A Charmed Life.

Horatio looked up as Speed walked into his office.  "Get a call from Las Vegas saying he had landed?"

"I've already gotten that one and another one.  Apparently today was Greg's first time being taken hostage and he was clearly drunk when he came to pick Xander up.   So Xander's tucking him into bed and he teased me by saying that he might need someone to bail him out."

"I told him before he left there had better not be any assassins this time or anyone else that might try to claim him.  Or else he was not going to be sitting for his first week home."

"Oh, he knows."  He grinned.  "Grissom's watching over them, Horatio.  You know that."

"I do.  Thankfully I trust the man."

"Hopefully he'll be able to keep up with the hyper twins," Speed added.  That got a nod and a look of understanding.  "They'll be *fine*, Horatio."

"They had better be or I'm spanking both of them."

"Lady Heather would help."

"True, she would."  He smiled at that thought.  "Want some of your own?"

"Nah, I've got Calleigh waiting," he teased, heading down to ride home and tease her by playing traffic tag.

Horatio shook his head.  "That boy is going to drive me insane."

"Too late," a familiar voice said from the doorway.

"Not quite there yet, Rick.  Did you need something?" he asked patiently, looking over at him.

"Awww, are you missing your toy?" he taunted.

"Not yet.  I may in a few days.  Right now he's playing with Greg."  That got a blanche.  "Anything else?" he asked casually.

"The boy is clearly not legal."

"Want to see his birth certificate?" Willow asked from behind him.  He flinched and got out of her way.  "Horatio, sweetie, can I repossess Ryan?  I kinda need him to change the lightbulbs since they won't stay on for me and he has some sort of lightbulb touch that means they won't blow on him.  Even the maintenance guy can't figure it out."

"He should be at home."

"But he's not.  I know he doesn't have a date tonight.  That's tomorrow.  Today's Tuesday, right?"  He nodded. "Then yeah, that's tomorrow."

"Have you tried texting him?"

"I have and I got back some strange gobbledygook crap."  She handed over her phone.  "Looks like code but I have a headache so I'm too sore to decode it."

He looked then at her.  "That is not a good sign but he's with Eric."


"Apparently they're being held hostage."  She rolled her eyes.  "It's not his fault."

"No, it's your boy's fault.  Him being best friends with Xander is rubbing off on him!"  She frowned and found his map and her necklace, taking them out to find her poor, idiot friend.  She pointed at where the necklace was pointing.  "They're there."

"Thank you, Willow."  He handed back her phone and went to work on the rescue.  "Taunt again later, Rick.  I have work to do."

"You're calling for backup."

"If I need it."

Willow looked at him.  "You guys get backup?  Damn, I wish we had that in Sunnydale."  She walked off shaking her head.

Rick glared at her back.

"I can feel that and you can be a lizard again," she noted.  He hurried off.  "Thank you," she said sweetly.


Horatio ran into Raphael outside the empty club.  "Here for Eric or Ryan?"

"Ryan.  Xander said to please watch him because one of his personal stalkers wanted to talk to him."

"He and Eric are both in there."

"I know.  We're lucky it's not Timothy or Calleigh."  He listened then reached in and grabbed someone, vamping out to bite him.  He dropped his barely living body onto the ground and stepped over him.  "Ah, I haven't had a full meal in a while.  Hello, boys.  Horatio's with me.  Anyone else here? I can eat you too!" he offered cheerfully.  Someone else went running but they were stopped by the backup out back.  He looked at Horatio.  "That's not playing fair."

"I never play fair when there's lives at stake."  He came in to release them, undoing the gags.  "Are we all right, gentlemen?"

"A bit creeped out," Ryan admitted.

"He...  You...  You ate him and he was demanding information on Xander and sex and you ate him!"

Raphael plugged Eric's mouth with the gag and helped him up.  "I'll take the poor boy home, Horatio."

"As long as you promise to guard him.  I know you won't do anything he won't like."  Eric gave him a horrified look but he was walked out.  He looked at Ryan.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  Just weirded out because he wanted information on Xander's sexual habits.  Stuff apparently someone thought I'd know."  He shrugged.  "Should've taken you, Horatio."

"Let's get you checked out and then Willow can watch over you tonight."  He nodded and let Horatio lead him out to the ambulance.  They had taken Eric from Xander's grandsire, which was making him pout.  Raphael wasn't looking too pleased either. Horatio let them check Ryan over for a few minutes and then it was all better so they could go to their various destinations.  Which in his case meant laundry and contemplating what he was going to do to Xander when he got into trouble this time.


Lady Heather sighed when she saw the man walking into her house.  "What did they get into already?"

"Nothing yet," Warrick offered.  "Greg's a bit upset and drunk since he got taken hostage today.  Your boy was tucking him into bed."  That got a smile.  "We don't think that'll last very long but for now it is.  We were wondering what you were doing so we could add to it.  Grissom would be here but he told me to watch the hyper twins."

She smiled and shook her head.  "That name does suit them," she agreed dryly.  "However, I believe they plan on being good this time.  So unless someone comes up and makes them be naughty, like last time, we should be all right."  He gave her a look. "Really."

"They weren't good last time."

"They were given things against their will.  They had no idea they were being fed alcohol.  Xander especially since he doesn't drink."


"Ever.  I think his grandsire's gotten him to do a glass of wine with a steak once.  That same night."  He moaned at that and she nodded.  "Never.  All they should need is a chaperone.  After all, Xander is only nineteen and Gregory is still very full of life."

"I didn't know you were such a big fan of understatements, Lady Heather."

She gave him a scathing look.  "To understand Gregory all you have to do is watch him and talk to him.  Xander did.  I have.  Grissom does now and then."  He nodded, looking down.  "Much better.  Now, all they should need is a chaperone and I would be surprised if his grandfather or grandsire didn't provide one."  He smiled a bit at that.  "Better?"

"Much.  Thank you.  Let us know if you hear they're in trouble."

"Of course."   She made shooing motions.   "Go do something else, Warrick."  He nodded and left, smiling just a bit.  She shook her head.  The boys were bad but not that bad.


Eric leaned into Horatio's office.  "Speed's staring at a suspicious box."  Horatio got up and came down to the lab to see.  "Okay, he's here," Eric noted.

"Got this in the mail today, overnighted," Speed offered, sliding it down. "I had it x-rayed already. They thought it was sweet."  He looked at him.  "Xander's Valentines Day present."

Horatio smiled and opened it, then blushed and hid the collar inside the chocolates, which had been opened.  One of them was missing.  It hadn't even been replaced.  He looked at Speed.  "One's missing?"

"Quality control on Xander's part," he said with a smirk.  "He said he's the only one who likes the gooey caramel he smashed on Greg's stomach to lick off."   Horatio held in his moan at that and got a grin for it.  "Note's on top, Horatio."  He read it and blushed.

Ryan leaned in.  "Is it another present like the one I got sent at home?"

"Xander's to him for Valentine's Day.  What did you get?" Eric asked.

"A studded diamond collar for Xander."  They all stared at him so he brought the box in and put it down so they could see it.  "Apparently whoever is sending these thinks that Xander goes to Lady Heather's for a very different reason."

"Can we trace the shop?" Speed asked, pulling on some gloves so he could pull it out to look at it. "Silver backed.  Designed after an antique style, back when women wore collars to hide the flea collars they wore.  Hmm.  Maker's mark."  He put it under a microscope to look, then put it onto a screen while he ran it.  "English made," he noted.  "Royal jewelers. Might be a commission piece so we might finally get something on the gifter."

"The store's in New York or Las Vegas," Ryan told them.  "I already called to check. I took pictures at home and emailed them to Danny."

"Then let me call Mac so he has permission to ask for us," Horatio offered, calling up there, walking off with his present.  "Mac, Horatio.  Fairly decent.  Only one homicide this week so far," he said happily.  "Tell Danny he's got an email from Ryan that includes pictures of the anonymous present Ryan got sent for Xander.  We don't know, Mac.  No one has any idea.  We know it's not his grandfather or grandsire.  No, they don't have a store locally.  It's got a royal jeweler's mark from England and the only two stores Ryan could find were in your city and Las Vegas.  Which is where Xander is vacationing with Greg at the moment.  No, not the first."  He walked into his office and shut the door, sitting down to pick up his first chocolate.  The moan made Mac laugh.  "Sorry, Xander sent me chocolates for Valentine's Day and they're very nice, even if he did steal one to eat off Greg's stomach.  Can he?  Thank you.  No, we've had a ruby necklace, a diamond rolex, and a Harry Winston bracelet.  The necklace was very feminine.  This time it's a diamond collar.  Which was what Ryan thought.  They still sent this one to Ryan instead of Speed though.  The others went to Speed here at the station.  Thank you.  Of course I'll be here all day.  Thanks, Mac."  He hung up and ate another piece, moaning at that.  Xander had *wonderful* taste in chocolates.


Valera snuck down to the other lab.  She was their main DNA tech and her office was under Horatio's.  "Eric?"  He smiled at her.  "Am I going to need to help cover up the homicide Xander's going to be doing?  If so, I'd rather not be part of a conspiracy."  She looked a bit worried.

"Why would he?" he asked.

"Horatio's moaning like he's got someone in his office," she said hesitantly, looking apologetic.

"Xander sent him some very excellent chocolates for Valentines Day, Valera," Speed said from behind her.  She smiled at him.  "It's all right.  It's not another person.  It's H's sweet tooth that he tries so hard to hide."  He grinned.  "But I will pick on him and tell him we can hear him down here."  She giggled and headed off with a wave.  He considered it then called an office number.  "Did you hear the noise coming from Caine's office?" he asked then hung up.  He motioned Eric out, watching as Rick Stetler snuck up on his office to listen.  Then he pounded.

"I will shoot you, Rick."

"You cannot have that boy of yours in here," he said, walking inside.  He yelped and ran out bright red.

Horatio came out and looked down, smirking at them.  "Does that mean you want me to share?"

"Wouldn't mind a piece," Speed offered, "but you made other ladies blush, H.  Besides, if you eat too much you can't do what he did to Greg with them."

"I've got some coming for that.  Come get a piece."  They came up to get a piece of candy and he glared at Speed when he stole two.  "Fine, give one to Calleigh."  He winked and went to feed it to her, teasing her with it.  She finally got it by biting him on the wrist and stealing it, moaning.

"Better watch out, Stetler tried to break H and Xander up for him making that noise," he teased, smiling at her.

"That is so good.  We need to know where he got that from."

"I do know where he got it from and their website," he said smugly.  She stared at him with puppy eyes.  "What do I get for it?"

She considered it. "I'll do the dishes tonight?"  He licked his lips and leaned against a table, giving her a look. "Fine, I'll wear that outfit you like and go out with you afterwards."  He whispered it in her ear, making her nod and write it down.  "I'll be good with it."

"Why?  Xander wasn't.  He stole a piece out of the box and his note said it was quality control tested by being smashed onto Greg's stomach and licked off."  She blushed but giggled and swatted at him.  "Xander got sent a diamond collar through Ryan."

"Interesting.  The same one who sent you stuff for him?"

"Not a clue yet."  He winked and walked out, going to look over the collar some more, see if he could find any DNA or anything on it. He wanted to talk to the person who was blowing their wad on his son.


Xander looked at Lady Heather's assistant, getting a smile and a wink.  "How's her schedule tonight?"

"Clear tonight and tomorrow night, Master Tim.  Did you need help with Gregory?"

"No.  I think we're going to kidnap her."  He walked in and hauled his pseudo-mother up out of her chair.  "Hi, Grissom.  Can I borrow her?"

"Go ahead, Master Tim.  She could use some fun."

"Oh, I have plans," he said with a wicked grin.  He picked her up and carried her out to the car, where Greg opened the door for him.

"Boys," she said, glaring at them.  They gave her sweet and innocent smiles.  "I was having tea."

"He agreed you could use some fun," Xander told her, kissing her on the cheek.  "You haven't let go in a while, Lady Heather.  Therefore you shall before you mope yourself into an early grave."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "Fun is part of recovering from the grief, m'lady.  Let us show you fun."  He got her buckled in and walked around while Greg got into the back.  "Good boy, Gregory."  He drove the rental SUV off, taking them to a very naughty club he knew of in the goth scene.  Then he got out and looked at himself.  He took off his overshirt, showing off his tank-top tucked into his just the right sort of tight dress pants.  Greg did the same.  Then they got her out and up to the door.  "Let me in," Xander said, staring the bouncer down.  "Before I have to spank."  The man shivered and opened the heavy oak door, letting him escort her in.  He looked at her.  "I know you can dance but would you prefer to warm up by watching?" he asked in her ear.

She looked at him.  "I don't dance like that, Xander."

"Bullshit."  He led her out there and they pinned her between them, making her dance.  "I do this to mommy too," he promised. She smiled and let them help her relax for the night.  It was freeing to let go and no one here was more than awed by their presence.  She gave subtle nods to a few of her usual clients but the boys hogged her so she was safe all night.  By the time the club closed she was sweaty and warm in all the right places.  Xander smiled at her and let her back into the SUV so he could take her home, walking her right to her door.  "Go have fun, m'lady.  She wouldn't want you to sulk for eternity and you're a strong, vital, young woman who has needs.  You can't forget yourself or you lose the spark that made you so special to myself and others."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "Don't molest Grissom too hard, m'lady.  Make him squeal and do some yourself."  He smiled at her and skipped back to the car, going out to a dirtier club with Greg.

She watched them go, shaking her head.  "I'll have to spank him for the kidnaping but it was a nice night," she decided, heading inside.  She found Gil still there.  "You waited?"

He looked at the handcuff on his wrist, then at her.  "He was sneakier than I thought."

"Are those Gregory's?" she teased.

"Probably."  She got him released and smiled at him.  "Did you have a good night out?"

"I had a wonderful time, Gil.  The boys protected me and made sure I let go of many things."  He smiled at that.  "Would you like some more tea?"

"I've had a lot of tea, but you look like you could use your ankles being worked on."  She  nodded and let him massage her feet and ankles for her.  And whatever happened later no one would speak of because they knew better.


Don kicked back and called down to Miami.  "Horatio, got the information you wanted, somewhat.  The collar was a special order.  No, Danny's hopping on a sprained ankle so Mac sent me.  Didn't figure you'd mind, cousin-in-law," he teased.  He snickered.  "Good!  Every guy needs good chocolates.  From the same source?"  He nodded, making notes.  "Okay, well, I can tell you it was a special commission piece.  It was paid for in another necklace that she sold them to do whatever they wanted with.  Yeah, a she sort not a he sort.  Don't know.  The original necklace was gaudy and old according to the lady at the store.  They broke it up into many new necklaces and rings.  Now, there's two stones from it that went into the collar.  They're on the clasp she said.  She said she came in with the general idea and the guy designed it off an older style from way back when.  They were instructed to send it down to an address in Miami when it was done.  It was commissioned about four months ago. She does remember this woman had a strong Russian accent, which may mean she's got something to do with the Lady Death stuff or not, not sure.

"They didn't take much information for the trade.  What they did take was mostly unverifiable.  Address led back to a building that recently got destroyed.  Name doesn't come up in the computers under a search, DMV or not.  Social security number doesn't come up as valid.  So not sure at all, Horatio.  We can but it'll be at least a week.  Monroe's on vacation somewhere and Danny's hopping around.  Yeah, well, suspect ran and pushed him down a flight of stairs so she could get away from us arresting her for killing someone.  He's lucky it's only sprained.  Small concussion but he's fine.  I'm sure he could.  I don't know.  You'd have to ask Mac and he's at a nasty and brutal triple at the moment.  Yeah, if I hear anything I will.  Thanks, and let me know if you find anything about the other one.  Patrick was hellishly worried but he wasn't letting Xander see that.  He doesn't want to worry his boy, ya know?"  He smiled.  "That's fine.  Thanks, Horatio, and enjoy the chocolates once you have them tested."  He hung up. Then he looked around.  "What?" he called.  "I can feel you watching."  His father walked out of the break room.  "I was tracing information down for the Miami crime lab.  More coffee made, dad?"

"A bit left," he offered.  Don got up to get it and came back.  "Can I help?"

"If you want to," he offered, handing over the pictures he had copied out of Danny's email.  "Someone sent Xander that.  We're not sure if it's the same person who's been sending him other things.  Horatio just got sent a big box of Godiva from someone who's not Xander as well.  Ryan's email to Danny said that he's gotten a ruby necklace and a diamond rolex in the past from one source, plus a Harry Winston bracelet from another anonymous source.  All of them were sent to the CSI who adopted him.  This one got sent to a different guy in the labs, but he's part of Xander's fanclub."

"Fanclub?" he asked.

"Yeah, there's techs from here, there, and Vegas who've formed a fanclub for Xander.  He's a neat guy, dad.  I should've gotten to know him better up here.  Him and his boys are a lot of fun."

"He decided on boys?"

"He decided on the head of the crime lab down there and one of his other guys named Greg out of Las Vegas, who's a CSI out there."

His father shook his head.  "Do they mind?"

"Nah, Horatio's got pack alpha syndrome over them."  He smirked.  "Xander even behaves for him most of the time."  That got a knowing look.  "Hey, Caine's the man.  I wanna have his stamina in ten years.  Just watching Xander grocery shop is tiring.  He keeps up with him doing real shopping and things."  He shrugged.  "So he's a God ta me, dad.  Oh, Uncle Patrick has a *massive* crush on Bonasera," he said just loudly enough for her to hear when she walked in.

"He's a nice old guy, Don, but it'd end tragically if he tried to nibble."  She came over to look and whistled.  "That is a pretty piece of hardware."

"Sent to Xander."

"Excuse me?" she asked, looking at him. "That's what Danny said got sent to Ryan?  I was expecting a single strand collar, like studded leather.  Not a five row, pure diamond collar."

"Yeah, this was what got sent.  Only limited information and I've already told Horatio.  He also got sent some Godiva earlier."

She just nodded. "Xander?"

He smirked. "Nah, Xander sent moan-inducing chocolate from Vegas."

"I want some of that," she sighed.  He pulled out his small box and handed it over. "Why did he send you some?"

"So I'd know where to hit if I ever found myself a real woman."

She smiled and took a piece, nibbling on it.  She did moan and nearly swooned.  "I need stock in this company."  She noted the name and went to look them up online.

Don offered his father a piece.  He shook his head.  "Your mother might think I was cheating on her, son.  Want dinner?"

"Wouldn't mind but I really should clear up some paperwork backlog," he admitted, glancing toward the office. His boss was gone for the day.  He shrugged and grabbed his coat, following him out with that information the pictures locked back in his desk drawer.  But the chocolates went with him.  "So, how's mom?"

"Better.  How's Patrick?"

"He's got really pernicious cancer, Dad.  We're on a countdown," he said glumly.  "I like the old guy.  He's a sweet old guy. He's got fierce bitch syndrome about his staff and family.  Did you know he took in a lot of younger gay guys to mentor them when they were ready to die?"

"I did," he admitted, looking over at him as they drove off.  "I still can't see him that way, Donny."

"I know, dad, and so does he. He said he understands fully why you can't put up with him, even now.  He said he's not upset about it."  His father nodded.  "But he would like to talk to you about what'll go on when he dies.  I'm thinking he's going to give most of it to Xander."

"You're helping."

"I am and I'm planning on honoring his wishes about the donations and stuff but Xander's his direct heir and he dotes on him, dad.  Xander's a really a sweet guy and he's had some bad knocks."

"I've heard."

Don looked at him. "Are you working for Patrick?"

"Not directly but one of his guys has me doing some research now and then."

Don nodded, pulling into a parking spot.  Someone behind him honked so he put his light on top of the car.  They wisely moved on.  The light came back in once he was parked and he looked at his dad.  "I hate stupid drivers."

"Stupid people get licenses, son. It's a fact of life.  Be thankful you're not in traffic anymore."

"Oh, I am," he assured him.  He looked at him.  "I don't care if Patrick doesn't leave me anything, dad.  He knows that."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I am.  I'm good with that.  Xander's a good kid and he'll do what Patrick is.  He'll baby someone who needs it, he'll do the good things for people, he is gay and Patrick dotes on him.  He's his grandson.  I'm more impressed that he's telling me all sorts of stories about my aunt.  Did she really prank you for three years running?"

"On my birthday," he sighed, shaking his head. "She was a horrible prankster.  Sent me dead mice one year hitched to a small Cinderella carriage."

Don smirked.  "Did you have a disney fetish?" he taunted.  His father swatted him but he just smirked.  "Yeah, he told me."  He got out and they went inside the bar.   "Have you seen Xander since he went down there?" he asked once they were seated.  "He's happy.  Speed's a good dad to him.  Just the right amount of coddling and snark to make him be a better boy."

"He causing trouble?"

"No, but people keep sending him stuff and it's freaking him out.  He's kinda floaty about it sometimes.  It's that 'someone likes me enough to send me expensive stuff' feeling but Speed keeps him from getting a big head.  Before his cult gets him for it."

"Cult?" his father asked.

"Yeah, there's a group of people who could be our next serial killer plague but they decided Xander's still pure so they can be too."  The waitress came over.  "Beer us?"

"I can do that," she agreed, winking at him.

"He's still single," Flack Senior offered.

"I'm not or I might fix that for him for at least a night."  She walked off to get them beers and came back to let Flack Junior pay for it.  "Thanks, cutey."

"Welcome, Pam.  Hey, got a guy question."  She came back.  "One of the guys I know down in Miami.  You remember Xander, right?  Geeky young guy I brought in that once?"

"Yeah, looked real uncomfortable with the drunken idiots," she said, nodding at the trio in the corner.  "What about him?"

"Someone's sending him really expensive presents."

"Define expensive?  Are we talking fifty dollar boxes of chocolates?"

"Well, someone sent his boyfriend about a hundred in Godiva but I'm taking diamond rolex and Harry Winston bracelet."

She blinked.  "Nice to have if you can get it.  Do we know who?"  He shook his head.  She canted her weight off to the side.  "Okay, so he's got this person sending him *really* expensive presents and we don't know who?"

He shook his head.  "Nope.  We know there might be more than one but nope."

"I'd put a watch on the boy.  That sounds a lot like a stalker or some psycho.  If I was getting that, I'd worry.  My girlfriends would hear and so would all the guys in here.  If I got sent an anonymous diamond rolex, I'd stand up on the bar and announce it and then announce that I had no idea who in the hell it was and watch who would protect me."

He smiled.  "That's what I thought but they sent it to his adoptive father at the station. He's a CSI."

"So he's playing headgames," she snorted.  "Guard that boy!"

"I will.  Thanks.  Needed that."  She smiled and patted him on the head before leaving.  He looked at his dad.  "She has good common sense ideas."

"She does," he agreed before taking a drink.  "That's a good plan."

"He's in Vegas playing with Greg and Lady Heather."

"Can't get much more protective than his personal sub and a domme that's world famous for being a hardass to be under."

"No, Xander's worse," Don assured him.  "I had one guy who I used him to threaten.  He begged not to have him hurt him again.  I pointed out that he was a son of cops down in Miami and Seattle.  He decided confession was better for him."  He took a sip of his beer then grimaced.  "Pam, this tastes like dishwater," he called.  His father laughed and she came back, giving him a look.  "Did I get the bottom of the keg?"

"Top of the new one.  Sorry."  She went to rerun his beer, bringing it back.  "He's sorry too."

"Eh, it happens."  He smiled at her.  "Thanks, Pam."

"So, is the Xander guy free?"

"Boyfriend.  Cute older guy who's a senior CSI in his dad's department."

"Pity.  He still wearing the leather?"

"All the time," Don said with a grin.  She smirked and walked off.  "So, anyway, why the beer request, dad?"

"A letter from your uncle," he said, handing it over to him. "He said you shouldn't have it until he died."

"Uh-huh."  He looked at it then put it inside his jacket pocket.  "I'll find out when it's time.  That way I can't throw fits."

