duck out of. Like polo. It's always the same discussion. I didn't like it as a kid. I used to complain to Horatio about horsies running back and forth with boring people talking about their surgeries."
Tony laughed. "Yeah, as I remember it, that about sums it up." They stopped and the driver got out, letting them into a back door. Xander kissed the cook on the cheek, earning a swat. Tony followed him to a back room where they were seated. Xander ordered something light and he decided on a somewhat heavier dish. Xander leaned on the table. "What can I tell you?"
"I know your qualifications, Tony. You wouldn't be here if you weren't qualified. It's more important I get along with my people. You're going to be there to help, protect, and cushion me now and then. If you don't like me you won't protect me as well."
"That can happen. What can I tell you?"
"You do sports?"
"Used to. I went to Ohio University on a dual football and basketball scholarship. Until I broke my leg I was tops in the team."
Xander nodded. "I've been captain of my school gymnastics team since I was fifteen." Tony nodded, sipping his water. "I do a lot of encouraging. I'm out of the junior rankings and the coach is sure I could make a college team if I wanted to go, which I don't, but I'm not olympic caliber. I may be in diving if I can get back into the rhythm again."
"Why did you stop?"
"I aged out of the lower age group and diving's one of those sports where you get guys up into their forties sometimes. Definitely college aged guys. Being sixteen while competing against guys that old freaked me out," he said honestly. "I didn't feel I was ready. It was also because my coach got offered a job at Miami University to be their top dive coach." That got an understanding nod. "If I go back it'll be on my own. I cant's stand lecture classes."
"Yet you're going to live in a school?" he teased.
"Yes. I am. I'm going to have a huge suite. I'm going to have a gazebo for the ocean view. I'm going to have quiet and security and the ability to do things without people staring at me."
"Which is more important to you?" Tony asked.
"I'd like to not live in a prison. The quiet will be relative to the tv and music going on but it won't be traffic or anything else not of my own making. At first I'm going to need the quiet to heal. I'll need the space to roam. I'm still hyper, I didn't age out of it like most kids do. I do take a lot of caffeine for that." Their food and drinks were brought, the waiter kissing him on the head. "Thank you," he said in Portugese. The waiter smiled and left. "The family who owns this has a daughter on my gymnastics team. We're going to see her later this summer at the olympics. The whole family's going." Tony nodded, smiling a bit. "I promised I'd bring pompoms in the school colors and everything."
"That won't affect her in the school standings?"
"Nope. Not until college."
"I'm more used to NCAA edibility rules."
"Don't apologize because you don't know something. I get smacked on the head when I do that. Usually by Horatio." He ate a bite and hummed. "Oh, she's still good."
"Was that her mother you kissed on the cheek?"
"Aunt. Her mother died a few years back." He ate another bite and glanced around then at him. "She was going to commit suicide and I found her, talked her out of it."
"That's a good friend," Tony said, looking at him. "But that's the sort of guy you're said to be."
Xander nodded. "I try. It makes Grandfather and Sire proud." He ate another bite, waving his fork. "Eat, Tony. It's a while until dinner." Tony nodded, digging in. "So you work where?"
"Hmm. Navy, right?"
"And Marine crimes," he agreed.
"That's cool. Mac said good things about you." That got a nod. "Are you going to freak out on me dating?"
"Nope. Not unless they're hurting you. I will be doing a background check on whoever you end up with. That'll keep the golddiggers off you." Xander relaxed at that. "Had them shoved at you?"
"Since I was eight years old," Xander admitted. "The matrons trying to force their daughters on me to get the money or to discredit Patrick by making me straight." He ate another bite. "You do know that some year soon I'll have to have an heir?" Tony nodded. "Do kids give you hives?"
"Not really. Then again it won't be my duty to deal with them all the time. That's what parents are for. I'll be like a fond uncle, right?" Xander beamed and nodded, shifting some and getting back to eating. "What are you hoping for?"
"A way to get some peace. Get away from the stalkers. I don't want to be scared of someone breaking in anymore. I know that's unrealistic...."
"You should feel safe in your own home," Tony said gently, patting him on the hand. Xander smiled and nodded. "We can do that without turning the new house into a prison. There's lots of subtle ways of doing that and they can go in during the renovations too. I'll call around to see who's available, get you the paranoid special packages to go over." Xander smiled and nodded. "The stables?"
"Are going to be for the dogs and handlers. That way I don't have to worry about someone using them as lap pets, breaking their training, or being allergic." He finished his salad with meat, then his soda. "Go ahead and eat. I'm not rushing around now. I'm done for the day really. I was going to check on the renovations but that's about it." He looked around. "Can I have some more soda please?" he called. The waiter brought in another glass, taking away his plate and the old glass. "Gracias." He looked at Tony again. "I'm learning languages. I'm not bad I think."
"Your accent isn't bad," he agreed. He ate, finishing up fairly quickly. He put his plate out of the way so he could lean on the table. "How many background checks am I going to be doing?"
"We're going to start smaller, with scholarships for college. I'm not seeing you having to do incredibly thorough ones but enough to find a criminal history on the winners. I will absolutely not support pedophiles. A former addict maybe if they've got their life turned around and this will complete that." His phone rang. "Excuse me. Xander." He listened, then nodded. "Are you okay, Horatio?" He scowled. "What can I do to help? Horatio, let me help. I like Madison. So let me help. What does she need? I'll get tested today. Not an issue. Sweetie, I co-hosted their last fundraiser, Horatio. Consider her having the best doctor there. She's your niece and I love your niece. She's a beautiful little girl who gives me hope that my future kids won't be like me." He hung up, looking at him. "Give me a second." He looked up another number in his phone book then called it. "Helena, Xander Benis. A small favor actually. A friend's niece is in oncology," he said quietly. "Please. Madison. Yeah, that one. Horatio's. What does she need?" He listened while she looked up the records. "I can get tested. Give me a day to talk to Grandfather about her care. Okay?" He smiled. "Thank you."
He hung up and called home. "Gordon, Xander. Can you divert some of my funds in the retirement and traveling fund to Horatio for his niece's care? Madison has leukemia," he said. He nodded. "That's what she needs. Thank you. Also, schedule someone to come take blood for a typing test. I'm in jogging shorts. That's fine. Talking with Tony DiNozzo. Thank you." He hung up and called Horatio back, he was on speed dial. "Her care's going to be upped to a very good, internationally known doctor. He's coming in next month and this is his speciality. He comes in monthly and he has a doctor here he works through. Him, yup. I talked to the head of the hospital, she'll be put into his rotation. He comes in on the second, which is in a week and a half. Also, if you argue with me, I'm going to have to pout at you. Remember, I love Madison. Now, do you need help holding Yelina down when you tell her?" He grinned. "Okay. Come see me afterward. You'll need comfort and I'm good at that. You can help me pick out cabinets and bathtubs. Having lunch with Tony DiNozzo. Horatio said hi, Tony." He waved. "He said hi back. Find me, Horatio. I'll be tested as soon as I can. Just let us help you. Remember, you're like family and she is your family." He hung up on his protests. "The man has pride like I do."
"Some people are like that. It won't bother him?"
"He'll find a way to pay me back," Xander said honestly. "Horatio's been through some of the best and worst things in my life to date. I think I still owe him even after that." His phone rang. "Grand Central station. I'm not even that sort of teenager." He answered it. "What's up?" He listened. "As long as I have clothes. I was out for a jog when I got summoned for the shoot, Gordon. I can do that. Sure." He hung up. "Come on, we've got to hit the house so I can change." Tony nodded, following him out. He found the waiter in the back, handing him a fifty. "Enough?" He beamed and nodded. "Good service." He walked out, getting into the limo, Tony behind him. "I have to slip into debutante mode," he called. "Then I'll drive him in my car." That got a nod. "That way he can rest," he told Tony.
"Why did you take him out today?"
"They refused to let me go jogging without two bodyguards. He got stubborn and decided we were taking the limo. I didn't care. He likes driving it." That got a grin. "I'm pretty easy on most things. I'd like it if you explained things to me instead of just saying 'this needs to be done'. I'm not really dumb, I just suck in lecture classes."
"I think we can work something out," Tony agreed, smiling and relaxed. He liked the young guy. He treated his people well, he treated others well, and his friends were clearly closer than friends to him. Twenty minutes later they pulled through a gate and Xander hopped out, heading inside. Tony smiled and waved at the guys in the foyer. "Hi, Tony DiNozzo. I came down for an interview."
"You put up with him for three hours already. I'm pretty sure if you want it it's yours," Gordon said. "Xander inspires a lot of loyalty but if you don't like him you know pretty fast." Xander bounced back down the stairs dressed in dress pants and a button-up shirt. "You're going to roast."
"No I won't. If Horatio gets here before I get back, make him eat cookies. It'll make him feel better. Keys? Wallet?" He accepted the envelope from Gordon, checking it and nodded. "More than enough. Thank you." The others were handed over. He looked at the keys then at Gordon. "What happened to my car?"
"It appeared in the paper yesterday," he reminded him. "You're going to a hospital. Someone will start to spread rumors."
"A hospital that I support with my charities of choice," he reminded him. "Won't matter anyway. Most photographers don't haunt the Children's Hospital." He took his keys from Thomas's hand. "Tony, did you want to stay and talk to them or come with me?"
"I'll come with you," he decided. "I can talk with Thomas tomorrow?"
"Dinner," he agreed. "I don't eat with Father. We've got our own area to eat and play in." Tony nodded, following Xander out the door. He looked at him. "Who's sick?"
"Horatio's niece. Leukemia," he said quietly.
"Poor Madison. You think he'll last?"
"If he lasts until dinner? Definitely. Xander's in hyper-protective mode." He smiled at him. "Remember when Father used to go into those?"
"All the time," he moaned. "But it'll be fine. Xander's a good boy and he'll make Horatio take the help. He can pay him back if he needs to."
"Xander probably said something mushy about it being payback for all the times Horatio helped him when his bodyguards used to get lost on him." They walked off smiling to tell the others.
Xander walked out of the lab, holding the small cotton ball to his arm as he walked. He checked then tossed it into a pink bag on one side of a nurse's station, heading off to the oncology ward. He ran into his friend down there, kissing her on the cheek. "Thank you."
"You're most welcome, Xander. I know you've supported us for years. We got a lot of donations from your crusade a few years back. The whole knight's event was a big hit." She patted him on the cheek. "She's down in 3-6." He handed her the envelope, letting her look. "That'll more than cover her expected costs."
"Then let's help another kid who needs it," Xander told her quietly. That got a nod and she walked off. Xander walked down there, finding Horatio and Suzie staring at each other. He coughed and hugged Suzie. "You don't have to worry, Suzie. I'm a major contributor at this hospital. I've raised millions of dollars for them." She stared then sniffled. "Shhh, baby girl. Let it out on me. I have good shoulders to cry on. Your baby will be fine." He sat down, letting her curl in his lap, patting her gently on the back until she calmed down. "I've got you." She nodded, wiping off her face. He tipped her face up. "Horatio's like family and Madison gives me hope that my future kids won't be hellions." She smiled at that. "Go clean up, she doesn't need to see you like this." She nodded, going to do that.
He looked at Horatio, not wiping at the dampness. "You're family," he said quietly. "Even if I do feel like the Godfather at the moment." Horatio cracked a smile so he gave him a hug as well. "It'll be okay. We can lean on each other while we cheerlead her back to health. I got blood drawn just now. I'm sure you did too." He nodded. "Then we'll do all we can to help those two. All right?" He got a nod. "You've helped me through tons of shit that could've destroyed me, Horatio. This is miniscule in relation to my health, my life, and my sanity. If you feel you must you can pay me back by cooking dinner when I move." Horatio nodded, relaxing. "Now, let's go kiss the princess and see if she needs anything." He walked him that way. "Horatio, this is Tony DiNozzo. He came down for an interview."
"Hey. I hope she gets better."
"Thank you." He gave him a weak smile. "Following the hurricane?"
"He hasn't been that bad yet. I work with Abby. That's a hurricane and she thinks he's hot." Horatio laughed, nodding at that. "Go ahead, I can wait out here."
"Thank you." He walked in there, giving his niece a hug. "Madison, how are you feeling?"
"A bit sick but I'll be okay. The nurses said so." She smiled at Xander. "He said I could mess up his hair if I got better."
"You can," Xander agreed. "Plus you can go to the pound with me when I move into the new house to help me pick out a pet." She smiled and nodded. "That's a good girl." He gave her another hug. "I want you to concentrate on getting better. You're going to show me how to be a good daddy when I have kids some year. That way I don't mess up really badly."
"Okay," she agreed. She smiled when her mother came in. "Xander said I could help him when he had kids."
"I'm sure he'll welcome your help." She sat on the foot of her bed. "Thank you, guys."
"It's not a problem. Tell Horatio or I if you or she need things," Xander told her. "I mean it. Or else I will spank you then pout." Suzie giggled and nodded. "Horatio said I spank hard."
"He does," Horatio agreed, cracking Madison up. "He spanked Eric when he was being a brat one day." The nurse came in to look at her. "Making her laugh."
"Laughing has always been lauded as a wonderful medicine," she promised, checking her over. "You look like it's helping already, dear." She walked out, going to fuss over some of the other patients.
Horatio stroked over her hair. "I have got to talk to someone about a case but I will be back tonight. How about that?" She nodded. "That's my good girl. I'll see you then. You as well, Suzie."
"Thank you, both of you."
Xander looked at her. "Remember, family is important to both of us. Even if I do feel like the Godfather now and then." She giggled, hugging her daughter while they left. "Sorry it took so long, Tony."
He smacked him on the head. "Family is more important than that." Horatio smiled. "Is he coming for dinner?"
"If he wants. He knows he has an open invitation."
"After I talk to Yelina."
"Need duct tape?"
"I carry handcuffs," Horatio quipped, feeling much better. "Thank you."
"You saved me how many times?" Xander shot back. That got a nod and a smile. Xander nodded for Tony's benefit. "New house?"
"Sure." He followed him down to the car. "So she's Horatio's niece?" he asked once they were in the car.
"His brother was undercover in Narco," Xander said, looking at him, not touching the keys. "He was using Suzy to get closer to others while he himself got hooked." Tony hissed. "She showed up about a year ago. He had a wife and son legally as well. Detective Salas is a fiery Brazilian woman who once smacked around some of the guards when she found out I was being abused. The first time I saw her I told her she was pregnant. That was the same day I met Horatio actually." He smiled. "They're my made family. Even if Yelina will scream and rant for a few hours. She'll calm down. I might go visit her later but that would be a personal nagging session so I'll go while you and Thomas talk." He started the engine and checked behind them. "Something's there." Tony opened the door to look then nodded. Xander opened his to look. "Sweetheart, are you lost?" She sniffled and nodded. "Okay." He turned off the car. "Be right back." He got out, smiling at her. "Come on, I'll take you inside so someone can call your mommy to find you." She nodded, taking his hand. Some woman screamed so he looked. "Yours, ma'am? I was taking her inside to the desk so they could page you."
"Thank you! Where was she?"
"Behind my car." She nodded, walking her daughter off. He caught a guard's eye, nodding at her. That got a nod so he smiled and headed back to the car. "Her mother thought I was stealing her." He got in and started the engine again. He checked then backed out, heading for the new house. It was a nice drive through some older neighborhoods. "That's my school," he said when they passed it. He pulled up to the gates, having to get out to open it. Then he drove through, leaving it open for now. "The construction crew is still here so I don't mind yet. When we've done more than gut it I will."
"That's logical," Tony assured him. "Even photographers won't want a picture of a gutted house." He looked around as they went up the driveway. "This is very nice, Xander." They pulled up in front of the house and he fell in love with the old stonework. "This is beautiful." He got out to look, letting Xander show him where everything was. "What about the guards?" he asked when they got to the kitchen. Xander walked him out there, letting him see the dormitory. "Individual rooms?"
"It's being turned into twelve individual apartments and a community room so you guys can hang out. If *you* wanted to you could live at the main house. That way I'm closer. I leave that up to you because I don't know which is preferable or how many guards you'll have."
"Twelve is a good number. Two or three dog handlers out in the stables," he said, considering it. He nodded. "I'll think about which one I wanted to go to." Xander smiled. "My habit is movies."
"Mine's ice cream at the moment." Tony patted him on the back. "Come see." He led him around the grounds, showing him the view. Tony moaned at that. "I'm going to put a gazebo out here among the edge of the trees so it's sheltered and looks more natural." He smiled at him. "I figure you're the only senior staff we'll have to have living here," he said quietly. "The lawyer can come and go. The accountant can come and go. You need to be here." Tony smiled and nodded. "I'm not hiring a PR person. I can do it on my own unless something catastrophic happens with the stalker bitch. If so, then I'll roast her publically and take the fallout. She attacked me." That got another nod. "So, this is the real me. Do you think you can stand me?"
"I think we'll get along very well, Xander," he said with a smile. "How soon?"
"I get the foundation at graduation. If something happens before then I'll need you before then. I'll try to give you some warning but she's very blunt, very frontal assault. We're all on alert in case she attacks the house to get Grandfather or Sire."
"We'll handle it." He walked him off, taking a look at the fence. "I'll be out here tomorrow taking pictures to bring back with me." Xander nodded. "Then we'll work on the security details."
"Are you going to need to pay anyone beyond them?" Tony gave him an odd look. "I don't expect anyone to work for free, Tony, and we budgeted about eighty grand for the security upgrades and consultants. Thomas will go over that with you later I'm sure." That got a nod and a grin. "This is one problem that a little bit of money fixed. Normally I don't use the limo. When I was younger Mortran would drive me himself. Everywhere. He was my personal bodyguard and semi-nanny. He used to hear me complain a lot about girls being forced on me. He's been my personal bodyguard since I was kidnaped and gay bashed at ten. Before then he was one of the neat guys who would play or read to me if he wasn't on shift." That got a smile. "It's going to hurt like hell when they go," he said more quietly. "At that time, your main job is to see I don't follow."
"I'll do what I can to ease it for you, Xander. I won't be able to replace him but I can be like Horatio is, non-blood family." Xander smiled and nodded. "Good boy."
"I hear that a lot. Now and then I bark." Tony laughed. He also swatted him gently on the head. "Is that a Marine thing?"
"It's a Gibbs thing. He's my boss. He does it to us all the time."
"I don't mind. I've spanked others." Tony smiled at that. "Come on, let's head home. It's time to eat again. I'm starving. I worked very hard being pretty earlier." Tony nodded, getting in with him. "If we're lucky, Cook even made dessert. She's been in a baking mood recently."
"Sugar's always a welcome addition to any meal." He slid into the passenger's side. "I would've figured you for something faster or something more mature."
"I had a Jag. It got gay bashed." He started the engine. Then he frowned. "Out!" They rushed out and the car exploded. "Huh." He tapped a foot, scowling at the car. "Someone's going to die a very messy death." He looked around. The construction crew was gone. "Well, shit! Do I have my phone on me?" he muttered, patting himself down.
"I called dispatch," Tony called.
"If I don't call Horatio he'll worry."
"Back pocket, Xander." He did that, sighing when he found his phone. He walked inside to talk to him while Tony examined the wreck. His phone rang. "DiNozzo. How did you get my number already?" He smirked at the 'contacts' answer. "We're fine. He heard or sensed something and got us both out. He walked inside to call Horatio." He listened to the 'we like them together if you don't mind'. "It doesn't bother me. Who am I to say something?" he said dryly. A patrol car pulled up and he flagged them down. "There's a patrol unit." He looked. "Yeah, he is. Thanks." He hung up. "Hey. Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Xander's probable future head of security."
"Peter, his boyfriend. I came out to look at the house. Xander?" he yelled. He came out of the house. "Are you all right?" He went to check him over, smiling when he hung up on the Lieutenant for him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm okay. The engine sounded funny so I got us out." He gave him a hug. "Did you meet Tony? He's my future head of security unless I make him run away screaming."
"I did. Do you think it was the stalker?"
"No, I think it was the anti-gay league. Hey, Tony?" He jogged over. Xander pointed behind him. "Drawing room. Pretty clear who it was." Tony went to look, coming back muttering. "Dial one and it's home." He did that from Xander's phone, going to talk to Thomas. Xander looked at his boyfriend. "Coming out to see the prettiness?"
"I am," he agreed, smiling at him. "This will be fantastic when it's done." Tony came out, handing Xander his phone back. "Are you all right, Special Agent DiNozzo?"
"Yeah, I'm good. How did you know?"
"The engine didn't sound right when I revved it. It was weak." They walked out to see CSI rolling in. "Hi, Ryan. Hi, Calleigh." He walked Tony over. "This is Special Agent DiNozzo. My future head of security unless I run him off in the next few days. Inside in the drawing room, Ryan. They tagged the house too. Can I bomb them now? Or feed them my cooking maybe?"
"That's mean and sadistic, Xander," Calleigh chastised. "Officer Thomalson. You responded first?"
"I'm, um, dating Xander, ma'am."
"OH!" she said, smiling at him. "Never mind then. Fire department not here yet?"
"Nope but it won't be too much longer," Xander said dryly. "It was a small car." He looked at his boyfriend, then at Tony. "Pine in the kitchen?"
"I like light maple. Pine in the gym."
"There's a gym?" Peter laughed. Xander looked at him and nodded. "Like a real one?"
"And a real pool with real diving boards too so I can practice," Xander agreed happily. "It had everything I wanted, including fresh air. It's quiet here. Oh, yeah, I planted a self- downloading camera above the door after I signed, and one on the back door too, guys. Thomas should have that. Tony can get it for you if you need it."
"Please," Calleigh agreed. A pumper truck pulled in and she pointed. "Blew up, boys. Get it cool enough for us please?" The firemen got out, putting on jackets so they could come work on the wreckage. Another hummer pulled in. Xander bounced over to talk to Horatio, earning a smile.
One of the firemen looked at Calleigh. "I didn't know Caine was gay."
"I don't know whether or not he is but they're best friends. Have been since he rescued Xander as a five-year-old losing his bodyguards because they were being boring," Ryan told him. "That's how he met Speedle too. He saved him when he was abandoned in the park by his bodyguard." He looked at Tony. "We won't have to threaten you, right? A lot of people would be very upset if something happened to Xander."
"It's not a problem, Officer...."
"Wolfe. Ryan Wolfe. I met Xander when his parents showed up. I did some of the supervision for a visitation." He shook his hand. "So, agent where?"
"NCIS. Formerly homicide in Baltimore, Philly, and an officer in Peoria, Illinois."
"So you're really qualified and you do the same things we do," Calleigh said, nodding. "Welcome to Miami when you move, Tony." She shook his hand. "Calleigh Duquesne, Ballistics. Ryan does our trace stuff with Speed. You'll meet him and Eric sometime soon." Horatio walked Xander over. "He said they tagged the house too, Horatio."
"I heard." He let Peter have Xander back. "Anything of the bomb yet?"
"Smoke and more smoke," Ryan said. "We're waiting, boss." That got a nod. "I'll go do the drawing room." He went to do that, doing the whole house to see if any other nasty surprises were waiting. He came out. "Xander, do you really need a master suite that used to be four rooms?"
"That way I have a sitting area," Xander called back. "So I can hide if I want to."
Peter looked at him. "No hiding that pretty face, Xander." He smiled and put his head on his shoulder. "How many more years?"
"Eight more months," Xander said grimly. "They decided it wasn't as bad as it could be and they didn't have to dig into the walls to run wires. Only a few for pipes. My contractor's a blessing. She even found a stonemason." He looked at Tony. "There was talk about repaving the driveway. Did it need it?"
"It was a bit rough. What was it originally?"
"They paved over the cobblestones."
"Put back the cobble stones," Tony ordered. "It's easier to hear if someone's coming. It won't hurt a sports car as long as the shocks are good and they can fix it so it's nearly as smooth as new asphalt." Xander beamed, going to call his contractor and tell her that and about the cabinets and the gym. "How long have you and Xander been together?"
"Four dates," he said dryly, making Tony smile. "He's an easy guy to love but a hard guy to get to know sometimes." Tony kept his opinion to himself. "So you do CSI stuff?" Tony nodded. "For the Feds?"
"For the Navy and Marines. I work out of the DC branch."
"Wow. So you play politics."
"Not if I can help it. My team makes other agencies cry. My boss was up for this job too but he gets too much fun making them cry." Horatio walked off laughing. "Met Gibbs have we?"
"Twice now, and you're right," he called back. He looked back at Tony. "There was another agent who was a smoothing influence."
Tony looked at him. "Terrorist. Sniper."
"I'm sorry," he said, meaning it. Tony nodded. "Recently?"
"Almost seven months now," he admitted. "We got someone from the Mossad put onto our team by the director. We've been busy sanding down her edges." That got a nod. "She has the worst luck finding words sometimes. Cracks McGee up." That got a gentler smile. "Where was I?"
"Out sick. Head injury one time and the other was at a convention. I do know your Abby."
"Which is why following Xander around is pretty easy. She's a lot more hyper."
Horatio nodded. "I remember a flash of pigtails and black clothes, plus the smell of gunpowder."
"It's her perfume. She makes it."
Calleigh looked over. "Did you say she makes gunpowder perfume?" Tony nodded. "How much does she sell it for?"
"I don't know, I'll ask when I get back to DC." She smiled and nodded. He looked at Horatio again. "Home after this, right?" He nodded. "Okay. Are we being picked up?"
"I can drive you back when Peter has to go back to shift." Peter checked his watch, jogging off. "I'll tell him you had to go," he called after him, getting a wave.
"Doomed?" Tony said when he was gone.
Horatio nodded. "Probably. He still sees Xander as a trophy in some ways. Also as gentle and sweet, which he can be but now and then he turns into a hellcat. Especially when he's threatened."
"He offered to blow them up or send his cooking," Tony offered.
Horatio looked at him. "The bomb would be kinder." He went to find Xander. He was making evil plans and had to be stopped. "I'll drive you and Tony back to the house. Come on." Xander nodded, hanging up to follow him. "Who was that?"
"Yelina. I called her to warn her since they're up the street from her."
"Is she still huffing?"
"Yup, and I reminded her that her husband was the bastard, that the little girl didn't deserve to die for her husband being an asshole. That Suzy was still pretty young and she could use a mom too. Yelina quit huffing at that and decided to go see her tonight. She did say she'd let Ray Junior be tested." Horatio relaxed. He paused them a bit away. "Do you like him?"
"I like him a lot, Xander. He'll be good with you." Xander smiled, relaxing some. "Come on, let's let Patrick fuss." He nodded for Tony's benefit, walking Xander to the hummer. "I want to know as soon as you do," he called.
"Of course," Calleigh agreed. She looked at Ryan. "No date tonight, right?"
"Haven't had one in weeks."
"Good." They got the all clear a half-hour later and dug into the wreckage to find the bomb.
Tony walked in early Monday morning, looking around. "We alone?" Gibbs looked up and nodded. "Good. Would you be willing to consult to help me set up the security perimeter? While we were there his car got blown up in his new driveway. They tagged the house. His stalker is pissed and attacked them, blowing them up but they can't find a realistic link back, nothing more than cotton webbing."
"What do you have?"
"I have layout sketches, house plans from the contractor, overhead views of the land from a survey helicopter that the contractor did for when I find a good security company to go do the work, and I have pictures of the walls and trees." He handed over the file, pulling his desk chair over to sit across from him. "I want cameras here, here, here, and here," Tony told him. "I know that's going to leave a blind spot but there's no road there, it goes to woods on the other side of the wall."
"You can get over it."
"It's ancient stone, boss. We can't do much to it and Xander doesn't want it to look like he lives in a prison."
"Eighty grand including your paycheck for helping me. I figure a good two, three grand for your help? More if it runs over a week?"
"That'll work," he agreed. He studied everything, nodding at something. "Gazebo?"
"He's nestling it into the trees. He's removing a few to make room and because they're on shaky roots that're coming up. They're talking about replanting them by the stables, which are going to be guard dog and handler housing. Separate apartments for each handler."
"It's well designed," he admitted. "Staff cameras?"
"He said he'll have to trust us. If something happens it'll be my job to find out and spank someone, his words." Gibbs smirked. "He's good, boss. He heard the difference in his engine and got us out. The remains of the anti-gay league are scared of him now."
"Good. It'll solve some problems for a while." He picked up a pencil, circling areas. "Rotating exposure on those spots. You can hide them or not. That'll leave three blind spots. Mostly inaccessible. Is that a ditch?"
"Yeah, drainage. There's a high water table in Miami. The house is beautiful, boss."
"I saw." He looked it over, adding a few things. "Posted signs at the gate. What's the driveway made of?"
"He's having them strip and redo the cobblestone. It's noisier when someone's coming." Another few places were circled. "You sure?"
"I am. It won't catch the staff but it will catch a thief trying to break in. The house?"
"Every window and orifice will be alarmed. Xander agreed with me on that. We talked about a pass system like DHHR uses here in town, wearing one gets you past the alarms, not having one alerts the system that someone without a passcode is in the building." That got a nod. "What about here? There's technically beach access if you want to hike down. Should we put a camera there too?" That got a nod. "Okay. Put a circle there. What about on this edge?"
"What's over there?"
"Vacant lot with weeds. The house burned about five years ago according to the officer I stopped on patrol to ask. You have to go through a lot of older, higher class neighborhoods to get to there."
"That'll help. Fire department response?"
"Painful," Tony admitted. "Ten minutes. Xander agreed we could put in a water tank as long as it wasn't really ugly, his words."
"Where?" Tony pointed. "Good spot for it, easy access for the trucks too." He shifted the camera there and marked the water tank. He studied the weak spots. "Will he let you mine the top of the wall with broken glass?" Tony pulled out a small foam case and handed it over. "What's this?" He opened it, smiling at the small, mostly unnoticeable gray metal spikes that would match with the stones. He touched one tip and winced as it pierced flesh. "Those'll work. All along the top."
