Note: Blessed be to Josette for this idea! Gee, thanks, another sleepless night and a hundred page day.
Being A Xander Is Hard Work
Horatio Caine jumped out of his hummer and ran after the suspect on foot. This one had been irritating him for almost a week now. He finally managed to get him down and onto his back, his gun pulled and in the guy's face, one foot on his chest. "Do not move," he ordered.
"I won't! Don't shoot!"
Horatio listened, he could hear his backup behind him, somewhere. "Tell me what I want to know, Stephens."
"I don't know anything! I swear, I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Then why were your prints on the murder weapon!" The man shrugged. "Tell me what I want to know or I'm going to make your remaining days miserable by telling them that you murdered a fifteen-year-old male prostitute because you couldn't get it up." He whimpered. His backup pulled into the alley, Eric jumping out.
"I've got him. Call it in, Eric."
Eric glared at the guy on the ground. "Can I kick him, just once?"
"No." Horatio looked at him then around. "Tell me the names of your accomplices or I'm going to feed you something so horrible, you'll beg to tell me every sin you've ever done," he warned. "If you live after eating it, we'll take you to the hospital. If not, pity, you died of a heart attack during the chase."
"You can't do that!"
"Oh, yes, I can."
"H, you can't feed him Xander's cooking," Eric said, hoping to talk him down. "You don't have any with you." Saying it was mean was redundant, it was Xander's cooking.
"Xander!" he snapped. "Bring me something!" Xander appeared, holding a bowl. "Last chance."
Eric looked in the bowl, noticing the brown syrupy looking liquid with ...stuff floating in it. "Moo shoo?" he guessed. It kinda looked like some sort of chinese food.
Xander looked down then at him. "Pulled pork. My first attempt," he said proudly.
"You can't do that! That violates my first amendment rights!" the perp yelled. He was trying to wiggle away. "I know my rights! You can't make me eat pork! I'm Jewish!" he complained at the odd looks he was getting from the two CSIs and one husband.
"Okay," Xander said, carefully handing the bowl off to Eric, who went to put it on the hood of his car. "Keep that warm for me if possible, please. I need to see what I did wrong."
"Well, first, barbeque sauce is usually red," Eric offered. "Or some shade there of." Ryan Wolfe pulled in, finishing the block of the alleyway. "Did you stop to get gas?"
"No, I stopped to get Speed," he said, pointing at him.
Xander grinned at the guy, pulling a bag out of his pocket. "Since you can't eat pork, I know there's nothing against oatmeal cookies. Fully kosher even." He leaned down, letting him sniff one, then forcing him to eat one. Then he grinned as the guy's eyes went very large. "Aren't they good! My son was helping me make those."
The guy swallowed, choking a bit. "What is that flavoring?"
"Nutmeg. Ryan, wasn't it nutmeg?"
"Yes, Xander, it was," he agreed, looking at the bowl. "Chinese food?"
"Pulled pork," Eric said.
"Interesting." Ryan opened his field case and took out some swabs, dipping them into the liquid and making sure it didn't eat the swab before capping it. "Are those the cookies I watched you make?"
"A few of those and some of the ones I was making for Calleigh's birthday." He pulled out one of those and made him eat it, making the guy cry. "Awww, you poor thing," he cooed, getting down to pet his forehead. "Aren't the banana bread cookies okay?"
"Pe...peppers," he squeaked.
"Eric, get him some water," Horatio ordered. That was mean even by his current standard.
"Xander, what did you put in this sauce?" Speed asked, jiggling the bowl a bit. "And are you sure that's pork?"
"I'm sure." He frowned at him. "Don't you have the mini-me?"
"I do, he's in the back of the hummer," Ryan admitted. Horatio gave him a dirty look. "I picked him up since he was broken down. I didn't think I'd be in a high speed chase today, Horatio. Sorry. He's strapped into his carrier seat and he's been giggling and humming the whole time."
"He waved to some girls wearing bikinis in a convertible as we sped past," Speed offered. "Did you mix up the worsteshire sauce with the soy sauce? You know the soy sauce is the stuff that smells like almonds, right?"
"I know." The baby let out a wail. "Someone get him out. He's gotta be cranky. It's been ages since I fed him."
"Xander, have you been feeding the baby?" Horatio asked calmly, putting his gun away. The suspect wasn't going anywhere. He was still choking on the lethal cookie.
"Yeah, we had Burger King for lunch. This morning we had hamburger helper," he said proudly. "Because *someone* didn't go grocery shopping again."
"Why can't you?" Eric asked.
"Because he refuses to let me after the last time. He said I brought home moldy meat."
"You did," Horatio reminded him, gong to check on their son. "Eric?" The baby smiled at him so he got him out, handing him to Speed, who had to put down the bowl of food. "Thank you."
"Dear, I don't cook that bad. I'm sure there's another reality somewhere where I cook worse."
"That's a frightening thought. Nearly as bad as the vampire you," Speed offered, patting the baby on the back. Calleigh pulled up in one of the squad cars. "Good. You can help save the guy's life. He ate one of your banana bread present cookies."
"The ones I made?" she asked in a voice that said very clearly he wasn't getting sex for a month and she'd be spending it at her place.
"No, the ones he made off your recipe," Eric told her. She gave him a horrified look. "He was going to make them for you."
"I watched him make the oatmeal ones so they're probably fine," Ryan offered, taking the cookies from Xander's hand to bag a few for testing. He knew someday soon he'd find a whole new chemical weapon that way. The military would pay him bigtime if he could get around his wife to sell it to them. She had something against the military for some reason.
Speed looked at his girlfriend. "You know, he's been feeding the baby too."
"Well, he is a baby Xander, he could probably eat his own cooking." She came over to smile at the baby, getting a hug. "Thank you, Eric."
"Can I have one?" Big Eric teased.
"Not a chance in hell." He chuckled and hugged her anyway. "Get off!"
Ryan looked back. "Speed!" He looked, then pried the baby's fingers out of the bowl of...whatever. "Horatio, we could use some help," he called. He tried to keep the baby's fingers out of his mouth but he stuck them in there anyway and smiled. "Crap, we might need Alexx, Eric."
He pulled out his phone, going to get the first aid kit. One could never be too careful about Xander food. Especially around those with delicate stomachs and internal systems. "Here, baby wipes," he offered, handing one over. The baby just cooed at him. "It'll be okay. I promise, they can give you an antibiotic to cure everything."
"You know, he is a baby Xander, he can probably eat Xander's cooking," Speed offered, but he was trying to clean the baby off as well. No one deserved food poisoning that way, especially not his grandson.
Xander looked down at the perp, pulling a small container out of his back pocket. Everyone was busy so he could test his newest batch of his best kissing friend. "Since they're so busy, why don't you tell me what Horatio wants to know so they can fuss over the baby some more?"
"Can't," he said, trying to scrape his tongue off on his teeth. "Can't feel my tongue."
"Well, I've got some breath spray if you want," he offered, pointing it down. "Open." The guy opened his mouth and Xander squirted it once. The guy screamed and bucked him off, turning over to gag and choke. "Sorry, I know it's a bit strong."
"Strong! Altoilds are like trident compared to that! What is that, mace!"
"No, it's my breath spray." He sprayed it and licked his lips. "Not too bad. Hey, baby." He walked over, smiling at his son. "Say ahhh!"
"Ahhhh!" Eric crowed, sticking out his tongue.
"Oh, no," Ryan said. "I cannot allow you to test that on the infant. I'm sorry, Xander, but there could be undesirable side effects, like him never tasting anything again." He pointed it away from him.
"Not near my hummer!" Horatio ordered.
Big Eric took the small spray vial and walked it over to the squad car, spraying some at the bumper, watching as the paint bubbled. "Can you make me more of this to use in the garage?" he asked him.
"Not funny," he pouted, taking it back. "My baby likes it." He let the baby have it, watching as he sprayed himself, and Speed, who choked and wheezed. "See! He says it's fine." He took it back and took his son. "Come on, Eric, we'll go cuddle and make Daddy Horatio buy us dinner since they're being so mean." He looked at the perp. "You know, I have stuffed jalepenos at home, I can easily send some." He disappeared.
Speed looked at Ryan, who headed for the car and back to Horatio's house to stop him before he hurt the baby with his bad judgement in cooking. Speed walked over and made the guy look at him. "This is what happens when Horatio gets cranky on a case," he said blandly. "He gets cranky and it makes Xander cranky; when Xander's cranky he gets bored more easily and he does things like cook. Since this case is the reason Horatio hasn't gotten laid in a week and that is making him cranky, I'm going to handcuff you and hand you to Xander so he can have some *fun* with you - that was only playful Xander. Unless you want to confess and tell us who your accomplices are," he finished in a totally reasonable tone of voice.
"Water?" he gasped.
"Eric, water?" A bottle was tossed over and Speed helped him drink it. "Now, are you ready to talk?" He nodded, whimpering, tears running down his face.
"Just think, Xander was going to be our profiler before things got in the way. He was going to be a cop, just like us," Eric told the guy, leaning against his car.
"Please give me life," he begged. "Either that or make sure I go straight. I'll do anything! Castrate me to make sure I stay straight, please!"
"It's not a sex crime, they won't even consider it," Speed assured him, helping him stand up. "Now, see Lieutenant Caine?" The guy nodded, walking over there and hugging him around the knees, still crying. "Good boy. You tell him everything and we'll make sure Xander never cooks for you again."
"That poor baby."
"It's his son. The iron stomach is genetic," he said sarcastically. "Spill now!"
The guy nodded, babbling at him.
"In English, not in Portugese," Eric ordered.
"Sorry!" He stared over again in English this time, going even faster.
Ryan came out of the lab reading something later that night. "He's no Snape and he never will be," he announced, "but the pork whatever wasn't toxic." Eric sighed in relief, smiling at that, patting the baby on the back since Ryan had forced Xander to let him have him. "It's out of proportion, very vinegary, and the pork was burnt, but no findings of botulism or any other food poisoning or toxic substance."
"See, told you so," Xander said, taking back his son. "Come on, sugar. We'll go nap with the cocoa puffs since Daddy Horatio is going to be sleeping on the couch for the next week."
"Should you feed him that much sugar, I will have to complain to his mother, Xander," Horatio called. He knew an empty threat when he heard one, Xander wouldn't ever let him sleep on the couch for a week without joining him for sex. But he would get them both hyped up on chocolate and sugar. "Xander!"
"She's in Barbados, Horatio. Good luck on the coconut phone line system." He and the baby headed down to the car to head home.
Eric looked at the report, shaking his head. "He needs to stick with bottled and pre- packaged foods." He glared at Horatio. "Do I need to sic my mother on him?"
"Please do. Since Speed can't teach him how to cook and I've only been moderately successful, it could help." He looked at the report. "What about that breath spray?"
Ryan went to get that one, handing it over with a head shake. "It'll peel rust faster than coke."
"I've seen him use it as an antibiotic spray for a scraped knee," Speed offered as he joined them, looking at the ingredient list. "It's all natural? How?"
"Not a clue," Ryan admitted. "You'd have to watch him make it. I'm wondering what he used to polish that silver picture frame and his collapsible rod."
"Probably the same thing, slightly different formula," Frank offered. "Watch commander wants to know what happened to his cruiser." They handed over the sheet on the breath spray. "What's this?"
"What Xander's using as breath spray for him and the baby."
"It bubbled the paint," Eric agreed. "The baby giggled and wanted more."
"You knew he was a miniature Xander. What else did you expect from a kid of Xander's?" Frank looked at Horatio. "You know those magically appearing cookies earlier weren't too bad. A bit strong with the habeneros, but not too bad for banana nut cookies."
"What magically appearing cookies?" Horatio asked.
"My cookies? He put habeneros in my cookies?" Calleigh demanded overtop of him. "My poor grandmother must be spinning in her grave since it was her recipe. Why would he do that?"
"He's a Xander and their ways are mysterious to many, all but those mated to him and those born of his loins," Frank quipped.
"What magically appearing cookies, Frank?" Horatio demanded, hands back on his hips.
"They appeared with a note saying he had dreamed about sending us cookies at the station. What do I know. A few antacids and they were fine. Your nephew was munching down on them too but his mother gave him some rolaids I think."
"He's not allowed to bake, Frank."
Frank gave him this smug little look. "Then I'd go spank your boy, or better yet, take him to bed, Horatio. It's been too long and he's going odd." Horatio hurried off, not quite jogging but at a fast walk. All he dared to do unless there was an emergency.
"Xander made those cookies," Frank called.
"Well, at least we know little Eric will never, ever be brought down by the flu, any stomach virus, or food poisoning," Ryan offered dryly. Everyone glared at him so he grinned. "I told Willow about the breath spray and she crossed herself and started to pray for little Eric's sanity."
"I thought she was Wiccan," Eric said, looking confused.
"And Jewish before that," Ryan agreed. "She kept muttering about sons of Xander destroying the world and cackling as it burned. I think she might be pregnant again," he offered happily.
"That's it, I'm gonna talk to Di, get her to talk to Xander," Calleigh said, going to start tracking the woman down.
"She'll be back in three days," Frank called.
"I doubt it can wait, Frank, since the baby liked that breath spray!"
"You know, there's only one cure for this," Eric offered grimly.
"Making Di or someone have a normal child for Horatio so he doesn't have to worry so much and that one can taint Eric?" Ryan offered.
Eric gave him a look like he was insane. "NO!" He shook his head, moaning and holding it. "With our luck, the taint would go the other way, though Marisol did offer." He shook hie head again. "No, we have to keep Horatio off the cases that would keep him from having sex with Xander." Ryan gave him that look back. "If Xander's too tired from sex, he can't go odd, right? Plus, if Horatio's satiated, he can't worry so much. Besides, it'd be nice to see a happy, content Horatio around the office again. Content Horatio equals sexed out, tired Xander who can't get into trouble, which equals little Eric learning more calm and Horatio-like tendencies. Can we agree to this?"
"I can," Speed agreed, "but he won't."
"He will. He won't know but he would agree. Even he's been complaining about his lack of sex life, though he's been calling its sleep. Xander's been complaining more that he's getting sleep and no sex." Speed moaned and walked off shaking his head. "Wolfe, you with me?"
"Sure, if we can pull it off, Eric."
"You two remind me of this cartoon I saw once with two white mice," Frank said, walking off smiling and happy. It was another day in Xander's Miami and it was all good.
"Do you have any more of that breath spray sample?"
"I have the gallon jug he was storing it in. I used a fume hood when I opened it just in case, but the rest is in there. I only took samples off the top layer since it was about to eat the collector."
"Good. I've got an uncle who works on classic cars. Let's see if his formula can be sold and make him more money, which will go to spoiling H and make him even happier."
"He hates being spoiled."
"No, he hates Xander spending his trust on him. He likes being spoiled. Xander gives good presents and sex. Can I have that jug?" He nodded and went to get a large sample of it in a glass jar. "Thank you." He headed for home, going to offer that to his uncle.
Ryan shook his head. "Today was just a very Xander day," he decided. That was the only way to describe this sort of insanity. He called his wife. "Hey, baby. I'm almost ready to come home. Should I pick up anything?" He beamed. "I thought you were. So we'll celebrate. Want me to bring home anything besides something to castrate me?" He walked back into the lab to clean up the mess.
Xander strolled into the station the next morning, sharing his jerky with his son. The guard gave him a look, almost looking scared. "What?"
"I've heard how you cook," he said quietly.
"He's my son." He grinned at him. "Besides, I'm only here to drop off." He handed over the small bag he was carrying. "That's the batch of scholarship essays that got forwarded down from New York and the jerky I found online. The tag on it said that whole armies marched to Ares and Aphrodite on it." He grinned. "So can you slip that to my mate when he comes in?"
"Sure, Xander. Any new presents?"
"The guy who was giving me most of them died. He's the guy that I'm running the foundation for."
"Me too, he was a nice old guy. I reminded him of his son." He let Eric hug the guy. "We're going to go back to the house. He's got the runs from the jerky he had for breakfast. Spices," he offered at the look he got. He grinned and walked the baby off, changing him in the car before they took off.
The guard went to hand it to the receptionist, writing out the notes that Xander had given him. She gave him an odd look. "His husband said that's what it said. How would I know? He found it online. Warn him it's a bit spicy. It gave the baby runs but he was happily gumming on it." He went back to his post, nodding at Eric as he came in with a box. "Xander dropped off stuff."
"Stuff?" he asked as he hit the elevator button and flashed his pass on the reader.
"Essays and some spicy jerky he found online. He said the tag said armies marched to Ares and Aphrodite on it."
"Uh-huh," he said, nodding at that, getting in when the doors opened. "I'll warn Horatio. Thanks, Paul." The doors closed and he went up the stairs, stopping at the reception desk. She put the bag and the messages for him on top. "Thank you." He held them down with his chin, heading for the lab he was working in. "Hey, Wolfe, Xander found some jerky made like he eats," he called before walking in the door.
Ryan walked down and opened the bag, taking out a stick to look at. He sniffed it as he walked off. "It smells okay, just really spicy. Did he make it?"
"Claims he found it online but said something about armies marching to Ares and Aphrodite on it. Gave the baby the runs."
He came back, looking at him. "Willow wants to start our son on the Xander diet." Eric moaned. "Yeah, that was my reaction, that and pointing out little Eric could eat it because he was a direct descendant." He headed off again, going to test it.
Eric called Horatio. "I picked up Xander's missive of the day. No, essays down from New York and some jerky he claims he found you online but he told Paul, the guard at the elevator, that it had armies marching to Ares and Aphrodite." He smirked. "Wolfe is doing that already and I've go to sic my mother on Willow. She wants to start feeding their son like your husband feeds yours." He smirked. "Yeah, I know, he's already protesting hard about the kid not being Xander's so he wouldn't survive the food poisoning. Thanks, H." He hung up and got to work on the box of evidence he had collected.
Ryan walked in a half-hour later nibbling on the jerky. "It's very spicy, it's done with Indian spices, it's perfectly healthy, but six of the spices are rumored aphrodisiacs and it's spicy enough to eat ulcers. Like his breath spray." He nibbled another bite. Eric gave him a horrified look, mouth open, letting out a small whimper. "She's already got odd food cravings. It's not too bad but it's very strong and very spicy." He led out his half, the uneaten side nearest him. Eric broke a piece off and nibbled, gagging at the taste, he had to get a new bottle of water. "Sorry, but I said it was spicy." He walked out, letting Calleigh have a taste. She scrunched her eyes up. "Perfectly healthy but very spicy."
"So I take it the wife is pregnant?" she asked, taking the bottle of water from Speed's hand as he walked past. "Thanks, needed this."
Speed looked at the jerky and backed away slowly. "I know that stuff. Xander found the recipe online when he was, like ten, twelve, something like that. He said that's the reason he's so tough." He swallowed, looking at Ryan. "He also said the first week of it is nasty and you'll have the shits like you wouldn't believe, but if you survive it's all right."
"It's not poisonous."
"I know that, but it will bring on puberty. He claims his started right after he started to eat it."
"Six of the spices are aphrodisiacs," Ryan agreed, finishing that piece. "Willow is pregnant and having food cravings." His stomach rumbled so he looked down. "I'll be fine. They make medicine for that."
"Yeah, good luck with that," Speed agreed, heading off again shaking his head. That poor, deluded young man. Well, he probably had the time off to spend the next week in the bathroom. He had eaten a piece of that once. And only once. He called Aiden. "Baby, I love you, but Xander's making jerky again." He looked at his phone then put it back. "That's mean, Aiden. I know Don could stop him, but that's very mean." He hung up and went to hide. He saw Ryan go running past, then Eric. "They both should've known better," he sighed, going back to work and hiding successfully until Horatio got in. He saw Alexx go walking past. "Alex, check what was in the jerky," he called. "Ryan and Eric both ate some if you're up here for flaming assholes."
She went to check Ryan's usual lab, finding the report in there and taking it with her bottle of mylanta.
Horatio walked in the door, smelling the scent that meant danger to him. Someone was cooking. "Xander?" he called softly.
"Making myself more jerky, Horatio."
"Couldn't you buy some?" He headed into the kitchen, stealing a kiss.
"This is the one thing I make very well. I found it in an old journal that had just been put online. Besides, I like my jerky, it's what makes me so tough and horny." He stole another kiss with a smile. "You might wanna move, I'm marinading." Horatio went to change. "Did anyone eat it there? It'll be about a week before they feel okay but the more you eat the stronger you become. I've ate this stuff for years."
Horatio came back once he had changed, looking at his mate. "Why are you eating it now?"
"Baby Eric stole some." He snuck another kiss and laid the next piece of meat on the drying rack. "I love this electric dehydrator. It's so much easier than hanging it in my room." He put on another tray and slid some more meat onto it, fishing around in the bowl with the fork. He found one last small piece and put it on, then covered the dehydrating trays and plugged it in. "There, now I'll have some for tomorrow." He looked at the marinade, then shrugged and poured it back into the tupperware container, putting it back into the fridge.
"You should probably toss that out."
"I'll need to make more tomorrow," he said with a small pout. "I'm making Don some since he wanted to know how I'm so tough." He cleaned up his mess, including the counter, then took off his apron and put it aside so he could lean against Horatio's chest and kiss him properly. "How was work? Did you bring home the essays or did Eric and Speed take them?"
"They took them tonight." He wrapped Xander in his arms. "Have I mentioned that seeing you in here scares me? Especially when you say the baby's been eating your cooking?" he asked gently. Xander pinched him on the butt. "It does, Xander."
