Mac looked up as Xander hopped into his office. "You didn't have to come up."
"Yes I did. I had to repossess my daughter." He sat down and grinned. "So, what did you manage to make them take back?"
"Absolutely nothing." Xander moaned and gave him a hurt look. "Sorry, Xander." He slid the forms over. "They've went from repairing their honor to paying the demon to stay away."
"I'll gladly stay away without this."
"I told them that. They weren't sure." He shrugged. "I tried, a lot." Xander sighed and took the forms, looking them over. He let out a whimper. "Want me to email that to Horatio?"
"Please and warn him it's going to make him flinch in public."
"Done." He turned to his computer and did that. "Okay. Cheline's already seen that. She and I signed papers. She agreed, she didn't think you needed some of those things." He swallowed. "Though, that one set of bracelets... Would you mind terribly if we bought them off you?"
Xander looked at him. "Have them, Mac. Don't worry about buying shit." Mac smiled at that. "About time. At least I won't have to kick your ass for treating them wrong." He went back to the list. "This ring? Is it big, heavy, or gaudy?"
"No, and Don said you can't give that to him."
"I was thinking about giving dad a pointed hint with it."
"He's got one, she's refusing," Stella said from behind him. She gave him a hug. "That bad?" He nodded, letting her read over his shoulder. She moaned. "Is it going into the foundation?"
"Unless Horatio wants this house down in Miami."
"That was bought specifically for you by him," Mac told him. "I have no idea from who. You would definitely have enough room for the kids in the backyard." Xander looked at him. "Cheline is waiting on that one, the bracelets, and the one band." He grimaced. "She remembered Horatio liked to mark you."
He flipped until he came to it, then looked at him. "Is that what I think it is?"
"Basically a daily wear jeweled cock ring," he agreed. He shrugged. "She didn't think it'll sell." Xander moaned. Mac's email beeped. He turned to look at it and laughed. "Horatio did flinch. Speed wrote back to say he's taking a nap." He typed in about the current discussion. He got back a 'call us' demand. He dialed it and put it on the speaker. "It's us."
"Wonderful. Who was this asshole?"
"The other guy in that family," Xander said bitterly. "Dad, I'm going to go insane. At least Mac is letting me spoil him out of the stuff." He shifted and looked up at Stella, patting her on the hand. "We've got a dinner in two months for the foster care system. Would you like to go with us?"
"I..." She blinked. "How did you know?"
He grinned. "I always imagined it was like the book _Cheaper By The Dozen_. Not the movies, but the original book." She smiled at that and shrugged. "You're more than welcome if you want."
"I'll consider it." She kissed him on the head. "Don't be too long. We need Mac to be mean."
"Sure." She walked out. He looked at Mac. "Is it?"
"Something like that in group homes," he agreed. "The good ones anyway." He leaned back. "All right. There's a few things Cheline wanted to know about. Horatio, he gave him a bonding ring."
"Which would be?" Speed asked.
"A jeweled cock ring for everyday wear," Xander told him. Speed moaned. "Sorry."
"I'm going to take the nap while Horatio deals with this."
"What else, Xander?" Horatio called. "Nap in the break room, Speed."
"That one's a better place to nap anyway," Xander reminded him.
"Good point." He left and they heard the door close.
Horatio came closer. "What else was there that wasn't going to sell."
"Xander said our commission this time was something that I've been thinking about," Mac admitted.
"Mac, you know we don't care if you take half," Horatio said blandly. "What are the other problem things?"
"He has three hummers for the crime lab and he bought Xander a house down there to house him. It was part of his kidnaping plot. The hummers were a bribe to get you to ignore it." Mac looked at Xander, who was back to reading the list. "It's not on there, Xander." He handed over that paper. "Most of the kidnaping plot stuff couldn't have sold she thinks. The estate might locally, but it's secure and nice."
"I like our house," Xander assured him. "I bought that one."
"You did," Horatio agreed. "Where, Mac?"
"She wouldn't tell me. She'll tell Xander and you, but she won't tell me. Something about security?"
"You'd be allowed there anyway," Xander pointed out.
"It's apparently an instruction in the will, Xander." Mac looked at him. "It's in the envelope taped to the back." Xander found it and opened it. "So, you'll have a few things to decide about. Did you want the race horse?"
"No," Xander said quietly. "Horses are pretty but not cuddleable pets."
"We like to ride but horses are also expensive pets," Horatio agreed. Xander squeaked. "Where, Xander?"
"You know that really pretty house Eric and I joked about me buying and keeping you like a harem slave?" Horatio moaned. "The blue one next to it." He looked at the note. "Plus, he pulled some strings. That's where all those cars went." Horatio moaned again. "Getting a good backrub?"
"I wish." He sighed. "Which blue one?"
"The one on the right. The one with the private four feet of beach and the dock. The one with all the hedges, Horatio."
You could hear something hard hit another hard object through the phone. "It's a beautiful estate, but it's a bit big. We'd need a gardener."
"Which would cut down on my running around naked time," Xander quipped. He heard the cough and looked back. "Come on in, lieutenant. Horatio, Don's boss is here. Sorry, Mac was keeping me from jumping off somewhere very high due to a new will naming me."
"I've heard you've had a few of those. Don ranted about one of them the other day. Are you all right?"
"I'm a pretty quick healer. I'm down to a few broken ribs and a healing leg." He smiled at her. "Thank you for asking. Is Don in trouble?"
"No, not in the least. Though I do have his stepdaughter for some reason." Xander gave her a look. "He pushed her into my arms and headed out on a call. I'm not sure why he had her at the office."
"I'll come get her within a few minutes."
"Thank you, Harris. Caine, you all right?"
"I seem to have a headache," he admitted dryly. "Mac, was everything in his name?"
"No, some was in yours. Cheline needs to have you sign things as well, Horatio."
"In person this time. Too much money, they said it had to be in person."
Horatio moaned again. "I'll be up this weekend. Anything else I should know before I take a nap?"
"Yeah, have you done anything with those hummers?"
"Hidden them from sight. They're being repainted and gifted next month."
"I said I'd take care of it," Xander reminded him.
"It has to come out of my accounts, Xander."
"Nothing said you have to refit them."
"I'm not. Just repainting them is bad enough. We're also doing three of the other cars since they're police worthy." That got a smile. "The other two are sports cars. I'm tempted to sell them along with his houses."
"Whatever you want," Xander reminded him.
"Thank you. I'll see you in a few days." He hung up.
Xander looked at him. "I'm being a big boy. I'm not even insanely jealous that he gave them to Horatio." He stood up. "Thanks, Mac. I'll stop in on her tomorrow." That got a nod and he hugged him. "They're yours and pick something cute for her." He hopped out behind the lieutenant. "We're hoping for this to be the last one."
"I hope you're successful in that." She walked him into the squad room, finding the guys staring at her office. "You guys couldn't pick her up?" she demanded, heading to get the screaming baby.
Xander grinned. "Hi, guys." They all stared at him. "I'm Don's nephew Xander." That got some wise nods. "I'm picking up Tia for him." He smiled at the baby. "Awww, who's the precious one?" he cooed. She quit sniffling. "Did the meanies let you cry?" He put her against his shoulder, leaning against a desk. "Did he have a carrier or the backpack?"
"He had a stomach carrier thingy." She went to get it and the diaper bag. "You sure you can handle her with crutches?"
"Yeah, I do it around the house with her, my other kid, and our two dogs." He handed her back long enough to put on the carrier, then slid her inside, making her comfortable. "There you go, Tia. We'll go nap and get a long bath." She cooed at him. "Such a pretty and good girl." He stroked down her hair before clipping the last strap down. "Okay, I'm off to the hotel. Tell Don I have her when he gets back. Any idea what happened?"
"He got a phone call," one guy offered. "I heard that she's yours, not his."
"Marisol is her mother. She had Tia for myself and my husband." He smiled softly down at his daughter. "She started dating Don while she was pregnant." He grabbed his crutches. "Okay, princess, bouncy ride." She cooed at that and he slung the diaper bag onto his back, then headed out with her. "We'll go nap. It's time for daddy to have a nap too."
"Sir, what are you doing with Detective Flack's daughter?" one of the guys outside demanded.
"I'm his nephew, Xander. I'm taking her back to my hotel room. Any idea why he took off?" That got a head shake and a heated look. "Was Marisol with him?"
"No, sir, he said she was shopping."
"Hmm." He called. "I've got the baby. Why?" He listened. Then he blinked. "You haven't called anyone why?" he demanded. "What do they want? Don, auction stuff. What do they want?" He nodded. "Okay. Get it together with Mac. Now, Don. I'm going to come help otherwise." He hung up. Then he called Mac. "Incoming from Don. She got taken." He hung up and headed off. He'd tell Eric and Horatio later, when they wouldn't have to worry. He caught a cab. "Marriot please?" That got a nod and he handed over a ten.
"Probably be twelve."
"We'll see. I'll pay the rest when we get there." That got a nod and he took off. Xander wiggled his wallet out and checked Tia, finding her sleeping. "Did all the excitement wear you out, daughter?" He unclipped a strap to stroke her cheek. He straightened her up and she sighed, clutching his finger. The cabbie pulled up and he checked the meter then paid the other three bucks plus a two dollar tip. He reclipped the carrier and got out with his crutches. He hopped inside, nodding at the desk girl. "Hey. My niece," he said at her curious look. He let her see. "Any messages for 456?" She shook her head after checking. "Can I get a playpen sent up?"
"Of course, sir. She's adorable. How old?"
"Just a few weeks. Her mommy's off shopping and daddy's searching for her." That got a smile. "Thanks." He headed for the elevator, going up to his room. He gently laid her on the bed and put the carrier aside. He got her diaper changed and found a bottle for her, making her a happy, sleepy, content baby. "We'll bathe after you nap, princess." She yawned and grabbed his finger while she sucked. "Good girl, Tia." He laid down next to her, getting comfortable. Someone tapped. "Who is it?"
"It's me," Frank called.
Xander got up and opened the door, frowning at him. "What are you doing in New York?"
"Being your bodyguard," he snorted, walking inside. "You just got a death threat this morning, kid."
"And they couldn't call?"
"We tried. Don didn't answer."
"He was probably looking for Marisol." He opened the door at the second knock. "Put it beside the bed please." That got a nod and the playpen was set up for him. "Thank you." He tipped the guy two bucks and he left. Xander came back to set it up and put Tia down into it, getting a sniffle. "I know, it's not your crib at the house, but we're not at home. You can have the crib at home soon." He soothed her back into a nap. He looked at the curious detective. "Marisol may have been kidnaped. Don's working on that. He apparently got a call and handed her to his boss before taking off again."
"Interesting. You know, this keeps up, they won't let you back in the city."
"That last will is being debated."
"Goodie. Anything for you this time?"
"The guy in the Middle East. Who threatened me?"
"One of the hunters that didn't take a deal." He sat down in the chair, watching her sleep then looked at him. "Horatio said you're vulnerable since you're hopping around."
"Not really." He shrugged. "Okay. I was going to get lunch sent up. Want something?"
"Nope, I'm good. I got something to nibble on the plane. You talked to your boy?"
"Made him have a headache."
"Pity. The Chief is hinting about those three ungodly colored hummers."
"Horatio could donate them in those colors," he agreed dryly.
"It might take them months to paint those monstrosities," he joked. "I can just see everyone going 'no, you drive the ugly hummer'."
"The guys going after Eric and making him drive the purple one?"
Frank laughed. "One of them trying to hand Calleigh the keys for the pink one."
"See, set them so that night shift gets them," Xander said, giving him an innocent look. Frank burst out in giggles. "I should suggest that."
"You should but if he's got a headache it's not a good day. He's got budget meetings this afternoon."
"Poor baby." He sat down and found the menu, calling down to room service. "Hi, this is 456. Can I get the two cheeseburger plate and a small carton of milk, two percent, plus a coke? Thanks." He smiled. "It's already on register. Thank you." He hung up. "That way I don't have to worry about something for her in a while since I only found the one bottle."
"You're a good dad, Harris. I had no idea you'd be this good when I first met you," Frank offered. Xander blushed and grinned at that. "Even if your son is evil."
"He is not."
"He is so. That reporter came up to your son and Ryan this morning in the park, while he was taking the three of them for a walk. Toddy called her a bitch, learned from his mommy. Tugged on his daddy's hand and asked 'isn't that the bitch mommy's mad at'." Xander cackled at that. "Your son nodded and told him 'Auntie Willow say she is. She naughty and bad'." He smirked sweetly. "He mooned her, then pissed on her on purpose, Harris." Xander doubled out in laughter, making him laugh. "Ryan was floundering but he got Toddy stopped and made small talk while she huffed and panted. He did apologize for it, saying he missed his daddies. She stomped off and told the society reporter that his son was an evil bastard. Ryan kindly refuted that by saying it was *your* son and he was having a bad moment since his daddy was out of town. That's why they were walking together. She still told him his son was a heathen brat who needed paddled."
Xander called Horatio on his cell. "My son did what?" Horatio's groan prompted Eric to take the phone. "My son did what to Sykes?" Eric told him the same story and how Ryan had made Eric apologize, even though he had told her she was an evil woman who liked to hurt his daddies. Xander cackled and handed the phone to Frank.
"I told him the partial story. What else happened?" He shook his head. "No, I'm not one of his stalkers, Delko. Caine sent me to guard his boy up here, and now your niece since Marisol and Don are out at the moment. What happened?" He started to laugh, ending up howling in laughs. "I knew that boy was evil. Thanks, man. Yeah, tell him I'm here. Tia's napping. Thanks. I needed that." He hung up and tossed it back.
Eric looked at Horatio as he hung up his phone. "You sent Frank to guard Xander?"
"With that threat this morning? Of course I did." He smiled. "I'm torn. Am I ashamed of our son or proud?"
"Be ashamed in public but proud in private, man. It's a strong son you've got." Horatio laughed at that. "Why did he have Tia?"
"Marisol is probably off shopping. He had to stop in to see Mac this morning. Hence my headache." He took his phone back. "Do we have anything new on that case?"
"Not yet. You want some tylenol?"
"Please." Eric went to get him some and some more water.
The Chief walked in and looked at him. "Lounging?"
"Headache. Xander got given an estate locally."
"Yeah, the Henner one." Horatio looked at him and shook his head. "No? I thought it was that one."
"No, one closer to downtown but still a real estate. That Middle Eastern family got him again." He took the tylenol and the water. "Thank you, Eric. Anything new?"
"Not really. Phone records are being searched but I can't find two of the numbers, not even in the cellphone directory. They lead back to dead ends."
"Like secured lines?" the chief offered.
"It's a society brat that disappeared," Eric told him.
"The same one that Fornell and Willow thought something was odd about, Eric. He could be right." Eric nodded, going to do that. He looked at his boss as he sat up. "What's happened now?"
"Isabel is ranting about your nephew?"
"He and her daughter had a small tiff. They've made up now."
"Oh. That was yesterday. Anything good?" He shook his head. "Your nephew's playboy ways?"
"No, he wanted to study instead of go out. She wanted to go party in the clubs and Ray Jr. was being responsible." He smiled. "My nephew is a very good man in the making."
"Good. You sure about the Henner estate?"
"As far as I know. Who did you hear that from?"
Horatio got up and went to find his social directory and call her. "Isabel, what estate was given to him? I thought it was one out on Polo Row." He listened. "Who did that? No, we're firmly married, Isabel. I don't care what she offers him, he's mine. Isabel, I am more possessive than anyone ever seen in the social crowd. No one touches my mate." He smiled. "Feel free to, or give me something so I can arrest her on?" He chuckled. "I had to try, Isabel. Please. Thank you. They did make up?" He nodded. "I heard. Thank you." He hung up and looked at the Chief. "It's that stupid heiress who wants him to hide me behind a marriage to her."
"How stupid is this girl?"
"Very." He smirked. "Next month I'm handing over some of the ill-gotten gains from one of those idiots who gave us things."
"I heard about some oddly colored hummers."
"Yes, and I'm tempted to make the department paint the pink, blue, and lavender hummers while giving them to night shift." He moaned at that. Horatio smirked at him. "They are very baby colors."
"You do that and they'll skin you alive, Caine. You know that."
"I'm having them repainted. You'll have to outfit them."
"Fine. Reducing the tax debt?" Horatio nodded. "How much does he pay?"
"Too much. Thankfully his most major assets are off-shore. Also, I'll be in New York this weekend. I've got to brief the new tech coming in on switch and there was a bit of that last will that left something to me that I've got to sign papers to get rid of."
"You're off?" Horatio nodded. "That's fine then. Where is your daughter?"
"With Xander apparently."
"Interesting. Did he take her again?"
"No, he said something about Marisol shopping and Don being out."
"So the kidnaping rumors I heard were false?" Horatio looked at him. "About her. I heard the death threat this morning got Tripp sent up after your spouse."
"He is still hopping around with a cracked leg and three cracked ribs."
"Point. Tell him to bring Yelina back something pretty. She was sniffling at her desk."
"I'll talk with her in a while. Anything else, sir?"
"Do you want my job some year?"
"I'd rather slit my wrists and walk into the demon bars to let the nighttime population drain me dry while raping me repeatedly."
"Good answer. I like that answer. Much more enjoyable than Henderson's 'I'd jump off somewhere high from the paperwork'." He smirked as he walked out.
"Ask Hopkins," he called after him. "She's earned it and most department's respect." That got a hand wave. He shuddered at the mere thought of being Chief of Police. He called Xander. "He offered me his job," he said quietly. "Make it stop?" He smiled at the soft words. "Thank you, Xander. Kidnaped?" He nodded. "That's fine then. Thank you." He hung up. "Eric, your sister is fine," he offered, seeing him standing in the door.
"So, Xander wasn't the one taken?" Horatio shook his head. "Why was my sister taken?"
"To get money from Don."
Eric moaned and sighed. "What did the Chief want?"
"Confirmation of rumors. To see if I wanted him nominated to take his spot when he retires."
"I'm not. I'd rather walk into Tentacles with open wrists and let them attack me." Eric smiled at that. "I would." Eric giggled. "So, Xander has Tia and Frank has Xander."
"So as long as the hotel isn't attacked, we're all good?" His phone rang and he looked at it. "Don," he answered. "Where is my sister?" He smiled. "Good! I like that. Did you get them for me?" He laughed. "Even better. They yours, ours, or otherwise?" He raised an eyebrow. "Horatio, Don said the guys who took Marisol claims they were hired by Margaret Brundt. To turn him straight. That Mari was clearly a cover." He listened and nodded. "One's begging for the hole in his cock to be repaired. Don apparently missed a stomach shot by a few inches."
"Wind resistence can be bad," Horatio agreed blandly. "Tell him Frank's got Xander and Xander has Tia at the hotel. Also that I'll be up there this weekend." Eric nodded, saying that as he walked off. Horatio shook his head but got back to work on his present case. It was going to drive him insane with Xander in New York. He decided to let it settle back into his head and thoughts while he went to check on Yelina, who was having mood swings a bit early. She and Calleigh were sharing a candy bar so it was all right.
Xander came out of the pool behind Di's house and toweled off, feeling the burn. He looked at his coach, who was grimacing. "That bad?"
"Yup. You've got some work to do, Xander." He kicked out a chair and Xander came back to sit down, rubbing his leg. "Still hurt?"
"Some weather ache. We're getting a bad storm tonight." He looked at him. "I have how many months before the first meet?"
"Five before the YMCA meet." Xander moaned at that. "You can do it. You made up the same amount before." Xander looked at him. "You did. When you first started."
"So I've got to make up two years of training?"
"Your body already knows it, it's just got to get back there. It'll be faster this time. How many miles are you up to in jogging?"
"Two. Any more than that and my leg aches like hell."
"Okay. Have you seen your doctor?" Xander nodded. "And?"
"He said it's normal and to work back up slowly. It's been four weeks since he took me off my crutches."
"Yeah, but it's been two since you quit using them," Eric reminded him. "Remember, you fell and twisted your knee." Xander nodded at that. "We'll work slowly back up to it."
"Sure. What did the coaches say?"
"He asked how your times were. I told him you couldn't train for nearly two months. He demanded to know why so I showed him the picture of you on your crutches. He winced. I told him broken ribs, broken leg, fractured hand, and a lot of bruises. He said to start you slowly and rebuild to distance. Starting with sprints would be easiest since they were your better events."
"I want to get back to the point where I can do any dive," Xander said miserably. He rubbed his leg again and looked up. "We should head inside." They gathered up everything and headed for his house. They made it inside a few minutes before the rain. He looked at him. "Okay, where do I start?"
"Some weight training to get you back up to running and get your muscle tone back. I can tell you're back to your starting point, the situps and pushups."
Xander looked at his abs. "Horatio made me gain weight while I was on my crutches." He grabbed them some juice and sat down with him. "I'm trying to get back to my stripper- licious body." Eric smiled at that. "I don't mind being a little less defined, but I can't stand no definition."
"I can understand that." He sipped his juice. "Remember, every week you spend on your ass takes nearly three to get rid of. You were incredibly active but it's still going to take some time." He patted him on the arm. "Are you cramping?" Xander nodded. "Have Horatio work on those when he gets home."
"Hurricane off the coast. They're planning the shelter or run strategies for this year and what parts need to evacuate."
"What's this neighborhood on?"
"Flee in terror." He sighed and put his feet up. "You've seen the other house, right?" He nodded, they had all driven by there. "It's safer. It's sheltered by a cove. It's out of the normal path of the debris trail. Usually they hit above it and go inland if they're going to hit Miami itself."
"The bad points are?"
"We'd be moving across the city from Di and Taylor. We'd have automated security instead of guards. There's community guards but nothing like here."
"Okay," Eric agreed. "The other bad points?"
"It's too far away from everything. Dad lives on this side of town. You live on this side of town. Your family lives on this side of town. We'd be a half hour or more from everyone else."
"The good points are?"
"I'd have an olympic sized pool out there. It's already got a bunker, the guy put one in when he bought it to kidnap me. It's huge. Horatio could have a real office and a lab." Eric smiled at that. "Really. I'd have bigger closets to maintain and Horatio could have the laundry center of his dreams. Including the private dry cleaner out there that only works for the residents." He sipped his juice. "Horatio hates the house. I hate the house. Just what it stands for."
"Then sell it and find something closer," he advised. "Something with the pool and all the amenities. Remember, just on the other side of Speed is Country Club Row." Xander nodded at that. "Even though you don't play golf."
"I like this house. It's a home and it's comfy and just the right size. If I had to go bigger, I'd wander around all day trying to clean it."
"Isabel's neighbor is moving."
"Then we'd see repeated takes of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliette thanks to the kids."
"Point," he agreed with a small grin. "Have you looked at the other ones?" Xander nodded, looking miserable. "Found one you like?" He nodded. "How much more is it?"
"My shopping account for the year plus the safety deposit box." He finished his juice and put his feet down to face him again. "It has everything that the other house has but it's closer. It's one of those odd downtown oasis in the middle of the city estates. It's ten minutes from your present place. It's thirty from Dad and Calleigh. It's twenty to your parents and ten from here. It's got an olympic sized pool and enough room to put in a diving board. It's got privacy fences and security. It's got a reasonable sized house. The only problem is that I couldn't move the bunker."
"Anywhere that you could move it?"
"The estate I already have that neither of us want." Horatio walked in. "Are we evacuating the neighborhood?"
"Including you. You can put the precious things down into the bunker and go with the people." He took a kiss. "What were we discussing?"
"The estate." Horatio grimaced. "I don't want to move out there if this place gets damaged but the condo is hidden for a good reason."
"It is," he agreed. "It should stay that way, I agreed to that already. It doesn't mean I want to move out there."
"Neither do I. It's too far away." Horatio nodded at that. "But if something happens I'll need to find somewhere closer and the only one I found that I liked I couldn't move the bunker."
"Then move the bunker out there until you sell it," Eric suggested.
"The whole point of having the bunker with the house is in case something happens."
"Then you bring the stuff in the study, Xander. Leave the artillery there." Xander sighed and nodded. "Either that or start encouraging others to move that way."
"There's no way Dad and Calleigh would move into those townhouses. Dad said he likes Ryan most of the time but he couldn't stand being neighbors." That got a small smirk from Horatio, who gave him a hug. "I'm back at where I was when I started."
"At least you didn't lose anything," he advised. Xander nodded, that was true, he could've gotten worse. "Move the important things down there, Xander. Then be prepared to move the weapons if necessary." Xander nodded at that. "Pack. Today. It'll start making us evacuate in three days."
"Yes, dear. Should we plan on going north?"
"If you want." He stroked his cheek. "We'll have to stay here." Xander nodded at that, getting up to make a list of what needed to be moved. "We'll talk about the housing switch if it's necessary."
"Yes, dear." He looked up. "If something happens to the house, which way are we moving?"
"If we must, we'll move out there for a few days." Xander nodded. "What sort were you looking at?"
"Has a pool and at least four bedrooms. Preferably with beach access."
"I reminded him Isabel's neighbor's moving but he said Ray Jr. would cause problems with the sneaking over. I thought about Country Club row." Horatio shuddered. "I know. He found one in the Oasis estates that're becoming popular."
"Please no," he begged. "Those are like pretending to live in a jungle." He shook his head. "Let me look, Xander?" Xander nodded, smiling at him. "Thank you. Get everything ready. We've got to lock down the station. Eric, we'll need you back." Eric nodded and finished his juice, putting the glass into the kitchen. He gave Xander a pat on the way out. Horatio looked at him once they were in the hummer. "Why was he thinking that?"
"He found out this development was in the way of Andrew and two others since then." Horatio moaned. "Plus having a pool there would mean more training."
"It would," he agreed. "Do we think he has a shot?"
"He's got five months before the YMCA match. He *has* to place high enough in that one or the other two after it to get into All-City, therefore State. His body remembers, but it's going to be an uphill battle with the injury. Especially since he's got a weather ache now."
"It's not fully finished healing. I'm not surprised." He headed out of the estates and to the station. They had things they needed to get done. He could let Xander worry about the family. He would have to let Xander worry about their things and family while he worried about the station.
Xander finished sealing the hurricane shelter and turned to find Taylor behind him. "More stuff?"
"I thought that was our emergency shelter."
"It is, but we're going to be mandatory evacuated. We're in the path of this one."
"You know all the boards and stuff? The metal shutters?" She nodded. "Do it now. Di did hers last year." She nodded, going to tell her that.
"We're in the path?" she called.
"Yup. Horatio said so." He came up the stairs and looked at her. "Horatio said we're getting evacuated two days from now. All the important things, like pictures, forms, those things, are in the shelter. They'll survive even if nothing else does." She nodded at that. "Also, all the weapons were moved." She grimaced at that. "Necessary. If the bunker's exposed, I can't have those exposed too." She nodded at that. "So, let's work on the windows."
"We've got those shutters that you lock in."
"Us to. You guys need help, call us." He went to get his own house ready. Including the new screens that could go overtop of the shutters to keep things from blowing into them and breaking the windows underneath them. He did a last turn through the house. "Guys?" he called. The dogs barked from the nursery. He sighed at that, going to take a lot of pictures and pack them onto his laptop. It'd be going with him. The news report came on and he winced. It was a category five hurricane. "Love you too, God." He got back to work. He'd have to pack the car pretty full to give them what they'd need for a week without power and things. He called Mac. "Can you have Don make sure the house out in Seagate is ready in case we decide to fly instead? No, it just got upgraded to a category five. I'm hoping not, but..." He let it trail off, listening to someone pounding on the door. "Gotta go." He hung up. "What!"
"Mr. Harris, sir!" Xander went to answer the door, looking at the guards. "Sir, there's three houses that don't have storage."
"The one on this side isn't full. The other side is. It's gotta be small stuff. Also, warn them there's a chest freezer down there. Even if we empty it and the power goes off it'll still defrost onto the floor. There's a drain but not that great."
"Okay." He went to tell the others. Xander looked at the quantity of stuff, then at them. "Too much?"
"Yeah, they'd be safer putting that into a u-haul and heading out today. Or the guy with the camper, stuff that and go." That got a nod from his neighbors. "Mine's not that big, guys. I wish it was. Um, hell." He looked at him. "Go get a large u-haul."
"With the price of gas?" one of them demanded.
Xander looked at him. "Then you rent a storage space, Kurt." His face lit up. "Park the u-haul inside it and it'll at least give you double protection of metal. Even if the storage area blows and the u-haul blows too, it'll probably be protected. Until then, I've got a small area. Like living room sized."
"We can fit that in there," one of the women assured him.
He nodded, bringing her down. "Taylor, make sure the code over there is locked? I'm opening it from this side." He hung up and waited until the lights said it was ready, then input the general code and let them inside. They piled things in and someone moved to make sure the chest freezer would only get the stuff like grandma's prized rocking chair and not pictures. He got his dogs out of the way, putting them back in the nursery with Tia. He went to check the emergency packs, sighing in frustration. He would rather stay with the weapons but he couldn't. They were back in military-worthy storage at least. His swords and handguns were in a different location, packed in the estate's bunker. It hadn't been big enough to hold the artillery plus the guns and swords. A few last things were brought in and he let them back out. He checked Tia and the dogs before locking it. He tapped the code for the guard. "That's the general code. It gets them into that side."
"That's fine, sir. We're evacuating this neighborhood tomorrow morning."
