Xander walked into the hospital room, grinning behind the coffeecup of flowers and candy. "I hear I have a new niece?"
Ryan grinned. "She's in NICU for now." He took the flowers and put them aside. "Can you sit with her while I go vote?"
"Of course. Can she get out in time?"
"We'll try." He kissed Willow on the forehead, waking her. "Xander's here, I'm going to the polls. I'll be right back, okay?" She nodded, yawning and patting him on the cheek. "He brought you candy."
"I love him for that." He smiled and left.
Xander hugged her. "New niece?"
"New niece," she agreed, looking at her flowers, carnations, and candy, Reisen pieces. "Thank you, Xander."
"I figure you wanted something to suck on and there's some chewy pieces so you have something to do with your mouth when you want to scream at someone." He curled up next to her on the bed, giving her a hug. "How are you?"
"Sore. Not as fat. The same as last time. Who has Toddy?"
"Marisol. She called a while ago to make sure we knew she had him. I'll go pick him up and he can play with me and the Percy dog later."
"Sure. Can't be any worse of a terror than Eric is on him I'm sure." He grinned at that. The nurse came in. "You can come in. This is my bestest buddy Xander." She came in to check her over. "He's staying with me while my husband's voting for himself."
"What's he running for?"
"Ryan Wolfe? Judge," Xander said. "He's the CSI running."
"I've seen his billboard." She made her notes. "Should I bring your daughter down for you?" She smiled and nodded. "That's fine. She's been sent back to the normal nursery since it's only a matter of weight now." She went to call them. Then she came back with the baby a few minutes later. "Here we go."
"Ah, my darling Elizabeth." She put the baby on her chest, watching Xander look her over, then carefully take her. "You did good with Toddy when he was that age."
"I almost kinda miss not getting to do this with Eric. Of course, if I had, she'd have given up total custody immediately." He stroked over the soft cheek, making the baby flinch. "It's all right, Lizzy. I'm a Xander. I'm your uncle. I'm a good boy." She relaxed again. "I'm like an alternate daddy. You'll see me and my heathen all the time." He pulled out his cell and called Di. "I'm holding a baby Ryan and Willow," he bragged. "Yup, there. Elizabeth. Little small but otherwise good." He handed her back, looking away when she undid her top. "Didn't need to see that, Wills." He smiled at Di's laughter. "Can you bring down the heathen? Sure. Yup, that's a good thing. Thanks, babe." He hung up and grinned at the nurse. "My heathen will come visiting this afternoon."
"That's fine. A strong family is important when there's health issues, even small ones like this."
"I was born a bit early too," Willow assured her. She looked down at her daughter, who was sucking for all she was worth. "That's right, you have the nummies and gain weight. As soon as we get you home, we'll do the blessing."
"Can I call out the wiccan network to do that?" Xander asked. "Do I invite Ethan to witness?"
"Please. I don't care if he comes or not. Giles can come if he wants to. Ooh, Buffy and Joyce."
"I'll make all the calls. When's her baptism in Ryan's faith?"
"A few days after we get home." She shrugged. "He's bouncy and already called his uncle to brag." He grinned at that. She looked at her daughter, who was making faces. "Oooh, someone's got the straining poopy face."
"Eww," Xander complained, but he changed the diaper for her. Ryan came back and he grinned at him. "Hey. First diaper too. I'll arrange for the Wiccan blessing. Park, beach, where, Wills?"
"Beach," she decided. "I like water." She looked at Ryan, who looked hesitant. "We did one for Toddy too."
"You did and we agreed to let the kids choose their own faith when they were older." He sat down to take the baby, resting her against his chest. "Aren't you so sweet," he cooed. She snuggled in. "Good girl, Elizabeth." He looked at Xander. "You can bounce outside." He grinned and hugged them. Then Willow. Then the nurse. "Thanks. Want pictures?" He pointed at his scene camera. "It was in the car."
"Sure." He took it with him back to the station, handing it to Frank. "Baby Ryan and Willow came to be last night."
"Oooh!" He sat down to pull up the pictures, cooing. "She's adorable!"
"She is, and I got to change the first diaper," Xander said proudly. "Put it on your computer." Frank downloaded it and Xander carried the camera back, handing it to his mate. "Ryan had his in his car. So it's got pictures of the baby on it."
"That's fine." He smiled and went to download them. "She is adorable."
"I got to change the first diaper and hold her," he said proudly. "She's so *tiny*!"
Eric walked in and looked. "Awww. I thought I heard squealing. She's cute. What's her name?"
"So, the princess is coming home when?"
"She's got to make up most of a pound. She's back in the normal nursery. Fair warning, Willow was nursing her earlier in front of me." He shrugged at the laughing. "I get embarrassed! But I do get to do the wiccan blessing ceremony." He preened. "So I'm off to arrange that. Any beach that would be best?"
"The one down by the house," Horatio suggested. "We can hold it in our backyard."
"Dear, that would mean Ethan could come back."
"Point. What's the nearest public beach to their house?"
"The one Di lives by."
"We'll make sure we can use it," Horatio agreed.
"Dear, I'm planning it. It'll be okay," he promised, sneaking a kiss. "I'm off to do that. Have fun at work and remember to call if you can't make it home for dinner." He headed out again.
Horatio smiled at Eric. He printed off a picture and wrote her weight, length, and time and date of birth on it. "There." He grinned and took it around to the others. His mate was in full fuss mode. That meant he'd get an ordered dinner tonight so he'd better try to make it home.
Xander came out of the polls and smiled at the officers standing there. "Hey, guys. Voting for Ryan?"
"Here to see you," one of them offered, walking him off. "We know you're *with* the head of the crime lab and you're good friends with most of them."
"What would it take to make you leave them all alone?" the second asked.
"Not like I go bother them while they're working."
"Not what we meant," the second guy assured him.
Xander held up his hand, showing off his wedding ring. "Nothing and no one is taking Horatio from me. Not some psycho aging sorority chick, not some bratty heiress, nothing. I love Horatio. He's my sanity and my strength." He stared at them. "Even asking that question is insulting since Speed's like my dad."
"That's fine. We wanted to know if you could be corrupted."
"No. As many people have found out." He stared them down, making them take a step back. "Were we going to try something in public, officers?"
"No, sir. Just making sure it was a committed relationship," the first promised, backing off. They walked off together.
Xander pulled out his phone and left a message on his husband's office voicemail with their names and what happened, then he went to his car. He had to stop in on someone in City Hall. He headed that way, smiling at the reporter as he walked past her. "'Scuse me."
"You're busy today."
"I'm working on the blessing celebration for Willow's daughter." He shrugged and headed into City Hall proper, going upstairs. He smiled at the secretary. "Hi, who do I talk to about getting permission to hold a Wiccan blessing ceremony on a public beach?"
"Will there be a fire involved?"
"Maybe. Not totally sure." He frowned, then shrugged. "Better to plan and not have one."
She smiled and dug out the form. "Fill that out, take it to room 564, and talk to them." He nodded, going to fill it out on the way up there.
Xander walked into the room in question, smiling at the woman behind the counter. "I was told I had to come here to talk to someone about a blessing ceremony on a public beach?"
"You do," she agreed. "We're the office that handles permission for weddings too." She took the form, looking it over. "You're the godfather?"
"Might as well be," he agreed. "It's a Wiccan one. I'll be her Guard and Teacher." She nodded, checking that box. "She was just born last night."
"That's fine, sir. It's a good friend who can do this for their family." She looked it over again. "All right, we do request a deposit of a hundred dollars, just in case you need security. Will you have a fire?"
"I'm not sure. I'd rather plan to and not have one than the other way around. I can tell you there's probably going to be a few officers there. Her daddy's one."
"No, the new daughter."
"Oh, all right." She wrote that down and took the deposit, then stamped the form. "Now, take this down to 361 and have them stamp it." He nodded, smiling and going down there. She filed it with the usual paperwork.
Xander knocked and walked into the office of the Fire Chief, smiling at his secretary. "Hi. I was told to bring this here. Probably because we might have a bonfire during the blessing."
"That's fine." She took the form and looked it over. "That's fine with us. Wiccan?"
"Her mother. Her father's Methodist I think. Their son was baptized in a really pretty Methodist church so I'm assuming." She smiled at that and called into the office. "I don't want to be a bother."
"No, that's fine, we just need a signature." Her boss came to the doorway. "Blessing ceremony on the beach, possible bonfire."
"I heard Horatio was having another one," he admitted dryly.
"No, this is for Ryan Wolfe's daughter with Willow. Our newest one is only two months along at the moment," he offered with a smile. "Eric's sister is having her."
"Wanting a daughter?"
"Well, yeah," he admitted sheepishly, grinning at him. "I'm arranging the Wiccan blessing for Willow and Ryan Wolfe's new daughter."
"That's fine. Bonfire?"
"Possibly. I'm not real sure." He shrugged. "Better to plan and not have one, right?"
"Very true." He signed off on it. "If you do need to have one, give us at least a day's warning so we can have a guy down there to make sure it doesn't get out of hand, Mr. Harris. We'll put someone injured down there."
"That's fine. I respect you guys and your jobs. Fire's pretty but scares the hell outta me. You guys are way braver." That got a smile. "Don't forget to vote."
"I already did. Hard not to when I had to walk past them." He smiled. "I heard...oh, that Wolfe." He grinned and nodded. "Big day for him then."
"Very. Thank you, sir." He shook his hand and took the form back, heading out to talk to the wiccans he knew. He knew where they hung out and who to talk to. "It's a girl!" he announced as he walked in. "Elizabeth Wolfe is four pounds, three ounces." They squealed and gathered around. "I'm arranging the blessing ceremony. It'll be here." He handed over the paper and dialed Ethan. "It's a girl!"
"Yours or hers?"
"Hers. Elizabeth was born last night and she invited you to the blessing as a witness, Ethan."
"Thank you, Xander. When?"
"Six days. She'll be out by then according to the nurse."
"Excellent. Send me date and time please." He hung up.
Xander beamed at them, winking at the worried looking one. "Ethan caused a lot of change in our lives and he respects us."
"That's fine. He's witnessing?"
Xander nodded. "I figure I'll be Guard and Teacher for her too. I am for Toddy."
"Good. I see you planned for a bonfire?"
"I didn't know what I'd need so I decided to plan just in case." They grinned and checked the weather and auspices for that day, finding it a good day to bless the child. He was given a list of what to get and where to go, then they sent him away to deal with the details while they cooed and told everyone. It could only help the child for more of them to welcome her into the community.
Xander finally made it home and sat down in the office, calling Sunnydale. "Joyce, Xander." He put her on speaker. "Hi."
"Hi, Xander. What's wrong?"
"Willow had Elizabeth last night. We're doing a blessing in six days at sunset."
"Oh, I'm so happy!" she cooed. "Is she adorable?"
"She is. Horatio has pictures. You can write him at work and probably get one sent."
"That's so sweet. I'll tell Buffy and Rupert right away. We'll be down there if we can. Is she being baptized at the same time?"
"Probably earlier in the day or the next day."
"That's wonderful! What about your new one?"
"Marisol's two months pregnant." The dog hopped into his lap. "Hi, Percival. Horatio got me a *dog*," he said with happiness and glee.
"Ooh, Xander. I bet you're so cute."
"I am." He beamed. "Come down if you can. Especially since her parents are now in a Federal jail for trying to kidnap her. We moved by the way, did we send you a postcard?"
"You did, Xander. Thank you, dear. I'll tell everyone. You have a good day."
"You too." He hung up and went to look at the new doghouse and tie out line, smiling at his dog. "Horatio loves you nearly as much as he does me." The dog barked and bounced around, then turned and growled at someone coming up the beach. "Down, boy." He grabbed his collar, stopping him from attacking. "Hi."
"Oh, hello. Are you the owner?" Xander nodded, smiling at him. "We heard someone from the developer's office was here."
"No, I only leant him money," Xander admitted. "I can find his number for you if you want."
"No, that's all right. I was just worried about the fact that this is a nice family place and those *gay* folk have moved in."
"I am one of them and yes, my family, including my son, does live here," Xander said blandly. "We share custody with his mother, who also happens to be gay." He looked horrified. Xander shrugged. "I don't care what you think about my marriage. Really. My son's a very nice, smart, active child. Who moos now and then." The man backed up. "Sorry if you don't like it, but I've had this house and one other one since the development started. My husband happens to be an officer. We're welcoming a friend's child with her husband soon as well, so we'll try to keep the party down." He walked off, huffing. Xander looked at his dog. "Not our fault." He led him inside then let him go. "Don't attack people unless they've got guns, Percy. Leave the bigots to their opinions." He went back to the office, going to check on his accounts. He called his current mentor. "Hi, Melody. It's Xander. No, happy news. In six days I can't go to the dinner. We're doing a blessing for Willow's new daughter. Just born last night and she's already adorable and being spoiled hard. No, I'm arranging the wiccan blessing on the beach that night. Just some friends and the wiccan community. Yeah, that. Tell her I'm sorry but that's the day she's coming home. It's not like we'll be in conflict. Almost no one's of both groups but me. Sure. I can do that. Thank you, Melody. No, I gave her to her stepmother to handle. I didn't want to take part in any negative sniping. It's not who I am. Thanks."
He hung up and called the other matron. "Mrs. Strand?" He smiled. "Tell her this is Xander Harris, of the Benis Foundation. That I unfortunately can't come to her dinner in six days time. My best friend just had her daughter and I'm doing her blessing ceremony that night on the beach. There's almost no crossover so she won't have to worry about me poaching any other guests. I'll try my best to be at her next event; I'm very sorry for the short notice and having to cancel like this, but she's my best friend and has been since the first day of school. Sure, I'll hold." He waited while her assistant told her that, then smiled when she came back and told him that was fine. "Thank you, dear. Tell her again I am very sorry I can't be there. You too, have a nice day and remember to vote." He hung up and leaned back, letting the dog back into his lap. "What else do we have to do, Percy?" He thought, then found the listing for the obedience classes. "Hi, this is Xander Harris and I just got a new dog from the pound. My husband arranged for lessons but I'm not sure when they are."
He wrote down the dates and times. "Okay. Do I need to bring anything other than me, the dog, and the leash?" He wrote down those suggestions. "Sure. Thank you, miss." He hung up and got up to take the dog into the living room to play with him. Dogs needed played with. His dog barked and they played out in the front yard, playing fetch and tag and all sorts of good games. The guard came over and Percival barked loudly. "Down." He grinned. "Hi, we being too loud?"
"No, wondering what you told him."
"That myself and my family, including my son, live here. That I didn't care what he thought about my marriage. I leave bigots to their own thoughts and totally ignore them until they push themselves on me."
"That's usually the wiser way to go, Xander. Thank you."
"Not a problem. I'm not a mean guy unless you shoot at me." That got a smile. "We're going to start obedience classes in a few days."
"Good. He looks like he'll make a good companion for you." He squatted down, letting the dog sniff him. "I'm one of the guards here, dog."
"Percival. Your other daddy must've wanted you to be a knight." He scratched behind the ears. "He's loving, Xander. A good choice."
"Horatio got him for me," he said proudly. "My baby loves me. Oooh, Willow had a daughter last night." That got a smile. "In six days I'm running her blessing at a public beach but we might have a small dinner afterward."
"That's fine. Let us know that day if you can." He gave the dog one last pet and stood up. "Nice job with him."
"He even made my five miles this morning."
"Then I'm doubly impressed," he agreed. "Be careful and put in some invisible fencing if you can. We've noticed the tieout line when we patroled the beach. Looks safe enough." Xander beamed at that. "Remember to scoop too."
"I do. Horatio doesn't want to walk in it either." That got a smile and the guard continued on his rounds. "We're just meeting everyone today, huh, Percy?" he cooed, bringing him back inside. He had to get a few of the toys but the dog followed him back inside.
Xander bounced back into the hospital room, handing everything to Ryan. "Then, everything's planned. There will be food and a bonfire. I've already cleared it with the fire chief's office and all that too. Everyone's told. Joyce said they'd try to come down if they could. Horatio put pictures around the office and I gave Frank the camera first since I ran into him first. I've got all the food and of course I voted for you." He hugged him and looked at the baby in the bassinet. "How is my new favorite princess, Lizzie?" he cooed, picking her up to hold her. "You're going to be so welcomed when everyone comes to see you," he promised, sitting on the foot of the bed to hold her. "Everyone's going to love you and if Rupert makes scary faces you just yell and Uncle Xander will distract the big grump. Yes he will."
Ryan laughed. "If he shows up this time, you can do that. You invited Ethan?"
"To watch. Do I get to be her Guard again?"
"Sure. Not like I mind. You do it anyway." He smiled as Willow was brought back in, handing her the forms. "He's already done it all, including arranged for food and a bonfire."
"Plus tents in case we need one," Xander promised, grinning at her. "I even called Joyce and she's squealing to the blonde one and Rupert."
"Good. Maybe he'll come this time."
"If he doesn't, I'll let Ethan plague him like he wanted to last time." He went back to cooing at the baby.
"Put her back," Willow said tolerantly. "Or she'll never sleep." He carefully put her back into bed, letting her get comfortable. "Thank you. Hug?" He bounced over to hug her. "Any poll results yet?"
"Nope. Not yet. Not on the radio on the way over anyway." He sat on the foot of the bed again. "Though, Erica did come to bug me. She asked about you and the baby. She asked about the former stalker's daughter who's now stalking me. She went to bother Eric and Dad on a scene I ended up ducking under the tape, across a corner, and then back under the tape on because no one warned me and I was going too fast to do anything but duck under it. By the way, Percy kept up very well with me. He's also very protective. He barked at the bigot who came up to us from the beach." Ryan smiled at that. "He did. I kept him from attacking. We're going to obedience school soon. He made my full five miles this morning even."
"Congrats," Ryan agreed happily. "Did you drive over?"
"No, I expect Horatio to come pick me up. He said he'd be here when he got done. If he's not here within forty-five minutes I'll cab home." He smiled at them. "So, how are we?"
"We're doing fine. We had some time in the whirlpool to ease the ache. Babies are really big for all that they're tiny little things. Tell Marisol I'll gladly go over labor and delivery with her if she wants to know anything."
"We don't want her scared," Xander complained. She grinned at that. "I invited her and Eric to the blessing and I called their parents to tell them that, and pointed out I wasn't certain they'd be comfortable with so many of us there together. She agreed they might not but they will be at the regular baptism."
"That's fine, they're already on my invite list," Ryan agreed. "You can deliver those tomorrow if you want." Xander grinned. "How's Ray doing?"
"Fine. I haven't seen him today. Was something going on?"
"The heiress supposedly called him earlier. He called to complain to Willow about all the hotties calling for your gay butt."
Xander nodded. "I know. I even told her sister to remind her that I'm married to Horatio. I don't know what her problem is. By the way, did you hear *anything* from the dinner?" Ryan shook his head. "Do you want to now or when Horatio gets here?"
"Go ahead and he can finish," Willow offered.
"Okay. Well, I dressed Horatio in his new tux after some really great sex," he said proudly. "The dog didn't even help. The Chief sent Eric over to make sure we made it on time. So we gave him a ride. I had to call Calleigh to get her there. Dad and I put a dress in her closet for her. The entire lab was there, including techs."
"So what was up?" Ryan asked.
"I'm getting there!" He grinned at him. "Yelina and Calleigh both looked spectacular in the dresses we got for them. Ray escorted is mother, though they got there late due to a series of wrecks. They all highlighted Horatio's studliness more than usual. Which was a good thing when the Chief got up and announced he was leaving, introducing everyone to Brousard, who we knew was taking over. He applauded the crime lab." Horatio came in and he smiled. "This is now Captain Caine."
"Congrats, Horatio," Ryan said happily.
"Goes with yours," he offered, handing over the paperwork and badge. "Detective."
"Oooooohhhhh!" Willow squealed, inching over to hug him. "I'm so proud!"
Ryan beamed, hugging her back. "You timed that."
"I so did," Xander agreed happily. He looked up at his mate. "Did you get my voicemail?"
"I did, and I talked to them. They wanted to make sure we were serious. They claim it's nothing else." He stroked through his hair. "You know better."
"I couldn't go around it in time. There wasn't any warning. I stayed in the furthest corner, all of three steps."
"You still know better."
"I know. He made all five miles with me."
"I was wondering why he was napping."
"We played all afternoon after I got done arranging for the blessing ceremony." He took that paper from Willow's lap and handed it over. "Then and there."
"That's fine, Xander. I'll try to get us all put on call at that time," he promised, smiling at him. "Good job." Xander preened. He walked over to look at their daughter, smiling at her. "Hello, Elizabeth." She made a noise so he picked her up, cuddling her. "You're very tiny," he soothed. "Yet so very precious. Even if you will drive your mother insane and your father to collapsing soon." Ryan laughed and pulled back.
"Horatio, Xander's been holding her all the time," Willow complained.
"That's him." He did put her back down, earning a baby pout. "Awww. Don't worry, we'll watch you when they need a nap." He smoothed down her hat and booties. "You're very adorable, Elizabeth." He straightened up and looked at the new parents. "Should we rescue Marisol?"
"If you want," Ryan offered. "Either's fine with us, Horatio. Thank her for us." Horatio nodded that he would. "She'll be home and we expect Elizabeth at least by the day he set."
"I talked to the nurses first," Xander promised.
"Thank you," Ryan said, winking at him. "Turn on the brat." Xander got up and turned on the tv to Syke's station, watching the scrawl across the bottom of the screen. "Seven thirty. So eight or nine?"
"Probably," Willow agreed. She smiled at Horatio. "He can stay part time, right?"
"Of course. As his schedule allows."
Ryan grinned at that. "Thanks, Horatio. They said it was fine on their end. We've got a volunteer firefighter on the bench as well." That got a nod. "Xander brought her stuff to suck and chew on when she felt like yelling."
"I'd expect it." He pulled Xander up. "Congratulations, both of you. She's very strong." They smiled at that. "Call us if you need us. Eric spread her picture around the lab. Your camera is in my desk, Detective." Ryan grinned at that. He walked Xander out, letting him wave. "Come on. Let's get Toddy so you can bring him up tomorrow." Xander nodded, bouncing out with him. He loved it when his boy was happy. He was bouncier than any puppy ever born. He drove them to the Delko's, going up to knock on the door. Eric answered. "We're picking up Toddy."
"The non-Xander heathen brat?"
"What did he do?" Horatio asked as he walked inside.
"Helped my sister color her hair and the dog." Horatio moaned. "It's washable. Thankfully. They're both fine." He led him to where the baby was sitting in his high chair, letting him squeal at Horatio. "He's going to stay with Xander tonight."
"No he's not," Mrs. Delko said firmly.
"We can watch him. We have many times," Horatio reminded her. She pouted. "We're also taking him to see Elizabeth tomorrow."
"I can do that."
"Mom's pouting about needing the new baby sooner," Eric offered, patting her on the back. "Mom, you can steal him back tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure Xander will have something to do."
"Only fuss over any celebration for Ryan," Horatio offered. They laughed. He looked over as Marisol walked out and drug Xander inside. "Thank you, Marisol, and Ryan and Willow sent theirs as well."
"He was a baby all day. It's what they do. Of course he helped dye the dog red." She shrugged at Xander's giggle. "My sister was doing hers. He helped her and the dog." She put him into a seat, then pulled one over for Horatio, sitting him down. "You can eat. I doubt Xander had lunch with the way he was bouncing around."
"We had a snack after our run," Xander defended. He grinned at Eric. "He made my five miles and was really tired but good."
"Good. Where did you jog in New York?"
"On the riding trails. I got to pet some very pretty horses."
"You may not have a horse, Xander," Horatio said firmly. "Riding lessons yes, owning a horse, no."
"I don't want to own a horse. They eat a lot more than a dog and can't cuddle." He gave him a look. "Besides, where would we put one?"
"Good point." He smiled at his practical sounding mate. "We'll go riding this Sunday. I've already arranged it." Xander grinned and hugged him. "Eat." Xander grinned at Mrs. Delko, who filled a plate and handed it over. "Thank you."
"You still can't take him," she assured him, handing him a filled plate too. Marisol giggled. "You, eat."
"We filled her plate last night too," Xander agreed happily, hugging her. "They thought it was yours I was arranging the blessing for."
She shook her head. "No, ours will be baptized." Horatio nodded at that. "You don't mind if he's raised Catholic?"
"I was," he admitted. "We'll raise him both ways since technically Xander isn't of any particular form of Nature religion."
Xander nodded. "But I get to teach him, right?" Horatio and Marisol both nodded. "Good, then I'm fine with it. Just don't expect me to go. I'm not comfortable with that."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed calmly. "That's why I don't ask you to go when I do." He stroked his hand. "What else happened today?"
"One of our bigoted neighbors came up the beach because he heard we knew the owners of the development. He wanted to complain about the gays moving in. So I kindly and politely told him that yes, we lived there, our son did visit quite often, and we were pretty much going to ignore him. I kept Percy from attacking him."
"Thank you. I didn't think he would."
"He growled at a few people today who looked threatening to him." They shared a look. "It'll be fine and I found out when lessons are. I'll mention that to them. The guard got growled at but he made friends with him. The old guy who came up the beach I had to hold his collar to keep him from lunging."
"I'll keep that in mind. He is of breeds that are highly overprotective."
"What is he?" Eric asked.
"Dobie, auzzie sheppard, and boxer. I thought he might be protective of you and Eric."
"Oh, he will be," Xander agreed. "Very." He took his hand to hold with a grin. "I've still got good reflexes." His phone rang so he excused himself and went to answer it. "Harris." He listened, then nodded. "That's fine, Melody. No, he's taking me riding Sunday. Well, he did the sweetest thing and got me a dog," he said proudly. "No, from the pound. Why?" He looked at the family then went to the tv, turning it on. "I'm watching it now. Thank you, Melody. Sure. Tomorrow afternoon good? That's fine, come over. I can pick up the dog toys." He hung up. "Honey, someone bombed the pound." Horatio and Eric both came to look. "See?"
"I do." He went to call the office, see who was working it.
Xander frowned, tapping a foot as he watched. "They got some of the animals out."
"That means they had warning," Eric agreed. "Do they have somewhere to house them?"
Xander listened, then shook his head. "They've been offered a few trailers for their use tonight."
Horatio came back. "You can give a *small* donation and help them, Xander. What did Melody want?"
"To come see me about the new stalker and to tell me about this. She knows I like animals." He turned off the tv. "How big is small?"
"Your shopping fund. A month's worth."
Xander nodded. "Done." He went to call the number he had memorized. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. What can I do to help? I can stop off tonight and get food and stuff, I can come in for a few days soon, or do we need money?" He listened, nodding a few times. "I'm there. Tonight." He hung up. "We need to hit the pet store tonight," he ordered.
"That's fine, we'll have time," Horatio agreed. He kissed him. "Let's eat so we can take the nephew home."
"He's staying, Horatio," Eric's mother said firmly. "You can't bring him to that. He'll come home with more beasts."
"I'll behave," Xander promised, sitting down again. "No more animals tonight."
"Or tomorrow," Horatio promised. "Or the next day, Xander." He sighed and nodded. "I'll try to make Ray go with you. He could use something to do." He kissed him on the cheek. "Eat." Xander nodded, digging in. Horatio dug in as well. "What do they need?"
"Food, bowls. Things like that."
"The expected things?" Xander nodded. "That's fine."
Xander hugged him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I know you wouldn't let them suffer. Anything you do, you do it quietly." Xander nodded, accepting that. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. You put up with me so I won't draw the press down. I'm sure others are going to be doing that just fine." He smiled at Eric. "Isn't tomorrow your day off?"
"If they need me I can come help," he promised. "Just to make sure you don't bring home the rest of the animals."
Xander grinned at that. "Ill be good."
"I'm sure you will." He pulled up his glass. "To our new captain."
Eric's mother squealed and hugged Horatio across the table.
Xander walked into the pound's temporary office. "We've got sixteen bags of cat and dog food in the back of the hummer, plus some bowls and chew toys. They've got to need some comfort tonight." The woman in there smiled and hugged him. He looked at her, handing over the gift card. "It's got six thousand dollars on it for whatever you need." She sighed and nodded, going to tell their director and get help for the food. Xander shook his hand. "I'm very happy with the new dog I just got. Thank you."
"Not a problem, sir. Thank you for the generous donation."
"It's going to be expensive. We've got food in the hummer. That gift card is six thousand dollars for the pet warehouse. You get what they need. Food, whatever. When do you need me to come back?"
"Tomorrow anytime. We've got a lot of work to do."
"Understood. I'll be back when I can. I've got a new niece and stuff to arrange. But I'll be back the day after definitely." That got a smile. "Okay, let's go get the stuff out of the hummer." He led the way, going to unload everything with Horatio's help.
"How is your dog?" one of the volunteers asked.
"Very happy. He went running with Xander this morning. Did his five miles with him then collapsed back at home for a long nap." That got a smile. "He's very happy with the dog. The other two in the family are loved as well." Ray Jr. pulled up with his mother. "Ray, Yelina."
Ray walked over and pulled the director over, whispering in his ear and slipping him something, getting a smile and a nod. Then he came to unload the back of the car. "I figured you needed other stuff. Most people think food, most of them don't think brushes, cages, carrying boxes," he offered, lifting them out. Some of the volunteers came over to help. He looked at Xander. "You went running with him already?"
"I always run today. Why?"
"She got some nice shots of you running for their entertainment people. Shirtless and sweaty."
"Hmm, well, a boy's gotta stay in shape." He shrugged. "Don't tell Horatio," he muttered.
"I've already seen the tape," Horatio called. "It was taped for me, Xander. Ray." He grinned at him. "Nice try though." He got the rest of the food out and handed it over. "Let us know if we can help more." That got him hugged and everything was taken inside. He watched Xander walk back. "We'll go to the rebuilding charity dinner or whatever together." He smiled at his nephew. "Nice try, Ray."
"I do try." He shrugged. "Think I should go into image management?"
"You could. It would mean you didn't have to sweat chemistry so much." Ray beamed at that and went back to his mother's car, getting out the last few bags to bring inside. Then they both drove off. Horatio looked at Xander. "Do what you can."
"Yes, dear." He took his hand to hold. They pulled up to their gate and the guard gave them a look. "The bigot or what?"
"The bigot, sir. We're very sorry and we've reported him to the other cops."
"Thank you," Horatio said quietly. "We'll need paint?"
"Yeah, just a bit. They got the side of the house."
"Hmm. Our dog?"
"Barking up a storm whenever we get near there. Is he trained?"
"We're starting obedience training very soon," Xander told him. "In two days. The standard stuff?" That got a nod. "We'll get some paint tomorrow and take care of it. Thank you." They drove in and Horatio parked the hummer, letting him get out and calm down the dog. "Percy!" he yelled before walking in. The dog quit barking and came over, shaking against him. "Shh, daddy's got you. It's all right. Come on." He walked him back onto the new back porch, finding the back yard a mess. "Horatio! I'm not so sure it's not a crime scene!"
He brought his case back there, going to test the blood. "Cow." He stood up. "That is a mess." He went to call the guards out and turn on the back lights for them. They came jogging up, complaining already. "Boys, when did this happen?"
"Sometime between when you got here and our last patrol about a half hour ago, Captain." Horatio nodded. "Should we call the officers back?"
"Please." He went to shoo his mate and dog inside, then went back to his hummer, finding someone staring at it. "Yes, I am with the crime lab," he said quietly, startling him. The man gave him a horrified look. "Xander is my husband." The man backed off. "Guards?" They came to stop him. "Is this him?"
"Yes, sir, he came up to the officers earlier to complain about you and your lifestyle being in his new neighborhood." one of them agreed.
"That's fine. We can talk with him down at the station."
Xander came to the door. "Horatio, he's delusional. Arresting him won't make him hate us less." Horatio looked at him. "I'd rather live in peace than deal with his angry family every day for the rest of his short life in prison for trashing the yard and the house. If that's his attitude, he can move. We were here first and this development went up because of my money." Horatio nodded, looking at him again. "Make him have a warning and send him back to sob on his wife's shoulder."
"I can't do that this time," Horatio offered. "This is not simple vandalism. I wish I had been able to do that but he did do this." He looked at him again as the officers pulled up. "He decided to attack our lawn as well. Cow's blood." He handed him over. Then he walked back inside. Xander looked at him. "I know. It won't make it keep going."
"It will." He stroked up his chest. "It will, Horatio, and we both know that."
"I can't let anyone threaten our home."
Xander nodded. "I understand that. I agree, but he's an old, stupid man with too many opinions."
Horatio shook his head. "I can't. Not with this level of destruction." Xander sighed. "You can ask them for leniency. I won't." He kissed him, making Xander relax. One of the cops coughed, making Horatio look at him. "Needed something?"
"Do we need a crime scene person?"
"Up to you. It's cow's blood. If I have to, I can pull up the fingerprints." Ryan pulled in and got out, slamming the door. "She kick you out?"
"Yup. Figured I'd do something nice for the family to keep Xander from fussing you to death." He pointed. "Just the back yard?" Percival came up and sniffed him then barked quietly. "I've heard about you. Hello, Percival." He patted him on the head. "Good boy." The dog's tail wagged. "Yes, you guard this family very well. You're a good boy." He looked at Horatio. "Anything other than the yard?"
"Side of the house. Ask the guards," Xander offered. "Did you see about the pound?"
"Willow was crying. We'll do what we can without bringing home the pound." He headed to the back yard. "Hey, guys, here and where?" One of the community's guards led him off to show him everything else. "Who lives next door?"
"It's a second house, owned by a couple from New York. We called them to tell them we would be on the property due to some vandalism on the house next to them. They said they were sorry to hear that and asked what happened, I told them a gay bashing. They said they hoped the gay couple were fine. Apparently they know Xander?"
"Probably. A lot of people seem to know Xander. Did you see about the pound?"
"I hadn't, what happened?"
"Looks like someone either bombed it or it exploded for some reason. They got most of the animals out."
"Awwww. I'll see if my wife wants to get another cat." He went to tell the other guard, getting another pouting look back. The actual officers looked at each other and went to call their friends while Wolfe worked the scene. The people within the department who hated Caine weren't going to have a good day tomorrow, and there were going to be some major helpers for the pound.
Xander picked up Toddy as he got out of the car, smiling at him. "You are so lucky. You've got a little sister, Elizabeth." Toddy gave him a confused look. "I know. You'll understand soon enough and then we can go paint the house." He walked him inside and up to the floor his mother was on, making her squeal and take him to hold. Toddy smiled and kissed her, cuddling her. "See, she's just fine. Eric's mommy wouldn't let us have him last night. She wants her newest grandbaby sooner." He went out to talk to the nurse. "Her son's here," he said quietly. "When is the baby coming back?"
"We can bring her down now. It's about time for her to eat anyway." She called up to the nursery and Xander went back to the room.
"She'll come down soon." He sat in the chair, smiling at Toddy. "I told him he was very lucky to have a sister but he's not fully understanding yet."
Willow sat her son in her lap, putting his hands on her stomach. He frowned at her. "She's come out. She's outside the mommy now. She'll be coming down in a few minutes so you can pat her too." The baby still frowned. "You'll see soon." The nurse walked in with the baby and handed her to Willow. "See, Toddy. This is your sister Elizabeth." Her son leaned closer, poking her on the forehead. "She's asleep," she assured him. "Xander?" He came over to sit behind him and hold him. "This is Liz, she's your sister."
Xander whispered in his ear, getting a giggle and Toddy hugged her. The baby kicked at him. "See, told you it was the same beast who kicked you for the last few months. What do you think, isn't she pretty?" Toddy smiled at them and kissed her. "Good boy. Now, let the mommy feed her." He patted him on the back, pulling him back down the bed. The nurse smiled at them and left them alone. "At least Eric understands more stuff," he said, looking away when she bared her chest.
"Mooo!" Toddy said, standing up to bounce. "Mooooo!"
"I'm not a cow," Willow said firmly. "When did you start to stand?"
"Probably with Eric last night." He pulled him back down and he crawled up to cuddle them both. "That's a good boy." He took a picture of them, grinning at her. "See, Toddy, I told you you were a lucky boy. You get a baby sister." Ryan walked in with food for his wife and kissed his son on the head, smiling at him. "I hear congratulations are in order."
"They are. By five whole votes." He grinned at him. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He patted the baby on the bed. "C'mere, show daddy your new trick." Toddy got up, making Willow moan and grunt.
Ryan caught him and kissed him. "Another great milestone, my son. I'm so proud!"
Toddy beamed at him and pointed at his mother. "Moo!"
"No, she doesn't make milk in a cup. Can we borrow the animals book and tape?"
"Sure, it's at the house." He stood up and winked. "Want him?"
"Sure, I can handle my brilliant son." He kissed him again, getting a smile. "Good boy. Let's go clean up so we can help mommy nibble while she feeds Lizzie." He took his son to help him clean up.
Xander winked, handing over the hershey bar he had snuck in. Then he left them alone. He walked out of the OB section and paused, then turned around and headed back, pulling the nurse over to let her look out the window. "I believe that's a tech nine. I may be mistaken, but I believe it is." She got free and went to call the security teams. Xander looked at her. "Do these lock?"
"Crap." He leaned back in Ryan's room. "Get her and the kids in the bathroom," he ordered calmly. Ryan gave him a look. "Idiots with guns, Ryan. Next section over."
"Okay. Willow, dear?" She muttered but headed that way with the babies, closing and locking the door. He looked at Xander. "Tell me you're carrying."
"Me?" he asked, handing his over. Ryan clearly wasn't. "I'm a good boy."
"Usually," he agreed dryly, calling Horatio. "We're at the hospital and there's guys with guns here. Xander spotted one in the next section." Xander nodded. "Any idea what?"
"Masks, and tech nines."
"Masks and tech nines." He nodded. "I have his actually. They're safe." He hung up, hearing a gunshot. "Crap. By any chance you can't summon body armor?" Xander concentrated then shook his head. "Double crap. Stay." He looked out the door then sighed and walked out, badge in place. "MDPD, freeze!" he called, diving out of the way. "Don't do that! How stupid are you! This is still a hospital!" He looked at the nurse next to him. "Rooms, lock, keep them out. Even if they get the drugs, they can't get the patients." She nodded, going to send that order and do the room nearest them. Ryan raised up and shot one. "And body armor, I'm having a blessed day."
Xander sighed and snuck down the hall, locking a few of the doors and sealing them in. They could get into the rooms. He came to the drug cabinet and groaned, heading off again. He saw a nurse and nodded. "I got them."
"One of them's in labor."
"Then card it." She ducked down at another shot, then she scurried that way with him behind her, letting him get her into the room. She sealed that room. Xander headed back to Willow's room, nodding. "They're safe. I'm in here." She nodded. Xander prayed for a weapon, any weapon, but nothing was coming. Okay. He was on his own. He called Horatio. "I love you. Ryan's out there with my gun. They've got body armor. Most of the rooms are sealed." One of the guys came to the door so he hung up and grabbed him, kicking his ass manually. "Idiot. You dare come near pregnant women! You think I'm bad, I'm saving you from much worse, buddy. Pregnant women scare even me!" The man groaned. "Good!" Another one ran in, gun pointed at him. Xander tackled him back into the hallway, then grabbed the gun and shot two of them in the leg.
"Thanks," Ryan called. "Danny's going to have that 'not a cop, Xander' talk with you again?"
"Probably. But not if no one tells him." A guy in a uniform came in so he didn't come near him. "Ryan, uniform guy?"
"Yeah, and it's not on right," he said, raising up. "You are?"
"Um...." He aimed at Ryan, who tapped his badge. The guy backed up. "Him?"
"Caine's Husband. Try it." He turned and ran. Ryan called that one in. "We've got a white guy in a rental cop uniform, black pants, proper shirt but off color, running for the hills out of the OB unit," he reported. He listened. "This is him. We appear clear on this unit." He hung up and looked at Xander. "Down." Xander dropped the gun and went to check on the nurses. "Thank you," he said quietly.
"Not a problem." The nurses came out to help their patients and a few went for the gunmen.
"Handcuff or otherwise bind them," Ryan ordered. "I don't have any on me." He frowned as Horatio ran in. "Hi."
"Hi yourself." He looked around, then into Willow's room since it was the only open one. "What happened?"
"I tried to leave," Xander admitted. "Someone on high wasn't happy with that idea. She's in the bathroom with the kids."
"Thank you. Are you all right, Ryan?" Ryan nodded, going to get his wife out of the bathroom and check them over. "Xander," Horatio said calmly, looking him over.
"That's my gun he's using."
"Thank you for that sensibility."
Eric looked around as he came in. "How many defenders?"
"Ryan," Xander said, pointing. He kissed Horatio. "Let me get Toddy and them."
"If they can go," he ordered calmly. He watched his mate go, finding Ryan walking her out. "Are they checked out?"
"Do I care?" he countered.
"Probably not," he agreed. "That's fine. They can be taken back to our house by Xander." He looked at the men in there, then at his mate. "Where were you?" He pointed in there. "And this gun that was fired?"
Ryan snorted. "Two leg shots. I was kinda pinned behind the desk." He handed Toddy to Xander. "Go. Now." He nodded, walking them off. The nurses started to yell and Ryan glared. They quit. "I will sign them out." One of them got him the paperwork. He was more than happy to sign it for them while the others did their thing around the floor.
Xander pulled into his driveway, getting out. "Melody, you're early." He walked around to help Willow out. Then he got the baby. "Come on." He walked them inside. "Go rest in our bed, Willow." He pointed it out for her and she went that way with the kids. "Sorry, they nearly got attacked in the hospital."
"That's...." She looked then at him. "I suppose that's fine, Xander. I know I'm a bit early but a group of us are going to help with the animals. Can you come?"
"I was going to go over either today or tomorrow. I dropped off money and food last night." He hugged her. "We got tagged last night too."
"I saw that." She patted him on the cheek then looked at the dog sniffing her. "Hello, dear." She let him sniff her. "What's your name?"
"Percival. He just came from the pound." He sat down to pet him. "If her husband comes up sooner I'll be there. If not, I'll go up tomorrow. Horatio wanted me out of the limelight this time."
"That's fine," she promised, petting him like she had the dog. Xander grinned at her for it. "You are very focused on your family, as you should be." She gave him a pat. "Now, about this blessing ceremony?" He went to get the plans, showing it to her. "That's a charming get together."
"It's for other wiccans and our family," he admitted, grinning at her. "I promised I wouldn't be poaching more of her guests."
"She did say that, yes." She looked it over. "All the necessities. Tent, food, drinks, seating?"
"Came with the tents."
"Okay. Cake?" He nodded, handing over that sheet. "Good. Very nice. Everything you'll need for the blessing itself?" He nodded, handing that over. "Very well done." He preened at that. The door slammed and she noticed he flinched. "I'm sure he won't yell much."
