Xander peeked around a corner, finding almost no one in the lobby, so he snuck over to the desk. "Hi." The woman smiled at him. "My dad's here. I'm taking him to lunch but he doesn't know that yet."
"I can have him paged, sir."
"Thank you. Tim Speedle, from Miami's lab?"
"Sure." She paged him and Xander went to stare at the plants until he came out looking confused. She pointed. "Your lunch date, sir."
Speed walked over there, then smirked. He knew that back, even though he was in leather. "Xander?" His son turned and hugged him. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm in town learning from Lady Heather." He smiled at him. "I'm off for three weeks for training."
"Wow. Hold on, you're training for real as a dom?" Xander nodded. "Okay, this requires explanation."
"I'm taking you to lunch."
"Supposedly I'm learning. Let me text someone." He pulled out his phone to text Calleigh then led him off to the local buffet place. A lot of food for not a lot of money was good for both their budgets. They ended up in a booth with him hugging his boy. His boy needed him, he could tell. The waitress looked at him. "My son."
She smiled. "He's adorable." She put down place settings and left them alone.
Xander pulled back slowly, looking at him. "They think you're my daddy in that special way probably."
"Do I care? I don't work here." He kissed him on the forehead. "Let's get food then we'll talk." Xander nodded, letting him go so he could load up and come back. Tim followed, watching how he moved. He looked confident but there was something in his eyes. Xander was the prince of acting normal when his life was going to hell so he was sure it was something bad. They both sat down with their drinks, this time across from each other, then Tim took his first bite. "Okay, training?"
"I've been working at a club, you know that, right?" Tim nodded, he knew that, Xander talked about it a lot. "I told you I'm taking lessons with Steven?"
"You did. A few months back," he agreed, eating another bite.
"Well, I learned what Steven could give me and then he referred me to one of the grande dames of the US."
"Who is here and Lady Heather," he said, finishing that thought. Xander beamed and nodded. "She accepted you?"
"How are you training?"
"From the outside. I can't do it like normal," he said, looking down and then stuffing his mouth. Tim kicked him under the table so he looked at him. "I can't and she understands that."
"Good. It shows she's good at what she does. Are you, um, planning to open up a playground like that?"
"No. I was planning on having ones that come to me because they *need* me and then taking in a few paying clients to pay the rent."
"That's good," he decided.
"I'm working with the cops who go to Steven. Sometimes it takes knowing what they're going through."
"Which is a good thing," Tim agreed, smiling at him. "Excited?" Xander smiled and nodded. "I would be too. So, talked to Aiden?" He ate another bite.
"Supposedly her phone's not working again but I'm going to send something to eat her present boyfriend because he's a jealous asshole. She thought I was kidding in my last email."
Tim smirked. "Send Spike, I heard he's back in Sunnydale."
Xander smirked wickedly. "Did they get him?" He nodded. "He can still torment him then." He grinned at him. "I met my grandfather, finally!"
"Really? He okay?"
"Remember Giles going over that book on Father Benis?" He nodded. "That's my grandfather." Tim choked. "He's a pretty nice guy but he doesn't always understand me. I told him up front he wasn't allowed to spoil me to have strings and he didn't. He's getting to know me as his grandson instead. Did you know he supports a lot of gay rights groups?"
"I didn't," he agreed. "You're not letting him spoil you?"
"Not more than the occasional candy bar."
Tim blinked at that. "I'm glad I don't have the same restriction. Christmas would be really hard." Xander blushed at that. "What did you want for Christmas?"
"A visit?" he asked. Tim leaned over to hug him again. "Thanks, dad. I've even got a spare room."
"I'll see what I can do," he promised, smiling at him. "You could come down."
"Christmas is a busy season for us."
"I guess it would be, all the pain of not having an understanding family and things." Xander drank some of his soda. "I do understand, Xander."
"I know. By the way, I'm going by your name."
"Speed?" he teased. "You do go fast and bounce."
Speed grinned. "I can accept that. It's a good name for you." He patted his hand, making his son relax and look at him again. "Anyone nice in your life?" Xander shook his head quickly. "No one? Not even someone nice at the clubs?"
"I'd like it to mean more than that, dad."
"I understand that. Have you been on any dates?"
"One and it wasn't that great," he sighed, wiping off his mouth so he could look at him. "I'm so confused sometimes. I know I don't mind it. I like watching it, I didn't mind the one person I let have some fun in the bathroom," he finished more quietly since there were families around. "But I can't..."
"I know," he soothed. He could see the frustration building. "What about the cops your present mentors work with?" Xander's snort of disgust told him all he needed to know. "Anyone nice?"
"I could like Danny but he treats me like I'm a retarded five-year-old most of the time. The rest he gives me wary looks. Sheldon's nice. Uptight, too nice for me. He'd never understand and he'll have a nice girl like Stella some year. If he ever gets off his butt. Mac's ...really uptight. He understands some of where I've been but he's kinda very clueless and not watching. Don's nice, but he's always busy." He picked up his fork again and ate a listless bite. "I could crush on him but he's straight. He has a fond appreciation for Stella's chest."
Tim gave his hand a squeeze. "It'll work itself out, Xander, and you know you can come to Miami or Seattle with either of us."
"Then I could beat Mom's boyfriend in person. She might mind that," he said dryly.
"True, she might." He smiled. "You could come to Miami. I've shown them all your picture. I've bragged about you a lot. Horatio's probably expecting you to come down some year soon." Xander blushed at that. "Plus, not a bad place to set up shop with your idea. We have a small community and most of the ones we know are only for fun. I know there's a need in the community, especially at the station." Xander looked at him. "And hey, take massage therapy classes, Xander. You can combine them if you need to. It'd give you extra income." Xander smiled at that, nodding. "That's my boy." He grinned back. "I really wanted you to go to Miami instead. I think you'd have been happier."
Xander shrugged. "They're too busy to babysit me and I'm almost nineteen, Timmy. It's not the first time I've been ignored."
Tim reached over to smooth back some of Xander's hair. "I'm not ignoring you, even if I can't answer the phone right away," he reminded him. "Calleigh got kinda mad when I interrupted her cuddling and crying on my shoulder to talk."
"You needed it just as much as she did," he pointed out. "You're my boy." He grinned again. "Besides, if you'd come down to Miami you could have a grandmother too."
He considered it. "Maybe after my training," he said quietly. Tim gave him a look. "I'm under contract with some of the subs at the moment. I've got at least six months before the last one runs out."
"I understand." He pushed that piece of hair back again. "You need a trim."
"I'm letting it grow."
"It's a mop, at least get it shaped. It'll grow a bit faster then. Or so the girls tell me."
Xander nodded. "I heard that too. Gods, Buffy screwed us up as men." Tim burst out laughing, nodding at that. He shrugged. "She did and then I got Willow on top of that. I can apply a face mask."
"You do, very well," Tim agreed happily. He leaned over to kiss him on the forehead. "You know Aiden's here too right?" Xander shook his head. "Really? Huh. Well, she can have you for dinner."
"I've got to report at eight."
"Let me page her." He went to do that, coming back a minute later. "She'll be right down. She was in her room moping."
"Not an issue, kiddo. You know I'm there for you."
"So, if I come to Miami will you set me up with nice guys?" he asked, looking hesitant.
"Definitely. A lot of nice guys until you find one we can both like. Because he's got to get along with me too." Xander smiled again.
Aiden walked in and paid her fee, looking around. Tim waved and she came over, then squealed and pounced Xander to hug. "Baby!" She snuggled into his side. "What are you doing in Vegas?"
"I'm here for some training."
"For the bartender stuff?" she asked.
"No, for the dom stuff."
She blinked. "Okay, that I must've missed," she said dryly.
"I wrote you about it. Did he delete another one and who would you like to eat him for you?" He smiled sweetly. She shivered and backed off some. "The only one who can spank you is someone I give permission or Dad." He kissed her on the cheek. "And I'm very good at spanking, mom. I'm out here for advanced training for three weeks with Lady Heather."
She stared at him. "I've got to reread those letters better," she complained. He nodded. Tim laughed and nodded. "Huh. How's New York?"
"I'm going to kick their asses," Tim told her. "By the way, they're mostly here, Xander."
"They ignore me when I'm in the room, they can do it here while we're having lunch," he said patiently. He ate another bite and nudged her. "Food, mommy. You need food. You're losing weight and pretty soon people are going to ask if you charge again." She blushed and went to get food since Tim was laughing. "Not her fault the vampire thought she was smoking the rock of choice on the streets," he said dryly. He cleaned his plate and got up to get more, coming back to sit beside his mom and rest his head on her shoulder.
"I love you too, baby. You're my boy. I've dumped him but he's being stubborn."
"Ask Willow to borrow Spike," Xander said quietly. She burst out giggling. "He would."
"He would. He so would." She stroked his cheek. "Sit up and eat, baby. Mommy says so." He sat up and dug in again. "So, you're training with Lady Heather?" He nodded. "Why?"
"The guy I trained with in New York is a basics guy. He's the guy who does the basics and none of the fancy stuff. So I'm learning techniques and letting Lady Heather tell me what I need to do with the plan I have. Then Dad wants me to move to Miami."
She looked at him. "I'll kill them," she said, getting up and storming out, no matter how much the two boys tried to stop her. "Flack!" she bellowed from the doorway. "I want you, Taylor, and Meeser in the hall, NOW!" Danny shuddered at that voice. "Right the hell now!" She slammed the door and paced, tapping a foot when they slowly slunk out. She slapped Mac as hard as she could. "You fucking well made my son miserable! I ask you to do one *simple* thing, be a big brother. That takes maybe two hours a week. What do you do? My son's in the sex industry!" she yelled. "I don't care if he is happy being a dom!" She took a deep breath. "My son is in a really bad spot right now and I doubt any of you three have seen him in the last two weeks at the very least!"
"Whoa! I talked to him a few weeks ago," Danny assured her.
"Did Xander complain?" Don asked.
She slapped him this time. "He's my fucking son, Flack! I know when my boy's miserable!" He ducked that one. Stella came out. "And you! How fucking hard is it to show one boy that women aren't evil? You couldn't set him up with someone nice?" Stella backed away from her. "My son's a dom!"
"He is?" Mac asked. "I thought he was a bartender."
Danny and Don both looked at him. "We told you he was training that way," Don reminded him.
"I thought it was like dinner theater."
Danny shook his head. "Nope." He looked at her. "I've tried but I'm not comfortable around Xander. He sets off 'I'm a bad person' alerts in my head since he's still hunting."
She smacked all three of them and huffed. "My son should not be hunting. How hard is it to get him off that?" she asked Mac.
"He said it was necessary," Stella complained. "Don't hit them again, I'll arrest you." Aiden smacked her this time.
Danny grabbed one arm, Don grabbed the other.
"Aiden, I've pointed out how dangerous that is," Mac said quietly. "I can't handcuff the boy and make him not hunt or work. Even though I had no idea he was doing more than bartending at a questionable club."
"Did you try talking to him about *why*?" she demanded. "It worked really well for me and Tim!" She got free and glared at them. "You two can't spare two hours a week for my son? Just two damn hours to talk to him, maybe eat with him to make sure he's actually eating *food* instead of hyping the profits of the Hostess company again? Introduce him to nice folk who might end up friends even if they're not going to date him? Or should I mention how many people Xander's turned in to Munch at SVU?"
"He has?" Mac asked. "I know about one."
"Try more like five, Mac," Don offered.
"Try more like nine, Don," Xander said from behind him. "Mommy, leave them alone. They work very busy jobs and don't have time for me. Once my current contracts are up Dad's trying to get me to move to Miami." She gave him a hug and he snuggled into her arms. "It's not their fault. It's the nature of the world," he reminded her. "Relax for now, mommy. It's all right for the moment." She nodded and looked at him. "Really. Now, you're only in the same city as I am for a few days," he said quietly. "Can you blow off later? I've got to report at eight. I should shower and change before then."
"I've got a dinner I can skip," she promised. "I'll help you with a haircut and pick out your clothes."
"Mom," he complained. "I'm trying to let it grow out, be a bit more goth since that's my chosen working and stripping music."
"You were stripping?"
"A special birthday request," he said proudly. "I earned a few grand as a tip since I was a pure little boy *that* way." She smiled at that. "The trannies really liked me and so did the other three times I did it." He looked at Mac. "Sorry but you know she has a temper. I know you're busy guys." He walked her off, taking her to safety.
"Are we that bad to him?" Danny asked.
"Xander, why are you in Las Vegas?" Stella called.
"I'm training with Lady Heather for a while."
"Are you coming back?" Don asked.
"Yeah. In a few weeks." They disappeared through another door.
"Who's Lady Heather?" Danny asked.
"One of the more famous dommes in the business," Stella said patiently, looking at him. "You do treat him like he's an extremely stupid five-year-old."
"He does stupid stuff!"
Don rubbed his sore cheek. "Aiden's been lifting weights. But she looked good."
"She did," Danny agreed, smirking at him. "When was the last time you saw him?"
"Um, few days ago I thought. I stopped by the bar but he was working on someone so I snuck off again. I figured I'd go out to dinner with him when we got back."
"Before then?" Stella asked.
"Um," Danny said, thinking back. "The day I found out he threatened Sassone."
"Probably a few days after that," Don admitted. "I heard he met his grandfather. Xander left it on my voicemail. I called him back to pump him for information." They all looked at Mac.
"He's not that comfortable with me," he said, looking hurt.
Stella looked up and shook her head, then smacked all three of them. "How hard is it to be a big brother to someone? Sheldon manages it with three kids, you couldn't even manage it with one boy who needed some attention. He wouldn't care as long as it was attention. With his history, he might've even welcomed bad attention!" she said, glaring at them. They all looked sheepish. "If he stays in New York, I'd change. You've all seen what happens when people feel that they're abandoned and alone in our city." They all shuddered at that. "So unless we want to see him dead some day soon, let's fix this, boys. Now, we've probably got people inside wondering what's going on. I'd go in there and look calm. Am I clear?" They nodded and went that way, she muttered a few choice words at their backs in Greek and followed. The presenter gave them an odd look. "They're sorry. They're men and therefore inferior. Their inadequacies will be addressed once we get home."
"Of course, dear. The other screaming woman?"
"Is with her son."
"Oh, that's fine then. I'm sure she can get the notes." He went back to his slides.
A few of the Miami guys looked over but the New York team was ignoring everyone in favor of nursing hurt feelings. In two cases hurt cheeks too.
Eric Delko, one of Speed's teammates, stopped him, glancing around then back at him. "Was that about your son?"
He nodded. "Yeah. Aiden asked her former teammates to mentor our son."
"Miserably. Ignored him totally. She's not too thrilled he's a dom."
"He is?" Eric asked, looking surprised.
Tim smiled. "Apparently he's a good one too. I'm trying to talk him into coming down to Miami once he's free of contracts." He looked at Horatio. "I need to go visit him soon, H. They're idiots."
"I'm sure they were just busy, Speed. We do have a demanding job."
"And I've got a sweet son with a combat history to protect others," he said quietly. "Who's nineteen. Who's a serious abuse survivor." Horatio shuddered. "Danny keeps thinking that he'll turn into one of the serial killers that like to stalk him. I think he won't but you never know."
Horatio nodded. "Then bring him down. We'll gladly help you. You know that."
"I do, but I'm still going to go visit him, even if I have to quit."
"If you should try to quit, I'm letting Calleigh and Alexx handcuff you. They can go snatch your son from his apartment."
"His subs might mind," Eric said dryly. Horatio gave them both a stunned and almost horrified look.
"I was watching. Mac didn't know. He's been training now since about his third week in the city. He thought he was still just bartending. Don's tried. He likes Don, thinks Flack is a great guy. He said Danny treats him like a retarded five-year-old but Flack tries now and then. When he's not killing himself with work. But it's in the eyes with Xander." He looked at Eric. "If and when he comes down, we've got to set him up with some nice guys. Maybe some nice girls but he's thinking in that direction. For some reason most women he dates end up trying to kill him."
Eric swallowed. "Okay," he agreed quietly. "I'll ask the few I know. I don't know many gay guys."
"You know more than you think," Calleigh assured him. "Was that about your son? That sounded like Aiden when you two talked on the speaker in the lab the other day."
"Who called who?" Horatio asked.
"She called my cell and it's got an external speaker," Speed said patiently, giving him a look. He looked at his girlfriend and smiled. "It was Aiden. She smacked the hell out of the New York team." She smiled at that. "If I can get Xander down, we've got to set him up on some nice dates."
"Maybe, but most of them want to kill him. He's *real* wary of women. But he does think he likes guys but he hasn't had any really fulfilling dates."
"It's hard to start over in a city the size of New York," Stella agreed as she joined them. "I've tried but he's really not comfortable with me, Speed. Especially not when I tried to fix his cooking problem."
Speed shuddered. "I gave up after a few lessons too. Don't feel too badly about that failure. Xander's the only guy I know who can take boxed stuffing mix and make it poisonous." They all laughed but Stella.
She shook her head. "He's not kidding. He sent Sheldon and Don to the hospital with a fairly simple, overcooked chicken with a bottled sauce poured over it. We watched him clean it, take out the insides, open the sauce. The chicken was so done it was brittle. They still got food poisoning from it." She looked at Tim. "Did you have to test that breath spray or the jerky?"
"That jerky is evil," he said plainly. "Really evil. If you can survive the week of runs and being so horny you nearly kill others, you'll live through anything."
Horatio laughed. "You're kidding, right?" Speed shook his head. "Oh please tell me you're kidding," he pleaded.
"I think someone's had enough alcohol," Eric said, taking Horatio's glass from him. He sniffed it. "At least it's the good stuff." He walked off finishing it for him.
Calleigh looked at Stella. "How bad is he with women?"
"The only time I've heard about a date with a woman he ended up running from her because it was a nice date. It went great over dinner, she was happy and laughing. He paid the check, they went out to the car so she could drive herself home while he took a cab. She pulled a knife and chased him down for not kissing her."
Calleigh moaned. Speed nodded. "Most of the women he's dated want to kill him.
"That's insane," Calleigh complained.
"Xander said he's turned nine people over to SVU for being sick bastards," Stella told her. "That doesn't count the one Don caught stalking him I bet or probably any he got away from and didn't have arrested."
"He's got six months left on his longest contract," Speed said firmly. "He's coming to Miami."
"Sure." She gave him a hug. "I tried, Speed. I'm an alien to him."
"Any mothering woman would be, except Aiden and she's not the mushy and cuddlesome sort. Really she did more with the girls while I cuddled Xander and took him in. I wonder if his parents are living." Stella gave him a look. He shook his head. "We ran them out of town before he got sold to a dom who likes to play too hard and break his toys in a permanent manner. LA SVU was looking at him for at least twelve homicides."
"Crap," Stella complained.
"Exactly," Speed agreed. "We literally ran them out of town begging for their lives. Then I got Xander homework help because school and he don't get along very well. But I still want him to try college."
"Maybe he'll take business classes to help his future plans," Stella offered. Tim smiled at that. "You'll figure it out but we'll miss the little goofball around the office. Danny lets him pick on Monroe. Cuts her ego in half some days." She kissed him on the cheek. "You've got a very strong son, Speed. He's a good boy most of the time. Even if he did beat up on the leader of the Tanglewood gang so he'd be left in peace and not broken into."
"He did what?" Calleigh asked slowly. Stella nodded. "Why?"
"Apparently they decided he was an alpha dog in their 'hood," Stella said grimly. "Danny said he ran into Sassone a few days later and he had broken ribs but he was *real* respectful of Xander. Looked at him like he was one of the guys he had turned over to SVU. Also, if you *really* wanna know what's going on with that? I'd call Munch or Stabler. They're his overseers for anything like that. Though he likes the other guys, brought them cookies from what I heard." She smiled. "I did try."
"I know you did. No, he'll never be a bad guy. If he even thought he was being a bad guy he'd kill himself," Speed assured her. She nodded at that. "Sheldon's really helping him?"
"Now and then. They don't connect on a lot of levels but he's kinda looking at him as an exemplar of what to look for in his other mentoring kids. He said if one of them ever started to hunt vampires he'd immediately sit them down and talk to them about how it might be necessary but killing them was a very slippery slope."
Speed nodded. "It can be but it's damn cathartic." She laughed at that. "It is." He gave her a hug. "Be safe in the big city and watch out for my son as much as you can since you work with the three monkeys."
She laughed. "Yup, I do. They're going to have their asses kicked when I get home. I'm going to tell Sheldon and Flack's boss, who thinks Xander's a very nice young man, even if he is a bit odd. Then again, Flack's father's met him and seems to like him, but considers him tragically damaged." She grinned and walked off.
"Huh," Calleigh said, smiling at him. "At least it could be worse. He could've slipped down the slope already."
Speed nodded. "True. We'll get him down there and things'll be okay," he promised. "Alexx will love and baby him for *months* because he can't cook."
"Is he moving in?"
"Probably not. Even back then he had this problem with asking for help when he needs it. He's one very stubborn young man. Like I said, he's been working since his third day in the city. He even told his grandfather he couldn't spoil him with more than candy. But we do have to shop for the holidays and I do need to arrange for a visit since that's his busy time of the year."
