Speed walked into the morgue, looking at the body, then at Alexx.  "He wants to be cremated."

"Good. That's a nice thing."  She looked at him.  "Prison ink," she said, pointing it out.  He nodded, getting that.  "They still okay?"

"Fairly so.  Tired, Xander's napping on the office couch.  Ray's in the break room with the kids at the moment.  His mom doesn't know he's back here yet.  No one wanted to upset her."

"Probably a good idea. Horatio back yet?"

"Yup.  Their house is closed off but he was allowed to gather some things, like the spare laptop and things.  It was registered a good shooting."  She hugged him. "I know."  He grinned.  "Anything I wouldn't normally expect?"

"No, not a thing.  The other one, I got his ID from fingerprints."  She handed it over.  "That's who he is."  He looked then at her.  She nodded.  He rolled his eyes and went to hand that to Horatio, who groaned and faxed it to New York with a note since he had been theirs.


Mac looked up as his office fax started to spit out something, getting up to look at it.  "Uh- huh."  He looked it over, nodding at the note that came with it.  "Interesting."  He sat down and called IAB.  "Hillborne.  Got a fax from Miami.  One of ours was down there involved in an attempted kidnaping and got shot.  Yeah, Caine's lab has it.  He faxed it to me.  No, the idiot went after his husband actually."  He leaned back, going over the note.  "Yup.  Shot by the responding officers.  I can do that.  How do you want to do the body?"  He nodded.  "I can have ours call her to get it transferred up so you have time to call them."  He hung up and called Horatio.  "Our IAB wants the case file, just in case he was dirty in other areas.  Thank you.  Xander all right?"  He got the quiet report and smiled.  "Napping on your couch?  That's fine.  You going to be home tonight?  Probably safer.  Sure."

He hung up and called his morgue.  "Call Miami's morgue, get Alexx to send you the body of our officer.  IAB needs time to get his jacket and do a background on him before we say if he should be buried with honors or not.  No, he was shot participating in a kidnaping.  Thanks, Sid."  He hung up.  Then he went to find the others.  "Guys, Xander's going to be coming up for a few day's leave.  His uncle just tried to kill him so he could have his money through his son.  We had an officer from up here involved so he'll have the case file with him.  Probably the son as well if Di doesn't panic."  Danny gave him a long look.  "What?"

"That a good idea right now?"

"Yes. It is.  He needs out of Miami.  He'll probably try to lay low, but this is Xander we're talking about," he reminded them.  "So let's be on the lookout for threats."

"He said that the hellmouth would be coming for him," Stella offered quietly.  Mac shrugged.

"What's a hellmouth?" Lindsey asked.

"His former town," Danny told her.  "You wanna give Don escort duty?  Maybe this time he won't be shot at on the way in."

"Sure."  He smirked and went to tell him that.  Their present case would be gotten through faster.  Hopefully without having the boy get in the middle of it.


Don smirked as Xander came off the plane with a folder tucked between his handcuffed wrists.  "What did you do?" he asked, undoing them.  Xander presented the folder with a grimace.  "Xander?" he asked with a tolerant smirk.

"Horatio caught me polishing the swords at two this morning and it had been a long day.  I couldn't sleep. He decided I'd get into trouble so you should probably have a spare set."

"Uh-huh.  Should I call and see who dropped you off?"


"I'm assuming the bigger one."  Xander nodded.  "No son?"

"No, Di and Taylor are being cutesy moms at the moment and Taylor is encouraging her to do a baby's line of real clothes."  Don snickered at that.  "She's a nice lady so I don't mind.  I'm under orders to lounge, go to the spa, and head home in a week.  I'm not to get into any trouble or to bug you guys."

"That's okay, we've already had the security briefing."  He put an arm around his shoulders and walked him off.  "So, anything surprising coming for the holiday presents?"

"Yup.  I think you'll like yours but I might have to explain."

"Okay," he agreed, still smiling.  Xander usually had reasons or thoughts behind those gifts. "Anyone else's?"

"Nope.  Oh, but Di's giving you clothes."

"I kinda figured she would."  He gave him a squeeze around the neck.  "Bag?"

"Hopefully it didn't get eaten."  They walked to the baggage claim area.  "I was watching the bags be loaded and didn't see mine."

"So it's in Outer Mongolia?"

Xander looked at him.  "The plane next to us was Air Japan.  It's possible."  Don burst out in giggles, sitting down and shaking his head. "I'm serious!"  He looked at the boards to find his baggage claim, finding it at the other end.  He walked down there, this was not starting out a fun vacation.  Eric thought he'd get into bad trouble.  Speed had warned him not to get into trouble.  Horatio had warned Mac to keep an eye on him apparently.   Their bags started to come around and he watched, staring in horror.  Well, there was his jacket.  He picked it up and walked over to the window.  "I believe this is mine. If not, someone else goes to my favorite designer.  Where's the bag with it?"

"It split, sir."

"Hey, my jacket," a woman yelled.

Xander looked at it, then her.  "You go to Diana's?"  She nodded.  He grinned.  She blushed.  "Let's see, you try it on.  I had mine in my bag too."  He handed it over. And it fit her.  "Damn it."  The claims guy chuckled.  "I haven't seen mine yet. Are they all out?"  He nodded.  Xander went muttering back to the rack, watching it come around again.  Then he looked at Don, sighing a bit.  He patted himself down. He had his wallet.  That had his cards and his ID.  He'd be fine without anything else.  But they would be finding it for him or he'd kill someone.  He headed for the ticket lines, going to complain.  "You lost my bag."


He handed over his tickets, getting an odd look.  "I asked, they're all out."

"I'm sorry about that, sir.  They said some got transferred onto another flight up here.  Did your bag have identification?"  Xander nodded.  "Let me see if we can find it."

"You might wanna do that, yeah, I'm already not having a good day."  She nodded, ducking away to call someone.  He looked at the guard who came over, shrugging. "I haven't threatened her yet."

"You were wearing handcuffs on the plane?"

"I'm married to a cop.  He thought I'd get into trouble.  It's almost an in-joke between myself and my uncle Don."  He pulled out his phone and turned it on, calling him.  "Can you please come to the ticket line, Uncle Don?  Thank you.  No, someone noticed the handcuffs so you get to yell at Eric."  He hung up.  "He'll be right here."  He looked at the ticket agent, who shrugged. "Nowhere?"

"Not yet, sir.  We're checking the tag numbers with the airport down there."  Xander sighed and leaned on the counter.  "Behind the yellow line please, sir."  He straightened up and backed up.  "Thank you."  She smiled at Don.  "I'm currently with someone, but the line starts behind you."

"I'm picking him up."

"Oh, all right then."  She pointed at the guard.  "He had a question about the handcuffs."

Don looked at him.  "His husband's a cop, Xander gets into trouble.  They thought I might need extra," he said, pulling his badge.

"As long as it's fine. You might want to tell them that's dangerous."

"Oh, I'll be yelling," he promised with a bright grin.  The guard walked off. He looked at her.  "Bag?" he asked patiently.  Or at least he sounded patient to his own ears.

"Um, we think it's on the plane to Taiwan."

"Was that the Air Japan flight next to my plane?" Xander asked.  "Or one across the airport?"

"No, the one next to yours.  It was an easy mistake to make, sir.  I can get it back for you."

"Just send it back to Miami, call the number on the tag.  Someone will pick it up for me.  It'll probably be back there the same time I am."  He looked at Don.  "So I guess I'm shopping."

"Sure.  You wanna make sure the hotel didn't forget you?"

"Please.  It's like Cordy put a curse on me," he complained, walking out with him.  "Can we both yell at Eric?"

"No.  Won't help any.  I've already yelled at Eric once. I'll do it later too."  He put an arm back around his shoulders.  "Come on, kiddo.  If they forgot you, you can have my spare bedroom."  Xander nodded, resting against his side. "I know, it sucks."

"Yeah, it does."  They headed out to the car.  The hotel had his reservation but was trying to bump him up to a bigger suite for more money.  Don told her to stuff it and took Xander home with him.  He gave Xander the keys.  "Go on up.  I've got to put some oil in the car."

"Sure."  He headed up there, letting himself in.  He found an older man standing in there.  "Who're you?  Last time I knew, Don was straight and liked 'em younger."

"The better question should be, who are you?"

"His nephew.  You are?" he asked more firmly, hands on his hips.  "Before I turn on the alarm and input an emergency code?"  The man looked stunned.  "Now," he prompted.

"I'm his father."

"Ah, you're the person who's not satisfied with him being a good enough Junior.  Well, Uncle Donny, let me clue you in," he said bitterly, moving closer.  "Don is a *great* fucking cop who deserves less shit in his life from his family, not more.  He gets enough of that on the job and from his ex.  He gets plenty of hell dealing with my issues now and then too.  He doesn't need you to add to it!"

"Whoa," Don said as he walked in.  "Xander, way over the line," he said calmly.  "Appreciated, but way over the line."


"Dad, this is Xander.  You know, the one your sister married us into the family of?"  His father snorted. "Dad, don't start."

"So, this is the little fairy...."  Xander grabbed him by the arm and flipped him then flipped him over and knelt on his back in perfect precision.  Don Sr. coughed and wheezed.  "You're good, kid."

"Of course I am.  I've got a combat history that rivals Taylor's.  Now, climb off your son's ass.  Only he gets to say who goes up it, and as I said earlier, he's straight. You don't like me being gay? Yay.  Suck it the fuck up.  Not like I associate with people like you anyway.  Now, you can play nicely since I'm getting a headache from the shitty day I've had, and I might let you up without further pain or injury, or you can apologize and I'll definitely let you up."

"Sorry, kid."

Xander got off him, looking at Don.  "Sorry, get enough of that at home from the society bitch."  He headed back to the guest room and went to lay down.

"Well, he's definitely not some boy on Broadway," his father wheezed as he got up, with a bit of help from his son.  He looked at him. "He's a strong boy."

"Made stronger by his husband.  Who calms him down.  Unfortunately in the last week he's had his best friend kidnaped, her son nearly hurt, his uncle nearly shot him for the inheritance money, and was going to keep his son, and then his husband was threatened too.  You're damn lucky, dad."  He looked him over, then at the kitchen, then back at him.  "Why didn't you call?"

"I thought we could go out for beers since I heard you took today off to pick someone up."

"Xander, we're going for beers," he called.

"I'm going to nap and then maybe shop."

"Sure.  Call me if you get lost.  Food's in the fridge if you want any."

"That's okay."

Don led his father out, turning back on the security system before he left.  You could never be too careful around Xander.  He looked at his father.  "That was really stupid.  You knew he could handle himself."

"I wanted to make sure he was fit to be in the family, even being gay."

"Dad, that's the guy who we caught serial killers with.  Yes, he's more than fit to be my nephew, even if he wasn't.  He was like my kid brother before we found out."  He led him off, down to the garage. "You want the Corvair or the work car?"

"The work car.  Your Corvair is too fancy for me."

"I like it."

"I noticed. I'm sure she does pretty in chases too."  He got in and buckled up. "The usual place?"

"Fine with me."  He started the car and pulled out of the garage.  The building security knew he was there. He had made sure of it.  "He is sorry about that, dad."

"That's fine.  He's got a good yank on him.  He'd make a good officer if it wasn't for that flaw."

"Dad, there's been gay cops since the beginning of the profession.  You served with more than one and didn't realize."

"They were less open back then.  I was more comfortable with them.  Instead I see the flaming queens on the job, and they're disgracing the uniform with their open conduct."

"Sorry, dad.  Some of the flaming queens are good in Vice.  They can go places you couldn't and I can't.  Besides, I never wonder where I stand with them.  They let you know.  I like that about them."  His father grunted. "Tough, dad."

"Are you gay?"

"Nope.  Not presently. If I have much more of Xander's luck with women I might be."  He turned a corner and found a parking spot.  "C'mon, I'll buy the first round."

"You should.  He runs that foundation you help with?"

"We run it together but he does most of it," Don admitted.  "Including most of the social hobnobbing.  Thankfully."  He walked him inside, seeing the cops who gave him wary looks.  "What?"

"Who was the little boy?" one of the guys called.

"Harris?  As in married to one of Miami's finest?  Sent up here for a break after nearly being killed by a relative?"  They shut up.  "That's my nephew."  That got some nods.

"He's got a good toss on him and a mouth," Don Sr. noted, earning some smiles.  "Mouthed off to me straight away, told me to get off my high horse too."  That got some laughs.  "Get us some drinks, I'll find us a table."

"Sure."  He nodded at Danny and Mac.  Then at his father, getting a grin from Danny.  He got their beers and paused at their table.  "Xander's luggage was lost, the hotel was trying to bump him up and charge him extra, and he's resting after chewing my dad out for me."  He walked off, going to their table.

"You left him alone?" Danny called.

"He's resting."

"Still!  Flack, you know that's dangerous!"

"I've got security in my building and in my apartment.  Calm down!"  He glared at him. "He'll be fine!"

"He won't be fine, this is *Xander* we're talking about!" Danny protested.

"He'll.  Be.  Fine," Don said firmly.

"We'll call to check on him in a while," Mac promised. "Just in case another violently anti- gay group comes after him or something."  Danny moaned.  "It's not like he'll get taken for real, Danny."

"If he does, you get to tell Horatio."

"I will," Mac promised.  "I'll even pick him up at the airport if Xander's taken for real this time."  Danny nodded that he would be, because no one wanted to get in Horatio's way if Xander were taken for real.


Xander came out of the coffee shop with a cup, sipping it as he looked up and down the street.  He headed for a likely looking place, not that he *wanted* to shop at the Gap, but it was close by.  His phone rang so he pulled it out to answer it after glancing at the number.  "Hey, Mistress Mary," he said happily.  "What's up?"  He listened.  "Um, nope, sorry. I'm reconnecting with the further flung family members so I can take a quick rest.  No, nothing like that.  No, he's fine.  It's just been a bit of stress recently.  I mean, I get sick with the chicken pox, then my best friend is taken by her parents. My uncle tries to kill me.  Minor family things.  Yeah, so I'm connecting with the family that's out of the area and resting a bit.  No, I won't be back by then. I don't come back until the 8th.  Wish I did."  Which he didn't, he hated boats.

"Sorry, Mary.  You can tell everyone who cares I'm okay, just tired."  He grinned and sipped his coffee.  "No, the usual.  Airline ate my bag.  It went to Taiwan."  She giggled at him.  "Air Japan jet next to mine.  So it'll be back before I will and I need to find some jeans and t-shirts.  Thanks.  Of course. You too."  He hung up and stuffed his phone back in his pocket, finding his wallet missing.  He summoned it and put it in his front pocket, opposite his phone, and continued on.  By the time he got done, Don should be home or his security guys said they could let him back in.  He walked in to the Gap and had a flashback from Sunnydale, shopping with Buffy and Willow.  He looked, then turned and walked out, shaking his head, heading for the small, vintage clothing place up the street.  He didn't need those thoughts when he was alone.  They were not happy-making ones.

"Xander?" a voice called, making him turn and wave at Lindsey.  She walked up to him. "What are you doing out already?"

"Airline lost my bag.  It went onto the plane heading to Taiwan."

"Oh, good.  So, shopping?"  He nodded, finishing his coffee and tossing the cup into the trash.  "Need help?"

"No, I'm okay with buying jeans and stuff.  I just couldn't hack the Gap today.  Brings back memories of shopping with Willow and Buffy."


"Old friends from my original town."

"Oh.  Okay.  You sure?  I've got to do some t-shirt shopping myself for work."  He shrugged and let her lead the way into the store.  The salespeople gave her a tired smile.  "Back here, Xander."  He grinned at the salespeople, going back to the t-shirt section.  He found his size and colors he liked, then a few pairs of jeans, plus a few packages of briefs.  "You're easy to please today."

"I only pull the primadonna act out for kidnapers," he admitted, smirking at her.  "I'm usually very easy to please."  He brought everything up there, finding his wallet was gone again.  He glared outside and summoned it and the contents again.  They all came back but they thumped against the door.  "Now I know why people use chains on them.  They keep running away."  He handed over the money, getting a smile from the salesgirl.  "Airline malfunction."

"I had one of those but they got mine back that night," she promised, ringing him up.  "Need twenty more cents."  Lindsey put it down, earning a smile from both of them.

"It's my small attempt at spoiling him. He'll be missing it soon."

"I miss it already.  Horatio was one clinging husband when I had chicken pox.  I had to make him go away for a few hours so I regained sanity."

She nodded.  "My parents got a bit hyper when I had it too."  The bag was handed to Xander and she rang Lindsey up, taking her money.  "Thank you."  She took her bag and they walked out.  "Heading anywhere else tonight?"  He shook his head.  "Where's Don? I know he took off to spend some time with you tonight."

"His dad showed up.  They went for beers while I laid down.  He caught me just at the end of the bad section of the day and I rather snapped."  She giggled.  "He said I wasn't manly. I flipped him and put him into prime cuffing position, then leaned on him."  She giggled harder.  He nodded. "Yeah.  So I'll probably get dinner and head back."

"Sure.  Watch that runaway wallet, Xander."  He stuck it down his pants, giving her a telling look, getting longer laughs.  "Want a ride back?"

"It's not that far.  Thanks anyway, and for showing this place."

"Not a problem.  Have a better night, Xander."  He nodded, heading off toward Don's condo again.  It wasn't that far, only six blocks, and he needed to stretch his legs.  Maybe he'd go for a run in the park tomorrow.  It wasn't his usual day to jog but it might be nice.  He popped into another store, finding sweats and boxers in there, plus a pair of running shorts.  He looked at his sneakers, then the ones on the wall.  He checked the soles.  Not great but still pretty good.  He decided against new running shoes.

"You know, those won't support your ankles very well," the salesman offered.  "Especially if you're not an experienced runner."

Xander looked at him, giving him a bland look.  "I've got better at home, where I do five miles twice a week.  I'm on vacation."  That got a nod and he backed off.  "I really can do a few miles. Where do you go to hit the jogging trail in the park?"  The rack of maps was pointed at.  "Thank you." He went way, finding the one he wanted.  "That looks like a nice, flat course."  He took it to check out, smiling and blushing a bit as he dug out his wallet.  "Sorry, got stolen earlier."  The salesman giggled.  "Twice.  It seems to grow legs.  I figured no one would grab it from there."   That got some understanding looks.  "Is that a nice place to run?"

"It is, but watch out for the early morning riders."  He grinned.  "It's a shady and nice early morning run but a bit more crowded in the afternoon."

"I usually go late afternoon, early evening."

"Then it's a little less crowded, but you'll get the evening riders."

"Sure.  Thank you."  He took his change and his bag, looking over the map as he walked out, then came back for his other bag, shaking his head.  "It's been a long day.  I'm going to take a nap," he muttered.  That got an understanding look.  "Airlines."  He sighed as he walked out, heading back to Don's for real this time.  He ran into him coming in, grinning at him.  "Hi.  How were beers?"

"Beers.  Cop bar.  Someone tried to tease me about you and I set 'em straight."  He grinned and gave him a nudge.  "You good on clothes?"

"Jeans, t-shirts, jogging shorts, I've got sneakers.  Underwear."

Don snickered.  "I got told Lindsey and you ran into each other.  She good to you?"

"Yeah, took me somewhere decent to find t-shirts.  She was nice and polite, all smiles."  He walked in to put his clothes next to his bed, then got out of his shoes and socks, putting them in the closet. He came back out and hugged him.  "How are you, Don?  Doing okay?"

"I'm okay," he promised, patting him on the hand.  "Get off."  Xander got off with a grin.  "Thanks.  Dinner?"

"I'm not really hungry."

"You still should eat."

"I know but I'm not hungry.  I had a good lunch before Eric cuffed me and put me on the plane. You go eat."

"Nah, I'll stay.  How about I order in case you get hungry?"  Xander shrugged.  "Missing anything?  Pizza, chinese, Greek?"

"I don't care, Don.  I'm not hungry."  Don felt his forehead.  "I'm fine."

"You're always hungry."  He sat down, staring at him.  "You think he sent you away?"

"Yup, because I think he's got a dangerous case.  I haven't been stressed in days."

Don nodded.  "Could be.  He never told me anything about that.  Just that you were moping, stressed, and tired."  He looked his nephew over.  "Which you look to be."  He leaned over, testing his head again.  "You're not warm but I've never known you to pass up eating."

"I had some coffee."

"That's not food, no matter how we live on it sometimes."  He stood up.  "Ice cream?"

"I'm not that pitiful."

"I am."  He went to the kitchen, coming back with bowls of ice cream and the chocolate sauce, handing Xander one. "Eat."  Xander ate slowly and didn't use the chocolate.  "He didn't send you away for any other reason, Xander.  I'm sure of it."

"He didn't tell me why.  He normally would have."  He ate a bite and looked at him. "How do you do that?"

"Read people like that?" he asked with a grin. "Training.  Which is one reason why I can't stand the formal events.  Everyone reads as lying through their bleached teeth ta me."  He shrugged and ate another bite. "Call and tell him about the bags.  Ask how his case is."

Xander grabbed the phone, leaning back while he called home.  "Hey, it's me.  Expect a call from my luggage.  It'll be back before I will."  He snorted.  "No, Don said to warn you that it went to Taiwan."  He smirked just a bit.  "So, how's the case you didn't want me to know about?"  He paused.  "But I'm not.....  Oh."  He looked at Don.  "Someone walked up to Yelina and accused her of me breaking her son in."  Don shook his head quickly.  He listened to Horatio telling them he knew it wasn't true, but that he wanted them out of harm's way in case this got nasty since it was one of the society hos he had to deal with. "Then the proper way of dealing with it is in the same social circle, Horatio.  Yeah, well, the sniping heiresses won't.  Besides, I'm worth more than she is."  He ate another bite.  "Don decided I was moping so he gave me ice cream."  He ate another bite, licking the spoon.  "No, doing it socially would cut down on that.  Sure."

He hung up and pulled out his cell, calling Mary again.  "Why didn't you tell me the slutty, ass-baring bitch with the bad fake tan and Brazillian with stray hairs was attacking me and Ray Jr.?" he asked patiently. He listened to her shocked noises.  "That's why I'm in New York, Mary.  Horatio wanted to keep me from going after her publically for upsetting Ray and his mother."  He ate another bite.  "Good, get this into her head, dear.  Ray Jr. is like my little brother.  I watch out for him, I teach him, I spoil him horribly by letting him use my car if he balances my accounts for me.  Yeah, well, unlike her, my husband makes a difference in society and isn't just wasting air and soaking up alcohol and gas.  By the way, she might want to stop him from so blatantly cheating.  Really."

He chuckled.  "No, dear, why would I want to ruin her in the press?  Besides the fact that your buddy sicced Erica onto my house when I had chicken pox."  He finished his ice cream and poured chocolate sauce into the bowl, using his finger to lick it out.  "Uh-huh.  Yay.  Mary, this is Xander, not some little boy from the prep schools.   Do I care?" he asked with a bright grin.  "Really?"  He smirked at Don.  "Do you have one coming up?"  Don groaned.  "You have to go to *some* of them, Don.  It's good for the reputation of the Foundation."  He slumped down and nodded.  "Come on.  It'll be fun.  We'll go make fun of the bad plastic surgery, like Ray and I do."  The person on the phone gasped.  "Quietly, Mary, quietly.  Never to their faces.  Oh, might tell your sister, bad hair day earlier."  He smirked.  "Thanks, dear."  He hung up then stood up.  "It's when?"

"Two days.  Must I?"

"Yup.  I'll need backup this time."  He finished his chocolate sauce and grinned.  "Do we have a tux?"

"Unfortunately.  I look like crap in it."

Xander nodded.  "Me too but mine was actually on purpose."  He grinned.  "We can fix that."  Don nodded.  "Unless you want me to bring Stella to enact my revenge?"

"Are you sure that's wise?"

"No but it'll be life affirming."  He smiled sweetly.  Don shuddered at that look.  "Come on, Don....." he whined.

"Nope.  Not aiding and abetting that, Xander.  Sorry."

"That's fine.  I'll bring Stella."  He called her since she was on speed dial.  "Stella, baby, it's Xander.  I've got to hit a social event while I'm up here.  Can I borrow your beauty and leash?"  He leaned back.  "No, social sniping is getting out of hand, I'm bringing it to a higher authority.  I'll dress you pretty enough to make your men beg at your feet, Stella.  Pwease?"  He grinned.  "Thank you.  Two days.  Yes, I can."  He hung up and looked at Don.  He smiled sweetly, then jumped up and headed for his bedroom, coming out with a frown.  "That was in my bag."  He called Willow.  "Put my blue wallet in your summoning circle, or mine if you're at my house.  That one.  Because the social sniping is getting out of hand down there.  I'm going shopping."  He smirked.  "I'll bring you back something pretty for Ryan."  He smirked at Don's choking laugh.  "Thanks, baby."  He waited the ten minutes she wanted and then summoned his special wallet, the one that went to his real accounts, not the smaller trust accounts.  He called a number on the back, then looked at Don.  "Name one color she looks *stunning* in."

"Diamonds, every woman looks great in them."

Xander smirked.  "I like how you think.  Lisa, it's Xander.  I've got to take Don's spot at a local event in two days.  I know, short notice.  No, I'm in New York.  Thanks.  No, I'm bringing the elegant Miss Bonasera. I want her to look as hot as Horatio did in his tux at the convention. I want her stunning and her men begging at her feet."  He grinned.  "And me if possible.  Thank you, Lisa.  Love you."  He blew a kiss and hung up.  "A buddy.  Di introduced us."  He grinned at him.  Then he twirled around.  "I'm a happy boy.  Even if Horatio does give me that disappointed and slightly constipated look again."  Don snickered at that.  "You sure you don't want to go?"

"I loathe those things."

"Yes, but it's part of the Foundation stuff, Don.  You really could be doing a bit more."

"Nag again, sleep on the street, Xander."

"I know.  I'm sorry I'm a horrible nag."  He hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.  "Any new games?"

Don beamed.  "I'm still due in tomorrow."

"I know."  He smirked. "I'll let you get to bed after I beat you.  Shouldn't take too long."  Don snorted and led him back to his game room to prove who was the better gamer.


Danny looked up as Stella came out of the dressing room before the event, his jaw dropping.  "Is that on backward?" he asked, swallowing his extra spit.  He used his phone to take a picture and sent it to Mac, still staring at her.  "Stella, man."

She smiled.  "Have I mentioned I like Xander's friends?"

"Yeah, so do I."  He blinked at her.  Her black dress clung in all the right ways, showing a gently immodest amount of cleavage, which was only enhanced by the diamonds she was wearing.  Her hair was loose but the curls looked like they had been finger combed.  Nothing too styled but nothing trashy.  Mac came up to where they were with Sheldon and Sid, their ME, plus Don.

Don whistled.  "Almost makes me wish I was going.  Good thing Xander is."  He walked around her, twitching her dress a bit.  He smiled at her.  "Hold still."  He popped the small pimple.  "Sorry, couldn't let that go on."

"Thank you.  Any others?"

"One," he said, getting the one resting against her back neckline.  She winced but he smoothed a finger over it.  "There, perfect again."  He wiped his fingers off on an alcohol pad Sheldon handed him absently.  He looked up as Xander walked up to them, gaping in awe.  "Xander."

Xander smirked.  "I do clean up well, Don.  That looks even better with the jewelry.  I'm glad someone's wearing it."

"Another gift?" Danny asked.  Xander nodded.  "From?"

Xander smirked. "A very nice older lady who said I should use it to tempt a young thing to me to make me give up the life."  He walked around her.  "Hmm."  He plucked at the same spot, then pulled something out of his pocket and put the small jeweled pin in.  "There, a small bit of bling."

"That looks dumb," Don complained.

"Montana," Danny called, "we need a woman's opinion."  She came up the hall, staring at Stella.  "She looks nice, right?"

"Very."  She walked up to her.  "That's my lifetime's salary around your neck."

Xander looked at her, then pointed at the earrings.  "That's your lifetime salary, Lindsey.  The necklace is more than all of you will make together."  She gaped.  "Come look at this spot."  She looked and took out the pin, then pulled Stella back into the changing room, coming out a minute later with the spot smoothed out.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  There was an extra string.  I sealed off the edges too."  She shook her head. "I couldn't handle that stuff.  I'd be nervous I'd put my foot in my mouth."

"Oh, I still am," Xander assured her.  "Shall we, beauteous one?"  He offered her arm.  "I'll be a good and polite gentleman, Mac.  She'll be very safe with me."  He looked at Danny, getting a nod and a smirk.  "But someone can send a picture to Horatio if you want. My phone's at home."  He smiled sweetly and walked her out to the car he had rented, a nice Beamer with a driver.  He helped her into the back then got in once she slid over. "To the party please."  The driver nodded and took them off.  "I had a long run this morning and it was a very nice one.  I even got to pet a few horses."  She giggled at that.  "Do you think I'll like polo?  We've been invited to a charity match and it's highly suggested I go."

"I think you'll like watching the horses.  I've never seen a match."  She covered her mouth.  "I forgot to do my teeth."  He handed her his breath spray, making her hiss.  "Thank you."  She hesitantly sprayed her mouth, then smiled.  "Weaker."

"Heat seems to do that.  After a month or so it's really weak.  You can have that one."  She smiled and tucked it into her bag, along with her badge, gun, and compact, plus her keys and wallet.  He grinned at her.  "You didn't need that."

"Oh yes I do.  I always carry it."  He nodded. "You're not?"

"I get yelled at when I go armed to these things.  Even if people do try to take me."  They pulled up in front of the house holding the party, and he handed her his invitation, letting her hand it over.

"Sir, you're Don Flack Junior?"

"No, I'm Alexander Harris, the other head of the Bennis Foundation. My uncle was on call tonight and couldn't come."  He radioed that up and got a nod, smiling at him.  "Sorry about the unexplained change."

"It happens, sir.  We're happy you could come tonight.  Up to the main doorway and present this there," he ordered, handing it back.  He opened the gate to them.

Xander took a few deep breaths.  "Thank you, Stella."

"Not a problem, Xander."  She patted his hand. "It's not often I get chances like this."  She touched the necklace.  "She really gave you this?"  Xander nodded.  "Why did the old matron give these to you?"

"She wanted me to use them to entice a nice young thing to my side so I could settle down and quit having bad habits.  Meaning getting taken and teasing, but she liked Horatio when she met him.  You think getting Don to these is like pulling teeth?" he shared, making her laugh.  "Exactly."  The car stopped and the door was opened so he got out, presenting the invitation then helping Stella out.  He took her arm, letting her clutch purse hang by the thin silver chain around her wrist that he had on his arm.  The doorman handed over the invitation to the guard.  He smiled.  "Sorry about the sudden switch but he had an on- call tonight."

"We don't often see him, sir."  He looked him over, then her.  He looked at her purse.  She produced her badge.  "Ah.  Carrying?"  She nodded, letting him see her piece.  "Whisper it in the ear of the officer inside.  He's an off-duty moonlighting."  He marked them off.  "Your name, sir?"

"Xander Harris.  Or Alexander Harris possibly.  I do all the events down in Miami."  He got a look and Xander grinned. "Yes, that Xander Harris."

"No husband?"

"She's filling in."  He smirked and winked at him, heading inside.  The guard got whispered at, taking a look at Stella's badge while he was hand-wanded "I've got a subdermal GPS chip in my left thigh," he reported quietly.  "Two piercings."  That got a nod and they let him pass.  He took Stella's arm back on the other side, looking her over.  "Dress. And let me do something."  He arranged a curl, making her smile as she gave a gentle tug on spot on her dress.  He ducked her out of the way, looking at the seam.  "That's probably what Monroe did."  He pulled something out and ran a bead of invisible glue inside the seam.  She smiled at that.  "Di's split on me a few times too."  He blew and it quit splitting.  He looked her over.  "Good enough?"  She checked the mirror, nodding.  She took his arm back and they entered the ballroom, nodding at the man there.  "Sorry, last minute twitching."

"We get much of that, sir.  Mr. Alexander Harris and date, Stella Bonasera."

They walked down the stairs, him smiling at the matron in charge.  "Mel," he said, kissing her cheek.

"Xander, what on earth?"

"Horatio said I should come reconnect with the farther flung chosen-family.  Stella's part of that.  Allow me to introduce Stella Bonasera, an outstanding CSI here in Manhattan.  She works with Mac Taylor.  His second."

"That's delightful, child.  I adore those on you.  She definitely would approve."  She smiled and kissed her on the cheek, whispering in her ear, getting a nod.  She looked at Xander.  "That twit...."

"Is only part of why I'm here.  Don's *refusing* to go into public in case it comes back to haunt him later."

"Ah.  I understand."  She looked around.  "By the bar and out by the bay windows you'll find a lot of your usual cohorts, including the little twit and her mother.  Do play nice."

"Of course."  He winked and walked her off, smiling at her. "She's one of the sweetest ladies.  She's the one who invited me to the charity polo match."

"That's nice.  She seems very nice."

"Oh, she is and she's very gentle with me when she had to correct stuff I was doing wrong.  Including the aftershave thing a few times."  He bowed courtly to the man and older woman they ran into.  "Susan, Harold.  May I introduce my date tonight, Stella.  Stella, these are Susan and Harold Raines.  They are Mel's daughter and son-in-law."

Susan gave him a chiding look.  "You got it backwards, Xander."

"I'm sorry," he offered with a pout.  "Not like I have family like that to practice on."

"True."  She kissed each of their cheeks, looking Stella over.  "You're not his usual sort.  You don't look like Horatio at all, or Ray Jr."

She smiled.  "I'm one of the local CSIs who watch over Xander when he's in town.  He's like a pesky little brother at times."  She laughed.  "He gets into so much *trouble* when he's up here without his spouse."

"Oh, I can only imagine.  What with the car chase last week."  Xander blushed and looked down a bit. "Didn't tell him?" Susan teased.

"Nope.  Think I'm that dumb?" he countered, earning a laugh from Harold.  "Really.  He'd yell for hours."  He smiled at the woman walking over to them.  "Ah, another Miami native.  Lorel."  He smiled at Stella.  "Stella, this is Lorel.  Lorel, this is Stella Bonasera."

"No little *brother*?" she taunted.

"Ray Jr?  No, he's in Miami, where he's supposed to be.  Though recently he's been working on issues at home.  After all, he had to shoot someone to protect his mother recently."  She looked appalled.  "Hmm.  So he's at home resting and recuperating at the moment.  He did *fantastic* filling in while I had chicken pox though.  Even your mother said so."  She backed off, so he smiled at the others coming up behind her.  "Ah, speaking of mother's.  Mrs. Standish.  May I present my escort tonight, Stella Bonasera, one of the local detectives."

"I'm sure you're hell on crime, dear," she said, shaking her hand.  "I'm equally sure you're needed to keep this one in line."

"No, he's been very good so far.  No one's tried to take him, no one's tried to hit on him, no one's made him pout yet."  That got a smile from the older women.  "He's being a good boy, but Don's on call tonight."

"You work with Don?" Mrs. Standish said, walking her off.  "Do tell me about that sweetheart.  He's such a shy little boy at these things when we can nag him into coming."

"He thinks it'll hurt his career in the department at times.  Or make it more difficult if a case comes up in this circle," she admitted quietly.

"It'd probably help him with the rest of us," she offered. "Besides, he's *adorable*."

Stella smiled.  "He is, but he's a big goofball now and then.  He and Xander stayed up half the night playing video games."  That got a giggle.  "Horatio sent him up for a short rest.  Things have been stressful."

"Oh, I'm sure Horatio knows more about what he does than we think.  Or at least he thinks.  He's been checking on him recently thanks to that *horrible* Margaret woman."

"One of my direct coworkers, Danny, helped him with that.  Don's one of our detectives but not one of our CSIs."

"Awww, so you get to stare at the totally scrumptious Mr. Taylor?" she asked, moving closer.  "Is he nice?"

"Very but he's got a small issue of shyness and tries so hard to keep distance between himself and others."  They shared a smile.  "I worked with Mac just today.  I won't go into details on the case, but he was frowning most of it.  It made some poor college girls watching us for their CSI classes swoon."  That got a chuckle.

Xander walked off with Lorel. "You know, it's funny you should mention Ray Jr.," he said, walking her toward where he had seen her stepmother - the truly scary woman in the family.  "Hi, Mrs. Correl."  He kissed her cheek, startling her.  He grinned.

"Oh, Xander!"  She hugged him.  "And I see you found my wayward daughter."

"Yup, and she asked a very polite question about Ray Jr."  Her mother glared at her, making her flinch.  He whispered in her ear, getting a nod.  "I'm bringing this back to you so I don't have to try my hand at social sniping.  I don't want to make anyone unhappy with me," he promised.

"I know, Xander.  You're such a good boy most of the time. Now, I saw a woman on your arm."  She looked around and spotted the new face.  "Well, she's *adorable*," she cooed, leading him back to her.  "That's a beautiful dress."

"One of Di's former designers opened her own shop; Xander brought me to her and lent me the jewelry," Stella offered, smiling and shaking her hand. "Detective Stella Bonasera."

"Oooh, so you work with *Don*," she said with a smirk.  Stella smiled and nodded.

"It seems Don's one of their pet detectives, Emmy.  Stella here is one of Taylor's CSIs."

"Oooh, I know Mac," she agreed, letting Xander go.  "He's *adorable* and he scowls so much at the social things the department makes him go to. Maybe he should bring you."

"I'd never hint but it might help him.  He never feels at home in his tux.  There's no gun."  Xander giggled at that.  "Him too.  He's so lost without a weapon."

"Dear, he *is* a weapon," the women assured him.  Xander smirked and nodded, wandering off to talk to someone else he knew.  They gave his back a knowing smile then turned back to her, pumping her for information while Xander went to ask some of the people he knew what polo was about and if he was expected to bring anything since Horatio had told him it was like tailgating.  It got some laughs from the other guys but they knew he was newly rich and occasionally needed help.


Stella walked into Mac's apartment giggling and smiling, pouncing Danny to kiss him.  "The matrons dote on Xander horribly. It's like he's got a bunch of aunts who've adopted him as long as he acts like a good boy for them in public."  He grinned and took another kiss.  She smirked at him.  "Missed me?"

"I had to work myself off twice just thinking about you in that dress," he assured her, moving down her neck.  "No diamonds?"

"I made Xander take them back.  They were really expensive and I didn't want to hurt them."

"S'okay, that dress is more than enough," he promised, going further down to kiss anything he wanted.

"Danny!" she said, wiggling free.  "Are you desperate?"

He nodded, pulling her closer again. "Mac said I was too horny for him thanks to this dress."  He kissed her again, running his hand into her hair, the other pulling her closer.  She moaned, clinging to him.  "Wear it again for us."  He got her unzipped and flipped her around, taking her against the couch, making her squeal and claw at the couch to find a handhold.

Mac came out and pulled Stella away from him, kissing her hard.  "Did he pounce?"

"Yes, and all the women there cooed over you all night," she teased, kissing him again.  She squeaked as Danny's tongue got her instead.  "Danny!"

Mac chuckled in her ear. "I wasn't enough for him.  He needs you."

"This is so naughty!"

"Hmm.  You in those heels and stockings, plus the black underwear," Mac moaned, pulling her away from Danny with a groan of his own.  Danny growled and moved to get her and him, making them both groan.  "Bedroom, Danny."

"Damn skippy."  He got up and picked Stella up, carrying her that way.

"That works for me," Mac decided, following after them.  He answered the door, finding Xander's temporary driver there.  "Problems?"  The small bag in his hand was handed over.  "What's this?"

"Master Xander said those were hers and she forgot them, sir."  He tipped his hat and headed back to the car so he could go home.

Mac looked inside, then smirked and went to dress their princess up again.  Danny moaned at the sight of the jewels and pounced her extra hard.


Xander strolled into Don's apartment, smirking at him.  "You are requested to go more often. They think you're adorable and they want to fix you up with their daughters."

Don shuddered. "Most of the ones there just want me for my ass of doom."

"Well, yeah."  He flopped down beside him, taking off his bowtie.  "I did good with Stella."

"You did.  But if you sent those jewels back to her, she's going to give them back again tomorrow."

"Maybe not."  He hugged him.  "Any new whines from home?"

"Nope.  It get fixed?"

"I left it in her mother's hands.  I like her mother, she's one of the nice ladies who'll help me if I ask, but if I go too wrong she'll forget me for good."

Don nodded.  "I've seen a lot of that.  How did you two explain it?"

"That you were concerned about the impact on your job if a case should cross into their world."

"Yeah, that too.  Or just the other guys at work."  He shrugged and looked at him, pulling him closer to hug.  "You okay, kiddo?"

"I'm fine. He didn't even call?"

"Don't know, I only got home an hour ago.  You should check your phone."  He yawned.  "It's time for bed.  Go get ready and we'll cuddle and watch the news."  Xander went to do that, coming back in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt.  He curled up next to Don with a yawn of his own.  It was comforting, he wasn't fighting the big, empty bed. Even if it was only a full size, it was still too big and empty. Don smiled at him once he was asleep. "It's not like he sent you away for good, Xander.  He still loves you.  He just wanted you out of danger."  He gave his arm a pet and got comfortable.  It looked like he was sleeping on the couch that night.


Horatio looked up as Speed walked into the office.  "What?"

"It's ten at night. Go home."

"I can't.  I have to finish this tonight."

Speed took the pen from his hand and put it down, then hauled him up and pushed him out the door. "Go home!  Now!"  He walked him out and down to his hummer. "You okay to drive?"

"I'm fine, Speed," he said quietly.

"You're not fine.  Neither of you can sleep alone anymore."  He pointed and Horatio shook his head but followed orders. "Try to sleep, Horatio. You could both use the rest."  He watched him pull out and head home, going to call his son's phone again. Then he smirked and sent the pictures from the event earlier to Horatio's home computer, which he knew would make him sigh.  Maybe Xander would be able to figure out what was wrong with Horatio this time.  He followed him home, blatantly doing it, then went to his place once he was inside.

Horatio sat down behind his desk, looking at the notes his nephew had left.  "Someone apologized for Lorel's remarks?" he read, shrugging.  That must be the thing where someone was taunting Ray for being Xander's escort.  Or something like that.  He hadn't listened to much of that stuff.  He logged onto his home computer, finding the pictures waiting on him.  He nearly growled.  Stella looked magnificent, but Xander looked less than happy.  He looked at his eyes.  He was smiling but his eyes said he was tired and miserable.  He called his lover's phone, getting his voicemail.  "Xander, I'm sorry I had to send you off this time.  That gang came back and I don't want to make you a target.  I'd die if you got hurt," he said quietly.  "Please forgive me?  Come home on time?"  He hung up and leaned back.  That's how he fell asleep until the phone in his pocket rang.  He pulled it out and answered it. "Xander?"

He smiled, listening to him talk.  "It's back. They got it out on their refueling stop," he agreed, listening to him talk about what had happened that night.  "Did you have fun?"  Xander's 'not without you there to make me laugh' about broke him. "I'm sorry I don't go to very many of those with you, Xander.  I wish I could go more often but work gets in the way."  His mate promised to cut back.  "If you want to go and feel you should, then I'll go as often as I can.  As long as it doesn't become our regular evening out.  I'd rather we go back to the dating things, like dinner and those things."  Xander's voice sounded happier when he agreed.  "Dinner when you get back in a few days?"  He smiled and wrote that down.  "I know, work willing," he agreed quietly.  "Speed had to send me home.  Did she have fun at least?" He laughed at the image of Stella having to subtly defend her men from all the old matrons who wanted Mac's butt and Danny's smooth persona.  "That's good then.  Every woman should have one event that makes her the belle of the ball.  At least you weren't bored stupid.  No, no laundry this time. Paperwork."  He grinned. "I miss you too.  Just four more days, okay?"  He nodded.  "Love you.  Go to sleep, Xander."  He noted he was on the couch with Don, who was snoring. "If you can sleep that way, I won't be jealous.  I know you two won't do more.  Love you."  Xander said it back and hung up, letting him go into his room to climb into bed naked.

It was going to be a long four days.


Stella tapped on Don's apartment door, smiling at him when he opened it and grunted at her. "Where is your nephew?"

"Running," he said with disgust, going into the kitchen. "Coffee?"

"No, I've had some.  He dropped those jewels off on me, Don. You've got to stop him."

"Not like he can wear 'em and they're sentimental to him, Stella."  He looked at her.  "He adored that old woman when she alive. She mentored him and got him into the right mindset.  Used him as an escort and protege both."  She sat down to look at him.  "She was like a grandmother to him.  Her daughter thinks of Xander as a fond puppy her mother adopted and her granddaughter the same way, but he loved that old lady."  He shrugged. "So wear them whenever you can.  He obviously thought you were special enough."


"Stella, you protest too strongly, he'll pout, if not cry.  Keep 'em for your wedding day or whatever."  He waved a hand.  "Or for the next time you've got to go out on the town like that."  He took a drink of coffee and leaned on the counter to look at her.  "It could be a lot worse, Stella.  He could spoil you like he does everyone down there.  By the way, no idea what I'm getting for the holidays, right?"  She shook her head. "Yeah, me either.  He said it was an explanation-might-be-needed present."  She smiled at that.  "I don't know what it is."

"Maybe he's getting you a new girlfriend."

"Nope.  Individual tastes vary.  So, how many of them cooed over Mac's ass?"

"Most of them.  A few of them wanted to be the creamy filling between him and Sheldon or him and Danny, and in two cases Danny and Sid."  Don snorted at that, shaking his head.  "One asked me if I thought I might date Lindsey.  Or Danny.  I admitted that Danny and I were that close but he was hesitant to be in a committed thing right now."  Don gave her a look. "He is."

"Stella, word of advice.  Push lightly there.  The boy will whine about not filling Xander's shoes and not being good enough and all that.  He might even get scared, but tie him down and assure him that you're serious.  Either that or flirt with someone and when the infamous temper comes out, remind him he said you weren't in a serious thing.  That'll stop both the temper and that complaint."  He finished his coffee and stood up again.  "Gotta go get dressed.  Make Xander eat if he comes in.  He's back to sulking and pouting."

"He was last night too.  I swear I almost saw him drinking."

Don paused to look at her. "He did.  Probably only one and a glass of champagne or so, but yeah, he did."  He finished his trek into the bedroom, then backtracked to the game room/library to write that to Horatio.  He had to know how much he was destroying his boy with this sending him away crap.  Then he went to get dressed.  "Are we thinking bad day or good day?"

"Bad day.  Mac got a call at four.  Danny got one at six."

"Then definitely not a good suit today," he decided, pulling out one of his older ones.


Horatio opened his morning email, finding one from Don.  He opened it and his good mood vanished for the rest of the week.  He leaned back to consider it, then decided on a course of action.  He called his brother.  "Ray, I need some help later on.  Call me when you get up."  He called his boss. "I've got to pick some things up for Xander.  I'll work from home today and stay on call in case there's a scene."  He hung up before he could protest, ignoring his desk phone as he walked out again.  It was his shortest day in his career.  A whole three minutes in the lab.

Calleigh looked out at him.  "Case already?"

"No, I have to run some errands for Xander."

"Why?  Can't he?"

He looked at her.  "Not right now, he's out of the city."  He got into his hummer and backed out, listening to his cell ring. He found it and sighed, taking the call.  "Caine?"  He listened to his boss patiently ask him why.  "Because my husband ended up drinking last night."  He heard the silence then the quiet question. "With the present case, I wanted him safe so I sent him to Don.  He's miserable, I'm miserable.  I want him back sooner but I've got to do a few things first so I'm working from home today unless a new case comes up that I have to work."  He hung up again and headed for an elegant house he knew, one where the owner would see him immediately.  He parked and got out, heading inside. "Ethan?"  Ethan came out of the kitchen.  "I need help."

"Case or Xander related?" he asked wisely.

"Xander related.  I need to better fit into his world now and then.  It's wearing him down."

"No, it's not. You sending him to Don wore him down.  Each time he's separated from you he quits eating and sleeping because he can't."  He came out with his morning meal and sat at the table.  "You should have realized this before now."

"I did but it's never been this bad.  He was drinking last night."  Ethan put down his fork to stare at him.  "Don said probably just a glass of champagne and a single drink but Xander doesn't drink, ever."

"I realize why," Ethan agreed. "It's not uncommon when you have alcoholic parents.  What are you going to do about it?"

"I want to better fit into his world, spend more time with him."

"Did you suggest that you go back to doing couplish things again, other than sex?"

"I have and he agreed," he admitted, sitting across from him, "but that still leaves his social schedule."

"Which is rather extensive this year," Ethan agreed. "They mostly like him like he's some odd cousin from the country who does fit but doesn't have a clue."  Horatio nodded at that.  "What are you thinking?"

"Going with him to more of them. Taking Ray Jr.'s place now and then."

"That might be nice.  I know you were seen as charming, yet slightly aloof, the last few you went to."

"I'm not comfortable there."

"Neither's he but Xander is a very good actor when he wants to be.  Why do you think he brings Ray with him?"  He ate a bite of breakfast and chewed slowly while he thought. "Riding lessons."  Horatio looked confused.  "The local community is polo mad.  That and spa mad and Xander hates spas.  Considers them nice as presents but he can't still long enough for a manicure, much less anything less than a massage.  That's the one good thing he gets out of them."  He ate another bite and chewed more quickly this time.  "That is an activity you could do together, plus it is befitting that he learn.  Maybe not to play polo himself, but to appreciate the horses more.  He likes beasts.  Even the big, smelly, stomping ones.  As proven by that cow."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Take him for some riding lessons and be the doting, spoiling husband you yearn to be.  Two of his accounts are in *your* name as well."

"That'd be like him buying them for himself."

"He wouldn't have put them in your name if he didn't allow you to use them, Horatio.  Remember, hyenas may run in packs, but they're flashy and loud packs with monogamous mates.  Tigers can be solitary but once they mate, they do so for life and they're subtle about it.  They lay in the shade together, hunt together, work as a team.  Xander's the only solitary, mated hyena ever seen.  He hunts for the pack, but without the pack present.  He's secure that he can go back to the pack when he needs and wants to but it's not what he does most of the time.  He lives in the bonded pair so the tiger is more comfortable."  He stared at him.  "You two may have different hunting methods, but you do share his style at work and he shares your style at home.  Find something that either merges the styles or appeals to a different part of you both that you share.  Try riding.  Xander likes the thrill of movement.  He's a roller coaster junkie too in case you hadn't noticed."  Horatio smirked slightly at that.  "So you have?"  He nodded. "Good.  Get him riding lessons and go with him."

"I know some."

"Even better.  Something you can help teach him and learn with him at the same time.  It's the little things that you cherish later, when one of you dies, Horatio," he noted quietly.  "Things that make memories, good and bad.  You live a dangerous life.  He lives a dangerous life.  The chances of him dying of old age are slim to none, especially since you'd go first. That's simply a function of age."  Horatio nodded, he had accepted that back at the beginning of their relationship.  "So make the memories that'll make him think fondly and not follow too soon."

"You think it's going to happen soon?" he asked flatly.

"No.  I don't. I haven't checked on anyone but his son for him.  Eric's going to make it past the age of college, which was what he wanted to make sure of."

"Was he cursed by Cordelia?"

Ethan shook his head.  "No but Willow managed to do it with the accidental magic she still has access to.  You cannot tell her but she can pull up just enough to save someone in an emergency.  With her latest series of mood swings she's the one who decided he shouldn't leave her.  So yell at that one for the current issues.  Are you moving out there?"  Horatio nodded.  "Which house?"

"I'd rather have one house and combine them, but I can see the point of having two.  I've already got most everything out there."  Ethan nodded at that.  "Am I wrong in worrying about him?"

"No, nor is he wrong in worrying about you, except for the fact that he's probably wondering if you've been doting on Marisol."  He shrugged. "She is the one threat he still sees.  By the way, you really should teach him proper defensive driving.  Not the stuff he picked up off the movies."  He stuffed his mouth again.

Horatio stared at him.  "There's stuff we all missed, wasn't there?"

"The only way to know what truly goes on in someone else's life is to be there beside them," Ethan reminded him.  "But yes, you missed someone trying to capture him and him doing some wonderful driving, but ending up at Frank Tripp's house as an end point. Apparently his wife came out to see what was going on, they saw her, they saw her husband, they took off.  Xander told him who it was and he quietly went to threaten them."  He shrugged. "I have no idea who it turned out to be."

"I'll talk with him later.  Thank you for the suggestion, Ethan."

"Remember, it's not changing who you are to allow a small bit of change into your life.  Allowing the small bit of change into your life is called having love and putting up with their quirks.  Like wanting a dog."

Horatio smirked. "He's got you begging for him now?"  Ethan nodded.  "Why?"

"It'd give him someone new to love and fuss over.  Otherwise he'll end up fussing himself into a coma when the new baby comes.  Now, go away.  I'm sure you can find a nice place to give riding lessons."  Horatio nodded, heading out to his hummer, thinking hard.  Ethan smirked.  That was a nice idea Xander asked him about.  No, pet, riding isn't hard if you have someone around to show you.  He went back to eating.  He hoped Horatio got the new case broken quickly.


Horatio looked at his brother, who hadn't called until after lunch.  Then at the pitiful beasts standing around him.  "Now I know why he wanted to bring you."

"Because he knew he couldn't sweettalk me into getting six or seven dogs. We're not that close."  He looked at the hopeful shelter keeper.  "I know his husband wants something he can run with.  He's a sap for cute and cuddly but he's got a son, who's a running, mooing, holy terror about playing tag with the only dog he knows.  It's got to like to cuddle now and then too."

She smiled at that description.  "My mother's best friend described a son just like that."  She looked at Horatio.  "You know the Delkos?"

"I work with Eric, and it is our son Eric who's the mooing, chasing one.  The dog is for Xander."

"Ah.  The I may have something."  She led them into the back, looking at the medium sized dogs.  Then at the larger dogs.  "Those three, they'd do wonderfully with children."

"That's a great dane," Horatio said, his eyes wide.

"I know, that's what's keeping him here," she sighed sadly.  "He's on his last day too."  The dog gave them a 'please, love me' pitiful look.

"Xander gave me that look once," Horatio admitted.

Ray moaned, looking down and shaking his head. "You'd never get your bed back, Horatio. Something smaller.  That one's drool would drive you insane."

"He needs a mommy figure anyway, he's got a spot on his back where we had to take a tissue sample and it needs to be looked after," the keeper admitted, looking at him.  "So if you know someone who wants to love something, that's a good choice."

"I'll tell Calleigh," Horatio promised.  He looked around, finding a few of the medium dogs he liked, but they all had really long fur.  He pointed at one and she shook her head.  "No?"

"Doesn't like kids. Scared to death of them.  We think his last family had a poorly trained child."  She shrugged.  "It happens."

"Hmm.  We're trying to keep our son from being one."  He looked at a cage, then walked closer.  "What are you?"

"That is a black lab.  He is the most hyper dog.  He was found chasing an alligator off his yard by some people.  His mommy had died and she let him out before she slit her wrists.  He is one hyper, bouncy dog.  Obedience classes would be a good thing with him.  But, he loves kids.  He's not food aggressive.  He'd probably enjoy going for runs with your husband, and might just pick your son up and carry him off too.  He did that to a kid the other day.  He's only a year old."

"Sounds like he'd be perfect for guide dog work," Ray offered.

"Yeah, but they don't usually come to us."  Horatio pulled out his phone and texted someone, then sent a second one.  Calleigh sent back 'great danes are big, horatio' and left it there.  She giggled at that.  "She's right, they are.  They also lean on you."  She looked around, spotting her favorite, who was also running out of time.  "We've got two on their last day.  Let's look at them.  They're both good with people."  They followed her to the cages.  "This one's a setter/lab mix.  She's inquisitive and loving.  Loves kids.  We had some in here the other day and she bathed one because he needed his diaper changed.  The mother was horrified that she was licking him.  The other is still really young and a mutt.  He's got some boxer, a bit of dobie, and we think some ausie sheepdog.  He's very loving and cuddly.  Will bounce and play, but he's very protective of what's his.  Again, he'll probably want some obedience training but that's good for any dog really."  She looked at Horatio.  "Other than them," she said, pointing at the cage beside the great dane.  "She's our momma dog.  She's been here twice and takes care of the puppies."

"She's heavily scarred," Ray noted.  "Car or owners?"

"Owners.  It hasn't broken her though."

"I'd be wary that a child would bring back those memories and she might snap," Horatio admitted. She looked at him.  "I figure dogs that've been that badly abused can have PTSD too."

She nodded. "So do we."  She looked around. "Those are the ones I'd suggest.  Unless you wanted to start with a puppy?"

"No, I'd prefer grown and house trained, maybe some obedience training."  Calleigh texted him back so he took pictures of that dog and the others she had suggested.  He smiled at the ones back from Speed and her.  "You may have a friend for the great dane after all."  She squealed and hugged him.  "And possibly another one."  He looked at his brother. "Your son is apparently playing hookie today.  He just texted that his mother would be lonely when he went to college."

"True."  He looked around, then back at him.  "She'd kill me."

"She'd squeal in happiness until they chewed on her shoes, Ray.  You know she would.  So would your son."  He looked at her, then back at the pitiful animals.  He really could see why Xander had arranged to not come alone and to go with someone who'd stop him.  He looked at the last two.  His phone rang. "Caine."  He groaned.  "Sure, but you've got to give me twenty.  I'm at the pound, Eric."  He looked at the dogs, then back at the other one. He texted Frank back, getting an 'I told them and they're coming'.  He showed it to her.  "One of the detectives we work with knows someone who trains guide dogs."  She hugged him.  He patted her on the back.  "Seriously, for a toddler, with a new one on the way.  Which of these two?"

"I'd take the mutt," she admitted.  "He'll be very protective of your son if something should happen.  I hear a lot about stuff happening to Xander. Plus, the setter's getting on in years, which is what's kept her here."  She gave him an unhappy look. "It's a fact of life, puppies go faster."

Horatio texted that picture to Di, getting a 'that's mean' from her.  But a squeal from an unknown number.  "Must be Taylor.  Huh."  He called.  "Di, Horatio.  Yes, we're getting a dog.  Well, that setter/lab mix is older.  She's a mothering dog.  They've got a protective, bouncy younger one too.  They've got a nice great dane if you prefer a larger dog....."  He trailed off at the groan and head thump he heard.  "It'd be good for Eric, Di, give him something to love beside his new baby sister.  Because he will turn into Xander and cuddle her to death if he doesn't have another outlet by then.  Yes, our son, Diana.  You know he will.  He did it to Toddy too."  He smirked at her renewed groaning.  They had pulled Eric off Todd many nights because he refused to give up his new teddyhuman.  One who usually wanted the mommy to feed or change him at that time.  "She's on her last day, Di."  He smirked at the helper.  "Expect the mother of our son to come down with him."

"I adore you, Lieutenant.  I truly do.  So, you'll take this bouncy one?"

"Sure.  It's a short hair.  I won't have to worry about it getting everywhere and ending up on a crime scene somehow."

"Of course."  She opened the cage and the dog bounced out, letting Ray pet him.  Then Horatio said something and put up his phone, squatting down to let the dog sniff him.  The dog licked up the center of his face and barked, sitting and wagging his tail.  "Yes, he and his boy and his son are going to be your new family.  You'll be good with them."  She got them a collar and leash, letting them walk him to the front to do the quicker paperwork.

"Ray, can you take him home for now?"

"Of course."  He took the leash.  "Break on that case?"

"Eric has someone in custody."  He smirked. "Which means Xander can come home sooner."  He trotted out to the hummer and got in, heading off to work.

Ray looked at her, then down at the dog, then back at her.  "My ex is going to kill me but my son will adore me again.  He's not aggressive around other animals, right?"

"No, he and those others have played in the yard plenty of times."

"Good.  I think Yelina could use a bit of love in her life."  She beamed at him.  "If I got her a puppy she'd freak, but a dog who needed some loving care...."

"Oooh, thank you!  That great dane wouldn't go any other way, sir."

"I know.  Let's go get your friend."  Another woman walked in and he smiled at her.  "Constance.  We're heading back there right now.  This is Frank Tripp's friend."

"That's a very fine looking mutt," she said, looking him over.

"Horatio's new dog.  Xander begged and pleaded."  She smiled at that.  "You know Xander?"

"Socially.  He still brags about his boy."  She followed them into the back, finding the dog easily, it was barking at the mouse that had run in.  Their new dog pounced it and killed it, then used it as a toy.

"Well, no more beach rats will ever get into Horatio's house."  He looked at the dog that came out.  "Are you sure he's not sick?"

"No, he's not sick.  That's why we did the muscle biopsy.  He's just sleepy.  It's his usual naptime.  You wanna go home?"  That woke him up and he came out to let Ray sniff him.  "Are you *sure* she wants a dog?"

"I'm sure.  My son wants a dog."

"You'd be Ray's father?" Constance suggested.  He nodded.  "Figures.  Yeah, his son is just like Xander. He'll bounce and run with the dog all he wants.  Then collapse and let the dog help him play video games."  That got a laugh and a nod.  "Great danes are good at that."

"They are," she agreed, leading him back out to do that paperwork.

Ray called his son.  "Meet me at your uncle's house in ten minutes."  He hung up and paid the small fee, then headed out with both dogs to the car.  The bouncy one climbed into the front seat, but that was all right.


Ray Jr. looked at the dogs, then at his father.  "Xander gets to have two?" he pouted.  "Eric will be happy."

"The great dane is ours, son."

Ray blinked, then stared at him in awe.  "You're getting me a dog?"  The leash got handed over. "Thank you!"  He sat down to play with the dog, who was more than happy to play with his new boy.  Di pulled in and got out, staring at them, then she shook her head and drove off, taking the lab/setter in the back home with her.  Both Rays snickered at that.


Yelina walked in that night, staring at the lump of beast on her couch.  "Did you sneak in here?"

"My dog," Ray called from the kitchen.

"Why do we have a dog, son?"  She headed that way, getting hugged for all she was worth.  "Son?"

"Uncle H took dad to the pound with him.  He's on his last day but he needs a bit of attention.  I need help learning how to change the bandage on his back, mom."  He led her out there.  "I thought about naming him Terror but Willow always says that names are important and can give power.  So maybe Nappy or Mushy?"

"Looks more like Sleepy."

"I took him with me on my run, mom.  We only got back an hour ago.  We did two miles, of course he's tired.  I'm tired."  She hugged him again.  "Baby?"

"That's no baby, son."

He looked up at her. "No, but it'll mean I won't be having one for a while."

"Baby's a good name," she agreed happily.  "Baby?"  She walked over and sat beside the dog, waking it up.  "Would you like to be named Baby?"  It wiggled and put his head in her lap, making her laugh but do the nice thing and scratch his ears.  "Fine, he can stay," she relented.  "Your father and I are going to have a long talk however."

"Sure.  He's hiding tonight.  Uncle H bought Xander a bouncy mutt."

"Diana called and said he had guilt tripped her into one."  She looked down at the beast, then at her son.  "Does he have food?"

"Only one can.  I figured maybe we could take him to the pet place tonight?  Together?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Cool."  He went back to the kitchen, coming out with a plate for each of them and the squirt gun on his belt. He handed her hers and looked at the dog.  "Off the couch so we can eat."  It groaned but moved, sitting there begging for the food.

"Open his."

"I did.  He ate it already."  He ate quickly, that begging was going to get to him soon.  His mother tossed over a piece of cheese, making him a happy dog.  She got tail wags and a happy bark. Someone rang the bell and the dog ran to the door, barking loudly.  "Down, boy!"  The dog settled down so he went to get it.  "Hey, Calleigh."

"I heard your daddy rescued the big dog."  She looked at him.  "Aren't you adorable!" she cooed.  The dog licked her and bounced some.  "Ahhh, someone wants to play!"  She scratched his ears, getting a groan and leaned on, which knocked her into the wall.

"We're going toy shopping tonight.  Di got one too.  So did Xander."  She beamed at that.  "We're heading to the pet store tonight."

"You may be getting help.  Horatio needs to go pick up food and dishes.  He called to ask if I knew which brand was best."

"At least Xander didn't get a society dog."

She snickered at that. "I can't see Xander with a little purse dog."  She walked in further and the dog ran back to Yelina's side, begging her again. "Oooh, bad habits already," she teased.

"Yes, but he came with them.  No more."  She showed her plate.  "I'd eat, son."  He grabbed his and scarfed it down.  "Well, there won't be any more dropped food in the house."  She looked at the laughing woman.  "Checking on them?"

"Seeing if we needed to take his father to the morgue for you."

"No, he's an adorable beast.  He takes up most of the couch but he'll lay with you."

"They do that. My friend's got one, he backs up into her lap and sits on her."  Yelina gave the dog an appraising look.  "They're loving and protective beasts."

"Good, then I won't have to s...attack an intruder again," Ray said firmly, not able to say that word yet. His mom gave him a hug and the dog licked his hands and face.  "Thanks, both of you.  So, you like our Baby?"

"I do.  He's adorable."  She handed over pictures and got down to play with the dog.


Horatio looked over as Speed walked in, nodding him out onto the porch with him.  Speed came out and sat down, and got a lapful.  "You're too big to be a lapdog," he complained, but he petted him anyway.  "I see you broke."

"I did," he admitted, patting his side.  The dog came over and sat beside him, allowing himself to be petted, even though he was giving him the deadly begging eyes.  "They remind me of Xander's."

"The dog reminds me of Xander.  Bouncy, cuddly, and begging."  He snatched a piece of chicken and tossed it, making the dog run after it.  "Get nail clippers, Horatio."

"I was going to do that tonight."  He ate a bite of dinner.  "Ray Jr. got a dog too.  Ray went back for the great dane."

"Oh, good.  I'm sure Yelina's going to be leaned on soon.  I sent her with pictures of Xander and Stella last night."

"They did look nice together."  He finished his dinner and he dog came back, sniffing at the table.  "It's all gone, Percival."  The dog pouted.  "We're going to get you food and things in a minute."  He settled in and the dog hopped in his lap, letting him pet it.  "You definitely need brushed and you definitely cuddle more than the husband does."  Speed snickered at that.  "It's nice though."

"It is," he agreed.  "He'll be fun to run with too."

"Indeed."  He looked at him.  "Came to see the dog?"

"Yup, and to see what you've got planned.  You ran out of there today like yo got hit in the gut by something."

"Xander was miserable."

"I saw the look in his eyes.  He's like that every time you send him up there for his own safety."  He shifted, putting his feet up on an empty seat.  The dog barked at him. "I know it's bad manners, but he lets us do it."  He reached over to scratch him.  Horatio laughed and let the dog down, so it came back to his lap.  "I still say you're too big for that, dog."  He got to work, petting it. "You need brushed."  He looked at Horatio.  "Invest in a lint roller, H.  I have one.  Calleigh's forever babysitting."

"They had some nice smaller ones," Horatio offered.

"I know," he groaned. "Don't remind me."  He looked at the dog, then at him.  "She thinks we're not home often enough to take care of one."

"Neither am I, but on the days when we're both gone, he'll probably have a doghouse under the porch.  With a tie out."

"Good idea.  Get him registered yet?"

"This afternoon. He's had all his shots.  He's a good dog."  The dog barked.  "Yes, you, Percival. You're a good dog."  It barked again and settled in to be adored, as was proper.  "Why else are you here?"

"I need suggestions for anniversary presents."

"They had some nice smaller dogs," Horatio offered again.

"Not funny."  He looked at the dog again, then back at him. "You think she'd agree?"

"If it could be litter trained."

"Some of the ones she sits are aggressive toward cats."  He let the dog down, watching as he sniffed around and went to mark his spot in the grass.  "No further," he called.

"Percival," Horatio said sharply and he came back. "Thank you, good boy."

"Either invisible fencing or obedience training, Horatio."

"I'm good with obedience training but Xander's taking him.  I've worked with dogs in training before."

"Good point.  You would have on the bomb squad."  He stood up.  "Want help at the pet store?"

"Sure."  He pulled the leash off the table and looked around the nearly empty house.  "The other place needs a porch."

"The other place has a porch."

"That's staying the bolt hole.  We're moving into another one in the same development."

"Ah, the other house?  That one could use a porch and I think he had plans to put one on."  He clipped on the leash and the dog bounced but followed them readily.  "How much stuff is left?"

"The table and chairs out there. My desk.  The couch and bed.  I like this bed better than I do the one there, which is sad since it's the same make and model as my old one."

"Xander has good tastes."

"He does."  He let the dog into the hummer and smiled at his neighbor, who came over to look.  "Xander begged well."

"I can see that.  He's adorable, Horatio.  Very cute."

"Very cuddly," Speed agreed.

"Speaking of cuddly, we'll miss you and the boy."  He smiled at that. "And your son too."  Horatio laughed at that.  "Is the other place safer?"  He nodded. "Is it nicer?"

"It's mostly second houses.  There's a few occupied by families, and a few that're occupied by older couples.  I'm still right on the ocean but it's got an extra two bedrooms and another bathroom for them."  She smiled at that.  "Xander even had it decorated the same way."

"That's wonderful, dear.  When's the final day?"

"Tomorrow.  I've arranged for someone to come get the final pieces of furniture then."  She nodded and smiled.  "Then I'm having a porch put on."  She giggled at that.  "We'll miss you and the rest of the ladies who spoil Xander so much as well."  She hugged him and patted him on the back. "We'll let you know what the address is once I figure it out."  She nodded, patting him on the cheek and heading back inside.  He looked at Speed then got in.  "She spoils Xander horribly."

"Everyone spoils Xander horribly.  Even the society matrons spoil Xander horribly."  They backed out of the driveway and headed for the pet store.  "What about the garage?"

"There?  We don't have one.  We do have a storage area though. It's off the basement.  It's already got shelves for boxes and things."  He turned onto the street once the kids had passed and headed off, letting the dog bark at the kids.  "Don't worry, the son will be with you soon.  He'll chase you around the house until you hide."

"Introduce them first, Horatio.  Let the dog sniff him and be petted before Eric takes off after him."

"We know Di got one too and their dog loves him. Knocked him down and licked his face clean for him."  Speed snickered at that.  "It was ice cream."

"Uh-huh."  He pointed.  "There's Yelina and Ray."  He waved and they followed. "I guess they're taking their huge ass dog to the store too."

"They probably have stuff they need. Like an outdoor tie line."

"Ray will never have to shoot another intruder again," Speed noted dryly. He looked back.  "That dog is huge."  Theirs got in his way, licking his nose.  "Thank you.  Lay down."  He turned back around, and the dog tried to sneak into his lap.  "What are you?"

"Part dobie, part boxer, and part australian shepard."

"So you're smart, protective, and bouncy.  Just like your other daddy.  Good job."

"I thought about naming him Xander since they'd probably always be together, but I didn't think he'd like that," Horatio joked.

"See, I would have.  He would've laughed and so would everyone else when they both came at the bellow."  Horatio chuckled at that.  "It would've been cute."

"Yes, but sometimes I only want one of them."  He pulled into the parking lot and got out, letting the dog out his door so he could catch the leash.  Yelina and Ray parked and got out, giving time for Horatio to lock up the hummer. He saw Frank and smirked.  "You too, Frank?"

"Wife's got a cat, Horatio.  It's time for more litter.  I don't know why I didn't toilet train the stupid thing."  He looked at the dogs, then at their owners.  "You two have fun with them.  Eric's inside with Di.  They're getting food and squeaky toys.  I was hoping it was for your new one but she said no."

"No, she got a very pretty lab/setter mix."

"Even more hair to shed," Speed said, shuddering.

"No wonder Horatio got a shorthair."  The dog was allowed closer and he let him sniff his hand, then scratched his ears.  The dog bounced up and licked his face each jump, making him laugh and squat down.  "Yeah, you're the boy's dog.  You're just like him.  What's your name?"


"Hey, Percy.  Welcome to the team and to the labs."  He got free of him and stepped out of range, getting the begging eyes.  "Don't do that. I've got to go home to the cat."  It got worse.  He gave him a few more head scratches. "He grows on ya."  He petted Yelina's dog too.  "What's your name?"

"Baby."  Ray Jr. smirked.  "This way I don't have to have one to get love and affection."

Horatio looked back at him. "I can't believe you can say that with a straight face, Ray."  He beamed at him.

"Xander has warped you, kiddo.  Pretty soon you'll quit being your uncle and turn into him."

"Did you see how hot Stella looked in that dress?" Ray shared.  "If I can get myself a hotttie like that, hell yeah I'm going to be as jumpy and pouncy as Xander is," he offered.  Frank just giggled as he walked off, shaking his head.

"Son, I doubt she would leave either of her men for you," Yelina sighed, putting an arm around his neck.  "Come on, our beast is hungry."  She gave the leash a gentle tug and the dog followed along, sniffing everything in the store, even the fish tanks and skirts of the girls in there.  One of them squealed. "Sorry, new dog."  She glared at him and he slunk back to her side.  "Thank you.  Do not help the boy pick up girls."  She walked off with him.

"Why not?" Ray called.  "Eric uses me.  He steals all the ones I like."

"He says the same thing about you, Ray," Horatio called from the petfood aisle.

The girl who squealed looked Ray over and winked, handing him her number.  "Call me, maybe we can take him for a walk in the park."  She winked and walked off with her purse-sized dog and the food she had come for.

Ray stuck it in his pocket with a grin for Speed, who just shook his head.  "I'm cute and cuddly, they like that," he defended.

"Tell me my son did not pick up someone," Yelina demanded, looking at him when they joined her and Horatio in the petfood.

"No, she handed over the number without being asked," Speed admitted.  Yelina groaned.  The dog leaned on her.  "It's good that you love her, Baby.  Don't worry, it'll be okay."

Di brought Eric over, and he let out an awed squeak at the size of Baby.  "Look, mommy, huge doggy!  Giant doggy!"

Di looked at her son.  "Go introduce yourself like you did to Clothes earlier."  She let him go and he walked over, looking at Yelina, who smiled at him.

"Go ahead, Eric.  This is Baby, he's our new dog."

"Baby," Eric cooed, moving closer. The dog sniffed him, then licked him.  Eric grinned and carefully hugged him.  The dog got free and licked him again.  "I run him?"

"Not tonight.  The next time we're together."  He beamed and petted the dog, getting an instant friend.  He felt a wet nose and looked in awe at the other dog.  Yelina smiled.  "That is your daddy's dog, Eric.  What's his name, Horatio?"


"'Val?" Eric asked.

Horatio smiled.  "Try Percy."


"Close enough."  He squatted down, pulling Eric closer. "Gently. This one pounces and runs."  Eric let the dog sniff him, then hugged him.  The dog barked and lapped him a lot, making him giggle.  "So, once we're in the new house, you and Percival can run together all you want, all right?"  Eric beamed and nodded.  "Good boy."  He kissed him on the head, avoiding the dog slobber. "You're a good boy, Eric."  His son beamed and bounded back to his mother's side, pulling her closer.  She met both dogs and Eric managed to get in a game of tag between the two dogs.

Horatio looked at the clerk coming over.  "Our son.  What sort of food do I get him?"

He pointed at something mid-range in price.  "That's excellent.  I feed it to my own dog.  Science Diet's great too but it's really expensive dogfood."  Horatio smiled and nodded at that, looking at his dog.  "If you have bugs, I wouldn't go for larger than the twenty pound bag.  You'll want to give him a cup of food twice a day."

"Okay."  He put one of those into the cart and looked at Yelina, who reached for the same but the clerk got her something different, handing it over.  "Better for him?"

"Dogs like that can eat too fast.  It can twist their stomachs.  That's why you want to have a raised food dish for them and you want to feed them that same twice a day."  She nodded, accepting that.  "Now, for him, I'd probably go a cup and a half to two.  Depending on how active he is."

"He went running with me today," Ray offered. "Then we lounged around."

"He's a great dane, they do that," the clerk admitted with a smile.  "Does anyone need any more help?"

"He's going to have a doghouse and tie out line for the days no one's going to be home."

"Sure.  We've got some great ones. Do you have a shady area to put it?"

"Soon it can go under the porch."  That got a smile and a nod, so he led them over there.  There were ones that had water misters for the middle of the day.  Ones that small fountains to keep the water cool and running for the dog.  Ones that were so fancy it wasn't funny.  "I thought a dog house was just a doghouse," he said, looking at them. He looked at his dog, who stared back at him.  "Like any of them, Percival?"

"If you're having a porch put on, they can add the doghouse underneath it as part of the structure," Yelina pointed out.  "Plus put in the tie-out line."  He nodded, accepting that.  "Though I do like the fountain idea.  Especially since the son should have been in school today."

"It was a day off, mom. One of the scheduled ones."  He looked at the clerk.  "She worries horribly."

"Mothers do that.  Mine did that until I got into college."  He pointed at one larger one.  "He'd probably need something that size.  It'd give him comfort and some leftover area for airflow.  I'd definitely put fresh water out with him."

"We have a good dish for that," Yelina promised, smiling at him.  She walked over to look at the house. "This is plastic."

"It is," he agreed.

"I think we need something that can't fall in on him."  She looked at the other larger one.  "This is metal, he'll roast even in the shade."  She frowned and Horatio pointed at a box.  "How big is that one?"

"About the same size.  It's not a popular model but it would do very well for your dog, ma'am.  It'd have shade and cool spots."

"I was thinking we could put it out by the tree, mom.  Facing toward the fence, that way he got the most shade but put his run line from there to the sitting area?" Ray offered.

"That would give him the most roaming room."  She nodded, getting the cabana-styled dog house and putting it into their carts.  "Raised food dishes?"  He nodded, leading them that way.  They were cute, and one even had a place to store excess food.  She got that one and Horatio got a pair of stainless steel ones, things that could be put into the dishwasher.  Plus a set for outside.  Ray grabbed some plastic ones.  "How about we put the water dish slightly into the ground, that way he can't upend it?" she suggested to her son, who smiled and nodded.  "Good.  Anything else?"

"Toys," Horatio assured her.  "Lots and lots of toys."

Speed came back with a small carry basket for each, putting them in there.  "Eric helped me."

"I'm hoping the son," Horatio noted.  Speed shook his head. "They're here?"  He nodded.  "Delko!"  Marisol came over and squealed like their son had, coming over to pet the dogs.  "That's Percival."

"Oooh, who's the cutest puppy then," she cooed, petting him.  He soaked it up like the Xanderish dog he was.  She smiled at him.  "Eric!  Come see Xander's new dog!"

"Coming."  He handed over packages of treats to both parents.  "Helps in training."  He patted the great dane, getting a tolerant moan for his ear scratches.  "I know, I'm used to smaller animals.  But you're loving."  The dog woofed quietly and went back to leaning against the new mommy.  Her son had to catch her but that was fine with him.  Eric came over to look at the other dog.  "Did Willow turn Xander into a dog?"

"No," Horatio said.  "But that comparison has been made."

"He crawled into my lap," Speed agreed.  "That's Percival."

"Hey, Percival."  The dog bounced up so he got down to play with him.  "Yeah, the boys are gonna have fun with you.  You're a good boy."  The dog barked and wagged his tail, looking playful.  He got into the cart, handing him the new chewbone, getting a happy dog.  "Keeps 'em from chewing shoes."

"Thank you," Horatio said with a smile.  "Anything else we need?"

"Tie out kits?" Yelina offered. "Or is that rope and two eye rings?"

"You can do either way," the clerk admitted.  "Just be aware if someone tries to break in or hurt him, yours will break the line no matter what you use, short of steel cable."

She nodded.  "I understand.  I'm a detective. If someone breaks in, I'll say he's a good boy."  That got a smile and they were led to the tieout kits and lines.  Horatio got a more formal kit, one that had a few configurations possible.


Xander came off the plane and burst into grins, running over and hugging Horatio. "I'm back."  He pulled back and smiled at him.  "Did you miss me?"

"Terribly," he agreed, walking him off.  He looked at the bag, then at his husband. "Only a little bit of shopping?"

"Well, yeah, that way I had clothes."  He linked their arms, looking up at him.

"It's fine, Xander.  I could use a cuddle.  You however have a surprise at home."

"Ooooh.  What?"

"You'll see."  He smiled and Xander smiled back, looking totally happy.  "I'm making pork chops for dinner."

"I could eat."

"I noticed that."  He pointed at the baggage claim and got a head shake.  "You're sure?"

"Yup, I only got this much suff."  They walked outside to the hummer, letting Xander get in and his bag be put in the back.  He sniffed.  "Who got a dog?"

"Di.  Also Yelina and Ray."  He smiled and leaned over, taking a good kiss.  "I missed you."

"I missed you too.  I never realized how big full size beds were."  He buckled up.  "Can I put a porch on the new place?"

"I've already arranged for one, including a section with retractable screens, dear."

"Thank you."  He hugged him again and took another kiss.  "Love you."

"I love you too, Xander.  Home?"  Xander nodded, letting him drive.  "Then we'll cuddle before dinner."  He pulled out of his parking spot and headed off, going to the house.  It was a longer drive and Xander was slowly shifting closer to him.  One hand landed on his thigh and stroked.  "When we get home," he ordered gently.  "That way I have time to feel too."  Xander nodded, leaving it at that level.  He pulled in and parked, letting the boy out of the hummer and inside.  Xander stared at his dog, then squealed and hugged him, getting down to play with him.  "His name's Percival."

"Awww, who's a good Percy," Xander cooed, playing with his ears.  The dog barked. "You, yes you are, you're a good boy, Percy."  They headed down into the living room, just two stairs but it was good to him.  The dog followed, bringing him a toy.  "Ooooh, fetch?"  He threw it and the dog ran, bringing it back proudly.  "Cool!"  He beamed at Horatio and played with the dog while his mate watched with fond amusement from the couch.  When they were both tired, they came to cuddle with him, Xander snuggled against his side, Percy the dog across their laps, tail slowly going.  "I love you even without the dog," he offered quietly, squeezing his hand.  "But thank you for the dog."

"You and he will be taking obedience classes together. I've worked with other trained dogs so I know some of the commands. You can show me the rest."

"Yes, sir."  He snuck a kiss and grinned.  "I love you."

"And I love you."  He kissed him for real.  The dog groaned and got off their lap when Xander shifted, letting Xander have his rightful spot as Horatio's lap snuggler.  "He kept me from working all night," he said quietly, stroking Xander's cheek. "He made sure the bed wasn't as cold as it could be, but he still wasn't you."  Xander smiled and gave him a long, deep kiss.  Which he needed desperately, more than air.  He needed his Xander kisses.  He shifted, letting Xander wiggle closer, taking control again.  "Xander," he moaned when they parted.

"Make me feel like I'm finally home?" he pleaded, moving to kiss his neck and lick the spot that he knew drove his mate into a claiming frenzy.  Horatio pulled him off it before he had sucked a hickey there.  "Please, Horatio?"

"You're sure?"

Xander kissed him again.  "Claim me?"

Horatio smiled.  "If that's what you want, Xander.  Of course I will."  Xander moaned as his shirt was taken off and tossed down the couch.  The dog claimed it as a pillow but they didn't care yet.  "We have the Chief's dinner tonight," he reminded him.  "Four hours from now."

"You can have me, have a nap, feed me, get us dressed and there in four hours," Xander promised.  "I'm not going to be that picky.  All I want is you proving to me that I'm home.  That I'm staying home."

"You're staying home," he promised.  "I won't have to send you away for your own safety again.  It's all set up in case of a bad case."  He took another kiss, pulling Xander's head down.  "What do you want, Xander?  You set the pace tonight."  Xander moaned.  "Anything you want, baby."

Xander pulled back to nip his lips, looking in his eyes.  "The cuffs?" he asked very quietly.  Horatio moaned at that.  "I know they're for special things, but...."

"You want me to take control?" Horatio suggested gently.  Xander nodded, leaning against his chest.  "I can understand that. Were you a good boy?"

"I flirted a bit at the event.  I gave Stella those diamonds.  I thinks she'd have approved."  Horatio smiled at that.  Xander had taken him to see his mentor while she was ill, and she had approved of him, calling him spunky.  So she'd probably adore Stella.  Xander nuzzled his neck, getting a gentle squeeze for it.  "I handed Lorel over to her stepmother.  That way I didn't have to practice the time honored tradition of trashing her rep for sleeping with two jockeys last month."  He nipped the spot he had been nuzzling, making Horatio groan.  "Please?"

"Bed," Horatio ordered.  Xander got up and scrambled that way.  Horatio calmed himself down.  If Xander wanted him in control, he'd be in control.   He stopped him from pulling out the cuffs. "You won't need those," he assured him.  "Strip."  He sat on the bed, watching his mate's indecision.  "Make it good, Xander."  That was all the encouragement he needed.  Xander gave him a shy grin and slowly started to move and sway for him, his clothing seeming to melt off him.  Horatio leaned back against the headboard, stroking himself gently while Xander proved how hot he could be.  When he was ready, his boy crawled up the bed to him, coming to tease him with fleeting, butterfly light kisses to his cock.  Horatio took his head in hand and made him do it for real, giving Xander what he wanted, him in control.  "Do it well and get a reward," he promised.  Xander looked up and slurped it as he pulled back, then moved back down, knowing Horatio liked him to do it noisy now and then.  The dog came in but he glared at him.  "Not now, Percival.  Go play."  The dog licked his hand.  He patted him on the head. "Let me play with the Xander master, you go play.  Be a good boy."  He went running out to play and nap in the living room.

Xander pulled off.  "I'll be a good daddy to him too, Horatio."

"I know you will, Xander."  He pulled him up to kiss him, one finger teasing the hole he would be possessing.  Xander moaned, tipping his head back so Horatio could get his neck.  "You really are desperate, aren't you?"  Xander nodded, whimpering. "On your back, spread out."  Xander quickly complied, telling him all he needed to know.  He needed to tease and tempt his boy into giving up to him.  He had been ignoring his boy again.  Xander squeaked when he took control of him, but that was all he got other than moans.  No matter what he did, he got moans.  Licking his special spots, tonguing his cock, eating him out until he was ready to be taken.  Horatio looked up.  "Xander, are you with me?"  Xander nodded, looking frantic.  "Let it go, Xander."

"I can't!" he complained.

Horatio pulled out the cuffs and his boy relaxed, going limp finally.  "That's fine.  We'll do it this way and teach you how to do it without them if you need it."

"I'd rather we use them when I need to let go."

"That's fine.  I can accept that. It'll be the symbol that one of us has to give up for the day."  He kissed him, then went back to his favorite kink, making Xander howl and beg for  mercy.  Xander yelped when he bit him on the sensitive inner cheek area but it was what he had wanted to hear.  Xander had been so tense before.  He slid into him, making Xander arch up.  "Around me, Xander."  His legs were wrapped around his waist, and that's what he wanted.  Total obedience and access.  Xander was like putty in his hands, letting him do whatever he wanted.  The only problem was the lag.  Xander was behind him now.  Horatio needed to come *soon*, Xander was barely starting onto the soon part.  So he did something he hadn't planned on doing, he leaned down to whisper in his ear.  "Some day, you'll need more than this.  Then what will I do, Xander?  Use the toy that Eric got you to tease you about?"  Xander's stomach tensed and his rhythm faltered.  "Or maybe something *bigger* is what you'll need then?  Or maybe fun spankings?  Nothing bad but just enough to get you hot?  Maybe even while I've got you over my lap for an enema?  Because you know I'll want you clean that day, especially if I have to use my hand."  Xander came with a moan and Horatio smirked, kissing him, allowing himself to go over.  When he had calmed himself down, he released his boy, rubbing his wrists.  "Do you want to try that, Xander?" he asked, pulling him into his arms.

"Maybe try it sometime, but not the spanking part. I don't want spankings."  He stroked a finger up the middle of Horatio's chest before looking at him. "I'm curious more than desperately thinking about it."

"I figured you were.  I saw that one video that seems to have become unhidden."

"You're the one who moved everything.  You didn't find the others?"

"I did.  I ignored most of them.  That one nearly bit me when it fell out of my sock drawer."  Xander blushed.  "I know, you were thinking about it and letting me know you were thinking."  He took another kiss.  "We'll talk about this tonight, after the dinner, all right?"  Xander nodded, smiling at him.  "Do I really have to go?"

"Yup, I was ordered to make sure you went and looked good."  He stroked his hand up Horatio's chest, playing with the hair there.  "I think he's got another surprise planned but I don't know what."

"His last one was stunning," Horatio said, smiling at him.  He took a gentle kiss.  "Will that hold you through dinner?"

"Not the kiss, but the rest."

"Good, then we'll talk about the rest after dinner and a bit of dancing."  He stopped Xander from moving.  "Someone suggested to me that you might like to take some riding lessons, Xander.  Is that true?"  Xander looked at him, eyes wide.  "I've done some fun riding on the past but nothing like lessons. If you did, would you go with me?"  Xander squealed and hugged him, bouncing up and down on the bed.

"I love you!"

"I love you too," he assured him, stroking over his back.  The dog came back.  "We're done."  He patted the bed and the dog hopped up to lick both their faces, then sniff them.  Xander grinned and played with the dog, wrestling with him lightly, getting some happy barks and a few playful growls from the boy and the dog.  Horatio gave them a fond look.  "We need to shower and eat, Xander."  Xander nodded, kissing the dog on the nose. "You start classes with him in three days."

"Yes, Horatio."  He hauled his mate up and into the bathroom, back to the bouncy, happy boy he usually was. Horatio let Xander wash him while he got his mate's body clean, engaging in some quick rubbing off when they were soap covered.  Then they had to get clean again.  Horatio got out and dried them off, then headed to get the food ready.  "What're we having?"

"Pork chops.  The stuffed ones you like so much."  The boy followed him out, still naked.  Horatio was hugged from behind. "Go put on boxers, Xander.  We'll dress after we eat since the dinner won't be hardly anything."

"Yes, dear."  He went to find a pair of boxers and to play with the dog some more.

Eric knocked before walking in. "You're going to be late."

"No we're not.  It doesn't start until eight, Eric."

"It's nearly seven, Horatio, and it's on the other side of the city with four wrecks in the way."  He came into the kitchen, sniffing the pork chops.  "Ah, you decided to eat first."

Horatio looked at him. "I'd rather not have to eat my husband during the event."  Xander blushed at that as he came back. "My tux is in the closet?"  Xander nodded.  He looked at Eric, who had cleaned up very nicely.  "Good job, but you've got dog fur."

"I'll lint roll before I walk inside."  He went to help Xander.  He saw him laying out the less stunning one.  "No, wear the other one."

"It's Horatio's night, I'll fade into the background," Xander told him, grinning at him.  "I stopped Lorel."

"Good, what about the other woman?"

"Margaret hasn't come near me."

"I meant the drunk brat that was telling a reporter earlier on ET that you were cute and she wanted your ass."

"Who?" Horatio asked as he walked in.

"One of the local heiresses, one of the drunken brats," Eric told him, going to find one of the entertainment shows and put it on.  "Her," he said, finding a story being done on her latest stunt.

Xander looked.  "I don't even know her."  He shrugged.  "She can want, I'm perfectly fine with her wanting, but she's not getting it.  Even if I do have to tattoo Horatio's name back there."

"No tattoos, Xander."  He took a kiss.  "It's almost ready, we'll have to eat quickly."  Xander nodded, going back to laying everything out.  He went to pull the pork chops off the stove and dish them up, bringing Xander and the dog back. "You do not beg," he reminded him.

"Come here, Percival," Eric called, waving his toy.  The dog looked from the food to the toy, then back at the food, staying there.  He whimpered at the new master but Horatio stopped Xander from giving him a treat, getting stereo begging looks.  Eric giggled.  "Good thing they're both going to obedience school, H."

"Xander already knows better.  Xander."  Xander relented and gave him a grin but only petted the dog, letting him lick his fingers.  He went to play with Eric then.  "Thank you.  Wash those."  Xander went to do that then came back to finish eating so they could get dressed. Eric grinned at him. "It's fine."

"I'm sure it is, I'm wondering why the whole lab has to be there tonight."

"Xander thinks he's making another announcement besides that he's retiring," Horatio told him.

"Could be."  He went back to playing tug of war with the dog, getting happy puppy noises.  Xander headed into the bedroom to clean his hands and face, do his teeth, then get dressed.  Horatio soon followed, coming out dressed and ready.  "You two look so much better than I do."

"That's the beauty of buying instead of renting," Xander reminded him dryly.  "It's tailored to fit us."  He took the keys from Eric's hand and petted the dog.  "Be a good boy and we'll be back in a few hours.  You watch the house."  The dog barked and went to lay on the couch.

Eric grinned.  "You're good."  They left together, Eric heading to his car.  Horatio opened the back door of the hummer. "You sure?"

"I am."  He got in to drive, letting Xander get in the front seat.  Eric got into the back and buckled up.  "Where are the wrecks?"

"Usual spots.  Flagler, causeway. Stadium."

"So we'll take the back roads through the worse part of town," Xander said with a small shrug.  Horatio nodded, backing down the driveway and heading off at a tangent to hit the street they needed.  No one got in the way of the PD hummers, not even down in the poorer sections of town.  They got there with fifteen minutes to spare, finding the valet parking was the only option.  Xander tipped the valet and looked him over. "It had better be spotless and undinged, he's possessive of his hummer."  The guy nodded, carefully going to park it instead of stealing it.  He smiled at the officer standing there.  "Watching what they boost?"  He nodded, smirking at him.  "Cool.  Which ballroom?"

"Three, sir."  He opened the door for them.  "Easiest job tonight."

"Trade ya," Eric offered.

"I look crappy in a tux, sir."

Eric grinned.  "Anyone does next to those two."  He walked in behind them, watching the chief light up when he saw them.  "I told you I'd get them," he reminded him.

"You did and I appreciate this so much, Detective Delko."  He shook Horatio's hand.  "Thank you for honoring my wishes tonight, Horatio."

"Not a problem, sir."

"Good man.  Inside, you're at the table with most of your lab.  Most of them are already here, but Calleigh."

Xander opened his phone.  "Let me guess, you were in a wreck?"  He smirked.  "If we have to come and quit having sex you have to come," he ordered. "Look in your closet, I helped Dad shop for you, Calleigh.  Now, put it on and get here!"  He hung up.  "She's on her way once she slips into something less comfortable."  He took his mate's arm and walked him inside to their table, Eric behind them.  "Morning all."

"Awww, Xander.  You're back," Alexx said happily, giving him a kiss on the cheek. "I bet you got a shock when you came home."

"I did, Percy is a very good dog.  Didn't even try to get my cuddles."  He smiled as Horatio helped him sit then sat beside him. "Calleigh's coming."

Speed snickered.  "Are you sure?"

"I told her if I had to quit having sex, she had to get here and quit eating chocolate.  I pointed out we put something in her closet for her."  Speed smirked at that.  He smiled at Marisol.  "Precious, I missed you while I was gone."  He kissed her on the cheek. "You look wonderful."

"I had Di tailor it for me," she admitted, sitting down next to her brother.  "So, what is going on tonight?"

"The Chief's retiring," Speed told her.  "He ordered the whole lab to show up."  He pointed at the table of lab techs.  "Even them."  She looked at her brother.  "He got sent to make sure the top couple made it."

Marisol giggled. "Did you catch them going at it?"

"No, they were having dinner.  Which is why I suggested you have more than the salad earlier."  Calleigh walked in and they all stood up, smiling at her. "You look nice."

"Thank you.  I hate you, Xander."

"I don't care, Calleigh.  We were all ordered.  If I had to quit having sex, you had to quit having ice cream for dinner."  He helped her into her seat then sat down again.  "Are we all here?" he asked, looking around.  "No Frank?"

"Late call.  Last body.  Yelina threw a fit," Speed offered.  "She's on her way in with Ray Jr."  Horatio frowned.  "He said so, don't ask us."

"Which means it probably impacts the lab," Marisol said thoughtfully, looking at Horatio. "You're not retiring, right?"

"No, not for at least another three years."  He looked at Xander.  "Then we'll talk about it."

"I'm good with you going as long as you want, as long as you don't forget you have me."

"I couldn't forget I have you," he reminded him, taking his hand to hold.  Xander relaxed again.  "It's all right."

"I'm wondering what the big thing is," he admitted.

"Me as well.  We'll know in about an hour."  Their dinners were brought out, and it was nicer than usual but still miniscule portions.  Xander slipped half his to Marisol's plate with a wink. She rolled her eyes but took it.  Alexx and Speed added their vegetables to it too.

"I'm fine."

"Yes, you are," Eric agreed. "Eat it anyway for my future niece."  She sighed and ate the food as ordered.

"You knew we were gonna fuss once it happened," Speed reminded her.

"I did, I didn't realize it would be this bad."

Xander leaned over to whisper in her ear, getting a giggle and a nod.  "Good girls get rewarded, Marisol."

"Yes, Xander."  She smiled at Horatio. "He's threatening to have me spoiled and pampered."

"I know he is.  He's done the same to me before."  He smiled and she went back to eating.  Horatio looked over at his lab techs, getting up to talk to them. "Ladies and gentlemen, how are we tonight?"

"Worried sick he's going to close the lab on us," his DNA tech offered.

"He wouldn't do that," Horatio promised, patting her on the shoulder.  "Don't worry about it.  Try to have fun and survive on the dinner."  That got some smiles.

"Horatio, can I borrow your phone? I need to check on my kids," one of the other techs asked.  "Mine's dead."  He handed his over. "Thank you."

Natalia tugged on Horatio's sleeve.  "I saw the ET article.  Should I worry about DNA being discovered?"

"No, he doesn't have a clue who she is.  Eric told us tonight."

She smiled.  "Good luck with that."

"I'm going to the next few with him," Horatio assured her gently.  He took his phone back.  "Everyone all right?"

"My husband is wondering how the babysitter puts up with them all day."

"She has more patience and didn't give them chocolate for dinner?" Natalia offered.  The other woman nodded and smiled.  "That's what I thought."

"Yeah, it's his own fault."  She looked Horatio over.  "I heard about the convention tux, Horatio.  Looking good, boss."  He blushed and went back to his table, making the ladies giggle and the few guys wonder what they were giggling about.

Tyler, their AV tech, looked at them.  "Giggling is so beneath you ladies."

"No it's not," Natalia offered with a grin.  "He does look good, and notice how Xander dressed to accent his hotness?  He's the crown jewel at that table.  Ah, there's Yelina and Ray Jr. finally."  They came over and took their seats with the rest of the lab.  "Ray Jr. looks much older than sixteen."

"Doesn't he though?" the mother agreed.  "My son had better not look like that.  I'll be a grandmother way too early."  That got some more giggles.

"Not with the sex talk Xander gave him," Tyler assured them all.  He sipped his water at the renewed giggles.  "Besides, he's got society hotties after him now.  He's got to look good."

"He does," Natalia promised, looking that way again.  "It looks like Xander struck in Yelina's and Calleigh's dresses.  Subtle and dark.  Accenting Horatio."  She got up and walked over there.  "Yelina, I *love* that dress. Who did it?"

"Xander."  She shrugged.  "It didn't even have a tag."

"Di's girlfriend two girls ago," Xander told her.  "The Spanish honey with the really thick accent and honey colored hair."

"Oh, her. I liked her stuff."  She kissed him and Ray Jr. on the cheek. "Save me dances?"  They nodded, smiling at her.  "Thanks, boys."  She went back to their seat, telling the other ladies.  She wasn't cheap but she was definitely good at dressing people up.

Ray Jr. looked at Xander.  "Who did Stella's dress?"


"Oooooh," Ray moaned.  "If and when Mom gets remarried, she can do her dress.  Stella looked *fantastic* in that dress."

"Hmm, and her boys appreciated it later from what Don said about her being a little slower the next day," Xander agreed happily.

"Who gave you those diamonds?" Calleigh asked.

"The matron who sponsored me," Xander admitted.  "She left them to me so I could get some charming young thing to keep me grounded and out of trouble.  She met Horatio and thought he was spunky and good for me but he knew I needed a girlfriend now and then on my arm.  Speaking of, I want to know about this society ho who wants me.  First I heard of it was Eric today."

Speed coughed and handed over the clippings.  "I figured someone would ask you."  Alexx handed over hers.  Ray Jr. handed over a society guidebook, with a paper paperclipped.  "You came prepared."

"Hell yes.  I ran into the drunk hottie last week.  She was so drunk she couldn't tell us apart."  Xander snorted at that, going through them.  "Her daddy's in plastics or something.  Big on Dow's board, Xan."

"Wonderful.  It's obvious I can't insert a joke here about implants being free in that outfit."  He kept going, ending on the guide.  He frowned.  "She's Thelina's sister?"

"Younger.  She just came out," Ray agreed, shrugging.  "Going on the LA crew's plan."

"Pity.  Her sister's a sweetheart."  He got into his phone, accessing the blackberry feature to write her an email.  He smiled when he finished it, counting words, and nodded, sending it.  He got back a 'who are you' message.  He typed that in again.  Her 'ooh, I remember you, you run the GAY charity' made him smirk.  Her next one of 'I'll point out you're married to your husband' got a simple 'thank you' and he logged off, putting it back into his pocket.  "Sorry, went to her sister.  She's reminding her I'm married to my husband and that I'm gay."

"Plenty of faghags in society since it's inception," Alexx said blandly.  "It's a good cover when you're gay yourself."

"She sleeps with way too many guys to be bi," Ray told her.  He sipped his water and looked up as the Chief came up to the microphone. "Hey, we're running early tonight."  His mother swatted him.  "Sorry, mom.  Dancing after this?"

"We'll see, son."

He grinned.  "It'll keep me out of trouble."

"That might be nice."

The Chief smiled at his people.  "I'm a bit early tonight but better to be early than late," he announced.  "Go ahead and finish eating while I talk. I realize some of you are hungry."  He smiled at the room at large.  "Let me tell you that we have had a wonderful year this year.  The PD has been more productive than ever.  Our Crime lab has caught more criminals than ever.  Our patrol officers have gotten more arrests and convictions than they have the last few years running.  We have had a wonderful year and you deserve a hand."  He clapped and the others followed.  "I almost must announce that I am retiring in three months' time."  That got a few boos from one of the back tables.  "Now, now.  Every  young man has to spend some time with their wife making her feel spoiled.  She wants to go on a few cruises and I agreed.  I've given the department twenty-five mostly wonderful years.  So at this time I'm going to introduce my replacement, Chief Broussard."  That got a lot of claps, he was a popular chief.  He smiled to see most of the lab doing it as well.  "Chief, if you'd come here so the ones who don't know you can get used to your smiling face?"

He walked up to the dias.  "I won't always be smiling when you see me, but I do have hopes that it will be the majority of the times that you see me," he announced.  He smiled at everyone, especially Horatio's table.  "Let me assure you I want a smooth transition and especially for most everything to stay the same.  This department has proven how they work best and I'm not interested in changing that.  You'll let me know what needs to be changed and I'll look into it.  But for now, everything will stay the same and hopefully we'll continue in this trend of excellence."  That got some better applause.  He smiled at them, letting the press people in there take his picture.

"Now, onto the other news," the old chief offered. "It is my great pleasure to honor some of our best tonight.  Among them, is the man who is responsible for many arrests and convictions.  He's also responsible for many people needing blood pressure medicine, but you can't get a high solve and arrest rate like his without cracking a few egos and skulls.  So tonight, I did make sure the *entire* crime lab came so we could honor them, and especially their leader, Lieutenant Horatio Caine.  Or should I say Captain Horatio Caine."  Horatio just gaped at him, then wiped his mouth off and walked up there.  "Your dedication is now an urban legend among the rookies, Horatio.  Not only as a warning to them not to touch the hummers, but also as an inspiration.  Otherwise we wouldn't have people like Detective Wolfe, who seems to be missing?"

"His wife's back in preterm labor," he said quietly.

"Ah, then he's excused and I'll stop by there to give him his new badge and ID card personally later."  He handed Horatio his certificate and new ID card.  "Congratulations, Horatio."

"Always happy to serve, sir."  He went back to the table, smiling at the applause his people were giving him.

The Chief smiled.  "He's even modest.  I like that.  He didn't try to take the microphone away from me."  That got a few giggles and he ignored Xander kissing him.  "As well as Horatio, we also honor a few others tonight.   Let's see, here in front of me, I have Detective Third Grade Salas's ID card.  Yelina?"  She walked up there to applause.  "It's about time."  She shook his hand and smiled, pinching him on the cheek.  "I know, I'm nearly as young as your son, too young to retire," he joked.

"Not quite that young, but definitely too young to retire."  She went back to her seat, smiling at her son, who hugged her.

"Ah, and here's more," he agreed, pulling them and turning in the other direction.  "The newly made Detective Stephen Bores?"  He squealed and jumped up to get his new badge and certificate.


Xander smiled at Horatio as they walked off the floor, heading out to the hummer.  Eric was shadowing them and got into the back, shrinking down so they could forget he was there. "That was sweet of him."

"It was," Horatio agreed, smiling back at Eric. "Who knew?"

"We think Speed figured it out, H.  We're not sure otherwise.  We thought he only wanted to make sure we supported the new guy."

"When we talked at some event last week, he did say that Brousard thinks he spoils you guys horribly but he told him why and that your numbers speak for yourself," Xander offered.  He took Horatio's hand.  "It sounds like we have some celebrating to do tonight."  He stole a kiss, getting a smile back.  "Let's hope the dog hasn't destroyed the house."

"You can take him out to the yard for a few minutes then we'll celebrate," Horatio promised, giving him the look.  Xander swallowed, he had asked for it.  Horatio smirked and backed out of the parking spot heading for their house.  He took the safer way, glancing back at Eric.  "Did you want to pick up your car tonight or tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow's good."  He yawned.  "You're going right past my house."  Horatio nodded, pulling into his building and letting him out.

"Night, all.  See you in the morning, Captain."  He smirked as he shut the back door and headed inside.

"I'm going to get teased all day tomorrow," Horatio complained.

"But you deserve it, Horatio."  Xander slid a hand up his thigh.  "Home, babe.  I want to check the dog and then be reminded that I'm home.  You can even bite me if I make bad Star Trek jokes."

"Oh, I will be."  He smiled, taking them home.  The guard on the gate nodded.  "Eric will be picking his car up in the morning."

"That's fine, Lieutenant."

"Captain," Xander corrected with a smile. "He got promoted tonight."

"Congratulations, Captain.  Have a nice night."  He let them in, making a note about their person coming to pick up his car.

Horatio parked and they walked inside.  Xander took the dog out into the backyard to use the bushes, then came back and got him settled in for the night.  Xander sank down into Horatio's lap, kissing him gently.  "Am I a good boy?"

"You've been a very good boy," he promised, kissing him gently.  "You didn't even get in trouble for smarting off to the officer who sneered and said something about us dancing.  I'm very proud of you not escalating that."  He took another kiss, using his free hand to undo the bowtie.  Then his own.  Xander sighed in relief, nuzzling his throat.  Horatio tipped his head back, getting him some room, for now.  Horatio stroked up Xander's back and helped him out of his jacket.  It got tossed onto the couch beside them.  Then the shirt was unbuttoned.  He ran his hand over his property, making Xander relax against him.  "Are you mine tonight?"

"All yours.  I've been a good boy."

"You have been.  That means we both get rewarded."  He pushed Xander off him and stood up, walking him into the bathroom.  "Strip."  Xander stripped off his clothes, giving him a shy look.  Horatio arranged things and put a towel across his lap. "Down."  Xander laid across his lap, relaxing as his mate inserted the small tube and turned back on the water.  "It's only plain water tonight," he soothed, stroking his back as the water worked.  When he could feel the belly across his lap distending, he turned the water off and helped Xander up, then watched him let it out again, stroking over him.  Xander lipped his belt, getting a nod.  It wasn't more than a gentle distraction for what was going on, but it did stop him from doing anything else.  Horatio backed away.  "Finish up.  We're doing two tonight, Xander."  He pouted but did that and cleaned himself up, then got back onto his mate's lap to let him do a second one.  Horatio smiled, it was good when he got obedience.  When he was done this time, he got them both into the shower and got his lover cleaned up, making sure every inch of him got some of his attention.  Xander was already hard and ready for him but Horatio had plans.  He cleaned himself up and got them out so Xander could dry them off.  It was his turn since Horatio had gotten them both earlier.

"Bed," he ordered.   Xander walked out there and laid down, giving him a happy grin.  Horatio arranged his arms over his head.  "Stay like that.  Do not move," he ordered quietly, leaning down to kiss him.  Xander moaned and started to move so Horatio pulled back.  "I told you not to move."  Xander put his arms back in place.  That got a smile.  "Now, do not move."  He got to work teasing his husband's body, making him wiggle but his arms tried to stay in place.  Xander yelped and arched up, and his arms came down so he could cover the newly bitten spot.  Horatio pulled back, giving him two minutes time out this time.  Xander pouted at him.  "I told you not to move."

"You made me move."

"You wanted me in control."  Xander put his arms back up there and Horatio laved the spot he had bitten, making Xander happier again.  He moved down to his feet, massaging them gently.  Xander tried to pull away but Horatio kept a firm hold.  "No, this is mine too.  I want to play with it."

"That's nasty."

"I washed it."

"So?  It's still a foot."

"Xander."  Xander quit complaining and let him massage the soles of his feet, making him a happy boy eventually.  "Don't you let people who give you massages do your feet?"  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"I don't want to swap foot germs with anyone."

"They wash and sanitize their hands," Horatio reminded him.

"It's still feet."

"Fine."  He moved up, stroking his ankles.  Xander shivered but it wasn't in a good way.  Horatio got out the sanitizing gel from his bedside table and used it, making his husband happy. "You let me tongue you anywhere I want but your toes?"  Xander nodded.  "You're strange."

"You said everyone had quirks."

"I did," he agreed, getting back to work.  Xander was entirely too lucid.  He'd have to fix that for him.  He got back to work driving Xander insane, weathering his staring until he found a spot he hadn't found before, which made Xander swear and tense up.  He smirked and went back to it, earning a slight wiggle.  He shifted higher between the thighs and Xander's breathing shifted into a faster pant.  "Hmm, not quite yet."


"Xander."  Xander went limp and let him do whatever he wanted again.  "I told you the cuffs weren't necessary," he reminded him.

"It gives me something to strain against."

"Makes you feel like the captured prince?"

"Well, no, but it gives me something to ground me."

Horatio laid beside him, teasingly drawing his fingers across the taut stomach.  "You don't need grounded.  I have you, Xander.  I will not let you fall."  Xander looked at him.  "I won't.  I won't lose you.  You're staying right there with me.  Now, relax.  Let your mind *go*.  You're thinking too much and I might have to do something shocking to break it.  Once I do that, I can't really go back.  You'll never be quite the same."  Xander shivered and made sure his hands were gripped together, trusting him enough to close his eyes.  "Good boy."  He leaned closer to whisper in his ear.  "How should I teach you this important lesson in trust, Xander?"  Xander shivered.  "Drop into your mind.  I have you.  All you have to do is enjoy it."  Xander relaxed, going limp on the bed.  "Just like that.  Keep going.  Just a bit further into your mind.  All I want you to remember is that I have you and you're mine.  That I'm the one with your life and that makes you special."

Xander swallowed and nodded.  "Good boy.  Lock on those thoughts and let it go."  He went back to drawing designs, watching as Xander did as ordered.  It wasn't often that Xander needed it, but now and then he needed to be reminded that he was special, loved, and held.  Xander shifted slightly, arching into his fingers.  "Good boy."  He kissed him and Xander's arm came up.  "Ah!" he said quietly.  He pulled away, timing it.  Three minutes got whimpers but Xander's hands were put back.  "Good boy."  He went back to prove to Xander that he was adored and his only one.  By the time he made it back to his cock, Xander was whimpering in pleasure.  He smiled and went to indulge him, letting him get nearly there, then he pulled off to grab the lube, making Xander whimper in other ways and arch up.  "I've got you, Xander.  I'm only getting the lube."

"Don't need it."

"You do need it.  I won't take you dry."  He slicked him up gently and slowly.  "Hands," he ordered, sitting back on his heels.  It gave him a chance to calm himself down again and to make Xander back down from his peak, plus to remind him.  When four minutes were done he went back to preparing him, making Xander arch up and make begging noises.  He smiled and kissed him, letting his fingers tease.  "Relax.  It'll be good."  Xander flipped over and Horatio moaned.  They didn't do it often in this position, he tended to lose control.  "Are you sure?"  Xander nodded, and he was being good, his hands were in the same place.  Horatio slicked himself up and slid inside slowly, making Xander try to push back.  Horatio held his hips, stopping where he was.  "You wanted me in control and to claim you," he reminded him.  Xander nodded, going back to his beta role.  Horatio smiled and finished sliding in, making it all the way in with one smooth glide.  Xander wiggled a bit when he didn't move.  "Pushy," he teased.

Xander nodded.  "I know I am."

"I like that about you," Horatio reminded him, pulling back to gently push back in.  Xander moaned and spread his legs apart, bracing himself for something harder.  Horatio wasn't ready for that.  He was trying to keep control.  He pushed in all the way and leaned down.  "I didn't send you away as punishment, Xander.  You know that, right?"  Xander looked back at him, shaking his head.  "I didn't. I sent you away because I wanted you safe. He went after Calleigh even though she wasn't even on the case," he said quietly.  "He went after Eric's father for the same reason.  I wasn't going to take the chance of them coming after you."  He stroked his hair off his face.  "I can't stand losing you.  If Ryan could have, you'd have went with Willow and Toddy, plus our son.  Di wouldn't let me send him with you and Ryan wasn't allowed to let her fly."  He smoothed through the hair again, getting a more understanding look. "I can't stand to have you hurt, Xander.  That's why I sent you to Don."

"I'm sorry."

"I should have told you, been more honest, but I didn't want you to worry.  I wanted you to have a less stressful time, maybe even a vacation where you and Don had fun.  I didn't want you to mope for the week you were up there. Don told me about you not even wanting ice cream.  I'm sorry."

"I knew it was for my own good but I don't have to go, Horatio.  I can take care of myself."

"I don't want you to ever have the nightmares when you have to shoot someone to protect yourself and your son," Horatio said in a near-whisper.  "I want you to stay pure from that, Xander.  I never want it to come down to you killing a person."  Xander nodded, going limp under him again.  "I'm sorry I didn't explain it better."

"I understand.  Thank you, Horatio."

"You're welcome."  He took a kiss.  "You moped up there and I decided we should go back to the early days, when we were dating.  Dinners, playing, dancing.  I missed that when I was working so much."  Xander wiggled and he smiled.  "Want more?"

"Hold me?"  Horatio wrapped him in his arms, letting them fall onto their sides.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  This is what I want, Xander.  I want to share the tender moments, not just the ones where you have to defend yourself and not just the money stuff. I want more than the cuddling after work and I never want to have another day when you can't cuddle me."  Xander wiggled, earning a chuckle.  "You wanton slut," he teased.

"Am not a slut.  I don't sleep around," he reminded him.

"That's right, you don't.  You're mine and only mine."  He pulled back and thrust back in harder, kissing the back of Xander's neck, sucking a small mark on it while he rode him as hard as he could.  Xander wiggled free and got back onto his knees.  It was a sign he was forgiven and Xander needed him.  He moved back behind him and pushed back in, taking him harder, like they both wanted.  That was the danger of reclaiming his husband, the bite that appeared on his shoulder.  Not that Xander minded, he howled in pleasure and bucked back against him.  "You're home now," he reminded him.

"Home.  Yours," Xander panted, arching his back up instead of down. Horatio pushed forward harder, making him grab the headboard.  "Horatio!"

"Yours," he agreed, sucking on his neck again.  "All yours."  He slammed in and Xander came, he could feel him come.  It was good.  It wasn't enough yet but it was good.  He flipped his mate over, taking him that way, staring down at him.  "Hands up."  Xander put his hands back over his head, linking his hands together.  "Good boy."  He rode him harder, letting his sweat drip down to scent him as his.  Horatio felt his control snap but Xander enjoyed it.  He growled and went harder and faster, leaning down to posses his mouth then his throat.  Xander tipped his head back, staying submissive until he could get back in control.  He could feel the hyena answering his challenge but he knew who he belonged to.  Horatio came, howling a roar of pleasure into the still house.  Their dog barked but that was fine.  He collapsed and his mate's hands moved, stroking through his sweaty hair, down his back, his arms, making him a happier alpha male.

"Shh, I've got you.  I'm home.  I'm yours.  No one touched me.  Sniff me, make sure of it, Horatio," he soothed.  Horatio lifted his head, looking at him, getting a grin.  "You back?"  Horatio nodded silently.  "Can I nip you?"   Horatio tipped his head to the side, giving him total access.  Xander leaned up and sucked his mark there, making Horatio moan and grab him around the back to hold him closer.  Xander licked over it once he tasted blood, cleaning him up.  "There, you're mine and I'm yours."  He kissed him.

"You drew blood?"  Xander let him see the back of his shoulder, earning a small chuckle. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not and it's not the first time.  I don't mind the occasional bite during reclaiming me."  He took another kiss, laying Horatio with him, holding him close, soothing him to sleep.  "I needed that."

"We both needed that."  He took a regular kiss, getting a smile afterward.  "Are you all right?"

"Uh-huh.  But you have to change the bed in the morning."

"Deal.  But only if you make coffee."

"Yes, Captain.  I'll prepare the replicator to make you your favorite coffee."  Horatio poked him, chuckling at the joke.  "Sorry, couldn't resist.  But I gotta say, you're hotter than Picard, a better captain than Janeway, and even Kirk doesn't have the hotty glow that you do."  Horatio moaned at that.  "Even when he was surrounded by easy girls, he was just a frat boy compared to your studliness and suave nature.  Not even Bond can draw in people like you."  Horatio did smile at that, taking a kiss.  "Can I say I'm jealous? I draw people based on my body and moves. You draw them in just with a look.  I'm jealous of that skill."

"All you had to do was look at me and I was hooked, that makes yours more powerful."  He gave him another kiss. "I'm still in awe about how you're at ease with all the idly rich brats that do nothing all day but buff their nails.  I'd want to make them get a life."

"They're like that one guy's bugs.  They're fascinating to watch but I don't want them to touch me."  Horatio laughed and cuddled him.  "I still say you're hotter."

"With age you can attain my levels."

"For that, I might even unthaw the pastry in the freezer."

"I ate them two days ago for dinner."

"Okay, then I'll try to scramble eggs."

"Just make the coffee, Xander.  Please don't cook for me."  Xander poked him with a huff, but he was smiling.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  It's the truth anyway."  He snuck a kiss and took his rightful position on top of Horatio's chest and left arm, getting held and cuddled.  "I'm really home."

"You're really home.  We'll be able to tell by the electric bill.  I only took cold showers while you were gone and you make me take a lot of warm ones."  Xander blushed at that, hiding his face.  "I did.  I had one each and every night."

"You could have pleasured yourself."

"It was too hard not to let you do it."  Xander took a desperate kiss.  "Xander, I'm still twenty years older than you.  I need more recovery time."  Xander went down to use a baby wipe on him, then lick him until he came back up and got off in his mouth.  It would give him happy, peaceful dreams for the first time in a week.  Xander took his traditional spot again, getting comfortable and warm for the first night in a week.

The dog looked, then hopped up to sleep behind the new master's back.  He was a good master and he would protect him, even if the bed did smell like a bitch in heat.


Xander woke up in the morning and yawned, looking at the nearly empty spot beside him.  "Hey, Percy."  He patted his chest and the dog scooted over, letting him get his morning cuddles.  "Did he go to work already?"  The dog barked. "Okay.  Let's get cleaned up and then we'll feed you."  He got up, taking the dog into the shower with him, literally since he climbed in.  He laughed, cleaning them both up, then he dried them off and got them ready for breakfast. He put on a pair of running shorts and his sneakers, sitting down to eat with his poor puppy.  There was a note in the middle of the table so he read it, smiling at the 'early case, come for lunch' message.  "We'll go see him for lunch.  Yes we will."  He finished his usual toast and eggs, plus soda, then found his leash.  "Wanna go for a run with the daddy?"  The dog bounced around and jumped around, letting him take him out to the car.

The dog hopped into the front seat and settled in to look out the windows.  "Good boy."  He started the car and backed out, taking him to the park to run with him.  "Okay, we'll go for a run and then you can water the bushes while I calm down, all right?"  The dog barked, letting his leash be put on before they exited the car.  Xander stretched while Percival marked his territory, then he started off slowly, making sure the dog could keep up.  He was doing okay so he went up to his normal running speed, making the dog pant and jog with him. He grinned at him.  "Are you a happy puppy?" he panted.  They went around a curve and had to dodge two officers and under, through, and around the crime scene, just on the edge.  "Put markers out up the path, this is jogging hours!" he called.

"Yeah," Eric called, watching them run off.  He shook his head.  "Only got the corner," he called.  He looked at the officers.  "That's not a bad idea."  Two of them went to do that.  "Thank you!  Before someone runs through the *center* of it."  He got back to work, looking at Speed.  "At least he only got the corner."

"True.  That was our safety cushion.  Move it back some."  Eric went to do that while Speed went back to his searching for clues.

Xander ended his run at the five mile mark, bending down to pant, looking at his dog.  "You good?"  He got a tired bark.  "Me too."  He walked him over to the nearest bench and sat down, relaxing.  The dog curled up beside him, letting him pet his ears.  "We did good, Percival."  He got a tired bark.  "Yeah, I'm exhausted too."  He yawned.  He looked around, spotting the reporter walking his way.  He moaned and leaned down, whispering in the dog's ear.

"Getting stimulating conversation?" Erica Sykes asked bitterly.

"No, telling him to bite you if you ask me stupid questions.  What do you want, Sykes?"  He sat up.  "I'm calming down from my run."

"I can tell, you're sweaty and nasty.  How's Ryan's little wife?"

"He woke us up at three this morning.  She's fine, their daughter is good. A little underweight but not too bad.  She's about four pounds and a few ounces so she's got to gain some weight.  She's healthy otherwise."

"That's good."  She smiled at him. "Got a quote on the heiress who wants you?"

"No.  I personally think she's got me confused with someone else."  He stood up and looked at his dog.  "Ready to head home for another shower?"

"What's his name?" Erica asked.

"Percival.  Horatio got him for me while I was in New York.  We start obedience training soon."  He smiled at his dog.   "C'mon."  The dog barked and followed him back to the car.  So did the reporter. "What?" he asked finally, turning to glare at her.  "What? I'm not that news worthy."

"Well you are now," she reminded him. "Got a shirt in the car?"

"No!" he snorted. "I came out for a run, not a fashion shoot."  He walked off.  "Call my husband if you want to know anything else."

"I hear you've got a new stalker," she called.

He stopped and walked back.  "Since when, who, and why?" he asked, staring her down.  She backed up.  He followed.  "Erica, this is my personal safety here.  Who, why, and since when?" he asked calmly, making her feel tiny by the way she was hunching down.  "Who?"

"Some woman named Brundt.  The daughter of the homophobe who wants to ruin you," she squeaked, backing up further.  "You're....you're very powerful."

"I know I am.  Since when?"

"I don't know.  I heard it last night at a party.  Why weren't you there?"

He smiled.  "The PD ball was last night; Horatio and the lab was honored."

"I heard he got a promotion."

"He did," he agreed, smiling at her. "Is she following her mother's plan?"  She shrugged.  "If you hear more, I would like to know, Erica.  But do stay away from Willow.  She's going to be cranky and pitiful for days.  Thank you."  He turned and went back to the car with his dog, leaving her to calm herself down.  He beeped happily as he pulled out.

She calmed herself down and looked at the cameraman.  "Not one word."

"You're not the first he's done that too. I caught him doing it on camera to a guy who wanted to shoot him."

"Do we still have the film?"

"It was year before last," he admitted.  "And no, the PD confiscated it for the trial."

"Oh."  She pouted.  "Did we get that?"  He nodded.  "Can we run with it?"

"Are you suddenly the entertainment anchor?"

"It's a job."

"It is," he agreed.  "We'll go back and edit it in the van.  Did you want to try to cover the crime scene?"

"Sure."  They headed that way.

Eric glared at her.  "Do not come any closer, Sykes."  He heard Speed growl.  "Stay there."

"Fine.  Would you like to comment on Ryan Wolfe's new daughter?"

"She was born?" Speed asked, looking over.  "No filming the body, you know better."

"We'll cut it out," the cameraman promised.

"And I so believe you.  Quit.  Now."  The camera was moved off the body and pointed toward Eric.  "Thank you."  He got back to work.  "She had the baby?"

"Xander said they got a call at three."

"Wolfe will tell us later," Eric said philosophically.  "Is she okay?"

"He said so.  A bit small but otherwise okay.  Would you consent to give me a statement on his new stalker?"

"New stalker?" Speed asked, getting up and coming over.

Eric looked at him.  "Were those silver before?"

"No, but I already took samples and I'm giving these over when I get there.  It's soaked into the ground."  He looked at Erica.  "What new stalker?"

"Melissa Brundt.  Daughter of his last one."

"The homophobe?"  She nodded, pointing the mic in his direction.  "We'll look into any allegations that are brought forward, but this is the first we've heard about it.  Thank you for telling us and if you have any real information on it, we'll gladly investigate," he said, staring her down.

She smiled.  "That's fine.  Your boy does that so much better."

"Xander's in a class by himself. Anything else?"

"Any new announcements from the foundation you both sit on the board of?"

"No, that would come from Xander or Don.  Ask them."

"He was sweaty and nasty after a run with his dog."

"He probably was," he agreed.

"Anything else or can you go now?" Eric asked.  She snorted and packed up, leaving them alone.  "Why the sudden interest?" he asked once the camera was off. "You don't usually deal with the foundation or Xander."

"He's newsworthy now.  Since the heiress started on his case."

"She has no idea who he is and he's had it sent back to her that he is married and gay," Speed offered.  "You'd do okay as an entertainment hostess, Erica, but really.  Shoo."  They walked off.  He and Eric looked at each other.  Speed called Horatio while Eric finished working.  "H, Speed.  What's the silver stuff soaked into the ground out here?  No, I ended up in a puddle of it. I've taken samples already."  He nodded at that.  "Not a clue.  Sykes ambushed us and Xander after his run. No, but the dog was probably really tired.  Here in the park.  He ended up ducking under the corner of the tape instead of running through it.  No officers far enough out.  Yeah, it's been fixed.  Thanks."  He hung up, looking at Eric.  "Think she's helping her mother?"

"Probably," Eric agreed.  "Did he dress Marisol?"

"I don't know," Speed admitted. "I know he dressed Calleigh and Yelina."  He came back after letting Alexx in.  "Watch out, the ground's soaked with some silver stuff."

She looked. "Looks like silver nitrate, Speedy."  She squatted down instead, looking at the body.  "Strangled, put up a fight too," she admitted, looking at the hands.  "Marks go up so maybe someone above him and he was flipped?"  They nodded.  "Sorry this is so brief.  We've had a massive car crash that Horatio and Calleigh are working.  I've already got three others and ten to the hospital.  Oh, Ryan's new daughter is just fine.  He called this morning to officially call off.  She's twenty inches, four pounds, three ounces.  Red hair just like her momma so far.  Lots and lots of hair from what he bragged.  So she'll be in there for a few days."

"I'll stop by after work," Speed promised. "They need anything?"

"Nope, she's just fine," Alexx said with a smile for him.  "Have we remembered it's election day?"  They both groaned and nodded.  "Hit it on your lunch breaks, boys.  Ryan needs our support."  She got up and waved the body haulers in.  "Watch out, there's some silver stuff soaked into the ground."  They nodded, being careful with the body.  She patted Speed on the cheek.  "Remember to vote, Speedy."  She walked off after the body.  "Come see me in a few.  First come first served."

"Sure," he agreed.  They finished up fairly quickly and packed up, heading there on the way back.  It didn't take that long to vote.


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