Xander flinched as the door opened, then sighed in relief. "Don." He got up to hug him. "You're okay."
"Yeah, they gave me a thirty second timer," he admitted, just holding him. "Are you two okay?"
"They sedated him when he got too upset at what the IAB guy said." He pulled back to look at him. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Pissed as fuck," he promised. "We're here ta help. Who's got what and Ethan found some stuff that Patrick had found out."
"He sent it to Daddy." He wiped off his cheeks, then looked at him. "Did you drop by the house?"
"I did. Is the purple being painted over or is the blue the old stuff? Danny wanted to know."
"No, the purple was the new nursery. Who in the hell started to paint?"
"Marisol. She was in there and paint splattered, but napping in the rocking chair."
Xander snorted and shook his head, looking back at Horatio. "No, the nursery is that pretty purple and gold colors with white accents. Tough shit." Don smirked at that. "I've got to worry about the mundane things." He snapped the bracelet he wore to block some of his magic now and then. "Otherwise I'd create hell."
"Go. I'll sit watch. You can be delicate with the pregnant woman." Xander nodded, kissing Horatio's forehead and whispering to him, getting a slight sleep smile. Then he disappeared.
Don flopped down. "I know you're kinda awake, Horatio. You good?"
"No," he admitted, opening his eyes to look at him. "He fusses horribly."
"Ya think?" he noted dryly. He looked at the bandage. "At least it's not fatal. You want the update we got when we got off the plane?"
"Please. They're trying to keep me uninformed. I didn't know until Xander accidentally blurted it out today."
Don nodded. "Yeah, he's got fierce bitch syndrome about his family," he reminded him. "Thankfully. Or else he might be dead by now." Horatio moaned, shuddering. "I know, but he's safe and we'll solve this or else I'm letting Xander kick someone's ass while Mac watches. By the way, he's going to stop Marisol from painting over the nursery."
"It looks nicer in the light," he offered.
"I liked it." He shrugged. "Danny said the color reminded him of one of my suits." Horatio smiled slightly at that. "Good drugs?"
"Very nice drugs. What's new?"
Xander walked into the nursery and glared at Danny, who quit looking at the mural. "I want it the purple and gold with white."
"Sure," he agreed. "Reminds me of one of Don's suits," he agreed, heading out.
Xander tapped Marisol on the forehead, frowning at her. "What's wrong with purple?"
"It's not a very baby color, Xander."
"So? It's not like any kid around me is going to be anything but an extraordinary baby, Marisol. You can paint your nursery blue if you want. This one is purple and gold with white." She pouted. "You've got your own, I'm doing this one."
"But...." He scowled. She relented. "Fine. I'll fuss with my nursery back at Momma's. Are you *sure*? It's a very adult scheme."
"I'm very sure and I hired someone very good to do the dragon and unicorn." He looked at the destroyed wall and sighed. "It's going to be a pain in the ass to fix that. I'm not sure they've got any more of the border." He frowned and went to find the remains of the paint he had used and got to work covering up her handiwork. "Someone look in the office closet and see if there's any more border?" he called.
"Only a few feet," Danny called back a few minutes later. "You'll need more."
"I know." He got back to work, sighing in frustration. She pouted. He glared. She pouted worse. He shook his head.
"Marisol, our daughter is going to live in this room and she will love it. The same as she's probably going to inherit Eric's baby leathers." She shook her head. Xander nodded. "Yeah. Di made them for Eric. I think it's very cute. He loved wearing them and they're very soft. Along with the suede outfit. Speaking of, I should have them cleaned." He got back to painting.
Mac looked in and blinked. "Xander...."
"Don't even," he warned.
"I was going to say it's a pretty job but the paint you're covering is too fresh. It'll ruin the new one." Xander pouted at him. "Fix it tomorrow. Come listen to the small update while Danny takes Marisol home." That got a nod and he helped Marisol up and let Danny have her. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly. Xander shook his head. "Will you be okay?"
"When the person's blood is staining my hands, feet, and upper body," he assured him. "Because I will rip him apart with my teeth if I need to."
"I know, Xander. Come on, let's talk about what we've found out on our end since earlier." Xander nodded, following him down. "I can help you put up the wallpaper border once you've got some more. It'll keep you from fussing."
"I'm going to the gym tomorrow. It's my day for practice and weight training. Also, I do five miles in the morning." He looked at him. "Nationals are only a month away, Mac," he said helplessly. "I don't want to abandon everything but I will if I have to."
"No, for now, go on as you've started. Let us handle the case." Xander slumped into his usual chair and nodded at that. "I doubt any of us want this to go on any longer, Xander. Don wants this solved within forty-eight hours. I'm thinking a week is more likely." He called his office. "Stella, Mac, anything new? I'm briefing Xander." He nodded, making a note. "Thank you." He hung up. "She sent him down some of the tea he loved the last time he was in town." Xander let out a small smile at that. "Okay, did you hear from Ethan?" Xander nodded. "We found one contact above that but still not the top guy, but it is definitely leading back toward organized crime. I don't know the motive yet. Only the guy who set it probably knows why he set it." Xander swallowed and nodded. "We have found out that he upped it last year, about when people started to come for you. We correlated a few other attacks on you back to this."
"How far back?"
"About a year ago. Right before the Scillion attack." Xander grimaced at that. "We don't think she was related, but the one right after her, the one in the Subway, was. Then the one in Orlando." Xander moaned, holding his head. "How many of these haven't you told Horatio about?"
"Unless he sees them, hears about them from one of the patrol guys, or one of the family, not a fucking chance," he said dryly. "He'd fuss me to death for still getting more stalkers. He has no idea why they're still coming and neither do I. Though I can correlate a few back to the heiress getting my stupid ass press. One's also sent Marisol lingerie and told her that she should please me better." Mac groaned at that. "Agreed. Do you want the real file?" Mac nodded, giving him a look. "Okay, as a rule, anything I want Horatio to find is in here in the top black filing cabinet drawer. That's my drawer. Two of the files are in there. I know one's recently disappeared; I'm not sure who took it though." Mac nodded more slowly. "Everything I don't want Horatio to find is in his pajama drawer. He never goes in there and it's underneath the drawer. In this case, it's the key to the safety deposit box and a file that lists the names and any case numbers that were filed. Detailed report copies are in the box." Mac got up to get that. Xander headed into the kitchen. "Want coffee?"
"Please." He came out with the list and the key, heading back to Horatio's desk. Horatio's former office had been comfortable but now he had a top of the line computer and a very comfortable desk chair that cradled his body like a glove. He wiggled some and got settled in, opening up Horatio's connection to the PD. He typed in the password and user name that was taped to the monitor, smirking as it came up with Horatio's inbox. He answered two and then sent one to the present chief that he was in to help coordinate the investigation with a few other officers that were Xander's family. That he was using Horatio's access for a few days. He got one back immediately asking who he was so he reminded the man, getting a groan.
Xander brought in the carafe. He typed in a message and sent it, getting a 'that's fine, we'll set you officers up one of your own' and it was left there. Xander shrugged. "He hates me but I don't really care." He waved. "I'm going to try to sleep. Have you seen the dog?"
"Not yet," Mac admitted. "Percival?"
"Percy!" Xander called, heading for the bedroom. He called Ray Jr. on his cell. "Do you have the dog?" He looked under the bed, then headed for the kids' rooms, not finding him in there either. He walked out into the back and looked in the dog house. "Percy?" He leaned back into the house. "I'm going to check with security in case he got out, Mac." He headed for the gate shack, finding the guard in there asleep. He coughed. "Have you seen Percival?"
"Um, nope, Mr. Harris. Not since you brought him in earlier today."
"That's what I thought but he's not in the house. Can you pull up the cameras at the other one?" The guard nodded and did that. "Damn it," he muttered, seeing the mess. "Is Di still there?" That got a nod. He called on his cell. "Is Percy with you?" He sighed. "Thank you." He hung up. "She brought the dog home. Watch out really hard for us, okay? Someone shot Horatio at work and we think I've got another stalker or something."
"Will do, Mr. Harris. Your guests?"
"Don Flack is my uncle. Danny and Mac are both NYPD that we work with a lot and are on the board of the Foundation. Di and them are Di and them," he muttered, getting an understanding smile. "You have kids, right?" He nodded. "Did you try to go behind your wife's back and redecorate the nursery?"
"No, sir, I'm not stupid. She do it on you?" Xander grimaced and nodded. "Good luck winning that argument."
"She's got hers for her house, I've got mine and I will defend it against her, her mother, and her brother. Or else I will spank her in unfun ways." That got a snicker. "Thanks, man." He headed back to the house, walking in the front door. "Percy's with Di."
"Good. He'll keep her and Eric safe." He looked at Xander. "Try to sleep, Xander."
"I'm going to relieve Don. I told the guard I've got another stalker."
"Good idea. Let Don have tonight. He'll be fine. He can sleep in the morning." Xander nodded, trudging to bed. Mac sighed when the phone rang, smirking at the voice on the other end. "Hi, Mrs. Delko. No, Mac Taylor. Don's guarding Horatio at the hospital and Danny was the one who dropped her off. Why?" He listened, then rolled his eyes. "Xander designed the nursery here and she started to paint over his hard work. He glared, told her she had the one at your house to decorate and this one was going to be this way even if she didn't like it. It's pretty but I'd think it was for an older child. Purple and gold with some white." He smiled. "I can't be sure. It's a medium purple hue. Yes, it's very pretty. She was painting it light blue. No, he's firm in his desire to have this nursery this way and she can do her own any way she wants." He smiled.
"Well, that way she can still fuss over one, just not his. No, he's very firm and right now isn't a good time to come to him about it. She didn't tell you? Horatio got shot while in his office talking with Xander. Shoulder. He'll be fine, Mrs. Delko. Yes, Eric would know. He probably doesn't think that you'll be in danger, Mrs. Delko. Well, remind her that she's still got yours to do whatever she wants with and that Xander's is very pretty and artistic. I know she'll pout. My wife did when I painted my office on her one weekend and she wasn't pregnant, but this is Xander and Horatio's house, Mrs. Delko. Of course you can. One of us will be here at all time, hopefully mostly with Xander, and we'll take alternating shifts with the local PD to guard Horatio as well. Of course. Call first so I can make sure he's awake. Thank you, Mrs. Delko." He hung up and complained mentally about pregnant people. This is why he didn't really want children, they drove everyone around them insane.
Xander looked up as Mrs. Delko and her husband walked in. "Before you say a *word*, this is my nursery, she'll have her own, and this one is in my pattern and my colors and she can bite me. I may love Marisol but I don't care. I'm too stressed right now to care. I could give less of a damn about it."
"That's fine, son," Mr. Delko agreed. "We convinced her last night this was better for the baby anyway, give it a visual clue to see where it is. Can we see?"
"Sure," he agreed, smiling at them. "Sorry, but I'm in fussy brat mode again."
"I understand, son. With Horatio injured that way, I'd be fussy too." He followed him upstairs, looking at the wall that clearly needed to be redone. "Well, she messed up her paint and yours." He stroked over it. "It's easily fixed. I do like that trim. You cut out the other colors?" Xander beamed and nodded. "Good job." He walked over to look at the murals. "My boy said he did that for you for five hundred. Good job."
"I had a picture scanner and projector put up for him," Xander said modestly. He looked at his might-as-well-be grandmother. "You hate it, don't you?"
"I think it's a bit dark and adult," she admitted. "More for a teenager than a baby." She patted him on the cheek. "It does suit your tastes, Xander. It matches very well with the other house." He blushed at that, looking down. "Then again, the crib looks wonderful in here and the murals are adorable." She walked over to look at the sheets. "Awww, you even found unicorn ones." She smiled at him. "I think it'll be wonderful once you've got that one wall fixed and I'm sure it'll grow on her." Xander grinned at that. "Now, she said you ranted about baby leather?"
"Yeah, Eric had the most adorable outfits that Di made him," he assured her, leading her back to their room to pull them out of the closet and open the keepsake box so he could lay the outfits out on the bed.
"Awwww," Mr. Delko said, picking up the suede outfit. "And it's not even indecent either." His wife swatted him. "They aren't." He let her see and she cooed over the small leather pants. "You're going to hand them on?" Xander nodded. "Did Diana say that?"
"I don't know. If she doesn't want me to, I'll beg really nicely for her to have her own set."
"Her?" Mrs. Delko asked, perking up. "You're sure?"
Xander pulled out a picture from the ultrasound and handed it to her. "Unless it's hiding really well, yeah."
"Oooooooh!" she squealed, hugging him. "A granddaughter!"
"I'm sure she'll be one spoiled girl," her husband said, patting her on the back. He rolled his eyes. Some people got very excited over children. Mac stuck his head in. "Xander had a picture from the ultrasound."
"Hmm." He looked at it and smiled. "So, a Xander-daughter instead of a Xander-son. Remember, Xander, she's not Xena."
Xander pouted at him. "Calleigh said the same thing. I'm not going to turn her into Xena. She was severely confused and really nasty because apparently they never bathed. At least the guys on Hercules took a *few* baths a season, and usually together in the same bathhouse. All Xena did was fish."
Mac shook his head and walked off, then came back to look at the clothes. "Who made baby leathers?"
"Di," he said proudly. "Though Calleigh and Speed found daddy or mommy and baby S&M gear somewhere in town. They said Eric and I could have a matching collar and I pointed out Horatio had to be willing to wearing it too. We have a rule that the only toys that come into the house are ones that we're both willing to use."
"I didn't need to know that, son," Mr. Delko noted patiently. "We'll let you talk Diana into making her some of her own once she's born. That way you can have these ones preserved to embarrass your son when he starts to date." Xander giggled. "Now, what's this I hear about an assassin?"
Mac coughed. "More like a contract and bounty out on Horatio. He didn't know until yesterday. Xander's handled a few attempts to get him as bait without him knowing why. We're fairly certain the rest of the families are safe and since it's got ties back into New York we could come down to guard the family and help the case. I've got the rest of my staff up there working on it." Danny walked in and said something in his ear. "Don all right?"
"Fine. Really tired." He looked at Xander. "Horatio's coming home today. Don said so after one of the nurses went on an 'you can't be gay, it's illegal, immoral, and against my faith' rant in the middle of his room. Of course, she's on suspension at the moment as well because Don promised to buy the hospital and shut it down if they didn't. So he'll be here in an hour. Need anything?"
"I need to take these to the cleaners and I need to change the bed, then I need to get groceries so he's got stuff to eat." He gathered up the clothes. "Mac, watch these guys. I'll be back by the time he's here." He rushed out, coming back to get his keys and wallet.
"Use the alarm!" Danny yelled after him. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Di and the others are at the other house," he offered. "Toddy and Eric apparently lit their kitchen on fire."
Mr. Delko clicked his tongue. "How?"
"Gas stove, curtains next to it, and apparently they had a breakdown in communication about who was watching the boys for an hour of going 'fire pretty' to the stove," he said dryly. They sighed and went up the street to check in with that family and Mr. Delko to hint he could have the damage fixed. Danny looked at Mac. "You think Xander will be okay?"
"I think I'm waiting for him to snap," Mac admitted. "I think until he does, he's going to be quietly unstable and prone to hurting those greatly who try to hurt what's his." Danny nodded, getting that. "So, when he goes to the gym later, I want you to go with him and see if you can get him to snap. Watch him for the usual signs. I know he rants and hits things like you and Don do. I remember at the convention he went to cry after coming back."
"Okay, I'm there. When is he due?"
"Not a clue. He pretty well makes his own schedule." He shrugged and went back to the office, then came out with the key and the notes. "Xander wrote this out. I need into this safety deposit box and I need the files. It's all the crap he's been through in the last year." Danny grimaced but nodded, heading to do that. Mac went back to the office to handle some of the stuff for Horatio. It was the least he could do.
Danny walked into the bank and over to the secretary's desk. "I have written permission to get into a safety deposit box for someone," he offered, tapping his badge. "Who do I speak to?"
"The manager, officer. Give me a moment to get him for you." She called him. "Sir, I have an officer from the NYPD who needs into someone's safety deposit box." She hung up. "Give him a minute please, sir."
"Of course. Thank you." He went to look at the paintings on the wall, looking at the man who joined him. "Hi. Detective Messer, NYPD." He handed over the letter. "Mr. Harris is turning those over to us to aid in the investigation about the assassins coming after him and his spouse."
Danny nodded. "Unfortunately. Captain Caine was shot in the office yesterday. They missed anything important but it's still a worry."
"What is the tie to the NYPD?"
"Xander's like family and we think he's native to our city."
"Oh, I see." He looked at the letter, then the key. "He's still using the wrong key for that box," he noted, handing it back. "We had to move it to a larger box last month."
Danny pulled out his phone to call Xander. "Hey, they moved boxes?" He groaned. "Yeah, I'm here for that. Here." He handed it over. "Harris."
"Sir?" He blinked at the terse orders. "I really shouldn't... Of course, sir. Thank you, sir." He hung up. "That may no be all that's in that box."
"Oh, we heard all about the false warrant thing and everything else. Like I said, Xander's like family," Danny assured him, following him. "Right now, I'm only concerned with the attacks." The manager nodded and retrieved the master key, going to let him into the box. Danny blinked at the box, then at him. "The files are in here?" It was a small chest of a box.
"In the bottom section," he admitted, pulling out the jewelry and cash, plus some pictures. "I really would feel more comfortable for him having this in an account."
"Yeah, well, he wants it readily available in case something happens. Let's face it, his son was kidnaped a little over a year ago by his nanny. Horatio works in a dangerous job and has been taken hostage in the past I'm sure. Plus emergencies do come up."
"I understand." He got to the plastic container of files and handed them over. "You will tell him we cooperated, won't you?"
"Of course." He smiled. "This his only one? I doubt this is all the files."
"Um...." He took the key and went to retrieve that box, finding more in there. "Well, perhaps I was wrong."
