Speed looked up as the computer in front of him beeped with an email notification. He didn't use his official email for anything so he opened it cautiously, finding it from Abby. "Huh," he said dryly. "Hey, Danny, call the Feds and tell them we've got a surveillance file from the bank," he called. "Xander's stalker network heard already."
"Sure." A fed came running in and looked over his shoulder as he let it run.
"Abby's a friend in NCIS. She helped us get Xander back from the FBI head once. She works with Gibbs." He shuddered at that. "Know her?"
"Heard of Gibbs." He reran it, then smirked evilly. "Does she know who sent this?"
"We found the hacking intrusion into the bank's cameras and couldn't find out why. So someone suspected and taped it for them."
"Xander suspected. He turned them into you guys before."
"So it was probably related back to that?" Speed nodded. "That's fine. It's got the bank's security code stamped on the bottom. It was cut and pasted together but nothing else." He called his boss. "Boss, Hendricks. Speedle in the crime lab just got sent some hacked surveillance footage. It does. The date codes correspond. Someone knew and were watching out for Harris. He reported it to us before and I'm betting none of the other banks let him move it while the last case was open." He listened. "Through Gibbs' girl, Abby. Can I see the message?" Speed went back to it. "A hacker she vaguely had heard of sent it to her. Oooh, I don't know. What's that other file?"
"Xander's stalker file. She added it on for us." He opened it and let him browse through it. "Shit, that's more extensive than I thought. Someone's been keeping tabs." He looked outside then back at the computer. "Probably someone here. Huh." He went to call Ryan since he could be on lunch, and if not he had voicemail. "It's me. Did you know someone tracked all the scary people that Xander had stalking him, down to the ones who bought him drinks and wouldn't leave him alone? If not, I've got the full file. It got sent to Abby at NCIS along with stuff against the bank that just stole from him. Call me back, especially if it was you, Wolfe." He hung up and went back in there. "Anything good?"
"Oh, I do," he admitted. "Two of the people on the bank's boards. Do we have a list of things sent to him?"
"Phil, our local IAB guy, does. That way no one can claim Horatio got sent any of it as a bribe."
He smiled. "I like that you're so organized. Can you get it for me?"
"Sure." He called Phil. "It's Speed. Someone stole from Xander's safety deposit boxes and his stalker list indicated a few guys at the bank probably were in on it. The fed from the SEC needs the present list. I'm in Trace. Abby sent it to me. Sure." He hung up. "We'll do a file switch. He wants that one." That got a beaming smile. "We like you, you haven't tried to take over yet."
"Not going to either. All I'm concerned about is SEC violations. Treasury ones are them. We only work with them now and then. He'll be down tonight probably. I'm hoping we can hand him the gift-wrapped people and hand Mr. Harris back his money."
"Me too. Especially with what was supposed to be in those boxes." That got an understanding smile. "Horatio hated that he did that."
"It's got a reasonable reason and that's instant access and security. I do that myself with about ten thousand dollars. Just in case something happens and we can't get into the electronic based accounts." A smiling and happy man carried in three binders. "Tell me that's more than a list?" If not, he was in the *wrong* profession.
"One's a list, the other's are pictures." He handed them over and came over to copy down the two files onto a CD, smiling happily. "I wonder who's been paying such good attention." He made separate copies of the other files in case they were needed by others.
"I think it might be Wolfe but he hasn't called me back yet. We just got that," Speed offered.
"Wonderful. Where's Horatio and Xander?"
"New York." Phil looked at him. "Xander hates being fussed over. He ran to hide from the fussy people, namely Horatio."
"Why?" the SEC agent asked.
"Someone decided he'd make good prey during a hunt and decided to soften him up by breaking him into smaller pieces."
"He escaped from the hospital with four casts and about ten pounds of bandages on," Phil told him. "Xander has homegrown combat experience." The man stared at him. "You know the FBI stats list? The crime stats list?" That got a slower nod. "Heard of Sunnydale?"
"Unfortunately a lot more than that. He's from there?"
Speed nodded. "Yeah, I spent some time there too. You?"
"My little brother turned whistleblower on the Initiative since he lived."
"Xander was very proud of the plans he sent Willow Wolfe."
"Ah. We had wondered," he muttered.
"I know. I have not a problem. I could bow at their feet really." He got back to work. "Yes, two of them did send him some very nice gifts." He took those to make copies of the pages and the pictures he found referenced.
Speed looked at Phil. "Xander?"
"The hacker too possibly. Willow looked very confused at the mention of one of the viruses he turned over," he said quietly.
"I remember him taking a few classes but we thought it was part of his 'looking for a way to fit in' phase." Phil looked at him. "You're kidding?" He shook his head. "Can you tell if any of the ones he gave Gibbs were?"
"Two were. I talked to Abby about them when I heard about the Watchers Council thing from the FBI. She told me two were coded vastly differently." He got back to it. "I'd say the stalker's list was done by Mr. Harris himself. Unless someone sat with him and checked IDs each night and each person. He's been keeping track for a while now. Just in case. Very smart of him." He looked at Speed. "Think Horatio knows?"
"Nope. Well, maybe now. Who's the hacker who sent it to Abby?"
"Someone named Webber. She's fairly famous as being one of the good guys that some cops have went to in the past. CSI Brown?" he called. He stepped into the lab. "I thought I had seen you. Didn't your department work with a hacker named Webber once?"
"I did. It was mine and Nick's case. Greg got us in touch with her. Why?"
"Her?" Phil asked. Warrick nodded. "Conjecture?"
"He apparently knew her on sight. She came out to Vegas for the case, we paid her airfare and for a cheap motel room since it was breaking a major child porn ring. She teleconferenced with our computer tech. Never came out of her room but she ate a bunch of pizza. Greg teased her by calling her a ninja turtle hacker." He smiled. "She was good and fast. I never heard she used it against anyone."
"No, she's known for being one of the good guys," a male voice said from behind him. "Hi. We have bank theft?" Their usual Treasury contact, Agent Elliot, smiled at them. "How close are we and do I have to worry about Horatio biting me this time?"
"He's in New York with Xander, who's injured," Speed told him. "Calleigh will shoot you though." He looked at the list again. "We've got surveillance video from a hacker named Webber. We think she knows Xander."
"How would someone know Greg and Xander, other than Diana?" Warrick asked. "The first time Greg heard of Xander was during that convention he danced at."
"Not a clue," Speed admitted. "No one tells me those things, especially not Xander. He thinks I'll rag on him for it or yell." He grimaced. "He had a very nice stalkers list however. Including a few from your end of the world." Warrick came over to look, nodding at some of the names. "Whoa, back up. Was that Sam Braun's son?"
"Yeah, major player. Probably wanted in his g-string." He kept going. "Someone is very thorough. If we get him through chemistry and his profiling classes, he'd be a great asset to any lab."
"That was my thought." He got handed the CD and handed it down to the treasury agent. "The surveillance video."
"Thank you. How did they know to do this?"
"Xander filed a complaint with the SEC before," the SEC agent offered with a small smile. "It was still being investigated. He had a very well founded case of 'they stole from me'."
"Can I get that as well?"
"Of course. Once we're done with them." He smiled sweetly. Then he got back to work. "Yes, that's more than good enough for us," he agreed, printing out what he needed and taking it to put with the lists pages. He saluted Phil. "I'm so glad we got to work with you."
"Oh, don't worry, you try to step on our family's toes and I'll bite you," Speed promised, looking totally serious. "Or we'll let Calleigh shoot you."
"Fair enough. I'd shoot me too." He smiled at the treasury agent. "Have you seen Miss Duquesne yet?"
"No, not yet. I stopped in ballistics but she wasn't down there. Where is she?"
"Pretending to be Horatio. Calleigh, Feds in the lab!"
"Another one? Or the same pimple on the baby's ass?"
She came out to the walkway, looking at him. "Hi, Peter."
He smiled up at her. "Hi." He stared, then blinked. "You're pregnant."
"You're very observant." She looked at the SEC fed. "Try to hurt the Xander and we will harm you and make you cry in many ways."
"Of course," he agreed. "He's cooperated beautifully. Someone even sent us some footage from the bank and his stalker list."
She squealed and rushed down the stairs to come see.
"I would've forwarded it," Speed complained mildly. She hit him on the arm. "Ow. Boyfriend abuse is wrong. Didn't you go through that lecture series?"
"I slept through it. I figure most boyfriends deserve it for not letting me have the chocolate mousse he was making his son last night."
"That's for Xander and you have one in the freezer." She beamed and went back to browsing. Eric leaned in. "Someone sent over a comprehensive list of stalkers."
"Really? Xander's or all of them?"
"Just Xander's," Calleigh said, making room for him to see. "Though it could be most of the ones in the city from the length."
"How long is that?" Eric asked. He looked at the page count. "Sixty-three pages?" She nodded. "I'm impressed and a bit scared. At least less than ten percent went super stalker or serial killer."
"True," she agreed happily. "Maybe even as little as one percent at this font size." She upped it for easier reading. "Man, the names on this list are... impressive. Oh, Speed, Mac and Stella sent a warning. One of the robotic Xander's went on the block recently. A techie bought it for eight million to see how it was made. That doesn't mean some of the people on this list weren't bidding."
"Understood. Did they say Horatio knows?"
"Yeah, Mac told him. Also, Don's mom's fine. It was non-cancerous. Just a lump."
"Excellent. We'll have to send her a card." He smiled and went to do that.
She smiled at the treasury agent. "So, how is your girlfriend?"
"Okay. A bit upset at Horatio for having her suspended."
"It happens. She let the person who was hunting people almost get away with simple assault. Discounted the trophies of twelve other victims since his current one was alive. And Xander, Horatio's husband." She smiled at that. He moaned. "Exactly. Hammra has it. She's been interviewing all the hunters all day. Half of them are on this list too."
"So they were probably going to rape him and then kill him?" Warrick suggested. Eric nodded at that. "Should we share this?"
"We should." He called Yelina's phone since she'd be there and she was next to interrogation. "It's Eric. Get Hammra down to Trace. We've got Xander's stalker file and it's got a lot of the same names on it." He hung up on her swearing. "She's not a happy woman."
ADA Hammra walked in smiling and happy. "You have something else I can taunt them with?" Calleigh let her have her spot at the list. "Ooooooh." She shivered and nearly got off. "I want this."
"Only for this case," Eric warned, looking at her. "Or else Xander will pout and throw a fit."
"Agreed," she decided. "And one other. He murdered his boyfriend and he looked a lot like him." Calleigh hit the print button for her and it printed out, letting her have whatever she wanted of it. "I'm so happy! This is nearly as good as sex." She walked off humming.
"Someone's going to die," Calleigh said quietly. "Probably by their own hand." Eric nodded frantically at that. "Oh, God, now I see why you guys think she taught Satan only half of what she knows." They nodded, Eric frantically. "We should go watch," she decided happily. "The baby wants to see someone else cry today," she said at the funny looks.
"This is the only one, right?" Warrick asked. "Because you are a scary woman, Calleigh."
"Thank you." She walked off, going to watch with Frank and Yelina. He even brought her in a chair so she could sit with them. "We just printed off Xander's stalker list for her. You'd be surprised how many names are in common."
Yelina looked down at her. "I remember when Ray Jr. made me want to torture and maim." They shared a smile.
"That's why my wife and I have her cat," Frank noted patiently. The person in there exploded and started to yell and threw his chair at the window. "Give it a five. Clearly faking it in panic."
"Four," Calleigh said. "Look at the sweat and the scared eyes. Though, Hammra just sitting there like nothing was going on was very much a eight and a half."
"Agreed," Yelina decided. "Who else has the list?"
"Speed, the SEC guy since it's going to come back to that investigation. Eric and I got to read it with Warrick. Some of them were his too."
She laughed at that. "Those poor Vegas boys are going to yell at us for the paperwork."
"Your choice," Hammra offered him. "Ten years per hunting incident you went on, thirty for the one you killed on, and the possibility of a civil suit or twelve, or the death penalty for each count of where you went hunting and the certainty of a civil suit. The choice is yours, all you have to do is cooperate and give me the other names."
He started to cry. "My wife will kill me," he sobbed.
"I'm going to be talking to her in another four minutes anyway. She's next on my list. You've got thirty seconds to decide or I'm going to withdraw the offer." He looked up at her. "Tick. Tick. Tick," she said slowly and clearly, enunciating fully.
"Fine! Just keep me away from her."
"Deal. Now give. I want every other name you know associated, the higher in the group that arranged it the better." She slid over some paper and a pen. "Now." He started to write. "While you're doing that, I'm going to go tell your wife that she's going to be electrocuted and have bad hair for an afterlife for her two kills to your one." He gave her a horrified look. "Your mistresses I believe. Cindy and ..." She checked the file. "Ah, Bethany."
"Bethany? No, that's my stepdaughter from my last one." He looked at it, snatching it from her hand. "No, not her. She was so sweet!" He started to cry again.
"Really?" she asked. "Interesting. Write that down as well." He sniffled and nodded, going back to it and adding that in at the bottom. Including victim's names that he knew. Because he had asked. She snapped her fingers and two patrol officers walked in. "Put him in the 'made a deal' group." She wrote out the details, letting him read it, and nod, signing it like a promissary note. She handed it to them. "Book him that way. He'll be taking a plea at his arraignment." That got a nod and they took him away. "Boys, he lost his stepdaughter to one. His new wife hunted her down. He just found out."
"We'll hand him tissues, ma'am." He smiled coldly at her, getting a cold smirk and a nod in return.
"Oooh, slam!" Frank said happily, almost wishing he had popcorn. "If Xander were watching this with us we'd have snacks."
Yelina stood up and went to get something. She did have the nibbles now that he mentioned it.
Frank looked at Calleigh. "Think she is?"
"Know she is. Ray's going to bounce and so will Xander. But Sr. had better hope for a bunker when his son finds out."
"Hmm-uh. Or when Horatio finds out." They shared a smirk and nodded. They'd tell Horatio later when he called to check in. The next victim was walked in and Yelina came back shortly afterward with popcorn and candy for them. Plus sodas. "Thanks, Yelina. So, when do you take the EPT?"
"I am not," she ground out.
"Girlfriend, that's like me denying it. You'd better hope Sr. can run really fast when your son and brother-in-law hear. Then again, Xander and Ray Jr. will bounce together."
"Probably on top of his body until he's paste," Frank said, popping a piece of popcorn into his mouth.
Yelina sighed. "I'm not."
"Take the test here, that way you have time to put your gun away and calm down before you drive," Frank ordered. "Get Delko to go pick one up for you."
"I'm sure he has in the past," Frank said prosaically.
"Eric plays very carefully," Calleigh assured him.
"For those witnessing this, you're too loud and your popcorn stinks," Hammra yelled.
"The baby's hungry," Calleigh yelled back. "She's enjoying it too. She wants to be just like you."
Hammra smiled at that bit of warm fuzziness.
Horatio walked off the plane and saw Frank and Yelina waiting on him, her in handcuffs. "How bad were you?" he asked.
"I'm keeping her from killing her ex."
"It might not be his," she muttered.
"Excuse me?" Horatio asked calmly.
"Ooooh, a new baby for me to spoil!" Xander squealed, hugging her. "I'd bounce but it'll hurt!"
Frank handed over the report on who took what. "From Hammra, Horatio. We sat there and ate popcorn and watched as she destroyed a good many people." Horatio smirked at that list. "Notice how many of the people where hating him before?"
"Not another scandal," Xander moaned. "I can't be part of that."
"You're not. They wanted to kill you and were hunting other young heirs and showboys and girls," Horatio offered, giving him a kiss. "We need to get the bag, Frank." He nodded, leading them that way while he read. He let Xander have it while he got their bag from the conveyor belt. He came back and found Yelina unlocked. "Where is my brother?"
"Hiding," she said grimly. "I'm not sure if I can handle another one, Horatio."
Xander tugged on her shirt. "Then I have a third child. It was a wish demon who put it into you." She hugged him and sniffled some. "It's all right, Yelina. I'll love the baby if you can't." He patted her. "Now, get off. I'm already itchy." She laughed and pulled off. "Back to the station?"
"Yup," Frank agreed. "Horatio has to sign off on the case files so they can be finalized and deals accepted. Oh, and Horatio, a woman named Bess called and said to please fry them and she hopes your son is all right?"
"She thinks Xander's that young," he admitted quietly, taking them out to the hummer. He looked at the front bumper. "Thank you for having that fixed, Frank."
"Not an issue. We knew it was a bad day when the chucklehead ran off, but then you had to dent the hummer." He looked at Xander. "I hope he broke you of that nasty habit?"
"Yes, he spoiled me and made me pout."
Frank looked at him. "Did your momma yell at you for being sick?" he demanded loudly. Xander flinched and nodded, looking down. "Damn it, why can't we put her away?"
"There's plenty of others, Frank, and I like to stand there and watch them go away even more since I met Xander," Horatio offered. "Xander, it's all right. We worked it out, Frank. If it gets that intense and he feels he has to, he'll warn me and stay local so I can still check on him at least once that day." Frank sighed and nodded, getting the boy into the front seat. Horatio made Xander look at him. "I do understand." Xander nodded. "When is Aiden coming?"
"Tomorrow. Thankfully her old boss really did hate her but couldn't let her go since he couldn't find a replacement." He buckled up. "You really dented the hummer?"
"I did." He started the engine and backed out, heading back to the office. He frowned, feeling the difference. "What else did they do, Frank?"
"Someone decided to vacuum and messed with your seat position. They changed your oil, and they topped up the other fluids for you. Plus they cleaned it with a toothbrush. We had rookies down there on probation for stupid shit."
"Ah. No wonder it feels different and doesn't smell like mint." He put it in drive and went forward, heading back to the office to do the limited paperwork. "The bank?"
"The treasury dick who liked Calleigh is waiting on you to get in so he can sign paperwork to get all that back. They found it all in his house. What wasn't put into an account under his other name." He tapped Xander on the back of the head. "We even ate popcorn and had sodas like you would've while Hammra was working, Xander." He grinned at that and shifted some, then winced. "Ribs?" Xander nodded. "You gonna live?"
"Partial healing spell. It fixed my hands. Now all I've got are thigh cramps, the one cast, and broken ribs, plus the fading bruises."
"At least it'll be done soon," Yelina offered. "Calleigh told Hammra that the baby wanted to be like her." Xander beamed at that. "So, where is this hidden area?"
"Staying hidden," Xander told her. "It was part of the emergency plans Patrick put into place." They both nodded at that. "In both cities." He grinned. "Don's coming down with Mom for the building's tenant meeting tomorrow night that's mandatory."
"Is he bringing Messer home?"
"Nope. Sonny threatened him in open court. The Chief up there said that we're to keep Danny as long as necessary. They're paying his salary and everything since he's working down here. Don's coming down with the trial's statements."
"Normally we'd be told it was part of the job," Yelina told him.
"Sonny promised to bomb Danny's house and family. Mentioned his current family," Horatio offered. "He said he had a few friends in the Malas who would love to make bombs for him to bomb all of Miami and New York in his honor. Talked about dirty bombs as well. The FBI swooped in and tried to take him but the city prosecutor is being stubborn. They wanted Danny far away from that. Even though he wasn't involved. They asked Mac how he knew and he said he had searched for the tatoo, that Danny had told him exactly who in his family was in which organization, and that he'd be protected. That it was an attempt to discredit the lab. The defense asked about lasering it off. Mac noted that would leave burn scars, which he didn't have. He had a cut there, but that was gotten on the job his rookie year, it was in his official file. He presented a picture of Danny's back from his wallet and the man gave him a horrified look while Mac smirked and said he knew it was going to be pertinent that he have that some day, today was a good day for it to come out."
Xander grinned. "The defense lawyer stammered and swallowed his tongue for about ten minutes. Finally the judge looked at him and asked if he was having a stroke and needed medical attention." Frank laughed at that. "Sonny went off on a rant about fags and Mac pointed out that he was neither a british term for a cigarette nor a bundle of sticks bound together for a desert fire created most likely by nomads. If he preferred to use the more vulgar vernacular, what did or did not go up his ass had no effect on his lab performance or how he did his job in the field. As Sonny very well knew since he had caught him." Yelina started to snicker too. "No, no the best part, the bailiff muttered just near enough to Mac's microphone that maybe if Sonny started taking it up the ass he might be smarter too." They all burst out laughing at that.
"Mac looked at him and said 'while it's never been tested, it may be true. Someone really should see if intelligence and gayness has a correlation. Even then some of them would still be whores', and he looked right back at Sonny," Xander said proudly. "When Stella was called after him and that same sort of question was asked to her she backed it up that she had seen Danny's back on numerous occasions in the locker room and other places and she had never seen indication of a tatoo there. Besides, his one was in better taste than the ugly Tanglewood one. When asked if Danny was gay she looked right at him and asked 'why, did you want me to see if you could have a date?' The judge burst out laughing and called him on it. Said he wasn't part of the case and wasn't germane to it. To stick to the case, not speculation." Stella smiled at him and he smiled back. "He asked her if she had a similar such picture. She said she wasn't in the habit of carrying around semi-naked pictures of coworkers unless it was for evidence. She dug into her purse and pulled out one of the ADA on the case and said I used to date him but he forced that one on me. I never got rid of it. Then she handed it back."
"The judge called it for the day at two," Horatio agreed. "He went to roll around in his office. How was Ryan's first case?"
"Messy and nasty," Frank said dryly, smirking some. "Kinda literally. Someone stole fertilizer." Horatio smiled at that. "Thankfully they've got him in small crimes right now."
"At least until he finishes passing the bar," Xander agreed. "How is he?"
"Tired," Frank assured him. "Willow wigged out and he had the kids in his office for a day."
"She's doing a lot of that," Yelina admitted. "Is she pregnant?"
"No, it was a false positive. She just went off into her mind and didn't come out for a few hours. That's why he ended up stealing the kids."
"We need to set up a group-wide sitting circle more formally," Horatio noted. "What happened at the daycare?"
"Eric talked about his dog and one of the girls started to cry because he had lost their dog. They said it was inappropriate to tell the others about losing Clothes, their dog. "He's going to start at the religious one Grandma Delko suggested. They swore up and down to me that they are run by a church but aren't religious. I pointed out both of his parents are pagan and they said it was fine. So we're waiting to see how bad that one is. If not, I'm about to find someone to start a daycare in our homes. Calleigh will need one when she starts back. Tia will need some now and then. Yelina will need one maybe." Yelina nodded at that. "We need a good daycare that we can all agree on."
"I like this new one," Horatio offered.
"Yeah, but I'm still scared that some of the other parents are going to start shoving religion down the kids' throats. Especially since I'm really uncomfortable with some of them. Is the blessing this Sunday?" Horatio nodded. "Is he coming?" Horatio nodded again. "We got the tickets, right? He knows it's our daughter that she had for us?"
"I paid for them myself," he promised. "Thank you, Xander." He reached over to pat his knee. "Was it shoved down your throat?"
"A lot. Some of the teachers, some of the other parents in the town. My parents thought it'd be a great way to get rid of us to send us to vacation bible school, even if it wasn't in our faith and it confused us worse. Then Jesse and I started to see lies and ways that they were ducking questions we asked, especially about things like 'what happened to all the women in the bible'. Jesse pointed out that there were zillions of men and only four women in the bible and they were either wives or prostitutes. They agreed with him. And he pointed at that real women weren't that way so obviously this was a faith that didn't want women around. Since he thought girls were neat by that time he didn't want to be part of any faith that didn't appreciate women as more than baby makers, sex toys, or mothers. We walked out and asked a few others. Sunnydale had 43 churches. None of them could give us the answers we wanted and most of them went off on the other churches and slammed it down our throats that they were right and everyone else was wrong. Therefore we gave it up and the more we backed away the more people tried to shove it down our throats. I don't want our kids to end up that same way."
"They'll be allowed to make their own choices, including a Christian faith or not," Horatio reminded him. "We may be raising Tia Catholic, but that's only until she's old enough to make that decision."
"Which will make her grandmother throw a fit, Horatio. Can you see Eric's mother or father accepting it if she wants to change to my ways at ten?"
"No," he admitted. "She could come to us and to her mother."
"Who will probably still throw a fit," Frank noted. "Eric might be cool with it." Xander nodded. "You're not formally Wiccan."
"Nope, borderline. I'm not quite earthy enough for them." He shrugged and winced. "Ow, gotta remember my ribs hurt." Horatio gave his knee another squeeze. "I'm sorry, this is the one thing I'm going to be watching for, for someone to shove it down their throats like came to me."
"I agree," Horatio assured him. "Faith is a private thing, between you and your God. You should only tell someone else if they ask. You should not try to recruit by force. That's why I'm not disappointed when you don't go with me." Xander relaxed at that and he shot him a smile. "It'll be fine. I've talked a great deal with Mrs. Delko and she agrees that all the children can know but she's assuming you're teaching the other faiths and mythologies."
"I am. I'm taming down the Greek ones right now for Eric because they had a lot more sex than even I do. Plus some incest." Horatio smiled at that. "I may have had a screwed up childhood but thankfully not that." Horatio nodded, pulling into their home's community and up to the guard shack. The guards looked at them. "What?"
"Mail for you, Mr. Harris." He pointed at the truck in the way of their driveway. "Please clean it up and send it off?"
"Can't I just send it off?"
"Whatever. Just get it out of here."
"Gladly," Xander agreed. "Did it come with a driver or did I just get an ugly delivery truck?"
"No, it's got a driver. He's in the cab. He's a nice guy, just has a crappy job," the second guard offered. "Also, Mr. Brown is in right now. He was out walking Percival for you two just a moment ago."
"That's fine. You might expect Mr. Messer to show up as well," Horatio offered. That got a nod. "And various other family members since Xander's back and able to move."
"That's fine, sir. Thank you."
They nodded and drove on. Horatio pulled onto the lawn and into the driveway that way, basically parallel parking between the house and the truck. He got out and Xander got out on his crutches. He let Frank and Yelina out, nodding at Warrick, then at the truck. He got a shrug. "Hello, Percival. Your boy missed you." He petted him and pointed. "Look, the Xander master." The dog barked and ran over there to bounce around Xander's feet, letting him pet him and play with him, making everyone smile. "What is it, Xander?" he called at the furious look.
"Horatio, honey, who the fuck was Snearet?"
He shrugged. "Not a clue. Let me ask." He went inside and pulled up the list Speed had sent him. He had looked at it on Mac's computer. This time he did a name search and frowned, coming out. "He's not on your stalker list, Xander."
Xander looked confused, then looked at the driver. "Are you sure I'm the right Alexander Harris? I mean, it's a common enough name."
"Yes, sir. To one Alexander Lavelle Harris I leave everything I have because he is stronger than I am and will withstand the voices that have told me I was wrong. He'll make the demons of the world disappear and leave his love alone like I couldn't. I wish him better luck than I had." He opened the back of the truck and let him see, then watched him sit down suddenly, the dog crawling into his lap to be cuddled. "I have no idea, sir. I'm just the delivery guy."
"Where is Mr. Snearet from?" Warrick asked.
"England." He handed Xander a copy of the will, getting a growl from the boy and the dog for it. "Sorry, sir."
"Fucking Watchers!" he shouted.
"Calm down, Xander. You still have broken bones." Horatio took the letter. "Inside, Percival. Wait on your boy inside." The dog went inside, sitting in the doorway. "Good boy." He helped Xander up, handing him his crutches, then he read the will over. "He was," he agreed. He looked in the truck, then blinked. "That's a chemistry lab. Some very old equipment in a chemistry lab."
"I got a D in chem," Xander complained. One of the guards came over and looked. "Remember the last idiots that broke in?" The guard smiled and nodded. "One of them paid me back by leaving me his crap."
"Put it in storage." He shrugged. He looked at Horatio. "By the way, Speed said you forgot to come in. He's bringing it out here for you to sign."
"Thank you. That is a good idea. Where is the nearest storage area?"
"Broughton," he offered. He even pointed the way. "Want us to call?"
"Please," Horatio agreed quietly, looking at the driver. "Would that be all right with you?"
"Easy as unloading it here." He let Horatio have the clipboard. "Have him sign it please." He nudged Xander and let him sign it, then he read over the contents list. "I know, some of it's ancient. Not a computer or a plug anywhere."
"Xander, go sit inside," Horatio ordered at the quiet whimper. "Go inside, Xander." Xander nodded and hopped that way, going to sit with the dog. The guard laughed at that. "He took Percival to obedience class. Our son answers to them now and then too." He handed back the clipboard, taking their copies of everything. "Thank you for being so understanding." He saw another car pull into another driveway and park.
"If I can ask, who painted the hummer pink, sir?"
"It was left to me in bad taste," Horatio offered.
"I understand, sir. Looks like a practical joke to me."
Speed nodded. "Us too. We know some Marines who say that they're not man enough to drive that monstrosity." The guard leaned against the truck to laugh. "Truth. Mac did." He looked inside. "That's ancient. I had more updated stuff in high school." Horatio handed over the will. "Hmm, idiots in Britain. Again. Someone will have to tell Willow." He handed it back. Then he waved his papers. "You have to sign all these within the next hour." Horatio took them and the pen, sitting on the back of the truck to do that while the details were finalized. Speed went with the delivery driver once the guards got it set up, taking Horatio's wallet with him. Horatio went to fax the paperwork back to the office from inside, signing the last few things. Then Xander had to sign a few and send them back. They played fax tag for the rest of that hour. Then Eric came out with a large box in the back of his car, sealed with crime lab tape. Speed came back with the receipt and Horatio's wallet. They set the box in front of the stunned boy and dog and went into the kitchen to work on dinner while the rest of the family drove over.
Xander leaned forward to look at the tape. "Ryan was into it?"
"There was a discrepancy from the lists you made and what the bank had listed," Eric called. "Ryan had your updated list."
"Oh. I hope you didn't pull him out of work."
"Nope. He had a migraine. Counting things calmed him down." He came out to look at Xander, then at Horatio. "It had been in bigger bills but the guys there cashed it out." Xander winced at that. "We were thinking about changing it out for a cashier's check but the Treasury guy said he wanted to see Xander's face."
"As would I. Tell me that's not all money," Horatio requested quietly.
"Well, they did take it out of hundreds and a few bank-only thousand dollar bills," Eric offered dryly. "It's in twenties." That got an evil look. "Some of it's papers."
"I see. Xander, would you like my pocket knife?"
"Can we go to the park? Feed the squirrels?"
"No, Xander. Open the box," Horatio ordered, knowing why Xander was stalling. He went to his office, pulling down Xander's account books. He saw the updated figures from Ray from that afternoon and had to sit down. "Xander!" He came to the door. "Did someone do it again?"
"Yup. Not my idea." He went back to staring at the box and petting his dog. Marisol and Tia came in and he stole his daughter to cuddle, getting a baby noise. But he was happy and the dog liked to sniff her and lay on his cramp. It was nice. He fell asleep that way.