"I know. I've got room for eleven guards and up to three dogs and handlers."
"You can do four on a shift and do that. One dog per shift."
Tony grinned. "That means I have to live in the house."
"Will he mind?"
"No, he offered me the back suite. The housekeeper's going to have her own room if she wants. It'll be here," he said, finding the house plans to show him. "If I want to live in the house, this'll be my area." Gibbs smirked and nodded. It was a nice size. In DC he'd be paying a few grand a month for an apartment that size. "I'll even have a guest room," he said proudly. "So you can come down on vacation, boss." Someone was coming so he bundled things up. "Morning, Probie," he said casually.
"Morning, Tony." He handed over a card. "For some reason that ended up in my mailbox. I don't know why spooks are sending me cards for security companies but I figure that was meant for you." Tony grinned. "How is it?"
Tony pulled out the house pictures. "It's beautiful, calm, peaceful, quiet. It's far enough away that you don't hear any traffic, even sirens if you're by the house. You're too far away for the smog. It's got great views. I'll be able to use the gym or the pool when they're fixed and he is putting in a regular gym for the guys in the guard house. We're getting top notch accommodations. He's giving the guys their own one bedroom apartments in the old dorm building plus the dog handlers are getting their own in another building. I've got free reign as long as they won't be bothered by him, aren't homophobic, have experience, and can do the work. Xander wants to keep it feeling like a family, like his present one is. He's used to bodyguards so it'll work smoothly once we have it set up." He tucked the card into his pocket. "For society events I can go with him or assign someone if I'd rather. I'll be making sixty a year from the foundation for being the head of security. Xander and I get along great. We joked most of the weekend, before and after his car got blown up. He even introduced me subtly to his stalker as a new bodyguard."
"Hopefully that means she won't try to kill you right off," Gibbs offered.
"Probably not. She hasn't tried his new boyfriend. Xander and I came to an easy agreement. Whoever he's dating I'm doing background checks on and mine too." That got a smirk from McGee. "There's some of the world's most beautiful women down there, McGee. If I want time off I'm on call but I can do that. He's on good terms with the local PD. He's on great terms with the local crime lab. It's not going to be a piece of cake but it's going to be a good job. Very rewarding. I can walk around in anything I want as long as I'm covered according to Xander. He said now and then he wanders around in boxers if his grandparents aren't home. He can't cook, he's literally toxic. I saw what happened when he made one of the bigots cookies." He snickered. "They're still probably getting sick." He pushed his chair back to his desk, gathering up the file and letting Gibbs keep it. "Let me know later, boss? Do we have a new case?"
"Wrapped one up yesterday," McGee said happily. "Any ghosts?"
"Nope, but that does remind me. Going to see Abby, boss. Someone down there wanted to know if she'd sell her some of her special perfume." He went to do that, sneaking up on her to hug her. "Hi, pretty one."
"Tony!" She smiled as she turned to hug him. "Are you staying?" He shook his head. "How long?"
"Six months unless something drastic happens." He kissed her on the tip of the nose. "I ran into a ballistics tech named Calleigh Duquesne."
She squealed. "Bullet girl!"
"Yup, her. She wanted to know if you would sell her some of your perfume."
"I'd be honored!" She bounced some. "Do you have her addy? Or I can look it up through the MDPD server." He handed it over. She beamed and handed him a card. "This got dropped in my mailbox." He compared them, putting them both into his pocket. "Who else got one?"
"McGee. Different people." He smiled. "You would love Xander. He's a lot like you only male and bi and a sports guy." She laughed. "It's a good match. We'll work well together. I'm not fond of his present boyfriend but that's okay." She nodded. "Sixty grand a year, Abby," he said quietly. "Yearly raises. The foundation pays for it. I get full run of the security protocols. Xander's used to those sort of things. It'll be good." She smiled. "Oh!" He went back to his desk, coming back with an envelope. "This is yours," he said, handing it to her. "From him." She opened it and gaped, giving him an adoring look. "He heard you were nice and thought it'd be cool when I asked." She hugged him, sniffling a bit. Her new picture of Xander went onto the console in front of her. It was from the temptation campaign but it wasn't one of the ones in the ads. "That's from his personal portfolio. I watched him sign it."
"I'll be down to visit."
"I'll have my own suite with a guest room," he promised with a grin. She nodded, looking much happier. "Ocean views. He's promising to go lighten the pound's load by a few animals. We've got a lot of lawn." She laughed, giving him another hug. "It'll be okay. You can visit, I can visit, we can write." She nodded. "Six months so don't take me for granted. I'm a limited edition now."
"You're an original anyway, Tony."
"He told me he puked on my father once," he said. She cackled. "Exactly." He walked off happier. He sat down at his desk, finding Ziva staring at him. "What?"
"Are you gay?"
"You're going to work for a gay rights foundation."
"They're making a lot of difference in the world, Ziva. Any sort of intolerance and bigotry is wrong. The only bigotry should be against bigots. Even if I didn't feel that way, the kid needs me. Someone against gays blew up his car over the weekend. Both of his cars have now been gay bashed. So was he when he was younger. Someone shot him once." She looked disgusted. "That was before he was old enough to even consider liking sex. So no, I'm not gay, but I'm very tolerant. Xander doesn't care if I am or not. He said he didn't care as long as it wasn't kids or the guard dogs, or his future dogs or cats." She shuddered. "It's a great job and Miami's full of beauty to be discovered."
"Maybe I'll go visit."
"I'll have a guest room but you'll have to put up with the boss since I'll be living at the house," Tony told her.
"I'll get a hotel room. I don't understand gay men. They dress up as women?"
"No, those are drag queens," Tony said tolerantly. "Not all gay men are drag queens, Ziva. Not all drag queens are gay either. Some are guys who like to dress up in women's clothes. It makes them feel like they can be delicate, pretty, let go of some emotions they can't as guys." She looked confused. "I'll find you a good reference. I'm sure Xander would know." She nodded so he sent that email to him, getting a site back from Thomas, who also sent a nag for him to eat. "I like this. They're already telling me to eat, boss."
"Did you miss breakfast?"
"No, it's a pet peeve of Xander's. He doesn't like to eat in front of people who aren't." He sent the link to Ziva. "There you go." She nodded, settling in to read it. "We do run into gay service members now and then, even if they can't admit to it." He looked at Gibbs. "Am I short on reports?" He looked then shook his head. "I didn't think so." He decided to surf the internet for good moving specials. If he had to leave suddenly someone was going to have to pack and ship his stuff for him. Then again, he had gotten a signing bonus from the kid's grandfather. McGee left for a few, coming back smirking. "Picture?"
"She's humming and petting it."
"It's from his portfolio. Horatio remembers you, boss. And her. Said he remembered a blur of black and pigtails but he does remember her."
Gibbs snickered. "That sounds like her at a convention. How is he?"
"Doing okay. Some personal issues but doing okay. That's the one Benis claims is his best friend." Gibbs looked over so he grinned back. "He's on good terms with the PD," he mouthed. That got a smirk and a nod. "Think I could hit Fornell up for agents who had a clue?"
"You can try," Gibbs offered. "I'd go with someone tougher than his wimpy pink girls over there."
"I won't tell him you said that, boss." He sent him an email saying he was switching jobs in about six months and was looking to hire guards. Twenty minutes later he got back a list of names. "Hey, he sent me names. He's apparently heard too."
"His stalker was up visiting her mother when his car got blown up," McGee said grimly. "She shrieked about it on national tv because a camera crew was stalking them coming out of a store. She stomped off to the limo to leave for Miami right then." He looked at him. "Good luck."
"Thanks. Might need it for that one."
Gibbs nodded. "Yes, you will. Or a sniper."
"Wasn't an offer, DiNozzo. Ask Taylor, see if he knows one."
Tony grinned. He knew Thomas knew a few. He had threatened to send one after her.
Tony checked himself in the mirror, smiling at what he saw. He looked good in this suit. Brand new, tailored to fit him by Xander's tailor. Not off the rack by any means and cheaper than most of his off the rack stuff. He finished smoothing himself out then put in his new earpiece. He could hear the guards fussing. "Guys, calm it down," he ordered over it. "I want it to be professional tonight. Let's make it smooth. Remember, Xander said he spanks hard." That got some laughs. "Sections check in?" He listened, nodding. One was a bit late and panting. "Problems, Todd?" He smiled. "That can happen. Shoo her inside to the hot young men. I'm going to mingle with the boss." One guy said he was lucky. "You want to trade places and make small talk?" The guy whimpered and said no. "Didn't think so. Remember, no making out, we watch for drugs, Tommy; Xander's a bear about that." Xander said something and he smiled. "Good to have you on, boss. Coming right now." He walked out, pocketing his door key. The only ones who had the special magnetic key for his room was him and Xander. They both had universal keys. He walked out, finding Xander fussing with his hair in an ancient mirror. He pulled his hands down. "Deep breath, the first one is here. You've done this for years, Xander. Calm down. Now, go be pretty, pleasing, and charming. Let us handle the small details." Xander nodded, letting Tony remove the earwhig from his ear so he didn't have to worry about every little thing. Tony followed him to the front door, smiling at the first guest.
"Xander, it looks wonderful. Thank you so much for the invitation to your open house," she said, kissing him on each cheek. "No music?"
"They're setting up right now," he said with a smile. "There's a small instrumental group in the ballroom in here and a tent outside for dancing with another group." That got a smile and she went to browse on the buffet. "Before you ask, I didn't cook," he joked.
"I saw the sign, dear. It's a good thing. Oh, Mary Ellen had to bring her daughter."
"If she had to, she had to. I can count her as a date," Xander said, smiling at the incoming couple and their daughter. He smiled at her, she was an eighth grander at his school. "If you go to the library, there's more trendy music preset on the stereo and books." She beamed and went that way. "That way she doesn't get bored. I know I did at that age." The parents gave him a grateful look and went to browse. He continued to greet guests until his hands were sore. The special ones got hugs. Then again, the special ones had been out last night for the family's open house event. He smiled at Mac, who had Stella on his arm. "You finally made it," he teased.
"We did," she teased back. She gave him a hug. "You look great. You too, Tony." He smiled and nodded his thanks. "You didn't cook, right?"
"All catered." He shook Mac's hand. "There's a tent outside with dancing. There's minor music in the ballroom, and a kid's room in the library with the books." Mac smiled. "You can hide." He slipped him something. "Yours. The new number's on the back," he said quietly. Mac nodded, putting it into his pocket. "You two have adjoining ones and the door's open. Her key is up there. I didn't figure she'd have a place to hide it." Stella smirked and shook her head, walking Mac off. Don came in ten minutes later, getting a hug. "Hi, Uncle Don."
He grinned back. "Hey, kiddo." He smiled as he looked around. "This is fantastic. Your contractor did a great job in the renovations. If I ever buy a place, remind me to get her." Xander laughed. "I'm staying at the other house."
"I heard. Mac and Stella will have a room here." That got a nod. "Anyone else come down?"
"Nope, not from us. Family's behind me." Xander perked up and he went to look around. They hadn't gotten in until that morning due to court yesterday. He ran into Mac and Stella. "Whoever decorated did a great job. It highlights things so well."
"Xander said he picked out everything," Mac told him. "He called Stella at four one morning angsting over which throw rug to get for the guest bathrooms." That got some cackles from nearby people.
"I've not seen you around here," the elderly woman next to him said. "Patricia Yearns. Matriarch of local society."
Don smiled. "Don Flack Junior, ma'am, Xander's uncle, kinda. We're from the second marriage, he's from the third," he said at her confused look. She smiled at that. "For all purposes I'm his uncle. This is Detective Stella Bonasera and Detective Mac Taylor, both from New York's finest with me and on the foundation's board."
"Pleasure to meet you all, darlings." She shook their hands. "Come, you must meet some others." She hauled Stella and Don off, leaving Mac to follow. "You too, Detective."
"Yes, ma'am." He grabbed a bottle of water before following. That ended up in his pocket for a while but that was fine. They were getting all sorts of stories about Xander as a young boy running amok at events.
Xander strolled in with Tony behind him. "The dance music is finally tuned up if anyone wanted to heard through the conservatory and out to the tent to dance." That got a few, including Mac, who was feeling a bit claustrophobic. He saw Xander doing a headcount and gave him a look. "Twenty more than I expected. About usual," he admitted quietly. He went to get the door, smiling and hugging his grandparents. "You made it."
"I did make it," Patrick agreed, walking him back inside. "Tony, we'll guard him if you want to help Horatio carry in our present?"
"Sure, Patrick." He went to do that, finding it was in the back of the limo. "Books?" he guessed.
Horatio nodded. "Half the library from the old house." They carried it in together, putting it in there with the few children. "New books, we'll let Xander shelve them later." He walked off with Tony, getting a hug and a whispered 'take me outside, I'm going to snap' from Xander. "Show me around?"
"Of course." He looked at Tony, taking back his earwhig. "Call if someone else shows up, especially family." He walked him outside. "Did Peter have a shift tonight?" Horatio nodded with a small hum. "I'm sorry." He showed him to the tent, which allowed him to get some fresh air. "Sorry, pushing their daughters on me," he said quietly. He smiled at Stella being pawed. "Let me go save her. I'll be back in a few?" Horatio nodded so he went to cut in. "May I, Mr. Dupruis?"
"Of course, Xander. The host always gets to cut in on the pretty ones." He backed off with a bow and Xander took over.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
"I look hot in spandex too," he quipped back, making her giggle and swat him on the shoulder. He grinned smugly. "I do. I have pictures to prove it with medals even." He dipped her, pulling her back up, staring her down. "Shall we scandalize them?"
"You'd never hear the end of it."
"Maybe." He went back to dancing her around, making her smile. He saw his grandparents dancing and moved them closer to them. "I do not care what anyone says. You two look hot together." He danced her off once his Grandsire had grinned at him for that. He finally let her go, twirling her off toward Mac, who was escaping and trying valiantly not to rub his pinched behind. He caught her, making her laugh and dance off with her. He went back to Horatio's side, beaming at him. "The lessons came in handy."
"I saw that. Are you going to dance with me as well?"
"If you want, sir." He bowed. "Shall we dance then?"
Horatio smiled, letting him lead even. They switched halfway through and Xander smoothly followed his lead. "You're good."
"As I told her, I look good in spandex too."
"You certainly did at your last meet," he agreed. "How many more this school year?"
"Four more then States. We're already ahead in the point standings," he said proudly. "I may have also found my future replacement. He's in seventh grade and shows some interest and some skill. He came to see what it was about. We can get him on next year and I'll train him personally to show off in my stead once I'm gone." That got a happy nod. "Meeting tomorrow for brunch, right?" Horatio nodded. "Good, I'm not forgetting anything." Tony said something over the system and he sighed. "Reporters are here. Excuse me for a few minutes, Horatio. Lovely dance," he said loudly enough to be heard. He went to intervene, smiling at her. "Erica. I didn't know I had invited the press."
"I'm here as someone's date. Has Jess gotten here yet?"
"Actually I think he has," he said, going to find him. He found him at the buffet. "Jess, your date was incredibly behind because of her hair, right?" He nodded and walked out with him. "Was that her?"
"It does look like my star reporter."
"Who shall not work tonight," Xander ordered sweetly, staring Erica down. She nodded her agreement. "A small article is fine. Gossip is not. I won't have my house profaned or else I'll need a priest." He went to greet the other two guests coming in. "Ryan and I see you did find my wayward boyfriend."
"He gave me a ride when my car broke down."
Xander came out to kiss him, getting pressed back against the door. "You get off when?"
"Long after this is over," he said with a grin. "Tomorrow?"
"Board meeting for brunch, family stuff after that if you wanted to come."
"We'll see." He gave him another kiss and strolled back to his patrol car, heading back to work.
Xander walked in, finding Ryan had made himself at home already. "There's dancing in the garden," he said as he walked past him. He frowned at the notice, tapping his earpiece. "No, she's not allowed in here. If she tries, she's trespassing, you can have her arrested. There's a restraining order in place." He nodded. "Her father can, she can't. He knows that." He turned off his vocal to listen, nodding at the agreement from the gate. He walked around, talking to his guests, reminding a few looking bored that there was dancing. He wasn't going to let them snoop and they could be as upset as they wanted to be about that. He escorted one of the elder dames of society out there, dancing with her, then with each of his grandparents. One of the other gay members of society gave him a wink so he grinned and offered him a dance when he was done with Sire. After that he danced with one of the teenagers who had escaped from the library on her mother's orders. A few more friends and it was nearly time to cut the party off. He danced with Horatio again, earning a bright smile. "Nearly time for them to go," he hissed. Horatio laughed and nodded. "Did you break your jaw too?"
"No, trying not to snap at a few suspects," he said quietly. He dipped Xander, pulling him back up, giving him a smug look. "Turnabout and all that, Xander."
"Cool." He laughed and let a gorgeous blonde woman cut in with Horatio, going to take Ryan out. "Relax, quit looking at your feet, Ryan," he ordered, making him look up. "Engage your partner, let the feet do their own thing, like with walking." He danced them off, letting Ryan follow along. "Good. Much better." Ryan gave him a sheepish grin. "It was a gym elective. It was that or having stuff with the soccer team." He handed Ryan over to one of the judge's wives and went to find something to drink. He ran into Tony, who took the earwhig back. "We okay?"
"We're fine. She stayed in the car. Go mingle, you're ignoring half the room." Xander nodded, going to talk to them. Tony smiled, going to help a few matrons to their cars. "Good night, ladies. Thank you for attending. Xander would be here but he's begging someone to make him some cookies." That got some laughs and the matrons quit being upset that the host wasn't walking them out. To their way of thinking, he was the help. Not that he minded, this stuff would drive him nuts eventually. He decided he'd have to tutor one of the other boys or girls. Xander walked out a few more couples and people started to stream out. It was getting late.
Xander walked into the tent area, smiling at the people still dancing. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not going to close this down. As long as the musicians are willing to play you're more than welcome to stay out here. The buffet is still up but most everyone else has gone home." He clapped his hands, finding his grandfather to take him out for another dance.
The woman dancing with Horatio grimaced. "He's finding a rich sugardaddy?"
He looked at her. "That's his grandfather."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Horatio just hummed and let her go at the end of that song. Tony came out and he smiled. "Done?"
"House is locked up except for the buffet and we're moving that out here. Everyone else is gone. The card key Mac has will open the side door." That got a smile. "Are you staying over tonight?"
"I expect his boyfriend would be over tomorrow. He seems a bit jealous."
"Just a bit," Tony agreed. He looked at him. "You might want to offer some counsel," he said quietly. "Xander's dates have not had happy endings recently."
"I'll do that the next time we dance," Horatio promised. "Thank you."
"Welcome. I'm going to do a turn through the security system." He walked off, going to do that. One of the interior temporary cameras caught a young lady napping in the study. "Crap," he muttered. He checked, there was only the one. He went to find Xander. "Someone forgot their child," he said when he found him.
"Blue dress, I danced with her earlier?" Tony nodded. "They've done that a few times. Check for their car." He went to do that while Xander went to wake her up. "Hey, Beth?" he called from the doorway, making her snap awake. "It's nearly midnight, sweetie, your parents are gone. Do you want to call them or sleep on a couch and then call CPS tomorrow?"
She yawned, then shrugged. "I don't know. When did they leave?"
"I didn't see them go." He pointed at the knob. "It locks, there's a small bathroom behind the blue bookshelf. There's also a pillow under the desk. I've had a few naps in here during the furniture arranging so I'd suggest moving off the divan to the other couch." She smiled and got the pillow, going to do what he suggested. He locked the door before shutting it, making sure the handle had stuck before going back to the tent. He found the grande dame still out there and took her out for another swing to tell her. Those sort of things were best left to the fierce, quiet army of society. When he was done with her, he walked her back to her table, winking at her before going to get a drink from the moved buffet. He found Horatio there. "Next dance in ten minutes?"
"If you want." He walked him over to his table, sitting down with him. "What's going wrong with Peter?"
Xander grimaced. "He doesn't like me making time for the family or the board. He ..." He glanced around then leaned closer. "He knows I'm not ready yet, Horatio, but he says I should trust him more by now. It's only been a year." Horatio patted his hand gently. "He won't let me top and I'll do anything up to sex with me on the bottom but he says it's not enough. It's not that I don't trust him...."
"It's that it doesn't feel right," he finished. Xander nodded. "Do you know why it doesn't feel right? Is it the circumstances or the person?"
"I'm not sure. He's even tried to be romantic once, for a guy, but it was one of those nights where I got interrupted by billions of things, including some of the team worried about one of the girls' team who had just had a very bad breakup. I'm the one who drove her to the ER when she accidentally fell down the stairs and he still... It was like he was jealous that I cared about her well-being. She's a friend."
"We've all had some doubts about how good Peter was for you, Xander," he said gently. Ryan flopped down next to him. "Danced out, Mr. Wolfe?" he asked, offering him some of the stuff he had picked out to nibble.
"Pinched to death," he said, taking a piece of carrot to nibble. "I love what you did with the house, Xander. It's a great restoration and the furniture fits it perfectly."
"Thank you," Xander said with a smile.
"So, are you going to get a horse to ride around the lawn?" he teased.
"The jogging's good for me." He grinned at Horatio. "Even he says so." Horatio nodded. "You should see the sunrise or sunset from the gazebo. It's a stunning view."
"I'll have to come out some night to watch." He leaned forward. "If he's pressuring you we did promise to mutilate his corpse and hide the body as only a CSI team could," he said gently.
Xander shrugged. "He wants me to be a trophy wife, Ryan. I'm not ready to be a wife. Plus he doesn't really understand that I do genuinely like my family and want to spend time with them."
"Then we won't mutilate him when you two break up," Ryan said. He stood up. "Think the older lady over there would give me a dance?"
"I think it'd be scandalous and they'd think you were her now boytoy," Xander teased. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He went to ask the older grande dame to dance, getting a titter and her accepting his hand. He wasn't perfect but it was fun.
Horatio looked at Xander. "You don't need the pressure of him pushing you or him being jealous," he said quietly. Xander sighed and nodded. "Now, I should go home."
"He definitely wouldn't like that."
"Then he can kiss my ass. Your my best friend, you can stay in the guest room in my suite."
"You have a guest room in your suite?" Xander smiled and nodded. "If you want."
"I insist." He got up, going to take him out onto the floor, then dancing with Stella, making her giggle and laugh at the story of one of the new guards bowing at his feet when he said he was giving him an apartment as well. He let her go, offering to Mac, who shook his head. He shrugged and grabbed Don from his grandparents, taking him out to talk to him about something that had been bothering him. Don gave good advice and he wanted his take on the Peter problem.
Xander led Horatio into his suite. "Welcome to my private haven." He waved a hand around. "The tv's behind the maple doors. The other stuff is my computer desk." He grinned at him. "That way I can hide up here if I need to. I'm in the night colored room over there," he said, pointing, walking him to his room. "This is the guest room up here. When they were redoing the walls they even found an extra old bathroom that wasn't on the original plans. It had been boarded up since it didn't work." He opened that door to show him the white ceramic pedestal sink and toilet, plus combo bath/shower that had a shower curtain that matched the blue/cream decorating scheme of the other room. He opened the closet. "I figured some day you might need to stay over for me or for your own safety so I got you your birthday present early," he teased. "Even through your usual suit shop." He turned, running into him. He accidentally ended up kissing him, moaning into it. He pulled back slowly, staring at him. "That was different."
Horatio smiled. "It won't change things, Xander. It was an accident."
"I'd hate to ruin our friendship," he agreed. He looked at him. "You like female lawyers."
"Not always." He tipped his face up again. "Our friendship would remain."
Xander smiled, kissing him again. "If you're sure."
"I'm very sure," he promised, taking a third kiss. He pushed him back slightly. "I won't be hidden, Xander, and I don't want to do anything until you've broken it off with Peter. It's not fair to any of us. If you're mine, you're mine. If you're his, you're not mine."
Xander nodded, resting against his chest. "It was different kissing you. It felt better. You're like that first few gulps of water after a long run." He looked at him again. "He's like the water you snatch in the center of your run." That got a smile. "I'll break up with him tomorrow." He snuggled into his arms again. "This feels like comfort to me."
"It feels good to me too," Horatio promised. He pushed him back gently. "No more than this until you can be mine."
"Yes, Horatio." He smiled. "I'm going to change." He went to change into his usual boxers, bringing back some pajama pants, finding Horatio down to his own boxers. "Here, this way you can change." He handed them over with a small blush. He knew he was staring and he couldn't quit. Peter definitely didn't make him feel like this. Peter was nice to look at but Horatio was magnetic, especially the sparse red chest hair. Horatio let him kiss him again but gave him a gentle push away. He walked over to the phone, sitting down to dial his boyfriend's cell. "Peter, it's Xander. Are you busy? Can we talk?" He listened to him quip that he was only driving around looking for miscreants to threaten. He smiled. "Good. I don't want you to crash or anything, okay?" He listened to him. "No, I've got a problem. Or we do really. Because you seem jealous of my time with my family, Peter." He listened to him defend it.
"Peter, my grandfather's dying, probably within two years. I love the man." He held his forehead. "No, that's not the only problem. Because I don't want to be some trophy wife." He nodded. "I think that would be best, yeah. I do still like you as a friend, you're great to go places and do things with. I'd like for us to still keep that part, just not the deeper stuff." He nodded. "Thank you for understanding. Yeah, I'm done for the night. Mac and Stella are." He smirked at the jealous nature. "I'm not sleeping with them. Mac helped me when I was kidnaped and Stella thinks I'm goofy. She likes artistic guys, which I'm not. See, that's one of the problems, they're friends and you're jealous of them being my friends. Exactly. Maybe. Goodnight, Peter." He hung up, sighing. "He said he'd let me go, for now."
Horatio laid down behind him, letting Xander snuggle against his chest. "If you want, you will keep the friendship but him being that jealous is wrong. It's a bad sign." He stroked over his cheek. Xander nodded, snuggling in against his chest. He got nipped and hissed, spanking him. "Not tonight, Xander." Xander looked up at him. "The first time we make love you're going to enjoy it and it's going to be sometime other than the night you broke up. Some night when you're not emotional and neither of us are tired," he said gently. Xander nodded, resting against his shoulder again. He stroked over his back. "I should put on the pajama pants so you don't attack me," he teased.
Xander looked up at him. "Wouldn't stop me." He grinned a bit wickedly. "Even a locking chastity belt won't stop me for long. I learned how to pick locks." Horatio laughed, giving him a squeeze. "You...don't mind?"
"No, I don't mind. I am normally a top and I prefer that but I have been on the bottom more than once in my life. I know how vulnerable that can make you feel. Especially since first times should be special." He stroked down a bare arm. "You never told me you had broken part of it."
"I was kinda at a club and one guy wanted to rub off. Which I don't mind doing. So I was behind him rubbing and he kept begging me to slide it in until he did it for me. It was good. It was nice, but it wasn't all that special." He grimaced. "Then he went to have most of the men in the club. I primed the pump. He sat down in there with his pants down and got used before I finished washing my hands." Horatio stroked through his hair. "I came back later and one big, hairy guy was having him. Then these three guys came in. Said he was a crap blow so they had him while I was standing there shocked. The bouncer came in to throw them out and he attacked the bouncer to have him. When he was done had him clean up and sent him somewhere he could all he wanted. I think it came out on video a few weeks later." Horatio hummed, giving him a cuddle. "That one I don't mind not being that special."
"The night you do bottom for me, we'll make it a full event. Dinner, some dancing, then come home to cuddle and keep going," Horatio assured him. Xander smiled. "It should be special and mean something." Xander nodded. "Good boy." He pulled him closer to kiss him, arching into the body that arched into him. It felt too good to not go on. "Xander," he moaned.
"This is only a taste of what I'm like, Horatio. I'll stop if you want," he promised, thrusting gently into his hips, nibbling on his neck and shoulder until Horatio pushed him onto his back, getting on top to stare down at him.
"This is still sex. I'm not your toy."
"No, that's green," he said sheepishly.
Horatio shook his head. Only Xander. "I'm not going to be used like a toy."
"I'm not trying to. I'm trying to make you feel better and help you rest." He pulled him down to kiss him. "I'd never use you, Horatio. You know that." He took another kiss. "If you want I'll go back to my own bed."
Horatio sighed, letting himself go. "This time." Xander pulled him back down. "This position doesn't bother you?"
"I know you won't make me feel trapped." He nibbled on his earlobe, earning a growl. Horatio stroked over his chest. "I'm sorry about the scars."
"The scars are proof that you've lived, Xander. That you're not some cardboard cutout person like the house was full of earlier." Xander sniffled and nodded, holding him. Horatio held him, dropping off the sex. Xander kept it up. "You don't have to."
"I want to." He kissed him again, going back to rubbing against him. It was good. Horatio didn't make fun of his funny rhythm like some people had.
"You do this in the clubs?"
"Only clothed. With that guy I was using a condom. I'm like that. I saw way too much..." Horatio stopped him with a kiss. "Thank you."
"You're a great man, Xander. Don't apologize for doing the smart thing." Xander flipped him back over, getting on top so he could play while he thrust against him. "How far do you go in the clubs?"
"Fingers, this. Blows I only accept, I don't give. Then again I'm told I have more enthusiasm than skill in that area," he admitted, taking another kiss then moving down to play with the chest hair. He shaved his for sports. Peter had been nearly hairless too so he wasn't used to chest hair. It was crinkly and made pretty sounds when his tongue was dragged through it to the hidden treasures. The nipples were teased and bitten, making Horatio yelp lightly. He licked it to soothe it. "Didn't mean to make you yelp, just enjoy it." He switched sides and Horatio moaned, holding his head down. He found a few more good spots and Horatio made such pretty sounds for him. He kept going further down, making Horatio stop him. "I want to."