"I guess a dom would see a lot of people who needed to release family issues," she agreed. "Are you comfortable with his occupation choice?"
"No, but it's very Xander." He smiled and kissed her on the cheek then went to get another drink. He didn't want to talk to any of the New York crew at the moment and Taylor looked like he was hunting someone.
Xander looked at Lady Heather the last night of his training. "Did I do okay?"
"You did very well, Xander. I'm giving you full marks." She stroked his cheek with a soft, gentle smile. The boy brought out the mothering side of him. "I also like how you've fleshed out your idea. The massage idea wasn't a bad one."
"Daddy gave it me."
"Good! It shows he's accepting."
"Concerned, but yeah." She smiled and nodded at that. "You really think I could do that?"
"I do, but I think that you should charge a very minimal fee for those who *need* you to help them release it instead of those who just want to play." He nodded at that wisdom. "I also think you've got a better touch with whips than I do." He took her hand to squeeze. She had just lost her daughter and he had held her while she had cried after she had whipped her killer nearly to death. The boy understood those urges. "Now, there is one last thing we should speak of."
"The reason you had me move here?"
She nodded, handing over a folder. "I had someone local research him for me. This is not a nice man, Xander."
Xander looked then at her. "I know him." She looked stunned. "He comes to the club I work in back home. I've got support up there if I need it. He wouldn't be the first one I've turned in. Do they have anything on him?"
"Just suspected things." She gave his hand a squeeze. "Are you sure you want to go back? You're more than worthy to work here and slowly build your own place."
"I would but I'm only on an excused leave from Steven and his subs. He had me sign a contract with one of them."
"I understand." She smiled at him. "I wish you the best of luck and I hope some day you rival me, Xander."
"I don't want that much," he said with a small grin. "But thank you." She smiled. He kissed her on the cheek. "Write me if you want, Lady Heather, or if you just need to talk. I'm used to women babbling at me and a calmer one might be nice."
She looked into his eyes. His mother had stopped by to tell her some things and she did understand. "I shall, Xander. Be at ease at home."
"Are you sure you don't want me here for the funeral?"
"I'll have support." He nodded and kissed her cheek again before taking the folder with him and heading to pack his bag and go home. She sighed. "He's such a sweet boy. He could've been one of the best men to some woman; a loving and caring father that would've created children who made a difference in the world. Instead, death taunts and follows him." She sipped her tea. "But some day he will be healed."
Xander walked into Don's precinct the next morning and put the folder down on his desk, making him look at him. "He followed me to Vegas and Elliot said it's not a sex crime thing so he said to give that to you. Besides, they're really busy right now, there's some sort of convention in town."
"I wish them the best of luck finding them all," Don agreed, looking at the folder. "Who researched him?"
"One of the Las Vegas guys Lady Heather knows."
"Did your training go okay?"
"I learned a lot," he said with a gentle smile. "It was great to work with her and she helped me understand what I'd need when I went out on my own with the plans I had. We worked very well together and I was there for her when her daughter was killed."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
He shrugged. "Neo-nazi bastard," he said blandly. "Read, please. He comes into the club and I need to know if I need to taunt him to get evidence or not."
Don looked it over then at him. "He's an international assassin?"
"As far as they can tell."
"Not good." He looked up the name in their system, finding him suspected of being involved with three killings but no proof of it. "Okay, let me get with Mac and them. Then we'll see what you need to do." He caught Xander's wrist before he could move. "I did try."
"I know you did. It was nice that you came around now and then. You're a busy guy though and mom imposed." He shrugged and got free, going to check in and call his boss. "I'm back in the city. Am I still employed?" He smiled. "Fully. She gave me the highest marks and I've got a report for Steven coming," he said proudly, walking down the stairs. "Thanks, boss. Sure, eight. Love you too." He hung up and caught the subway home, smiling at the guys sitting on his steps when he made it there. "Are you guys watching my place for me or just lounging?"
"Lounging," Sonny said dryly, staring at him. "You were gone?"
"Lose big?" he snorted.
"Training with Lady Heather. But no, I won three grand over the whole trip." He smiled. "And I did an open pole night and got one hell of a huge tip from one of the casino owners. I even went out on a decent date because Lady Heather set me up with a very nice person." He smiled more gently. "But thanks for asking, Sonny. Can I pass?" One of the guys moved. "Thanks. Why are you guys lounging here?"
"Waiting on your neighbor."
"Which one? The nurse or the older lady?"
"New guy who moved upstairs."
Xander looked. "Tall guy, about six-two, dark hair, named George?" They all nodded. "Aw, crap, he found me here too." He headed inside, going to check his apartment over. He came out with his beloved whip. "Okay, who was in my guns?" One of the guys handed it over. "Is it still clean?"
"Yeah, man, sorry. It was scarier than anything I had at home. Needed it to prove a point." He yelped when the whip got him on the back. "Sorry!" He ran off.
"Keep your toys out of my toys," Xander told Sonny. He snapped it to catch the end and walked up the stairs shaking his head.
"He get you?" Sonny called. His guy nodded, showing him the welt on his back. "That's gotta sting."
"Boss!" he moaned. "Can't we beat him?"
"You can try, but I doubt you'll get very far," Xander called. "I hunt for necessity down on the West End."
That got a mass of shudders.
"Told you so," Sonny said dryly. The new neighbor showed up with a bag. "So, you're in my neighborhood." The guy pulled a gun and stuck it in his face. "Oooh, yay," he said dryly. "Boys? He's got a gun," he said with a smirk. They clapped at that. "You think you're so bad?" he taunted, standing up.
Xander came back down with the whip. "No, he knows he's so bad; he's reported to be an international assassin. Hi, George."
"Master Tim." He nodded respectfully. "I am not stalking you. I wish to hire you to help me."
"Be an assassin?"
"No, release myself."
"I'm still in training."
"I know. I would arrange that with the one who watches over you," he promised. "I'm hoping it'd only be a few weeks worth, but I need it."
Xander considered it. "I've got to work tonight." That got a nod and he put the gun up, heading upstairs. He looked at Sonny, who stared in horror. "They think he's killed eighteen people," he said quietly. "He's my first one in two months." He walked off again, going to call Steven. This was an ethical dilemma. He'd want to turn him in. He knew what was confessed to him was supposed to be sacred, but that he wasn't comfortable with. They argued back and forth for nearly an hour but Steven agreed in the end that he did have valid points and should turn it down. He went up to talk to the guy to tell him that, explaining why he was having the difficult thoughts. He listened then made his counterpoints but Xander knew he'd have to turn him in and that would violate the rules of confession.
Xander tapped on Mac's door an hour before he had to go to work. "Got a few?"
"What's wrong? A new PTSD episode?" he asked, looking concerned.
"No, an assassin wants me to be his dom."
"Can you get information for us?"
"We're like priests, Mac. We don't tell what we're told."
He slumped at that. "Even they tell sometimes if it's bad enough."
He shrugged. "It's an ethical doubt I still have. I've told him this and he said he needs to shed it, make his soul lighter before he retires."
"Which means you'd probably be in danger because he told you," Mac said, looking him over. "You look good in the leather."
"Thanks. Mom helped me pick them out." He grinned. "I won good in Vegas too." He stepped inside. "I don't know what I can do, Mac. This violates every tenet of the faith placed in us. Don has his folder since Lady Heather found him stalking me out there. She refused him entry."
"Did you talk to her?"
"She's at her daughter's funeral."
"I'm sorry." He considered it. Then he looked at him. "Even if you heard he had a new target..."
"I couldn't tell but I could prevent it," he admitted. "Plus I'm not sure he's not looking for this as a way to die. A final punishment. I don't know why I think that. I'm having him come in tonight to talk to Steven with me since I'm still officially not graduated to full dom status."
"Okay, then the harder question is why didn't he go to someone more experienced?"
"I'm known for handling cops and agents," Xander said quietly. "What they come in for I've seen."
"There are cops who are doms. I know a few, Xander. Why didn't he go to them?"
"Because they'd have to turn him in?"
"Perhaps. Or perhaps because he knows you're so new and he knew he could get around you, that you're still unsure where the rules have wiggle room. Murderers who confess often go to very young priests because they strictly adhere to any and every rule. Unlike the older, family priests who've seen and heard everything and know when to bend that rule."
"I have one of those at the club. He works with one of the female dommes." He considered that. "I'm guessing that's why I referred him back to Steven?"
"Ask yourself this, why did Lady Heather forbid him entrance to her house? She could have protected you another way if it was just about you." He nodded at that wisdom. "Don had the guy's folder?"
"She had one of the guys in Las Vegas, Warrick or something like that, research for her."
"That's fine. I know him and I can call if we've got questions. We won't be coming tonight." Xander relaxed at that. "Unless you call."
"I'll call if I need to," Xander agreed. "Thanks, Mac." He left, walking the last few blocks to the club. He found Steven waiting on him and drew him back into one of the private rooms to go over his doubts and feelings on the subject, including that Lady Heather had refused him admittance, and what Mac had said. Steven considered it and went to talk to the guy alone, then he brought Xander into it and reminded him about the confession oaths not to tell anyone anything. It was a long, heated discussion that got Xander glared at by his boss. So he went to tell him why, getting a nod of understanding but Xander did go sling drinks when needed.
Xander stepped in front of the guy walking down the street later the next evening. "You should go home, Sonny."
"Why?" he snorted. "And what're you doin' here, Harris? This isn't your neighborhood and your pass don't extend near my home."
"I'm saving your ass."
"Because confession is just as sacred to us as it is to priests," he said quietly.
"What are you talking about?"
"Sonny, what's my *job*?" he demanded quietly.
"You spank people. And? What? They confess to you?"
"About things, yeah. Things that they've done, are planning to do."
He suddenly caught a clue. "You heard something about me?" Xander nodded. "Can you tell me who?" He shook his head. "So you're *protecting* me?"
"It's either this or I've got to put you in an institutional setting. That way I can prevent it. It's the only way I can do that. Right now I'm too sore and tired to beat your ass. I cleaned and worked out earlier with my battle axe. Been a while."
"Oh." He blinked and frowned. "You'd send me to the hospital to keep me from being killed?"
"I don't believe in the random or for-profit killing of humans, Sassone. I never have. Hunting out of necessity, sometimes out of frustration. Never for profit." That got a surprised look but a nod. "Now, I can prevent it or not. I'm one of the good guys though. So therefore I have to try to prevent it."
"He could've used a sniper rifle."
"So, what? You want me to hide?"
"I can handle any little hitter, Harris."
Xander looked at him. "Not this one. I can't handle this one. I can make him beg but I can't stop him. This is all I'm allowed to do by my oaths. Now, please, go back inside. If I have to put you in an institution I will."
"You won't," he snorted. "You just said you're tired."
"Hospitals aren't the only institutions, Sonny." He looked horrified. "Next time you hold up Mrs. Johnson on the corner, make sure I'm not home and looking out my windows considering if I really need to go out for more milk." That got an even more horrified look. "Your choice but it would keep you safe."
"That would stomp on our truce."
"So did your guy breaking in to take two of my guns. By the way, he can keep the uzi, it's a pitiful weapon." That got another snort. "I know every single weapon in the collection, Sonny, including the stuff you never found."
"I found the rocket launcher."
"It's a grenade launcher and that's the least of your worries." The man backed up a step. "I'm trying to be a good guy here, Sonny. Your choice which way I have to do it."
"They gonna stop him?"
"Sonny, it's *confession*. The only difference is that I don't wear a collar. I'm not appointed by God to solve problems."
That got a slower nod while he considered it. "We can handle this."
"Then go back inside."
"If I do that he'll come after me here. Could endanger my mother." Xander groaned and shook his head. "It's specific?" Xander gave him a look. "Right, can't tell me." He did have clues if he was smart enough. "All right, I'll stay in tonight. Until I have a business deal but I can change the location of that. Good enough?"
"Thank you." He walked off, going back to the club. He handed the tape to Steven and his boss. They had both told him what he could and could not do. Then he went to take some frustration out on one of the dummies.
Mac looked up from the microscope when someone coughed. "Yes, Rosalie?" he asked their receptionist.
"There's a young woman here who has something for you. She said it's important. She said it's also highly secret." He nodded, putting what he was doing on hold for now to follow her. "Here he is, miss."
"I'm Mac Taylor."
She looked at him. "Confession is the same for us as for your kind," she said quietly. "But sometimes things have to happen even if they can't tell."
He considered that. "I've heard that from both your kind and priests," he agreed, leading her off to the side. "Xander sent you?"
"Steven sent me," she corrected. "As a trainee, Xander went to him with this matter because it was such a serious breach of faith. He could be shunned if he told what he heard in confession."
"Instead, it was told to him that he could *prevent* whatever he heard from happening. That is a tightrope we've worked with before, even if the one you're saving makes you want to scrub yourself with a wire brush." She handed over the tape. "Master Steven sends this. Xander made it earlier when he was preventing. We send this mostly because it doesn't implicate his client but the one he's saving. That is more than acceptable to us since he's not a client."
Mac looked at the tape then at her. "I'll do what I can to help him prevent it and to stop this person." That got a nod. "Can you tell me if his client was the same one that he gave Don the folder on?"
"I cannot. I didn't see him." She stood up. "I wish you luck. There's no love lost for that one on the tape. We do adore Xander and have no wish to have him shunned." She nodded and left, looking very confident and self-assured.
Mac went to AV and handed over the tape. "Play that." He called Flack, letting him hear it. Then he took the tape and bagged it with a note on the front that it was an anonymous tip and why. "What do you want to do, Don?" He nodded at that. "That was Xander. Because they hear confession too, Don," he said dryly. "If they didn't keep the same oath, no one would trust them." He smirked. "We can do that. The person who dropped it off said it didn't implicate his client, just Sassone. She said she wanted a wire brush to scrub with. I told her I'd do my best to clean him up. She couldn't confirm if it was the same client or not. She said she never saw him.
"Don, it's the same as a priest hearing one. I know they don't have the same protections but still. It's about trust, Don. He can be shunned if he told us what he had learned. All they're allowed to do is prevent something from happening, not tell someone that it happened." He nodded. "That's what I got too. Go watch his house, I'll meet you when you follow him. I've got one thing I've got to do first. No, don't tell Danny. Tell Stella if she's with you. I could hear her in the background, Don. Is she drunk? Then take her with you. Xander did threaten to have him arrested," he reminded him dryly. He hung up and went back to his sample to finish running it, looking over the report. It didn't help much but it needed to be done, and then he could help catch Sassone at least for another little while.
Don walked up to where Xander was working the next afternoon, leaning on the bar across from him. "Confession?"
Xander looked at him. "We take an oath, Don. What I do is about trust and letting people let go of things. The same as priests do. I take that oath just as seriously as I do the one to protect others, even assholes like my neighbor."
"You don't have the same protections."
"Don, go find one of the dom officers Mac said he knows and talk to him first," he said quietly. "I cannot tell you anything. It is against my oath," he said at the glare. "My oath is my life, Don. Like your honor is yours."
"I'd have to turn someone in."
"And I worked to stop him. That's all I'm allowed to do. Those are the rules. We all hold them firmly in our hearts, the same as I do the one to protect others. That's why I went to Mac about ethics and I had a long talk with Steven about ethics. Not like I want to not tell you but I'm bound by my oath. My oath says I will not tell anyone anything about anything I learn in a scene or what happens during them. Not to a court, not to another soul. Not even to something that doesn't have a soul. I can't. You can talk to one of the doms who works in the department, see how they get around that."
"How many people did he kill?"
"I can't tell you, Don."
"I can arrest you for that. You can be considered an accessory."
"And I'll tell the judge and the DA the same thing, Don. I can't tell you. This is confession! Even if I'm not a priest. I've heard things that no priest would hear in confession. I can't tell others. That is part of my oath. Now, go find one of the doms in the PD to explain that if you can't get that! Please!"
Don glared at him. "We'll be talking."
"I'm sure you will be." Don stormed out and Xander slumped turning to bang his head into the wall.
"That's the right thing to do, kid," his boss soothed from the end of the bar. "We've all been frustrated by that in the past."
Xander looked at him. "Would it be unethical for me to tip Elliot off to someone I overheard in another person's scene?"
He considered that. "Overheard is still iffy." He looked at him. "His kids?"
"His and a few others."
"That I make an exception for. Will he be back?"
"He's looking for absolution and aversion therapy."
"Then invite him down for a drink the same day."
"Welcome. At least they probably understand some more than that one did."
"Don's a very black and white sorta guy," he admitted. "He lives by the principle of honor, which I understand and I love that principle myself. Doesn't mean it doesn't frustrate me to no end. Especially when I know these things and his next three targets and I have no hope in hell of saving two of them who're good guys."
"You can give hints."
"If I did that, they'd know."
"Do it privately. You can't tell them but you can talk about the ethics with someone like your father or mother." He stared at him. Then Xander smirked. "Would that help?"
"Timmy's been known to have some flexible ethics. I think I should learn that from him," he agreed. That got a nod. "Thank you."
"Welcome, kid. You only got the tough calls because you're so bad."
"I know. Death and I are like exes." He got back to work stocking the bar, wincing some. "Overdid it with the dummy last night."
"Sore. Really sore." He looked at him. "Timmy suggested I take massage therapy classes to help with what I want to do."
"That could be a good sideline," he agreed, smiling. "We could use one around here. Feel free to charge to practice for classes."
"Thanks, boss. Classes are in the mornings starting in a week and a half." He grinned and got back to work.
Don stormed into the SVU floor, glaring at Elliot since he was one of two in there. The other guy he didn't know. "We need ta talk."
"Why? Another one?"
"No. Confession for them is the same as it is for priests?"
Elliot looked at him. "Huh?"
"Xander's other job."
"I thought he was still in training."
"Officially but nearly graduated. Someone apparently came to him seeking absolution and told him shit and he won't tell anyone. Said confession's the same rule the world over."
Elliot blinked at that. "It is. You won't get a good dom to talk about what's went on. I've had one tell me in general terms what had went on after a sub died later on that night. That way we could make sure it wasn't what she had done. It got her shunned." Don sat down next to his desk, staring at him. "Who did he take on?"
"Apparently he had a lot of ethical qualms but an assassin."
"The one in the folder?"
"Probably. He can't confirm or deny that either. He said he could prevent, which is why he went to save Sassone's mangy ass last night."
"Language!" the captain called. He came out of his office. "Flack."
"Cragen. Small issue. The mentoring case I have and Elliot gets work from had an assassin in as a client."
"If he's a serious dom you'll never get him to talk. He can protect, he can prevent, but he'll never tell you."
"The kid's been tortured so I doubt anything would make him break," Elliot agreed.
"He was?" the captain asked.
Don nodded. "Horrible parents. Remember Burns?" That got a smile and a nod. "She and a guy from Miami adopted Xander after his original parents tried to sell him to some master in LA who kills his subs. I heard LA SVU has 'em in their sights."
"Cap, I saw his chest with that first killer for the pictures. He had scars I was afraid to ask about. Front and back."
The boss nodded. "You can get around that the same way you do priests, Flack. They can't outright tell you. They can hint. They can suggest. They can't tell you. They won't tell you."
"It's not right and they don't have that right by law."
"Trust is everything in their world, Flack. No one would trust them enough to go to them and we'd have more people committing suicide or homicide," Elliot offered more quietly. "While it sucks in this case, use what he did give you. He must've hinted if he went to prevent a killing of that thug."
"He did hint. Not a whole lot and not even Danny could figure it out."
"Bring it here. Maybe John can help. He understands that life better than most of us."
"Sure." He handed over a copy of the tape. "Mac said he could use the help. He was clueless too."
"Let me talk to Xander, see where he can hint. Also talk to Steven. Since Xander's in training, his teacher has final say on anything, Don. He had to have watched him."
"Point." He grimaced as he stood up. "They really won't talk?"
"They really won't talk. We can *overhear* things and have in the past from Xander. He went to Stella before he left for the training in Las Vegas about a cop who came in with claims of rape. If it's not *his* client he's got some more flexibility but the life has some pretty deeply rooted rules. It was only twenty years ago you could be locked in a mental ward for liking to be spanked, much less whipped."
"True." He nodded, calming himself down further. "So, should I talk to Steven?"
"My hands are tied unless it's something that falls under our speciality."
"No, from what Lady Heather sent back with Xander, if it's the same guy, he's not into that sort of thing. No kids, no raping, just simple shooting and a few stabbings were thought to be him." That got a nod. "Thanks. Know who Steven is during the day? I doubt Xander's going by his real name."
"No, he's going by Master Tim," the other guy agreed. "He's got a really good rep but it is said that he will bend the rules to protect others, that's he's got a strong set of 'I will not hear this' about his clients. Then again, he handles other cops and federal agents because he's been there and he's stronger." He looked at Don. "He's one hell of a kid, Flack. Steven's a stock broker down off Financial Row, one of the smaller places."