"You sure you don't wanna look?"

"Yeah.  I'm not in this family for the money, dad.  If I was, I would've dated Christie back in school and went into banking like she wanted."  He took another drink.  "So no, I'll wait  until he actually passes on.  Which had better be in a damn long time or else the boy will do something stupid and try to bring him back."  He took another drink.  "With Willow down in Miami now there's no telling what'll happen."

"She can do that?"

"She's from the same town and they had to do that stuff."  He leaned back.  "Doc?"  He waved him over.  He smiled and came over. "This is my dad and I've got a job just for you in a few months."

Hawkes sat down.  "Is this like helping you move?  Because I can but I can't drive the truck."

"No, this is like Xander's best friend's newly former girlfriend is coming up here.  She's sweet, shy, from down South, and we're talking stutters she's so shy, is coming up here to college."

"Okay.  Is she Black?"

"No.  She's actually one of Calleigh Duquesne's distant cousins.  But she's very shy and very polite.  I'd scare the crap out of her.  Mac would scare the crap out of Tara."

"But I'm a nice guy and I can help her around for the first little while.  Which college is she heading to?"

"The all girl's one."  He handed over the picture he had gotten from Willow.  "She's starting this summer.  She's finishing this semester at what's left of UC Sunnydale. Then she'll be up.  The blonde is Tara."

"She's pretty."  He looked at him.  "So, a new kid to mentor?"

"Yeah but she's *real* shy.  Her parents were mentally about as bad as Xander's.  Told her she was a demon, she'd turn that way on this last birthday so therefore she'd have to come home ta take care of the menfolk."  Hawkes growled at that.  "Exactly.  Now, she does like girls and she's the sweetest, most gentle thing ever according to Patrick's information.  She stutters because she's so shy.  We're making up screwing up so bad not watching Xander by watching Tara for Xander.  She's got less combat history but she's seen some of the same stuff and she is a practicing Wiccan."

"Okay.  She'll be out in May?"

"Middle of May Willow said."  He took another drink.  "She suggested we start writing to her now.  Let her get to know us and things.  That way she feels she's got someone around that she can be comfortable around."

"Shyness like that can be crippling in a city like New York, I can do that."  He flipped over the picture.  "Her email address and physical one?"

"Yup.  At the shop out there.  She'll check to make sure she gets it.  Giles is going funny right now when he heard Xander was fairly gay and a dom."

"Sure."  He grinned.  "She sounds nice."

"She is.  She's the sorta sweet that makes guys like Danny stare in awe.  The sorta sweet that Monroe wishes she was."

"Even better.  I'll write to her tonight, Don."  He grinned.  "We all helping?"

"I figure you and Stella will be best.  Stella could use a new cub and she'll mother the girl ta death.  You're a nice guy, very gentle and all that.  So it'll go.  We'll be there or at least I will.  Danny probably will.  He'll probably warn a lot of the guys around her to back off.  Patrick thinks he'll have poppa bear syndrome over the little one."

"That might be nice," he agreed. "Thanks, Don."  He got up and headed back to email her tonight from his desk so the others could hear she was coming in.

"I didn't know anyone was that sweet," his father noted.

"Yeah, they can be.  Xander is unless there's a crisis.  Willow can be but her parents basically let her raise herself so she's got some funny issues.  She was complaining that Speed, Xander's adoptive dad, wouldn't let her turn their IAB asshole into a lizard again."  His father choked and he looked at him.  "Exactly," he said with a smirk.

"You know..."

"Of course I do.  I saw Uncle Patrick smack her down once for trying Xander."  He gave him a look.  "Him and his sire are *real* protective over their boy, but they keep tryin' ta get Eric Delko to turn with 'em."  He finished his beer.  "So, how's Mom?"

"Good.  Sulking a bit.  Has a doctor's appointment in a few days for some reason."  He shrugged. "But she's good.  Wondering when you'll settle down."

"When I find a nice girl.  I'm lookin' but there's four million of 'em in the city, dad, and it's damn hard to find a decent one who'll put up with me.  Oh, hey, am I copying the new naked hockey matches for you?  Season just ended so I'm getting the new DVD in a few days from Xander."

He looked at him.  "Naked hockey?"

"Yeah, the rest of the world has a small naked, women's ice hockey league, dad. They were betting millions on the final match.  Big shock, but Denmark won."  His father stared at him.  "Xander's temporary wife, Lady Death, had this great satellite dish at her house in Cyprus so he stole that back to his.  They show it over there."

"Naked hockey?"

"Yeah, fully naked.  Well, some teams use body paint and the Armenian team plays on their names by not shaving their pits but yeah, naked. Fully naked."  His father stared at him. "Hand to God, dad.  I've got the last half of the season at home if you wanna see."

"I doubt God would like naked hockey, son."

"You never know, dad.  He might like the Italian team.  They're all really pretty."  His father drank his beer, shaking his head. "So, am I copying the last few matches for you?"

"Your mother would kill me, son.  It'd be a very messy scene."

"Well, yeah, maybe."  He shrugged. "Be something for poker night though."

"The guys might like that," he agreed.  "Better than the usual porn they get."

"Let's hit the house and I'll make you copies."  That got a nod and they paid their tabs and left.  His father did stare at the DVD of the game then at his son, then groaned and took his copy before heading back to his house.  Don settled in to watch the last match over.  It was better than porn for him.  It combined both his loves: women and hockey.


Tara looked at her email when it beeped, reloading it.  She read the header and frowned but clicked on the link that said 'Willow wanted you to know someone in New York when you transferred out here' and read the short email introducing him, along with the picture that it linked to.  She smiled and wrote him back.  He did sound like a nice guy.  An officer was going to be a good person to know in a new city and he was a doctor and a CSI.  She got back another one from him with a lot more information and it made her grin a bit. Then she ducked her head and went back to writing to him.  Someone cleared their throat behind her so she said she'd talk to him in a few days then logged off and gathered her things to go back to her dorm room.  Where she called Willow to talk to her.  "Thank you."

//For what?//

"For making him write me."


"Sheldon, out of the NYPD?"

//Oh, him.  Timmy knows a bunch of people up there and Xander was up there for a while.  He said New York's a really huge city and it's easy to feel lost and alone so we thought you should know someone up there.  They said Sheldon's a really sweet guy.  Very smart.  He used to be a surgeon then went to being an ME and now he's a CSI but he's a really nice guy.  He's smart and Calleigh said he's funny in a good way.  Not dirty or anything.  Plus he can introduce you to the others.  Xander said that he works with Stella, you heard his message about her.  She's still saying he should be able to cook and she's a great motherly figure.  Plus the others.//

"It's nice I'll know someone."

//Which is what we wanted, sweetie.  Sheldon's a very sweet, nice guy from what I heard.  He's also supposed to be nearly as geeky as I am.// Tara giggled at that.  //So, how is Sunnydale?//

"Quiet.  Most of the bad things left when the base went.  Buffy's been bored and her mother's saying she's not allowed to shop any more this semester."  That got a laugh from Willow.  "How's Miami?"

//Warm and pretty.  It's all about the warm and pretty down here,// she admitted. //I've got a few good friends in the lab and Ryan's kinda mentoring me.  Goddess, Tara, he's sweet.  He's got OCD and he's so sweet and gentle.  Plus he laughs at my jokes.//

"Maybe you should try something," she offered gently.  "You liked boys before.  He might be girl enough for you."

//Oh, he definitely is,// she agreed, moaning a bit.  //But he's got a really demanding job and he's got a lot of stress and things.  Xander's working on his shoulders all the time but he's off having fun in Las Vegas this week.  He sent his boyfriend chocolates that made him make Buffy noises.// Tara giggled at that. //He did!  He sent it to the station too!//   You could faintly hear a knock.  //Hold on.  Hi, Ryan.// The sound of a kiss.

"I'll let you have smoochies, Willow.  I'll call tomorrow," Tara said, then hung up with a giggle.  It was good Willow was moving on.


Willow looked at her phone.  "I'm not having smoochies, Tara.  Tara?"  She pouted and hung up her cell phone. "Sorry."

"That's okay.  Did someone up there write her?"

"Sheldon did."

"He's a good choice from what I heard," he admitted, smiling at her.  "I was wondering if you wanted to go out and have dinner with me tonight."  Willow stared at him and he blinked.  "Not like that."  She relaxed and sighed but nodded.   "I mean...."

"No, it's good.  I can do that.  I have enough to do laundry and dinner as long as it's not more than ten bucks.  Or else I have to call my parents."

"Okay."  He smiled.  "When is he coming back?"

"I noticed the hump you had.  Sit down, Ryan.  Let's see if I can help."  He sat down and she closed the door, then got to work on his lump of stress.  He always hunched when he was stressed.  "Bad case?"

"Kids," he admitted.  "Ended up being accidental."

"I'm sorry."

"So are the parents and I just wanted to look at them and tell them to grow up because they weren't paying attention at all."  He sighed and relaxed under her hands.  "You do that pretty good."

"Thank you."  She smiled and ruffled his hair then went back to it.  "Did the houses sell for Xander?"

"They did.  I think someone covert wanted the house in Cyprus with all the things in it."  He looked back at her and grinned.  "The pictures I saw were beautiful."

"They were," she agreed.  "Doesn't mean he needs that."

"Which was why he sold them and let the lease go on the apartments."

She nodded and went back to his neck, making him moan.  She blushed at that very manly sound but went back to it.  "So, um, dinner?" she asked, slapping herself for the squeakiness of her voice.

He looked back at her.  "I'd never hit on a woman, Willow."

"Which is why you're still single."

"I figure the right woman will fall into my lap."  He gave her a small grin.  "Then again I got bothered by Erica again today too."


"I don't know.  I was kinda hoping you'd be my cover tonight since she's all but stalking me at the moment."

"Sure, I can do that but we should make it seem like a date," she teased.  "Otherwise she'll think you adopted me."

"You're not that young," he reminded her.

"I'm nine years younger than you."

He looked back at her. "Maturity wise you're not."  He got free of her hands and stood up.  "Go get pretty and I'll even treat."

"It wasn't a hint, it was a tease," she said with a blush, not looking at him.  He tipped her face up.  "It wasn't."

"I know.  You're not like Eric's women."  She shook her head, losing her blush.  "Go get pretty anyway.  I could use some fun tonight to let go."  She nodded and went into her bedroom to find something to put on.  She came out in a longer skirt and a tank top.  "That's cute."

"Thank you.  I can't see how women can wear the tiny skirts.  These are so much more comfortable."

"They are."  He handed her the phone and keys, getting a smile as she packed them into her purse. "Where do you want to eat?"

"Somewhere with meat.  I went vegetarian for Tara and I've been craving cow."

"We can do that."  He walked her out and let her lock the door behind them.  Then he led her down to the car.  They backed out and headed off, watching Speed and Calleigh out for a ride.  "Awww."

"They are so cute," she agreed, smiling at the picture.  "She treats him like he's precious."

"She lost him once," Ryan sighed.

"Death is part of life, Ryan."  She looked at him.  "For everybody.  I've had a lot of times when I didn't think I'd be able to turn in my homework the next day.  Green light."  He went on, staying quiet.  "It's something that happens.  Sometimes more often than others."  His hand found hers for a squeeze, then he went back to driving.  "Okay, enough with the depressing.  There's almost no vampires in Miami.  They're all scared to death of me so we're good."

"They are?"  She nodded.  "Why?"

"Xander fell back to hunting the hunters.  I've done the same thing but he doesn't even patrol. I do now and then."

"We know that's dangerous, right?" he prompted.  She nodded.  "Then why do it?"

"Because it's necessary to keep them down."

He pulled into a parking lot and parked then looked at her. "I think we've got a pretty small community here and they've always been pretty small.  I don't know why but they've been in good balance.  I don't think you need to patrol and I think we'd miss you if you got eaten one night, Willow."  She blinked at him.  "Really."  He pushed some of her hair back over her shoulder.  "So quit before I have to work your scene some day, okay?"  She nodded, staring at him.  "Good."  He smiled.  "Now, how about Indian pig and Turkish cow?"

"Turkish cow?"

"It's great."  He got out and walked around to let her out, seeing Erica watching.  He walked her inside and nodded at the hostess.  "Just us.  Not on the Hindu side."  That got a nod and they were seated in the other section.  "That way you can have cow and no one will mind.  It's a great split spot."

"I can see that."  She sat on the pillows and looked around.  "This is beautifully done."

"It is," he agreed, smiling at her.  "The story goes that the owners are in-laws and wanted to go into business but the Hindu side couldn't defile his heritage or beliefs by serving cow and the other ones wanted to serve Middle Eastern cuisine.  They're originally British I think.  So they compromised by doing a split place like you see in those Hibachi places."  She smiled at him.  "Menu," he said, handing her one.  He looked at his and she let out a happy noise.  "It's great food.  I eat here a lot."

She lowered the menu.  "You are much cooler than anyone but Xander suspects."

He grinned.  "I hate being typecast," he said with a small, wicked grin.  "Look at the sampler platters. They're huge but they've got a lot of stuff."

She looked and blinked then looked at him.  "That could feed a whole frat house."

"It could and probably has in the past.  I like number three but it's up to you."

She looked at it then at him.  "You eat tofu?"

"No, I consider that garnish and I eat the other stuff."

She giggled and looked then at him.  "How about number five?  Most of the same stuff and a bit cheaper so whatever you're craving that's not on there can be gotten separately."

He looked and nodded.  "That does have most of it, all but the shrimp."

"That's something I miss.  Tara was allergic," she sighed, shaking her head.  "I'm used to conference food."

He patted her on the hand.  "It's all right.  We'll let Speed kill your parents if and when they show up and then we'll throw a big party."  She smiled at him.  "How about number seven?"  She looked then nodded at that.  "Can we share it or are you starved?" he teased.

She blushed.  "I don't think I've ever been that hungry.  Not since my parents decided to show me what deprivation was."

"Excuse me?"

"They decided I was spoiled when I was eight so we lived on what amounts to minimum wage and what poor people get for food stamps for three months.  I still can't stand spam.  Though the weekend without wasn't that fun."

"Did they do this too?" he asked.  She shook her head.  "I'm so going to help Speed."

"Why?  It's not worth it, Ryan."

"No, they're probably not but if they come down, we'll let Horatio help us."  He smiled. "I'm sure Xander can give him about twenty good reasons."

"All he has to do is bat his big, brown eyes and his boy'll fall," she promised dryly.

"I think it's the other way around," Ryan offered.  Their waitress came back. "We'd like to share platter seven.  Tea for me.  Soda or water, Willow?"

"Water please," she said, handing back her menu.

"Of course."  She took their menus and left.

He smiled.  "She's in here."

She blushed and looked at him under her lashes, then giggled.  "I can't imagine what you'd do if you borrowed Speed's bike for a ride," she teased.

He blushed.  "I can ride.  I learned in the academy," he admitted. "I've borrowed one for a few hours but it's never been the lifestyle I wanted."  Erica was led past their table and sat behind them.  "Crap," he muttered.  She smiled at him and it was like his whole ball of stress quit.  "Can I have another neck rub later?"

"Of course."  She smiled at the waitress when she brought their drinks.  "Bathroom?" she hissed.  That got a nod and Willow smiled at him.  "Give me two minutes?"

"Of course.  I'll be here."  She got up and went that way, taking her purse with her.  He knew what that meant and that was fine with him.  She came back with slightly damp hands and sat down again.  "Out of towels?"

"Sanitizer afterward."  She smiled at him.  "So, should we pick on Horatio about his chocolate habit?"

He snickered.  "That would be mean.  I'm wondering what trouble he's getting into this time."

"I got an email from him.  He and Greg went to pick up someone named Lady Heather and take her out for the night.  They went to some goth club and made her have fun after they kidnaped her from her office."

"Lady Heather is a very nice woman who is like another stepmother for Xander.  She finished his dom training."  She looked stunned.  "She's a very nice woman.  She had to come down here to hide after someone torched her house.  Xander dotes on her more than he does Aiden when she's in range.  Greg is, well, Greg.  He's the one he was out with when he got given the alcohol by that assassin that he ended up marrying.  Greg married her apprentice."

"Wow," she said, blinking at him.  "So the stuff from Cyprus...."

"Was hers. Apparently she saw him doing a few open poles for fun out there and got fixated.  He looks a lot like her lover, who's in a Turkish prison, and she got seriously fixated enough to give him some really strong alcohol that was kinda subtle.  Greg said he didn't taste it or anything but he was seriously impaired by the fourth drink; he said it hit him all at once.  Then they kept having fun with the boys and got the marriage license first thing the next morning, married them, took them back to the hotel, and Raphael found out so he called the FBI, which made her jump off the top of the hotel and her apprentice kill herself with an officer's gun."  He sipped his tea again.  "Then they got to go on many trips."


"Very."  He smiled at her.  "It wasn't his fault, no matter how much the others complain."

"He did the pole thingy.  It was."

"That was Greg's idea."

"Still," she said, staring at him. "Xander has *always* drawn bad girls.  There's never been a bad girl who didn't love the Xander."  She patted him on the hand.  "But it'll be fine, you're not like that and I doubt you can have that taint passed on to you."  He chuckled and shook his head.  "Good.  Because I'd hate to have to turn bad now."

He smiled. "I'm sure you've got a bit of vixen hidden under all that brain," he teased.

"Maybe," she agreed coyly.  She sipped her water and glanced at Erica.  "She looks like she's going to kill me."

"She won't.  She's narcissistic.  She'd have to tape it.  Her cameraman would stop her."  She giggled and swatted at his arm.  "He would."  Their food was brought and he nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  She left, going to check on her other tables.

They reached for the same thing and he blushed a bit.  "Sorry, ladies first."

She picked it up and fed it to him.  "Your choice."  He smiled but he did chew.  She picked out what she wanted and nibbled delicately.  "No dishes tonight."

"Which is kinda nice.  That herbal bleach works very well on them too.  I used it to clean the oven the other day.  Worked wonders."

She smiled at him.  "Less cleaning, more thinking, Ryan," she said gently.  "Find something else to make you quit cleaning."

He blushed at that.  "I haven't found anything to take my mind off cleaning in a while."

"I'm sure you will sometime soon.  There'll be some girl or something that'll take the place of cleaning."

He looked at her.  "She'd have to be very special, Willow.  Cleaning is almost soothing to me sometimes."  He ate a bite of food.

"Xander does the same thing when he cleans his guns."

He nodded.  "It's the same sort of soothing.  The same actions, the same strokes over the same surfaces.  It's familiar and calming. You get a sense of transcendence almost.  Each stroke is familiar and something you've done before.  It lets you just let go.  Even if your nerves aren't screaming about dirt and germs and things," he admitted.

She smiled and touched his hand.  "You're not as bad as you could be.  Otherwise you could never eat out, never have anyone touch you, and wouldn't have let me sleep on your couch for two days."

"True.  Then again you didn't make too much of a mess," he teased. "Only a few shed hairs."

"You still looked cute vacuuming in the apron too," she teased back.  He blushed at that and she fed him another bite.  "Eat. You've had a stressful day, Ryan.  All I had was calculus and biology two."

"That's still a lot of course work."

"Yes, but mental work is always easier than physically crawling on your knees to find small pieces of evidence.  Not that I don't like watching you guys work."

"Don't tell me you were watching Eric's butt when he was on campus."

"No!"  She blushed.  "That wasn't where I was looking," she said quietly, looking down.

He grinned at her.  "Surely you're not going after what's Xander's."

"Nope.  Not that sorta gay.  Or bi or whatever."

He chuckled and fed her a bite of food.  "There, helps with the embarrassment."

"It does," she agreed once she had swallowed.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Try the cow.  You wanted cow and you've been eating breaded mushrooms."  She dug into that, even feeding him a bite, which made him smile.  "Thank you, kind lady."

"You're welcome, my very shiny knight," she teased back.  He laughed but ate a bite on his own.  She looked behind them at a familiar voice.  "Hmm, Eric brings chicks here."

"It's a good place for that," he agreed.  He glanced behind him and rolled his eyes when Eric looked over, then teased Willow's wrist.  Eric just smirked. "Mind if they join us?"

"Not in the least.  As long as she doesn't make me gag."

"She shouldn't.  It's his sister."  He waved them over and Eric and Marisol came over.  "They can join us."  The waitress nodded and got drink orders while they shifted over.  "Hi, Marisol."

"Hi, Mr. Wolfe."

"Ryan, please. This is Willow.  She's Xander's best friend and transferred down to go to college when her campus fell in."

"Hi."  They shook hands and she smiled at her brother.  "He said I needed to go out to have some fun tonight."

"You did," Eric agreed.

"Fun can be addictive and stress relieving," Willow agreed.  She looked at Eric.  "I needed cow, I've been craving cow since I broke up with Tara.  I went Vegan for her."

"How is she going to handle New York?" Eric asked.

"She'll do okay.  Sheldon in the lab up there wrote her.  I heard from her earlier."  She smiled at Marisol.  "I am bi but I pick for personality.  That's why I'd never hit on your brother."  She giggled at that.  "I'm kinda surprised your mother hasn't bought him a wife yet and handcuffed him to her."

"Momma's got a touch of romantic in her," Marisol promised with a smile.  "But if he gets much older she might."

"Not funny," Eric complained.  "Can we dig in?"  Ryan nodded, shifting the food their way.  The waitress had brought forks with their drink orders so he selected something and dug in.  "I've always liked this place."

"Me too.  It's calming and I always manage to get here when they have fights in the kitchen," Ryan agreed.  "So I get the entertainment too."  Eric laughed.  "I do.  I take a lot of dates here."

"You date?" Eric asked.

Willow pinched him.  "Any woman would be more than grateful to get a decent man like Ryan is.  Especially because he likes how I cook and make cookies."

Marisol smiled. "Perhaps we're switching back?" she teased.

"I don't know.  I haven't really thought about it.  I like Ryan, he's a great guy, and he lets me work on his stress knots, but I don't know."  She caught her eye and glanced back at Erica, then back.  Marisol smiled, catching the hint.  "We'll have to see what he comes up with tonight."

"Changing that stupid lightbulb of yours again.  She has one that keeps blowing and no one knows why," Ryan told Eric.

"Not even maintenance?"

"No," Willow sighed, eating another bite of cow.  "No one knows why.  But hey, I don't have any collections like Xander does."

"No, that's a good thing," Ryan agreed.

"Though Calleigh gave her funny looks when she said she didn't like weapons," Eric offered.

"It's a woman's prerogative to be softer and not like weapons," Marisol reminded him.  "The same as it is if she likes them like Calleigh does."

"Have you met Xander yet?" Ryan asked her.

"He won't let me."

"Ah.  Well, I'm sure you will soon enough, like the picnic."

"I'm not sure Xander's the one I want her to become friends with."

"He could probably use a shopping buddy," Willow reminded him.

Eric gave her a look.   "No.  No shopping with Xander and my very innocent sister, especially not while people are still sending him expensive presents anonymously."

Ryan's phone rang once then quit.  He looked at it, then at Eric.  "That was strange."

"Wrong number?" Willow suggested.

"Um, no," he said, showing her the one that came up on caller ID.  Xander's.

Eric called Horatio.  Willow took the phone and her PDA, logging into her system.  "H, me.  Ryan got a strange call from Xander.  One ring and then it hung up.  Willow's doing something to his phone."

"International call or he's in the air."  She held up the number.  "That's where he is.  GPS chip.  I made sure it was reinstalled before he left."

"Willow got into his GPS chip and it's got a code."  He read the numbers off.  "That's what she got.  Yeah.  Thanks, H."  He hung up.  "He'll deal and we'll see.  Let's eat."  They ate and headed back to the station.  Eric found Horatio outside.  "Anything?"

"A lot and the FBI has it.  Someone took him from his hotel room.  They'll get them when they land."  He looked at Willow.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Any idea why?"