"I picked up a gun and shot at someone trying to kill us," he admitted quietly.
"Yes, I heard you did," Horatio agreed as he walked in. "Xander."
"He needed the help."
"He did," he agreed. "Which means I also need a report from you. Where is Willow?"
"Our bed with the kids." Percy barked. "Yeah, and you're here too," he promised, smiling at him. He patted him. "I'll gladly write out a report, Horatio."
"Yes, you will." He frowned at him. "You took a big risk."
"For a good reason."
"One of the nurses told Eric about the joke."
"Ryan needed to calm down."
"Uh-huh." Horatio looked at him, making Xander shrink and look pitiful. "Sit down at the table and write out a report. Using proper grammar and all that." Xander slunk out there to do that. He looked at Melody. "Has he been good otherwise?"
"Usually he's a very good boy, Horatio. You know he'll defend her."
"I do. Doesn't mean it's a good thing when he puts himself in danger. Do we need to bring anything to the polo match Saturday?"
"Bring a lunch for the both of you but don't be surprised if you're invited to dine with someone else." She got up and patted him on the cheek, making him smile. "You're very good to him but you should be holding him and making sure he's fine, not chastising him."
"If he was injured, I'd expect him to tell me." He smiled at her, leading her out to the dining area where boy and dog were at the table. "Xander, are you all right?"
Xander gave him a look, looking very confused. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because people shot at you, dear," Melody reminded him.
"Uh-huh, but if I got shot, I'd be whining about it slightly." He shrugged. "Probably a loud ow and some ranting about my shirt."
"He's bad about that sort of thing," Horatio told her. "He likes to refuse pain killer too."
"Yes, but we adore him because he can defend us and be quite manly but none of the husbands mind him."
"I understand but I would like to keep him around for a very long time," he said patiently. "He is mine and I am possessive." She giggled and blushed. "That as well." Xander blushed at that. "But never in public."
"Good man." She patted him on the cheek. "Xander, we'll add you in tomorrow, when all the glory hounds are out of the way, all right?" He nodded, smiling at her. He even gave her a hug. "Thank you, dear. I'll let you play with your puppy and your husband fuss." She looked at his arm, frowning when her hand came away sticky. "Well, it appears he was correct after all."
"No, that's an older one. It split open," he said grimly, going back to his report. Horatio took his shirt off him and looked at his arm. "See, told you it was the old injury popping open."
"How did you get that?"
"Oh, that was defending Marisol," Melody said, smiling at him. "She tripped and he caught her but the sharp and pointy statue bit him as he put it with the sheepish grin for the owner."
"Ah." He looked over the injury. "That will need some attention."
"I should tell Speed. Or Alexx."
Xander gave him the most pitiful look. "I will give you a blow job every day for the rest of our lives if you don't let them fuss over a scratch like that."
Horatio smirked. "You'd do it anyway." Xander groaned. He called Marisol. "Marisol, I need someone to come watch over Xander and Willow, plus the children. No, they're at our house."
"And I've got to cover the graffiti," Xander called.
"Plus someone to deal with his shoulder. That would be fine. Of course they can. Thank you, Marisol." He hung up. "Everyone's coming over to meet Elizabeth." Xander nodded, giving him a patient look. "Behave. Melody, can I walk you out?"
"Of course, Horatio. You're an adoring husband." She let him lead him out. "I'll try to keep him out of the press, but you know how horrible they can be."
"Oh, I do. Someone caught him jogging."
"Yes, and quite a picture it was," she assured him with a giggle. She patted him on the hand and got into the back of her car. "We're heading home, Merle."
Horatio waved as she drove off. Then he went back inside to check on Willow for Ryan. She and the kids were cuddled together reading.
"Mooooo!" Toddy said, pointing at mommy with an awed look.
"I'll get that book and tape," he promised, going to find it while Xander finished his report. He looked it over and took the pen to correct his grammar, handing it back. "Now, type it for me please and print it out." Xander sighed and went to do that. "Thank you." He put in the tape and handed her the remotes with the book.
Eric's family piled out of the various cars, bringing Xander's son with them. "Xander?" she called, hearing the dog barking from the back yard.
"Painting over the bigoted people's spouting," he called from the side of the house. They headed that way.
"Get down here, son. You don't do that very well," Eric's father chided.
He looked at him. "It's only the first coat." Two of Eric's brothers got him down and got to work on it. "Don't walk in the back yard. It's a bit dug up after they poured cow's blood on it. He was going to put a doll but he got caught first." He led them onto the back porch and released the dog, letting him come up to sniff everyone. He followed the baby inside. "Eric!" he cooed, picking him up to cuddle.
"Sorry. Come see who I have in our room," he said, walking him into the bedroom. He pointed. "See, that's Toddy's little sister Elizabeth. You have to be *really* gentle with her, like you were when Toddy was born." He walked him over, holding him so he could look at her.
Eric wiggled down and gently touched her cheek, then kissed her before pouncing Toddy, making him giggle.
"Take it outside so we can nap," Willow ordered tiredly. The boys ran off together. She looked at him. "Why are you sweaty?"
"I was painting." She groaned. "Okay, I was trying to paint." He took the baby out there, letting everyone coo and look at her. "This is Elizabeth, the newest baby Wolfe. Stupid people tried to shoot up the OB ward today. She got to come home early."
"Moo!" Toddy said, nodding.
"That's right, your mother is feeding her." Marisol giggled and took the baby back into the other room, her mother following to fuss over Willow. He looked at the boys and the dog. "Play nicely." He looked at the rest of the family. "Okay, I've got to go fix the back yard too. Have fun, watch tv, spoil the Willow and the Liz." He shrugged and headed out, the dog and the boys following.
"What happened to your shoulder?" Eric's father yelled.
"Sharp, pointy art when your daughter tripped. I'm fine. It reopened."
"Daddy, sweaty, eww!" Eric complained. The rest of the family went out to protect the boys from the sweaty father.
Eric walked Horatio and Ryan into the house, letting Ryan loose when he saw Willow and her daughter on the couch. He looked at his family. "Where did you lock Xander?"
"The bedroom. He's napping." His mother kissed him on the cheek and walked past him to shove Horatio that way. "Eric wore out the dog already. Toddy and he are napping in his room. Ray Jr. is here to do the books. Go wake your man up." He nodded, going to do that. She looked at her son. "He's hopeless at painting and his son refuses to help outside."
"Eric's at that age where sweating is bad," Marisol shared, smiling at her brother. He grinned at that. "It's all fixed though."
"Good. Anything exciting happen?"
"The bigot's wife showed up and was scared off my momma. Crying no less."
Horatio came out. "What did she want?"
"To complain about how you had her husband arrested and about harboring illegal aliens."
Horatio shook his head, going back into the bedroom. He came out once he got Xander into the shower, since he was still sweaty, and went into the office. "Ray." Ray handed something over. "What's that?"
"The first time he's went outside his interest." He looked at him. "Not that I disagree." He shrugged. "Thought he'd want to know. By the way, have you thought about doing some renovations? It's nice and all but it could be better." Horatio gave him a long look. Ray looked back. "It could be. It's a very basic house. You can always stay in the other one for a few days while the bathtub is replaced and the shower head. Plus the back yard."
"We don't need to remodel, Ray."
"No, but you could."
"But we don't need to," he reminded him, leaving the office. "Has New York called?"
"Don called out a 'what the fuck' but then had to hang up because Mac was coming."
"I'll have Xander call him later."
"Good idea." Ray went back to his books, finding all the little things that Xander bought so he could keep track of his on-hand cash too. His uncle had wanted him to. He came out and handed him the account book, getting a nod when it was done. "Not too bad."
"No, not too bad," he agreed quietly. "Thank you, Ray."
"Not a problem, Uncle H." He went back to the office, dealing with everything in there. Then he came out to eat. Horatio went to get Xander out of the shower, finding him back asleep. "Is he having a relapse?"
"No, he's just tired," Horatio promised, letting him go back to sleep. "Has he went to see Madison?"
"Yeah, right before you sent him off. He's due back tomorrow afternoon. We're going to see if she can help us at the pound. She's probably going to be able to brush cats or something."
"If the doctors say it's all right," Horatio agreed patiently. He went back to the office to call Don. "You called earlier?"
"I did," he agreed. "What happened?"
"Willow had the baby. People went onto the OB ward to shoot people for drugs. Xander picked up a fallen gun and helped Ryan."
"Ah. That's not what I was talking about. The pound?"
"It looks like someone put some cherry bombs into the furnace, causing it to explode."
"Wonderful. They need help?"
"Some of the local heirs and matrons have been doing that."
"That's fine. How's Xander?"
"Sleeping. He's had a busy day."
"I bet. He down there?"
"Guarding Willow and fixing the house back up after someone tagged it."
"Yeah, got that email and pictures. He okay?"
"We're fine, Don."
"Good. We'll be down for the baptism thing and the board meeting." Horatio moaned. "Haven't gotten through them yet?"
"I have. He has. I have no idea where they are." Ray walked in and opened a cabinet drawer, then walked out again. "Ray is a very good assistant."
"I bet." He chuckled. "Danny's here making faces. Anything you guys need?"
"Not yet. Xander and I are hitting a polo match Saturday and going riding Sunday. So if you come down then, you'll have some time alone."
"That's fine. It's a good, coupleish thing to do. I like that. Good idea, Horatio." Don hung up, leaving his meaning very clear to Horatio.
Ray came back in. "There's two major purchases that haven't come in yet and I don't know what they both are. So just be aware that they're big."
"Airfare for the group big?"
"Airfare is one of them but it's from Sunnydale. The other? Not a clue."
"I'll keep that in mind. How expensive?"
"One's on his card and it'll post tonight. That's the airfare. The other came out of the excess cash in the safe."
"Going over every once in a while is fine," Horatio reminded him. "Every month is not."
"It's the first month, Uncle Horatio. I have no idea other than it's to spoil himself somehow." Horatio nodded, leaving it there. "Don't nag him either. He'll go sleep on the couch with the dog."
"I know how to treat my husband."
"Then go be cute with him. He's moping." Horatio went that way, going to play with his mate in the bedroom. "Sometimes I wonder if the spoiling genes came from the other side of the family after all."
Horatio laid down behind Xander, pulling him closer. "Don called."
"To make sure you hadn't brought home more of the pound." He gave him a cuddle. "Not hungry?" Xander shook his head. "Why not?"
"Did I nag too much?"
"No, I'm not having a social day."
"That's fine. I've had those too. Ray said you went over your interest." Xander groaned. "It's the first time and it was for a good reason," he assured him, giving a squeeze. "But I did wonder what the other big cash purchase was."
"I'm spoiling myself."
"A new tub at the other house. I redid the master bathroom."
"Can we see?" Xander looked back at him. "I would like to see. Ray suggested we do this one."
"That's because Ray wants to steal the other one."
"Ray will have to find a way to afford the other one," Horatio reminded him. "I would like to see." Xander shrugged. "Want to take the tunnel?"
"Not with this many people in the house."
"That's fine." He got him up and redressed, then they snuck out their door onto the porch, heading up the beach, holding hands.
Eric grinned at the sight. "Finally. Get a clue, H. Your boy needs to be spoiled and pampered, he's having a pouting week." His father came out and he pointed. "They're going for a stroll."
"Good, about time. I noticed Xander was acting like Marisol when she's pouting."
Eric nodded. "He doesn't have many of these moments, but Horatio didn't catch this one too quickly," he agreed quietly. "Now he's working on it. Xander needs a lot of attention at times."
"Oh. My. God," floated up the beach from the other house.
"Ah, he found the remodeling project," Eric said wisely, looking at his father. "Did he go through you for that?" That got a nod. "It good?"
"That boy spoiled himself horribly with that bathroom. I've seen smaller spas." He went back inside.
Eric followed. "What did he put in?"
Ray came out of the office. "You know that spa at the home show that we all stared at and said 'I want that in our backyard'?" Eric grinned and nodded. "It's his bathtub. He's got a freestanding shower that you can about wheel a gurney into with multiple heads. The toilet has it's own room as well. There's a nice bench in there. Towel rack with a small dryer in there."
"How do you know?" Marisol asked, frowning at him.
"I've got the security footage pulled up." They ran for the office to look. He looked at Eric's dad. "Did Di pick out the wallpaper? I think she's got that same pattern in her bedroom."
"She did. He was having problems matching the colors."
"Ah. That reason," Ray said wisely. "It came out great."
"Thank you, Ray," he said proudly.
Horatio came in and hugged him. "Thank you, Mr. Delko." He went back out. "We're staying over there tonight, turn off the security cameras." He closed the door and headed back up the beach with the dog following. He let the dog in then sealed the house up and manually turned off the cameras. Including the one to the guard shack. Then he went to play with his mate, who was soaking in their new tub. Now he knew why Ray had mentioned remodeling the other house's bathroom. He stripped down and slid into the jacuzzi next to his mate, stretching out on the reclined seat. Xander was in one of the other ones. They joined hands and just relaxed, happy and content. "We still on for riding Sunday?"
"We are," Xander agreed quietly. "I know I spoiled myself...."
Horatio kissed him. "Shut up, Xander. I'm not going to complain about a bit of spoiling. You do have the money to do that. I only complain when I think you're spending too much too fast." Xander nodded, resting his head on his mate's shoulder. "I think this is way over my budget but this is your house and if you wanted to spend money like this to spoil yourself then I'm all for it." He gave the hand a squeeze. "Besides, I can't complain because I'm going to be over here after the bad days and letting you spoil me more." Xander grinned at that. "Ray mentioned remodeling the other bathrooms. Nothing this grand, but I can see us doing a bit of it."
"Eric's dad did it for me."
"I'll talk with him tomorrow about making our tub bigger and better. We can put that one in the other bathroom."
"Never doubt that I love you, Xander." He gave the hand another squeeze. "We need a mini fridge in here for the nights when all we want to do is cuddle." Xander sat up and opened up a small panel, showing a mini bar set and mini-fridge, plus a built in toaster oven that could not fall into the water and electrocute them. "I stand corrected," he said, sounding amused. "Thank you." He got into the fridge, getting some water, handing a soda over to Xander, who put it down and snuggled into his lap to cuddle. Horatio used a foot to close the doors to the bar area, then relaxed, holding him for now. It was what they both needed. He heard someone sneak in an hour later, listening to them in the kitchen. Then the dog started to chew on something so apparently Eric or Ryan had snuck in to feed Percival for them, and they closed the front door on the way out. "Nice of them," he murmured.
"Very," Xander agreed, snuggling in better. "Can you take a vacation soon?"
"I can," he agreed. "Or at least a few days off together. What did you want to do?"
"As in lay around the house and do nothing or you don't have plans?"
"Do you want to plan something?" Xander shook his head. "Want me to?" Xander looked up at him. "I can plan things like vacations, Xander." He smoothed over his back. "If that's what it'll take to make you happy, I will." Xander smiled shyly. "I know, you have these moods where you want to be horribly spoiled. It's how you check that I still love you. I don't mind them. I do love you and I want to spoil you back." He took a gentle kiss. "Where did you want to go?"
"I don't know."
"Did you want to visit LA?"
"No. No no nonono."
"Okay." He smiled. "Did you want to stay in Miami and do something or go to another city? Did you want to visit New York together this time?"
"No," he said with a pout. "How about we save up days for a really good, long vacation this summer, when it gets really badly hot?"
"I've got about two weeks of vacation left, even after the chicken pox time off."
"He made you use it?" Horatio nodded. "Meany."
"I've got more." He ran a hand down Xander's back, then looked at the controls. "No automatic water warmer?"
"Nope, the only thing it didn't come with. It has a heater." He turned that on and the jets came up, making them both groan in pleasure. The dog came in and drank from the tub, then went to lay down on the bench.
Horatio found the remote control for the tub and turned the heater setting down so it'd be a warm tub and not a hottub. Xander got comfortable in his lap again and they laid there for a while longer. Horatio was feeling well and truly spoiled now. He looked down, seeing Xander asleep, one hand fisted in his chest hair, the other between them. He smiled and finished his water, shifting minutely until the jet caught his back perfectly to ease the small lump of tension he had from earlier. He let himself drift off that way, smiling in pleasure when Xander snored. It felt good to him. That's why he wasn't very happy when the dog's barking woke him up. Not just any barking but angry, going to eat you barking. He shifted Xander off to the side and got out of the tub, drying off quickly. His gun was in his holster still so he snuck downstairs with it in his hand, finding the dog growling at two guys in all black with black masks and crossbows. He hit the emergency button on the alarm, and then swung into the open. "Miami-Dade PD, don't move." One of them froze, the other pulled up his crossbow to take aim.
Unfortunately, he didn't get to see Eric behind him. He got him down and cuffed before the guy could do more than protest being hit. The other guy tried to run and Eric got him in the leg. "What part of don't move don't you get!" he said hotly.
"Eric, what happened?"
"Dumber and dumbass's other partner stupid broke into the other house looking for you and Marisol. Ryan unfortunately beat one of them when they started talking Watcher over Willow and her daughter. So, he fell down the stairs." He went to get that one and drag him back.
Xander came down in his bathrobe, handing Horatio one. He pulled up the first guy, slamming him into a wall, and opened his hand, showing him something. He snapped it open and the guy started to struggle. "Why are you here?"
"We want you back!"
"I don't care! Who sent you?"
"Travers!" he gasped, starting to cry. "Please!"
"Tough shit. You endangered my family. Do you think I'm going to take this lightly?" He put it down his shirt, glaring at him. "Have fun with that." Then he put him back onto the floor and walked out and up the street, pointing at the house. "Kitchen. Watch out for the steaming thing on the one guy, he said it's demonic." He walked into the other house, finding everyone up. "We all good?" Everyone nodded. "We sure? Kids and all?" Ryan nodded from where he was sitting with the two boys. "Good. Tell Willow I used one of the sticks." He looked at the boys, smiling at them. "It's all right, guys. I'm going to make sure the Watchers don't ever come back." He patted Eric on the head, getting a smile. Toddy grinned too. "Good boys. We'll be back in the morning, guys. Can Uncle Ryan still watch you?"
Eric looked up. "Story?"
"Sure, I can tell a good story." He looked at Xander. "Stay calm."
"Fuck calm." He went back to the other house, going to call someone. "Hola," he said in greeting. "There's a commando team here. Travers sent them. No, I'm pissed," Xander assured him. "Please do." He opened up his laptop and input a code, getting a program no one ever really saw. He input the number while he waited. "Travers, Harris. I found your present. Gotta say, I didn't need body slaves. Pity about the one I used the snap stick that steals souls on. But oh well. You sent them after my husband and my son. Committing suicide would probably be for the best, before I bring down the Watcher's Council. After all, you just attacked the Miami-Dade police department." He hung up and finished the inputting, getting a 'ready' screen. He considered it for all of two minutes, then hit enter and watched it run.
"What is that?" Horatio asked from the doorway.
"Proof Willow has mood swings even when she's not pregnant. By the way, you'll want deniability if the Brits come. I wouldn't come in any farther." Horatio came over anyway to look then he moaned. "Told you so."
"You did. Will it attack anyone else?"
"Nope. Just their mainframe. Pity about that but they came near you and my son." The computer put up a screen asking to go to stage two. "Do I want to bankrupt them?" Horatio shook his head. Xander looked up. "Am I sure?"
"Yes, you do," Willow called as she walked in. "Leave it before the end of stage three." She came in and hit the enter key, then input a command. The virus ended after changing their account numbers, spitting out the new ones for their use. Then she logged off the system and removed it. "That was mean."
"I don't care," Xander admitted. "Do you?"
"Well, no." She looked at Horatio. "We never saw you here if we're asked." She unplugged the laptop and walked it away too. "I'll clean this of all traces and bring it back. Go back to your tub. I'll make another snap stick tonight."
"Thanks, Wills." Xander got up and looked at Horatio. "I hate having to prove things."
"I don't like it either." The cops gave him a nod as they drug their suspects off. He went to lock up the house and joined Xander back in their tub, the dog with them. He would ask him more about that tomorrow. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what had just happened.
Deputy Director Fornell was waiting on him when he walked in the next morning. "More problems with your agency?" They had some respect for each other but that didn't mean the snarling Fed was the thing he most wanted to see first thing in the morning.
"That depends on who did what to a bank in Atlanta."
Horatio looked clueless. "Why would we know? This is Miami."
"Because it looked a lot like one of your pet hackers, Caine."
Horatio led him off to the side. "What happened?" he asked quietly.
"There's this secretive group in Britain that's suddenly been exposed and all their money stolen, including three accounts at a bank in Atlanta. Now, doing a word search on this group got them the town of Sunnydale. So therefore they called us. The only *known* hacker from Sunnydale is Mrs. Wolfe."
"Actually, Willow's ex Oz was one too," Ryan said as he walked up to them. "Pity about the Watcher's Council coming after our families to kill both my kids, myself, Horatio, and their children to get Willow and Xander back. I hope their classmates had fun playing with the Council. By the way, my wife wanted to know if they did take DNA off her or not. She's incredibly worried that they're into cloning or creating a mini-her." Horatio looked at him. "Her doctor got her medical records and wanted to know why someone had done abdominal surgery two years ago, right before she left, when there was no cause to do so." He looked at Fornell again, seeing the horrified look. "They only changed the account numbers. They have a list. It got sent to them."
"Will they hand it over?"
"Will you protect them?" Ryan countered.
"I doubt they're going to be doing very much anymore."