Horatio came out, staring at him. "That won't save you," he noted. Speed and Eric both cracked up at that. "Box's contents?" Eric handed it over and drug his sister and Speed back into the kitchen. He looked at it, staying calm until he could go outside and vent and scream. Eric came running and hugged him. "I'm all right, son. Only a bit frustrated," he said, smiling at him. "Your father and sister are curled up together, but you may not crawl onto his chest or his bad leg. They've both got booboos, all right?" Eric nodded and went to lay on his stomach, wiggling between the back of the couch and Percy's back. He sighed in pleasure, one hand on his sister's foot, the other across his father's waist, his head listening to his father's stomach gurgle. Horatio smiled and took a picture to spread around.
Di walked up behind him. "He said 'Daddy 'Oro mad at Daddy' and ran out of the house, nearly over Taylor," she said, patting him on the back. "What's in the box?"
"The stuff that was stolen from Xander's safety deposit boxes. They turned the cash into smaller bills," he offered, leading her into the kitchen.
"Horatio, I don't know what to tell you."
"I'll take him to the bank again tomorrow, Horatio. Just like the first time I did when we got him back," Speed promised. Horatio nodded at that. "Did he say why he had that much money in there? Even though the SEC guy said it was a good idea for when the bank was shut down electronically."
"Medical costs and the next ransom." He continued to stare at the box, then he decided his husband had the right idea. He carefully shifted Xander up and let him rest his head in his lap, stroking through his hair. "Eric, any idea who this came from?"
"Where is Mr. Wolfe?"
"The Honorable Judge Wolfe went to yell at his wife," Speed offered. "She went off into lala land again this morning and he had to have the kids in his office, Horatio."
"We were talking about needing a family-wide daycare on the way back," Frank offered. "Hey, Marisol, you could do that."
"I could," she agreed, smiling at him. "Some of the older children would adore that. I'm not licensed however."
"That's not that hard to get," Eric offered. "I'm sure we could find you a spot and pay enough for each kid to pay the rent on it."
"That would mean Xander could maybe go back full time," Speed said dryly.
"With his leg, it's going to be weeks before he's ready to run, much less swim," Eric assured him. "He looks like he's cramping." Horatio nodded at that. "Why?"
"It's right under the dog's chin. No idea why. I'll work on it later." He went back to staring at the box. "Don and Aiden are coming down tomorrow." That got some smiles. "Maybe I'll make Don open it."
"Um, Horatio, turn to the third page of the list," Eric said, then he scurried away and hid.
Horatio looked then blinked. Then he sighed and balled it up, getting a happy dog who went to chase it. "Good boy." He threw it again and Percy was very good at fetch. Di bounced out his ball and Percy got that, letting her take the contents list. "Di, Greg has burns on his back."
"I talked to him, Horatio."
"He's coming down for a few days during spring break," Warrick offered. Horatio looked at him. "He's a horny brat, Horatio. Of course he's going to stare at the bikinis."
"He can have those any time," Di reminded him, going to call him and make him come down sooner. She uncrumpled the list so she could look through it, staring in awe at the money. "I thought he was pouring money back into the foundation."
"He was," Horatio called quietly. "Diana." She sighed and brought it back. He kissed her on the cheek. "He is."
"Um, Horatio, he's hyped the Foundation a lot," Speed offered. He went to get that book and show it to him. Horatio stared at it then him. "I don't know. Cheline won't tell me. But she did just get a promotion."
"Not a clue," Speed assured him. "Ask His Royal Majesty Ryan or Don."
"Or maybe Danny. He was working on something with Phil recently," Eric reminded him.
"That was one of the bunny paper killers who decided they were a cute and strong couple for having caught him. They missed the deadline so it's going in front of a judge. The families want some of it."
"Xander said he didn't care as long as he didn't have to see it."
"Danny said the same thing. He and Xander both talked to the judge over it. The judge got reminded that Xander was nearly his last victim and Danny pointed out Xander had money and didn't need any more. The judge thought that was thoughtful and split it up among the families of the other known victims. Danny came in smiling and happy," Speed reminded him. Eric nodded, remembering that day. It had only been yesterday. He looked at Horatio, who was still staring at the box. "Let me see if Phil knows."
"He broke out swearing and stomped off," Frank offered.
"Which means he might know. Some of that could have been from the last ransom," Eric said suddenly. "The swim meet one."
"Yeah," Speed agreed. "There was enough in the box then for that ransom." He called Phil, putting him on speaker. "Phil, who do we have to shoot about the contents of the box?"
"Xander. It may be the only way to stop it from happening again."
"Well, one and a half of that was his originally. He put that in there for ransoms and just in case of emergencies."
"Okay, I remember him saying he did that out of one of the auctions."
"Exactly. Then there's the Freid bequeath. Then there's a bequeath from Toddly. Then there's the Frikenez one. Then there's the Martinez one that made his wife cry. Xander told her to please take it back, begged her, and she slapped him for it. Said he dishonored her husband's memory and no wonder she hadn't been enough in bed. There was the Coates. There was the Brunsk one. That was troublesome. It was another killer, a sniper, who was supposed to kill Horatio. He saw Xander and liked him too much to kill Horatio. He nearly killed me a few times for bothering Xander." Speed moaned. "Then there were three other auctions. Two of which Mac Taylor oversaw for him. One of which I think Messer oversaw but I can't be sure. She insists on having someone she can see to talk to if something comes up. He's basically paying them a little bit for that. Most of those are auction proceeds. A few were cash bequeaths. One was another sports car. Do remind Caine he's got to do something about the vehicles soon because of the tax laws. By the first of the year or pay full taxes on them. Also, have him take his to Xander's tax guy. I like him.
"Hmm. Oh, and the jewels came from another source in the same deluded family. He apparently decided Xander was a family curse that was spreading. He saw a tape of him, one of the porn ones I think, and he's hooked now. He followed his ancestor and cousin's footsteps and went over to the other side. He had no relatives. They all distanced themselves from him for his strange tastes. That auction is coming up I think. The will was just probated. Anything that's probated in New York he lets one of them go to for him so he doesn't have to come out of the house and deal with this. The last one he started to scream 'I don't want it, just leave me alone'," he said flatly, "and it got really bad and embarrassing. They had to sedate him he was so hysterical. Stella was with him that time. He needed a bodyguard and he rented her on her day off with the promise of something in a Tiffany's box. She got something very pretty when he woke up enough to take her. He was distraught enough to want to jump off somewhere very high to make it stop." He took a sip of something. "She talked him back down and called Don's father to have him watch Xander while she went to get Danny and bring him to the hotel he was staying at to calm him back down. Apparently Messer is like his big brother most of the time?"
"Pretty much. They're like our step-family at times, with some of the Vegas lab now and then."
"Good. It's good he's got more family. Ah, here it is. That last one is still to be auctioned off. Next month. Interestingly enough we found out from Patrick Benis's journal, that Ethan lent me, that he had this same problem right after he was turned. It lasted for four years and then suddenly quit. That's how he got his sire. We're not sure if it was before but Ethan did trace a number of gifts in his name at his death."
"Interesting," Speed agreed. "Any idea why it ended?"
"Patrick's book said something about the family being built stronger this way? I'm not sure, I don't deal with that. You'd have to ask Ethan for it."
"I will be later. Anything else?"
"Yeah, the underground here is seriously pouting that Xander hasn't been in wearing his usual clothes. Make him tomorrow when you guys drag him in for his own safety."
"He's on crutches and has an air cast."
"So? Put him in shorts. Or as one of the officers pouted, put him in gay cabana boy shorts and a sinfully tight t-shirt."
Speed snorted at that. "Sure. I'll see if he's got any. How did you know we were bringing him in?"
"There's more paperwork and Caine is much too possessive to let him out of his sight until he's well. Especially with the death threats made in New York. I doubt Messer's going to make it out of the lab either."
"Yippee. Anything else we should know?"
"Nope. Want it in fax form or did you make notes?"
"I made notes, man. Thanks." He hung up and walked it out to hand to Horatio then went back to see if any of that was in the cabinet drawer. He found one drawer with a new label in Ray Jr.'s handwriting, smirking and opening it. "Ray Jr. made a whole drawer of wills that mentioned Xander and Horatio," he called. Horatio came in to snoop. Because Xander never told him anything. Speed went back to the kitchen to check on things. Eric and Marisol gave him 'so' looks. "Wills. Plural."
Marisol moaned. "Again?"
"Ethan gave Phil Patrick's journals and right after he was turned he had a similar problem for about four years." Horatio walked into the kitchen. "He said he didn't understand it, you'd have to ask Ethan. Oh, and he's got more paperwork to do tomorrow so he's got to come in. They wanted you to dress your boy up or else there might be mass pouting."
"I'll try." Di squealed and went to find something to dress her boy slutty. He moaned. "He doesn't need that."
"He does, Horatio. All the attention he gets makes you guys stronger."
"Which was what Phil got out of the journals," Speed offered. "Oh and there's one left. The New York crew knows more than they let on. Cheline's been going through Mac and Stella for that stuff. Stella went with him to one will reading and had to sedated him. Kept him from jumping off somewhere high to make it stop too. Had Don's father watch him."
"I noticed they were very friendly. The last I knew, Don's father hated Xander." He went back to his snooping. He found the file marked 'INDEX' in all caps. He pulled it out since it was in his brother's handwriting. They had summarized them all, including who went and whether or not Xander threw a hysterical fit, their phrasing. The further down he got the more that column had a check. The last few it was noted that Xander didn't go. There was one listed as 'ongoing' and it stated that Mac had it. He called Mac's cell, getting a panting man. "Sorry to intrude, but wills and auctions that I wasn't told about seem to be going on behind my back?" he demanded. Stella took the phone and told him everything in a few terse sentences then hung up on him. He growled and sat down to go over those again. "Speed?"
"The ongoing one is from *that* family, Horatio. The one with the decree. They've decided it's a family curse that's contagious. He was disowned and they won't take even pictures of him," Danny called. He leaned into the office. "Hi. Mac growled at me to come fix you on my way here. So, what's up?" The list was held up. "Yeah, when Xander started to try ta jump off somewhere high and started ta go in drugged we stepped in so you kept him. The local ones have mostly been Ryan. He considered it good training. We've done what we can to make them go away and leave your boy alone. Won't work but we've tried. He begged one woman to please take it back, that he hadn't known her husband, much less slept with him. She slapped him and said it dishonored his memory to deny his wishes."
"I see." He went back to reading. "This new one?"
"Not a hope in hell. The judge is declaring it a family curse brought onto them by the first one for liking boys. Especially stripper boys. Mac and Cheline talked to the guy together and they're not even leaving pictures of him. They're burning everything of him in the way of pictures or they're cutting him out if they're important ones. They think it's some demon that infected the family. They've sent one of the daughters over to school under Mac's careful watch to make sure she doesn't pick it up too. Only daughter in the family. He introduced her to a few very nice cops with families from her family's region, I don't remember where, and they've hit it off. She likes one of their sons. It's considered a sign that it may not take them all. Only some sons. Both so far have been lesser sons, not the direct heirs."
"Wonderful. Any others coming?"
"There's one young one they're watching because he's gay but we got told confidentially that he likes blonds. Wants to date a man like Thor and be a bottom slut for him." Horatio smiled slightly at that. "So she may have broken the family curse. Unless she names the boy after him. That's now a firm rule in the family. His names, your name, all our names, are stricken and forbidden in the family. Her future husband is a Thomas so that's okay so far." Horatio relaxed some. "The only problem is that this son is a hacker."
"Which we've recently seen Xander have ties to a few of," Horatio admitted dryly.
"Could've met that way I suppose. As long as the wedding goes off, she'll be fine, and Mac warns her whenever we know Xander might be coming to town so she can't go anywhere near him. Xander agreed to that stipulation and lets us make sure of it. He definitely doesn't want blamed for bringing down the family."
"Thank you. He's been paying you?"
"He said it's like a second job, we deserve it." He shrugged. "Mac protested the first two times. Xander spoiled Stella with another blue box of stuff from the good place that makes her go off when she walks in the door." Horatio smiled at that. "Mac said the sore back wasn't worth it really." He leaned on the doorframe. "So, anything else you wanna know?"
"What about Ryan?"
"He protested too but I think Willow made him take it anyway. Said it was like handling a legal matter for him so it was only right he paid him. Said it'd hurt his feelings and then Xander would pout at her and make the kids pout at them both. Oh, and no, you can't place one of those in my neck. Thanks anyway." He went to help in the kitchen, looking at Ryan. "Your turn, sparky."
"Not with the day I've had. Anyone have any idea why Willow would just suddenly start staring into space?"
"Visions," Speed called. "Can't prove it though."
"I'll keep that in mind," he decided, shaking his head. "We're going to have to hire a nanny for when she goes to school anyway. That way we don't have to fight about daycares."
"Xander and Horatio think we need a family daycare," Marisol offered.
Ryan nodded. "It's about the only thing that would make the pagan element calm down about some things and Mrs. Delko calm down about the rest. Who were they thinking?" Marisol raised her hand. "Well, you'd get time with Tia then." She giggled at that and swatted him. "Really. Xander's back now, even limping. Did you plan on having her tomorrow?"
"I'll take all the kids tomorrow, Ryan," Xander said from the couch. Eric cheered at that.
"You're needed to do some paperwork," Speed ordered.
"Yay." He sat up and looked at him. "Can't they fax it?"
"Your underground wants to see you. Preferably in shorts that make them drool and blush," Eric told him.
"I can watch them until you can get done," Marisol offered. "I have to go to the doctor's at two."
"I should be done by then," he agreed. "Probably by lunch." She nodded, accepting that with a smile. "We'll figure it out, Marisol. That way you're not the commune mommy figure." She smiled at that. "Or your mom." He looked at the rest of his family then at the box. "Why didn't it disappear?"
"Because it's still not a figment of your imagination," Ryan said plainly. "Has Willow ever spaced out that way before?"
"Yes, she's usually working on something mentally. Last time I nearly died; she did it during a spell to float me." Ryan moaned. "Ask her what she's thinking so hard about. She'll blurt it out."
"Wonderful." He went to talk to his wife.
Xander looked down at the sleeping baby. "Let's let you try out your new crib, Tia." He wiggled free and hobbled up the stairs, checking the nursery. A few things had shifted. "Who tried to repaint?"
"One of the stars fell off," Di called. "I had to repair a small section, Xander." He huffed but let it be and put her onto her back in the crib. Tia woke up and blinked at him. She cooed and played with his finger, then drifted back off. He smiled and left her up there. "It okay?"
"It's got a line but it matches. I'm not mad." He kissed her on the cheek. "Nothing that'll get me arrested, Di, please." She smiled at that. "Please? Remember, people have to still respect Horatio."
"Fine, no leather, no lamme. Noting like that." He sighed and went to grab his crutches for balance and hopped into the office. She closed the door with a giggle. "They're talking."
"Dinner in twenty," Speed yelled.
Horatio looked up as Xander hopped in and straddled his lap. "Are you sure you're not too sore?"
"Only my thigh is cramping." Horatio worked on it one-handed. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I was trying to ignore it and make it all be a figment."
"I heard about you nearly jumping off somewhere high on me. Are you really like that or was that a momentary thing?"
"I was hysterical."
"Good. Then we can keep you from that. I agree with having a proxy but you couldn't find a lawyer to send it back?"
"I went to one, he said there was no way except to contest and the judicial system wasn't set up to handle people protesting they got too much. I've signed some of them back over to the families when they started to protest. At most of them I pointed out I had no idea who in the hell their loved ones were, or why they were naming me. It got me some evil looks but I panicked at a few and begged them to take it back. That's when the first sedation came. Then he handled another with my name in it and suggested I bring someone with me this time since I was prone to hysterics. I told him why and he agreed it was odd but apparently they liked me. I don't know why or care why but they do. They decided I could handle this with someone with me. Then, when Stella had to stop me, they went to them instead of me. I started paying them for their time to go. It gives them about another eight hundred each thing." Horatio smiled at that. "More if it's an intense auction that takes a lot of meetings and things. Mac usually handles those because it's so much paperwork and he's got my official power of attorney when I'm not in the city. Cheline had me sign one naming him, then Stella and/or Don, then Danny because he said it was too much work. It's only for the auction house and the more intense they are, the more I spoil them. I got Mac a new sword like the one he wanted of mine for the last one plus his fee."
Horatio smiled and hugged him to him. "That was very nice of you. I'm sure they appreciate it. Phil did say Patrick had a similar problem."
"Ethan hinted at that. Said it lasted four years. When is our fourth anniversary?"
"This December." He took a kiss. "Did you want to do something extra special?"
"Only if they stop. When they stop I want to make it our third anniversary."
"All right." He saw the wince and got back to work on Xander's thigh. "There?" Xander nodded, resting his head on his shoulder. "Any idea why these happen?"
"The pain from lower is keeping me off it and it's an unfamiliar way of walking according to the nurses." Horatio hummed in his ear. "Tia loves her nursery. Went right back to sleep."
"Good." He smiled and took another kiss when the door opened and Eric stuck his head in. "What?"
"Coming." He helped Xander off his lap and handed him back his crutches, walking behind him. He went up to check on Tia, turning on the baby monitor and bringing the rest downstairs. He put it in the middle of the table, making Marisol quit worrying. "She's happy and content. She's sleeping and trying to smile."
"I still think it's for more older children but if she likes it I don't mind so much," she decided. "Horatio, someone brought up a point. Ryan's decided to hire a nanny and we like the idea of the whole family going to the same daycare. What if we all chip in to do that?" She ate a bite of dinner.
"That is one way we could go," he agreed. "Would one person be able to handle Eric and Toddy, plus the babies is the bigger one."
"Eric and Toddy can drive even me to a nap," Xander pointed out. "Besides, we'd have to decide on them." That got some nods. "Plus get Calleigh to agree?" he asked her.
"We'll have to plan on that when I go back to work," she agreed. She dug into her dinner. "By the way, our kid wants to Hammra when she grows up. She was kicking up a storm while we watched her go evil on all the hunters. A few surprises, Horatio. Some of them were hunting their mate's former stepkids or their stepkids on the side. We found evidence of over forty hunts here and in Vegas in the desert." Warrick nodded at that, chewing. "Their DA and Hammra worked it out so those who only hunted in Vegas went out there. We called them up like it was a new hunt, asked them if they'd like to go, monitored who paid, then who boarded the flight. In a few cases, someone else was paying. It gave us a wider pool. Brass flew down on the chartered plane and read everyone their rights once they took off." He smirked at that. "Most of them cut deals."
"Excellently done, team," he praised. "Any still in the wind?"
"Two," Eric noted. "One who paid for someone to go once. Not sure why. One of the hunters is off on a real safari supposedly. We've turned him into the FBI and Immigration so they could have him picked up there or on his way back into the country. We've also kept them pretty much out of contact when we could. Their lawyers yes, social circle no. We know at least one leaked, probably to him."
"Interestingly enough, it was someone in LA who paid for that one," Warrick offered. "A law firm known as Wolfram and Hart?" Xander choked, letting Horatio pat him on the back. "You know about them?"
"Law firm for hell," he gasped, grabbing his water to sip. He looked at Speed.
"Angel's enemies," he said, nodding once. He looked at Warrick. "I thought I knew the name from somewhere. They're literally the law firm for hell. All the demons and bad things out there? They represent them, make the deals, earn the extra money from it. They've got offices all over the world and they're evil, Warrick." He stared at him. "Seriously. Which one?"
"Layla? Something like that."
"Lilah Morgan?" Speed asked. Warrick nodded.
"Angel's number two enemy," Xander said now that he was back under control. "Up and coming in Wolfram and Hart. Ruthless bitch. I can put you in touch with Angel to see if he can help you." Warrick smiled at that and nodded. "Is she ours or yours?"
"Even better. I'd rather let Wolfram and Hart be somewhere else far, far away." He sat up suddenly. "Willow. We need to check her to make sure it's not tampering magic." Speed raised an eyebrow. "We do."
"We can. I can have Ethan check."
"We need to talk to Ethan anyway," Xander said dryly. "Apparently this gifting stuff happened to Patrick." He looked at Horatio. "Can we go over after dinner?"
"If you want. Are you sure? The kids will still be here."
"They'll still be here when we get back too," he said firmly, making both Delkos laugh. He looked at Horatio. "Where did you put the stuff for my locker?"
"In the back of the hummer. I plan on washing it first, Xander."
"Oh. Okay. I'll let you be kinky and do the laundry." He grinned at him, making Horatio blush and moan. He got up to hop over to the phone but Horatio stood up and pulled him back into his seat. "I was going to warn Ethan."
"We can show up over there. Remember, he's got a teenage slayer in his house now."
"Hmm, Mary Eileen. Not a happy camper the last time I saw her. Okay." He dug back in again, smiling at his son, who was pouting. "We will get to play with Tia all tomorrow afternoon, and probably Toddy and Lizzy too. Will you help the daddy with the babies?" He nodded and gave him a smile for being thought such a big boy. "Good boy." He went back to eating.
"I still can't believe the magic and demon stuff is real," Warrick complained. Xander called over the phone and handed it to him. "How in the hell...."
"Too much magic in the house," Speed said firmly.
"I only floated over the phone. Not like I was changing channels by accident again, dad." He took the phone and called Ethan. "We're coming over after dinner." He hung up and called Greg, getting a grumpy person. "When are you coming out? Because there's a spa down here that helps me bleach out my many scars and since you're pouting about your scars I'll treat you to it. Besides, this way I have someone to help me pick out new music since no one in the family does much goth." He smiled. "Please? Beg Grissom? Tell him I'm giving Warrick a contact to get one of the other scumbags? Because otherwise I'll go insane...er. Yeah, and we've still got the one auction and they want me there in person, Greg. No, I'm presently limping. Broken femur an inch above my knee, bad thigh cramps, broken ribs. Multiple bruises. They wanted to hunt me. I was their last victim." Greg yelled that at someone named Brass, who came running. He repeated that and that Xander had a contact for one of the ones they were missing. Brass said something about Warrick, and Greg pointed out Xander was already on injury leave and it was *that* Xander. Stripper Xander. Brass moaned and told him to switch out with Warrick. Xander smiled. "Great. When?" He looked at Warrick. "Brass said to tag out with Greg on this."
"That's fine. Greg could use some vacation time to pull himself back together again. That way he quits growling at people. Can I get that contact tonight? I can head out tomorrow afternoon, which means he can get down here sometime tomorrow. I'll even hand him my rental keys."
"Why? We've got eight spare cars," Horatio told him. "Please, let him drive one."
Warrick looked at him. "I'm not man enough to drive the pink hummer either, Horatio." Xander giggled at that. "Give me the phone." He took it and went to talk to Greg outside, getting a much happier tech. He came back in. "He'll be here in the morning, Grissom agreed, he could use the time off. Keep him for a week, Horatio. Grissom's orders."
"That's fine. I'm sure if he wants to work I can find something for him to help with around the office. If not, Xander could probably use the help." He smiled at him. "You know we hate to see you go."
"Yeah, but can you imagine Grissom's pout if you poached me?" He grinned at him and patted him on the shoulder before sitting down again. "You know very well any time we get a case that crosses over, you're our favorite working vacation spot. Same as it is for New York." Danny nodded at that.
Don walked in. "We're here! We're magnificent."
"Are you a Lockhart?" Xander called.
"Unclie DON!" Eric squealed, running over to hug him. "Granma too!" He hugged her hard enough to cut off her airway. "Come eat with Eric!" He drug them back in there.
"We're early. Sorry, guys."
"Not a problem. The condo's noisy without your games and snoring," Danny assured him. "Don't I get a hug, Grandma?" She punched him on the shoulder before hugging him, making him smile. "Love you too, Aiden. When are you coming back?"
"I've decided to go medical but I'm torn right now between Miami and New York." She looked at the table. Xander got pulled into Horatio's lap, freeing up one seat.
"Calleigh, I'll offer since Speed hasn't," Warrick teased. She blushed and kicked him under the table, shaking her head. "Marisol?"
"No thank you, Warrick. You're much too much a player for me. It would be like sleeping with my brother."
"Oooh, direct hit," Speed taunted.
"I am not," Eric pouted.
"Eric, triplets," Frank reminded him. Eric blushed at that.
"Marisol, I've never been that bad," Warrick offered.
"Please, I heard about your two dates in one night night," Don snorted, picking Marisol up and putting him into her lap. "There. It's comfy and I'm single so it won't upset anyone. Warrick's rarely single." She gave him a look, then kissed him. He blinked at her. "My, you're a bit forward. Taking lessons from Stella?"
"Shut up." She kissed him again and he grinned. "No you're not single."
"Damn it. Stella's not here to pay up," Danny complained.
Eric gaped at him, then at his sister. "Excuse me?"
"Man, your sister's scary when she hunts," Don assured him. "She started to hunt and I had to fall at her dainty toes. Besides, you know I'm good to whoever I'm dating."
"Uh-huh. And what does our mother think of this?"
"Your mom loves Don," Xander reminded. "Nags him more than me to eat."
"That's different than liking him as her boyfriend." She stabbed him on the hand with a fork. "Ow! Shrew!" He went to wipe his hand off under the water. "I take it Momma and Poppi know?"
"Poppi does. He likes Don. Calls him steady and sensible." She looked at Don. "Momma wants to meet you formally."
"I'm down all weekend." He kissed her on the cheek. "Eat, my woman. Before I have to go caveman and tie you up to make you eat." She blushed and dug in. "I wasn't trying to suggest that way," he muttered in her ear. "But if you wanna try...." She swatted him. "Eric, she and I have been talking and seeing each other whenever I'm in town for the last four months now."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you were involved in Xander's swimming and all that stuff. Besides, I was making sure it was something first."
"One of you is going to have to move, which?" Horatio noted.
"We're still working on that," Don admitted. "We don't want to steal Tia from all her family but my dad will throw city-wide fits and get others involved if I move down here full time."
"But the switching thing is still going," Danny reminded him. "That means you can be together and move for half a year each." He ate a bite. "Want something?"
"Nah, we ate on the plane. Mari?" She looked at him and blushed. "Like that idea?"
"I do, plus you'd be closer for Xander and the rest of the family down here when something happens. Horatio had to call around when he disappeared from the hospital at three in the morning."
"Yeah, we heard about that." He glared at Xander. "It was fixed." He moaned and nodded. "Good."
"Mommy, someone Watchery left me some really ancient chemistry stuff," he complained.
"Super ancient, nothing has plugs," Speed agreed. She stared at him. "I helped him unpack and told him what shouldn't be put on top of other things. One of the Watchers left him his chemistry lab. Talked about voices in his head too."
"Wonderful. What are we doing with it?"
"You want it?" Xander offered. "Take it, anyone, please, Goddess." They all smiled at that and nodded. They'd break it up between the labs and home labs. "Whatever you guys don't want I'm giving to Greg."
Warrick looked at him. "That's a dangerous threat."
"So?" He shrugged. "Should we go pick up Greg?"
"He'll call when he's got a flight time and number," Warrick promised.
"I don't know about Xander, but I'm loving the chartered flight thing," Don admitted. "It's expensive as hell, but yay. It's comfy. I can actually stretch out on a flight and not cramp up in the seats." Aiden nodded.
"How expensive is that?" Danny asked.
"Mucho," Aiden assured him.
"The time I drugged Tim and sent him to Sunnydale it was about twenty-four grand," Xander offered. Horatio spluttered. "And did Timmy forget to go this year?" Tim shook his head. "Why was that?"
"Xander banished my ass back there with my girlfriend's help." They both smiled and nodded. "So, when do I get to quit going?"
"When I'm a grandfather or you are."
"Eric not want babies, babies icky," Eric told them. Everyone stared at him. "Granmma Delko say Eric give her great-grandbabies and daddy grandbabies some day. I tell her no, babies icky. They make nasty poos and things. Even sister, who is sister and not a baby," he said with a glare for his Uncle Eric. "You wrong!"
"Technically, anyone that young, even a sister or a brother, is a baby," Xander told him. "To everyone else she's a baby, to you she's a sister. It's that extra special relationship between you that makes her less icky." His son frowned at him. "Really. You used to be that small way long time ago." Eric pouted. "Remember, to you she's your sister, to everyone else she's only cute."
"All babies cute?" Xander nodded. "Okay, so sister baby to others but to me she sister?" Xander nodded again, smiling at him for that. "Fine." He dug in again. He looked at his Uncle Eric. "You only half wrong," he stated, then stuck his tongue out.
"Tongues only handle food, son," Di said firmly.
He went back to eating, smiling at Granmma. He loved his Granmma Aiden. She played fun games. "Daddy go see Efan. We play?"
"Sure, we'll play with Tia even. It's never too young to teach her how to have fun and be cute." He beamed at that and nodded. "Where is my other grandchild?"
"In her nursery," Xander said.
She scamped up to the nursery and looked around. "Xander, honey," she called into the baby monitor. "Who did you have decorate?"
"Me," floated up the stairs. "I like it, climb off my decorating skills or else I'm going to help Uncle Don spank you. Again."
"No, I think it's cute. It's very Goth. That Abby girl would probably love this." She checked on Tia, finding her sucking on her knuckles. "Ahh, you're so precious." Tia shifted and let out a small moan. "Pretty girl, just like your momma." She smoothed down some hair and went back downstairs. "She's adorable, Marisol. Think she'll keep the dark hair?"
"We don't know. She might end up a redhead like her father but half of his family has dark hair too. I'm hoping she has his eyes and chin." She added more food to her plate and nudged Don with her elbow when he laughed. "I'm hungry. I've helped Momma all day."
Eric took the phone, calling home. "Momma, Marisol told you Xander and Horatio are back, right? That we're snacking over here?" He smiled. "I thought so. No, Aiden and Don are in too." He looked at him. "When's that meeting tomorrow?"
"Eight." He looked at her. "When's your appointment? Two?" She nodded, smiling at him. "How about we have an early dinner with your parents, my treat, and you get to be pretty and beautiful for it?" She smiled at that. "Eric? That good with her? It'll give your mom a night off from the stove and fridge."
"Momma, he wants to take you both out for an early dinner tomorrow. That way you don't have to cook for a night, momma. Yes, that's a nice thing. Of course he loves your cooking."
Don took the phone. "I love Marisol's cooking and since you taught her of course I already love yours, but every mother needs time off from the kitchen, Momma. Even mine. My father's having to learn to cook after thirty-four years of marriage thanks to Ma just getting out of the hospital. No, I had to be down here anyway for a tenant's meeting at my condo. Tomorrow at eight. So, since she's got an appointment at two, I was thinking an early dinner, say around five, sixish? Then we'll go to that, then I'll drop her off at home? That way you can talk about me behind both our backs and decide I'm a scary guy for being related to Xander?" He smiled. "Well, right now she's eating. She's got her mouth full. Mari, the Tangent good?" She grimaced and shook her head. "No?" She shook her head. "Where?"
"Periwinkle," Xander said, smiling at Horatio. "That's where he took me for our first official dinner out."