"Baby Eric is fine. He's already finished his adjustment from the jerky and he'll be able to eat anything he's not allergic to." He nuzzled him. "Disappoint me some more, Horatio, and I'm sleeping on the beach."
"Fine, I'll quit nagging about your cooking. But nothing other than this jerky unless I'm watching you." Xander nodded, accepting that. "Good boy. Now, where is the baby?"
"Eric's momma wanted to spoil him rotten since her baby boy is too old now." He grinned at him. "She volunteered. I said it wasn't necessary and she said her Eric's too old."
"I'll call her after we eat." Xander handed over a pot. "What's this?"
"The stuff from the package you said I could make." Horatio smiled and checked, then put on some chicken to warm from the plate Speed had made for them. "Should I set the porch table?"
"Please." He gave Xander a little spank, getting a wink and a grin in return. He called Eric's mother. "Mrs. Delko, Horatio Caine. I was told you stole my son to play with?" He smiled. "No, that's fine. Yes, I do know why he smells like tumeric. Xander's jerky is very heavy in it and he was eating it. He also said he's had a bit of an upset stomach for the last few days. I can only imagine it's from the same source." He listened to her say how nice and regular the baby was now. Xander was right, his body had adjusted to it. "Thank you. Call when he's ready to sleep and we'll come get him. Of course." He smiled. "Thank you." He hung up and took the chicken out of the microwave, bringing it and the pot out since Xander had put out bottles of water for them. "She'll call when he's ready to go down. He smells like tumeric?"
"He managed to spill some on himself earlier. I was cleaning him up when she got here." He shrugged and dug in, giving him a gentle smile. "Can you pounce me when you're done?"
"Of course. Did you get anything done today?"
"Laundry and buying all new towels since the old ones are pink." Horatio moaned at that. "Your tie somehow snuck into the basket. I think Eric was trying to see which color it went best with." He ate another bite. "So I got new ones."
"Thank you, Xander. The blue ones?"
"The cream ones." Horatio nodded, of course it had been those. "There was one of the lighter, faded blue ones and it's now purple. A pretty shade."
"I'll keep that in mind." He ate another bite, listening to the surf. It was a quiet night in their neighborhood and it was a nice thing. Xander smiled and licked his lips, taking a drink of water. Horatio moaned, his mate was trying to tease him. Ryan had said some of the spices were aphrodisiacs....
Diana picked up her son, sniffing him. "Why does it smell like you're farting tumeric?" she asked, then looked at the stepdaddy to her baby. "Why is he farting tumeric?"
"Xander's been making some jerky recently," he said calmly.
"Tell me that idiot didn't feed him that stuff!"
"His body fully accepted that and he's been eating a lot of spicy foods with Ryan and Xander."
"Why is Ryan eating spicy foods?"
"Oh." She sat down, looking at her son. "Your daddy said that jerky was the secret to his toughness and why he was so horny."
"Yes, it is," Horatio agreed, leaning back in his chair. "He hadn't had any in a while so he made it weaker for them both but he made a full strength batch and jumped me after eating a piece." She smiled at that. "Fortunately Ryan and Eric are both able to sit after eating some."
"Then they're doing better than I did. That stuff's great for a muscle rub too." She stood up and picked up the diaper bag. "Were you a good boy?" Eric beamed and nodded. "Are you sure you were a good boy?"
"He's fully potty trained thanks to Xander and Eric's mother. Even at night," he offered. "We've been using pull-ups at night for him but he's been wandering around in one of his father's t-shirts and big boy underwear for the last day and a half." She beamed and kissed him, nuzzling noses. "He's started to try to look up dresses however. He's trying to figure out if everyone's got what he has."
"I'll keep a watch out for it, Horatio. Thank you for watching him."
"Our pleasure, Diana. You know that. We love Eric." She beamed and kissed him on the cheek, then left with him. He smiled even though he had evaluations to do, getting back to them. Eric knocked on the door. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong but I got asked an awkward question." He walked in and shut the door, looking at his boss. "You know about Marisol, right?" He nodded, he was supporting her through her treatments. "They've told her if it doesn't finish going into remission next time it'll be radiation treatments, which means she'll never have a baby, and she wants one. Mom's telling her she's being dumb, but she wants one." He moved closer. "She's also unmarried and she loves you two." Horatio nodded slowly. "She wanted to know if I could bring up the subject so she could ask."
"Xander and I haven't thought about a second child," he said quietly. "I'll talk to him about it."
"Thank you, Horatio." He smiled. "Mom would insist we raise the baby most of the time, but we'd do what Di is and give you all the visitation and custody you could stand. Mom wants another grandbaby anyway. She's missing me being that tiny." Horatio smiled at that, his mother had stolen the baby a lot recently. "So, can she come ask?"
"Let me talk to Xander first," he offered quietly. Eric nodded. "Are you sure she's going to offer?"
"I'm really sure and she said she was thinking about asking you to be the daddy instead of Xander. She loves Xander but she likes you more."
He nodded. "I understand. I'll talk to him tonight, Eric."
"Thanks, Horatio." He grinned. "I don't wanna make this awkward or anything."
"You're not. Diana has talked about it in the past," he admitted. Eric grinned and left him alone, letting him stare at the paperwork. He called the house, then Xander's cell. "When you're done sucking up to the bosses, come see me?" he asked quietly. "No, it's quarterly evaluation time. Some lunch would be great," he agreed happily. "As long as you don't cook it." Xander chuckled but agreed. "Thank you. Hug my nephew if you stole him from classes today." He hung up and got back to work. They could talk and it'd be okay. Xander knew that Eric's whole family liked them.
In New York, Mac took the package from the receptionist. "What is this?"
"I don't know. They said it's biological and food." She shrugged. "The x-ray report said there's a note inside and I thought you'd see Detective Flack sooner than I would, Detective Taylor."
"Thank you." He smiled and walked it back to his office, leaving it on his desk. "I hope it doesn't need refrigerated." He went to get to work, finding Danny in the lab. "If you see him first, someone in Miami sent Don a present, it's on my desk and it's food related."
"No return address."
"That's Xander," Danny sighed, shaking his head. He pulled out his phone, texting him. He looked at the return message. "He's out with Stella talking to someone so he'll be back in about an hour." He went back to separating out samples, giving Mac a look since he was being stared at. "What?"
"You didn't come over last night."
"I didn't get out of here until one."
"You work nearly as many hours as I do, Danny. Quit that. Before you turn into me." He left, going to work on his own case for a while. Until something else came up.
Danny mimicked him under his breath and got back to work. Not his fault the cases were so intense recently.
Don found the package right where Danny had said, sitting down behind Mac's desk to open it. Stella gave him an odd look. "From Xander." He got the box open and read the letter. "This is what makes him so strong and horny," he said, reading the rest of the letter and pulling out the pictures of the baby. "New pictures of Eric. He's potty trained. We got pictures of that." He handed them over, going back to the letter. "What's an adjustment period when you're talking about food?"
"You ever switch to one cuisine from another?" she asked. He nodded, he had done that in college when he went from his mother's cooking to dorm food. "That time when your stomach complains."
"Last time it was pretty decent." He pulled out a piece and nibbled, wincing. "Spicy." He pulled open the other bag since it had a big sticker that said 'mild' on it. That one was nicer. After that one he ate the other one, heading to share it around. Stella hated jerky. He walked into Danny's lab, grunting and holding out the box. Danny looked at him, then took off his gloves and ate a small piece.
"Oooh, spicy but strong," he said, his eyes watering.
"That's the mild stuff. Xander eats this all the time. He said it's what makes him so strong and horny."
Danny gave him a horrified look, then moaned and went to find Sheldon. "Hey, Doc, you got anything for upset stomachs on you?"
"Chewable mylanta in the bag and my field case," he called. "Why?"
"Xander sent Don this jerky he eats all the time. Even the mild is really strong," he said, wiping off his cheeks. He popped open his case and found the jar of antacids, popping two. "Thanks, doc." He went to scrub off his hands and reglove so he could get back to work.
Sheldon put down what he was doing and took the bottle to Don, putting them into his suitcoat pocket. "There, in case you need any."
"You want some?"
"No thanks, I had some while we were working down there and I had to watch Xander that day." He shuddered. "If you get the runs, take the right medicine for it. It'll help a bit, and eat soft stuff. You'll be fine after a few days to a week."
"He said the baby loves it and eats it with him all the time."
"Eric is his son, I'm not surprised," he reminded him. He went back to his lab, getting back to work. That jerky did explain why Xander was so tough, strong, and could keep going even when in pain. Living with a flaming asshole for a week after eating nothing but that jerky, like Xander said he had when he had first made it, would make anyone stronger. "Feed Mac some," he called when Don walked past. "He was a Marine."
"True," Don agreed. "It's not bad. Takes a few bites to get used ta the spices but not bad." He ate another piece on his way to find Mac and offer him some. "Mac." Mac smiled at him so he held out the box. "The open one's the stronger stuff. Mild's in the sealed on and it's still kinda spicy."
"Who sent it?"
"Xander. This is the stuff he eats all the time." Mac ate a bite of the mild, then choked. "It's not that bad. He said it's what makes him the guy he is, strong and horny." He walked out smiling. "Hey, Monroe, Xander sent some jerky."
"Oh, no! I ate some of that while I was helping guard him from the Mala Noches! No way am I eating more!" she called, running in the other direction.
"Hey, there's somethin' she won't eat," Danny called, smirking as he came out. He opened his mouth and Don fed him the rest of the piece he had been nibbling. "I'll forgive the germs," he mumbled as he went off. He swallowed and looked at his evidence, then groaned as the side effects started. "Oh, man." He felt his whole body tense, looking around. He was nearly desperate. He saw Stella walking past and went to pounce her in the dark room. He walked up behind her and drug her in there, then slammed the door, flipping on the 'safe' light. She made a squeaky noise but by then he was in her mouth and his hands were down her pants and working to make them both happy.
"Jerky did it to me, Xander's secret recipe," he panted, moving closer. "Please!"
"We'll get caught."
"Mac ate some too." He kissed her again, desperate now. She let him do whatever he needed, and they were only interrupted by Mac, who shut the door and locked it behind him. Then she was surrounded and had to give in. They were both so desperate it wasn't funny.
Don grinned at Sheldon when he came out to see what the squeaky noises were. Don nodded at the dark room. "This is Xander's special jerky."
"I remember," he agreed fondly, smiling at him. "I almost ripped myself apart. I couldn't decide if I had the runs or the need to find a woman." He shook his head and ate a piece, it was a nice night, even if it had been messy by the morning. He walked off, going to get back to work on Danny's case to clean up his work area. He wouldn't be making it back to work. He'd be in the bathroom within the next half an hour. Mac too probably. Then he went back to his own work, calling downstairs. "Hey, Sid, Sheldon. Do you have anything like pepto? No, Xander's jerky got sent up and Don's loving it, and it's had the side effects I told you about on Mac and Danny so far. Thanks, man." He hung up and got back to work, smiling at the continued squeaky noises. He had imagined Stella to be a screamer but apparently he was wrong. Unless that was Danny making those noises. Or Mac. They were a trio and he shouldn't prejudge where they were staying in the pile-on. A good CSI waited for evidence to tell him who got what position instead of assuming.
Horatio answered his phone, grateful for any reprieve from the paperwork. "Caine." He listened to Mac complaining for a minute. "Are you in the bathroom?" he asked, feeling like he had slipped into an alternate reality. The Mac Taylor he knew would never call from in there. He heard the growled answer and understood it. "So, did you get both side effects or just one?" He smirked. "The best advice I can give you is cheese and medicine, Mac. I had the same thing happen and so did the baby. No, he's fine. Smiling, happy, potty trained, and out the other side. Still nuzzling chests when anyone lets him. Yup, he's a baby Xander." He smirked. "It works like that on him too but his stomach didn't have to adjust. I'm not sure. Eric had it for a week. The bigger Eric only had a small piece so he only had a few days worth but his women all quit taking his calls after the first night. Apparently he wore some of them out," he said fondly, smiling as Xander walked in. "Mac had some of the jerky."
"Tell him I ate nothing but that for a week and it was good," Xander told him. "I started puberty right after it. The horniness lasts an extra few days after the runs stop." He sat down, then got up and pulled something out of the bag he was carrying, putting it on the desk. "I nibbled at the event but I stole you some." Horatio smiled. "I didn't even have Ray with me to remind me of my manners, I'm proud of myself for remembering which fork was which."
Horatio unwrapped his lunch of stuffed pork chop and mashed potatoes, finding a plastic fork in his drawer so he wouldn't tear the foil it had been wrapped in. "Mac, will you survive this? I know you were a Marine, Mac. In a week, suggest that the former unit eat his jerky too." He hung up on more growling. "He wasn't amused."
"It takes all sorts, even those with weak stomachs can be Marines."
Horatio smiled, digging in. "Get the door?" Xander closed the door and locked it. "Eric came to me earlier."
"I'm assuming the bigger one since I heard from Diana about our son's body odor of the moment?" Horatio nodded. "Something wrong with Marisol?"
"The doctor is suggested if she doesn't go into remission she should start radiation."
"Which means no kids and she's wanted one."
Horatio raised an eyebrow, chewing carefully to give himself time to think.
"She came up and asked if I'd mind her approaching you earlier today, before I left for the luncheon. I told her I wouldn't mind, that you could make that decision, and if you wanted I would support it because I know she's a wonderful woman who's wanted to be a mother forever, plus we'd have her family's support. I did say I didn't think you'd do it if you knew it'd hurt her health or her chances of remission in any way. She said her doctor isn't enthusiastic about it but she's not the first." Horatio nodded, swallowing. "We talked for about ten minutes about it and I let her explain her reasons, which were all sound." Horatio smiled. "I did agree that it should be yours since she does have that major crush on you and it'd be prettier with your hair and her eyes."
Horatio smiled and nodded. "You think I should?"
"I'm leaving that up to you, Horatio. I've got my son. I don't need more kids, but if you want kids, he or she will be just like Eric is for you, mine. I'd welcome any child that came to be as long as you weren't covertly cheating on me. For this, I'd even let you go be with her for a few weeks now and then." Horatio opened his mouth, so Xander held up a hand. "I have a real issue with doctors doing it via IVF. With some of the procedures Willow's seen from the Initiative when they were around and other things I've seen, I wouldn't want there to be any chance of the baby coming to harm that way or any extra material being left anywhere. It's a quirk of mine but I'm paranoid about people in Black Ops coming for me and mine. The Watchers have proven they would. I'm not putting it past them to do it to you because you're mine. It would be a very big lever to make me do what they want. Therefore it would have to be done naturally. I wouldn't mind but I'd be bathing you anytime you came home."
"I understand. You'd support me?"
"I'd support you fully and I leave it up to you, Horatio. I'd love the little Horatio as much as you love the little Xander. Especially if it was a daughter, which would kinda piss her momma off. She wants a grandson."
Horatio smiled and nodded. "Then I'll consider it. Eric came up to suggest she might talk to me about it sometime soon but she didn't want to blurt it out some day."
"She did to me and I appreciate that she came to me. She also said that she wanted it to be yours, which doesn't bother me." He gave him a gentle smile. "So think and let us all know." He stood up and stole a kiss. "I'm going to the pool. You be a good boy." Horatio smirked at that. "I'll wear you out when you get home." He winked and walked off, strolling really.
Horatio finished his lunch, doing the paperwork while he chewed and thought. He found Eric hovering and waved him in. "Tell her to come see me herself, Eric. She went to see Xander."
"He would, but because of people like the Watchers, it'd have to be done the natural way. Xander's paranoid about them doing something."
"I can see why. She doesn't know anything about that."
Horatio nodded, smiling at him. "I realize that. I'm still thinking but we've agreed she can come ask me herself."
"Thank you, H. You're making my sister very happy." He jogged off to call her from a more private area, speaking Spanish so less people could understand if they were eavesdropping.
Marisol, Eric's sister, walked up to where Horatio was sitting on the beach, sitting beside him. "I talked with Xander first, I thought it proper to go to your spouse and clear it, that way he would know I wasn't asking you to cheat."
"I understand that and I do appreciate it," he agreed quietly, looking at her. "I've been thinking all day since Eric came to me and said you were thinking about asking me." She gave him a hopeful look. "Xander did have a few conditions. One of them being that it not be done by a doctor so that no extraneous materials can be stored." She nodded quickly at that, trying to hide a smile. "In his past are people who would use that," he said quietly. "The same as there are people who would try to harm you or it if they could find a mother and implant any extra fertilized eggs."
"I talked with Momma and she told me about his past," she agreed quietly, taking his hand to hold. "I wouldn't want you to break your vows."
"Neither would he, but he did insist it could only be done that way and only for that reason." She nodded, giving him a less hesitant smile. "So that means we'd have to plan it, Marisol."
"I understand, Horatio. He would not hold it against the child?"
"No, the same as I don't hold it against Eric."
"Eric came to be before you two got together," she said wisely.
"Yes, but I have no doubts about Xander loving the baby. He said so and I believed him. He loves children." She nodded, relaxing on that point. "We would be sharing custody, like we do with Diana."
"Of course." She gave his hand a squeeze. "I saw him waiting."
"I didn't think it fair to leave him out of this." He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. "If you wish, I can do this for you," he promised. She smiled and nodded. "Do you know when you can start tracking things?"
"I'll be fertile next week," she said quietly, looking down. "I've been tracking it now for a little over a month, since I first started to want it so badly." She looked at him. "I had planned on going out and pulling what Eric does, but my mother found out and screamed at me with Eric." He nodded, Eric could be traditional about some things. She smirked. "You heard?"
"I've heard Eric complaining about his sisters who go out and party more than he does."
She snorted. "I don't think that's possible. Whatever he ate of Xander's made him wear out some of his ladies and they won't even let him apologize. My brother has women all over this city. I was only going to have one or two." He smiled at that. "It was risky but a plan I could've lived with. Until my mother started to call the priest." He chuckled and nodded, getting that one, giving her hand a squeeze. "You would break your vows?"
"It won't break my vows, Marisol. Xander will still love me and I still love him just as much. Like I said, it'd happen for this purpose only."
"I can agree to that." She smiled as Xander came over and sat on her other side. "Thank you, Xander."
"Everyone should be able to have one if they want one," he said quietly, taking her other hand to hold. "I kinda figured you'd ask him sometime." He grinned at her. "It happens only to get you pregnant. No other times or else I will get insanely jealous and destroy the city. Understood?" She nodded, letting go of Horatio so she could hug him. "I'm a good daddy, Marisol. I'll love your daughter just like I do my son."
He grinned. "We need one of each."
She laughed and pinched him. "Brat." He nodded, smirking at her. "What did you feed Eric?"
"Some of my special jerky." He handed it over. "You can have some too."
"No thank you. He lived in the bathroom when he wasn't with his women." She shivered. "I doubt it would do the same for women." He grinned and nibbled on a piece. "I'll be fertile next week."
"Let us know when. I'll bathe him when he gets home and then put him to bed." She smiled and nodded. He kissed her on the temple. "Now you can tease Eric about having a baby Xander in his family too. If he pouts, remind him little Eric and I both get to warp the new baby toward our insanity." She giggled and got up to tell him that since he was waiting. He grinned at his mate. "Of course, the baby would be all Horatio-being-Xander, but that's okay. You do a good impersonation of me now and then, dear."
Horatio pulled him closer, kissing him hard. "Shut up, Xander."
Xander giggled. "If you want but you might have to make me."
"Oh, I think I can," he promised, giving him a long look. Xander shivered and blushed, then got up and headed back to the hummer. Horatio got up to follow him, waving at Eric so he could take his mate home and make him more sane again. That jerky gave him incredible stamina in the bedroom and the pool.
Ryan came up to where Xander was nibbling and reading, coughing to get his attention. "Can you please talk my wife out of feeding my son your cooking?" he asked, sitting across from him.
"I can try but in case you hadn't realized it, she's a stubborn bitch about things." He ate another bite and handed over the jerky bag. Ryan smiled and ate some. Xander frowned and dug into his bag, coming up with a sealed jar, handing that over too. "Mayo, homemade."
"Why is it brown?"
"I'm not sure. I have no idea what I did." He shrugged. "The next time you wear her out so bad she thinks she's having chest pains, remind her you're just now starting to eat my jerky and look what it's doing to you. Tell her it's like steroids, best left until you're at least a teenager."
"I can use that," he agreed, tucking the sample into his own case. "Do you think that's a toxic weapon?"
"You sure you want a toxic weapon?"
"I've been joking about finding one in your cooking and selling it to the military but Willow told me I can't sell it to them."
"They had problems with the military while I was here. They had to take down a special ops group. I sent her battle plans when she sent me information." Ryan gaped. Xander smirked. "I did graduation," he said quietly, glancing around. "I can do that." He pointed at the case. "Take that, mix breath spray and stuff I put into the omelettes. Whiz in a blender, then add another two teaspoons of breath spray at the end, spray on something. It'll die."
"What quantities of the first group?"
"One ounce each. Shouldn't need much more than that."
"Okay." He took out his notepad and wrote it down. "Thank you." Xander just grinned. "Used it?"
"On something that reminded me of sasquatch." He stood up. "You can have the rest of that jerky, it's still fairly mild. Also remind her she can't eat it, therefore her kid might not be able to either." Ryan nodded, beaming at that. "How goes the judge thing?"
"I got my first billboard today," he said proudly. "Eric picked on me all morning."
"Eric needs to get laid again," he noted dryly. He shrugged. "They'll calm down and come running back or he'll get new women. I'm still supporting you."
"Someone asked about my legal qualifications."