"Thanks, man. Know which one?" They both shook their heads. "We can do a computer search. Thanks." He headed off to find the other Master and talk to him. He called Stella. "What do we know about Xander's teacher Steven? I heard he was a stock broker at a smaller firm off Financial Row." He listened to her. "Can we do a computer search?" He nodded. "Works for me. I'll be back as soon as I can. Traffic's nasty. Thanks, Stella." He hung up and thought about it. He even detoured out that way to see if he could spot him out for a smoke break or lunch. No luck but Stella did know who he was by the time he got back there. She even had a nice, compact warrant for him. They went together, finding him in his office talking to a client over his headset. He saw them and pointed at a couch with a frown, going back to his conversation.
Don sat and Stella lounged, looking very casual and comfortable. The guy finally hung up the phone. "I heard about the ethical qualm."
"You heard the tape?" he asked, walking over to close his office door. "Sorry, my secretary's not going to want to hear this. She's an Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian." He pulled a chair around so he could face them. "I still have to go by the confession oaths, officers."
"Detectives," Stella reminded him. "What would've happened if another officer had overheard it?"
"That's a morally gray area. In cases of extremely violent or sickening crimes, most of us turn the other way. Xander draws people like that because he can break those who've seen combat and killed in the line of duty. He's got a good hand for those who've done what they had to do to survive." They both nodded at that. "As I'm sure someone's had to help him with in the past."
"His dad and mom," Don agreed. He leaned forward. "We got hints. I'm sure you heard the same tape we did." He nodded. "Can you give us more hints?"
"He's got three last targets before he retires," he said quietly. "It was agreed that Xander could talk to others who knew about flexible and firm ethics in one of the cases. That they could take whatever hints he decided on and pass on the other one."
"So he's calling Aiden?" Don asked.
Steven smiled. "I loved Aiden the one time I met her a few years back after a burglary, but no. I heard how she went off on all of you. I suspect he's calling his father." He plucked a piece of lint off his pants and looked at them again. "I wish I could tell you more. One was a special request that has not yet been carried out. The other two are more touchy to him."
"You let him take this on?"
"We all talked about the ethical problems Xander would have. He did not seem too concerned that Xander would definitely feel the need to hint and prevent some of his jobs. Xander made very sure to tell him that he was related to officers and that he was one of those who protected others. That he would definitely feel the need to tell if anything he confessed was too bad." He shrugged. "In these situations our hands are tied by our oaths. We can protect. We can prevent. In cases like the child molester who comes in for aversion therapy we tend to arrange circumstances if we feel it is warranted, like if they're going back to their former problems." Stella nodded at that. "In this case, it is best handled by Xander because he knows those who can warn and prevent them from going on. I fear that the client feels that this adds some thrills to his usual hunt."
"Why do serial killers like Xander?" Stella asked.
He looked surprised. "You haven't seen it?" She shook her head. "He could be like them. He could hunt them actually and it would be a great thing for him." He smiled. "But the boy is still very innocent. He's like the holy angel for them. A pure being who understands them and their desires. One who understands what their mental issues are doing through them. Yet he's still *pure* even though he hunts."
"So he's their patron saint."
"And many saints have been objects of lust. Especially when you're talking about those who let their passionate obsessions rule their lives. Xander is a very sensual boy. He has in him nearly incomprehensible love. Even though he's been in places just as bad, if not worse, than most of the killers he hasn't succumbed. He's risen above it to find a way to use the same urges they feel for a force of good. Something that they can only stare at and wonder at. Sometimes it does frustrate and anger them, they want to erase the one who might understand and stop them. Most of the time they want the person who can understand them. One who can tell them it's all right, can comfort them when the urges get too bad and they feel they have to act out. Who would never judge them for doing it."
"I hadn't thought about it that way," Stella admitted, looking at him. "Can you tell us anything else?" He shook his head.
"Then I really hate ta do this but it's too important this time," Don said, pulling out the warrant. Steven looked at it then at him. "I know you make tapes of his training, Master Steven. I saw him pack them for his first interview with the Mistress in Vegas. Did he tell you she had to turn him away twice out there?"
"That she had, not how many times."
"She had him switch to living at her house to protect him," Don said quietly, nodding at the door.
"We're going over futures options," he called. He looked at Don. "You think this man is a danger to Xander?"
"I do," Stella agreed. "He's the only one who really knows, isn't he?" Steven nodded. "You watched from afar?"
"He mostly whispered.
"Which means Xander's the only witness to what he's doing and done," Don pointed out. "His life is in danger if this guy is going to retire."
Steven smirked. "There are those in the city who would protect him. Including those who want him."
"Yeah, but he's living in the apartment above Xander," Don said bitterly. "We worry about the kid. We're supposed to be watching over him."
Steven looked at him. "A tape was made but it is not pretty. Xander had to work very hard to break him and I fear the audio track will not give you want you want, Detective."
"You have to comply with the warrant or we can arrest you," Stella reminded him. He nodded at that. "They can't blame you for that."
"They wouldn't blame me, they'd blame my student," he told her. "They can and have shunned others for less, Detective."
"His father wants him in Miami," Don pointed out.
"I know. He talked with the sub he signed with the other day." He stood up. "I am not saying I will not but I need to talk to others first, make sure that my student will be fine."
Don nodded. "By ten tonight if possible."
"If at all possible. If not, may I call you?" Don handed over one of his cards. "I thank you for trying to understand."
"I grew up Catholic."
He smiled. "It is much the same but we don't give communion and we mete out the punishment instead of making you do rosaries."
Don nodded, he could understand that one. "I'll expect the call, Steven."
"Of course." He shook their hands. "Come back if you want to talk about retirement funds."
"Oh, I could probably use the help," Stella agreed, making him smile and hand her a pamphlet. "Thanks." She walked out with Don. "He's a very nice guy. I like him."
"He is," Don agreed. "I can see why Xander trusts him." They nodded at the scowling secretary, smiling a bit at her to lighten her mood.
Steven sat behind his desk and initiated a conference call. "Master, we need to talk about my student. That one." He smiled. "He did. He had qualms and we talked him into it," he sighed. "I know but I thought it was good. I was reading the man improperly. No, I have a warrant in front of me for the tape of his session." He nodded at that wisdom. "He does have relatives who are officers," he pointed out. He smiled. "That is reasonable. I don't want him shunned. Heather and I both think he's got real promise." He smiled at the excellent report he had gotten out of his other people. "I think we should meet. I told them by ten or I'd call Detective Flack personally, sir. Thank you." He hung up and leaned his head back. "That is not going to make anyone happy. Clarice, do I have anther appointment? If not I'm leaving in twenty minutes."
"Going to do more evil things?" she sneered.
He looked at her. "What I do in my private life has no impact here, Clarice. I would also remind you that you are the secretary, not the boss." He stared at her. "What I do prevents others from harming people or themselves. Including a few of your brethren. After all, some priests do flog themselves for absolution of their sins."
"You should all die before you corrupt others."
"I'll consider that your two weeks notice," he agreed firmly. She stomped off then out of the office once she had packed up her desk. He called the agency he had gotten her from. "This is Herrs Insurance and Financial. Do you think you could send me someone less judgmental? She just huffed off when she learned I had a private life that disagreed with her religion. Thank you. Huffed off. Exactly. Thank you, I would appreciate that. Not tonight. I'm about to leave for the day. Thank you." He hung up and went to set all the phones and lock her out of the office. She didn't have a key, thankfully.
Xander picked up his cellphone and settled on his couch. He had made sure 'George' wasn't upstairs and no one was listening to him at the moment from the front stoop. "Daddy, do you have about thirty minutes? Ethical qualms." He grimaced. "Dad, I wouldn't call during the day if it wasn't important," he said seriously. "Because what I do is like what priests do, dad. I hear confession and help people deal with things." He listened to him complain. "Dad, one of my clients was an assassin," he said quietly. His father walked away from the scene he was working with a word to someone named Eric and Frank. "Thank you. Now, I can't tell you everything. I took an oath. Because right now I need a lesson in flexible ethics. Like I said, he's an assassin. He's getting ready to retire." He shifted position to get more comfortable, listening to his advice. "I'm allowed to talk about it like I would if I were a doctor talking about a patient." He smiled. "Exactly. But he's got a few last obligations before he retires to a good life. He was looking for absolution." He listened to him ask why he was calling.
"Because one of them is personal to the family. One of them isn't but it is someone you know. Perhaps not well, but Lady Heather may know them better. I'm calling her next, dad. Exactly." He smiled, he knew what was going on. "Which is what worries me. All of the contracts were specific. One I've already prevented somewhat. He's left the city to do the others. I'm not close enough to protect and prevent down there. Nor can I tell you who." He smiled. "I can tell you it's because the target is very talented, but doesn't seem to do much in public. I can tell you it's because he's done a lot of stuff in his career, including some things that my client said weren't totally right or fully ethical." He swallowed. "I can't be there to protect but I know that flexible ethics are important. I had to protect one of them up here and my Master agreed that I could have this talk about flexible ethics." He nodded, listening to him to advise him on the subject. "That's an option but if I tell, I can and will be shunned. They've done it before when a Dom had to say something to protect themselves after a death not during the session."
He grinned. "Thanks, daddy. I can hint. They're in your part of the country. Think of what I've said, dad. Please? I don't want you to grieve as they've helped others grieve and did grieve themselves." He nodded. "I love you and I've done a lot of working on the plan to come down. Can you come up during the holidays or right after? Maybe?" He smiled. "Thanks, dad. Love you. Be safe. No, it's not you, dad. Thanks, daddy. Miss you. Bye. Have a better day." He hung up and called Lady Heather. "It's Xander, is she able to take a call?" He smiled. "Please. Tell her that one who she warned me about wanted my services and Steven talked me into it." Lady Heather snatched the phone to berate him. "I know, but I was having ethical qualms so I went to him. We all three talked, including about how I might be forced to stop him." He smiled. "That is why I'm calling, Lady Heather. I would hate to see you mourn someone out there who has created a lot of good, but isn't who you'd expect to be a target." He giggled. "No. Not one of them but close. Remember, you taught me I could hint broadly."
He considered the implication of her words. "I have hinted to Timmy. One was down in his area. One was up here so I had to protect Sassone." He heard her shudder. "He'll come back to him if you guys in the other two cities don't stop him. One's down with him. One's in your area. Definitely one you would not think to be a target but one who would be the main person behind an investigation. One of the main fields that would have caught my client's identity with the evidence brought in. Not that one. One of the ones I didn't really understand. Yes, from that talk." He smiled gently at her comfort. "I know, I'm trying to do what I can. I'm torn up, Lady Heather. I mean, I'm a good guy, I have to stop him. Even if he wants absolution and punishment for what he's done." He listened to her warning about his personal safety. "I'll be fine, Lady Heather. Protect yourself. He was not thrilled that you denied him entrance or sight of me." He nodded. "I will. Don's already stormed and stomped on this one. A tape of the hints were sent to him to help protect the one up here. I do adore you, Lady Heather. If I was still liking women I'd fall at your feet until you let me play with your toys, human and not." She giggled at that. "I adore you, be safe, m'lady." He hung up and turned off the tape, bagging it so he could send it to Steven. It was what he could do. All he could do. And it still sucked!
Speed hung up and looked at Frank. "We've got to go back to the labs right now!" he ordered. "Eric, stay! You're not the one in danger." Frank gave him a concerned look. "The son is a dom." Frank shuddered. "He can only give hints but he can prevent or protect."
"Who was his client?" Eric asked.
"He thinks he's an assassin, Eric."
"Oh, hell," Frank moaned. "He heard something?"
"He heard everything. He's nearing retirement. Has a last few jobs. One around here. Someone effective but who doesn't seem to do much publically on a scene. Someone who's so effective that they're hated. Someone who's been seen to be a little bit pushing of the boundary lines now and then."
Frank's eyes went wide. "Horatio?"
"I'm thinking so. Yeah."
"Let's go. He's back in the lab. I'll drive." He drug him to the car and they headed back, lights and sirens on. "Your boy, he a good guy? You can trust him?"
"I can," Tim agreed. "He taught me how to hunt and protected me there, Frank. He's my boy. Xander loves me just as much as I love him. If it ever comes down to my son or my girl, my son will win." He looked at him. "They hear confession like priests do."
"Hence the hinting," he agreed. "Does Alexx know you adopted?"
"Yeah, I told her during my welcome home party," he said with a grin. "She wants to meet my boy." They parked and he hurried inside past the guards. "Stay there," he ordered.
"Boys, there's a threat to an officer," Frank said as he walked past them. "Stay." They snapped to attention and stayed on the doors. He made it into the elevator and up to the lab, storming up to Horatio's office. "Close the windows, Speed."
"You do that, Frank." He leaned on the desk, staring at Horatio. "Someone hated you enough to put a contract out on your life." Horatio leaned back, staring at him. "Xander called."
"A retiring assassin came to him," Frank told him.
"Crap," Horatio muttered. "Do we know who?"
"Not totally but we know some and you're not the only one. The other one we may know but Lady Heather would know better. Meaning Las Vegas."
"A tech or not?"
"I don't know," Speed admitted. "Due to the confession vows he can't *give* us information or evidence."
"He can give us hints. That's a good hint. An officer?"
"We might know them so I'm doubting it," Speed pointed out. "Lady Heather might know them means it's Grissom's shift since he's had some cases out that way and Xander said they helped when her daughter died."
"Who would know more up there?" Frank asked.
"There's three possibles. Two in SVU or Flack, or possibly Taylor might have a clue," Speed offered. "But you're still not leaving the office."
"Why do we think it's me?"
"He said it was someone personal to me. Someone who had helped others grieve and had grieved. Someone who had done some things in a not totally acceptable way. Someone who didn't seem to do much in public but they were very effective."
"Which leaves out Calleigh and Eric," Frank agreed. "Or me, Yelina, any of the rest of us, Horatio. So you're not leaving the office."
"Do we know if he's down here?"
"Xander said he's not at home and assumed he was heading to one of the two targets by what he didn't quite say."
"So it's me or someone in Vegas," he agreed, nodding slowly. "All right. Let's call New York, see what Flack knows." Speed called the number he had looked up, making Horatio smile. "You know it by heart?"
"I was going to check on my boy this week."
"Flack," said a tired voice.
"Don, Speed," he said firmly. "I need to know about his client. Xander hinted that one of them was one of us and someone in Vegas who Lady Heather knows."
"Aw, shit," he muttered. Someone in the background laughed. "Okay, I'll send you what little we've got."
"Okay. Any idea if he's coming here or there first?" Frank asked.
"Not yet. I wasn't even aware he was out of the city."
"He's living above Xander," Speed told him.
"That I knew. Speaking of, we talked to his trainer. They're moving him into the same category as the cops who do these things. You did a good job on his moral code." Speed beamed at that. "He's a good boy, Speed. Do we have a number for you guys?"
"Mac will," Horatio assured him. "Send it to us and to Grissom's team."
"They started off the research run because the guy tried ta get to him out there but she kept him away," Don offered. "I'm thinkin' there's a really pissed Domme out in Vegas."
"Good," Speed agreed. "Do we have his place bugged?"
"Yeah. I do," Don agreed dryly. "He said it's not one of you techs, like you or Mac, but it's in one of the fields he doesn't understand really well. Apparently they had a talk about it while he was out there."
"So, we should talk to this Lady Heather," Frank said.
"Could help," Don agreed. "I wish you luck. She's supposedly a very nice lady but she's got fierce mother bitch syndrome about Xander with the way she was swearing at Steven for encouraging him to take the guy on." You could almost hear the smirk. "But Steven did explain why the psychos like him. He's like a pure version of them. He understands, he's been there, and he knows what they're thinking, but he's still pure."
"It does explain it," Horatio agreed. "Thank you, Don. Please forward whatever you have to whatever number Mac has for me."
"Sure. Later, guys. Danny's not lookin' happy while he's storming this way." He hung up.
Speed dialed another number, smirking at the calm voice on the other end. "This is Tim Speedle, Master Tim's father. I need to speak to Lady Heather, especially since my son called her just now."
"Master Tim is at home, sir."
"I know. He just called her and we need to coordinate information on what he hinted at. Please."
"I'll see if she's receiving calls, sir." The phone went to music. Soon a more dulcet female voice came over.
"Timothy? Xander's father Timothy?"
"I am," Speed agreed. "We need to know what you know to help protect the one hit he's doing down here, Lady Heather. By the way, I'm glad my son trusted you and went to you for advanced training. He sounded very happy about it."
"I was happy to have him. He's a wonderful young man, Timothy. A great credit to your care for the last few years of his childhood. I have warned the supervisor out here about this situation."
"Which tech?" Horatio asked.
"Sorry, ma'am, Horatio Caine."
"Hmm, the head of the labs down there. You are Timothy's boss?"
"Good. Then let him protect you. I will send you what little I know. It was the basics of the profile. I know out here he's either going for someone in DNA or Trace. Xander said he didn't understand either of those fields, even when you explained them to him, Timothy, but that's how he let me know who it was."
"A present tech or their past one?" Horatio asked. "Their best DNA tech just joined the field."
"I do hope Gil will think about that. If not, I'll make sure in a while," she agreed. "Thank you, Horatio. If you do get a copy of his scene, I would like a copy as well. I heard that they had presented a warrant for it so Steven is working very hard at the moment to keep Xander from being shunned."
"He could be?" Horatio asked.
"Yes, for telling what went on, he could very well be. Some would shun him for merely hinting and preventing. Officers who are in the field often have that same problem," she admitted. "If they're wise they'll move him into that category. He does do very well with officers and agents."
"He said he did because he understood what they were going through. Is there anything you can confirm for us, Lady Heather? Like if it is in fact Horatio?"
"If I get a copy of the tape certainly. If not, when they get one they'll probably be putting out all the standard warnings."
"Can we get his name and a picture of him faxed down?" Horatio asked. "That way we can see if he's come through the airport?"
"We can do that," she agreed happily. "I do still have the basic file that Warrick found for me. He's such a charming boy. Thank you, gentlemen, and, Timothy, do call your son more often. He doesn't have many friends up there."
"I know. I call at least once a week, Lady Heather."
"Good. I do adore that boy. He's made some very bad times easier recently. Have a better day, gentlemen." She hung up.
"Wow, your boy was training with one of the top dommes in the US?" Frank asked. Speed smiled and nodded. "Proud of your boy?" he teased.
"Very. I'm a bit concerned about him being a dom but yeah, I love my boy and he did a great job to even get her attention. The fact he came home bouncing and happy because she had given him glowing reviews? I'm more than pleased and she loved how he handled weapons work." Frank shuddered. "My boy has a good hand with a whip. A real whip."
Horatio smiled. "Go see if that fax is in yet." Frank went to do that. "I can give you a weekend in November but the Chief said all leave for the holidays was already taken and he might have to take days off if we have another crime wave like last year."
"I'll take that and some in January then," he agreed. Horatio handed over some papers. "Thanks, Horatio."
"Welcome, Speed. Use your schedule that week to give yourself an extra day." That got a smile and Tim signed it, handing it back. "I'll put this in for you today," he promised. "Why did he take on an assassin?"
"Steven and the guy talked with Xander. Steven was his first teacher and he thought it'd be okay."
"He didn't read the guy well?"
"That's fine. We do want a copy of that tape."
"As long as I don't have to watch my son work him over. I saw him torture a vampire for information Giles needed once. Not pretty."
"I'll watch it myself with Frank," he agreed.
"Welcome, Speed. Where's Eric?"
"With the case." That got a smile. "We didn't abandon it totally. I'll call to see if he still needs me and go back if you want." That got a nod so he went to do that. "Eric, my man, still need me?" He smirked. "No, we warned Horatio he's in danger, talked to the other people who had information, it's being sent down, and now we can protect his stubborn ass. Need me back there?" He nodded. "That's fine. Bring it to me, Eric. I'll head up to the lab and be waiting on you." He hung up and headed that way. "He's on his way back."
"Good. Keep me informed." Horatio walked out, joining Frank at the reception desk. "He looks familiar."
"That's because he's in the building," Frank said, hurrying off. "Back to one of the occupied labs, Horatio, and stay there!" He pulled out his phone. "It's Tripp, meet me in the halls, we've got a pretend officer." He hung up and only paused by Yelina's desk. "Go guard Horatio, there's a contract out on him and we think the guy's in here." He showed her the picture and she nodded, going to find her brother-in-law. He ran into the patrol supervisor and showed it to him. "We're pretty sure he's a well known assassin. Someone warned us he's got one on Caine."
"Last I knew he was downstairs." They headed to find the guy.
Speed watched all the activity, then sighed and shook his head. "That was a timely warning. Horatio?" He came in. "Stay in here. Eric's coming right here from his scene."
"Can I see your gun?" he asked. Speed grimaced but handed it over. He checked it. "It's mostly clean." He handed it back once he had it back to where it should be.
"I cleaned it the other day."
"We'll work on that, Speed."
"If Xander comes down he'll do it for me," he promised. "Xander likes weapons. Got a whole bunch from Giles." Horatio smiled at that. "Including a grenade launcher. They've come in handy in the past for the bigger things."
Horatio blinked. "You are joking?" he asked.
Speed shook his head with a smirk. Horatio moaned. "Like I said, he likes weapons. He cleans all his guns every week. Said he had to go after one of Sonny's goons with a whip for taking one to scare someone with. He got it back and it was still clean too."
"Why is your son playing with someone like Sonny Sassone? I heard about him from Mac at the conference."
