Speed snuck into the pool area, sitting down beside Horatio while he watched his son do some warm-up laps. "Speed or distance?" he asked quietly.
"Both." He pointed at the coach. "We hope. He's got earplugs." Speed nodded and leaned on his knees, watching him warm up.
The coach got up and turned down the lights in the stands, making Xander look at him. "I don't want you distracted," he called. "Crawl, ten laps, for time, kid." Xander nodded and got out to climb onto the pad to launch himself from. The coach pulled the trigger on the starting gun. Both cops flinched but Xander dove. He watched, timing and noting each lap, then the final time. "Get out, walk around twice, then backstroke!" Xander nodded and did it, then jumped back in and got into position. The starting gun went off again and the kid took off. The coach noted the times and final time again, then he smiled. At the end, Xander looked at him. "Go until you get tired, crawl." Xander nodded and got out, moving his shoulders around, then got onto the pad, launching himself at the gun's noise. He kept count of laps and times, noticing when he slowed down. He got very slow but the kid was out of it. He looked back at Horatio. "He's in his head."
"He does that." He came down and stood at the edge of the pool. Xander stopped and looked at him, panting. "You all right?"
"I'm kinda tired," he said, but he looked happy. He got helped out and handed a towel by Speed. "When did you get here, dad?"
"At the beginning. We watched it all." He led the kid over, helping him sit down. "We'll make sure you make it to the car."
"I'll be fine after a nap."
The coach looked at him. "You're stubborn, kid, I'll give you that." He looked at the sheet, then showed him another one. "That's my team captain's." Xander looked and nodded slowly. Xander's was put next to it. "You're not bad. You need to train. You've got good breath control. You've got a shot, if you train."
"I'm already doing an hour of situps and pushups, plus a two mile jog a day," Xander admitted.
"Good!" He smirked. "Now you need time in the pool. You're better than two of my three alternates right now. Are you coming back?"
Xander sighed and looked at Speed, then at him. "I promised him a year to prove I could hack college. He's got one semester left." He shrugged. "But I have a lot of problems with homework. Lectures aren't my thing. I drove two tutors to drink, plus both of these two."
The coach nodded. "A lot of jocks don't do well in lecture classes."
"He's got the brains," Speed offered.
"It's not always the brains, it's the learning style. He's probably a guy who'd do better in Vo-Tech." Xander nodded. "That's what I figured. So why are you a psych major?"
"He's got profiling skills," Speed said with a small shrug. The coach smiled at him. "I'm late into the father stuff. I drove off his for being shitbags."
"It's not the first time I've heard that. I wanna know how he got such good breath control?" Xander blushed and glanced at Horatio, making him nod. "Ah. Understood. There's plenty of gay athletes around here, kid. If anyone gives you hell, you tell me immediately, at the first sign." Xander nodded at that. "I want you in this pool two hours a day, every day until the beginning of school. I want you in lab classes. Have you taken geology?" Xander nodded. "Did you pass?"
"Good." He pulled out a course schedule and underlined some. "Twelve hours, no more. If you're going to train, you're going to train. Training is your life. Your sex life may die."
"Not a chance," Xander told him dryly. "It makes me happy and calm."
"Okay. Some guys find it wears them out."
"That's them. Having Horatio with me makes me happier and calmer, it settles me."
"Good. Any questions so far?"
"I've got upcoming trips to New York."
"You can't put them off?"
"No. It's tax related stuff. The first is for four days. The second is for a week. Are there local pools up there?"
"Can you stay somewhere with a pool?"
"I think I am. If not, I can change that." The coach nodded. "Do I do any particular routine?"
"Both those strokes. Short bursts every other day, length the others." Xander nodded. "You need to learn to pace yourself on the length ones. You kept going when you wore yourself out." Xander shrugged. "That's a bad thing."
"I kinda drop into a meditative state."
"I understand that a lot of us do that. That's okay."
"Distance or speed?" Speed asked.
"I like him more for distance. I like him a lot more for distance." He looked at him. "I also want to see your other three strokes in short distances. Can you do that?"
"Yeah." He dropped the towel and went back, putting in his ear plugs. He swung his arms a few times and winced, but shrugged it off and got into position.
The coach yelled this time. "Breast stroke." Xander dove and took off.
Speed gaped. "That's faster, right?"
"It is." The coach checked the time, then the kid's progress. "Stop!" he called when he nearly turned. Xander grabbed onto the side and looked at him. "Why didn't you tell me you were better at that one!"
"I didn't swim this one."
"Your coach was an idiot!" He rolled his eye. "Do the other one!" Xander went onto his next stroke, which was his weakest one. He wrote down the results and watched him. "Stop!" he yelled after a full lap. "Out!" Xander climbed back out with a groan and took his towel back, allowing Horatio to walk him back over to the stands. "If you're coming in, you're doing breaststroke sprints and crawl for distance." He showed him the times and Xander looked shocked. "And you're dead tired. Do you do better when you're fresh?" Xander shrugged. "Most people do." He shrugged it off and shook his head. "Okay, pick a gym elective, swimming, and three other easy classes. If you need suggestions, ask your father there. He looks like he was a jock."
"Speed junkie," he admitted. "But I work with Delko."
"Even better. He can pick classes for him. Have Delko see if he can dive too."
"Sure." He grinned. "He's not much on twisting and turning off the dance floor."
"It transfers. Trust me." He looked at the kid. "What was your last job?"
"It'll transfer." He got up. "Come on." He walked them over to the diving platform, pointing at the medium one. "Up there. Jump up, twist in the air, one arm over your head, the other on your stomach, jackknife into the proper head-down position and enter the water with as little of a splash as possible."
Xander frowned and tried it on the ground, getting a nod, and went to try it, ignoring the people around them. He caught his breath and calmed himself, then did as he was told. He felt the splash, he wasn't vertical, but not bad for his first try. He resurfaced and looked at the coach, coming out. "Bad for my first try?"
"Not bad for your first try," Speed assured him, then he shook his head and cuffed him upside the head. "Would you mind telling me about any other skills you're hiding?" Xander shrugged. He looked at Horatio. "Eric?"
"Eric," he agreed with a sigh.
"Yeah," the coach agreed. "Every day, kid, an hour of swimming and an hour of diving practice with Eric Delko helping you as much as he can."
"Twelve hours of easy classes, including swimming. I'm assuming here but you can do lifegaurd?" Xander shook his head. "No CPR card?" Xander shook his head. "Okay, you can help in basic swimming then." He looked at Horatio, then at Speed. "Get him food, get him to Delko. He actually trained for a spot. Trust him to give you the truth. The day after the next semester begins, I want him in here trying out for a spot." Horatio nodded. "Nothing that's going to give him homework. I don't want him stressed."
"Of course." He looked at Xander, giving him that small, gentle smile that he reserved for him. "What did you want for dinner?"
"I don't care. What're you hungry for? Or we can let Eric decide. He's usually got something in mind."
"True, Delko thinks with his stomach," the coach agreed, sighing. "Keep track of your times when he doesn't. Got it?" Xander nodded. "Good. Go shower and change, then go eat and rest, talk to Delko tonight. Start training tomorrow, kid." He looked at the other coach, showing him the scores. The guy smiled. "When he was doing his year in high school, the guy never had him doing breaststroke."
"We had a guy who was college level doing it," Xander explained. "They didn't have one to fill my spot and I was a fill in."
"We'll see where you place next semester." The coaches got together to talk. Speed got a copy of the scores for the kid and his fridge.
Horatio led Xander off to the locker room, giving him a hug and a kiss before he went to shower.
Xander tapped on the lab door and stuck his head in. "Can I bug you?"
"Sure. Just don't stand too close or sneeze or anything."
"Okay." He stayed there. "The swim coach wants you to ride my ass until next semester." Eric frowned at him so he walked in and handed him the score sheet and the dive notes. "My first dive ever."
Eric looked at it, then at him. "Excuse me?" Xander nodded. "He wanted *me* to train you?"
"He decided that you had what it took then and you still do," Speed said from behind him. "We're heading to dinner once you're done. You get to pick because we're just hungry."
"Fish." He looked at what he was doing. "Ten minutes." He handed it back and got back to work, going a bit faster now. Xander walked out with his dad and Eric considered it. The kid's scores had been good. Damn good. The dive notes hadn't been that bad either. He'd want to see that for himself. He got done and started his last test, bagging back up his materials. Horatio stepped into the room. "His first dive?"
"Yes. The coach yelled because he hadn't swam breaststroke."
"Yeah, he likes to yell. Fish good?"
"Fish is fine."
"Good. Then we're going back there so I can watch him."
"He did all that in basically one long show."
"So?" Eric looked at him. "Stamina is good."
"Which he has. He came out shaking after that."
Eric nodded. "I did my first time too." He got the last report and handed it over, then took off his gloves and his jacket, heading for the locker room. "Give me five to change."
"Sure." He looked at the report, nodding as he walked it up to his office. Frank stopped him and just stared. "He was good. The coach wanted him to work with Eric."
"I heard Delko was on the team and thought about going all the way."
"He did. Xander's scores were good. The coach yelled at him about them."
"That may not be a good sign."
"Eric said it was."
"It was," Eric called. "Who'm I riding with?"
"I'm riding with Xander. His car's got great seats," Speed called. He joined them and Eric took the scores back to look them over again. "He went in that order, one right after the other."
"I knew he had some stamina." Xander joined him. "We're going to go test you tonight."
"The pool's closed tonight at the school."
"I can get us in."
"They're draining it, Eric. Big signs everywhere."
"Oh." He grimaced. "Where else has one?"
"University?" Frank suggested.
"You don't poach their pool. They'll think you want recruited." He grimaced. "The Y has one." Xander nodded. "You think you can?"
"Can I eat first? I didn't even make it to breakfast this morning."
"Sure. You didn't eat today?" he asked. Xander shook his head. "Nerves?" Xander nodded. "Fine." He walked out with him. "Coming or not?"
"Coming," Speed called, following. "Horatio?"
"I'll meet you there." He rolled his eyes and Frank laughed. "He was good."
"So I take it. Good luck with that. Remember, athletes often have to give up sex."
"He's already told the coach he's not and I'm why he's got such good breath control," he noted smugly.
"Think he could teach my wife?" he muttered.
"No." He closed his office door and locked it and headed after the trio. He saw Calleigh looking confused and nodded so she followed him, climbing in beside him. "He went for his trial in front of the swim coach today."
"How did it go?"
"He wants him to train with Eric and then formally try out the second day of classes." He started the hummer and backed out, heading after the boys. He knew where Eric went when he said 'fish' and he had a tracker on Xander's car anyway. She stared at him. "What?"
"How are you doing with the Ray thing?"
"Not good. Xander yelled at him last night." She giggled at that. "He started on the gay thing and Xander screamed at him. Then the boys went to play Halo in the bedroom while he and Yelina talked and I refereed." He changed streets and parked when he saw the car. "This isn't the normal spot."
"Eric must be getting pastries." She rolled down the window, looking at them. Speed nodded them inside. "Nope, this is it." She got out and he secured the car then followed. She smiled at the hostess. "We're with the boys."
"That's fine." She let them both go that way, smiling at Horatio, handing him a menu. He handed it to Calleigh and sat beside Xander.
"I thought you were craving fish," she said, bopping Eric on the arm.
"I am, but not until after I swim. He wants my help, he can beat me." Xander nodded that it was fair. "If not, he can train until he beats me."
"The coach said two hours a day, every day. One swimming, one diving. Every other day distance."
Eric looked at the scores, then at him. "Yeah, that'll help. How did you go twelve laps after all that?"
"I drop into this quasi-meditative state."
He nodded. "A lot of guys do that. I used it as time to think and go over stuff before tests. I was a sprint and a dive guy though." The waitress brought them drinks and he looked at Xander's soda, giving him a smirk.
"Try it, watch me bite you," Xander warned. "Let's see where good, old fashioned training get me, Eric. I eat pretty decent most of the time."
"Fine. It still makes you bouncy."
"Yes, but I could use the extra energy now and then."
"You'll still have to go cold three days before the meets. They drug test and that's picked up."
"I use it to control my attention issues." Eric hissed so he shrugged. "The coach knows. He caught me slurping one earlier." He sipped his soda and smiled at the waiting waitress. "What's the special?"
"We've got a wonderful batch of ham croissants just out and some with pizza stuff inside. Or we've got a nice batch with fruits and jellies."
"Do the ham have cheese? I haven't had my calcium today." She nodded. "Then can I have two?" She nodded and smiled at him, taking his menu.
"I'll take two blueberry," Horatio said. He watched Eric's face. "He needs the food."
"He probably does. As long as he doesn't get sick." He got up and went to call the coach to see when they were draining the pools to make sure they had time. He came back and grinned. "They're not starting until nine. Team practice ends in an hour. By then, you'll be good to go?" Xander nodded. "Good. That'll also give me time to go find my suit." He smiled at the waitress. "Give me two with ham too please." She smiled and nodded, going away since she had all the orders while he was gone. "How long were you on your high school team?"
"I filled in when one became green and slimy. Two meets really."
"So, end of the season, he had all the other spots filled?" he suggested. Xander nodded. "Okay. Why weren't you doing breaststroke?"
"He had a guy who was being recruited by some colleges and who was a senior. I was fill in so I got the empty spot. Which was crawl for longer sprints."
"Okay. Why didn't you go back?"
"No coach the next year," Speed told him quietly. "He died at the hands of the team when they figured out it was him." Eric frowned so he whispered it in his ear, getting a nod. "Fishy stuff."
"Ah. No wonder Xander only eats farm raised fish." Xander nodded at that. "Did you get any?"
"Some but I never changed. I'm slower now than I was then."
"Good. Because they will be doing a full physical, including blood work."
"And random drug tests."
"That's fine too."
"Good. You still need to drink more water." Xander grimaced. "I know but you need it."
"Point. I try now and then."
Eric gave him a long look. "Serious training isn't now and then, Xander."
"I know. Remember, I work out more than you do. Horatio made me take up jogging too. I'm doing two miles a day plus my other stuff."
"I'm impressed you make it to class."
"He gets up really early and I have afternoon classes."
"Ah." He nodded and took the course catalog. "You've already cleared it with the registrar?"
"Yeah, while we were in New York. She got a note from Frank saying what was going on and that it wasn't the first time so she cleared me to come back already. I'm on academic probation because of it but nothing else."
"That'll work." Their food was put down in front of them and he looked at them while he ate. "CPR card?"
"Basic swimming, geology?"
"Last semester, B," Speed admitted, digging in. "He needs less lecture stuff, Eric. He's really stressed by them."
Eric nodded, then looked at Xander. "Think you can handle book reports and watching movies?" Xander nodded. "Film 101 and Science Fiction Lit. One of the art appreciations." He handed it back.
"You have to write a paragraph after looking at the pretty pictures in the book, Xander. Lots and lots of naked art too." Xander shrugged and found those, writing them on the form in the back. "Get the coach to approve those around practice times before you register. The one semester I didn't, I ended up changing mine three times. I didn't know if I was coming or going." He finished up and looked at Xander, who finished up and put the book back in the back of his waistband. "We done?" Everyone else nodded and Xander handed him the keys. "Cool. You've got a good car."
"Yeah, I got told many assassins drive that brand," he said dryly. "I got popped for speeding earlier and they asked."
"I'm hoping they were kidding," Speed said as he followed. "How fast were you going?"
"Seventy on the highway."
"Ten over, not too bad. I do it on the bike." Horatio gave him a look and he smirked. "There's a reason I have the nickname." He climbed back in and they all went to Eric's house, then back to the pool. The coach gave them a long stare, then smirked and nodded at them to start in the other room. Both of them changed and Xander found his earplugs, making Eric give him an odd look. "He used to have tubes."
"That happens." He warmed up and looked at Xander. "Okay, I'm going to do one and you're going to do the same thing. Got it?" Xander nodded eagerly so he got up there, looking at the team member who was lagging. "He's trying out next semester."
"Were you on the team?"
Eric smirked. "I'm Delko."
"Ah, coach's favorite." He looked at Xander. "I heard you did okay. Try this one, kid." He went and did his hardest one.
Xander watched then shook his head, looking at Eric. "Can I do that?"
"I can do that." He smirked and did it better than the other kid, then stared at him until he got out pouting. "More tighter rotations," he called after him. "Come on, Xander." Xander stood there, then tried it. "Not bad," he called. "You need practice. It's clear this isn't your field. Yet." They climbed out and he led him to the board again, talking him through the next one. Xander mimicked it then nodded. Eric did it to show how it was supposed to look. Then he watched Xander. He winced, the kid got no distance from the board. "Jump out more, Xander, before you crack your skull open again." He got out. "Not bad otherwise. Let's try the spring board."
"I don't do spring boards. I fell on the last one."
"Okay," Eric agreed, leading him to the lower board, then tried something simple. "Make sure you jump out," he called. "Away from the board." Xander did it and he nodded. "Good. Not good enough but decent for your first day." He noticed the dive coach watching and shrugged as he got out, turning to help Xander. "His first day."
"I saw earlier. He needs some tumbling practice. Try that one again, kid."
"Harris," Delko offered. Xander nodded, going back to try it again. He watched with a more critical eye. "Not too bad."
"No. Not too bad. They've started draining the other one. Have him do water starts in here." Xander came out of the pool. "Or side starts. Harris, the other pool's being drained right now. Go ahead and practice in here on your sprints."
"Okay." He nodded and moved so they were crossways to the pool, making Eric nod and move up beside him but far enough away in case the kid veered. "Go!" he shouted. They took off and the kid had speed. He blinked and checked his stopwatch, then the kid, noticing Delko had turned faster and better but the kid wasn't bad. Trainable certainly. "Keep going! Two more!" he shouted when they nearly had the wall. Both of them turned and continued on. The kid was definitely holding the stamina to do the longer swims. The other coach came in and he let him see the watch. "He needs help turning and he needs tumbling," he said quietly. "How long did he fill in?"
"Two matches and six practices."
"Damn." He nodded, smirking as Delko barely beat the boy. "Good job, boys. Now out!" They climbed out and Xander bent over, catching his breath. "You still tired?"
"He did a lot earlier," the other coach offered. "I ran him ragged earlier." The dive coach looked at him. "For a first practice, that's good."
"Good enough for a first. Next week I'll expect better." He walked over, looking at Eric. "You've started to slip, Delko."
"No time to practice," he complained. "You guys won't let me use the pool anymore."
"You're training the kid, you can use the pool." He made Xander look at him. "Don't puke in here."
"Not," he panted. He stood up and held his side. "Stitch, sorry."
"They happen to the best of us. When did you eat?"
"About forty minutes ago. First time today."
"Ah. You need to cut that out. No more caffeine and no more sex."
Xander burst out laughing. "Politely, fuck you. Sex calms me down and makes me focus. Horatio is my cheerleader and the only reason I'm still in school. Even Speed probably wouldn't have kept me in during my first semester when I got so tired of shit. Secondly, caffeine is my life. I like my caffeine. It keeps me focused. Let's see what training can do before we start making the more major changes to my metabolism."
"If you want. You have four weeks to make it as an alternate, Harris. You think you can?" He looked at the other coach. "No, dive team is mine, Harris."
"I'll do my best. I'm not one for lofty dreams and unrealistic expectations of myself."
"Okay, I can deal with that. Around here, we want you to win, that's your lofty dream. Think you can hold that one?"
Xander looked at Horatio. "Rewards?" He got a slight nod. So he looked at the coach and shrugged. "I'll do my best. I'm not the robo-Xander."
The coach smirked. "You're a smart ass."
"Yeah, pretty much," Delko agreed. The coach pushed him back in. "Hey!"
"Shut up, Delko. You had your shot. Be a good coach now." He looked at the kid again, staring him in the eyes. "If you swim, your lover is at every match. Delko as well until he gives up on coaching you. Understood?" Xander nodded. "You'll tell them that, here and now."
"Horatio, he wants you at all the matches, Eric too if he can manage it."
"If at all possible." The coach looked at him so he held up his badge. "Some of us are on duty now and then."
"I can accept that. You send an alternate." Horatio nodded at that. "Good." He looked at Xander again. "You will train."
"The other coach said an hour of diving, an hour of regular swimming, plus my usual two miles, my hour of situps and pushups is good. You wanna add to that?"
The coach considered it then nodded. "You need practice tumbling to dive. The twisting, turning, and jumping especially. Take a short course in it until you get the hang."
"Okay. Do I tape myself when I'm New York on tax business?"
The coach shook his head. "Not needed. If they don't have a diving board, do yoga."
"Okay, that can help with the sex stuff too." The coach laughed at that, then patted him on the cheek. "I'll do?"
"For now. My tryout is the third day of school, Harris. You will be here. Or else."
"If he's not, he's in the hospital," Eric said as he climbed back out. "Speaking of, new head xrays are when, Speed?"
"Um, right before Christmas."
"He's got a skull fracture?" the coach asked. Speed nodded. "Why?"
"Psycho stalker with a baseball bat," Xander said honestly. "I've got a dent too. Wanna see?"
"No, that's fine." He walked off shaking his head. This kid would have an uphill battle on his hands but he could do it. "Practice, Harris."
Eric sat Xander down away from everyone else. "You did good enough to make alternate today, Xander. You need to be better to seriously be *on* the team. Think you can do an endurance tonight?" Xander shook his head. "What's still cramping?"
"My head. Did I hit the water wrong?"
"Twice," he agreed dryly. "You need more skull xrays. You can't dive with a fractured skull. The pressure can kill you." Xander nodded, accepting that. "Was it mostly healed?" Xander nodded. "Good. We can go over diving in detail when you get back the second time. For now, concentrate on the swimming and the yoga stuff. You'll need to be less stiff when you twist and turn."
"Should I start back on my stripper mix of a coke and some maple syrup?"
"If it helps. I wouldn't. You need to be in sharper focus than you were then."
"It relaxed me."
"So will yoga. Trust me. Plus, hey, lots and lots of benefits for sex with H. Okay?" Xander nodded at that, grinning a bit. "Good. Work your way up in yoga and take the class so you don't hurt yourself. You don't have time for a real injury." Xander nodded at that. "So be really careful in New York. Got it?" Xander nodded again. "Good." He patted him on the back of the head and grinned. "We need to get you consistently up to speed and work on your turns. They sucked."
"I kinda cramped on my first one."
"I noticed. Legs?" Xander nodded. "Okay. Focus on your two strongest strokes. Breast and crawl. Do your others for a third of your workout one day a week. Just in case you have to sub. We all specialize around here." Xander nodded at that. "Get that schedule approved."
"I did in the locker room."
"Good. That okay?" He nodded. "Then register as soon as you can. Get a spot at the Y if you have to so you have pool time. Or somewhere else that has pool time."
"I'm a member at Aristotle." Eric looked impressed. "Perk of the former job. I keep up with my membership even though I haven't been using it."
"See if they have yoga or not and a pool."
"I know they have a pool. I spaced out in there a few times."
"Try it anyway." He got a smile. "Good. Now, let's go shower off the nasty chemicals and head for real food, okay?" Xander moaned and held his stomach. "Yay. Get over it. You burned more than enough today to need to eat." Xander nodded and got up, heading for the changing rooms. He walked over to look at the main people in Xander's life. "He needs work but for a firsty, he's not bad. Yoga and a lot of pool time for right now. He can't dive with a skull fracture. I can teach him the basics of diving in a few weekends near the holidays. He's already got a gym membership thanks to his old job. They've got a pool there. He can use theirs I'm sure." Everyone nodded. "He was serious, H, he wants and needs you here. If you're the kid's encouragement and reward...."
"I have the point, Eric."
"Good," he said with a grin. "I needed one of you when I was on the team. Get his skull checked sooner if you can, Speed. He got dizzy. It's probably as it should be." Speed sighed and nodded. "Big thing, let's work on his eating habits. Vitamins good, H. Calcium especially with that stuff." That got a nod. "You should probably take 'em too."
"You wanna end up back in the pool?" Calleigh asked archly, staring at him. "What're his chances?"
"He's better than the alternates in my year. If he hadn't cramped during his first turn, he might've beaten me." She looked impressed at that. "He's got a shot, it's the sticking to it that's hard. One week's good, then you get a crappy week, and then you start to slack off. Training is harder than sticking to a diet. And his still needs work. The kid doesn't know what a vegetable is."
"He does, he just doesn't appreciate them unless they're in Chinese food," Speed assured him.
Eric laughed at that. "Sure. That's probably not good for him."
"Point, but his life and his stomach. So, full physical including really invasive blood work?" Eric nodded. "As soon as I can get him scheduled." Xander came out wobbling. "Still dizzy?"
"Hungry. Can we please eat now? Not green and slimy things, but food?"
"Sure, kid. Let me shower and change back," Eric offered, going to do that. He had missed being in the pool all hours of the night and day but the kid was looking good as a substitute for that.
Xander finally made it to New York and met his escort at the gate. "Gee, they're paying you to come follow me around again?" he teased.
"Definitely." He pointed at his shoulder. "I got whacked on it again. The case?"
"Security." He walked that way, his overnight bag over his shoulder. He walked into the office, showing his ticket and his ID, then signing five forms. The case was opened for him and he checked it, then nodded and it was resealed. He took a copy of the key and smiled. "How do I get this back to you?"
"The auction house will, sir."
He nodded and walked off with it. He glanced at Don, who was smirking at him. "What?"
"You look good."
"Thank you. I'm trying to get on the school's swim team and Eric's been riding my ass now for weeks. My arms are seriously bulking up again." They got to the metal detectors and they saw the case, pointing at a special doorway once Don flashed his badge. They walked that way and Don led him to his car. The case went between his feet once he was in, his overnight bag on top of it. "Which bank did we arrange with?"
"First National. It's right up the street from the auction house." He checked his mirrors then put the car in reverse, backing out. He noticed the other car pulling out and headed out anyway, being careful. Xander paid the parking toll, earning him a grin, and they were off. The other car was following him. "I didn't know I had backup."
Xander glanced back there, then took a longer look. "The last time I saw that one guy who wanted to steal me they were with him." He turned back around and buckled up, then pulled out his phone and input Mac's number but didn't hit send. "Just in case."
"Good idea." He sped up and did something unexpected, pulling through a drivethru. "Sorry, need lunch."
"Oh, please god, let me have a burger," he begged. "And a coke."
Don smirked at him. "That's the hard part of sports."
"Not really. Eric was having a tofu day yesterday and I nearly died." They pulled up to the speaker. "Bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a coke no ice?"
"Anything else?" a perky voice asked. Xander nudged Don.
"Two double cheeseburgers, no pickles, no mayo."
"Make mine no mayo either," Xander ordered.
"And a black coffee."
"Ten-fifteen, please pull around."
Xander handed him a twenty. "I'm nice today," he offered with a grin. Don snickered and they got their food, eating on the way in. He even kept the change. "Where's the hotel?"
"About ten blocks past the bank. Does it have a pool?"
"Yup and I've got two hours of swimming to do later because it doesn't have a board I can use. I still slip and fall on springboards." He finished his coke with a sigh of pleasure. "Oh, good. Breakfast was oatmeal because Horatio needed to shop." Don chuckled at that. "He'll be doing it while I'm gone or I'm living on takeout again. So, how has my favorite big brother been?"
"Decent enough. A few bad cases but nothing too horrible. We haven't lost anyone. Danny's going nuts again with a case. Mac made me drag him home last night." He yawned. "Kiddie porn ring." Xander hissed. "You good?"
"No. Cramps." He rubbed his leg. "I hate those." Don nodded. "Sorry. Is Danny going to be okay?"
"Once we catch the assholes. Every cop takes kiddie cases hard but Danny takes it to a new extreme in kiddie porn cases."
"He won't say." He shrugged and turned on the radio, making Xander sing and bop along. "At least someone appreciates my music."
"I say the same thing when Calleigh doesn't change the station for something quieter." He grinned at him and caught sight of the other car. "Two lanes over, Don."
"I saw." He sighed and looked the exit. "I hate traffic."
"Take the safer route. Fast is good, safer is better."
Don glanced at him. "Let me guess, you snuck it in again?"
Xander looked up. "Willow, I'm in a moving car, does it matter?" The soft-sided bag fell in his lap. "Thanks, dear." He unzipped it and put the gun on, then the dagger went on his wrist. He looked at Don as he put the extra clips into his pockets. "She's in Miami, Horatio doesn't realize that yet. She's going to pop in and say hi to Speed tonight." The other car tried to cut them off and he grabbed the bar. "What is their damage?" he demanded. "It's not like I got more than the solid gold castrating clipper thingies and the emerald handcuffs."
"Maybe they want 'em back."
"Yay!" Don snickered at that. "I hate psychos." He slunk down in the seat some, getting comfortable. "Whatever you want, Don, you're the bodyguard today. I'll even buy you dinner before I swim."
"Sure." He took the next exit, going down into traffic hell. His lights came on and he got it easier but the other car was trying to follow. He looked around and called the local station to get some backup, letting them know what was going on. He checked Xander's phone, it hadn't erased the number but it hadn't dialed itself. "Hard send button?"
"Locked without the four digit code so it couldn't dial itself in my pocket on the phone."
"Smart guy." Two patrol cars stopped the guy behind him and he turned off his lights with a sigh of relief. "You sure they were with him?"
"Yeah, that was Dumb and Stoned Stupid, his bodyguards. Stoned Stupid used to smell like pot. Dumb's favorite word was ahhhhhh." He shrugged and sat back up again. "So, where for dinner?"
"Great with me. As long as it's not fish or tofu."
"Yeah, for training. Thing is, I was faster on my diet before this. I'm going to start eating my own way again. I'm also bulking up and I don't like it very much. I look like a body builder in spots." Don looked then nodded. "It's not right and it's not good. Plus I haven't been doing weights."
"Maybe all the fish is making you build mass."
"Maybe. Which means I need to go back to hamburgers, nachos, and pizza."
"I still don't drink, Don."
"Sorry, that's my diet, with bouts of deli food and chinese."
"Yeah, I do a lot of chinese." He flinched as someone shot at them. "The Xander or the Don appreciation society?"
"Eeeh, I think mine." Another shot. "Hit Mac for me." Xander hit the send button and input the code, handing it to him. "Mac, me. What's Westerfall doing out? I don't know, Mac," he said, dodging in and out of traffic so she couldn't hit him again. Another shot and this one cracked his back window. "Yes, that was. Just passed the 112. Thank you. Heading to First National, of course. Yeah, I've got the kid with me. Mac says hi," he offered, nodding at the lights. "Would you?" Xander flipped them on. "Thank you. Heading across the tracks, Mac. Come find us please." He hung up and handed the phone back. "I knew it was a bad day when I couldn't find matching, clean socks."
"Horatio is anal about the laundry being done."
"I used ta be, then I realized how short life was to be spending Saturday night in the laudromat." Xander nodded at that. Another shot and the back windshield shattered. "Gotta love good windows. Duck down, kid, okay?"
"Sure. At least it's your batty bitch instead of mine this time."
"True, and Di wanted ta know if you wanted ta see little Eric there."
"Sure, I wouldn't mind." He slunk down a bit more at the next shot. "I hate these people. Can I shoot back?"
"No, Xander," he said patiently. "You could hit someone else. Besides, only cops and thugs get ta shoot back." Another car came up behind them with the lights on. "Finally! Ooh, and Stella. She's still in protective mode." He hissed when Stella rammed the other woman's car, making her crash. He waved and turned off the lights, continuing on.
Xander sat back up, patting him on the arm. "Ice cream for dinner?"
"Sounds good," Don agreed happily. "There's a nice gourmet sundae shop just up the street from where I live." Xander grinned at that. "How's things with you and the big guy?"
"Good. The coach said he's coming to each and every match or else. I'm more realistic, half of them are during the day and he's gotta work for a living." Don grinned at that. "Hey, I'm realistic about it," he said dryly. "He can't just take off because I want him somewhere. The world doesn't work that way. I wish but it doesn't." They turned another corner sharply and Don's phone rang. He picked it up and answer it. "Flack's phone, he's driving, can I pass on a message? Hi, Mac." He looked at the case. "No, I've still got it. Yeah, it's locked and I checked it at the airport. Why?" He bent down to unlock it and look, then locked it again. "No it looks like it's all there. Why?" He nodded. "Cool. I doubt it since that's on top. Sure." He held the phone to Don's ear until he could take it.
"What's wrong, Mac?" he asked, switching sides with it. He blinked. "They looked real enough ta me." He nodded. "Sure. I can have it checked at the bank. Why would they? Then ya know what, they can meet us at the bank, Mac. Sure. Thanks." He hung up. "The guys in the first car say they're paying an honor debt by returning what was stolen to you. They said those are fakes."
Xander unlocked the case again and pulled out the top case, holding it up to the light. "No, this is the one I got. It's still got the mark on the back." He shifted to look at the stone in the sunlight. "No, this is real." He put it back and relocked the case, then looked again to make sure. "Settling is bad or I've got a sucking portal in there." He felt around, no suckage so it must be settling. "I'll check it against the inventory once we get to the bank." Don nodded. "We wait for Mac there?"
"Yeah, just in case. That's all you got?"
"Don, there's like two mil in diamonds in there," he said dryly. "Diamonds are small but very expensive." He looked at him. "Speaking of, I wanted to look for a rock for Horatio sometime during the trip."
"You'll be near that area," he offered. "You proposing?"
"Yeah, in public so people get off my ass and quit sending me shit." He shifted some. "You think he'd do an earring?"
"Damn. Nipple ring?"
"Do others often see him shirtless?"
"No. So classic ring?" Don nodded, smirking now. "Fine, spoil my creativity."
"Remember, he's gotta be able to work with it so it can't tear gloves and stuff."
"I know. It'll be okay. It's gotta be low profile anyway for work." Don nodded, understanding that. "Eternity band?"
"Maybe. If I'm free I'll help ya look. If not, maybe Danny or Mac, or maybe even Stella would."
"Or maybe Diana."
"True. You could take little Eric the viking with you."
"She named him Eric? She was wobbling the last time I heard, thinking about changing it to something more esoteric."
"Yeah, after her grandfather. She didn't think you'd mind so much since the baby's supposedly not yours."
"Do I look that dumb?"
"I didn't think so." Don grinned at that and they finally made it to the bank, pulling into the parking lot. He sighed and looked at him. "At least it's only tomorrow for the other part."
"True, thankfully." He saw Mac pulling in with the others and got out, letting Xander count the stuff in private. "Do the inventory now, kid." Xander nodded, getting down to work. "Hey, Mac, what's that they think they got?"
"They think they've got six of the pieces." Xander got out with the relocked case and shook his head. "They're all there?"
"Yeah, and they look authentic." He handed the case and the key to Don, then walked over there. He leaned down once he had opened the door. "What pieces?" The bag was nodded at so he opened it then he looked at them. "These aren't mine."
"His father said they are."
"His father can leap. I'm not taking new presents. It upsets my spouse."
"It is dishonorable to not accept a present."
"Bullshit." He handed it to Mac and went back, shaking his head. "I hate cranks," he muttered. "Shall we?"
"Xander, there's a letter in here," Mac called. He handed it over, carrying the bag and handing it to Don. "It says they're yours, it was part of the set."
Xander read it, then glared at the other men, making them flinch. "There had better not be anything else."
"His father said his son had dishonored his family and the only way to solve it was to pay you to forget him."
"I'd love to but you keep showing up!" he shouted. They flinched again. "I'd love nothing better than to never see you two or any part of his family ever again!"
"We cannot until you promise in front of a Mullah that you are no longer mad and have forgiven him so he may move on."
Xander pinched the bridge of his nose, moaning a bit.
"Otherwise they will continue."
"Is there one in the city?" he asked quietly.
"Four or five," Don said.
"One up the street," Mac promised. He looked at Don, who shrugged and headed inside. He walked Xander over to his car, taking him up there. He hauled the two men inside the mosque, taking off his shoes as was proper. Xander toed out of his as well, padding after him. The men bowed in the shrine and the priest came out. "They seek the advice of the Mullah," he said respectfully. "They claim this one must forgive their former master or else they're going to keep stalking him and giving him presents."
"I will get him," the priest agreed, heading off quickly. Soon an older man came out and Mac nodded respectfully. Xander bowed Japanese style and the man smiled at him. "These two have need of your guidance, Mullah."
One of the men explained what was going on in Arabic, making the younger priest's eyes bug out.
"Think how I feel," Xander complained. "I just want them to go away. I didn't want their master, I turned down his offer to kidnap me and torture me by castrating me. I don't care what's going on, I don't want to deal with this any more." He looked at the older priest. "What do I have to do to make them stop? Please! This is upsetting my fiance horribly and stressing me out!"
The older priest nodded. "I understand. Come to my office, young man. You as well, officer." He saw Don enter and nodded at him. "Are you with this one?"
"I'm Xander's guard."
"Very well." He walked them back to his office, working on an agreement to be filed with the family. The boy's demands were reasonable, all he wanted was to be left alone. When the others offered more money he snapped at them in Arabic, making them both flinch. He explained to him that they were causing more stress and more harm, and the boy would more than happily forgive him if they would leave him alone and quit giving him things. One of them said something very telling and he sighed, looking at Xander to explain to him that the man's father was giving him the son's inheritance since the son had desired him as a true mate, enough to go against Allah's laws, and had removed himself from the family for it. Xander slumped and shook his head. It was finally worked out and the boy ended up having to take it when they called the father. The agreement was signed and faxed over, then the police took the boy and his new things with them. The other two were ordered to leave the city immediately and did so under the priest's watch.
Xander hung up on Horatio, then looked at the pool lifeguard, smiling at him. "Hi. I'm joining my school's swim team." That got a smile. "Changing area?" It was pointed to so he went that way to change into his backup, more modest, suit, coming out to find Danny waiting on him. "Hey, are you timing me?"
"No, I'm waiting because you're just so damn fascinating," he quipped. "The high priest or whatever called the mayor to congratulate him on how well our officers had handled such a delicate situation. He called Don ta see why. Don started off 'remember that fashion show and the psycho? Same target, kinda, different reason' and went from there. The mayor's scared shitless that you're going to be bothered by more present wielding mad men who're gonna shoot at you on the way in, and suggested mildly that your friends hang out with you more. So, here I am," he said finally, grinning at him. "Here ta watch ya swim."
"For the next two hours," Xander said dryly, shaking his head and diving in. He came up for air and looked at him. "I'm so totally giving up on Eric's diet. I'm faster eating crap food and having a lot of sex." He started off, going the long way in the pool. He put on a burst of speed for show with his breast stroke, making Danny clap a bit and the lifeguard look really impressed, then he went backstroke and worked on that for a bit, then switched again. This was not a great pool by any means and it was more heavily chlorinated, but it'd do. His gym pool was very nice. He finally took a break and checked the watch Danny wore. "Damn, longer than usual."
"I tried ta yell, you didn't hear," Danny offered, smirking at him. "You done?" Xander nodded. "Good, go shower."
Xander heaved himself out and went to the locker room to shower, coming out redressed and damp. "You're out of towels."
"I'm on the CUNY team, sir, and you're damn good. Are you thinking about going all the way?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. I'm just now getting onto my school's team and the coach said he'd let me know my chances at the end of the semester. If I could, I probably would. I seriously don't know." He smiled at him. "You?"
"I'm not that good. I'm second best on my team but I can't even compete against some of the better women. Are you hoping for distance or sprint?"
"The coach is going to try me distance, breaststroke sprint, and then some diving. One of my boyfriend's coworkers used to be good enough but he concentrated on his studies instead and he's been coaching me. He's made me eat all this health food and it's slowing me down. Watch me in a few days when all the good stuff is out of my system," he offered with a grin. It got an answering grin. "Danny, pizza?" He got an iffy look. "Cookies?"
"Cookies are always nice," he agreed, following him with a wave for the kid. "You were damn good."
"I'm better when I'm eating fritos and dip for lunch. Plus I'm bulking up, I feel like I should have a bra or something." He flexed his pecs. "So, how was my mate?"
"Good. He said if you buy him a ring while you're here, he's gonna spank you." Xander sighed. "You said fiance in there. You serious?"
"I am and my attorney and others are thinking it's the only way to stop some of my present wielding fanclub." He got into the elevator, taking Danny up to his room so he could drop off his stuff and let his suit dry. "You really think I was good?" he asked as he came out of the bathroom. He saw the guy with the gun and coughed. "Dude, the jewels are in the bank. It won't do you any good to shoot Danny."
"You, shut up!" he ordered, pointing the gun at him. He looked at Danny again. Then he felt his wrist be grabbed and bitten, making him howl. The gun went off, ricocheting into Xander's shoulder. The guy was put down by Danny and Xander leaned against the wall, breathing deeply.
"Xander!" Danny called, pulling out his cellphone. "Mac, me. Xander just got shot by my brother. No, his room. Now!" He hung up and put his phone back, cuffing the idiot. Well, the other idiot. "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to get between some guy and a gun!"
"I didn't, it bounced off the fucking wall," he growled, teeth gritted together. "Get me into the bathroom, Danny." He nodded, helping him in there since that's where the towels were. Someone pounded and he nodded, taking off his shirt to look at it. It was in the muscle, not the joint, just under the clavicle. "Lucky shot," he said bitterly. Someone came in and he looked at the cop. "Hey. Paramedics would be good," he offered, leaning on the sink.
"Sir, do you have a name?"
"Don't we all? Ya know what, go ask CSI Messer out there. Okay? Just let me pant in peace until the fucking paramedics get here." They nodded and left him alone. He seemed to be okay and they'd keep an eye on him since he was putting pressure on it.
"Xander!" Danny snapped.
"Bite me!" He looked at his shoulder again, moving the towel he was using to hold it. "It's slowing down." The paramedic rushed in. "It's not bleeding as heavily."
"That's not a good sign!"
Xander looked at him. "I'm the one who was shot, can you please quit being hysterical? Hell, I'm gay and you're more hysterical than I am!" They switched out and the other one came in. "It's not bleeding as much. It only hit muscle it feels like. My shoulder joint is fine."
"You have a good pain tolerance, sir."
"Yeah, well, comes with my former life. I was a stripper until about a year ago." The paramedic nodded. "No drugs or alcohol, thank you."
"Wasn't going to ask, sir." He looked at the wound. "That's not as bad as it could be. Direct shot?"
"Bounced off the wall. I bit his wrist." He started some water and rinsed his mouth out. "Sorry."
"Not a problem, sir. You didn't draw blood on his arm. Now, why was he here?"
"I don't know, he was threatening CSI Messer while I was in here hanging up my bathing suit. Can we go over this while I get stitches?"
"Sure." He walked him out. "CSI Messer?" He looked over. "We're taking him to pull the bullet."
"Good, save it for me." He looked at Xander. "That was fucking stupid, Xander! I'm gonna have ta tell Horatio!"
"You do and watch him storm this city," he said dryly, moving the towel. "See, not bad!" He let the paramedic walked him out. "Have them clean the blood when you're done!" He walked back in there and got his wallet and keys, then headed back out with the paramedics. The nurses looked at him when he was drug in and he grinned. "I'm a good boy but I have a pretty good pain tolerance these days. Can we just yank the thing and put in staples so I can still swim?"
"Um, no." She went to find the doctor and tell him. Along with take some blood to see what he was on. It came back negative and the doctor sighed, heading in there. "This one, sir."
"Hey, doc," Xander said, smirking a bit. "Some of us have high pain tolerances."
"Were you tortured?"
"I had drunk parents."
"Oh. Near torture then?"
"Yeah. It's fairly shallow. I will warn you, I do swim and I'll need to get into the pool again tomorrow. I'm working to join my school's team and tryouts are in a month." The doctor gave him an odd look. "I'm engaged to a cop. I'm in college. Please?" He smiled. "Just yank the damn thing since it's shallow? And can you tell me why I'm bulking up when I'm not lifting weights?"
"Any change in your diet?"
"My trainer made me eat healthy. It sucks badly. I hate veggies and tofu. I was faster with my junk food and caffeine."
The doctor looked amused. "Any other changes?"
"No. Well, he made me take up yoga because I'm trying out for the diving team too."
"That shouldn't bulk you up."
"I know, but look at me, I look like I need a bra!" he said in disgust.
The doctor looked then shrugged. "They're not quite that bad. Any elevated hormones in his blood?"
"No," the nurse said, shaking her head and handing back the blood report. "Nothing."
"So I can go back and have a burger tonight?"
"If you walk out."
"No, honey, I'm walking out and if I have to pull this bullet and staple me too I'm going to be pissed," he offered with a grin. The doctor smiled at him and got down to looking at his wound. "So, no reasonable reason?"
"Not that I can see. Any other medical problems you have?"
"Last year my head was caved in with a baseball bat." The nurse snorted so he grabbed her hand and put it on his head. "See, dent!"
"Do you still have a fracture?"
"Possibly, I'm still dizzy when I dive."
"We're going to do a CT as well. What's your usual doctor's name?" Xander wrote it down for him and he nodded, handing that off. "Thank you. Think he's got an on-call?"
"Good. Then we'll hopefully be able to get a summary of your medical history."
"They don't know it all. Ask."
"Okay. Who hit you on the head?"
"Psycho stalker asshole. Within my first month I had my first one. I'm past ten now."
"Wonderful." He smiled at him. "How?"
"They liked my moves. What can I say," he offered with a sweet grin. "And I still never drank, never used, and never whored while I did it for nearly a year. I just made a hell of a lot of money."
"Where was the head injury gotten?"
"Montreal. Then my guardian, best friend, kinda dad who saved my ass from my real father and mother, drug me back to Miami since I was in Montreal after wandering off after a brutal rescue mission."
"Military service?" he asked hopefully.
"Homegrown. Bad town I lived in."
"Not quite, but nearly as bad." The doctor nodded and got back to his shoulder. "Can you do something so I can still swim?"
"Staples would help more than stitches, even with metal wire stitches. It may not hold it as steady while you move."
"Then put in the metal stitches and I'll deal." The doctor looked at him. He pointed at his side. "I saw my guts. I've had them before."
The doctor looked, then nodded, leaving it there and getting the bullet out. He got the stitching supplies once he had rinsed it out then got to work. At the end, Xander got up and signed paperwork, taking his antibiotics prescription and leaving. The doctor looked at the nurse and shrugged. "Some abuse survivors are that hard. It shows how bad it was." He finished the chart and handed it over. Someone came in with a badge and he looked at the older man. "Yes? Which one of our present problems are yours, Detective?"
"Harris?" The nurse handed over the chart. "Where is he?"
"Gone. He had me put in metal stitches, took his antibiotic, and left," the doctor noted. "I did set him an appointment for a CT to check on his skull fracture since he mentioned he's diving now."
"Diving and swimming. He requested metal stitches so he wouldn't have a problem with that. Was he a suspect?"
"Victim." He looked at the folder, then at him. "Can I get a copy of this?" He held up the slip of paper that was inside it. "I don't think he'll mind."
"When did that get in there?" the nurse asked, looking at it.
"His CT is tomorrow at six," the doctor told him, handing over that slip.
"I'll tell him." He took it and the photocopies and the slip, heading back to the hotel where Danny was still ranting. He found Xander there and handed over the slip. "Six. Tomorrow."
"I've already told Horatio."
"Okay." He nodded, laying down on his bed. He looked at Danny. "I love you guys. Next time, don't let psychos in my room please?"
"You bit him!" Danny said.
"He had a gun on you! It's not like I had one." He sat up and took off his jacket. "Guys, if we're having a party, I've got to be up and coherent at eight to get there by ten." Mac and Danny both glared at him. "Oh, bite me," he said dryly. "How do you think I did this on my own?" He set the alarm clock and laid back down. "I can sleep with the light on. Was he one of my fanclub or Don's?"
"Mine actually," Danny admitted. "My stupid brother."
"Glad I'm an only child," Xander joked, closing his eyes with a smirk. "Can we kick his ass again for breaking into my room?"
"No, he's in police custody, Xander," Mac said quietly.
"Okay, just checking. Night." He flipped onto his uninjured side and got comfortable, falling asleep that way.
Danny and Mac shared a look, then Mac went into the hall to call Miami. The only ones who handled Xander with any skill or efficiency were Horatio and Speed. "Speed, Mac," he said pleasantly. "Did you know your boy liked to bite?" He smirked and leaned against the wall. "No, a member of Danny's family was breaking into Xander's room to confront Danny and held a gun on Xander. He bit him on the wrist. No, not fully fine, metal stitches. He got pushy with the doc. I've got photocopies to add and he's got a CT tomorrow at six. Sure. I can make one of them go with him to strap him down for you. Asleep."
Danny came out to take the phone. "He's fine. It ricocheted. Fairly weak. Oh, he said to tell Eric that his version of a diet sucked and he's faster without it. He also impressed the lifeguard who's on his CUNY swim team. The kid asked him if he was going olympic. Yeah, the kid was in awe. Yeah, well, he's complaining about the extra muscles he's got too, says he needs a bra." He smirked at Mac, taking the file. "No, blood's clean. Totally clean. Nope. Not that I saw. Sure. Tomorrow when Don gets him again. Have fun telling the big guy." He hung up and handed it back. "Ya think the kid's tired of being babied yet?"
"Probably. I would be." He walked in. "Anything of interest?"
"Nah. Some blood. My brother was stupid. Xander didn't draw blood off him. It was kinda cute. He was pointing the gun at Xander and lookin' at me so Xander bit the wrist with the gun." Mac smirked at that. "He's a great kid and he'd make one bad cop. Impulsive and mouthy. Just like Flack." He went to call Flack to warn him.
Speed knocked on Horatio's door, then walked in since he was alone anyway. "Horatio?" He came out of the kitchen. "Come sit with me for a moment."
"What happened?" he sighed. He was forcefully sat down and looked at. "What?"
"Danny was waiting on Xander to put up his swimming stuff, and he said that Eric's diet was making him bulky and slow, and Danny's brother showed up to kill Danny. Well, he pulled the gun on Xander, looked at Danny, and Xander bit him. It was a ricochet," he offered. "Danny said it's not deep. Mac has a copy of the records and Xander pulled his usual shit, got pushy with the doctor, and had him put in metal stitches before walking out. But he's good. It was fairly shallow. He impressed the lifeguard at the hotel who's on his own swim team, he asked Xander if he was training for the olympics." Horatio moaned and held his head. "He's fine, he's got a CT tomorrow to check on his skull fractures. Danny and Mac both sounded tolerant and happy so it was Xander as ususal from Sunnydale as opposed to babied Xander that Eric does."
Horatio looked at him. "Why does he do these things?"
"I haven't been able to figure that out in three years, Horatio. When I do, I'll let you know. They said that he's fine."
"Good. That's good. I'm not happy at the moment."
Speed nodded. "Now you know how I felt in Sunnydale watching him go out and hunt. Willow used to stitch him. She's the one who did the one on his side. She told me she could see his guts before she stitched him."
"I don't know. He refused to tell me," he admitted. "That was right before I got there though and he still didn't trust me at that time. But he's asleep and that thing with the guys who kept giving him presents was fixed." Horatio looked at him, mouth opening. "Ah, you didn't check your email." He walked over to Horatio's computer and logged into his account, since the password was automatically uploaded. Then he clicked on the message and walked out, closing the door behind him so he could go home.
Horatio hesitated but eventually got up to read how Xander had fixed this one. He read it once, then went back and reread it again, slower this time so it'd make sense. Then he printed it and walked back, going back to their laundry. That way no one could overhear him cursing his mate. Thankfully said mate wasn't going to be home for a few more days so he had time to quit swearing at him. Providing he stayed out of trouble.
Xander sat down in Don's car and his head rocked with the smack to it. "Love you too," he said, grinning at him. "I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are." He smacked him again. "Dumbass."
"I had left mine in the room. He had a gun. Did you want me to scream like a little girl?"
"Yes! Please! You man has got to be gray by now with the way you do shit!"
Xander looked at him. "I'm not allowed out of anyone's sight down there."
"Yeah, well, you're not up here anymore either. Even if I do have to cancel my date tonight."
"You cancel your date to watch me at swim practice and I will drown your ass and attempt CPR."
"If you even *think* about kissing me, I'm going to kick your ass."
"See, then you're going on your date so you can kiss normal people, and take Danny with you." He spluttered and choked on his coffee. "What? Not with Danny?" His head now ached from the newest hit. "Hey! I still have a CT tonight for the stupid fractures!"
"They let you swim with skull fractures?"
"They think they're healed. Emphasis on think since I'm still dizzy when I dive."
"You're dizzy most of the time, Xander, that's why you bit some guy who had a gun!"
"On Danny, thank you! And it was his brother."
"'Scuse me?" he asked, looking at him. Xander nodded. "Danny's brother?" He nodded again. "Why was he in your room?"
"Not a clue, I was hanging up my bathing suit to dry in the bathroom. I came out and he was threatening Danny. I drew his attention, he told me to shut up, pointed the gun at me and looked at Danny, so I bit him. I didn't draw blood. It was a really shallow wound and only ten stitches." He moved his shirt out of the way to show him. "See?" He put it back in place. "We're gonna be late."
"Fine. We'll get into this later, when you take me to lunch for this."
"Won't your boss be upset?"
"No. Mac told him about the shooting and you checking out AMA."
"They never said they wanted to keep me," he defended.
"And that you've got a CT tonight at six."
"Yeah, and I can go alone."
"And my boss said you're not getting out of my sight because trouble seems to follow you so therefore you can do some of the work for me."
"I can type."
Don looked at him. "I just had this horrible image of you in a secretarial outfit taking dictation and flirting with my boss. Don't give me those." He started the car and pulled out, heading for the bank. He watched Xander check everything then loaded it into the car and took him to the auction house, where he got him to the door then went back to the car. Where he called Mac to get the full story. Because if that was true, he and Danny needed to have a short, loud discussion.
Xander came out about an hour later with only one box and he looked at him. "They didn't like these. I don't like these but they didn't like them." He handed them over. "Here, use them on a special girlfriend tonight." He buckled up. "I'm done so wherever you need to be, can you just drop me near Di's place?"
"What part of protected custody didn't you get?"
"The custody part?" he suggested. Don's hand twitched so he grinned at him and got smacked again. "I love you too, big brother. Let's go see my son. Unless you wanna go hide now."
"No, I don't need ta hide," he assured him, heading for the designer's place. "You might need to before you go home."
"Mac called Speed."
"Fuck," he grumbled, glaring out the front window. "That's okay. Willow's down there for a visit. She'll make Horatio forget. Possibly literally, probably by accident, but he'll be much less worried about me when he meets her."
Don looked at him. "I should warn him."
"She's already jumped Tim by now," he promised. "Willow's a morning person."
"I feel so sorry for them at the moment. We only have you and they've got her." He considered it. "Never mind, I'd almost rather have her at the moment. She doesn't do stupid shit like you, right?"
"Willow? No, why would she?" he asked cautiously. "You know, I can walk to Di's."
"You try to get away and I'm handcuffing and keeping you out of the pool, kid. Speaking of which, can you swim like that?"
"Yeah, I'll just be a bit sore. Why?"
Don groaned and shook his head, speeding up to get to their next destination. When they got there, Xander gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, kid. Go play."
"I love you, big brother. I'm sorry you get stuck with me." He headed inside. "I'm here!" he yelled. "Who'm I playing with today!"
"The bratty thing up here," Diana called from her office. "Who's teething!"
He trotted up the stairs. "You know, I offered to bring him home with me," he said brightly, smiling at her. He smiled at the baby, earning a grin back. "Hi, Eric. Are your gums owwy?" he cooed, picking him up to cuddle him and let him suck on his finger. "You just suck on the daddy person and it'll be all good."
"And I'm the damn tooth fairy, Di." He stared at her and she wilted. "Visitation, honey. At the least. I know damn well he's my son. I have pictures of me making that same face." She nodded and sighed. "Good! So, come open a shop in Miami so I can visit him more often!"
"Have you been pimping me down there?"
"Yeah, all the time. Plus I know a hell of a lot of strippers down there. We make a lot of money with the gay boy draw."
She considered it. "I'll see." He nodded and sat down to read to his son, making him smile and continue to chew on him. "You don't have anything, right?"
"No, dear. I've taken bi-monthly tests to make sure of it so I can't give anything nasty to my man."
"Oh, good." She nodded, going back to work. Finally she had to look up. "You can take him back to your hotel if you want. He's distracting me horribly."
"Sure. Diaper bag of stuff?" She pushed a button and repeated that, and one was brought by her girlfriend. He grinned at her. "Hi, Beatrice."
"Hi, Xander." She kissed him on the cheek, then the baby. "Carseat?" He nodded. "I can do that and walk you out. He should be good for you." She watched him get up and carefully take the baby down the stairs, her following. She looked at him. "You know, huh?" He nodded. "Damn."
"Open a shop in Miami so I can see him more often," he ordered gently. "There's plenty of business and we're one of the clubbing capitals of the world." She nodded. "Besides, everyone at the PD down there has seen my clothes. They're using 'Xander-tight' as an adjective." She smiled at that. "Think about it, okay?"
"Yes, dear." She got the carseat from behind the reception desk and walked him out, smiling at the humming detective. "Hi, Don."
"Hi, Bea." He smiled at the baby. "Hi, Eric." The baby babbled at him and Xander got in the back with him. "What, do I have cooties now?"
"Ah." He nodded and started the car once the door was closed. "We got diapers and stuff, right?" Xander nodded. "Good." He drove them off. "Park or hotel?"
"Hotel. He's teething. I'm an Eric chew toy." He grinned at the baby. "Aren't I? I'm an Eric chew toy." He teased the little belly and the baby squealed and kicked, smiling at him. "You just wanted out of the office to play, young man. That doesn't surprise me, you were bored because there were no toys and nothing to play with. Well I can cure that." The baby bopped along with the music. "Yes, you're a good boy, Eric." The baby grinned back at him and he stroked down his nose, then played with his fingers. "You're a very good boy and never let anyone tell you otherwise, Eric," he said quietly. "That's an order from Daddy. You're a very good boy and you'll always be a good boy, no matter what you do." Eric pulled his finger back to chew on, smiling at him. "I'm good with you chewing. After all, I bit someone last night."
Don grinned back at the picture. He was learning a lot more about the real Xander and not the Xander sex toy that Horatio had the last trip. Xander did a lot of what was necessary instead of what was technically correct. He pulled up and parked at the hotel, coming around to take the carseat out so the kid would have somewhere to sit and eat in later. Xander got the diaper bag and the receptionist gave them a funny look. "Visitation." She nodded and smiled at them. "Playpen?"
"He'll be fine, Don. He's a good boy. He can nap with me." Don nodded and they headed up to play with the baby.
At that moment in Miami, Willow presented herself at the reception desk. "Hi, I'm here to visit Timothy Speedle. Is he busy?"
"I can check," she offered with a smile. She called. "Speedle, you have a visitor. Young woman. I don't know." She hung up and smiled at her, the bright smile infectious. This one wasn't high on anything but life. "Do you know his son?"
She nodded, bouncing a bit. "I'm his bestest buddy Willow." She beamed back at that. Tim came into view and she ran over, launching herself at him. "Tim!"
"Willow," he said, prying her off his neck and putting her down. "Why are you in Miami?"
"Because I wanted to come visit the beach for a few days until Xander got back and then I can visit him. Mom said it's okay because the school's shut down for the rest of the semester since half of it caved in when we blew up the demon hunting base," she said happily, beaming at him. "Buffy's dating a Marine." She smiled at the others. "Hi." She waved. "I'm Willow."
Frank Tripp looked at her. "I never would'a guessed," he offered, smiling at Horatio. "So, are you an ex as well as a friend?"
"Well, at one time I wished I was but no. Xander didn't like me because I was too nice and too clingy, but we did kiss those few times but we were kinda cheating, or well, I was because I was dating Oz, and he's in Tibet by now, but Xander was being cheated on anyway so it wasn't really *cheating* since his girlfriend Cordelia wasn't faithful." She took a breath and Speed covered her mouth with his hand.
"Slow down. You have time to explain the full story to everyone who wants to hear it." He smiled and nodded so she nodded and bounced a bit, looking at Eric.
"Xander said he had a boyfriend. Is it you?"
"No. I'm working on his training for the swim team at college." He pointed at Horatio. "That's his boyfriend."
She walked over and looked at him, tipping her head first one way then the other. Then she hugged him. "If you hurt him, I will beat you to death with a very heavy shovel and then pound you into a greasy spot magically. Everyone will have to wonder where that spot came from by the time I'll be done with you." She let him go and stepped back, still smiling. "But of course you'd never hurt the Xander, right?"
"I try very hard not to. He does mean a lot to me."
"Do you love him?"
"This isn't the place for this discussion."
"Mr. Cranky Pants, if you don't answer me, you're going to be in a rain of lizards," she said with a bright grin. "Literally."
"Not frogs?" Calleigh asked.
"Frog phobia," Willow admitted, grinning at her. "You must be his stepmom. He wrote me about you." She hugged her too. "The same goes for you if you hurt Tim. Heavy shovel, greasy spot, all that." She smiled at Horatio again. "So, do you love him?"
"I do," he agreed quietly.
"Good. Because Xander deserves someone who's willing to shout it from the rooftops as well as pound it into the thick Xander-skull of cluelessness and stupidity. 'Cause sometimes he needs it. And if you do it for him, then I'm good with that. Oh, and if you die, I'd expect to be brought back one way or another. I will not see Xander hurt. Ever. By anyone." She stared him down and he nodded at that. "Good! Then we should chat!" She took his arm and walked him off, letting him steer her toward the office, babbling the whole way.
"The scary thing is, that's a low-key Willow," Speed said, slumping some and shaking his head. "I'd go save him but I'm not that brave." He looked at Frank. "No convenient bodies?"
"Damn. Calleigh, she'll be done terrorizing him soon. I'd run with me this time."
"All there of us can go. He's marrying Xander, he can put up with his friends." She called dispatch herself. "Hi, this is CSI Dusquene. Is there any call for any of us?" She snickered. "No, one of Xander's friends just showed up." She nodded and wrote down the address. "I'll take that. Have me, Speedle, and Delko reporting there within fifteen. Thank you!" She hung up. "Robbery."
"Yes!" Speed said, going to grab his kit and head for the hummer. The others joined him before anyone could realize they were escaping.
That's why they got to miss Ryan coming in to beg for something to do while he healed. He walked up to the office and tapped on the door. "Horatio?" he asked when it opened. "Is this a bad time?"
"No, one of Xander's friends is here, Ryan. Come on in." He let him inside. "Willow Rosenburg, this is Ryan Wolfe, one of my CSIs and he's trying to figure out why Xander attracts the wrong sort of person."
"It's a Xander thing," she sighed. "I have *so* many stories of bad Xander dates." Ryan perked up at that. "You wanna hear them? Horatio said his past is his past, as long as it doesn't come back to try to kidnap him again, but I know someone down here needs to know. Otherwise Xander will start doing stupid stuff, like biting the vampires who're trying to bite him back."
"No, he bit the gunman who was trying to hurt him last night," Horatio noted dryly.
She nodded. "Yeah, that's a Xander thing to do." She gave Ryan her most perky smile. "Are you okay? You look really tired."
"I had a bomb embedded in my chest a few weeks back. They won't let me come back to work for another three weeks."
She got up and pulled his shirt away, peeking down it with a small blush. "Don't mean to intrude but I do a mean healing spell." She sat him down on the couch and took his shirt off him, then the bandage, getting down on her knees in front of him, hand nearly touching the wound. She closed her eyes and reached for the local power, feeling the calm, strong, watery, good power that was around her. "Wow, you guys have nice feeling power around here." She started to work the spell, weaving it around him and through him. She concentrated on just healing him, not improving him or anything, just healing him, and when she finished she looked at his chest. It had an icky scar but it was closed. She pressed gently around it. "Any pain?" He shook his head slowly. "Seriously. Any at all?"
"No. It's good."
She beamed. "The power is so much easier to work with around here. It's so much easier to not make mistakes. Has Xander ever told you about the time I accidentally changed him into a girl while I had PMS and I was wanting someone to commiserate with and he was the only one around?" He slowly shook his head. "Then we should do that while you wait for your doctor to see you, just to make sure you can come back to work." He smiled at her. "Please? Horatio thinks I'm a flake."
"No, I think you're hyper. Don't put words in my mouth, Willow." She looked at him and he nearly shivered at the touch of power in her eyes. It was driving her slowly insane. "Thank you for healing Ryan. You do know that Xander won't be back for another four days?"
She beamed and nodded and the scary parts were gone again. "I was planning on meeting you and talking with you, and the new stepmom to the group, the nice blonde woman who gives good hugs, and talking to her, and then I was going to get a tan because Sunnydale's been a lot of rain recently. Then I'll pounce the Xander. He's swimming again?"
"He is, he's trying out for the college team. They think he's going be very good. Eric Delko is working on his training for the moment until he can join the team."
"They were running to a scene when I came in," Ryan admitted.
"Poo. I guess I'll have to corner them later." She smiled at him. "I can tell you all you want about Xander and his skills at picking the wrong guy until this one. Of course, if he's scary then he's right up Xander's alley but I know he'd never hurt him because he knows I can make him suffer before I turn him into a greasy spot with a big, heavy shovel." Then she smiled sweetly at him. "Don't you?"
"I figure you could. Ryan, why don't you show Miss Rosenburg around today, that way you have something to do until your doctor clears you."
"Sure, Horatio, thank you. This'll help my research a lot." He looked at her as he walked her out, putting back on his shirt. "I've been analyzing Xander while he stripped to see if there's a pattern to why he pulled the mentally unstable people he did."
"Really? Is he any good?"
"Yeah, he made half a million dollars his last night, when he walked out with Horatio to prove he was quitting."
She stopped him, looking at him. "I tell you what you want about Xander, you tell me what I want about Horatio and the pretty blonde woman who hugs."
"Okay," he agreed, smiling at her. She was really easy to like. "So, how did you do that?"
"Huh. Can you quantify that?"
She nodded and beamed. "Yes, actually I can." She bounced a bit. "I've been doing that for a while now with my computer skills. I'm kinda the techie witch." He smiled and they continued out.
"I pity that man," Yelina said from her hiding spot.
"Better him than us," Frank told her. "Xander grew up with her. She babbles worse than him on Jolt." She pinched so he looked at her. "He does."
"He does," she agreed. They headed to make sure Horatio was still alive.
He was on the phone with someone named Fredro talking about Willow and her sanity. He was taking notes about how to help her if she stayed, then he hung up and looked at them. "Yes, that was Willow, as in part of the trio of Buffy, Willow, and Xander. She's in town for at least another five days. She'll be talking with Xander when he gets back. She also just healed Mr. Wolfe's injuries totally. I saw her do it. My friend Fredro said she's only mildly dangerous to the world at the moment and it can be fixed as long as she never goes back there. Apparently her college is having a small vacation since half of it caved in after they blew up a secret military project that was torturing demons and other things without caring if they hunted or not. If I should suddenly disappear, talk to her. Please." They both nodded at that and walked off, going to find somewhere far away from the girl to be.
"Can we get Xander to call her and tell her to leave him alone?" he asked her.
"No. It won't work. Your best friend will always hurt the person you love if they hurt you."
"So that's what happened to Stetler when he hit you?"
She smiled at him. "Ray Jr. stopped me from going for my gun. He called him. I wouldn't have let his body be found." Frank smiled at her then behind her. She looked at her husband. "Raymond."
"Yelina. Would you like to go to lunch with me?"
"We'll see. I still have an hour."
"Go, I can cover and take the later one today. The rookie can do his share of the work for a change," he promised. She nodded and went with him. "Learn the lesson, Ray," he warned. "If you hurt her, it may be Horatio, it may be Xander, or it may be your son, but one of them will get you for it." He let him go, smiling at his back. "Or maybe he'll just ask Willow to do it for him. Change him into something cute and furry and give his son a pet." He smiled as he went back to his desk. "Yelina just got taken to lunch, next case is yours, rookie."
"Yes, Detective Tripp," he said politely. "When is the Harris boy coming back?"
"Few days. Why? You wanna start stalking him now too?"
He looked at him. "No! I'm not some vile pervert. It just seems that Lieutenant Caine is happier with him around and things seem to go smoother when he's happier."
Frank looked at him. "Ever heard any of the rumors about the Wrath of Caine that started after Speedle died?" He slowly shook his head. "You should ask some of the patrol guys about that. There's a reason for the phenomenon you've witnessed. It's called fear of the Wrath of Caine." He grinned. "Don't worry, in a few years you'll be able to tell when there's a storm coming from him and take cover. It only took me ten years and Yelina six. Xander seemed to catch it within hours." The rookie moaned. "Don't worry, you'll make it that long as long as you don't piss off Horatio, especially about his boy. Or his hummer. Or his team really. Those're the only three things that the Wrath of Caine comes out about."
"Not funny, Frank," Horatio yelled as he headed for the break room. He came back with a diet soda and a picture. "From Xander. The other Eric in his life."
"Oh my god! That is his kid," he said, staring at it, then at Horatio. "Are you okay with this?"
"Pissed. She's keeping him from seeing him most of the time but he's teething and she's trying to work so he's got him the whole day." He handed the rookie the soda. "You'll need it. The next case is in a butcher's shop, someone carved up a customer and tried to feed it to people. Let's go. Now." He nodded, popping open the soda to take in on the way to hopefully keep things down.
"Apparently the boy doesn't do nauseous very often. He'll learn with some of the scenes we get around here." He smiled at the picture. "He's a cute little guy. He's a little mini- Xander." He grinned at that and tucked it next to his computer for now. Maybe he'd get to see what a normal Xander was like with the kid around now and then. Either that or they'd see that hyper-protective Xander that Yelina nicknamed Xander Caine. 'Cause Horatio could be such a bad influence on the boy, making him all serious and wear suits now and then. His email beeped and he opened it, finding a message that had been forwarded last night. He read the declaration, chucking at it. That was so cute! Maybe it'd stop the next one before they had to go to Ryan to find an antidote for Xander Syndrome. He still thought it was a genetic thing. The same thing that made all those guys alpha dogs and pains in the ass to deal with made them vulnerable to Xander. Which was why Horatio was snared and he wasn't. He was an alpha dog, but not like that guy. No one out-alpha'd Horatio Caine, even on his mildest and happiest days. As many federal agents had found out the hard way.
Xander looked up from his reading the next morning and got the phone, smiling at the tired voice on the other end. "Did you want him back? No, he's napping beside me. He got worn out by the cartoons," he said quietly. His son blinked up at him. "Never mind, he's up. Good morning, Eric," he cooed, smiling at him. "Did you have a good nap?" His son scooted over and laid on his stomach. "Sure, you go back to it, little guy." He went back to the phone. "Sorry, he's going back to it. Up to you, Beatrice. You know I don't mind." He grinned. "Sure." He hung up and stroked over the baby's head, making him a happy, sleepy baby, and went back to his reading. He thought about calling Horatio but he was probably on a scene or Willow was bothering him. Since he was content to sit and read, they could work and he'd call later that night to talk to his mate. The next time the phone rang, he got it faster. "Harris." He smiled. "Well, actually I'm visiting with my son, but I can do that. Sure!" He grinned. "Yup, within an hour. Was there a problem?" He beamed. "Good for me then." He hung up and called his lawyer.
"I may get to come back earlier. They had a private client who wanted some stuff like mine and he bid more than my asking price. We're going to do that right now. Thank you." He hung up and wiggled free, getting dressed and then pulling out an outfit for his son. He got the sleepy boy dressed and ready to go, thanking his mothers for picking one of those car seats with a handle. Everything got put back together and he strapped the baby in, carrying him down to the lobby. He noticed someone looking at his back and adjusted the gun, shrugging a bit. "I'm under security watch. I've got a license." She nodded at that. "Cab?" The doorman got one for him and he got in, strapping the baby in the back. "Christies, please." It wasn't a long ride and the baby mostly slept through it so he was a happy daddy at the moment. He paid and tipped, then got the baby out and inside, smiling at the waiting guard. "I didn't feel like leaving the gun there," he said quietly, showing it to him. "Not with the way I almost got broken into last night."
"I understand. Our receptionist can watch the baby for you."
Xander shook his head. "I've only got him for visitation. Besides, he's asleep." He smiled and walked back to the office with the guard, nodding at the woman helping him. "Hi."
"I didn't know you had a son," she said, smiling and shaking his hand.
"Yup. News ta me the last time I showed up. This is Eric. His mother is still trying to claim his father's some whore she picked up one night." She blushed at that. "Sorry, I'm a bit blunt most of the time. I save socially polite for when my boyfriend has to smooze for his job."
She smiled and nodded. "I can understand that. Well, we need to know if you'll accept his bid, Xander."
"Was it over the price you were expecting?"
"Just at what we were expecting, but over the starting price." Xander shrugged and nodded. "Now the Dubai estate and all that will still have to go up. I talked with the lawyer you've had working on this for you and the legal representative over there. They have no problem with this. They wanted to know if you still had those handcuffs because I mentioned you had them."
"I gave them to Detective Flack since you guys didn't want them and they only hold bad memories for me."
"That's understandable. Do you think he'd mind?" He shrugged. "Do you have his number?" He looked it up and showed it to her, letting her write it down. "I'll offer him the chance to auction them off. No fee if they don't get sold of course." She looked at the papers in front of her, then at him again. "That took care of the majority of the jewelry, all but the pieces in that estate. Those will all be going together next month. You don't have to show up for that auction if you don't want but it could facilitate doing things easier without multiple phone calls." Xander nodded. "You already planned on it?" He grinned and nodded. "Okay. Is your boyfriend coming up at that time?"
"He's going to try. Work allowing."
"What does he do?"
"He's a Lieutenant with the Miami-Dade PD."
"Oh. So you really save socially polite chat for his bosses," she offered with a smile.
He gave her a sheepish grin. "I want him to go as far up as he wants to go. I know the present Chief likes him and he knows what I was so it's all good so far. I figure I can only make people happy that I make him happy." She nodded, pushing over some forms. He looked and blinked. "That's a ....really a whole lot."
"It is." She smiled at him. "Most people who see it for the first time have that sudden thought of the old Richie Rich cartoon and him swimming in it."
"You can't swim through money, it slows you down and it'd hurt a lot more than water to dive into." He grinned at her. "I'm trying out for my school's swim team."
"Excellent. Do you hope to go into the more professional levels, like the olympics?"
"I don't know yet. I'm going to let my coach tell me if I have it at the end of the semester, after he's had four months to watch me train and watch my progress." He shifted and rubbed his shoulder. "Small injury the other day."
"I understand professional sports can be quite painful on your joints." He moved his shirt and she gaped. "What happened?"
"One of my buddy's brothers broke into my room to *talk* with him," he said dryly. "I bit the gunhand to make him drop the gun. It ricocheted. It's not a bad one. Fairly shallow. But it's definitely making my breaststroke feel really interesting." She shivered at that. "My friends all yelled that I bit him."
She nodded. "I would too. That's dangerous!"
"That's kinda like my former life though," he admitted dryly. "Before I was a stripper and I found psychos liked me more than usual." She nodded and got back to the paperwork. "I called my attorney before I got into the cab, he's setting up the stuff for the trust. Will I have a lag?"
"I don't know. If you accept his offer, he's going to wire the money tonight, which means we can deposit it for you tomorrow." She called his attorney for him. "Hi, this is Cheline with Christie's again. Is he in?" She smiled. "Thank you. We're going over the offer right now."
Xander looked at it. "I don't care if he breaks the pieces up. As far as I know none of them were anything but new. This one piece," he said, pointing at it. "Why that one specifically?"
"He said he bought it for you and his wife liked it." She shrugged. "That happens sometimes with these sort of sales." She listened to the set up plans for the proceeds. "He's buying the greater majority tonight and wiring the money for them. That means we could deposit it tomorrow for him. Can you get it set up that fast?" She bit her bottom lip while she thought. "That's really against protocol so we can't be held liable for it. Our insurance company hates it." She grimaced. "Well, I can have a check cut for him and have him fly it back. He could lock it in a safety deposit box up here while he's in town." She nodded slowly. "No, the greater majority of this one and then the estate and the few remaining pieces would be during the other auction. They've been transferred into our custody but not examined yet." She nodded. "Well, those handcuffs went to a Detective Flack," she admitted. "I didn't think we could sell those."
"He's like my big brother," Xander offered.
"Xander said he's like his big brother. Don?" Xander nodded. "Yes, Don." She smiled at Xander and the baby. "He's adorable," she told the lawyer. "No, he's got visitation at the moment." Xander's phone rang and he retreated into the hall with the baby. "He's getting full expected price for it. No, one of the gifters. He's the gentleman who sent the spiral pin. His wife liked it and he's buying the rest for her collection." She smiled. "It's been known to happen in our history. Mistresses and the like do tend to bring that sort of attention. No, I hadn't realized he hadn't slept with them. They sent these level of gifts without ....." She looked stunned. "Well. They certainly liked him. No wonder it upset his fiance so much. Of course. Thank you, Neil. Of course. You have a good day and tell me if you get it set up by late tomorrow. That way I can have the check cut the next day and sent to a local bank to hold for him. Of course. Thank you." She hung up. "Xander?" He came back and handed over the phone. "Hello? No, this is Cheline at Christies. No, I was told that Mr. Harris gave you those handcuffs as a gift and it seems that someone may be interested in them so I was wondering if you wanted to auction them off with the rest of his things. No, he's said that they're yours." Xander nodded at that. "So you could do that on your own. No, if they didn't sell you wouldn't be liable for any fees. If they did, they'd be your profits. Xander has said he gifted them to you so they're yours."
"I told him to use them on his girlfriend actually," Xander admitted dryly. Eric yawned and blinked at him, then squealed. "Hi, Eric." He got him free of the car seat and held him in his lap, rubbing noses with him. "How is Eric?" Eric hugged him. "I love you too." He patted him on the back and reached down into the diaper bag, pulling out a bottle. "Want some liquid lunch before we get the real stuff?" The baby grabbed the bottle and sucked happily, content to be held for now. He grinned at her. "I make a good daddy."
"You do, you make a very attentive father, Xander." She smiled at the voice on the other end. "If you want. No, he's here at the moment, sitting across from me. He had a serious offer for the majority of what he brought me." She smiled at that. "Thank you, Detective Flack. Yes, I can be here and keep him here safely. We still have some paperwork to finish for the sale. Thank you." She hung up and tossed the phone back, watching him catch it. "He seems very nice."
"He is but he has the worst luck dating. Nearly as bad as mine." She blushed at that so he grinned. "I have ta try for my big brother. He deserves a nice girl. One who'll appreciate his sense of humor."
She blushed brighter. "I'm taken but my assistant isn't and I'll introduce them for you, Xander." She pulled out a few more forms and pushed them over. "Would you like me to hold him while you look that over?"
"He's probably going to need changed after this," he offered. She shrugged so he carefully stood up and transferred over the baby, then sat down to look at the forms. Don came in a few minutes later and he showed him the summary page, getting a long stare. He nodded and got back to work reading and signing, then letting her sign them. She smiled and handed back the baby. "Oooh, someone needs a diaper change," he said, poking him on the belly. The baby cackled at that. "Yeah, I'll change you on the way out, little guy. Give Xander a few minutes, okay?" The baby went back to sucking down his lunch.
"He doesn't eat solids yet?"
"He does, I just don't have any. We had oatmeal for breakfast and half my scrambled eggs. The baby eats like me too." Don laughed at that. "So, now what?"
"Well, your attorney said he'd be able to have it set up in two days. If so, I can hold off cutting that check that long. If not, I'll have to send you back down with a physical check and have him deposit it that way." He nodded, accepting that. "If we have to do that last one, we can have it sitting in a bank, safely stored until right before you have to leave. I'm sure the Police Department had plans to escort him?"
"Just his buddies but we've played bodyguard for him before. I did on the way in." She smiled at that. "Any other orders?"
"No, not yet. We'll know more when he finds out if he can set this up that quickly. That'll be the deciding factor." She smiled at him. "Let me lead him to the bathroom so he can change the little guy and I get the forms notarized by my supervisor." She got up and led them out there, the folder covering the new wet spot on her. "Delilah, this is Detective Flack. He'll be here helping Mr. Harris with his auction. Can you keep him entertained while Mr. Harris changes his son and I have this notarized?" She nodded and smiled at Don, who grinned back. Xander snuck away to change his son and her boss only gave her an odd look for a moment. "I was having baby envy," she admitted. "He's an adorable little boy. His father has visitation with him right now."
"That's fine." He signed the last form and stamped it, then handed it back. "There you go."
"Thank you, sir." She went back, going back to her desk. Xander came back a moment later and she winked. "You're all done with me for the day. I'll call you in two days to make sure we have everything." He nodded and stood up, shaking her hand. Then he got the baby strapped back in, his bottle still possessively held, and the diaper bag picked up. "You have fun with him."
"I plan on buying a backpack system for him and we're going to go ring looking for my fiance." He grinned and walked out, sliding behind Don. He made it all the way to the door before his buddy caught up. "I could've given you time to chat with her."
"I got her number." He nudged him and grinned. "Subtle, thank you." He opened the door and let Xander in, smiling as he hitched in the baby. "When does he go back?" Xander shrugged. "She hasn't demanded?"
"No, and Beatrice called to ask me to keep him for most of today too. Apparently Di needed a break and they wanted uninterrupted sex. He's going to be a voyeur." Don chuckled at that and got in once the traffic let him. Xander locked the back door and slid into the front. "Okay, I'm going to refill his diaper bag, get him a stomach carrier. Pop back to the hotel for lunch and to check in with my man and everyone, make sure Willow hasn't turned anyone to lizards or kitties, and then go ring looking this afternoon."
"Leave the gun if you're going ring looking, kid." He started the car and checked the baby, turning on the radio. That got a coo and he grinned, heading to take Xander to a place where he could get baby stuff. "You tell them yet that you've got visitation this time?"
"Nope, not yet. I was letting them get the Willow headaches out of the way because they're not used to babbling people. She's excited so she's on level four of babble probably. That means Tim's going to have a hard time understanding it."
"Wonderful. We only get a few of those a year." He parked the car and they got out, him getting the baby before Xander could. "My turn, greedy."
"Fine, you carry his big, heavy butt this time. That carrier weighs a ton." Don nodded but carried the baby inside. Xander grinned at the saleswoman. "I've got a long visitation."
"He's adorable! It's great to see male couples helping out when they donate to lesbian mothers."
"We're not together," Don assured her, showing his badge.
"He's like my big brother. My man's at home." She grinned at that and he went to look for diapers first. "Okay," he said, pulling out one. "What size is this?"
She looked and then at the packages, pointing at one. "Probably that size." He nodded and got that one and the next one up, just in case, making her smile.
"He's eating a lot," he offered with a shy grin. He also got a few new outfits and the backpack system, which was going to bankrupt his shopping allowance this time. He considered it and pulled out his main account debit card, handing it over. "That way Horatio can't complain," he muttered, grinning a bit wickedly. "He made me allot a shopping allowance." She giggled at that and he signed the slip, then went to help the baby back into the car. Don drove him back to the hotel so they could repack his diaper bag and drop off the extras, plus have lunch, then he let Don drive him downtown and drop him and the baby off so he could get back to work. On the way, he called Calleigh. "Is she still there bugging my man?" He grinned. "Thanks."
He hung up and called Horatio, who was in his office. "Hi. Eric and I are wandering around looking in windows." He grinned. "Yeah, I knew. Oh, I don't know, Calleigh said she's still with Ryan. So either they got groiny or..." The baby squealed. "Eric said hi." He grinned at that. "No, I blatantly went in and demanded to see him, so I got him overnight and into today. No, we're window looking at the moment. No, mostly done. We're waiting for some final paperwork to come through so I'll be home on time." He blew a kiss. "Right now I'm considering sneaking him out with me. No, his momma had to work and Beatrice wanted time off, so I've had him since yesterday." His phone beeped. "Give me a sec, that's them." He clicked over. "Hi." He listened. "No, we're downtown looking at rings at the moment." He heard Horatio's groan. "Sorry, didn't know I had three-way calling. I'll have to figure out how I did that. Dear, you know you're getting one some day." His 'come home first, Xander' was growled.
"You mean you don't want a pretty thing so I can mark you as mine?" He smirked a bit as he rested against the front of a building. "Well, dear, I was thinking about a nipple ring but Don said you don't go shirtless enough for anyone to see it. So I was thinking something simple and nice, something that wouldn't get in the way at work...." He rolled his eyes. "Fine, we'll do that together. Beatrice, when did you want Eric back?" He looked down. "No, he's presently napping against my stomach. No, I bought a stomach snuggly thingy for him. It's safer and less heavy and bulky than the car seat. No, that's back at the hotel. Don drove us around earlier. No, we had lunch and breakfast, and now we're looking so I have some idea of what I want to get him. I'd only buy it down there once I got money from the auction. Of course, Horatio."
He shook his head and held it for a moment. His man was so fussy. "Horatio, dear, they can't complain if your man buys you a ring. If they try, I'm kicking their asses, all of them. Remember that. Love you. Watch out for Willow proving she's the badder ass if Ryan isn't getting groiny with her at the moment. Love you guys. Bea?" He grinned. "Sure, I can keep him again tonight. Not an issue. Love you too." He hung up then turned off his phone. "I really need to figure out how I did that," he told his son, heading into the jewelry store he had been leaning against, his phone going back in his pocket. He smiled at the saleswoman. "I'm looking for a ring for my very studly fiance, who is an officer in another city. I'm in on vacation and I thought I'd get an idea of what would be suitable for him since he doesn't want anything *flashy* and what's available for styles."
Speed looked up as Ryan wandered back into the lab three days later, blinking at his happy, sated look. "So that's where Willow went."
"I see where your son gets his bluntness from," he countered dryly, smirking at him. "But yes. Can you, um, fill in some gaps for me?" Speed nodded. "Soon?"
"Sure. When is Xander coming back?"
"Tomorrow. One of us has to go pick him up because he's carrying the check back since some of it was on special offer." Ryan looked impressed at that. "Plus he set Don up with a nice assistant at Christies. He called to congratulate me on Xander finally finding taste." That got another grin. "Are you back?"
"Not for two more days," he sighed. "Want me to go escort him?"
"You can, or Horatio could. I think Frank and Yelina are fighting over it too." He snorted suddenly and grinned. "You missed it. Xander bit someone when they held a gun on him."
Ryan moaned and shook his head. "Poor Horatio must be gray by now."
"Nah, he's called four times. He let the baby babble at him for a few minutes too. He's had Eric most of the trip. So he might be coming back with the baby. We're not sure yet." Ryan nodded at that and came in to help. "What did you want to know?"
"How close are she and Xander? She told me they cheated with each other once and it was panic on her part, so she regrets it."
"They've been friends since the first day of school. He protected her from the bullies and she helped him with his homework." He smiled a bit at that. "She's got a brilliant mind, but it's being rotted by her magic addiction at the moment. Getting her off the hellmouth would probably be for the best." He nodded more slowly, looking less happy. "See, magic makes you feel giddy and drunk, like any really good high. Darker magic, well, that feeling is stronger and it burns, but it's like good scotch running through your veins. The burn leads to something more pleasant." He nodded once at that. "Willow's started down that path. She's still uptight enough to get out if she had a reason, a very good reason, like a really good boyfriend who would make her focus on other things. If she ever has a baby, her magic's gone. I've already been told that by the same people who sent me back. She's sweet, she's nice, she's protective and possessive, but she's got damn little self esteem. Her parents had not a clue what to do with her. They let her wander all around town all hours of the night and day. If she hadn't liked learning, she never would've went to school. Also, it's harder to get the dark magic down here than it is there. There it's all over the town, it's what she learned on. Here, you can touch a bit of blood magic down in Little Havana or near some of the more ancient religions around the area. It's almost impossible to find it locally."
"She said the power around here was easier to work with when she worked on my chest."
Speed nodded. "It is. Even Xander's noticed and he doesn't use it." That got another smile. "Okay, the occasional 'I lost my wallet or keys' but mostly he doesn't use it. Willow likes to use it. She wrote me about this neat clothes changing spell she learned a few weeks back. So someone else to focus on who's not in the life and can be a bit more cautious would be good for her. So if you make her happy, be aware that that'll be you."
Ryan nodded. "So if we're happy then it's all good and it's something I'd probably do anyway?"
"Oh yeah. With a guy like you that loved her and made her do other stuff to amuse and be with him, like walk in the park and things, it'd come naturally." He glanced up the hall and smiled at her. "Yes, you." She came in. "I think it'll come naturally and even Giles is worried, Willow."
"I know, that's why he sent me," she admitted dryly, looking at Ryan. "I'm not that bad."
"You're still early in the junkie phase. If you find a life outside of Sunnydale, it'd help," Speed told her. "Don't do it for that reason, Willow. Do it because you found a life outside of Sunnydale. Move to Miami if you want to stay with Ryan just because he's Ryan and he's a great guy, with some OCD issues. Do it for the right reasons and the rest'll come. I will warn him that you babble worse when you're happy and bouncy." Ryan grinned at that and blushed a bit, nodding. "Good, then you know." He made Willow look at him. "Do you want to be with Ryan enough to give up Sunnydale? Seriously give up Sunnydale. Not the magic, not the hunting stuff, but Sunnydale itself. Do you want to be that much to Ryan that you want to run to Vegas with him?"
She swallowed and nodded. "It clicked, Tim, like it did with Oz."
"Then tell him that and explain it to him. That way I can get back to work since he can't come in for the next two days." She nodded and led Ryan off to walk with him outside. He looked up and shook his head. "Okay, anything else? Like the baby?" He grinned when no visions hit him. "Good." He got back to work, smiling at Horatio as he prowled past. "Hey." Horatio backtracked to look at him. "Willow and Ryan are having a serious talk outside."
"What did she do?"
"She fell in love." He smiled at that and relaxed. "That doesn't let you off the hook if you hurt Xander, H. She will kill your ass if you hurt her best friend ever. She's known him since the first day of school." That got another accepting smile. "It might also do her good. Ryan looked like he was ready to dance."
"Which means it's probably mutual," he agreed. He came in and shut the door. "He went looking at rings."
"Well, the only way to make sure everyone leaves him alone is to have that loud, open wedding." He stared at him. "Besides, you've marked Xander as yours. He basically only brought suits with him to New York. Your sister-in-law calls him a Caine whenever she sees him in a suit." That got a smaller, wickeder smirk. "He marked himself with that piercing for you. You don't wear any visible marks of his, even ones that others won't see. So yeah, I'd expect a ring, even if it isn't an engagement ring, I'd expect a very nice ring. After all, he's got money and you do love him that much."
"I'd rather wait on that until he graduates." He moved closer. "There are days when I feel like you toward him, that parental nagging."
"I feel the same way about Calleigh sometimes too, Horatio. That's who our lovers are. Everyone needs a shove sometimes and you should be able to go to your mate for advice on the important stuff. If you were going to change departments, wouldn't you ask his advice?" Horatio nodded silently. "Same thing with his college and swimming stuff, plus with the baby. When you're that tight together, you don't make life-altering decisions without telling the other person."
"True. I still feel wrong about him giving me a ring."
"That's because he's always wanted to be the chased one," Speed reminded him with a smirk. "Xander likes being beta to you and alpha to everyone else. You're the only one he goes onto his back for. The only one he'll ever willingly go on his back for. So maybe you should let him buy you something modest, like a necklace, and you buy him a ring." Horatio nodded, accepting that. "Good. Are you expecting him to come off the plane either pouting or with the baby?"
"I just got off the phone with Mac. He went to talk to Diana and remind her that Xander still had the baby and unless she wanted to watch the baby leave for Miami permanently she should probably get him back today. He just handed him back and called to pout. I don't think she's ready to be a mother."
"No, maybe not. Beatrice seems to be okay but she's probably got mommy burn out at the moment since she's the main mommy. I know he, Danny, and Don all got to play with the baby for hours on end, wearing all that 'daddy' urgings for the next little while, and that my son set Don up with his auctioneer's assistant." Horatio smiled at that. "Who's going to pick him up?"
"I am. It'll be safer if I do."
"Horatio, he's going to have a damn big check in his bag," he reminded him. "It'll be safer if we send SWAT to pick him up since this is Xander. You're going to have sex in the hummer before you hit the bank." Horatio blushed at that and shrugged. "Let him deposit it first, then have sex in the hummer in the everglades so you don't get caught in town. I don't need another call from Frank spluttering that a patrol caught you two on the beach again." Horatio blushed bright red on that. "Go talk to Yelina, Horatio. Start looking at a ring for my baby boy if you're thinking that way. I know my boy is. The same as I know Willow's pouring out all her darkest secrets somewhere on the lawn at the moment." That got a nod and he left, going to find his sister-in-law to talk to her about this. Speed looked up and shook his head. "Okay. Good. Any other tasks today?" He didn't get anything else so he got back to work.
Horatio stepped up to Yelina's desk, finding Ray there. "Where's Yelina? I needed to speak to her."
"Case," he said grimly. "It'll be a few hours. She's at Delko's scene." He looked at his brother. "Love advice?"
Horatio nodded. "I wanted her opinion on doing something earlier than I had planned."
"We can go talk." Horatio gave him a long stare, which made him shiver. "I am your brother, Horatio Caine. Even if I don't like your little boy toy, I'm still your brother. Now, let's go." Horatio relented and led him out back to walk around in the small park they were next to. "What's going on? A fight?"
"No. Serious thoughts," he said quietly, glancing at him. "Xander's been thinking about proposing." Ray stopped and stared, blinking hard. He turned to look at him. "With the way our relationship works, I'd rather do it first, but I'm not sure he's ready yet." He watched his face. "I was planning on waiting until he graduated."
"Okay, first issue, the boy's not as young as his physical age. I know threats and he meant what he said. If you ever get severely injured, someone's going to pay. He's going to ruin them, dance on the ashes of their former lives, and then hurt them a lot. Secondly, what makes you think you have that much time, Horatio?" Horatio moaned and rubbed his head. He stepped closer. "Ray Jr. told me about the baby. Does she want him back?"
"No. She and her girlfriend are very close and they've let Xander have Eric the whole time he was up there until an hour ago," he said quietly. "I'm more than willing to accept Eric living with us, Ray. He's very happy being a father."
"Good. That's one problem out of the way. What about the department? For all that they like you being calmer and less snarly, there's still some guys who don't like him because he's gay. Frank told me to watch out for you, that one or two were stopped before they could try anything. To be honest, I don't like that you're involved with a guy, but I'm not going to try to kill you. They would, or at least kill him. Hell, he attracts trouble, Horatio. It wouldn't be that hard to point some at him some day. The more he spoils you and helps the department with stuff, the worse they hate him." Horatio slumped and nodded. "You lost Speed and you lost me, Horatio, didn't you learn that life's too short from that?"
Horatio looked at him. "I did, that's why I had Xander when I did. I had been moving slower until he reminded me of that point."
"Good. He knows it very well from what my sources have said about his past. That doesn't mean he won't live until he's a hundred, but you won't be there to see it with him. You're older, you have numerous death threats every year from your cases. Does he know how dangerous your job is?" He nodded slowly, staring at him. "Then I'm surprised he hasn't drug you in front of one of the few priests who's willing to bond you guys since you'll never be able to marry."
Horatio sighed and nodded. "I had forgotten that. Thank you, Ray."
"Not an issue. As to why you're more alpha than him, you got any idea? The kid's got fierce bitch syndrome about my son."
He smirked at him. "Remember the tiger incident?"
"Unfortunately, yes. You bit me. Why?"
"His was a hyena."
"Oh." He considered that then nodded and shrugged. "Okay. Makes more sense how he understands you. Then again, he's just as stubborn as you are most of the time. Does he ever get you?"
"Do you really want those details?"
"No," he said smugly, "but I can't imagine you bending over and taking it either."
"You'd be surprised, Ray. It's very special between us. He says he finds home in my body."
"I said the same thing to Yelina once," he admitted quietly. "So, you need help looking for a ring?"
"That depends on whether or not he went ahead and bought one for me. I'd rather mark him more possessively than he does me since he's mine."
"There's got to be some equality there, Horatio."
"There is in other areas, Ray. He's not submissive to me by any means." He heard a giggle and rolled his eyes. "I can hear you, Willow," he called.
"Feeling's mutual, boss, and tell him to follow his instincts," Ryan called, leading her out. "Um, boss, this is Willow, my fiance," he introduced.
"Miss Rosenburg, you will treat my officer well or you will understand why half of Miami fears me if they harm my team or Xander."
"Or your hummer," Ray said with a smirk. "It's kinda cute how the Wrath of Caine works out sometimes." He looked at Willow. "Congrats. Treat him well. He's always working. Alexx is worried about the boy and his reporter buddy."
"Xander drove her off. Apparently she had a few stripper parties with cocaine present and her station is owned by the PAX consortium, which has strong Right Wing Christian ties," Ryan said with a smirk. "He drove her off in the hospital." He walked Willow off, holding her hand and kissing the back of it now and then, making her blush.
"Those two are perpetually cute. The same as you and your toy are, brother. Need help picking out a ring? I'd like to repropose to my wife."
"I'll be taking him this weekend. You can come with us and Yelina. And probably those two and the others if Speed gets his way. Thank you." He walked back inside.
Ray looked up and shook his head. "He's so damn clueless at times. How in the hell did he become the bane of crime in Miami?"
Xander walked into the CSI portion of the station and found Mac, giving him the puppy eyes. "I *so* wanna buy Horatio a ring since I have the cash, but I feel wrong. Why?"
Mac looked at him and sighed, leading him out of the way. "First, because you're the beta in your relationship. You've taken on the girl's role by letting him court you. Most women don't propose, Xander." He nodded. "Secondly, this urge to mark him, would that have anything to do with the danger you're both in or your recent shoulder wound?" He nodded, looking miserable now. "Buy him something smaller. Something that shows he's yours but that isn't the engagement ring you're yearning for. If I know Horatio, he's already got that planned out somehow. Buy him something he can openly wear at work. A friendship ring, a necklace, a bracelet. Just remember the dangers of jewelry in our job." Xander nodded more firmly at that. "Slip it on him some night if you want." He smiled. "That should calm down these urges until it's a better time to marry. Because if you have that big, open wedding everyone wants you two to have to stop all the presents, the Mala Noche will be there. The ones up here even know about the hit on your mate. If they knew who you were, you'd never be allowed out of your hotel room." Xander sighed and nodded, slumping again. "Good boy. Now, go find him something modest and very Horatio to wear at work." Xander nodded and hugged him then took off again. "That boy is full of energy today. I almost feel sorry for Horatio when he gets back." He got back to his trek to find Stella. "Xander was here."
"Did he bring Eric?"
"No, he brought an issue. He wants to buy Horatio a ring but his instincts are fighting with him. I told him to follow his instincts and go for something more subtle that he could wear openly at work since Horatio's playing the traditional male role more often."
"True, but it'd make him so happy to spoil his mate."
"He sent him ten pounds of chocolate last night," Danny said from the doorway. "He bring the baby?"
"No, he's back with his mother."
"Damn," Danny sighed. "Oh well. I was going to distract him on his last night of celibacy this month after he swims tonight."
"He's swimming with the shoulder wound?" she asked. Both men nodded, looking at her. "Men!" she said, pulling out her phone and dialing Eric. "Delko, did you realize your protege is swimming with a gunshot wound to his shoulder?"
"He's got metal wire stitches," Mac offered.
"Mac said he's got metal wire stitches." She rolled her eyes. "Yes, that shows dedication and stupidity. Also, Horatio is getting chocolates. Danny said about ten pounds. Thanks." She hung up. "He'll jump on him later."
"He's going to see Xander's times are better when he's on the junk food diet like usual," Danny noted dryly, handing over his report. "It's the sister."
"Good. I liked her for it anyway," Mac said happily. "Good work, Danny. Stella?"
"Let's get her." She handed over her own. "My part is hair that matches hers."
"Even better. Let's go." They followed him out, Danny heading back to the lab and Stella to the car.
Don walked up behind Xander, looking at what he was looking at, then pointed at one. "That one," he whispered. Xander jumped and looked at him so he grinned. "Seriously, that one. If I was shopping with your budget for Horatio, that'd be the one I'd get."
Xander squatted down to look closer at it, then nodded. "That does work for me." He looked at her. "Can I see that one?" She nodded and took the small charm out, letting him see it. He stroked the side and smiled. "How much?"
"Three thousand." He put down his main debit card and she stared at him. He looked back. "I have it and I'm not paying tuition this semester. I'm on financial aid." She nodded and took it to run it. She came back grimacing so he mentally added, then sighed and called the bank, authorizing them to do it. "Sorry, draw limit," he offered. "They said to try it again in two minutes, let the system have enough time to update." He stroked it again and she went back to run it again, coming back with a slip. He signed it and looked around. "Necklace. Something manly."
"Something that won't burn him under his suit in Miami," Don noted. The saleswoman pointed at a length of chain. He considered it then shook his head. "He's a cop, sometimes he's gotta run and wrestle too." Xander looked at him. "He does."
"Not that often. Usually he intimidates and makes them beg." He looked at one and pointed at the herringbone. "That? It won't catch on his chest hair or his clothes."
"I like that but it's too thick for the pendant," the saleswoman said, pointing at smaller grade. "Usually used for women but that would be the correct size for the pendant."
Xander looked at the chains, finding one that was a bit different. "Will this style catch?" She looked and shook her head. "Can that be used?"
"It can be and it is very strong," she admitted, lifting out the Greek keyhole design chain. "It would probably go very well." She put it next to it. Then smoothed the chain over. "That would go. It can easily be hidden but it's fancy enough to be worn more openly for special occasions." She looked at him. "Marking your boyfriend?" Xander nodded. "Then that would go very well and still be subtle." Xander put down his other card and she went to run it.
"It's not included?" Don asked. Xander shook his head. "Damn." He watched Xander sign the slip and put the pendant onto the chain. "Is that gonna be long enough?" Xander tried it on and he nodded, that worked. "Okay. Can you make it pretty for him?"
"Of course. We enjoy gift wrapping," she offered with a smile. "Friend of his?"
"He's like my big brother," Xander admitted, watching as it was wrapped up. "I don't want him to spend his life's saving buying me a ring, Don," he said quietly, moving him that way to point at the one he wanted. "I want that for him."
Don patted him on the back. "That would suit him. What about yours?" Xander found one he liked and tapped over the case. "That's pretty and understated."
"Which I'm not totally but he makes me feel like I can be quit being so loud and noisy most of the time. It's also subtle, which means that he won't get into trouble. I still don't want him to have to dip into the retirement funds for it." He looked at him. "I'm so fucked in the head at the moment. I had to go to Mac for advice."
Don smirked. "I heard. If you could have *any* ring in here, anything at all. Price not an issue, department not an issue. Which is his and which is yours?"
"That one's still his but this one's mine," he said, walking him over to show off a very nice solitaire done in silver. "Silver's always meant life to me. That's why his ring's in silver." He looked at him again. "It's too flashy and too pretty and I'd damage it, plus it's about six grand."
"The usual rule for engagement rings is two month's salary," the saleswoman said as she walked the box over. "How many is that for him?"
"About four," Xander said dryly. "I'm the one with money. That's the other reason why I feel I should buy the rings."
Don patted him on the back. "It'll all work out. He'd yell if you bought him a ring that expensive."
"His isn't that expensive but it's... it reminds me of him," Xander told him. "That's the one I want him to have. And it's exclusive to this store. So I'll have to come back and get it for him."
Don looked at him. Then at the saleswoman. "How likely is that to be sold?"
"Not very. We get a lot of bankers and people like that in here. Nothing of the manly men like you and like I take his fiance to be."
"Good. Hold it for a day, let him talk to his spouse." She smiled and nodded. Xander hugged him and headed out to the car with the box. Don took pictures with his phone, going to get the other two too. "Got sent ta be sneaky," he said with a wink. "His husband is worried about being spoiled rotten." He walked out, following Xander. "Let me talk to Speed tonight, Xander." He let him into the car and looked at him. "Okay?"
"Okay." He slid in, trusting him to help him with his plan to decorate his mate. Horatio needed that ring. It spoke to him and screamed Horatio's name like he did during sex. He heard the 'eep' and realized he had said that out loud. "Sorry, Don."
"Not a problem. I heard you scream his name before. I took a picture of his and I'll send it to Speed tonight. Okay?"
"Good boy. Now, back to the hotel so you're safe, and then tomorrow I'll come pick you up early so we can get the check, get it cashed if we have to, and then the rest put back into a cashier's check." Xander smiled and nodded at that. "Let's go back ta the hotel for the day. That way you can do your laps early today." He pulled out into traffic and took him back, then called Speed to interrupt his scene. "Hey, got a few?" He sent the picture. "Look at that then show it to Horatio. That's what he wants ta get him. He wants it bad enough to have nearly gotten off in the store when he saw it and he said it screams his boy's name like he does during sex. Well, we pick up the check tomorrow. Oh, yeah. His low self esteem ring and the other one." He sent those two as well. "In that order, Speed. Sure, I can wait."
"Horatio!" Speed called, waving him over. He found the pictures and showed it to him. "That's yours that Xander found." Horatio smiled at that, touching the screen. "I don't think he can find that down here."
"He can't. I went looking last night and I didn't see anything like that."
Speed looked and downloaded the other two. "The higher end one is the one he *really* wanted and the other is his low self esteem ring as Don put it. Don's on the phone."
Horatio looked then nodded, walking off to talk with Don. "Don't let him buy his own ring, Don. I found him one. No, more special than either of those." He smiled at the announcement of the other gift. "Mac?" He smirked. "He told me." Frank gave him an odd look as he walked over, holding up a finger. "Only mine. How much was it?" He considered it. "His is more, my pride'll be fine. Thank you. Yeah, tell him to hide it for a bit from me too. That's fine, he can do that. Thank you for helping him with that before he went insane. Yeah, that'll be fine. Thank you." He hung up and showed him the two rings. "The second is the one he wanted."
"The first looks higher end. It's more subtle and that usually means more expensive."
"No, Don said he really wanted the solitaire if it wasn't a matter of money or anything like that."
"Well, you did find that really nice one last night." Horatio nodded. "You're serious?" he asked with a small smirk. Horatio nodded. "What's he getting you?" He found it and showed it to him. "Wow. I'm thinkin' there's gonna be more breath control practice on the way back from the airport tomorrow." Horatio blushed at that. "Just don't let the patrol guys catch you this time, Horatio. Last time they called me during dinner to see what they should do. I told him if he was brave enough to interrupt you, to apply for a position with the crime lab instead." Horatio chuckled at that. "Now, can we get back to work? I'll help you go buy the other ring later tonight." He nodded and they got back to work. He and Speed shared a look and a grin behind Horatio's back. Both boys had it so bad it was cute.
Xander came off the plane and found his escort, smiling at him as he strolled over. "Officer."
"Mr. Harris," he said patiently, looking him over. "Bags?"
"One." He hefted it. "Shall we?"
"Of course." He walked him off, taking him out to the hummer waiting on them. "Your mate sends his apologies but he got stuck on a case, again."
"That happens. I respect my mate for his work and his dedication." He smiled at him once he was in and buckled in. "We're heading to the bank, he did tell you that?"
"He told me you had a fairly high check on you that I had to escort you to your lawyer's for, and that he would make sure it got to the bank with both of you."
"Ah. Thank you." He watched as they backed out of the parking garage, giving the officer a sideways look. "Officer, your tie is crooked." He reached over to fix it, then went back to watching the scenery.
"Thank you, Mr. Harris. I've noticed your husband does dress very well. How was your shopping trip?"
"I didn't get much. Only a few things. I spent most of the time playing with my son in the park. He likes the same cartoons I do," he said with a sappy grin. "He's so cute, officer. He's just such a little me. He pouts the same when he doesn't get cookies. He eats the same messy way I do. He's just so me!" he sighed. "I suggested his mother bring him down here and open up a new store but she's being fussy at the moment. So I'm working on her wife. And the cutest thing was, my big brother took me to a baby store so I could pick up one of those backpack thingies to carry him around in and some more diapers and stuff and they thought we were together." The officer chuckled at that. "He got the most horrified look on his face but she still thought it was cute. How was Miami while I was gone? Did my husband work himself to sleep in his office every night?"
"No, he went home and did laundry and cleaned the house a few times. Read over this declaration he was sent once or twice while mentally swearing at his mate for it, and then he moped around the house until his family came over to distract him by making him referee again."
"I'm sorry." He reached over to stroke up the officer's arm. "Was crime bad? You look very well ironed. Did Mr. Wolfe do this for you?"
The officer nodded. "I would've asked him but he's been a bit...busy with his new girlfriend, Miss Rosenburg. It seems they suit each other and it's so perpetually cute Speedle has gagged a few times with Delko over the look on his face. Of course, they said your husband got the same look when he complained that they were goofing off."
"Willow deserves someone sweet but with that bite of stubbornness who can stop her 'wild hair up the ass syndrome' moments. Those two will do pretty good together and she'll make him quit watching the tapes of me stripping." The officer growled at that, a low, subvocal purr of noise. "Watched me a few nights, officer?" he asked with a grin. "I know a few officers had and they're carefully hiding it from my mate. Thankfully my mate knows I'm faithful." The hummer took an offramp, going deeper into the everglades. "The new security route?" he asked, forcing himself to look clueless. He got a nod as they drove into the areas where no one patrolled and no one would see. The hummer was pulled off the road and the engine shut off, the officer looking at him. Xander leaned against the door. "Don't make me call my husband, officer."
He pulled him over to kiss him. "Shut up, Xander." He kissed him again, earning a moan. "Making me jealous?"
"I thought you were." He undid their seatbelts and pulled Xander onto his lap, moving the steering wheel out of his way. His mate wiggled deeper into his lap, searching for another kiss. "Were you in trouble?" he asked between kisses.
Horatio touched his shoulder gently, and getting no response, looked, then at him. "Really?"
"Really. It was a ricochet. Unpredictable." He stole another kiss. "Thankfully I couriered the check back to the attorney." He got off him and undid his jacket and shirt, putting them over the back of the seat like he was hanging them up, then he got out of his pants and put them on top of the others. That left him in his boxers and his socks. He got into his bag and pulled out the boxes, then put one back. The other was held out to him.
"Open it, Xander. If you want to mark me, you have to offer it properly."
Xander slowly undid the bow, keeping eye contact with him. He opened the paper with his teeth, slowly peeling it off, then flipped open the box with his thumb. The necklace was pulled out and put around his neck, then hitched, then a kiss given and he moved down his mate's body to have what he had been missing the taste of by giving him a slow, torturous blow job as only someone who could hold their breath for long periods could. Horatio moved the seat back a notch and got comfortable, stroking through the dark hair. "I like this present better, Xander. I didn't need marked."
"Shut up, Horatio."
He smiled at that, his lover was feisty and hot for him. He was almost needy. "Didn't you play with yourself and think of me while you were gone?" Xander shook his head. "Not at all?"
"One dirty dream I couldn't stop but if it wasn't your hand it wasn't going to be mine." He licked up the crown and looked at his mate, then at his present. "That suits you, my mate." He went down him again, slowly, inch by inch, moving slowly downward, then sucking hard and just as slowly back up. Horatio moaned and arched up, making him go back down, then come back up faster since he was getting lightheaded. He teased him for a few more minutes before going back down, sliding his body around so he was facing his stomach and had the best angle. It would also allow his mate to touch him if he wanted. It was the best one he could give and his mate was moaning and trying hard not to thrash and choke him. He pinched him on the side and that made him give up trying to stay gentle. His head was grabbed and Horatio had his mouth at his speed, taking control of it. He was pulled off after a few more minutes of his sucking and pushed back into his seat. He turned and went to his knees, hanging his head. "Claim me," he whispered.
Horatio moved, fast, quickly, deadly, and ripped the boxers off him. He had like that pair but he could buy him another one later. He found his mate ready and plugged and growled, taking that out and throwing it out the window. Nothing plastic and artificial went into his mate without his permission and his doing it. He slammed in, taking him hard, fast, and deep. Nothing teasing. Nothing gentle. His mate wanted claimed and he was getting claimed. His mate was being mated with like he was in heat and that's all he needed to feel at the moment. Everything else was extra. Even the sound of tires on the road. Xander let out a low moan and he bit him on the uninjured side of the neck, making him growl and move faster and harder. Xander came and Horatio followed, then turned his mate over, looking down at him. "My mate."
"Your mate," he whispered back, staring into his eyes. "Just yours." He heard a car idling and groaned. "Assholes."
Horatio smirked. "Bad words, Xander."
"Yay. I learned it off Tim." He looked over and the cop went bright red and hurried off. "Oops." He pulled his mate's head down to kiss him. "Please tell me you took off the afternoon."
"I did. Technically I'm on call. If I get called in, Frank had better be dead." That got a smile and he took another kiss then sat up to look at his new present in the rearview mirror. "I like this, Xander. Thank you."
"Mac suggested that I get you something less than a ring since I'm the one who liked to be courted and that it was more appropriate since I'm beta to your alpha." He shifted over and sat in his lap again, stealing another kiss. "Can I buy you a ring, Horatio?"
"You know I want to wait, Xander," he said quietly, stroking his cheek. "Then my idiot brother reminded me how short life can be, especially when people shoot at you." He kissed over the stitches, then him. "I'm going to yell about that later."
"It was a ricochet."
"Tough. I'm going to yell about that later when I'm in my right mind and not in this haze of lust you keep sending me into."
"So, when I'm at swim practice tomorrow or when you're at work?"
Horatio smiled. "Eric said you don't get the night off."
"Fine." He took the deeper kiss and made his mate moan, then moved down to lick his throat and place little nips around where the chain was laying. "Are you mad?" he asked, licking the outline of the pendant part of the necklace.
"No, Xander, I'm not mad. I was only waiting for you to be ready and stable so you could see that you had options." That got him growled at and his mate pushed him back into the back of the seat, ripping open his shirt to nip him harder. "Xander!" He got another growl and another bite, arching up and hissing some. "I was going to give you a choice, not make you go." The bite got licked. "You're so young sometimes and I don't want you to feel trapped." Xander planted himself back on his cock and squeezed on his way down, making him moan and tense up. "Please, Xander."
"Apologize," he hissed in his mate's ear.
"Sorry. I was stupid. You only have me." Xander licked the bite marks and eased up on him, making it good, better than the last time. Xander proved he wasn't some beta to his alpha, he could and did take control of what he wanted - and he wanted Horatio. Age and all. He quit thinking about the same time that Xander leaned back and accidentally caught the horn, then sat up and forced him to let him lay on his back and have him again that way. All his blood was now pounding through him, aching to get into Xander's body, even by proxy through his cock buried in his body. Every stroke, every grunt, every growl and nip his mate gave him proved that Xander was more than strong enough for him to hold and have, and more than worthy of him. He felt something move onto his hand but he didn't pay it any attention. His own mate's ring was in his pocket. He'd mark him when he was tired and panting from his mating. Xander was nipped on the throat. "Let it go," he growled. "Mine, Xander. Mine." Xander whimpered and tightened up again. "Now. Come now." Xander let go and came, letting him follow him. He panted and laid down to kiss him and hold him until he was calmer. The ring box was found and his mate marked by him properly with a long, sucking kiss and then a sucked on mark on his throat where everyone could see it. His phone rang.
Xander found it and looked at it, then answered it. "You had better be dead, Frank." He listened then snorted. "Tell the nosy fuck not to stand there and jack off next time, Frank." He hung up and tossed the phone onto the dashboard. "You embarrassed the rookie patrol. He had to take a personal moment and admitted as much to Frank."
"How much did he see?"
"Me going down on you." He stole another kiss, earning a moan. "I love you, Horatio, even when you're feeling old and cranky some days."
Horatio smiled and sat up enough to stroke his cheek. "And I love you even on the days when you're acting the same age as your son." He kissed his hand. "That looks perfect on you."
Xander looked, then blinked at him. "It's..."
"If you say one word about it being too much, I will paddle you. It's what you deserve and what you should have. You're much flashier and you need a ring that suits your personality, Xander. Something understated and subtle but that makes people drool when they look at it. Besides, I have the money."
"The retirement fund?"
"Wasn't touched. It was in savings." He took another kiss and sat up all the way, putting his seat back where it should be, then pulling Xander into his lap. "You made me mess up the seat position."
"I'll make it up to you later." He stole a quick kiss, looking at the ring on his mate's hand. "Don took pictures of yours?" Horatio nodded. "Look at it?" Horatio looked, then stared at him. He grinned. "I knew Don was going to be sneaky." He kissed the top of the ring. "Silver has always meant life to me, Horatio."
"I noticed both of your choices were silver." He took a real kiss. "I'd try for another round but I'm tired."
Xander grinned and teased his pendant. "Even if you have to take off your ring, this is still there as my marking, like my piercing is yours."
"I wasn't there when you did yours."
"No, but you can pick a new ring for it."
Horatio smirked at that. "Good. We'll go looking for one tonight." He took a deeper kiss, catching his breath at the end. "I missed you."
"I missed you too. Even with Eric snoring next to me, it wasn't the same as when you do it."
"The baby Xander snores?"
"More than I do," he agreed with a smile. He heard another engine and sighed. "We should shoot the next one."
"That would be bad and then you'd have to buy a new patrol car." He pulled him in for a series of deep, probing, stabbing kisses. It was nearly enough to make his cock rise again but he was tired at the moment. "After your practice, I'm going to bathe you and treat you like this was your first time on our wedding night," he murmured. "On the bed, everyone in the family gone. Or else I'm shooting them all." Someone walked closer and he glared at them. Ray only smirked so he rolled down the window. "Do you mind!"
"Of course he minds. It's not like he's getting any," Xander whispered. "He's wanting it, Horatio."
"He can be jealous of me having you all he wants. Only I get you, Xander." He stroked over his back and down to cup his cheeks. "What did you want, Ray?"
"To tell you Yelina wants you both for dinner and you can have him after that. That'll be before practice."
"Fine. Thank you."
Xander looked around, then at him. "Do we have a tracking device on the car?" He nodded. "Where?"
"Under the back floor mat." Xander climbed over the seats, making him blush and look away. He found it and it was thrown over, making him catch it. "Thank you. I didn't need to see that much of you but I'm glad you take him instead of the other way around since Horatio has to be able to sit." He hurried back to his car.
"Can I hit your brother?" he asked from the tailgate area, stretching out. He had to move the case back there, but it easily went into his seat. Then he stretched out on his stomach and spread his legs just slightly, giving Horatio a steamy look. "This way I don't have to move your seat."
Horatio moaned and got up, moving back there. Maybe number four would be after swim practice. At least he got to play more this time. Xander wasn't nearly as needy. Though his ring did look good against Xander's tanned skin when he stroked down his back. Against the untanned skin of his butt and balls it nearly glowed. He slid into the welcoming hole with a moan of delight. This position made him tighten back up. "Remind me that we have to have time to shower," he whispered before starting a slow, long, creeping pace to drive his mate insane like he had the first time he had bottomed for him. He was holding Xander's hips still, doing whatever he wanted to him, and there was nothing he could do but beg, plead, moan, whimper, and growl at him, and it was perfect.
Eric looked up from his burger as Xander came in, nodding at him to go change. Xander took off his clothes right there, leaving him in his swim suit. "Did you shower afterward?"
"We had dinner with Yelina and Ray, what do you think?" Xander smarted back. He moved his arms. "Where am I starting tonight, coach?"
"Depends, how was your CT?"
"A small crack in the back still isn't healed. The one up top is still soft." He shrugged. "I can try."
"No you can't. The entry into the water that way can knock you unconscious and then you drown." He ate a bite of his burger. "Let's do sprints." Xander nodded and moved into position. He let Horatio hold the stop watch. "Go!" he shouted, then took a bite, watching him move.
"Not too bad for someone who got shot the other day," Horatio said dryly.
Eric choked and looked at him, then at his time. "Get your ass out of that pool!" he yelled. Xander stopped in the middle and looked at him. "Come here, Xander."
"It was a ricochet, it's very shallow, coach. It's fine, it's got metal stitches and they knew I'd be swimming on it. It's not infected or anything." He dove down then got back into it, then flipped onto his back for the next lap. "Plus, I weigh less when I eat like myself and not like you. So I'm going back to junk food because I was faster! I'm also dropping yoga because that's the only reason I can see for the new muscles that make it look like I need a bra!" He turned and went under for a few heartbeats, coming back to go back to his primary stroke. He was actually trying this time.
Eric took the stop watch and clicked it at the end. "Okay, he is faster on junk food. Don't let him eat too many twinkies, Horatio. He'll get sick."
"He eats moderately well," he reminded him patiently. Xander got out and moved his arms. "Start from the top, let's do a real one," he called. Xander nodded and got back onto the platform.
"Go!" Eric called as he clicked the stopwatch to restart it. Xander took off and his form was very good. He made the turn very well. "Two more," he shouted. Four hundred meters was a good test for him. Xander made the second turn and it was slightly slower but not that much. Then the third turn was the same. "Come on, Xander!" he called. His last lap he put on that extra burst of speed and hit the wall, letting him click the watch. "Damn, you beat your trial time," he called. "Good job!" He got up to walk over there, looking at him. "How's your shoulder?"
"I swam on it in New York."
"Not what I asked."
"Can you feel your fingertips?" He nodded and wiggled them. The dive coach came over. "He had a CT in New York. They found his top of the skull ones were soft and the one on the back of his head still wasn't healed fully."
"That can happen. Out of the pool, Harris." He climbed out and let him look at his shoulder. "You don't cover those?"
"The chlorine does it good and it's not infected. It hasn't bled since they pulled the bullet in the ER. No biological reason to and the chlorine is keeping it clean, coach. They said I didn't have to."
"You still should. Just so the other guys don't complain."
"We didn't cover every scrape and scratch," Eric reminded him.
"Yeah, but some guys are touchy about that."
"Then why are they in the pool?" Xander asked.
"They love it, the same as you do." He pressed around the wound, not seeing a wince or a hiss. "How deep?"
"Inch, two at most."
"You should still be feeling that."
"I have a really high pain tolerance."
"Why?" he asked, backing off.
"Drunken parents and hunting assholes who killed people. Then stripping later on. I did a show with a fist-sized knot in my back. I ended up on my knees by the third set but I still did one."
The coach looked at Eric, who nodded, then at Horatio, who also nodded. "That's not good for you, kid."
"Yeah, but now Horatio has my back and my heart and things are different and calmer."
"Good. Any chance you might've picked up something there?"
"No. I do tests every other month to make sure of it." That got a smile and a nod. "I quit stripping Christmas of last year." He frowned and looked at Eric, doing some mental math. "She would've gotten pregnant right before Speed came to get me."
"Yeah, probably within weeks. You're just now thinking about that?" Xander nodded. "Okay. We looked it up if you want to know when his birthday is." Xander grinned at that so he clapped him on the good arm. "We'll tell you later. Coach, any other orders besides cover that?"
"Yeah, he can slack off on this. I'm not sure he'll make it to trials for the dive team."
"I want an alternate position anyway since I've never done it before, that way I have the time to learn and earn my spot."
The coach nodded. "We don't have an alternate at the moment. He just got married. Is this baby going to affect your swimming?"
"His mom won't let me have him. I have to beg for visits."
"Fine. Where is he?"
"New York." That got a smirk. "I did go up on auction business but I had him four days out of the five. She forgot I had him there for two of them." That got an even bigger smirk. "If I end up with custody, he likes to watch me swim. He came to the hotel's pool with me and sat in his car seat to cheer me on. The lifeguard, who's on his CUNY team, thought it was cute and I was better than he was."
"You probably are. It's a matter of desire, kid. Do you wanna do what Delko did and learn or are you going to practice your ass off."
"Coach, I'm not good at learning anything. My high school GPA was all because of two buddies of mine. I'm not an education person. I'm a physical guy. I'm a bar brawler, a weapons guy, and I'm a swimmer. Education makes me nauseous. If I can train without the education part, I would."
That got a smirk. "You're not the first who's said that. You know, you can actually train to train people."
"Like being a physical therapist," Eric said with a smirk. "Totally hands on classes that you can practice on us all you want."
"No he can't," Horatio said dryly. Eric looked at him and he shook his head. "His backrubs are mine unless I agree, Eric."
"I wasn't going to hit on him, H. No one in their right mind would hit on him."
"The patrol guy stood and watched, then asked Frank for a personal hour," Xander quipped. Eric blushed and started to cough, walking off coughing. Xander grinned at the coach. "He's easily embarrassed. Don't worry, Willow will cure him of that." Horatio snorted, then moaned when he realized that was probably true. He looked at the coach. "I have good hunting skills. That's why I'm on the profiler track."
"And I get that, but you'll be miserable and all the homework will take away from training time. So, take the PT stuff. It's things you can use and things you can do without homework. Your main team's drills are in the afternoons. That means you and your mate are on the same schedule." That got a bright and happy grin. "As for the diving stuff, we usually have an open spot. If you can make it through tryouts, I can almost guarantee you a spot until your head heals. I agree, you should be alternate until you learn what you're doing more fully." He moved closer. "What happened to your high school team?"
"Someone, namely the coach, was experimenting in fishy chemicals and genetic modification to make his team more fishy through the chemicals in the sauna. A few of them got violently ill and turned slimy. Most of them disappeared. They managed to detox me because I only got hit a few times."
"Does it show up?" Xander shook his head. "Not in anything?"
"No. Not that we've seen. I've had others check. You can run tissue and blood tests if it'll make you happy." The coach nodded that he would be. "That's fine. Three things you gotta realize. I'm faster when I eat junk food and Eric's diet with fish and good stuff for me made me bulk up this way. The second is that I do have a caffeine habit and I'm not giving it up because it helps me focus now and then. Third thing, when I was stripping, and even now, people send me expensive shit. Lots and lots of expensive shit. Hence me having to go to New York to have a tax auction so I could eliminate most of the tax debt from the gifts."
"Any college boosters?" Xander shrugged. "Can you make them stop?"
"Please do," Xander agreed happily, waving a hand. "Horatio and I would appreciate the hell outta that. I just sold about three mil in diamond jewelry over the last week and the estate of some Middle Eastern guy is going on auction next month since it was given to me as well. Including his estate in Dubai." The coach moaned. "Yeah, that's something you might wanna make a note about somewhere. I don't take presents or jobs from anyone. I can support myself while I'm training and in my summers off, I can bartend or something, but people send me shit and there's been issues with that in the past. I truly don't know who they are most of the time and when I do, I send them back." He showed him his ring. "I'm a married guy to my guy. They're shit out of luck in that area."
"I'll make sure the athletic director knows those. Caffeine doesn't really show in the drug tests we use. If junk food makes you faster, you can go back to your old diet as long as it doesn't affect your times negatively or make you cramp. I'll talk to him about the present issue though. Thank you for the warning."
"Not a problem," he said happily. "So, pool times since break is coming up for the holiday?"
"When your stitches are pulled, go back to your usual schedule. Try not to get hurt again, kid." He walked over to Horatio, who had Eric beside him again. "Have you gotten to kill anyone about those presents yet?"
"Not yet. He's mostly handled it and dealt with it when it couldn't be sent back."
"Someone sent him a Maserati so he got a more modest car and the department got six new cruisers and another hummer," Eric told him as he walked back. That got a smile. "He's a good kid, coach, but he's got a mouth on him now and then."
"That's fine. Go ahead and let him ease off until his stitches are gone. Make sure he doesn't bulk up any more than he already is." Eric nodded. "He's got to make at least alternate on the diving team at the tryout, Delko. Even if he passes out afterward. Understood?"
"Understood. He was okay that first day. We can work on it at his gym."
"Good. Lieutenant Caine, do you have a pool at home?"
"Beach access," he offered.
The coach considered it. "Fine. He can swim in the ocean if his shoulder doesn't bother him. Until his stitches are pulled I don't want him in a pool. Chlorine can do funny things to metal wires." He noticed Xander moving to one of the boards. "You tell him to do that?"
"I wanna try the one I saw on tv," he called back, turning his back to them then bouncing a few times before doing two twists, then a flip into the proper position so he could hit the water. He came up and looked at him. "That didn't feel right."
"That's because your head still hurts!" Eric yelled. "Dumbass," he muttered. "Horatio, you've got to make him take better care of himself." He looked at the ring on his hand, picking it up to look at it. "Nice taste, boss." He put it back and looked at Xander's hand, smiling at it. "Make sure your ring is fine, Xander." Xander looked then nodded.
"I told the saleswoman that he'd be swimming with it on," Horatio said quietly. "Plus diving. It's got an invisible wire cage around the diamond." Eric stared at him so he smirked. "I bought his last night, Eric. He bought mine this morning once he got his check." He looked at the coach. "Can he actually find work with the Physical Therapy degree?"
"A lot and especially in Florida if he's willing to work with the older folks. You can go to the Department of Labor and see forecasts and things like that for each and every job description. It should be easy enough to find online, Lieutenant. You do good making him take care of himself and not rely on his body. Can you stand to see him train and have others see him in tinier bathing suits?"
"I'll growl and claim him later that night," he offered. "As long as no one touches him, they'll live." That got a bright smirk. "Seriously."
"He's only possessive about his team, his hummer, and his husband," Eric assured him. "Just tell the other guys that he's very married and his spouse is jealous and is a cop. They'll get the point. My year did."
"You remember Sheppards?" Eric nodded and grinned. "This is her last year."
"Her husband's in patrol, she'll explain it to the guys and girls. Make sure the cheerleaders don't come near him either. For some reason they seem to gravitate toward him."
"He's not rushing a frat either," Horatio warned.
"Good. Less chance of him drinking that way. Nothing before meets, Caine. Not even a glass of wine with a good dinner out. Two days on either side of each meet."
"He doesn't drink anyway," Eric assured him. "Even out at the clubs he sticks with these cranberry ice virgin things. Cranberry juice slushies basically." The coach smiled at that. "He's hell on a floor though."
"I figured he must be if he's getting presents." He smirked at them. "Make sure he makes it to both practices, Eric, even if you have to drag him in. Figure out whether sex the night before helps or not."
"It didn't hurt his time today," Eric assured him smugly. Xander came out of the changing room redressed and cleaned off. "You done?" Xander nodded. "Cool. Where you two headed tonight?"
"Home. I hate staying in hotels. Ooooh!" he squealed, pulling out his wallet to show him the new pictures. "That's baby Eric. Don and Danny helped take the sneaky ones and I got copies. They're all over Stella's locker right now."
"He is adorable," Horatio noted, taking one to put into his wallet, which made his mate beam at him. "He's my stepson, Xander. Of course I get his picture."
"He's almost cute enough for me to listen to my mother and settle down," Eric teased, handing them back. "When is he coming down?"
"I'm trying to get his mother to open up a shop down here. Which means I might have to do more runway shows for her," he admitted, "but that's fun teasing."
"I saw the tape of the show," Eric said dryly. "You looked good leaning on the other three guys. You and Ray Jr. both."
"Was his dad there?" Xander asked. Horatio nodded. "Did he scream and rant?" Horatio nodded again. "Hey, I told him to go back to Miami, that he wouldn't like it." He shrugged. "Besides, Danny and Don belong together and they're like my brothers, Eric. Ray is now my nephew too. I could never hit on them, the same as I can't hit on you." He pinched him on the cheek. "Any other orders, coach?"
"No, Harris, you're looking pretty good. By the end of the semester you'll be able to see where you're likely to place if you kept going." He clapped him on the back and walked off whistling.
"Hey, if you do make the team, the girls' team will have another protector," Eric said dryly. "Since one of the girl's kicked the kicker's ass a few years back, the football team has a grudge against them." He looked at Horatio, who only smirked. "Didn't you get that case?"
"I did," he agreed dryly. "They were very indignant. Home, Xander? Dinner?"
"I thought you guys had plans to eat with Yelina tonight," Eric teased.
"Um, yeah, but then the ho showed up for Ray Jr. and she went off on her. It ended up nearly getting more cops involved," Xander noted dryly. "The girl's mother showed up and started to call the cops until we pointed out that we could get her daughter for dealing and assault for exposing him to drugs on purpose. Then on 'intent to harm' for pushing him into that orgy. Her daughter's going to become a nun in Alaska tomorrow." He grinned and took Horatio's hand, walking off with him. "I'll see you in a few days, Eric."
"Sure, Xander. Take it easy and baby that shoulder." He shook his head and skipped off. This meant he could go out and find himself a nice woman for the night. Or possibly for the week.
"Mr. Wolfe," Xander said as Ryan came in. "My husband thought you were ready to come back yesterday, that you were begging for it."
"Yeah, well, the unavoidable happened, sir. Sorry, won't happen again, boss," he said with a smirk. "Where is the real boss?"
"Meeting with the Chief." He moved closer. "Do I need to remind you why I'm scarier than Buffy?" he hissed in his ear. "And why you're going to treat Willow right?"
"No, no I remember," he assured him, grinning at him. "She said to slap you senseless if you threatened me on our honeymoon."
Xander squealed and hugged him, bouncing him around. "I'm so happy!" he squealed.
"Shit, who fed him caffeine this time," Frank said dryly, pulling Xander off Wolfe. "Explanations why he just went boy slut?"
Ryan held up his ring. "Yesterday was an unavoidable delay, Detective. I have an excuse, from the hospital, but I'm sorry about that."
Horatio pushed through the crowd, looking at him, then at his bouncing husband. "Really?" Ryan nodded and handed over the forms with a blush. He looked it over, then at him. "I'm assuming you're able to work today, Mr. Wolfe? At least until your coworkers take you out for dinner tonight?" He blushed brighter and nodded. "Good. Then I'll accept this and it had better not happen again." They shared a look and Ryan grinned, punching him on the arm as he walked past. "Xander, no bouncing in the station."
"Yes, Horatio." He hugged Yelina. "My bestest buddy Willow just got married." He stopped, then groaned. "Oh, shit, someone's got to tell Buffy. Ryan, did she call anyone at home?"
"No, she said you had a big mouth and you could," he called back, waving his hand. "Don't bring her here, Xander. At least not for a week."
"Crap." Xander looked at his mate. "I'm going to go call Sunnydale. Unless you can talk dad into it?"
"Nope, sorry. He's on a call already," Frank taunted. He clapped him on the back. "Have fun telling him all the news, including about the baby and stuff."
Xander walked off muttering 'fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck,' he under his breath the whole way out to his car. He got in and called Aiden first. Maybe she'd help him. "Hi, mom. Want some news?" He grinned. "Well, let's see. I got more prezzies from the stripping stuff. I got to go up and help Diana with a fashion show with Horatio's nephew Ray Jr. No, the bunny paper guy was after him. His girl was a ho and made him do an open pole and the guy fixated so we ran up to Mac and Don. No, seriously. I'm not allowed to give you the DVD of me, Ray Jr., Don, and Danny wearing the slutty Xander-tight clothing line of the mother of my son." He pulled the phone away. "Hey, need that ear for when Horatio whispers in it. Well, he likes that ear," he said dryly. "No, there's more news. She's got custody and I have to get pushy to visit. Um, what other news. Well, let's see. Remember Ryan Wolfe?"
He smirked. "He came back a day late from his medical leave because he was in Vegas marrying Willow and she hurt his back on their wedding night. Um, Horatio and I have exchanged rings and vows in private. Not sure if we're doing it in public, but he probably wouldn't let us having claiming sex in public. Um, I'm trying for the college's swim team and the coaches of both teams think I may have a shot going toward the olympics. I'm going to give them a semester of working with me to see what they say. Um, no, diving and swimming. Well, the head injuries are keeping me from diving at the moment, but yeah." He grinned. "No, I just squealed and pounced Ryan to hug him and threaten him. You wanna tell Buffy and them for us so she doesn't come down here to kill us?" He whimpered. "Please, mommy? Horatio hates it when I fight and I'd end up beating her senseless when she threatened my mate and Willow's mate. Pwease, mommy?" he moaned. "Pretty please? Just tell Joyce and Rupert?" he offered.
"No, Don came to help me ring shop for Horatio. I knew what I wanted but I also got him a necklace in case he needed something more subtle to remind himself of me." He looked at his ring. "Mom, I've got a huge, honkin' stone of a ring that suits me and I've got the man I love. Do I really have to throw it away by protecting Ryan from Buffy?" He grinned. "Please, mommy? Please! And come to my first meet when I have one?" He grinned. "Sure, I could use a cheering section. Why are you leaving Seattle? I don't know, Horatio's still inside, his hummer's still parked. You can ask. Oh, come on. Please?" He sighed. "Fine. Thank you, mom. Yeah, you can tell Danny that it's a done deal and have him send you pictures of baby Eric. Yes, she named the baby Eric and he's such a little me it's not funny. Yeah, that same designer. Mom, he looks just like me and he acts just like me, and then she tried to tell me the test was negative and he wasn't mine." He laughed. "Yeah, we even have the same cartoon like and he snores like me." He grinned. "Yeah, they all have pictures. Stella's got some in her locker even. Sure. Love you too. Have fun." He hung up.
He decided to take the easy way out, calling Buffy's mother, hoping she was still asleep. "Hi, Joyce, it's Xander. Yes, that Xander. Well, no, but sit. Please. No, it's good news, sit. I know you're not a puppy, you're a very beautiful woman and even my husband would drool on you, but sit anyway. No, I'm telling you so you can brag around town so I don't get beaten to death by your daughter right before I make the school's swim team. Yeah, I'm trying to. Diving team too. They think I'm really good and we're talking about training for future, harder events, but I'm going to give them a semester of working with me before I let them tell me how good I really am, that way they can see me on my crappy days too. Yes, it's important. Well, let's see. I'm married and you'd like Horatio a lot. He's a very nice man. Redhead. No, he was trying to help me stay unbeaten by your daughter. No, that's Danny and he's in New York. He's like my brother, Joyce. Well, yes, there's other news. Willow's new husband showed up today now that he can walk. Apparently she sprained his back somehow on their wedding night in Vegas." He pulled the phone away from his ear. "Easy! I need that ear to be whispered in." He grinned.
"Actually, Horatio is Tim's old boss. Yeah, he's down here too. Same cellphone but a Miami number." He grinned and rattled it off. "That's his cell. He's not in, he's on a scene right now. Yeah, he can tell you how honorable Horatio is and how he babies me like I'm special and stuff. He even helps me with my psychos problem. Yeah, well, they picked up when I was striping, Joyce. They also work with Ryan, Willow's new husband. Wolfe, with an e. Nice guy, a bit of OCD about cleaning his gun, but that's a good thing. No, he's a CSI like Tim and Aiden were. Horatio's their boss. No, it hasn't caused any problems and his sister-in-law and nephew like me a lot. Yes, I'm sure, Joyce, he respects me a lot.
"Joyce, he feels.... You know that feeling that you get with the best cuddle you've ever had, parent or spouse? That feeling that you can't quite describe but it says 'home' to you? I find that with him every single cuddle, every single night, every single time we make love. He encourages me and he's helping me with my school work and stuff too. He's coming to help me practice my swimming and he fusses when I get hurt. He ordered me to stop hunting because it was so dangerous and stuff, Joyce. He gives a damn about me and it's very special. I love my man. Thank you. Yeah, you can come down to visit, but if you bring Buffy keep her on a leash. She tried to attack me in a police station the last time, twice." He grinned. "Yes, Joyce, I'm sure I love him. More than life itself. If he's ever hurt, I'm pulling a Willow vengeance moment. Like they're going to pay if they hurt him because I love him."
"Awww," a male voice said, and his window was broken. The phone was snatched. "The little fag won't be back." He dropped it and stomped on it.
Xander pulled his dagger and stabbed at him, making him scream and fall down. Then he got out. "Really? You sure about that?" He dusted the glass off as other officers came running, putting the dagger back in its holder. "Guys, this man was just very rude." Ryan pushed someone out of the way and came over. "Joyce is coming down but she'll have Buffy on a leash."
"Thank you. Joyce?"
"Oh, yeah, she said she was the mother to the group." He pulled on some gloves and found some gauze, holding it to Xander's cheek. "Can someone get him Alexx?" he called. "He's bleeding."
"Yeah, and so's the other guy," Xander noted, leaning against his car, scowling, arms crossed. The paramedics came and took away that cop and one of the Internal Affairs guys Xander knew moved closer. "Come here," he called. The man came closer. "What?"
"Are you all right?"
"Fine. Can you check my phone? He stomped on it and I was talking with the woman who was basically like my mom back in Sunnydale. I should call and tell her I'm fine."
"Calleigh was inside and she called Speed. She saw him approach the car," Ryan assured him. Alexx came running out. "They couldn't find you!"
"I just got back with a body," she complained, moving the gauze. "Baby, you need stitches."
Xander kissed her on the head. "I'm fine, put a butterfly on it, Alexx. Stitches are for gunshot wounds." She gave him a harsh look so he moved his shirt out of the way. "You wanna check?"
"I should since there's glass in there too!" she said, swatting him upside the head. "Stupid!"
"I was in the car! I was telling Joyce, Buffy's mom, about Horatio and Ryan and Willow."
She looked at Ryan. "The hyper little redhead babbling at everyone?" He beamed and nodded. "Oh, really?" she asked. He nodded and showed his ring. "Congratulations, Ryan." She kissed him on the cheek. "Take this one into the dressing room since he won't go with the paramedics." She looked at the officer since they were still working on him. "Xander, what did you use?" His dagger was thrown back and landed beside her, sticking in the ground. She looked at it, then at him. "You'd better be a damn good shot," she noted dryly. He nodded, smirking just a bit. "Dressing room, Ryan, or interrogation if they need it."
"No, we saw," Internal Affairs noted, raising a finger. "We'd like him to be healthy enough to talk to when we get to the hospital, boys. Please." Then he smiled like the shark he was.
"Please do," Horatio ground out. He followed Ryan, going to take care of his mate. He found Speed in there. "He was on the phone with someone named Joyce."
"Buffy's mom." He pulled out his phone to call her. "It's me, Joyce. He's fine. He stabbed the idiot trying him. No, an officer. Yeah, he's married to Horatio, who was the redhead in that picture you liked to stare at. Yes, I know how old he is. Joyce, do you really think Xander's that young?" he asked dryly. "Or that Willow is? No, Ryan's not in that picture but he's about Eric's age. I don't know, he seems happy and I haven't seen the babbling brook of Willow today."
"She was sleeping to get up enough energy to call her mother," Ryan admitted, letting Horatio move him out of the way. "He should be fine, Horatio."
"Let me be the judge of that, Mr. Wolfe."
"I'm fine, Horatio, and I am a good judge of that."
"You walked out of the emergency room after being shot, Xander. No you're not." He stared into his eyes. Xander relented and let him fuss.
"Joyce, Horatio can out-stubborn Xander enough to fuss over his injuries. Yeah, that's love. Ryan looks like he's happy and as far as I know he's a nice guy. I've only known him for a little over a year or so. Sure. Put Buffy on a leash and come down for a visit. Just tell Rupert so I don't have to yell at him this time. Thanks." He hung up. "She said if he's allowed to fuss it must be love."
Ryan made Xander look at him. "Does Willow have parents like yours?"
"Absentee," Xander assured him. "Long trips, leaving Willow to her education."
"Ah, so if she had been anywhere else, she'd be a prep school kid with absentee and traveling parents?" Xander nodded. "They do what?"
"Even better." He smiled. "They're never getting near her again," he noted dryly, smirking at him. "You good?"
"Enough. A few butterflies and some aspirin and I'll be fine." Speed went to get him some pain killers. "It's not that bad, Horatio," he said quietly. "Just some flying glass."
"It is that bad, you're bleeding." He looked at him again. "You said I could fuss. He tried to gay bash you, Xander."
"Yeah, and he ended up with my dagger in his stomach for it. I'm not helpless." He stole a quick kiss and grinned. "I love you."
"I love you too, but you do worry me some days," he noted patiently, looking over as Alexx came in finally. "He thinks he only needs butterflies."
"We'll see. Take off the shirt so I can look at your arm, chest, and back, Xander." He sighed but did it. "Thank you. What happened to your shoulder?"
"Ricocheting bullet. I had them put in metal stitches so the pool wouldn't bother it. It's still not infected thanks to the daily chlorine. I get them pulled in another few days." She raised an eyebrow. "Not my first, Alexx."
"So?" She moved Horatio, handing him to Ryan. "Hold him. Hovering spouses get in the way." She sat beside him to look at his forehead first since it was still bleeding. Speed came back and she watched Xander take the pain killers. "In a lot today?"
"Headache. I'm glad I was looking in the mirror at my throat when he broke the window." She nodded, making an assenting noise. "I'm fine, Alexx." She swatted him again. "Ow, broken spot there!"
"Sorry, baby. Who did your CT up there?"
"I had them sent to Rettleman."
"Fine, I'll be checking with both sources to see how bad your head is."
"He's going in tomorrow anyway," Speed pointed out. "He was to get this checked out for the swimming stuff."
"Good, you and Horatio can go with me." She looked at Xander. "You keep getting hurt. You're going to make Horatio gray."
"I was in my car calling Joyce to tell her about him and Willow and stuff. I was being a good boy. He attacked my ass, not the other way around."
"He did," Speed admitted. "Calleigh saw him do it and yelled to get them stopped and get the guy help before Xander killed him."
"I stopped at stabbing and taunting," he defended. "I was being a good boy and defending my ass. Defense is always acceptable."
"It is," Horatio agreed. "I can almost guarantee you this won't be happening again." He made Xander look at him and got a smile and a blown kiss. "Are you sure?"
"Dad can baby me if I need it. You'll do it later if they end up pulling the stitches to check for glass." He nodded and went off to make sure the crime scene was being done properly and every single point was hit.
"It's not often you see the Wrath of Caine around the office these days," Speed said dryly, shuddering. "I'm staying in here unless I get a call. Ryan, it's always a good idea to stay out of the way because he will snap at anyone who is not Xander, even if they weren't part of it." Frank came in and locked the door. "You can't do that."
"The hell you say. Horatio just went after the IA guy! They can find their own damn hiding spots." He came over to look at Xander. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. A little owwie since Alexx hit me on a broken spot." He shrugged and winced. "Ow, and there's glass in there."
"Uh-huh," she said, nodding as she laid the last butterfly on his forehead. "You sure you wanna go into the ER? I don't even have a local on me, baby."
"So? They didn't use any when they did it. It had almost stopped bleeding by the time the paramedics got there. Willow could've stitched it for me. She did my side."
"She's going to med school then," Ryan noted dryly. Frank looked at him. "My wife, if I want her in med school and she can handle it, she's going!"
He smirked. "You've got it nearly as bad as Caine does," he taunted.
"Yeah, but my girl doesn't dress me in leather and make my ass look hot. She feels proprietary about it."
"I have a 'you can look and drool, but if you touch I bite' motto about that stuff," Xander quipped. "Drool on or about my baby all you want, but if you touch, I get mean, nasty, and attack. Fair warning if someone *hurts* him." He looked at Ryan. "Your wife'll be helping me by the way."
He nodded. "I figured she would." He came over to hold Xander's shoulder steady so Alexx could continue working even though she was laughing. "Hey, the Vegas people are going to figure out why she turned some guy into a bunnyrabbit for trying to pick pocket me. Sunnydale people are very proprietary about what's theirs." Speed moaned and nodded. "He got enough of that from his small exposure too."
"No, he was always like that," Frank sighed. "Someone once touched his bike. Once." Speed smirked at him for that. "You CSI guys and your mates are insanely jealous at times."
"Yeah, but think about it, we'll never get cheated on," Ryan quipped. "All our spouses know we'll figure it out with just a hair being out of place."
"It was a unique situation and it'd never happen again, especially not with me," Xander assured him patiently. "I have a mate, Xander's mate for life once they've found theirs." Someone pounded on the door. "Speaking of mates, it's one of ours." Frank went to open it, letting Eric and Calleigh in. "I'm fine." Alexx yanked on a wire and he hissed. "You did that on purpose."
"Um-huh." She nodded, smiling at him. "You're going to be spoiled tonight."
"Hell, I was hoping for tied down and licked," he muttered just loud enough for her and Ryan to hear. She dropped the tools she was using and looked at him. "Sorry, out loud again?" He grinned sweetly.
"Behave," she ordered, going for clean tools to go back to his shoulder. "It's healed pretty well so far, Xander." He nodded. "Have you been taking an antibiotic?"
"No. I've been swimming with it and the chlorine has been keeping it clean."
"Okay." She swatted him in a different spot. "You don't swim with stitches, even metal ones."
"He swam with them uncovered last night," Eric told her, smirking at Xander in that 'you're in trouble now' look.
"Yeah, and I did what with my old time?"
"Beat it," he admitted. Alexx glared at him. "I didn't know he had stitches! Horatio told me after he beat his old time."
"Stella called but I answered it," Calleigh admitted. Eric frowned at her. "I thought I told you!"
"I'm going to find some way of removing half the testosterone from the CSI labs," Alexx said firmly, glaring at all the men.
"Don't look at me, I was in no way involved and if you do that, that means all the feds'll wanna try my butt instead of Horatio's." The door opened and he backed up at that look on his face. "She said she's gonna take all the testosterone from the lab. That'll make me top dog and I don't want it."
"Don't worry, Frank, Yelina still beats you," Eric quipped with a grin.
"I can get your ass suspended, Delko."
"Boys!" Xander snapped.
"Sorry," Frank admitted, glaring at Eric, who was still smirking. Xander kicked him and Frank snickered at the pained look. "See, next time follow the Xander Caine's orders."
Xander looked back at him. "What?"
"It's what Yelina calls you when you're in a suit and acting like your man there." He backed away from the look on Horatio's face. "Take it up with her."
"I would but she's off hunting one of the other ones, Frank." Frank ran from the room. "I'll deal with that later. Is he all right, Alexx?"
"Except for a smutty mind, I should be able to get all the glass out of this with a few more rinses," she said patiently. "Can I move him downstairs so I have suction?"
"Eww! No!" Xander told her. She glared at him. "No! I'm not dead yet! No!"
"There's no body out down there, Xander."
"So? The dead like my ass for chats. No. We don't want whatever funky thing that causes me to get possessed every now and then to come out down there. No."
"Fine." She looked at Horatio, who slightly shrugged. "Then we're going to have to rinse it and leave it open."
"Okay," he agreed. "I have taken care of wounds in the past, Alexx. Really."
"And you're going to take your antibiotic as well, right?" He sighed and nodded. "Thank you." She looked at Horatio. "Have you thought about corporeal punishment?"
"Yes, but we agreed if he got that bad, we'd send him back to Don Flack to be yelled at," he said dryly.
"Do you need reservations to New York?"
"We'll be back there next month," Horatio assured her. She snorted and went back to it.
Speed's phone rang so he pulled it out. "Speedle." He listened. "No, his phone was just broken when someone tried to bash him in the parking lot, Diana. What's wrong?" He frowned and handed the phone to his son. "Eric won't quit screaming."
"Eric," he cooed. The baby's screaming came through. "Eric, sweetie, what's wrong?" he cooed. "It's the daddy, yes, it is, now calm down and tell daddy what's wrong?" The sniffling calmed down. "What's wrong, Eric? Are you okay? Is it an owwie? Or are you just upset?" The phone was taken away from the baby. "Get his teddy bear that I bought him, it should smell like me since he used it to snuggle up to me for naps." She got it and the baby's sniffled quit. "There," he cooed. The baby made baby babbling noises, making him grin. "Yes, I miss you too, Eric, it's okay. I promise it's okay." He listened to her rant and sighed. "Di. Really? Because the test I had done while I had him said that's a lie." She paused and said something else. "Really? Like what, Diana? No." He hissed. "No, I'm being fussed over because I got glass in the wound in my shoulder. I had it before I picked him up. No, the night I got there. No, not mine, thank you. My friend's brother broke into my hotel room to kill him. Not my psycho at all. It's his brother, I don't think you can classify family that way, can you?" He smirked.
"No, dear, he didn't have access to any pharmaceutical products. Why would he? I wasn't taking any. Yes, I do believe in medical care but I didn't need any. Diana, it only went in an inch and a half. I only had some stitches. That means I didn't need pain killers. I have a fairly high pain tolerance. Gee, I don't know, hunting those things that go bump in the night down on Penguin Street?" he suggested dryly. "Yeah, so, yeah. You know what, Di. You sound like you need a vacation. So bring me my son, sit on a beach for ten days, look at the local club scene down here to see if my idea has merit, and then we'll discuss visitation and custody stuff. Yes, I'll be more than able to take care of him and this'll make sure you realize there's no more psychotic people after me. He wasn't after me, he was after Ray. They captured him when he was after me and then he escaped and came after Ray. Specifically after Ray. See, not after me at all. Plus, hey, I've got a nice household with my husband." He rolled his eyes.
"I'm sorry she left you, but it's an even better reason to come down to Miami and give me my son while you lounge for ten days, Diana. Whine. Really. On what grounds, dear? I'm an excellent father. Don and Danny and Stella can all prove that to any judge up there. I only have a temper for adults who do stupid shit to me and my family. I'm more than able to provide him with a steady home. Because if you don't, I will sue you for permanent and total custody, and you know what, dear, the gay card won't go as far as you think. Now, you're stressed and you're taking it out on my son. You have some designers who can handle the shop for ten days while you come down here and look at the local and South American fashions we get. Hey, if you set up a shop down here, one of them can take it over and run it under you," he said dryly. "Therefore, you're coming down. Even if I have to come kidnap the both of you. Understood?" he asked firmly.
"Yeah, well, maybe if you didn't yell at him, he wouldn't have been screaming, dear. Yes, I'm sure you were. Your voice is hoarse like you've been screaming. I saw you do it when I was up there with Ray. Don saw you do it and came to calm you down. I took the direct route and took the baby. Now, this time, I'm going to take the baby while you relax, club, and look at the fashions down here. Then we'll discuss the custody and visitation issues. Then you can go back to New York once we come to an official, legal agreement. Because I will be up there next month and if we don't have one, I'm filing for custody." He listened to her sob. "You can't work with him in the building anyway! You said yourself, you can't think smutty thoughts in front of your son! Therefore, those are the days I get visitation!" he snapped. "Thank you. When can we expect you?" He took mental note and calmed himself down again. "Good. Thank you. And if you need help, call Don. At the worst, he can call me and I can fly back up and bring him down here so you get a vacation." He hung up and tossed the phone back, leaning forward to rest his forehead on his fists. "I'm going to kill the mother of my child," he announced. "She was screaming at him for being a toddler."
"What was he doing?" Speed asked calmly.
"Wandering around and he drooled on a design." He looked at him. Then at his mate, who nodded. "I don't want to make decisions for you so you need to be there when we discuss custody and visitation," he said quietly. "She's coming down tonight and I'm meeting her at the airport if I can get the car window fixed." He took a deep breath and looked at Alexx. "Can you maybe hurry up just a bit more? I've apparently got shit to do today, including going to buy a playpen." She nodded, getting back to work. He rested his head on his hands again, feeling the familiar hands stroke the back of his neck and his shoulders. "I'll be fine," he said quietly. "I won't really kill her. Or if I do, I'll make sure you never find out or her body." Ryan chuckled at that. He looked at him. "Who's joking? Willow and I have connections within the demon community. I know exactly where to go to find a demon to kill the mother of my son and eat her body. I even know things that can do it while she's alive. Willow knows how to summon them. I'd never treat her wrong. Got it?" He nodded quickly but he was still grinning. "Good." Alexx checked his shoulder then started to bandage it. "When can I swim with this?"
"When it's fully closed."
He looked at her. "It's either wearing Horatio out as a means of stress relief or swimming, dear. When?"
"Give it a few days. He'll need you to make him quit being so cranky with the other cops anyway." She taped down the last corner and stood up, gathering everything, including the tools that had fallen. "Can you handle a baby?"
"I did for four days. They forgot I had him for two of them." He grinned at her. "I'm actually a very good daddy. I had crappy examples of what to be so I do the opposite." He stood up. "If I get too stressed, I'll pay Ray Jr. to babysit for an hour and go take a walk on the beach." She smiled at that and nodded, heading back to the morgue. He looked at Eric. "He likes to watch me swim. I'll have him in the water when he's three and it's safer." That got a grin and he pulled Speed out, leaving him with Horatio once Ryan took the hint. "I don't mean to force you into this."
Horatio gave him a kiss. "He's my stepson. Everyone will want to meet him tonight and those who met him in New York will want to play with him. I have no problems with you going for custody if she's a bad mother, Xander. If she's a good mother and it's vindictive I'll stop you. If she's a bad mother, he's staying." Xander relaxed and smiled, nodding at him. "He can have the guest room." He took a kiss and got a smile in return. "All right? We'll see how she is when she comes back from her days on the beach and her nights in the club. Did you remember to register for classes?"
"I was doing that this afternoon. I can do it tomorrow?"
"Do it today while you have the car fixed. That way I don't have to figure out how to put a babyseat in the Hummer yet." Xander smirked at that and gave him a hug. "Good boy. Go register and I'll send your car to the dealership or whoever they suggest." He nodded and walked out. Horatio calmed himself again. His family was fine. His mate was fine. The cub was fine and he would be closer soon. Everything would be fine by tonight. Because he had been able to hear that baby scream over the phone. He went to find the others. "She's bringing the baby down tonight," he announced. "Her girlfriend just left her and she's a bit stressed. So Xander will have the baby starting tonight while she's on the beach and playing." They all nodded. "Let's try not to crowd in on the baby tonight, guys." They all nodded. "Thank you." He went to find Yelina and warn her. "Would Ray like to babysit sometime this week?" he asked quietly.
"The older one? No. The younger? Probably. Is the baby coming down? I heard Frank say she called and the baby was screaming."
"Her girlfriend just left, she can't work with the baby in the building, and the baby was being a baby. He ordered her to come down so she could play and relax while he watched him and then we'd talk about custody and visitation."
She nodded. "That's wise. Any night but Wednesday, Horatio."
"Thank you, Yelina. Xander said he'd pay him for babysitting if he got too stressed."
"That's fine. I don't want him out of my sight until that girl is sent off anyway," she noted dryly. "I only got to see him for a minute. Is he cute?" He showed her the picture he had gotten off Xander. "He's adorable." He smiled at that. "He's sure he's his, right?"
"Xander said he had another blood test done with Don's help. Eric is his."
She nodded. "Good. I'll expect him more often then." She smiled at him. "Go back to work, Horatio, before you scare more officers."
"They wouldn't be scared if they weren't doing something wrong," he noted dryly, going to call the dealership to get the car taken care of and then do some paperwork for his bosses. One of which called a few minutes later. "Yes?" he asked calmly. He had Caller ID. "Yes, sir, he's fine. No, Alexx had to pull the stitches in his shoulder because some glass got in there. He had a small cut on his forehead but she bandaged it. No, he had a ricocheting bullet hit him in New York. Yes, sir, when he bit someone." He leaned back and held his forehead. "Which one called, sir? Oh, the mayor. Why?" He listened to how the chain happened and smirked. "You know, sir, New York might as well be our sister city. Maybe we should offer them a switching program so some of ours can deal with the more international crimes we don't get and they get a vacation in the winters." He sat up, looking stunned.
"Well, I had been being facetious but it's a good idea. I know their CSI department under Taylor is as good, if not better, than ours. Yes, sir. No, sir. Actually, sir, we've said them to each other and CSI Wolfe will be changing his as he just came back from his honeymoon while injured. No, he's fine. His window needs fixed. No, I'm sure he's fine. How did you hear about his son, sir?" He smirked. He thought so. "No, the child's mother is bringing him down for a vacation. She's under a bit of stress right now so she's going to be down here for ten days. We'll have full custody during that time. Yes, he's very good at it. Thank you, sir, and suggest that idea to New York's chief, sir. Well, they do get cases we don't and they do deal in different areas than we do, and it would be good to crosstrain. You could probably put it under that and get grants as well. Plus some of our officers might appreciate the time in the snow and I know some of theirs would appreciate the time without snow." He smirked. "Thank you, sir. Feel free to blame me. Of course sir. You have a good day as well."
He hung up once the other man had and wanted so badly to bang his head on the desk. Instead he called Mac. "Mac, you're going to hate me. Yes, I'm sure you're going to hate me. No, I made an off-hand remark to my chief and it's going to come back to yours. No, how would you like to oversee a switching program between the two cities to crosstrain?" He listened to the silence. "If you collapsed, I'm going to tell Xander." He heard the spluttering. "Think about the sun in the cold winters you guys get, Mac. Plus some of our boys down here could easily use the cheering up that Miami isn't as harsh as New York. Both cities could probably even get travel grants." He smirked at the swearing. "Tell Don and Stella that Eric's coming down here for ten days. She called up and swore at Xander and the baby because the baby wouldn't quit crying right after an officer tried to gaybash him. No, the officer is very sorry, Xander stabbed him in the stomach, but he's sorry for other reasons as well. Of course. Think of it as a working vacation, Mac. You could get a tan, you or Don." He hung up on the return of the swearing feeling much better now. Every once in a while it was good to make his friends swear.
Don looked up as Mac stormed toward his desk. "Did we put the wrong guy away?" he guessed.
"Caine just made an off-handed remark to his boss that's going to come to ours." Don nodded slowly, making go on motions. "To switch some of the officers in the departments of our cities so they figure out Miami's not so bad and we get an escape during the winter."
"Okay," he said, liking that idea a lot. "I could use a tan!"
"Do you realize what sort of problems this will cause!"
"Do you trust his guys?" Mac nodded. "Then you won't have a problem, we'll have a problem with the other guys. You'll get help on all the drug cases!" He got up and went to get some coffee. "Geez, Mac, I thought it was a serious issue! Don't scare me like that!"
"Eric's going down there for ten days," he called. Don came out of the break room. "Diana was just screaming at the baby and Xander ordered her to bring him down for a vacation. He said to let Stella and you know."
"Thank you. Gives me a few nights off watching her."
"Is there something you should tell Xander?"
"She can't work with the baby in the building. Beatrice left her too." He finished getting coffee and came out, sitting down again. "Stella and I have been dropping by at random intervals to play with the baby."
"Ah. Well, ten days without having to would be nice."
"I don't mind, he's a nice kid. Makes ya see what Xander could have been with parents like Speed and Aiden the whole time." He grinned at him. "How is the kid?"
"Horatio said some idiot tried to gaybash him outside the station and Xander stabbed him. Then Horatio made him sorry."
"Yeah, he said there were rumors about the Wrath of Caine if you touched his boy or his hummer." He smirked at him. "Think of the tans, Mac, and less snotty actors. They get less homicides too. You could use the vacation!"
"I doubt I'd be allowed to go unless I took over their night shift and we all moved down there at once."
"Eh, you never know. Go, find me more work." He made 'go away' motions. "Now."
"Fine." He stomped off, going to sit in his office and wait on the method of his doom to call and confirm itself. Because he knew this was a bad idea. A very bad idea. An idea like letting Xander cook it was so bad and wrong.
Xander walked into the townhouse with his son, smiling at the people on the porch. "Oooh, look, Eric," he cooed, pointing. "It's Grandpa Speed. Can you say Grandpa?"
"Pa!" he said happily, beaming at his favorite person. He wiggled until he got down and walked out there, going to the person his daddy was talking to. "PA!" he shouted happily, hugging him around the leg.
"Not me," Eric said, reaching down to pat him. "That one," he said pointing at him. He had nieces and nephews, he knew this game. "Speed!" He looked. "Him, Eric, go to him." He gave the baby a nudge and he toddled that way.
"Pa!" he said, beaming up at him and clutching him around the knee.
Speed just stared and nodded. "I guess if Xander calls me dad, you can call me Grandpa." He picked him up, looking at him. "Hi, Eric." The baby leaned forward and sucked on the end of his nose. "No, that's Calleigh's. Don't take her treat." He kissed him on the cheek, making him a happy baby. "Where is your daddy?"
"Changing," Eric said, smirking at him. "So, Grandpa Speed."
"Wouldn't that make it Grandma Calleigh?" Frank joked. "Give 'im here!" The baby was handed over and he had to smile at that grin. "Hi, Eric, I'm your uncle Frank. You'll figure us all out soon enough." The baby tipped his head to look at him then let out a fart and giggled. "Yeah, you and your daddy are a lot alike." Alexx took the baby from him. "Hey!"
"Speedy's my son, so that makes me great-grandma Alexx." She smiled at the baby, who babbled happily at her and patted her on the cheek. "Thank you, baby boy. How was your flight?" He let out another fart and laughed. "Ah, one of those." Horatio took the baby and went to change him. "He probably doesn't need it yet."
"Just preparing for when he does." Xander came out to take the baby and change him, making him stare at him. "I can help."
"Hands wash, Xander." Xander gave him a look. "Fine, you can change diapers for now." He went to wash his hands and go back to cooking. The baby wandered out a few minutes later and headed back for the other people. "Like your daddy, you like to be the center of attention," he noted dryly. Xander bounced past and stole a kiss, heading back out there once he got the door and let Ryan and Willow in. "Porch, children."
Willow looked at the baby, then turned and hit Xander on the arm. "You didn't tell me you had a baby! What witch cast the damn spell! That way I can make sure she did it right!"
"His mother's an actual girl," Ryan assured her. "It was the woman who designed all of Xander's stripper clothes." He led her out with a sorry look for Xander.
Who shrugged and closed the door. "She turned me into one once. Accidentally on purpose." He followed his son out, finding him giving Speed adoring looks. "What are you doing to my son?"
"Just holding him. With all of us helping, he'll be everything you should've been, kid." He pulled Xander down and kissed him on the forehead. "Did you tell Willow about the swimming stuff yet?"
"No." He looked at her. "I'm trying out for my college's swim team."
"Cool. Does that mean we can come and gape you at you in a small speedo again?" Ryan gave her a look. "He was a geeky guy, totally nearly a skeleton, and in a speedo that was two sizes too small. All the girls in the school gaped at him. Buffy even drooled."
"Her and Cordy both," Xander said dryly, looking at the kitchen. "Can I help?"
"He lets you in the kitchen?" Willow asked, looking appalled. "No! That's just...wrong! No!"
Speed cackled and the baby followed along. "See, I'm not the only one who banned Xander from the kitchen."
"No, you're the only one who won't even let me make jelly toast." He went to help and Horatio gave him a soul-sucking kiss and sent him back out there with a stupid grin on his face. "Never mind." He sat down and stole his baby, but he climbed over him and went to sit on Calleigh now, snuggling into her chest with a sigh of pleasure and grinning this big shit-eating grin at her.
"I used to do that same thing," Eric said, starting to laugh. "My mother used to swat the hell out of me for it."
"You probably deserved it," Willow shot back. "Xander used to do it to big, burly truck driver guys." Xander blushed and the others giggled. "So, is he any good? We had him get onto the swim team to figure out the fishy monsters," she said as she sat down, pulling Ryan onto her lap.
"Isn't he supposed to be on the bottom?" Frank teased.
"Only if you believe sex is only to be done on Saturday nights with the lights off in the missionary position and you have to confess it the next morning," she shot back, smirking at him. He did his fish impersonation while the others laughed. "Some of us are from more liberal areas. It didn't matter what you did in Sunnydale as long as it wasn't someone else's wife."
"Or a goat. You forgot about Mr. Henson," Xander reminded her, looking at his son, who was napping. "He's very comfy, so just hand him back when your arms are tired." Calleigh nodded and patted the baby on the back, getting a small belch. "Say excuse me, son." He babbled something in his sleep. "Close enough." He looked at Willow. "So, how are you enjoying married life? I got to tell Joyce before the guy took my phone."
"She called me earlier," she admitted. "She'll be coming out in two days but she'll be leaving Buffy with Rupert. Then he'll come out next month to threaten our spouses." He nodded, accepting that. "I still can't believe you married a guy. You used to nearly run away from Larry."
"I didn't want Larry. Besides, Larry was pushy. Larry had half the guys in town, including some of the vampires. Plus, Horatio suits me and understands me. Even the naughty stripper parts."
"Do I want to know how he does that?" Frank asked.
"Too many undercovers I'd assume," Alexx offered. Yelina looked at her. "Or you could ask her."
"I've been sworn to secrecy."
"Under penalty of the Wrath of Caine?" Frank teased.
"Frank," Horatio called. "Drop that stupid rumor please." He came to the door. "It's bad enough you made the rookies scared of me already. Don't scare Willow."
"Oh, please. I looked into the hellmouth, Horatio. Nothing on this earth that looks human scares me," she assured him. "Which is why I can and will kill your ass if you ever hurt my Xander buddy. As long as you don't, we're on good terms for life."
He looked at her. "I had a friend who told me how to block your magic," he warned her. She looked horrified and he nodded. "He said it might be necessary to help you adjust."
"How do you know chaos people?" she demanded.
"He knows the Ethan plague," Xander noted dryly. "He's how we managed to get out there to save Tim so fast."
"Please tell me you don't hang out with Rupert's ex," she pleaded. "Please, Xander."
"No, I haven't seen him yet," Xander admitted. "Horatio won't tell me how he knows him so as long as I don't catch him doing chaos magic on me in bed we're all good."
"I can't even imagine Horatio doing magic," Yelina offered. She shuddered.
"Xander and magic usually gives me the same sort of shudder," Willow told her. "It likes him. I swear the hellmouth pouted for two weeks when he left."
"It might have. The Powers told me he had to leave," Speed told her. "How is Buffy?"
"Rupert told us about him and Ethan to tweak her fear of gay things. Apparently her boyfriend was doing some things with his unit to relieve stress and she found out. She's not exactly homophobic, more like horrified by the very thought of two guys. Two girls is fine but two guys is bad to her. So Giles has been working on it by sharing *way* too much information about him Ethan and a few others." She looked at Horatio, then at Xander. "Does he have the mark thingy?"
"No. Not unless he's concealing it, and if he is, he can tell me whenever he's ready." Calleigh nudged him so he took his son back, getting sleepy, rumbly sounds. "I've got you, Eric," he whispered. The baby calmed down and snuggled in. "If he's using magic, I'll accept that as long as he's not using it on me or to harm others. If it's to harm others, I'll try to talk him out of it and if it's on me, I'll walk away." Willow smiled at that. "I got enough of that from you." She nodded, accepting that and hugging Ryan. "And I will be watching for it, Willow."
"I know. I'm cutting myself off for six months. We already agreed."
"Good. I approve. You can talk to me about that stuff," he reminded her. He looked at Ryan. "Every now and then expect me to pop up with a candle and a few herbs on a dish."
"And I'll be making sure of it. The last time she did it accidentally in her sleep, Buffy ended up being a bunnyrabbit."
"She did that to a pickpocket. I've got it, Xander," he said, staring him down.
"Okay, then all you have to do is ask," he agreed. Ryan nodded, accepting that he now had full and total control of Willow's magic problems.
"He has the same right, correct, Willow?" Horatio pressed.
"He doesn't use magic."
"Now and then he loses his keys," Speed admitted. "Had he started down the path you took I would've stopped him by now." She nodded, accepting that. "Now, agree."
"Horatio has full control and authority over all Xander problems, including his psycho drawing abilities."
"Actually I may have found the hormone signal he uses," Ryan announced. "The problem is that it's a pheromone and if it's altered any it can start to drive people away from him."
"So, can we put it into a spray bottle and use it on people playing bait?" Eric suggested.
"Yes, in both directions." Everyone smiled at that. "It's up to Xander if he wants to have the antidote."
"It could make Horatio leave?"
"It could make him want to, if he stays would be more higher brain than unconscious reaction," he offered.
"Then no," Horatio said, going back to the kitchen.
"So that leaves testing," Eric said, leaning forward. "How?"
"Prisoner scent tests," Ryan told him. "It's about the only way to really reliably say that someone's a rapist or a murderer. We have someone sprayed with a sample, we have someone sprayed with the anti-sample, and then a control. We note reactions both with brain waves and verbal cues."
"Sweetie, that'll introduce a margin of error," Willow told him, stroking his back. "There's supposed to be about ten percent of the prison population who's in there for the wrong thing." He looked at her and nodded. "Plus, it works better if it's *Xander* doing it, not others. I've noticed something like that after curling up next to Xander when we were younger. Personally I think that's why the vampire took Jesse and I that first night. We had curled up with Xander the night before and were around him all day." Xander glared at her. "The time before that it was the guy in the pickup, Xander."
"You can't correlate that," Speed told her. "That's anecdotal. Horatio doesn't have that problem and he probably carries more of Xander's sweat than not."
"Yes, but Xander's found his mate now," Ryan reminded him. "This was premate Xander's sweat. And you're right, that would be anecdotal back that far. So we can only work with manufactured ones and possibly test various control subjects to see if one can put out that same vibe that Xander did, the one of searching for his mate."
"That's like the idea of teaching another stripper Xander's routines and seeing if they draw the same way," Eric noted. "How do you measure the rate of response?"
"Brain waves. We know what happens when someone's attracted to someone else. This is a different form of attraction. This is really the link between attraction and personality and behavior at this subconscious level. So brain and heart waves, or other forms of biometrics are the only way we can."
"But how will we find someone else who was possessed by an predatory animal spirit?" Willow asked.
"Ah, that blows your theory," Ryan said, smirking at her. "You said back when you still had Jesse, which was before he was possessed, right?" She considered it then nodded. "Then it's not the hyena, or not just her, it's him. Which means we can find someone with the same mix of personality traits and see if they can do the same."
"You're thinking personality is hereditary," Alexx reminded them both. "It's not totally."
"Yes, but we can tell that some of his personality traits were subverted in youth. His SAT score proves he's not stupid, yet he did badly in his classes. He told me he struggled in his college level stuff too. That's partially learning style and partially personality that was either reimaged and reshaped by his home life. Think about it. If Speed and Aiden had gotten there sooner, would Xander be struggling in college or could he be halfway on his way to a Ph. D.? I'm betting on the latter and I'm doing so based on the assumption that his parents didn't put much emphasis on learning, thereby pushing down and reimaging that personality trait, and the school was so crappy I'm not sure how the state didn't shut it down and blow it up themselves."
"I don't think the state noticed us until some wiccans got high enough up to break the charm that the hellmouth sent out around to make itself look attractive and unknown," Willow offered. "We didn't get any notice until our eleventh grade year and that was the year the State Secretary was a Wiccan and started to look into these things."
"There was talk about consolidation but the mayor pushed it away heavily with bribes and none of the rest of the county wanted our kids anyway because of all the rumors of strange stuff that made it out of the town. That's all you could find, was rumors unless it was somewhere that had a spot of the energy itself," Xander told him. "Besides, the hellmouth was under the high school library. It wasn't about to let all that free energy and free lunches go. It would've blown up the other towns first." He shifted and patted the baby on the back. "Even Speed and Aiden couldn't get past the learning issues I had. Unless I got a Ph. D. in gym teacher, there's no way."
"Doctor Laura has one and so does Doctor Phil," Alexx said dryly, staring at him. "Look how they're messing up people. You can only do better, sugar. Now, hand little Eric over." He grinned and handed him over. The baby blinked at her and she smiled. "I'm more comfy than him, little guy. You can nap on me." He snuggled in with a sigh and a rub of his cheek against her breasts. "Maybe he'll be straight too."
"Maybe he won't have my dating problem either," Xander said wryly, smirking at her.
"Please," Speed said, looking up. "Let the baby Xander be a normal guy?" He grabbed his head and held on before his forehead split open. "Thank you!" He looked at Xander. "Not a problem. He is never to go near Sunnydale though. If he goes, he becomes vamp you and their upcoming daughter will be the vamp her."
"Excuse me? Daughter?" Willow asked. "Honey, get up." He stood up and she walked off the porch, down to the beach to check herself over. That way she could swear in private. "When did I mess up that fertility spell!" she hissed at the Powers. The image of her working a spell in her room made her moan and fall to her knees. "As you will it, Goddess and Powers." She got up and went back up there, looking at him. "I fucked up a fertility spell last year. I'm never touching magic again."
"At least not while you're pregnant," Xander said dryly. "We don't know what it can do to the baby," he told Ryan when he looked at him. "Di's a wiccan too." He nodded at the baby. "He's sensitive." Willow looked stunned. "That's how I knew he was truly mine. He used to babble at Beatrice's familiar and the ghost they had in the fitting room."
"So it wasn't the looking like you?" Alexx asked. "Because he does."
"You can look just like me, act just like me, walk and babble just like me, but if you're sensitive the same way I am, then you can't have come from any other line. No other line would be sensitive in exactly the same way. I'm sensitive to feeling magic and interacting with the dead. Which is why the only time you'll fully see me in the morgue is when I'm dead. Unless I have to run down there to save you from something. By the way, Wills, she needs to have someone do a cleaning on the morgue sometime soon. It's been building energy."
"Sure, I can do it tomorrow," she admitted. "That's not magic as much as creating a way to release it and let the spirits move on." She looked at Alexx. "You could have any Shaman of your choice do the same thing."
"I'll look into that," she admitted. "Thank you, kids." The baby looked up at her, smiling. "The bigger kids."
The baby looked at Speed. "Pa!"
"Sure, come see me," he agreed, holding out his arms. The baby climbed over and stroked over his semi-beard. "Scratchy, I know. I need to shave." The baby giggled and rubbed his cheek against it.
"At least I've got a good cream for beard burn," Calleigh said with a smile for the two.
"I want the name of that," Xander said, looking at her and grinning. "I kinda need some on my shoulder."
"I still think you should be spanked for scaring the rookie patrol guy that way," Frank told him, smirking at him. "Enjoy it much?"
"He stood there and watched. We didn't scare him that much," he shot back with a smirk. "But if you want me spanked, you've gotta talk ta Flack about that. Horatio and Speed agreed on that." Speed nodded and smoothed down some of the baby's hair. "That needs trimmed."
"Not yet it doesn't," Alexx told him. "Give it time to fully come in, baby." She looked inside. "Horatio, are you hiding?"
"Yes," he called back. "I'm nearly done. Ray Jr. just pulled up!"
"He's driving?" Xander asked Yelina.
"He'd better not be since he doesn't have a license." Her son was let in and walked out. "You were driving?"
"Father took me, he said it was time," he noted, pulling it out to show her. "I told him you said I had to wait until this summer. He said that's impractical with the people who chase Xander around." He spotted the baby and beamed. "Hi, Eric." The baby beamed and bounced, making Speed groan and Xander grab him and hand him over. "Ooh, sorry, Speed." He took the spare chair and sat down with the baby. "How are you today?" he cooed, rubbing noses with the baby. "Father wanted to know if he could come. I told him no." He looked over as Horatio came back with his father. "He followed me?" Horatio nodded. "I told him no."
"Who's son is that?" Ray Sr. asked.
"Xander's. The mother didn't tell him until he found out by accident," Alexx told him. "Speed, honey, do you need an ice pack?" He winced and straightened up, shaking his head.
"Jr. there did that to me a few times," Ray offered.
"Yes, and we all laughed," Horatio reminded him. Xander came in to help him carry stuff, and they ended bringing out another chair as well. Xander ended up in his lap and Ryan and Willow changed places so she was on top for now.
Ray Sr. smirked. "Ah, newlyweds."
"We're perpetually cute so that old guys like you have wives who remember romance fondly and still put up with you due to the old memories," Willow told him sweetly, making the other women at the table laugh, and Frank as well. "Before you ask, yes, I do read minds, and yes, I'm pregnant. Make me more cranky." He shifted his chair away, then realized he was next to Xander so he shifted with his son, moving their plates as well. Willow smirked at Ray Jr. "Do you babysit?" He nodded. "Good. We'll need one some year soon." Ryan nibbled the back of her neck, making her giggle and swat him. "Not in public. That's smutty Xander thoughts."
"You made out with him in public?" Horatio asked.
"No, he's the one who has smutty thoughts about public places. I can't even think about abandoned outdoor places yet."
"You don't know the half of it," Frank complained. "They keep scaring officers. Oh, Horatio, the Chief said if he's forced to hear about you and him in the hummer one more time, he's taking yours and giving it to Nights. He'll make you drive a sedan."
"Should he do that, I'm going to go buy him the top of the line, all the bells and whistles, model and we'll park it outside his house the next time," Xander said with a sweet smile. "No one said the patrol guys had to come up and *watch*."
"Or tell either of you," Yelina added, making Frank laugh at that. "I'm sure it's happened more than twice." Horatio shook his head, getting back to cutting up his dinner. "Really?"
"Special treat," Speed shared.
"The Chief said it goes for the rest of you guys too," Frank told him. "The same as the patrol guys can't use the cruisers."
"Who'd want to, they're uncomfortable," Xander complained.
"Do I even want to ask?" Calleigh asked. Xander shook his head. "Good, okay, I'm good with not knowing that."
"One of the times he got escorted back to the station," Speed told her. "He ended up napping in one. Horatio would never lower himself to driving one of them."
"I guess we'll have to get a decal for the one Xander'll have to buy him," Eric noted dryly.
"It's not like we do it every day, thank you. Twice and only twice now."
"Special treat," Willow said, nodding. "As it should be. The best smutty sex always is." Xander and a few others nodded at that. She looked at Speed, then at Xander. Then back at Speed. "I got a call from Aiden warning me about stimulant lubricant? She said to ask you."
"My fault," Yelina offered. "I suggested he buy it and Speed confiscated it when Xander couldn't calm down. Calleigh cleaned the whole house in one night with his toothbrush."
"Horatio needed a major nap and so did Speed," Alexx said dryly. Speed nodded at that and Horatio went back to eating, only getting a kiss from his mate for being so nice.
"Awww, did you walk in?" Willow teased. She nodded. "Yeah, I did that once on him and Cordy kissing. Nearly scared me off sex for life. Cordelia kissing was not the image I ever wanted to see."
"You and me both," Speed noted dryly, cutting into his meat. "Nicely done, Horatio. Next time, ask for help." They shared a smirk. "So, Alexx, how long before Xander can be in the pool?"
"Diving? Until that last skull fracture clears up. Totally closes, kids. Swimming? As long as he's not dizzy or anything, when his shoulder's healed. Sometime next week." The baby smiled at her so she took him back, letting him have some of her corn. "You're old enough to eat real people food." The baby gummed some and smiled at her. "You're going to be a heartbreaker, sugar. You really are."
"Xander broke many hearts," Eric reminded them all. "They were tainted ones but he broke many hearts."
"Yeah, I broke one so much he committed suicide," Xander said proudly. "Because he couldn't kidnap me."
Willow looked at him. "You've gotten worse, haven't you?" He beamed and nodded. "At least it's not the dating curse."
"No, they send him presents now, like high end sports cars and diamonds," Eric said with a smirk. "When's the auction, Xander?"
"Next month, the twelfth." He ate a bite off his plate and fed Horatio a bite, smiling at him. "Are you coming?"
"The Chief willing," he agreed.
"Cool." He snuck a kiss and beamed. "Think the buddies will come down if they do set up that switching program?"
Frank groaned and shook his head. "Don't remind me, kid. Please."
"It'll be good for them. New York's a harder city, it'll give the guys a new outlook, especially on the drug cases and the club violence they've got. Plus, hey, different sort of mafia violence too. And it'll give some of our guys the appreciation for how easy they got it. Though I was told that the Mala Noches were up there and that if they had any idea who I was, I'd be confined to my hotel room." Everyone at the table nodded at that. "Apparently they only have a few up there."
"Lucky them," Frank complained. "I might go up there just to deal with the saner street gangs at times." Xander smiled at him. "What?"
"Summer would be about the same for you but they could use the break during the winters."
"Yeah, true," he admitted. "Snow up to your knees sucks."
"We wouldn't know, the only time we had snow in Sunnydale it was a hellmouthy thing."
"Not true, there was snow in Montreal when I got up there," Xander told her. "A freak storm but still a bit. And there was some snow right before I got rescued."
"Wow," she said, looking at him. "Did you start to wonder if you were invisible?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I did, but the clients that night decided desperate was a good look for me so I made about two grand that night in tips." He sipped some of his soda. "So, Eric, swimming tomorrow."
"Pinch him, Horatio."
Horatio pinched his mate. "Not until it heals, Xander."
"Saturday," Eric agreed. "Your gym?"
"I've still got to tell them that you're coming but yeah. Sure." He beamed at him. "You'll like my gym. It's very nice and very quiet most of the time. The pool's nearly empty since most of the people who go there don't really swim." He got up and went inside to call his gym. "Hi, this is Xander Harris," he said cheerfully. "Yup, Darkness. No, I've been keeping up on my fees, right? Good! No, actually, I'm being encouraged to try out for my school's swim team and my coach thinks I might actually have some higher aspirations so I'm working on my training. How much is my yearly dues again?" He nodded, making notes of that. "Now, if I refer someone, even though I'm no longer stripping...." He looked surprised. "Really? Cool! No, my trainer. Actually, he's one of my man's CSI guys, Delko. Yeah, the slutty one in the lab. Him." He grinned outside. "So, if I refer him, he can get a membership? And before then can I bring him in since he's my trainer?" He beamed. "That's so cool. Can Horatio use mine?" He nodded and wrote that down as well.
"Remind me of that when I come in next time. Yeah, we've said our vows to each other, just not in public. Well, I heard that one of them is just one guy that I helped cure the loneliness for. Him I don't mind. The super psycho pep squad that I had I mind. Yeah, the guy who was using the courier who's just lonely? Him I think he's a nice guy and I'm more than happy to have helped him. I have no problem with that and neither does my man. Loneliness I can handle. Desperation, kidnaping, those things, can't handle and don't want. Sure, you can pass that around, he said so. No, we had a few long talks when things started to escalate around when I got the car." He grinned. "So, just that extra fee and we're good? And his. Sure. No not even seriously dating. Straight. You'd have to ask him, Mike. Not a clue. Thank you. Yup, probably tomorrow to look it over because of an injury. No, I'm good there. They had to pull the stitches I already had to get glass out of it. New York. Yeah, and my son's in." He beamed. "He's not quite one yet, Mike. Sure. I'll see if I can do that. Thank you again." He went back to his lap.
"How's your gym membership?" Eric asked, smirking at him.
"Horatio can go with the upgrade to the family membership, as can the little Eric, and Mike wanted to see the cuteness when I come in the next time. You can buy your own since I'm a member and I'm referring you." He handed over the numbers. "The lower one is for single guys like you and Mike wanted to know if you liked guys or girls and I said you're straight and to ask you personally. To bring you in, you do have to have a membership."
"That's cheaper than the Y," Eric noted dryly, looking at him. "Do I get the 'look around' day?"
"Yeah, I can do that tomorrow with you after shift if you want since he wanted to see the cuteness and so I won't forget to upgrade mine so Horatio can use it. That way he can go and see and get in and all that stuff."
"Where are you a member at?" Frank asked.
"Like the place the anything-goes clubs send their people to?" Ray Sr. asked.
Xander nodded. "The club I used to work for was a feeder for that circuit. I was just told my membership is good for life because I brought so much life back into the circuit. Bravado fed into the circuit so we had passes that got us memberships there and most of the clubs in the circuit. I've still got my pass and I was just told it's still good. So *technically* if it comes down to one of you guys going into that sort of club to go undercover, I *could* bring you but if they find out I'd be bitch slapped repeatedly."
"That means you get into Aphrodite," Ray Sr. noted.
Xander nodded. "Or I would if they hadn't been shut down by Vice. They had a nice dance floor. That's the only reason I went there. We were considered advertising for Bravado and for the circuit so our passes got us into nearly anything but the A-level clubs. Places like Ying and those." Horatio nodded at that. "The day I got my pass, I went out and I went all over the city. From Tropical out by the 'glades to the Bayshore out on the beach and Bro in the big boat, I got in and still get in." He grinned at him. "I still only went to dance. I don't drink, I don't use drugs, and I never was a club whore."
"Not in Sunnydale either," Willow agreed, smiling at him. "Even back when you couldn't dance." He nodded. "How did you finally learn?"
"I asked one of the senior strippers to help me learn. He showed me what I was doing wrong and then Diana helped me with some routines and some clothes and it went from there. I had a very loyal clientele. One that got quite pissed the night I walked off stage and took Horatio's hand to have him walk me out at the end of my very last set."
"It was artistically done," Calleigh agreed happily. "Did they actually riot?"
"Nearly. I trained the next guy in one of my acts and he did that one that night. They booed him a bit but they calmed down when they saw someone was at least trying. Now, all the club bought me a round or three," he offered with a grin. "And my diplomatic buddy tipped me three grand on his special card. A few of the others tipped me heavily too. But with Vice closing the Raven's Cage and six others in the next week because they were tapping the lines that night at mine? Bravado pretty well had it made anyway."
"You worked for Jack?" Ray Sr. asked. Xander nodded. "As?"
"I was Darkness down here. Up in Montreal I was Night and Vex at the first one. I thought it was dramatic." Willow giggled. "Well, I did vex them all. Hell, I never let anyone touch and I never let down my guard or got myself into a situation where I could be touched. I vexed a great many hopeful people." Horatio nodded at that, smirking a bit. He grinned back at him. "Most of all you and I'm sorry about that."
"It was a job, Xander. I knew you didn't enjoy all of it. Just the teasing part." He gave him a gentle kiss, that got turned deeper and Xander shifted to take control of it.
Frank coughed. "We don't need to see that outside the hummer either," he noted loudly. Xander flipped him off behind his back and got back into it. Frank groaned and plucked out an ice cube, leaning over to put it down Horatio's collar, which broke them up. "Thank you. My wife might appreciate it but she's not here."
"Sorry," Horatio said, giving his mate a look telling him his earlier request to be tied down and fucked into oblivion was going to happen now.
"Who's got the baby tonight?" Yelina asked.
"I do," Xander assured her. "He's sleeping in the guest room and I've got the baby monitor already set up with all that stuff. Is he asleep?" Alexx nodded. "Give him here." He leaned over Frank to take his son, holding him for now. "You've had a long day but you're going to be hungry in a few hours."
"Let him nap now," Alexx ordered patiently. "If he's hungry, he'll let you know." Xander nodded and took the baby upstairs to the guest room, then came back with the monitor. "He really does snore," she said, smiling a bit. "He's safe, right?"
"Go check if you don't believe me but leave his teddy bear alone or else he screams. It's at his feet." The mothers and Ray Jr. got up to go check on the baby's room, then came back nodding that it was all right. "See, Xander can read a website."
"Did Xander remember to schedule his classes?" Speed asked. Xander sighed and nodded. "Good Xander."
"Is that where he gets ear scratches?" Willow asked.
Horatio patted him on the back. "He gets more than that later."
Ryan blushed. "I'm going to stick up for Frank here, Horatio, seeing you in the middle of sex is odd because I see you as more menacing most of the time."
"Mix up the laundry, see menacing," Xander assured him. He was pinched and grinned at his mate. "You did. You did the looming thing and the staring thing while I was trying to nap on the couch."
"Pink?" Speed asked. "I did that once."
"Blue," Xander told him, nodding and sighing a bit. "Plus the silk boxer shorts."
"Thank you for replacing all that, Xander," he said, giving him a gentle kiss. The baby sniffled and they all paused but he went back to snoring. "I see tonight's going to be interesting."
"He sleeps like the vampires, Horatio. He'll be fine tonight once he's eaten later and had a bath. The only thing that woke him in New York was my cellphone. He looked up then huffed and went back to sleep on my stomach."
"Does he have a sleeping problem?" Calleigh asked. "I've never seen a more sleepy baby."
"No he's like that," Xander offered. "I did think about taking him to a pediatrician down here to make sure he's all right, just in case it became necessary to the custody thing if she gets mean but I haven't decided yet."
"I'll make you an appointment tomorrow," Alexx assured him. "That is one sleepy baby." The phone rang and Horatio got up to get it while Xander went to soothe the son and take the extension out of that room. Horatio had to move the cordless phone away from the monitor's base so she got up to put it where hers was, on the ceiling. It solved that problem. He gave her a grateful look and went into the study with the phone to talk to someone.
To part 3