"Pity. Next time maybe they won't try to kill our kids." He handed over the folded sheet. "That's what they were changed to. If they're not still there, it's a different source."
He looked them over, then at him. "That's still illegal."
"Hmm, my kids and my life. Horatio and his children's lives. Versus changing account numbers and exposing a group of assholes who want to rule the world from underneath everything and do so by taking control of certain young women's lives, including and up to taking them away from their parents and making them into commandos. Hmmm." He stared him down.
"Point," he admitted dryly, shaking his head. "I'll let the higher ups know it's still within the bank. Thank you for handing over this information."
"Not an issue. Make sure they never come near us again."
Speed walked up behind him and slapped him on the back. "The more overt members were taken down. The covert duties are still there so the girls can be trained for their duties. They will not be coming back. I heard this from on high last night," he assured him. "The DNA lab may have been destroyed. They had a failsafe on it." He looked at Horatio and shrugged. "What did he spoil himself with?"
"Remodeled the bathroom at the hidden house." He smiled. "It's very nice."
"I figured it was for what he paid for it." He looked at Ryan again. "The only one you'll ever have to see again is Rupert. All right?"
"As long as they don't come back," he agreed calmly.
"Good." He patted him again. "By the way, Liz is very sweet and innocent. Try to keep her that way and not let her mommy make her a clone?"
"Oh, I'm going to. She's going to be just like me," he said with a smile. "Toddy's standing and trying to walk."
"Congrats, man. Remember, now you've got to finish babyproofing the house." He walked on. "H, got the test results back. It added more suspects and didn't delete any. Can I get a new pair of eyes?"
"Be right there," he agreed, looking at Ryan, then at Fornell. "Did you need anything else, Deputy Director Fornell?"
"No. No, I don't think I do. They trained your husband?"
"No, he trained himself to keep up with one of their girls."
"This goes a bit deeper than just covert actions," Ryan admitted. "Into the strange crap we all like to ignore."
"I saw. They thought the vampires were a code." He headed back to his car, going to call that in and fax the numbers list. His report wasn't widely liked but he doubted anyone would be able to trace the hacking back. That virus had been brilliant. He headed out to Harris' house, giving the guards his ID. "Is Mrs. Wolfe still here?"
"Probably. I haven't seen her leave yet, Agent Fornell." He let him in and made note of his presence. "The tan house with green shutters please." Fornell nodded, heading that way.
Fornell parked behind the two cars in the driveway, walking up to the door and knocking. Eric answered it, letting him in silently. "It was explained, relax," he said quietly. "May I speak to Mrs. Wolfe?"
"She's feeding her new daughter. It can wait," he assured him.
"Of course." He followed him into the kitchen, looking over when Willow walked in. "I need a report."
"Ask the ones in custody."
"We did. They're in custody. The British Government wants them back, Mrs. Wolfe." He looked at her. He moved closer, speaking very quietly. "However, I want to hand that virus to three people. One of them Gibbs, one of them mine, and one who's not exactly legal."
"No." She looked at him. "I can't let that get out. It's much too dangerous."
"How about just to Gibbs' man then."
"I don't know this guy."
"He's very uptight."
"So was I. Look at me now," she countered, leaning on the counter.
"Point. If I can bring him down to meet with you?"
"That would be dangerous," Eric noted. "She gave all that up years ago. They could try to arrest her for that stuff."
"They only deal in Marine and Navy crimes." He looked at her. "As a tool."
She considered it, then shook her head. "Still too dangerous. It's a very powerful tool. That was only level two. At the third it'd have destroyed them and their computers."
"I understand. How about I give it to Gibbs then? You met him and Abby. You know what they stand for. I know you did backgrounds on him and his whole team. I'd bet he'd vouch for McGee."
"Lord Elron?" she asked dryly. She nodded. "I know about him. We've talked in the past."
"It'd go to McGee and Abby."
Xander walked in and looked at Fornell, staring him down. "Why?"
"It'd be used against terrorist cells."
Xander looked at him, then snorted. "And I so believe it wouldn't be used domestically by someone?"
"I'd give it to Gibbs and Abby personally," he offered. "Them and only them."
He looked at Willow, getting a shrug. "Do you trust his word?"
"He's a Feeb and a suit."
"He is," he agreed. "Do you trust his word?"
She considered it, then nodded. "I'll give it to Gibbs personally." Xander nodded at that, both of them looking at Fornell. "Bring Gibbs, bring Lord Elron, and bring Abby. I'll hand that over personally and show it to them. See if they can use it ethically."
"Agreed," he assured her, making the call in front of them.
"How many viruses have you created?" Eric asked quietly.
"Oz did a few, I did a few. Whatever was needed at the time," Willow admitted. "I used that against the Mayor to find out his plans." He shuddered, he had been told about graduation. "It was kind of necessary, Eric." She looked at Xander. "You, mister, were taking computer classes." He swallowed and backed up. "Anything ever come of that?"
"Nothing not horribly flawed."
"Oh. Pity." She shrugged. "Make sure Horatio knows he can call on me for hacker support, all right?" He nodded, grinning and hugging her. "Thanks. Eric, can I have the juice so I can get back to Princess Liz?" He smiled and handed over two bottles, getting a nod and her heading that way. "They're not coming here."
"Of course not. You can meet them in public," Fornell agreed.
"The college," Xander offered. "The quad, near the ugly statue garden." That got a nod and Fornell told him that. Xander went to pull out his copies, spreading them out for her. She tapped six of them and he bundled them into a CD carrier, smiling and winking before putting the others back. He went to copy those for their personal collection and grabbed his laptop, going to bundle up his briefcase. "I've still got to hit the pound this afternoon."
"They can't get down here until tonight anyway," Fornell offered, looking at him. "I can go with you."
"Why? If they try to take me, I'm going to have to fight back," he noted dryly, shrugging. "Maybe I'll bring the dog." He grinned. "Eric, I'm headed to the pound. Call Suzie and tell her I'm coming to pick up Madison?" He took his briefcase with him and headed out.
Eric smiled at Fornell. "He's having his active day for the week. Our pound got bombed."
"I saw that. It's good he's not one of the spoiled rich kids." He handed him a card. "Let me know before things like this happen."
"They attacked last night." He shrugged. "Go question the idiots in custody."
"We did before we handed them over. They're not very happy people either." He left, heading back to the local office to wait on the NCIS team.
Xander smiled as Madison ran out and got into the car. "I have a treat for you."
"Really? What sort?" she asked, buckling herself in.
"I got you cleared to help me with the animals that the pound saved." She squealed. "So you can't do much, but I've been told you could brush and pet all you wanted and to make them play and relax." He backed out with a honk for Suzie, heading to where the pound now was. He pulled up to the gate guard. "Harris, here to help out. This is Madison, she's helping make them pretty for the adoption fair later." That got written down. "If Melody Carson asks, I'm here." He drove back and parked, making her look at him. "You can ask your mom nicely later if you can bring one home. How you do today will show her how big you and if you can take care of something. If you don't think you can handle it, we'll talk about a turtle or fish or something, okay?" She nodded, smiling at him. "Okay." He got out, walking her that way, turning on his alarm. "Hi, Harris and Madison to help."
The volunteer coordinator smiled at them. "I think it's great you brought her. Do you have a dog, sweetie?"
"Not yet, but if I do really good today I can use it to beg better."
"That's a good plan," he agreed. "Well, we need to get some of the dogs ready for the adoption fair."
"She's good at brushing, braiding, and tying bows," Xander agreed. "I can give nearly anything a bath."
"That's fine. We'll stick you two together." He walked them back to the bathing area, smiling at the frazzled person back there.
"Sit!" Xander ordered. The dog and the person sat, looking at him. "Good girl." He came over to help. "Madison, I want you in my sight at all times, okay?" She nodded, going over to help with the one being groomed. He grinned at the young woman. "Hi, I'm Xander." He shook her hand. "Let's get him cleaned up and then she can help dry and make pretty." She smiled and let him handle the large sheepdog. "Ooooh, who's the poor baby with too much hair for this heat," he cooed, getting him back into the tub to finish bathing him. "Is this flea shampoo?"
"It is, just in case." She pulled over something smaller that she could handle. "Can you clip claws?"
"Don't know, never done it," he admitted. He grinned at her. "My husband bought me a dog from the pound just over a week ago. It's my first one." He went back to rinsing him off, wincing when he shook off. "Hey!" He went back to rinsing him. "Work with me here, doggy. That way you'll be clean and pretty and maybe someone will take you home." He got him totally rinsed off and toweled, clipping back on the leash so he could be led off. He looked at the doberman being led out. "I'll take him."
"That's fine. I've got a toddler who moos." He took the leash and looked at the dog, making him look away. "Good boy." He led him over, getting him into the tub. He tied the leash down to the tub's handle, looking at him again. "You're a good boy," he said quietly, stroking over his head. "Good boy. This won't hurt. I'm a nice daddy person," he soothed, wetting him down starting back with his tail. The dog growled, so he stared him down again. The dog whimpered. "I've got you. It won't hurt." He petted him gently. "I've got you. I promise I've got you." The dog let him wash his back end, then his middle but his head there wasn't any way. Xander looked over. "Dry shampoo?" A bottle was tossed over. "Good boy," he soothed, working it into his fur. "You're a good boy. This is good for you." He brushed it out and gave him one last rinse, smiling when he shook himself. "Good job! Let's go."
He undid the leash and lead him over to towel him off himself since the dog wasn't going to attack him. The dog growled at the sound of the dryers. "Shh, it's all right." He led him further away and got to work on him, making him stay calm. "I've got you. You're a good boy. No, Madison. He's stressed. He's got flashbacks to mean people." She nodded, going to help with one of the smaller dogs. He finished combing through the short fur, working on his ears. The dog groaned and went into his lap, letting him pat his belly. "Good boy." He smiled and scratched him there, just between his front legs. "There, how's that?" He got him standing and looked him over, then at the watching kennel attendant. "How was he hurt?"
"We think they tried to obedience train him by electro shock."
"It shows. The dryer spooked him. He's going to need someone very calm and understanding in a very quiet house. By the way, no water on his head." She nodded, taking him back. "He can be saved."
"I know," she promised, smiling at him. "He's going to be fostered out to a farm setting first."
"He might like horses." He went back to work, taking the next big monster of a dog since he was the only guy working on this team. No one else could handle the great danes and hyper dogs. "Sit," he ordered, pushing her down. "Stay sitting." The dog stood up. "No, sit!" He pushed her back down, like the obedience trainer had taught him on Percy. "Sit." He looked at the dog. "Good girl." He petted her then got to work. Her fur was a mess of mud, brambles, and knots. "Can we trim her?"
"Once she's clean," someone else yelled. "Is she your daughter?"
"My husband's niece." He smiled at Madison. "So that makes her mine." She giggled and ran over to hug him then went back to braiding a pretty ribbon into a longer furred dog's mop. Xander got back to work on his dog. "No, sit!" he ordered, pushing her tail back down. "Good girl." He got her clean but still knotted, bringing her over to hold her while they clipped the long, matted fur. She shivered in his arms so he held her more tightly, letting her get warm off his body heat. Then they dried her and Madison came over to brush her and put a ribbon around her neck. Xander went back to his next dog, continuing on.
"Xander, you're a wreck!" Melody complained.
He looked back at her, getting splashed by an escape attempt. He caught the dog and put him back into the tub, going back to cleaning him. "Of course I am. They're wet and they have fur." He gave her a look and got back to it. "They're doing an adoption fair today. They need to be bathed and made pretty." He looked at the dog in front of him when he yelped, moving his hand. "Um, bleeding!" he called, bringing the kennel keeper. He rinsed her off and grabbed the clippers, doing the side he had been working on. "Ow. Part of the blast?"
"Possibly. You're good."
"I've had similar injuries in the past," he admitted. He undid the leash and carried the dog off for her, letting her put him into a cage by himself until they could get someone with some vet training.
Melody came in with her son-in-law. "He plays polo and they have to help their horses now and then. Can he take a look?"
"Sure," the kennel keeper agreed, getting out of the way.
Xander nudged him, handing over the clippers. "In case you need them. She yelped when I was working in the shampoo. She didn't growl or try to snap though."
"Thank you. Do I know you?"
"I'm Xander." He grinned. "Just a messy one." He went to get a bottle of water and came back, finding Madison not where she should be. "Madison!" She came out of the building. He gave her a look and she shrugged, pointing. "What's up?"
"Puppies!" He walked that way, going to look with her. "She's giving birth."
"So she is. Yo, got one in labor," he called. He walked her back. "They like privacy, it makes it easier for them." He held onto her while she watched and made gross faces, but then she cooed when the puppy coughed. "That's puppy birth. Girl birth wasn't too much different but Willow had helpers and she didn't have to lick the baby." She giggled and walked out with him. "In there. In the hay." The kennel attendant went to check and then tell someone. He smiled at her. "You get to tell your mom."
"Of course." She went back to helping, finding a new little lap dog being played with. "Oooh, you're cute. You belong in one of those society bags."
"If I knew anyone who doesn't have one I'd call," Melody assured her, going back to grooming her. "All the young ones I know already have one."
"One is good but they get lonely. You could suggest they get a second one."
She smiled. "You're a very smart young lady, Madison." She patted her on the head and pulled out her headset, putting it on to start calling. "Patricia, *dear*, it's Melody. No, we're helping get some dogs ready for the adoption fair today and I know your daughter has a dog, but there's some absolutely *adorable* ones that would keep hers from being so bored and chewing on her bed again. Yes, I think it could help that. Well, no harm in *looking* surely. Besides, the poor things do need a home. It's going to be months before they get the new pound built. As a responsible pet owner we should support them. No, I'm grooming a little furry one at the moment with Xander's husband's niece Madison."
"I just got home from the hospital this month," Madison told her, looking very earnest.
"You're the one the Foundation gave a donation for," she said wisely. Madison looked at Xander, who nodded.
"Yup, we did, to the hospital. That way they could help you and another little girl or boy who needed it. We put it in your name so that they'd know there was hope of them getting better too," he agreed quietly, smiling at her. "Patrick, the guy who left me the foundation, set it up in his will."
"He was my grandfather and he knew how special you are to Horatio and I," he assured her. "All his kids were dead. I'm the last of his family and Don's kinda his nephew through one of his former wives."
"Wow." She came over to hug him. "I don't mind. It'll help some others?" He nodded. "Then I like that. Do you think I could go back and visit some of my friends there?"
"I don't know. I don't see a problem with it but we'll ask your mommy when I take you home, okay?" She nodded, smiling at him. "You are such a special girl, Madison." He gave her a squeeze. "Ooops, you're all wet."
"I dry. Like the dogs, I'll dry my fur and be fine. Besides, shirts wash. Mommy said so. That's why you put all kids and former kids into shirts, because they wash." She went back to helping.
Melody smiled at her. "I agree, you are a very special girl, Madison. A blue ribbon you think?"
"No, I think he'll go to a girl. We should appeal to that and put on a pink ribbon." She looked up. "RAY!" she squealed, running over to hug him. "You're skipping school?"
"I have to do community service hours anyway," he admitted. "But no. I have permission since I'm bored and done with the term tests." He walked her back there. "You're doing a great job, Madison!" She beamed and led him to see the puppies. "That's kinda gross," he admitted, then walked her out. "I will never have my own kids. We'll adopt when I finally find a girl." She giggled and he grinned. "I'm going to be a big, strong guy and help Xander wash. That good with you?"
"Yup, but watch your phone. Uncle Xander already dropped his twice."
"I can see why." He looked at the big ball of fur he was presently washing. "How is he doing that?" He went to help, making sure everything was safely out of the way of any water exposure. "What is he?"
"A lot of fur in a very hot city." Xander finished with his section. "Sit! Now!" He pushed it back down and it laid down. "That works too. Hold her head." He got to work on her head, hearing growls. "Stare into her eyes and don't blink or look away." Ray did that and the growls ceased. "Good." He finally got her rinsed out and they walked her over, both holding her so she could be clipped. "She's got to be miserable in this heat."
"She probably is," the assistant agreed. "We've had huskies in here too." Madison came over to help with the bow and the dog growled, Xander snatching her out of the way before she got bit. "You've never been aggressive before."
Xander caught her head, glaring into her eyes, making her shy back. "You do not bite people. That is bad unless they are hurting you or your pack. We're helping you. Calm down." She laid down again and he let Ray check her over while he got the bows and things done. The kennel assistant looked at him. "I'm good at staring people down." He shrugged and let her go, watching as she walked off, watching the muscle twitch. "Please tell me she's not sick."
"No, that's where her underfur isn't completely dry yet."
"She's not even scratched, Xander," Ray soothed, patting him on the back. Which wasn't dry either. "I hope you brought more clothes."
"Nope. I'll dry before I head to the campus." He looked at Madison, who looked a bit scared. "Remember, the dogs here were either hurt by someone bad or they were abandoned by people who didn't give a damn."
She nodded. "That one must've been hurt by a kid like Eric, only meaner. I don't blame him." She took his hand, smiling at him. "Can we get lunch now?"
"We can," he agreed. "Where am I driving through to bring back lunch?" he called. "Someone make a list?"
Ray went around to do that, taking Madison with him to get it. And Xander some clean clothes. Xander went to ask someone about her being sick after all. That wasn't proper behavior. The dog seemed miserable and like it was in pain. Melody's son-in-law looked her over and suggested that one of her hips was out of place, so they went to find the real vet for her.
Xander sat down at a table across from Gibbs, opening his briefcase but leaving everything in there. "So, Fornell likes you?"
"Likes to torment me," he offered, smirking at him. "Who wrote that?"
"I can't give you their name because someone might arrest them. Let's just say it was another necessity in our former life and leave it there."
"I can do that." He leaned on the table. "I know you and she and whoever don't like the thought of it getting into the open." Xander stared him down. "I also know that you're worried about hackers finding it from us. This will stay with me and my team. Myself, DiNozzo, Abby, and McGee are the only ones outside of Fornell who will know about it." Xander nodded. "Can I call them over?"
"Sure." Gibbs whistled and two guys walked over with Abby between them. "You remember Tony DiNozzo and Abby I'm sure."
"I do." He shook their hands. "Sorry about smelling like flea shampoo but I was helping the temporary pound do an adoption fair today. I spent three hours washing dogs."
"You poor man," Tony said, shaking his head. "You're stronger than I am. I have trouble doing Ducky's mom's corgis."
"I did three great danes, two sheepdogs, one big ball of knotted fur that I'm not sure what it is, and a few other hefty dogs. Oh, Gibbs. They've got a dobie, trained, but trained wrong. He's scared to death of electronic sounds. We think they did it on purpose."
"I know someone who could retrain him," he agreed. "I'll let him know and call over there before we leave. The other guy there is Tim McGee."
He looked at him. "Willow knows you, Lord Elron." McGee blushed and sat down, so he handed him the briefcase. "The CD carrier with the numbered CDs and you can use my laptop since I've got to finish wiping and reinstalling it anyway."
"Who activated that virus?" Tony asked.
"They came to wipe out Willow's and my family," Xander said, staring him down. "They were warned last time." Tony shivered and nodded quickly. He watched as McGee browsed. Then he looked at Gibbs again. "I don't want these used unless they're a last resort."
"Agreed. The one that hit that group was a powerful weapon."
"She stopped it after stage two," he admitted quietly. "Stage three would've killed their electronics totally." He looked impressed at that. "I thought about using something lesser, but they came to kill my son and my husband, plus her two kids, including her newborn, and her husband. All because of Sunnydale. Was their DNA lab destroyed?"
"Yes. It was. They had a failsafe and ruined all the samples." Xander sighed and relaxed at that. "I didn't get told any were yours."
"Doesn't mean anything. We're pretty sure they took some of her eggs at one point in time. Some unannounced and unexpected abdominal surgery. That's why Horatio's child came to be the natural way."
"I understand, kid. Between them and the Initiative, I wouldn't leave any stray DNA around either," Tony assured him. Tim squeaked. "What?"
"I've seen this in use before, boss." Xander looked then nodded. "Why?"
Xander looked at Gibbs. "You didn't tell him how we met?" he asked dryly. Abby blushed at that. "Not that time."
"He was the reason the FBI director had to be suddenly arrested, McGee. He had him hostage. They were clearing out the files on that," he agreed quietly. "With Fornell's knowledge." He nodded, going back to his looking. "That was nice work."
"I still want to know who some of them are," Xander admitted. "Especially since I haven't stripped in ages. I got a new one the other day," he said, giving him a wry look. "Someone who saw me at an event and decided I needed a steadier hand."
"Stella looked really pretty," Abby assured him. He grinned at that. "You?" He nodded. "Why?"
"One of the local heiresses decided to try some sniping against me. I handed her to her stepmother. Besides, Don needs to go to more of those. They can only help the foundation to get word out in the right circles." She nodded, sipping her soda. He looked at McGee since he was loading a new one. "Do not let that run. It will fry the circuits." He took it out and put it aside. "Thank you. Forgot she had chosen that one." He looked at Gibbs. "You'll have it in your desk?"
"Yup. In my desk, locked up. They're a last resort, Harris."
He looked at him. "I trust you," he decided. Gibbs smirked at that. "That's fairly hard won for a guy with your background and job."
"I know why now. I delved into that Initiative file. I'm very sorry on behalf of the Pentagon and most of them were kicked out or retired with disability for mental issues."
Xander shrugged. "Some are still doing the job for the UN."
"True. I ran into Finn."