"Xander accidentally moved into Tanglewood's, his gang's, territory. The first night they had alpha dog problems and Xander proved he is the bigger bitch. Beat him black and blue then turned down a job offer. They've got some mutual respect going but when he was out of town apparently one decided to borrow it for a threat. Xander said he laid a welt on the guy for it."
"Is your son insane or suicidal?"
Speed considered that. "He was depressed looking in Vegas," he admitted, looking at him then at Yelina when she walked in. "You heard?"
"I did. What is going on? A contract?"
Tim nodded. "My son's a dom and he had an assassin come up to him for absolution before retirement. He hinted but we had enough clues to know that Horatio's one of his last few targets. We got a picture and name from the domme in Las Vegas who protected Xander while he was training with her for a few weeks. We're getting more information from New York as well."
"He can't simply *tell* us?" she demanded.
"For a dom, what they do is like one of us going to confession," Horatio said simply. "They can't tell. They can only hint, Yelina."
She shuddered. "I don't even want to think about that lifestyle."
"Actually, my boy's very sweet and goofy," Speed said, leaning on the table. "He's a great kid. Can't cook worth a damn unless it's poisonous. Likes weapons. He's only nineteen but he's good."
She looked at him. "Your son is nineteen and you let him go to New York alone?"
"Aiden won the coin toss or he'd been down here," he said dryly. Another CSI walked in. "Hey, Wolfe."
"Hey, Speed. What's with the lockdown?"
"My son called in a tip that there's a contract out on Horatio."
"For being so good."
"No, I meant your son calling it in."
"He's going by Master Tim in New York."
Wolfe blinked, then nodded. "I've heard good things about him from a friend in the life. They consider him like the cops who do the same job on their down time. They say he's helped catch a few serial killers."
"Yeah, they like him," Speed agreed. "He's like a pure version of them because of what he's seen and been through."
Ryan nodded at that. "I'm so sorry for your son. I'm sure you helped him a lot." Speed nodded, smiling some. "He coming down for a visit soon? I can introduce him to my friend if you want. Calleigh said something to someone earlier about setting your son up on dates."
"If he comes down we need to. He's got the *worst* luck with women. Any of them he dates want to kill him, especially if he's being a perfect gentleman. If they have sex it's worse. I had to rescue him from his prom date because she was a nympho and trying to kill him using sex." Horatio snickered at that. "Yeah, well, seven hours after they started he couldn't really drive, Horatio," he said blandly. Yelina gave him a shocked look. "Yeah. Seven hours. She still wants more of him." He shrugged. "Anya's not the normal girl."
Ryan nodded. "Works for me." Someone opened the door and he pulled his gun. "And you would be?" he demanded.
"Him," Speed agreed, pulling his own, Horatio doing the same. Yelina turned and tried to catch him. He ran out and they all ran after him, but he managed to evade them and Frank when he was alerted. "Someone call Vegas and get Horatio a protection detail for later," he ordered. Frank nodded, going to do that.
Lady Heather walked into the police station, looking at the receptionist. "Is Gil Grissom in please?" She nodded and paged him. She smiled when he came out. "Gil, you didn't protect one of them?" He looked confused. "It was pointed out to me one of the fields in question had one that left recently? Though my contact in Miami said he evaded capture there this morning and he may be on a plane at the moment. We're not sure."
Gil gave her a look. Then it hit him. "Greg! Thank you, Lady Heather. The other two are protected, even though Hodges didn't understand why it might be him." He went running off to call his errant tech back to the office for his own protection and call the airport security office to pass on the picture and name. Just in case.
Lady Heather shook her head. "All men are a bit clueless," she told the other woman, who nodded at that. She smiled at Catherine as she walked up the hallway with a file. "Good evening."
"Lady Heather." She smiled and shook her hand. "What brings you down here?"
"One of the Masters I've recently helped train heard hints of a contract on someone here."
"Do we know who?"
"It's either someone in DNA or Trace. One of the hints gave me that much."
"What about someone like Greg?"
"That's what I just prompted Gil on. I had called him earlier."
"No wonder Hodges has all his blinds closed. Thank you." She smiled. "I'll make sure Greg's fine."
"Is he the one who stares?" She nodded. "Send him to me for the night," Lady Heather instructed. "He will be safe in my house and I believe I can fix that."
"I'll let Gil know," she promised with a wicked grin. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, dear." She walked off, heading back to her car and driver. "Home." He nodded and left. Gregory was there by the time she got home. She smiled at him, stroking his cheek. "Gregory."
"Why did I get called to here? You wouldn't normally get me through Grissom."
"This time, there is someone hunting for you, Gregory. I told him I would protect you and help you control your little staring problem."
He snorted. "They don't like it that I'm a heterosexual male with an appetite for sex? I'm not that old!"
"I know, dear. Now, to my office, Gregory. Master Tim was the one who called me about the tip."
"Can we call him?" he asked, smiling at her.
She stroked his cheek again. "If you're a good boy." He nodded and walked up the stairs, his hands behind his back. "Good boy." He walked into her private rooms at her urging and fell to his knees beside her chair, letting her pour him some tea. "Here, dear, drink." She called Xander. "Dear, can you speak for a few minutes?" She smiled. "Then I'll call back in a half hour. Thank you, dear." She hung up. "He's with someone."
"I wish he had stayed," he said, looking up at her. "He was good for me."
"He was, even if he was lax in your other training." He lowered his head again. "I do not mind, Gregory. He was exactly what you needed. Though I have heard he's planning on going to Miami soon and setting up down there."
"Then maybe I'll start taking quarterly trips down there," he agreed quietly, modulating his voice as she had taught him. She stroked through his hair, making him rest against her hand. "Thank you, Lady Heather."
"Drink your tea, Gregory. You could go see him in New York, even though he doesn't have private space set up yet." He nodded, sipping his tea. "Good boy." She went back to petting him. His hair was always soft. Xander called her back, letting her put it on speaker. "Master Tim, dear. I have Gregory here with me."
"Not quite the one he wanted but it was a suggestion made," he offered. "Hi, Gregory."
"Master Tim," he said, grinning. "How are you?"
"I'm doing okay. Not great today. My electric's down due to a car crash so I was late to work." He shifted. "How are you?"
"A bit stressed but what you taught me did help, Master Tim. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Gregory. You know where I am if you need to come see me."
"I might take you up on that sometime soon," he promised. He grinned. "Have you had other problems?"
"No, the community as a whole has decided that it's the same as if I were really a cop." He smiled, you could hear it in his voice. "They agreed it was a bad decision to let him come to me as well. Steven's trainer paddled him I think. He's not here tonight."
Lady Heather chuckled. "As I would have if he had been my trainee, Tim. I spoke with your father and Horatio Caine earlier."
"Good. Did you like Daddy?"
"He sounded very nice and calm, plus very intelligent." She smiled at Greg. "Gregory is in my protection tonight. He's had a staring problem."
"I know you're supposed to detach yourself from your hormones, but I'm sorry. If they're shaking it in your face you can't always do that. Even Don has that problem now and then. I think that's why Mac gives any prostitute or stripper cases to Stella out here."
"Possibly," Greg agreed quietly. "Catherine gets a lot of that too. I stared at strippers."
"Hmm." Xander was silent for a second. "I know most of them aren't but start counting the germs you could get from them, Greg. That should keep your dick focused."
"I'll try, Master Tim."
"Good boy, Gregory. If I was there I'd pet you."
"I am for you. It does keep him calm and centered," she promised.
"Thank you for protecting him for me, Lady Heather. Would you like to come out to New York? I'd let you have my spare room, m'lady."
"That's all right, Xander. The next time you see me will probably be at our convention next month."
"I didn't register in time," he sighed. "No rooms left."
"I have an extra one," she promised. "I'll even try to get Gregory to escort me for it."
"Thank you. You're a great lady, Lady Heather. I do adore you so. Gregory, be a good boy until you see me again and keep a list."
"Yes, sir. I am."
"Good boy. Thank you, Lady Heather. I'd best get back to the bar. Have a better night."
"You as well," she agreed. "Good night, Tim." She hung up and looked at him. "How very interesting."
"May I call Catherine?"
"You may." He reached over to dial the phone, putting her on speaker.
"Catherine, Lady Heather again. We have it narrowed down to two targets. I have one."
"Hodges is the other," Greg told her. She gave him a look. "Sorry for the interruption, Lady Heather. I like Hodges."
"I'm sure you do." She went back to petting him. It did keep him calm and centered. "You will update Gil?"
"Of course. He's across the room. Thank you, Lady Heather, and please keep Greg safe for us. I'm sure you can teach him many things."
"Why? Most of what you see is an appreciation for life. Taking that would ruin him as it has others. Make them bitter before their time. Makes them emotionally bereft. I would not wish that on anyone."
"Good point. Can you make him quit staring at women?"
"He is a heterosexual young man who is not attached. He is supposed to stare, though not so obviously." She gave him a look.
"I try but sometimes the appreciation makes me look too long," he admitted.
"You need your eyes checked. It could be blurry vision. You have to take longer to focus."
He nodded. "I've considered that recently. I have microscope eyes still." She nodded at that and he tipped his head. "Please," he mouthed. She smiled and stroked his hair again, making him sigh in pleasure.
"Pretty girl just walk by, Greg?" Catherine teased.
"I'm with one of the most beautiful, Catherine, I wouldn't have to look any farther than the woman beside me for beauty and grace." Lady Heather smiled at him for that obvious sucking up. He shifted positions, getting a nod. "Thanks, Catherine." He hung up and took his spankings like a man because he did deserve them for sucking up to her. Then she went back to petting him, even letting him rest against her thigh to do so. He sighed in pleasure, coming from that alone.
"You may clean up in a few more minutes," she promised. "We can wash those for you, Gregory."
"Thank you, Lady Heather."
"You're a good boy but you put unreasonable stresses on yourself and then they expect you to be a robot or unable to accept feelings. It is not healthy to deny yourself affection or feelings that way." He nodded. "Good boy, Greg." He closed his eyes, letting himself drift and fall into his head. When someone broke in he was on his feet in an instant to protect her but it was a panicking sub with a medical issue. They went to deal with it, getting them the proper help while Greg watched over them. Once the paramedics were gone, she took him back to the office, letting him have some of the scrubs she kept in a closet while his clothes were washed. She rewarded him for trying to protect him with a good, long pet this time.
Don walked up to where Xander was getting his 'morning' fix of coffee, since it was his lunchtime it was a good time to be out and watch people, which Xander did. He sat next to him. "You good?"
"Still feeling a bit uncomfortable," he admitted. He finished his breakfast and tossed the cup out. "I'm sorry I couldn't outright tell you, Don."
"It got explained better to us but it does suck. They can charge you for that some day."
"Was he captured?"
"Going after that Hodges guy in Las Vegas." He looked at him. "You okay?"
"You wanna talk?"
Xander shrugged. "Just uneasy feelings. The pre-battle feelings really." He shifted to look at him. "So, what's going on in your life?"
"Got a date later this week," he offered with a small grin.
"Congrats. Doing better than I am," he offered with a small grin. "She special?"
"Don't know yet. First date." That got an understanding nod. "How's your folks?"
"Aiden's better. I asked Spike to go threaten her boyfriend. Spike likes her for being a sassy bitch." That got a laugh and a nod of appreciation. "Even though he's mostly harmless he can still scare the crap out of people."
"Good. It's good she's okay. Your dad?"
"Talked to him last weekend for something other than work reasons and he was good then. Cooking. He promised me cookies later this week when he had time to make a huge batch." That got a grin from the older man. "Shoot me, I like cookies."
"I like cookies too," Don said with a grin for him. "It's a good thing to like cookies, means you're still mostly normal."
"I was before, Don."
"Not really." He looked at him. He started to say something and then closed his mouth. Then he opened it again and pulled something out of his pocket. "This got sent to Danny." He handed it over. "I have no idea what that is. He said it's not a bomb and when they x- rayed it he didn't want to know where it came from."
Xander looked at the envelope. Still sealed. Only had a request to pass it on to him on the front. "Did it magically appear?"
"Sealed inside another envelope."
"Uh-huh." He lifted a corner of the flap and used it to slit open the end, looking inside. "It's a check."
"We saw that on the x-ray."
Xander let it slide into his hands, blinking at it. "It doesn't have a name on it. Only a bank name."
"It's a cashier's check," Don explained. "I, personally, would like to know where it came from."
Xander looked at him. "You think?" he asked, sounding a bit hysterical. He calmed himself down. "Don, did you look at the numbers on the check?" He shook his head. Xander held it up. "I'm checking with my grandfather first, but he didn't send me money like this before." To his own ears he still sounded a bit hysterical.
Apparently Don thought so too because he took the check to look over while his free hand gripped Xander's. "We'll figure it out, Xander." Xander suddenly got up and sprinted off, going to stop someone walking on the other part of the path. Don followed more slowly with the check.
"Did he do that? I told him I didn't want spoiled!" Xander was complaining. "I don't need it!"
"Hold on!" the guy said, blinking at them. "Detective."
"I can say the same," he agreed. He held up the check and the man winced then shook his head. "Not his grandfather?"
"He'd never hand him a cashier's check," he offered. "Let me call and see if he knows who sent it, Xander. For now, put that somewhere safe, Detective Flack."
"Sure." He put it into his own wallet. "I'll take you to the bank, kiddo."
"Don, I don't want it!" he complained. "I don't need spoiled!"
The guy stepped off. "Father, it's Tom. Xander just got sent a cashier's check for two million dollars?" he asked quietly. "No, he's a bit hysterical and thought you might have sent it."
"I don't know anyone else who would!" Xander complained. He took the phone. "Grandfather, if that was you you *know* I don't want spoiled. I don't need it! I really don't need that burden!" He listened to the calm, rational voice. "Then who would have! I don't know anyone who'd just hand me money." He blinked. "No, he paid Steven. Why?" He shook his head slowly. "No. Not that I'm aware of." He blinked. "Who?" He sat down, listening to him. "Are you sure? Don's here." He nodded and handed the phone to Don, then got helped up by the other guy. "It really wasn't him?"
"If he said it wasn't him it wasn't him, Xander," he said gently. Xander slumped and nodded. "Now, let Flack protect you while you take that to the bank."
"Uh-no, it's going to CSI and then the bank," Don told him. He listened to the calm voice. "He's still in shock actually." Xander nodded at that. "Yeah, if you hear anything I'd like to know, just in case it's another psycho after him. Steven explained why they liked him. Yeah, that reason." He nodded. "Sure. Thanks." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "Call off work on the way to the station, Xander." Xander nodded and followed him back, stopping to pick up his cellphone since it had fallen out of his pocket while he had been sitting down. He drove them back to the station, walking him into Mac's office, putting the check down in front of him. "It wasn't his grandfather."
"Danny said it was a sizeable check." He looked at them. "Do we have any idea who sent this?"
"We've either got another psycho asshole or it was the assassin," Don told him. "Either way, we gotta know, Mac."
"Point. I'll see if fingerprints can get anything off it."
"He'll still need ta cash it."
"No I don't," Xander said.
Don looked at him. "It's an emergency fund, Xander. Use it for that and to set up on your own." He sat down on Mac's couch, cuddling the boy, petting him gently. Mac smiled but he did go to see if they could get fingerprints off it. He came back a half-hour later shaking his head. "Nothing?"
"A partial smudge that's probably the teller," he offered.
"Basically." He made Xander look at him. "I want you to be very careful tonight, Xander."
"I'm off tonight," he said weakly. "Don made me call off."
"Good. Then let Don take you to the bank, deposit most of that, then go home with dinner and a new book. Call your dad or mom when they're off shift."
"Mom's going to yell."
"Yeah, ya think?" Don suggested. "C'mon. We'll go do that. Thanks, Mac."
"Welcome, Don." He watched them walk out then called SVU to give them a head's up. "Stabler or Munch please?" He smiled. "John, Mac Taylor. No, just a head's up. Xander just got a sizeable cashier's check sent to him anonymously through Danny here at the station. No, it came here. Two million. We couldn't pull a fingerprint and Flack's taking him to have it cashed." He nodded. "That's what I was thinking. I don't think this is his grandfather." He listened. "Partial smudge of a fingerprint. No match able to be made. No, he's got tonight off. I told him to deposit most of it then go home with dinner and a book. He's still in shock." He saw someone he knew walking up the halls. "Hold on for a second. We may be getting more information." He put him on hold. "Detective."
"His grandfather is not pleased he doubted his word."
"Xander doesn't know anyone else who has money."
"Which is what he realized after he calmed down." He handed over something. "Father Benis called in a few favors and found that out. That's all we know."
Mac looked at it then at him. "Who would've seen him doing that?"
"Not a clue," he admitted. "He's apparently trying to show his prowess to woo him. We don't know who but the motive behind it. His grandfather asked that someone calm him down."
"Don's got him. We couldn't pull a fingerprint." That got a nod. "Anything else let me know."
"Of course. We like Xander. He's a very good boy most of the time. Even if he did bat Sassone on the head when he walked out of his apartment this morning because he was sitting on his stoop. Then he walked off grinning."
"That's a dangerous game. I'll tell Don."
"Thank you. Danny does tend to yell a lot about that subject."
"As I probably would. Thank you, Detective."
"Not an issue, Taylor." He left.
Mac took him off hold. "I'm back. His grandfather sent more information. Oh, didn't hear that one. His grandfather is Father Patrick Benis. Yeah, that guy. No, he had been a priest a long time ago. Yeah, they've barely started to get to know each other and apparently Xander set down a no spoiling rule. His grandfather wasn't happy that he asked if it was him. All they know is the motive behind it. Someone's wooing him that way to show their prowess. Yeah, like hunting down a fresh kill to present to a potential mate sort of prowess." He smiled. "We know it's male. They found that out. That he saw him at work, possibly one of the times he stripped for extra money."
He nodded. "Every now and then. I heard he had a good night in Las Vegas when Lady Heather let him go do one." He grinned. "That and I heard he picked up someone who needed his help that same night." He nodded. "I will. Because it was sent anonymously here. It was sent to Danny so whoever is watching him, John. Yeah, basically. Thanks. Just keep an ear out and let us know if you hear anything. If it ends up being on your end, I'll call immediately or after I've shot them. Thanks." He smiled as he hung up, making notes on his daily log sheet and on his computer files. "Stella?" he called when he saw her walking past. She detoured. "Was that Hawkes?" She nodded and motioned him in, getting him to come back. "You know the anonymous letter we got for Xander?" They both nodded. "It contained a cashier's check for two million dollars. All we know so far is that the person is wooing him by showing his prowess."
"I can hunt for the pack better than anyone else?" Hawkes suggested. Mac nodded. "The boy okay?"
"He freaked out. Called his grandfather to ask if it was him. Which I heard he didn't like but Father Benis understood that Xander doesn't know anyone else with money. Although, Sassone keeps hanging out on his front stoop. He apparently got in a good bat at him this morning for being in the way. Then he walked off smiling after having his morning dose of semi-violent tendencies."
Stella shook her head. "That's a dangerous game."
"Yeah, but this is Xander," Hawkes reminded her with a smile. "Did we find anything on the check?"
"Danny found one partial smudge. It had three lines of detail total." That got stereo frowns. "So keep an ear out and someone tell Lindsey in a way that won't create a fit."
"Sure," Stella agreed. "Why send it to Danny? If he's watching...."
"Danny went to watch him at work the other night when we got that threat we never told Xander about," Hawkes reminded her. "Which we think was a hoax or a way to see who was watching over the boy."
"Which would be a reasonable way to do that," she agreed. That had been their case and Danny had volunteered. Flack got the creeps looking at the bar and Mac stood out like a sore thumb. She hadn't wanted to go even though they were very polite to her. "I'll listen for rumors starting," she agreed. "Maybe Steven can help him invest."
"I hope someone does," Mac agreed. "He was still in the slumping, defeated stage when Don brought him in." He handed over the paperwork. "That's all I have from Father Benis but they'll tell us if they hear anything."
"Sure," Stella agreed, reading it over as she walked off, Sheldon right behind her so he could take it. "Aiden is going to scream," she realized. "A lot. We'll be able to hear her from Seattle."
"I heard you guys ran into her at the convention. How did she look?"
"Good up until the point she lined those three up and smacked the shit out of 'em for ignoring her boy," she said dryly. "She even got me once but she got them a few times. But Xander was cuddling her and calling her mommy and it was good after that. She is one fierce mother over her boy. If someone tries to hurt her boy, we'll be run over when she gets here. We'll have just enough time for her to fly out here to solve it."
Sheldon nodded. "I'd expect that of her though. She always had that really fierce temper."
"She does," Stella agreed. "Mac said he couldn't feel that cheek for a few hours." That got a smile. They walked into the lab where Danny was working. "Did you get anything off the envelope?"
"Waiting on DNA," he admitted, looking at them. "You think it's related to the phone threat?" That got a nod. "Could be. I'll let you know when I do."
"Sure." She patted him on the back. "Have you talked to Aiden since then?"
"I have. She's calmer now that her boy cuddled her to death and sent someone to threaten her last boyfriend. Apparently her boy sent someone from home up to threaten him on her. Seemed to work pretty well. Said she'd miss his fingers but not really anything else since he was a lazy and possessive asshole." He shrugged. "Her boy okay?"
"Upset," Stella told him. "Mac said he was that slumping, defeated stage of shock."
"Sounds about right," Danny agreed. "He'll probably be shopping this weekend." That got a smirk from Stella. "I'm not expectin' nothin'," he promised.
"Good. Let's see what else we can find," Sheldon agreed. That got a nod and they went to reevaluate what they had with this new information.
Xander sat down on his stoop, sucking on his soda that Don had let him get. He called his mom. "Mommy, are you busy?" he asked quietly. "No, I'm having a bad day." He snorted. "Mom, I don't spank people to have a better day." He took another drink. "No, like the someone gave me a check bad day. Two mil." He nodded. "Thanks, mommy. I needed the love." He leaned against the railing, listening to her rant. "Mom, we don't know. Grandfather didn't. I asked his guys first and he's probably upset that I did but I made sure it wasn't him first." He nodded. "Mac knows. They sent it to Danny at the station. Don brought it to me. He knew where I went for my morning coffee. I know it's about noon here, mom. I do work nights." He smiled. "Thanks, mommy. No, I needed the cuddle. I would but there's no one here I can cuddle, mommy. I wish you were too. I'd get a cuddle between you two and then treat you guys to dinner." He smiled. "Thanks, mom. What am I doing about this? Thinking about getting drunk tonight," he offered. He took another drink. "Thanks, mommy." He hung up and debated calling his father but he was working and he didn't want to invade his work hours for the trivial things. Besides, his dad would worry. He looked up at the cough. "What? It's my stoop," he complained.
"Yay. What's your issue? You have someone say no?" he taunted.
"I need to get drunk and I hate drinking and liquor." He finished his soda and threw it in a nearby trash can. Then he looked at him. "Have you heard anything about someone hunting me and sending me money?"
"No," he snorted. "Someone sent you money?" Xander nodded. "Like major bucks? Few thousand?"
"And then some," Xander said bitterly. "Anonymously, to Danny." That got a laugh. "Not funny, Sonny. I tend to draw psychos." He pouted, looking at the sports bar on the corner then shook his head. "I hate drinking."
"Why?" he asked tolerantly
"Two drunk asshole parents."
"Oh. They that bad?" Xander took off his shirt and Sonny gaped in horror. "Never mind." Xander put back on his shirt. "They alive?"
"Last I knew. Aiden and Timmy, the ones I call mom and dad, ran them off when I was sixteen." That got a good nod, an appreciative one. He looked at him. "Aiden used to work in the local CSI office with Danny."
"The pouty one?" Xander grinned and nodded. "That's your adoptive mother?" Xander grinned brighter and nodded again. "Hell, she willing to take another in? I'd cuddle that."
"I should hit you for saying that about my mother but I'm too fucking tired," Xander complained.
"Aaaah, now you're swearing," he taunted. "Don't really go with calling her 'mommy'."
Xander looked at him. "Sonny, I've killed things that made me swear."
"Whatever. Go upstairs like a good little boy. There's gonna be an issue today."
"If you're doing business on my stairs I'm going to have to complain."
"I'm not, but someone's trying to take over the neighborhood. They're coming back again."
"Tell me if you need me. I'd like peace here." He got up and headed upstairs, dusting off his pants on the way.
Sonny shook his head. That boy was just wrong in the head to his way of thinking. Who would send him major money? He sat down and took up his position. His other boys were around the neighborhood waiting. Their target car rolled down the street, windows slightly open. He saw the gun come out and pulled his own to fire if it came to it. He heard a shot and the guy's tire popped, making him swerve and hit the curb. He looked up. "Damn you're good."
"Of course I am." The window shut.
Sonny looked at them. "We've got a psycho guy living here," he said smugly. "He didn't like your plan either."
"What's he gonna do? Skin me?" the guy getting out demanded.
"Actually, he's one of those guys who beats people for a living so he probably could." That got a horrified look. "You're interrupting his ice cream sulk."
"Fuck, he's gay too? You let that in your neighborhood?"
"He don't cause *me* any trouble," he sneered back. "You?" He snorted. "You got nothin' but trouble." A cop car cruised by, one window down. "Hey, officer, you wanna remove the scum from my neighborhood? Before the neighborhood watch group gets him for sellin' drugs here?" The cops stopped and came back to get the other guys with the openly carried weapons. His was good, they were on his payroll. They didn't even say anything about the car so Sonny had it towed to his hidden garage so they could toss it for anything useful then had it given to a chop shop locally. They'd appreciate it. One less they'd have to steal. He came back and found Xander outside with his ice cream. "You still sulking?"
"Go buy shit! That's what he wants."
"Who said I want him?"
Sonny sneered. "It's a gift, Xander. You can use it even if you don't want the guy. Do what the chicks do."
Xander looked at him. "You obviously know more shallow women than I do. I only know one who wouldn't hesitate to take a major gift like that and then refuse the guy." He ate another bite of ice cream. "They on the payroll? Those two cops?"
"Not sayin', you'd tell your minders."
"I wanted to make sure they weren't going to cause me more problems," he complained.
"No, I told 'em I had some psycho bastard living here who knows about serial killers because they like him. They heard about you bein' Taylor's mentoring case." Xander shrugged at that. "Is that why you're in my city?"
"Aiden said I had to leave my hellmouth. She won the coin toss or I'd be in Miami right now soaking up the sun and the bikinis." He smirked. "She sent me to Mac, Don, and Danny, plus Stella so I quit dealing with scary bitches who want to kill me."
Sonny snorted. "Yeah, you know a lot different women than I do."
"I'd offer a practical demonstration but I don't have a date tonight," he said dryly. "You should ask your employees about my last date. She chased me down the street with a knife because I didn't want to sleep with her on the first date." He ate another bite.
"New York women can be like that," he agreed dryly. "I'd still spend it."
"I'm having a violent urge to kill and eviscerate him, then stuff the empty body cavity with the cash," Xander admitted. "I really shouldn't hunt tonight, I'll get in trouble." He ate another bite, finishing the ice cream. He tossed that out and licked his spoon off. "You're a good wall to talk to, Sonny, thanks." He got up and went back inside.
Sonny shuddered. He got that mental image very well. He wasn't that hardcore. If he needed to kill someone he simply beat 'em with a baseball bat. That boy did freaky things that made cops puke. No wonder his mom had sent him to *three* cops to watch over him. He sat down and looked up a number down in Miami through directory assistance, checking the boy's windows. All closed. "Hey, is there a Timmy guy there? No, I just talked to his son and it's a bit worrisome. I know he's in the lab. He was in Sunnydale," he offered. "Yeah, I think he should know something. Thanks." He listened to the nice hold music. The kid's mother apparently needed help this time.
Speed hung up. Then he looked at his phone before handing it to Calleigh. "Here, hold this before I get another odd call." He walked off, going to find Horatio. He found him and Ryan in the office. "When you're done, I need you for a few."
"It's nothing personal or private," Ryan offered. "I'm filling out paperwork that got eaten."
"Been there, done that, recently even." He walked inside. "H, I just got a call from the gangster who owns the block Xander lives on. He said my son wants to kill and eviscerate someone then stuff the money someone sent him into his body cavity." Horatio moaned at that. "Apparently someone sent my son a rather large check but Sassone didn't know how large."
"Should we check with New York?" Ryan asked, looking at him. "Because I heard rumors that someone down here was looking at your son as a tasty addition to his harem if he ever came down. Then his mistress of the moment smacked him and walked off from the story he was telling."
"How did that one see my son?"
"Lady Heather let him play while in Las Vegas," Ryan said grimly. "He did an open pole night." Tim moaned at that, shaking his head. "Something about predatory instincts, hips of doom, and being a virgin yet so very dirty." He shrugged. "Probably that same thing you said drew serial killers to him."
"Could be," Speed agreed, blinking at him. He definitely was getting a whole new appreciation for this new guy. "I still got a call from a thug and drug dealer."
Horatio nodded. "He didn't call you?"
"You complained the last time he did and he heard you, H. So I'll probably hear it from him later tonight."
"For now, call the CSI up there or Flack," Horatio ordered. "See if he's in danger. If so you can bring him down sooner." Speed nodded, going to do that. "Good thoughts, Mr. Wolfe."
"Thanks, Horatio." He handed the next form back. "I'd be worried if some thug called about my kid too."
Horatio nodded. "That is an odd occurrence but his son is said to be a very nice young man, homicidal urges beside the point."
"Hey, if someone gave me major money, I'd worry too," Ryan pointed out.
"True." Eric walked past the doorway. "Tell Speed I want updated as soon as he knows what's really going on."
"Sure," Eric agreed, heading to where he could see Speed leaning against the wall listening to someone. Forehead leaning into the wall, not his usual position for listening to the phone. He heard a groan. Sounds like someone wasn't happy. Speed finally hung up with a beep of his phone. "H said he wanted an update when you knew something."
Speed rolled his head to look at him. "Someone sent my son an anonymous cashier's check for two million dollars to the cops we have watching him up there. My son is apparently sulking and angry enough that he scared the gang punk who runs the block he lives on because *he* called *me* directly to say Xander needed help, that he was saying things about evisceration and stuffing the body with money." Eric moaned. "So, yeah." He walked off, leaning in Horatio's office. "Xander got sent an anonymous cashier's check for two million dollars." Horatio gasped. "They sent it to Danny. Dual envelope, inner one with Xander's name on it. No note. That's why Xander's sulking so bad that Sonny Sassone called me to tell me I needed to come see my son."
"Is he in danger?" Ryan asked.
"They don't have a clue yet. All that they've been able to figure out is that this is his way of wooing Xander, showing his prowess and ability to care for him. It's a possibility it's another serial guy, it's possible it's someone else. I seriously don't know, Ryan. Right now all I want to do is fly up and protect my son." He looked at their boss again. "Oh, Sassone said he suggested Xander spend it, like any girl would, he said Xander refused. Said he wasn't that shallow."
"I can see it with a little thing, like fifty bucks," Ryan offered. "Especially if it had come with a birthday card or something."
"His birthday was last month, I think," Speed offered. "Xander refused to let us celebrate it. But no, no card, no note, nothing."
"Then I wouldn't be touching it either. I'd be letting it sit in the bank and waiting to see if it bounced."
"Cashier's checks can't bounce," Horatio reminded him. He looked at Speed. "Are you on this weekend?"
"I am. If I take off now I won't have time to go up next month."
Horatio nodded. "Call and see if he'll come down."
"Yeah, I can do that." He pulled out his phone and looked at it. "Of course I'm out of minutes." Ryan tossed over his. "Thanks, Wolfe."
"Not an issue. I'd like to meet your son. He sounds nice," he offered with a small smile.
"Only sometimes. Xander can drive you insane at times." He sat down against the inner wall of the office, dialing from his phone's phonebook. "Xander? Are you okay? I got a call from Sassone and not you?" He nodded at Horatio. "He said he didn't want you to get upset, boss."
"It happens sometimes. This is an emergency," he agreed patiently.
Speed listened to his son tell him what he knew. "Okay. Is it in the bank?" He smiled at the 'all but fifty bucks'. "Good decision." He snorted at his idea. "Have you been watching cheesy movies again, Xander? There's no telling if he reads the personals section of the paper and would get the hint you're talking about him, baby. You know that." He nodded, looking up when someone leaned in over his head. "No, kiddo, it's all good. Want to come down for a few days?" He listened to him look at his schedule. "When is that?" He looked at the calendar on his phone. "Huh. That's next week. Really?" He smiled. "Sure. Love you too and be safe, okay? I don't like that this was done anonymously. It sounds like the fanclub you were talking about. Please be safe, baby?" He grinned. "Sure, I'll be safe and you come down as scheduled, then we'll look for a place for when you move down here. Good boy. Love you too. Let me know, okay? I don't want to hear it from Sassone again. Yeah, well, it sent me into a panic. I'm sure he wouldn't have over this, Xander. Thanks, baby. Behave and hug yourself for me until you come down. Love you." He hung up and tossed Ryan his phone back. "All but fifty of it is in the bank. He pulled out enough to get dinner. He's coming down on the eleventh for a four day weekend. He's going to go beat Sassone for calling me about him. He's called Aiden and she's still probably throwing a fit, and it'll be okay."
"He was thinking about putting in an ad like in Suddenly Seeking Susan or whatever that movie was called?" Ryan asked. Speed nodded. "I can see that one. Whoever sent me the money, I appreciate the gift but don't know you. Show yourself or I'm spending it on clothes and calling you Bob or something."
Speed laughed. "Yeah, that's almost how he put it." He stood up with some help from Alexx. "Hi, mom. Someone sent Xander an anonymous heap of money."
"That's what has us worried, we don't know," Speed told her.
"Is my grandson coming down soon?"
"The eleventh. He'll be down Thursday through Sunday." She smiled at that. "We're going to see if we can find him a spot down here because his last contract ends in February."
"Good! He needs to be closer. Those boys up there aren't paying enough attention to him." She kissed him on the cheek. "Horatio, I found a rune tile inside this one." He got up to follow her down to the morgue to look at it. That had been a serial killer a few years ago.
Speed looked at Ryan. "Thanks for the loan."
"Not a problem. That's something you needed to hear from him about. Is he really okay?"
"Shaky. He said he shot the tire out on the car of the guy trying to muscle in on Sonny's turf because he didn't want to have to watch a war going on. He wasn't sure if he was amused about Sonny calling me or not by the end but he did want to go down and scare the crap out of him for it. He was talking about sending his ex to him." He smirked an evil, wicked smirk. Ryan shivered at that smirk. "Exactly. Tell him I'm heading back to the lab." He headed back that way, a bit more chipper now.
Ryan shivered again. "That's one homicide I'd cover up," he admitted. "You don't threaten a guy's kid like that." He got back to work on the unending forms of torment he was having to fill out again from Personnel. They had lost his *entire* file somewhere.
Xander ran into the sports bar and stopped beside Sonny's table. "I need help."
"Why?" he asked, looking amused at that.
"My real parents are here with people who want to keep me as a toy."
"What?" he demanded.
"My parents just tried to sell me, Sassone. Please. All I need is a break in my path and help to get to one of my minders." He saw people moving outside and ducked on the other side of him, squatting down. "Please. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important. Even just help getting onto the subway."
"They sold you?"
"For the fourth time, yeah. That's why Aiden and Tim ran them out of town. You know I wouldn't ask."
"I know. Vito, take him to Manhattan. Got their numbers?"
"I had my phone on me, I was heading to work. Thanks." He got up and went with the guy out the back door to his car. "Thanks, man."
"That sucks. How much did they sell you for?"
"This time, about sixty grand apparently." The guy gaped. "Yeah, well, I haven't had sex with a guy yet." That just got a nod and he got him into the backseat then got in to drive. "Thank you."
"Not an issue. My parents are brutal but not that bad."
"I got rescued the first few times and Timmy and Aiden stopped it the last one," he admitted, dialing Don's number. "Don, me. Yes it's fucking important, Don! My real parents showed up with people there to take custody of me since they sold me again! They said it's the only good thing I could do for them since I can't take care of them in their old age! Um, mostly because I'm not doing menial labor at the moment. They think I'm someone's mistress I guess. I don't know. No, I'm getting a ride out of Queens. Where am I heading? I don't have his home number in speed dial, Don!" He took a calming breath. "Please. Sonny's letting me have a lift with one of his guys. Please? Don, this means my weapons are back with them." He saw Vito take out his phone. "Please, Don? Where?" He nodded. "I've got my phone. My wallet was beside the door, I didn't grab it or my keys. Please?" He nodded. "Thanks, man." He hung up. "He's in Times Square at the seafood place."
"Sonny said he found your wallet outside."
"I didn't think I had grabbed it but tell him I'll pick it up when I come back. Thanks."
"Welcome. Hey, can I poach something for this?"
"Yeah, let me take it off my list in the system." That got a grin and a smile. The guy kept going, taking him to safety.
Don hung up and looked at his date, who looked curious. "The kid I help mentor, his real parents just showed up causing trouble. He's running here to save his life." That got a nod. "Let me call someone over there." He called Mac. "It's me. Xander's real folks showed up with someone they had sold him to. He had to go to Sassone to get out of the borough and to me. That's what I said, Mac. He told me once it wasn't the first time they'd done this to him, Mac. Please. No, he escaped but that left them there with his weapons and Sonny up the street and knowing that they're in the open. Do you really think we saw all of them, Mac?" he asked tolerantly. "I'm in Times Square, seafood. On a date," he said dryly. "Thanks." He hung up and looked at her then checked his watch. "From where Xander lives I've got about forty-five," he offered with a smile.
She grinned back. "Don, you forget I'm a Fed, dear. I can help." He beamed at that. "Tell me what you know?"
"Of course." He held her hand and they went back to eating while talking about Xander. He left out all the strange stuff and kept it at 'he's a weapon's collector' for that topic in Xander's life. When it was nearly time they walked outside after paying the bill, seeing someone walking up the street. "He let you out?"
"He had to. They were tracking the car." He hugged Don. "I'm sorry I ruined your date, Don."
"I know, Xander. It's not your fault." Danny and Stella pulled in and got out of one of the official SUV's. "There, they're gonna take you to the station." They all heard the gun click and looked toward the group of people standing there. "Huh, they're stupid. NYPD."
"FBI," she agreed, producing her ID. That got some laughs. "What?"
He looked at her. "You kinda look like a lawyer, ma'am, I'm guessing they don't think you're scary," Xander told her.
"I am with the legal department but I'm just as much an agent as every other one." She pushed her emergency switch in her purse. She looked at Don. "Stall."
"Agreed. Xander, behind Danny." The guns followed him. "You can't have him."
"We can. We bought and paid for him. He's our property now."
"They haven't had rights to me since I was sixteen," Xander offered. "They have no right to sell me."
"They do, you're their possession." One of them stepped forward. "Give me the boy and it'll all end, people. We can all have desserts and go home happy."
"Fat chance," Xander told him. "You won't be keeping me even if you manage to get me." The man laughed. "The last ones couldn't. They've done this before, dude. They were stopped then."
"I doubt it. You're *cleaner* than one but other than that I doubt it." The man lunged for Xander and Xander fought back. He didn't care if he did kill the guy. Danny pulled him back and pointed his gun in the guy's face. The other guns came up. Stella stroked his back until someone grabbed Xander from behind, making him squeak.
"Let him go!" Stella ordered.
"No, he's mine."
Xander managed to get an elbow strike in, that loosened the arm around his throat. Then he kicked his ass until he was unconscious. "I'm sorry I'm littering today," he told Don. "I'll gladly pay the fine." Mac rolled up with a few cruisers and the FBI. "Wow. That's impressive."
"It is," she agreed. "Are you all right, Xander?"
"My knuckles hurt but I'm okay. I've had worse." He pointed at them. "My parents sold me to them, Mac. They may or may not be dead. Sonny helped me."
"When I sent someone over there, your mother was dead on your floor, your gun safe was open, and Sonny was nowhere to be found," Mac admitted.
"His mother was a whiny, worthless being," the guy in charge stated. "It was right that my employer got rid of her. The other?"
"I'll ask Sonny later," Xander promised. He looked at Mac. "Please."
"Not a problem, Xander. Officers, escort Mr. Harris to the SUV. Keep him there." That got a nod and someone unwisely fired a shot. They went down and so did the rest of them, fortunately non fatally. Xander only flinched and kept walking to the SUV. Shooting him was a waste of money, he knew he was safe. He got into the far side of the car and looked at them. "I'm sorry you guys had to deal with this. They've done this sort of thing before to supplement a poor income."
That got a nod from the officers. "Are you all right?"
"Shooting me means they wasted a lot of money," Xander said quietly. "Doing so is a last ditch effort. They were shooting at you guys or Mac." That got a nod from the officer at the edge of the van. "Are they all right?"
"Detective Taylor has a slight graze to his arm, sir. Nothing too terrible. None of us went down." Xander nodded and that, leaning forward to cradle his head in his hands. "It'll be all right."
"No it won't." He pulled out his phone and dialed a number he had gotten off one of the waitresses at the sports bar. "Sonny, I don't care if you capped my mother. If you did, I'll buy you an ice cream cone. You know I don't drink, man. The head guy, the one with the bald head and the really ugly scarf in place of a tie?" He nodded. "He has my father? Okay. No, only six of them showed up here. Watch out for them, okay? No, we're talking feds and Taylor now too, man. I don't care. Thank you for hiding that for me. Like I care, Sonny," he sighed. "You helped save my life, I think I can let you steal the shotgun out of the cabinet. You didn't take my swords, right? Thanks, man. I don't care if you did or they did, Sonny. You know that. You saved me that deserves a reward. Thank you." He hung up and got up, peeking over the hood. "Mac, my mother is dead, their boss shot her. Ugly scarf guy has my father and at least three other guards according to Sonny, plus a driver. My gun safe got cleared out totally. But not my swords."
"Got it, Xander. Stay over there."
"Mac, shooting me is wasting their money. I'm a last resort to shoot."
"Stay over there anyway," Danny ordered.
"Oh, I am." He leaned on the hood. "Just give up, dude. I doubt you're American so all they can do is deport you." The guy gave up making him sigh and shake his head. "I hate stupid people." One of the officers patted him on the back and he looked back at him. "Hi."
"Hi." He went back to watching them. "They did this before?"
"Three other times. Once to a guy who said I was still slightly too young so he chained me to a dog house and fed me alpo and called me a puppy. Once to a guy who thought I'd make a good sacrifice of blood. Once to a Master in LA that was actually a serial killer, he'd killed all the subs that went to him or he bought. My adoptive parents kicked their asses for that one and made them go running for their lives before they could do more than accept the money. I heard and went running to Timmy." That got another pat. "I'm good," he sighed. "I'm too used to this. This, death, destruction. Shit, it's almost like Sunnydale at the moment." Danny came over with Don. "Are you two okay?"
"We're fine," Danny assured him. "Who took the guns?"
"I told Sonny if he found them he could keep them as a reward. He saved my ass, I reward saving my ass."
"Okay, I can understand that," Don agreed. "I need a list of *everything* you had, Xander."
"You saw most of it, all but the grenade launcher and the C-4 Giles sent the other day. The Watchers sent it to him for some reason and he hates the crap so he forwarded it over to me. Oh, and one new shotgun." That got some horrified looks. "My former mentor, Giles, is out in Cali. He's from Britain. He's part of a radical group of people who believe they're Van Helsing. So they send him supply runs every few months of stuff he could need to do that. Giles likes crossbows, considers guns to be an abomination and a wicked thing when eliminating vampires and demons. So he sent them to me because he knows I like weapons. The guy trained me, what can I say." He shrugged. "Anyway, I'm keeping his collection. The grenade launcher was because we ran into something that we could've used it on last year and well, the guns are guns, and the C-4 was because sometimes it's practical."
Don shook his head. "Your town is so screwed up."
"Well, yeah, but that's why we had the really high death rate."
"Like New York City high?" the officer behind Xander asked.
"No, like double or triple New York City and that's after our protection detail brought it down," Xander admitted, looking back at him. "I used to be on the Sunnydale protection committee. I did a lot of patrols at night, officer." That just got a nod. "That's another reason they sent Giles supplies so often."
"You do know someone like Sonny Sassone could use it on us, right?"
"Sonny's got someone trying to take over his turf right now," Xander said. "He's got bigger problems than you guys. Besides, Sonny knows if he shoots any of the people my adoptive mom sent me to I'll have to get him back. Sonny and I have a peace treaty at the moment. A real 'leave me alone or I'm going to make your life a living hell' peace treaty." Danny stiffened at that, looking at him. He shrugged. "You never asked."
"I never did," he agreed smugly. "You've seen Sonny doing bad shit?"
"That was one of the hints on the tape, Danny."
"We keep Danny outta the loop of anything Tanglewood since his dad ran with Sonny," Don explained. He looked at him. "The assassin guy was gonna go after him too."
"So you prevented his death and we got sent hints?" the officer asked. Xander looked at him and nodded. "That's good for a dom, sir."
"Thank you." He grinned. "We had to do that very carefully. By the way, no one asked the store owner the right questions, Don. When he goes in for his protection money he steals smokes."
"Oh. Cool. I'll keep that in mind," he agreed happily. "Got your wallet and keys?" Xander shook his head. "We can get 'em."
One of the officers who had arrived in the last batch after shots had been fired handed them to Don. "One of his goons stopped me to hand them over, sir. I was on my way to deliver them to one of the CSI. He figured he'd be in protective custody." Xander waved a hand around him, getting a smirk. "That's about as protective as you can get," he agreed.
"I'd make a joke about all the guys in uniforms but I might get spanked," Xander agreed. Most of the officers laughed. "Sorry, guys," he told the others. "I'm known to lighten the mood with bad jokes."
"I'd rather be admired for my mind than my uniform and body," said the guy behind him.
Xander looked at him. "For that I'd have to date you," he teased. The guy pinkened. "Okay. Let me know." The guy smirked and walked off, going to help. He looked at Don, then shrugged. "He seems like a very nice guy."
"He is, I know him," Don agreed. He patted Xander on the head. "Okay, let's get this wrapped up, guys," he called. "Get it back down to CSI doing their thing." That got nods and they broke off to take the suspects back to Flack's precinct for him. All the feds, including his date, followed them. "Danny?"
"I've got Xander." That got a nod so Don headed back after them. "C'mon, let's get you back to our station so we can do the statement, Xander." Xander nodded, letting him walk him back to get him into the SUV. "Stella, I'm taking him back for his statement."
"Take a cruiser with you," she called. "They're still out there." That got a nod and they drove off with a cruiser following. She looked at Mac. "It could've been a lot worse," she decided.
Mac nodded. "A lot. He could be on his way out of the country right now." That got a nod and they got to work taking evidence and pictures. They cleared a path from the doorway of the restaurant first, getting an appreciative nod. "He's sorry, he had to run to Don. I know he didn't want to cause anyone distress."
"He didn't and it would've been worse if he had been killed or taken," the manager agreed. "What did they want him for?"
Stella looked at him. "His parents sold him to them." That got a shudder. "Exactly." He nodded and went back inside. "This is going to be a messy trial. Especially if all his guns are missing."
He made a non-committal sound and looked over as Lindsey pulled in. "Dig in."
"I'll start on this side," she agreed, getting to work on the casings over there. "I'm starting my numbering at two hundred, Mac."
"Make a note on your forms," Stella reminded her absently. That way their casings didn't overlap and cause confusion. They didn't want any confusion on who did what this time.
Xander walked into the Miami-Dade Crime Lab building a week later and smiled at the receptionist. "Is Timmy Speedle in please?"
"I can have him paged, sir. Are you a friend?"
"His son." That got a nod and she paged him. Xander paced nervously, pouncing him when he saw him watching him. "Daddy."
"Xander." He gave him a squeeze. "I like the longer hair. You're early." Xander sniffled because he finally felt safe, loved, and not alone for the first time since he had left Las Vegas, and he pulled him into a semi-private room, closing the blinds, letting his son cry on him. "Shh, baby, daddy's here. What's wrong?" Xander gasped and choked out the whole story, making Speed hold him tighter. "Shh, I'm here, baby. Daddy's here. You're all right." Someone knocked then walked in. "Not now, Frank."
"The kid okay?" He handed over the visitor's pass.
"No. His real parents showed up and tried to sell him again." Frank just nodded and left them alone. He clipped the pass onto his son's belt loop then went back to hugging him, letting Xander calm down. "Shh, he won't say a word," he soothed. "I've got you, it's all right, Xander." Xander slowly calmed down in his arms, going limp against his shoulder for a few minutes. "I've got you. It's all good, son." Xander gave him a squeeze. He got them sitting down, handing Xander some tissues from the drawer. "Now, what happened?" Xander laid it all out, even that his admirer had tried to claim him during it, that he had tipped his parents off to where he was so he could ride in and save him. That Sonny had his guns so Mac wasn't happy with him on that but that they were all dealing. That they had him come down early due to that, since they thought the guy was still up there. Speed called Horatio, speaking quietly to him. Then he hung up and hugged Xander again. "We'll see what we can do, Xander. Have you talked to your boss?" Xander wiped his cheeks and shook his head. "Or Steven?"
"Don talked to him." He looked at him. "I don't know why this happens to me, daddy."
"I don't either, son, but we'll talk to your subs, baby. See if we can get you out of the contracts so you can move down here." Xander nodded, hugging him again. Horatio walked inside. "Did Taylor give you anything?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "He was out on a scene. He said he'd call Lindsey to send down their descriptions and his statement." He stroked over Xander's hair. "You'll be safe, Xander, and I can let the team help watch you."
"I don't want to keep Timmy off work."
"Hi," he said weakly. Timmy had talked about him like he was mythical. "I'm Xander."
"I know." He smiled. "It's all right. We're like a family. As of right now, he's only got a few more hours so you can stay here today, all right?" Xander nodded. "Good boy. Then we'll let him take you home and arrange for him to have tomorrow off, that way you have time to set things up and we have time to see how bad this could be if they follow you." Xander nodded more strongly at that. "Then we'll see what he can do to help you. Now, Eric and Alexx are up the halls and I believe they'd want to meet you, young man. Speed, take him to help him clean up."
"Sure, H. Thanks." He helped Xander up and nodded, letting Xander shake Horatio's hand before taking him to the bathroom. Eric gave him an odd look. "The son's down after an emergency."
"So, ice cream for dinner?" Alexx agreed, peeking into the bathroom. He swatted her with a frown. "What? I can see him."
"Let him clean up first, Alexx." Xander came back out, his face cleaned off and his eyes mostly unpuffy. "Good boy, Xander. Xander, this is Alexx Woods, our ME and my part- time mother. The other is Eric Delko. I told you about him."
"You said he was a playboy."
"That too." Eric swatted Speed on the arm. But he smiled when he shook Xander's hand. "Now, we've got to get him somewhere to sit."
"Break room?" Alexx offered. "I should get to know my grandbaby anyway." She led him off, going to talk to him.
Speed stopped Eric from moving. "New York sent him down. His real parents showed up with people they had sold him to." That got a horrified look. "We're getting information. Go haunt H." That got a nod so he let Eric go. Speed followed more slowly, letting Xander get used to Alexx. Even if she was telling embarrassing stories about him. One that even made him wince. They ran into Alexx's other son, introducing him to Ryan, who smiled and shook Xander's hand, then patted him on the cheek and said something quietly. Xander nodded at that, straightening up a bit more. Then they went into the break room. He gave Ryan an odd look. "What did you say?"
"That I'd heard about his career through some people I know down here. That he was supposed to be very good."
"He is. We've got a team briefing coming after we get things from New York."
"Sure." He went to find Horatio and see when that would be. He found him reading things as they came off the fax. "Speed said we're going to have a team meeting, Horatio?"
Horatio looked at him and nodded. "We are. Get everyone, including him and Alexx, into the break room."
"They're there already." He paged the others with the team meeting code and the word breakroom, heading that way himself. "Apparently it's now," he offered when he walked in.
"Works for me," Speed agreed. He let Xander rest his head against his shoulder. He said something quietly and Xander squealed, getting up to pounce Calleigh with a babble of sound and happiness for his new stepmom. Speed grinned at Alexx. "He learned that from the girls who raised him."
"Obviously." She smiled at Calleigh, who walked Xander back inside. "So I see you've met your stepson."
"I have and he's adorable! I'm just so glad I don't have to change diapers!" She pinched Xander on the cheek. "Stay in here, dear. We don't want the nasty feds who're watching us to say that you did mean things to evidence."
"We're having a team meeting anyway," Ryan told her.
"I saw the page. Are you the herald today?"
Xander coughed. "It's kinda about why I'm down here."
"It's more than kinda about why you're down here, it's why you're down here for good," Speed assured him. "I should've cheated to get you down here sooner. I should've rigged the coin toss." Xander gave him a hug. "I know, baby, but you were lonely and they didn't watch out for you the way I would."
"They're busy and I'm not their family," he said quietly.
"True. You're not. Which is why you're staying down here. Where I can watch over your shoulder, make sure you eat properly, and watch out for the dating problem you have." Xander blushed. "Find someone nice?"
"One of the officers asked me out," he said, looking at him.
"Good! Was it a good date?"
"He's a bit more muscle than I am. We could be buddies though. Maybe even buddies with benefits, but not if you want me to stay." He stared into his eyes.
Speed cleared his throat. "You are staying, Xander," he said firmly. "No arguments. I'll even talk to your subs about either coming down here or letting you out of your contracts." Xander nodded and went back to resting his head on his shoulder. He stroked his back. "I know, it's been a bad few days," he soothed.
"Normally I'm not this cuddly unless I'm dating someone," he announced at the fond looks. "I've just had a really shitty week."
"He has," Calleigh agreed, sitting down on Speed's other side. "So, what's going on?"
"Oh, it's going to be unpretty," Speed assured her. She just nodded. Horatio walked in. "We're all here but Frank, H. He's in court."
"I'll brief him later. I'm sure we've all met Xander, correct?" He waved listlessly. "I know it's been a bad week, Xander. You're safe in Miami."
"You don't have serial killers?"
"Not too many," Calleigh promised. "Why? Do they like you?" she teased.
"Ya think?" Speed snorted. "He got how many arrested through SVU?"
"Seven sexual predators and four more normal ones. Plus a pedophile who was coming into the club for aversion therapy. I called one of them to come in and overhear that time because he was starting to slip. They caught him the next day picking up the kid from school." He yawned. "Sorry."
"It's all right," Horatio assured him. "That's not counting the person who gave him presents and called his parents so he could save him." He put down the papers, including the copies of the drawings. "These are the people who are still in the wind who came to steal Xander."
"One's got his last name?" the other female in the room noted. "Brother?"
"Father," Xander said grimly. She gave him a horrified look.
"It wasn't the first time, Yelina. That's why Aiden and I adopted him after we made his parents run for their life," Speed said firmly. "Is the person who sent him the check in jail?"
"He was given bail, he claims he didn't know what they'd do with the information," Horatio offered, tossing that one onto the pile. "I'm not sure which one I consider more dangerous."
"The guys who chased me from Queens to Manhattan pulled guns on Don Flack and a fed he was out on a date with," Xander said, sitting up so he could go back into crisis mode. "They actually tried to shoot at Mac Taylor when he ordered me removed from the scene after I beat the guy who sent me that check."
That got nods all around and they read his statement. Horatio looked at him. "We'll do our best to protect you, Xander," he reminded him.
"I'm okay at protecting myself but I don't like having to run to anyone for help. I didn't want to run to Sonny to get me out of the neighborhood but I couldn't find another way quickly." He looked at his dad. "I told my landlord what had happened. I'm not getting back my security deposit but I put everything else in storage. So I can actually afford to move if we can get me out of my contracts."
"I'll call your boss myself a bit later," Speed promised, patting him on the back. "Calm down."
"What about that check?" Ryan asked. Xander gave him an odd look. "He was out of minutes so he used my phone to call you that day."
"I don't want to use it."
"I understand that but it could help and he is a moron. He should pay for you getting away from him," Calleigh assured him. Horatio nodded that he agreed.
"Check?" Yelina asked.
"In the statement is that last gentleman," Horatio offered. "He sent Xander an anonymous check for two million dollars and then sent his parents information on him so he could step in and save him." She gave him a horrified look. He looked at Xander. "Use it, Xander. It serves him right." Xander nodded at that. "It'll also mean you can set up a studio down here if you need to."
"I might like that," he agreed. He looked at Speed, who shrugged. "It wouldn't make you uncomfy?"
"Nope. You're happy being a dom, I like it when you're happy. Hell, we can even spread the word around since you were helping officers in the life back in New York." Xander gave him a small smile for that. "Good boy. Let us handle this, okay? You handle it if they come up to you and we're not there." Xander nodded, going back to resting against his shoulder. Frank stomped in. "Better late than never."
"Yeah, well, got stopped by the Chief wondering what the hell was going on." Ryan handed him the statements next. He sat down hard, reading it. "Holy shit," he said in awe, looking at Xander, who nodded. "Damn, kid."
"It happens," Speed reminded him. He looked at him. "Did you know your grandfather is down here right now?" He shook his head. "He is. He got back here a few days ago."
"I'll check in with him tomorrow. While you're at work so Horatio doesn't get scowled at by the guy outside."
Horatio looked then snorted. "He's Internal Affair's, Xander. Ignore him." That got a nod and they went back to the briefing. Ryan had the day after next off anyway so he agreed to take Xander that day, just in case. After that, the whole PD would know so they'd have general protection orders out for him. Speed had to go wrap up a few things then he came to get Xander and let him follow him home since he had rented a car. Horatio looked at Alexx when she came up to watch them drive off. "He'll be an interesting addition to the family."
"He will be, but my grandson's very hurt," she sighed, shaking her head. "He has a grandfather? A natural one I mean?"
"Patrick Benis," he said dryly, looking at her. "His father walked away."
"Pity Father Benis didn't take that boy."
"I'm sure he tried, Alexx. I do know he watches the boy because he sent me information on him." That got a smirk from her. He nodded and smirked back. "Quite a lot. We do need to set him up with some nice women. The last female he dated chased him down the street with a knife because he wouldn't sleep with her on a first date." He walked off, heading back to his office.
"That woman needed drugs then," she complained.
Xander looked at his grandfather when he walked into his study. "Hi." He got up and gave him a hug, getting a cooler reception. "What?" he asked, looking pitiful. He sat down again. "I'm trying to be good, grandfather."
"You doubted I would break my word?"
"I wasn't sure it wasn't like the last one."
"Well, I suppose you haven't had too many who have kept their word, Xander, but I always do."
"Good to know. You're the only one I knew who might've sent me the money. Not like Cordelia would or Angel would. Not that I think either of them have that sort of funds. That's owning a pro ball team money."
His grandfather looked amused. "You need more than that to own one of those, grandson."
"Yeah, but you'd have to have that sort of money to throw away two mil that way."
"True." He smiled. "I could have done that but I do not. I'm honoring your wishes."
"Thank you." That got a nod. "Anyway," he sighed after the odd emotional moment, making his grandfather laugh. "Daddy wants me to move down here full time."
"I would wish that on you. It would be better for you. You would be less lonely and perhaps find someone nice?"
"I liked the last guy I dated but we'd only be friends." He shrugged. "Like I said, I'm waiting on it to mean something."
"I can agree with that. Especially with what happened with Faith," he assured him. "It should mean something, Xander." Xander relaxed again. "Now, what steps are you taking to move down here?"
"Well, today I'm calling my subs in a few hours. We're going to talk to them together, let them and my boss know what happened. My trainer knows and he agreed it was for the best. He gave them minimal information last night so I wouldn't get sworn at today. Then Timmy and I are having dinner."
"Good. That's a reasonable course for today. Then you'd be looking for somewhere to live?"
"I am. Though tonight I'm calling Lady Heather. She's a neat auntie sort and she's going to throw a fit when she hears. I should tell her before she hears through the grapevine. I went to her about the check too. After mom and everyone. She said I should leave it in the bank too. Horatio and Timmy think I should spend the hell out of it. Sorry, forgot not to swear."
"In that case, I'd swear," he assured him with a slight smile. "Where were you planning on looking?"
"I have no idea. Timmy was going to help me look online tonight and then I was going to have Ryan go with me to look at them. He'd know where there were problems coming soon because he was in patrol recently."
"I heard. He's said to have a small oral problem, as in his mouth runs now and then, but he's said to be a great officer and a good CSI." Xander nodded at that. "What's this I heard about your weapons?"
"I had to go to Sonny to get me out of harm's way that night."
"Ah. And he went to break into your place to stop some of the issues."
"I agreed, I could care less. That's a fitting reward for saving me that way and they're all in the system but the grenade launcher and two other things, plus the C-4 but Mac knows about them now too." That got a smirk. "He does."
"Which is good and keeping you out of it," he agreed. "It is a good plan, Xander."
"Thanks, Grandfather." He smiled. "Now what?"
"Now, we see what we can make of our relationship down here." He heard the door open. "Ah, Ethan." He saw his grandson stiffen. "Do not do that, Xander. He is here to help me."
"As long as I don't get possessed again," he said bitterly. "Or anything else." He stared Ethan down, making him shudder. "You're helping him?"
"He has a small lump and I'm helping make it smaller."
"I guess that's all right then."
"Thank you, Alexander." Xander shuddered at his full name. "Sorry. Are you all right? I'd heard that you had problems."
"Someone told Giles?"
"I told him, grandson," his grandfather said, rolling his eyes. "Someone should tell Rupert but I have not yet."
"All he'll do is laugh and so will the girls," Xander said bitterly. He stood up. "I'll let you have your treatment, Grandfather." He kissed him on the cheek then glared at Ethan. "Protect him for me, please." He walked out, taking his rental car back to his father's place. He walked in and headed right for a hug. "He's working with Ethan on a personal problem," he complained. Speed simply cuddled him until he was ready to be let go of.
Father Benis smiled at Ethan. "The stronger emotions are for the young," he pointed out.
"I remember," he agreed with a small smile. "So are set opinions. Let me prepare, Patrick."
"Thank you, Ethan." He smiled at him and the young man kissed him on the cheek before going to get ready for his next treatment. He sighed and waved in his head of security who was lurking in the halls. "Make sure he's all right. Send Timmy Speedle anywhere that my grandson might like to live. He's still very confused and hurt."
"He is but he still accused you of going back on your word."
"He's never had anyone who kept theirs, Pat." He stroked his cheek. "I promise, it wasn't an insult. He knew it wasn't anyone else he knew and it was a reasonable assumption if you don't know that some people keep their word."
"Whatever. I'll help him but I don't like the kid for that alone."
"He's never had anyone until Mr. Speedle who gave a damn about him. Besides, it could have been me. I had been thinking about asking him to do some more donating." The guy grimaced. "Really. It wasn't an insult. Who else would have sent him two million dollars?"