"I've never been there."
"Great steaks and meat dishes," Calleigh assured her. "Fairly reasonable. Within normal salary ranges."
"That sounds good. Hard to get reservations?" Horatio shook his head. "Think I could swing it?"
Xander looked at him and got up to hop around and find his cellphone then the phone book. "Hi, this is Xander Harris, I need to make a reservation for tomorrow if you've got something open around five-thirty or six? Don?" That got a nod. "No, my Uncle Don is in town and meeting Marisol's parents for the first time. They're dating. Yes, that Uncle Don and that Marisol. Tia's beautiful. I'll have him bring in a picture for you." He smiled. "That's fine. Thank you." He hung up. "Don, six-thirty. They're booked before then. Bring a picture of Tia."
"Sure." He smiled at him. Then at the phone. "How about six-thirty at Periwinkle. That's where Horatio takes Xander when they want to go out on a dinner date. It's highly recommended by everyone at the table. He already has. I can do that. Of course. My treat. I'm meeting you guys, that's how it's supposed to be, woman. Don't argue with me or I'll tickle her and make her snort her milk out of her nose." He smiled at her laughter. "Six-thirty. Suit place?" Horatio nodded. "Nice suit, dress. Church clothes. That's fine. Thank you. See you then." He hung up and looked at her. "You, eat. You're much too skinny. I swear, my stepdaughter weighs more than you do. Some big wind will come down and blow you away from me some day like a kite." She blushed and dug in again.
Eric looked at him. "I like you more than I do our other brother-in-law already." His sister slapped him. He grinned at her. "Then again, he must know you're a shrew."
"Hormone swings can last for months after pregnancy according to Momma," she said with a vicious smile.
"I have the couch here."
"Horatio, send him home if he tries to escape my wrath," she ordered, eating some more. She finally smiled at him and got up. "Walk on the beach?"
"Of course." He took her arm properly and walked her outside. The dog got sent back inside. "Later, Percy. We'll go for walkies later." Percy sighed and looked at his father.
"Find me the leash," Xander ordered. He finished his plate of food while his dog got the leash, stole a kiss, then grabbed his crutches. He snapped on the leash and walked out with the dog. "Slowly tonight. Let's not go for a pull."
"Eric go!" Eric yelled.
"Sure. Put on shoes." He scrambled down to put on shoes, then followed his daddy and dog out the door, smiling at them both.
"Okay, that's too cute for words, both sets," Di sighed. "Taylor?"
"We can cuddle later," she promised, giving her girl a kiss.
"Speaking of cute," Calleigh teased. They both blushed. She winced then held her stomach. "Hi, dear. What?" She looked down. "Hungry?" Eric handed over some more food. "Thanks, apparently she's hungry. She was quiet when I was eating." She dug in, eating heartily.
"The pregnancy is the one thing I'm glad I got to miss when I got Xander," Aiden quipped. Speed nodded at that. "What? You think I'd be scary?"
"Er?" he prompted.
She smiled. "Well, yeah." She beamed at him. "Thanks. You tell Mac that one, Danny?"
"Yeah, because I need kisses to get the image of you pregnant outta my head," he noted dryly. "Warrick?"
"No, man, I like girls. Sorry, ask Eric or Speed for kisses. I'm a player, but not like that."
They all laughed. The dog barked and yelped.
Horatio hopped up and walked outside, finding someone going after Xander with a bat. "Get off him!" he shouted. "Percy! Bring the boy!" Eric was drug off by him. He walked out there to stop them with the guards. Bigger Eric came out to help, along with Speed and Warrick. He shoved the older guy back. "What is your problem?" he demanded.
"Get over yourself." He helped Xander up and looked him over. "Eric, get Percy and our son. Percy?" He heard a quiet growl. "Get them both and go inside."
"Percy, heel," Xander called. "Eric, heel!" Both came running to him and he looked at them. "Go with Unclie Eric. Both of you. Take Percy, Eric." He nodded, taking the leash and leading the dog away. He looked at the man. Then he punched him once, knocking him down. "Don't you ever THINK about bringing violence near my son again!" he shouted. Some more neighbors came out. "I will kick your ass eight million ways from Sunday if you bring violence anywhere near my son ever the fuck again. Are we fucking well clear?" he sneered.
"Back down, Xander," one of the guards said quietly. "Please. Patrol officers are here to arrest him."
"Good. I'm pressing full fucking charges." A patrol officer came up to him and looked at his head. "Hi, Michaels."
"First we knew, the dog yelped and Horatio came out and started to yell," Warrick offered, taking control of Xander since he was wobbling.
"I came out the door and saw that gentleman hitting my husband with a baseball bat," Horatio said. "On the arm. Which was recently broken." That got an odd look. "Xander went to the same person who helped Wolfe recover faster," he said quietly.
That got a nod. "We remember that. It was odd but we appreciated it. Xander, are you pressing charges?"
"Hell yes. I was willing to be nice when he tagged the house. Tore up the back yard. This time he attacked me at night in front of my son. Is Eric all right?"
"I didn't see any bruises and bigger Eric has him," Warrick soothed. Xander nodded. "Here, Horatio. Keep yourself calm. I'll go check on them both." He went to do that, finding Di checking him over. "He wanted to make sure they're both okay."
"Scared to death," Eric told him.
"Thanks. Patrol guys are already here. Is... I haven't noticed it in any of the other neighbors."
"It's only his family," Taylor assured him. "He thinks we're sweet as hell but they're men."
"Ha." He walked out there. "Eric's fine and so is Percy, Xander. Officer, Taylor and Di, the mothers of Xander's son, said this isn't the first time but he never bothers them."
"Yeah for some reason lesbians only get it half as often," he agreed bitterly. "We hoped like hell he learned from his last arrest for tagging the house and yard. Turn around, sir."
"No! I bought this property!"
"I wasn't near your property," Xander told him. "I was taking the dog for a walk and don't you live on the other street in the development?" The guards nodded. "Then what are you even doing over here." He looked at the house. Then at him. "That's the Errrenson's house. They're in Europe lecturing." He went pale. "Yeah, I know them. They're a great African-American couple who think my son's adorable and a genius. So, why are you even on my street with a baseball bat?"
"We've had people going around breaking into places."
"First I've heard of it," Horatio noted.
"Us too," the guards agreed. "That's why we're here, Mr. Palmer. Boys, please. Before this escalates?" Officer Michaels looked at him. "You're more than young enough to be my boy."
He grinned. "Thank you. I'm having an ancient, old guy day. My son said I'm out of touch with music and movies now." He turned the suspect around and cuffed him.
"Then I'm pressing charges against him."
"You can do that but I doubt you're going to get much of anything out of it," Michaels noted dryly.
"No, he wants me arrested, I'll go. I know I've got a temper," Xander offered. "Same as when I hit the nurse who tried to keep me away from my daughter." He stared him down. "I'll gladly go. I'll take my probation easily." The man looked stunned. "I hit the person attacking me, Mr. Palmer. Big shock there."
"Xander, calm down," Horatio ordered.
"No, if he wants to press charges, I'll go. Just because I'm married to you doesn't mean I'm above the law. The same as I don't fight speeding tickets." That got a smile. "Oh, tell me you guys don't... You guys ignore me?"
"Only when you had the porsche." He nodded. "Let's go see if he's serious."
"Sure. I need my crutches." They were handed over and the guards walked him over.
"That's unfair!" one of the neighbors shouted.
"So is getting a spouse who's protecting themselves for hitting back," Xander offered. "It happens." He shrugged. "I'll gladly take the probation." He climbed into the back of the second car and put his crutches next to him. " Sorry, broken femur. Thigh cramps. Broken ribs."
"That's fine, Mr. Harris. Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll get nothing but probation and I did hit him. I'm not above the law because I married Horatio."
"That's very big of you, sir. Okay. We'll let the officers in tonight sort it out." He sped off, taking him back to the station. "Want the windows down?"
"No, I'm good. Thanks." He gave him a gentle smile. "Not a problem since my son's fine. Otherwise you'd have cleaned up a body. I can't believe he tried to hit me with my dog and my son with me."
"Some people are scared."
"This isn't scared. Before he tagged the house and ripped up the backyard that day, he came up to rationally talk about the problem of those wrong, gay folk moving into the neighborhood." That got a grunt. "Sorry." He settled in to watch the ride. It was a nice night. They parked behind the station and he was helped out, handed his crutches and followed inside. Everyone went silent. "I hit someone back. It happens. Just like everyone else, people. Only I'm limping." He sat down with a sigh of relief. The other guy was sat next to him.
"You think your husband will save you," he sneered.
"No he won't. Horatio's one of the most honorable cops on this force. He's the guy IAB goes to when they need to clear other officers." He looked stunned. "Besides, most of the guys here know I'm more than willing to protect myself. At least half the station hates me because I am gay and with Horatio. The other half think I'm cute now and then, especially with my son." He shrugged then winced and hissed. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I hate broken ribs."
"No, you didn't," Xander interrupted. "The guy who tried to use me as a safari hunt did. That's why I'm on the crutches too." One of the sergeants came over. "He tried to plug me with a baseball bat and I hit him back when Horatio shoved him off me."
"Okay. Let's go talk about this."
"I don't want to go anywhere with him and his gay filth!"
"Ah. That reason. Prestons!" he called, getting one big, white bald guy with a visible swastika on his arm. "Get this one. He's claiming we'll be biased since it's a gay bashing. I trust you to act professionally."
"I'm not above the law," Xander said quietly. "You're going to treat me just like every other person who comes in here." He looked at the other guy. "I remember you. You asked me if you should make out my speeding ticket to my Horatio's pussy once." He nodded and smirked. "Great. He hit me with a bat in front of my son and dog. I hit him back."
"Good. Excellent even. Let's go." Xander stood up. "They won't let you keep those in holding."
"I'm wearing an air cast. Unless you're carrying my heavy ass, something's going to have to be arranged. I've got a broken femur from a guy the other day. And broken ribs, thank you." He hopped after him. "So, how's the wife? Ironing the sheets?"
"Hopefully. They were a mess earlier." He pointed at a table. "Sit. Across from each other is fine." Xander sat down with an audible sigh. "Let's see the cast." Xander let him have his leg. He yelped and tensed up when he pressed on it. "Yeah, that's broken. Any other complaints?"
"He got me on the head. It's ringing. My leg, my bruises other than my head and the new one on my shoulder, and my ribs are all from the other day when someone tried to take me to hunt me down like a deer." He gave him a horrified look. "Yeah. Let's just say I heal fairly easily, thankfully."
"We heard about that case. They get the guy?"
"Yup. A lot. Hammra has the case. She got the other hunters too. He was softening me up."
"Fine. You," he asked the other guy.
"I bought that house fair and square and they're ruining my retirement community."
Xander snorted. "I put money into the development so he could build the houses." The man glared at him. "Truth. I put money into there back when I was a stripper, nearly four years ago now. I got two houses for my six hundred thousand. The one Di is buying and ours." The officer looked at him. "What?"
"Who were you doing to make that much as a stripper."
"I was known as Darkness."
"Aw, fuck. No wonder you had a porsche."
"Misguided attempt to woo me. Too bad it blew up. It was a sweet ride and I couldn't send it back. He made sure of it." He shrugged, then winced. "Really hating broken ribs."
The officer nodded. "Okay, so what happened, chronologically?"
"I was out walking my dog," Xander told him. "With my son beside me. I get two, three houses past Di's, so five houses around the circle of our street. He comes out of the shadows and swings with the bat at my head. I let go of the leash and try to duck. The dog moves my son, thankfully, as I trained him to do, and he got in another swing before Horatio came out to save me. I hit him when Horatio got out there for trying to kill me while my son was there."
"How old is your son?"
"Four in a few weeks," he said proudly. He pulled out a picture. "That's my son."
"I've seen him around now and then with various CSI. You use them as babysitters?"
"No, they're family. Every now and then I bring Eric in to have lunch with Horatio and they steal him. A few times there's been a crisis and we had to give Eric to one of them to protect him."
"Fine. Now your side?"
"He's ruining my retirement! I want him gone! I bought my house! All I want is peace!"
"I bought my house too and you're on the other street. You don't even live on my street. For that matter, you like the couple that is my son's mothers." He sneered at him. "Also, Officer, he tagged my house in the past. He dug up my back yard and put a lot of cow's blood on it. He was going to put a doll out there but he was arrested with it."
"Let me check on priors." He went to do that, leaving them alone. He watched from observation for a minute, then looked at the other person in there. Internal Affairs. "He said to treat him like everyone else."
"Then why does he have crutches?"
"Broken leg. I tested it, it's broken. Ribs too by the way he's wincing. Three on his left."
"The hunting case a few days back."
"That's Caine's husband?" That got a nod. "Very interesting. When did he hit the old man?"
"After Horatio stopped him from being hit again. He took two swings on the kid with his dog and his kid present. The dog saved the kid."
"Hmm." He walked in there, looking down at Xander. "You don't rate privileges."
"I never wanted to. Even when I'm at the CSI office I don't want them. Occasionally to be left alone so I can nap on Horatio's couch on days like today turned into, but I don't want any special privileges. I told them to treat me the same as anyone else, just in case they tried it. For that matter, did you borrow out of Phil's or Mulder's closet?" The man snorted and smirked at him. He shrugged, then winced and slumped some. "Sorry. Smartass was my second language."
"So I've heard. Leg?" Xander put it up on the chair, letting him check the cast. "Broken?"
"Only if you press on it and then I'll kick you. Also, thigh cramps from the crutches. Broken ribs. Numerous bruises. New head injury. You're very pretty when you're swirly."
"Thanks." He dropped the foot and Xander tensed up, clutching the chair so he wouldn't hit him. "I doubt you could in that shape."
Xander stood up, leaning his hip against the table. "I've taken on bigger, badder, and faster with multiple head injuries at once. A broken leg, I'll just be slower. Then again, I'm only violent when you try me or you try my family. Like he did."
"Fine. You've got balls. What if they put you in gen pop?"
"First, holding isn't gen pop. Secondly, I'm pretty sure hitting him back is only worth probation my first offense. Especially when I'm defending myself and my son. Third, what makes you think they wouldn't fall?" He gave him a look. "I'm not claiming I'm the best but I grew up with parents who sold me a few times to people who tried to kill me. They're dead now thanks to one of my stalkers."
That got a smirk. "Really? Where?"
"Not a fucking clue. I left Sunnydale and never really looked back except for the time we went to save Speed and Aiden."
He blinked at that. "I know that name."
Prestons walked in. "Town on the FBI crime stats list. Thirty percent homicide rate in a town of under two thousand. And climbing."
Xander nodded. "That happens in Sunnydale. I was one of the people who defended against the reason." He looked at the folder. "I was never charged with anything in Sunnydale."
"It says here you were caught breaking and entering twice but both times into your own residence?"
"My parents were drunks. Not like I was going to walk through the *front* door."
"Okay. One case of assault, witnessed, but the charge was withdrawn?"
"Date?" The cops looked at him. "Read my lips. I was one of the *defenders* in town. That usually requires saving someone's ass by use of my foot up another person's. Date?"
"October 31, 96."
"Tenth grade?" He sighed. "The whole school that went out that night on the 'watching the little kids' patrol were handed some candy to keep our spirits up. It was tampered with and drugged. Even me and I'm a chocolate hound." That was the official story put around about that halloween. "For that matter, I don't remember *hitting* anyone. I remember moving some brainless twit out of my way. I remember moving some little demons and brats out of the way of some other kids. I remember nearly killing someone who tried to kill me first by chewing on my neck. Can you be a bit more specific?"
"Hmm. Doesn't say." He looked at him. "Lots of drugs there?"
"Only in the official views. Not my thing, I hung out in the library with two girls and a librarian. I dated a cheerleader and I skated. I swam." They nodded at that. "Anything else?"
"One report of domestic dispute, screaming, down here?"
"My ex put child porn in my dresser and boxes. With four cops in the house." They stared at him. "That was during the bunny paper killers?" That got a look and a nod. "I found it and drug her outside to scream at her. The neighbor did call. The officer reported what went on. I was living with my adopted father, Speedle, at that time. He and Don Flack, from the NYPD, found it in there, and I got here there so I could scream when I verified it wasn't mine. I found more of it in other, stored, boxes. I may have a playboy now and then but some of that was disgusting rape porn, snuff porn, and kiddie porn. Hell yes I yelled at her. We moved to get away from her."
That report was looked at. "That goes with what we see in the incident report." It was handed over and he looked at the other folder. "Then we have Mr. Palmer. One B&E in his youth, time served after three days. Drunken stunt was the memo put in. A few months ago we have an assault on Captain Caine's house. Tagging and ripping up the backyard with blood." He turned to that report. "It says here you said to leave him alone?"
"I thought he was misguided and he'd learn better with proximity to us. The rest of the neighbors love us. They love our dog, our son, our new daughter, my son's mothers who took my other house and bought it off me. We're pretty quiet and safe neighbors plus having a cop there means less chance of crime. We moved to a gated community because of my stalker threat."
"What stalker threat?" the IAB guy asked.
Xander looked at him. "Before I started to date Horatio, I stripped. I went by the name Darkness." He went pale. "I gave it up for Horatio. Between the serial killers who wanted to kill me and the stalkers and the people who send me presents, it's not been happy making at times."
"I've heard about that." Xander nodded. "You told us?"
"Of course. I want nothing and no one to be able to say anything about Horatio. He's one of the most honorable cops there is. He's one of the great ones who serves the victims first." That got some nods. "Yes, we've had a talk about my tendency to fight back in the past. I still wouldn't dare use his name to get special favors or anything else. I make my own way. If he wants to charge me that's his shit."
"Fine," he agreed. "Even if it would look worse that his husband was charged."
"For fighting back?" He waved a hand at his head. "Kinda obvious he hit me first. I've never been known to hit first unless you're trying to hurt my family."
"Fine. He's not using his husband's influence. Crutches please?"
"You're going to carry my big, heavy, ass?" That got a head shake. "Then you can't take them until you book me. That's local law. Then someone's got to find a way for me to be able to get around."
"True. You studied it?"
"Someone had to help Ryan study for tests."
"Oh." He walked out shaking his head.
"Being a smartass doesn't help you any," Prestons warned.
"I'm being myself. I'm not going to suck up to you or him. You either like me or you don't. If you don't, I can be socially polite and nothing else."
"If you'd move...." Mr. Palmer started.
"I was there first. You can sell. It's a hotly wanted community. You might even get more money if you did. Then again, you did move to Miami, which is the second biggest gay boy city in the States." He gave him a horrified look. "Never went to South Beach?" He looked at the officer. "Can you kick that one closer so I can put my foot up? I think you opened the stitches when you pressed. I need to open my cast." That got a nod and the chair was kicked closer. Xander put his foot up carefully then took off the air cast. He looked at the dagger that landed on the floor. "When did I put that in there? I made it through airport security with that?" He picked it up and put it on the desk. "Is it plastic?" It got felt and nodded. "No wonder I got through airport security with it." He rolled up his pantsleg, getting a gross look. "Can I have a napkin or papertowel?" One was found for him. "Thanks." He went to work putting pressure on it so he could get it stopped. Another officer came in. "Hey. Didn't realize I had it in there."
"Caine admitted he put it in there this morning, sir. He thought he had told you. You need the block doc?"
"No, I can get it stopped. I've had worse." That got a nod and he looked at it. "Don't." The man backed off. "You're not wearing gloves, man. How many times did that get drilled into you? Even I know that and I've only my CPR card." He put more pressure on it, hissing as he bent forward to lean on it. His thigh was screaming in pain right now. Another cop came in with more paper towels and gloves for them both. "Thanks." He added more towels and pressure. The second cop took over for him. He relaxed and grabbed his thigh. "Crutch cramps."
"I've had those," he said calmly. "Head hurt?"
"Throbbing but I've had worse after a few times into some walls. It was only a bat once. The other hit my shoulder but you'll never get a distinct bruise with the others."
"We'll still need to check, sir. Take off your shirt?" Xander moved and slowly took it off, they stared at his chest. Xander looked down. "Hey, they bruised now." He leaned back against the chair. "Three on that side broken. Four, five, and six if I remember right." That got a nod. He looked at Palmer. "You injured? I know I knocked you down when I hit you back."
"No. Just a fat lip," he said, staring at him. "What are you?"
"Trained. I protected a hell of a lot of people in my former town."
Prestons closed the folder. "Military service?"
"Homegrown. Dangerous town and alcoholic parents that ran out of money and patience near the end of the month."
"Sir, what's this scar from?" he asked, touching the one on his side.
Xander looked. "Which?" It was touched. "Claw I think." He shrugged. "I was out of it. I remember going 'oooh, intestines pretty' and then the next thing I knew my friend Willow was stitching it closed for me." They gaped. "Ryan Wolfe's wife was my best friend growing up. I protected her too and she came after me when things got too bad." That got some nods. "I'm fine, guys. Just a bit dizzy and aching from that thing." He pointed at his leg. "Is it stopping?"
"Starting to. Is he having charges pressed? We should have him checked."
Mr. Palmer looked at him. "Why didn't you go military, the gay thing?"
"Timmy sent me down here right after graduation. He sent me to the CSI team to mentor." He looked at his leg. "I'm still failing at the college thing most of the time. The foundation's doing pretty well." Palmer got up and moved closer. "Don't even." He sat back down. Xander shifted. "Let me try." The other guy eased pressure off when Xander took it back, tightening on a different spot that made him hiss but it stopped the bleeding. "They said it was starting to heal two days ago. That's why they allowed the air cast."
"Probably too much walking." He looked at it. "Did it come through?" Xander shrugged. "You don't know?"
"I was pretty well back into my mind and growling by the time Horatio and SWAT came in after me. I remember Horatio talking me down before I bit him. Nothing else. I woke up in the hospital and growled at the nurses. I remember needing more pain killers than I usually would. They were thinking the nerves were suddenly connecting when they didn't used to or I overshot my pain tolerance."
"How high of one do you have?" the officer working on his leg asked.
"The old scar on his shoulder, the one underneath the knife cut, was a ricochet into his shoulder, went three inches deep. He had tylenol," Eric said as he walked in. "What's going on? I moved the kid back so he wouldn't hurt him."
"I'd never hurt a kid," Palmer said firmly.
"You swung a baseball bat at his dad and it could easily have hit him if Xander ducked wrong." He looked at him. "Please put back on your shirt?" Xander grabbed it and tried. Prestons put it over his neck and helped. "Thanks. Were they that bruised earlier?"
"I wasn't paying attention. Ask Horatio. He told me not to look. My leg reopened, Eric."
"I can see that, it's bleeding." He looked at it. "Can't we get it to stop?"
"We nearly had it but when he moved to put on his shirt again it reopened."
"Sorry." Eric looked at Xander's head. "Let's take a picture of that for the records. They'll need one in the DA's office." He smoothed out the hair with his fingers and took a picture, then put a small right angle ruler next to it, taking another one. "Any others?"
"He hit my right shoulder, but you won't be able to get a good bruise shot." That got a nod. "You can?"
"Agreeing with you. If I remember right, Warrick said you hit him in the mouth." He tipped Palmer's face up. "I can get that. Hold still, please?"
"No, I'm going to drop this."
"Horatio's not. You attacked his husband and his son, plus his dog. Not happenin'," Eric noted.
"No," Eric told him. "Horatio said it's not happening. He attacked you. He attacked you with your son standing there. I don't care if you did protect Eric by taking the hit, tough. Horatio said to tell you he said so." Xander sighed at that. "Now, let's see what we can do about your leg. You cannot practice until that's fully healed and the bone too." He moved the camera and got down to help. "Let me see. I've treated his other ones." That got a nod and Xander smacked him on the head. "Xander!"
"I've seen your last fourteen HIV tests. I know damn well you don't have anything."
"Why?" Prestons asked.
"I'm coaching him in swimming, Prestons. I've demanded to see them and all his physicals as well. Xander has this nasty habit of hiding injuries from us." He looked in his eyes. "Like the concussion."
"No, he told the IAB guy he was very cute when he was spinning," Prestons offered dryly.
"Okay, not hiding it."
"He dressed like Mulder. You know how much I like to cackle at the X-Files."
Eric looked at him. "Don't make me smack you." He went back to work on Xander's leg. "It's not stopping. It's slowing."
"Slowing is good. Can we bandage it really tightly with a pressure bandage and put the cast back on?"
"Why did you take it off?" Eric demanded.
"I was checking it for weapons and for it to be a fake. I pressed a bit. He yelped. He said it was feeling odd so asked for the chair so he could check it. He found a plastic knife. It started to spurt."
"It happens." He shifted his grip a bit higher and it stopped. "I don't want to put on a tourniquet."
"That's usually a bad idea," Alexx said as she walked in. "What happened?"
"It started to bleed, Alexx. It was seeping but when I put pressure on it it started to get worse."
"It happens sometimes." She moved Eric after she had on gloves, grimacing at it. "Broken?"
"Poor baby." She looked at him. "Why did you escape from the hospital?"
"Hospitals are for sick people. All I needed was some rest and some painkillers."
She gave him a look. "I'll lecture you on how *stupid* that was when you're better." She got back to work on it. "Any internal stitches?"
"Not a clue. Scan the little chip in the back of my neck and get the medical records. No one told me, even when I woke up looking like the bloated Mummy."
"Don't remind me of that case," Eric pleaded.
"Sorry, Eric." He frowned at him. "Seriously?"
"I'll tell you for a bedtime story if you're not back in the ER."
"No, I can get it stopped," she promised. She undid another staple and the bleeding slowed. "Yeah, it shifted some." She shifted his leg. "Xander, hold onto Eric's arm." Xander did that with a sigh. "Do not kick me. Your bone shifted."
"Just do it already," Xander complained. "I'm not that weak, Alexx." She shrugged and shifted the bone back. Everyone else grimaced at the grinding. "Too far." She gave him a look. "It is. It's pressing on the other one." He leaned down then hissed. Then he grabbed what he needed to pushed. It ground back into place. He panted and let it out. "Okay, check that?" She checked it then straightened out his leg again. It shifted slightly then stayed. "That good?"
"That's good but I'm going to beat you senseless." She took some bandages and did it back up, then his air cast. "Horatio and I, we're going to have a long talk, baby." She patted him on the cheek.
"Alexx, head injury," Eric warned. "Bat to the head."
"Uh-huh." She glared at the other man in the room. "You did what?"
"Alexx," Xander ground out. "Quit."
"No! He hit you! With a bat! When you were on crutches!"
"With his dog and son there," Eric said.
"Eric!" Xander whined. "We don't want to have to clean up a body in here!"
"Baby, I'd take him out into the Everglades so no one would *ever* have to pick up a body," she assured him. "You did *what* near a toddler!" she shouted, turning back on him. "You swung a *bat* near a *toddler*! A sweet, slightly innocent, toddler! How could you! Do you have no humanity! No shame! No common sense! Someone should take that bat and shove it where the sun don't shine! I'll make sure you never...." Eric grabbed her and walked her backwards. "Let go of me, Eric Delko, or I'm going to make your existence a living hell! Put me down!" she yelled.
"No! I'm not that stupid!"
"I'm gonna knock you stupid! Put me down!"
Speed leaned in. "Is he being charged or not? If not, we need to bring Xander home so she has someone to fuss over and calm down on." The plastic knife and Xander's crutches were handed back and he was helped up. Speed followed him out. "No pressure on that leg, kiddo." He patted him on the back.
"Why did it have to break open?" he complained. "I hate being fussed over. This is why I hide!"
"Suck it up. It's a good thing. You know, I'm having deja vu. Didn't we have this talk when we brought you back from Montreal that time?" He swatted him on the back of the head, getting a yelp. "Suck it up. You're tougher than that." He got him into the hummer, letting Alexx settle him between her and Eric. "Are you calm?"
"Hell no! That man had better be in jail!" She looked at Xander's leg. "How did it feel when you hopped?"
"Fine. You know, we're supposed to go to Ethan's tonight. He could probably try a healing spell."
"Nope, not with it in a report," Eric said happily. Horatio had already told him he couldn't do that. "Home, Speed. Where's Horatio?"
"Cuddling the son." He backed out and headed home. "Do we need to go over how stupid that was?"
"It was the right thing to do. I'm not going to use Horatio's position to get out of shit."
"He's right," Eric offered. "It would be wrong for him to use Horatio's position to get out of things like that. Even if it was stupid."
Speed paused at a stop sign and looked back. "There are times when we need him to act like a princess. Not go in and act like Xander of Sunnydale's protection squad." At the honk he went on. "Because that's what he did. They pulled his record and he answered. That was appropriate. Him going into thug mode wasn't."
"I did not."
"I got it on tape, we'll talk about it tomorrow." He pulled back up to the gates. "We're back. He might be back later," he admitted.
"We heard. Is everything okay? Is he in trouble?"
"No, he's fine. A bit of a problem with his leg, but he's fine."
"I'm good, guys. Just a bit dizzy and my leg started to bleed when the bone shifted. I'm not sure if they're still going to charge him or not. I reminded him Miami was the second biggest gay boy capitol of the world. He didn't look happy. Apparently I'm ruining his retirement by being myself."
"It's his own problems, not yours. If he can't accept you as you are there's no reason for him to associate."
"He lives on the other street," the guard noted. "Captain Caine is hovering in the door." That got a smile and they headed back. He finished his copious notes in the log and filed it with the company. He got back a response and called his boss. "Yes, sir?" He listened. "No, sir. Mr. Palmer decided to attack Mr. Harris while he was walking his dog on his own street. Mr. Palmer lives on the other one. He's also the one who put graffiti on his house and did their lawn. Yes, sir, those. The cars? No, sir, that was an inheritance that they're struggling to deal with. Apparently someone Captain Caine had to take down killed himself in custody and left them to him because he was the stronger man." He listened. "No, sir, it's not Mr. Harris's fault. Mr. Palmer walked up to him the day he moved in to complain about the gay couples in the neighborhood because he heard he knew you, sir. He came to complain and after Mr. Harris assured him he would leave him alone if left alone, he came back and tagged his house. He dug up his lawn, poured on cow's blood. We got him after he tagged and the cops let him go, deciding he was delusional. Gave him back to his wife. The next time, Captain Caine got pushy when they found him going to put a doll on the bloody lawn. He was arrested, put on probation, and tonight he attacked him. Baseball bat with his son right beside him and Mr. Harris on crutches from his injuries the other day." Horatio walked in. "Hold on, sir. Yes, Captain."
"Is there a problem?"
"Not particularly. My boss wanted an update."
"If that man comes back to try to harm my family again, I'm going to have him put in jail for attempted homicide for this time. Two counts, plus intentional attempted injury and cruelty to an animal. He knew what he was doing. He was going to kill them both. Tonight, he's going to be charged with assault. I have thoroughly had enough of this man. Especially since he blames *Xander*, not me, *Xander* for ruining his retirement."
"Which is insane, sir. Is he one of his stalker idiots?"
"That's something I have to check," he admitted. "Where was he from originally?"
"Thank you. Tell your boss he can call me if he wishes to speak on this. We have no intention of causing trouble. We like it here because it's quiet and safe. Usually. You guards do an excellent job."
"Thank you, sir, but, um, it was asked when you're going to move the cars?"
"Someone's coming to get the atrociously painted hummers tomorrow for a repaint. The cars are going to the other location to be dealt with. Because I've had enough of them as well."
"The truck today?"
"Remember the people who broke into his house to attack us all so they could have him back?"
"The Englishmen, right?" Horatio nodded. "Them?"
"One of them sent him a very ancient chemistry set so he could fight the demonic voices going on around him."
"Ah. How long should this spurt last?"
"We're hoping it's done by the end of the year."
"I wish you luck with that sir." He listened to his boss. "He said you're in the clear, sir. He hopes you do get the last of his stalkers done with. And please do move those cars within a week."
"If at all possible. Tell the Captain I said hello." He walked back home. He found Eric clinging to his father's chest while Alexx worked on his leg. "It'll be all right, Eric. I promise, it will be all right." He stroked over his dark hair, then his mate's. "Everything will be just fine. I'll protect you and daddy both." Eric looked up at him. "I promise I will. The bad man will not come near you ever again." Eric gave him a gentle smile and went back to clinging to his daddy's chest. "Good boy, you hug the daddy. We both love you."
Eric nodded. "We have cookies?"
"Xander can't have a cookie until Alexx is done with his leg. You may have a cookie because you followed orders exactly as I wanted you to," he praised. Eric smiled at that. "You listened very well when we trained you and Percival both, Eric. Very well done." That got another smile. The dog gave a gentle bark. "Yes, you were a good boy too, Percival. It was a good boy to protect the Eric. Very good boy. Let's get you both a treat." He went to do that, coming back with two cookies for his son and some wet food and dog biscuits for the dog. "Good boy, Percival." He gave him ear and belly scratches then let him have the food. "Very good boy for protecting your boy and your master." He looked at Xander. "You trained him very well, Xander. He did very good. I'm very proud of him and you tonight."
"So was I until he decided to smart off when Prestons checked his record. The officers stared at him and he said not to treat him any differently," Speed offered when Horatio looked at him. "One of the sergeants came over to see what was going on. Xander told him it was a gay bashing, that he didn't want to be treated any differently. That he wasn't going to use you to get out of shit, like he didn't use you to get out of speeding tickets."
"Good to know. How many speeding tickets?"
"Four," Xander said grimly. "I went and did that six hour class thingy and passed it so I took three of them away already."
"Too many tickets means no license," he reminded him.
"Two of them were from pursuits and could have been cleared anyway. One of them was in the porsche and the other was probably also in the porsche," Speed decided. Xander nodded. "He told them all to treat him normally. When they heard it was a bashing, they put on Prestons, the big, redneck idiot with the swastika?" Horatio moaned. "Him. Yeah."
"The one who asked me if he should make out the speeding ticket to your pussy, dear," Xander agreed. "He brought us back into a room. He smarted off about the crutches. I pointed out I had a broken leg and ribs, and multiple bruises. He checked the cast." Alexx glared at him. "Checking it for contraband," he said firmly.
"In other words it broke right after that," she said dryly.
Speed nodded. "Yup. Then the scum bucket of IAB came in, taunted him how he couldn't use you anyway. Xander stood up to him. They exchanged words, Xander stood up to get into his face, resting against the desk. Clearly resting against the desk. Prestons checked backgrounds after hearing them out. He went over Xander's record in detail, how some things got noted, that sort of thing. Xander told him he was a member of the Sunnydale Protection Society. The IAB guy recognized that name. He mentioned Willow as well," he offered. "He went into the other guy's record after Xander told the IAB scumbucket that he looked good in the twirly lights. Eric came in, took photos of his head. Xander requested to look at his leg. No, Eric came in after that. They were working on his leg by then. Xander felt something off and asked to look at his leg, they kicked a chair over, he took off his cast, and seeping did occur. They got to work on it. Another officer came in, Xander had to remind him to put on gloves. Something about he only had a CPR card and he knew that. Guy did that, got him some more papertowels because by this time it's more than seeping."
"The pressure put on it squeezed the vein the wrong way, Horatio," Alexx offered, finishing off the stitches and rebandaging the leg. "It happens to the best of us. I couldn't say for sure if it was the *checking* of the cast or not." She looked at Xander. "Only he could."
"I may hate the guy but I'm pleading the fifth."
"We'll get into that later. They're working on stopping the bleeding when Eric shows up?"
"Yup," Eric agreed. "Xander yelled at me about the glove thing too. I reminded him I'd seen his last fourteen HIV tests and all his physicals results. I got a funny look and told them I was his coach for swimming stuff. Palmer started to look but I got him back into his seat while I tried to help slow it. Pushing further up helped, Alexx."
"Of course it did. That cut off the blood flow." She looked at Horatio. "By then I was there. They had Xander without his shirt to check his shoulder, and by the way, were his ribs that bruised earlier?"
"No, that was when I ducked wrong," Xander told her. "I still didn't pay attention to it but it felt like I broke another one when I moved. They had me put back on my shirt, which took some help from Prestons, and then Palmer started to stutter and complain about that. He asked me about military service. He thought I didn't serve due to being gay. I told him it was because dad sent me down here to you guys right after graduation." The door slammed and he flinched. "Don't do that!"
"Why not?" Don asked. "I always slam the door. New Yorkers do that, and why is your cast off?"
"It started to bleed when I was custody."
"Why were you in custody?" he asked calmly.
"Is my sister home?" Eric asked.
"Yeah, and her mother and she are talking outfits. Xander?" he asked patiently, looking at him again. "What the fuck happened?"
"Do *not* swear in front of the children," Alexx snapped.
Don backed up. "Jeez, mom, chill! Eric knows he can't say that word." Eric nodded at that, making everyone smile. "See. It's a bad adult habit, like smoking and drugs." He looked at Xander again. "I'm still waiting for an explanation?"
"If I tell you, you'll throw a fit and scare Eric more," Xander said calmly.
"Me not scared now. Daddy 'Oro fix everything," Eric said firmly.
"That's right, he does," Xander agreed, smiling and kissing him on the forehead. "You're a brilliant little boy to know that Daddy Horatio can fix anything." He beamed at that. "Now, would you like to hug Uncle Don while he puts you to bed?"
"More cookies for being smart?"
Horatio and Alexx both laughed. "Oh, he's fine. He's soaking it for everything it's worth," Alexx said dryly. "Come on, pumpkin, we'll get you another cookie and I'll put you to bed."
Eric looked at her. "I not understand."
"What, dear? What don't you understand?"
"If Grandpa like daddy and Uncle 'Oro, why you not?"
"You mean a boy?"
"No, he's just started to notice people are different races," Di explained from her seat at the table. "We've been explaining to him slowly. We're hoping we're going to do better than we did with milk and breast feeding."
She gave her a look. "I remember hearing the moos. You tried, dear, you tried so hard."
"Yup, until the cow wandered up to my parent's anniversary party," bigger Eric sighed.
"And the idiot calls me," Danny called from the kitchen. "Because supposedly I know cows?"
"I figured Monroe is always around and you could ask her. Not like I have her number in my phone," Xander defended. He tapped Eric on the head, getting an attentive child. "You know what adoption is, right? Like your friend Merle from up the street? His parents wanted a baby so much that they took in one that didn't have parents who could take care of him. Remember that talk?" Eric nodded, smiling at that. "Well, adoptions can happen between bigger people too. See, Alexx is a great, big, huge mommy person who wants to nuzzle and cuddle everyone!" Eric beamed at that. "When Grandpa Speed started to work at the lab, she saw he needed a mommy since his was so far away."
"She lives up past where I do, kiddo. Way, way far away," Don explained.
"Oh. 'Kay. So she not visit?"
"Not hardly ever," Speed agreed. "So Alexx adopted me."
"Oh. But you big."
"Even big people need a mommy sometimes," Alexx told him. "Especially your Grandpa Speed. He does silly stuff sometimes." Eric giggled at that. "Mm-hm. I see you've seen some of them. That's why I adopted him. It didn't matter to me that he's the palest of my kids, he's still one of my kids."
"Okay, I understand now."
"Good. That just proves you're going to be a genius when you get bigger. Now, let's get you a cookie and then to bed."
"I have two cookies 'cause I'm so smart?" he asked with an impish grin that usually got him his way anyway. "Pwease, granmma?"
"Fine." She picked him up. "Kiss the daddy so you can both go to bed." Eric kissed him then Daddy Horatio, then everyone else, grabbed his cookies and let her get him changed while he ate them. Then she helped him brush his teeth and into bed. She came down the stairs. "He doesn't say grace?"
"Wiccan, Alexx," Di reminded him. "We don't exactly have an evening grace."
"Oh. Okay. Do you greet the sun?"
"Only when my son makes me." She laughed at that. Di looked at her. "Who's kidding? I will say thinks for my cornflakes and everything else I eat. I will say thanks for rain and clouds and all sorts of weather. I will not greet the sun cheerfully at any given time. I was meant to be a night baby."
"A toddler is something that will always get you up at dawn," Alexx agreed. She checked Xander's leg, then looked at Horatio. "Bed bath. Don't even try to cover it or let him stand tonight. Either he sleeps there or you carry his butt to bed and give him a bed bath in the morning. I want no weight on that leg. Or else I will spank you." She gathered up her things. "You guys have a better night." She smiled at Don because he walked her out to her car. "Thank you, sugar."
"My mommy tried to beat manners into me," he quipped. She laughed as she drove away. He walked back inside, this time not slamming the door. "So what happened?" he asked again, leaning on the back of the couch. "Because you look like you suddenly have a concussion. Tell me you didn't fall while hopping off with the dog."
"No, the guy with the baseball bat made him fall while he was hopping around with the dog and the son," bigger Eric told him. "That's why we couldn't tell you when he was down here. You'd have a hissy."
"Yup. Gonna go down to the water and have one now." He went out the back door to do that, joining Taylor down there. He was even nice enough to let her cry on him. That's the sort of guy he was after all. Then he threw a hissy fit. Then he called Mac and Stella, getting an angry, growling Stella who demanded to know why she couldn't have sex without phone calls. "Because you leave the phone on." She growled some more. "Their neighbor tried to bash Xander." She quit panting and got silent. "He's got a concussion and something's more wrong with his leg. Alexx just went home. The son was clinging because apparently he and the dog were out there." He felt something cold against his shoulder and turned, smiling at Di. "Thanks, Di." He took the beer to sip. "No, she, Taylor, and I are at the water but I think Taylor's going to be cuddled to death now." Taylor nodded, letting Di take her home. "So anyway, Xander was apparently almost arrested. His leg opened somehow in custody. Not sure how. All I really got was the 'someone tried to kill him while he was hopping around with the son and the dog' part." He took a drink of his beer. "So, how's my city?" She groaned and said something. "Maybe. Oh, possibly big news as well. Nope. For that you've got to come down." He hung up and finished his beer, then took the empty inside to toss away and look at the empty couch. "He carry Xander to bed?"
"To the bathroom and then to bed," Speed offered. "Stella growl at you? She did when Danny tried to call."
"Yup. Mac should call soon. She was either having a lot of fun alone or he was mostly brainless. Didn't hear him at that moment."
"Big shock, but he's not a real screamer," Danny offered as he brought out some food. Eric gave him an odd look. "What? It's a good way of wearing out stress when I can't hit someone." The baby started to sniffle. "I got her." He pushed Eric out of his way when he tried to get Tia, winning that race easily. "Hey, baby girl. It's the Uncle Danny," he cooed, picking her up. "Ooh, someone needs a change." He changed her and brought her downstairs for a while, taking the bottle Speed made up. "Ahhhh, there you go," he praised. She fussed a bit and wiggled.
"She likes to be rocked," Eric told him.
"There was one of those upstairs." He walked her back up there, flipping on the nightlight. The room glowed softly, all the white was glowing back at him. He smiled and settled into the rocking chair to feed her, staring out the window with her. "Hmm, you can look right into Di and Taylor's bedroom from here," he noted, getting comfortable to watch the show while he fed his honorary niece. Xander yelped and he smirked. "Someone's getting a spanking."
"Not unless he never wants to have my son again," Speed said from the doorway. "That is the one thing Xander will walk away for. Being hit." He looked at his granddaughter. "Hey, Tia. Want the bed?" She gurgled and cooed, seemingly perfectly content. He looked out the window, seeing why. "She will kill us." He reminded himself he was taken and sighed as he walked away to gather Calleigh from the guest room.
Danny continued to rock her and watch. He'd go back to the condo later and take care of himself.
"Messer," Don said from the doorway. "What are you doing?" he demanded. He came in and caught sight of what he was doing. "Whoa. Pretty. Give me the baby before she decides she's like that and breaks her mommy's heart." He put the baby down and got her settled, getting a sleepy smile. "There you go, Tia. You're a good girl. A very good girl. You nap now. The Daddy Horatio will get up the next time you yell." The baby yawned and fell asleep. He yanked Danny up by the collar and gave him a nudge toward the stairs. "I'll drive. Go." He waved at Eric as they passed him. "Nursery looks right into their window. Might wanna warn 'em tomorrow."
"She knows," Eric assured him. "That's just Di. She have on the leather again tonight?" Danny moaned at that. "Now you know why I moved the rocking chair there. Shoo, go. Before Tia decides that being rocked is an all-night thing." They disappeared, Don driving Danny home so he could blow that off. Eric snuck up there but Horatio came out and kicked him out, locking the door behind him. "Hey!" he complained. "Momma said I should stay."
"We're not a threesome, Eric, go home."
"Fine. Spoil sport." He smiled at the guard. "The nursery looks right into Di's window in the right light. Gotta remind of her that tomorrow." He got into his car and drove home, leaving one imagining guard with too long of a remaining shift.
Xander was helped into the station the next morning, not putting any pressure on his bad leg. He was wearing tight cutoffs, as requested, but a looser button up shirt since his ribs really hurt today. Horatio followed. "Yes, it's me. It's all that fits over the cast and it needs to be cleared since it was bleeding."
"We heard. You okay?"
"Nope. I ache like fuck. I hate broken ribs. Broken ribs and paperwork together are quickly climbing up my shitlist as well," he complained. The guard smiled. "Yes, my ribs ache. I ache. All over ache. I'm going to take a nap on the couch now." That got a bigger smile. "If Marisol comes by with the kids, they're expected. Send them up to wake me up so I can take them home."
"With a broken leg and broken ribs?"
Xander looked at him. "Didn't you know I do the impossible before breakfast?"
"That means he resists the urge to cook," Horatio offered, getting them into the elevator. "Sorry, he babbles when he's in pain."
The guard waited until they were out of sight before calling his friend in dispatch, who spread it around. They could call off the pout-a-thon! Even if it was for a bad reason.
"Did I not say no walking?" Alexx demanded when she saw them.
"Grandma, no weight on the foot," Xander said patiently. He looked at the stairs and sighed, leaning on the railing on his injured side so he could move up them slowly and carefully. Even if it was killing his ribs to bend toward them. He passed by Ryan. "I hate broken ribs."
"I hear ya. Had 'em once. Never want them again." He looked at Xander. "I thought you did a healing thing."
"I did. It left me with a broken leg, broken ribs, and bruises."
"I can see that. You can see some of them very well really." He looked at Horatio. "Is he okay?"
"No. He's stubborn."
"His picture's next to stubborn in the dictionary. You knew that before you married him, Horatio. Is he all right otherwise?"
"The broken legs and ribs are on the same side. His leg reopened last night. He's not in a kind and gentle mood."
"Oh, good." He handed over the file he was working on. "Stevenson. Dead three hours when we got there. Looked like piranha had gotten her. Alexx said she reeks of PCP. On the skin, in her mouth. In her nose. In her ears. She thinks she took a bath in it. I'm calling the local ERs to see if anyone came in vomiting chunks of human."
"Thank you. Keep an ear out for him if I'm not here."
"How is that last will going?"
"Being debated in Dubai, Horatio. I'm still here. Mac has it. Oh, and your phone is blinking up a storm. Rang all morning."
"Thank you." He went that way, finding Xander curled up on his uninjured side and trying to sleep. "Did it ring?"
"It did. I answered it. Told the Chief to give you twenty, you were being briefed. He asked me what happened last night, I told him I hit the guy with the bat back. That my leg opened when the cast was being checked for contraband. It took three very nice officers and Alexx to get it stopped. Plus Prestons who I didn't like but he didn't make it any worse." Horatio snorted. "When it was already bleeding. Besides, it could've been from all the walking. I'm pretty sure it was feeling odd and shifting while I was taking the dog for a hop." He yawned. "Lay off him, dear."
"Fine. You know, one of these days, I'll have to protect you."
"Yes, and the greater majority of the city fears that day," Speed said from the doorway. "The Chief called me to see about the gay bashing. I told him what Xander told him was correct. He had hit the asshole back who was trying to take him and his son and his dog out. He growled for some reason. I'm not sure why since he doesn't like Xander."
"He likes me just fine. I'm his favorite target but only his," Xander said tiredly. "Can I nap?"
"Treasury had more paperwork."
"They can open that damn box too," Xander said dryly. "I'll be here."
"Good. Don't move." He looked around then back at him. "You think maybe you want to nap in the break room since it'll be by the bathrooms?"
"Nope. No couches. I'm staying right here. I can hold it until lunchtime when I'm going home with the kids."
"Diana's taking the children all day today," Horatio told him. "She said so." Xander opened an eye then snorted and shook his head, closing it again. "Did you want a drink and some tylenol?"
"No thanks. Drinking means having to pee and I hate peeing sitting down. Don't know how women can stand it and they definitely have got to have problems peeing into a sample cup. Not like they fit against them or anything."
"I'll get him some caffeine," Speed promised, going to do that. He handed it over and got paged to go onto a call. "Going out," he called as he walked away.
When Horatio got summoned he got waved off by his tired mate "Just close the door so they have to knock."
"That's fine." He did that on his way out. He stopped on at the patrol desk. "My husband is resting in my office. He's now got four broken ribs, possibly five, and a leg that needs to be checked by Alexx around lunch if I'm not back. No one is to disturb him except for the agent from the Treasury. He has to sign some paperwork and that shouldn't do more than annoy the agent." That got a nod. "No standing and leering, he's in a cranky mood with the pain." He headed off, knowing he had hit one of the Xander underground with the horrified but sheepish look she had on her face. He headed out to the call with Speed, finding a dead officer. "What happened?"
"He stopped a traffic stop and they shot him. I called you because the camera's tape shows a hummer just like ours." He looked at him, then nodded at where he had it queued up in his hummer's AV gear. "You need to watch that."
Horatio went to watch it, trying to make out the license plate. He called Tyler. "I am sending you a priority video. I want a plate and description of the hummer ASAP. An officer was killed and this is patrol video. Quietly, Tyler." He hit the button to transmit it, listening as he enlarged what he needed to and gave him information. "Which one is that?" He wrote that down. "Thank you." He hung up. "It's the other lab's and it's been reported missing for two days. He's working on the tape to see if he can find a driver."
"Okay, good. Alexx has yet to come, but we're good then." Horatio nodded, helping him get to work processing the scene.
Xander was woken by a brisk knocking. "Unless your the fucking tooth fairy or the treasury go away, I'm in pain."
The door opened to show a man in his late thirties. "I am with the Treasury and you should be more respectful."
"I've got four broken ribs and a broken leg. Bite me. What did you need me to come out of my comfy, warm, closer-to-the-bathroom bed for?"
"You're Mr. Harris?"
"The shorts were the only thing that would fit over top of the cast since it has to be open in case it starts to bleed again," he said patiently. "Again, I'm not taking anything for the pain and I'm not home in bed." The man came forward and handed over forms. He looked at the first one then glared at him. "No I didn't."
"There's no way you could have known that without hacking into the surveillance systems."
"Yeah, I could have. Some of us do keep track of what we do in our boxes and how much we put in there. I have Horatio's nephew do that for me. You can call him in since he's playing hookie today to spend it with his girlfriend." He looked horrified. "That's right, I pay Ray Jr. to do my accounting, even after taking accounting one. We knew exactly what was in there. We have known exactly what was in there. The few times I forgot to write it down, we did a count. Between that and some limited in-box surveillance gear that I got in Time's Square, I pretty well knew what was going on. That's why I called the SEC."
"Why did you call someone on the board of the bank?"
"Because I'm friends with his wife and I'm pretty sure he wasn't in on it. He's always been very upright and honest about stuff. He's known for it. I figured if they couldn't and you couldn't, he could figure out what was going on and fix the problem for me. He did, it was amazing, he even presented the SEC with who had done it and how. Then this one happened and I went to him first. He authorized me to put back on in-box surveillance to see who got into my boxes. He agreed, something bad was going on. Again, he was right. I like that man, he's a good man. His wife's very nice as well and gave me heartfelt congratulations when I came in second in most of my events at Nationals." The phone rang. "Help me up." He got helped up and hopped over. "Caine's office." He listened. "Yes, I am the secretary. Can I take a message?" He wrote it down and nodded a few times. "I'll let him know when he comes back. Anything else?" He smiled. "Okay, and husband but part-time secretary while injured. Thanks, Fornell." He hung up and hopped back, laying down again. He handed back the paperwork he had dropped. "Anything else, Agent-whoever-you-are-since-you're-too-rude-to-introduce-yourself?"
He blinked at him. "You have a lot of attitude for a civilian."
"I'm in pain, mister. I could care less right now what the fuck you wanted, thought, hoped, dreamed, or fantasized about. All I care about right now is my four broken ribs and my broken leg. Anything else?" He stomped off. "Thank you for not closing the door as well." He pushed down the legs of his shorts and got comfortable again. Two patrol officers came to the door and he waved. "Horatio said to wait for him in here."
"And you are, sir?"
Xander opened his eyes and glared. "His spouse." One stepped back. "Someone come get these people!" he yelled. "Before I have to get up again and make Alexx crankier with me!" Ryan came jogging up and pulled the guys aside. "Thank you. Already had to get up once. Watch out for cranky treasury agents too."
"Xander, want some tylenol?" Ryan called.
"Four broken ribs and a leg. Won't help any. Let me nap."
"Okay. We can do that." He closed the door and heard the phone ring, going to answer it before Xander could do more than groan. "Horatio Caine's Office, CSI Wolfe speaking." He listened, then looked at the note on the desk. "No, it's still here, Fornell. Why?" He balled it up and made another one. "Thank you for telling us this. No, he's in pain. He's cranky. Four broken ribs, possibly five according to Horatio," Xander twirled a finger in the air at that, "and a broken leg." He smirked at him. "Sure, I'll tell him." He hung up. "Xander, even Fornell said you sounded cranky and he is the King of Cranky."
"Abby said that's Gibbs."
"Okay, then he's the Crown Prince of Cranky and he thinks you're cranky." Xander looked at him. "Sit up, let me check your ribs."
"Gee, you don't look like a Willow."
"Yay. I'm the next best thing." Xander sat up and put his leg up on the coffeetable. He unbuttoned his shirt and Ryan winced. "Ow. That bruise is spreading, isn't it?" Xander looked, then shrugged. "Who saw it last night?"
"Eric, and he's on a downed officer call by the radio I heard a few minutes ago."
"I heard. Okay. Let me call Alexx."
"I'll never hear the end of it."
"Better to be safe than sorry, right?"
"No, better to remain unskinned for things that aren't my fault than to be skinned because I had to get up answer the phone."
"Okay, who else saw them last night?"
"The bigot..." Well that would be an unbiased opinion. He looked outside, then sighed, looking up his commander's phone number. "You so owe me for not going to Alexx, Xander. It's Ryan Wolfe. Is Prestons still in or is he on night shift? No, he saw Harris's bruises last night and we need to compare to the present ones. No, just general life-sucks stuff I guess. He went from three last night to four, possibly five today we think. Yeah, that bruise. Please. Thank you. His husband's office growling at the treasury guy in the doorway here to harass him. Thank you." He hung up. "He's on lunch anyway."
"I'll give him money for fast food," Xander said, shifting and wincing.
"What the hell happened to him? Was he in custody then?"
"Only of the asshole who wanted to use him as game." Prestons stomped up and Calleigh came running behind him. "You, no running. I will tell him. I need his help on something." She scowled. He glared back. "I'm so telling him you were running."
"Just because you were the most overprotective husband on the face of the earth...."
"I'm telling Alexx," Xander growled. He glared at her. She stomped off, moving the other officers out of the way. Xander dug out his wallet. "Here, since I'm taking your lunch break. He wanted a comparison of the bruise on my ribs." He moved his shirt out of the way.
"It's spread. At least down another two ribs." He looked at Wolfe. "You didn't get to see it?"
"No, this is my only day here and I had magistrate duties last night so we didn't make it to dinner for the gay bashing either. A lot different?"
"A lot. It's deeper around too." He grimaced. "That's gotta hurt." Xander nodded. "You might wanna go for that."
"Can't do anything for broken ribs."
"They can knock you out."
"I was trying to take a nap but the treasury agent woke me up and then I had to get the phone. Thank you."
"I may not like you or your husband but I don't believe in letting human beings suffer that way. How's your leg?"
"Alexx said the bone shifted against the vein and ripped into it."
"Ah. Sorry I checked it."
"Could've been me taking the dog for a hop, man. I told Horatio that, repeatedly."
"Thanks." He looked at the twenty. "I'm only hitting Burger King."
"Then get dinner too. You kept him from calling Alexx again."
"That's one scary woman," he agreed heading out. "Have a better life."
"You too." He looked down as he redid his shirt. "So I was right, it's now four ribs."
"Hold on, let me palp," Ryan offered, coming over to do that. He winced at the shifting under the very gentle pressure and Xander's yelping. "You are so going to the ER. I don't care if you don't like it."
"Excuse me, I need my suspect here," the treasury agent noted dryly. "I know he had something to do with the theft."
"As the victim," Ryan said firmly, glaring at him. "You have anything further to say, you can say it to his spouse or his lawyer. I'm sure there's plenty of them who've loved his work in the past defending the gay community." He backed off. "Anything else?" He shook his head. "Then scram. Horatio is out with a downed officer and he's clearly in pain. Otherwise you'd have walked off crying by now."
"Hmm, that's an idea. I'm sure I can get Xander a knife if he needs one," Alexx said smoothly. "What are you accusing Horatio's husband of?" He went very pale. "I see. Is it founded?" He backed up and disappeared. But it had given Ryan and Xander the time to do up his shirt. "How's the leg and shouldn't you be laying down?"
"I sat up to deal with him."
"Calleigh was running up the stairs behind Prestons, who cam in to check on him and make sure it wasn't his checking the cast that had hurt him," Ryan told her. "But make him sound more human if you say anything. He did look kinda worried."
"I told him it was probably me going for a hop with the dog."
"Uh-huh. I doubt it." She got down to open his cast carefully, looking at his leg. "Were you up?"
"I had to hop and get the phone. Ringing phones annoy me." She snorted at that and tested around the edges, making him hiss. "Ow, Alexx."
"You should be seen again, Xander." She looked at him. "Why are you so pale?"
"You hurt me," he pouted.
"That means it might be getting infected." He pouted. "We'll see later. Let's put some heat on it for now," she sighed. She knew she wasn't going to win. "Why was he really up here?"
"Doing me a favor and filling me in about last night," Ryan offered. "Calleigh was still running up the stairs after him."
"I'll see her next." She found the heating pad in Horatio's desk, looking at the note on top. "What's this about?"
"The Treasury case, about the hacker." He noticed Xander frowned at that. "You know who did it?"
"Of course I do. I didn't ask but I do." He shrugged and winced. "I know everything, didn't you know that?" One of the rookies leaned in. "We're fine."
"I'm sure you are, sir, but are you a suspect?"
"No, he's a spouse. The trashy shorts are all he could wear with the cast, dear. Why?"
"Just wondering what was going on, ma'am. I was told to lurk around here and watch out for anything suspicious."
"That would be me trying to get up and hop away," Xander told her.
"You move from that couch and I will tan your ass," Alexx assured him.
"We do realize that Natalia put the bathrooms downstairs?" Xander suggested. She gave him a horrified look. "Let's be thankful that I'm not at the stage I was the day it happened, when I had to do an enema because my stomach was blocked by the swelling."
"That was dangerous."
"Had to before. Still nasty. Not my favorite thing in the world but I endure because others like it now and then." They both blushed at that. Horatio walked in. "Hey, dear. Fornell called. Info's on the notepad."
"Thank you, Xander. Didn't she tell you not to move?"
"Ryan got it the second time."
"I can tell by the handwriting." He looked up. "How is he, Alexx?"
"I'm worried he'll infect, Horatio."
"I'll call his regular doctor today to update him and get him some antibiotics." She smiled at that. "Any other orders?"
"Make sure he doesn't walk when he has to go to the little boy's room. His leg looks fine otherwise. I'm going to check on Calleigh. She was running earlier." She went to nag her too.
Horatio looked at Ryan, who was staring at his husband intently. "Something else happen?"
"He and the Treasury agent got into it. He thinks Xander had something to do with the theft," Ryan offered, turning to face him. And he knew Horatio knew that was a partial truth. He rolled his eyes since Xander couldn't see him. "I told him if he had any further question to come to you or his lawyer, that I'm sure you had one for idiots like him."
"We do, thank you. What was he trying to do?" Xander scooped up the paper ball and tossed it at him, letting him read it. "Very interesting. "Thank you for the help, Mr. Wolfe. Prestons was doing what in here?"
"Comparing his bruise and doing me a favor by sharing what happened last night while I was being bored by pros paying bail and fines."
"That's fine. Was he polite?"
"Very. We even made sure he could still get lunch."
"Thank you for looking out for him, Ryan. Anything new?"
"Two of them admitted it to the nurses. They're being brought in as soon as they're released. Another one's being hunted down at home. It was her idea to do the PCP and champagne enemas." Horatio and Xander both moaned. "She sweated it out of every orifice by the time she was killed. When they come in for final statements before booking I'll make sure Alexx agrees with them." That got a nod. "I love easy cases that make people turn green over dinner." He smiled and walked off.
Horatio closed his office door and sat down beside his mate, on his good side. " How are you feeling?"
"Cranky. Are you going to be able to see who shot him?"
"I am. We have a very good idea already." He stroked his cheek, then his forehead. "No fever."
"Pain around it."
"Hmm. That can indicate an infection. Should we go to the ER?"
"Only if you want to spend hours and hours waiting."
"Not particularly. I could call your doctor to get you something."
"We can pick up what I already have when we go to the meeting tonight."
"Plus the leftovers." He looked at his chest. "Let me look at your ribs." Someone briefly knocked and opened the door as he was reaching for a button. "Chief." He moved to the next one, ignoring the swatting.
"Must you two have sex in front of me?" he demanded bitterly.
"I'm checking his broken ribs, Chief. I wouldn't be undoing his shirt if we were having sex in here. There's too much traffic for anything more than a quickie." Xander blushed bright red at that. And then he saw the bruise. "Xander?" He looked at him. "How many are broken?"
"I think four, Ryan thought five."
"We are going to the ER."
"No, we can call my regular doctor and have him write orders to send me for x-rays."
"All right," he agreed, nodding at that. "Then you are going home to rest." He stood up and walked around his boss, who was staring in horror. "It had been three but then the attack last night made him duck and fall down. It may have broken others that were cracked before."
"No, during the assault."
"Oh, good. I've heard Prestons could be fairly rough."
"I shot back when he and I verbally jousted. To be honest, I'm in more pain now and much more cranky. Which is why there's a treasury agent cowering behind an FBI agent outside."
Horatio looked. "Glenda, it's Horatio. I need to have Xander sent in for more x-rays. The broken rib bruise on his side is spreading and he thinks he broke another one that had been cracked when someone tried to attack him last night. It's down most of his left side. Oh, and his leg broken open last night. The bone shifted and caused it to." He nodded. "Thank you, Glenda. Please. No, not University. We had issues there when the OB nurse tried to keep Xander from seeing our daughter. She's adorable. Of course, the next time we come in we'll bring her or a picture of her." He smiled. "That would be good. They know us and love us there. Thank you, Glenda. Chest, side, front, and back if possible and his right leg. Alexx thinks it may be infecting. Thanks." He hung up. "You, in here," he ordered. Agent Elliot walked in, the Feeb stayed outside. "You as well," Horatio ordered tolerantly. "Close the door," he ordered, losing patience fast.
"That's his going to spank someone voice. I'd follow it because we'll sell popcorn." The Chief gaped at him. "I'm in pain, I'm allowed to be fucking cranky if I want to be!"
"You are and quit swearing," Horatio ordered. "Now then. You made some allegations about my spouse doing what?" he demanded coldly. His glare got turned up higher.
"The only way he could've known..."
"Would be to actually do the responsible thing and keep track of his finances? Yes, I know. He pays my nephew to do it for him." He swallowed. Horatio's hands went to his hips, staring him down. "You are accusing the victim on circumstantial evidence. Evidence so flimsy that Deputy Director Fornell only needed to ask the tech who it got sent to who had hacked the system. It was Webber herself." He went pale at that. "She knew that something was going on. Someone had informed her of that and Xander is a friend of hers somehow. She did it for him." The FBI suit was typing her name into his PDA. "Just like it sounds," he said facetiously.
"Th...that would be in line with..with what we know about the hacker Webber," he stuttered, looking at Horatio. "She only works for good causes."
"Banks stealing the money of a friend and others would be a good cause, especially with an SEC case open, right?" Xander prompted. That got a nod from that suit. "Then why blame me?"
"Oh, no, sir, I'm not here for that. We'd like permission to use the sneezing virus on a local group of bigots that go by the name of the Patrick Benis Foundation."
"Really? Because I know them. They support gay rights," Xander noted dryly. He looked horrified. "Some of the board is gay and most of the board are police officers. Some in this very lab. What sort of bigots did you say they were again?"
"Um, causing sedition?"
"Let me see," Xander said, standing up and snatching the PDA before sitting back down. "Honey, they put the file back." He tossed it to him. He glared at him. "Do I look like a mother fucking bigot to your stupid, blind ass?" he demanded. He whimpered and wet himself. "Do I?"
"Are you fucking well certain?"
"Yes, sir," he squeaked.
"Xander, the language is getting out of hand," Horatio ordered.
"Yay." He glared at the man. "Name one thing that I've done that's caused sedition?"
"You take some officers off their shifts."
"Usually, we meet on weekends, planned weekends, planned long in advance so that doesn't happen. Every now and then a family emergency can crop up since most of the board is family of our own making. Besides, that's not sedition. That's playing hookie."
"But, Detective Messer...."
"Is probably downstairs in Trace. Chief, would you please open the door." He did that. "Daniel!" he shouted. "The stupid ass suit is claiming I'm being seditious by keeping you from working. Would you mind coming up here?" he bellowed.
"We could have used the phone, Xander," Horatio noted.
"Then I'd have to get up and risk opening my leg or hurting more ribs, dear." Danny came jogging up the stairs. "This...suit," he said with great distaste. "From Sears and not even on the good side of Sears. Not even on the so-so polyester side of Sears, thinks I'm spreading sedition the whole board is and being bigots, for doing things like sticking up for gay rights and gay students and keeping you off work."
Danny burst out laughing. "I'm down here on a death threat situation and fillin' in, you fucking moron."
"I've had enough of the swearing," Horatio snapped.
"Sorry, Horatio. My language will improve." He glared at him. "You think I'm a what?"
"Wha...what about Det...detective Flack?"
"He's playing with his nieces and nephews from Xander and Horatio. He's down for a tenant's meeting tonight." He swallowed at that. "Any other charges for your sedition case?"
"He destroyed our director. Plus, he went to New York with no bags and came back two days later with one. We think he was picking up drugs."
"That would be the DEA's job," Danny told him. "Did you ever think maybe he was *shopping*?" he asked, talking down to him. The man looked horrified. "Millions of people do it yearly in New York. Wonder why?" He backed out. "Oh, no. There's no way in *hell* I'm letting this one go on for another ten months like last time." He grabbed him by the collar. "Horatio, I'm going to use the video conferencing system if that's all right?"
"Go ahead, Danny. I know it's not a social call. Try to modulate your language in the labs."
"Of course. I do try." He smiled at the chief. "Thank you for harboring me while I was under death threat, sir." He walked/drug the other guy out and down the stairs. He ran into Speed. "We're seditious again."
"Really? Can I hurt him this time?"
"No, this time we're going to call Mac. He just blamed Xander for bringing down their director and going up to New York to shop."
"Interesting ploy. What about the treasury moron?"
"I do believe Ryan came down to the point of 'he has a lawyer, use him' and left it there."
"Hmm. Even better." He looked at Danny as they walked into the lab that had that set up. "Think she'd mind if I borrowed a mood swing? Or two?"
"Only if you give them back. What's wrong, boys?" Calleigh asked.
"We're seditious," Speed told her.
She looked at the Fed in Danny's grip, then dialed New York. Then she grabbed the guy and started to shake him. "What the heck are you doing, you stupid, moronic, vapid excuse for a *really* bad suit!"
"Calm down," Stella ordered from the screen. "What's up?"
"I merely came to ask if I could borrow one of those viruses that Agent Gibbs has to look into the vile bigots at the Patrick Benis Foundation."
"You mean the one Xander and Don Flack run?" Danny asked. "The one that we sit on the board of?" He went really pale and liquid joined the stain on his pants. "That's really pitiful, especially that it makes your suit look better." He looked at Mac as he joined Stella. "We thought you should be in on this one from the start. So far it's sedition because I'm down here, Don's down here, we have to have weekend meetings now and then, we ended up taking down their director, and Xander came up with nothing and went back with clothes." He closed the door with a push of his hand. "Sorry, but it's going to get tense," he called at the hurt sound. "And Horatio said to please not let him hear any more swearing in the lab." He smiled sweetly.
Mac walked closer to the camera. "Are they trying to ruin your career? Danny, can you three-way in Abby or Fornell?"
"I can definitely do Abby, not sure about Fornell." He dialed that number, he liked Abby and talked to her whenever he could. She came up on the screen and smiled, waving. "Sedition, again," he said, pointing at the suit.
"It's really pathetic that the urine stain makes it a nicer suit."
"I like my suit."
"That shows that you're stupid and you have bad taste," she noted dryly. "Why do you think it's sedition?"
"Missing work, me and Don, we took down their director, and Xander came home with luggage when he didn't go up with any."
"So, you're basing it on death threats that're keeping Danny in Miami thanks to a mafia trial that your office is screwing up. Don being down there to check on Xander, who was horribly injured recently. Your director going off the deep end and kidnaping Xander under threat of naming him an enemy combatant if he didn't allow himself to be raped and killed while being kidnaped by your director, and him going shopping?" She looked at him. "Now I know you're stupid. Hold on. Fornell is upstairs with Gibbs." She called up there. "Boss, need you and Fornell in the lab pronto for a conference call with Miami and New York. And a really ugly suit." She hung up and looked at Fornell as he charged in. "Don't they teach you how to dress better at the academy and to not piss yourself?" She pointed at him and Danny shook him again. "Let me replay so you don't have to repeat yourself." She replayed the tape she was making on their end.
Gibbs looked at him. "No, you can't use it. First, you went to the maker of the virus you wanted and you pissed him off. Second, you have no idea what you're accusing anyone of, you probably can't even spell sedition. Third, how damn dumb are you?" he shouted. "I've never met a more open group of people than that board! They're cops! And you think they're doing what!"
"Gibbs, let me," Fornell said calmly. "You will go back to your cubicle and wait on me. I will be down there by tonight. You are not to leave the office because you are an embarrassment to the FBI," he said in a cold voice with a glare that made Calleigh sniffle. "While there, you will try very hard not to talk to anyone or interact with anyone in case your wrongness is contagious. You will wait on me. I would take the time to clean up your desk and polish your resume. Am I understood?"
"Who are you to order me?"
"I am Deputy Director Fornell, DC branch." He shit himself. "Please have him escorted back, Detectives. I will bring the subject of this complaint to all three labs as soon as I wade through it."
"I love you guys," Calleigh sniffled. "You deserve a hug."
He looked at her. "You're pregnant aren't you?" She nodded.
"The baby wants to be like ADA Hammra too," Speed offered.
"That's a woman that even scares me," Abby admitted. "That says a lot."
"She got the hunter case," Gibbs told her. He smiled at Speed. "He okay?"
"We're down to a lot of bruises, broken ribs, and one broken leg. Healing spells are wonderful and he managed to sneak out of the hospital before doing one while confused."
Gibbs smirked. "That's the kid for you. I'm sure Mac was proud."
"Yes and no. Yes, that he could, no that he did. He wanted to hide."
"Yeah, my wives never let me do that either. Thanks for the laugh, kids. Fornell will be down tonight." They hung up on his cue and he looked at Fornell. "You didn't know he wrote two of those?"
"I hadn't heard that."
"He did. It was written totally differently than the others," Abby offered. "He doesn't have a whole lot of skill but it's a nice one. Very nice at giving you a wide open back door."
"I'll remember that. I wonder if Willow knows?"
"Nope, she still thinks he's a goofy tagalong kid at times."
"Interesting. She does have blind spots in her life." He went to make flight arrangements and find out who that idiot was before he went down so he could tell the new director he was going to fire him. Even if he was the president's second cousin.
Xander trudged into the house that night. Horatio had forgotten to take him to get x-rays, which was nice. He had spent a whole day avoiding a trip to the ER. Then again, he now ached even worse and he felt like he was going to die soon. He smiled at his son, who came running to see him. Then he looked at his mate. "If I begged, would you knock me out and go to the tenant's meeting without me?"
"No, why would I?"
"Because either someone knocks me out or I want morphine. Please?"
"Daddy's booboos hurt?" Eric asked.
Xander looked down and nodded. "A lot. Really a whole lot." He looked at his spouse. "You will have to treasure this because you will never hear it from me again, but please take me to get the x-rays and some pain killers? Please?"
Horatio pulled him closer to kiss him gently. "I'm sorry I didn't remember before now. Eric, go tell Mommy daddy has to get pictures taken of his ribs again. All right? We'll be back after the meeting."
"I'm cooking," Taylor called. She came out and looked at him. "He should probably be in bed."
"I'm going to pass out if we don't do something about the pain and the doc said I could have even more pretty pictures of my insides taken. We're going to do that." She nodded slowly. "Save us some." He turned and hopped out. "Can we take my car so you don't have to lift me into the hummer?" he called. Speed parked Calleigh's car. "Great. Give Horatio your keys so we can go to the x-ray people." Speed looked at him, not surrendering his keys. "Dad, I'm in pain. Either I go now or I'm going alone." Speed continued to stare at him so he headed for his car, inching his keys out of his pockets. He slid in with a wince. It was not a good day. And he remembered it was a standard too. Oh, well, guess his left foot was doing a lot today. He started the engine and backed out, heading for the hospital by himself since everyone else was stunned too stupid to help him. He parked and hopped inside, going to the registration desk. "I have x-rays I was supposed to come in for earlier. Harris?"
She typed him in. "I do see your name and that you are pre-registered by your doctor. It says you have a chip?" He nodded. "Where might it be?"
"Back of my neck. Safest place for it." He let her scan it. "How long? I've got broken ribs and a spreading bruise."
"I could have one of our ER nurses look at you."
"The ER is for sick people. Not much they can do for broken ribs anyway." She downloaded his file and uploaded it into their system, then smiled at him as she put the bracelet on his wrist. "Thank you. How long?"
"Probably shouldn't bee too long. So far not too many dinner accidents tonight. Go have a seat over there." She pointed at the waiting area. "The technician will call you in a few minutes, Mr. Harris."
He nodded his thanks and hopped over there, sitting down in one of the uncomfortable chairs, letting the pain overwhelm him until he was called about twenty minutes later. By then he was nearly stoned on the pain but the tech was still moving too fast. "Slow down," he snapped. She stopped to look at him. "Broken leg, at least four broken ribs, can't hop that fast and these floors are too slick to encourage it." She nodded and slowed down so he could keep up, letting him into one of the x-ray rooms.
"If you'll sit on the table, put your legs out straight and we'll do that first. If you wanted to take off your shirt now, you can also do that. Let me look at the cast, okay?"
"I bled yesterday. The bone shifted and popped some stitches open," he warned before she could touch it.
"That's not in your chart," she said, looking it over.
"I had our unofficial family doctor look at it after I got assaulted last night." She nodded, making a note of that. "I also have a mild concussion." She looked at him. "It's my twenty-third or so. I can tell." She made a note of that as well. "Thank you." He wiggled as best as he could out of his shirt, weathering her gasp. "Like I told the other one. The bruise is spreading and I'm in pain."
"I should get one of the ER nurses to look at that," she said worriedly.
"My doc can prescribe anything I need," he pointed out. "Just take the pretty pictures so he knows what sort of pain killers to give me before I kill. Again." She nodded, inserting some film and then adjusting the focus on the camera. Horatio walked in, giving him a dirty look. "That's my husband," he said at her opening mouth. "He was so shocked by me asking for a ride that he stood there."
"Do you want me to kick him out?"
"He'll handcuff you and have another tech do it."
"Oh. All right. You're one of those who never needs the pain killers, aren't you?" He nodded. "Bad parents, gangs, or otherwise?"
"Bad parents and bad town."
"Swimming. Diving. Did it with a few inch deep ricochet right before team tryouts while I was still full time." She looked impressed with that. "Metal stitches, I didn't even cover them. Pool kept it clean." She giggled at the small mark on his upper thigh. "Yeah, he made me get it." He looked down at the fancy cursive script H and the handcuffs hanging off one side. "To remind me I could lean on him."
"I was stunned, Xander, that was all," he offered gently. "I would've snapped out of it sooner but Eric decided to beat me for letting you feel pain." He came over to look at his leg, then at him. "As soon as they have the results uploaded I'm calling the doctor to get you some pain killers."
"He might have to spend a night in the hospital with that sort of bruising and the new head injury," the tech offered. "He really should go to the ER."
"I escaped the last time they wanted me to stay in the hospital," Xander told her. "I was wrapped like the mummy that night."
"I saw that. How did you heal so fast?"
"I have a few very strong Wiccan friends who helped me."
"Oh, I see. Okay." She left it there. "If your husband will please step behind the screen I'll be right there and let me put the lead bib over your parts." She did that and stepped back, looking at the focus. "That should be fine for this time." She went back there to click the button. "Hold perfectly still please?" She clicked it and came back, adjusting the film. "Can you flip onto ..... No, you can't, can you. Hmm. Well, we'll have to tilt the camera."
"I could turn my foot and let it flop to the side," Xander offered. "My thigh cramp might like that."
"I noticed that. Crutch cramp?"
He nodded. "It does not like being hurt."
"We'll try it that way." She turned his leg carefully, then adjusted the camera's angle until it had the better shot. Then she went back and clicked that one. "All right, Mr. Harris. Let me change the film while you lay down. Unless you want to stand up for the chest films?"
"Please don't make me stand."
"I understand fully. I broke my ankle once. I never went jogging again."
"I've already missed almost a week of my running and training time. I'm going to be miserable when I get back in shape. But the dog'll enjoy the shorter runs for a while."
"We let him go with Eric to build his stamina," Horatio promised, coming out to look him over. "How much pain are you in?"
"The fact I'm mentioning it should be a clue," he noted patiently. "The last time you heard me say ouch I cut my finger on some paper. The time before that I was shot."
"Good point." He took a kiss. "Stay calm, it'll be over soon." She moved him so she could adjust the bed this time and insert the film. Then they went back to the screen and hid while they took front pictures, then a side picture. Xander chose to stand up for the back picture, that way he wouldn't have to lie on his stomach. "Are you going to be able to sleep tonight?"
"You could try for a gel mattress, those are very nice and they conform to you. We use them on burn patients because they don't have friction or pressure points."
"Can we get one tonight?"
"Maybe. You'd have to check around. You could probably get a mattress topper tonight but him sleeping alone might be easiest." She let him sign his papers. "Okay, it'll take us about an hour to read them then upload them and the results into the system, tell your doctor that. Until then, try to eat something. Remember, protein and calcium are needed to rebuild strong bones and muscles." She smiled and let Horatio help Xander back into his shirt while she redid his air cast. "He really probably should go to the ER. I don't like that bruise."
"If I gave you a digital camera, could you take a picture and upload it?" She nodded. He went to get his and handed it over. She took a few good pictures and uploaded those into the system, then handed it back. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. It's what I do." She smiled and let them go, smiling at the cuteness really. He took such good care of his playboy husband! She went to see about another patient while those x-rays uploaded and were read.
Horatio looked at Xander. "I took a cab."
"There where did your camera come from?"
"Him," he said, handing it to Speed. "We're going looking for a gel mattress topper. It could help him get comfortable."
"Easton's. They have them." Horatio nodded at that and headed out with him, and it was even open a bit late. They got the mattress topper and some new bandages, plus a male urinal for the bedroom because Xander noted that there was no way he was getting up without help tonight. They made it home and the doctor's office called Horatio, chewing him out by the look on his face.
"He escaped, Doctor. I'm well aware of that but the bruise is since then. An attempted gay bashing last night by one of our distant neighbors. Baseball bat. He moved to duck one and it broke the other ribs plus shifted the bone in his leg." He looked at Xander, then smirked. "Did you want the truth? Xander's a Wiccan, some of his friends are Wiccan. Yes, that's what I said. That's what they did. I have no idea. It didn't work on everyone in the past. Well, for us, it would be like praying for God to heal us. Yes, that sort of faith. I'm quite sure. He says hospitals are for sick people. You know how he can be. That's why he escaped." Xander glared at him. "It was. We have a gel mattress topper now, that was suggested. The bruise?" He looked at his chest. "Off with the shirt."
"I look like the pool boy."
"You already look like my pool boy. Off with the shirt, Xander." He wiggled free of it again, and Horatio sighed. "It's not looking any better but I can't see any spreading."
"I can," Speed called. "It's deeper in color on his back."
Horatio nodded a few times. "Of course. The house? You're more than welcome and we'd gladly make you dinner. I can agree to that. We'll be there within twenty minutes. Thank you." He hung up and looked at Xander. "Leave it off. We're going to the office." Eric made a whining noise. "You hate going to the doctor."
"Daddy Xanner go, I go. Make sure his boo boos get better!" he ordered, stomping a foot.
"Fine. Grab your coat."
"He not wear a shirt."
"He's got booboos there. You don't." Eric grabbed his lightweight coat and followed his father out to the car, letting Daddy Horatio hitch him in. Then watched as he hitched Daddy Xander in. Then he got in to drive and did up his own, making him a happy boy. Daddy Xander and Ray Jr. had told him how important seat belts were. He scowled at his mommy whenever she didn't use hers. They backed down the driveway and he hummed along with the radio, watching the pretty lights of the city. He loved driving at night, the lights were pretty. He saw his daddy slump and grab his side. "Daddy?"
"He's fine, Eric. Let Daddy Horatio drive just a bit faster. You go back to humming, all right?" He sped up and of course, lights came on behind him. He noticed the driver and called him. "Michaals, quit trying to stop me. I'm taking Xander to the doctor's. The bruise on his ribs is spreading and he's admitting he's in pain." The lights went off. "Thank you." He hung up, noticing they were shadowed the whole way there. He parked and got out, helping Xander to his feet, letting the officer get him. "Eric." He undid himself and scooted out then over to him. "Thank you, good boy. Can you get daddy's crutches while we get daddy? Stay with us?" He nodded, grabbing them to drag inside. Daddy Horatio locked the car and they helped carry Xander inside. The guard gave them an odd look. "He said to come in."
"Doctor Montrosey is back in his office, sir. Let me go get him." He smiled at the boy and went to get him, nodding politely at the officer who followed. "Is he in trouble?"
"No, but we noticed some things earlier that Xander didn't tell Horatio. He's like that." They found the doctor and he shook his hand, quietly whispering in his ear, getting a nod. "He never told him. He was snapping at a few people too. Cranky was his name."
"Thank you, Officer. You have a good patrol and I'll take that into account." That got a nod and he followed them back to the front, smiling at Eric. "Usually you spit when you see me."
"You fix daddy or else I hit you with crutch," he said and to him it was that simple. Then he smiled sweetly. "Okay?"
"You can only threaten the doctor if he's trying to hurt me, son. Not when he's trying to help," Xander said patiently. He looked at his doctor. "He's a fierce protector of the daddies."
"I can see why. I can also see why you made the pool boy comment." The officer laughed. "Help me get him back to one of the exam rooms please." They got him back there and situated on his good side with a helping hand between his knees to ease any pressure in his hips. He read over the notes, then looked at the bruise, noticing how fresh it looked. "You've obviously abused a blood vessel today somehow."
"I had to lean on the railing to get up to the office," Xander offered. "But I was bruised last night when I tried to duck. I already knew how painful baseball bats were."
"I'm sure you did." He came over to touch the bruise, seeing the wince and actually hearing a hiss. "Have you taken anything today?"
"What happened to the stuff I sent after you escaped?"
"At the emergency hiding spot. We were going to pick it up tonight," Horatio admitted. "What worried me is that he didn't have that sort of bruise before and it's steadily gotten worse today. Plus, he asked to go to the hospital for the x-rays. We let Alexx look at his leg and ribs last night then again at lunch. She thought his leg might be starting to infect."
"I can see why she thinks that." He uploaded the front chest x-ray and side one onto his monitor, letting Horatio come over to see it. Horatio moaned. "He did what last night?"
"Nearly got killed by a retiree with a bat," Xander said dryly. "How many?"
"Ow. Any more cracked?" The doctor shook his head. "I broke all the cracked ones?" Horatio nodded. "I'm impressed at myself, really," he admitted bitterly. He called Don. "I'm not going to make it to the meeting. I'll send in a doctor's excuse with Horatio." He smirked. "Fine, Don. Thanks." He hung up. "It is mandatory, Horatio. They go over all the safety and security stuff once a year. Tag, you're it."
"I'll drop you at home first." The doctor gave him a long stare. "Can the hospital give him anything we can't at home?"
"No. You can definitely feed him antibiotics and pain killers. He'd probably snap at a few of the nurses." Xander nodded at that. "Do we have a way to ease the agony of sleeping?"
"We bought a gel mattress for the bed," Horatio offered.
"That'll work." Horatio's phone rang. "Again?"
"Probably." He answered it. "Caine." He listened. "No, he's not there, Speed. Why?" He listened, then he shook his head. "Does he have proof or is he trying shit?" He looked at Xander, then shook his head. "Arrest or otherwise?" He smirked. "Then you don't know where he is and when I get to him I'll have him call." He hung up. He looked at the doctor. "There's a Treasury agent who doesn't like Xander for taking down his bank when they were stealing from him. Dear, how did Webber get that footage?"
"I didn't hack it. Willow didn't hack it. As far as I knew, Webber herself hacked it. Why?"
"He says it came from Miami."
"She could've routed it through Miami. Do they actually have proof it wasn't routed? I routinely route anything I do through Brazil."
"You can hack?" the doctor asked.
"In a very limited scope," he admitted. He and Horatio shared a look. "I didn't."
"I believe you."
"Good. Go to the meeting." Horatio smirked. "I'm not going anywhere near the station but I'll call in." Horatio rolled his eyes. "Really." That got a nod. "I'll even cab home if you'll give me twenty bucks."
"I can do that." He handed that over and then took a kiss before heading off with their son. Xander shook his head. "Sorry, Doc, some people are stupid."
"What did the bank do?"
"Robbed me of a few million I had in my safety deposit box for emergencies."
"Hmm. Well...." He looked at the information, then at him. "You'll still need to get some antibiotics and the old pain killers. We'll let you try on them first." Xander nodded at that. "If they're not holding you, you'll let me know tomorrow. No physical stress."
"Yes, sir. I'm going to hide my ass." He stood up with a moan and rehitched his cast. "Can you call in the 'scrip to the usual spot?"
"Wouldn't they have your cards frozen?"
"Possibly. Okay, call it there anyway then tell Horatio. He can pick 'em up for me." He smiled sweetly. "I'm going to go hide." He hopped out, heading to let the guard call him a cab. The address got an odd look but he gave him a look and stroked his bruise. The guy shuddered and let it go. He gladly dropped him off at the old building three blocks away from his house and watched him go inside. Xander walked in and waved at the kids in the illegal bar. "I'm heading down," he told the bartender, getting a nod. "Locked room three."
"That's fine, Mr. Harris, sir. You okay?"
"No, I ache," he admitted, heading down to the basement and through one of the locked doors. A glow stick was easily snapped and shook and he hopped up the tunnel to the back exit out of his bunker. Then inside bunker. Because once you were in the gun bunker, there was a small sitting area in there for him to sit at and play with things. Once he got in there and quit panting, he flopped into his easy chair and got comfortable, calling the station. "Put me on with the treasury dweeb please? No, I take him as someone who would take fond advantage of my six broken ribs and broken leg. I'm not coming anywhere near there tonight. My doctor said I'm to be in bed and I'm going to head there eventually." He snorted. "They stole from me and I did what?" he asked the officer, who he did know. "It was in my safety deposit box, man. Dear, think. How many ransoms have we had to get things for? Plus how many emergencies?" He smirked. "Yeah, that's what that was for." His line beeped. "Hold on, incoming call." He switched over. "Yes, Danny?" He listened. "I know. Ignore it. It's nothing. Ignore it totally." He looked around the small sitting area. He had padded the walls with hangings and rugs so it didn't echo. "No, I'm okay. Going to talk to him now."
He hung up on him and clicked back. "Sorry. Danny wondering what a light was." He used a crutch to push on the door, hearing the click. "Ah, better." He smiled. "Thanks. No, Horatio's attending a meeting for me tonight. He's bringing me antibiotics for my leg and my pain killers. Yeah, well, six now. No, when I had to duck the guy with the baseball bat. Gaybashing," he snorted. "Yeah, one of them. Sure." He wiggled a bit and hissed. The voice on the other end sneered. "You try having broken ribs." He listened to his accusations. "Okay, slow down. First of all, I'm not a hacker. I can program some things now and then. I'm abysmal at it if you want me to be honest." He smirked at the assertion. "I know that. Webber is a friend of a friend. She and a few others do a lot of good work with the government and others. I support that. Webber's a new friend and I do know quite a lot about her. Really? Can you prove what I gave her were part of a crime? And the last time I knew, aiding in an open investigation wasn't a crime. She had every intention of handing that to the SEC for the second complaint I was going to file. The same as the friend I have on the board knew she was going to do that and I was using in-box surveillance. Because I couldn't move it with an open SEC complaint going on. The other banks wouldn't let me. Yay, whine." He yawned. "Damn, you're nearly as good as painkillers for letting me sleep."
He put up the foot rest. Then he sighed in pleasure. "Sorry, just putting my leg up again. Wasn't over you, really." He listened to him rant. "No I can't. I'm not any good at hacking security systems. Designing them yes, hacking them no. Really?" he asked dryly. He saw the light go on that said the main door had opened. He conveniently lost his signal and hung up on him. "What?" he called. Mac walked in with a tray. "Thanks. I'm hiding down here."
"I figured you were." He patted him on the head. "You okay?"
"Sore as fuck and I'm sick and tired of the treasury. It's not like I hacked the bank."
"I've been talking to his boss. He's already in trouble for this but they're giving him rope."
"Yeah, well, I'm not going to be his noose. He's the sort to take advantage of a physical weakness. Calleigh agreed that he would probably be the sort to take someone's wheelchair away."
"Good point. Just don't make it a stand-off."
"I'm not. How did you get in?"
"I watched you tap in the code, Xander." He patted him again. "Horatio?"
"Tenant's meeting at the emergency place Patrick set up for us." That got a nod. "If it wasn't so important, Don and I would've given you three one of them and just had the other up there."
"I like my place," he assured him. "It's comfortable." He patted him again. "You good?"
"It's now six ribs." Mac hissed. "I finished breaking all the ones that had been cracked. I'm not a happy guy."
"I understand. How did you get in?"
"Back way," he admitted with a grin. Mac laughed and left. "Tell him I said that."
"I will." He shut the door and locked it then went back up to Di's. "He's fine. He's sneaking back out again."
"What is going on?" she demanded.
"They decided him trapping the person stealing his money for definitive proof was a criminal act."
"Because they're idiots," Don assured her dryly. He smirked. "How did he get in?"
"The back way. Weren't you supposed to have dinner with Marisol and her parents tonight?"
"We started to but they had a kitchen fire at the restaurant. We decided to try it again tomorrow afternoon for a picnic." He grinned. "That means we'll be switching cities back and forth, Mac."
"That's fine, Don. We'll see you about as often for court anyway." He went back into the kitchen. "He's calling him."
"That's fine. It means he can say he wasn't fleeing or hiding, he just wasn't able to be found."
"That's a fine distinction," Di complained.
"Not really. Especially since he's injured," Don reminded her. "How many?"
"Six." Don hissed. "He said he broke the rest that were cracked."
"I'm so sorry for the nephew right now."
"Yeah, me too," he agreed dryly.