He nodded.  "A few.  We think it's the person who bought the rolex and the original necklace."  He shifted some.  "Go home, people.   He's fine and they're on it.  He'll be fine."  They nodded.

Willow looked at him.  "Will you be okay?"

"I'm fine, Willow," he promised, smiling at her.  "Greg was the one who found the break- in when he went to pick him up."  That got a nod and they went back to their cars.  He smiled at how close Ryan and Willow were.  A good lover would make him finish relaxing.  Speed pulled up on his bike.  "He's fine."

"I doubt it."

"He's fine, Speed.  They think it's the person who bought the rolex by what we've been able to find out.  The FBI is extracting him off the plane."

Speed leaned on his handlebars, staring at him.  "They *stole* him?"  Horatio nodded.  "Why?"

"For the same reason they sent him expensive presents," Willow called.  "They're psychos and want him to be theirs."  She looked at him.  "Why do you think I updated his GPS chip to the illegal one in his phone?"  She smiled sweetly.  "Used only by military strike teams," she said happily.  She got into Ryan's car with his help.  "Thank you.  Want me to work on that knot?"

"I wouldn't mind."  He walked around and got in to drive her back to her place and let her work on his neck.  She set him in her desk chair and moved him so she could get to him easier, even getting some oil.  "Should I take off my shirt?"

"Probably.  Unless you want to explain the oil to your dry cleaner," she teased.

"My dry cleaner would think I got it in a club."  He took off his sweater vest and shirt, folding them in his lap.

Willow looked at him.  He was well-built.  He was also very tanned in some spots.  "You can tell you wear t-shirts all the time, unlike Eric, who wears long shirts."  She oiled her hands, then got to work on the tense shoulders and neck muscles.  The moans he was letting out were getting to her and she knew that.  She could feel it and it was good.  She hadn't felt like this in the past.  Tara had been gentle and Oz had been sweet, but now she knew why Xander had hickeys.  Ryan winced and she eased off.  "Sorry," she whispered, going back to the other side to work on the knot from there.  He let out a groan that made her whimper.  He caught her hand over his shoulder, looking back at her.  "Sorry."

"It's a natural reaction."  He pulled her around and into his lap.  "I do like you."  She smiled at that. "But I'm not sure you realize how hard it is to be with one of us, Willow."

"Shut up, Ryan."  She kissed him a bit hesitantly but he kissed back and it was good.  "I know about the long hours, the stressful cases, and all that.  We watched Timmy work cases back in Sunnydale and I've seen how you can tear yourself up."  She stroked over his cheek.  "You have no idea what I've seen and done though."

He kissed her again.  "You'd be surprised at what I've figured out about what you guys did."  He stroked her chin then kissed her again, standing her back up.  He stood up to look at her.  "I've seen you in hunting mode," he said quietly, looking down at her.  "I've seen you when you didn't know I was watching.  I've seen you stake something and walk off talking on the phone."  He rested his hand against her cheek.  "You'll have to give that up.  That would not be negotiable.  In emergencies is different," he said when she opened her mouth.  "The same as it is for Xander.  Horatio's already put his foot down.  You can unbalance the community and then we'll have problems," he said quietly.  "Besides the fact that I'd worry whether or not you were coming home."

She considered it then hugged him.  "I can see that happening."  He relaxed.  "What about..."

He kissed her and smiled.  "No more accidents.  It's time to cut back to using it for *good* again, Willow.  Like the ones that Xander helps at the shop when they need him to lift stuff."  She nodded at that. "Can we come to an agreement?"  She nodded.  He smiled and she leaned against him.  "Thank you."  He kissed her again.  "Now, I am not a guy who sleeps with a woman on the first date."

"Shut up, Ryan."

He chuckled.  "I saw the trip to the bathroom, Willow," he whispered in her ear. "I can wait until it's done."

"I was only checking. It's due next week."

"Sure."  He kissed her again, then looked at her.  "Which means we have to pause to run out for some stuff."  She blushed at that and opened something handing it to him.  "Where did we get this?"

"It was part of the move-in package.  They gave us all a box of condoms, lube, and advil, plus some mints and ten free bucks for laundry on our security cards."

He smiled.  "I knew you'd like living here."  She swatted him but he picked her up to let her wrap herself around him.  "I will be gentle."  He walked her into the bedroom and shut the door with a foot, going to teach her why everyone else got loud.


Horatio watched Ryan walk in the next morning.  "He's fine."

"Good.  So's Willow."

Horatio raised an eyebrow and took off his sunglasses to look at him.  "Really?"  Ryan blushed.  "I see.  Are you ...content?"

"Very," he admitted, looking at him. "It's strange."

"I know.  I've had those same thoughts."  He looked at him and smiled.  "She'll be good for you, Ryan.  Just watch how she reacts for a bit.  Xander said she's very much one to throw herself into things but she'll never ask you your opinion on anything.  Xander doesn't with me either."

"That's something that I almost expect with her parents," he admitted.  "So, if they come to town, can I have help with the homicide?"

Horatio hummed and nodded.  "As long as I get the same if his uncle comes."

"Agreed.  Happily."  They shook on it and he went inside.  "Morning," he called as he walked past ballistics.

Eric and Calleigh both looked at him.  "Uh-huh," Eric said with a smirk.  She elbowed him in the stomach, making him grunt.  "It's pretty clear."

"It's sweet," she said with a smile.  "We can't pick on him for finding a nice girl."

He looked at her.  "That nice girl is Willow."

"Really?"  She grinned brighter.  "Well, at least he can understand her babble when she's excited."  She smiled at Ryan when he came back.  "How was your night?"

He looked at them, then he smirked.  "No comment.  Eric, no smutty thoughts either.  She's calling your sister to go shopping when her next check comes in."  Eric moaned.  He smiled sweetly at Calleigh.  "But yes, I don't mind babbling, and yes, she's floating around today, and she's probably studying for her calc 2 exam at the moment so don't bother her."

Speed looked at him as he walked out reading a file.  Then he snorted and shook his head, patting him on the back.  "Repeat after me, 'put that down, do not use the magic on that, take a breath and repeat'."  Then he walked on.  "You'll need to memorize those phrases.  Aiden trained her to respond to them."

"She's not a dog."

"She's a very pretty young woman but she acts before thinking," Speed assured him, still walking.  "And she babbles worse than Danny."

Ryan nodded. "She does when she's excited."  He shrugged and went on.  "No picking on her, guys.  She's still sweet and very nice."

"Sure," Eric agreed.  "Lunch?"  She elbowed him again and walked back into ballistics. "It's only fair!"

"We didn't threaten Xander," she reminded him.

"That's because Xander would laugh and do worse to us," he complained, following her.

Speed leaned out of the lab he was in.  "I wouldn't advise it anyway, Eric.  On either of them.  Willow was the Xander protection society for a long time."  He went back to work knowing Eric was shuddering in horror.


Xander blinked at the man above him.  "Who're you?" he asked, sounding groggy.  He snapped up.  "Greg?"

"He's fine, Mr. Harris, but we found out who sent you the rolex," the man said patiently.  "Nurse, is he all right to talk?" he called.

Xander looked at him.  "Ask me not her."

"You were drugged, kid."

"I realize there was at least a sedative. What happened?"

"The person who sent you the rolex decided to take you as a prize."

"Uh-huh.  Why?"

"He saw you strip?"

Xander thumped his head on the pillow. "I've stripped maybe nine times. This is the second one that did this."  The guy looked interested.  "Lady Death married me for an hour an a half because of it."

"Oh, you're *him*," he said, nodding.  He smiled. "You haven't even asked who I am yet."

"You're wearing a dark blue, conservative, itchy wool suit and a tie with spots.  I'd say...FBI?"  He nodded at that, looking appreciative.  "After the quickie marriage and her suicide I saw a few of you guys.   Plus Lady Heather taught me how to spot you guys and I worked with some agents as a dom," he said quietly.

"Interesting.  By the way, you're in New York."

"I saw the buildings."  He looked at him. "Is he dead or under arrest?"

"Dead.  He tried to take a flight attendant hostage and someone got him for it."

"Hmm.  Has anyone told my dad where I am?"

"No....  You have living relatives?"

"I have an adoptive father and mother.  Phone?"  It was handed over.  "Hit nine and dial the Manhattan Felony lab's number please?"  He did that after looking at his notes.  "Hi, Patrice, it's Xander.  Tell whoever's over it I'm awake, I have a headache, and I'm checking myself out in an hour.  I'll try to stay at Grandfather's house again.  Thanks."  He handed the phone back and it was hung up.  "Nurse?" he called.  "I'm leaving."

"No you're not."

Xander sat up and looked out there.  "Bet me," he told her.  He looked at the agent.  "Do I have clothes?"

"You do.  Your grandfather sent you a bag."  He handed it over.  "He said you're to stay in here."

"Yay," he said blandly. "I hate hospitals.  Hospitals kill people where I'm from."  He looked inside the bag, smiling at the wallet and the address written out.  He looked at the gown then the IV then at the guy.  "I'm going to pull this and get changed.  If you wanna talk or watch, I don't care."  He looked out again.  "I'm yanking this IV."

"No you're not."  He did and closed the line off then carried it out there to present it to her.  "What are you doing!"

"Leaving," he said, staring at her.  "I hate hospitals.  Hospitals kill people where I'm from.  I'm not staying.  Now, can I have a bandaid?"  She took his arm to patch up the hole.  Then he trudged back and changed clothes.  He slid into the jeans and moaned.  "Ooh, new."  He he slid into the shirt and sighed happily.  "Better."  He sat down to put on his shoes and socks, then grabbed the jacket out of the bag.  The wallet and keys went into his pockets.  The address in the other side.  His new phone into that pocket too. Then he sighed in pleasure.  "Much happier now.  I'm going," he called.  He looked at the agent.  "I have no idea what was going on. I ordered room service.  I went to answer the door to get my cheeseburger and onion rings.  The next thing I knew I was on a plane and trying to dial a phone but the stewardess snatched it from me.  Then I was knocked back out by the big, fat guy next to me."

"I know what plane that was," he agreed.  The nurse came in with papers and a wheelchair.  "Some young men can't stand to be fussed over," he reminded her.

"I know.  My own's like that.  I smacked him around too."

He looked at her.  "I'm a fully trained dom, nurse.  I doubt you're going to be doing the smacking."  She blushed at that.  "Thank you."  He smiled.  "I'm sorry I'm such a nuisance and I snored so loud."  He signed his name and they wheeled him out.  He found Mac waiting outside.  "Hola."

"Hi.  Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"I'm going to hide at Grandfather's."

"Come on.  Agent Whitts?"

"We have everything we need to know.  We wanted to know what he knew."

Xander looked at him.  "I'm not that bright."  Mac smacked him on the shoulder.  "Ow!  Meany!"  He glared at him.  "I'm not.  I can't compare to Willow's brains."  He looked at the agent again.  "I have no clue what is going on.  They've kept me out of that investigation so I wouldn't get upset by it.  Please, feel free to come borrow a few whips if you need them."

"No, I'm sure we have other, more socially acceptable, methods."

Xander looked at him.  "Had he managed to keep me, I would've used one on him," he said bluntly.  "Then broken him and made him bring me back to Miami."  He got into the SUV.  "Let Horatio know whatever I need to know.  Or Daddy."

Mac looked at him.  "CSI Speedle adopted him," he said at the confused look.

"I'll keep that in mind, sir, thank you."

"Welcome.  Have a better day."  That got a smile and he went back to the office while Mac looked at the address and took Xander over there.  "You should've stayed," he said.

"I hate being fussed over.  I loathe it.  I would kill if someone fussed over me."

Mac looked at him.  "Some of us do prefer to hide but you still should be in the hospital."

"I didn't go when I got drugged before the fire.  I can nap off a strong sedative anywhere, Mac," he said tiredly, looking at him.  "I'm sorry I'm such a pain."

"I'm a guy who hides too, Xander, but Stella always manages to find me."

"I don't care if someone checks on me just don't let them fuss.  Is daddy okay?"

"They're fine.  They were trying to get up here but their Chief wouldn't let them take the time off.  Speed threw a fit that would do Danny or any drag queen proud.  Horatio's promise of retribution went unsaid but clearly heard.  They went and retrieved Ryan when he had to call off sick one day, which made Willow very cranky."

"'Bout time," Xander agreed happily.  "I knew they'd go well together."

Mac smiled at him.  "They agreed we could watch over you until you could get home.  I'm not sure when that'll be.  I do know that they've been trying to reassure Greg and Lady Heather."

Xander pulled out his phone and found Greg's number already programmed.  "I'm awake now."  Greg babbled at him and he smiled.  "I'm okay.  I ordered room service and apparently they didn't like me having a cheeseburger with my onion rings, Greg.  I'm fine.  She's my next call so I can talk longer to daddy and them.  I'm okay.  I just left the hospital and I'm fine."  He smiled.  "A long nap but otherwise I'm good.  Okay?"  He smiled.  "Good boy, Greg.  Sure, next time you get to come to Miami."  He chuckled.  "It'll be safer anyway.  Everyone's scared of upsetting Horatio down there.  Sure.  Love you too.  Laters."  He hung up and called Lady Heather.  "Sonya, it's Master Tim.  I'm fine.  Tell her I'm fine and this is the number I can be reached at but I'm sleeping off the last effects of the sedative, all right?"  He smiled.  "Thank you, Sonya.  Give her my love and tell her I'm fine.  That they got upset that I ordered a cheeseburger with my onion rings or something.  Then have her vent about stupid people who want what isn't theirs.  Of course I'll call tonight. After I take a long nap.  Give her my love.  Hug her for me, Sonya.  I'm sure it would shock her and that is an order."  He smiled.  "Laters."  He hung up and called Ryan's phone. "I'm out, I'm heading for a nap, but I'll call dad.  Is he busy?"  He nodded.  "Figures.  I'll do that, Ryan.  I promise."  He hung up and looked at Mac.  "Ryan let out that sigh of relief."

"Why did you call Ryan?"

"I'd been bothering him about something for the last two weeks.  His was the only number I remembered off the top of my head.  Everyone else I have on speed dial."  Mac smiled at that and parked.  "Thanks, Mac."

"Welcome, Xander."  He watched him walk up to the brownstone and get the key in the lock but it didn't work.  Someone opened the door and Xander said something, so they pointed at the next house up.  The boy grinned and shrugged, saying something that included the word 'hospital' and went over there.  This time the key worked and the boy waved before slipping inside and closing the door.

Xander laid down on the nearest couch and dialed his father's phone.  "Hi, daddy," he said, putting him on speaker while he took off his shoes.

"I'm on a scene, kiddo."

"I know so I'll make it short."  He smiled.  "I'm fine.  I'm out of the hospital.  I'm at granddad's place.  Mac dropped me off after I got out."

"Checked out or were released?" he asked.

"No comment.  I'm fine, just need a nap."  He yawned and laid down, moving the phone closer. "I could be mean and ask you to tell me a bedtime story."

"I'm sure Horatio would like that but I'll do that when you get home, okay?"  Xander made an assenting noise.  "Want to talk to Horatio?"

"Gonna nap," Xander said, half-asleep now.  "Tell him love him.  Hug him for me.  Talk to him later."  He yawned.  "Love you."

"Love you too.  You nap, Xander."  He heard the snore and hung up, looking at Horatio.  "He's fine.  He's asleep on his grandfather's couch up there."

"Did he check himself out?  Mac's text message said he did."

Speed nodded.  "His answer was no comment.  Yeah, he checked himself out.  He hates to be fussed over.  Will drive you nuts if you get sick but he hates to be fussed over.  He said he'd call when he woke up."  That got a smile and a nod.

"It's good the boy's all right," Alexx said, looking at them.  "We should fuss."

"He'll hide," Speed warned.  "We've got to get the FBI to let him come back down here."

"They will be letting him go in the next few days," Horatio advised.  "They said so.  Or else I'm going to sic Willow on them again."  Speed snickered at that.  He looked at him.  "She would complain very well for all of us."

"She will," Speed agreed, getting back to work. "He said he'll want a bedtime story later.  Said he wasn't mean enough to make me think one up right now."

"I'm sure we can find him a good one," Horatio promised, getting back to work.  "Alexx, is that a bullet hole or a stab wound?"

"I can't tell.  It looks like a bullethole, same shape, but I can't feel the bullet yet.  I'll let you know."  She got done with her preliminary and they bundled the body up so they could leave.

Horatio and Speed shared a look then Speed called Greg.  "He's fine, Greg," he soothed. "He's asleep on his grandfather's couch and he's doing good.  It'll be okay.  No, it wasn't about that.  It was the stupid asshole who sent him the rolex.  Yeah, that thing.  Apparently he wanted more," he said dryly.  "We'll handle it and it'll be fine.  Just take a deep breath then hit the wall.  I promise, he'll be home in a few days and you can come down soon.  We'll bribe Grissom with bug samples or something."  Greg laughed at that.  "Relax for now."  He hung up and got back to work.  "He's still worried."

"Of course he is.  Xander got stolen when he was supposed to be watching him."

"It's not his fault he had to go to work, Horatio.  Really.  Worry more that the guy took skin samples and is going to clone him or something."  He grabbed his head and bent down then looked at him.  "Want a stepdaughter?"

Horatio walked off calling the FBI agent who had called him. "It's Caine.  They had a doctor there to take DNA samples?  Because we heard covert intelligence saying that he did," he said bluntly.  "Exactly.  I would, thank you."  He hung up and looked up.  "I don't mind if he has children but not this way please?"  He got back to work.


Raphael hung up with his contact and looked at Patrick.  "He was going to impregnate his wife with Xander's seed.  That way he could have another generation of him."

"Interesting.  Did it work?"

"Horatio's trying to stop it.  He is very young and having a child with someone he respects would be easier.  This way he'd take the child away from the mother and cut her off completely."  He looked at his childe.  "We could offer a hefty reward for a surrogate.  Pick someone upstanding yet pretty?"

"I don't like that idea.  It's almost like buying children."

"The alternative is to drug or get him royally drunk and make him cheat on Horatio and Gregory."

"I like that idea less.  I've always held the sanctity of marriage."  He looked at his sire, putting down his book.  "Who did you have in mind?"


"No.  I will not have a grandchild that opinionated.  I'm sorry but no.  Besides, their child would look strange with her ears."  He considered it.  "One of the Delko daughters?  Marisol is unattached and might welcome the chance."

"She's also ill."

"Point."  He considered it.  "I saw the most stunning young woman the other day but again, we'd have to make him cheat.  How about that nice Tara?"

"No... I'm foreseeing a gentle relationship with a person who will surprise her," Raphael said dryly.  "She's in for a world of change in New York."

"She is but she'll have better guardians.  After all, watching her is easier than watching our grandson."  He sighed.  "Lady Heather?"

"That would be one pale, dark haired child," his sire joked.  "But beautiful, Patrick.  What about your goddess?"

"She would never consent.  Nor would her hovering, overprotective man allow it.  Though I do believe they're about to get a wakeup call soon.  They always forget the loud one it seems like."  He considered it, looking at him. "Do we want the child to be dark haired and would he really care if it was biracial?"

"He wouldn't.  I wouldn't. You would," Raphael reminded him.

"I don't but I've seen all too many of those relationships split at the seams from the stresses of society.  For all I care the baby could be half Asian or something."  He sat up.  "There is one I've seen recently.  We even know her."  His sire looked amused at that.  "The one in the store.  Her."

He considered it.  "She'd have a fiery temper."

"No son?"

"Perhaps but he'd be just like Eric probably."  Patrick pouted.  "If there was any of our people I wouldn't care.  She's outside our influence."


"No.  I want not even a hint of a chance that the child may end up a slayer."  He looked at his childe.  "Besides, we should probably ask the boy first.  Before we go taking in a waif and getting her cleaned up."

"True, but we could agree on someone who looked like her?"

"I could.  I would prefer someone more mild mannered than that harridan.  But I could agree."  That got a smile.  "It would be a beautiful child and his seed is strong."

"From what we hear it is," he agreed. "Especially with the amount of that jerky he eats."  He slowly smirked.  "What about one of the society brats?"

"He'd be in for a fight and would have to go public as your grandson and heir.  It would cause problems with the bubble headed idiots in this state."

"I forgot," he sighed. He picked up his book and dialed his grandson, getting a sleepy, complaining voice.  "Xander, are you all right?"

"Shouldn't you be asleep?"

"I'm old, grandson, I don't need much sleep," his grandsire offered.  "There is news if you're awake enough to hear it."

"Hmm?" he asked.

"We heard one of the people with him was a doctor.  That he was planning on making one of his wives bear your child so he'd have a second generation of you."

"Gonna kill him," Xander said with a yawn.  "No kids until I'm twenty-three and Grandfather has to make it to the christening at least. Or else no kids ever."  He hung up and went back to sleep.

"He'll be twenty this year," Raphael agreed.  Patrick looked at him.  "It might happen."

"It won't, sire.  We both know that's being hopelessly optimistic.  I'll be lucky if I see his twenty-second birthday."  He sighed a bit.  "We'll have to provide for a grandchild anyway."

"I don't think that will be a problem," he promised, smiling at him.  "He will be disappointed if you die sooner."

"He's trying very hard to give me incentive to stay around but Ethan can only hold it off for so long," he pointed out. "Even he's saying probably less than a year.  Gordon?"  He walked in.  "The man who had Xander apparently had a doctor who was going to implant his wife with his child."

"I'll make sure it doesn't happen," he promised.

"We wouldn't *mind*," Raphael offered dryly. "But he might under the circumstances."

Gordon looked at them.  "Xander will have one.  Ask Timothy to ask the Powers with who."  He left, going to work on that issue. He had contacts in Interpol who could help.

Patrick reached for the phone but his sire gave him a look.  "Fine, you call."

"The Powers are touchy."  He called a number out in LA.  "Oz.  Is Cordelia there with you?  Please.  No, just a question to see if I can get an answer.  Really?  Timothy doesn't have that issue.  Then again, isn't she turned?"  He smiled and the phone was handed over.  "Cordelia, I need you to send a thought to the annoying people who give you a headache.  We need to know if Xander is going to have a child with someone *decent* or not.  If not we'll have to arrange for them to be taken and things."  He listened to her groan in pain and what she said, then what she growled when it was done.  "I thank you, dear one.  Have a better afternoon and do not pick on Oz, he might bite you."  He hung up.  "There will be a daughter. There may be a son.  The daughter will come from a better source than presently.  Though, they did tell her it was still open to interpretation."

"Hmm.  Drag queen?"

"Perhaps," he offered with a smile.  "We'll have to see."  Patrick let out a low growl.  "You'll live to see your first grandchild, they said so."

"Good!"  He went back to his reading.  He only hoped they were right.


Xander heard the phone ring and groaned, patting it until the noise quit.  "What?" he grumbled.

"Your grandsire just asked Cordelia about visions," Oz said in greeting.  "There'll be grandkids some year."

"As long as my head quits hurting I can do that soon.  Taunt the dark twinkie for me.  Later.  Gotta nap."  He hung up and went back to sleep, dreaming some very odd thoughts about shopping in Wal-Mart for babies.  It was probably the only thing they didn't sell but he hated to shop.  Picking out a baby from the shelves of them would take longer than Buffy deciding on which pair of black pumps she wanted.

Oz hung up and looked at her.  "He came up with a new one."  Cordelia looked at him.  "Dark Twinkie."

She considered it.  "Well, he is pale, creamy goodness wrapped by dark cheesecake.  Go for it."  She went back to nursing her headache.

Oz walked up the stairs, nodding at Wes.  "Where's the Dark Twinkie?"

Wesley Wyndham-Pryce stared at him, then he burst out laughing.  "I do like that name actually.  He's in bed.  As Cordelia should be."

"Vision.  Xander's grandkids."