"He doesn't know he's still alive," he pointed out with a smile. That got a nod and a grimace. "Most of that was anger because he wasn't sure I hadn't kept it. He doesn't realize that most everyone else has the same sort of ethics he has. My grandson is fiercely loyal. It would have hurt him greatly had it been from me. As he pointed out, not everyone could throw away two million dollars."
"He didn't call after that one."
"He did twice," he assured him happily. "Once to apologize later that night. Once after he was nearly stolen to tell me he was all right."
"He was what?"
"The person who sent it tipped off his parents. They got with someone to sell him again," he said simply. "Xander had to go to Sassone to save his life. Though, Sonny did take a bit of advantage of him by taking his weapons. Xander called it a reward for saving him."
The guy moaned. "I'll have someone in the detail watch him closer, Patrick." He patted him on the head. "Should it be someone who can deal with demons or is he not hunting?"
"I don't know. He hasn't in about a month up there but there hadn't been any problems. He did promise he wasn't doing it indiscriminately any longer." That got a nod and he went to make that detail choice and send them after the kid. After all, the PD had their own problems coming. Patrick settled into his chair. His grandson was very much like him in some ways. It made him proud but sometimes the boy was hell to deal with. "Maybe I should take him with me to the gay marriage fundraiser," he mused. "No, he's uncomfortable around people. I'll wait a bit on that, do it before I release this shell." He got up and went to find Ethan, see if he was ready yet.
Xander looked at Ryan when he came in. "Want to go house looking with me today?"
"It's easier to protect you when you're in one place."
"It'll be harder to find me and my grandfather has a guy sitting on the house."
"I saw. I called it in and Horatio said that's who he worked for." He came over to look at his list. "That one's not in a good neighborhood, Xander."
"They said it's being rebuilt. I don't mind that it's ethnically diverse."
"No, but they'd mind you. Last year they ran a single mother off the block for being a single mother and sleeping with a guy. Called her a prostitute and tried to have CPS come too." He nodded, crossing that one and one on the second page off. Ryan looked over the rest. "I think that one's on the verge of being sold to a retailer. Do you need somewhere that big?"
"No. I need a nice place with a few extra rooms. I was thinking a house but they're all outrageously expensive."
"They can be." He smiled at him. "I would suggest somewhere downtown. Easier to get to and get help if needed." That got a nod. "Plus closer to grocery shopping and things. Tell Speed we're going and I'll show you where I think is a nice place." Xander called him as he went to find his shoes, wallet, and the key Tim had given him. Ryan grinned. Xander was a nice guy. He could definitely call the kid a friend. He came back nodding but still without the key. He found it for him and Xander grinned. "Most people use the same spots to put things."
"Good to know." He locked the door behind him with the key, just to make sure it was the right one, then followed him down to the car, waving at the guy watching them. He slid in and buckled up, then patted himself down again to make sure he had everything. Ryan gave him an amused look. "Sorry, sometimes I think I left things at home."
"It happens to the best of us," he promised. He backed out of his parking spot and headed for an area downtown that was coming back into fashion. It had a few rundown buildings and some nicer ones being rebuilt. A lot of artists lived in the area. A few musicians. Xander fell in love with one of the three story buildings and he called the realtor to see how much it went for. He nodded at that amount, handing the phone over. Xander babbled at him as he looked through the dirty windows. The realtor came down to talk to Xander, not minding what he was planning on doing at all. He had some good plans and the building was in good shape by the last appraisal that had been done. All it needed was paint, furniture, and some equipment for Xander's work and hobbies. Xander called his grandfather to babble at him from his own phone, tossing Ryan back his when he realized the number wasn't in there. His grandfather sounded amused but pleased for him.
Xander looked at Speed later that night, pouncing him to hug him. "I found it."
"Great! How much?"
"About fifty thousand more than I have at the moment," he said grimly. "I can get a loan, the realtor already applied for me and got back an 'okay' light. So I can sign papers tomorrow and then...." Someone knocked on the door so he went to let them in. "Hi, Horatio." He went back to hugging his father. "So I'll have the money to move my stuff down here and decorate appropriately. I should be able to pay that off within three years with how my salary was running from that stuff in New York. Plus the massage stuff on the side." He beamed. "Oh, I called my subs earlier with Ryan sitting in the other room. I used your phone but my phone card, and we all talked about it and they agreed New York wasn't safe for me. Then I called Mom and she squealed and was happy and bouncy until someone pinched her then she slugged them but that's okay because she kissed it and made the booboos better. She promised she'd be down for the holidays," he finished proudly. "Grandfather likes it too. He said it's a good looking place according to his guard. He called it thin but long. So I can sign papers tomorrow but they wanted someone to sign it with me. Not the loan but the paperwork, the deeds and stuff, who was local."
"I can do that," he agreed, grinning at the torrent of words he was getting. He kissed him on the forehead. "Did you get dinner or am I cooking?"
"Can you cook? Or I mean I can cook."
"You're not allowed in the kitchen," he reminded him, turning him around and handing him to Horatio. "Tell him while I go check the fridge."
"You pulled down the roast and is Ryan staying? I said if you didn't mind he could since he found the spot."
"Wolfe, are you staying for dinner?" he called.
"I can if you want. But if you want privacy I can bug out," he called from the study. He came out. "You've got one impressive library, Speed. Can I borrow this one?" He held it up.
"Sure. Make sure you don't damage it or anything."
"Thanks. The library branch I go to has me on a waiting list for it." He went to sit down and read while Xander babbled at Horatio, who was smiling. "Need help in the kitchen?"
"H can help me," he promised. "I'm not sure you're not as poisonous as Xander is." Horatio smiled at that, shaking his head after he gave Xander a hug and went to help him.
Xander flopped down on the couch, sighing a bit. "I'm a happy boy."
"I can tell. What about the stuff you'll need? Like the tables for the massage stuff and the stuff for the other rooms?"
"Lady Heather said she knew a great place to get it," he said proudly. "She gave me a catalog. That's right, I have to call her." He went to do that, finding his phone card still in the office. He calmed himself, she shouldn't have to listen to him babble. He dialed her house, getting an out of service response. He tried it again. Then he frowned and called her cellphone. That got the same one. So he did something he probably shouldn't. He called his favorite sub out there. "Is Lady Heather all right, Gregory? I tried the house and her cell and it says it's out of order." He listened to what had been going on, growling some. "Does she need me? I can be there tomorrow. I'm sure your team can. No, I'm signing on my new place tomorrow. Yes, down in Miami." He smiled.
"Whenever you feel you need me, Gregory," he promised. "Is she able to travel? Then send her down here, Gregory. I'll watch over her. She's like a favorite aunt or stepmom or something. Please." His phone was handed over. "You worried me," he said gently. He smiled when she whispered his name. "Are you all right, Lady Heather? Should I come out? Gregory said no but I'm a worrywart." He smiled. "Of course you can. I'm signing on it tomorrow. You're more than welcome to help me decorate." He beamed. "Are you sure? Of course I'd run to your defense. You're like my favorite aunt or a stepmom or something. Okay, well, I can agree to those feelings too but you're still a great woman and I would never dare think to impose them on you because you're like a light in my life.
"I know, I'm mushy. I'm having a good and bouncy day. One of the guys who works with dad found me the *perfect* place, Lady Heather. Yup. Smallish but it'll do for me and what I have planned. A lot of artists live there. Not too expensive. I had to take out a very small mortgage. Like fifty G's. Yeah, really tiny one. That's more than enough to decorate, get my stuff moved down here if I don't go back to do it personally, and pay off the first two month's bills just in case I have a slow start." He smiled. "I know, that's what I had planned. I do adore you, Lady Heather, you know that. Then come down and help me decorate when it's safe to do so. Horatio says Miami's a pretty safe city. He's in the other room. Horatio? Timmy?" He put her on speaker. "There you go, Lady Heather. They're both walking in."
"Boys, I hate to impose but my house was brutally attacked earlier," Lady Heather said, sounding calm. "The very sweet officers out here want me to go somewhere safer and Tim has suggested I could come help him decorate and paint. Would you mind terribly taking on my protection as well?"
"Do they know who did it?" Horatio asked.
"We do," she agreed. "I had death threats for a week before they tried to set the house on fire tonight." She took a drink of something. "I don't want to impose, I'm bringing some of my staff down and we'd be at a hotel, but Tim said it was safer down there."
"It is," Speed agreed. "He loves you like he does his mother, Lady Heather. He's got the same look on his face at the moment."
"Come down and we'll help protect you," Horatio promised.
"Thank you, boys. I'll probably be bringing one of their officers with me, just to brief you and for the first few days. He and Master Tim know each other from when he came out for training. I'll make arrangements tonight and email the poor bouncy one there." Xander giggled at that. "A happy day is a blessed thing, Tim. Enjoy it."
"I will, Lady Heather, and you be safe. If that psycho comes after you again, let me know and I'll fly out to escort you."
"I'll be perfectly safe, dear. I promise I will be. You know some of the ones out here are very protective."
"I do and I'll reward him for protecting you," he promised. She chuckled, and it was a happy and pleased sound. "Come help me paint, Lady Heather. I welcome your input."
"Of course, dear. I'll see you in a few days." She hung up.
Xander hung up on their end. "Someone tried to burn her house down with people in it."
"You go by Tim?" Horatio asked, looking pleased.
"He is my daddy."
"He is. It's a good, strong name, Xander." He smiled and went back to the kitchen.
"You could use the help picking out paint colors," Speed agreed. Xander nodded at that and grinned. "Good. Who do you know out there?"
"I met most of them because her daughter was killed," he said, losing his smile. "I came back the day before her daughter's funeral. I would've stayed but she said she could do it without me."
"Sure. I like that you got adopted by her. She's got to be protective of you," he said, smiling some. "Want corn or potatoes?"
Xander shrugged. "Both?"
"That works." He grinned. "Play online, Xander." He went back to the kitchen. "He's going to play online for a bit."
"That's fine. Most boys his age do," Horatio agreed, smiling at him. "You do know his career threw Yelina for a loop?"
"Oh, yeah. She still looked confused earlier." That got a nod. "Does she mind?"
"No. She didn't think that we had officers who went that way."
"Horatio, my boy hunted the bad things that hide in the shadows for about four years. He can understand officers when they're torn up over having to kill in the line of duty." That got a nod. "Plus he understands about stresses too. He said he'd take some limited paying clients but the ones who *needed* him got special rates. Those who were playing got to pay more."
"That's reasonable," he agreed. "Has he connected with the local community?"
"He got an introduction called in early last night and then snuck out last night to go introduce himself. He said he met one of the cops who's in the life last night and they spent a long time talking. The guy apparently liked his idea and agreed to reference him since he had some good reports from Steven and Lady Heather both." That got a smile. "I like that she adopted him."
"I do as well. From what I've heard she seems nice." Speed looked at him. "Ray dabbled in his youth."
"Ah. That explains a lot." He grinned and handed over the can of corn. "He's a hungry boy."
"At that age so was I." He got to work warming that up while Speed made mashed potatoes. The roast was checked and then pulled out to rest for a few minutes. It was a good dinner. Xander came in to give Speed a hug and set the table without being asked. Though they could both hear his stomach rumbling. "Missed lunch?" Horatio teased.
"No, I had lunch but that was *hours* ago."
"I was a bottomless pit at your age too, Xander," Horatio promised. Xander grinned shyly and finished setting the table, then went back to his online chatting.
"If that's Willow tell her you're fine so she doesn't worry," Tim called.
"I already did, daddy."
"Good. We don't need a worried, frustrated witch in Miami this week." He shook his head at the very bad thought.
"Witch?" Horatio asked casually.
"Yeah, the branch floating, candle lighting, smug ass, makes mistakes one from Sunnydale who is his best friend," he said dryly. "We don't need her to come down and fuss, or worse, come down with Buffy to fuss. They both discounted Xander horribly when he was at home. I wanted to swat that girl about every other day. Fortunately Aiden handled the girls and I got my boy. He's a lot more fun and he doesn't make those sort of mistakes." Xander peeked in. "Yes, you. I'm glad I decided to take you in." Xander came in to give him a hug, getting a smile. "Mushy, I'm going to tell Aiden." Xander blushed and went back to the computer to go back to chatting. "Do not invite her down. I doubt she'd like your career."
"She hates it, she's throwing a fit about it to Giles and Tara," Xander called back.
"Who's Tara?" Ryan called.
"The witch she replaced Oz with when he left to get better control over his inner fuzzy nature," Xander called back. "She's supposed to be a very nice, sweet girl. Very shy, parents just slightly better than mine."
"Tara's more than welcome to come down but she's got to leave fussy and cranky behind," Speed called. Xander let out a cackle. "Willow didn't like that idea?" He walked that way, seeing Xander typing quickly. He came over to read over his shoulder. "Basically yeah." He took control of the keyboard and sent Xander's message, then put in that it was him and he was stealing Xander for dinner now but that she could have him back later. But that he did like Xander's career choices. It suited him and he was happy. If she didn't then she obviously wasn't much of a friend and maybe she should go correct that before he sent Aiden back to Sunnydale for the weekend. Her 'eep' was typed and they probably all heard it mentally. She said she'd think and do some research then come back to talk to him after he had dinner. He signed them off and pulled Xander up, looking at him. "She can stay at home."
"I think she and Ryan would be really good together."
Speed blinked a few times. "Don't wish that on him." He walked his son out to the table. "Water, tea, or soda?" He looked at his son. "Never mind. Milk it is." He went to get him some milk, making Horatio laugh. He got tea, Ryan took a soda, something he rarely did. "Watch out for him, he wants to set you up to meet Willow."
"He babbled about her today," Ryan admitted with a shy grin. "He said she was shy, smart, brilliant really, and made mistakes because she didn't have a lot of self confidence."
"Now and then it's over confidence," Speed warned. "But yeah. Shallow now and then too. There for a while she didn't look beyond what was in her life to see how she was hurting everyone around her." Xander gave him a look. "She didn't. Or don't you remember having to catch the Buffy to have her change her back from the puppy dog?"
"I do," he agreed. "Spike would've loved that story."
"Probably true," he agreed dryly. He dished up food for him and his son then handed stuff on. "Eat. Don't make me mimic Alexx tonight." They all smiled and dug in.
Xander met Lady Heather as she came out of the terminal, smiling at her and opening the door to her rented limo. "Here you go, Lady Heather."
"You don't look like a driver," Greg teased.
Xander kissed him on the side of the head. "I'm not. I'm bouncy and waiting for my stuff to be found in the warehouse I put it in." He let them get in then followed last, shutting the door. Gregory immediately went to his knees in front of him. "Good boy, Gregory. We'll go to the hotel to check in then to the station so you and she can brief Daddy and Horatio." He smiled at him. "Have you been good?"
"Mostly," he admitted, handing over his list. He handed over a sealed letter. "That's from Grissom. He said it was clear I needed help."
Xander read that one first, then handed it to Lady Heather with an eye-roll. He read the list of sins, nodding at them. Mostly minor losing control issues. Some temper at traffic. Some ogling women and men. One major one. "You hesitated when you had to pull your gun at a scene?" he asked, looking at Greg.
Gregory nodded, looking at him. "I'm not comfortable with it, Master Tim. It's like an alien appendage some days. Someone stuck it onto me. It's my evil hand."
Xander stroked over his head. "We'll work on that. Your boss and I will have a talk," he promised, smiling gently at him. "If you want." He nodded at that. "I will not dismiss you to his care unless you wish it and only with someone Lady Heather trusts watching over you at first."
"Agreed. I don't want him to help me that way," he admitted.
"That's fine, we'll work it out, Gregory." He went back to petting him. "Lady Heather, I'll be borrowing a room for a few minutes to go over his punishments with him." She smiled and nodded. "I'm staying with Dad until I get stuff moved down. I'm still contemplating having someone move me or going up and renting a truck."
"I'd help if I have the time," Greg promised, smiling at him. Xander grinned back. "Not sucking up, it's good to be with you. You help me even when I'm plain, old Greg Sanders."
"I do my best for my boys," Xander assured him, going back to petting him. All the way to the hotel and then Greg went back to the upstanding CSI and watched their backs on the way in. Xander nodded at the person behind the desk. "I'm escorting Lady Heather." That got a nod and she pulled up their reservations. Lady Heather took care of signing them in and then they went upstairs. He borrowed a bedroom to talk to Gregory and spank him for the minor offenses. The major one they'd have to work on and he'd be working with Greg on his visualizations. His bouncy nature that his boss complained about was a zest for life and the latent ADHD Greg carried over from childhood. To him it went along with a genius level intelligence. The same as babbling did. Once he was done with his corrections and Greg acknowledged his instructions they went back out, Greg going back to his knees in the car. "We need to work on his focusing techniques," he told her. "Do you think mental imagery? He had problems with that before."
"Sometimes the work it takes to put one into place helps cure the problem," she offered. "I know the mantra has worked for less tense situations. Traffic has been enough to even make me swear though and his case load is enough to make sane, simple men beg."
Xander nodded. "Dad has one of those too." He looked at Greg. "We'll work on that while we paint tomorrow. I have color palettes for your consideration, Lady Heather."
"Are they your favorites?"
"Two are, one isn't. Dad liked that one though. He said it reminded him of a few really good spas in town."
"Then we'll have to see, Tim." She smiled at him. "What about your equipment?"
"I can get that in any color to coordinate with the paint and carpets or tiles. I'll get that ordered once you help me make sure it's not horrible looking." She nodded at that. "I am using the place you suggested. They have some really nice deals right now if I go with the first or the third palettes."
"Good." She smiled as they pulled into the driveway of the station. "We're here." Greg got up and opened the door, letting the two masters out and walked behind them.
Xander grinned at the receptionist. "Horatio's expecting her. This is Lady Heather and CSI Sanders out of Las Vegas."
"He left instructions to take them to his office, Xander. Go ahead up." She made them sign in and gave them all visitor's passes before paging him. The boy walked him up there. It was making Speed very happy to have him down here. He smiled a lot more and scowled at everyone a lot less. She saw him scowling when he came in. "CSI Sanders and Lady Heather are here, Speed. In Horatio's office."
"Thanks, Marianne. Someone tried to burn her out so she's down for some vacation and recuperation time. CSI Sanders?" She handed over the sign-in sheet. "Oh, him. I didn't know he went into the field." He handed it back and went to check on them, nodding at Lady Heather. "Nice to finally put a face to the name, ma'am."
"Timothy," she said, smiling at him. "It is nice to finally meet such a good man to my favorite trainee." She shook his hand and Speed looked at Xander, who was standing guard. "He's very protective of me."
"It's a good trait of his. I encourage that one," he agreed. "It's what makes him want to help others."
"He does very good at that," Greg agreed. "Hi, Greg Sanders."
"Tim Speedle. Last I heard you were in DNA."
"It's a good field," he agreed, smiling at him. "Good luck in the field."
"I think I'm doing okay, even if Grissom does accuse me of being bouncy and hyper."
"You have ADHD, Greg," Xander said patiently. "Of course you're bouncy and hyper. It's the same reason I am." He shook his head. "Apparently Mr. Grissom is more uptight than Mac was."
Speed laughed and nodded. "Yeah, kinda. Behave, guys, Horatio's escaping a meeting to come see you in a few minutes." He left them there, closing the door partway.
Horatio knocked then came in a few minutes later. "Good afternoon, Lady Heather. Greg." He shook hands and smiled at Xander. "You could take Greg to the break room if you wanted."
"That's okay, I'm carrying notes from what we have so far," Greg offered, handing over the other envelope he had carried down. "That's what the lab had as of when we left this morning, Lieutenant Caine."
"Horatio then," he said with a grin. "Anything I can do to help I will. Grissom gave me until Saturday before I had to come back."
"That was nice of him." He looked over the notes, then looked at him. "No evidence on the death threats?"
"Small fingerprints, no match in the system that we could find. Saliva made a partial match to another case but it's a huge family. At least fifty members and you know the restrictions on the system."
"I do. It's usually a good thing that we can't search for close family ties but occasionally very frustrating." That got a nod. "Anything not included?"
"Hodges was taking a long look at the accelerant. He was having to break it down in an unusual way to find out what it was. That should be done by tonight. Hodges promised to call me first while he presents it to Grissom. By then we'll have more on the family as well."
"That's fine. Why don't you get a soda, Greg? Take Xander with you." He nodded and walked out, Xander behind him. He smiled when Xander closed the door. "I take it Grissom knows about them?"
"He sent Gregory to him this time because he believes Xander could help him calm down."
"They make drugs for that but you can end up fuzzy feeling or so I'm told."
"He does calm down with gentle application of caffeine. Grissom cut off his coffee habit recently."
"Ah, his own fault then."
"My brother did. I've dabbled a few times in a personal relationship but nothing like what Xander does."
"Many do," she agreed, smiling some. "I see a lot of that and Xander is going to make them pay more than the real clients, or so I'm told."
"That was what he was outlining the other night at dinner when Ryan asked him." She smiled at that. "What can I do to make you safer, Lady Heather?"
"We believe that having me down here should be enough. I did bring my secretary and two of my submissives with me. One of them is a former officer. He was injured on the job. Not critically but enough that he couldn't go back. The other will only call me his Goddess." That got another shy smile from him. "How is Xander doing?"
"Well enough. His father's a bit worried that he hasn't wanted to go out to enjoy the nightlife."
"He's not much of a partier. He still loathes those who drink around him," she agreed quietly. "He does need someone very special, including someone that can let him let go now and then without making him feel like he *has* to or forcing him to. He's had too much on his shoulders already. Gregory is good for him for that reason as well. He makes Xander laugh and be the goofy little boy his father loves more often." He nodded. She stood up. "I thank you for your help, Lieutenant."
"Horatio, please," he offered. He handed over one of his cards. "Should something happen, call me immediately, Lady Heather. I'll nag the lab out there for more information."
"Agreed. You'll keep me informed?"
"Of course. Is this your first set?"
"Now and then I get the typical letters from priests ordering me to repent or go to Hell for eternity for being a wicked and evil woman because I have a mind I use and a strong will."
He smirked. "You won't get that much down here. All the judgmental ones leave for the summer because they believe Miami is part of hell during it." She laughed at that, smiling at him. "Let me see you outside, Lady Heather. Are you going to keep Xander for the day? I'll tell his father if you are."
"He was going to go over his decorating ideas with me."
"You obviously have good taste. Speed glared at his very bright hawaiian shirt this morning."
"Ah, those," she sighed. "I've seen a good few of those. Xander is definitely not a Puritan." He chuckled and she smiled. "He's not."
"Thankfully not," he agreed. He helped her up and out to her car, watching the two boys fuss over her. He doubted many men fussed over that woman like she was fragile and delicate. Even though she wasn't it showed their love and respect for her. He waved and they headed off.
Frank looked over as he came out. "That was Lady Heather?"
"It was, Frank. You notice Xander wasn't bouncy and he was a lot different?"
"I saw. So apparently he's got an on switch for the job."
Horatio looked at him. "Or for crises according to Speed. They should be all right but we do need to nag the lab out there tonight."
"That's good. I'd hate to see what Speed's boy pulled outta his butt to protect that woman." He handed over a folder. "This got emailed to me earlier about what he did in Sunnydale."
Horatio walked inside reading it, frowning at some things. No wonder the boy came off as a combat veteran and didn't like people. He was wary about getting closer to them. He looked over at Frank since he was following him. "Who sent this?"
"One of Father Benis's people. I don't know why."
"Xander's his only grandson, Frank."
"He is Patrick Benis' only grandson. He's been trying to get him away from his family for years from what he told me when he showed up at my door last night." He closed the file. "That is something to consider," he agreed. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Is the boy gay too?"
"Bi," Ryan said as he walked past them. "Just figuring out which side he wants. I asked before you ask if I have good gaydar, Frank." He handed Horatio a folder then kept walking. "Proofread and everything, H."
"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe. Also, CSI Sanders is down from Las Vegas' labs. He's about as new as you are if you two wanted to meet. Xander's hanging out with him."
Ryan grinned. "Thanks, boss. I'll see if they want to go somewhere calm tonight." He walked off happier.
"Maybe those two would make a good couple," Frank suggested.
Horatio looked at him and shook his head. "Xander's not neat enough for Mr. Wolfe's tastes, even if his tastes ran that way. Which I don't think they do. They're friends and friends are always good, Frank."
"True." He smirked. "How soon before the boy's shop opens? I got asked about his massage talents."
"They're saying two weeks to paint and get things in." That got a nod and Frank went to tell someone that. Horatio went back to his office, considering the odd pair of friends. Perhaps Xander would be good for Ryan, make him less wary of people but more cautious about what he did around them.
Xander walked up to his old house, looking at Sonny. "Is anything up there?"
"Nope. Even the stuff we couldn't use we put into the storage place for you," he said dryly. "So, how're the bikinis?"
"Nice," he agreed with a grin. "I can put a telescope on the house and watch a lot of them from the roof if I'm not busy." That got a knowing smirk. "I still like guys since most women would want to kill me, Sonny. What did you put back?"
"The grenade launcher. It's heavy as hell and really hard to hide."
"I've noticed that. Then again, I use magic for that." Sonny gaped. Xander smirked evilly. "Came in handy where I was, Sonny. You sure it's all there? I seem to be missing some clothes."
"Nah, they're there. The movers you hired to pack up everything carried it all out. Even the ratty old couch."
"That might be going to Goodwill," he admitted. "Thanks. Have a happy life, Sonny."
"You're gonna need help moving that."
"Are your guys so hard up for money they're willing to help me move?"
Sonny shrugged. "I've got stuff I could deliver down there."
"No drugs in my stuff, Sonny. I'd hate to have to beat you." Sonny snorted. "Again." That got a light glare. Xander glared back. "Drugs or not drugs?"
"Weapons actually." He shifted. "So, you do know you can't pull what you did with me with the boys down there?"
"Actually I can and have. Why? Worried about me?"
"You're still insane, Harris, but they've got worse down there. People I don't wanna mess with and Taylor can't touch."
"The Mala Noches."
"Oh, heard of them," he sighed, grimacing. "Still trying to decide what to do about them."
"Yeah, well, they green lighted the lab." Xander glared at that, but it wasn't really aimed at him. "Yeah, they've got an open hit out on that whole lab of your *daddy's*. Do they know you call him that?"
Xander smacked him on the head. "Shut up, Sonny. Just give the information and I'll even be nice and *pay* your guys to move my shit so you can sneak my weapons back into my stuff."
Sonny snickered. "I still don't like you."
"Sonny, for all I care, you can fall to your knees and offer to blow me too," Xander said dryly. "I still wouldn't date you. You're too much muscles and not enough brains. Bragging will get you in trouble and be your downfall some year." Sonny shrugged. "I'm hoping you've got a backup plan so you can run your gang from prison."
"They won't touch me."
"We'll see." He looked at him. "Where's the swords?"
"In special storage. That may be where those clothes are. You sure? My boys can do it and even set it up for you."
Xander shrugged. "I can pay something reasonable but not a whole hell of a lot. Real estate is really expensive down there."
"I heard about how much that check really was."
"Yeah and it's still mostly gone from the house I bought." Sonny winced at that. "Downtown. Nice location."
"Sure. How much you thinkin'?"
"One and a half?"
"Two or else I'll add on milage."
"Two's good," he decided, holding out a hand. "They need extra to rent the truck?"
"We've got one."
"Thanks." He handed over one of his new business cards. "That's home and work."
"Decent. Be there within four days."
"Thanks. I'm off to say bye to everyone."
"They're out on Staten Island at the moment."
Xander grinned. "Good to know." He headed back to the subway, going to take a few last rides on it. He hated the subway but it was a nice enough thing he guessed. He even got them all lunch so they could sit down and spend a few last minutes until someone came down to visit him. Because he knew they'd want the beach some day.
Xander snuck into the warehouse down in Miami. He was back a day before he had expected to be but that was all part of his plans at the moment. He didn't like his father or his father's friends to be in danger. He summoned the two things and watched them go do him the huge favor of eating the bad guys for him. They were hungry and the two predators would take them as snacks to go. Nothing would touch their bodies but they'd be gone. Xander smiled and waved at one, marking him to be left alone as a messenger. "I hate it when people bother my family and to me, you guys are nothing but snacks. I've dealt with things like them for my entire life. I'm not scared of you. Now, if you're good boys and agree to leave the MDPD crime lab alone, I might send them off." That got a babbling, backing away person. "I'd make the call, dear. You're the only one I'm going to save except the two little kids." He glared at one of the demons moving toward her. "She's too young," he said in the most common demon language.
"She's a whore," the man spat.
Xander looked at him then at the one who was mostly living. "Leave him instead. Take this one." That demon rushed over to get the idiot and spared the other guy's life. He squatted down to get into his face. "You go after Caine's lab or his people or their families and I come back with worse. Am I clear?" he asked quietly. The man moaned and nodded. "Let the others know the light has changed and traffic is honking for them to move on. After all, I've seen worse and I know worse. You're just snack food to them." That got another nod. He looked back when a hand touched his shoulder, glaring at the demon. "What?"
"The two girls?"
"Are just kids."
"The ones in the back."
"Leave 'em." That got a nod and he walked out, releasing the compulsion spell Ethan had put on them. "Out of Miami, boys. Now. Miami is mine to protect now." That got a nod and they left the city, lumbering off to catch a ride somehow. Or eat a ride and go he guessed. There was the demon underground around here too. He walked off, heading to clean up, burn his old clothes, then go home for the night.
Timmy didn't really need to know about this. He just wanted to make sure he was safe. He was not losing his family.
The girls ran into the back to get the others, leaving the injured one there to call for help. His brethren were not going to like this. They stayed out of the strange bruja stuff. This was going to make a meeting happen. His head fell back down with a thump when he got finished talking. He passed out but he knew he'd wake up. Unlike those around him.
Alexx looked at Horatio the next morning. "They're all dead of nothing I can find," she told him, looking at the scene. "There was signs that something burst in here and did something, that someone escaped. All I can tell you so far is that they're *all* Mala Noche members. Every last one of them, Horatio."
He nodded at that. "Get them back there, Alexx. I want to know if they tested a gas on their people or what."
"I'm going but I'm doubting it. Most of them would've fallen down looking more tortured. Two of them are *smiling*, Horatio!"
"I understand, Alexx. See what you can do." She nodded, gathering up the next body and taking it out to the van. Horatio looked around, spotting Speed looking at something. "A clue?"
"A scale," he said, holding it up. Horatio looked at it then at him. "And if what happened is what I think what happened this isn't from that. Eric, look for something blue and scale- like please?"
"Sure," he called. "I found stuff saying they had girls here. There's tampons in the bathroom."
"The Mala Noches are usually just men," Horatio said thoughtfully. Frank and Yelina walked in so he waved them over. "Anything from the neighbors?"
"No neighbors," Yelina offered. "Not even homeless. They've all been run out."
"They did a good job making this a deserted wasteland, Horatio," Frank agreed. "There's one ATM the next block up but it didn't catch anything unusual. I sat with the manager while he sped through it. I got a copy in case I missed something on the fast forward." He handed it over then he looked around. "How many bodies?"
"Sixteen," he said grimly. "Alexx can't find an overt cause." Speed came over, whispering in his ear, getting a nod. "Check on that for me, Speed. Let me know."
"Thanks, H." He went to do that, leaving them to gather evidence. If he was right, his son had some explaining to do. He found the only demon bar he knew of in town, walking inside. A few of them looked then gave him horrified whimpers. "I only want information." The bartender waved him over. "Something attacked the Mala Noches last night."
"I heard. Heard they had an open contract on you too, a green light." Speed blinked at that. He nodded. "I heard it was a rival gang who didn't ignore them but you'd be right they tempted a few of the higher predators that way. Last I heard they were heading for the border."
"Who ordered it?"
"Don't know," he admitted. Speed pulled out a picture and held it up. "Harris. He's in town too?" Speed nodded. "Wow."
"He's known as Master Tim."
"Oh, that's *him*!" he said, nodding, looking appreciative. "He called late last night from a New York number saying he didn't care if something happened but he was down here and he would only hunt those who hurt others. Haven't seen him in here, Speedle." Speed gave him an odd look. "The underground did hear about you and the pouty one helping out there." He smirked. "If you see him soon let him know he's welcome to come talk to me in person as long as he's peaceful and stays only hunting the hunters."
"He's due in today sometime. What sort of demons?"
"Higher predators. Soul eaters."
"No wonder the bodies weren't touched. Would they leave someone living?"
"Depends on who ordered it, doesn't it?" he suggested. That got a nod and Speed left. He relaxed. That had almost been bad. Someone was going to get spanked. "Maybe he'll let his boy do it since he's a dom," he said fondly. A few of the demons laughed. "That Master Tim guy, that's Harris," he announced. "Speedle's still keeping him as his son." A few took drinks but some of the more violent patrons decided a vacation was in order. More would come in, they always did, and the less violent species cost him less in property damage so it was all good to him.
A few weeks after the massacre, Horatio walked into Xander's home. He coughed. Xander leaned out of the kitchen. "No clients?"
"Not for another hour. What's wrong? Something happen to daddy?"
"No," he said, heading back there. He paused to look at the sealed room. He tapped on the obviously reinforced door. "What is this?"
"The weapons storage room. I reinforced it myself," he said proudly. "It's got a tv and a hookup to the security system as well, plus a phone for when I'm in there cleaning weapons."
"May I see?"
"No because you'll arrest me. Giles got sent another supply package so he sent it down to me. He heard what happened with the stuff he'd sent me before." He ate a bite of sandwich. "If it's not daddy, what's wrong, Horatio?"
"Xander, did you order the soul eaters to come eat them to protect us?" he asked bluntly.
Xander chewed the present bite in his mouth. "No comment," he said then he ate another one.
"Not good enough. Your father is upset that it could be you."
"It wasn't just me. Nor was it my idea. I did tell them who to leave alone. I wasn't about to let them eat the little kids they had in there as prostitutes." He finished his sandwich and looked at him as he chewed. "Horatio, I don't care if they were human. Most of them weren't, they were halfies, and they were violent. I've stated all along I only go after the hunters. There's no way in hell I'm letting them hurt dad or anyone he cares for. But no, I did not order it, I did not pay them for it, and I only went along to make sure they ate legitimate targets."
"Xander, that is a very dangerous thing," he warned quietly.
"Do you think hunting wasn't?" he asked bitterly. Horatio shook his head. "It will never happen again, Horatio, but I wasn't about to stop them from helping keep my father safe."
"I'm not going to tell you that." Horatio moved closer. "I know it's wrong to be happy that they're gone, Horatio, but I made sure they left those kids alone, the two girls in the back too, and one witness. I was not the impetus for it but I wasn't going to tell them no. I'm sorry if that bothers you or makes you hate me. All I ask is that you don't tell dad. If he finds out he does and he'll come to me."
"He thinks you ordered it. That's why he hasn't been over."
Xander nodded. "I realize that. The same as I hope he realizes I didn't ask them to do that."
"You watched them...."
"Having their souls ripped out was a lot more kind than letting them be shot, Horatio. It's a more humane death than I would have wanted since they were targeting you and Eric recently." Horatio stepped back at that. "I'm sorry if you're pissed at me," he said, his voice low, quiet, deadly. "I'm sorry if you're disappointed in me. I'm damn sorry I upset daddy but I'm not going to watch anyone else I give a damn about die. I've had enough of that already."
"Everyone dies, Xander."
"Then he can die of old age, Horatio. Of natural causes. Not of jealousy or anger because they got caught doing something bad and got pissed that you took their toy away."
"The hit was on me, Xander."
"No, it wasn't. It was to destroy the whole lab while you had to watch. Then you." Horatio flinched at that. "I'm sorry if you're upset, but I went along with the only plan I knew would protect everyone. Including you. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get into a better frame of mind. I've got an older lady coming in for help with her arthritis. I need to be more gentle with her." Horatio nodded. "Tell him I'm sorry, Horatio," he said quietly as he walked off. He walked into his gun vault and got to work on one of them to calm himself down again. He saw his client walk up to the door, smiling at her. He put everything up and wiped off his hands as he went to let her in. "Mrs. Fabber. Welcome to my studio." He helped her inside and handed her a small gown. "This is for your modesty. It's thin enough I can work through it but thick enough so your modesty is protected."
"It's washed and sterilized after each wear, ma'am. Let me go clean up. I was just cleaning up something and have some chemicals on my hand." She nodded so he left her in the room, closing the door behind him for her modesty. Then he went into the kitchen to wash his hands with the good soap. He came back when she called, wiping off his hands. He even helped her onto the table, covering her lap with a sheet since she was on her stomach. "There we go. I've got three scents of oils and a selection of music. Would you like something classical, instrumental, new agey? Pick and it's yours," he offered with a small smile.
"Classical. Do you have any Dvorak?"
He looked and nodded. "I have one on a mixed CD," he admitted, letting her see the case. She nodded that it was fine and he started on the first selection of his, then he let her sniff the oils, warming the one she wanted. He had chosen these because the oil would heat and soak into the very thin, special fabric. It would be like a heat wrap as well. She wiggled some and he got another spot. "If you want, I can open it just enough to get your lower back, Mrs. Fabber."
"That would be fine, Tim."
He smiled and did that, being very proper with her. She was nearly sixty-eight, she wouldn't appreciate anything but him being professional. By the time he had done the aching parts, she was nearly asleep. "You still have time left. Would you like me to do your feet or hands?" he asked quietly. She nodded, letting him have a hand. He worked it gently for her, making her purr and smile, then fall the rest of the way asleep. When the timer went off, he checked her. Fully asleep. He covered her with the sheet and locked the door behind himself. That way his next client wouldn't bother her until she was ready to wake up. His next one was knocking on the door and he went to let her in. "Sorry, I was in with my last client and didn't hear."
"That's fine," Yelina promised, smiling at him. "Are you ready for me?"
"Of course. I have my last client sleeping in her room but she's locked in."
"That's always a nice thing." She let him lead her to one of the rooms, looking at the gown and shaking her head. "I'm not that modest."
"If you're sure. There's a sheet on the table. I'm doing your shoulders, right?"
"Shoulders and back," she agreed with a small smile.
"Then get undressed at least down to your waist and push that down some, then lay on your back for now. I'll do your shoulders first then have you turn over." She nodded and he left her alone. He tapped gently on the other door but didn't hear her wake up so he went to restart the dryer to make sure everything in the used dryer was really dry. He noticed someone coming up the stairs and went to see them. "Hi. This is by appointment only. Can I schedule you one?"
"I'm with the Health Department."
"Sure. I've got one client sleeping in her room after a massage and one getting ready to go in but you can look around." He let him inside. "Feel free. I do massages down here."
"I heard what else you do, sir."
"I do that on the second floor and I don't sell that sort of release," he said firmly.
"Good to know. May I see your sanitary facilities?"
"Sure, I just restarted the dryer on the present load." He tapped on Yelina's door. "It'll be another minute, Detective. The Health Department just pulled a surprise inspection." He saw the look at the locked, reinforced door. "My gun safe." That got a nod and they looked around the bottom floor while he went to work on Yelina's shoulders and back. When he came out with her done, he found him waiting and looking around the waiting area. "Do I meet inspection?"
"You probably should do the dishes in your personal sink."
"I know. I forgot last night. I'm going to do them when I'm done tonight."
"That's the only problem I saw. You have fabric gowns?" Xander nodded. "They're all washed?"
"And sterilized. Sheets as well." That got a nod and his clean bill of inspection was handed over. "I thank you."
"You're welcome. That locked room?"
"My first client this afternoon. She fell asleep." That got a smirk and he left after Yelina came out and paid him. Xander hung up the new certificate and went to change Yelina's room out, then went to knock on the door, hearing her moving around. "Mrs. Fabber, I locked you in there so you could finish your nap, ma'am. Whenever you're ready to go, the switch is on the doorknob." He walked off, going to find his sweeper to run around the entryway. He saw his father come up the stairs and opened the door. "You're in luck, I'm free for an hour," he said happily. Mrs. Fabber came out and paid him, kissing him on the cheek. "Should I set up a return appointment, Mrs. Fabber?"
"Please, Tim. Say in two weeks?"
"However often you feel is necessary," he agreed. "I'm not pushy that way." He looked in his book. "I've got an opening on Wednesday of that week?" He let her see. "Say, eleven?"
"That would interrupt my lunch date."
"Hmm. I've got that afternoon blocked off for someone else's special treatment. How about that Thursday? Or Tuesday?" he offered, pointing at the open spot. "Say two?"
"That would be fine, Tim. Do you take Medicare? I have a friend who could use the help if you do."
"I've been looking into it but it's going to be at least a month before I can get all the paperwork and approvals done."
She smiled. "Do let me know when you do, Tim. You're such a nice boy and you have such good hands." She patted him on the cheek and left, closing the door behind her.
Xander looked at his father, then penciled her in. He closed the book and looked at him. "I'm sorry you're mad at me. I didn't order it."
"You're not like that, Xander. I do want to know who did." Xander shook his head, heading back to the kitchen. "Xander, you know what they did."
Xander looked at him. "Who do you think made sure they didn't touch those girls? Especially the two underage ones?" Speed looked horrified. "Then they left. I made sure of it. I wasn't about to let them go free, Dad."
Tim sighed and rubbed his face. "Xander, this is wrong," he said, looking at him. "Just as wrong as what they did."
"I don't care!"
Xander sat down at the table, slumped down. "I'm sorry I'm an embarrassment to you now, Speed."
Tim shook his head but gave him a hug. "You're not but what you watched them do was wrong," he whispered in his ear. "It's just as bad as what they did to others." Xander looked at him. "Why? That's what I want to know?"
"So I don't have to watch anyone else I give a damn about die."
Speed pulled back and looked at him. "That's..." He blinked a few times then looked at his son again, seeing the guilty look. "We'll be talking tonight."
"I've got a client tonight until probably ten, he's hard to break according to him," Xander said quietly.
Speed nodded. "I've got tomorrow off." He walked out, heading out to go think and talk to Horatio. Because he wasn't sure if he was upset or just sad.
Xander put himself back into a better frame of mind, going to clean up the other room. He had a third one but he shouldn't have to use it this week. Maybe not at all. Because if his dad was that upset with him then he might be leaving and heading somewhere no one knew him.
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