"And I'm going last. That's my favorite position. I've got Tia and the dogs." They nodded, going to tell the others and arrange for them to go. He sighed and checked the kitchen. Then the bags again. He loaded his last handgun and put the safety on, then put it into the bag, and then into the car. He made sure he had things for each of them, including Eric and Willow's kids if he ended up with them. They did and he got the bags of dog food and rolls of trash bags, plus the bottles of water for the cooler. He checked on Tia, she was still cooing at the wall mural. "I hope like hell it's here when you get back, princess." Horatio walked in. "I need you to pack a small bag and the rest of the clothes are going to the estate. I left the daily use stuff here."
"Why not the others?"
"It's in the path too. I'm not taking that chance." Horatio nodded, going to do that, then putting the rest into a foot locker. Xander came in and handed over his two trunks. "You've got the hummer."
"I don't have the gate code." Xander handed it and the keys to him. "Do we have everything else?"
"All our stuff is in the weapon's area, all Di and Taylor's stuff is in the sitting area. We have three neighbors using ours on this side." Horatio nodded at that. "It's packed on both sides. The only thing left in the houses are the non-special bigger pieces of furniture."
"Okay." He got help dragging those down to the hummer, then putting them into the back. He looked at him. "Did you want to head to New York?"
"No. Not really. I'm not sure I want to stay in the area however."
"I understand. We're going to be in lockdown at the station. I want you and the kids to be at least in Atlanta."
"Horatio, we'll still get hit with rain. I'd fly us out tonight but I've packed some weapons."
"I can get you clearance through Fornell." He kissed him. "Let me handle this, gather the kids, head to New York." Xander nodded, taking another one. "Be safe."
"You too. Love you." He ran inside to gather Tia and the dogs, then to tell Di and Taylor to give him Eric. They did without question. He took the other two dogs too. They would fit in the car, barely. He heard his cellphone ring. "Eric, get that for daddy." He got it handed over. "Harris." He sighed in relief. "No, I'm chartering and leaving. Of course I do. New York. We've got hidden areas up there. Please. Handguns. Packed. Loaded and packed. I can do that once we're there. Thank you, Fornell." He hung up. Then he called Ryan. "I'm heading with the kids to New York. If I'm taking yours, bring them to me at the airport. Now." He hung up and headed that way. He called the company he and Don chartered through. "Hi, this is Xander Harris. We need a flight to New York for me, my kids, and the dogs." He listened. "I don't care what size, dear. I don't care how expensive. I'll take something out of date, but we're going now. We have FBI clearance for the handguns with us." He smiled. "That would be great. We've got two kids, possibly up to four, me, four dogs, possibly up to two or three other adults, two pregnant. I'm doing that now. Thank you." He hung up. He called Ray Jr., who was with his mother and Calleigh. "Am I bringing you or them?" He nodded. "Going to the airport now. Get to the charter side." He hung up and drove a bit faster, waving at one of the officers he knew. He got a nod back. "Okay, guys, here's the drill. We're going to see Uncle Don while the big, huge storm comes through. All right?" That got a nod from Eric. "Check Tia?"
"She fine. She coo at my doggies."
"Okay. We're getting on the plane. Auntie Yelina or Calleigh may be with us. Ray Jr. may be with us. You are to listen to me, son. You will not run wild while we're on the plane or up there. Do you understand? Daddy Horatio has to stay to handle the people who can't get out."
"Good boy. Calm down Lancelot." Eric cooed and petted him, getting him calm. Lancelot hated car trips. He pulled into the terminal and up to the guard desk, they usually knew where you were going. "Harris?"
"Hanger 33, sir, and your car can park next to it."
"Thanks. Evacuating the kids and some friend's kids, plus the pets." He got a smile and headed that way. He parked and two assistants came out. He signed what he needed to and added names. "Any of those or possibly all of those," he reported. "I don't care if we're cramped."
"It's an older jet and it should be fine." She smiled at the others cars pulling up. "Looks like you were right, sir. We've got room for up to three others. Now, we were told handguns were coming?"
"I've got to unload them, they're in three of the bags." She nodded. "Ryan, help get the kids on while I unload the guns." He nodded, coming to do that and add his and Willow's names. Calleigh came over to help him and gave him a hug. "It's all right. New York is nice."
"I remember. There's also some great hospitals." She finished the last one, using a hand- held scanner to pick up anything else. "Okay, got 'em all." She put the scanner away and helped heft and tote the bags but Ryan put her in a seat and buckled her in then went to help.
Xander went back to get the dogs, finding Ray Sr. "You're coming?"
"I am. Jr's staying. Isabel and Candace are staying at their estate in the bunker." He grabbed the two wiggly miniature greyhounds and carried them up. Xander got his two dogs. Sr. came back to check the car, then handed over the keys. "We'll be back in a few days."
"Of course, sir. Is your name on here?" He added his and smiled at her, then headed on. She signaled the pilot, who came to check everyone was buckled in, then got them moving. She parked the car off to the side and called the number on the form for emergencies. "Captain, I'm calling to report a great deal of your family is just now flying out. Yes, sir, he was with them. Thank you, sir." She hung up and went to arrange the next one. Hurricane season was busier for them with sudden flights than vacation season.
They landed and Xander looked at the kids. "We're here. You will not run. You will stay with the group. Understood?" They nodded. "Good. Willow, Ryan, in charge of the babies. Ray, do the two toddlers. I'll do the dogs. Calleigh, Yelina, I want you two to sit in the car. Period." He looked at Calleigh. "Dad?"
"Is at the station. It'll hold, it did during Andrew."
He nodded. "It had better." She nodded at that. They parked and the captain came back to let down the stairs. "Thanks." He walked down to find the limo he had ordered waiting on him. "Get the kids and the dogs in first with the women. I'll help with the luggage," he ordered. That got a nod from the driver and they got everyone inside. Xander had to grab some keys from one of his bags and then put it into the back. He did a last check, picking up the dog dish and the last few wrappers. The captain smiled at that. "I'm surprised Ryan didn't." He headed down the stairs, nearly sliding. "I hate doing that." Ryan gave him a look, holding open the trash bag. He tossed out the wrappers and he put the dishes in the back. He checked his hand. "Keys! I lost the keys!"
"I'll look," Willow called, going to do that. The captain handed them over, along with another set. "Thank you." She smiled and patted him on the cheek. "Be safe." She went back to the limo, handing him his set and Ryan his. Then she got back in. It was a squeeze. Xander got into the front. "Xander, where are we heading?"
"You, Yelina, Calleigh, Sr., and Ryan are heading out to Seagate. The kids and I are heading to our hiding spot in town." That got a nod and he wrote out addresses for the driver, getting nods. "There may or may not be furniture, Ryan. If not, call me and I'll arrange with a rental spot."
"Okay. Is it near a hospital?"
"Seven blocks. It's out near Coney Island." That got a nod. "It's an older neighborhood. Tell my neighbors I'm letting you borrow it to shelter from the hurricanes due to the pregnancies." The limo took off and he looked out. He tapped the driver and got out. "Get in the car, Percy. Lancelot!" They ran over and jumped into the back when Sr. got the door open. "Thanks. We have the other two?"
"Yeah, Tack and Sew are back here. Sorry, Xander."
The driver laughed. "Next time, you'll know how to plan ahead," he offered.
"Yeah, the last time we stayed. Go ahead and hit Seagate first. Just in case." That got a nod and they headed that way. "Willow, did you remember to pack for you and the kids?" he called back. She moaned. "Ryan?"
"I've had one done since the start of hurricane season. I do every year." His wife hugged him. "It's all right, maybe in another few years you'll be used to hurricane season."
"Last year wasn't so bad."
"This year has a bad prediction," Ray offered. Ryan nodded at that. "They think four or five are coming in this year." She moaned. "You survive and move on. That's the price you pay for living in Miami."
"What's a 'cane?" Toddy asked his father.
"A hurricane is a really big, bad storm that comes off the ocean," he told him. "It brings a lot of really bad wind and a lot of really bad rain." Toddy nodded, taking his hand. "You know how we hid with Uncle Xander in his basement last year?" Both boys nodded. "It's that sort of storm but this time it's too bad for us to stay. So we're going to stay at someone else's house for a few days, then we'll go back down. Okay?" He nodded at that. "Good." He patted him gently. He looked at Tia and Lizzy, seeing the happy babies. "They weren't hurt by the plane. Toddy and Eric used to hate flying."
"Now they're old enough to move around," Calleigh assured him. She had spent most of the flight with the kids' heads in her lap humming to her son. She called Speed. "We're in New York, heading out to Seagate. Xander said so and that there's a hospital seven blocks away. Xander, do they have an OB department?"
"Yup. I included our copy of everyone's medical records into one of the bags."
"Oh, good. Yeah, he's got my records, Speed. No, I'll have Yelina, Ray Sr., Ryan, Willow, and their kids with us. I promise, we'll be fine. You be safe. You and everyone else. Good." She hung up. "They're doing the shutters today, Xander. Horatio said he's staying in his office, but don't worry and don't call every hour. They expect phone lines to go down an hour before the main storm hits from the edges of the winds."
"Of course not. If I have to, I'll do it with scrying," he said dryly. Willow giggled at that. Not that he was kidding....
Xander got him and all the kids settled into the hidden condo, then flopped down on the couch, all the dogs laying around him. "Thanks, guys." He patted each one. "Eric, come tip out some dog food?" he called.
"Coming, daddy. Tia sniffly." They switched places and he carried both girls out so they could sit on the floor and watch the news with him. The boys played herd wrangler on the dogs and the girls. Lizzy was just starting to crawl and Tia thought it was hilarious to watch the dogs try to stop her. Someone pounded on the door. "What!" Eric called.
Xander laughed. "Thanks, son." He got up to look then opened the door to Don and Mac. "Hidden?"
"Someone's gotta know," he muttered, coming in. "Where's the others?"
"Seagate. Yelina and Calleigh are both pregnant. They're out there with Sr., Ryan, and Willow. Everyone else may still be in Miami. Di and Taylor may be heading for her folks, not sure. The station's already started lockdown. Calleigh promised it went through Andrew okay."
"It'll be fine. It's withstood plenty of them," Mac reminded him, coming in to play with the kids. "Who's going back in the first wave?"
"Ryan and I probably. He'll have to go back for the looting cases and I'll probably end up helping the clean up charities and with the work. That'll leave the girls with the kids and the dogs. They'll come back last, as long as Calleigh can fly. If not, we'll figure it out."
"Marisol said she could help," Don assured him.
"Good. You want the kids or the dogs when I leave?"
"The kids. The dogs would go insane in my place." He patted the black mini-greyhound. "Hey, Sew. You liking New York?" The dog barked at the door. "Who's there?"
Xander got up to get it, tipping him and paying the bill. "Thank you." That got a nod. "We'll be fine."
"Of course, sir." He smiled and left them alone, going to pay the delivery man.
Xander put the boxes down in the kitchen then went to hug the kids. "Okay. We've got to decide on beds. I brought the portable playpens with me. They're in the bedrooms. Toddy, can you get those?" He nodded, going to do that. He looked at his son. "You guys can share a room, right?" He nodded, hugging him. "Thanks, Eric."
"You'll help Daddy 'Oro and not worry him," he reminded him, going to pick up Lizzy. "Not eat the puppy dog!"
Mac laughed. "Kids chew on things, Eric. You used to chew on me." He patted him on the back. "Don't you start school this fall?" He nodded. "Have we decided where?"
"Yup, and I'm hating it," Xander noted. "I got outvoted, again."
"Yup," Xander sighed. "They say it's a good school. I thought the kids in uniforms looked like a baby army of depressed folk. It was the only school I've ever seen total quiet in." Don shuddered at that. "Horatio said to try it. Ray Jr. liked it." He grimaced. "I'm not happy with it in the least. Not only are there uniforms, but there's rules for the first day. I can understand the food allergy thing, not an issue. Eric has a few himself. I can't understand all the kids having to bring in their medical records, full records, not shot records, and the nurse to see them that first day. Don't they do that beforehand?"
"They do," Mac agreed. "Then again, it could be a lice check."
"Point, but it does happen in schools."
"Still eww." He flopped down again. "We've still got to order dinner if you guys want to eat with us."
"Sure," Don agreed, calling Marisol. "Xander and the kids made it up. Everyone else is out in Seagate." He smiled. "Sure." He looked at him. "Do you want us to take Tia back?"
"Depends, do you want to go to work tomorrow? She's teething."
Don shuddered. "She's teething, honey. That means she won't sleep." He smiled. "That's fine. I'll tell Ma so she can come spoil 'em rotten tomorrow. Love you too." He hung up. He looked at Xander. "I'm to take Tia if you're doing magic."
"Only to reinforce the station since they're all supposed to be in there."
"She said no magic."
"You know what, she needs to lighten up." He smiled sweetly. "Tia, lovey, come to daddy!" She looked back at him and floated up an inch. He brother caught her. He looked at Don again. "Found her doing it two days ago."
"That's probably why she was freaking then," Don admitted. "It natural?"
"Yeah, I've got a dampener being made for her. Eric always wears his and so does Lizzy." He grinned. "So you can tell her her mother's going to be disappointed. It's natural in some kids and some lines. Including hers."
"I'll tell her but she's going to get cranky."
"Then play video games all night. They're going to nap and I'm going to work on the shield."
"Sure." He patted him on the head. "We'll see what she says. Will doing it around them make it more prevalent?"
"Good. That's probably her main worry."
"No, she like her mommy, want all the kids to be Catholic. Even my son. Who isn't. We're about to have another religious fit in Miami with the Delkos."
"Remember to state your case rationally," Mac reminded him.
"The kids are pod people. The first time they try to drug my kid, I'm suing and removing him and if she screams at me I'm going to snap. There's no rational in that."
"Fine, Xander. Just try."
"I will." He looked at the kids. "We need food."
"We do," Eric agreed happily. "Eat moo?"
"No, no steak. That takes cooking." Eric shuddered and Toddy hugged his sister, making the other adults laugh. Someone tapped gently on the door. "What?"
"It's me," Marisol said. Don got up to let her in. She smiled at him. "My daughter learned to do what?"
"Float. I've got a dampener being made. It'll be a few more days."
"Will whatever you're going to do hurt her?"
"Shouldn't, unless I snap and have to start draining things around me."
"Then you go do that in my place and we'll watch the kids here," Don told him. Xander nodded at that. "Then tomorrow, Grandma and Grandpa can come see 'em and spoil 'em again." He smiled at Marisol. "What did you want us to order for dinner?"
"I'm perfectly able to cook."
"No food in the house."
She sighed and walked out shaking her head. Men!
Xander moved everything over to Don's apartment, coming back for a few more things, then went to set up and start the visualization. This would give him extra time to make sure it was anchored.
Speed looked up as the magic started, frowning. "Someone's anchoring the building down."
"That's very nice of them," Frank offered, eating his chinese food. "We all in?"
"All but Jessup and Sikes," Speed offered. "Horatio's back in his office watching the storm come in before they do his shutters." He ate a bite and looked around. "Someone turn on some noise!" He called Ryan's phone. "Did you go?" He smiled. "That's fine. We'll expect you guys back within a few days then. No, but do bop my son upside the head the next time you see him, okay?" The last two officers came in and the doors were locked. "No, we're on clean up so we're not helping herd. We've got National Guard doing that with two patrol units per sector. The rest are in lock down already." He ate another bite. "Where are you guys? Address." He smiled. "That's a nice area. Sure, not a problem. You can hold her hand if she goes into labor. You can even do impersonations of me, just remember, because of the stitches they said it had to be done c-section." He grinned. "Thanks, man. Yeah, we're good. Horatio's coming this way. H, I've got Ryan." He handed it over.
"What is my husband doing?"
"Tying down the building." He ate another bite. "He wants to make sure none of us blow away." Horatio walked off muttering with the phone, listening to Willow babble about how it was just like a shield, like those screens you put in front of windows. Speed looked at Frank. "Your wife?"
"Headed for her mother's yesterday. It's not much inland but usually it's enough and it means I don't have to visit her this time." He put his box down and looked at the officers counting heads. "We missing people?"
"No, sir, doing a count for blankets."
"We've got enough down in the cells. They were even washed once the prisoners were evacuated." That got some laughs. "They were. We'll take shifts." That got some nods. He was senior officer in the building. "You guys set up a fair rotation of who's sitting on the doors. Just in case we get stragglers or someone stranded."
"Or, God forbid, someone decides to drop their kid off again this year," Speed muttered. Frank nodded at that.
"That happened?" Sikes asked. Speed nodded. "When?"
"My rookie year in the lab. During the second hurricane. She left the baby on the doorstep. Right before the big tree fell. It was near the end of the storm but if the tree hadn't fallen the kid would've died or been blown away and died." A few faces tightened at that. "That's why we set watches on the main doors. Someone else gets the cameras. Because some people lose what little sense they had and do stupid shit that they'd never consider during a hurricane."
"I still like the guy who decided to surf it," Tripp offered.
Speed snickered. "Yeah, I heard." He looked at the officers. "Set up a watch. Someone on each main entrance, someone watching the cameras. Also make sure all the cars are out of the parking lot. We don't want one slamming into the station. Horatio will be hellishly pissed if that should happen and damages the lab." They walked off smiling.
"The year that happened, he was taking time off in bomb squad. He still called up Megan and was hellishly pissed," Tripp remembered fondly.
"Um-huh. I remember." Alexx came up to where they were waiting. "I thought you left."
"Peter and the kids left. Somehow I pulled the staying spot." She sat down and took Speed's food to eat some for him. "Yours?"
"New York. Xander's got the tots, Ryan and Willow have the pregnant people."
"Um, Speed, we've got a young girl here asking for Xander?" someone called.
"Send her up!" he called. He stood up when he saw her. "What the hell are you still doing here, Mary Eileen?"
"My job." She stared at him. "Where's Xander?"
"New York with the kids." She moaned. "Don't tell me." She looked at him and nodded. "Major issue?"
"They're using the hurricane to cover the start of a civil war that Wolfram and Hart started on the West Coast; they're going to use the suffering for power raising." He groaned. "I've got to have help to stop the issue here before it gets out of hand."
"You're twelve," he said quietly.
"It's my job," she retorted. "I know I can't do it on my own."
"Try at all. You walked into a lockdown facility." She looked horrified. "You can't get out. For that matter, both Willow and Xander are up there." He walked her off to call Ethan to see how they could stop this easiest without getting her killed.
"Is that who followed Buffy?" Alexx asked.
Frank nodded. "Yup, which was why that Ethan guy brought her down here. So that Xander and Willow could have her back."
"She's a tiny thing."
"She's twelve," Frank told her. She gave him a glare that usually made him back away. "Not like I put her in the position. Those who did are gone. We're working on keeping her alive."
"She's staying here."
"If possible. She might have to."
"She can't survive...."
Horatio walked back with the hung up phone. "Where's Speed?"
"With Mary Eileen," Frank told him. "Something about a civil war starting soon." He moaned and went to find him.
"He'll make sure she's safe."
"If at all possible," Frank agreed. "Sometimes though, you gotta do what you gotta do."
Speed came back. "In this case, Angel's gotta do what he's gotta do," he said smugly.
"Isn't that someone Horatio wanted to *talk* to about Xander?" Speed nodded. "Should we duck or make snacks?"
"Personally, I'd make snacks. Others might duck. Depends on how many sore spots Horatio hits. He might just walk off and brood some more."
"So he's like you?" Alexx teased.
"No, uh-uh. I took lessons from this guy and only got to the first lesson. He's got centuries of experience on me in brooding and evil." He shuddered. "I'm still wondering how someone like that draws someone like Buffy."
"The same way you drew someone like Calleigh?" Frank suggested.
"No magnitudes of difference. Buffy and Calleigh are alike in a few ways, but Buffy's a lot more airhead most of the time. A lot of the time. She'll go from 'oh, it's my job', which wasn't too bad, to 'oooh, shoes'." Alexx laughed at that. "Seriously. I overheard her asking Willow if her shoes would go with the demon blood of the night and she wasn't kidding." He took his food back and ate a bite. "Don't you usually nag me to eat?"
"You boys didn't get me any."
"Last order's going out at ten tonight," Frank called. "Make sure you get everything you want for the next two days, boys and girls. Make a list."
Someone scrambled to do that. That way they wouldn't have to hear as much whining.
Xander looked up as someone knocked on the connecting door, nodding at Don. "They down?"
"Yup. Can you stop and eat?"
"I shouldn't. I've got to keep my concentration on the station to make sure it doesn't get too damaged and injure everyone inside since they're in lock down."
"I'm so glad we don't have hurricanes up here." He got some bottles of juice and a few straws, bringing them in to sit beside him. "When will it hit?"
"Four, five, somewhere around there." He looked back into the scrying dish. "It's well constructed but there's still too many points it could be damaged."
"Okay. Let me know if I can help." He turned and found Eric there. "What's up? Can't sleep?"
"Can I help?"
"Not this time, son. It takes a lot of concentration. When you're old enough we'll start working on the simple things so you've got control." His son smiled and hugged him then left. Xander soaked in the extra energy. "Put his bracelet back on him, he's leaking. It was nice but he still is."
"Sure." He patted him on the head and went to do that, closing the door so they couldn't accidentally distract him. He went to put Eric's bracelet back on him, getting a pout. "Your daddy needs absolute concentration for this. Okay?" He got a nod. "He's helping protect Daddy Horatio and all them."
"'Kay. We'll be good." He pointed at Tia. "She's not shielded."
"The bedroom is," he assured him. Xander had told him so earlier. "She'll be fine." Eric nodded and snuggled back in, letting his uncle pet him into sleep. Don walked out, closing the door behind him. He heard Lizzy sniffle. "Go to sleep." She quit. He walked back out to the living room. "He's got to keep it up. He thinks it'll hit near four or five in the morning."
"If he loses it?"
"He's probably got to start all over." He sat down beside Marisol. "She's got a bracelet coming but your mom needs to quit removing them."
"She thinks they're ungodly."
"They may be, but better that than a baby tantrum that starts flinging stuff around," he pointed out. "Speaking of, Catholic school?"
"It's a good school," she defended. "I went there."
"He said it's the only place he's seen where the kids were all silent. He called them pod people."
She sighed. "We'll let him go look at it this summer. It's a very good school, even for being Catholic. I know he hates the religious overtones...."
"That's just one thing he didn't like," Mac told her. "That and the fact that all children have to bring in full medical records the first day?" She nodded. "Why?"
"No, we had ta have a physical before we went and the school board had ta have our shot records," he told her. She sighed at that. "There's no reason for a nurse to see the non- sick kids. Also, Mac, we've got to get Eric a medic alert for his food allergies."
"Sure. What about the chip that Xander has?"
"They don't allow them. The Headmaster said they're not dogs to be chipped."
"It leads back to their medical records and who to contact," Don complained.
"He thinks it's marking them like pets." She shrugged. "Its policy. The same as even those children's cellphones aren't allowed on campus."
"Then how do those kids who don't have parents who stay home all day call?"
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "I'd assume a payphone. They should have parents who pick them up at that age."
"Yeah, but by sixth grade most kids don't," he reminded her.
"I hadn't thought of that. Momma said she would if Xander couldn't."
"Does Di know?" Mac asked. She nodded. "Did she like this idea?" She grimaced and shook her head. "Do we think there might be a reason?"
"There probably is. I do know that they're not going to be allowed to wear any jewelry in school."
"They can't prevent a medic alert. It's a medical necessity," Don told her. She shrugged. "I'm hating this school, Mari. If we have kids, they're going somewhere else."
"Fine," she sighed. "Momma likes it and they talked Horatio into it. He ended up making Xander take it."
"Then you better hope this doesn't hurt the kids or else it'll hurt them too." She pouted at that. "I'm sorry, but from what I'm hearing, I'd never let any kid go there. It sounds like one of those places that make all kids go on drugs."
"Most schools do demand hyper children...."
"Whoa," he said, holding up a hand. "Hyper and child are synonyms. Or don't you remember running around the house and the yard or the park yelling?" She nodded. "That's what kids are supposed to be. Not little drug zombies."
"We'll work it out."
"We will and I'm firmly standing on the kids' side in this." She nodded, accepting that. She even took his hand to hold. He looked at Mac. "Where do you get Medic Alerts?"
"Pharmacy probably," he offered. His phone rang and he grabbed it. "Taylor." He smiled. "No, we're hiding with Xander and watching the kids while he does something arcane to help the station down there. No, the others are at Seagate. Why?" He smiled. "That's fine, Danny. If you wanted to. I'll see you later." He hung up. "He wanted to ask Calleigh a technical question."
"She's due in a week. It might take her mind off it." Don looked toward his place. "Let's just hope he doesn't pass out from this and it snaps and hurts someone."
"It won't. He said it's like putting a net around the station," Mac offered quietly. He went to check on the kids, making sure they were all asleep. He retied Lizzy and Eric's yarn bracelets that the dampeners had been put into. Then he went back out, closing the door behind him.
Speed woke up as the screaming of the magic around him picked up. Sounded like the storm was about to hit. He went to take watch on the doors. They had clear shutters on them. It was awesome and horrible, watching the water and air spin around them. He felt the magic slip and leaned against the wall to help anchor it. It came back stronger and he smiled at the thought of his kid and whoever was helping him. The storm destroyed everything around the station - the trees, the parking lot, the stairs off to the side. It kept going on and on, seeming to never end. Then a moment of silence. He felt the gathered breath and the magic relaxed for a moment then picked back up suddenly. The storm came back and it was worse, battering around them. He concentrated, making sure the building would hold. The doors and windows would hold. The shutters would hold. He heard glass break and someone scream but he kept going. Finally they were down to wind trails and rain. He felt it dissipate and then go blank. He called up there. "Is he all right?" he asked, wincing at the static. "Thanks. Tell him thanks." He hung up and went to help. One of the bigger windows had caved under the pressure. There were a few officers with glass cuts. Alexx was helping even though she had some. He dug in to help her, finding Horatio doing the same. "He's fine."
"He had better be." He got Alexx out of the way as the set of paramedics stationed with them came to help. He got her cleaned up and let her go back to helping. "People, within the hour, we are coming out of lock down!" he announced. "We are to go out there, looking for people exposed and victims. Find out from dispatch where we're routing people to. I want all survivors who are injured there, even if they protest! Am I understood?" That got mass nods. "Good. Someone go check on the cars. Someone else call dispatch to brief of where we're taking them." A few officers ran off and he looked at Speed. "Remember, we'll have bodies."
"I know. I'll wake Eric up, we'll start with fingerprints and IDs if possible." That got a nod. "We'll leave out the clearly shot and the clearly fell ones from the others so the MEs don't have as much work." He went to do that when his last person was bandaged. He found Eric staring in the lab. "Any damage?"
"No, thankfully not." He looked at him. "Xander did what?"
"It was like a net over the building."
"Thank him for me. Alexx, I'm going to start prepping the staging area for bodies," he called, getting a wave. He and Speed headed that way. "How long will the generator hold?"
"Hours more. Probably not through the day. We're one of the first after the hospitals to get power back." That got a nod and they got all the things they'd need to start identifying bodies and tagging them. They were a good judge of the more obvious means of death. Jessup came down. "What?"
"We just got the first one. Wind blew a body into the back of the building. Young girl, maybe ten. We can't get out yet."
Speed called up there. "Make him release it, Don. Now. We're trapped now and we need out." He smiled. "Thank him for us. Only a window." He hung up. "Give it ten." That got a nod and he went back to trying to get out. Speed called his parts back into him and heard the building groan. He looked up. "We're not going to like this."
"That was the steel beams." Eric looked up. Speed wrapped some magic back into it, feeling an unfamiliar and hesitant strand. "Go tell H to stop it." Eric ran off. Speed gently tied it off and hurried off. "We need out. Now."
"Doors are still sealed."
"Undo the decontam setting," he called. Someone went to do that and he heard the first thing fall. "Evacuate. Now!" They grabbed what they needed and ran out. Speed grabbed Horatio to drag him and Eric, letting Eric go so he could get Frank and Alexx, plus Mary Eileen. They got outside and watched as the second floor's roof went in. "Crap."
"It held when we needed it to," Horatio said quietly. "Everyone accounted for?"
"Six missing, Captain."
"I'm leading a team," Eric called, heading back toward the building. A few of the guys went with him. "You and you, head to the external garage exit." They headed off at a run through the mud. He tested the door and the wall behind it caved. "Horatio, we may need rescue!"
Horatio looked and concentrated. "They're on this end, Eric," he called, nodding and waving. Eric nodded, going to find a way in. "Try the archives." Eric smiled and tried that door, getting inside and going in. Horatio looked at Speed, who was pale. "What?"
"I nearly died again."
"Yup, you did," he agreed, patting him on the back. Eric came out with a few of them and went back in to get someone else. The officers from the garage came out with two more and most of the cruisers. "Go get the cars. Now," he ordered. They nodded and ran that way, heading to get everything. Including him. They could rebuild the lab. They had in the past. He heard the ceiling give and stopped his group. A chunk fell and they went around it, getting the cars out of there as fast as they could. He saw Speed behind him and winced as a chunk of concrete hit the hood. Then the roof. He sped up and turned the corner to give the cruisers more room, plus to make sure. Speed got out and gate collapsed back down. They got out to attach ropes to the back of the hummers and pull the gate, then let the others out. Two were still in there, one car running. Horatio looked at the roof then went back inside.
"Horatio!" Eric stopped him. "We've...."
"We can't. Let him." Horatio got the one officer's car moving, with him injured in it. The other he shoved him over and took control, getting them out of there. "Frozen?"
"Injured. Alexx!" She came running. He checked for other cruisers. One of the hummers was still in there. "Horatio, we've still got a hummer."
"It's blocked in, Speed."
"It's a hummer!"
"No! That is an order!" He moved out of the way as more chunks of the ceiling fell. He looked over. "Speed!"
"He's just inside the dust," Eric called, reaching in and swatted at him until he pulled him out. "Go over and help." He gave him a nudge and went to get Horatio. "How many missing!" he called.
"Three," someone yelled.
Eric looked at the building. He called Dispatch. "We have three officers missing at the CSI station and it's caving in. Put out an order ASAP to go into the underground tunnels if possible. There's another way out through there. Yes, there. In the back of the suicide cells is an old escape hatch. They can get out. Put it general call if you have to." He hung up and looked at Horatio, looking for injuries. "You'll be okay."
"We need that other hummer."
"We can dig it out." He pulled him away from the building. "Back up before it caves," he called. They backed up.
"Those of you not injured, go help with the cleanup!" Frank bellowed. Most of them moved. A few stared. "We survived. Pray then go," he ordered them. They nodded and did that then went. One was gripping his head. "Horatio?"
He came over to look at him. Then he smiled. "Trying to help with the net?"
"Yes, sir. He was failing when it got stronger." He held his head. "Is your spouse all right?"
"He should be. Can you feel them?"
"Two are inside. One's in the garage still." He gave him a horrified look. "They can get out, right?"
"There's an escape hatch through the old building," Frank assured him. That got a nod. "Can you drive?"
"Yes, sir. Let me do that."
"I'm going with you," Mary Eileen ordered. "I'm stronger than I look and you'll need me."
"You're a little girl."
"I'm the slayer."
He gave her a look, then looked at Horatio, who nodded. "They called someone that young?"
"That's why she's down here. So Xander and Willow can mentor her."
"Okay." He nodded and she followed him to his car.
Horatio and Frank looked inside as the sound of rumbling came back. One wall went out and the badly damaged hummer came out. "That's why we have hummers, Frank." He went over to get the officer. Eric went to move the hummer. He led a few of the remaining officers down to get the trapped ones, and then out to get them checked by Alexx. He and Horatio shared a look. "Good work."
"Thanks. Want me to go?" Horatio nodded. "You take one, I take one. Frank? Who do you want?"
"I'll go with you. You're lucky today." He followed him. "Horatio, sit down and call your boy."
"I can feel him." He called him anyway. "Put the phone next to his ear, Don." He waited. "Xander. Let go. We're all out and safe. I promise." He whispered something and Horatio looked around. "I've got it. You can let go. Everyone made it out all right. We're all safe." The building finished collapsing. "Thank you. Be safe and rest today. Let Don handle the kids. Love you." He hung up and jogged for the small park off to the side. He found a flipped car and a kid in there. The driver was gone. He pulled the child out carefully. Once he had her, he called it in. "Alexx, in the park. I've got a dead driver and an injured child." He smiled at the wailing child. "Shh, you're safe. I've got you now," he promised, soothing her like he would their children. She came running and took the baby to look over. "She's scared."
"I'd be scared too!" She looked in the car. "What were they thinking?"
"Probably tried to..." He looked at the driver. "She's pregnant." He forced the front door open, cutting the seat belt with his pocket knife. "Alexx, her stomach's moving."
"Hell." She came over to start the c-section. "No wonder you were out, baby. It's all right. We'll do our best to save this one too." She looked in the car. "I hear a meow." Horatio went to look, finding the cat in a carrier. Alexx got the baby out and handed him over. "Here, get him breathing better." She did what could to get him free. Then she took him back to work on him. The baby wailed and the other one joined in. "You're driving," she ordered.
"Of course. What about her?"
Alexx looked. "Cover her, Horatio. She was dead when you found her." He nodded, doing that with a tarp from the back of his hummer. His was the injured one but it still ran. She patted it. "This is why we love the hummers." She buckled them both in and he got them moving. Once there she ran inside. "I'm ME Woods. I've got two children. One was in a crash, their mother died with the other still inside her. He's breathing on his own." The nurse came out to help her. "Horatio extracted the older one from her carseat."
"That's fine. We usually encourage you take the seat as well but I'm not going to complain," she promised. They got the kids inside and Alexx marked them both with the same mark on their foot. Just in case they got separated. She and the nurse made notes on the charts and they went where needed.
Horatio went back to patrolling the streets. This was where he was needed.
Xander woke up and blinked at Mac. He gurgled and Mac smirked, letting him have some juice. "Thanks," he said weakly. "Everyone's still okay?"
"Some concussions and a few broken bones, some glass cuts. Nothing too traumatic." He pulled Xander up. "Go clean up." That got a nod and he went that way at a slow trudge. Mac went to make some coffee and call Don. His parents had the kids with the adults at Coney Island. "He's awake. Trudged to the bathroom. That was his first question." He smiled as Xander leaned out of the bathroom. "They're at Coney Island."
"I'll be out there as soon as I clean up so we can ride the rides." He ducked back inside then came back out. "Horatio called?"
"He did. Willow wants to know if you have backlash?"
"Actually I feel like I'm full of energy." He went back to his shower and came back out frowning. "Why would I?"
"You nearly lost it for a few minutes and Don had to help. Go bathe. You stink." Xander nodded, going to do that. Mac smiled at the chatter. "Soon. Probably within an hour. Thanks, guys." He hung up and finished making him food. Xander came out and grabbed the phone, taking it back into the bathroom with him. He smiled at that, shaking his head.
Xander walked over to where the family was. "I called Eric since Horatio's phone is dead and there's no electricity. Speed had a close call. Everyone's truly fine." Calleigh and Yelina relaxed at that. "Most everyone got evacuated but we had one person crash in that small park. She was in labor and trying to make it to the hospital. Alexx removed the child from the mother's body and the kid in the backseat with her kitten is all right." Yelina nodded at that. "They're saying they should get power within the day. Eric said the building was trashed. The second floor caved in. That cute curving staircase everyone took smoke breaks on was ripped off and it left a weak point to start the caving, which brought down the rest eventually." Calleigh moaned. "Sorry."
"No, it's okay. They all made it out." She hugged him. "Thank you."
"I wasn't the only one. There were a few guys there doing the same thing." He hugged them all. "So, who's going to ride rides with Daddy?" The boys squealed and followed him.
Willow stopped Ryan. "That was major magic."
"I'm sure he had help," he promised, giving her a kiss on the cheek. "I'll make sure," he promised when she stared at him. She smiled and went to help Yelina eat some cotton candy and a hotdog. He shook his head, following the happy family. He watched Xander, then coughed. "What about Ethan and all them?"
"He was helping. You can tell her to quit twitting."
"She's worried. Remember, she is the roadsign for the wrong path," he said quietly.
"I know. It'll be fine. I prepared for this. Ethan and I went over it. He was helping too." Ryan smiled at that. "Plus there were people at the station helping. Toddy, get back here," he called. "You too, Lizzy." They came back. He was pushing his sister. He looked around. "Eric!" He came running back with an ice cream cone. "Did you steal that?" he demanded. He shook his head. "You sure?"
"Pretty woman buy it for me."
"We do not take things from strangers," Don reminded him patiently. "Remember, strangers can be bad guys." Eric handed him the ice cream. He tasted it. "It's clean, Xander."
"Why did she buy you ice cream?"
"She think I'm lost." He took it back and went back to eating it, sharing it with the other kids when they whined.
"Point her out to me, son," Don Sr. ordered. Eric led him back there. He smiled at the woman. "Thank you for trying to keep my grandson here," he said. She smiled at him. "Can I pay you back for the ice cream?"
"No, that's all right. He's a charming young man." She pinched him on the cheek and walked off.
Xander coughed and she looked at him. "Thank you for watching out for my son."
"Heard of shields?"
"I'm exhausted after last night."
"Fine. Try them. They're nice. The same as I am."
"Thank you." She nodded and left. He concentrated and his magic quit being quite so bright. He looked at his son. "She's like Auntie Willow used to be." He led him back to the group. "Come on, guys, Daddy Xander needs rides." They sighed and took him on the rides, the kids had wanted to go again anyway.
Horatio smiled as the plane landed, stepping forward. An ambulance nearly ran him over. He followed. "What happened?" he called.
"Calleigh's in labor," Xander called. They got her down and loaded, him taking Percy out of the ambulance. He waved. "We'll call Dad."
Don patted him. "Already on it. Speed, they just took Calleigh, she went into labor in the plane. Thanks." He hung up. "He's heading, Horatio. Good thing you've got me and Stella."
"Always a pleasure to have you both, even though we don't have a lab." He kissed Xander, getting a smile. "Welcome home."
"Thanks." He got everyone herded toward the cars. "We seem to have mislaid Sr."
"It happens. He'll return," he promised quietly. He leaned against the side of the hummer. "Unfortunately, our house is damaged. Don, the hidden apartments are gone. The building was destroyed in the hurricane. The other condo may have some damage. Most of that block did." He moaned at that and nodded. "If not, we do have the estate none of us like." He looked at Xander. "We can get our stuff out of the shelter later." Xander nodded at that. "Good. Let's go. I'll drop you off there."
"I'm here to babysit," Don assured him. "I can take the tots and dogs there." Horatio looked at him. "Ryan and he both have to go do good things."
"That's fine." He handed over the keys and the gate code. "Go there. You know the address?" Don nodded. "Good. See you tonight. Stella, we're doing excavations."
"I figured you were." She followed him to the hummer while everyone else got into the cars, Don taking the one Xander had left. "Xander, where are you going?"
"To the pound first, and then to wherever they're holding the lost kids."
"You're prepared for the heart-rending emotion?" Xander nodded. "Okay." She patted him on the back. "You're a stronger being than I am." He smiled at that and Horatio drove them in, dropping Xander off first, then taking her back to the remains of the station. "The pictures were weak," she said in awe. "Everyone got out?"
"We practiced for this sort of thing." He let her get out and headed over to the work crews. He found Alexx scowling. "Calleigh went into labor on the flight back. He went to find her."
"That's fine. I hope he can." She sighed and looked around. "The other labs are doing all right."
"Good," Horatio agreed. "Let's keep it that way. I want the ability to get back to work as soon as possible." He nodded at Stella, earning a smile and a hug from Alexx. "Where are we?"
"Interestingly enough, ballistics." They went to help the salvage crews get what they could. Then they'd get back to work tomorrow.
Xander slowly limped in the last night of his first week back, flopping down on the first soft surface and falling asleep there. Like he had every other night this last week. Horatio came out to see if it was him, smiling at his tired, dirty body. He picked him up and carried him back to their bedroom and the bathroom in there. Xander mumbled once when the water hit him but that was it. He was out. By the time Horatio got him cleaned up and in bed, Xander was down so deep he didn't have a clue he was being held. All he knew was that he was comfortable and loved. In the morning, he snapped awake, gasping. Horatio patted him on the back. "What time is it?" He ran a hand through his hair. "How did I get clean?"
"I got you into the shower when you came back," Horatio promised. "It's nearly eight. You will eat before you head out." Xander moaned but got up slowly to head to the closet to find jeans and a t-shirt for the day. Horatio called Don, who stopped Xander on his way out and steered him to the kitchen for food. Horatio got up to take his own shower and get dressed, coming out for breakfast. He wasn't due in until ten. He looked at Xander. "Where were you heading?"
"The children's internment camp." Stella gave him a dirty look. "It is. It's six hundred kids in a school gym, Stella. They're looking for parents or relatives. We're getting more as they're released from the hospitals. We spent yesterday shifting some of the overflow to other centers." He finished his juice and stood up, kissing Horatio. "You be safe today." That got a nod and Xander hurried off. He had to come back to find his keys, finding them in Don's hand. "Thanks." He headed back out, going back to the old school. He walked in. "Sorry, no alarm."
"That's all right. We're having a meeting in a few minutes to see what we can do," the director offered. Xander signed in and followed her. "Okay, people, let's have some order," she called to start it. "How can we find out who these children are?"
"Consult the database?" Xander suggested. Everyone stared at him. "The kidnaping kits that you fingerprint and do DNA for? Isn't there a database?"
"There is for the fingerprints," one of the others offered. "I didn't know they were going to put the DNA into one."
"I don't see why not. There's a database for everything else."
"You watch too much tv," someone said, talking down to him.
"No, actually I'm married to a CSI." They stared at him. "I'm married into the lab that went whoosh but I'm married to a CSI. There's a database for *everything*." He called Ryan, the only one he was sure wasn't working. "It's me. What databases can we consult to find out who the misplaced kids are? I was hoping the kidnaping kits had some." He took some notes. "What would I need to do that?" He grimaced. "Would anyone have those passwords?" He smiled. "That could work. What would we need to do it?" He nodded. "I can see that we can get that. Thanks." He hung up. "There is a fingerprints database and a partial DNA one. It only got started last year within the state. Can you poach these things?" he asked, sliding it down. She looked then slowly nodded. "I can get another chemistry student down here to help me. She's got a few kids too. She's married to the CSI I just called."
"That would help. I'll do what I can from the PD."
"If you can't, let me know," Xander told her. He looked around. "We'll end up taking fingerprints. Possibly DNA as well. Hopefully not. That would take a lot of work. As of right now, we need to get them fed don't we?" Everyone nodded. "Any hope of it? Before anyone asks, I'm poisonous in the kitchen."
The director smiled at him. "We have food coming but it's not going to be much. Without working refrigeration...."
Xander nodded. "Okay, what's wrong with the fridge?"
"It's broken. There's no electricity," one of them reminded him.
"When are they getting that on?"
"Two days. If we're lucky. We're not a priority site, even having the children here, Xander."
Xander nodded once. "So, generators?" They got a nod. "Let me make some calls. You get those things if you can." He got up and headed outside to make some calls. "Ethan, me. I need you and Mary Eileen to send Willow my way with a list of stuff. Generators and gas. Stuff to do fingerprints. We may need one of our laptops to run something." He raised an eyebrow. "You do?" He looked inside then sighed. "Ethan, I'm working with the main kids' refugee site. No, not the pound. That's tonight. Thank you. That would be fine. Thanks." He hung up and walked inside. "Good news. I know someone who's got a spare generator. We can do that and get gas." That got some smiles. "Plus, Willow Wolfe will be coming down to help us with the materials." He looked around then up the street. "Did they actually get a McDonald's open already?" Everyone groaned and nodded. Xander looked in his wallet, then nodded, handing over two fifties. "At the very least, go get them juice and whatever you can to eat." She smiled and went to do that. He went inside. "Okay, where am I now?"
"Go get the toddlers up." He nodded, going to do that. "How many do you have?"
"Two. Four and a few months." He walked into that classroom, smiling at the kids. "Hi, guys. It's Xander, again." That got a few boos and some laughs. "I know, I'm not Mr. Rogers." He came in to get everyone up. He found one girl huddled down and stroked her hair, getting a screaming cry. "Shhh, it's all right." He looked up as one of them ran in. He nodded her over. "I was petting her hair to wake her up."
"Come on now, dear. Let's get up," she said firmly. The girl shied away from her. "What's wrong with you?"
"She's scared," Xander told her. He glared and she huffed off. He looked at her. "Hi. Were you here yesterday?" She nodded. "I'm Xander. Remember me? I did the blocks. Stay in here," he ordered, shooting a look at the two sneaky ones. "Now." They came back in and he went to get his stragglers. He heard someone complaining and swung the kids up into his arms. "Sorry, we had some escapees. I've got one kid scared to death of being touched. She ordered her to get up. Inside," he called without having to look. He heard the giggles and looked, and they all ran back inside, all but the one girl. "Come here. We won't hurt you." She padded his way, hugging his leg. "Sweetie, do you know how old you are?" She held up three fingers. "Three?" She nodded. "Just three or more than three, like three and a half?"
"Free," she said through her thumb. "Go mommy."
"We're trying, princess. Come on, let's go get you dressed." She shook her head and clutched his leg. "Why not?"
He handed off the two in his arms and knelt beside her. "Did you have an accident? Because that happens. Even to big people sometimes. That's why you see those ads for Depends," he offered, making her frown when he poked her stomach. "What's wrong?"
"Of course you do. I'm doing everything I can to find her, but for now we've got to get you dressed." She shook her head. "Why not?"
"Messy. Bad." She looked down. He looked down and moved her clothes. He groaned. The other social worker gasped. "See, bad."
"It's not your bad," he promised her, giving her a hug. "I promise you it's not your bad thing." She snuggled into his arms. He looked at the older women.
"I'll get an officer down here but they're stretched pretty thin."
"Call Caine. He'll come. If not, he'll send someone who has some sense."
"You really married into the lab?"
He nodded, picking her up. "To Horatio Caine," he said quietly, walking her back there. "Okay. Until someone comes to see you, we're going to have to let you sit in that, okay?" She nodded, clinging to him. "But we're hoping to feed you guys something." The person he sent came back. "Juices?"
"We do. How many do you have?"
"Yesterday we had twenty-three. Today we've probably got a few more." That got a nod and she did a quick head count once he got the others up and out of hiding and back from the older kids. Horatio walked in. "I wouldn't have called if it wasn't important."
"I know that. What happened?" He came over, patting the girl's hair. "My name's Horatio and I'm a police officer. Can you tell me what happened?" She hid her face. Xander pulled him closer and moved her nightgown. Horatio growled at that. "Thank you, Xander. How about I take you to see someone?" She clung to Xander.
"Shh, princess. Horatio is the father of my kids." She looked at him. "Really. Remember, I told you about Eric and Tia?" She nodded. "He's their daddy. He'll take very good care of you and he'll bring you right back to me if he can't find your mommy while you're with him. All right?" She nodded and let him take her. "Thank you." He snuck a kiss to his cheek. Expect a request for fingerprinting stuff."
"It's in the back of the hummer. Since we were coming anyway." He looked at the director, getting a smile and a handshake. "This one appears to be bleeding."
"We were told. Thank you for the help with the fingerprinting loan."
"It's not a problem. Xander can help with that and so can Willow when she gets here with the generator. So can Ryan when he gets here. He may be a judge now but he's still one of us." She nodded at that. "Try not to let my husband work himself into a coma?"
"I'll try." He nodded. "We have two others. One I'm not sure that she didn't *start* but could you please take them in?"
"Of course. Will the other need a seat? I've only got the one."
"Probably not. He's borderline."
"That's fine. Meet me at the hummer." She nodded. "Xander, dinner?"
"When I get in. I'm going to the pound after here."
"That's fine." He took another kiss, making the kids giggle and then he walked off with the precious burden in his arms.
Xander looked at his room. "I had a broken leg recently. He worries I'm going to get more booboos." They settled in to drink their juice while they got the fingerprinting system set up and going. Willow showed up with Ryan and he sat down to run it while she got to work putting the generator up. When they had a working fridge they went to get some food. She came to help. "Guys, this is Willow. She's a very good friend and I watch her kids all the time. Remember how I talked about Toddy? Toddy is hers." They waved. "Help me get them dressed?"
"Sure! I'm a champion at it." She smiled and got sucked into the little kids.
Ryan made it to their room a few hours later. "Hey, guys, can I come in to do the fingerprints?"
"Sure," Xander agreed. "Guys, this is Ryan. He's married to Willow. He's the daddy of her son Toddy." They smiled at him. "He's going take pictures of your hand so we can see if your mommies and daddies have put you into the system. Okay?" They came to crowd around Ryan when he brought in the notebook style computer and got to work on them one by one. They giggled at the light flashing around their hands. "Tell him your names if you know them."
One girl hugged him. "I Stephie. My mommy is blonde, like you."
Ryan smiled at that. "I can put that with the pictures of your hands and it'll help us find her faster, Stephie. That's very good. Do you know your last name?" She shook her head. "What does your mommy call you when you're being naughty and trying to color on the walls?" he asked.
"Stehphie Marie Doshwald."
He typed that in. "What does your daddy call your mommy?"
He grinned. "Any other names?"
He nodded, checking that box. "Do you know your daddy's name?"
"Dumbass." He cracked up at that. "Mommy call him that."
"I'm sure my wife Willow has called me that too." He patted her on the head and handed over a lollipop from the bag in his jacket pocket. "You've been very helpful." She smiled and went to have her treat. He smiled at the next in line. "Hi. You're very shy. Willow was like that when I met her too." He took her hand. "Put it on the hand drawing." She did that then smiled at him. "Good girl. What's your name?"
"Tissy? Is that Sissy or is it Tissy?"
"Tissy." She beamed at the light when it went across her hand. "Oooh, like ship! Like 'Prise!"
"Yup, just like the Enterprise," Ryan agreed, making her smile and Xander grin too. "When do you get off here?"
"Four and then I'm helping with night walking and feedings at the pound. They've got an extra three hundred animals at the moment." He got another one straightened out and gave her a nudge. She climbed back into his lap and clung. "What? Ryan's a very nice guy. He even puts up with my bad jokes." She shook her head and clung to him. Another boy did the same. "Would you guys rather I did this?" They nodded. "Okay. We can see if Ryan will let me take pictures of your hands." Ryan nodded. He shifted closer, letting the next kid in line come up to help him take pictures of her hands and fingerprints. "See, it doesn't hurt," he told the girl in his lap. She watched and then snuck over to watch closer. Ryan smiled at her and offered her a lollipop early, getting her next. She giggled at the light. Xander looked at the other kid. "He won't hurt you. Ryan is a good guy. He's a judge. He was a police officer for a long time."
"My daddy's one," he said quietly.
Ryan looked at him. "Where does he serve? Do you know what number he works in?" He held two fingers. "The second?" The boy nodded. "Do you know his name?"
"Big guy, rides a bike?" The boy smiled and nodded. "I think I know him. I worked with him a few times." He called over there. "This is CSI Wolfe. I think I may have found a boy that belongs to an officer in the second. He said his daddy's name was Baldy? He rides a bike, he said so. Please." He waited, taking that one's hand print with a wink and making notes. "Hi, this is CSI Wolfe. I've got what may be an officer's child here at Lost Children. Baldy." He got called over. "Hi, it's Ryan Wolfe. You rode with me my rookie year?" He smiled. "I'm good, but do you have a son named Terror? Did your daddy name you that?" He giggled and nodded. He listened to the officer. "Yeah, that's him. Lost Children. Toddler's room. He's in Xander's room. Yup, that one. Thanks." He hung up. "Your Uncle Baldy will be right down. He's been looking and worried about you." The boy grinned and went back to hiding behind Xander. "Okay, did I miss anyone?" A few kids came forward and he saw the telltale lollipop marks. "I think I got you. You have lollipop stains." He tweaked one's ear and looked behind him, counting smudged faces and those still sucking on their treats. "I see one. Willow, will you please herd your little clone there over?" She nodded and brought her over, sitting in front of him to help him with her. "How old are you?" She stared at him. "Not very talkative?"
"She's very shy and very quiet," Xander told him. "Get back here, Terror. You can wait in here. Bring Harley and Janice back too." He walked them back in. "Thank you, good boy!" He smiled as his name was bellowed. "I'm back here!" he called. A big, bald officer walked in. "Hi." He pointed at Terror, who was squealing and jumping. "He said you were his daddy?"
"His uncle. His mommy dated a dirtbag." He picked the kid up. "I've been so worried about you; you don't sneak off like that ever again," he said quietly. "What do I have to do to claim him?"
"Take him to the desk, fill out the forms. They're social workers out there."
"Thank you, Harris."
"It's a pleasure to help get these ones back to mommy and/or daddy." That got a smile and he walked out. "Hold on, you've got a shadow." He got up and moaned, wincing as he put pressure on his leg. He grabbed the kid, picking him up. "Did Ryan get you yet?" He went to hand him to Willow, letting her do it. "We need a baby gate."
"We do," Willow agreed. "Plus some more baby leggos."
"Toddy would kill you if you took his leggos. You can donate some tomorrow." She smiled at that. He kissed her, making the kids giggle.
"Kiss Xander!" one of them shouted.
Ryan looked at him. "I would but his husband growls at me." She giggled and hugged him. He patted her on the head. "After I'm done with the other two rooms, I'll come back and play. How about that?" They all squealed and he got up, going to do the other two rooms.
"The accidents we'd have to deal with if I brought in Percy," Xander offered.
"Check first, Xander." She got up and went to talk to the social workers. "How many inquiries are we getting?"
"We're getting about thirty a day. We tell them to bring in pictures and fingerprints if we have them. You're..."
"Willow Wolfe, Ryan's wife." She smiled and shook her hand. "Childhood friend of Xander's. He wanted to know about bringing his dog in tomorrow." They gave her a horrified look. "He's trained. Also toddler trained. His son chases him around all the time."
"I wouldn't care but I'll check." She smiled. "Thank you for the generator."
"Not a problem. I know the old owner and he's a softy if you catch him at the right time of day." She looked at the kids sneaking out. "Goodness, is it a potty break?" They nodded. "Then let's go do that." She led the way and checked the bathroom before letting them in there.
Xander grinned at her. "Now you know why I called Willow." They got some smiles. "How many more am I losing today?"
"We're hoping for another ten or twelve."
"I've got thirty-four."
"Some may not have parents anymore," one of the social workers admitted.
"Then there would be a report on that."
"There were. We're correlating them now." She smiled at one child who was peering at her. "Someone fed you a sucker."
"Ryan did. It's a good way to see who he had gotten and who he hadn't."
She laughed at that. "You really are an experienced parent."
Xander pulled out pictures of the extended family, getting smiles. "The dark haired evil one is my son," he said proudly. He went to take the rest of the kids into the bathroom for potty breaks and diaper changes. Then they herded the kids back and went back to playing. A few of the older kids came to help and he smiled at them. Ray Jr. came in. "Hey, pull up a kid and read."
"Story!" one of them yelled, pouncing Ray.
"I need a book. Get me a book." She ran to the stack of books and he sat down in her spot, letting the kids gather around him. "Uncle H sent me to make sure you eat lunch."
"I'm fine. They could probably use fed. They had juice for breakfast." Ray gave him a long stare. "No refrigeration until Willow got here."
"I've got your back there," he promised, making a call while he did a head count. "Mommy, can you bring me lunch for thirty-two toddlers?" Xander looked around, counting. "More?"
"We're missing one," Willow said, going to find that one. He was in the nursery cooing to a baby. "Is that one yours?" He shook his head. "Do you have a baby brother or sister?" He nodded. "Is that baby brother or sister in here?"
"Sisser," he said, pointing at one empty cradle. "Sisser?"
"We'll see." She took him to the person over the nursery. "He said he's got a sister. He thinks she was in the empty cradle in the room across from the toddlers."
"No, that one's been empty." She took the boy to hold. "Is your sister still alive?" He sniffled and shook his head. "Hmm. When did she die?"
"Oh, sweetie," Willow cooed, hugging him. "That gives us something to search on." The other woman nodded. "We're getting food for our room through a friend."
"That's much appreciated. We managed to get juice for breakfast." Willow nodded, taking the young guy back to hold him. "We'll do everything we can to find your parents, young man."
"Toddy," he said quietly, looking at Willow.
"Is your name Toddy too?" He nodded. "That's a nice name. That's why I named my son after you." He smiled and she carried him back. "Found him. He recently lost his baby sister."
"Poor little guy," Ray sighed, patting him on the head. "If we can, we'll find your parents." He nodded at that, taking his hand to hold. "Come on, let's read." A new book was gotten for him. His mother came in nearly an hour later with boxes of pizza. "Bites?"
"Cut into small strips," she promised, putting them down. A few of them patted her tummy and she smiled. "Yes, I'm having another child. I'm Ray's mommy." They smiled at Ray for that. She tossed over some baby wipes, getting a grin from Xander.
"Let's wipe hands and faces so we can eat," he called. They lined up to let the adults help them. Ryan came back and stole a small piece of pizza, getting a squeal. The other kids dug in and nibbled. One had a problem but Ryan took care of that and got her to someone who had some allergy medicine. That was another identifier that could help them locate a family.
Xander trudged in later that night, not even making it to the couch before he fell down. Don found him sobbing and came to get him. "Shh, they'll find them homes." Xander shook his head. "They will."
"They won't!" Horatio came out to get him and take him into the bedroom. "It's so hopeless!"
"It's not, Xander. I promise it's not. We're doing everything we can to find their parents and the owners of the animals."
"Two of them said their parents left them when they left," he said, staring at him. "How can you leave your child!"
"Shh, I know. Some parents don't deserve their children. Did you make note of that?" He nodded, sniffling. "Then maybe the social workers will be able to deal with them. We can only hope."
"God, Horatio, two of them are just like me. One got hit in the head with a book and he didn't even flinch. The other was scared of everyone."
"Shhhh. Let it out. Parents like that are found and stopped down here. We make notes on them and the social workers will look them over." He soothed him until he was down from the edge. "Come on, let's take a shower then you can check on our kids." Xander got up and went to check on them. Horatio followed more slowly, knowing Xander needed this. He found him hugging Eric and a sleeping Tia. "Let them rest, Xander." Xander nodded, putting Tia back but hugging Eric. "He'll never be that hurt."
"No, he won't." He cuddled him, rocking him gently.
Stella walked in. "What happened?"
"Two of the kids are bringing back bad memories." She nodded, understanding that. She gave him a hug and went back to the living room.
Xander finally let Eric go and tucked him back in then looked at Horatio. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not. That is the hardest job," he assured him, giving him a kiss. "Now, let's get you bathed. You smell like wet dog." Xander nodded, letting himself be led back to the bedroom. "Did you eat lunch? I know Ray called Yelina to bring some."
"No, they didn't get more than juice for breakfast. There wasn't any refrigeration. I can go without but they can't." He sniffled. "I feel helpless and stupid."
"You're neither. You've done great with those kids, Xander. Even Yelina said you were handling the thirty-three toddlers great." He got him into the shower and got him cleaned off. "You should eat."
"I'm not hungry."
"You still have to eat. Or else you'll collapse on top of the kids tomorrow." He called Speed. "What's on the stove? It was a long day." By the time they got out, Speed had brought a bowl of chicken and stars. Xander sat down to listlessly eat, while Horatio worked on his shoulders. "How was the pound?"
"People are starting to come back and try to claim their animals. Most of them had to abandon them because the city didn't have a way to move them with their owners when they were evacuated," he said quietly. "They're finding more and more corpses." He ate another bite then handed it off and got into bed. "I'm bringing Percy in tomorrow."
"I'm sure he'd love that." He put the soup in front of him. "You need to finish that."
"You're not full. You're exhausted." Xander nodded. "Finish it and I'll give you a good backrub so you can fall asleep." Xander finished it and put the bowl down beside the bed, then rolled onto his stomach. Horatio kissed the back of his neck but did what he had promised. Xander was asleep before even a few minutes. He kept going though, he needed to make sure he was all right.
Xander walked Percy in the next morning, smiling as he signed in. "This is Percy. He's been fully obedience and toddler trained. Mine chased after him for months on end." He smiled at his dog. Then at the worker. "Any more get claimed?"
"You're down to twenty."
"Did you halve my room?"
"No, only nine got claimed. The others are sleeping with the older children. I think they were having nightmares." She smiled at him. "I'm sure they'll go nuts over Percy, Xander." He nodded, clipping on his badge. "Now, they should be up. The nighttime person got them ready a bit early today since we're doing a real breakfast."
"Good. As in real food?"
"With toddlers that's known as hair paint." She laughed. "I'll do what I can. Are we eating together?"
"No, in the rooms. We're letting the older kids come to see if their siblings are in here." Xander nodded. "Are you all right?"
He looked at her. "Did you see how many notes I ended up making yesterday?" he asked quietly. She nodded. "Nope."
"I know. So was mine." He walked Percy back there. The toddlers gave him an awed look. "This is Percy. He's my dog. He's part doberman, part boxer, and part austrailian sheppard. Eric has chased him around so much that he's probably run a marathon a month." The nighttime worker laughed at that. "Seriously. My son's a bit hyper. Percy is very gentle and very playful. Plus he licks." He let him go. "Go play." Percy went to pounce one kid with oatmeal on his face and lick it off for him, getting a laugh. He moved onto the next one. Only one girl cried and he got her petting him so it was all right. Xander looked at the other worker. "Can you gather my others?" She nodded, going to do that. He sat in front of the door so no one escaped today. "Okay, we will have Percy all day," he announced. "As long as you guys don't hurt him. You guys can pet the Percy, run and chase the Percy, or cry on the Percy. He's used to it. He's held me when I had a broken leg and let me cry on him." The dog sniffed him and barked. "These are kids we're babysitting, Percy. You're going to play with them today. Let Lancelot play with Eric and Toddy." Percy licked him then went to play with the kids, diving in and picking one up to carry off. The other squealed to get their friend. Then it was their turn.
The senior social worker and the director leaned in. "My, he's hyper."
"My son ran a marathon at least once a month chasing him around," Xander said, looking back up at them. "He's toddler and obedience trained."
"Excellent. As long as there's no more than bumps and bruises." Percy grabbed another kid, carrying him off. The kids squealed and pounced him. He barked and nudged one. "Get off his leg," she called. The kids on his legs got off them. "Thank you." She looked at Xander. "He is very good therapy for them. In a while we're going to release the teenagers to see if they can find their siblings." Xander looked up and nodded. "Are you all right?"
He pointed at one kid in the corner. "That was me twenty years ago," he said quietly. "Harley, come here." He gave him a scared look. "You're a good boy. I promise." He came over and stood in front of him. "Harley, would you like to play with Percy?"
"Dogs bad," he said quietly. "Daddy shoot dogs." Xander hugged him and he stiffened and started to cry so Xander let him go. "No touch me!" He ran off, back to his corner. Percy walked over and sat in front of him, tipping his head to the side. Then he licked him and barked, lowering his front and wagging his tail. "Doggys are bad for Harley."
"Percy, he's not used to dogs. Go play with the others. You're being a good boy." The dog barked. "No, go play with the others. You can play with him later." Percy went to do that, diving back into the pile of kids to grab one and drag off, earning a squeal of delight. "Harley?" He shook his head.
The senior social worker came in to talk to him, walking him off to see what she could do for him. The director patted him on the head. "Sometimes the hardest thing is watching them find themselves," she advised. "You're doing an excellent job." She went to warn the others that a dog was in the building and playing with the toddlers. She saw one escaping and the dog trotted out, picking him up by the pants beltline and carrying him back. She laughed. "He certainly is toddler trained."
Xander walked into the meeting later that day, finding a disgruntled teenager herder. "Necking?"
"And then some," she said bitterly.
"So let them help." She looked stunned. "The pound needs help. There's some minor work in one of the parks, let them do it if they want to. They've got to be bored shitless."
"They are. That is an idea." She smiled at him. "Do you know who to talk to at the pound?" He wrote down the number. "You volunteer there?"
"When they need me to. After I leave here I go help with nighttime feeding and walking." He sat down with a flop, Percy beside him. He looked at the dog. "Played out, Percy?" He got a tired woof. "Me too. I'll drop you at home before I go to the pound tonight." He stroked him gently, not realizing he was falling asleep.
When the director came in she smiled at her. "They're both exhausted."
"I'm not surprised. They had three positive matches and five false alarms."
"I've heard of some problems."
"Xander suggested some of our teenagers could volunteer if they wanted to," she offered. "He suggested the pound or one of the parks that only needs minor work. Maybe some candystriping or something?"
"I wouldn't mind that in the least. Plus, with some schools needing volunteer or community service credits, it could help them. We can easily give them statements that they've done it." She smiled as Willow came in. "Good news from the fingerprints?"
"Ten more positive matches," she said, handing down files. "Plus two bad ones to former parents," she offered, passing those down separately. She looked at Xander then handed down the last stack. "We think we've matched these kids but we're still working on it."
That got a smile and post it notes were put onto each pile. "At least we know." Willow sat down. "Would you like some nightshift duties?"
"I can hack it. I'll take the toddlers if you want. I'm rather used to them." That got a laugh. She looked at the dog, who was staring. "Hi, Percy. Did they wear you and your daddy out?" He barked and put his head back down. "I would've thought he'd have brought in the two mini-greyhounds his son's mother has but they're not as well trained as Percy."
"Percy fetched runaways," the director offered with a smile.
"That's because Xander's son Eric is a bit of a wanderer at night. A number of times." That got some knowing nods. "How are we doing on the practical things?"
"We managed to feed everyone today," she offered. "Not the most nutritious stuff but it was food."
"That's handy. I can call his husband to pick him up and do a grocery run if you need stuff."
"We're pretty much living out of a donation bin," she admitted. "Anything is good."
"Okay. I'll call Horatio and tell him Xander's napping." Xander grunted. "And that he's in pain. He had broken ribs and a broken leg recently." She called Horatio. "Hey, it's me. Are you going to have a long, late night?" She smiled. "Your husband is very cute when he naps. Plus could you pick up some groceries and stuff for the kids?" She beamed. "Thanks, Horatio." She hung up. "He's got to go back for later meetings but he said if he couldn't one of the others would. He really goes from here to the pound?" They all nodded. "Wow."
"I doubt he's getting home before ten and he gets here at eight," one of the others offered. "How many sibling matches did we make?"
"Not a lot. Then again, we do have two other centers for lost children." She grimaced. "This one seems to be the best run so far." Willow nodded at that. "You went to help at one of the others?"
"Yeah, and I agree with his first impression, child internment camps." They all glared. "I was in the one down by the main park. It was. The kids were expected to sit in silence, even the toddlers."
"We'll be consolidating once we've got some of them weeded out."
"Good. Because Miss Mary and I almost got into a fist fight over making toddlers behave by screaming at them to shut up. Twice." They all nodded at that, those who needed to taking notes. "Not to diss the helpers, but sorry. I'm a mother. I've had killed a daycare worker who did that to my kids."
"Oh, me too," the director agreed. "How are yours?"
"Doing good. We've got a few friends who aren't doing much right now and they're babysitting." Speed walked in looking really rough. "Long day?" He nodded. "Need help?"
"Please. Horatio said to go grocery shopping. I stayed with the simple stuff like soup and biscuit tubes." That got some smiles. "Plus some canned veggies. I wasn't sure of the refrigeration levels."
"That's fine. Let us come help you...."
"Detective Speedle. Xander's my adopted kid." Percy nudged his hand. "Hey, Percy. We'll go home in a minute. Let us get the groceries out. Guard the daddy." He went to help carry stuff inside. "I went to the cheap place because they're more than willing to sell it by the case."
"They'll eat it," the director assured him, helping by taking a case of canned corn. A few of the older kids came out to help as well, making her smile. Maybe Xander's idea had some merit. When they were done, she let him take Xander and Percy with him. They were such a happy family and at least one had gotten free of the bad life. It would give her hope for others getting out.
Speed looked over as Xander woke up and moaned. "You okay?" Xander looked at him and shook his head. "Yeah, me either."
Xander leaned over to hug him. "I have one kid who screams and flinches whenever anyone tries to hug him."
Speed hugged him. "You got out, there's hope for him," he soothed. "Someone knows now. Even bad hurricanes blow some good." He went back to staring at the park. "I nearly died," he said quietly. Xander gave him a squeeze. "I know, but I can't get off that thought."
"You're still here. You got saved." He sat up. "I'd miss you if you were gone." Speed broke at that and Xander let him cry on him. "Shh, I've got you."
"You shouldn't have to."
"We're all human and I'm an adult now too. Hell, Horatio had to hold me while I cried last night." He looked in the backseat. "Where's Percy?"
"I dropped him off at the house and told them I was taking you for a drive since you were still asleep." He slowly let go and pulled back. "Thanks, kid."
"Welcome, dad. Remember, you got me out of there and we brought you back." Speed nodded at that. "Nothing says you have to go back for a while."
Speed looked at him. "I was following my instincts. The garage started to cave in over my head. It was a matter of inches."
Xander nodded. "I remember." Speed gave him a hug. "It's all right. You're still here. Nothing else would be acceptable to me. You die over my dead body." Speed laughed at that. "Seriously."
Speed smiled at that. "Thanks, kiddo. It's just that I've suddenly started to doubt why I came back to the lab and all that stuff."
"Because you can't get SSI for being formerly dead and you'd make a horrible burger flipper." Speed smiled at that. "You would. Then again, nothing says you have to go into the field. We all flinched when you went back into the field. Even mom. She thought it was going to be a rerun of last time." He patted him on the cheek. "Could you stand being in the lab?"
"I'd go nuts doing nothing but doing samples all day," he admitted.
"Then use your brains, daddy. Someone's got to follow Alexx." He gave him a shocked look. "It would give you all you wanted, including some field time. You wouldn't be running samples all day. You'd still be on call for the lab like Ryan is." He nodded, smiling at that. "Besides, you could make as much of a difference."
"I could," he agreed. "So far I felt like I was rerunning my old life."
"If you leave the lab they'll all fall apart again but becoming their ME wouldn't upset the balance too much. Plus it'd help on those days that you ached."
"I've noticed the grimacing. How's your leg?"
"It aches like a bitch, dad. I'm not so sure I didn't rebreak it," he admitted quietly. "But they need me. I'm hoping it's just shin splints or something."
"We need to get that checked out."
"If you do that, Horatio will make me stop and those kids *need* me. Willow went to one of the other ones and it was like a baby version of those old Alcatraz movies. Plus the pound needs me too."
"Yeah, but we need you too," Speed reminded him. "This is the third day in a row you've collapsed and this time you weren't even at home."
"I'm fine. It's just seeing the kid who might as well be me." He gave him a hopeless look. "It's knowing that the system has less than a fifty percent chance of saving him, even at the age of four."
Speed hugged him again. "Kids like you find guys like me all the time, son."
"Not all of us. How many of us end up on the wrong side of the table in a room with you guys."
"Point." He stroked his side gently. "It'll be okay but you've got to eat. You've got to rest. I sent Don to help at the pound tonight. We're going to get your leg checked out quietly and then we're going to head home. Got me here?" Xander nodded, snuggling in. "Good. I can't drive like this."
"I'd rather hug."
"Hugging is nice." He let him hug for a few more minutes then gently disentangled him from the sleeping body. He smiled and called Xander's doctor. "His leg's hurting him again," he said quietly. "Yeah, this is. No, he's wearing himself out helping with the lost children. Please. He's thinking it's shin splints." He smiled. "Thank you. Please don't tell Horatio. He's found a few kids like him and they need him." He smiled. "Thanks, man." He hung up and took him to the nearest ER. They got him in for x-rays without too much fuss since he knew what was going on. They came back and it wasn't a good thing. A small fracture. Speed took Xander home and handed him back to Horatio, weathering the look. "He's exhausted and he's getting shin splints from the break. He needs to go back into an air cast or a brace."
"He's got a brace he never wears." He went to find it and brought it back, finding Speed had his son in bed. "Is he all right?"
"A few of the kids there are kicking his ass," he admitted.
"I noticed Percy came home and used Eric as a pillow," he offered dryly.
"That too." Speed led him outside onto the side porch. That was one benefit of this estate, he had a lot of privacy. "One of the kids is a mini-Xander, aged four, Horatio. He screamed when someone tried to hug him earlier." Horatio moaned. "He's having a bad case of 'but for the Grace of the Goddess and Speed, there goes me'. He's in emotional shock and that's why he's exhausted. Which isn't helping his leg heal any."
"Should I try to keep him in tomorrow?"
"He didn't want to tell you about the leg pains because you'd keep him here, Horatio. He's hoping to pull off the same miracle I did with him." Horatio nodded, understanding that. "They need more PD support really. I heard Willow. She called one of the other places a baby Alcatraz, and Xander agreed with her. By the way, her phone's not hanging up very well." Horatio smiled slightly at that. "They're going to need us to pull a miracle out of our asses to finish finding the parents. You've got teenagers who're worried sick because their parents don't answer their cells or anything else. He's got twenty-two terrified toddlers who think they've been abandoned. They're going to have to consolidate soon and it's only going to get worse."
"What would you suggest?"
"A full out 'who's your parents' team going in. Get some of the injured officers to go find parents if they're back. Get someone to take the notes Ryan got off the younger kids to turn them into searches. Willow's found ten matches today and two more dead parents. Looking through the school's databases might help match some of them faster too."
"We're still working body recovery."
"While that's wonderful, they don't need five full CSI doing that. Hell, H, Stella came home crying after a day of fingerprinting at the other centers."
"I'll see what I can do. Would media attention help?"
"Definitely. The law says they can't put their pictures on tv, but nothing says they can't do a story on the lost kids shelters." Horatio smiled at that. "Use the evil bitch."
Don came out to join them. "I just got off the phone with Izzy, Horatio." He moaned. "No one has any idea if Xander and you lived or not. Or what he's doing. I told her the truth, you made him evacuate the kids and fragile members of the families to New York and then he came back and is working his ass to a nib in the lost kid's shelters and the pound. No one's aware that there *are* shelters of lost kids."
"I'm going to take care of some of that." He looked at Speed. "Come on. We should talk anyway." Speed groaned and followed. Horatio patted Don on the back. "Listen for Xander to wake up and see if he'll eat. He probably hasn't all day." He walked Speed into the office, finding his mate's phone book. He sat down at a desk to call one of the top people in the city. "Bess, Horatio Caine, can I ask you for a small favor? No, probably twitching a few contacts." He smiled. "No, since Xander's gotten back from New York... I made him evacuate since we had the kids and a few pregnant family members. I sent him to Don, who came back with Stella actually. No, he's been wearing himself out at the Lost Children's shelters. Exactly, that's the problem they're having. No one knows we've had to set up three of them. That they're critically understaffed. That the kids are starting to feel abandoned. He's been doing a full day with the toddlers at one of them and then going to help with the extra animals that've been picked up because of the hurricane.
"I'm worried about him. He's getting there at eight and he's making it home at ten at night so exhausted he isn't eating. It's interrupting the healing on his leg injury because he's been working so much and eating so little. There's been a few times when the family has donated food to his toddlers' room so they had a meal. They're living on donations. No, I don't think a drive would help. Not really. Mostly because I don't think a lot of the society wives and husbands could stand to sit there and look at kids and know that they might not have family anymore. Or in some cases that they're kids that the system's already failed and this was the only way we caught it. Xander's got a few of those in the toddlers, and that's what's kicking his emotions all over the chart. Mainly what I want is some press coverage. They probably can't show the kids' faces on tv because of the law, but that doesn't mean they can't cover that they exist and where they are, and how to contact them. I'd also like some pressure on the chief to assign some CSI down there to help find the kids and maybe some injured or nearing retirement officers to help find families that may be without phone service right now. I can only hope it helps."
Speed leaned closer. "We've had some officers down there fingerprinting and it's helped some but not every kid has been fingerprinted through the schools, and if they have, we haven't been able to search them," he noted quietly.
"Tim Speedle's told me that we've been fingerprinting but we don't have access to search through the school system's database and not all kids are fingerprinted, especially at the younger ages. Xander started out with thirty-four toddlers, Bess. He's working on one of the three centers. They wore our dog Percy out today, the one that Eric used to chase around. Xander fell asleep in a meeting earlier today because of this emotional stress. They're starting to believe they've been abandoned and there's probably at least a hundred kids at each shelter. I know the one he's working at has over three hundred. It's the larger one and the only one taking in babies. My whole precinct is on bodies at the moment with our lab destroyed." He listened.
"Please. That's all I want. The suggestion put into the right ears so we can get what we need down there. We have everything we need in the hummers. We've been using them for body identification for the morgue. We need access to the school's databases and we need some press coverage, plus we need injured or otherwise unsuitable officers to go find parents that are probably worried sick. Until Xander told me, *I* didn't know we had them. I'm a Captain. The desk people certainly don't." He smiled. "Thank you, Bess. He's in bed. He's so exhausted he's too tired to eat. I know, but this is Xander. He goes there for a full day and then goes to help out at the pound." He smiled. "Thank you. That would be helpful. Of course, whatever you need, Bess." He smiled. "Thank you." He hung up and wrote a note in Xander's book about the favor. Then he shut it and put it back into the desk. "She'll tweak some strings and lean on the Chief and the Mayor."
"Good. We could use it on body detail too. We're only identifying half by fingerprints." He stood up. "For that matter, we could use more techs and a lab."
"We could, but small steps, Speed." He looked at him. "Are you still in shock?"
"He helped me break it."
"I thought he might have. Do you want to talk?"
Speed shook his head. "No. He gave me an idea I'm thinking about. Before then I was getting deja vu about my life." Horatio nodded at that. "Now, maybe, he suggested I look at a different position within the lab."
"No," he said with a shudder. "I'd go insane and we both know that." Horatio smiled at that. "He suggested someone's got to follow Alexx and I almost did become a doctor."
"I would be honored to have you on my shift as the ME, Tim. Remember, you can talk to me as well. I'm not just your boss, I'm your friend."
"Then can you please set Eric up?"
"I've tried a few times," he said dryly. Speed sighed. "Go upstairs and sleep next to her. You need your girl."
"She's mad at me."
"It's a mood swing, Speed. Go sleep next to her. Don't try anything but nap and cuddle." He nodded, going to do that. Horatio considered it. Then he called Grissom. "How is your shift? No, but I could use a good freelancer to help Xander. He's working in the Lost Children's shelter and they're just now starting the fingerprints and searching." He smiled. "I know he and Greg are friends. It is emotionally wearing, Gil. Xander's come home too tired to eat and too sore to do more than sleep. There's hundreds of children." He nodded. "Thank you. Whenever you can spare him. I wish he had been able to come for longer before. Thanks." He hung up and made a note for Xander, putting it beside his side of the bed. Then he stripped down and got in, letting his mate cuddle if he wanted. Xander was so tired he didn't even shift when he crawled in. He checked his pulse, then again. "Speed!" He came running in. "Check the other side of his neck."
He checked it. "He's not doing well. Let's flip him. He could be suffocating himself in the pillows." They got him onto his back and it steadied his breathing and pulse. He nudged Xander awake, getting a glare. "You nearly suffocated yourself. Roll onto Horatio to sleep." Xander nodded, doing that. That way Horatio would know if something happened to him. He and Horatio shared a look, then he carefully put his cellphone on a pillow behind Xander's head. He walked off to tell the others. "Guys, Xander's so tired he nearly suffocated himself. His breathing was so off it was affecting his pulse."
"I'm going with him tomorrow," Don promised. He looked at Ray Jr. "You?"
"I've been there and I went home to cry," he admitted. "There's one kid there who'd a miniature Xander. All the same mannerisms, the hiding, the 'no, you do its', all of it." He looked at Speed, then at Don. "I can but I'm going to end up crying."
"So did he, kiddo," Don reminded him. "Speed, Calleigh was looking for you."
"I'm heading up that way now. Thanks, guys." He went up to cuddle his girl. She gave him a glare. "Xander's so tired he nearly suffocated himself." She gave him a horrified look. "Ray said it best, there's a miniature Xander there."
"I heard he broke down last night." She let him cuddle. "Are you all right?"
"No," he said honestly, snuggling in. "Have you ever felt like you're in a rerun of your own life?" She nodded. "I'm there now."
"Then the cure is to add a new episode." She stroked his back gently. "How did you want to do that?"
He looked at her. "The son had a suggestion. You know I was studying to go into medicine." She nodded slowly. "Would you mind if I followed Alexx into the morgue some year? One or two classes at a time?"
She considered it. "As long as you didn't come home smelling like decomp and clammy." He snorted at that. "Then I don't have a problem since you don't do it now." She kissed him. "Whatever you need, Timmy."
"You know, I nearly died. It was within inches," he admitted quietly. She snuggled down into his chest. "Again. Only this time I was doing the right thing and it nearly killed me."
"It nearly killed a lot of people. It took Xander until one to wake up." She stroked his stomach. He tensed it and moved her hand. She put it back and went back to it. "I don't think I'd mind you being Doctor Timmy. Even if you decided to go into another field, like the ER. Though I would have to complain about the hours." He moved her hand again. "I like your stomach."
"I know you do but you're messing up the hair and it's making it itch."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Don't ever change." He smiled at that. "Now, you have left me all alone with our son for the last few days."
"We won't have a day off for weeks," he complained. "Or else you'd never see him."
"After the way he cried all day, that's not such a bad selling point."
"I'll try to call off sick tomorrow to help you."
"Thank you. I can't believe he canceled all paternity leave."
"I'm surprised he didn't try maternity leave."
"I'm not. We'd have killed him." He smiled at that. "We would have. Pregnant women with guns? Oh, yeah, he'd have been a dead boss." She went back to playing with his stomach. He sighed and flipped her over to lay on her shoulder, that way she couldn't do it again. She giggled and poked him on the side.
"It's moods like this that make siblings ten months apart," he warned. She blushed at that. "Up to you."
"I'm not bleeding," she offered. "I stopped yesterday. I went back on the pill." He smiled at that. "You're still using a condom because next time I will hack you to bits." He laughed and found one, going to please his woman's necessary desires. You didn't make a woman like Calleigh beg, she got mean and evil.
Xander answered his phone. "Xander's House of Toddlers." He smiled. "Greggy!" He beamed. "You are? Ooooh! I love you! Even if Horatio did have to blackmail your boss, I love you, man! No, Willow's doing it. Please! No, I'm surrounded by twenty-five toddlers. Please!" He grinned. "I so love you. Sure. When you get in. To the Pereguine School. I'm here. Thank you!" He hung up and smiled at the kids. "More people are coming in to help find mommies and daddies." They cheered at that and went back to the treat he had gotten for them. They were probably the only toddlers who ever saw salad as a treat, but it was good for them. Xander leaned backward out the door. "Helga!" She popped out of her room. "One of the CSI from Las Vegas is headed in to help with the fingerprinting and ID stuff. His name is Greg Sanders. He's young, hip, blond, and cool. He'll be looking for me. I told him to come here."
"Okay. When does he get in?"
"He used one of the airline phones and he's due to land in about an hour." She smiled at that. "It's good to have help."
"I heard we're getting press attention."
"Finally!" he said happily, sitting up again. "You guys eat all that and if you're good tonight I'll bring you guys brownies tomorrow." They squealed and dug in again.
The director leaned in. "They're eating what?"
"You are an extraordinary father, Xander." She walked on. "We are getting a reporter in tonight at four," she called. "Try to have your rooms presentable."
"Hmm, guess that means we'll have to put the toys back where they belong, on the floor," Xander said happily, upending the leggos once the salad was gone. The kids cheered and went to building their own little worlds. A few fights broke out but they were easily solved. He added more to the stack, especially the human shaped leggos. Plus a few more animal shaped ones.
Greg walked in and smiled at the woman behind the desk. "Hi, I'm Greg Sanders, I'm from Las Vegas and I was sent to help with the child identification project?" He presented his CSI lab credentials. "I was told Mr. Harris was in here playing with toddlers?"
"Mr. Harris is. Follow the squealing noises. He ran out during naptime and bought lollipops." Greg smiled at that. "Here, you have to wear this at all times," she said, handing him a pass. "Also, please sign in." He did that. "Did you need to see the director?"
"If she's got the identification files, of course. But if she's busy I can help play with the kids until she's done." She smiled at that. "Playing is important." She nodded. "Which way?" She pointed. "Thanks." He strolled that way, weathering the looks for his hair and clothes. "Yes, I come from Vegas, kids. I come to help find parents." He walked into the nursery and backed out. Kids scared him. He heard a familiar laugh and headed that way, finding Xander playing with thirty kids that scared him. He swallowed. "Wow. You're a God, Xander." Xander beamed at him. "I'm scared to death of them." He sat down in the doorway. "What am I doing here?"
"You're taking the fingerprint files, plus any possible DNA files and using them to find mommies and daddies."
"Okay. Sounds simple enough. How many of these kids know their names?"
"Mostly first ones. Ryan Wolfe did all the fingerprinting." Greg nodded at that, leaning on his shoulder. "You can come in, they only cuddle. They're too old to bite." Greg shifted in, staying against the walls. The kids stared at him. "Guys, this is Greg. He's here to help find mommies and daddies."
"He take pictures of hands?" one boy asked.
"No, I'm going to take the pictures we already have and make them tell me who your parents are." They cheered at that. "Then I'm going to make some police officers to chase them down and give them the good news that you're all okay so they can come cuddle." That got a bigger cheer. Someone coughed. He looked up. "Gee, if I knew there was a camera coming, I'd have dressed up." He stood up. "Greg Sanders, Las Vegas CSI. I got called out to help with the identification." The director helped him straighten up. "It's been a lack of manpower and certain database access from what I've heard. Correct?" She nodded. "Then I'm your man. Xander can even put me up." He grinned and patted Xander on the head. "We're buddies from a few conventions."
"Greg, I'm not the dog."
"No, you're not a Percy," one girl assured him. "Can we have Percy back?"
"I'll see if I can bring him tomorrow," Xander agreed happily. He looked back at the director. "Can I bring back the dog?"
"You may, Xander. He was delightful and helpful the day he was here." She smiled at the reporter. "As you can see, we've got the toddlers by themselves. They have to have some very careful monitoring. Fortunately Xander's taught his dog how to retrieve wayward toddlers. Speaking of, Xander?"
He looked around then leaned back out the door. "Harley, we be art thou?"
"Okay. Tell me next time. Do you need help?"
The director smiled. "Let me, Xander." She walked into the bathroom. "Harley, can I help or are you going to get upset with me?"
"Please help? It's nasty."
"Of course." She got him cleaned up, staring at the blood. "Xander!" He came walking in. "Would you...." She waved a hand. He looked turned then slammed a fist into a wall before making the all important call. "Harley, who hurt you?" He whispered in her ear. "The cookie monster?"
Xander turned to look at him. "The big hairy guy wearing blue?" He nodded. "Then I'm so there and Horatio will make him scream and beg for mercy. All right?" He nodded, giving him a trusting look. "Come on, we'll go wait for Horatio outside." He finished cleaning him up and carried him back. "Guys, be good to Greg. I'll be right back. Do not make me pout." They smiled and nodded, then he carried the boy out. Horatio pulled up as he got outside. He pulled him closer to whisper in his ear, getting a nod. "Yes, I helped clean him up. Like your birthday."
"Okay." He smiled at the boy, patting him on the head. "This is Harley?" Xander nodded. "Then we'll take very good care of him for you, Xander. Harley, will you come with me? My name's Horatio. I'm a police officer."
"Police occifers bad," he said, looking very serious.
Xander made him look at him. "Horatio has saved my life, Harley. He rescued me. You can trust him."
"I'm very sure. He's going to take you to someone who can make it quit hurting and he's going to make the man who hurt you scream and beg for mercy. Okay? And, if you're *really* lucky, he might even have *Eric* come help you."
"Your boy Eric?"
"No, not my son, Eric, but he's got pictures of him. Bigger Eric is his *favorite* uncle and he's got some *amazing* stories about diving in the harbor. Okay?" He nodded, letting Horatio take him. "Good boy, Harley. The next time you see me, I'll probably have the dog." He grinned and leaned against the hummer while two officers pulled up. Horatio walked over to talk to them and they nodded, heading inside. Xander smiled and waved. "You be good for Horatio. Okay?" He nodded and Xander smiled and went back to the others. "Handled," he told the director. He watched as the cops drug someone out by his arms. He grinned at her. "Going back to save the Greggy." He went back to his room, finding the kids crawling all over him. "Aww, is he playing King of the Greg?" They nodded and went back to climbing all over him. "I'm so proud of you guys!" They laughed and went back to playing.
The director looked at the reporter. "Please don't mention that horrible man?"
"I won't. People like that get past background checks." She looked at Xander. "He looks familiar."
"That's the husband of Horatio Caine." She looked stunned. The director smiled and nodded. "He's a godsend. He has toddlers of his own. He's got the connections to get us the people we need to help us. He's the one who got CSI Wolfe in here to take fingerprints on his day off."
"Judge Ryan Wolfe?"
"He said he was a CSI," she said with a frown.
"He was until he became a judge. He's still doing one day a week in the labs." She made more notes. "Is his wife here?"
"She's been darling. She took night shift in Xander's room. She got us a generator when we needed one so we could use the refrigerators. They've been a godsend, truly." Xander grinned at her. "Then he goes to help the pound. He's fallen asleep with the kids most days."
Xander grinned. "It's hard working with them. Trying to keep up their spirits and to make sure that they've got some hope of finding their families. But they're mostly great kids who need their families back. We'd love nothing more than to get all the kids back to their families, and to find those who need one to have the best possible surrogate."
"Thank you, Mr. Harris. I know your grandfather gifted the crime lab with a grant to update it when he died. Are you going to help the rebuild?"
"We're still seeing what the city comes up with. If they need to hear from myself and Don, they'll let Horatio know and he'll come to the board." He pulled one girl off Greg. "Tell her about the hand pictures."
"It took pictures like on 'Prise!" she said happily. "He give us lollipop."
"I'm so happy that you got the handprints that way, princess. It's a great thing to have them taken that way," the reporter agreed, smiling at her. She patted her on the head. "I'll do my best to make sure all the daddies and mommies in the city know about you guys. That way yours can call." She smiled at Greg. "They're borrowing you?"
"The local PD is so overworked doing the clean up and finding all the...remains, that they don't have the manpower to go knocking on doors or to search the databases. Even the CSI are overloaded." She nodded at that. "A lot of us are filling in when we can."
"I'll remember that. Thank you." She walked out, going to send in her report from the laptop in her car. She sent it to her editor, who sent back a 'huh'. She wrote an email explaining it and then added on another two paragraphs. He took it that way and promised it'd run in tonight's edition. She smiled. By the morning, it would be picked up by all the news stations and hopefully the children would all find their way home. She went back to the office, feeling pretty good about herself. She had seen Caine in action with his husband. The rumors are true, the Wrath of Caine was still legendry. Being married hadn't made him any more mellow on crime.
Xander walked in the next morning with Percy, blinking at all the stares in his direction. "What? I'm dressed, right?" He looked at himself then at them. "What?"
"You're here?" one of them asked.
"Yeah, I'm supposed to be here. Remember, I've been helping the toddlers."
"Yeah and then you got us press."
"No, I didn't. Horatio did." He shrugged. "I'm not the glory hog in the family. But thank you anyway." He took his pass and headed back to the room. "Come, Percival." His dog trotted behind him. "Go gather my kids." He barked and went to look in the teenager's gym first. He came out carrying two of them and a few kids carried another couple back to him. He grinned. "Thanks, guys. That all of them?" That got a nod. He walked into his room and his heard nearly broke, he was down to ten kids. "Did we split my room or did parents show up?"
"A lot of parents showed up last night," one of the older ones said with a smile. "Thank you."
"It was my husband's idea."
They smiled and went to write thank you notes. Xander woke up his kids and got them ready for the day, feeding them when breakfast came around. Percy sat and whimpered. He looked at his dog. "You know you don't beg." A few of the kids snuck Percy treats. "No, you guys eat. You guys can feed Percy treats later on. I've got some in the car." They cheered and dug into their cereal and toast, then went to have their potty break. They were really getting into the routine now. Xander smiled as everyone trooped back inside, including the one Percy was carrying. "Okay. Percy, guard. Let me go get stuff from the car. 'Kay?" They all nodded. "You guys stay in here and behave for five whole minutes." He closed the door and jogged out to his car, coming back with a bag. He also ran into the back of someone shouting about wanting his child. "Excuse me. How old is your child?"
"Ten, why?" he sneered.
"Do you have pictures of the child?" He shook his head. "Hmm. See, most parents carry a picture with them of their kids. At least one. I've got at least seven of my older one and five of my younger. Do you have a birth certificate?"
"It was destroyed," he said hotly.
"Okay, then the proper course of action is to take the paper she's trying to give you to the PD. They're running a DNA clinic. It'll take about a day to match you to your child's DNA. Once they have that match, then Social Services takes the paper and they file it where it needs to go. Then you get your child back. If you're not stubborn about getting your cheek swabbed, it'll take under a day. I know the DNA tech doing it and he's quick, accurate, and generally nice and cheerful."
"Who are you?"
"Married to a cop." He looked at him. "Taking care of the little kids to make sure they're not hurt." The man sneered. He lunged and Xander grabbed him by the throat, squeezing. "If it's your child, you shouldn't be scared of a cheek swab. Unless you're wanted for something or it's not your child," he noted blandly. The man gurgled. "Good. Officer!" The one stationed outside ran in. "He was threatening the social worker. He claims one of the kids is his and refused to prove it. He tried to lunge at me." He handed him off and smiled. "Prestons. I didn't realize it was you."
"It is. Why are you here?"
"I'm watching the toddlers." He grinned. "My dog's in there. I've got to go save him." He headed that way, tapping on the door. When he opened it, all the kids were back on the cushions and Percy was sitting. He smiled and tossed him a treat, getting a happy dog. "Have we been good kids?" They all smiled at him. "Of course not!" They giggled and pounced him. "Hold on. Let me check the bag." He got free and checked the bag. "Oooh, Horatio got a bit paranoid. Hey, Prestons?" He stomped up the hall and Xander handed him the gun. "Horatio stuffed it in my bag this morning. Can you drop it back into my car under the seat or in the glove box? Please?"
"Gladly. You're probably more deadly."
"Actually, I am a marksman," he offered sweetly. "Guys, this is Officer Prestons. He's here to make sure the daddies and mommies don't run over each other." They waved. "Thank you."
He stomped off again shaking his head. He dropped the gun into the guy's car and closed the door again, then locked it. Better to be safe than sorry. He walked back inside. The one supposed parent had been taken away. It was peaceful. Only panicking and crying people. Just as it should be when your child mysteriously went missing. He got called to one of the other centers to take a shift there and he wanted to hurt someone. After lunch he got back to where Harris was working and it was like they were normal, happy kids. He looked at Xander as he walked out, giving him a raised eyebrow.
"We've been waiting for this set of parents. If I get violet, duck."
Prestons looked at the guy coming out of the pickup truck. Looked like a normal guy to him. Looked like someone he knew. Xander looked at the parents. The parents looked at him. "Here to pick up?" he asked, trying for polite. Something seriously wrong was going on here.
"Our son Harley is supposed to be here," the mother told him. "Is he?"
"Harley's in police custody," Xander said quietly. "Unfortunately we had one person get past the security clearances. We found out the next morning he had been trying to hurt your son. Your son was treated and he's spent the last few days with an officer's family." The mother looked horrified. "He came in as a janitor. He was removed as soon as your son told us."
"My son complained," the father snorted. "That's like him."
"How badly hurt was he?"
"A small tear. He didn't use more than his fingers. It's a relief in that much and I'm assured his last few moments of life in the cells are going to be quite unpleasant because the cops did tell the others on him." She looked relieved at that. "Until then, the social workers wanted to talk to you. You need to speak to Hannah inside."
"Why?" the father sneered.
"Hmm. Because your son screamed every time someone got near enough to pat him on the head." He stared him down. "Because your son flinched at normal human contact with other children." He knew Prestons was staring at him. "Because he had horrible nightmares about a riding crop and a share cropper's whip." The father laughed. "Your choice is to go inside or be arrested," Xander said coldly. "It is your choice. If you go inside you might be able to talk your way out of it."
"What are you talking about?" the mother asked.
"Have you not noticed that Harley has whip marks on his back?"
"That's punishment for being loud, noisy, and messy," she said firmly.
"He's a toddler, they're all loud, noisy, and messy. I speak as a parent who has two and are helping some friends who have two more." She gave him a disgusted look. "Officer, please escort them inside to Hannah's office? It's the one in the back."
"Which kid was this?"
"Harley, the one Horatio Caine removed yesterday."
Prestons growled. He had seen that kid. "Gladly. This way, please." The father sneered and bulked himself up. "Sir, don't make me use force."
Xander patted him on the back. "You don't have to. Parents like that lead to their children being sold to people who kill them for fun," he said coldly. "If not worse." The mother shrieked and went for him with her nails. He caught her hand and stared her down. "Yes, my mother was like you. Pity." He pushed her toward the officer. The father was uncoiling a whip. "It won't do you any good. Really. Your son is with a very nice officer's family. They love him enough for ten kids." The man sneered and pulled his arm back. "Go ahead if it makes you feel like a man." The man snapped it and Xander caught it, then yanked. "You know, you have shitty form." He snatched it and snapped it at him, making him scream. "Feel better now?" He dropped it and stepped over it. "I am the person who watched over your son while he was here. Yes, something did happen to him when I wasn't. That's not my fault. It's your fault that he was so afraid of people and police officers that he almost didn't get help. It could have killed him."
"Then he's weak."
Prestons pulled out his cuffs. "Yeah, my daddy thought that too and look at me. After spinal meningitis. You're under arrest for suspicious of child abuse and neglect, plus assault." He carted them both off and came back to get the whip. "How in the hell?" he demanded.
Xander turned and lifted up the back of his shirt, then lowered it and turned around. "I know damn well people like that sell their kids. It's a good thing Willow came for me."
"It's always the quiet ones."
"Yeah, we learn to be quiet. It hides us in plain sight." He shrugged. "You can taunt them the officers are Italian and Cuban if you want," he offered with a grin.
"Sure." He went back to do that. It did feel good. By the time he got where Caine was waiting, they were all but foaming. He got out and looked at him. "I salute you, sir. You put up with him."
"It's an act of love. Speed made him as normal as he is."
"Then I doubly salute him. He put up with both of 'em."
"And Buffy. Speaking of, have you met Miss Summers?"
"No, sir. Who is she?"
"The blonde who went after him his first summer down here."
"I heard about that. Spunky." He smirked. "She better now?"
"Much, and she could use someone nice. I think you have potential." That got a laugh. "Let's have them. I've been waiting for this for a few days."
"Gladly, sir. By the way, your husband caught the whip." Horatio moaned and shook his head. "Snapped him with it too. Nice work." He let the mother out first and handed her over, then hauled the father out. He smiled. "You have a nice day, sir, and I must say the job your husband is doing is fantastic. I was at the other spot. I feel sorry for them." He got back into his car and went back to the better spot. He hoped someone got the kids from the other spots set up better too.
Xander walked Percy in that night, smiling and happy. "I'm off to the pound."
Stella hugged him. "Most of them went home?"
"Most of them did. A lot of the parents didn't know where to go since most of the cops didn't. We got ninety percent home today. All my toddlers." She squealed and hugged him. Horatio walked in and tapped him. He smiled and hugged him. "Thank you."
"You're welcome but Bess said you owe her a joke and something evil to do to someone." He stole a kiss. "Headed to the pound?"
"Yup. A lot of people are coming but they're still at over three hundred animals, mostly cats."
"Could I convince you to bribe Stella to go in your place?" Horatio asked.
"Hell, I'll go anyway," Stella promised, taking Xander's car keys and heading out. The dog came with her. "We're going to the pound, Percy. You can't have another dog." He went to find his buddy and pounce him to play. She hopped out, going to take Don back there.
Horatio pulled his mate's back against his chest. "How are you feeling?"
"My leg is throbbing."
"Would that be because you fractured it again?"
"It would be. Sorry. I'm going back to the other places to make sure they don't need me."
"All the toddlers are gone, Xander. You're not needed anymore. The social workers have it."
"But there's still babies..."
"Only ten are left. Only eighteen older children. They sent a letter of praise to me for your help." He stroked over his stomach. "You have done an excellent job and you need a reward. Of course, you also ignored your leg and taunted the bad parents."
"I didn't ignore it."
"Okay, you did get it x-rayed but you're not wearing any sort of cast or brace."
"I've got my brace on." He pulled up his pantsleg up to show him. "See?"
"You do. I'm very proud of you." He made him let his pants go. "You still taunted."
"I did. It felt good." He started to turn around but Horatio kept him in place. "Dear."
"You are getting whatever I want tonight. You do deserve a reward."
"Is that a reward for me or for you?"
"For me," he admitted. "You'll enjoy it just as much as I will." He pulled him closer. "Bedroom."
"Which would be?"
Horatio led him that way. "You haven't quite made it in here on your own yet," he noted. "I've carried you the last few nights."
"Sorry about that."
"I'm not." He closed the bedroom door. "In the morning, we will talk."
"Many things." He gave him a sideways look. "Including this overbearing house." He looked around then at him. "I do not like the decorating scheme."
"Not like I picked it. I did not put the cupids all over the bedrooms. Did Greg like it?"
"He mentioned needing a heart-shaped bed." He looked at his mate. "Strip." Xander slowly took his shirt off and dropped it beside the bed. "Put it up."
"Because you only get away with that when you're stripping for real." He moved closer. "Though I did notice the room with the pole and the safety gear?"
"Again, not my decorating scheme."
"Point." He looked over his chest, reaching out to touch a mark. "A thumb sucker?"
"She couldn't sleep. She had some horrible nightmares."
"I'm sure napping with you helped her." He moved closer. "Did you eat?" Xander blushed. "Should we play with food tonight?"
"It depends, do you want to make sure I never eat again?"
"Not particularly." He touched an old scar, looking into his eyes. "You're still dressed." Xander undid his button flies and wiggled twice, stepping out of them and kicking them away. "Closer. You're still wearing clothes." He ran a finger underneath the waistband of the boxers. "Aren't those mine?"
"Yeah," he said sheepishly. "I couldn't find mine."
Horatio smirked. "I don't mind." He lowered them and pulled Xander closer so he could step out of them. "There, better." Someone knocked. "Busy."
"I'm leaving food outside the door so you don't have to travel naked," Eric called. "Did you know there was a security system?"
"No," he complained. "Turn it off."
"I did. Calleigh was flipping through it. It's even got sound." He walked off. "The kids are down," his voice trailed as he walked off.
"We are not living here," Horatio said firmly, staring at his mate. "I do not like this place."
"I like the pool and the privacy."
"Those I can agree with. Even though the house is too large for our family, even the extended family. Speaking of, Aiden is back." He took a kiss. "You should be off your leg."
"I'm fine." He took a kiss and undid Horatio's buttons. "It's not fair that I'm naked and you're not."
"It is." He pushed him onto the bed and moved closer, surveying his acreage.
"Have you ever noticed we make all the important decisions in bed?" Xander asked, suddenly nervous.
"I hadn't. I know I make most of them with you in my lap or cuddled next to me." He finished undoing his shirt and slid out of his coat, leaving his shirt hanging open. He did step out of his shoes and put them aside. He went back to looking. "What about this makes you nervous?"
Xander licked his lips. "That you could walk out."
"I think I'm too deeply involved for that." He laid down beside him, running a hand down the tense stomach. "Have I made mention of leaving?" He shook his head. "Do you think it's likely?"
"No but sometimes I worry," he admitted quietly.
"As do I. Mostly that you'll go for someone more like you. Someone with less demands on his soul." He took a gentle kiss. "Then I realize you have just as many I do. Simply for different reasons." He licked over the dry lips. "You need to drink." He got up and went to get the food, bringing it back after he had locked the door again. Someone knocked. It could only be one of the kids. "What?"
"Eric get cuddles too," he complained.
"Soon, son. You'll have us both tomorrow."
"All day? We swim?"
"Yes, we can swim. Go cuddle up to your grandmother." Eric ran off. He smiled and sat the food beside the bed, then climbed back in. He sipped some of the cool juice, then took another mouthful and fed it to Xander, making him splutter a bit but swallow it. Horatio did it again, this time he was ready and it went down smoothly. "Good." He let him have the glass. "Finish it." Xander looked at him as he drank it. He handed him the banana. "Eat that, and no being naughty."
Xander looked at it, then at him, smirking before he mashed it into his husband's chest and licked it off. "What's naughty?"
"You." He patted him on the ass, getting a shifting move away. "Sorry."
"No, you didn't hurt me."
Horatio suddenly pulled him up to face him, using his hands to hold the butt in place. "I would never spank you in punishment, Xander. You know that. I would never hurt you."
"It doesn't mean it won't remind me of when it wasn't."
Horatio sighed, then suddenly spanked him. Xander yelped. "Did that hurt?" He nodded. "Truly? Did I remind you of someone who would hurt you?"
"I would never do it for that reason and I would never lose control. Not that way. In you yes, like that, no." He spanked him again and Xander shifted back. "Again, did it remind you of...." Xander nodded quickly, getting off him. Horatio pinned him under him. "Who hurt you that way?"
"I can't tell you."
"You can and you will so I can hurt them back." He stroked his cheek. "I would never hurt you," he reminded him. Xander nodded, wrapping his arms around his neck. "Thank you." He gave him a kiss, working to get him back into that relaxed space. "I'll never do it again."
"You're welcome. If you had told me it had been that sort as well...." Xander got up and walked into the bathroom. Horatio got up and finished stripping, then went to start a shower. He pulled Xander in with him, letting him feel it was him. "I'm sorry." He nuzzled his neck. "I wish I hadn't..."
"Please don't say it."
"Okay. I won't. Even though the sentiment is there. Someday you will trust me enough to tell me and I will kill them." He turned his mate around, making him look at him. "You are more than worthy of that." He kissed him. "I'm not like anyone else you've ever had before, Xander. Remember that."
"You'd think I would after three years."
"Some lessons take longer to learn. I've had that feeling as well. Mine wasn't a matter of trust, it was a matter of faith. Mostly faith in those around me." He took a gentle kiss. He paused when he heard something adjust. "I will kill them both." Xander rested against his chest. "Come on. We're going to have a night alone even if Eric does throw fits." He got them out and dried off, dressed casually. He grabbed enough money for the night and headed for one of the higher class hotels. He got them checked in and up to the room. Once up there he got him stripped down and back into the shower, letting him relax again. "There, all alone." He kissed him. "Do you still trust me?" Xander nodded quickly. "Even with earlier, you still trust me?" he pressed. Xander leaned against him and nodded. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He settled in to be held, feeling the hands running all over his back and down onto his thighs. "You can touch me."
"I am. Sometimes it's the smaller touches that mean the most." He kept going, relaxing his mate. He knew he had had his one chance now. There wasn't room for any more trial and error. "I do wish you would tell me some things."
"I know you don't but you never tell me anything and at times it makes it harder for me to not push a secret button that would make you freeze up." He stroked over his cheeks. "This one I knew about. I'm sorry I pushed it. I have no idea it was that sort of thing."
"Not exactly sexual but close enough." He looked at him. "I can't put these things into words, Horatio. I may babble but I'm not good with words."
"Is there anything you absolutely won't try with me?"
"Do you want me to pull out my book?"
"Not if you don't want to."
"I like our level of kinkiness, what we've done and talked about." Horatio nodded at that, nuzzling him gently. "I'm not really adventurous."
"That's fine. I didn't expect you to be, Xander." He soothed over the firm globes again. "Are you sure we're good?"
"We're fine. Why wouldn't we be?"
"Because you're tensing up whenever I touch you there." He kept his hands there, kissing him slowly, getting him used to it again. Xander quit tensing and he got them out of the shower, then onto the bed once they were dried off. He stared down at his acreage, smiling slightly. He would have to remind Xander that he trusted him fully. He moved down to slowly work his way over the body beside him. It was like it was his first time with him again. Xander was mewling and making begging noises. "Can I?" he asked before he moved to touch his cock.
"Please. Don't ask."
"I'm going to ask. I need to ask. I scared you earlier and it was wrong of me." Xander pounced him, pushing him onto his back. Horatio put them back in the earlier position and Xander paused, then kissed him. "Is it good again?"
"Of course. You're mine." Horatio let him play for a few minutes, then flipped him onto his stomach and played with his back and ass. Xander tensed once but Horatio stayed to play with the sore spot in his back. The massage was nearly as good as the rest of the touching. He moaned into it and arched back into the hands. "Thank you."
"You've spent the last few days bent over and in pain. I should've done this sooner." He felt him finish unknotting and went back to his touching. He spent a long time touching his butt cheeks but Xander didn't react. He moved to kiss him and Xander pulled away. "You know I don't care."
"I do. Only when I'm clean, especially when I'm going through the fits my stomach's had today."
"That's because you've been too tired to eat."
"I haven't called you this in a while but you're sounding like my mom, Horatio, and that's icky in bed."
Horatio laughed. "It is. I won't nag but I am feeding you tomorrow."
"I'll eat with the family."
"Good. Eric would enjoy that." He went back to his playing, then made Xander gape when he shifted him over and laid beside him. "Your turn."
"Your turn. Get me ready, Xander."
Xander shook his head. "No, not tonight." Horatio pulled him back on top of him. "I can't, not tonight. I need to be the one held."
"That's fine. Are you sure?" Xander nodded. "Absolutely certain?"
"I don't have the energy to do it, babe. Please."
"That's fine, Xander. It was an offer. You know you're welcome to me anytime, the same way I am you." He took a kiss. "Are you too tired to keep going?" Xander shook his head but yawned, then smiled. "Had to get it out?"
"Yeah." He put his head down. "I'm tired and I don't know why. I wasn't this tired a minute ago." His head raised and he looked at his mate, who groaned and they got up to get dressed and gather their things. Xander checked the hall. "Smoke, Horatio." He nodded, calling the desk from the room phone, then hitting the alarm. Others came out and headed out too. Xander went toward the door but Horatio stopped him. "We need to check!"
"The fire department is coming," he reminded him. They got everyone off their floor and he drug Xander down. "We didn't get the room with the smoke," he told the firemen. "Fifth floor." They rushed up to check that one. Horatio looked down at Xander. "You could've caused more problems. Fires are like that. Opening a door is dangerous." Xander leaned against his chest.
"Captain?" Horatio let out a quiet moan. He looked at the officer coming over. "What are you doing here?"
"Too many people in our house," Xander told him. "Who just found the security system."
The officer looked confused. "Our house was damaged, we're staying in an estate that one his stalkers gave him."
"Ah, and it has stalker security. Gotcha. What floor?"
"We saw smoke out of 512," Xander told him. "We were up the hall."
"Thank you, Xander. By the way, good job with the kids, sir. That could've gotten really messy and even Prestons said you did a good job in the center you were working in." Xander smiled at that. "Where else were you going?"
"That's understandable. They're always overloaded after hurricanes." He looked at the hotel. "No idea what happened? No explosions or anything?" Xander shook his head, yawning, and Horatio gave him a squeeze. "Need a ride home, sir?"
"I drove his car," Horatio admitted. "We can take him home." That got a smile and a nod. Two of the firemen came out and one looked at him, motioning him closer. "Watch him." He walked over there. "What?"
"Torch job, lit the mattress on fire, Captain. Two remains, about size six or seven," he said quietly.
"I'll get night shift here," he promised, getting a nod. Horatio pulled out his phone and called the nightshift supervisor. "It's Caine. I'm at the hotel fire. No, too many people at the house right now if you want the truth. Two bodies. The firemen said it's a torch job. He said they were young." He nodded. "That works. Thank you." He hung up, looking at the fire chief when he came. "Sevara is coming herself within ten minutes. She's up at the second." That got a nod. He went back to find Xander asleep against the officer. "It's been a long few days. Thank you."
"Not a problem, sir. Not often I'd get a hottie like him to even look at me, much less nap on my arm. You're a lucky man." He let him have Xander back. "You'll probably have to stay for a while as the first reporter." Horatio nodded. "Go lean against the cruiser, sir. That way we can find you easier and if you have to you can put him in the back to nap." Horatio woke Xander enough to walk him that way. He went to talk to the fire chief. "Caine reported it. He said he didn't hear any explosions or anything. I told him to rest against my cruiser since his husband is out on his feet."
"That's fine. Sevara's coming." That got a smile. He went to talk to Horatio. "How far up the hall were you?"
"They were in 512, we were four rooms up on the same side. There's too many at our house."
"I understand fully. I've got my family, my oldest daughter's family, and her mother-in- law right now," he noted dryly. "I heard your neighborhood was hit pretty hard."
"It was but Xander had a stalker who left him a local estate." That got a laugh. "They found the security system tonight." That got another laugh. "We're fine, he's just tired."
"I figure he was. I wanted to ask you something." Horatio nodded. "Why don't we get any of the cherries you guys hand out to the PD? We could probably use a few hummers, one as an ambulance for some of the backwoods of the county."
"I have three that need to be repainted," Horatio admitted. "I was going to give them to the PD but if you need them more."
"We'd kill for them and repaint them if they're that ugly."
"You'd need to. They're lipstick pink, baby blue, and lavender." The man gave him a horrified look. "The last real stalker of his left all his things to me because I was stronger."
"To the winner go the spoils, eh?" Horatio nodded at that. The Fire Chief smiled. "We could definitely repaint."
"I was going to repaint anyway. I know Marines who won't drive those."
The Fire Chief laughed. "I can see why. Please, I know you guys rely on your hummers, but we could use 'em." He patted him on the arm. "Any other SUV's?"
"No, but some of the recent cruiser styles." That got another smile. "I'll make sure you get the SUVs of the group, Chief."
"Thanks, Caine. That's nice of you. Any of them the bigger ones for ambulances?"
"They're all H2's," he admitted.
"Pity. But we could still use 'em. Thanks." He walked off, intercepting a reporter.
Horatio looked at Xander, who was still slightly awake. "You can nap."
"The board has to talk about the lab since you guys were a special request and project of Patrick's."
"You don't have to."
"We do. The Mayor's dragging his feet." He looked up. "Otherwise it might be years."
"You told them that City Council would come to me and then the board would talk. Let's leave it that way. Otherwise they'll expect you to bounce in every time there's a problem." Xander nodded at that wisdom. "You'll call in tomorrow?"
"I thought you said they didn't need me."
"They don't but I know you, you're still going to call in." Xander nodded. "Call in at the pound too. People are starting to claim their pets and they're going down as well."
"They were still overloaded before the hurricane."
"They can hold an adoption drive. You can help at it." He stroked his back. "Want to sneak home?"
"Only if we can find the security system and turn it off. I heard the camera in the bathroom." He looked up from his sightly leaning position. "I can agree to getting rid of it, but if we have to move from Bayshore I'm going to insist on having a pool I can practice in. There's been too many days when I'm too sore to make it to the gym or the school."
"That would mean we'd have a large house, Xander."
"I know. I'm sorry, but I need this if I'm going on and Eric could use it too."
Horatio considered it. "I can agree as long as it's still a smaller house. We don't need anything with six bedrooms."
"Actually, we could use the bedrooms for visiting family and things, but not the other rooms."
Horatio nodded. "I can see that. I'll talk to a real estate agent I know, see if she can point us in the right direction. I don't mind living on Polo Pony row but I refuse to live by the country clubs."
"Polo Pony row is too far away from everyone. That's why I was unbending enough to look at those ones downtown."
"Absolutely not." He looked at him. "They're very artificial." He went back to stroking his back. "We'll make a list tomorrow and start the hunt." Xander nodded, yawning. He nodded at Sevara when she came over. "They said they found two."
"So I got told. Why are you here?"
"Too many people at the house."
"Calleigh had a boy just after we got back," Xander said sleepily. "So we've got most of the lab. Plus the condo was wrecked slightly."
"So you've got a full house of techs," she said wisely. Horatio nodded. "Where are you guys staying?"
"One of his stalkers left him an estate."
"Ah. Okay. Did he have anything at the condo?"
"No, I ended up moving the things at the hidden location out to the estate when it looked bad," Horatio told her.
"Even better. Thank you. You two can probably head home." Horatio nodded, going to check them out and head home with his boy.
Xander woke up, barely, when a cold, wet nose touched his face. He petted. Short hair. "Morning, Percy. Wake the other daddy." He yawned and flipped onto his side. Another nose got into his face. Slightly softer short hair. "Morning, Lancelot, go wake the other daddy." They barked.
"He's already up, kiddo," Speed offered as he came in. "Off the bed, boys." They jumped off the bed and he shook Xander until he woke up. "Good afternoon."
"It's afternoon?" he asked, looking hurt.
"Ten." He handed over the phone. "Push send."
Xander pushed send and made himself sit up, smiling at the cheerful voice. "It's Xander. Did you guys need me really a whole lot today? My husband and kids are feeling ignored." He smiled. "Okay, I'll be back tomorrow. Really? Even Rebecca?" He smiled. "I understand. You guys need me, you call." He grinned. "Thanks. Good luck." He hung up and called the pound. "This is Harris. I've got to stay home tonight...." He smiled. "I know he sent someone in my place when I collapsed and napped that night. Thank you. Of course. Should I bring anything when I come in tomorrow?" His face fell. "Must we?" He sighed. "I'll donate the food and stuff, that's not a problem. You guys arrange an adoption fair for the dogs we already had. Yes, I can do the food and that stuff. Give me a list or I'll bring in a gift card for the pet store. Either way." He smiled. "Because it'd be unfair for them to come home and find the pet that they prayed to the Goddess to keep safe died because they didn't get home soon enough. Sure, fax me a list.... what's the fax number, dad?" He wrote it out. Xander smiled. "555-5877. Sure. Thanks." He hung up and looked at him. "It's ten?"
"You were exhausted." He smoothed over his hair. "We're sorry about the security system thing. That was Aiden."
"For some reason that doesn't surprise me."
"She said you two had a fight?"
"He pushed a boundary I didn't want to cross and we've already settled it. He's apologized and we've worked it out. We were halfway there when we heard the camera in the bathroom go off." Speed nodded at that. "Really, I'm okay."
"I'm supposed to worry. Besides, Calleigh said I had to worry over you instead of her." He stood up and helped Xander up. "Are you keeping this one?"
"Horatio doesn't like it and I really hate the decorating scheme he did it in."
"I agree with Greg, it looks like a cheesy Vegas wedding hotel." He helped him into his bathrobe, not ignoring the winces. "Sore?"
"My shoulders and my leg." He walked out with him, finding the family out by the pool. "If we have to move from Bayshore, I'm bringing the pool but we're not keeping this house."
"Thank God. It'd cost more to redecorate and pull out the security system." He glared at Aiden.
"What? I was only trying it out," she defended. "Morning, baby." He gave her a hug. "Did you finally get some rest?" He nodded. "Where are your furry guardians?"
"Boys!" he called. They came running. With the mini-greyhounds. "There." He petted them. "You guys are good alarm clocks." They barked and went to swim in the pool.
Eric gave them a pitiful look. "Are they enough of a swimming helper?"
"No," bigger Eric told him. "They're not human or adults. They're dogs." He smiled at him. Then at Horatio. "What are you looking for?"
"This pool, less rooms, and a smaller lawn," Horatio told him. That got some laughs. "I can't imagine mowing this. You could almost play polo on the side lawn."
"The Reeds were swearing up and down that they're moving," Speed offered from his seat. Xander flopped down beside Horatio, getting the coffee and food shoved his way. Xander dug in, eating heartily for once. "Thank you."
"Not like I was going to take food from the kids' mouths. I got them to eat a salad by calling it a treat."
"He did," Horatio agreed. "The workers were very impressed with that. Especially since he brought in the salad."
"They'd only had soup and a PB&J for lunch, Horatio. They needed more."
"I know they did, Xander." He stroked his back. "Eat. You need it." Xander nodded, digging back in. "If we have to move, we don't want to move this far out. I agree with him, this is too far from the family."
"Tia Escalante is dying," Eric said quietly. They all looked at him. "She's got a brain tumor. It was rumored for the last year but she does. Her children are selling the house and putting the money to charity in her name."
Xander looked at him. "Wouldn't the Cuban community complain that white gay men took over her house when she was such a powerful figure among them?"
"Possibly. I'll ask my uncle, he worked with her." Marisol smiled at him. "Any word on the Foundation's condo?"
"Building's trashed," Don admitted. "Speaking of, Xander, we've got to file insurance claims on the hidden ones."
"We have insurance on them?"
"It's paid out of our building fees."
"Oh. Okay. Do you have the forms?" Don nodded. "I'll work on them later. I didn't have much in mine." That got another nod. "Do we have the paperwork on the board's condo?"
"We do and I filled it out. They said since it was in the board's name and I'm one of the two heads of the board, I could do that. All you've got to do is the one for your emergency condo, the houses on Bayshore since Di hadn't fully bought hers yet, and anything else you had out there."
"It was the only one." He ate another bite of muffin and leaned back, sipping his coffee. "We can give Di the check from the insurance. Did she want to rebuild?" He looked around. "They're still in St. Louis?" Horatio nodded. "A problem?"
"No, they're waiting." He stroked over his head. "Her shop was damaged but not destroyed. She's already doing that paperwork." Xander nodded at that. "Is the house on Bayshore in both our names?"
"Nope." He shrugged. "Sorry. I kept meaning to do that."
"That's fine, Xander." He stroked over the back of his head. "Eat some more."
"I don't need to gain weight."
"No but you need to eat. You haven't eaten in days." Xander sighed and dug in to get seconds. "Eric, how did your parents pull through?"
"They did fine, the house is pretty solid." That got a smile from his sister. "Half the family's squeezed in so I'm staying with you since my apartment's in matchsticks."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed. "Speed, Calleigh?"
"Ours was shielded but I wanted to keep Calleigh here for a few more days."
"Also fine. We enjoy our brother." Calleigh grinned at that. "Where is he?"
"Napping with Tia." She lifted up the baby monitor. "He adores Tia. They're going to be the trouble buddies that Toddy and Eric are." She looked down at those kids. "Where are their parents?"
"Willow's cleaning up their place now that they're allowed back in. Ryan doesn't want the kids near that, claiming mold and things," Xander admitted. "Whoever's been babysitting, thank you."
"Welcome," Calleigh said with a smile.
"I want to look at this school," Don said casually. Marisol sighed and rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry but I don't want Eric to be hurt or badgered there. Especially with both his parents being pagan."
"Oh, it's much worse than that. The first time they suggest he go on drugs he's leaving," Xander assured him. "I refuse to drug a normal child for being a child. Even the doctor says he's a normal child."
"He is," Horatio agreed. "Children are loud and noisy." He smiled as Lancelot came over. "I know, so are you, but you're a good boy." The dog barked. "What?" He barked again and lifted a paw. "Shake or begging?"
Xander looked. "That's his pitiful begging face." He tossed over a piece of bacon, getting a happy dog. Percy rushed out of the pool and over. He got tossed a piece of leftover sausage. The dogs went off, back to their swimming. "When is Di coming back?"
"No ETA yet," Speed offered. "Don, when do you start shift?"
"Next week. Tuesday." He kissed the back of Marisol's hand and stood up. "We're going for a walk around the house since it's like a park." Horatio snickered at that. "It is."
"It is," Xander sighed. He looked around. "I could make one hell of a water park in here." Horatio shook his head. "It'd be fun."
"No, Xander." He gave him another pat and a kiss, getting a smile. "Sell it to another family that has too much money."
"Speaking of, Mac's down," Stella offered from her seat basking in the sun. "About the auction." Xander moaned. "Yup, you missed it but she understood why with what you were doing. Mac was good enough. He's got the paperwork and the checks. The jeweled cock ring never sold."
"I can take that down to one of the sex clubs and sell it so someone's favorite pet," Xander assured him. "Anything else?"
"He's napping on the back porch, watching the water." She paged him and he came over. "Xander's finally up."
"I'd be tired too. Thirty-four toddlers is enough to give me a migraine just from the thought."
"You've had a lot of those," Stella said wisely. "You should get checked." Mac groaned. "In case it's something serious, Mac."
"My yearly physical is next year." He looked at Xander and sighed. "Most of it sold."
"Great. What didn't?"
"The estate in New York." Horatio and Xander both moaned. "The cock ring. A few other pieces of jewelry." Xander thumped his head on the table. "At least the horses did." Horatio nodded at that. He handed over the papers. "The estate is in your name, Horatio. It was part of the bribery price. The jewelry was his."
"Where?" Xander asked quietly. It was handed over. Xander went into the house to find his phone and phone book. "Mrs. Yearns, it's Xander Harris. Can I bend your ear tomorrow? Please? Yes, about that stuff," he sighed. "We don't want it and frankly the one we're staying at came from one and I'd rather not have to stay here any longer either. We're not sure. If we have to move, I need a pool. I need practice space." He straightened up. "You're sure she is?" He nodded. "Hell, I'd trade her but she'd probably hate the way my stalker painted this place. No, cheap Vegas wedding hotel was mentioned a few times. Cupids and hearts and things all over." She shuddered, he could hear it. "Exactly but it does have an excellent security system. Oh, we've got the estate in New York. Can you have her visit us later this afternoon? Please? I'll sell it to her or straight trade. Whatever works for her. Thank you, Mrs. Yearns. Know anyone who wants this one?" He smiled. "Please. No, she would be perfect. Thank you so much." He hung up and ran outside, pouncing Horatio to stare at him. "Lisa Corthbert is moving back North." He frowned. "The restaurant maven." He nodded at that.
"She's fairly famous. If she likes your cooking, you're on the top of the list, even if you're a diner," Speed told them. "She's moving back to New York?"
Horatio smirked. "I'll gladly sell her ours." Xander beamed at that. "That was your plan?"
"That or straight trade it for hers. She's already got an olympic pool. We'd have to change the diving board because she's got a springboard. It's that place we went to the charity tea for the doll museum."
"I remember that. It was a beautiful house. It didn't have a lot of lawn. It's relatively close to everyone compared to here." Xander beamed at him. "All right. If she'll relent. Mac, do you have pictures?"
"Full tape if she wants it. It's on DVD so she can take a virtual tour."
"If not, maybe she'll just sell it to us," Xander offered. "I'm sure there's got to be *someone* up there who can use the house out on the Island."
Horatio nodded. "Usually." He stroked his back. "Finish your coffee." Xander grinned and did that, sipping his juice. "When is she coming?"
"She'll call first." He tried to summon the phone and got a sudden, sharp headache. "Ow. No magic." Don handed over the phone. "Thanks." He rubbed his forehead. "Guess I do have backlash after all." Everyone nodded at that. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome," Stella said with a smile.
"And thank you for helping hold the station together long enough," Eric told him, grinning at him. "Doesn't get you out of practice though."
"He refractured his leg, Eric," Speed told him. Eric moaned and slumped down. "He can probably swim but work up slowly."
"Okay, I will. When it's been an hour. For now, let's put Eric into the pool." Eric cheered and took off his shirt and ran for the pool to jump in. He followed, going to catch him. He was a fast little kid.
"You're good, baby," Aiden called, going to sit on the edge. Eric pulled her in, making her shriek. "Eric!" She splashed at him.
"Then go put on a bathing suit," he said, smirking at her before going back to helping the boy swim. Toddy snuck over to watch. "Let me get him with another adult and we'll teach you too, Toddy. You're old enough." He beamed at that. "Have someone change you into some pullups and a pair of shorts." He ran to get his Uncle Xander to do that for him. Don took him instead, making him pout.
"Sorry, kiddo, but he's got to change too. Besides, I'm just as good as a Xander any day." He smiled at the car coming up the driveway. "She's early," he called, opening the door. "Mrs. Corthbert," he said, shaking her hand. "We're out on the side lawn by the pool if you wanted to join us. I'm getting him changed. Please ignore Xander's jammies, we finally got him up this morning."
"I heard he was helping at the pound again." She smiled and patted Toddy on the head. "Let's see, you are Judge Wolfe's son, Toddy, correct?" He beamed and nodded. "Is he here too?"
"He work," Toddy told her. "Lots of bad guys from storms."
"That can happen," she agreed, smiling at him. "Which way, Don?" He pointed. "Thank you, dear." She walked that way, finding the whole family gathered around. "I can see why I was warned about the decorating scheme in this one," she teased as she spotted Xander and Horatio.
"One of his stalkers created it as a love nest," Horatio said grimly. "We wouldn't normally be here but our house is pretty much gone."
"I understand." She smiled at the sleepy boy. "Is he going to nap?"
Horatio looked down and nudged Xander, making him wake up and grab his head. "Probably not. Xander." He looked up and smiled, waving weakly. "Sorry, exhaustion."
"I can understand. The pound is usually overloaded."
Xander pushed out a chair with his foot. "It was more the thirty-four toddlers at the Lost Children's shelter," he admitted. "Hi, Lisa."
"Hello, Xander. Who gave you what this time?"
"Remember the first Middle Eastern guy you guys all laughed about?" She nodded. "His nephew. They're considering me a family curse now." She giggled at that. "Seriously. Mac's handled that one for me. He left me an estate in New York. I would be more than happy to either trade you for yours down here or buy yours from you. Either way."
She looked over the DVD he had up and running. "I know this place," she admitted. "My friends from school used to live here." She continued through it. "They've done a marvelous job of reconstruction. The last I knew there had been a fire years ago." She took the appraisal sheet from him. "Hmm, the full estate. No one sold off any of the grounds?"
"On one side a large grove of trees were sold to the neighbor so he had a miniature woods," Mac told her. "That was noted in the original sale notes."
"That's fine." She looked it over. "It is the most charming place and easily gotten to from the city." She considered the appraisal and her current place. "You've been to my house, correct, Xander?"
He nodded. "Definitely. I was there for the doll museum's tea."
She smiled at that. "It's a whimsical choice but I'm a doll collector." He nodded at that. "Actually, my estate's just a bit more expensive than yours, by about another million."
Xander looked at her. "I'll throw in this one and you can do whatever you want, plus the remaining jewelry that didn't sell." She looked stunned. "Not like I want to look at it and I can only spoil the ladies in my life so much before they get greedy." Stella snorted. "That one's in Horatio's name," he offered. "That would make up for the extra million and give you a place down here to either rip down and rebuild with taste or to sell off at a later date. The family thinks it should be a park."
"I can see it being one." She smiled at him. "Which, by donating, would decrease the tax debt from the exchange. The jewelry?" Mac handed over the pictures. "Oh, my. I can see why they didn't sell. They're gaudy and ostentatious."
"Most of the time I break those up for ready cash," Xander admitted. "Or I sell off the strands to a major jewelry store so they can make good jewelry from it." She smiled at that. "Seriously. I got given a jeweled belt. Emeralds and diamonds. Would've fitted around my waist. Rope chains of diamonds and dangling emeralds. Like a tennis bracelet with dangles." She gaped. He nodded. "I sold it to Harry Winston so they could make it into something better. Last I heard they got about fifty necklaces out of it and some bracelets probably too."
"Well." She looked at the pictures again. "Where are they from?"
"One was a dated Tiffany's piece," Mac offered, tapping that section. "The other was made in Paris by a private designer." He sat up. "The ornate design is why they didn't sell."
"I can see why. No one would wear them and they're too much for most collectors." She considered it. "You'd live in my house?"
"All the time. I'd use your pool for training for this year's meets," Xander said honestly. "My weapons hobby would go into your basement." She smiled at that. "Besides, I could give the kids a great place to play safely. You've got one of the best security systems around, Lisa."
"True." She considered it then nodded. "I'll do it." She looked around. "This would make a beautiful park." They all nodded at that and she smiled at Don and Marisol. "Is that Marisol? I know Don had been changing Judge Wolfe's son a moment ago."
"Yup, that's my Uncle Don too. Don!" he called, waving him over. He walked Marisol over once he had caught her and kissed her. "Don, Mari, you know Lisa Corthbert, right?"
"I have met both of you but I had no idea you were such a charming couple," she said, shaking their hands. "You two look very happy together. Don, are you going to take up some of Xander's slack in New York?"
"If I must," he sighed. "I'm still worried it'll affect work and things."
She nodded. "I can see why. Especially since you work in Homicide." She smiled at Marisol then at him. "Do the charity circuit, Don. It's fitting with the foundation as well." He nodded. "Plus, we have soccer up there instead of polo." He grinned at that. "I'll see you two more often?"
"We're staying with the switching cities thing right now so neither of our parents have to complain."
"Understandable plus free trips to see the injured one," she said, waving a hand at Xander. He nodded at that. "That's fine then. Are you down here right now?"
"I am. I start Tuesday. I've been helping with the wellness checks and finding families part."
"That's wonderful." She smiled at the young man coming out. "My, he's adorable."
"He's our friend Greg, from the Las Vegas crime lab," Don said. "Sanders." He detoured and came over. "Greg Sanders, this is Lisa Corthbert. She's one of the more important women in society because we *all* go to her for restaurant suggestions. If it's good food, she knows it."
"Pleasure to meet you, ma'am. If you're ever out in Vegas and need some help, feel free to come to me." He smiled and she patted him on the cheek. "Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to help with the kids." He went to jump in and swim over to help Eric learn how to swim better while bigger Eric worked with Toddy.
Xander grinned. "Our family loves our kids, thankfully." She giggled at that. "Would you like some tea or something? I should go change for practice anyway."
"If you've got some made, dear."
"Lemonade and sweet tea both," Aiden called.
"Lemonade then," she praised. Xander grinned and went to do that. She looked at Horatio. "I know you're native to up there. Are you sure you don't want it?"
"He's got a small house out in Seagate that I like. It's just the right size for the family and it's in a quiet neighborhood." She smiled at that. "You know I'd never live the life most of the time but Xander does need the pool and your house was the one he was measuring the others by." She blushed at that. "It was. It had everything he wanted, but the platform diving board. He was going to switch that out."
"I understand. Candace said he's becoming a very good diver." Xander came out and handed her a glass of lemonade. "Thank you, dear." He grinned and went to dive in. "He's letting you handle it?"
"Mostly," Mac agreed. "Xander handles his own money but things like this give him a bigger headache. That's why he pays me to deal with the auctions at Christies." She smiled at that. "It's stressing him out."
"We had to sedate him a few times because of his stalkers," Stella agreed. She looked at Mac. "Did the wedding go off all right?"
"It did and they think she may already be pregnant." She grinned at that. "The family that considers him a family curse has a daughter I've watched over while she went to school. That way she wouldn't come into contact with Xander and start off her own curse."
She looked at Xander as he swam with the kids. "I can see why others would want him, but I would never want to interfere with Horatio's claim." He smiled at that. "You're certain?"
"Definitely. We can draw up the paperwork today and deliver it to you. That way we don't have to stay here for very long."
"I can understand why. Did all his stalkers have that bad of taste?" He nodded. She smiled. "Is that just because they came after Xander?" she teased. He nodded and smirked. She laughed. "I can understand that." She sipped her lemonade and grimaced. "Koolaid?"
"Sorry," Aiden called. "My fault. I made it for the kids."
"No, dear, every child should drink koolaid at least once," she agreed. Horatio pushed over a clean coffee cup and the pot, making her smile and nod. "Thank you, Horatio. Are the rumors I heard true? That you may be taking over for our Chief of Police some day?"
"Only if he wants me to beat him to death first," he offered dryly. She giggled at that. "I'm as high as I want to go. I love my current position and I'm going to be quite resistant to anyone trying to move me from my current office. Even if I could use a new office at the moment."
"I heard they're meeting on that today."
"I hadn't. I'll have to call down there and check," he offered. "Thank you." She smiled at that. "Would you like a tour of the grounds?"
"Oh, no, dear. I'm afraid all the lovey-dovey things would infect me and I'd have to take husband number six from these adorable men around you." She kissed him on the cheek. "Let me have them drawn up with my attorney and I'll bring them by tomorrow."
"Call me," he ordered, handing over his card. "I've got to be on shift tomorrow so I'll be somewhere." She nodded, tucking that into her purse. "Thank you."
"Xander is a charming young man and we all adore him. Even the picky husbands adore him since they can't complain that he might hit on their wives. Besides, he's cute." She winked and walked off, heading back to her car. She really was getting the better end of the deal. Her house was too small to do much entertaining. Then again, Xander didn't really entertain all that much yet. He had only thrown family related events. Someone would have to talk to him about that someday soon. She made a note to call her friend Mrs. Yearns and remind her that the boy's education should be finished soon since he'll have a proper residence.
Horatio walked into the City Council meeting. He blatantly sat down and looked at his boss.
"Yes, we're going to discuss the lab. You were going to make a donation?"
"I've got three cars in the current cruiser styles and I've got three hummers that the Fire Chief asked for last night." The Mayor smiled at that. "I'm sure Rescue could use them."
"That's a charming offer, Horatio, thank you," the Mayor offered. "How did your house hold up?"
"Didn't. Ours or Di's. We're buying the Corthbert estate and trading her for the one I got given in New York as a bribe to give Xander up." They laughed at that. "Seriously. That's how I got the three atrociously painted hummers." He looked at his boss. "She heard an interesting rumor."
"I know your feelings on the subject and I've taken them into account. It's not you. It's the one you yelled after me."
"She'll do an excellent job, sir."
"I hope so. She's a bit uptight."
"Yes, but we all know that about her." That got some smiles. "Besides, she's got a soft spot for the harder departments."
"She does," he agreed. "All right, let's get this meeting started." He banged the gavel. "First, anything leftover from last meeting?" The council members shook their heads. "Good. Any new business before we get into the crime lab?"
"I have one." She tapped her pen a few times. "We've got to better fund the pound. They're struggling even with help from people like Xander. He's the one paying for this month's food and medicine bills." She looked at Horatio. "I've seen you talking to him."
"Xander's my husband. Both our dogs and his son's mothers' dogs came from the pound. He's still wearing himself out at the pound."
"Wonderful." She smiled. He smiled back. She looked at the higher ups. "Can we look at increasing their funds?"
"We can," the Mayor agreed. "We need a few more shelters in the area really. Do you have the ASPCA budget with you?"
"I can get it. I was going to ask for a spot for the next meeting."
"Definitely. Write her in." The Chief of Police did that since their secretary was out. "Any other things of that nature?"
"We need to talk about the roads," one of them noted. "We had two washed out and the potholes in certain sections are getting worse again. That's going to need a separate meeting all by itself."
"Put that down for the reconstruction meeting." He did that. "Anything else?" No one said anything. "All right, then we're here mostly to talk about the police department's rebuilding. Plus one fire station from what I'm told." He scratched his head. "Horatio, how much did you warehouse before the hurricane?"
"Most of the moveable things. All the evidence, all the machines that could be moved. Our exemplar cabinet for ballistics. The bigger, or built-in computers had to be left. As well as all the furniture and things of that sort. We're very lucky the building held as long as it did and we were able to clear the garage."
"We are. The hummers alone would cost nearly as much as a rebuild." The Mayor leaned back. "We need a new building. Any problems with the old plans?"
"Many of us didn't like the glass walls. They can be a bit dangerous. As shown in Las Vegas during a lab explosion. There were a few things that needed tweaked as well. Small matters, mostly things like storage areas not being big enough."
"All right," the mayor agreed. "What changes needed to be made?" He pushed down a list. "You came prepared."
"I did it while Xander practiced."
"Is he going to compete this year?" the Chief of Police asked. "He did very good last year."
"He's going to try but with his recent injuries he's lost some of his conditioning. Plus he's also managed to fracture his leg again with the stresses and strains of the last few days. He's not casting it because it's not that bad, only cracked a third of the way through, but he is slower and limping."
The mayor nodded. "It was a good thing that one of our native boys made it to Nationals." He handed over the list. "Even prioritized. I'm impressed."
"It's what I do."
"Good point." He looked at his chief. "How much did the Federal redo cost?"
"Them? About ten million. Us? Some leave time being burnt."
"So, we're looking at a hefty budget for the rebuild?" he asked.
"We can get grants for some of it," Horatio reminded him. "Using the same plans will save us some. Plus, some of the lab equipment was still on contract. They'll have to replace it." That got some knowing looks. "I'm well aware a few of my labs were worth more than a million dollars each. Redoing the labs is going to cost more than rebuilding the building. I'm honest about that, but there are grants and we may be able to work out deals with some of the equipment manufacturers. We had testing agreements before. Plus it would allow us to upgrade so we wouldn't have to for the next five years."
"Averaging the cost out over those five years is less wince-worthy but still wince-worthy, Horatio." The Mayor looked at him. "How much can we reasonably ask for in grants?"
"Depends on a few being open. The Federal Lab Grants that got us updated the last time was two million. There's a few others. Plus FEMA funds." That got a nod. "We can go begging to some manufacturers and get them to donate some hopefully. I hope the city of Miami doesn't have to pay more than half the cost."
"Interesting. Do you have a list of contacts you can ask?"
"I can get them. The people over the labs don't like us, but oh well." That got a small smirk. "One of them hates me, to be very blunt. I could care less about his opinion and the last time he was in he snapped at Xander for being in my office to help Detective Messer identify some people who were talking about drug shipments at a social event." That got a knowing look from the Chief. "He went in to get a magazine. He's spent a few days on my couch from injuries that I wasn't able to leave him home with. He's very good about not going into the labs." The Mayor smiled at that. "He is. He's also been a great help to the department finding serial killers and helping us with some minor profiling duties, even though his education is on partial hold."
"None of us mind your husband. We mind the chaos that follows him," the Mayor noted. "How many officers pouted because he came in wearing a suit that time?"
"About half but I know they won't take Xander and they'd definitely watch out for him if something happened. When he was so injured the last time, I got multiple phone calls when he moved from the couch to visit the restroom. Our lab is like a family. The station is the extended family."
"Very well. How much are we looking for?"
"Fifty if we're lucky." The mayor winced. "Before grants."
"That's still a lot." He considered it. "Can we stretch the upgrade further?"
"Depending on if we can arrange testing agreements again."
"Good. That would be good." He looked at the Chief. "How is your budget looking?"
"We budgeted for the overtime necessary. We do every year. We shouldn't go over." That got some nods. "I have no idea how we'd do it though. That's a lot, Caine."
"I know. Then again, you had more than one lab together and the morgue." That got some nods. "Plus, I do hate to mention it, we can raise some of the money through charity events."
"We can," the Mayor agreed. "Plenty of the community would love to go to charity events. A dinner you think?"
"Seems to be the best way," Horatio agreed. "I'd leave that to those who have those skills."
"Would your spouse help?" the pound councilor asked.
"If asked. He's never done more than family events."
"Agreed. We'd never make him do it all, Horatio," the Mayor promised. "My wife usually does those. I can get her to ask him." He made a note of that. "Are those all the changes you need?"
"A few of the techs wanted a better break room and another shot at the park outside to sit in during lunches and breaks."
"I can see that. Most everything is in place. It only needs some sculpting." He looked at the update list, noting a better break room. "Anything else?"
"Bathrooms close to the labs. Our only ones on my floor were the break room and with my office upstairs.... Actually, you know what? Our old design was a better floor plan. Use that floor plan and use the architectural ones from the new one. All but the glass. That would solve everything but the breakroom." That got a smile and a note was made. "Just make it bulletproof glass or otherwise safe glass. We don't need an accident that ends up destroying a few labs and sending techs through walls like Vegas had."
"A faulty hot plate with a sample on top of it was left under a fume hood. It exploded in their DNA and Chemistry labs." They all shuddered. "Their DNA tech had second degree burns and is still scabbed on some of them. He's the one who came down to help Xander with the children."
"That was an excellent job," the Chief praised. "Thank you for getting the higher contacts onto that. I hadn't even thought of it."
"Not a problem. I knew you were overloaded. A bit of press attention fixed what needed to and Social Services netted a few more children that they needed to know about."
"I heard your husband took one on," the Chief admitted.
"They were a lot like his own," he said quietly. That got a nod. "Besides, the father pulled a whip on him." The mayor moaned. "Exactly. Xander is fierce in his protection." His phone beeped and he looked at the message. He put it back. "Not an emergency just an FYI." He looked at the Mayor. "If we can revive the contracts and if the government gets off its rearend, we could have the new lab back up and running within six months."
"True. What about until then?"
"We've been subbing with the other labs and I've got a few people out on medical leave. By the way, I did put Speed back on paternity leave." His boss nodded at that. "Their son is doing quite well. He loves to nap beside Tia." That got some smiles, Tia was a darling child. He looked at them. "When has Xander had the time to bring her out and show her off?"
"The last polo match," the mayor offered with a grin. "She is adorable. Don and Marisol brought her around." Horatio smiled at that. "Are they...."
"We're hoping so. He seems serious about her."
"Excellent." He smiled. "They are terribly cute." Horatio nodded at that. "The same as you and Xander are." Horatio grinned. "All right, anything else that we can do to help the crime lab?"
"No. That should do it and cost the least we can."
"At least you're trying to save us and being reasonable. Can you work out anything on the contracts?"
"I don't handle those. The County does."
"Okay, I can get the accounting office to do that then. We'll see what we can do, Horatio. Give us a few weeks to pull all the figures and estimates together. Then we'll meet again?"
"I'm at your disposal as long as I'm not on a scene," he agreed, standing up with a smile. "That one fire station? Up the street from them is a building that's sitting empty and could probably be renovated. The two stations that need repairs were ones on the rebuild list as well."
"Thank you," the chief said happily. "I had forgotten about that. We did have some of that budgeted." Horatio nodded and slipped into his sunglasses before walking out. "He could've just saved us tons of money."
"If the grants come through, it'll cost us a lot less to rebuild him," one of the council members noted. "How soon would that be?"
"It'd probably be a paying back situation," the Mayor admitted. "The government is slow. Plus we could go to the state for it. We do have the number one lab in the country. It's a point of pride." Everyone nodded at that. "Get me those plans so we can have them merged. Also I'll need figures. I'm briefing the governor tomorrow." They nodded. "Dismissed." They went to do that. He leaned back to consider it. Caine had been reasonable considering most of the time the grants had a 'bend us over and take us' mentality about giving him things. He called his wife. "Start generally planning a fundraiser for the PD's new lab," he ordered. "That one. You can even ask Xander to help since he's married to the lab head." He smiled. "Yes, they are cute. No, Horatio wanted about what he had. We can use some of the old plans and things like that to save us money. Plus it is only right that his husband help you with that sort of thing since he's married into the lab. See if Wolfe's wife will help as well since he's one of them." He smiled. "That would and they're both hyper children. They would save you some energy, dear. No, I hadn't heard that they're buying Lisa's place. It is a great small estate. Plus it has that pool so he can practice." He smiled. "Excellent news. I know Horatio gets frustrated at some of them. Thank you, dear." He hung up and went to see his secretary to see what she had for him.
Xander looked around Lisa's pool with Eric. They were going to switch out next week and he needed the people to know what to do. "Is it deep enough?"
"Not for your board. Or mine." He walked around the edges. "It's four foot, which is pretty standard for laps." He looked around. "How about we take out the old diving board and have them dig a square section here," he offered, pointing at a spot. "Put the boards there? One and five meters?"
Xander nodded. "I can see that but that would butt up against the bushes." He considered it. "It's got some cracks that need filled in." He walked off to the side, looking over the hedges. "We have neighbors on that side. They might complain about it." He went to look on the other side. "Hmm." He wished the house was oriented the other way. But oh well. "How about we remove that one and put one in over here?" he suggested. "We can train ivy over the diving platform's support so no one can complain it's ugly. That way we could have a playset there. It'd be easier to watch the kids playing there than here. It'd also give us a small area for barbecues and things." Eric looked then shrugged. "Four lanes? Five maybe?"
"Five would be good. More than enough room to practice and play. Put the diving part at the end. It'd also be shady so you wouldn't burn all day." He smiled at Lisa as she came out. "Why did you put the pool there if you don't mind me asking."
"The gas lines are about where Xander's standing." Xander moaned. "Not big enough?"
"Diving too," Eric told her.
"He does?" Eric nodded. "Well, the neighbors on that side will complain. They're a bit paranoid. Really, I'd have put it on the other side but that doesn't leave much room for entertaining."
"I don't really entertain," Xander reminded her. She smiled at that. "I thought you had a bigger yard."
"I do but I use the bushes to give myself a boundary line so I can't entertain a lot."
Xander nodded. "Where is it really?"
"At the green fence." Xander looked and smirked, nodding at that. "What were you thinking?"
"Most of the time it's family and it's a cookout. I'm moving the porch off the kitchen since Horatio likes to eat outside and watch the water." She nodded at that. "I'm moving the bushes back and moving the pool. They can shift the gas lines somehow. I'll put ivy over the board so the neighbors can't complain as much. Also, this'll mean less burns while I'm practicing." She smiled at that. "It's something to consider." He considered it. "I'll turn the bush line into an arch and plant the bushes back against the fence. That way if it's just family we've got enough room and if I have to entertain we can set seats out there." She nodded at that. "Well away from the pool, which will have alarms." She giggled. "I've got to think about that with the kids." The estate was tooth shaped, with the roots of the tooth being the water view. Moving the porch that way would give them that lawn. Putting up the arches would give them a distinct area. Or maybe he'd just push it back to give himself some room and put up temporary arches. Now all he had to do was find a contractor since Eric's father was so busy. "Who are the neighbors?" he asked.
"Ephinany and her spouse." Xander snorted. "I know and they're terribly loud but her mother bought it for her as a wedding present."
Xander looked at her. "You're kidding?" She shook her head. "How did they get their estate back after the drug seizure?" They had spent four months complaining that they couldn't get their house back because of a supposed guest who had been using drugs and they had gotten turned in.
"Someone bought it and gave it back to them."
Xander smirked. "Eric, do you smell meth?"
"Yeah, but I have for the last twenty minutes. Why?"
"Ephinany's husband is Armando de la Cruis." He smirked back. "I don't want that around the kids. You?"
"I'll call the drug taskforce myself." He smiled sweetly. "Who are the other neighbors?"
"Hmm. On the other side is Harriet and George. A charming British couple who snowbird. They've complained a lot about those two. Across the street is empty the last time I knew."
Xander nodded. "That'll be easy enough to access once they're gone and it goes to drug seizure," Xander decided. "We rip their house, put the pool that way. Expand the porch down toward the water." Eric smiled at that, making the call. "Any other problems on the street?"
"Yes, Mr. Patrick up on the end. He's a registered sex offender. We do worry about him."
"For?" Eric asked.
"We'll watch for it," Xander promised her. She smiled and patted him on the cheek. "People don't get to hurt kids around me. I tend to get upset." She giggled and went back inside, bringing them out some lemonade. He took his with a smile and a nod. "So, do you think permanent arches or temporary ones to section off the space?"
"I like the idea of a temporary one with a gate for events." He nodded, walking her around to talk to her about what he wanted. She giggled at some of it, like expanding the garage so the hummer could fit inside. It was a good plan.
Eric hung up and sipped his lemonade, listening to the sirens. They really had smelled meth and it was bothering him but he had been sure Xander was going to stop that before moving in. He heard the shouts and climbed on the diving board to watch, smiling and waving at a few of the officers when they looked. "Caine's moving over here," he called. Some of the Vice guys cackled at that. The bust was easily made and they carted out guns that would make Xander and Calleigh sniffle since they'd have to be destroyed.
Xander sidled up to the mayor and whispered in his ear, getting a smile and a nod. "Thank you. I've got to move the pool so I have room for a diving board." They laughed and he went back to his rounds. He found his mate and kissed him gently, earning a smile. "You know how sexy you look in that tux?" he teased, playing with his lapel.
"What minorly evil thing did you do?" he asked fondly.
"I'm going to help with the fundraiser for the lab. Also, I'm buying a few feet of the neighbor's place so I can push the fence back more. That way I can move the pool a bit further away from the house. The contractor doing the deck will be done in two weeks, when you get back from DC." He teased his stomach. "And I'll be on the bed when you walk in." Horatio smiled at that. He took a kiss. "It'll all be done by the time you get back, including your closet."
"Thank you. Should I worry about this minorly evil plan?"
"No. The neighbor's estate is being broken up since Eric and I had them busted for their meth production."
"I heard. What about the person at the end of the circle?"
"He's going down if I catch him near the kids. We've got the only kids in the neighborhood." Horatio nodded at that, smiling slightly. "It'll be *fine*. I promise."
"As long as you promise I won't come home to a decorating crew."
"No. No decorating crew." He kissed him again, earning a smile and a polite cough from someone. Xander looked at her. "What? He's going to DC for two weeks." He took another kiss. "Slip out now, dear." He nodded and gave him a hug before leaving. Xander sighed as he watched his leave. He called Eric. "He's going now. He might stop by the house. Then let it start." He hung up and looked at the young lady who had coughed. "Yes, I'm married to Horatio."
"Because he understands me. He loves me no matter how many bad thoughts I get sometimes." He sipped his champagne and nodded at Don and Marisol. "Horatio just snuck off."
"Good. That means he'll catch his flight. Did you pack his things?" Xander nodded and smiled. "Good. When is Eric starting on the house?"
"As soon as his plane leaves. We're paying extra for the extra hours this first week and they agreed it would be okay." He looked at the young lady. "This is my Uncle Don and Marisol, his girlfriend."
"I still don't understand why you would marry a man."
"Because I love him."
"It's not socially acceptable."
He looked around. "How many of them care that Horatio and I are cute together?"
"My mother would." He shrugged. "Others would," she said insistently.
Xander walked her off to Bess's table. "Bess, dear. This young one has a question about the socially acceptable nature of my marriage."
"My mother would not approve."
Bess looks at her. "Xander is one of the stronger members of society, Trisha. He's done a lot of good work for this community and his husband runs our top Crime Lab. Dear, didn't I see Horatio?"
"He had to leave to go to DC for the grant meetings." He gave her a small shrug. "He'll be back in two weeks and I'll have things like the porch and the pool done by then." Bess gave him a knowing look. "That as well. Though I am worried about that one man. I'm watching him very closely."
"Good. I'd expect no less." She stood up. "Come, Trisha, let's go talk to your mother to make sure she realizes that we do have gay people in polite society." She looked at Xander. "You're helping with the fundraiser?"
"Willow and I both, ma'am." She smiled and patted him on the cheek. He went to find Ryan and lean on him. Ryan gave him a fond look as he pushed him off. "Sorry, got to hang out with someone and Marisol's cooing at Don's tie." Ryan snickered at that. He nodded at the other judges. "Ryan, when is Willow coming over tomorrow to talk about the lab's fundraiser?"
"I think early afternoon since we'll finally have our apartment cleaned up. That way she can take our kids back. Thank you for watching them."
"It was a joint event." He clapped him on the back. "Thank you for helping the lost kids." He walked off, going to talk to someone else.
Ryan watched his back for a minute. "Horatio's coming home to a surprise in the remodeling," he noted dryly, cracking the others up. "Xander and my wife were best friends for most of their life," he explained. "That look almost always means we won't like something but they're making themselves happy." He looked at his fellow judges. "Since Horatio's going out of town and Xander's doing the remodeling, I should probably pop around to warn him." He sipped his champagne at the laughs. "It's the respectful thing since I like Horatio." He shook his head. "Anyway, you wouldn't *believe* the case I had yesterday. A guy drug in his prostitute of choice, claiming she had taken his money and not performed the balloon sex he wanted." They laughed at that. "Seriously. I had to point out to him he was admitting he had committed a crime himself. Settled it, she gave his money back and I had the bailiff arrest him."
"I saw him in magistrate's court," one of the others admitted. "He was sulking. It went back to the fine." Ryan grinned at that. "Are you still carrying your gun?"
"As long as I have my shield, I'm required to," Ryan reminded him. "Even if I retire I might keep doing it just because of some of the stupid gang members I run into now and then in magistrate's court who remember me." That got some knowing looks.
Ryan stopped by a week later, looking around the house. Then he moaned. "He's going to kill you, Xander."
"No he won't. I'm doing all of what he wanted and the pool."
"And the small estate you've annexed?"
"Well...." He came out of the study. "I'm going to sell it within the family probably. Maybe Di. Maybe Don. Or maybe I'll sell it to the Foundation for the meetings since the condo had to be demolished."
Ryan patted him on the back. "Look really cute and alluring when he gets home. What still needs to be done?"
"Filling in the old pool, landscaping there and training the ivy up the new diving tower. Plus the finishing touches on the porch and the kitchen." He led him that way. Ryan looked around and moaned. "Think he'll like it?"
"He will. I do. What about the kids' rooms?" Xander beamed and led them upstairs, finding them exactly as they had been. "Wow. Nice work."
"Thank you." He preened. "Tia's sleeping peacefully in hers whenever we have her. Eric loves his room. He's hunting Calleigh down for a story right now. She and Thomas are having a day out in the sun watching the guys get sweaty." He laughed and Xander led him to the master suite, which had a lot of the same look as their old one. "I stole the plans from the old bathroom and had them make everything the same. The last day they're going to move the stuff from both the other houses and bring them here while I do the weapons late that night." Ryan looked at him. "Yes, my bunker guy came in. It's already set up." He grinned brightly. "Ooh, come see the office." He led him in there, letting him see Horatio's office, and his smaller secretarial corner. "Think he'll think it's too much?"
"Yup. Because that desk had to take at least four old growth trees."
"Well, yeah, but I found it at auction and no one else wanted to rescue the old dear." He ran a hand over it. "I'm pretty certain some old guy had his mistress on it at least twice." Ryan chuckled. "Anyway, we're nearly done."
"You're not. You've got days of work left."
Xander shook his head. "By the time they go home tonight, they'll have the porch done. The dog runs will be done tomorrow. The kitchen will be finished by tonight. Mostly it's moving stuff and buying half a house of furniture for the spare bedrooms." He shrugged. "Can I bum Willow since Di's still in St. Louis?"
"Sure. Who's going to babysit?"
"Umm.... We'll take them with us?"
"If you're sure." Xander nodded. "Okay."
"Uncle Ry!" Eric yelled, coming in to pounce him. "Look, even got reading couch," he said, pointing at the soft black couch in the corner. "When is Daddy 'Oro coming home?"
"A few days," Xander said patiently. "The day after cartoons."
"Okay. We be done by then?"
"Everything should be done by then, except maybe the pool." He beamed and nodded, leading Ryan off to make sure he had seen his room. Xander skipped off to check on the workmen and Calleigh. He hadn't done much internal fixing. Beyond the bathroom and the porch, plus moving the pool, it was nothing really unusual. Then the workmen would go tear down the house next door, putting up the new fence first, and make it into a spot for the board. Mac and the others had already agreed to buy that house off him for that purpose. Xander skipped to the door when it rang, squealing and hugging his trouble buddy. "You're back!"
"We are, what happened to our house?" Taylor demanded.
"Hurricanes blow big, huge winds as Eric said," Xander said happily. "Eric, the mommies are here!" he called. Eric's squeal echoed as he ran toward them. "No running on the stairs." He slowed down to jog down them then pounced his mothers. He babbled at them as he walked them outside to watch the workmen and find his dogs.
Ryan came down the stairs. "He missed them."
"He did." He smirked. "Now. Do you think he'll like it?"
"I think he'll sigh at the size and then realize it's comfortable and very you, Xander." Xander preened at that. "You're making sure that all the costs are covered, right? I know most of your money's offshore."
Xander nodded. "I paid it out of the safety deposit box."
"Good. He'll be really happy at that." He patted him on the back. "You still want to borrow Willow?"
"I don't know. We'll talk over breakfast and then call."
"That's fine." He smiled at Taylor and Di. "Ladies." He hugged them both. "Have a good vacation?"
"I did," Di agreed. "Didn't get a thing done." Taylor laughed. "I didn't and it was your fault, woman. Where are we staying tonight?"
"Hmm. Depends. I've got the check for your insurance claim." They both nodded. "Since we hadn't signed final paperwork, I had to fill it out. It came early last week. The shop is liveable. It's a bit damp. The whole bottom floor flooded. But it's habitable. I had someone go in to gather up the damp cloth and take it to be dry cleaned. It's all up in the kid's room and that'll leave you clear to clean it. Or you could stay at a hotel, or we're going to have to furniture shop because the only bedrooms that're done are ours." He shrugged.
"My room's the same," Eric said proudly.
"It is, I worked very hard to make it the same," Xander agreed, smiling and patting him on the head. "He's been a great helper."
"I'm sure he has." Di looked at her son, then Taylor. "Up to you."
"I can't live above the shop, Di. Not after the attack," she said quietly.
"Okay. Hotel or furniture shopping or camping on Eric's floor?"
She smiled. "Camping on his floor. We'll go house looking tomorrow. Where's the check?"
"Office." He led them that way, handing it over. Taylor blinked then looked at him. "Too much?" He looked. "No, that's the value." He shrugged and went to talk to Ryan again. "You're sure he'll like it?"
"I'm certain, Xander. It's very comfortable feeling. It feels like a family home that got expanded, a lot." He patted him on the shoulder. "Call tomorrow if you need to borrow Willow." He nodded and Ryan smiled at the ladies. "I'm going to leave him in your hands. Have fun." He grinned at Eric. "You, young man, will come visit me this weekend. Toddy's bored with just Lizzy around." He beamed and nodded. "Cool." He left, going home. He worked a lot less hours as a judge, it was kinda nice.
Xander looked at them. "The only one who's seen any of this is Calleigh and Eric. His place was trashed and he's been my other evil helper. Calleigh had Thomas starting on the plane home. She's out watching the workmen get sweaty."
"We saw. What is going up off to the side of the house?" Taylor asked.
"Pool. Diving board." He gave her an evil grin and bounced over to hug her. "Should I make you come with me or Willow to go furniture shopping for the other four rooms?"
"I'll start the house hunting, you take her," Di decided. "That way you get a mix of yours and Horatio's styles." Xander beamed and nodded. "He's coming back when?"
"Sunday. It'll all be done by Friday and then they're working on the other spot for the board." He led them back into the office to show them the plans. They were going to be hidden from his boy. The phone rang. "Harris." He smiled. "Hi, honey. Di and Taylor just showed up." He waved at them. "He said hi. Why does it sound like you're in an airport? ER. Why?" He groaned. "That's okay. We've got a ground floor master suite. Yes we do. I promise you we do and even if you need a wheelchair for the broken ankle it'll be okay. Yes, when you get back Sunday, it'll all be finished. Our room already is. All I've got to do is find the rest of our stuff and have it moved here. The porch is ongoing and so is the kitchen. Sure." He handed the phone to Di, who gave him a look. He pleaded.
She rolled her eyes. "Hi, Horatio." She smiled. "No, it's not a wreck. It looks like they've got a few days worth of work left. Yeah, they should be done by the time you get back."
"The new fence might take an extra day," Xander offered. He leaned back in the sinful desk chair and beamed at Taylor. "You like?"
"I do. It's magnificent, Xander. It feels very homey." She kissed him on the cheek. "Let's go look at the kids' rooms and then the empty one." She winked and led their son out to do that.
Di sighed. "No, but he's got an extra bedroom to decorate or so," she admitted. "It's mostly done. He said it'll be done by Friday, Horatio. I'm going to trust your boy on this. He's very bouncy. Ryan was just here too. Sure. No, but the pool's still being worked on. It looked like they were putting up the diving platform." She smiled. "I know, he spoiled himself horribly. Of course. You be more careful and call us if you need us. He gave us the check and I'm not sure it's not for both houses." She blinked. "We weren't going to pay half that." She sighed. "Of course he did. That's fine, Horatio. Love you too. Come home safely. No, he admitted Calleigh and Eric have been here. Calleigh and her son are watching the porch get finished. I'm not sure. I haven't heard a dog. Guys, where's the dogs?"
"In the playroom," Eric called back. He leaned in. "Is that H?" She nodded. He came in to take the phone. "Do not worry. Calleigh and I stopped the grand plan before it got too evil. Of course. Then our work crew is going to work on the board's residence next door. It should be. Yeah, they're projected to have finished it and then we're moving all the stuff Saturday. Thanks, Horatio. Are... why are you in a hospital?" He groaned. "Your room is on the ground floor. It'll be fine." He smiled. "Sure. I think I heard squeals from upstairs. Yup. The pool's the last thing to get finished, then the moving, then the fence, then the board's place next door on an empty lot." He looked that way. "Drug seizure actually. Sure." He hung up. "Xander, have Mac call him about the other spot?"
"Okay." He called Mac. "Horatio wants you to call him about the board's residence. I don't know. He told Eric that." He beamed. "Nearly done." He snickered. "You'll love it. I promise." He hung up and went back to bouncing with his son. "Plus, we put in a playroom."
"Oh, you saint," she praised, hugging him. They'd be able to corral the kids somewhere if needed. "Now all you need is a housekeeper and a nanny," she teased.
"We've got a cleaning service that'll come in once a week to clean. It's run by a legalized immigrant. That way she can build a great business and Horatio doesn't get into trouble. It's her and her two nieces. Bonded and everything. They've already been out and I've already told her she's not allowed near the weapons and where they'll be. I warned her about the thing he has with the laundry and all that. She's agreed and it's nice. As for nanny, there's a reputable, very well recommended, dial-a-nanny service for the occasional needs. We'll be using them Saturday while we move in the stuff from the other place." He moved closer. "Are you worried about the school?"
"I am. Di's judging it on academic testing and I'm sorry but there's more to a good school than grades on tests." He nodded. "It'll be okay. The first day they fuck up he's out of there." He beamed at that. She looked around. "We can start furniture looking with Willow tomorrow, sweetie. Will everything be ready?"
"Yup. He'll come home to a home that's all done and all that."
"Okay. If you say so." She kissed him on the cheek. "Let's see the rest of this mansion."
He blushed. "It's not really. But I did put in a room with the safety equipment and a pole I can set up," he admitted with a blush, making her burst out in giggles. He led her down to look at the rest of the help with their son's help.
Xander looked up Friday afternoon, smiling at his contractor. "What's up? We done?"
"All but a few last pieces of trim on the porch that were running late." He walked inside. "We have to talk, Xander." He looked at him. "You underpaid us by about two grand."
"I did? How?"
"We went over."
"Oh. Okay. Let me head to the bank." That got a smile. "I've got to get money out for groceries and things anyway."
"Okay. Mind if I come along?"
"Not a problem." He looked in the top desk drawer and grabbed something, then shut and locked it, heading out with him. "Going to the bank!" he called.
"The kids are with their moms," Eric called back. "Behave."
"Of course." He led him out to his car and slid in, letting him get in the passenger's side. "How did we go over?"
"That extra worker we needed."
"Oh, okay." He started the engine and headed downtown, going to his safety deposit box. He smiled at the secretary in his way. "I need into my box. I underpaid the contractors," he sighed. "Plus we need shopping money." She smiled and let him sign in once he had shown her his key. She checked and nodded, then let him back. His phone rang. "Hi, Don." He grinned. "No, at the bank. The contractor said we underpaid him by two grand. An extra worker. Here, you talk to him," he said, handing back the phone. He got into his box with the assistant manager's help, making him smile. "Thank you. Contractor got underpaid and Horatio's suits were *ruined*." That got a knowing nod. He looked in the box and pulled out a wrapped bundle of cash. Then he hesitated over something else, pulling it out as well. He winked and they put the box back. "Thank you." He took it up to the teller. "Can I have this in larger things?" She nodded, taking it and unwrapping it so she could run it through the counter. Twice. She came back and changed it out of her drawer. "Two thousand needs to be in hundreds. The rest in fifties?" She nodded, doing that for him. He gathered it together and put all but the two grand into his wallet. He signed the slip and put his box number, getting a smile. He walked back to where he was waiting. "Don wanted what?"
"The paperwork to look over. That's reasonable."
"It is. I can take you back there and let him do that while I go replace some things that got wet. The newer old bunker's drainage system backed up." He led him out to the car and back to the house, walking him back inside. He handed Don the money and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "I'm going to hit the grocery store so we don't have to order tonight and then the suit shop since the dry cleaners said that Horatio's suits were hopeless in most cases. Can you think of anything else we absolutely have to have before tomorrow?"
"No, I think we're okay once you've replaced the clothes." Xander nodded, giving him a hug. "Take Mari shopping."
"Yes, dear. And Eric too if I have to." He switched out keys on the board and took one of the soon-to-be-donated hummers that had just been repainted. "Going grocery shopping. I was ordered to take both Delkos with me?" Eric came out of the living room, giving him a look. "Don said so."
"Fine. What're we taking?" Xander held up the keys. "One of the going-byebye hummers?"
"Okay." He went to find Marisol, pulling her up and away from Calleigh. "Don's in the office, we're going grocery shopping."
"Can you get some tampons?" she asked.
"Sure," he agreed, smirking at her as he drug his sister off. "Come on. Keys." Xander huffed but handed them over. "Thanks. I doubt you can park the hummer." He got his sister into the back. "What is Don doing?" he asked as he slid in.
"Talking with the contractor. He claims we underpaid him. He said we got an extra worker and that raised it by two grand."
"He should've adjusted the estimate." Eric backed out of the garage. He had to beep to get the dogs to head back inside, but that was okay. "They need to be on their line."
"It snapped. We need to put up a new one in one section. They're brilliant though, they all managed to make it onto the section that snapped." Eric laughed at that, turning around and heading for their favorite market. "I need to hit the suit shop too."
"That's fine," Eric agreed. "It might be open again."
"Hopefully." They stopped there first and he hurried inside, finding his usual fitter in there smiling. "Horatio's suits got ruined in storage." That got a gasp. "Everything but his tux and one of the tan ones, his blue pinstripe, and his navy one." That got a nod. Xander put down a good portion of the money. "Fix it." He put down an address card. "It goes here. He comes in Sunday but he's got a broken foot so he's not working Monday."
"I'll do my best, Xander. We have your file on hand." He patted him. "What about you?"
"I'm going to make him bring me in since mine were right with his. Most of my clothes were," he noted dryly. That got a laugh. "Just please do the goldfish switch for him?"
"Of course. I'll call when we've got it done." Xander smiled and hugged him then headed back out. He looked at the stack of cash, counting it and putting it in an envelope. He went to get the file and find the suits he'd need to replace. Horatio was very picky about some things.
Xander beamed as Horatio hopped up to where he was waiting. "Bag?" It got pointed to, it was over his shoulder. "Didn't I pack more?"
"I shipped it back so I didn't have to deal with the suit bag too." He took a kiss. "Am I going to come home to a mess?"
"Nope. It's all done." He gently steered him outside. "That's your gas foot, think you can drive?" Horatio shook his head. "Okay. I brought your hummer anyway. It was looking pretty miserable there in the garage." He smiled at that. "Calleigh and Thomas went home since dad got the nursery finished, finally. Don and Mari are in one of the rooms next to Eric's. They also cooked dinner. Eric's upstairs as well. He was picking on Don earlier. The kids are with the moms, so Tia's in her nursery." He let him into the hummer, watching as he had to hop. "Now I get to tease you like you did me," he said with a smirk. Horatio stared him down and he winked. "You did."
"This is divine retribution for that," he promised. "Let's go home." Xander walked around to climb in. "What had to be done?"
"The garage had to be expanded. It wouldn't fit your hummer, much less your hummer and my car. Or the others you've still got to hand over. They're back from being painted. Dad suggested we pull some theatrics," he suggested as he backed out of the parking spot. He waved at the transit cop, then put it into drive and went forward. "He suggested that the CSIs drive the new hummers up and hand over the keys symbolically so he can tease a few of them." Horatio smiled at that. "The pool is now on the side lawn. With a diving tower, which is pretty because I had them wrap ivy up it. Plus strawberries on the south side of it. The fence was put in late Friday. But it did get done. Some of the stuff did get wet, mostly my clothes. The drainage backed up so you need to make me go shopping again. Your tux was part of that but the cleaner has it still. They think they can restore it. It's silk so they're working really hard." Horatio nodded at that.
"Almost nothing else got wet. The few things that did were old files. We had them dried out by someone Eric said the lab goes to. He said they were quiet if you were worried." Horatio shook his head, just looking at him. "Also, I had the porch moved from the backyard to the west side yard, off the kitchen. That way it faces the water and the dog run. It's all set out for a cookout whenever you want one. The kitchen got some new knobs and a better stove. Hers was great but I went with an electric one and had the gas one taken out. The only gas appliance in the house is now the grill. Which worked well with having to move the gas line for the pool. Don suggested a gazebo near the pool, but in the back yard, where the pool used to be. All that landscaping was done and it was filled in completely.
"We put a small play area out there as well. It attaches to the porch. I had them plant a few trees in some gaps in the line. Taylor, Willow, and I decorated the two spare bedrooms. Basically I let them each take a room. Eric calls Willow's the race car room and Taylor's mommy's bedroom." That got a gentle laugh. "There's an open room up at the top of the house, a long, not very tall one. We've left it alone so far. I figure one of the kids might want it when they're older and married for their room when they come home. Either that or Ray Jr. when he comes to visit from college. Both nurseries were completed and look *exactly* like the old one," he said proudly. "Tia still loves hers and Marisol finally quit fussing about it."
"That's good. Where are the ladies?"
"Their new place. They found a place down by the Delkos since Grandma pouted. A lot." He took a turn to get off the interstate. "Are we being tailed by a cruiser?" Horatio looked and nodded, humming a bit. "I guess they're wondering why I'm driving. Oh, the office is also completely finished. Before you say a *word* I found everything at auction. It wasn't going to be sold and it might've been chopped up for firewood. Your desk now locks. The computer is on it. It is massive and wood. It's also ancient. I've got a small corner desk for myself when I need one or to play naughty secretary. I joked because I'm sure the former owners probably had his secretary or mistress on it at least twice." Horatio laughed at that. He turned toward their neighborhood and the lights came on. He pulled over and rolled down the window. "Hi, Prestons. Do they make you follow us now?"
He gave him a dirty look for even thinking that. "Harris. Why are you driving a PD vehicle?"
"I've got a broken ankle," Horatio offered. "He knew I'd miss the hummer with two weeks in DC. How was the city while I was gone?"
"Pretty calm. The murders are just now starting to trickle in again." He looked at him. "I could arrest you for that."
"I'm being his secretary," he said with a small grin. "He needs one with a broken ankle."
Prestons held up a hand. "I don't want to know." He shook his head. "Someone said they saw you moving weapons from your old neighborhood?" Xander nodded. "Half the PD knows."
"Half the PD knew before," Xander assured him. "I started with a small collection that was given to me by the mentor guy I had in Sunnydale and then I started to translate stuff out here for someone. People give him things. I got a WWII flamethrower." He moaned at that. "I've also got a really pretty sword collection. You should come by and see it sometime."
"No thanks. You scare me."
Xander beamed. "You say the sweetest things."
"Don't make me arrest you. Quit smirking please, sir. Your husband is disturbed."
"It's him being gone for two weeks." He dug out a card and handed it over. "We live there now, permanently. If we have to move again I'm bombing someone." That got a laugh. "Seriously." That got a smirk. "We're planning a cookout next weekend. Would you like to come? I have a friend who I think you'd like. She's pretty and thinking about police service. I think it'd do her good to meet you and she's pretty so you probably won't mind."
"I'll consider it and let you know." He walked off, going back to his car. He called dispatch to let them know that Caine had a broken ankle and an assistant right now. Plus the new address.
Xander pulled back into traffic, doing up the window. "I think he and Buffy would get along very well and she'd help calm him down."
Horatio reached over to check for a fever. "Maybe I should drive?"
"I'm fine." He kissed the hand and smiled at him. He pulled up to the gate and input the code. "My birthday."
"At least most of us know when it is now," he said. He looked at the house. "I thought it was smaller."
"Nope. Most of the third floor is the attic and that one room. Mostly storage." He pressed the remote for the garage door and drove in, parking it quietly. He looked at him, then winked. "Want to tour the house or go to bed?"
"Bed. My foot hurts. Not exactly the homecoming you had planned, sorry."
"Actually I did plan for you to go right to bed." He slid out and slammed the door them came around to help him inside. He grabbed the bag. "Since the house is so large, I hired a once-a-week house cleaner. I told her about your thing with the laundry as well. She's leaving that to us. Everything else is fair game, especially the bathrooms. One of the other ladies turned me onto a babysitting service and they do meet my standards. They watched the boys yesterday while we moved the stuff from the bunkers." He led him up the two steps into the kitchen, smiling at his happy look. "Like I said, I replaced the stove and updated the knobs."
"I like this," he assured him, running a hand over the redish oak wood. Xander helped him up the hall and into their suite. He stared. "It's bigger but the same."
"It is." He grinned at him. "Including the bathroom." Horatio went to peek and smiled, then let Xander put him down onto the bed and undress him. He winced at the pantsleg going over his cast. "Shh. You've got shorts for tomorrow. Not even Di shorts, but Horatio shorts." He gave him a kiss. "Would you like some dinner? We left you some."
"Please." He pulled him back and kissed him again. "The kitchen was excellent considering it had been black lacquer." Xander smirked and went to get him some food and something to drink. He wiggled his way up to leaning on the headboard. "Where are the dogs?"
"On the run." He opened a door, Horatio could feel the breeze, and whistled. He unclipped their dogs and let them inside. "Go see the daddy. Go see the daddy!" The dogs ran in and pounced him, licking and bouncing around him.
"Good boys. Sit." They sat, Percy beside him, Lancelot on his lap. "Good boys. Did you help the other daddy?" He petted them both. "I missed you two. You two are nearly as good as the Xander to sleep with. The hotel was too cold." Xander came in with a tray, letting him smile at the fullness. It was put onto his bedside table, overtop of the book he had been reading before he left. He went back to petting the dogs, and they adored it. Then he shooed them off so they could nibble. "You're spoiling me. What did you do?"
Xander blushed. "I had the board agree to buy the rest of the estate next door since it was a drug seizure and I got part of the yard. Their place goes up next week. It's prefab and Mac designed it with Danny and Don. Stella's decorating." He fed him a bite of food. "Try that. He said it's spicy."
Horatio ate it and had to drink too. "It is. He must want me up and around sooner."
"Of course we do. Tomorrow you can call everyone and hop to the office. I'm yours all week. I have no commitments other than my training and the kids."
"Good. I like that." He took a kiss. "How did you do the pound?"
"I talked with the mayor and a few council members at that event you snuck away from. They agreed I could go to the pet warehouse we like and set up a line of credit, even though they weren't the usual supplier of food. I made sure that they could get everything they needed there, including the normal flea and tick meds and that stuff. I brought the pound director there and set up the account for them, prepaid it with this year's shopping fund, and left it with them. All they'll have to do is sign an invoice and bring it in. That way they can keep track for the budget people and all that."
"That sounds reasonable. Now, what was the minorly evil scheme?"
"Just some spoiling because you deserve it. You won't mind." He snuggled in and fed him a piece of breaded cheese, making him give him a look. "I promise you won't."
"We'll see." He nibbled another bite from the fingers, sucking on them afterward. "What's the spoiling for real?"
"I can accept that." He kissed him. "I missed you."
"I missed you too. I wanted to suck you so bad a few days back. I woke up thinking it was in my mouth and everything," he shared, shifting closer. Horatio moaned at that. Xander put the food aside again and moved to kiss him. He moved from the kisses directly to what he needed. He even ignored the phone.
Horatio petted his hair when he answered it. "Caine. What?" He listened. "Ray, I'm busy at the moment. I just got back from DC. That's fine. No, we had to move. Get into town and I'll tell you," he promised, hissing a bit. "Xander," he moaned. "Told you I was busy." He hung up and arched up into the warm, wet mouth, letting him have whatever he wanted. He filled his mate's mouth and smiled when it got shared. "Good boy."
"Not yet I'm not." Got into the drawer and pulled out some lube, looking at his property. He moved to suck a mark on Horatio's shoulder, moving down to tease and taste him, make sure the rest of him was fine. He got down to where he had been and flipped Horatio over, padding his casted foot with a pillow. Then he moved back up to make sure his back was fine. Horatio was groaning and arching up into his mouth. He slicked up a finger and inserted it. Horatio tried to get up to his knees. "No, don't," he whispered in his ear. "I like you in this position. Pull that leg up a bit." Horatio did as ordered. Xander moved to two fingers. His control snapped while he was doing it. He slicked himself up and carefully slid inside him, making him grip the pillow under his head. "Let it go, Horatio. You're mine now." He pulled out and slammed back in harder. It was going to be a long, hard claiming this time. Horatio hadn't been here for two weeks. Two weeks without having sex. Two weeks without the touches. Two weeks of missing his tongue, his cock, and his fingers. He sped up, leaning across his back to pant dirty things in his ear, making him tense up. He finally came and went limp across his back, cuddling him.
Horatio pulled his boy around, wincing a bit as he pulled out. He pulled Xander against his chest and found the lube by feel. Xander didn't get much preparation but he was inside him, going just as hard, just as claiming. Even though they were on their sides now, that was all he needed. He finally came in him and nipped the back of his neck. "I'm home now."
"You are." He wiggled back into the arms, stroking himself so Horatio could rest his chin on his shoulder and watch him. He moaned and groaned, getting louder and stronger. Until he finally shot off when Horatio's hand covered his. He went limp and snuggled back. "Pinch me if I hurt your foot."
"I will." He rested it on top of Xander's top leg, getting a smile. He let himself drift off that way. Xander followed quickly.
The dogs looked at the food then the daddies. They carefully snuck closer and lapped the plate clean, then went to sleep on the couch in the office. The alpha daddy was home and he had his bitch well in paw. They didn't need to see more of it.
Horatio hopped out onto the porch the next morning, moaning at the view in front of him. "This is perfect, Xander." Xander beamed and got the dogs onto the line. The tieout lines looked like a drop ceiling, letting the dogs roam wherever they wanted in the side yard, but the lines were mostly above ten feet except for on the corner of the porch. He sat down and was fully spoiled by Speed's muffins and omelettes. Calleigh added some fruit salad to his plate. He smiled at them when Eric put down some french toast in front of him with some warm syrup. "I'm feeling very spoiled."
"Wait until you see your office later," Speed teased. "You'll need the energy." Calleigh hit him on the arm, making him smile. "I would."
"You will anyway." She checked the baby in the built-in playpen area. "Aww, he's finally napping. Thank you, God." She looked up and said a firm, silent prayer.
"We all felt that way," Xander assured her. He pointed behind him. "There's the new playset and I see our son found a friend to sleepover last night." He waved at the boys. "Does your father know you're here, Toddy?" He shook his head and beamed. "I'll call him later." He looked at Horatio. "I turned the smaller parlor into a playroom as well. That way they have a room to get really messy on the rainy days."
Horatio watched the kids play then dug into his breakfast. "That is a good idea. The pool?"
"Has a motion alarm," Eric assured him. "It wakes the neighbors and the dogs have a collar attachment that means it won't go off if it's just them. It goes off until someone hits the off button from the house."
"Excellent," Horatio agreed, smiling at him. "How is the training going?"
"Decent enough. You can sit in the living room and watch him but not your office, he said that way you can get things done," Eric offered with a grin. Don and Marisol joined them. "Morning, sleepy."
"I'm allowed to sleep in, I start working again tomorrow." He kissed Marisol on the cheek then sat her down. "So, Horatio, how spoiled do you feel?"
"Very. So far everything's the same or nearly so." He ate another bite and looked at his boy. "Eat." Xander beamed and dug in. Horatio went back to watching the water that was three hundred feet away from them, there was a small inlet up from the beach. The dogs were splashing in it and drinking then heading back up the lawn. He heard a twang and Don sighed, getting up to fix that one spot.
"Make that one diagonal, Don. That seems to be how they want to go," Speed offered. That got a nod and the dogs bounced around him, but he got them back onto the broken line and put it where it should go. He picked up a ball and tossed it, making them both run over that line. It would hold. He came back up to the porch. "Nice job. So, what happened with the contractor?"
"He was padding the extra guy for an extra three hundred." Xander looked at him. Don sighed. "I know what you said and I did give it to him since they did such an incredible rush job, but I also warned Mac." Xander nodded at that. "How's the fundraiser coming?"
"Okay enough. We've got everything set up for the dinner cruise. I was thinking we could do a fun auction for things during it but the mayor's wife didn't like that idea and Willow got glared into agreeing with her. So we're doing a dinner cruise with a donations bin. The next day we're doing a 'celebrate the PD' picnic for everyone in the city with a donation bin. We're presenting the hummers to Fire/Rescue during it, and then we're going to cream them at softball. Buffy will be in town for that," he announced. "I'm setting her up with Prestons." Speed and Eric both gave him odd looks.
Calleigh burst out laughing. "Tell me you're kidding?" she laughed.
"No, he's her type. Slightly dangerous, big, dark hair if he'd let it grow. I think they'd get along okay."
"Didn't he quit the clan to join the academy?" Eric asked Speed.
Who nodded. "Yeah. NRA card carrying member Prestons? Big muscles, likes to gay bash, him?" Xander nodded. "With *Buffy*?"
"It'll be good for them," Xander told him.
"Are you insane?" Speed demanded. "Horatio, check him for a fever."
"I did that last night when we were stopped for Xander driving my hummer and he mentioned her to him." He had mentioned but he hadn't thought it would get this far.
"Underneath the big, bad boy of the block is a guy who does care a lot," Xander pointed out. "He went after some of the parents the social workers had arrested. He took great joy in arresting Harley's parents when they went off. Any bad personality habits she'd probably wear out of him. Or screw out of him maybe. Buffy made Angel barely tolerable while they were dating and before he lost his soul." Speed thumped his head on the table.
"Have another muffin," Eric said, pushing some closer. Speed looked at him like he was a creature. "My mother used to say muffins cured things."
"She did," Marisol agreed, taking one for herself. "They're more fun to make than aspirin too." She buttered it and nibbled. "These are great, Speed. Thank you."
"Welcome," he said, deciding to ignore the prior conversation and have a muffin. One of those strategies would remove his headache. If not, Calleigh wouldn't let him suffer. Much. He looked at the kids. "Boys!" They popped out of the kitchen with sodas. "I hope those are yours and not your father's?"
They nodded, letting him open them. "Fank you," Toddy said happily, going back to the castle part of the playset.
Horatio smiled at them and went back to eating. He had to unearth the other spoiling his mate had done. That way he could figure what deserved a reward and what deserved an interrupted blow job that left him hanging for hours.
Horatio limped up to where Frank was waiting for him. "You have to see the new house."
"Why? Did he paint it lavender on you?"
"No. It's a lot like our last house, only bigger. He had the bathroom remodeled so it's like our last one. The bedroom is bigger but it's almost exactly the same. I walked into my study yesterday morning and nearly swooned. He found this huge antique desk. I have a study instead of an office."
"I remember your desk. I helped him get it in there after the auction. I had to go with him to keep him in check," he noted, smirking at him. "He found both desks there, they used to belong to an accounting firm." He clapped him on the back. "How did you like the pool?"
"I like watching him dive," he admitted. "He's very good and there's a couch angled so I can sit and watch him from the air conditioning."
"So, what happened to your foot, hop along?"
"Believe it or not I was trying to get out of the way of a charging suspect and he tripped over me. Because I'm so very unnoticeable." He got a laugh. "Seriously. The local PD up there was very apologetic but that's what happened. I was coming out of the FBI building after meeting with Fornell." He moved closer. "I know there's something else with the way he's acting. What?"
"Not a clue, Horatio. We each only knew a little bit. Except for Calleigh and Delko."
"I haven't seen Eric all day. They said he could go back to his apartment yesterday so he moved home." He called him. "What else was the spoiling?" He listened to the laughter. "Eric?" The answer of 'be observant' didn't make him happy. "About what?" He hung up on the continued laughing. "He said to be observant."
"I was going to ask who did your suit this time. It looks a lot fresher than mine."
Horatio shrugged. "The normal guy. They've worked wonders on me so far." Frank grumbled at that. "Sorry, Frank."
"Not your fault. I need to switch dry cleaners." He clapped him on the arm. "Can you drive?"
"No but Calleigh's not allowed to do anything strenuous yet. She's driving me around." Frank smirked at that. "She is. We nearly got busted for Xander driving me home from the airport." Frank laughed. "Prestons stopped us."
"I've run into that guy everywhere recently. Oh, who was he asking about? He asked Jessup and Sikes who Xander was going to set him up with."
Frank stared, just gaped. Then he let out a small whimper. He walked off shaking his head. "Never mind, joke's on me," he called eventually.
"I wish," Horatio muttered. He heard the cough and looked at the boss and Prestons. "Remember his friend Buffy?"
"Heard her mentioned a few times. Her?" Horatio nodded. "Is she nice?"
"Yes, but she's a bit like a cross between Ryan Wolfe's wife and Calleigh. She's cheery and sunny most of the time, but every now and then that streak of danger comes out."
"Interesting," he offered with a smirk. "When is she coming up?"
"I'm pitching. I'll be there." He nodded at the boss. "He said to drive him, Captain."
"That's fine, Prestons. What's wrong, Chief?"
"What happened to your foot?"
"A fleeing suspect tripped over me," he admitted. "Outside the FBI's building." Prestons laughed at that. "Truth. Fornell laughed too." He shrugged and looked at his boss. "Did you get my reports?"
"I did, including the ones with the crayon drawings on them. Sent it home?"
"I had, and Xander found them to send them on. Sorry about that. My son wanted you to be happy as well."
"Your son is the future cause of many father's ulcers, Caine. Your nephew pegged it, he'll be worse than he was before he found his lady." Horatio glared at that. The Chief smirked. "In fact he's already causing ulcers. During their meeting at your place, your son snuggled up to the mayor's wife and asked if he could nap on her since she was as snuggly as you are." Horatio moaned at that. "She wasn't quite offended, but...."
"Xander never mentioned that."
"He made Eric explain what he meant. She was slightly mollified when he said she was comfortable and soothing to nap on, plus she was prettier than you were." He walked off laughing. "I suppose you could move to New York."
Horatio watched him go and muttered something, and the Chief tripped on his next step. "Oh, sir, let me help you up," he offered, limping over slowly to help him out of the mud. "You should watch the mud, it is slick around here."
"All the lawyers over the years," Prestons offered. The chief glared at him. "Probably was, sir." He stomped off. Prestons smirked at Horatio. "I don't know how you did it," he said quietly. "But thank you, Captain."
"Not a problem. I'm not in the mood for him today." He sighed and walked off. "You should follow if you're on guard detail."
"Yes, sir." He headed off slowly. He smiled as he walked past Speedle. "Pretty day, huh?"
"Did Buffy already get here?"
"No, sir, the Chief just fell in the mud," he shared. He went to get his car door open for him. "There you go, Chief. Where to next, sir?"
"The office. I've got to change before the luncheon."
"Of course." He followed in his cruiser, knowing he'd be bored. He saw Harris and the mayor's wife and mentally grimaced. She was uglier than any dog he'd ever seen. Harris' son must be blind. He nodded at him. "Sir."
"Prestons." He pulled out a picture and handed it over. "That's me, Willow, Ryan Wolfe's wife, and Buffy right before graduation. She's the same age as Willow."
He looked. "She's pretty. Young but pretty. Is that a bruise?"
"Yeah, she kicked someone's hind end the night before." He took it back with a smile. "She'll be down for the picnic." That got a grin. "You'll like her. She's a bit lost right now but thinking about joining a PD."
"Sure. We'll see." He looked at the boy beside him. "Brought the heathen?"
"Of course. He wanted to see Isabel." He smiled at the mayor's wife. "He really does love Candace and Isabel."
"She's a very sweet woman," she agreed, smiling at Eric. "You are a charmer, you even tried it with me."
"You are snuggly," he assured her, smiling. "Plus you smell nice." She giggled at that and petted him on the head.
Xander kept her from moving. "I saw someone tampering with the cooling rod under the jell-o salad earlier," he said quietly. "I'm thinking someone may have made it want to go boom and splatter the pretty clothes." She nodded, going to check on that. He looked at Prestons. "Stay away from the jell-o," he muttered. "I saw someone tampering."
"Sure." He went that way, watching his boss since he was loading up on it. Suddenly it did explode and coated him, barely missing a few others and minorly splattering a few younger girls up the table. Prestons looked. Two were in direct line of splatter and hadn't been hit but ones out of the direct line had..... That was something to ask a CSI. "Sir," he offered, coming to draw him away. "Let me help you to the bathroom, sir." He growled and glared at Xander. "He warned us that he saw someone tampering with it, sir. I'm sure it'll be taken care of." He walked him off, taking him to the bathroom so he could clean up. And he could laugh in peace in the halls. Because he did look odd with the green and orange jell-o chunks plus miniature marshmallows covering him. This was like the Wrath of Caine being telekinetic or something. Xander gave him a napkin and nodded at his nametag. He looked down and cleaned up the mess the boss had transferred, then nodded his thanks.
"Not a problem. You don't disgrace the uniform with jell-o and marshmallows." He punched him on the arm and went back to discuss the odd occurrence.
The chief stomped up to where Calleigh was having lunch. "You will find out what makes jell-o explode," he demanded.
"I've seen it conduct electricity," she offered, eating a bite. She chewed. "Could it have been a static discharge? The air is pretty humid today." She stood up and spit on her napkin, wiping some marshmallow out of his hair. "Sorry, boss, but I am a mom now. It's instinct." She sat back down and went back to eating.
Eric came out to join her. "Hey, Chief, how was the luncheon?" He growled and stomped off. "Not good?"
"He wanted to know what would make jell-o explode," she admitted, eating another bite of her sandwich.
"Hmm. Pissing Horatio and Xander off? Like how he slipped in the mud?"
"Maybe," she agreed, finishing it. She looked at him. "He did?"
"Yeah, they were in front of the old station, watching the clean up. He stomped off after saying something to Horatio and slipped in some mud."
"I didn't know we had mud out there," she admitted. She shrugged. It happened she guessed. She was in a good mood.
"Thomas sleep through the night?"
"Yup, sure did," she agreed happily. "Even if we did check on him fifteen times to make sure he was still breathing, he slept through the night."
He patted her on the back. "Tonight you'll crash and if he wakes up you won't hear it. He'll go back to sleep this time."
"Oh, good. You're sure it'll keep going?"
"Most of the time," he promised. "No matter that Eric does like to get up and wander all night."
"Chased Lancelot the other night. Didn't you hear him?"
"No. I was trying to sleep and Speed was cuddlesome."
"That is how many children are only ten months apart," he said wisely.
"Oh, no. I'm fixed. Ain't no more babies coming from this body. I had my tubes clipped, thank you very much."
"Good. My niece said that children are a horrible punishment for forgetting your birth control."
"She's right. I love my son but there are moments." She stole one of his chips to nibble. He handed that bag over and pulled out another one, making her smile. "Thanks."
"I didn't figure he's letting you eat junk food yet."
"Nope." She ate another chip. "I missed these." She nibbled the next one. "They should sell Sun Chips with a roll of wet wipes." He giggled at that. "Seriously! Every single time." Horatio sat down with a moan. "Foot hurt?"
"Definitely." He handed her over the hostess cake from his lunch. "He knew you'd need some."
"I was telling Eric that Sun Chips should be sold with a roll of wet wipes."
"That's why Xander doesn't eat them after the one time I tried," he said wisely. He looked in there and sighed, handing it all over. Eric produced another bag. "You made me lunch?"
"No, he sent it because he realized you only had her treat pack." Calleigh smiled as she dug into the treats. "You should keep them here."
"I should." She dug in. "Oh well." She devoured all the treats and felt a bit sick but it was a sweet feeling.
Horatio got up the next morning and started to put keys in his pockets, then remembered to switch the keys around. That left one had a hole. He listened to the change move as he shifted it to his right side, no hole. He checked. No hole, no obvious fixes since his dry cleaner always top stitched. He looked at the sleeping man on the bed, then checked another suit he knew had a hole. No hole. He stepped back and looked. He had two copies of the same suit. He hadn't realized he had packed that one. He smirked and limped over, kissing him awake. "Thank you for replacing the ones that got damaged." Xander gave him a sleepy smile and pulled him down for another kiss. "You do spoil me all too often."
"Suck it up or get it worse," he murmured, taking another kiss. "Are you sure you want to wear that to the meeting? Wear the new green one." He yawned and flipped back over. "I wanna see your butt in it."
Horatio went to change, finding that one in the back of his closet. "You didn't have to."
"Did so. Makes you look hot. Either that or a leprechaun." Horatio laughed and sat down to put that one on. He checked himself out, letting Xander see. "Change the jacket." Horatio nodded, changing it for his black jacket. "Nice. Nice pants." He stroked a hand over them, making his mate shiver. "You be a good boy today and I've got a surprise for you tonight."
Horatio moaned. "No more spoiling."
"Not." He smirked. "Go be a demanding boss and make the Chief beg and whimper to service you and build you a new lab."
"I'll settle for the new lab." He stole another kiss and walked out, finding Eric waiting on him. "You're driving me over?"
"We're all going to be there. Speed's back in scruffy jeans and a t-shirt but he's on leave with Thomas. He's there with us by the way." He slid in to drive and Horatio hopped in. "That's a new suit."
"Old jacket, new pants. Well, new jacket to replace the old one."
Eric looked at his watch. Then at him. "It took you three days to notice that?" He started the hummer and pulled out, heading to City Hall. He followed him inside, nodding at the others. Horatio took his seat like he owned it, getting a few moans from the others.
The Mayor smiled at him. "Have I mentioned that Eric is very sweet?"
"You have and he is," he agreed, smiling at him. "My son still insists that your wife is very snuggly and pretty, plus she smells nice."
"She does. I like that perfume as well." He smiled at the group layered behind Horatio. "I feel like I'm about to ask the Godfather for a favor on his daughter's wedding day." Horatio cracked a smile at that. "New suit?"
"Half. New pants. The jacket made me look a bit... like a leprechaun according to Xander." That got a laugh. "His choice, he said he wasn't sure. It'll find its way into his closet instead since we wear the same size."
The mayor smiled and nodded. "While you were gone, he did wear one that looked almost exactly like your favorite tan one."
"No, that was in DC with me. So apparently it was his." He smiled at the others as they came in, standing since two were women. "Ladies, gentlemen. Boss." His boss gave him a look. "Did anyone ever find out what happened to the jell-o?"
"No, they didn't. CSI Duquesne thought it might be a static discharge of some sort."
"Interesting. I'll have to experiment to see." The chief glared at him. "So, you've seen what the various agencies can do for us. How short does that leave us?"
"About thirty million," the mayor sighed. "What about the contracts?"
"Perhaps. I've talked to the ones I had the numbers for at home. I've talked to a few others. They all want to see the lab built first. Then we would get testing agreements."
"Which could potentially leave us short at the worst moment if they decide to yank the trial version from us," Speed offered. That got a sigh. "It's not a bad thing and we had three labs before that were test labs. The rest had the other things."
"Okay, so that could ease it some?" Horatio nodded. "How much?"
"A few million. In a few cases there's no new version of some programs or machines. There's no new mass spectrometer for instance." That got some sighs, that was one expensive machine that did a lot of work. They had gotten a look at the budget for outfitting the lab the last time. "I wish I could drum up more."
"All right, right now, we need about ten million to just do the building. Should we be able to raise that amount, the lab would come easier. Correct?" Horatio nodded. "Is there any way we can get the lab built for less?"
"Only if we cut dangerous corners." A messenger came in and handed him something, making him sign a slip. He nodded and the man disappeared. He opened it. Then he smirked. "The Benis Foundation. The board members got together with Don, without Xander or telling Xander, and decided that since Patrick had such respect for the lab and had included it in his will that a small grant could be shifted over. They had planned it for the next lab upgrade."
"Which will leave us short when?" the Chief asked.
"Eight years. Expect to need another three million." He passed down the check and the note to the mayor. "It's a start."
Speed coughed and pulled something out. "Don Flack sends this," he offered, handing it to the boss. Horatio looked at it then at him. "He knows. Mac told him. You know we're his family, Horatio. He said we are not to put a plaque anywhere to him. Just keep it quiet and let it go."
Horatio smiled at the check and passed it down. "Nearly halfway there."
"Six more is needed. What about your husband?"
"My husband...." He called him. "Xander." He listened to him chatter. "No, about the labs, not about Eric. Though, if he's that sick, put him back to bed." He told him why and he grimaced. "Remind him that's why the dogs don't eat grasshoppers, no matter what he saw on the food network." Speed snickered at that. He looked back at him. "Keep it up, watch him vomit grasshopper for the next three days." He listened to him. "Don and the board have just come forward with donations to the lab...." He listened, stunned. "Xander?" He listened to his reasons why he wasn't donating to the building and his heart grew. "Thank you, baby." He hung up and looked at the Mayor. "Xander is going to personally outfit one of the labs, ballistics." Calleigh squealed at that. "Plus part of trace." They smiled at that. "Providing we get a building."
"How much will that save us later one?" one of the female members asked.
"Approximately three million," Calleigh told them. "He keeps all his off-shore anymore. It was a surprise to all of us."
Speed looked at her. "He's been talking to Mac about it."
"Ah. He'd know." She hugged his arm and took their son. "My turn." He gave her a dirty look then went back to sleep. "Sorry, son. Just be like your daddy."
Speed smirked. "Of course he is." He looked at them. "When do we break ground? I'm sure among the social connections this room has we can raise the other six and probably half the cost of the lab."
Xander leaned in and looked at him. "Did we know the IRS hates me suddenly?"
"Yeah, it's because of that senator. Did they freeze you again?"
"No, but one of them suggested I move off-shore with the money. Called to say that." He handed over a cashier's check. "I had it cut three weeks ago, just in case. That'll be good even if they do freeze my funds. That is *only* to go to the labs once they're built." That got a quick nod. "Again, if you put my name anywhere in the lab, I'll throw a hissy fit and deny it, while making everyone's wives pout." That got some laughs.
"They do dote on him," the mayor assured them. "No son?"
"Grandma." He smirked. And he presented another envelope. "From someone the Vegas team knows. Greg sent it down by courier two days ago." He bowed. "Plus another from a snowbird in New York through Lisa."
He opened them and smiled, then relaxed. "You have a building, Horatio. Beatrice Holdern donated forty million and wants something named after her." He handed it down.
He made notes of the names. "We'll do thank you notes tonight, sir." He stood up and smiled. "Is there anything else?" They shook their heads. "When can we break ground?"
"Clean up ends in a week. Look at the layouts," he said, handing down a CD. "Let me know." He took the laptop from Eric to look it over. "You're efficient."
"We've learned from him," Eric joked with a grin. He looked at Xander. "My mother?" Xander nodded. "She came over?"
"Yup, called it a whorehouse in the making too." He patted him on the back. "Your mommy needs drugs. Again." Eric moaned. "Because if my very pagan son starts to call her Jesus again, I'm going to throw a fit." He kissed him on the cheek. "But we love you and Marisol and your dad anyway." He smiled sweetly.
"I'll talk to her," he promised. He looked at Horatio. "We good?"
"Break room could be a bit bigger," Horatio offered. "It's also an alternate meeting area and occasionally a nap spot." He looked up. "Add some benches along the non-windowed wall. Plan for at least three more machines if possible." He handed it back. "Otherwise, it's perfect." That got some smiles. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. We'll take bids today, Horatio."
"Keep me informed, sir. Do you want my people on leave or filling in?"
"Leave, please," the Chief complained. "You're the only non-working department with overtime."
"Miami never closes," Xander reminded him. "They think up many interesting ways of keeping them up and frustrated." That got a small smirk from the mayor. "Thank you, sir. You have a wonderful day."
"The hummers, Horatio?"
"During the picnic, sir." He looked at Xander, who nodded. "Theatrical?"
"You, either Dad or Eric, and Calleigh. To their Chief, one of their top officers, and their top female officer."
"Good." He smiled. "Well thought out. Anything else?" They shook their heads. "Then we'll go home for the day. Call us if you need us." He waved a hand and let his lab go first, following them with Xander. "What's wrong with the IRS now?" he asked quietly as they walked.
"The new estate. It got me tagged in the system. They're doing an audit." He looked at him. "I've got to finish balancing the books for this month and Ray Jr.'s on a cruise for the next two weeks with his high school graduating class. Help? Please?"
"Of course. Do we have all the records at home?"
"On the backup CD's and Phil's copies weren't the originals. The others are in the safety deposit boxes."
"That's fine. Plus the paperwork from Mac and Christie's?" Xander nodded. "Then we should be able to pull it together. Are they thinking penalty?"
"I don't know, they won't talk to me. They advised me to get an attorney and to bring in this whole list of stuff."
"We can do that and your tax preparer." He stroked his back. "Relax. It's not that bad. You could've overpaid."
"Oh, please let it be that, Goddess," he prayed. "Please. I can't stand thinking about doing what Cordy's family did and losing everything suddenly." Horatio looked at him. "Her father didn't pay taxes in ten years. They confiscated everything, including the family home."
"You've been paying taxes. They can't do that," Horatio reminded him. "At most, you possibly took an extra deduction or claimed Eric when you shouldn't have." Xander sighed and nodded. "Let's go home and look it over then we'll bring it to Peter."
"I got the certified letter last night and opened it this morning right after you left. They want us in there tomorrow. They're playing dirty."
"I know, but we have everything. Correct?"
"If we don't, I can get it faxed."
"That's fine then." He sent up his own prayers to all the deities. His God and Xander's Gods. They'd need the help with the IRS.
To part 2