Mac groaned as he grabbed his phone.  "Taylor," he complained weakly.  "Xander?  Are you all right?  Danny said you caught them off me."  He leaned back, listening to Xander complain that he was being fussed over.  "It makes him happy to take care of you now and then, Xander."  Xander went on and he could tell fever ranting when he heard it.  "Are you all right?"  He grimaced.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't realize I was contagious.  I know, but it makes him happy.  Why don't you rest and sleep some more?  It's what helped me.  No, I had to come to work. No, not that case, some other case.  I had to come in since Lindsey's still out with a broken leg.  No, I made sure I'm not contagious to anyone else.  Besides, I think everyone else around me has had it."  He grinned at Eric coming in to take the phone from him and Xander defending it with a 'no, mine, meany'.  "Go back to sleep, Xander.  You can complain at me again tomorrow night."  Xander grunted and hung up.

He waited two minutes, then called Horatio's cellphone.  "It's mean of you to make him call and rant at me when he's got that high of a fever.  No, but they did warn me that if I spiked one I had to go back to the ER.  Sure.   No, that's fine.  I'm sorry I infected him.  Lindsey's still got a broken leg, Horatio."  He hissed.  "Ooooh, I'm so sorry.  You want Don?  That way he'll quit pouting?"  He chuckled.  "Fine."  Danny leaned in. "Horatio.  No, Danny's here to make sure I go home and go to bed.  Yeah, he fusses greatly.  I wanted to hide."  He listened to Horatio's story about finding Xander in the closet and him saying he should hide so he didn't whine them to death.  "At least he's trying to be nice, Horatio.  Fluids.  Lots and lots of fluids, but also check his fever.  It sounded a lot like fever ranting to me.  Have a better night."

"Have him use the herbal stuff in that green tin of Xander's," Danny said patiently.  "That's what we used on yours."

"Danny said to find Xander's green tin of herbal stuff, he put it on mine and it's barely itched all day.  Sure.  Did the baby get it?"  He winced.  "Well, I hope they caught it in time.  I'm sorry, I didn't realize I could pop up a few years later or that I'd be contagious.  Thanks, Horatio."  He hung up and looked at him. "I'm sorry."

"I know.  Come on, let's go.  Stella's getting dinner tonight."

"We could cook more often," he pointed out dryly.

"No we can't.  Not after a full day of work.  I'd never do that to anyone.  I'll start a pot of soup later, that won't take much work."  He walked Mac out, nodding at Sheldon.  "Xander caught it for real."

"Poor kid.  He okay?"

"He's running a fever and he's just broken out today," Mac told him.  Sheldon winced.  "Yeah."

"Sheldon, can you check on Monroe?  Please?" Danny asked.  That got a nod. "Thanks."  He walked Mac out to the car, weathering the look.  "She needs ta be here, Mac.  I limped when I broke my foot that time. You're here with chicken pox.  Stella worked when she threw her back so bad they wanted her in bed.  What sort of CSI takes off just because she's got a broken ankle?  That's what crutches and lab stools are for."  He got him into the car and walked around to get in and drive, taking him home.  By the time he got there, Stella had some nice deli soup and sandwiches for them.  "Xander's got it really bad.  Mac thinks he was fever ranting."

"Poor baby," she said, sitting Mac down so she could change the bandages over his sores and recover them with the goop from the tin.  "It looks like it's drying it out too.  That's good."  She recovered them, then took off her gloves.  "There, now we can eat.  Danny, I started a pot of soup base."  He grinned at that. "I was hoping you'd make the one with orzo and the curly pasta.  I even stopped and got the curly pasta and chicken."

"That's good."  He went to check on that, stirring it, then got to work on the chicken. It didn't take that long to rinse it off and drop it into the pot.  Someone had already taken out the extras inside the cavity.  He washed his hands again then stirred it a few times before going out to eat with them.  "Chicken's in, I'll have to skim once an hour."

"That's fine, I can help," Stella promised, grinning at him.  "Thank you."

"Ehh, I'm in the mood to spoil since he's sick."  Mac moaned. "You, quit!"  Mac nodded, going back to his eating.  "You get sick, you get fussed at.  Her heritage and mine?  Yeah, you should've expected it, Mac."

"Can I hide at Don's?" he asked miserably.

"Nope." Stella said, grinning at him.  "He'd try to fuss too."

"Fine."  He finished his soup.  "Am I safe to shower?"

"Let me cover those with a waterproof covering," Stella said, going to get some.

Danny looked at him again.  "Now, what did this teach you?"

"To find out what I have, how to treat it, then run for a hiding spot?"

"Beyond that," he ordered with fond tolerance and a smirk.

"To warn you guys when I'm sick."  Danny nodded.  "Thank you for fussing and making soup."

"Not an issue, Mac.  Go shower.  I'll take last one tonight."  Mac nodded, going to do that then going to bed early.  He got dinner cleaned up and went to check on the soup, skimming off some of the fat.  It'd take a few hours but he wasn't sleepy yet.


Horatio answered the phone four mornings later, grunting into it.  "No, he's still here beside me, Ryan.  Very warm too."  He reached over to check his mate's head.  "He needs more tylenol.  What?"  He sat up. "Eric, are you up?"

"Of course."  He brought in the bottle of tylenol.  "That Wolfe?"  He nodded.  "How's Willow?"

"He said she's fine.  Sleeping.  He was called to see if he knew where Sykes took off to."

"She's in your storage room in handcuffs.  She broke in around three."  He shrugged. "I got a good, long taunt about her having broken in somewhere that's under quarantine."

"She's not staying here, Eric. I can't handle a whining woman."   He listened to Wolfe laugh while he shook the bottle.  "Did Todd get his booster in time?"  He smiled.  "That's good.  Eric wanted to make sure....  That's fine.  Check the new computer she got you, you can log in from home to do paperwork.  That's fine, Ryan.  You too."  He hung up.  "She's home now.  In bed for the next week and a half.  I'll add time to his paperwork later."

"I'll call the chief, you get the tylenol down him."  He handed over the measuring cup.  "We need more?"

"He might end up back there if it doesn't break by tonight.  Can you get the thermometer?"

"Sure."  He grabbed it from the bathroom and brought it back, watching as Xander grumbled but woke up enough to take the medicine.  He handed over the in-the-ear thermometer, watching what came up.  "That's high.  Body temperature bath?"  Horatio nodded so he went to run it for him.   Horatio carried the still sleeping guy in.  "He won't wake up?"

"He's not a morning person at the best of times, Eric.  He's always woken up hard unless it's someone intruding."  He heard the shrieking start and groaned, going to glare at her instead.  Finally, someone he could take this out on.  She flinched away from him.  "Erica Sykes.  Breaking and Entering?"

"They said your husband hasn't been at any of the social engagements he's supposed to be at but your nephew went in his place to most of them.  I wanted to know why. I thought something had happened again."

"It did, he has chicken pox.  He called the first one.  Apparently she didn't realize who he was?"   She shook her head.  "Oh well.  He did call.  I'm sure Ray has put it around."

"He did and I heard him apologize to that matron again as well.  That's when she realized it.  She's the one who suggested I should make sure he was still living.  Said he sounded horrible."

"He's running a high fever, Erica.  It's the chicken pox," Eric said blandly from the doorway.  "You still broke into a house under quarantine.  If I can't leave, you sure as hell can't."

"She's not staying, Eric.  The County can house her very well for breaking in here."  He went to call his boss, finding him grumpy this morning too.  "I only need fifty seconds, tops," he offered.  That got a happier response.  "Erica Sykes broke in last night.  She's here in handcuffs.  She's not staying. Wolfe's wife is home now but she's in bed for the next week and a half on doctor's orders.  He needs more time on his leave papers.  I need more things to do. No, he's still running a high fever.  We put him into the bath just now."  He nodded.  "That would be fine. I was going to write her an email and ask her later.  Also fine.  Yes, apparently both spouses conspired to get us computers that could log in from home if necessary.  I can, someone keeps shutting it off because I'm working."  He smirked.  "Probably.  Anything else you need me to do?  Sir, we were all at a convention and arranged with night shift.  Ask her who had body calls."  He shrugged, blunt was best.  "Please come get her.  We'll stake her on the lawn if we have to.  He called Mary.  She's claiming the Mayor's wife sent her.  Thank you, sir.  Just get her out of here.  I can't take a whining woman."  He hung up and went back there.  "Stake her out on the lawn and shoot her if she tries to flee custody."  He went to check his mate, finding him shivering.  He was still fevered but the water wasn't that cold.  "Xander?"


"I know you are.  We've got to get your fever down," he said gently.  He knelt beside him, taking it again.  It was going up.  "I'm going to call Alexx, all right?"  He whimpered and shook his head. "I promise, she won't be allowed to fuss, only I can do that.  We have to get it down or you'll be in the hospital."  He nodded, turning to rest his head against his hand.  "Good boy.  You'll be okay.  I promise you will."  He looked up.  "Eric, call Alexx, tell her his fever's still up.  To pick up more stuff for that and to come check him.  Also tell her to pick up more eggs and chicken soup.  He likes the stuff with stars."

"Sure, H. I can do that," he promised from the doorway.  He looked at him. "He need anything else?"

"I need more laundry detergent.  We need to change the bed soon."

He nodded, going to call her and tell her that, adding a few things to the list that he knew cheered Xander up.  He felt so miserable he wasn't even pouting.  He came to the door when he heard a car pull in.  "Hey, Alexx, it's me. Hold on.  Guys, that's Miss Sykes, she broke in last night.  We've got chicken pox in the house."

"We were warned, sir.  Dispatch warned us."  He smiled at him.  "Can we have her?"

"Please.  She annoyed Horatio and Xander's still running a high fever."

"Baths, sir, it's the only way to bring it down.  Or that's how I did my son."  They hauled Erica up and off.

Eric went back to the phone.  "Sorry, Alexx.  They got here quickly to pick up Sykes.  Broke in at three this morning, claiming she was sent to check on Xander."  He snorted.  "No, it's staying up at 102.  Can you come over and bring a short shopping list?"  He grinned.  "Thanks.  Eggs, chicken with stars, Horatio's laundry detergent. Surf. No scent.  Yeah, that stuff.  Stuff for his fever.  We've been giving him child's tylenol because he started out puking badly.  Just stopped last night."  He looked outside.  "I'm not sure. He's so far into pitiful he's not able to pout or whine now, Alexx.  Even Horatio's worried.  Thanks.  Yeah, whenever you've got time." He grinned. "I'm sure the Chief told him but I'll call Ray to make sure he's all right.  Thanks."  He hung up and called Yelina. "Is your son okay doing the rounds for Xander?  If not, I could make Don come do it."  She said a few things, mostly complimenting that her son is having to use manners and dress nicely again.  "That's good at least.  No, he's still pitiful.  Still fevered.  We've already done that and Alexx is coming over today.  He likes the stuff with stars. Wouldn't even eat the deli stuff he likes.  Thanks though."  He grinned.  "No, we're eating normal food.  Sure, Yelina."  He hung up and walked back into the bathroom. "Alexx will be over for lunch or just before. I called Yelina.  Ray's okay with doing his social circuit stuff and hyping Ryan's run for judge too. "

"I called the person he was supposed to interview with last week," Xander said tiredly.  "Told them she was in the hospital.  They arranged a phone one instead."  He closed his eyes again.  "When is Alexx coming?"

"Just before lunch if we don't have a body, or for lunch if we do," Eric offered, looking down at him.  "I'm going to call my mom, see if she can think of anything."  He went to do that in the office, that way he could write anything down.  "Momma, his fever's still up.  Can you think of anything other than baths, tylenol, and rest?"  He wrote down the instructions.  "Are you sure?"  He nodded.  "Okay, do you have any of that?  I know we don't have any of those three flowers.  Thanks, momma.  How's the baby?"  She babbled on about the sweetness.  "We think his mother went out of town, momma.  New girlfriend."  She laughed at that.  "At least she knew someone would take care of the baby.  Thanks, momma."  He hung up and leaned back. "Mom's bringing over an herbal batch of stuff to soak him in, Horatio."

"Thank you.  Any word on Di?"

"Not yet.  Not there anyway."  He called Speed, putting him on speaker since Horatio was coming his way.


"Hey.  Any word from Di?"

"Not yet.  Who has the baby?"

"My mother," Eric admitted.  "Marisol is getting in good practice with toddlers and my other sister with kids is having fun letting her kids play with him.   He's going to be bilingual before she gets back."  Speed moaned.  "His fever's still up.  Alexx is coming over."

"Wonderful.  Going back to the ER if it doesn't drop?"

"If she says so.  My mom's sending over some herbal stuff she soaked us in," Eric offered.

"Even better.  How's he doing otherwise?"

"Pitiful," Horatio assured him. "How's the office?"

"If you keep doing all the paperwork, we'll be fine.  Calleigh's been doing some of the stuff that's got to be filled out in person.  How much longer?" he pleaded.

"They're still in the early phases," Eric admitted.  "Still full to bursting."


"Sorry.  But hey, you get to taunt Erica Sykes about breaking into our house and Ray Jr. about doing the society thing."

"Hmm, been doing the second.  When did she do that?"

"Last night," Eric said with a big grin.

"Ahhhh.  Yeah, maybe I'll go check on her later," he agreed.  "Tell the son I send hugs, which I'll give in person once he's less contagious.  Later, guys.  Bodies do call."  He hung up.

"Good to know they're keeping busy," Eric quipped, making Horatio snicker at that.  "So, is the way you envisioned your month?"

"No, but then again I never imagined myself married to Xander ten years ago either.  We must move when the opportunities and situation offer, Eric."

"You're going zen?" he taunted.

"I'm going insane without a new case."  The phone rang.  Eric put it on speaker, letting them listen to the gunshots.  "Speed?"

"Nope, me," Don said, mock cheerfully, then fired close to the phone.  "Um, tell Xander I love him but I'm sending him Danny for the week, 'kay?"  He hung up.  Eric logged onto a news site while Horatio went to find CNN.

"Looks like someone's trying to get a suspect out," Horatio called.

"Joy," Eric called back.  He called Speed.  "Watch out for an incoming Danny.  Don just called from the middle of a firefight.  Looks like they're trying to get a suspect free.  He said he's sending Danny."  He hung up and went to watch.  He saw something shimmery off to the side. "Crap, look," he said, pointing.

"Xander!" Horatio snapped.

"Not me!"  He got out and came to look, growling and muttering under his breath.  The guys shooting at the cops screamed and the cops rushed. "Good.  They deserve it."  He went back to his bath.

"Did you do that?" Horatio called.

"No.  The demon already there did.  I was swearing, Horatio, not doing magic."

"That's fine.  Thank you, Xander.  Sorry to doubt you."

Xander settled back into his bath, wondering if he had targeted the demon by accident.  After all, Willow had a lot of problems with her magic.  He didn't feel any worse though so he probably hadn't used any. He decided he hadn't so it was okay.  He hadn't done the bad thing.  He drifted off in there, getting comfortable.  Maybe he'd live in the bathtub for the next few days instead of bed.  It wasn't as scratchy as the sheets.

Horatio and Eric watched as the suspect was recaptured and everything was going back to normal.  They caught sight of Don being looked over, but he looked fine.  They caught sight of Mac and Stella too.  Horatio called Mac's phone, watching him answer.  "Where's Danny?  Don called us.  We're watching it on CNN."  On screen, Mac yelled at someone to back the cameras up and to bring him a report.  The patrol guys backed the cameras out of the site and they only caught a long-distance shot of him now.  Then he reported that everyone was probably fine.  Don had a graze.  Danny had a few grazes.  His cover wasn't as good as Don's had been.  They were all fine.  He asked about Xander.  "He's fine but his fever is still high.  Let me know if we can help, Mac."  He hung up, letting him get back to work.  "He said Danny's fine."

"Uh-huh," Eric said, calling him personally.  "Messer, you good?  Because we've seen the others but not you yet.  You good?"  He smirked. "Uh-huh.  Sure.  Well, we're here and Xander's still sick, with both of us in quarantine.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Horatio, that was inside the lab."

"I realize that, Eric.  They're going to have a few days of fixing that area.  I think that's ballistics."

"Good place to hold a standoff.  The exemplar cabinet and bullets."  Someone knocked on the door so he went to open it.  "Ethan.  We have chicken pox in the house."

"I saw the sign.  I've had them."  He walked inside.  "No, he didn't use magic.  Your mother sent me to deliver herbs?"  He held up the bag.  "What's wrong?"

"He's got a high fever that won't go down," Horatio admitted.

"Two tablespoons of the herbs and make sure some of the purple flowers are in there as well.  Warmish water.  It works like a natural painkiller would.  It should help in addition to the tylenol."  Xander peeked out of the bedroom.  "What?"

"Did I do magic? Just now? I was swearing in demon and the one there ate the bad guys."

"I can check," he offered, going to do that.  He did have a high fever.  It was a worry.  "No, no magic, Xander," he offered, getting a sigh of relief.  He found the bracelet he had given the boy a few years back, putting it on him.  "Wear that until you're better.  That's the one that dampens it for you."  Xander grinned a goofy grin and got back into the bath.  "You really are ill," he said, frowning.  "I'll let your husband get back to fussing."  He walked out.  "He didn't.  I put the dampener on him anyway.  High fevers and illness can make magic break out by accident."

"We had dancing, floating cans of soup last night," Eric agreed dryly.

"Even better. He's still extremely warm.  Try that now if his bath water is clean."  Horatio nodded and Ethan left, going to tell Willow.  Maybe she had an idea to get it back down.  He got her husband.  "I was going to tell her how her friend was doing."  Ryan said he'd pass it on.  "Ask her if she's got a sure-fire way to reduce fevers.  It's been too long now.  Tell her I dropped some of the Talesmar mix from the store she uses when your son has it."  He hung up and got into his car, heading home to bathe.  He hated being around sick people.

Horatio went to rerun the bath and follow those orders.  It could only help and Ethan had looked worried when he came out.


Alexx came out of the bathroom.  "Who did he see?"  Horatio handed over the discharge forms and some tea.  "Thank you, Horatio."  She went into the office to call him, coming back with a smile.  "They pulled his chart and the attending is calling him in an antibiotic as well.  Said it might be an underlying infection with the way he was vomiting at first. To keep up the baths and that stuff.  What's that herbal stuff?"

"Stuff my mother used on us," Eric offered from the couch.  "Did you bring me something to do?"

She nodded, pointing at the box.  "From Calleigh, Eric."  He whooped and got up to get it.  She smiled at Horatio.  "The Chief said this doesn't get you out of budget meetings."  He moaned. "Tough.  They can conference call you.  In there's also the dates and times of that.  It's going to be at least another week."