"Tell them the truth. You've got so many years as a cop, you're two-thirds done with your JD degree. You're doing it by correspondence. You'd be a by-the-book guy with a good eye toward what was legal and what isn't. You've had to deal with search warrants in the past and know what's expected. You've seen it from both sides now and you think you can bring some humanity and common sense back into the courtroom when the law doesn't make any. If they ask you specifics, start on 'as a cop I saw this sort of situation' and make sure you don't name names."
Ryan smiled. "Thank you, Xander. You're the best unofficial helper I've ever had."
"Ehh, not a problem. I'm good helping you because it gets an idiot off the bench. Even if you do have to disappoint them on some weak warrants, they'll understand and only be a little bit hurt when you nudge them in the right direction."
"Good point," he agreed, smiling at him. "I'm hoping I don't get any gay cases."
"Me too. The laws are very unfair in most of those matters." He shrugged. "They were written by old white men who used to own slaves for the most part. Time's changed and we're slowly changing it, it'll happen hopefully in my lifetime."
"I hope so too. Thank you for your support."
"Not an issue. Did you like the anti-old judge ad?" He smirked and walked off.
Ryan chuckled. He had liked the 'cartoon mouse who argued a case in front of the old judge and humiliates him with his lack of knowledge' ad Xander had run as a private citizen. Nothing linking the foundation to it. Nothing linking Xander to it besides his actual name on the bottom of the screen in tiny little letters. He ate another piece of jerky and got up to go back to the lab. He had to try that out if he could get Horatio's permission to let Xander cook those things. The secret had to be in Xander's cooking somewhere. No one else could screw up things this way. On the way back, he treated that vial of 'mayo' like it was liquid nitro and fragile. It might just explode on him, no one was sure.
Xander walked into the station, seeing the scared look on the guard's face. "I got summoned?"
"By the military," he muttered.
"Fucking hell," he sighed. He waved his pass under the reader and pushed the button. "Thanks, Paul."
"Welcome, Xander. Got any more of that jerky?"
"Not on me. Ryan might. He's been eating it because Willow's having spicy cravings." He waved as he got into the elevator. "Laters, I hope." The doors closed and he headed up there, getting off on the right floor. He saw Calleigh's look and shrugged. "What did I do this time? Besides make more jerky this morning."
"We're not sure. They're locked with Ryan and Horatio in his office."
"Ah. Okay. I'm going to go up there and defend my mate." He headed up the stairs, then knocked and walked in. Ryan sighed in relief. "What? The jerky too strong?"
"No. They want to know about the liquid venom you gave me the recipe for."
Xander looked at him and shrugged. "I discovered it on accident. Cooking and I don't get along." The military guys glared. "Seriously. I can make three things. Packaged meals I only have to add milk or water to, my special jerky, and my breath spray." He handed over his container. "That's in there." They gave it a dubious look so he sprayed his mouth, licking his lips. "Hhmm, losing strength already. Must be reacting to the heat." He pointed it at the corner of Horatio's desk, watching as the paint bubbled a bit. Then he handed it back. They tested it and hissed at the taste. "It tastes perfectly fine to me and my son."
"Sir, are you a pepper head?"
"No. I'm a Xander. We're unique. Ask anyone." Ryan and Horatio both nodded at that. "Somehow, for some reason, anything I cook goes wrong. He had samples of what I had made before because he's trying to figure out what's toxic among it. I know we've used it as an interrogation technique in the past when a case got desperate, like a child running out of time." They both stared at him. "What Ryan had was a mix of three things: that breath spray, my special mayo, and my omelette mixture. Whiz it together, then add in another two teaspoons of breath spray when it's done to thin it out. Things die. I can even kill roaches with it. Which is what I usually use it for, and the occasional beach rat."
"Would you consider letting us watch you cook these items and mix it so we can see what you're doing wrong?" one of them asked.
"As long as Ryan gets equal credit, it doesn't get used against protestors, it doesn't fall into the wrong hands, and I'll be damned if it gets used by another special ops group trying to take over a town." They gave him heated looks. "I'm from Sunnydale. My town nearly got taken by one of them." They stepped back. "I helped with that long distance when asked. I don't like mind control experiments. As for taping it or something, sure. My husband can do that. You can play nicely with him, hopefully, and Mr. Wolfe."
"We can agree to those terms, sir," one of them decided, shaking his hand. "We'll work out any payment arrangements with them?"
"My husband takes care of all financial matters since I'm an airhead about that stuff."
"Xander," Horatio warned. "Do not put yourself down."
"I mis-balanced the checkbook by nearly ten grand, Horatio."
"Under or over?" Ryan asked.
"Carried an extra one?"
"Forgot," Xander admitted. He shrugged. "I'm an idiot at times." Horatio glared. "I am!"
"Put yourself down again and I'm paddling you. Then I'll ship you off to Mac to apologize in person."
"Mac...." one of the military guys asked. He only knew one Mac that could possibly scare this guy or his husband Caine, and they were CSIs too. "Taylor, in New York?" Horatio nodded. "How do you know him?"
"We're basically sister cities and we did some crossing over for cases and as an experiment to switch personnel," Ryan offered. "I loved working under Mac, he was a nice guy with very clear-cut rules at times. The same way Horatio can be."
The guys nodded. "Have Taylor watch you do it," they ordered Xander. "Have him tape it. All that stuff. We'll arrange any payment with your spouse. I do not want you using it as a domestic weapon."
"Only around the house. If I have to use pepper spray on someone, I just kick their ass."
"Good. We like that," the second military guy agreed happily. "We've got Detective Wolfe's sample and we're off to test it within those bounds. Thank you, Mr. Harris." He nodded and watched as they walked out.
"Xander, do not put yourself down ever again," Horatio warned. "It was a simple math error."
"Still stupid of me to make it." He looked at Ryan. "Took the bank guy nearly an hour to figure out what I had done." Ryan smirked at that, nodding a bit. "Really felt stupid then." He flopped down on the couch. "Mac's coming down when?"
"We should probably call him. I'll set up the camera and tape myself making a batch tonight since I'm out of the rat killer. Oh, it doesn't work on Eric." He stood up. "He sprayed it on his foot and it burned but nothing else. His mommy was not impressed but she remembered that stuff and yelled about locking cabinets for under the sink."
"I'll put those on tonight," Horatio agreed.
"I can do that." Horatio looked at him. "I can!" He pouted. "I'm trying to be good."
"Try harder," Horatio warned. Xander smirked, bouncing over to kiss him. "Do you know where the camcorder is?"
"Mine or yours?"
"You have one?"
"Yeah, somewhere." He grinned. "Can we take a vacation this year?"
"If you want. Where did you want to go?"
"The convention with all of us again?"
"I'll see what I can do," he agreed, smiling just a bit.
"Cool!" He bounded out, going to head home and fix a batch of that stuff. He even changed discs and set up Horatio's to capture two different angles. The disc from his had him trying out an old dance routine that he never quite got the hang of, and it wasn't really sexy either. The phone rang while he was checking the angles. "Yuppers?" He smiled at Mac's quiet voice. "They want me to make a batch and tape it, Mac. No, not the jerky. Nope. No, I've got something that when I mix a few recipes together I get a rat killing thing. They wanted you to watch me anyway. No, I'm doing one and taping it then you can watch me. Why?" He listened then grinned. "Want some of my breath spray? Horatio used it to make a kidnaper beg. It's kinda strong. Sure. Ask Don if he's got any. I sent him some with the jerky. It smells like mint, Mac. That stuff, yeah!" he agreed happily. "Who took it from him? Oh, Sheldon. No, it's okay. I'll send some up the Willow way." He hung up and went to make up a new spray vial. He attached a note about heat possibly making it weaker, then called Willow. "Me. Can you please send the small silver and glass spray bottle in front of me to Mac's desk? Thank you." He hung up and got back to work, making sure by replay that he wasn't blocking any of the shots with his body.
Don looked up as a small bottle landed in front of him, catching it before it could roll off. "Thanks," he muttered. He sniffed it and winced. "Mint." He got up and went to find Mac, who had text messaged everyone in the labs to be on the lookout for it, that he had 'lost' it. He waved the bottle. "New batch too. Really strong." He coughed, spraying it at the wall. The paint didn't bubble so he sniffed it again. "No, it's the right stuff." He looked at Mac, then tasted it, gagging. "No," he wheezed. "Right stuff." He handed it over. "Super breath freshener. What sort of paint is that?" He wiped his eyes off.
"New. Brand new." He walked into the interrogation room. "The Mayor said we can't give out more bottles of water but you can have the breath spray. That should help some." The man looked at it, then tasted it, hollering and hopping around. "Now, where's the kid?" The only thing he got were whimpers and the guy fanning his mouth.
Danny looked at it, then sniffed it. "Xander's breath spray?" Mac nodded. "No wonder the guy never has to brush his teeth." He held it out as far as his arm could go and sprayed some, wincing. "Ooh, strong enough to take the taste of the jerky outta my mouth." He got up to get a drink from the nearby fountain. He brought back a cup. "We're sorry, that's cruel and unusual punishment. Now, where's your victim?" he asked, pushing it over.
The guy gulped it. "Gramercy," he muttered between sips. "My walls."
"Thank you," Danny agreed happily. "Sorry about that. If we had known how strong it was, we wouldn't have given it to you until right before you took the boat to Rikers." He got up and handed Mac the vial. "Maybe you should put that somewhere safe."
"I should," he agreed, going to stick it into his desk drawer so they could test it later. He wrote Horatio an email about wanting tape of how Xander made the breath spray. He got one back nearly immediately saying it was part of that new bio-weapon Ryan had discovered Xander could make. "Bioweapon? Really?" He sent back a question and got one back from Ryan a few minutes later. The ingredients that made up it, or more like the recipes really. He frowned. "How did Xander make those into a hazardous material?"
"It's Xander," Stella called. "Remember, you don't eat Xander's cooking unless it comes from a pouch or a box."
"Or it's the jerky," he called back.
She stormed in. "You ever eat that jerky again and you're never getting sex," she threatened. "I can barely sit after four days because of the last time." She headed off, stomping now.
"Sorry!" he called. "At least it was the mild stuff," he muttered. "Poor Don had to go to the clubs to wear out his since he was eating the stronger stuff."
Xander looked up from his reading as someone knocked on the door, getting up to answer it. He saw Ray Sr there with Madison and scowled. "Princess, shouldn't you be in the hospital?" He let them in, picking her up to cuddle. "Did you escape?" She beamed and nodded. "Does your mommy know?"
"Yes, the doctors said a day off could be good for her so I took her to the park," Ray said blandly. "Horatio?"
"Work for another few hours." He checked outside, nodding at the security guard, who came over and whispered in his ear. He looked at him. "I hadn't thought about that. The one of you left who's on Marisol, how is she doing?"
"She's fine, at her doctor's today." He patted Madison on the back of the head. "She's a brilliant little girl, Xander." He smiled at him. "Did Horatio decide yet about our jobs?"
"Not yet but you can ask." That got a smile. "I have no idea what I'd have you do beyond what you're doing now either."
"That's fine. Like I said, she's a brilliant little girl. Her mother seems very sweet too." He smoothed down some of the red hair then walked off. "I'll be back at the hospital talking to Suzie."
"Sure. Call if there's an issue." He waved and shut the door, walking her outside to the table so she could watch the water. She and her uncle both did that so she smiled at him. "I'd get Eric over but his mommy's mad at me. I let him eat my cooking." She giggled and swatted at him. "He's my boy, he can handle it. That's why he's a Xander-son." She grinned and settled against his chest, watching the water. "Tired, princess?" She nodded. "Ray, can you get her some water?" He nodded, going to get that. "Throat hurt too?" She looked up and nodded. "I understand that. I had a lot of those when I was little too."
"Were you sick like me?"
"Not quite that bad, but I had my bad days." He stroked down her back. "Did you enjoy the park?" She nodded, giving him a sleepy smile. "You can nap if you want, Madison. She snuggled in, getting comfortable. He handed her the water, which she drank but didn't shift or move. "So, what's up, Ray?"
"Where's my son?"
"Hit the second speed dial on the phone and tell him she's here."
"Thanks." He went to do that, coming back a minute later. "Detention."
"Mouthing off apparently. Told a teacher the Civil War had many reasons?"
"It did. Economic and otherwise. Slavery was a major issue but you don't go to war over only one issue. War is too complex for that," he offered quietly. Ray nodded and sat down. "Did you have fun?"
"I had a lot of fun but she's very frail."
"Yeah, but she was getting better the last time I talked with Suzie. She said the frail and tired stretch would get better and Madison was going to come out the other side soon." The door opened then shut. "Out here." Eric came out. "Hey, what's up?"
"When Ray Jr. gets here."
"Sure." He stroked over Madison's hair. "Poor thing. Her and Marisol both." He and Xander shared a look. "Thank you."
"Not a problem, Eric. It makes them both happy." Eric smiled. "Besides, I need a daughter to warp into a suitable Xander-daughter." He laughed, sitting down next to him. Ray gave him a confused look. "Marisol wanted to have a child and she's nearly as ill as Madison is," he said quietly. "She offered it to Horatio."
"You're letting him?"
"Yes. I'll be bathing him when he gets home and he can't do it any other time, but yeah. He wants a child of his own and I'm good and realistic, plus nice, about that." Ray shrugged. The door opened and Ray Jr. walked in with Horatio. "Short detention?"
"Long detention. School gets out earlier and Mom's engine crapped out." He came out and stole Madison, getting a sleepy giggle. "Hi, precious." She squeezed. "Oooh, so strong." He sat down with her, patting her on the back. "I thought I was meeting you at the park."
"We thought you had forgotten."
"I called Mom."
"Oh. I left my cell at the house." Ray nodded at that. "She asked me earlier about Disney?"
"We're going for a weekend near Christmas," Xander agreed. Horatio looked at him. "Okay, Ray, Ryan, Willow, Todd, me, Eric, Marisol, and baby Eric are going for a weekend near Christmas, dear, and you can come too." He smiled sweetly. Horatio laughed and nodded. "I've already gotten everything together and arranged. I dropped the paperwork off on your desk yesterday."
"I was wondering why I had leave forms," he admitted. "I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun," he agreed, kissing him. "Aren't you and Eric supposed to be heading for the pool?" Xander nodded, getting up to get his gym bag, Eric following. "Ray, I've called your mother and told her about her engine problems."
"It wasn't my fault. I put it into park and shut it off. It decided it didn't want to come back to life."
"Is it a monster?" Madison asked.
"My mother's engine? Some days, a really outdated dragon." He tickled her, making her shriek and giggle, swatting at him with a look under her lashes. "Your adorable! I can't wait to see you in mouse ears."
"I'll look good as Minnie?"
"I think you will. You'll look stunning as Minnie," Ray assured her. "We'll get you the whole costume, okay?" She nodded, snuggling in again. "You rest if you need it, princess. It's your first day free in a while."
"Mean and nasty people came up to mommy and said I should be in school."
"Well, you're the right age, but unless the hospital has one, you can't go until they say so," Ray said thoughtfully.
"I called and chewed them a new one," Xander called as he headed for the kitchen. "There were not impressed and she can test out of kindergarten as long as she can master the basic skills necessary. Since she can read, write, color, and make playdo animals, all she's got left is math." He walked out and put his debit card in front of Ray. "You will take her to one of the educational bookstore places, the places where teachers get stuff. You will get her workbooks, regular books, and other stuff. Then you'll take her to a real bookstore so she can share some of her older ones with the other kids on the floor. Is that all right, Madison? You can keep your very favorites, but let the other kids borrow some, okay?" She nodded, beaming at him. "Good girl. Ray can even help you find workbooks with things like stickers, I hope." She grinned and hugged him. "Got it, Ray?" He smiled and nodded. "Today. They're coming to test her in a few days." He stood up and smiled. "Get her some new coloring books too." He kissed his mate, making Madison giggle and clap, then headed out. "So, is Marisol and your mom going to insist the baby go to Catholic school?"
"Probably," Eric agreed with a smile. "What about my namesake?"
"I have no idea. His mother's thinking about daycares and what's good and what'll help him get ahead. I told her to find one that liked play because if he had a uniform at his age he'd end up wearing one for life." He got into the car, his bag hitting the floor boards. "She wants him to go to one where he'll learn languages."
"He's at a good age for it," Eric admitted, buckling up. He turned the key but Xander took it and got out. "What?"
"Gunshot!" He looked around, tossing back the key. "Horatio!" He came to the door. "I just heard a gunshot."
"I thought it was up the beach," he admitted, looking around, scanning their neighbor's homes. Eric got out with a sigh. "Take him and go, Eric. Ray and Ray can take Madison. If I need to I can get backup."
"Sure." Xander got back in, making sure his bag was inside and buckling up as Eric drove down the driveway and turned.
Horatio heard another one and pulled out his phone. "Dispatch, this is Lieutenant Caine. Reporting two shots fired in my neighborhood, not sure where yet. Requesting patrol for a house-to-house."
"ETA ten minutes, Lieutenant. How many houses?"
"Six." He hung up and went inside. "Ray, take her and your son and go. That was a second shot." He heard a third and hurried out, he knew where that was now. He could hear their dogs. He pounded on his neighbor's door, getting a frowning woman. "Not your house?"
"Next door. The dogs are barking. Should I report?"
"I've got it." He pulled back out his phone. "Dispatch, found the house. Third shot fired, approaching now." He headed that way, hand on his gun, scanning the yard and the house for any movement. He knocked on the door. "Miami-Dade PD! Open up!" He heard screams so pulled his gun and kicked in the door, heading inside, scanning each room. "Miami-Dade PD. Come out with your hands up!"
Horatio headed back to the kid's voice, finding the gun at his feet, his parents nearly dead. "Dispatch, need a double ambulance. Two GSW, male and female." He put his phone back. "Tyler, is there anyone else here?"
"I thought it was her lighter!" he said frantically, wiping his hands off.
"Sit!" he ordered. The kid sat at the table and he checked them, waving the patrol guys in. "Clear!"
"My little brother's in his room," he said.
"Don't move," Horatio warned. The kid sat back down so he sent the officer to find him. He came out shaking his head. "No not in there?"
"In there, sir, third victim," he said quietly. "He's already gone."
Horatio swallowed, looking at the boy. "Take him in with you. Get the paramedics in here now." That got a nod, one going to get them while the other put the boy in the car for a few minutes. They could talk to him later. He heard the knock. "Don't."
"Need me?" Ray called.
"No, take the kids and go, Ray. I need you gone. This is a crime scene."
"Sure." He headed off with the kids, passing by the ambulance.
Horatio stood up as they came in. "There's not much you can do," he offered quietly. They nodded, getting to work while he waited for his team. Calleigh showed up, giving him a horrified look. "He said he thought it was his mother's lighter gun. Then we found his little brother."
"So, sociopath?" she asked.
"Possibly. Or abuse but I doubt it." He looked at himself, then around. "The brother was in his room. That's the gun. The officers have Tyler."
"Sure. Want me to do it?" He nodded, heading for home. "Write up a statement for me, Horatio."
"I'll do that once I shower and change, Calleigh."
"Okay, I'll get it on the way out. I'm calling Speed."
"Please do." He glanced at Tyler, seeing his pleased look. He went home to shower and change, then wrote out his statement for her. Speed came over to get it. "Anything?"
"Kid's fingerprints on the gun," he said quietly. "Manic grin on his face. Did you ever have a hint of abuse?" He shook his head. "What sort of parents were they?"
"Doing the best they could with a child who was smarter than them," he said quietly. "They were always asking Xander's advice on video games and things since he was still in the 'hip' age range and none of the other kids in the neighborhood were close to his age." Speed nodded, making notes on that. "Xander told them he seemed to want the violent ones and warned them what to look for. I have to tell him."
"Call Eric. He'll tell him." Horatio nodded at that wisdom. "You know what school he went to?"
"Ray's. He's out with his father and Madison, getting workbooks and things."
"I've got a stack in my closet for her too," he admitted, calling him. "Junior, Speed. I need to talk to you about a classmate and head to my place, dude. I've got stack in the closet for her myself. That way you don't overlap." He smiled. "Yeah, I did hit the educational shop on eighth. They did? Good. Yeah, no, we're on your uncle's neighbor's scene. One of your classmates. Tyler, yeah, how did you know?" He listened, then took more notes. "Who do I talk to and do you have a number?" He wrote that down. "Thanks, man. Have fun and pat her for me." He hung up. "He's showing antisocial behavior at school too. Ray said he's a bully." He sighed and looked over there, then back at Horatio. "Did Xander hear the shots?"
"He heard the first. I sent him off. At the second I called it in and asked for someone to do a house-to-house. The third I knew." Speed nodded at that, reading over his statement. "The parents didn't say a word. They were holding hands and just stared at me."
"They knew, Horatio. If he did this for that sort of reason, he'll pay. They've got places for the mini serial killers these days." He went back there.
Horatio went to sit on his porch, watching the surf to calm himself down. He called Eric. "It's me," he said into his voicemail. "We found out who it was. Tell him it was Tyler, he got his parents and his brother. I'm waiting for updates." He hung up and went back to watching the surf. Thin arms went around his neck. "Marisol." He looked back at her. "What's wrong?"
"I heard there was a scene up the street from your house. Eric called. Said you shouldn't be alone if you weren't working it." She sat beside him, giving him a gentle smile. "Are they in the pool?" He nodded. "Eric is so happy to be back there."
"Xander too. He's not sure about competing but he's still training and it's getting Eric back into training as well. Eric could compete and Xander cheer him on." She smiled at that, chuckling a bit. "They're not sure if his past will come out if he competes. They're still talking about that." He stood up. "Want a drink?"