"Ah.  Well, at least we've got warning for when they try to take over the world."  He walked off to make note of that and to see if he could get an account from her. Just in case.   After all, Xander's children could possibly take over the world in that special, bad way.

Oz smirked and went to make signs.  That way Angel got the joke.  He was liking working for Xander's grandsire.  It was neat.  Plus he got all the good gossip.  His ex's new hottie was pretty damn cute.


Xander woke up to pounding, not sure that it wasn't in his head.  He groaned and got up to glare at whoever was waking him up.  "What?" he growled.

"Doing a credible impersonation of Uncle Raphael when he's just gotten up," Don said with a smirk.  "Dinner?" he asked, holding up the bag.  Xander turned pale and ran off to find a bathroom.  "Ah, ye old sedative heave."  He walked in and put the food down then went to find him a glass of something bubbly to drink.  Xander tottered in a few minutes later.  "It's the sedatives they gave you.  They do it to me every time."

Xander finished his soda and looked at him.  "Another good reason to hate hospitals.  Food?"

"Living room."  He walked him back that way, visually checking the door to make sure it was locked.  Then he joined Xander on the couch.  "Anything good happen while you napped?"

"Someone said he was trying to make baby Xander's.  I'm hoping someone stopped him."  He dug into the bag and came out with a sandwich.  "Mine?"

"Whichever you want but that's got mayo on it."  Xander traded it out and leaned back to nibble the other one while Don got his.

"Thanks to that call I got strange dreams of shopping for babies at Wal-Mart."

"You can get baby stuff there," Don assured him.  "I have for showers and stuff at the office."

"No, going shopping for the actual babies at Wal-Mart."

"Yeah, that's a bit freaky.  What section were they in?"

"Automotive for some reason.  Right between them and sporting goods."  He ate a bite.  "I guess it's because they take so much work."  He shrugged and ate another one.  "How's things in Miami?  I need to fly home tomorrow."



"FBI wants you in New York until they're clear on what's going on."  Xander gave him an odd look.  He pinched him, getting a single nod.  "It's another reason that Horatio is not a happy camper and your house is now clean."  Xander ducked his head at that.  "I don't mind you guys.  You're cute together."  He smirked.  "I should have someone that cute someday."


"I thought she liked girls."

"She might but you're enough man to turn any lesbian straight," he teased.

"Yeah, we'll see.  She's coming out for spring break to look at the school and see if she wants ta live on campus or off."  He looked at him.  "Speaking of, didn't Speed want you in school?"

"For languages and we're still talking about it thankfully.  He knows I'm stupid."  Don swatted him.  "Ow!  Be nicer!"

"You're not stupid.  Just because books aren't your thing doesn't make you stupid.  It makes you street smart and sometimes that's better'n books anyway.  So no more putting yourself down or I'm writing Lady Heather."

"Yes, Don," he said, looking at him.  "I'm having deja vu."

"Which one had this talk with you?"


"Yeah, the old boy's kinky but he's got a sharp tongue when you've screwed up.  He got onto the guy with the dog about his rose bushes."

"We have dogs?"

"They have dogs."

"I never see any dogs," he said with a pout.

"They've got a K-9 guard.  You've never seen her?"  Xander shook his head.  "She's some freaky great dane/labrador/whatever mixture that's huge, not so slobbery, and is smarter than a few cops I know.  She's a great dog.  Loves to play fetch."  Xander grinned.  "Her name's Holly."

"I'll have to look for her."

Don grinned. "You could always go to the pound."

"Yeah but I'm trying hard not to spend all my money."

"What about your job?"

"He sucks at advertising so I've had to do that to get *any* clients in.  I didn't have one for the first month."  He ate another bite and finished his sandwich then got up to get more soda for him and Don.  Then he sat back down.  "I need a different job."

"Probably true. There's gotta be openings."

"There's plenty but they're all snotty people places and I hate being treated like the garden  gnomes.  Besides, the women who go there hit on the staff all the time and I don't like it.  They think it's their right to be serviced that way too."

"You could always reopen."

"I know," he sighed.  "Or take over the spa I work for and do it right.  My boss is a moron."  Don nodded.  "Met him?"  He nodded.  "I'm sorry.  The only problem with that plan is that I have no idea how to run a business."

"They make classes for that too.  You were doing okay with your own."

"I was stuck in a sea of paperwork.  Did you know there were a lot of fees for licenses and things?"

"I hadn't."

"There are.  Plus you have the fees for allowing people to use credit cards.  Higher ones for debit cards depending on the original bank.  The forms to take a medical card are nearly as thick as the bible with the instruction booklet.  It was wearing on my nerves.  It'd be easier if I just opened up as a dom again.  Less regulation, more cash, higher fees. I was getting a hundred an hour for my dom fees for those who played, more for the special things.  I was only getting fifty for a massage.  And my dom clients respected me a lot more."

"Then go into business like Lady Heather is, Xander.  The world's big enough for you both."

"I'd have to move back to New York.  Miami doesn't have that big of a community and no need for a play club.  We have one and they're doing crappy business."

Don looked at him.  "Is that stupid people in charge syndrome or is it because it's a crappy club?"

"A bit of both."

"Then maybe instead of the spa you should do that, Xander."  Xander blinked at him.  "Really.  Make some rooms for the internet stuff.  Pay Willow ta help.  She could probably use a part-time paycheck.  And if she's too big a prude, she'll know who to ask.  Make some areas play areas and some areas private areas, for those who need the therapy.  Put a front out for the dinner theater, showy sort of S&M like you did that time with Steven, and then make it nicer so people want to hang out in there and watch."

"That's not a bad idea.  I wonder if Horatio would mind."

"Probably not. You'd be running the place and you told Patrick he didn't mind your normal clients."

"True."  He considered it.  "I wonder how much it would cost to run a month."

"Probably not that much," Don offered. "Bartender, a few waiters, cleaning and those supplies?"  He shrugged. "Rental fees for the back rooms.  User fees if you put up a website. Hell, attach a normal club up front.  Those always make money out the ass."

"Not a bad idea," Xander admitted, watching the ideas go through his mind.  Don nudged him and he shook his head.  "Sorry.  I'd have to get Eric to help advise me on what a good club should be or it'd end up being a goth club.  For the rooms I'd have to have a hall monitor, someone who knew CPR.  Just in case."

"They're pretty easy to find though."  He reached over to pick a piece of lettuce off his shirt and feed it to him.  "The head feel better?"

"Thank you."

"Welcome."  He grinned.  "Now, the two ancient worrywarts in Florida wanted a call.  The female worrywart and your male worrywart in Vegas wanted a call, and so does your personal worrywart in Miami."

Xander grinned and nodded.  "My cell?"

"Ehh, use the house phone at least to call Patrick."  Xander looked at it then at him.  "Do it, not like he'll complain."

"He should."

"He won't.  I'll make sure you don't fall asleep during the call this time."

Xander smiled and picked up the regular phone, dialing the number marked 'main house'.  Oz picked up. "Huh, I thought main house would've went to Miami.  How's my former bitch?"  He grinned.  "That's cool.  No, I'm just now waking up.  Sure, I'll do that.  Thanks, Oz.  Come down and visit sometime."  He hung up and hit the number from memory, getting the study phone.  "Ha!  Figured it out.  Why the 'main house' goes to the LA number I don't know."  His grandfather explained it.  "Oh, didn't think about that."  His grandfather chuckled.  "I'm awake, Don fed me, and I'm okay now.   How much longer before I can come home?"  He grinned.  "Grandad, I can't leave work that long.  Yeah, I know.  Any idea if he sent the other stuff too?  Actually I do have DVD's of me stripping.  Because she got the all strip club channel and it was showing open pole winners?" he offered.  "In the DVD present package was one.  I know at least Eric got a copy.  I'm pretty sure Ryan has one too since he mentioned I looked better than he ever could in those burgundy leathers I used to have."  He listened to him call out to someone.  "Tell everyone I'm okay and I'm going to play with Holly when I come back.  Yes, the dog.  You never told me you had a dog."

He grinned. "Well, you didn't.  I would've come over a lot more often to play with the dog, Grandad."  He chuckled.  "Yes I would have.  Willow would too."  He grinned.  "I'm being a good boy.  For now.  So, why can't I fly home tomorrow?"  He moaned.  "That's mean.  No, Don told me to use the house phone to call you.  I was going to use my cell for the others, I promise."  He grinned at Don.  "He said you're in trouble if this is a huge phone bill.  He doesn't have long distance on this phone."  Don rolled his eyes.  He listened to his grandfather tell him something.  "Yeah, I heard someone say that earlier.  That's why I had the funny dream of shopping for babies at Wal-mart.  Between automotive and sporting goods."  His grandfather laughed so hard he choked.  "Tell Gordon I'm sorry and I'll be home soon, Granddad.  Love you and pat the kinky, hovering, goofball grandsire too.  Oz said he was, that's why."  He grinned as he hung up.  "They're okay.  No one got stolen recently or anything."  He put down the house phone and picked up his, finding all  his numbers in there.  "Hmm."

He started with Greg.  "Okay, I'm awake."  His 'I'm at work' didn't sound happy.  "I'm sorry.  Then I'll call tomorrow while you should be asleep," he teased.  Greg must've smiled at that, someone asked him why he was smiling and he snapped at them for it.  "Be a good boy, Greggy, and tell them you're running away to Miami."  He did that and everyone decided that was a bad idea.  Nick offered chains even.  "Only I get to chain you up and spank you," he reminded him.  Greg retorted that.  "No, tell them I'm in New York and I'm okay.  The sedatives are gone and I'm going to have to get remarried to pay off the cellphone bill this month."  Greg reported that faithfully, watching as they all demanded he do it there.  "I'll tell Don you guys said that.   Don, they said if I get married again I have to do it here instead of seeing if Sam Braun still wanted my ass."  Greg said something smart and they all groaned.  Xander cackled. "What a good idea, Greggy!"

Don took the phone.  "Xander is only allowed to marry the guys he's in a relationship with at this moment," he said firmly.  "No one else.  Ever.  Am I clear, Greg?  Good.  Now, be a good boy and get back to work.  He's still got to call Lady Heather and the other worrywarts.  You too."  He hung up and handed back the phone then gave Xander a hug.  "He said to give that to you since you're such a naughty boy."

"I am not."

"Are too.  Call Lady Heather next."

"I really am going to have to marry someone expensive to pay off the phone bill."  He dialed her anyway.  "Hi, Sonya.  Did you tell her I said to?"  He grinned.  "That's fine, put her on if she's free."  Lady Heather came on.  "I told Sonya to hug you for me, Lady Heather.  Because you probably needed a hug.  Hugs are elemental comfort after all."  He grinned at her assertion she hugged very nicely and that she'd remember that for future hugs, but it had still shocked her.  "I'm fine.  The sedatives are gone.  Uncle Don's fed me a sandwich from the deli.  Yeah I'm in New York.  The FBI won't let me leave."  He grinned.  "I know.  But all I did was order a cheeseburger and onion rings.  I don't know why they didn't like my cheeseburger.  It's not like I put pineapples on it or anything."  He heard the frustrated sigh.  "I know, I'm using humor to raise the tension bar," he agreed. "That's the sort of guy I am though.  No, but I did just joke to Greg that I'd have to get married again to pay the cellphone bill," he teased.  "Think Braun's still interested?"  Her shocked silence then sudden cackling told him all he needed to know.   He grinned.  "See, told you I was fine.  No, I wasn't hit in the head, m'lady," he promised.  "I'm a good boy.  Even if Don did suggest I open up a club down in Miami for the dom stuff."

He sipped his soda.  "Soda, Lady Heather.  I probably should but the bubbles feel nice right now."  He grinned. "Love you too, Lady Heather.  I'm being a good boy and I called Greg first.  Of course.  You be a good girl too.  No being too naughty without me being there to see.  Of course I'm coming back sometime soon.  Or else I'd have to have your house moved with you in it and Greg moved.  That's the only way they're keeping me out of Las Vegas.  Oh, did anyone pack up my hotel and cash out my winnings?"  He grinned.  "Thanks, Lady Heather.  Love you."  He blew a kiss and hung up, calling his father.  The panting made clear what he was doing.  "Am I getting a new baby brother or sister finally?  Well, Granddad does want great-grandkids," he joked.  "I'm fine and I'll let you get back to having her make squealy noises some more, daddy.  Laters."  He hung up and called Horatio, who was also panting.  "Oooh, is that because of me?" he asked, getting up and going into another room.  "Well, I did kinda interrupt dad and stepmom."  He listened to what Horatio was saying and got very warm.  "Twist it to the right, Horatio.  Like I would."  That got a moan and Horatio groaned his name a minute later.  "Good boy.  Now, finish your run and go home to think about me because I'm stuck in New York.  The FBI won't let me leave."

He smiled.  "You could come up for a few days.  I'd sneak back but they might freak if I did that."  He grinned.  "I'd like that," he agreed happily.  "Of course.  Love you too, Horatio.  Don fed me a sandwich already and I've been being a good boy, even if Granddad's warning that he had a doctor with him did make me have strange dreams.  Going baby shopping at Wal-mart.  No, not in the frozen food.  By automotive."  He heard the laugh.  "Between there and sporting goods.  I guess it's because they take so much work and then they have to spend a lot of time in sporting goods.  Not a clue otherwise.  Then again, I did just ask Dad if he was giving me a baby brother or sister since I caught him mid groan."  He smiled.  "I wouldn't mind some day.  I think I told him twenty-three earlier and he had to make it to the christening."  That got a happy sounding 'I can agree to that'.  "So I'll be back home as soon as I can and I'll try not to cause Mac any problems, but if I get too stressed I'll head out to the clubs and try to bring someone with me.  You could run at my place you know."  He grinned.  "I know, half the fun of running at the park is who you run into.  Let me know if anything happens.  Love you.  Have a happy jog and no more cramps."  He hung up and went back there.  "He was having runner's cramps."

"I get those too," Don agreed. "You okay?"

"I wanna sneak back."

"You can't.  They've got you banned from flying for a few more days.  Just in case."  He stood up.  "You good?"  Xander beamed and nodded. "You be okay tonight alone?  If not I can stay over."

"Don't you have a naked and willing woman waiting on you somewhere?"

"Well, I could," he admitted.  "Haven't called her yet."  He grinned. "You sure?"

"I'm sure.  I'm a big boy.  I managed to live all by myself here for a while."  Don smirked and patted him on the back before leaving.  "Thanks for dinner, Don."

"Welcome, Xander."  He jogged down the steps feeling a lot better now.  He called Mac.  "Xander's up and awake.  He's called everyone.  Joked about interrupting Speed having sex.  Cured Horatio's muscle cramps.  Teased Lady Heather and Greg.  Said he'd have to marry someone rich to pay the phone bill.  Promised he'd only go out with chaperones while he was here."  He grinned at that last 'good idea'.  "So it's all good and he ordered me to go find a pretty woman.  So I'm off to do that for now.  Yeah, it's fine.  He's probably going to settle in again.  No, not bouncy but he'll have a headache in a few hours anyway. Sure.  Later, Mac."  He hung up and found the number he had been wanting to call.  "Christie, hey, Don Flack.  Yeah.  I managed to get off early tonight and wanted to know if you wanted ta do somethin'?  I don't care.  Just anything."  He grinned.  "I can do that and I'm even in the right borough at the moment," he agreed.  "Sure.  I can meet you there."  He looked down at himself.  "Still in a suit, why?"  He nodded.  "Fine, I'll go change.  Even though I'm wearing my dark blue one."  That got a 'fine, come in that' order. "Thanks, see you soon."  He got into the car once he had hung up and headed for the club she wanted to hit.  It was a good night for a date.


A few days later Xander answered his phone.  "It's me."  He listened to the shy female voice.  "Tara?"  He smiled. "Yup, I'm a Xander person.  What's up?"  He nodded. "Actually I am in New York at the moment.  The FBI won't let me leave.  Still.  Ooooh, early spring break?"  He grinned.  "Not that classes ever ran very well before, Tara, honey.  They had a minor in surfing and we didn't even have a beach nearby that you could surf from."  He grinned.  "I can do that.  Sure.  Where are you?"  He nodded.  "I'll be right there.  You just wait for me somewhere safe, okay?  It'll take me about an hour I think. Sure.  Get a burger and sit down.  Be there soon."  He hung up and called Danny while he
hunted for his shoes.  "Did Sheldon have an accident or something?"  He grimaced at the 'yes'.  "No wonder he didn't pick up Tara.  I said I'd do it when she called me just now."  He checked his wallet. "I can do that and bring her over if you'll get lunch."  'Tomorrow's payday' made him reevaluate that plan.  "Hmm. Well.  That's fine, I'll subway back with her if I can.  To the station, yes.  No, don't yell at him.  It's not his fault he had a wreck.  I'll see you guys soon."  He hung up and headed for the nearest subway stop, heading out to the airport she had mentioned.  It was a long ride but okay.  He found her waiting by the security station and smiled.  "Can I take you away from this very loud place?" he teased.

She blushed and looked at him.  "Xaa...Xander?"

"Yup, tis me," he said proudly.  "Just like her pictures, huh?"  She nodded quickly but ducked her head.  "No, don't do that. I don't mind shy.  I was shy before too.  Is that all your brought?"  She nodded.  "Then let's go.  Check your purse just in case."  She did.  "Good.  Now put the important stuff down your shirt or something so no one can mug you.  The subways can be like that now and then."  She ducked into a bathroom while he held her bag, and then they left together, heading back down.  He even took her arm so she could shelter against him.  "I called Danny, he works with Sheldon, and he said Sheldon was in a wreck last night on a scene.  A car clipped him.  So he's probably on good painkillers and that's why he wasn't here."

"He okay?" she asked quietly.

"Probably."  He smiled at her. "I promised I'd stop by and introduce you to everyone.  Then we can go to where I'm staying and you can have a guest room since it's my grandfather's house and if he minds I'll growl."  She giggled, patting him on the arm.  "I will.  I'm good at it."  They headed that way on the subway, her luggage between his feet, just in case.  He pinched the guy he caught trying to lift her purse, giving him a look.  "If I caught you, I'm going to tell the transit cop."  He hurried off.  He shook his head and looked at her.  "Some very naughty people ride the subway."  She nodded.  "But where you're going is a lot safer and very pretty I heard."  She smiled at that.  They got off at the right stop and he walked her up the street, nodding at some of the guys he knew.  All of who looked stunned.  "This is Tara," he introduced to one.  "She's moving up here to go to college and Sheldon's looking out for her."

"Doc said he had a friend coming up to go to school, but not that she was that pretty," he offered.  Tara blushed hotly and hid her face.  "Awww.  That's cute."  He patted her on the head.  "They're all inside somewhere, Xander.  Even Flack."

"Cool, thanks."  He grinned at her.  "You are cute."  She looked at him.  "You are.  They don't see too much of cute around here.  Too many fake women who try for beautiful and end up looking plastic."  He shrugged.  "Or at least that's who I keep running into."  He walked her into the CSI side and smiled at the receptionist.  "This is Tara."

"Doc said he was supposed to pick you up today but I guess they've got him stoned on the painkillers."  She gave her a hug.  "Welcome to New York, sweetie.  Give me the suitcase and go find the others.  Mac's in his office."

"That's cool."  He grinned as he handed it over.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  She smiled at Tara, who gave her a shy grin back.  "Awww.  She's so cute," she cooed once she was gone.  She called Flack's desk.  "There's such a cute thing here.  Tara."  She laughed.  "Of course she is.  Shy and cute.  Sure.  They're headed for Mac's office."  She hung up and arranged the suitcase better so it wasn't in her way.

Xander heard someone shouting 'stop now' and looked at her then carefully put her out of the way.  "Which one?" he called.

"Guy in front!" Danny panted.  Xander pounced him and Danny grinned.  "Thanks, Xander."  He hauled him up.  "Stupid asshole."  He drug him off once he had him in cuffs.  "Mac's still in his office."  He paused then looked at the blonde in the corner.  "It's not always like this.  He got scared of Monroe."  He grinned.  "I'm Danny."

"T..t...tara," she stuttered.

He beamed at her and she relaxed some.  "It's good to put a better face to the emails, Tara. You let Xander help you settle in tonight and we'll do lunch tomorrow or somethin', 'kay?"

"Okay," she agreed.

He grinned and smacked the guy on the head.  "You nearly ran her over.  You proud?  You don't run over the sweet people, others get upset."

Xander took her hand again, pulling her away from the wall.  "Isolated incident," he promised with a grin.  She gave him a small one back.  "I'm sure you learned about that technique too."  She nodded.  "That's kinda cool."  He led her up to Mac's office, tapping on the door since he saw Stella in there too.  "Bad timing?"

"No, good timing.  I'm nagging him about lunch," she offered.  "Who's this?  A girlfriend with Horatio and Greg, Xander?"  Tara went fuschia.  "Ah, you're Tara," she said, pulling her inside.  "Hi.  I'm Stella, this is Mac.  He runs this insanity."

"Hi," she said weakly, waving at him.

He smiled at her.  "There's no need to be nervous, Tara.  I'm a nice guy."

"And if he growls at you I have a new riding crop at home that I can break in," Xander assured him with a grin.  She stared at him, looking stunned.  "I'm a dom, sweetie, I can do that."  Then he grinned brighter.  "Huh, Stella."

"He can.  He's a great dom."  She smiled at her.  "Did Sheldon forget?"  She nodded quickly.  "Awww, it's all right.  They gave him some pretty strong painkillers because a car clipped him on the leg.  Before you ask, he's perfectly fine, just really bruised."  She gave her a hug around the shoulders.  "You, young lady, are tiny."  Tara blushed again.  "You are.  You need to eat more."  She looked at Mac.  "I'm taking these two to lunch.  You mind?"

"I can come along," he promised, getting up.  Don strolled in.  "Wondering where you were."

"Got stopped helping Danny.  He had a suspect that got away."

"Again?" Xander asked.

"Yeah, he considers Monroe to be evil so he keeps trying to run from her.  This time he got the table stuck in the doorway."  He looked at Xander.  "Pounced him for him?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Good!  Pouncing's good!"  He smiled and held out a hand.  "Hi, Tara.  I'm Don.  I'm kinda a cousin to Xander through his grandfather and my uncle.  He calls me Uncle Don though."

"He's a good uncle," Xander assured her.  "He keeps trying to keep me out of trouble."

"Willow told me to watch out for you and trouble," she teased.  Don giggled and took her arm to walk her out.  "Stella..."

"I know where she's headed.  Only one place around here has a good buffet that Xander can eat himself sick at."

"Which is good because I still haven't gotten my stuff from my hotel room and no one will tell me if they found my wallet or not," Xander complained as he followed.  "Coming, Mac, or do I have to find a leash?"

"I'm coming.  Give me a minute," he called, shaking his head and calling Sheldon.  "Sheldon, it's Mac.  We have Tara so don't stress.  Xander has her."  He hung up and followed.

Xander looked at the person at the table in front of him then smacked him on the back of the head as he walked past, smirking at him.  "Heard you were inside, thought I'd welcome you back out by giving you something you probably remember fondly," he teased.

"Harris," Vito, one of Sonny's guys, said, staring at him.  "Why are you here?"

"The feds won't let me leave."

"You're messed up in something federal?" he asked, looking stunned.

"No, they kinda took me off a plane for my own good because the guy kidnaping me had sedated me," he admitted.  That got an even more horrified look.  "So I'm here until they let me go.  This is my bestest buddy Tara.  She's from my town too."

"Pleasure, ma'am," he said respectfully, getting a small giggle for that.  "Sorry, I know you're not that old but he scares me so I'm always respectful."

Xander grinned.  "At least you didn't get messed up with my cult."  He led Tara on to their table with a wave.  "Have fun, Vito."

"Yeah, you too," he said weakly.  He sat down and stared at the other guys.  "That's the same guy who had the truce with Sonny."  That got nods.  They remembered him.  They wouldn't go near him or her now.

Xander helped Tara into her seat with a grin.  "There, now they won't bother you either.  Though I probably should go taunt Sonny some more."  He sat down and smiled at Stella, who gave him a look back.   "I'm trying to be good."

"Try harder," Don ordered.  "Please.  Before someone comes after you again."

"That only happens on vacation and I'm not on vacation.  Though, Grandfather wanted a clean, new tape of me stripping to see what it is that draws them to me."  He looked at Stella.  "He saw me when I was up here and got fixated."

"Charming.  No.  No stripping, Xander.  Be a good boy."  She looked at the waitress when she came over.  "We've got another one coming and we all want the buffet."  She nodded, going to write that down.  "Anything we should be aware of, Tara?"

"No shellfish on me please."

"Okay, we can do that."

"I can leave off the prawns this time," Don assured her with a grin.  They got up and he followed behind her up there.  Someone tried the old bump and grab technique but he batted him on the head.  "Leave the lady alone."  The guy scurried off.  "Sorry about him. Some guys, ya know?"  She smiled and nodded, digging into the vegetable dishes.  "Willow said she went Vegan for you.  Mind if we eat meat?"

"You do important things all day, you should," she said quietly, adding a small grin at the end.

Don felt his stomach tense and nodded.  "Thanks."  He patted her on the back.  "They've got tofu at that end. I stay away from there though."  She went that way to look while he loaded up on beef.  Because he had to remind himself she liked girls.  Xander gave him a knowing look and he shrugged a bit.  He'd understand, he was a guy.  Stella went up to get her food and Xander followed, digging in heartily.  "Did you not get breakfast?"

"I only got up an hour ago."

"Why were you up so late last night?" Don asked patiently.  "Not in the clubs, right?"

"No, I was talking to the person who won't let me go home.  I was in the clubs the night before then."  Don and Stella both gave him horrified looks. "What?"

"By yourself?" Stella asked.  Mac came in and got the buffet too, heading to fill up.

"No, I was with Danny."

They all smiled and relaxed, Don nodded.  "Good choice, and he did help you find a better sense of rhythm."

"And I got him a really nice girl bagged too.  Then I went back to where I used to work and hung out there for a while."  That got more relaxed people.  "Guys, I did handle myself okay when I lived here."

"You did," Mac agreed as he sat down between Tara and Stella.  "Hi."

"Don't squirt her with the shellfish, Mac.  She's allergic," Stella ordered.

"Sorry."  He moved them away from her and ate them first.

"I..it...it's okay."

Don patted her on the back.  "You don't have ta worry about Mac, Tara.  He's only mean to the bad guys.  Like I am."  He grinned at her.   "I promise, we're nice guys, you don't have to be shy around us, and it's all good.  After all, we put up with Xander when he was confused, you're nicer, sweeter, and prettier."  She blushed but smiled shyly at him and dug into her food.

Stella looked at him.  "Well said," she agreed, grinning at him.  Don shrugged one-sidedly.  "Don't you have dinner with your folks tonight?"

"Uh-huh.  Mom's gonna rant."

"She's coming back to stay with me," Xander promised.  Don stared at him. "I'm sure Granddad and Grandsire won't mind."

"Just thinking she's probably the first girl in that house in nearly forever."  He ate a bite and shrugged.  "But that's good.  It's a safe neighborhood, nearer to the college.  All good points.  Doc's up the road from you guys by about seven or eight blocks."  Danny and Sheldon walked in, Sheldon limping.  "Speaking of Doc and Stubborn."  They came over to join them, getting chairs from free tables and making everyone shift.  "Tara, this is Danny.  I'm sure you saw him earlier when Xander pounced someone for him.  The other is Sheldon."

"I'm sorry I forgot, Tara.  It was the meds they gave me.  I just woke up."

"It's okay," she said quietly.  He smiled at that.  "Food?"

"Food's good here," Danny agreed.  He looked around.  "Shellfish allergy?" Tara raised her hand slowly. "I can handle that. I'll get the prawns later ta go home with."  He grinned and went to do that.  Sheldon let Xander help him stand up and went to do the same, patting her on the back.

Tara smiled at Xander.  "This was a good idea," she said quietly.

"It was.  These guys watched out for me when I first got up here.  Aiden said so."  She giggled at that. "They're good at it and Stella makes a good big sister.  She even tried to teach me to cook."  Tara's eyes went wide so he looked behind him at the person standing there.  "Hey."  He grinned.  "Are you bothering my little sister?"  The man shook his head and left.  He looked at her again.  "Don't worry about him, sweetie.  He won't bother you, whoever he is."

"One of the mop up guys," she said quietly.

Xander smirked.  "You refer him back to Spike."

She stared in horror.  "That's mean."

Xander beamed. "Thank you.  Think Willow would approve or cackle?"  She giggled and swatted at him but went back to eating.  He looked at the guy.  "Be right back."  He walked over on pretext of getting more food.  "Please leave Miss Maclay alone," he said quietly.

"We want to know things about the assault."

"Then ask the others who were there.  Willow's down in Miami.  Buffy's still at home."

"Neither one planned it."

"True, they're not me," he said dryly, staring him down.  The man flinched.  "Am I clear on why you leave the nice, sweet, delicate, and gentle young woman alone?  For good?"  He nodded.  "Thank you.  She doesn't need this sort of stress in her life.  If you want to know things, ask those who were there."

"Agreed.  How did you learn how to plan?"

"Halloween my tenth grade year," he said blandly, heading to the buffet now.  He came back. "Why?"


"No comment."

"We'd like...."

"Then ask Willow why."

"We know why."  He stood up and looked at him.  "We know exactly why, including the remains we helped cart away, sir."

"Then you know why and you know how."  That got a nod. "Was there some doubt it wasn't necessary?"

"No.  We figured it was.  You?"

"I modified what others thought because theirs wouldn't work."

"Oh.  Good job, sir."

"Thank you."  He went back to his seat.  "Military?" he asked her.  She nodded.  He shrugged.  "They wanted to know about graduation too."

"It happens," Tara agreed quietly.

"Yeah, if I had to hide, I'd let someone turn me then go hide in Africa or something."  She smiled at that and he looked at her again.  "I'm a practical guy, Tara.  And a weapon's person," he offered with a grin.

"So she said."  She ate another dainty bite.

"Eat like a real woman, Tara.  We're used ta Stella slurping and stuff," Danny promised, eating a big bite.

"I don't slurp."

"Only when you're eating egg drop soup," Mac said loyally.

Don leaned over.  "Ignore those three, they secretly want each other and they're clueless, even though they're all great CSI," he whispered in her ear, making her smile at him.  "Want more?  I can go up and get more if you want escorted."

"I'm a big girl."  She got up and went up there to get more food.  It wasn't too far away from safety.  Because Don did make her feel safe and tingly.  Warm almost.  She had no idea why she felt that way since he was a boy.  The others played and joked while Don and Xander talked to her and Sheldon fell asleep at the table.  She'd tease him about it later but it was okay with her.  She'd been hurt before too.  She understood the allure of pain killers when you had bruises.

On the way home, Xander looked at her.  "You know, sometimes that urge hits you even if you don't think your body's getting the right signals," he offered.  "Don's a sweet guy as long as you're not a bad guy, but you'll have a lot of time watching him angst over cases because he still gives a damn."  She gave him a shocked look and he smiled.  "I read people for a living, Tara.  He had the same grin I had after I first kissed Horatio.  It's all good to us.  Sometimes your heart makes exceptions to what your brain thinks you want.  He's a good man who'll be a great guy for you if you want to try that.  He's also the sort that it won't get awkward if you try it once and it doesn't work out."  He let her into the house and stared at the cloaked figure in front of him. "Does this mean I can go home?" he teased his grandsire.

"No, not yet.  We decided you should have a minder, Xander.  Who is this?"

"This is Tara.  Formerly Willow's Tara.  She's moving up here and Sheldon got clipped by a car so he's on painkillers.  I was going to let her have the other guest room."  Tara started to stutter.

Raphael smiled at her.  "Welcome to our home, Tara."  He gave her a gentle hug.  "Now, upstairs and to the left, dear."

"That's mine.  She can have the one that looks out on the backyard."  He grinned and walked up there, putting her into her room.  "I know, he's a vampire.  He's a nice guy and he won't hurt us."  She smiled and relaxed. "He's my grandfather's sire.  He's a nice guy but watch out for kinky thoughts now and then."  She blushed at that but nodded.  "Come down when you're ready.  Take a nap if you need to.  I'm going to see if they can let me go home yet."  She nodded and he went back down there to call the FBI agent locally.  "When can I go home?" he whined.  "Because I'm missing my sex and my boyfriend, not to mention my other friends and my father."  He groaned.  "I don't care!"  His grandsire took the phone from him and walked off with it to talk to him. Tara snuck back downstairs so he nodded her in and turned on the tv, changing it off the porn station he had been watching.  "Sorry."

She looked at him.  "You have a boyfriend?"

"Actually I have two boyfriends. I have a Horatio in Miami and we have a Greg to pet and love when he comes in from Las Vegas.  That's where I was when I got kidnaped."  She smiled at that.  "Greg's kinda like me, only smart and blond.  Horatio's really honorable and straight guy most of the time.  He's heading the crime lab down there and Timmy works for him."

"Willow told me about Timmy."  She took his hand to hold.  "You really think..."  His grandsire came back.

"Tell her that sometimes even gay folk get the urgings for the other side."

"They do.  Patrick, his grandfather, and I work with a lot of gay groups and charities, Tara.  Patrick's taken in a lot of very confused young men over the years.  If you feel an urging toward the nice Doctor Hawkes it's perfectly natural."

"Don," Xander told him.

His grandsire's face lit up with his smile.  "We were hoping he'd meet someone nice," he promised, giving her a cuddle.  "If you two like each other it would be more than we could ever dream of happening.  Donny deserves something sweet and special that makes him a happy boy."  He bounced out, going to call his childe.

"See?" Xander offered, grinning at her.  She pinched him.  "I'm a good matchmaker.  I set Willow and Ryan together.  I had to give Ryan a nudge too.  He wanted to be honorable."  She blushed and nodded, leaning against his arm.  "Let it happen naturally, Tara.  It's sweet and so are you.  Don needs more sweetness in his life."  He stroked over her hair.  "It's all good to us in the family.  Grandpa's husband agrees."  She giggled and pointed at the tv.  "Yup, that's Don in SuperStud mode as Danny teases."  They watched him chasing someone down to bust them.  He also took his chinese food back from them.  "Aww, they took his takeout.  Taking food from him is bad."

She giggled at that and settled in to watch her new city.  She was going to like it here.  She would never be bored again or have to smell blood breath.


Patrick nearly danced into the station that night, stopping to hug Calleigh.  "My other boy has found a decent woman to adore."

"Really?  Don?"  He nodded and smiled.  "Give, who?" she demanded.


"Willow's Tara?"  He nodded and grinned.  "Does she feel the same?"

"We think so.  Sire said she blushed and giggled over him arresting someone on the news. He called it adorably cute even if she is a bit confused about why she switched suddenly."

"He's a good man," Speed said as he joined them.  "He'll be good for her and very protective of her.  Plus his mother will quit nagging."

"You might wanna pass on that my mother went after her father with a shotgun," Calleigh told Patrick.  "For being such a hind end to his baby girl."  That got a wicked smirk.  "Tell her to write me too."

"I will."

"How's Xander?"

"Going insane from the boredom but I sent Sire up to watch him."

"Making up for where he didn't in Vegas the first time?" Speed asked dryly.  He got a nod for that.  "Good.  H is in his office sulking."

"I think I can fix that."  He smiled and went up there.  "My boy is a wonderful matchmaker," he said as he walked in.  Horatio smiled at him for that news.  "He set up Donny with a great, sweet, and gentle young lady, who I think you've heard Willow babble about."  That got an even bigger smile.  He looked at him.  "How much do you want to go to New York, Horatio?"  He moved closer.  "I can help you."

"You would?"

"I would."  He smirked at him.  "But it'll cost you."

"Whatever the price is," he agreed.  Patrick lunged over and bit him, savaging his throat a bit.  He moaned and nearly passed out.

Patrick pulled back and patted him on the head.  "There, now there's no problem with you taking a few days off, grandson-in-law."  He turned and found Ryan watching.  "He needs to be up there."

"He does.  Go."  Patrick smiled at him.  "Tara and Don?" he called after him.

"Tara and Don.  They're both in the first blush but Xander is a wonderful matchmaker."

"Can't argue with that.  He set me up."  He called Alexx.  "Horatio's collapsed over his desk, I need you up here now, Alexx," he demanded, acting panicked, heading in to help take care of him. The bite clearly looked worse than it was and Horatio blinked at him. He winked back.  "Alexx is coming, Horatio, just hold on for a bit longer," he said, finding some clean paper towels and pressing it to the wound.  She came running in with a guard.  "Here."  He stepped back and let her have it.

"What bit you?" she demanded.

"I don't know," he murmured, looking like he was going to pass back out.

"Boys, search for something that bit him."  They went to do that while one called for the paramedics.  She looked at the wound.  "Not a lot of blood, good work, Ryan."

"Thanks, Alexx.  We all worry about Horatio."

She looked at him.  "I know why.  We'll get him stitched up tonight and it'll be fine," she promised.  Paramedics rushed in with Frank.  "It's all right, Frank.  He got bitten by something.  He's lost some blood and there's minor damage."

"In here?  Something bit him on the throat in here?" he demanded.  Ryan looked at him and nodded and he knew.  He just *knew*.  "Get him out of here, boys.  Can't have him bleeding in the lab or anything."  They nodded and took him out.  He closed the door once they were gone.  "Give, you two."

"I recognized what it was, not who it was."

"Patrick was just here," Ryan said quietly.  He grinned and they both nodded and grinned back.  "It'll be fine."

"Good!" Frank agreed.  "Hate to see him if he retired.  He'd be cranky all the time then."  He let them out.  He found the others waiting. "Looks like an animal bite, folks.  Let's look in our areas for it and be really careful until we have word it's been caught."  That got nods and they went to do that.  Frank assigned the guys who needed the easy night the best search areas and the ones who deserved the punishment the rafters, beams, and ventilation system.  That was only fair after all.


Horatio looked up when the curtains opened, expecting the person who would be doing his stitches.  "Chief," he said grimly.  "Sorry."

"You got *bitten*?"  Horatio moved the temporary bandage to let him see, making him shudder. "That's gross.  Cover that."  Horatio did that.  "They're saying you can't be on shift for the next few days due to blood loss."

"I'll try to keep myself out of trouble."

"They also said you can't fly," he said smartly.

"I'll be fine, sir. I haven't had a day off in a few weeks anyway."  He stared him down.

"How did a vicious animal get into your labs?"

"I don't know.  I know I've complained about the same hole that let the alligator into the station last summer."  That got a shudder.  "It's still open so maybe there."

"Delko checked that and he only found snakes this year."  Horatio gave him a look.  "Fine, if you really had to go to New York, you can now."

"Thank you, sir.  I've already made arrangements with Xander's grandfather."

"Whatever.  If I find out you did this on purpose you will be in trouble, Caine."

Willow walked in and looked at him.  "Do not stress him out!"  She stomped a foot and glared.  "He does not need this!  His boy's in trouble and you're nagging!  How dare you!"  He backed out under verbal assault.  "It's not like Horatio hasn't nearly given his life *many* times to this department.  It's clear he's one of your best people, yet you still treat him like you would a slave back before the Civil War and I will not have him that upset, Mister, so you'd better back the hell down!" she finished in her finest ranting style.  "Am I clear!"

"You are?" he asked her.

"Ryan Wolfe's girlfriend, Willow, best friend to Xander.  And I will not have you upsetting his boy!"  She stomped a foot again.  "Ever!  Or else I will make you suffer in ways that only I can and believe me I majored in it back in Sunnydale!"  He backed off another few steps.  "Horatio will be back when the doctors say.  Not one day before!  You treat him worse than a slave because you don't care when he doesn't eat!  I will not have this!"

"Calm down," Ryan said, coming over to stop her.  "Sorry, Chief, but she's worried about him."  He walked her off, taking her into the room.  Where she smiled and kissed him.  "Less ranting, dear."

"Fine."  She looked at Horatio.  "He set my Tara up with a boy?"

"Apparently they've both had similar feelings and Xander does read people very well, Willow," he admitted.  He looked at her.  "Most of that is my own doing."

"Just because you didn't have a reason to go home at night before and now you do doesn't mean he should expect the same superhuman efforts as before, Horatio.  It's not right or healthy for you.  If he doesn't quit I'll have to do something *really* mean and nasty to him.  Now," she said, kissing him on the forehead.  "Pass that on to my Xander buddy and you be safe in New York.  I want a postcard since I've never been."  She smiled. "But if they get married we can go up for the wedding," she teased.  "Tell Tara I love her and if he makes her happy I'll gladly have the shovel talk with him for her and everything.  And buy Xander some chocolate.  It'll help."  She let Ryan walk her out, glaring at the chief since he was still there.  "Going to clip his collar back over the stitches?"

"Young lady...."

She rounded on him and started on him in Spanish, making a few people around them laugh.  But he was backing away quickly and heading outside at a run by the end.  "And stay out!  He's still not your slave!" she yelled.  She frowned.  "People like him put me in a bad mood."

Ryan smiled at her. "I bought some new ice cream."

"I like ice cream," she decided, smiling at him and letting him lead her off.

Eric shuddered from where he was waiting.  "I thought my mother was bad."

"She'd have appreciated that and cheered her on," Speed agreed.  Eric smacked him on the arm.  "She would have.  Your sister's would've gotten pompoms for her."  They looked at the nurse.  "Can we go see Horatio now?"  She nodded so they went to check on him and tell him they'd have the lab, to go be safe and happy for a few days off in New York. Plus Speed gave him a letter he had been writing earlier for his boy.  Since he didn't have email access and had a huge phone bill this month, it was cheaper this way.


Horatio walked into the CSI station and looked at the receptionist.  "Is Mac or Stella in please?"

"Stella is, sir.  Can I tell her who you are?"

"Horatio.  She'll know."  She nodded and called while he looked at the things hanging up on the walls.  He heard a squeal and caught Stella, smiling at her.  "I got bitten by something."

"Ow."  She looked under the bandage. "That looks painful."

"Patrick," he said with a smirk.  She smirked back. "Where is my boy?"

"Sulking."  She looked at their receptionist. "Patrice, page Mac and tell him I'm taking Horatio to Xander."

"No you're not," Danny called.  "I need you here for that suspect we've got coming in.  Don can take him."  They shared a look and an evil smirk.

"Patrick was dancing down the halls that those two like each other," Horatio agreed.

"His dad hasn't yet but probably soon," Danny agreed. He paged Don and he came down, all smiles and happy when he saw Horatio.  "We've got that arsonist coming in so can you take him to his boy?"

"Sure, I can do that."  He nodded Horatio to follow.  "No bags?"

"They weren't at the house.  I tried there first."

"Tara's looking at her school with him playing escort," he admitted.   He called Xander's phone.  "I need a location for you, young man.  'Cause you just got a present delivered."  He listened then nodded. "Be there in thirty.  If you're not there, go to the library.  I know where that is."  He hung up and looked at him.  "They're in the dorm so he's lounging downstairs while she looks."

"That's more than reasonable," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Has he been good?"

"Mostly.  A lot more bored than usual.  We were expecting him to sneak off soon and cause us hell but he's been decent about keeping it hidden so far.  A few times to the club he used to work at and things," he said at the curious look. "A night out at the clubs with Danny."  He changed lanes and honked at a small car when he passed it.  "Dad."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Did someone tell them...."

"That you have the most major crush on Tara?  Yes.  Patrick was practically dancing and singing about how happy he was that you had taken up with a nice, sweet girl like her."

"She's still kinda confused," he admitted.  "She's only liked girls before."

"Sometimes it happens anyway, Don.  You'll be good for her or else Willow has threatened to come up and beat you with a shovel for her.  She said to tell you that and that she'd be up for the wedding."

Don blushed a bit and coughed to clear his throat.  "Moving a lot faster than I am, Horatio."

"I know.  So does she.  Remember, Tara drowns in love, Don.  The same as Willow does."  He smiled at her.  "But I have heard a lot about her in the last few hours.  Willow sent numerous emails about her to me so I could pass them onto you."

He smiled.  "It's good that she likes me too."

"She does and she's happy with Ryan.  She finally understands that noisy sex is good sex.  She didn't before, claimed it was all supposed to be quiet and cuddly."

"I can see Tara being like that.  I wouldn't expect her to get loud."  He pulled onto the campus and parked, letting him out.  "Yo, boy genius," he said dryly.  Tara saw him and blushed bright red.  He grinned back.  "Tara, this is his Horatio."  Xander just stared so she gave him a nudge.  Xander launched himself at him and kissed him until Horatio had to lean against the side of the car.  He smiled and walked her around so she didn't have to watch.  "He'll be able to speak in a while.  If I have to write out a ticket for public sex, I will tell Speed," he called.  She giggled at that and he grinned at her, noticing the other car pulling in.  "Huh, another visitor here to see you.  Hi, Dad."

"Donny."  He smiled at the young woman clutching his arm.  "I'm not mean, miss."

"This is Tara, dad.  Tara, this is my father, the grump."

She swatted him with a small frown but shook his father's hand.  "Ni..nice to meet you."

"Don't be nervous about me, Tara.  I'm not the mean one. That's his mother now and then."

"Ma's a saint," Flack snorted.

"Only because she gave birth to you, son.  I nearly turned her in for spousal abuse the other night when I got a call out after dinner."  Tara gaped.  "His mother's a bit like Danny now and then."

"But that can be nice and Don's nice too."  She blushed bright red.  "Sorry."

Don smiled at her.  "I like you too, Tara.  It's all good."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "Willow even sent a shovel talk with Horatio."

She looked back at them.  Xander was cuddling now like he wasn't ever going to let go.  "Really?"

"Really.  Hey, Horatio, come meet my dad and Tara."  Xander drug him over there, making them all smile.  "And you too," he agreed. "Dad, this is Horatio Caine, he's Xander's and he runs the lab down in Miami."

"Nice to meet you, Horatio."  He shook his hand and looked at Xander. "You look content finally."

"Am," he agreed, grinning at Tara.  "Tara, this is my honey, Horatio."  She waved at him.

"I've heard a lot of nice things about you from Willow, Tara.  Including a lot of emails I was told to show Don."  She blushed and whimpered.  "But I'll let you edit them first."  She smiled and gave him a hug but went back to clinging to Don's hand.  He looked at Xander, then at Tara.  "Are you done on your tour?"  She nodded.  "Then we should have lunch.  Want to come along, Mr. Flack?"

"I could like that, son," he agreed, smiling at Tara.  "You don't worry about his Ma," he ordered.  "You leave her to me.  You just be your nice, sweet self when he brings you over for dinner tonight."

"Dad," Don whined.  "We've just met."

Don Senior looked at his son.  "If you're that stupid, I'm having your badge taken and melted, son."  He looked at Tara again, taking her hand to walk her back to his car.  "Come along, dear.  You can ride with me so those two can cuddle and Don can drive them to IHOP?"

"Works for me," Don agreed, shaking his head once they were gone.  "So, that was my dad."

Xander looked at him.  "Her father had her convinced she was a demon who would fully manifest on her last birthday, so therefore she had to go home and hide so they could be taken care of," he said quietly.  "Your father's just what she needs."

"Calleigh said her mother went after her cousin with a shotgun for that," Horatio offered.  "We should go before he starts telling embarrassing stories."

"Too late."  Don got them into the car and headed after his father, considering it.  No wonder she was so shy and delicate.  But he liked that about her and she'd be safe with him. "He still alive, Horatio?"

"As of what Calleigh said, yes.  So far."

"Then I'll watch out for her."  He pulled in and parked, smiling back at how Xander was snuggled into his side.  "He has a lot of trouble sleeping alone."  He looked at Horatio.  "Do we need to have the shovel talk with you?"

"No.  Speed and I have already had the talk about how he'd run me over multiple times before I died."

"Good!  I like that about his dad."  He got out and they followed after a quick kiss.  "Awww, you're cute together," he said as he walked inside.  "My dad and a tiny, waifish blonde girl?"  She pointed and he headed that way.  He got next to Tara and Xander got her other side, clearly protecting her.  Don smiled at that then at her.  "What did he tell you?" he asked since she was grinning a bit evilly.

"About you going naked for three weeks because you refused to let anyone dress you."

"I did," he agreed.  "Felt damn good too from what little I remember.  Scared my grandmother to death when I pounced her like that.  I ended up wearing her hat and nothing else that day."  His father moaned and nodded.  She giggled and he grinned at her.  "You don't have to be scared of my mother."  He had noticed the extra seat and knew what it meant.  "What did the doctor say?"

"More tests."


"Not sure yet," he admitted.  "But she's got a mammagram today.  We'll have to see, son."  He stood up and so did the other guys when she came over.  "Dear.  You've heard me talk about Patrick's grandson, this is Xander, his boyfriend Horatio, who is a CSI down in Miami, and that is Tara, who is a friend of Xander's who's just transferring into the city."

She smiled at them.  "Sit, boys."  She sat and looked at Xander.  "I can see the resemblance to the wedding picture of his sister."

"Thank you.  Most of the time I hope I can live up to his expectations."

"You don't have a problem doing it usually," Horatio offered, getting a brilliant smile.  He handed over something.  "From Speed."

Xander opened it and read it, sniffling a bit then hugging him.  "I need to get him a good present."

"You do," he agreed, patting him on the back with a smile.  "He said it was cheaper than your phone bill."  Xander laughed and nodded.  "Are we going to have to pitch in?"

"Grandsire said I could sell the stupid rolex to pay for it since it was his fault."  He smiled at him.  "Thank you for coming up.  Now, what happened to your throat?"

"I got bitten."


"A rabid helpful person."  Xander just grinned at that.  "Who also wants you back in town."  He stroked some of his hair off his forehead. "You didn't spike it up today?"

"I had to be drug out of bed."

"We'll see if we can fix that problem tonight, Xander."  Xander smiled and blushed a bit but hugged his arm.  He smiled at Tara, making her smile back. "Relax.  I would never hurt anything that was dear to Xander.  He'd pout at me."  She grinned and nodded, ducking her head.

"Dear, which college?" Don's mother asked.

"The....the o..one up the street."

"The all girls' school, Ma," Don offered.  He glared at his father for this then at his mother, who just smiled.

"Switch places with me, dear.  I went there back in the day and I can tell her all about the campus."  They switched places and she got to know the shy, charming young woman her son was clearly smitten with.  At one question the young man guarding her glared at her so she backed off that topic but it went very well. The pancakes were still decent and she had quiet stuttering around them.  It did warm her and she invited Tara personally to dinner, even if she couldn't drag her son from work.  Don promised he'd bring her out and said to not make meatloaf, please, earning a swat from her.  Tara blushed at that and said anything was fine as long as it wasn't shellfish since she was allergic.  She added a please at the end and her heart melted.  She kissed her on the cheek and smiled at her son on the way out.  "You be a good boy today, Donny.  Be careful on the job.  Not even a papercut."

"Yes, Ma.  I'll try."  He kissed her on the cheek and grinned at her.

"I approve, baby.  A lot."  She patted down some errant hairs.  "Get a trim too, dear."  She let her husband walk her off to their car.

"I thought Alexx nagged," Horatio teased him.

"She does," Xander agreed. "She wanted me to grow it again."  He looked at Tara.  "Home to do some laundry or to the small shop that we saw?"  She stammered.  "Shopping it is.  As long as Horatio brought my actual wallet?"  He handed it over.  "I love you even more," he promised, then he had to run back inside to get his letter.  He came back out and let Don drive them to the store.  "Thanks, Uncle Don."

"Welcome, kiddo.  Behave.  Let Horatio spoil you tonight, okay?"  That got a smile and he grinned at Tara.  "She won't expect anything fancy, Tara.  Just be your usual pretty and charming self."  She blushed bright red and hurried inside.  He grinned at Xander. "Protect her for me today."

"With my life," he agreed, heading inside with Horatio.  "We're her committee."

The saleswoman smiled.  "What is she doing?"

"Having her second meal with her future in-laws," Horatio offered.  Tara squeaked and he gave her a hug.  "It's all right, Tara.  They adored you. They wanted nothing more than to cuddle you right at the table."

Xander nodded.  "They did.  I was watching his mother and she had serious cuddle vibes.  That's why I cuddled into Horatio, so she couldn't get me too."  She swatted him. "Let's see.  You like long and delicate."   He led her back to the section she'd shop in, making her smile at one and hold it out. "That is beautiful."  It was a white dress with small blue flowers.  "I like that.  Horatio?"

"I like that too.  Go try it on, Tara."  She went to do that and he looked at Xander.  "You learned well at Willow's knee."

"Buffy's.  I was her 'does this bra make me look bigger' committee for some reason.  I spent hours being drug around behind her at the mall," he sighed, looking at him.  Horatio smiled and kissed him again.  "Thank you."

"Aww," the salesgirl said. "You have good taste."

"We have a friend who's a shopping person."  He looked at Tara's room.  "Tara, is it eating you?"

"No.  Um...."

He sighed and looked at the ceiling.  Then he looked around and found something else, something darker.  "Here, try this with your gold corset vest tonight, sweetie."

"Thank you."

"I learned what that was from Willow, dear.  Then I learned to be scared when Cordelia got hers."  She came out in it, looking shy. "I like that."

"It could use something to lighten it.  What color is this vest?"

"Red and gold," Xander told him.

"That would do that.  I like that."  She smiled and went back to bring out the white one and he handed it back. "You'll need that for the next one."  She eeped.  He smiled.  "It's not like they won't invite you over again."

"I've got to go back to school in a few days."

"So?  You'll be back this summer," Xander reminded her.  "Trust me, summer in New York is hot and humid.  You'll need the white dress."  He paid for them both, getting a wink from the salesgirl. "Thank you."  He led her back up the street.  It was only a few blocks back to the house.  He looked at her.  "When we get home you can hog the bathroom.  Grandsire won't be up for a few hours probably, unless he's missing being nuzzled by grandfather.  You can soak, do the conditioning treatments, all that stuff so you look even more stunning tonight."  She nodded and he let them inside. "We're back," he called quietly.  No need to yell with vampire hearing.

His grandsire came out of the study, smiling at Horatio.  "I thought I smelled you come in earlier, grandson-in-law."   He looked at Tara. "You go hog the bathroom, dear.  I'm handling Xander's checking account again."

"Why can't I?"

"Because you thought they took two thousand dollars as a fee."

"That's what they said," he complained, handing over the dresses and going to help him.

Horatio gave her a nudge.  "Go get prettier, Tara.  Don should get off at five."  She nodded and went to do that.  He went to help Xander with his banking issue. He hated his bank.  "I still say you should let me turn them into the Treasury, Xander.  I know a semi-decent agent.  I can call him."

"I don't want to get the innocent ones in trouble and they'll have problems getting other bank jobs."

"Not necessarily."  He kissed him and went out back to make the call.  "Agent Elliot, Horatio Caine.  No, not a social call. There is a banking institution that is taking unnatural interest in Mr. Harris' accounts and charging him fees for existing and not spending money.  Yes, I'm asking that someone investigate it.  I do see malfeasance but I can't prove it.  You can."  He smiled.  "That bank, yes.  He would be more than open to allowing you access to his records.  I can make a call and let his father help you.  He has power of attorney while he's out of the city.  Thank you."  He hung up and called Speed.  "Incoming Treasury agent over your son's bank."  He smiled. "We're fine.  I'm going to take a nap with him in the next few minutes, Speed.  I promise, we're being good."  He hung up and went to steal Xander from his grandsire so they could go take a long, loud nap, and then actually sleep for a bit.


Don smiled at Tara when he saw how she's dressed.  "You really didn't have to dress up that much."

"I did.  Xander made me get it."

"Xander has great taste."  He helped her into the car.  "I almost feel like you're going out to a play or something."

She blushed.  "I always wear long skirts."

"They look gorgeous on you," he agreed.  "It's just that dress is a bit fancy, that's all.  Don't let my dad pick on you."  She looked at him.  "He'll try and I'll swat him," he promised.  She smiled at that and let him drive them off.  He realized he felt like a teenager for the first time since he was one, and a virgin one at that.  He grinned at her again.  "Are you getting odd feelings?"

"I feel like a geeky teenager."

"Me too.  Which is wrong.  They're my parents.  They already like you too."  He shrugged.  "We'll get over it.  What did Uncle Raphael say?"

"Not a lot.  I looked nice.  He did my hair."  Don snickered.  "He did.  He said he used to have a daughter."

Don nodded. "I heard.  He lost her just before he brought Uncle Patrick over.  Actually I think he's had a few daughters over the centuries.  I think he's mid-sixteen hundreds or something.  Never asked really."

"He's a nice old coot, but who's Eric?"

"Delko.  Works with Speed and Horatio down in Miami.  Playboy like you wouldn't believe.  You should ask Willow about him."  She looked down at that.  "Hey, she's happy, she wants you to be happy, and if you break the friendship as well as the relationship you're both gonna miss out on stuff.  Like her babbling to you about how hot Ryan is instead of doing it to Xander.  Caught her doing it the other day but when he walked in she abruptly changed subjects apparently.  She was checking her plans for something."

"She will.  She checked plans for things with me with Buffy."  She smiled at him.   "You're very easy to talk to."

He grinned. "It's how my mind's more action oriented."  She slapped his hand.  "Ow!  No abusing me.  I'll tell my mother on you."

She burst out in giggles.  "We're going from teenager to the playground?" she teased.

"Apparently.  Then again, my mother is the scary one of the family.  Most kids it's 'wait until your father gets home'.  In our family is was dad warning me I'd better run from mom and hide until she quit remembering me."  He grinned at her when they had to stop for a stoplight.  "Relax. She liked you earlier.  She'll like you tonight.  We'll have a nice dinner.  Dad'll ask you nosy questions on your opinion of some law enforcement stuff.  Then we'll go for a drive to take you back to the three male chaperones you've got and it'll be nice."

She nodded.  "As long as we don't make Xander worry.  Raphael said making Xander worry was a bad thing."

"Xander is a worrier by nature but he's also a fusser.  I feel *really* sorry for his father or boyfriends when they get sick for the first time.  I really do."

She smiled.  "I like to fuss."

"Yeah but he's the sort to make you stay in bed, smother you with attention when you want to hide, and then won't let you return the favor.  You'd let someone fuss over you.  Right?"


"You would.  I'm sure you would."  He took her hand again while they drove over a bridge.  "At least it's a nice night for a drive, even if my family does live *way* out towards the middle of nowhere, for the city."

"I live back in the bayou country, Don.  This is a city.  Big difference."

He smiled at her then winked.  "We've got woods around here somewhere.  You just gotta drive for about an hour to get to 'em."  He kept going and going and going until they finally reached his parent's place.  He looked at her.  "Deep breath.  Don't blush, ignore my father if he says anything about the opera."  She blushed.  "Don't blush," he teased.

"Donny, no making out in the car!  You're not sixteen anymore!" his father yelled from the doorway.

Don got out and walked around to let her out.  "Wasn't planning on it, dad.  I was reminding her you weren't scary to anyone but the neighbor's cat."

"I scared criminals for years, boy."

Don looked at him.  "She's scarier than you are, dad, and she dated a scarier woman before that."  He smiled at her.  "See?"

"Well, you look nice, Tara.  A bit fancy."

"Xander insisted."

"The boy's got good taste in what you look adorable in," he agreed, letting them into the house.  "Nancy, they're here."

"I heard you bellow, Don.  Quit giving the neighbors information," she called, coming out of the kitchen.  "You didn't have to dress up so much, Tara."  She blushed and nodded. "Ah.  It's a womanly thing, isn't it?"  She nodded quickly.  "Well, all women deserve the right to look fabulous at any given time and you do so therefore it's to the benefit of my son, the stupid one who managed to get scraped up earlier catching someone when he jumped off a fire escape."


"Donny!" Tara said quietly.  "You could've been hurt."

"He was gonna get away."  He gave her a sheepish look and a shrug.  "I only got a little scrape."

"If I have to baby you and fuss over you for being injured, I'll get Xander to help me."

"I'll try to be better," he promised, grinning at her.  "Now, go help Ma so dad can't embarrass you at all."  She nodded and went to help.  He looked at his father.  "She likes long skirts and I like that about her."

"She's adorable in it.  The boy has good taste in women's clothes."

"He dated some evil women, dad.  Remember me going to Istanbul?  It was to take care of his temporary wife's crap.  He married an assassin for an hour and a half," he said proudly.  His father moaned. "Lady Death."

"Tell me you're kidding?"

"Nah.  She got him royally drunk without him realizing it and did it to him.  Got fixated on his hips of doom."  His father went back into the living room shaking his head.  He snickered and followed to torment him more.  "So, dad, you doin' anything these days but making Ma huff at you for always being around?"

"Took up golf.  It's a nice walk with limited violence now and then."

Don nodded.  "Danny does that now and then too.  We had a case that had urban golf players."  His father looked at him.  "Really.  They use the natural contours of the city to play golf."

"At least a pothole is easier to hit."

"Nah, we're talking culvert holes and things.  Potholes are like sandtraps.  So's traffic."

"You mean they play on the streets?"

"Yeah.  On the sidewalks, alleys, off buildings, wherever.  Guy got it for taunting another player for being out of rehab and havin' the shakes.  Got spray insulation down his throat."

"Eww.  That's a nasty way to die," he admitted.  He shook his head.  "I can just see someone shooting a golf shot in the middle of Madison Avenue at rush hour.  Then trotting to follow his ball."

"Basically.  But hey, it's gotta add thrill back to the game."

Tara came out with drinks and Don Senior smiled at her.  "Want to watch the game with us, Tara?"

"Football is an excuse for gay-themed violent affection."  Don Senior gaped in horror.  Don Junior just snickered.  "It is.  All the patting, postions, and things."  She blushed and retreated.

"I wonder how she'd take your naked hockey games," he said finally.

"Don't know.  I figure Xander's already told her."

"He has and it's cute but porn.  No porn around me.  I'm a nice girl."

"She definitely is," Senior agreed, toasting his son.  "Finally!"

"I've dated other nice girls.  Not quite that nice but some other nice girls.  They couldn't put up with the job."

"Your mother used to be a meter maid.  That's how we met," he admitted, sipping his coffee. Tara peeked around the corner of the door.  "You can come in.  It's not a bother."

"Nancy wanted to know if you wanted mashed potatoes or mashed potatoes with sprinkle cheese."

"Mashed and put the cheese on the table so whoever wants it can add it."  She nodded and disappeared again. "I like her."

"You and me both," Don agreed happily, sipping his water.  "Ma, need help?"

"Not yet, Donny."

"Sure, let us know, Ma."  He looked at his father.  "Uncle Raphael did her hair."

"It's cute.  Who's he?"

"Patrick's sire."

"Oh.  The one the boy calls Grandsire."  He nodded at that, taking another drink.  "He happy with his boy being up?"

"Didn't see him.  She was waiting outside and he was lurking inside."

"Hmm.  So his boy's napping?"

"Quite possibly.  When Xander gets excited he's like a blur of bouncy ball of boy."

"I saw that before he went to Las Vegas the first time."  He sipped his coffee and heard the giggling.  "You two aren't planning mayhem we boys'll have to stop, right?"

"No, dear," his wife called.   "Come help carry, Donny.  I made a roast."

He got up and went to help.  "Love you too, Ma."  He kissed her on the cheek and carried stuff out with Tara's help, smiling at her.  "She spoils me."

"She said she did."

He grinned. "She still gives me chocolate for the holidays too."

Tara smiled.  "Chocolate is always a welcome addition."  She walked past him, heading to the bathroom.  Then she came out to come help again.

"Dad, did you call the misbegotten missing link?" he called.

"No, Donny, your sister is halfway across the city so she can't pick on or nag your new girlfriend," he offered.

"Thanks, dad, knew you loved me."  His mother swatted him.  "Ow!  She is!"

"Behave.  Your sister's not that bad."

"She's the reason I didn't get married at seventeen, Ma."

"I remember.  I paid her a hefty reward for it, Donny."  Then she smiled and patted his cheek. "I like this one much better, dear."  She went back to cleaning up the mess and running some dish water for later.  "Take out the gravy, Tara.  We're all done in here."  She nodded, doing that carefully, and then let Donny sit her down in her seat.  She smiled.  She liked this girl!  Even if she did want to find whoever had hurt her and beat them senseless, she still liked her. She came out and took her usual spot, putting her apron over the chair behind her.  "There we are.  Don!"  He came in after turning off the game.  "Thank you.  I don't wait dinner for football."  She looked at her son.  "Or hockey."

"Sorry, Ma.  Xander found it in Cyprus."

"Figures.  Does his boyfriend mind?"

"Half the lab comes over to watch it on his tv so I doubt it," he admitted.  He took Tara's hand and bowed his head while his father said grace, Tara saying her own.  Then he smiled at her. "Family rituals."

"Every family has some according to my sociology professor."  He smiled at her.  "Did you go to college?"

"I have an AS, had to for the academy," Don agreed.  "I went to NYU though, nothing fancy."  She smiled a bit at that.  "My sister got most of the brains but I got the other good traits.  Like being pretty."  Both women swatted him and his father chuckled. "You said it first."

"I did.  Especially when you wear pink, son.  We thought for about two years that we'd have to make you date a drag queen to get a daughter-in-law."

"I work with drama queens, ain't that enough?" he complained.

"No," his mother said happily.  "Then again I like Tara more than any other girl we've met, Donny.  She's very sweet and nice.  So, what do you do out in Sunnydale for fun, Tara?"

"I help Mr. Giles in his store, the Magic Box.  Buffy drags me along to help her shop.  I listen to Anya complain about her lack of a boyfriend.  She can protest very loudly sometimes."

"This would be the same Anyanka that Xander said was his prom date and his dad had to save him from?" Don asked.  She nodded, blushing a bit.  "I saw her letter to him.  Complains is a bit mild, Tara. Vulgarly brags and whines about it is better."  She nodded, ducking her head to eat.

"Anyanka?  The one who comes to help dumped girlfriends?" Don Senior asked.  His son nodded.  "She's there?"

"She's presently stuck as human," Tara admitted.  "That's why they had the prom thing and why she's making up for those many years."  He just nodded.  "She's decent enough but she has skewed desires in life."

"She's a Springer show waiting ta happen," Don agreed.  "Heard Xander talking to her the other day and him trying to keep himself okay while she complained that she wasn't saving any money on her pitiful salary and her present boyfriend was inadequate."  He dug in and ate another bite, then added some gravy to his roast.  "Dad's off the blood pressure medicine?" he teased his mother.

His father nodded.  "I am, finally!  So I can have salt again.  It's my fault, dear."   He smiled at Tara.  "So, do you have to go back or can you email your reports from here?"

"I have to go back in a few days for classes."

He looked at her. "You'll be safe while you're gone?"

"As safe as I can and I'll tell Buffy to protect me a lot more."

"Good," Don Junior agreed.  "I've heard about Buffy.  She good still?"

"She's doing okay.  Giles has been taunting her about gay things recently.  She threw a fuming hissy about not wanting to hear that.  He pointed at the group's picture so she huffed off but she was better after some bra shopping. Then she decided Xander dating boys was better because no more evil women."

"No they still like him and now so do evil men," Don Senior sighed.  "It was a guy who kidnaped him recently, Tara."

"Really?"  He nodded.  "Wow.  Did Horatio spank them?  He swore up and down he was going to hurt whoever hurt Xander."

"The feds in bad suits have 'im," Don offered with a small grin.  "He can't get to him yet.  When he does.... well, I heard he's nearly as good with Xander's whips as Xander is."  She blushed at that.  "Some people need that.  Fortunately I'm not one," he assured her.  She grinned a bit at that.  "I don't go beyond recreational spanking and wanting to spank Monroe now and then."

His father coughed to hide his laughter.  "She's a bit set in her ways."

"She mopes at Mac, dad.  Plus she's set in her ways.  She doesn't even like the carriages in central park.  Calls them showthings and real horses are better than them.  Danny walked off at that and went to the other side of the crime scene before he went off."

"Maybe she's missing home," Tara offered quietly.  "Trying to draw some of it to her."

"I'm not sure if she's sure she knows what she's doing.  Danny was complaining about her running funny tests the other day.  But Stella said it was a good lead."  He shrugged.  "I'm not the egghead but working with the others is easier.  Did you get to talk with Doc in person?"  She nodded, smiling at him.  "Good!  I like Doc.  He's a great guy.  Wish more guys were like him really.  I'd be more bored at work."

She stroked his hand.  "It's a sad fact but anyone can be prompted into doing bad things for the right price," she said quietly, staring at him.  "Some people the price is anger.  Some it's pain.  Some it's desire."

"True.  Doc's price would be higher.  He's passionate about things but when he gets mad he gets cold and clinical.  The one guy I know Doc threatened for making racial allegations and slurs he said he was going to eviscerate him and then named organs with their proper latin names."  She smiled at that.  "He looked so confused while Doc threatened him."

"Willow went through cold to bouncy in a bad way," she offered.  "She wanted to get Aiden and Timmy for making Xander leave Sunnydale."

"Timmy said he needed to and look, he's happy, and now so is she.  The same as I hope you will be."

"That wasn't home," she assured him.  "Just a stop where I found Willow and the others."  Her purse chirped and she sighed.  "Speaking of, she always knows when I mention her name."  She looked at the number.  "Mm, Buffy.  Excuse me for a minute."  She got up and went into the kitchen.  "Not now, Buffy."  She listened to her.  "I don't know.  Ask Cordelia what shoes go with the brown suede outfit.  Well, yeah, you do kinda look like a pony in it but I wouldn't say a horse.  No, I'm with Don's family.  Yes, as in *with his family*, Buffy.  Wear the loafers.  I like loafers."  She smiled.  "Bye.  Write you later."  She hung up and came back.  "Sorry, Buffy's having a shoe crisis.  Cordelia said her favorite outfit made her look like a horse."  She settled herself back in and turned her phone off, then tucked it back into her bag.  "It's off now."

"At least it wasn't a real emergency," Nancy offered.

"For Buffy that was," she admitted with a shy smile.  "But then again it's been quiet and there's been no crises recently either.  So she's went back into girl mode again."  She smiled at Don.  "She said I have to bring a picture of you back so she can pick on me about the hotness but she thinks you're a girl."

"She can drool on me all she wants, Tara, but I don't go for anything but sweet, gentle, and nice."  He smiled at her bright, hot blush.  "I don't.  That's why my parents waited so long for this dinner and we're having roast."  She giggled and dug in, eating the small piece he had given her.

"You're a vegetarian, aren't you?" Nancy sighed.

"I can eat meat tonight.  It's good for me sometimes."

She smiled.  "Next time we'll have something better, Tara."

"I still have to leave in a few days."

"But then you'll be back in two months," Don reminded her. "Sooner if there's any sorta danger because I'll kidnap and blackmail Mac until he helps me bring you back safely."  She gave him a sideways look with a small smile.  "You could drop out this semester."

"They'll quit paying for it."

"Sweetie, your campus isn't safe," Don senior noted patiently.  "Another building fell in today."  She gave him a horrified look.  "They said it was the music building."