"Please no," Eric begged. "My usual vacations have women."

"I know, Eric.  Maybe you can make Horatio dress up."  Horatio growled at that.  "It's an idea, something to kill the long hours.  Either that or learn how to play video games, boys.  That's what Ryan's doing really.  All his reports are done too."  They chuckled at that.  "Fortunately for Speed, Danny and their lab got sent down while they cleaned up the one up there. Their boss wanted them out of the way since Mac's fussing, still."  She gave them looks.  "It could be worse.  He could be in the hospital.  Lots and lots of adult cases end up there, and if his fever doesn't fall by tomorrow, that's where I want him, Horatio."  That got a nod.  "Good.  Now, I got the shopping list in the car.  Come get it, boys. You're not sick."  They came out to get stuff, Eric trying to take a file from her front seat.  "I need that for court," she ordered.  He handed it back.  "Thank you.  How's the baby?"

"Di's still out of town," Eric admitted.  "We can't find her."

"Wonderful.  I'm going to have a word with the mother of your nephew when she gets back.  You don't do that when you have kids. You leave a list of numbers."  She got back into the car.  "The prescription will be delivered, Horatio.  Expect phone calls if you don't call in."  She beeped and backed down the driveway, heading to grab lunch before court.

They carried everything inside, including the half-case of chicken and stars soup.  "Xander, Alexx got you the soup you like," he called.  "Want some?"

"Please.  I'm thirsty."

"Coming up," Eric agreed.  He grabbed the phone when it rang.  "Delko."  He listened. "DIANA, WHERE IN THE FUCK ARE YOU!" he shouted.  She gave him a weaker answer.  "Xander has chicken pox, we're in quarantine, and my mother's watching your son."  She gave a stronger answer of she'd be home that night.  "Good.  No, he's not fine. His fever's still up."  He made a note on the notepad next to the phone.  "When did that happen?"  He wrote that down too.  "Okay. Anything else?  She got him the booster in time.  He's not sick.  No, Mac had an adult relapse of a few sores.  Xander caught it from him.  Thanks."  He hung up and tore off the sheet, handing it to Horatio.  "What worked on him and on Eric when he had the one with his ear infection.  She'll be back tonight." He called his mother.  "Momma, Di just called. She'll be back tonight."  He smiled.  "I know, you'll pout a lot, but she needs to be the mommy this time.  No, I did yell at her though. Felt pretty good."  He grinned.  "Thanks.  Alexx was just here. He's got more of the soup he wanted.   Yes, momma, Horatio is remembering to wash the sheets every day. Thanks, mom."  He hung up and shook her head.  "She's going to fuss as soon as she can."  He went back to settling the new food in, putting the eggs in the fridge.  "What did you want for lunch?"

"I was going to warm up turkey for hot turkey sandwiches."  He pulled the soup out of the microwave and carried it in there, then came out to get him some juice.  Someone knocked so he went to answer it, glaring at the person with the gun on the other side.  He pointed at the sign, then did a very Xanderish thing.  He slammed the door.  "Eric, report the man with the gun outside," he called quietly while he watched him stand there and look very confused.  He was still looking confused when the officers pulled up, then he threw a fit on them about him slamming the door in his face. Eric laughed from behind him.  "It did feel good."  He opened the door.  "I have no idea what he wants."

"Apparently his boss, Miss Sykes," the officer reported.

"You guys have her too," Eric called, stepping into the doorway.

"You're here too, Delko?"

He nodded.  "I was here when Xander broke out in chicken pox and when he got exposed in New York."

"That could've been during the rescue," Horatio reminded him.

"True, it could've been during the rescue."

"So I take it the convention was fun?" the second officer asked.  He was a friend of Xander's.

"Some moments, some I wanted to kill the FBI director," Eric admitted.  They gaped.  "Yeah, Xander was the one they wanted to kidnap.  That's why we leaked it to Erica Sykes."  They smirked at that.  "Watch out for the New York team to come in.  They got banished after their lab got invaded by guys with guns, all the way to ballistics."

"Oooh," Xander's friend hissed, shuddering.  "They okay?"

"Mostly grazes," Horatio assured him.

"Ow," Xander called loudly.

"I'd better see what that was.  Have fun with him."

Eric waved.  "Alexx is saying at least another week."

"I'll warn the others," Xander's friend offered, pushing the cameraman into the car.

Horatio found Xander had slipped, helping him out.  "What's wrong?"

"Wanted to go to the bathroom."  He gave him a pitiful look.  "I'm sorry I'm so pathetic."

"You're sick, I can accept it."  He kissed his forehead.  "You're a little bit cooler.  Go to the bathroom and then get back in."  He looked, seeing the soup bowl in there.  "Or how about you shower and then go back to bed?"  Xander nodded.  "I'll get you more soup."

"Not hungry anyway."  Horatio gave him a look but left him alone to go to the bathroom in peace.


Don knocked on the door, holding up the bag when Horatio answered it.  "From the pharmacy.  They called Speed since they still had him living there."  He handed it over and walked in. "Yes, I've had it.  Where is the nephew?"

"Bed, sleeping, finally," Eric admitted from the couch, looking at him.  "Did you bring us something?"  Don held up the other bags he was carrying, making Eric grin and take them.  "Playstation?"

"Don't tell me Xander doesn't have one."

"He plays video games on his computer," Horatio admitted. "Ray has one we can probably borrow."  He went to call his nephew, getting a pouty boy. "What happened?" he asked in greeting.  He listened to him talk about being dumped.  "I'm sorry, Ray.  No, he's still not better, but Don brought over games and we need to borrow the playstation.  Ray, that's not nice.  Fine, you sulk with it."  He hung up.  "He's sulking to his, Eric.  He just got dumped."


Don rolled his eyes.  "I'll contribute one to the house so you guys don't go insane."  He shook his head.  "Anything else we need?  Danny and Stella are going grocery shopping and I can call them."

"He only eats chicken and stars, but we've got plenty," Eric offered.  "He's past his thing with goldfish crackers."

"Uh-huh."  He called them.  "Danny, Don.  Pick up a playstation.  No, they don't have one and Ray's sulking with his.  He just got dumped.  Horatio said Xander only plays on his computer.  Yup. They've got plenty of soup he likes.  No, he's a chicken and stars kid."  He grinned at that snort.  "Thanks, guys.  Going out of their minds."

"Alexx said it'd be another week," Eric pouted.

"And Alexx said it'd be another week, guys."  He laughed as he hung up.  "Mac's already hiding at the condo.  They finally let him hide for a bit."

"We found Xander in a closet wanting to hide," Horatio agreed.

"He said Mac would be too and I pointed out Danny and Stella wouldn't let him," Eric told him.

"Sounds like tough guy syndrome."  He looked in the bedroom, hearing a moan.  He headed in there, going to check on him. "Horatio, his fever's back."

"It's time for more medicine," he called, going to get it.

"Get me some alcohol in a bowl and a washcloth.  Diluted half strength."  Eric went to do that, handing it over.  "Thank you.  We can break this."  He swished the cloth around then rang it out well, wiping over Xander's forehead and face, then down his neck.  He rinsed and rewet, then wrung it out again, going over his chest.  The boy started to shiver by the time he got to his arms, then he started to sweat again.  "Hmm, pernicious."

"Word of the day calendar?" Eric teased.

"Yeah, Stella's."  He did the complete circuit again, letting Eric sit him up so he could get his back too.  This time the sweat was more healthy and it started to come back down.  Horatio came in with the medicine.  "That should be enough," he admitted, taking the bowl and getting out of the way. "If it hasn't broken in a half-hour, we'll do it again.  He's lucky, my mother put me in an ice bath.  I had a-hundred-and-five for four days straight.  She was worried about brain damage.  Put me in with my sister too so she'd catch it."  Xander started to shiver.  "There it goes.  Get him into the shower, Horatio.  With you."  Horatio looked at him.  "Seriously.  Do it."  That got a nod and he got Xander into the shower with him.  He handed over the alcohol.  "Put that aside in case it comes back."

"Alcohol's cheap and we've got more," Eric promised, grinning at him.  "My mother and Willow sent over a really good herbal thing for it."

"That stuff's good but only for the one time fever.  Not for a stubborn one. He'd have to be in it for days.  Though it might've drawn some of the puss out.  The stuff she told me she used on Todd does do that very well in a compress she told me.  She used it on some hunting injuries in the past."

"Wow.  I'll have to remember that."

"That's part of her faith and stuff.  I just do what I'm told.  My Ma had to do that a few times to me.  I had mono in seventh grade."  Eric moaned.  "Exactly.  We should remake the bed."  Eric nodded, helping him strip it totally and flip the mattress, spraying it with disinfectant and then febreeze before they flipped it and did that again.  Then the sheet.  Soft cotton ones.  By the time Horatio came out with the sleepy, mumbling Xander they were back to the pillows.  "All done, Horatio. Lay down with him."  Horatio nodded, settling Xander in and letting himself be pulled down when Xander tugged.  They covered them with a sheet and went back to the living room.  Don's phone rang.  "Flack."  He listened.  "8852, Danny.  Sure.  No, it just broke.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "They picked up more calamine lotion too."

"Good.  His back's horrible with it, so's his front and head.  It's in his hair, Don."

"Um-huh.  I had some in my ears.  Within ten minutes I had them bleeding."  Eric winced.  "I had one good one inside my throat and coughed myself hoarse. That was the first time I had ever been in the hospital.  My father said I was too sick to put up with at home."

"How are you?"

"Two grazes, one's got three whole stitches.  They wanted us out of the way in case they tried again and while they fixed the damage."

"Good.  They can use you guys down here.  Why do I have to be quarantined until he's better?"

"Because they can't prove you had it before, dumbass.  How's the baby?"

"Di should about be home from Barbados."

"The sprout is where?"

"Pouting at my mother about the dog going home probably.  It only took him three days to sleep when we got home.  He was mooing all night."

Don burst out in giggles, getting up to answer the door when Danny and Stella pulled up.  Stella gave him an odd look.  "The baby spent three nights mooing and not sleeping."

"That's another good reason why I take the pill."

"He was chasing after my brother's dog, mooing at it at four in the morning," Eric offered from the doorway.  "Need help?"  Danny was leaning against the car laughing, nodding.  He came out to get stuff to bring inside. "We think his fever broke."

"Alcohol bath?" Danny asked Don, who nodded.  "Good job."  He grabbed the playstation box, handing it over.  "Yours."  Don beamed. "You have both systems back at your place, Flack.  You don't need this one too."  He grabbed a bag of groceries and carried it inside, letting Don get the other one and his toy.  Eric came out to get the case of soda and juice for Xander.  Danny looked in all the cabinets, then put things away where it looked like they should go, letting Horatio correct a few things when he came out to look.  "You, back to bed!" he shooed, turning him around and giving him a shove.  "We dealt with a pitiful Mac, we can help you two tonight."  Horatio grinned and went back to holding Xander.

Stella walked in.  "How is he?"

"Slightly warm but nowhere near the fever he had."

She came over to test him, then nodded. "He'll be fine.  It'll probably stay that way for a few more days, while he's got puss."  She looked at his chest, then his hands and arms.  "Has he been scratching?"

"No, he's been in the bath."  She smiled at that.  "He shouldn't have too many scars."

"Good.  What did you want for dinner?"

"Toup," Xander murmured against Horatio's shoulder. "Tars."

"I'll make you some chicken and stars, Xander.  Horatio?"

"I don't care.  Something solid?" he asked quietly.  She winked and nodded, going out to the kitchen, where Danny was warming some soup and adding some star pasta to it.  "Think it'll work?"

"Yup.  Did with me.  I took all the big chucks of veggies out. It's just as salty too.  Just better quality broth and chicken."  He stirred it.  "What about the other boys?"


"Hmm.  We got that warm-up-and-eat pot roast and fried chicken."

"Chicken or beef, guys?"

"Chicken," Eric called.

"Either's fine," Don called.

"Chicken it is," she agreed, taking the deli chicken out of the fridge and portioning it out with the sides.  She brought them plates.  She found the tray in the bedroom thanks to Horatio pointing.  She brought it back so Danny could make it up for the couple.  Then she delivered it and made Horatio smile at her.  "We're dealing with the playstation."  He moaned.  "It's all right, Horatio. It'll give him something to do when he's bored but not quite fully better yet."  She went back to watching Don teach Eric the first game.  "He should know.  He plays drunk," she offered.

"Horatio said I could give you a few of my women," Eric offered.  "I know some pretty nice ones."

"Too far to commute for cuddles and sex."

"Sure."  He grinned at him.  "You out of your sulk?"

"Most nights.  Since Horatio yelled at me about the case of lube and handcuffs."  Eric blushed.  "I did?"  Eric nodded, pointing at the box in the corner.  He got up to look then blushed himself.  "Sorry, Horatio.  Guess my drunk ass was feeling slightly kinky."  He went back to the couch and his dinner.

Danny patted him on the back.  "You only sent us a small care package.  That's why Mac couldn't look at you that one day."

"Sorry, Danny."

"You're better now.  No more drunk computing and ordering, or going to porn shops in that case."  He gave him another pat.  "Eric, jump."  He jumped his little man on the screen and kept going.  "I can't believe you started him on Mario Brothers."

"It's where I started," Don defended.  "It's why I've got such good hand/eye coordination.  That and Duck Hunt."

Stella snickered.  "I remember Duck Hunt. I sucked at it."  She sat down on Eric's other side, watching him play.  "Go down on those."  He tried.  "Go to the next one."  He gathered the star and went to the next one, going down.  "See, extra points."  She leaned back to watch the boys play.  Sometimes she felt like the mother of the group.

Danny walked over to answer the door, smiling at the woman on the other side.  "Yeah?"

"Is Xander all better? I noticed the visitors."

"Nah, we were takin' care of the guy who gave it to him.  His fever's broken though. He'll be down to miserable and itchy in no time."

"That's good.  You give him these cookies," she said, passing him a tin.  "Tell him to come over and talk when he's better."  He nodded, smiling.  "He'll know me by the cookies, dear."  She left, heading to the right walkway.

Danny closed the door and went to hand them to Xander.  "The lady who went right on the walkway said to come see her when you're better."

"Thank you.  I'll go see Jill when I can."  He looked at him.  "You make good soup."

"You can tell?"

"It's better and bigger chucks of chicken."

Danny smiled. "You needed it."

"I probably do."  He opened the tin and smiled.  "Butterscotch cookies."  He nibbled one.

"You can have two more after you finish your soup," Danny ordered. "Drink your juice too."  Xander nodded, doing that, then handing him the tray, but keeping the cookies.

Danny put it in the kitchen then went back to watching Eric learn the joys of video games.


Eric called Ryan at two in the morning. "How do you get past the third level of Halo?" he asked quietly.  "Because you play them and Don got me hooked.  Please?  He's not as fevered but he's itchy and cranky.  Di's back. She apologized for twenty minutes to my mother. Ma likes her for that alone."  He wrote down the instructions.  "How are they?"  Ryan's 'sleeping' made him chuckle. "Sorry.  It's the boredom, you know?"  Ryan assured him he did know.  "Don got us a playstation."  Ryan said he'd bring over some games when Xander was better, then he hung up.  Eric hung up and went to get past the level that had killed him so many times he was getting a complex.

Horatio came out ten minutes later, saved the game and turned off the tv.  "Bed, Eric.  Now."  He went back to bed himself.

"I had it on mute," he promised.

"I don't care.  It was the flickering lights. Go to bed!"

"Yes, boss."  He went to bed, making notes on what he had done right so far.  He knew they made cheat manuals too.  Ray had some.  He snuck down to the office to email him to see if he had that one.  Then he went to bed.


At the end of the second week, Alexx came back to look at him.  "He's still got some puss," she announced.   Horatio and Eric both moaned.  "But the incubation time has passed."  She smiled.  "I can get you cleared to go back in two days."

"Make it tomorrow and I'll push to give you a raise," Horatio offered. She looked at him, then gave the closed bedroom door a pointed look.  "He wants me to go away and quit fussing too."

"I'll see what I can do."  She went to call the person in the health department who dealt with quarantine issues, getting her permission since Horatio had it already and Eric was still clear.  She came out of the office and nodded. "Tomorrow and I have to check Eric for the next three days anyway."  He nodded at that, quickly.  "What's wrong, Eric?"

"I told him to quit calling me Master Sergeant earlier," Horatio said grimly.  "He was half asleep."

"Ah, that game.  Don said he gave you guys some games."  She shook her head. "Change games, Eric."

"I'm nearly all the way through!"

"Can you finish it tonight?"

"Yeah, hopefully within ten or thirty minutes.  Depending on how bad the last three panels are."

"They're hard, baby, it'll be an hour, even for real teenagers.   You do that."   He cheered then ran to do that.  "You're leaving the game here."

"Okay, did you want to borrow it?"

"No," she snorted.  "I don't like the violent ones."  She looked at Horatio, who smiled.  "Tell him the good news."

"I heard him cheer.  He's back to wanting to hide."

"That's fine," she agreed.  "Some boys are like that.  Stella said she had to keep Mac from hiding."

He nodded.  "He's that sort.  He complained Mac got to hide."  He smiled. "Is anything going on there?"  She shook her head.  "You're kidding?"  She shook her head.  "Maybe it'll perk up?"

"No new bodies in four days, Horatio."

"Damn."  He pouted, going off to tell Eric that. He found him looking at the cheats manual and closed it on him.  "Cheating is wrong, Eric.  Even on videogames."

"It's got hints."  He reopened it and found his spot, then unpaused the game and got back into it.

Horatio shook his head, going to sit on the porch.  At least the water didn't make funny noises at him.  She came out to join him.  "How much longer should he be sick?"

"When the last one dries completely, he can get out of the house.  Until then....  Could be four, five days maybe.  Adult cases are always harder."

"Especially on lovers and spouses," he agreed.  "That fever had me worried."

"He passed my quick cognitive test.  He's fine, Horatio."  She patted him on the hand.  "Are you expecting to be fussed over?"  He nodded, smirking at her.  "Payback?"

"I had better never get sick again.  He vowed that yesterday.  Plus, the holidays are coming."

"Um-huh.  Definitely."  He shivered.  "Exactly. By the way, I know what he got you," she said with a smile.  "You can use it and it'll make you happy."

"Another hummer?"

"Calleigh only dented yours so no.  The fender was easily fixed."  He rolled his eyes.  "The fire truck hit her, Horatio, not the other way around.  She was parked and doing paperwork when they had to dodge around an idiot who didn't pull over on a residential street."  He groaned at that.  "It's fine.  She's done all the paperwork.  The fire department is pretty red in the face too.  Oh, they gave Erica a citation and let her off the hook but her camera guy is still in jail.  The station wouldn't bail him out."  He smiled at that.  "Did you really slam the door in his face?"

"I wasn't armed, Alexx.  I was in sleep pants."  She giggled at that.  "Really."  She gave him a look.  "Xander's a bad influence."


Eric came out. "I won."  He grinned at her.  "Xander has this really bad habit of running around naked and sliding into his lap.  Fair warning. Did it when Stella and Danny were here before they left, right next to Stella."  Horatio blushed at that.  "She did that too," Eric quipped with a grin. "Brighter than you are."  He looked at her again.  "Danny looked over at her and said he'd be spanking her if she looked. Then he called Mac on the way out."

"I'm sure they made sure she couldn't sit in other ways," she said wisely.  "Your nephew is fine, Horatio. He's been around a few times. He made sure you haven't killed each other from the boredom."  She smiled at them.  "So, cookout next weekend if he's better?"  Horatio nodded that was fine.  "Good.  What's he doing?"

"Playing on his laptop," Eric said with a smirk."I want that game."

"No more games, Eric," Horatio ordered.  "They rot the mind."

"They haven't rotted Ryan's yet."

"That's one paranoid man," Alexx assured them.  "He's always got his earbud in, walking around calling her every thirty minutes the first three days he was back.  Eventually she called Speed and asked him to find him somewhere dirty, nasty, and where he couldn't bring his phone.  Speed walked past him, yanked the earbud on the way past him and took the cellphone without stopping.  Told him she was fine and complaining.  He could have it back in two hours.  He handed it to Frank, and the scene they were going on.  Ryan got it back an hour and a half later and called her immediately, waking her up and getting a mood swing in the ear."  Eric chuckled at that.  "Remember, Eric's parents' anniversary is next weekend."

"We're going to that as well," Xander promised as he came out, sitting in his usual chair.  Horatio looked at him. "No offense but if you try to cuddle me again, I'm hitting you."

"I understand, Xander.  As long as you still cuddle at night I'll be fine."  He nodded he would.  "Good. I can go back tomorrow."

"Good because you're driving me insane.  I'll even clean the house, just go away.  Now.  Please?"

"Tomorrow, Xander," Alexx said firmly.

"No, now!" he whined. "Please? For my sanity?"

"Fine, we'll go check the office, make sure it hasn't fallen in," Eric promised.  "I'll go home tonight."  Xander smiled at that.  "I know you still love me, it was the enforced cohabitation."

"That and seeing you in those green briefs."  Eric blushed and nodded, heading inside to pack since he could be released.  Xander looked at his mate. Who just smiled.  "Wear the green pants and a casual shirt?"  Horatio nodded, going to do that for him, heading out with Alexx, who was still chuckling.  "Finally!"  He went to clean up the house and air it out. He left the sign up since he was still contagious but that was okay. He could air everything out.  Including the bed.  It got put onto the porch.  He was tired of the smell of lysol and febreeze.  He tossed the sheets in the washer and went to the laptop again, going to fix that.  He hated that bed. Really, really hated that bed.  And those sheets. It'd be months before he could look at those sheets.  Even his favorite sheets.  Then he ordered new video games.  He had played all the ones Don brought and beaten most of them.

He called Ray Jr.  "I'm almost better and Alexx released them, finally!  No, she said I've got four or five more days.  Getting a new bed and sheets so I don't have to look at those.  I know I'm still sick but I'm down to six or seven spots left. I can cover them.  I will be covering them.  I don't care!" he whined.  "Any games in particular you need over here?"  He grinned. 'That works, but I've played that one.  I need something I haven't played."  He found that one and looked it over, then got it to. "Okay, anything else?  Isn't that porn?"   He giggled and did that too.  "Thanks, Ray."  He hung up and finished the order with a few new books for Horatio and his son.  Then he paid for it and sent it.

He called the mother of his son.  "Di, it's me.  I'm nearly better.  Four or five more days.  By the time the Delkos have their anniversary party.  How is he?"  He grinned.  "Is he still mooing?"  He chuckled at her threat.  "I don't know who taught him how to moo.  Sure.  Once I'm fully better.  How is she doing?"  He smirked.  "So, special occasion?"  He nodded.  "That works for us, you know that.  Thanks."  He hung up and got back to fixing the house so it was clean and *his* house again, not his, Horatio's, and Eric's house.  Because they were not a trio and he was not sharing his mate with Eric.  No matter how much he liked him.


Horatio came home that night to find a few things changed, like a different bed.  It was nice, a pillow top, just as firm, the pillows were new too, and new sheets.  "You didn't change the frame?"

"If I have to smell lysol and frebreeze one more night I'm going to throw fits," Xander said without looking up from his reading.  "Seriously."

Horatio laughed, laying down next to him.  "Same brand?"  Xander nodded.  "It's nice."  He stole a kiss, getting a grin.  "Feel better?"

"Yup.  Much.  They're covered but I need you to cover the one on my back so I don't have to hide these sheets too."  Horatio laughed and got that for him, letting Xander take off the t-shirt he was wearing.  "The others are on the bottom of the stack in the closet."

"How many sheets do we have now?"

"Four new sets.  That should give me enough time to get over the hatred of the old ones."

"That's fine.  We only used three sets."  Xander looked at him.  "Not like I was going to put the *good* sheets on the bed, Xander."

"They're in their special spot.  These are everyday, comfy sheets."  He let Horatio look at his back. "Can you put the stuff on it too?"

"Of course."  He spread the calamine and then bandaged the sore.  "It's mostly dried up."

"I want them fully dried up.  I'm down to cheerios or cooking."

"If you cook, I will have to yell."  He snuck a kiss once he was done, letting Xander curl up naked next to him again.  "Still don't want cuddled?"

"If you want to, I'm back down off my 'going to run screaming off a cliff' phase."  Horatio finished getting undressed and through his nightly ritual, then curled up next to him, letting Xander set the level of cuddles that night.  "How did you get the fever to break?"

"Don gave you an alcohol bath.  It took two passes but it broke."

"Have to remember that."  He yawned and snuggled in.  "A few more days then I'll get to make my apologies in person."

"Ray made most of them for you and the Chief made some.  He was very happy to have us back.  Things went smoothly.  Speed captured his newest suspect in the act of beating his girlfriend into silence.  Eric jumped in to help on Calleigh's case, making her sigh in relief.  It was a body dumped into one of the smaller waterways just outside the city.  So he even gets to dive tomorrow."  Xander grinned at that, he could feel it.  "I, of course, had paperwork that Speed neglected."  That got a quiet chuckle.  "So, anything else that needs fixed around the house?"

"Can we have a dog?"

Horatio made Xander look at him.  "Eric doesn't live with us that often, dear."

"But I like dogs too."

"We'll see."  Xander grinned.  "At least you didn't order one."

"No, I'd go to the pound."

"Hmm."  He looked at his mate.  "We'll see."  Xander squealed and hugged him.  "Is he still mooing?"

"Yup. Looked right at Beth and mooed, made her cry.  Di had to do some explaining about the odd son of ours."

"Who's Beth?  The new girlfriend?"

"Well, semi-wife instead of girlfriend but Beth is her new assistant.  She's a bit on the heavy side, about fifty pounds overweight, she thought the baby was making a comment."  Horatio hummed again, nodding at that.  "Now she's teaching Eric how to bark instead.  So he's not mooing as much and occasionally he baas and occasionally he clucks and now he barks.  Having a dog would be a good thing.  It'd give me someone to run with when I don't run with you.  We could play on the beach together.  We could watch tv together on your late nights.  I'd get something with short hair that didn't shed as often if I could.  Plus, hey, Eric loves dogs.  Dad loves dogs so he could babysit if we had to go out of town for some reason, like heading to New York to kick Mac's ass over treating Danny like crap again.  Oh, and Stella too.  Or he could stay with Calleigh, she likes dogs.  I think Eric likes dogs, he lets his brother-in-law's mutt into his lap all the time."

"Those are all very good selling points, but they create messes, Xander."

"They'd be house trained, Horatio."

"You're not always here all day."

"We have a yard.  I can easily put a line out there and let him hide under the porch if I'm going to be gone that long."

"That is a good point, but that would get the lawn messy."

Xander looked up at him.  "Can I have a snake then?"

"If the choice is a snake or a dog, I'd rather have the dog.  We'll talk about it this weekend, Xander."

"Sure.  I'm being good, I'm not even asking for the beagle puppies that were born up the street.  Just a harmless little stray dog who wants to be loved.  Because the shelter is overly full."

"We'll talk about it this weekend, Xander."

"Yes, dear."  He settled in.  "You spoil me horribly."

"I do," he agreed, tolerant smirk in place.  He really did.  He let Xander get away with anything, including buying a new bed.  He had liked the old mattress but this one was comfortable.  He yawned, letting himself drift off with thoughts of a happy husband who had a dog's tail for some reason.  He wasn't sure why he was dreaming about dogs.  He didn't like animals that much.  Maybe Xander was contagious in other ways.


"Your son is an airborne pathogen," Horatio said when he ran into Speed the next morning.

"What did he do this time?"

"Made me not care that he replaced the bed on me and bought more videogames."

"Uh-huh.  And?" he asked, looking at him.  "What else did he do?  That's not enough for you to usually fuss. You were complaining about the old bed anyway, Horatio."

"He bought new sheets too.   Claims he doesn't want to see the others for a very long time."

"Yeah, and that's reasonable after being that sick.  What else did he do?"  Horatio got into his phone and handed over the pictures he had been sent on his way in.  "Oh, he wants a dog."  He nodded, handing it back.  "Willow warned me he'd start begging for a beast to play with once he got truly comfortable and realized it wasn't going to go away on him."  Horatio looked at him.  "That's a good thing," he prompted.

"I just had the mental picture of coming home to the whole pound being in the house."

"Um, no.  He'd have someone go to the pound with him," Speed assured him.  "Xander is realistic, Horatio.  He knows he'd bring home more than he should."  Horatio moaned.  "It means he's comfortable and he's realized it won't end."

"Which is a good thing. It's only been two and a half years," he noted.  He shook his head and headed to his office.  "Anything yet?"

"They're all on spring break."  He went back to his lab, going to work on a cold case for a bit.  He'd have to call his son later to make sure he hadn't been at the pound yet. Hopefully Horatio would not come home to a houseful of dogs and cats, but with Xander going alone....  He made the call now.  "Promise me you will not go to the pound alone, Xander."  He heard the nice response.  "Why are you asking *him*?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  When?"  He smirked. "Are you sure he's relented? He claimed you infected him with bad thoughts.  No, coming home to find the pound was now in the house."  He chuckled.  "Fine.  Yup.  Talk to him *first*.  Get him to agree.  Let him have some say in the matter, Xander.  Thank you, son."  He hung up and found Horatio watching him. "He's already okayed it with the person he'd bring with him."

"I can't go?"

"He said you'd be busy this weekend."


"I don't know.  He said you'd be busy this weekend.  He asked your brother."

"Why?" Horatio asked again.  "He doesn't like Ray."

"I think that's the point.  He can't get chummy and talk him into it, like he could any of us, Willow, Di, her new girlfriend Taylor, or the son."

"No, our son is not to go to the pound yet," Horatio sighed. "Do I get any say?"

"Yes, but he thinks you'll give in."

"I don't want some messy beast in the house.  I've seen the Delko's dog and what it can do to the house."

"That's a matter of bad training, Horatio," he said dryly.  "Trust me.  A well trained dog doesn't eat the couch or shoes.  Or your suits."  Horatio snorted. "Ask your neighbor."

"She's working on house training, still.  After three years," he complained.

"Okay, ask Calleigh. She's got them all around her and she babysits."

Horatio went to do that.  "Can dogs actually be trained not to make a mess?"

"Small messes are normal in life, Horatio.  They like to lay in the laundry.  They like to run and jump and play in the house.  They will shed some, but if you brush them and give them regular baths that's minimized."  She smiled at him.  "Xander sent me puppy pictures too.  He got your text message id wrong."  He moaned, shaking his head.  "It'll be okay.  You've seen my place after the worst trained dog was there.  You called it a comfy mess."

"I thought Eric's family's dog was the worst trained."

"Hey!" Eric complained from behind him, frowning.  "He's a good dog, he just chews on stuff now and then."

Horatio looked at him. "Xander wants a dog."

"Of course he does. He never had one.  If he tried to have one his parents probably killed it in front of him."  Horatio tensed at that.  "It means he's comfortable and he's finally accepted that you're not going to leave him.  Besides, that's a matter of training.  My brother-in-law thought it was cute he chewed on things as a puppy and never stopped him."  He shrugged and looked at Calleigh.  "Did you get the dog of the week from the pound picture too?"

"Is your phone id anywhere near Horatio's?"

"Yeah, about two up.  Why?"

"He got me by accident. I texted him back and got back an 'oops'."  She grinned.  "What's the dog of the week?"

"A greyhound."

"No.  Nothing that big," Horatio complained, going to call his husband. "Xander, no greyhounds."  He heard the suggestion.  "We can look at the website tonight.  We'll talk about it afterward.  They might not have anything that you'd.... I know you'd take any dog you could have....."  He mentally groaned.  Then did it out loud.  "We'll see."  He hung up and put his head down, shaking it.

Frank looked at him.  "What did your boy do this time?"

"He wants a dog."  Frank laughed so he looked at him.  "He's starting a campaign. Which is nice considering he bought a new bed yesterday after I left."

"You said it was hurting your back a few months ago."

"He said he didn't want to smell the lysol anymore."

"Yeah, that could factor into it.  My mom did the same after I had chicken pox.  Decided I could get sick off it again."  He shrugged.  "He buy new sheets too?"  Horatio nodded.  "New frame?"   That got a head shake.  "Then he was reining himself in, Horatio.  Not like the boy can fight those urges.  Then again, maybe he's picking up on Wolfe's OCD issues.  He's cleaned a few times that I know about."

"He only cleans when he's thinking or he's upset," Ryan said from behind him. "No, he's not picking up on it.  He's upset."

"About?" Horatio asked patiently.

"Worried about Willow.  Worried about the foundation.  Worried about Don.  Worried that he still wants to kick Mac's ass for upsetting Danny and Stella before they left because he snapped at them.  Worried that he can't handle the foundation if something happens to Don.  Worried that going back to school is the wrong thing to do.  Worried that he's going to mess up in public and make things harder on you.  Or haven't you realized almost everything he does, including most of the spoiling things, is to make your life easier, better, and more happy?"  Horatio gave him a stunned look.  "His favorite show used to be I Dream of Jeanie I think.  Personal opinion but he seems to mimic it now and then."

"I don't treat him that way," Horatio said quietly.

"No, he's making you happy so you don't send him away," Frank told him.  "That's why he checks *everything* with you.  Except the spoiling stuff.  Buying the bed was probably the first major thing he added to the home that was just his touch.  Because let's face it, Horatio.  His other house, it ain't like yours."  Horatio leaned back, thinking about that.  "So the bed's his contribution.  Did you yell?"

"I mentioned. I said it was nice and I liked it."

"Good.  Look forward to throw pillows next," Ryan offered.  "He got decorating hints from Willow and that's where she started too.  Then it moved onto glasses for some reason but not the rest of the dishes."  He shrugged and walked off. "He's feeling comfy, Horatio.  It's a good thing."

"I keep hearing that."

"Uh-huh."  Frank looked at him.  "My first year with my wife, she redecorated my house, rearranged my bank accounts, bought me all new clothes, which were better than I had, and made me miserable by changing every single thing in my life."

"I've had someone do that to me too," Horatio agreed.  "That's one thing I like about Xander.  He lets me be without fussing about things like the couch."

"You told him to buy a new couch."

"He did, and I do like it.  I'm replacing the chair no one likes with one from the same set actually."  He made a note to do that.  He sat up.  "You really think this is him starting to put a stamp on the house as his house too?"  Frank nodded.  "Why not sooner?"

"Horatio, how long did it take the boy to realize you weren't leaving him?" he asked quietly. "You know he'd never leave.  He'll cling like a leach if you're unhappy with him.  He doesn't want to think about being sent away or you leaving him.  He's lost way too much over the years.  You and Speed are his solid foundation.  Well, and I guess Willow too, but mostly you two.  It took him a little over two years to realize you weren't going to abandon him, make him go, or sell him."  Horatio glared at that.  "She said they did it a few times, Horatio.  Of course they're both worried.  They raised each other.  Wolfe had to learn that really early on when she talked to Xander every day about every thing to make sure it was something he thought Ryan would like."

"The answer to that was being more vocal about what I liked and didn't like," Ryan said as he walked behind him. "She still has her moments of insecurity.  She probably always will.  It's like that when you have parents who ignore you."  He looked into the office.  "By the way, I'll be committing homicide in two weeks, a double one.  Would you like to me to blatantly leave the bodies *here* or try to hide them to give you a case?" he asked with a grin.

"Her parents coming to town?" Frank asked.

"Her parents, his uncle for some reason."

"No way in hell," Horatio said firmly, standing up.  "Only with supervisors."

"They're adults, she reminded me of that.  Said I couldn't kill them in front of her," Ryan said, still grinning.  "I'm already on medicine to calm me down for it, so it has time to build.  Maybe you should look into that?"

"Can I yell at your wife?"

"She's fine.  They think it was food poisoning that started some cramping and that started the preterm labor by cramping behind the uterus.  I have no clue and it sounds far fetched to me, but I'm not the doctor and she only gave them disgusted looks instead of quoting chapter and verse on them."

Horatio called Willow, waving at them to close the door. They came in and closed the door.  "Willow, it's Horatio. What's this I hear Xander's uncle is coming down?"

"Yeah, Rory.  He went back to Sunnydale and my parents have been watching out for him.  I have no idea why he's coming."  Todd burped.  "You're old enough to apologize, son.  Say excuse me."  The baby babbled.  "Close enough until you talk for real."

"Willow, he doesn't have to excuse belching until he realizes it's a bad thing," Ryan said gently.  "That's about three or so."

"Eric's mother said it was good to start reminding them of that this young."

"That's too young, Willow.  Three."

"Fine.  I'll lay off the manners until he's three."

"Thank you, dear."  He'd be talking with Eric about that in a few minutes.  "Why are your parents coming anyway?  They didn't want to see Todd when he was born.  They were only in Atlanta at the time for a convention and wouldn't take the day to come down."

"I don't know.  I really don't.  I'm almost worried it has to do with the inheritance Xander got on Rory's part."

Frank snorted.  "No, I'm pretty sure that's his reason.  What about your parents?  Horatio wants me to keep your husband in line that week."

"Good luck.  All I could get him to do was not to kill them in front of me."

"He asked if he should hide them or not."

"Word of advice, honey.  Take them down to Tentacles, someone down there will eat them."

"Less messy of a cleanup," he agreed dryly, smirking.  "How do you know that?"

"I asked about possibly removing Erica Sykes a few months back when she was hinting so very hard about you and her getting it on again and how she liked that tongue thing."

"She was drunk, Willow."

"I don't care, sweetie.  Next time, I'm going Xander on her."

"Sure.  Just let me be able to deny any knowledge and clear the kids out of the way."

"Sure," she agreed cheerfully, and you could tell she was smiling about it.  "Horatio, I'm not sure.  They said they wanted to see Xander, and you.  But mostly me and him.  I don't know why."

"That's fine.  I would prefer if Xander, if not you as well, don't meet them alone, Willow.  I'm worried about what it'll do to Xander's mental state."

"He doesn't have a clue they're coming yet.  I haven't told him."

"He bought Horatio a bed yesterday."

"Yes!" she said happily.  "Oooh, let's snoopy dance, Toddy!  Yes, the Xander is happy and in love and he knows no one's going to break them up!  Yes, the unclie Xander is a happy boy!"


"Son, it's all right.  She's in a good mood," Ryan called, shaking his head.  "Let him crawl and do his own dancing, Willow."

"Fine, spoil my happy mood.  Someone's got to teach him to snoopy dance and Xander claims it's stupid so he won't."

"I didn't say it was stupid, I said it was silly but cute," Horatio told her. "I'll fix that one later. When they get here, did you want anyone other than Ryan with you? Speed, Calleigh, me?"

"You might want to stick close," she admitted. She heard the doorbell ring. "Oops, gotta go."  She hung up suddenly.

Ryan looked at the phone, then at him.  "Did you know your husband gave my wife a loan?"  He shook his head. "Neither did I.  It was to cover the time I had to take off now and when the baby's born.  I'll make sure it's paid back by the end of the year."

"That's fine, Ryan. I expected that one sooner really."  He shrugged.  "I know he helped her buy your new computer."

"Yeah, and it's a nice system," he agreed. "I'm glad most of my paperwork was online. I would've went more insane than Eric did."  Frank gave him a look.  "He called at two in the morning about video games, Frank."  Frank burst out in giggles, leaving the office on that. "Do you want them hidden or not, Horatio?"

"Hide them, Ryan.  We may both be complicit at that time."

Ryan stood up.  "Good to know I'll have help hauling the body down there."  He walked out, going back to work.  "Hey, Speed, Eric?  Can I have a few?"  They came out of the labs to join him at one of the hallway junctures.  "Willow's parents and Xander's Uncle Rory are coming down next week.  He doesn't know yet."

"So you're telling us before you commit the homicide?" Eric checked.

Ryan beamed and nodded. "Yeah, I am."

"Why is he coming?" Speed asked.

"No one's sure why *any* of them are coming," Ryan admitted. "She's not sure why her parents are coming.  They were in Atlanta right after Todd was born and refused to take a day to come down and see her then."

Speed patted him on the shoulder. "If they ask, it's all in a trust, he only gets an allowance, and they're not gay.  If they try anything funny or make her cry, you call *me* and cite me often."

"Horatio suggested supervising the visit."

"I'm there," Speed agreed.  "When?"  Ryan wrote down their flight number and day and time.  "I'll even pick them up," he agreed, smirking at him.  "Thank you, I needed to threaten someone today."  He went back to his lab, going to think up good threats in advance so he had a head-full ready.

Eric looked at him.  "Does she want a dog?"

"I came home to new fish one day.  She likes fish."  He shrugged and walked off.

Eric walked back into the lab he was working with Speed in.  "That bad?"  Speed growled without having to look up.  "Never mind."

"They're the sort who knew all the books and can't deal with people, especially a young girl."  He looked at him.  "Willow called me when she took up with Tara, who is a very nice young woman.  They claimed it was a phase, that she was rebelling, and that she would come back to the family when she finished growing up."  Eric growled.  Speed grinned.  "Exactly."

"Need more help supervising?"

"No, but I might need help planting surveillance devices in the house and making sure Xander knows he can't take them out or take them out of the house."

"That won't work.  He'd hate being told that."

Speed leaned on the lab table, leaning forward.  He pulled out his cell and put it on speaker, dialing the house.  "Xan, it's me and Eric.  Can you sit down?"

"I am.  I'm lounging and checking my email.  Why do I have one from Willow's mother that I'm nearly scared to open?"

"Her parents are coming down with your Uncle," Eric told him.

"Excuse me?"

"Yeah, that's why we're calling," Speed said more quietly.  "Ryan and Horatio want someone to supervise it when they're with her.  We were kinda hoping you'd allow us to do the same."


"Why not?"

"I'm a big boy. I can look at my uncle and tell him to fuck himself with the biggest dildo on the planet all by myself."

Calleigh choked.  "Why are we talking about those things?" she asked with a hot blush.

"His uncle is coming along with Willow's parents."

"Okay," she squeaked.  "And that topic...."

"I can tell him to do that to himself all by myself. I don't need a handholder," Xander said patiently.  "I'll be *fine*.  Really!"  He hung up.

Speed closed his phone and put it back.  "So, if there's a homicide, we'll be helping Ryan cover it up.  Sorry," he told her.

"Take it down to the demon bar, maybe someone there would eat them.  No coverup needed," she offered.  "Why are they coming down?  I remember Willow crying about them refusing to before."

"His uncle, probably about the money," Eric offered.  "Her parents?  No one's sure yet."

"Joy.  Can we mine the house with cameras?"

"No, not without his help.  He could easily take them outside or out of the house," Eric told her.  "They do most everything on the porch.  Nowhere to hide one."

"Under the grill," Horatio said from behind Calleigh, stepping in.  "There's a good hiding spot under there."

"Good idea," Eric agreed.  "What if he takes him out?"

"He's still wearing the GPS chip and there's only a few places he'd go," Calleigh pointed out.  "The park, a few restaurants..."

"The yacht club," Horatio admitted.  "He likes to have lunch there.  But they'd cooperate to keep the possibility of a fight out."

"No, that would show off the money," Speed noted.

"Why is he at the yacht club?" Eric asked. "He doesn't own one."

"I'm not sure and he's refusing to tell me," Horatio admitted.  "I have the feeling one was recently auctioned off."

Everyone looked at Speed. "No comment."

"Speed," Horatio said, moving closer.

Speed glared at him.  "He made me promise not to tell you and Cheline as well."  Then he grinned sweetly.  "By the way, I'm not allowed to tell you a thing about who sent them either."

Horatio looked at him.  "What aren't you telling me."

"It's not criminal.  I'm not breaking the promise.  Xander is more important to me than that, Horatio.  Ask your spouse."

Horatio called Xander.  "Xander, what isn't Speed telling me about the auction?"  He got hung up on and looked at his phone, then put it back.  "Speed?"

"Horatio," he said, staring him down.  "Xander made me promise.  He said it's already stopped, it's been handled.  He'll tell you.  Just probably not today.  I told him about the visit."

"I'm going home for lunch," he decided, heading back to his office.  He called his spouse from up there.  "It's just us in the office," he said into the speaker, speaking quietly.  "What is going on, Xander?"


"Now?"  Xander hummed.  "No, that's my line," he noted dryly.  Xander snorted and you could hear a quiet groan. "Who is that?"

"Di. She brought Taylor over so I could meet her finally.  Are you coming home for lunch?"

"If I do, we'll be talking."

"It's handled, Horatio."



"Xander, I need to know if this is something important.  Was it another stalker?"

"No comment.  It's fixed."

"Fixed how?"

"Fixed fixed."  He hung up again.  He looked at his friend and her girlfriend.  "Sorry about that."

"You didn't tell him about her?" Di asked bitterly.

"Nope, nor am I.  He'd worry horribly.  She's in the mental hospital.  Danny helped me with that.  It's handled."  He looked at Taylor.  "No one will come after you."

"Good, I like that," she said, smiling and flipping her brunette hair over her shoulder.  "So, I know you're gay...."

"Bi," he corrected, smiling at her.  "I just dated evil, bitchy women before.  Horatio's my first and only."

"Awww," she said with a grin.  "You look happy."

"Two years of happy."  He grinned at Di.  "I'm begging for a dog."

"If you piss him off...." she started.

He shook his head.  "Phil knows.  Danny helped me fix it when they came down the last time before I was sick.  I'm not going to disappoint him by telling him one of the society women was hunting me to turn me straight and have me herself to get the money.  She was doing it to discredit Patrick and all them.  She's violently anti-gay and was going to try to use me as a poster child.  And yes, I know you'll tell him if he thinks to ask you, which is why I'm telling you.  I can't tell him."

"Sure, if he asks, we'll tell him," Di promised.  "Anything else we can tell him?"  He handed over a picture he had printed off.  "He'll be too small to run with you, Xander.  You'll need someone to run with you."  She handed it back.  "Suggest he go to Speed.  He's scruffy just like him."  Xander beamed at that. "Anything else you want today?"

"I wanted to meet and talk with the woman who would be so important in my son's life.  Plus also in the newest one's life maybe."

"She is?" Di asked hopefully.

"She's keeping mum until the anniversary party.  Which means probably."  He beamed.  "A baby Horatio."

She squealed and hugged him.  "I'm so happy!"  The door slammed in and she flinched back.  "Who in the hell are you?"

Xander stood up, looking at her.  "What do you want, Rory?"

"You don't give me respect?"

"You haven't earned it."  He shrugged.  "Di, this is my uncle.  Uncle Rory, this is the mother of my son."  She shrugged.  He grinned at her.  "I know.  Why don't you take Taylor and go?"

"Going," Taylor agreed, giving him a hesitant look.  He blinked and glanced at Di.  She smiled at Rory. "Nice to meet you, sir.  Come on, Di."  She got up and followed her out, walking around him.

Xander looked at his uncle.  "Why are you here already?  Willow told her husband you were coming in next week."  He sat down.  "By the way, I have chicken pox.  I'm still contagious if you touch me so close the door, okay?"  He closed the door and walked in, sitting across from her.  "Why are you here?"

"You owe me."

"For not killing you?"  His uncle glared at him.  "I could have."  He shrugged and got comfortable.  "What do I owe you for?"

"For sending your girl after you when he sold you."

"She learned how to hack to find me one of the times.  I'll call her and see if you did.  If so, you have my thanks."

"You owe me more than that."

"It's all wrapped up in a trust, Uncle Rory.  All I get is a monthly check from it."

"You can get more."

"For things like ransoms.  Of course, if you touch my son I will kill you."  His uncle sneered.  Xander reached under the couch and pulled up a gun. "I'm married to a cop.  Do you think I can't use it?"  His uncle looked stunned.  "I should also mention I'm gay thanks you to you and Father.  Thank you for that."  He got up and stomped out.  Xander put the gun back and got up to play some video games to relieve the stress.  He jumped a few hours later when the door opened, looking at his spouse. "Don't do that, please?"

"Come home?"

"Sneak up on me."  He paused his game before he died and turned to face him.  "The reason I didn't tell you was because I don't want you to be disappointed in me."

"Did you cheat on me?"

"No.  She tried really hard.  She tried really hard by slipping alcohol into one of my drinks at a social event."

Horatio came in and sat on the couch, looking at him.  "You never told me."

"She's violently anti-gay.  She's trying to discredit Patrick and us.  She wants me to turn and become hers so she can prove that gay men can go straight."  His mate looked unimpressed.  "It was handled and she's in the mental ward."

"Who helped you with that?"


Horatio looked at him.  "Why not any of us?"

"They'd tell you."  He shifted so he was more fully facing him and more comfortable, curling up so he could put his chin on his knees.  "I didn't want you to be disappointed in me."

"Why would I be disappointed in you for her mental issues?"

"Because I drew another one," he said miserably.  "Again."

Horatio got up and pulled Xander up to look at him.  "I'm not disappointed in you.  I'm mad at her.  Are you sure she's still in there?"  He shrugged.  "Yacht?"

"Not her," he admitted. He groaned and walked him into the office, pulling open one of the filing cabinet drawers and pulling out a folder, tossing it in front of him.  "I keep all those things in here with the binder."

Horatio looked at him. "I would rather have you *tell* me than stumble across it, Xander," he said gently, watching him slump in on himself. "It's not a criticism.  I know you're not comfortable doing that. That you hate these people as much as I do."  Xander nodded quickly.  "I know that some part of you gets a small thrill, it's the same part that thrills when you tease others.  It's the part that made you such a good stripper.  I don't mind that small, miniscule part.  I know it's not the main part of your personality.  I'm not disappointed when it happens.  I get jealous."

"I don't want them," he said quickly.

"I know.  You've not wanted any of them."  He pulled him into his lap, giving him a hug.  "I know that, Xander. Remember, I held you when you cried because you got another one sending you things," he said quietly, making Xander nod and relax.   "Now, what's this stuff?"


"Besides that?" he asked, poking him gently. "The last auction?"

 "One before that."

"We had one before this one?"  Xander nodded, pointing at the folder.  He opened it, staring at the auction forms.  He looked at the date, then at him.  "I know Cheline wants you to have someone she can contact in case it doesn't go for the base price.  Who did it?"

"Mac," he said quietly.  "He suggested I not tell you about this one."  He flipped a few pages and handed him the suicide note and will that were paperclipped together.

Horatio read the note then looked at him. "Who was he?"

"One of the guys who I danced with.  He was on his last month as a dancer my first.  He was the me before I was me.  He went to a sugar daddy, who died.  He decided it was pitiful that I found love and he couldn't.  He realized his daddy was just using him because he was young and pretty.  He was nearing thirty and couldn't find another one. They kept comparing him to me, saying he wasn't the pretty thing he had been.  So he decided he couldn't go on and I deserved it more so I'd have something so I could stay young and pretty so you'd never send me away."  He looked down at the form.  "He got a bit confused.  I found love but you'd send me away for not being young and pretty."

Horatio gave him a squeeze and dropped the papers.  "Is that why you belong to the yacht club?"

"I inherited the boat and the membership.  They agreed I could sell the boat and keep the membership because I like the restaurant and I'm in the better social circles.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that the chef likes me and puts on elaborate shows for my pleasure whenever I go in."  He gave him a sheepish look.  "That's how I've been getting my negative attention fix in.  Letting him make me towering, sugary things that are fantastic creations."

Horatio smiled.  "Bring me in for lunch?"

"I'm forbidden.  He might get jealous and try to stab you.  Remember, he works with scary, big knives."  He snuggled into the welcoming arms.  "I met Taylor."

"That's good.  Is she nice?"

"Very.  Like an ungeeky Willow with a touch of Marisol's glamor."

"That's good.  I look forward to meeting her for real."  He stroked his back. "What happened?"  This wasn't the normal 'another one's gifting me' cuddling.

"He was here," he said quietly.  "I threatened to shoot him."


"My uncle."

Horatio reached for the phone, hitting the speed dial button for Willow's house.  No answer.  He called Ryan's phone, still on speed dial. "Tell me your wife is with you."

"No," he said slowly over the speaker.  "Why?  And for the record, I'm on a scene."

"Call every number you have for her."

"Why, Horatio?"

"My uncle showed up today," Xander said quietly.

"Fuck!"  He hung up and started to call around, starting with Eric.  "I need you here.  I know it's lunch, Xander's uncle showed up early."  He hung up and called the house, then her cell.  No answer.  He called their neighbor's house. "It's Ryan, is Willow not at home?  No, I got bad news about someone who's looking for her."  He listened to her report she had visitors earlier.  "Male and female?  Like parents?"  He groaned.  "Okay, is my son still home?"  He listened.  "Thank you.  No, I'm coming."  He hung up and found Alexx looking at him. "Willow's parents have kidnaped her and the son.  Um, I called Eric, have it."  He ran for his hummer and headed for the house.

Alexx called Horatio. "Ryan just said his wife and son were kidnaped by her parents?"  She groaned at the longer explanation.  "Okay, I'll make sure Eric's on his way here."  She hung up and called him.  "Eric, baby, I need you here on Ryan's scene.  No, he thinks his wife and son were kidnaped by her parents and Horatio said it's entirely possible.  He's going to their house right now.  So I need you with me."  She looked up.  "Conquistador.  Thank you.  Front fountain, baby."  She hung up and looked at the patrols.  "It's gonna be a few, make sure Delko gets in here." They nodded. "If you see Wolfe's wife we need to know." They nodded harder.


Eric hung up from the second one and looked at Speed.  "I've got to take over Ryan's scene.  He thinks her parents took her and Toddy."  He gathered his kit, handing over the evidence he had in there, then headed off at a run for his hummer.  This was a bad thing. A very bad thing.


Horatio got there before Ryan, he lived closer.  He caught him at the door, making him stop.  "By procedure," he ordered, staring him down.  "By the book, Ryan.  I want them if they did."

"I want them fucking dead!" he shot back.

"That's fine.  We have the death penalty. You can make an impassioned plea.  By the book, Officer Wolfe."  Ryan took a deep breath and handed over his house keys.  Horatio opened the door, his weapon in his other hand.  "Willow?  Todd?" he called, walking inside.  Not much was out of place.  A lamp.  A few toys.  A throw on the back of the couch was missing. He moved into the bedrooms, checking them.  He came out of the last one and found Ryan in the kitchen, staring at the stove.  "Note?"

"Todd."  He pointed in the oven.  "I can hear him. It's not on.  I'm scared to look."

"Move."  He opened the door, looking at the baby.  "Toddy?"  He sniffled and held up his arms.  "Come here."  He pulled him out, looking him over. "You're all right.  Here's daddy."  He handed him over.  "We'll take him to be looked over, Ryan."  Ryan nodded, going to the couch to sit down and look him over.  "Any obvious bruises?"

"Bump on his head.  Scratches.  Nail polish," he said, pointing at it.  Horatio went to get his kit from the hummer and brought it back with officers on the way and an APB out on them.  "Why would they do this?"

"I don't know yet," he offered quietly.  "I'll be finding out and you can watch."  Ryan nodded that he would be.  Calleigh came in first.  "I'm taking samples from the baby.  He was in the oven.  It wasn't on."

"Thank God!  Any word on Willow?"  Horatio shook his head.  "Okay, I told dispatch to alert all transportation out of the city.   How long was he in there?"

"I don't know," Ryan admitted, smiling at his son.  "It'll be okay, I've got you, Toddy.  We'll get the mommy back very soon."

"Do we have pictures?" Calleigh asked.  Ryan pointed at the wall behind him. She looked and found a picture of Willow in her graduation outfit and another recent one of her.  She went back to her hummer to fax them in.  "It's me," she reported.  "Frank, I just sent you pictures of Willow and her parents.  Toddy's fine. He's here.  They had him in the oven but it wasn't turned on.  Thankfully.  Put out an all points.  All hotels, all airlines, even private terminal.  Yes, now.  I don't know."  She hung up and went back inside, going to talk to the manager.  "Do you have surveillance on the parking lot?"  He nodded, leading her to the security office.  "Thank you."  She smiled sweetly.  "Ryan's wife is missing."

"Are we getting the FBI, like in that show?"

"No, she'll be back soon or else Ryan's going to destroy everyone," she said seriously.  He nodded, understanding that.  "Expect some cops in and out of here."  He nodded, going to find their lone security guard and warn him.  She popped the tape out and walked it off, going to bag it and head back to the hummer to look at it.  "They had her at gunpoint.  She's crying," she reported when Horatio walked up behind her.  "Did you print the doors and things?"  He handed them over.  "I told Frank to check all hotels and transport."  She looked at him. "Is he okay?"

"No.  I wouldn't expect him to be.  I'm taking him back to the office after we take Todd to the ER to be checked out."  She nodded. "Keep me informed."  She nodded again so he walked off, going to get them.  He walked Ryan and the baby out, taking the diaper bag.  The carseat was gotten out of the case in the back and put in for him, Ryan sitting next to him.  "We're going to the ER, Ryan.  It's all right.  He's fine."

"I'm going to kill them.  Fussing over Toddy is keeping me from hunting them down with your husband."

"That's not a bad idea," Horatio admitted, pulling out and heading toward the usual hospital.  He called Xander.  "Xander, can you track Willow?  It appears her parents have taken her."  He listened.   "Why should I call Ethan?"  He smiled.  "Thank you. Is she all right?"  He nodded. "That's fine. Thank you, Xander."  He hung up. "She teleported.  Used the last of her magic to get free.  She's with Ethan, he felt her and helped shield the baby."  He called him. "Ethan, Horatio.  Can you send Willow to the hospital?  That would be fine.  We're taking Toddy since we found him in the oven.  Thank you."  He hung up. "She's passed out, he can do that.  He'll have her with us soon."  Ryan nodded, his face still hard.  "Frank has their pictures, Ryan.  Let the process work and we'll have them."

"Sure, and then I get to feed them slowly to some alligators, right?"

"If I can arrange it," he promised. He pulled into the parking lot and parked, walking around to get Ryan out of the back.  Ryan took the baby and he let him.  "Inside."

Ryan nodded, heading that way.  "My son was nearly kidnaped and someone put him in the oven, it's a gas oven but it wasn't turned on," he told the receptionist.  He pulled his badge up.  "My wife is on her way in, she's pregnant. She escaped."

"I'll find you a room.  Are we expecting more officers?"  He pointed at Horatio. "Ah, Lieutenant.  I didn't see you. That's fine.  Let me tell the nurses it's a police matter."  She went into the back, coming back with a nurse.

"Are we needing to do a SART kit?" the nurse asked quietly.  Ryan shuddered and shook his head.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. Her parents are bad but not like that."

"All right.  Let's get the poor little guy out of his choke hold and examined."  Ryan looked down then eased his grip.  "It's normal," she assured him.  She led him to a room, Horatio following.  "Camera?"

"Already done most of that.  We need to make sure he's fine."  She nodded, getting her things to examine him. "It was a gas stove but it wasn't on.  He wasn't directly on top of the pilot light. We're not sure how long he was in there.  The surveillance camera on the parking lot doesn't time stamp."

"Okay.  Related, Lieutenant?"

"All the lab is my family," he assured her. Willow walked in, slamming the curtain out of her way.  "As far as we know he's fine," he assured her.  "Are you all right?"

"Fuck no," she growled.  Ryan pulled her closer, holding her but keeping one hand on their son.  She relaxed against his chest. "I'm sorry."

"What was their damage?"

"They wanted me back.  Didn't want Toddy.  Didn't think he was mine."  She pulled back to look at him. "Can I kill them now?  I'm sure I can rig up a way to hold them so the alligators only get a few inches of their bodies at a time, and a way to cauterize it inbetween meals."  He grinned at her. "You can help.  I'll need help hoisting them at first anyway since Xander's still got chicken pox. He'd want them at the demon bar to be eaten but I think that's more suiting.  They decided I should come back to the family now that I was over my supposed acting out and running away phase."

"You're twenty-one," he pointed out patiently.  "You have your own family.  Fuck them."  She looked at him, giving him an alarmed look.  "I know, I don't use that word hardly ever.  I will this time."  He hugged her again, letting the nurse have his son since she wasn't moving him and Horatio was there. "Are you okay?"

"So far. No new cramps. I had one when I got free but nothing else yet."  He nodded, pulling back to look her over, taking her shirt off her.

"Um, Ryan," Horatio warned.  Ryan growled at him.

"Let's get you a bit of privacy," the nurse offered, taking Horatio out.  "Was she serious?"

"About her parents?  Probably. About the alligators?  I'm not sure.  It's possible."

She smiled. "It's not a bad idea.  We had one woman whose husband had pushed her into an alligator cage but that's as mean as we usually get."

"Was he reported?"  She nodded.  "Arrested?"

"Yes, and she cackled as he was led off complaining that it was his right."  She patted him on the arm.  "So far the baby looks okay.  Give me a few more minutes."  She tapped on the curtain then walked back in, finding them in the chair with the baby.  "Can I have him back for ten more minutes?"

Willow looked at her.  "Why?"

"He was in the oven," Ryan told her.

She looked at her son, then at the nurse.  "Please. If he's hurt I get to beat them with a shovel before I feed them to the alligators."

The nurse smiled and took the baby back to the table, making sure she was on the other side so they had clear line of sight to the baby.  Worried parents they were going to be for a *long* time.  "Lieutenant, did you get a picture of this bruise on his stomach?"

"He fell into the coffee table this morning," Willow admitted, getting up to look.  "You didn't have that earlier.  Did it just sprout like you?"  The baby burbled and smiled, waving his arms and feet.  "I love you too, Toddy.  Don't worry, you've got lots and lots of aunts and uncles, you don't need those grandparents."

"I've got my family," Ryan reminded her.

"And I love your mother, even if she was the one who made you clean."  She grinned back at him.  "Where are we staying tonight?"

"I don't care as long as it's safe."

"I'd offer you our spare room but Xander's still got some pustules," Horatio offered.  The nurse looked at him.  "End of the second week of chicken pox."  She hissed at that. "They're covered, have been since we were released from quarantine."

"Good!  I'd suggest a hotel. Many layers of security before they get to the door."  Ryan shook his head.  "No?"

"No, he's a bit anal about cleaning," Willow admitted. "Hotel rooms are grungy and he's a CSI so he knows how bad they can be."

"Ah.  I saw that report on the news last year."  Ryan nodded at that.

Horatio laughed.  "Kids, go use the hidden spot."  They looked at him. "Xander will agree. It's in a gated community.  He's got guns and bullets there if they come back."

"Thank you, Horatio."  She hugged him.  Then sat on her mate's lap again. "Sorry about his tummy, he really did trip and fall into the coffee table.  I looked him over really well afterwards and he acted like it didn't hurt."

"Babies get bumps.  Is he very clumsy?"

"Yup," Ryan admitted. "Then again, so was I.  My mom got social services called on her eight times by the time I was six because of all the times I fell and got hurt."  Horatio looked at him.  "I walked a bit funny."

"He's barely standing and trying to walk.  He was lunging from your chair to the table and fell."

"He's lucky he didn't get his chin and snap his neck instead," Ryan admitted.  "Then again, I broke my ankle in a walker too."  He shrugged.  She smiled at him.  "You weren't clumsy?  Or did they have padding?"

"They padded everything. Until I was two."  She shrugged.  "They were trying back then."

"They're trying my patience now," he assured her.  "Should I call mom?"

"No, please no.  She'll cry.  I can't take more crying.  Xander will fuss too."

"He's still got pustules, he's not allowed out yet," Horatio reminded her.  "But he did meet Taylor before his uncle showed up.  Said he got to threaten him."

"Rory was probably after the money."  Horatio nodded.  "Is he okay?" she asked the nurse as she brought him back.

"Just fine, ma'am."


"Willow then.  He's just fine.  That's the only bruise.  He's got a few scratches, a red spot on one of his legs from being near the pilot but nowhere near a burn.  He'll be fine.  Watch him for any coughing or breathing troubles but I don't think he was in there long enough to have been bothered by the gas."

"Thank god that thing leaks air," Ryan sighed, hugging them both.  "I'm sorry, Horatio."

"No, I wanted you to take off to be with them, Ryan.  It's not a problem.  When this happens, I want the spouse to go running.  You were more coherent than I had hoped for by calling Eric first."  That got a gentle smile.  "Now, let's get you two to the hidden house.  There should be food in the pantry and freezer.  If not, call us and we'll bring you something so you don't have to order.  Okay?"  Ryan nodded, getting up and putting her back on her feet, letting her hold the baby while he had her in his arms.  He smiled at the nurse. "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  You'll get her parents?"

"If it's the last thing I do," he assured her, smiling slightly before leaving.  He ran into the news crew outside and pushed the cameraman out of his way. "Go away, Erica."

"What happened?"

"A kidnaping attempt," Willow called. "Ask the PD."  She glared at Erica, making her back off.  "Thank you."  She got the baby into the seat, taking one side of him, Ryan the other, and then Horatio got in to drive.  "Please don't let them follow us."

"They won't."  He plugged his phone into the radio and took off, taking them that way, leading the person tailing them on a merry chase.  He dialed dispatch. "This is Lieutenant Caine.  We're still looking for the kidnapers but I have the young woman and her son with me now.  Plus their husband.  We're being tailed.  I didn't know we had GPS in these," he admitted.  He smirked. "That's us.  Please head them off and see if they're her parents? I can't tell.  If anyone asks where she is, she's safe and Xander's got her.  Yes, my husband Xander.  Thank you."  He hung up and called Speed personally.  "Going to the bolt hole."  He hung up.  Someone called back so he put it on speaker.  "Caine."

"Bolt hole? I take it we have at least one of them?"

"I magiced my way out and Toddy was in the oven," Willow told him.  "I wasn't inside when that happened."  She looked at her son. "I'm going to kill my father for that. Know where we can get a slowly lowering frame so I can feed them to the alligators slowly?"

"We use them when we have to haul up sharks," Speed offered. "Probably won't hold them both though."

"That's fine.  One can go and the other can watch and scream and wail," Ryan agreed.  He looked behind them as cars stopped the person following them. "Ooh, nice."

"Very," Horatio agreed, turning the corner. "Any luck finding them?"

"Yup, airport.  They claim they want her back where she belongs now that she's finally over her rebellion and all those pesky teenage phases."  Willow groaned. "Was Rory there, Willow, or did he just show up so Xander could threaten to shoot him?"

"No, he wasn't there."

"That's fine.  Toddy okay?  I'm assuming but he's all right?"

"He's fine.  Had a booboo this morning but otherwise just scratched and banged up," Ryan assured him.


"I tripped horribly as a child.  He's got that from me," Ryan admitted.

"That's fine.  Need anything from Calleigh and I?"

"No, I left some diapers there the last time," Willow admitted.  "There's a diaper bag, we'll be fine, Timmy. Thank you."

"Welcome, Willow.  Frank talked to them, they're waiting on the FBI now since it was an attempted kidnaping across state lines."

"No, we want them to die," Ryan assured him. "They won't kill them."

"They'd get it in prison," Speed reminded him.  "Don't worry so much, Ryan."

"Fine.  Thank you, Speed."

"Welcome.  Relax and hug.  Remember to eat tonight."  He hung up.

"He's a good dad," Ryan said, looking at Willow.  "The few years he had you and Xander, he was good to you guys and he's still a good dad."  She smiled at that.  "Of course if you tell him I said that I'll spank you in unfun ways and then go clean the bathroom again."  She giggled and hugged him.

Horatio pulled up to the gate, nodding behind him.  "They're staying for a few days.  She and the baby were almost kidnaped."

"That's fine, Lieutenant.  Are they on the last list?"

"Wolfe. Ryan and Willow.  Son is Todd."

"Got 'em.  Thank you."  He let them in and Horatio drove on.

"Tonight just relax."

"Does that mean I can't figure out where Xander's real arsenal is?" Willow asked.


"Okay. Why?"

"Because he wants to keep that hidden, Willow. He's taking some very dangerous things from Toby and hiding them so no one else can get them."

"Oh.  Okay.  So I can't browse?"

"No, I wish you wouldn't."

"Fine.  I'll be a good girl."  Ryan looked at her.  "I will."

"The last time you told me that, you staked a vampire on our front porch."

"Well, yeah," she admitted. "He was standing there."

He kissed her.  "Don't ever change."  She beamed.  "We won't go looking for Xander's hidden secrets, Horatio.  Did you figure out this morning's issue?"

"Not totally but he showed me where to look and who to talk to."  He pulled into the driveway and parked, looking at them.  Willow pointed so he groaned. "Not like I've been back here.  Sorry."

"We can walk the last few feet," Ryan admitted.  "Thank you, Horatio."

"This is what I do, Mr. Wolfe.  Keep them safe tonight.  Call if you can't make it in tomorrow."  He nodded, getting the baby and getting out.  Horatio backed out of their other driveway and headed back to the office to do the reports on this. Someone would want them.  He found his boss in the office and looked at him.  "What?"

"They're fine?"

"So far.  Her parents?"

"In federal custody.  I heard the baby was in the oven?"

"It wasn't on."  The chief sighed. He smirked. "You like Willow."

"It's hard not to," he agreed.  "Anything I need to know?"  He shook his head.  "I heard you asked about the yacht."

"How did you know about that?"

"I heard the gunshot," he admitted blandly. "He was one of my neighbors.  I found the suicide note."  He shrugged.  "I reported it and had to do paperwork on my anniversary thanks to him.  Did you look it over?"

"No, why should I have to?"

"The will, from gossip, stated that he's not allowed to give you any of that money or anything that he got from him.  That it was for him and him alone to make sure he had money to keep himself young and pretty and so he was taken care of when he couldn't fake it anymore."  He stood up.  "Not that I think your boy needs it. By the way, tell him Margaret is out and fuming, but not coming near him again. She's decided she can pick another posterboy for changing back."  He grimaced.  "Good luck with her. I'd consider a restraining order."

"I'm just now learning about that situation."

"Ah."  He nodded. "Ask Messer.  He's the one who compiled the list that got her confined as a danger to others and herself."  He walked off.  "Don't use the company phone, Horatio."

Horatio took his hand off the desk phone and pulled out his cell, calling New York.  "Daniel, who is this woman who threatened my spouse and what did she do?" he asked smoothly.


Danny looked at his phone. "Shit," he muttered, looking at Mac.  "Horatio found out about the Margaret thing."  He put him on hold. "What do I do?"

"Come clean, Danny," Mac ordered.  "Like I said you should have before."  He gave him a look.  "Remember to stay calm.  Horatio won't hurt you since you were protecting Xander."

"Where did I leave that file?"

"Somewhere in the labs."  He shrugged. "You didn't tell me.  You told Don.  He's in Brooklyn."

Danny grabbed the desk phone. "Where did I leave the file on Margaret Brunt?"  He listened to the grumbling.  "Don, Horatio found out. Where?"  He smiled.  "Thanks."  He hung up and went back to his cell.  "Sorry, Horatio. Had to finish something before I could talk."   He listened to the question again.  "Margaret Brunt?  She's just some rich Asian lady with an exhusband who left her for his lover and now she's violently anti-gay and using your boy to try to prove they can be turned straight again.   She was in that specialty place out towards Tampa."  He nodded. "That one.  I had the whole file on her in the lab.  Last place I remember I had it was ballistics.  Sure.  Of course you can pump me for more information later.  Sure thing.  Hug Xander for me and Toddy.  He could probably use it with the new baby on the way.  What do you mean she got kidnaped?"  Mac put down his pen and looked at him, Danny shook his head. "Well, at least you got her back.  The baby's okay?  Good.  Let me know how many pieces they got torn into.  Sure.  Later."  He hung up.  "Her parents tried to take her back home since she was clearly out of her rebellious phase.  They're both fine so far.  At the bolthole."  He stood up.  "We done?"

"No, sit!"  Danny sighed and sat back down.


Horatio walked into ballistics, looking at the male tech who did the job when Calleigh was busy. "Messer left a file here on a Margaret Brunt. Do you know where he put it?"

"In the exemplar cabinet.  I told Calleigh it was out of place but she said it was fine.  It's a clear violation of policy, Lieutenant."

Horatio nodded.  "It's not an active case, so it's probably fine."  He walked over there to retrieve it, finding it stuffed behind some shelves.  He walked out and found Calleigh giving him a guilty look.  "He made you promise as well?"

"No, Speed did," she said sheepishly.  "I know we're supposed to but he and Danny had it, Horatio."

"I realize that but you could tell me when it's done with.  She's out of the hospital."  She groaned.  "Exactly."  He went back to his office, reading on the way.  It was very well documented.  Danny had done a good job.  He had even got three of the ADAs to sign statements about her 'attack' on Xander at a party at the yacht club.  He flipped to that report, finding the yelling match and then she tried to get him drunk and drugged part.  He leaned back, going over it in minute detail. He remembered the night Xander only made it to Speed's and slept on their couch.  Now he knew why.  And the other time too apparently.  He kept reading, calling the house.  "Making sure you're still there and fine."  Xander shot back that he was fine and still here and that no, his uncle hadn't come back, but he was making himself lunch.  "That's fine.  She attacked you how many times?"  He smirked at the sullen answer.  "He's only got two....."   He flipped back to a report, an arrest report.  "I see.  Thank you, Xander.  Be careful, I got told she's out but doesn't want to bother you."  He hung up and went back to reading that.  Interesting.  Highly interesting.  She had tried to stab him while drunk and Xander was magnanimous enough to not press charges.  He'd have to remind people to tell him these things.  Quietly of course.

"Um, lieutenant, there was a report of shots fired at Detective Salas' house," one of the patrol guys called.  "I don't know why.  Officers and CSI were already sent."

"Thank you."  He got up and headed out, going to kill someone if his family was hurt.  He found his brother drunk, his nephew even closer to passing out, and his sister-in-law on the couch crying with a body on the floor.  "What happened?" he asked calmly.

"He broke in and tried to hurt mom while she was sleeping," Ray Jr. slurred.  "I caught him touching her."  He finished that beer and leaned on his father's shoulder.

Ray Sr. looked at him.  "He grabbed my gun, Horatio.  He yelled and woke his mom up, she screamed, he lunged with a knife, which is somewhere under the bed, I kicked it, and he shot him for trying to hurt her."  Ray handed his son the rest of his beer, getting a head shake.  "You sure?"  Ray nodded.  "Okay.  You pass out in a few."  Ray nodded again, letting himself fall asleep. "Good boy."  He looked at his brother.  "I was out for a run, I came home to it.  I home-medicated him."

"And yourself I see."  He called dispatch.  "I need the ME at my location.  No, she's fine. It was an intruder.  Whoever's free, but not Wolfe.  He's off for the rest of the day.  Yes, we found his wife and child. Thank you."  He hung up, and Yelina was glaring at him. "Her parents tried to take her and stuffed him into the oven, but didn't turn it on."

"They're alive?"

"In federal custody.  She wants to slowly feed them to the alligators."

"Not even they would eat that trash," she said blandly.  She pointed at the body.  "How long?"

"She's at lunch.  So probably within minutes."

Eric came walking in.  "It's nice to be back.  What happened?"

"Ray Jr. found him sneaking in on his mother, yelled to wake her up, she sat up, he went for her with his knife, which Ray Sr. said he kicked under the bed somewhere, so my nephew shot him.  They're both drunk."  Yelina snorted.  "He won't have nightmares this time," he offered.

"I did the same thing after my first one.  Only took me two weeks to get sober."

"He'll be sober by tonight," Horatio assured her.  He looked at Eric and waved.  "Have fun with this."

"Why is he out here, Yelina?"

"I drug him out here.  I know it's against protocol but I didn't want him in my bedroom."  She shuddered. "Eww."

Horatio sat beside her, letting her curl up against him. "Did you know about this last person after Xander to hurt him?"

"Margaret?  I helped hide the aborted arrest report."  He glared at her. "He begged, said you'd be disappointed in him."

"I'm not disappointed in him, I'm furious with her."

"She's in the hospital."

"She's out now," Eric offered.  "Speed checked since it had been way too many mentions today."  He got to work on the body, finding all the evidence he needed.  He found the knife within a minute of searching, bringing it out.  "Yelina, you'll want to switch out that one shoebox with baby pictures.  It's got blood on the corner."  She nodded, shuddering again.  "It's all right."

"It's not!  Who is this person?"

"I'll find that out once we've got him back at the office."  She snuggled in again, glancing outside at the two drunk Rays.  Then she shook her head.  Eric grinned. "I know, but it helps lube sleep for the first night."  Speed walked in.  "I can handle it."

"I'm here with another issue. Who's he?"

"Not a clue yet.  No ID on him."

"Well, at least he did one smart thing and didn't bring his ID on a heist."

"I doubt he was trying to rob me," Yelina offered bitterly.  "He had a knife and was in my bedroom."

"Eeeh.  Never mind."  He handed over the envelope. "Just got delivered, the Chief said you needed that immediately.  No matter what."

She opened it and glared, handing it to Horatio.  "I take it I'm handling this case?"

"I can't.  Frank can't, he about hit her.  The rest of us are near family.  I don't think he wants any of us to handle it but you've got the calmer temper."

She looked at Horatio.  "Can I stay at the bolthole tonight?"

"Ryan and Willow are there."

"Damn."  She grimaced at her drunken relatives.  "I can't stay here."

"They can go to a hotel," Speed reminded her. "You can go help Ryan fuss."

"I should stay with him.  He is my son.  Even if he is turning into his father now and then."

"He won't turn out the same, Yelina," Horatio assured her quietly.

"No, if I catch him with drugs, I'll kill him."  She heard a car pull up and got up, going to look. "Suzie."  She walked out there. "Not a good time.  They're drunk because Ray Jr. had to shoot an intruder," she said quietly, getting a horrified look. "He was coming for me with a knife.  Ray medicated him with beer."

"I can see why.  When's a better day?"

"Tomorrow might be good.  They'll both be at the station for a while probably but should be okay."  Suzie smiled at that.  "By the way, Xander's just now getting over chicken pox.  He's down to five sores."

"I heard.  Ray Jr. told me."  She grinned. "We're getting to go home."

"Oh, congratulations!" she squealed, hugging her.  "I'm so happy!"  She smiled at Madison. "Finally!  More outpatient treatments?"  The girl nodded, smiling at her. "I'd let you come in but someone tried to break in and Ray's a bit asleep right now.  How about we come bring you dinner tomorrow night?"

"That'd be good," Suzie agreed, smiling at him.  "Thank you, Yelina.  So much."

"She's my stepdaughter," she reminded her, smiling slightly.  "The same as Ray is partially yours."  That got a blush.  "The younger.  You can have the older one."  She giggled at that.  "I'll bring Horatio and Xander if he's cleared up.  Anything special?"

"Mexican is nice.  She's been missing tacos."

"I can do that," she promised, hugging her again. "Horatio's inside.  Horatio!"  He came out and smiled at Suzie.  "She's finally getting to go home."

"I'm so glad," he said, hugging her, then getting in to hug Madison.  "I'm so glad you're better."

"Me too.  Why is he sleeping on the front step?"

"A bad man tried to break in and scared him.  So he drank something to knock himself out.  We haven't moved him yet."

"Oh. Is everyone okay?" He nodded.  She smiled again. "Good!  I like it when everyone's okay.  Can Uncle Xander come?"

"We'll see, sweetheart.  He's just getting over chicken pox."  She giggled at that. "Yeah, he's down to the last few sores so if he's okay I'll bring him.  If not, I'm sure he can come steal you and take you to the park as soon as it's all right."  She nodded, still smiling. "Good girl.  You go home and rest, put up all your books and things, all right?"  She nodded.  "We'll see you for dinner tomorrow night."

She leaned closer.  "Can I have a chocolate cake?" she hissed.  "I miss chocolate cake."

"I'll do my best, princess."  She beamed and he got out, closing the door gently.  He kissed Suzie on the cheek.  "Have fun putting up her books.  I'll make sure she gets what she wants tomorrow night."

"Thank you, both of you."  Suzie got back in and started the car, closing the door and backing down the driveway to head home.

"He's down to five sores."

"I'm going to check with the hospital first, make sure it'd be okay."  He went to do that from inside the house.  Yelina had the number next to the phone so Ray could check on her.  "Hi, I had a question.  Yes, this is he," he agreed, smiling a bit.  "No, my spouse is down to the last five sores of chicken pox.....  Dinner tomorrow was the idea.  How long?"  He nodded. "That's reasonable. That's why I'm checking. Thank you."  He hung up.  "He'll have to wait a week after all his sores are cleared up, just in case of a relapse."

"We can't be too careful with her health," she agreed, sitting on the couch again.  Alexx walked in and looked at the body, then at her.  "Don't ask me, he had a knife, Ray Jr. shot him for me."

"Good son."  She got down to look at him.  "He bled out pretty quickly too.  He still going to the range?" Horatio nodded.  "Shot was to the lung."  She looked up. "Efficient yet painful."  She went back to it.  "We'll take him."  She motioned the body handlers to come in and she got up with Eric's help.  "It's been a busy day.  Couldn't you have stayed home a few more?"

"Xander would've killed me," he reminded her. "Do you know about this Margaret Brunt person?"

"Not a bit. Who's she?"

"The one who gave Xander liquor. She's trying to make him straight so she can prove a point," Eric shared.

"Is she the one who tried to stab him at the yacht club or the one who tried to bash his head in at the mall?"

"Mall?" Eric asked.

Horatio groaned.  "We are all going to sit down together as a group tonight and everyone will tell me all about the troubles Xander has been having and keeping from me," Horatio ordered, staring Alexx down, then Eric, then Yelina.  "Am I understood?"

Alexx pointed at his nephew.  "Ask him.  He knows more than you think, Horatio."  She smirked.  "I knew about the yacht club because one of my girls goes there and saw it.  The mall?  Well, it was probably a misunderstanding.  He said gaybashing; didn't look any different to my eyes."

"He dead too?" Eric asked.

"Sore.  Xander whooped his butt good," she said happily.  "He pulled off when security got there. Some idiot cop from the other side of town."  Horatio moaned, sitting down again.  "I'm sure his people found out why and stopped him," she assured him.  "We were out picking Yelina's Christmas present up."

"Tonight, before we all go home," Horatio ordered.

"Yes, sir," she shot back with a smirk. "You sure you don't want to ask Ray Jr. first?"

"He's very drunk," Yelina told her.  "Ten beers."

"Hmm.  Good tolerance."

"His father shared."

"Even better. Means he hasn't done it a lot."  She followed the body out.  "You know where to find me when you're ready, Horatio."

Eric gave him a shrug. "I only hear it as gossip, usually from Marisol and Di."

"Could he be afraid that thing he staked was right?" Yelina asked.  Horatio nodded.  "Is she?"

"No.  I'll be making sure of it."  He went to wake Ray Jr. up, getting a sleepy glare.  "We have to talk, young man."

"I 'pologized.  He was going to hurt mommy."

"I'm not talking about that.  I'm glad you shot him, it was the right thing to do.  I want to know what Xander's been hiding from me."  Ray giggled at that. "Raymond."

"What?" Sr. asked, sounding grumpy.

"The other one.  Junior?"  He stared down in him in that arch 'I know you're going to tell me what I want to know' look.


"No, Ray. I need to know to protect Xander."

"He didn't want to worry you about what she said."

"I'm not, I'm worried about him.  Now, give."

"I'm really drunk."

"I realize that, Raymond."

"You might try my computer journal."  Horatio went to do that.  "But it might not hold everything.  I'll tell you when I wake up again."  He fell back against the side of the house, falling asleep again.

Yelina came out to toss a sheet over both of them, shaking her head at the peering neighbor.  "He shot the intruder."

"Oooh, that poor thing. No wonder he's stone drunk. His daddy did a good thing."

"Yes, but I don't want to move them yet.  Sorry about the noise."

"Oh, it's not a problem, dear.  Sometimes people come after cops.  All the tv shows say so."  She disappeared, going to tell the other ladies in the neighborhood what had happened.


Horatio walked into his home that night, smelling food, which was nice, if a bit scary.  "Who cooked?"

"The instant meat you just warm up people."

"Okay."  Xander could do those.  He walked out onto the back porch, sitting across from Xander instead of next to him, making Xander give him a scared look.  "Gaybashing?"

"He jumped my ass."

"I know.  I asked.  You never told me."

"I figured you'd go off on the guy and I'm very sure he's sorry now."

"I can almost understand that, but you still should've told me and then assured me it was handled.  That doesn't explain why I didn't hear about her or the judge."

"The judge is being petty because I'm helping Ryan."

"I know that.  Now."  He grimaced.

"It's been petty social sniping, Horatio.  I expected worse because of what I used to do for a living."

"It's still not right or healthy.  How many people wonder if he's right?"

"No one.  The last time he asked me if I had AIDS I said 'no, my last test came out negative, had for three years running, how was yours and your concubine's' and he stomped off bright red because I said it just as loud as he had.  The hostess said I handled it well and politely since I went back to my idle chitchat afterward.  Can I abstain from going to any events for another few weeks?"

"I don't know why you go to all the ones you do now," he admitted.

"They're mostly charity things.  I had to present myself and then I can be more picky.  That's the advice I got on this stuff from one of the matrons.  When this stuff first started I called and asked her for advice, I had talked to her the night before and she seemed really nice and understood I was new, and had heard what I used to do for a living, and just smiled at it.  Said there were worse ways of joining polite society.  She's the one who told me what I needed to do to survive those events and how to smile politely even when I'm gagging on the stench of perfume.  She's also the one who said to take anything that comes for the first year and then cut back with a few well placed migraines.  Once everyone realized who I was.  That way I'd get the 'oh, I remember you's if I had to go to someone about something but I wouldn't be *well* known so my past wouldn't be pushed back as often onto your career and the chief."

"It's not necessary, Xander. The foundation is self-supporting."

"Yeah, but it may not always be and sometime in the future we may want to branch out to support candidates or laws that're being offered up."

"True," he admitted. "I'm very impressed with how you've done with the foundation so far.  You've taken this very seriously and I think it's been done very well so far."  Xander preened under that praise.  "Do you think you can use this illness to cut back some?"  Xander nodded at that.  "That's fine then.  How many more do you have this year?"

"Accepted?  Twenty-three."  Horatio groaned.  "It's the season.  It ends in late January, right before everyone heads to Mardi Gras or Carnivale.  There'd be a few charity things over the summer if we wanted to go.  Things like polo matches."  He shrugged.  "I like horses, I'm not sure if I like polo or not yet."

"We can go to a game.  It's more than watching it.  It's like tailgating at a football game only with rich people."

"Okay.  I got drug to one of those once."  He got a look and a slight grin.  "I did.  How's Madison?  I got told there was big news."

"There is.  She's home."  Xander squealed and bounced at that.  "You can't go see her until your sores have been *completely* gone for a week though.  Not drained but healed and gone."

"Understood.  I'll call and talk to her tomorrow, tell her that."  Horatio smiled at that.  "How's Ray?"

"Drunk, still.  He woke up for a while then went back to sleep.  What happened with the priest?"

"Accused me of doing satan's work all my life.  I walked away after pointing out if I was then there was something wrong with his god and who said I believed in him anyway. Later on I got asked if I wasn't Christian and I said I was still making that decision but I definitely wasn't of his faith.  It was the politer answer than 'I'm borderline wiccan' would've been."

"I think you've handled this incredibly well, even when you did drag Ray Jr. to every social event for support and someone to talk to."

"He met a nice girl until she dumped him for being a lowly helper."

"Girls in those circles can be that way," he agreed.  "Should I even ask about the tiger?"

"She thought I smelled good and she was in heat. Her mommy was hosting the dinner and she decided to join us.  She assured us she had been hand-raised and all that.  She came in and nuzzled me, so I asked permission before petting, the nice and smart thing.  I scratched her ears, she decided I was a kitten toy.  Which was why I needed the new tux.  Her mommy apologized profusely, saying she was in heat and playful, but I told her it was fine. I only had a few scratches on my legs and none of them were deep.  Some neosporin and they cleared up."

He cracked a smile at that.  "You do make a very good kitten toy, Xander.  I enjoy playing with you a lot."  Xander blushed and ducked his head.  "Anything else we should talk about before I go through that cabinet?"

"You might wanna stay out of the black folder.  Um, it might raise your blood pressure a lot."

"Isn't that your will?"

"Yup, and I just had to update it with a few things that hadn't gone away yet."

Horatio moaned.  "I'm expecting the family's all named."  He nodded. "Did you leave your uncle something for form's sake?"

"My collection of paperback fantasy books and my comic collection."  Horatio chuckled at that.  "Not like he deserves anything else.  So, I've got one in three days and you have that day off....."

"We'll see, Xander.  Is it a dinner?"  Xander nodded.  "Then perhaps I can go."  He smiled at that.  "Let me get dinner. You finish eating.  Need more?"  Xander shook his head.  "Are you sure?"

"This is thirds."

"Okay."  He went to get his own dinner, thankful that Xander had left him some. He found a plate piled high in the fridge and warmed it up, bringing it and some milk out to take his usual place, letting Xander rest against his arm while he ate. "Played video games all day today?"  Xander nodded, making him smile. "That will rot your brain."

"No it won't.  It hasn't Ryan's yet."  Horatio snickered at that.  Ray Jr. stumbled in and fell into a chair across from them.  "You sober now?"

"Shh," Ray demanded, putting his head down. "I'm sleeping it off."

"Tell me you took a cab," Horatio demanded.


"Even better."  He ate a bite and looked at his mate.  "I promise, I'll handle it while he's still drunk," he said quietly.  Xander nodded, giving him a squeeze around the arm.  "He'll be okay too."

"It's kinda funny," Xander offered dryly.  "To the older women of the circuit, I'm kinda like a pet boy. Their husbands can't complain or get jealous if I'm with them, but they can talk to a manly person about things like money and stuff, plus I can get cranky baby tips.  It was one of them who suggested the animal tape for the mooing son."

Ray raised his head to look at him.  "The one time we got taken hostage you proved you were more manly than most of the guys, who squealed and a few passed out."

"I did.  I still don't know why I don't go armed to those things." Horatio looked at him.  "Standard gun in the face robbery at a social event, Horatio.  They tied us up.  The women wanted me to do something, citing being married to you.  I pointed out I don't come armed to these things and could one of them please get the knife out of my pocket for me.  I got free, got the rest free, got them into a better room to seal themselves in, called dispatch, got them moving.  The robbers left at the sounds of the sirens, they chased after them.  It was another precinct so no one there knew me and I didn't get babied any.  I got told it was good work, but fairly dangerous."

"It probably was.  You didn't take them on?"

"One guy came into the room so I had to distract him.  Kissed him stupid to do it."  Horatio growled a that.  "Then I had a drink, I needed it, it was gross and nasty."  He kissed him.  "Much better."

"Only as a distraction, Xander," he warned.

"Of course.  Even if the that one hotty did tease me," he offered with a grin.  Horatio growled deeper.  "He's one woman's husband toy.  He flirted outrageously with everyone, even Ray, who had to point out twice he was straight."  The growl didn't ease.  "Sorry.  I didn't reciprocate."

"Good."  He pulled Xander into his lap, finishing his dinner that way.  "Ray, perhaps you should nap in the spare room?"  Ray nodded, going to do that.  Horatio looked at him.  "I'm going to the office after I finish.  Can you shower and clean your sores?"  He nodded, smiling.  "Good boy.  Should I worry about any other suddenly appearing presents?"

"I haven't needed anything but the groceries."

"Good."  He took a kiss.  "You taste like chocolate."

"I had some before dinner."  He grinned. "I deserved it."

"You did. You've been a good boy."  He took another kiss.  Then he went back to eating.  "Do you feel like doing more than cuddling tonight?"

"I'm still a bit queasy."   He snuggled into his arm.  "Can we got to the pound?  Just to look?"

"I'm still thinking, Xander. A dog is a bigger responsibility than a child."  Xander gave him a 'huh' look.  He smiled and stroked his cheek.  "Dogs die.  You'd have to be emotionally ready for that too."

"I can handle death, I just hate it."

"I know.  It shows in how you ambushed Speed this year."  Xander shrugged.  "Could you stand losing a dog if it got hit by a car or of old age?"

"Welll....."  He gave him a hesitant look. "I don't know. I didn't think about that part."

"We'll talk about it this weekend."  Xander nodded, cuddling in and letting him eat.  It was a good sign that he'd be getting gentle sex tonight.


Xander found the perfect gift for Marisol, smiling as he paid for it and brought it out to the car.  They were on their way to the anniversary party.  Xander was finally fully cleared up.  They had checked his last sore that morning, still no puss, so they were good.  He showed it to Horatio, who smiled.   "It's a good idea?"

"It is.  It'll help promote good health, which she's still worried about, and pamper her."  He put the hummer into gear and drove off, taking them all to Eric's parents' house.  They had stopped to get the baby but he was napping in the carseat.  "I think all his nighttime wandering has finally stopped."

"Apparently.  Willow told me I used to wander until third grade. I have no idea why or when though."  He glanced back, seeing the sleepy, discontent look.  "We're going to see Big Eric and his mommy.  Finish your nap."  Eric yawned and went back to sleep.   Xander grinned at his mate.  "I think we need to clean him up.  It looks like he had an accident."

"That happens.  That's why they're called accidents and we've got spare clothes in the diaper bag," he promised.  He found the right street and someone had saved a hummer- sized space in the yard.  They parked and Horatio went to get the baby cleaned up.  He had to swat Xander to do it, but it only got a smile.  "Take the present inside.  I'll put him in some pullups."  Xander nodded, grabbing the present bag.  The other one went into the glove box, it was for a holiday present.  He smiled at his son. "It's all right, Eric. It happens."

Xander walked up and knocked, getting a grinning manically Big Eric answering it.  "He'll be right in. We're changing the sleepy one.  He had an accident."

"You mean he's finally asleep?" he joked, letting him inside.  "H, bring him in, you can do that in the bathroom."

"I'm nearly done, Eric."   He came in a few minutes later but the baby stayed cuddled against his shoulder.  "He's having a sleepy day."

"They happen when you wander all night," Eric joked.  "Everyone's out back."  He looked at the present.  Then at Xander.  "Royal blue paper?"

"It goes pretty with the box."  He grinned and walked out back, putting his present on the table and kissing his adoptive parents on the cheek. "I'm better."

"That's good," Eric's mother agreed, giving him a hug too.  "All healed?"

"Yup, the last one dried up last night."  He grinned.  "Eric's napping too."

"That's fine.  It's a nice change to the dog not running in fear," Eric's father promised.  "Poor dog didn't get any sleep while he was here."

"We're thinking about getting one of our own," Xander admitted with a grin.

"Get one who doesn't need sleep, Xander.  Really," he offered, patting him on the shoulder.  "So, how's her girlfriend?"

"Taylor's very sweet.  She's a lot like a less geeky Willow in personality.  She's a beautiful brunette.  She loves Eric like I do.  We agreed, he's going to a preschool that emphasizes play and art, not math and science like his mommy wanted.  Took me threatening her with a horrifying death if she ever hurt him with a gentle smile and an 'I'd never do that, Xander'."

"Good!  Are they coming?"

"No, they're out on a boat," Xander admitted, grinning at them.  "Newlywed syndrome."  Both parents smiled at that.

"Some day my son will have that too," Eric's mother sighed, looking at her son.

"I've only had three dates with her, mom."

Xander grinned. "Can I help plan the wedding?"

"No," Eric said, shaking his head. "No, no way.  No how."  He walked off, going to talk to Calleigh and Speed.  "Xander's up and demented."

"I heard."  Speed looked at him, then yawned.  "Still sorry if I nap."

"Not a problem.  Why did she get up and clean at five this morning?"

"I think Ryan's OCD is affecting her.  Either that or we had an accident with the stimulant lube."

"Or you just had an accident," Marisol teased.

He shook his head. "Not possible.  I'm sterile."  She pouted.  "Sorry.  Doesn't change it any.  I have been for years."  Xander bounced over and crawled into his lap to cuddle him.  "Hi, son."

"Hi, daddy."  He gave him a squeeze.  "She's not."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "I'm going to let you have the honor of the sleepy baby."  He went to steal Eric and hand him over, giving Speed a good reason to nap.

Eric's father laughed at that.  "I used the kids as an excuse to nap many days, Xander," he assured him, grinning at Horatio.  "How are things downtown?"

"Good so far.  Quiet so far today.  Ryan made it in today."

"Not like I blame him for being clingy and bringing them to sit in your office," Eric reminded him with a grin.

"Nor do I. I did warn her to not touch my computer this time," he admitted dryly, making everyone snicker.  "Last time she did something it was faster but it ate my pictures."  Xander giggled at that.  "Yes, she found them for me when I complained, but still."

"I know.  I still can't believe we hit the 'order me' button twice on that one thing."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"I haven't decided yet.  It's a nice laptop."  Eric moaned. "It is."

"I saw your new one, it's sweet," Eric agreed. "Willow had an idea."

"What idea?" Horatio asked calmly.

"I'm not sure.  She said she had an idea and got *that* look on her face.  The one that makes her babble and go manic."

"Oooooh," Horatio shuddered.  He hated that look, it meant Xander was going to be getting into trouble within the hour usually.  If not sooner.

"Marisol!" Eric's mother yelled.  "Come help!"  She walked over, going to help her mother in the kitchen.  She looked at her daughter.  "Well?"

"The results are in your present."

"You're going to make me wait?"


She looked at her daughter.  "Which means it's a positive one?"  Marisol only smiled and got to work on the salad.  "I can't remember, will Xander not eat something?"

"Tofu."  Her mother laughed.  She opened the door.  "Xander, are you a picky eater?  Momma can't remember."

"No chicken and stars, please," Eric begged.

"No, Eric, real food only.  Xander?"

"I probably won't be eating any beans.  My stomach's still touchy.  So garlic's as spicy as I'm going today.  I can pick and choose.  Make whatever you want."  He shooed her off.  "Don't make special stuff for me.  I'm better now.  No more clucking spots."

"Mooo," his son said quietly.

Horatio looked at him.  "Go back to sleep, Eric."  He barked.  "You can only have something if you *ask*.  Like a normal boy."

"Boy talk to kitties and moos."

"What boy?" Xander asked, looking confused.

"Book," he said, blinking at him in a pitiful way.

"The boy in the book talked to kitties and cows?" Xander asked, looking at Horatio, who had read more than he had.

"Who read you the Jungle Book, Eric?" Big Eric asked, smiling at him.

"Unca Ry."  He shifted closer, making Speed curl on his side to keep him with him.  "Unca Ry say he talk to kitties but Auntie Cal say no kitties here."  He pouted at his fathers.  "No kitties here?"

"No, most people don't have kitties like that one," Horatio agreed.

"Huh?" Xander asked.

"Remember the movie with the boy and the bear?  The song 'bear necessities'?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Ryan read him that book.  Probably did all sorts of sound effects, all that stuff.  Which is why... there weren't any cows in there, Eric."

"Auntie Cal say no kitties but have cows, pigs, horsies.  Not oink. Not..." he made a horsie sound and shook his head.  "Not 'nough hair."  He grinned.  "Me moo!"

"Yes you do," Eric agreed, suddenly getting it.  "Now why won't you sleep?"

"Willow told Xander he used to wander at night too," Horatio told him.

"That explains a lot," Marisol offered as she came over. She picked up Eric, giving him a cuddle.  He looked at her and frowned, then wiggled down, pouting at her as he went back to his spot.  "Usually you like me to hold you," she pouted.

"Not comfy."  He scowled at her.  "Why?"

"Remember how we talked about baby sisters and brothers, like Toddy's getting?" Xander asked, sitting next to him, getting pulled into Speed's arms too.  He shrugged and cuddled in, holding his son.  "Remember, we told you Toddy was getting a new sister and some day you might have brothers or sisters for you to love and protect like you do the doggy?"  Eric beamed and nodded.  "She's going to give you a new brother or sister some day soon."

"Present?  Like box?"

"No, not in a box like a present," Eric admitted.  "Babies come from mommy's tummies."

"She a mommy?"

"I will be some day soon," she admitted, making her big brother beam at her.  "I still won't be a cow."

"Baby milk from mommies, boy milk from moos."

"That's right," Horatio agreed, smiling at him.  "Very good, Eric."  Eric's mother popped up with a camera, taking a few shots. "I want a copy," Horatio ordered.

"Of course, dear.  You're adorable!"  She pinched Xander's cheek, making Speed give her a dirty look.  "You snuggled him too, baby."  She went back to the kitchen to coo with her other children over it.

"We'll talk more about baby brothers and sisters when it's closer to coming, Eric," Horatio offered. "We have books about that."  Eric beamed at that, then he caught sight of the dog, getting down to play with it and the other kids.

"You came back?" one of Eric's older nieces asked.  "Why?  You're not family."

Eric glared at her.  "Horatio and Xander are my other family, they came because your grandparents asked them to.  Behave."  She nodded, trying to save the dog from the boy.  The dog growled at her and Eric put her behind him, growling back.  The dog stopped, looking oddly at him, then he bounded forward and licked him again, running off.  The baby chased after him, barking too.  Eric looked at Horatio.  "Make sure you get a dog who likes kids and to run."

"I want something I can run with," Xander agreed.

"Good luck," Eric said, patting him on the back.  He caught the baby as he ran past, giving him a hug.  "You don't have to howl," he said quietly.  The boy just beamed at him.  "I know, but try to let Grandpa Speed sleep, okay?"  He nodded so he put the baby back down, watching as he ran off more quietly.

"You'll be good when you finally have your own, son."  His father smirked at him.  "By then you'll have all the right answers and mannerisms."

"Dad, it's still only been three dates," he complained.

"Isn't that a record," Marisol teased.

"No," he snorted.  "I've had a few longer term relationships, thank you."

"And yet you still need help moving," Speed complained, sitting up and letting Xander go.  "Thanks, son.  Make a good teddy bear."

"Welcome, dad.  I came to cuddle Eric and you yanked me in."  Speed smirked at him.  His phone rang so he looked at it.  "Security company, Horatio."  Horatio took the phone and walked off, then gave him a look and nodded, getting one back.  "Sorry, our alarms went off," he excused.  "He had to run home and shoot someone."

Eric's father gave him a look.  "Are you sure he'll be all right?"

"Oh, yeah.  It was either Ray Jr. finally getting up, his father forgetting the alarm code when he came over to get him up, or my uncle the dirtbag trying to come back.  At which point, Ray Jr. would probably puke on him for waking him up."  Everyone stared at him.  "Yelina got broken into.  Ray had to...handle the situation since his mom was asleep and the guy was going to stab her."  That got some knowing looks.  "He was *really* drunk last night because of it.  His mom dropped him off when he was back at the passing out stage so we put him to bed."  He caught one of the running kids, spinning her around with a grin, then letting her run off in another direction, blocking the kid playing tag for a minute so she had a better chance.  Eric smirked at him. "Gotta give her a shot, Eric.  She's littler than everyone but Eric."

"She is."

"MOOOOOOO!" Eric squealed, pointing and bouncing up and down.  "MOO! DADDY!"

Xander walked over and looked. "Yup, you're right, that's a huge cow, son."  He picked him up so he could pet the cow's nose.  "Why are you wandering down the street, Bessie?"  She mooed at them, making the boy giggle and moo back.

Eric and the other parents helped the other kids so they could see and pet her.  "Should we capture her?" he asked Xander.

Xander looked at him. "How would I know?  I've only seen them on trips to farms, Eric."

Eric shrugged.  "I thought you might have an idea how."

"Yeah, because I watch so many westerns," he snorted.  "Sorry, I'm an action and comedy guy until Willow makes me watch sappy dress movies."  He looked at the cow again.  Then at the parents. "Anyone know anything about cows?"

"Call New York," Marisol offered.  "Isn't one of them from the country?"

"Good idea."  He handed her Eric and moved back to call Danny.  "What do I do with a cow that just wandered up to the Delko's backyard?"


Danny looked at his phone then put it back to his ear.  "How would I know?"  He groaned and looked around.  "Montana!  Phone call!" he yelled.  She came walking in.  "Xander needs a country reference."


"A cow just wandered up to them in Miami."


"Like I know anything about cows!" he said dryly, handing her the phone. "Here, you talk to him."

She put the phone up to her ear.  "What is a cow doing in downtown Miami?"  He said he wasn't sure and described it. "That's a meat cow not a milk cow but okay.  Um, does it have a rope around its neck?"  He checked and then said no.  "Then do that and lead her gently to some grass she can nibble on while you call animal control.  Someone's got to have reported her missing.  They're usually docile as long as you don't spook them.   No, the kids are probably fine to pet her, Xander."  She shook her head again, hearing the dual moos and the giggles in the background.  "Was that her?  Oh, her and your son."  Danny moaned at that.  "Sure, not a problem.  Watch out for the feet, they will step on you and sometimes do kick.  Just gently, like a leash and collar on a dog, Xander."  She hung up and handed the phone back.   "Do you get calls like that all the time?"

"No, not usually like that one.  Other questions, the occasional cooking question, but not questions about cows."

She walked off shaking her head, still limping.  Stella stopped to look at her.  "Xander's son had a cow wander up to him in downtown Miami."

"What's a cow doing in Miami?"

"I don't know, but he called Danny to see what to do about it."  She heard the phone ring and turned back around before she could be bellowed at.

"He wants to know if the drool indicates rabies?"

"No, they drool and drip snot."

"No, Xander, that's normal. They're like that.  Paper towels?" he suggested.  "Sure, you stand there and ask it to blow its nose."  He hung up, shaking his head.

Stella walked off giggling, going to tell Mac and Sheldon.  "Xander, cow," she got out.

"Huh?" Sheldon asked. "Xander owns a cow?"

Lindsey walked in shaking her head.  "One wandered up to where he and his son are.  He called Danny to figure out what to do with it."

"Why would he call Danny?" Mac asked.

"He probably didn't have my cell number," she noted dryly.  Danny walked in and handed her the phone. "Monroe."  She listened, then groaned.  "No, that's fine, Xander.  Any grass is fine.  Doesn't have to be hay.  They live outside part of the day usually."  She listened to the next one.  "You can try, she might walk away though.  I don't know many people who try to ride cows.....  Oh, at the rodeo.  No, she probably won't buck."  Sheldon gave her the most confused look.  "No, mostly watch out for the feet, Xander.  Just gently.  Be prepared to catch him if he slides off.  Yeah, that's fine."  She hung up and put the phone next to her.  "Now I know why you guys come back from Miami looking so tired."

"It's not usually his fault," Stella assured her.  "It's usually all fun we've had.  Don!"  He walked in, looking attentive.  "Xander just had a cow walk up to him."

"How was a cow in downtown Miami?"

"We're not sure."  The phone rang and she answered it. "Monroe.  No, this is his phone, he left it on the desk.  Hold on."  She found the hold button and paged Danny. "It's your sister?"  He came jogging back and took the phone from her, going back to his job.  She looked at Don.  "He called asking what to do with the cow and about the snot, and just now about if it was safe to ride or if it'd buck."

"Don't they all?  Like they show in the rodeo?"

"No," she said, shaking her head.  "No, those are bulls, not cows, and no."

"Oh, okay."  He shrugged.  "I hope someone's getting pictures."  He went to find Danny and get his results.

Mac smirked at Sheldon.  "Next crossover case....."

"Oh, no.  I don't need to know more about cows.  I'm good with my lack of cow knowledge.  Really."  Lindsey gave him a look.  "Not like I'll need it, hopefully ever."  He walked out, going to hide from the discussion of cows and Xander. That was nearly as bad as Xander and teasing or Xander and shopping.  Then again, most discussions about Xander seemed to make him run for some reason.  He wasn't quite sure why....  Maybe he wasn't as secure in not wanting Xander as he thought he had been.   No, he was certain he didn't want him and he wasn't scared of him.  So he guessed it was just confusion.  He ran into Don. "Do you get confused by Xander?"

"All the time.  Just take it as it comes, enjoy the good parts, and get drunk about the rest.  Then pray Eric's more like his momma and Horatio."

"Okay."  He went to find his other open case so he could work on that and not get involved in anything cow-related.


Xander walked into the house, finding the mess.  "Wow.  Who?"

"Your uncle."

"Huh.  Dead?  Arrested?  Or simply on the run before I kick his ass?"

"Arrested. He was looking for money or jewels."  He pointed at the ruined chair.  "I don't know why he chose that one."

"You said you were thinking about replacing it anyway," Xander reminded him, giving him a kiss.  "We dropped the son off.  Eric's being a horrible big brother now." Horatio smirked at that.  "She is."  That got a brighter smile.  "We had a cow."

"A cow?  Is that some new slang?"

"No, one wandered up to the fence."  Horatio looked confused. "Really.  One wandered up to the fence.  Eric had a lot of fun talking with her and trying to ride her.  Fortunately she was gentled already and didn't buck."

"Why would he want to ride the cow?"

"Taylor showed him a rodeo.  He asked."  He shrugged.  "Monroe said it should be okay."

Horatio kissed him, stopping any and all confusion-making thoughts. It was simpler that way.  Xander moaned and leaned against his chest.

"Let me hide again," Ray said, heading outside at a dead run.

Xander grinned at him when he pulled back.  "Bed?"

"Bed's nice," he agreed, taking him that way. "Did they like the picture frame?"

"They did, his mother cooed over it."  The silver collage frame with the ornate script 'D' in the center had been a big hit.  It had enough room for a picture of each family.  They closed their bedroom door.

Ray Sr. came out of the office.  "They do that way too much in front of others."  He went to join his son outside so they could talk.  His son glared at him.  "I knew the hangover would be bad, son, but it was necessary.  At least you slept last night."

"I did.  Thankfully."

"You're welcome."

Ray Jr. looked at him.  "I still don't like you."

"I know.  You can't pick your family though.  Look at Xander's uncle."

"True, and if I see him again, I'm going to kick his ass."  He sipped his soda, then nibbled on some of the crackers he had found in the cabinets.  He now knew why Xander liked these when he was nauseous.  "Did I hear something about a cow?"

"I wasn't listening."

Ray pulled out his phone and called Eric.  "A cow?  I was in the kitchen and didn't hear."  Eric sent him a picture.  He looked then put it back against his ear.  "Why did your parents rent a cow for their anniversary? Is it their favorite animal?"  He told him the story and Ray burst out in giggles.  "So he calls *Danny*?"  He giggled more.  "Sure, that's cute!  Mom'll want pictures too.  Thanks, Eric."  He hung up and showed his father the picture.  "One wandered up to their fence."


"I'm not sure, neither are they.  Animal control came after a few hours to get it."  He took his phone back and put it into his pocket. He stood up.  "I'm heading to the mall.  Give me a ride home?"

"Fine."  He stood up, walking out with him, tapping in the code before they left the house. "Why are you going to the mall?  Hot date?"

"Need a few new t-shirts. All mine are stained."  He grimaced.  "Chemistry is bad and evil."  His father nodded.  "Speed and them make it seem really easy.  Now I know why Xander got a 'D' in it."

"He did?"

"Yeah, he did."  He got into the passenger's side, buckling up.  He looked at the front of the car, then got out and whistled at the person who was staring at the garage door with the can of spray paint.  "Yo, stupid person?  There's a cop living there and you're interrupting him having sex.  Think you might not do that?"  The kid glared at him.  "Don't try it, kid.  Um, Xander, tagger!" he yelled.

Xander came to the door naked, glaring at the kid.  "I'm going to snap your scrawny ass chicken neck for interrupting my sex life."  The kid squeaked and ran off.  "Good!  Go home! You're too young anyway!"  He slammed the door and went back to it. "I'll tell his parents later."

"Who was it?" Horatio asked tolerantly.

"The Phipp's second kid."  Someone knocked on the door so he growled and went to answer it. "What?"  The mother glared at him. "Your son just tried to tag our garage.  You've both now interrupted my sex life.  Do you mind!"  She backed off, covering her son's eyes when she realized he was naked.  "Thank you!  We'll talk when I'm not in the middle of something."

"You threatened him!"

"Earlier we had a break in.  We're a police family. I heard our nephew warn him."  She blanched and glared at her son.  "So, shoo!  Come over later, when we're all more rational and calm."  She nodded, leading her son off.  He closed the door more quietly, then stomped back in there, seeing the laughter.  Xander went down on him and that stopped that, making Horatio grab on and go with it.


Xander looked up as the door opened, reaching for his gun immediately but the man walking in already had one.  "There's others in the house," he said coldly.  "Let me get my son out of the way.  He's a toddler."

"No.  He can stay.   You can sign over custody."

"I don't have custody. I have visitation. His mother has custody."

"I've already dealt with her," he sneered.  "Now."

"No. Sorry. Even if you kill me, his lineage is already protected."  His uncle looked confused.  "The line of parents.  He's got lots of uncles ready to take him in."  He heard the screen door open.  "Go," he ordered coldly. "Now."  Ray ran, and he knew he was calling his uncle.  Rory looked like he wanted to go but decided not to.  Which was a nice thing.  "Whatever you want, I can't give you."

"You can!" he shouted.  "I know you can!  You live here!"

"My husband had this house before we married. The only thing I've done is change the bed and a couch."  He shrugged.  "Buy some clothes."  His uncle cocked the gun.  "Are you prepared to die to use that?" he asked quietly.  "Because you will.  Every member of the PD will be on your ass."

"I doubt they like you that much," he sneered.  "After all, you tainted one of theirs."

"I've also saved some of theirs."  He stared him down.  "Get out of my house."

"Isn't it his house?" he sneered.  "You said it was his."

"It is, doesn't mean I don't live here, moron.  That makes it my house by right of habitation.  Also by right of cleaning."  He heard his son start to fuss.  "At least let me put him on the porch."  His uncle shook his head. "You go near my son and will not survive as a whole soul to the afterlife."

"What? You gonna try that freak stuff on me? Like your girl did?"  He sneered.  "Got her too."

"Somehow I doubt that.  Considering her husband is the original overprotective spouse, I seriously doubt that."

"Her boy's a screamer," he offered, smirking at him. "Pity."

Xander looked in his eyes, then shook his head.  "No he's not.  He's also at the station today with his father.  The same as his mother is. I know damn well you didn't get her there."  He crossed his arms.  "Just leave, Rory.  I can't give you what you want."

"You can!  I know you can!  That's why I came!  We're family!  You've got to take care of family!"

"I do, I take care of my family very well.  I take very good care of my son," he agreed calmly.  "Which is more than I can say for you and your three.  I see and play with mine every chance I get."  He heard his son start to babble and winced.  "Just outside, that's all I want to move him."

"No. He stays.  Don't worry, I'll take *good* care of him."  He smirked and Xander lunged, knocking him onto his ass.  "That was a mistake."  He got back up.

"Really?   It felt really good to me."  He had used it to give time for Ray to sneak up the stairs.  He knew where the gun up there was.

"You fucking fag."

"Yay.  I'm so much happier now that I'm taking it up the ass.  Anything else you need to confirm?"

"Miami-Dade PD!" someone shouted, busting in the door.  Xander relaxed.  "Mr. Harris?"

"I'm fine and someone just snuck up to get my son out."

"Good. Thank you, sir."  He stood up and pointed his gun at Xander. "I can fix that too."

"I sincerely doubt that," Frank said from behind him, cocking his gun.  "Put it down.  Both of you."  He pushed the button on his phone.  "Two people with guns, one officer, holding adult male hostage.  Civilian protecting a toddler.  SWAT to Lieutenant Caine's house."  He let it go.

"Rodger.  On the way."

"Put it down," Frank ordered. "You don't wanna do this."  He looked at Xander. "You good?"  He got a nod.  "Who's up there?"


"Okay.  Guns?"

"Yeah, I can't get to them."

"That's fine, let us handle it," he ordered. "Put it down.  Don't be that stupid!"  He heard the sirens.  He heard the squeal of brakes and then people were rushing toward them.  He glanced and the officer moved, swinging his gun around.  Frank moved.  The other officers were in the line of fire and shot back.

Xander dove out of the way, getting one of the ones under the couch and coming up on the other side of the couch with it.  "Put it down, Uncle Rory.  Now!"

"No!  I go, you go," he sneered.

"How drunk are you?" he complained. "You're surrounded by officers and me.  You're not making it out of here alive if you don't."

"Good, another body on your hands.  I've heard about your hobby," he vowed. "I've told others."

"None of that was true, Uncle Rory.  Really."

"Then what happened to your *boy*?"

"Jessie and I weren't like that.  Really.  Put it down!"  The cops came in.  "Please make him put it down."

"Xander, step back," Frank ordered.  Xander stepped back, giving up his spot.  Frank pulled him outside.  "Can you get up there another way?"

"Up the outside of the house?" he said, looking up.  Then at the small roof covering the porch.  "Give me a boost."  Frank did that and he went up, walking up it to tap on the window.  Ray opened it and handed him the baby and the diaper bag.  "Good job.  Come on."  They came out together and he let Frank have his son, then help Ray down.  Xander slid down a pole and they left around the side of the house.  Frank put them both in his car, huddled together around the baby.  They flinched when they heard gunshots.

"Shh," Ray soothed, patting them both.  He saw the hummer pull in and waved.  Then he saw the body coming out.  "Shit."

"Freeze!" Speed yell, pulling his gun.  "I will shoot you, Rory. You know me better than that!"  He froze, then cackled.  He pointed his gun at the car.  Speed shot.  Rory fell.  "He's down!"  He ran for the house, finding most of them in pain.  "What the hell?"  He turned and found Rory changing.  "Shit.  Xander!"

Xander got out of the car, heading inside at a run.  He came out with a sword and stabbed him in the stomach, killing him for real.   "Always knew you were a demon," he sneered, watching him die.  He looked at him.  "I'm going to be sick now."  He walked around the side of the house, going to get ill.  The neighbor came out to check on him.  He waved her off. "Inside," he groaned, holding his stomach.  "My uncle just tried to kill me."

"I saw you stab him."

"He was dead."  He looked at her.  "He deserved it."  She nodded, going back into her house.  Xander threw up again, falling to his knees as he retched.

Speed came around the house to help him, getting him calmed down.  "You had to," he whispered.  Xander nodded, going again.  "Calm it down, Xander.  Just calm it down.  It's natural."  He soothed him, stroking his back.  Xander finished and panted, leaning against his legs.  "Shh, I've got you."

"I want to hide, dad."

"I know.  That's your first instinct."  He looked back as other cars appeared, and an ambulance.  "I don't know what he did to them. They're all stunned."  Xander got up and Speed led him back so he could lean on the car, watching them.  Horatio finally got there, running for them.  "Rory."  He pointed.  "Xander used the sword when he got up again."

"Was he turned?"

"Demonic somehow," Xander whispered, clinging to him.  "I'm sorry."

"Shh, you did what you had to do."

He pulled back.  "He said he got Di.  He said he had Willow and Toddy but I doubted it."  Horatio pulled him close again. "Check?"

"Of course."  He called over there, getting a giggling person.  "Ryan, call Di, make sure she's fine.  No, his uncle showed up.  He ended up stabbing him post mortem."  He hung up.  "He was giggling, I'm sure she and the baby are fine."  He soothed his mate, looking at Speed. "The guys inside?"

"Stunned.  The paramedics ran that way."  He went to check.  "They good?"

"Mostly just in shock it looks like.  I don't know why."

"Take 'em, have them checked over for injuries."

"There was a gunshot," Frank said, coming out of the bedroom.  He handed Speed something.  "For the boy.  He's gonna need it."  Speed nodded, going to hand Xander the new clothes so he could change.  "I was with them and outside when the shot happened.  He was still moving so I don't think it was the suspect."  They nodded, looking at them.

Xander walked in and groaned, then headed into the bedroom, putting on the bracelet Ethan had made him.  It ended the spell and he looked at Frank.  "An ooops."

"For a good reason," he agreed, taking him back outside.  "Here, Horatio.  Keep him for now."

"I had a slip," Xander whispered against his chest.

"I figured it was a new alarm," Horatio admitted.  Xander shook his head, snuggling in.  "Is he gone?"  Xander nodded.  "Will he stay gone if we move the sword?"  He shook his head.  "What kills him?"

"Fire."  He looked at the sword.  He had picked his favorite.  "I'll hate to lose him.  He was my first one."

Ryan pulled up and Willow got out, shrieking and coming over to stab the body again.  "Bastard!"  Ryan pulled her back, leaving that sword there.  He looked at Xander and shrugged.

"Guys, want a stake to shove up his ass so you can put him on the lawn?" Frank asked.

"Wouldn't hurt him enough," Xander admitted.  "Di?"

"She's fine," Ryan assured him.  "They got a phone threat and shut down the offices.  Officers already responded there."  He looked at the body, then at Alexx when she pulled up.  "The other officers?"

"They're mostly fine, just stunned for a few minutes."

"Makes sense," Willow muttered, coming over to hug him.  "Are you all right?"  Xander shook his head.  "Shh, we've got you," she soothed, hugging his back.  "I'm here, Horatio's here.  The baby's in the car with Junior."  He nodded.  "Good job. You survived."  He relaxed and nodded again.  "Now, let Horatio and you check the baby over."

"He never got near him."  He looked at Horatio.  "He wanted custody of Eric after I died."

"I saw who you named," he assured him.  He kissed him gently on the forehead.  "It'll be all right." He looked toward the house as Frank came back out. "They clear?"

"Yeah, they're clear.  The officer pulled in and parked as I made the turn.  Xander was reporting to him as I headed over.  I heard him.  The officer said 'good, thank you sir, and I can fix that' and joined in."  He looked that way as the paramedics came out, then at Horatio.  "You're not safe."

"I know we're not safe," he agreed. He looked at Xander, then at Frank.  Then at Ryan.  "Are you two back home?"  He shook his head.  "Was it released?"

"Not yet, we can go to a hotel tonight, Horatio," Ryan promised.  "The Feds have it."

"I can borrow the keys to another house in the same development," Xander offered. "One's still free and I know the developer.  I helped him decorate it since he liked ours."  That got a smile from Willow.  He shrugged.  "It helps."  He looked at Horatio.  "Can we stay there tonight?"

"We can," he agreed calmly.  The head of the rapid response unit came over.  "How bad?"

"Two shot officers, one's the bad guy though.  Your boy okay?"  Xander nodded, looking at him.  "Any idea who this one is?"

"My Uncle."

"The money?"  Xander nodded.  "Family money?"  Xander shook his head quickly, putting it back down.  "He wanted it?"  Xander nodded more quickly.  "Okay.  What's with the swords?"

"He was a bastard and deserved to be cut into small chunks.  He threatened the mother of his child too."

"He broke in here a few days back," Horatio admitted.  "Alexx, leave that for now.  Let them leave first."  She nodded, just examining around the swords for now.  He looked at him.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  I'm wondering what the officer's problem was."

"Not a clue," Xander admitted.  "I've never seen him before.  Is he an officer?"  He looked at Frank, then at the other two, who looked confused.  "His radio's on the wrong shoulder.  He's got a tassley thing on his shoulder."

Horatio went to look, coming back. "He's right, that's not right for our uniforms.  Ryan?"  He came to check since he had been in a patrol uniform more recently, then shook his head.  "Not right?"

"No.  Not right.  He's wearing parade cord."  He stood up, looking him over.  "Permission to search the body," he asked the head of the unit.  He got a nod.  He patted him down, finding his wallet.  "Not our ID either."  He handed it over.  "Wallet, driver's licence.  Six grand in the cash.  Definitely not one of us."  He handed it to Frank, who had a bag open.

"Let me call this in, Horatio."  He glanced at Frank.  "Nice job ducking."  He looked around then back at them. "What's with the freezing thing?"

"Some people can do things like the wiccans claim," Ryan said quietly.  "Some of them also can panic.  It was probably to keep anyone from dying but it was an emotional response.  My wife used to be able to and she gave it up.  I'm not sure who slipped."

"Okay.  I thought the demon on the lawn was a bit odd."  He looked at Horatio.  "Your mate?"

"It's possible. He's got a touch of it.  It's possible it was me.  I have no idea."

"Fine.  We'll put it down as shock."  He walked off, looking at the swords, then at Xander, then nodded at it.  He got a nod back. He chose the thinner one and grinned at Alexx.  "Let me help, ma'am."  She smiled and he broke the sword off.  "Oops.  Sorry."

"That's okay, I can remove that at the office, Captain.  Thank you for the help."  She tried to pull the other one.  He tried.  Xander came over and pulled it out.  "I need you to do my training, Xander."  He gave her a shy grin and laid the sword on the grass.  "Thank you, baby.  Go cuddle the baby."  Xander nodded, going to cuddle Ray Jr. and the baby.  "They're a really tight family."

"I can tell."  He looked at Horatio.  "This makes how many?"

"He's got a bolthole we'll be moving to shortly," he promised.  "It's in a gated community."  That got a smirk.  "Well defended as well."

Alexx nodded at that. "Xander collects weapons and they're all there."  That got a smirk.  "Scared the hell out of some of us when his son got taken and he broke out ammo and vests for everyone, plus a spare gun."  The Captain laughed at that.  "Exactly."  She looked at the body.  "Looks like Speed's shots were right on.  Let me bag him and have him removed."  She stood up and came over to look at Xander.  "Are you all right?"  He nodded, mouthing something.  She nodded, patting his cheek.  "We'll deal with that stuff later."

"His name was Rory Harris."

"Sure, sugar."  She went to do that, getting her crew there to take the bodies off.

Phil pulled up, looking around. "What the hell?" he asked, coming over.  "Harris?"

"My uncle and some guy."

Speed raised a hand.  "I got his uncle. The some guy was one of their guys," he said, pointing at the captain.

"Okay.  Why?  Walk me through it," he ordered, taking them back to the house.  "Head to the station with them, Horatio.  That way his statement can be taken by someone."

"I've got it," Frank called. "I responded first."  He looked at him.  "Good idea.  Everyone back to the station."  Horatio nodded, letting Xander go so he could cuddle the babies and Ray in Frank's car. "I've got 'em but we should have the baby seat," he said, frowning.  Horatio handed his over. "Thanks."  He handed it back to the boys.  "I'm sure you two know how to do those."  Eric grinned at him. "Hi to you too, baby Xander."  He got in, watching as they buckled it in then the baby, then he took off, taking them back to the station, Wolfe and his wife right behind him.  "God, today was a mess."

"I'm sorry I slipped, Frank."

"He had a clue.  You tell her how it dies?"  Xander nodded. "Good.  That really him?"

"He used to be human but that's a type you can be turned into.  If she finds a lot of black ink on his back, he was turned."

"Sure, I'll let her know that when I go down to check. You two okay?"

"I'm fine," Xander agreed.  "I puked long and hard."

"Damn this has been a week," Ray sighed.  Xander nodded, hugging him.  "It's all right.  I know where your gun upstairs is."  He patted him on the head, getting help from the baby they were hugging over.  "Thanks to you too, Eric.  You should tell Uncle Frank about the cow."

"I heard about the cow.  Eric's momma took plenty of pictures of Xander staring in wonder at the cow and the baby Xander trying to ride the cow."


"Yeah, I heard about that too."  Eric giggled.  "So, you've got another house out there?"


"That where the arsenal is?"


"The house?"

"The one inbetween them," Ray told him.  "Tunnel and hurricane shelter."

"Goodie.  Will you not show me the illegal stuff?"

"Then you don't want to go down there," Xander admitted. "The guy at Tentacles that collects weapons gives me some in payment for translating books into demon."

"I thought it was nice you refused the rocket launcher the other day," Ray offered.  Xander grinned at him. "Or did you?"

"I did."

"Let me guess, you have one of those?" Frank asked dryly.

"No, but I don't need a SCUD launcher.  I have nowhere to put it, Frank."  Frank groaned. "Remember, you don't want to know those things."

"Not until I retire, okay?"


"Thanks, kids."  He pulled onto the street that held the station, staring at the fire trucks.  "If that's at the station, Horatio's going to throw a fit."

Ray looked.  "House just up from it, Frank."

"Good."  He pulled around them, lights on in case anyone said anything, and then into the parking lot, turning everything off.  He looked back at the boys.  "Let's go to the office and we'll do it there."  Xander nodded, taking his son while Ray covered him.  Frank walked behind them, nodding at the guards.  "His uncle tried to shoot him," he said quietly. "Anyone comes looking, we're in Caine's office."  That got a nod.  He took the boys up there, weathering them being pounced by Eric and Calleigh. "You two babble like twins!"  He took Toddy and walked off with him, letting Ray have him.  "Here, have a teddyhuman."

Ray grinned.  "Thanks, Uncle Frank.  I don't have to have my own for many years."

"Good.  Your mother's fit would wreck the building if you did."  He took them into the office. "Sit."  He pulled out some paper and a pen, settling behind the desk. "Okay, from the top, Xander."


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