"I could use some water or tea." She got up to follow him. That's when she saw the door open. "Horatio!"
He came out of the kitchen with his gun in his hand. "You wanted?" he asked calmly.
"Oh, invite me in," he taunted.
Horatio looked him over, noticing the space of darkness around his head. He called Ryan. "Where might your wife be? Because I've got a vampire with a circle of darkness around him, Mr. Wolfe. I also have no idea where Xander keeps his stake." He listened. "Thank you." He hung up and went into the bedroom, digging into Xander's footlocker in the bottom of his closet. He came out with a crossbow and put it in plain sight, making the vampire growl. "I'm Harris' mate. Do not try it."
Willow walked up behind the vampire and tapped him on the neck. "That's really neat. Who does that?" He growled at her and she beamed. "In case you didn't get the memo, I'm Rosenburg." She snapped her fingers and the darkness disappeared, making him burst into flame. "Pity." She walked into the house, smiling at Horatio. "Can I have some of Xander's mild jerky?"
"Your husband said no." He went back into the kitchen, putting his gun back. He came out with bottles of water. "Your husband said that the jerky was dangerous to your pregnancy."
"How did you know?"
"Your husband, Willow. I work with him. He has to tell me these things." She grimaced then pouted. "Don't try it."
"No baby Xander?"
"His mother, Willow." She pouted. "Do you know Eric's sister Marisol? Marisol, this is Willow, Ryan Wolfe's wife."
She smiled and shook her hand. "Hi. He's got to bring you to the next cookout."
Willow beamed. "I'll tell him. Have someone tell me so I can make him go." Marisol giggled. "He's a fussy person at times." She pouted at Horatio. "Please?"
"No, Willow. Todd is too young for it, it could make you miscarry, and you can't eat it anyway, Xander said you had troubles eating his cooking."
"Fine," she pouted. "Meany."
He patted her on the head. "We like you anyway, even when you do have mood swings." He handed her a bottle of water. "Any other reason you're here since it's his and Eric's day in the pool together?"
"Yes." She led him back into the kitchen. "Horatio, I'm scared."
"About losing your magic?" he asked quietly. She nodded quickly. "It'll go to your daughter and you'll make sure she has more control than you," he said gently, stroking her cheek. "You'll make sure she learns the correct ways, doesn't do what you did, and won't be tainted as you were."
"What happens if we need it for an emergency?"
"Willow, there are others who have the skills," he said quietly. "Including Xander." She shook her head. He nodded. "He can. I know he doesn't want to, he doesn't trust it in himself after watching your problems, but even Ethan's said he's got the ability."
"Oh." She looked down then pouted at him. "Do you think it'll come back if I need it?"
"I can't answer that. All we can do is wait and see."
"Pray," Marisol offered.
Willow nodded. "I've asked the Goddess, she hasn't done more than make the baby happy and want fudge." She looked at Horatio again. "That's my choice?"
"Even if you didn't have her, it wouldn't matter. You can feel it, Willow, that's what this panic is." She nodded, giving him a hug. "It'll be all right. Remember, Miami is not Sunnydale and those things don't happen here. If and when they do, you have backup in myself, Xander, and the team. Remember that."
"I know," she agreed, relaxing against him. "Thank you."
"All you three needed family and backup. You didn't have it there, Willow. Now you do and it's been a hard adjustment but you do have people at your back."
"Why are there ashes on the doorstep?" Speed called as he walked in. "Marisol."
"Speed," she said, smiling and hugging him.
"You feel stronger today."
"Horatio has granted a wish for me."
"I heard from Xander." He patted her on the cheek. "Horatio, vampire?"
"Came up to the door, Speed."
"It's light out."
"He had a darkness umbrella," Willow told him. "I ended it and he went 'ahhh' and turned into a short bonfire."
Marisol looked at her. "You do things like that often?"
Speed looked at her. "Eric's said your mom said stuff about Boca del Inferno." She shuddered and crossed herself. "She and Xander grew up there." Marisol burst out crying and hugged her. "It explains so much about Xander, doesn't it?" he asked with a smirk.
"It explains how he can eat that jerky," she agreed, shaking her head. "Where is your son?"
"Napping on his daddy's chest. He loves the daddy and decided he'd rather be unfussy for daddy than me. Better he have him than my temper goes off."
Marisol nodded. "I know. My sister's children all did that." She smiled at Horatio. "I'll know in a few weeks."
"Thank you." He smiled at her.
"H, do I have to hide your body?" Speed asked patiently.
"Xander agreed," she assured him. "I talked to him first."
"Good. I'm glad about that." He grinned at her. "That means I'm the official grandfather."
"It's mine, Speed."
He looked at him then burst out laughing. "Any baby near Xander is Xander's. Willow's, any I have, yours, any one near Xander is Xander's." He patted her on the cheek. "It'll be all right. You and your mom can help Eric make sure the baby doesn't turn into a miniature Xander, like Eric will be. That's the only hope you have of not having an army of little Xander's around here."
"Ryan would never let that happen," Willow said firmly. "My son will be his son, not Xander's son."
Speed snickered and nodded. "Sure, Willow, and yet you want to feed him Xander food, you've dressed him in Xander shirts.... seeing a Xander pattern?"
She pouted. "My Todd will not be a Xander." She stomped her foot.
Horatio smiled at her. "We'll see, won't we."
She growled. "My Todd is Ryan's son. He'll have OCD like his daddy and all that." She pouted. "He'll have to. Ryan said so."
"With the way the kids are being raised, only Eric will be a mini-Xander. Todd will be a cross between Ryan and Xander. Marisol's future one will be a cross between Eric and Xander."
"It's Horatio's," she reminded him.
"Yes, but Horatio can do a mean Xander impersonation," Speed told her. "So it'll be like he's Horatio doing Xander and crossed with Eric."
"That's a scary thought," Marisol admitted, looking at Horatio.
"You knew I was married to Xander," he said happily.
"I did," she agreed, hugging him. "It's all right, Eric and Momma will make sure the baby's more like him and you than Xander."
Willow looked at her. "It might be a hopeless cause. Xander is like the tide. When he's in your life, he'll wash over it like the tide, clean you out, remake you, then make you realize you can't do without him. Bad cooking and all. Is hers going to get the Xander food treatment?"
"No," Marisol said firmly. "Not until he's a teenager."
Willow smiled at her. "Ryan found out how to make a Xander killing spray."
"Which burned little Eric's foot," Horatio admitted. "Three foods that Xander can make and mix together," he told Speed.
"I saw the military and wondered."
"The rat and roach spray," Horatio told him.
Speed moaned. "Well, it probably won't kill humans." He shook his head. "Calleigh went back to talk to the kid. She said he confessed and bragged."
"I wonder sometimes what makes kids like that," he said sadly. Willow poked him on the arm. "You know Tyler?"
"Two houses up next to the baying hunting hounds?" He nodded. "He okay?"
"He shot his whole family earlier," Speed told her.
"Fuck." Marisol gave her a horrified look. "Kids like that make me want to kick their asses. I know damn well that kid wasn't abused. I mean, hello, I saw it up close and personal! I know damn good and well that boy wasn't abused. Spoiled, bright, bored. Xander asked me for his parents to get the kid something to take his attention."
"They talked to him a lot," Horatio agreed. "The sad part is, they weren't crying, just holding hands. Didn't say a word when he told me it was an accident."
Willow muttered something in a language no one in the house spoke. Speed gave her a look. "Mine's not old enough to have ears yet!"
"Keep it up, watch the kid come out swearing and then watch Ryan have a heart attack when his son swears in demon."
"Eric does," she said with a smirk.
"Excuse me?" Horatio asked. "Since when?"
"Ah, you didn't hear the mutterings when the dog wouldn't play with him? Sounds a lot like what Xander says when he hits his thumb." They shared a look. "Di won't have to worry about him being multi-lingual. Xander and I both are." He groaned and grabbed the phone to call her.
"Di, Horatio. Have you noticed the baby speaking something that sounded like a tape played backwards?" He held his head. "No, he learned swearing off his father. That's a demonic language that Xander swears in when he hurts himself. Yeah, that." He shook his head. "Well, Xander did say that you were thinking about language daycares. The good news is that Willow reminded me Xander is multi-lingual. No, not all demonic. Egyptian, Willow?"
"And Greek, Summerian I think. I know recently he's been looking for a good Russian textbook. He figured you could teach him Spanish the hard way." Horatio smirked at that. "Whispering it in his ear works. He mostly reads instead of speaks. He speaks two of the more common demon languages in case we need it. I speak the same and read about eight more than he does."
Speed looked at Marisol. "And yet, Xander says repeatedly he's dumb."
She nodded. "I noticed that. He keeps telling Eric he'll be smarter than he is. Can we swat him?"
"I do," he assured her.
Willow looked at him, glaring. "Do not hit the Xander," she said firmly. "Never, ever hit the Xander. You hit the Xander and I will kick your ass. You or Horatio. Ever." He nodded, backing away.
"We would never hurt him, Willow."
She glared at him. "Unless he asks you to spank him for fun, don't even think about it, Horatio. I had to save him from others and hurt them to save him. What makes you think I won't do the same to you and anyone who hurts him down here?"
"I'd never hurt him, you know that," he said calmly, hanging up.
"So!" she snorted.
"Willow." He moved closer. "I would never hurt Xander. You know that," he said, nodding a bit. "Xander is perfectly safe with me. Even if he screwed up majorly some time far in the future, I would never hurt him. I'm not that sort of man."
"Which is why this will stay a warning," she pointed out, staring into his eyes. Horatio nodded, accepting that. "Remember, Jesse and I got him free of the guy with the leash and a few others. He may not be here anymore but he's still watching and he'll tell me if I need to protect him. Magic or no magic. I may not be the hunter he is, but yay."
"I know. If someone hurts him, I get to go first and then you can yell and beat them if we can't arrest them."
She snorted. "Yeah, Horatio. Like they'll live that long." She smirked. "Someone takes Xander hostage and he can't get free, I've got a telltale on him. I'll hand him back to you." She looked at Marisol again, taking her arm. "We should go maternity clothes shopping together," she said, walking her outside.
"She'll be scarier without her magic," Speed offered quietly.
Horatio took a deep breath and calmed himself down. "I'm still not like that."
"I know. He knows." Horatio nodded, calming himself down. "Think about it, H. His parents turned on him. She's scared you'll do it."
"I'm still not like that."
"She'll relax as time goes on. Remember, neither of them are used to being part of a strong, healthy family. Eric's family still scares Xander now and then." He nodded, realizing that. "I'd like to take both their parents and kick their asses."
"Mine were fine, just really lax," Willow said, poking him on the back. She gave him a look. "After all, they knew I was watching out for Xander. They had no idea what to do with me, but they knew I was watching out for him. Xander's my brother in blood and vowed. Even the Goddess won't separate us for long."
"If he's killed from something...."
"Then I'll help Horatio destroy the world." She shrugged. "Those we care for will be safe. The rest of the people who did it can go to hell quickly, I'll help open the hellmouth to give 'em an elevator." She smiled sweetly. "No one takes the Xander and doesn't pay. Ever." She hugged him. "I'm done being scary. Sorry if I scared you guys. Sorry, Marisol."
"Xander inspires people to be protective," she reminded her. "I want to take him home to Momma and let her coddle and coo over him. He seems to need it."
"His parents were shitbags," she agreed. "Sold him once." Marisol gasped. "Jesse and I got him free, but they made me give him back. Xander's very normal considering. I'm a good mommy of him, that's why I know Todd will turn out more like Ryan than Xander. I've already made a Xander." Marisol hugged her. "Hey, I had the good parents. They were just ignoring of me," she soothed. "Hug the Xander if you can catch him." She got free and grinned. "I should go pounce my mate and tell him I worried you guys. Don't tell Xander I said that?" She disappeared, blinking home.
Horatio sighed and rubbed his face. "She made sure Xander made it to adulthood as normal as she could. She and Jesse were the only family he had. They were family for each other."
"So it's like a family that a gang forms?" she asked. He nodded. "Interesting."
"The baby will still be fine, Marisol," he reminded her.
She snorted. "I have no doubt the child will be spoiled, over-protected, and taught to defend himself. I've seen how he is with Eric. I have no doubts that my child will be taken care of in a manner that I can only sigh at the over-indulgences he gives them. I know very well Xander will never hurt a child."
Speed grinned. "You sure you want Horatio's child?" he teased.
"Very. A normal child would be nice." She hugged him, then Horatio. "I go in two Tuesdays from now for the test. You can come or I'll come to the office. Either way."
"You'll come tell me." She nodded, kissing him on the cheek. Someone pounded on the door before walking in. "Kitchen, boys."
Ray Jr. walked in. "I dropped the sperm donor off at his motel. Madison is back at the hospital with so many books the nurses cooed and asked if they could photocopy them. We assured her it was fine and that Madison was going to be weeding out her book collection so others could borrow some." Horatio smiled at that. "Speed bought her sixty books."
"I did," he agreed. "Some reading, some workbooks, some coloring books."
"That's what we did. We asked for things appropriate to a first grader or that age. That way she's got something to extend her mind instead of just letting her play. I also found a few language games that Suzie can play with her. They were highly recommended. I also dropped off the check you wanted me to give them, Uncle Horatio." He smirked at him, getting one in return. "They agreed they could use it to get more books, bears, and stuff for educational play." He leaned on the counter, arms crossed over his chest. "I helped her weed out her books and the nurses carried them to the play area. The other parents all smiled and said thank you. That she was a lovely little girl and clearly loved by her family. I got her a chicken sandwich and the nurses shrieked but I reminded her that she needed a treat now and then and a broiled chicken sandwich with bacon and cheese and a small fries was an okay thing now and then. She relented and Madison let her have a fry. Suzie protested all the new books and things, but I kissed her on the cheek and reminded her we're family therefore we can help her and spoil Madison if we wanted to. She blushed and nodded. I also reminded her that this was stuff that was good for her, to make sure she used the college fund Xander set up for her. She's going to call and protest that soon."
"He did. She's got ten grand set aside for her at the moment, with the interest she'll be able to afford a Ph.D. or medical school. It's in the usual bank. That would be the blue edged statement he gets every month."
"I really should pay more attention to that."
"Maybe you should offer to balance his checkbook," Speed offered dryly, looking at him. "How big is yours, Ray?"
"My last few years of tuition plus enough in savings to get me through college, any one I choose. If I go locally and to a cheaper place, I can get through my Masters before needing help." Speed smiled. "It'll also pay me a small stipend so I don't have to work and I can concentrate on my education or get an apartment." He looked at his uncle. "Mom threw a fit about that. She said I had one. He kissed her on the cheek and told her to keep it and have another one so he had someone else to spoil."
Horatio chuckled and nodded. "That's fine. Does Eric have one?"
"Di set one up for him and Xander added a ten grand contribution for it. What he did for Maddy and will do for this new one when it gets born." He grinned at Marisol. "Mom is so stoked. She's going to spoil the baby horribly."
She smiled at that, covering her stomach. "When he or she comes to be, she'll be horribly spoiled."
"Xander's gotten onto you about wanting a daughter?" Ray teased. She nodded, blushing slightly. "It'd be a beautiful thing. His hair, your face, either set of eyes. She'd be a thing of beauty and I'd go thug to protect her." She blushed brighter. "I would. No one's getting near Maddy until she's ready either. The first boy who tries shit gets my foot up his ass and out his nose," he said reasonably.
"You and me both, nephew," Horatio agreed. "She'll grow up to be a stunning young woman with common sense and her mother's reasonable nature." He patted him on the back. "Swear again, watch me soap your mouth," he said more quietly.
"Sorry, Uncle H." He grinned at him. "It was a direct quote and Xander said he'd teach me how to do it."
"I'm sure he could. Quit swearing, Ray. You're not a thug. I won't allow you to be one."
"Yes, Uncle H." He hugged him, then Marisol. "Tell me when I get to help decorate the nursery again. Eric and I are going to work out so he's not jealous of the new one."
"Good." She smiled at him. "You're becoming a good boy, Raymond." She stroked his hair back down. "You need a haircut."
"I know," he sighed. "Di likes it messy and windswept. I need to get Danny to help me get it trimmed. She loves his hair." He looked at his uncle, beaming. "We're doing the catalog next month. Not Xander, he shows better in person." Horatio smiled at that. "He pouted but he said he understood. He wasn't as young or pretty."
"Sounds like someone needs to be reassured he's still pretty," Marisol teased.
"I can do that," he assured her, making her blush and squeak.
"Pervert," Speed teased fondly.
"He inspires it," he pointed out. He looked at his nephew. "Where is my husband? They should be done."
"Eric called and said they're getting muffins."
"Ah." Horatio looked around the kitchen, then picked up the phone, calling out for dinner. Not like he'd need to cook if they had muffins.
Xander slunk into the house, looking around.
"Xander," Horatio called from the office. "What were you doing?"
Xander headed that way, leaning in the door with a shit eating grin. "We went to watch the soccer game."
"That's fine. Did you call?"
Xander walked in. "I tried. Your phone is saying it's dead." He found it on the desk and flipped it open, then hit the send button, getting a customer service rep. "Hold on, let me hand you to my husband." He handed it over, getting a groan. Xander went into the kitchen, bringing him back a beer. Then he winked and stripped off, climbing into his lap while he listened to Horatio pay his bill. Horatio hung up. "I thought you had it on autopay."
"I did. I need to talk to the bank." He looked at him. "Did you do anything?"
"Nope. I haven't done anything moneywise in weeks. I need to balance my checkbook again too." He reached over to move the mouse on the computer, logging into his bank account. He looked at the error message then called. "This is Xander Harris. I just got an error message. It had better be wrong," he said evenly. He listened to her pull up his account. He repeated all the numbers, listening to what was going on. "Who did it?" He growled. "Thank you." He hung up and looked at his mate. "Why is the FBI getting into my accounts?"
"I don't know." He logged into his account and it came up with the same error message. He called his boss. "Sir, this is Horatio. Why was my account frozen by the FBI, along with Xander's? Yes, I was just finding that out. I would like to know." He listened. "I see. Do they have a reason?" He growled softly and Xander stroked his chest. "Thank you." He hung up and stood up, letting Xander have his seat. "I have to find a number." Xander found his rolodex and held it up. "Thank you." He checked his phone, it was working again, so he took it outside to the beach to yell at the agent he knew. He came back and dialed the desk phone, getting Don. "Don, why is the Foundation being seen as a threat to national safety?" he asked calmly.
"Excuse me?" Xander demanded.
"Calm down, Xander. You know they don't like gay things," Don offered.
"The FBI froze our accounts," Horatio told him. "We're under suspicion of sedition."
"I've got the Foundation people on it, plus the lawyer we used up here, guys. It's being handled. Can you guys hold on for six weeks?"
"I've got others," Xander offered quietly. "At his advice I moved my trust off-shore. He thought something might pop up about our relationship. With the problems we had after the funeral I took it." He looked at Horatio. "I'll still be getting my trust check, we can live on it."
Horatio nodded. "I'm not worried. My boss said I'm in the clear. He did say to keep you calm." He looked at the phone. "Don, how long has this been going on?"
"Two days. Mac threw a fit from hell. Danny threw a louder one. Stella threw one so loud it brought other cops to arrest the idiots. Unfortunately for them, the mayor is on Mac's speed dial thanks to a favor he owes him and they got to explain how supporting gay men was sedition and encouraging a terrorist cell. Fortunately, Monroe had the forethought to tape it. So, yeah, it's going on. I thought they would've openly come for you two too."
"Nope, not yet," Xander admitted. "I did see some military guys."
"I heard. Mac's amused. He's smirking across the room right now. You caught us in a late-night briefing. When is Mac coming down to watch you cook?"
"Um, I sent him tickets, didn't he get them? For late Friday night since he said he has this weekend off."
"Hey, Mac, you got the tickets, right?" Don sounded happy. "Yeah, he got 'em. Thanks, Xander."
"Not an issue, Don. Is it just the FBI or Homeland?"
"Just the FBI. Mac called a buddy in Homeland and they laughed and said it was just the FBI because they were too busy to deal with stupid people. Later, boys." He hung up.
Xander tapped out a number. "Willow?"
"No, what?" Ryan asked, sounding cranky.
"I need the female-shaped person, Ryan."
"The foundation is being called sedition and aiding terrorists by the FBI."
"Get her into trouble with them and I will kill you, Xander."
"Oh, it won't happen. All I want to know is the paperwork they've filed. Please?"
"I'll tell her. She's at her computer anyway and I'm avoiding looking just in case. Honey, the FBI says Xander and Don's foundation is sedition and helping terrorists." They all heard the swearing and only Xander chuckled. "Not funny, Harris."
"I understood what she said, Ryan. Yeah, it was. She just cursed someone to sucking on toad's assholes." Ryan snickered at that. "Let's hope it isn't coming true for the poor toad's sake."
"That poor, poor toad," Ryan agreed dryly.
"Hi, boys," Willow said, obviously having taken the phone. "Give me an hour. I'll email it to your blind email account, Xander."
"I forgot the password months ago, I'm not sure if it's active."
"I changed it, dear. It's your birthday now, all numbers, no dashes."
"Thank you." He blew a kiss. "Love you. Don't ever curse me like that, okay?"
"Not an issue." She hung up, looking at her mate. "I'm so going to destroy someone if they're calling gay people terrorists." She went to get back onto her computer, typing happily once she found the right chatroom. "Honey, can you call Erica? Let her embarrass them?"
"It might embarrass Horatio more."
"No, not in this case," she admitted. "It'll embarrass the guys in New York maybe." She looked at him. Then she summoned the phone and dialed. "Erica, hi, Ryan's wife Willow. Yeah, her," she agreed happily. "Want a story that you can't name the victim's name? No, like the FBI saying that a certain charitable foundation that helps gay men is being poked and prodded under suspicion of funding terrorists because they're helping gay guys. Actually, I have dated women. Ryan knows this. If I can find you something can you totally embarrass the FBI for me? Please?" she asked with a smile, begging slightly. "Well, I'll let you interview my mate about his run for a judgeship. Yeah, two or three have pissed off the PD and Xander suggested he run. Yeah, that Xander. Yeah, same foundation. Thanks, dear. Sure. We're up, the baby's up. Thanks." She hung up. "She'll be over soon."
"Thank you, Willow. Though you are scary this way. You know that, right?" She just smiled sweetly and nodded. "Who told you?"
"Jesse. Who do you think planned things when Xander didn't or couldn't? He may be a tactician but I take a more straight forward approach to things. Oh, I saved one of your threat's ads for you to look at. He's calling you weak and ineffectual as a cop. It's in the DVD player."
"Thank you." He went to watch that, taking the baby with him. That way the baby wouldn't learn how to hack yet. At least not until he could type and read. He ended up being the one to get up when someone tapped on the door, smiling at the woman standing there. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail. Her clothing was impeccable. She could go on screen right now. "Come on in. Watch out for Todd, he's drooling today."
"Thank you. You're running for a seat on the bench? You never told me."
He gave her a look. "You made my life hell, Erica. Why would I? I don't normally like you that much. It's all love/hate with us." He waved the camera guy in. "Don't photograph the baby close up or whatever Willow's working on." That got a nod so he closed the door after checking the hallway. He walked over, picking the baby up again. "Erica, this is Todd, our son."
"You're adorable," she said, smiling and touching his hand. "You look a lot like your daddy but you have mommy's hair. You almost look like a Caine."
"Xander teases him about that now and then," Willow said absently, hitting a few keys. Then she got up to get the papers and came back, reading over them. She got onto another site. "Give me ten minutes then I'll clean up and change."
"Sure," she agreed, sitting down. "Which side are you hoping for, Ryan?"
"I wouldn't mind criminal. I'll take either one I can get. I think I have a firmer grasp of the criminal side with my background."
"I'd hope so. Law degree?"
"Two-third's done and I can finish it within a year. It's not necessary to be a judge either. Did you know that?"
"I hadn't. Interesting. You'll be easy on the department for warrants."
"I'll uphold the standards and with my experience I'll know where they're reaching and what's a weaker argument. I'll always be an officer at heart."
"Okay, that I want as a quote. Can we do a quick pickup in here?" Willow snapped her fingers and the room was spotless, but the kitchen wasn't. "Thank you. How did you do that?"
Willow looked at her. "Comment and die."
"Okay." She turned back around. "Let's focus in here," she told the cameraman.
He looked around then nodded, shifting a chair over so nothing from any other room would show. Ryan did close the bedroom door and the door to the kitchen, then looked at himself and went to change, with the baby.
"Put him in the blue outfit, it makes him look cute and cuddleable," Willow called. She grimaced and hit another few keys, then smirked and printed more stuff off. "Bring that out too."
"The first two pages say access denied."
"Bring the others." She got back into those and printed them a different way, copying and pasting them into a word processor first. He came out with a sheaf of papers and redressed. She smiled. "You look so hot."
"Thanks. Go change." He took the laptop and put it out of sight, then handed the papers to Erica. "She's a bit pissed about that other situation."
"Are they scared that he'll help a gay man ascend the golden throne of Presidency?"
"Probably. Patrick Benis was not known for playing nicely where one of his friends or family were concerned and Xander's the sort to kill over someone hurting his family. By now, Horatio has hopefully calmed him down and is making him see reason and sense. If not the rest of the extended family is probably helping." He sat down and took the baby from Erica. "Thank you. Hi, Todd." The baby smiled at him and drooled. "You're cutting your first tooth early, or are you just not swallowing?" He got up to get a bottle and a spit-up cloth, sitting down again with him in his lap to eat. "Good?"
"Perfect. It shows you're a family guy," She agreed. She looked at Willow as she came out. "Not that one. The light shines through." Willow shrugged and went back to change. Erica got up to help her find something that would make her look nice against Ryan. She wouldn't comment on some of the things she found. Ryan was a lot less white-bread than she had expected. They came out in a white sundress and a blue shirt on underneath it. She sat on the couch. "You don't want the baby?"
"He's doing just fine and Todd loves to eat from him more."
"Okay." She smiled at her cameraman, taking the microphone. "This is Erica Sykes, reporting in from the home of one of our judicial candidates. Tonight evidence has been given to him regarding a misdeed by the FBI and he has generously agreed to hand it over to me. In front of us are Detective Ryan Wolfe and his wife Willow, and their son Todd, who is being very cuddly." Willow nodded. Todd chose that moment to fuss.
Ryan looked down. "Shh," he said quietly. "She's not scary." The baby settled down and went back to eating.
She stared at him and smiled. "You're very good with him."
"I should be. He's my boy." He grinned at her. "It was told me earlier that the FBI has been subtly and unsubtly moving against groups that promote and help advance gay rights and those groups that help gay men and women start rewarding lives. My wife Willow went online to do a bit of digging, finding in their public files a few pieces of information, which we gave to you, Erica. We trust you to be fair on this story."
"I'm going to do my best, Ryan. Now, to give some background, you're a member of the Miami-Dade PD?"
He nodded. "I am. First in patrol and now in the crime lab under Horatio Caine. I've learned a lot from him about investigating."
Willow took the papers and put them into order, taking a few more out, then handing it back. "That's in timeline order. According to the memos I found, there's been a small group of agents within the FBI who have been pushing this problem for nearly a year. They've investigated members of the Lambda organization, HRC, and a few other notable groups claiming that they're supporting terrorist activities."
"Which is very wrong," Ryan assured her. He smiled at Willow, then at Erica. "I have a great many gay friends and I know they'd be disappointed if I stayed quiet on this. I'd be disappointed in myself if I stayed quiet on this."
Erica smiled. "You and your wife make quite an investigative team, Ryan. You got told this earlier tonight?"
"Yes, we've got a friend who is active in that community and that cause. He was told that they may come looking at him, so he warned us that it could branch out into his friends and family." He swallowed and looked down, then at her. "This is just so wrong that I couldn't let it go quietly. What they're doing is wrong, a misuse of resources and the law, and fundamentally evil in my book. You don't hurt people just because they're working to better themselves and others, even if you don't believe in their cause."
"As a judicial candidate I know it's been said that your focus isn't really on the law. Can you respond to that?"
"I'll always be an officer at heart. I'll uphold the standards and with my experience I'll know where the officers coming to me are reaching and what's a weaker argument. I'll support the PD fully as a judge. The more I learn the more I support the law and the men and women who uphold it."
"Then you'll be a permissive judge to the department?"
"Within reason. Horatio has taught me a lot about bringing in firm evidence for warrants and I'll uphold the standards he's taught me. I collect the stuff for a living, Erica. I've written out many myself and have had to answer questions about what something is or what a test means, reassure judges of the results. I'll fully stand behind the PD in every case that's reasonable, good, and right."
"Thank you, Ryan, and you can be assured I will be digging into this matter tonight to bring you a second part of this story tomorrow," she said, looking at the camera. "This has been Erica Sykes, Channel Four news." The cameraman cut and looked at them. "Thank you. That didn't even sound too geeky."
"I was trying not to trip over my tongue. Let's face it, we've had to bring some weak warrants so we could find what we needed." She nodded, getting that. The baby belched. "Ooh, bad tummies, Todd." He wiped his mouth off.
"Give him here." She took the baby back and burped him gently, smiling at him. "Good boy. Bottle?" It was tossed over and Ryan got comfortable. "The two I removed were hacked," she admitted quietly. "I'm a bit good at that."
"I'll make sure it didn't come from you," she promised, taking them back. She read it over and moaned. "Oh, you weren't kidding." They shook their heads. "They're going after Caine's husband?" She looked up and they both nodded. "But his foundation is giving scholarships and research grants."
"Yeah, but they're scared that he's empowering gay men."
"Does he do lesbians?"
"He's taking that up with the board," Ryan told her. "Patrick, the person who left him the foundation, only helped young gay men. He had been forced to hide himself for years. He told Xander that there were similar groups for lesbians. He did say that if it turns out he was wrong, he'd consider it harder, but he wants to keep to Patrick's intentions."
"I can see that. What about the other board members? Gay, not gay?"
"I can't tell you that," he admitted. "I know them casually but not enough to ask those sort of questions. I know the person over the finances for the foundation had them do an information packet and I know most of them are cops, with the exception of Xander really."
"So if they said they are, it could get tough for them," Willow said quietly. "The NYPD is not that tolerant at times and half the board comes from up there."
"Good point," Erica agreed, smiling at them. "They're nice people?"
"Very nice people. Our lab switched out with theirs during that first personnel switch. Don's somehow Xander's uncle. He's got a few of the CSI there that he's worked with to help stop a serial killer after him. Plus he's got a few of his family down here in the lab helping him."
"This year's scholarships are being decided soon," Willow offered. "They're making stacks of 'probably' and 'not' at the moment. The official deadline is January second. They'll meet in March to cut the final list."
"Interesting. Here?" Ryan nodded. "Is that why Xander owns a condo?"
"It's for use of the Foundation's board. The same as someone gave him a car and he put it at their disposal with their knowledge." He grinned. "No comment on who gave him the car."
"Not an issue. Xander's reputation proceeds him in some areas."
"You think you wanna stop the tape so I can get a kiss?" Ryan asked the cameraguy, who did that. "Thanks." He got up and kissed Willow. "Juice, water, Erica? She's pregnant and I like to keep her hydrated."
"He's being fussy," Willow agreed dryly, giving her a look. "Can I have some of that cranberry juice?"
"Water's fine, Ryan, thanks." She looked at her. "You know a bit about hacking?" Willow just winked and looked at the baby. "I won't get you in trouble for that but I might remember it for the future."
"As long as it doesn't compromise Ryan," she reminded her gently. "Or else I will have to throw fits." They shared a look. "Xander said I'm the scarier bitch in his life."
Erica smiled. "I'm not surprised. Ryan needs a strong woman to put up with him."
"Only in the bedroom. The guy nearly kills me."
"Willow," he complained from the kitchen.
"Sorry, dear." She stuck the bottle back in the baby's mouth, grinning at him. "You're going to have a baby sister some day soon. Then your Uncle Xander has said he's going to spoil her rotten in case Uncle Horatio's isn't a girl. We'll have to get together to make sure she's a normal girl that'll cuddle you. Yes we will, Toddy. We'll do that together."
"For some reason I just had the thought of our daughter wearing one of Di's dresses to the prom," he admitted as he came out, nudging her to take her glass. He handed Erica her water then sat back down. "Hand him back." She pouted. "My turn, greedy!" She sighed and handed the baby over, sipping her juice instead. "Day off."
"I can tell. You're a very active father."
"Horatio's already warned him he can't sneak the baby in on his back to scenes. The day I collapsed of exhaustion, about two weeks after the birth, he was carrying him around in one of those backpack thingies. Horatio made him take the baby off and hand him to Xander before he could go out on a call." Erica smiled at that. "He and his son Eric spoiled Toddy horribly that day. He came home very sleepy. Which was a great thing, we both needed it."
"We so did," Ryan agreed, looking at her. "Just think, she'll be weaned about the same time he's potty training."
She shuddered. "I'm letting Eric's mother teach me how to do that. She did great with little Eric."
"Which Eric's mother?" Erica asked, looking confused.
"Delko." She rolled her eyes. "She's an honorary grandmother to Xander's son. Fusses and coos, helps him learn how to cook so he doesn't have Xander cooking issues." Willow snorted her juice and choked. "You okay?" She nodded, wiping her mouth and nose off. "She was. They were making cookies. She said the only way to make sure little Eric wasn't a disaster in the kitchen like Xander was to start him now. Even if he could eat his father's cooking."
She nodded. "It proves he's Xander's son." She took another drink. "No one can say anything about his special jerky if he competes right?"
"No, no performance enhancing properties. All it does is toughens your stomach and makes you want sex a lot." She blushed at that. He smirked. "At least I got the weird cravings for it. He said you can't eat it."
"I can't. It's too spicy, even the mild stuff. But the marinade does make a *fantastic* muscle rub and joint ache soother." She finished her juice. "He's used it on my back way back when we were in high school. Some of that and I was walking upright again the next day. I smelled because it soaked into my skin and not even two showers made me less stinky, but it worked."
"I'll have to remember that. Eric's using his breath spray in the garage. Him and Speed both."
"Why?" Erica asked patiently.
"It's a bit strong," Willow offered, handing her the vial she carried. "Don't spray it directly in your mouth. Put some on your finger and lick. That's the only way you'll have tongue feeling later."
She did that and winced, licking her tongue against her teeth. "That's stronger than altoids."
"But it works," Ryan offered. "His baby loves that stuff. He's truly Xander's son."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"No, I tested it. It's all natural. It's strong but it doesn't affect your ability to taste. Well, except for the batch he let cook down too far, but not even he could use that and Speed used it to clean his engine."
She put it down and finished the water. She looked at the glass. "I could taste the chemicals."
"Filter pitcher and filter on the sink," Ryan assured her.
"But we know," Willow sighed. "It cleans out the pores on your tongue. Try wine tonight, you'll get all those flavors they talk about in the magazines."
"Does he sell that?"
"Nope," Ryan said, shaking his head slowly, smirk in place. "Family only. Willow's like a sister to him."
"Ah. How long does it last?"
"About a day and a half," Willow admitted. "I've used it in the past and forgotten to brush my teeth."
"Horatio had to remind him the other day," Ryan told her. She grinned at that, rolling her eyes. "I know, they're cute. Xander's level of cuteness is legendary." He looked down at the son. "You're napping. It's too early to nap. You didn't even get a bath yet."
"I'll bathe him in the morning. He likes to have a morning bath," she promised, getting up and taking him to his crib. She came back. "Sorry. He got played with all day." She sat down again, smirking at her mate. "We don't have to move again, right?"
"Nope. The kids can share that room for a while. It won't matter until they're around four or five."
"Good. Did you hear about Horatio's neighbor?"
"I did. Calleigh called to get a voice of reason and a recommendation on who to call for a psych consult." Erica opened her mouth. "Ask the PD people."
"Fine. Don't give me good stories."
"Kid gone bad," Willow told her. "A tough case emotionally."
"I've seen those." She stood up. "Thank you, Ryan. I'll do my best to make sure you look well-cultured and mannered instead of goofy and fun-loving." He grinned at that. "Be safe and take care of the family. It suits you." She let them out, letting him lock the door behind her.
Ryan pulled Willow up and into his arms. "Have I told you your sexy mind is not only scary but it turns me on?"
"So you get hot when I'm scary?" she teased, kissing him.
"Mmm, lots and lots of the time." He picked her up and carried her to bed, making her giggle. "Tomorrow, I'm fixing the dishwasher."
"Ooh, I like that noise, make it more," he teased, making her giggle and howl a few minutes later.
Horatio came out of the AV lab. "Mr. Wolfe," he called. He came out of his lab. "That was very nicely done, very subtle. Did you see what she caught later?"
"I did and I knew she had it on. The only thing she could've used was that Willow hacked."
"Good." He nodded. "We didn't get the email?"
"Xander did. She said he opened it. She sent it with a receipt."
"Thank you. Nicely done."
Ryan smiled. "I tripped over my tongue so horribly during that one section because I knew I was going to come off as a pompous ass, but we all know I'm going to okay anything reasonable. I've been there with the weak evidence."
"Me as well, Mr. Wolfe, me as well." He smiled. "Very nicely done."
"Thanks, Horatio. Can you come look at this test? It's driving me nuts. It's coming up with an impossible answer. Like dividing with a negative zero impossible answer."
"Of course." He came in to see what was going on. "That is indeed not possible. How is it doing that?"
"I have no clue," he admitted more quietly. "I sounded okay, right?"
"You sounded fine. By the way, I liked the billboard. Nice picture of you in your patrol uniform." He frowned at the computer. "Speed!"
"He's out," Ryan admitted. "I called and he said it was impossible. I almost called Willow to see if she charmed the machine again."
"The day it spit out pink confetti. She had a cold."
"I remember that day. Xander gave me a wonderful massage to make up for it."
"She said the marinade for the jerky is a great joint rub and muscle relaxer."
"Yes, but it stinks."
"She said that was the only problem with it."
"I'll keep that in mind." He called Speed. "When you get back, I want you to go over this test with Ryan. He's right, the algorithm looks like it's dividing by a negative zero. Which is impossible as there's no such number. I have no idea. I'll call to see." He hung up and called Willow. "Did you charm any of the machines, Miss Rosenburg? No, we have one that's dividing by a negative zero in the algorithm. Yes, that sort of issue. Thank you." He hung up. "She'll be here soon to look at the coding."
"Can she do that?"
"Possibly." He shrugged. "She knows how to program. At the very least she can compare the disc and this version. Maybe she can find the problem and correct it, figure out what happened."
"Eric said something about getting a 'trial software' message."
"We lease it yearly." He went to check on that, then groaned and called his boss. "Someone in computer services forgot to update and pay for our lease of our software. Yes, it is hampering crime. Thank you, Chief." He hung up and called Ryan. "If she can fix it and make it free, I'll throw the baby shower." He hung up and leaned back, rubbing his eyes. A promise to 'look into it' was about worthless around there.
Willow walked into Horatio's office a week later. "You sure you want it to be free? Because you know that's illegal because I'm breaking their copyright and all that?" He gave her a long look. "Okay." She handed over a disc. "All the software you had me look at, Horatio. Recoded without the time limits and a permanent registry key established. I can reload it in one lab to make sure it works then go from there."
"Please," he agreed quietly. "They're being slow."
"They usually are. It costs a lot. I was surprised how much the mass spec's database cost." She walked off, going to one of the older labs. She smiled at Speed since he was in here. "Horatio had me fiddle with the programs."
"Please tell me it's cracked."
"It's cracked, Speed." He hugged her. "Get off," she said with a tolerant smile. "I've got to reload it and check it. It'll need calibration and all that good stuff. Got the time? This is the oldest lab."
"Please. Go ahead. I'm stuck and looking at a cold case."
"Done." She walked over to the main computer and booted the CD, starting the copying process. When the registration key came up she pulled a form out of her pocket and typed it in, then hit 'enter'. It came up invalid. She frowned and typed in two codes, then hit the third. "My list is backwards." The system took it and uploaded. They got a 'congratulations on your permanent software purchase' message and she printed the receipt for Horatio. Then she got back to work sealing it off from the main company except for updates. "Someone will have to manually go in and download updates," she noted quietly.
"It's supposed to do that automatically."
She looked at him. "You do that, the company can figure out it was cracked."
"It's a small price to pay. Sunday's an easy day we can do that then." She nodded, getting back to work while he made notes. She had to frown twice more but it was fixed with a comma or something to the original code. She stepped back and hit the reload system button, so he got to watch as the lab went offline then came back up. He looked around, then went to gather samples from around the lab, innocuous stuff they could use to test things. He came back, watching the little 'progress' bar. "It's not moving." She walked over and clicked on it, getting a 'yes' box window, which she read then clicked on appropriately. He grunted and got to work preparing samples. "I love you if this works."
"I know you do. You can repay me by giving me the hershey cookie bar recipe you've got." She came over to help him prepare samples. "Tim, what should I go to college for?"
He looked at her. "A few doctors who've seen Xander have suggested medicine," he offered quietly. "You could practice or do research, or even follow Alexx so you could work in the same office as Ryan." She smiled weakly at that. "Or if you're squeamish, you could go for straight biochem and do medical research. There's always computer stuff."
"That's my stress hobby."
"Okay." He considered it. "You're good in the hard sciences, Willow. Stick with what you're good at."
"Sure. Thank you. You think I could cut medical school?"
"It's stressful and a lot of hours for a long time."
"Then I'd rather not."
"Then go biochem and do research. We've got a number of labs in the area."
Ryan leaned in. "She's going to medical school. I want to introduce myself as Judge Wolfe and my lovely wife Doctor Willow." She blushed at that. "Yes, you can hack medical school; by then I'll have more routine hours, and you'll not go full time if you have to. It'll take longer but oh well." He shrugged. "Any other questions?"
"I'm not sure I can take the stress."
"Babe, I doubt you're the only mother they've ever seen at the local ones. Go to the osteopathy school if you want to." She shook her head. "Then we'll talk to the admissions people at the same college Xander went to and I did my masters at. They're good." She nodded, giving him a smile. "It cracked?"
"We're testing it now."
"We'll have to do manual updates, Wolfe."
"And? That'll take an hour. Start it and move on, it'll integrate itself if she did the bangup job I know she did." He strolled off, going to find his last case's paperwork and finish it. He found Eric flipping through it. "Less paperwork as a judge. I've got to keep chanting that mantra over and over until I'm convinced."
"You know if you do, he's still going to keep you on call."
"Good. I want to keep my hand in," Ryan assured him, grinning a bit. "She's angsting over college."
"With some of the work she did on Xander, she'll make a great surgeon."
"I know, the trick is convincing her bouts of low self esteem."
"They both have those."
"Is the jerky making him faster?"
"Hmmm," Eric said, nodding.
"Going to eat more?"
Eric moaned and nodded.
"We'll cheer you on if you start to compete again," Ryan assured him, patting him on the arm. "Hanging out for a reason or just bored?"
"Hanging out for a reason. You have the Penderson case stashed somewhere."
"By the Nyquia case. I go alphabetically so I can find things."
"Okay." He searched through that stack and found it. "Thanks, Wolfe."
"Not a problem, Eric. It should be done." He sat down to type, getting back into his reports. "I hate paperwork, Goddess I hate paperwork," he complained quietly. He paused. "Now she's got me doing it." He shook his head at that. He would not convert to Wicca for her. He loved her but not that much.
Horatio looked around their condo as he got home, wincing at the mess. "Xander, please tell me it was either a hurricane or our son?" he called. He didn't get an answer. He walked over to check the normal places for messages, not finding one. Nothing on the answering machine but hangups. The bedroom was even worse. Someone had thrown all their clothes on the floor. He went to get his case from his car and brought it back to dust his doorknob. His neighbor gave him a funny look. "Was anyone but Xander over today?" he asked.
"There was a young woman. I'm not sure who. Blonde and pretty, longish hair."
"Blonde....." He walked inside and got a photo, bringing it back. "Her?"
She looked and shook her head. "No, not that one. She's cute though. Xander's family?"
"Friend." He looked at his door, then at her. "Anything else on her?"
"She was driving a Geo Metro, which was what caught my attention really. You never see that low end of a car in *this* neighborhood."
"Thank you. Was Ray here?"
"Earlier but he ran out and caught a cab. He looked upset."
"Thank you, Harriet. I'm going to call some people over." She nodded and went back inside with her dog. He went to do that, going back to his fingerprinting. All he got was smudges and his. So someone was wearing gloves. Eric pulled in and got out, leaning on his car door. "Blonde, pretty, young, not Buffy. My neighbor Harriet saw her. Ray was here earlier but he ran off."
"Xander's with my mother," he admitted, coming over to look. "Anything useable?"
"Smudges. Someone was wearing gloves." He stood up and handed those over, looking at his door. "She was driving a Geo Metro."
"Crappy car. Suzie's not blonde, right?" He shook his head. "Any messages?"
"Just an unholy mess." He looked over as Yelina pulled in. "Where's your son?"
"At home. He said he was here then Xander told him to go home, said he was mean."
Eric called his mother. "Is Xander still there? Put him on and swat him for me." She did that, Xander complained. "You yelled at Ray?" He listened, waving Horatio over. "Repeat that," he ordered, handing the phone over. He took Horatio's phone to call Di. "Are you all right?" He listened, nodding slowly. "Anything yet? No, they trashed the house, Di. I don't know, are you blonde or have a blonde assistant who drives a metro?" He shuddered. "Eww. Thank you. We'll be right there." He hung up. "She's crying, hasn't heard anything. She thinks the nanny's involved."
"Jane is blonde and pretty," Horatio agreed, hanging up. "He's protecting Marisol and Madison is there with Suzie. She went to see her and talk to her, tell her that I was having a child with her."
"Yeah, my sister's already bragging." He looked at Yelina. "Someone's got little Eric." She let out a swear. "Di said she thinks Jane's involved and she does drive a metro. The house is a wreck according to Horatio."
"What about any surveillance? I know Ray was saying that he and Xander were going to put one in."
Horatio smiled and walked inside, taking down the webfeed camera that downloaded every day to their home computer. He forced the download, watching it, fast forwarding through the mess Xander was making. "What is he doing?" he muttered.
Eric looked. "Doing the laundry? Making piles?" More clothes were added to each pile, then the smaller ones were gathered and walked to the kitchen and the laundry room after it. "See? That's how I sort too. Momma hates it but it means I don't make anything pink."
"Xander has an alarming habit of doing that." He fast forwarded through more laundry, then a phone call. Xander rushed out. Ray came in but the phone rang and he stormed out. "That explains some of the clothes. Not the bedroom however." They slowed it down as someone came in, their son's nanny. She tore up the rest of the living room and the bedroom.
"What is she looking for? She didn't touch in here," he said, looking around.
Horatio looked. "The checkbook was moved," he said quietly, pointing at it. "So were the statements. They're kept inside the desk." Eric nodded, going to bag those. Horatio watched. "She's wearing gloves, Eric."
"She still might've spread spit or something. Maybe we can get DNA." The nanny walked back into frame and headed out, smirking and happy. "I'll get Tyler here to copy that and enhance it for positive identification. You check on your nephew." Horatio gave him a look. "You know better. You can't work a scene in your own house, Horatio."
"Fine." He headed to the bedroom, gathering some of the things off the floor. Yelina walked in and took them, putting them back onto the floor, taking him out to his car. She handed him the keys and his phone, then made 'shooing' motions. "I'll need some of that."
"Go to Speed's or the condo. Now."
He rolled his eyes but went to check on Di. At the very least he could gather reference samples and see if she had taped the call. He did call his nephew. "Ray, Horatio. Someone's taken Xander's son," he said quietly. "He wanted you to go somewhere protected, somewhere you could be watched. I know, he gets curt and gruff in an emergency. Please. Go watch over Willow and Todd for me. Thank you, Ray." He hung up and headed over there, lights and sirens on. He parked and jogged inside the shop, heading to the office. "Diana?"
"Horatio!" She flung herself at him. "Xander told me to tape the calls, I don't know how. He told me what to gather for you of hers and Eric's. He's watching Madison and Marisol. I don't know why. Why isn't he here?"
"Because he thinks they're going to go after more of the family," he said quietly. "I can prove Jane was in our house earlier. He went to take up a spot that would enable him to capture someone doing this so we could find him sooner. Did you tape the call?"
"I don't know how."
He nodded, making a call to Ryan, getting him to bring the gear. He looked over the reference samples, smiling at her. "Good instincts. DNA is always welcome." She nodded, sitting down, pale and shaky. "We'll find him, Di. You know I'll never let Eric be hurt if I can help it."
"She's insane. She's got to be insane, Horatio. She took my son."
He nodded. "I know. What did she ask for?"
"Me." Horatio frowned. "She asked for money too, a mil, but she wants me."
"All right. We'll see what I can pull off," he promised. Ryan walked in with the recorder's case, getting down to set it up. "As of this moment, Xander is protecting Eric's family and Madison. Ray is watching your son and wife." Ryan looked up at him. "Xander wasn't so sure she wasn't going to try something else. We know Jane was in my house. It's trashed."
"Okay. Her alone?"
"So far we only know about her."
"Decent." The phone rang and he finished connecting it and slipped in a new tape, nodding at her to answer it while he put on the headphones.
"Hello?" She listened, then handed the phone to Horatio. "She knows you're here."
He listened. "Jane," he said calmly. He listened to her demands and her demented laughter, plus his son crying. "You have to give him time to get the money. It's almost all off-shore. No, that's locked away, Jane. He can't touch the foundation's assets." He smirked at her complaints. "He does, off-shore. It'll take at least an hour to wire it to a local bank and have them cash it out. I'm sure he has." Ryan walked off, going to talk to Xander. "Please. Well I could calm him down since he's panicking." Di glared, he held up a hand. "Eric, it's Daddy Horatio. Just calm down. She won't hurt you or else Daddy Xander is going to kill her. You know that. It's all right." He smiled at his babble. "Good boy. Now go play." The baby dropped the phone and went to play. "I don't know why she hired you, Jane. You're terrible with children." He heard the threat and sneered. "The rest of the family is protected, Jane. I wouldn't try it." She hung up and he replayed the tape, noticing the volume was set too high. He adjusted it and it came out fine. He smiled at her shock. "She's not alone," he said grimly. She leaned back, scrubbing at her face. "We'll handle it, Di. Just relax and let us do our work."
"Why ask for me?"
"Jane likes you. The same as you liked Jane," he said wisely. "The money is the real reason, you're a benefit."
"Not at the moment I'm not. If she hurts my son I'm going to kill her, Horatio."
"I know, Di. Let us work. Keep calm, as calm as you can." He called Eric. "Is Tyler there yet? She called here, we've got a tape. She has at least one accomplice. Why is Mac there?" He frowned. "Sorry. Sure. No, we'll need a place big enough to hold all of us, Eric. I don't know, ask my husband." He hung up and looked at her. "Does Xander have a hidey hole?" She nodded slowly. "Where?"
"Estates." She called Xander's cell. "Horatio wants to move us all together, Xander," she said quietly. "We can forward the phone. She's got my cell too. Yeah, Horatio said we need somewhere we can all work together. Also, Mac's down." He groaned and said something. "You're selling them the recipe for making your bug killing spray? Are you desperate?" She listened then sighed and nodded. "I understand, Xanny. Sure. We'll forward here then head over. You get the Delko's, Suzie, and Madison."
"Have Madison escorted back to the hospital and put Patrick's security people on her," Horatio said firmly.
She listened then shook her head. "He can't. He's on his honeymoon this week."
"Then I'll have Ray do it." He called him. "Are you sober, straight, and clean?" He listened to the assurance. "Someone took Eric. No, not Delko. Our son. They're making feints toward Madison and Suzie. Xander had to take her out of the hospital for a few hours." He heard the assurance. "Good. She's with Eric's mother. There. Yes. You, Calleigh. Frank or someone he chooses." He hung up. "Pack." She went to do that. "Reasonable clothes, Di," he ordered.
She looked at the pants. "These are his. I doubt he packed a bag."
"We've probably got clothes there," he admitted. She shrugged and nodded, packing it anyway. He called his house. "Eric, me. We're moving to Xander's hidey hole. Tell my nephew? Thank you. I'm almost certain he does." He hung up and looked at Ryan. "Forward her phone, take this and set it up there."
"Where is there?"
Horatio looked up. "Xander?" he called quietly. "Addresses are necessary." An envelope was dropped onto the desk beside him by Di. "You know where?"
"No, he said if it was an emergency to go there." She shrugged. "I don't know. He did say that's where the arsenal was too." She dropped two bags then went to get something for their son, just in case. That got dropped too and she looked at him. "Mine, yours, his?"
"Mine. Ryan, get to work and meet us." He showed him the address and phone number. That got a nod so Horatio escorted her out with the bag. "Did you remember the sketch pad?"
"Yeah, I've got two and some pencils. That way I can be worried." She climbed in and buckled up, waiting while he checked the hummer over. She ran a hand over the dash. "He certainly loves you, Horatio."
"He does," he agreed, sliding in and starting the engine. He headed off to the house.
Eric hung up and looked around. "Xander's got a bolt hole, we're heading," he called. Yelina looked at him. "The entire family." He looked at Tyler. "Ryan's got a tape, he'll bring it if you're not done copying that by then."
"Decent. Where is it?"
"Call Wolfe and see where he can meet you. The fewer who know the better." He patted him on the back. "Yelina, get Willow, Todd, and your son, meet us there. He said that Ray should know. Mac, you're with me." That got a nod and Mac followed him out to the hummer he was working with today. He looked at the patrols. "The AV tech is inside, you are to stay with him; if anyone harms him, I'm skinning you and feeding you Xander's cooking." They shuddered and nodded, taking up position. "This is a kidnaping. Someone took Caine's stepson." They stepped back and nodded quickly. "Reach me through dispatch if you have to." He climbed in and buckled up, starting the engine and backing down the driveway.
"Do you know where it is?"
"Yeah, I do. Xander showed me the pool one day recently. He'll probably be last, my mother will want to make food."
Mac smiled. "Mothers can be that way when they don't think it's a real danger. What about your nephew and nieces?"
"Safer than not. They don't live at home. I'm sure he's warned them through mom." He turned a corner and turned on his lights because there was traffic ahead.
"Not subtle," Mac offered.
"Yeah, well, it'll be hours before we get there otherwise." He nodded at the patrol officer that was handling the tie up, speeding past him. He called the accident in to make sure someone had a clue about rerouting emergency vehicles, then flipped off the lights and sirens, heading at a more leisurely pace to the house on Bayshore. "Xander moved Giles' arsenal out here," he noted quietly. "He told me so."
"Good to know. Anything modern or are they all crossbows and swords?"
"Some of that, some guns, some artillery, possibly some explosives. Xander likes pointy things and things that go boom." His phone rang so he handed it over. "You can get that. I'm trying to remember the door code."
"Delko's phone," Mac answered, smirking a bit. "No, Marisol, he's driving. Xander said what?" He snorted. "Marisol, someone took his son. He's protecting you. Get your tail in the car and follow orders this time." He hung up and handed it back. "She's being pouty and stubborn."
"She's probably got a treatment later today," he admitted quietly. "I'll have someone escort her if that's it." He called Speed. "Call my sister, make sure she doesn't have to go in today. No, you're our sheep that's staked out for the wolf. They can always find you and you'll be plenty safe." He hung up and turned a corner, then smiled suddenly and headed the other direction. Someone honked but he didn't care. He pulled into the gated community's guardhouse, flashing his credentials. "Xander's son was taken, we're all pulling back here, the whole family. Do I need to update his list?" The guard nodded, handing it over. He wrote out everyone's name and ages, then handed it back. "We're trickling in from less protected positions. Which house are we going to, I don't remember."
The guard called Xander, getting an 'okay' and orders. "The blue one on the end, sir." He handed over a pass. "Put that on your windshield for me please. That way we know you're a visitor allowed to be here." Eric did that and headed back to the last house on the end, the only pale blue one. He checked off names as they came in, handing out stickers. When Xander got there, he looked at him. "Sir, I told him the blue one. That was correct, right?"
"It was," he agreed. "Thank you." He smiled gently. "Any officers who come, call us first. The crime lab's personnel are more than allowed." The list was handed over and he starred a few. "They're officers."
"Thank you, Mr. Harris. Have a good day and I hope your son is all right."
"Me too or someone's going to die a horrible death," he said quietly, heading back there. He parked and got out, looking around before opening the other doors. Eric and Horatio came out. "Anything?"
"The ransom request."
"I heard. Ryan called. I've already talked to my guy, he's having it sent to your bank, Horatio. He's already called them and told them why. They'll have it cashed out and waiting by now. Someone will have to pick it up."
"Speed's where?" Horatio asked, letting the family inside. "Marisol, do you need to go today?"
"No, tomorrow morning I have tests, I have a treatment that afternoon." She looked at Xander, then at him. "He's scary like this."
"Someone threatened his family," he reminded her. "This is nothing compared to what'll happen when we have to arrest someone and leave him here." She smiled at that, going inside and back to the kitchen with her mother. Eric followed her, leaving him and Xander. "Are you all right?" He shook his head. "Calm enough to plan?"
"Yeah, but they're going to die." He stole a kiss. "I need to check on something, I'll be right back."
Horatio stopped him, pulling him closer. "Xander," he said quietly, staring into his eyes. "I saw the bedroom." Xander grimaced. "When were you going to tell me?"
"With the way my life goes sometimes, probably relatively soon," he admitted. Horatio nodded at that. "We set?" That got a nod. "Then I've got something that should've been hinted at." He leaned in the house. "Horatio is taking me to calm me down," he called. "Cable's on. Food's in the kitchen. Anyone pees in the pool and I'm drowning you." He shut the door and walked Horatio off, taking him up the street. "I invested in this estate when I first started getting major money," he said quietly. "One of the guys at the club was dating the developer. I knew I'd need my own place someday and it's a nice neighborhood, safe." He pulled out his keys and opened a door, letting him inside. Horatio stared at him. "There's three that I have the keys to. The other one isn't mine, I'm just holding the keys until it's sold. This one and the other one are connected." He led him inside so he could look around the modest house, which was furnished like their home. The other one he had indulged his taste for heavier woods and tapestry fabrics. He led Horatio down to the arsenal, showing him the code by taking his hand and using it to tap in the sequence.
"My birthday plus two," he said, looking amused.
"Easy enough for me to remember." He walked him inside the vault, showing him the entire collection. "The other house has enough for a standoff. The door on the other side leads back to the other house's wine cellar. It can also function as a bunker in case of a hurricane. It's got a security system on that end." He closed the vault door and turned on the other set of lights, showing him the pictures on the wall. "I've been working on my protections. Both houses are fully warded against magic and scrying but I put extra down here," he said, looking at his mate. "Ethan did help. I gave him some of my jerky and breath spray, even though he wasn't sure why. At least until he ate some. Then I got a cackle and he's very happy." He flipped off the blue UV lights and opened the vault door, letting them back out. "Retap the code to lock it. I didn't make it automatically locking because of the baby. That way he can't get trapped and we don't have to worry about accidental closures."
"It's a good idea," he assured him, doing that. The door locked and he walked Xander through the outer doors and back upstairs to look around. "If we have to move, you wanted to move here?"
"No, I want this to be our private spot, Horatio. The place we go where no one can find us. Eric and Ray Jr. both know about the other house but not this one. Now all the family knows about that house but not this one." Horatio nodded, smiling a bit. "Sometimes we need to escape. Plus this is a nudist neighborhood. We're good having sex on the back porch if we want to." He kissed the back of his hand. "Let's go." Horatio nodded, letting Xander lead him out and lock the door behind him. He saw Willow looking for him and grinned. "Checking on a friend's place. I needed to feed his fish anyway."
"That's good. How are we doing beds?"
"Shifts. It had better not take over twelve hours," he noted dryly, kissing her on the cheek. "Relax, the house is fully warded."
"I noticed Ethan did it."
"He helped me." He let her back inside then let Horatio walk in, shutting the door behind himself. He came out and looked at the dog, then shrugged and carried it inside, handing it to Eric, who grinned. "As long as it's not our bed, I don't care. Figure out how to do naps." He got a nod. "Your mother already cooking?"
"Yup, and Alexx got told. I put her on the visitor's list this time too."
"That's fine. This is our hidey hole and honeymoon suite. I invested in the neighborhood. One of my fellow dancers was dating the developer. Look at what six hundred thousand got me," he said dryly, patting him on the back. "Besides a quadruple return and this house." He headed for the kitchen, finding a soda to drink. "Mrs. Delko, simple stuff. Nothing too heavy. We'll be on edge for hours until he's back."
"I know, dear. I'm making sandwiches. Do you need one? You're very tense."
"I'll get with Horatio to unwind later." He smiled. "You and the other non-combatants figure out how to take rest breaks, just stay out of our bedroom and watch the kids in the rec room. The swords are more than sharp." She nodded and patted his hand. He headed that way, taking Horatio with him. He found Mac looking at a very old katana. "I found it in the flea market for eighty bucks. I had to redo the handle but it's a wonderful weapon."
"It is," he agreed, hanging it back up. He looked at him then pointed at the gun cabinet. "I know you have more than that," he said quietly. Xander grinned. "Where?"
"The main collection of guns are hidden but reachable from here," Horatio said quietly, closing the door to seal them in. "Mac, you don't have to get involved."
"Shut up, Horatio. Where's the rest?"
"At the other house," Xander mouthed. "Go into the wine cellar, behind my favorite red wines is a door. There's a security system in place there. Don and Danny are both keyed in already. I couldn't get you to do it. I can do it later if we're here tonight." Mac nodded and smiled. "It's also the hurricane bunker. The other end is better hidden." He looked at the open cabinet. "That's only the showy stuff, Mac." He walked over and opened a wall cabinet, showing off the weapons and boxes of ammo. Including a good stack of boxes for the officer's guns. "Do we have something for yours?"
Mac came over to look, then tapped that stack. "That'll do for mine too." He looked around, finding another cabinet with some highly illegal machine guns. "Xander," he said patiently.
"Sometimes you need to spray and pray, Mac. We've all had days like that and I'm hoping it's not more zombies." He closed that one and grinned. "Sorry you saw that. If my husband arrests me, that's up to him."
"I didn't see anything but if I ever have to make a stand, I'm arming up here first."
Xander closed the gun cabinet and pulled out the drawers below it. They had been made to look like wood grain imperfections in the paneling. "Vest, dear?" he asked, holding up his. He tossed Mac one. "New, experimental, but they proved it to my satisfaction."
Mac tested it and nodded. "I've heard they were iffy but not that horrible for ground combat. It's higher level artillery that'll get you killed in these. Anything below a nine mil or a forty-five is fine." He tried it on, wiggling a bit. "Ooh, that's nice. T-shirts?"
"You can borrow one of mine, Mac." He grinned and opened the door. "Eric, Ryan, Ray? Yelina?" They came in and he had to shoo out Willow and Todd. "Dealing with gun things." She pouted and walked out, closing the door behind her. He nodded. "Vests, guns, bullets." Horatio reopened the cabinet and drawers. "T-shirts are upstairs, Yelina. You should be able to fit into Horatio's."
She stared at him. "Did you plan to stage an assault?"
"No, but I've had to in the past. This is the holdover from Sunnydale syndrome." He looked at Ray, tossing him his vest. It was one of the older, thicker, heavier ones but he *knew* it worked. "Remember, I want that back in one piece, Ray. That's my original vest."
"Yes, Xander." He tried it on and nodded. "It still fits." He took it off and got into the cabinet. "Can I borrow the Sig?"
"Of course. Keep it locked down."
"Yes, dear." He blew a kiss and got out a holster for it and put it on, along with two spare clips in his pockets. His mother gave him a horrified look. He looked at her. "Mother, people keep coming for the sperm donor. That's what drove me out of the house earlier. Uncle Horatio and Uncle Xander both made sure I'm fully proficient on anything and everything in that cabinet, including the cleaning kit and the vest. I may be a nice guy, but they took Eric. They're getting my foot up their ass if they come here and you guys are gone. You can't afford to leave more than Xander and I here as defense. Let us do our jobs." He looked at Mac, sizing him up. "We have extra clips probably if you don't."
"I do, in my bag. Which is in the back of Eric's car." He patted him on the shoulder. "It shouldn't come to that."
"She's insane," Ray told him. "She took Xander's son knowing that he'll protect Eric with his life. Or don't you remember the last guy who came after Xander? Jane was here then." He walked out, carrying his vest with him. Eric's mother gave him a horrified look. "When they go to rescue Eric, Xander and I are staying as security and defense," he said, kissing her on the cheek. "Can you teach me how to stirfry? I suck at it. I always burn things."
"I'm fairly decent with weapons," Eric's father offered from behind him.
"Rec room," he said, grinning at him. "We'll put you behind us."
"You're only a boy, Ray."
"I'm the son of a cop and my father's brought bad things on our doorstep, Mr. Delko. Xander and Horatio trained me." He nodded, smiling a bit as he headed that way. "Watch out for the swords, they're sharp. Sometimes Xander thinks he's in an ep of Highlander." He grinned at the mother of the group again. "Please teach me?"
"Wash your hands and put the vest down, Raymond." He nodded, doing that, then coming over to learn from her. She was a better cook than even his mother. "Is it often like this?" she asked quietly.
He looked at her. "No, most of the time Xander gets back what's his before Horatio knows," he admitted. "Like he did me." She nodded, accepting that.
"When?" Horatio asked from the doorway.
Ray looked at him. "If I tell you, you'll yell at Sheldon."
"Why would I yell at Sheldon?"
"Because he was guarding Xander and lost him. The Mala Noche had me as a pawn for about an hour. The day they were coming after Xander. Xander got me free and made a few cry." Horatio moaned. "You notice they haven't come back recently?"
"I had actually," he admitted. "Xander!" He squeaked and headed outside, Horatio behind him. "That won't save you and if you dive in wearing that gun I will let Mac spank you."
"It's waterproofed!" Horatio growled and caught his arm, making him face his mate. "They had Ray, Horatio. You were busy trying to track the main problem. The officer said I couldn't bother you or distract you, even with your nephew being missing. He was sure Ray would turn up, like most teenagers."
"You did what?" he demanded quietly.
"Um, well, I tracked him, stole him back, then made someone cry if you want me to be honest." He grinned suddenly. "Sheldon saw that part. Danny saw that part. Sheldon called him when he and Monroe lost me."
"That was before the assault."
"Yeah, we watched. You looked hot that day in the black SWAT uniform," he said, kissing him and grinning. "Even Ray thought so." He headed around the side of the house, going to find the dog since he had seen it sneak out with Willow. "He okay?"
"Yeah, he's trying hard not to have an accident." She grinned at him. "Horatio finally finding out you're as well trained as some combat veterans?"
"He knew that before but I never told him I had to steal Ray back."
"Ah. Wonderful. Did you get hurt?"
"No, Monroe lost me and Sheldon backed her up on that."
"Excuse me?" Mac called from the back door. "I know you didn't say two of my people lost you, Xander." He came out to join them. "Horatio said Sheldon and Monroe lost you?"
"Monroe was on guard, Sheldon was in the kitchen making some toast. I got the call from the idiot who took Ray. I walked into the bedroom, grabbed the spare guns, walked right past her and outside, closing the door behind me. Sheldon called ten minutes later, sounding like he was panicking. I told him what was going on and where I was going. They got there about when I came out with Ray and Sheldon saw me turn and make one guy cry. Then we backed off and watched as Horatio and the SWAT team busted them. He looked really hot in the SWAT coveralls. My baby looks good in all black."
Mac swatted him. "You're never being left alone with people who can't stop you," he warned.
"If I hadn't, Ray could've died, Mac. They took him from school."
"Mac, SWAT going in would've shot him. They were still trying to rough him up, he wasn't tied to a chair. Just handcuffed. Since then I made sure he started better self- defense lessons. It's not like they weren't little bitches begging for an alpha dog. Even Ray Sr. could've taken them over. I wasn't in any danger, I used a distraction technique to get in there."
"What did you use?" Willow asked.
"My famous garlic bomb."
She shuddered and moaned. "That's just cruel, Xander."
"Yeah, well, they all gagged at the smell." Mac opened his mouth. "It's somewhere between a jerky fart and rotten garlic. Very effective in clearing out nests so Buffy could get them as they ran out complaining."
"Oh, yeah, we used it at least once a month on the bigger enclaves," Willow agreed. "We used one on the Initiative base to get out." She looked at him. "Giles made it really weak too."
"Nothing I didn't expect. It takes a real man to make those." He grinned at Mac. "I've got the stuff set up in the basement kitchenette if you wanted to watch me cook."
"Would it stink up the house too much to make one of those?" he asked.
Xander shook his head. "Not while it's cooking. When it's cooled down is when it starts to stink. I usually put them into either a baggie or something like a thin blood pack baggie. It's small but it works *really* well."
"I'm going to watch you make one, Xander. Then we'll talk about stupidity being your middle name at times. You know how to plan, use it."
"I did! Even Danny said I did okay."
"I'll talk with him later."
"He's vowed to deny any knowledge under threat of having one of those land on him." He grinned and headed downstairs, pulling Mac with him. "We're going to make garlic bombs," he called. "It won't stink."
Eric moaned and shuddered. "Sheldon told me about that."
Ray looked at him. "I had to live with smelling one up close and personal. I've smelled decomp before and it's nastier." He went to find his mother, giving her a hug. "It'll be all right, mom."
"They had you?"
"For about an hour. They were still at the taunting phase. Xander made them gag with a stink bomb and got me free." She looked at him. "It worked. It's really rank, mom. Really, really rank. Like toxic socks rank." She smiled at that. "He walked right behind Monroe and she never noticed."
"I'm sure Mac will fix that, son." She stroked his cheek. "I do not want you on the front lines if they come here while we're here."
"That's fine with me," he agreed happily, smiling at her. "If you guys are here, I'm a nice, normal teenager with a yen for a car."
"That money is for your college," she said firmly. "I don't care if he did set you up money for it. You'll use yours first."
He patted her on the cheek. "Mom, he's family. He said he's family. If I did that he would pout, then Horatio would pout and sulk, then you'd be more miserable, and in turn make me even more miserable. It'd be one of those endless cycles of misery." She rolled her eyes, heading for the kitchen. He followed, going back to his cooking lessons.
Danny answered Don's desk phone. "Flack's office." He grinned. "Hey, Mac. No, he had to go to the little girl's room." He listened, then stood up. "DON!" He came jogging out of the bathroom, pants still undone. "Fix that shit. Someone took Eric."
"Delko?" he asked hopefully. Danny just gave him the 'dumbass' look and he sighed, zipping up his pants and taking the phone. "Mac?" He listened to Horatio go over what they knew. "What do you need from us?" He listened, then made notes. "Sure. Tonight. Where are you?" He snorted. "Which one, Horatio? I know he told you." He nodded, making note of that as well. "Done, I'm there. Thanks." He hung up and looked toward his boss's office. "Boss, I've go to help Horatio deal with Xander. Someone stole Xander's son and he's out for vengeance."
"Is this a New York case?"
"Mac said the kidnaper's native," he offered. "It's family." He packed things and looked at Danny. "I'd bring you if I could, man." He headed out, going to get the special supplies Xander had him hold for him. He got home and put everything in the center of the circle Willow had inscribed on the floor, then set the signal to let her know something needed picked up, heading to pack his personal bag. He'd fly down. He didn't trust magic that much.
Danny walked into the lab and cleared his throat. "Mac's in the middle of a situation in Miami. He might be back late," he announced. Stella glared at him. "Someone stole Xander's son."
"They're dead men," Sheldon said quietly.
"That's why they wanted Don, to try to hold him back and as extra support. Horatio thought they had someone inside the department. We're not sure who yet." He looked at Stella. "Xander's given Mac a new toy from what he said."
"Super stink bomb. Smells like a jerky fart with rotten garlic in the sun." She made a grossed out face.
"Well, the kidnapers will suffer," Sheldon said blandly, looking at him. "They need more help?"
"Nope. Horatio's pissed and Xander's becoming the God of Dishin' It Out. They won't need more than clean up as long as Don can control Xander from going."
"I wish him luck," Sheldon said fondly, going to get back to work. "Let me know if they need more help."
"Sure." He looked at Stella, moving closer. "He probably walked in right after it happened," he said quietly.
"I understand. Don get the time off?"
"He told his boss it was family and that the kidnaper was local to us. She didn't do more'n gape." She nodded at that, smiling just a bit. "Not like this is a fun trip."
"It's not. Where are they?"
"A bolthole Xander has. It's where most of his swords are, the ones that Speed didn't steal." She grinned at that. "Yeah, Mac's probably playing with the weapons. You know Mac."
"Oh, I know Mac," she agreed dryly. "Let's get back to work and clean up in case we have to run down there."
"Sure," he agreed, patting her on the arm. "Dinner?"
"As long as it's not that jerky."
He grinned. "You didn't like the effects?"
"NO! I like being able to sit," she complained, heading off.
"The day we guarded him was the day we tried the jerky," Monroe told him. "I'll never touch another thing Xander makes."
"I take it you heard about the breath spray?"
"The minty paint remover? Yeah, he gave me some to take the taste out of my mouth." She walked off shaking her head.
Danny grinned. "Wonder if it makes him faster in the water." He went to clean up his last case just in case they were needed in Miami.
It was nearly ten the next morning when they found the kidnaper's location. The officer helping Jane gave up fairly easily. Jane was still screaming as she was loaded into a car. Mac had taken Horatio's gun from him when he looked like he was going to shoot her, giving him the baby instead. They took him back to the house, letting him walk in.
"Daddy, poo!" he called, grimacing as he toddled to find his father. "Poo, Daddy! Bad poo!"
"Ah, so they used a stink bomb," he said, picking him up to cuddle him. "Eric," he sighed, squeezing him.
"Daddy, poooooooooo!" he whined, then he saw his mommy and grinned. "Mommy, poo!"
"I know, baby. I've smelled his stink bombs." She took him to hold and look over, including changing his clothes since they stunk. "You're probably hungry." He leaned over and tried to latch onto her chest. "Eric!"
Eric, big Eric, leaned in and grinned. "I'm guessing you weren't calling me?"
"Why is my son a bigger pervert than you?" she demanded, picking him up and carrying him into the kitchen. Where Big Eric's mommy cooed and fed him anything he wanted, including a lot of cookies. "Real food too."
Eric hugged her from behind. "All kids are perverts. Besides, you're a pervert at work. Xander's a pervert at home. He got the best of both of your natures." She glared at him so he beamed and gave her a squeeze. "He okay?"
"No scratches. Just smelly."
"Now I know why Xander carries those inside another bag to make sure they can't break open on the way there," Mac complained as he walked in.
"Mac, I will be making you clean the hummer," Horatio warned. He walked into the kitchen, figuring the baby was back there. He looked around. "Eric?" He giggled so he followed him out to where he and his daddy were petting the Delko's dog. Diana moaned and headed out there. "It'll be fine."
"I can't catch him when he does that."
"I can't catch Xander when he does it and I'm trained to catch people who're sneaking," he offered. "I have no idea how they do that." She nodded, leaving it there. He sat beside his son, stroking over his hair like he was the dog's.
Eric scowled at him. "Me not doggy!" he said, removing the hand.
"Fathers can pet their sons when they've been away for a while," he assured him, giving him a hug. "You're all right, that's all that matters." Eric stared at him, head tipped slightly to the left like Xander did. "What?"
"Love you too, Daddy 'Oro." He kissed him on the nose then wiggled down to play with the dog.
Xander grinned. "He's my boy."
"He is." He pulled Xander closer, kissing him gently. "I love you too, Xander. You too, Eric. Daddy loves you." Eric beamed at him and squealed when he saw his mother, dragging her over to play with the dog. He kissed Xander again. "Thank you."
"Welcome. All I did was guard and make stink bombs."
"It was still important and you kept me from panicking. You're good at that." He took another kiss, settling Xander into his lap. "You should go swim with him."
"Not until he's three."
"It's better to teach them how to swim about then. The doctor said doing it earlier could encourage him to try to sneak into the pool. By then he'll realize he can't go in alone."
"That's fine." He stroked Xander's stomach as they watched the boy and dog play. "Hopefully my daughter won't have these problems," he offered quietly.
Xander looked back at him, grinning. "Probably not. It's a genetic thing I think. Speed doesn't."
"Speed so does," Eric said as he joined them.
"Poo!" little Eric said, glaring at him.
"Fine, I'll go change." He went back inside to change clothes. His mother had packed them all a bag, that had been why she was procrastinating, well, part of it was finishing diner but mostly because she was packing emergency bags.
"What is that stench?" Marisol shouted.
"Xander's stink bombs, half an hour later," Mac called back. "Or possibly a summertime construction porta-potty after a bad run of garlic shrimp, can't be certain, but one of those two." He looked at Don, who was on the couch. "Comfy?"
"Very. Xander got handcuffed to me. That way he couldn't do anything stupid or magical. I got Willow locked in the bathroom too." He looked at Mac. "She's hopefully getting Ryan cleaned up in there."
"I saw him head that way. He's got cranky wife radar," Ray offered, handing him a soda and Mac a water. "There, you deserve it. They should hand you guys cookies too since you went through the gas attack."
"I've got the recipe for them. I'm letting SWAT know," Mac said with a smirk. "I'm sure they can use it."
"You want others to complain about the smell of an outhouse in high summer after a bad load of shrimp fell in it?" Don asked him. "Why are you so mean to my city, Mac? We took you in, fed you when you're hungry, clothed you, gave you a job you pretend to love, even gave you Stella and Danny as consolation prizes."
Mac swatted him. "The crooks will give up when they smell it."
He grinned. "Can we send one to Sonny?"
"Wish granted," Xander called. "I sent one late last night when I went out for more soda."
Mac and Don shared a look. "Don't look at me, we're in-laws, man. My family isn't that evil," Don reminded him.
Mac nodded. "Yes you are."
"Mine's tainting by Xander."
"Wait until you have kids," Ray joked.
Don considered it then shuddered. "Nope. My kids will not turn into little Xander's."
"Willow and Ryan say the same thing now and then," Ray assured him, grinning at him. "Mom too and look at me."
"Guess Dad'll have to have another son," Don said after a moment's thought.
"If you do, I don't want a little Xander running around the lab," Mac ordered.
"My kid'll be a stock broker and break dad's heart," Don snorted. "That's how these things work. Either that or he'll join a gang like the Malas and disappoint the old man horribly."
"No, if he does that, *then* you send him to Xander," Mac ordered. Don smirked. "If I have any and they go that way, I'm sending them down immediately."
"Horatio and Speed still joke about sending Xander up when he's bad," Ray reminded them.
"If that happens, we'll let Danny straighten him out," Don assured him dryly, smirking at him. "Naughty you, Ray."
"I've been good all morning. I'm not the one who came home smelling like shit."
Mac smelled himself. "Fortunately I threw it away really quickly when the one broke." He went to change his shirt and wash his hands, just in case.
Alexx called and Ray put it on speaker. "Hi, Alexx. Everything and one okay?"
"Everyone's fine, sugar, but why did someone want me to destink some suspects?"
"They had Eric."
"And they're not dead?" she snorted. "Horatio is God for keeping Xander from killing them. The stink?"
"Xander's garlic bombs. Mac took some with him," Don offered, opening his soda to take a drink. "You sure you're all okay? Calleigh and everyone?"
"We're fine and she's here. She's pouting because she can't see Xander's arsenal."
Xander stuck his head in. "Horatio said we'll be here for the rest of the day and night. They can come out and we'll have a cookout." He ducked back outside, going back to his cuddling his man and son. They needed cuddled, they had been in danger.
Horatio looked up as Calleigh came in, pointing at the doors. "He said you have to ask to check anything out," he said quietly. She nodded and looked in the slightly open cabinet, beaming. "You can look all you want."
She pouted at him. "Is this all he has?"
He shook his head. "No, this is all he has *openly*." He nodded at the door so she closed it. He opened all the cabinets he had found last night, making her ooh and awe over some of them. "He said you have to ask," he reminded her. She beamed and went to look. He came over at her hurt noise. "What?"
He looked and nodded. "We were testing it last night into the water. He'll do it later tonight."
"He'd better!" She looked it over. "Was it an easy shoot?"
"It was like butter," he assured her. "Smooth, little recoil in automatic mode. You'll have to fight Mac for it."
She grinned and went to find Mac, bringing it with her. "Horatio said I have to fight you for this one."
Xander looked at her. "Calleigh, mine," he said firmly. "You can play with my toys but they stay here when you go home."
She pouted. "I don't have one of these in the lab."
"We don't either," Mac admitted, giving him the same look.
Xander sighed. "I'll give Horatio my contact as long as you don't bust him. He's a nice guy who doesn't sell to street thugs." He went back to reading.
"I love you," she said, hugging him around the neck. She felt a touch to the gun and glared at the baby. "No! You do not touch guns!"
Xander looked. "Eric, no." He walked off, going to chase the dog again. "He knows he doesn't touch those." He looked at the book again. "Go back to playing." She trotted back there with Mac. He looked over at his son. "When you're older. Not until you're older." He went back to sucking up to his mother and the other women. When the doorbell rang, he got up to get it, finding Stella, Danny, and Sheldon. "Did crime stop in New York?"
"Chasing an idiot down here," Stella admitted. "Can we have Mac and Don back?"
"Mac, Don, your city came calling!" he called, getting out of the way. "Mac's playing with the guns and swords. Follow their cooing."
Danny headed that way, opening the rec room door. "Mac, put down the damn gun, we've got a case and we need you. One of our head guys came down here. He's down here to terrorize the nice, tanned, fake boobs down here and that's pissing off Stella since he can't see his way fit ta threaten the real one's she's got. So let's go." He saw Mac looking at the guns, inching toward them. "You do it and I tell him." Mac walked out, trying to sneak the sword out. Xander took it and walked it back to the rec room. "Thank you. He don't need more. Flack!" He came down the stairs. Danny looked at him. He was wearing dark blue shorts and a t-shirt. He blinked then stared, then finally nodded. "Sure, you can chase a Gambini guy in that. Let's go."
"Let me change," he sighed, going to do that. "Horatio, we're going to rip up your city."
"I'm going with you," he assured him, heading out with them. "Mac, you still need to clean my hummer," he complained, glaring at him.
"I aired it out," he promised.
"It still stinks."
"Go really fast down the highway with the windows open."
Danny grabbed his canister of breath spray and got to work inside, leaving the doors open. "There. It's not stinky. Just smells like toothpaste. Don!"
"Coming! Hold your horses." He came out doing up his tie. "Thanks for the reload, Xander."
"No fair," Mac complained.
Xander walked out, handing Mac a bag. "For you. Use it well." He kissed Horatio. "You behave and be safe or else I'm destroying everyone who hurt you or let you get hurt." He kissed Don on the cheek. "Come back tonight and I'll cook."
"Sure. Not." Xander grinned and Don sighed, getting into the hummer with Horatio. Danny got into the back to talk to them while Stella filled Mac in.
Xander waved. "Be safe or else I'm going to be mad!" He went back inside, catching the baby before he could sneak out. "Not a chance." He walked back there, finding Calleigh still in there playing with the weapons. "Keep a secret?" he asked quietly. They were mostly alone in the house. Horatio had made Eric stay with them today. She nodded, following him to the wine cellar, making her sigh in pleasure. He grinned and tapped in a code so she couldn't see, then led her off. "This is the hurricane shelter. There's a general code that is taped overtop of the keypad. It doesn't lock so Eric can't lock himself in."
"Which one?" She grinned at him. "Big Eric might."
"No, that was Danny." He led her into the armory, letting her see and moan. "Mine. All mine."
"Yours," she complained, touching one. "I like that."
"I know you do." He patted her on the back. "If you need an exemplar match, you can borrow it. Not have it, but borrow it."
She smiled. "Thank you, Xander." She kissed him on the cheek and went to look. "Where does this door lead to?"
He looked at it, then at her. "An escape hatch to the beach. It's not finished. It's sealed."
"Shoot. How long before you finish it?"
"That depends on Horatio ignoring me for a few weeks."
She burst out laughing. "Yeah, right," she snickered. "Never again, Xander." She patted him on the cheek. "I want one of those stink bombs for Eric's locker."
"Eric is my buddy and I would never do anything that would upset him. Or else I wouldn't have anyone to swim and complain about my husband with." She pouted and he shook his head, walking her out and closing the door, checking it to make sure the baby wasn't in there before he locked it, then he walked her back to the house and upstairs. The baby was eating from mom's lap. Eric was grinning at them. "I assured her I would not give her anything to pick on you about, unless she wanted a picture of you in a speedo."
"No, not really. Speed might get mad." She shrugged and hugged him. "Can't I get you to arrest him so I can have his guns?"
"No, dear." He patted her on the arm. "Even the illegal stuff wouldn't get me to arrest him. Not even drugs. Not that I think there are any, but I wouldn't. I know Xander would never go evil unless someone hurt Horatio."
"Damn it. He's got a nice compact missile system."
He looked at him. "When did you get that?"
"It came in the other day. Toby got it for me."
"Where did Toby get it?"
"Some guy in the military who sent it to his mother. She didn't want it." He shrugged. "He gave me paperwork saying it was legal and it'll disappear if someone tries to come and take it. That way I have something to use on the next three hundred foot demon I run into coming out of the sea." Eric moaned at that.
"When was this?" Diana demanded.
He looked at her. "I didn't have him then."
"I didn't ask that!"
He grinned. "No comment." He kissed her then walked inside. "Anyone want something to drink?"
"No, I'm good," Eric called.
"I could use some juice or something," Diana called, shaking her head. Calleigh was still pouting. "My son is not to get into the gun cult he's got going with you and Taylor," she ordered.
"Oh, no. We'll teach him gun safety and that's it," Calleigh assured her. "Until he's old enough to realize why we have guns and can make his own decisions."
"Fine," she complained, looking at her son. "Don't be like the daddy in that, okay?" He smiled at her. "Good boy. Yes, you'll be mommy's good boy, Eric." He beamed and nodded, eating another grape from the plate they were sharing. Xander brought out drinks, settling in to watch the water. "He's giving you bad habits."
Xander looked at her. "I was worse before, Di. Who do you think fixed all the slayer's weapons and carved the majority of her stakes?"
"Rupert," he snorted. "Yeah, right. I used to carve stakes while I had big thinks." He shifted and put his feet up on a free chair. "Eric, spend some time in the pool?"
"I could use some," he agreed, sipping his juice, since Xander had ignored him. He gave him a look. "You fuss worse than my mom."
"That's because I'm antsy. She's going in for the text next week and I don't think it took."
"It didn't," he agreed. "The others all knew by now." He looked at Calleigh. "When are you and Speed thinking about kids?"
"When I retire or I get so badly hurt I can't do the job anymore. It's too dangerous and I don't want to be a mom. I'm living vicariously through all the ones around me."
"Yeah, me too. Mom's nagging badly again." Xander nodded at that. "She got you too?"
"Yup. Thinks it's cute that I'm with Horatio and all that but she didn't understand that we're married, not just fuckbuddies or lovers." He looked at Di. "Am I doing the spring show?"
"I'm not sure yet. I was thinking about going with a totally unknown crew since I got a complaint from both Police Chiefs about using their officers in such a seductive and salacious manner. Then there's your fan contingent, which hasn't calmed down in case you hadn't noticed."
"No, I haven't gotten any presents."
She gave him a look, then moaned. "Xander, they've been sending crap for you to the station."
"Not that we've heard," Eric assured her. "We've even been checking for it since we got the lime green hummer."
"That was the vampire in LA," Xander reminded him as he picked up his phone to call his IAB contact. "Phil, it's Xander. Diana, the mother of my son..." Pause. "No, he's okay. We got to him before they could do more than scare him. He's eating grapes with us right now. She told us, me, Eric Delko, and Calleigh, that people have been sending stuff to me at the station again? Eric and Calleigh said they haven't heard anything." He frowned. "Really? No, not that dad's said. Thanks." He called Speed's phone. "Tim, have you been accepting presents for me again?" He grimaced. "No, Di said there's been some. No, he's good, eating grapes." Pause. "No, she said since the hummer. That was the idiot in LA. Spike had a word with him." Tim laughed at that. "Hey it worked. Thanks." He hung up. "He'll ask around. Phil thought Speed had been cataloging it."
"If we haven't been getting it, where has it gone?" Eric asked.
Calleigh looked at him. "Theft? Evidence? Misplaced in a storeroom by the receptionist since she still think he's warping you into being the sort of slut he is?"
"No fair, I haven't been a slut in weeks," he protested. Everyone stared at him. "I haven't."
"We're all trying to keep Horatio to the simpler cases," Eric offered, patting him on the hand. "That should get better soon, Xander."
Xander gave him an odd look. "Does Horatio know this? He'll throw a fit, Eric. You know how territorial he gets about his cases."
"Yeah, but if he's not getting any, he's cranky. When he's cranky, suspects have to be chased down because they flee in fear of him, or they cry on him, which then upsets you further and he doesn't get any for another night. We'd prefer Horatio to be thoroughly sexed, content, and smiling nearly every day."
"So would I, but life has other issues," Xander said dryly. His watch beeped and he looked at it, then got up. "I've got to head out for an hour or so. You guys watch the son."
"Where are you going?" Eric asked, hopping up to follow him. "Horatio said to stay here, Xander."
"It's test result day, Eric. I promise I'll be safe." He went into the garage. The car he had stashed here was a nice sports car, not his usual ride in the least. He slid into the seat and started it, backing out slowly, then hitting first gear and taking off before Eric could do more than stare in appreciation. He drove like every other guy in the city with his car would, a little faster, a little tighter in the corners, about eight miles over the legal limit. Not enough to get a ticket, but enough to show off his engine. He knew Eric wasn't dumb enough to put his hidden car out on Dispatch to be watched. If he did, Ray Jr. would get this car and he'd have to get a different car. He pulled into the clinic's parking lot and got out, heading inside. The nurse smiled at him and took his testing number, writing it down and handing him a number to be seen. He sat down, nodding at the few people he knew. When his number was called, he went back into the office, smiling at the nurse he knew so very well. "How are you today?"
"Not good at the moment. Sit, Xander." He sat, starting to look worried. "I don't want you to stress, but have you been feeling ill?"
"I popped positive?" he asked, his world crumbling.
"No, you had a test that was anomalus. It didn't test positive but something skewed it. I don't know what. Have you been feeling ill?"
"No, not since I started eating my jerky again." He leaned back, considering it. "It's spicy, could that affect it?"
"Depends on the spices."
He wrote out the recipe and handed it over. "What do I do?" he asked when she tucked that into his file.
"First, we'll do a second test. Then we'll do another one in a week. Just in case whatever it was that was causing it is still around." He nodded slowly. "Until then I want you to eat nothing that could compromise it. None of this jerky stuff, nothing else odd. Nothing unusual. Nothing that could make you feel ill." He nodded slowly again. "Until then, I'll also remind you to practice safe sex." He whimpered. "Xander."
"He refused! He took the condoms and threw them out. He said I'm fine and he's in me most of the time. I protested and he still refused."
"All right. Then we'll need him in here for a test as well. Do you want us to contact him?" He swallowed and shook his head. "Are you sure?" He nodded. "Do you want to do it here?"
"No," he said weakly. "He's in the middle of a huge case." He blinked the tears back. "What's the chances that it's a false one, or that I'm actually positive?"
"Fairly slim at this point," she pointed out. "It's been nearly two and a half years since you gave up stripping." Xander swallowed and nodded. "Calm down. We'll pull blood today for the second test. Until then, you've got to tell your husband tonight and you've got to make sure he understands you may not be safe any longer. If you want me to, I can talk to him for you, Xander." He shook his head, Horatio would hate that. Hate him for that. "All right. Let me get the nurse in here to draw the blood, then we'll talk, all right?"
"Anything in particular?"
"No, not at the moment." He nodded, taking off his shirt. "Nipple ring?"
"Sterile needle. I had it done by a professional."
"Good." She paged the nurse, getting her in there. "We need to do a test since he had an anomalus one. Schedule him to come back in a week for a second one." She nodded, taking Xander to do that. She made notes in his chart and thought about talking to his husband, but the boy was strong enough to do that.
Xander put down the motel room's phone, then picked it up and tried it again. "Horatio," he sighed, getting his voicemail. "Call my cell when you get this, we need to talk, babe." He hung up and laid down, getting comfortable. He wasn't going to be doing anything with Horatio and the only way to avoid temptation was to avoid him for a few days. Someone knocked on the door, making him moan. He got up to let his mate in, looking at him, seeing the anger. "Sit. Now." Horatio sat, still glaring at him. He closed the door and locked it. "I had an anomalus test. They're not sure why yet. They did a second one today and I'm doing a second proof test in a week. They want you to have one too," he babbled. "So I'm staying here until I'm *sure* I can't give you anything."
Horatio stood up and grabbed Xander by the shoulders, shaking him. "Shut up, Xander." He shut up, just looking at him. "Slower. I can't think that fast."
Xander glared. "Don't start that shit again!"
"You hate it when I do it, I hate it when you do it," he pointed out bitterly. "Now, what happened?"
Xander sighed and flopped down on the bed, looking up at him. "I had a test that came out anomalus." Horatio slowly sank back into his seat, staring back. "They're not sure why. I'm to eat normal people food. I'm to do nothing that could interrupt this test. I had one today and I'm having a second proof test in a week. They want you to have one too since I told them how you feel about condoms."
"You've been fine for the last two years," he said quietly. "Why now?"
"They don't know yet. She asked if I had felt sick, so I'm guessing that might throw it off somehow. Maybe something in the jerky? I don't know," he admitted miserably. "But I can't take the chance that I might...."
Horatio stood up and shoved Xander onto his back, straddling him. "Shut up, Xander." Xander glared at him. "You're not positive. I know you're not. We can do the test in the lab if we have to."
"That would be misusing resources," he reminded him.
Xander grimaced. "They can do yours too."
"I do mine in the lab. I let Alexx run mine." He leaned down, taking a kiss. "You're coming home. If I have to, I'll switch back to condoms for a few weeks. I know you're not sick. I'd be able to tell if you were." Xander continued to give him that same miserable look. "I know you're trying to avoid tempting me, but you can't leave me. You can't do this alone and I need you there when mine come back this time." Xander swallowed and nodded. "When do you go back for your first set of results?"
"Three days. Standard."
"That's fine. We're going together." Xander shook his head. "Yes, we are. I'll go hold your hand, you can hold mine when I go in for mine the next day. I'll go in with you tomorrow to get the blood drawn." He took another kiss. "Just relax. I know this is a false alarm, Xander. It's been too long to be anything but. You haven't had any exposures since then."
"What if the Watcher guys bled on me and they had it? Or it's some funky demon side effect from something I slayed in the last eight months?"
"You're dodging into alternate versions of what-if, Xander. It's not happening. I know it's not. As a control, we'll have Ryan and Eric get tested. You three have done the same stuff recently. Eric's been swimming in the same pools and Ryan's been eating as much jerky as you have. If that's the cause, you'll either change the recipe or never eat it again," he ordered. Xander swallowed and nodded. Horatio moved, letting him run to be sick, following to help him. "Shh, it'll be okay," he promised, stroking his back. "I swear to you it'll be fine. You're not sick."
"I can't be. I'll make you sick...." he said, getting sick again.
"There's less chance that I'd get it from you since I take you, Xander," he assured him. "Not no chance, but less chance." He soothed him, calming him back down, letting him gargle with mouth wash. "Do you want to tell them?" Xander shook his head. "Then how do we get them to do it?"
Xander looked at him. "We shouldn't have to involve Eric."
"We should. It could be something to do with one of the pools you guys have been in." He considered it. "It's nearly time for the quarterly tests anyway," he realized. "The whole team can go together." Xander relaxed against him, letting him handle it. "Shh, it'll be okay." He got him nearly asleep then helped them both up and out to the bed to lay down with him. They could manage without him for a night. This was more important.
Horatio paged everyone the next morning, getting a bunch of startled looks when they all appeared in his office. "It's time for quarterly blood tests for most of us," he noted calmly. "Xander's doing his as well. I thought we should all go together this time."
"I'm not due mine for another month," Eric told him, looking confused.
Ryan looked at Horatio, then at Calleigh. "Calleigh, you're good with that, right?" She nodded, it didn't matter to her. "The lab?"
"No, Xander hinted that someone talked to him about it being a misuse of resources." He grimaced, hands going to his hips unconsciously. "I like the clinic where he gets his done."
"I just got mine done," Speed noted. "What's going on?" He looked around, it was all family. "Horatio?"
He looked at him. "I can't tell you. I don't have permission."
"A suspect?" Calleigh asked. He shook his head. "Xander?" He shook his head. "Then what?"
"There have been a lot of anomalus tests recently with certain problems. One of them being ill while you have it."
"You can get a false positive from that?" Eric asked.
"No, you get a cloudy test," Speed said, suddenly getting it. "You think one of us will pop the way the other did? It's a control for the bloodwork?" Horatio nodded. "Which one?"
"I'm not sure. Xander's in the same boat at the moment. These will be done quietly. If we have the lab do them and something like that shows up, we'll have to report it," he noted quietly. "This way it doesn't have to be noted and we can figure out the root cause. I'm fully expecting at least two of us to pop that way."
"Do we have any idea what the cause may be?" Eric asked. "I've been pretty clean for the last little while. I'm swimming a lot more and partying a lot less."
"Maybe that's the problem," Ryan offered. "Something in some of the pools? If Xander's going in as a control, we've all had about the same sins, spread out among the group, as he has. You his swimming, me the jerky, Speed his other food, Horatio his life, and Calleigh's the true control of the group."
"How widespread is this?" Calleigh asked.
"We're not sure yet. That's why we're trying to find the cause," Horatio noted. "If we can narrow down the root of the anomaly, we can have the people retest without it in their system."
"Then I'm up for it, when do we go?" Calleigh asked.
"Today. It's a walk-in day so go whenever you've got a few free hours." They all nodded. "Thank you."
"Not an issue but I want to know the cause," Speed ordered, staring him down. Horatio nodded and the others left. "How is my son?"
"A wreck. He tried to live at a hotel until the second proof test came out clear."
"When was he tested again?"
"Yesterday. When he went for results."
"Ah. Eric said he had escaped, said something about test results." He gave him a long look, then slammed the door shut. "What do we think it is?"
"I'm not sure. I'm expecting either Ryan or Eric to narrow it down."
"What if it's a combination of factors?"
"They'll keep doing tests until it comes out clear, one way or another," he said quietly. "I know he's not, but he's worried."
"Then why are you here?" Speed asked him.
"He ordered me to come to work after he went with me to get mine. He said it'd help me calm down."
"Need I remind you my son is fond of doing stupid things when he panics? Or don't you remember a trip to Montreal?"
"I do, which is why he's in the break room with Frank watching him," he said grimly. "He'd probably try to leave the country and hide somewhere in the desert in Africa."
Speed smirked. "Bush. Hyena, Horatio." He walked off shaking his head, going to check on his son. He saw the panicked look. "Horatio said you're being the control for a group of people who just had odd results. You okay?" Xander shook his head, gulping his soda so he didn't have to talk.
"Is that what this is about?" Frank asked.
"It's people who're like him, Frank. They've been doing the same things he has, with the exception of the jerky probably." He nodded and Frank left them alone. "He told me," he offered quietly. "Ryan figured it out already. We're going in today to see if we can weed out the cause. Just relax and let us do what we do best, Xander."
"What if it's cloudy and hiding a badder thing?" he asked quietly.
"Then we'll still love you but we won't kiss you any more," Speed promised, patting him on the head. "You're not sick, Horatio would know. He'd sense it the same way you did when he got the flu. Remember your instincts were screaming at you to take some more control?" Xander nodded, putting his head down. "What are your instincts telling you this time?"
"To slink off into the bush and lick my paw until it feels better and I can come back," he said quietly.
"You tried that and what did Horatio do?" Speed asked dryly.
"He found me even though I had barely called him only a second earlier."
"Uh-huh. He probably had someone follow you when you didn't come home." He dropped a kiss on the back of Xander's head as he stood up. "Talk to the man, Xander."
"He's already in control, he might not want more."
"Yeah," he snorted. "Remember, if you were really sick, he'd be fighting his instincts to put you aside. That's how it's done, even with mates." He walked out, going for his lab.
Xander wasn't comforted by that thought. He really wasn't. He still wanted to slink off into the bush to lick his sore, injured paw in peace and aloneness, that way he couldn't be a burden.
Frank looked at the boy, then popped him one upside the head. "Don't even think about it, Xander." Xander looked at him. "What happened?"
Xander rubbed his face. "I had an anomalus test," he said quietly. "They're not sure why yet."
"Shit," he sighed, sitting down. "So they're doing checks and Horatio's trying to find a cause?" Xander nodded. "Think it's your cooking?" he asked, mostly to hear an amused snort, which he didn't get.
"I thought it might be all the jerky I'm eating," he admitted, looking at him. "I gave them the ingredient list." He considered it. If it was the jerky or something like a chemical reaction to one of the ingredients, he'd have to wait until his system cleared out totally, which could take months. Or.... He stood up. "I've got to see Ethan, tell him that, okay?"
"Fat chance you're getting out of here, Xander," Frank said calmly. "He'd skin me."
Xander looked at him. "If it's something like one of the spices, who says it won't still be in my body in a year, Frank." He looked disgruntled. "I can fix that, but I need help and guidance." He looked around, then chanted quietly and disappeared.
Frank groaned as he got up, heading to tell Horatio immediately that he had lost his boy. He could do many things, but magic wasn't one of them. He tapped on the office door. "He said he went to see Ethan about getting the spices out of his system?"
"Crap," he growled, calling over there.
Ethan's wards woke him about the same time as the phone. He saw the number and figured who the other one had to be. He got up and headed downstairs, glaring at the young man. "It had better be life or death."
Xander looked up at him, nearly ready to cry. "I need to detox everything unnatural out of my system."
"Because it's clouding blood work." He swallowed. "Please, Ethan. This is too important to screw up."
Ethan looked at him, he knew that look. He's seen that same worry in many eyes right after a bad blood test. "Yours came out positive?" he asked quietly.
"Cloudy, they couldn't tell." He looked down. "It's got to either be something to do with my swimming, which might mean the mermaid stuff I was exposed to back in my junior year, or it's got to do with the jerky I've started eating again. Nothing else has changed."
Ethan went into the kitchen, putting on water to boil. "There's two ways to do that, but neither will take the taint you carry. They will however take all that nastiness that you call jerky out of your system. First I need to do a few things, look you over, call your mate - who called just as you got here - and that sort of thing." He measured tea into the pot once it screamed at him, then walked away for a few minutes, going to find the reference book he needed. Xander was sitting quietly, curled in a corner of his couch like a little ball of human being. "Calm down. This isn't clearly a bad test result yet."
"I get three anomalus ones and they'll consider it to be," he said, looking at him. "Those are the rules."
"They are," he agreed. "I've seen others it was done to." He sat down with the book, then got up to get his tea. "Xander, tea?"
"I can't eat."
"Tea isn't eating."
"Close enough." Ethan came back, staring at him. "I can't."
"You have to keep your strength up, either way it goes." Xander looked up then shrugged. "Fine. I'll have tea while I read. You go rest for an hour or so. I'll come to the house."
"Horatio was going to handcuff me at the station."
"That's because your first instinct was to flee."
Xander looked at him. "Did you track me for him last night?"
"No, he has more mundane ways of tracking you than using me," he said patiently, going back to his reading. "Head home."
"I can't. I'll pace and fuss and whine."
"Yes, well, I can't concentrate while you're staring."
"Which way are we going?"
"I was going to try a new thing with you." He sat down to start reading again. "Home, Xander."
"Yes, Ethan." He chanted and headed home, landing on the couch beside Eric, who reached over to smack him. "Ow!"
"Quit trying to run, Xander."
"I wasn't. I was going to get someone to take all the jerky and stuff out of my system."
"Yay. It's still close enough to running." He looked at him. "Di wanted to know if you wanted the baby today."
"I...." He stopped, then shook his head. "I can't, not right now."
"Okay." He called her back. "Hey, Di, me. No, he's still kinda sleepy and going back to bed. No, he's too tired. I would but I'm at work. What's wrong?" He rolled his eyes. "He's a toddler, they're all holy terrors."
"Maybe Marisol would babysit for a few hours?" Xander asked softly.
"Let me call Marisol, see what she's doing today. No, I had to come out to wake him up. Thanks." He hung up and called his sister. "Hey, it's me. You busy and want baby Eric for a few hours? He's driving his mother insane while she's trying to fit clothes. The models are creeped out by the baby Xander." He grinned. "Sure. Thank you." He hung up. "Good idea." He looked at him. "You're doing what?"
"Hoping like hell Ethan's got a way to wear all the jerky out of my system."
"Does that mean you'll be a normal guy?" Xander looked at him. "Relatively speaking?"
"No, but I may not be able to eat my own cooking anymore." He curled up in a little ball again. "I'm not running. You can go back to work."
"This is my assignment for the day unless we get multiple bodies." He grinned at him. "It's nice that my last case was easier." Xander nodded, slumping down some. "Go to bed, Xander."
"No, I can't." He got up and went into the kitchen, then headed outside for a run. At least it'd get his blood moving. He always felt better when it was moving.
Eric trailed behind him in his car. No sense in him getting as sweaty as Xander was getting.
Ethan walked into Horatio's office. "I've knocked your boy out after I got done with him."
"Let me put you on hold, Chief. No, he was helping Xander with something." He put the phone on hold and looked at him. "And?"
"Something in the jerky does not respond well to chlorine in his body. Because of the taint he carries, his body was absorbing some of it. He's fine, I took both out of his system."
"So it's the jerky or the pool?"
"Or quit making him take blood tests."
Horatio looked at him. "I told him he could quit six months ago. They told him he could quit six months ago."
"Good point. He is a bit stubborn and paranoid where your health and safety are concerned. It's now totally out of his system and it should come up clear when they do the next one. I didn't feel it in him, Horatio, and I've helped a few with it before."
"Not a problem." He smirked. "Xander now owes me however."
"I'll make sure it's nothing harmful." Ethan just smirked and strolled off. He put the Chief off hold and listened to him complain. "Sorry about that." More complaints. "No, why?" He listened to the question about why his whole lab was going in for blood work. "Because it's nearly time for everyone." He hung up on him. Not politically correct but oh well. It was fairly satisfying at the moment. He leaned back, then pulled some results out of the bottom of his desk drawer, looking them over. Their lab had found miniscule evidence of the mermaid's taint. Nothing too terribly telling, just a few odd cells every now and then. Enough that the computer had hesitated over declaring the skin sample normal and healthy. The DNA test hadn't shown any different but the blood work had always bothered him. It showed a higher than average level of nitrogen in Xander's blood. Which showed up as well in Eric's but that was from diving he assumed. He went online to look that up, finding it odd and not included. He'd have to get someone to redo that bloodtest now that he was perfectly clean.
To Part 2: