Animals in Miami.

Xander looked up from his reading as the suite's door opened, grinning at his cohorts.  "Hi, guys.  Good thing the convention was right after the mess with the auction, huh?"  He got up to give hugs.  He grinned at Eric.  "I'm sorry they're still calling you Pookie."  He had called Eric that on a scene after a long, sleepless night and the officers had spread it around.  "You can tell them I rescinded your cute name privileges if it helps."

"It won't," he complained, flopping down.  "This is nice."

"Thank you," Xander said modestly, smiling at them.  "The department was only going to give you guys thirty a night for rooms."

Speed shuddered.  "The rooms in this place start at one-twenty," he complained.   He sat down and pulled Calleigh down next to him.  They didn't have to hide among the family.

"Yeah, but the Chief said you guys could make up the rest," he said fondly, smirking at his mate.  "Then he looked right at me and suggested I could make up the difference as well."

"Thank you, Xander," Calleigh said with a sweet smile.  He pointed at Horatio.  "You paid for it, Horatio?"  He nodded.  "Wow.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He looked at his mate, then sat down, letting him curl up in his lap.  "What did you do earlier?"

"I went down to register the whole group.  Where's Ryan and Willow?"

"Down in the restaurant having lunch with the cranky ones," Speed offered.  "Toddy and Eric both came."  Xander beamed at that. "The hotel has babysitters, right?"

"Of course.  Bonded and background checked, I already asked for Toddy."  He smiled at his mate, taking a kiss.  It had been two weeks since they'd seen each other.  "Did you miss me?"

"I did.  No one was making a mess at the house," he said, smiling at him and stroking his back.  "Behave."

"I am.  All the convention packets are on the table in front of you.  Your badges are there as well.  Unless Horatio drags me along, I'm not allowed to do anything but the dinners with you guys.  They suggested I could go shopping."  He beamed.  "I told them I've done plenty of that already."  Speed moaned.  "Good shopping.  Birthday and Christmas present shopping.  I'm nearly done except for the new baby and to see if I should buy Marisol a dual present or not."  Eric shrugged. "She's still not sure?"

"Not at the moment.  She's pouting about the missed month though."

"No she's not," Xander said dryly.  "She'll be here for two days at the end of this."  He grinned.  "That'll give her enough time to sightsee too."  He beamed.  "She pouts nearly as well as I do."

"She does," Eric agreed like only a little brother could.  "Any other surprises?"

"Dinner tonight isn't really dinner, it's the greeting snacks thing so I thought we'd either find friends or eat together."

"Either's good," Speed agreed, looking at Calleigh, who smiled back.  "I know you've got some buddies coming."  She nodded.  "Xander, seen Abby yet?"

"I did.  Her boss and Fornell were talking in the lobby about how he hoped they didn't run into me.  She's squealy and bouncy, she wants to talk to me.  Fornell was telling him about the badass asshole he had to deal with over the gay thing, as he called it, and Gibbs asked if he'd seen the stripper son of one of the officers from Miami.  Fornell got the clue that I'm the same guy and told him, making him groan in mental agony."  He looked at Horatio, who grimaced. "She's not going to steal me."

"No, she won't," he agreed firmly, taking a deep kiss.  "What did the suit want?"

"Oooh, strong words from the man who wears one every day," Xander teased, playing with his shirt.

"It's a state of mind," Horatio assured him dryly, smirking at him.  "What did he want, Xander?"

"To apologize greatly for the person who restarted the two things, especially the no-fly classification.  They're apparently very sorry and fired.  He's working to get it rescinded again.  His boss is not amused."

"If I was his boss, I'd be cleaning out the others," Horatio admitted.  "That doesn't usually lead to amusement for me either.  It will be fixed?"

"Yup. Or else I'm driving down."  He snuggled in again.  "Why did Eric come up?"

"His mommy's got a hot new chick," Eric said, smirking at him.  "They wanted some time alone."

"She doesn't like him?"

"She adores him, but they wanted the weekend off being mothers.  She wanted to jump her in the workroom on top of the fabric."

"Ah, a good reason," Xander decided, grinning at them.  "That's fine.  Are they having a real lunch?"

"Fussy kids on the plane up," Calleigh assured him.  "Both of them and the mommy."  Xander beamed at that.  "Have we seen Aiden and the guys from New York?"

"I've gotten a text message from her and I heard her squeal Don's name and pounce him when I was getting stuff.  I left them a message telling them we're up here.  They're only two rooms down."

"NYPD, open up," someone called, pounding on the door.

Horatio walked over, pulling out his badge.  "Miami-Dade PD.  They're up the hall."  The cop gave him a confused look.  "What?"

"Sir, we have a message from our Chief," he said, handing it over.  "And from the FBI. They would like to talk to one of your people, a Mr. Harris."

"He's my spouse and he's inside.  They can come up and talk in front of the rest of the family," he said patiently.  That got a nod and the officer ran off.  "Thank you."  He read the note, then snorted.  "Xander, call the front desk and get that first suit up here."

He reached over for the phone, calling over.  "Can you please connect me with DD Fornell?  Yeah, FBI suit guy with Gibbs earlier. Thanks."  He waited through the hold music while they paged him and tried his room.  "It's Harris, your bosses are on their way up.  Why?"  He listened to the splutter.  "We're in the Magnolia suite.  Get up here.  My husband said so."  He hung up and looked at him. "Bad or good?"

"Probably more stupid people," he offered as he came over.  Someone tapped more politely and Speed got up to answer it this time since Horatio looked comfortably cuddled.  He looked at Aiden and nodded her inside with the rest of the New York crew.  "Is anyone working?"

"We're on call," Sheldon said proudly.

"Then again, crime usually falls during conventions.  Not many wanna be so stupid ta get us on our weekend free with our brethren with a city full'a cops," Don said dryly, hugging him.  "Hey, Speed.  Where's Ryan and Willow?"

"Downstairs with the babies.  We're waiting on the FBI to come up and do their thing again."  He let Fornell in when he tapped, then the one after him. "You are?"

"I should ask the same.  Who are all these extra people?"

"My family," Xander said, glaring at him.  "DD Fornell.  Thank you for coming."

"Not a problem.  This sucks."  He looked at his boss.  "I wasn't told you were in town, Director."   He got glared at and glared back. "Mr. Harris, this is my Boss, the Director of the FBI."  Xander waved from his comfortable spot, looking totally blase and like this was nothing special.  "Director, this is Mr. Harris, his husband, Lieutenant Caine of Miami's felony crime lab.  The rest of his family is most of the crime lab and most of Manhattan's crime lab."  He sat down.  "I'm still working on it, Mr. Harris."

"Why should you?"

"Because persecuting me due to my sleeping with my husband and supporting gay men who're going to college is wrong," Xander noted patiently, like he was talking down to him.  Horatio gave him a look.  "You go for it. I'm hoarse from the repeats.  I'm going to tape my next one and just turn it on."

"You came into a great deal of wealth suddenly, young man," the director noted. "You also sold a minor biological weapon to the military."

"Technically, they took it from Ryan Wolfe, who's downstairs.  Yeah, it's what I use to kill roaches when they come in from the beach."  The director glared at that.  "It was an accidental creation since I'm a crap cook."  Fornell coughed at that.  "Want some breath spray?"

"No thank you, I got warned already."  He looked at him.  "I heard something interesting earlier. You're the reason Abby's so happy."  Xander smirked and nodded. "Why?"

"That was before I gave up stripping for Horatio.  She saw my act, liked it, we had some fun, I saw who were watching her.  Gibbs burst into her room, interrupting the first sex I'd had in months, and I let her use me to make them prove they wanted her more."

"Interesting.  I'd like to hear the full story sometime, Harris."

"Ask them."

"I did, I got a no comment from two of them and Gibbs complaining about you as a stripper."

The director cleared his throat. "You're a *stripper*?"

"Was.  I went by the name Darkness down in Miami.  Night and Vex in Montreal for a few months."  He gaped.  Xander smirked.   "Yes, I attract serial killers.  I helped them capture many of them and then Horatio captured my heart and I gave it up for him.  As for my *inheritance*.  That was from my grandfather.  My paternal grandfather.  The same as Detective Flack is his nephew by marriage.  He got some too.  That's where the foundation came from.  Anyone who could read the papers or the court papers or even the gossip column could've told you that."

"This *foundation*," he sneered.  "Does what?"

"Gives scholarship and research grants to gay men," Mac said, staring him down.  He backed off and he shrugged.  "Xander's asked me to sit on the board in case anything military or anyone with prior service comes to us, that way I can evaluate it.  Then again, I have watched over Xander in the past when a serial killer came for him and Horatio's nephew.  We helped them with that situation.  It led to some modeling work for both boys."

"He's how old?" the director demanded.

"Twenty-two," Xander said dryly.  "How old do I look?" he asked Stella.  "I thought I looked really old this morning."

"Not really.  Kinda tired."

"I can't sleep alone anymore."  He glared at the director, making him take a step back. "Thanks to you I've had to bother them when someone tried to kidnap me twice instead of my actual family.  I'm safer in Miami but thanks to you and your narrow mind and the dildo you're wearing at this moment being in wrong, I've been put in danger.  That suit stops when it's all fixed for good.  No sooner.  Also," he said, leaning forward. "I know exactly who sent me shit, Director.  Including two of your other assistant directors."  He paled at that.  "You're playing in my sandbox and I don't like it.  I could care less that you hate yourself for the..."  He looked.  "I'd guess four inch wide one you've got up you," he said, staring back into his eyes.  "Just because you hate yourself for liking it like that doesn't mean everyone does.  If you don't like me because I'm gay, ignore me.  It's not like you can prove I've done anything wrong. I've cooperated with everyone who's ever thought that.  From Horatio's Internal Affair's department on.  They helped me find some of the people who sent me shit."  He got up and walked off, coming out of the bedroom with a velvet box.  "By the way, hand this back to the head of the CIA's covert agency for me and tell him hell no I'm not working for him, especially not as a sex toy."  He blanched further and fled. "It had better be fixed!" he called after him.  "Or else I'm going to have to start fighting back for real!"  He slammed the door and went to calm down.  Someone tapped on the bedroom door.  "Give me ten."

"Nope."  Eric walked in.  "What was that?"

"The truth.  They want me to sex-stun someone so they can get information from them."  He looked at him.  "I'm fucking tired of this.  I'm going home after this. I love New York, but I want to be home."  Eric nodded, leading him back out.  Horatio let him into his lap. "I'm sorry I threw the fit, family.  I just couldn't hold it any longer."

"Not a problem," Fornell admitted. "You're sure he was wearing one?"  Xander looked at him and nodded.  He smirked. "Thank you, son."  He walked off, going to make a few calls.  "Tom, Tobias.  I just watched another round in the Harris fights.  My director came to New York to ask him about being gay.  Which is odd considering Harris says he's taking it himself.  He said he's wearing one at this moment."  He smirked.  "Thank you.  No, I'm staying to watch Gibbs' team.  They're still in danger.  Yeah, he's here. He's married to a lieutenant.  Of course they're here.  His whole family is here, including his son.  Thank you, Tom." He hung up and went to tell Gibbs his horrified problem was here. "Jethro?"  He looked up from his reading the activities board.  "I just ran into Mr. Harris.  He's having some problems with my Director."


"They hate him because he's gay."

"He's gay?" he asked.  Tobias Fornell smirked and nodded.  "Since when?"

"Since his lieutenant captured his heart, his words.  They're married."

"Interesting."  He smirked at him and went to share that good news with Tony.  They hadn't been at the last convention so this worry hadn't come up then.  He found him and Abby browsing the sale tables.  "I heard something about someone Abby wants to see."  Tony tensed up.  "He and his husband are here with most of their family."

Abby looked at him. "Xander's married to a guy?"  He nodded. "Wow.  Who?"

"His lieutenant."

"The hotty redhead?"  Gibbs smirked at that description.  "He's got good taste.  Nice body under those suits of his."  He growled lightly and she beamed. "I still prefer what I've got."  She smiled at Tony, pinching him.  "See, I told you to relax. Now you're all stressed out and no masseuses open probably."

"He'll get his massage, the same as you will," Gibbs said in her ear, making her blush.  "We'll try to meet up with him later tonight, Abby.  Just be careful.  Remember, that person still threatened you."  She nodded, hugging him then moving on.  He smirked at his boy, who shrugged. "Still worried?"

"Not as much.  How did you hear?"

"He's the one Fornell is trying to get free of the bias issues."

"Ah."  He smirked at that.  "Good luck."

"I saw his director going for a quick run like he had his nightstick stuck the wrong way," Gibbs offered quietly.  Tony smirked at that.  "I should call Ducky."

"You should call Ducky anyway.  You know how he worries when we're out of town, boss."  He winked and walked off to help Abby pick up stuff.  He heard a baby's squeal and looked back.  "Holy God, Abby.  Look."  She looked and 'awwed'.  "Is that not the spitting image of that brat?"

"Oh, he's so cute!" she squealed, going over to see him. "Hi."   She knelt in front of him.  "What's your name, cutey?"

"Eric."  He sucked on his finger for a minute, looking at her, then he carefully moved closer and hugged her chest, smooshing his head.  "Pretty and nice."  He cuddled in, letting her pick him up.

"Eric!" a guy yelled.

"He's here," Abby called, grinning at him.  "Hi, Abby Scuito, NCIS."

Ryan stared, then beamed.  "Ryan Wolfe, CSI, Miami.  I work with his second father, Horatio Caine."

"So that is the baby Harris?" Tony asked.  Ryan nodded, smirking at him. "Then you know about her and him....."  Ryan nodded again.  "Where might they be?"

"Upstairs in the Magnolia suite.  Come on up.  Willow, Toddy?"  They waved from the elevators.  "Come on.  It'll be fine."  He led them over there.  "Willow, these are two very nice Feds who Xander played with the last time we took him to a convention."

"And I see the baby Xander found a new fan," she teased.

"Does he always chest dive?" Tony asked.  Willow groaned and nodded, getting on the elevator with their son.  "You've got good taste, Eric," he assured him, getting on after Abby.  He texted the boss, getting back an okay. "McGee's still got the boss's phone.  He'll tell him where we are.  I told him you got adopted by the baby Darkness."

"He'll hopefully never strip like his daddy did," Ryan offered.

"What's he doing now?" Abby asked.

"Running the Patrick Benis foundation."

"Ah," Abby said, nodding wisely.  "I wish him the best of lucking getting out of that without a hacker." She looked at Willow, who shrugged slightly.  "Were I someone like, oh say, Methusela or even VampyBiter, I'd probably hack their system and take out the primary file.  It's what's keeping it going.  All the presents."

"He was a great stripper," Ryan defended.

"Yeah, he got some from some of our guys down there," Tony agreed.  "He got Abby because of that.  Gibbs nearly shot him because he and Abby were having fun."  Ryan laughed at that.  "Seriously.  We burst in there because she was screaming her head off in pleasure."

"The boss hadn't had any in a while then," she defended.  "He couldn't recognize the difference.  He can now."

"Good, that's always a good thing," Willow agreed with a small blush.  She led the way off the elevator, using her card key. "We're here and we brought people the baby Xander adopted."  She let the kid go, watching as he crawled over to have the bigger Eric cuddle him.  Danny tickled him, earning an instant fan too.  She got out of the way, letting Ryan in first.

"Now I know he's your son, he's got your good taste," Don teased. "Hi, Abby."

"Hi."  She smiled and kissed Xander on the cheek.  "I wanted to catch up with you since I heard you were here.  Plus I figured that would be safer than the person who wants to kill me being around because you had some very heavy guards."

"I still do," he promised, taking his son back.  "I like her too, Eric. She's very snuggly."  He kissed him and handed him down the couch to Stella, making him squeal and chest dive happily into hers.

"Hey!" Stella complained, handing him to Mac.  "Not nice, Eric."

"I'm being good," bigger Eric complained.

"You weren't the Eric trying to dive down my shirt."

"I'd offer but you're taken."  She threw a pillow at him, letting him catch it.

"Welcome to our family, we're an odd bunch," Xander told Tony, getting a grin.  He grinned at Abby again. "You're right, we should catch up.  You missed my last performance; it caused a riot and everything."

"Awwww.  I just got told you gave it up for your husband.  Who I'm hoping is the guy you're sitting on.  He looks like I remember him to be."  Horatio nodded, shaking her hand.  "Do you take good care of him?  He deserves someone to take very good care of him."

"I do, I even let him spoil me now and then."

"Good," she agreed happily, hugging them both.  "I'm on the ballistics panel tomorrow, Xander.  You?"

"They won't let me, I'm only a spouse, even though I've got a good hand with them," he noted dryly.  He looked at Calleigh.  Then at Willow.  "Did you remember to do the pickup or should I?"

"You should," she said flatly, walking into the bathroom.

Xander nodded, smiling at Ryan. "It'll be okay."  He nodded, going to chase after her.  He looked at Tony, then at Abby.  "I've got to bring up an exemplar for her."

"That's fine, I don't care.  I don't nark because you're a nice guy and would never hurt anyone who wasn't hurting what's yours."  She grinned at Horatio again, getting a nod.  Xander said a few quiet words and pointed, and a large duffle bag appeared, making Calleigh scramble to get up and get into it.  "Oooh," Abby said, going over to look. "I haven't seen one of those!  Tony, come see!"

Tony smiled.  "Lunch tomorrow?  It's right after her panel."

"Sure.  They'll be lecturing about being in the field."  Horatio groaned at that.  "It's good, baby. You do so good at that of course they want you to teach."  He kissed him, making him a happier man.  "Remember, the owner wants those back, ladies."  Someone pounded on the door and Don got up to get it.  Gibbs walked in.  Xander pointed.  "I had to bring up an exemplar match for Calleigh to use tomorrow."

"That's fine, Mr. Harris."  He smirked at him.  "Should we worry about roving orgies this time?"

"I don't think I'm stripping," he said, looking at Horatio, who shook his head.  "See, I'm not stripping, it's all good."  Gibbs smirked at that. "Abby and I are doing lunch tomorrow."

"That's fine.  I'm not jealous, presently."  He walked over to pull Abby away from the guns.  "You can play tomorrow. You wanted to go shopping today."  She smiled and nodded, helping Tony up so he could go with her.  "Thank you.  We'll see you tomorrow."  He let them out, taking them downstairs so he could show them they were still his and then he'd let them shop after they napped.

Xander grinned at Horatio. "See, no reason to be jealous."

"No, there's not," he agreed, taking a deeper kiss.  Eric crawled over to cuddle between them. "Jealous are we?" he asked dryly, cuddling the baby with him. "He missed you."

"I missed him and I'm going to flame the asshole of the FBI if they don't fix this."  Horatio nodded that he could like that. "I'm coming home after this one way or another, Horatio.  I'm tired of being kidnaped and looked at with pity."

"Monroe said she's sorry about that," Danny offered.  "She's got a broken leg so she's at home."

"I didn't push her down the stairs for her comment about me going back to women fixing that stuff," Xander shot back, looking at him.

"'Scuse me?" Don asked, raising a finger slightly.  "She said what?" he asked with a cruel smirk.

"She told him that if he went back to women it might stop that kidnaping and the presents and stuff," Danny told him. "Either that or he needed to do one really bad turn on the poles to turn them off because once a stripper, always a prostitute."

"That was the second time we ran into each other," Xander agreed. "Where were you lurking?  I never did figure that out."

"I was trailing her because I knew you were in the office and she's got issues with strippers."  Xander rolled his eyes and cuddled his son.  Mac coughed so Danny looked at him. "I told you about the first one and asked you to keep her away from him, Mac."

"I tried," he assured everyone.

"Him and me both," Stella agreed, smiling at Don.  "We kept it from you so you didn't rip her head off and piss down her neck."

"That's an idea," he muttered.  He slumped down some.  "Mac, she tried to insinuate to my girlfriend that I'm gay.  Again."

"I had a talk with her about that too.  This time I'm having an administrative talk with her," he promised, sitting down.  "You okay?"

"Yeah, she knows all about that stuff.  I told her and she saw all the paperwork anyway."

"You're still with Delilah?" Calleigh called over.  "I like her, Don.  She's a nice lady."

"She is," he agreed happily. "She puts up with me and with Xander."  He looked at Horatio.  "The stuff that didn't sell got broken up and put into the safe.  That way he's got a hedge fund in case something happens."

"We don't need it."

"We do, dear. I'm going to need it someday," Xander reminded him, smoothing over his chest.  "Just drop it.  It's not that much," he said quietly, staring into his eyes.  Horatio nodded, leaving it there for now.  Xander knew he'd come back to it when they were alone.  He kissed the top of his son's head.  "Daddy missed you, Eric," he said quietly.

Eric beamed at him.  "Love you too, daddy."  He got down and went to poke Toddy until he was put down so he could play with the only other baby in the room. "Toys!" he demanded.

"Son, you ask, you do not demand," Xander ordered, looking at him.  Eric pouted.   "Apologize."

"Torry.  Toys please?" he asked with Xander's own cute grin.  Xander got up and went into the bedroom, coming out with a big bag.  "TOYS!" he shouted, digging into the bag.

Willow came out of the bathroom, looking at the source of the noise.  "That was loud, Eric," she chided gently.  "Try not to scream."

"Toys," he said, holding one up with a reverent hand.  It was a red fire truck.

She sniffled. "I can see that.  Let's play with the fire truck."  She hugged him, getting down to play with him.

"I knew he'd like that," Xander said, sniffling a bit himself.  Horatio gave him a squeeze.  "I'm okay."  He looked at Ryan, who was staring at him.

"Don't ask, Wolfe, you'll want to revive them and kill them again," Speed offered.  "I still do."  He got down there to play with the baby.  Not that he hadn't at home while Xander had been gone but playing with firetrucks was a guy thing and Willow was many things, but not a guy.

Xander got up and snuck into the bedroom, coming out with a nudge for Ryan and something was handed to him, then he handed Willow something with a nudge.  She looked inside the bag then smiled and took out the toys for Toddy, making him squeal and press on the musical keys.

"Noisy toys," big Eric moaned.  "No noisy toys.  They'll drive you insane!  Xander!"

Xander beamed.  "Every kid should have at least one noisy toy."

"Most of us had the pots and pans," Calleigh agreed, peeking over the back of the couch.  She finished putting up her care package, then hiked it into the room she wanted.  Speed got up to put his bag in there.  All the other adults put their things in their room and came back to play with the kids.  They could be grown ups later.

Ryan looked in his bag and blushed, going to put that in there with their things.  Xander had good taste in big boy toys too.


Xander woke up suddenly, sitting up gasping, looking around the room.  A warm hand came up to stroke his back, a familiar hand.  It cut through the nightmare of being left alone.  He slumped, holding his head, then realized the hand was still going.  He turned, finding Horatio watching him.  "You're still awake?"

"You've been having problems sleeping according to Danny.  I thought it might be nightmares."

"Them, the bed's too cold and big, and I'm alone."  He curled up on his chest, letting him sooth him. "You should rest. You have things to do tomorrow."

"So do you."

"Play with the kids."

"That's one of the most important jobs in the world, Xander.  Never discount it," he offered quietly, going back to stroking him.  "You can rest. I'm still here.  You're not alone. The bed's warm and you're being cuddled."  Xander nodded, closing his eyes and drifting off.  He smiled at the first snore.  Just like his son.  He let himself drift off holding him.  It had been mutual.  Even in Miami, the bed was way too cold.


Horatio walked out of his last panel of the day, looking around.  No husband.  No Speed and no husband.  He looked at Eric, who shrugged.  He knew what he was looking for.  Instead he headed for the desk, going to check the messages.  He found one from Speed.  Then he groaned and went to find Mac, handing it over wordlessly.

"Yeah, we've had some problems with her. She wants him to be straight," he admitted, handing it back.  He pulled out his phone, calling Sheldon since he was out on a call.  "Go find Xander, she has him again."  He heard the report and groaned.  "She's got him in handcuffs and is dragging him around to buy him somber, guy-like clothes.  That's the call Sheldon went out on since a kidnaping is a felony."  He hung up.  "He's got the officers around him to rescue your mate now."  He grinned. "Sheldon said he caught sight of him and started to kick up a fit about green being a manly color and he could so wear green."

"Green..." Horatio trailed off.  "She's got weapons, Mac."

He called Sheldon back.  "She's armed and dangerous this time.  Green is a code.  Tell the guys."  He hung up and headed for the front of the hotel, going to take Horatio to retrieve his husband.  Halfway to the car, Sheldon called back.  He answered it and listened, then nodded. "Thank you, Sheldon.  He's safe."  Horatio sighed in relief.  "Sheldon wanted to know what to do with all the crap she bought him."

"Donate it," Horatio sighed, walking off shaking his head.  He turned around.  "How did she get him in a hotel full of officers and how does she know him?"

"She saw him during Di's show and thought it was a shame a virile young man like him is gay, thinks the same thing about your nephew but Xander told her he was straight.  As for how?  I don't know yet."  He went to ask that question of security, who just moaned.

Horatio waited out front for his mate, looking him over when he was drug back. "Uncuff him, Sheldon."

"I can't, the lock's jammed.  I was hoping Stella could."

One of the guys from Vegas coughed and moved over, winking at Xander before he got a nailfile off someone, using the sharp, metal pointed tip to get it undone.  "There you go, Darkness."

"Thanks, Greg, and it's still Xander.  I gave that up for Horatio."  He hugged him.  "Stupid stalker women who wants me to be het," he complained, hugging his husband tightly.  "I'm okay. She was trying to dress me fugly though.  Stiff old guy suits and everything, Horatio.  My stripper side was screaming in agony."  Horatio led him off, taking him to look him over and feed him.

Greg looked at Sheldon, holding out his hand. "Greg Sanders, Vegas.  I did a sweat analysis of him once."

"You ever figure it out?"

"Partially.  We could block it but he'd be totally unattractive and he's worried his boy might complain."

"That's his husband, and they're probably both a bit worried about that.  Can I get your notes?"

"Sure," Greg agreed happily.  "I heard they were coming and I wanted to go over them with Ryan.  Have you seen him?"

"He's hiding with his pregnant wife.  He's being a daddy today since his things are all tomorrow."

"Ah.  Daddyhood is probably good to him."

"It is to Xander.  He's got a son just like him," he shared.  Greg gaped.  "Yeah.  So anything we do now can save him then."

"Agreed," Greg decided.  "You find Ryan, bring him to my room?"

"Sure.  What room?"  Greg wrote down the number and headed off to go gather his notes together.

"Greggo, DNA panel in an hour," Nick called after him.

"I'm going over some pheromone concentrate samples," he called.  "Page me."  He got onto the elevator and headed up to his room to make sure it was a bit more tidy than usual.


Ryan looked up as Speed walked in and handed him the Xander, then took the kids and left.  "Why am I babysitting you?"

"The skanky ho I told Willow about got me earlier."

"Ah."  He grinned.  "The people doing the sweat analysis a few years ago went back over it.  We think we can keep Eric from bursting out into lust."

"He's not going to have the same impetus I did, Ryan."

"Point.  He's still got the urges however.  In case it starts to happen or he starts to broadcast lust, we'll have something ready by then.  Greg from Vegas has been really helpful."

"I know, he got me out of the handcuffs earlier."

Ryan laughed. "Was this the first skanky ho you told Willow about or the second one?"

"Second," he admitted bitterly, slumping down on his chosen seat.  "I've been good.  I don't know what's drawing them."

"Easy, usually Speed and Horatio, and probably Eric and I to a lesser degree, mask you somewhat.  Not all that was about the hyena, Xander.  Some of it has been about your own natural body odor and the chemicals you put out.  That's what Greg, Sheldon, and I have been working on.  In case little Eric breaks out in it."

"That would explain that letter," Xander complained, rubbing both hands over his face.

"What letter?"  Xander froze.  "Xander?  You didn't tell Horatio?"  Xander moaned and looked at him.  "You know keeping this stuff from him is bad.  He'll get mad and go off on someone."

"I thought it was some crank."  He got up to go into their bedroom, coming out with a small box of envelopes.  "With breakfast.  I reported it to Hotel Security and Don."

"Don's in trouble if Horatio finds out," Ryan muttered, reading them.  "Any idea who sent them?"

Xander shook his head.  "He had Stella look over the very first one but she couldn't find anything except from the hotel staff."  He looked over as the door opened, smiling at his mate.  "Hi," he said weakly.

"Tired from earlier?"

"No, but Ryan was telling me how he, Sheldon, and Greg from Las Vegas are working on my body odor problem for Eric's sake.  Then Ryan turned into a nag over some crank letters I've been getting."  Ryan handed over the box and moved out of Horatio's way.  "I told Don and he had Stella look one over.  They thought it was some crank too."

"That's five hundred dollar a sheet stationary," Ryan told him.

"There's cranks with money," Xander defended.  "Don said so."

"They're the ones you've got to look out for," Ryan reminded him. "Or should I mention Dubai?"

"How are they getting to you, Xander?" Horatio asked.

"Breakfast.  With my toast."

"Is that why you didn't have toast today?" Ryan asked.  Xander nodded. "I saw you eyeing your son's toast.  I was wondering why."

"I was hoping no letter showed up in his."

"Is this all of them?" Horatio asked.  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"The one Stella had I never got back."

"That's fine."  He smiled at him.  "It's fine. You're right, it's probably some crank with money."  Xander stared him down.  "But I will be making sure of it," he finished, knowing trying to shield his mate was useless.   Someone tapped then slipped a letter under the door, so Ryan went to get it, bursting out in quiet swears.  "What, Mr. Wolfe?"

"You could call me Ryan, Horatio."  He handed it over, looking at Xander.  "The FBI director said if you'd dance for him he'd take you off the no-fly list and remove all the files.  If not, you were going to be branded an enemy combatant."

"Can't we use that against him?" Xander asked.

"By then, you'll be in Cuba," Ryan assured him.  He called his wife, asking her quietly to find DD Fornell and Gibbs.  He looked at Horatio.  "Hardball or not, boss?"

"Trap him," Xander said quietly, looking at his mate.  "I'd have to insist I have a guard."

"I agree, but I don't like this plan."

"Can you see another way?"

"No," he admitted.  "I can't."  Willow opened the door and let the two men in then followed.  "Read," he ordered, pulling Xander up to look at him.  "I don't like this idea, Xander."

"I can't find another way, Horatio.  Though I would like to slip that to Erica."

"That's mean," Ryan said with a smirk.  He looked at them.  "We're figuring out what to do."

Willow took the paper and glared at them.  "You want to trap him, Xander, and have me hack the files at the same time?" Fornell gasped and stared at her in horror.  "Yes, me, twit. Who do you think did all the hacking in Sunnydale?  Xander can't use a computer hardly at all."  His face fell.  "Not like I don't do it for good reasons, Fornell. It's not for shits, giggles, or virus attacks."  Though she might reconsider that at the moment.

"No," Xander said, looking at her.  "They would trace that back to you.  You can't hide a virus's signature the same way you can your tracks.  You and Oz both said so during graduation."

"Point," she agreed.

Fornell squeaked.

"That was a manly sound, Tobias," Gibbs taunted, looking at the obvious family.  "Okay, so we need to do what?"

"Either derail him or trap him. Your choice, Gibbs. I can't see another way and my Spanish is still really sucky."

"Okay," he agreed. "Though they probably would give up on you after a few minutes.  Do you know anything about Islam?"

"Only what got told to me by the guy who wanted to kidnap, torture, and castrate me."

"Who?" Fornell asked eventually.  Xander went to get the binder he had brought up for the auction, walking out flipping through it until he got to a page.  He handed it over.  He blinked at it then at him.  "He committed suicide."

"Because he knew he couldn't have me.  Or so we were told."  He shrugged.  "I sold all the gaudy crap he sent me."  He looked at Gibbs.  "You've been military, can you see another plan?"


"I sincerely doubt the Cobra forces are going to come save me.  I'm not part of their organization," he joked back.  Gibbs just smirked.  "Got the files from that stuff?"  That got a smirk and a nod.  "It was necessary.  The rest was halloween."

"That's fine," Gibbs agreed.  "I agree, can we trap him?"  Xander snorted, giving him a look.  "You think you can?"  Xander pointed at the binder.  Gibbs took it to look through.  "That's some nice tips, Harris."

"I know.  My plan," he said, moving closer. "Send that to a thorn in our side that Ryan knows very well, the same one who broke the story officially into the press.  Trap him in it.  Someone's got to be my bodyguard.  I'd insist. They can always wear a camera."

"He can block anything you send out.  He would also be patting you guys down."

Xander smirked at him.  "Who said it had to send out and who said it would be found?"  He looked at his buddy.  "Can you still run and tape a scrying spell?"

"I can," she agreed.  "If I can't, Aiden can."

"Decent. Mom'd do it.  Don't tell anyone not involved.  We don't need that many pissed people and this is a vacation."  He looked at his mate. "You're going if I can."

"If I can't?" he asked calmly. "I still don't like this plan."

"It's no different than the three killers who had me that I had to dance to get away from, Horatio."  His face tightened.  "Montreal," he defended.  "I promise.  In Montreal."  Horatio calmed down slightly.  "I'll let you interrogate me later," he soothed, leaning against him, giving him a gentle kiss.  "Even with the cuffs if you must," he promised.  "If this is the only way to get him to not do this...."

"It may be," he agreed.  "Ryan?"

"I can call her now."  He pulled out his cell and looked for the number, finding it.  "Erica, Ryan.  Turn off the tape recorder.  I'm offering you a story.  No, a Xander story."  He smirked at the click of the recorder.  "How about.... the guy doing the bashing of him in the FBI just sent a note saying if he danced for him, he'd take him off the no-fly list and that stuff, but if he didn't he'd be named an enemy combatant?"  He smirked.  "I've got it in handwriting.  On a note card.  Yeah, I'm sure.  It was delivered to us and we're at a convention.  He didn't know Xander was a stripper until yesterday.  Please?  And you'll owe me for breaking a story even the bigger dogs can't get."  He smirked. "I thought you might. No, we're in New York.  I can fax it if you want."  He looked at Horatio, then smirked at his wife.  "Find her a handwriting sample to match it to, Wills.  Erica, I'll pull a string with our QD person and have them compare them for you.  How about that?"  He smirked. "I thought you might.  Thanks, dear."  He hung up.  "Fax it to the station," he told her.

She nodded, taking her computer to scan it and do that, sending it to the QD person and sending it normal fax.  She found an exemplar match and forwarded that as well.  He called down there.  "Hey, man, it's Ryan.  Erica Sykes is coming in with two things that just got sent to you by Willow.  Yeah, my wife.  No, someone's blackmailing Xander to be totally honest.  Open up your email and you've got a faxed copy the normal way if you need it."  He waited while he did that.  He heard the gasp.  "Yeah, exactly.  That's why Erica's coming in, man.  Please?  I know, I'll owe you and Horatio's going to look the other way this time."  He hummed. "If anyone wonders why she's there, tell Natalia to tell the others that she's there because of the thing against Xander and you're authenticating a document for Erica's investigation.  You are."  He grinned.  "Yeah, we're having tons of fun.  The kids are mobbing Aiden.  Xander got kidnaped by some woman with somber tastes who wants him to be het.  Lots and lots of fun," he agreed at the laughter.  "Thanks, man.  Let me know?"  He got the results, the computer had already confirmed a match.  He smiled and nodded at the older men.  "Thanks, man.  I owe you."  He hung up.  "Did anyone actually bring a scene kit or bags with them?"

"I found the specialty shop in Time's Square and I picked up some stuff to tease Horatio with," Xander offered, walking him into his bedroom.  "You cannot blab, this is the Christmas present stuff."

"That's fine.  If I see mine, I'll expect a second one."  He grinned at him and looked in that paper bag, gaping.  "Holy God, Xander."  He pulled that one and the other one out, dumping it onto a couch.  "Gee, Gibbs, think you can use any of this?"

"I forgot about that place totally."  Gibbs came over to look, picking out some stuff, handing it to him. "Use that. It's small enough to be put anywhere, even his wedding ring. Also," he said, plucking up a small container.  "Implant that somewhere he can keep it in."

Horatio looked at the subdermal GPS tracking chip and nodded.  "That could be handy," he agreed, calling Sheldon.  "When you get a few, bring Abby and Eric up here please?  Thanks.  No, tell no one."  He hung up.  "Where should we implant that, Xander?"

"My lower back since you don't play with it that much? Less chance of it being hit by accident?" Xander offered.

"That would be best placed inside his upper thigh," Willow suggested.  "No one would feel it in the fatty tissue there, it'd still work, it'd be hidden from the security at the airports most likely.  Most of them scan the upper body and feet these days.  Not the upper thigh."  Horatio gave her an appraising look.  "What?  I'm a techie and I read spy novels."

"Miss Rosenburg, would you like a job?" Agent Fornell asked.

"Computers are my stress relief, I'm six months pregnant, have another one already out, and Ryan wants to be a judge."

"I could let you work from the regular office. I want you around to give me ideas."  He gave her a look.  She pointed at Ryan, who shrugged.  "You'll leave it up to her?"

"Yeah, within reason I do.  Anything that would hurt the rest of us is out of bounds."

"Agreed," he decided, looking at the kid again.  "You have good taste."

"He read batman comics forever," Willow assured him.

"If I had the skills, I used to want to design for him," Xander said proudly.

"You can still sell those things," Gibbs offered.

"Yeah, but it's not as fun if Batman doesn't buy and use it.  Even having spies do it isn't the same level of cool.  Besides, I don't have the skills for that."  Horatio looked at him.  "I don't."

"You don't.  You can't even program the VCR."  Xander grinned at him.  "Or cook."

"They have classes for that," Fornell offered cheerfully.

"If I feel like it," Horatio told him.  "I'm the possessive spouse of the family."

"I'd be too since he nearly got taken four times during the last few weeks," Gibbs offered.

"Five," Fornell corrected.  "One of them he beat the shit out of the person trying.  I think he was psychotic, he kept calling him the messiah."  He looked at Horatio.  Who was staring at his mate with a look on his face that has half bemused, half pissed.  "How many did he tell you about?"  Xander held up three fingers.  "Does that count the one yesterday?"  Xander shook his head.  "Mine did."

"See, I left out the psycho religious nut who wanted me to be crucified.  Not a real attempt, someone insane."

"Xander," Horatio warned, backing him up.  Xander sat down, giving him a slightly scared look.  Horatio growled and kissed him.  "We'll talk tonight."

"Yes, dear," he said weakly.  "I love you. I knew that one wasn't related to anything.  He tried with the woman in front of me on the subway and she maced him."

"Where is he now?" Horatio asked calmly.  Sheldon knocked then was let in by Eric, who groaned.  "He's fine.  We're talking about the person on the subway."

"He's in Bellevue," Sheldon assured him.  "Under observation for mental issues."  He looked at the small package Willow handed him.  "Subdermal GPS.  Nice.  Where did you find this, Xander?"

"Times Square."

"Interesting."  He came over to look him over. "Easiest or easiest hidden?"

"Inner thigh," Willow ordered. "Easiest hidden and it's staying in."

Sheldon read the words on the back, nodding.  "It says it can stay in for up to a year safely."  He looked at Horatio.  "Can I have him?"  He grinned.  "Abby's coming up once she's free."

"Good."  He looked at Eric.  Then at Willow.  "Show him."  She handed over the bagged card.  He moaned and hit the wall.  "Can you think of another plan?"

"Trap him."  He looked at the spy gear, then at Xander.  "Christmas present?"  Xander nodded, giving him a slight grin.  "Speed likes books."

"Speed's getting books."  That got a smile.  "You're getting a gym membership if you want, because I didn't think you wanted taunted for me buying you a new suit after your last one disintegrated."

"No, I've got a new one already, Xander. Thank you for that.  With the Pookie stuff, they're all still wondering.  Your gym?"

"One with a better board."  Eric beamed at that.  He looked at Horatio.  "So, what did you want for Christmas?"

"You to be safely at home."  Xander pulled him down to kiss him again.

"I wouldn't feel comfortable putting this there if he's hard," Sheldon warned.  Horatio broke off with a small chuckle, letting him have his mate.  "Thanks.  It shouldn't even show as an injury.  It doesn't have to go very deep."

"I can do a spot healing over the cut.  I'm good for that much," Xander assured him.

"Okay."  He took him into his bedroom to inset the little thing. He had to get his medical kit but that was all right.  He had been hoping it wasn't an injury.

Abby bounced in with him when he came back.  "What's up, Gibbs?"  He handed over the card.  "Someone's screwed in a way Tony would laugh at."  Gibbs broke out in laughs at that.  "Is Xander all right?  I was wondering why he was missing our lunch."

"My fault, Abby. I had him delivered up here," Horatio offered.  "That way he'd stay out of trouble.  Then that got delivered."

She beamed. "It happens that some of his clients in Miami probably live up here too."  She came over to browse what was on the couch.  She took the stuff from Horatio's hands, putting one back and picking up something better.  "It bounces off satellites, same as the GPS does.  It won't show on a detector."  She stood up.  "Hiding it may be difficult," she admitted, looking at the small camera.

"He's got a nipple ring," Eric offered.

"That'll work," she agreed, going to put that on there.  It could go over the ball of an earring.  She looked at what Sheldon was doing.  "Does that hurt a whole lot?  I wanted to put one of those on Tony."

"Not if you numb it.  After a year the circuitry may degrade."  He handed her the packet so she could read while he finished inserting it.  "Okay, Willow, try it."

A few minutes later she called, "Got him."

Xander muttered a healing charm and sat up, helping Abby by taking out his nipple ring and giving her a different one, making her smile and slide it over that one.  "Better?"

"Much.  Willow, on the same signal can you get a feed?"

"I can," she agreed.  "Is that a tattoo there? Ryan said I can't get one there," she complained.

"I said at all, Willow.  At all.  Not just on your chest."  The sound of kissing.

"They're so adorable too," Abby cooed, smiling at him. "Can I tell Tony?"

"We're trying to keep it quiet."

"Maybe we can follow.  We've been bored with the recent death threats keeping us off cases."  She stood up.  "There. Now, what're you wearing and dancing to?"

"I'm not sure. Fornell, is he a bad slut in any particular direction?"

"How would I know?" he demanded.

"Okay, has he been listening to any particular style of music?" Xander asked, getting up and walking out there.

"GPS and camera still working good," Ryan reported.  "Hey, it's got an X-Ray feature."  He clicked it on and off.

Willow swatted him.  "Quit playing.  You can play when we've got it at home and we set up a nanny cam for Di."  He grinned and nodded.

"As far as I know, he listens to jazz," Fornell offered.  "Recently he's been listening to something more rhythmic but not dance or techno."  Xander frowned and pulled out his i- pod, handing it over after he found a song.  "Yeah, that.  How did you know?"

"I danced to that.  It's fairly popular music."  The room phone rang and he got it.  "What?"  He frowned.  "Sorry to ruin your lunch, Erica.  Not my fault.  No, I don't know why he's doing this.  If I knew I'd have stopped him.  No, the suit stays until this is either fixed or they're fucking sorry.  Anything else you needed a quote on?"  She asked him a quiet question.  "That's his child coming to be.  That's an arrangement. But thank you for that information."  He hung up.  "Honey, she thinks you're cheating on me with Marisol."

Horatio groaned, shaking his head.  "I'll warn her when I see her Sunday night."  He looked Xander over.  "What're you wearing?"

"Clothes."  He shrugged.  "Not like I brought much with me."  He went back into the bedroom, looking over the clothes he had brought.  "Has anyone seen my red leather pants?"

"I threw them out when you ripped them last night," Eric called.  Horatio gave him an odd look. "After dinner, H.  When he changed."   Horatio sat down at his prompting.  "We've got it.  Why aren't we telling everyone else?"

"Too many tempers," Abby assured him, fiddling with the resolution.  "Use those pants and the green shirt, Xander."  He came out in it, then shook his head, heading back in there.

"Xander, bad!" Willow called.

"I'm just displacing a bag in the closet, chill," he called back.  He came out in a soft, furry outfit.  "Suede.  To tough to tear.  Easy to get into and out of, and stretchy enough to do it well."  He stretched up.  "The one time I tried another designer."  He grabbed his i-pod to see what he was dancing to.  He nudged Horatio, letting him see, getting a smirk for it.  Xander had danced to that for him in the past.  "Think it'll distract him enough for a rescue mission?"

"I do."  He took a kiss. "You know you don't have to."

"I'd look horrible after being tortured, dear.  Besides, the first time they enacted his orders, my mental help guide would take over and start ripping throats out. I don't want you to have to deal with my funeral this year."

Horatio pulled him closer.  "Then let me start defending you more often," he ordered quietly.  Xander nodded, relaxing against him. "I want you home.  Mac's doing a good job but he can't be focused on you like I can."

"Has the chief realized how often we get an easy day of watching him?" Ryan teased.

"Not yet. It was Frank's idea anyway."  He looked at his mate again.  "If this doesn't fix this I want you to drive home tonight. With a guard."

"I'll hire a car and a driver that can double as a guard," he promised. "I'll need the trunk room."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Agreed?"  He nodded.  "Good."  He took a kiss. "I still haven't put that check into the foundation stuff."

"That's probably a better idea with what's been going on."

"Think they should reimburse me?" Xander teased, grinning at him.

"I think that would be reasonable," he told Fornell, making him swallow and step back.  "I really do."

Fornell nodded. "I can suggest it when this whole mess goes belly up."  Someone knocked on the door and he opened it, finding a Marine on the other side.  "You need what?"

"I'm here to pick someone up, sir?" he reported, stepping inside.

Gibbs looked at him.  "Who?"

"A Mr. Harris?"  Gibbs pointed and got in his way of moving.  "Sir, I have my orders."

"Do your orders include his safety?" he demanded.

"Yes, sir, but not to bring anyone with us.  Especially not his spouse."  Gibbs showed him the note, getting a disgusted look.  "Is he guilty?"

"No, he's not.  He's running a gay charity."  The Marine sneered.  "The Director is in deep shit.  If he comes home harmed, I will personally make sure your career is tanked."

"You are?"

"A Gunny."  The Marine nodded.  "Working in NCIS.  Understood?"

"Understood, sir.  I can't modify my orders on this point but I can make sure he gets home."

Xander stood up.  "I'm a fair hand at defending myself.  Just watch my back, Marine."  That got a nod.  He looked at Horatio.  "Tonight."

"Tonight," he agreed, standing up and giving him a gentle kiss.  "Try to come back uninjured."

"I'll do my best."  He grabbed his i-pod.  The Marine looked at him.  "I only dance to shit I know, Marine."  That got a nod.  He walked out with him, looking back at everyone.  Xander got into the elevator with him.  "I'd go to the garage personally.  The hotel is crawling with people who will ask questions about why I'm leaving with you.  Most of them know I'm kidnapable."

"If you say so, sir."  He looked at him.  "Who are you really, sir?"

He looked at him.  "Just a normal guy with some skills, a nice husband, a good life, and now an asshole stalker again.  One who's going to get my foot up his ass.  Oh, and I'm a veteran hunter.  Four years of survival training in a fairly tough town."  The Marine looked amused.  Xander looked at him.  "I can kill you.  Easily.  My husband would get very upset with me though.  He's my moral compass."

"Fine, sir."  He got them out and to his jeep, taking off with him.  "So why does he want you?"

"Originally it was some idiots in the FBI who decided being gay was the same as being a terrorist.  Then he stepped in when Deputy Director Fornell, who was upstairs, stopped it."  He looked behind them. "Pull over unless you want shot."  He pulled over suddenly.  Xander got out and went to lean in Danny's window.  "They're blackmailing me. Horatio knows. Go back to the suite.  They've got it."  Danny opened his mouth.  "They're threatening to make me an enemy combatant if I don't, Danny.  Go back to the suite.  Horatio and some of Gibbs' people are there.  Don't tell anyone else.  Please."  That got a nod.  "I'll be fine," he promised, grinning at him.  He winked and headed back.  "Sorry, he's like my big brother and a cop."  He got back in and the jeep carefully pulled out again.


Xander was scanned and frisked before being allowed into the restaurant, then one of the agents from yesterday led him over to the private back table.  He sat down and gave him a haughty look.  "What game are you playing?"

"I see you're here.  The wine should be coming soon."

"I don't drink."  The man stared at him and burst out laughing.  "I don't. I never have."

"All strippers drink," he sneered.

"No, not all of us.  All of us *sell* drinks.  Not all of us drink.  That's the beauty of virgin drinks."  He looked at the waiter with the wine.  "I want a bottle of coke."  The waiter nodded.  "Plain glass no ice."  That got another nod.  He looked at the plate that was put in front of him and pushed it aside.  "Salad?"  That got a nod.  He looked at him.  "You have no idea who I am, do you?"

"Besides being a fag and a stripper?  A jumped up one at that?" he sneered.  "Do I need to?"

Xander looked at him and nodded.  "It might help since you're trying to feed me something that would make me vomit all over you.  Also, you're still not touching me."

"Oh, I will," he sneered.  "I'll do whatever I want to you."  Xander picked up his steak knife and without having to look stuck it into his hand, making him howl and Xander smirk.  "How dare you!"  He backhanded him.  Xander stood up, staring him down.  "I'll have you broken."

"Bigger and badder have tried," he sneered.  He sat down again, taking his unopened coke with a smile. "Thank you.  My salad?"

"Will be done within a few minutes, sir.  What dressing did you want?"

"Poppy seed on the side please.  If you don't have it, italian.  Also, get the poor man a napkin, he managed to stab himself somehow," he said blandly, waving a hand at him.  He smiled and tipped him. "Thank you."  The waiter nodded and went to do that.  He brought out the salad and Xander smiled.  "Thank you."  He poured on his dressing and ate a bite, moaning.  "Oh, someone needs the recipe for this dressing."  He caught the waiter's eyes.  "Does the chef allow recipe theft?"  He nodded.  Xander pointed at the salad.  "I'll pay him for it even."

"I'll get it for you, sir."  He went to do that and Xander paid the man, tucking it into his shirt pocket.  "Is everything else all right?"

"Just fine, thank you, dear."  He smiled at him.  The waiter nodded and left so he ate another bite, looking at his 'date'.  "What's wrong?  You don't like curry?"  He smirked and ate another bite, then added more of the dressing, even if it was totally fattening.  It was great stuff.

"I'll see you tortured," he huffed finally.

"Up to you but they'll die," he said simply, finishing up and sipping his soda, leaning back in his chair.  "You think I survived somewhere like Sunnydale for eighteen years without knowing a thing or two about self defense and torture?"  He took another drink.  The man sneered. "I'd eat, it'll be your last meal."

"You'll start to act like the pretty bitch you are or else," he warned.

Xander chuckled, smirking at him.  "Or what?  You'll pout?"  He looked at the guard who came back.  "Boys.  He thinks I'm going to play nice.  Tell him what hostages usually do."

"Sir, if he's playing nice, it's a trap," one of them said.  "Attitude is to be expected.  It's in the handbook.  DD Fornell said so when he yelled at us for losing one."  The Director looked pissed as hell.  Xander grinned at him.  "I got that right, right?"  Xander nodded.  "Sir, have you been kidnaped before?"

"More times than I want to remember," Xander admitted dryly, finishing his soda.  "Aren't you done yet?" he sneered.  The man tried to backhand him again but Xander bit him, then rinsed out his mouth in his water glass.  "Maybe you should have that treated."  The agents stared at him in awe.  He smiled at them.  "Remember a few serial cases in Miami that got solved due to a stripper?"  One of them nodded. "I was that stripper.  I'm here under duress."  He pointed at his 'date'.  "He has the choice to let me go, quit the petty shit the FBI is doing because I'm *gay* and running a *gay* charity, or else I'm going to start dismantling things from his office down.  I'm sure they'll find a rock wall of upright people somewhere around DD Fornell's level."

"You know Fornell?" the first guy asked.

Xander nodded.  "I do.  He came to me to see if I'd drop the suit against you boys for your shit if he fixed things.  Then this one restarted them.  I'm not a happy Xander by any means," he said smoothly, pouting slightly.  They both swallowed.

"We're going," the Director sneered.

Xander stood up.  "About time."  He found a bottle of maple syrup and a spoon, having it for dessert.  "Sorry, you forgot to give me any dessert, snookums."  The man sneered and tensed to hit him. "Ah-ah.   You should've learned better by now.  Smart bitches only take one strike back to learn the lesson."  He backed away. "Shall we?  So your humiliation is started sooner?  After all, my husband wants me back to pamper and treat nicely tonight.  So much better than you do."  He looked outside.  "Boys, go distract Detective Flack.  Before he tries to kill you for having me in your custody."  They ran out there to distract and send him off.  He looked at him.  "You're damn lucky.  I could scream at this moment and Don would be in here immediately."

"You scream we'll see how you like Cuba, boy."

"I know some Cubans, they're very nice," he assured him with a smirk.  "Part of my extended family.  They even try to teach me how to cook now and then.  Haven't been successful, but they've tried awfully hard."  He waved a hand at the door once Don was out of the way, following him out.  He searched around, finding Don up the street.  He shook his head subtly.  He nodded at the guy and shook his head, rolling his eyes.  Don opened his mouth and he shook his head again.  He got into the car, taking his seat against the far door, sitting so no one could get that close to me.  The agents sat across from him so he sat with them instead.  "I feel better now."

"Go," the Director ordered.  "Before that detective has to be dealt with. I saw you signaling him.  Not very subtle."

"I don't do subtle usually.  I do loud. I do action.  I do fighting.  I don't do subtle unless the situation calls for it.  By now I'm sure he's called my husband, found out what's going on, has called in your limo to be found.  After all, my mate always comes for me."  He crossed his legs, looking at him.


Horatio answered the phone. "Don, calm down," he ordered.  "We know, he's blackmailing him.  That's why we didn't tell you, Don.  Because you've got a loud temper.  The same as we didn't tell Danny or Mac.  No, we've got it in hand.  I know it's your city, Don.  Just have him tailed in case we lose the GPS lock.  Please.  No, we're trying to keep everyone in the family out of it."

"Too late," Speed yelled as he walked in.  "What the fucking hell is going on!"

Gibbs looked up.  "You're loud."  He handed over the card, making Speed go off in another language and hit a wall.  "Eric did that only in English."

"My mother told me to quit swearing in Russian or Spanish," Eric assured him.  "He okay?"

"Being the princess he is," Abby assured him.  Eric smirked at that.  "He bit him a few minutes ago."

"Good.  We taught the boy good, Speed."

"I'm still going to paddle his ass."

"It's the only way," Horatio said calmly, looking at him.  "When they stop, we'll be going."  Speed nodded at that. "Only if you can be calm."

"Fuck calm," he growled.

"No spouses or uncalm people," Gibbs ordered.  Horatio glared at him.  "I don't care.  I don't want you to kill him.  You can wait in the car."  He went back to listening.  "They're underground?"

"Tunnel out of the city," Abby offered, tracking the GPS on the map.  Everyone was quiet.  "They've stopped."  They went back to the audio feed.


Xander looked at the old house, then at him.  "How very trite.  A flop house?"

"You'll be dying here if you don't move," the director sneered.

Xander turned and kneed him.  "I doubt it."  He spit on him then looked at the agents. "I should probably run.  Would you mind not shooting me?"  They groaned and whimpered.  "Oh, come on, guys. Stick up for the victim here.  You're supposed to be the good guys. Or does he have you blackmailed too?"

"He's got us on probation," the first said grimly.  "If we don't follow orders, our jobs are gone."

"I even talked to some of the other agents about this stuff. You're not the first, Mr. Harris. They said to keep it documented and the first thing he can get the chair for or that turns my stomach to become a whistleblower."

Xander nodded.  "Been there yet?"

"Twice.  He's got them cowed."  Xander nodded and kicked the guy on the ground, snapping something.  "Nice shot, sir."

"Stop him," the director ground out.

"No."  The first agent shook his head.  "I'm sorry, but no.  I can't."  He looked at his coworker.  "I'd rather eat my gun."  That got a nod.  "I'm staying here."  He looked from him to Xander and back.  "Should I call the cops?"

The director sneered at him. "Do you think they'd believe you?  He'll be dead at the first hint of officers."  He pulled his gun, pointing it at Xander, his other arm loose against his side. "You're about to die."  Xander ducked and spin kicked him in the stomach, making him drop the gun with an 'oof' of pain.  Xander followed it up with a kick to his side, then a sneer.  "No one will save you," he ground out, reaching for his gun.  Xander picked it up and tossed it back into the car, then slammed the nearest door.  "I'm a trained commando, boy."  He got back up.

Xander looked at him and shrugged. "I spent my young life fighting things bigger than me.  Bring it on."  He waved him on and waited for him to attack, kicking his ass in finest fashion.  The hyena and soldier were both screaming at him and he ducked a punch, knocking him off his feet and into the side of the car.  Running wasn't an option so it was fighting.  Police cars started to pull in.  One of the cops ran over to pull him off the guy.  Xander shoved him and glared, then kicked him under the chin, looking at the agents.  "Well?  Fornell's back in my room.  You can take your careers up with him."

"He's a kidnaping victim," the second one said.  "We've cleaned the house inside, especially in the bunker, but our former director there has killed three other young men.  We're on probation but I don't care if I lose my job.  I can't take this anymore.  This one fought back instead of simply crying."  He looked at him then walked Xander off.  "Relax, sir, you're safe.  We can get you back to your husband."  Xander nodded, leaning against the side of a cruiser.  "Sir, you've got skills.  Where did you train?"

"Survival."  He looked at him.  "Look up Sunnydale sometime.  I grew up there," he offered quietly.  He looked at the cops staring at him.  "I'm the fucking victim, people.  Did we expect me not to fight back?  I bit him earlier!"  They went to confiscate the car, the driver, the agents, the house, and put him into the back of a cruiser with a 'suddenly cold' snap ice pack.  He iced his sore knees and his knuckles until Mac got there.  He opened up the door and looked at him.  "We were trying to keep the severe tempers out of it."

"I heard.  You okay?"

"He backhanded me once.  Tagged me a few times when I snapped."  He got out, letting Mac look him over.  He patted his pocket.  "Still got the recipe too.  Oh, my i-pod."

"I'll find it, Xander."  He looked him over again. Then at the guy on the stretcher.  "You okay?  Back in control?"

"Pissed as hell that he got that high up without a psych profile."

"Guys like him can lie on them," he admitted.  "Sit down, wait here."  Xander sat down again, going back to icing his knuckles.  Mac walked over to the limo.  "What's this I hear about a crime scene?" he asked, flashing his ID.  The cops all pointed at the house.  "Any bodies?"

"I know where they are," the first one said, looking at him.  "I just couldn't sir.  The others were helpless and it ate me, but this one, he fought back.  Very well."

Mac nodded. "He has that habit.  That's why we like Xander."  He followed him inside, going to search for evidence and then the bodies.


Mac led Xander into the suite, letting him run to Horatio so he could be held. "He's fine.  A bit bruised and sore."  He looked at everyone else.  "We have tape?"  Gibbs held it up.  "Anything I can use?"

"He admitted Xander wasn't the first," Gibbs told him, smirking.  "What the agents said.  If he had earrings, we'd have put it in the open so we could've seen the fight."  Xander moaned.  "You okay?"

"Hungry."  He looked at Horatio.  "Dinner?"

"We'll have dinner. Did you want to go to the dinner with me?"  Xander nodded.  "Then change. It's suit and tie."  Xander nodded, going to do that.  Horatio looked at them.  "Do you need me?"

"Go check him over," Mac ordered.  Horatio smirked and went to do that. "Without the usual level of noise," he called as an afterthought.  He looked around.  "Where are the kids?"

"With Abby in our room," Tony told him, grinning.  "She's getting her maternal yearnings out for the year."

"Stella does that now and then too."  He opened the door at the knock, letting Abby in. "He's back."

"I know, I rekeyed my computer down there to his GPS chip."  She handed over the sleepy babies.  "We played counting games with Eric and Toddy laughed."

"Good.  Laughing is good," Ryan agreed.  "Thank you, Abby."

"They're a great lesson in the existence of birth control.  Especially since Eric kept trying to get inside my pants to see if I was potty trained."  Big Eric groaned and picked up his namesake to talk to him.  She smiled at Tony and Gibbs.  "We done with our excitement for the week?"

"I am," Tony agreed, giving her a kiss.  "Where are the agents, Mac?"

"In jail.  Fornell can talk to them and they can talk to the DA together."  Fornell nodded at that.  "We'll need a copy of the tape by tomorrow please."  Gibbs tossed him that one.  "One step ahead, thank you."  He walked out, going to register the evidence.  He had a statement from Xander about all this preplanning.  He came back.  "The letter?"  It was handed over by Willow.  "Thank you."  He left again, shaking his head the whole way down.  He ran into a smiling, happy Stella.  "They're fine."

"What happened?"

He held up the card.  She glared at him. "He's back, it's fixed.  He threatened Xander one too many times so Xander kicked his ass."  He walked out, heading back to work for a few hours.  It wouldn't take more than that.

Fornell got a phone call and snapped to a standing position.  "Yes, sir."  He listened. "Yes, sir, that's why.  They found evidence of others.  Three, sir.  Yes, sir.  They're in jail. I was going to go down tonight to get statements and all that.  Thank you, sir, I'll inform him of that.  Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir."  He got hung up on and slumped back down.  "The president is not happy," he told Gibbs. "The news report got taped and handed to him."

"I wonder why," he said blandly.  "His appointee, doing something like this?"

Fornell moaned.  "Don't remind me."  He got up.  "I've got to follow orders.  Harris, you're clear to fly back with your husband!  Please try to be lower profile!  The president saw the news report and is having fits!"  He left, shaking his head all the way to the elevator.

"Gee, boss, he vexes Fornell nearly as much as you do," Tony said with a shiteating grin.  Gibbs smacked him across the head, cleaning up their mess.  He grabbed Abby, pulling her in for a kiss, smiling at her.  She grinned back.  "We're free until Monday at oh-seven- hundred," he teased, kissing her lightly then pulling back when she started to respond.  "Whatever shall we do, Abigail?"

"We shall call Ducky to assure him we're still fine and not mixed up in Fornell's mess, lying if we have to, and then we should go feed me so I have energy for later."

"I can get behind that.  I'm starved.  Then later?"

"We'll see."  She smirked and winked at him, moving to take the computer stuff that was theirs with them.  "You'd break it, Gibbs.  Computers are bad to you."

Willow looked at Ryan. "Can I grow up and become Abby?"

"If you want," he promised, grinning at her. "I wouldn't mind having you safely as a lab tech."  She smiled and kissed him, making him take her to their room.  Where they got noisy. Toddy crawled out a few minutes later at Mommy's urging but they went back to being noisy.

Toddy crawled into Speed's lap, looking at him.  "Ma!" he scowled, pointing.

"I know, they're noisy, Toddy.  It's all right.  They're playing with your little sister."  He sent a silent prayer up to the Goddess for her mental health.

"He spoke," Eric said, looking at him.  "Toddy, can you repeat that?"

"Ma!" he said, frowning at him, glaring at Eric. "Ma ma!"

Ryan opened the door and walked out, picking up his son to look at him.  "You spoke.  Daddy's very proud of you, Toddy.  Yes, he is."  His son smiled at him. "But you're still being babysat by Eric and Uncle Speed until dinner.  That way I can talk to your new sister."  He handed the baby back.  "We'll get you ice cream later for that."  The baby beamed, just like he was at him. "Good boy."  He headed back to his room, having to kick Eric out this time, but that was fine.

"Am I scared he was wearing Kermit the Frog boxers?" Eric asked.

"If you aren't, I am," Danny assured them both.  "Hey, Toddy, rather come over and snuggle me, little man?"  He beamed and got down, crawling over to him. "Good boy!  Soon you'll be babblin' like your Ma and no one'll be able ta shut ya up."  He rubbed noses with him, earning a giggle.  "We should read, that way you're as smart as them too."  Toddy clapped and Eric came around to look at him.  "Want read to?"  Eric beamed and nodded.  "Okay. Come on.   Anyone got a book?"

"TOYS!" Eric squealed, diving back into the bag.

Don listened at the master bedroom's door.  "I think his daddy just squealed the same thing."  Eric threw a pillow at him, making him duck and laugh.  "He did!"

"I doubt Horatio needs toys to please his boy," Speed told him.

"You keep rhyming, I'm going to pick on you," Eric teased.

"Shut up, pookie."


Calleigh walked into the suite with the bag of weapons. "Did we all take the afternoon off?"  Everyone nodded.  "Did we play?" she teased.  They looked at each other.

"Depends on your definition," Speed offered, pulling her into his lap to kiss her stupid.


After dinner was a quiet dance, nothing like a club, but it was nice.  He and Horatio were together on the floor.  Of course, Xander was now in a suit shirt, like his husband was, and he was doing his best to make Horatio growl at him again.  He finally got the right note of 'I'm going to pounce you now' and grinned sweetly. He moved closer.  "I'm still okay," he said quietly in his ear. "I promise I'm okay. You made sure earlier."

"You're still mortal."

"Which was why I couldn't take that chance when he drove me into the middle of nowhere right before rush hour."  Horatio nodded, relaxing in his arms.  Getting to him during rush hour would have been a problem.  "Am I leading?" he teased.

"If you want," he promised. Xander took control of the swaying they were doing, just holding his mate for now.  "You still worried me.  You snapped to the plan quickly," he said, and he could've hit himself.

"Field decisions can't take thought, Horatio."  He looked at him.  "Really.  Field decisions take quick action. I figured it'd be sooner instead of later. I doubt he'd have given me until dinner.  I'm surprised how much time he did give me.  Announce you're going to kidnap someone and then give them two hours to escape?"

"Maybe he wanted the thrill of the hunt too," he soothed, stroking down his back. "Did you want to go back now and then?"

Xander gave him a look like he was insane. "No!"  He pulled him off the floor and into the back hall, pushing him against the wall.  "Why would I want to go back?  I get all the attention I crave.  I get all the love I need.  The tips and the money were nice, but I've got money now.  I don't have to work.  I will be taking college classes again starting next semester.  Especially accounting."  Horatio smiled at that. "Maybe not full time but I'm going."  He moved closer.  "Yes, I still need a teasing fix now and then but even that's getting better, Horatio.  I'd die if I had to go back there."  He leaned against his chest. "Please don't send me back there?"

"I won't, Xander, I was making sure."  He stroked down his back.  "You seemed to like the idea today."

"No, it was knowing I could stun him stupid enough for you guys to come in and get me," he corrected.  Horatio nodded, understanding that now. "It was a field decision.  That's all it was.  I have no intention and no desire to go back.  I refuse to go back.  I'd almost rather go begging to one of my present-wielding fanclub and cheat first."

"It won't come to that. I still make a good salary," he reminded him, stroking over his back.  "If we have to, we can survive on mine."  Xander looked up at him.  "What?  You think the next one will force me out?"  Xander nodded.  "That's why you've been making the emergency plans, isn't it?"  He nodded, curling against his chest again.  "It won't happen, Xander.  I know who's taking over and he's already been told about us specifically.  Besides, even if they did and we had to live on your money for a few months while I found another job, it wouldn't be that bad.  Nothing can touch the foundation now without you and Don signing paperwork."

"Don's already put his name on it," Xander said quietly.  "He handed it to me a week ago, in case something happened and he was taken out first."

"Where is it?"

"In the safe."  He looked up at him.  "I'm giving it to Eric's mother to hold for me.  Without my signature."  That got a smile.  "My will leaves you and Speed everything and you and him in charge in my absence anyway."  He snuggled back in.  "I included Eric as my secondary heir if it takes us both and put his custody with Speed or bigger Eric. Or worst comes to worst, Eric's mother.  I asked Ryan and he refused.  Said it was too much work."  Horatio nodded, stroking down his back.  "I left him a rock solid trust and his college funds.  You can hand everything else to him when he's ready."  He nuzzled the spot he was resting against.

"Why not Di?"

"Because she parties very hard, Horatio.  There's a better chance of her dying first."  He gave him a squeeze.

"Did you have someone read her future?"

"No.  Wasn't necessary.  Common sense. She doesn't always take the right precautions."  He looked up at him.  "Can we drop the depressing shit?"

Horatio smiled. "You eased my earlier worries and my new one, Xander.  Have I gotten most of yours?"

"All but one. You really don't like the emergency plans?"

"No, I think it's a bit grand," he admitted.  He stared down at him.  "It's a very large investment."

"Which is another thing we can handle if we have to."

"Good point. The guns?"

"I do Toby a favor now and then.  He's the guy who runs Tentacles."  Horatio moaned.  "He's got me translating books for him, Horatio. Nothing else.  Translating some of the more popular fiction into the more common demon languages."

"That's interesting.  I never thought about most of them being able to read, much less wanting to."

"Yup and he's got a big client base for mysteries."  He grinned at him.  "Want to stay here or go somewhere more fun?"  He had seen Danny peek out at them a few minutes ago and had heard Don's complaining that they had slipped off.

"I wouldn't mind staying here.  Did you want to go somewhere more exciting?"

"Just somewhere people quit glaring at me."

"Some officers believe you can't be a real man, therefore a real officer, and gay."

"I know but it still sucks.  Maybe we should offer rewards for the openly gay officers who help the newbies."

"Perhaps," Horatio offered.  He stroked down his back again.  "When did you get this suit?"

"Last week.  Not like I brought more than one, Horatio."

"How many bags are you coming home with?" he asked tolerantly.

"Two suitcases, all the paperwork shit, and the stuff leftover.  I'm shipping it back through a secure courier the day before."

"That's fine," he agreed quietly.  Danny came out more openly that time, earning a smile.  "We're talking."

"I figured he was whining about the glaring idiots."  He came over, letting the door slam behind him.  "You wanna blow this pop stand?"

"I want them to quit glaring," Xander offered tiredly.  He looked up at Horatio.  "Can I have your real anniversary present done tomorrow before you go to the afternoon sessions?"

"My *real* one?"

"You'll get little things, like dinner out and stuff," he promised with a small smile.

"What are you doing?"

"Buying you a new suit."

"Up here?"

"Yup."  He smirked and pulled back. "Please?"

"Fine, Xander, but nothing too extravagant.  Remember, I still have to buy yours and I'll want to spoil you more."

"No, mine is a once-in-a-lifetime spoiling.  You're getting me stuff that'll make me smile and coo, and possibly pounce you on the beach again."  Horatio smiled at that. "Do not rob the savings account for mine."

"If I can't you can't."

"I don't have a saving's account."  Horatio shook hid head. "I promise I won't do this ever again.  This is for special things."

"Fine, Xander.  I'll let you spoil me horribly while I make you feel content and like you're at home."  Xander beamed.  "Does this have anything to do with Marisol?"

"I want it to hurry up and take, but no."

"Are you sure it's still all right?"

Xander kissed him.  "Shut up, Horatio. I want a baby Horatio to spoil with the baby Xander."  That got a smile.  "Okay?"  That got nod.  "Good.  Now, staying or going somewhere else calm and nice?"

"Calm and nice is something I'm for. I could use calm and nice," Danny promised. "I'll get the rest of the family."  He headed back inside and Xander took Horatio out the other exit, walking around to the valet parking area.  Danny and the rest of them met them out there.  "Anyone know somewhere nice and calm?"

"I know somewhere jazz, blues, and instrumental music," Mac offered.  "I'm not playing tonight."  Xander smiled at him.  "You do have the time to learn."

"Let me learn accounting first, Mac.  That way I quit having to rely on Ray Jr. to balance my checkbook."

"He'll be disappointed if he can't use the car," Eric teased.

"He's going to college in another year and a half.  I'll give it to him for graduation."  That got a round of smiles.  "I need to be able to do it on my own by then.  Plus type all those form letters."

"You can take a computer class for that," Willow assured him.  "The local business school has one for secretarial stuff."  Xander nodded, accepting that.  "What sort of music, or should we maybe do comedy?  We hardly go anywhere funny."

"Funny is nice," Don agreed. "Somewhere we won't get glared at for having gay members.  I'm about to smack a few of my coworkers."  His phone rang so he walked off to answer it.  "Flack."  He smiled. "Delilah.  We're about to go out to a comedy club together as a group.  Wanna join us?"  He listened to her 'no' and her reason, that she was getting back together with her ex.  "Wasn't he a dirtbag?" he asked her.  He slumped.  "No, I'm not disappointed.  I know that you've got to go over that in your mind.  Yeah, not a problem," he said, hanging up on her.  He walked back.  "I definitely need something funny that serves liquor now."

Xander looked at him.  "Do I get to kill her?"

"No," he said flatly.  "Her ex just came back, suddenly clean, sober, and straight.  No little stripper ho on his arm this time."  Danny gave him a shoulder squeeze.  "So, comedy club?"

Stella walked inside to the desk.  "Hi, we're heading to a comedy club.  Are there any good ones where we definitely won't hear anti-gay jokes?  We don't care if it's gay themed or not, just not anti-gay."

She pulled up a list with a smile and starred a few.  "The second star down is my favorite and it is gay themed but they're very funny."

Stella smiled.  "Thank you."  She walked out, handing over the list. "She likes the second one down best but it is gay themed, Don."

"S'good with me," he decided, handing it to the cabbie when they piled into two of them.  "The second one down."  That got a nod and Xander paid when they got there twenty minutes later.  He walked up to the ropes, looking at the bouncer.  "Cover tonight?"

"I've got it, Don," Danny promised.  He counted heads. "Seventeen of us."

"Three more of you and you could get a group discount," he offered.

"Sorry, all there are of us," Xander assured him. "How much?"

"Ten each."  Xander handed over his gold card, letting him run it.  He got a smile and a nod, letting them walk in.  "Thank you."

He smiled and took Horatio's hand. "You know, there's a cop's union convention going on.  There are gays among them," he offered quietly.

"We got a bunch of them earlier."  He smiled at Don.  "Bar's straight back, sweetie."

"Thanks.  She just dumped me."  He headed that way, bringing it back to the table he'd be sharing with Stella and Danny.  "No Mac?"

"He's talking with Gibbs," she said, stroking his hand.  "Don't get too loudly drunk, Don.  Just ease it.  We'll make sure you get home."  He nodded, taking a sip.   She looked over, watching Xander giggle at the woman onstage.  It was good to see him happy.

"He moped all the time he was up here," Danny agreed, reading her thoughts on her face.  "It's good they're back together.  Who has the babies?"

"Hotel sitter with an alarm.  Willow's monitoring them on her watch.  They hooked the nannycam to it."  That got a smile and the waiter came buy, pausing by them.  "Beer?"  Danny nodded. "You get this round."

"Sure."  He handed over a ten. "Two beers."

"We've got over twenty flavors. Any particular one?" he asked.

"Whatever's on tap.  We're used to crummy cop bar beer," Stella assured him.  He smiled at that and nodded at Don. "His lady just dumped him."

"Poor baby.  She's obviously got a sight deficiency if she couldn't see how magnificent he is."  He walked off, bringing them back their beers, winking at Danny since it had only been change.  He grinned and he kept it as a tip, sure he'd get more from them later.  Even if cops were usually lousy tippers.

Horatio listened to the laughs change pitch and got up, taking Xander with him to the bathroom, letting him let it out now.  He knew he broke down after bad fights.  It had taken a while but it was going to happen now.  "I'm here," he soothed.  Xander clung to him, letting it go. "Shh, you're safe, I'm safe, and he's gone for good, Xan.  Nothing and no one will touch you."  Xander sniffled and pulled back, letting him stroke his cheek.  "Better?"  He got a solemn nod.  "Then clean up and let's go back."   He gave him a gentle  smile. "We'll cuddle tonight."  Xander nodded, going to clean off his face.  Mac walked in.  "He's fine."

"I spilled my drink while I was laughing."  He wet a paper towel and got to work on his tie.

"Seltzer water, Mac," Xander said quietly.

Mac nodded.  "I know, but the dry cleaners is always better."  He gave a grin and a punch to the arm.  "I've been there too, kid. Make Gibbs and Tony behave for me, okay?"  Xander nodded, taking Horatio's hand to leave with him while he got back to work on his tie.  He and Gibbs had been watching for it.  Not too bad.  He'd seen guys that had it days later.


Horatio looked around the designer shop Xander brought him to.  "Oh, no," he said, staring at his very young husband.  "There is *no* reason for me to be in here."  Xander leaned in and kissed him until all he could think of was 'mine' then pulled away.  He licked his lips and looked around, then back at him.  "Why?"

"Your boss said you need a tux.  There's no way in hell you're going to rent one, Horatio Caine.  So get your ass in there."  He pointed.  He trudged and Xander grinned, having won this round.  "Besides, it's a once in a lifetime thing that every man *should* have."  Horatio looked at him.  "The guys on the gay network said so."  The cashier behind the counter snickered and nodded. "Didn't they?"

"They did," he agreed.  "What are we fitting to him today, sir?"

"A tux, his boss said he needs one."

"Of course.  Right this way."  He led them back to the selection they had, Xander pointing at one.  "Are you sure?"

"That's about his usual cut of suit."

The salesman looked him over, then shook his head, pulling another out.  "This would fit him better.  It would emphasize his height and mass."  He let him try one of each on once he checked the size in his suitcoat.  Horatio came out and Xander drooled over his choice.  He smiled at him.  "Now, we're fitting him for the full outfit?"

Xander looked at him and pulled him away, handing him a rolled stack of bills. "That's five grand. I want him to look so hot our surrogate conceives tonight from the mere sight of him.  Anything jewelry wise is his.  Shoes too."  The salesman nodded and went to do that for him.  Xander browsed.  "Classic white shirt or a black one do you think?"

"I think a black one would look good on him but some people like the classic," he said, looking at Horatio.  "Do you have a preference?"

"The last time I wore one was a rental.  It was nearly eight years ago.  Xander, why do I need one?"  Xander came over and kissed him again, regressing his mind further.  This time all he had was 'more' for ten minutes.  When he finally snapped out of it, the tailor was working on him.  "How do you do that?"

Xander winked.  "I changed the breath spray I'm using, Horatio.  Don't you like it?"  He winked.  "White shirt or black, babe?"

"White's fine."  One was found and handed over. "No ruffles?" he teased.

"I'm trying to have *good* taste," Xander reminded him patiently.  "Remember, tonight's the stupid formal dinner."

"Do you have a tux?" the salesman asked.

"I do.  I got one last week," he admitted, grimacing. "I've decided I do not like the new Armani looks either."  Horatio stared at him. "It wasn't more than my blue one, Horatio."

"That's not saying much, Xander."

"Quit complaining.  The Chief said we *both* have to have one, we *both* have to look spectacular, plus I've got all those *splendid* formal gala events to go to coming up."

"I forgot about that.  At least you'll get a lot of use out of it."

"Hmm, don't remind me," he complained.  He watched as everything was fit.  "He'll be done by tonight at six?"

"It will," he agreed, smiling at him. "Thankfully you can in first thing."

Xander nodded. "I would've drug him last night but I was rather kidnaped and being held hostage."  Horatio growled.  "Sorry."  He ducked and brought the salesman over to look at shoes.  "He's an eleven, slightly wide."  A box was pulled down and Horatio allowed them to be put onto him.  "Do they fit or do you need wider?"

"No, these fit," he admitted. "They're comfortable."

"They're made by a sneaker maker," the salesman said with a wink.

"If there's any of that left, I need a pair," Xander complained.  That got a smile and a nod. "Bowtie or button cover?"

"Bowtie.  Most white men can't do the button cover very well.  Though I can see him more as the casual sort, top two buttons undone and slightly open."  Horatio nodded at that.  He went to find a nice tie, then they looked at the cufflinks - they only needed a single set with that shirt.  Xander pointed at the button covers and got a head shake.  "No, not on him.  It won't look right."  Xander nodded, pointing at a set of sapphire cufflinks, earning a smile. "Not quite his eye color but a hint of color."

"Baby, blue or green?"

"Blue is fine, Xander."  He looked at him. "Do not get me something like sapphires."

"But, baby...."


"Fine."  He looked at a set near the end, a pair of blue diamonds.  "How much are they?" he whispered.  The salesman gave him an appraising look. "Please."  The tag was flipped over, making even him hiss.  "Ow."

"There's a nicer set," he offered, going into the back to get them.  He handed Horatio the tie on the way past him.  "Show off his muscles, boys, he's an officer."

"He's a Lieutenant," Xander said proudly, smiling at his mate.  "He runs the Miami crime lab."

The salesaman smiled.  "You must be proud."

"I am. I'm very proud."  He looked at the set of cufflinks that had been brought out, falling in love with them.  "I adore those," he gasped.  "How much?"

"Xander," Horatio warned.

"They're not sapphires, baby."

"No diamonds either.  Nothing with a gemstone."

"They're not," Xander assured them.  Well, not strictly true.  They were obsidian surrounded by blue enamel.  Just enough color to taint the obsidian their way.  The tag was shown to him and he smiled.  "I like that.  Does he need a cummerbund?"

"I wouldn't," the salesman offered.  "It's not like he'll need a crumb catcher or to hide his abs.  Boys, fit the shirt.  Tailor it well," he ordered impatiently. "He's got an impressive body because of how he keeps Miami safe and secure.  They deserve a chance to drool."  Horatio gave him a look.  "Your husband said so, Lieutenant.  Besides, I'd give in if you questioned me."  He looked him over.  "Does he need a dress coat?"

"It's been pretty warm recently," Xander admitted.

"I have one," Horatio assured him. "A very nice black trenchcoat."

"Okay.  Well, cutie, looks like we can get you a pair of good shoes too.  What size are you?"  Xander had to look.  "You poor thing.  Newly rich?"

"Within the last year but the mother of my son is a designer so I get her to make me most everything.  Our suit shop knows me on sight since I spoil him so horribly."  That got a smile. "It says ten."

"We can try a pair.  You have on socks?"  Xander nodded. "Clean ones?"

"Of course. I've been living at a hotel for the last two weeks."  That got a laugh.  "I'm the reason the FBI got flamed."

"Ah."  That sound of wisdom meant he'd be finding out about that later.  "The Armani doesn't look fantastic on you?"

"Not as much as he will.  Which is partially my intention."  He shrugged and sat down to try on the shoes.  "Oh, these are nice, but a bit tight."

"Then let's go up to an eleven."  He handed them over.  "I take you as a normal width."  Xander nodded, trying them on, then smiled and got up to walk around.  "The drop under the edge of your toes will be fixed as you wear them more. They've got memory foam inside."  Xander sat down and took his off, putting them back into the box and handing them over with a smile.  "Good.  Is he nearly done?"

"Nearly," one of them admitted.  "We have cufflinks?"

"Yup.  One of the new sets we just got in today."  That got an appreciative look.  They smoothed the coat over Horatio's waist, then buttoned it up to check it.  "Is it comfortable, Lieutenant?"

"A bit tight across the shoulders if something happens."

"I suppose that's something you have to consider."  They could fix that easily.  Marks were put on.  "Anything else?"

"Pants pockets?"

"We can add a set," the tailor promised. They got him out of the coat and let him change out of the pants once they checked the fit, letting him change.  He came out in his usual suit, the one Xander had gotten them for their last anniversary, earning some appreciative looks.   "That's nice work."

"That's our usual suit shop," Xander said proudly.  "They know us on sight now. I spoil him horribly."  They smiled at that.  Xander looked at the salesman, who nodded that it was under that total. "Then the rest is a tip."

"We work on commission," he promised.  "I shouldn't."

Xander patted him on the hand.  "You appreciate my Horatio like I do."  He winked and walked him out.  "Come on, honey.  We've got to pick out a fortieth birthday present for Alexx.  It'll also be her twelfth anniversary."  Horatio gave him a look.  "I said I got most of the holiday shopping done. I have."  He grinned at him.  "Do not fuss. It's a once-in-a- lifetime present.  Besides, you said you'd attend the dreadfully dull events with me.  Plus the more exciting ones."

"I did," he agreed, taking his hand to hold. "How much did you give him?"

"Enough to give him about a hundred dollar tip."  He grinned. He'd pick up his shoes when they went to pick up Horatio's tux.

"I still didn't need anything that fancy."

Xander stopped him, looking at him. "I want you so hot Marisol conceives on sight of you tonight, baby.  I want Erica to be running a story in nine months about how the sudden increase in the birth rate is unexplained."  Horatio blushed at that.  "You should look more hot than I do, if only so people quit wondering how I look naked.  I want you hotter than me.  Besides, the Chief said you needed one."  He took his hand and started him walking again.  "I was thinking silver picture frames for Alexx.  Or is that a wedding present? I can't remember this stuff."

"We'll look."  He looked up.  "Why are we at Tiffanies?"

"Because I always wanted to browse in here.  Stella claims it's orgasmic."

"Fine," Horatio agreed, "but no buying anything."  Xander nodded, walking in there with him.  Within the hour they had found the perfect gift for Alexx, the perfect one for Calleigh's next birthday, and one for Eric's parent's anniversary.  All relatively inexpensive since it wasn't jewelry.  Horatio relented and let him buy them, then looked at the card. "Credit card, Xander?"

"It's being paid off each month out of my trust, Horatio. I'm still living on the interest, even today."  He took the bag with the nice blue boxes and smiled, then took Horatio's hand.  "The only thing I have left to buy is Marisol's holiday present because I was waiting to see if she conceived before then so I could get her a mommy gift, or not.  And I have to buy one for dad's birthday but I don't know how to find something that shows how much I care about him."

Horatio looked at him.  "I'll help you look."  He took a quick kiss. "What's his holiday present?"

"Book gift certificate."  Horatio smiled at that.  "That way I don't have to guess or ask for a list.  A two hundred dollar one so he can get something special or a lot of cookbooks or whatever."  They continued up the street, ducking into a small metal shop to look around.  He saw a sword he liked but Horatio shook his head, walking him off by force.  "But it was pretty."

"Yes, but you three others in that size, Xander."

"Good point."  They walked on and found a small statue shop.  He looked in the window and saw the perfect gift, pointing at it.  "That?"  Horatio smiled and nodded, walking him in there to get it. The small ceramic figurine of a father holding his son that said 'daddy' underneath.  It was very them.  They tucked that bag into the other one and headed back to the hotel so Horatio could have lunch with the boys and then go back to his learning new things.  Xander went to wrap presents and arrange to have them shipped off that night.  By the time Horatio was back, the suite was mostly cleaned up, except for what they'd be wearing tonight and tomorrow.  Xander came out in his tux, smiling at Horatio since he had the bag.  "You picked it up?"  That got a nod and his shoes handed over.  "Thank you.  Hand me the watch on the dresser?"

"It's a Rolex."

"It was in that crappile Dru and Cordy gave me."

"Didn't sell?"

"Nope. It's personalized and gaudy."  He flashed the gold and diamond dial.  "Plus it flashes in the right light.  Cheline quipped and said every man needs one good watch for special occasions.  I said I'd rather have something more subtle but she said this one showed the money more clearly.  Called it my bling for society events."  He sat down to lace up his shoes and put them on, then his watch and tie.  He hated tuxes.  He felt like he was being strangled and confined, like it was a straight jacket instead of a suitcoat.  "Can't I switch out to my other black one?" he complained.

"No. You're whining."  He came out and looked Xander over, then sighed and shook his head.  "Have our tailor fix it, Xander."  He redid his bowtie, making it looser.  It cut the fidgeting in half.  He stole a kiss, moving down his back.  He found a spare pin and pulled it out but otherwise it was all right.  Not the best fit but okay.  He went back to his changing.

"That's one nice tux," Eric said as he came out.

"It's an investment," Xander agreed dryly.  "I have to hit at least four formal events during the holiday seasons."  Speed came out dressed but with his tie in his hand. "If I have to wear one you have to wear one."  He smiled at Calleigh and looked toward his room. "I have something that didn't sell that'll look good with that."

"That's okay, I like this with my locket," she assured him, patting him on the cheek. "Did you finish your holiday shopping?"

"Yup, all but Marisol's since I'm waiting to see if she needs a mommy gift or not.  I even got something for Eric's parent's anniversary."

"Crap, you're doing better than me," Eric admitted, shaking his head.  "What are you getting them."  Xander grinned. "Oh, come on!  I don't want to duplicate."

"What we found earlier your sisters are more likely to," Horatio called.  He came out and smiled at Calleigh, then got the box off the dresser, opening it to show her.  "Better you than him."

"I...."  She stared at the teardrop ruby necklace, then at her locket.  "Can I layer?"

"Wear it," Speed assured her, smiling at her. "I'm not insulted."

"No, I want to wear your present," she said firmly, closing it.  "Thank you anyway."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "Did we forget to give you presents?" she teased.

"I thought when we snuck out was," he teased back, grinning at her.  "After all, it all I wished for at that moment."

She grinned and pinched him.  "They'll be on the table at dinner."  Xander nodded. "See?  He said so."

"I do. I also say we've got to go soon before someone decides to steal them.  You never know about some janitors," he joked.  "Maybe Speed's got a fanclub too."

"I hope not.  It was creepy finding his shrine to you."  He looked at Horatio when he came back out fully dressed. "Cufflinks?"

"They're sealed."  He handed them to Xander, who grinned and opened them, putting them in for him.  He looked then smiled at him.  "I do like those, Xander, thank you."  He took a kiss. "Brush your teeth."  He went to do that and make sure his hands and nails were presentable.

Speed looked in the bathroom then at Horatio again.  "That's a nice tux.  Better than the son's."

"He said it was so people quit imagining him naked."  He smiled at the knock on the door.  "Eric, that should be Marisol."  He got up to let her in, smiling at her.  "Marisol."  She paused and stared at him, then smiled and hugged him. "Thank you but it's Speed's birthday."

She pulled out a card and hugged him.  "You deserve it for putting up with this year's insanity," she whispered.  She smiled at her brother. "I see you cleaned up."

"I see you just flew in," he teased back. "Are you coming with us?"

"No.  I'm settling in and getting ready."  He smiled, kissing her on the cheek.  "What are you getting for momma and papa's anniversary?"

"I don't know yet.  Xander won't tell me what he got them."  Xander came out and whispered in his ear, getting a smile. "They'll like that.  I can go with something like that."  He smiled at her.  "Maybe something for all the grandchild pictures?"

"That's a good idea," she agreed.  She smiled at Xander, who pointed at Horatio.  "You have good ideas."

"I try," he agreed modestly.  Ryan and Willow came out.  He smiled at them.  "You two look very nice."

"That's a Poco Raban tux," Willow said in awe.  "Xander spoils you."  Ryan kissed her, making her smile.  "I like it when you make me cookies.  It's more special and personal."

"Good.  I'll make you two cookies when I get back.  Marisol, the sitter's coming in for Toddy and Eric in a few minutes. Would you stay until then?"  She nodded, grinning at them.  "Thank you."  He walked Willow out and down there, going to put his present on table too.  He had only found theirs earlier.

Xander came out and took Horatio's arm, smiling at them.  "Shall we?  If we're all ready?"  They nodded, following the couple out.  "Later, Marisol.  We'll have breakfast?"

"Of course."  She smiled as they left.  They were so handsome together as a group.  She checked on the babies, patting them on the head and giving them each a kiss.  Eric moved some but he was still asleep. She went to wait for the sitter, smiling when she came up.  "They're down and firmly asleep.  I'm down in room 165 if you need anything.  Their fathers and mother are at the banquet."

"Yes, ma'am.  Thank you, ma'am."  Marisol smiled and tipped her then left.  The older woman checked on them then sat down to watch tv.  It was the easiest assignment in the hotel at times.


Speed sat down behind the pile of presents, finding Ryan's on top.  "Wow.  I raked it in this year," he agreed happily.

Danny and Don snuck over with one larger one. "From all of us up here," Danny said, giving him a hug.  They went back to their seats.

"Anyone mind if I open theirs first?"  No one said anything so he opened that one, finding a nice 'put it together' all wood bookrack.  "Wow."  He showed it off.  That was really nice and he needed more shelf space.  Calleigh giggled and handed over hers.  He opened it and beamed at her.  "Now I'll really need the space.  Book gift certificate."  He tucked it back into the envelope and opened Ryan's since it was on top and had Snoopy paper.  "Awww."  He held up the keyring with Xander's baby picture in it.  "That's so cute!"

"We knew you didn't have any of him and Ryan said you broke yours.  That's titanium," Willow said proudly. "If you run over in the hummer again, it'll only dent the keys."  Horatio snickered at that.  "It will. I asked."

Speed chuckled and slid it into his pocket. "Loved the paper too, guys.  Thanks."  He opened the next one, which had to be Eric's.  It was a book on how to host good parties and mix wonderful drinks.  "Gee, Eric, hinting?"

"Well, you said if you ever retired, you'd give catering a shot," he teased.

"I did," he agreed, putting that with the bookrack and gift certificate. He looked at the three remaining ones. "Okay, I know the blue is Alexx's.  The green is from Frank and Yelina.  So the other one must be from Xander and Horatio, right?"  They both nodded.  "Cool.  I'll get that one last."  He got into Frank and Yelina's, finding another book gift certificate.  "Now I'll need new bookshelves."

"Only if you put on a balcony and cover it, honey," Calleigh assured him, patting him on the wrist.  "Or we take over Xander's old room."

"You mind, kiddo?"

"No, I'm good. Leave a couch in there just in case."

"Sure."  He put that with the other one and opened Alexx's.  "It's a popular gift."  Horatio laughed at that.  "At least I'm easy to shop for," he teased back.  He tucked that one in there.  He'd need to redo all of Xander's room to use them all.  Alexx and Calleigh had been very generous with the gifts.  He pulled the last one closer, opening the tinsel paper carefully.  He had the feeling this one was going to make him cry by the look on Horatio's face.  He opened it and found a little statue.  He picked it up, staring at it for a minute, then he got up and he hugged Xander.  "I love you too, kiddo."  He sniffled.  "I didn't want to cry tonight though.  I'll cry later."  Xander nodded, sniffling a little bit.

"Can I see?" Eric asked.  It was carefully handed over.  "Aww."  He shared it with Calleigh, who hugged the duo.  "I'll help you carry it upstairs, Speed."  That got a nod and he let go, helping by taking the precious statue with him.  Eric got the rest.

"That was such a perfect gift," Willow said, dabbing at her eyes.  "When did you find that?"

"Earlier.  We found it in a little shop just past Tiffanies."

"Did you get to go in?" Ryan teased. "I heard what Stella called it."

"Oh, it so was," he moaned.  Horatio patted him on the hand.  "I didn't even go near the jewelry either.  I was a good boy."

"You were. You spent less than six hundred in there and you didn't buy any jewelry," Horatio agreed.  Willow giggled at that.  "There were a few important presents.  Alexx's upcoming fortieth and twelfth anniversary being one," he said, looking at Ryan.

"I've got one for that.  I've got a friend who does portraits so I gave him a picture of us and her and her kids and husband, told him to make a portrait out of it."  Horatio smiled at that.  "That way she only has to look one place for all the kids."  Xander grinned at that.  Willow squeezed his hand.  He looked at her.  "You didn't like that idea?"

"I did, but are we buying her gag gifts for the party at work?"

"No, that'd be mean," Horatio assured her. "In ten years we can do that."  She smiled at that.  The boys came back and Calleigh came back from the table with the New York crew and Aiden.  They settled in to eat dinner and chat about the kids and educational things.  Xander's upcoming college.  Willow's upcoming college.  Ray Jr.'s upcoming college.  Yelina thinking about having another one when he went to college.  At least until the announcer got up and said they were doing the awards.  Then they turned to pay attention.  Even when Horatio was stunned stupid at his name being called.  He got a gentle nudge from Ryan and Xander, standing up and heading up there.

"Lieutenant Caine.  You have done more than any other supervisor this year to promote crime solving technologies and to mold your team into a shining example of what a lab team should be.  For that, you're being awarded the Supervisor of the Year award."  The crowd broke out in applause.

"Thank you," he said as he took it, smiling slightly.  "I hope I can keep it up."  He walked back there, sitting down to stare at it.  Xander grinned at him. "You knew?"

"I figured out it was *one* of them, not which."  Horatio looked at him.  He took Horatio's hand off the small crystal award and turned him back around so they could clap for the others, including Don's Cop of the Year award for doing so much with the lab even though he wasn't one of them and having an excellent solve and caseload.


Horatio left the suite once Xander was asleep after a wonderful backrub, going down to Marisol's room.  He tapped gently and she opened it in a bathrobe.  She paused to stare at him again.  "The Chief told Xander he had to get me one and I couldn't rent."  He walked in. "How are you doing, Marisol?"

"I'm fine, Horatio. My last tests came out very well."  She took his hand, kissing the back of it.  "He has good taste."

"I'd like to think so since he's staying with me."  She clucked her tongue and helped him out of his tie, then his jacket. "Did the doctor say it was still all right to try?"

"He did," she promised, smiling at him.  He nodded, leaning closer to kiss her.


Eric woke up when someone slid in next to him.  "Last I knew I was single and you were my sister," he complained, putting his head back down.  That scent could only be Marisol.

She kissed him on the cheek.  "It worked."  He sat up and turned on the light, looking at her.  "I feel it, Eric.  Like sister did and mother."  He hugged her, smiling.  "Thank you.  I'll know for sure in a few weeks."

"I'm so happy, Marisol.  Is he back up here?"

"Right were he belongs," she agreed, still smiling. He could see she really meant that.  "We talked earlier as well.  Between."  He nodded, understanding that.  She put a hand over her stomach then looked at him.  "You swear, Eric?"

"If something happens and you have to leave the baby, the baby's as good as my own," he promised.  "I'll still split custody with them."  She nodded so he swallowed and hugged her again.  "It won't happen."

"I know, but I had to plan in case."  He nodded, laying them back down so she could cuddle.  You should be cuddled on a night like this. "I think I'm  going to give them my official test results for their anniversary."

"She'll be over the moon, Marisol, and you'll start getting nagged about your diet and things.  Xander will have to come rescue you."

"I'm sure he would anyway."  She snuggled in closer, curling up on his chest.  "You should be this happy, Eric."

"Some day I will but I'm still young, Marisol.  Some day."  She nodded, falling asleep there.  It did make him think.  Life was too short at times.


Horatio woke up to the smell of blueberry muffins and coffee, making him moan.  "Tell me you ordered," he pleaded.

"Of course I ordered."  He kissed him, smiling at him.  "Marisol snuck up so Eric took her to breakfast.  The others are in the New York guys' rooms talking to them and comparing horror stories about me.  Therefore we get to have breakfast."

Horatio smiled and sat up, letting his mate put the tray across his lap.  "Is there another reason why it's a special breakfast in bed?"

"She snuck up shortly after you did," he offered with a smile.  Horatio paused, staring at him.  Xander nodded. "I think it took."  Horatio beamed at him.  "Daddy pride already?" he teased.

"Definitely."  He fixed his cup of coffee the way he wanted and opened a muffin, putting on some butter so he could take a bite.  He moaned.  "This is good."

"It is," Xander agreed, kissing his lips clean.  "The Chief said you needed the tux for last night and for the next PD dinner.  He's announcing his retirement then.  He said you've got to be there to show your support for the new guy."

"That's fine, Xander. I understand that."  He ate another bite and Xander kissed him clean again.  "Not hungry?"

"Not for blueberry muffins."

"Let me eat and then you can have whatever you're hungry for," he promised, grinning at his very wanton mate.  Xander settled back on his heels, watching him eat.  Horatio blushed under the intense stare, hurrying up some.  Once he had finished his first cup of coffee and the first muffin, the rest got put beside the bed and Xander pounced driving him back into the soft pillows.  It was good and hot and shameless.  His mate was definitely needing reassured.  He forced him onto his back so he could slow Xander down, making it slow and gentle, what he needed instead of what he wanted.  Xander gave him a few whimpers of need but he knew he was getting what he needed.  Xander finally gave in and let him have what he wanted, which was a sleepy mate.  He smiled up at him, tucking him back into his pajama pants. "There, better?"

"You need one," Xander said softly, reaching up to touch his cheek.

"I'm fine. You can get me when you wake up.  Go back to your nap and I'll finish breakfast."  Xander nodded, curling up beside him, one hand holding his.  It was a bit of a juggling act to get the food back, but his muffins were still warm so it was worth it.  He could reassure him again later.   This streak of insecurity wouldn't last for very long.


Willow sat down next to Marisol, smiling at her. "Congrats."

"How did you know?"

"Been there twice now, sweetie.  It's obvious to some of us."  She blushed and looked away.  "Hey, I'm the one who raised Xander. I'm doing an okay job on Toddy too so you can come to me if you need advice, okay?"  Marisol smiled and nodded.  "Good.  Now, how are we going to ignore Xander for the next few days while he's insecure?"

"He will be?"

"He's an only child, Marisol.  It's totally natural.  Ryan did the same thing for the first month, in between pouncing me.  He pouted majorly that he wasn't going to have all my attention.  All daddies go through it for a few weeks.  Again, totally natural."

"I guess it would be," she admitted, considering it.  "My sister's husband pouted and got demanding about her attention too."

"Yeah, that's the other output it can come out as.  I doubt it'll be that way with Xander and Horatio though."  She nodded, sipping her water.  "I always thought the more demanding they were, the more they had already shared the attention."

"He's the next-to-last of six children," Marisol agreed. That did make sense.  Her sister had put up with it.  "My sister tried gentle redirection and putting up with it."

"Redirection is good.  Noting the behavior will only make him feel bad for having a natural reaction.  He's always been that way."

Speed sat down across from her, on Marisol's other side. "That's because you jealously guarded Xander from other's attention for fourteen years, Willow."  She pouted. "You did.  Badly. You tried to drive Aiden and I off.  You tried to divert the attention Buffy and Rupert tried to pay him by being 'special girl Willow'.  Fortunately you're doing it now to Ryan."  She pouted at him.  "Not as often. You'll make one hell of an overprotective mother."  She shrugged, sipping her tea.  He looked at Marisol, who was looking confused.  "I was there for about eighteen months before they made me send Xander off, Marisol."  He patted her on the hand.  "Xander's only worry is that you'll take Horatio away from him.  His attention he can let him split.  The same as he does with Eric.  He'll realize that in a few days, the next time Horatio watches Eric for him."  She relaxed and smiled at that.  "He'll worry about you stealing Horatio forever and ever.  He did before too."

"That's not fair," Eric complained, coming over to sit down.  "Don't put that on her."

"No, Timmy's right," Willow told him. "She's the only major threat Xander ever saw to his marriage.  He's decided to share Horatio, which I think is very mature for Xander."  Speed glared at her.  "It is."

"It's not like that.  He knows Horatio can split his attention."  He looked at Marisol, grinning.  "Just ignore it for two weeks. By then Horatio will have reassured him that you're not going to steal him."

"Xander's scared that the bitch ex is right," Eric admitted.

"He has been, the whole time," Speed assured him.  "Even before they got together.  He didn't think Horatio would like him enough."  He looked at Marisol.  "You and the baby may, more than even Eric, reassure Xander that nothing is stealing Horatio.  That was a major shock and if I know him, he was ready to puke in fear about telling him."  She nodded quickly at that, sipping her water.  "Hey," he said, touching her hand.  "Don't worry about it.  Like Willow said, all new parents have this feeling, it's just you've got a double dosage with Xander's insecurities."

"He's a handsome and smart man," she protested.

"Marisol, honey, his parents sold him four times," Willow said quietly, glancing around, then back at her.  "When he first met Alexx I'm betting he tried to run."

"They were in the office and Alexx had him cornered against the windows," Eric told her, remembering that day.  "He was reaching toward his pockets."

"Probably for a weapon.  The boy has never been mothered.  Willow made up for some of that, but she's clingy and big-sistery.  Not motherly toward him.  What you get from your sisters, not your mother.  That sort of attention.  She couldn't be the mom, she's his age."  Willow nodded at that.

"How did the boy survive?" Marisol asked.  Willow raised her hand with a wry grin.  "There wasn't anyone to speak for him?  What about the mandatory reporting?"

"They did.  It was Sunnydale, Marisol.  Who gave a damn?  He was probably going to be dead before twenty-five statistically speaking," Willow said in a deadpan.  "That's a quote by the way, arranged more grammatically to the past tense."  She leaned back some.  "Let Horatio worry about Xander worrying himself into a fit. When Xander's worried he either carves stakes or he cleans.  After the fourth night in a row when Horatio comes home to a house that looks like Ryan cleaned it, a plateful of cookies, all the laundry done, and probably a naked mate, he'll get the clue."

Eric looked at her.  "Why don't you try to clean the kitchen?"

She grinned. "I'm waiting for him to snap, take me hard enough to make me pass out in there, then clean it, have me on it again, then clean it again."

"Only you two could make something like OCD into a sex game," Speed said, shaking his head.  She beamed at that.  He looked at Marisol.  "Don't worry, I'm going to be around too to make sure the baby's fine and normal.  As normal as it can be with Eric, Ryan, and Xander as uncles."  She giggled at that, swatting him. "Who's kidding?  Ryan's going to give the baby a DNA set for kids."

"They're nice though," she assured him.  "He's really fine?"

"He's dancing, it's just that small, last doubt," Eric assured her.  "He's a lot like our cousin, the one who came last year?"  She nodded, understanding that reference.  "Only it's been like that his whole life."

"But he's happy?"

"He's dancing. He's already jumped H after feeding him a good breakfast," Willow promised, grinning at her.  Eric and Speed both nodded.  "Something sweet?"

"Blueberry muffins and good coffee," Eric assured her.  She giggled at that.  "We stole half the coffee when we came out."  He looked at his sister, smiling at her.  "Remember what the other sister went through and multiply it by Xander.  It'll be fine.  Remember, you now have mood swings."  She smirked at that.  "Just don't have them on me or I won't come hold your hand while you're in labor."

"Do you think they'd be there?" Marisol asked.

"Xander passed out when he saw my water break," Willow told her.  "It's the only time I've ever seen Xander pass out.  Horatio was fairly calm.  He told me he's delivered one in the past.  I'd suggest Eric and Horatio with Xander playing messenger so he can come in and run away really fast."  Speed chuckled at that.  "You too if you and she ever have one."

"She's not ready yet."

Willow stared at him. "What was the one lesson you learned from Sunnydale, Timmy?"

"There's never enough time, especially if you plan," he sighed.  Eric groaned, slumping down.  "What?"

"I had that revelation last night."  His sister kicked him so he gave her a look.  "After you came in."

"You have enough time to quit being a slut and date for real, Eric."  She smiled sweetly.  "Momma would love that you know."

"I know, but I haven't found anyone that makes me that happy."

"It's the difference between diet chocolate without fat and real, good, Godiva chocolate," Willow agreed sadly.  "I've had it three times now."  Tim looked at her.  "Any word on Tara?"

"She's fine.  Angel's watching over her for you, Willow.  Haven't you been writing her?"

"Yeah, but it's painful.  Tara was my witch," she reminded him, pouting slightly.  "It was just as special as it was with Oz and is now with Ryan."

"Then you're a lucky woman, Willow Wolfe," Eric reminded her. "You've been hit three times.  That's more than I've had."  She nodded, giving him a hug. "Thanks.  I know there's someone out there."

"Maybe you and Don?" she teased.

He shook his head. "I like women way too much."

"Buffy's free and back to normal," she said with a smirk.

"No," he said, shaking his head. "I'm sure she'll turn out really nice when she's finished growing up, but no.  I couldn't put up with the past you three share."

"It can be hard," Ryan agreed as he brought his coffee over.  He looked at Marisol. "Let me guess, they were warning you about the new parent pouts?"  She nodded, grimacing. "He'll be fine.  Horatio already realizes he's got them.  They were already noisy and I heard him reassuring him.  Remember, Horatio reads people very well.  So don't even try to hide morning sickness from him.  Though I wouldn't suggest you go on him," he offered with a small grin.  She giggled at that. "Willow did that once.  He didn't come back to work that day and I heard Xander spent the night with his dad."  Speed nodded, sipping his coffee.  "I'm sure he had the pre-parent pouts."

"Probably," Eric agreed, looking at him.  "Didn't you come down with us?"

"I forgot Todd.  Second time ever."

Willow looked at him.  "I did too.  Where is our son?"

"Bouncing up and down on Stella and Don."  He pointed at where the kids were tormenting Aiden and the others.  "Eric loves his grandmommy."  Speed nearly fell out of his chair at that mental image.  "Hey, Aiden?"  She brought the baby over, trying to hand him off.  "You don't love your grandson?"

"He's a tit hound.  Speed!"  He held up his arms, laughing. "Here, go to Grandpa."

Eric gave her the most pitiful pout with puppy eyes.  "I haven't seen that look since we cut Xander off chocolate for a month," Willow said, melting with it too.

Aiden snatched him back.  "No snuggling up to the tits, Eric.  I'm not a cow, you can't milk me for dinner."

"Cow?" he asked.

"That's where milk comes from."  He shook his head.  She nodded. "The normal milk does."

"No, big mommy!" he said, spreading his arms wide.  "Daddy say so!"

Don and Danny were howling in laughter.  Stella was swatting them and Mac just looked stunned.  "I thought he was joking when he said that earlier," Mac admitted.

"Which father told you that, kid?" Aiden asked.

"Daddy 'Oro said I right."

"Uh-huh."  She walked him up there, going to have the fathers cure that misconception right away.  Her pounding brought a half-dressed Horatio, who looked confused. "Tell him that."

"Milk comes from big mommy snuggles?  Daddy 'Oro?"

"The milk most people drink comes from cows, Eric, but the milk you used to drink came from your mother."  He looked confused.  "Ask your mother to explain it."

"Sure, lever it back onto the women," Aiden complained.

"I tried to explain it before."

Xander leaned around Horatio.  "Eric, milk in a glass comes from a moo, milk in a bottle comes from the big mommy snuggles."  His son beamed and nodded, pointing at his new favorite set.  "You still drink milk in a glass, not milk in a bottle, little man.  No more trying to nurse."

"They nice!" he complained.

"I know they are, and when your Ray Jr.'s age, you can have them back."  Eric beamed and nodded, liking that idea.  "As a matter of fact, you can ask him about his.  Okay?"  Eric beamed and nodded, looking at Aiden, giving her a hug.  "Anything else, mom?  I kinda wanna jump my man."

"Get your ass downstairs, son.  The rest of us are leaving tonight."

"I know but I'm still naked."

She rolled her eyes. "You have thirty seconds to dive into clothes or else I'm dragging you like that.  Then we'll see who stalks your ass."  He blushed and disappeared. "You too, Horatio.  Lazy.  You can do that at home!   How often do you get to see me?"

"Sorry, mom."  Xander came out dressed in a pair of jeans, without underwear, and a t- shirt, plus his sneakers.  He took the baby back.  "Come on."

"Xander, I swear, I know we had the talk about underwear!"  She pointed.  He slunk back that way, going to put some on, much to the amusement of his son, who clapped and cheered him doing it.  Horatio came out with the baby, blushing hard. Xander came out just as bright red. "What?  He try to touch too?"

"No, he was cheering me taking off my clothes," he pouted, taking his son back and heading down to the restaurant.  He wiggled in between Speed and Marisol, grinning at her.  "When can we go for the test?"

"Three weeks," she promised, patting him on the wrist.  "I promise, you can come to the important checkups too."  He beamed at that and nodded. "You can even help us decorate the nursery if you want."  Eric shook his head.  "Why not? I like how he did his."

"I did theirs," Speed assured her.  "Xander was going to put up mermaids and whales and all sorts of sea creatures and paint the walls blue."

"That's cute," Marisol cooed.  She grinned at Xander. "We'll see."  He nodded, bouncing some. Horatio walked up behind her, putting a hand on Xander's head to hold him down.  She giggled at that.  "That's so cute."

"He's going to float soon."

"Did you feed him chocolate?" Willow demanded.

"No," Horatio said, sitting down on Ryan's other side.

"Stimulant lube?" Speed asked, leaning on Xander's shoulder to keep him in his seat.

"No," Horatio noted.  "Aiden interrupted."

"Horatio, that's why elevators have a 'stop' button," Ryan reminded him with a grin.

"Weren't you suspended for four days for that?" Eric taunted.

"Yes but it was worth it, and I couldn't walk the next three anyway," Ryan admitted.

"TMI!" Speed said, covering his ears.  "Oooh, TMI, TMI.  Bad enough I walked in on Willow and Oz."

"That's what we thought," Willow agreed dryly.  She looked at her mate.  "Car sex?"

"Only if I get to clean your car.  It's a wreck again."

"The guy who hit me barely dented the front fender."  She covered her mouth and inched her chair back, taking off running at the look on his face.

He got up, chasing after her.  "What do you mean you were in an auto accident, Willow!  You're pregnant!"

"It's never boring in Miami," Eric said, shaking his head.  "Maybe that's why I don't get married," he told his sister, who shook her head.  "No?"

"You enjoy the insanity, it's like a hobby for you."  He grinned at that.  "You know, Lisa is single again."

"Yeah, and looking for husband number three," he complained.  "I'm not a rich playboy, Marisol."

"Fine, spoil my happy mood, Eric," she said with a small pout.

"The last time I saw her she called me a stuck up bastard trying to date outside my station because I was in an upper crust club."

"True, she is a bit judgmental."

"Just a bit, like elephants weigh just a bit."  One of the waiters came over and whispered in Horatio's ear, getting a moan and him walking off.  "What do you want to bet they drove  someone out of the elevators and did it again?" he quipped.

"She was heading for the women's bathroom," Xander told him. "They probably drove some grannies out."

Speed put his head down on the table.  "I don't want to think about those two and sex.  Please?"

"Yeah, I thought I was wild until he took up with Willow, then OCD became a sex game," Eric agreed, patting him on the back.  "She'll put a glass out, watch Ryan twitch, then pounce it to clean it up and then 'teach her better' through long, hot sex."  Speed growled at him.  "Sorry, man.  You and Calleigh could do some interesting stuff."

"I'm not like Ryan," Calleigh called from the other table.  "Sorry, Eric, hate to burst the mental porn."  That table laughed at that.

He looked over.  "Don't you wish, Calleigh.  Sorry, dear, not my type.  No woman of mine should ever love any weapon more than me and mine."  Both tables and a few others laughed at that.

"It's not like she brings them to bed," Speed muttered.  Marisol giggled at that, leaning on Xander, who supported her and patted her on the back. "She doesn't!"

"That's probably a good thing.  Horatio made me quit sleeping with a knife finally too."  Horatio came back shaking his head.  "Bathroom?"

"Stairs."  He sat down with a sigh, noticing the blushes.  "What?"

"Calleigh and Eric were teasing each other."

"Ah.  Good."  He looked at Eric.  "Settle down with someone sane.  Please?  Nothing near Willow."

"I should probably complain," Xander noted dryly, grinning at his mate.

Marisol gave him a hug. "You're just as bad, Xander."  She patted him on the cheek. "But I did like your taste in tuxes."

"That way people stare at him instead of me."

"Works for me," she agreed.  Willow and Ryan came back blushing but holding hands.  They sat down again.  Horatio got up and moved Willow into his seat, sitting between them.  That started off a new round of giggles.  "Where should I go see tomorrow?" she asked Xander.  He'd been stuck here for two weeks, he probably had some idea.  He pointed at Don, making her grin.  "He made you go?"

"He drew me a map.  I'll give it to you."  He grinned at Horatio, then at Willow.  "How bad of a dent was it?"

"Nothing that I couldn't bang out easily.  He ran the stoplight by the house."  Ryan looked down at her.  "An officer responded."

"Which one?" he asked sweetly.

"Not like I'm going to tell you," she snorted.  "I doubt Horatio wants you to go yelling at someone."

Speed looked at her.  "He'll do it anyway and get more involved when he demands to know who it was."  She blushed at that.  "So, male, female?  That way we can narrow it down?"

"It was Brad, wasn't it?" Ryan asked flatly.  She nodded. "Horatio, this guy is stalking her. He's got to be.  He's always there when she's alone."

"We live on the same street," she complained.

"His patrol route is on the *other* side of the city, Willow.  Why was he there when you had a slight crash?"

"Oh.  I didn't know that."

"Can I talk with him?" Xander asked, looking perky again.

"Stand in line," Ryan said dryly.  Xander slumped again, shrugging some. "You can have him if I leave anything."

"Okay."  He grinned.  "Oh, Willow, Toby wants to know if you can translate some of stuff on your shelves too."

"Is that how you get the weapons?" Speed asked.  Xander nodded.  He shook his head, putting it back down. "I need to go back to bed."

"You can sleep on the plane, Speed," Eric soothed, patting him. "Xander, did you remember the plane ticket?"

"I did.  I got it when Fornell told me I could go.  I'm off the no-fly list, finally!"  He beamed.  "Now all I have to do is stop my last stalker and we'll be fine."

"Stalker?" everyone asked, looking from him to Horatio.  Who nodded.

"We've got it handled, right, H?" Eric asked.

"It's fine, Eric.  She's been handled.  She'll be stopping within the month."  That got a sigh of relief all around the table.  "I only worry about the one from the other day."

Xander snorted, waving a hand.  "She had a weapon and me in handcuffs in front of cops.  She took a potshot at one of the cops.  If she gets off, I'm so kicking a Judge's ass.  Maybe I can get someone up here to run."

"Oooh, his poll numbers are up.  He's second up from the spot where there'd be too many judges," Willow said happily.  "When asked, someone said they thought it was great that he didn't run negative ads."  Ryan preened at that news.  "How did Erica do on the story?"

"It got picked up and then the arrest got picked up by the national news.  I'm sure she's dancing around happily," Ryan said, winking at her.  He leaned back.  "Hey, guys, can I have the son back?"

"I'm not done remembering why I take the pill," Stella called. "In an hour or so."

"Sure."  He sat up again.

Willow looked back. "He's not that bad."

"He is, and he scowled so hard last night when Ryan and you kicked him out, pouting and scowling at mama," Eric agreed.

"He spoke?"  She looked at Ryan.  "Our baby spoke and you didn't tell me?"

"I did tell you but that was right before I dove back in."

"I was brainless by then!" she complained, reaching around Horatio to swat him.  "Meany!"  She got up and went over there.  "Toddy, can you say mama for mommy?"


"Tell me you guys didn't teach my son to say fart!" she demanded.  Don broke out laughing so she hit him a few times, taking her son back.  "Come on, Toddy, back here where there's nicer guys.  Good thing Uncle Xander didn't date the Danny or else you'd be really warped by now."

"Hey!  It wasn't me!" Danny defended.

"It was me," Don called.

"I'm returning the favor, Flack!"

"I'm not having any, they'd be baby Xanders too!"

She looked at him. "Wanna bet?"  He went pale.  "You wanna be the mommy too?"   He shook his head and went for a run.  "Good idea," she called after him.  She settled in with her son.  "Say mama?"

"Art!" he said, beaming with pride.

"Well, art is a good thing, son, farting is not," Ryan said, taking him.  "Say Mama, Toddy."

"Mama art oo!"

"That was baby Eric's fault," Aiden offered, coming over.  "Eric was talking about moos."  She hugged Todd. "Don't worry, it'll be okay. Your daddy will make you a normal boy, Toddy."

"Xander's making him into a cross between him and me," Ryan said dryly.  "All the kids around Xander are going to become little Xander's."

"See, another good reason for me to never have any," Eric said happily.  The baby patted him so he picked him up to cuddle him.  "I've got you and Marisol's baby, what do I need another one for, huh, Eric?"

Eric smiled at him.  "'ove you!  Moo!"

"You want a cow?"  Eric beamed.  "If I can find one.  I have no idea where I'd find a cow."

"We'll go visiting a farm," Xander assured him.  "It'll be educational and fun.  He can watch a cow be milked. Maybe he can even pet a horsy."  Eric looked at him.  "The big thing in the park with the carriage?  Would you like to see one of those?"  Eric smiled and nodded.  "Then I'll see if I can find one we can visit."

"The local preschools go to one," Horatio offered.  "Call them."

"I don't want him in preschool.  He's too young."

"He is but they could tell you where the farm is."

"True.  Maybe they'd do that."  He held out his arms but his son shook his head and beamed.  "Why not?"

"Ini cwothes."

"Eric, have you been taking my son out to pick up women!" Xander demanded.  Eric blushed and nodded. "Don't do that!  He's not old enough yet.  Bring Ray Jr.  He's good at it."

"Yeah but he steals all mine."

"The curse of being young, cute, and a Caine," Horatio said with a perfectly straight face.

Speed looked at him, then at Xander.  "You either did it too much or too little, Xander.  Fix it. We want *our* Horatio back before we have to tell Yelina he made that joke."

"Raymond said it first," he offered with a grin. "Frank took her gun and walked her off before she killed him for it."

Horatio nodded.  "He did.  She was still shrieking and screaming at him when he waved and smiled.  Ray, of course, punched his father again and assured his mother it was more than being a Caine, it was the best of both sets of DNA, hers and mine."  Everyone giggled at that, Marisol leaning on Xander again. "Xander, the bill?"

"Already taken care of, Horatio.  I prepaid this time too."  He got up and went to make sure, getting back a report of a phone call.  He put down the fifty cents for that and got a smile.  "We'll be checking out in about two hours, I wanted to make sure. Horatio reminded me."

"That's fine, sir.  Thank you for staying with us during this difficult time."  He grinned and went back there. She made a note on their rooms and filed that receipt.


Xander walked into the house and flopped down on the couch, smiling and falling asleep.

Ray came out of the office, then looked at his uncle.  "Wear him out joining the mile high club?"

"Not hardly. The babies wore him out keeping them occupied.  They hate to fly."  He looked his nephew over.  "Doing the checkbooks again?"

"Mom's having a date over."  He rolled his eyes.  "My mom's pretty and all but I don't want to know if she's loud during sex.  I got enough of that with Stetler.  By the way, Sykes called.  She said thank you but you're still mean to her. Mom gave me the message when I left to make sure Speed liked his birthday present.  They weren't sure what to give him."  Horatio nodded that he had.  "Good.  We figured at least one other person hadn't had a clue."  He shrugged. "So I'm hiding in the office.  Eric?"  Horatio pointed at his back.  "Let me help."  He got the baby out of the backpack and handed him back, letting Horatio put him down. Ray looked at Xander then smiled and went to warm up some more frozen milk.  "Uncle Horatio, the milk has been frozen for weeks now."

"I noticed the refrigerator was broken, Ray.  I'll let Xander fix it tomorrow."

"Did he put any of that check into the bank?"  Horatio nodded.  "Would we be adverse to me taking some of mine out?"

"Your mother would be."


"Why, Ray?"

"Well, I have a girlfriend, and I don't mean like dating but a female friend who I like as a friend.  I kinda stopped her from slitting her wrists yesterday and she told me why."  He sipped the milk, then grimaced.  "It's bad now."  He poured it out and rinsed out the glass, then his mouth.  "She's in a lot of trouble."

"Like knocked up trouble?"  Ray nodded.  "By?"

"She won't tell me but that's why it's a problem."

"Okay," he said, considering it.  "Is it something that could get someone into legal trouble?"

"She's over the age of consent.   You've met Heidi, right?"  Horatio moaned and nodded.  "Think about her parents.  He's a minister.  He'll kill her, Uncle Horatio.  I told her I'd see if I could get it out for her, even if I had to lie to mom, but I don't want to lie to you."

"How much?"

"Four-eighty at the good place downtown."  Horatio hissed. "I know, it's a lot, but I do have it."

"Let us talk tonight, Ray.  Including to your mother.  That way it doesn't get back to her."

"You're way braver than I am," he noted dryly.

"That comes with age and knowing how she draws her weapon."  He smiled at him.  "Go to bed, Ray.  It's late."  He nodded, going into the office to call her to make sure she was all right.  Then he went to bed.  Horatio waited until he was asleep to take the cordless phone outside to talk to his sister-in-law.  "Yelina.  Are you alone and awake?"  He smiled.  "He's napping.  No, leave him.  No, but he did want to ask for something and he didn't want to be in the same state as you. You know his friend Heidi?"  She described her and dissed her parents.  "Exactly.  He said he found her ready to cut her wrists because she's pregnant.  Not his," he said quickly while she was drawing breath.  She let it out again.  "He wanted to help her with the fees to preserve her life."  He considered it.  "Xander could probably find more things for him to do to earn it," he agreed. "No, he said he'd lie to you about it but not me."  He listened to her. "I'm not either but with that girl's parents I'm not so sure we won't have a new body if they find out."  She said something wise.  "Of course.  Tomorrow right after school?"  He smiled.  "That's fine.  I'll let him know.  I'll make sure he gets there.  Have a better night."  He hung up and considered the ocean.  Either Ray was lying or he was a saint or it was his.

Xander came out to whisper in his ear, getting a moan. "Yes, before you ask, I'm sure.  She didn't find out until afterward.  He asked me where the clinic was again so he could go with her for the first one."  Horatio nodded at that.  "If she won't, I will.  I wouldn't curse a baby to that life, Horatio."

"I can agree to that.  Thank you, Xander."  He patted his hand, smiling back at him. "Ready for bed?"

"Of course."  He winked.  "Aren't you tired too?"

"Just a bit. I could lie down."  He got up, securing the house before following his mate into their bedroom and shutting the door.

"Moooooooooooooooooooooooo!" Eric called, then cackled.

Xander opened the door. "Sleep, son.  No more mooing tonight.  Or no moos for real."


Xander shook his head, going to get his son to sleep so he could have sex.


Speed looked at Horatio as he trudged in.  "Long night?"

"Your grandson woke us up by mooing every few minutes."  Speed looked at him oddly.  "Really.  Kept us both up and Ray Jr."  He headed for his office.  "Do we have a case yet?"

"No, but Ryan called in.  He broke and cleaned the kitchen."  Horatio stopped and looked at him.  "He can't come in, she's in preterm labor.  They think they've got it stopped and she's praying hard to the Goddess."

Horatio nodded. "I'll have forms filled out for him and call him in about an hour."

"That's fine.  He's at the same place where they had Toddy."  He shrugged.  "Eric made it in.  So apparently he had a short night too."  Horatio cracked a smile and continued the trek to his office. "Calleigh's bouncing around ballistics.  I'm here, Alexx is here and humming.  Who do you want to take over Ryan's case?"

"Pick," he decided, waving a hand. Speed grunted and went to tell them that.   Horatio sat behind his desk, smiling when Yelina brought him in some coffee.  "My son is demented.  He mooed all night."  She giggled at that.  "Every few minutes.  Not even Ray and Xander together could get him to go to sleep."

"Ray did that for about a week after a trip to the farm."

"We had to explain to him that milk in a glass came from a moo, milk in a bottle was from the mother.  He finally got that and that he was too big to drink from the mother, at least until he was Ray Jr.'s age."  She giggled again, sitting down.  "Did you talk to her?"

"I did.  What Xander told you was right.  So?"

"If he wants to, I'll agree to him taking it or Xander said he could find him some menial tasks."

"I'll let him take it out.  My son is a good man, better than his father.  I did talk to him about it.  He threw a fit, couldn't get past that she was asking him."

"Ray had that scare himself twice."

"He never told me that."

"Girlfriend in high school."  He yawned and leaned back.  He snapped to standing when his boss came in.  "Problems, sir?"

"You looked good in that tux, Horatio.  Tell your mate nice job."  He looked him over.  "Celebrating?"

"My son moos."


"He went 'moo' all night long," Yelina told him. "It's a Caine thing.  Ray Jr. did it too."

"Okay."  He nodded.  "So you got no sleep?"  Horatio nodded. "Try to make it through the day if you can, Horatio.  Anything else?"

"Ryan Wolfe's wife is in preterm labor.  I'm going to be filling out forms for family leave."

"That's fine. Not like he could plan that. Any idea if it's a problem or not?"

"They overdid it cleaning up the kitchen from what he said," Horatio said with a straight face.

"So, sex?  I did that to my son, but he wasn't that early.  Any idea on your thing with Marisol?"

"We think it did take and that I'll be a father in just under a year, sir.  How did you hear about that?"

"I hear many things, Horatio."  He smirked. "Two weeks, you must be there.  That is an order.  You as well, Yelina."  He walked off, going to talk to someone up the hall.

Horatio sat down.  "Any idea why?"

"No.  I know he's announcing his retirement. I understand why you, to make a statement the lab is behind the new person."  She smiled at him. "Where's your award?"

"At home in my office.  Supervisor of the Year," he said proudly.  "Stunned me to no end.  Don won Cop of the Year."  She smiled at that.  "The FBI got stopped."

"I saw.  I also saw that he was highly bruised.  You?"

"He had Xander.  Xander fought back."  She nodded, looking wise.  "He bit him once too."

"More blood tests?"

"A man like that? I doubt he's not always careful so that nothing can sully his body or reputation.  He was certainly careful with the homicides.  It got Mac out of some boring things to go out on it."

"Good.  Now, what am I getting for the holidays?"

The Chief stepped back in.  "Your son is here, Detective Salas, and he's not looking happy.  Any idea why?"

"No.  He didn't get any sleep last night either thanks to baby Eric.  Send him up please."  That got a nod and he went to do that.  Ray walked in and dropped something on the desk, then faced her.  "Son, that's a knife and there's blood on it."

"I took it from Heidi's father.  He found out.  He pulled her out of the clinic by her hair and was using it on her throat.  They've already called a detective.  I thought you'd rather hear it first.  Can we take a statement here?" he asked, looking calm.

"Is her father living?" Horatio asked.

"All but one of his kidneys probably.  I kicked him in one," Ray admitted.  "Frank got called, mom."

"I'll call Frank, tell him the weapon is here," Horatio said.  "Take him down and have someone neutral to us take his statement, Yelina."  She nodded.  "Stay with him as his parent."  He called Frank.  "Frank, Horatio.  Ray's here.  He brought the knife with him."  He looked at it.  "No, it's on my desk.  It was in his hand.  Is she living?"  He sighed and nodded. "Is he living?  Thank you.  Whoever answers, remember to have them pull the tape."  He hung up and got up, walking out of his office and closing the door.  "Phil!" he called, seeing the IAB officer they worked with.  He came jogging up.  "Ray just took a knife from a father killing his daughter for being pregnant.  He dropped it on my desk. I need someone else to bag it for proper evidence control.  Yelina's with him as a mother."

"Got it."  He went to get a bag off one of the techs then do that.  He came out with it.  "It's a pretty knife.  The daughter all right?"

"We're not sure yet.  Paramedics got there in time. Ray told them what was going on.  Thank you."

"Not a problem.  I'll make sure she's got a trashcan with a liner in it."  He went to do that, seeing the CSI assigned.  "Are you sure you can, Calleigh?"

"I'm not one of the ones Ray Jr. hangs out with," she assured him, taking the dagger.  "Thank you.  I'm heading out now.  Where is he?"


"That's fine. Have someone neutral take his statement.  Let his mom be his mom this time."  She headed off with her kit.


Ray walked into Xander and Horatio's house, flopping down beside Xander, hugging him.  "I'm okay.  I'm in the clear."

Xander cuddled him, pulling him closer.  "Let it go, Ray."  He nodded, letting it go now.  "Shh, I've got you. You're safe.  She's alive and they told the doctors what you said.  They'll do it there if they can."  Ray nodded, sobbing against his shoulder.  "Shh, it's all right, Ray."  His father walked in. "Out, Ray."

Ray looked up and glared. "Do you mind!" he snapped.

"Yeah, I kinda do."  He walked over and squatted in front of him.  "Are you okay?"

"Do I look okay!" he shrieked, getting up to face him.  Xander stood up and leaned on the back of the couch, out of the way but there if he needed him.  His father faced him down.  "I'm not okay!  One of my best friends nearly died!  From her father's hand!  I was going to kill him for it!  I stopped!"

"Good.  The rest makes you human, son."  Ray just stared at him.  "This is grief, just like you did with me. It's right to grieve and it's right to be upset. It's right to rant and scream or cry if you want.  That means you're human and not psychotic or anywhere near sociopathic."  Ray sniffled, looking at him.  "Remember, your mom and I have been here too," he said more gently.  "We don't mind you coming to your uncle and Xander.  They've been here, I've been there.  I've actually killed people in the line of duty."  Ray sniffled again.  "Just know that this is a *normal* reaction, the same as the doubts and the nightmares are."  He nodded, moving forward to hug him.  Xander nodded him to the bedroom so he took him in there, going to comfort his son.

Xander called Horatio.  "Sr.'s got Jr. and he's still okay.  Crying.  Our bedroom."  He smiled.  "Thanks, babe."  He hung up and went to find some tissues for them and make some cocoa.  Cocoa always made him feel better.


"In a minute, Eric!  Let me do something and then I'll come let you out!"  His son cackled.

"Eric, take a nap!" Ray Jr. called. "Please!"

Xander giggled and brought the tray into the bedroom.  "Here, the best I can do with a wonky fridge.  I'll go get the sprout up. Stay in here as long as you need to, guys."  He left them alone, going to let his son down and out.  His son stared at his bare chest and poked his nipple, then looked up at him.  "No, only mommies can make milk for bottles. I'm still a daddy."  He lifted him down, letting him head to the bathroom, then took him downstairs to play.  "Let's go into the office, little man.  Daddy needs to find us a new fridge."  Eric followed, still mooing.  He sat down and his son climbed into his lap, helping him go shopping.  He did some price shopping then got up to measure the space, coming back to find the one he wanted.  He called the office.


Xander grinned.  "The son says hi too.  Did you want a side-by-side or a freezer on top or a freezer on the bottom?"  He listened to Horatio.  "I can do any of those.  One of the nicer places that has warranties has a 'buy online, have it delivered from the local store' option."  He listened to him. "Just like the last one?  How long did it last?"  He counted back, then shook his head.  He found that one on the site.  "Horatio, it's two hundred higher than the one Consumer Reports liked best in that category and size."  He rolled his eyes.  "Are you *sure*?  The other is rated for ten years."  He checked.  "It's listed as two to three days to deliver.  The other is listed as same day/next day after three."  He checked the clock. "It's only noon."


"And he's hungry."  He smiled.  "Please let me get the good one? Same company, different model?  Really, the one in the hidey hole that no one saw," he admitted. "Yeah, that one."  He grinned.  "Good?"  He nodded.  "Thank you, dear."  He hung up before any more orders could be given.  He ordered that one and paid for it, then smiled at his son.  "Let's get you some new tapes and books."  He went to their book site, the one Speed liked, logging on under his name but selecting his profile.  He got him a few new tapes and books, especially one on farm animals, then paid for it and clicked the 'send it now' button.   The phone rang so he answered it. "Caine residence.  This is he."  He smiled.  "Please.  Ours is broken. It's freezing stuff but letting it rot."  He smiled.  "That's fine.  I can clean out the old one with the son and you can haul it away if you can get the new one here today."  He smiled.  "Thank you.  That's our address. I'll be here."  He hung up and answered the other beeping line.  "Caine's."  He listened.  "That's us.  Yup.  Please, at least the one on farm animals."  He poked his son.


"That's why," Xander said blandly, getting a laugh. "Please?  Thank you!  We love you guys.  We thank Speed each time we order.  Yup, the whole lab got you guys from him."  He beamed. "He might like that.  He recently got some gift certificates."  He giggled. "That's cool.  We'll be here waiting on a new fridge.  Thank you, Serena."  He hung up and looked at his son, then closed down the computer and took him to clean out the fridge.  He got up to close the bag, pulling it out of the can.  "One of you two come watch Eric!  I'm taking out trash!" he called.

"Can't it wait!" Ray Sr. called.

"No, they're coming to replace the fridge.  It stinks."

They both came out to grab the baby and bring with them, making him laugh and giggle at that.  Xander hauled out the trash, coming back to get the freezer stuff, which was mostly ruined too.  Then he took out the fridge bulb.  No sense in wasting it.  He also lysoled the path from the fridge to the garage.  That had really stunk.  He didn't want that on his kid.  He walked over at the knock, smiling at the book delivery.  "Thank you, Goddess."  He signed the slip and got a kiss on the cheek.  "Have a nice day."

"FART!" Eric yelled.

Xander sighed and shook his head.  "He's playful today.  His Uncle Don taught him that word."  She giggled and left.  He went to give those to Ray.  "One's a tape and book on farm animals."

"I noticed he was mooing early," Sr. said with a grin.

"We had to explain, again, why milk in a bottle comes from the mommy and milk in a glass comes from a moo."  He went back to his kitchen, going to make a list of what they'd need replaced.  Someone else knocked.  He went to answer it.  "Hey, Marisol.  I'm dealing with the busted fridge.  It switched sides, the freezer was a balmy forty-four and the fridge was subzero."  She giggled at that.  "Help me make out the grocery list?"  She nodded, but first she sprayed the inside of the fridge with lysol.  "Thanks, I did the floors where I had to drag out the trash."

"Coocoococococ!" Eric crowed.

"Nearly," he called.  "New books," he said with a beaming smile.  "One on farm animals with a *tape*."

She hugged him, patting him on the back.  "It'll be okay, Xander."

"He mooed all night, Marisol.  Every few minutes it was a moo."  His son barked.  "At least it's not a moo."  He heard the bark again and looked around.  "Did you bring the  dog?"

"No, it's at his master's house.  Why?"  She heard another bark and they both groaned, going out to shoo off the stray, pitiful, starved looking dog.  "No, Xander, he could be sick!" she protested, pulling him back.  "He could be really sick.  Go call the pound. They'll get him treated."

"They'd put him down."

"They won't.  Go call.  I'll watch him."  She got a bit of food out of the cabinet, what else was potted meat good for but animal food.  The dog dug in with a happy bark.  Two guys came around the house, giving her a look. "Animal control?"

"My sister's dog, she's sick," one of them offered. "Here, Blackie."  The dog growled.

"I'm going to wait for the dog catcher.  He'll make that decision since the dog doesn't like you."

"Lady, it's our dog!" the other one complained.

Ray Jr. came out, looking at them, his father behind them.  "Issues?" he asked, staring them down.  They took off running.  "Good."  He looked at her, then at the dog.  "We'll keep Eric from seeing him," he said, going to find the baby and make sure he didn't see or hear the dog.  He'd howl for days for a dog.

Ray Sr. looked at it.  "I've seen crack hos who have more weight on them."

"They claimed it was their sister's dog and she's sick."

"Uh-huh," Ray Sr. said, nodding.  "I so believe that too."  One of them came back with a gun so he pulled his. "I'm a former cop. The owner here is a cop.  You're in deep shit, boy."  He glared, raising his shotgun higher.

Xander walked up behind him, cocking his gun and pressing it against his skull.  "Down, now," he growled.  The guy dropped his gun.  "Knees."  He dropped.  "Handcuffs?"  Ray Jr. tossed out a set.  "Thank you."  He cuffed him and pushed him into the sand.  He walked back inside.  "Ray, the baby?"

"In the bedroom watching the tape."

"Good, I don't want him getting attached to that dog."  He heard a truck pull in and went to let the delivery guys in, smiling at the new one.  "Thank you."  He hugged them.  "This way, guys."  He saw the dog catcher, pointing around the house.  "Out back by the porch."  They nodded, parking and heading that way.

Ray came in to help the delivery guys move the fridge.  Then he called Horatio.  "Brother, your husband is very good at menacing those with a gun.  No, a stray came up and then two guys came up claiming it was their dog.  Emaciated.  I've seen more weight on a crack ho.  Marisol's feeding it to keep it calm and here.  One of them came back with a shotgun.  He and I traded insults, Xander got him down then cuffed.  He's in the sand.  The dog catchers are here for the mutt.  Your son now has books and tapes on animals so he's doing more than mooing."  He hung up, heading that way after signing Xander's name to the slip.  "Thanks, guys."  He initialed it with a wink. "In case anyone asks.  I'm his secretary, Ray."  That got a nod and they left after his son tipped them.  "That's nice of you."

"Mom told me to always tip delivery guys."  He shrugged, going to check on the baby then outside.  "Will he be all right?"

"I'm not sure," the dog catcher admitted. "He's really skinny and it looks like he's been zapped a few times with a tazer or something."  Xander growled.  He looked at the man in the sand.  "You might want to turn his head, sir.  That way he doesn't suffocate." Xander went to do that, then came back.  "We'll test his blood and all that stuff.  He might make a good adoption dog when he's cleaned up and fed more.  Did they have a name?"

"They called him Blackie but he growled," Marisol offered, pointing at the growling.  She nudged the food closer and the dog ate again.

"I'll make note of that," he promised with a smile.  "Thank you, guys."  He picked up the food and the dog followed it right to his truck.  The patrol officer parked behind him but he waved him around the house. "He's face down in the sand, his gun beside him."

"He's not the first we've gotten here.  Can you get around me?"  That got a nod and the ASPCA truck pulled around him and out.  He walked back there, shaking his head at the guy.  "What an idiot.  Over a dog?"

Xander looked at him and shrugged. "Yeah. Over a very abused dog according to him.  One that growled hard at the name he called him."

"Ooh, interesting."  He hauled him up and grabbed the gun. "You pat him down?"

"No, I doubted he was going to move.  Those are Horatio's spares."

"I'll give 'em back to him, sir."  He walked the guy off, dropping him when the other one came over with a shotgun. "Put it down!  I'm still a cop!"

"Jesus, is this Day of the Walking Morons?" Ray Jr. called, coming out the front door. "Put it the fuck down!" he called, imitating one of his classmates.  The guy dropped it.  "Good!  Now surrender!  Tell him everything!"   He babbled at him about his experiment and serum.  "Jesus," he muttered, heading in to play with the baby.  That way he'd be smarter than that.

Sr. looked at Xander, opening his mouth.  "He goes to school with a bunch of the offspring," he offered. "Plus he watched it on HBO."

"No wonder my boy sounded like some mafia thug."  He went to talk to his son.

Xander looked at Marisol. "It's not always like this.  Wanna go grocery shopping with me?  Horatio deserves dinner when he gets home."  She nodded.  "We're going to the store."

"Can I have some peppermints?" Sr. called.

"If I must," Xander agreed, adding it to the list.  "Anything else?"

"Ice cream. The last was dead."

"Sure."  He added that too, making Marisol giggle. "I know, I spoil everyone horribly. At least Horatio returns it," he said with a small smile.  He took her out to his car, doing both alarms but nothing went off. He let her in then got in to drive, heading for their usual grocery store.  The clerk smiled.  "New fridge syndrome."  She giggled.  "Did I grab my wallet?"  He patted himself down and sighed, handing her the list.  "Do that for me, I'll be right back."  She nodded, walking off with the cart to start while he went back for his wallet.  He came back and found her in the meat department, choosing some very nice pork chops.  "Thank you, I wanted some of those."  She smiled at him.  "Thick enough to be stuffed too."  She nodded, pointing at the cart. "Having a silent day?" he teased.

"I'm watching the master fusser," she teased.  "I've never seen you in full fuss mode."

"Don't worry, you'll hate it soon," he promised with a grin.

"Darkness?" some woman asked.  He looked at her.  "Who's she?  I thought you had a husband."

"I do, this is the woman who's giving us a second child.  She's helping me grocery shop since I can't cook."

"Oh.  Are you going back?"  He shook his head. "Pity."  She pouted.  "Please?  I wanted to show my daughter how good you were."

He shook his head.  "Nope, sorry. Horatio would throw fits if I even thought about it."  She pouted off.  He shook his head, pointing at some steaks.  "Those?"

"They're thin and tough, Xander."

"Okay. That's what I use for jerky."

"I realize that."  She patted him on the arm. "Did you adjust the recipe?"

"Yeah, but it made me so horny I about killed myself and Horatio was already collapsed long before then."  She giggled at that.  "Seriously.  It was strong too."  He got some of that anyway, in case he wanted to experiment.  Then she picked out some stuff for the grill.  He added more of that stuff, earning a smile. "Eric eats his own weight every day."

"He does," she agreed, walking off with him.  Her phone rang.  "Speak of the worrywart."  She answered it.  "Yes?"  She listened. "No, Momma, I'm with Xander grocery shopping.  The baby's with both Rays at the house.  Of course. We'll be done here in a few minutes. Xander had to replace the refrigerator.  It was broken."  She looked at him then said something rapid-fire spanish, making him smirk.  "You're learning?"

"Of course, half of Miami speaks it, Marisol."  He grinned at her.  "I'm a man of many talents.  Tell your mom bye so we can get home sooner."

"Momma, we've got to get home," she said, saying something else in Russian, making him groan.  "Ha!  Don't know that one."

"Why can't you speak English," some redneck complained.

Xander glared back at him. "She does.  She was born here, asshole."  He glared back.  Xander turned fully, arms over his chest.  "Back down. I'm married to a cop. She's the sister of a cop."  The guy sneered and patted his gun.  Xander shrugged.  "Yay.  You've got one, mine's actually legal."  He looked at Marisol.  "Go ahead without me, sweetie."  She nodded, hurrying on.  "Maybe you should reread the history books.  Even the Native Americans came from somewhere else.  Get over it."  He walked off, shaking his head at the store security guard.  "He started it," he said as he walked past him.

"I heard.  You are?"  Xander grinned and flipped open his wallet to his college ID.  "That's fine, sir."  Xander went back to helping Marisol, who was shaky.  He came over a few minutes later.  "The management is making him leave but it'll be a few minutes."

"That's fine, he was patting his gun," Xander said quietly.  That got a nod and he reported that while they finished their list.  He let her head to the register, going for the peppermints.

"Remember, pesos are the funny colored ones," the redneck sneered.

"I'm Russian and Cuban.  We don't use pesos.  Maybe you should study that subject as well."  She smiled at the cashier.  "Ignore him.  I was talking to my mother about Xander's birthday and he didn't like that."  She offloaded the cart until someone grabbed her arm.  Then the hand was removed and the guy was howling in pain.

Xander pulled him back further and let him go, then stepped over him.  "Next time, don't try a woman, asshole.  Real men don't try to harm women or weaker beings.  That's why you're still alive."  He handed over his card, smiling at her.  "Ray's peppermints."  He put them onto the belt, earning a smile.  "Need more help, Mar?"

"No, I'm good," she promised quietly.  "What did you do to him?"

"I squeezed a nerve point which causes pain.  That's all I did to him."  He felt the movement and pushed her forward, making her stumble into the cart while he turned to block the hit coming.  The guy pulled his gun.  "Oooh, yay you."  He stepped inside his guard, broke his wrist and made him drop the gun, leaving him on the ground howling and cradling his wrist.  "Not polite.  Didn't your mother or someone teach you manners?"  He huffed and looked at the manager.  "I'm very sorry he's disturbing the store.  We don't hold it against you for who shops here," he said, glaring at him.  "Or how he tried to attack my friend."  He backed off.  He looked at the manager again.  "He's probably very sorry."

"Can you stay to help us report the incident?"

"Sure."  He handed Marisol the keys.  "Can you handle my sports car?"

"I've driven faster," she promised, looking at him.

He looked her over.  "You okay? I didn't hurt you?"

"I caught myself when I stumbled," she assured him.

He smiled and kissed her on the forehead, taking his card back.  He waved as she was walked outside by the security guard. He looked at the manager again.  "He did start it.  I walked away each time until he resorted to physical violence."

"I saw, sir.  Your name?"


"That's fine, I've seen you in here before, Mr. Harris."  He smiled at the cops coming in, pointing at the man on the floor.  "He was picking on a young woman with Mr. Harris."  The cops gave him a scared look and Xander grinned, waving at them.

"Harris," one of the patrol guys squeaked.  "You're all right, right?"

"I'm fine, Eric's sister is fine.  He started in on her.  She was asking her mother when my birthday was in Spanish when redneck boy here butted in.  She switched to Russian at one point too.  We walked away, her first so I could cover her.  We went back to shopping.  He tried again at the register, telling her the pesos were the funny colored ones.  She shot back that one, I forgot something. Went back for it.  Came back to find him trying to grab her arm. I did a nerve squeeze.  Pulled him away from her, dropped him, got in behind her to put that down and pay for the groceries.  He came after us again, I felt the movement and pushed her out of the way, turning to block him.  He had his gun pulled.  I broke his wrist and put him down.  The manager came. I got Marisol out.  She's headed to our place with the groceries.  Our fridge broke while we were gone," he shared.

"They were buying stuff to stock up with," the cashier agreed.  "I can print off another copy of the receipt if you need it, officers."

"It shouldn't be necessary," one of them assured her.  "We like Mr. Harris. Most of the time."

"This makes, like, twice today, guys.  Not my fault. They were saving it up for when I got back from the convention and the FBI shit."

"I heard," one of them offered. "You good?"

"Now. It's fixed."  He shrugged.  "Can I get a ride home?"  They nodded.  "Thanks."  He glared at the guy trying to touch his pantsleg.  "Yes?"

"Are you a commando, like GI Joe?" he asked pitifully.

"No, I'm the husband of a cop and I run a foundation for gay men."  He whimpered and collapsed backward.  "Sorry, I've got a husband."  He shrugged and looked at the officers, seeing the one giggling. "Don't let them catch you doing that," he chided with a grin. "Eric might start too."  He had seen him pull up. "She's fine."

"Who's fine?" he asked, looking confused.

"Marisol.  We were out shopping."

He groaned.  "And...."

"Redneck.  Language issues, his."

"Okay.  Been there, done that before," he agreed, coming over to process the scene.  "He's not dead!"

"We were told to call you guys if we run into Mr. Harris in a situation where someone might die, sir," one of the officers reported.

"Yet you didn't call him earlier when we had the guy with the gun for the dog?"

"Guy with the gun for the dog," Eric repeated slowly.  "Uh-huh.  And?" Eric asked, looking at him.

"Ask the guy who looks like a latte that needs caffeine."

"I know him," Eric agreed.  "I'll ask him for that report.  My sister?"

"I had to give her a nudge forward, she *swore* up and down she caught herself when she stumbled.  It was on the cart.  I thought he was going to hit me, I shoved her forward slightly, like five inches, she *SWORE* to me that she caught herself before she did more than stumble, Eric."

"Calm down.  She's fine, right?"  Xander nodded.  "Where is she?"

"Took my car and the groceries."

"That's fine.  We can go check on her.  I'll give you a ride home.  Unless you guys need him?" he asked the officers.  Who shook their heads.  "You sure?"

"The manager and everyone agreed the gentleman on the floor started it and Mr. Harris kept walking away.  He only reacted when a gun appeared."

"Good, then I'm taking him home so I can check on my sister and going back to work."  He looked at the cashier.  "He needed?"  She shook her head.  "Good."  He walked him out, taking him out to his hummer.  "Calm down.  I'm sure she's fine if she said she was fine.  My other sister fell down the stairs while pregnant and she was fine.  Just stumbling won't hurt her." Xander nodded quickly.  "You need to puke?"  He shook his head. "You sure?"  He nodded. "Okay."  He let Xander in then got in to drive, calling his boss. "Did you tell them to call us if and when someone came after Xander this time?"  He snorted. "No, some guy tried to shoot him and Marisol so Xander broke his wrist.  They called me.  On my way to check on her and take him home."  He hung up.  "Horatio said to calm down too."

"I'm calm!"

"You're not calm, you just yelled at me, Xander."  He started the engine and backed out, taking him home.  Marisol ran out to hug him, then her brother.  "Hi.  Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  Is he okay?  The guy had a gun!"

"He's fine."  He walked her back inside, then came out to take Xander and drag him in.  He put them both in the kitchen.  "Here, make something fattening.  Call Momma.  She heard and panicked too."  He walked out, heading back to the office.  He walked up to the office. "He's going to fuss her to death.  The new refrigerator is pretty, H."  He grinned.  "I left them twittering at each other.  It sounded like the baby was listening to something on baby animals."  He headed out, going back to work.  Speed stopped him. "Xander had to break the wrist of someone who had a gun on them.  Someone who was going after Marisol for not speaking English with my mother.  They're both fine, twittering each other to death."  He walked around him, going to his lab so he could shut himself in.  He called Wolfe.  "She good?"  He grunted.  "That's fine.  Don't call Xander, he's in a fussing mood over Marisol.  Yeah, nearly.  Panicking a bit.  Swore up and down to me she was okay."  He grinned at the understanding voice.  "Yeah, home.  They stop it?"  He grinned.  "That'll work.  Tell us if you need us."  He hung up and pulled out the work he was supposed to be doing.  Horatio opened the door.  "Wolfe said they stopped her labor. She's prayed a lot, it's a girl by the most recent ultrasound.  She's fine."

"Good.  How is your sister?"

"Fine.  She's twittering. She ran out to hug him then me. I put them in the kitchen and said to make something fattening.  You twit nearly as bad as he does.  Shoo.  I'm working. You go twit and nap off the mooing."  He walked over and turned him around, giving him a gentle nudge out of the lab, then slammed the door.  He got back to work.


Horatio walked into his house that night, sniffing nice smells.  "Who cooked?"

"We ordered," Ray Jr. called.  He came out of the office.  "Father's in there.  You've got food in the fridge.  Lots and lots of food.  There's stuff in the freezer.  It works.  For a change."  Horatio gave him a look.  "Marisol's in here on the couch.  Eric's happily clucking in his bed, after having a bath.  Father did it.  Xander's collapsed.  They had ice cream for dinner."  Horatio smiled at that. "She's fine, he's fine, the usual happened."  That got another nod. "I'm wondering how much he spent in New York."

"You and me both, Ray."  He went to check on the baby first, then Marisol, then his mate.  He took off his suit and put it up, he'd wear it again before it went to the cleaner's.  He put on a t-shirt and pair of sleep pants, then went to get dinner.  He was hungry.  He found his brother in there.  "Food?"  A carton was handed back.  "What's this?"

"Chicken Lo Mein from the good place, Horatio. They all napping?"

"For now."  He opened it and grabbed a fork, leaning against the counter to eat.  "So, how was your date last night?"  His brother looked at him.  "It was fairly apparent."  He ate another bite, looking at him.

"We talked.  A lot.  My son?"

"Was frustrated by the mooing."

"I heard that earlier."  He smirked some.  "Ray was older when he mooed, good job."

"Thank you.  Did his mother call?"

"Not that I've heard but the fridge might've taken the answering machine on vacation with it."

"Entirely possible. Did we check?"  He shook his head so he went to do that.  He found a message from Di, a sleepy, happy, sated sounding woman if he had ever made one.

"Xanny, baby, can you keep the baby this week?  Please?" she pleaded.  "I love you.  I'll make you more leathers.  Please?  My baby wants to have more fun.  Pretty please?"  He chuckled.  "Tell Horatio that his birthday present for you is still a go.  We're good.  We're happy.  We're ...somewhere and I'm having fun. Thanks, baby."  Then a click.

He snorted and called her phone.  "Di, call the cells next time," he ordered into her machine.  "Yes, we can keep him for a few more days, but we want to meet her.  Soon, Diana.  By the way, expect some animal noises."  He hung up. Then he shook his head and went into the study, his brother following.  "What are you doing?"

"Catching up on the bookkeeping now that we've got the full records back.  I've also called the bank about a ten thousand dollar withdrawal.  They said that he authorized it as a cash withdrawal, something about the extra stay at the hotel."  Horatio nodded.   "Right now, he's still working on the interest this month.  He did deposit some of the check today.  Not all of it," he snorted.  "There's some serious cash laying around somewhere."

"Probably in the safety deposit box," Horatio agreed.  "Anything else?"

"Nothing outstanding. All the bills were paid this month.  Your cell is back on autodraft on the other card you set up, it just came out."  He hit a few keystrokes.  "I paid off the fridge and the new books and tapes today.  Ooh, and there's Don on the IM.  Want to talk to him?"  Horatio shrugged so he got up.  "The bigger one is the fridge," he shared with a grin.

Horatio looked. "Not a bad price for same day delivery."

"Also, tops in Consumer Reports."  He sat in the other chair, taking his father's food from him.  "Greedy bastard."

"How is she?" Horatio asked as he typed at Don, getting a fairly drunk detective. "He's off again tonight."

"What happened?" Jr. asked.

"His girlfriend went back to her ex."   He typed something at him, getting a giggle.  He called. "Don, go sleep it off," he ordered.  He got a growled 'okay, no porn tonight'.  "I'll make Xander send you some, Don. Just sleep it off.  Log off your computer and go to bed."  Don hung up and his computer logged off.  "Good.  He needed to sleep it off."  He made a note to Xander, then went back to his browsing of their accounts.  "My balance is gone on my credit cards?"

"They paid that off when your mortgage payments got returned.  It's been gone for months, Uncle Horatio."  He got up and flipped back on the ledger, tapping it.  "Then.  The month Xander under-balanced his statement and pissed himself off."  He sat down again, going back to his eating. "The bank did it, not him.  I remember him calling in a blind panic because the check had been sent to the wrong account.  The way it was set up for you guys, whatever was in that account got sent to the credit card companies."

"That's good to know," he agreed calmly.  "Maybe I can negotiate for a smaller rate now."  He leaned back, going back to eating while he flipped through the ledger.  "Ray, why minus signs?"

"Because I couldn't figure out how to mark withdrawals without it, Uncle H.  Sorry."

"That's okay.  Xander swears up and down he's going to take accounting this upcoming semester."  His phone rang so he answered it.  "Caine."  He listened, checking the clock.  "She's here and asleep, Eric.  Are you just now leaving?  Sure, if you can wake her."  He hung up, looking at his nephew. "How is she?" he asked again.

"In pain, alive.  They agreed they couldn't save the baby, especially under the circumstances she cited.  They did another blood test, came out negative.  He's still alive and in jail."  He stuffed his mouth again. "The DA hated me," he said between his next bite.

Horatio nodded. "She hates me worse," he assured him.  "What did she say?"

"It obviously ran in the family," he deadpanned.  Xander walked in and curled up in Horatio's lap, going back to sleep once he had comfort.  "Nightmares?"

"Now and then," he agreed, stroking his back.  He took off his t-shirt and dropped it in Xander's lap to cover what Ray was staring at.

"Now I know why they liked him so much as a stripper."

"I am close enough to stab you," Ray reminded him patiently.  "Shut up."  He ate another bite.  "Should I go home or are you and Mom going to be going at it like rabid weasels again?"  His father blushed.  "Up to you."

"I think she wants you home tonight.  Something about cleaning out your closet."

"Fat chance," he snorted. "I earned those clothes.  I look good in those clothes.  Bite me."

"Your mother wanted you to donate some of it."

"Which is wonderful but it'd be the normal clothes and my uniforms.  By the way, Uncle H, they love you but my classmates want me more now."  He finished his carton of food.  "They think I can give them an inside track to you guys and other things."

"Fat.  Chance."

Ray smiled.  "You give the sweetest orders.  Can I tell them off impolitely?"  Horatio nodded and his father moaned.  "Good, then he's overruled."  He reached over and took his uncle's food, giving him a sweet grin.  "I'm starved.  There's more in the fridge."

"She taught you better manners," Ray Sr. said patiently.  Ray gave back the food and got up to get more.  "Thank you."  He rolled his eyes.  "He forgot the basic things, Horatio."

"He's yanking you," Xander said, glaring at him.  Ray shifted and got up, taking his son home.  He growled and put his head back down, letting his husband pat him back into sleep.  "I don't feel good."

Horatio tested his forehead. "You're warm.  Sniffles, aches, anything like that?"  Xander shook his head. "Are you sure?"


"Then let's get you back to bed, Xander."  He heard clucking and groaned.  "Not again."

"Eric, daddy doesn't feel good.  Sleep, please!" he begged.  He put his head back down.  Horatio got up and helped him back to bed, covering him with a sheet.  "Don't yell at him."

"I won't be, I'll hand him back his teddy bear and he'll go back to sleep."  He walked up there, looking at his giggling son.  "Eric, daddy needs to sleep.  Please sleep?"  He shook his head.  "Why not?"  He pointed up.  Horatio looked up.  "Ah.  The light is too bright.  I can fix that."  He closed the curtains more, handing him back his teddy bear.  Eric snuggled in and fell asleep within a few minutes prompting.  "Good night, son."  He headed back downstairs, finding Xander getting sick.  And not a good sick.  He came to clean him up, finding him biting his lip.  "Let it go, Xander."  He shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Cramps."  He leaned back, resting against his mate's legs.  "It's not food poisoning."

"No, it's probably not," he agreed, smirking at him.  "I doubt you'd ever get it."  He wet the towel down again, cleaning off his face.  "Just cramps?"  Xander shook his head. "What else?"

"Chilly.  Funny feelings up and down my arms and chest."

"Sounds like the last time you got the flu."  He helped him up and back to the bed.  Xander curled up in a little miserable ball.  "I should get Eric to one of the others."

"Speed's got Toddy."

"I can call Eric.  Well, he's coming over," he admitted. Xander got up and headed back, making him look that way. "What did you eat?"

"Nothing!"  He threw up more bile.  "I hate dry heaves!"

"I'm calling Alexx."

"No, it's her night off."  He stood up.  "I can go to the ER."

"You can, but you'd have to put on clothes and be driven."  Xander glared at him.  "Let's get dressed, I'll take you once Eric's here."  Xander nodded, going to put on a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt.  He looked at Xander's back. "What is that?"  He touched the marks.  "Xander, claw marks?"

"no," he said weakly, looking in the mirror. "It's not."  He frowned.  Someone knocked.  "Go let Eric in while I put on clothes."

Horatio went to let Eric in, nodding at him and his mother.  "Xander's sick.  The baby's sleeping, finally.  There was too much light."  He heard a giggle and a long moo.  "Never mind."

Eric laughed and went to check on him, patting him on the head.  "Why are you up?  Again?"


"I know, he's sick. He needs to sleep."  Eric pouted. "No, it's time to sleep."  The baby grinned and shook his head. "Why not?"  He pointed at the window.  Eric finished closing the curtains but he cried.  "I didn't think so."  He picked him up and carried him and his bear down.  He put him on the couch.  "You stay there, you try to sleep.  If you're a good boy, I'll make you breakfast."  Eric snuggled down, taking the blanket off his fathers' bed.  "Good."  He went into the bedroom, turning to catch the baby.  "Nope.  Not with a sick daddy."  He walked him back and put him back down.  "Here or bed, kiddo."  He pouted.  "Now."  Eric laid down and the baby laid with him.  It was the last resort of the tired parents.  But it worked.  He looked back at his mother as she came out.  "He okay?"

"It looks like food poisoning but this is Xander we're talking about."  She looked at him, then shook her head.  "Refusing?"  He nodded.  "Good.  They're going to the hospital.  Can you stay or should I take him home?"

"Moooooooooooooooooooo!" Eric said.  Then he giggled.

She looked at the baby.  "Are you a cow?"  Eric beamed at her.  "Come along, grandson.  We'll go home."

"No, daddy!"

"Your father is sick.  He needs rest and you want to play."  He struggled but Eric said something in his ear, making him quit and give her the pitiful look.  "Let's go."  Her son handed over the bear.  "Thank you.  You stay here."  He nodded, getting comfortable, handing her the blanket.

Xander walked out and blew a kiss.  "I'll see you in the morning, when I feel better."  The baby pouted. "Not my fault, sprout. Tomorrow, when I feel better.  Have fun with Grandma.  Maybe she's got the dog."  Eric let himself be walked out, waving at the fathers.  "Love you.  Be a good boy."  Horatio came out in sweats, walking him out to the sports car.


Horatio called in from the office, putting them on conference call with Eric's mother.  "We're in quarantine," he announced.  "He's got the chicken pox.  Which means I'm in quarantine.  Which means Marisol's in quarantine and Eric's got to go to the doctor's today to get his booster."

"I thought he got it already," Eric called from the kitchen.

"Did he?"

"I'll call and check," Alexx promised. "Is he all right?"

"He's not throwing up. They gave him something for that.  Anyone who hasn't it must take the shot today.  If you feel itchy, you're going to the ER.  Alexx, check everyone today and tomorrow.  Call Ryan and Willow as well.  Check Toddy."

"Of course.  Both my kids got the shot but one still got it anyway.  I'd suggest the oatmeal bathing packets."

"We've got some.  I was allowed to stop at Walmart last night.  His creme is here too."

"Oh, good, have fun with that and the oven mitts, sugar."

"I'm going to.  I had it when I was younger.  Has Ray Jr.?"

"Yes," Yelina called over the line.  "He had it when he was eight.  Your brother said he had it as well.  Hold on, the boss.  Chief!"  Her voice faded.

"Speed, I want you in charge," he ordered.

"Of course.  Calleigh and I can handle it, H.  When are they going to release Eric?"

"When he can prove he had it or in two weeks.  Someone needs to call the hotel and see who else had it."

"I'll call Mac.  He can do that," Calleigh promised.  "Need anything?"

"I have an itchy, whiny, vomiting, fevered, twenty-two-year-old along with Eric and Marisol, Calleigh."

"So, I should come take all the guns out of the house?" she suggested.  "Hey, Chief."

"Is that Horatio?"

"And Eric's mother.  He went over to get Marisol last night.  They're looking for his old medical records for both of them.  His mother's got the baby."

"That's good.  How long?"

"Until the last pustule is dried up, Chief.  It's chicken pox. It's contagious."

"Damn.  You have a trial, Horatio."

"I'm under quarantine.  They can't make me go but tell them I can work from the office at the house, boss."  He heard Xander start to get sick again.  "Eric, the green bottle."

"I know."  He went to dose him.  He came to the door.  "It's not helping, he threw it back up too.  Mom, call the pediatrician we used."

"He died, Eric.  Almost ten years ago."

"Damn.  Who would have his records?"

"I'll call the health department, see if they'd know."  She sighed.  "The baby's fine so far, Alexx.  How is Marisol?"

"Still sleeping," Eric told her.  "She needed it.  Is he still mooing?"

"He woke us up at four this morning, giggling and chasing the dog.  You have quite the son, Horatio.  Where is his mother?"

"Damned if I know," he admitted.  "I've already called her, called her assistant.  She hasn't called back."  He swallowed, looking at Eric.  "Is he back in bed?"  He looked then nodded.  "Anyone got any sure-fire ways of making him quit throwing up?"


"Hates it," Eric said.  "Coughed and spluttered.  Call Willow?"

"I don't want to stress her out."

"Hold on," Speed said, moving away from the phone.  He came back a minute later.  "She said pepsi does it.  Something about syrup of coca-cola?  It's what she used to use."

"I know that stuff," Eric's mother agreed.  "We can find him some.  Anything else?"

"Goldfish crackers but after the first day he hates them, claims they taste like chalk.  Try cool ranch doritos too, she said for some reason it works."  Xander wobbled in and flopped down on Horatio's lap again, grunting in displeasure. "Hey, kid, want crackers and pepsi?"

"No food," he moaned. "Food evil.  No goldfishies, no crackers, no pepsi."  He got up and ran back to the bathroom, slamming the door.

"We'll get him some for tomorrow, H," Speed offered.

"Might be a good idea.  At least we have groceries."

"Caine, are you enjoying this?" the Chief demanded.

"Not at the moment but I'm finding humor in my husband, who nothing and almost no one can get the better of, being waylaid by a disease that gets children."

"That I can see you laughing about.  Anything else you need?"

"Something to do."

"I'll send over all your paperwork, H.  We'll set up a basket on the porch system."

"There's a basket already out there, use it," Horatio offered.  Eric came back.  "Again?"

"Not yet," he admitted.  "Back in bed after a few more dry heaves.  He's got a good rash going already.  Anything else you guys can think of doing?"

"Pray for patience, Eric," Alexx said firmly.  "Really."  They hung up.

"That's not a bad idea, I had to," his mother agreed.  "I'll take the baby with me now.  I'll call later, Horatio."  She hung up too.

Horatio leaned back, moaning slightly.  "At least we can order most everything we need."  He looked at Eric, who was grinning.  "If you have to stay the whole two weeks, you can have the baby's room or fix up the storage room that Ray uses now and then."

"Gee, thanks, you're all heart, H.  Maybe I could go home?"

"We'll see if it's permissible.  He said to stay here."

"Crap."  He found the phone book and the listing for the health department, going to call it from the kitchen.  "Hi, I'm trapped in a house with a couple of people with chicken pox.  No, my doctor died about ten years ago according to my mother.  Yeah, him if I remember right.  Can I please go home?  Please?"  He listened to the reasonable voice.  "One's had it, one's got it.  We're waiting to see if my sister and myself get it.  She may be pregnant.  Really?"  He beamed.  "Thank you!  I love you guys!"  He hung up.  "H, I have to get Marisol out of here!  They said so."

Horatio came to the doorway of the office. "They said *she* had to go, Eric, not you."  He gave him a look, getting a sheepish grin. "Nice try though.  Go get her up, she can take your car to your place."  He went to check on his husband.  He'd get tired of Eric soon but he had the chance to be sprung. He'd have a cranky mate, who was presently in his closet apparently.  He opened the door, but Xander pulled it closed.  He opened it again.  "Xander?  Why are you in the closet?"

"Light bad!"  He slammed the door again and this time held the bottom so he couldn't open it.

"Okay. Whenever you're ready to come out, let us know."  He walked off shaking his head, smiling at the sleepy woman.  "He has chicken pox."  A hand went to her stomach.  "You are to go to Eric's apartment, by yourself.  You are to call your OB, tell him that. See what he wants you to do.  Until he or your mother can clear you."  She nodded, taking Eric's keys and heading out. He waited until they were alone.  "He's in the closet."

"Bit late for that.  Eggs?"

"Would be fine.  I'll do bacon," he agreed, going to help in the kitchen.  He could answer with the phone in there.  "Caine," he said tiredly.  "Quit laughing, Danny.  One of you probably gave it to him."  He heard the reason and groaned.  "Tell me you're kidding?"  The answer he got did not amuse him.  "How many others?  Because I'm trapped in a house with Xander and Eric, Danny.  One's hiding in his closet.  The other's laughing against the new refrigerator.  It broke while we were gone.  He had it replaced yesterday."  He groaned.  "Thank you."  He hung up.  "Mac was having a relapse.  He had a grand total of three pustules and it spread.  I'm going to kill him."

"Just yell, Horatio. He's got to feel miserable too."

"Yay."  He washed his hands and came over to help.  "Xander, would you like some toast?"

"Leave me alone!"

"Sure," Eric agreed.  He nodded, looking at Horatio, who snorted and shook his head.  Eric grinned at that.  "He could try to sneak out."  Horatio went to set the alarm.  That way they'd know when Xander snuck off.  He went back to breakfast, deciding they probably had to eat inside. Eric gave him a look and turned off the alarm long enough to let themselves out, then hit it for the one out there. They settled down, eating, enjoying the rare morning off.  At least until they had to go retrieve Xander from the car and confiscate all the keys, his wallets, and Horatio had to threaten to use handcuffs. Xander was put back in bed.

Horatio leaned down, making Xander look at him. "Even if you left, we'd still have to stay."

"But I could be miserable in peace without whining."

"You don't have to whine."

"But I will if I'm not alone.  Then I'll just annoy myself."  Horatio kissed him on the forehead and walked off.  "I need to go be alone!"

"Leave the house and I'm tying you down, Xander."

"No!"  He pouted.  He called Ethan.  "Is it safe to do the moving thing when you have chicken pox?"  He just knew Ethan took the time to look at the phone before answering no and hanging up.  He called Willow.  "Can I do the moving thing when I have chicken pox?"  She handed the phone to Ryan, who gave him a very reasonable reason to stay.  He had to take care of Horatio in case he got sick.  No matter how pitiful he felt he had to take care of Horatio, or else he'd get bored and turn into Eric.  Then Eric would turn into Horatio and everyone would be really freaked out by Eric in a suit.  Xander hung up and considered it, then trudged out there, giving them pitiful looks. "Ryan said I have to stay so you don't turn into Eric and Eric doesn't turn into you and traumatize his family by wearing suits.  Need more milk?  I won't look when I pour it but I'll get some."

"I'm good on milk, Xander," Horatio promised, glaring at Eric for his laughing.  "For right now, let me take care of you. When you're feeling better we can take care of each other again.  Then I'll let you spoil me for a day."  Xander nodded, curling up in his lap.  "You should be inside."

"Comfier out here," he said with a small pout.

"You can take a bath with the oatmeal stuff.  It'll stop the itching and lower your fever," Eric offered.  "Even if it is slimy."  Xander shuddered but went to do that. "You want to call Ryan back?"

"He was trying to help.  I'll yell at him in person.  Later probably.  He said he wanted to run because he'd whine.  He didn't want to upset me by whining."

"That's sweet."  He got up to answer the door, smiling at the delivery guy.  "What's up?"

"Boxes, sir."  He handed over the clipboard. "A few.  Should I bring them inside?"

"We have chicken pox in the house."

"Okay, I'll leave them here?"  He nodded.  "Good.  Let me start hefting."

He looked at the invoice, then up.  "Horatio?" He came to take the invoice.  "Ray Jr?"

"No, the other dark haired one who lives here.  Xander, did you get a new computer?"

"Needed one," he called miserably.  "Yours is dying too.  Willow said so."  He came to the door, looking miserable.  "Willow said that would work with everything at the office and you could log in from home if necessary.  Ryan needed one too so she's paying me back.  That way he can work from home for a while on paperwork when the new one's born."  He gave them a weak smile.  "Plus I needed a new game or two."  He wobbled back to his bath and climbed back in with a splash.

"Did you slip?" Eric called.


Eric and Horatio shared a look and got to work lifting boxes inside.  "We need a warning on the door," Horatio offered.

"Markers on paper, Horatio.  Do it the simple way."   He went to make a sign and clean off the desk for him.  He came back out, finding the other boxes and groceries.  "More food?"

"Your mother ordered it," Horatio sighed.  He brought it inside.  He wouldn't mind and he'd pay for it. They'd probably need it anyway. He found the two laptops and gave them a look, leaning into the bathroom.  "Two laptops?"

"Two?" he asked, looking confused.  "No, one.  Unless it's Willow's?  Or maybe Don's?"

"I'll check the invoice."  He walked off shaking his head.  It looked more like Xander had clicked the 'buy me' button twice.  He set one aside and took the other into the bedroom.  He came out and found Eric setting his desktop system together.  "How do I log into the office?"

"Let me look," he ordered.  He got it together and turned it on, then grinned as things came up just like they did at work.  He clicked on the icon that said 'long distance log in'.  "He had them label things for Ray, the brother, not the nephew."  Horatio snorted at that.  He walked around to hook him into the cable modem then grinned.  "Try it again."  Horatio walked around and clicked on the icon, getting a box.  "Try your regular one."  He did that and it came up, making him blink.  "It's a good job.  Our guys must've talked to them."  He walked around to look. "Go ahead and harass Speed."

Horatio snorted and logged into his instant messenger, telling him he was online and could do some work from home.

/I love you, go cuddle my son, don't play with the new system.  Have Eric put up the food, H.  You can do paperwork when you have to sleep on the couch tonight/ Horatio answered.  /Let me repeat myself,/ Speed typed. /Go.  Cuddle.  My.  Son!/

"Oops, someone's cranky."  He grimaced.  "Tell him to forward me stuff then."  Horatio typed that in and the other end was shut off.  "Damn, he turned off your computer."

"Which means I can't get anything done on it, right?" Horatio asked.  Eric nodded.  "Can I do anything?"

"Go to the homepage and login.  Let's see."  Horatio opened the browser and did that, finding the login screen after a minute. He logged in there and found all sorts of stuff in his official inbox.  "Ha."  He grinned. "My mother.  The doctor.  Marisol."  Horatio clicked on that one, making them both sigh in relief.  Her medical records had her having it.  She was all right.  So she was going to go watch Eric with her mother. She wished them luck with Xander. Eric went to put up the food and poke into the other boxes.  "Hey, Horatio, I didn't know you needed more handcuffs.  Or lube by the case.  You are the man, H."

Horatio came out to look, finding that invoice and glaring at it.  "Don."  He went to call him. "Donald, why did you buy me more handcuffs and a case of lube?"  He listened to the 'I did?'.  "Yes, you did.  It said you did.  It said you ordered and paid for it, Don.  Why?"  Don spluttered but came up with the 'I didn't think I did'.  "Don, check your bank records and tell us, all right?" he suggested more calmly.  "Xander has chicken pox.  That means Eric and I are stuck here."  He hung up and looked at him.  "Don's been drunk a lot since his girlfriend left him."

"Can I send up some of mine?"

"We can have him sent down here to take over some of yours.  Your mother would like that."

"She would," he agreed. "Speed turned back on your computer."  Horatio came around to get back to work, typing overtop of the typos that were being done.  "Is he doing it blind or with his toes?"

"Probably not looking at his hands."  He finished that form and sent it, then got an IM with 'wtf'.  He sent back that he was doing it, to go work in the lab and to handle staffing problems.   The computer on that end was shut off again.

Eric called the lab.  "Can someone go turn back on Horatio's computer so he's not bored and tell Speed to get back to work?  No, he can log in remotely now."  He smirked.  "You bet.  That's why it's off right now. Yup. Thank you."  He hung up. "She'll wait until he's gone then do it.  He just stomped past muttering.  She said there should be a cloud over his head."

"Yeah, it's not going to be a good week," Xander said from the doorway.  "Are we okay?"

"We're fine.  Go back to your bath, Xander," Eric ordered.  Xander nodded, heading that way with a bottle of water.  "He is going to fuss you to death," he said quietly.

"I'm not the one with chicken pox."


"You may have a point there."

"Plus, you can repay the spoiling.  I'll load the games onto his laptop."  Horatio nodded, going to take care of his boy while Eric settled the rest of everything.  He found some new books and smiled, setting those aside.  They were clearly not meant for Xander to read.  He found a few others and put them aside too.  Though one was probably for him since it was deep see fish identification and came with a waterproof chart to dive with.

"Hey, presents," Xander complained.

"It's okay, I'm not really looking."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not."  He looked back at him.  "Bath.  Now."  Xander pouted off.  "I promise, it'll still be good."  He shook his head, coming to one last box, and this one had been shipped from New York, from the hotel.  He opened it, smirking at the bag right on top.  "Tiffanies.  Interesting.  He snooped but none of them had his name on it, or Speed's or Horatio's.  So he couldn't legitimately snoop.

"Don't you dare," Horatio called. "Those were the last of the presents.  Just unpack the clothes, Eric."

"Fine."  He brought the box into the bedroom, letting Horatio have anything non-clothes to deal with.  Most everything was already wrapped.  Pity but he did get to shake his, hearing the rattle. "I think mine is broken."

"It's metal."

"Never mind then."  He put it carefully aside. Then got out the rest of the clothes.  "Did he not pack?"

"Those were things he owned."  Horatio came over to put everything away.  "Xander, I want to weed out your clothes and intersperse color."

"I like my clothes."

"I noticed.  They're multiplying."

"I've seen rabbits breed slower," Eric agreed. Horatio glared at him.  "I have!  Neither of us have that many clothes."

"Neither of you have to attend lunch parties, dinner lectures, and those things.  Oh, crap, I've got one tonight.  Someone find my blue address book?"  Horatio found it where it should be, on the dresser, and handed it over with Xander's cellphone.  Xander climbed back into the bath, smiling at the sunny voice.  "Mary, I hate to do this.  No, it's Xander Harris.  I accepted an invitation for your dinner tonight but I got exposed to chicken pox. I'm under quarantine. No, I thought it polite to call.  Thank you, Mary.  Of course, the next time you have one.  Thank you for being so understanding."  He hung up and let both drop onto the floor.  "She probably doesn't remember who I am."

"Probably not by voice or name, but you're unforgettable in person," Horatio agreed from the doorway.  "Should I play social secretary?" he teased.

"No, I'll do it later.  Thank you anyway."  That got a smile. "I still feel miserable."

"I know.  You keep that up and it'll help, then I'll put some stuff over the rash."

"I could've sworn I already had this."

"Apparently not."  He went back to the closet issue.  "Are you sure we can't weed out some of this, Xander?  Maybe pack some of the stuff you don't wear?  Like the clothes from high school?"

"They're already in boxes."

"They're hanging up."

"Then those you can do.  Or I can get another footlocker."

"You have one?" Horatio asked.  "It's not in here."

"It's at the other place."

"Uh-huh.  Maybe we can move the less favored pieces over there?"

"Only if you go get that teal shirt and bring it back."

"You have a teal shirt?" Eric asked.

"No, he has a teal shirt there I want to see him in."  He got out of the baths and looked, frowning.  "Half of that was in a box on the bottom of the closet."  He looked at Eric.  "Your mother unpacks your closets too?"

"Probably."  He grinned at him.  "Fine, Xander.  I'll see if I can find the box.  If not, footlocker?"  Xander nodded, going to find one online but Horatio turned him around and put him back in the bath, going to do it for him. Eric snickered, shaking his head. "He's determined not to be a burden."

"He is," he agreed.  He came back.  "Just a standard one?"


"Of course."  He went back to finish that, then came back.  "It'll be here tomorrow.  I got you two."

"Fank you."

"No baby talk."  Xander sneezed.  "Is it cold?"  He came in to check him over, finding a miserable husband.  "Why did you run it cold?"

"I'm warm."

"Run it body temperatured."  He got him out and let half the water out, then added more warm until it was a good temperature and height.  He got Xander back in and got him some juice, handing it over. "Drink."  Xander gulped it so he smiled.  "Good boy."  Xander barked.  "Fine. Thank you."  He got him some more and handed it over, going back to the closet situation.  His own could be straightened out.

"I thought Ray was kidding that you used to iron your socks," Eric teased. Horatio shook his head, gathering up the laundry that Xander had flung around last night, going to start a load his way.  Because Xander didn't care how his clothes were done, even if Horatio did color sort into whites, blues, blacks, reds, greens, and towels and socks.

"Eric, can I have a book?  Toss me the one from the bedside table?"

Eric looked, finding Xander's bedside table easily enough.  The book took some work, it had fallen off and under the bed.  He brought it in there, handing it over.  "There you go.  Try to rest, you'll start itching for real tonight."  Xander sighed and nodded, sinking down more.  "It'll be okay."

"I bet Mac got to hide," he grumbled.

"Not if he's still sleeping with Danny and Stella. They probably fussed him to death too.  You can call Mac later tonight and pout at him for making you sick and making Horatio fuss over you."  He left, going to the office to get something done.  He was going to be bored soon and his mother had told him many times that him being bored was enough to rip a house apart.  He found the main computer back on and grinned, getting onto it to do some of the paperwork.  Even that was better than nothing.  "Hey, H.  The Chief didn't like your manpower report last week.  He said he needed more detail than 'all field techs at conference'."  He got in there to type it in more detailed.  Then he sent it.  He got to work on the next one, making Horatio smirk.  "I'm bored.  With up to a week of this, the house could be destroyed.  Just ask my mother."

"I'm sure we'll have fun chasing him down again."

"I told him he could call Mac later and pout at him for making you fuss over him."

"I'm sure he'll be overjoyed at that.  He may be hiding already."

"Not if he's still with Danny and Stella.  She might let him hide for a while but she'd have to be able to check on him and Danny's a champion fusser if you're sick.  She said so."

"Are we sure Danny's not related to Xander instead of Don?  He doesn't seem like the fussing sort."

"It's a deeply held genetic quirk back in the ancient lines," Eric said dryly, staring at him. "Heavier in some cultures than others.  Just look at my mother and sisters."  Horatio moaned at that.  "You better hope you never have a relapse and get a few spots like Mac did."

"Oh, I do," he agreed, heading for the kitchen to check supplies.  He didn't want to give Eric the bad news his own chicken pox had taken nearly three weeks to completely go away.  He heard Xander getting sick and went to check on him, rescuing his book from the bubbles.  He'd have to get him a new copy but Xander was more important at the moment.  He checked his fever, still there.   He went for the bag of medicine they had picked up, including the liquid tylenol.  The doctor had said it might be easier for him to take.  He measured out the adult dosage, grimacing at the grape smell, but he brought it back.  "Here, tylenol."

"Must I?" He croaked.

"You must.  Try to drink it in one gulp."

Xander took it and gulped it, then smacked his lips.  "I haven't had that since I was ten."  He handed back the medicine cup and got up to rinse out his mouth then climb back in his bath.  "I'm sorry I'm such a pain."

"Illnesses happen, Xander. You can't predict that they'll happen."  He smiled at him, getting a happier spouse. "Besides, I can repay all the fussing you do over me."  He got grunted at and a pout. "You can start again when you're better."  Xander nodded.  "Ready to get out? You're wrinkled."

"I'm itchy."

"I'll get the creme."  He went to get that and the new package of cotton balls.  Eric grinned at him. "He's starting the itchy phase."

"Wonderful.  Speed said he never got the recipe off him and he wants it.  He'll trade it for some garlic chicken soup."

"That'd be fine.  I can find it," Horatio promised, going to make him unitchy.  Even if he did have to put him in mittens.  Which had been hard to find at one in the morning in Miami for some reason.


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