"Well, no, I don't have any here," he admitted, considering it. He looked at him. "Would it bother you if I didn't gag at the taste of latex this time?"
Horatio considered it, then shook his head. "No, I'm not going to complain about a naked blowjob. I know you're clean."
"The same as I know you are," he agreed, winking at him, going down to tease and taste him. Horatio moaned but he liked what he was doing. Licked all over and then he moved down to taste the balls.
"Gently," Horatio ordered quietly. Xander was still a bit more firm. "More gently, Xander. I'm very tender there." Xander eased off and it was better. Then Xander came back up to feast on him. "Slow down, I'm not going anywhere." Xander slowed it down, still feasting on him. It was a good job - very technical, but very enthusiastic. "Slower, draw it out, Xander. Make me beg."
Xander looked up at him. "I can't imagine you begging."
"A good lover can make anyone, even the strongest man, beg." He pulled him up to kiss him. "Slowly worship him. He's not a feast, he's a holy object." Xander shivered. He kissed him again, stroking his cock slowly for him. "Treat it like a first course, not the whole meal. It'll be more fulfilling for both of us." Xander nodded, working his way back down, which he appreciated. He wasn't simply giving him a blow, he was making love to his body. He arched up when the warm mouth came back. It was much better this time. A lot better. Still very technical but he was getting better. He came with a moan, panting as he went limp. Xander licked him clean, kissing back up his body. He accepted the kiss, holding Xander in place. "We should please you." Xander blushed. "I have no problem pleasing my dates, Xander." He rolled them to the side, teasing his boy gently. It was clear Peter was the sort of top that didn't like to please his mate. Definitely not what Xander needed. Xander finally came against his hand, burying his face in Horatio's neck. He kissed his temple, making Xander wrap himself around him. "We should go out to dinner later this week."
Xander looked up at him. "I've got a test on Thursday so after that?"
"I have a late meeting Friday. Saturday?" Xander smiled and nodded. "Good." He took a gentle kiss. "Sleep, Xander. It's almost three in the morning and I still have to make it to work." He started to move but Horatio kept him there. "Sleep with me, Xander. You can sleep with me. You're not a concubine to be sent back to your own room."
"I've never slept next to anyone."
"Then it's more than time you learned." He took another kiss, letting Xander snuggle in again until he got comfortable on his shoulder. He smiled down at the warm, soft octopus he ended up with. He was definitely cuddly. He smoothed over the hair then let himself drift off. For the first time in a long time he didn't wake up from nightmares. The alarm barely got his attention when it went off. He looked over. "That wasn't there last night," he said quietly. He reached over to tap the snooze button. It shut off for ten minutes and he got to work waking Xander up. He got a sleepy mumble from under the sheet. Somehow Xander had ended up completely hiding while still wrapped around him. "Sheet monster," he called, smiling when Xander blinked up at him. "Are you being a sheet monster?" he teased. Xander nodded, putting his head back down, covering it back up. "Time to get up. I've got to go to work." Xander grumbled but let him go, only taking a kiss in payment. "Have breakfast with me?"
"If I get in the shower with you you'll be late," he mumbled, flipping onto his back, stretching out. "Go shower so I can't pounce."
"You too. We'll meet in the kitchen when we're dressed?" Xander smiled and got out of the bed, giving him a full bodied kiss/cuddle that left him gasping for breath. Xander strolled off, giving him a very good view. Horatio went to shower and shave. Plus to take care of the new hard-on. It was very tempting to join him in the shower, but he was right, he would be late to work. He came out once his hair was dry, looking at the suits. He picked out a light blue one that would go well with his eyes, sliding into the underclothes that had been sitting in the drawers. He came out once he had on his shoes, finding Xander lounging in leather. "Playing today?"
"Yup. Only the board meeting today. You're bringing Speed and Eric, right?"
"I am." He pulled him up. "Come on, we need to eat." He walked him downstairs, finding Tony talking with Mac and Stella in the kitchen. "Am I cooking for us?"
"The housekeeper cooks, Horatio. She's banned Xander from the kitchen," Tony said with a look for his boss. Who just shrugged. "Food's on the counter. Dish it up." He sipped his coffee. "Hey, boss, could those be any tighter?"
"They're comfortably broken in," he teased back.
Stella looked at the forest green leather pants and black shirt. "It's a good thing your boyfriend isn't here. We'd have to see pouncing."
"He is here," he said, waving a hand at Horatio's back. He gave her a wicked grin and bounced over to sit next to her so he could eat. "Did Beth get home, Tony?"
"She called her parents this morning to complain about being abandoned. They're not home."
"Really?" Xander asked, looking at him.
"Really." He looked at him. "I've alerted the local department to do a wellness check. If they're home and not answering they're going to be mortally embarrassed." He smiled at Horatio. "I remember him asking my opinion on that one. I made a good choice."
"You did. Thank you." He sat down with his own breakfast. "Morning, Mac, Stella."
"Morning, Horatio," Mac said, smiling at him. "Apparently we missed things last night?"
"His boyfriend was a jealous top who didn't believe in pleasuring him," Tony told him. "We like Horatio and him being friends." He looked at Horatio, seeing the small blush. "He complained a few times."
"He was doing the subtle 'you should dump him' about the third day he got here," Xander agreed. "Horatio is much better for me and is a lot hotter too." Horatio smiled at that.
"Aww," Stella said, grinning at them.
Mac shook his head. "Too much sap, Stella." He finished his current cup of coffee. "Working before the meeting this afternoon?" he asked Horatio, who nodded since his mouth was full. "What did you have planned for this morning, Xander?"
"Go play, Mac. Be back by two." He waved a hand. "There's a few spare cars laying around here for the guys to use. Borrow one." That got a smile and a nod from Stella. "Then we'll do the meeting at two, break for an early dinner, then you guys can go have more fun or wander around the grounds tonight."
"That works for me," Stella agreed, smiling at Tony. "Is it as hard a job as you thought?"
"Not really. His stalker has the anti-gay league cowed at the moment. She's taken out another rival for his attention. She's my main problem. Sometimes some kids sneak onto the grounds to get peeks and to stare at the view. This was apparently the house they used to dare each other to go into or to bring their dates to make out at." He gave her an evil smile. "It's been a lot of fun going out to scare the kids. It's almost like a treat."
"I've only got one call from a complaining parent and I told her I had moved out here, it should've been clear since there were guards and alarms. He did stop two of them to see how they got in to shorten that gap."
"Threatened him with an officer," Tony said smugly. "He was *very* helpful after he quit pissing over being arrested."
Horatio laughed, putting down his fork. "We got a call from his parents asking if he was still in trouble since he had cooperated. She called Frank since she couldn't get me personally. It made his day."
"Always happy to help," Tony said smugly. He looked at Xander. "Are you putting in pool time today?"
"I should spend time in the gym. We've got school states coming up." That got a nod. "It's tough lording over a greatly new team on the guy's side. We lost six from last year's full team. I've got two newbies and Chad. He's recovered amazingly. I've got a newbie I'm going to start working with later this year and all summer. He'll need it to take my place. Chad's got a quiet grace, not the flashy, awe-inspiring, moves I do. We need those to keep us higher in the point standings."
"Anyone going further?" Stella asked.
"Chad might next year. This year he's still a bit low because of how much time he had to put in rebuilding his shoulder after the surgery. The newbie might. Not sure yet." He finished his soda, looking around. "Cook, I adore you," he called. He heard a giggle. "I see Susan took the early shift." Tony smirked and nodded. "If that works for her, I'm all for it. How's her daughter?"
"Good. She's started school down here. I arranged her shift so she could take her to school and pick her up since no bus comes anywhere near out here. She sleeps most of the school day." Xander nodded, accepting that. "I am going to be training another person to deal with some of the social situations so you don't have to rely on just me." Xander shrugged. "Okay, just a head's up." Xander shrugged again. Tony smiled. "I like that you're so easy, boss."
Xander winked. "Only in some things. Otherwise that guard wouldn't have to stare when he sees me out tanning." Stella spluttered but Tony cackled, nodding. "I'll let you guys go do whatever. I'll see you guys, Don, Eric, and Speed at two." He got up, putting his plate and glass into the dishwasher, heading for the gym. He settled in to stretch. He decided to change, finding the spandex jogging shorts he kept in there to change into. He came out of the bathroom, going back to his stretching. Horatio walked in, making him bounce over to kiss him. "Be careful today and I'll see you later as well?"
"Probably not tonight. I'm eating with Yelina."
"Then I'll see you later this week and I'll have good dreams until then." He took another kiss. "Have a safe day."
Horatio smiled at him. "You too."
"I'm not doing anything today." He took another kiss. "You should go before I pounce and you're late."
"I should." He gave him a deeper kiss, then stepped back, sliding into his sunglasses. "Be a good boy." He walked out smiling, heading for his hummer.
Xander went back to his bar to stretch. It felt good to do this first thing in the morning. When he was fully loosened up he went to work out on his weaker areas. He used the high bar at home as a reward for not slacking off because he got to play.
Tony looked over as Xander came in for lunch. He was grabbing a sandwich on the go but his boss looked rough. "You all right?"
"I became a law of physics on the rings," he said, sitting down to hold his head.
"Need the ER?" Xander shook his head slowly. Tony got the tylenol and handed it over. "Need that?"
"Sure." He got him a glass of milk, watching as he took a few. "You'll be fine."
"I've had worse," he agreed. "My first month and a half of gymnastics I was constantly a law of physics." He looked at him. "Then I broke my leg in fifteen places, got eight pins, and six weeks in bed." Tony shuddered. "Yeah. I learned a lot about aerodynamics."
"Makes my plague look about equal."
"You had the plague?" Xander asked. Tony smirked but nodded, sipping his coffee. "Damn."
"Sent to the office. I opened it." He patted him on the back. "You're tense."
"I cramped, that's why I became a law of physics."
"What caused the cramp?"
"Twisted wrong when the ring shifted with my swing."
"Is that an equipment problem?"
"No it's why I hate the rings; they sway and you're supposed to try to hold them still while you're doing things that would make them sway." He looked at him. "It's makes it a lot harder than you think." He put his head back down. "Am I foraging or are we nibbling during the meeting?"
"Nibbling during the meeting. Go rest, boss." Xander nodded, going to find a couch and do that. He shook his head, going to check the gym. He tossed Xander's pants on top of him on his way past the office. He answered the door, letting Don inside. "He's down for a nap."
"What did he do this time?" Don asked tolerantly.
"The rings made him a law of physics. He has a headache." Xander leaned out of the office, waving Don that way. "We're nibbling during the meeting."
"Your cook called ours," he agreed happily. "Go enjoy the sunshine, Tony." He went to check on his nephew. "Head?" Xander nodded, relaxing again. "Fell?" Xander nodded again. "You poor thing."
Xander looked at him through slitted eyes. "Love you too, Uncle Don. Why aren't you out scoping bikinis?"
"Uncle Pat said it's time to do something about the people who took your blood." He sat across from him. "I don't know what he's talking about."
"After my last State in diving, that assault was so someone could get my blood," he said quietly. "It had to do with my former hometown. What am I doing about it?" A book was handed over from his pocket. "Hmm. When I don't have a headache. I'm assuming I'm not flying out tonight?"
"Few weeks," Don told him. Xander nodded, closing his eyes again. "I'm gonna go use the pool." Xander waved, getting a grin. "Suits?"
"Go bum one of mine. They won't be that tight on you, Uncle Don. Second drawer in my bedroom." He nodded, going to do that. He heard someone come in and looked at Tony. "Don't ask. It's strange crap that you can't help me with. I get to go kick some ass while I visit some old friends I haven't seen since I was five."
"If you're sure."
"It's strange things like what Grandfather and Sire are," he said, curling up on his side. "That world."
"Then I'll be listening for you to need me and I'll lurk nearby." Xander smiled and nodded, closing his eyes again. "You rest." He left, going to talk to Don. "How strange?"
Don looked at him before diving in, surfacing to look at him. "I'd rather not think about a town where demons run loose and try to take over the world," he said.
"Ah. One of those. That's fine, I'll make sure he's able to be protected." Don grinned swimming off. "He keeps it low chlorine," he offered, heading back to the kitchen. Hopefully he wouldn't have to deal with a lot of that. He called Thomas. "How often am I going to have to deal with things like this new threat?" He smiled, relaxing again. "Thanks, man. Yeah, that's what he and Don said. Swimming. Thanks." He hung up, getting more coffee and deciding to call DC. "Hey, boss. I'm good. We had the open house. Things went well. The guards didn't joke around *all* night. They're doing the foundation's first meeting today. Asleep, he fell practicing his rings. Said he became a law of physics." That got a laugh. "Tell Abby he's very cute when he's sleepy. He mumbles and walks around like he's looking for his teddybear." He told her that, you could tell he was in the lab by the music in the background. "So far it's okay. My apartment's great. The food's fantastic. Cook likes to fuss over us." She swatted him, giving him a look. "You do." The transsexual went back to work. "Anyway, it's been good so far. Thought I'd check in, tell you I'm settled in. All my movies are unpacked." Xander wandered in, giving him a confused look. "Go back to sleep, Xander."
Xander grunted, sitting down next to him to put his head on his shoulder. "Hate nightmares."
"I know you do." He patted him on the back, watching as he fell asleep. He smiled, shaking his head. "Yeah, that was him, boss. He's having some nightmares. Yeah, he is." He told Abby she was right and she giggled. "Anyway, we're okay but I thought I'd check in. How's McGee doing?" He smiled at the 'tolerable, barely'. "It could be a lot worse." He laughed at the 'the new probie is terrible, the director picked him'. "You know you're more than welcome to come down here and be part of my guards, boss. We could use you." Xander looked at him. "Gibbs." Xander shrugged. "I know, you leave that up to me." He nodded, putting his head back on his shoulder. "Want to try your bed instead of my shoulder?" Xander shook his head, making the cook laugh. "No, he's very cuddly, Abby. We're good. We make a good team." Xander nodded. "Even if I do have to complain about the new sports car."
"Horatio said I should get something fast and sleek."
"He did but that's a bit of a dangerous car, especially with the way you drive when you're mad."
"I'll buy a horse and ride to school then," he said with a yawn. "Cook, do we have any..." A chocolate chip muffin was put in front of him. "Love you, Cook. Tell the husband I'm stealing you." He nibbled, slowly drifting off again.
Tony took the rest of the muffin for himself. "Thanks, Cook. Yeah, we have one on staff. Not like I'm going to let Xander cook, boss. I'd hate dying already." He laughed at the shocked silence. "Yes he can poison us all. Very easily."
"He warps food by being in the kitchen," Cook said next to the phone.
"See?" Tony said happily. "Hey, Cook, Don's in the pool." She nodded, going to take him a glass of juice. "So, anything you need me to consult on? You know you can still call me. This job is pretty easy at the moment." He smiled at the 'McGee is filling in all right'. "If you're sure. Remember, you can come down on vacation too. I'll let you get back to work. Have a better day, boss, and remember how long it took you to slap McGee into a decent agent." He hung up, looking down at Xander, then around the kitchen. "You and Gibbs would probably be pretty scary together," he soothed, patting him on the back. Horatio, Speed, and Eric walked in. "We're early?"
"We're on call in case something comes in," Speed said, looking at Xander. "He looks comfy."
"He fell off the rings."
"Ah," Eric said, nodding. "Want help?"
"He can go to Horatio if he wants to change."
Horatio sat down on Xander's other side, stroking over his cheek. "You should be in bed."
"Meeting?" he mumbled.
"Not yet. We're here to suck up and use the pool," Eric teased. Xander flopped a hand and yawned, switching over to lay on Horatio's shoulder. They all smiled at that. "We'll let you nap, Xander. Show us around, Tony?"
"Sure, guys." He refilled his cup, bringing the rest of the muffin with him.
Horatio sat there with Xander cuddled against him, enjoying the peaceful moment. Xander had chosen comfortable chairs for the kitchen table.
Xander looked at the complete board. His head was still throbbing but that was normal after falling that way. "Okay, this is the first meeting of the Patrick Benis Foundation's board. It's mostly the informational meeting. We'll have stuff to do next year around this time." He put a folder onto the table. "This is the foundation's startup paperwork. Don and I are co-chairing it." That got a nod from Don. "The foundation was started with fifteen million for the intention of scholarships. Technically Tony and all the guards here work for the foundation. The money is set into an interest bearing, safe account. We'll be able to run for the next eighty years without any more additions to the current fund. We're here to hand out about ten scholarships a year to worthy college students. Tony's to do the background checks." That got a group of nods. "The only rule I've set down with him was that there will be *no* grants awarded to pedophiles and if they had drug crimes they had to be making a good effort to get over it and move on with a better life." He pushed it over. "There's also paperwork in there for each of you to file with your tax people since you each earn a very small salary for being on the board."
"Dollar?" Speed asked.
"Ten grand a year," Xander told him. That got some appreciative looks. "Not that much but it pays for the travel expenses for these vacation meetings," he said with a small grin. "We also have some other paperwork in there. Grandfather handed over one of his local condos, a former emergency plan place, for the board's use when you're down here for any reason." He found that paperwork and tossed it to Don. "I doubt the local guys will need it outside of an emergency so that's your copy and the key's on the back." Don nodded, looking at it. "It's a four bedroom condo." He looked at Stella. "That means you don't have to sleep with the snoring ones."
"It's not that bad. Duct tape cures that," she assured him.
"Good to know." He looked at the others. "Horatio, for your information because I know you know, the other emergency plans are still in place. For all members of the family. That's one of the reasons Tony works for me and the foundation both. Don, if you wanted it you are more than welcome to have a guard hired for you on the foundation's funds."
"I'm good," he promised, handing Mac the information. "I've got the whole department around me if something happens, plus the emergency plans Sire made up there for me. You know you have ones too, right?"
"Yup, the same as you have an equal one down here," Xander agreed. That got a nod. "Next door to mine, Don. I have the keys if you ever need them."
"That's fine. I got a set for both of mine, you should have the same." He leaned back. "Okay, so we'll be getting scholarship applications?"
Xander pulled out a form. "This is the application. It's got an information section, a grade/college section, and an essay. I say we grade it mostly on the essays. I'm not sure if we should make it tipped toward those who have more financial need or not. That'll be the board's first vote. Technically the foundation starts upon my graduation. We'll be deciding about February or early March of next year on who gets the scholarships and announce them that May. After that we can announce them sooner. We'll decide on that and doing it personally or in the press or not. That's a later discussion." Eric nodded, making notes. It was his job to take notes from the meeting. "The last point of this meeting is to let you know that when my grandfather does die, there will be an increase in the foundation's funds. Also in the duties. We'll be handling research grants, grants to places like shelters, both gay and straight, male and female, and we'll also be meddling mildly in political affairs in New York and Florida for things like adoptions, civil unions or marriages, those things. I'm not foreseeing a lot of meddling but making our position clear, possibly endorsing a candidate sometime soon. Things of that nature. I would be the louder one on that since strong emotions are meant for the young. That way if I get into trouble you guys can publically spank me for it." That got a small smirk from Mac. "Or possibly in person, not really sure about that."
Don smirked at him. "Oh, you'll get it if you get arrested for anything other than protesting a very good cause, nephew."
"Gladly." He handed over paperwork to those it needed to go to. "First vote is are we tipping the scales in favor of those with financial need over those who can get more financial aid?"
"I think we'd naturally tip it that way so adding additional tipping would be unnecessary," Mac said. "I know Stella and Speed probably would. I would." That got a nod. "So I'd say no."
"I'm going to agree," Stella said. "I'd naturally tip it that way. We'll all tip it toward those who need it to get out of bad situations."
"Then can we declare it defeated?" Eric asked. "Anyone in favor?" No one said anything. "Okay." He wrote that down. "Next point was.... When we have the meetings?"
"Most schools need you to have funding in place by March or April," Horatio said. He considered it. "I'd say we meet late February or early March. Pre-spring break. I know that's a rush time for those of us locally but I'm sure we can spare one afternoon."
"Hopefully," Speed agreed. "How about we get to look them over before the meeting? A few weeks before we gather them all together. Whichever city they're gathered in can get them first, then ship them down to us, who'll read them over. We'll make a list and argue about it at the meeting?"
"That'll work for us," Mac agreed. "Which city are they going to?" Xander pointed at Don. Mac looked at Don, then at Stella. "That work for you? We start that a month in advance?"
"Cutoff date for submissions is December," Xander told them. "The last day of the year, has to be postmarked by then. That'd give you a month to read them over. I'm not expecting that may applications. Maybe thirty or so."
"Which could conceivably be a day off's reading," Stella agreed. "Who's gathering?" Xander pointed at Don again. "Okay. You have a PO Box set up?" Don nodded. "Did you know this before that?"
"I got told last night and got given the keys and address," he admitted dryly. "I'll collect, read, hand 'em on after the cut-off date, you guys read, hand off, whichever has it last sends it down here. Or hand it over if there's a crossover case about then. You guys read, we all get together for lunch and discuss, then Tony does background checks? If there's a problem with one, we do a quick phone vote or something?"
"That was my idea," Xander agreed. "I asked, he said it'd take him a week at most to do ten to fifteen not-terribly deep background checks. I don't want to delve into their personal life. Just check the status of being a criminal, if they're immigrants that status, those things. Two of the guards on staff have similar experiences so if something happens they can fill in for him." That got nods. "Is that a reasonable plan?" Everyone nodded. "Then Don's idea stands. Hey, Cook, is lunch done yet?" She brought out the rolling cart full of plates. "Lunch for those who didn't get it yet," he said with a grin. She handed it over. "Thank you, dear." She went back inside. "When's a good time to meet statistically speaking? Do you guys get heavily hit during the first of the month or the last week of the month?"
"Last week of the month is better on our end," Mac said, looking at Don, who nodded at that. "Horatio?"
"That would work for us. Take a weekend off to do this. You guys can fly down, we'll pop over."
"Xander can blow off his fans for a weekend," Eric teased.
"I'll be doing some work during spring break this year. I'm hoping to tempt a lot of the kids to buy leather so my taint spreads," he said happily. Horatio gave him a look. "I've been asked to do a new campaign and we are doing it outside. He's already arranged it with the Chief's office. He thought it'd be a nice, calm place during spring break so the kids wouldn't be drunk. Someone was also thinking about a charity street fair down by one of the beaches for the kids to go to. My friends at the ASPCA and a few other places liked that idea. I'd be on the ride selection committee. That way nothing would be *too* lame or too outrageous for the local parents."
"That would drive the department nuts," Speed complained. "We're already going into overtime during most spring breaks."
"They were thinking private security," Xander told him. "No drugs or alcohol sales allowed. No being drunk there. As far as I know they'd let officers moonlight for extra cash as well. That would be up to whoever they hired to do security. We'd only ask for a few officers to oversee and they could be on the injured or desk job list." That got a small smile from Horatio. "Those guys get bored and need the cash too."
"They do. The pound and who?"
"The Children's hospital, another hospital, the foster care shelter. Nothing too risque or that could polarize the audience. So far the pound's the most controversial one there because they do put animals down but we've invited the local no-kill shelters to join us as well."
"Didn't we shut down one of those?" Eric asked Horatio, who nodded.
"They were living in filth, a few were starving. The other shelters are *much* better," Xander told him. "Speaking of, I'm getting pets next weekend," he called. He dug into his lunch, eating a few bites.
"I'll make sure you have a big car and an escort so you don't bring them all home," Tony called from the kitchen, leaning out. "Are we funding that one guy's allergy pills?" Xander nodded. "Thanks, boss." He went back inside. He came back out. "Dogs, cats, or otherwise?"
"Probably a few dogs, maybe a few cats," Xander offered. Horatio gave him an odd look. "I like animals."
"Indoor or outdoor cats?" he asked. Mac snickered quietly. He probably had the 'scared boyfriend' look but it was one of those things they'd have to work out.
"I'd be okay with outdoor cats as long as they were well taken care of, had their flea medicine, and were tagged and collared. It's nice to have lap cuddlers though."
"One dog, two cats?" Horatio suggested.
"If I must."
"To start, please. Remember, you do have the guard dogs."
"I can't jog or cuddle with the guard dogs," Xander said, smirking at him.
"We'll see," Horatio told him. "I'll go with you."
"Okay, we can do that," he agreed happily, making Tony walk inside happier as well. "Okay, back to business. The meeting is set for the last weekend in February, right?" Eric nodded. "Anything else to decide on that?"
"If Uncle Pat's still around I'll be with him that year," Don offered, looking at Mac and Stella. "You two can have the condo or crash here."
"Want us to move tonight?" Stella asked.
"No," he scoffed. "It's too quiet sometimes. I'm still getting used to living on my own." That got some smiles. "I don't have Sire complaining about things or Grandfather trying to sweet talk him into doing things with him. I don't have anyone complaining about me being evil or my naked butt in ads or anything. You two are staying."
"If you want us to," Mac promised. "How are you doing?"
"We've been here a week. I've already preset all the radios in the house that're mine. Had the family party, had the party last night. Next weekend it'll be the gymnastics team since our gym's being sprayed and we'll need practice before the school championships. That brings up a point, am I announcing the foundation and the scholarship or just sending out a letter to colleges across the US and putting it on scholarship finder sites?"
"Would announcing it look bad?" Horatio asked.
Xander shrugged. "Everyone knows Grandfather's been in ill health and basically everyone thinks he's been holding on until I could take over. I would say it was because his health is getting more precarious. I've got the scholarship announcement Gordon and I worked up in there somewhere," he said, nodding at the folder. He ate another bite. "Eat, people; she'll cry and I hate eating in front of others." They dug in.
Mac found the announcement. "Only gay men?"
"I wouldn't be adverse to extending it to the entire GLBT community but Grandfather only worked with gay men."
"Let's be inclusive," Stella agreed. "Anyone mind?" No one said anything and Eric made notes. Xander found another copy and handed it over. "He didn't mind?"
"No, he said I'm much more involved than he had been when he first came out. Back then lesbians had their own organizations and so did gay men. They still do but there's more crossover now. He was considering making another scholarship fund for abused men to go back to school. That may come after his death and may or may not go through this board. He hasn't divulged that secret yet. Or where he gets the really good bakery cookies he pulls out when I win gold." He ate another bite, weathering the laughter. "If we can approve that one today I'll have it sent out with an announcement to the various colleges and universities across the country plus all the grant finder sites."
"I know you were talking about research grants?" Horatio asked.
"That's a later application, right now we're focusing on scholarships. That's what Grandfather wanted. It's a gentle introduction into the good works he does. Later on we'll get into the abused men/shelter stuff he does, the research, all that stuff. I'm told he's got plans but I do not know what. It's part of his will." That got nods. "That's one I asked him about too." He finished his lunch. "I do spank hard if you don't eat lunch, people. I hate to see either Cook cry." They went back to eating, passing on the informational blurb. "Anyone not like it?" No one said anything. "We can take a head nod vote." Everyone nodded. Eric made notes. "Okay. Do we make a formal announcement?" That got a mass shrug. "Don?"
"I'll let you do it. I've got to handle a few idiots first. They're gonna say something so I'm gonna stick my foot up their asses first."
"I can wait for a week if you need me to," Xander offered with a grin.
"Should be more than enough time," he agreed dryly, smirking back.
"If you do have to kick tail, let me know," Mac ordered. "That way I can help."
"Ooh, me too," Stella said with a sweet, gentle smile.
"Sure, guys. We can gather Danny to cheerlead and all that." Xander snickered. "He'll look good in the uniform, won't he?"
Horatio moaned, holding his head. "I did not need that mental image, Don."
"Sorry," he said, not meaning it.
"According to Gibbs, apologizing is a sign of weakness," Tony called from the kitchen.
"No, that one he needed to apologize for before we tell Danny," Stella called back. "You can advise us, Tony. You don't have to hide."
He came out with folders. "I'm looking over the K-9 applications," he admitted. "We've only got the one right now. I'm hiring two more, one for each guard shift." Xander looked over his arm. "We don't need drug, right?"
"Not unless someone sneaks shit in," Xander agreed. "People sniffing. Reporter, thief, bigot sniffing preferably."
"Reporters and bigots smell like normal people, Xander," Speed pointed out.
"I know and it's a pity," he said dryly. "Can't I go blow up the local office again? They're trying to reform and they got the house's number. They had someone across the road taking pictures last night."
"We had them arrested," Tony promised. "Peter did it." He looked at him. "Remember, that's why you have me."
"That and the stupid bitch," he agreed. He looked at them. "By the way, my stalker's death count is at least sixteen now. She blew up ten in the first explosion at their headquarters and gutted a young woman who said I was cute and was drooling over my picture. Horatio?"
"We can't prove it was her personally, Xander. She could be hiring someone."
"Her mother has got to know," Tony said. "I had Gibbs go talk to her. She said it's a harmless little crush. He pointed out she was linked to, but we couldn't formally prove fully enough to charge, fifteen deaths at the time. She insists it's a harmless crush."
"Can the FBI have her?" Mac asked.
"Not enough proof they were linked," Horatio admitted. "I checked to see since we have such close ties to Xander. They've got too many already and with the lack of proof it's going to be an open case for them." That got an understanding nod from everyone.
"Gibbs suggested a sniper," Tony said, shrugging a bit. "Now and then I think it's not such a bad idea. Oh, Horatio, did you want us to handle hate mail and those things in- house as we have been or did you want us to hand them over?"
"If you can handle them in-house, go ahead," he said, looking at him. "Already?"
"The guy from South Dakota started again from his hospital room in the mental hospital." He got back to work separating out what he needed. He did hesitate over a few. "Bomb would be good to have." Xander nodded. So he put them into the 'maybe' pile. He looked at one and put him into the 'no' pile. He knew him, he didn't take orders well. "We'll work on the wording for the press announcement later," he told them. "That way he can fax or email it to you guys for authorization. What else is in the folder?"
Speed finished his lunch and opened it to see. "Information packets?"
"Oh, website," Xander said, looking at Don. "It was suggested by the foundation's lawyer?"
"I don't know jack about websites," he admitted.
"Me either. Really. Only a little bit from class now and then." Tony smacked him on the head. "And a bit of hacking I learned off a guy I was tutoring in Latin." He looked at Tony. "Gee, thanks."
"Welcome," he said with a bright smile, making Stella giggle. "We had to have a *long* talk about what he actually knew how to do so I could trust him to take care of himself now and then." Xander gave him a look. "Otherwise you'd be wearing the bodyguard suit every single day, even in class."
"If she breaks into my school I'm siccing the girls' team on her," Xander said dryly. "They're all rabid this week. Oh, they're coming over next weekend."
"I heard. Told Cook. She'll make a good, diet conscious, but tasty lunch for them. They can play in the pool later and all that stuff probably." Xander nodded. "Good." He finished his sorting, leaning back to go through his maybe pile. "Guys, eat. He'll nag if you don't," he said without looking. They finished up and stacked the plates and glasses off to the side. "Cook?" She came out to gather them, bringing dessert and Cuban coffee. "Thanks, love," he said when he got given some.
"You're much too skinny. No wonder no woman holds onto you for long. You slip through her fingers like butter." She went back inside.
"Can you do that to my stalker?" Xander asked. "I'll lose some weight."
Tony looked at him. "I've had one, no thanks." He went back to looking, eating bites of his cake. "Do you guys want an informational website put up?"
"Soon but not at this time," Don decided. Everyone nodded. "Let's wait. It'll be plenty of places." Xander crossed out the 'see ...(link) for more information' line in the web briefing. "Maybe Xan can use the designing for credit in a class or something."
"No computer classes this year or next," Xander said happily. "I love being on the jock track. I have a lot less homework." They all laughed. "I do. I did all my English book reports for this semester over the summer. It means I get a nap right after lunch." He looked at Horatio. "Anything you were thinking of adding?"
"No, that covers all the points I remember you outlining to yourself the other night during dinner." That got some smiles and Speed gave him an odd look. He coughed. "Xander and Peter broke up last night," he announced.
"Can we bury him now?" Eric asked. "That way he doesn't try to play dominant top for anyone else?"
"Some people need that sort of treatment," Tony pointed out. "Xander's not one." He finished his cake and started on his coffee. "Cake's very sweet and the icing is starting to melt, guys." They dug in, eating their desserts while he read. "Modeling schedule, Xander?"
"Yours or the city-wide one that lasts a month?"
"Near the street fair." He grinned. "We're doing an outdoor shoot."
Tony looked at him. "I'll make sure the PD is augmented by your own people. That way you're not snatched to Saudi Arabia or somewhere in Asia." He went back to reading, making a mental note to call someone about that. "When was I going to know?"
"When the details were finalized. That's the thing we've got to go to after school on Tuesday."
"That's reasonable." He looked at him, handing him one of the applications. Xander looked and laughed, handing it over to Horatio, who let out a small laugh, handing it to Mac. "I think it's good they want to come guard Sacred personally to make sure he stays that way. I'm wondering if that's why she submitted two." He took that one back, handing off the new one.
"Either she's got a good sense of humor or she's a mini-stalker," Eric said, handing it on, making Horatio growl. "Sorry, H. We know you like the kid."
"Yes, he does," Stella agreed, taking it from Speed, bypassing Don. Who snatched it with a frown. "Do we have any information on his personal stalker?" Tony got up and came out with a folder. "Ours?"
"That's a copy, you guys can make your own in the office." That got nods and they passed it around. "Don, do I need to hire you a guard?"
"No, I'm okay with the department around me," he said, taking the information to look over. "She was at some social event in New York last month. I saw her in the paper."
"Probably looking for one of us," Xander said grimly. "Any idea if she's at the snapping point yet, Tony?"
"Not yet but it's getting closer to an all or nothing campaign. Which we will catch her for."
"The more she works the more likely it is we'll catch her," Horatio reminded him.
Tony looked at him. "We hope so. Xander's had to have some special 'don't come near me' arrangements made for his next social thing."
"A bodyguard should help," Xander agreed. "Want to go, Horatio?"
"Those things bore me."
"Me too but I have to go now and then. So does Don," Xander reminded him, getting a grimace. "You can go be admired for being pretty, Don."
"Yay me. Monkey suits suck," he said grimly.
"I'm taking Xander and you both where I got my last one, the local store," Tony told him, looking over the forms. "They made me look very hot and I get drooled on all the time. That'll make it more fun."
"Some of the older women down here pinch," Mac warned Don.
"Yes, they do," Stella said dryly, sipping her coffee. Horatio snickered. "They didn't pinch you?"
"They didn't want to insult Xander." That got a knowing smile. Speed gave him another look, Eric too. "We decided to make a go of it last night," he admitted quietly.
"We're definitely taking a copy of that file back with us to brief all the detectives and the Chief," Speed decided. Eric nodded. "Just in case she decides you're a rival."
"She doesn't often pick on the guys," Xander told him. "There's been any number of male admirers in society but she's only picked on the women so far. If she goes after him I figure we'll be getting closer to the snapping 'mine or nothing' point."
"It's being a proper society wife," Tony agreed. "You can have a male lover on the side but it's her job to bear the heir and be on your arm at events." He looked at him. "Speaking of heirs... Do you think you could store some sperm somewhere, just in case? It got suggested by Gordon last night."
"I did when I was sixteen," he said, looking confused.
"She broke it out, Xander. Please? That's coming from the fussy elder couple."
"Sure. I'll make an appointment if they haven't," he agreed quietly. That got a smile and a nod. "We're still waiting a while on heirs."
"Thank you," Horatio said. Xander grinned. "At least until you're twenty-one?"
"If I can. Grandfather's been jonsing for baby loves and cuddles again," he admitted, giving him a sad smile. "He was staring at my baby book last weekend. He didn't get to hold me until I was five and I was a little shit by then."
"His original plan was hiring a surrogate to carry it and giving you partial custody," Tony said, looking at him again. "I convinced him it was better to wait until after you had graduated or else your grades would plummet and then you'd be kicked off the team, which he would hate with how he brags about you," he finished quietly. Xander nodded. "You knew?"
"Yeah, I talked him out of it too. I reminded him doing it that way meant I'd kill her and take my child." That got a grin. "So he'll wait until a better time for me to have a great- grandchild for him and he'd better be around to see it."
"Xander," Don started.
"He's got a few years left, Uncle Don." He stared him down. "He wants a baby, he can wait until I'm at least twenty. That's what we decided. Barring the stalker doing something stupid and evil, it'll happen. It might not go far past that but I'll have him that long. Though, if I'm in a non-bearing relationship at the time I would be asking to use a professional surrogate and mommy. Sire suggested I get drunk and go sleep with the society hos. That way they'd have better kids." Horatio coughed, shaking his head. "I told him no. I'd never sleep with the disease patrol. I couldn't be sure what I'd pick up from them."
"That...that is a much later discussion topic," Horatio told him
"I know. How's Maddy?"
"The new treatment is working much better," he said, smiling at him. "Her doctors are much more optimistic at the moment. Yelina has decided that Suzy needed adopted as well. Ray's happy he has a sister in both of them." Tony tossed over a diskette. "What's this?"
"The background I did on you came up with something you should see," Tony said, still reading. "I'd do that today and then call the number I have for you."
"I'll do that in a few minutes. Was it related to Suzy?"
"Nope," he said, looking at him. "Not quite." Horatio nodded, getting up to go read it in Xander's office. "So, guys. How are you enjoying your first board meeting?"
"So far it's been okay," Speed said, shrugging a bit. "Eric?"
"It's been good so far. I'm wondering what Wolfe and Calleigh are up to since they're both clear."
"If they needed us, we'd hear about it," Speed assured him. He looked at Mac. "How's your city?"
"Good. Same as usual. Loud, crowded, messy now and then."
Don looked around then at Xander. "Are you getting a horse to ride around here?"
"I need to jog. Otherwise I'll get a big butt from all the sweets I eat and no one will want to stare at my prettiness," Xander quipped, grinning at him. "Besides, I can ride, I can ride pretty well, but I loathe polo."
"That's a good, romantic date," Speed said, looking at Xander.
"Polo? How is competing a romantic date."
Eric bopped him on the arm. "Riding, Xander. A long ride, a picnic, some cuddling?" he prompted.
Xander beamed. "I know. I have that planned for his next weekend off if he wanted to go." Horatio stomped out. "Problems?"
"Many but not with you." He looked at Tony. "Number?" He pulled it out of his pants pocket, handing it over. "Thank you." He looked. "Fornell?"
"Deputy Director Fornell. He and Gibbs piss each other off repeatedly." He looked at him. "I figured you'd want to know first so you can figure out what to tell the scary ones."
"I'll buy them bats and let them have him," Horatio said bluntly, heading back inside.
"Use the house phone," Xander called. "Not like I can't afford a phone bill." He looked at them. "He likes the food of the place I'm thinking of and it'll be a good weekend, Eric. I promise," he said with a smile. "Okay? I'm not going to be mean to him."
"Good. We'd hate to make Don take over," Speed said bluntly.
Don nodded. "I'd hate that too. Uncle Pat would sob and make sure there was an heir to be raised, probably by giving me incentive to marry Stella here since he's got a crush on her, still, and would think it'd be good for the baby." Stella gave him an odd look. "He'd try. He already suggested it."
"I'm not ready for kids yet, Don."
He grinned. "Wouldn't be you having it."
"Yeah, that still won't work." Horatio came back out to hand Tony the number back, heading back inside. "Do we need to help?"
Tony looked at her. "The Feds have been messing in Miami again, and I found out about their plans. He's going to eat someone. But hey, maybe Patrick or Sire could use a good meal or six. The one I'm thinking of is bloated and probably has enough for six meals. After Fornell guts him we can probably gather a lot of blood for them." He patted Xander on the back. "He'll be growling soon."
Xander walked inside, getting into the sacred candy bar stash. He walked out to where Horatio was listening and pacing, getting in his way, offering him the chocolate. "Because you need it." Horatio smiled and kissed him, making him grin back. "Can I help?" He shook his head. "You sure?"
"Protect my family if it comes down to it."
"If it comes down that far, you can have Tony and the whole staff here. We'll kidnap the entire family here. Ray Junior might do good in gymnastics or diving." Horatio smiled at that so he left. "Tony, do we need emergency plans for Horatio?"
"We can amend yours or kidnap his whole family here," he said, grinning at him. "Already worked it out, boss. The same as we have for everyone else here in the family. Relax, that's my job." Xander nodded, sitting down again. "Did you give him more of the band candy?"
"No, I broke into the holy store of Swiss stuff."
Tony smiled. "Holy?"
"The other Cook always told me chocolate was holy," he said with a grin. "When a bodyguard gave me drugs in them once I told them it had made it unholy because it tasted bad."
"How old were you?" Don teased.
"Six. They had made me OD on my ADHD drugs that day." That got a wince. "Four days of dosage later and after being abandoned in a park, which Speed found me during, I said it was unholy."
"What did happen to him?" Speed asked.
Xander grinned. "He came in that night screaming and ranting in my room until Sire forced him out of the house, kicked him out of the family. He ended up cutting his throat."
"So that's how you met him," Eric said, grinning at Speed. "I wondered."
"His bodyguard told him to wait on a bench in the park. He flagged me down when he got bored," he said, smiling at the boy. "Horatio handled it and called Gordon. He got taken to the ER." Xander nodded. "Four doses?"
"Yeah even one of the neighbors dosed me."
"So was she when Sire went to chew on her," Xander said dryly.
"Literally?" Don asked.
"Not sure but she never accused our female guard dog of knocking up her bulldog again." That got a few laughs. "They were ugly too. Some Chinese crested up the street mated with it. They were ugly puppies. Not even Grandfather could find something nice to say about them." Horatio came back out. "Can I help now?"
"No, it'll be worked out," he promised, smiling at him. "Thank you, Tony."
"Welcome, Horatio. Oh, Ducky's coming down on a vacation in a week. Expect him to come see your ME to check in with her. He knows all the ME's in the world it seems like."
"I'll tell her, see if she knows him," he agreed, smiling at Xander. "Thank you for breaking into the Swiss stash for me, Xander."
"You needed it."
"Do you still have band candy from last year?" Eric asked. Xander nodded. "I'm proud."
"I made myself sick," Xander admitted. The others laughed. "He looked at me like I was gymnastics God, of course I bought candy from him. I'm susceptible to that sort of adoration."
"We all are," Horatio agreed. He looked at Mac. "He drove up to a scene some of us were on and parked, got out, walked over, glanced at us. Then stuck a case of chocolate bars in the back of my hummer before walking away and telling me to share."
"H made him hand over another three since he bought five cases," Eric said. Mac snickered at that.
"Uncle Pat told me to take some with me," Don said, leaning back some. "So, we done or are we handling more issues?"
"Not if we're not doing the website this year," Xander said, checking his mental agenda. "Nope. I'll be done with gymnastics for the year by then since I'm not going to individual states."
"Why not?" Speed asked.
"Because we all agreed I'm not good enough to make the olympics so why take the spot of someone who is? I'm a good gymnast. I'm not a great gymnast." Horatio gave him a look. "The guys who're great are tons better. I can't compete with them. I'd rather lead the team to two more state championships and quietly train my replacement for next year."
That got a nod. "I can understand that but you could try."
"Even the coaches at Nationals last year told me that, Horatio. They should know. We had two olympic judges there." That got a nod. "I asked." He got a pat on the back. "So, if we're done, go have fun, come for dinner. Don, the grandparents are coming over for dinner so you might as well go back to playing in the pool or go look at the ocean. I'm going to go back to my post-crash headache." He got up, heading inside.
"He did what?" Stella asked.
"Crashed while working on the rings," Tony said. "Around noon." He put another profile back into the folder. At this rate he wasn't going to find anyone to fill the two remaining spots. "Any local K-9 officers retiring with their dogs, Horatio? Or you, Mac?"
"I can ask," he promised. Tony smiled and nodded. "No one?"
"No one who's going to work *with* the rest of us. A lot of loners, which I guess is typical, but we need a cohesive family sort of team around here. Gibbs told me it was slim pickings."
"Can you train one or two of the other guards to go into K-9?" Horatio asked. "That's how we pick ours."
"That's a lot of training. I'd rather do that for the second round," Tony admitted. "Even one more would be helpful. Then they could help train one of the others."
"What about the dog breeders? They might know someone," Stella offered.
"That's who Gibbs got the list from," he said, grinning at him. "I'll figure it out." She nodded, smiling at his sureness. "Before then I've got to take both Don and Xander where I go shopping for tuxes so they can look as hot as I do in mine." He stood up. "Want to wake him?"
"Nope," Don said smugly. "He bites."
"I know," Tony said dryly. "Had to wake him up for class Thursday."
"Everyone else calls from the doorway," Horatio advised.
"I'll do that next time and duck the clock." Horatio looked at him. "Not me. Thomasin." He walked off happier. He really was going to have to fix Xander's wardrobe. Otherwise he'd go to social events in leather and then he'd be taken by his stalker...or someone. Plenty of those matrons wanted Xander from what he had seen. He didn't want to create one of those mass panics or an event that would make the PD have to shut down society. It would get their funding and donations cut horribly if he did that.
Xander walked down into junior high territory, finding his replacement sulking at a test he had taken. "You have to keep your grades up if you're going to be me, Ricky." He looked then nodded. "Jock average is 'C'. You can do that with that."
"My parents will kill me."
"Then do better. The whole team and you are coming to my place this weekend. That way we can work on the school championships and you can get a head start on practice for next year." The boy gaped. "Yes, I have one at the new house. You're coming. Unless you don't want to be on the team?" He nodded quickly. "Good. Then you bring yourself. We'll hold tryouts for the others after championships since only a few girls are qualified to go individual this year. Come over Saturday morning at ten." He walked off. "If you need directions, see me Friday." He went to his gym, looking at everyone. He whistled, getting looks. "Due to the spraying going on this weekend, we are *all* meeting at my place this Saturday, ten o'clock, for team practice. I have the full set up there, even for you ladies since I like to play around with your uneven bars. Well, everything but a balance beam so someone bring it. My cook will do lunch so don't worry about it. I did invite Ricky so we can get him a head start on dealing with being my replacement since Chad's so quiet. Any complaints?" He didn't pause. "I thought not."
"I have a wedding this weekend," one of the senior girls noted.
"Yours?" the coach asked.
"My sister's. I'm maid of honor. Can I come over Sunday instead, Xander? Or just late since it's at noon?" He nodded. "Thanks." She went back to her stretching. "When are we doing tryouts? I got asked earlier."
"After state," the coach said. "Only some of you girls are eligible for individual this year." That got a nod. "How big is your gym?"
"I renovated a former school back to the house it used to be," he said smugly. "I kept the old gym and simply updated. I did the same thing to the pool so if you guys wanted to goof off after practice in it, bring suits." They smiled and nodded. "Good. Now, who'm I torturing today since it looks like Chad's sitting out?"
"Work on our show off portion, Benis. After you change." Xander went to do that, coming out in jogging shorts and a t-shirt. "No uniform?"
"In the wash," he said dryly. "I forgot to do anything but sheets. Sorry, coach. They'll be done this afternoon." He looked at the girls. "Too bad Mercy's graduated. Who's my bitch this year?" Two of the girls waved. "Come on then. What're we doing?"
"Floor," they said. They were twins.
Xander grinned. "That'll work. How showy do you two want to make it?"
"A double routine with simultaneous tumbling runs?" one suggested.
"If you two crash I'm going to kill you both," the coach assured them.
"We'll work on it," they giggled. They ran over to the floor mat to get to work, letting Xander watch and help. They liked to show off, they were fifteen-year-old girls. He could match their brilliance. Or join in to play with them. He came out to challenge them, walking them off when they beat his moves, one on each side of him, making most of the girls' team coo. "We'll work on it Saturday." They nodded, going back to their practice while he went to deal with the rings. "I hate these things." He let the coach help him up and hung there until his shoulder gave then he winced and dropped. "I hate that injury." He walked off, going to get an ice pack. "It's only a strain."
The coach gave him a stare. "If you're that injured, you're sitting out next weekend."
"No I'm not. I went a few years back with a fractured arm and made nationals. I won't need it for diving the same way I do in here. It's only a sprain." Chad reached over to smack him hard on the good shoulder. "Hey!"
"They can't have us both injured."
"They won't. I'll be fine." He stared him down. "I'm not that badly off, Chad. I've sprained this shoulder so many times it's not funny. I sprained it back when I was diving. I sprained it when I first started to learn. Every time I sprain my shoulder it gets me cranky to prove I'm not getting that old. I know this is a sport for young teens and I'm not one anymore. It'll be fine until I go back to diving. Okay?" He nodded, still frowning. "Now, what's wrong with yours?"
"One of the pins shifted."
"Docs said what?"
"One of the pins shifted," he said grimly. "To rest it for a bit." Xander gave him an odd look then went to the office to call someone. He came out with a number and a date. "Who's this?"
"An orthopedist Grandfather put through college. He's one of the best in the city. Take your records over for a second opinion. If it's giving you that sort of trouble, you'll have to retire. You have a brighter future than I do, even injured." Chad sniffled and nodded, going to call his parents in the office. He sat down with his ice pack again. "Give me a few, coach. Let the pain die. Oh, during spring break," he announced. "I'm doing an outdoor shoot. Also, there's talk of a street fair during that time. I'm on the entertainment committee. It is a charity event for a few hospitals and the pound. It will be alcohol and drug free so it'll be a safe place for the college kids and you guys." That got some smiles. "So if you know any rides...."
"There's a surge of bands in the area during that time," Xander pointed out. "Since it's a charity event we were going to go during the day into the early evening. We're talking about some fireworks maybe. There will be security officers and PD people present to make sure it's drug and alcohol free." That got some smiles. "It's to give the college kids something to do besides screw and drink. It's for a few good causes so I'll be putting up announcements soon. If you'd like to join us it's a small entrance fee and ticket fees are going to be reasonable. Like the knight's event I hosted a few years ago," he finished with a grin, making some of them laugh. "Please tell others. It does benefit the pound, a few no-kill shelters, and a few hospitals, including the children's hospital."
"We've seen you going in there recently," the coach said, staring him down.
"A friend's niece is up on oncology," he said quietly. That got a smile. "I was tested but didn't match for donating to her." That got a nod and he walked off. The swelling went down and the pain stopped eventually so he got back to practice. He really hated the rings. They were quickly getting higher on his shit list than his stalker was.
Xander looked over as Ricky was let into the gym by Cook. "You're early. Come stretch." He nodded and the kid came over. "Go change. The bathroom's marked, Ricky. You can leave your bag on the risers." That got a nod and he went to do that. He looked over as someone else came in. "Hi. You are?"
"That's fine. I'm Xander, captain of the gymnastics team, both sides since they didn't pick a female head this time. Ricky's changing and we're going to work on him so he can make the team. I need replaced."
"I don't want him exposed to any funny stuff."
Xander stared at him then stood up. "Sir, I hate to tell you this, but most pedophiles say they're straight when asked," he said bluntly. He looked stunned. "So said the FBI. I can also tell you I'm dating someone. I'm in a very serious relationship with him. He's a great guy who's often helped end a few pedophiles' careers. Your son has more chance of being molested by a scout leader than he does in an organized sport. Also, most gay men are gay men and are after other gay men. The ones who aren't aren't *gay*. They're sick, depraved beings who prey on innocence. I've worked a long time to put that theory to rest. For that matter, what makes you think he's not as likely to be abused by a female since more boys are statistically speaking?"
The father swallowed. "You hear these things."
"Ninety percent of all pedophiles still identify themselves as straight," he said firmly. "There's a big difference, no matter how much NAMBLA and those sort try to say that they're gay. We hate them. We want to kill them. I've got my own personal vendetta against them. Your son is perfectly safe here. Besides the fact that he's straight, and therefore more likely to be abused by a *female*. Like the regular gym teacher for the junior high. We've all had doubts but no evidence. That's why she's got cameras in her room," he said more quietly. "You're still more than welcome to watch. I don't care. My cook can feed you lunch too." Ricky peeked out. "Come on, stretch. It's important; otherwise you get injured."
"Yes, Xander." He came over to look at the bar then at him. "You use ballet stretches?"
"It helps with my knee. When I was about your age I broke my left leg in fifteen places. I learned how to stick a dismount and judge my relative speed much better." That got a wince from the father. "It happens. Shoes off on the mats. Only gym shoes in here." He waved a hand. "You can use the floor if you want." Some of the girls bounced in. "Ladies, you remember Ricky? The one I'm turning into the next me? Help him stretch please." He walked over to check the chalk stash, getting another box out. The coach and Chad carried in a small beam. "Put it over there, there's accessory pads," Xander called, pointing. "We can rearrange the bars later for the girls." That got a nod from the coach. He pointed at the seats and the parent went to watch from there. He looked around, frowning and moving something. "Sorry, I had to move that earlier to shift a mat. Now we have a vault runway and the wall behind it is padded in case you stumble." That got some laughs. "Everyone else? I will beat my boys if they're not here."
"They're coming," Chad called. He smiled. "Thanks for the rec, Xander."
"Did it help?"
"He said he can have the pin shifted back or replaced. My doc didn't think so. So I'll be off again this summer."
"Do it this spring. The homework will give you something to do in the hospital. I always needed something to do." He looked around then up. "Stretch." The others were let in, all but one senior. "Where's Ty?"
"No clue," the coach said. "I tried his house, no answer."
Xander went to call him from the foyer. "Hi, Ty's mom. Where's Ty? We're holding practice at my house today since the gym's being fumigated." He listened then blinked. "Really? Huh. Thanks for telling us that. Tell him I hope he does well there." He hung up, walking back into the gym area. "Whoever was smoking crack and meth with Tyler, I'd get clean before they test us for State. I will kill if we lose our medals due to that." The coach gave him a horrified look. "He's in rehab as of last night, when his mother found him smoking meth. She just got up." That got a nod. "Maybe we should have the 'no necking at state' speech again this time too?"
"On the bus up," he agreed. "Go practice. How's the shoulder?"
"Fine." He went to his bitch, the high bar. He deserved a treat. He finished his favorite routine and landed, grimacing. "REBECCA! QUIT MOVING THE PADS IN HERE WHEN YOU CLEAN!" he bellowed. He shifted the equipment with help and moved the pads back into place. "Check the other stuff, guys." They did that, shifting a few more pads back into place. He sighed in pleasure, getting up to dismount again. This time it felt right. "Okay. Ricky, my clone, where do you want to start?"
"That looks ...hard."
"It's not. I learned physics falling off a few times. You're better in science than I was so you won't fall as often as I did." The coach walked off snickering while Xander got him up there. "Okay, how's your grip?" He winced. "Come down. Just drop." He dropped. Xander got him his spare hand grips, letting him see how they went on. "Chalk them like you would a pool cue." He did that, then Xander helped him back up. "Now, swing." He gave him a push. "Go all the way around." The kid did. "Good, that's the first, basic move. Everything else comes off that one. Do it again, keep going until it feels right." He did that, letting Xander coach him until he got him to the point where he was switching directions overhand while doing a handstand on top of the bar. "Good! Now, flip around the bar twice then let go and aim your feet at the floor." He did that and he caught the kid when he stumbled. "Congrats! You did a baby gymnastics routine and a dismount." He beamed. "Give it a year and you'll be doing complicated, senior team routines and dismounts." He got him out of the way, showing off a bit. He landed on his feet then held his arms up. "This way the judges know you're done. Got it?" He nodded. "Good."
"Do we get to play on the balance beam?"
"No, we get the pommel horse instead and it's a lot less fun," Xander told him, walking him that way. He patted it. "You use the whole thing but you do use the grips. Get up there, straddling it for now, until you get used to how it feels." He did that, grimacing at the width. "Jeremy?" He came over. "Let him show you how it's done. I'm sucky here. I want you to be better rounded than I am." He helped the kid down, letting Jeremy show him what you do on a pommel horse. The kid looked awed. "It's not that hard. It's all upper body strength and inertia."
"I heard you had an answer about that last year," one of the girls called.
"The geology teacher asked what the stop at the end of inertia is called. I said it was called ow. Which it is." That got a lot of laughs. "Okay, Ricky, go up there, let's see if you can do the same sort of handstand on the handles." He helped him back up, watching as he went up, but his arms were shaky. "It's all right, we all build the right sort of muscles as we move on." He helped him down. "Now, mount like Jeremy did." He did that, resting on the end, hands braced. "Stretch backwards, going parallel to the horse." He did that, holding himself up. "Good! Very good. Took me weeks to make it to perfectly parallel. The judges like that and count you off if you're not. That's a refining thing. Around here we expect you to learn the moves then practice perfection, okay?" He nodded. "You want to try the rings?"
He looked up then shook his head. "Not yet. Let's stick with the easy stuff. Those look scary."
"They are," he admitted. "They're really hard too but Chad excels in there. I'll let him work with you while he's healing from his next surgery."
"He was on the rings at the school championships last year and the grip on the ring came free as he dismounted. He fell on it," Xander said honestly. "It was a freak accident. Like me finding out what trajectory was because I was going too fast during my first few attempts at release moves on the high bar. You'll find you're more likely to sprain an ankle, jar your knees or shoulders, or sprain a wrist in here than anything else." That got a nod. "Now, you said easy so let's start on the most basic of skills. What you learn there helps in other areas. Ladies," he called. They looked over. "You're doing the floor, teach Ricky." He gave him a nudge. "They're scary but they won't bite you here. Off the mats, that's a different matter." The boy nodded, walking over there for the ladies to help him. They giggled and talked with him like he was one of them, teaching him how to tumble. The kid had good rhythm. He'd make it. He looked at the coach, waving a hand. "See, I said I'd find you another point ho." He grinned and went back to work on his pommel skills. "Can I skip the rings this year?"
"No, Benis. We'll let you be the score they eliminate." He watched him work. "Slower. It shows better control when it's slower." He rolled his eyes. "Why do I have to keep telling you that?"
"I'm ADHD," he called. "Feel lucky I'm not bouncing." He landed. "Crap, Tyler going to rehab means we're a man short with Chad out on the DL." The coach stared at him. "Double crap!" He walked out muttering 'crap crap crap' over and over again, going to make a phone call he hated. He found the number in the school's phone book. "Diego Morales please? His former team captain. Tell him we're a man short and I'm calling in a favor please." He waited until the angry voice came on. "You know I wouldn't call, Diego. Tyler went to rehab for meth and crack. Chad's going back to surgery. All we've got is one new kid whose learning tumbling today. Please? Just for the championships? You're a senior. You're allowed. Your grades are up, right?" He nodded. "I know you're clean. Your other sport demands it too. The coach keeps you listed as an alternate member of the team just in case we all fall and break things. That's all I'm asking. We're at my house. I've got a gym. No, the new house. Your mom was here for the open house, she has directions. Please. All of us. They're fumigating the gym this weekend and states are next week, man. Please?" He nodded. "Thanks. We're here and I've got a pool so we can horse around in it later." He hung up, walking back there. "Coach, I talked Diego into coming back." He relaxed at that. "He's not a happy baseball player either."
"I know. It sucks that we lose you guys when you age our of the junior class if you're not good enough." Xander nodded. "I'll make sure he's cleared all week to come to us and talk to the other coach. He'll understand." He went to make the call from the foyer, letting the boy in when he got there. "Diego. Thank you."
"How could Tyler be that stupid?"
"Xander got his mom. They caught him smoking it last night. He went into rehab last night."
"Good! Gym?" He walked him that way. "Are you taking me out of math?"
"I can or you can get ready after classes. I cleared it with Coach Bernard." That got a nod. "If Chad wasn't going in for new surgery we'd leave you there. You're happier there."
He looked at him. "Thank you for understanding." He looked around. "Who's the little kid?"
"Ricky. Xander picked him to take his place when he was gone. He's getting him an early start so he's ready for next year. He's in seventh."
"Poor kid. Having to be Xander's shadow will drive him nuts." He went to change, coming out with his grips on. He found the box of chalk and dusted himself off. "Where do we need me?"
"Rings, please God do the rings," Xander called, dismounting. He looked at him. "As long as you can get higher than me, I'll applaud, I'll put on cheerleader gear, I'll kiss you. Not sleep with you but I'll kiss you."
"No thanks. My girlfriend would mind." He got spotted up and adjusted his grip, nodding. "Good equipment, Benis."
"Thanks. Not like I was going to use the cheap stuff to practice. 'Cause I need it too." The coach nodded as he walked past him, going to help Ricky with a tumbling run since he had fallen for the second time. The girls were cooing over him and that was probably a bad trend to start. "Ladies, he's not a teddy bear," Xander called. "I want him as competent as we can make him by next year's season." They nodded, getting back to work with him. Xander went to work on his parallel bars. Just in case he did somehow make it to Nationals. His scores had been high all year. The coach gave him an odd look. "Where am I in the state standings?" he mouthed. Three fingers got held up and he got a nod. He got back to work on them, working out a routine he could do, even though his arms were aching and his sore shoulder was throbbing again. He was very grateful when his cook came in to call lunch. "Two hours in the pool goofing off then we're back at it, everyone," he called as they ran out. "Coming?" he asked the adults.
"Let me talk to the coach, Xander." Xander nodded, leaving them alone. "How many times do you expect my son to fall?"
"Until he either quits or gets it right," the coach said. "The same as any other sport. Come on, I like Xander's cook. She does really well." He walked him out, letting him sit with the girls' team. He looked around. "Benis hiding?"
"Talking to his yummy head of security," one freshman girl said, smiling at him.
"He's too old for you," the coach reminded her.
She shrugged. "I can still look," she said dryly, stuffing her mouth again. "I want this recipe for my mom. She only makes me salads. I'll never be constipated again."
"Ask his cook," the coach said patiently. "I'm sure she'd share." He dug in, eating while watching his kids. "We did bring suits?" They all nodded. "Good. Stay off the higher diving boards, kids. I mean it." They nodded, sighing a bit.
Xander came out with his plate. "There's two spring boards they're free to use," Xander said as he sat down next to the coach. "Don't use the top board, it's got a crack," he ordered. "I found that out last night when I stepped on it. I'm having someone in to repair it." He ate a bite. "Misty, she's willing to share recipes and she's copied it down for you. Anyone else who wants it can use the copier in my office."
The father looked at him. "You live here alone?"
"I'm seventeen, not seven," he said dryly. "My grandfather has terminal cancer. He doesn't need my hyperactivity infecting him. I only moved in this month if it makes you feel better." He ate another bite and chewed. "Don't choke, Prentiss Hill, or I will tell your mother. You know she's so hyper OCD she'll have you fumigated." She quit trying to swallow her tongue. "I'm very responsible for my age. I've been in society since I was six. I don't drink, do drugs, and I have plenty of adults around here to smack me around if I start to screw up something. That was Tony reminding me to put on something bigger than what I wear when I dive." The girls all laughed. "He did." He shrugged and finished up. "Give yourselves time to finish and change so you make the half-hour mark, kids. I'll see you in there. I've got to sign papers," he sighed, going to do that. He hated details. He hated his lawyer. He loved the guy but he brought him paperwork that made his head hurt. "What's this for?"
"Sperm storage and usage?"
"At my discretion for future use."
He nodded, making that note. "House taxes?"
"Didn't we already pay those?"
"They get paid every six months, Xander."
"I'll do that with the accountant," he decided. Xander nodded. "I'll put that on auto- draft so he can deal with it."
"You're doing oversight on him?"
"I am. I get your bank statements as well. He doesn't know that but that was what I had you sign about four months ago when you found him. The scholarship board's meeting?" Xander found a copy of the notes and handed them over. "No website?"
"Not yet. Next year maybe." That got a nod. "Did we get those things out?"
"We did. You're doing an announcement tomorrow?" Xander nodded. "Good. We've already listed it and the end date of December 31st on all the grant search sites and sent out a notice to every college across the US, no matter how small. Including the military ones. Even though they can't admit it, we'll see what happens." Xander nodded. "We also have three other forms for you to sign. One is terminating Tony?"
"Like hell. Tony!" He came jogging in. "Why are you quitting?"
"I'm not." He took the paperwork, shaking his head. "Not us. I like it here. Xander likes me here?" Xander nodded at that. "Oh, I had the pool topped off." He handed it back. "Shred that please?" He did that. "Anything else? Two of the kids are wandering off."
"Please stop the groping. The coach will shit elephants," Xander said patiently. He grinned and went to do that. He looked at the other papers then shredded them as well. "Unless you hear it from me, Grandfather, Sire, Gordon, or Horatio do not believe it."
"That's what I thought but I wanted to cover my own rear end if I had to," he said.
"Good thought but I'm not like that. If I'm that huffy, you'll know. Something will explode." That got a nod and he took the other things back, going to make notes in his daily log. Xander went to change in the pool area, coming out in a pair of swim trunks that were more modest. He looked at the diving platforms and got up onto his usual one, moving into a handstand, then pushing off to twist and then land in the water properly. He came up, looking up. "That was easier before."
"You need to practice," the coach reminded him.
"Still thinking about it, coach. Changing areas," he said, pointing. "Both sides. With lockers." He went to tell the others while Xander got out and did another one. It was easier on his back but it was harder to move as fast. "Damn it, I hate growing," he complained, going to talk to Tony. "I hate growing."
"Diving not as easy as it used to be?" Xander nodded. "That's why it's called practice, Xander. You'll get back there."
"Do you think I should talk to my old coach?"
"Up to you. Or maybe a new one who's more used to adult bodies." Xander nodded, going to send him an email at the college. Tony stretched out in his desk chair, smiling at his poor boss. He was so confused sometimes. It made you want to cuddle the kid, but if he did that he'd be breaking him and Horatio up plus lose his job. He went back to watching the kids frolic in the pool. The new kid would fit in just fine. The girls were doting on him already like they did to Xander.
Xander walked out of the gates of his grandparents' house the next afternoon, looking at the gathered reporters. "Thank you for coming. I'll make it short since I don't like giving speeches." He opened the papers in front of him. "Due to my grandfather's continuing failing health, we've decided that I'm going to be taking over some of his duties from this point forward."
"Is that why you moved out on your own?" one reporter called.
"Yes it is, but don't interrupt, that's rude," he said, scowling at her. He looked at the rest when she shrank back. "To help him, my grandfather and I have set up a foundation in his name. Right now I'm starting slowly, with college scholarships for people in the gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bisexual community. This was going to happen after I graduated but his health concerns made it harder for him to get out to events and to support the people we both work with." He cleared his throat. "We've decided the Patrick Benis Foundation's first set of scholarships will be awarded for next year. We have a wonderful board of people who have supported me through the years when I needed it, mostly officers who have helped me. The scholarship is a ten thousand dollar scholarship once in your college career for up to ten people per year. That may be expanded at some later point but for right now it is for up to ten qualified applicants. We have listed it with colleges across the country and with the usual grant finder sites. I do hope that we get a lot of worthy applicants, ones who want to change the world and to uphold my grandfather's legacy of doing good works and promoting tolerance and acceptance. The deadline for it is December thirty-first of this year. We'll meet by the first week of March to decide on who gets them." He folded up the paper. "It is our hope, once I've graduated, that we can expand from college scholarships to research grants and other grants to help promote tolerance and acceptance of the GLBT community. I know my grandfather would love it if we suddenly woke up in a tolerant world. Thank you."
"Xander!" one reporter called before he could move. "The board is who?"
"There's three Miami officers and three from New York, including my Uncle, Detective Flack. My grandfather married his aunt for his second marriage but we're basically nephew and uncle. He co-chairs it with me and a few of his friends sit on it as do some of mine."
"That guy who follows you around? New bodyguard?" another called.
"That would be Tony, mine and the foundation's head of security. In case you didn't hear I seem to have drawn a stalker," he said grimly. That got some 'ooohs'.
"Are you giving up modeling?"
"No," he said, grinning at her. "I like to feel appreciated. That's one way I can do that. Tony knows how to minimize the risks for me. There will be an upcoming shoot during spring break actually. Also, I'm on the board for the street fair coming up during that but we won't be announcing that for about a month, once all the plans are finalized. Any other questions?"
"Are you seeing someone?" the rude woman from earlier called.
"Yes, I am," he said with a shy smile, turning around and walking back into the gates. Someone followed him in and he looked at him. "I don't recognize you."
"I hate to do this, sir, but you've been served."
"What now?" he asked, taking the papers. He read it over and burst out laughing. "You're joking!"
"No, sir. Unfortunately she wasn't. Have a better day."
"You too." He let him back out. "Leave him alone, guys. My stalker sent a legal love note through him." The process server ran for his car before they could ask questions. He locked the gates and walked inside. "She filed to have herself added to the list of people who could use the sperm I have stored," he called once the door was closed.
"Excuse me?" Tony asked, taking it from him. He muttered while he read. "Gordon? Thomas? You'll laugh at this one," he called, heading back to the security office. Those two and the two grandparents met back there. Xander gave them a hug then winked and slid out the back door to the garage, heading out through the emergency back gate since he had a date with Horatio. "She filed so she is the only authorized person to use his sperm."
"What?" Gordon demanded, snatching it to look at. "That stupid bitch."
"This is moving her closer to that point of stupidity," Thomas said grimly. Tony nodded. "Gordon, who do we have on for legal for this move?"
"She sent Xander's lawyer a fax trying to fire me, get access to his sperm, and to add her name to his accounts," Tony said bluntly. "The woman's already snapped, guys. I'm wondering if proving her that wrong won't snap her fully."
"We've got to stop her. I do not want her to be the mother of my great-grandchild," Patrick told them. "I don't care how, just stop the loony bint." He walked off, Sire following to comfort him. "Where did Xander go?"
"He has a romantic date planned with Horatio," he said smugly. "He checked it with me to make sure I thought it was romantic. He even had to call in some favors with some social contacts. They all cooed over his idea." He tucked him into his chair, getting him some blood. One of the guards came in to donate, it was better when it was directly done.
Xander pulled up in front of the stable, smiling at the man waiting on him. "Am I late?"
"No, I got done a bit early. It was a nice day for a drive. Why are we meeting here?"
Xander smiled and got something out of his trunk, carrying it over. "I am going to spoil you rotten." Horatio smiled, following him into the stables. "Jacques?" he called quietly. He came out of a stall. "Is it ready for us?"
"Yes, Mr. Benis. The mistress was quite pleased with your plans. Is that the basket?" He nodded, handing it over. "I'll tie that on for you." He went back into the stall, coming out with a horse already geared up for a ride. He got another one, bringing her out. "Lieutenant, how well can you ride? He wasn't sure so we got a docile mount and one that's a bit more hyper."
"I'll take the docile one," he said, mounting up with help. "I haven't ridden since summer camp."
Xander grinned. "Gym elective in sixth grade." The groom laughed. "We'll try to be back right around dark." That got a nod and he walked his horse out, mounting up on his bumper. "Not my best skill," Xander admitted, giving him a sheepish smile. He pointed. "We're going that way."
"If you want." He followed behind Xander, watching how he moved. "You do have a very good seat."
"Doesn't mean I understand polo," he quipped, moving back to ride beside him once they were through the gates. He reached over and Horatio reached back to hold his hand. "One of the reporters asked if I was dating someone special. I left it at yes and a shy smile."
"Thank you." He smiled as their horses went on but Xander didn't let go of his hand unless he had to. "How did it go?"
"Pretty good until the process server came." Horatio gave him an unamused look. "The stupid brat filed to be the only one with access to my sperm."
"I left it with Gordon and Tony. They can be mean and Thomas can cheer them on." Horatio laughed. "They will." He gave the hand a squeeze. "I tried some dives yesterday."
"How did they go?"
"I can't get around as fast as I used to. It was kinda depressing and it made me feel really old, even though I'm only the age I am, but I felt like a geezer."
"Did you talk to your old coach?"
"Yeah, he told me if I came back I couldn't do it as a hobby. Apparently he thinks that's what I was doing before. I wasn't but he wants me to put more time into it than I would a normal job and to quit the foundation."
"Then we'll see where a bit of practice lands you, Xander."
"There's new dives to learn."
"No one said you had to go back to that coach. He does have a conflict of interest. You'd be diving against any of his team that made it to State."
"True." He gave the hand a squeeze, smiling. "I was trying for relaxing."
"It is very relaxing."
"Did you have a busy day?"
"Paperwork. I spent most of it bent over my desk."
"I give good backrubs."
"I know you do. I'll let you give me one later." His phone rang. "Yes, Mr. Wolfe?" he asked. "Is it critical I be there? Well, I'm in the middle of the woods on a horse," he said. "With Xander." He got a chuckle and Ryan hung up. "He doesn't need me after all."
"That's good of him. Maybe he'll take Eric away from the black hole of doom he's dating this month." Horatio gave him a look. "The girl he's dating has had ...experience. I'm betting porn stars have less experience than she does. Yet, her mother wants me to be straight and marry her." Horatio shook his head. "That was my reaction too." He gave his hand a squeeze. "I got food from a place you like."
"I'm sure you did. You've shown me around a lot of restaurants I've liked," he said, smiling at him.
"It's rude to poison your date," Xander said, giving him a look over the top of his sunglasses. "It's also boyfriend abuse according to Tony when he reminded me I couldn't cook you breakfast the last time you stayed over because you fell asleep watching movies with us."
"It is." He smiled. "There are days I almost asked you to cook for me."
"Those days you come over, you use the pool, get a backrub from me, and it'll be better."
"It will be," he agreed. "How far are we going?"
"This hidden lookout point the horses' mommy suggested. I asked where when I asked her if we could borrow a few horses for a quiet late afternoon ride. She thought it was sweet."
"It's very sweet and very romantic," Horatio assured him, giving him a smile. Xander moved his horse closer to steal a kiss then went back to riding their usual distance. He had to move around a tree but he came back and took Horatio's hand again. He did enjoy the woods. It was quiet and Xander respected that by not talking for a bit. He looked happy being there with him. Xander finally pulled them up to the spot he had chosen, handing over the basket behind his saddle so he could get down. Then he helped Horatio down, letting them work together to spread out the blanket and china, plus the stemware. Xander had gotten them a bottle of very good red wine to go with the lasagna he had adored the last time. They even had real silverware. He smiled and fed him a bite, getting a smile and fed back. It was good. Xander unwrapped the bakery cookies when he was done, sharing them with him, settling in against his side while they watched the sun set over Miami. The horses came over to nuzzle, getting petted and some treats from the basket as well. When the light was going toward dusk he got them repacked and helped Xander back into his saddle, remounting his own horse. They let the horses lead the way back to the stable. They knew where home was better than either of them. They got back there and the groom took the horses with a smile and a wink at Xander, handing him something.
Xander looked inside the envelope and laughed, hugging Horatio. "Grandfather said he's going to blow her up for us." He kissed him, then smiled. "Home?"
"Yours or mine?"
"Mine? It's more private. Or we could go to yours but I have to tell Tony. You're off tomorrow, even if I do have school. We can go watch the ocean?"
"We'll go to yours," he decided, getting into his hummer. He followed Xander back to his house, parking in the garage. There was a spot for his hummer, it was always like that. He got out, taking Xander's hand as they walked out to the gazebo, settling in to watch the night come up over the water, just cuddling close by and not talking for now. Horatio nuzzled the dark hair. "Where am I sleeping tonight?" he asked quietly.
"I'll leave that up to you. I didn't plan this to seduce you, Horatio, just to spend good time with you." He looked up, seeing the smile. "If you want to pounce me I'm all for it but that wasn't why I planned this date." He snuck a kiss and went back to cuddling in with him. "This is one of my favorite views. I eat breakfast out here some mornings."
"That's because you sleep out here, sir," the guard coming their way said dryly. "Tony said the house is locked as of ten minutes from now if you don't have your keys. He's off to bed. Cook's in bed too." He nodded at Horatio. "Fair warning and all, sir." He walked off again, going back to his patrol route, which was not nearby.
"Tony made him detour from the fence," Xander said quietly. "There's no guard out here usually." Horatio gave him a squeeze. "Want to head back inside?
"Do you have your keys?" Xander held them up. "Then we'll be fine." He nuzzled him again, getting comfortable to share the night with him. It was a beautiful, romantic view. He looked down when he heard the soft snore, settling in with a smile. The boy had the benches out here padded very well. He was nearly asleep too. He let himself drift off.
Tony checked the cameras when he got up the next morning, calling the school first. "It's Tony for Xander. He fell asleep in the gazebo. He's still asleep in the gazebo." The secretary laughed. "Give me an hour to wake him." He hung up, calling Speed. "It's Tony. They fell asleep in the gazebo watching the water. Still are," he agreed. "Heading there now with coffee. Thanks." He hung up, going to the kitchen. "Cook, Xander's out in the gazebo."
"I'll make sure he has clean clothes laid out," she said, going to do that. Tony carried out the thermos and two mugs, smiling at the cute picture they made. Xander was on top of Horatio's chest. One hand had made it into his shirt and was crinkling the fingers in and around his chest hair. The other was fastened around Horatio's belt on his side. He coughed politely, making Horatio look at him. He held up the thermos. "He has an hour to report to school. He's already late by two. It's almost ten," he said quietly, putting them just out of reach so Xander wouldn't fall on them when he got up. He walked off smiling. It was very cute how Xander had been petting his Horatio kitty's stomach.
Horatio looked down at his chest, smiling at the young man there. "Xander?" he asked quietly. He got a hum. "Xander?" he asked again.
"No, no mermaids. School."
Horatio kissed his hair. "That's for a later time." Xander gave him a confused look. "We fell asleep out here." Xander smiled and put his head back down. "It's nearly ten, Xander. You're late for school."
Horatio laughed. "You said that already. Tony said you had an hour."
Xander used the hand on Horatio's belt to pat himself down until he found his cellphone "It's Benis. Is it really important I don't skip today?" He blinked. "Why do I need a career fair? I have a career." He listened to the headmaster. "I still have a career. I have a foundation. Didn't you see the paper? Or didn't it make it in there?" The headmaster said it had. "Want me to be honest? I'm on top of my boyfriend sleeping in the gazebo after watching the stars come out last night. No, I'm dressed. Comfortable but dressed." He scratched his chest again, getting a small moan. "I can be undressed if you want me to. Is it really going to impact my grades to skip today? He's got today off work." He looked at Horatio, who shrugged. "Because he's with the lab and I'm his favorite specimen to examine," he said bluntly. The headmaster spluttered. "Can I please have today? I'll tell the coach myself. Thank you. No, no tests that anyone told me and they usually try to tell me anymore. Thanks." He hung up and hit a speed dial button, getting his coach. "I'm on top of Horatio, I was napping on top of Horatio in the gazebo. I'm giving my shoulder the day off to rest." He hung up, tossing it onto the floor, going back to cuddling him, turning his head in the other direction. "Comfy?"
"Very," Horatio admitted. "I could use a bathroom break sometime soon." Xander groaned, getting up with a grimace. "What hurts?"
"Shoulder, knee, the usual," he admitted. "I swell in the humidity sometimes." He took a kiss and poured him coffee, handing it over. "Since I have today free, what should we do with the day?"
"Tell me when you're going back to Sunnydale?"
"Two weeks after State."
"Should you go to State?"
"One of the guys is in rehab for meth and crack. His parents found him smoking." He took a sip, moaning in pleasure. "The good stuff even. I love Cook." He grinned. "Chad's going in for more surgery. We're down to no alternates at the moment. I had to call Diego to come back, Horatio. I have to go to State or we're a man down. Then I've got six months before I have to strain my shoulder again. I can spend all that time diving even." That got a smile. "I have to go to State and I have to go back to Sunnydale to stop a nefarious plan." He finished his cup of coffee, taking another kiss. "But I can see a potty and shower break in the near future if you want."
"I wouldn't mind changing. Then what?"
"It's your day off, you pick. I picked yesterday."
Horatio smiled and nodded. "I'll think of something while we're in the shower."
"Ooh, we?" Xander asked, wiggling some.
Horatio took another kiss. "If you're a good boy and get me more coffee?" Xander poured him more, taking some for himself too. "Thank you, Xander. For this and last night."
Xander smiled. "I love spoiling you. Besides, you looked very manly on the horse. Made me all hot and I wanted to pounce but I can't break Grandmother's glasses."
"I'll keep that in mind when I pounce later." He picked up the thermos, walking back while they finished their coffee. He did button up his shirt but Xander only winked at that. He walked them in through the kitchen, handing over their empty mugs and the thermos with a kiss to Cook's cheek. "Thank you."
"Welcome, Horatio. Xander, I did the glasses and things in the picnic basket and sent them back to your grandfather."
"Thank you. We're going to shower and I'm going to skip school. My shoulder aches." He walked past Tony, giving him a hug. Though he did wince when he put his arm down. "I need to rest it," he said quietly.
"I've been there. Have a good day playing hooky." Xander smiled and nodded, going to shower with Horatio. "I'm calling your doctor," he called after him once he was out of pouncing range.
"Don't you dare," Xander called from the upper hallway.
"Too late," he said as he dialed. "Hi, it's Tony DiNozzo for Xander Benis. Shoulder," he said when the older man asked him what was wrong. "Sore, stiff. He sprained it a few times in the last month. The usual again. Please. He's playing hooky today." He smiled. "Well, his boyfriend has the day off too...." He smiled. "Thanks." He hung up, sending a text message to Horatio's phone to expect the doctor at lunchtime. It was the only way Xander would go. It'd take both of them to force him to admit he was having a problem. Or Horatio could distract him while the doctor worked on him. That worked too.
Xander got out of his rental car, straightening out his suit on the way inside City Hall. "Is the Mayor around please?" he asked, giving the receptionist his most charming smile. She nodded, buzzing him in. "Thank you." He walked in, closing the door behind himself at the horrified look. "You so screwed up," he said quietly. "You have no idea who I am, do you?"
"You're the Harris brat," he said bluntly.
"I'm the grandson of Patrick Benis and his Sire, Raphael DeLaurentis." The man went pale. "And you sent someone to Miami to take blood from me. At least they waited until after I won the state meet again," he said, sitting down, getting comfortable while staring at him. "You see, I've done research about why you needed it. It was particularly flashy to find mine since you could've used anyone here's blood. Particularly stupid as well. It let others know about your plans."
"You can't stop me."
"Yes I can," Xander said. He tossed something onto the desk, then calmly leaned forward and stabbed it with the dagger he had on his waist. The wish demon clouded into view. "Hi. Xander Benis."
"I know." He looked at him. "You're here?"
"He had me assaulted to take my blood. That's your calling, isn't it? Protecting those who were assaulted? Innocents especially, Phil?"
The wish demon nodded. "I am over those who were attacked." He looked at the mayor, freezing him so he could look at Xander. "Lots of us have been wondering when someone would call."
"Here I am," Xander said. "Let's see what we can do." He looked at him. "The spiders were after my attack. I can't change that because too much happened, but let's make it so the spiders either didn't work or he couldn't eat them," he told the demon, looking at him. "Up to you as to whichever is easier."
The demon considered it. "We can do that." He smiled. "Tell Anya I said hi." Xander looked confused. "You'll be seeing her soon." He winked. "I do like the koi ad by the way. It's adorable." Xander beamed at that, standing up. "Go be a good boy."
"I'm going to visit the friends I haven't seen in a while. Be safe and well. Many happy hunts." He walked off, heading back out to the car. The Mayor screamed and he stopped the receptionist. "I wouldn't. I just pointed out the fallacy of having people come attack me in Miami a while back. He's not happy." He walked out to his car, driving it over to the school he had passed on the way in. He parked in visitor parking, smiling since the parking lot was nearly empty. Apparently they got out earlier than his school did. He got out and walked into the office. "Hi, I was wondering if you could help me. Is Willow Rosenburg still here?" he asked the secretary.
"She's around here," she agreed. "Who're you? I don't recognize you."
Xander grinned. "We used to be best friends so I needed to catch up to her."
"Sure. She's in the library." She pointed. "Up the stairs to the left."
"Thank you." He looked at the pouting student in there, noticing she gave him that same twitch the other demon did. "Anya?" She nodded, frowning at him. "Phil just said hi. I just ran into him at City Hall." She gaped so he walked off, heading up the stairs at a jog. He found the library, it was noisy. He walked in and turned down the noise, making everyone look at him. "I thought libraries were supposed to be quiet." He grinned at the redhead. "Don't remember me?" He grinned brighter.
"Xander!" she breathed, hopping up to hug him. "Why are you here?"
"I had to come make a point to someone. I thought we should catch up."
"Wow! Your grandfather offered Jesse and me the chance to come down to Miami for the summers but our parents decided not to let us go. Jesse!" she yelled. "Xander's back!" He came jogging out of the stacks, pouncing Xander for a hug. She sat down with him. "So, how's Miami?"
"Bright and pretty," he said smugly. "Grandfather and Sire have been great to me through everything."
"Wow. Hold on, sire?" She gave him an odd look.
He pulled out an envelope, holding it up. "I was told to give this to a Mr. Giles and you would know who he was? Grandsire said some of the Chronicles were crap." A male coughed from the desk so he looked over. "That'd be you?" He nodded so Xander walked it over there. "Xander Harris-Benis," he introduced, getting an awed look. "I grew up with Jesse and was Willow's best friend until my grandparents saved me. Sire said that the Chronicler who did Grandfather's was a moron." He looked at Willow. "We should go catch up."
"We're, um, kinda in the middle of a problem, Xander," Jesse said. "Maybe in about an hour?"
"Would that problem be why the Mayor had me attacked for hellmouth baby blood a few years back?" he asked bluntly. "Because Phil and I just talked and Phil made it so the spiders weren't quite as effective as they should have been. If he got to eat them at all." They all gaped. "It's a lesson many people have had to learn. Fucking with me pisses me off and I react. I've snuck ways to train myself for those odd moments I have to react. So, now that the ascension's over with, since he can't turn without the spiders having worked, pizza? Tacos? I'll treat since I'm earning a paycheck. I'll even drive if you two don't."
Giles spluttered. "What did you do?"
Xander looked back at him. "I talked to a vengeance demon named Phil. He's over those attacked unfairly," he said quietly. "He also said to tell Anya hi but I saw her in the office when I stopped to check in and ask for directions." He grinned happily. "Can I take them to dinner?"
"Go ahead," he said, staring at the odd young man.
"Come on, guys, I even rented the good sports coupe." They nodded, gathering their stuff to follow him out.
Giles read over the information, including the note of what Xander had just done. Someone had helped the boy. He relaxed and smiled. The other Watcher assigned to the hellmouth stomped in with Anya. He held out the notes. "Father Benis said the information we have on him is shite," he said blandly. The younger man squeaked and read over the notes, waving the top one. "The mayor decided to go after a young man who used to be Willow and Jesse's best friend. Father Benis' grandson."
"Oh, God," he said weakly. "Are we done?" Giles smirked. "We are?"
"I think so. Look over the note on what Xander just did." He looked then smiled. "So we may not have as many problems as we thought."
"Thank God for the others having sense. So, what was the boy like?"
"Very strong yet a bit calm. He stood like he's had some self-defense training. The boy clearly had a clue. Father Benis sent that to me." He took it back, going to send it to the people who wrote the Chronicles with the note that said it had been delivered by Father Benis' grandson.
That night, Xander was walking Jesse and Willow home when they ran into vampires. Not all that unexpected on a hellmouth really. "What do you want?" he demanded calmly.
"I'm not going to stake them. Two of my favorite people are vampires." He grabbed one and snapped his neck. "Doesn't mean I won't defend myself," he said, staring down at him. "That was very stupid." The others looked restless so he looked at them. "Not like it'd kill them."
A blonde girl walked through the crowd of vampires, staking as she walked. "Gee, he's cute and all.... Didn't you do a watch ad?" Xander grinned and nodded. "Wow. Willow knows hotty guys."
"Thank you, miss," he said, bowing to her. He grinned at Willow and Jesse. "So, should we continue walking you two home?"
"I can do that, but you should probably go," the blonde girl said. "They get upset when you do less than stake them."
"Buffy, my grandfather and sire are both very nice vampires who don't hunt. I'm not going to stake them unless I have no choice. I can snap their necks since it won't hurt them and they'll be down for a few hours."
"That's reasonable. You should still probably go. We've got big, bad problems around here."
"Xander made it so he couldn't eat the spiders after all," Willow said proudly.
"He really shouldn't have sent thugs to Miami to beat me after a meet," he said simply. He grinned. "But I wouldn't mind walked back to my car, ma'am."
Buffy nodded. "Sure, we can do that. Guys, want to say goodbye here or there?"
Jesse gave Xander a hug. "I'll come visit your bikinis soon, Xander."
"Of course. We have some great bikinis." He hugged Willow too. "You can write. You taught me." She laughed and swatted him on the arm. "You did." He took Buffy's arm. "Shall we?"
"Okay." She waved. "I'll see you two soon." She walked Xander back to where his car was parked. "So you live in Miami?"
"I do. My grandparents took me from my parents when I was five for abusing me." He looked at her. "They got arrested about five years ago." He pointed his keychain remote at the rental car, turning off the alarm since it was going off. "Hmm. Petty jealousy."
Buffy looked then at him. "We don't get tow trucks out here after hours."
Xander grinned. "I live around some minor gang violence now and then. Plus they have plans for that." He went to the trunk, getting the cans of 'fix a flat' that were in the trunk and the automatic air pump. He got both the popped tires reinflated. "That will get me out of town." She beamed. "I thank you for the charming escort, Buffy."
"Not a problem." Someone came out of the school. "Troll alert," she said grimly.
Xander gave his best politician's smile to the principal. "Yes? I was just getting ready to leave."
"Who are you?"
"Xander Benis." He smiled. "I came to see some of the friends I used to have when I lived here."
"You were at City Hall."
"I know I was. He made a severe tactical error by having me attacked. Pity." The principal sneered. "I've seen society matrons do that look *so* much better," he sneered back. "Including teenage girls. Now, is there anything else, Mr...whoever-you-are? Because not introducing yourself is rude."
"I am the principal of this school."
"Good, then I'll be filing the papers with the rental company to have you charged for someone vandalizing my car while it was on your lot." He gaped. "There is the expectation that somewhere like a school would have, oh I don't know, security to stop things like that." Someone else came huffing up. "Ah, Mr. Mayor. How are you enjoying your day? It was a glorious afternoon, wasn't it? And the sunset was beautiful as well, I thought. Didn't you?" he asked with a pleasant, fake smile. Buffy coughed, turning away to laugh.
"You won't get away with this. I can work around that *injunction* you created," he sneered.
"As I was telling the principal of this...mediocre educational establishment, if that really since I had to do research on their graduation rates and things, I've seen teenagers and matrons sneer so much better." He stared him down, moving closer. Then he got something out of the trunk. "Ah, this was what I forgot earlier. Buffy, be a dear? Knock him down and hold him for me please? This won't hurt you." She shrugged and did that while he poured the solution over the mayor, making him scream and kick. He shook it to get the last out. "Ah, there we are. Now all the demon taint is leaving." He handed her the beaker. "Sire was thinking about buying the whole town in a FEMA move and then destroying it. He really does loathe this place." He looked at the principal, noticing he was backing away. He glanced at the man on the ground, watching as his true age started to show. "Problems?" He turned and looked at the other person. "Angelus." The man looked stunned. "Xander Benis. Grandson of Patrick."
"I've met your grandfather," he said, nodding from a safe distance. "What did you do to him?"
Xander smiled. "That potion will take the demon taint off him. Removes all the markings, makes the taint flow out. It's really not that hard to make. Only works on humans who've made deals." The vampire shuddered. "Now." He clapped his hands and kissed Buffy on the cheek. "I should get back to Miami. I have to work on my diving to see if I want to go back to it when I graduate and I have a boyfriend to woo and coddle until he quits being so noble and gives into my wicked desires." He smiled. "Do come down to see our bikinis. You'll adore them. We're all about the pretty in Miami." Buffy smiled. "Let me get out of your hair. I'll call the rental company from out of town. Do have a good celebration, my dear." He waved and got into the car, starting it so he could back out and drive slowly. Once he got past the city limits and his skin quit crawling with the demonic energy he used the on-star button on the car. "Hi, I just had to reinflate two of my tires. They got popped while I was visiting a friend," he told the person on the other end.
"Are you still moving, sir?"
"Yeah, I'm leaving Sunnydale now. It's not that big of a town and doesn't have a garage." He heard a bad noise, sighing. "One just went. I can stay here and wait. Do you have my GPS?"
"We do and we can send you a tow truck," she promised. "Wait in the car please. That area's listed as dangerous."
"I will. I'll be talking with my bodyguard the whole time. Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir. The tow truck is on it's way. It is a platform truck from George's Towing."
"It'll be needed," he agreed. "Thank you." He hung up and called Tony. "Tell the hovering ones I'm fine. Still human, all that. The cars tires got popped. I met the principal. He's got Napoleon syndrome and a 'tude but he saw me dose the mayor with the potion when the mayor decided to come bother me. I left the beaker with Buffy and Angelus. Tell them he said hello again." He smiled. "Willow and Jesse were great. We got caught up. They'll try to come down next year for spring break. They're very cute. Buffy was about armpit height on me. Kinda gave me a few confused looks. No, I'm waiting on the tow truck. Two of my tires got popped while the car was sitting at the school. Oh, tell them the principal sneered like a little girl. I've seen matrons and teenage girls do it *so* much better." Tony snickered at that. "I have. I do it better. Buffy thought it was cute I was coming home to woo my boyfriend. She gave me the 'awww, it's a kitty' look. What do you think? Dinner at the office? Dinner at the house? Or just pouncing this next time when I get home?" Tony said dinner was a good start, then pouncing. "True, he will need the energy." He checked behind him. "That may be my tow truck." He rolled down a window when a guy got out of the truck. "Did the rental company send you?"
"They did, sir," the driver said.
"That's my tow truck, Tony. Of course I am." He gathered his things from the car, packing them back into his bag before getting out. He handed over the keys. "I'm going back to LA so wherever they said to bring us is fine. I can cab or whatever back." Tony said something. "Yes, Tony, I'm being safe," he promised.
"Step-parent?" the driver asked.
Xander looked at him. "Bodyguard." The man gave him an odd look. "I was catching up with some old friends when two of the tires got popped. I used the cans of fix-o-flat in the trunk and the air pump. It got me out of town. There wasn't a garage."
"I know. Better not to stop in Sunnydale anyway, sir. Go ahead and sit in the truck if you want." He went back to arranging the truck so he could pull the car up onto the bed.
"See, I'm fine, Tony, and I'll be home in a few hours, by tomorrow night. You know that. Well, I could stop off in Vegas," he said as he got into the cab of the tow truck. He kept himself from grimacing. There was a lot of grease. "Do you think the white meal at that one place?" He smiled. "That's what I was thinking. Sure, we'll see. Love you too, dear. When can I get the dog?" He laughed. "That'll be fine. I'll be back by then definitely." He hung up when the driver got in. "I know it's a bit late."
"We have guys working the night shift for a reason," he said, vamping out.
Xander smiled. "Hi, Xander Benis. Grandson of Father Patrick Benis and his sire." The vampire went back to human face, giving him an odd look. "So, how close to LA are you taking me?" he asked, smiling a bit.
"Probably most of the way. There's not too many garages that're authorized this way." He started the engine, getting them going. "You know vampires?"
"I've been raised by two."
"I hear they've got a formidable couple down there."
"That would be Sire and Grandfather," Xander admitted.
"Big in gay rights?" Xander nodded. "Then you're like vamp royalty. Are you going to be turned?"
"Probably not," he admitted. "It's painful having to watch those you love die. I'm already doing that with them," he said quietly. "I don't want to go through that pain when my boyfriend dies."
"That's reasonable. I guess. It's not too bad. Usually you move on and make new friends."
"I get along better with animals. Maybe my future children."
"Sure, I get that. I'll have to tell the guys I met you."
Xander smiled. "Tell them I'm cute too."
He laughed. "Sure, I can do that. You mind music?"
"Anything but country?" he suggested.
"I can do that." He switched the station on the radio, going to something more pop oriented. Xander relaxed, popping his neck, watching the scenery. He was a nice kid. The guys would get a kick out of this one. He dropped him off outside the garage, letting him go inside to fill out the forms for the insurance company then call a cab.
Tony smiled when Xander came out of the security area of the airport, taking his bag. "Long layover?" he teased at the yawn.
"There was a casino in the airport. I stayed in there and had sodas." He grinned at him.
"Are we broke?" he asked.
"Hardly." He handed him something. "From them." Tony looked then at him, pausing to stare at him. Xander turned and smiled. "What?"
"You're so bad."
"I know. James Bond marathons come in handy, huh?" He beamed. "I'm going to use it to spoil my baby horribly. You can help me decide what I'm getting him."
"You could...." he said, starting to walk again. "Spoil the department a bit. They could use it."
"They're having budget issues for things like cruisers and an additional hummer. Horatio was looking over grant applications the last time I popped in on him to update the brat's file. Speaking of, you do remember you have court tomorrow?"
"Yup." They got into the limo, letting him hug his grandparents. "The vampire tow truck driver was very nice and he said hi. He had heard that there was a very strong couple lording over Miami's society." Raphael choked and Patrick spluttered. "He was very nice to me."
Tony got in, shutting the door. "We're in." The driver took off. "Vampire tow truck driver?" Xander smiled and nodded. "Uh-huh." He looked at the two elder vampires. "Well, at least he wasn't eaten."
"No, he wasn't."
"I told him I wasn't even thinking about it. It's too painful watching people die. Maybe my kids would want to be turned some year." That got a smile from Raphael. "Oh I met Angelus, said you said hello. He looked very scared." He beamed. "He had that 'hovering over the pretty blonde girl' thing going."
"He's dating a slayer?" Raphael demanded.
"Maybe," Xander agreed, giving him another hug. "Borrowed blood pressure's getting a bit high," he quipped, getting a swat for it, making him laugh.
"I have got to straighten that boy out when I run into him next time," Raphael complained. "Either that or torture him again."
"Torturing vampires is still wrong," Patrick said calmly, giving Xander another hug. "Why the layover?"
"I was gambling in the airport with my fake ID."
"How much did we lose?" Patrick said, giving him a look. Xander handed over the form they had given him for his winnings, making him blink. "Really?"
"I suggested that he spoil the department instead of just Horatio," Tony said from his corner seat.
"They could like that," Patrick agreed, smiling at his grandson. "You are quite a spoiler."
"Yes, I am, because I learned from you two." That got happier smiles and they hugged him again. They would forget about the vampire tow truck driver and Angelus for now.
Xander walked into Horatio's office with a bag and a card. "Lunch?"
"Long meeting in about an hour," he said, smiling at him. "But I could use something to fortify me."
Xander kissed him on the forehead. "You look like you have a headache too." He put down the bag in front of him. "Chinese, what you like." That got a brighter smile. "Grandfather said my ability at baccarat was unholy so therefore I had to spoil you with it to make myself clean again." He put down the card. "Open it at the meeting, not before." He moved around to work on his shoulders, making Horatio moan while he ate. Speed leaned in. "He has a headache."
"I can tell." He grinned, leaving a report and walking off. He shook his head at Calleigh. "Xander brought him lunch and is doing the stress knots in his shoulders good."
"Awww. That's good spoiling."
"It is. Xander is a fusser, just like his grandfather is," Speed said happily. Horatio let out a loud moan, making them both giggle. "Xander's working on his shoulders," he announced at the others staring up at the office. "He brought him Chinese food and is doing a shoulder rub. I was just up there." Horatio came to the door, giving him a look. "Got a bit loud, H."
"The knot on the back of my neck finally released." That got some clapping. He shut the door, going back to letting himself be pampered. "What's in the card?"
"Is it a personal present?"
"You'll see at the meeting. It'll make it shorter." He kissed him on top of the head. "There you go." He took a proper kiss, smiling at him. "Eat and no peeking at your birthday present." He strolled off, heading back to the courthouse. His stalker's complaint was being heard today. He strolled inside, getting through security easily enough. A few reporters gave him an odd look. "Stalker brat," he said dryly, waving a hand. "Trying to claim the sperm I have stored." That got some groans. "That was my feeling. That and a lot of swearing," he agreed. He met up with his attorney, smiling as he shook his hand. "My other mission was accomplished. Horatio can move his head again. All the knots are gone from his neck. He has a good lunch with him. His birthday present is in front of him with orders not to open it until the meeting. Is it time?"
"Nearly." He walked him inside, sitting down with him, blocking her view of Xander.
The judge came in and they both stood until she sat down then they sat again. She banged the gavel. "I see we have a petition here to stop Mr. Benis from using his stored semen with anyone other than his current lover?"
"No, Your Honor," Xander's attorney said. "They're not dating."
She looked at him then at the other attorney. "They're not?"
"My client insists that they are," he said. "She said they have been dating since Mr. Benis was ten."
"That's a bit young," the judge noted. She looked at Xander's attorney. "Did they perhaps break up?"
"No, Your Honor, they've never dated. Mr Benis is gay. We have substantiated reports from the local police department," he said, putting each one in front of him. "The FBI, the local crime lab, and sixteen different society matrons saying that they are not dating and she is in fact stalking him. That along with the protection order he has against her," he added that to the stack. "Plus the fact that he does loathe her because she has now been linked to seventeen homicides but the local crime lab can't find a concrete enough connection to arrest her, even though they do know it is her." He handed the stack to the bailiff so he could hand them to the judge. "I also have in here statements from Mr. Benis's present boyfriend, his grandparents, his head of security, his grandparent's head of security, and another officer out of the New York labs saying that she has been stalking him now for months. I do not know where the ten-year-old figure came from but I do know it has been months since she's made herself known."
Xander raised a hand. "There have been uncorroborated blips in my life since I was about fourteen. Hackers messing with my school schedule and things, but we can't prove who it was." He put his arm down.
The judge nodded at that, looking over the statements. She looked over at one. "You're dating him?" He nodded. "Interesting. Good taste, young man."
"He understands me," Xander said quietly. She smiled at that. "Your Honor, I would like to have my attorney file a mental health petition as well against her. It's clear she's not stable. Would we do that through you?"
"I can consider that motion," she agreed, going through the other statements. She finally looked at the lawyer for the young woman. "Do you have any proof they're together?"
"We have statements saying they have appeared in public together. Not always as a date but at the same events."
Xander's lawyer shook his head. "Both of them are in society, Your Honor. Of course they were at the same events. Her mother claims she has a crush on him. Her father knows there's a problem but can't seem to fix it."
"Why do you have semen stored already, Mr. Benis?"
"My grandfather is very ill and asked me to," he said honestly. "That way if something happened to me I could still have an heir down the line. He wishes before he dies but I've still not graduated yet."
"At your age?"
"He had to claim me at five and Miami's birthday cut off rule left me not starting until six," he said calmly. "I get that a lot." She smiled and nodded, going back to the other lawyers. "I can find someone to substantiate who I came to which event with if it would help. I can call one of the society reporters. They do keep track of those things."
"Please," the judge agreed.
Xander pulled out his phone and personal phone book from his shirt pocket, finding a number. "This is Xander Benis. I need a society reporter's help. Please. Marigold, dear, I'm in court. My stalker has decided that we've been together since I was ten. The judge needs to know who I came to certain events with since then. Can I count on you? Right now actually. Well, it would give you the scoop on my stalker, who is also in society. Try the mayor's daughter," he said dryly. She gasped and babbled. "It does make sense, doesn't it. We're here now and the judge would need that, yes. Thank you, dear." He hung up. "She said let her gather a few notes and she'll be right over."
"I'll have Tony wait and escort her up," Xander's attorney promised, texting that to him.
"Who is this Tony?"
"My personal bodyguard and head of security for the Benis Foundation, Your Honor," Xander told her.
"Ah. I see. That's ...reasonable." Xander nodded. "Have there been other issues?"
"She's tried to get Tony fired, tried to get my lawyer to put her name on my legal affairs, trying to get my parents out of jail recently for *some* reason."
"They'll agree with me," she hissed.
"They tried to have me kidnaped and sold me to a pedophile to pay for it," Xander said bluntly. "If I wasn't as good as I am at escaping, I'd be horribly dead by now." He looked at the judge again. "That's how I met most of the New York lab actually. All I want is for her to be far, far away from me and to leave me the hell alone forever. I don't care how it happens at the moment. Frankly, she scares the crap out of me. She's killed seventeen people, Your Honor. The FBI is even starting to get interested in her."
Tony walked a harried looking brunette woman in. "Here you go, Your Honor."
"Tony DiNozzo. Formerly a Special Agent with NCIS."
"He chose well for a head of security."
"He needs me." He sat down behind Xander, patting him on the back. "Stay calm," he said quietly.
"I am. Thank you, Marigold."
"You're most welcome, Xander. You know we adore you. You're the one who gives us the least work and stress. I don't get to get gleeful about your downfall but that's better for humanity anyway." She handed over notes. "Those are all the notes I have from my database about who he came to each event with and what sort of event it was. I pulled what I have on her as well, Your Honor. If I can answer further questions, just ask."
"Thank you." She looked it over, smiling at all the entries of 'grandfather Patrick' in the spreadsheet report. She finally looked over. "I can't see a single event where it was reported you two were together."
"They're not," Marigold said. "Xander's very gay, Your Honor. He's always said bi but with the pressure some of the females in society put on him he shies away from women. I do know he's dating at the moment...." She smiled at him. "Can I know?"
"If you don't out him," Xander agreed. She shrugged. "Think...best friend." She gaped then squeaked and nodded. "Which is why you cannot out him."
"I won't. Oooh, that's going to be juicy though." She smiled at the judge. "Sorry, professional interest. I'm nosy, it's part of the calling."
"I'm sure it makes you good at your job." She looked at Xander. "He does know your age?"
"He's known me since I was little. He helped me celebrate my last birthday. It's a very recent development. Since I moved actually."
"Good." She looked at the young woman then at her attorney. "Do you have any proof that they were together secretly?"
"I'd have seen that, Your Honor. We follow Mr. Benis around most of the time. He is a person of great interest in the local news and we want to know what and who he's doing all the time. We have more photographs of him at rest than we do of some stars being naughty. I have not seen him even talk to her in three years."
"I talked to her once last year, told her to go away," Xander admitted. "I was in the bathroom though."
"Would you deign to do an interview?" Marigold asked. He pointed at Tony. "I'll talk to him," she agreed happily. "There's things your fans want to know."
"I get approval," Tony ordered calmly.
"Of course. Aren't you so adorable!" She pinched him on the cheek. "He chose very well. I did a background on you, Mr. DiNozzo." He smirked back. "Beauty and brains."
"He's mine!" the girl snapped. "He has been mine. I don't care about his little gay affairs. A good society wife can overlook those since there's no issue, but Xander is mine and he will be staying mine. All issue from him should be mine."
"I don't see proof that you're together," the judge told her. "I'm seeing overwhelming proof you're not together really."
Xander looked over. "If you were mine, you'd know what my middle name in, what one thing I will not eat ever again and why, and what shape the birthmark on my inner thigh is." She gaped at him. "Can you answer any of those?"
"I can answer two," Marigold said. Xander smiled at her but his eyes told her to quit being so flamboyant so she quit.
"Those are things I would expect a close lover to know," the judge agreed. "Can you, miss?"
She sneered. "I don't have to prove it. He is mine and he's staying mine. I've made sure of it."
"Your Honor, we'd like to have her put in for a mental health exam at this time since she's clearly just made a threat against the family," Tony said, standing up.
"You won't save them. He'll be mine and only mine," she sneered. "The whole family but him is going away. They won't keep him and I will have him! No one is going to keep him from me!"
"Your Honor?" Tony said.
"Go call someone," she ordered.
He nodded going to do that.
"Your Honor, we would like to her to have a psychiatric evaluation," her lawyer agreed. "Please. I think it would solve any reluctance they had on their part about her suit." He gave her a panicked look. His client had just went psycho and he had no idea how to deal with it.
The judge nodded. "I think that's an excellent idea. Bailiff?" He came over to handcuff her but she knocked him down. Xander got across the table and pinned her down, handcuffing her while she shrieked and complained. "You're good."
"Martial arts," he said dryly. "I'm also hyperactive." He grinned sweetly. "I'm going to go save my family now. Marigold, sometime next week providing I don't have a funeral to attend?" She nodded, getting out of his way. "Thank you, Your Honor. Excuse my hasty retreat." He walked outside, jogging down the stairs to find Tony already had the car started. "Who's where?" he asked, putting the car into gear and backing out, then speeding off. "Call Dispatch to make sure I don't get stopped?" He sped up, taking the next corner at closer to eighty and still going faster.
Tony did that. "Horatio, please call Dispatch and have them not stop us. She's done something to try to take out the family. No, Xander's driving the porsche a bit fast," he admitted, clutching the bar over the door. "He makes Gibbs' driving look sane at the moment." He squeezed his eyes shut. "We just went around cruiser 1420. Thank you." He looked back as lights came on behind him. The car followed. "Good. It got through. Don't kill us."
"I'm not." He shifted up again, putting the accelerator all the way down. He fingered the remote for the gate. "Call?"
"Calling." He called the house. "Stay inside, do not move, open the gates," he ordered. "Xander's driving. Open the gates. She threatened the family, Thomas. We're doing about one-fifty. Open the damn gates." He hung up and Xander shifted down suddenly, spinning around a corner and then going back up. "Where did you learn how to drive like this? You never said you took high speed pursuit driving classes."
"Video games," he said dryly. He shifted back down when he spun into the gates, parking with a screech of tires. He got out, looking at the officer. "The family was threatened. With me." He walked to the door, looking at it. Someone shot at him. "Fucking sniper," he said, pulling his gun, but Tony took it from him. "Hey!"
"I'm still a better shot and your head of security," he said firmly, covering him. "Inside. That was a warning." Xander walked inside with the officer while Tony called in the shot fired. He ran a hand over the doorway. "Xander?" He leaned out. "Feel this."
He felt along the same area, then came out to look. "Fuck me," he growled. Thomas backed away. "Out the back gate, people. Someone mined the house with explosives!" They all ran. "Take the important papers and baby books too!" he called. "Go with the evacuation plan!" He looked at Tony. "Call Don or Mac. Have Uncle Don drug to the safe house one way or another. I just found a trigger." Tony backed off, doing that. He called Horatio too. Bomb squad got there first. Xander nodded them over. "Under my middle finger is a depression trigger. There's wires running all over the doorframe that should not be here. We had a sniper try to hit me with a warning shot." The officer nodded, moving around him. "We're not sure if the rest is mined but they're using very thin wires."
"I can see." He looked it over. "I'm not seeing the payload."
"We had to have the front steps repaired recently thanks to the anti-gay league," Tony offered from a safer distance. The fence was shielding his position from the sniper but he was still close enough to react. "Check there. Or even is it the grout between the stones?"
He looked then nodded. "Yeah, that is. Good eye." He looked at him. "I heard you were a Fed."
"NCIS under Gibbs," he admitted, waving a bit. He ducked at another shot, getting out of sight. "Officer?"
"I'm fine," he promised. "Just in pain."
Xander looked then leaned down. "Inside. Tell the others." Tony came over to get him evacuated and Xander took a deep, calming breath. "I'm going to kill her," he noted. "Anyone mind?" Tony only gave him a look. "Thanks. Do we have another bomb tech?"
"They're at another one. She planted another one," the tech said, letting the officer call it in and hold pressure on the new hole in his arm.
Xander used his free hand to find his phone, calling someone. "Captain, I've got my finger on a depression trigger on the doorframe at Grandfather's house. There's explosives in the front step. Please. She set another one. Tony's here. The bomb guy's injured from a sniper. Please." He hung up, looking at their escorting officer who had been making sure everyone else was out of the house. "Get him help. Get him safely away. Whoever she hired won't hesitate. Am I clear?" He nodded, going to evacuate the injured tech. Tony looked over from his protected spot. "Not how I envisioned today going," he decided.
"No, I thought you'd be planning dinner with Horatio tonight. Finish spoiling him for his birthday." A jeep pulled in and parked. "The sniper?"
"Found 'im," the older man said, coming over. "Shit, boy. You do get into trouble."
"I try very hard not to. This was the stalker bitch," he said dryly. "She's put a contract or something out on the whole family."
"Ten mil. Your grandparents and all their staff. The local lab. The New York lab and your uncle. If they have to do you they have to do you." He looked at him. "She's where?"
"Mental help. I handcuffed her myself. She got the bailiff."
"Good. Hopefully she stays."
"I got the rest of everyone out," Tony said. "We've got evacuation plans already set up. I'm taking Xander to his as soon as you can get him free."
"Agreed." He looked. "Well, this is pretty." Horatio's hummer pulled in and he hopped out as soon as it stopped. "Get me my tool kit, son." He did that, coming over. "Morning."
"Morning," Horatio said grimly. He looked at Xander. "You made the Chief dance."
"I thought I'd spoil you rotten for your birthday," he quipped. Horatio smiled. "Dinner later while we're all in protective custody? Speaking of, Tony, dear?"
"Already calling. Keep getting a busy signal."
"Son, your whole lab is part of the hit," the Captain said grimly. "Ten mil to take out his family, your lab, Taylor's lab, and his uncle."
"I told Mac to drag Don to safety even if he has to knock him out," Tony promised. "Calleigh, Tony. There's a hit on the lab. No, not the Mala Noche idiots. Xander's stalker put out a ten million dollar contract on your lab, Taylor's lab, his family including me, and his uncle. I told Mac. I'm telling you. Horatio's here and I'm evacuating him as soon as we get Xander's hand off the bomb trigger. Yes, I mean now. Thank you. We had a sniper here trying to shoot the people helping Xander off the bomb. It's a real threat." He hung up. "Okay, we'll see what we need to do to help them." He came closer. "Need me?"
"Out of the way," the Captain ordered.
"Yes, sir." He stepped back. "Horatio, Calleigh said I am taking you into protective custody as well. Do not argue. Am I clear?" He nodded at that. "Good."
Mac hung up with Tony and stormed out of his office. "Everyone!" Everyone came out of their labs, looking at him. "Someone has placed a hit on this lab. We are part of a ten million dollar contract. This is a credible threat that has already been acted on. You are staying here until I can get the PD to move you and your families to safety. Am I clear?" They all nodded, Danny biting his lip. He looked at him. "A stalker," he said bluntly. Stella swore. "Exactly. I'm going to take Flack since he's named specifically. We're named as accessories. Do not move from the lab. Get whoever's out back here. Cases are hereby handed over to non-felony or one of the other felony labs. Do it now, Stella. You're in charge." She nodded, going to make that call. He stormed over to Don's desk, opening his desk drawer to get the keys. "Let's go."
"What did I do?" he asked, looking confused.
"His stalker put out a contract on the family, Don. All of you and us. Ten million. You're going or you're going drugged unconscious. We're going now."
Mac knocked him out. He nodded at his captain. "You were briefed on his nephew's stalker. She put out a ten million dollar contract on my lab, him specifically, and all Xander's family so she could have him. Xander's presently on a bomb and there was a sniper. I'm taking him to safety. There's an emergency procedure set up. Stella's already covering who I didn't call. Get patrol outside my lab, lock it down." He nodded, going to do that while he walked the unconscious man out. He handed one of the guys at the desk his keys. "Go get *my* car. Start it, bring it around. He tried to argue with me and there's a contract out on him. It's already been tried this morning we think." Don's car hadn't wanted to start and he wasn't sure it wasn't related. They nodded, going to do that. Don groaned so he knocked him back out, dragging him outside and into the car. He walked around to drive. "Thanks." He headed off, taking him to the emergency condos they had set up. He got them there after driving around for a while to lose any tails, then inside. "Hey, this is Detective Flack."
The guard looked then at him. "Keys, sir?" He held them up. They got a nod. "He's in 2-B. Threat?"
"Contract out on his life." He walked him to the elevator. "If anyone authorized calls, he's here, he's safe, I did have to knock him out."
"I was hoping it was something like that," he agreed, making that note in the system. His boss sent back a note and he responded the detective had been unconscious but it had been another detective who had brought him in. That was fine with his boss so it was with him. He called the number he had in Miami, getting a tired sounding voice. "Father, Neil with the condo's security force. Detective Flack was just dragged in unconscious by another detective, sir. They wanted you to know." He smiled and nodded. "Yes, sir, very safe. Wasn't bleeding. Apparently he argued." He laughed. "That does describe the one who carried him in, yes, Father. Thank you, sir." He hung up and made another note of the threat. This building was a secure building. No one was getting in without the proper keys.
The Captain cut the last wire, backing off. "Okay, boy. Let's ease off the switch slowly. Come this way." Xander nodded, coming outside. "Good boy." He got him out of the way. "Okay, we're clear. Horatio, tell the young pups to come check the rest of the house. This was very sophisticated." He looked at Xander. "Your family?"
"Safer. I'm going to kill her if they let her out."
"I need the information on the contract," Tony said, pulling Xander over to look at him.
"I've got it at the shop. Come get it tonight once you've got them to safety." He looked at him. "Nice driving."
Xander gave him a sheepish grin. "It's a powerful engine. Good thing, huh?" He pulled Horatio over, checking him over. "Okay, Tony. Come on, Horatio."
"Don't make me knock you out like Taylor did to Flack," Tony ordered. "You're going at least for tonight, Horatio. Until we can have the contract canceled people would take it to get rid of the two labs even if they didn't care about the family. We're going, you included. Get in the car." He nodded, getting into Xander's car. He looked at him. "Straight there. Got the keys?" He held up his. "Good. Straight there. I'll be there in about an hour, let me coordinate and get that information." He nodded, getting in to drive them there. "Captain."
"Agent DiNozzo. I know your boss."
"A lot of people do, sir." He shook his hand. "I need that information file."
"Meet me at the shop, kid." Tony nodded, letting him go, waiting on bomb squad to get back there.
Tony looked at the person getting out. "They disarmed the one on the doorway with the explosive in the front step," he noted calmly.
"The Captain did," he said quietly. That got a shudder. "Caine was here helping."
"Oh, damn," he said, looking around. "How does this family know him?"
"Xander's former bodyguard was one of his. He helped train Xander in how to escape."
"Makes sense," he decided. "Okay, show me." He walked him over to show him what had been done. "That's a pretty snake. Boys, get the dog!" A dog was brought over to sniff that. "Do the entire house? Other soft targets?"
"Hiding," Tony assured him. "We have emergency plans set into place due to the anti-gay league and others." That got an odd look from the dog handler. "This is Father Benis's house. His grandson Xander had a stalker in society. She can pay for the best. We were told a ten mil contract." That got a nod and they went to check everywhere. He looked at the guy in charge. "There is a ten million dollar contract out on the lab, this family, and the Manhattan Felony lab. They all know."
"Didn't want to be hidden. Tough shit."
He smiled. "You're a lot like your boss."
"Learned from the best," Tony quipped. "Though Xander is as stubborn as a son of Gibbs ever would be." That got a laugh. "Drives like he's in F-1 too." He got out of the way. "Anything that's found I can pass on. I'm the only one out in the open."
"Agreed." He went to help, finding a few more devices like the one out front, and a few in the cars. He came out when they were all disarmed. "Who in the hell did they piss off?"
"The mayor's daughter is Xander's stalker," Tony said quietly. "She's having a 'if I can't have him no one will' snap."
"I'm so sorry. You okay?"
"So far. She was put under mental eval today by the judge she tried to convince to give her Xander's stored sperm." That just got a nod. "Yeah, fully snapped. Be careful, guys."
"Oh, we are. Fingerprints will hopefully curse our names." He watched as the last box was carried out. "Get it to the lab, boys. They're in lock down. Go check his house, Agent DiNozzo."
"Already did have it checked, sir. Our primary guard dog is bomb sniffing." That got a smirk. "Kinda necessary." He walked off, going to call a cab. He knew where the shop/training facility was. Had since he had hired on as Xander's protection. "Gibbs is going to shit about this one," he muttered as he climbed into the cab. He handed over the card he had been given, getting a nod. When the cabby detoured he had his gun out. "On whose order?"
"Captain's orders, sir," he reported.
"Thank you. Going where?"
"Back of the facility, Agent DiNozzo." He pulled into a parking garage, letting him out. "Blue door. Boy's birthday is his code, use it." Tony nodded, heading that way.
Tony walked into Horatio's lab, whistling. "Speedle!" He came out of the office. "Info on the contract, get me Taylor on a conference call?" he asked as he walked, getting a nod. A few others came jogging to be in on it. He settled in to fax it to Mac's present address. "It's with security, Mac. That's the full information file on the contract itself." He let the detectives have it. "She was sure you guys would shield Xander from her. It was taken by a fairly disreputable syndicate who wanted to eliminate both labs for the good of the criminal underground. She's managed to escape from the hospital. They didn't drug her fast enough. The contract still stands and she may be trying to increase the bounty." He looked at the detectives. "Did you get the information file on her?" They all nodded. "Today?" he asked dryly.
"I got it last week," Frank admitted. "Links back to her parents?"
"Her mother increased her trust fund late last year but we can't prove she knew what she needed it for. If she ups it now we'll be sure." That got a nod. "Also, we have tracked her back to a hacker. I pulled a favor with a hacker I know in DC. She got into the school and came up with her hacker's name and address. Feds are going after him. The FBI wants this case very badly since it's going to hit a mayor and a senator, plus it goes across state boundaries. I told them to growl that at Horatio. He's in hiding with Xander."
"Similar setup to up here?" Mac asked over the phone.
"Exactly the same setup. Patrick had the buildings built." He looked at the others. "They are safe. Nothing short of a military strike or it being demolished will get anyone into the building they're in. Patrick and Sire have their own hiding spot and they're safely there with all the family. We have the guards at Xander's house on high alert. I figure she'll go over there looking for him. Xander has offered to come out to play bait to end it sooner. Is your lab safe, Mac?"
"We're shut down and everyone's in hiding," he promised. "Stella got shoved onto one of the transports by Danny and he was the last one out. Everyone in the lab is safe and being guarded by the department. Don, did you get the file?" He heard an irritated grunt and took it. He looked it over. "We busted them last year."
"So did the FBI," Tony agreed. "We've got to decide our next move. Xander wants to bait and lure. I want him to stay safe. Even if he wasn't my paycheck he's still a young guy. I don't want to see him have to kill someone. She does know that he and Horatio are dating," he admitted. "So does Marigold, one of the local society reporters, but she did promise in front of the judge not to out him prematurely." The detectives gaped at him. "Recent," he admitted. "Xander has good taste. Horatio understands him."
Mac was smiling you could hear it. "He does and Horatio has known all his faults for a very long time. They're as stubborn as anything. I'm sure they're fighting about Xander's idea."
"Well, yeah," Tony admitted. "I've got an ear in their place. They're having a very loud fight. Complete with noble 'I will not let her kill you' talks on each side. What's our next move?" Someone walked in. "Fornell," he said, waving. "Come on in. This is Detective Hagen, Detective Tripp. CSIs Duquesne, Speedle, Delko, and Wolfe."
"Your boy and Caine?"
"Hidden," he said bluntly. "I can call if you want to talk to Caine. They're arguing about Xander's plan for fishing."
"That might be our only plan. She's hiding." He looked around. "We want to take over this case."
Calleigh looked at him, then shook her head. "I'm sorry, I trust my fellow officers to protect me better than you guys. No go." She looked at Tony. "Fishing hook would be?"
"The house," Tony said. "We know she's had someone get the house plans, no matter how much we've hidden them. Her hacker is pretty good according to the one I asked."
"Abby was growling," Fornell agreed. "Water tank?"
"Ten minute fire department response time," Tony explained.
"That's reasonable then. The house won't burn but it's a reasonable reason. We want to lock down this lab fully and move you all into protective custody. We don't know who they've got dirty down here."
Tripp dialed his phone. "Get to Caine's office, now." He hung up. "We'll see." Stetler came jogging in. "Who do these people have dirty in the department?" he asked, handing over the file.
Stetler looked at it then at him. "That's blunt."
"His stalker put out a contract, they took it," Tony said. "Any ideas, Stetler?"
"Three that I know of." He wrote down the names, handing them to the guy who was clearly an agent next to him. "We can handle the lab. We have precautions in place. Caine draws trouble."
"It means we're doing our job," Wolfe reminded him. "Mac, are you sure all your people are okay?"
"They're fine. I know my people. If someone breaks in, Stella's going to kill and then maim. The boys won't be far behind her, Lindsay either. It'll be fine, Ryan. Tony, I'm staying with Don to protect him. I'd only draw attention to the others' location."
"That's fine. If you want into Xander's place, there's a sliding door," Tony told him. "In the closet area somewhere." That got a snicker from Don. "He okay?"
"Fine, I carried him in here unconscious because the stubborn family nature got him too."
"Xander gets it from us," Don said dryly. "Anything new?"
"Just this," Tony told him. He looked at Fornell, then Tripp and Hagen. "Up to you guys. Who's in charge when this happens?" Hagen held up his hand. "What do you want to do?"
"The FBI can do outer ring surveillance. We'll be moving our lab in about an hour to safety. We had to scout it for bombs first since we brought in fourteen from their house."
"Thirteen," Tony said. "They couldn't bring in the door frame." He stood up. "Okay, you guys do that. Let me handle Xander. Do we bait or not?"
"Bait," Fornell said.
Hagen considered it then nodded with Tripp. "Bait," he agreed. "Caine'll shit but oh well. It's the fastest and safest way. The kid's got you and a few others behind him."
"Oh, he's got more than DiNozzo," Fornell said, looking at him. "Gibbs is on a flight down."
"Good, I could use him." He looked at the others. "Then I'll let you do that." He hung up on Mac, calling there. "It's me. Put me on speaker." There was a pause. Tony did the same. "We're here in a meeting; all of us, Stetler, and DD Fornell of the FBI, Horatio. We agree with Xander's plan. She's out of the hospital and hiding. We'll be laying it at his house. I've got Xander's back, you're staying there. I've got the boss coming apparently so he'll be very well guarded. Your people are being evacuated in about an hour."
"I'll have someone pick up those three dirty cops. If the FBI would like to accompany me?" Stetler suggested. That got a nod and Fornell motioned to someone outside. "Come on. We've got to hit two precincts. We've been playing them for information." He walked out with the agent following him.
"I do not like this plan," Horatio said calmly.
"Tough," Hagen told him. "We need to draw her out before she bombs the building, Horatio. They pulled apart fourteen bombs at his grandfather's house. I'm doing the lab evacuations like we planned. We're clearing it for bombs now." Horatio sighed. "Are you okay?"
"It's a nice condo," he admitted. "It's got good security. Short of a military strike team blowing up the building I'm safe. I want Xander to stay safe. He's still only seventeen."
"And I've trained for a very long time to protect myself, Horatio," Xander pointed out. "This bitch touched my family. She's going to go down one way or another. Tony, when?"
"Home for dinner. I've evacuated everyone but the guards. Ricky came over to practice too. I told him someone had sent you a death threat. He agreed it was a good idea to go back to the school's gym for now. I got a call from your coach who I said I'd call when it was all clear. Come out for dinner. Work on your exit strategy with Horatio." He hung up, looking at Fornell. "The boss didn't think I could handle it?"
"This dovetailed with his case." He handed over something. "A fax from him. I'll have him picked up and taken to the house." He walked off. "Boys," he said. "Get with Detective Hagen. You're providing backup support for the local PD during the evac." They nodded. "You fail me and I will eat you in small chunks I cut off while you're living. Am I clear?" They all nodded, rushing to find Hagen even though he was in the office. It made him feel good to have them jump that way. They weren't even his usual agents to threaten and they knew to obey.
Hagen looked at Calleigh, then at Speedle. "Shut the lab. Now." They nodded.
Speed walked out onto the walkway. "Yo!" he yelled, hitting the emergency power button. Everyone come out complaining. "There is a ten million dollar contract out on this lab. I will have all of you removed to a safe location. Clean your desks, close any last samples, gather the last few reports. We're moving in an hour, people. If you argue, I'm letting Cal work her stress out on you. Am I clear?" They nodded. "Good! Horatio's already in hiding. He went with Benis when he went. We hope it'll be solved tonight. We do have a long-standing plan in place. We will get your families as well. Do it now, do it orderly. Agreed?" They nodded. "I'll tell Alexx myself. Just get ready to move." He went to the morgue, walking in. "Alexx, we're moving you and the family to safety. There's a ten mil contract on the lab thanks to Xander's stalker."
She gave him an odd look. "Excuse me?"
"Argue and I'm spanking, Mom. Get your jacket. Close it up. You've got about forty minutes to clean her up."
She nodded, going back to work. "I'm nearly done with her. Why?"
"Xander's stalker. We'd shield hm from her. It's us, Taylor's lab in New York, and his *entire* family. We'll use the evacuation plan H and Hagen set up. They're getting your family too." She nodded at that, going back to work. "H is with Xander."
"Good. He needs someone to keep him calm."
"Alexx, the kid was the one who disabled the bomb on the hummer that time," he told her. She gave him a horrified look. "His former bodyguard is Special Forces. His present one is NCIS and a former detective. Hurry up." He left, going back to make sure everyone was doing what they should. "No new samples," he told Valera.
"I have to. His hearing's tonight and they'll let him go if I don't. It'll be done by then." He nodded. "Natalia has my jacket."
"That's fine. Do it as fast as you can. It can print while we're leaving if it has to." She nodded, getting it spinning. He walked on to check the other labs. "If you're done, close up, head to the break room. Delko?"
"It's clear," he called.
"Get to the break room if you're clear," he announced. Most everyone went. A few were cleaning up their last samples. They trailed out and Valera handed Frank her last report with a post-it for who it went to. That got a nod from him. Stetler came in nodding. "Transport's here. Ryan, go gather Alexx in person. I don't care if you drag or carry her." He nodded, jogging off to get her. He followed the lab techs out, hand on his gun. They weren't cops, he was. Ryan came out carrying a complaining Alexx. "I told him to. Do not smack him, Alexx. Into the van." Ryan put her down and helped her inside, then followed. He looked around. "Calleigh?"
"I've got last." Speed nodded, getting in with Ryan. Eric got into the other one with Hagen. Calleigh and Stetler headed to the unmarked patrol cruisers riding escort. It looked like an important prison transport. "Alexx's family?" she asked the officer.
"Already gathered, ma'am. Headed there with other officers. We grabbed the father from work and had him get the kids under our watch."
"Thank you. She'll worry if they're not there. The other families?"
"Already there." She nodded and he pulled out, following the two vans. "How long have you guys had this one in effect?"
"Two years. We change it every time we have to use it." He just nodded.
Xander pulled into his driveway, nodding at the older man waiting on him. "FBI?"
"Don't insult me like that, Mr. Benis."
"Xander. I respond faster to it." He walked inside. "Brief me, Tony?" He handed over the information, following him to the kitchen. He grabbed some soda and walked off, Tony following him. "Okay, where am I setting up?"
"Wherever you feel most comfortable, Xander."
"Backyard too open? I don't want her in the house or the gazebo." He handed it back. "I'd push her over the cliff."
"If that'll help." He nodded. "Or the garden room? It's glass."
"That'll work," he agreed, radioing that. "The glass room with all the plants, Gibbs." He followed him. "They didn't get her drugged fast enough. That's how she got away. She's got some skills, Xander."
Xander looked at him. "So do I." He shrugged. He flopped down in a chair, sipping his soda. "Here?"
"Here's fine." He lowered the lights, getting a nod from someone outside. "There, better in case they have to shoot her." Xander smiled. "Horatio?"
"I knocked him out. He's going to be fairly pissed when he wakes up handcuffed on the bed. I called Sire up from downstairs."
"That'll work." He looked at him. "Are you sure? I can do a body double."
"She's probably spied on me and she's seen me in my bathing suit, Tony."
"Here." He handed over his earwhig. "Stay calm. Let us handle it."
Xander smiled. "I'm not ten. Trust me to know my training, Tony."
"I do, I don't want you to have to use it."
Xander nodded, sticking the earbud in. "Can I have another soda?"
"Sure." He went to get him one, looking in the control room. "Anything?"
"Someone's out by the fence but it's too big to be her," the guy in there said. He looked at him. "He let you have the big toy budget."
"I deserve it." He grinned, bringing Xander his soda. "Here. Quit bouncing." He walked outside, looking at Gibbs. "Thanks, boss," he said quietly.
"Not a problem. This stinks. She really tried to have reproductive rights?"
"Yeah, tried to say they've been together since he was ten. We're tracking down what event started it with the society reporter from earlier. Any word on her mother?"
"She's under arrest. She added to her trust fund and the price on his head went up to fifteen."
"Damn." He took a deep breath. "He calls them brats."
"They are." He heard the demand. "Another soda?"
"That's a code. He can see the guard outside. Xander uses soda as his personal anti- bounciness drug, boss." He tapped his earpiece. "Guys, hidden in plain sight," he ordered. "Let's not tip her off." He listened, nodding. "Check in." He did that, smiling. "Thank you, boys. And ladies." He hung up, looking at him. "Xander's got one too. He does during events."
"He did train?"
"He did. He doesn't keep it up all the time or his martial arts. He's not the perfect form boy either. Someone taught him to fight." That got a smirk. "It'll be fine. Caine's handcuffed down so he stays safe." He sipped his coffee. "I told you the house was beautiful."
"It is. Very calm feeling. Will he be able to live here?"
"If he has to he'll destroy that room and have it replaced," Tony said with a shrug. "They pulled fourteen bombs at his grandparents' place, Gibbs." He looked around, holding his earpiece. "Who, McGee?" He nodded. "Agreed. Paul, you're there. Who? Do you have a visual?" He smiled. "That'll work. We thought he was tied down. Give him stuff and put him on." He hung up, looking at him. "Caine is very resourceful."
"So I've heard. His people?"
"They've got evac plans. They're good so it draws trouble. Taylor's team is hidden too. He's personally staying with the kid's uncle in their hidden area. He had to drag him out unconscious." He grinned. "You'd shake your head at his second, boss. She's a spitfire and she will break your head open while sneering and calling you names in Greek. She likes Xander like a nephew."
"Good. It's good he's got family." He listened, nodding at Caine when he walked past. "How long did it take you to follow?"
"Long enough to get out of the handcuffs." He looked at Tony. "Give me a hidden spot."
"He's in the conservatory, Horatio. You want inside the house?" He nodded, heading in there. "Stay out of sight."
"I am." He went to take up a position where he could see into the other room but they couldn't really see him. Xander came out and opened a hidden door, getting a smirk back. "Original?"
"Yeah. They had it in the original house to protect them from Union soldiers." He went back there after getting another drink, going back to flop down on his couch, holding his head. He popped it open and grimaced. "Eww. Grabbed the wrong can. Gotta yell at someone about keeping beer in with the soda." He poured it out, sitting down again. He heard someone walking outside and listened. It wasn't one of the guards or the guard dog. He made himself relax, going over his skills.
She walked in, staring at him. "See, you're mine."
He shook his head. "No I'm not."
"You are. You're here. I knew you would be."
"I'm here to kick your ass for doing this to my family, Annamarie. No other reason. Tony, stay. This is my fight." He stood up. "You think it's yours, try me."
She sneered. "I made myself into your perfect mate. I doubt you can beat me." She attacked and he responded, keeping it at the level of professional fighting. She even tagged him, then he moved and grabbed her neck, nearly snapping it when he twisted it. She shrieked, getting away from him. "How dare you!"
He shrugged. "Of course I do. I don't want you. You're a skanky little bitch. Who'd want you?" She shrieked and lunged again, going back to it. She got him in his perpetually sore knee, making him stumble. She got him down and cuffed, sneering at him. "You haven't won."
"I have so. No one else is going to come save you, Xander. You're mine. Tony will find that out or he'll die."
Xander moved, getting himself undone. "One thing, Sheila, I'm more trained than you think. Do you think I didn't take lessons from my other guards?" he asked, attacking her again. "I got away from professionals and you're nowhere near that level." He got her down, pulling his personal sidearm to point it at her. "Move, please. I beg you to move," he sneered coldly. She gave him a horrified look. She tried to wiggle back and he blew a hole in her knee. "That's for picking on my poor knee. A lot of people like that one." Tony came rushing in, Horatio calmly walking over. "Please let me end this," he said.
Horatio walked around him, taking the gun. "No, Xander," he said quietly, kissing him. "You can't kill her."
"I am." He stared into his eyes. "You'd have to leave me if you killed her. Your grandfather would lose you." Xander nodded, letting him walk him off. "Deal with her, Tony. Before I do."
Tony smirked at her. "Hi. How are you?" She tried to get up and he pointed his gun at her. "Don't think I won't. You wouldn't be the first."
"DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Let Fornell."
"Why? She'll buy her way out with an insanity plea."
"Not with the forethought she put into it." He took his gun. "Clear, come get her, make her quit bleeding in here." The agents with them rushed in. He looked at him. "Looks like you retired in time."
"Xander and his grandfather both inspire that sort of loyalty, boss. Not too many people who aren't anti-gay don't like him." He grinned. "Besides, I'd say it'd be a good use of the forty-cent bullet." He looked at her then at him again. "You sure you can make it stick?"
"She couldn't have snapped, not with that contract. That'll take us a few more days. Get your boys to safety."
Tony listened to his earwhig. "Xander, get back to safety. Now. We still have the contract. Do it now. Disobey and I'm going to lock you out of both gyms and keep Horatio out of the house for two weeks." He smiled at the pout. "Tough. Do it anyway. Horatio, take him back to safety. Wherever. There if you want, not there if you don't want. She upped it before coming over." He hung up, looking at him. "They're very cute together," he said dryly, following her limping body out. "How long does Fornell need to end the contract?"
"He's saying a week. He's got a few links back for us since they're involved in a military drug ring. The director is snarling at this case."
"I'm sorry, boss. She come over to snarl in person?" Gibbs smacked him on the head. "You know, I almost miss that." He smirked. "You ever retire, you can retire down here. Captain Assinger said hi." He walked off.
"This is where he's hiding?" he demanded.
"Yep, downtown. He's who helped train the boy." He turned and grinned. "Trained Caine in bombs too when he was bomb squad." He smirked and trotted off to check the guard who was unconscious.
Gibs shook his head, walking back inside to gather his people. They had been offered the new guest house Xander had built on the other edge of the property. "What's the guesthouse look like, McGee?"
"Furnished," he said, showing him that picture. "Well furnished but a bit more techno than this house, boss."
"It'll do. It's got beds. Clean up and hit it." He got nodded at by the people in there. Gibbs looked. DiNozzo had set up a good system. Tony came in and flipped the alarm switch to 'notify me' and walked out again. "That's all you have to do?"
"That and the night shift of guards. Yeah." He grinned. "Need walked over there?"
"No, it'll be fine." He shook his head, following his people. This was the most cherry assignment he had ever seen. Especially when he saw the bakery delivery truck pull in and Tony accepting a small red box. He smirked, shaking his head when Tony pulled out a cookie to nibble. The boy was so spoiled by his master.
Xander walked into his house two days later, looking around. "Good, we're still standing. I'm not hiding anymore!" he yelled. "I'm tired of missing my equipment!" He headed to get a soda, smiling when Horatio followed him. "You can come spot me," he offered.
"I think someone should. You keep falling, Xander."
"I try really hard not to become a demonstration of laws of physics but my shoulder's killing me."
"You're seeing someone tonight," Tony called from the office. He came out to look at him then at Horatio. "How about a lounge in the pool or a hot bath instead?"
"I've been trying," Horatio complained.
He looked at his boss. "Go to the pool to do gentle laps or go take a bubble bath with your man."
"I'm fine." He walked off.
"I swear he's more stubborn than anyone but a son of Gibbs could be," he complained, going back into the office where Gibbs was laughing. "He is."
"Caine will stop him."
"It took both of us to hold him down so the doctor could check him over." Horatio came in and dialed a number. "Again?"
"His knee's still swollen. I'll distract him. You sneak the doctor in." He listened to the genteel old voice. "I was calling Doctor Palmer. Ah, Ducky. My ME knows you. This is. Gibbs is here, Ducky. Please. Tell him Xander's knee is still swollen and he's barely able to move his shoulder. Thank you." He hung up, shaking his head. "Your ME's are visiting one's father?" he asked before walking out.
"I'm sure they get along pretty well. Palmer senior's nothing like his son." He checked the phone. "The autopsy gremlin's definitely not like his dad."
"Maybe that's why he went to Ducky to train," he said grimly. "You don't have a lot to do."
"Actually, I do. Beyond her, Xander does stupid things like do an open air shoot for a new leather line during spring break." Gibbs shuddered. "He's also on the board of a street fair coming up. He'll want to go. He's very active and still hyper." Someone rang the bell, letting him listen to the guard. "Let him in," he called. "Ducky, Palmer Junior, and Palmer are all here, boss." He walked out, smiling. "They're in the pool, Doctor Palmer."
"Of course he is."
"He decided he was too stubborn and would be doing a bubble bath with his boyfriend later."
"That sounds like the boy," he agreed dryly, heading that way. He smiled at Horatio, who was distracting Xander by kissing him. He looked at his shoulder and knee. "Dear boy," he sighed, coming over to look at him. Xander pouted. He smacked him on the side of the head. "You know better." Xander gave him a sheepish look. "Have you been wrapping it?"
"His stalker and he got into it physically," Horatio said. "She kicked him in it. I have been wrapping and using heat treatments on them both."
"Good, that means you have sense."
"I know. Trust me. I've seen him since he was six and his bodyguards overdosed him on his medicines." Xander shrugged then winced. "Let me check." He moved it gently then smacked him again. "Stupid." Xander gave him a sheepish look. "Do you want me to do surgery on it, Xander?"
"No thank you," he said weakly, looking down.
"Horatio, he needs x-rays. Today please. On both of them. His knee looks to be swollen but with the former break I want to make sure. His shoulder's probably screwed for months."
"A sling?" he said hopefully.
"Only if you leave it on this time," he said, staring him down.
"Yes, Doctor Palmer."
"Thank you." He straightened up. "Go ahead, Horatio. Get him dressed. He's got crutches around here somewhere. Adjust them for his present height. Either that or get him a cane. I want as little weight on that knee as possible. Am I clear?" That got a nod. "Thank you." He walked off shaking his head. "Tony, he needs x-rays." He handed over the phone. "Thank you." He dialed the local hospital. "It's Palmer. I'm sending Benis in for shoulder and knee x-rays." He nodded, taking something down. "Thanks. Sure, I'll have him do that." He hung up, going to hand Horatio the appointment and the instruction to come in the back way. "There's a starlette who collapsed. They don't need more press attention."
"Agreed. Thank you, Doctor Palmer. Would you like to introduce them to Doctor Woods? I can call her."
"That's a fine woman, Horatio. I'd hate to tempt myself." He smiled. "But I wouldn't mind. Ducky, have you met Alexx Woods?"
"At a few conventions. I know she's down here. I didn't get to see her the last time I came down for a few days with Mother."
"She's in protective custody," Gibbs called.
"She'll be here in thirty," Tony called. "Cook, can you cook for both Palmers, Ducky, and Alexx?"
"Of course! Don't be silly, Tony. Not like you two keep me slaving in here." She went to start something for lunch. "Did you want fish or beef, Doctor Palmer?"
The younger one blinked. "I'm only a resident."
She pinched his cheek. "That still makes you a doctor, stupid." He grinned. "Beef or fish?"
"Whatever you feel like cooking, ma'am."
"Beef it is. I've been meaning to try out this new orange beef recipe." She hummed as she worked, turning up the radio when Ricky Martin came on. "Go make sure that cutie Gibbs is going to eat too. He cannot live on coffee in this house. If Tony can't he can't."
"Yes, ma'am." He went to find him. "Agent Gibbs, the cook said you're eating too. You can't live on coffee if Tony can't." He disappeared before he could be growled at. He helped Horatio out to the little sports car by the front door. "That's cute."
"Thank you," Xander said with a grin. "She handles very well too." He climbed in with a groan, wincing and holding his knee.
"I told you to rest it," Horatio chided gently. "If you can fuss over me, I can fuss over you."
"Did you get to open the card?"
"The Chief opened it for me."
"You should see it."
"I'll see it later, when I check in, Xander. Once you get x-rays." He drove them off, smiling at the easy handling. "No wonder you made it over one-eighty."
"Video games," he said seriously, making Horatio laugh. "Speed helped me pick it out."
"I remember." He drove them through the older neighborhoods, honking when they passed by Alexx and Calleigh. "I'm sure she's going to freak out some of Gibbs' people."
"Calleigh's sweet and gentle until you threaten her," Xander protested.
"Yes, but she's got that 'wanting to shock someone' look again," he said wisely. He pulled into the back lot of Dade Memorial, getting Xander out and inside. "He needs a wheelchair," he told the guard there. That got a nod. "Thank you." He helped Xander into it and rolled him to the front desk area. Xander was kept out of sight of the press crowding the front lobby. "Doctor Palmer sent Xander Benis for x-rays. He's in protective custody." He tapped his badge.
She looked then nodded, letting him have the forms. "Thank you," she said quietly. "Can we get them out of here?"
"You can. They do constitute a public menace." He handed the orderly the forms. "He's around the corner," he said quietly. That got a nod and he went to take Xander to radiology for him. He walked that way. "Ladies and Gentlemen!" he called. He moved into his usual 'staring you down/hands on hips' pose. Everyone stopped babbling, looking at him. "You are causing a public menace. We are going to stick you somewhere out of the way of the other patients in this facility; that way new ones don't get denied services due to you being in the way. Please get out of the way?" They moved for the officer dragging someone in. "Thank you." He looked at the receptionist, who was calling. She nodded and someone came over to lead them off. "Please follow this security officer. Do not sneak off or you can and will be arrested. Am I clear?" They nodded, following along. One stayed to stare at him. "Marigold."
"When do you think you're going to go public?" she asked quietly.
"Not until after I've told my family. Why?"
"Graduation? Wedding?" she asked hopefully.
"We've only been on six dates, Marigold."
"Oh. Why did they call you? You're supposed to be in protective custody."
"Poor baby." She took notes. "Thank you."
"We snuck him in and we'll be sneaking him back out."
"Of course. Sports related?" He walked off smirking. She jogged to go to where the reporters were being stuffed, sitting down next to one of her fellow gossip columnists. "Xander Benis *is* dating but it's a new thing and he's not out. He did ask that we not out him until he was ready and had told his family."
"I can agree with that. It's a good request. How do you know?"
"I got called to the trial," she said. "She claimed she had been going to events with poor Xander."
"Hold on, trial?"
She smirked, handing over her column for the day. "The story before her arrest."
"You sat on something this juicy?"
"He agreed to give me an exclusive if I did." She whimpered, looking it over. "He is here."
"Why? What happened?" She gave her a look. "Caine brought him." She nodded. "Why?"
"Knee. Again. Wouldn't verify the cause."
"Damn it. I hate missing those things. Think we could ask about his grandparents?"
"You should call Tony. He's handling Xander's PR at the moment too. I hear his former team came down about the contract and to help him protect our dear little injured chick."
"Interesting." She found her phonebook, calling him. "Tony, dear, Helen from the Daily. Do you have a statement for us about your team being down to help you and dear little Xander with his stalker problem? Or what's wrong with his knee this time?" She made notes, nodding. "Thank you. Is that prepared?" She laughed. "Of course Gordon did. I would assume the rest of the family is all right as well?" She smiled and took notes. "Marigold told me he's here for his knee. What's wrong this time?" He quipped something and she wrote it down. "Thank you, dear. We do adore you. Are you going with him to the polo match today?" She laughed and nodded. "Of course not. That doesn't really constitute hiding. Is that nice Horatio Caine hiding with him? I know he's very good friends with him. How does his boyfriend feel about that?" She beamed. "Thank you, dear." She hung up and smacked her friend on the arm. "Brat. You kept the good gossip from me. Caine likes his new boyfriend?"
"Quite a lot," she agreed happily. "They are best friends." That got a smirk. "His last one was an officer as well. Didn't you know?"
"I had heard they broke up after the housewarming party."
"Hmmm. It seems he was a bit ...controlling. Xander was asking Horatio's advice during the later dancing from what Erica overheard. Sykes is a very big gossip."
"It's good for the rest of us," she said, making notes. "They've got a prepared statement saying everyone's fine. The stalker was caught on the grounds there. You don't think his knee...."
"Xander? Sweet, gentle Xander?"
"With three black belts," someone up front called back. "You two done?"
"We *are* gossip columnists," Helen shot back dryly. "He does?" He looked back and smirked. "He's competed?"
"He has, once. He's got two third degree and one second. He stopped there."
"So he could have helped apprehend his stalker," Marigold said. He nodded. "Wasn't she in martial arts?"
"Probably trying to make herself a better version of a spouse in her deluded mind," Helen said, making notes about that. "Should I put in he was escorted by the police?"
"No, use his name. They are friends and everyone knows that. Even the Chief," she pointed out.
"The Chief thought they were dating," another male called back. "He's since decided Xander likes someone else in the lab but they're still very close friends."
"Hmm. That's probably who he took on the romantic ride," Marigold agreed, making notes. Helen gave her an odd look. "A recent date was to borrow someone's horses and take a picnic dinner out to watch the sunset. He did skip the next day as well."
"Really?" she asked. "So our good little boy may not be a pure little angel anymore?" They giggled and made their notes. "Do we think they have?"
"Not yet," she admitted. "Though maybe after this is done. Stress is a great reason to break and have sex after all." That got a few laughs. "He's here by the way. His knee is messed up again." A few other made notes of that. "Horatio brought him in from his hiding spot."
"That's an odd pairing," one complained.
"He's known Xander since he was ten," another guy complained.
"Younger," Helen called. "Horatio found him wandering when he was five. Xander told me he told the poor man his bodyguard had gotten lost when Xander went to pet a dog. That would be the one who later committed suicide."
That got some interested looks. "Maybe we should ask Caine about him."
"Caine never talks," another one complained. "Even Erica has to get around him now since he put his foot down about her bothering Wolfe and making him blurt stuff by accident."
Someone came in and moved to the front of the room. "Thank you for being so patient, ladies and gentlemen. We do have a small update. It does appear she'll be fine."
"What happened?" Helen called. She was known as a pit bull terrier of stories.
"It appears her appendix burst. She's been rushed up to emergency surgery to remove it and clean up the mess it left. Her people will be giving a statement once she's out of surgery. They'll come in here to do that. Then she'll be here for two days. We do ask that you not hound her during her recovery. After all, surgical incisions are very delicate things. You can pounce her when she goes home in a few days. I'm sure they'll announce it." That got a nod. "Thank you for your patience. The commissary is open to you as well. It's the next floor up in the back." He pointed. "Please don't bother the other patients."
Marigold raised her hand. "Any idea what's wrong with the Benis heir's knee?"
"From what I understand the pain his knee has on and off is from when he broke it at thirteen or fourteen. He's here?"
"Lieutenant Caine brought him in."
"That's fine. I'm sure he's got his security well in hand. It's probably some new inflamation. Doing gymnastics is hard on the joints after all." He left them alone, going to get an update on that. He found Xander holding his protector's hand. "No bodyguard?"
"I'm not robbing Tony of lunch for x-rays," Xander said grimly. He winced as the technician moved his knee. "Don't make me yelp, I'm loud and it'll draw attention." She nodded, moving his foot where she needed it. He panted through the pain until he was calm again, letting Horatio go. They went behind the lead panel to take it.
"Gymnastics? Someone asked."
"That's a good reason," Horatio agreed. "We'll be sneaking back out soon. This is the last one."
"Thank you." He went to give them an update on that.
Horatio came out and helped Xander back into the wheelchair, letting him sign the forms he needed to. He snuck him back to the car, taking him back home. By the time they got there the doctors had orders. He helped Xander inside. "They had to maneuver his knee. He's in a bit of pain," he told Tony. He got handed the tylenol bottle. "Thanks." He helped him onto a couch, handing him the pills and the soda another guard gave him. "Here."
"Thanks." He smiled weakly. "There was a collapsed starlette. Horatio had to shoo the press off."
"They asked about you too," Tony told him. "Helen called. I gave her the prepared statement."
"I told the hospital's PR person to use the gymnastics excuse," Horatio said. He looked at Xander. "Rest and I'll take you upstairs after your doctor tells me what to do for you." Xander nodded, closing his eyes, snuggling down under the throw Tony put over him. "Who was it?"
"The one doing the action film. They're reporting her appendix burst."
"Mine did that after a dive," Xander said grimly "Hurt like hell for weeks."
They left him alone, going to talk to the doctor. "He can't even walk now," Tony complained.
"If his shoulder was better I'd suggest crutches. His shoulder's starting to separate, Tony. I want him to rest it."
"Want him off school?"
"I want him in bed," he agreed, writing out a note for the school. "Here, have it sent over. Horatio, sit and eat, man. You've got to be exhausted taking care of the fussy one."
"He's been trying to fuss over me," he admitted, sitting down. Alexx got him a plate. "Thanks, Alexx. Thank you, Cook."
"Welcome, Horatio." She smiled. "He okay?"
"His knee's ready to rip itself apart," Doctor Palmer told her. "I want him to not move it or I'm putting him in traction."
"Please don't make him whine at me that way," Tony complained. "You know he will. I would."
Gibbs nodded. "He came back after only a week's recovery after having the plague."
"Then he probably understands the boy's complaints very well," Ducky offered. "I heard Anthony got cookies that same night? An admirer of your own perhaps?"
"His grandparents," Tony said modestly, digging into his lunch. "Do you want him here, doc, or at his grandparent's place? Here he's got the temptation."
"They'll be coming here for a few days," Horatio said. "Some damage needs to be undone."
"It was nearly brilliant to mix the explosive in with the grout," Tony agreed, taking another bite. Their guard dog came in and sniffed him. He handed over a treat, getting a bark and she headed back out. "She's pregnant." Gibbs snickered. He looked outside. "She bite a reporter?"
The handler leaned in, smiling at him. "No, she defeated the evil squirrel who wakes Xander by running over his back when he's sleeping in the gazebo." She smiled and took a mug from Cook, heading back out.
Gibbs laughed louder. "You've got one tough staff here, DiNozzo."
"I didn't like the squirrel either, Gibbs. It ran across me the other day when I was watching the sunset out there."
Alexx patted him on the arm. "The next one will be a reporter, baby."
He grinned. "Promise?" He looked at Horatio. "While you were driving back Margiold wanted to know if Xander was still a virgin. I told her I hadn't slept with him, it wasn't professional." Horatio snickered and nodded. "I don't care one way or another, Horatio."
"Using the pool with McGee and Abby," he said. "Ziva's out in the gazebo talking to someone in Hebrew. The guard out there thought it was cute she was swearing at someone in it too." He heard shuffling and looked. "Sit your scrawny butt down, Xander."
"I can't sleep." He sat down next to Alexx, giving her a hug. "How are the kids?"
"They're fine, dear. They don't know why they're being warehoused. I told them it was a hurricane drill." He smiled at that, resting on her shoulder. "You should probably be in bed."
"Going to the pound tomorrow," he said with a yawn.
"Xander, I want your knee propped up or I'm putting you in traction," Doctor Palmer told him. "Unless you want to limp forever?"
"Are we going to have to go in and redo the knee? I know you left a pin in for stability."
"That's a thought but not until your shoulder's better, son. You can't hop when your shoulder's ready to dislocate. We've got to work on strengthening it."
"Exercises?" Tony asked. That got a nod. "We can do that." He looked at Xander. "They're not that hard. We'll get your coach to do them with you."
"Sure. What about next year's team?"
"We'll see," Palmer told him. "Dad said your shoulder looked like a guy his age's shoulder after a lifetime of hard work."
"The team counts on me to be a point ho and flashy," Xander said. "I'm training my replacement too. We picked two alternates for next year. We basically only turned down one guy. He didn't want to do the team and he had a private coach. We pointed out we do work as a team, I'm still captain, and he had to live up to working with the team. His coach said he'd be better on his own." That got some nods. "The girls need another member if you know someone who can transfer in. We will be going gold this year in the school championships on both sides. It's my last year, I said so." He sipped the soda Cook put in front of him. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Xander. What about that delicate little one?"
"She won't be eligible until the next year because of her age. It leaves the girls' team without an alternate." He took another sip and yawned. "You're very comfy, nearly as comfy as Grandfather," he told Alexx, who patted his cheek. "Not that I mind but how long before criminals can be scared of my redhead there? He complains when I fuss."
"Another two days to make sure we've got all the links closed down and the contract was removed," Gibbs told him. Xander nodded. "Hit the bed, kid."
Xander groaned, getting up and taking his soda to the hidden elevator. "I wasn't sure about him putting in an elevator before but now I see why," Tony said. "What did the director want when she called, Gibbs?" He ate another bite, nodding at Horatio's plate. He sighed but ate. "You know he'll nag."
"Yes, he has," Horatio agreed dryly. "I find feeding him something stops that." The others laughed. "Xander hates to eat alone or eat in front of others."
"It's a polite thing," Alexx pointed out dryly. "You need to eat anyway. You'll need the energy to baby him." Horatio hummed, digging in and getting seconds, making them laugh.
"She didn't say," Gibbs told him, giving him a look.
Tony just nodded. "Well, if it's bad news remember you can come join us here, boss. It's a fairly easy job. We've got contacts to get Ziva and McGee jobs too. Abby too."
Horatio looked at him. "I think I can find her a satellite lab for her use," he said. That got some smiles. "Less crimes but more range of cases." He dug in again. "If I can't, Mac certainly can."
"Good to know," Tony said happily. "How is Mac doing with Don's growling?"
"He took the feeding cure when he started last night. Shoved a bite of steak into his mouth to make him quit. It worked."
Gibbs shook his head. "I've never had it this good when I was in protective custody."
"Xander's grandparents dote on him and Don," Tony reminded him. "They're the only heirs until they talk one of them into having kids. Or Patrick nails Stella and finds a surrogate sperm donor." He scraped his plate, leaning back. "Great lunch, Cook. Thank you."
"Welcome, Tony. Go watch the frolicking ones."
"I might stare. Calleigh would shoot me."
"Speed would shoot you," Horatio reminded him. "She would make you sorry in other ways."
Gibbs shook his head. "I've never seen such a girly ballistics tech, Horatio. She's definitely one I'd be wary of. Most female ballistics techs look like an East German shotputter." He stuffed his mouth at the laughs.
"There's nothing wrong with being a big woman," Cook said.
Ducky smiled at her. "I'm sure you'll make a lovely woman," he agreed genteelly. His british accent just make it seen more of a compliment because she blushed and swatted at his shoulder, giving him an extra muffin. "Thank you, my dear. Lovely lunch."
"It wasn't anything hard," she said, clearing off the empty dishes, serving the rest of them muffins for dessert.
"Thank you, Cook," Horatio said. "Did you have problems with Xander and the beer again?"
"He gave me the nicest order to please put it in the wine refrigerator because it was not something he wanted to pick up by accident. It wasn't his breakfast of choice, or brunch, or middle-of-the-night snack of choice either," she said, making the others laugh. "Though he does still call it the wine cooler fridge thingy." Tony nodded. "Someone has to take him in hand, Tony."
"He's had wine tasting lessons," he told her. "He doesn't like the taste unless it's with a great dinner and it goes very well." He looked back at her. "We've got to go over his spring break schedule too." He looked at the doctors. "He's due to do an outdoor modeling shoot during spring break, Doc."
He considered it. That was in three weeks. "As long as he can be propped up or he can ice it between." That got a nod. "You'd have to tell the photographer. Maybe arrange it so he was sitting?"
"It could work. It's for that goth shop. A new line."
"Which sin this time?" Horatio asked.
"Then being laid out somewhat could fit," Ducky offered.
"We hope." He looked at Gibbs. "There's a street fair too."
"We'll see." He sipped his coffee, groaning when his phone rang. "Gibbs." He listened. "We're not done yet, Director. We're making sure it's all wrapped up and then we'll be home." He hung up on her complaints. "Not like it's costing us anything this time."
Horatio looked at him. "Should we worry about your stalker attacking too?"
"I'd hope not," he complained. "If so, I'll come down to fill in that open spot."
"Glad to have you, boss," Tony quipped. "Or you could go fill in for Flack's protection. He hates that he has one but he does. His captain asked him if he was his stalker a few times." He finished his coffee and stood up. "Let me go check in. Paul just complained about a pony." He walked off, going to check. He came out, motioning them to come see. They went into the control room. There was a miniature horse nibbling on the guard dog's neck in a friendly manner. The dog was sniffing its tail. "That's so cute, Deborah. Snap us a picture?" He laughed at her comment. "Please? For the boss?" She did that and shook her head. The dog went with her, the horse following. He called upstairs. "Who locally has miniature horses?" He smiled. "I'll check." He hung up and found her number, calling her. "Mercy, Xander said your family has miniature horses?" He smiled. "Tony. One showed up on our lawn to get friendly with our guard dog. That's what I was wondering. It's a light tan mane with a medium brown short, manicured looking coat and no white marks I can see in a side view. Can you check? Please? Thanks, dear. He's in bed. His knee looks like a watermelon." He nodded. "I know. Thanks." He hung up. "She'll call around to check. As far as she knows no one does nearby."
"They're supposed to be very smart," Horatio said. "Maybe it wants trained."
Tony looked at him. "Don't joke about that. Patrick would see if we could." He walked off, going to check the thing. The dog growled at him so he scowled back. "I can pet him too. Ease off, Carpenter." He looked. "No tags?"
"Not that I could see."
Gibbs came out. "Her family was burned out," he called from the back porch. "She got away before animal control could come get her."
"The family okay?" Tony called back. Gibbs shook his head. "Damn. We'll see what Xander wants to do. He likes animals. Thanks." He looked at the handler. "They are supposed to be smart and Horatio joked about training him." He got out of the way of the swat, smirking at her. "He said it." He jogged back inside, closing the door behind him. "Horatio, expect Deborah to swat you next time you run past her."
"I can do that." He nodded. "I'm taking Xander lunch. He's feeling pitiful in his bed."
"He probably should feel like crap. His knee's got to be throbbing. You know, he did put the good tub in his room instead of the guest room in his suite." Horatio smiled, heading up there with a tray.
"He has a guest room in his suite?" Abby asked.
"Yeah," Tony agreed. "The contractor even remodeled the bathroom they found during the ripping out phase. Some day I'm sure it'll be a nursery. For now it's Horatio's room because there's no room in Xander's closets." She giggled. "He'd play with you but his knee is aching."
"It's all right. I'm sure I can visit sometime to play with him." She bounced off, going back to the pool. "Horatio took spoiling stuff up to Xander." She dove in, giggling when McGee splashed her. "He did."
"They both spoil very well," Calleigh promised. She checked the clock. "I should probably take Alexx back before her kids worry." She got out, heading to the changing room to shower off and change back, coming out redressed with her gun and badge on, her swimsuit in a plastic bag. "Nice meeting you guys. I hope we can work together again soon." She winked at Abby. "Next time you're down we'll go watch boys play volleyball."
"Oooh, cute boys in skimpy clothes." Calleigh walked off smiling. "Tim, you should lay out in the sun. You're paler than I am and that's not right." He laughed, going to do that. There were some loungers right outside the gym. She went back to her laps. She loved this house. If Xander even sold it she'd have to try to buy it.
Gibbs walked in and the guard opened his mouth. "I already heard; I'm to report upstairs immediately. I don't know what her problem is." He walked through the sensors, scanning his ID. That got a nod and he headed up there. The director stormed out when he walked in. "You wanted to chat, Director?"
"My office, Agent Gibbs."
He walked that way, standing in front of her desk. When she stomped back in he tossed own a report. "Ten drug dealers selling to various bases, including Homestead down there. Plus connections onto a few ships and a few reserve bases. We've alerted the bases and intelligence over there. The syndicate who took the contract is also gone. They're behind three of the latest political assassinations as well. Both labs are back at work as of last night. The only loss of life was the young woman who started the contract. Her mother had her shivved."
She cleared her throat. "You have filed for no expenses and there was no notice of you flying back on the company card or on a military flight."
"We borrowed the initial victim's private plane. His family was most grateful so they flew us up free of charge."
"The Benis family?" she sneered.
He nodded. "Yup. Them. The daughter took out the contract so no one would shield her obsession."
"New York's lab?"
"Board members in the lab and his uncle is in their associated homicide department. The Miami lab holds his boyfriend, other friends, and members of the board. Since they took fourteen bombs out of his grandparent's house the day we found out...." She grimaced. "Are you really complaining because they let us stay in Xander's guest house?" She nodded. "Why?"
"Who knows what immoral things you participated in, Agent Gibbs."
He snorted. "I'm sure Fornell and I had an orgy, Jen. Especially since most gay men aren't like that. Benis is in a committed relationship with an officer. DiNozzo runs a very tight ship." He stared her down. "Besides, even if I wanted to dip my wick in every single hole in Miami it wouldn't affect my judgement at work." She gaped. "Anything else?"
"You were consorting with known gay people, Jethro. Questions are being asked."
"It was for an assignment, Director," he said grimly. "That violates federal law as well." She went pale. "Now, anything else?"
"I want to know what you did!"
"I helped arrest a deranged young woman who was a danger to society and many lives. We helped bust a very massive criminal syndicate that had ties into multiple bases for drug running and the possibility of information exchanges. Other than that? I ate a lot of very good food. We got to use the gym and the pool at the house to relax when we weren't working. I got to talk to the guards DiNozzo hired to make sure there wasn't a gap since I was the security consultant on his new house. We went over the evacuation plans because it was necessary. We watched Benis hop around for a few days because he's as stubborn as I am. We held a mini convention with the techs down there to go over some new ideas. That was a very good dinner as well."
"That kid doesn't drink beer," he snorted. "He doesn't put up with drugs. He turns them in to the crime lab when he hears or sees it. A lot of society types don't use publically or found rehab because of him. Including one on his gymnastics team right before the school championships from what I heard." She sneered at that. "Men's gymnastics takes a lot more strength than I have, Director. I applaud anyone who can do a handstand on a set of rings seven feet above the ground and hold it steady and still, plus the rings, for over a minute." She stood up. "Anything else? I've got to carbon that to the FBI so they have our copy. Fornell's team is still working on theirs."
"I think you were doing things you should not have," she said firmly but quietly.
"Want me to bend over so you can check?" he asked, staring her down. "Anything else? You can ask Ziva. She was there the whole time."
"Gladly." He walked off, heading back to his desk. "McGee, we're going to be asked what we did in Miami."
"I monitored the security system, suggested a computer upgrade to Xander and his school, ate some of his chocolate stash so he wouldn't bounce when Tony told me to. I ate a lot of really good food and had some excellent wine that night we ate with the local techs down there. What did we supposedly do?"
"She's worried we did immoral things," he said dryly. He looked at Ziva.
"Don't look at me. I've already told her all we did was eat, work, and play in the pool. She's worried you're going to be conscripted to the wrong side."
McGee smiled. "It's Abby who thinks Xander's recruiting with his modeling career. I thought he was a nice, goofy kid."
"He was," Gibbs agreed. "DiNozzo has his work cut out for him following that one." McGee laughed. "I saw him before he had caffeine both mornings. He's still hyperactive." He looked at him. "Anything new come in your email?"
He looked then shook his head. "No, boss. Nothing new." He reloaded it. "Wait, I take that back. The director just called a mass staff meeting about inappropriate conduct while on away assignment."
"Next time we won't eat good food," Ziva said dryly. She went up there, looking at her. "What do you think he did?"
"I know he did something."
"He ate, he swam a few times. He watched the boy be stubborn and work out against doctor's orders until Tony knocked him out and carried him back to bed to tuck him in. We ate some very good food, had some great wine during one meal with the local techs. The only person who was even remotely interested in him was their ballistics tech, Calleigh, and she was more interested in talking artillery with him."
Ziva nodded. "Yes. We worked, we had dinner. We borrowed a guest house. I got to stare at the sunset a few times. We borrowed the pool to play in. We used the guard's workout room a few times. McGee gave some advice on some computer upgrades for the boy's personal system and the one at the school. He went in to talk about NCIS at the boy's urging. There's a few in there who are thinking about forensics. He answered a lot of questions about other sorts of investigative agencies. I answered a few about the Mossad to one young Jewish woman. I was very honest and she agreed it wasn't for her. She is still going to Israel for vacation as a pilgrimage. That's all we did beyond work. Just because they're gay doesn't mean they drew us into orgies or anything. They're not like that. His grandparents are older and one's ill. His staff is very professional yet they fuss horribly over the boy's grandfather. Tony's team does the same over Xander. Tony has a lot of fun following him around defeating evil reporters. As far as I know the boy's still a virgin and he's with a very nice older man at the moment. They're taking it slowly but they went to pet the tiny horse that showed up to play with the guard dog. Xander took him lunch when he went back to work, I overheard him saying he was going to treat the whole lab since they had gotten involved in his problem, and he was going to send food to New York as well. Nothing stranger than the transvestite cook happened and she's very good at it. I brought home a few very good recipes."
Sheppard gave her a horrified look. "A transvestite cook?"
"Why should he discriminate because she's turning into a woman? She treats the boy like her son." She smiled. "She's very nice and an excellent cook. I swear I gained five pounds. My pants don't fit anymore."
"What is Agent DiNozzo doing?"
"He's head of security and when he's done at night he goes back to his private apartment to watch movies. Abby stayed with him most of the time we were down there. They were planning on what to spend the gift certificate Xander got him for his birthday. Two hundred dollars for new movies was very generous. His collection now takes up most of two walls in his apartment. I think he's got about every movie ever made. Xander spoils him horribly in appreciation for protecting him."
Sheppard shook her head. "Nothing happened?" Ziva shook her head. "At all?" Ziva shook her head again. "I heard he was hobnobbing and had been seen walking off with a fairly well known gay man."
"That was probably the senator. He came to see Horatio, who was being guarded at the house with Xander. He and Xander are best friends. He protected Xander a number of times as a child when things happened. The senator came to see Xander to get something back to Patrick, his grandfather, and to ask Horatio about some budget things. Xander had gifted the department with three new cruisers and a new hummer for the lab for Horatio's birthday because he knew they needed it and couldn't afford it this year. That way the department that protects him was at peak effectiveness. Xander was off planning some shelter and hospital charity street fair for during spring break most of the time. Giving the stupid young who go down there to drink and party something sober to do basically."
"I see. The senator?"
"I don't know what he and Gibbs talked about. I know he was a Marine. It could be they talked about that stuff. I wasn't eavesdropping. I was rolling myself back to the pool while we waited on confirmation on getting all the links. It was a very nice bust. Very heavy. You should see all the reports. It closed a major drug pipeline and we think some intelligence leaks that were because people were using it to buy drugs." She smiled. "Xander was an excellent host. He yelled at Tony once for trying to baby his sore knee. Tony smacked him on the head like Gibbs did him and he quit complaining and let Tony fuss for a bit. He's very stubborn. Even Gibbs said he was more stubborn than him." The director moaned, shaking her head. Her secretary walked in with a small box, making Ziva smile. "An admirer?" she teased.
"No. Thank you, Cynthia." She nodded, leaving again. "Nothing happened?"
"No, nothing happened. Tony did offer Gibbs a job. Half the guards were very straight. Amused by the boy but very straight. He and Horatio talked about forensics a few times. I don't know what you think happened but it clearly didn't. Abby was more likely to get into trouble. The local department down there came to fete her. They wanted her badly and offered her a choice of interns, lab assistants, and moving reimbursement." She walked out, heading back down to her desk. "Your talk with the senator got noted," she said quietly.
He snorted. "He and Ducky talked for days."
"Yes but she's not his stalker." They watched as the director went running. "Hmm. I wonder if her admirer sent her bad cookies or whatever."
Gibbs gave her an alarmed look. "An admirer sent her food just now?" Ziva nodded so he went up to check, finding the nice note from Tony. 'Xander made these for you in thanks for letting Jethro and his team come help during this vile incident'. He groaned, going to find Ducky for her. They had all been warned not to eat Xander's cooking by Tony. "Ducky, the director got sent muffins from Xander's hands," he called into the morgue.
"I'll make sure she doesn't need my professional services. Thank you." He went to find the bottle of pepto, taking it up to her. She was back at her desk, taking a careful nibble. "Director, don't. Xander doesn't cook very well. It's why he has Rebecca."
"I heard," she croaked. She nibbled another bite. "What did he do?" she asked, tasting it. "It tastes off."
"He's rather a bad cook. Even bollixes up boxed and mix recipes I'm afraid." He handed her the pink bottle. "Take some of that and a nap. You should be fine." He took the box of muffins, going to throw them out in the biohazard bag in the lab. "Xander sent her muffins."
Abby looked over, taking one from the box to test. "Tony wanted to know what happened when he cooked."
"Don't inflict them on anyone else."
"I won't." He smiled and left. "Today," she said once he was gone. The tests didn't come out with anything wrong. No known toxins, food poisonings, or anything like that. "Odd." She delved deeper into the Xander cooking mystery. It wasn't right.
Mac looked up when someone walked into his office with a few large bags right before lunch time. "What's that?"
"A thank you present, Detective." He handed over the card. That got a smile and a nod. "Here?"
"Sure. Thank you."
"Welcome." He left, going to hand over the other lunch he had. "Detective Flack?" he asked one of the men in the squad room, getting a point. "Thank you." He walked the smaller bag over there. "Sir?" Don gave him a confused look. "Your nephew said he's very sorry the problem happened and since she got stuck on him when he had chicken pox it wasn't his abs of doom's fault so he's going to continue showing off the family buttocks to the world." He handed over a bag. "He said you had to eat to match his prettiness." Don cackled, leaning back. "Have a good day, Detective." He loved cheering people up.
Don looked in the bag, sniffing. "He got me lunch. I love my goofball nephew." His captain gave him a look. "He said it wasn't the modeling that got him the stalker. She latched on when he was ten and had chicken pox." He dug out the food, sniffing before starting to inhale it. He was starved. He called Stella, grunting at her. She grunted back so she had food too. He hung up, taking his lunch over there, nodding for his boss's benefit since he was eating while he walked. He sat down among the other nibbling people, grunting in greeting since his mouth was still full. Mac shoved over the note, but Don shook his head. He finally took a break. "He said since she got stuck when he had chicken pox he was going to keep showing off the family's abs and butt of doom." He ate another bite, looking at Stella's. He offered her a bite and stole some of hers in return, getting a grunt of appreciation.
Mac finished chewing, shaking his head. "It's a good gift of appreciation," he decided, eating another bite. Whoever did this had a *fantastic* hand with spices. Just right, not overpowering by any means. He'd have to order from there again if it wasn't terribly expensive.
Danny looked at the note on the card, smiling. "We love the little goofball, right?" Everyone nodded. So he ate another bite. He looked at Lindsay and Hawkes, both of who were stuffing their faces. "Just think, you two got to miss all the fun stuff." He ate another bite at their dirty looks.
"I got stuck with Mac," Don told them. They both shook their heads at that. "He can cook too."
Mac smirked, nodding. "Someone has to." He finished his lunch, groaning as he leaned back. "Oh, that was good."
Don grunted, his mouth was full again.
Horatio looked over as someone paged him from the desk. He walked back the ten feet, looking at the bags he was handed. "Who ordered and how much do they owe you?"
"Prepaid, sir. He did say to tell you he did not cook anything so it's all safe. He said it was a small gesture of appreciation so all the mother hens could nag." He nodded, handing over the other two bags and heading off again.
Horatio looked at the boxes then did a quick count. He walked them to the break room, calling the others. Including the detectives. The impromptu meeting confusion turned to smiles when he put the bags onto the tables. "Xander said he didn't cook anything."
Speed came over to take out boxes, laying them off to the side. "Come pick what you want. There's a good selection here and only a few have our names on them." He took his to sit down. The receptionist walked in with a box, earning a mass of smiles. "Chocolate?" She nodded. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Speed." She watched as the detectives and everyone else dug in. There were a few extra but she supposed that was for those who were very hungry and Alexx. She called down to the morgue. "Someone sent a lot of food up here." She hung up and got back to manning her station.
Alexx walked in a few minutes later. "Did we save me any?" Speed pointed behind him. "Thank you, sugar." She sat down beside him, smiling at the one in her box. "That's so nice. Why did those other two get treats too?"
"Because one complained he had missed his favorite show and we forgot to pick up the other's dog," Eric said, paging them. They both walked in and he pointed. "Those have your names on them." They looked, laughing, taking them off to save for their lunch time. "I feel like a pig," he complained, eating another bite.
"It's good food. It should be appreciated," Speed pointed out. Alexx nodded. He looked at hers then at her. "You needed a salad?"
"It's better for me than the spareribs Eric had," she said, giving him a look. "What's in the other box?"
"A treat," Hagen said, eating another bite. He looked around then at Horatio. "How's Maddy?"
"Doing much better," he said, looking happy. "Her treatments are going well and she's regaining strength at the moment. They're saying she should be out in about a month."
"Good," Frank said, scraping the bottom of his box. "I want to know where he got them from." Horatio pointed at the empty bags. "Have to remember that, take the wife there." He leaned back, undoing his pants button. "Someone slice the cake?"
"You sure you have room?" Calleigh teased.
"Always. I live on sugar and caffeine. You know that." Tony strolled in with a pan, putting that down in the center of the table. "The boy already fed us."
"Those are *my* special double chocolate brownies that have gotten me through many a bad case. Xander only watched in awe and inhaled the two missing ones." He handed Horatio an envelope. "From Patrick and that branch of the family." He walked out much happier.
"Someone cut the cake and give me some of the brownies too?" Speed said. Everyone laughed, Yelina getting up to do the cake for them. It was already sliced, which was nice, and there were some extra paper plates in the bottom of the box. There were just enough brownies to go around to those eating in the break room. Quite a few of them walked out moaning about their diets, but oh well.
Xander knew how to spoil cops very well.
Horatio smiled at the birthday card and the check inside with the instruction to do something he wanted to do with it. So he went to order something new for the lab.
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