Xander finished his sandwich and called back. "Sorry about that. Lost the signal. Too many waves." He sipped his soda. "No, I took the opportunity to eat dinner. I've got to eat to heal and I'm looking forward to healing and being able to train again. Yup, I've also heard he's in deep shit with his bosses. Sure, thanks." He moved the tray off to the side. "Why are you in my husband's office without a warrant?" he asked dryly. "No, I lost my signal. The satellite was in the wrong spot I guess. Happens all the time." He listened. "Really? Hmm. Because you guys were so on the ball with the first one? There's no rule that says I can't hire someone to do an investigation for me, especially when the officials who're supposed to do it are ineffectual and dragging their feet. Speaking of which, I reported the first round of theft to the SEC and never saw one of you guys. Why was that?" He listened to the counter of how many times he had gotten into his boxes. "Yes, I was keeping careful records of people who attacked me or tried to give me shit. Since there was a contract out on my spouse's life and I was working with IAB, I was keeping files on everyone that tried me for a while. You know what, ask IAB that." He conferenced Phil in. "Sorry to destroy your appetite, Phil. Paranoid Treasury boy there wants to know about the contract and why I got into my box so many times. Do you know where the files would be since he's in Horatio's office?"
He smirked. "I'm following my doctor's orders. I've got a broken leg and six broken ribs, Phil. He's the sort who would take a few cheap shots at my ribs during an interrogation. I know that, and he's doing it. It's not like I'm keeping him from talking to me. Though I did lose signal there for a few minutes and had a sandwich while I waited for it to come back." He shook his head. "No I'm not, Phil. I'm not putting my physical health at risk. His warrant is to talk to me. He's talking to me now. It doesn't specify that I had to be in the same building. I'm cooperating to the best of my present physical capabilities. So please answer the paranoid man?" He waited while Phil told him exactly why he had. He smiled. "Thank you, Phil. I know. Phil, I've got broken ribs and a broken leg. I'm not moving for a while. He is the sort to refuse me medical attention if necessary. Hell, my doctor wanted me back in the hospital since I've got a horribly spreading bruise thanks to the assault last night by the gaybasher." He rolled his eyes.
"Remember the neighbor that tagged the house and got the yard? Him. No, Prestons was not in any way responsible for my leg opening, Phil. He checked my cast, he did press on it, but I was also up and taking the dog for a hop before that. That's when I got assaulted. It could've easily happened when I ducked a blow. Or with all the hopping I was doing that day. It started to bleed and I opened it to check it. It wasn't his fault. Yeah, he's a bigot but he didn't hurt it that way." The pressure had hurt but he wasn't going to tank a guy's career since he knew the guy hated him for being with Horatio. Let his career be tanked if he did it to someone else. "Yes, I'm sure, Phil. That's my statement on that matter." He got a glum 'fine'. "Thank you. Now, did you see a problem with me starting my own investigation since the SEC hadn't closed the first one when it started to happen again and the Treasury never showed up about the first one? Or in the fact that a hacker I know and occasionally pay for her to do some limited computer work for me helped?"
Xander shifted and hissed. "Sorry, needed to move some. Who told you I hacked? No, I can barely program. They'll tell you that anything I've done has a lot of flaws in it. I'm not a hacker. I only get on my computer to play games anymore. Webber has worked with multiple government agencies and PDs on various types of cases. Including some hacking to get entrance into some child porn rings." He shifted again and moaned. "Sorry. Still in a hell of a lot of pain." He yelped. "I think my chair has ants." He got up and got the fire extinguisher, hitting his chair with a burst. He put it back then sat down again. "Ah! And colder too. No, no fan where I am. No I'm not telling you where I am. I'm not stupid nor do I feel any desire for any more torture at the moment. I've got my yearly quota already," he noted plainly, making the treasury guy grit his teeth together. "By the way, who told you I wrote any programs, sparky?" He smirked at the 'you were seen meeting to hand some over' remark.
"Those mostly weren't mine. You are aware of that?" He smirked brighter at the swear. "That's why we gave them to them. We *trust* them. They're *honorable* and they're *good* agents. They're the sort I'd want to come after me again the next time they have to help rescue me." He smirked at Phil's laugh. "Gibbs is." He listened. "Yes, I was. He... Phil, since he's at Horatio's desk, can you please send him that case file? Thanks." He winced again. "I've got to shift again. Want me to call back in five minutes so you can sound out the words?" He heard the order to quit making fun of him. "Sorry, I get cranky when I'm in pain. Hell, I'm still playing nice with as much pain as I'm in." Phil noted something. "Fine, I'll be nicer and more polite if possible. It's not like he doesn't deserve it." He snorted. "Really? When am I getting the stuff from the first time they stole from me?" He grimaced. "No. I tend to avoid large boxes unless they come from my husband. Otherwise they give me headaches. I'm assuming it's somewhere in the house."
He grimaced. "Ask Phil. He has the most recent list. I haven't updated the house's files in the last few weeks." Phil recited the last few things that had come to him, making im gasp in horror. "Yeah, that's why I don't like boxes. Anything else you wanted to know before you go do your job instead of making citizens do your job for you? Well, gee, I asked the SEC agent over my complaint and he said you guys hadn't come near it. By the way, I liked the guy who came in. He was polite, he was helpful, he didn't make accusations. Especially since I told him I was using some surveillance measures to try to track it. Well, when the system fails it's either we do it ourselves or we wait for Batman. Miami's version of Batman is me. Or I'm probably as close as the city will ever come," he offered when Phil choked on his laughter.
"You guys weren't paying attention. Normal people had to do it. Yes, I know Webber. I paid her to make sure our new computers within the family could talk to the office with the round of births going on. It was necessary and Webber is a very nice person. Webber and a few others take in some kids who have the skills who're being abused and otherwise held down and harmed and sees that they find a career and make it. I do support that." He shifted again, mentally wishing for pain killers. A bottle appeared next to him and he caught them. They were even his. "Huh." He looked up. "Thanks," he mouthed. "Needed this." He dry swallowed two and relaxed once they started to work. He yawned. "Guys, I've finally broken into my stash of pain killers. No, I can't, sparky. I'm about to fall asleep on this end. If you try you're in for a hell of a shock." He listened to Phil. "Am I not cooperating? That is the essence of the warrant for interrogation, correct?" He nodded. "Which I am doing, Phil. Even if I'm not in the same building. I'm not getting anywhere near him with what I've heard about his reputation for cheap shots. Especially not when I'm in pain and it might result in someone else being severely hurt. Yeah, and what happens if my pain tolerance is maxed again, Phil? How did they find me?" He hung up on that point. The recliner was comfortable enough for a nap and a nap sounded good right then. He could let the fuzzy mental thoughts go round and round without him for a while.
Horatio walked into his office and glared at the agent in there. "I do hope you have a warrant to be in my office," he snarled.
"Your boss said we could, Caine. He let me in." He stood up. "Your boy's riding the line with me. I wouldn't endanger it any further."
"Considering I just sent him his painkillers? I doubt you'll be talking to him again for the next few days." He moved closer. "If you wish to speak to my spouse, you can speak to me, or to our attorney. Xander is injured. Severely injured. Severe enough that his doctor wanted me to have him admitted again." That got a smirk. "From the person who wanted to hunt him." He put that case file on the desk, showing him the 'before' pictures, making him back away and shake his head. "Yes, that's my spouse. Now, at the moment, he's down to a broken leg and broken ribs. I want him where he is, which is resting." He moved closer and closed the folder. "Did you have further questions?"
"Why didn't he come to you for the investigation?"
"It's not my job. When I asked him that, that's what he told me. Technically, those are federal crimes, not felonies. I do know he did ask one of the technicians in the non-felony lab about things that would admissible in court since you showed no interest in doing your job." He sat behind his desk and closed the other file as well. "Now, did you need to know anything else? He turned over his full investigation to the SEC agent. You can get it from him."
"I already have. I want Webber."
"Webber does a lot of good with a lot of agencies. You want her that much, you go ask them."
"Yes, she is female. Or so I was told recently."
"Your husband supports her."
"She runs a vocational shelter for some very abused children. Some of them learn at her knee, some of them go onto other careers, but she makes sure they're fed, watered, clothed, cared for, and given a family within the group. We don't care what you think about the Covenant. Most people like that she's filling in a gap that no one else does." He looked hurt at that. "Ask Deputy Director Fornell. She's got him on speed dial for a few cases in the past. This time, she did it as a favor because Xander helped her buy the building they're using. They needed more room."
"I see. How much can he hack?"
"His was an annoyance one. It made computers sneeze."
"My husband has an odd sense of humor," Horatio said dryly, staring him down. That got an eye roll. "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss since you weren't paying attention and doing your job?"
"We were. We had them under surveillance from a few other incidences. His so-called investigation could've damaged ours. Especially since he went to the board."
"The person he went to on the board is the one who fired the people doing these things and he had them banned. His wife and Xander know each other socially. Xander knew he was an honest man and would help make it right. He knew this gentleman would never condone such actions and that he would be stopping them. Which he tried very hard to do."
"I know that now." He grimaced. "He could have come to us directly."
"He went to the SEC. They were SEC violations. With that case still open, he didn't feel that the current theft issue would have been looked at seriously. That's why he talked to his friend on the board and then together they investigated. Since my husband's not an officer and not a CSI, I'm highly impressed on what he gathered and how. Including the documents. Even if it did have to come through a slightly illegitimate source like Webber."
"It was well done but it still endangered......"
"Then why didn't you say anything? You could have come to me or Calleigh and you didn't. You could have had the agent with the SEC note that there was an ongoing investigation, which would've been news to him, and he would've told Xander to cease, and he would have. Xander is usually quite reasonable."
"He said he was this city's Batman," he said blandly.
"At times. My husband's past has been full of defending others. Then again, he's got broken ribs and is in quite a lot of pain."
"Fine. Whatever. I have what I need and I'm sure that your own investigation into this hacker is ongoing."
"She hasn't done anything wrong that we've been told. Helping an active investigation isn't wrong. Even if it was done by a civilian. You'll have a stretch convincing anyone."
"She's a hacker. She could've gotten into their accounts. Most judges are paranoid these days."
"She could have gotten into the Pentagon and has for cases. It doesn't mean she's disabled them even though she is very anti-war from what I've heard through various sources."
He glared at him. "The source of the funds she accessed for your husband lead back to a dead person who had verbally but not officially claimed that his money had been stolen out of his account back in Sunnydale. Would he know anything about that?"
"Mayor Wilkins was an evil man who tried to kill my husband many times. Xander doesn't have that sort of skill. He can hack the video games he plays, not banks." That got a huff. "I'm sure you did a search on the former Mayor of Sunnydale?"
"I did, and I saw some obviously rigged footage from graduation too," he sneered. "It looked like a D&D set with your husband and some little blonde girl playing hero."
"No, that was what happened," Phil said from the doorway. "Unfortunately."
"People don't turn into giant snakes!" Phil glared at him. "I can't believe...." He stopped when something tugged on his pants leg, looking down at this horrifying creature. It was drooling, it had spindly arms and legs, and many too many teeth. He shrieked and moved, and it followed. Horatio threw a wadded piece of paper at it and disappeared. "What was that!"
"A recent infestation," Phil said grimly. "We were going to ask Xander to take care of them until we found out they're allergic to paper and disappear when you throw wadded up paper at them," he said with a perfectly straight face. "Xander handled things like that in Sunnydale." The treasury agent ran from the office. "Have a nice night!" He looked at Horatio. "An imp?" he asked quietly.
"Talk to Ethan, I do not use magic," he said blandly as he stood up.
"Anymore?" He smirked. "Your boy took two and went to bed in whatever recliner he's in."
"He'll wake me up coming to bed later. I'm off to a tenant's meeting for his emergency hole. Oh, erase all mentions of the search today? It was an emergency plan put out by Patrick."
"Already done, Horatio. Ethan told me earlier. Have fun. Remember the keys." He walked off, going back to dinner and his desk.
Horatio walked into the house with Don behind him. He looked at Mac and Stella. "You two made good time."
"Don promised us a big announcement," she offered with a smile. "He's still down there."
"He has a small sitting area in the weapons storage area," Mac offered. "I brought him down dinner."
"I had someone make sure his meds got to him by magic," he admitted, going down into the basement. He tapped in the code for the weapon's locker, then walked inside and locked them in. He headed to the other side and out, locking it when he saw the two agents there. "Gibbs. Fornell. Why are you here?"
"We need to see the kid about something."
"I heard," Gibbs admitted. "We didn't tell the dweeb. You've got a second mole."
"No, we've got a big mouth," Eric offered as he came down. "Where is Xander?"
"The weapon's area."
"Weapons?" Fornell asked. Horatio looked at him. "Should I not be here?"
"Xander translates some things for a weapon's collector and he pays him in weapons," Eric offered. "Xander doesn't sell any of them but now and then the labs get new exemplars for the cabinets."
"Interesting," Gibbs said dryly. "Not like I care. Go away, Tobias. I'll talk to him." Fornell nodded and let Eric lead him away. "Your secondary mole is more than a big mouth. He blabbed to the Feeb."
"I figured someone would." He let him into the shelter after tapping in the code. "Our hurricane shelter."
"It's nice. Well done." Horatio locked the door behind them and then opened the other one, making him smirk. "I know who did this. Abby knows them. She hinted I'd see his work down here." He followed Horatio into the other room, blinking at the doors. He walked him through one and through the door behind one of the sword cabinets, into a small sitting area, finding Xander curled up in there. "Awww."
"Very. What's going on, Gibbs?"
"One of his present givers is mad that he's not his yet. We arrested him earlier tonight. He's the one who sent the bad suit down." He looked around the other room, opening a few cabinets. "Man, Abby would kill for this."
"Mac too. Calleigh too," Xander said sleepily, glaring at him. "You woke me up why?"
"I don't know, Batman." He looked at him. "One of the senators got arrested for liking you so much that he's trying to ruin you so you have to go to him to get it fixed. He was going to blame everything on the lab. That's what was wrong with the treasury guy and all that." He came back. "Can you use all those?" Xander nodded slowly, then held his head. "Sorry, kid. You okay?"
"No. Head hurts." He looked at Horatio. "I'm sore."
"I know. Let's get you into the new bed." Xander moaned but let Horatio help him up and out of the bunker on the other end with Gibbs behind him. They left and locked it behind them, then up the stairs with Gibbs' help. "Thank you," he offered quietly. Once they were back in their house, he picked Xander up and carried him into the bedroom. "Need the bathroom?" Xander nodded so he brought him in there, then back to the bed when he was done. Xander sank in with a moan of pleasure. It didn't make him hurt more! "Good boy, Xander. You rest. Remember, I love you." Xander blew a kiss and let himself be covered. Horatio went back into the living room. "Did you tell them?"
"I did." He looked at him. "Your state senator is in deep shit and he's about to name names."
"We did nothing wrong," Calleigh reminded him.
"I know. We've proved that already." Fornell came in with Di. "Sorry about that."
"Anything really good that he should hide?"
"He has them hidden and yes." He looked at Horatio. "How did he get current weapons?"
"The former owner bought them off someone who had shipped them back to themselves."
"Can I talk to him?"
"Do you want to talk to the vampire?" Eric countered.
"Abby would probably pout if I talked to any vampire but her." He shrugged. "I'll try to track it from my end. What happened to the kid?" Speed handed up the file and he flipped through it slowly, then snorted. "Hey, four of the names are in here. I'm surprised we haven't seen your ADA yet."
"Hammra will show up soon enough," Speed advised dryly. "She always does. She taught Satan half of what she knew. She's greedily hoarding the rest for the amusement of my offspring." Calleigh swatted him. "She is!"
"She is," she agreed happily. She smiled at Fornell. "Hi. Did you get him straightened out?"
"Right before I fired him. With prejudice. He'll never work in the government again with what I put into his file. Including the state of his suit when I first saw him. Oh, he did take the time to clean up, but it didn't help any." He looked at Horatio. "Your boy is having a bad patch this week?" Horatio nodded. "Do we know why?"
"He was injured. I'd assume someone else was hunting him."
Fornell nodded. "You'd be right. The senator asked for him personally so he could hunt him. By the way, I thought your ADA was a charming woman. Is she single?"
"Yeah, she broke up with Satan a long time ago," Eric said dryly from his seat. "Watch out for the whips, unless you like 'em."
Fornell smirked at him. "She's not that evil."
"Yes, she is," Speed assured him. "She's also former NCIS."
"Hammra?" Gibbs asked. Fornell looked at him. "Where?"
"Lebanon." He shuddered at that. "Yeah. So...." He looked at Horatio. "This hunting, this current crisis, it's all the senator's fault."
"Let's not let him die and leave Xander stuff," Danny complained. He looked at Gibbs. "If he can't get the hummers repainted, you want the pink, purple, or the blue one?"
"Who disgraced a hummer that way?" Gibbs asked, looking amused.
"One of the others who wanted the kid and decided Horatio won so therefore he got his stuff too," Speed offered. He looked at Calleigh. "By the way, I heard what you said earlier. He *is* my son, Calleigh. I don't care if it's not biological or not. He's my boy. I adopted him, he's mine. If he gets pushy to help with the newest kid, then I'm not going to be too mean about it. He's done a great job of raising Eric. My grandson is a brilliant little genius in the making. His past hasn't hurt Eric in the least. It won't hurt the new one either."
"I'm more worried that some of the hunting stuff he's been through will start to rub off."
"Then maybe our kid will be one of the greatest CSI. One that they write the textbooks about." She sighed. "It's not going to hurt them. Has it hurt Eric?"
"Or Toddy, or Liz, or any of Delko's nieces and nephews?" She shook her head, looking down. "Then it won't hurt this one. I want my boys to be close."
"What's going on?" Horatio asked.
"She said earlier she doesn't want Xander to think that he's going to be doing a lot with our kid. That he'll have honorary uncle status. I'm setting the story straight now. He's this one's big brother. No questions asked. The same as Willow got adopted by Aiden and I. They're my kids. Aiden's as close as you'll ever have to deal with an ex-wife, but yeah, I've got two kids already."
"I don't want it to hurt him."
"It hasn't hurt ours yet," Horatio reminded her. "Xander does exactly opposite of what his parents did for him, Calleigh. He would never harm your child, even by accident. He would sooner kill himself." She nodded, hanging her head again. "Who gave you that idea?"
"Adam," she sighed. She looked at him. "He thinks Xander's so protective because of his past."
"No, to Xander, it's a pack thing. They're his kids," Speed assured her. "All cubs in the pack come from the alpha pair. He takes his alpha bitch spot very seriously. Since Horatio couldn't sneak around and use his alpha pack rights to all the harem of women, he's taken over senior mommy duties. I might be more worried if we hadn't seen how he was with Eric first, but my son's a great father and uncle. The same as I'm damn proud I can take credit for some of that. Got it?" She nodded, leaning against his side. "Ease that worry? We're still the parents but we'll have a smiling, bouncy big brother around a lot. I'm very sure our child will not have any of the problems that you or I had," he said more quietly. "Or that he had, or that Horatio had. It's sad that the slut of the group had the most normal upbringing." Eric snorted and threw a pillow at him. "Thanks, she could probably use that," he offered with a smirk. He put it behind her back. "We better now?" She nodded. "Good, then figure out how many ways you can put my mother back in her place when they show up next month." He looked at Horatio. "My parents are coming on the fourth. They'll be here for a week."
"Will you need time off?"
"Easy cases. What I'm doing is fine."
"Okay. Let me know. Also, remind her we don't really live in a commune, it just seems that way at times." Danny laughed at that. He looked at Gibbs. "How soon before it stops?"
"Should be tomorrow. He's going to try to name names tonight. Your boy's injured anyway. I'd suggest a guard from the press while you're at work."
"We can do that," Eric agreed. "Speed's got tomorrow off and they hate him."
"They do," Horatio agreed, smirking at him. "That good with you?"
"Fine with me. Don, you were going to make an announcement?"
"Um, yeah, Marisol and I are very serious. Serious enough that I'm meeting her parents officially, even though they like me already." He looked at Eric, then back at his group from New York, his might-as-well-be-family. "We're going to work it so I'm staying in the switching program. That way neither of us have to give up our cities. Right now we're talking short engagement but nothing's set in stone." Mac smiled at that and Stella hugged him. Danny stared him. "What, Messer?"
"I like you and her. She calms you down. But I guess this means less basketball?"
Don smirked. "That's the best thing. She thinks you're a cute little brother who comes over to bug me now and then. She said it was fine with her, less time I spent underfoot." Eric chuckled at that. "Got that one from your mom?"
"Yup. It means she's really okay with it, doesn't want to change much."
"Good. We're pretty tight together. I've spent the time since the Children's Hospital dinner thing talking to her most days and seeing her whenever I'm down here. So I'll be back down here in a few weeks for my six months, then come back with her probably." Mac smiled at that.
"Has she already met your Ma?" Danny asked.
"Not yet. I'm flying my parents down in a week and a half, Horatio," that got a nod, "so they can meet her and the rest of this insane family. Ma's hinting about grandkids. She thought it was sweet that I was blushing when she asked me about dating someone special." He grinned at Danny again. "So, you, no jealousy, all right?"
"Not an issue. We're good. We're buddies and all that. I might pout if she keeps you from being buddies but I'll be good with it."
Don beamed. "Great. What'm I wearing tomorrow?"
"Something nice but comfortable since it's a picnic," Mac reminded him.
"Who's doing dinner?" Stella asked.
"I think she said she was."
Eric looked at him. "I'll call Mari in the morning to make sure. That way you don't end up bringing stuff when Momma did or not bringing stuff when she didn't. Either would be really bad."
"Where were you two thinking about the wedding?" Stella asked.
"Not real sure," Don admitted. "She's got all her family here but not a lot of friends. I've got all the PD buddies up there and very little family."
"Hold a private one and then parties in each location," Horatio offered. "It'd be simplest and easiest." That got a smile. "You can show video."
"Did you and the son ever do official vows or just private ones?" Speed asked.
"Private ones. We'll do official ones when it's legal. He said so." He smirked at him. "Nice try though."
"Thanks, had to." He looked at Calleigh, then at him. "She's still being stubborn."
"Some women are like that," he reminded him.
"Sic Aiden on her," came out from the bedroom.
Horatio smirked at Calleigh's horrified look. "That is an idea," he noted, going to see what his husband needed. "What's wrong?"
"I turned wrong and my ribs woke me." He accepted a kiss. "I love you for putting up with my shit."
"I love you too. Now, try to go back to sleep. You can stay here all day tomorrow."
"I heard." He snuck another kiss and smiled. "This is almost as cool as a waterbed. Can you cuddle?"
"In a while. Try to sleep for now, Xander." He nodded and wiggled again, trying to get more comfortable. Horatio propped a pillow between his knees, getting a small smile. Then he stroked his hair, petting him until he fell asleep. "Percy," he called quietly. The dog ran in and jumped up onto the bed, snuggling in. "Good boy, Percy. Good boy." He patted him. "Guard the daddy and help him sleep." He kissed Xander on the temple and went back out there. "Sorry."
"The last time I had broken ribs, I slept in a recliner, it was the only way I was in little pain," Gibbs assured him.
"We got him a gel mattress topper," Speed offered. "They use them on burn patients."
"Those have got to be nice. I'll consider that for Mr. Head Injury."
"What did DiNozzo do this time?" Fornell asked bitterly.
"Suspect clubbed him in the head with a gun." He shrugged and stood up. "We'll be around for tomorrow's fall out, Caine. Probably lurking at the FBI's local offices to scare the piss out of more of them."
"Make them quit being so annoying when they have to work with us," Calleigh ordered, grimacing. "They're always trying to lead and I'm sorry, but I lead even when I dance with my boyfriend." They smirked and nodded, leaving them alone. "Are they going to get Xander in trouble for his collection?"
"No but if they find the other end it might dry up." He sat down, looking at them. "What else is going on?"
"Ryan's going to get a reputation as a gun-toting judge," Calleigh said dryly, making Eric laugh. "One of the guys pulled a bailiff's gun off him. Ryan stopped him."
"Ryan still carries his shield," Speed agreed happily. "He had him rearrested on the new charges and then denied his bail based on the new charges and the violent intent."
"I'm sure that was cute," Horatio agreed, smiling some. "Did he give him a lecture on how much smarter his toddler son was?" They all nodded, Ryan had given a few ultimately stupid criminals such lectures. "Good. It sounds like he's enjoying the bench now. I talked with Ethan earlier about the journals and figuring out what was wrong with Willow. He blocked whoever it was. He also copied off the pertinent parts." Percy came out and sat beside him. "Is he awake again?" The dog barked quietly. He went to check on him, finding his leg bleeding. "Xander?" He got a grumble. "Xander? Mac!" He came walking in. "Get me something to stop it, his leg's bleeding again."
"Danny, call someone!" he called, coming over to help. "I'm not a medic, but did Alexx like this?"
"No." He kept trying to wake Xander, getting a slightly open eyed look. "Xander?"
"Again?" he whined.
"Yup," Mac assured him. A team of paramedics and a third came in. "Trainee?" he asked. One nodded. "This isn't the first time."
"He bled very well last night," Horatio offered quietly. "Mt. Sinai is where we go. He's got a chip in the back of his neck."
The trainee pulled out a scanner and used it then downloaded it. "It says not to go to University?"
"We've had some problems with the nurses in OB." They got the bleeding contained and grabbed Xander. "He's got six broken ribs," he said when they moved him. That got a nod. "And a slight concussion still."
"Okay. You're his husband?" Horatio nodded. "Let's go, the others can follow." They rolled him out.
Eric stopped the dog. "You stay and guard the house. We'll bring the daddy home," he soothed.
"Stay here and field calls, Eric," Speed said, hurrying out with Don and Danny.
"Well, at least he left me with the pretty ones and Mac," he offered with a grin.
Calleigh stroked her stomach. "I won't tell Mac you said he wasn't pretty if you give me a footrub."
"You don't have to blackmail me. I'd have done it anyway." He sat down across from her and got to work so his mind had things to do while they waited.
Horatio walked into work the next morning about ten minutes late. Valera gave him a look. "How's Xander? I heard he had to go back to the ER."
"He went for x-rays after we left and then he went back last night when his leg started to bleed. They've fixed the bone in place now. He told the doctor he denied the existence of traction. Said it wasn't part of his faith." She giggled at that. "So they pinned it and he's in a real cast again, back home because he refused to stay but others could come check on him as long as they didn't fuss."
"Horatio!" Frank called.
"He's fine, Frank."
"Good. Not about that." He pulled him off to the side. "The treasury twerp is back."
"Xander's sedated and on enforced bed rest."
"Yelina asked, he's not here for him, he's here for you." He got a nod and Horatio headed for his office. "What's going on?"
"With Xander having things being stolen from the bank, he stared his own investigation with some slightly odd help. Between that and the senator who brought him to the hunters' attention?" Frank shuddered. "By the way, tell her he's got three pins and he's at home."
"Sure." He went to do that and tell the twerp to go bug Horatio since he was in his office by then. It would keep Yelina's temper down for a few more hours.
Horatio sat down and opened his inbox, seeing a message from his boss. He called him. "He's at home, he has three pins, most of the New York lab is down for the weekend due to a construction problem on their end, they lost electricity for the next two days while they replace the lines up there, and they're staying to play with him and the kids today." He heard the quiet request. "It's not my fault but I did hear from two Federal agents that the main reason behind the hunters was caught and naming names so it was going to be a high press day." He smirked at the treasury agent, waving him inside since he didn't look happy. "If they wanted to. They were debating if it had any relevance to call him." He leaned back. "Interesting. No, we want it to continue. Don Flack needs it to continue since he's dating Marisol." He smiled. "The other reason they came down, yes. Thank you. It has been a great exercise. Yes, he's on loan from Grissom in Las Vegas. They had a lab explosion and he was in the center of it. He and Xander are friends so they sent him down to finish recuperating and to see if he wanted to go into medical research instead. They're hounding him up there and his foul mood was putting others into even worse tempers. Thank you, sir." He hung up and looked at him. "From the expression on your face, you've learned what Deputy Director Fornell told me last night," he said casually.
"I did, and I'm sorry I hounded your husband." He moved closer. "It was told to me *why* he was having to do it on his own and why we ignored the SEC complaint. Your boy's a strong man."
"My *husband* is," he agreed. "Did you need anything else?"
"I need to make sure he checked the box against the inventory."
"We haven't touched it yet. It got drug into a closet."
"I can't leave until it's checked against it."
Horatio called the house. "Find the box with the crime scene tape and check it against the inventory. It should look like a paper ball." The agent sighed and pulled another out of his briefcase, handing it over. "I'll fax another copy over. He needs it counted and checked against. Thank you, Stella. Well, it's slightly boring make work." He smiled. "Thank you. Make sure he drinks a lot. We bought a urinal if he needs it." He hung up and looked at him. "Give them a few hours."
"Okay. I'll go for coffee and check in with Calleigh. I'm sure she's seen most of this by now." He left the office.
"She'll hurt you," Horatio muttered after he was long gone. He got sent to a crime scene fairly quickly but that just allowed him to hide easier. At least until he got back and two reporters jumped on him. "No comment." He walked past them and inside. "Jessup, please go send the reporters home."
"Sir, I don't have a bullwhip or a sword," he joked, smiling at him.
"Unfortunately my husband has three pins now to keep his leg from shifting and bleeding again," he quipped back, giving him a look. "Think like Xander, Jessup. I'm told he's teaching you like he is Ray Jr."
"Yes, sir." He walked outside, going to send them off without letting them know anything. He smiled when Willow walked up to him and gave him a hug. "Thank you, Mrs. Wolfe."
"You're welcome. I'm in a hugging mood." She glared at the reporters. "Are you bothering the nice officers who made sure my son didn't try to run away?" They backed off. "Good idea. Officer Jessup caught my very dangerous toddler when he tried to escape the office the other day." She smiled and patted him on the arm. "Go get into the car, Jessup, I made you brownie bars." He smiled and went to do that. She walked inside and then leaned out. "If you're here about Captain Caine, he's already escaped again." She ducked back inside. Jeessup walked in smiling and nibbling on a brownie. "I got the recipe from Speed."
"Hey, you're my boy!" She punched him on the arm and smiled. "I'm taking Calleigh to lunch." She signed in and got her paged down. She smiled happily. "I'm here to take you to lunch so we can talk about pre and post birth spoiling." Calleigh frowned at her. "You'll need it. Stuff to keep you calm and stuff to help you heal. Before you ask, I've already okayed it with Speed, who said you *can* take a lunch and you *will* eat during it. So I'm taking you to be spoiled rotten for a lunch."
"But it's only eleven."
Willow huffed. "Are you actually busy?" She shook her head. "Then you can take a lunch now and have the time honored pudding as a mid-afternoon snack." She pointed at the sheet. "Sign out for lunch and let's go."
"Okay." She signed out and called Horatio. "I'm being drug off to lunch by Willow, who's promising me spoiling and talking about keeping calm and that stuff." She smiled. "Sure, Horatio. See you soon." She hung up. "He agreed, I need it. He said I'm scary."
"You are, but you're always like that," she promised, getting a happy grin. "Especially since everyone believes the cute, pretty, charming exterior."
"They so do and it's nice to see the shock when I break bad." She followed her out to her car, finding the package with her name on it. "Ooh, what's this?"
"Speed's brownie bar recipe. I made some for Jessup too because he stopped the runaway son. He wanted to go play with Tia." She backed out and took her to her favorite spoiling space for lunch. Calleigh squealed, she loved the Chocolate Palace.
Mac looked up as Stella came out of the office with the fax. "What's that?"
"The treasury twerp won't leave without someone checking the box against the index." She handed it over. "We've got to do it since Xander is to stay in bed and Horatio was sounding like he's ignored it."
"We wanted to see the box anyway," Danny offered, coming over to pull it out of the closet. He pulled out a knife. "Do it officially or just open it?"
"Do it officially in case we have to reseal it or protest something," Mac offered. "Bring it over here, Danny." It got shoved over and Danny sat beside him so they could open it together. Stella wiggled between them, then took the jewelry to look at and check off. She got to touch all she wanted. Mac took the files. Danny counted the money.
Mac looked over at the stacks, then at him. "You're kidding?"
"No, they broke it into smaller ones on him." He counted out another pile and put it down. Mac moaned. "It was for ransoms, emergencies, or medical bills. And I guess some spoiling of everyone, but mostly for the first three." He put down another stack. "We need a counting machine."
"We could borrow one," Stella suggested, putting back the last piece of jewelry and checking it off. "I'm supposed to have another stack."
Mac looked into the box. "Under my files." He dug the rest of his out and put them beside him, then let her come steal the boxes with a squeal. "Most of those were inherited."
"I've recognized the stuff that came with the pieces he gave me." She got back to fondling and counting. She looked up as Danny recounted a few stacks and bundled them together. "Short, over, or exact?"
"So far, a bit short. By about three hundred grand."
Mac took the money to count it behind him. He looked at the form then sighed and looked in the box. "There's more under Stella's sparkly stuff."
"I would've used files as the base. Much more steady," Stella complained. Danny and Mac finished up the money and the files, then Stella finished fondling the jewels, looking in the bag of loose stuff last. She sighed and poured it out into her hand. She looked at the list. "He only listed it as loose jewels, value unknown."
"I'm sure he was tired of counting by then," Danny teased. He looked at the list, then checked off his. "Works for me. You guys?"
"It's correct on my end but I've got two extra files," Mac offered, putting those two aside.
Stella smiled as she finished with her part. "I've got two necklaces that aren't on here." She got up and checked in the bedroom, finding Xander using his urinal. She waited until he was done, then came in to take it from him and empty it, rinsing it before bringing it back. "There's a few things that weren't on the list," she told him, smoothing back his hair. "Want some soup?"
He shook his head. "No thanks. Can I have some soda?" She nodded, going to get it and bring in the extra things. He looked at the files, frowning at them. "Ray was working on those. Sr. not Jr." He put them aside and looked at the two necklaces. "I've never seen those before." He blinked at them. "Huh."
"We'll let Horatio figure that part out," Stella promised, gathering them back up and heading out to the living room. "Mac, he said Ray Sr. was working on the files and he's never seen the necklaces. We should take pictures and send them too."
"I can do that," Danny agreed, taking the necklaces to lay out and take pictures of. He found a note. "Ah-ha!" He handed it over to her and she went to show Xander, who moaned and nodded. "Are they going in the box?"
She nodded. "He'll honor it." Danny nodded, making note of that on the bottom of the index. He handed them over and she went to fax them. Then she came back and they repacked the box and put it back into the closet, money on top.
Mac went to check on Xander and make sure his leg was all right, and his ribs weren't bruising further. Xander gave him a look. "Doing a wellness check," he said softly. Xander shifted so he could look at his cast. "It feel okay?"
"I know. How are your ribs?"
"They hurt more." Mac checked the bruise. They had marked it at the ER last night so they had a way to gauge if it was spreading. "Still going?"
"Only in one spot." He patted him on the head. "Want lunch?"
"Lunch means going to the bathroom and I'm not moving," he said plainly. Mac smiled and nodded. "I'm good with soda."
"Okay." He smiled at him. "Are we going to have to plan a way for you to get to your daughter's baptism?"
"Frankly, the priest doing it doesn't want me in the church. He complained that Horatio had me. He complained that Horatio had me with kids in the house especially. It'll be him and Marisol up there and I'll be in the background. Horatio was teasing me about a wheelchair and a skirt."
"I think Taylor or Di could work out a way for your to wear pants." He smiled at that. "Have you talked to them?" He nodded. "Which one did they want to use?"
"Horatio's favorite one and he pouted."
Mac smiled at that. "Which one do you want to use?"
"It's on the back of the door. Taylor's seen it and thinks I'll look okay. She's planning on fixing the inside seam with ties or something." He shifted and winced. "Pain pills are when?"
"Another hour. Try to rest. We've got the house and the kids when they come over." Xander nodded and let him have his soda to put beside him so he could get comfortable again. Mac tucked him back in then left. "He's not hungry, Danny."
"I know. It's hard to eat when you're in that much pain, especially when you can't make it to the bathroom." He nodded at the person outside. "She knocked on the door and said 'hi, what's wrong with Xander this time'." He gave him a look.
Mac walked out there. "Buffy?" She turned to smile at him. "What's wrong?"
"I came down to see Xander's daughter baptized and all that. What happened to the Xander this time?"
"Broken leg and ribs."
"Car accident?" she asked hopefully.
"Someone who wanted to use him as prey for a hunt." She moaned and rolled her eyes. "He's trying to rest."
"That's fine. I'm used to an injured Xander." She walked inside, going to where she could hear some groaning. "Want me to fluff the pillows?"
"No thanks," Xander moaned, holding his ribs. "I'm never moving again." He tried to curl up.
"No, straighten out," Mac ordered, coming in to help him. "What did you do?"
"Tried to shift on my back." Mac and Buffy helped him. He panted and calmed himself down. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome. Tell us and we'll help you move the next time too," she reminded him, smirking at him. "Now, where are my nieces and nephews?"
"Willow's are with Ryan since he's got the morning off. Tia and Eric are with her mom." He put a hand on her arm. "You should've seen Giles' look when he saw Eric." She giggled at that and hugged him around the neck. "Thanks. Mac, can you call Di and tell her to send over the heathens?"
"I'll see if they want to give him up for the day." He went to do that, trusting her to not hurt him this time. He walked into the kitchen and hugged Danny. "She wanted to see the kids."
"That could help her if she wanted to have some of her own. Eric is a good reason for birth control." Mac gave him a look but he was smiling. He called Di himself. "Hey, it's us. Xander's awake for a while and Buffy wants to see the tots. You wanna send them over?" He smiled at Mac. "Go stand outside so she can let them run up the beach." He nodded, going to do that. "Buffy, kids are incoming," he called. She squealed and headed out onto the porch. "Down further. They'll be running up. Toddy was over too." She went down to wait with Mac.
"Eric, this way!" Mac called. "Come on, you've got a visitor." He squealed and ran up the beach with Toddy chasing him and the dog following. He caught Toddy and Eric caught Buffy, pouncing her. He laughed and helped her up. "He's a bit hyper."
"The first time I met Xander he ran me over. It's fitting that my first time seeing him running he does the same thing." She carried him inside. "Hi, Eric. Hi, Toddy!"
"Uffy!" Toddy crowed.
She smiled. "That's right, I'm Auntie Buffy, you talk to me all the time on the phone. Where are the girls?"
"Sisters boring," Toddy snorted, lunging over to get her cuddles too. He smiled at Eric. "Uffy!"
"Buffy, bring my heathens in here," Xander called. She carried them in. "Hi, guys." He doled out kisses and gentle hugs. "Sorry, daddy's got big booboos."
"Eric see booboo," Eric assured him. "Ouchie?" Xander nodded. "Me cuddle?"
"Very gently," Mac told him, laying him on his father's good side. "It's going to be a few days before he'll be able to pick you up and cuddle like normal."
Eric snuggled in and smiled at Buffy. "My daddy."
"I know. You look just like him. He even ran me over like you did," she told him. He grinned at that. She patted him on the head. "Broken ribs do suck. I've had a few. One recently." Xander raised an eyebrow. "I can't quite forget I was nearly immortal." He sighed. "He jumped me. It was a mugger." She picked up Toddy. "I think I should go read to you. What do you think?"
"Read!" he said happily, hugging her around the neck. "Mommy read?"
"Your mommy's having lunch with Auntie Calleigh," Taylor said from the doorway. "Hi. I'm Taylor, Eric's other mommy."
Buffy waved a hand and smiled. "I'm Buffy, the person who used to help endanger Xander's life with Willow." Taylor laughed at that. "I did." She carried Toddy out. "Eric, want a story?"
"Later. Cuddle daddy. He have booboos." He snuggled in again, smiling at his mommy. "Him have big booboos, mommy."
"I can see that. If I have booboos like that, I'd still be sucking on the hospital's tit." She came in to kiss Xander on the head and fuss over him for a minute. "Want some soup?" He shook his head. "You have to eat something today."
"I'll try it later. When it's not as hot and I'm in less pain."
"Okay." She snatched Eric, making him giggle. "You guys have a visitor and you're not even terrorizing her or Stella. I'm surprised." Eric's eyes lit with unholy glee and he went to hunt down his auntie to pinch her again. She yelped so pretty when he did that.
"Eric!" Stella yelled a minute later.
"Hey, no one but me and Mac get to pinch that, little man," Danny defended, putting a hand over it. "Mine. Go pinch your other auntie's ass." He cackled and went to do that, snuggling up beside her and sliding a hand down, then pinching her. She squeaked nearly as nicely. It was cute. Danny shook his head and looked at Stella. "At least he's not using you as a pillow anymore."
"Eric get those back when he as old as Jr," Eric called.
Mac moaned, shaking his head. "Yes, you will. You'll get lots of pretty women when you're the same age as Ray Jr." He went to hide in the office and see if anything had changed at home. He came out when the doorbell rang, finding Marisol there. "You don't have a key?"
"I forgot it." She walked in with the baby, letting him have her. "Here, she's cried all night."
"Let me see my girl," Xander called. She got brought into him and he cuddled her on his good side. "There, Tia, how's that?" She cooed at him and smiled. "Good girl. Want your nursery here or your big brother?" She cooed again and kicked. "Eric, go check to make sure the nursery's clean again."
"'Kay!" he yelled, heading up to do that. "Wow, mommy and mommy are cute!" he called a few minutes later. "They kiss pretty!" He got handed the phone by Danny, who patted him on the head. "Mommy, did she spill cheerios on her like Eric did? Well, you lick her like you did my hand." His mother made a funny noise. He stood up in the window and waved. "Hi, mommies!" He looked at the phone. "Mommies hung up!" he complained. He looked over and the curtains were shut.
Danny walked back downstairs. "That should stop that exhibition problem."
"Unclie Mac, why did mommy lick mommy that way?" Eric called as he came down the stairs. "Did she spill stuff on her like I did my cheerios?"
"I don't know," he said with a blush. "You'll have to ask her later, Eric. Go play with Toddy." He went to pounce his buddy. Mac went to take Tia upstairs, putting her down so he could calm down. He looked at the other house and realized what Eric had seen. It made him groan. Tia cooed at that. "It's all right, some day someone nice will like you that way." He put her down and watched as she drifted off again. He turned on the baby monitor and headed downstairs. "She's down."
Marisol sat down with a sigh of relief. "Thank you." Mac smiled and nodded at the kitchen. "Is there any juice?"
"Of course." He went to get her some, and the boys some since they'd want some, and Buffy some since it was polite. Then he gave Xander his pain meds and he went back to sleep, finally. Mac went back to the office to go back to talking to Sheldon. The message waiting on him made him moan and call his boss. "Sir, it's Taylor. What did Sheldon mean when he said all the power in the building was going out for good?" He listened. "Sir, we rather need electricity, if only so the morgue doesn't rot." He raised an eyebrow at the 'it's all been moved for you' answer. "For how long, sir? And are we working out of that office?" He groaned. "Sir, we have to have a central office or we spend all our time fighting traffic to get test results." He put his head down. "No, that won't work. Sir, I'm telling you right now it won't work. No, I'm in Miami for a friend's daughter's baptism." He sat up. "You have our paperwork because of the construction, sir." He let out a small moan. "No, sir."
Stella walked in and took the phone. "Chief, this is Bonasera. You did *what* to my lab?" she demanded. She listened, tapping a foot. "That's fine. Are you going to suddenly pay gas? Or are you going to hire us more techs? Because we spend half of each case in the lab," she said firmly. "If I'm traveling from one lab to another lab to do that, I don't get shit done. People go free. And the crime rate goes up. Which loses us that nifty grant you count on every year. Exactly. No, you've given him a headache, you get me. Tough shit, sir. Yay. Just think, when Mac retires, you get me permanently." He moaned at that. "Now, how long before my lab is fixed?"
Mac took the phone back. "Sorry, sir, she's feeling a bit thwarted today." He glared at her. "Don't swear at the bosses."
"He either fixes it or Danny and I are moving to Miami. We enjoy the bikini culture down here." He raised an eyebrow. She smirked. "You can come. Horatio could use you too." She strolled off, twitching her hips.
"Sir, if you don't fix it, I'm going to have mutiny on my hands. Well, you try it while we're down here. We'll be back Monday. Hmm, really? I'm sure Monroe will love it then, but she also doesn't drive very well in traffic. Good luck with that, sir, and if Stella goes, I've got to follow. I've got her trained as my second and she's just how I want her." He hung up, leaving it there, then he called Horatio. "Can we come work with you all the time?" He heard the quiet laugh. "Due to a building up the street going down we had some minor construction, that was the power problem. I accepted that. It got us down here for a short vacation. He's now split the lab into different buildings halfway across the city. My morgue and Sid are now in Queens. Trace and Chem are in Brooklyn. DNA is further down Brooklyn, in the wrong direction for easy travel through traffic. The rest are on Staten Island. So, can you use our lab? Please?" Horatio's 'let me handle this' made him feel better. "Thank you! Xander's had his pain meds and he's back asleep. Buffy's here. She's reading to the boys." Buffy squealed. "Eric's having a pinching day. Eric, Horatio said to quit pinching butts. You can't do that until you're Ray Jr.'s age either."
"Meany," floated back. "Feel nice."
"I don't care." He listened to Horatio laugh. "He said you're mean, they feel nice." He smirked. "Thank you, Horatio. Please do." He hung up and went to try to straighten out the kid.
Danny was staring down at him. "You keep pinchin' like that, no girl will *ever* be yours to snuggle. They don't like that shit." Eric pouted. "See, you gotta be nice to girls. Like Taylor is your mommy."
"Mommy pinch her all the time," he defended.
"Pinching like that is for when you're together, like married," Buffy told him.
"Ray Jr. pinch too. He not married," he said seriously, looking at her.
"He will be if his momma finds him pinching her like that," Danny assured him. Eric pouted but he quit. "Thank you. Do it again, get a time out."
"Time outs work?" Buffy asked.
"On him. Xander made sure of it."
"My mother would've swatted me."
"Xander said no swatting."
"Oh." She nodded. "I guess I can understand that. He's not a huge brat."
"Eric not a brat!" he protested.
"No, you're not, most of the time," Danny agreed. "Most of the time you're a very good boy, Eric. That's what she said." Eric looked at him. "That's what she said."
"That's right. Every kid is a brat now and then but you're better than most," she said, smoothing down his hair. He pouted but nodded. "Pinching is still bad."
"Fine. Not pinch. Even though it feels good."
"Thank you, Eric." She kissed him on the head. Then she turned the page on her book, smiling at Toddy. "You're very quiet today. Usually you babble like your mommy."
"Daddy!" he said scowling.
"Okay, then you babble like your daddy." He grinned at that. "Did I interrupt morning naps?"
"Nah," Danny promised. "With Xander outta commission for a bit they're testing their boundaries. They did it to me for a few days but nothin' happened so they know I'm gonna enforce it like daddy would." He looked at the two boys, who smiled angelically. "Does that actually work for you two? I mean, one of you dyed a dog, the other tried to eat the dog." Stella laughed at that. "Toddy was teething on Percy's ear."
"Saw doggy chewing on ears," Eric told him. He looked around. "No Percy?"
"Percy's hiding from you two again. He needed another nap." They pouted. "We'll talk your Mas into buying you a second dog, Eric." That got a bright grin. "But only if you're good."
"I'm good!" he defended. "Always good."
"Fat chance of that," Stella snorted.
"At least he's not nuzzling anymore," Mac offered as he came out of the kitchen. He looked at the boys, put down two sandwiches, cut into triangles, and they ate from each other's plates.
"You guys are good," Buffy said in awe.
"It's understanding the nature of those two," Stella told her. "We've seen Eric since his daddy found out about him." She patted the boys on the head. "Once your mommies finish their naps we'll talk to them about getting Eric his own dog to live over there so his daddy can have Percy back."
"Percy my dog," Eric pouted.
"No, Percy is Daddy Xander's dog," Danny reminded him. "You're borrowing him until you can get a new dog."
"Miss Cwothes." He pouted.
"Good, then that means you're ready for a new dog," Danny assured him. "I'll talk to your Ma myself." He headed over there. They had to be done by now, and if not, maybe he could watch. Stella was claiming soreness again. He knocked then walked in and headed for where he could hear quiet talking. He tapped on the bedroom door. "It's me."
"What?" Di asked, sounding cranky.
"Your son needs his own dog so Xander can have Percy back."
"He'd just wear that one out too," she complained, getting up and opening the door. She smiled when he didn't look. "Watched from the nursery?"
"Eric said he warned you about that." He smirked. "Besides, Stella would smack the shit outta me if I looked."
"Probably true," Taylor called. "We could have another dog but it'd have to be one that Percy could get along with and that would love the son and other kids."
"They had good luck at the pound and Xander did a lot to help 'em," Danny reminded her, leaning on the wall. "Besides, your son has this problem of wearing the dog out. He needs something to do."
"I thought about baby sports."
"Take him into the pool more often."
"I can't. I still work, Danny."
He kissed her on the head. "We love you because you do, Di. The same as most of us love your slutty clothes." She blushed at that. "Many people didn't pout because of Xander's shorts the other day." He kissed her on the cheek. "When do you wanna go to the pound?"
"Next year?" He gave her a look and she sighed. "Having a toddler is bad enough! He and Percy create chaos together."
"Percy is Xander's dog. He's going to go back to living with Xander."
"Which means we'll never see the son again," Taylor agreed. "Maybe something a bit less hyper?"
"Our son will go insane if it's a dog like Baby," she complained.
"Then let's go to the pound, see what they've got. We can even bring Percy." He grinned. "Besides, it's either that or your son keeps pinching butts."
"He is?" Taylor asked flatly.
"We're already working on it," he assured her. "Got Buffy and Stella both." He looked at Di again, getting a sigh. "He said he misses his dog."
"It was comforting. Clothes would sit there and let us pet her while we thought," Taylor reminded her gently.
"It's still a lot more mess."
"He'll be growing out of all this bouncy stuff soon," Danny reminded her. Di snorted. "He will be. Willow said so." He kissed her on the forehead. "You want lunch?"
"No, I had my lunch. She tasted really good." She closed the door. "We'll be over soon."
"Okay." He went back over there, making sure the porch door was closed after himself. He nodded at one of the guards. "We're talking about getting Eric his own dog." That got a smile. "Tia's over."
"I saw Marisol's car. How is she?"
"Momma and baby are fine. Daddy Xander's kinda cranky still but we're dealing." That got another smile. "He come back yet?"
"They decided to move houses to a more conservative city. I think they went to Panama Beach or up in that area." He continued on. "Tell them Eric tried to sneak out last night. We caught him and sent him home."
"Sure." He walked into the house and picked Eric up, staring at him. "You did what last night?" He looked horrified. "Tell me why?" he asked patiently.
"Bored," he sniffled. "No swim, daddy hurt, mommy sleep too much. Eric bored. Eric was going to talk to fishies on beach."
"Hmm." He kissed him on the forehead and put him into the time-out chair, making him cry for real. "It's dangerous for you to sneak out that way, Eric. For now, until your daddy wakes up again, you're sitting there. It shouldn't be too long." Eric looked up at him, giving him a begging look. "You know you can't go off by yourself. Daddy said that, both daddies said that. So whichever daddy gets up or comes home first will talk to you and decide on a punishment."
"He said he not tell mommies."
"He didn't, he told me and I'm telling the daddies." Eric nodded, curling up in a miserable ball of child. "You sit there and think, because you knew it was wrong."
"Only going to beach," he complained. "Right outside."
Mac cleared his throat. "Eric, even though it was right outside your house, there still could've been bad people."
"Do NOT make my son paranoid!" Xander yelled. "Come here, Eric." He trudged that way, looking really miserable now. Xander patted the bed beside him and his son wiggled up and next to him. "What did we say about strangers?"
"To scream really loudly and that they could be bad people but might not be. It was up to mommy or daddy to decide that and tell me." Xander nodded. "But no people that late."
"Just because it's late doesn't mean there's not people. After all, you were up. Someone else could've been and we don't want you hurt."
Eric sniffled and nodded. "Yes, daddy. Not tell mommies?"
"No, I won't tell them you snuck out, but we will be talking about this night wandering habit of yours, son." He nodded, snuggling in better. "You're still in trouble for it too. You knew better."
"Yes, daddy," he agreed quietly. "Tell Daddy 'Oro?"
"No, I think you should tell Daddy Horatio. It was you who did the bad thing and I have to tell him when I do bad things." He handed over his cellphone after hitting the right button. "Tell him."
Eric sniffled but listened to his daddy answer. "Daddy 'Oro, I did bad thing and went to talk to fishies last night," he said quietly. "Daddy Xanner say I have to tell you." He listened to the quiet, reasonable voice and sniffled harder. "I sorry, Daddy." He hugged his father, getting one back, even if his daddy did wince. "I sorry. I not do it again." He nodded. "Yes, Daddy." He handed over the phone. "For you." He went back to his cuddle so daddy's booboos didn't have to hurt from the hugging.
Xander listened. "The guards apparently caught him sneaking out. One of them told Danny. I've got the bathroom window open and heard him." He nodded. "Yeah, and I'm awake at the moment so I thought we should talk about this now. Was it a bad time?" He relaxed. "No, I told him I had to tell you when I did bad things, he could tell you when he did bad things." He groaned. "Yes, dear. Of course." He smiled and patted his son on the head. "He's giving me very healing cuddles right now. Of course. Thanks." He hung up. "Next time you can't sleep, pick up one of your workbooks and do something or read something, Eric. That way you're safe and quiet, but not bored." Eric nodded at that, smiling slightly. "Much better. Now, you have thirty more minutes in the chair from what Horatio said. Right?" He nodded. "Go do it." He wiggled down and went back to his chair. "Thirty minutes," he called.
"Thanks," Mac called back. He looked at the boy. "Sit." He sat and curled up. "Sit up straight, Eric." He sat up straight, like he was supposed to. "Thank you."
Xander was rolled into the church for his daughter's baptism, frowning greatly. He didn't like the idea of being in a wheelchair but he was too sore to hop on a crutches today. Even with the pain medicine, his ribs were killing him. He was put next to the family's row, nodding down it.
"You managed to make it into a suit, I'm impressed," Mrs. Delko praised. "How did she fit it over the cast?"
"Ties on the inside seam. It can be fixed later when necessary." He shifted. "Hand me Tia please?" The grandparents shook their heads. "I can hold her and she'll stay quieter for me."
"We'll need her back later," Mr. Delko noted. Xander gave him a look. "You'll get her most of the night, Xander."
Horatio took the baby and smiled at her being awake. "Your cousin slept through his whole christening," he told her. "It's cute that you're awake." He made a face at her, earning a baby coo. "It'll be fine, Tia. I'm sure it will. Now, let's let you calm down daddy. Okay?" He handed her down and Xander took her to hold and whisper in her ear.
"Nothing like that in the church," Mrs. Delko hissed. Xander glared at her, she glared back. "You can't."
"I can, they have in the past, and I'm not. I'm talking to my daughter." She humphed and leaned back. He and his mate shared a look, him getting an understanding one back. He knew this was important for Horatio and Marisol, but he really wanted to run away with the child. It was almost a need to protect her at the moment. He hoped no one tried anything. He really did. He looked down at Tia, finding her staring at him. "It'll be okay. You'll get some water splashed on you and that's it. Then we'll go have a big, huge lunch and dress you funny again," he offered, teasing her stomach. She giggled and kicked at him. "That's my good girl. Yes it is." Eric came in and sat next to him, filling in the gap between him and Horatio. "I promise I won't wheel off with her."
"Didn't figure you would. I'm going to hold you down when you jump up to protest." He gave him a look. "When's her other blessing?"
"We're doing it tonight." He looked down at her. "You'll be loved by whichever faith you choose, sweetness. You definitely will."
"She'll be raised Catholic," Mr. Delko reminded him.
"She'll be raised both," Xander said firmly, glaring at him. "She'll have the right to make her own decision. The same as Eric, Toddy, and Liz will." He snorted at that.
"Xander, calm down," Horatio warned.
"I am." He went back to soothing her again. Eric tried to take her but he swatted him. "Still my turn."
"Fine," he agreed. "Just stay calm. Please." He nodded at the priest who came over to see the baby. "This is Tia."
"I've seen her a few times. Her mother has told me she'll be raised in both faiths?" Xander nodded. The grandparents gave their daughter horrified looks. "No matter what they call it, it's still doing good works, children. It will be fine and she'll make her own decisions when she's old enough."
"She may turn to Judaism like her Auntie Willow turned away from," Xander agreed. Personally he doubted it, but maybe. He held her up and the priest took her to look over. "Her grandmother had the gown already."
"Christening gowns are often passed down through the generations." He smiled at the darling little girl. "You are going to be special, young lady. Very smart and strong. Very beautiful as well." He kissed her on the forehead and handed her back to Xander. He clearly needed to stay calmer. He gave him a look. "Who's doing her blessing tonight?"
"Her Aunt Willow and I. I stay out of that community most of the time. I'm her assistant for the most part so we're keeping it quieter."
"That's fine. I heard and saw the pictures of the one you arranged for your niece recently. It was very nicely done." Xander smiled and nodded his thanks. "We'll be very gentle with her, son."
"I know you will." He looked at him. "Has the other one quit swearing about me yet?"
"He hasn't sworn that I've heard, or heard his confession for penance, but one never knows with that man." He patted him on the shoulder. "Horatio, good to have you back as well." That got a nod and a smile. "Just you and the mother, correct?"
"He refused to do it if Xander was up there."
"Ah, the other reason he's so uptight." He looked at Xander. "He cannot keep her," he said quietly. "No matter what you think might happen, he can't suddenly proclaim that the child will not go back to the fathers because they're together. Understood?" Xander nodded. "Thank you, Xander. Try not to snore this time?"
"I tried last time."
That got a laugh. "I was dry that day." He walked off to greet some others who hadn't been in for a while.
Eric looked at him. "Okay, I'm going to ask. Why?"
"It got shoved down my throat so often," he said quietly. "A lot of was hateful, contradictory, and about as evil as anything I ever fought. All it did was piss us off greatly with some of things that were said. Besides, I think faith is something that's an individual thing. I can't personally uphold this one. Not with the history that the church created. Not with the present problems it's got with women and gays. Not with the dismal future it's looking at with some of the present feelings in the church. I'm not going to torture myself by making myself miserable for the sake of a faith I can't believe in. Especially when I've seen history that contraindicates it."
"Okay, at least you have a reason," Eric admitted. "And we can agree to raise her both ways?"
"Just like your mother's trying to turn Eric Catholic, and I'm teaching him our ways. The same as Willow's doing it for Toddy and Liz." Eric relaxed at that. "Speaking of, who has Eric?"
"Di and Taylor. They're in the back," he offered. "They didn't want to walk in here either. They're sitting with Willow and Ryan and their horde." That got a smile. "Are you going up?"
"He refused to let the baby be baptized if I did. Only Marisol and Horatio are going up."
"That makes sense. Causes the least amount of misery for everyone." He took the baby to hold. "My turn." He smiled at his niece. "Hi, Tia." She patted him the coughed.
"Eric, your aftershave," Horatio warned, taking her back. "She coughed on you the other day because of it."
"Oops, sorry." Xander handed over a babywipe from the diaper bag. "Thanks, guys."
"Not an issue," Xander noted patiently. "We all have things that she coughs at because they're too strong. You're allowed stinky aftershave since Horatio had one too." Eric smiled at that. He threw the used baby wipe into the plastic bag inside the diaper bag, then he took his niece back, getting a happy baby. He continued to hold her until the service started, then his mother took her back. She started to cry, no matter what she did. Her grandfather held her and tried too but still fussing. Horatio tried and Marisol tried. Then Uncle Eric and Xander got her back. Xander took her and whispered in her ear, getting a coo. "I know, it's loud and unfamiliar and the incense makes you sneeze," he offered, patting her on the back. He handed her to Eric. "Go walk her for a few minutes and come back when something more singing or rhythmic starts." Eric nodded, taking the baby out with him.
Eric snuck back in a few minutes later and the baby cooed at the singing. He took his spot and whispered in her ear, getting a calm baby. He shook his head at his mother, getting a scowl. The singing stopped and Tia started to fuss again. "Here," he said quietly, handing her back to Xander, who she settled down for. "What's wrong?"
"Anxiety. Babies feel emotions very well. I personally think all babies are born empaths for the first six months of life," he whispered back, keeping her calm.
Marisol looked down once she had calmed her mind, taking her daughter back. She settled back into her arms and stared in that fuzzy baby way at the people in front of her. Until the sermon started, then it made her fuss.
Horatio looked down at her. "I know it's loud, but it's all right," he soothed quietly. Tia wiggled. "Hand her back down." She handed her to him. He got her calmed down and against his shoulder. She wouldn't sleep but she was staring at the people behind her. One of who was a young boy who waved and smiled at her. She liked boys his age, like her brother was, so she squealed at him. He looked back and smiled. "You're good." He got her calmed down with a few more pats to the back. He noticed Eric and Toddy had snuck up to sit in Xander's lap, both of them curled up with him. Toddy was nearly asleep. Eric was looking very confused while Daddy Xander explained things to him. Horatio smiled at the boys, then went back to patting Tia on the back. Eric nudged him and took her, getting a yawn and Toddy waking back up to hold her hand for a while. "That's very nice of you, Toddy."
Toddy smiled. "Mine."
"Shh, whisper," Xander ordered quietly. Toddy looked up then nodded. He shifted over to sit between Xander and Eric. Bigger Eric got a sudden loud wail. He took the baby and whispered at her, making her calm back down. He knew the priests were keeping track of where she was, especially the one baptizing her.
When it got time to go up, Horatio got handed Tia once he had helped Marisol up. Eric followed. He looked at him. "You're not coming."
"I am so. That's my sister and those guys are strangers. They could hurt her."
"They'd never hurt her," Mrs. Delko complained, glaring at Xander.
"He's right to be scared of strangers. Son, he's not going to hurt her. That's why her parents are going."
"I'm still going. She's my sister!" He walked up after them anyway, standing beside his daddy to watch over his sister. She was small and couldn't protect herself. Well, unless she pooed on someone because then even strangers would run in fear. He took his daddy's free hand to hold. Horatio smiled at him.
"It's fine, Horatio. He's an adorable scamp who is very wise to protect his sister from strangers," the priest from New York offered gently. "You can never be too certain in this world."
"'Sactly," Eric agreed, giving him a serious look. Marisol smiled at him and he took her cap when it came off, holding it for her. He remembered Lizzy going through this. He looked around then up at Daddy. He got a soft smile and he knew it was okay his other daddy wasn't up there.
Horatio lifted him up, whispering, "it's because of his leg, Eric," in his ear. Eric nodded and relaxed at that. Eric started to open his mouth to ask a question. "Later." Eric leaned against the comfortable shoulder and watched as the baptism was finished. Then he handed back her hat, making Auntie Marisol smile at him. They went back to his seat and he got to hold her again since he was between Eric and Horatio now.
"Very good, son. Thank you for not interrupting," Xander said, smiling at him. Eric beamed and cuddled his sister. Toddy shifted closer. "Gently," he whispered. Toddy went back to stroking her head and singing quietly to her. Xander paid more attention to his daughter than the rest of the service, handing Eric the diaper bag at the first pushing face. That got a grimace but he did get up to change her. Tia cried the whole way out but he managed to change her with some help from Di. At the end of the service, he smiled at the boys. "Very good to help keep her calm, and to stay quiet today, boys. I'm very proud."
"As am I," Ryan agreed as he came up to them. He repossessed his son. "Meet you at home?"
"Sure. If you get there first, start the grill." Ryan smiled and nodded, taking his son off.
"Eric, priests are people you can trust," Mrs. Delko assured him. "You really can."
He shrugged. "He a stranger. Not know him. Go with sister. She not allowed near strangers alone."
"I was there, son," Horatio reminded him.
"Eric 'tect you and sister, just like do doggy." He took his Auntie's hand and smiled at her. "You pretty."
"Thank you, Eric. Your mother made this for me. Come on, let's go home to lunch." He nodded, dragging her out. "Slow down."
"I know. It's the incense." She smiled at the family priest, then shook the other one's hand. "Thank you, Father."
"You're welcome, child, and it's clear this one is a very big protector."
"He is. He protects his sister against everything, including lack of cookies." Eric giggled at that. "I found him trying to get her to suck a chocolate chip off his fingers this morning."
"Was her third," Eric assured her. "She like it." He smiled at the priest. Then he hugged him. "You 'tect sister very well too." He drug his auntie off. "Have ribs today?"
"We'll see what's in the freezer, dear," she promised, smiling back at them.
Horatio walked out without Xander, knowing it'd cause a stink if they were together. "Thank you, Father," he told his family priest.
"It's clear to me he does a lot with those children."
"He does. He has the more flexible schedule. He does very well with them."
"Be honest, son. Xander's the only one that has the energy to keep up with Eric and Todd," Mr. Delko noted dryly. "We spend a lot of time taking the kids back from him. They snuck down to see him today too."
"He does a good job explaining things to them," Mrs. Delko agreed. "I'm sorry about the boy though."
"It's a brother's job to protect his sister, especially when he doesn't know the people very well. With what his father went through recently, I'm not surprised," their priest pointed out. He smiled at Xander. "Thank you, son. You have the touch with her and them."
Xander smiled. "It's practice. I steal them all the time." The priest smiled at that. "I do. Eric's moms had to move closer so they got him more often." The priest laughed and clapped him gently on the shoulder, making him wince. Horatio gave him a worried look. "I'm okay. Just jarred 'em. Thank you, Father. You as well, Father," he said, shaking his hand. "We're having lunch with the family if either of you wanted to come?"
"No, that's fine, son. We've got some cleaning here to do," the one from New York said, smiling politely at him. Then he looked at Horatio. "I'm leaving tomorrow if you wanted to come talk."
"I'll do my best." He shook his hand again. "Thank you." He smiled at his mate. "Come on, we'll let you go get comfortable."
"Please. My leg itches." He smiled at the small redheaded girl jogging over. "Mary Eileen." He held up a hand and got a hug around the neck, whispering in her ear. She nodded at that. "Thank you. Were you here?"
"I was. Not like Ethan would come on his own." She smiled and nodded at the Delkos. "Come on, let's get you home and back into shorts and a t-shirt. Those ribs of yours have got to be aching again."
"Oh, yeah," he moaned, letting her wheel him down the ramp. "Where were you?"
"Back with Willow. Trying to keep Lizzy out of it. She was trying to sing."
"I heard. Then again, Lizzy's favorite verse will be 'make a joyous noise unto the Lord' some day." She laughed at that and helped him into the car with Horatio. He looked back at the kids, who were trying to do themselves up. "Get them?" She nodded, climbing into the back to get the kids in right. "Thanks." He snuck a kiss to Horatio's cheek, getting a gentle smile. "I kept it down."
"I know you did. I'm very proud of you. What did you say at first?"
"That I knew it was loud and bright but she'd be okay. We loved her. The usual stuff. Even though the paranoid grandmother thought I'd be casting something."
"I knew you wouldn't." He smoothed down his hair, then checked the kids before closing the door. "Are you coming over, Mary?"
"Nope, but Ethan wants to know if they can do the healing spell this afternoon or should it be tomorrow when most of the family clears out?"
"Please, Goddess, let him do my ribs today?" Xander pleaded. "Just those?"
"Bring him over tonight, we'll do it after the blessing," Horatio promised. She smiled at that and nodded, bouncing off. "Need a ride?"
"No, I'm hitching with Auntie Willow. Thanks anyway, Horatio." She waved and bounced over to their car to get in.
Horatio smiled and waved at the rest of the family then got in. "I have nothing against you doing a healing spell, dear. You obviously need one." Xander nodded at that. "Will it heal them all?"
"At the most probably take me back down to two and remove the bruise."
"That's something at least," he offered, reaching over to hold his hand once he had the car in drive. They had decided to take Xander's car instead of the hummer. Fortunately he had sent all the other cars off to storage the afternoon before. By the time they got back there, the house was full and he nearly had to park on the lawn. He got out and let Eric out, letting him run inside. Ryan came out to take Tia, making him smile. "Ethan's coming over later."
"I heard. I've got nothing against healing spells. Hell, I'll help. He's miserable this way." Xander nodded as he slid out and braced on the car. "You can wait."
"No I can't. I've got to go to the bathroom." Horatio came over to help him, he was in enough pain that his bladder control had slipped twice now. He got him into the bathroom then went to get him some sweat shorts and a t-shirt. Xander came out dressed and leaning on the crutches he had put in there earlier. He winced as he hopped out, going to sit on the porch with a sigh of relief and watch the kids. Don looked at him. "What?" he asked.
"We saw her being comfy with you."
"It was loud, unfamiliar, bright, and the incense made her cough," Xander told him. "All I did was whisper in her ear and let the boys spoil her with some tactile attention." That got a smile from Marisol. "Are you staying for tonight's?" She nodded. "Okay." He looked up as Mac put a juice and a pill in front of him. "Must I?"
"Yup, you're in too much pain." Xander sighed but took the pill. "Thank you." He patted him on the head. "Boys, let's get you changed," he called. Toddy and Eric got out of the dirt and let him and their mothers help them change. Then Mac changed into something more casual as well.
Don smiled at Marisol, letting her sit in his lap. "Hi, pumpkin."
"Hi, Don." She smiled at him. "Thank you."
"Not an issue. It was important to you." He stroked her back. "Besides, what makes you happy makes me happy most of the time. The rest you'll know." She giggled and swatted him. "Hey, Xan." He looked over at him, already looking fuzzy headed. "Who was the redhead girl who bounced up?"
"That's the current slayer?" He nodded at that. "She's young."
"That's why Ethan stole her." He grinned. "She's turning into a fine chaos warrior at the moment." They laughed. "She'll be over later for the other blessing. We're doing something on my ribs, even if I have to owe Ethan for life."
"Good," Willow agreed as she came out of the house with Toddy, who curled up in his uncle's lap. "Comfy, son?" she asked dryly.
"He need help taking nap. Like Lizzie does." He snuggled in, letting Xander hold him as a teddy bear. He was a good one for him. Xander started to snore so he wiggled down and went to play with his buddy.
Horatio came out of the kitchen and picked Xander up, carrying him back to bed. He tucked him in with a kiss and went back to cooking. Mrs. Delko smiled at that. "We're going to try a healing spell on his ribs later to ease some of the pain. I've never seen anyone in this much pain before."
"He's got six broken ribs, dear, of course he's in pain."
"This is more than that," he assured her. "They think one of the hits by the hunters may have hit him just wrong on the back and may have temporarily pinched a nerve. That it may be staying overactive at the moment. Normally he'd never be in that much pain."
"I fed him one of his pain killers," Mac noted as he came in to help.
"Thank you. He didn't take any before we went this morning. If he had, Tia probably would've cried. Speaking of, is she up?"
"Up in her crib and Don's got the baby monitor in front of him and Marisol." He kissed Mrs. Delko on the cheek. "The boys were very good with her today."
"They were, but Eric didn't need to follow."
"With witnessing someone attacking his father, I'd be surprised if he let either of them out of his sight," he said wisely. She gasped. "He was outside with Xander and the dog when Xander got hit by the neighbor."
"The dog protected him beautifully," Horatio agreed. Mac smiled at that. "Please tell me they're getting a dog?"
"They are. They're getting a mini-grayhound. They've got a few at the pound right now from a raid on a breeder and Eric adores them. He can run them ragged." Horatio smiled at that. "She'll need to know where to go to do the obedience lessons."
"I'll write down the name for her. When are they going to pick them up?"
"This afternoon. One's black, one's gray with spots of white." He looked around. "Where's Percy?"
"Hiding again. I'm starting to think he's sick. We're going to the vet's in the morning." The doorbell rang so he went to answer it, smiling at Calleigh and Speed. "Couldn't get up?"
"She wouldn't wake up for anything," Speed admitted, walking her in. "Where's my boy?"
"On the bed. Mac fed him a pain pill." Speed nodded, heading that way. "Calleigh, everyone else is outside."
"Okay." She went that way, going to take Xander's chair and Toddy to nap as well. He grinned and let her cuddle, then squirmed away once she was asleep.
Ryan smiled and took a picture while his son was trying to get down. "Horatio, grill's ready," he called. Horatio smiled at Calleigh as he brought out food. "I got a good one of her using Toddy as a teddy bear."
"He is very good for that."
"I know. I use him for naps too." He clapped him on the back and went to start dishes.
"Hey, Willow, how did you and Ryan get into the habit of aiding and abetting his OCD?" Don asked.
She blushed. "When he threw his back, I cleaned around him. He kept going 'you missed a spot' until I finally snapped and took him on the couch, then left him laying there weak, sweaty, and messy. Then I smiled and said of course I did, but he was bigger than a spot." She grinned. "Then I went to get some chocolate and watch him nap. He's so cute when he sleeps."
Danny grinned at that, shaking his head. "He ever take back the kitchen?"
"Yup, started preterm labor with Lizzy."
"I told the chief you had started off due to cleaning the kitchen," Horatio offered. "His answer was 'sex, yes, I did that with my first son'." She blushed but giggled at that. "Did you ever find out why you had the false positive?" She nodded, pointing toward the bedroom. "My husband did what?"
"The jerky. The new, weaker recipe." He moaned at that. "Better that false positive than his original one. Even if Ryan did tease me about being so potent for three days of not being able to sit." They all laughed at that. Xander hopped out and pouted at Calleigh, but took a corner bench to curl up on instead. "Can't sleep?"
"Neighbors are home." He let Horatio cover him with a sheet and gave him a sleepy smile. "Fanks." He tried to shift and hissed, going the other direction.
"It sucks especially hard when the rib is on the side you sleep on," Danny agreed. "Can I help with the healing stuff tonight, Willow?"
"You can if you want." She kissed him on the cheek. "You would've been good for him if that lie had been reality but Horatio's better for him."
"He's a lot more permissive than I'd have been," Danny noted dryly.
"At least then Stella could sit," Don teased. Marisol swatted him. "She can't."
"That just means it was good," she assured him, giving him a look. He grinned at that and she blushed. "Pervert," she said fondly.
"Only now and then." He gave her a squeeze. "So, I'm coming down on the switching thing in a month. That means six months of me being around and working. Think you can handle it?" She smiled and nodded. "Good. I'm sure Frank and Yelina know all sorts of nice places we can go to cuddle in public and make people go 'aww, aren't they cute' again." Her father laughed. "They do." His phone rang and he looked at it. "Ah, my lieutenant." He opened it. "Flack." He smiled. "Hey, boss. No, the christening was just finished. We're having the cookout now. Well, no. Actually." He looked at Xander then back at Horatio. "I'm still on for the switching thing, right?" He smiled at Marisol. "Because my girl is down here. Plus my nephew has six broken ribs and a pinned leg. No, hunters. Yeah, that case Danny sent back." He gave her a gentle smile and a kiss. "From my boss, sweetheart."
"I like your lieutenant. She's a very nice woman," Marisol assured her.
Flack smiled at that. "Yeah, I'm dating Marisol. No, but this way we don't have to give up either city yet. No one's parents will pout." He chuckled at that. "Of course. We come back late tonight, will be in first thing tomorrow. Thanks, boss. Of course. I'll even bring pictures of the cuteness. Of course. Do we have power again?" He snickered. "Mac, Sheldon got told he had to be more productive. He went off on the mayor. Your quiet, nice, polite CSI, the one that everyone knows is the calm guy of the unit, went ...off." He laughed and handed over the phone. He looked at Horatio. "Sheldon apparently went so ghetto in his rant that the mayor needed a translator."
Danny smirked. "That's our boy," he said proudly. "Did Monroe back him up?"
"She looked at the mayor and said that it was no wonder we had techs who kept running away. Then she led Sheldon off to calm him down. He did apologize but it took nearly an hour of doing an autopsy and letting Sid be a wall."
Danny smirked. "Hey, Stella, Sheldon went off on the mayor," he called.
"Why?" she called back, coming out of the house. "What happened?"
"The mayor said he needed to be more productive. Sheldon told him exactly why he wasn't then he went Danny on him," Mac told her, letting her have the phone. He shook his head and kissed Danny on the cheek. "You're a bad influence," he teased.
"I know," he taunted back, smirking. "So, can we all move down here?"
"They're promising you guys will have power within the week." He looked at Marisol. "Speaking of weeks. You wanna come up with me?" She blushed and nodded. "Cool. I'm spoiling us since we're going overnight." He gave her another cuddle. "You'll have to pack."
"Of course." She snuck a kiss. "I've already done that. I was hoping you'd ask." He grinned at that. "I can go see your mother?"
"Sure. We both can go see Ma tomorrow night." He stroked her back. "Hey, Mac, anything on that last will since we all know now?"
"Will?" Mrs. Delko asked.
"The insane family from the Middle East had another son succumb to the curse of Xander. They're considering it a curse on the family for liking male strippers. He killed himself when he realized he was buying materials for a kidnaping plot." Horatio moaned at that.
"The last I heard they were done debating and I should have paperwork within the next few days. We're not sure what's going on with that yet. I've already lodged a protest that Xander didn't want anything from the family. That they scared him really. The judge agreed it was in bad taste but with the curse on the family it should be all cleared that way. I have no idea. They've stricken him from the family. Oh, the daughter's wedding was this weekend. I noted I was coming down here for Xander's daughter's baptism and they hoped that she grew up happy and well loved, and that she found a nice husband to protect her."
"I can only hope the same, that she'll be happy. Send back our gracious tidings for their daughter's wedding," Horatio offered. Mac smiled and nodded. "What did it look like?"
"A headache," he admitted. "Did you want a horse?" Horatio moaned and shook his head. "I didn't think so. Percy?" he called. The dog peeked out then came out to get petted. "What's wrong, boy?"
"He's lonely with Eric being up the street and Xander being sick," bigger Eric offered. "He's giving the boys pitiful looks." Horatio moaned at that. "I know, he'll be back up and playing soon, but you've got a bored dog, Horatio."
"I was taking him to the vets tomorrow."
"Do it anyway, just in case," Taylor offered as she came out with meat. The dog barked and sat, wagging his tail. "When we eat, mooch." Percy barked and went to play with the boys, getting chased around. "See, he's not lacking energy. He's depressed because his boy is sick." She nudged him with an elbow. "Where did he go for obedience training?"
"I'll write down the name and address," he promised, kissing her on the cheek. "Two dogs?"
"That way they keep each other amused." He groaned. "It might help and they had a beautiful blue and gray colored auzzie sheppard, Horatio."
"We'll see." Xander yawned and tried to shift, then yelped and moaned, holding his ribs. "You all right?" Xander shook his head. Horatio released his hold on the tongs and came over to let Xander nap on him. Xander whispered a quiet 'thank you' and went back to sleep while Horatio petted him. Percy came up to sniff, then licked them both before going back to playing. He watched as Percy sniffed the new dogs when Di brought them over, then he sat and howled. "Fine," he called. Percy came up to sit and stare at him. "Did you want a puppy of your own?" Percy's tail started to go. "We'll go pick out a second dog," he sighed. The dog bounced to lick him. "Easy! Down!" He sat and Horatio petted him as well. "Good boy." Eric squealed. "Go help corral the boys." He went to help the new dogs, sniffing tails then barking happily and licking Toddy until he fell down giggling. The other dogs got into it and soon the boys were smothered in attention.
Willow came out of the house and moaned. "We're never going to unfur him."
"Boys are allowed to have dog fur," Ryan reminded him. He looked at Speed when he came out. "I am not some pistol packing judge." He hit him on the arm. "That was mean."
"You are so." He rubbed his arm. "You pulled one when someone took your bailiff's."
"It's the training."
"Yeah, and you're still carrying." He smirked as he carried the phone over to Horatio. "Rebecca."
He took it. "Hello." He listened. "That's fine, Rebecca. We were wondering about those. Of course. No, we had Tia baptized today and we're doing her blessing tonight. Most of the family is here. You can come over anytime. Of course. I'm sure the treasury will be very sorry about the mixup." He smiled. "Gladly. See you then." He hung up. "Go pull out the two necklaces that came in the box with the note. Take out the note," he ordered quietly. Speed nodded, going to do that.
"Shoot, I was coveting those," Stella pouted.
Horatio looked at her. "Mac, your girlfriend needs spanked."
"I've noticed she's gotten pouty and spoiled." He gave her a look and she shrugged, blushing some. "Xander's only allowed to spoil Horatio, Stella."
"Does that mean that you won't take the battle axe he's giving you for handling this will?" Danny asked with a smirk.
"That's payment," he said firmly. He stared at him. "Speaking of spoiled."
"Just because I had half the beach hitting on me the other day? Nah, I'm not spoiled, just cute," he shot back with a wicked grin. He could hear the growl. "Not like I took 'em up on it, Mac."
"Don?" Mac asked.
"Ray Jr. was amazed at his drawing ability," Don said dryly, shrugging. "Can't see it myself. This one here is more than enough to make me drool. I have no idea why they'd want the skinny New Yorker with the odd hair."
"Lay off the hair!" Danny complained.
Mac smiled at Horatio. "We'll be right back." He drug his lovers inside to the guest room to make sure they knew who they belonged to.
Buffy came in and shook her head at the noise. "Wow, someone get's spoiled a lot." She walked out and smiled at the cute picture of Horatio and Xander. "Awww." She took a picture. "That's so adorable!" she squealed, hugging Horatio. "You will be good to my Xander buddy or else I will rip you apart at the seams. Slayer strength or not," she said firmly, then went to talk to Willow and Ryan. She liked Ryan, he was a nice guy. Even if he was nine years older than Willow.
Horatio smirked at the knowing looks. "Buffy's like that."
Xander woke up alone, which wasn't nice, but he could move easier this morning. The healing spell hadn't healed most of his ribs, he was back down to three, but he didn't feel the overwhelming pain anymore. He got up and hopped into the bathroom then came out and looked at the beast on the foot of his bed. "Who are you, doggy?" He let it sniff his hand then petted it. He hopped back into the bathroom, thinking hard. He didn't remember anything after the blessing ceremony. The healing had worn him out. He hopped into the kitchen, finding a note on the table. "Di has all the kids. Please rescue if possible. Yes, he's Percy's dog." He smiled. "Okay." He hopped into the kitchen to get some juice and call. "I'm up. What's going on?" He listened to Diana babble about it being Tuesday. "Can't be," he said as he sipped. He shrugged. "Okay, if they said it was the healing spell I can agree with that. Not as much pain. Whatever funny thing in my back quit making it hurt so much. I'm back to normal pain levels. Yeah, lighter pain killers would be fine. No, three, I can feel them in great detail."
He looked down his t-shirt. "No bruise." He finished his juice and poured more, then smiled. "Sure. I wouldn't mind at all." He hung up and got a snack, turning to find both dogs staring at him. "Hi, guys. Do you have a name?" He searched his collar, finding 'Lancelot' inscribed on the metal plate. "Was daddy having a knight day?" he teased. "Hi, Lancelot." He petted him. "Hi, Percy." Percy barked and wagged his tail. "The babies are coming." He checked the bowl, licked clean. He poured some food into each of the bowls, then got them some clean water, making sure he cleaned the water bowl since it had a film on it. The dogs barked and dug in, then ran to play with the boys when they trooped in with Taylor. Xander finished nibbling on his toast, waving. "It's really Tuesday?" She nodded. "Sorry."
"It's not a problem, Xander. If anyone deserved a nap it was you." She kissed him on the cheek and handed over something. "From Horatio in case you got up today." Xander hesitated. "It's not like it's something bad," she pointed out.
He opened it and read the letter, smiling at it. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. The boys are playing quietly today. The greyhounds wore them out. I'm so happy we decided on them!" She hugged him gently and went back to work.
Xander called Horatio. "I'm up." He smiled at the quiet words. "Three, no bruise, and my leg's fine I think. Of course I can handle the boys. When did we get Lancelot?" He grinned at the story of him following Di and Taylor home from the pound. "That's kinda cool. No, they're being quiet. Taylor said the greyhounds wore them out." He ate another bite of toast. "Of course I will." He smiled. "Thank you, Horatio. No, the boys and I are going to see the doctor about getting my cast off and my pain killers reduced. You come home whenever you can." He blew a kiss. "Be safe and remember I love you." He blushed at the returned sentiment. "Thanks." He hung up and got some more juice, taking it out there. He found his cellphone on the table and called his doctor. "Hi, Glenda, it's Xander. No, I'm feeling much better. Can I come in for new x-rays and have him remove the pins?" He grinned. "Well, I do heal fast. Please? Thank you." He nodded while she talked to the doctor. "I can do that. Thanks, guys."
He hung up and looked at the boys. "We are going to do stuff today." They both stared at him in awe. "Yes, I'm awake again, boys." He grinned. "You two are going to be my big helpers today so I need you two right next to me all day, okay?" They nodded. A dog nudged his hand. "Hi, Lancelot." He petted him and Percy demanded equal attention by jumping into his lap. Lancelot hauled himself up. "Guys, still sore," he complained but he did pet the dogs. He finally had to get them off him and smiled. "Go play. Or go nap." They ran off to do that in the bedroom. They liked the gel mattress apparently. He looked at the boys. "Let daddy go get dressed. Then we're going to the hospital to get my leg and ribs' pictures taken again. Then we'll go shopping, okay?" They beamed and nodded. "Good boys." He got up with his crutches and headed into the bedroom to put on some sweats. He came out and found the boys conspiring. "No running away from me," he ordered. They sighed and nodded, letting him gather them and their necessary bag to take out to the car.
Horatio came home at lunch and found the dogs alone. "He left, didn't he?" The door opened and Xander let the boys troop in. "Where did you go?"
"X-rays." He smiled and kissed him. "He's thinking about pulling the pins. It's mostly healed. Not fully but mostly. I might be able to go back to the aircast." He wrapped his arms around Horatio's neck and kissed him for real, earning a smile. "I love you."
"I love you too, Xander." He settled his hands on the mobile hips, earning a giggle from the boys. "I can love him."
"Daddy loves boys differently, less cute," Eric assured him, grinning at his buddy. "Love you." He hugged him. Toddy got free and scowled. Eric pouted. Toddy sighed and hugged him back. "Fank you." He punched him on the arm. "You're it!" He ran off, looking for the dogs. Toddy followed, a very determined toddler. The look on his face was the same one his daddy had when he was chasing a running suspect.
Ryan walked in and caught his son on his pass through the living room. "You're very focused today, son."
"Eric love me. He tag me."
"Ah." He nodded, grabbing the diaper bag. "Come on, Eric. I've got the afternoon off." He winked at Xander. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Oh, he's ready to start potty training."
"We'll work on that this afternoon with Eric's help," he agreed, smiling at his son. "You are very special and good." He kissed him on the cheek. "Come on, Eric."
"No, the dogs live here. You're coming to play with Lizzy and Tia."
"I can handle them," Xander protested. Ryan gave him a look and a small smirk. He blushed at that and Ryan led the kids out. "I guess he thinks I woke up horny."
"I can feel that you did," Horatio teased, cuddling him. "I also have the afternoon off."
"You don't have to, Horatio."
"We lost power. That large tree by the transformer went down last night. The whole station is down so we're all on-call." He snuck a kiss and got a smile. "Let's call the doctor, see what he says." Xander nodded, calling once he was settled in his lap. The dogs came out for their dose of adoration and it was all good. Even when Horatio did get called back once the power came back on.
Horatio came back to a wonderful smelling house. It had been cleaned and someone had cooked. He stopped in the kitchen, seeing the bags from one of their favorite restaurants. There was a plate with his name on it. He took it toward the back porch but saw both dogs out on their lead line. He glanced into the bedroom, taking a bite when he saw a naked, castless mate lying on his stomach, his still-injured leg propped up on a pillow. That left him open to inspection. Horatio took another bite, knowing he'd need the strength for that. He still had to claim his mate, make sure he was all right. He finished quickly and put the plate on the nearest level surface, heading into the bedroom. He found Xander napping, which was so cute, and in a cock ring, which was making him sweat. He took off his clothes silently, staring at the back. The horrible bruise was gone but he knew he still had some broken ribs. His leg was still fractured but about eighty percent healed. He leaned down to lick across the warm skin, finding it freshly showered. He settled himself against Xander's back, stroking and laving what he wanted, staying gentle. Xander moaned and pressed back into his hands. "For me?"
"For you. You have to make sure I'm all right."
"I do." He moved further down, finding him ready for him. Not stretched. Xander never presumed to stretch himself. He knew that if Horatio wanted a softer ride he'd do it for him as part of the foreplay. If not.... his mind shied away from that thought. He was still too injured for that thought. He would be for a few more weeks. He teased and played with the back. "Comfortable?"
"Very. My leg's good enough and my ribs are cushioned."
Horatio smiled at that, snuggling against his back as he sild into his husband's body, running his hands carefully over him. He pulled out and sniffled him, gently turning him over to check his stomach, then his mouth. He repropped up the injured leg and took him that way, staring down into his eyes. "Tell me if I hurt you."
"I will. No stomach crunches." Horatio smiled and sped up some, his mate wasn't doing more than making whimpering and begging noises. Nothing but pleasure noises, so he sped up a bit more. He saw the wince and eased off some but his mate wrapped his good leg around his back, pulling him closer. "You can." Horatio nodded, taking a kiss and speeding up again. Xander moaned and arched up, letting him have everything he wanted and needed. Horatio bit down on his neck and Xander shivered, wrapping his arms around him.
"Never get this injured again," he warned, then he licked his bite and came. He panted, pulling back. Xander was still in his ring, still so hard and dripping it looked like he hurt. He stroked a finger up the underside of it, making him arch up and making another noise. He undid it and gently stroked him. "Promise me, Xander."
"Not like I wanted to this time," he complained.
"I know, it wasn't your fault. Promise me anyway. To at least try."
"I'll do my best to never get that injured again," he promised. Horatio let him come and it was nice. He relaxed, panting hard. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Xander." He took a kiss. "You're almost all better now." He laid down on his good side, letting Xander curl up around him, smiling when he propped his injured leg between his and licked his throat. "Someone has energy."
"I had a long nap then got the stupid cast off," he reminded him, then he grinned. "Then I had another nap after cleaning myself out and working myself off for your pleasure. It took me two tries before I remembered to put the ring on." Horatio smiled at that. "We've got to feed the dogs but they've been good all day."
"Good." He stole a kiss, smiling at him. "Did you eat?"
"When I was setting everything up." He stroked his chest. "I'm sorry he hurt me so much."
"There wasn't much you could do."
"Maybe if I hadn't fought back... acted like the typical victim."
"He would have known and done it anyway, maybe even killed you himself." He cuddled his mate, secure that he was better. "Air cast?" Xander grimaced and nodded. "How long?"
"Until it's fully healed. Plus, no stomach crunches or anything until my ribs are healed. Definitely no jogging or diving until they're healed." He looked up at him. "Do you think I should train this year?"
"You're already a month and a half into training time, Xander." He stroked over his back. "Where are the World Games?" Xander blushed. "I think you could make it if you got serious about your training. Even if you didn't win." Xander snuggled in. "Do we know where they are?"
"Hmm. Pretty country." Xander looked at him. "I'd have to go with you. You know you're faster when I'm there, especially if we've had great sex the night before." Xander bushed and nodded. "So...."
Xander kissed him. "You really think so?"
"I do, if you wanted it. If not, definitely next year since it's going to be most of a month before you can get back to your training." He stroked his back and rear, making sure he stayed all right. "But that also means you'd have to cut some of those luncheons out."
"Not an issue. The Library, the Children's Hospital, and the Pound, plus the one coming up for the foster care system. I was going to see if Stella wanted to do that one."
"If you want," he promised. "Plus polo matches?"
Xander smiled. "I'm so still doing polo. Plus our riding lessons?"
"Of course." He snuck a kiss. "Did you think you wanted to learn to play?"
"Nope. Maybe the hunting and jumping stuff. That looks more fun." Horatio smiled at that. "It does." He stroked over the warm chest. "Did they get the power back on?"
"They did. Fortunately the backup generators held the morgue in place." He heard the bark. "Let me get the puppies inside." Xander nodded and slowly let him go. "I'll be right back."
"You had better. Neither of us are allowed to get hurt ever again." Horatio smiled at that, putting on his pants so he could let the dogs in and feed them. Then he laid down. Percy got his back, like normal, and Lancelot got Xander's back. Xander smiled at that. "The doggy me has you and the doggy you has me."
"It is cute. Especially since the hyper dogs got our son and Toddy." That got a laugh. "Rest, my mate. We need to sleep."
"We do." Xander yawned. "Don't know why I'm so tired. Had naps."
"It's part of healing." He soothed down his back and let Xander rest against him. Percy barked. "Let him sleep." The dog sniffed his back and settled in to nap too. Horatio watched him sleep for a while then let himself drift off too. At least he wouldn't be too tired to work tomorrow.