"That's okay. Anything not involved he can put back later or tomorrow or somethin'. He gathered everything together, watching as the contents of that one box were put back. He flipped open a jewelry case. "Stella got a piece of this set," he said fondly. "She's our coworker and in charge of our lab in New York while we're here."
"Oh. Was she the curly brunette on his arm at the event in New York?" Danny nodded. "She was a stunning woman."
"Still is," Danny assured him with a smile. "She's kinda mine too."
"Ah, then I'm sure you're very happy with her."
"It takes more than beauty to make a happy marriage but yeah. We are. Thank you for this." He walked the files off, going out to the car. He looked at the monitor he had put onto the jewel box and smirked when it was removed again. He locked the car and went back inside, showing the security guard the feed, getting a glare. He tapped his badge and not a nod. "That's Mr. Harris' box. He'll want to make sure it's all right."
"Thank you, sir. We've been wondering about those things." He made a call and they went into the vault area to ...talk with the manger.
Danny strolled back out, his seed of chaos sown for the day. He hated assholes like that.
Mac looked at all the files, then at him. "All these?"
"The ones in the plastic were in another box, but yeah." He sat down, pointing at the rest of the stack. "Oh, found evidence of the manager getting into his stuff to play with it at least. Told the guard. He didn't look happy either."
"I'm not surprised." He looked at the files in plastic and snorted. "Xander's been keeping track of those things." He waved one. "Proof that the bank's stolen at least a million from him."
"Wonderful," Danny said bitterly. "He do anything about it?"
Xander stuck his head in. "I've told the DA, they hate Horatio. I've faxed those to the SEC and given a statement. They're investigating. What did you find?"
"The guy who let me into the box was also withdrawing something out after I left. I used one of the mini spy cameras and the watch attachment." He smirked. "I told the guard."
"Good. I hope like hell they have fun in prison for taking people's money. Even if Rebecca's husband does sit on the board. You know, that's not a bad idea." He took most of that file and went to call her. "Rebecca, Xander Harris. I need to tell your husband something about one of the banks he sits on the board of. I have proof that got sent to the SEC about them stealing some of my money and things." He grimaced. "Because I'm married to a cop and I do believe in the system, dear. No, I hadn't thought about it until just now. We're going over what I have about the assassin who tried to kill Horatio yesterday. Please. I'll gladly copy it off for you, dear. Thank you. I'm at home. The gate guard will call me and I'll let you in. Bayshore Estates. Yup, that's us. Thank you." He hung up and went to make copies, then bundle the original back away in the bottom of his closet. He heard the door open and bounced out there. "Don, Rebecca's coming. The gate guard will be calling. Come on, Horatio, I've got the bed all set up for you." He stole a quick kiss then helped him that way. "Are you in bad pain?"
"No, I'm all right," he promised. "Where is Mac in the investigation?"
"I gave him my copies of the reports I've filed." Horatio looked at him. "I did."
"Would those be the ones in the old safety deposit box that I don't want to know about?" Xander nodded. "I wondered why you had some police files in there." He allowed himself to be put into bed and tucked in. He caught Xander's hand, looking at him. "How many were there?"
"I have no clue. I don't count them. I put them in there in case it becomes pertinent. So I don't know. I gave Mac the list I keep last night and Danny went to get it today. He found other proof that the bank's stealing and I'm handing it to Rebecca since I just realized her husband sits on the board. We have got to switch banks, dear."
"We do," he agreed, smiling at him. "Are you going to fuss?"
"Like you did when I had chicken pox," he promised with an evil smirk. "But first, let me make sure she's got enough stuff for him and then get Mac in here to give you an update." He took another kiss. "Can I get you anything?"
"Some juice would be nice. Also, turn the tv this way?" Xander nodded, doing that for him and going to get him some juice for Mac to bring him. "How many?" he asked, sitting up slightly.
Mac handed over the index. Horatio moaned. "That was my feeling. Thankfully he's kept good track, Horatio. You've trained him well in how to be a CSI." He smiled at him. "Good job."
"Thank you. I tried," he said flatly, giving him a look. "Where are we?"
"Correlating and waiting on information. Oh, and Lindsey's ducking everyone before someone kills her. Danny hit her for not telling us."
"I wish someone had told me."
Mac nodded. "That might've been nice. Did he push the incident with the nitro in his tank back?"
"Right before I got shot I heard the words 'pot, kettle' then an incredible pain."
"Good. That'll teach you to keep things from him."
"Hmm," Horatio said, sipping his juice. "Anything new?"
"Just the one step up that Danny's contacts gave him yesterday. Need anything? I'm doing some of the organizing stuff from your computer."
"Watch out for Speed turning it off on that end. He did it to me a lot when Xander had chicken pox."
"This time it's for a different reason." He tucked him in better and smirked. "Eric's parents were here to look at the nursery and the wall that Marisol started to repaint on him. They thought it was more adult than the new baby would be but she thought the sheets were adorable. So was the mural. Xander blatantly got possessive about it and said he didn't care, she had hers there with them to do whatever she wanted to." Horatio smiled slightly at that, finishing his juice and putting the glass aside. "They thought the baby leather outfits were adorable. She cooed. Xander had them dropped off to be cleaned so he could preserve them." Horatio smiled more at that. "He's already fussed himself to death. Di had the dog last night so he was up and pacing all night. Danny finally knocked him out then held him down for a few hours so he could get some sleep. Nothing else happened but Xander and he both got some needed rest."
"You two can sleep together here, Mac."
"I know we can, Horatio, but I was on guard last night. Tonight Don can do it since you'll be here. That way Xander and you can both sleep and Danny and I can both sleep, but Don can sleep while we're all up and working." Horatio nodded at that. "Need anything else?"
"The painkillers are knocking me out. I'll nap for a bit then get up to help."
"Stay, Horatio. He'll carry you back to bed if you get up, just like you did him." He smiled and walked back to the office. He found Xander pouting in there. "Danny tell you to quit fussing?"
"Rebecca's mad that I went to the SEC. She chewed me a new one. Even after she read some of that. I pointed out I wanted what was mine back. That he should know before they come down on him too. That I liked her husband, he was a nice guy and I was sure he wasn't involved. Also that Danny caught the guy stealing today." He shrugged. "I feel like I did a bad thing but I know I didn't."
"You didn't," he promised. "It was the right thing to do." He patted him on the back before going back to the computer. He looked. "He was right, it's off." He called in. "I was trying to be nice and do some work, Speed. What happened to Horatio's office computer? What do you mean someone confiscated it. Who?" He groaned. Then he looked at Xander. "The chief did that why?"
"He hates us because we're together, I'm a strong guy, he's into chaos magic and I'm not. Pick your reason." He picked up Horatio's cell off the desk and called Phil. "My man! Who in the fuck took my boy's computer? Yeah, because Mac was trying to get stuff done. Well, gee, I don't know, remote log-in? Technology is a wonderful thing, Phil. How do you think he worked from home while I was sick?"
Mac took the phone. "This is Detective Taylor. Yes, I am. Not only am I more than qualified to be logged in but I'm also part of this investigation. Yes, that's us. Danny and Don may still have one, I'm not sure. Gee, I don't know," he noted dryly. "Why would Xander be working with us?" he asked dryly.
Xander pulled out his cellphone and called the Chief. "Have I mentioned recently how much I hate it when you try to hurt my spouse's career?" he asked patiently. "Yes, remote log-in. I'm quite sure. Mac runs the lab we switched with. Danny and Don both came down. Yes, that one," he noted dryly. "Why would they? He didn't know until I accidentally let it slip against orders from IAB. No, they told me not to tell him that there was a bounty on his head," he said bitterly. "Not that I liked it and it's not like I trust most officers at the station at the moment, but I was ordered. Yay. Very yay. Chief, two simple facts. I'm as strong as Willow ever was *that* way. And my spouse is injured, there's someone after my family, and my first instinct isn't to defend. It never has been. Now, I can take off this regulating bracelet I wear when I'm prone to accidental things, or I can fuss my mate to death at the moment. Which I do is presently up to you. Because he didn't know. No, that was my file. I pulled it up and printed it off from his computer. Not like I was going to go into the lab and do it, Chief. Do you think I want to compromise evidence by breathing on it? Yes, I do keep an independent list of all those. It's already here. Too late." He smirked at Mac, writing a note on the calendar. "Sure. You do that." He hung up and speed dialed Ethan. "I'm going to kill your student now. You mind?" He nodded once then hung up. "Ethan said I could hurt him all I wanted, it'd be good stress relief."
"I'm sure it would be. It's not very politically correct."
"Mac, he's into chaos magic. I'd hate to see what he had planned for this city." He stood up. "With that said, I'm going to go into the backyard and make his life interesting." He walked out humming happily.
"Xander," Horatio called. "Come here please?" Xander lost his smile and trudged that way, laying on his good side. "What happened?"
"The Chief had your computer confiscated. I'm going to curse him to an interesting life. You mind?"
"I do," he noted patiently, patting him on the back. "That's not very good for my career, Xander."
"I know. I'm sorry." He pouted. "Just a little one or an imp or something?"
"Not even one to make his nose run and his ears stuff up permanently?"
"Or how about the next animal he sees near a camera takes an extreme liking to his leg? That's not permanent harm."
"No, Xander." Mentally he was smiling. Those were some very good ideas.
"How about I tell Sykes that he's got a raging crush on her and he's willing to give her information in exchange for sweaty and hot sex in his office?"
"That might get her hopes up," he said patiently. Though he was now mentally doubled over in laughter. He could almost see her going up to him in a slinky, low-cut dress and making a pass at the man. "I can't let you curse him, Xander. Not by word, deed, or thought."
"So you mean I can't give you the information file I have on him?" he asked, teasing his mate's bare chest. "I wanted to before but he thinks he's got a hold on me and he doesn't. Because I will kill him if he goes near Marisol again."
"He went near her?"
"To flirt and hit on her."
"Interesting. No, you can't curse him but I would like to see that folder." Xander got up and went to get it out of the filing cabinet, bringing it back. Horatio looked at it then at him. "You do realize I know where all your hiding spots are? That your key under my pajama drawer keeps falling off?"
"I'm trying to be good and stay out of all the conflicts."
"Try harder," Danny said from the doorway. "Don's hungry. You need anything, Horatio? Or you, Xander?"
"I'm good," Horatio offered. "Xander, are you hungry?" Xander shook his head. Horatio looked him over. "What did you have for breakfast?"
"Cheerios." The last Horatio knew they didn't have cheerios in the house. He stared his husband down. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it." He stomped off.
"No cursing him," Horatio yelled after him.
"Fine, I won't curse him!" He grabbed his keys and headed for his car. "Going to the gym!" He opened the door and found an officer standing there. "On guard detail or are you here to get your ass kicked for some reason?" he asked blandly.
"Xander!" Mac snapped. Xander glared at him then at the officer. "Yes, officer, did you need something? Please excuse him, his husband was shot yesterday."
"Actually, um, I'm here to serve this," he said, holding up an arrest warrant.
Xander took it to look over, then snickered. "Yeah, but I was in New York when that happened." He called his contact in Internal Affairs. "What did I supposedly do while I was trapped in New York thanks to the FBI? I'm staring at it, Phil. Yup, that's who signed it. Fine, meet me at the station and you'll get this straightened out before *I* start to work in mysterious ways." He hung up. "You're to bring me to the station. There's no way I was there, I was out of the state. Internal Affairs will be coming to see who filed it."
"Why?" he asked hesitantly.
"Because I'm working with them on a case. My husband, Horatio Caine, got shot yesterday." The guy flinched. "So, yeah. Let's go so I have a new target for my irritation. Shall we? You can follow me."
"Okay, as long as I can follow you."
"I'll even drive like a normal person." He walked out, going to the station to chew someone a new one. He found Phil and Eric waiting on him, handing it over and looking at Eric. "I had been planning on going to gym."
Phil looked at it, then at the officer silently following Xander. "I've got it." That got a nod and he disappeared. He looked at Xander. "Who have you pissed off recently?"
"The sergeant yesterday who called me a whore to my face?"
"Well, we have the activity log from the hotel and you weren't busy that day. They'll say you could have flown down, did it, then flown back."
"Small problem, I was stuck in New York because the FBI put me on the no fly list for being gay." Phil moaned. "Sykes got that report because of me. Remember all the fun I had with the FBI? That was during *that*."
"Good point. Let's go sit in my office, Xander. I'll see what they're doing and who's doing it."
"Good, because I want to know who I can curse since Horatio said I can't get the Chief this time." He followed him, growling subvocally the whole way. Xander flopped down across from him and lit the nice smelling candle with a thought and a look, then stared at him. "Had to burn it off and your office smells like my son again."
"I had one officer who had an accident in fear," he admitted, going to hunt down the paperwork on this case. He found the identity of who had input a positive identification of the suspect and got up. "Stay. I'll be right back."
"Sure. Always happy to stay." Phil left and he looked at the screen, then smirked. "Oh, someone's going to have a bad day," he growled, concentrating hard on not letting his magic go. Horatio had ordered. He had to remember that, Horatio had ordered him not to. He looked at the computer, then took a deep breath and called Eric. "How bored are you?" He smirked. "How many other times does my name appear in reports today? Yesterday there were only ten, including all the IAB stuff about the jewels and the stalkers. Yeah, run a name query." He nodded. "Would you please print that list off for Phil? Thank you, Eric. No, I'm waiting to hear who I get to go off on." He hung up and calmed himself further.
Phil came in with a list. "Thank you for that, Xander. It was my next step." He sat down and looked at him. "Other people have his ID."
"So? Where's the location code? Horatio had to explain twice how he got files into the computer without it having a 'lab' location code."
"Interesting." He looked then sighed and nodded. "It's from his office." He printed those out. Then he looked at him. "No slipping."
"Fuck you," Xander said, staring him down. "If he's moving against me, I have the right to defend and attack back."
"Defense only, Xander."
"Fuck you," he said, standing up. "We done? I'm finding more and more reasons for a heavy bag."
"No. You're not. One of them was a 'dead or alive' warrant." Xander flopped down with a moan of complaint. He made a conference call. "This is Internal Affairs. It's been brought to our attention that there's been a few warrants put into the system for the husband of a higher ranking officer, and upon searching we're finding the roots of petty jealousy. Harris. I want everything with his name locked immediately, IAB coding, including those, and ...." The door burst open. Xander pulled out his gun and moved to defend himself from the two cops standing there. "Now!" he growled, hanging up. "Stand down!"
"Sir, there's a warrant for his arrest," one of them offered.
"No, there's not. Someone input it to get him like they got Caine. Xander! Stand down!"
"I'll be fucking damned if I'm not going to defend myself!" he said hotly, glaring at him for a second.
"Put it down, Xander." Xander took a step back. "Please. Just put it down. They're not going to touch you." Xander tensed when more came in. "OUT!" The officers backed out. "Xander!" He slowly lowered it but didn't put it away. "Thank you. Now, boys, explanations?"
"The Sergeant said there was an arrest at all costs warrant for the guy you brought in here," one of them offered. "That's why he pulled us from our precinct."
Xander snorted and leaned against the table. "I doubt it. I'm Horatio Caine's husband. There's someone after him and someone's spent their free time putting my name on cases."
"Which sergeant?" Phil asked.
"He have a black eye?" Xander asked dryly. One of them nodded. "Hmm, sounds like the bastard who took a swing at my yesterday."
"Xander, put it away. They won't hurt you."
"Um, no." He looked at him. "I may trust you, you have watched my back through numerous serial killers and stalkers, but no." He looked at them. "What was the point of breaking in here? After all, if I'm in here, I'm already in custody," he noted dryly.
"They said he was in collusion, sir."
"Internal Affairs?" Xander asked dryly. They looked hesitant at that. "Someone has faulty thought processes." He looked at the candle, then up, cursing everyone related to this to a very visible marking. Then he looked at Phil, who was glaring. "What?"
"No magic, Xander."
"Bite me." He looked at the officers. "Anything else?"
"No, sir. Um, do you have a permit...." Xander nodded, pulling it out and tossing it over. "Thank you, sir. Oh, this expires in a month."
"I'll have it renewed before then," he promised. "Thank you."
"That's okay, sir. Are you a former officer or military?"
"Survival training. My town had a thirty percent homicide rate."
"Oh, damn," one of the guys in the back said with a wince.
"Hmm, and I'm a marksman so I would've wounded at least." He stared at the two in the lead, who blanched. "Stupidity one-oh-one, boys, how do you enter a room that you've got to kick the door in on?"
"Um, announce then do it, but stay out of the line of fire for the first few seconds just in case," one answered.
"And you did what?" Xander asked more patiently.
"Kicked in the door and rushed," the other sighed. "Point taken, sir. At least it was a harmless training exercise."
"So far." They nodded at that caution and left. Xander put his gun on the table and looked at his helper. "I'm going to kill someone for doing this to me."
"I know, Xander. What did you curse them to?"
"A very visible mark. It's slowly getting worse as a rash."
"Let me go check the lab first. I know someone used Ryan's ID once." He went to do that, putting two guards on the office from the earlier set. He found Ryan scratching. "Rash just pop up?"
"No, it was here when I got in, but I did see two or there others who had one." He pointed up the hall. "You should see the new intern." He shrugged. "Mine's a drug allergy. I'm allergic to my new sunscreen. I can get verification I came in with it, Phil."
"Thank you. Please do, just in case."
"I can write that out for him," Speed offered. "Would you happen to know why some people have rashes that look like they've got dye pack splatter in purple?"
"Yup, your son. They put a capture at all costs warrant into the system on him. A few just tried to get him in my office." He walked out to gather the people who had this rash. He put out a call to the other IAB officers to send the others to him as well. By the end he had twelve people, including the Chief and his assistant. "I love conspiracies," he noted as he stood in front of them. "Xander?" Xander was brought in by Speed, making most of them glare. "Could it have missed anyone?"
"If they were acting against me for another reason. I can amend it." He glared at the chief, then concentrated, giving the others a sudden screaming desire to start confessing about how they wanted to hurt him and Horatio. He looked at Phil. "Done."
"Thank you. I'm sure it'll come back to my ears." He glared at them. "Let me guess, you didn't like the fact that Caine takes it up the ass now and then?" They all glared at him and a few looked nauseous. "Yay."
Xander walked in late that night, finding Di looking sheepish. "Made too big of a mess to clean up?" he asked bitterly as he walked past her.
"No. Eric decided to dent that small bronze statue of you." Xander shrugged. "That's really the boys, Xander, and we do clean up every night."
"I know you do. I'm having a bad day." He turned to look at her. "Some officers very nicely put a capture at all costs warrant into the system on me to get me away from Horatio. I spent the day being threatened by them while IAB worked with me in his office. A few times some of them even tried to break in there to get me. We're damn lucky some members of the MDPD don't have new holes." He picked up a vase and threw it at the sliding doors. "I need to calm down," he said more calmly. "Go home, please?" She nodded, hurrying out. Xander headed into the bedroom, getting into his trunk of things in his closet.
"Xander," Horatio said quietly. "Come here."
"Horatio, I'm hellishly pissed at the people you work with right now, I'm mad enough to hurt you by accident and I don't like that about myself."
"No going hunting, Xander." Horatio slid out of the bed and made his husband stand up to look at him. "Are you all right?" Xander shook his head. "Did anyone else get hurt?"
"Two of them got shot non-fatally to stop their babbling about their plans to hurt you and collect the bounty. I didn't do it." Horatio nodded at that. "I ended up cursing the chief too, he was one of the ones doing the warrants. His assistant trashed his office the day of All-City. I'm so sick and tired of this," he admitted quietly. "But I'm also angry and I need to wear it out."
"Hunting won't help and you'll make stupid mistakes," Horatio said, stroking down his cheek. "Come hold me?"
"Horatio, I'm going to hurt someone," Xander said seriously, staring at him. "That won't calm me down this time. I'm well past that. By the way, I broke Yelina's vase." He kissed him, leaning against him. "I need to do something physical. I need it now."
"No," he said quietly. "That won't help you." He did what he could to calm him down. "At least get me back to sleep before you go for a run." Xander nodded, helping him back into bed and laying beside him until he finally gave up. He could feel the faint tremors where Xander was holding himself back. He took a gentle kiss but the tremors got worse, now he was trying to keep from hurting him. "Go," he whispered. "Take someone with you. Be safe. In my second desk drawer, the flier." Xander kissed him desperately then got up to change his clothes, heading out to gather that and Danny since he was waiting by the car. Horatio moaned and silently prayed that his mate could wear it out there.
Danny looked at the club, then at Xander. He took the flier and moaned. "Okay, if that's what you want."
"That's what I need, big difference. What I want is someone's throat in my teeth." He parked and got out, bringing the flier with him to the door. "Still here?" he asked, holding it up. The guard nodded. "Entrance fee?"
"Two hundred. Membership."
Xander looked at him. "Someone mistakenly put a warrant in for my death. Who do I talk to about membership?"
"I can get him out here. Your husband?" he asked, nodding at Danny.
"The one who'll drive me home."
"That's fine, sir." He called inside and a bigger guy came out. "Him, sir."
He looked at Xander, then snorted. "I know you."
"Yay. Did you hear what they did today, Sergeant?"
"I did, kid. You okay?"
"Nope, and he won't let me go hunt anything. This is better."
"They say you can fight." Xander nodded. "Okay. Pay the entrance and I'll let you in tonight." He nodded at Danny. "Your guard?"
"Yup, in case someone didn't hear the rescind order." He paid the fee and walked inside, letting Danny have the flier. The owner walked him down to the ring and gave him a shove inside. Xander looked at the two guys staring at him. "Hey, even odds." They looked at each other, then sneered and came for him. Xander took off his shirt and went, making the first move this time.
Danny watched from the sidelines. Xander was a thing of beauty when he let it go. Both those guys were tagged a lot more than they got Xander. Though you could tell he wanted a weapon with the way his hand was clenched. He looked at the owner. "Got one with staffs? He's moderately good with them."
"I heard about him and Tentacles." He nodded at someone to call the fight when one went down and didn't get back up. "Xander, stand down." Xander huffed but backed down, going to the opposite side of the cage. "Throw the boy a staff. We'll do a weapons fight." Xander just smirked evilly at him as he caught the staff someone tossed down to him. They cleared the last fighters and a new one went in with his own staff. His was metal, Xander's was wood. The guy lunged with a battle cry and Xander snorted, taking him out. The metal staff broke his but it gave him two weapons and he went after the guy again, getting him a good few times. He finally pressed the 'give up' buzzer, earning a loud cheer from the crowd. Xander tossed the pieces over his shoulder when the next one came in without one. The man sneered but Xander shrugged from his corner. The guy lunged and he met him, and it was pretty evenly matched. Xander was starting to come off the pain and anger high, the crowd could tell it. He was moving a bit slower now. The other guy was bigger and stronger but Xander was generally faster. Xander ducked behind him, taking out his knees and getting him down onto the ground, then tagged him in the back over his heart. "Stand down!" he called. The buzzer rang and the crowd went nuts in a higher pitch. More money changed hands. He looked at Danny. "Think he's sane?"
"Yup." He looked at him. "They all gonna live?"
"Yeah, we don't allow fatal blows." He shrugged and looked around, waving a hand. "Xander asked for special, one-time permission," he said, looking at the boy, "because someone did him very wrong today. Good job, Xander."
"When I'm calmer, maybe I'll try for regular admittance. It'd do me good."
"It probably would," he agreed. "But not right now and I'm not tangling with your spouse."
Xander shrugged. "He's in bed." He got off the guy and walked out the door, looking at him. "Thank you."
"You come to me directly, kid." Xander nodded at that. "Thank you for not picking up the stake," he said quietly.
"I knew he was human, he was huffing and panting." He followed Danny out, letting him drive since he ached badly. "Can we stop at a convenience store so I can get some juice?" he asked finally. Danny nodded. "Other way," he said quietly. Danny turned in the other direction and headed for the house. They stopped and Xander went inside for some tylenol and some juice, bringing Danny out some juice as well. He took them openly and sank back into the seat. "I'm still wound."
"I know. Club?"
"Yeah, maybe. Switch places with me." They switched places and Xander drove them down to the docks, going to a rave he knew floated back and forth between two warehouses. He found it and parked, getting out to head inside. The bouncer looked at him. "Bad day." He paid their cover and headed onto the floor. Danny was right behind him, he knew that. He glared at the vamp working the crowd, making him hiss and back off, then turn and run. "Good idea." He took his spot and got into it. He felt a cool body slide against his. "No vampires tonight," Xander called. "I hate vampires."
"Then why come where we hunt?" she asked in his ear.
Xander turned to look at her, making her hiss. "Because most of these kids aren't you."
"True. We'll leave you alone and leave for the night." Xander nodded at that courtesy, then she left. Xander let himself get drawn deeper into the crowd, trying to get lost again. Danny found him and pulled him closer, letting him have some safety.
Danny knew that he wasn't helping as much as he could. Xander trusted him but not enough to let go fully, like he needed to. He called the house, talking as quietly as he could. He knew he was still probably yelling but Don was fairly understanding. Don and Xander got on better. Xander would feel safer for him. Xander looked back at him. "So you relax better," he called, hanging up and putting his phone away.
"I'm surprised you didn't call Dad."
"He's celebrating being a new dad."
Xander nodded, trying to relax again but he knew it wasn't helping. Don walked in and found them, coming to take Xander. Xander gave him a 'sorry' look, getting a shrug. He pulled the boy closer, letting him shelter against him, just holding him when he let it go finally. He nodded at Danny to go, getting a nod and him heading for the house. Xander stepped back, cleaning himself up. Don tipped his face up, nodding at the door. Xander shrugged. Don gave him a look and Xander shook his head, trying to get back into the music. Don hauled him outside to his car. "Not what you need, Xan," he offered. "Come on, let me pick the place. Every now and then I gotta do this with Danny too." He took them to the club he had been taken to the last time. He had needed to let go and Eric told him to go there. They had joined him a few hours later, when he was calmer, so it was a good spot in his mind. Xander walked up to the door and paid their cover, getting horrified looks. "He's having a stressful day. Someone tried to shoot his husband yesterday."
The bouncers nodded. "We've seen Darkness now and then after a few bad days. Go ahead in, boys." They watched, seeing how Don moved. Then they called the PD number most of the bouncers in town had. "Sir, Darkness is here without his usual guard," he said quietly. "Dark haired, thin.... Oh, that's his uncle? Huh. Oh, *that* uncle. Sure, sir. Thank you. No, somewhat bruised. Look like he got into a fight in a parking lot or something. Thank you, sir." He hung up and looked at the head bouncer, who was waiting. "That Detective Tripp guy said his guard's more than good enough. That's the other guy who helps him run the Benis Foundation."
"I heard he's a cop. That's fine. The fight?"
"Detective Tripp didn't have a clue, but he said he's had a shitty day, his words. His husband got shot yesterday but I was assured he was fine."
"That's fine. I'll keep a discreet eye on him." He went to do that, watching as the boy let it go. He was clearly still uptight and stressed but his uncle made him laugh a few times and he slowly relaxed back into the music. No one came near them but they did relax into it.
Xander was woken by the phone and groaned as he grabbed his cell. "What?" he asked, sounding cranky. "No, Melody, that was Don. Yes, my Uncle Don, the guy who I run the Foundation with. Because he was helping me destress after Horatio got shot the day before yesterday, but do tell the gossip hounds that he's single and looking. Sure." He hung up and called the station she had mentioned. "I do wish you guys would get some information right," he said, realizing he was on the radio by the laughter. "This is Xander Harris. The guy I was with last night is my *Uncle*. Don runs the Foundation with me and he was helping me destress after my husband got injured. He was keeping me from getting hurt while I destressed if you want to be technical about it. No, that was another officer who was on escort duty, but thank you for thinking I'm a slut too. Now I remember why I hate you guys. Yeah, you can quote me and call him if you want. He'll tell you the same thing. Eww, Don's like my big brother! You sick fuck!" He hung up and laid his head back down.
"Want one of my pills for the bruises?" Horatio asked quietly.
"No, I'm good. It's a dull ache. I can swim with it." He leaned over to kiss him. "Sorry."
"I'm not. You needed it after yesterday."
"I was talking about waking you up with my rude call to one of the local radio stations."
Horatio chuckled and Xander moved closer to cuddle him. "I can see why they think you'd cheat on me, but I know the truth, Xander." He stroked through his hair. "You took a shower when you got in?"
"Yeah, I smelled to put it nicely." He snuggled in. "How do you feel?"
"Decent enough. Is the Chief quitting?"
"He claimed blackmail. Had stuff to back him up," he admitted bitterly. "So probably not. I could only wish but nope."
"Probably better anyway. The person after him would be more violently anti-gay." He stroked over his mate's back. "Did it help?"
"It did. By the time I was calmed down to the point that clubbing worked, it was three fights later." He stretched then winced. "Ow."
"Want one of my pills?"
"No, I'll make do with some ibuprofen." He snuck a kiss. "Can I get you something since I'm going in search of juice?"
"Mac brought me juice and the mail. He put a glass on there for you and some pain killers." He pointed at the tray on his bedside table. Xander straddled him for a minute, making Horatio arch up against him, earning a smile. "I could use a nap."
"Let me drink some painkillers first and then I'll let you nap." He snuck another kiss, sitting on his mate's hips as he drank down what he needed. Then he kissed him again and got down to giving him a soothing blowjob, sending him back into a nap. He tucked him back in then headed into the living room. "Hi. Thanks, guys."
"Not a problem," Mac admitted. "I have a few of those methods too, Xander."
Xander grinned at him, then at Don. "I've already called one radio station and pointed out you're my uncle and like my big brother, I'm not sleeping with you." The house phone rang and he sighed, answer it. "Harris." He listened. "No, Melody, I'm sure Don's my uncle. Yes, that uncle. I know I was rude to the DJ. Well, I wasn't in a particularly *good* mood yesterday considering how some people decided I should be killed," he offered blandly. "No, they tried repeatedly yesterday. Anything else?" He grimaced. "That's fine. I can bring Don to the polo match." He rolled his eyes, then shook it. "I still have to do my practice in the pool, Melody. Yes, and Nationals are in just under a month now. Horatio wants me to go. Shoulder. He's fine. If I can. He's napping. Thanks." He hung up. "I'm going to the other house to swim. That way I don't have to fight the people in the gym today. I helped Horatio back into a nap. Thank you for the juice, Mac, and the painkillers, Danny." He went to grab his suit and change, then headed up to use his pool. He found Taylor lounging beside it with his son, waving before he dove in. He winced at the pain of the bruises but that was life. He had swum with worse. This pool was shorter, only half an olympic-sized one. He knew that though so he could mentally time himself while he did double sprints
Eric checked his watch from the back porch, then the pool. "You're faster than that, you were when you got shot!" he yelled. "Fix it, Harris!" Xander waved and did a true trial run. "Now do thirty more at that speed! You need more endurance!" He sipped his coffee, looking at Speed and Di, who were with him. "Think he realizes the whole lab got suspended in the investigation?"
"Probably not. I heard him swearing at the DJ this morning," Speed offered. Calleigh came out and sat in his lap, getting a hug. "Xander's up."
"I heard Eric yell at him." She looked out there. "He's doing good."
"He is. Keep going!" he yelled. "Doing good!" Xander burst on a burst of speed for his last two and Eric smirked, nodding when Xander paused to look at him. "You shaved a whole second off. I'm impressed. Come here." Xander got out and came up there, making Di giggle at his swimsuit. Eric frowned at her. "They're comfortable." He looked Xander over. "You okay?"
"I went and got into an intentional fight with someone who understood."
"We heard," Speed assured him. He looked him over. "What's the other guy look like?"
"Worse." He shrugged. "This was after three really."
Eric nodded. "You okay to swim?"
"I've swum with worse."
"Decent." He motioned him down and Xander leaned down, letting him pat him on the head. "No more going out with Don. It scared some people that you were cheating."
"We spent most of the morning reminding everyone that Don was your uncle and that he helps you run the Foundation, that he's the guy Horatio gives you to when there's danger," Calleigh agreed. Xander moaned and trudged back down there.
"Do your distance ones, then break and go back to sprints," Eric ordered. Xander nodded and dove back in, going for his distance practice.
"He should've been a merman," Di said in appreciation, pulling out some paper to sketch him. Calleigh got the camera and took some pictures for her, making her smile. She even got a quick series of him doing his turn. She settled in to draw and work on some new outfits off to the side of her drawings.
Ray Sr. came out onto the porch with them. "Any word on Horatio?" He watched Xander swim. "I'm guessing he's okay?"
"Probably soothed back into a nap," Speed offered, looking at him. "Let me guess, you heard the rumors?"
"I had but I know who he was out with. The same as I know they're too cuddly for Xander to ever cheat on him. He saw the boy stop and roll onto his back. "Cramps?"
"Probably." Eric got up and walked down there. "Xander? Cramps?"
"Yeah, stomach cramps," he admitted, swimming over and getting out to lounge. "Sorry. I'll go back once it's stopped."
"That's fine. Come up and eat something then go back to it. We'll call the others." He walked him up there, letting him have his seat while he went to call the other house.
"Hey, Xander?" Di asked quietly. "Taylor and I wanted to ask you something." He looked at her. "Can she and I buy this house?" He shrugged. "You don't know?"
"Not sure. It's linked to the arsenal and all that, Di."
"It's not like we'd keep you out of it, Xander, and everyone knows that you've got this one anyway. For a hiding spot it's too well known." He sighed and nodded. "Just think about it?"
"Sure. I'll let Horatio talk me into it." She beamed at that. "It will be easier to steal Eric for weeks on end."
"And to get him back," she agreed dryly. "Are you okay?"
"Stomach cramps." He shrugged. "It happens."
Speed looked at him. "Stress cramps or flu cramps?"
"Probably stress. Melody called on me to come to the polo match today, bring Don and Horatio if possible, so she could chew my ass a new one for being out with Don last night."
"No, we wanted you out with someone last night," Speed noted patiently. "Because you'd have went hunting otherwise. Oh, we like that venue. We've seen other cops who've went there in the past." Ryan came out with little Eric. "He's got to go to the polo match this afternoon to defend that he's not cheating with Don."
"Can I come?"
"Sure," Xander agreed, grinning at him. "You'll have to jump in sometime as a judge." Ryan beamed at that. "You get sworn in the weekend after Nationals or the weekend before?"
"Before." He sat down. "Should we bring the kids?"
"I'd say yes, because I like to bring Eric, but with yesterday?" They all nodded at that. "By the way, why are you all here?"
"Two of the night shift people were involved and it got the lab shut for the day," Ryan told him. "Pretty purple rash, Xander." Xander just gave him a look. "Worked for me. Better than the suddenly confessing people though. That could've gotten pretty messy when the Chief's wife started."
"Pity, but next time don't come after me and mine."
"Oh, I think he learned that lesson very well," Ryan assured him with a smirk. "Even Willow thought the rash was cuter than the babbling people. Confessions can be reversed if they're not taped you know." He nodded at that. "But hey, only fifteen people total, including the Chief's wife, and most everyone decided they were petty assholes who needed to get a life. I haven't heard anything about the patrol guys going against Horatio for this. Most of them support him for this. Then again, they also all knew that you and Don went out last night. Most of them knew he was your uncle and that was being spread back. Horatio might get a few questions about that but it should be okay by the time he can come back."
"Good. Thank you, Ryan." He leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "You're a good bestest buddy." Ryan grinned at that. Xander stood up then cramped again. "I hate those."
"That's stress," Speed said, pulling him into his lap to hold, whispering in his ear. Xander shook his head so Speed said something else, getting a moan and a nod. "Then go back there and check on him. It'll be okay." Xander trudged back up the beach. "It's worry about people coming after them again. Someone call Mac and make sure Xander's eating."
