The Dog's Life.

Horatio woke up to a very unhappy feeling and plucked the dog off his lower back, dropping him onto the floor.  "No."  He flipped onto his side and cuddled into Xander's warm, hidden mass - he was once again under the covers completely and hiding while trying to cuddle.  Which meant he still had blankets so that was nice of him.  The dog hopped back up and got up onto the pillows.  Horatio glared.  The dog licked him on the forehead and went for his ear.  Horatio got up and showered calmly, dressed just as calmly, then picked up the dog and whispered in Xander's ear.  "I'll be back.  I'll pick up breakfast so you sleep in."  He walked out, dog under his arm, and took him to the hummer.  The dog barked and wiggled so he let him use a bush first, then he climbed in and put the dog in the front seat with him.  "Stay."  The dog obediently sat and watched him drive.  He checked his watch.  Not too early for their vet.  He pulled up and got out, grabbing the dog under his arm again and walking him inside.  The secretary smiled at him.  "Fix him or I will."

"Is he humping things?"

"Everything."  He put him down and the dog spotted another canine creature, going over to sniff it.  It was a pureblood german sheppard and fully male by what he could see.  His little lover dog though, he hopped up onto the chair next to him, leapt over, and went to humping between his ears.  "See?"  He walked over to snatch him, shaking his head and getting pointed at a seat.  He sat down and looked at the dog.  "Him biting you would hurt more than the rose bush, Thumper."

The stunned owner of the sheppard looked at him.  "Added an extra letter for decency?"

Horatio looked and nodded.  "Definitely."  He put the dog beside him.  "Stay!"  The dog sat on the chair, watching around.  A cat came in and he barked but the daddy glared so he settled down.  He didn't like cats.  They chased him.

"Well, at least there's one thing he won't hump in here," the other owner said dryly.

Horatio looked at him and nodded.  "Yes he will.  He doesn't like them but he will.  He does the rose bush at home."  She smiled at that.  "Yelps every time too."  He sighed when he saw the dog moving off.  "Get back here, Thumper."  The dog came scrambling back.  "Thank you."

"Leash?" the secretary suggested.

"He won't train to one.  We've tried.  Believe me we've tried."

"Sometimes you need a firm hand," she offered.

"His owner's a Master."

"Oh, then he really won't train," she sighed, nodding.  "Fixing him might help."  They heard a yelp and looked around, finding the dog loving their office cactus.   Horatio moaned and she went to get the doctor.  He'd probably need some spines pulled.

"Thumper," he said, glaring at him. "Get off the plant!  Now!"  The dog finished with a sigh and barked happily at the plant before coming over to nuzzle the daddy for some cuddles.  His other daddy got cuddles after sex so it was a good thing to him too.  Horatio looked at him then petted his ears.  The other two owners looked at him in awe.  "All the time, rose bushes too," he admitted.  "People.  My hummer.  A squirrel he chased and pinned the other day."  The doctor came out and Thumper barked happily.  He liked him.  He gave him good ear pets.  He ran over to him and got to work on his leg.  "Thumper," he growled.  The dog slunk back.  "Sorry."

"That's okay, it's your turn anyway, Lieutenant.  Come on, Thumper."  The dog trotted after him, Horatio following.  "The cactus?" he asked when he noticed the dog was walking a bit funny.

"The catcus, the gernan sheppard's head, the cat....  My head and lower back this morning.  Please fix him."

"We can do that," he promised.  He picked Thumper up and put him onto the table to look at.  "Two spines, I'm impressed, and a thorn from the rose bush that we missed."  He carefully plucked them out, getting yelps.  "Sorry, Thumper."  He stroked his stomach for him, getting happy puppy barks again.  "Fully fix him or just cut his tubes?"

"Whichever will mean I won't wake up to having my ear molested again."  Or his mouth because the dog had tried once and nearly got thrown off the balcony for it. But he would not admit that under penalty of being shot.  Ever.

"Okay, let's go ahead and do the full ball removal then.  It should stop that."  Horatio gave him a horrified look.  "As you very well know, there are other fluids involved in ejaculation, Lieutenant.  The same as chemically castrating sex offenders doesn't guarantee they won't go after someone again."

"True.  Can we do it in such a way as to make him impotent?"

"No, that would be cruel."  He gave Horatio a look.  "Xander would not like that."

"Point."  He waved a hand.  "I don't care how much it costs, please fix him."

"We will.  Can you pick him up about four?"  Horatio nodded.  "Then I'll do him at lunch and we'll let him sleep it off this afternoon."  Horatio shook his hand and left him there.  "You, young man, are going to be shaved.  You'll like that.  Most men do."  He walked him off, taking him back to the back room.  "This one's in to be fixed."

"Clipped or castrated?" the assistant back there asked.

"He found pleasure with our cactus."

"Means I don't have to water it this week," she said fondly, looking at the dog.  "I know you.  Hi, Thumper."  The dog barked and wiggled, so she took him to hold, weigh, and measure.  While he tried her wrist.  "Castrated?" she suggested, putting him into a cage with one last pet.

"His second father woke up with him trying his ear and he was trying a german sheppard outside earlier."

"Ah.  Should I give him a toy?"

"Put in one of the washable ones.  Let him have his last few hours of pleasure.  It'll wear him out so he'll go under easier."  She nodded, getting a rolled up washcloth and putting it in there with him.  He yelped at one thing so he pulled him out and found the spine he missed, putting him back into the cage.  "From the cactus."

"I thought you were joking."  He walked out shaking his head.  The dog was happy enough with it but he wasn't barking or growling so she added a bit of wood inside the washcloth, giving him a hard edge.  He liked that more and sped up.  "You're a strange dog, Thumper."  She closed the cage door and went back to giving medicines.


Horatio woke Xander up with breakfast in bed, making his sleepy lover smile. "I told you I'd pick up breakfast on the way back from the vet's."

"Is Thumper okay?"

"Being fixed."  Xander gave him a look.  "I don't care, he tried me again twice this morning.  He got their cactus, Xander."

"He has once before," he admitted.  "The old nurse thought it was adorable."  He sat up to dig in.  "Aren't you eating?"

"I nibbled while I put things together so you could sleep in."  He laid down beside him and gave him a kiss.  "I'm sorry I took him without telling you but he needed to go."

"He probably did."  He ate a bite then held one up for him.  "Share?"

Horatio sucked it from his fingers. "You eat and then I'll share."  Xander nodded and dug in, leaving the last few bites to tease him with.  The teasing turned into kissing and then stroking but then Speed came over.  "Busy," he growled when Speed walked in.

"Is the dog okay?"

"Being fixed," Horatio said between kisses, one hand moving to Xander's stomach to stroke.

Speed smiled and took the breakfast tray, letting Xander pounce for his other breakfast.  Speed went back downstairs, smiling at Calleigh.  "It'll be a few.  They're celebrating Thumper being fixed."

"Is he here?"


Xander moaned and then Horatio yelped, but Xander let out an evil chuckle so they weren't going to save him.  Xander bounced down the stairs twenty minutes later showered and dressed for the anticipated ride.  "Hi, dad.  Hi, stepmom.  Horatio's soaking in a bath so it'll be a few more minutes."

"Were you mean?" Speed teased.

"No, I'm a good boy," he said with a good boy smile and innocent look.  Speed snickered and drug him off to go for their ride while Calleigh puttered until Horatio came down.

"Are you all right?"

"Better," he admitted.  "I woke up with Thumper on my back."

"At least he was on the right end this time."

"He tried for my ear again.  It'll be nice to be able to sleep on my side."

"Close the bedroom door at night," she offered.

"He whimpered pitifully until Xander let him in."  She smiled and gave him a punch on the arm.  "He's being fixed today even if Xander does pout.  He was humping the cactus at the vet's office."

"Well, the rose bush will need watered more regularly but that'll be fine."  She led him downstairs to look over Xander's weapon collections.  "Did you realize we didn't see any of the swords the last time?"

"I was trying not to think about him having another area," he admitted.  He heard the house phone ring and jogged up to get the nearer one.  "Horatio.  No, this is Xander's house, he's out for a ride with Speed.  Timmy, yes."  He nodded.  "I can have him call you.  No, he hasn't checked his email in a few days actually.  We're on limited vacation."  He smiled. "I'll have him do that when he comes home.  Are you sure I can't take another message?"  He wrote down what the young woman said.  "I'll let him know the first time I hear from him.  Of course.  You as well."  He hung up and made sure the phone was hung up.  Then he called Xander's cell.  "Call me, I just intercepted a plea for help from The Covenant for you?"  He hung up and walked downstairs.  "The Covenant?"

"Um...  Role playing group?" she suggested, shrugging a bit.  "No idea, Horatio.  Ask Greg?  Or maybe Don?"  They heard someone rush in and grab something then rush out, then the sound of Speed's motorcycle.  "Apparently it was important."  He nodded and they got to work finding the other hidden spots for the armory.  Because he had to have some.  Xander wouldn't have gotten rid of all the swords.  He loved the swords more than he did his guns.  Nearly as much as he did his dog.  The same way Horatio loved his hummer.  "Should we start in the sub-basement?"

"Unless it's hidden magically we were all over down there the last time."  They shared a look.  "We won't need to wake Willow or Ethan up."  He went up to the office, concentrating until he found Xander's 'emergency switch', turning it off.  She squeaked so he headed back down there.  "Ah, three new doors."  They opened the first one after she had picked the lock with another hairpin, finding it empty.  The other two were the same.  They shared a look and went into the sub-basement.  No new openings.  Then through the rest of the house, finding them in the small area next to the study.  He had thought it was the wall between the study, the kitchen, and under the stairs.  Well, now they had a doorway.  They were all nicely in racks, neatly gleaming in the soft light.  Horatio noticed a packed bag in the corner and looked inside, then zipped it back up.  "His emergency pack."  Two pounds of shrink-wrapped explosives, a kitchen timer, and a handgun along with a few sets of clothes and a wallet with cash and a few credit cards he hadn't seen before.  It was enough to get him away if someone tried to take him again. He went to turn the switch back to the neutral setting then went to dig into the explosives closet.  Because Toby was giving Xander things he probably shouldn't have - again.


Xander finished his call and walked back to where Speed was resting on the bike.  "Sorry."


"Someone I helped before," he admitted, glancing around then at him.  "They were having an 'I don't know who to trust' moment up in New York."

Speed looked at him.  "So, they were messed up in what?"

"The Covenant is a group home," he said, looking at him.  "Started by a hacker I met through someone else. They take in runaways and abused kids but they're not part of the system officially."  That got a nod.  "But one of their kids came up missing last night at bed check and never came back."


"Not this kid.  Not willingly."  That got him hugged.  "Not quite as bad as I was," he admitted, hugging back.  "They didn't know who they could trust to report it to without blowing the house open and having someone more official coming in to bust them all for living together and the oldest only being seventeen."

"That happens now and then," Speed admitted. "You tell them to call Don?"

"I told them to call Tara.  That she's dating a homicide detective, knows the good people in the lab.  Plus she could probably help them now and then anyway."  Speed grinned at that.  "She'll fuss so badly over those kids, dad."

"Good.  They could probably use it."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Helped them get started?"

"With some of that first check Granddad gave me," he agreed.  "She needed help buying the building.  I think Mac's going to find that she's a good person to know since she's a legal hacker.  Worked for the Feebs before and things."

Speed grinned.  "Good! That sounded like an excellent idea, son."  Xander beamed at that.  "Did you call Tara to warn her?"

"Yup, and left a cryptic message on Mac's voicemail for his cellphone telling him to trust her and to let them live since they're doing good things."  He shrugged.  "I don't know where Mac is."

"Hopefully asleep since it was probably his day off."  Xander blushed at that. "Stella was planning on pouncing him again today."  Xander smirked.  "He needs it."

"He does.  He's stubborn.  More stubborn than I am."  He gave him another hug and put his phone into his pocket on vibrate.  He plugged in his earbud by feel, then put back on his helmet.  "Can we ride some more?"

"Sure."  He straddled the bike and Xander climbed on behind him, clinging to him so they could go for another ride now that the crisis was handled.


Tara hung up with Xander and sighed, then went to answer the knock at the door.  She looked at the young woman.  "I talked to Xander."  The woman sighed and nodded, walking inside.  "Don's upstairs."

"The problem is that we're all underaged, Tara."

She smiled and stroked her cheek.  "The Goddess calls some sooner than others to do great things for humanity, Webber."  She smiled.  "I'll bully Don into not reporting you."  That got a smile and a nod.  "Go into the kitchen, there's cookies and milk."  She closed the door and went up to wake up Don, getting a sleepy smile.  "Xander sent someone to us to help but we can't tell anyone we know they exist."

"Aliens?" he asked sleepily.

"A group home that's not officially running for some kids like him."  Don sat up and swung his legs around, pulling on his pants.  "One of their kids disappeared last night."  He looked at her.  "Please don't tell the official people about them?"

"I won't if I don't have to," he promised, pulling on a shirt and giving her a kiss.  He headed down the stairs, looking at the young woman.  Biracial, pretty but her features were a bit off.  Her eyes were canted but larger than they really should be.  Her nose was a bit too big as well but her chin was weaker.  "Hey.  Don Flack," he said, shaking her hand.

"Oh, thank God, Xander sent me to someone who has a clue."  She looked at him.  "I'm Webber."

"Huh.  I thought you were male and a myth."

She smiled.  "Not quite and no one ever respects female hackers.  One of the kids at The Covenant disappeared.  They weren't in at bed check.  We've checked the usual spots.  We're worried his family took him back by force.  They're not the nicest of folks and he left because they were trying to beat him into not being artistic and being military minded."  Don nodded at that.  "He was the one I took in because Xander asked as a condition of the grant he gave us to buy the building."  She nibbled on a cookie. "These are great."

Don smiled.  "Tara made 'em.  She's homey like that."  He sat down.  "What do we know on the kid?"  She handed over a file from her back waistband.  He looked it over then at her.  "You gathered this?"

"I think Xander did.  The kid came into the club one night from what he said.  He said he realized what was going on and helped the kid, but that was about the same time he found out about us and he let him come stay with us when he gave us the money we needed for our building fund."  She finished her cookie.  "He's a great kid, Detective.  He's very artistic and his father's military.  They've never understood him.  He went to a military boarding school and they had to discharge him for attempted suicide."  Don nodded at that.  "All we want to do is make sure he's safe."

"I'll see what I can pull," he agreed.  "Without busting you guys to CPS or anyone.  Can I bust his folks?"

"If you want.  I'd gladly love for someone to."

Don nodded. "Then let me go check on the kid for you.  You stay here or in contact?"

She handed over a card.  "Call me if you need me."

He nodded so she left.  He headed up the stairs to get dressed in a suit and his badge and gun, plus his cuffs that Tara found.  He gave her a kiss.  "Xander's a good guy."  She nodded.  "Be safe while I'm gone.  Call Doc about that new assignment you wanted to talk to him about."  She smiled and nodded again so he left, going to check on the family's home.  Something was definitely going on in there. It was way too quiet, like no one was alive, and he was getting that 'wrong!' feeling that shouted at him to pull his gun immediately.  He walked up to the nearest neighbor's house and flashed his badge.  "Ma'am, I'm here on a runaway kid's behalf."

"They drug their son home last night," she said, staring at him.  "Why now?"

"Because they were evil bastards to him according to what we know."  She slumped and nodded.  "I need to know what you've seen so far today.  Please."

"Fine.  Get in here before they wonder."  She let him inside.  "He's a bit paranoid."

"I would be too."  He sat down and nodded politely at her husband.  "Detective Flack, sir.  Someone asked me to intervene in the boy across the street's behalf."

"They got him back already," he said, looking confused.  Don put the picture in the file in front of them, making him blanche.  "I can't say as it doesn't surprise me.  Usually the guy's really nice but now and then he snaps and gets paranoid.  They removed a land mine from his backyard a few years back, Detective."

Don nodded.  "Do we know if he's got any right now?"

"Don't know.  He's been puttering in the flowers again," the wife said, sitting across from him.  She looked at the picture then at him. "You're sure?"

"The people he went to had him safely there and let him be as artistic as he wanted to be.  They're the ones who took the photo.  They're also the ones who called since he missed bed check last night."

They looked at each other then nodded.  The husband looked at him again.  "You've got an uphill battle, Detective, and I'd call his CO.  That's how his first wife got away from him."  Don smiled at that.  "That's his new wife and she's just as looney as he is when he snaps."

"Thank you.  Do we think the boy's in immediate trouble?"  They both nodded.  "Did we report them?"

"CPS considers them too dangerous to get into it with after the landmine a few years back," the wife said quietly.  "They're the ones who called his former commanding officer to help get his first wife out with their son."

Don nodded and stood up.  "Then I know who I can go to get the boy help.  If you see anything really bad, let me know, please?" he asked, digging out a card and handing it over.  "I'm going to try to get him out by this afternoon."

"Thanks, Detective.  We like the guy when he's normal and all but right now he's back into a snapped and scary phase."

"I'll keep that in mind.  Thank you both."  He walked out and drove off, sitting down the block but barely out of sight from that house.  He called Mac's home phone.  "Stella?"  He grimaced.  "No, you have to let him go free. I need some help to save a young boy from his father. Because CPS had to get his commanding officer to get the boy and his mother out the first time.  The CO's dead according to the file I got handed.  So I need Mac and his push."  He smiled.  "Tell him the guy planted a land mine a few years back too."  She put Mac on.  "It's me.  No, not active service and it sounds like the guy's off his meds personally.  The neighbors said he snaps now and then and plants a landmine or other stuff in the yard.  Exactly.  Navy.  Please.

"Actually, we got it because Xander referred them to me because I wouldn't turn in the new place he's living since it's not fully legal but it's good for him.  Long story, Mac.  Let's just say... The Covenant came calling."  Mac made a happy sound at that.  "Apparently the kid went to Xander and Xander helped them with their building fund so they took in the boy for him.  Yeah, he went missing sometime last night.  Please.  Willow Brook Lane.  Yup, that's us," he sighed.  "You know him?"  He nodded, making a few notes.  "Tell them you have to come.  Bring Stella if you want. The kid could probably use some comfort.  He's got a second wife and the neighbors said she's just as bad.  Thanks, Mac.  I'm here."  He hung up and waited moving to where he could keep an eye on the house.  It was too quiet in there and he didn't like that.

Mac showed up an hour later, dressed professionally, his pin on his lapel as usual.  He looked at the house then at him.  "Any idea if he's planted more explosives?"

"They said he's been puttering in the flowerbeds recently.  The neighbors across the street didn't have any idea."

"Okay.  I've got SWAT on standby if we need them.  They're up the street.  They were here before.  Is the kid still alive?"  Don shrugged.   "No clue?"

"I wasn't about to sneak up and look in the windows."

"Good idea with this guy."  He got in to drive, parking the car in front of the house.  Then he got out and Don followed him up to the door.  "Detective Taylor, NYPD," he said to the woman who opened it.  "We were called to do a check on your son.  Someone heard screaming."

She blinked at him.  "I don't think that's possible, Detective."

"It was reported, ma'am, and we do have to check.  It shouldn't take more than a moment."  He stared her down and she looked away.  "Thank you."  He forced his way inside.  "Sir, Detective Taylor."

"What rank were you?" he asked.

"Captain."  The man slumped because Mac outranked him, even from a different service and he knew what that meant.  "Now, we were told to check on your son, sir."  He shrugged.  "We can do this the hard way if you prefer."  The man lunged at him but Don blocked him and got him down.  "Thank you, Detective Flack."  He headed toward the bedroom area, not letting the wife get in his way.  He found the boy's room and winced.  There was clear signs of a struggle.  He looked at her.  "Where is he?"

"He's gone!"

"I don't doubt that.  Where?"  She went pale.  "Now!" he snapped.  She went ramrod straight.  "Where is the boy?"

"Downstairs," she whispered.  He went down to the basement and found him curled up in a ball.  "He deserved it," she shrieked, then slammed and locked the door.

Mac looked then shook his head, calling SWAT.  "I'm in, the boy needs medical attention, and Detective Flack's alone with the parents.  I'm in the basement with the boy.  They said he may have planted things in the flower beds," he reported.

"Roget.  ETA two minutes.  Ambulance is with us," was reported over the walkie talkie feature.

Mac looked at the boy.  "Philip, I'm Detective Taylor.  Xander put Webber in touch with myself and Detective Flack."  The boy moaned and looked up at him. "You'll be okay, son.  We're getting you help."

"Front lawn.  Pattern points out the pathway."

Mac called back.  "There's a pattern on the lawn," he reported.  "Flowers?"  He nodded.  "The flowers point at the safe path."

"Thanks for the warning," the team leader agreed.  They heard one small explosion and then he called back.  "Even better.  Flipped a rock on one the rest on that side went off.  Basement is where?"

"Kitchen."  He heard shouting and then silence.  Then Don opened the door.  "Get the paramedics down here, Don."

"Mac, we found a girl's room.  No sign of her yet."

Mac looked around.  "No other bodies down here, Don.  Can you track it?"

"Sure."  He got out of the paramedic's way, stopping the one he knew.  "The kid ran somewhere safe but illegal.  He's got a safe spot."  That got a nod and he headed down to help.  Mac followed the boy up. "You going?"

"Yeah.  Unless you need me?"  Don shook his head.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  So, handcuffs?"  Mac moaned and walked out shaking his head.  Don smirked.  He'd have to help Stella and Danny plan their next attempt to get Mac.  Everyone should be as happy as he was.  He looked at the other guys.  "Find the daughter?"  They shook their heads.  "Okay, you guys know he's got explosives. I'm going to be in here asking about the daughter.  Go for it."  They went to do that.  It was going to be a messy job and one they hated.  He looked the wife over.  "How old is the girl?"

"I'm not saying anything," she spat and tried to kick him.  "No real woman would ever let thugs hurt their children."

"Lady, my girl's thousands of times better than you.  If our future kids were here I'd have put her away by now."  The man on the floor groaned.  He was unconscious but the boy had been the first priority so they'd be getting another ambulance for him.  "Now, where's the girl?"

"She's safe from you.  You won't touch her."

"I don't wanna touch her, I want to make sure she's really safe."  He went into their study to glance around casually.  Bills on the desk.  He loved people who did things like that.  He found two military academies being paid and looked at them.  They were in the open so it was all right.  Someone came in and he looked at the social worker.  "Hey, we didn't wanna wake you up."

"Why not?"

"The boy ran away a bit ago to somewhere safe and they stole him back."


"An unofficial group home that's not on the streets.  They gave a damn about him."  She pursed her lips.  "It's safe and good.  I promise it is."

"What would they get busted for?"

"The head's only eighteen."

"Oh.  One of those.  A lot of the kids form bands and live together."

"This one's got their own building and stuff.  The kid was going to school and stuff too."  She smiled at that.  "We really can't help you with the home.  This home you're more than welcome to."

"I can see that.  The boy?"

"Taken to the hospital but there's a girl somewhere.  I'm guessing one of these two academies."

She came over to look then pointed at one.  "That's got female students. The other's exclusively male."  She took it to look over.  "The account goes back a while too.  I'll call and check on that, Detective..."


"I've worked with your father."  She looked at him.  "The boy will be safe?"

"He is.  A friend I know helped them buy the building they're in."  She nodded at that and left with what they had, going to find the girl's room to find her identity if she could.  Or even pictures.  Don walked out and found the paramedics checking them both.  "She was awake when I went into the office, he was starting to groan."

"She held her breath," one of the SWAT guys offered.  "We let her.  Less trouble if she's passed out."  Don smiled at that.  "We know he's a medicine case, Detective."

"I heard people've been here before."  He handed over the original file to the social worker when she came back.  "That's on him if you need it to get them but please let them have him back?"

"As long as he's safe.  I'll go to the hospital and ask him that and if he wants to go there instead of into the system.  If so I'll allow it."  She looked at the picture then at the father.  Then she spit on him.  "How long did they have him?"

"Last night sometime.  Mac found him in the basement."

"Good.  Just gets deeper and deeper for them.  The nice CSI went with the boy?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  I'll check in with him."  She walked out with the file, going to do that and file her preliminary findings.  There was going to be a lot of people who would be seeing her today.  She ran into Mac in the ER, smiling at him.  "How is our boy?"

"He's fine, Delores.  Don talked to you?"

"As long as I know he's safe, well cared for, and content to stay there I'll let it be," she agreed.  "The system can't do better than that."  He nodded and let her into the cubicle they had put the boy in.  "Hi, I'm Delores Fischer, I'm with CPS, young man."  He gave her a horrified look.  "Relax.  I was told you were hiding somewhere safe.  If that's true and you're content to stay there all I need to know is that they're doing good for you and that you're protected."

Mac looked at him.  "Be honest with her.  Don't mention names."

The boy nodded and looked at her.  "I'm fine there. I'm happy.  They let me draw and do murals for them."  She smiled at that. "They even nag me to go to school.  They take good care of me and the girls mother me to death."

"Then I'm not going to put you into the system, young man."  He smiled at that.  "Good boy.  Now, I would like to debrief you about your parents if I could.  I'm going to be charging them with child endangerment and abuse.  Plus we're looking for the sister you had."

"Stepmother's daughter.  Screwed up from her," he said weakly.  "Dad put her into military school.  She did better than I did."

"That's what we thought from what we saw."  She stroked over his forehead.  "All right.  Let me get a tape recorder?"  He nodded and Mac handed one over.  "Should've known you had one for me.  Did you take pictures to document?"

"I did," he agreed.  "They're also going to be facing charges for the landmines in the front yard."  She nodded at that and pulled a chair over to talk to him about what had been going on in the house.  Mac stood guard and only let the nurses in.  At least until a young man walked up to the curtains.  He gave him a curious look.  "Yes?"

"I'm staying with Philip," he said quietly.  "We wanted to come visit and know when he could come home."

"They're going to keep him overnight for observation and there's a social worker in there getting a statement on his family," he admitted.  He looked at him.  "I'm Mac Taylor."  He handed over his card.  "Make sure the house mother gets that, all right?  She can come to me directly if this sort of thing happens again."  That got a nod and a faint smile.  "Though, Tara would probably make you guys tons of cookies if you hinted you wanted any."  That got a bigger smile.  "He'll be in a room in about two hours so sneak in then, all right?"  That got a nod and the boy jogged off.  He smiled and went back to watching out for the kid.  It was a good place and he wouldn't complain about this bit of quietness.  Though he did wonder how Xander knew a hacker.


Xander stopped in at the vet's, giving the receptionist a pitiful look.  "I'm checking on my poor humping puppy.  Is he all right?"

"He's ready to go home if you wanted," she offered with a smile.  "They took him in after he escaped for the second time to hump the cactus.  He's going to be a bit sore."  Xander nodded at that.  "Let me get the doc for you, Xander."

Speed walked in.  "He good?"

"He's ready to go home.  So maybe he can ride in my shirt this one time?"

"Sure."  He patted him on the back. "It's only five minutes until we get home and he'll be fine since he's probably sleepy."  He called Horatio.  "We're picking up the dog."   He looked at Xander.  "They're going to make you pay for it."  Xander patted himself down and sighed.  "You've got his wallet back there, H.  Thanks.  He'll be here in ten minutes."  They brought the dog out and he looked at the receptionist.  "Horatio is bringing money."

"That's fine.  I can try to run it on the card we've got on the system."

"I think that one's in maintenance this weekend. It didn't work earlier," Xander admitted. "But go ahead and try."  He sat down with his poor baby.  "Thumper, daddy's here," he soothed, petting his ears.  "You're a good boy.  Yes you are, you're a very good boy, Thumper."

Speed looked at the sleepy dog.  "We'll give him soft food tonight and let him nap wherever he wants."  Xander grinned at that.    Horatio pulled in and parked, walking inside.  "He can go home if you'll pay the nice lady."

Horatio handed over his personal credit card. "Thank you," he said quietly.

"It was our pleasure to have him here today, boys.  He was a delightful reason and how we talked a few other owners into fixing their own pets so they wouldn't get quite that bad.  Since he went to molest the male sheppard we had in here earlier.....  They decided that little dogs are very brave and every animal should be fixed because the sheppard only groaned and swatted at him a few times."

"He's a very loving dog," Xander agreed, picking him up to hold.

"True.  He loved my ankles, your ankles, Ryan's ear, Willow's back and chest once from what she complained, her cat, Calleigh rose bush a lot, Eric's legs and hands, and head that once, H's ears."  Xander glared at him.  He grinned back.  "He did."

"That's not love, that's just sex.  There's a difference."

"There is," Horatio agreed, taking the dog to hold.  "Want to go home, Thumper?"  The dog barked quietly.  "Good boy. You can ride in the hummer.  Boys, Calleigh and I started dinner." They nodded at the vet techs and headed home, following the hummer there. Horatio put the dog down onto the seat beside him and petted him. "Good boy."

Xander walked in and frowned.  "Who was playing with my emergency switch?"

"Horatio did," Calleigh called from the living room.  "We went looking for the swords, Xander."

"You could've asked."  He walked in there.  "Don't delete things off the TIVO," he moaned.

"It's stuff Eric said he already had, Xander.  I checked."  He sighed and nodded, going to reset the protection Ethan had helped him with to where it should be.  Horatio walked in and handed her the dog.  "Hi, Thumper.  Are you okay, little guy?"  He growled at her. "I know, it was mean but necessary."  She put him down onto the couch and petted him, keeping him calm.  "I'm sorry it hurt."  She saw Speed smiling at her. "If I ever get pregnant I'll baby you the same way after I fix you too."  He snickered walking off.  "He thinks I'm kidding but he'll find out," she assured the dog.

"Then you'd miss it later on."

"They have companies to preserve it, sweetie."

"You'd still miss it and me, plus I'd sic Xander on you."  He stared at her from the kitchen.

Xander leaned into the living room.  "Castrating Daddy means I'd have to be mean plus let Willow help fix him back, Stepmom."   She shuddered at that.  Willow would have an accident and he'd be inhumanly large by the time she was done.  "Exactly."  He grinned and waved at his dog.  "Wanna use a bush now or later?"  The dog thumped his tail a few times so he carried him out to the bushes he liked to use.  Then back inside when he was done.  His poor boy settled with a sigh and a head on her thigh for a nap.  It was time for a nap.  Xander went into the kitchen but Speed turned him around and shooed him out.  "I was going to get a drink, Dad."

"You being in here scares me."  Xander pouted so he got him a can of soda and shooed him off.  "Go pounce Horatio until dinner."  Xander gave him the most wicked grin and went to do that.  Horatio even groaned prettily so they could hear it.

Calleigh looked down at the dog.  "Hopefully we won't have to fix him someday too.  He'd miss the pouncing."  She finished taking the stuff off the TIVO that Eric swore he already had and it started to tape something else so he flipped to see what it was taping. "Why is he taping this show?" she asked, looking disgusted.  "Speed?"  He came out to watch over her shoulder, frowning a bit.  "Why is he taping this excuse for bad decorating?  I mean, who decorates in leather swags and red lights?"

"Lady Heather's on later," came from upstairs.

"Oh, okay," she called back, going to a different show.  She really didn't want to watch one on how to tie down someone and have sex.  It just wasn't her thing.  Speed went back to the kitchen with a small head shake.  So maybe he didn't understand either.  "He does get some odd shows," she called.

"No, I was more upset by their decorating scheme.  How Halloween and cheesy was that?"  He shuddered.  Xander giggled and Horatio made him moan so they were having fun and dinner would be ready soon.


Horatio came in the last day of the month and found a note on his door to call the Chief immediately.  He walked into his office and looked at the mess so he called on his cellphone.  "Why is my office a mess?"  He listened.  "Uh-huh.  Do we know who did it?"   He nodded  once.  "Then I think I have a job for someone today."  He hung up and walked back out to his walkway.  "Who's free?"  Eric and Speed both raised their hands.  "My office is torn up."  They got their stuff and came upstairs to figure out who had done it.

Eric sniffed then looked at him.  "Someone had sex in here too."

"Charming.  If you find out who please do tell me."  Speed handed over a pair of panties.  "Those are not mine or Xander's," he noted, opening a bag for them.  He noted the source on the bag and took them down to Valera.  She smiled at him.  "These were just found in my office," he said, handing them over.  "Someone trashed it."

"Eww."  He nodded.  She took the bag and got to work with a swab.  "I'll let you know who and how many I find, Horatio."

"Please do.  The boys are up there."  He walked off shaking his head, running into Ryan.  "How long have you been here?"

"I'm the one who found the mess and called the Chief.  He said to let you come in and call him because we had no idea who it was.  They were wearing Chanel but I can't tell you otherwise."  That got a single nod.  "He said to play it that way."

"Why call him and not me?"

"He sent around a memo about the people trying to discredit you since we haven't found that one special fruitcake who gave you the porn from evidence."  That got a small smile.  "He's the one who said to call him and let him tell you.  That way it keeps you out of implication."

"How long ago was this?"

"Two weeks.  Calleigh, that memo was two weeks ago?"

"Yup.  Sorry, Horatio, but keeping you in the dark meant you couldn't compromise your own investigation."

"That's fine.  Someone broke into my office."

"I got the text from Speed.  They're up there now, Ryan."

"Let me log in from my case this morning."  He went to do that then headed up there. "Guys, I'm the one who found it and called the Chief."  They both looked at him.  "Whoever was wearing Chanel and I checked the tapes, they were blanked out."

"Physically or was it too dark?" Speed asked.

"They didn't have a black patch over them but it sure looked that way.  All I saw was an ankle on one and they're still down.  Cooper's trying to figure out why."

"Ask Willow," Eric said dryly.

"She doesn't wear Chanel."

"Doesn't mean she can't tell if whoever did it does."

"True.  Hadn't thought about that.  But who would....  Anya."  He walked off calling his wife.  "Call Cooper.  Ooh, he did?"  He nodded.  "Please.  Smells like Chanel.  Office is a total mess.  I saw panties."  He smiled and leaned into DNA.  "Willow thinks she knows who.  What did the panties look like?"  They were held up.  "Red thongs about a size four."

"Six," Valera corrected.

"Six, Willow."  He nodded.  "Thanks."  He hung up.  "She's coming in with an older reference sample of hair if it doesn't match anywhere.  We think we know who did this."  He walked off to talk to Cooper.  "Any luck?"

"Not yet.  When is the wifey-poo getting here?"  Willow appeared behind him.  "Damn you're good," he said in awe.

"Of course I am, baby."  She smirked and came over to look at the cameras.  "Cheap parlor tricks."  She undid one.  "There you go.  That should work."  She undid the other and smiled.  "Did we not see the backup filter?"

"I did.  I can't trace where it goes since it's beamed."

"Patrick's guys put them up," she said, kissing him on the cheek.  She walked out, heading down to DNA.  She leaned in and handed over the locket.  "The long brown hair."  That got her a funny look.  "If I'm right it was the Xander-ex."

"Oh.  Why?"

"She's not happy that her twelve boys a month aren't doing it for her as well as he did."

"No wonder Horatio looked so tired."  She clamped a hand over her mouth. "You didn't hear me say that."  Willow burst out in giggles, shaking her head.  "Thank you."

"Probably true but I'm not a see and say."  She winked and went back to AV to kiss her mate then she disappeared from there.

Ryan hummed and looked smug.  "Did they capture anything?"

"Let me check."  He copied their last output again.  "Nice picture of you kissing your wife but no."  He shrugged and checked the other one.  "This one's still got static and an ankle.  Sorry, Ryan."

"It's all right.  Not your fault."  He went back to work on his new case.  He heard Speed yell at then throw a fit. "Hmm, looks like we can prove it was the skanky slut."

Speed stormed into DNA, plucking out a hair and handing it over. "That one as well."

"Sure."  She prepared that one to be run as well.  "She did really good collecting hair properly."  He scowled and stomped off again.  "Not a happy camper and Calleigh's going to be tired later."  She giggled and got back to work. She had no idea why she was blurting out those thoughts today but she probably should stop.  Horatio came in when she paged.  "This is who it belonged to. The second reference sample that made Speed grumpy.  Has Calleigh made him cheer up yet?"  She covered her mouth. "Oops."

He looked at her.  "What did you do last night, Valera?"

"Stayed in, watched some girly movies, went to bed."  He raised an eyebrow.  "I went to some new bookstore earlier in the day."

"Hmm."  He walked out, calling Ethan.  "Whatever you did to Valera and the rest of my lab stop it or I'm giving Xander four candy bars and sending him down there."  He hung up and all of the techs who had gotten hit were suddenly cured of their habit of saying embarrassing things.  He walked into Speed's lab, hearing the growl.  "Who was the second sample?"  He pointed at the envelope on the edge of his table so he slit it open.  He frowned at the card then at him.  "Who?"

"Flip it over, H."

He did and the angel motif came up.  "Interesting. I didn't think the sulking vampire, as Xander called him last night, would wear Chanel or size six panties."

"No but his pet bitch does."

"Cordelia," he said, putting it back and resealing it.  "Are we sure?"

"The second reference sample was hers, the first was Anya's."

"Ah."  He nodded at that.  "That was my worry."

"Didn't Willow stake her?"

"No, her cheerleaders," Ryan said as he walked in.  "I was calling her in the hallway to see if she was bringing lunch and asked her when I heard the name mentioned before you ask.  She wasn't there."  He shrugged and handed over a report.  "From chem, Speed."  That got a nod and a frown at the report.   "Not a clue, that's what the underlying blue substance was under the lube."

"Interesting.  Could be helpful."  He put it aside.  "She didn't see Cordy?"

"Nope.  We can call LA, see if she's up.  Oz is out there."

"Oz is out at Patrick's right now because he was going to kill Anya."

"Oh.  Well, could be worse I guess."

"Yeah."  Horatio called out there.  "Thanks, I didn't want to waste new gloves."

Horatio smiled. "Gordon, is Oz there?"  He smiled at the quiet man who came onto the phone.  "Oz, it's Horatio.  Yes, Xander's Horatio.  We think Cordelia broke into my office last night.  Would that be possible?"  He smirked.  "Thank you."  He hung up and nodded. "She is still living, vaguely as he put it, and may have followed him out here."  Both boys gave him an evil smirk.  "Show her picture around, Speed.  It's sad but she might try to get Eric when he's out on his rounds tonight."  That got a nod and he turned so Ryan could get his wallet for him.  Horatio looked.  "Go back one."  He did.  "When was that?"

"Our first ride together down here."

He smiled.  Xander had looked so happy and cuddly that day.  Ryan found the old group photo.  He extracted it and put Speed's wallet back.  Speed pointed at one, getting a nod and Ryan went to show Eric first then the others just in case. Because they should know.  Horatio looked at him.  "Have I ever thanked you for bringing me that bit of insanity and making him heal?" he asked quietly.

"You're welcome.  What did the dog do now?"

"It's only slowed him down but he didn't try me at least.  Or Xander.  His favorite rose bush got some of his affection.  He got a bit frustrated that it wasn't like before but slunk back to Daddy's side and curled up on him again."  Speed smiled at that.  "It was cute," he agreed, heading out to see if he could straighten up his office yet. They still had the tape up so he went back to work in chem for a while.  Not like he could be faulted for not doing paperwork that was due today.  Eric gave him an odd look.  "You still have the tape up."

"Probably for the next few hours."

"If it's Cordy, she's sun sensitive," Speed said as he walked behind him.  "Don't worry about the paperwork, H.  The Chief gave you a two day reprieve."

"I'll thank him later.  Any idea where she could be?"

"Willow said she can't find her so she's shielded somehow."

Eric looked at him.  "What about the demon bar?"

"Xander goes there to translate stuff," Speed agreed.

"Yes, and every time he does he comes home with new weapons," Horatio agreed dryly.  He still called his mate.  "Your ex is in town.  Cordelia.  Because she broke in and had sex in my office, Xander.  Yes, we're sure.  Willow had some of her hair as a reference sample."  He smiled.  "That's what I thought at first but it turns out it was Cordelia.  Please call around and let us know.  Thank you.  No, you may not.  You are not to go near her alone or with Willow.  Speed and I are going as well.  Good boy.  I'll see you tonight."  Xander reminded him about his client coming in. "That's fine."  He hung up and looked at him.  "He'll call around since he's got clients coming this afternoon."  They nodded and went back to their other cases.  "Maybe I should have a talk with her boss," he mused.

"Only if you want to strangle someone today," Speed called from his lab.  "Because I always did, H."

"We'll see then, won't we?" he agreed, going to clean up his office since they knew who at least one of the parties was.  The other...  The blue substance had worried him.  It could have been a demon.  He found the bottle of holy water Xander had given him and attached a spray nozzle, spraying his whole office with it then opening a window to air it out. It was nice he could but he still didn't like that feature.  It would make the station more vulnerable during a hurricane. His papers got sorted and he found a lot more of the blue substance, going to get a stick and a glass jar to pick most of it up.  He did not want that on his carpet.  His boss leaned in while he was doing that so he let him see.  "I'm trying to get it out."

"I'll have it replaced, Horatio.  Are you all right?"  He nodded.  "Any idea who it was?"

"Xander's former girlfriend Cordelia.  They're hunting her down right now since she's hidden among the less than normal community."

"I know a bit about them," he admitted, coming in and looking.  "Is that demonic?"  Horatio sprayed some with holy water but it didn't sizzle.  "Hmm.  Where might Mrs. Wolfe be?"

"Hopefully in class," Ryan admitted.  "I forwarded her the composition of the blue stuff, she said it's a nasty substance and to ask Xander.  So I did."  He handed over the email.  "That's what it is.  It's a heating lube/muscle rub gel.  It's fairly unique, only available online, so we can trace that if her momentary fling was normal, and he said it had to hurt like hell to use that way."

"Check the local ER's," Horatio ordered, looking at it.  He handed it back.  "See if they've had anyone in with burns."  That got a nod and Ryan walked off.  He looked at the chief.  "It's still gross."

"It is," he agreed.  "What is she?"

"Vampire," he said quietly.  "She's part of the group that was building the shrine in the basement."  That got a nod.  "Mrs. Wolfe got most of them but she was apparently back there at that time."

"I'm sure someone will get her tonight," he promised, patting him on the back. "I'll have the furniture replaced, Horatio.  Including the carpet.  You want another couch you can use the whip on?"

Horatio looked up.  "Please.  You took my other target away."

"It's better for the department if you don't whip IAB, even if he is annoying," he chided, heading out to get someone to do that.  He came back an hour later.  "Everything's pretty well dinged up, Horatio."

"Then I'll manage it, Chief."

"Please.  I'll still have those things cleaned."  That got a nod and he left again.  Horatio sat down to look online.  Since Xander had given him that check...  He could finally redecorate in a style that was more his than industrial workplace.  Still modern but less German Industrial Age.


Xander was lounging in the back yard when Cordelia strolled around the house.  He petted his pet's head, smiling at her.  "Go inside.  She's a mean and bad person," he said softly.  His sub nodded, heading inside to prepare herself.  "You broke into my boyfriend's office to have sex?" he asked dryly.  "That's a very Anya thing to do, Cordy."

"You're in leather?" she sneered.  "How trashy are you?  And who was that?"

"My sub."  He stood up, letting her see.  "Being a Mater is like that."  She snorted and rolled her eyes.  "Whatever.  Get off my land."

"Yours?" she taunted.  "By what right?"

"My grandfather bought it for me."

"Your grandfather's gone, Xander.  I made sure of it."

"No, I would've heard if my grandfather had died," he assured her.  "He's got a whole lot of people who would've told me."  He knew it was true, he could feel it.  "Anything else?"  She lunged and he got her with the whip in his hand, making her shriek and back off.  "As I said, anything else?"

"You're going down!  You'll be the sacrifice!  The Gods will be pleased!"  She hissed and lunged again, but he got her again, giving her a cool, calm, dispassionate look.  She sneered back.  "Think you're betting because you learned a few tricks?  You're still not worth more than as a sacrifice and bait."

"So you think.  I know better now," he said, sounding bored.  "You going to continue?  I can for however long you need me to beat you."  She lunged and got under his whip this time so he had to take her on physically.  He had been practicing all day and he knew what he was doing.  She didn't fight that well.  Angel had been trying to train her apparently but he was still better.  He ended up backhanding her, then pulling a stake out of his back waistband.  "Pity," he said, palming it.  "You could have changed like he did.  You didn't."  She hopped up and came at him again.  This time he moved to stake her.  She gave him a horrified look before she turned to dust.  He walked off dusting himself off.  The Cordy he knew had died over a year ago.  He had to remind himself of that.  The sub was cowering in the corner.  "You're all right," he promised her.  She looked at him.  "My ex.  That's why I date men now."  She gave him a small smile.  "Now, you were good all week, so you do deserve a reward, right?"  She nodded, crawling over to kneel at his feet.  "What did you want?"

"Can I please be spanked by hand, Master Tim?"

He smiled and nodded. "That is an appropriate reward."  He pulled a chair over for himself and let her lay across her lap.  "Count."  She counted each smack, and he watched her reaction, leaving her hanging.  She pouted and he gave her a look.  She wilted.  "Good girl."  He stroked through her hair.  "Did you need more?"

"No, sir."

"Good girl.  Now, go clean up and go home.  I'll release you to play tonight."  She nodded and went to do that, letting him walk her out to her car.  She barely made it out of the gate before she pulled over and fixed her lust but it made him happy she had gotten outside the gates.  He saw Horatio pull in and looked at him.  "It's fixed."

"Cordelia?" he asked quietly, coming over.


Horatio looked at him, seeing the faint traces of dust.  He hugged him.  "You didn't have to, Xander.  You could have called.  I wanted you to call us."

"I did, Horatio.  She came here."   He gave him the cuddle he wanted.  "Did you redecorate your office?"  Horatio nodded, walking him inside. They found the dog on the couch watching tv.  He was laying with his head on the remote.  It was kind of funny since he was watching the strip club channel.  "Sorry, I was practicing earlier."  Horatio smiled and took a picture of the scene, making him happy.  "She was good so she got a reward.  I am now free barring emergencies."

"I saw her rewarding herself outside the gate," he agreed, taking him upstairs.  He turned off the tv and the dog looked at him.  "We're going to bathe, Thumper.  Come upstairs."  He locked the doors and led his mate up to their bathroom, settling him into a bubble bath once it was run, letting him lean against his chest.  The dog came in to sniff then went back downstairs.  They heard the tv come back on and smiled at each other.  They'd fix that later.  He saw Xander looking at the phone.  "I was talking with your Grandsire on the way over," he soothed.

"She taunted me by saying she had taken out Grandfather."

"Not a chance, Xander.  You'd have already heard."  Xander nodded and snuggled in harder.  "Good boy."  He stroked his stomach, teasing and comforting him.  His phone rang so Horatio had to get up and get it from the dresser.  "Horatio."  He listened.  "No, I'm at his house, Speed, why?"  He frowned.  "When did my alarm go off?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  No, I came right here.  Anything I should know about?"  He grimaced.  "Thank you.  Tell Yelina just in case?"  He smiled.  "Good man.  Bubble bath."  He smiled and hung up, going back to his bath toy.  "Someone tried to break into my house," he said quietly.

"You're staying until they find out who," Xander ordered.

"If you want."

Xander looked at him. "I'd rather you moved in," he offered with a shy smile.

Horatio smiled back.  "I'll think about it."  Xander flipped onto his side, snuggling into his lap in a way that robbed his right leg of feeling but freed his cock to be played with.  It also let them kiss and fondle, which was always fun in the bathtub.  Everyone should have a Xander bathtoy.  Speed came in an hour later, once they had come down off their teasing orgasm, looking in from the doorway.  "There's still bubbles."  Speed stepped in and leaned down to whisper in his ear.  "Are you sure?"

"I am.  The same guy that's after Greg.  We found the white rose on your bed, Horatio.  Another one in your closet.  Greg found one on the pillow next to him earlier.  Grissom is sending him down tonight.  I called him to see if he was still getting them or if they had caught the guy.  Grissom answered Greg's phone.   He had Brass escort him to the airport just in case."  That got a dual nod.  "So we'll have him picked up down here and brought over, but we're sitting two uniforms on the house and I've told Raphael.  He's not a happy camper.  Especially since he didn't have any information about Cordy, Xander."

"She's gone," he said quietly.  "She came her to challenge and attack me in the backyard."  That got a nod.  "She taunted me that she had went after Grandfather."

"I'll make sure he's all right.  I'm going to hog your office until Greg gets here."

"We'll be safely up here," Horatio promised.  That got a smile and Speed left, closing the door most of the way.  "I should probably call the Chief."

"I'm sure Speed with, Horatio."  He shifted so he could kiss him again.  "Just think about the Greggy sex to make sure he's all right."  Horatio smiled.  "I'm sure he'll call and he'll call Lady Heather too, baby.  It'll be okay.  We'll get through this one."  Horatio nodded and gave him a squeeze.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'm sorry you had to deal with her, Xander."

"She wasn't the Cordy I used to date.  She died about a year ago."  He heard someone on the stairs and they waited, but it was Oz, who blushed and turned around.  "We've got bubbles."

"I can see that.  Sire said that you're an annoying brat because you didn't call to get information."

"I knew she'd come for me, Oz.  That's what she was going for.  She and the cheerleaders of doom wanted to sacrifice me to some dark god to give Angel more power and strength."  Oz snorted at that.  "Yeah, that's my thought."

"No, your dog, the ho."  He opened the door so they could see him humping a pillow.

"Thumper!" Xander snapped.  He hopped off the bed and ran for safety outside through the dog door.  "Thanks.  We had him fixed.  Horatio did it for me."  He stroked Horatio's chest, earning a smile.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Tell them we'll be fine with the usual guards and PD guards, Oz."  Oz gave him an odd look.  "The assassin after Greg broke into my house.  Speed has information."

"Gonna pump him then.  Anything else?"

"Have they heard anything about his car?"

Oz quirked a half-smile. "He's still waiting on the check from the FBI and Father Patrick is insistent he keeps the Ferrari, Horatio."

"But I keep getting into trouble," Xander said with a naughty grin.  Horatio looked at him. "I keep getting tickets and one guy I nearly spanked for asking me if I was your pussy."

"Who?" he asked.

"I told Ian."

"You could tell me."

"Then you'd go all threatening and mean," he said, stroking his chest hair.  "You'd have to wear the mean suit and they might say things to you too.  This way Ian gets his share of mean suit days."  Horatio cracked a smile at that.  "He said so."

"I'll talk with him tomorrow.  After all, I wear suits to appear mean."  Xander kissed him again.  "Thank you, Oz."

"Welcome, guys.  Nice to finally meet you in person, Horatio.  Hopefully more clothed next time."

"I swim naked most mornings," Xander told him.

"I think you're a bit taken, Xander."  He walked out shaking his head.  He found Speed in the office.  "Assassin?"  Speed jumped and looked at him.  "Sorry.  I'm a quiet person."

"It happens, Oz.  Are they still in the bath?"  Oz nodded.  "Dog up there?"

"Ran for the hills, Xander caught him humping a pillow."

"Even fixed that dog still humps everything."  He shook his head and handed over the notes he had been making.  "For the worrywarts.  We'll have full information files on the person who broke into H's house and the guy after Greg within the day hopefully.  Tell them Eric and Calleigh are working H's house.  Yelina does know in case they come after Ray Junior.  We've got guards on the house as well."

"You know Sire was pouting because he didn't come for info on Cordy?"

"He figured she'd come here since they wanted to sacrifice him," Speed agreed.  "Which apparently she did."

"Huh.  You're starting to think like Xander."

Speed grinned.  "Thanks, Oz.  That's a great compliment."

"Means you'll have to play with guns and swords."  He walked out, heading back to the other house.  He rewound the tape and let them hear both reports, then handed over the forms with a half-grin.  "That way they can babble more than I can."  He walked into the kitchen to get some tea then came back.  He figured he'd be running errands for a while.

"THOMAS!" Patrick bellowed.  He came jogging in.  "Rewind the tape please?"  He did that and listened.  "First, did no one hear about this sacrifice?"

"That was the cheerleader cult," Raphael reminded him.  "That was their reason, to treat him like a God before sacrificing him to give Angel his strength."

"Jerky," Oz said dryly from his corner.  They all looked at him.  "Xander's secret superpower plug.  His jerky."  He took a drink and it got mean smirks all around the room.

"I'll get on the rest," Thoms assured them, taking it to his office.  Gordon and he had been having a meeting about Xander's security so he needed to hear it anyway.  Gordon groaned and nodded at the new information.  "Oz suggested we send Angel some jerky since it's Xander's secret to being so strong."

Gordon looked at him then shuddered.  "I don't want to think about the Dark Twinkie having sex."

"Me either.  Apparently Cordelia was taken care of."


"Who's next on your list?"

He consulted it then handed it over.  "Here. I checked with the Treasury agent chasing down the checks and they finally found out who sent the first two.  The third was indeed for licensing fees."  Patrick leaned in.  "Did no one tell you about the sex robot, Father?"

"I was there, the same as you were," he reminded him.  "I still shudder at the thought.  Do we need to worry about the person who bought the robot?"

"Robot?" Raphael asked behind him.

"Someone made a Robo-Xander for sex," Oz said from up the hall.  Raphael gave him a horrified look.  "The payment from Vancouver was for image licensing fees.  He promised not to let it get into the open."  The elder vampire whimpered.  "Xander sicced me on the designer.  He'd made a Buffy bot too, Sire."  That got a pitiful sounding whimper and Raphael walked off mumbling about headaches and only his grandson.  "It's the only one he made," Oz called after him, then grinned at Patrick.  "Now and then he needs to have one of those days too."

"As I do," he agreed, patting him on the cheek.  "Thank you, Oz.  Now I get to fuss over him for a change."  He went to do that.  The other things could be dealt with by his people.  His grandson was safe, if not fully sane now and then.  His grandson's mate was safe, if being driven insane now and then by his grandson.  The rest could be handled by his people.  He made his sire some tea and brought it up to him to start the fussing rituals they had grown into over the years.  Even if his sire did complain.  "You know, I should tell Tara that story."  He picked up the phone.


"Flack," Don said over the noise in the bar.  "Hey, Uncle Patrick," he said happily.  He listened, losing his smile.  "He good?  Need me?"  He grinned again.  "So just a head's up.  Thanks for that.  No, the guys and I are at the bar."  He looked at his phone then put it back against his ear.  "Excuse me?"  Patrick repeated it and you could hear the smile and his sire groaning in the background.  "Here, you tell Mac," he said, handing over the phone then he poured himself another glass of beer.

Danny looked at him.  "What's wrong?"

"Someone created a working, good sex robot."  Sheldon spluttered his beer.  "Using Xander."  Danny spluttered at that and so did Stella.  "There's a Buffy one somewhere too."  He took another long gulp and Mac handed him back his phone.  Then he got another drink too.  "Xander's okay even though the assassin after him and Greg broke into Horatio's house.  They're building a wall around them.  Most of the threats have stopped.  Xander's still driving the Ferrari."

"I thought he had a Jag," Sheldon said, looking confused.

"He got run off the road and then the Feds tore it apart," Stella told him.  "His grandfather rented him a dark blue and silver Ferrari."  That got a nod and another drink taken.  "Xander was telling me how many speeding tickets he's been getting from some of the biased cops."  She looked at Mac.  "You okay?"  He shook his head and continued to drink.  "The thought of the Buffy sexbot?"

"No, that someone else has a version of Xander."  He poured himself more beer while Don and Danny giggled.  "They said it's in Vancouver and won't be shown publically.  A programmer bought it.  It's not a dom, it went on his high school personality and traits.  It's supposed to be very good."  He took another drink while Don nodded. "You've seen?"

"Willow took film of the Buffy version.  Then of Buffy.  Couldn't tell a whole lot of difference.  Don't tell Tara, guys.  She went to cry over the Buffy bot when she heard."  That got a mass nod and they all drank to that - and to get the idea of a Xander sex bot out of their heads.  "You wonder if he can cook?"  Stella hit him on the cheek, making him look at her.  "What?  It's not the real Xander."

"You're drunk, Don.  Let's get you home.  Mac?"  He nodded and followed, letting her and Danny get them both into a cab.  Don got dropped off at his place and they took Mac home because he couldn't complain tonight if they cuddled him.

Mac looked at his nearly naked snuggle friends. "I'll still complain tomorrow."

"Shut up, Mac, before I blow you," Danny ordered, snuggling into his shoulder.

"Can I watch?" Stella asked.  "It'd be interesting to see it when I'm not doing it."

Mac looked at her, then at Danny.  "I should hide."  They snuggled in harder and wrapped him in their arms.  He knew what a collar felt like suddenly.  Because they had clearly leashed him for now.  He yawned. "I'll still complain."

"Shut up, Mac," Danny warned.  Mac glared at him so he followed through on his threat.  Mac was a happy boy but he was still frowning so Stella got to tease him until he drifted off to sleep.  "There, better."  They shared a wicked smirk and snuggled back in.  Stella did steal a kiss from him, getting her own taste of Mac.  It was sweet.


Xander woke up during the night, looking at the person standing there.  "Who the fuck are you?" he growled.

"Checking on you, sir."  The officer looked at Horatio then at him.  "Comfy?"

"Not really.  The gun under my pillow seems to be a bit lumpy."  The officer smirked so he pulled it out and cocked it.  "Guarding me does not mean you have to be in my bedroom watching myself and my boyfriend sleep."

"Boyfriend?" he sneered.  "Isn't that a bit high school?  Are you still that young?"

Horatio woke up and glared at the man, making him back up another step. "Get out.  Now."

"I'm here to guard you, sir."

Horatio took the gun and pointed it at him.  "Now!" he ordered.  The man backed up another step.  "Dear?"

Xander looked at the window then whistled sharply.  "Marcus!"  Their guard from his grandfather ran inside and paused when he saw what was going on.  He got the officer down and handcuffed with his own cuffs.  "Thanks, dear.   Do you feel like I'm being too teenagerish when I call you my boyfriend?" he asked Horatio.

"I think it's a natural stage but we're lovers now."

"I don't want to use the same word all the time and I don't want to sound like a thesaurus either.  It was the only good one I found."  He pouted some.  Horatio uncocked the gun and put it aside so he could cuddle him.  "I'd call you my mate but that would mean we were married."  He stole a kiss.  "That'll come later, with other titles.  What's a good word for boyfriend or lover?"

Horatio kissed him, giving him a small smile.  "Suitor.  Paramour.  Beau if you want to be old fashioned," he teased, sneaking a kiss between each.  "Sweetheart sounds a bit girly.  Lover is good for me."

"See, I looked that one up.  It came up with entries like gigolo."  Horatio snickered at that.  "And mistress.  Not exactly your thing, Horatio."  He kissed him again.  "I could like sweetheart even though it is a bit girly.   Lover sounds good to me too."   Horatio moved over him to soothe him back into sleep.

Marcus pulled the officer up and down to the cruiser in the driveway.  It was probably his since it didn't have a driver.  He went to find the other guy outside, giving him a look.  "Your buddy just broke into the house to wake Xander up and make fun of him sleeping with his lover."  The guy groaned and got out of the car to go gather him.  "They were going to shoot him for it this time."  That got a nod.  "I put him in the back of his car."

"That's fine, sir.  Thank you."

Marcus smiled and went back on his rounds inside the gate.  He saw the dog.  "Go inside, Thumper."  The dog sniffed him and tried his leg so he gave him a look.  The dog slunk off.  "Go inside, go sleep on the couch."  The dog headed inside, checking his bowls, but then decided the recliner the nice daddy liked so much was a better spot to lick himself for a while.

The officer drug his cohort out to his own car and put him into the back, calling the shift supervisor.  "The idiot you sent with me broke in on the people we're guarding to make fun of them sleeping together, sir.  He's in cuffs.  The other guys here from his grandfather arrested him."

"What other guy?" came back from him.

"One of his usual guards, Captain.  He's doing the inside of the property.  We're doing the outside.  Should I send him with Jackson or keep Jackson since he's bringing the other guy here?"  He let go of the button.

"Keep Jackson.  I'll send someone to pick him and the extra car up.  He injured?"

"The other guard said he got a gun pointed at him for making fun of the couple, Cap.  Broke into their bedroom to taunt apparently.  Not the first time from what I understand.  He's been lurking up here to give him pointless speeding tickets too, sir."  He let go of the button.

"I've heard.  That'll stop too.  I'll come get him and his car."  The line went dead.

He hung up his radio and looked at his coworker. "Stupid! You couldn't wait four more hours?"

"They're *touching* and things," he sneered back.  "It's wrong!"

"You do know that the young guy's got a cult of serial killers who are watching him to see how to stay pure?" he taunted.  The guy went pale. "Yeah, and you're upsetting their patron saint, man.  How dumb are you?"  He went to do a round by the walls on their side.   It was the least he could do.  He didn't want on Caine's bad side for any reason, even if he didn't like gay folk.  He wasn't that stupid or suicidal.  He wanted to keep Caine, Caine's boyfriend, and his boyfriend's father all *real* happy so that cult and others who wanted his boyfriend wouldn't come after him for being against gay folk.  He came back and found Jackson pulling up.  "You're staying," he ordered.  "Hortens went in to play taunt the gay guys because they were sleeping together."

That got a groan from the guy in the passenger seat.  "They okay?"

"Just fine, sir.  Being a bit noisy.  I can hear them through an open window on the other side of the wall."

"Thanks."  He got out and walked inside, turning back on the alarm once he was inside.  He jogged up the stairs and watched them cuddle and touch under the covers.  "Awww."  He stripped down and pounced, making Xander giggle and pull him under the covers to make him laugh, giggle, and squeal in pleasure too.  Plus Horatio teased him slowly and gently.  It was a good welcome home.


Greg woke up to something sitting on his head.  He looked up at the dog, who was humping the top of his head.  "I thought you were fixed," he complained, shoving him off the bed. "My hair doesn't need biological glue, Thumper."  He went back to cuddling Xander.  Horatio came out of the bathroom and he gave him a look.  "Hmm, pretty lover."  He tipped his head up and got a kiss.  "Be a good boy and be safe today, Horatio.  We'll protect each other from the dog."  Horatio smiled.  "If you're a good boy I'll be your squeeze toy tonight when you get home."  That got a smirk and Horatio put on his shoes before grabbing his wallet, keys, change, ID and badge, and the rest.  He headed down to get himself some coffee and then head in to work.  Greg nuzzled Xander, earning sleepy complaining noises.  "Wake up and play with me?"

"No, Thumper, tired."  He got a head shove.

Greg ducked under the hand and lapped at a nipple then bit it.

"Thumper!"  Xander sat up, panting and looking at the giggling Greg.  "Damn it!  I thought it was the dog learning new tricks.  Don't scare me like that, Greg."  He swatted him on the butt.  "I should spank."  He pounced him to correct him in other ways.

"Boys, you're loud," Thomas called from downstairs.

"It's my house, play with the dog," Xander called back.

Thomas looked at the dog.  "Go get me a toy, we'll play."  The dog snuck over and attached himself to his leg, humping away.  "Not that way, dog!"  He pried him off and let him outside so he could have his favorite rose bush back.  He shook his head when the officer making coffee laughed.  "He's fixed too.  Just recently."

"It doesn't always stop them," he agreed dryly.  "Anything I should know today?"

"Greg and Xander are both hyper but they may stay home all day today.  Xander, do you have clients today?"

"Three," floated down the stairs.

"He's got three clients coming in today.  I'll find out when so you can make sure they're at the right time."  That got a nod.  "What happened to the guy last night?"

"Arrested for B&E and making gaybashing threats at the station."  That got a nod.  "Sorry."

"It happens.  Not everyone is tolerant or happy with us.  We know that," he said with a small smile.  "Why do you think Father Patrick hired someone like me?"


"Special Forces.  Delta Force actually."  That got an admiring look.  "It'll be fine.  We can work together.  Do you want inside the gate or outside?"

"Inside.  The guy outside requested it so he didn't have to see them doing gay things, and that was a quote.  He heard that he goes naked swimming and other unnatural things."

"Almost every morning," he agreed.  "Xander said it feels better that way."  Greg chased Xander down the stairs and outside to the pool.  "See?"  That got a smirk and the officer went back onto his patrol while Thomas watched over the boys personally.  No wonder Father Patrick had gotten so many lovers in his younger life.  If he had been built anything like Xander they had probably all been satisfied.  Because Greg was already moving a bit slow this morning.  Greg blushed at him.  "Not like I care, Gregory.  I'm here to guard you two and if you two want to be naked that's up to you.  I've seen naked boys before."  That got a grin from Xander, who pounced Greg, making even him blush.  "Please don't have sex in front of me."

"Okay, if you insist," Xander teased, going back to his laps.  Greg spanked him on his way past but grinned and lounged on the side of the pool.  It was going to be a good day.


Xander walked into the station later that afternoon.  He was free of clients, his last one had canceled when told he was under guard due to an assassin.  The others had parked in the garage and come in that way so no one else saw them.  He carried the small bag up to Horatio's office, leaning down to kiss him on the ear before handing over the bag.  "Because I heard you missed lunch."

"I did," he agreed, smiling at him. "Chief, you probably remember Xander."

"I do.  Mr. Harris, nice to see you again."

"Thank you, sir.  Do we have anything on this guy?"  His phone rang and he looked at it.  "Speak."  He listened, then nodded.  "It'll take me about an hour to get home and clear the house.  There's guards so go in through the garage and wait on me if you get there first.  It should only be one of Grandfather's people and Gregory.  Thank you."  He hung up and looked at him.  "One of my boys just got his divorce papers so I'm going to have a long night too.  Come home when you can.  Eat that."  He walked out with a nod for Eric.  "Just dropping my boy lunch."

"Sure.  Nothing for Speed?"

"Daddy ate lunch with us," he said with a grin.  He walked out, handing over his visitor badge to the reception desk. "Thanks."  He headed out to his car, finding a parking ticket.  "I'm in visitor parking," he called dryly.  Ryan walked over so he let him see it. "Unreasonable?"  Ryan nodded and took it, heading inside to talk to someone for him.  Xander got into his car then frowned and got out, looking at it.  He whistled.  "Guys, why is there a fuse sticking out from behind my back right wheel?" he asked when two cops looked over.  One of them came over and the other went running inside. "I know I wasn't that long today."  Ryan came jogging out with a mirror setup so he could check.  "Fuse?"

"Huge ass bomb, Xander."  Ryan sounded a bit grim.  That was not a good sign.

"Crap."  He walked off shaking his head.  He called a cab from reception.  "Let Horatio know my car's got a bomb, but they're handling it?"  She nodded and called up there on the other phone.  "Hi, I need a cab at the Crime Lab.  Going to Heron Way.  Thank you."  He hung up and sighed, heading out there.  Ryan was frowning.  He peered over his shoulder.  "Move it further in?"  Ryan did that and looked at him.  "Only seen diagrams of that sort.  I'd say either the blue or the green wire, can't be certain at this angle.  Move."  Ryan moved and he got down there to look.  "It's the green one.  It goes to the battery and then there's a backup battery too."  He slid out and looked at him, handing him the keys.  "Try not to blow up my car, okay?  It's hooked into the gas tank.  Probably a level switch."

He walked over to get in his cab then came back and grabbed his wallet and other stuff out of the front then the trunk, which he left open so it wouldn't jar the tank.  Then he got into the cab again.  "15 Heron Way."  The cabbie looked at him.  "Bomb."  That got a nod and he drove him off.  Xander got off up the road from his gate and walked back down once the cabbie was gone.  He waved at the guards in the cars, getting one back.  "Bomb on my car at the station," he reported to Thomas when he walked past him.  "One of my boys got his divorce papers today.  Clear the house please?  I've got a client coming in," he announced.  Greg handed him a glass of ice water then went back into the office to read on the couch in there.  Xander went to get ready for his client.  It was not going to be a pretty thing tonight.


Ryan walked into Horatio's office with the bagged bomb.  "Bomb squad's somewhere in town, Horatio, couldn't respond.  They agreed with Xander about which wire it was, told me what to do and how to pull the battery.  It's safe but I thought you'd want to see it."

"I did.  Is he still here?"

"Cabbed home."  Horatio groaned.  "I'm guessing he could handle that much of a threat on his own, boss."  That got a look.  "Sorry.  Next time I'll drive him."  That got a nod and Horatio carried it downstairs to dismantle it fully and search for prints.  "Also, found a parking ticket on his window for being in visitor parking."  He handed it over.  "Not sure if it's from the same source."

Horatio looked then growled.  "No, he got arrested last night for being in our bedroom."  That just got a nod and Ryan pulled on gloves and pulled over a jar of powder with a brush to help.  "Take the batteries."

"Already did those.  No prints, Horatio."

"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe."

"Xander spotted it.  It had a sensor in the gas tank.  He called it a level sensor?"

"Like on a level for a construction job or like a depth sensor?"

"Looked like a depth sensor."

"Interesting."  They got back to work until someone from bomb squad peered in.  "What were you doing?"

"We were off disarming six pipe bombs attached to a cargo ship," he admitted.  "Someone trying to blow up their rival's shipment."  He came in to look.  "You still have the touch, Horatio."  That got a grim smile.  "Where was it?"

"My boyfriend's car," Horatio admitted.

"Oh, man.  Hold on, you're dating?"  Horatio looked at him and nodded.

"He's dating Speed's son," Ryan said happily.  "The same Xander who said the green wire."

"Huh.  He's well trained."  He looked at the parts.  "Take apart the sensor. You can't put that sucker together without being able to feel the parts."  Horatio did that and dusted everything in there, finding a half print.  "Hey, anything helps, right?"  That got a nod.  "Have you searched the signature file?"

"Not yet," Ryan told him.  "I just removed it.  I left the sensor in his gas tank and a hanging wire.  I also left a message for Eric to have a look to see if he could get it off, Horatio."

"That's acceptable, Mr. Wolfe.  Eric is better at car things than either of us."  That got a smile from the bomb squad guy.  "Did we take pictures?"

"Yup, of every step once I got the batteries out."  He handed over his camera's card.  "I put them into the system already."

"Let me search the database, boys."  He moved to the nearest computer to pull them up.  "Wolfe with an 'e' right?"  Ryan made an assenting sound, he had just found another print.  He found the pictures and looked at them.  "That does look familiar."  He got into the search engine and found a few hits.  "Huh.  Got three names, Horatio."  Horatio came over to note them and then run the prints they had found so far against them.  He came back with a longer list.  "Not enough detail?"

"Only three points available for matching," he admitted.  "It matched over two hundred names.  Including the owner of the car."  That got a smirk.  "Xander's not like that.  He likes attention but he's getting plenty with stupid people who give him presents."

"Hold on," Ryan said.  "I found a great one, Horatio."  He carefully lifted it and let him see.  "How's that?"

"That is nearly perfect, Mr. Wolfe."  He smiled and went to have that one searched. It came back to one name, not Xander's.  He came back much happier and handed that name to the tech, who ran it against their database.  He had a profile.  He had a history.  He also had a history of violence against racial and other groups as it was put.  "Interesting."

"Very.  I know he's gay but how would this asshole have seen your boy, Horatio?"

"He's the grandson of Patrick Benis," Ryan said quietly.  That got a single nod.  "Enough reason?"

"Oh yeah.  He tried to blow up the good Father a few years back."  He smirked and walked out with that printout, going to tell his boss so they could bust him.  Because he knew Horatio well enough to know that look on his face meant he was going to kill the guy if he found him first.  "Yo, boss!  Got a strong lead on who put the bomb on the car at the crime lab; it was on Caine's boyfriend's car."  His boss came out of his office, giving him a horrified look.  "We've got maybe minutes to get ahead of him."

"Who?"  It was handed over.  "I didn't know Caine was gay."

"Bi apparently.   He's dating Speedle's son."

"Master Tim?"  The guy smirked and nodded. "He's got great taste.  The ferrari was his?"  That got another nod.  "Boys, go find this person before Caine does.  Otherwise we'll be cleaning up bits and pieces."  They took the information and went to set up who was going to go in on the arrest.  Horatio would have to let them, it was about bombs and therefore theirs by right.  If they got there before him.


Horatio walked in that night and found Xander cuddling a guy on the couch in the living room.  He gave Xander a stroke through the hair.  "Need something to drink?"  Xander nodded, giving him a faint smile.  He went to get them both some water, coming back to hand the agent a bottle then handing Xander his.  "I have information on the bomb whenever you're ready.  Let me go change; come up when you're done."  That got an understanding look from the agent.  "I had one of those once but mine was almost a relief when she left me, son.  If you need to hug him he's good at that."  That got a nod and he went back to cuddling Xander.  Horatio went upstairs to change, finding Greg tied to the bed.  "Were you a bad boy?"

"I was.  I spanked the dog."

"The dog is where?"

"Outside before I spank him again," Greg admitted.  "I was giving myself an enema and he came to help."  Horatio shook his head and untied him, giving him a kiss.  "I should stay tied.  Xander came up and tied me down."

"I'll take your punishment if he yells."  He helped him up, rubbing his wrists for him.  "Help me change, Greg."  Greg smiled and helped him change clothes into something more casual and comfortable.  He even let him play a bit until Xander came up.  "Is he better?"

"He's asleep on the couch.  She had the locks changed on him," he said quietly, closing the door most of the way.  They both nodded at that.  "She was evil to him, Horatio.  She killed his dog and goldfish to get back at him.  Stabbed the dog and gutted him.  She's under arrest but he's been banned from going into the house for right now."

"That's fine.  As long as it doesn't stretch on too many days, Xander," Horatio promised, giving him a kiss.  "I freed Greg."

"I saw and I should spank you both."

"He still tried to help with an enema," Greg defended.  Xander looked at him.  "He needs help, Xander."

"I know," he sighed, sitting down.  "I closed the living room door so he wouldn't have to deal with the demented dog tonight."  They hugged him.  "I don't know what's wrong with  him."

"We'll talk to the vet tomorrow, see if there's anything further we can do," Horatio soothed, stroking his back.  Xander pulled Greg into his lap then leaned against him, getting a smile.  "Did anyone get dinner?"

"I cooked.  Yours is in the fridge," Greg assured him.  "It was mix and eat stuff, but it's good."  Horatio smiled and drug them onto the back porch.  There was no danger, boats weren't allowed out in the water beyond their small cliff.  It was a pretty night to eat outside.  Both his boys were cuddly.  It was going to be a good night.  Thomas came out, nodding inside.

"His wife just killed his pets, locked him out of the house, and filed for divorce," Xander said quietly.

"That sucks," he agreed.  "She in jail?"  Xander shrugged.  "Bail?"

"He thinks she will when she's arraigned tonight.  His lawyer and boss are both going instead of him so he doesn't hurt her."

"That's fine, Xander.  It's a generous thing to do."  He kissed him on the head.  "We decided, with Oz's help, to send Angel some of your strength."  Horatio and Greg both glared at him but Xander giggled.  "We sent him a large package of the jerky."  That got an evil smirk from Greg.  "He'll be much stronger afterward."  He sat down.  "Now, we do have some business stuff to discuss.  Prenup?"  Xander gave him a tired look.  "I know, but again, it is something in case someone pressures Horatio or other members of his family, Xander.  It's to protect you and him."

"I don't think it's time for one yet," Horatio said calmly.  "We haven't been together that long."

"True, but better to do it now in case of emergency, right?  Plus power of attorney paperwork if something happens to either of you. Or Greg."

"Actually, Grissom and Catherine share mine jointly," Greg offered.  "That way they're *there* and can make sure I'm okay.  They both know to defer to these two when they get out to me."  That got a smile and a nod.

"I've got one that names Speed," Horatio admitted, looking at Xander.  "Yours?"

"I never go to the hospital unless I need a cast, Horatio."

"Point."  He gave him a squeeze.  "We'll make out new ones tonight, Xander.  Just for the two of us."  Xander looked at him. "It is a practical consideration, like the will," he said quietly.  Xander slumped but nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  He looked at Thomas.  "Well, you got half of what you wanted."

Thomas smiled.  "Would you at least start to consider clauses for the prenup?  Even if you do leave it in the safe?  It doesn't have to explicitly spell out what each of you has."  Xander shrugged and looked at Horatio who nodded.  "Thank you.  Father was worried."  Horatio gave him a look.  "Yes, we heard about the bomb and the letter you got today."

"My union rep can go to hell."  Horatio ate another bite and kissed Greg for making him dinner.  Greg grinned back.   He looked at him again.  "The Chief was told, so was Ian."  That got a nod.  "Miami does have an official anti-discrimination policy.  He used union stationary."  That got an evil smirk from Thomas.  "They got the bomber today."

"Excellent news," he agreed happily.

"He was someone who had went after Patrick a few years ago."

"Doesn't totally surprise me.  I'll check into that, see if they need more files on him or anything."  That got a nod from Horatio.  "Has anyone talked to Mayper recently?"

"Daddy usually does," Xander told him.  "Why?"

"We think he's got a closet of stuff for you and his wife is getting jealous."

"Ah."  He nodded. "I'll get with Dad later tonight to see if he's called and if not I'll call."  That got a smile.  "Watch out for the demonic presence."  Thomas looked back at the dog.  "He tried to get Greg while he was cleaning up."

"Isn't he fixed?" Thomas asked.  They all nodded.  "I'll ask Holly's keeper to see if he knows how to fix this."  He shook the dog off his leg.  "Go find the rose bush."  Xander took the direct route, picking him up and carrying him over there.  The dog barked happily and played with his favorite hump of all.  Xander came back shaking his head.  "Is he staying out tonight?"

"Oh, yeah," Xander agreed.  "Warn the guards."

"I will.  It's supposed to rain but I'm sure you guys can lock the bedroom door and he can keep the living room door locked."  That got a nod.   "Have you thought about the auction yet?"

"I have and I've done one."  Thomas gave him a look.  "Seriously.  I have.  You mean I need to have *another* one?"  He nodded.  "Oh, shit!" he complained, settling into Horatio's side to cuddle him.

"Tara found the stuff you left up there and Don's sending it down tomorrow."  That got a groan from Greg.  "You too?"

"I've growled and bawled out a few people who propositioned me to steal Xander.  Even Gris did one."

"Three more years," Horatio soothed.  "Then it'll stop."  They both snuggled into his side. "I'll call Mayper tonight, Thomas.  Anything else?"

"We still can't track the guy, Horatio.  We're trying our best and I know your guys are."  That got a nod.   "So we'll leave the heightened guard here for Xander and you two.  How long will he have PD guards?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "Probably a few more days."  That got a nod.  "The shift supervisor is already complaining about having two here."

"Cut it back down to one.  We can cover it."  That got a nod of thanks and a small smile.  "We'll deal, we always do, Horatio."  That got another nod.  "Okay, then I'm going to turn over control to Philippe.  You three have a better night, guys."  He left, going to check in with the new double shift and let them know who was in the house and that there was an extra man in the living room, leaving it as a friend of Xander's who had just gotten served with divorce papers.  That got a knowing look from one officer.  He did warn them that the dog was outside and prone to humping everything, but already fixed, then he went to tell that to Father and Sire.  Because they couldn't find anything either.


Horatio walked into Detective Mayper's home the next morning.  "You said it was important?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah, Lieutenant."  He let him into his study and closed the door then opened the closet to show him.  "The large box is leather pants and a coat.  The others are varying shades of stuff.  It was easier to send back the jewelry."  Horatio nodded at that.  "It's full and those are things I can't send back or can't find out who did it.  The list I did is longer."  He handed it over.  "Including that family from the Middle East.  I don't know why.  I contacted that Raphael guy.  He said he didn't know why but he was going to eat them this time.  But I also got this for him today," he said, flipping open a box with a human heart in it.  "I have no idea what to do beyond call you."

"That is human," he admitted quietly.

"Have it, please.  My wife was there when I opened it.  She's in bed with a headache.  How long does this last?"

"According to family legends, four years after a natural son of the line has found a proper and true mate.  That's how it was written in his grandfather's journals and his great grandfather's and a few others."  That got a groan.  "It's been ten months."  He put the top of the box back on.  "Did it come in any wrapping?"  He nodded, handing over the bag.  "Next time you get something like this, call me immediately or bring it to the lab."  The guy gave him a horrified look.  "Someone sent Speed some as well.  I'm hoping it's the same person."  That got a nod.  "Can you help me carry the rest out?"  That got another nod and they got everything out to the back of his hummer, the box going into the front with the bag of wrapping paper that had been around it.  "Call me immediately if anything too big comes in."

"Let me check the mail," he said.  "I had them deliver the thing I wasn't here for yesterday.  It was registered."  He walked out to look in his mailbox, then came back, handing over three envelopes.  "All for him in care of me.  Someone's getting smarter."

"Yes, but I'm worried since Xander has drawn a few serial killers before," he admitted quietly.

"Then having me makes even more sense.  The rich brats I can't stand but that's just sick."

"It is," Horatio agreed.  "Tell me if it continues."  That got a nod.  "Thank you, Mayper."

"Welcome, Lieutenant.  Tell the boy his check this month was greatly appreciated."  He shook his hand.  "Have a better day."

"I hope it ends in an arrest."  He climbed in and pulled out, heading back to the lab.  He walked the heart downstairs, finding Alexx already doing an autopsy.  "Xander got sent more parts," he said, putting it on a side counter.

"Excuse me?  Parts?  Like last time with the boy parts?"

"A heart this time," he admitted, showing her.  She grimaced.  "It got sent to Mayper this morning.  Let me know what you can."  That got a nod.  "Send a sample up to DNA as well when you're done."  She nodded again.  "Thanks, Alexx."  He went up to get the boys to help him carry, ending up just him and Calleigh.   He handed her the bag.  "Run this first."

"Horatio, I'm in the middle of a murder."

"That came wrapped around a human heart in a box."

"Eww.  Sure, while the other stuff is running."  The other things went into his office, into evidence boxes that were sealed and marked.  She took the bag of wrapping paper with her, taking it to fingerprints.  "Can you fume these?"  That got a nod.  "They sent Xander a human heart in a box."

"Sure.  I'll look for anything I can find, Calleigh."  She took the bag and looked inside.  "Brown paper, wrapping paper.  Who unwrapped it?"

"Detective Mayper is the one Xander's using as a front for that stuff."

"Okay, I'll make sure none are his."  That got a smile and Calleigh got back to work.  "A heart?"  She started the fuming then went to chat with Valera.  "Xander got sent body parts?"

"Again?" she demanded, looking disgusted.  "Last time someone sent him sexual organs and a heart."

"Calleigh said it was just a heart this time."


"Very.  I'm fuming the wrappings.  I'll let you know who I find so you can do a comparison."  That got a nod so she went back.  She found Horatio in there watching it go.  "Calleigh asked me to fume it."

"As I expected since she's got a homicide," he agreed, staring at it.  "We've got a few fingerprints."

"Hopefully we'll be able to identify them," she offered. He smiled at her.  "Gotta look on the bright side, Lieutenant.  People who send others hearts should at least be in the mental health system."

"You'd hope," he agreed.  He helped her run prints, coming up with an answer.  The answer went to Valera for her to check against.  He watched while she ran the test, which probably made her nervous but oh well.  The cold case tech gave him funny looks but he didn't pay it any attention.  "Valera?" he asked when she got an answer.

She printed it out and handed it to him.  "A match to the fingerprints, Horatio, and he's not local."

He looked at the address.  "Okay then," he sighed.  "Thank you."  She nodded, looking a bit worried.  "I don't know yet, Valera.  We'll figure it out."  He walked back to his office, going to call Mac.  He put His Grumpiness on speaker.  "Mac?"

"Horatio.  What's wrong?"

"Xander got sent a heart in a box."

"Interesting present choice.   Are they up here?"

"The fingerprints and the DNA match, Mac."  That got a hum and Horatio smiled. "Lunch?"

"Trying hard to avoid watching Don eat.  He's eating sausage at the moment.  It's fairly disgusting.  Who is it?"

Horatio read off the name and last known address.  "I'm going through the stored presents to see if any of the others came from him.  Also, expect to hear from Raphael.  The family in the Middle East is at it again.  He vowed to eat them this time."  Mac snickered.  "Have fun ignoring Don and ask him if Tara's pregnant.  They'll be over the moon about that and it'd give Xander someone to spoil for a while."

"Hey, Don, Horatio wants to know if your current eating issues are due to Tara being pregnant?"  Mac laughed.  "He paused then blinked really hard before running for his car, Horatio.  Thank you for sparing me that."

"Everyone should have that scare once, Mac, and it would really please them."

"It would," he agreed.  "Protect your boy and we'll see you in a few weeks I think."



"I had forgotten."

"Come up, Horatio.  Have fun for the weekend.  Let Xander run wild in our clubs instead of yours.  Show me the pictures of the lab."  He hung up.

Horatio hung up feeling much better.  He went to check the other presents against the NY zipcode the man was in.  Only one other present came from there and it was a tasteful necklace with a raven pendant.  He bagged it carefully and went to fume it himself just in case it came from the same source since it didn't have a return address either.


Horatio got a call the next morning from Mac.  "Horatio," he answered.  He listened.  "Hold on, Mac.  Let me get into my office.  Call me in two?"  He smiled.  "Thank you."  He hung up.  "Meeting, my office!  Now, especially you, Speed and Ryan."  He headed up there, catching the ringing phone as he walked in.  "Mac?"  He smiled and put it on speaker.  "Thank you for getting onto that."

"Oh, we were pretty already there," Don offered. "By the way, she's not.  I checked."

"She's not what?" Ryan asked.

"I was eating funny and Horatio wondered if we'd had an accident," Don offered.  "She's not.  You can tell your wife, the nosy one."

"Sure," Ryan agreed with a grin.  "What's going on?"

"What we found was evidence of a suicide ring," Mac offered.  "We found his note and he said he had his heart removed because life wasn't pretty anymore without the beautiful one at his side."  Horatio moaned and sat down with help from Speed.

"So, they killed themselves and had someone cut out organs?" Ryan asked.

"Yup, basically," Don agreed.  "We ran back into the guy with the missing penis and stuff too.  Part of the same ring, guys.  We're still tracking it.  Danny got really sick over this last night.  Sheldon's 'fascinating' came through a very green mouth as well.  The guy wasn't clean by any means.  I'm surprised no one called about the mess."

"He was almost the only tenant in the house, Don," Mac reminded him.  "Anyway, we have his address book and computer files.  That's how we found out it's a ring.  We're tracking the others down.  We know most of them aren't going to Xander.  So far we've found one other that went to LA."

"Thank God," Speed prayed, looking up.  "Thanks for that small favor."  Horatio swallowed.  "How many more do we think?"

"At least three. Then the guy who's doing the cutting should be dying off but no one's gonna cut him," Don offered.  "We're sorry as hell, guys.  If we had figured this out sooner I would've stopped this one.  It's just *wrong*."

"At least they sent it to Mayper instead of Xander directly this time," Horatio said calmly.  "Thank you, boys.  Anything else relevant?"

"Yeah, the leather outfit came from the cutter," Don offered with a smirk. "One of the emails said that he wanted Xander to wear it to his funeral.  Knew him as Raven from somewhere."

Speed coughed.  "Not a clue where," he said when Horatio looked at him.  "Dry throat."  That got a sigh and a nod.  "I'll ask him."  He called out there. "Xander, me.  Where did you use the name Raven?"  He listened, then he groaned.  "When was that?  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Aiden made it up.  It was specific to the birthday parties he did.  Not the times he did it for fun or extra cash but when his former boss sent him out for birthday parties, before he went for his training."  Ian from IAB leaned in.  "Get in here. You should hear it too."

"So, another fascinated stripper moment, huh?" Don asked slowly.  "Why him?"

"I don't know, he hadn't even met Horatio then," Speed admitted.

"Huh?" Mac asked.

"There's a small family curse," Don explained to him.  "On Patrick's side of the family. That for four years, everyone's going to give him pretty crap so they're stronger thing, Mac."

"Oh, that.  You're right, that would've been before he met Horatio the first time."

Ryan coughed.  "Xander as a stripper.  Has anyone watched the later ones?"

"I did," Speed admitted.  "My boy has moves I don't."

Eric shook his head.  "I've seen it in the club.  He draws predators," he said quietly.  "Always has, Speed.  The same as his 'bad girl' habit back in Sunnydale probably was."  Speed moaned at that.  "I'm guessing it's the same thing."

"I can ask Willow," Ryan promised.  Horatio nodded.  "Can you guys let us know if you find any more of them sending stuff down?  We can try to intercept it if you do."

"We'll try," Mac offered.  "We'll even try to stop the shipments from this end.  By the way, Horatio, he's got a massive present from one jewelry store.  When the collar came Don gave them mine and his cards and asked them to not take anything else for Xander unless he asked himself.  They said they couldn't do that for business reasons but since it was a stalker situation they'd call us.  That's what she called it when she called.  It did go to Mayper."

"I'll warn him," he agreed.  "Thank you, Mac."

"Welcome, Horatio.  I hope it stops sooner for you guys.  This is annoying."

"He'll be doing another auction soon," Speed offered. "We can come up for that."

"Conference, guys," Don reminded them.  "Few weeks from now, our hotels, our city.  Come up.  You could all use the stress relief and Xander can go wild up here for a bit."  He sounded like he was smiling.  "Please?"

"Sure," Speed agreed.  "We'll try to arrange it, Don.  Thank you."

"Welcome, boys," Mac agreed.  He hung up.

Horatio looked at them.  "Now we know."

"I'll call Mayper about the new hefty present," Speed offered, walking off to do that.

"As soon as we know who I'll get on the shipments," Ryan promised.  Eric nodded he'd help.  "Anything else come in?"  The boxes were pointed at.  "Not jewelry?"

"Some stuffed animals.  The leather suit.  A few other things," Horatio admitted.  "I found a pendant that the donator of the heart had given.  It's locked away at the moment.  I don't think Xander wants to see it but I'll talk to him about it later."

"What about his grandparents?  Are they still getting some?" Calleigh asked.  Horatio shrugged.  "I'll call Thomas to ask.  You take some aspirin, Horatio.   How's Greg?"

"Fine.  A bit bored but mostly fine.  Calleigh, can you do conference registration?"  She smiled and did that.  "Let Speed call out there."

"Sure.  I can do that."  She went to arrange it and talk to the Chief to brief him - before the gossip chain got back to him.

Ian looked at him. "Heart?"

"New York has a suicide ring," Eric said quietly.  "They're committing suicide and letting someone cut out various parts to send to their love interest since they can't live without them.  Xander got his second the other day at Mayper's house."

"When diamonds won't do, say it in flesh and blood," Ryan quipped, then he shuddered.  "I'm so glad Willow isn't under that curse."  He walked off, going to do what he could with the new things they had.  He came back for a box then went to process the packages.

Ian shuddered.  "Eww.  I'm so sorry, Horatio."

"I'm hoping they can stop it," Horatio admitted.  "The boxes are more things Xander received from Mayper.  I picked them up at the same time as the heart yesterday."

"That's fine."  He looked around the office then back at him.  "I like your decorator.  Nice job, Horatio."  He took the other boxes with Eric's help.  Then he went to catalog things with Ryan's help.  Speed got very upset when he saw the presents, Ryan was less emotional and the newest CSI always got the bad details.

A few hours Ryan came in wearing a disgusted face.  "I think we found another in the ring, Horatio.  Just don't ask how."  He walked off, going to find some ginger ale and go outside to take in some clean air.  He'd get sick soon.

Horatio went to Ian's office, finding Alexx in there looking at a stuffed animal.  "Please tell me they didn't put it inside a stuffed animal."

"Horatio, sugar, you don't want to know what they did but they were alive when they it was removed," she admitted, taking the animal down to her morgue.  No one would mind if she dissected the animal.  Even if it was a nice bear.  She found another present inside and moaned, pulling out the pierced body part.  Then she went to get sick herself.


Mac walked into the morgue the next day, looking at the photos handed to him.  "Do we know who those belong to?"

"I'm not sure I want to know, Mac," Sid Hammerback, their ME said, handing over the photos.  "I'm going to concur with Alexx Woods.  I've seen many strange things.  I've seen many horrible things.  That is just sick."  He walked off shaking his head.

"Are they in our system?"

"Yes," he called.  "She's sending the parts up via courier, thankfully without the stuffed animal they were in."

"Stuffed animal?" Mac asked, looking disgusted.

Sid came and found another picture, handing it to him.  Mac turned pale and handed it back, picture side down.  "Exactly.  It was sent to Xander.  She dissected the animal and found that inside.  Even she got sick.  I'm  hoping it was a member of our new suicide ring but I can't be certain until you find them."  He showed him the ID they had gotten through DNA.  "Have fun with that and I'll be expecting a very mangled body since that was very badly removed while the body was still living."  Mac turned even more pale.  "Come on, outside.  Fresh air will help."  He marched him outside, finding Sheldon coming back.  He handed over the ID.  "Alexx Woods is sending the remains she found in the stuffed animal."

"Who would desecrate a stuffed animal?" he asked.

Sid led him back to the morgue to give him the pictures.  "That person.  They're his remains.  Go find it.  Mac's in no shape and you have a stronger stomach since you worked down here."

"Damn," he said.  He looked closer.  "Was that removed with a spoon?"

"She said there were signs of pulling beforehand and it was removed while the victim was alive," he said grimly.  "So go.  Shoo.  Find the sick bastard who did this, please?"  Sheldon nodded, going to do that with Danny.  Sid got Mac a can of his personal stash of ginger ale and brought it out to him.  "Here you go, Mac.  I sent Sheldon."

"Thank you," he said, looking at him.  "He's got to have a stronger stomach."

"I'd hope so."  He sat down beside him.  "I don't know what to tell you, Mac.  I don't understand the mentality of someone who would do this."  Don came jogging up the stairs and looked at them.  "Ask Sheldon when he gets back."

"Another one?" he asked hesitantly.  They both nodded.  "Charming.  How bad?"

"Stuffed animals and things, Detective Flack.  Bad enough I felt sick and Mac felt sick."

"Uh-huh.  I'll call the Doc and let him know to call me if they find something."  He did that, walking off to get something to settle his stomach for later. Then he called Tara.  "Sweetie, it's me.  I may not be over tonight after all.  No, I'm anticipating a really nasty scene.  Another of the suicide ring," he admitted. "You know Sid, right?"  He grinned when she described him as a sweet and loveable older man who told terrific stories.  "Yeah, him.  Even he looked nauseous.  So did Mac," he told her.  "So if I'm coming over, soup?"  He smiled.  "Thanks, baby.  I'll come cuddle if nothing else.  We'll have it tomorrow night.  My parents are coming over?  That's fine.  I'll eat crackers while you guys eat then.  Sure, love you.  Tell them I might be late, tell my Dad out of Mom's hearing.   She'll rant like Willow did at you about Ryan being unfair because he wouldn't let her have any more lollipops.  Exactly.  Thanks, baby.  See you tonight."  He hung up and shook his head, nibbling on a cracker.  Then he called Doc.  "It's me.  Let me know if we've got a body, okay?"  He heard Danny retching in the background.  "I take it that's a yes?"  He grimaced. "Sure.  Meet you there."  He hung up and looked at Mac.  "Sheldon said Danny can't work the scene, Mac.  He can't keep anything down."

"I don't blame him.  Is he at least off the scene?" Sid asked.  Don nodded.  "Sheldon?"

"Can't go back in there he said.  He said it's that bad."

"We've seen worse," Mac sighed, getting up and taking his ginger ale with him.  He finished his halfway there so he stopped to get them some more and Danny something for his stomach.  He parked and gave Danny what he needed, giving Sheldon the other ginger ale.  "That bad?"

Sheldon looked at him.  "I worked the Towers, Mac.  I've seen bomb scenes.  I've seen other air accident scenes.  I'm not going back in there.  I'll quit first."

Mac went to look then came back down the stairs.  "Let's remove the body first.  I'll do long distance shots."  That got a nod and he took Danny's camera.  He shot them from the doorway and front stairs.  Then he paged the ME.  Sheldon and Danny took deep breaths and came up with them, masks already in place.  He took his and they went to start the clean up process.


Don walked into the house that night, holding up a hand.  "Let me bathe," he ordered.  "Tara, can I please have some crackers, baby?"

"It's in the bathroom with the lemon stuff Xander got Aiden," she promised, giving him a look.  "Dinner won't be ready for another half-hour, Don."  He nodded and gave her a weak smile, heading up there.  She looked at his mother.  "A suicide ring," she said quietly.  That got a nod.

Don's father followed him upstairs.  "You okay, son?"

Don looked at him.  "Mac got sick twice, Dad.  Our former ME Sheldon got sick.  Danny got sick.  I got sick.  It was that bad.  One body."  That got a nod and a clap on the back.  "We've got a suicide ring."  His father frowned.  "They're killing themselves then someone will come and hack bits out to send to their love interest.  Xander's gotten two, we know one went to LA.  Today's was hidden in a stuffed animal sent to Xander.  It was the third one and it was about four days old."  That got a shudder.  "I swear, dad.  I've seen chainsaws make less of a mess."  He finished stripping down and went into the bathroom, finding the lemon scented candles lit and the shower ready for him.  He took the lemon oil and herb gel in with him.  That then his regular soap and shampoo and he felt nearly human and didn't feel like he stunk anymore.  He came out and found sweats and a t-shirt on the bed, smiling at his girl's thoughtful touches.  He blew out the candles, letting them scent him.  They smelled fresh and clean.  He finished his crackers as he headed down.  "Sorry, people."

"It's all right, Don," his mother soothed, giving him a hug.  "That smells wonderful.  What is it?"

"Eric, one of the CSI down with Horatio and them, took Xander shopping for Aiden," Don explained.  "They went to this fancy, upscale place and found this lemon and herb body acne treatment.  It works just as well for bad and smelly scenes.  Aiden called up and told us how great it was so I picked up a bottle.  Expensive as crap but works.  I smell right, right?"  She smiled and nodded. "Thanks, Ma."  He kissed Tara.  "Thank you for babying me, baby."  She smiled and stroked his cheek. "They'll run out of each other soon enough," he promised.  "There can't be too many left."  She gave him a cuddle.  "I love you."

"Why hasn't this been on the news?" his father asked.

"Because we didn't want it to start a fad or get copycats, Dad."

"That's reasonable," his mother agreed.  "Now, come sit.  Dinner's nearly ready, Don."  She ushered him into his seat and had her husband carry out everything this time.  "This is a charming house."  Tara smiled.

"It's Patrick's and Raphael's," Don told her, smiling at them.  "Oh, Tara, they might be passing back through soon.  That family's at it again.  Horatio warned Mac day before yesterday of that."  She smiled and shrugged.  "You take a vow of silence?"

"I don't mind if they come home.  It's their home," she reminded him.  He grinned and kissed her.  "I had lunch with your sister on campus."

"She stalk you again?"  Tara nodded. "You okay?" he prompted.

"We're fine.  She went over wedding things.  I'll be a bridesmaid."  Don smiled at that.  "We'll be wearing orange."  His mother snickered.  "I know, it's tradition to make the bride shinier on her day."  She nodded.  "But I'm happy to be included."  She stroked Don's hand.  "That means you have to stand up for her boyfriend."

"I probably will anyway," he agreed.  She smiled at that and held his hand while they dug into dinner.  His stomach was settled enough to eat and he'd have leftovers later when he was fully better.  His father gave him an understanding look.  Someone rang the bell so he went to get it, smiling at Danny.  "What's up?"

"What's the name of that lemon stuff Aiden bragged on?  I didn't pick up any before."

Don led him upstairs and to the bathroom, letting him have the rest of his bottle.  "There, I'll get more."  Danny nodded, heading home again.  Don came back down.  "He didn't pick it up when Aiden called."  He sat down again and took Tara's hand again, smiling at her, getting one back.  "It'll be over with soon."  She nodded and gave his hand a squeeze, digging in again with her other hand.  Don started to eat again too.  "So, how were your days?" he asked them.

"Tiring," his father admitted.  "I cut the grass."  His wife swatted him.  "I did."  Someone walked in and he looked. "Patrick," he said blandly.

"Don."  He and Raphael walked in, both of them hugging Tara, making her blush, and Don, making him smile.  He held his hand out to Don's mother.  "Mrs. Flack.  Patrick Benis."

"Charmed, Patrick.  Sit and eat with us?"

"We're exhausted from the flight," he offered, stroking Tara's hair, making her smile at him.  "I'll go rest and we'll talk the next time they come over.  All right?"  Everyone nodded.  "This is Raphael, my husband."  He nodded at that.  He looked at Don.  "Lemons?"

"Suicide ring, Uncle Pat."

"I heard Thomas swearing about that.  We're breaking on our way to Yemen to talk to the ambassador about that troublesome family.  We'll see you tomorrow, family."  He walked up the stairs with Raphael's help.  "Thank you, Sire."

"Welcome, my childe," he soothed, tucking him into bed.  He came down the back stairs to get some tea then went back up.  He knew Don's father still hated Patrick and they would respect that.   He found Don Senior in there.  "He's tired."

"That's fine.  I heard he's sick."  He looked at him.  "Husband?"

"Sire, same thing to us.  It started with how Xander explained it."  That got a faint smile.  "We don't mean to intrude."

"As Tara said it's your house," he noted.  "We good to finish dinner?"

"Of course.  We've just flown up from Miami.  He needs to rest."  That got a nod and he left them alone.  He put the tea down beside Patrick, getting in behind him to cuddle him while he slept.  He needed the comfort and Raphael needed to make more memories of him.

Don Senior sat down again. "Patrick's already asleep and the other one has tea for them both."  Tara nodded at that, wiping her mouth and going up to tuck them in.  "She does fuss."

"She loves to fuss," Don agreed with a small smile.  "You two ever going to make up, Dad?"  He looked at his father. "She died while traveling.  Not like he could've prevented it.  She got sick."

His father slumped and nodded at that.  "Then he ran."

"That's grief, Dad.  What would you do if you lost Mom?"

"Die," he said honestly.  "You?"

"Probably the same if I lost Tara.  I'm hoping Mac would make sure it wasn't by my own hand.  Danny definitely would."  Tara came down and hugged him. "It's fine, Tara."

She looked at him.  "You can't die if I do."  He looked at her.  "I said so, Don.  You can't.  I can't make anyone else die."

He pulled her into his lap to cuddle.  "I'll try my best, Tara, but sometimes losing love is destructive to the soul.  That's why Patrick went to God for a while when he lost Xander's Grandma."  She nodded, snuggling into his chest.  "I'd do my best, baby.  You have my word on that.  Okay?"  She nodded, smiling into his throat.  "They having cuddles?"  She blushed, he could feel it.  "Good.  Then they're comfy and you need to eat, my woman."  He pulled her plate over and handed her his fork.  "Eat."  She blushed but dug in, staying in his lap.  He stroked her back and looked at his father.  "You could try, Dad."

"I'm an old man and set in my ways."

"What would you call him?" he snorted.

"Point.  I'll try while they're here, son."  Tara gave him a smile and a hand squeeze.  "Thank you, dear.  I wish my own daughter were like you instead of the heathen brat she is."  His wife swatted him again. "She is.  She terrorized the cake shop the other day."

"Yeah, well, I was eating funny the other day," Don admitted.  They both stared at them in awe.

"Not me," Tara said quickly, ducking her head to eat another bite.

"I'll make your sister take a test, Don.  Thank you," his mother said, going to call her from her cellphone on the back porch.  "Dear, it's Mommy."  She smiled at the complaining noises.  "Dear, he's a man.  He'll never understand seating charts.  No, I was wondering if you wanted to make another announcement?  Perhaps like we should be throwing you a baby shower?   Hmm, it would mean you'd have to have the dress fitted later, dear.  Perhaps you should check, for me?"  Her daughter hung up but called back twenty minutes later ranting. "Thank you, baby.  You just made me very happy.  No, Don got some of your food cravings, darling.  It'll be okay.  I promise.  We'll handle it."  She smiled when her daughter slammed down the phone.  "You pegged it," she called as she walked back inside.  "The back yard is wonderful."

Don blushed at that.  "We've had a few special dinners out there, Ma."  Tara went bright red.

His father smiled. "It's good he blushes over you, Tara. Means I don't have to steal you for my own coddling and make you his sister."  She giggled at that.  "So, I'm going to be a grandfather?"  She smirked and nodded. "Let's hope the kid turns out more like Donny or Tara than her then."  He drank his water, making Tara chuckle.  "Deserves a toast," he said with a grin.  She swatted him but went back to eating, comfortable in Don's lap.


Xander hung up the phone.  "Thomas?"  He peeked out of the kitchen since they were at Patrick's house.  "That was Grandsire.  Don's sister is pregnant.  Not Tara."

"Shoot."  He went back to his sandwich making with Greg.  They came out and sat around in the garden room.  Xander had Holly in his lap petting the poor baby.  "I don't know how she got pregnant."

"With Thumper here?" Greg teased.  "How do you think."

"Don't remind me.  The dog tried to hump my coffee this morning," Thomas complained.  Horatio snickered at that.  "Are you guys sure you don't want to go into hiding?"

"I'm needed on scenes and to do the never-ending paperwork that comes with command," Horatio pointed out.

"I'll have to go back to Vegas sometime," Greg agreed.  Xander pouted.  "I love you two but I'm not ready to move yet, Xander.  I wish I was.  Our lab is a family like Miami's is."  That got a nod and he went back to paying attention to the dog.

"It happens, Greg," Thomas assured him.  "You'll figure it out over time."  That got a nod.
"With the way the population of the US is growing we might just be one big city soon," Xander offered. That got a grin. "Did they make it to New York okay?"  That got a nod.  "Good."  He held Horatio's hand, earning a smile.  "You should eat too."

"I ate with you already.  Greg was sleeping in."  That got a shy smile.  "It's fine, Xander."  He kissed him.  "We are going to take Holly for a walk in the garden.  Greg, you eat and we'll spoil you silly later."  That got a grin and he took Xander and the dog with him out into the garden for a stroll.  It was beautiful here, even at night.  He shuddered in horror at the house itself but the rest of the property was very pretty.  Holly found her master having dinner and Xander let her go when she yanked on her leash, watching as she went to beg him for some of his food.  He chuckled and fed it to her, nodding at them to keep going.  They went on, enjoying the quiet for the night.  Greg came out to join them and took his other side, taking his other hand to hold.  He smiled at him and Greg grinned back so they kept walking until they were all tired, then they went to the guest room for the night.  That way whoever had broken into Xander's earlier could be caught faster.


Xander woke up when someone covered his mouth, finding someone sneering down at him. Someone he didn't know.  He went into crisis mode and beat at them, then kicked at him, knocking him backward.  "Horatio!" he snapped, getting up to beat the shit out of the man who dared come near his mates.  The man fought back, or at least he tried really hard, but Xander's first step was to break one of his hands. His scream echoed down the halls.  Xander finally got him knocked out and panted over the body, looking at him.  He looked at the bed.  "Horatio?"  He walked over to shake him but he wasn't waking up.  He had a pulse, he was breathing but he wasn't awake.  He felt, no magic.  He called 911.

"This is Xander Harris.  I'm at the Benis estate, three up from the bridge to Star Island.  Yes, there.  I don't know, I'm in the house.  We have an intruder down but no one's waking up.  I don't know. They've got pulses, no immediate injuries.  Yes, there's officers and guards here, ma'am.  Please.  I'll have the gate open and drag the stupid intruder down to the foyer as well."  He found Horatio's cuffs once he had hung up and cuffed him, then drug him down by his feet, letting his head hit all the stairs.  He found the gate console on the wall and opened it, rushing outside.  "Guys!" he yelled. "Intruders!"

He heard Holly, getting down to pet her.  A cop car screamed in.  "Everyone but me and the dog.  There's three buildings.  The intruder's cuffed in the hallway.  Lieutenant Caine and CSI Sanders from Las Vegas are upstairs in the last room in the second hallway on the left."  He went inside to check.  "Okay, Holly.  We've got to find everyone.  Think you can?"  She barked.  Paramedics pulled in.  "You've got this house, three guest houses with staff and guards down on the grounds.  She's trained and we'll take a guy with us.  I have no idea why they won't wake up or how the intruder woke me."

"Found a gas canister on him," the officer reported.  "I'll go with you, kid.  Shoes?"

"Nothing that harmful."  He stopped a paramedic.  "There's four HIV positive people on staff.  A lot of the others are sick for other reasons."  That got a nod and they called for backup while he got the ground's lights and Holly's collar, leading her out to find the others.  They found the guards gassed and fallen in their spots.  Xander ran back to get the ATV and used it to cart the bodies back for easier pickup.  More paramedics and officers were reporting and he got the others found and back to the main site while the new teams swept the house and the guest houses.  He swept the garden, finding one last one, Holly's Master.  He whistled and one of the guys in the guest house came out.  "He's her handler."

"Sure."  They got down to give him oxygen.  "It doesn't look like it's a harmful gas."

"All I know is that the intruder woke me by putting a hand over my mouth," he admitted.  "I have not a clue otherwise."

"Are you a resident?" the officer helping him asked.

"Patrick's my grandfather.  Due to someone breaking into my house today he ordered me to bring my family over here.  Has anyone seen a little tan and black mottled mutt that humps everything?"

"Thumper's in the kitchen," one officer yelled.  He came to the back door.  "Xander, your stalker was found earlier.  He hung himself in your work area.  Delko had it and I responded."

"How long ago?"

"About twenty minutes, kid.  I came from there.  Where's your grandfather?"

"He and Grandsire are both in New York before going to Yemen to eat some people who keep sending me shit."

"Okay.  Come back inside?"  He nodded, bringing Holly with him.  "We've already found the gas canister on the ventilation system.  Everyone should be fine.  We're taking them all as a precaution.  I need you to go get dressed and come right back down."  He saw Xander's look at the intruder.  "He needs a CT, Xander."

"I drug him down the stairs.  I wasn't about to leave him up there with them vulnerable."  He jogged up the stairs, dodging around someone to get into his room.  "His name's Greg Sanders.  He's a CSI out of Las Vegas."

"Why was he in bed with Lieutenant Caine?" one paramedic asked.

"For the same reason I was?" he suggested dryly.  That just got a nod.  He stripped out of his sweats and put on real clothes, including shoes this time, then went back down.  "I'm bringing Holly."

"That's fine.  We put Thumper out in the garden shed.  He tried a gurney and a downed person."  That got a nod from Xander, who shook his head afterward.  "Are you going to fix him?"

"He is.  He was fixed last week," Xander told him.  "We've been thinking about making him impotent."  That got a smirk and he was led out to a car, getting in with Holly in the back.  "Be a good girl, Holly.  She's pregnant, is it going to affect her?"

"Shouldn't.  It was a fast acting sedative gas."  He headed off after one of the ambulances.  "So, two boys?"  Xander nodded, beaming at him.  "He's cute."

"He's a level one CSI out of Las Vegas."

"Cool.  Cute hair too."  He grinned at him and sped up, flipping on the lights to get around some late night traffic.  "Can you call anyone to get them there to handle the house?"

Xander concentrated and his phone landed in his hand.  Fortunately he had a lot of his grandfather's people's numbers on hand.  "Thomas, it's Xander.  Wake up now!" he ordered.  The phone was snatched from the answering machine's grasp.  "Someone gassed the house with a sedative.  So far Holly and I are the only ones up.  I left the gates open, there's cops crawling all over the house.  We had an intruder, he woke me up out of the gas I guess.  The field lights are on so you'll get complaints from the neighbors too probably.  On my way to the ER with my boys.  Officer Jackson has me and Holly.  Thumper's in the garden shed.  For the same reason you made him go outside in the rain, Thomas.  He was trying a downed body."  He smiled.  "Thanks, University.  Bless you."  He hung up.  "He'll be right there."

Jackson radio'd back.  "Captain Sterling, Jackson."

"Anything new to report?"

"The head guard for the Benis estate is headed back there at high speed to handle anything left on the grounds.  I've got Harris and their guard dog with me, going after his boyfriend and the others."  He released the button.

"I'll meet you there, Officer Jackson.  Ask him about the guy in cuffs?" another voice, female this time, asked.

"He was an intruder, woke Mr. Harris up..."

"I had to kick his ass and knock him out."

"Mr. Harris reported an altercation when he was woken up.  He drug him down to open the gates for us after calling for help."  He hung up.

"Roger. See you there.  Keep him there, Jackson," she said.

"Okay," Xander agreed.  "Though I don't think I should be in trouble for defending myself.  The guy was sneering at me."  He yawned.  "It's been a long day and I'm tired."

"As you should be," he agreed.  He pulled into the ER's parking lot and got him inside. "Two of them are his," he told a nurse.   "Lieutenant Caine and CSI Sanders.  He's a young blond man with a tan."

"They should've been right with each other," Xander offered.  She looked at the dog then at him.  "Our guard dog."

"That's fine, sir.  Do you have authority to treat?"

"We've signed the preliminary but not totally.  We're still doing that paperwork.  I can call his sister-in-law but I'm the only family he has outside of her.  Greg's my other boyfriend."

"They're a trio," Jackson said at her confused look.


"To make it simpler, I'm a Master and Greg's mine.  Horatio's mine for other reasons."  That got a stronger nod and she took pity on him, giving him what they knew already.  Then he had to wait like everyone else, though they did bring him back to identify people.  He'd soothe Greg down later about putting it that way, even spoil him to get out of the pouting.


Raphael answered the phone.  "What?"  He listened then nodded once.  "Any idea who, Thomas?"  That got a second nod.  "Everyone all right?"  He smirked at that.  "Who?"  That got a third nod.  "Of course.  We're here.  Keep us informed; if they charge him do everything in your power to get him free on bail, no matter the cost.  Thank you."  He hung up and looked at the sleepy vampire just waking up to stare at him.  "Someone broke into the house, gassed everyone, and went after Xander.  Woke him up out of the gas to do that.  Xander kicked him around a bit, drug him down the stairs after calling for help, and then took Holly to find downed bodies.  They're at the hospital right now and Xander's identified most of the people on the staff for them.  A few he doesn't know the names of but Thomas can do that."  That got a nod.  "They should all be fine, Patrick.  They said it was a sedative gas."

"Are they going to charge him for protecting himself and his boys?" he asked quietly.

"If they do, Gordon's down there.  I left orders to do whatever was necessary."  That got a faint smile.  "The intruder was still knocked out the last Thomas knew.  He's called Speed in to help and sent him his ID file of employees so the rest can be identified."


"Apparently the only one not affected.  Thomas said she's with our boy."  That got a better smile.  "He's probably driving some nurse insane at the moment trying to fuss over his boys."

"There's no probably about it, Sire, I would be," Patrick said dryly.  Don knocked and leaned in.  "Someone attacked the house.  Gassed everyone.  Woke Xander out of the haze and Xander beat him for us.  Then he called for help and helped find the others on the grounds."

"If they charge him I'll help bomb their DA's office," Don agreed, heading back to bed to tell Tara, who scowled.  "Not my fault," he said sheepishly.

"No but they're going to be feeling it," she vowed.  She called Willow.  She knew that waking Willow was a bad thing, that evil things could happen because she was cranky when she first woke up.  Even the fact that she woke Ryan at the same time wasn't going to help much this time.  She filled her in and Willow started to swear, making her smile.  "We're too far away but we've got his grandfather and sire up here, Willow.  Let us know if you need us to come down or something?"  She smiled at the assurance that she wouldn't need help this time.  "Love you."  She hung up and cuddled Don.  "I woke her and Ryan up."

"Ooooh," he said, wincing at that.  Waking a CSI or a cop out of a dead sleep was always a bad thing.  You got surly officers who tried to eat people.  Ryan wouldn't be much different.  He snuggled in.  "We'll protect each other from the grumps."  She hummed and stroked through his hair, making him smile.  "Love you."

"Love you too, much more than Willow."  He chuckled and gave her a squeeze.  "Sleep before you become a grumpy cop," she teased.

"There's a cure for that," he teased back.

"Not with others in the house," she squeaked, going so red he almost worried.  "They'll *know*."

"Sweetie, they already know that we're together.  They could probably smell the last time we made love.  I'm sure they're doing the same thing."  She shook her head.  "If you want I'll stick with cuddles and chew on Danny tomorrow."  He put his head down, purely satisfied with that much.  She went back to stroking over his hair and back and he fell asleep that way.


Willow woke up to the phone, which she hated.  She listened to Tara's quiet words.  "Excuse me?" she yelled.  Ryan woke up at that.  Tara explained further.  "That mother fucking idiot.  I'll castrate him and then sew the parts into his hiney!  He'll never get away with hurting him!  I'll make the Goddess weep with what I do to him!"  She heard the quiet offer.  "Oh, no, love, I don't need the help.  I promise you I won't need the help."  She smiled at the quiet 'love you'.  "Love you too, Tara."  She hung up and looked at Ryan, who was holding onto his knees.  "Patrick's house was gassed."

"Weren't the trio there?" he asked, looking a bit confused.  She nodded.  "They okay?"

"The intruder who did it needed to have Xander kick his ass.  Everyone else was out but the dog."  He quirked an eyebrow at that.  "They're still out."

"We can go," he agreed, getting up to find clothes.  He found her putting on an older 'Sunnydale' outfit and groaned.  "No hunting needed, dear."

"I won't have to.  He's in the hospital," she agreed, grabbing her purse.  She slid into her shoes.  "We'll be back soon, Miss Kitty."  She walked out, making Ryan catch up.  She got to the ER right after Speed did.  "Where's Xander?  How is he?"

Speed looked at them.  "Who told you two?"

"Tara," Ryan said, smothering a yawn.  "Everyone okay?"

"So far.  The intruder isn't waking up yet.  Xander drug him down the stairs."  Willow stomped off.  "You can't do that," he snapped.

"Bet me!"  She continued on and the nurses got out of her way, and the guys chasing her.  They picked her up and carried her off.  "He'll fucking well pay for hurting my Xander buddy and others!  Including the dog and her puppies!" she screamed, struggling but they were cops and used to struggling people.

Ryan made her look at him.  "Go help Xander wake his boys up.  All right?  We can take care of the intruder.  You can even have the DA if one comes to have him arrested."  She kissed him and headed back inside at a jog.  He looked at Speed. "Sorry, man, I had to give her someone."

"That's okay.  Better than I'd do."  He heard a nurse scream and sighed, heading in there.  "Down, Holly!"  She sat and glared at the human.  "She's a trained guard dog.  Trained in bombs mostly.  Have you been touching explosive materials or fertilizer?  Heart medication?"  She slowly shook her head. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," she said weakly. "She's going to eat me."

"No she won't," Ryan promised.  "Good girl, Holly.  Go guard the Xander."  The dog went back in there.  "Pet her, Xander."

"Such a good girl," he cooed, petting her.  "Very good girl.  Granddaddy would be very proud of you and so would Sire.  So would your Daddy Tony.  Yes he would."

Speed looked at her.  "We'll have to scan you, Nurse."  She gave him a horrified look.  "It's not hard.  We've got an electronic nose.  I can have it brought."  She nodded and he walked her into an empty cubicle while calling the nightshift CSI to bring it to him.  It was brought by one of the officers coming in to be checked for traces of the explosive.  He ran it over her, finding it all over her shirt.  "Who was on your stomach?" he asked.

"A person who was just brought in," she admitted, leading him and his machine that way.  He scanned the patient and got the cleared officer to come in and deal with him.  He had chemical burns.  He had residue from TNT.  He was going to be questioned once he was stable.  "They'll need to know why and who brought him in."

"Of course," she agreed. "Who are you?"

"CSI Speedle.  Second in command in the lab during dayshift."  She nodded and went to make that note, then to change her shirt while someone else got the forms for him.  She did not want to be bitten by that dog.  Or even pounced.  It had been a scary thing!

Speed handed the CSI the electronic nose again.  "That guy in there," he said, pointing.  "Chemical burns, traces of TNT all over him.  Have fun with that."

"Thanks, really.  What's this?"

"They were at Xander's grandfather's house and someone gassed it.  Including the guards on patrol.  The guy in cubicle 12 was the intruder who woke Xander up and made Xander kick his ass."  That just got a nod and she went to help the officers while he went to check on Xander, Horatio, and Greg.  The dog was up on her master's bed, laying on his feet staring at him. "He'll wake up soon, Holly."  He looked at Xander. "Where's Willow?"

"With some of the other guards.  I made her help them."  That got a nod and a faint smile.  "Who woke her up?  She's seriously sleep deprivation grumpy tonight."

"Tara," he said dryly.  An officer walked in with a notepad.  "Statement time?"

"Have to, Speedle.  Just checking on everyone.  Who's the blond?"

"CSI Sanders out of Las Vegas," Xander told him.  "There's an assassin after him and Horatio so Grandfather ordered us to stay at his place while he's off taking care of someone who sent me more crap I don't want.  Grandfather's in New York if you need verification."

"No, that's okay," he promised, looking at him.  "The intruder's pretty badly beaten up, young man."

"I had to!  He woke me up and sneered at me. He was going to attack.  I did shove him at first and he attacked me.  So I beat his ass.  Then I called for help, cuffed him, and drug him down the stairs.  I wasn't about to leave him in the same room as Horatio and Greg while they were vulnerable.  I'm not sure he's not the assassin bastard."

That got a nod and he wrote it down.  "Do you know the name of the assassin bastard?"

"I know he uses a white rose as a symbol.  I know we had an influx of snakes a few months back.  I know he's broken into Greg's house, Horatio's house, and we thought my house but I heard that the guy who broke into mine committed suicide in my work area?" he asked his dad.  Speed shrugged. "They said Eric and Calleigh had it."

"They might have.  Calleigh didn't look pleased when she got home."  He found the wall phone and called her.  "It's me. The suicide in Xander's house?"  He just nodded.  "Thanks.  Hospital.  Everyone's okay just gassed."  He hung up.  "Part of the suicide ring."


"Very.  He had some very pretty brand new tattoos on him about his love for you and how his body would shower you with the love you needed.  It also said as he melted it would slowly wrap around you until you drowned in the love."

"Very eww," Xander complained.

"Yeah.  That might be the assassin," he agreed.  "We can take prints to verify against what we found in Greg's and Horatio's places."

"Already done and they're being run, Speedle," the officer assured him.  "I was told I'd be called if and when they came through."  He looked at Xander again.  "Do you remember the fight?"

"Not every move.  I know I broke his hand first after he attacked.  He screamed. I usually go for jaw or stomach shots, then chest shots to knock someone back then down.  I think I stomped on his knee once too.  Not real certain about that."  That got a nod and he wrote that down.  "I'm not a berserker anything, Officer.  I'm really not.  I was protecting my boys."

"I can understand that, sir.  I find no fault in you protecting your lovers."  He smiled at him.  "Dragging him down the stairs was a bit excessive but I wouldn't have left him up there either.  We'll get it figured out by the time they wake up if we're lucky."  That got a gentle smile from him.  "One last question.  No implements in the house?"

"Not as far as I know.  I know there's a few swords and I might've grabbed one if he had been a challenge.  He wasn't so I didn't.  But no, Grandfather and Grandsire aren't into the lifestyle if that's what you're asking."

"It was.  Thank you, sir.  I'll file this with your statement.  I'll have it brought to you for signing."  Xander nodded and shook his hand.  "I hope they're okay, sir."

"Have you heard they wouldn't be?" he asked, starting to look alarmed.  "They said they'd be fine, it was just a sedative.  Are they saying something different since the lab's got the gas canister now?"

"No, sir, nothing like that has been said," he promised.  "I can check if you want."  Xander nodded, leaning down to check on Horatio then moving to check on Greg again.  He looked at Speed.  "I fussed over my wife that way when she was giving birth."  He went to check with the nurses, getting assurances everyone would be waking up by the morning.  He went back in there.  "They're saying they should wake by morning shift change, sir."  Xander relaxed and kissed Horatio's temple.  "I'll leave you in private," he said before leaving.  He went to report to his boss and the DA waiting about what he had said and seen.  No cold blooded killer fussed over their lovers like that.  He didn't care who said what about the guy having a cult of serial killers to him.  Delko stomped in and paused in front of them.  "They said your boss and the others should wake up by morning shift change.  Speedle's son is fussing himself to death.  The dog is on her master's bed.  He's panicking when new news comes in.  Does he really have a cult?"

"They consider Xander a paragon of purity and cleanliness," Eric told them all.   "They're watching him to see how to stay pure and not kill."  That got a smile from the officer and the nightshift head of the lab.  The DA still scowled.  "Not his fault.  They formed without him knowing.  We've kept an eye on them.  They did things like steal the guns that were stolen off Xander.  They're keeping them in a shrine.  Every now and then we make sure they don't have more of them.  They like to talk to Father Benis about ways to sublimate and how to move on after abuse and things.  They talk to Speed now and then about Xander and how he's managing it.  They're fairly nice guys, even for having been really badly hurt.  They all want to stay clean and pure."  That got some smiles and even the DA cracked one.  "They pounced Horatio last week and wouldn't let him into the hummer, said they needed to tell him about a member that was having troubles.  Made him go talk to him and get him back down.  They blockaded the hummer until the guy was better."  That the DA cracked a smile at.  "They even like Xander's dog Thumper."

"That dog is strange," the officer noted, looking at him.

"He's fixed and he still humps *everything*," Eric assured him. "We have anything?"

Nightshift's supervisor handed over the reports.  "Everything. Gas was a sedative.  Major tank on the A/C.  Smaller one was nearly exhausted.  Probably used on the guards. Looks to be relieved with some rest and oxygen.  The intruder's prints matched what Las Vegas and we had from Horatio's and Sander's break-ins.  Does not match the earlier one at Speed's son's place however."  Eric just nodded at that. "That one did match to someone else however."  He handed over that report with a smirk.  "Who did the boy piss off this time?"

Eric looked then at him.  "He sent him a diamond collar a few months back.  Mayper found out."  He handed it back.  "Did we pick them up?"

"They're up in New Hampshire on retreat.  I let them know.  It's not pretty.  They're going to find him and extradite to us.  Any word on Caine?"

Eric texted Speed, getting back a 'napping'.  "Still sleeping so Xander's still fussing."

That got a nod from all the officers.  "When will I be able to question him coherently?" the DA asked.

"Never," Eric assured her.  "Xander has a pretty good case of ADHD.  He babbles.  If you're expecting him to act like normal people, you'll be old and gray before he does."  He looked at Adam, the supervisor.  "So, if the intruder matches, are we going to go there and arrest his broken ass?"

"We should," he agreed happily.  "Who did Speed catch that he needed the nose?"

"Not a clue."  He texted that to Speed and got back a 'holly marked a nurse, the guy was positive for chem, TNT'.  He showed it to Adam, who just nodded and walked off.  "Okay, anything else?" he asked.  The other officer walked off.  He looked at the DA.  "You're going to charge him for protecting himself and his boyfriends?"

"Boyfriends?" she sneered.

He looked at her then smirked.  "Caine's his boyfriend."  She went pale.  "So, are we?"  She shook her head and stomped off.  "Have a nice night," he called after her.  He went to gather what he needed and went to the ER to hand it to Speed, who smirked at him and nodded at Xander.  The boy was curled up on Horatio's bed with him, but one hand was stretched over to hold Greg's hand.  "They wake up?"

"Xander got Greg up finally.  Apologized for busting their *other* relationship."  That got a nod.  "DA?"

"Scared to death of Horatio, still," he said, sounding happy about it.  "She sneered at the phrase boyfriends so I mentioned he was Horatio's.  She walked off very pale and nearly leaving a trail of wetness."

Speed grinned.  "I've been a good influence on you, Eric.  I'm so proud!"

"If you hug me, I'm smacking you," he promised.

"Boys, not even Xander can sleep through you two playing," Horatio said quietly.  "Shut up."

"Sorry, H," they said together.

"But hey, now that you're awake the nurses want to know," Speed offered. "Caine's awake," he called.  The nurses came in to check on them and one tried to move Xander.  He and the dog both growled.  "Um, just don't.  Please."  She nodded and worked around the boy.  Holly put her head back down.  "You, grumpy, go lick your master or act like Thumper."  She got up and licked her master until he groaned and swatted at her.  "Up and at 'em, boy!" Speed snapped.  He looked at him.  "Morning.  Happy nap?"

"What happened?" he asked, sounding tired.

"Bad guy, gassed, in the ER," Eric summarized.


"Guy who broke into Horatio and Greg's places but not the guy who broke into Xander's either time today."  The guard looked at him.  "She wasn't gassed.  He woke up Xander."  That got an evil smirk and he went back to resting, even if his dog did bother him.  "Come on, Holly, I'll take you out," he promised.  She got up and followed him, going to use the bushes in the smoking area.

Speed looked at him. "Xander's in super fuss mode."

"Good!  I like that.  It means his boy will be smiling tomorrow."

"Only if I get back to sleep.  Otherwise I'm going to murder a suspect," Horatio warned.  The nurse left him alone, leaving him to shift onto his side so he could hold Xander.  He looked at Greg's bed and it moved closer with a small touch of magic.  "Thank you," he whispered.  He took his hand to hold as well and let the other arm curl around Xander's chest.  It was enough for now.  "I want a full report tomorrow."

"Sure," Speed agreed, backing out, leaving them alone.  He looked at the nurses.  "Just don't.  Really.   Horatio is an evil bastard if you wake him up."  Something flew out of the curtain and nearly hit him.  "Not to mention Xander when you wake him up."  He walked her off.  "Let them wake up.  Around six or so go ahead and put an alarm in there.  They'll be grumpy but able to move."  She nodded, going to make a note that they were violent when woken.  He went outside to call Thomas.  "People are starting to wake up.  Horatio's already woken up and growled for us waking him up.  She's fine too.  Eric, how's Holly?  Thomas wants to know?"

"She's acting a bit funny.  Why?"

"She's pregnant."

"I'll call the vet the K-9 unit uses," he agreed, going to call someone who would know.  He wrote the number on his hand then called it.  "Hi, this is CSI Delko.  We just ran into a pregnant personal guard dog and she's acting a bit oddly.  She got gassed earlier."  He looked at her.  "She's squatting and trying to go but can't.  We're at University.  You handle the K-9.  Sure, I can bring her over.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Okay, girl.  Let's go see the nice vet who takes care of the police dogs and horses."  He walked her to the car so she could get into the back.  "Be back."

"Go home," Speed told him.  That got a nod and Eric drove off.  Speed listened to Thomas laugh.  "She's fine, we're taking her to the vet just in case.  The guy who does K-9 ones.  Yeah, Eric's brother-in-law has a dog so she'll be fine with him.  Well, Xander could use a puppy," he offered.  He laughed.  "I know, only if we can fix Thumper.  Is he there?"  He nodded.  "That's probably a better place for him.  Sure.  They're napping here.  Threw something at us."  He grinned.  "That works.  We'll let you know when they wake up."  He hung up and called the office.  "Adam, Speed. Horatio's been up, gotten a quick update, is back asleep, and threw stuff because we were talking too loud.  Probably not.  Me either maybe.  Not sure yet.  I'll try.  He'll probably try.  Wolfe's here.  Delko just took the guard dog from the Benis house to the vet's because we think she's in labor."

Xander wandered out and took the phone.  "Horatio's calling off sick.  He's got a migraine and he's nauseous."  He handed it back and wandered back to his lovers' side, going to curl up again.

"And that was Xander," Speed continued dryly.  Adam snickered at that.  "We'll check at six-thirty.  I told the nurses to try then.  Thank you."  He hung up and looked around, finding Ethan parking and getting out.  "Everyone's fine."

"Where's Patrick?"

"New York.  They went to talk to the Yemeni ambassador and then they're going to eat the family that's bothering Xander.  They probably know since Tara woke up Willow to tell her."

Ethan shuddered, then shook his head.  "We're sure we're all fine?"

"Should be.  Let's go make sure."  That got a nod and they walked inside.  Ethan looked at Willow then muttered something under his breath.  She passed out, making Ryan catch her.  Ryan glared and he glared back.  "Quit, boys," Speed ordered.  He looked at Ethan.  "Explanations?"

"She's broadcasting at others," he explained.  "We don't want more accidents.  Do we?"  Ryan shook his head. "Then take her home and sleep.  It'll help her calm down and you will as well."  Ryan nodded and hefted his wife up and out to the car.  The nurses all stared at him.  "She took a nap.  She's fine."  He followed Speed to the area.  "I'm one of Patrick's lead aids.  I need to check on his people and make sure everyone's identified correctly."  They nodded and let him.  He looked at one and smiled. "The twins are backwards," he said quietly.  They switched them and he moved on, smiling at the trio and how they were curled up.  Xander woke up to look at him. "Sleep, lad.  You're safe and protected."  Xander put his head back down, snuggling back in.  He left Speed there and went to make sure everyone was fine.

"What took you so long to get here?" the officer in charge asked.

"I was out of town," he admitted. That got a nod.  "Thomas is the head guard.  He's at the manor house waiting on updates.  Is everything handled?"

"So far as we know.  The intruder matches some earlier breaking and enterings."

"We think he's an assassin," Speed offered.  "Ask him about white roses, see how he reacts."  That got a nod and the officer made a note about it.  "We know there's one after Horatio and Greg.  His prints match both break-ins.  So he's a good shot for it."

"Sure, Speedle.  We can do that for you guys.  Your son going to be all right with beating someone up?"

"Yeah.  He's been a protector for years," he agreed with a small smile.  "He's an incredible young man.  Always has been."  He looked around then at Ethan.  "Need me?"

"Go rest.  That way you can handle things tomorrow."  Speed nodded and left.  He sighed and looked at the officer. "Anything else I should know?"

"Jackson said he responded to a break-in at Mr. Harris' house right before the gas attack, sir.  Something about a suicide."

Ethan walked off muttering swears, making the nurses giggle at his very British turn of phrasing.  He looked at one.  "Someone broke in to commit suicide in the young man's house earlier.  Do not let him fret until I get back."  That got a nod and he went to call the night shift supervisor to ask him about it.  He found out Thomas already had and it was handled efficiently.  He sighed in relief.  He hated to clean up things.  He always bollixed things up.


Don walked into the kitchen and found Patrick making tea.  "Shouldn't you be napping?"

"Probably," he admitted, smiling at him.  "Everyone down there is fine."

"Good.  Tara woke up Willow so someone's not fine but it's good everyone's good.  They get the guy who broke into Xander's house?"

"He's up in New Hampshire on retreat according to his people."

"So he broke in at ten yesterday morning and then flew to New Hampshire?" Don asked.  Patrick gave him a look and nodded.  Tara walked in with her hair back, earning a kiss from both men, though Patrick only kissed her cheek.  "They got everyone but the guy who broke into Xander's earlier that morning."

"Including the suicide who broke into Xander's house," Patrick sighed.

"Our cutting guy?"

"I'm hoping so but I can't be sure," he admitted.  "Night shift is still working on it, Don."

"I'll have Mac call," he promised.  He gave his uncle a hug.  "You be a good boy today.  No teasing Uncle Raph."  That got a wicked smirk.  "See if you can find a vet who'll be able to figure out what to do with Thumper."  Tara giggled.  "He's still humping everything.  Greg said he caught him trying his hair the other morning."  She snickered, leaning against his chest.  Someone pounded on the door so he went out to get it.  "Yes, Officer?" he asked dryly, his badge firmly in place.

", Detective, we were told there was some guy here who was wanted on an old homicide warrant?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  Who?"  He lounged in the doorway, clearly not letting him inside.  "This is my Uncle's house with his husband.  My fiance lives here while she's finishing college."

"That's nice, sir.  Um...."  He looked at the form in his hands then handed it over.  "A Raphael Monteogo?"

"Uh huh," he said dryly, looking at it.  "Son, my Uncle Raphael has a different last name and this was filed in 1932."  He handed it back.  The officer shrugged.  "That's also not a homicide warrant."  The guy looked then at him, giving him a sheepish look.  "Who called?"

"Not a clue, sir."

"There could be a new one soon but it'd be overseas when I deal with the people who're gifting your nephew with pretty things," Raphael called as he came down the stairs.  He looked over Don's shoulder, staying away from the weak sunlight outside.  "That would've been my father and he's dead, young man."

"Thank you for clarifying that for me, sir.  There's also a more modern theft one?"  He handed that over.

Don shook his head.  "No they didn't.  The guy who filed this sent my nephew Xander crap out the ass.  Jewelry, clothes, and other things.  Xander is in a committed relationship and the dumbass is trying to break them up.  They helped him send stuff back and sell other things that he clearly did not want."

"We should still talk about it downtown, sir."

"Son, if I step foot outside this house in daylight I'm going to burst into flames," Raphael said seriously.  The officer laughed so he put his hand out into the weak son and let it smoke.  Then he pulled it back and let Tara baby it for him.

"You still think he's kidding?" Don asked dryly.

"Um, Detective?" he asked, looking really confused.

Don turned and kissed Tara gently.  "Behave and be safe today.  I'll be back tonight."  She nodded and gave him a gentle smile.  "Good girl.  Love you."  He headed out with the officer.  "C'mon, we'll go talk to your boss.  That way we can straighten that out."  That got a nod.  "I know, the sun allergy stuff is really severe in some people."

The officer looked at him.  "I like horror movies as much as the next guy, sir."

Don wrote an address out for him.  "That's where the strange stuff congregates in the city, kid.  The really strange thing is that my nephew Xander's like Van Helsing, used ta hunt guys like that."  He grinned as he got into his car.  "Which one?"


"Meet you there."

"Yes, sir.  I'll wait on you."  He got into his car and headed out, thinking the whole way.  He decided he was going to tell his boss and that was it.  His boss was a twenty-seven-year veteran in the NYPD.  He'd seen most everything before.  Surely he'd seen vampires.

Don parked about thirty minutes later and got out, finding the nice guy on the stairs.  He nodded so Don followed, waving at a guy he knew.  "Hey, Henderson."

"Flack, why're you here?"

He looked at him.  "Someone tried to arrest my uncle's husband for helping my nephew when he was sent gaudy and tacky crap by someone he didn't want."

"Ah.  Heard about that warrant.  The guy was in here ranting and screaming."

"He's gonna be screaming for totally different reasons when I get done with him," he promised, heading in there.  He smiled at the supervisor.  "Your boy's good and polite," he said in greeting.  "He'll go far."

"Good to know, Detective...."

"Flack, Junior."

"I knew your old man, you're not that old," he admitted.  That got a small smile.  "He filled me in on part of the problem."

"Yeah, Xander's got this gifting society that keeps trying to break him and his boys up."

"Boys?" he asked.

"Yeah, it took two ta settle his bouncy ass," he agreed, then shrugged.  "One's a stand up guy and I've only met Greg a few times but he's a CSI as well."  That got a small smile.  "Anyway, some stupid people decided they wanted Xander so they sent him crap.  Jewelry, clothes, our recent suicide ring had a few that sent him parts, and we're talking a lot of crap.  I had to help with the auction up here when the first load of crap went."  That got an understanding nod.  "I heard from Henderson he came in screaming and ranting?"

"That the boy shoved away his offerings like that."

"Uh-huh.  Half the time Xander doesn't know who they are.  If he does or they can find out he sends stuff back.  He's in Miami and he's got a retired detective down there fronting for him and doing that so he doesn't have to look at it.  My uncle and uncle-in-law are going to Yemen soon to stop a family over there that keeps sending him stuff for some reason.  That family's declared him a family curse and had members who committed suicide to restore the honor they lost by making the FBI pull him off a plane after he was kidnaped."  That got a shudder from the officer.  "So no, Uncle Raph did none'a that.   They're mad Xander tossed them aside when he didn't know who they were.  This is so insane someone tried to sue Xander over him not taking them after he had sent him expensive crap.  Uncle Patrick had to get him a lawyer, who brought in the records they all keep to see what he had sent and listed how they had no idea who had sent the stuff he did and if he had Xander would've given it back.  The judge ended up throwing the suit out and made the guy see a shrink plus pay for the time of both lawyers."

"I thought your father was the only son," the captain said.

"Uncle Pat married Dad's oldest sister.  Xander's from his third marriage and Aunt Betty was his second."

"Oh."  That got a nod.  "Okay.  That makes a bit more sense.  He still filed charges."

"I'm so going to let him be eaten by someone."  The officer gave him a horrified look.  "Not like it's a big loss, kid."  He looked at the captain again. "I'm sure he told you about the sun allergy."

"I've seen others.  I saw a hunter a few years back I think it was.  Dark hair, tanned, really fit, liked leather?"

"Probably Xander," he agreed with a grin.  "Why, he get a normal person?"

"No, I know he saved an officer who had gotten out to help someone.  Didn't stick around."

"He's like that," Don agreed.  "So, what do you want to do?"

"Have a drink and forget I had this conversation?" the officer suggested.  "Or had that visit this morning?"

"Sounds good," Don admitted.  "Wanna trade?  I've got the suicide ring on my caseload since they're sending body parts and traumatizing people plus they've got someone who's cutting them afterwards for that."  He shuddered and shook his head.  He looked at the Cap.  "Up to you, it's your precinct."

"I'm going to call this guy in here later.  Can we get him down here in a way that won't make him flame up?"

"Maybe.  You'd have to give him a way to stay out of the sunlight as well.  They were up having tea with my fiance before she went to class."

"Does your Dad know?"

Don smirked.  "Dad loves Tara.  Thinks she's the sweetest thing ever.  Even my sister likes Tara and calls her sweet and my sister wouldn't know from sweet."  That got a smile.  "So...."

"Let's plan to call him down later this afternoon.  It's supposed to rain," the officer suggested.  "We can clear interrogation one down toward the basement.  The window's so small down there and it's got a shade."  That got a nod from his boss.  "Can you call so we can arrange that, Detective Flack?"

"Sure."  He dialed the desk phone.  "It's me, we're working out how to deal with the second warrant."  The captain looked at his boy.  "Ancient one, Uncle Raph's sire.  Done in 1932."

"Oh."  That got a nod.  "Okay.  Let's plan it for four?"

Don smiled.  "I can be here then.  I've got court this afternoon.  Uncle Raph, we want you to come down somehow around four.  Eighteenth precinct.  They'll drag in the guy who was screaming about you helping Xander get rid of crap.  Does Horatio or Speed know about the court case?"  He smiled and nodded.  "That'll work.  That's what we were planning.  Nah, the Captain here has been in the uniform for decades.  He even saw Xander while he was hunting we think.  Thanks, Uncle Raph.  Sure.  Court.  Why?"  He blinked.  "Who told them?"  He sighed.  "Does she know?"  That got a nod. "I'll find her.  She probably went to the station.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Not a problem but I've got a crying and sobbing girl.  Her shitbag parents are coming up to try to drag her home."  He walked out, heading to his car at a brisk trot.  You only ran in the station if it was an emergency.  On the way he called his dad. "If Tara's there, keep her there.  If she shows up in the next few let me know.  Because her parents are on their way up, dad.  Yeah, them," he said grimly.  He hung up and got in to drive.  He saw Danny walking and honked.  "Get in and do it quick."  He slid in and headed that way.  "Tara's parents are on their way up."

"Hell," he muttered.  "Can we kick their asses?"

"Only if she lets me."  He sped up a bit, using his lights at the harder intersections.  They made it back in nearly record time and headed inside the CSI side of the building.  Sheldon and Mac both had Tara in his office, holding her sobbing, shaking body.  "They get near you and I'm killing," he said.  She looked at up.  "Seriously.  They come near you I'm so gonna go Xander on 'em."  She flung herself at him and let him hold her.  "Shh, baby, I've got you."  He sat down on Mac's uncomfortable couch to hold her.  "Shh.  It's all right."

"They're going to make me go home," she whispered.

"No, they're not.  They touch you over my dead body," he promised, making her look at him.  "They're not getting near you, Tara.  Am I clear?"  She gave him a trusting look.  "I promise, they're not coming anywhere near you.  You can stay with me today and when I've got court you can go sit with Mom and Dad."  She put her head on his shoulder, simply being held.  "I've got you and no one takes what's mine.  They haven't since I was on the playground," he soothed.  She let out a soft giggle at that.  "Really, they haven't.  Every now and then I let someone steal a case because, hey, less paperwork for me so I get home sooner to you, but no one else steals stuff."

"Danny steals your peppermints," she reminded him quietly.

"Yeah but that's keeping him happy so he quits bugging others."  She smiled at him and stroked his cheek.  "I've got you and you're mine.  I'm possessive in a good way.  They come near you and I'm so shooting someone."  His father stomped in.  "Did you get when they're coming in?"

"Today at two."

"I've got court just after lunch break they think," Don offered.  "Can she stay with you guys and hide?"

"Sure.  Your Ma's got an appointment today but otherwise, yeah."  She reached out and he squeezed her hand.  "You're our family now, Tara.  If they come near you, we'll all get to kick their asses and I'll sic my baby girl on them."  She blushed and hid her face.  "She's meaner'n Donny.  She'll make 'em cry and then laugh as she walks away."  He smiled at Mac and Sheldon, nodding politely.  "Mary's already called you off class because of personal injury.  You can come to the house with us."  Tara got another cuddle and a kiss from Don then slowly took his hand and let him help her up.  She snuck another kiss with a shy smile before he put her under his arm and walked her out.  "You and Mary can talk about the garden.  She saw Patrick's and wants to do stuff to our yard."

"I'm good with plants," Tara said.

"I figured you were.  It's part of your faith, sweetie."  She smiled at him.  "So you and she can putter in the garden today.  Your Psychology teacher wanted to know what sort of injury, I told her it was the sort where your parents were going to try to kill you and then we'd be covering up their homicides for trying you.  She decided you can do your test online later tonight."  Tara nodded and gave him a squeeze.  "Good girl.  You let us handle these parents of yours.  They'll walk off sorry as hell for not loving you like they should have.  If they try stuff, well...  Siccing Donny on them would be mean.  It'd make some of those recent scenes of his look pretty but I'm sure we can cover it up.  He works with CSI enough that he knows how now."  She pinched him and he grinned at her. "He does.  Not like they'd come after Don for taking out your parents, Tara."  He walked her out to the car and got her inside, then walked around to drive, nodding at one of Don's coworkers.  "Let Don know if her parents show up, immediately, son," he ordered.

"Sure.  Why?"

"So he can find handcuffs and use them on himself."

"Ah.  Sure."  Flack Senior smiled and got in to drive, letting her curl up against the door and even change the radio station on him.  He found Flack at his desk, looking calm. "You good?"

"If they say one bad thing to her I'm killing them," he said honestly, looking at his fellow detective.  "Should I leave them somewhere for you?"

"Not really.  I have enough open."  He went back to his desk.  "They bad news?"

"Told her she was demonic."

"Ah..  That sort."  He nodded again and got back to his paperwork.  "I'll help you hide the body or hold you back, Flack."

"Thanks, buddy."  He got to work on his own reports.   His boss gave him a look.  "What?" he asked without looking up.

"You're late."

Don looked at her.  "One of the present patrol that Xander has tried to have Uncle Raph arrested for helping him deal with them."  She laughed at that.  "Seriously.  Had to arrange how to handle that one, then I found out Tara's parents are coming up.  So I had to calm her down."

"She twittering?" she asked with a small grin.  He stood up and let her see the dampness.  She frowned.  Don looked at her.  "Not in the station, Flack.  If you hit him take it outside."

"Sure, boss.  More than happy to take it to the alley."  She shivered at that.  "Dad's got her until I'm done with court."

"Make up the hours somehow," she ordered. "Give me paperwork as well."  Don sat down and got back to it.  "When are they showing up?"

"Their flight lands at two," he admitted. "I've got court this afternoon."

"Okay.  If they come here I'll refer them to Taylor."  Don smirked evilly at that.  "I will."

"Works for me," he agreed.  "Maybe he and Stella can both have fun before I get back."  She walked off cackling at that thought.


Mac looked at his gathered CSI.  "Tara's family is coming in today," he announced.  "They are not nice people.  If you see them, I want to know immediately.  She's in hiding and protected."  He passed around the picture he'd gotten off Patrick.

"How bad?" Stella asked.

"Her father once told her she was demonic and would have to stay and hide with them so she could take care of them."

"So, if we see 'em, call you then take 'em to the alley?" Danny suggested, handing it on.  "Flack's got court this afternoon.  Should be short but you never know."

Sheldon looked at the picture then at Mac.  "Just let me have one swing if we're hitting them, please."  He handed it off to Lindsey.

"Sure, Doc, you can help us," Danny promised, patting him on the back.  "Patrick and them?"

"Don't have anything formal planned yet.  They're dealing with one of the present patrol, as Don calls them, trying to arrest Raphael for helping Xander get rid of the ones he couldn't find the original owners of."  That got a laugh from Stella.  "He did.  He filed a theft warrant.  The Eighteenth is handling that.  Their patrol Captain has been here nearly as long as Flack Senior was when he was on the job."  That got some smiles.  "They said it'd be fine."  That got a mass of nods.  "So if you see them I want to know first, people.  Danny, try to get them into my office.  You can beat them on the way out."  He smirked at that.  "You and Sheldon both.  I might even take a swing by then."

"Is that why Tara ran in crying?" Stella asked.

"Crying?" Lindsey asked.

Sheldon nodded.  "Ran in sobbing and right into me.  Mac got us into the office and Don ran in a few minutes later to calm her down.  She scared the crap out of me.  I thought someone was injured or dead."

Danny patted him again.  "I'd be pissed too," he reminded him.  "Don's gotta be seriously pissed.  But a thought just came to me.  Think we could get Aiden here?"

Mac suddenly shuddered.  "No, Danny.  That's a very bad and evil thought.  She'd baby Tara even more than Xander does and she'd kill them with a nail file.  No, we'll leave Aiden out in Seattle or wherever she is since she's in the middle of moving to New Orleans."

"She's on her way up soon for a break," Danny said with a grin.  Mac's eyes went wide.   "I think she gets in Thursday so we've got two days before she steps in."

Stella suddenly shuddered.  "I'll warn her when she gets in.  Tara's where?"

"Flack's parents," Mac noted.  "Very safe."

"Good," she agreed, happier with that.  "When are we seeing a wedding?"

"We are going to see a binding the night before my sister's wedding, just after midnight," Don said from behind them.  "We'll vow to her Goddess then.  After that, she'll let Mom, Dad, and Uncle Patrick railroad her into their idea of a church wedding.  All they agreed on so far was that it was going to be small.  You guys can all sit on her side, I won't mind.  Uncle Patrick or Raph will give her away.  Mom's already got bridal magazines from my sister's overly orchestrated stuff and we're thinking about a solstice one.  Not sure yet."  He shrugged.  "If they can get it done that quickly."  That got some smiles. "They wanted a Beltane wedding but she got scared of the fertility rituals and has to keep reminding them we're not having kids until after she's out of school and working.  Patrick pouts worse than Xander every time she does.  So you're all invited to the binding that night.  It'll be a really late night though.  We'll do that then have a small picnic with her coven and the family in attendance."

Mac smiled.  "I'll be there, Don."  He grinned at that.  "Date?"  He wrote it down on the window with the dry erase marker, then handed it back.  "We have details?"

"I'll have invitations next week.  We've already arranged it.  I'll be moving that weekend if anyone wants ta help."  They all nodded that they would.  "Good.  Now, I just got called about another suicide ring site they think.  Dead body missing parts but hanging up."

"Coming," Danny agreed, going to grab his kit and go with him.

Mac circled the time and date.  "So I don't erase it by accident."  He looked at the others. "Meeting over.  Go back to work, people."  They nodded and left.  He saw Stella look at the date and then she smiled on her way to the lab.  "You're a long way from that step, Stella," he said quietly to himself.  "Especially since there's two of you."  He got down to his stack of paperwork.  He hated it as much as Horatio did.


Patrick's main guard got off the plane and headed to the other departure gate he needed, going to meet Tara's parents for her.  "Mr. and Mrs.  Maclay?" he asked.  One sour looking man nodded.  Her second stepmother was almost pretty but looked very tired.  "Hugo Grant.  I'm one of Patrick Benis' head guards.  Tara's staying with him while she's in college since she's seeing his nephew, Don Flack."  He waved a hand.  "Shall we?  I can drop you at your hotel on the way."  He knew he was here because he was suave, calm, and wouldn't kill them for being mean to Tara.  Because everyone in the family adored Tara.

"Why is she staying with someone who has guards?" the stepmother asked.

"Patrick has guards because he runs a lot of charitable boards.  Tara's with us because it was helping her with her college expenses and because she's dating Patrick's nephew.  Patrick married Don's aunt as his second wife."  That got a nod from her father.  "Once you're at your hotel I can call the other staff to see where she can meet you tonight."  That got another nod.  He led them out to the car that was waiting, making the driver give him a look.  "Paul."  He gave him a brief hug.  "How's the wife?"

"Doing good.  She goes in for her last surgery this week," he said proudly.  "She'll be fully perfect then."  That got a smile and a nod while Hugo let them into the back of the car.  "Are we sure?" he mouthed.  He nodded, getting in after them.  Paul closed the door and walked around to get in and drive.  "Which hotel?"

"We hadn't made reservations," the father admitted.  "Somewhere not terribly expensive."

"We're going to lower Manhattan," Hugo told him.  "The better but cheapest is probably the Raddison."  That got a nod and they headed in.  "Anywhere on the island is usually fairly expensive.  It's a fact of being in New York.  This city is one of the few in the world where you can find an efficiency apartment that you have to walk up eight flights of stairs to get to for over a grand."  The wife looked horrified.  He nodded. "That's another good reason why Tara's staying at the house, so the money goes for her education and she doesn't have to worry about living somewhere less than good.   We're going to the less expensive side of the island at least."  She relaxed at that.  He pulled out his laptop and logged on.  "Paul, try for the Hyatt instead.  They're only running ninety a night," he ordered.

"Sure, Hugo."  He pulled onto the highway and headed that way.  He also put up the window but he started the intercom so he could listen to the conversation in case it became violent.

He shut his laptop and looked at them.  "So, Tara's not told us much about you."

"Are you vetting us for this uncle?" the father sneered.

"No.  We've already done a full background check," he admitted, smiling just slightly.  "We do baby Patrick because he's in ill health.  We don't want anyone to upset him.  He does take great joy babying Tara and Don however.  His former wife's jewelry and things have already been passed onto her care and they'll be hers after the wedding.  It's not much.  A few necklaces and some earrings.  He also lets her do whatever she wants to his beloved gardens.  She's recently added a lot of color to the one up here.  He always smiles when he looks out on it.  She even got to help with the one in Miami when she went down on vacation with him."

"They have a house in Miami?" the stepmother asked.  Hugo nodded.  "Why?"

"Because that's where he does most of his good works.  Also his grandson lives down there and he enjoys babying him even more than he does Tara.  Xander's a very strong young man.  He's also quite stubborn and dating an officer himself."   That got a displeased look from the father.  "Tara's dating a detective, first class.  One of the better homicide detectives in the city.  He's a third generation detective.  He's a very nice man and very protective of her and the rest of us.  Plus she's got a few mentors in the local CSI unit he works with.  Xander introduced her to some before she switched colleges so she'd know someone in the city.  Doctor Hawkes has been a wonderful mentor to her and even helps her with some of her science homework now and then."  The stepmother looked impressed.  "Her other mentor is Detective Taylor.  He's a former Marine and a widower."  The father raised an eyebrow.  "He runs the CSI unit and he's been acting like her father mostly.  She's a darling young lady and we do adore her around the household.  The cook in Miami met her the once and they bonded over cooking for Patrick to make him eat."  He smiled softly. "Tara's a special girl."

"So I'm learning.  What is she studying up here?"

"Psychology."  He snorted at that.  "She's gotten excellent grades.  Since the college out in Sunnydale fell in she's had one B and I think only two before then.  Patrick's very proud of
her grades," he assured him.

"Has she gotten over that silliness of her faith?" he demanded.

"Faith is a personal issue but I do know she's still vowed to the Goddess.  They're planning dual ceremonies when they marry."  They both looked horrified.  "Don's agreed her faith is her own and she accompanies him when he goes to worship."



The father snorted at that.  "Then he's not good enough for my girl."

"You'd be surprised," Hugo said dryly.  "Patrick used to be a priest."  That got a horrified look."  They pulled up in front of the Hyatt and he walked them inside.  "Hi, these two need a room for a few days."

"Of course.  What size, sir?"

"Just us," he said grimly.  "Nothing too fancy or expensive."

She looked in the computer then at him.  "Well, if you'd like a higher room it'll be a bit cheaper.  We have one room with a single double bed for seventy-five."  She looked at them and saw the outraged faces.  "That really is the best this town can do, sir.  Unless you want to stay somewhere less than reputable and possibly unsafe?" she noted quietly.  He put down money.  "Two nights?"

"Go ahead and make that four and I'll get the rest," Hugo offered.  "That way they have time in the city."  He put down the corporate card, getting a smile.  She ran it and got them signed in.  Paul brought in their bag.  He handed over his card.  "Tara should be back tonight around five if you'd like to have dinner with us.  Just call and we'll have someone come pick you two up."  He bowed and left them there.  He got into the front and leaned against the seat.  "Don's going to kill them," he said simply.  "Sire will laugh and help him learn new techniques."  Paul pulled away from the hotel, taking him back to the townhouse so they could report.  Paul headed inside at a trot.  "Father?" he called.  "Sire?"

"Sire's on the phone with the embassy," Patrick said as he came out of the office.  He looked at him.   "That bad?"

"You're Catholic, she's Wiccan, and they're sour, mean, and I wanted to hit them, Father."

"Damn," he sighed, heading back into the office.

"I did give them enough hints so they could find Mac Taylor first," he offered, walking after him.  "That way he could hopefully calm them down.  They weren't pleased she's had good grades, that you baby her, that you let her play in your beloved garden, or that she's up here.  They're in the Hyatt because it was cheaper.  They were horrified by the cost so I popped us for two nights of their stay on the corporate card."

"That's fine, Hugo," Raphael agreed, looking at him.  "That bad?"

"I wanted to hit them, Sire.  I'm not a violent man but I wanted to pop him in the mouth."

"She's with the Flacks today.  Good job letting them know who Mac was."

"Oh, I bragged that she had two mentors out of CSI.  If they run into Sheldon first can I watch him do living autopsies on them?"  They both smiled and nodded.  "Let me warn Mac they'll come hunting soon."  He went to do that, taking his medicine from the kitchen.


Mac walked into the station and saw the reason for his anger issues standing there demanding to see him.  "Sorry, I've been on a scene.  Sheldon, can you log those in?" he asked politely.  Sheldon nodded and took the box of evidence with him.  "What can I do for you?"  The father sneered at him.  "You would be?"

"I'm Tara's father."

"Tara's a delightful girl.  Very sweet and delicate."  He looked at the receptionist.  "Give them passes, I'm heading to my office with them. Any messages?"  She handed over two.  "Thank you.  Shall we?  You'll need to clip those on."  They clipped on the badges and he led them back to his office.  Stella stopped him with a folder, which he read, including the note on it.  He nodded and made a note then signed it.  She smiled and walked off.  "That was Stella, my second-in-command.  She loves to mother Tara.  They're always baking together."  He let them into his office and glanced at the messages.  One from Horatio made him smile.  He'd call him in a few minutes to calm himself down.  "So," he said, sitting behind his desk. "What can I tell you about how Tara's done since she switched up here?"

"Why did she come up here?" the stepmother demanded. "This is not what we agreed on when she said she wanted to go to college for a few years."

"Because her old college fell in and she wanted to come up here.  New York's an exciting city with a lot of culture and history.  She's spent the last few months doing each museum on her days off."  The father snorted at that and crossed his arms over his chest.  "You could sit," he offered.  He leaned on his desk.  "Tara decided to come here for her own reasons.  I never asked why.  I know she got recommendations from some of her teachers. She did say that one teacher had recommended her to a grumpy teacher up here.  I also know she's going to an all-female college.  It's about three stops on the subway from where she's living.  It's a wonderful school.  We hardly ever have to answer calls out there.  It's in one of the lowest crime areas in the city.  Don and I have both worked on her self defense in case she needs it but she's perfectly content to stay up there."

"She should be home," her father said firmly.

Mac looked at him.  "Tara's over eighteen.  She's decided on her path and who she loves.  If you saw them together they're adorable.  Even a hardened Marine like I am can see them and smile.  She brings Don dinner if he works late and the suspects all smile at them."   The mother sneered at that.  "Don's a very good officer.  I'd introduce you but he's in court at the moment.  He works in our associated homicide department."

"The boy you were with," her father demanded.  "Is that her other mentor?"  Mac nodded.  "She associates with him?"

"Sheldon is a brilliant doctor who decided he wanted to be a CSI," Mac told him.  "He's Harvard trained."  The man sneered more at that.  "Sheldon was the first person she talked to up here.  A friend of hers had lived here and introduced them so she'd know someone when she moved.  Sheldon does a lot of mentoring."  He smiled and leaned back.  "He's even proofread a few important papers for her.  They were conspiring on her senior project the last I knew."  The mother sniffed at that.  "It's mandatory she do some sort of experiment.  They've been designing it on the weekends and working out all the variables."  Danny walked in with a folder and a note, letting him read it and sign it.  "Danny Messer, these are Tara's parents."

"Hey," he said, nodding politely.  "Tara's a beautiful girl.  Most of us here feel pretty parental about her.  Her sweetness draws you to her and makes you want to protect her from the thugs."  He looked at Mac.  "A few of us were going to dinner?"

"No thanks."

"You sure?  I'm cooking.  You, me, Stella, and Doc."

"I'll consider it."  Danny grinned and walked out.  "Even Don's fellow detectives dote on Tara.  Don's parents adore her.  They wanted to adopt her right away."  He smiled at them.  "You managed to raise a brilliant young woman with a heart of purest gold."

"She should still be home," the mother said.  "That is her place."

Lindsey coughed and walked in, closing the door.  "Speaking as a country girl myself, sometimes you've got to go out and explore the world before you go home.  Mac, there's a *major* attorney here for you.  I have no idea why but he's going to sue us if you don't go see him.  Now."

He stood up.  "Excuse me for two minutes, I'll be right back.  I'm sure Lindsey can tell you about what Tara's been getting into in the city."

"Tara and I have been going to some of the cultural landmarks," she agreed.

"Where are you from?" the father said, looking down at her.


"Pretty country," he admitted.

"I'm a farm-bred girl."  Not that she got along really well with Tara but it was nice going to museums with her.  She didn't understand the girl at all.  "Tara's a very sweet young woman.  We've went to a number of museums and plays together.  She liked the small Shakespeare in the Park festival when it was going on.  It's a summerly thing from what I understand."  She leaned against the front of the desk.  "She's always been a very good young woman.  Even when someone tried to mug her she handled it very well and then told Don, who got everything back for her later that night."  They looked stunned.  "Don's a well known detective."  She saw Don coming up the halls.  "Speaking of Don.  There he is.  In one of his more flamboyant suits.  I think Tara picked it out," she said at the horrified look for the mauve suit.  "Don, did Tara pick that one out?"

"She did," he agreed, smiling at her play.  "Mac?"

"There's an attorney threatening to sue us because he wasn't there to personally greet him and shake his hand.  I let him know so he could go destroy the ego."

"Always happy to see."  He looked at the father, then held out his hand.  "Don Flack Junior, sir."

"Rory Maclay," he said, shaking it but looking disgusted.  "My daughter picked that out?"  Don nodded.  "And you wear it?"

"I do.  It makes her happy and smile."  He leaned against the front of the desk, nodding for her to go.  Lindsey left, closing the door behind her.  "Let me assure you Tara's happiness is my first priority.  If she wants to see me in pastels, I don't mind.  The other guys think I do it so the crooks underestimate me or because it looks good with my eyes."  He shrugged.  "They don't even laugh anymore.  Then again, Tara pouted at one who did and he quit fairly quickly, sensing his cookie habit was about to be cut off."

"She makes you cookies?" the stepmother asked, looking confused.

"She likes to bake while studying.  She makes cookies when she's got a test.  She's a great cook.  A beautiful soul.  A wonderful woman."

"Have you proposed?"

Don pointed at the notation on the wall.  "We're bonding in her faith then.  Then in mine around the end of December.  She's setting a final date this week with my parents."

"When were you going to tell us?" the mother sneered.

"When we got both dates finalized.  She wasn't sure you'd want to be here."  He stood up and looked at them.  "To be frank, I'm not sure I want you near her," he admitted.  "I've seen how deeply you've hurt your daughter over the years, Mr. Maclay."  That got a snort and an increased sneer.  "See, I see abused kids every single day on the job.  Mostly the ones who couldn't escape.  The fact that you called her demonic and made her your slave and she's still sweet means she'll be just fine.  My family loves her more than enough for all of you combined.  Now, if you'd like to have dinner with us and my family, we'll be having a family dinner tomorrow night.  Or she and I are dining tonight but I would expect it to be a civil dinner.  My uncle is quite ill.  He's got cancer."  That got a heated glare.  "It is up to you.  You can easily wait to have dinner with my folks and Tara at my parents' house tomorrow night.  My mother invited you over."

"Tara will be going home with us."

"Only if you really want to find yourself weighted down in the river," Don offered calmly.  "You'll find we're all very protective of Tara here, Mr. Maclay.  Tara's like a young sister to most of the CSI here.  To me she's more precious than air.  If you don't like that...  Oh well," he said dryly.  Mac came back in.  "Lawyer?"

"The suicide ring.  He's trying to stop us from stopping the last one."  He sat down.  "Fortunately not going to Xander."

"Mental health warrant?"

"Already filed," Mac agreed.  "He's trying to stop it but the judge has the case files from the others and he's horrified."  He looked at the family.  "Don," he chided.

"Making some things clear, Mac.  Are you coming to the binding?"

"I am.  I'm on-call earlier that night I think.  I've got the schedules worked out that far in advance to see who could go.  Sheldon's threatened to quit if he can't.  Stella too."  That got a grin from Don.  "Danny said he'd go but be on-call later that night if he had to."  That got a nod.  "Let us know about the clothing soon?"

"Wear something nice, Mac. We'll be in the backyard."  That got a nod and he made a note of that.  "Then we'll have a picnic out there on blankets."

"That's fine, Don.  It'll hopefully be a beautiful night for her."  Don smiled.  "If not, there's always tents."  He nodded at that.  He looked at the parents.  "If Don's uncles can't give her away due to illness I'll be the one doing it," he admitted.  Don beamed at that.  "You're more than welcome to come for the ceremonies.  I know Don's nephew Xander will be along with a few of his family from Miami."

"Our daughter needs to come home.  She's in this sinful city and doing things that are evil and wrong for girls to do," the father demanded coldly.

"Hmm, not really," Don said dryly.  "Took me two months to kiss her without her blushing.  She still does now and then."  He shrugged.  "I like that about her.  She soaks up positive attention and isn't afraid to tell me when I need to let her study.  She's getting wonderful grades.  She'll get a slightly lower grade this time in science but it's not really her field so she's said she's doing her best and that's what really matters."

"Where is our daughter?"

Don looked at his watch then at him. "Probably at tea with my mother and sister.  My sister's getting married the day after we bind and she's in the wedding party.  They're going over final details and helping Tara with what she wants for ours in the Church. Uncle Patrick wanted her to have a grand wedding where she'll feel like a princess but she wants something modest with family and close friends around.  Otherwise we might've gotten married when we went to Las Vegas to visit some friends out there during a weekend off.  She had a lot of fun watching the shows and laughed at the chapels."  He grinned.  "I'm picking up her ring tomorrow.  It had to be resized and I'm hoping they got it right."

The mother looked at him.  "You can't afford to be married."

"Actually I make a very good salary, ma'am.  I make more than enough to buy her a great ring that'll make her squeal in happiness and to set up our future house.  Though Uncle Patrick has said we can move in with him so we can save up for the down payment on our first home.  That way we can find something really nice in a great neighborhood.  I'm saving about six hundred a paycheck right now.  More when we move in together there after the binding."

"Separate rooms?"

"She's decided that our binding will be as official as our wedding.  Uncle Patrick said we'd be married in the eyes of her Goddess and God, so it's fine with him.  Even if the official paperwork takes another month and a half.  That way I don't have to renew my lease for a few months and I don't have to move in December."  That got an evil look.  "It is harder."  He shrugged.  "I've got help from most of the guys here.  All I need is a truck and then we'll figure out what I'm bringing with me and what's going into storage.  The same as she said she had some stuff stored with you guys?  She really wanted the sundresses for the summer up here.  It's hot and humid like home according to her.  She didn't want to let Patrick spoil her with some pretty new dresses this last one.  Even pouted at Xander when he tried."

"We'll be leaving with her in four days," the father said, walking out.

"Doubt it," Don said, waving and smiling as they stomped off.  "I'm going to commit homicide.  Wanna watch, Mac?"

"I know a good place to do it and Danny can help you clean up if Sheldon won't," Mac promised, patting him on the back.  "Get off my desk, Don."  Don moved and sat down.  "Warn her?"

Don pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket and listened.  "So, baby, you wanna be an orphan, right?" he asked, then he smiled.  "Sure, we'll talk about it later.  No, I didn't conference in Uncle Patrick," he promised.  "I didn't.  I swear I didn't.  No, they won't be eaten.  You made Uncle Raph promise not to eat them.  Sure.  Dinner tonight and then dinner with my folks tomorrow night so they can be scared of my Ma too."  She giggled and hung up.  He smiled at Mac, who turned off his tape recorder and ejected the tape.  "Thanks, Mac."

"Welcome.  Did he promise not to eat them?"

"Yeah but he never promised Uncle Pat wouldn't eat 'em and he really hates them.  Now I see why Calleigh's mom took a shotgun to him."  He stood up.  "Gotta hit my desk then I'm gone for the day.  Let me know if you need me, Mac."  He headed off, going to clean up a few things sitting there.  He saw the note the walked over to their announcement board and wrote the time and date of the binding but that it was to be by invitation only and limited to 20 guests, there were only six seats left after family.  Then he noted the probable wedding date and said it'd be small as well but they were more than free to throw them a party afterward.  Then he went back to his desk and got back to work on the paperwork.  His boss came out and looked at it then at him.  "She said so, Lieu."

"Small is always better, especially when you're shy," she agreed.  She wrote it in a neater handwriting then went back to call Tara to see if she had plans for those last six seats.  Some of her guys wanted to attend too.  Tara stuttered but told her that they could.  If they ran a bit over the backyard was big enough, but she did remind her it was starting at half- past midnight so they wouldn't conflict with Don's sister's wedding.  "Honey, they won't care," she assured her then hung up.  She smiled and wrote it into her calendar.  She'd have to find out dress code from Don closer to it.  She came out and looked at him.  "I have an email from Stella warning me her parents were here?"

"Yup," Don agreed as he typed.  "I'm going to drown them."

"Sure.  We'll ignore it unless we find them," she agreed, going back to her desk.  That did not bode well for happy in-laws.  She wanted to kill hers but Don was serious.  She could see it in how hard he was typing.  Don walked in and shut the door.  "That bad?"

"They want to take her home because I'm Catholic, a cop, and they told her she was demonic," he said simply.  "Monroe wanted to hit 'em, boss."  She moaned at that.  "Doc has every intention of making them hurt.  Danny offered to help from what I heard.  If they end up dead I'm really damn sorry but there's a lot of people who'd do it for us.  Including Xander."  That got a small smile.  "Oh, he so dotes on her.  Her ex Willow would rip them a new one again too.  She has once and warned me.  They leave in four days.  So I'll check in often."

"That's fine.  You need to take it off to protect her?"

"If I do, I'll call as soon as I know."

"Good.  I like that.  I like your girl.  I used to be that sweet once."  Don grinned at that.  "I was."

"You were how old then?" he teased back.

"Oh, I was in my young and pretty days," she assured him with a bright grin.

"So, eight, nine?"

"Just about," she agreed happily.  "Maybe a bit younger.  Your parents like her?"

"They wanted to adopt her the first time they met her.  She makes my sister be human again and she's pregnant."  That got a shocked look, Don's sister had rumors spread about her over the years.  "Yeah, totally calmed down a mood swing and everything.  My sister doesn't even try to bully her."  He walked back out.  "Heading home, boss."

"Go.  Tell her I said to be careful and I'll be there."

"Sure."  He grabbed his jacket and headed out.  He found them looking for a cab.  "Guys, give my in-laws a ride back to their hotel please?" he called.  "I'm going in the opposite direction."  A few of the patrol officers offered and they were taken up on it, the father still glaring at him as he got into his car.  Don shrugged it off.  He'd seen worse in muggers and drug addicts.  He headed out to his parent's house, smiling when his mother opened the door.  "They're in the Manhattan Hyatt," he said in greeting, kissing her cheek.  "I'm so going to make her an orphan," he whispered.  She gave him a hug and let him inside.  "Baby?"  She ran out and hugged him.  "They're in for four days, baby.  We can handle it that long and Mac's promised to help me cover it up if they have to be killed."  She frowned at him. "They're going to try to take you home and I will kill them if they hurt you."  He kissed her on the nose.  "Any coffee?"

"Just made a pot, Donny," his father offered.  He looked at Tara.  "It could be worse, dear, it could be Xander."  She whimpered and shuddered.  Don held her tightly, letting her snuggle into his warm body.  "So, dinner?"

"I was gonna take her out.  Unless there's something I should know?" he asked, looking at his mother.

"They found a small lump, Don.  They're doing the biopsy tomorrow."

"Then I'm off work until you're out," he agreed, calling his boss.  "Hey, it's me.  Yeah I do.  Mom's having surgery.  They found a lump.  I'll tell her.  Mom, my boss said she hopes it's nothing serious.  So yeah, boss, I'm gonna be with her and Tara.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "I've got vacation time to burn and we can still go on a great honeymoon," he assured her with a small grin.  "I've got the rest of the week and weekend off, Ma."

She smiled and patted his cheek.  "They're saying I should only be in overnight."

"So!  You'll need babied and Dad sucks at it."  Tara smiled at him.  "She's my mother.  I can baby her if I want."  She nodded and stroked his cheek.  "So, we'll do that."  He looked at his parents. "Still want us for dinner?  Ooh, crap, I told them we were having a family dinner tomorrow night."

"We can without her, son.  It'll be a nicer death and we'll know something by then," his father assured him.  His wife stared at him.  "I'll make it a quick, clean one.  You'll torture them.  It'll be a nicer death."

"Mac said he'd help us clean and cover it up," Don offered. "The boss said she'd ignore it."  Tara squeaked and hid her face.  He patted her on the back.  "Stella warned them your parents were in when she saw that Monroe wanted to hit your folks," he soothed.

"She did?" Tara asked, looking up at him, still blushing.

"Yeah, she did.  She was walking around in circles muttering, talking herself out of killing them and having Danny help her cover it up.  Sheldon didn't meet them.  They sneered at his race apparently.  They only saw Stella, she didn't talk to them.  Danny said hi, then left.  They won't ever find the bodies with the whole CSI unit helping us cover it up."   She shook her head and headed for the kitchen.  He went after her, closing the door.  "Tara, if they hurt you I'm not gonna be nice to 'em."  She looked at him.  "I know you want me to be.  I tried.  I really did.  They sneered at me.  He tried to intimidate me. Your mom decided I can't possibly make a decent salary as a cop.  They sneered at you going to school and doing good.  I will not have anyone sneer at you doing what you want and getting a good education, or the fact that you're getting wonderful grades.  No one sneers at you."

"You're a bit scary now and then," she noted calmly.

"Only over you," he offered with a shy grin.  "And only when they're mean to you."  She kissed him.  "I know.  I try.  I'll try very hard not to smack your father around.  I swear I will.  But the first time he sneers at you for doing wonderful in school and being happy, I'm gonna at least smart back."  She sighed but nodded.  "Thank you, baby."  He gave her another cuddle and a kiss.  "Now, did we wanna have dinner with the folks or with just us?"

"With them, just in case?" she asked quietly.  "I .... I don't want it to be serious and then you lose her."

"Shh," he said, kissing her again.  "Won't happen.  I won't lose Ma for a great number of years.  I know I won't, Tara.  Ma and Dad are nearly immortal. They'll go long after Uncle Patrick will."  She relaxed and nodded at his certainty, letting him soothe her.  "I met your stepmom too.  He brought her.  Does she never smile?"  She shook her head.  "I'm sorry."

"So am I.  It's got to be bad for you to never smile."  She smiled at him.  "I happy that I get to smile at you, even if you are overprotective of me."

"No, sweetie, if I was being really overprotective, Xander and Willow would be here with Horatio and Ryan."  She went pale at that.  He nodded.  "Which they will be at the bonding, right?"  She whimpered.  "It'll be fine.  Horatio and Ryan will keep them in line  unless something happens.  Then they might enjoy joining in."  She hid her face in his chest, shaking her head.  His father leaned in then came to get some coffee.  "She just realized that Willow and Ryan, plus Xander and Horatio were going to be up for the binding, plus Greg if we can get him out."  She smiled at that, he could feel it.  "If her parents show up their mates will keep them out of trouble until they try something.  Then all hell might break loose."

His father looked at him.  "Your sister's coming, Don.  Xander won't even have a chance."  He walked his coffee back into the living room.  "When does the new hockey season start?"  They could hear his mother swat him.

"Soccer season right now, Dad.  Same teams.  Xander's got copies of the matches for your poker buddies."

She looked up at him.  "I don't play soccer either."

"You could.  You're very good at dancing and it's all footwork, but if you ever went to play naked soccer I'd have to get really pissed at whoever was forcing you."  She smiled at that.  "Now, I need caffeine.  They never have good coffee at the courthouse."  He got himself some and walked her back out there, letting her snuggle into his side.  "What hospital, Ma?"


"Good.  They're one of the best in the country," he agreed, taking a sip.  He looked at it then at his father.  "You made flavored coffee?"

"Your mother wanted some and I'm in the mood to baby her."

"Should we not stay for dinner?" Tara asked quietly.  "That way you two can spend some time alone?"

"Up to you, princess.  I'll have her all night if you two want dinner."

"I'm very certain I won't be losing you or Ma for many years," Don said firmly.  "If I do, I'm asking Willow ta fix it.  So she'll be fine," he finished with a smile.  Tara pinched him. "She will be."

"She will be," she agreed, smiling at him.   She smiled at his mother who hugged her son.  Then her.  "We do love you, Mom."

"Thank you, Tara baby.  You two go out to have a wonderful dinner.  You can baby me tomorrow night after the family dinner if it happens.  You can even help Donny cook."  She smiled and nodded.  "Good girl.  Now shoo.  I need to cuddle with my man just like you do."

"Sure."  She let Don finish his coffee and rinse out his cup before walking him out to the car.

He looked at her.  "Do you not own a jacket?"  She shook her head.  "We'll be fixing that tonight."


"Hush.  It's important, Tara.  We get snow up here.  We get feet of snow most winters.  You need a jacket and I'm going to help you find a cute one."  He grinned.  "It's a small way for me to take care of you since you won't let me fuss."  She nodded and they headed out.  He also had plans of doing other shopping.  He knew just the ring for her and it was payday.  He had paid off his credit card last month on purpose.  He took her home to change into something a bit better and changed his suit so he wouldn't clash. Then they headed out to shop for a winter coat for her.  He found her a pretty one that made her smile since it had cats around the collar.  It was cute and so was she in it.  It'd be warm enough.  He even found her cat hat and mittens.  She smiled so he bought it then led her to the jewelry store he liked.  She stared at him.  "I think it's about time I got it for you," he reminded her.  He led her to the case he liked.  The saleswoman smiled and brought out the one he had come in to look at.  "How about that one?" he whispered in her ear.

"It's huge, Don.  Much too expensive."

"You're my queen and every queen should have crown jewels."  He looked at her.  "Please?"  She wobbled and he smiled. "If you like something more I'll go for that instead."  He let her look, just holding onto her hand.  "Price no object, Tara.  Get whatever your heart wants."  She gave him a shy smile and pointed at an antique looking one. "You sure?"

"It's beautiful."

"It's also very heavy and silver," the saleswoman offered, coming over so she could compare them side-by-side.  Tara tried it on and looked at it.  It almost overpowered her hand.  "Try the other one on, dear."  She took that one and let her have the other one.  It was more sparkly but it didn't overpower her hand.  Tara stared at it then at him.

"If that's the one you want it's yours.  If not, there's another one I liked but I thought it was more for going out than a wedding ring."  He let her see that one, noticing she still had on the other ring.  He pointed at one.  "That one."

She shook her head and looked at the one on her hand.  "I still say it's really huge."

He led her back to the same shape and style ones, letting her see the smaller ones.  She found one the next size down in gold and then she picked out his, making him grin and nod that he liked it.  Her ring still glowed and it fit her hand.  His choice had been a bit big.  This one was more subtle, like her.  But he had gotten the shape and qualities right.  He was proud of himself.

She kissed him on the street.  "I love you, Don."

"Love you too, Tara."  He grinned at her.  "So, Solstice?"  She nodded and took his hand to walk him back to the car.  Their wedding rings were in his pocket.  Her engagement ring was on her hand.  It went well with her outfit and dinner out that night.  Then they made quiet, long, slow love most of the night.


to next part: