Notes: NC-17.  A buffy/CSI: Miami crossover with some add-ins from New York later on.

Loving, Fighting, and Family.

Xander stepped up to the front desk at the Miami Dade PD, smiling a bit at the woman behind the desk.  "I was told to come give something to a Lieutenant Caine?" he said quietly.  "He doesn't know I'm coming and it's going to be a bad thing, you can tell him that if you want."

"Is it going to upset him?"

He considered it, then nodded.  "I'd expect shouting from at least one source 'cause I'm not a happy camper about this assignment either."  She nodded and pushed a button on her phone, talking quietly.  Then she hung up and smiled at him so he went over to the windows to wait.  Soon he saw a man who was either very calm and had no nerves or very controlled in himself and he knew this was who Tim had told him to see.  He had described him perfectly.  "Lieutenant," he offered quietly, nodding him over.  "I was told to read the first paragraph of this letter then hand it to you.  So I should do that before I start yelling at someone, which may or may not be you."  That got an amused look so he pulled out the letter and opened it.

"H, it's Tim."  He slapped at the hand reaching for it.  "Don't.  He told me to read it."  He cleared his throat.  "No, you don't believe it, hell, I don't believe it," he read flatly.  "But yeah, this is important.  You weren't supposed to know about this but part of the deal of me being brought back was for someone to take my place.  This kid is a good kid and he's got it in him to be a better guy, but he's gonna need some mentoring and that's you.  So just read the rest, take him to your office because I know he's already read the rest of this at least once, and just fight it out.  It's going to be a long day, take some aspirin before reading the rest of this and let him tell you how I got here.  By the way, keep him away from Calliegh for now, she's probably got a clue since I keep finding evidence linking this town back to New Orleans."  He folded it up and handed it to him.  "Can we go somewhere so I can yell at you now?"

"Definitely. The aspirin is in my office if you need some too."  He walked the kid off, taking the visitor's badge on his way past.  Of course, they ran into the person he least wanted to see at the moment, Calleigh.  "Do you have a report for me?"

"Yes, but who's this?" she asked, smiling at Xander.  He didn't look like a threat to her.

"I got sent to yell at him by someone in my town," he admitted dryly, shrugging a bit.

"Oh, where you from?"

"Calleigh, he's got some information...."  She hit him on the arm, giving him a long stare then smiled at the boy again.  "Fine.  This is going to go badly."  He looked at the boy and shrugged.

"I'm from Sunnydale."  He watched as her face went rigid.  "I got handed to this one to mold me by the last person who tried, who I'm going to kick the ass of the next time I see his manipulative little tush."   He stepped closer. "It's all right," he said calmly.  "I'm one of the good guys.  I helped the bad evening problems go down.  A lot."  She nodded and walked off, her face still emotionless and cool.  He looked at the redhead next to him.  "You have aspirin to take?"

"I do."  He walked him into his office and closed most of the blinds, leaving one open so he could tell if anyone was lurking at the door.  He took two then sat down to read the rest of the letter, which gave him some of what he wanted to know and more of what he needed to know.  He finally put it down, then put his badge and gun on his desk, standing up again.  "Okay, I've read.  Now you tell me."

"Where do you want me to start?  With Aiden?  With him suddenly showing up to her one day while she found me in a Church praying for patience before I ripped into my friends?  With how I apparently don't have a say in my own goddamned life?" he asked bitterly.

"How long did it take you to read it?" he asked, watching his reactions.

"Three days.  See, I trusted Tim."

"It's not the mistake you think it was, Xander," he said calmly.  "Of course, I had no idea what my cousin, who can occasionally manifest some of the Sight, was talking about when she calls me in the middle of the night two days ago and said I'd be meeting with a hyena."

The boy let out a bitter sounding snort.  "Yeah, let's go back to that possession.  It's not like it's a big part of my life," he said firmly, staring him down.  "Except when I threatened to change and eat the principal."  He leaned against the windows, looking at him.  "Why you?"

"Tim looked up to me.   He knows where my priorities lay and what I'm like.  We worked together for a number of years."  The boy made 'go on' motions.  "The team is like a family," he offered, carefully moving closer.  He could see that hint of danger and wildness in him.  The boy had been rigid in anger before but now he was about to burst.  "I'm sure he had his reasons."

"That's not comforting."

"No, the truth often isn't," he agreed calmly.  "Now, what can you tell me?"

"Aiden prayed for help once she found out what was going on and why Sunnydale was so hot to hire a new detective to keep down our missing persons and homicide rate.  She was recommended by a friend of her former boss in New York when the friend called him to see if he knew of anyone who could help who had a good feel for the victims and for strange stuff.  He suggested Aiden, she got hired, she came out and learned what was really going on," he noted dryly, smirking cruelly at him.  "She helped my group for a while but then realized how very over her head she was.  She prayed for help.  The Powers That Be answered by sending him.  Until I got sent here I didn't know he was to look for his replacement in town at the same time.  By the way, look at the back of the bottom.  I'm supposed to smack you and get you to smack others upside the head for moping."  Horatio looked at it, then nodded, letting out a small smirk.  "Apparently they got him while he was watching you guys mope over him."  He moved closer.  "I don't know why in the hell he's doing this.  The guy seemed to give a damn so I shouldn't be surprised that he turned on me.  It's not like the others in town haven't.  I didn't even do anything this time and they turned on me."

"Maybe he's right and you're supposed to find a life outside of that town, Xander."

"No, I'm not!  I'm needed there!"

"I met Aiden during a case," he offered quietly.  "She was a strong woman.  Tim was always a strong man.  The letter said worse things were coming and that he wanted you protected."

"I read it three times. I know what it says and it said nothing about that," he said bitterly, sitting down to look at him.  "So why you again?"

"Because he knew he could trust me.  He probably thought I needed someone to give a damn about," he offered at the heated look.  "He used to push me to date."  It was odd talking to this kid, but something in him wanted and needed to hear the absolute truth.  Or else he'd never trust him.  He'd seen too many kids who looked like wild animals in the course of the job, usually on the wrong side of the table during an interrogation.  Someone knocked on the door.  "Busy."

The receptionist walked in and smiled at him.  "This came with an urgent cover sheet and said to hand it to you, Lieutenant."  She handed over the papers and left.  She had no idea why it was so urgent but it was probably the breaking evidence in a case.

He looked at it, it was definitely Tim Speedle's handwriting.  Then he handed both letters to the boy.  "Here, a bit more explanation."

Xander looked it over, then snorted.  "Not much of one."  He handed it back.  "Why you?"

"Because he thought I could help you and he trusts me," he told him.  "He wouldn't send someone who was like his little brother to anyone else."  Someone tapped on the door and walked in.  "I'm busy, Eric," he said dryly.

"That's fine.  What's wrong with Calliegh?  She's locked in the lab with her head in her hands and she looks like she's about to cry."

"That's probably my fault," Xander sighed, getting comfortable.  "She asked me where I was from and my town has ties to her town and it probably brought up bad memories.  Tell her I'm sorry."

"Where are you from?"

"Sunnydale."  Eric paused, looking like he was thinking about something.  "Boca del Inferno," he said dryly, catching on that someone else had a clue around here.  The man stiffened and looked at him so he nodded.  "I got sent to him," he said, pointing at the redhead.  "He's supposed to *mentor* me so I find a *life*."

Eric looked at the guy, then at his boss.  "By?"

"Not now, Eric."

"H, my mother used to tell me stories about that place and what was walking around there, including what shouldn't be walking around there," he said quietly.  "Who sent him?"

"Someone claiming to be Speed," he admitted.  A business card hit his desk and the kid went back to staring out the windows.  "What's this?"

"His work number.  On the back in his home number.  You might try it first, he's probably in another meeting with the bureaucrat they sent to fix the high crime rate when Aiden and Tim didn't get it down far enough in a year.  It goes to his cell."  He glanced back at them.  "All I know is that he sent my ass down here to you guys."  He went back to staring at his car.

Eric snatched it and dialed the number on the back, putting it on speaker.

"Horatio, I'm on lunch," a familiar growl noted patiently.  "I take it he's there?"

"I'm going to kill you, again," Xander growled.

"You can't do that," he said dryly.  "That would be doing a human and you vowed you'd never do that after Faith did hers and got so messed up."  You could hear him taking a bite.  "Who else is in there?"

"Me," Eric said.  "Speed?"

"Yeah."  Another bite.  "Yes, Eric, I got brought back to life to help Aiden, the one from New York's labs, work here.  She needed it and the kid was here.  Unfortunately things are getting a bit complicated and the people who brought me back wanted and needed him to have a full life."

"Excuse me, my life, my choice," Xander said firmly, walking back.  "I'm still going to kick your ass."

"I know how you fight, Xander. I can still get you while you're asleep."  Another bite, then a muted swear.  "Sorry, lost my candy bar."

"You should eat better," a female voice barely came across the line.

"I know how short life is, Aiden.  I'm going to enjoy more of it this time.  Fuck my weight at the moment.  It's not like I'm getting fat."  He sighed.  "Xander, the Powers told me that if you stayed you'd be dead by twenty-three after a few years of turning into your parents.  You'd have to watch Buffy die, Willow go bad and get lost in her magic, all while working the crappiest of crappy jobs, the sort that immigrants don't want to take, to survive until you got into construction.  A short while later you'd be so injured they'd be forced to put you on disability since you'd have lost an eye and couldn't do the construction stuff anymore.  You'd end up dying after a few months of trying to fight on and then you'd be permanently dead in a horrible manner at twenty-three.  This way, you've got a long life, you can help more than you did here, and you can help kids who have it just as bad as you did, if not worse.  Now, get this through your pointy head.   I like H.  I like him a lot.  I trust him, with my life if necessary, even now.  I trust him to help you and to mentor you and to be the uncle sort that you need while Eric plays big brother.  Eric, try to keep Alexx away from him for now.  He's not too used to mothering yet.  Also, Calleigh's probably not a good idea yet either."

"Ya think since she's crying in her lab?" he asked bitterly.  "How long have you been back?"

"A little over a year.  I'm not sure I can leave the town, man, that's why I haven't contacted anyone.  Though I do want Xander to smack you all for moping.  I saw, I wasn't happy."  Eric cracked a smile.  "Don't you even grin, idiot.  Now, get Xander from where he just left probably and bring him back.  H, I'm trusting you to watch the boy.  He doesn't need a new father, he needs someone else who gives a damn.  That's you.  Because if you screw Xander up, I'm going to break the rules and come kick your ass, even if I have to die again for it."

Horatio blinked.  "Why?  Since he doesn't want it."

"Because I was promised someone to take my spot in your lives.  Not on the team if he doesn't want it, but in your lives, someone to give enough of a damn about to bring you back together.  Now, make Alexx quit crying herself to sleep every night.  You quit moping on the beach, make Eric quit dating the stupid chicks that might have something or might be giving out little Cuban Russian babies for his mother, and make Calleigh quit crying too.  Got me here?"

"I'm trying to understand."

"It's not that hard, H.  How hard is it?" he asked dryly.  "Like I have to repeatedly tell Xander, you're smarter than that.  Call later, about nine, and we'll talk then.  How long did it take him to read it?"

"Three days."

"Then he's stronger than even I give him credit for.  For now, know that he doesn't trust anyone, not even himself sometimes.  He doesn't and won't trust you for quite a while.  I just handed you the biggest challenge of your life since graduate school.  Or possibly working up the courage to date your first girl.  By the way, I like Eric's sister and you.  She's good for you, man."  He hung up.

Horatio sat down and considered it, taking very deep, calming breaths.  There was something going on and he didn't understand.  He didn't deal well with the strange things that had no logical explanation.  To him, faith wasn't a logical explanation.  He looked over as Eric brought the kid back in.  "Sit, Xander.  Let's talk."

"Why? It's kinda clear neither of us want that.  It is still my life."

"And in his letter Speed said he was going to mail you back if you tried to go back there," he reminded him.  The boy glared at him.  "I know you don't know what's going on. I don't know what's going on.  None of us do.  He's trying to act in the greater good for your benefit."

"I have a life."

"Do you have friends?" Eric asked.  Xander looked at him and nodded.  "Good ones?  One's who'd bail you out of jail for killing him?"

"Probably not.  They'd probably laugh and Aiden would stop me."

"Yeah, she probably would," he agreed dryly, shaking his head.  "Fine.  For the next few days can you stay anyway?  We miss Speed.  We miss him a lot.  You can tell us what he's been up to."

Xander nodded.  "For that reason I can."

"Since you're accepted to the college already you could also take the time to actually go there and look it over," Horatio said dryly.  "Instead of just dismissing them out of hand."

"They've got some really pretty coeds," Eric agreed happily.  "What're you planning on majoring in?"

"I wasn't planning on going to college.  I can't afford college."

"The letter said you were on scholarship," Horatio reminded him.

Xander reread that letter, then rolled his eyes.  "I'm going to kill him again."

"No you won't," Eric said.  "He'll give you this shit-eating grin of his and you'll cave."

"It hasn't worked on me yet," he said bitterly.  "And since it can't be done over the phone, I can go find something to send back there to eat him."  He looked at Horatio.  "You actually like this plan?"

"I don't mind this plan," he corrected.  "He's got a reason for what he's trying to do.  He should've told you." he allowed, "but I'm sure he felt he had his reasons.  He's not usually a manipulative person."  He took another one of those calming breaths.  "Where are you staying?"

"In a motel."

"Which one?" Eric asked.  "So we can come talk?"

Xander looked at him.  "You have his number."

"Good point."  He looked at Horatio, who nodded.  "Still, you've got memories of him that we don't."

"It doesn't mean I want to do this, okay!  This is not how I want my life to go. I don't want to be here.  I like Sunnydale.  Sometimes.  I like my friends, bitches though they are half the time to me.  I don't want to give that up just because one guy gets a wild vision that I may die.  'Cause you know what, I've already accepted that a long time ago.  You can't go out and do what I did nightly and not accept death as your buddy and back rubber most nights.  You can't go out and hunt some of the creepiest of the creepy things, things that survive by eating things like you, without knowing death like a lover.  And you sure as hell can't help a Slayer without it.  I'm fine in my present life.  If I'm supposed to die at twenty- three, then so be it.  If they're supposed to die first, then I'll be there beside them, holding their hands if possible, and backing them up.  That's what I do and who I am.  Now, I'm going to go kick his ass.  If you'll excuse me, I'll leave enough for you to talk to when you call."  He started toward the door but it banged open and a woman walked in.  She was just shorter than him, but her skin was flawless and her demeanor a bit colder.  He backed away, scared shitless of her.  He didn't usually count things racially, it was all the same to him, but this woman scared him for some reason.

"What's this I hear something about Speed?" she demanded.

Horatio nodded.  "There was a mention of him in another town out west."

"He would've called."

"Unless he thought it'd give you more pain," Xander said, then he covered his mouth.  "Forget I'm here, please."

"Who are you?" she asked, moving closer to him.  He backed away.  She looked at him and took a half step and he backed into the windows.  "I'm not that scary."  She moved a bit closer. "I'm really not."  She stared into his eyes, he was scared enough to do something stupid so she made herself look calmer than she was.  "I'm not scary."

"You are.  The last female who got that close to me tried to kill my ass and I'd like to stay alive today at least.  So can you please back off?" he asked politely.  She shook her head.  "Please?  I'm staying nice."

"Alexx, back away from him.  He's not the sort you want to pin in a corner," Calleigh said from the doorway.  She closed it and leaned against it.  "Please, just for now?"  The other woman nodded and took a step back but the boy didn't relax.  "We're not gonna hurt you."

"Bullshit.  You're female, you'll try to kill my ass, just like the last few."

"And I thought Speed got into trouble with women," Eric muttered.  He saw the letter and picked it up, but it was taken from him by Horatio. "Hey!"  He took it back, scowling at him.  "I deserve the right to know and so do they."  He looked at the kid once he was done. "I take it you're Xander?"  That got a nod and a grimace.  "We're not scary folk unless you're a criminal."

"Bull.  Really."  He stayed against the windows.  "This wasn't my idea.  He told me to come deliver the damn letter and I did."

"Quit swearing," Alexx ordered.

"Lady, I don't know you and I don't take orders from anyone."  She glared and he glared back. "I've faced down scarier things.  I've earned my right to swear.  If you don't like it, I'll gladly leave."

"Try coming away from the window first," Calleigh suggested, pushing some of her blonde hair back behind her shoulder.  "Horatio?  Explanations?"

"He said to call tonight around nine."

"Bet me!" Alexx said.  "What's the number?"  He hit redial and put it back on speaker.

"You still have bad timing.  Trying to use the john here, Horatio."

"Baby?" Alexx asked, reaching one hand toward the phone.  "Where in the hell are you and why didn't you call!

"Because I still don't know if I can leave the town I'm in and it'd only hurt you more."

"Which is what the kid said," Eric offered.  "We're all here.  Can you maybe calm him down, just a bit?  He's about to break the office windows and leap down."

"I thought they were blastproof after the lat hurricane."

"They are, that doesn't mean he won't try."

"I didn't come armed to a police station.  I'm not quite that stupid," Xander shot back.

"Xander, don't disrespect Eric in front of Alexx.  She's like my mother.  You can pick on Eric later.  Pick on Calleigh later.  Just don't do it in front of H or Alexx."

"Oh, bite me!" he ordered hotly.

"Xander," he said calmly.  "Calm down."

"Fuck you."

Alexx swatted him and she saw him reach behind him, moving well out of the way.

"He didn't come armed," Eric reminded her.  "He's got good instincts."

"He hunted with the slayer for the past three years, Eric, he should," Speed said dryly. "He's got common sense too when he uses his brain instead of his instincts.  Right now, I'm guessing he's still against the windows and he's probably starting to pant?  If so, let him out."  Calleigh got out of the way and the boy slid past her.  "Thank you.  Now have Frank follow him."

Horatio pulled his cellphone out and dialed the detective.  "You're at the station, right?" he asked calmly.  "Follow the boy that just slid out of my office.  He should about be at the parking lot.  No, not a criminal, it's personal.  Someone sent him with a letter for me and he's scared and wary at the moment since they wanted me to protect him.  Thanks, Frank."  He hung up.  "Done.  Anything else?"

"Yeah, expect this to be an uphill battle.  If you had done this calmly you two would've fought for a bit, Eric would've stepped in and been the big brother sort that he could really use, and the women around there would've fussed over him.  That way he knows not all of them want to kill him.  Now, well, you've got what basically amounts to a wild animal trapped in a one very hurting and wary little boy who never had any positive attention until Aiden and I got here.  His friends are crappy, if not worse, and I'm the reason he graduated high school with any sort of GPA.  Even if I did have to do some manipulating to get him down there.  Now that you've got the uphill battle, try to keep him from doing stupid stuff.  He'll latch onto something just as dangerous as hunting was, if he doesn't hunt what few vampires you've got down there, and he'll need someone to show him what *fun* is. He's starting to forget what happiness is with what he's done.  By the way, I'm proud of my boy, those were his plans in Sunnydale a few weeks back."

"Huh?" Eric asked.

"The high school blowing up during graduation didn't make it to the national press?" he asked, sounding amused.  "Interesting.  Call back tonight, when I'm not at work."  He hung up.

Calleigh looked at their boss, closing the door again.  "Okay, so I'm going to accept that somehow Speed is walking around.  On the Hellmouth.  That he knows the slayer and the people rumors state are helping her.  I can even accept that the boy's her helper because he said so.  Even though all I saw was a hurting and trapped little boy who's obviously been hurt by women a lot."   She blinked.  "I'm not going to accept that we got given a kid to mentor.  Not even by Speed.  Why him?  This isn't like Speed.  That was Eric's thing to take in people who needed the help."

Eric shot her a look.  "Thanks a lot."

"Hey, you've done it before," she reminded him. "That's not like Speed."

"It's not," Alexx agreed, taking the letter Eric handed her.  "What's this?"

"From him and why he did it.  He sent the kid with it?"  Horatio nodded.  "The kid read it?"  That got another nod.  "So he's really pissed on top of scared and feeling abandoned?"  That got a third nod.  "Then we should probably make sure he doesn't do something stupid tonight and die from it.  Miami has plenty of death when you go looking for a way to forget and move on."

"It does," Calleigh agreed, moving over to read it.  "That's his handwriting."

"You doubted after he yelled at us?" Alexx asked.

"Yes.  Until I can see him and then smack him one across the face, yes."

She smiled.  "Can we go to this town?"

"It's in California," she sighed.  "New Orleans is tied to Sunnydale by the underground communities.  Things that are whispered about happen there.  All the stories about vampires and things, they walk openly in both cities.  New Orleans has the draw of the openness and the ability to hide.  Sunnydale has power, a very dark and malevolent power from what's whispered by those in the know.  If Speed got ...sent there, for lack of a better word, then there's gotta be a reason.  Hell, I know for a fact there's a slayer in residence in Sunnydale and if that boy was helping her, he's a combat veteran.  He's a very spooked and hurting one though.  Three years?"  She shook her head.  "Some of the slayers don't last that long."

"Do you have a contact we can talk to about this boy?" Horatio asked.

"Not locally but I can call an old friend and ask.  Maybe they'll give us some idea.  Because what I saw earlier was an animal.  He's running on the hunting instincts and we cornered him.  That's probably not a good thing."  She walked out, going back to her lab to make that call.

Horatio looked at Eric.  "Let me talk to him first," he ordered.  "Don't go near the boy yet.  Let him get used to me, then we'll let you pop around and offer him a diversion to get away from me.  But first, I want to know how you knew about that name he said."

"My mother used to tell us stories when we were younger about that place.  How one of my uncles went there to die.  How he told her about the people who weren't supposed to be walking around who were.  How the monsters under the bed were real there.  She reminded me when I started looking at CSI spots not to go anywhere near there.  I almost took a spot in LA."  That got a slow nod.  "It's said that if you can imagine a bad thing, it's been there or it's still there.  That people don't often make it out of that town once they're there.  Either they forget about the greater world and live on in ignorance until they die.  Or they die from something unnatural coming after them.  She did say something about hunters and those who help the hunters.  Something about little girls with weapons and the men who guide them.   I thought it was a fairytale; I didn't take the spot in LA because I didn't want to upset her that much."

Horatio nodded. "I see.  Would she tell us more than that?"

"No.  She'd cross herself and go to Church, like she did the last time I got sick and asked for a story from there."


"One of my cousins went to LA and disappeared.  She's convinced it's the same and he should've listened to her."

"Wonderful," Alexx said dryly. "So why was he afraid of me?"

"I'm guessing here, but by the tone of the letter, Speed may've been the only real family the boy's ever had," Horatio noted quietly.  "He and the kid said they weren't always nice with what he called them."

"I heard him swear about them," she admitted.  "The boy's got a mouth on him."

"Wouldn't you?" Eric asked, smirking at her.  "You're sent away from your home by someone you trust and handed to someone you don't know.  Your life is manipulated for you by this same person you trusted.  You're told it's for your own good because otherwise you'll die, and you want him to be happy and accepting?  Even the nicer people wouldn't do that.  He should've told the kid first."

"He should've, but my baby was kinda dumb sometimes," she pointed out.

"And this was one of them," Eric agreed.  "Even if he had a reason, it was still dumb.  He could've worked in that the kid had an acceptance letter to a college.  He could've worked in that he had some friends near there and that he'd be protected and watched over.  That one of them was cool enough to take him clubbing maybe, if the boy could hack it and wanted it, but he didn't."  She nodded at that.  "I wanna know why he thought you were going to kill him. You're not the sort of woman to do that.  Not unless one of your kids is in trouble."

"I don't know, Eric.  That's another thing to find out.  We should ask Calleigh."

"We could ask the kid," Horatio noted.  "I'm not so sure he'd tell us for a very long time.  I think trust is already broken between us and it's going to take some cautious steps, but that we should try with the boy."

"He's not a boy, H," Eric reminded him.  "He's eighteen or nineteen if he's graduated.  He's a man and he's not exactly a happy one.  If he ever was a happy one."  Callieigh came back and closed the door again, leaning against it.  "Good news?"

"No, not good news."  She looked at Alexx.  "Anytime that boy tries to get close to a female, she tries to kill him.  He wasn't joking.  The only exception was something that made every woman in that town want to sleep with him.  That boy is known and the women are warned not to go near him because something in him makes them want to kill him once they meet him.  On a brighter note, he's supposed to be some goofy little tag along who follows after her."

"Her being?" Horatio prompted.

"The current slayer.  He's supposed to be her goofy little tag along male friend.  Until he's alone or unless he's in a fight.  There's rumors that he was possessed a few years back by something."

"My cousin said something about a hyena and I mentioned it.  He went off on a possession," Horatio admitted.  "I thought he meant a statue or something."

She shook her head.  "No.  I wish."  She cleared her throat.  "Just three weeks ago, their high school graduation was attacked by something.  A very large something.  According to the rumors, and this is unsubstantiated but it makes sense because no one else there has the skills to pull it off, the boy planned the defense assault, saved most of his graduating class's lives, and blew up the school with the something in it to kill it."  They all gaped and she nodded.  "The others in that group aren't known for planning anything and the current slayer is known to be lax and lazy on occasion.  Their witchly friend isn't that dark, she's supposed to be sweet, innocent, and nice.  A real babbler most of the time.  The Watchers don't have that sort of training.  Speed didn't, right?"  He shook his head.  "I heard Aiden mentioned?"

"From the New York labs," Horatio noted.  "I don't think she had military service either."

"Then it was the boy who planned the assault, generaled it from the front lines, survived, won, and then got sent away by his mentor out there.  Because everyone realized who Speed was when I mentioned the additions.  They mentioned them by description, as being detectives who knew and were trying to get the death rate down."  She swallowed. "They also said that there's rumors Speed went and threatened the kid's family and that Aiden may have sent them running for their lives to protect the kid," she finished quietly.  "He doesn't know what a mother is, Alexx, and he's scared to death of women."

"Damn it, it makes me wanna treat the boy right, but I can't."

"You can, you just be a bit more careful.  Anything you feed him, he'll expect it to be poisoned for a very long time. I think Speed's burnt his connection to the kid.  Most abused kids don't trust very easily and when they do trust and it's broken, it's never given back.  Maybe if we get Aiden to talk to him it might help, but I'm doubting it.  I really am, Horatio."

"I'm going to let him calm down and then talk to him tonight," he announced.  "Eric, you can offer to do stuff with him this weekend if we've got it off.  Don't push."

"It's said he's like a caged animal when he's hunting alone," Calleigh told him.  "He's got skills. He's got instincts to hunt down prey.  He's got absolutely no academic skills though.  He's horrible in school.  Aiden and Speed got him to graduation.  There was talk of him asking a witch not in the group to help him with his SAT scores since he got good marks by the rumors."

"How reliable is this information?" Eric asked.

"Oh, honey, the Watchers leak like a sieve," she assured him, smirking a bit.  "Plus, the underground in New Orleans watches what goes on in Sunnydale to make sure nothing *too* bad gets out and comes their way to hide.  There's people there who probably have the kid's picture and dossier on their walls at the moment, including grades, favorite colors, foods, and sodas."  That got a small smirk.  "To some he's a hero, to others he's a menace since he fights against them.  Lo and behold what you get when you let a broken little boy jump into a battle that's not his.  And then you make him stake  his best friend as his first kill."   Horatio flinched at that.  "That's how he got involved.  He was taken, Xander, the kid, had to stake him to save other kids.  By the way, he's not allowed to date yet, Eric.  Really.  I'm sure he'll draw every assassin in the world to him, but he's not allowed to date."

Eric nodded.  "What about going out to the clubs?"

"They said he can't dance.  He's still flailing around.  He needs a good teacher.  A very good teacher.  He could use one to help him with his fighting skills too.  He's a weapon guy."

"Interesting," Horatio agreed.  "Should we worry about his friends showing up?"

"No," she snorted.  "One of the girls kissed him and started an affair with him when they were both dating, and they all blamed him.  Not that they've been very consistent anyway.  I'm sure Speed'll tell you how rotten those ladies are to him.  It's just another reason for him to hate women enough to want to hide from us."

"That poor baby," Alexx sighed, shaking her head.  She sat on the couch.  "Can I at least try to apologize to him?"

"You can try but he'll back away from you.  The fact he reached for something he wasn't carrying when you cornered him meant he's scared to death of you, Alexx.  Me he pegged by accent apparently.  He knew I was from there."  She shrugged. "Which means he probably knows I've checked on him through the Old City."

"That's fine," Horatio agreed.  "He'll probably expect it anyway.  For right now, we'll all call Speed tonight around nine, his time.  I'll talk to the boy before then, try to get a feel for if he wants to stay.  I don't mind doing this favor for Speed...."

"But I'm still gonna kick his ass for not telling us he was alive," Alexx noted dryly.  "Can you get there by plane?"

Calleigh nodded.  "Yeah, sure.  Go during the daytime so we don't have to worry about you coming back after you're eaten.  Fly into LA and drive."  That got a grin from her and Eric, who wrote that down on the palm of his hand.  "I can probably even give you his address through my contacts.  They're overnighting information to me on the boy and Speed."  She smirked at Horatio.  "Have fun.  Tell me if I can help.  Tell him I respect him for what he's done.  He's saved a lot of lives by turning things into piles of dust and slime."  She walked out, going back to her lab.  She could figure out her own torture for their friend not admitting he was alive again.


Horatio stepped up to the cop's car, nodding at him.  "Thanks, Frank."

"Who is this kid, Horatio?  He looks like a kid but he moves like he's got something to hide and he's jumpy and edgy like he's on something."

Horatio shook his head.  "He's a combat veteran from the West Coast and he was sent to me without his knowledge so I could mentor him through college."  That got a long look.  "It's an odd story and one I don't truly believe myself yet.  Not that part, but who sent him."

"Who?" he asked, smirking.  "Did Speed come back to life?" he joked.

Horatio nodded at that.  "He did.  He's been mentoring the kid for the last year."  He walked off, leaving one stunned, balding cop behind him.  He walked up to the door and knocked, looking at the young man who had a piece of pizza in hand.  "Can I come in?" he asked quietly.  "I just want to talk, tell you what Speed said."  The kid let him inside, then closed the door behind him.  He looked around the room.  It wasn't a very good one but it was cheap and rented by the week.  "Are you all right?  You were upset earlier."

"I'm fine now that I'm not being backed into a corner and I have some options."  He sat down and finished that piece, then took a few drinks of soda, weathering the stare.  "So, what did the asshole say?"

"He apologized.  He couldn't think of a way to do it subtly without making you realize that you couldn't come back."  He sat down in the only chair, facing him.  "He said that he wants you to live, Xander.  He wants you to have grandkids to tell stories to.  He wants you to find some nice person and date."  That got a grimace of distaste.  "He didn't say female," he offered dryly.

"So I take it you heard about my fan club of past dates?" he asked dryly.

"Calleigh, the blond woman from earlier, called a few of her friends back home and they told her some things.  Including how Speed may have saved you from your parents."  The boy gave him a harsh look.  "She said that Aiden may've sent them running for their lives."

"Yeah, well, they deserved it," he noted bitterly.  "Anything else you want to share?"

"We never expected this, Xander. It's a big shock on our end just finding out he's alive.  He was like a brother to Calleigh and Eric, and Alexx mothered him horribly."

"So he said," he admitted calmly, looking at him again.  "I don't need a family."

"Then how about someone to lean on and mentor you?  That's what he wanted from me.  To help you into the difficult transition to college and make sure you had what you needed when you needed it."

"I can't afford...."

"There's a scholarship and you won it," he assured him.  "I asked."  Which wasn't totally the truth.  Speed had some hidden money from earlier in his life and had used that to send the boy to college and give him a chance.  Xander looked at him.  "You read minds too?"

"No," he said, smirking at him.  "What did he do?"

"He applied behind your back and wrote your essay for you," he admitted.  "He's a smart guy who knows what they wanted to hear."

"I realize he's a smart guy.  He's the reason I passed biology at all."  Horatio nodded, accepting that.  "I don't want to go to school anymore.  I hate school.  I don't learn like that."

"College isn't like high school, Xander.  Plenty of the classes are lab classes, where you're expected to do things, not just read."

"I didn't do well in those either," he said bitterly, looking at his crossed legs, then back at him.  "I suck at the learning thing."

"Have you ever been tested to see why?"

"Yes, and it nearly ended up with my death for being a slow learner and embarrassing my high school dropout father.  He didn't want a retarded son."

"You're not.  You speak very well," Horatio noted calmly, staying calm.  He had to stay calm.  "It's a gift that's been handed to you, no matter how he pulled it off.  You should at least try.  Some college, even with poorer scores, is better than no college and it'll help you get a better job than fast food.  Plus, that college has tutors available for students.  It's got computer based learning classes if you're okay at that.  It's got a wide range of majors so you can find something you like.  Take your first year and see if you can find something that interests you.  You'll be getting some mandatory stuff out of the way anyway."

"Then what'll I do?" he asked.

"Then you'll decide to stay in or not," he offered calmly.  "You might find something that clicks with you and how you think."

"I don't think they teach demonology."

"No, but there is a paranormal sciences track," he offered. "It's ghost hunting from what I've seen when we had to investigate someone in that department.  I took them all for people with high hopes and some delusions."

"Ghosts are real," he admitted quietly.

"I figured you'd know the difference."  He shifted some, leaning forward.  "For right now, I want you to think about this, Xander.  You're being offered a chance and I'm more than willing to help you when and where I can.  I do the mentoring for my nephew since his father died," he admitted.  "I've helped a few others in my time to find a real life and get out of their old ones.  Mostly abused spouses."  Xander's face tightened at that.  "You don't work in law enforcement for as long as I have and not notice the signs," he noted quietly.  "I'm not going to ask but if you feel like talking about it, I can listen.  Or I can give you the name of someone anonymous who can listen instead.  I know some people feel more comfortable that way."  Xander shook his head.  "That's fine, I said if."   He looked at the boy.  "How long were you planning on staying?"

"A week."

"Will you at least go look at the college?  Wander around, look at the campus, talk to some of the students?"  Xander shrugged.  "It could help you make a decision."

"Willow said the tours were all hyped to only show the best."

"So go into the library and sit down next to someone who's not buried in their textbook and ask questions.  Most of the students around here are friendly.  Some of them are dumb," he admitted with a small smirk.  "We get a lot of business out of the local colleges."

"I still don't know why he did this to me," he admitted.  "I have a life back there."

"Whatever source brought him back said that your life was going to be over too soon and he didn't want it to end that way, kid."  He stood up.  "He seems to care for you.  That carries some weight with my team.  Speed was like our brother."  The kid looked up at him, his face finally readable and it was the eyes who caught him.  "He wanted you to be safe, Xander.  Safe, protected, and have a good life.  Somewhere you'd live past twenty- three.  Somewhere happy that you didn't have to hunt, kill, stalk, or do damage.  Somewhere you didn't have to think about surviving and be best friends with death.  No one should have to do that.  He couldn't save one of them because it was her duty and the other was sucked into something she's still struggling against.  She's got a way out if she can figure it out and ask for help.  You had no ties and he could do this for you.  It was an act of sacrifice on his part.  Because he knows Alexx is going to kill him for not calling sooner.  By the way, she wants directions."

"If she goes, she probably won't be coming back.  He's not sure if he can leave the town at all.  The last time he tried for work reason he got sick."

"I'll tell her that," he agreed, smiling just a bit.  "Are we good?"  Xander nodded.  "Eric wanted to know if you wanted to go clubbing with him.  He and Speed used to do that a lot."

"I'm not like Tim."

"I know that.  He knows that, but that's how he relates best."

"Tim said he had more dick than brains and that he thought with it most of the time," he offered with a shy grin.

Horatio grinned back and nodded. "Quite often.  He's nearly as bad at dating as I've heard you are."  That got a wicked looking smirk and the eyes showing a bit more of the predator and less of the goofy kid again.  "Just give us a try.  We're more than happy to do this for Speed because we like him and could probably come to like you."

Xander nodded.  "Fine.  I'll call them tomorrow and see if I can go out."

"Good.  Thank you.  Let me know.  I'll be working late every day this week."

"Yeah, Tim said to smack you around for that.  He said to go watch the sunset now and then, said you were becoming someone named Stetler?"  Horatio shuddered.  "Sorry, he compared your attitude and moping to that guy's paranoia and stalking, similar motives and background attitudes."

"I'll keep that in mind, kid.  Thank you for telling us."  He let himself out, listening as the boy locked the door behind him.  He walked off, heading for his hummer.  Frank was now parked beside it.  "It's been a long day."

"He's alive?"

"As far as we can tell."

"But he died!  You sat there with his head in your lap when he died!"

"I know that.  I don't know what's going on, Frank. We're still gathering information. Everyone says he can't leave where he is.  We have called him and I've got his number if you want it.  Or you could fly out with Alexx when she goes to beat him."

Frank smirked.  "I'm not getting between those two.  I like living."

"Good idea, Frank.  Very good idea."  He climbed in.  "I'm heading home.  He's good now.  We've talked.  Have a nice night."

"Yeah, sure," he agreed, watching his friend drive off.  He started his car and drove off as well, noticing the kid looked out his window.  Somehow he knew the boy was connected to Speed announcing he was alive, but he wasn't sure how.  Yet. Horatio would be telling him once he processed the fact that he was alive.  If not, Calleigh and Eric both liked to gossip.


Xander smirked at the man walking up to him, shifting so he could have half the bench. "I went.  It sucks.  It's full of smart, pretty people who sneered at me."

"That was probably for the clothes.  Miami is a city obsessed with its image," Horatio noted. "That's why we have as many plastic surgeons as LA does."

"That's not exactly encouraging me to stay.  I'm not like that."

"Neither am I, and neither are some of the other students."

"No, they're the smart ones.  The whole campus was like Cordelia and Willow pod people.  It almost made me fear being taken and assimilated."

"There are others.  Eric went here and he found a party every weekend and about half the week nights."

"I'm not a big party person."

"Have you ever been to one?" he asked.

"Yeah, to save Buffy and Cordelia, who were about to be eaten by a giant snake demon in the basement of the frat house."

Horatio blinked at that.  "Okay, probably not the typical frat party," he offered.

"Drinking, drugs, sex, squealing pretty people and girls in short skirts?  Yeah, it was."

"Okay, then the majority was," he agreed, smiling a bit at that.  "That's only one aspect of the social life around here.  There's clubs, sports, games.  There's friends and study parties with them.  College is mostly about learning what you can, figuring out where you are in the social order, dating a lot, having some looser moments of fun while you find yourself, and meeting a lot of people."

"I thought it was about learning how to BS your way through papers."

"That too," he admitted dryly, shaking his head a bit.  "I don't encourage that tradition."

"I just don't think it's me.  I'm not a college guy."

"How would you know? You never tried it," Horatio noted dryly, standing up.  "I heard you broke down. Need a ride?"

"Are you still having the bald guy follow me?" he asked as he picked up his backpack and soda, following him.

"No.  He's another one of Speed's many friends in the department and word got back to him."

"Which one is he?"

"Detective Tripp."

"He said he was a good guy once, one to have at your back, but nothing else," he admitted with a small shrug.  "That I heard anyway.  Sometimes he'd go on these long rambles and lose me about halfway through."

"I guess it's been hard on him, being stuck far away from everything he knows," Horatio said quietly.

"The same as he wants me to be."

Horatio looked at him, pulling him out of the way of the foot traffic.  "Xander," he said calmly, "he's trying to give you a better shot at life.  You can be angry at him.  You should be angry at him for not telling you about it.  Taking it out on us doesn't help anything. We might be able to get to know you and like you, but all we've seen is the anger.  Now, I think it's reasonable, but I don't think you should continue it.  At least not at random sources."

"I'm sorry," he offered.  "I know this wasn't your idea and you're stuck with me out of a sense of honor to your friend."

"No, with what he has planned for you, I could have given you to Eric to mentor.  He'd have had you try out for the swim team or the diving team."  Xander frowned at that.  "Calleigh's friend had a fairly complex dossier on you and your friends."

"So I'm tracked too?"  Horatio nodded.  "What did they say about me?"

"The dual nature mostly.  The goofy kid with your buddies and then the intense predator the other times.  Though it was noted that you need to learn how to dance better."  Xander rolled his eyes but calmed down again, what he had wanted.  "Are you heading back to your hotel?"

"If I'm staying for a bit, I should probably get a job," he said bitterly.

"You could," he agreed.  "Are you staying?  I know Eric was going to pounce you this weekend."

"I called Willow this morning and she told me everything was great and they were heading to college.  I told her I got an offer from down here and she mock-pouted for all of ten minutes and then *encouraged* me to stay so I wouldn't get hurt again," he said with a touch of bitterness.  "Then Buffy came on and seconded that idea, that I'd get hurt."

"I heard you went hunting last night," Horatio said as he got to the hummer, unlocking the doors from his side.  He climbed up and watched the kid haul himself up and in as well.  "How did it go?"

"Not much of a nightlife like I'm used to down here.  Nor do I happen to like all the prostitutes."

Horatio smirked at that.  "Neither do we."  He started the engine.  "Back to the motel?"

"If it's not out of the way.  Or a bus stop."

"It's not.  I'm not on a call.  I'm on lunch."  He backed out and headed toward the old, ratty motel. "You know, living in the dorms can be fun. You'll never get quiet in them, but you get free cable and food.  Plus there's always something to see, do, or watch."

"I'm still not hyped on this whole college thing Tim wanted me to do," he reminded him. "I'm not good at learning. I suck majorly at it."

"Could that be because everyone told you that you were?" he offered.

"No, I genuinely suck at it.  I only got told I was stupid after they decided I was at school."

"You're not stupid.  Stupid people couldn't have planned that assault or survived the way you have," he noted as he changed lanes.  "Nor could they have laid all that explosive to blow up the school."

"Yes, you can.  That's all practical application."

"Maybe it's how you're looking at it.  Yes, some of the stuff you'll learn is fairly worthless to real life, but some of it does have practical applications later on, or even during classes.  Chemistry leads to both the lab work we do and building bombs.  I know, I used to be on the bomb squad," he admitted with a touch of humor. "I saw a lot of chemistry and physics at work."

"Really?"  Horatio nodded.  "But that's more like cooking. You measure, you wipe off, you close, you put on a timer and connect it."

"At the higher levels of bomb making it's not that easy," he assured him.  "Yes, simple C-4 and pipe bombs are, but the higher levels of bombs take a lot more skill to design."

"That would be military stuff though and I don't wanna go military."

"They would appreciate you."

"I don't appreciate the mindset of deconstructing who I am to make me someone better. I can almost like who I am at the moment.  I don't need someone else to tell me I don't know anything and that I can be better."

"That's what drives a lot of people to drop out of boot camp," Horatio agreed.  "They can't take the destroying and rebuilding into a better you that they do to make everyone alike."

"People aren't alike though."

"That's very true.  And that's the basis of most psychology classes."  He glanced at the boy, who looked really confused.  "They figure out what's wrong with someone and try to help them."

"I've met with a few through social services.  They were more interested in their fees and their drugs."

"The good ones aren't like that."

"If you say so."

"I do.  I've worked with a few who were there to tell me what was going on with a serial killer or a serial bomber. They figured out what they were trying to say or mean with what they were doing and helped us stop them."

"That's decent I guess."

"It is, and it's hard, but you've got to understand people.  For those who understand and watch people, it seems to come easier."

"I don't watch people, I stalk them to kill the former ones."

"It's about the same skill. You ready body language, they read body language and words.  After all, people lie."  He pulled up in front of the motel.  "There you go."

"I'll think about it."

"Please do.  Should I tell Eric to come over?"

"If he wants.  Don't force him or anything."  He slid out and smirked.  "After all, I got enough of that from Willow."  He shut the door and headed inside.

Horatio smirked and pulled out.  At least the boy was trying to work with him a little bit.  It was progress, but not very encouraging.


Horatio looked up as his phone rang, pulling it out to look at the number.  It came up unknown with a California prefix though so he assumed....  "Caine," he answered.  The female voice on the other end made him pause.  "Who is this?"  He leaned against the wall, listening to the cheerful sounding voice try to rip him a new one for keeping Xander there.  "Miss Summers, I do not make his decisions for him.  He's making a thoughtful choice based on what has been offered to him," he said quietly.  The voice got a bit meaner and he sneered.  "Miss Summers, if you knew the boy that well, you'd know that wasn't true.  After all, I've seen accounts and tapes of him doing your job.  I also believe he was responsible for a major victory for you recently," he said calmly.  "I don't think that points to him being useless or helpless.  If you do, then I can see why the person who helped him did."  He heard the implied threat.  "I wouldn't say things like that, Miss Summers, I really wouldn't."

He hung up and called the motel, getting Xander's sleepy voice.  "Xander, we've just run into a ...situation.  Your friend Buffy just called and threatened Speed's life," he said quietly.  "Yes, as in something or someone will have to go protect him. I'm more than willing to go with you, as will most of us."  He smirked at that.  "Not a problem.  Let me make a call about that.  Yes, get here within the hour."  He hung up and walked off, going to call a friend.  One no one around the office knew he had.  "Fredro, Horatio.  I need to borrow the plane.  Because we found an old friend alive and now he's in trouble."  He looked at his phone then put it back against his ear.  "You knew?  I mean about that stuff."  The man told him exactly what was going on.  "Does that mean it's a yes?"  He smirked.  "Thank you and I'll tell him you said hi."  He hung up and paged his team to meet him in his office, looking at the extra person. "Rick, this does not concern you."  He pushed him out and slammed the door.  "Miss Summers just called and threatened not only Xander but Speed," he said quietly.

"Excuse me?" Calleigh shouted, pushing Yelina out of the way to get closer.  "She did what?"

"She threatened him for sending Xander here.  She also threatened the boy.  Now, I have a friend who has graciously allowed us to use his private plane.  Xander is on his way in.  If you don't want to go, you don't have to....."

"Oh, shut up, Horatio," Alexx said firmly.  "Everyone call someone to water plants."  She called her husband.  "Honey, it's me.  No, I've got to go out of town.  Well, you know what I told you about Speed?  No, someone just threatened him.  No, we're going there."  She smiled.  "I love you too and I'll be careful."  She hung up and answered the door when it was knocked on, looking at the boy, who was clearly ready for battle.  "They let you in wearing that?"

"They don't see it," he noted, looking at Horatio.  "I got a call from Ethan fucking Rayne.  How do you know Mr. Chaos and is he trying to warp me again?"

"No.  Does he know Fredro Gonzalez?"

"It's possible he is Fredro Gonzalez," he noted dryly.  "Let's go.  I'm assuming we're going to try to free him?"  That got a nod and they headed out, piling into the hummer and Calleigh's car.  "What did she say?"

"She said that she was going to have him tortured for taking you away from her."

Xander pulled out his cellphone and called Aiden.  "Love you, dear, where's Tim?"  He listened to her light, funny voice.  "No, Buffy snapped and threatened him," he said coolly.  "Oh, no, I'm on my way.  But can you do Horatio and them a *huge* ass favor?  Pray that he can come home.  Yeah, well, I'm not happy with them and the Powers can have Buffy at the moment."  He smirked.  "Thanks, yeah, there's fine.  Hell, your apartment is probably fine if you want since it's going to be dark soon out there.  Love ya."  He hung up.  "She's listening for it, calling Tim to warn him, and then going to make a prayer to see if we can get him out of Sunnydale before he's eaten and turned."  He grabbed onto the door as they took a corner a bit sharply. "Not my fault, the Powers That Be put on that rule.  I can always ask too."  He leaned back and closed his eyes, sending his own prayer winging out into the ether.  He hoped it was strong enough to protect him until they could get there.


Xander led point into the warehouse.  The others behind him were being more cautious but he was sneaking.  Willie was *very* helpful and the others hadn't followed him in so they didn't know why he had been so helpful.  He snuck around the outer ring of lights, focusing on the two chairs.  He sneered and pulled something out of his back pocket, snapping it as quietly as he could, then shaking it and tossing it.  The light stick drew her attention and he threw the rock he had picked up, hitting her in the head.  "Bitch," he noted as he came out.  He concentrated, then smirked. "You might as well come out, Angel. I can smell you."  He looked at the handcuffs. "Guys, I need the handcuff keys!" he called.  The rest of the team moved in.  Angel came out into the open, already in full vamp. "You don't hurt Tim to get to me."

"The Powers want you here," he sneered.

"Then they can make me stay, can't they?  If they can keep Tim here, then they could've made it so I couldn't get out of town."  He moved away from the two in the chairs, waving him on.  "Come on."

"You can't fight," he sneered.

Xander snorted.  "You have no idea what I can do, Angel.  Now, you want me, you have to win really big this time."  The vampire lunged and Xander turned, sending a hard strike against his back, but ducking the quick turn and grab maneuver.  He ducked another grab and punched at him, then grabbed a stake out of his pocket, lunging and getting into it.  He let himself trance on the fight, not caring that the vampire was scoring a few hits on him.  He got him down and the stake poised, staring down at him. "I'd pray to the Powers that they want you saved."

"Xander!" Buffy yelled.  "Get off him!"

"Oh, bite me!"  He stared into the dark eyes.  "You've got a minute."  Angel snarled and tried to move so he hit him with the fist around the stake.  "Try again."  He put it where it should go and started to push, slowly.

"Get off him!" she shouted, kicking at Xander to make him get off her vampire.  Xander rolled to his feet and faced her.  "You're not Xander."

"Bullshit."  He waved her on. "Come on, Buffy.  You still think I can't fight?"  She shrieked and lunged, claws out.  He backhanded her and walked over her.  "Always going for the fancy moves."  He made to stake Angel and the vampire disappeared.  "Huh, pity."  He looked up.  "Does that mean they can have Tim back?" he called.  Tim was filled with a glow and groaned.  "Thank you."  He walked off shaking his head, leaving Buffy there. He didn't intend to walk to the bus station but he realized he was there when he heard the announcement for the boarding.  He checked his pockets and grabbed a ticket from the person at the desk, getting on and heading away from there.  Tim was safe now and his friends had him back, he wasn't their substitute Tim anymore.


Tim looked at Aiden, who had her things already packed. "You sure, Aiden?"

"Yeah, I've had enough of the strange.  Give me the real city any day.  Normal homicides and stuff.  And hey, Seattle is supposed to be an okay city if you like coffee."  She smiled and hugged him. "You be safe down there, Timmy. You need to stay safe and find that idiot boy of ours."  She let him go with a deep kiss and a wink.  "I needed that."  She got into her car and took off.

Tim smirked at Eric when he whistled.  "What?  She understands."  He looked at Horatio.  "I'm all packed too. Let's head."

"What about the kid?" Eric asked.

"I had someone go pick up his stuff from the motel," Calleigh offered.  "It's sitting in Horatio's office.  When we find the idiot, we'll give it back to him."

"If we find the idiot," Speed offered, taking her arm and walking off.  "So, you moped.  A lot."

She pinched him.  "You're a bastard, you didn't clean your gun, you'd better be doing it now."

"Yes, I finally learned," he sighed, letting her get into the cab first.  "Are we sure I can go?"

"We're sure you can go," Eric reminded him.  "That witch, Rosenburg, said so.  By the way, what's wrong with her?"

"Magic addiction."  He slid in beside Calleigh, looking at her.  "I hated that you guys moped that way.  I wanted him to come down and smack you all first."

"Well, he didn't because I saw him in the hallways," she said dryly.  "It complicated things greatly."

"I can tell.  That's okay, I can figure out where he went soon enough.  I'd send Aiden after him but I'm not that mean.  Most of the time."

"After breakfast?" Eric teased as he got in.  They had to flip a coin as to who got to sit next to him each part of the trip.

Horatio got into the front, breaking the rules they had agreed on.  There was no way he was letting Speed out of his sight this time.  "Any idea where he'd head?"

"Somewhere he could get lost and be ignored.  It's how he sees himself."

"I noticed he's got a good understanding of human nature," Horatio agreed.

"But no rhythm," Eric complained.  "That is one non-dancing white boy."

Tim looked at him.  "I don't know what you saw, but I've seen him find his stride on the floors, Eric."  Eric gave him a disbelieving look.  "Really.  I've seen him do it before."  He got comfortable for the short ride to the local airport.  Private planes could land there, but nothing bigger.  Thankfully Horatio knew someone who had some semi-legal assets.  "Who is this Fredro guy, H?"

"Someone I met years ago," he offered, looking back at him. "Are you bringing him back?"

"Yeah.  If I have my way, he'll be waking up on my couch."  He winced as they crossed the town's borders and his eyes crossed, giving him one of the more powerful visions from the Powers That Be.  "Sure," he muttered.  "Whatever you say, thanks for letting me go."  He looked up then at Horatio.  "I have to come back each and every year for at least three days on a full moon."

"That's fine," he agreed. "I'm sure you'll be accompanied back next year."  Calleigh and Eric both nodded at that and grabbed onto Speed's arms.

"Gee, thanks, guys," he said dryly.

She pinched him on the cheek. "I'm going to have someone resurrect you so I can kill you if you ever die again on me."

He kissed her on the head. "It's a hazard of the job.  You know that and you did then."

"Do you think I care?" she asked sweetly.  He shook his head.  "Then you'd better not do it again."

"So, the babe, Aiden, you and her?" Eric asked.  "She was hot and cute."

"She reminded me of you, Eric, she had a smart mouth," he shot back, getting a blush.  He smirked at him.  "We're just buddies.  Every now and then it was stress relief but nothing more.  We were surrounded by death all day every day.  Sometimes you needed to be reminded that there was someone real there with you."

"The boy said that death was like his boyfriend," Calleigh said quietly, hugging him around the arm.

"It doesn't surprise me.  Did he pull a weapon on Alexx the first time she tried to hug him?"

"No, but the first time she saw him she made him back into the windows in Horatio's office and he reached for one then," Eric told him.  "He asked her nicely to leave him alone, saying that she was going to kill him."

Speed groaned, looking up.  "Can the boy maybe get a better dating habit?" he called.  He closed his eyes as the strong ' no' hit him.  "Fine, thanks."  He rubbed his forehead.  "Maybe he'll go for boys instead."

"Harris?  That boy's already gay," the cabdriver noted.  "He's always around girls and letting them fuss over him.  Besides, both the girls are lesbians so you know they've got their little gay union going."  He pulled into the airport. "Ten bucks," he announced, shaving the ten cents off.  Eric handed him a twenty and they got out, heading to the plane.  "At least they're nice foreigners," he noted dryly.  "Too bad, a few of them were cute enough to stay."


Speed walked into the club, watching the kid on the stage.  He knew he could dance.  He was just self-conscious about being watched.  He sat down, looking at him, then whispered to the waiter when he came over.  The waiter looked at him and he pulled his badge.  "He's in my custody.  I'm his guardian.  I need to talk to him.  I'll pay for his time."  That got a nod and the waiter told the manager, who agreed to send the boy upstairs for a private when he came off the stage.  The waiter led Speed up there a few minutes later and Xander looked up, giving him a stricken look as he closed the door.  "You fucking moron," he said fondly.  He walked over and sat next to him.  "College, Xander.  It's September."

"Eww.  I'm not a college boy."

"Bet me."  He made the kid look at him.  "Pot or liquor?"

"Neither.  Caffeine and pure maple syrup.  Puts me into a fuzzy haze."  He got his chin free. "You know I'm not going to drink with *their* example."

"True, just checking."  He made him look at him again. "Go pack your shit and let's go."


He used his free hand to smack him upside the head.  "Now."  Xander sighed and seemed to capitulate.  He followed the boy down but went out the main door, heading outside to wait by the car.

Xander packed his locker, getting some pitying looks.  "My former guardian showed up," he told the other dancers.  "He's being pushy and wants me to go to college and feel really stupid."  He closed his gym bag and headed out the back door, running into a familiar form in the alleyway.  "He brought you too?"

"Yes," Horatio agreed.  "He did."  He smirked at the boy.  "Nice job staying nearby, kid.  Let's go."

"Must I?"

He gave him a nudge in the proper direction.  "Yes, you must.  We're not letting Speed hunt you down again."   He watched the kid move down the alley, smirking a bit at his muttering, then he seemed to disappear.

"I felt that," Tim called.  "Horatio, he's still in front of you but he's about to duck to your left."

He grabbed the boy and walked him out more firmly this time.  "Thank you, Speed.  His apartment?"

"Already packed and in the truck.  You want that or the car?"

"Whichever you don't want."

"If you take the truck, that means you get Eric."

"You brought him too?"

"Hell yes," Tim joked, swatting him and breaking the spell.  "In the car, Xander."  Xander grumbled but got in the back.  "Thank you."  He moved around to drive, smirking at Horatio as he slid in.  "We can go back like this and let Eric drive the truck."

"It's a three day trip, Speed.  I think we can take turns so you can yell at him," Horatio noted as they drove off.  "Don't you need a work permit to work in Canada?" he asked the boy.

Xander shook his head.  "Not in the strip club business."

"It is fairly ignored," Speed agreed.  Horatio looked at him.  "I did a few amateur nights during college," he defended.  "Xander still moves better than I do."  He changed lanes and headed toward the interstate.  The kid lived the next exit up.  "Nice job covering too, Xander. I almost missed that subtle signal but someone found your name on a personals site.  Or so the tip said."

"I'm not listed on those.  Why do I wanna meet some scuzzy stalker dude?"

"Point," he admitted.  "Willow?"

"Quite possibly," he sighed, slumping down some.  "Why are you doing this, Tim?"

"Because I want to, Xander.  No one can make me do something I don't want to."  Horatio nodded at that, making an agreeing humming noise.  "You, no reminiscing."

"I'm not."  He looked back at him.  "Any time we stop, I'm going to handcuff you so you can't run away."

"I can't do college."

"Shut up, Xander."  Tim took the exit and headed back to the apartment to meet Eric and the truck.  "You good to go tonight?" he asked as he pulled up beside him.

"Yeah, just fine to.  The landlord likes him, baked him some extra cookies."  He handed them to Speed, who handed them back.  "His deposit's in there too."  He smirked at the kid.  "Why do you have glitter on?"

"Because he was stripping," Speed said dryly.  "Better than I could."  He looked in the mirror at the kid, who was staring at the package.  "Tonight, you get the truck, we'll get the kid," he ordered.  "We'll switch after we break for a nap."

"Sure," Eric agreed smugly.  "I wanna miss the yelling anyway."  He got into the rental truck and followed the car back onto the interstate and heading south.


Speed looked at Xander once they were in their motel room for a few hours' nap, locking the door.  "I'm not going to let you run away this time either.  The managers know to call and wake us all up if you try."  He moved closer, making the kid look at him.  "I'm so going to kick your ass for running that way," he noted, giving him a fond look. "Not that I didn't expect it, but Canada was a bit too far.  How was Aiden when you popped in on her?"

"I wanna know how she found me."

"Easy, Willow called her."  He pushed him onto one of the twin beds.  "We'll talk when we've got the car to ourselves."


"Shut up, Xander.  You're not dumb.  You're going back to Miami with us.  College may take another few months since it's the middle of a semester, but you're going."

"I'm not...."

Tim swatted him, then leaned down to get into his face. "You can bullshit Horatio all you want, though I doubt it works.  You can bullshit Calleigh and Eric into thinking you're some nice guy who only occasionally hunts and things.  I know you, Xander.  I wrote the book on your behavior."  He swatted him again at the uncomfortable look on the boy's face. "It's not like this is turning me on or anything, but you're coming home with me.  We'll talk once we're back and I've let Alexx cook and fuss over you.  You will learn what normal people are like.  Then if you want to work for a few months, you can. I might mind the strip club route, but it's a job.  I understand that."  He made the boy look at him.  "You're not dumb.  It wasn't me or magic or any of those other rumors that got you the eleven-hundred on your SATs.  That was all you.  You're damn smart, you're just unsupported.  Now you've got that and I expect great damn things from you, kid.  Because if I have to check your homework, I will.  That's why I threatened your father for you, for being such a shitbag."  He let him go and walked over to his bed.  "Get some rest."

"I slept in the car," he said quietly.

"Then sit there quietly so I can.  Otherwise we're going to have to let Horatio drive and he's not used to driving anything smaller than the hummer anymore."  He fell down on his bed, just kicking off his shoes.  "Night."

"Night."  He sat there and thought.  No one had ever come after him before.  At least not like this.  They'd come after him to try to kill him.  They'd come after him to try to taunt him, but not coming after him because they wanted to help him.  He didn't deserve it.  He didn't need it, or even want it.  He was marginally okay at his job.  He had a string of luck with some of his routines.  He hadn't had to drink with anyone and he hadn't resorted to the back room prostitution some of the strippers did for extra cash.  Plus he was clean and didn't use drugs.  Maybe, just maybe he could escape in Miami?  It was a big city and it had strip clubs.  He'd seen one one night when he had been down there by himself.  He glanced at Tim, then at the door.  It was a very slim chance he'd make it out of here without waking him.  Tim didn't sleep too lightly but he wasn't someone who'd ignore someone moving around in the room.  As a test he went to the bathroom and found Tim watching him when he came out.  "Sorry."

"Lay down, Xander."

"Fine, mother."

"No, that's Calleigh and Alexx.  Unless Eric or H turn gay.  Then you can call them that."

"Hey!" Eric called through the walls.

Xander smirked at that, shaking his head.  Then he realized he was still an outsider in their little family.

Tim sighed and got up, coming over to sleep next to him, cuddling him really.  "You're like my kid, they accept you because you're my kid.   That's all they need to know about you.  They'll expect you to be the normal, smartass, nineteen-year-old you usually are.  I expect great things out of you, they'll be really shocked and happy if you live up to my expectations."

"You shouldn't think so highly....  OW!"

"Good.  Shut up.  No more low self esteem tonight, kid."  He closed his eyes. "Sleep or no more cookies."

"Am I getting my own place?"

"Hell.  No."

"Fine.  I'll be a burden."

Tim snorted.  "No you won't.  You may live like I abuse you horribly until I'm sure you won't run but you won't be a burden.  It'll give me someone to talk to at night."

"You could date," Xander reminded him.

Speed pinched him again.  "Not yet.  I'm still getting used to the hot weather again.  Women just make you sweat more."  Xander rolled his eyes.  "I heard that.  Sleep."

"Yes, father."

"Good boy.  You're finally learning."  He smirked until he fell asleep, still holding the kid in place next to him.

"Bastard," Xander muttered when he realized Tim wasn't going to be moving any time in the near future.  He was truly stuck here.


Xander was walked into Tim's apartment in handcuffs, it had been a bad idea to walk off while they were getting gas to look at something.  Horatio was a bit cranky tonight, Eric snored too loudly.  He was let go of and Horatio patted him on the head.  "Sit down and wait.  You can figure out what to do with the truck tomorrow."  He walked out, leaving the door open for Tim to go in.  He climbed into Eric's car and let him drop him off at home so he could have an uninterrupted night of sleep for a change.

Speed waved and closed the door, smirking at him. "That was really dumb.  Next time warn us you're going to look at something."  He sat next to him, then turned on the tv before looking at him.  "You want the couch, the spare bedroom, or would you like me to hold you down for another night?"

"I'm good without the restraints," he noted dryly, glaring at him.  "I didn't need...."

Tim pinched him again, getting a wince.  "Shut up, Xander.  We came after you because we like you. I'd do the same for Eric if his future kids ran away.  Feel damn lucky we didn't bring Alexx or Calleigh.  Or even worse, Yelina."


"Horatio's sister-in-law.  The pretty Latin beauty?"

Xander shrugged. "I didn't meet her that day I was there."

"You will soon I'm sure.  Too bad she couldn't come on the rescue.  She'd have handcuffed you then."

He slumped and looked at him. "Tim, try being a bit realistic about my skills, okay?  I'm not meant to do great things. I'm meant to flip burgers."

"Yeah, I said the same thing.  And gee, I graduated with honors," he noted dryly, staring him down.  "You're going to college for at least a year, get over it now."

"I can't afford... and you can't pay for it," he ordered at the opening mouth.  "It's not right.  I'm not really your kid."

"So?  It's not like I'm looking forward to procreation."  He swatted him this time.  "Shut up, Xander. You're going because I say you're going.  You can work until then but you're going."  Xander opened his mouth and he raised a finger.  "Don't," he warned.  "It's been a long three days."  Xander closed his mouth and settled on a scowl.  "Thank you.  Now, watch tv until someone leaks that we're home and Alexx runs over with food so I don't have to cook."  He got comfortable by putting his feet up.  "This is home, Xander.  Get comfy."

"I feel like you're keeping me hostage."

"Good.  Then you'll get Stockholm syndrome and it'll all be fine once you're like us."

Xander sighed and rolled his eyes.  "Why did I save you?"

"Because I'm so cute and a good influence.  Did you really want to be filling cones and flipping burgers at Dairy Queen?"

"No.  But I'm probably meant to."

He sighed and pulled the boy across his lap, making him look at him. "You're not, kid. You're worth much more than your father ever was.  I wouldn't do this for someone like him.  I wouldn't do this for a kid like Larry, who had some brains but hid it really well behind football and screwing every male he could.  You have talents, skills, and a good moral code of ethics. You'll get far in this life even if I have to push you there.  Got me here?"  Xander went limp and nodded.  "Now, I know how smart your ass really is.  I have since the first time you tried to snow me.  The louder you protest, the thicker the smokescreen gets for people who don't read people, but those of us who do it for a living realize that it's a smokescreen and start to dig.  It only took me a day to realize what your problems were, Xander.  It was those bitches you were friends with and that girlfriend of yours.  With positive influences, you could've beat Rosenburg in brains.  You haven't tried yet and I'm giving you the opportunity to try.  That's all I want.  Then if it doesn't work out, you can go flip burgers or strip or something.  Though if you start using drugs or drinking I'm going to kick your ass."  Xander swallowed and nodded. "Good boy.  Were you up there?"  Xander shook his head.  "Even better.  See, it showed how smart you are."  Someone pounded on the door.  "Who is it?"

"It's Alexx, baby."

"It's open."  He looked at Xander again.  "Right after you enroll in the spring semester tomorrow we're going to sit down and talk about your aversion to women and how mothering is *nice* and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy."

"I'm not a sweater kinda guy."

"That's good because Miami never gets that cold," Alexx said as she walked in with a picnic basket.  "Spanking him?"

"No, he had enough of that when he was younger and it made him think wrong.  I'm explaining a few facts of life to him."  He looked down in the dark brown eyes.  "Got me here?"  Xander sighed and nodded.  "I'm not asking you to change.  I'm asking you to try in school and to learn to be around normal people before you turn into some serial killer that I'll have to catch and put away."  He helped him sit up and sit on his own again.  "We got a deal?"

"Fine," he sighed.

"Good.  Hey, Alexx, anything really interesting show up while we were gone?" he called.

"No, baby."  She came out with two plates, looking at Xander.  "I won't back you into a corner this time, but if you hurt him like that again, I'm going to whip your tail.  You understand?"  He slunk down and nodded.  "Good.  Now eat.  You're too skinny."  She smiled at her baby.  "How was Canada?"

"Cold. I'd forgotten how cold it was.  Thanks for dinner."

"It's not a problem, sugar."  She kissed him on the cheek and looked at Xander.  "Eat.  It's not poisoned."

"It's probably one of the few home cooked meals he's ever had," he admitted, taking a bite.  "Hmm.  You were worried, salty."  She rolled her eyes and went to get him some bread to go with it.  "Eat, kid."

"Yes, mother."  He dug in, eating slowly and carefully.  Just in case they were trying more funny stuff on him.

She put two pieces of bread onto each plate and put down cans of soda as well.  "There."  She watched Xander.  "Did your mother never treat you well?"

"Why do you think Aiden and I sent his parents running for their lives one night?" he asked dryly, taking another bite. "Anywhere else I would've called someone but Sunnydale's social worker wasn't exactly brainy.  Rosenburg's parents were asking for trouble by letting their daughter roam around all hours of the night.  Buffy's mother tried and then found out what her daughter was.  She's the real mother of the group and I kinda feel sorry for her."

"Buffy wasn't always like that," Xander defended quietly.  "Besides, Joyce was good to us."

"I know she was.  I said she was the real mother of your group," Tim told him.  "I'm guessing Buffy's world view got skewed by sex again.  She seems to have that problem."  He looked at Alexx again, shaking his head.  "You'd have liked Willow's boyfriend.  He was smart and quiet.  A guitarist.  A hacker.  A very nice kid.  No trouble at all."

Xander snorted.  "Until those three days of the month," he said dryly.

"Hey, he took precautions."

"And still kept getting out to wander around in the woods."

"Point, but that I can blame on you guys and Rupert.  That cage door wasn't that strong and I wouldn't have made Willow watch him."

"She did it out of love for him."

"So?  It's still cruel to make her watch him go through that month after month."

"No, that showed she gave a damn about him," Xander defended.  "That proves love in my book, Tim.  Not meanness, not cruelty to her.  She was proving she loved him no matter what by being there with him and helping us hunt him down when he got out."  He put his plate aside and Alexx handed it back. "I'll eat in a minute," he said, looking at Tim again.  "You watched the group but there was a lot you didn't see.  Willow was always there for me.  Every minute, every day, even after we screwed up and kissed a few times."

Tim looked at him.  "Was she?  Afterwards?  Because Aiden and I both saw her blame you for it.  Aiden heard her blame you for it to Buffy when she admitted it at the hospital outside Cordelia's room."  He looked stunned at that.  Tim nodded. "Yeah, she blamed it on you.  Buffy wasn't too charitable toward you for doing the necessary stuff and filling in for her, so therefore you got given the short end of the stick, which made you go after Faith and got you attacked and nearly dead, Xander.  Angel saved you that time, where was Willow?"  Xander's face fell.  "I was in the library, he called them to tell them you were heading toward Faith's place.  Probably to discredit you since he was jealous of you. By the way, he knew about that 'out' clause on his soul.  He's more than grown enough to know what would've made him happy.  That wasn't her fault for being pushy.  Even teenagers have been able to say no before and he's far past one of those. He was over two hundred years old and I'm not so sure he didn't pull a sudden mental 'oops' and forget about the clause on purpose.  He was deluding himself into living the life he couldn't.  Most people give up after they're shot down but he came back for more.  How far in denial is this vampire?"

"I get what you're saying, but you're still wrong.  They're my *friends*."

"Buffy tried to kill me because she was mad that I got you out of the town."  He opened his mouth and Tim held up a finger.  "Hear me out.  You can call Aiden later and she'll agree with me.  Buffy didn't want you gone because you're her shadow.  Her ego needed the stroking that you helping her gave her.  You and Willow were the reflection of her greatness as the slayer because no other one had friends to help her.  She yanked both our chains while she had us because she was going to get you back and there was nothing we could do to stop her and then she'd have her faithful little puppy back, her words, not mine."  Xander looked devastated at that.

"Willow might've stopped her," he said more gently.  "But she was gone for a short vacation.  Rupert might've stopped her but he was out of town as well.  That left her to Angel, who was smoking vampire crack again and living in his deluded fantasy world.  She didn't appreciate you. She cut you down all the time, calling it playful teasing.  How many times did she copy off your homework but tell you you were dumb?" he demanded.  The boy slumped down and shrugged.  "Plenty of times. I saw her doing it.  Aiden saw her doing it and called her on it a few times.  She just got a scowl in return and Buffy said that since you hadn't been patrolling, you had the time to do your homework.  When Aiden pointed out you had been there, she just looked clueless.  The girl wasn't your friend.  Willow might have been.  Jesse definitely was.  Would he have put up with that?  Didn't Willow's behavior toward you, not the lust stuff but the friendship stuff, change when she came?"  Xander nodded at that, looking even more sullen.

"Think about what Jesse would've said about this last year, Xander," he said quietly, making the boy look at him.  "He would've ripped her a new one.  The same as Aiden did a few weeks before graduation. That's when Buffy suddenly decided you could help by helping her shift books.  Instead you saved her ass.  It was your plans that saved those people.  Your idea to go to the jocks.  Your bomb designs, even if Rupert did have to tell you how to make them.  You're tons better than Buffy gave you credit for and her views of social strata influenced Willow's views of you.  Even if she found love, you were supposed to be her best friend.  Women don't give up best friends like that.  They're like comfortable shoes.  Ask Alexx, she's probably got friends from elementary school."  They looked at Alexx and she nodded.  "See?"  He made the kid look at him again.  "It wasn't you, it was them.  They changed and it screwed you up even worse than your parents were. You had learned to ignore them but the insidious gnawing by your friends and Snyder drove you close to suicide.  Or else Jack wouldn't have taken you into the basement with him."

"You knew?" he asked quietly.

"Of course I did. Aiden and I both knew.  We'd seen you two the night before.  The same as we heard what the others did.  One of us was *always* watching the group, Xander.  It's not like we had a lot of *work* dealing with the newly dead.  We copied and pasted for ninety-percent of everything."  Xander slumped down further and nodded.  "The same as I knew that you might not have made it out of there.  That something you said or did caused Jack to turn off that bomb."

"Bomb?" Alexx asked finally.

"Yeah, a zombied asshole decided to blow up the school one night.  Since his friends so nicely sent him away, supposedly for his own good since, you know, he was a normal guy," he said bitterly, "Jack picked him up.  Took him around."

"Raised a few of his friends, broke into the hardware store saying he was going to make a cake," Xander added quietly and flatly.

Speed noticed Alexx shivered and he looked at the boy again.  "What did you tell him?"

"The truth," he said without looking at him in the same tone of voice. "That he'd be permanently dead, no coming back again this time. That I enjoyed the quiet and I could go too."

Tim made him look at him.  "And what drove you to that point, Xander?" he asked quietly.  "It wasn't school.  You were doing good that week since I was looking over your shoulder.  Was it Rupert?  Was it Buffy and Willow?  Was it all of them?"  Xander nodded at that.  "And I bet that the five second thing with Faith earlier didn't help either," he noted gently.  Xander shook his head.  He put down his plate and pulled him closer to hug him.  "They treated you wrong, Xander.  Faith attacked you that second time."  He stroked down the limp back.  "That's why Aiden and I were watching over you.  We both agreed you had a bright future if we could get you away from Buffy and Rupert.  They were there out of duty and family to each other.  It left you out in the cold.  We knew you could be so much more. No, you're not physics smart, but you're people smart."  Xander looked at him.  "Really.  I bet if I put you with ten personality profiles and some tapes you could pick out the hunters and the serial killers."  Xander nodded at that.  "Did it at the strip club?"  Xander nodded again, looking a bit less happy.  "Had to hurt him?"

"Pretty badly.  Sorry."

"I'm not. You saved your ass.  You do what you have to do when you've got to defend yourself."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "You're going to college for at least a year. You're going to start in the humanities since that's studying people. Not history since you suck so much at it," he teased, smiling at him.  Xander nodded, looking a bit sheepish.  "But psychology might work for you.  Or Anthropology maybe.  We'll see.  And then when you're done with all the college you think you can handle, we'll work on finding you a good  job.  That's all I expect outta you.  Understood?"  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Now, you can work until next semester but I'd rather you not strip.  Even if you were better than me at it."

"You did?" Alexx asked.

"Yeah, some amateur nights in college for extra money."  He grinned at Xander. "You've got moves I didn't have."  Xander blushed at that.  "We good?"  Xander nodded. "Then eat, kid.  No son of mine is starving in this house.  Especially not when Alexx cooks for us."  Xander picked up his plate and still ate carefully.  "I think we'll work on your fear of women next," he reminded him dryly.  "God, those girls screwed with your head."

"Can we beat them again?" Alexx asked.

"No.  Willow's learning better and she's actually sorry.  By the way, she wants an email this week, Xander."  That got a nod and the kid ate a larger bite.  "I told you she wouldn't poison you."  He looked at his 'mother'.   "Did you feed H and Eric too?"  She nodded.  "Thank you.  Smart boy here went to look at something away from us when we were getting gas just inside the city limits."  Xander shuddered and he noticed it.  "Don't like that name?"

"I've heard it a few times."

"Sorry."  He patted him on the head.  "We'll figure out a cute nickname for you, kiddo."

"I'll, um, find a job tomorrow so I can start paying rent," he said before taking a bite of food.

"Nope, not needed.  You're saving it.  Some day I'll trust you enough to let you go buy a car and not expect you to run away again.  By the way, the old one, what happened to it?"

"Not a clue.  The engine exploded."  He shrugged and ate another bite, then the bread.  "Thank you, Alexx.  This was better than my mother did."

"It's not a problem, Xander."  She smiled at him and he gave her a sheepish grin back.  "I'm not the scary woman in the department.  That's Yelina."

"No, she'll mother him too.  After she yells for a bit.  She's got a bit of a temper for yelling," he offered to Xander, who shrugged.  He was used to it.  "She'll calm down and hug you afterward.  She gives good hugs."

"I'm not ready for hugs," he admitted before stuffing his mouth again.

"Well, when you are, you tell me," Alexx told him, getting up. "Speedy, do you need anything else tonight?"

"No, we're good.  We're going to watch some tv, see what Eric packed, then go to bed.  Thanks, Alexx."

"Not a problem, baby."  She kissed him on the forehead and patted Xander on the head, seeing the wince.  "That hurt?"  He shook his head quickly.  "Uh-huh."  She tipped his face up, looking into his eyes.  "When did you get hit in the head?"

"Few weeks ago."

"Did you get seen by someone?"

"It's a minor concussion.  No fractures."

"That wasn't what I asked and how would you know without x-rays?"

"Experience.  I hit my head a lot over the last few years."

"I'll be seeing you bright and early tomorrow," she assured him.  She walked out shaking her head.

Speed looked at him.  "She's going to fuss over that injury.  That's all I can do to stop it, man.  What happened?"

"Fight with the serial killer guy."

"He hit you on the head?"

"Yeah, about five times."  He ate another bite, then handed it over.  "I'm full."

"Bullshit.  Eat.  I mean it."  Xander sighed and took the plate back, finishing off his dinner.
"Do we need to take a trip to the ER?"

"No.  The cops said I was fine."

"Last time I knew, most of them weren't paramedics."

"Yeah, well, the guy tried to charge me with assault.  I pointed out I was the victim and why and they took a longer look at him, then some guys from New York came up to get him.  Sounded just like Aiden."  He ate another bite, chewing slowly.

"Most of New York sounds like Aiden," he admitted.  "They could've known her though. I'll have to ask when I call to see if she's talked to her buddies there."  He looked at the top of his head. "You've got a dent, Xander."

"I'm fine."

"Yeah."  He picked up the phone and called his 'mother'.  "He's got a dent there.  Do I take him or wait for you?"  He smirked.  "Thanks, Alexx."  He hung up and got up, going to put his plate in the sink, then haul Xander up and out so he could take him to the hospital.  At least Eric had kept his bike.  Xander gave him and then it a long stare.  "Yes, now.  You can hang on."  Xander sighed and got on, taking the spare helmet.  He sped off, taking him to the ER Alexx had told him to go to.  Once there he parked and drug Xander inside.  "I just went after my runaway kid and found out he had a head injury a few weeks back but he's got a dent and it hurts when touched."  The nurse gave him an odd look so he pulled his badge.  "It's not his first head injury.  I'm his guardian."

"Oh, okay.  Let me get a senior nurse to evaluate him for triage."  She pushed a button on her phone and a nurse came up.  "Tell her, officer."

"This is my kid, kinda. I'm his guardian. I just got done retrieving him and about two or three weeks ago he was hit in the head repeatedly.  It's got a dent and it's still painful to the touch.  Our ME, Alexx Woods, told me to bring him in."

"Let me check him," she agreed, bringing him back to a room.  Officers always got special treatment.  "Where was he?"

"Stripping in Canada."

"I hear it's pretty up there," she said noncommittally.

"I didn't use drugs," Xander sighed.  "It was a serial killer.  I defended myself after he knocked my stupid ass out."

"If you say so."

Xander glared at her and she took a step back. "I know damn well I didn't drink or take drugs.  I don't need it, lady.  Nor do I need this."

"And that's another problem, he's been a bit crankier than before," Speed noted dryly, leaning against a wall.  "Even Lieutenant Caine's noticed recently."

"That's understandable, he notices everything."  She got to work checking his head, then frowned at him.  "He should probably have x-rays. I can have the doctor order it."

"Please. He's on my insurance since he's going to school this spring."

She nodded and went to do that.  She also ordered a blood test so the officer would know whether or not the boy was on drugs.  Because she didn't know a stripper who didn't use drugs or alcohol to get through their day.


Horatio looked up as Speed came in late.  "Problems?" he asked dryly.  "Need another set of handcuffs?"

"No, he's got a skull fracture."  Horatio looked stunned. "Apparently they had an imported serial killer from New York and the guy came after him since he was a good stripper.  The nurse got sneaky and did a drug test on him too.  Nothing came up."  He headed for his locker.  "I'll make up the hours tonight.  He knows I'm going to be late. I had to drop him off at the employment office."

"He's fit to work like that?" he called after him.

"No, but he's stubborn," Speed called back.

"No, ya think?" Eric asked with a shit eating grin.  "How many pairs of handcuffs did you use today?"

"None, skull fracture and he's down at unemployment finding a job. He insisted."  He found his jacket and put it on, going to the lab.  He would worry about Xander all day but his phone was on and Xander had unbent enough to admit he'd call if he felt faint or dizzy.

Calleigh leaned in.  "He's got a skull fracture?"

"Nice one too. Complete with dents."  He looked at her.  "Serial killer loved him enough to pick him up the hard way."

"Man.  Poor kid.  Where is he?"

"Unemployment.  He's insisting he's getting a job today even though I'm not making him pay rent.  I did ask him not to strip if possible."  He grimaced and got down to work.  "Any new cases yet?"

"Two already that you missed," she said cheerfully.  "Body dumps.  We've already been and come back.  That's what you're working on."  She went to talk to Horatio, who was listening to his phone.  She smirked at him.  "Friend down there?" He nodded.  "Is he there?"

He hung up and looked at her after a quiet 'thanks'.  "He asked for the names of places looking for a bouncer or a waiter.  He's already out of the office and heading to the Gilded Lilly since it's on the top of the list."

"Speed said he asked him not to strip."

"True, but he might not have to.  He might work in the other spots."  He shrugged.  "We'll deal with this too."  He walked off, going to check on his evidence for now.  He could hear where the kid had a job later.


Speed walked in and sat down, looking at the food that appeared in front of his nose.  "You can cook?"

"No, but I can microwave.  That's a microwave meal, Tim."  The plate was taken and dug into.  "I'm not stripping."

"That's good.  Bouncing or waiting at one?"


Speed looked back at him. "You're not old enough for that."

"He never asked."  He shrugged.  "He did warn that I might have to fill in some nights but I said that my guardian hated that I was better than him."  He went back to the kitchen.  "Soda or water?"



"As in I don't have any or you're unwilling to let me drink?" he called, eating another bite. This wasn't bad for microwave food.  "You know I'm not going to get drunk."

"Point," he admitted, bringing one out.  "That's your last one."  He went back to the kitchen to get his dinner and came out with it.  He sat down to eat out of the container.

Speed looked at it.  "You went grocery shopping?"  Xander nodded in between bites.  "Why?"

"Because I had the energy to go and I have to start work tomorrow.  You can't live by beer alone and I don't drink."

"Good point," he offered, finishing it off.  "Did you have the rest of Alexx's stuff for lunch?"  That got a nod.  "Anyone stop by?"

"UPS."  He pointed at the package on the table.  "From Aiden."

He got up to get it, putting his plate in the kitchen and coming back to open it.  He smiled at the nice card and present inside.  "She remembered my birthday."

"So did I, dumbass.  Your cake's in the fridge.  Your boss called and wondered why you were taking an hour off tonight."  Speed looked sheepish.  "So I told him."  He finished off his fettuccine alfredo and licked off his fork, putting the box down. "I like their sauce."

Speed leaned over to taste it and nodded. "That is good.  How expensive are those?"

"About a dollar each. Just over."

"Damn, that's good."  He leaned back, opening his present with a smile.  "She got a tape."  He showed it to him.  "Wanna watch her BASE jump from a building?"

"Not really.  People go splat doing that."  Someone knocked on the door so he got up, going to let Eric in as it turned out.  "He's on the couch with Aiden's present."  He noticed the pizza and shook his head.  "I only fed him minimally and his cake's still in the fridge," he called, noticing someone else was pulling in.  He held the door open when Calleigh got out with a smile for him.  He even endured the kiss to the cheek. "Thanks.  Everyone else?"

"Will be by in about twenty minutes."  He nodded and shut the door, going to make a discreet disappearance.  She kissed Speed on the cheek.  "Happy Birthday."

"Thanks," he offered with a grin.  "Kid."

"Play with your new toy!" Xander called.

Speed just rolled his eyes.  Sometimes he wondered how the kid got along while shunning human contact. His buddies sat beside him and Eric tossed out the empty food box, giving him a long look.  "It was his.  He was going to throw it out but you knocked."  He got up to put in the tape so he could watch it, grinning at her excited, happy chatter. Apparently it was meant to be copied since she talked to him and a few buddies of hers from New York.  Then she jumped and Eric giggled at that.  "She wanted to try that but no one in Sunnydale wanted to go with her, including me."

Calleigh leaned against his arm, snuggling in.  "That's okay.  We've all got some excitement in our lives just having you back."  He grinned at her.  "Hand me a slice of pizza?"  He handed her the box and she smiled, digging out her own.  "Thank you.  Does he want some?"

"He's hiding."

"He can't be scared of us," Eric complained.  He got up to go bother the kid, tapping on his door. "Hey, Xander."  Xander opened the door, shirtless and wearing tighter than tight jeans.  "Going out?"

"Well, yeah, I was going to go out so you guys could get loud and noisy.  I call it being thoughtful."  He let Eric in.  "You can help me pick a shirt if you want."

He looked at the wardrobe. "Pick the green one."

"I wore that on stage. It does make me look hot," he admitted, pulling out the tight t-shirt and pulling it on.  He tucked it in and looked at his shoe choices, going with boots this time.  He sat down to pull them on, then grabbed his jacket and swung it on.  "Because it can get chilly at night."

"Not that cold. You'll be sweaty all night anyway."  Xander grinned and hung it back up.  "Where you headed?"

Xander pulled out his list from earlier, then showed to him.  "The starred spots."  That got a smirk and a head shake. "I can get in."

"Most of these you have to be twenty-one."

"Only to drink. I don't drink.  I had bad examples of drinking."  He looked in the mirror and messed up his hair like he had before going on stage, then looked at him again.  "I'm off."  He grabbed his wallet and keys, heading out to the living room. "I'm giving you some time off by going out to dance and have fun."  He blew past the couch with that and headed right past Horatio outside. "Going clubbing with permission, mother."

Horatio looked at him, frowning a bit.  "Uh-huh."

Speed opened the door and watched the kid go.  "Eric showed me the list.  He's got high ambitions."  He let him inside. "He'll be fine.  He can take care of himself."  He smiled at Alexx, Frank, and Yelina as they pulled up, holding the door open for them too.  "Hey.  Xander decided to go out tonight so you can get noisy."

Frank laughed.  "Some of us aren't the noisy sort, Speed."  He patted him on the cheek.  "How was your son tonight?"

"Good.  He's still claiming his head doesn't hurt."

"I hope he's not going to drink?" Alexx asked.

"With two drunk parents?  I doubt it.  He didn't wanna give me a beer earlier."  He closed the door after them, letting Yelina hug him.  "Thanks."

"You're welcome," she said happily, smiling at him.  "Happy Birthday, Speed."

"Come on and sit. Eric brought pizza."

"Of course he did," Frank agreed.  "That boy's always eating."


Xander walked in late that night, noticing Speed was asleep on the couch.  He gently covered him and went to his room, but got pounced about halfway there.  He instincts kicked in but something told him not to struggle. "Damn it, Tim," he complained.

"I'm not Tim," Eric complained, letting him go.  "You don't fight back?"

"You smelled familiar."

"How can you tell?  You stink."  He made the boy look at him.  "What scent is on you?"

"Club whore.  I had to duck her twice tonight at two different places. I ended up in a gay bar to get away from her."  That got a smirk.  "They were nice about it and only a few guys hit on me.  It was a good show though."  He grinned at him.  "Don't wake him up."

"Too late," Speed called.  "It's what time?"

"Time for you, as a good boy, to be in bed."  He rolled his eyes.  "I was safe and had fun, mommy.  Really."  Speed sat up to look at him. "You didn't wake up until Eric pounced, blame him."

"It's three in the morning. I still work days."

"And I work six to one starting tomorrow.  Should I start crawling in the window?  I can do that."  Speed snorted and gave him a look.  "Sorry."  He went to his room and stripped down, then stretched and slid into the cool sheets.  He'd shower in the morning.

Speed looked at Eric.  "He went where?"  The list was handed over.  "Which one is the gay bar?"

"Probably not in there.  All the bouncers I know said he didn't drink," he offered.

"Good.  I'd have kicked his ass for that."  He laid back down.  "Go back to sleep, Eric."

"Sure."  He started to head for the bedroom but the phones started going off.  "Shit."

Speed groaned and opened his.  "Speed and Delko's tired asses," he answered.  He looked at the back bedroom.  "No, I'm good and he's home.  Why can't night shift?"  He groaned and held his head.  "Thanks, H."  He hung up.  "Alexander!"   He came out of the bedroom, looking confused.  "Club whore?"

"Blonde, fake boobs, perfect teeth, smelled like she'd already had five or six guys by her breath.  Club whore."

"Who we think just turned up dead."

"Hey, I ducked into Paintings to get away from the woman.  They can verify that for me.  Need me to follow you?  She said her name was Tiffani, with an I."  Eric sniggered at that. "Yeah, less brains than me."  He shook his head. "Less brains than Buffy.  Most of the club whores at least use breath mints after giving a blow in the bathroom."  He went back to bed.  "Call me if I need to show up."

"Sure."  They headed out since they were dressed, going to deal with the dead girl.  Speed looked at the dead body, then nodded. "That fits his description."  He looked at Horatio.  "He said he went into Paintings to get away from her.  Called her a club whore with a lot of men on her breath."

Alexx looked up and nodded.  "This one wasn't some innocent baby by any means."

"DNA will have fun then," Calleigh said as she joined them.  She looked at the body.  "Interesting posing.  I doubt she fell like that."  The guys looked and shook their heads. "You think someone followed him from Canada?"

"No," Speed said.  "I don't think even the most psycho would do that."  Everyone stared at him.  "What?"

"Baby, you do know that *three* psychos went after him up there, right?" Alexx asked.

Horatio coughed and nodded. "I called the Vice unit up there to make sure he wasn't wanted for anything or being looked at for anything when we got back.  Three different people tried to take him out of that club by force.  One of them holding the others hostage.  He walked out, kicked their ass, then came back and went back to his shift, a direct quote from the Inspector."

"So, letting him work as a bartender in a strip club is going to be a bad idea?" Speed asked dryly.

"Quite possibly letting him out of the house is a bad idea," Calleigh said, patting him on the back.  "Did he get any?"

"I didn't smell anyone on him when I nearly tackled him a few minutes ago," Eric admitted.  "Just sweaty stink, no sex smells."

"Maybe the boy'll turn gay and save us some trouble," Calleigh said happily, going to process the body.

"I convinced him to take psych classes so maybe he'll end up profiling," Speed offered as he went to help her.

"Get them before they get him?" Alexx teased.  "That boy of yours is bad," she assured him.

"And in the club, he's very bad," Eric said with a smirk.  "The bouncers all said he had a lot of fun without doing anything naughty."  He went to process the ground around them.  "H?  Matchbook," he announced, taking pictures of it. "How was he handling the striping, Speed?"

"Caffeine and maple syrup.  He said it made him fuzzy and high feeling.  He's a sugar ho."  He found a hair and put it into a small envelope, writing on it.  "Should I tell you if he ends up doing it one night so you can go watch?  Get some tips?" he taunted.

"Yeah, that'll be the day," Eric snorted.  "I move very well on the dance floor already."

"Good, then he can go clubbing with you and you can keep each other out of trouble and away from women who might hurt you," Calleigh said, smiling sweetly at him.  "Since you draw nearly as bad as he does, Eric."

"Children," Horatio warned tolerantly.  "The field lights will only last so long."  He took the other side of the perimeter to look over, finding a few shoe prints that way as well.  It was a park but these were fresh.


Xander woke up to a shove, looking up at his guardian.  "What time is it?"

"Noon."  He handed him something.  "That the girl who you had to duck?"  Xander looked at the picture and nodded.  "Thanks. You should probably get up soon."

"Good point," he yawned, getting up and heading for the shower.  He didn't even notice the blush.

"Put some clothes on if you're outside of your room," he called, going to call Horatio and tell him it was a positive ID on the body.  Xander came out a few minutes later in a pair of sweat pants and a towel around his neck.  "Thank you."

"Didn't realize, sorry."

"Not an issue this time.  You'll be happy to know you're not a suspect.  She had sixteen different DNA samples on her body."  Xander shuddered at that, you could see him in the kitchen making toast.  "Eat real food."

"I am."  He came out with his toast and honey, sitting down to look at him.  "Checking up on me?"

"No, I came home to eat."  He sat down with his sandwich, looking at him.  "What're you wearing tonight?"

"Uniform is dark blue or black t-shirt and black jeans.  Tight is fine. I was told it'd get me better tips."  He shrugged and ate another bite. "I need to find a new pair of jeans.  My black ones are nearly obscene and I don't want to look that desperate my first night."

"Define obscene."

"As in I have to baby powder myself to get into them, even a thong shows up, and you can see the circumcision scar."  He ate another bite.  "Obscene.  I got them for a photo shoot to promote the club."

"Uh-huh.  Yeah, you should probably find something a bit less tight.  I'll drop you off on the way in."

"I hear you guys have public transportation," he noted dryly.

"Don't be a smart ass, kid.  That's my job."

"Sorry.  I can handle a bus.  I was told which one to take and where to go."

"You told them where we live?"

"No, but I asked from the station.  I figured I could get one there and head out."

"Good point.  Good idea too.  By the way, three psychos?  Hostage situation?  Going to mention any of these?"

"Nope," Xander said with a smirk.  "I'm not quite that dumb.  Let me guess, Inspector Ferris?"  Speed nodded.  "You?"


"Ah.   He's a nice guy.  I liked him.  He believed me about defending myself."

"Good."  He looked him over. "How's your head?"

"Fine as long as I'm not pressing on it."  He finished his toast and got up.  "Let me change into real clothes."  He came out a few minutest later putting on a shirt over his usual jeans.  Speed stopped him and tapped the patch on his chest.  "Anti-nausea.  The docs prescribed it."

"I don't remember getting that filled."

"I did."

"I could have."

Xander grinned at him.  "Don't whine at me.  It won't do you any good to argue about this point.  Trust me on this.  You've just hit the Xander wall of stubbornness."   He sat down then got up and smoothed down his jeans and sat again.  "Sorry, been a while since I wore these.  They're stiff."

"I've had jeans come out like that," he agreed, shaking his head and finishing his lunch.  "Need money?"

"No, I have money."


"My last paycheck, after translated into American, was nearly two grand, plus the deposit back on my apartment up there?  Plus I'm expecting the last formal paycheck to be in General Delivery today."

"Why did you have them send it General Delivery?"

"Because I didn't know your address.  I talked to the boss on the way out."

"I can drop you there.  It's the same bus line, just follow the numbers."

"Sure.  I can do that."  He stood up and made sure he had his keys.  "So, I'm coming in the window tonight, right?  That way you don't have to get up?"

"Use the door.  Those plants will stick you."

"I can handle plants, I tested it earlier when I woke up needing the bathroom."  He checked his pockets and headed out with him.  "He let you borrow the hummer?"

"We've got three at the office.  One's Horatio's the others are general use."  He watched as Xander climbed in, grinning at him. "It takes practice."

"Can I borrow it for a date?"

"Nope.  If we can't, you can't."  He started the engine and backed down the parking lot so he could turn around.  "Main post office, right?" Xander nodded so he headed that way.  He'd just barely make it to work on time with some luck.


Xander came in that night smirking at his guardian.  "You didn't have to wait up."  Speed looked up from his book, then frowned at the clock. "Ah, you got lost."

"Yeah, I got lost."  He marked his spot and got up, looking at the boy's outfit.  "That's nearly selling it tight," he noted calmly.

"Yeah, and it got me seven hundred in tips," he said dryly, smirking at him. "My former boss was very nice.  He had it changed into an American money order for me.  He also sent me an offer to work in a friend's club down here for major bucks.  You guys make better tips down here than we did in Montreal."

"Well, yeah, there's more rich people down here looking for an easy piece of ass."  He looked the kid over again.  "Which you look like."

"Sorry."  He walked past him.

"Thong?" he called.

"Yup.  Technically a stripper's pouch but it works."

"Did you end up on stage?"

"No, just doing drinks.  All the guys showed up tonight."  He came out in the same pair of sweats and shirtless, sitting on the couch to look at him.  "I should probably get a bank account instead of leaving stuff here, right?"  Speed nodded at that.  "Any particular branch?"

"I like mine.  I'll drop you off there at lunch tomorrow."

"Sure."  He grinned at him.  "My last two commissions came in on this paycheck that I got today."

"How much was it?"  Xander handed over his copy and he blinked.  "What sort of high roller...."  He looked at Xander, who was smirking.  "One of the psychos?"  He held up two fingers.  "Two of the psychos?  Privates?"

"One private, one hot tub.  The other just kept buying me drinks, which I was doing virgin.  I can act drunk very well.  Which was why I was able to get away from him the next night when he tried to take us hostage."  He smirked again.  "You worry way too much."

"Will you have to go back to testify?"

"No.  They cut deals.  By then, Inspector Ferris was watching the club to see who was drawn to me.  He guilt tripped the third into confessing when he mentioned how someone had soiled his little innocent, white dove after he had picked him up.  The man lost it and went off, throwing the table at him, but he confessed to what he had been doing."

"I'll warn H any night you end up on stage."  He handed back the copy of the money order.  "We should both be in bed by now."

"We should," Xander agreed.  "Do you think I'll like psychology?"

"I think you will. It's all about people and watching people to understand them. You'll get into some stuff on experiments and things but nothing too heavy probably."  Xander nodded, looking a bit happy at that.  "You can go up tomorrow after you set up a bank account to talk to them."

"Sure.  I went up there this afternoon to formally admit I was coming in January.  They seemed happy.  I also filed for financial aid since I'll be damned if you're paying my way."  He got up and headed to his bedroom, closing the door. "Night, Tim."

"Night, Xander."  He shook his head.  "Brat," he muttered.  Then again, with his paychecks and tips?  He could probably afford his own tuition and books.  Since he wouldn't be living in the dorms or rushing a frat.


Speed got the call he had been dreading six weeks later, grimacing at Xander's cheerful voice.  "Should I send someone down to watch you?"  He snorted and nodded.  "Sure, kid.  Thanks."  He hung up and went to find Horatio, who was with Frank.  "He's going to end up dancing tonight.   Should I send Calleigh or Eric?"

"The kid dances?" Frank Tripp asked.

"Yeah, better than I ever did," Speed admitted.  "Technically he's a bartender but he's subbing for a missing guy tonight."  He looked at Horatio, then shrugged.  "I'm guessing there's a reason why Inspector Ferris used to sit in the club to watch his clients."

"Send Eric," he said calmly. "He wanted to go out tonight anyway."  Speed nodded and he shook his head as the younger man walked off, smirking at the detective.  "The boy does draw them, Frank.  I don't know why.  Hopefully Eric can tell us."

"Hopefully.  We've got enough deranged people in this city already."  He walked off shaking his head.

Speed leaned into Eric's lab.  "You're on tonight to watch my son dance."  Eric gave him a stare.  "Seriously.  Since we know that psychos like him."  He grinned at him.  "You'll have fun and H said you were going out anyway when he told me to tell you."  He went back to work. "He's going on in an hour, swing shift," he called as he walked.

"Damn it," he muttered.  He called his date.  "Hi, it's Eric.  No, I've got to watch over some guy who's going to be doing his first night stripping tonight.  No, one of the other guy's kids, kinda.  He's guardian over the kid.  No, he draws a lot of the wrong attention. Sure, if you want I can take you," he promised, it was looking up on his getting laid that night.  "Sure.  He starts in an hour so...."  He nodded, smirking more wickedly now.  "Sure thing.  See you then."  He hung up and went to get the club's address from Speed, and then shower and change.


Eric trudged into the apartment after the kid that night, waking Speed up.  "I hate you," he told him.

"Sorry," Xander said wearily, heading for his room.  "I need a shower."

"Yeah, you do," Speed called as he watched his son walk.  "Bad night?"

"My date got into a catfight with a bachelorette party about who got to buy him drinks, Speed.  He went to them as a favor for the manager but winked at my date.  She went home to her vibrator and thoughts of your kid."  He flopped down, looking at him.  "I don't move that way.  I don't think I could."

Speed patted him on the back.  "Like I said, he does it better than I do. How did he do tonight in tips?"

"Oh, man," he moaned, shaking his head.  "Your son's a horrible flirt.  He dick teased two different pimps looking after their boys on the stage for the open pole competition.  One of them nearly offered him a job."

"I held off," Xander called as he came out, putting something in front of his guardian and Eric.  "My tips, I haven't counted 'em yet.  The other guys liked me.  I did long sets and gave them a break to rest and shower."  He curled up in a corner of the couch.  "I did slip once tonight and have a drink but that's because the replacement bartender didn't know that I only drank virgin drinks. He gave me a horrified look and I pointed out I didn't like drunks.  They were easily led, like some of the patrons.  Fortunately I did this in the manager's office when I complained.  The manager agreed, I'm not to drink since I ended up nearly choking on my drink.  But I like my virgin cranberry slushies."

"Supposedly with vodka," Eric told him, shaking his head. "My date bought him four after the bachelorette party got done with him."

"Sorry, man.  Didn't mean to ruin your chances tonight."  He opened up the pouch and poured out the fives and ones.  And a few bigger ones.  He settled in to couch, then smirked a bit.  "I didn't break off my greatest stuff but it was a good night," he decided.

"You're buying dinner tomorrow since you're off," Speed ordered, looking at him.  "You are off, right?"

"Yeah, and the manager said I can fill in any time I want."

"Fine.  Just warn me first.  Any new psychos?"

"The bride-to-be offered me the opportunity to run to the Carribean with her on her boat so she wouldn't marry the horrible man who wanted her to have babies.  I discouraged her by cooing over the thought of babies.  That's why they left early."  Eric snorted and giggled at that, shaking his head.  "Eric's date wasn't too solidly mentally able either."  Speed smirked at Eric for that. "She wanted to cast me in bronze but she said she'd have to make a bunch of molds before she poured the liquid metal over me to capture my perfection.  I corrected her by saying that it would burn me and therefore ruin the perfection.  She pouted.  She was already quite drunk by then. I think that was drink ten for her.

"We put her into a cab and sent her home a few minutes later while she babbled about her pretty purple vibrator and her pretty violet vibrator and how she'd use both so it was like Eric and I were both with her tonight."  Eric snickered at that, again shaking his head.  "Then there was the very nice, clean cut, decent, upstanding looking guy who was very clearly bad for me.  He wanted me to strip and call him daddy during the private I did with him.  It earned me a tip I'll see on my paycheck since his came out of his platinum card."  Eric looked at him. "Yeah, that nice, clean cut guy in the corner.  He wanted to spank me too and I had to remind him *constantly* about the no touching rule.  He didn't like that I was so firm on it, but yay.  He's the only one I'd watch out for. He was completely sober and looked sane and smart."

"I'll watch for clean cut guys coming up to the station or the house," Speed offered dryly, shaking his head.  "Did you have fun?"

"I did but I'm stiff and sore," he complained, working on his muscles in one calf.  "I forgot how tiring dancing was since I didn't do it for weeks."

"He did look good," Eric admitted.  "By the way, did you know they taped everyone tonight?"

"Yeah, why?" Xander asked carefully.

"I picked one up for Calleigh."   He grinned and got up, running out.

"Like I care.  She can drool and not touch too," Xander said with a shrug.

"You know her, that doesn't bother you?"

"I doubt she'd go for me anyway," he noted dryly.  "I'm not her sort of guy."

"Good point," he admitted.  He patted his lap.  "Put the leg up here, I remember that ache."

"It's not as bad as the drag one I did," he offered as he shifted around.  "That wasn't a very fun night.  A drag strip night is no one's friend and I salute the women in those thigh- high boots and heels."  Speed just stared at him.  "The boss's idea, not mine.  We had a transvestite and cross-dresser's convention in town and did it for them.  Some of them made much better women than I do."

"Hopefully so," he agreed, attacking the tense calf muscles.  "Thigh high boots?"  Xander got up and went to get the pictures, then handed them over and let him have his legs again. Speed looked at the pictures, then at him. "Was that before or after you started?"

"Before.  I could get out of one of those slowly.  I couldn't do it with a dress, not even one with velcro closures."  Tim shuddered and handed it back so he put it on the coffee table on top of his tips.  "Anything good happen in the world of crime while I was taking my clothes off and shaking it for dough?"

"Not really.  We found out who took down the girl you had to run from."  He went back to the tense calves, making the boy groan, moan, and eventually fall asleep.  He smirked at him and let him go, covering him up so he could rest.  Then he went to bed.


Speed looked up as Xander coughed, staring at him.  "I thought you were kidding about those being that tight.  Low tip night?"

"Check night.  Lots and lots of tips to be had tonight and the manager ordered us to work for them for the good of the club."  He shrugged.  He handed over something.  "From Aiden.  I'm not sure what.  She called to say it was coming and to bring it directly to you."

"Sure."  He opened the envelope, smirking at Frank and H as they walked past.  "From Aiden."  He looked at the note, then at the kid.  He turned the picture around. "Is that the clean-cut guy who keeps showing up to tip you and makes you call him daddy?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  H!"  He came back, blinking a few times at Xander's outfit.  "Here, from Aiden.  He's traveling and picking up stray young men to hurt."  He looked at his son.  "You're bartending tonight, right?"

Xander shrugged. "If you need me to, I can strip.  I'm good with that."  Frank just gaped at him.  "Oh, please, the guy's drawn to my ass and abs."  He took the note to look at since Horatio was just staring at it.  "Yeah, he's tried to get me to touch him a lot, even when I'm bartending.  The last time he caught me behind the bar he asked if I was sitting out because I was having my cycle."  He shrugged and handed it back, looking at him.  "Am I dancing tonight or not?"

"Dance tonight, I want this man," Horatio decided.  "Don't warn your manager we'll be there."

"That's cool.  I will be warning one dancer not to smoke his joint tonight."  That got a smirk.  "I get on a sugar high and he gets high.  It works for us."  He looked at Frank.  "Are you sure you'll be okay tonight?"

"I've seen strippers before."

"Okay, your deal," he agreed.  He shrugged and headed out to his new car, which Tim still hadn't figured out was his, and went to the club.  He pulled his manager aside once he had seen him and drooled. "I wanna dance tonight," he said with a small pout.  "My *favorite* person is coming in and so is one of my guardian's bosses and he wanted me to ham it up for him."

"Isn't your guardian a cop?"

"Yeah, that's why I'm going to tell Tommy not to blow it tonight."  He shrugged.  "He's here so my guardian can plan his surprise party.  Can I?"

"Can you wear those?"

"I can't get out of them gracefully.  If I could, I would."

"Fine.  Put them on between?"

"I have to baby powder to get into them."


"Point.  Okay."  He shrugged and went to change, smiling at the dancers.  "Guys one of my guardian's bosses is coming in tonight so he has time to plan his surprise party.  Fair warning."  The drugs got put away.  He normally didn't care, but that was only fair and he had told Horatio he was going to warn.

"Just the one?" one guy asked.

"As far as I was told," he agreed, smiling at him.  "My guardian's friends are pretty straight, but kinda funny and nice."

"I remember that one who came the first time you danced.  Why do they come?" one guy asked.  "Are you dangerous?" he asked with a smirk.

"When I was dancing in Montreal, I had a problem with a psycho bastard who clubbed me in the head repeatedly one night.  It was me being worried."  He shimmied out of his pants and then sat down to lotion his legs to get rid of the baby powder traces.  Then he pulled out his favorite outfit and pulled out his CD case.  One got lifted out and handed to the DJ when he came in to collect it, getting a moan. He smirked and winked.  "I'm being a good boy.  It's a long set so they can rest and relax."

"Thank you," one of the guys said.  "It gives us time to sell more drinks."

"Welcome."  Xander slid on the black PVC pants and the tighter than tight t-shirt he'd be taking off later, then sat down at the light table to apply his eyeliner and lip gloss, plus just a hint of blush on his cheeks, just barely darker than his skin tone to highlight and make them stick out.  Then he put on his sandals since he wasn't about to walk around barefoot out there and closed his locker.  He headed for the kitchen area, finding his maple syrup already out with a coke.  He mixed them together and gagged down the strong liquid sugar,  moaning as it kicked in.  He headed back to the stage area.  He did this one barefooted.  He saw his client come in as he warmed up, then Horatio came in.  Eric was already in a dark corner with Calleigh, he always brought a date when he came in to watch over him so it looked better.  Horatio looked dangerous tonight, which was inspiring.  It seemed he did own more than a few suits for work.  Those leather pants were nearly as criminal as the jeans in his locker.

He looked at the board and got out of the way of the first few people.  He caught his client's eye and winked, getting a hidden smile and a blown kiss.  He mouthed 'daddy' and winked again, then went back to stretching against the wall.  Pretty soon it was his turn and he kicked off his sandals, strolling out there to his intro music, grabbing the pole to lean on and act like he was dancing with a partner. Then he spun away from it and started dancing for real, making eye contact with his client, then looking away at the guys near him.  He saw Frank Tripp's eyes widen and teased him mercilessly while he pulled his shirt off, leaving it for him.  He teased Speed, who was shaking his head, but holding up a five with a grin.  His client came closer and he danced over to him as his music changed to something more sultry and slower, something with a deep jazz undertone.  It made him sway more and dance less, but it gave him the opportunity to take off the pants and just focus on him.  He got a nice tip with a wink and he moved to let him see better, keeping eye contact.  He glanced toward the private rooms then danced off with a small smirk, brooding back at Frank Tripp, who just undid his top button and loosened his tie.

His third song came on and it was basically one long, breathy moan of music.  Again against the pole, leaning on it, grabbing and clutching it as he moved, using it as his imaginary partner.  He ended on his knees panting for real, he was tired, when the music ended.  He smiled at his customers, catching Horatio's eyes and then glancing toward the private rooms.  The pants were handed to him by one of the bouncers who'd collect the thrown tips.  They weren't allowed to let the customers put them in g-strings thanks to state law.   He wiped down quickly with baby wipes, getting his face too.  He made sure all his makeup was off then wiggled back into his jeans, moaning as he zipped them.  "Too much lunch," he complained.

One of the other guys pouted at him.  "Damn, baby, if I was doing tricks tonight, I'd make tons off you."

He just grinned sweetly.  "You can have all the ones who ask me for some."  That got a laugh and he put on his boots again, and that sinfully tight t-shirt.  He came out and the manager nodded toward the privates, handing him the door tag to show it was in use.  "Fank you.  Which one?"

"Your usual.  The others?" he asked quietly.

"He's been a bit naughty but he does want me to spank him."  He walked up there, swaying his hips in tune with the music presently on.   He walked behind Frank Tripp's seat, running his finger along his collar and earning a shiver in response.  He was the consummate tease to make such a straight guy ache.  He walked into his private room, seeing the scowl.  "I have to do laundry, daddy, I'm sorry if I don't please you," he said with a small pout.

"No, the outfit is fine, son, but you were teasing that redhead in the leather pants."

"Well, it is my job to make him thirsty from drooling."  He moved closer.  "What did you want tonight, daddy?" he asked, smiling at him.  "A dance?"  That got a moan. "I can't strip off in these but I'll gladly dance."  That got a nod and a swallow.  He turned on the speakers for the music downstairs and started to hum it along with how he was moving.  The man tried to grab him and he swatted him.  "Naughty, daddy, you know better."  He smiled and moved closer, going back to his teasing.

"I would give you much better tips if you would let me touch," he offered, pulling out a fifty.

Xander shook his head.  "I'm a good boy, daddy.  That's why I'm still," he gasped as he moved wrong, but made it look like pleasure, "pure."  The man moaned again and tried to touch again so he backed off. "You know better.  If they catch you, you're gonna be in trouble, daddy, and then I won't get to spank."

"Would you?" he pleaded, his voice harsh in his ears.  "Please?"

"I'd have to ask.  The manager would have to approve."  The man nodded so he pushed the button for the waiter.  "He wants to ask a technical question," he said, winking at Speed since it was him.  "About what I'm allowed to do to myself."  Speed nodded and seemed to disappear.  The manager and Horatio came up.  Horatio stayed in the stairwell, but the manager came in and he closed the door, turning the knob so it wasn't really closed, holding it that way.  "He wants me to spank him, boss, is that against the rules? It's not sex and it's not sexual as far as I know."

"I don't know."  He considered him.  "That would be costly.  I remember when we had a punishment room a few years back and it was like five hundred for that.  I tell you what, he can do a ten minute spanking for a hundred fifty."  The man peeled off three fifties and handed them over.  "Go for it, Darkness."  He left and the cops nodded at him to move.  "Oh, let him first," he whispered as he walked off, complaining the whole way down.

Xander smiled at him. "Daddy, you're very overdressed for a spanking," he said with a teasing smile.  "Come on.  Up and strip," he ordered.  He moved closer, leaving the door open a crack.  "Or no spanking."  The man started on his tie.  "Ah!" he said when it was thrown.  "Neatly!  You do not mess up my room!  You know better than that!"  The man whimpered and nodded, carefully folding each piece as it came off.  Xander sat down and patted his lap.  "Here, daddy, now.  You've been a very naughty daddy."  He moaned and laid across his lap, letting Xander have the perfect angle to beat the shit out of him for making him do this.  By the end he was bawling and Xander was patting the back of his head.  "Um, dears in the hallway," he called.  They came in, guns drawn.  "I don't think he's going to be a problem."  He forced the man to stand up and handed him over to Frank.  "There you go, and there's his stuff," he said, pointing at it.  "He folds very well."  He tipped his face up.  "Are you a bad man in multiple cities?  If you tell me I might volunteer to visit now and then."  He swallowed and nodded.  "You are?  Will you tell my big studmuffin actual daddy here what you did?" he asked, nodding at Speed.  That got a moan and a nod.  "Good boy, daddy."  He blew a kiss.  "You have a good night and let him warn the guys that you're a bit sore tonight for playtime."  He strolled out, taking his coke from the bartender.  "Thank you."  He looked at the manager, who was panting over his outfit again.  "Want me back on stage, boss?"

"Go stand outside and draw people in, Darkness."  Xander took his coke and straw out, going to sit outside and cool off, he was still sweaty.  Spanking was really heavy work.

Horatio stopped beside him. "I didn't think you'd let him get that far."

"You never told me anything to say to get you guys in there. I expected you guys to come in at the first spank."  He sipped his drink and put it down beside him, then stood up and stretched, then sat down again.  "So, how bad was I?" he asked as Frank Tripp came out, which got a spluttered choke.  "Sorry, Detective."

"My wife won't be," he assured him, walking off shaking his head.

Xander smirked at Horatio.  "So, I notice the clothes.  Used to?"

"During college now and then as a dare."  He looked him over.  "I thought that outfit was bad before.  Don't wear it to the office if you can help it."

"Yes, mom."

Horatio smirked at him.  "Thanks, son. You did good.  Now I see why Speed makes someone come to watch you."  He walked off, going to take his suspect in.

Xander yawned and got up, leaning against the building once they were gone, sipping his coke delicately through the straw.  More than one car pulled in and went inside based on his outfit.


Speed walked into the apartment, looking at him.  "Damn," he said, staring at Xander in awe.  "Much better than me."

Xander just smirked and held up his tip bag for the night.  "I think I'll have the car repainted."

"I noticed you had one."  He sat down to look inside, then at him.  "That's all you made?"

"No, that's all in bigger bills, I cashed out the smaller ones for change for the other guys."  He grinned and upended it, showing his stash of the night.  Speed blinked at the fifties and hundreds, then at him. "Check night. After you guys left, my usual two pimps came in to fight over me and buy me slushies, and then a few couples who needed...inspiration came in mentioning Frank Tripp's name. I'm happy to say that I might be the cause of conception."  Speed snickered at that.  "The boss didn't mind at all.  He's thinking about marketing it through one of the local sex therapists."  He stretched then winced.  "Ow.  I did my back harm during my first private. I needed to stretch better.  It's been months since I did that one."

"Flip over, Darkness."  Xander grinned at him.  "It suits you.  Flip."  Xander flipped over and let him get to his back.  "You did good, even if you did have to go sanitize your hands after you spanked his mangy ass.  By the way, he killed fifteen other 'sons'.  They're playing state roulette with him right now.  He wants to stay so you can visit him."

"I said maybe, not definitely," he reminded him, moaning a bit.  "There."

Speed worked on that area, earning a growl and a hiss for it.  "You need a professional or H.  He gives really good backrubs.  Calleigh's gotten about ten over the years.  I got one on my arm one year."

"He probably charges a fortune and I don't want to seem like him hinting.  Besides, I might have to call off tomorrow.  My boss sent me home after my third time on stage basically became a hands-and-knees show when it twinged wrong during a hip swing."  He rolled his shoulders.  "I'm getting too old for this."

Speed laughed and spanked him.  "College starts in a month.  Nothing says you have to keep working, Xander."

"I do.  Otherwise I'll be bored and feel like I'm being kept."  He looked at him.  "I'm good on financial aid this semester and this summer, but once the new year starts they'll have to count this income."

"Strip clubs don't really report to the IRS," he noted dryly.  "It's under the table money."

"Nope.  I was told to expect a W-2. So I'll have to do my taxes this year."  He sat up and then flopped back down. "I think I'll sleep here."

"Sure."  He got up and covered him, then put the tip money back, doing a quick count. "That's tuition, for the year."

Xander looked at him.  "Remind me I can't spend it all on dates then," he said dryly.  He closed his eyes and put his head down.  "Night, Speed.  Thanks."

"Welcome.  Next time we're giving you a code word.  Horatio said he forgot."  He went to his room, smiling at his son's snores a few minutes later.  His poor baby.  Now he knew how Alexx felt whenever he got hurt in a humorous way.


Xander limped into the station the next afternoon, handing his father a note from the ER.  "I'm going home," he said quietly.  "The car is out front.  I'm not supposed to drive and I let the nice cop there who was hurrying out to get back to shift drive me."  He nodded at Ryan Wolfe when he came up.  "Hey.  I'm going to go collapse with my pain killers now."  He wandered off, letting the receptionist call him a cab.  He made it inside and down onto the couch but no further.  That's why he didn't see what was waiting in his room.


Horatio walked into Speed's lab, closing the door. "Is the kid okay?"

"Threw his back," he admitted, handing him the note.  "I've got to give that to his boss on the way home. I already called him."

"I heard."  He handed it back after looking it over.  "The reason I ask is that the guy from New York got free."  Speed went still and stared at him.  "And Xander's not answering the phone."

"According to the discharge papers, they gave him flexaril and some pain killers."  He patted himself down. "I can go check."

"You do that," he agreed, looking worried.  "Maybe he's fine and just asleep but I'd rather know.  Taylor and his crew are coming."

"Good.  I'll call Aiden to tell her to call down here."  He headed out, going for his bike instead of Xander's car.  Though he would have to get someone to drive it home for the kid.  He broke about every speed law in the books on the way home, finding an unfamiliar car in his spot.  He drew his weapon and got off his bike, heading toward his front door.  He listened, hearing the snores, and tried the knob, finding it unlocked.  "Miami Dade PD!" he shouted as he entered.  Aiden gave him an amused look.  "You don't knock?"

"Not when our son here is in trouble."  She motioned him closer and he put up his gun, following her.  She pointed at the gayly wrapped presents and the note on the mirror.  "You tell me who that is."

"I don't have a clue."  He called the office.  "Hey, H.  There's presents on Xander's bed and writing on his mirror.  No, his window's closed, but Aiden's here.  I found her here.  Sure, drive his car over.  The keys are in my locker."  He hung up and looked at her.  "By the way, some of your buddies are coming down for his last psycho, the one you warned us about.  He liked the son."  Then he grinned.  "And our son is a merciless tease when he strips."

"He is?  Still?"

"Still, but he threw his back, hence the snoring."  He walked out with her, hearing a car pull in very fast.  "That's not us."  He looked out the door, seeing the man coming out.  "Ah, it's Mac, Danny, and Flack."

"Oooh."  She bounced out to hug her two friends.  "Hi, guys."

"Aiden!" Danny said happily, pounding her on the back.

"Hand her over, greedy!" Don Flack demanded, taking his share of the hugs.  "What're you doing down there?"

"I came to check on the near-son.  One of my psychos in Seattle wanted boys like him.  Since he's stripping until he starts college next month.... My near-son draws psychos."

"We heard they got cooperation from a stripper to catch him last night. That's why we're here," Mac Taylor said, looking at her.  "You look happier, Aiden."

"Hey, after Sunnydale, anything's good.  Flipping burgers would be good.  Seattle's wonderful and full of guys who think I'm cute."  She led them inside.  "Speed.  Where's the near-son?"

"Showering off the pain killers."  He came out of the kitchen.  "I put on coffee.  Flack, Danny, Taylor," he said with a nod.

"She said you were alive," Danny said, pulling him closer for a hug.  "I missed ya while you were gone."

"Long flight?" he teased, getting free and punching him on the arm.  "Horatio's on his way over.  Do the presents wrapped in bunny paper mean anything to you guys?"  Flack stiffened.  "The kid's bedroom."  He led the way there then went to let Horatio and the others in.  "They got here first.  Aiden was here when I got here.  They're looking at his room."  Someone squealed, Aiden.  "Sorry.  Put on some clothes, Xander."

"Damn it, never someone I want when I'm naked," Xander complained as he came out in his sweat pants, moving very slowly and carefully.  "What's with the presents?"

"One of your other fan club members," Eric teased.  He patted him on the arm. "Go sit.  We'll see if anything's missing."

"If he took my clothes, I'm making him buy me new ones," Xander called.  He sat down with a wince and a hiss.  Frank just grinned at him.  "Oh, quit, I threw it out last night during my private with spanky."

"My wife said thank you for that.  It was a nice night."

"Hey, I helped one couple to conceive," he offered dryly.  "Yo, Tim, did you drop my excuse off?"

"I'll do it on the way back," he called. "Not like you're going back anyway."

"I should.  I'll be bored and get into trouble."

"Yeah, like you haven't already," Aiden teased, coming out to kiss him on the head, earning a wince.  "What happened?"

"Psycho number one who hit me repeatedly on the head.  They said I have a few new cracks.  They're mostly healed but the dent still hurts.  You can kiss anywhere else though," he offered with a smirk.  "Ooooh."  He got up with a wide-eyed gasp of pain but made it to the DVD cabinet, finding the one he wanted.  "He wants this back but they taped one night."

"They taped last night too," Frank assured him.  "How much you make anyway?"

"Tuition," Speed said as he came out.  "Go ahead and use the one in my bedroom for that, Aiden. He's track six."  She nodded and went that way, squealing a few minutes later.  He nudged his son awake again.  "Food?"

"Not hungry.  I'd have to eliminate and that'd require getting up again."  He curled up in his corner, more comfortable sitting up.

"You could lay down."

"This is comfy enough. It doesn't hurt."

"What did you do?" Horatio asked as he came out.

"Swayed wrong during my private with the pervert."  He looked up at him.  "He didn't realize it and I need to stretch better.  I haven't done that one set in months.  It tends to make people get off spontaneously."

Flack came out blushing, shaking his head quickly.  "So, you're Speed and Aiden's love child?"

He waved a hand weakly.  "Xander, from Sunnydale.  Speed and Aiden decided I might as well be theirs after they drove off the biological hazards, I mean parents."  That got a smirk.  "Sorry, I threw my back last night.  I'm a bit stoned on the pain killers and flexaril."  He put his head back down.

"Xander, lean against the wall for me," Horatio ordered.  He helped the boy up and checked his back, then attacked just the right spot, making him go weak-kneed and moan.  The knot relaxed under him and the boy moaned, slumping against the wall.  "Now sleep."  The boy nodded, going back to his perch in the corner.  "No, stretch out."

"That leaves no room for others.  I'll nap on the bed when you're all done."  He closed his eyes.  "Thanks, mom."

"Welcome."  He went back to check on them, ignoring the amused looks Flack was giving him.

"Long running joke," Speed said dryly, shaking his head at the first snore.  "And he doesn't get any quieter either."  Aiden came out and hugged him, whispering that she wanted a copy.  "I should go hand in his excuse so he can have his copy from last night."

"Oooh, can I?"

"No, they don't know you there."

"Go ahead, Speed, since you can't process," Horatio called.

"Sure, be right back.  Coffee's on, guys."  He headed to the strip club on his bike, nodding at the bouncer and waving the excuse.  "Xander's."

"He okay?"

"Threw his back during that private with the spanking star."  The bouncer smirked and let him inside.  He headed for the office, handing it to the manager.  "Xander's."

"He okay?"

"Nope.  And he came home to mysterious presents."  The man looked stunned.  "In bunny paper."

"That's some sick bastard who was working up north!"

"Yeah, I know, he's the guy who tried to get him in Canada.  Well, one of the guys," he admitted dryly.  "Besides, he starts college next month.  I'm not sure if he'll be able to come back full time with his back.  Maybe some special nights?"

"That'll work for me.  Here," he said, getting up and going to his safe, pulling out three DVDs.  "His last three performances.  I've been meaning to give them to him."

"Including last night?"

"Oh, yes.  Who was that redhead who gave him that long stare?"

"My boss."  He grinned at him.  "Lieutenant Caine is very good at going undercover at times."

"I'll keep that in mind.  You want into his locker?"

"If you wouldn't mind. It could probably used washed."

"Of course. I'll have his check at the usual time and make sure he's got all his credit card tips on it."

"Thanks.  He made tuition last night," he said in awe.  "When I did some amateur nights, I never made over a few hundred, that was including the prize."

The manager smiled.  "This is whale central down here, Detective."  He led him back there, opening the locker for him.  "There you go.  And I know that isn't his," he said, taking the cocaine to put in his pocket.  "Philip is where?" he yelled.

"On stage," one of the bouncers called.  He came in.  "Problems?"  The cocaine was held up.  "Yeah, he said his boyfriend was coming in so he was stashing it in there for tonight.  He knew no one'd ever look in Xander's locker, boss."

"Yeah, tell him I did," Speed assured him dryly, holding out a hand. The cocaine was handed over.  "Thanks.  You can tell him to get his thrills some other way too."  The manager laughed and nodded, letting him pack everything into the bag, including the DVDs.  Then he checked one last time for any hidden areas, coming up with a false panel.  He looked in it, then at him, getting out of the way.  "Something he didn't tell me?"

"One of his clients his first month here.  He quit coming in though."  He shrugged and gathered up the jewelry.  "The guy wanted him to be pierced and be his bitch basically, Detective.  He told him no repeatedly. I don't think he wanted you to worry."  He handed over the jewelry with a smile. "Tell him I hope his back is better."

"Horatio got the knot out earlier, I'm hoping he can walk. He was sleeping sitting up."  He grinned and walked out the back door, walking around to get on his bike and head home.  He walked in and tossed Horatio the cocaine.  "One of the other dancer's boyfriends was coming in tonight so he hid his stash in Xander's locker.  Because the bouncer admitted no one there would ever think the kid would use it."

Xander gave him a bleary look.  "Philip did what?"  Horatio held up the bag.  He just nodded.  "Flush the shit. That's what I did the last time."  He looked at Speed.  Then at the bag, then back at him. "You packed my locker?"

"I figured it could use a wash, kid."  He handed it over but dug out the DVDs to show him. "Your last three times.  Your check'll be ready at the usual time and you can go back for special nights, okay?"

"Good with me," he admitted, closing his eyes again, then they snapped open.  "Oh, shit."

"The jewelry?  Yeah, kinda," he agreed, handing over that stash from his pocket too.  "A mysterious customer who didn't come in after we caught him piercing another kid before killing him."

"Oops," Xander said, snuggling down into Aiden's side.  "Mommy?"

"No, son, this is not going to go well," Horatio said dryly.

Aiden just looked at him for a moment. "Hey, I gave birth to him.  I'm mommy, you're mom, and apparently Calleigh is step-mom.  Get it right, Horatio."  He burst out laughing.  "My baby okay?"

"Fine," Xander sighed.  "I told him no repeatedly and kneed him in the balls when he tried for me.  The same as I reported him to the bouncers and had him banned.  That's why I told you guys to go down to that other club he was always talking about and ask down there."  He yawned and curled up against her again.  "Protect me from the mean stepmother?" he whispered.

She stroked his back.  "Of course, but I wanna see what you did last night.  That first one was damn hot."  That got a wicked smirk.

"I'd claim that skill but it was better than I ever did on open pole night," Speed noted, going into the bedroom.  "We almost done?"  They shook their heads.  "Damn.  Can I take the laundry?"  That got picked through then handed over by Calleigh.  "Thanks.  I'm off to toss his stuff from his locker in."

"Remember, PVC doesn't wash, it gets wiped down," Eric offered.

"I'd ask how you know but I'd be traumatized," Flack muttered.

Speed nodded.  "Yes, you would.  Calleigh, I picked up his dance tapes.  Aiden has them."  She smirked at him.  So he went to do some laundry.  He found another three hundred bucks in pockets and in one thong, making him shake his head at the roll of cash.  "I don't wanna know," he decided, turning on the washer.  Xander yelped so he went to check on him.  "He okay?"

"Just fine.  He moved wrong," Aiden admitted. "Guys, hurry up, he needs his bed.  He threw his back last night catching that stupid daddy and son perv."

Danny came out to look at her.  "How?"

She let him catch the kid so she could put on the tape with yesterday's date, fast forwarding to show him.  Then she sat back down and let the boy curl up next to her.

Frank groaned and walked off.  "I don't need to see that again, thank you."

Flack came out, looking at it.  "I can't move that well," he decided, pouting a bit.  Danny just gave him a look.  "I can't."

"I don't know anyone who can and I've dated strippers."

Speed shook his head and picked up a picture, handing it to Aiden. "When he ran away to Montreal, they had a drag and tranny convention so they did a strip night in drag," he told her when she burst out laughing.  "He said he couldn't pull off the dress and he saluted any woman who wore the thigh high boots and heels."

She giggled and passed the picture back to Flack and Danny, who both whimpered and handed it to Mac when he came out, but he handed it to Eric, who burst out laughing.  "When was this?"

"Montreal.  They had a drag and tranny convention going so they did a special night for them."

"He's cute like that.  I wonder if he still has the boots."  Speed nodded. "You sure?"

"Yeah, never go into his closet looking for dirty laundry or your missing shirt for work.  We needed a picture of him in those black jeans he showed up in last night."

Horatio looked at the drag picture, then put it down carefully.  He glanced at the tv.  "He's much more charismatic up close."  He went into the kitchen to get something to drink.  "Speed, can you order dinner?  Flack wants us to open the presents and if we bring this back to work, we'll get attention on the kid."

"Good point.  Pizza, chinese, what?"

"Pizza's good," Calleigh called.

"Fine with us," Flack called.

"I can eat pizza," Horatio agreed, coming out. "You're out of soda too."  He headed back to gather up the presents and bring them out.  By the time he got out there, she had switched DVDs and was watching a different routine.  He recognized the song, it was something twangy and country usually but this was without the vocal track.  He sat down and put them on the table in front of the duo.  "Can we wake him up?"  She turned off the player and the tv, then nudged Xander carefully.  He blinked at her.  "Xander."  Xander looked at him.  "I know you're still a bit worn out from the drugs they gave you at the Emergency Room but I need you to open the presents.  Can you do that?  Carefully?"

"I'm not that dumb," he noted with a yawn.  "Nor that stoned."  He shifted around and didn't wince.  "Damn, you're a god, mom. Thank you."  He pulled over the first present.  "Any particular order?" he asked.

"No, just carefully.  Here, let's get you some gloves so you don't mar any internal fingerprints."  He pulled some out and handed them over.  He watched the kid put them on and a sneaking suspicion started.  "You know some field treatment?"

"Of course.  With my past?"  He snorted.  "Kinda necessary, mom."  He undid the first one carefully at the tape, snapping it instead of ripping so they might be able to get a fingerprint off it if necessary.  He looked at it, then got up and headed into his room, nudging the detective in there out of his way.  "'Scuse me, hot ass.  Need my dagger."  He found it on his dresser and came back out to sit down and open the package, making Horatio smile at him. "I'm skilled with it," he defended.  He used it to flip open the top of the box, then looked inside.  "Who would give me a damn bunny jewelry box for girls?"

Flack came out and took it, looking it over.  "It's the same brand," he announced.  "Open the big one next, Xander?"  The kid nodded and carefully cut that one open. "You're good with that."

"I had to do some cutting in my life," he said absently, opening this one.  "And a stuffed bunny.  I'm not eight or a girl."  He handed that box over, pulling over the smallest.  This one turned out to be a charm bracelet in a velvet box.  He looked at it, then at Horatio.  "Horses?"

"I don't know.  It's their case."  He took it to look over, then handed it off to Flack.  The last one turned out to be something that made the kid blush so he looked.  It made him blush too.  He took a breath and touched it.  "It's real," he announced.

"Should I call Alexx?" Speed asked from the kitchen.  "Tell her to bring chairs?"

"You probably should," Flack agreed, looking at the parts.  "Can you identify what that is?"

Xander looked.  "Liver, heart, brain, one kidney, testes and penis."  He handed it off.  "That had better not have dripped on my bed."

"No, it's got a plastic liner," he admitted, taking it into the kitchen to put into the refrigerator to preserve it.  He came out shuddering. "Eeww!"

"Not my fault," Xander said dryly.  "I don't know why they like me."

Speed patted him on the back of the head.  "Neither do I, kid.  I'm not sure anyone would."  He went to answer the door, paying the pizza guy.  "Xander, I took a fifty out of the stash in your locker.  I'll get you tomorrow when I can hit the bank."

"That's fine, that was just misplaced cash, nothing special."  Speed handed over the rerolled bills and he frowned at them.  "Where was this?"

"Inside your stretch velvet thong.  You got an explanation?"

"Yeah."  He threw it at the kitchen.  "One of the bitches at the club was cutting me in.  He kept saying he was making money off me by giving blows.  Apparently he had a good night.  I don't want that.  You can donate it or something."  He looked at the pizza, taking some to eat.  "Thanks, dad."

"Welcome, kid."  He set the rest in the kitchen. "Food's in there," he called.  He sat down on Xander's other side.  "So, you remember this guy?"

"No, not at the moment," he said before taking a bite.  "Which guy was he?  By physical description?"

"Physical we can't give you. He changes every now and then," Don Flack noted as he sat across from the kid.  "I can tell you he probably called you a 'pretty little girl', asked if you were still pure, were you baptized or took your First Communion, all the other victims that made it through the surgery afterward said something about being asked if he could pop their cherry."

"I got asked that a lot," Xander admitted, taking another bite and thinking back.  He sat up and looked at him.  "He called me a pretty little pony girl.  He was this older guy, reminded me of a thin Santa on the beach.  Hawaiian shirt, jeans, trimmed white beard and longer hair.  I couldn't tell if it was real but I was doubting the hair was."

"That's a good start.  How tall, approximately?" Flack asked, taking that down.

Xander closed his eyes and leaned back, considering it.  "When sitting at the stage, he came up to about my knees when I was barefoot.  Horatio came up just a bit shorter last night.  So I'd say about his height?  The only ones I've danced on have been raised stages.  I never did a private with him, I wouldn't.  I only did one hot tub with him but it was with another couple too and he ducked out fairly quickly.  I remember he had a large scar across his stomach because I wondered if it was a sword or something surgical," he offered.

"That's good," Don admitted.  "What color were his eyes?"

Xander thought back.  "Green or maybe blue?  Lighter not darker colored.  Not blonde blue like Calleigh's are, but..."  He looked at the detective's.  "A bit lighter than yours," he offered, "but I couldn't tell blue or green in the club's red lights.  I remember he was kinda muscular, not workout buff but worked with his hands muscular, like construction worker maybe?"

"No definition?" Speed suggested.  "Like Eric and Horatio against yours?"  Xander nodded, smiling at him.  "Anything else you remember?"

"He always smelled like cloves and onions.  I don't know why."

"That doesn't match with anything but everyone describes a strong scent on his breath," Flack admitted, looking at him.  "Anything else, Xander?"  Xander shook his head.  "Okay, about what time did he show up?"

"Um, about two weeks after I got there, so May, near the twenties or in the twenties somewhere but the lower end of them.  Until early July I think.  I think the last time I made a joke about Christmas coming six months too early for the Macy's Day Parade."

Don smirked at that. "You've got some good instincts, kid. You following in your adoptive parents' footsteps?"

"I don't think I could handle that," Xander admitted.  "They might mind my mouth."

"Come to New York, we don't," he offered with a grin.  He finished making notes.  "Think about it."

"I'd rather you were a profiler," Speed told him quietly.  "It'll take care of those hunting instincts."  Xander nodded, looking at him.  "Eat. Before Alexx gets here and fusses."  He dug in, finishing his piece of pizza and getting up for another one.  "You really did fix his back, H.  Thanks."

"Not a problem, Speed.  He was in pain."

"He was in pain on pain killers," he agreed.  "This is the first time I've ever known him to succumb."

"Me too," Aiden agreed, looking back toward the kitchen, then at the tv, then at Speed.  "Is he okay?  He's quiet.  It's not right."

"It's the drugs," Xander said, coming out.  "I was trying to bounce earlier and the flexaril does that.  I've thrown my back before."  He snuggled back in between them until someone knocked.  "Alexx?"  She opened the door.  "Come on in.  It's in the fridge."

"Sure."  She walked in and headed into the kitchen to take a look, then came out shaking her head.  "Who leaves body parts?"

"Better question, who leaves body parts wrapped in bunny paper with a stuffed bunny and a bunny jewelry box, plus a charm bracelet," Xander said before taking a bite.  "And why did I just have the mental image that his little sister, who he probably adored, went tranny?"

"It could be," Speed admitted. "That's one possible explanation."  He gave him a squeeze.  "See, I told you those hunting instincts were good for profiling."  Xander grumbled but nodded. "You'll like it when you're in college and I'll let Eric show you the better frat houses to party at, but not join."

Xander looked at him. "You want me to go to frat parties and drink underage?"

"No," he told him.  "But you've got to do it once, and only once," he assured him.

"Because if ya do it more'n once I get to kick your ass," Aiden assured him.  "Even if I do have to give up my new coffee addiction."

"Yes, mommy."  He looked at Speed, who nodded.  "Fine.  But I've already done that.  I don't drink so I have a very low level of tolerance and the one night I did I found myself irritated at the stupid people in the world and wishing for a shotgun at a traffic stop."

"Never mind, you can't go to any frat parties," Aiden said quickly, kissing him on the cheek.  "Stick to the straight stuff, Xander."

"But girls hate me," he whined.  "They keep trying to kill me!"

"What do you call all your stalkers and things now?" Calleigh said as she came out to join them.  She held up something, making him flinch. "What's this?" she asked with a grin.

"Oooooh," he said, grabbing it from her.  "I'm not allowed to show you.  I plead the fifth on that particular instrument.  It wasn't mine and I snatched it from someone at the club when they were showing it around."


He shook his head.  "I'm not telling you.  I should've erased it but I didn't know how."

"Let me see," Horatio ordered calmly.

"No fucking way," he said with a grin.  "Only the person on it is going to see it anytime in the near future.  It's not you."

"It could have a picture of this guy," Flack said.

"It's from down here.  It'd only have pictures of my ones from down here."  He got up and headed back into his bedroom, giving Eric a long stare then at the digital camera.  "I took it off someone in the parking lot one night," he said quietly.  "You're on it, dear."

Eric took it and looked at the pictures, then blushed.  "You didn't erase it?"

"I don't know how.  The menu didn't work."  He watched him try, then remove the battery and replace it.  He sighed when the pictures didn't come back.  "Good."

"Did the guy mind?" Eric asked quietly.  "You can give it back now."

"No, I kissed him stupid and took it.  He asked a few days later and I told him I was protecting family. He pouted but I paid him for it."  He walked out, going back to his warm, snuggly spot.  "Sorry."

"He erased it?" Horatio asked.  Xander nodded.  "Good.  What was it?"

"If he were a state senator, it'd be blackmail worthy."  He stuffed his mouth again and chewed very hard.

"Sorry, H.  One of the guys at the club caught me making out with a date in the parking lot," Eric called.

Speed looked at Xander's face then got up and went to drag Eric into the bathroom. "It's not the kid, right?"

"Oh, hell no," he said, shaking his head quickly.  "I couldn't keep up with that."

"Actually, he's a cuddly person. He dated one of the patrol officers Wolfe knows."  He shrugged.  "She came in complaining that he liked to cuddle afterward."   He moved closer.  "One of the bouncers or one of the dancers?" he asked quietly.

"We're not having this conversation," he noted calmly.

"Sure, just don't get him in trouble.  Especially not with Horatio or Stetler."

"Not an issue.  It wasn't that sort of incriminating.  Just someone quick to take the edge off."

"That's fine.  Personally I don't care who you sleep with.  Maybe if you both had guys in your life, you'd quit picking up slutty women who try to hurt you."  He opened the bathroom door and walked back out.  "It's not something that Stetler can use against him, H, or against Xander."

"Good.  Why would he?"

"Because Stetler came in to nag at him about having a kid living in his house who was stripping," Calleigh told him.   "Pointed out that probably meant there were drugs and stuff in the house and he was drinking underage.  Speed pulled out the drug report from the hospital that night and shoved it in his face.  He's not impressed."

"I'm going to kick his ass if he keeps up.  He was giving me funny looks," Xander offered at Horatio's stare. "He was.  I'm sorry, he was giving me this calculating look like he was weighing asking me something.  I'm guessing blackmailing Tim."

"Oh, he'd pay," Horatio noted. "If he does, Xander, I want to know first, understand?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  That man has tried very hard to discredit myself, my team, and my brother.  I want him on something that'll stick."

"Then we should probably wait until I'm in school so he can't play the stripper and slut cards."

"You've only slept with one person," Speed reminded him. "Since you came back."

"Two, thanks a lot, and it's the public perception that we all charge for it."

"Good point," Danny said as he came out.  "We get that a lot too.  Plenty of cops won't take a complaint from a stripper or a pro."

"We had a porn star who was killed and one who had her house broken into," Eric told him.  "They were pretty nice ladies from what I understand.  The living one was panicked that someone would tell her boyfriend after she quit."

"Yeah, that can happen," Xander agreed dryly.  "The LAPD had a scandal about that a few months back and evidence mysteriously ending up online."  He looked back at him.  "She sued them.  Badly sued them."  That got a smirk.  "Needless to say some people retired quickly."  He looked at Horatio again.  "Should he approach me I'll be in your office waiting on you as fast as humanly possible since I can't use magic like that."

"Um, excuse me?  Like that?" Aiden asked, looking at him.  "Have we been practicing to become Willow?"

"Spot removal," he defended.  "Nothing more.  Just removing a spot and I was muttering and it happened.  Not an actual spell or anything.  It's like the book that burst into flames when I was reading from it in Latin."

"You read Latin?" Don Flack asked.  Xander looked back and nodded.  "Why?"

"Ask these two," he said, nodding at his 'parents'.  "They can tell you alllllll about it.  And Sunnydale."  He looked at her again, grinning.  "We all know I'm not Willow.  I'd look bad in her overalls and favorite shirt."

"True."  She kissed him on the forehead. "You go down that path, I come back to beat your ass, kid."

"Yes, mother."

"Thank you."  She got comfortable again.  "So, what'll you do for fun for the rest of this month?"

"Club maybe," he said with a small shrug. "I don't know.  Something to keep me from being bored."  He looked at Horatio.  "Was there any evidence linking me back to the club ho who died after I had to duck her?"

"No, it was the multiple sex partners she had later who got jealous over her time."  Xander sighed in relief and smiled.  "You were worried?"

"Hell yes!  Oh, shit, Anya," he said, looking at Speed.  He flinched at that name.  "Where is she?"

"Not a clue," he admitted, looking at Aiden, who shrugged.  "Is she back in service?"

"She can't be, we smashed her power center."  He nibbled on his bottom lip for a moment then shrugged.  "Okay, if she shows up, I'm hiding.  I'm finding the deepest hole I can and hiding."

"Good," Aiden agreed.  "I can't see what you saw in the scary bitch."

"How bad?" Don asked.  "I ask as a matter of professional curiosity," he said at Xander's odd look.

"Um, Flackie, Sunnydale had odd things, like that hidden street odd things," Aiden told him.  "That's what Sunnydale was about.  That and the vampires."

"Like goth kids?" Calleigh asked.

"No, like Angel when we went in to rescue these two," Xander told her. "Why I didn't let you out at night."  She nodded, remembering that.  He looked back at him, seeing the understanding look. "Anya used to be Anyanka, over Scorned Women.  Vengeance over Scorned Women.  She made me take her to the prom.  She showed every indication of wanting to stick around to tell me more about how she tortured people.  If she's got her powers back or if she knows where I am, she can hunt my ass down.  I'm hiding at that point.  She will kill me."

"I still like the call after the prom to save you from her," Aiden said dryly.

"Hey, that was after orgasm seven and it's not like I could drive," Xander complained.  "And she wouldn't quit.  She was going to kill me!"

"She was," Speed agreed. "She admitted she was getting all she could out of you before she tossed you aside and went to the football team."

"Nympho?" Danny asked.

"Hadn't had any in a while," Speed told him.  "Like centuries."  That got a confused look. "You know Penguin Street, Danny?"

"We all try to ignore it," Mac said as he came out, getting some pizza now that the work was done.  "Why?"

"That's what Sunnydale was."  They all moaned at that.  "We were there trying to cover up the vampire deaths."

"We copied and pasted most forms," Speed assured them.  "Xander worked with the slayer, the girl who hunts them all.  He's got very good instincts and that's why I think he'd be a good profiler."  Horatio nodded at that.  "You do?" he asked him.  Xander looked at him too.

"I think he's got a very good feel for the people around him who seems off or wrong," he admitted quietly.  "I think he could make it as a profiler if he wanted and was willing to study hard to get into the Academy to take the classes on profiling."

"You mean I have to go to the FBI academy?  Like on that show?" he asked.  Horatio nodded.  He looked at Speed, who shrugged.  "Can I do it without that?"

"They won't make you that stiff," he promised.

"They won't take me because I was stripping."

"No, plenty of them did that," he assured him.  He patted him on the back.   "Okay, let's talk and eat now that we're done, as long as Alexx takes those disgusting parts out of my fridge before she goes."

"I should take them back to the office," she admitted.  "I'll come back with a report."  They all nodded and she took the box with her, heading back to dissect and find out what she could.

Speed cleared his throat.  "Someone bring the pizzas and sodas out and get glasses since I got two liters."  Mac got the pizzas, Danny got the sodas and Eric got the glasses.  "Okay, what do we know for sure about this guy?"

"He won't show up in the same disguise," Flack offered.  "He meets in one and then changes if he goes to gifting.  That one's always pretty specific.  Dark hair, dark rimmed glasses, about Horatio's height, light eyes, strong frame.  The majority of the people were home when he gifted and they were attacked."

"I was in the ER this morning," Xander told him.  "About my back."

"Which probably saved your life, kid."

Xander smirked at him.  "I'm a much better fighter than people give me credit for, even injured."

"Yeah, Angel about killed his ribs and they fought on," Eric agreed.

"We had a black belt in Tai Kwon Do and they were killed," Flack said seriously.

Xander stood up and waved him with him, going to put a tape into the VCR in the bedroom.  The detective stared, then at him.  "Surveillance when we went to rescue Aiden and Tim," he said quietly.  "Calleigh took it just in case something happened."  The guy went back to watching him fight with the vampire.  "I had broken ribs by the end of that fight.  I can phase out of my pain and into this zone of combat.  I have in the past."  He turned it off and ejected the tape but left it there.  "I think I can defeat him if he comes, even injured."

"You may be able to, but it's dumb to try.  Call for help and then defend yourself," he ordered calmly.  Xander nodded.  "Good."  He led the way back in there.  "Mac, did you have guys who went into some trance-like state in the Marines?  You mentioned it during a case."

"Yeah, they fight that way, totally focused but still plugged into reality."

Don pointed at Xander.  "Him.  He's one."

"Good.  That can save his life."

"Has," Tim agreed.  "A few times."  Aiden nodded at that and hugged Xander tighter.  "The tape from the rescue?"  Don nodded.  "Good. It was a very hard fight."  He looked at Mac.  "Any problems associated?"

"Someone jumped in and he didn't quite take stock of whether he was another enemy or not."

"I'll watch out for that," Horatio agreed, looking at Flack.  "Anything else?"

"Yeah, watch the kid.  If he's in town he only usually tries two or three times.  He won't try while we're all here.  He will try when he's asleep, especially if he's alone."

"Guess you're going on my schedule then, huh?" Speed asked Xander.

"Yes, dad."

"Thanks, kiddo."  He gave him a hug.  "You'll be fine."

"I know I'll be fine.  You'll be picking up parts."  He looked at Don.  "No one had time to get to a weapon?"

"One slept with a gun, it didn't help."

"Guns are inefficient and deadly. You can't sleep with one under your pillow because you can accidentally unlock the safety and shoot yourself or your walls or your lovers."  That got a smile and a nod.  "I always sleep with a knife under pillow.  That doesn't take much energy to turn on someone and if he....."

"Whoa," Eric said.  "No knife in there, I checked.  I figured you slept with a stake or something."

Xander got up and went to look, shaking his head.  "It's not there.  Which means he's got an eleven inch survivalist's blade with a regular side and teeth to saw with on the other, plus one of those nice dents to cute wires.  Black and scarlet handle, about as wide as three fingers, maybe halfway to four?"  Don and Horatio both took that down.  "It's surgically sharp."

"I've seen you sharpening it," Speed noted, looking at him.  "How many knives do you have in the house?"

"That depends, how many did you find in my locker?"


"Then ten?  No, eight.  Two went in for repairs.  My set of daggers, a throwing knife, very sharp, the other hunting knife, two pocket knives, one switch blade, and a small can opener sized one that's a Swiss Army knock off.  My good dagger and my hunting knife for patrols both went in to have the handles fixed and rewrapped because they worn spots in the binding."

Speed blinked at him.  "Is your other one like that one?"

"No, but the one in the shop is only it's blue and black.  Let me get the receipt and we can see if it's ready."  He went to find it in the dresser, calling from in there.  "Hi, this is Xander Harris.  Are my knives done?"  He smiled.  "Great.  No, I'm down on my back and I wanted to sharpen something tonight.  Can I send my friend to pick them up?  With a note and the receipt.  Do I owe you anything?"  He took that down.  "Thank you.  No, he'll be a cop.  Thanks."  He hung up and went to write the note on Don's notebook, then hand over the receipt and the fifty-five dollars.  "There.  You can pick it up."  It got handed to Danny, who went to do that.  He sat down again.  "At least I don't have any other weapons in the house.  No swords at the moment.  No axes, which is one of my favorite weapons.  Nothing like that."  His cell rang and he groaned, getting up to hunt it down.  "Yeah?" he answered, finding it in the gym bag in the laundry room.  "Hey, Giles.  No, I'm not, Giles."  He walked out and handed the phone to Aiden.  "Giles."  He sat down again, looking at Speed when she laughed, grinning at him.  "He wanted to know when I was coming back."

"Um, never," he said firmly.  "Is Buffy straight again?" he asked Aiden when she quit laughing.

"He thinks so."  She got up to talk to him outside, that way not everyone had to hear what had went on.

"Let's hope she doesn't show up down here," Eric said dryly.

"Either of them," Speed agreed.  Xander opened his mouth and he covered it, whispering in his ear why he didn't want Willow down there but that he was more than free to write to her and call her until he had to go back to Sunnydale for three days time and then Xander could come with him to protect him.  Xander nodded and sighed.  "Good enough?"

"Fine.  Yes, sir."

"Thanks."  He looked at Horatio.  "When I have to go back for those three days, he's coming too."

"That's fine, there'll be a few of us going just to make sure you come back."  Xander giggled at that.  "Seriously."

"That's why I'm going, that and to see Willow.  Mommy, tell him that Tim's got to come back next year for his annual trek and I'll be in there," he yelled.

"Sure."  She told him that then went back to chewing him a new one about his girl.

Don shook his head. "You live in insanity."

"I know but I enjoy it," Xander said with a grin.  "It's made me the scary person I am today."

"You mean one who draws people with mental problems?" Calleigh teased, taking Aiden's spot for a bit. "We've got to get you to date normal people, dear."

"I tried that, I dated Cordelia," he reminded her.

"Who?" she asked.

Speed shuddered.  "Think trendy pop princess cheerleader with an attitude worse than mine," he told her.  She and Horatio both shuddered at that image.  "That's Cordelia."  Xander snuggled into his arms.  "I'm going to have people introduce you to nice people," he assured him, patting him on the arm.  "Before you end up tainting someone like Horatio."

"He's cute but I'm way too dumb for him," he joked, smirking at Horatio.

"More like you're too young for me," he assured him smugly.  Xander squealed and got up, going to get something from his room.

"Yes, this is him normally around the house," Speed agreed dryly.  Xander came back with something and handed it to Horatio. "What's that?  It looks familiar."

"Pictures."  He flipped to the spot.  "That's Cordelia," he said, pointing at her. "The redhead is Willow, the brunette is Anya."

"And if any of them show up, please give us a warning so we can get him into hiding," Aiden said as she came back in.  "Giles is going to beat his princess to death now, and he said he'd love to see you when you came in next year, Xander."  She looked at the pictures.  "Who's the other boy?"

"Jesse," he said quietly, looking at her.  She kissed him on the forehead and made him sit down.  "I'm better now, Horatio fixed my back."

"Good," she agreed.  "You still need to sit before you scare Flackie.  He's not used to perpetual motion guys like you."

"Yeah, right," he joked, pointing at Danny when he came in.  "What do you call that?"

"Anti-cuddly," he warned, handing over the knives.  "These?"  He nodded so he handed the hunting knife to Flack.  "That's a nice knife."

"It's an expensive knife," Horatio noted, taking it to look at.  "A very expensive knife."  He looked at Xander, who smiled. "How?"

"I made a  four grand paycheck in Montreal," he noted dryly. "How do you think?"

"How were you making that much stripping?" Aiden demanded, looking at him.

"When the psychos came they focused on me.  Inspector Ferris up there suggested that I keep them occupied while they gathered information since he figured out I could handle myself after that first one.  So I did, without having to do anything illegal, sleep with them, or anything like that.  If they were focused on me once they locked on, and I do seem to draw them, then no one else was getting hurt and it meant they could watch them easier. That guy I got last night was dropping a grand a night on me each time he came in, Aiden, and he came in every couple of days.  He even asked the boss if I could do privates with him even though I wasn't dancing and I got forty percent of whatever he paid and all my tips.  I did a private party three days ago unexpectedly, hence me not calling, sorry, Tim, but the bouncers went with me, and I made four grand just for that bachelor party.  I made damn good money getting naked and drinking virgin cranberry slushies.  People like what I have because I'm not the usual stripper.  Yeah, some of them have dark hair, most of them have good definition but I seem to ooze something that draws people to my bellybutton."

"Yeah, we noticed that last night," Frank said.  He and Flack shared a look. "I don't know.  It's probably the same thing that draws the mentally deficient to him."

"It probably is," Speed agreed. "I never drew people like that."

"I've seen a few other dancers who have," Calleigh offered. "Usually females because I don't know many male strippers, but they say some of those girls that have 'it', whatever that is, draw in the big crowds and the big bucks, and it's not just big breasts either.  I noticed it last night.  The way he moves, he's telling the story with his body.  That pole might as well have been his lover last night."

"Could it be latent magic stuff?" Eric asked.  "Since he comes from an area like that?"

Xander shrugged.  "I never tried it and I don't intentionally try to focus on drawing people in, except for last night.  And no, last night wasn't my best ever.  I've had six or seven better than that.  Actually, I think I have it in the stuff in the closet," he admitted, frowning a bit.  "That one ended up in a catfight to see who got me for a private dance first.  I spent most of the night in the private suites because of those two ladies.  Well, one lady and one tranny halfway through," he admitted.  He looked at Horatio.  Then shrugged. "I know damn well I wasn't trying that night, I wanted everyone to go away and leave me alone because I had a headache and nothing was curing it."

"So maybe it's your pheromones," Danny offered.  "Some people just attract others more and you can't explain it by money, looks, or nothin'."

"True," Flack agreed.  "Even money can't make up for looking like Howard the Duck."  Mac groaned at that.  "Sorry, recent case.  He tried to kill his girlfriend for wanting him to cover his head during sex, but she had no idea why she stayed with him so long, she said repeatedly she didn't know why she stayed with him.  The sex wasn't good, he wasn't that rich, and he was ugly, but she was stuck on him."

"Like some curse," Speed agreed. "Yeah, but his seem to draw those who need mental help."

"They do," Horatio agreed dryly, looking at the kid.  "If we knew how he did it, we could use others as bait wearing the same scent."

"Hell, just use me as bait.  I'll miss hunting and dangerous stuff while I'm sitting in boring classes listening to idiots mumble out of the book."

"We'll see.  If we need you," Frank assured him.  "You sure your back is okay?"

"Horatio fixed it for me," he offered with a grin. "I just swayed wrong."

"It happens I guess.  I knew someone who threw their back out reaching for the remote and your dancing wasn't as easy as that."

"You should try it in five inch heels," he joked with a smirk.  Frank shuddered at that.  "Sorry, we had a tranny and cross-dressing convention up in Montreal and we did a night just for them.  I still can't handle a dress very well."

"That's a good thing," Aiden assured him, patting him on the knee.

"So, Aiden, were you drawn to him that way?" Flack teased.

She looked at him.  "No, I was drawn to the poor guy because he was surrounded by bitchy women who wanted him to turn into a puddle of goo on command and tore his self esteem to shreds.  That Buffy girl could use some good, old-fashioned, military style training."

Speed snickered.  "They'd make her give up her backless shirts and really short skirts, plus her go-go boots and her bralessness.  Then what would she do?"

"She went out in clubbing clothes to hunt?"

"No, she went out in clubbing clothes to school and to hunt," Aiden told him.  "Girl was a bit under dressed for some things."

"She only ended up topless once," Xander defended, but he was smirking.  "And that was due to the slime that ate through the shirt.  Some of us were sensible and went in jeans and old t-shirts because slime won't come out of anything."

"Is that what happened to that green t-shirt of yours?" Speed asked, suddenly realizing what that had been.  Xander slunk down.  "Where were you going in that?"


"Uh-huh.  I know it wasn't work since you couldn't wear green.  Which club?"

"Tentacles," he said weakly.

"You went hunting alone!" Aiden shrieked.  She swatted him.  "You fucking idiot, you coulda died!"  He shrunk down more.  "You may be good but you cannot take on something with more arms than you!  You know that!"

He slunk down further.  "Sorry, there was a problem," he said weakly.  "I went to see if it could be solved before it ate more alligators and dogs.  Before it started on little kids."  She swatted him again. "Ow," he said, giving her a hurt look. "I was careful!"

"You went in without backup, you didn't even tell me where you were going, you're in deep shit, son," Speed assured him.  "Like grounded deep shit."  Xander slunk down further.  "How many times have you went hunting?"

"Um....."  He got up and ran for his bathroom, shutting the door before Speed could get to it and leaning against it.  "Not very many," he said at the pounding.  He looked around, the window was a bit small, but he might be able to make it.  If he could use Willow magic for real he might be able to teleport but he wasn't even going to try that.  He looked out the window but Mac was already down there. "Damn," he muttered.  "Why can't I have the cool powers and be able to go down the drain."

Horatio knocked.  "Xander, let me in.  It's just me."

"Nope.  Hell no," he said with a touch of hysterics.

"Xander," he ordered calmly.  "He's not mad.  Just worried."


"Xander, let me in before I take this door off the hinges."  He gave him enough time to notice the hinges were on his side, then used a card on the lock.  He walked in and closed the door again, looking at the boy he had stepped over.  "How many times have you went hunting alone without telling Speed?"

"Seven, maybe?"  He got the glare of death that usually went to suspects.  "Teen?"

"Seventeen?" he asked.  "Or was that seventy?"

"I've only been here two months," he defended.

Horatio squatted down to look at him.  "That's dangerous and he worries about you.  You may be good," he said at the opening mouth, "but even the slayers end up dying from this instead of old age."

"Death and I...."

He put a hand over his mouth.  "I don't care.  You do not go out alone.  That is stupid and Speed assured the rest of us you're not, you just lack common sense sometimes."  He removed the hand.  "Now, truth, how many times have you went out hunting by yourself?"  He stared into the dark eyes, knowing it was the only way to see if the boy lied to him.

"Thirty-two vampires, ten demons, and one thing that was probably a demon but wasn't human definitely," he said quietly.  "Over the course of ten nights."

"Thank you."  He stood up and helped the boy up, looking at him.  "From now on, you will not go out hunting alone, or unannounced.  If there's an emergency and you catch one hunting, you will call either myself or Speed.  Do you understand?"  Xander sighed and nodded, looking down.  "If it's not an emergency and you absolutely feel the need to hunt, then you tell him that and ask him to go with you so you have backup."

"He doesn't hunt."  He looked at him, swallowing.  "Neither of them did."

"That's fine, he can still watch your back.  That way you're safer and nothing and no one can jump in while you're distracted."  He saw the nod and tipped the face back up.  "If you die it will destroy him. We'd still probably be mad at him for not telling us he was alive for over a year if it weren't for you, or we wouldn't know at all.  We like you for your own person," he said at the hurt look in those big, brown eyes.  "We like you just for being Xander.  That's never been an issue, Xander.  Nor will it be.  We like you just for who you are, not for him and not to placate him or anything."  The boy opened his mouth. "I know it seems that way sometimes, but it's not true.  Those of us who know you like you even if Speed weren't around," he assured him.  Xander nodded.  "Now, you will tell Speed this.  You will go out with someone watching your back if you feel that absolutely must hunt.   Which we would all rather you not do.  You're still human, you're still fragile, and we don't want to lose you too soon.  Therefore straighten up, kid."  He got a nod and a hug. "Thank you.  Speed?"  Speed walked in and closed the bathroom door.  "Are you okay?"

"No, I'm really upset."  He tapped Xander on the back.  "How many times?"  Xander gave him that same look.  "I need to know, Xander.  This isn't healthy for you.  You've got to let go of the hunting and use those skills to other ends, like finding a girlfriend who won't kill you."  Xander mumbled something.  "What was that?"  Xander hugged him and mumbled it again.  "You got a translator for squeaky mumble?" he asked Horatio.

"He said: thirty-two vampires, ten demons, and one thing that was probably a demon but wasn't human definitely.  Over the course of ten nights."

"Where was I those ten nights?" he asked, pushing Xander back to look at him.  "Where?"

"Here mostly."

"Some of those nights you went clubbing?"

"A few and one of my nights off that I suddenly got called in," he said, sounding pitiful and miserable. "I had to, they had someone hostage and I heard," he defended at the pissed look.

"Then the proper thing is to TELL ME," he said firmly, making Xander nod and look down.  "And I'd have gone with you.  Even though I can't hunt, I can still watch your back."  That got another nod.  "This is something we will be discussing when we're alone."  Xander mumbled something.  "Excuse me?  Hell no.  And if you try, I'm going to kick your ass and then handcuff you to your bed until you've regained some fucking sense.  You're not moving out to spare me."  He shook him.  "Remember, you can talk to me, Xander."

"I don't know what to do, it's like the instincts are howling and mad at me for not letting them out!" he said, getting away from him and accidentally backing into Horatio.  "I'm sorry!  I really am, but this is who I am and you know that.  You have known that."

"And it's probably those same instincts that you use on stage," Speed told him, making him look confused.  "The lure of hunting is the bait, Xander.  You make a very good bait.  That's what you're doing on stage, you're playing bait."  Xander shrugged, still not getting it.  He banged his head against the door and looked up.  "Okay."  He pulled Xander closer again.  "Remember when Buffy had you walk through the cemetery alone?"

"I know what bait is."

"Then quit being so dumb.  Your instincts are telling you that's the best and easiest way to attract prey.  To become the bait and lure them in.  So of course all the darling little psychos like you because you're like a damn buffet to them."

"I don't do it intentionally!  I never use my hunting skills on stage."

"If they're that ingrained into you, then you wouldn't have to consciously use them," Horatio reminded him.  "You said yourself that you were possessed by a hyena.  The pack leader, which is always female, and therefore able to take command and make decisions for the pack, but also to play the bait to draw bigger predators so the pack can take care of them for safety reason," he pointed out.  Xander slowly nodded, getting that. "That's what you're doing.  She's screaming at you to clear your pack's lands and to make it safe for the pack."

"One problem, this isn't my pack's lands.  It's not even borrowed pack lands or stolen pack lands.  My pack lands are in Sunnydale and most of my pack is dead thanks to graduation."  Horatio looked stunned.  "I had to put the strongest people in the necessary positions to get the mothers and kids out of the way, Horatio.  They were some of the stronger fighters.  Them, some of the jocks, Larry, I take *full* responsibility for their deaths because that was my battle plan and it was a necessary evil.  It got the innocents out of the way so we could lure the creature and have it die."

"Bring him out here," Mac called.  "Now."

Speed looked at Horatio.  "He's military?"

"A former Marine," he agreed, opening the door and letting the boy walk out first. "His high school graduation was attacked."

"We heard."  He looked at the kid. "You planned that?" Xander nodded, sitting on his bed.  "It wasn't too bad.  Considering it was kids."  He looked at him.  "You take full responsibility?"

"Every day of my damn life," he agreed.  "Every single nightmare I have about it.  Every single time the shrapnel in my arm from the explosion twinges or shifts or tries to come out.  Every single time I think about them and their graves.  I went to every single funeral.  I was the only one who went to a few of the funerals.  I'm responsible for the plan that got twelve students and two teachers killed.  I'm fully responsible for that.  I made a command decision and put who I needed and who was strongest there so we could have enough time to get the civilians out of the way.  It's not like Buffy or Rupert could've and Willow was still sobbing because we couldn't stop it beforehand and Buffy got hurt a few hours before.  It was my plans.  My doing.  I fully take credit and responsibility for that.  I know damn well if I was in the actual military I'd be standing in front of a tribunal so fast I'd still be dizzy."

"Actually, you wouldn't.  That's what commanding a field or a battle is, Xander.  You made a command decision.  If you dwell on it, you won't be able to make another one in the same dispassionate way as the last time.  Yes, people died.  In any real battle, people die.  It's what happens in wars.  Any war.  Every war."  The boy nodded that he understood that.  "The fact that you took some kids who barely knew how to fight, won that battle, and that you only lost fourteen total?  That's something the people in charge promote you for.  Even when you end up screwing up and going out hunting an enemy combatant alone because you think it's the only acceptable method.  You get medals for that.  Now, this is not the military.  Unfortunately you're not going to find many people who understand the necessity of some battles and that sometimes you can't hold it off.  But that doesn't mean you should go out at each and every bugle call.  There's others to fight those battles.  There's others to fight with and behind you.  That's what Tim and Horatio are talking about.  You left your backup unit behind.  Hunting alone is one thing, and I know you've got conflicting instincts.  Aiden told us about the two possessions that she knew about."

"Hell, I'd forgotten about the other one," Speed muttered.

"She didn't.  He's got one bellowing at him to secure his habitat, even if it's only a temporary pack hunting ground.  We all do that.  You should see a pregnant woman nesting and cleaning her house to prepare and make the house safe for the offspring coming.  Personally I think that's what you doing anyway since Miami's a pretty safe city compared to some.  Especially to your old hunting grounds.  And I know the soldier is egging it on by yelling 'Semper Fi' and all that."

"Army," Xander admitted, giving him a slight grin.  "PFC, Army.  Infantry."

"Not much different.  Probably geared more towards Special Ops," he admitted dryly, looking at the kid.  "But he's telling you it's not safe either and you've got to protect the whole group, not just your pack.  And yet they're conflicting somehow.  It's probably the 'pack' versus the 'whole' issue, but only you could tell me."

"I can't consciously speak to them."

"How about unconsciously?" Speed asked. "Any odd dreams?"

"One.  Sitting in a field talking about backgammon with the hyena," he admitted. "You think she's looking to mate?  That she's getting ready to nest?"  The three adults nodded.  "Damn.  I haven't even found someone to like."

"Yes, but the lands you're in are more safe than your old ones.  That means it's safer for you to bear fruit and multiply, though I agree with Aiden, don't go with any more homicidal women, but it's the same thing, even if it were a male that you're after."  Horatio raised an eyebrow at that. "Hyenas are headed by females."

"I'm bi, I already knew that long before she came," Xander admitted dryly.  He looked at Speed. "I'm sorry."

"You're also grounded. Any and every time you leave this house, I want to know where, with who, and what's going on.  I don't care if I'm in the middle of a scene and up to my armpits in blood."

"No, in that case, I'll take the call," Horatio assured him, looking at Xander.  "Agreed?"  Xander nodded at that.  "No more going out alone to hunt.  Clubbing yes, that's a different sort of hunting and probably soothing to at least one of them, but the other one's probably the reason why you're bating and luring the bad guys."

Mac nodded.  "Probably.  The military mindset would lend itself to bait and lure tactics.  We have for years and it's the best way to lure the truly horrible toward something so the general public can be protected.  But hey, he's doing the world a service."

"Yeah, but how does he turn it off?" Speed asked.

"Hypnosis?" Mac suggested.  "Get in there and talk to them?"

"I've had breakfast with the hyena once and I didn't like her that much," Speed noted dryly.  "Besides, he's more animal when he dances."

"Maybe you could get onto the soldier and point out that he's got to retrain for new methods of combat, going back to a wider troupe," Mac suggested.  "It's not unheard of, but it's usually frustrating as hell when you do it."

Xander suddenly shook his head.  "Ow."  He held his forehead for a minute.  "I just got a flash."

"Like vision?" Speed asked.

"Yeah.  Like Buffy standing in front of the police station."  He looked at Horatio.  "Can you please make Ethan leave my ass alone?"

"I'll call him again," he promised.  He looked at him. "I'll send Frank to talk to her if you want."

"Please.  I don't wanna deal."

"I know."  He patted down his hair.  "Just relax.  We'll find some way to get through to them.  For now, know that you're not going anywhere for a while.  Not even out to dance and play and be a kid."  He walked out.  "Frank, we think Buffy just showed up."

"Oooh, me," Aiden called. "Please take me?"  She beamed.

"Sure," Frank agreed, taking her out to his car.  "Is the kid okay?"

"Fine.  He's got conflicting instincts.  Mac was explaining the military side and Horatio was probably explaining the animal for a bit."

Flack knocked.  "I heard the word hypnosis offered.  I've studied a little."

"That's right, the stage tricks," Mac agreed.  "It's worth a shot.  Xander, would you feel comfortable doing that?"

"Would that mean no more dancing when I needed spare cash?"

"Probably not.  Not until the hyena finds a mate.  Especially since they mate for life," Horatio offered.

"Okay."  He wiggled backward, laying down on his bed, closing his eyes.  "Is this like meditation?"

"I usually use a focus," Don admitted as he came in and looked around.  Mac pulled off his dog tags.  "You sure?"

"Symbolic of the one we've got to speak to."

"Good point."  He sat beside the kid, letting Speed lay down next to him.  "Okay, focus on the movement," he said quietly.  "Just watch it and listen to me."  He heard the nervous chuckle and smirked.  "You won't cluck, I promise."

"Make him do dishes," Speed teased.  Xander relaxed and focused, still smiling a bit.  "Just let it go, Xander.  Watch the tags swing and let the mind drift, follow the movement."

Don nodded.  "That's right, just follow along," he agreed quietly.  He saw the eyes droop and the smile fade until he looked like he was meditating.  "Xander, can I talk to the soldier for a minute?" he asked very quietly, getting down next to his ear.  "Please?"

The dark head nodded. "What?"

Mac stepped forward.  "PFC Harris, we need to reassign you for a bit," he offered quietly.  "Your bait and lure tactics have been marvelous and have easily gained us much favor and help, but for right now it's too dangerous for you to continue.  Too many know you and are hunting you."

"They can be captured," he said in a childish voice.

"They can't be. It's too overwhelming of a number.  Think about where you were luring them and how many of them should have been arrested and haven't yet.  You're too good and we need you to pull back some.  Okay?"  That got a pout and a nod.  "Good man.  Now, while you're on downtime, your guardian, Tim, is going to helping you retrain so you can train others and find them in other means.  We're going to teach you how to look at other methods and ways of finding these people."  Speed glared at him.  "You can pick whichever method suits you best and learn the hell out of it, and if we need you back in your bait and lure assignment, we'll tell you or you'll tell us if they come for you, okay?"  That got another nod, more firm.  "Good man.  Any questions?"

"Can they be made of jelly?  I don't like peanut butter without jelly."

Mac considered it.  "Sure, why not," Flack agreed.  "Now, remember, if you feel you must bait and lure someone, then you've got to start giving us clues.  That way we understand. Okay?"  That got a nod.  "Very good.  Now, can I talk to the other one?"  He got a growl and stayed calm.  "I meant the human."

Horatio moved him aside and whispered in the boy's ear, getting a nod and a purr.  "Good girl," he whispered.  "Very good girl.  You tell us when you've found the mate you want and we'll help any way we can."  She looked at him and nodded.  "Good.  Thank you.  Now can we have the human Xander back?"  She faded and he smiled into the dark brown eyes.  "Xander?"  That got a nod.  "Did you understand what we were saying?"  That got a nod.  "And your trick of baiting and luring are okay at times, but you can't just randomly put it out there anymore, right?"  Xander nodded again.  "Good man.  You can still do it but when you feel the need, you have to let us know."

"Okay.  But I can have jelly too, right?"

"Yes, of course you can," he said, glancing at Flack, who shrugged.

Speed nodded. "You can even pick which flavor of jelly you want."  The boy hugged him.  "Thanks.  Now, only baiting in the clubs and no more than just general baiting, understood?  You can bait for fun and pleasure, but not for real unless there's a danger and either we tell you or you tell us.  Any of us in this room are good at that or Eric."  Xander nodded, looking at him.  "Good boy.  Now rest, Xander, and when you wake up, you'll be just fine.  No nightmares tonight, Xander, you did what you had to do before and it's all right now.  We understand."  The boy curled up in a little ball and Speed stroked his arm until he relaxed and fell off.  When he was snoring he got out of the bed and looked at Flack.  "Jelly?" he asked.

"Maybe it's where the soldier isn't bi and the hyena is?" Mac suggested.  "Though, why peanut butter for females I'm not sure."

"Peanut butter is a staple in poor diets.  Like eggs, it's used to give protein in place of milk and meat," Calleigh said from the doorway, leaning against it.  "It's a nurturing food as well.  A comfort food.  Every kid got given peanut butter and jelly by their moms pretty much. It brings to mind being a little kid and being protected.  It's a rational thing to equate, whereas jelly squirts and is slippery and hard to spread.  Just like most men."  That got three smirks.  "We good now?"  That got a nod.  "Good.  Frank found her and she's not a happy young woman and Aiden's ready to blow because she wants her Xander toy back."

"She can't have him, he's ours now," Horatio reminded her.

"She tried that.  We might have to come up with a 'boyfriend'," she said, doing the finger quotes.  "To explain some of this."

"Doing it right now could be kinda iffy.  If the hyena's looking for a mate," Horatio nodded at that, "then she could think she's found it."

"She's not that touchy usually," Speed noted.  "He's dated before and he's being picky at the moment.  Hell, he dated Anya, that's not exactly a safe or productive date but I'm sure she could've produced offspring."

"That's a scary thought," Aiden called.  "We're back."  She walked in.  "How'd it go?"

"We got through," Don admitted.  "How many, Horatio?"

"Thirty-two vampires, ten demons, and one thing on ten different nights."

"That's impressive," Aiden agreed.  "He good?"  Don nodded.  "We're sure?  There's going to be no retaliation or anything?"  Speed shook his head.  "We talked to the girl in there?"

"I did," Horatio agreed.  "She's picking carefully, we agreed on that.  What's she's looking for isn't going to keep him from looking for what he wants and desires.  She'll probably be happy on whoever he chooses as long as they meet her needs and requirements."

"Which doesn't necessarily mean cubs, thankfully," Speed noted. "I can't see being Grandpa Speed this year."

"Me either," Aiden agreed.

"That's a scary thought," Flack admitted.  "You as a grandmother."  She punched him on the arm and he grinned.  "It is.  It's nearly as scary as me being one."

"Our kids will raise hell together and create new meanings of the word terror to the bad guys," she assured him.  "Our grandkids will be worse because we'll work on them with our kids."  He smiled and punched her on the arm.  "Come on, let's let my boy sleep."  They walked out together.  "All fixed."  That got some smiles from the remaining cops.  "Buffy, he's asleep."

"What needed to be fixed?" she demanded, arms crossed over her chest.  "Tim," she said coolly.

"This is my house and I will smack you senseless," he promised. She didn't back down, that was new.  "Xander's asleep. He threw his back last night helping us take down a serial killer."

"Were they attracted to him too?" she asked snidely.

Danny coughed.  "Can we play lay off the boyfriend?" he demanded.  Everyone looked at him so he smirked. Calleigh smirked back, looking almost evil.  "Thank you.  He's got a bad headache, he's had a bad week, and we want to leave him alone so he can sleep."

"He needs to come home," Buffy demanded.

"This is home for him," Danny assured her.  "At least until I bring him to New York with me."  She looked horrified so he smirked.  "Yeah, mine all mine, Buffy.  Do you think I want him to go somewhere his life is in danger?"  She stepped away from him so he stood up.  "I mean seriously, Buffy.  Yeah, I know the boy can hunt.  He does it pretty well.  He's done so now and then around here without telling Tim, which was why he had a headache from the fight, but he's damn good.  And trust me, there's nothing in this world that can be better than him under you. Or don't you remember wanting it?"  She shrieked and went for him so he pushed her away.  "I'm not like your usual target, Buffy."

"No, you're disgusting and warping Xander!" she complained.

"What?  By making sure he goes to college?" Tim asked, sitting down.  "Pumping back up the self esteem you and Cordy ate away?  Feeding him pizza and letting him pick his own job, even though someone bad wanted him because of it?"  She sneered at him.  "Yeah, he was having fun stripping, Buffy.  It was damn hot.  We got it on DVD if you wanna see."  He flipped it on and then the DVD player, letting it cue up to where it had been.  He waved a hand.  "See?"  She fled, crying.  "Thank you."  He turned it off and looked at Danny.  "Nice one," he mouthed.  "Cute image too."

"Can he wear those pants on a date in New York?" Don asked with a smirk for him.  "Just to shock the hell outta Stella?"

"They're tear aways," Horatio told them, sitting down next to Speed.  "Where did everyone else go?"

"Eric had a date, Frank went home to tease his wife some more, and Alexx hasn't come back yet," Danny noted, smirking at him.  "You mind much, mother-in-law?  You two are pretty close."

"I'm much too old for him," he assured him.  "Really."  That got some laughter from Don and Mac, who ended up leaning against each other.  "Speed, are you good with him starting to really date and search?"

"It's what you're supposed to do at his age," he pointed out. "You're supposed to fall in love and date, hopefully not like Eric does, but date."  That got a few more snickers from the trio from New York.  "Danny, I gotta say, if you're going to be the son-in-law, I'm going to have to have a talk with you about not letting Xander in the kitchen. He ruined one of my good pans making cookies."  Aiden giggled at that.  "Twice," he finished.

Danny nodded.  "I mostly live on take out anyway," he offered.  "It's safer than me cooking."

"You've also gotta do something about his hair," Don teased.  "Longer or shorter, Danny."

"Oh, no," Speed told him.  "Longer makes him look totally goth and shorter makes him look dangerous.  Shaggy, unkempt, and right about where it is is good for him."

"Remember, there are also very specific rules about care and feeding of Xanders," Calleigh reminded them.

"God, yes," Aiden sighed.  "No chocolate, not too much caffeine, or else you've got a bouncy, hyper, happy Xander on your lap, behind you, and dancing around you all at once. It goes up exponentially the more chocolate he eats on top of the caffeine and chocolate he's already had."

"Let's not remember the night he had the whole box of candy," Speed agreed.  "Please."

"I thought we were going to die of exhaustion by the time we got him calmed down," she agreed, flopping down beside him. "I missed having you around to talk to."

"Yeah, I miss you too," he promised, ruffling her hair.  "Maybe if you didn't have your coffee addiction you could come down here and visit more often.  Either that or maybe I'll give you visitation with the son."

"That might be nice but he'd hate Seattle, it's always rainy."

"So it's like London?" Mac asked.

She looked at him and shrugged. "Never been.  Come out and visit and compare."

"I'll remember you said that."

"This year's CSI convention is where?" Speed asked Horatio.

"Vegas.  We're all going but that means we won't have a housing allotment this year.  That way we can all check on Grissom's boys and girls."

"Mac, can most of us go?" Danny asked.  "Don too?  He'll miss out otherwise."

"There's a tongue-in-cheek seminar every year about dealing with the officers who just don't understand science nerd," Speed offered with a grin.  "He can be the demonstration model."

"I deal very well with our nerdly nerds," Don defended.  "They just have to use less technical words now and then or explain the big ones they use."

Mac smirked.  "I'll put up the sign-up sheet when I get back, Danny.  I'm not sure what sort of funding or how many cases will interfere."

"We've already told our DAs we'll be out of town that weekend," Horatio assured him.  "They understand it's us going to talk with people who understand us for a change."

"I talk to Xander all the time," Speed said smugly.

"So, science geek will be his second language?" Don asked.

"Fourth.  English, Latin, French when I helped him, and now geek.  Then again he's a comic and anime geek and a Star Trek geek so he understands some of the basics, he just doesn't get the science part at times.  Physics is not his field."

"Explain it in ballistics," Calleigh ordered dryly.  "He understands weapons."

"Yeah, I'm wondering where the sword and the battle axe are," Aiden admitted.  "By the way, Buffy's up the street at the nearest motel. I followed her stomping off."


"That's the same place Xander stayed when you sent him, Speed," Horatio noted dryly.  "He thought it was cute he knew where you were when he got brought back."

"How'd you do it anyway?" Don asked.  "Sedatives, handcuffs, or cage?"

"We locked him in the car a lot, I slept next to him so he couldn't sneak out, and Horatio only used the handcuffs when we got back into the city and he walked off to look at something."

"The boy's got curiosity and a good eye," Aiden agreed with an eye roll.  "You gotta give him credit, the boy picks pretty deadly things."  Everyone nodded at that.  All the ones they knew about had been hot.  Even the bunny guy wasn't supposed to be too ugly, just really bad breath.

"I still like how he ducked away from that one db we had that he called the club whore," Calleigh said with a smirk for Speed.  "He had to go into a gay bar to get away," she told the New York guys.  "He said she smelled like at least six different oral samples when she came at him."

"He came home late and Eric pounced him, then woke me by going 'eww what's that smell," Speed agreed sarcastically.

"I'm sure he's had nights where he smells like more than four or five women," Calleigh agreed.  "The boy can be a slut."

"At least he's only had three IAB investigations because of it," Speed said dryly

"Tripp, Hagen, and I have all warded off a few in the past," Horatio offered.  "We had to remind them constantly that he's a bit free with his affections and attentions."  He noticed Calleigh's look and sighed.  "I'm sorry, I didn't think."

"No, it's been a while, I'm okay.  I just don't talk about it much," Calleigh said, looking at Don.  "One of the detective we used to work with a lot came in to see me and committed suicide in my lab behind me."

"Oooh, honey," Mac said, giving her a hug.  "I'm sorry.  Which one?"

"John Hagen."  She looked at him.  "Every now and then it just hits."

"I know," he agreed.  She gave him a weak smile and pulled him down next to her.  "Are you okay now?"

"Yeah, I'm back in my lab and okay again."  Xander came wandering out and she smiled at the sleepy zombie looking Xander.  "In here, baby."

Xander mumbled something and sat down between Horatio and Speed, wiggling in between them.  "Night."  He curled up against Speed's shoulder and went back to snoring.

"Awww, how cute," Aiden cooed.  "So, who gets to do the background check of whoever he's dating?"

"We'll take turns," Calleigh assured her.  "I doubt he's going to settle on the first one."

"As long as he doesn't turn into the slut Eric can be," Speed noted patiently.  He felt a hand go around his waist and patted it.  "It's okay.  We'll talk about you dating soon enough."


"Sure, you can date some jelly."  That got a content mumble.  "Just don't make it Eric."  He felt the head shake against his shoulder.  Horatio chuckled at that. "Should I include you too?"

"I'm still much too old for him," he pointed out.

"Ya know, if Ray Jr. were a bit older, they could be together," Mac teased.

"Yelina likes him but she's looking forward to being the doting grandmother.  She's doing the countdown."

"Too late," Xander said quietly.

Everyone stared at him and Horatio nudged him.  "Did you say Ray Jr.'s gotten some girl in trouble, Xander?"  The boy nodded.  "How do you know?"

"She smelled pregnant and like him."


"Cute baby girl."  He grinned.  "Honey."

"Oh my god, I bet that's the girl he brought to the station that day Xander came to give Speed Aiden's next-to-last package," Calleigh said excitedly.  "She does remind you of honey.  All smooth and soft and sweet, and her skin's about that same color and her hair's about the color of wheat."

"I remember her," Horatio said dryly.  "I'll be back in a while, Speed.  I think I need to talk with my sister-in-law."  He got up and left, ignoring the teasing grins at his back.  On the way out he called Yelina.  "Dear, I think we need to talk.  Can you meet me tonight?  Yes, it's very important. You know Xander knows things sometimes, right?  Well, he was just mumbling about grandchildren."  He pulled the phone away as she screeched her son's name.  "I'm coming over, wait to kill him for me," he ordered, getting into the hummer and heading over there.


Horatio stopped Xander in the halls the next day, smiling at him.  "In for lunch?"  That got a nod.  "How's the grounding going?"

"Okay.  Tim said I said something about grandkids?"

"Ah, yes.  Ray Jr. was dating a girl who was pregnant but it's not his and he didn't know.  His mother's still fairly unhappy with him but he's still living, which is a nice thing."  That got a small grin. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine and the two of them apparently agreed over whatever you told them to do.  Not even bunny-related gifts this time.  Are the other guys still here?"

"Working but we're about to break for lunch."  He walked him back to reception.  "This is Xander, Speed's his guardian.  If Speed isn't here, call me when he shows up," he ordered.  "He's allowed to come check on us."  She nodded and gave him a visitor's pass.  He walked the boy off.  "How did you get past her without it?"

"She wasn't there."

"Ah.  I'll check on that later," he decided, walking him back to the break room.  "Speed."

Speed smirked at his son.  "You good?"

"Fine.  Why?"

"No more gifts?" Don asked.

"No, nothing bunny related expect that old line about pregnancy on a soap."  He sat down and looked at him. "I've got to hit the bank soon.  And why did I get that roll of money back?"

"Because I didn't want it laying in the kitchen with where I found it.  You can give it to whoever you want."

"You mean you guys don't have your own charities?" he asked.  Everyone in the room nodded.  He pulled it out and handed it to Horatio.  "Put it there then, man.  I microwaved it before anyone says anything about nastiness."  He felt himself be hugged and looked up.  "At least you're not the usual scary woman."

"Not today," Yelina agreed.  "Are you okay?  Horatio said you threw out your back helping us."

"I'm fine, he fixed it for me yesterday.  Two minutes did more than three hours in the ER and two different drugs."

"I get him to do that for me too."  She grabbed her lunch and scooted into the joined tables.  "What's going on?"

"That bunny killer guy is down here and hunting Xander," Flack told her.

"Oh, hell," she said, looking at Xander.  "No wonder you're in today."

"No, I'm in today because I'm not going to work today," he assured her.  "Plus I'm grounded."

"What did you do?  Steal another of Timothy's shirts?" she teased.

"No, I went dangerous places without telling anyone I was going alone."

"No, for that you should be spanked," she said firmly.  "Not grounded."

He looked at her. "Spanking taught me a lot about hitting back," he told her seriously.  "I'm already very good at that."  Everyone at the table nodded.

"Grounding works better because this way Eric can't take him clubbing this weekend," Speed told her.  "That way he'll only see reasonable people all weekend."

Xander looked at Horatio.  "So, does that mean you're taking my room and I'm taking the couch all weekend?"  Speed kicked him under the table.  "Or are we getting Alexx and Calleigh in to redecorate?"

"We can only redecorate if you clean your room, kid," Speed reminded him.  "Besides, you had some neat stuff in those boxes.  You need to unpack more than the basics."

"Are we buying me another dresser?"  Speed shook his head.   "Then I don't have room for the extra stripper clothes."  Someone at the doorway choked and he glanced back, then sneered.  "Private conversation, officer.  Not included in it."  He looked at Speed again.  "Besides, some of it's got to stay in the boxes.  That one special outfit you were showing everyone the picture of?  That's staying in there."

"You still have it?" Don asked, looking amused.

"Hell yeah.  I looked good in the boots and I know I can use 'em again somewhere else.  Even if I am going as Prince to a costume party.  Besides, I looked absolutely fabulous in the heels."  That got around round of laughs.  "I did."  He glared back at the man staring at him. "Is there a problem?"

"Who are you?"

"Timothy's my guardian.  I got invited up for lunch since I'm not down on my back today."

Don nudged him.  "You might want to qualify that."

"True.  I'm sorry for where your mind went but I was helping Horatio and his team catch a serial killer and I threw my back out. I spent most of yesterday sleeping on the couch and not enjoying the pleasant company of the people who came down to save me from the next one."

"This had better be the last one for a while," Speed noted dryly.  Yelina nodded to back him up. "Otherwise I am so siccing Alexx on you next time, Xander."

"Yes, daddy."

"Thanks.  No lunch?"

"Machines?" he asked.  They were pointed at.  "Do they take fives?"

"No ones in your stash?" Danny teased.

"Please, like I accept such pitiful things as singles."  He got up and went to the machines, and they did take fives so he came away with some cookies, a soda, and a handful of change that went in the middle of the table.  "For the general snack fund."  He sat back down.

"You need to eat better," Yelina ordered, pointing her carrot stick at him.

"I do at home but in public I'm allowed to be nineteen," he said, smirking at her. "Besides, I can live on snickers bars and cokes for quite a while.  As I proved in Montreal by living on those and pop tarts for a whole month."

"If you hadn't run away, you could've eaten real food that month," Tim reminded him dryly.  "That's another good reason why you should never run away."

Xander looked at Yelina.  "If it ever looks like your boy is going to take off, call me.  Let me talk to him about the evils of running away.  Tim finds fluffy reasons, I'll tell him about living day to day and stripping.  I'll even make it sound like the junkie and drunken haven it can be."

"If he ever runs, I'll hand him to you first and then beat his ass," she agreed, smiling at him.

Speed suddenly sat up.  "I just had an epiphany."

"Did it hurt?" Danny joked.

"Yeah, a lot."  He looked at Xander.  "Who was your boss?"

"The nice guy in the office?" he suggested.  "The same guy that let you into my locker so you could do my laundry, which I am capable of doing you know."

"I was being nice, get over it," he noted dryly.  "No, the physical description Don gave.  Not really cut but well-built.  Dark hair, light eyes behind dark rimmed glasses."

Xander frowned.  "I never see him in glasses, Tim."

"He was wearing some last night when I went in," he told him.  "Maybe it was just to read.  It's something to look at and consider."

"It is," Don agreed, "and we know this guy knows the stripper trade pretty well and he's very particular about his clients.  All of them have been good kids, no druggies, none of the ones who give the five dollar blows in the back rooms between sets.  None of the seriously drunk ones.  All the good kids."  He looked at Xander.  "Did he ask you if you were pure or innocent or anything?"

"He did," Xander admitted thoughtfully.  "Well, he didn't put it that way.  He asked if I had been known to be a whore up in Montreal and I said no, that I didn't play that way and I turned them in usually.  Then he joked and asked if I was a virgin and I said 'to some things' I think."  Don smirked at him.  "Does he fit the profile?"

"Yup, and he'd know where you lived and where the others lived or how to get the information," Danny agreed.

Mac nibbled on his salad.  "It'd also allow him to be more picky and see who drew the attention.  Remember, he was always going after the attention getters but the ones who weren't up to standards are the ones who don't get the gifts and he usually just kills."

"But how would he know I was coming to Miami if it was him?  I don't think I ever talked about you guys or anything down here.  Up there I was pretty much 'yeah, my life sucked the big one so I left and got stranded here' as my cover story."

"How did you find him?" Mac asked between bites.

"An anonymous tip relayed through to Horatio about him being on a certain dating site," Speed admitted. "You told them your life sucked so you left?"

"That's why I was taking my road trip," he pointed out dryly.  "Thanks to the bio- hazards."

"I didn't think about that.  By the way, cute name for them and they're in Colorado."

"Good, I hope they get eaten by an avalanche," he said, taking another bite of his cookies.  "I still don't think I mentioned Miami and it's not like I'm native."

"No, but if he knew your name," Don started and Xander shook his head. "No?"

"No.  No one knew my name.  Hell, even my boss paid me under an assumed name.  That was all part of not being traced back by the pseudo father there.  I chose stripping because it's pretty anonymous.  Most places don't ask for a social security number or anything like that and being in Canada was even more anonymous."  He ate another cookie.

"Okay, well, could it be he had targeted him, but he didn't get a chance to move closer?" Danny asked.  "I know you got told by your old boss you could work in a friend's club down here.  Where's that?"

"The Raven Cage."

Speed shuddered.  "No.  I would've whipped you skinless if you had started there.  That place is known for their whores."  He shuddered again.  "Eww.  The one case there was enough."

"But, the guy at the Raven's Cage could've known this guy," Don reminded him.  "These sort of places all know each other because they interchange staff so often."

"I worked with two people at the Raven's cage and he's got friends and associates in a lot of the US," Xander told him.  "They've got a fraternity or something like that of strip club owners and operators."

"That's got to be a fun convention," Don noted dryly.  "Showing pictures and saying 'look what my girl got enhanced' proudly like she's your baby."  Danny choked and wheezed, getting slapped on the back by Yelina.

"Some of us are still trying to eat, I don't need that image, Don," Mac complained.

"Besides it's probably more like 'look how of my girls got hit with something this year' if it's places like the Raven's Cage," Speed noted dryly.  Horatio nodded at that.

"That is one of the sleaziest clubs in the city," Yelina agreed. "But there's worse around."

"Maxian," Xander agreed dryly.  Everyone who was native just stared at him. "Accident," he assured them.  "Big accident.  One of the people I was dancing with suggested we go there.  I went with them and backed out in a hurry after the bouncer offered me coke or hash before I got in the sling for fun and games."  Speed shuddered again.  "Sorry, dad."

"Not a problem.  That showed brains, kid.  I like it when you show brains.  Brains are good."  He took a deep breath.  "So, have you been to Hyjinx yet?"

Xander nodded and grinned.  "Yes.  It was kinda interesting.  I sat and stared mostly.  Got propositioned and told them I liked to sit and stare."  Yelina poked him and he smirked at her.  "I was mostly a good boy."

"Mostly?" she asked.

"It'd been months!" he whined.  "I was careful and she only blew me.  No money exchanged hands and she had her happiness fix for a bit.  She said it made her happy to do that."

"TMI!" Danny noted quickly.  "Thank you, Xander."  He stole a cookie.

Don leaned over.  "Blonde, brunette, or redhead?" he whispered.

Xander grinned.  "Redhead of course," he whispered back.  Horatio choked and he looked at him.  "Damn you have good ears."  Speed nodded.  "Well I know not to try to sneak past you."

"You'd better not try," Speed agreed.  "Was she at least cute and legal?"

"Yes, and very yes.  She was closer to Yelina's age than mine. Just starting to show wrinkles."  That got another group stare.  "After dating Anya and finding out what an older, experienced, very experienced," he admitted, "woman can do I seem to like them more than fumbling virgins who giggle.  I don't like giggling.  Giggling annoys me.  I'm very anti-giggling, virgin, fumbling sorts.  Like most presidential candidates."

Yelina burst out laughing at that, punching him on the arm.  "You are so bad.  You almost had me going."  She got up and went to the bathroom.

"Truth?" Speed asked.

"Truth," Xander agreed, smirking back.  "We aren't going to say anything if I start being bi again, right?"  Everyone shook their heads.  "Anyone I should watch out for?"

"Stetler," Horatio told him.  "Who's still lurking up the hallway."  He looked at him again.  "I'll ask around, see if there's anyone around here you could date."

He leaned closer. "I tried that, she hated that I cuddled."  He patted him on the arm and sat up straighter again.  Then he took some of the change and got more cookies, handing Speed a pack and Danny a pack.  "There, share."  He sat down with his new pack and started to nibble more lunch.

Yelina came back and Horatio gave her two of his cookies from Speed's pack, earning a smile.  "You know, maybe you should ask Eric if he could set you up with one of his castoffs.  He must know some nice girls with how many he's dated."

"I wouldn't mind but I'd hate to force her to make a comparison between us," Xander said smugly.  "She might decide to never talk to him again."  She burst out giggling again and he looked at her.  "Ask Tim why I called him after the prom, Yelina.  Anya may've rode me into the ground that night but that was still five hours of sex later.  Or hey, ask the patrol officer Ryan set me up with.  She was pretty nice; she just hated that I cuddled."  He ate another cookie.  "I wouldn't mind more dates like her.  She liked how I moved on the dance floor, she liked my manners at dinner.  She wasn't really scary, mean, or homicidal.  It was a nice change."  Don stole one of his cookies with a smirk.  "Really, it was.  All my past girlfriends in Sunnydale tried to kill me.  Either that or they were demonic.  Sometimes both," he admitted.  "Well, twice."  He shook his head and ate another cookie.

Don looked at Mac, then at Danny.  "If I ever start dating that bad, tie my ass up and talk me out of it, okay?"

"The sad thing is that I got a forecast of the future there for a few days and he might've married Anya," Tim told him.

"Oh, god," Xander said, clutching his stomach.  "Eewww.  Tim!" he whined.  "No!"

"Yeah, really."

"No!" he said, shaking his head.  "Wrong!  I'd have died of sex!"

"Which isn't a bad way to go," Speed reminded him.

"Yes it is.  If I'm going to die, I'd rather go out in a fight with something.  Not die passively or of a heart attack due to sex."

"That suits your personality too," Mac assured him.  "So, this club owner?"

"I can lead you back there," Speed promised.  "I know the way pretty well now."

"After two times?" Xander asked.

"Oh, I went to watch you work the stage a few times, Xander.  Speaking of, you should check and make sure they only made those four tapes and that they're not really being sold, just used on the internet."

"If he's selling them, I'm going to kick his ass," he promised dryly.

"Sure, we'll watch and then arrest him," Don agreed.  Danny nodded at that.  "When's a good time to go there, Xander?"

"Club opens at two, he usually gets in between four and five.  He's there by the time I got in at six."  He shifted so he could slump down some. Yelina poked him so he blew a kiss. "Sorry, but slumping works better sometimes to help me think."  He considered it.  "If it's not him then he probably knows who it is.  And I'm guessing that he knows where his buddy is at most of the time.  Especially if they're pimping their rides to extra money.  Hell, he took sixty percent of whatever I brought in and if I was making two and three grand a week, then he's making tons off my naked butt."

"Two or three grand a week?" Danny asked, looking at Mac.  "Why do I work for the crime lab again?"

"Because it makes you happy and thrilled like nothing else," Don reminded him.  "Besides, then you'd have to drink and get in shape. "

"And stay in shape," Xander agreed.  "I spend about an hour a day doing situps and pushups."  Speed nodded.  "He's been irritated by my grunting at my situps."

"Many times.  So, you going to keep doing it?"

"I probably should so I don't get out of shape."  He finished his soda and got up to get another one. "Thankfully I'm still burning about three thousand calories a day."  He sat down again, looking at Horatio.  "Do you want me to go in?"

"Ooh, small problem," Speed realized.  "I mentioned the bunny paper and he heard that it was in the North East.  He looked kinda horrified."

"That's okay, I'm thinkin' we wire Xander and send him in to talk about the case," Don announced.  "He's good at talking to people."

Xander looked at Horatio.  "Will I have a neat code word this time?"

"You definitely will this time, that way I don't have to listen to you spank someone ever again."

Xander just grinned. "You guys could've broken in sooner," he reminded him. "Like when I was ordering him to strip.  Or when I started.  Instead you waited until he was crying."

"Which was kinda pretty," Speed admitted.  "I like it when they cry."

"You turned odd by staying in Sunnydale," Horatio taunted back.

"Wouldn't you?  I mean seriously, H.  Look at what I saw every day.  I'm lucky Xander's still slightly normal and I'm still mostly normal."

"I'm normal?" Xander asked.  "Are you sure?"

"Very," he agreed.  "Mostly.  You have your moments of oddness but it's no worse than I would expect."  He looked down the hallway and moaned.  "Again," he said bitterly.  "Incoming, Xan."

"Fuck," he said, not even having to look.  He knew who it was. "Did Aiden go back to Seattle?"

"No, she's working nights so she's probably just about to get up," Danny told him, nodding at Buffy.  "Come to see your buddy?"  He smiled at Xander.  "Pookie, you never told her about us?"

Xander wasn't that slow on the uptake.  "No, not since she kidnaped Tim and Aiden, I haven't wanted to share happy news with her."  He shifted to look at her. "Buffy," he said respectfully.  "Did you come to see my new boyfriend?"  He reached over to take Danny's hand.  "Thank you, dear."

"No PDA at the office," someone yelled.

"Who in the fuck," Xander growled, getting up.  Yelina pulled him back down.  "What?"

"That was Frank," she assured him.  "He's teasing you."  She looked at Buffy.  "Come in, dear.  Who are you?  I'm Yelina Salas, one of the local detectives, and I'm assuming you know everyone else."

"No, I don't.  All I know are Timmy and Xander."  She walked in and looked at Danny.  "You are?"

"Danny Messer, outta New York's CSI lab.  Good friend'a Speed's."  He smirked at Speed.

"Yeah, I introduced him to Xander and they hit it off.  Hell, Xander's even going to college for him."  Xander grinned at him.  "You know that help is there when you need it, right?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  I don't want you to end up with horrible loans."

"I'm not going to. I can work.  Probably."  He looked at Buffy again, swallowing at her heated look. "We're having lunch, did you want something out of the machine?"

"No, thank you," she said stiffly.  "Are you coming home or not?"

"Not."  She glared.  "Sorry, but not.  You didn't appreciate me, Buffy.  Besides the fact that you didn't realize I was doing your job for you some nights, I'll be damned if I'm going to be used that way ever again.  Danny and Tim would never do that to me.  None of the people at the table would do that.  That means that I'm wanted here.  Hell, Tim and the guys here hate the fact that I've been making damn good money stripping."  She looked stunned.  "They don't like that or that I'm being stalked by a serial killer.  They're trying very hard to take care of me.  Something you didn't do."

"You cheated with Willow!"

"Did it escape your attention that she cheated too?" he demanded, standing up and looking at her.  "She came after me.  Yes, we kissed once and then she came back for more, Buffy.  That wasn't my choice and it wasn't only me doing it.  I'm sorry as hell that you don't like it but it's not like I was attached at the hips to Cordelia since she was cheating on me.  Yeah, Oz wanted her, he still probably does.  I'm happy for him because she still kissed me and I'm sorry if you don't like that."

"No fighting," Yelina ordered calmly.  "Not in here."

"He's coming with me," Buffy stated.  "None of you can stop me."

"Yeah, all but the fact that, hey, he's technically legal," Tim reminded her sarcastically.  "I'm his guardian in name only.  He has the right to make the choice to go or stay."  He glared at Stetler when he came in sneering.  "Problems?"

"What's the matter?  His girlfriend want him back?"

"I have better taste than that," Xander told him.  He smirked. "I also don't like blondes."  She screeched and dove toward him and he captured her by the wrists and pushed her against the wall, following her to pin her there.  "You are so fucking stupid," he hissed. "You had me and you threw me away because you were a dumbass.  I had your back, I did your job for you when you were down and feeling lazy.  I could've given you everything, Buffy, anything you could've wanted to help you in your job and been your friend and your ego threw it away.  You threw away the one thing that would've kept you sane and happy and going for years to come."  He let her go.  "And now I'm going to find my own life and happiness and future.  I'm going to college in a few weeks.  I'm going to be studying things that they think will interest me and take advantage of my skills.  Like Timmy taught me.  Unlike you and Rupert.  Why in the hell are you in Miami, Buffy?  You knew I wasn't coming back before.  I'm not suddenly going to jump now that you're without a male sidekick because Angel finally made to LA to stay."  He backed away from her.  "Go home.  They need you there.  I have Miami's safety and security with the people at this table."

"Do you think they'll trust you with your past?" she sneered.

"What makes you think Tim hasn't told everyone everything he knows?  Or that they don't already know."

"You're a cheater.  You broke your promises to Cordelia and made Willow break hers."

"She wasn't forced to kiss me, Buffy.  She sought me out to kiss me, and Cordelia broke her supposed vows to me first.  She'll tell you that if she's being honest.  Or shouldn't I talk about her and a few of the basketball guys?"  She tried to slap him and he ducked and pushed her back against the wall. "How stupid are you attacking me in front of cops?" he demanded.  "Leave, Buffy.  Tim knows almost everything there is to know about me. He knows very well that I'm bi, he was there when Willow kept coming back for more.  He was there when I was figuring this stuff out, he knew first, dear.  The same as he knows that I haven't tried anything on that side of the fence yet nor am I going to.  The same as he knows that even though I was doing one of the dirtiest jobs known to mankind, I was still clean and not drinking.  Yeah, I can tease and I use the hyena well to do it," he hissed in her face.

"Now, you're upsetting what little time they have free during the day.  You and your petty shit need to head back where you're needed and wanted.  Don't worry about Miami, it's safe and taken care of."  He looked at Speed.  "I'm heading to the bank and then back to the house.  If you want to do this today, come get me."  That got a round of nods.  "Laters."  He walked past the IAB guy.  "Morning, officer.  Thank you for bringing  her to our attention again."  He made it out to his car before Buffy was able to grab him and he moved away.  "Thank you for not grabbing me again," he said dryly, staring her down, hands on his hips in an unconscious imitation of Horatio.  "What?  Didn't we settle this inside?"  She glared and took a swing at him so he ducked and let her continue on.  "Weak, Buffy.  Rupert taught you better than that," he snapped when she tried again.  He sidestepped another one.  "Buffy, anger is bad when you're fighting.  We both got that lesson many times."  She finally went back to her slayer senses and really attacked.  He looked at the cops running and held up a hand.  "Don't.  She's hysterical."  He dodged one kick, then grabbed her foot and tossed her into the bushes, squatting down to look at her.  "Are you done?  Because I am.  Even if I was inclined to come back, you're making sure I never do."

"Good, we don't need you!" she screamed.

"That's your decision, Buffy.  When I come back to see Willow, because Tim has to, we'll skip you and just see your mother."  He stood up and walked off to his car, shaking his head.  "She's hysterical and not a happy camper."  He got into his car and waved, starting it and backing out.  He headed right where he said, with a quick stop off for some sugar and chocolate as well.  By the time he got home, Horatio was there waiting on him.  He waved the bag.  "Sorry, needed sugar."

"That's fine.  I expected you were taking a drive around."  He waved at the doorway.  "Shall we?  That was a nice move with her."

"Thanks, I trained my whole life to defeat Buffy."  He walked in and Horatio followed, closing the door behind him. "I wasn't going to hurt her."

"Thank you for that.  The officers said you were very good to just wear her out."

"It's the best and it keeps her slayer instincts whole.  If a slayer kills a human, she goes bad, like Faith did."  He sat on the arm of the recliner.  "So, are we going in?"

"You are, with Don Flack.  Would that be okay?"

"He seems like he knows his shit and he's a nice guy," he offered.  "Aiden said great things about him and how good he was."

"Good.  Xander, would you like to join the department some day?"

Xander shrugged.  "I doubt they'd let me with my recent jobs."

"It was before college, it won't be looked at that much as long as you stay off the pole."

"Yeah, but I'm still bi and I know damn well half the department wouldn't like that," he said quietly. "Which means I'd either have to be one of your team, and I suck at science," that got a smirk.  "Or come in as a specialist, like a profiler.  If I go that way, I wouldn't mind," he admitted. "Tim and you guys do good work and I'd be proud to help."

"Good.  That's a good answer.  Would you mind if I still mentor you?"

"Not an issue.  The more the merrier, mom."

That got another smile.  "Thank you.  Now, we're going to go in just before your usual time. You are not to show up to dance, just show up like you're worried about this guy."

"I am.  He managed to break in and leave no clues.  That means he's either professional or very good."

"True," he admitted.  "We're still processing what we had.  Are there any items missing from your clothes?  Don wanted me to ask.  He said it's been spotty about that issue."

"I'd have to dig through the laundry and the boxes, Horatio. It'll take me most of the night.  I'll gladly call and give you a list when I'm done."  That got a nod.  "So, slutty clothes or not?"

"Whatever you feel comfortable in that will obscure the wire."  Xander nodded and led him into the bedroom, going to throw open the closet.  He watched the boy look and frown.  "Is something missing?"

"Yeah, my usual leather pants that I wear out hunting," he said, pointing at an open spot.  He picked up the phone to call Tim.  "Have you seen my black leathers?  Yeah, that set.  No, they're not in the closet that I can see and they'd stand out.  No, he's here.  Thanks."  He hung up and shook his head.  "He hasn't seen them since the last time I wore 'em and that was two weeks ago."  He called his dry cleaners from memory, then looked it up and did it again.  "This is Xander Harris, do I have anything in there?  I'm missing some clothes and I'm not sure if I dropped them off.  Well, notably a pair of black leather pants.  What's there?"  He nodded and nodded a few times.  "Thank you.  I'll pick 'em up tomorrow."  He hung up. "Not there either."

He looked at the boxes, frowning at a few of them.  "Oh, he's sweet," he said, getting up and pulled out the ones that had been moved.  "I turned all the labels toward the back since they're all liquor boxes and I had drunks for parents," he explained.  "That means at least these were moved."  He sat down to go through them, making messy piles around him.  He found something and snapped his fingers to get Horatio's attention since he was on the phone with someone.  "Gloves?" he requested.  "That's not mine."  A set of gloves was handed over and he pulled the diary out, flipping through it.  "Definitely not mine."  He put it carefully onto the plastic bag that Horatio came back with.  "Tim's kit stuff is in the closet in his room," he offered absently as he continued to look.  He folded up each box's content, but left a few things out and pushed aside next to the dresser.  Then he started on the other ones.

"Xander, which box had the diary?" Horatio asked.

"The Captain Morgan's with the dark blue Led Zeppelin t-shirt on top," he said absently.  That box was found and looked through again. "It's mostly thrift shop stuff, Horatio."  He found another touched box and grimaced. "Eww."  He pushed that one toward the bed.  "Anything in there can be cleaned, I hope."  He pulled out the next one. He heard the choking noise and looked over, seeing the porn.  "I'm not a big, blonde, and busty sort," he said blandly.  "If you see the Hustlers, those are probably mine and all mine went to a PO Box in Sunnydale.  Most of the labels are still on.  I haven't had a subscription in about ten months."  He went back to searching, pushing another box closer.  "I don't own sparkly clothing as far as I know.  Ah."  He found the box that he knew had his dirty stuff in it.  Eric had written in big, bold letters 'porn'.  "This is probably my collection."  He looked inside and nodded.  "Yeah, this is mine."  He checked, tossing over a few others.  "Those ain't mine.  Again, not into blondes or tits. Not really."  He heard others come in.  "Tim, someone added to my porn collection.  Does Eric have a thing for blondes?"

"God, I hope not," Calleigh said from the doorway.  Xander tossed one at her and she stared.  "No, that's not his taste either."

"Nor mine," he agreed dryly.  "I'll admit to Hustler and oral stuff, but not tits."  He looked through the last few boxes and pushed another over with the porn one, then stood up to get into his clothes, making a list of what was missing.  That went to Don and he shrugged.  "There ya go, some of the boxes were touched.  Anything in particular you want me to look like today?"

"Clothed," he noted dryly.  "I saw plenty of you on those DVD's."  He looked at the porn that was stacked up.  "He spent a lot adding to that."

"Yeah, he did.  'Cause I didn't.  You might wanna ask Eric if he found an extra stash somewhere and where the sparkly thing came from since that's the only thing that doesn't look like it's mine."

"Is that a Grateful Dead shirt?" Calleigh asked.

"Admittedly, thrift shop," Xander defended.  "I like their stuff but I get numb in the head after an hour.  Give me something harder our country any day."  He walked around the piles, putting the stuff he wanted in his drawers, looking at the things in there.  "That's just nasty," he said, handing back the pictures he found.  "Anything not Sunnydale isn't mine.  Ask Tim."  He went down, dropping a few pair of used undies on his floor.   He picked up one and swore.  "It's not all him.  Damn it.  Anyanka!" he bellowed, looking up.  She appeared, smirking at him. "What did you put in here?"  She shrugged.  He grabbed her and shook her a bit. "Anya, there's a serial killer tracking my ass.  He's been in here and snuck in stuff.  They need to know what was his."

"I can't do that.  Buffy made a wish."

"I was never with Buffy," he sneered.  "How could she through you?"  She looked horrified.  "That's right, and by the way, how did you get your powers back?"  He walked her outside and gave her a shove. "Undo it, Anya, or I swear to fucking god I'm sending a prayer to D'Hoffryn about you," he growled, moving closer. "Undo it now!  You violated your oath."

"Hey!" one of the neighbors yelled.  "Don't threaten her!"

"She put fucking kiddie porn in my dresser!" he yelled back.  "She fucking well deserves it!"  The door shut and he glared at her again.  "I swear, Anya, and we both know I can reach him.  We both know that the only reason I'm not doing magic is Willow's example."

"Fine," she said, getting to her knees.  "You tell him."  She looked to her side as her boss appeared.  "He accuses me of granting a wish out of malice instead of within my powers but I read her."

"How did she get her powers back anyway?" he demanded. "I know we broke her charm."

"Point," D'Hoffyn agreed gravely.  "What wish?"

"That of Buffy Summers," Anya told him.  "I will gladly undo it should his claim be true."  She sneered at the man coming up. "I would gladly curse you."  Xander moved Tim behind him and growled again, making her move away from him.  "D'Hoffryn," she pleaded. "Please, so I may go?"

He touched Xander's forehead, then hers, then nodded. "It is false. It was made in spite and you were lied to."  He looked at her. "Though I'm unsure if you knew it or not.  Undo the wish without repercussions."  He looked at Xander.  "You dare threaten us, hunter?"

"I dare a lot," he said, moving closer.  "She put kiddie porn in my things," he growled.  "She is obscuring what a serial killer who's tracking me to kill me is doing."  He nodded at that.  "Now, undo it now."  He looked at her and she concentrated, then nodded.  "Thank you."  He walked back inside and slammed the door.  "I wanna fucking move," he told Danny as he walked past him.  "And I wanna abolish wish demons."  He leaned in the bedroom, looking at the smaller piles. "Anya has now seen sense," he said cooly.  "Anything she put in here is now gone."

"Which cut it down a lot, thanks," Don admitted.

"Xander, tempers are bad," Tim called.  "One of the neighbors wanted me to calm you down before you killed Anya."  Xander glared at him.  "I pointed out she was wrong to do that and that's why there were more cops over today. That we were separating them out.  She was understanding but still."

"I'll help pay for someplace," he offered.  "Somewhere Anya and Buffy haven't been.  Somewhere with a library."

"You can't find places like that around here cheaply."

Xander looked at him and rolled his eyes, going to make a call from outside on his cellphone.  He came back a minute later with six addresses and a phone number.  "She's renting these, they're anything goes buildings, that means that there might be demonic neighbors, but not hunters.  She doesn't rent to hunters, which means I've got to stop, and it's rent controlled.  Starting at eight a month."  He walked back to the bedroom. "Did my leather pants reappear?"  Don shook his head.  "Damn.  Are we still going?"  Don looked up and nodded.  "Then let me get some stuff out of one of the drawers."  He came in and grabbed some clothes, going into Tim's room to change and then coming back out.  Tim gave him an odd look and he looked down, then back at him.  "What?  I know, you haven't seen these since Sunnydale before you made me leave.  They were packed."  Horatio came out and he raised his arms.  "Good?"

"Very good and it looks like you're scared of the attention," he agreed calmly.  "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm actually scared at what he left.  I can understand her and the porn stuff, but not that."  He shook his head. "That's just nasty."  That got a faint smile.  "How are we wiring me?"

"Around the chest or stomach. The usual way.  Unless he hugs?"

"No, occasionally he pats on the back, but I'm not known to hug and I tend to shy away from casual contact with strangers."

"Good.  I've got a wire in the car.  We can do that now and let Calleigh set up the transceiver with Mac."  That got another nod and he went out, nodding at the officer out there taking the complaint. "One of his exes put trashy shit in his things.  He found it," he said quietly.  The officer nodded, noting that down as well.  "She's taken it and left."

"They're always noisy," the neighbor complained.  "Coming in at all times of the night!"

"Well, Timothy is a police officer, ma'am.  We do work long hours and Mr. Harris did work in a bar."  She sneered.  "He's a very nice young man, expect when threatened by people like his ex.  Don't worry, they're talking about moving."  He watched as Xander came out and ran a hand across the back of her hair and she went slack jawed, then headed home.  "Xander," he said firmly.

"Necessary.  She doesn't need to know about some things." He looked at the officer and shrugged.  "My ex put kiddie porn in my sock drawer.  You'd scream too."

"I would," he agreed, closing the report and looking at Horatio.  "You've got the materials, sir?"

"I do, and if we can prove it, she's going to be in for a rude awakening."

"That's fine then.  Mr. Harris, please try to keep the noise down?"

"I do try.  We're not that loud."  He shrugged.  "She goes to bed at eight and I work in a bar.  Of course I get home at one."  That got an understanding nod.  "I'm sorry she bothered you, officer.  I've got a pot of coffee started, can I get you some?" he offered, pointing inside.

"No, that's okay," he said with a smile.  "Just try to sneak for a few days, sir."  He got into his car and left.

Xander looked at him.  "She really is fussy for no reason," he admitted.

Horatio moved closer.  "Magic?" he asked dryly.

"I asked permission first and I have three books in the house. Tim knows this. He sent me with them because he realized I *could* use it except for Willow's bad mistakes."

"Hmm."   He looked at the boy.  "Let me get that wire," he offered. "Where are these other buildings?"

"I don't know yet.  I know one's in a very good neighborhood."  He shrugged and headed back inside to make the coffee as promised. "Coffee," he called more quietly than usual.

"Thanks," Don called back.  "She complain?"

"Yup."  Tim walked in to get some.  "Did you call and see where they were?"

"Two are in really bad places and one's in a really nice place.  It's still about what I pay for here and it's a four bedroom, rent controlled, and in a nicer neighborhood nearer to the station and the college.  How did you know about that?"

"There's always safe spots in any major city," he offered with a grin.  "Like Penguin Street in New York."  He winked and headed out to the living room, taking off his shirt.  Horatio tore off the first piece of tape and started to lay the wire around him.  It kinda itched so he wiggled some, giggling at one point when a ticklish spot was hit.

"Thank you for the sound check," Calleigh said brightly.  "What're we asking?"

"I go in, I say I'm really worried about this sicko bastard who snuck into my house.  I'm really scared, he's creeped me out.  Does he know anything about this guy because I've never heard of him but Tim said he had.  What's he know?  Any other guys in the area who've been attacked. Anything I should be aware of, like walking down the street in really tight pants that nearly got me arrested a few days back."  She chuckled at that.  "The grey jeans.  I took the bus to work and had to walk about a block," he sighed.  "The cops weren't amused until I led them to work and the bouncers said I was just coming to work. I ask if he has any idea if it's connected to the club system since it's all been strippers, or if it's like the last guy and a patron.  General information, right?"

"Right," Don agreed, coming out to look at him.  "That's awfully big, Horatio.  Will his t- shirt cover it?"

"Yeah, and I can layer too," Xander admitted.

"How? It's like an oven out here."

"Sunnydale's next to the desert, Don.  It's not that hot, it's the humidity."  He turned, letting Horatio check all the tape again.  "We good?"  That got a nod.  "What time is it?"


Xander nodded, putting back on his shirt.  "He could be in and me pacing would look normal."  He looked at himself.  "He's right, that's going to show at the top."  He went back to his room, putting on an overshirt and walking back out.  That worked better.  "Good.  Let's go."  He walked out, letting Don drive.  It was nice not to have to drive every once in a while.  "You guys know if you need me for demonic stuff, I'm here, right?"

"Of course.  Who else would we call?  Your blonde friend?" he snorted. "I don't think she's stable."

"She's a pouting princess.  She was ever a princess and slaying does not agree with her.  She wanted a social life. She actually told her watcher that she had to study for an exam and went to a frat party."

"Oooh," Don said, shaking his head.  "Who went?"

"Me.  She and Cordy went off together to the frat party.  The rest of us went in to kill the big snakey demon for them since they were due to be a sacrifice."  He shrugged. "That was the life back there.  That or the blissful supposed-fifties congeniality with everyone like you see on tv."   They parked and he got out, looking at the bouncer, eyes wide and swallowing. "Is Jack in?"  He nodded and let them inside, and he ran into the office, pulling Jack up.  "Jack, man, I've got a serial killer after me!" he said hotly. "I don't know what to do and Tim said you knew something about the guy.  Help?" he pleaded, giving him the puppy eyes.

"Sure, kid, sit down, let's talk," he said calmly, nodding at the other guy.  "Bodyguard?"

"Friend of Tim's in for a few days of R&R.  He's from New York.  Don, this is my boss, Jack."

"Hey," he said, shaking his hand.  "He's really worried about this. He's been bouncing around all day.  He almost attacked a woman in the parking lot at their place because she was near the house."



To Part 2