"He will be," Danny offered, coming up onto the porch. "Don's making sure of it." He grinned. "Hi, guys. We all suspended?"
"The whole lab so they can do a case review and hunt out any other idiots who want to try for Horatio," Ryan said dryly. "Any luck?"
"Two new up the chain. Stella took four patrol officers down to a mafia bar and went in there to ask questions. Said this was pissing off multiple people, including the people in the military and the FBI. Someone told her where to go, and someone else then told her who to go see after that one got hit by her. My girl's feisty and mean when she wants to be."
Speed smirked. "Good for her. Hopefully it helped her temper?"
"Nope," Danny noted dryly, taking a free bench by the railing. "Not a bit. She's still in a snit. Montana's in a bad mood still too."
"Good," Eric agreed dryly. "If we had known, we wouldn't have kept it from Horatio or Xander."
"You guys didn't know at all?" Danny asked. They all shook their heads. "Who did?"
"Some guy named Ian in IAB," Calleigh said dryly. She looked at Speed, who grinned. "You weren't here for Horatio's birthday but it slipped out that he messed up with my birth control."
Danny squealed and hugged her. "Ooooh! I'm so happy!" She smiled at him. "Are you going to let Xander do your nursery?" he teased.
"Nope. Or Speed either." Eric laughed at that. "Did you see what your sister did?"
"Yup. Helped Mac fix it while Xander was gone yesterday. It's pretty but kinda older than I'd expect in a nursery."
"Yeah, but this is Xander," Speed said patiently. "Marisol say anything about names?"
"She's making a list to bring to Horatio. Right now she likes Tia."
"I like Tia," Calleigh agreed, looking at him. "You're going to fight me on that, aren't you?"
"As long as it's a nice, normal name? No."
"Okay. Good. You won't want one of those strange and unusual, supposedly unique names."
"No, I'm all for normal names that the press can spell right when they get their Nobel Prize." She swatted him. "They will have one!"
"If you say so." She rolled her eyes. "Why did I take up with you again?"
"Hmm, great sex?" he suggested. "Even better backrubs? I can cook?"
"Well, yeah," she sighed, shaking her head. Eric and Danny both snickered at that. "He can cook very well."
"We make him cook for Xander all the time," Eric agreed dryly. "We don't want food poisoning."
Di looked at her son, then at him. "We're hoping your mother can teach our son better."
"She's trying," he promised. "Really hard." Then he giggled. "Isn't he about old enough to teach how to swim?"
"Xander said three. That's in another few weeks."
"Hey, Eric, want to join Uncle Eric in the pool?" The baby gave him an awwed look. "Come on. We'll even call daddy back." The baby squealed and came over to drag him down there. "Someone call the other kid."
Speed called. "Eric said we're teaching your son how to swim. Let Horatio out of bed and come up here. Thank you." He hung up. "He's feeding Horatio his breakfast."
"That'll stop," Danny noted patiently. Xander ran up the beach and dove in, making them all smile and little Eric clap. Bigger Eric splashed him.
"Too far back to dive, you could've hurt yourself!"
"Yes, mom. Okay, Eric, let's teach you how to swim. First, let's start with *floating*." Eric beamed and nodded, holding out his arms to him. He and Eric got them between him. "Relax. The water will hold you up. I promise it will. Just lay still and watch the pretty clouds." Eric went limp in their arms and took right to it. "Good job! Horatio, come see him float!"
Horatio sat on the side of the pool, letting his feet and ankles get wet while he took a picture. "That's a very good job, Eric." Eric beamed at him and flipped over. Eric grabbed his stomach. "Paddle like Percy does when he swims. Kick your feet too. You can get over to me for a hug." Xander moved his arms properly and the boy got it, swimming over. "Good job!" He took a picture then picked him up to cuddle when he got close enough. "Excellent job, Eric!" Eric beamed at him, then his mother, then his father and uncle. "Now, go back to Daddy." He put him back into the water and watched him go back.
"This'll be the one we send to the olympics," Eric told Xander, who smiled and nodded, catching his son to cuddle. "Now, Eric, you know you don't go into the pool unless there's an adult in here, right?" He nodded, that had been drilled into him since he had been old enough to move. "Good. Now, float for me." Eric floated and grinned, kicking a bit. Xander rolled onto his back. Eric caught the boy. "Watch daddy swim. Xander, do the other back stroke. The one you say looks like a squid moving." Xander moved that way and Eric moaned in pleasure. "Think you can do that?" He put him onto his back, holding him there until he was floating properly. "Okay, do this with your arms," he ordered, moving them properly, then his legs. "Just like that." Eric tried it. "At the same time. Arms and legs together." Eric tried it again, getting it after a few tries. His daddy caught him and turned him around to send him back from the deeper water. "Good job!" he praised, smiling down at him. "Go ahead and swim around us. Or go get Grandpa Speed down here." He helped him out and the baby ran for Speed, dragging him down to the pool so he had another person to swim to. He grinned at Xander. "We'll have a lot of fun coaching him."
"We will." Xander came closer again. "Eric, I'm worried."
"I know you are. You always worry right before the big meets. You had a massive case of cramps for a week before State." He patted him on the back. "If you do what you did today, you'll have it, Xander. If not, then you won't. Remember, this year there's no higher competition. Next year is a World Games year and the one after that is the Olympics. This year is the best year for you to try yourself if you don't want to go all the way." Xander nodded, hugging him. "It'll be okay. We'll be there with you at Nationals. Then we'll work on next year together if you want. I'd like to make it back to State at least." Xander grinned at that. "I'd like to make it to the World Games but I know I'm about eight years older than everyone else who'll be at Nationals this year. But that one, we'll be sending him. He can study for the Nobel like his grandfather wants while he swims." Xander giggled and nodded. "So, you do what you can, Xander. You've already made it past me. Do your best. You know how good you are and you know we won't be disappointed, even if you come in eightieth at Nationals. It's a great thing to make it there." Xander nodded, relaxing. "No more cramps?"
"Not as many."
"Uh-huh. The rest are probably hunger. Go eat."
"Eric eat?" Eric asked from where he was swimming circles around his grandfather.
"Sure, we'll go eat," Xander promised, plucking him out of the water and out of the pool, going into the kitchen to make them something for breakfast. "Anyone else want anything?"
"NO!" everyone shouted. "No cooking, Xander!"
Taylor and Mac went in there to save the baby and make snacks for everyone else. He and the baby were already nibbling on some of the redone jerky, the stuff that didn't mess up tests.
"Xander, if you're eating jerky, bring me some," Horatio called. Ryan moaned at that. "He redid the recipe so it's safe and won't react to any test. He had me check." Xander brought him out a piece of jerky and helped him back to the table, then went back to making him and his son breakfast. He nibbled and looked at Di. "I'll need him to create an entrance on the other end as well, but I don't see a problem with it," he offered. "Market value or were you going to give him more?"
She squealed and hugged him. "I love you, Horatio! Honey, he said we can buy the house from him!" she yelled. Taylor squealed and came out to hug him too. "We love you!"
"We'll remember that if they need a third baby," Eric teased. "So, are you keeping the bedroom?"
"I like the bedroom," Taylor defended. "It's very comfortable and soothing." Di sighed and nodded, accepting that. "You don't like it?"
"Not really. It's kinda squishy and soft. Can we at least change out the mattress?" She nodded. "Thank you."
"What did you think of his nursery, Taylor?" Calleigh asked.
"I adored it! It's a beautiful room! A bit older, I'd have put it for a six-year-old or better, but I love it. We're redoing Eric's room together." She smiled proudly. "Xander likes how I decorate things." Xander came out to give her a hug. "I know, Marisol was being fussy." He nodded, going back inside. "Hey, Eric, how did you want to repaint your room, little man?"
"Sweaty, eww!" he complained loudly.
"Sweetie, I'll paint," she promised. He relented at that. "We'll go look at paint colors this afternoon and pictures to see if you want pictures like your sister will have."
"Sister?" Eric asked. Horatio nodded, smirking slightly. "Cool. I'll help make sure she doesn't turn into that warrior wench that he watches now and then on tv."
"Xena never takes a bath and only fishes. I want a better role model for my future amazon, Eric," Xander called from inside. Calleigh giggled at that. He came to the door. "Oh, Di, if we store Eric's old leathers and suede outfit in a keepsake box, can you make the new baby some?" She smiled and nodded. "Thanks." He went back to the kitchen. He came out with two plates, handing his son the smaller one. "Honey, Melody wanted you there at the polo match today when she chewed me a new one for being rude to the DJ this morning."
"As long as I can sit," he promised, smiling at him. "Thank you for finally eating." He looked at Mac when he came out. "I had most of his. He doesn't eat when he's nervous or upset."
"I've noticed. I figured he'd feed you most of it anyway. You need food to heal from wounds like that." He smiled as Don tromped up the beach. "Did the phone wake you?"
"Yup. Melody is pushy, Xander. We're eating with her and Isabel?"
"I adore Isabel and her daughter wants to date Ray Jr." He looked at Sr. "She's a very nice and sweet girl who wants to do more than sit on her ass and play with her money."
"Good. I like that. You can pull him out of school. He's being terminally bored this week." Xander called him and told him that, getting a nod. "Thanks, kiddo. It's nice that my son will quit being such a slut."
Horatio looked at him. "Should I remind you of your senior year, Ray?"
"No," he admitted, grimacing. "I still have the flashbacks." Horatio laughed at that, holding his shoulder with a grimace. "Time for more meds?"
"Please. Xander, how did you do a wound there without pain killers?"
"Higher pain tolerance, baby." He kissed him and grinned. "You're such a cute little one," he cooed. Horatio grimaced and patted him on the head. "I promise, it'll quit hurting in about a week."
"Hopefully." He looked at the rest of his crew. "Suspension?" Everyone nodded. "Why?"
"Two of night shift," Calleigh said dryly. "They're doing reviews and things. We turned control over to the non-felony lab. They'll gather, process, and hand it back when they're done."
"That's fine." He snuck a piece of toast, smiling because there wasn't much chance of Xander messing up toast. The baby pouted at him. "I can borrow off his plate. He lets me."
"Daddy need food, like Eric."
"Ask Uncle Mac to get you some more since he's in there." Eric nodded, going to do that, even bringing his plate. He smiled. "He's very polite for a toddler. Are we bringing him?"
"Should we?" Xander asked him. "With the last few days?"
Horatio considered it, then shrugged. "I'd say there's no more chance today than any other day, Xander. Mac?" He came to the doorway. "Any word from Stella?"
"She went to a mafia bar last night and roughed up someone who told her off," Danny offered dryly. "Another one told her where to go to get some better information since it wasn't the bigger boys. They told her they don't mess with cops unless it's very necessary."
"Someone learned it was stupid I guess," Don said dryly. "Hey, Mac, can I have some toast too?" He got a nod and a smirk. "Why do I have to go to the polo match?"
"Because everyone decided I was cheating with you last night."
"Ah. Wonderful. Fine." He accepted his plate and the baby back into his lap. "You're still wet. Were you in the pool?"
"Eric swim," he said with an awed voice. "Uncle Eric and daddy teach Eric."
"I'm so proud!" he cooed, giving him a cuddle. "Now, remember, you can't go in unless there's an adult in there with you." He nodded, digging back in. "Good boy!"
"He generally is," Ryan admitted. "I'm starting to think my son's the bad influence since they only get into trouble when they're together." Bigger Eric snorted and shook his head. "My squirt dyed your brother's dog with your sister's hair dye."
"Eric hides it better," Speed said.
"A lot better." The front door slammed. "Who're we missing?"
"That was an angry Willow," Ryan said, looking back into the house. "We're out here. What did he do?"
"He decided to feed the fish vinegar."
"I'll buy you new fish," he soothed, putting her into his lap to cuddle. "Where is the son?"
"In the car." Bigger Eric went to get the kids and bring them inside while she calmed down. "I'm sorry but they're being unholy terrors and I'm feeling the need to slay today."
"I understand." He stroked her back, making her relax. "It'll be okay. I'll watch Toddy today and you take Liz." She relaxed and nodded against his shoulder. "I'm going with Xander to the polo match. He and Eric can sit there and chatter about the ponies."
Eric looked at him, then at his father. "Horsies with sticks?" Xander nodded. "Cool! Stomp in poo again!" he said happily, going back to his snack.
Horatio shook his head but he was smiling. Their kids were adorable most of the time.
Melody looked up as Horatio walked into their tent and was sat down by Xander. "Oh, dear, you didn't have to come out of bed, Horatio!"
"With what they were saying earlier, yes I did." He gave her a look. "You know very well Xander won't ever cheat on me, Melody." She grimaced and nodded, waving a hand around. "They know that too, it's just too cute not to say something." He accepted both boys into his lap. "This is Todd Wolfe. Judge Ryan Wolfe's older child. He's attending with us today but he's got the picnic basket since Xander bought way too much food for just us." She smiled at that. "And I'm staying here."
"That's fine, dear. Where's Don?"
"He got waylaid by someone from up there who was cooing at him." She and the woman beside her laughed. "Isabel, it's a pleasure to see you again."
"You as well, Horatio. How are you feeling?"
"Sore. Very sore. It's time for another dose though so I may nap through the match." He smiled. "Ray came with us today. He was bored in class and Xander talked him into skipping."
"Hmm, I was wondering why my daughter asked me to call to say she could leave." She smiled as Ray and her daughter came in. "Awww, you two do know each other."
"Yes, mother. Mom, have you met Ray Caine?"
"I have. Ray, dear." She got up and kissed him on the cheek. "You're adorable today."
"Thank you." He smiled at her, then at her daughter. "We're going to do the obligatory social rounds if no one minds?"
"Take Ryan with you," Don ordered as he joined them. Ray nodded, taking Ryan and Xander with him. He kissed Isabel on the cheek. "Hi, Izzy." She giggled and swatted him. "Did anyone actually believe that Xander would cheat on Horatio? Especially with my straight butt?" He sat down and took the kids. "You two stay in this tent. You move outta here and I get to sit on time out and it'll mean no playing in the pool, Eric, and no destroying things, Toddy." They pouted but slid down to play in the grass. "Thank you." He grinned at the mothers. "Eric learned how to swim this morning." He nudged Horatio and handed over his pill. "Here, yours." He dug into the basket and handed over a bottle of water too.
"Thank you. I needed this." He swallowed it and sipped the water. "Eric, I don't care if they're pretty and hanging out of their skirts, you do not stare at women that way. It's not how a good man acts." Eric quit staring at the butt in front of him. He looked at Melody, who coughed and the young woman moved and pulled back down her skirt. "Thank you." He finished his water, smiling as his mate came back. "The kids took Ryan with them."
"I've already said hi to the ones I like and the ones I should have. I don't usually make the full social rounds, especially not with the kids here and you injured." He opened the picnic basket and started to put things out. "Don decided we needed usual picnic stuff but we brought enough for you two and the kids," he offered with a grin.
"That's very nice, Xander. Now, you swore at the DJ?" Melody asked patiently.
"You woke me up." He pouted. "Besides, everyone knows I'd never cheat on Horatio. They're looking for tabloid sales."
"They probably are," she agreed dryly. "Still, no swearing. It's something that can give you a bad reputation."
"Some people deserve it," Don offered dryly.
"True, but we try to keep him on the positive side of the social strata, Don. Now, tell me what's going on?"
"No one told us, but there's been a hit out on me for over three years," Horatio offered. They gasped. "They're searching out the links right now. Us being here lets everyone go be cops instead of trying to keep Xander calm."
"I noticed the bruising," Isabel offered. "What happened, Xander?"
"I went and got into a fight to wear it out. After yesterday I was in such a violent mood I nearly shoved Horatio away from me to protect him." He fussed a few more things into place on the table. "Oh, Eric has a soy and a crab allergy. We found the other one during Horatio's birthday."
"I'll make sure he doesn't eat my crab croquettes," Isabel offered, staring at him. "What happened yesterday, Xander?"
He sat down and hugged his mate, then looked at her. "Someone decided to protest our marriage by putting a capture at all costs order into the system for me. They issued fake arrest warrants and everything. I was working with IAB about the assassins and stuff and he shielded me when the first fake warrant came out. They burst into his office with guns drawn and I nearly shot a few of them." Horatio cuddled him closer. "I'm sorry, honey."
"I'm not. Phil kept me informed through Mac. I'm just glad you're all right." He kissed him on the top of the head. "It'll be okay. I promise it will be. They're all gone and fifteen officers getting caught in the conspiracy means that others will think at least twice before they try," he soothed.
"Oh, dear," Isabel sighed, looking at Melody. "Horatio, I hate to mention this, but your personal vehicle was spotted...."
He held up a hand. "My birthday present, ladies. He rented out the club he used to work at and did a special dance for me, fed me dinner, and had my gifts down there. It reminded me of how we met." They smiled at that. "It was a very special night."
"So special he was sore the next few days," Don shared, making them both giggle and blush. "There's a reason why my nephew drew serial killers like that. Horatio couldn't walk the next morning either." Horatio coughed and looked down, seeing the small grin from his mate. He kissed him gently. "Anyway, it's all good. We're handling the contract stuff and I'm here as his guard and to be shown that I'm straight."
Isabel smiled. "If I was a bit younger and single, Don."
"I know and I wouldn't hesitate to tip you over, Izzy, but you're married." She blushed brighter at that. "Hey, Xander's happy with an older guy. Gotta be a reason for that. I figure an older lady's still got some life left in her too." He smirked at her and she went bright red. "So, what's this I hear about another one of you ladies being mad because Xander did what he was supposed to do?"
"Rebecca's calmed down," Melody assured him. "What he gave to her said very strongly that it was at the lesser levels of the bank and that he wasn't involved but he did start his own investigation through the Board. He was not a happy man. Xander, dear, I do know where I would suggest if you're going to move your funds around." He nodded at that, smiling from his comfy spot. "Boys!" she called. The two toddlers came back, frowning at her. "I do believe you were ordered to stay with us."
"Eric go Ray," Eric whined.
Xander looked at him. "He'll be back in a few minutes. You can drool on his girlfriend then." He grinned at his son. "You know, Auntie Isabel is her mommy, Eric." He scrambled into her lap to hug her and tell her how pretty her daughter was. He pulled Todd into his. "Hi, Toddy." He grinned at him. "No horsies yet?"
"They're being checked over," Ray said as he led Candace back in. "Is he still drooling over my new girlfriend?" Xander nodded. "Eric, real men don't have to poach other's girls. You can get your own."
"But she pretty and snuggly."
"Son, I promise, when you're old enough you'll have all the pretty and snuggly ones you want," Horatio said blandly. His son beamed at him for that. "Let Ray have his own."
"Yes, Daddy 'Oro'." He snuggled in, grinning at the older woman. "Hi."
"Hello, Eric. I don't mind a good cuddle." He snuggled in and got comfy, oohing at the horses as they came out. "Toddy, look," she offered, pointing.
He looked and his eyes went wide. "Ooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh!" he squealed, bouncing and pointing. "Ooooh!"
"Yeah, horsies," Xander said in his ear. "Calm down." He smiled at Ryan as he came back with a follower. "He likes horsies."
"I can tell." He nodded politely at the ladies. "Hi. Ryan Wolfe." He shook their hands and tweaked Eric's ear. "Trying for an older woman?" Eric just smirked and nuzzled his cheek against her shoulder. "He's a horrible flirt, he flirts with my wife all the time too." He picked his son up. "We're going to look at the reserve horses. Eric?" He slid down with a smile to his seat, then took his hand to walk off, talking with the person who had followed. "I'm sure you've seen Eric before but this is my older child, Todd. My wife's feeling overloaded today so she's got his little sister Liz."
"You're adorable," she said, smiling at Todd. Who just smiled and nodded. "And I see Eric's taught you that response too."
Ryan shook his head. "Xander teaches all of them the same things." She giggled at that. "Seriously. Any kid around Xander is like his own kids."
"How is Marisol? We haven't seen her in a few days."
"She's doing fine the last I knew. I saw her brother this morning for breakfast. She and Xander got into it over the nursery. They came down to an agreement of he's got his at his house and she'll have the other one." She laughed at that. "Xander's got a beautiful nursery. Gold accents over a purple wall, with a gold and white unicorn and dragon mural. Golden oak stained crib. He even found gold and white unicorn and dragon sheet sets." She smiled at that. "The baby's going to be so spoiled."
"I'd hope so. I know he spoils Eric horribly."
"Eric learn how to swim today," he said proudly.
"Congratulations, Eric," she cooed, patting him on the head. They came up to the polo pony lines and she let them pet her husband's. "I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun on the bench, Ryan. If you need any help, feel free to go to my husband. He's been there through most everything that's gone on." He nodded at that. "How is Willow adjusting?"
"Willow's decided that she's going to be herself and if you don't like her she doesn't care. She'll be socially polite for my career but she's who she is. That's one of the things I admire about my girl."
"I'm glad. How old is she?"
"She's Xander's best friend."
"Ooh, the redhead?" He nodded, smiling at that. "She's adorable. We saw her while she was pregnant. Xander took her shopping and to the gym a few times."
"Horatio doesn't like him to go alone to places with how some people keep trying to stalk him. It's a reasonable worry." He let Toddy pet the horse, and the baby cooed at it. "That's a horse. When you're older, we'll see about going riding with mommy. I bet she likes horses." Xander snuck up and tickled him, making him swat at him. "Quit!"
"Sorry," he said with an evil smirk. "Horatio made me come play." He patted the horse on the shoulder. "You're very pretty, miss polo pony."
Eric frowned at him. "Girl horse?" Xander nodded. "Oh." He looked at the other lady. "All girl horses?"
"No, they're not all female horses, dear. Don't you like mares?" He looked confused.
"Girl horses are mares," Xander told him.
Eric smiled and nodded. "Like mares, but boys always better. Boys like Eric."
"That's true, you're quite a boy," she agreed, letting him pet one of the geldings on the string. "That's a boy horse." He patted him and cooed at him, letting Toddy help him. She looked at Xander. "I've noticed his hatred of pronouns."
"So have we. He knows what they are. He uses them with Taylor, his other mommy. With the rest of us he doesn't." He shrugged. "I figured it's a phase."
"It probably is then." She smiled at the boys and Ryan, who was helping. "They're very sweet children. You, Horatio, and Ryan are doing a good job of making Toddy into Eric."
"Thanks, but he only fed his mommy's fish vinegar this morning. Even though he dyed Marisol's brother-in-law's dog, he's got a way to go before he reaches Eric's version of evil." She laughed at that, leaning on Ryan's shoulder. "He's younger so he'll catch up." He picked up the boys, letting them pet the nose instead. "Gently, Toddy. Very gently." He stroked like Xander showed him. "There, good boy." He smiled at them. "Want to come with me or Unclie Ryan?"
"Unclie Ry," Eric said promptly. "More snuggly and pretty that way."
"No picking up girls, son. You're too young to appreciate what they're offering."
"I don't know, he seems to appreciate Stella," Ryan muttered, making Xander laugh.
"We've noticed Eric's attraction to certain areas."
"First time he met Calleigh, he snuggled in and sighed in pleasure. He was barely walking then," Ryan told her, making her laugh and lean on him again. "Come on, let me have the boys. They'll be fine with me, Xander."
"Fine. Can I go steal Liz?"
"No, you can have Liz tomorrow." He rolled his eyes and looked at the maven beside him. "He steals my kids all the time, he's horrible about giving them back. We've went two or three days without having the kids at home. Di had to move closer to him so she got her son back more often because he steals him for weeks at a time."
"I told her I was going to be an active dad," Xander said dryly, giving the horse one last pet. "Do you think Horatio could go riding late next week?"
"If he can stand the jiggling of the wound," Ryan agreed. "Ask him then." Xander beamed and hugged him and the boys, then bounced back to their tent. "He's in hyper fuss mode," he shared.
"I'd expect that with Horatio being injured."
"Shoulder wound. Annoying and painful but he'll be fine with some mild physical therapy." He followed her on. Todd started to sniffle. "You can visit the horses later and pat the ones that're coming off the field." That dried them up. "Maybe you'll be a vet instead of an engineer. Oh, he likes to rip electronic things apart. Fair warning."
"I'll keep my camera away from him," she assured him.
Xander led Horatio back inside, letting Don and Ryan get the kids. He tucked Horatio into bed then headed to get them some water since everyone seemed to be on their porch. He walked out, following the pouting toddlers. "If we can get enough adults, I'll take you guys where Horatio takes me riding," he promised. "Ask everyone." Toddy turned a sniffling, tear-streaked face on them, making most of them melt. "Toddy tried to get out and play with the horses on the field twice today." Ryan grimaced but nodded. Willow glared at Ryan. "He wasn't in any danger. There were a lot of other kids there," he promised. He flopped down next to Speed. "Hi."
"Hi. Get it all solved?"
"Polo is like a tailgating party but it's got a lot more polite people and a lot less drunks, but not all of them," Don said dryly. "Three of them came up to hit on me. At least two of them were women but still trashed. Fortunately the other ladies all got them off me and one of the matrons from New York decided to take me under her wing."
"That's how I got introduced," Xander admitted. "I had to go to a benefit that Patrick had already agreed to go to. One of them noticed I was incredibly nervous and hanging onto the wall. She brought me out and got the whole story out of me then decided I needed a grandmother too. She was very nice to me." He took another drink. "Anything new?"
"A bit," Mac admitted. "But it's stuff Horatio should hear first."
"He's not asleep. Just tired." Mac nodded, going to talk to him. He looked at Danny. "When he was in New York?" That got a nod. "Mafia related or a past like yours?"
"Mafia related. He dated someone's daughter and they're swearing up and down that he soiled her. Her husband divorced her because of it and the upset father did it," he admitted. "Without going into details, it was messy."
Xander sighed and nodded. "That happens to others too I guess. Oh, I got named in two more divorces since you guys last heard. One a society divorce. Apparently her husband wanted me and she was upset at that, even though she knew I'd never cheat. Rebecca's husband is starting his own investigation into what's going on at the bank. She's forgiven me for going to the SEC about that stuff. And Isabel's daughter Candace and Ray Jr. make an adorable couple." Todd climbed into his lap so he let him have some of his water. "Why don't you and Eric go nap on the couch, little guy?" He nodded, going to make his friend quit sleeping on the bench and nap with him inside, where it was air conditioned. He shrugged. "They wore themselves out petting the horses and stomping down the grass later."
"Eric also taught him how much fun hopping up and down in a pile of crap was," Ryan noted dryly, looking at him.
"Yeah, he's a toddler, Ryan, they're like that," Xander assured him, getting a sigh and a head shake. "At least I reminded you to pick up spare clothes for him."
"You did. Thank you, Xander."
Calleigh giggled. "Sounds like most of you had fun at the match. Didn't you have fun, Ryan?"
"I had a lot of fun. Judge Ratser's wife was there and she walked me around to introduce me to everyone I should know. Oh, Xander, you missed Bess and Mrs. Train's tent?"
"I said hi to them after halftime." He shrugged. "I don't usually do the full social rounds. They don't like me anyway. They put up with me. Mrs. Train family has been society since Boston was formed. Bess has been the steel rod of the local society since she was thirteen and her family formed Miami society back when Miami was formed. Both their husbands come from families that've been in society for at least five generations on both sides of their grandparents. Those two, their husbands, and Mrs. Yearns are all the trio of dragons at the head of the world. They say who's acceptable and not. Mrs. Yearns thinks I'm adorable and a quaint choice but she understood that Patrick was my grandfather and that made me acceptable enough, as long as I don't go near any of the good families. I pointed out I had Horatio and she relaxed and said it was fine, I could hang out at my level since gay people weren't allowed at her level anyway." He smirked at that. "Mrs. Ratser is up closer to them. I've seen her correct Bess on a fashion point recently." He saluted him with his water. "She's a good choice."
"Thanks. Willow, she said she understands that you might not be comfortable but we can both come to her for any questions about social things. Including if you need help shopping for the first few." She grimaced but nodded. "I've got to do a few a year."
"The whole family does the Children's Hospital charity dinner," Xander reminded him. "Even Eric this year."
"Marisol looked wonderful when she went," Eric agreed happily. "I think Ray called off due to geometry." Xander nodded. "Did anyone ask about her?"
"A lot. They all asked how she was and how the baby was. They hoped it was going well and that she have an easy labor if they didn't see her before then. We've got a lot of the older matrons who believe that you go into seclusion once you start showing. They said it's perfectly understandable that she's cutting back being on my arm, especially since Horatio's not working due to injury at the moment. They all came over to see how he was doing since he stayed sitting down the whole time."
"Xander also tried to feed a few of them," Ryan admitted.
"Of course I did. I'm in the fussy people group. I'm expected to make some of them eat."
Ryan grinned. "Don't do it to me, okay? I can't eat more than your jerky."
"You'd be surprised. You ate my eggs this morning." Ryan blinked at that. "Side effect of the jerky, Ryan."
"As long as he doesn't quit taking pain killers like you do when you get hurt," Willow noted dryly. Xander just smiled. "Is the new stuff as spicy?"
"Nope. It's a lot more mild. You could even eat some I'd assume." She went to get some from the kitchen, making Ryan take most of the piece on her. "If that came from the blue bag," he noted when they were done, "it's probably going to give you a higher horniness quotient. It did Horatio." Ryan swallowed and looked at his wife, who blushed. "Just not on our bed, guys. Okay?" They nodded, cuddling up together. Ryan pulled her up and sat her in his lap, cuddling with her. "Where did she say to show up next time, Ryan?"
"Bess's next dinner. It'll be right after I'm sworn in."
Xander nodded. "I don't have to go to many of those. I mostly do the charity circuit and those things. Have fun. Use excellent table manners. She heaps praise on those socially who do, but she made my life a living hell for a week because I drank while I had food in my mouth." That got a wise nod. "Make sure it's not a formal thing. If it is, I'll take you where I got Horatio's tux and let them do you too."
"Thanks, Xander. I noticed a lot of the women around you and Horatio were younger and wives."
"I'm seen as a safe person to leave your wife around. I'll protect them if something happens and all the husbands know I'm gay. They can't get jealous plus I listen to the women when they talk about things like money management. I've learned a lot about money management from them." That got a smirk. "I learn when they're chatting about it. That's how I knew how to cure Toddy's crayon eating habit too. One's granddaughter had done that recently."
"Thanks. Seeing the lime green diapers were really upsetting," Willow offered.
"Tell me about it." He shrugged and grinned. "Different strata but I reserve the right to taunt you in public and make you laugh again."
"Fine." He smirked at him then at his wife. "I met a lot of very nice people today thanks to Xander and Emily."
"Good. I can hang on the wall and not speak, right?" He nodded. "You're sure?"
"I told her you had a terminal case of shyness. She said to walk you around on my arm and make sure everyone saw you sheltering in me. The more wise would see you were shy and the others would know I'm possessive and protective. That and to make Xander bring you to a luncheon soon. That it'd be less stressful and you could meet some of them that way since there'd be fewer of them."
"That or the spa," Xander agreed. "Let's see. I think my next luncheon is the Library's and it's in three weeks," he sighed. "No, that's the week of Nationals and I called off all those already. Let me get my book." He went to get his social book from the office, flipping through it as he came back out. "Ah, I couldn't beg off the library one. I'm presenting an award to the librarian of the year." He sat down again, looking at Willow. "That'll have about a hundred wives and a few husbands there. It'll be catered with semi- decent food at the very worst. Usually the people the library uses are pretty good. Horatio likes me to bring him lunch from those. It's for the library and their support." She smiled at that. "I've already accepted for myself and probably a date. I'll call Bess tonight since she heads that one and tell her I'm bringing you." She nodded. "We can keep each other from bouncing since I'll be flying out two days later." She nodded, smiling at that. "You'll need something tea-partyish. Something demure and nice, but it'll be outside so hat nice. I'll have to wear a suit and you know what colors I wear so you won't clash." She nodded, stronger this time.
"Like her pink dress?" Ryan asked.
"That's more business suity than tea-partyish. Something like the white dress with the sleeves but more demure. I'll take her with me, Ryan." That got a nod and a smile. "It'll be fine. If I get stuck, I call Melody. Mrs. Ratser's on that board too if I remember right so it'll be a nice way for you to meet them as well." He found his phone and called Melody. "Are you pouting?" he asked dryly in greeting. "Nope, Ryan and I were talking to his wife. Yup, her. I was thinking the library board one. It's two days before I fly out for Nationals." He groaned and held his head. "Melody, I'm going. I don't care if she doesn't like it. This is my sport. I may like polo but I'm only now learning how to ride. I like swimming. It's good for me. I'm going to National's. Well, you can soothe her with the point that this isn't a year when I'd go to a higher level event out of the country then." He growled. "Melody, this is not the battle you want," he warned. "I'm not giving up my sports. Yeah, and it gives me something to do." He calmed himself. "You can tell her I don't care if you want. If not, you can couch it in politer terms. Thanks." He hung up. "Probably not the best of all ideas for you to go with me at the moment. I'll let Ryan go that day in my place. Or Ray since he'll be off school. That way he can take you." She relaxed and nodded. "It's not a polite society sport," he mimicked.
Eric patted him on the arm. "You can't live by their opinion, Xander. Do what makes you happy."
"I do most of the time. You know what." He called the other number. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. No, I'm going to have to call off the dinner on the twelfth. No, I'll just be back from Nationals and coming down off my high, even if I don't win. So my husband and I are planning on celebrating that night." He smiled. "Swimming and diving actually. Yup, that's me. I've heard. I don't care what others think about my hobbies, but I know. Thank you for that. I'll try to make the next event, Emily. Oh, Melody's mad that I didn't give it up as well, so while I was going to take Willow Wolfe to the library thing, I'll let Ray go in my place and bring her. That good with you?" He smiled at her. "Thanks." He hung up and leaned back. "Ray, write a speech to present the Librarian of the Year award," he called. "You're taking Willow!"
"Yay me," floated out from the office. "Why?"
"Because I refuse to give up my swimming."
Ray came to the door. "Can't they get someone else to give it?"
Xander shrugged. "Not a clue. Write one just in case. It's that nice one that makes cookies."
"Sure. That's a suit event. I'll wear the green one. Willow?" She looked at him. "We'll go shopping together so you don't look bad." He went back into the office. "Xander, did your accounting teacher tell you this was okay?"
"Yeah. I brought the books in and asked him if I was doing it right. He said I was."
"That's fine. I can understand this." He looked over as the computer beeped a few minutes later. "Mac!" He came walking in. "Message from the Chief." He pointed at the screen and got out of the way. The accounting project could be done on any flat surface. Even outside. He brought it out there, sitting at the table to go back to work. "That was really cheap for the remodel, Xander."
"We used some of the stuff we already had," he said with a grin at the bigger Eric. "Your daddy does really good work."
"He does." He smirked. "Gym for practice since you didn't get to yesterday?"
"Aristotle so we can use the safety lines so you can show me stuff that I can press back into their faces?"
"Works for me." They headed that way to do that.
Jr. stretched out, putting his feet into Xander's seat. "I love being his assistant. It's like a soap opera every day." They all laughed at that. He looked up. "It is. Oh, he needs his eyes checked. Uncle H hasn't been able to enforce that one yet. He needs reading glasses."
"We can fix that," Willow assured him.
Ray smirked. "I knew you were the evil one in the family." She scowled. "You're the only one who can go over the level of Xander-evil and make him do stuff."
"That sort of evil I'll claim. The other, not so much."
Ray shrugged. "We've all got it in us, Willow. It's a fact of human nature." Speed looked and he gave his head a shove. "Ask the guy. This is only his shopping account. The others have their own binders now."
"Why?" Calleigh asked.
Ray looked at her. "I get use of the car as long as I balance all the accounts and do the bill paying. I used to have it all in one book but Xander's accounting teacher said he needed to keep them separately. He's checked with his teacher as we switched it over and he told him that I've got his textbook to learn with him." He shrugged and went back to it, having to get the calculator and come back. "That's the last one I do. That's the one he uses most of the time for shopping." He did the addition and made one last notation, making it balance. "That works." He totaled it and closed the book after dating and initialing it. "There, all done. Another week with the car," he said happily.
"So, how is Candace?" Ryan asked. "She seemed very nice."
"She is. She wants to go to business school. She's in my school, in my grade. She knows about my former stress relief habit and asked me about it; I promised I wouldn't do those things when I was dating someone. Though she did say she wanted an invite with a few friends if Di did another show this year. She thinks the clothes are naughty but cute." He looked at her. "We've got to work on Xander's clothes again. The guy he hit wasn't the only one who thought he was a ho at the station."
"I'll make sure he's got more decent stuff now and then," she assured him, patting him on the cheek. "We'll see about a new show this year." He grinned at that. "It's good she appreciates you, Ray."
"She does. She even realizes that I'm sponging off Xander for things like the car. She said it's respectable that I'm working for him to gain the perks. She's met Mom once and mom liked her."
"I liked her, she was sweet and gentle," Ray Sr. admitted. "I saw her when you two left the polo match, ran into her at the grocery store." He looked at his son, who shrugged at that. "Where did you two go?"
"Picnic on South Beach." He leaned back again. "She wanted to go. She's not a big fan of polo. We're going to the concert in a few days." He looked at Di again. "She said you made my butt look like marble in the blue leather pants." Di beamed at that. "She was thinking about sending you a thank you card for it." He put everything back into the office and came out with the pitcher of tea. "Here, drink, people. It's hot out here."
"You fuss nearly as bad as Xander does," Di complained mildly.
"Yeah, and? Who do you think I learned it from?"
"You were his prototype for what he's turning Eric into," Calleigh teased.
"Probably so, but it's netted me a pretty woman Toddy wanted to steal and Eric tried to claim. It's netted me social connections that'll help no matter what field I go to in life. I've already had a few different matrons asking me if I wanted personal letters of reference for college. I've accepted a few of them with grateful babbling."
"You've got six letters sitting on your bed, son," Sr. noted patiently. "Your mother wants you to open them so she can have ice cream with you in celebration but she doesn't want you at Stanford. It's too far away."
"Yay. It's a great school." He shrugged and stood up. "Let me do that and check the mail. I'll be back." He headed out, checking the car before heading home for a few minutes. He ran into someone in there. "And you would be?" he asked dryly, making them jump. "Besides breaking and entering I mean?" He called dispatch. "This is Detective Salas's son. Someone's in our house. Get here now before I have to hurt them." He hung up and gave them a look. "Why don't you sit down so we can chat?" The person lunged at him and Ray pushed them back into a wall, knocking a few pictures down. "Don't try that again. I've been taking lessons with Xander. Baby!" The dog came through the screen door, trailing his lead line. He pounced the intruder, growling in his face. "Good dog, Baby. Good boy." Officers came up and he pointed at the guy. "I only saw him but I didn't come in any further. He tried to rush me and I shoved him into the wall. That's why the pictures are down. Baby, sit!" The dog sat and Ray led him to the couch, checking it before sitting down with him. "Good boy," he soothed. "Very good boy, Baby. Very, very good boy." The great dane laid down with his head in his boy's lap, getting adored for protecting him. "I want to know if this has to do with the contract out on my Uncle Horatio, someone to do with the regular people who go after Xander, or something else, guys. We need to know." They stared at him. "Seriously."
"You're Horatio Caine's nephew?" one asked. Ray nodded. "Crap. Okay. Your mother's on her way."
"That's fine. Put him in an uncomfortable position. I can walk you around to check for things out of place." They nodded, cuffing him in the car and coming back in to help him look around. He found a few cameras and the mail on his bed was messed up. "My father would've stacked them," he noted patiently. He grabbed a pair of gloves from his desk and flipped through them. "One's open." He looked at that letter, smirking. "I got into Stanford."
"Ray!" his mother yelled from the doorway.
"My room, mom, and watch out for the cameras." He came out and hugged her. "I got into Stanford. Someone opened it for me. Do we have any baggies?"
"I'll get you once since most of your uncle's crew is probably at his house." Ray nodded at that. "You were?"
"Yup, it's my day to do the books over there." He shrugged and put them all into the envelope she found for him. "Thanks, mom. Let me check the mail for today."
"Son, Stanford is a long way away," she pouted.
He smiled and kissed her on the cheek. "If I get in closer I'll go closer, mom. I want to go to the best school I can." He walked out to open the mailbox, finding a few new letters in there. He brought them back in, handing the officers two, his mother the junk mail, and keeping the ones with his name on them. He opened the one for Xander and Eric's alma mater. "Huh. I didn't get into the local college." His mother moaned. "Sorry, mom."
She sighed. "I had hopes."
"Me too. That way I could earn a small salary working for Xander since he hinted he'd give me the car for graduation." He opened the next one and held it up. "Threatening letter." They took that one carefully and it went into the envelope as well. He opened the other one. "I got into FSU. Oooh, and I got into the small, exclusive one here in the city," he said, holding that out to his mother. "Really fucking expensive, Mom," he warned. She looked at the cost of tuition listed and gasped. "I warned you."
"You did, but that's your whole college fund, Ray."
"I know, mom." He looked at her. "They don't offer financial aid either. They were pretty cheap to apply to, part of that you apply to one you get them all stack. I don't remember if they had something I'd like though." He opened the next one. "Ooh, and a letter saying that I'm a daddy, that the baby's two. Gee, I was a virgin then." He handed that one to his mother as well, grimacing. "I kinda doubt it." He opened the last one. "Hmm, another from that stack. Hey, mom, would you like Yale more?"
"It's still very far away," she protested gently. He looked at her. "But closer." She pouted. "I don't want you that far away, Raymond." She kissed him on the head. "We'll look at all your acceptances once they're all in."
He grinned. "One was from Cambridge."
"There's no way you're going to England, son." She rolled her eyes and went to help the officers search the house. "Baby, quit drinking out of the toilet," she complained.
"Baby, come on, let's go see Uncle H and Xander." Ray stood up, looking at the officers. "Need me?"
"Where did you find him, sir?"
"Doorway to the kitchen."
"Thank you for calling it in instead of killing him."
"Not like I had to. He wasn't threatening my mother." He shrugged and walked the evidence envelope and the dog out to the car, heading back there. He walked in. "Guys, someone was breaking into the house. They put cameras up and rifled through my letters on my bed." He handed the envelope to Danny. "Mom's got the two threatening ones I found so far. One told me I'm a daddy to a two-year-old."
"You hadn't had sex then," Don said, frowning at him. "You only got up to New York a year and a half ago."
"Exactly." He flopped down. "Some of those are acceptance letters." He grinned. "I got into Stanford. Didn't get into the local university that bigger Eric and Xander went to. Got into FSU. Got into Yale." His father beamed at that. "In the envelope is Cambridge, MIT, three other state schools and the one from Stanford that was opened for me."
"I'll do the fingerprints," Calleigh agreed, going to do that.
"Cameras?" Speed asked. Ray nodded. "Why?"
"Not a clue." He looked at him. "When you find the fucker, you'll tell me so we can both ask that question, Speed."
He smirked at that and nodded. "Sounds like a plan to me." He went to help her, Danny following.
"Who was it, Ray?" Sr. asked.
"Not a clue. He tried to tackle me and I shoved him into the picture wall. A few might need new frames."
"That's fine. We can do that later," he agreed quietly. He patted the dog. "Did you protect the boy?"
"Oh, yeah. I called him, he broke the line out back and came in to pounce the guy and growl in his face. He's a good boy." Baby barked and came over to get more attention from his master. "I love you. You're a good boy." The dog barked and settled in next to him to get some lovies. He looked toward the main door as Eric walked Xander back in. "Gym full?"
"He threw his back." He walked him into the bedroom, letting Horatio fuss over him, then came out. "With the safety gear he twisted wrong. Landed worse. He'll be fine in a few days." He sat down and looked at him. "I heard something about acceptance letters when I called your mom?"
"I didn't get into yours."
"I have no idea. I got into Yale and Stanford." Eric blinked at that. Ray grinned. "I got into FSU and that really expensive private school too."
"They're a place rich kids go to get married."
Speed came out with the letters, hugging him. "I want my kid to have that many letters," he said proudly. He went back to helping.
Ray looked. Then he beamed and handed them to his father. "I am The Man," he said proudly. "MIT, Cambridge, the other college locally, and two others." Eric grinned and punched him on the arm. His father hugged him. "Thanks, dad. Get off." His father walked off sniffling to call his wife. Ray called his girlfriend. "I'm starting to gather acceptance letters." He smiled at her. "We'll compare, Candace. Don't worry about it." He blew a kiss. "Have fun with your trim. No, Xander threw his back learning a new dive. Oh, we heard. I think he told them to basically bite him over it. Sure. Thanks." He hung up. "Candace is going to Nationals with us," he announced. "She'll have her own room. Her mother said it was fine."
Eric smirked at him. "It's good to see that you're serious about one girl finally."
"I am. I'll even try to go to school with her, or near her if I can't go with her." He put his feet back up. "Where's the gropey ones?"
"Napping in Eric's room. Todd said it was too noisy and drug him up there," Ryan admitted with a smile. "Congrats, Ray."
"Thanks. I'm going to have swelled head issues soon." They all laughed at that. His father came out and hugged him again. "Get off!" he complained. His father handed him a note and went back inside. He looked then smirked. "It's a hoax letter. Mom called them personally. The young woman in question never sent it." Don smirked at him. "So, now I have to figure out where I want to go. Because mom will pout if I go too far away. She's already said I can't go to Cambridge. She pouted about Yale and Stanford."
"What was your SAT?" Speed asked.
"Three points from 1600. I also had a lot of credit on the 'after-school activities' and 'life studies' sections. Plus I wrote one killer essay. With that and the personal references I got? I'm only surprised I didn't get into the local one Xander's going to."
"Me too," Eric admitted. "Xander had crappy grades and he got in."
Speed came out. "It wasn't on letterhead and it was printed on the same printer that did the hoax letter." He smirked at him. "They said letters are going out this week, Ray." He smirked at Eric. "My boy did what?"
"A gainer and twisted his back."
"A twisting and turning dive, he twisted wrong in the safety harness and yanked a muscle too hard. He'll be fine in a few days."
"Okay." He went to get them something to drink and go back to work.
Ray preened. "I am still *so* The Man."
Eric patted him on the shoulder. "Brag when you've got them all in, Ray. Then we'll see." Ray nodded at that.
Horatio looked at the stack of letters his nephew handed him a week later, then at him. "How many still have to come in?"
"Two. I still didn't get into the school Xander went to. They said I applied after the deadline." He shrugged. "Anyway. I thought I'd brag since I'm going to the University down here. Candace wants to stay close to home as well. We'll talk Masters somewhere else." He sat on the foot of the bed. "Look, please. Tell me I am The Man." Horatio smirked but flipped through them, staring at him after a few. "I teased about MIT but they're a great school."
"They are," he agreed, going back to them. "Cambridge too. Your mother would pout all four years you'd be gone, Ray."
"I know. But you know, you can start one place and then transfer to a more prestigious school for their diploma."
"You can but that's being a bit dishonest."
"Not if I tell them that."
"True." He finished up and looked at him. "I'm very proud."
"Thank you." He beamed. "Candace and I looked through all the different letters and we decided on Miami University because it's closer and it's got a decent business program for her, plus whatever I intend to take. Even if we end up breaking up it's a big enough school that I shouldn't run into her randomly or I could head to one of the others as a transfer candidate." Horatio nodded at that wisdom. "Plus, I can afford MU."
"You can," he agreed,"but I don't think finances are going to be a problem, Ray."
"I know, but it's a consideration. Especially since I'm not sure if I want to major in business stuff, Chemistry and Biology to do the lab stuff, or other stuff to help Xander."
"Whatever you decide to major in, we will be exceedingly proud of," Horatio assured him, pulling him closer to give him a hug. "Good job, Ray."
"Thanks, Uncle Horatio." He pulled back and smiled at him. "This means I can keep working for Xander and earn a small paycheck too."
"It does," he agreed happily. "Plus your mother won't pout."
"True, she won't pout, but I'm living in the dorms." Horatio smirked at that. "Hey, this way I don't have to listen to her grill Candace about everything. Though, it's scary, they get along really well, Uncle Horatio. I have the feeling that if we broke up she and mom would remain friends. They both helped me take Willow shopping for the library luncheon." He smiled at that. "How is Xander's back doing?"
"Well enough. It's more of the stress cramps. It's nice that I can count the massages as physical therapy for my shoulder." Ray smirked back at that. "I can." He grinned. "Why else are you here today?"
"Mom's eating ice cream for dinner. She's having an 'I remember when you started to walk and ran into the walls all the time' day."
"That does happen," Horatio agreed. "Go play, Ray." That got a grin and his nephew hugged him again before disappearing. He got out of bed and went to find Xander, finding him doing his accounting homework outside. "That looks difficult."
"It's simple math but I still have to use a calculator."
"Better a calculator than an error," he soothed. "I would too." He sat beside him, bundling up his homework so he could hold him. "You know I'll be proud even if you don't go to Nationals, right?"
"I know but this contract is dragging on."
"No it's not," he countered. "I'd expect it to take much longer, Xander. Especially since it crosses two cities and nearly twenty years." He stroked down his back. "I promise it won't interfere with your trials." Xander looked at him. "Are you having doubts?"
"Why am I doing this?"
"Because it's the only way you can prove to yourself how good you are," he reminded him. "You came in fourth in State. Second in most things but fourth all around. That proves you've got skills." Xander nodded, resting against his shoulder again. "You're going to prove to yourself and everyone else how good you are," he reminded him. "You'll do your best and we'll all celebrate and be proud of you. Even if you come in dead last."
"I've seen tapes of some of the other guys. They're tons faster, Horatio."
"No matter what, Xander, you know that you got to Nationals. Even if you come in last. That's not losing. That's you fighting against some people who are going to be wearing gold medals in the next few years. Even if you don't wear a medal, that's up to you. The same as training for next year is." Xander nodded, snuggling in. "I'm very proud of you, no matter what, Xander. I want you to try your best because I can only get more proud of you." Xander nodded, smiling at him. "Have you been slacking off?"
"Nope. Eric and I have been hitting the gym every night since my back quit hurting. I've been spending hours in there during the day too."
"I wondered why Percy and Eric have been at Di's."
"Percy doesn't want to leave him."
"Hmm. Does that mean Di wants Percy?"
"No, but she's thinking about getting a new dog."
"That could help him. As long as they and Percy got along." He stroked over his back. "Now then, you're cramping terribly again."
"I know. It's the stress. If this was an international competition year, I'm not sure I could go higher."
"You could because you know your father and I would be there with you," he reminded him softly. Xander smiled at that, he could feel it. "The same as Aiden is coming to Nationals. I think she's bringing a huge banner if she can and everything." Xander blushed at that. "I know it's odd that you've got supportive people to cheer for you, Xander, but you do. You have so many of us. The same as you will if you go next year. Or if you take up polo." Xander looked up at him. "I don't want to own a horse."
"Horses are expensive pets that don't cuddle."
Horatio smiled. "Thank you." He took a kiss. "Why aren't you at the pool today?"
"I had to do the homework, it's due tomorrow. My accounting teacher yelled at me in class for not turning in the daily stuff. He demanded to know why I was slacking off, so I told him I'm in the home stretch before Nationals and I've spent all my free time in the pool and on a diving board, like I'm supposed to. He stared and ordered me to do tonight's and the project, then go back. That I could take two hours to do that." He shrugged and snuggled back in. "I think this is more worthwhile than homework."
"It is," he agreed. It soothed both of them and make them both feel better. "After you get back, I'm still going to be on injury leave for the rest of that week. Would you like to do something then?"
"I wouldn't mind. What were you thinking about?"
"Short cruise? That way no one could bother us?"
Xander smiled. "Okay. I know there's a problem with one of the islands in the Carribean and gay people but I wouldn't mind."
"Then we'll do that." He kissed him on the forehead. "Get back to work and we'll cuddle when you're done."
"That might be midnight."
"It won't be. You'll do fine." Xander sighed and got back into it, tracing down the exercise to find out where he was. He tapped things into his calculator and balanced the sheet, then frowned and went back to check his figures. Horatio looked at one and tapped it. "That's a different number than the one across from it."
Xander looked, then moaned and added in one last entry and that number, then rebalanced it. "I forgot to put in where the other part went. Thank you."
"Not a problem. I like watching you do homework." Xander blushed. "I know you're very bright, Xander, doing homework in front of me proves it to me and makes me appreciate your brains." He dropped another kiss on the temple then got up. "Water or juice?"
"Juice please. I skipped lunch to watch some of those tapes with the guy from my old team who's going too." Horatio nodded, going to get him some juice and a sandwich, making Xander look and sigh, then up at him. "I'm not supposed to gain any more weight."
"You haven't, you've lost some. Eat it." He sat down and watched his mate eat and go back to his next problem. It was a good thing.
Xander stepped up to do his first dive, diving was first in this event. He dropped his mind back into the right spot and went over it in his mind, then willed his body to follow his thoughts, just like in practice. He felt the twinge in his arm but that was fine. He had cramps there sometimes. He came out of the water and looked at his arm, then the water. He blinked at the small trail of blood. "Um, coach?" he called as he got out. "Can I have a towel?" One of the paramedics on duty came over to look at his arm, the officials calling a temporary halt while the pool was drained and refilled and the shooter hunted down. Horatio joined him on the bench. "Just a graze."
"That's fine, Xander. I think I heard someone say that you deserved higher marks for doing it while being shot." He looked at it. "It's just a graze. Won't even need stitches."
"You're right. Tyelnol and a waterproof bandage once it gets stopped." He looked up as the officials came over. "Sorry about that. I didn't plan that." They smiled at that. "I'll be fine. All I need is a bandage. No stitches needed."
"You seem too calm to have just been shot," one noted.
Horatio pulled up his badge. "It's not the first time. He swam with metal stitches in his shoulder after a minor rebound injury." He put his badge back and went back to putting pressure on it. He moved the towel, then nodded. "It's mostly stopped."
"Slap some neosporin on it and a bandage."
"Let's get it fully stopped, sir," one of the paramedics offered. Xander shrugged. "See, it's going again."
Xander looked and sighed. "Can't I just burn it closed? Like they did in the old days?"
"No, Xander. I don't want you to have scars like that," Horatio said gently. Xander nodded, resting against his side while they handled it for him. "Did they find who shot at him?"
"The security people found him coming down. He's in custody." He looked at the young man. "You don't have to continue."
"Yes I do. I don't rate any special favors and I've swam with worse, even in distance events." He stood up. "This isn't that bad, sir. I'm going again." That got a nod and a smile. "Sue me, I'm a prima donna and a glamor hog." He grinned. "Should I have it sealed?"
"Up to you, son, you'll have to cover it no matter what."
"That's fine." He looked at it then at them. "Guys, recommendation?"
"It'll be a burn if you do, sir. Just as bad, if not a bit worse."
"Yeah, but the burn means no one can complain about the possibility of blood in the pool." He looked at Horatio, who shrugged. "Can I see my old coach? Miami College's?" That got a nod and they went to get him. "Thanks, guys. It'll be a minute. He's talking his boy back up." The dive coach came out. "It's a small graze. Cauterize or cover?"
"Cauterize. Some of the other coaches are already complaining that they're not scrubbing the pool." He looked at it, then at him. "You can come back next year."
"Next year, I plan on coming back with Eric if I come back. Him right behind me." That got a smirk. "Seriously." He looked at Eric as he made it to them. "Cauterize?"
"That's going to pull."
"And?" he noted. "With some of the stress cramps I've had?"
"Point," he admitted. He looked then nodded. "H?"
"If he wants, but I would rather he not."
"They'll challenge it," the dive coach offered. "Too many challenge him they'll have to remove him from the meet."
"Then go ahead." He saw someone break through the crowd and come running their way but Xander was still relaxed. "Is that Aiden?" He nodded, moving back to let the paramedics finish the work on his arm. They had a small iron they could do that with. "Aiden, he's fine."
"He got shot!" she yelled.
"I got a graze, mom, and they're going to close it now," he said calmly, hissing and wincing as they closed the wound. "Ow." They smiled and wiped around it then bandaged it once it had neosporin over it. "Really ow." Eric nodded. He rolled his shoulder and worked his arm. "Damn. Well, it'll be fine in a minute." He stood up and hugged her. "I'm fine, mom. I promise I'm fine, mommy." He got her calmed down and sitting next to him. "It's all right."
"They still shot you," she said harshly. "Who in the hell is after you now? I haven't heard about any new stalkers."
"Well, I do have one but they're mostly nice. No, this is probably about the person who put the contract out on Horatio's life." She let out a screech and hit him on the arm. "Easy, mom, he got shot the other week," he said firmly. She backed down at that. "It's being handled. Mac's got the case. He told us it was okay to come. We're fine. There's guards watching over us." She nodded, staring at him. "Dad's probably fussing."
"I'll go tell him you're all right. Eric?"
Eric looked at him. "You good?"
"Still stings like road rash. I'll be fine in a few." That got a nod and he walked Aiden off with the other coach. He looked at the officials. "At least I hope it's about the contract and not some random idiot with a rifle."
"No, it's probably about that," Horatio agreed. "We thought you'd be safe, Xander. I'm sorry."
"I'm not. I'll be fine, Horatio. Can I, um, modify one of my dives? I don't think I want to bend during one of them." That got a nod and he went to modify his planned routine, getting a smile and a nod. This one was harder but it was less work with his arms. Once the pool was full and everyone was let back in, he took his spot on the bench, looking at the others who were staring at him. "It quit bleeding, I had it sealed and cauterized. It won't bleed again. They got the idiot who tried for me. It was about my husband, who's a cop." They nodded, accepting that. That meant they weren't in danger and could relax and concentrate. Xander put in his i-pod headphones and listened to music until his number flashed, then he put them down and went to take his spot and psych himself up into his next dive. He moved his arm to test it. It felt like road rash; he had dived and swum with worse. He ignored the pain, taking his position, back to the pool, and took a deep breath before doing his next dive. He landed very well, a little splash but not bad. And hey, he definitely had the sympathy vote from the judges. He climbed out and had the paramedics check the bandage. It was still fine and sealed so that was good with everyone else.
Xander touched the wall during his last lap and the crowd in his cheering section went insane. He looked up. Second. He had gotten second. He got out and nearly snoopy danced then and there. He shook the winner's hand. "Congrats, you earned it." That got a smile and he went to gather his towel and bag of stuff. He found Horatio waiting on him and pounced. "I got second!"
"I saw," he praised. He cuddled him. Xander had consistently gotten second in most of his races. One third in one of his distance ones but the bandage had come off his arm as well. "I'm very proud." Xander snuggled into his chest. He kissed him on the forehead. "You have to get your award." Xander nodded, getting free and going to do that. He smiled at the rest of their family, accepting their congratulations. Xander accepted his silver and shook the judge's hands, staying for the pictures, then they gathered him and headed off.
"Harris," someone yelled. Xander turned and found his old coach standing there. "Good work. Don't rest on it, but good job." He shook his hand. "Any chance of you coming back full time?"
Xander shrugged, then winced. "Baby Horatio is due next month, coach. Maybe the semester when we start having events. I'm not sure yet."
"Tell me as soon as you do come back full time, kiddo. Good job. You as well, Delko."
"Thanks, coach. We're all very proud of him." He patted Xander on the back. "See you back at the college's pools." That got a smirk. "Someone's gotta train with him since he's still part time." That got a bigger smirk. "Hey, coach, if one of us ends up on the national team, think we could pull you in?"
"If one of you two make it, I'll be there," he promised. "Go home, celebrate. Take a week off to brag and dance around, then get back to work. He needs to be faster to make it next year. This year the top butterfly guy was out with the flu." Xander nodded, he knew that. "Good. I look forward to seeing gold next year, young man."
"Yes, sir." He smirked and took Horatio's hand, putting his medal in his bag with the others. "I need a trophy box."
"I've got a shelf cleared off in the study for your awards," Horatio promised. He gave his hand a squeeze. "We're flying back to Miami tonight." Xander nodded. They walked outside and found two cop cars and one van marked FBI. "Interesting."
Xander bounded over to Fornell when he saw him, giving him a hug. "I took silver in my last race and three others, bronze in one other one. Plus silver in diving."
Fornell smirked at him. "Good job, Harris. Get off." Xander got off him. "Very good work."
"Thank you. I'm damn lucky."
"You are, especially since the person who shot you during the diving part got given bail." He looked at Horatio. "Can we escort you to your flight?"
"We need to get the bags from the hotel," he offered.
"It's in the truck. We've also arranged for an escort once you're back in Miami." Horatio nodded, relaxing at that. They started into the van, letting them guard. Horatio went first since he was still officially injured. That's why he was in the van when the shooting started.
Xander turned, grabbing the gun off the agent who fell and shot the person running at them, hitting him in the stomach and leg. "Mother fucking bastard," he said bitterly. Fornell snatched the gun and he glared at him. "What! This is my family."
"Get in the truck." Xander got into the truck and curled up next to Horatio. The doors shut. Fornell's people went to check for others while the truck got moving. That way they didn't have to hear him throwing a fit.
Eric leaned over and tapped Xander on the forehead, getting a look. "I'm going to spank you."
Xander shrugged. "You guys were in here." He looked around. "Mom and Speed?" He found his phone in his bag and called Fornell's number. "Dad and Mom are out there. Speed and Aiden Burns, New Orleans CSI. Yeah. Well, they are like my parents. They're supposed to fly back with us. Thank you." He hung up. "He'll find them and bring them to the airport." He snuggled in again. Horatio let out a discontented sigh. "Sorry. Instinct, but sorry. They were shooting, at me and you guys."
"Xander, do we have to have a repeat of the 'you're not a cop' speech?" Don asked patiently.
"No, Uncle Don."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Uncle Don."
"Absolutely certain? Because that was so cowboy even Montana would've called it that."
"Sorry, Uncle Don," he sighed.
"You should be!" He swatted him. "Stupid! Next time, dive into the truck!"
"I was trained to stand and fight."
"Then you're gonna be retrained," he assured him firmly.
"It's my fault, Don. Xander's had to handle some stuff on his own," Horatio offered. Xander frowned at him. "You have, or else that list would've been brought to my attention."
"The people who tried him," Horatio said blandly. "Plus files on the people who are still sending him stuff."
"Still?" Danny demanded. The couple nodded. "Why? I thought all that stuff in the box was on the contract and the people going after you for that."
"Not a clue," Xander sighed, wiggling under Horatio's arm. He got a squeeze and the chest welcomed his head. "Sorry, Horatio."
"It could've been much worse," he promised. "Next time you get into the truck first." He looked at Mac, who was looking thoughtful. "He did it to defend us."
"I can't blame him on that. Military procedure is to either get everyone inside while one or two cover or to stop the shooter and stay out of the way of the people who might be getting out of the truck. Depending on severity and how many are already in the truck. He did it military. I can't complain about that. I can complain about him taking the gun off one of the agents to do it."
"Not like I was armed," Xander said bitterly. They pulled into the airport and were hurried inside past security into a sealed room. He found his bag and put on some real clothes over his speedo, then flopped down. "Is anyone else really tired?"
"Yup, and we only watched," Danny offered, hugging him around the neck. "Good job, Xander." Xander smiled at that. "How are you gonna display 'em?"
"I don't know. I thought they make stands for them or something."
"We've got some great pictures of you diving and on the platform," Eric promised, grinning at him. We can design it together with Horatio and Taylor." Mac smirked at that. "And you if you're going to be down there for a few more days."
"Probably," he agreed. "We're still waiting on the warrant for the head of this contract and all the rest of the people are starting to fall." He looked at Xander. "Are you okay?"
"Really exhausted." He stood up and stretched. "No injuries, Mac. I don't feel anything."
"That's fine." He patted him on the shoulder. "Your job is to guard Horatio," he said quietly. "I want you behind him in the future when this sort of thing happens. Got it?" Xander nodded at that. "Good boy." He patted him on the cheek. "And very good work, Xander. Especially for your first one." Xander smiled at that, blushing some. Speed and Aiden were pushed in. "Hi, again."
"What the fuck?" Aiden asked.
"Ditto?" Speed asked. Horatio and Eric cracked a smirk and she swatted him. "Ow! Mean wench! Be gentle with me."
"Calleigh would mind if my new brother or sister would have to look at a bruise when it's born in a few months," Xander told her. She gaped then squealed and hugged Speed around the neck, cutting off his oxygen. "Don't I get one?" he whined, mostly to save his father. She transferred over to him, hugging him just as hard. "Thanks, mom."
"Not a problem, baby. You did great." She smiled at him. "But I'm still gonna spank you for firing back."
"I was still out of the truck."
"I don't care. You're still being spanked." She gave him another hug. "I'm so proud!"
"Let's hope Marisol didn't redecorate the nursery while we were gone," Danny teased.
"She knows better since last time Xander carried her up to the other house and tossed her into the pool," Speed offered with a grin. "Which let Eric jump in to swim too since there was an adult in there." They all giggled at that. "I'm hoping she learned her lesson."
"We all hope she learned her lesson," Mac promised. "She came out dripping, screaming, and pouting."
"I told her she could do whatever she wanted with the one at her place," Xander defended. "That one's mine." He smirked. "Besides, I used the special locks on the house. If anyone tried to get in, they were going to be sorry." He looked at Mac, grinning. "Thank you for telling me what to put in."
"Welcome, Xander. I'm surprised you didn't before then." He shrugged. "It won't hurt her or the baby but it'll make her sorry. They loaded the gas sprayer with the stink bomb solution." They all shuddered at that. "When it's flipped on, it'll be full strength and spray them in the face and chest." Xander cackled at that. "She's going to stink for a while if she did."
Eric called his mother. "We're on our way home soon. Four silvers and a bronze swimming. A silver for diving." He grinned. "It'll be on ESPN in a week and a half, momma. I put the information on top of the tv already." He listened to her say something to someone. "Which one tried to get into their house, momma? Yeah, Xander and Mac planned it. No, those are his stink bombs. Did you ask Alexx?" He snickered. "Xander, she tried to have our sister and brother-in-law help."
"Pity," Xander said dryly. "I told you that was my nursery."
Eric listened to his mother rant. "Well, he told you that was his nursery and Mari could do whatever she wanted with the one she'd be doing. Ma, she deserved it. I don't know, ask Alexx how she got the other ones. No, someone tried to attack him as we were coming out. He's fine. Happy but pouting that someone tried to attack him on the way out to go back to the hotel." He nodded. "Next time, don't break in." He snorted. "Sure." He listened to his father complain. "Did they get in there? I didn't think so." He smirked at Horatio. Then he shook his head. "No, dad. No, dad. Poppi, no. She's got yours to do. Xander wants his his way. That's his house and his right. I know it's Horatio and Marisol's child. And? Horatio, did you like his nursery?"
"It's grown on me and it's soothing to sit in there," Horatio admitted, taking the phone. "Mr. Delko, I like how he decorated it. At first I was wary but I like it now. Again, this is our house and she can do yours. No, I'm perfectly happy now that the last damage was undone. It's very soothing to sit in there at night. Our daughter will love it." He grimaced. "Are you having her mood swings with her? I sincerely doubt that she'll be able to keep custody from us for not liking our nursery, Mr. Delko. If she threatens it again, we may have to sue her for total custody." Eric hissed at that, shaking his head. "She's being a bit irrational. It's a very nice, comfortable room. Hmm. Are you so sure that they would?" he asked dryly. "Considering she did sign papers saying we would have at the very least equal visitation and custody rights?"
"That's in the special safety deposit box with the wills," Xander said quietly. He knew if she did that to them he'd be making her life a living hell. It didn't need to be stated, it'd be understood. "See if Willow or Di can get her calmed down." He took the phone, listening to the rant. Then he snorted. "Really? Are you so sure about that? Because there's no precedent for that and Horatio is the biological father. Little known fact but with the Watchers starting on DNA tweaking and hoarding, I made them do it the natural way, Mr. Delko. That way nothing could be left laying around for them or anyone after Horatio to use against him. I'm fairly certain it's Horatio's. Unless you think she's not the good little girl you and Eric think she is? No, I didn't think so, I know she is. So yeah, we're very sure it's Horatio's and if you threaten us over the fucking nursery, I'm going to have to get involved because NO ONE hurts my spouse. Are we fully clear?" He listened to him splutter. "Are we?" He smirked.
"Good. Thank you. Now, would you mind starting to think rationally? It's a nursery. It's a very nice nursery. Most people like it after the first few minutes in it. She's fallen asleep in there before. What does she object to? Oh, her priest said that dragons were unholy beings. Can you kick his ass for me? I'm not Catholic. So? There's plenty of bad priests and I could care less what they think. Caring what they thing is better left to those who are Catholic. Maybe Horatio cares, he was raised that way and practices. I don't. Hmm. He's known for how long she was having the baby? Ah, a new one. Well, I'd suggest she go for a second opinion unless he's got a signed statement from God saying he's his spokesman. They're mythological creatures. Yes, and they're usually counted as protective creatures in most myths. Some do, but then they thought the same thing about whales for a while. Again, do I care? I will protect my spouse and our children to the best of my abilities. Now, you can talk to us rationally and reasonably when we get home or you don't. That's your call. Ours will be filling for full and permanent custody with visitation for you and your family. Hmm. I'm a stay at home dad.... Yeah, exactly. Right now, don't you think you should be more worried about her health than a nursery? How did her last checkup go? That might be a good idea, yeah." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "The new priest has told her and your family that we're evil for having a child with her, and for using dragons in the nursery, that the colors in it are evil and lead back to satanism."
Eric moaned and shook his head. "Will I at least get visitation?"
"Whenever you and your mom want," he agreed. "As long as the irrationality stops, we'd even let the baby go spend time there. The same as I still don't object for the baby to be baptized Catholic because it's important to Horatio and Marisol, plus your mom. Just not in that church."
"Agreed," Horatio agreed. He looked at Xander. "If they work it out...."
"Then the agreement stands. If not, it's getting fought over. I'm not letting petty shit hurt the child or you, Horatio."
"Thank you," he agreed quietly, giving him a hug. "Calm down."
"No!" He glared at him. "I have every right to be upset about this!"
"You do," he agreed. "The same as half of this is from the incident earlier," he said wisely. Xander grimaced but nodded. "Thank you." He pulled him into his lap and sat with him, keeping him calm. He whispered in his ear, getting a nod and Xander cuddling in. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome, Horatio." He kissed him. "I gave Don a letter to bring back to New York to get your family priest down to bless the baby," he offered quietly. Horatio swallowed then gave him a hard squeeze. "I know it's important to you, Horatio. I even offered to pay for airfare for him if he'd come down to do the blessing." Horatio smiled at that. Eric grinned too. "But we're still doing a Wiccan blessing for Tia. I'm still going to named her guardian and teacher."
"Yes, dear. I can accept that."
"Personally I think this new priest is making her paranoid," Eric offered quietly. "I'll talk with her when we get home, providing I can get within a block of her stinky body. How many times did she try to break in?"
"Three or four according to your dad." He shrugged. "Oh well. The gate guards could've turned it off but I told them not to until we got back there unless Di needed something of Eric's that first night."
Horatio smiled and nuzzled his throat, placing a kiss on it. "I'm very impressed by you, Xander."
"Love you too." He smiled and got up, grabbing his bag to pull out his medals and let Aiden see them up close and personal. She hadn't gotten to see his diving one.
"Awww, they're so cute," she cooed. "Where are they going?"
"I've got an empty shelf in the study ready for them and his ones from All-City and State," Horatio promised. "Plus the others I found in the bottom of my closet?"
"Mine's out of room."
Horatio shook his head. "Fine, Xander. We'll design a display together." He paused. "The underground tunnel?"
"The only people who know the code are us, Horatio. I told Mac and Calleigh that there was one but not what it was." Horatio nodded at that. "But I do need to put in a door on the other side to the second room anyway."
"We'll see how best to do that when we get home, Xander." He pulled him back into his lap, looking at the medal. "That is very pretty. You look good in silver, but you'll look wonderful next year in gold." He took another kiss, getting a happy husband.
Speed called Calleigh. "It's me. We're safe. Yeah, I figured it would be but I forgot to call until now. No, we're fine. At the airport. The FBI escorted us here. Silver. Four silver and a bronze in swimming and a silver on the diving side." He smiled. "I wouldn't go get the house ready. Xander used a defense system that sprays his stink bomb liquid on anyone who tries to use the doorknob when we're not there. Yeah, that's why half the Delkos stink. New priest syndrome. Thanks, dear. We're coming back tonight, Calleigh. I promise. Love you too. Be safe for me." He hung up. "She's squealing and bouncing around the labs. She caught Ryan and danced around with him too. He's complaining about being dizzy." Xander grinned at that. He tapped on the door, making the agent step inside. "How much longer do we have?"
"An hour, sir. We've already arranged to look at the plane and are checking the manifest right now. You'll go on last with the Air Marshal then you'll be escorted back to Captain Caine's house for the night since it's the safer residence."
"That's fine," Xander agreed. "Can one of us run out to get sodas and stuff so we can nibble on the plane?" That got a quiet question asked through his comm then a nod. "Who's going?"
"I will," Eric admitted. Xander handed him his wallet, making him look inside. "Damn, Xander. Did we pay the hotel bill?"
"Yeah, we prepay whenever we travel," Xander assured him. "If not, they have one of my cards on record to charge it for anything over what we paid." That got a nod. "Get me a coke and a candy bar? I deserve it."
"You do," he agreed. "Anyone else?" Speed wrote out a list and handed it over, making him smile. "Thanks for including me and a book, plus a hat for Calleigh."
"I forgot." Eric walked out with the agent, going to do that while another one got the door. By the time he got back it was nearly time to go and they were gathering bags.
Xander walked into the nursery and looked around. It was still perfect. He smiled and grinned, then headed to pounce his mate, giving him a cuddle. "It's still okay." He beamed at the woman walking in. "Hi." He kissed Horatio, getting a moan and a cuddle. "We're going to plan how to put the medals up." He grabbed his gymbag and carried it into the office, going to look at the shelf. His other awards and copies of the news articles were already there. Plus his stuff from State. Mrs. Delko walked in. "Hanging, resting on a stand, or laying flat?" he asked, knowing it was her.
"On a stand. That's how we did all of Eric's." She looked at his then smiled. "Good work, Xander. Next year you'll do better if you go back." He grinned at that, blushing some and nodded. "Now, can we work this out?"
"It's a nursery. Kick the priest in the ass."
"Oh, I have. I did that today with the family's priest. He agreed with you." She shrugged. "He's talking with Marisol and her father now." She patted him on the arm, then frowned and pulled up his sleeve, finding the bandage. "Did you hit the board?"
"No, a sniper tried to kill me during my first dive. They cauterized it so I could keep going." He took off the bandage to show her. "Eww. Needs to be cleaned." He shrugged and laid out the rest of what would be going up there. Horatio came in with the pictures Eric had printed off and brought over. "She thinks we should put them on a stand."
"As do I," he agreed. He stole a kiss. "Marisol's here and very apologetic."
"That's fine." He snuck another kiss and grinned. "Then we don't have a problem." Horatio smiled and nodded, going out to tell her that. Xander shrugged. He looked at his kind-of-grandmother. "Do I make that many demands?"
"No, you've been more than reasonable, Xander." She patted him on the back. "Come, I can show you how to make a good holder out of a wire hanger. That's how I did most of his." He nodded, grabbing some pliers from the tool kit and following her. The dry cleaner always sent back wire hangers so they had some in the front closet that needed to go back. She sat him down on the couch and showed him how to make one that would dangle the medal and the ribbon would drape over. He mimicked what she was doing, then let her correct his first one. He took it back and nodded, using it as a template. She smiled and went to find her daughter and the father of her daughter's baby. "He's making hangers for his medals."
"I like yours better anyway," Eric agreed happily. "I was going to snatch one and bring it over." He grinned at Horatio. "They're not that bulky and they're made out of coat hangers."
"That's fine." He smiled at her. "Thank you."
"It's not a problem, Horatio, but there is no easy way to get that stench out of anything."
"Xander's breath spray," Horatio offered. She laughed at that. "That's how Danny got it out of the hummer after Mac broke one open."
"I'll have to remember that for next time. Alexx said to tell you she ordered the two that were caught trying to break in scrubbed with hard brushes twice. They called her to see if the stench was decomposition or not."
"It does kinda smell like it," Eric admitted, shuddering. Marisol glared at him. "It was your own fault."
"Fine. I'm sorry, Xander."
"Like I said, as long as you're being reasonable, it's not like I make many demands, Marisol, and we're good. Though I did write Horatio's family priest to come down to do the baptism with your mother's full knowledge."
"He'll be wonderful," she assured her daughter.
"He's the Bishop of New York now," Horatio told her. She smiled at that and stroked her stomach. "How are you and Tia feeling?"
"Fairly sleepy." She shrugged. "I'm told it's normal." She took his hand to hold. "Only one more month, then we'll have another screaming infant." She looked over as the kids and others came tromping up the beach. "They're still over there?"
"Di and Taylor are buying the other house from us," he admitted.
"That's one way to steal the baby back more often," Mr. Delko joked. Eric nodded at that but Taylor whapped him on the shoulder. He laughed at his son's hurt look. "Good morning, ladies."
"Hi, Mr. Delko," Di said, handing him Eric. "Here, have the brat."
"What did he do?"
"Drew on the walls."
"A good swat fixes that," he pointed out.
"We do not spank the children," Horatio said calmly. "There's much too much violence in Xander's past." He sighed and rolled his eyes. "He responds well to other methods."
"He does," Taylor agreed. "I was raised on the belt and even I agree with that." She shrugged. "It's not often he turns into a brat on us either. That's normal toddler stuff."
"It doesn't damage them if done right."
Xander came to the doorway. "By the time I was six I knew how to lie better than any politician and how to hit back. No one spanks the kids." He stared him down. "Unless you want Eric and Tia to turn into me some day?" They all shuddered at that. "So, no. Moot point. Eric, you did what?"
"Colored," he said, looking sheepish.
"Where are you supposed to color?"
"Paper or board in my room."
"And what did we discuss last time?"
"Yup, ya think?" He pointed into the house. "Go sit." Eric sniffled but went to sit in the chair he had when he was grounded, which meant he couldn't play with the other kids. "This is the second time. You knew better."
"Wall ugly!" he protested.
"Then talk your mothers into painting or covering it with wallpaper. They like pretty colors, son." He went back to bending an extra hanger, just in case.
Eric looked at his mother. "Wall ugly. We get sweaty?"
She smiled. "We'll talk about painting the kitchen."
"I wasn't happy with the kitchen's color anyway," Xander admitted quietly. He put that on the table but it rocked. He sighed and moved to fix it. Bigger Eric came in to help, counting. He shrugged. "That way we've got an extra one for the meet next month?"
"You can make one for each new meet, Xander," he offered with a smile. "Part of the post- meet celebration." He walked him into the study to get to work on his trophy shelf.
"Xander, are we holding a celebration tonight?"
"Sure. Ask Horatio what we're doing."
"Horatio, are we celebrating as a group or are you and your boy going to be horizontal by then?" she called.
"We can celebrate after the family does," he said patiently, shaking his head. "Xander, how's your arm?"
Eric looked then nodded. "Someone should look at it," Eric agreed.
"Alexx will be coming anyway," Speed offered dryly. "He's her first grandkid." He shrugged and looked at Marisol. "You good now?" She nodded. "Good. Then go nap on the couch. You'll get a backache sitting there and napping." She smiled and went to do that. "Oh, Horatio, Ryan said he found Calleigh asleep in the firing pen. She was napping in the corner."
"Pregnant women often need more naps," Eric's father noted wisely. "I'm sure he didn't panic."
"No, but he took a few cute pictures before waking her up and making her nap in Horatio's office instead. They all thought it was cute." Horatio smiled at that. "He said he'll bring you a copy for your office here when they come over tonight."
"That's fine, Speed. She is adorable like that."
"She is, but I'm almost scared to be a real dad. Hell, I only had Xander for a few years before you got him. I don't know much about real kids."
Willow looked at him. "You've done fine with the kids around you so far," she reminded him. "You're not scared of diapers or spitup. You'll be a god of parenting soon. Just remember, we get to make the baby a baby Xander and Calleigh. She'll be the goddess of guns and ammo."
Speed smirked. "She'll win a Nobel Prize in chemistry, Willow. Or maybe medicine or biology but she's Nobel bound. Not crime lab bound."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed. "Ray's not sure he wants to join us either."
"Kid's bright, Horatio. He could do a lot with his life," Mr. Delko admitted. "Not like my son, who went there instead of following me."
"Dad, keep it up, watch me sulk all night, which'll start Xander off, then the kids, including the one inside your daughter," Eric called from inside. "Anyone want a drink?"
"Please," Horatio called. "Water's fine, Eric."
"Right," he snorted. "Di, did you hit the grocery store?"
"Everything is in the freezer, Eric. It only need thawed in the microwave."
"Thanks, ladies." He got to work on that, his mother coming to help. The kitchen was her domain and anyone cooking when she was around got her help. The New York contingent came in and Danny came in to help. "How's Stella?"
"Good. She's got the last guy in sight. They're waiting on him to come out of the restaurant he owns to arrest him. It'll be done by tonight on that end, then the mop-up down here." He washed his hands and came over to flip the meat in the microwave. He looked at some steaks Eric was staring at. "Aren't those too thin to grill?"
"That's Xander's jerky meat," he admitted, putting it back. "There's not enough here." He looked at his mother, who sighed. "Hey, Xander, need some money. The rest of the steaks in here are yours."
"Look in the built-in freezer in the basement," Xander called. Eric shrugged and went to do that, coming up with an armful of meat. Then he went back for a few more steaks and ribs. Horatio frowned at him. "In the hurricane shelter."
"Off in the corner. Out of the way of the vault door. Next to the fireplace."
"I haven't been down there in a while."
"I know but that's okay. I understand why," he promised, patting him on the arm. He smiled and got up to go help but Eric and Danny picked him up by the arms and carried him back outside, handing him to Horatio. "I can help with the rub stuff. Horatio lets me."
"No, Xander," Danny said firmly. "No cooking for anyone but you and the mini-you." He went back in there to help, weathering the laughs from Mrs. Delko. "Seriously." He looked at the kid curled up in his chair. "What's with pouty out there?"
"Colored on the walls. He's grounded," Eric told him.
"Isn't that normal kid stuff?"
"Yeah, but he's still grounded."
"That's like torture for an active kid like him."
Di looked at him. "Means he won't do it again. He'll get out in a while." She shrugged and got back to work on the rub Horatio and Xander liked to use, letting Eric sniff it and add some more garlic. Then he took it and got to work on the defrosted stuff. She brought out the bottle of italian salad dressing and handed it to Danny. "For the chickens." He shrugged and got to work on that and marinating the pieces that were cut up already. Di went out there. "We're starting the rubs and marinades."
"I'll get the grill," Mr. Delko offered, moving over to the large gas grill the boys had put in. He had joked that it was big enough for an Eric-sized appetite. Xander had said it was so they could feed Eric and all the rest of them too. It had been cute. Alexx came out and went over to hug Xander, then saw his arm and drug him off, making him laugh. "She's good."
"She is," Horatio agreed, looking at Speed, who went to save his son. "Need help?"
"No, I'm fine, son. Do we have enough gas?"
"It comes off the main line," Horatio admitted. That got a nod and a smile, letting him light it. He got comfortable. "He does love your family."
"I know, son. Don't worry about it. Her panicking and mood swings were enough to get to even me. I don't blame him for digging his heels in and becoming stubborn." He shrugged and got back to work readying the grill. He looked up when the light darkened. "Um, Horatio? Are they part of the neighborhood?"
"Xander, there's a fairly large demon out here," he called.
Xander sighed and came out with his favorite sword, going to attack the thing. The thing quit blocking the sun and went back into the water again, making him trudge back and inside to take a shower. "Stupid things," he muttered as he walked past Alexx and handed Speed his sword. "Lighter fluid it please?"
"Sure, kid." He grimaced at the ugly mess on the blade, taking it into the backyard to burn it clean. The dog came out to sniff the ground then growled and barked a few times before heading back inside. At least until both Rays, Yelina, and their dog came over, then he had a playmate that would play with him again. He gave the boy a sad look.
"Eric grounded," he pouted. "Eric bad."
"You can get up in an hour," his mother called. "Go play with Toddy, boys." They went to find the other baby outside and play with him. He was nearly as good to chase around.
Willow came back with Calleigh and Liz. "I heard there was a demon here. What sort was it?"
"Big, slimy, and it came out of the ocean. Not a kraken," Speed offered.
"Was that like the three hundred foot one he killed?" Di asked. Eric nodded. "Okay then. Should I make Tia a little set of fighting leathers? Make her into Elektra?"
Speed looked at her, then moaned and shook his head. "Don't give him any ideas! He'll use it on ours too!"
She beamed. "See, I can see yours in suede."
Calleigh leaned in. "No thank you. We want a normal child."
Speed looked at her. "So Xander will never get to see the baby?"
"If that's what it takes." She went outside to curl up in a chair. "Horatio, make Ryan quit picking on me for napping in Ballistics."
"I'm sure it was cute, Calleigh, but napping is a normal part of pregnancy." She pouted at him. "I'll try." She nodded. "But you won't get to spoil his fun. I'll let him pout at you."
"Yes, but it's more mean to me if he pouts at me because you're being mean to his little brother or sister." She pouted, sniffling a bit. "It won't work, Calleigh. Really. I will let Xander pout at you." She slumped and nodded. "I'll try to keep it down. He'll have plenty to do with Tia."
"Yeah, but Liz was in a leather dress the other day," she protested.
"Di told me where you and she found the S&M baby stuff. We were doing it to tease Ryan," Willow said with a grin. "It was nearly as good as putting a milky glass down in front of him then laying down on the couch."
"Are you retraining him or is he retraining you?"
"I'm not really sure," she admitted. Horatio laughed at that. "He has made me less of a slob and I do make him relax and pounce me after he cleans up. Which he does less of now. We'll end up somewhere in the middle." They all smiled at that. "But he won't make Toddy and Liz as bad as he is."
"That's always a good thing," Calleigh agreed. "Maybe he can make Speed clean up the office?"
"They would be really hot together," Willow offered, considering it. Calleigh squeaked and went bright red. Mr. Delko moaned. "Hey, she suggested it!"
"She suggested what?" Speed said patiently.
She smiled at him. "That Ryan could make you clean up the office. All I said was that you two would be very hot together."
Calleigh let out another high-pitched squeak and went brighter red. Speed made her look at him. "I like you more. It'll never happen. The office can stay messy." She nodded quickly, pulling him down to kiss him stupid to take that picture out of her head.
Ryan walked out, smirking at the cuteness. "We all good?"
"We're fine," Horatio assured him. "Calleigh just suggested that you could make Speed clean up his home office. Your wife said you'd be very hot together. He's helping her block the image," he said in a bland voice.
Ryan looked at his wife. "You know that green outfit you liked?" She smiled and nodded. "It won't be tonight," he offered with a smile, heading into the kitchen to help. She pouted after him, making him kiss her. "I love you but your mind is warped, baby. Very, very warped." She nodded, giving him a sheepish grin. "I only like girls. Specifically one with red hair who's had two of my children." He kissed her again. "No more fantasizing about me bending others over and taking them hard, dear," he ordered. "Or no green outfit ever." She nodded, burying her face in his neck. "Thank you." He patted her on the back. "Now, let me go do dishes. You go play and keep Calleigh calmer." She nodded, going back out there. He rolled up his sleeves as he walked into the kitchen. "If she wasn't fixed, I'd be worried about baby number three," he told Eric.
"Calleigh apparently suggested I could help Speed clean up his home office. She said we'd be hot together." Eric moaned. "Calleigh squeaked." He grinned. "I told her no. That it wouldn't happen."
Eric shook his head and went to look at Willow. "Are you *sure* they tied your tubes after Liz? He's in that odd, smiling mood again. So are you."
She nodded slowly. "Yeah, pretty sure. They had to go in to do it, Eric. I'm not pregnant."
"There's a way to find out. Come on, I'll drive you to get the test, just in case," he promised, hauling her up and taking her off to get one. If so, they'd need to take some precautions this time. Ryan had scared half the station while she was pregnant with Liz. It was his civic duty to protect Miami and the other officers from Ryan on a male pregnancy high. Especially from his mood swings that made him go from horny and cracking dirty jokes to pouty and then back to odd and strange that everyone thought was too much of Xander's influence. He drove her all the way to the pharmacy, went inside to buy the test, walked out to hand it to her, then drove her back to the house and walked her inside to the guest bathroom, waiting while she used it.
"RYAN JAMES WOLFE! I'M GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS!" she screamed.
Ryan smirked. "Damn I'm potent," he quipped. Speed walked out of the kitchen and went to kiss Callelgh to take that information from his head.