"Yeah," he said dryly. "Buffy's ex. Not a lot of love there." He grimaced. "He's shark bait with the way he used her."
"He might be anyway." He shrugged. "McGee, anything we can use?"
"So far I've seen ones that will put any hidden system online and let everyone have access to them. Things that'll destroy the computer it's loaded to. One that'll reroute their whole communication grid to another system. This one appears to make the system sneeze?"
Xander looked then nodded. "Yeah. It's damn annoying when it gets a cold." Tony snickered at that. "She was having a funny ha-ha day instead of a funny odd day." Abby giggled at that. "It's mainly a distraction. She and Oz did it."
She nodded. "That's kinda cool though," she agreed, leaning over to kiss him on the forehead. "How is Horatio?"
"Doing pretty good. He's got a late night. He had court this afternoon so he had to stay and do some paperwork. Ray's with Madison tonight and his dog with them. Madison decided she wanted a turtle or a snake, they were easier. All of Eric Delko's family is in my house at the moment fussing over Willow and her new daughter."
"Caught the stand-off in the L&D," Tony admitted. "You there?"
"Backup to Ryan. I had to pick up a fallen weapon," he admitted quietly, glancing around. He looked at him again. "They think I'm a nice, sweet, former stripper around here, Tony."
"Gotcha. Does Horatio know how well trained you are?"
"Now and then. We both like to forget about it. I'm semi-retired."
"Works for us," Gibbs promised. He looked over at the horrified squeak and look. "What?"
"It's a doomsday virus."
"No, it mimics a doomsday virus," Xander assured him. "It's got a two hour countdown and behind that you have total access. Then the computer starts to sneeze and fart. You end up wiping everything because it corrupts every single file, but oh well."
"What happens if you don't?" Tony asked.
"Leaving even one file and opening it later can bring it back. At least the annoying parts." He smirked. "That one is proof that you never want to piss off a girl when she's got PMS, her best friend has PMS, there's no chocolate near them for at least six blocks, and they've got mega cramps."
"She's truly evil, boss," McGee said in awe. He looked at Xander. "Is she single?"
"Nope. Married, two kids. Buffy's single."
"Her I'd like to see with some discipline," Gibbs noted dryly.
"You can't spank her, she pouts."
"I was thinking boot camp."
"She'd complain about the uniforms, kick everyone's ass when she got PMS, and then outshoot a lot of people while whining about having to."
Abby giggled at that. "She sounds pretty tough."
"Former cheerleader. Sunnydale was like that."
"We're talking the sla...." she trailed off. Xander nodded. "Wow."
"Former. It got passed on the hard way." She shivered and nodded at that. "She's back with her mom. She could use a future and a mentor probably."
"Gibbs is really good at that," Abby told him.
"If she has what it takes," Gibbs reminded her. "She still needs discipline."
"She's just about to turn twenty-one, Gibbs. She's got some but she always tried to keep her spirits up," Xander told him. "She really could use a mentor."
"I'll see if she's doing anything we could use," he sighed. Xander beamed at him and he finally understood how you could get hooked on this strange young man. "What about you?"
"I'm taking classes here and there, mostly business stuff this upcoming semester so I can deal with my inheritance and trust and stuff." That got a nod and a smirk. "But Horatio wants me to retry chemistry sometime soon and I liked the massage therapy stuff, plus I'm still a really good profiling candidate. I still hate school but I can take some helpful stuff for now."
"For now, take what you want and then you can turn it into a degree later," Tony reminded him. "The massage therapy stuff can be used to spoil your husband and friends. Taking accounting would keep you from paying someone to do it. Browse and take what you want, but give it a try. Your husband seems like the practical sort." Xander nodded. "Then he'd understand when you can't do something. Not everyone is good in chemistry."
"I spent most of the semester in confusion until he and dad explained it differently, then it got better. I miss the swim team but I don't have time or the energy."
"There are local competitions," Abby reminded him.
"I know. I'm doing one next week." He grinned at her. "Thank you, both of you."
"Welcome," Tony said, smiling at him. "I got kicked out for wanting to be a cop. I can understand how this is challenging."
"My parents didn't see the use in me going to college. Dad did and he arranged it on me without my permission, that's when he sent me down here to Horatio."
"That's one story I want to hear sometime," Gibbs admitted. "You two seem fairly different." Xander grinned a shy grin and blushed, looking down. "That good, huh?" Xander nodded, leading him off to tell him, making him laugh at some of it, especially Horatio's reaction to watching him strip for the first time. They came back when McGee closed the laptop and put it back into the briefcase. "Can we use 'em?"
"Yeah, boss, but only when we're being really mean." He looked at him. "How many others does she have?"
"I don't know," Xander said honestly. "I know she gave it up."
McGee nodded at that, then snorted. "Yeah, right. Tell her to change her signature. It'll hide her better."
"Ryan likes her telling him these things."
"Then we'll come to him if we have a need," Gibbs offered. "She's not malicious without good reason. She's not doing it to prove a point, cause chaos, or make computer techs everywhere swear. We can keep her secret and come to her when we think we need something." He shook Xander's hand. "Thanks, kid."
"I owed you for watching my back when I was taken." He shrugged. "This payback isn't quite a bitch."
"No, not in the least." He smirked at his team. "Get hugs, Abby." She got up and hugged him, then they left together, her between him and Tony.
Xander grabbed his briefcase and headed back to the car, looking around. He called the house. "Monitor Sykes. I can feel the camera somewhere." He got into the car and hung up, heading for a short drive then home. He came home to find his son waiting on him. "Oooh, did mommy not come pick you up? I thought she was going to."
"We thought so too but she's not answering the phone," Eric admitted from the kitchen. He came out. "Mom wanted to know what's wrong with her."
"I want to know what's wrong with her." He looked at his son then dialed her private line, letting it ring. "No answering machine?"
"No, it broke last week," Ray said from the office. He came out and Baby followed, making Eric squeal and pounce. "Should I go over?"
"Might be a good idea," Eric agreed. "Thanks, Ray."
"Welcome. Ryan took Willow and her kids home. Are you done for the day?"
"Yes, and I'm exhausted after all those dogs." He flopped down, letting his son into his lap to cuddle him. "I'm sorry I sprung you onto the other Eric's mommy."
"It's okay. When I called Di and she didn't answer, she thought it might be a problem too." He shrugged, going back into the kitchen. "Speed sent over dinner. Want some?"
"I'm too sore to eat. Save me some." He picked up a book and got to work reading to his son.
Ray walked up to the shop's door, noticing it was still listed as open. He tried the door and it was locked. He rang the bell. No answer. He walked around to the back, finding that one locked as well, but he had the key. He let himself in and snuck back through the bolts of cloth and the racks of clothes, finding a mess. He hugged the wall, checking into the office. Nothing. He headed upstairs, hearing a noise up there. He found Di on the floor and Taylor next to her, tied up. He checked before going over to check on them, pulling out his cellphone. "This is Ray Caine. I have two females down at 15889 Empire. One's still tied up. Yes, I think they should. They're unconscious." He heard a noise and turned, blocking the blow to his head. "Suspect still in the building," he called to his dropped phone, getting up and proving he had been taking lessons with Xander for the last few months. He heard footsteps and pushed the guy back into them. They caught him and pushed him against the wall. He held up his hands. "I called it in. My ID's in my back pocket." They came over to check, hanging up his phone for him. He took the phone back, calling his Uncle. "Uncle H, I'm at Di's shop. She's out cold, Taylor's tied up and out cold. Someone tried to jump me when I came to check on them. Two of them. Jessop?" He looked over so he waved the phone. "Uncle Horatio."
"Sir," he said, taking the phone, listening. "Of course, sir. Signs of a struggle downstairs." He looked at Ray, who shook his head. "Prior to when he got here. Already called, sir. Thank you." He hung up. "Thank you, Ray."
"Not a problem. We wondered when she didn't come to pick up little Eric."
"This is the mother of Xander's son?" Ray pointed at Di. "The one who makes the Xander-tight clothes?" Ray pointed at Di again, smirking slightly. "No wonder you got in."
"I have a key for emergencies." He looked around. "Where's their dog? Clothes?" He heard a quiet whimper and headed that way, finding the dog tied up in the closet. "Bastard should pay." He got her out and undone, leaving the bonds there. "I'm taking her down to my car, guys. That way she can go to the vet." He carried her down and past the other officers and the paramedics. "Straight back and up the stairs to the right. Hey, Calleigh." He kissed her on the cheek. "She was in the closet tied up. I left the stuff I cut off her there and I'm going to take her to the vets as soon as you're done with me." He got her into the car, putting some water in a cup down for her. "You drink, Clothes. It'll be okay." He sat there, soothing her, watching as the paramedics came out with two victims. He looked up as Speed came over. "I hope they're going to be fine."
"They should be. You touch anything else?"
"Closet doors. He tried to bash my skull in so I went Xander on him." He shrugged. "I knocked him into a few things but I kept him from pushing either of us on top of them."
"That's fine. How did you get in?" Ray held up his key. "Emergencies?" That got a nod. "Okay. I need you to show me where you walked and how you got up there." Ray nodded, shutting the dog in the car and walking him that way. "Good job," Speed said when they got back up there. "Very efficient."
"I thought I heard a noise. She never came to pick up the baby."
"That's fine," Calleigh agreed. "Go ahead and take her to the vets, if we need more, we know where you'll be." Ray nodded, going down to do that. She looked at Speed, then the guy in custody. "Who is he?"
"Not a clue," Officer Jessup offered. "No ID on him."
Speed looked at him. "Say something." The man gaped at him. "You want to give us your name?" He shook his head. "Fine, I'm sure we can find you other ways. Take him back, stick him in a cell until we get there." That got a nod and they walked them off. Speed called Don. "It's me. Di got attacked. I'll have someone take a picture of the guy to see if you or Danny know him. Yeah, guy." He hung up and called Horatio. "The guy who attacked Di and Taylor is coming in, H. Send Don and them a picture, see if they can identify him." He nodded, looking around. "Ray called it in. He took the dog to the vets since she was tied up in the closet. They're stable but unconscious." He hung up. "He's furious."
"I'd be mad too," she assured him, taking pictures of the ropes and then bagging them. "I wish he had taken a picture of how she was bound."
"We can recreate it," Speed reminded her. "He can draw it out. He's got a good memory for that stuff." He got to work downstairs. He had been here before, a number of times.
Xander looked up as Ray walked in without the dog, looking upset. "Is she okay?"
"Stable but unconscious." He sat down, looking at him. "The guy there beat them pretty badly and the dog when she tried to defend them," he said quietly, ignoring little Eric for now. "It ended up being a final trip to the vets," he said quietly. Xander slumped. "Her ribs were caved in, Xander. She was basically paralyzed." Xander nodded. "They're at University. They got moved to the head trauma center. Both of them. I'm not sure what else to tell you."
"Uncle H is there," he promised. Xander nodded, cuddling their son. "We'll figure out what to do with him when you've got to be gone."
"He can go with me."
"He'd hate society lunches. He can't throw the food if I can't," Ray said dryly, staring at him. "We'll figure it out." Xander nodded, going back to cuddling his son. "Does she have any other family?"
"Yeah. She hasn't seen them in forever but yes. Taylor had power of attorney already and I've got it in case Taylor is injured as well, jointly with Horatio. The paperwork's in the black drawer with ours." He nodded, going to get that. He came out and let Xander see it, nodding. "Take that to the hospital? I'll be up in a while." He got another nod and Ray took off with it. Xander looked at his son. "Eric," he said calmly. "How would you like to stay over for a while longer?" His son looked confused. "Your mommy's got a big booboo so she's in the hospital," he said, his voice breaking. He cuddled him again. "She's going to be just fine but she's got to stay there for a few more days. So you're going to be here with me."
"He's at the vets, baby. He had the same sort of booboos Mommy and Mommy Taylor have." He cuddled him then got up and went to put him into the carseat, getting in to drive them both to the hospital. The receptionist looked at him oddly. "I have medical power of attorney." That got a nod and she gave him a visitor's badge, letting him go up to the head trauma ward. He walked off the elevator, finding Ray arguing with a nurse. "He's my assistant," he announced. "What I know, he knows. My husband will be here soon." The nurse gave him a dirty look. "That paperwork is valid. Either you honor it or I'm going to own this hospital by the time I'm done with you. Now, we'd like to see their doctor please."
She paged him and he came back up the hall. "You are?"
"The father of her son. I've got secondary power of attorney if Taylor's also in bad shape. My husband and I share it jointly. He's interrogating the person who did this at the moment."
"Okay," he agreed. "Name?"
"Alexander Lavelle Harris. This is Ray Caine, my nephew and assistant." He looked over the paperwork. "I'm not sure who has Taylor's other than Di. They were getting married soon." The nurse snorted and he glared at her, making her flinch and back away. "Thank you." He looked at the doctor again, going back to calm when he saw his amused look. "Sorry, I'm a bit upset."
"I understand, sir. Let's sit down and talk. Is that her son?" Xander nodded. "You have custody?"
"We share it. It devolves to myself and my husband." He followed him, glancing in the rooms until he saw Taylor and Di. Then he looked at Ray. "Tell Horatio I'm here." That got a nod, him walking off to make the call from the payphone. "You can be honest. I've seen others die in front of me," he said quietly. "Ray's still got some innocence." His cell rang so he turned it off. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. We all forget now and then." He sat down across from him. "Right now, they're both unconscious but not quite in a comatose state." Xander nodded once. "I have a lot of hope of them waking up."
"I do hope so."
"Pretty good right now. The longer this goes on the worse it could be," he admitted, looking at the boy who was staring at him. "Hi, Eric. I'm treating your mother."
"He's fixing her booboos, Eric. Listen to the nice doctor." Eric settled back against his chest. "He's two." That got a small smile. Ray came back and whispered in his ear. "When did she do that?"
"I don't know. Calleigh said Speed found it in the office." He looked at the doctor. "There's medical power of attorney paperwork coming that names his husband, my uncle Horatio, as Taylor's POA."
"That's fine," he agreed, smiling at him. "It's always good to know who to go to and who to brief." He looked up as someone started to yell.
"That's Taylor's sister, the bigoted bitch," Ray said, going to calm her down. "Shut up! I doubt they want the patients woken by you screaming," he hissed, glaring at her. She backed down. "Your sister's doctor is briefing Xander."
"Why?" she sneered.
"He's got Di's power of attorney and Uncle Horatio has your sister's. He'll be here soon with the paperwork." She sneered harder. "She signed it recently."
"I'm sure she did. We can fight that."
"I'm sure you'll try all our patience doing that. At least we love Taylor like a sister. Unlike you. Now, if you're good you can follow me. If not, I'll have security remove you for screaming that way and trying to wake up the comatose." She stomped off to make a call. Ray looked over as Speed came off the elevator, pointing at the nurse. "The doctor's with Xander. There's her sister."
Speed glared at the sister. "Good. We have some questions since Horatio said it was her boyfriend." She gasped, letting the phone fall from her fingers. "Come with me please." He handed over the papers to Ray and walked her off to a private corner to discuss this with her.
Ray hung up the phone and went back, handing those to the doctor as well. "Hers. Her sister is being questioned by Speed."
Xander took his hand to hold. "They've got low brain function but it's not quite abnormally low."
"Okay, so they can get better. Do we see clots, cracks, or other issues?"
"All of the above. Right now, them being like this is saving them a lot of pain." The sister stomped in. "You are?"
"I have to go on the medical power of attorney, ma'am."
"She can know for now," Xander offered. "Horatio would agree until she pulls shit." The doctor looked at him. "Daddy? Where's Horatio?"
"On his way in." He patted him and took the baby. "Hi, Eric." He walked him off, taking him away from the emotionally charged scene.
"My sister will not be taken care of by these two fags!" she complained.
Xander stood up and slapped her. "Shut up, you hypocritical bitch. You had plenty of women on the side for your boyfriend's pleasure. Taylor warned us all about you." She looked horrified. "She named us because we're not going to make stupid decisions based on who she's sleeping with. We'd like Taylor even if she wasn't seeing Di. Unlike you, who doesn't like her at all. So sit down and shut up or we'll lock you out of all information and visiting hours." She sat down, still giving him a horrified look. "I'm sorry I hit you, I'm a bit upset right now. Di is very special to me." He sat down again, looking at the doctor. "What can we do to help and what can we expect?"
"A lot of waiting," he said honestly. "They could wake up tonight or next year. They could be perfectly fine or not. We can't be sure until they wake up," he said gently. He looked up as someone else walked in. "You are?"
"My husband Horatio," Xander said, taking his hand to clutch. "They're not comatose yet."
"That's good news, right?" he said calmly. The doctor nodded. "Their chances of waking up healthy?"
"On the good side right now, sir. Your name?"
"Captain Horatio Caine, MDPD." He sat down between Xander and Ray. "They have a good chance?"
"They do. Right now they're healing. Being this way is keeping them out of pain. They could be a lot worse. Now, we want to start medicine to gently break up the clot in Diana's head."
"Risks?" Xander asked.
"The biggest two are that it shifts and lodges somewhere else before we can fully dissolve it or that the medicine hinders the other injuries from clotting." They both nodded at that.
"Would waiting a day for everything to finish scabbing over help or hurt?" Ray asked quietly.
The doctor looked at him. "That's a very good question. Right now, the clots aren't keeping oxygen from the brain. They're causing minor problems instead of major complications."
"I'm not two, doctor. Like Xander, I've seen people die around me. You can treat me like the near-adult I am." The doctor nodded at that. "Are we thinking it'll cause a further stroke or brain damage to wait?"
"It could. I'll be honest that it could cause problems either way. It's always better to act faster with brain injuries."
Xander looked toward where Di was lying then at Horatio, who shrugged. "Have we checked for internal bleeding and things that would be hurt by her not clotting for a few days?"
"We have, the tests weren't conclusive."
Xander and Horatio looked at each other, then nodded. "Wait as long as you can and make sure she's not bleeding anywhere else," he said firmly. "A stroke is bad, dying from bleeding into her intestines would be worse."
"All right. I can agree with that. Do I have permission if it starts to become an emergency issue?" They nodded. "Thank you." He made note of that on the charts. "All right. As for Taylor's care, she's about the same. A bit more bruised in the chest and intestines. We have a worry about her lungs because of that."
"Is this another case where the treatments could counter-indicate others?" Horatio asked.
The doctor nodded. "It very well could, Captain."
"Horatio. We'll be working together closely."
"Horatio then. We're going to do another MRI of her lungs tonight. Right now, her head injuries aren't as bad as Diana's but her lungs are troubling."
"When you find out, you'll call me," Horatio ordered, writing on the back of one of his cards. "That's my office number, I usually work days. That's my cell, email, and his cell on the back, plus Ray's cell if you can't get us." He handed it over. The doctor tucked it into the charts. "Now, as for the sister, do you have any qualms keeping her updated? I agree, it is her sister and she should know if she wants to."
"I don't as long as you authorize it." He glanced at Ray and back, getting a nod. "All right. Let's lead you to them so you can talk with them for a few minutes. Her sister as well if she wants."
"Our parents will want to fly in," she said, glaring at Xander's back. "They'll be allowed?"
"As long as they don't cause a scene or start to scream," Horatio agreed, looking back at her. He saw the mark on her face, then looked at his mate. "Did you hit her?"
"She was screaming and sneering and I snapped. I apologized and if she charges me, I'll take the probation," Xander assured him. "I'm still struggling with my feelings about Di being in here."
"Like they'd charge their own," she sneered.
"Actually they would," Speed said from the doorway. "Eric's here to visit too, Horatio. Can I set up the visitation list with the nurse?" That got a nod so he went to do that with Eric's help. He looked at the new nurse. The other had huffed off for her lunch. "Hi," he said quietly. "We need to set the visitation list for Di and Taylor."
"Are you their medical power of attorney?"
"No but they said I could," he assured her. "They're in with the doctor and you're about to get pounced on by some other cops who're their friends. You can clear it with them." She nodded, letting him make out a list. It was fairly long. Eric looked and crossed out a few names, making him look at him. "They don't like Di?"
"They think she was taking advantage of Marisol and Mom with the babysitting stuff. I don't think she needs that stress. Any idea when they'll wake up?"
"We hope soon," Ray said as he joined them, making sure his and his mother's name was on there. He wrote out all the phone numbers and handed them to her. "Another copy. Horatio works days, Xander's usually at home. If not, try the cells, then my cell. I can almost always find them." She nodded, putting that aside. "Thank you. Di and Taylor are like my aunts." He looked at Speed, taking Eric from him. "Hey, big man." He walked off to look out the window with him. "The doctor thinks your mommy will get much better very soon, that her booboo will heal wonderfully." Eric smiled at him but still looked worried. "It'll be okay. You'll stay with daddy until she's all better." He watched his uncle have a word with the nurse, getting a nod. Then he added a few more names to the list. Xander came over. "It'll be okay?"
"I hope so," he admitted, hugging him. "I really do hope so." Horatio came up behind them, hugging Xander gently, but puling him away finally. "We can see them?" That got a silent nod and they walked to see their girls. Eric started to cry so Ray walked off with him again, going to talk with him, reassure him that his mommy would be all right.
"He should expect to lose her," Taylor's sister told him.
"He's two, bitch. He doesn't understand that. Now, step off." He walked Eric off again, taking him back to his father.
Horatio went to talk with her. "I will not have you upsetting Eric. He nearly lost her once to pneumonia when he was younger. He's just a toddler and doesn't need your stress. Confine your comments to myself and my husband."
"If you can't be polite, you don't need to be stressing your sister out," Xander agreed as he joined them. "She doesn't need this if she's going to heal."
"How would you know?"
"Because I've been in one of those beds," he said coldly. "A few of us have." She gave him a horrified look. "Now, Ray was right. If you can't control the sneering and the 'tude, step off. Go get your parents here. We have no problem with you seeing them but if you show even the tiniest hint of disrespect, I will have you ejected out the nearest window. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," she found out, flouncing off.
Xander sighed and looked at Horatio. "They don't need that."
"I agree, they don't." He kissed him gently. "It'll be okay. They'll wake up and be fine. They're both very strong women, Xander." He nodded, resting against his chest. He looked back at the doctor. "Night or day. Call us."
"Of course, Horatio. Thank you for handling that more calmly."
"I'm sorry I lost my temper," Xander said, looking at him.
The doctor shrugged. "Not the first I've seen or the worst. Go home, eat, talk, rest. It's going to be a wait." They nodded and headed off, letting Speed and Eric follow.
Eric walked into his parent's house.
"Did you finally find Diana?" his other sister demanded.
"Yeah, right where the guy who beat her and Taylor left them." She gave him a horrified look and he glared back. "They're at University in the head trauma ward. You're not on the visitor's list at the moment." He walked off finding his mother and sister in the kitchen, as usual. "They're expected to wake up sometime." His mother dropped the plate, looking at him. "Taylor's sister's boyfriend beat them for being gay. They're not quite comatose at the moment. They're at University. They signed power of attorney over to Horatio and Xander." She nodded at that, clutching the counter. "They're expected to wake up sometime."
"Good. I'll pray for them tomorrow," she promised.
"The hateful bitch?" Marisol demanded.
"Tried shit with Xander. He slapped her good according to Speed." He shrugged. "They're allowed in so far but it was made clear to her that Horatio has Taylor's POA and they have Di's together. Her parents are flying in tonight from St. Louis."
Marisol sighed. "Someone should meet them from the family."
"They're going to meet them there. They call the the department, got switched to the lab, and were put through to Horatio's cellphone. He explained what had happened and what was presently going on, leaving out the spoiled bitch moment and Xander hitting her for it. He also noted that they had medical authority over her, but that they were more than welcome to come get information and visit. Her father's upset but the mother agreed they'd be more rational than she was. They'll be in early morning."
"That poor family," his mother sighed. "I'll definitely pray for them both."
"Anything else?" Marisol asked.
"He beat their dog. Ray took it to the vets once we released him and they had to put him down. He was paralyzed and had all his ribs broken." She teared up. "Eric saw them but all he knows is that it's a big booboo and they're napping to get better faster. Xander and Ray explained it to them." His father walked in. "Hi, dad."
"What's happened? Did they find out where she took off to this time?"
"They were beaten, poppa," Marisol said harshly. "She's not really that flighty." She looked at Eric. "Can we do anything else?"
"Visit, talk to them," Eric said, shrugging a bit. "They're working on it right now." She nodded, kissing him on the cheek. "Thanks. I hope the doctors can pull it out of a hat this time."
"They will," she assured him. "I know they will." She gave him a squeeze. "Xander has the baby?"
"Probably still in his lap. Anything happen here?"
"Ryan called. He said Erica called him wondering why Xander met with the military."
Eric groaned. "He was giving them something Willow wrote for them." He grabbed the sandwich his mother was making, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks, mom."
"You needed to eat anyway." She looked at her daughter. "Are you going to babysit tomorrow?"
"I doubt he's going to let Eric out of his sight," she pointed out. "I wouldn't."
"Me either. He'll be with him or in his backpack all day," Eric agreed.
"I can't believe someone would hurt them. They seem like nice women," his father offered.
"It was her sister's boyfriend, poppa," Eric told him, staring him down. "Taylor's sister doesn't like the fact that she's gay. She had him beat them both and the dog."
He shuddered. "I can see a mild protest but that is too far."
"I'll keep that in mind if I ever steal Speed from Calleigh." He looked at Marisol. "I'm heading home. Need a ride?" She nodded, going to gather everything up. "Thanks, momma." He walked out, heading home with his sister.
"He was kidding," his mother assured her frowning husband. "They're only friends. He sees too many women for him to be gay."
Her husband snorted and went back to his study to think. Maybe he was wrong about some things.
Xander woke up to a gentle shake, finding his mate standing beside the bed dressed. "Let me get up."
"Di woke up an hour ago. They're doing tests. They think Taylor will today." Xander smiled and hugged him. "Get dressed and I'll drive you in." He got a nod and Xander climbed out of bed, heading for the bathroom. "Want the black jeans?"
"Please, and the blue shirt." He came out and found underwear and everything laid out for him, giving his husband a smile. "Thank you."
"Welcome. It makes it go faster." He stole a kiss before heading to the coffeepot. Xander came out pulling on his shirt, finding his son snuggled up with the dog. "He climbed out of bed earlier and woke me."
"Awww, poor guy," Xander sighed, coming over to pick his son up. He got a sniffling cuddle. "It's all right. We're going to see mommy." Eric perked up a bit at that. "They said her booboo is getting better." He took his travel mug and another kiss, letting Horatio put his keys and wallet into his pockets, plus his phone. They headed out, him getting the baby settled and letting Horatio drive the hummer in. "Work?" he asked quietly.
"I told Brousard I'd be two hours late so I could take you there. He agreed this was a family thing." He pulled out of the community and onto the street, heading for the hospital. "Taylor's parents should be in later this morning. I've already talked to them when they called me. They were getting ready to leave for the airport." He reached over, stroking his thigh. "Relax. It'll be all right. Di's a tough girl."
"I'm trying to figure out how to bring Eric with me to everything. The blessing's tomorrow night. Melody's got a luncheon two days later that I have to go to since she's my sponsor. Ray thinks he'll throw food at anyone who snarks at me. We have the polo match the day after that. Riding Sunday."
"Willow said they'd watch him both days, mostly because Todd's been bored with his sister. Ryan's still on paternity leave. We could hire a real babysitter or let him go to daycare during the luncheon."
"I don't like the idea of daycare."
Horatio sighed. "It'll help him get along with others, Xander. Besides, I thought you liked the daycare we chose."
"I do, but not right now. It's not going to be good for him to be stuck there while she's in the hospital and he's worrying."
"We'll see. Maybe you can take him and spend the first few hours there? That way you can see he'll be okay?"
"Maybe. If not, I'll get him a suit." He shrugged. "He can ride on my back for the afternoon. I guess." He shrugged as they pulled into the hospital's parking lot and parked. He got out and Eric didn't even try to walk, just held up his arms. Horatio smiled sadly but took his free hand to walk inside with him, going up to the head trauma ward. The doctor was already there. "Good news?" Xander asked hopefully.
"Very good news. There seems to be little cognitive damage in Di's case. She's awake, alert, her brain functions seem to be all right. She knew the date and what her son's name was." He patted Eric on the head. "Your mommy's awake and her booboos are getting a lot better." He looked at Horatio. "Taylor's still out but she's getting closer to coming back around." He smiled at that. "Come on, I'll let you see them." He led them back there, smiling as the baby wiggled to be put on the bed. "Very gently. She's got broken ribs and a bruised stomach."
Xander put the baby on her shoulder as he kissed her on the cheek. "You're going to be okay?" he asked, looking really pitiful.
"I'll be okay," she croaked, looking at her son, who was cuddling in. "I'm all right, Eric. Just some booboos. I'll be fine in a few days and home again." He hugged tighter. She winced but held him as best she could. "Shh, it's all right. Mommy's right here." He looked at her and she stared back. "Will you be good for Daddy Xander and Daddy Horatio?" He nodded. "That's my good boy, Eric." He smiled and hugged her around the throat again. "Yeah, it's all good, baby." She smiled at the couple. "Sorry about not calling."
"We made your apologies to Eric's mom," Horatio assured her.
"His sister was having a cranky day but Eric and Marisol probably both defended you as not being that flaky usually." She smiled at that. "Can you handle him while we check on Taylor?"
"Please. Go tell me how my woman is." They nodded, walking over there with the doctor while she cuddled her son. "Oooh, I want less pain so I can cuddle you properly. Pretty soon it'll hurt less." Eric smiled at her. "Yes, it's going to be okay." He grinned and snuggled in. They fell asleep that way by the time Xander and Horatio got back.
Xander kissed Horatio and sent him off to work while he sat beside Di's bed to watch over them. That's why he saw Taylor's parents and sister get off the elevator. He walked out there, smiling a bit. "Di woke up earlier this morning. They're saying Taylor's probably about to by tonight." Her mother smiled at that. "I'm Xander. She's this way." He led them back into the room, hearing a giggle. "Oops, gotta go get the son." He hurried back, taking him before he could wake his mother up. "Sorry," he told the nurse. "He was napping."
"That's fine. It's good for both of them." She helped him untangle the baby then handed him over. "There you go. Let me check her over."
Xander nodded, walking the baby back. "He was napping with his mom."
Eric looked at Taylor's mother. "Moo?"
"Well, I suppose I do look like a cow in this jacket," she said, giving him a look.
"Sorry, he spent a good few weeks doing nothing but mooing." He looked at his son. "This is Mommy Taylor's mommy and daddy. They came to check on her booboos."
"See mommy!" Eric demanded, pointing at the bed. He walked him around the sister, letting him lean down to kiss her on the cheek. "There, all better," he cooed, just like she did him, then stroked her head. "No more pain."
Xander smiled and sat down with him. "That's very nice of you to kiss the booboos away, Eric. Thank you. I'm sure her mommy appreciates that." His son smiled at the new people, waving shyly, then hiding his face. "Sorry."
"That's all right," the father said. "He's a charming young scamp."
"Yeah, he is. But he's a holy terror with our dog, chases him around all the time." That got a laugh.
"Taylor used to chase ours around too," her mother assured him, looking at her daughter. Her daughter moaned. "You could wake up. You never did wake up easy, Taylor." She blinked at her, then moaned again.
"She's awake!" Xander yelled. The nurses came in to check her over, taking her tube out and all that good stuff. He smiled at Eric. "That was a good kissing the booboos away, little man. Next time I get a booboo you can do mine." Eric snuggled into his arms, watching his mommy be fussed over. "I know, she'd complain about the fussing normally," he whispered, "but this time we'll let her do it." He nodded, wiggling down and over to the new people, tugging on her hand. "Eric."
"You like grandmommy Delko?"
Xander grinned. "One of my husband's coworkers has this loving mother who's watched him a few times, including yesterday. She's jonesing for more grandkids."
"Well, I suppose we are," the grandmother said, picking him up. "You're a big boy, Eric. How old are you?" He held up three fingers. "Three?"
"Two and a half," Xander offered. "He exaggerates to get the pretty women when we go to the beach with Eric and our nephew Ray."
Taylor's father laughed at that. "He's such a scamp."
"Oh, he is, but he still mooed for two weeks straight," Xander assured him. "Then he'd giggle insanely."
"Don't remind me," Taylor complained. "Eric?" He wiggled down and onto her shoulder to cuddle her. "There's my boy," she sighed, hugging him. "Oooh, poor baby, both of us have booboos and you're left to be watched by Daddy Xander, who's probably in full fuss mode."
"Not yet. That's when you get out." She groaned. "Tough." He grinned sweetly. "Dad said that the shop wasn't too ripped up. Just some in the office and some minor stuff in the living room."
"I remember hearing Ray, and then a fight," she admitted.
"Oh, he was waiting there and tried to jump Ray too. Ray kicked his ass and when the cops appeared, kicked him into them so they could capture him."
"I owe Ray a really nice shirt then." She went back to cuddling their son.
"He kissed your booboos better."
"I'm sure that's why I woke up," Taylor said, smiling at him. "Thank you, little man. I needed them kissed better." He smiled and kissed her again, petting her. "See, I already feel better. How's Di?"
"About two rooms down," Xander offered, pointing the direction. "Asleep but she's woken up already. Eric was helping her nap."
"Oh, good." She smiled at her parents. "Hi. Well, you wanted to meet Di, but probably not like this."
"No, not like this," her father said, leaning down to hug her.
Xander snuck Eric out of the way and back down to Di's room, finding her awake and trying to watch. "They're being good to her," he promised, sitting down again. Eric wanted back on the bed so he let him. "He kissed her booboos and made her wake up." Eric kissed his mommy's cheek and petted over her bandage.
"I feel better already," she promised, smiling at him. "Maybe you should be a doctor when you grow up, Eric." He snuggled in, content to be loved for now. He'd be a holy terror later. Taylor's parents came in and she waved her free hand. "Hi. Sorry it was like this when we met."
"Just means you can't get away from my nagging questions," the mother said as she walked in, smiling at Eric. "He is certainly loved."
"Oh, he is. Normally he'd be on Daddy like this but sometimes you've just gotta have the mommy." Xander nodded at that. She looked at him. "Horatio?"
"Work. Finishing up this case and a few homicides."
"Does he know who did it?" her father asked. Xander nodded. "He's in jail?" Xander handed over his phone after hitting the speed dial button. He walked off with it. "Sir, this is Taylor Patrick O'Neill. Yes, Taylor's father. I was calling to check on the status of her case. No, she's awake now. Eric kissed her booboos and everything." He smiled. It showed that he cared about their daughter because he asked about her before giving out information. That smile fell away when he heard what had happened, then sighed. "Did she have anything to do with it?" He listened to the 'I'm not sure and we can't prove it' answer. "I understand, son. Are you part of this family grouping?" He held his wife when she came over. "That's fine. We'd like to meet you this afternoon to make sure he goes to jail for this. When is his arraignment?" He nodded. "We can be there. I'm sure your boy knows how to get us to you. Thank you, sir." He hung up and looked at his wife. "That was Xander's husband, Horatio."
"Taylor's told me about him. He runs the local crime lab," she agreed quietly.
He hummed. "He's a nice man. He asked about her before anything else." She smiled at that. "Beth's boyfriend was arrested for this." Her face tightened up and she glared at her daughter. "They can't prove that she had anything to do with it," he offered quietly. "It could be bad taste. You had a run of that before you met me too." The phone in his hand rang so he handed it to a nurse. "Can you give that back to Xander please?" She nodded, going to do that.
Xander walked outside with it. "Hey, Don." He listened. "No, they both woke up this morning. Eric kissed all the booboos better." He looked inside, his son was walking around, making him wince. "They'll be okay. Taylor's sister's boyfriend. Apparently a gay bashing. Taylor's parents are here and they seem pretty cool so far. Yup, he's with me." He smiled. "The blessing is tomorrow night for Liz if you'll be down here. Sure. I planned on that anyway. Thanks, Don. Sure, I will." He hung up and went to capture his son before he went to try his kissing technique on others, going back to Di's room. "Don sends his love and he'll be down tomorrow afternoon because we've got a board meeting Sunday." She smiled at that, nodding slightly. "I'd kiss you but Taylor might get jealous."
"My mommy!" Eric demanded.
"I can kiss her on the cheek just like I do you." He pouted. "Fine." He kissed him then her. "See? Want to see Uncle Don and Uncle Danny?"
"Don't call Stella that," he whined, shaking his head. Di chuckled, holding her ribs. "I know, broken ribs suck, especially when the cute things happen." He grinned at her. "He mooed at her mother, Di." She giggled again and the nurse came in to ease her back onto her back and up her pain killer. "Sorry."
"We heard the moo." She left to check on Taylor as well, giving her some pain killers too. "Your son was being cute. He said someone named Uncle Danny and Uncle Don were coming?"
"The New York group and the board meeting," she agreed, sounding sleepy. "I think I'll nap soon."
"Napping is a good way to heal," her mother agreed, stroking over her hair. "I may not like that you're with a girl, Taylor, but at least you gave me one hell of a grandchild." She smiled at that.
"He mooed at her," her father shared.
"Eric moos a lot. He spent two weeks mooing and then insanely giggling. All night even." That got a smile. "I know, he's payback for when I was ten, right?" Her mother beamed and nodded. "Well, at least he's cute payback and sweet and cuddly most of the time. Just watch out when he gets that grin on his face." She yawned again and let herself drift off. "Go bother Di and Horatio, parents."
"We will be, dear." They walked over to Di's room to spend some time with her, Xander fading off to take his son down to the cafeteria for a snack. Taylor's mother looked at her new daughter-in-law. "We weren't too thrilled about our daughter being a lesbian," she started. "You hear all sorts of bad things. Fortunately we seem to like you and you seem to treat her well."
"I treat her very well and I spoil her rotten."
"Then you're one up on us, Diana, she hates it when we fuss," her father assured her. "Plus, that's one hell of a grandchild we've now got."
She smiled at that. "Xander's husband is having their second child with a friend's sister. You'll probably see Eric and Marisol later tonight. That one'll be just as much ours too." That got a smile from the grandparents. "Try to keep Xander from fussing? He'll go overboard and make himself sick with worry."
"We'll try, dear. We're going to the arraignment as well. That nice Horatio said we could," he assured her. "Should we pass on a message?"
"Take Xander and hand him back to his husband. He's the only one who can stop Xander from fussing."
"I can do that," he agreed. "We'll be in town for a few days so we'll have the time to talk." She nodded, yawning a bit.
"Sleep helps heal those injuries, Diana. You rest," his mother said gently. "We'll take Xander now." She nodded, smiling at that. They watched her fall asleep then went to talk to their daughter first, that needed to be done in more private conditions. The smoking lounge was very good for it. When they were done, they found Xander and Eric nibbling on an apple and took him to help guide them to the courthouse.
Don walked into the house and looked around. "Geeze, guys. Have a party without us?" Xander looked up from the couch, giving him a bleary eyed look. "Kids run you over?" Xander nodded, putting his head back down. "When's the blessing?"
"Seven," he moaned, getting up. "Eric's just now went down. Let me shower." He hugged Don and everyone, then trudged that way. "Watch out for the napping dog. He's hiding under the couch."
Danny looked. "It's okay, the boy's asleep." He got a tired woof and the dog came back out. "We'll take care of the boy. You rest." The dog hopped up onto the end of the couch and fell asleep sprawled right there. "I'm guessing Eric went kinetic to deal with his worry."
"I used ta," Don agreed, going to check on the baby and Xander. Xander was asleep in the shower so he turned it off on him, getting a sleepy complaint. He carried him to the bed and dropped him into it, watching as Xander curled up around Horatio's pillow and got comfortable. "I'll wake you in an hour. It looks like he wore you out too." He went to the kitchen, seeing the mess. "Ooh, looks like someone was cooking." He got to work in there, letting Danny and the others get the living room.
Horatio walked in, finding the clean up in progress. "Did we commit a really bad and evil crime or did the son strike again?" he asked fondly, shutting the door.
"The son struck. Your mate is asleep on the bed," Danny said with a grin. "The dog was hiding when we got here."
"Eric's been a ball of energy since his mother woke up." He went to check on them, kissing Xander gently. "You've got a half an hour, rest." Xander mumbled something and snuggled in deeper. "Good boy, Xander." He changed clothes, checking the time so he could poke him. Xander swatted him. "Xander, you've got to get up so we can go to Liz's blessing. You've got to greet people." He got a sleepy, complaining, but moving mate who wandered toward the closet. "Wear the silk." Xander's hand moved and pulled out a silk print shirt, making him shudder. "Not that one." He changed it out, finding a different shirt for him to wear, then silk pants. That, boxers, socks, and his mate sat down to dress himself, still mostly asleep. When he was done he stumbled out into the living room and snuggled against Stella's side, going back to sleep. "He's hosting it," he explained. He went to get Eric ready, finding him wide awake but unable to get out of his bed. "You have been too hyper all day, my son. It's time to calm down. The dog and the daddy both need a nap." Eric pouted. "That doesn't work on me unless you're your father." He got his clothes switched out and picked him up, keeping control of him.
Danny held up his arms. "Give'm here." Eric got handed over and smiled at him. "Hey, Pumpkin. You miss us?" He nodded. "Well, we're here now and we're gonna help watch you now and then this weekend. Okay?" He beamed at that and nodded again. "Good. Now, let's go visit Toddy's new sister."
"I know she is, but she'll get exciting when she's older," Danny promised, kissing him on the forehead. "Hey, Xander. You wanna ride in the back of the hummer or with us?"
"Hummer. S'larger," he said through a yawn. "Sorry."
"Don't be. It's been a long day," Stella assured him. She smiled. "Besides, I am comfortable to nap on. Mac does it all the time." Mac blushed at that, shaking his head. "You do."
"You are comfortable to nap on," he agreed. He took the baby, earning a pout. "I can't have cuddles?" Eric snuggled into him. "Thanks, Eric." They headed out, gathering the cleaning Don. "You're nesting here?"
"I was nesting at home but everything's clean."
"Someone needs a woman," Danny said dryly. He got the carseat out and took the little one with them. It was only fair, this way Xander could nap on the way to the beach.
Don came off the plane with Eric in his arms, smiling at Sheldon. "Look, Eric. It's Sheldon."
"Montana," he said happily.
Sheldon looked at him. "No, that's her," he said, pointing at the woman beside him. "I'm Sheldon. Can you say Sheldon?"
Eric sniffed him, then grabbed onto his neck to hug. "Smells nice."
Danny grinned. "Yeah, he wears nice aftershave. Let him go, Eric." Eric pouted so Sheldon ended up with him for a few minutes. "Sorry, but Xander's exhausted, Di's still in the hospital. Besides, Don's dad wants grandkids, this way he can see what they'd turn out like beforehand." He smirked.
"See," Stella agreed.
"Hey!" Don complained. "What do you say when you do that?" Don prompted.
"Fart, 'scuse me," he said with a sweet smile.
"Exactly. That's my nephew!" He took him back and smirked at Lindsey. "It's making sure I don't have one for a few more years."
"With the way you've been nesting, you've acted like you're pregnant," Stella complained. "Cleaned, all weekend," she said, taking Sheldon's arm to walk out with him.
"I can't imagine Don being pregnant," Lindsey offered. "Seven months along and trying to chase someone down?" she offered with a giggle.
"Hey! I'd glow and I'd be cute," Don protested.
"Thankfully it's medically impossible," Sheldon offered, looking at Mac. "Or has one of Xander's friends figured out how to do that too?"
"Not that we heard about," he offered. "We have Eric so Xander can rest and recuperate and so can his mommies."
Eric's head popped over Don's shoulder. "Call mommies?"
"When we get to the house," Don promised. He beamed at that. "It'll be about an hour."
"Traffic's a bitch today," Sheldon offered. He watched as Danny and Mac went to get the bags, smiling at that. "So I take it the board meeting went all right?"
"Oh, yeah. The first nine were easily agreed on. The last one came down to three favorites so we reread while we nibbled and considered. It came down to two and Mac decided we should break the ten rule. So we did." He shrugged. "I got drug to the polo match with 'em."
"How was that?" Sheldon asked.
"Like soccer with mallets on horses. We tailgated." Lindsey looked confused. "What's the name of that game they played in the movies _Heathers_?"
"Croquet," Danny told him.
"Yeah, it's that game on horseback but without the little annoying arches. Just goals. It's pretty neat. You bring a picnic, you tailgate, you talk and laugh, then at halftime you go walk around on the field to put the grass back into place. You even get people who come around to clean your shoes in case you step in horse crap." Eric giggled at that. "Yeah, you got to stomp some of that too." He shook his head. "He loved the horses. He pouted when Xander and Horatio went for a ride alone. Anyway, dad's exhausted by fussing over everyone. He nearly fell asleep during Liz's blessing ceremony. Back in a corner so he was out of the way but still nearly did it. Eric's been running everyone down there ragged. Besides, this way my dad quits nagging for kids." He grinned at the sight of his bag on the cart. "Thanks, guys." They continued on. "So, we get the special treatment today?"
"Yup," Sheldon agreed happily. "We're on call. No new cases, last ones closed. We thought we'd save you guys on cab fare."
"That's fine," Mac agreed, smiling at their SUVs when they got to them. "Who's on call today?"
"I am, she is, and you are starting at midnight," Sheldon reminded him. "Then Danny and Stella are due in tomorrow."
"That's fine," Mac agreed, sliding in to drive. Don found the baby seat in their stuff, getting Eric into it. He pouted. "Tough, Eric. You know better." He settled in to look at everything as they drove. "Did you remember to call your boss?"
"Yup. She's still probably swearing at me. I told her I'd do paperwork from home." He smiled as Sheldon got into the front with them. Lindsey, Stella, and Danny got the other one, with Stella driving. "You brought her?" he asked once they were moving.
Sheldon shrugged. "It seemed like the nice thing to do. They're both signed out to the team for the night, Mac. So you can drop us off at the office and head home." Mac glanced at him when they pulled up to the toll booth, paying their ticket. Then he moved on. "I've noticed it, Mac. Even if she hasn't. I'm happy that you three are so cute together."
"Hold on, she caught the three of them together when we had the jerky around. She didn't realize it after that?"
"She thought it was need and stress relief." Sheldon shrugged. "Don't ask me. I knew before then."
"Mac, are you sure she's a good CSI?"
"I'm sure, Don," he said, shaking his head. "Being clueless about personal interaction is a handicap but not that much of one. Danny can be clueless too."
"Point." He checked on the baby, watching him watch the houses go past. "Yeah, that's New York. It's a huge place, huh?" His nephew looked at him and nodded. "That's okay. You'll be with me the whole time and we'll go to the world's biggest toy store so you can find something new for Toddy and Liz."
"Toys?" he asked, leaning closer. "Toys for Eric?"
"Toys for you too," he agreed with a grin. Eric beamed at that. "You can help me pick out something for their holiday presents too."
"Ooh, Santa?" he asked, nearly cooing the name.
"Yup, he comes in a few months," Don promised, smiling at him. "Have you been a good boy?" Eric gave him that same devilish grin. "Maybe he'll make an exception since you're a mini-Xander." Eric let out a wicked chuckle. "That's my nephew." He grinned at Sheldon. "Danny spent the whole flight teaching him to call her Montana."
"I saw the look on her face. She wasn't happy with him," Mac promised, pulling onto one of the bridges. "Okay, we'll hit Don's place first since it's closer. Make sure he's all settled in with Eric for the next few days."
"Then I'm flying back with him and coming back," Don agreed. He pulled out his phone, calling his dad. "Yo, Dad, we're back and I'm babysitting someone tonight. Wanna come over?" He smirked. "I think you'll like Eric." He hung up on the moan. "My dad's having a 'my son is doing girl things' day again apparently."
Sheldon smiled at that. "I guess it happens to the best of us." He smiled at Eric, who was staring in awe at the buildings. "Yeah, we went for really big ones instead of shiny like in Miami."
"Huge, giant, houses," Eric said, pointing. "Wow."
"Yeah, huge, giant houses," Don agreed, smiling at him and smoothing down his hair. "We've gotta get you a trim too, Eric. Plus a jacket." He caught Sheldon's grin. "Not like I've got one ta spoil," he defended.
"It's cute seeing you as the doting uncle. You're going to have spoiled kids when you're the father."
"Of course. It'll be the only way my kids won't end up being mini-Xander's too." Mac laughed at that. "Go right, Mac. They've been doing the sidewalk again. It's harder to get into the parking garage from this side." Mac nodded, heading around the block so they could pull into the garage and park. Don got his bag, letting Mac get the baby and carseat, heading up to his apartment. He walked in and sighed. "Ah, home!"
Mac let Eric out and down, watching as he walked over to the windows to stare outside. "Don't worry, you'll be back in Miami soon, Eric. Just let your daddy have a nap first." He got a glance but Eric went back to watching the city.
Don grinned. "Maybe he'll follow us into the labs?" He went into the kitchen, opening the fridge. "I've got milk, maybe, soda, beer, and water. Anyone want something?"
"I'll take a water," Sheldon offered, going to let the others in. "Hey."
"This is nice," Lindsey said, looking around.
"It should be for what I pay for rent," Don admitted, handing him and Stella waters, and Danny a soda. "I got water and soda, Monroe, Mac?"
"I'm good," he promised, smiling at Eric. He came over to pull Stella back to sit and watch with him so he could have her lap.
Danny watched, then looked at Mac, leaning next to his ear. "If you wanted, talk to her tonight," he whispered. "Get her while she's still in soft and cuddly mode, Mac. I won't mind." He sat down and looked at Don. "Isn't this the one you inherited?"
"It is," he agreed, coming out. "Still have to pay yearly taxes. It's a nice condo." He sat down, getting comfortable. "The one in Miami is larger, but this one is more homey."
"It is," Danny agreed, grinning at him. "Plus it's got all your game stuff."
"Well, yeah," he agreed with a smirk. Someone tapped on the door. "Someone get that." Lindsey did that. He nodded at the security guard. "Hey, we're back."
"And I see you brought a new friend," he said, looking at the baby.
Don grinned. "His mom's in the hospital and his dad's tired. He's worn himself out fussing so I'm sitting for the next few days."
"That's fine," he agreed happily. "The two SUV's?" Don pointed at Mac. "Also fine. Any other visitors tonight, sir? Oh, and the Martez's on four are having a party tonight to celebrate their daughter's birthday."
"That's fine. I don't ever hear any noise from anyone. My dad might be up." He finished his water. "Sorry, long flight from Miami."
"I can imagine. I'll make note of that. Have a good night, sir." He left, going to make notes on the security forms.
Don looked at Stella. "You parked in the wrong spot?"
"Yeah, your other one was full of a Mercedes."
"That's fine. It's got PD tags." He shrugged.
Sheldon looked at him. "Can I look around?"
"Sure, go ahead." He and Lindsey both got up to look around. "Don't touch my x-box if it's on. I have a game on pause I think."
"Sure, Don," Sheldon agreed, smiling at that.
Don turned on his stereo with the remote, turning it to a quieter station than it had been on, getting a look from Danny and a grin. "What? I was packing and cleaning to it. Eric got me hooked. I still can't dance like him."
"Neither can I," Danny offered. "I've got passion and fire, but not like that." Stella snorted. "Hey, no comments from the peanut gallery."
"If you're doing more than cuddling, you're sleeping on the couch tonight, Danny. I'm still sore."
He grinned back at her. "Always happy to serve, Stella."
"Man, Delilah thought I was bad," Don snorted, shaking his head. He got up to get another bottle of water. "Mac, you sure?"
"I'll take a water, Don."
"Does this mean you're going to be doing more of the social rounds?" Stella asked.
"I might," he admitted, bringing back more bottles of water and handing them out, then going back for his and another soda for Danny. He headed into his bedroom, finding Sheldon admiring the view and Lindsey in his closet. "They're just suits, Monroe." He clapped Sheldon on the back. "It's a pretty view," he agreed quietly. "You should see it after dark."
Sheldon grinned at him. "If that was an offer I'll have to remind you I'm straight."
Don smacked him across the back of the head. "So am I, dumbass." Sheldon laughed at that, nudging him. Don grinned back. "Seriously though, it's stunning at night with all the lights. I turn the recliner around and stare when I wanna think." He pulled Monroe out of his closet and shut the doors, shaking his head when she walked out. Sheldon smirked at that. Don rolled his eyes, letting him go first. He checked his gun then put it up into a drawer that even he had trouble pulling open. It would do for tonight. Eric knew not to touch guns. He headed back out, finding his dad there. "Hey, dad. Want some water or soda?"
"No, that's all right, son. Who is that little one? Yours?"
"No, Xander's. That's our nephew." His father opened his mouth and Don held up a finger. "Xander is family, even by marriage. I don't care if you don't like it and think he's swishy."
"This would be the same Xander who helped defend the OB ward Willow was on?" Danny asked. "The hunting, strong one who needs a nap badly?" Don nodded. "He's only swishy when he's playful."
"Dad only saw him the day he chewed him a new one for riding my ass," Don admitted. "You sure, dad? I've got some decent bottled water."
"No, I'm fine, son." He walked over to look at the boy. "How old are you?"
"Eric is two and a half," Stella offered, looking up at him. "His mom's in the hospital after being bashed. His dad wore himself out with fussing everything into place." That got a nod. "He'll be going home in a few days." She poked Eric, pointing up at him. "That's Uncle Don's daddy."
"Granddaddy?" he asked, looking confused, then at Don, who shrugged.
"I don't mind if you call me that," Don's father promised, squatting down. "It's very nice to meet you, Eric." The boy hugged him. "Thank you."
"He's the only grandkid you're getting for decades, suck it up," Don offered, going back to his couch. "What were you staring at in my closet, Monroe?"
"The leather pants. I can't imagine you in them."
"Oh, we can," Danny said dryly, shaking his head. "Di, Eric's mom, made them for him for the fashion show we did with Xander and them to catch that serial killer." He sipped his soda, shaking his head. "We're both lucky we weren't jumped that night."
"True," Don agreed fondly. "You know, she's not really doing runway shows now. At least not this year. Ray Jr. was pouting about that."
"I figure a young guy like him was using it to pick up girls," Danny agreed.
"I think he gets plenty already," Mac offered dryly. "When he joined Stella and I on the beach while you were with Xander and Horatio at the polo match, he got ten different girls coming up to him to hit on him. He does cute and charming very well."
"Eeh, it means his mom's not gonna have ta nag for him ta get married," Danny offered with a smirk. "At least he's careful."
"He is, very careful," Don agreed. "He dates many but sleeps with very few."
"That's always safer," his father offered. "Any new prospects in your life, son?"
"There was a very nice assistant at the polo match who gave me some play and giggled," he offered, looking back. Eric was in his father's lap now, still staring while they told him about the various buildings. "How's Ma?"
"Doing fine. I'll tell her you're babysitting this little one so she can come fuss. How're you doing work?"
"I'm doing paperwork at home. They wanted me to burn more vacation time so I am." He shrugged. "I didn't take hardly any since I joined."
"I retired with nearly three month's worth," his father admitted.
"I've got about a month's worth of vacation time and six weeks of medical leave. They wanted me to burn at least another week since we're coming to the end of the budget and it's getting tight."
"I understand why," his father agreed, sighing a bit. "That's why your birthday was when it is. Nothing else to do in those days." His son snickered at that. "Seriously." He looked at Eric. "It's hard to believe that the mouthy one is your father, kid."
Eric looked up at him. "Moo?"
"No, no milk in the house," Stella told him. "We'll fix that later." She got a smile for that. "Want some water?"
"No, Don doesn't have a dog yet." Eric pouted. "Talk to him." Eric walked over to pout at his Uncle Don.
"Sorry, kiddo. I'm not here that often. A dog would get really lonely and bored since I'm never at home. It wouldn't be fair to a dog." Eric climbed into his lap, cuddling him. "I was thinking about a turtle or something." Eric shook his head, grimacing. "Madison has one."
"Madison has snake," he said firmly. "Turtles boring."
"Okay, turtles are boring," Don agreed. Danny grinned at that, leaning on Sheldon's arm as he laughed. "They kinda are. They're nice calm pets though." Danny nodded at that. He looked at his nephew. "If I was home more often I'd get a pet. But I'm almost never home."
"I know. But it'd be meaner to make them hang out here all day by themselves and be bored." He patted him on the back. "Make Mac call your mommies." That got a squeal and Mac dialed them, talking quietly before handing the boy the phone and letting him babble at her. "You do that pretty well, Mac."
"I have two nephews I haven't seen in forever," he admitted.
Danny looked at him. "Why not?"
"I haven't been home."
"Why not?" he asked, taking another drink of his soda. "No one said you can't visit, Mac. Should we drug you and stick your ass on a plane like Xander did for Speed?" Mac shook his head. "You sure?" Mac nodded. "Then at least call 'em tonight, make sure they know you're still alive."
"I write my mother all the time."
"Fine, I'll call tonight," Mac promised, patting him on the back of the head. "Better?" Danny nodded. "Thank you for reminding me."
"Not a problem." He looked back at Stella, who was giving them an 'aren't they adorable' look. "Yes, he is," he said with a smirk. She kissed him on the top of the head, coming over to help Eric talk to them. He was mooing again.
Don's father came back as well. "He's very energetic, son."
"That's how he wore out Xander and Xander's new dog." His father laughed. "Seriously. Xander's exhausted."
"I noticed something about that," Danny offered. "Xander didn't eat at the blessing ceremony." Don looked at him. "Horatio came home to dinner and Xander didn't eat with him either."
Don pulled out his phone and called down there. "Has your boy been forgetting to eat, Horatio? Danny thought caught him skipping meals." He nodded. "That makes more sense. Sure." He hung up. "He's been worrying and fussing. Willow said he does that so he's been watching out for it. He's asleep right now."
"Good. He could use it." He shrugged. "It's good that Ray Jr. helps Xander so much but he's been working on his self-defense skills, plus dealing with Eric, plus the foundation stuff, plus all the other stuff. Plus their injuries."
"I have the feeling their copayments are already covered," Stella offered, hanging up the phone after Eric had blown a lot of kisses and handed it over.
"Probably true," Don agreed. "At least they're okay."
"They are," Mac agreed.
"What happened?" Don's father asked.
"His stepmother's sister's boyfriend decided to bash them for being together," Danny offered. "They had a pretty bad set of head injuries."
"They're going to be fine?" Mac nodded. "Good. They've done a good job so far."
"A lot of that is Xander's doing, dad. He spends a lot of time with Eric. He's got him at least three days a week so his mom can work."
"Then he sounds like a good father too," he agreed quietly, looking at his son. "I'm sure when you get around to having one or two, you'll do the same." Don nodded at that, grinning slightly. "Any new girls in your life, son?"
"He's been doing a lot of cleaning though," Danny offered. "We were joking about him being pregnant." Don Sr. moaned at that. "Sorry but it's kinda funny."
"It is, but not a mental image I needed." Eric came over and gave him a hug, taking it away. "Thank you, Eric." He pointed at the windows. "Sure, we'll go look some more." He led him that way, going to help him look.
Don grinned at Stella. It was better than he had gotten as a kid. He was clearly ready for grandkids. "Hey, dad, you know I could adopt one without the mother."
"Son, that's unfair to the child. It takes two parents to calm most of them down and keep up with them."
Danny looked back at him. "It takes six people to handle him. Both fathers, both mothers, Eric Delko and his momma." That got a smile. "He mooed for two weeks straight, didn't even sleep for part of it." Don Sr. chuckled at that. "Kept up the daddy, the mommy, and the Delkos when they watched him while his daddy had chicken pox."
"Some kids are like that," he agreed. "Some of that is the parents not training him."
"Xander's got hyper moments too," Don assured him. "Hey, Eric, can you get me another bottle of water?" He got up and went running into the kitchen, hauling on the door until it came open, then bringing one back with the biggest grin. "Thanks, Eric." He gave him a cuddle. The boy kissed him on the cheek before wiggling down and going back to the window. "Looks like he's comfy now." He popped it open, then looked at it. "I bought lemon water?" He shrugged and drank it anyway. The plane had dried him out.
"We should get home, let you get him fed and down for the night," Mac offered, standing up. The others followed suit, hugging or waving at Don as was their personality.
Don shifted so he could watch both of them. "He's one hell of a kid but I will warn you he'll wear you out. We're going to FAO Schwartz too. He needs to help me find gifts for Toddy and Liz."
"Who are they?"
"Ryan and Willow's kids. Liz was just born last week." He finished that water and put the bottle down. His father looked confused. "Part of the family in Miami. Willow is Xander's best friend since the first day of school. She married one of Horatio's guys. So they're kinda family. Besides, he'll be bored if he doesn't have toys."
"Toys?" Eric said, perking up. "Toys tonight?"
Don smirked. "You're so spoiled. What time is it?" He looked at the clock, then at him. "I'm not sure they're open tonight, Eric. How about tomorrow?" He got pouted at.
"They closed an hour ago, Eric. You can go in the morning," Sr. said calmly. That pitiful pout was turned on him and his insides churned. "How do you do that?" he asked.
"His daddy's worse," Don admitted. He found the phone book and called. "Hey, are you guys still open?" He checked the clock again. "Really? Thanks." He hung up and looked at him. "They're closing in one hour so we can only go get *two* things tonight, Eric. All right? We'll pick up dinner while we're out." Eric squealed and came over to hug him.
"You're going to spoil him, son."
"Yeah, but that's the beauty of being an uncle, dad." He gathered his things and nodded, getting a nod from his father. "You wanna come in with us?"
"Son, he'll go insane. I can't stand that much begging and I've still got to tell your mother he's here." He got them into his car and there, then headed home. It was a long enough drive for the power of the pout to ease off some. "Our son is babysitting and spoiling his nephew," he told her. She gave him an odd look. "You remember hearing about Patrick's will and all that?" She nodded. "Well, Patrick's grandson, Xander, has a son. His mother's are in the hospital and Xander's exhausted so Don's taking the week off to watch him. He's in FAO at the moment." She giggled at that. "He's a hyper little scamp."
"I'll drop by tomorrow afternoon." She kissed him on the cheek. "Is he adorable?"
"He is and he's got the strongest pout. That's why they're in the toystore." She laughed at that, dragging him into the kitchen. "The boy's son is very good."
"Maybe he'll get Don thinking about going back to that nice woman he used to have."
"She went back to her ex."
She frowned. "That's a shame. I had such high hopes for her. It takes a special woman to be the wife of a cop. A very patient one." His father nodded at that, digging into his dinner. "He'll be fine with him tonight?"
"Oh, yeah. He's clearly comfortable with the kid being there. Oh they went to watch polo with the boy's fathers."
"Because they've got to do some society things for the Foundation, dear," he said patiently. "Xander did one while he was up here for a rest."
"Is he fragile?"
"No, but his ex was gaybashed with her new girlfriend. They didn't say it but a lot of stuff's been going on plus he's working with his nephew on his self-defense and stuff. He's worn himself to a nub." He took his plate and dug in. "It's good, thanks."
"Welcome." She sat down across from him. "Maybe he should come back up for a real rest."
"His husband's got him."
"I've never known a man who could mother properly."
"I think you'd be surprised. They were all acting like his boy's got a good grip on his leash. He's one of those CSI that Donny hangs out with. They were all over with him." He ate another bite. "That one girl was really good with the boy. Taylor was giving her a lot of long looks too, so maybe they'll have a wedding soon." She smiled at that. "They'll be fine. Call him later tonight or tomorrow to see when a good time to go fuss is." She nodded, going to do that.
Don handed back the baby. "He was very good and he's very tired. We went all around the city. Spent some time in the various ethnic areas. He liked the Buddhist monks we ran into and hugged one, getting a smile and a flower. He loved the Greek food we took Stella out to. He laughed at the break dancers." Xander grinned at that. "He got to see me bust two guys who tried to mug us. He clapped at my magnificence." Xander giggled at that and Horatio moaned. "He was on my back that day. They were dumb. Huh, Eric? The crooks were really dumb to try ta take my wallet with you there." Eric giggled and nodded, hugging his father. "How's Di?"
"Good," Xander agreed. "Home tomorrow. She's already demanded that the baby's coming home."
"That's because you're just now getting back to your bouncy self," Horatio reminded him. He shook his head. "He was worried about the Watchers coming after them again and them. I finally got him to admit it and rest last night."
"You're not fine." He looked at Don again. "Did he talk you into a dog?"
"No, but we compromised and I ended up getting a longhaired cat." Eric beamed at that. "He named it City." Xander grinned at that. "How's the pound thing?"
"He's still going to help," Horatio admitted tiredly. Xander had nearly passed out helping the day before. He gave Xander a cuddle. "They've found homes for most of them and are working on the rebuilding plans."
"Gibbs' friend did come down for that dobie," Xander told him.
"They had one that was really badly hurt. The owners trained him wrong and he was scared and ready to attack the electronic sounds. I told him about it when I went to see him and he said he knew someone who could help retrain and calm him down."
"Good. I know Madison's still talking about all the animals." Xander smiled at that. He smoothed over his hair, then Eric's hair. "I see someone got a haircut."
"Someone else needs one," Don teased, running a hand through Xander's hair. He noticed the flinch and knew Horatio felt it. "Who is it this time?"
"Some little brat," he sighed. "She thinks we can hide each other's bad habits. I told her I'm comfortably out and in love, I wasn't leaving. She's been getting pushy and trying to discredit Horatio among the others. Melody smacked her the other day for her comments. Told her everyone already knew she was gay." He shrugged. "They're working on it now with me." He looked at Horatio. "She's not a stalker."
"No but she's clearly upsetting you." He took a kiss. "We're going to the dinner tonight together." Xander nodded, snuggling into his arms. "Don, did you want to join us?"
"Nah, I'll probably slap the bitch myself if I did," he said dryly. "Think I could borrow Speed or Eric to go out tonight?"
"I think you could try Speed. Eric's on a date," Horatio offered. Don went to make the call, getting a happy response. He looked at his mate. "Anyone else?"
"A bit of social sniping about the times I bring Marisol and Stella with me. I told them Marisol was like my own sister and Stella was too. She didn't like it. I told her I didn't care and walked away. So now I've made an enemy, and she's middle of the pack for power and influence."
"That's fine, Xander."
"It's your boss's wife."
Horatio smirked at that. "I heard about your fight. He called it a tiff and I pointed out that work occasionally kept me from escorting you. That bringing Marisol or another member of the family was totally acceptable to me. That it gave you someone to talk to when the boring people came up to you since you don't hang out with the other rich kids your age." He petted him gently. "He agreed it was a good idea and assured me his wife was going to start behaving. Then again, he thinks Marisol is cute."
"He's still married and her mother is one scary woman if he tried anything." He took his hand to hold. "I'm sorry I'm worrying."
"You're allowed. You don't want the Foundation to look bad. I still think you're doing an amazing job, Xander." He kissed him again and his boy finally relaxed against him. "Anyone else?"
"A new present showed up," he admitted quietly, looking at him. "I don't know from who."
"Neither do I yet. We're working on it. Leave it to us, Xander." He took another kiss, then nuzzled Eric's head when he got poked. "I love you too, Eric."
"Will be getting you tomorrow," he promised. Eric beamed at that. "Would you like to go out with us tonight?"
"I get funny looks when I bring him," Xander said sheepishly.
"I don't care. It's a charity dinner for the children's hospital. I think he should come with us. The same as I think Marisol should."
Xander beamed at that, calling Melody. "Do you think it'd be okay if we bring Eric and Marisol with us tonight? No, Horatio's coming. He wanted the family there." He grinned. "Well, they did help Madison, Melody. Of course. Thank you." He hung up. "She said it'd be fine. They're running a bit short of acceptances this year. She'll make sure and call us back in a few." He snuggled in, just cuddling for now, his son content to be back with them. Don came back out with a sandwich. "Thank you for babysitting, Don."
"Not a problem, Xander. He charmed my parents and my mother agreed, if I had kids, he'd better turn out like him. Ran my father ragged in the park. Petted some horses. We ran into a few of the mounted officers and he cooed at them."
"Funny pants," Eric agreed. He yawned. "Horsies nice."
"They are," Xander agreed, smiling at him. The phone rang and Don got it.
"Xander's house." He listened. "Sure, I'll tell him, Melody. Yup, this is him." He smirked. "No, I'm going to partake of the other party circle tonight with Speed and a few others. There is?" He looked at Xander. "Are you going to the polo match tomorrow?" Xander shrugged, looking at Horatio.
"I'm on tomorrow but you can go," he promised.
"Horatio said we could go," Don agreed. "Sure, I'll be there." He hung up. "We're on, it's at one at the country club out by Star Island." Xander nodded, he knew that place. "Will we have a problem getting in?"
"Nope. They offered me membership," Xander admitted. He looked at Horatio. "I said I'd talk to you about that sometime when we had a minute."
Speed walked in and turned on the tv, then pointed at it. "Who was she?" he asked Xander.
Xander watched the entertainment anchor go off on how a matron had cut her children out of her will and left it to him. "Huh." Her picture flashed. "That's Evangeline. Her daughter's a whore and uses meth. She cut her out of the family two years ago when she refused to get clean." He called Melody back. "Evangeline died?" He groaned. "It's all over the news, Melody." He sighed. "Thanks, dear." He hung up and snuggled in tighter, shrugging at the odd looks. "Don't ask me. She thought I was cute with Horatio and Eric when she saw him before he went to New York. I have *no* clue. I'm sure I'll find out tonight."
"We've got to get Marisol ready," Don noted, grinning at Speed. "We still on?" He nodded. "Cool. Let me go get my bag. Horatio, want me here or the condo?"
"You can have our spare room, Don," he promised. "Less chance of the press pouncing you here." Ray Jr. walked in and he looked at him, watching as he walked in and leaned down to whisper in Xander's ear, getting a nod. "Ray."
"Hi, Uncle H. That's why she said, Xander. It also said it was more worthy of you to get it instead of her drug using daughter. She put it in the will." He shrugged. "Am I going to the dinner tonight with you or not? If not, I've got Geometry homework."
"Up to you," Don told him. "Melody said Marisol and Eric could go."
Xander looked back at him. "Get Marisol ready and see if Suzie will let Madison come too. She told Melody that she had been sick so I'm sure they all know by now."
"No, bad idea," Horatio told him firmly, giving him a squeeze. "We want to keep her quiet, Xander."
"Fine." Ray nodded, going to call Marisol and make sure she could get ready in time. Xander sighed as he got up, heading into the bedroom. "Come on, son, let's get pretty." Eric squealed in delight. He liked to dress up with the daddy. "Horatio, I'm laying out your tux."
"Xander, it's not a formal event," Ray called. "Wear your gray suit. Melody said so."
"Sure." He laid out that and his son's coordinating one, then Horatio's dark blue one that he had gotten him for their anniversary, taking the baby to go spoil himself in the bathroom for now. Horatio came in to join them, and it was all good.
Xander smiled at Marisol as she got out of the car he had sent to get her, taking her hand to kiss. "You look wonderful."
"Taylor made it for me," she said happily, turning so he could look her over fully. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome." He smiled at her. "Okay, do you want front and breaking the press or rear?"
"I'll take your free side," she decided. They got into the car Xander had hired and let him drive them the last block, getting out with Horatio first, then Xander and Eric, then they helped her out. She smiled at the press people, taking Xander's other arm to walk with him.
"Xander, who's this?" someone called.
He looked at her. "This is Marisol. She's a very good friend and is like a sister to us both."
Horatio smiled at her, getting a nod. "She's also the mother of our second child. She's giving us the greatest gift." He kissed her hand and she beamed at him. He looked at the press people. "May we pass?" They got out of the way. He walked his family inside, finding Melody once Xander had paid for their tickets. Using cash. He gave him a look and got a shrug. "Forgot the other wallet?" he teased.
"Ray confiscated my credit card again. He took it to find our present to his mom." He walked them inside and up to Melody. "Hi." He kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you for warning Ray."
"I didn't, dear. Isabel did." She pointed at her. "Where is Ray?"
"Geometry." She giggled at that and waved Isabel over. "Isabel, I hear thanks are in order for the timely warning. Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek.
"It's not a problem, Xander. That was a big shock to all of us."
"I nearly passed out," he agreed, shrugging. "I have no idea where that came from." He smiled at Marisol. "Have you been formally introduced to Marisol? She's like a sister to us and she's giving us the greatest gift of our second child."
Isabel smiled at her. "That's wonderful, dear." She kissed her on the cheek. "You do look radiant and happy."
"Xander spoils me horribly." The women laughed and nodded. "Then again, Eric there just spent a week with his Uncle Don." Eric smirked at her. "Were you a good boy?"
"Toys," he said happily.
"Don took him to FAO Schwartz," Xander said with a grin. "They went all over the city together. He even got to help Uncle Don bust a few muggers." They giggled and took the baby to cuddle before handing him back.
"You three look adorable," Isabel promised. "Nearly as nice as Marisol does. You three can sit at our table, dears." She led them that way, smiling when a high chair materialized. "No Ray tonight?"
"Geometry homework," Xander admitted. "His mom's back onto his grades." She nodded, understanding that. "He's not sure what he wants to do for college. He was thinking about following Horatio but now he's thinking about staying my assistant."
"Being an assistant is like being a bridesmaid for life," Isabel's daughter told them as she joined them. "No Ray?"
"Then I'll see him at school tomorrow," she agreed happily. "I heard you had to hit the bank."
"I did. Ray's got my credit card so he can pick up our joint present to his mother." That got a smile. "That's okay, I had it laying in the safety deposit box. Horatio doesn't like that so it's a good compromise." He smiled and kissed his husband, making him smile back. "Relax. Your boss is across the room with his wife."
"I should say hello," he said quietly. "Excuse me, ladies." He walked that way.
Xander leaned closer. "He's so worried about the brats who keep hitting on me," he shared. "Especially that one."
"I'd worry too," Isabel's daughter agreed. She smiled at Marisol. "I hope I can look as good when I have my children some year." Marisol smiled and blushed. "We adore the fact that Xander doesn't come alone anymore. Ignore the petty people who are jealous because you're prettier and more spoiled than they've ever been. Being that close to Xander is a special thing." She sat down, smiling at Eric. "Hi, Eric." He waved and grinned. "How was New York?" He babbled about the city and all he had seen, making everyone around them smile. Horatio came back. "How is the new Chief?"
"Good. Tired. He had meetings all day." He sat down again, smoothing down Eric's hair. "Uncle Don had your hair cut a bit too short. It's sticking up again."
Eric smiled at him. "Pretty?"
"Yes, you're very pretty, Eric." He beamed at that.
"When is his mother getting out, Xander?" Isabel asked.
"Tomorrow. They both get to go home then and she's demanded I hand the son over immediately. She's missed spoiling him." That got some knowing looks. "She was amused that Don took him home to show him off to his parents too." That got a laugh from Marisol. "How's your mom?"
"She's doing good. She wondered why you haven't called."
"I spent all this week asleep." He yawned. "I wore myself out fussing."
"That's what Eric told her after you collapsed at the pound." She patted him on the hand. "You need to take better care of yourself." She smiled at the couple coming over. "Chief Brousard."
"Marisol. How is your brother?"
"Doing well. He's on a date tonight, finally." That got a few laughs from Isabel's daughter. "My mother is pushing for another daughter soon."
"I know that feeling," Isabel admitted, looking at her own daughter. "I do wish you'd date someone nicer, like Ray." She smiled at the chief. "Did you hear the wonderful news, Chief Brousard? Marisol is giving them a second child."
"I hadn't heard more than the rumors," he admitted, kissing Marisol's hand. "Congratulations. You as well, Horatio and Xander. I'm sure Eric will make a great big brother."
"He does a good job with Ryan Wolfe's kids," Xander agreed happily. "Lots and lots of practice." That got a laugh from his wife. "He started out trying to take Toddy from his parents. Liz is the same way, even though he can't make her play yet."
The Chief's wife smiled at Horatio. "So, will we see you more often?"
"As work allows. Unfortunately Miami never closes and crime still happens around the clock. Xander is very patient with my hours." She nodded, accepting that. "Which is why I like him bringing Marisol and Ray, or Stella in New York. It gives him someone to go back to when he's tired and someone to watch his back." He looked at her and she inclined her head gently. He smiled at his boss. "I finished that paperwork and forwarded it earlier."
"That's fine, Horatio. I'm sure my assistant can handle it so I don't have to. Will you need any time off to deal with this will?"
"Hopefully not. If so, I'll switch my days off. I shouldn't have to take any vacation time."
Xander put a hand on his. "I would like to steal him for a week late July or early August, Chief. Would that be okay?"
"He's got the time and you do look tired, Xander."
"He's fussed himself into too many naps," Marisol agreed quietly. "He nearly passed out helping at the pound."
"I heard. I'm glad he's okay and it's settled." Eric tugged on his hand. "Yes, young man?" Eric held up his cup. "Ask your fathers. I'm not the waiter."
"That's all right, Eric. You'll learn who we are by sight soon enough I'm sure." He smiled and stroked over his hair. "Did you have fun on your vacation?" He beamed and nodded. "Then I'm happy for you. We'll let you talk about this new development."
"It was a shock to me," Xander admitted. "And the press pounced us." He pouted slightly. "I'm glad we live behind gates now." Horatio nodded that he agreed. He squeezed Marisol's hand as their tormentor came over. "Amanda." He smiled at Horatio. "Dear, this is Amanda DuPruis."
"Charmed," he said, standing up to shake her hand. "Horatio Caine."
"He's one of our finest Captains," the Chief agreed, smiling at Amanda. "Did you hear that Marisol is giving them their second child?"
"I hadn't. Congratulations." She smiled at Eric. "I see you came as well."
"We're all very strong in our support of the Children's Hospital," Xander told her quietly. "We've had to have family treated there." Horatio looked at him. "Toddy had to go too for his ears. Eric sees the specialist there about his eye."
"They do," he agreed calmly. He kissed his hand, then held it on his lap. "You've always been very generous to the hospital, Xander. I like that." Xander smiled at that. He smiled at his boss. "Before you ask, she's still in remission and is doing just fine."
"That's good to know, Horatio. She's a sweet little girl." He clapped him on the back. "We're going to see the other side of the room. Don't forget the planning meeting about the drug taskforce." Horatio nodded so he walked his wife off, Amanda following.
"Sorry," Xander said quietly.
"It's still protecting her," he promised. "It's all right." He kissed his hand again. Isabel's daughter sighed, making him smile at her. "Some day you'll find a nice man who treats you as well as I treat him."
"I hope so. Do you, um, think Ray would mind if I asked him out? I know he's a bit of a playboy."
"He said it's stress relief until he can find a real woman to be with," Marisol assured her quietly. She smiled at that. "Try to help him with his history homework. He was complaining to my brother Eric about it recently."
"I remember your brother's photos in the catalog," she admitted with a blush.
"My mother calls him a slut," she shared, making her giggle and Isabel hide it behind her napkin. "That's why Momma is so anxious to have a new daughter-in-law." Xander nodded, earning more giggles.
Xander waved a waiter over. "Can we have some water and some for the son as well?" he requested. "Just ice." He nodded, going to get that for them, bringing back an extra glass for Eric's cup. Xander smiled and tipped him, getting a smile back. He fixed his son's cup and handed it to him. "Don't spill it." Eric sipped. Then he giggled.
"Fart. 'Scuse me."
Isabel looked at him. "I know that wasn't you who taught him that, Xander."
"No, that was Uncle Don. You don't have to announce it son, just excuse yourself," he told him. Eric nodded, beaming at that. "Only announce it to the dog at home."
"Okay." He sipped again.
"We've got to check his diet," Horatio sighed, shaking his head. "Sorry about that. He's only two."
"That's fine, Horatio. At least he apologized," Isabel's daughter said, patting him on the wrist. "That's better manners than my soon to be ex-boyfriend." He smiled at that. "He tried to blame one on my dog."
Xander snorted. "Frat boy?" She nodded. "You can do so much better, Candace. You're a smart and attractive young woman with taste and skills. He'll only drag you into the same crew that Paris and them run in."
"Which is nice but I'd hate to be that hunted," she agreed. She sipped her drink. Her mother looked at her. "I don't mind being quietly famous, mother, but not hunted like her. They went through her *trash* for things. They track her cycle."
"True. That would be a bad thing." She kissed her on the cheek. "If you wanted to try to date Ray, I wouldn't mind. He's a nice, polite young man with a bright future. No matter which path he takes." She smiled at Horatio. "It's clear he takes after you."
"Myself and his mother," he agreed.
"Every now and then he likes to dress up like Horatio and pose just like him to fluster her or make her laugh," Xander shared, earning a smile. "Scared her the first time. She nearly cried." Marisol giggled at that. "Seriously, in the office at work." She pointed discreetly and they all looked, then groaned. "That poor girl. Someone should save her from the drunken lech." He got up and walked over there, smiling at her. "Tamara, love," he said, pulling her away, earning a smile. "How are you? I missed you while I was helping the pound rebuild, dear. Did you go to the adoption fair? I know there was one dog that Madison and I dressed up specially for you."
"Who're you?" the man demanded.
Xander looked at him. "Someone less rude. Do you think perhaps you should zip it up and go straighten yourself out?" he suggested quietly. "You're embarrassing her." The man made a grab for him so he applied pressure to his shoulder, looking like he was catching him as he stumbled. "You're hanging out of your pants and it's pitiful," he said in his ear. "Go clean yourself up before you embarrass everyone." He let him go and he stumbled off. He led Tamara off. "I'm so sorry he was rude, dear." He led her back to her friends. "Ladies. I return her back to your safety."
"Thank you, Xander. He was horrible," she protested, kissing him on the cheek. "He made him zip himself back up as well." The girls all smiled at him. "Who is the young woman you brought?"
"Marisol. She's Eric Delko's sister. He works with Horatio and she's kinda like an adopted sister to me. Especially since she's giving Horatio our second child." That got some squeals and they led him back there to hug and congratulate them. Xander sat down and took the hand sanitizer from Isabel to do his hands. "Thank you, Isabel. I can't abide by drunks."
"I understand, Xander." She tucked the bottle back into her purse. "Ladies, less fussing," she chided. "I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of Marisol since she and Xander are like siblings." They smiled and headed back to their tables. "Sorry, Marisol."
"No, it's all right. I'm used to being fussed over thanks to Xander. He sent me to the spa yesterday and told them to do whatever I wanted." That got a smile. "He's very sweet."
The Chief came back. "Nice moves, Xander. Thank you."
"Not a problem, Chief. I loathe drunks," he said quietly, looking up at him. That got a smile and a nod. "Besides, he was hanging out. That's disgracing the women around him who had to look at him." That got a smile from his wife. "It is."
"It is," she agreed, walking him off. "I'll see you at the polo match tomorrow?"
"We hope so," Xander agreed happily.
"What is polo?" Marisol asked.
"It's like croquet without the little arches, only it's played on horses and you get to tailgate," Xander told her. "We're bringing Don."
"Don's very sweet," she agreed with a light blush. Xander gave her a look and she shrugged lightly. "He is."
"He is." He smiled and nodded slightly, giving her his permission to try her hand at snagging Don. She smiled at that, blushing again. He smiled at Isabel. "I think Don could use a sponsor now and then. He's still worried about how it'll impact him at work."
"I understand his concerns and I'll talk with him tomorrow, Xander. There's a few matrons up there who would *adore* having him around more often. If only so they can look at his coworkers." Marisol giggled at that. "Seriously."
Xander nodded. "Stella and I got asked a lot about Mac and Danny. There were plenty of people who registered their interest to be the creamy filling between Mac and Danny, or Mac and Don, or Danny and Sid Hammerback, their ME. A few who wanted Sheldon and Danny or Sheldon and Mac too." She blushed at that. "They're all very pretty and Stella blushed about half the night." He winked at her. "I get asked about Eric all the time and if he's dating. A few wanted to know about Timmy too. One very nice young woman wanted introduced to Calleigh." She blushed brighter. "Really."
"You're so bad," she chided, swatting him on the arm. "Behave, Xander."
"He is," Isabel assured her. "This is the Xander we're used to." They heard the shot and sighed, looking at Horatio. He walked that way with his boss, going to take care of the situation. "Well, he's even made sure you stay behind, Xander. I'm impressed."
"Horatio likes to protect me. We worked it out. He does the hard stuff and I'm the wall he crushes people against if necessary." He looked up as someone came in and got up. "Excuse me. Watch the son please." He walked over there, casually tripping the person and knocking his gun out of his hand. "Hi. Are you terminally stupid?" The man started to babble. "I'm not the one you have to justify yourself to, but if you don't quit, it's going to be God himself." He quit and laid still. "Thank you." He took his hood off. "Ah, the valet. Dear?" He came in and got that one too, and the gun. "He's babbling already."
"I'll tell them to talk to him first, Xander." He took a kiss. "Nice work. Now go sit down." Xander nodded, going back there, stopping to get another bottle of water for himself. Horatio smiled as he took them out to hand over to the patrol units.
"Would he join the department?"
"Originally he was going to be our profiler but the Foundation takes up most of his time. He helps us when we need it," he assured him. "I don't want him being an officer."
"I understand." He handed over his last one. "There. Let's get cleaned up and go back to our spouses. Before mine worry." Horatio nodded, going to do the same thing. It was another day in Xander's Miami.
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