"My dorm's next to that."

"Then we'll ask Buffy to pack up your stuff and see if Patrick and Raphael will let you stay at their place until you can move onto campus this summer," Don said firmly.  She blinked at him.  "Really.  I can ask.  Horatio said Uncle Patrick was nearly dancing that you were so nice and all that."  She sniffled and he hugged her.  "Shh. Let me arrange it, sweetie."  She nodded and he went to call Xander.  "Hey, me.  The building next to her dorm fell in, Xander.  Can you have her stuff packed by whoever's out there and sent out?"  He winced.  "Tara, can Willow have your cat since I'm allergic?"

She sniffled and nodded.  "Ryan will like Miss Kitty Fantastico."

"She said Willow could have the cat, Xander.  Thanks.  Also, ask the hovering one if she can stay there until she can move on campus?  If not, I know I've got a spare room."

"Absolutely not!  Not until you're married, Don!" his mother shouted.

"But Ma don't like that idea," he finished with a small smirk for her, then he stuck his tongue out.  "Raphael said she could stay there all she wanted, including through school but they pop up now and then."

"I don't mind," she said, looking stunned.

"Cool.  She said that'd be great, Uncle Raph.  Thanks."   He hung up.  "Xander's calling Buffy to get her to pack your room for you and send it out with Giles' help.  Somehow."  She blinked at that. "I guess you don't have as much stuff as he thinks others do."

"I don't, not really.  I should talk to Buffy."

"It'll do her good to do some honest work, give her something to complain about," Don senior told her.  "Even if she does have another job on the side.  Give Anya another reason to complain too."  She blushed and nodded.  "Good girl."  He smiled.  "Sorry if we're railroading you but we don't want Don to lose you yet.  He'd go do stupid things and get shot again."

"I wasn't doing stupid stuff the last time I got shot."  She blinked at him.  "Hold-up, it was five years ago, I was still in patrol," he promised.  "These days I get more scrapes from stopping running perps."  She relaxed and nodded.  "I'm sure you've seen some injuries."

She nodded.  "None of Xander's.  He was gone when I got there, but I have seen some from Buffy.  Willow taunted her about channeling Xander because she nearly got staked herself one night."  She stroked his cheek.  "If you get that badly hurt I'd hate to have to bring you back to life and piss off the Goddess, but Willow will help me."  He smiled a blinding smile that did funny things to her inside and then kissed her, making his mother sigh and his father nod in appreciation.  "Don, there's people around," she squeaked.

"They're family.  They don't mind if I kiss you."  He did it again and she pulled back, giving him a look.  "I know, slowly."  She nodded.  "Because you're a good girl and good girls should be appreciated."  He stroked over her cheek with the back of his knuckles.  "It'll be okay and we'll go as slowly as you need us to, Tara."  She smiled and nodded, taking his hand to hold while they ate.  "You two, no wedding plans for at least a year.  Let her get comfortable in the city and with us."

"Of course, son," his father said with a smile.  "I don't think in wedding plans.  That's your mother."  She swatted him.  "It is."

"I'm not the one who was squealing when his daughter announced she was engaged."

"She's finally met a man who'll civilize her.  Of course I squealed.  Means Donny can quit hiding from her until she gets pregnant."  Tara eeped and shrunk down some.  "We're not demanding, Tara.  She can give us plenty."  He grinned at her.  "If you feel like having a few, we won't mind, but we won't be too pushy or nag too often."

"Dad," he warned.

"Sorry, son.  Laying it out now."

"I like kids, but not until after I graduate," she promised.

"Works for us," Nancy agreed firmly.  "It's how it should be, Tara."  She smiled at that.  "Now, sit up and eat, dear.  Make Don eat your roast since he's hungry."  She did that and got more of the vegetables, digging in.  "I'll tell our daughter tomorrow so you can hide from her until we make her realize she may not embarrass you or else we'll spank her this time."

"Can I have Xander spank her if she tries?" Don asked.   His son stared at him, looking awed.  "What?  He's gotta be good and it never worked when I did it."

"Sure, dad, we'll ask Xander to make sure she can't bother Tara," Don Junior agreed happily, grinning at her.  "He'd agree."

"He would and Horatio would probably help.  He's got Xander wrapped around his finger."

"Yeah but they're cute," Don assured her.  "Him and Greg?  Bookends.  Greg's a bit older and a bit blonder, he's twenty-eight or so I think, but bookends.   Horatio is a strong man to put up with all that bouncy boyness."  She blushed and pinched him but went back to eating.  She had to push a piece of fallen hair behind her ear but he helped her put it back into the small bun she was wearing.  "There, closer to perfect again."   She smiled.  "No woman's perfect and those who try turn out like Martha and hate themselves."

She giggled and shook her head, feed him a bite of his dinner.  "You're silly from hunger.  Eat."

"I'm eating," he agreed, finishing off her slice of roast and getting more.  He'd need energy later to keep himself from pouncing her.

His parents looked on and smiled at the cuteness of them.


Xander hung up on Don and called Sunnydale. "Hi, Anya, put Buffy on please?  Because Tara needs something and she just called.  Please.  I know, Anya.  Sorry he got turned but yay.  Anya, I'm with two guys now.  No, Anya, I'm never going back to women.  Sorry but I like my men.  Thanks."  She hung up on him and he sighed, dialing the number again.  The third time Giles answered it.  "It's me.  Anya's mad I won't come back to her.  Tara's worried about her dorm, Giles.  Plus she's moving up here now.  Can you have her stuff packed tonight and sent over?  Well, I'm in New York at the moment.  We're at a club but Uncle Raphael is at home.  I'll be there later and so will she.  No, she said Willow has to have the cat since Don's allergic.  Don Flack.  The nephew of Grandpa's second wife?" he suggested.  "Yeah, he's a nice guy.  Great guy.  Loved him when he watched over me. He treats her like a national treasure and he'd go ballistic if anyone hurt her.  Willow sent Horatio with the shovel talk.  I've already made myself very clear that I will kill him if he hurts her.  He simply pouted at me for assuming he could."

He smiled.  "He's a nice guy.  Third generation cop.  Homicide.  He works with Sheldon.  Anytime she heard about someone named Flack, it's him."  He grinned.  "Yeah.  She's with his parents and him having dinner, Giles.  Exactly."  He grinned at Horatio when he came back with drinks. "That would be fine but they said the building next to her dorm fell in earlier so she's seriously worried.  So have Buffy do it.  She could use the exercise.  Let Anya help so she can complain about something other than sex and money.  Well, her nails and getting sweaty for non sex reasons probably."  Horatio moaned. "That was Horatio, gotta go, Giles.  Laters."  He hung up and looked at him. "He'll do it tonight.  He said he'd send it via magic gram so we'll get her stuff tonight and Willow will get her cat tonight too.  I know she doesn't have much stuff with how small the dorms are."

"We should probably warn Ryan.  His OCD might not like a cat."

"They're living separately the last time I knew," Xander said, giving him a look.

"He finally took the hint and they're together but she's still living next to the campus."

"Then it'll be fine."  He stole a kiss with a smile.  "Dance with me?"

"I can't do that sort, Xander."

"Yes you can."  He took his drink with him, leading Horatio out onto the floor to tease and tempt him. It was a gay dance club, they could do that.  He finally snuggled his back into Horatio's chest to encourage him to go along with him.  It worked much better and Horatio got into the groove with him.  Which was nice and let him tease others by teasing Horatio, meaning he got his teasing fix for the month.  He glared at one guy who tried to steal him and he left but another one who just wanted to admire them came over to help him tease, getting a gentle growl in his ear from Horatio.  So he'd be getting claimed later too!  He was definitely a happy boy now!


Giles hung up and looked at the two girls in his shop.  "Tara's moving to New York due to her dorm being about to fall in.  Buffy, we need to pack her up immediately."

"Sure, Giles.  What about her cat?  Miss Kitty hates me."

"I'll be going with you.  Anya, you as well.  We can close up early tonight."

"Why?  We won't make as much money that way.  Can't it wait until after we've closed?"

"It'll be dreadfully late out there by then, Anya.  Remember, New York is in another time zone."  He closed up the shop and followed Buffy out to his car.  He knew she didn't have much in her room.  Half of that was probably Willow's.  They checked in with the dorm's security.  "Miss Maclay is moving due to the safety factor," he said quietly.  "We're here to pack her things."

"That's fine.  Her cat's been meowing for days now."  He looked at him.  "Which she should not have."

"Sorry," Buffy offered. "She's a bred and pure wiccan.  Of course she has a cat."  That got a shrug so they went up there to pack her up. The cat decided to love her so she got to sit down and pet her for a bit before putting her into her carrier. "You are going to see Mommy Willow, Miss Kitty.  Because Tara's new girlfriend is allergic."

"Boyfriend," Giles admitted.

"What?"  She looked, staring at him.  "Boyfriend?  Our Tara?"

"Our Tara.  He's a third generation policeman, he's apparently very nice, and distantly related to Xander," he admitted, handing over one of her two footlockers.  "Do her dresser please, Buffy.  I'd rather not deal with the clothes."

"Sure."  She got into her drawers to pack things for her.  "Wow, a boyfriend.  Can we look him up online?"

"We can," Giles agreed happily.  "We have his name and I'm sure he's been in the papers at least once.  Xander said he was a very nice chap.  Said Willow sent Horatio with the shovel talk."  That got a small grin.  "Apparently Xander's still stuck in New York."

"Is this like can't afford a ticket?"

"No, this is the FBI won't let him leave until they've cleared up the kidnaping."  He grimaced and got to work in her closet.  He decided to let her have all the magic books she had in there, another hallmark of living with Willow.  The cat started to howl.  "Do quit, Miss Kitty.  You'll be free very soon, dear."  Buffy opened a can of wet foot and stuck it into the carrier with her.  It worked and she was happy again.  "Thank you, Buffy."  They felt a tremble and looked at each other.  Then they hurried up.  By the time they were done, all three of Tara's trunks were packed.  Her computer was boxed up.  Buffy got to carrying things down the stairs while he got the last trunk and the cat.  She came back for the computer, doing a last search of the room.  Then she left and turned in Tara's spare key so she could get her deposit back.  They went over it, it was good enough.  Everything got taken back to the store, where Anya was still working.  "All right.  Let's send the cat first," he offered.  "To Miami with you, beast."  He drew the circle he'd need and found the spell, using Willow's magic books as his focus point.  He sent the cat that way, leaving the door of the cage there.  "Well, I doubt her magic books were in the lounge," he decided.  They got to work on the other things, sending them to where they could feel Tara's protection amulet.  The three trunks and computer landed in her room in the house and they were done, smiling at each other.  "We'll give the college her forwarding address tomorrow."

"I can drop it off," Buffy promised. That got a nod and Anya wrote it out.  "Is that the New York one?"

"That's Willow's."  She went back to her counting money, it always kept her calm.  She knew the time for her to leave was coming soon.  She could feel it.  Everyone else had.

Giles, being able to sense trouble now, looked at her.  "Not to Miami or New York," he warned quietly.  She pouted but nodded.  She'd go somewhere else.  At least it would keep her from spending all her money going shopping with Buffy.


Ryan blinked awake from his nap, staring at the thing that smelled like tunafish on his chest, which was staring at him.  "How did you get in here?" he asked quietly, reaching up a finger to let her sniff.  She rubbed her cheek on it so he petted her.  "Hi.  Who're you?"  He sat up slowly and she stared at him.  "Are you Willow?"  The cat meowed.  "No.   Okay, did Willow change you into a cat?  Are you maybe Eric?"  The cat hissed.  "Don't blame you there.  Huh."  He got up to put down water for her, it was the least he could do.  Then he called Willow.  "There is a black and white cat who woke me up from my nap," he said in greeting.  He listened.  Then he looked down.  "Miss Kitty?"  She blinked up at him. "Mommy will be over soon," he promised, smiling and petting her.  "She's fine so far, Willow.  Very loving."  He hung up and got down to petting her.  He noticed she had used the carrier as a litter box, which was fine with him.  Less mess for him to have to clean up.  They could get her another one.  He looked at the books she had let him hold for three days, she was trying to prove to herself that she didn't need the magic.  It was a big step for her addiction.

He called Xander.  "I have Miss Kitty here.  Why?"  He listened to the story about Tara and Don, and Don being allergic to cats.  "That makes sense. So they packed up her cat why?"  The story went on and he turned on the news to see that another building on the campus was being evacuated.  "Huh.  The music hall went earlier and now they're saying Lendle Hall is going?  Ah, the dorm!  Gotcha."  He nodded and sat down to watch it while the cat came over to sit in his lap.  "Hi, Miss Kitty.  Want to talk to the Xander?"  She meowed at the phone then settled into his lap.  "She's a good cat.  No, I don't mind.  As long as she doesn't pee on things or make too big of a mess, Xander.  Of course she needed to come to her other mommy."  Someone knocked.  "It's open," he called.  Eric leaned in.  "Even for you.  I've got Xander on the phone."

"How's Horatio's throat?"

"Eric wants to know how his throat is."  He smiled.  "Tasty."  Eric shook his head at that and stared at the cat.  "Willow and Tara's cat, Miss Kitty Fantastico."

He decided not to say anything about the very girlish name that the two girls had given the poor beast.  "Ah."  He nodded and sat down.  The cat stared at him but stayed in her comfy spot.  "I won't try to pet you, cat.  I like dogs better."  The cat settled down again.

Ryan smiled.  "Sure, you two have fun, Xander.  Be a good boy.  Come back soon."  He hung up and looked at him.  "What's up?"

"Wanted to know if you wanted to have a guy's night."

"Having single people dilemmas?" he taunted.

"Basically.  Speed had to skid his bike earlier because he nearly got hit by a minivan.  She's babying his leg for him and talking about helping him repaint the damage.  I'd ask Cooper but last time he made an ass out of himself."

Ryan shrugged.  "I don't care.  She's got classes tonight. She won't be out until nine."

"That's fine.  It's prime hour to arrive," he promised.  Someone tapped on the door.  "S'open," he called.  Willow walked in and gave him an odd look.  "Asking if he wanted to go out tonight without you girls."

"Oh."  She nodded.  "That's fine."  She looked at her cat.  "I talked to my security guard, he said if he heard the cat he was going to shoot her."

"Then she can stay.  She doesn't pee on the bed or anything, right?"

"No.  She's not a temperamental cat in the least."  She sat down beside him, petting her kitten. "Do you like the Ryan?  Can you stay with the Ryan while I find us a better place that won't go boom and explode like my present one?"  The cat gave her a silent meow.  "Once I find one, you can come live with me again.  Until then you have to stay here for a few days."  She went back to petting her until Ryan shifted and handed her the cat, making her blush.  "Sorry.  Why is she down here?"  He turned up the news and she blinked.  "Wow.  The destruction is spreading a lot."  He nodded.  "Oops."  She shrugged. "With any luck most of the town will die soon so there's less vampires there."  He gave her a hug around the shoulders and she looked up at him. "What?  She liked someone?"

"Xander said she's having THE dinner with Don's parents," he said happily.  She beamed at that and wiggled a bit. "They were moving her stuff up to New York earlier. That's why the cat got sent, he's allergic."

"Oh.  That's fine then.  I'm sure she can find something furry that he'll like to pet too."

"Maybe he'll be a bit furry so she can pet him," Eric offered.

Willow looked at him. "I don't think she could take a really hairy guy since she's only had two women," she admitted.  "I don't think the other one was a yeti like you are."

He laughed and shook his head.  "Thanks, but I shave it now and then."

"Good.  Bet your drains are a mess."  She went back to petting her cat, then looked at him. "Can I stay to nuzzle her?"

"Sure."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "Call Speed.  He had to skid his bike earlier."

"I heard.  Calleigh called to see what was in the green tin of stuff I use on our scrapes."  She snuggled into the couch with the cat while Ryan went to take a shower and get ready to go out with Eric.  "Behave with him, Eric, and play nicely.  No handing him skanks.  I will get upset."

"Sure, Willow.  I won't let him dance with anyone too nasty or anything."   He looked at her.  "Marisol's at home if you wanted to call her over to talk about the cat and Tara."

"I don't think she'd understand losing someone like Tara."  She looked at him. "Unless she's had one of those soft, gentle loves that makes you want to float?  And occasionally makes you float when her magic goes off while she sleeps?"

"No, not that I know of," he admitted.  "She's more a passionate whirlwind, like I am."  He shrugged and he looked Ryan over.  "Change the shirt."

"Wear the green one, Ry," she said quietly, smiling at him.  He went to change into it and they left.  She smiled at her cat.  "Did you like the Ryan?  He's the new daddy, Miss Kitty.  We'll all like the Ryan.  He's a nice guy.  Yes he is."  She watched as the news reported her former dorm started to slide in.  Then she shrugged and called Giles.  "It's me.  Is everyone okay?"  She smiled.  "Good.  No, I'm sitting here petting Miss Kitty on Ryan's couch.  I can't at my present spot but I can move."  She smiled.  "Exactly.  It'll mean I won't have that stupid lightbulb problem anymore.  He said it was fine for a few days but we've got to get her a litter box."  She smiled.  "Thanks, Giles.  Miss you too.  How's Xander?  I know he's stuck in New York until the suits let him go.  Sure.  I can do that.  No, they're probably off being noisy."  She heard the splutter.  "Well, they are his boyfriends, Giles, of course they're having the sex.  That's how I met Ryan, escaping the noisy sex lives of him and Timmy."  She smiled and hung up, going back to cuddling her cat.  "We have got to get you proper food and litter, Miss Kitty.  Let me go do that.  You behave in Ryan's place until I get back."

She got up and took his spare key off the hook by the door. Then she locked the door and headed out for cat supplies.  On the way she decided to call her parents.  "Hi, Mom.  No, I'm okay.  Worried about the sparking going on in my ceiling.  No, I think I have to move actually.  Because I have a light that no one's sure why it keeps blowing and they won't allow my cat.  No, mother, I'm not giving up my cat.  Tough, mother.  No, I'm okay except for the upcoming moving thing.  I'm sure.  Well, my old dorm fell in and I only got a few things out of there when I got sent down here to recuperate.  Because I was there when the first part fell in, mom.  Yeah, me.  Was right in the middle of it.  Bruises, a small concussion.  Nothing too bad for me.  They sent me to Xander.  No, he's down here."  She pulled over.  "Mother, before you say a *word* you failed Xander miserably.  Am I clear?  And I'm the one who rescued him when his parents tried to sell him.

"The reason I'm so mature is because I had to stab someone to get him free when I was ten.  So no, don't go there.  You failed him and you failed me by not seeing it, mom.  So yes, I'm still friends with Xander and staying friends with Xander and his boyfriend.  Anything else?  If not I'll email you my new address.  By the way, where is the rest of my trust?  Because I'm eighteen and I never got it, Mom.  Yeah, you check on that, Mom.  I'll be here in Miami getting a great education with a wonderful boyfriend and people around who consider me family."  She hung up and took a deep breath, then pulled back into traffic to handle the necessary things.  Before she lost her temper and her control on her magic.  Her mother had always underestimated her.   Then again, she was the subject of three different books.  Maybe she should write her own but Xander would get pissed with her if she did. She didn't want him to spank her again.  It had hurt last time!


Xander woke up warm and comfy, but he was still being poked.  He swatted at the hand, glaring at it.  "What?" he asked quietly.

"Willow mother's on the phone."

"Tell her I'm busy being a dom and watch her shriek."  That got a look and he sighed, taking the phone.  "What?" he complained. "I'm in New York, Willow's mom.  It's two in the morning out here."  He listened to her babble just like her daughter. "Yeah, she did.  She was saving me from the guy who had me put into a dog house and was feeding me alpo.  What did you want her to do, let me die?"  He snorted. "That's rich but no.  I'm not.  I'm in a very satisfying relationship with a very nice man.  I've got a career I adore.  Without your daughter and her medical skills I'd be dead.  She stitched me up plenty of times.  I don't know where you were," he retorted when she demanded to know where she was.  "No one was ever sure where you were.  Welcome to reality.  You failed your child and you failed to realize that your child was helping save my life.  Even when you were there you ignored the bruises I walked around with.  Why do you care now?"  He looked at the phone then her.

"Mrs. Rosenburg, get a grip.  If she has kids, I doubt you're going to be seeing them.  If you do, I'll be there with a whip to make sure you can't do what you did to yours.  Now, is there anything else?  You woke me up after some fantastic sex with my man."  He snorted.  "No, I'm very sure it's not a phase.  Been married actually.  Didn't like it.  Women suck.  As you prove.  I know very well I was your control subject.  Willow read your books to Jesse and I.  No, he died at sixteen of a horribly violent act.  She was there.  She was nearly killed the same night because someone tried to kidnap her.  By the way, that week we think you were in Phoenix."  He hung up on her and tossed his phone onto the beside table. Then he groaned and called Willow's phone.  "I chewed your mother a new one and told her to find reality since she called me at two," he told her voicemail.  "If this upsets you, yay."  He hung up again and went back to cuddling.  Horatio was better than a fussy woman any day of the week.  His grandsire tucked them back in and he gave him a sleepy grunt, then snuggled deeper under Horatio's shoulder, letting himself fall back asleep while warm, comfortable, and held.

Raphael took a picture then left.  He was sure Oz would like to hear that one. Maybe he'd even like to add to it.  A bit of torment went a long way.  He also sent the audio file to Patrick.  Their grandson was a strong man.


Xander walked out of the park with Horatio beside him, smiling when Stella parked and got out in front of them. "Are we causing trouble?"

"No, but the person who was being chased by the guy with the knife did.  She turned and got him back when he wouldn't stop."  She smiled at them. "You two are so cute."

"Thank you," Xander said proudly.

Horatio coughed. "I've got to go back tomorrow."

"I'm sneaking back with you," Xander promised.  "I like New York but I miss my house."  That got a smile.  "Sorry but I do.  I miss my house."

"That would be good," Horatio promised, smiling at him.  "I'm sure we can put our foot down about it."

"You'd better start now," Stella offered.  "They were just bothering Mac."  She headed to get to her scene.

Horatio looked at Xander, who just nodded.  They caught a cab back there and headed inside, Horatio having to take off his sunglasses.  "Is Mac finished being bothered by the Feds or can we go yell at them as well?"

"They're still up there, Lieutenant Caine."

"Good."  He smiled and walked Xander that way, walking in behind the non-speaking Fed who kept coming with the one over Xander's kidnaping case - who nearly babbled as much as Willow most of the time.  He coughed.  "To settle this matter, Xander and I are going home tomorrow. Together.  I'm sorry if you don't like this."

"I personally don't care and someone had better be sucking up to my boss," Xander told them, looking at them.  "I like New York, it's a great city.  But Miami's home and all my family is down there.  I'm going home tomorrow with my boyfriend.  Any objections?"

"We still don't know who two of the present givers were," the non-speaking agent told him, looking at him.

"Which is great but I'm better protected down there. I have family down there.  Including my grandfather.  Doesn't mean they're going to try the same thing.  They could just want me to spank them or something.  For right now, I've got to rebuild my life.  I've probably been fired.  Actually I'm pretty sure I got fired by now.  Not that it's such a great loss but it is a loss.  I have a house that's been locked up except when guys come over to watch European sports on my dish. This isn't the first person who sent me money, guys.  Really."  That got a nod from the non-speaking agent.  "Also, down there, I have family in the lab.  They know how to watch me without making someone take days off.  Mac doesn't quite have that down yet and he'll have an easier time watching Tara for Don."  Mac gaped.  "You didn't realize that?"  He shook his head.  "Yeah, Mac, they had THE dinner the other night," he offered with a grin.  "By the way, are you always this clueless when someone wants you?  I ask because even I can smell the rutting scents coming off some people in the lab.  Just a hint."  He looked at the agents again, then smiled sweetly. "I love you guys and thank you for helping stop that one and the possible child.  But now I need to go home.  I'm needed at home.  My father ended up having to skid his bike.  His bike is next to me in his affection.  I consider it a little brother because it's younger than me."  That got nods.  "We good?"

"We'll be fine with that as long as Lieutenant Caine has a very good way of keeping track of you after hours."  Xander held up their joined hands and he blushed.  "That'll do perfectly, Mr. Harris.  I thank you for your cooperation and so did the Treasury when they straightened out your bank.  The embezzlers are now stopped very well.  I'm told those funds have been returned."

"Cool.  So I can get groceries to replace whatever the guys ate."  He looked at Horatio.  "Move in for a week or so?"

"I think I could do that," he agreed, smiling at him.  "Mac?"

"Have fun, kids.  You deserve to have some fun."  They smiled and left, heading back to the house to pack.  "See, I told you there wasn't going to be a problem if they went home."

Danny leaned in.  "Did I hear more problems?"

"Less problems.  Xander's heading home with Horatio tomorrow."

"Good!  He needs ta be home.  Miami's his city now."  He grinned. "Stella called, her scene was an NYU film school shoot."  He walked off.

"I hate them," Mac muttered.  "Okay, guys.  Anything else we can help you with?"

"You filed a subsidiary report about his stolen weapon's collection?"

"Apparently there's a group of people who feel they could easily become serial killers down there but they're watching Xander to see how to stay pure.  They took them off Sassone."

"Ooohkay," the silent agent said, then he smacked his lips.  "Good enough.  Anything else I should be aware of before I head down there?"

"They're all *very* protective of the boy down there.  He can't get into the same sort of trouble as he does up here."

"Good to know.  We intercepted a gift being sent to Lieutenant Caine earlier from a young male socialite.  He wanted to know if he'd take him instead of his current toy."

"I doubt it.  I'm expecting marriage announcements out of that relationship."  That got a nod and they left his office, leaving him to think.  Maybe he was clueless about someone wanting him in the lab.  He looked outside.  "Sheldon?"  He walked in.  "Get the door?"  He closed the door.  "Xander just said that there's a few people in the labs who show an unhealthy interest in me?  I've never noticed it."

"Well, Lindsey's got a crush but I'm assuming he's talking about two others."  Mac sat up.  "You really don't see them staring at you?  Mothering you?  Hanging on your every word?"  He smirked at the horrified look.  "I would do something about that, Mac, preferably before Danny snaps and kidnaps you because Stella will help him."  He stood up. "Anything else?" he asked happily.

"Did you know Don and Tara are an item?  Xander said they had THE dinner with his folks the other night."

"I did.  It suits her.  She blushes in a good way around him and he's very protective and possessive over her in the right way.  They'll make a stunning couple for many years to come if God is kind."

Mac nodded, smiling at that.  "Sometimes he can be."

"Yes, but sometimes he gives you a second chance, Mac.  Because they love you even when you're grieving and moping.  So get off your butt before I tell Lindsey you like her."  He walked out, leaving him shaking his head and laughing.

Once he calmed down he considered his two suitors.  Neither was very open.  Well, Danny showed a lot of emotion around him but that one.  Stella was constantly mothering him when he needed it.  He smiled and a slightly devious plan came to mind so they could talk about it.  He saw Stella walk past his office.  "Film scene?"

"Yes.  Stupid brats forgot to file their permits."

"Did you cite them?"

"Of course.  You okay?"

"Xander's going home tomorrow. He'll leave Tara there so she and Don can continue to see each other."  She smiled at that.  "I was wondering if you'd like to go to dinner tomorrow?"

"I wouldn't care.  Pizza and a game?"

"Dinner on my roof."

"Works for me."  She smiled and walked off.  She saw Danny watching and shrugged.  She knew about his crush and was all for it.  Mac would do him good and he'd be less tortured. She wondered who had clued in Mac.  Neither of them had been able to.  She heard Mac call Danny's name and smirked.  "Good," she decided.  "About time.  Stubborn asshole finally got a clue."  She went to put up her case and get back to work.  Danny snuck in later.  "Dinner, his rooftop?" she asked, seeing his happy look.

"Doc was just in there."

"Good!  That's good."  She smiled and nodded.  "I can get him something nice for finally making him catch a clue."

"Yeah, me too.  I was almost worried about Monroe."  He shrugged and dove back into his work in the next lab. They had worked out their feelings about this subject last year.  They knew what the other wanted.

"Hmm, means I don't have to kidnap him and make Danny help me," she decided, even happier.  Kidnapings were always so messy.


Xander walked into his house and sighed.  "I'm home!  Finally!"  He heard a laugh.  "The last time I knew the furniture didn't laugh."

"It still doesn't," his grandfather called.  Xander pounced him to give him a cuddle.  "I missed you as well, Xander."  He smiled at Horatio.  "I'll be here, go get some suits."  He nodded and took a kiss before doing that.  "Sit, Xander."  Xander sat, looking at him.  "You called the Treasury?"

"No, Horatio called the Treasury."

"Oh, good."  He relaxed and smiled at him.  "I was still gathering information for charges to be filed."

"Cool.  I'll bet it helped them a lot.  I think he got tired of the wait."

"He probably did," he agreed, smiling more gently at him.  "How is Tara?"

"Beautifully in love with her man.  Her man is wonderful and that's all she needs. They all think they're very adorable together.  Buffy even sent her some of her old outfits that she didn't want so she'd have fun clothes too.  Especially this one suede outfit that Cordy told her made her look like a horse."  He laughed at that. "Grandsire is up there babying her.  He said he's missing having a daughter."

"The easiest way to solve that would be to give us a great-grandchild," he offered.

Xander stared at him.  "I'm nineteen and still finding myself, Granddad.  I'd hurt a kid."

"You could never do that, Xander."  He smiled at him.  "I know you couldn't."  He patted his hand.  "Promise me you will some year soon?"

"Of course I will some year soon, as soon as Horatio's ready. Or if one comes by accident.  I won't stop one from coming into being but I'm not going to push for it this week.  There's too much danger and I don't want to hurt the little thing."

"Good point," he agreed, smiling at him.  "We'll see what happens."

"What about that doctor?"

"He did take a sample.  It wasn't found. I'm not sure where it is, Xander."  He nodded and sighed.  "We're working on tracking it."

"Thank you."  He smiled.  "Now, happier things.  Can I look for a new job?"

"You'll have to."

"Good!  I like that."  He beamed.  "Can I come play with the dog tomorrow while Horatio's at work?"

He smiled.  "If you want.  As long as you come in to greet me as well."  Xander gave him another hug and got up to look in his fridge, finding a case of soda and some sliced cheese.  "It was rotten."

"I figured it would be but if they put that back I can go grocery shopping," he said happily.

"You can.  It went back yesterday, Xander."  He beamed and came back to cuddle him until Horatio got there.  Then he offered dinner and he was too comfortable to pass it up.


Willow looked at Ryan over dinner, then smiled at her cat when she came over to see what they were doing.  "That is impolite, Miss Kitty."  She meowed.  Ryan tossed her a treat.  "Ah, you give in to begging."

"Of course I do. What had you swearing at Xander the other night?"  He ate a bite of dinner.

"I called my mother to update her and try to get the rest of my trust fund out of her sooner instead of later.  I've been working on that now for months.  I stupidly mentioned Xander and she told me I needed to break that attachment so I gave her a bit of truth."  She sipped her water.  "Then she got his number and called him, waking him up so he was cranky, and he gave her a lot more truth.  He told me on my voicemeail.  Then mom called back at five that next morning to dispute what he had said so I had to have an over-my-minutes conversation with my mother about abuse since she's so clueless.  I backed it up with many pictures I've taken over the years and told her we did report it and they did nothing, the same as she did nothing when she was there.  I reamed her good and she ended up crying that I was turning on her, which got my father into it.  I told him what was going on in under two minutes and he agreed I was good for Xander, they had messed up, but there was nothing they could do about it now except make sure that he never had children.  I pointed out the error of that suggestion and also pointed out mother was holding the rest of my trust away from me and she had a week to hand it over or I was going to sue them.  So I found the phone book and a lawyer's name and when I was making my appointment."

"Did it show up?"

"Last night," she admitted.  "They also called the local guys in the PD to watch out for Xander because of the horrible abuse he suffered."

"I saw the end of that.  One of the guys came up to Eric to ask him.  Thought he'd be more neutral about than Speed."  He ate another bite.  "He assured him that Xander wasn't homicidal, wasn't going to abuse any kids if he and his boyfriend decided to have one, and he's a good guy to have around.   So the officer relaxed about it."

"Good.  I'd hate to see Xander turn violent if someone ever touched his kids."

"You think he wants kids?"

"I do.  Xander's got a lot of love in him and I think Patrick wants him to carry on the family name too."  That got a small smirk.  "It might even be part of the will, I know my parents have put one in there that they had to approve of whoever I finally married.  I told her about you and she snorted and said I could do better.  I told her it was you or some biker chick and she about threw a fit about phases.  I pointed out I had been in a serious, could've been married if it was legal, homosexual relationship and she ranted for a good thirty minutes about it.  Pity but I don't care about their opinions.  I haven't since I was six and I realized they were inconsistent and boring."  He squeezed her hand.  "Sorry to dump that on you."

"No, this is all part of healing after how badly they screwed you up," he promised.  "I'm sure Tara heard."

"Tara met and wasn't impressed.  She actually pulled me away from them.  Kissed her in front of them too."  She smirked at him. "My father said she was pretty."

"She is.  She's also one very special girl."  She smiled at that.  "Doesn't mean I like her doing that.  Your mother needs her license taken away."

"Oh, she gives good enough advice.  My father's in practice, she writes books."

"So does Doctor Phil, doesn't mean it's always a good thing."

"True," she agreed dryly.  "The scary thing is that I've found her book on a syllabus."  He shuddered.  "I also contacted that teacher to note that, for a shrink, she was an abusive mother and her book contained wild suppositions that had no basis in the reality of what I, her test subject, had gone through. I even laid out the inaccuracies in the book for him.  I found out later he added a second one to contrast that one but he kept it on there because it did have some limited good advice, just not a whole lot."

"Eat," he ordered.  She dug in and he treated the cat again, getting a happy friend who took it to the couch to lay down and eat.  "We need to get her hairball medicine."

"It's on top of the fridge."

"Oh."  He looked then nodded.  "Thanks."  He smiled at her.  "You thought of everything."

"I did and she wanted me to give up my cat too."  Her phone rang.  "Oops, sorry."  She looked.   "That's...  My house?"  She answered it.  "This is Willow."  She blinked.  "Okay.  Was it the funky light that keeps blowing?"  She frowned.  "Did anything of mine survive?  Thank you. I'll be right there."   She hung up.  "The fusebox in the closet you didn't like blew."  He groaned. "Burned too."  She finished dinner and so did he, grabbing his keys.  "It's going to be a while, you don't have to come."

"Yes I do.  Or else you don't have a good way to get whatever's left back here so you can sleep on the couch."  She smiled at him and they headed out together.  The cat snuck over to check the table but they hadn't left more than juice on the plates.  Which was fine with her.  It tasted good.

Willow walked into her building, staring at the security guard.  "What happened?"

"The fusebox in your closet arced and started a fire, Miss Rosenburg."

"We've complained how many times about electrical problems?"  He shuddered.  "Where's the manager?"

"Your place."

"Thank you."  She walked up that way, shaking her head.  She found him staring at the mess in her closet.  "At least one electrical thing in this place worked."  He glared at her.  "I've complained nineteen times in the last three months about the lightbulb that keeps blowing and fizzling and about that fuse box arcing and you did nothing."  A fireman looked over.  "I have.  It's on file. I can give you the name of the handyman they keep sending."

Ryan pulled his badge.  "Any signs of foul play?"

"No, shoddy wiring," the fireman told him.  "I'm the arson investigator."  Willow smiled.  "Miss Rosenburg I'm presuming?"

"I am.  Did anything of mine survive?"

"Some."  He pointed at the majority of the room.  "Your bedroom was mostly smoked and wet down.  We know where the fire started."  He led her back there, letting her see.  "There's been a certified electrician?"

"Once and he came in complaining about the wiring.  Since then there's been a handyman named Paul, who is a great guy and admitted he had no idea what was going on.  He said he's referred it to the manager a few times.  I know the light in the kitchen blows and fizzles."  She led him out there, turning it on.  After two minutes it blew with a scorching smell and a fizzle. "See?"

"I do."  He frowned and got up there to look.  "There's bare wires up here."  He came back down and went back to open the fusebox.  "That light's not on here?"

"No, it's wired into the apartment above me.  That one's my bedroom and living room and my neighbor's bathroom I think."  She leaned out to look at the guard coming in.  "Which neighbor is without their bathroom?"  He pointed.  "Thanks. The guys next door over there," she said with a point of her own.  "I have complained.  It's on file and Ryan has been here with most of them.  He's made some complaints. It's a great facility but they needed to update the wiring a long time ago."

"They did," he agreed.  "Okay, let's see if we can get you packed.  Officer Wolfe?"  He came in.  "Help her pack up.  She can't stay here and I'm going to have a contractor come in to check the wiring."

"The electrician was from DJ and Sons," Ryan said quietly.  "He said they needed to and turned them in for building code violations."  That got a nod and he went to look them up and call from the living room.  Ryan looked at her.  "Let's pack things."  She looked around then concentrated and things started to float into her suitcases and trunks.  He went to pack the living room the normal way.  Then he called Eric to go get them a small trailer for the night if he could.  He came over to get his keys and get it, looking around with a sigh.  "Wiring.  Fire in the fuse box.  Bare wires in that light."  That got a nod before he left.  Then he came back with his keys.  "Thanks, man."

"Welcome.  It's even one of the enclosed ones since it's supposed to rain tonight."  He looked at Willow as she carried stuff out.  "Need help?"

"I could but Patrick probably won't eat someone for me."

He smiled.  "You never know."

"True."  She looked at the manager.  "I will be reimbursed for what I lost or I will sue.  The same as I will be getting this month's rent back or I will sue."  He snickered.  "Bet me I can't.  I've already had an appointment with a lawyer about this in case it would happen."  He looked stunned.  "My parents are shrinks, I'm not some backwoods little girl with no education.  I could've went to Harvard and I turned it down.  Am I clear?"  He nodded.  "Good, then you can send them to my boyfriend, Officer Wolfe here."  He swallowed at that when Ryan looked over.  "Or else I'm going to destroy you in court because you're endangering lives and safety.  I'll have this whole building shut down very quickly."  He backed up.  "So I'll be expecting the check to be postmarked tomorrow at the latest."  He fled.  "Thank you for your cooperation."  She looked at the guard, who shrugged.  "I feel really sorry for you because you work for him."

"Most of the time it's fun.  I get to stare at a bunch of girls in bikinis at the pool.  Need help?"

"Could use it," Ryan offered.  "Thank you.  Plus a copy of the complaints she filed."  Willow pulled out a drawer and handed them to the investigator, who just smiled at that.  "Good job."

"I'm not the random, average stupid person, Ryan. Of course I made copies after the third one."  She went back to hefting things out of the bedroom, checking the drawers.  She had to get a shopping bag for her undies but that was fine.  She packed the kitchen.  "Well, honey, at least you're getting a lot of food since I just went grocery shopping."

"That's fine.  I've got a lot of room because I could use the shopping."  He got finished with her books and started to heft things down with the guard's help.  A few of the other ones came to help too, including a few of the guys.  "You guys need to watch out for more fires. Willow's wires were bare," he told one guy, who shuddered.  "Fire in her closet."

"We'll watch, sir.  I've had a few complaints of my own."  That got a nod and she came down with another box.  Everything else was gotten, her backpack and briefcase coming down last.  The manager had the check for her and she nodded that it was enough, heading home with him. The kid went to tell others what had happened.  They all needed to be careful.  Especially with as many of them had electronics in this building.  No one wanted their x-box to die in a fire.

Ryan got her settled onto his couch after they had the food upstairs with her backpack, briefcase, and some clothes for the next two days.  Then he settled in to comfort her.  She wasn't a happy person by any means.  She snuggled into his arms and even initiated the kissing tonight.  It was good.  The cat enjoyed the comfy sleeping spot they had made since he fell asleep on top of her on the couch.


Horatio looked up when Ryan came dragging in rubbing his back. "Bad night?" he asked.

"Willow's place caught on fire."

"Is she all right?"

"We were having dinner but the fuse box in her closet went.  They found bare wires in the ceiling and things.  So all her stuff is at my place and so is she."

"Xander does have a spare room," he noted.

"Yeah, but that's imposing and she doesn't want to listen to him spank someone since one of his clients is coming in tonight according to her."  Horatio nodded at that.  "She can have my couch, Horatio."

He looked at him.  "Looks like you both slept on the couch, Mr. Wolfe."  He blushed but shrugged a bit sheepishly.  "Are you fit for duty today?"

"I can't help lift a sumo wrestler but I'll be fine.  If not, I'll take lunch and go pay your boyfriend to work on my back for me."   That got a smile.  "Sorry I'm a bit late."

"It happens.  It's an excusable reason.  Go work."  He nodded, going to do that.  He made a note on his desk calender about hours.  Just in case.  They wanted him to keep better track of it.

Speed looked at Ryan. "Bad night?"

"Her apartment went up."

"She okay?"

"She was with me but her closet was trashed.  Fortunately the automatic sprinkler system was the only thing that was working electronically. She's doing laundry today."

"It'll be okay then.  Fall asleep on top?" he asked, seeing how he was standing.

"On the couch with her."

"Poor baby.  I won't send you out with Eric then.  Go help Calleigh with her case."  That got a nod and he called her on the way to get his stuff.  Speed went back to work.  Horatio leaned out of his office, staring down at him.  "Hey, you made it in," he said dryly.

"I've been catching up on the paperwork you neglected."

"Shit happens, H.  Ryan's going to help Calleigh.  Eric's out on a call.  You have that budget meeting in an hour, which means I don't have to fill in, so I'm going to go work on my own case.  Thanks for being in."  He walked off smirking.

Horatio shook his head and got back to work.  Speed was an asshole sometimes.


Xander looked at the place he used to work then sighed and walked in shaking his head.  "I know, the FBI kept me in New York. I'm here to pick up my last check since he *finally* got me clients."  She found it and handed it over.  "Thank you."

"Why did the FBI keep you?" the receptionist asked.

"I was nearly stolen from Las Vegas.  They found me seriously drugged on a plane."  She cooed.  "So I'm back but I'm supposedly under surveillance."  He grimaced.  "It happens.  Can I go clean out my locker?"  It was handed over in one of their gym bags. "Thanks."  He grinned.  "Anything in there I should know about?"

"The guard who did it kept your watch."

"What watch?"

"The pretty one you had in there."

"Uh-huh.  Besides that being theft, the person who stole me kept sending me gifts, like a rolex."  She went pale.  "So no, he can't have it.  It's evidence and they'll arrest him if they catch him with it.  Tell him to drop it to me in the mail with whatever box or wrapping it was in please.  I'll try to hold off Dad."  She nodded, calling him.  "Thanks, Marie."  He walked out with his things, heading back to his car.  He found the owner looking at it.  "What?"

"How did you afford a Jag that nice on your pitiful salary?"

"I've had it for a while now.  I had it before my interview, Craig."  He looked at him.  "I should warn you that the FBI is looking at whoever kidnaped me because they sent me presents.  They're going to be coming for any I got sent here.  So the watch that I got told the guard took should probably reappear and so should anything else that got stolen out of my locker."  His boss glared at him.  He stared back.  "That doesn't work on me.  It's the only friendly warning you'll get."

"You could've advertised."

"I did.  You ran off my clients. You didn't advertise so I had to.  You still canceled some of my clients without telling me.  Not like I had booking problems and I'll not have them wherever I go next."

"I won't give you a reference."

"Don't need it, Craig.  I've got plenty of personal ones."  He smirked and got in, heading back to the house.  He did call the local school of massage to get a list of their openings, and what classes they had going on right now.  He called one of them directly to apply for that opening and get an interview.  It was a nice place and even Yelina liked going there.  Gordon walked in while he was arranging times for an interview, getting a nod of recognition.  He finally hung up with a date and time set and looked at him.  "What's up?"

"Your dry cleaning?"

"Oops.  Knew I forgot to do something while I was out.  Thank you."

"Welcome."  He smiled at him.  "What are your plans now?"

"Well, I just set up an interview somewhere.  I got an idea from Don while I was up there about opening up an S&M club.  I'm still working on it, Gordon.  Why?  Did Granddad need help with something?  I was going to come out to play with the dog later."

He smiled.  "No, he's got everything down to a science and art now, Xander.  He was wondering what you were going to do about the lack of job."  He pointed at the paper in front of him, getting a smile.  "Good.  I would get a better suit than your two however."  That got a sigh.  "Some of the spas would expect you to be a bit less chic and a bit more classically impressive."

Xander nodded at that.  "I'll find where Horatio goes and go tomorrow."  That got a smile.  "I'm trying to be good."

"You're doing it very well.  Have you called Greg back?"

"Last night.  When my new minutes started."  That got a laugh.  "I called them about my bill and man!"

"I heard.  We saw it online."

"He tracks my bills for me?"

"Now and then we peek."

Xander shook his head.  "I've got it handled, really."

"I know.  Tell me about this club idea?"

"Don was thinking like where I used to work, but with a stage show.  We'd let cameras be on the stage.  Have two back hallways to rent rooms in.  One that was also broadcast online and one that wasn't. That way we could cater to both sides.  No showing anyone in the audience, only the few rooms.  Make it a bit classier than Max's."

"That might not work.  There's not a high demand for it down here."

"I know which is why I'm still thinking about it," he admitted.  "My private clients I see here anyway.  I don't take on the other guys at the moment."  That got a smile and a nod. "Max has referred someone to me and I'm meeting them tonight for their first session but otherwise nothing else at the moment.  I know he's stumbling on that issue himself now and then.  But I also thought about fronting it with a club club.  A bi club but a club."  That got another smile.  "That would make more money."

"It would.  Especially if you had a good hook.  It'd also be a lot of work."

"I know, which is another reason I'm hesitating.  I know where I'd put it.  There's a beautiful building down on Seacrest."  That got a smile.  "They said it used to be a club.  Fix that one up for the club itself and do the rest upstairs."

"That might be nice," he agreed. "There's also a club that could use some financial help if you were thinking about investments."

"I haven't even contemplated more than stuff I've got in CDs and things right now, Gordon.  Does it look promising?"

"It does.  They need some to remodel and are offering five percent returns for the year.  I can put them in touch with you if you'd like."

"Please.  Gay club or bi club?"

"Straight club.  Delko goes there a lot," he admitted.  Xander smiled at that.  "I don't think any of the gay clubs are remodeling but I'll check if you want."

"If you wouldn't mind.  I wouldn't mind that sort of investment."  That got a smile.  "Not like I don't need safe places to play too."

"True.  Though your favorite is a bi place."

"I know," he agreed with a grin.  "That's why I picked it."  That got an answering smile.  "Blue suit or black?"

"Black.  It's classic and you can dress it up with the shirts you already have or look like an undertaker or mafia hitman with the black shirt."  Xander chuckled at that.  "Now, what else are you doing today?"

"Making sure all my stuff's clean for the session tonight mostly.  Doing a few laps in the pool.  They're due out at four so we're done by the time Horatio gets home."

"Good boy."  He smiled.  "I'll let you know about that club.  I put the dry cleaning upstairs, Xander. Expect your grandsire or grandfather probably in two days for dinner."

"I've got a late client that night.  Horatio's going to have to hide if he's here."

"I'll let them know."  That got a nod and he left, going to fill in Patrick on what he said.  He still didn't like him being a dom but he accepted it and that he was helping people in his own way.


To next part: