Don looked at his father the next morning when he picked them up. "C'mon, I can drive, guys." They got into the car with him, letting him drive them to the hospital. "Tara has a test so she'll be over once she's done. The teacher wouldn't give her a makeup since you're only her mother-in-law. Said if it was her mother it'd be okay, but not an in-law."
"It happens, son," his father said quietly from the back seat. He smiled at his wife, who patted him back. "I wish I could watch."
"No you don't, Dad. Surgeries are gross," Don reminded him. "We'll be there when she comes out and until she goes in." He took the bridge back and headed for the best hospital in the city. When he got there he parked and got them out, walking in behind them. The nurse smiled at them. "This is my mom, Flack."
"Let me look her up," she agreed. She found her. "All right, I see we should be sending you to sign-in for same day surgery." She pointed them at the stairwell. "Take that up one floor and go to the red door, ma'am. They can go with you." She nodded and walked up there, letting her husband hold her hand and her son guard her. She smiled at that. It was good to see whole families. Don came back down to show her a picture. "Your sister?"
"Well, she might come, but the blonde one is mine and she stutters. She'll be in within two hours probably. Teacher wouldn't give her a make-up." That got a nod. "Send her up please?"
"Sure." He jogged back up the stairs to catch up. She made a note. A few hours she saw a scared looking blonde girl who looked like the picture. "Are you here with the Flacks?" She looked stunned. "The younger one said you'd be joining them and wouldn't know where to go. Let me look her up for you." Tara nodded and came closer. "It looks like she's been checked in so she's up on four, young lady." She pointed at the elevator. "Go there, go up to four, turn left." Tara nodded and smiled shyly before heading that way. She smiled at her back. She was pretty and cute, but so shy! No wonder she had been warned.
Tara came off the elevator and headed left, running into a registration desk. "D...Don F..fl..flack?" The nurse pointed and she went that way, peeking in just in case. Don pulled her in and gave her a hug. "It'll be okay," she promised quietly, looking up at him. He grinned and kissed her then let her come over to baby his mother for them. They were men, they could not match the fussing of Tara. Not many women could match the fussing of Tara really. Probably only Xander could match the fussing of Tara right now so Don sat down and put her into his lap to cuddle her for his own comfort.
A nurse came in. "It looks like you're going to go in about an hour, Mrs. Flack, so we've got to start the pre-surgery prep work. You might want to send them out. I've got to start the IV and make sure you don't need shaved."
"For a lump removal?" his father asked. "A breast lump removal?" The nurse looked at him and nodded. "Do you get many hairy women that way?"
"A few," she admitted. "They can send hormones out of balance. We'll also be laying in a tube while she's out so I can shave around her mouth if she wants, that way the tape won't pull. Also for the leads to the heart monitor she'll be wearing and around the IV site so the tape there won't stick."
"Damn, I wanted you the last time I got sick," Don said in awe. The nurse smiled. "Can we come back when you're done?" She nodded. "Then we'll go get a cup of coffee. Can she have water or anything?"
"There's a chance she'll throw up if she does. I wish she could." That got nods and Tara led the men out. She smiled at her. "In high fuss mode?"
"My boys try," she agreed. "Has my daughter found out and called yet?"
"Not yet. You didn't tell her?"
"She's getting married in three weeks and she's pregnant."
"That's a good reason not to." She got her out of her hospital gown on top and got to work shaving what needed to, then her arm for the IV's tape. She checked her lip but it was smooth. "Waxed?"
"Did it last night, just in case."
"Always a good idea," she agreed. She finished laying on the monitoring pads. "That way all they have to do is clip the leads on," she told her. She got her covered again then laid in the IV line. "How's that feel?"
"Like it's coming out through my elbow." She adjusted it and she smiled. "Better. Is it drifting out?" The nurse looked and gave it a small twist then sealed the line to her arm with tape. "Thank you, nurse."
"You're welcome, Mrs. Flack. I'll let them back in when they get back up from the coffee machine." That got a nod and she went to do that, finding them hovering by the door. She nodded inside with a smile and they went back in there. "She'll be fine. She's got a very strong family."
"She does and that's the best indicator of survival," her coworker agreed. "Anything we should know?"
"One daughter wasn't told. She's getting married in three weeks and is pregnant."
"No, she probably didn't need the stress," she agreed. She did make a note about that. Daughters often came in frantic and screaming. The other two factors would make the screaming louder.
Don knocked on his sister's door, giving her a look. "Busy?"
"Not yet. I will be in about an hour."
"Actually, you need to come to dinner tonight and you can bring the boyfriend."
"His parents are in."
"Oh, sorry. So are Tara's." He gave her a look and she sighed. "You figured it out too?"
"Oh, yeah. I am a social worker. How bad?"
"Bad enough. I already told them Tara's staying and if things happened they'd be floaters." She smiled at that. "We gotta talk anyway." She let him inside. "Hey, Barry, can we have a few?" He pulled his mother back into the kitchen. Don sat his sister down, getting a worried look. "Ma didn't want you to worry. She said you've got enough stress and another body waiting in the hospital wouldn't have helped any."
"Ma's not okay?"
"No, she's pretty good." He stared down at her. "She found a lump a few months back. They told her yesterday and she had a lump removal today. It's not cancerous." She sighed and slumped. "She's still in bed so that means Dad's gotta cook for himself. I'm picking up dinner on the way home," he said dryly, making her smirk at him. "Anyway," he said. "She's fine. She's home. They said it wasn't cancerous. Dad and I waited and paced and drove the nurses nuts. Tara kept trying to calm me down. Didn't work but she tried really hard." She smiled at that. "But we didn't want you to stress. If it had been bad news she would've told you tomorrow."
She stood up and hugged him. "Thank you, Don. Tell Ma I'll see her tomorrow."
"I can do that." He grinned at her. "Orange chicken's good for a dinner with her folks, right?"
"A whole one?" He nodded. "That'd be fine. Where are they from?"
"The deep south. One of the CSIs I know in Miami is her distant cousin," he said with a grin. "That one's Momma went off on him with a shotgun for Tara." His sister chuckled evilly. "There, better. Now tell Barry the good news so you two can pamper Ma while I'm gone and she's at school tomorrow. Dad's still looking at the kitchen like it's filled with aliens." He grinned and left, stopping to pick up the dinner he had ordered on the way over. He drove up to the house and found his in-laws waiting. "Sorry, had to pick up dinner. With Ma in surgery no one really wanted to cook."
"Is she all right?" Tara's mother asked quietly.
"They said it's not cancerous. She's just lounging around. Dad can't cook." He walked into the kitchen and kissed Tara on the cheek. "Orange chicken, two veggies, including that casserole you liked, and a cake for dessert." She smiled and took everything to make sure it was perfectly warm. "Where's Dad?"
"Threatening mine," she admitted. "They're out back."
"Ah." He shrugged. "I'll stay in here. You're a great hostess and I'll help carry. Table set?" She shook her head so he did that, going up to check on his mother. "You wanna come down for dinner?"
"Help me up." He did that and she went to get dressed in the bathroom while he went to make sure they had room for her. His father gave him a look. "I asked, she said she'd try dinner, Dad."
"That's wonderful. Your mother's a strong woman, Don." He patted him on the back. "When is the nephew coming back up?"
"Um... conference is in two weeks and Xander thinks he can stay until the bonding and the wedding if Sis wanted him to come. I don't think she's ever met Xander. I know she hasn't met Uncle Pat."
"With him being down there most of the time I'm not surprised," he agreed. He looked at Tara's father. "What can we do to help?"
"Go be entertaining. Her Ma's in the kitchen with Tara." That got a nod and they went to the living room to watch the news. He rolled his eyes and went to get the glasses. He counted. "Is one of the water goblets in the dishwasher?"
"One broke last week," she reminded him quietly.
"Crap. Well, I can drink out of a regular glass," he decided, laying the rest out. His mother gave him an odd look for it. "One broke," he reminded her.
"I forgot about that."
"Ma, you've had plenty to worry about for the last few weeks. I can drink out of a normal glass. I'm a big boy now, don't need the special sippy cup." She smiled and stroked his cheek, going in to check on Tara. "No. You go sit," he ordered, picking her up and carrying her into the living room, where he handed her to his father. "She's tryin' ta help." He went back to shoo her mother out of the kitchen so he could get a kiss and calm her back down. "Love you," he whispered. "Where's your ring?" She pointed. "Put it back on. I want to see you in it all the time." He slid it onto her finger, getting a smile. "I do. Even when you do dishes. Understand?" She nodded and blushed a bit. He grinned. "Love you and it'll be fine or we'll replace the rug in there and Dad'll help me haul the bodies off." She swatted him but smiled and finished fussing. He carried out the chicken, then the veggies. She carried out the knives, handing them to Don Senior. They sat down and Don's mother said grace, then Don senior cut into the chicken. "This is one of our favorite places to get dinner from. They do a really good job."
"They do," Don Senior agreed. "The chicken's always fully done and still juicy. The vegetables are still just right and a bit of bite left. I see you got Tara her casserole." She smiled at him. "He does spoil you, princess. I haven't seen that." He lifted her hand to look at the ring. "I like that, it suits you."
"I tried to get her a bigger one but she protested, Dad," Don said with a mock-pout. She smiled at him and he grinned back. "You're right, it was too big. You'd look like a queen." She giggled and pinched him. "Did I tell you Horatio managed to get the whole lab team to come up for the conference?"
"You didn't," she admitted, taking his hand to hold while they ate, like usual. "Even Cousin Calleigh?"
"Even her." He grinned at her family. "Her cousin Calleigh's a CSI down in Miami. Xander's adopted father is down there as one of their CSI and her boyfriend. It's like a huge family down there with branches up here." His phone beeped. "Crap, sorry." He went into the kitchen. "Flack." He listened to his Uncle swear. "Is everything not okay, Uncle Patrick? Need me?" He listened to the continued rant. "Uh-huh. What did Speed say?" He smirked. "They'll get him, Uncle Patrick. They can prove both B&E's. Even if they can't prove he's an assassin he'll be in prison and they'll have time to work on it. You know Horatio would rather dent the hummer by using him as a brake pillow than let him get away with it." He grinned. "Yeah, Greg would help. Make sure he can get up for our binding, okay?" He smiled then leaned out. "Honey, is Lady Heather coming?" Tara squeaked. "Uncle Patrick wanted to know."
"If she wants," she said weakly. "I never specifically invited her. We'll definitely need more food. Your boss and half the detectives want to come too."
"They love you, you know that." He went back to listening. "Sure, if she wants. Tara said she'd love to have her out here." He grinned. "That's fine. Keep us informed. We'll be home tonight, Uncle Pat. I promise. You can see her ring then." He grinned and hung up on the cooing. "He's looking forward to seeing your rock." He sat down again. "Well, a bit of news. The assassin who broke in on Horatio and Greg was gotten for the B&E but not the killing. They can't prove he was doing it. They're going to try to up it since he broke into two officers's homes. Xander's livid. He called to rant at Uncle Patrick, who that was. Also the stupid warrant from the person who wants Xander was removed."
"How?" Tara asked, frowning at him.
"Easy. They got him to admit Xander hadn't wanted it but couldn't send it back because he didn't send him an address with it. So of course he got rid of it and his Grandsire helping him was a natural thing. Holly had six puppies last night after everyone had been gassed. If you wanted one, Uncle Raphael would let you pick first," he teased.
She smiled. "I'm still trying to coax Miss Puppy from up the street to be our dog. Holly's a huge dog. They'd never cuddle at night."
"If you do, I won't mind," he assured her. "As long as it's not Xander's dog Thumper." His father looked at him. "They finally fixed him and he's still humping everything in sight. Tried Speed's bike today from what Uncle Pat said." That got a giggle from her mother. "That's a poor dog. Likes their rose bush for some reason." He looked at Tara's mother. "Do you guys have any pets down there?"
"We have a hunting dog," his father admitted. "What breed is Holly?"
"She's a mixed breed. Part german sheppard and part great dane. She's a great guard dog, very steady. A great tracker too. She likes to curl up with her head in Tara's lap. What breed is Thumper?"
"Some sort of mixed spaniel. Is he the father?" Tara asked, looking at him oddly.
"They think so. That or the neighbor's purebred bulldog that got loose from their yard."
"We'll have to see," she admitted. "Thumper would've made pretty puppies."
"Yeah but he tried Horatio's hair one night," he admitted with a grin. She and Don's father both laughed at that and Tara's mother snickered quietly. "The day he went to be fixed he decided to fixate on a cactus in the vet's office. Went after it three times. Even though he got stuck the first two, he still went back for it. But Lord help anyone who goes after Xander. Thumper's a good guard dog for him." She smiled and nodded.
Don's mother smiled at their in-laws. "What breed of hunting dog? One of our neighbors has a blue tick he takes hunting every fall."
"We have coon hounds," he admitted. "She'll be whelping right after we get back. One of our neighbors has her." He looked at Tara. "You'll do good with her puppies."
"I'm staying with Don, Father," she said, staring at him. "Don's my fiancee and he loves me."
"He doesn't know you."
"You'd be surprised," Don said dryly. "For the first three months we dated Tara and I talked about everything, even what went on back in Sunnydale and what happened to make her college fall in." They both gave him horrified looks. Someone tapped on the door and he leaned back. He got up to let them inside. "Mac, what's wrong?"
"Sonny's out," he said quietly. "I have no idea where Danny is. I was hoping you did."
Don walked back in, whispering in Tara's ear, getting answer. "Yeah, he's got that cooking class tonight, Mac." That got a smile and Mac left. "Sorry, one of our CSIs has a former friend who just got out of jail and they wanted to warn him." He ate another bite. Then he looked at his father. "I think this is the most busy we've been in almost two years."
"It is," he admitted. "You complain if you get more than two new cases a week. How's your solve rate, Donny?"
"Pretty high thanks to working so closely with the lab. I'm at thirty-five percent within two weeks and about sixty within a month. That beats the national average by about five percent in each category." That got a smile and a pat from his mother. "You okay, Ma?"
"I'm fine, dear, but can I have some more of the casserole?" Tara passed it to him and he held it while she dished some out, then he put it back onto the table in front of Tara. "Thank you, dears." They both smiled at her. "Where is your sister, Donny?"
"Barry's parents are in so they're having dinner at her place." He ate another bite. "I told her without him being there. She said she'd come fuss tomorrow while she's at class." Tara smiled at that. "She even understood why you didn't tell her but she'll probably pout you to death tomorrow." That got a nod. "My sister's getting married the afternoon after we're bonded. We're bonding at twelve thirty the night before then having a picnic for those who are coming. If you wanted to, you're more than welcome to show up for that part or just come to the wedding at solstice." Her father gave him a horrified look. "I let her pick the date, it's good for me if it's with her." He ate another bite. He looked at Tara. "Gift registry?"
"I'll start my list tomorrow after English," she promised with a smile. "Did you want or need anything?"
"A new gun safe. Mine's dented." She nodded that she'd put it onto there. "Maybe a big, fluffy quilt to curl up in front of the fireplace in?" he offered with a grin. She blushed but nodded. "We won't need many home things at first." She took his hand to squeeze, giving him a smile. "You sure you want to move in with the two fussy worrywarts? They'll start to nag for grandkids too."
"They've got time to wait," she assured him with a smile. He grinned back and dug in again, making her eat a bite of his dinner so she'd start eating again. She blushed and dug in, eating daintily.
"Tara always has the nicest manners," Don Senior offered, smiling at her. "Our daughter's a bit tougher but she's just so delicate and gentle. We love the girl to death." He smiled at her and stroked down an errant piece of hair. "There, closer to perfection again." She giggled. "I agree with Don, sweetie. No woman is perfect but some come close. Mary does but now and then she turns mean," he shared with a smirk.
"If you did what I asked, I wouldn't have to," she retorted, giving him a smug look. "Speaking of, it's trash night, boys." They both nodded. "Where did you find her ring, Don?"
"The same place Dad got your earrings, Ma." She smiled at that. "I went four, five times and kept coming back to one just like that, only three carats. She said it was too big and picked out that one."
"It's a darling stone."
"It's a real diamond, not one of the lab created ones?" her father asked. Don nodded. "I heard those can be gotten cheaper."
"They also fluoresce under lights," Don told him. "I made them check and they always label those at that place. It's been a favorite jewelry store in this family for nearly fifty years?" he asked his father.
"It was. My father got my mother their thirtieth anniversary present there. I got your mom her ring there and all the other jewelry I've gotten her over the years. It's good that you're keeping the tradition, Donny."
"Traditions are important," Tara reminded him. "It reminds and shows you who you are." She smiled at Don. "Your family has neat ones but Uncle Patrick said we're to show up on Christmas morning in pajamas."
"If you want," he promised, grinning at her. "Hold on, that's only four days after the wedding. We'll be on the cruise ship. We'll see them the twenty-seventh down in Miami then fly back the twenty-ninth, then I go back to work on the second." She smiled at that. He looked at her parents. "I'm taking her on a cruise for our honeymoon. We're doing the Carribean." His mother sighed in pleasure. "One of these days he'll drag you along on a trip again, Ma."
"I would like that," she agreed, smiling at her husband. He stared back, a small smirk in place. "You did?"
"It's a surprise."
"For?" she teased.
"Our anniversary." She smiled at him and he grinned back. "Aruba sound nice?" She nodded at that. "Then we'll go to Aruba. I was going to get you a gift certificate to a travel agency and let you pick out where you wanted to go. All I was going to ask for was no snow." She smiled at that. "Our anniversary is late January and by then we're all tired of snow."
"Snow's pretty," Tara reminded him.
"Wait until February," Don snorted. "It's pretty but by then it's also a bit dirty and slush in parts of the city. Usually right where I have to chase someone, though they do look pretty going into the snow drifts." She pinched him on the thigh, making him shrug. "They do. It's a good laugh for a lot of the guys when one of us bring in someone snowy. It's the only fun with snow we get at the station except the Christmas morning snowball fight. All the guys who're on shift that day go out and we have one massive snowball fight. Last year we accidentally got a lady up the street and she threw one back at him, hit him even." She giggled at that. "The people who live around the station come out to watch. It's been a tradition now for nearly twenty years. That and the lottery for who gets to work that morning." She smiled and stroked his hand. "I've got an out this year. I worked the last five so the guys with kids could go home." She kissed him gently and he beamed back. "Next year we'll do the lunch line together," he said with a wink. She smiled and nodded, digging back into dinner.
"Our station had a sign up sheet," Don Senior admitted. "We all knew who had kids. We had one guy who had twelve kids. He volunteered every year and no one understood why. One year his wife brought in pictures and tapes of the chaos. We understood why then. Two sets of triplets in competition for each other's stuff, a set of twins that was even worse, and the rest were singles who were at war with the doubles and triples. They opened Christmas Eve so their father could be there but the next day they turned into fighting heathens." Don smiled at that. "You know, next year we'll have our first grandchild out of his sister."
"Does that mean you'll take me to FAO again and we'll both squeal," she teased. He blushed but nodded, making Don and his mother both laugh. She smiled at her stepmother. "Want more?"
"Oh, no, dear, I'm full," she promised. "Are you men done?" They cleared their plates and she and her daughter cleared the table, bringing out the cake and dessert plates. Plus milk for Don Junior. She almost smiled at that. It was such a boyish thing to do. "So, your nephew Xander, what does he do?"
"He's a massage tech," Tara said. "He's got a pretty good client base."
"He does," Don agreed. "Spoils the officers down there with shoulder rubs at work when they need one." His mother looked at him. "He's also helping his grandfather with his charities now and then." He looked at her, seeing the begging look. So he'd play along. "Unfortunately Uncle Patrick didn't really get to meet him until he was nineteen. Xander's dad kept the two apart and Xander ended up being taken in by one of the CSI down in Miami who had moved to Sunnydale for a while. So when he graduated Xander went on a road trip up here and Uncle Patrick finally got to introduce himself. Then Xander moved down with his adoptive father and he's in Miami now."
"Interesting," her stepmother agreed. "Does he work for a spa?"
"No, home based business," Don told her. "He makes a good bit. Miami's a spa city. He lives in a beautiful house. His grandfather spoiled him horribly by leasing him a Ferrari when his Jag got trashed after he got run off the road by someone. The whole family down there in the lab teases him about that and how the boss got a speeding ticket once in it." That got a small smirk from her father. "Horatio Caine's a very strong man. Very serious at times, but now and then he can have fun. He and Speed, his adopted father, both baby the boy until he has to fuss back. Then again, they fuss because Xander gets into some of the strangest things. He was in Las Vegas visiting some friends."
"The same ones you took her to visit?"
"Yeah, someone in their lab out there. Anyway, Xander and Greg have been buddies since they met out there. This was his second trip out to see him I think. Xander and Greg end up in a club and this very nice woman starts to hit on them. Feeds them some really potent liquor. Since Xander doesn't drink it was too strong for his system. He wakes up the next day with a hangover from Hades, a wife who had just jumped off the building to get away from the FBI because she's an assassin, and we find out Greg married her apprentice for the same reason. She got him too drunk to wobble by himself. So then most of the family plus parts of their lab out there, Miami's lab, and our lab up here get to travel with Xander to break into her houses and hand over her files to the Feds and various state governments, plus get rid of her weapons collections. I got to go to Istanbul for four days." Tara smiled at that. "Did I show you those pictures?"
"Danny on a camel," she agreed happily.
"Yeah, I guess I did," he agreed happily. He looked at Don's father. "Xander's a great kid. Very protective of his family. He's a goofy guy until someone threatens his family and then he turns into this nearly demonic force of protection and violence." That got an understanding look, so he had caught the threat. "He'll be up for both the bonding and the wedding if you wanted to meet him," he offered.
"I'm sure I will sometime soon," he agreed. He dug into his cake. "For being commercial, this isn't bad."
"The Chef went to school for it," Don's father agreed. He watched his wife yawn. "Go back to bed, sweetheart." She smiled and excused herself before going up there. "Sorry, the surgery was hard on her."
"It's a strong woman who would've gotten out of bed today," Tara's father agreed. "What are you doing now?"
"I retired after nearly thirty years on the force," he admitted. "Now I bother my wife by lounging around and watching football. When I get bored I've got some people who'll let me do background checks and things for them." Tara swatted him and he patted her hand. "I do, she'll tell you that." He looked at him again. "I'm hoping Donny matches me and adds another year to the tally. Then his kid can up it. That way the whole force thinks we're mythical."
"Hey, I'm already mythical," Don said dryly, smirking at his father. "Who else gets into the things I do following the lab around?"
"Point, son. Not many detectives do that." He looked at Tara again. "Try to make him quit that, okay?" She nodded. "Thanks, sweetie." He kissed her on the forehead. "Need help with dishes later?"
"Dishwasher," she reminded him. "Mary said they can go in there too." He smiled at that. "We'll make sure you eat tomorrow too, Don."
"Thanks, dear. I'd appreciate that." He patted her on the head. "You're an excellent daughter-in-law. If Donny didn't want you and I was unmarried and younger, I'd steal you in a heartbeat." She blushed and snickered at that, shaking her head. "Okay, well, maybe I'd adopt you," he admitted.
"Then me loving her would be incest, Dad. Eww," Don noted sarcastically. "Remember, Tara's my woman and I am a jealous man now and then. Mostly when she's pretty."
"She's pretty all the time, son," he teased back.
"Exactly," Don Junior agreed with a smirk for his girl, who rolled her eyes but swatted them both. She got up to start clearing away the rest of the table and putting up the leftovers.
"Are you doing bad things to my daughter?" Tara's father asked bluntly.
"You mean like sleeping with her? I get cuddles now and then. Am I mean to her? Hell no," he said firmly. "I've never been mean to my past girlfriends and I'll never be mean to her. I've never hit one, I don't yell, and I tend not to argue with them. It's not worth the stress unless it's something important."
"So you are sleeping together outside of marriage?"
Don looked at him. "First, I don't think that's any of your business. Second, we're engaged. We'll be bonded in three weeks. Have I spent the night? Yes. I'm not going to move in until we're bonded because we both agreed it wasn't right. Most often I get cuddles from Tara. She likes to curl up on my chest and read. I've learned a lot by reading over her shoulder."
"How do you plan to take care of her?"
"Very well," Don told him. "I make a great salary. I've got a good savings. All Tara has to do is name something and it's hers. Once we're married in December, the PD will also help her with tuition if she wants to file for it. They'll help her up to six hours a semester for up to four years." That got him a horrified look. "I want Tara to finish her education and to go into whatever sort of job she wants that'll make her happy. Her happiness is my first priority, even over my job. You may not have heard me earlier but I would die for Tara, and I think that's the way love should be. We were friends before this and we're still friends. I can go to her for advice when I need some common sense or a female point of view for a case. She can come to me with any worries she has. If she ever gets sick I'm going to fuss her to death until she begs for mercy," he offered with a small smile. "That's how love should be."
"You're awfully girly," he snorted.
Don shrugged. "I'm perfectly fine with my manliness. I don't need to use my gun for my job most of the time. When I do I use it very well. I've got an arrest record that rivals some of the best in the US. Including my father. I play basketball on the weekends with street kids as a mentor. I don't need to prove how bad of a badass I am. It's implied in who I am. I don't care if I'm wearing pink and driving a pink car, no one mistakes me for anything other than very manly and masculine." He leaned on the table. "Yeah, I like to play and joke around. It makes me a happy guy. A real man can be happy with himself and realize that a few things could use changed but not force himself to do it unless it's necessary," he said, staring him down. "I don't need to prove my manliness by threatening women or children," he finished more quietly. "If I ever did, I'd expect Tara to smack the shit outta me for it." Her father snorted. "She can. She had to hit someone a few weeks back when she brought in a batch of cookies for my squad. One of the suspects said something to her and she smacked the shit outta him and told him off until he whimpered and begged to be arrested. Then she fed him a cookie and I got one," he finished with a grin. "Tara's a beautiful girl. Those that hurt her have one hell of a problem coming from me. No matter who that is. Even if it were my dad." His father nodded. "Any other questions?"
"You know fags," he said bluntly.
"I know a few gay men, yes. I also know some very nice lesbians. It doesn't matter to me. What do I care what someone does in their bedroom if I'm not invited?" That got a horrified look. "What they do is their thing. I don't really care what they do as long as they're happy with it and not offering to me." He looked at his father. "Have you ever cared?"
"Not in the last ten years. After one of my coworkers did offer I had to sit down and think. That's just who they are. I don't like it but that's got nothing to do with me." He shrugged and looked at Tara's father. Then at Tara since she was in the doorway. "Pumpkin, did you mind gay people?"
"No," she said quietly. "I was one until I met Don. I'm fine with all of us." She went over to pull Don up. "Come help me please? I need to lift down a bowl and can't reach it."
"Sure." He grinned at her. "You know I don't care. I like Willow. She's hyper- protective, like Xander is." He grinned and she grinned back, letting him get down the bowl they needed. "Anything else I can help with?"
"Carry in the last few plates?"
"Sure." He went to do that. "Guys, the women would like the last few dishes please." His father stacked his and handed them over. He carried his in with them then came back out. "Yours, Dad?"
Mr. Maclay gave him a horrified look and stomped off. "You are coming home with us, Tara! We are leaving tomorrow. You will not be staying in this place with such people! It is wrong and so are they!" She shook her head. "You will or I will tell everyone what you are."
"I'm female, Father, I think they already realize that." He gave her a glare and she glared back. "That was just a story. I figured that out."
"Yeah, about that whole 'she's demonic' thing. Really? You wanna prove it?"
"So do all women who haven't had stuff removed. Most men learn to respect the tampon and fear it at the same time. If you didn't, you obviously either never had sisters or a mother who was still fertile. Now, anything else? If not, you have a nice stay in New York, Mr. Maclay."
"She will be leaving with us," he said, advancing on Don, who didn't move. "You are a foul being."
"STOP IT!" Tara shrieked. "Right the hell now!" A fierce wind started in the house. "How dare you speak to my man like that, Father! He's a decent, kind, hardworking man who loves me. No matter what you tried to teach me! Now, get out of their house. I'm no longer your daughter. My mother was right to try to leave you." He reached for her and she put up a hand, freezing him. "Do not tempt me," she vowed.
Willow appeared behind her, giving her a hug, leaning her chin on her shoulder. "I felt you snap. Are you all right, sweetie?"
"I'm fine, Willow," she said quietly, staring at her father.
"I'm not," Don Senior noted. "Tara, honey, put him down. He's not worth the headache." She released him and Don let her cuddle into his chest and sob. "Don, take her out back please?" Don nodded, doing that. He stood up. "I don't care who you think you are, Mr. Maclay. That girl is the nicest and sweetest thing. She makes my son happy. If you think she's wrong for doing that, that's your problem. No one said you had to show up for the wedding. No one said you had to come to the bonding or acknowledge any future grandchildren. I'll give them all the attention they'd miss from you and make sure they're happy, healthy kids who know love. Do you have anything else to say?" He shook his head and stomped out, his wife scurrying after him. He looked at the fuming redhead. "You are?"
"Willow." She crossed her arms, looking at him. "Who're you? Not that I mind someone protecting Tara."
"I'm Don's father, Don Senior."
"Oh." She smiled and gave him a hug. "We've heard a lot about you from her. Welcome to the family because she's still my best friend and like my sister." He smirked at that. "What? I can't have her back and I've moved onto Ryan. He's more than enough manly woman type for me." She shrugged and looked outside then at him. "This isn't the first time. He had her convinced she was demonic at one point in time. Buffy nearly kicked his ass. Can I send Xander this time?" He cracked a real smile. "He'd be more than happy to help you know."
"We'll see, Willow. Go back to your Ryan toy." She gave him a wicked grin and disappeared after a few quiet words. "Huh." He walked outside. Tara gave him a fearful look. "Works better than cuffs if you can do it," he said. She burst out crying. "Not like I care that you're one who can get it to work, Tara. Shit, girl, we knew you were a witch when we met you! You're Wiccan, a practicing, faithful one to the Goddess. Donny and I have both been around long enough to have seen some of the strange stuff in this world. You're no stranger than Elvis impersonators." She gave him a look. He smirked back. "Really. You're not." She gave him a tentative hug. "That's my girl. Willow offered to tell Xander."
"No, he'll destroy him," she said weakly.
"Sounds good to me. Dad?"
"I'm for it. Think we could get Mac ta help, Donny?"
"He offered, Dad, and said he might even bring Danny ta help, maybe even Sheldon."
"That's one strange trio," he said, considering it.
"Nah, it's Danny/Mac/Stella with Sheldon giving Mac hints because he's a great CSI but he's a clueless guy that didn't know Stella mothered him because she wanted in his pants." He shrugged. "Some guys, ya know." He pulled Tara back. "Mine, get your own or go hug Ma."
"Not a bad idea." He went to hug his wife, who was scowling outside. "I take it you heard?"
"Yes. Get that girl up here right now so I can have a hug too!"
"Tara, Mary wants a hug too," he bellowed. She peeked in. "Yes, you, pumpkin. I'm glad our other daughter can't. Think how scary she'd be then." Tara bopped him on the arm with a scowl so he smiled. "See? Just don't do it around the house unless it's necessary, okay?" She nodded and gave him another hug, then she gave one to Mary, who whispered in her ear and got a nod.
"Good! We should let Donny tell your cousin."
Don walked up the stairs with his cellphone. "No, Uncle Raph. It went bad. We'll still be home tonight. Because Ma won't let me cuddle with her here. Yeah, we'll tell you then, Uncle Raph. I promise. Good, make Uncle Pat eat." He hung up and looked at Tara. "They've got someone watching the house."
"The blue car probably," his mother said. Don looked then nodded. "They're the only ones I don't know."
"It happens," Don promised, kissing her on the cheek. "You should be in bed. Don't make me pull a Xander and fuss, Ma." She smiled and got back into bed. He picked up Tara and put her over his shoulder. "I'm taking her home to get cuddles and give her a footrub. See you guys in a few days. Ma, be safe and get better. Tell me if you need anything. Got it?" She nodded so he walked her down to the car, putting her on her feet so he could kiss her. "Into the car, my woman." She blinked at him. "What? I knew you could do it. I've seen you do it making cookies." She blushed. "It happens and that's a good reason to me," he promised with a grin. "Now, into the car or no footrub tonight." She slid in and he walked around to get in and drive, honking at their guard, who smiled and waved but stayed. Probably a good thing in case her parents came back. By the time he got her home she was calmed down and let him walk her inside and sit her down on the couch, even letting him give the promised footrub. "Before you ask, it ended up being a threatening action."
"Willow wanted to sic Xander on them," Tara agreed. She looked at Don. "It didn't freak you out?"
"If it did I'd make you quit reaching for whatever you're nibbling on while you're deep in study," he pointed out. "Since I don't it must not." She smiled and leaned over to kiss him. "That's my girl. You forget you're not an orphan. Okay?" She nodded. "Can you have a neighbor get the stuff you have in storage down there?"
"My stepmother said she sent it up before they came up." Both vampires stared at her so she looked at her. "Some sundresses mostly. A very old diary. Something of my mother's. She said Don was a good man but my father's being a pain."
"That's putting it mildly," Don agreed dryly. "Can I sic Xander on him?" She gave him a look. "I know it's mean but he hurt you. He threatened you and he said mean things about you."
"He said meaner things about you earlier," she complained.
"So then they deserve Horatio and Xander," he said with a smirk. She swatted him. "They do."
"They might," she agreed. "But it's still mean."
"What happened?" Patrick demanded.
They both stared at him. "Don was wearing his mauve suit earlier," she told him. "So he's girly, he knows gay men, he's only a cop, he's not of his faith, I'm still considered demonic because I'm like my mother. The usual." Don pulled her into his lap to cuddle her. "I'm fine, Don. Willow helped me heal from him."
"I'm going to tell Calleigh to sic her Ma on him again," he said grimly.
Raphael dialed that house's number and put it on speaker. "Speedle," he sighed.
"We just met with Tara's parents. Can Calleigh's mom go shoot him this time?" Don asked.
"That good, huh?" He sighed and turned his head away from the phone. "Calleigh, if you're still on with your mother tell her to shoot her bastard cousin this time. They apparently upset Tara and Don this time."
"Sure," came across faintly. Then she came closer. "What happened?"
"Don was wearing mauve, he's a cop, he's Catholic, he believes I can be a strong woman and not cowed. I'm still demonic to him. Then he said mean things about Don."
"He tried to say mean things about Tara but I threatened him," Don promised. "I was a good boy. I stood my ground and I pointed out being manly meant I didn't have to prove it by beating my women. Willow popped up when Tara had to stop him from moving toward her and suggested we tell Xander."
"That's still mean," Tara said weakly.
"He said mean things about both of you?" Calleigh demanded. Speed's voice faded. "Hold on, I'm chatting with my mom." The sound of typing. "Mom said she's going to aim for his balls this time instead of between his feet."
"Watch out for the dog, she's pregnant," Tara said quietly.
"I told her," Calleigh promised, sounding happier. "Mom said that she'll meet him at the airport this time. Maybe he'll come to Miami." Don snickered. "If so, I'll definitely let Xander meet him, Tara. Now, I hear that there's a wedding coming?"
"Yup. We're bonding in front of the Goddess on the nineteenth at twelve-thirty at night. Then on Solstice we're holding a wedding," Don told her, smiling at Tara. "If she gets cold feet I get to tickle and threaten Xander as her honor guard so he'll get to squeal and fuss with her clothes and hair." She shook her head. "No?"
"No. Female honor guards."
"Okay, I'll let Lady Heather do it," he said with a bright grin. She 'eep'ed and hid her face in his neck. "The nineteenth right after the convention."
"That is a Saturday evening and I think I have it off so we might be able to come too," Calleigh said happily. "Tara, have you two registered anywhere?"
"I'm going to do that tomorrow."
"Sure. Let us know, okay? We love you two, you're nearly as cute as a frustrated Horatio following behind a huffy Xander. Someone tried to run him off the road again." Patrick moaned at that. "Don't worry, we got the guy and he's very sorry. Ryan ran into him with a hummer, the cursed one even, and Horatio said it was good it was that hummer. Anyway, is everything else okay?"
"Just fine," Don promised, sounding content. "I finally got her ring last night and she wanted something smaller so I let her choose." His uncles both stared at her until she let them see.
"It's beautiful, baby," Patrick said, smiling at her. "Perfect for your hand."
"I wanted a three carat like that one but she said it was too big," Don explained. "She went with a two."
"Wow," Calleigh said. "You two have good cuddles and forget they came up, Tara. If they come down here I'm sure someone will gladly have a talk with them. We'll see you for the wedding definitely and the bonding if we can. We'll also see you during the conference so let us know if we can bring anything up, okay?"
"I will," she agreed. "Make your mom be nice?"
Calleigh hung up while she was laughing. "Oh, that was a good joke, Speed. She wanted my mother to play nicely with her father."
"Hmm. I still say I should tell Xander and Horatio."
"You never know, Willow could've."
"True," he agreed, looking happier at that. "If not, she's definitely ranted at Ryan, who'll tell H tomorrow." He went back to making his snack. "Tell your mother I said hi and she can't have you all night. I'm going to debauch you again by having evil, wicked sex with you."
"She'd laugh like the last time you told her that," she called after him. She did type in that Tara asked her to be nice to her father. Her mother sent back a cackle. It was all she needed to know. She did mention the pregnant dog they had and it was apparently a good thing for her. She logged off after a few more minutes and called Ryan and Willow's house. "Sorry, Ryan. Wondering if Willow had any more information. My Mom wanted to know the details of what happened. No, I'm Tara's second cousin," she admitted happily. "Sure. After you're done with her or tomorrow is fine," she promised happily. "Thank you, sweetie. Have fun." She hung up and leaned back. She didn't mean to break in on them having sex but sometimes it happened. Speed came in with a half sandwich for her. "Don picked out a beautiful three carat diamond and Tara made him scale back a two."
"That was sweet," he said happily. "They good now?" She nodded. "Willow say anything?"
"A lot of panting."
"Ah. Newlywed syndrome. You call Xander to tell him?"
"No, I'm scared of calling Xander. Every time I do I hear Horatio growling or Greg growling or someone in the background ready to cry from him." He nodded, accepting that. "So evil *and* wicked tonight?" she asked.
He smirked. "Let me eat so I have enough energy, Cal." She smirked and headed for the bathroom to take a shower. He watched her stip off on the way, eating faster. It was good.
Horatio walked into his office and pulled off his sunglasses, watching Speed do his paperwork. "Problems with some of them?"
"Wondering if you were going to make it."
"The hummer broke down. Again."
Speed looked at him. "We could use an overhaul," he agreed. "The Chief's upset at the budget."
"He usually is," he agreed. "Anything else that came up?"
"Yeah. Xander got paid today for the last set of crap that went up to auction. So expect a nice dinner in tonight."
"I'll be with Yelina and Ray Junior tonight."
"Where is your brother?"
"Stalking his son," he said dryly. "Other than that I haven't seen him. Maybe that's because I haven't been able to go home without Xander pouting at me."
"He did want you to move in," Speed reminded him.
"I know but I don't want to get in the way of his business."
"You're not." He stood up and let him get at his desk. "Call the Chief first. Did Xander get a call from Willow?"
"We did," he agreed dryly. "Xander was stopped from going to curse him to misfortune by Greg knocking him down and kissing him stupid. I think he snuck out of bed and did it later."
"Good. Calleigh's mother's going to shoot him for real this time." He walked off, going back to his lab.
Horatio called the Chief. "Sorry I'm a bit late. The hummer broke down on the way in. The block's cracked I think. I've already called Auto and they think so too," he admitted. He listened. "Well, that does leave us with just one working one, sir." He nodded. "As soon as they get it back to me." He glared at the phone. "Why? I told you that one was permanently broken and the other seems cursed to accidents." He rolled his eyes, leaning back. "I'm sure, sir. I have filed for a grant. I haven't heard anything back yet. Of course, sir. The same as I'd have been delighted if they had upgraded the lab without making it look like a canyon and taking our second set of bathrooms away." He smirked. "I know, sir, and that was on the list. Three times. Thank you." He hung up and glared at the phone. He went to check his inter-office mailbox and sighed at the notice on the grant. It had been turned down on very suspicious reasons. He went back to his office with the other things, finding one pale cream envelope. He sniffed. It was a familiar scent.
He opened it and stared at the check inside. Then the small post-it on the back. //To be used specifically for the lab's needs, Horatio. Do not let the Chief have it.// He smiled and walked it out to take it to his boss. He held up the post-it note first, getting a glare in return. "It smells like Raphael." He turned it around, letting him see the amount. "I'm getting new hummers. Would you like to get maintenance to fix the electrical problems she gave us?" He walked off much happier now. Those two really did have very long ears in all the right places. He found the number for the dealership who did the hummers, and their address. Then he went to the bank. It was in his name. He could cash it. The Chief could growl and want his old hummer all he wanted. Once he had it cashed he walked out to the dealership. It was only up the street. He smiled at the salesman he knew, taking off his sunglasses. "We got given a grant to replace the perpetually cursed and damaged one, the totally broken one, and mine, which blew the block on the way in this morning." He handed over the money. "Fix it. Please."
The salesman looked at him then nodded. "Sure, Lieutenant." He counted the money then looked at him. "You can get eight of them for this."
"We have one working one. Get us four more then I'll see." That got a nod and he filled out the forms, letting him sign the requisition. Horatio took the rest of the money and the forms back, going to drop them in the proper offices. He stopped in at auto pool, handing them their copy. "Who else needs vehicles?"
"Motorcycle and horse patrol."
"I don't think I can get good horses in Miami," he admitted, walking off. He went to talk to the chief, handing him his copy. "I'll write a thank you note to them in a few minutes. Did you want to sign it as well?"
"I can do that myself," he said, glaring at him. "You're being smug."
"We lost the grant. We're down to one. Unless you want Speed to ride his racing bike to scenes...." He shuddered. "Now, the lab's needs aren't that vast. Someone noted mounted patrols needed something?"
"Can you get good horses?"
"I don't think I'm a good judge of one. I haven't ridden since I was sixteen." His boss gave him a funny look. "Summer camp."
"Oh." He nodded. "Motorcycle could use about ten new ones."
"I'll see what I can do." He walked off, going back to his office. Speed walked in and hugged him. "What's that for?"
"From the guys at Mounted Patrol. From biker to biker." He walked out again.
Horatio smiled and called. "I've got about sixty thousand remaining from the gift to the lab. Can you use it?" he asked their boss. He heard the happy noises. "It's not much...." He laughed. "True, it'll give you a few. Four new hummers. I'd offer to the other side of mounted patrol but I don't know horses that well." The other boss laughed. "I've got it in cash in my desk." He hung up and the guy came up with the requisition to show him. "That's fine." He handed it over and got a hug then the guy left to talk to the same dealership. He put the other fifty dollars into petty cash and wrote a very nice letter to the meddling duo for their generous support of the lab. Then he sent an email to Gordon with the specifics of what it had went toward if they needed to know. Gordon sent back an 'we didn't do it, Horatio'. He asked him who did. He said he'd chase it down and he scanned in the copy of the check he had made with the post-it note. Gordon wrote back a few hours later telling him it was one of the gift giving posse, as he had taken to calling them. "Interesting. Still appreciated." He was sent an address so he modified that and printed it out, then signed it and put it into the outgoing mail.
Xander opened his door, frowning at the delivery guy. "I didn't order anything," he said.
"I don't know what it is, sir. Two envelopes for you." He handed them over. "Sign please?" He did. "Thank you, have a nice day."
"Need a tip?"
"No, sir. Fed Ex doesn't need it," he said with a smile, heading back to his truck and out the gate.
Xander closed the door and sat down in his office to look inside them. One had a thicker set of papers. One had a thinner envelope. He started with the papers. Thinner things were generally bad news. He pushed a button on his phone. "The family in Yemen did *what*?" he demanded when someone answered. He listened to Mac explain what had happened. "So they did what!" he said, starting to sound panicked. "I don't need it!" He opened the other envelope and squeaked. "Oh, damn it! No, not from them." He hung up and called Gordon. "Are you busy?" he asked, sounding normal to his own ears. Since Gordon told him to calm down he doubted he did to others. "Legal paperwork and another present. Thank you." He put his head down on the desk, waiting until Gordon got there. He pulled the papers out from under his head. Then the check from his hand. "Can I go jump off somewhere high?"
"No, Xander. Patrick would get very upset and stressed out." He read over the paperwork, sitting down. "They did *what*!" he demanded. He dialed the house in New York, getting a very grumpy vampire ten rings later. "The family in Yemen did what!" He heard the 'huh' and got up to fax it up there. "I've sent it over, Patrick. Wake Sire up. I don't know. I'm not sure if the check he got sent is from that or not." He waited while Patrick got the fax and screamed, making his sire run down the stairs and take the phone and the fax from him. Then he growled. "Xander's wanting to jump off somewhere very high and he's got a good sized check here as well," he admitted. He looked at it. "Like the estate is peanuts, Sire. I can do that." He hung up. "Let us handle this, Xander." Xander looked at him, looking tired. "I know. Let us handle this." He nodded. "Good boy. You take a nap or something." He headed for the Department of Treasury. "Is Agent Elliot in please?" She nodded so he signed in and was escorted back to his office. "Agent Elliot?" He nodded, looking at him. "Gordon Peterson, I'm legal counsel for Patrick Benis. I'm here on behalf of his grandson."
"Two things," he said, walking in and nodding at the receptionist so he could close the door. He put down the check and watched the agent whimper. "We can't tell if it's related to this matter or not," he said, putting down the legal papers. "Sire's growling. Patrick is screaming and ranting, and Xander wants to jump off somewhere very high. Can you track the check for us?"
"I can," he agreed, going to do that. He looked at the name on the paperwork then at him. "They're the ones who sent those two huge checks."
"I know. They consider Xander a family curse and had two members who wanted him commit suicide to regain the family's honor." He got a horrified look. "We protested, they did it and gave him their share of the family's estate so it wouldn't taint anyone. Xander nearly cried then. This is going to drive him over the edge."
"I can see why." He went back to tracing it. He ran into a legal notification and read it, then frowned and let him see it. "I'm hoping I'm translating the French wrong."
Gordon read then turned and hit the wall. "No, you're not. Is anyone alive in that family?"
"No. Not according to this. Maybe a daughter. One was mentioned but she's listed as being in protective custody or something." He called the State Department. "This is Agent Elliot in Miami. I need someone in my office now. Some kidnapers who took a resident down here paid him a humongous sum of money and then apparently set fire to the family home with everyone in it. Now please." He hung up, looking at the door, noticing the slowly moving shadows. "He hit the wall, boys. It's nothing. He was upset on behalf of his client." He got back to it until someone knocked and walked in. "This is Paul Young, from the State Department."
"Gordon," he said, shaking his hand. "What's going on? A case?"
"I quit a few years back. I work for Patrick Benis." That got a smile. "Father Benis' grandson is under the family curse. That family considered him a family curse and they just killed everyone it looks like." He took the paperwork and moved Peter Elliot off his desk so they could read through what they had found. "Is there anything Xander can do? Are there any members left?"
"Let me make a few calls," Paul offered, doing that from the desk phone. "Sir, Paul Young, State Department. Actually, I am. Yes, sir, Miami. Mr. Harris lives down here. No, sir, his grandparents came up to talk to you in person," he admitted, looking at Gordon, who nodded. He listened to him going over what he had heard. "There's a daughter mentioned. Can we give it to her?" He raised an eyebrow. "Okay. What can the young man do? He's nearly crying over this, Sheik, what can he do?" He made notes. "Thank you for your assistance, sir." He hung up and called someone in the FBI. "Unflag a Mr. Alexander Harris, presently a resident in Miami. He's a victim of kidnaping and the kidnapers got stuck on him. Yeah, that one. Thank you." He hung up. "The envoy to the US's advice was to enjoy it. There's standing orders that if the daughter sees him or takes any of the money from him she'll be eliminated too. Her father put out a pre-paid contract through someone." Gordon sat down, looking weak. "The rest was flagged and stopped by the FBI. They're going to find the file on his kidnaping and come down to talk to him. The Envoy is the brother of the current head of the government. He said as far as he knew, they were all gone. They found themselves unable to deal with not wanting him."
"That's insane," Gordon told him.
"At this point, the government decided they were mentally unstable and are watching the daughter as well. If she marries over here since she's at NYU studying, all the better for her." He stood up. "I'm going to copy these and my notes, Gordon. Tell him to hold off cashing that."
"He didn't want it."
"I know. Hold off on cashing it anyway. Let me see if you've got any recourse in this situation. Okay?" Gordon nodded. "Good man. Is there any other names I should be aware of?"
"Sire, Raphael, was heading over there with our foreign legal team to handle it again. They've broken the restraining order time and again." That got a solemn nod. "We've had three others who did this in the past and were killed or committed suicide. They said committed suicide and bought a judge to quickly probate the will and force it on Xander so it couldn't taint the rest of the family."
"I heard the last kidnaping had Lieutenant Caine," Agent Elliot said.
"Different family but they know them. They wanted to know what was so special and got them both since they were together." He shrugged. "I don't know. Father Benis is livid. He was screaming into the phone when I told him. Xander looked like he wanted to run and hide."
"Tell him to calm himself and to stay in Miami," Paul told him. "Give me a few days, okay?" That got a nod and he strode out shaking his head.
"Can you hold that?"
"The boss said I shouldn't. I briefed him on what's went on with your client. He's stunned but he remembers hearing rumors about his grandfather's problems."
"It's a curse on the family for when they've found their true mates," he said bitterly. "It lasts four years. Father Benis won't last two more."
"Who is he seeing?"
"Horatio." Elliot stared at him. "You thought they were playing?" He grinned and took the check, putting it into his briefcase. "I'm going to put this in the family's safety deposit box. Let me know whatever you find out or tell Horatio and he'll tell me." That got a nod and a hand-shake. "I hope we don't have to keep making your life unboring, Agent Elliot."
"You too, Gordon." That got a smile and he headed out. He wrote an email to his boss, hearing him swearing from up the hall. Not a good sign. He rested his head against the back of his desk chair, mentally praying that no one in his family ever bred with that one.
Horatio looked up as Gordon walked into his office with the legal paperwork. "What's this?"
"Sit." Horatio looked at him. "The family in Yemen struck again. Sit. Really. Please." Horatio sat and read then glared at him. "I've got the State Department and the Treasury working on it. Someone from the FBI wanted briefed as well. They're coming down tomorrow. He got a check from someone. There may be more coming. They literally set the house on fire with everyone in it but one daughter who's over here studying. I've already called Mac and he went to talk to her and to tell her he'd help her stay away from Xander because he knew him. He called back and said she wasn't surprised, her grandfather had begun to talk about him then hated himself. She's got plans to marry and they left her with a quarter of the estate. She refused to take more when Mac asked her. She said it was tainted and she was not going to taint herself, her future husband, or any future offspring, who would not be named after anyone in her family or you two or us." That got a nod. "Mac wrote out a list when her fiance asked. He agreed, they don't want it."
"So Xander's stuck?"
"We're seeing what we can do, Horatio. Right now that check is in the safety deposit box. The FBI took the others with what they told Elliot, I think. I can't be sure. That came from Fed Ex." Horatio nodded once and pushed a button on his phone. He sat down. "I know Xander asked if he could jump off somewhere. Patrick was screaming, Horatio. Sire wouldn't quit growling. Agent Elliot called someone at the State Department, a guy I know named Paul Young. He said to give him a few days to find the whole story and depth of this outrage." Speed and Eric walked in with Ryan right behind them. "Hi, boys. Speed, you'll want to sit before you read that." Speed looked at him and read anyway; Ryan caught him when he tried to sit without a chair. "You're good," he praised.
"I've been getting practice. Willow passed out thanks to Ethan." He helped him into a chair, taking the papers from his hand. "Speed?"
Eric snatched the papers to read, frowning at Horatio. "Does this say they all committed suicide together and left him everything?"
"A quarter went to the only surviving daughter and she doesn't want it," Gordon told him. "We're going through the State Department this time. The FBI is coming down to get briefed so you three may need to give statements as well." That got a nod from them. "Perhaps Ian as well since I know he was keeping track of things for you guys. Maybe even Mayper. I'm not sure yet." He looked at Horatio. "When are the new hummers coming?"
"Four days. They had to do the equipment in the back." He leaned back, rubbing his eyes. "Okay. What do we need to do right now?"
"Prepare what you're going to tell the FBI. I have no idea who they're sending. I have no idea how high up this is going to be joked about," he admitted. "I know Paul talked to the Envoy, who's the brother of the ruler of Yemen. He said Xander's only choice was to enjoy it."
"Donations good," Speed said sarcastically. "Maybe that way we can get the stuff around here fixed, H."
"Might be a good idea. We had to put out a fire in ballistics an hour ago," Ryan sighed, looking at him. "Should I tell Willow?"
"Do you really want to calm her down all night?" Gordon asked.
"We're going out tonight. I can tell her in public." That got a smirk from Ryan. "It helps now and then." He looked at Speed. "Want me to call Calleigh?" He slowly shook his head. "Want a soda?" Speed shook his head again. "Beer?"
Shot. Many shots." He stood up and looked at Horatio. "Think I could take Xander out drinking?"
"He might not mind this time," Horatio admitted. He stood up. "Let's go brief the Chief. It's nearly the end of the day. We'll go see Xander tonight and calm down together."
"He's got a grill, we can do a cookout," Eric offered. Horatio gave him a look. "It would keep him calm and take care of the necessities, plus Speed could have a beer at least."
"Not around Xander, Eric. He hates drunks. His parents were," Speed told him. He looked at Horatio. "Otherwise I like his idea."
"Stop at the store, you'll probably get out first. I've got to get a ride home."
"I'll drive you, Horatio. I already told Xander to hold on, we were investigating it through the State Department and the FBI. He said thank you and hung up."
"Good." He took the papers and went to find his boss. He ended up having to go to City Hall with a cruiser but that was fine. He could get home even easier from there. He found them in a meeting and sat down to wait, looking casually unconcerned. His boss and the Mayor came out together, both of them giving him an odd look. "An addendum to earlier's discussion, sir."
"Did you find out who sent it definitely?" the Mayor asked.
"I did, sir, and I sent them a thank you note. It was one of Xander's present giving posse," he said blandly. "I put it into the outgoing mail. With it we gave Mounted Patrol sixty thousand for new motorcycles and I filled out the forms for the four new hummers to replace the three broken ones." That got a smile and a nod and the Mayor walked on. He handed his boss the papers. "You'll want to sit. You asked about the family in Yemen?"
The Chief of Police read over the forms then stared at him. "Why?"
"They consider Xander a family curse," he said quietly. He took a deep breath then let it out. "There's someone from the Treasury, State Department, and the FBI working on this outside of Gordon and the family, sir."
That got a nod and the papers handed back. "Is your boy okay?"
"No but it was suggested that the next grant could go to fix what's still arcing. We had a fire in ballistics earlier while I was on a scene." That got a wince. "Exactly. So please have maintenance get on that list tonight? Before we have a worse accident?" he asked quietly. "If you do, I will ask Xander to consider donating to the department again."
"I'm sure he will."
"I think the next one is going to Las Vegas, sir. Then New York before we get more."
"Well, that does happen. If you could ask him I'd be appreciative. We do need to replace some of the cruisers and motorcycles. How much, do we know?" Horatio shook his head. "Hug your boy tightly, Horatio. It's going to be a stressful few days."
"I know, but I thought you should hear before anyone else needed my whip."
That got a smirk. "On your new couch?"
"Even on the new couch, sir. Though I've been using the coatrack." He walked off, heading to catch a cab home. He found Xander in the kitchen staring at a half-empty beer. He kissed him, tasting it. "There's times when you want to drink," he promised, making him look at him. "It's not wrong. You're not going to become an alcoholic from a single drink, Xander." Xander snuggled into his arms. "We're figuring out what we could do." He gave him a squeeze and made Xander look at him. "I had to bribe the Chief."
"I'd ask you to donate to the lab again if he fixed the things that're wrong in the lab because Calleigh had a fire in ballistics," he admitted quietly. "I don't want you to have to or feel obligated but I've just upheld my part of the bargain." That got a small smile and a nod. "I don't want you to have to, Xander."
"I know, Horatio. Greggy was getting the next one. It's in his bag for Grissom. Mac gets one when I get this one. Why did he want it?"
"New cars and motorcycles."
"Can Dad help pick them out?"
Horatio smiled. "He'd complain because they've got to be touring bikes."
"Oh. Pity." He gave him a squeeze. "I'll think about it."
"That's all I promised you'd do." That got a smile. "I wouldn't normally even try to make the promise."
"I know. You're not Anya." He snuck a kiss. "You or Dad can finish that." He headed to his work area to go back to cleaning and purifying it to get rid of the dead guy's soul.
Horatio finished the beer and felt a bit better. He went to change, finding his closet neat and orderly. So Xander got upset and got on a cleaning kick. Not too bad either. He had to fix a few things but not too many. He walked down the stairs in khakis and a looser shirt, getting another hug from Xander. "It'll be okay."
"Will you move in?"
He kissed him. "How about we talk about this when we're not as stressed." Xander gave him a look. "I have no worries about doing that but I'm still keeping my house for a while, Xander."
"So let someone rent it from you," he offered. Horatio smiled at that. "I'll even add onto the house so you can have an office that doesn't have surveillance stuff."
"I'll think about that offer. Most of the time I only use the home office to pay bills and answer emails." Xander smiled at that. "I do love your house," he promised, giving him a hug. "We'll talk about it before Tara and Don's wedding. That way we're not in the middle of stress or bad times." Xander nodded and went back to clinging. "You're a good boy, Xander, and they had no idea who you are or what you mean to those who love you."
"Especially me and Greg," he promised, stroking his back. "Speed said he'd stop at the store and we could cook out on your untouched grill."
"We might need gas."
"Let me look." He went out to look at it then called Speed. "Pick up propane. Of course I will. Thank you, Speed. I'm here. Changed and we're good. Be careful on the bike. Did you call Calleigh?" He smiled and called her. "Come over tonight. Xander's. Because there's news and you could use the dinner too, Calleigh. I heard about the fire. No, it's almost the same topic however. The Yemen family. Please?" He smiled. "Cookout. Bring the ice cream with you. Speed's at the store. Thank you." He hung up and went inside to help Xander clean and then burn the white sage to purify the room.
Eric walked in with half the groceries, Speed following with Calleigh behind him. "Steaks good?"
"They're fine, Eric," Xander agreed, working on smudging the walls. He watched as Speed picked up Calleigh and put her onto the counter then handed over the papers, holding her ice cream while she read. She changed with him and walked outside to scream and finish the ice cream. Then to set up the grill. She came in to give him a hug once her ice cream was done. "I wanted to jump." She nodded, kissing him on the cheek. "Are you that filled with it too?"
"No, Xander, I only want to mother you," she promised, going back to the kitchen. "He made sure I'm not afflicted too."
"I made sure Wolfe wasn't," Speed agreed. "Someone should probably check Oz and Buffy."
Xander came out with Horatio behind him. "I called Oz. His whole answer was 'whoa, head rush' then he moaned and hung up. I'm not sure if Anya was there or if he was smoking pot or not."
That got a mass nod from everyone, even Horatio.
"We'll handle it but you get the cover the next time we go out," Eric teased, making Xander grin just a bit. "Good. Now let's eat. There's nothing we can do while the Feds have it." They got to work, keeping Xander away from the grill and the food. Just in case. No one had seen if grilling was as bad as cooking was for him yet.
Greg walked in later that night, looking tired. "Plane was delayed," he told Brass. "Griss?"
"Yay me." He dug out the letter Xander had given him for him. The other was for Lady Heather and he'd deliver it later or tomorrow. He tapped on Ecklie's door. "I'm back."
"I can see that," Ecklie said grimly. "Why are you late?"
"Talk to Southwestern Airlines, Ecklie. We had a six hour delay at Atlanta when someone had a panic attack on the plane." That got an understanding nod. "From Xander," he said, handing the letter to Grissom. "Am I on or off tonight?"
"You're on-call but not on the schedule," he admitted. "Hit the break room, Greg." Greg nodded, heading that way with his bag. He opened the letter to scan it, catching the check when it fell out. Ecklie gasped so he looked then blinked. He smiled. "It says it's for our vest and gun funds, Ecklie, plus to help the lab with something it needs to get. At mine and Greg's discretion. It was sent to Xander anonymously for us." He got up and let him see the letter, getting a pout. "I'll go give it to the Sheriff." That got a sigh and a nod. "This is Xander's curse coming near Greg, Ecklie. They're bribing him to leave them." He walked out, going to find the Sheriff. There was a high profile case so he was lurking somewhere for information. He found him watching Greg nap on the couch in the breakroom. "Sheriff?" He turned and smiled at him. "You heard about what kept happening to Master Tim?"
"I did. That poor man."
"Someone sent Greg a bribe to leave him." He handed him the letter. "Master Tim passed it on and said very firmly Greg is still his and staying his."
"I am. I'm even marked as his," Greg called. "How big was it?" Grissom walked in the check to let him look, making him whistle. "Wow. For?"
"Partially for the vest and gun funds. Partially for the lab, at our discretion." That got a smile. "So we'll figure out what machine needs replaced the most." He walked out and handed him the check. "It's still in Greg's name," he pointed out at the slack jawed look of awe.
Greg got up with a groan and came out. "Horatio got one, he used it to replace broken hummers and then gave some to their motorcycle patrol to get a few new ones too. Hey, Hodges!" He came out of his lab, looking unamused, like usual. "What's the most broken down machine in the lab?"
"Not the full lab, one machine," Grissom told him. "Just one."
"Our computer system needs more room," he admitted. "That would probably benefit the lab the most. Then mine needs fixed. It hasn't worked right since the explosion." Greg flinched at that. "Why? Did we get a donation?" They all nodded. "Good! If there's any left, please start with the GCMS." He walked in and shut his lab door again.
"I'll call someone to see how much updating will cost us," Grissom said, taking the check with him. "We'll let you cash it and make it into cashier's checks for however much goes each place, Greg."
"Sure, Gris. That's good for me." He looked at the Sheriff. "It's probably the person who sued Xander for not returning his affections even though Xander said repeatedly he doesn't want anyone else and the guy didn't even leave his address." He went back to the couch. "Delay at Atlanta, Sheriff, Griss said so."
"That's fine, Sanders. Thank you for bringing that to the department." He went to draft a thank you note so he could send it to Master Tim to pass on. Even if it had come from the Klan or Al Queda he'd accept it. He wondered if he should announce it and decided he'd ask Grissom later.
Nick looked in the breakroom, nudging the others. Everyone smiled at the sleeping Greg. It was good to have him back, even if he was snoring. They went to find the boss since he had paged them. They were all *very* happy to have Greg back by the end of the meeting.
Later that night, Greg was unpacking his bag and ran across a small envelope, frowning at the handwriting on it. He smiled and put it in with his work things so he could take it to Grissom in the morning. Hodges would get his wish after all. That was Xander's stationary that he wrote Lady Heather on.
Mac looked over as Tara walked into the station behind him. "Don's not in yet."
"I know. I made him pancakes. I was told to give this to Sheldon." She shrugged and handed it to him. "He's not at home. I didn't want to bother him on the job." She smiled. "Can I borrow Stella later? I've got to up the food at the bonding ceremony and I have no idea how."
"Sure," Mac agreed. "She's off today, so give her until ten or eleven before you call." Tara smiled and gave him a hug then left. He went to the locker room, finding a tired Sheldon in there. "Early call?"
"Found the cutter for the suicide ring." Mac handed over the letter. "Where did this come from?"
"Someone sent it to Tara."
"Oh." He opened it and read the letter, then squeaked. Mac took it, letting Sheldon catch whatever had fluttered out. "Oh, sweet Goddess," Sheldon said in awe. He tugged on Mac's arm until he looked down then handed him the check. "Someone loves that we took care of Xander."
"Apparently they do," he agreed, smiling at it. He went back to the letter. "We could use it around here and I'll make sure a good portion goes into the vest and gun fund." He patted him on the back. "We'll hit the bank later when I find out what we're getting." Sheldon just nodded. "It'll be in my office."
"Can I have a photocopy?"
"Sure. It's something you want to stare at." He smiled and walked off, going to do that. Plus to fax the letter to his boss. He got back an email demanding it all go into the general fund. He responded by faxing the check to him. He got a growl and a call. "Sir, it was one of Xander Harris' present giving posse. They were exact about where it was to go. I know we could use it. We always could. The gun and vest fund really could. We have officers wearing out-of-date vests that won't stand up with some of the new hardware on the street. I don't know yet. I was going to see what needed fixed or replaced the most and use it for that or the top two if it's not that much." Danny leaned in. He nodded him inside and let him see the letter. Danny wrote out a list and handed it to him, getting a grin and a nod of thanks. Danny left after looking at the check and whistling. "I'll be sure to put at least a third into the vest and gun fund, half if I can, sir. Chief, we're so far behind Miami and Las Vegas we're down with Los Angeles for lab equipment. It's starting on the level where it's affecting what we can do on cases again. So yes, I'm going to fix or update at least one thing. If I can, half of it will go into the gun and vest fund for the general officers. SWAT gets grants for their body armor, sir. This way the regular officers get good, working vests and guns without complications. Thank you, sir." He hung up and shook his head. He ran off a copy for Sheldon when he peeked in. "He wanted it in the general fund."
"Tough. Danny said he made a list?" Mac let him see it. He starred a few things. "Those. Send half it over there. We can announce it. I woke up Xander to ask. He said to go ahead. Their Chief did when he got it. Grissom got one too through Greg and they're announcing it. He also said their Sheriff was a glory hog. His words," he said with a grin. "I should give Tara a hug later." That got a nod and a smile. "Anything on that list, Mac, please." He left, going to find Don and hug him. "Pass that onto Tara?"
"For?" he asked.
"The letter she got sent contained a donation to the lab and the vest and gun funds for the officers." Don grinned at that. "She brought it down personally to Mac apparently."
"I'll pass it on at lunch, Doc. Go be giddy."
"My name's on the check, Don. I'm getting a copy so I can dance around with it later. I've never even seen that much money on a high end drug bust." He went back to the lab.
Don went to snoop at Mac's office, getting handed the letter. He nodded. "Horatio got one of those too. Said to replace the broken hummers. Xander donated to their gun and vest fund earlier in the year."
"I'd like to find the person and thank them."
"Maybe we can," he agreed. "Did Xander call you about the Yemen family?"
"Gordon did. We should expect someone from the FBI to come take statements about this going on."
"Sure," he agreed, nodding and heading back to his desk. His boss gave her watch a pointed look. "I was at Mac's office." She shook her head. "Someone sent the lab a donation through Tara." She smiled at that. "For the general gun and vest fund too." She smirked at that. "We'll have plenty even if they redo a lab." She went to hug Mac. She'd had a vest failure early last year. He sat down to do paperwork, smiling at the announcement on the PD's homepage from Mac. He wrote Xander an email, getting back that it had been sent in cash with those letters already inside so he had broken it among the three labs. He assured him it had made Mac and Sheldon very happy. Xander sent back a grin and said he was getting back to work. So Don got back to work as well. Though he did send that email to Mac.
The Chief stopped in at Horatio's office. "Why did the check come out of your boyfriend's account?" He handed over the email Xander had forwarded him and Grissom. "Oh." He handed it back. "Did he agree?"
"He said he'd consider it." He heard the alarm and sighed, going to see what had happened this time. Ballistics. He rushed in and pulled Calleigh out of the fire suppression foam. "What happened?"
"The outlet behind the comparison microscope," she coughed, leaning on him. She glared at the Chief. "I complained four months ago about that. It'll be fixed tonight or I'm suing the department." He went pale and rushed off. Two firemen walked in. "He promised to fix all the problems the Feds left when they updated. It's the outlet tied to the comparison microscope." They nodded and went to check. She looked at Horatio. "Can I borrow your couch? I have a headache."
"Of course. Let's go up there and I'll get Alexx to check you over," he promised, walking her up there. He paged Alexx as soon as she was laying down. Alexx came running in. "Smoke and some fire foam."
"He didn't fix that yet!" she demanded.
"Apparently not." Horatio went to get a preliminary report from the fire crew. They both gave him dirty looks. "We reported this to maintenance four months ago and have nagged every three days since then, gentlemen. The same as more things were reported within a week of the lab reopening and they haven't fixed a one."
"Is she suing?"
"It's quite possible. This is the second fire in here. I want to know an exact cause if you can. Wiring, whatever." That got a nod. He watched while they got back to work, then watched his male techs come in, pause, then come running. "She's on my couch," he repeated three times. They had been on different scenes and only about four minutes apart. Speed glared. "I said he'd fix it if I asked. He didn't."
"I know. Not that I like the blackmail." He went to check on his girlfriend, pushing Ryan and Eric out of the way to get closer to her. "Calleigh?" She looked at him. "Want Gordon to call?"
She nodded. "It and everything else wrong in this lab gets fixed in a week or I'm going to call Craig. I don't care if he is my ex. He's still vicious over me." She let him smooth down her hair. "Thank you. I've got a headache but I'm fine. Even Alexx said so." He smiled at that. "Really. I am."
"Sure. You'll be all right and I'll let Xander show Horatio how to threaten for real," he promised, making her smile. "I will." He called his son. "Call us," he said into his voicemail. Then he hung up and went back to fussing over her while Eric and Ryan went to their labs to check them over. "I called Xander but got his voicemail."
"I didn't." He looked at her. "Go home, Calleigh. Rest, come back tomorrow if we're open." She nodded, letting Speed help her up. "Can you drive?"
"I'll drive her, H," Speed assured him.
"Let Ryan. His case is less time sensitive." That got a nod and Speed paged Ryan. "You're the closest to being free. Can you take her home?"
"Of course. Come on, Calleigh." He walked her down to the hummer he had checked out. "Do you want your home, Xander's house, or with Willow?"
"My place. I'll be fine and nap on the couch with the phone right beside me." She smiled at him. "Thank you, Ryan."
"You're welcome. It's the least I can do." He got her into the hummer and walked around to get in and drive her home. "You know I'm perfecting my fussing on you for when she gets pregnant, right?" he teased as he started the engine and backed out. She giggled most of the way back to her and Speed's place.
Xander strolled into the Chief's office, pointing at the door. "Is he dead yet?" She shook her head. "Pity." He walked in there after a brief knock. Then he put three cards down in front of him. "These are the family's attorneys. Not Grandfather's. Not Grandsire's. Mine. All three are on retainer. All three have assured me in the last hour they will take on Calleigh's case and not charge me a dime." He looked stunned. "I don't care. You've known now for nearly six months that things needed to be fixed."
"To do that we'd have to gut the lab," he complained.
"That's not my problem. Get the Feds to fix it. It was their fuck up," he said blandly. "You are endangering lives. You're endangering cases. You're also not ADA compliant and you do have two disabled techs on the night shift. You're also ignoring your people's needs since there's no bathroom near the lab. With two pregnant techs on night shift, they're having to walk farther and that's cutting down on their work time." The chief moaned. "Now, it will be fixed. I am letting them handle this situation after this meeting. They took her candy and flowers to explain what she could and could not sue you for. Including endangering her life. This is the *second* fire in ballistics. Also, when they redid the lab, they made it less than hurricane ready." He stared down at him. "I love this lab like a family, Chief, but if I have to I'll destroy it in minutes if that's what it takes to get it fixed. Am I clear?"
He looked up and nodded. "Then I would warn the feds who did it that they're in deep shit. Two of those three have argued in front of the Supreme Court on disability and damage matters." He turned and walked out. He did smile at the secretary. "There will shortly be lawyers calling for him. You might check now how to handle them because they're very insistent. He nearly got my stepmother killed because he didn't have things fixed and didn't get the building inspected properly." The Chief came out. "I looked it up and called City Hall, Chief. You didn't have enough inspections. They probably would've found the problems if you had," he said simply. "So that also adds the City of Miami to the PD, the granting institution, and the Feds who oversaw the construction. I'm sure Calleigh could retire comfortably to wherever she wanted by the time they're done with you." He walked out, heading back to his car.
The Chief sat down to call the people who had done the revamp. "Your revamp is about to get us sued because you didn't do what you were supposed to do." He saw Horatio walk in and swallowed. "You will be coming in to fix it or else I will sue you," he vowed, hanging up.
"I don't think that's good enough," Horatio told him. "Considering the problems have overloaded the morgue and caused body freezers to go out randomly, which endangers cases and pisses off citizens...." The Chief went paler. "You're also in trouble because two electricians have been shocked while working on the body freezers. Now, when is my lab being fixed?" he asked calmly. "So I can plan for time off that may be necessary and make sure the other shifts and lab personnel know what is going on."
"I don't know, Lieutenant. I'm working with the agency who did the revamp."
"Not good enough," Horatio told him. "We just sent a tech to the hospital for nearly being electrocuted for taking out a plug. Calleigh should have went but she told Alexx she wouldn't go. Whoever Xander hired, I'm sure I can find worse. Remember, Xander is the nice one in this relationship, Chief. He will die protecting those he considers family but I will lash out to protect him and the rest of the lab. Now, I will know by tonight. There's too much that has to be moved or arranged for us to do this cold in the morning. I've already alerted Adam that the lab is going to be closed for tonight due to the damage in AV and ballistics. He's pulling the maintenance forms he's filled out. I've already got mine." He shuddered. "As well as a copy of the complaints we made about the design that never got fixed. Especially those about the problems the disabled techs were going to have. I'll have my cell on all night but the lab is now closed and I need to know how long we've got to turn over control."
"If you do that they won't let you reopen."
"I'm not losing my people to soothe bureaucratic tempers. I don't waste lives like that." He walked off, going to call them himself. "This is Caine. Get me the head boy. Now." He listened to the spluttering. "Your revamp just caused a tech to go to the hospital after a near electrocution and the second fire in my ballistics department. Either I speak to him or my lawyers will speak to him. Your choice," he said coldly. He saw Eric slam his car door and shook his head. "No, Eric. They just took Cooper."
"I know, I'm on to figure out why."
"He pulled the plug behind the overheating built-in console." That got a nod. "He'll be fine they think." He listened to the male voice. "This is Caine. Good. I'm glad they can pass on a message. That's fine, then your teams can come work in my lab. While they are, my lawyers will be working with my techs. Actually, yes, I do. Including a firm that works with a former Justice." He heard the moan in the background. "Now, you will be down here. I will have a building inspector down here to meet with you. You will also have the designer since she is not ADA compliant. There are disabled techs," he said coolly. "Then you will be telling me how your mistakes are going to be fixed before we have to fix them on a more permanent and a higher level. Yes, but I'm sure I can find a few senators who would agree with me." He hung up on that threat and looked at Eric, who was still watching him. "Cooper's fine."
"Good. The others?"
"We're switching over tonight and tomorrow to State." That got a nod and Eric went back to his car. "Call the others. Meet me at Xander's." He went to his hummer, his personal one since it was finally fixed, and headed back there. Xander already had Calleigh and his three attorneys, who all scared the piss out of him, in his office. He looked at Xander. "You go to them?"
"Yes. They scare the crap out of the people who send me stupid shit." Horatio smiled at that. "The others coming over?" He nodded. "I'm thawing pork chops. I've got one of Willow's casseroles in the oven." He kissed him gently. "Use my lawyers, Horatio. Make me happy." He walked in there to help Calleigh and the lawyers. "How much will it cost?"
"Probably a good bit."
Xander pulled out a check and handed it over. "More than that?" They blinked at him. "Not even from the family from Yemen." That got a shudder. "Oh, there's worse on that one. Is that going to be enough?" They all nodded. "Good. Then it's settled. Horatio, what are you doing?"
"I'm getting a building inspector in there tonight and then to meet with the Feds tomorrow," he said as he walked in. "Plus I've told them to bring the building designer since he was so far out of statute." That got a smirk. "There are disabled techs. It's one of the few jobs someone with a serious disability can do in the department." He handed Calleigh a glass of tea. "I just brewed it. From the top of the pot." She smiled and patted his hand. "Also, our AV tech was just nearly electrocuted for undoing an overheating plug. He went to Sinai." One of them moved to look up the number and get a report. "I want this fixed before someone dies next time. This is the third close call. I had enough after the first." He looked at Xander. "Don't let him pressure you."
"I won't. I didn't let you pressure me. Screw it, Horatio. Not like I like the guy at the moment." That got a smile and another kiss, making all three lawyers smile. "You should see us with Greg," he teased, heading to let others in. "Is Cooper all right?" Ryan nodded. "Good. The lawyers are in the office with Calleigh and Horatio. I've got one of Willow's casseroles in the oven and pork chops are defrosting."
"I'll do the grill," Ryan offered, heading that way.
"I'll take over the kitchen," Willow agreed, heading in there to wash her hands and check on things. "Should I thaw and boil the ribs in here too, Ryan? They're in the fridge but still pretty hard."
"Please," he called. "Eric and Speed both missed lunch."
She got to work on that, smiling when Speed came in. "Ryan's being manly on the grill."
"I sent Eric to help him," he agreed, working on his famous barbeque sauce. Everyone on the team liked it. She handed him some extra spices and he put them aside, giving her an odd look. "You can add them later."
"It tastes better when it's cooked in."
"Then brown them in here with some sauce to add extra to your portions." She nodded, taking some to do that. He gave her back an odd look but got back to work. Horatio strolled in. "When are you two going to talk about moving in?" he asked quietly.
"I said when some of the stress broke," he admitted in a normal voice. "Right now we don't need that stress on top of everything else." Speed nodded, finishing his sauce. Horatio saw the extra spices. "I didn't know you put those in there." Speed pointed at Willow. "Hmmm. Willow, are you feeling all right?"
"Just fine and dandy," she agreed happily. Xander gave her an odd look. "What!" she demanded.
"I thought Anya had mood swings." She went pale and slowly shook her head. He nodded just as slowly. She shook her head faster. He nodded. "Yeah, Willow. There's a spare test under the guest bathroom sink. I got it just for you." She went to do that. He came in to get a drink. "Can I do anything?"
"No, dear. Go sit and think up evil things to do to the boss."
"I've already asked Ethan if it was ethical to do mean things to him. He said only if I joined him praying to the two-headed statue." He took his soda outside to sit and watch. "Can I help?"
"NO!" Eric and Ryan shouted then shuddered in unison.
"RYAN JAMES WOLFE, GET YOUR ASS IN THIS BATHROOM! NOW!" Willow shouted.
"Sounds like Anya's going to be happy another bunny died," Xander quipped. Ryan went pale but walked that way. He winced at the slamming door. He called Ethan. "How bad is it going to get with Willow being pregnant? That might be nice, yeah. Should I have a blocking bracelet? I know the couch floated earlier at your place while we were talking, Ethan, I felt it doing it because I was pissed. Thank you. When is Grandfather coming back? Because he wouldn't tell me when I asked. He was still yelling about stupid people in Yemen." He smiled. "Oh, you didn't hear. Ask Gordon, man. Really. Then tell Giles, see how long he swears this week." He hung up and leaned back. "Hey, Ryan, Ethan's got a bracelet coming for her so she doesn't do what Anya did to Giles and me."
"Thanks," he called back.
Xander put the chair down and went back to drinking. "Are you sure I can't just flip things, Eric?"
"I am. You stay away from the food, Xander. You're dangerous." He looked inside then at Xander. "You sure?"
"Oh, I am. I've known Willow since the first day of school," he said smugly. "I know exactly when her cycles start. Have ever since the fourth one. It took me a while to find information on why she went scary. She hasn't had one for two months." He finished his soda and got up but Eric guarded the grill from him. "I'm not that dangerous to food." He went to get another one but Speed shooed him out and gave him a bottle of water once he was outside again. "I can get a drink!"
"Not while I'm in here you can't," he assured him. "You burned microwave pancakes, Xander." Xander sighed but went back outside. "Eric, don't let him on the grill. He burned microwave pancakes until they were black."
"Never would let him help me," he agreed.
Horatio snickered. "Thank you," he said quietly, going to check on Willow and Ryan. He found them going at it and coughed. "Children." Ryan blushed. "Go out to the trees past the pool to do that. There's a nice clearing." Ryan nodded and drug her out there. He went to guard Xander and keep him from helping. Calleigh finally came out and she had the most evil smirk he had ever seen. "Called the boss?"
"I did. The figures they named made him drink pepto from the bottle this time." She sat down on Xander's other side. She knew not to let Xander help anyone cook. "I heard Willow scream. What's wrong?"
"Pregnant," Xander told her.
"Oh, my," she sighed, shaking her head. "Well, his OCD will mean she won't have to change too many diapers." Eric gave her an odd look. "If he can't stand dirt, he definitely won't be able to stand a smelly diaper, Eric."
"Point." He grinned at that. "I'll have to let him babysit my youngest niece." He chuckled.
"It needs to be a bit deeper to be an evil chuckle," Xander said with a sweet and innocent grin. Willow yelped and he clapped. "Nice job!" he called.
Calleigh patted him on the hand. "You're worse, Xander. Much worse. I know I'm a bit noisy but you drowned out Speed and me a few times." He shrugged and grinned at Horatio, who was blushing. "Not you, Horatio. He drowned out you too." She went to get her own drink and came back to find Xander kissing his boyfriend stupid. "Aww."
"Horatio looked at him and Xander pounced," Eric told her. "Pork chops and ribs."
"Medium and cooked. Speed making his sauce?"
"Yup." He got back to work making sure everything was perfect. Speed brought out the meat and helped him lay it out then went to check the casserole.
Horatio's phone rang and Xander grabbed it. "He's delighting in being evil at the moment. What did you want?" He listened then snorted. "That's because he's at my house and it'll be hours before you can come over. Try around ten or so." He hung up and kissed him again. "The annoying one."
"Thank you. I'm being evil?"
"Okay, you're enjoying me being evil," he offered with a smile. Horatio kissed him again, hoping to make him sane and normal for a while longer.
Calleigh and Eric shared a look but she got her own deep, wet kiss from Speed when he came back with dishes. She was even nice enough to set the table since the others were all busy. Ryan and Willow barely made it to dinner but she heard 'food' and figured out she was hungry.
Horatio answered the door, looking at his brother. "Hi."
"I'm having deja vu." He walked inside and looked around. "This is nice. You're moving?"
"This is Xander's house and he's talking me into it," he admitted. "We're out back." He led him back to the back porch, sitting down again. Xander leaned against his shoulder again and yawned. "Sorry, it's been a long day."
"Past his bedtime?" Ray joked.
Xander opened one eye. "Do not make me force Horatio into a conspiracy to cover up your homicide." He closed the eye and got comfortable again.
"We've had a hellish day, Ray. Some bad news, two techs injured in the lab, and then threatening the boss with a lawsuit for them."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be insulting, it's just that he looks so... young."
"He is young. He'll be twenty soon." Xander nodded at that. "What did you want to talk about?"
"Things. My family. Your family. Catching up."
Xander looked at him. "Look out for the dog." He got up and stretched, then yawned. "I'm going to make sure the room stayed clean and do the dump now." He nodded and Xander went inside.
Ray glanced then looked at him. "I'm not going to be condescending but I'm still not used to you being with someone that young and hot, Horatio. He doesn't seem to be your type." He suddenly yelped as a spot of fire appeared behind his ear. "What was that?" Xander smirked evilly at him and coiled the whip, then went back to his work space.
"He's known as a technician with weapons," Horatio said blandly, sipping his water. His brother gave him a horrified look. "He's a Master, Ray. A very good one. He trained with Lady Heather in Las Vegas."
"Is that when he met your other boy?"
"It was. It's also who got him to do an open pole night in a very open club instead of the few he had done as a favor for someone at the club he had been bartending at."
"At his age?"
"He said his boss liked that he had swords and knew how to use them," he said smugly.
"Are you practicing with him?"
"He did teach me how to use a whip. I usually only use it on furniture, except a few times Rick Stetler got in the way of my swing." Ray gave him an odd look. "He did. He should have learned not to sneak up behind me the first time." He finished his water. "Want something to drink?"
"No, I'm good." He stared at Horatio as he got up to get something to drink and heard his phone go off. He watched him answer it and then tense. Then the boy came out to take it and said a few things, then hung up and they gave each other a look. Horatio nodded and came back out. "Everything okay?"
"The Chief wants us to report to the lab tomorrow."
"Maybe it's good news."
He looked at him. "The last time we had a meeting like that we were told there was going to be a lab revamp that's so far nearly electrocuted one and let two fires happen because it hasn't had the problems fixed. Not to mention the only bathrooms are downstairs." He sipped his water. "So, what else is going on?"
"My wife was sleeping with Stetler and you didn't stop her?"
"She's a grown woman and I did have a few discussions," Horatio admitted patiently. "She told me to butt out. I did hover protectively around and once he showed himself to be unsuitable I helped your son drive him off. With prejudice."
"Good." He nodded slowly and Xander came out to lean across kiss Horatio, then he went back inside. "He's a hot little boy."
"Don't make him hit you again," Horatio ordered.
"Oh, not something I want to go through again," he admitted, rubbing the welt behind his ear. "He's good."
"Very," Horatio agreed. "In everything but cooking." Ray looked amused. "He's poisonous unless it requires less than one step and adding water or milk."
"Interesting. I've heard some about your boy here and there. Including in DC."
"So I've heard around," he agreed. "His grandfather keeps track of things like that for us. What were you hearing about?"
"Something about a covert action he helped with." He thought and came up with the name. "The Initiative."
"A covert group. That's why the college fell in and we have Willow down here."
"Was she the loud redhead earlier?" Horatio nodded. "What was making her so happy?"
"She's pregnant," Horatio said. He spotted the dog sneaking closer and looked around the yard then back at his brother. "Why are you really here?"
"I want back in all your lives."
"Make up to your family first and then I'll hurt you." He glanced toward the pool and smiled, snapping a picture with his camera. Then he texted Xander to look out their overlooking window. He heard the doors open and the deer looked around. It went back to drinking out of the pool. He saw a flash and so did the deer, who took off running. Ray looked and smiled then shook his head. "It was cute. I have no idea where it came from."
"Probably in the everglades." He watched his brother relax. "You're really comfortable here?"
"I am. It's a beautiful house. The only thing it doesn't have is a beach. Xander's even offered to build on so I have my own office." That got a small grin. Then Ray looked down and growled. The dog growled back. "That's Xander's dog Thumper. He's like that." He looked under the table. "Thumper!" He ran off again. "Sorry."
"No you're not. Does he molest you too?"
"Rose bushes, cactuses, me, Xander, Eric. Everything he can get onto." That just got a smirk. He texted Xander about the statue his grandfather had given him. He got back it was protected in the study. He looked at his brother again. "I heard you've been stalking your son."
"Every time I see him he tries to hit me."
"As he should. We kept him under watch for nearly eight months because of your death and the fallout afterward."
"They had me on tape, Horatio."
"I can't cover for you, Ray. You messed up. You've paid a heavy price. I'm not sure if your son will ever forgive you for that. Yelina might forgive you eventually. Ray Junior won't. He's gotten a lot tougher. Including running with the wrong crowd now and then. You nearly destroyed him. Thankfully we were able to help him when he needed it and before it got too far. He and Xander are very close. He and Greg play video games for hours on end. Greg even explains the physics in the games to him." That got a small smile. He saw the dog coming back. "As for me, you will have to stay clean. You'll have to make up with your family. Then we'll see if we can get closer again."
"I understand. That's reasonable. Can you help me with them?"
"I can play mediator. I'm not going to get between you. If she goes for you, you're a dead man, again." Ray nodded and sighed, slumping down. The dog hopped up onto the back of his chair and went for Ray's hair. Ray swatted but Thumper was somewhere he couldn't reach. "At least it's not my hair this time. Xander, come get the dog," he called. No answer. He got up and Thumper ran inside. He closed the porch door. "Sorry."
"You're enjoying it."
"No, I enjoyed him trying to hump Willow's stomach earlier," he admitted with a small smirk. "Even Ryan liked that." Ray moaned and leaned forward, covering his face. "Have you talked to Yelina?"
"I tried, she hung up."
"At least she hasn't gunned you down, went for you with her nails, or picked up a bat."
"How did she take you being with Xander? She can be conservative."
"I told her about the three of us at dinner one night. Ray was happy for me. She wasn't but she didn't say anything. She had a lot of ice cream and thought, then she met Xander and he charmed her. She adores him now. Teases him about being young enough for her son instead. Ray usually retorts he'd rather have Greg." He smiled. "They do get along well. Xander and Ray shop and talk all the time. Ray goes to him for information he feels he can't ask me or his mother."
"What is he teaching him? How to do the whip thing?"
"No. Yelina won't let him."
"Thank God for some miracles. I want my boy to be normal."
"We'd all like that, Ray." He heard the dog flap move. "What are you doing now?"
"Doing some investigating mostly. Being a PI is slimy work but it's paying well enough for me to live somewhere less than rotten. Not somewhere I want visitors. If you move here what're you doing with your house?"
"I'm letting someone in the lab rent it from me. Ryan and Willow are expecting their first one in probably five months from what Xander estimated for her. Calleigh and Speed live in a tiny apartment and he needs room for his books and his bike. A few of the other techs are married and would like somewhere bigger. I'll offer it to them first."
"Instead of me?"
"You'd still have to be able to make the mortgage payment, Ray."
"You still have one?"
"I took out one to do some renovations a few years back," he admitted.
"Who bought this house? I didn't think being a dom paid that well."
"Xander's grandfather bought it after his first one was set on fire and he was assaulted." Ray gave him a queasy look. "A local morality group on one of the campuses, Ray. He was in fairly bad shape when they put him back into the house and set it on fire. Since then he's settled in here and we do adore it here." The dog hopped into his lap and looked at him. "Hi, Thumper."
"That is an ugly little dog," he said quietly.
"He's a very good dog except for his self control issues. He sniffed the blood in a letter bomb. He protects his master very well. Even if he does try to molest ears now and then." Ray shuddered. "He's a good boy. Is daddy asleep?" The dog barked quietly and settled in to be adored. "Good boy, Thumper." He stroked his back and scratched his ears. "He's decided I'm the nice father. I let him have treats more often and I let him help me in the office. Xander doesn't let him anywhere near his clients."
"I can see why. How is your boy doing? I've heard some things about some gifts."
"We're handling it. Right now we're struggling with one. Between that and his grandfather being ill it's a bit stressful."
"Then why haven't you moved in yet?"
"I wanted a clear head to think," he admitted. "Being with him is like being drunk the first time. It's heady. There's been a few headaches. But I keep coming back to it because it makes me feel good. I will probably move in with him this winter. We've only been together since this spring however and I'm taking it a bit slowly to build my tolerance for a few of his quirks. Like how he runs around naked and teases. He likes to be the center of attention. He's very young and energetic, plus very cuddly. It's all good things but I'm still building a good relationship with him. That's our next step."
"That's reasonable. What happens if he's hurt?" Horatio stared at him. "I have heard about the death threats as well, Horatio. Plus the contract out on you." He raised an eyebrow. "No one told you?" He shook his head slowly. "Huh. Yeah, there's a two mil and change one." He shifted and the dog glared at him over the edge of the table. "I would've expected him to have something bouncier as a pet."
"He's got Willow for that," he said dryly. "Thumper walked up to his grandfather's house and decided he lived there. They gave him to Xander."
"So it's sentimental." Horatio nodded. "How old is he?"
"The vet thinks about four. He's in good health and recently got fixed."
"He's fixed?" Horatio nodded. "Then why is he still riding things?"
"Because he likes it, Ray. The same reason you do. By the way, how many other nieces or nephews do I have? I know about Suzie." His brother gave him a horrified look. "She knows about Suzie and her daughter as well. She got sick." Ray went even more pale. "Any others?"
"Not that I know of."
"Do tell me so I can warn her."
"Uh-huh. I'll call from Atlanta. That way she and your boy can't team up."
Horatio smirked. "He'd show her how to use things then let her go, Ray. He might direct but it would be her play." Ray shuddered. The dog hopped up and walked over to stare at him, head tipped to the side. "That is family, Thumper. Like Eric." The dog sniffed him then hopped into his lap and decided to hump him properly.
"That's just sick!" He put him onto the ground and Thumper hopped back up, going again. "Get off, dog!" He dropped him onto the ground again. He hopped up and went for his mouth this time. Horatio got up and plucked him off, putting him into the rose bush he liked. Thumper growled and had fun with it until he was done then he went back inside. "That dog's just wrong, Horatio."
"That is just one of many things we're working on around here, Ray. You should go. It's getting late."
"Fine. Thank you for talking to me and not hitting me."
"Xander's not here to direct." Ray just nodded once and headed back around the house instead of going through it. Horatio walked inside, shooing the dog back out then locking up the house. He turned on the alarm and headed up to bed, finding Xander listening. "He headed for his lap then mouth."
"We need to stop him," he agreed. He looked at his boyfriend. "I'm like being drunk?"
"You can be. It's very all-encompassing to be with you." He leaned down to kiss him. "We've only been together since this spring and we're still adjusting to each other, Xander. I need time to get used to the heady sensation of having you as mine. Plus to learn how not to mind when you tease."
"I do it to hear you growl."
"I've noticed that." He got undressed, sliding in behind him to hold him. "It'll come, Xander. Slowly but we're getting there." Xander flipped over to hold him, cuddling in. He smiled. "My very own octopus."
"I like my other pet names better."
"I won't call you that one outside of this room," he said, kissing him again. "Rest. Is the alarm on?" Xander nodded. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Don't want to give Eric any more teasing material." He nuzzled his throat then kissed it. "Love you."
"I love you too, Xander. Now let's sleep. We've got a few stressful weeks coming up. We have to shop for Tara and Don's bonding gift."
"We have to find something for your grandfather's birthday and their anniversary."
"Have them both."
Horatio smiled. "We have to find a way to thank Mac for putting up with the insanity this curse brings to their lab." Xander looked at him. "Raphael is using him as a go between up there."
"He's a good choice," Xander agreed, yawning. Horatio yawned too. They were contagious after all. "We'll find a really nice present for him. Maybe a donation out of this new crap to him."
"If you want." He kissed him on the temple. "What are we getting Tara and Don?"
"A set of candles that she can use for devotionals and prayers or he can use for romantic dinners. Plus some natural oils. That's also a dual gift." Horatio smiled at that. "She's always said she likes his foot rubs." Horatio grinned. "The only presents I don't have for the holidays are yours and Dad's."
"Speed would like anything you get him."
"I have a shop I want to hit during the conference. That way I have something to do while you're learning new things to make criminals gape in awe and horror."
"That is a very pretty look," he agreed, shifting slightly closer and wrapping Xander in his arms. "Sleep, Xander."
"Can I have a bedtime story?" he asked with an impish grin. Horatio gave him a look. "It'd help. I can hear the low growl of your voice in your chest."
"I'd suppose that is soothing." He considered. "How about the Master Archer and the Knight?" Xander nodded, shifting so his head was on Horatio's shoulder. Horatio smiled and smoothed down his hair. "The Master Archer was a great and nice man. He was the main hunter for their king. Now, the knight was his protection when he was out hunting. The knight always prided himself on never losing the archer because if he got hurt many people would go hungry."
"In a king's court?"
"Yes, even in a king's court. They weren't exactly big on farming vegetables. The king decided they were evil. He had banished them from his court." Xander nodded and shifted some, making Horatio lay on his back so Xander could be his half-body blanket. Horatio gave him a tolerant smile. "Well, one day the archer had to chase a boar he had shot but it hadn't died. He had no idea why it didn't die. He had shot it in the right spot. So he ran after it and lost the poor knight. The knight tried his best to follow. He used everything the archer had told him about woods lore. It took him hours to find where the archer was and by that time he was staring at the boar across a field. All his arrows were broken. That boar could not be killed and it hurt him to admit he had failed. The knight pulled his sword and lunged, catching it under the front legs. That way it couldn't run and he could stab it cleanly. The boar died but he couldn't get his sword out. The archer came over and they figured out why they worked so well together." Xander made an inquisitive noise. "Because where one had strengths the other backed him up well but didn't overpower him in his own area."
"Rope and pulley," Xander mumbled.
"Exactly. That's why they always got assigned together. This time they drug the boar back to the king and he gave them a horrified look. The boar had a religious sign on its side. He banished both of them to live in the woods until he was sure they weren't cursed. They were allowed to gather their things and take some supplies for their years of service. They trekked into the woods and the archer put up a house while the knight got the wood for him and stones for the fireplace. They worked so well together that when the king relented and let them come back, they refused and kept going in their mundane life. The king had to eat vegetables because no one else would hunt for him. No other knights would go into the woods."
"Yes, they were getting snuggly in their new house," he said with a tolerant smile. "They figured out that they were more than compatible with each other, they were deep friends with a growing love. The more they worked together the more they loved each other." Xander blinked up at him. "It can happen."
"Then why aren't you and Daddy in here?"
"Your father only likes girls and I respect Speed for different reasons. I could never date him. He'd drive me insane." Xander blinked and put his head back down. "The same with Eric. His playboy nature drives me to distraction as a supervisor. As a lover it would kill me. Or possibly him if I caught him cheating."
"Can we build a log cabin in the woods?"
"We already have one," Horatio assured him, smiling down at him. "Though I may let you add onto the house to put on a proper dungeon and give me an office." Xander grinned and gave him a squeeze. "We'll see in a few months." Xander nodded, clinging to him. "That's my good boy. You rest. We'll both sleep." He yawned and smiled down at Xander when he started to snore. He drifted off after that.
Neither of them heard the person downloading that story off the audio tracks from the hall sensors. Or him sneaking back out.
Xander walked into the station the next day, frowning. "I think someone broke in, Jackson. Dad here?"
"Still in the meeting with the big guy. Why do you think that?"
"Someone screwed with my computer last night and two of my guns were moved." That got a look. "I collect, Horatio knows. Daddy knows." He shrugged. "Anyway, I have a surveillance system in the house."
"I remember someone saying that after the suicide."
"It has audio pickups over most of the house. Except our bedroom and the back porch. The bedroom can be picked up from the hallway's first one. It often is. Even quiet conversations in the bathroom can be picked up if the house is quiet." That got a slow nod. "We were talking last night and when I went to check the audio dump to save down part of it, it wasn't there. Someone had downloaded it and erased it."
"Okay. Why didn't you call?"
"Because I had the creepy feeling I shouldn't be in the house."
"Probably good instincts with your fanclub." Xander gave him a bitter look. "I know, you don't ask."
"No I don't. I don't want either." Ryan walked toward him and he got in his way. "Someone downloaded stuff off my computer after I did last night."
"How do you know?"
"I couldn't sleep and Horatio told me a bedtime story."
"Your bedroom's not micced."
"The hallway is right outside the door. I've caught quieter conversations from the bathroom. I went to save it down and it was gone, downloaded and deleted."
"Huh. I can come check. We just got told off for whining."
"The lab's unsafe. What did the inspector say?" Ryan grimaced. "He didn't agree?"
"He was thinking about condemning a few labs," he admitted. "They need some major renovation. We have no idea when that's going to happen and they want to keep us open until then. Or else they'll switch us to different labs."
Xander gave him a look. "How did you guys get the last leave?"
"Part of the grant."
Xander shook his head. "Are you off now?"
"I am. It's my day off. So I can go look. Cooper's out of the hospital already. He walked off in a huff earlier from what I got from the nurses." That got a smile. "I know, he was pretending to be you." He shifted his weight. "What are you getting Tara and Don?"
"Some special, pure candles and natural oils so she can use them for prayers or he can use them to spoil her."
"That's actually a sweet gift. Where did you get them?"
"The Wicca and herb shop I go to. I can show you later."
"Please. Ethan said I should get Willow some herbal supplements as well." Xander nodded. "Better than prenatal vitamins?"
"Think of the hellmouth like radiation, Ryan."
"Oh. Good point. There's Eric and Horatio. Boss?" He looked over then came over with Eric. "He thinks someone downloaded off the surveillance system last night."
"You did the dump before you went to bed, Xander."
"The hall would've picked up the talk last night, Horatio. You've heard it done before. I found it listed as downloaded and deleted. I didn't, I was going to save it down."
"Interesting. Why not call it in?"
"My bad shit radar went off. Thumper's in the yard in case."
"We can go over it in a few minutes."
"I heard. Anything we can do?"
"Not at the moment. The grant giving agency, the designer, and the oversight people didn't show up for the meeting. They were supposed to."
"Huh. That might go with Grandsire's rant on the machine about dirty feds taking money from construction companies." Horatio looked stunned so he handed over the tape. "That's what reminded me I wanted to go save down that talk."
Horatio smiled. "It was a good story for off the top of my head."
"It was," he agreed with a bright smile. The desk guard coughed. "What's wrong, Jackson? Need a drink?"
"No, sir. Listening to my radio. They just reported a break-in at your house."
"Interesting," Xander agreed, heading for his car. "Tell them I'm on my way there to see what's going on and to watch out for my dog."
"We all know your dog now, Xander." Xander smiled and hurried out. He looked at Horatio. "Bedtime story?"
"He couldn't sleep."
He nodded. "That can happen now and then to most of us, sir. It's probably better for him than sleep aids. There are three units responding."
"I'm heading there to see what happened to his computer," Ryan admitted, heading for his car. He called Cooper. "You're on-call. The Chief said so. I know. Then again, someone downloaded off Xander's system and it wasn't him." He hung up, backed out of his spot, and headed that way. He got there as another unit responded. He got out and leaned on his door. "Guys?" he called. "That's the owner of the property." They let Xander go. "Thank you. Who's the intruder?"
"He said he owned it and this guy's not the owner."
Ryan shut his door, coming closer. "I was here when Xander got given the keys, later that night. I've been here every couple of days since his grandfather bought the house for him. It was former drug seizure property. You can check with Lieutenant Caine." That got a nod and one went to do that. He walked inside. "Miami-Dade Crime Lab," he called, hand on his gun. He walked into the study. "You are?"
"The owner," he said, sneering at him.
"Really? Because I know the actual owner. I'm friends with him." The man looked horrified. "I'm married to his best friend. I know him, his lover, his dog, and all of them." The man backed away from the computer. "By the way, you won't find anything on there."
"This is my house! Get out!"
"No. Xander, where's the deed?"
"Filing cabinet, I think the second drawer." He came in and got into it, handing it over, then he slugged the guy trying to pull him off. "I've lived here since this spring," he sneered. "Are you the drug lord they took it from?"
"My parents own this house and I inherited it when they died."
"It was a drug seizure property, buddy. Your parents lost it over a year ago." The man took a swing and he put him down efficiently, just flipping him and standing on him. He sighed. "I love it when lessons come in useful outside the dungeon."
"Me too," he agreed, reading it over. "Guys? It's safe," he called. The other officers came in. "This is the deed of sale to Mr. Harris' grandfather. It was drug seizure property. This is the former title," he said, handing that over. "Plus the writ of seizure." Horatio walked in. "He thinks he inherited it."
"I researched the deed. There was no children in the last family." He looked at the man on the floor. "Also, the last family was blond and Nordic. Almost stereotypically so." The officer in charge handed back the forms and came to get the man on the ground. "Did he touch anything, Xander?"
"He was on my computer," he admitted, bending down to get into it. "Ask him if he's part of the morality group." He got into the filing cabinet with a frown, then looked in the closet. "Huh. Honey, did we send things off to auction already?"
"No," Horatio admitted, glaring at the one guy who snickered. "That is Speedle's son," he said dryly. That got a silent, pale officer.
Ryan looked at him. "He has this bad habit of calling me snookums," he offered. "I married his best friend." That got a small grin from a few officers. "What's missing, Xander?" Xander pulled out the log book, making him wince. "I hate that book."
"Me too." He flipped to the right section and looked then at the closet. He pulled out sixteen sheets and copied them, then marked things off and looked in his desk and filing cabinet again. They got handed to Horatio. "Those. Plus the check I found in the mail last night from the auction house."
"You defile Cupid's laws!" the man shouted.
"It's a family curse! It's not like I want the shit!" Xander said back, glaring at him. "Trust me, I send back everything I can. I don't want someone else's tacky crap or the other stuff they send me!" The man went silent, staring at him. "I do send every single thing I can back to whoever sent it. I don't want it. The only presents I want are from my lover. That's it. I even protest when my grandparents give me things because I'd rather have attention and affection. So no, whatever you sent, you screwed up, buddy." He hung his head and nodded. "I should take you into my dungeon and teach you better!"
"He's in custody, you can't whip him now, Xander. Mr. Wolfe, please call Cooper to restore his system and see what he did?"
"Already on-call, boss." He called him. "Come to Xander's please." He hung up. "He was in his car. He grunted."
"That's fine, I'm sure we'll see him soon," Horatio said calmly. He looked around. "Where is your grandfather's statue?"
"Gay things are wrong!" the man sneered.
Xander walked over and looked at him then kissed Horatio in front of him, ending up against his chest and smirking. "Not to me." The man shrieked and went for him and the officer had to put him back down onto the ground. "Pity you're so repressed. See, if you were a *real* man you could express those urges and the others you get, baby. Too bad you're less than a pussy boy because you're repressing all those itchy feelings that make you do naughty and dirty things." The man started to cry. "Aww, what's wrong? Did someone beat you for touching yourself back there? Did your mommy tell you that those parts were dirty?" The man nodded, giving him a look. "I can cure that but you'd have to consent to my treatment methods. I can easily break a habit like that, pussy boy. Then you'll enjoy prison so much more." He shifted closer. "Do not drool on my rug. Your saliva is not worthy, even if it does need vacuumed. For that matter, you're not worthy of it. Where is my statue, my dog, and the other things?" He whispered an answer. "Excuse me? You put jewelry, leather, and a check in the pool?" Ryan headed that way and came back with a very wet dog and a few other things he had fished out. "What else is out there?"
"A few pieces of jewelry. I had someone pop his trunk. Everything else was in there. Including the check that made the officer gape in awe." Xander nodded then glared at the man. "No whipping him."
"No, whipping isn't for lying. Caning is," Xander told him. The man gave him a scared look. "Yes, sweetie, I'm a Master. I'm Master Tim actually. I make many men beg every week, and a few women." The man shifted toward him. "I will punish you," he warned. The man shifted closer again so he grabbed a flexible cane he had been working on the handle of, using it as a switch on him. The man started to bawl. "Now, why are you here?"
"To kill you to get him. He's got a contract," he sobbed. "Please!"
Xander walked over him. "I should do more and piss on them." He put the switch back and looked at them. "So, honey, contract?"
"Someone mentioned that last night. It's been active for a few years. Boys, take him back to the station. Treat any welts. Note that it was done by the homeowner at the suspect's request. Have him waiting on myself or Frank." They drug him up and out. "Mr. Wolfe...."
"I can easily process and get stuff from Cooper, Horatio." Cooper stomped in. "Sorry."
"I've got a headache." Xander gave him a hug, making him smile. "Thanks, Xander. That does help." Xander whispered in his ear. "Really?" He got down to play with the new programs on the computer that Willow had installed. He found the deleted files and played the bedtime story, smiling at it when Horatio glared at him. "Sorry, boss." He saved it down and moved on. He handed over the activity log and the tape of what had happened since the police had gotten there. "Can I play, Xander?" He shrugged. "No clients?"
Xander looked in his book, then shook his head. "Not today. I have it marked as furniture shopping for some reason." He looked at his dog. "Furniture for who, Thumper?" The dog got down and walked into the kitchen to shake himself. "Should I bag the stuff I pull out the pool?" Horatio nodded. "I can do that. When you find that check please deposit it." He handed him his checkbook with a grin. "Thank you. Want anything for dinner tonight?"
"I'm in the mood for southern food."
"I'll find some. Have a better day and let me know what I can do to help the lab." Horatio smiled and nodded, heading off after the last officer. Xander looked at the two buddies. "If I'm going to get the stuff out of the pool I need to get naked so don't look if you don't like it." He walked off, stripping at the patio set beside the pool. He got down there to rescue his poor trashy gifts. One had fallen into the drain and it was a tug of war. He came up and found Eric staring at him. "What?"
"You have really good breath control."
"I swam a few matches with my high school team to find out why they were turning green and slimy." He took a deep breath and went back down, eventually breaking the filter cover. The filter basket had a few more things so he brought it up and handed it over and went to get one thing that had drifted. It was handed over too then Xander did a skim of the bottom before coming back up. "That's all. Ryan said the rest was in his car."
"That's fine, Xander. How fast are you?" Xander shrugged. "Did you compete?"
"The coach was giving the guys fishy stuff to make them faster, Eric. I swam in two matches. Distance crawl. I was pretty well middle of the pack then." He grinned. "I'm happy they detoxed me." He dove back down then surged up to push himself up off the side and grab the towel someone had brought out for him. "I should thank Ryan for that."
"Welcome," Eric said with a grin. "We should race sometime." Xander grinned at him. "In a good pool. Yours is too small."
"I know. It suits me for morning laps." He slid back into his clothes then followed him back inside. "Can I make anyone a sandwich?"
"NO!" Cooper yelled. "Get out of the kitchen, Xander! If you don't I'll have to report you for making threats!"
"I can make PB&J," Xander defended.
Eric looked at him. "No you can't. Speed said you can't so you can't. Let me bag these then I'll head back to the lab." He walked off smiling but shaking his head. Ryan gave him a look. "He asked if you wanted a sandwich."
"No, Willow made me lunch," he admitted with a shy grin.
"Yeah." He nodded and beamed. "She's going to be too sore to do more than cuddle like her cat soon but I'll still be content." He walked off and Eric chuckled at that.
He climbed back into his hummer, one of the new ones, and headed back to the office. He handed Horatio the bagged articles. "That's what Xander found in the pool, H."
"You didn't dive?"
"No, he did. He also replaced the filter basket. The cover's broken but the basket was put back."
"Thank you, Eric." He walked off to compare them to the list. "We're missing some," he complained. He called Ryan and read off the list. "Find those." He hung up and went back to his looking. He hadn't seen some of these pieces.
Horatio came off the plane in New York and nearly choked. There was someone with a sign with Xander's name on it and hearts. He looked at his lover. "Someone you know?"
"Monroe," he said dryly, walking over there. "Dear, hate to burst the happy thought bubble train but I'm still kinda gay and with two guys," he said. She laughed before giving him a hug. "Are you Miami's welcoming committee?"
"Yup. Mac wanted me out of the lab for two hours. Told me to get a nap so I thought I'd come here to pick you guys up." She sounded a bit hoarse but cheerful.
Speed looked at her. "That, guys, is the Dayquil high in case we did not remember the time Eric had it. I'll drive."
"No, I'll drive," Xander said, snatching the keys. "Especially since we rented two rental cars." He gave them a smug look but Horatio plucked the keys from his hand, making him pout. "I get less speeding tickets than you or Daddy."
"You may but on any official outing Calleigh and I drive. We're more reasonable in heavy traffic. Lindsey, did you drive up or can we give you a ride back to the station?"
"Actually, I took the subway. I'm still getting used to it." She walked them out, helping them get their bags. She looked at Speed. "You know about Dayquil?"
"Oh yeah. I'm from upstate, Lindsey."
"That's kinda cool."
Calleigh leaned closer to Horatio. "It's scary but Speed pegged it. She's just like Eric when he had the Dayquil high." He smiled at her. "What did we rent? Xander never told me."
"Modest economical cars. I made sure of it," Horatio promised. They went to get their rental cars, earning smiles. They were more fashionable sedans, something Eric would drive, but they did get good gas mileage and did seat four each. He got into one with Xander riding shotgun, Speed and Lindsey behind him. The other car got Ryan, Eric, and Calleigh plus most of the luggage. Including the all important presents for Tara and Don. "Which hotel?" he asked Xander, the Keeper of the Itinerary, or so he claimed. Xander pulled it out and showed him. "Thank you. I think I know where that is." He drove out of the parking lot, Calleigh right behind him. At least until Eric made her pull over and switch with him so he could drive. He was easier in heavy traffic. They found the hotel and walked in. The receptionist was happy to see them and had their conference passes already. She pointed out where everything was, got them a bellhop, and sent them up to their rooms to rest. Xander made sure all the presents were included, then tipped the bellhop once they were in their suite. "This is nice," Horatio noted.
"It's also only one-sixty a night. Each room would've been eight-five."
"That did save us a lot," he agreed. He knew Speed and Calleigh would've had one. He and Xander would've had one. Plus one for Ryan and Eric... Or one for each of them because Ryan probably couldn't stand to share a room and Eric would be bringing home cute techs from other states. "Go see if Aiden's here?" Xander bounced back down to the desk to ask while he looked around. "Pick rooms, people." They looked and picked. Ryan settled in to clean his but Lindsey tried to stop him. "Let him, Lindsey. He's like that." He walked her downstairs. "Let's see who's here from your lab."
"Don's here somewhere hunting for presents."
"I'm sure he is." He had the New York lab paged to the conference desk while he picked up their information packets. "Is that dinner formal as in suit or as in tuxedo?"
"Nice suit or tux, Lieutenant."
"Then not everyone in my group will attend. It's impossible to get Speed into a suit." He walked Lindsey over to where he could see Stella looking around. "She was a very good welcoming committee." Stella looked at Lindsey then nodded and walked her off. "Speed thinks she's got a cold."
"She does. It's Dayquil. Come on, Lindsey, there's nibbles already set up and Mac's browsing." She squealed and went to pounce him again, making Stella shake her head even as Horatio smirked at her. "She's enthusiastic," she agreed. "Is Xander here? Tara wanted to see him."
"He is somewhere looking for Aiden."
"She's in her room sleeping."
"By now he's got himself in and has pounced her," he assured her. "Let me drop these off. Xander got us a suite since it was cheaper."
"Sure. Bring down the boys and Calleigh. I've got Sheldon and Don somewhere around here. Danny's off guarding Mac." He smiled and headed back upstairs, leaving their information on the table in clear sight, with one of the schedules standing up and that one event underlines with 'nice suit or tux' written next to it. Then he left again. He heard a squeal and looked around. It was Xander and Don. "No Aiden?"
"Mommy's grumpy. She'll see us later and make you tell her what I've been doing." He grinned at his uncle. "How's your mom?"
"She's good. The lump wasn't cancerous. My sister's turning more human with her pregnancy instead of less. A nice change considering she's a biological throwback half the time. Tara's around here somewhere talking to someone in forensic psychology for a paper she's got to write. C'mon, we can go nibble." Xander nodded and walked in between his two family members. Someone stopped him. "I'm the itinerary holder and someone's son," he admitted, holding out his hand. "Xander Harris, adopted son of CSIs Speedle and Burns. She's napping."
"This is really for personnel only, sir." Horatio looked at her. "Unless he's a spouse?" she offered.
"Fiancee and yes he is mine," Horatio agreed, taking his hand.
"Sure. Thank you for clarifying that."
"I won't be here for most of it," Xander assured her with a bright smile. "I've got to fuss over someone who's bonding soon and buy two special presents."
"We do have shopping trips planned for spouses." She led him off to the side to let him meet a few others. "Ladies, this is Xander, he's the fiancee to one of the CSI down in Miami. They are gay before you ask. Would you mind if he accompanied you on the shopping trip?" They sucked him in and went to chatting about what he was looking for and cooing over the bonding coming up. She smiled at Horatio. "They like him."
"Most people do. Then they try to take him," Don assured her. He led Horatio to where the rest of his lab was hanging in a corner. "Some spouses have sucked Xander in for a shopping trip."
"I'll get you a GPS chip and monitor, Horatio."
"I've got one in my bag, Mac, but thank you. And thank you for sending Lindsey to make us feel welcome." That got a smile.
"She's down for a nap," Sheldon promised. He saw a tired woman walking in yawning. Then Xander pounced her with a squeal. "He's happy to see Aiden."
"He hasn't seen her in a few months," Don said, nodding them over. Xander waved at the spouses and said something, making them smile at Aiden before he walked her over. "Explaining she was your mom?"
"Yup. They thought it was cute." He grinned at his mother. "Hi, Mommy."
"Hi, baby." She kissed him on the cheek. Then she looked around. "No bouncy girl?"
"She's taking a nap. She's got a cold and Dayquil in her system," Don told her, giving her a hug. "Are you coming to the bonding?"
"Hell yes! I want to meet this girl who's good enough to land you."
"She's very shy and if you embarrass her I'll make Xander a partial orphan," he promised, staring her down.
She smiled and hugged him. "Good." She heard the cough and turned, finding a blonde girl behind her. "Tara?" She nodded. "I'm Aiden." She shook her hand. "Xander's adoptive mommy and their buddy to get into trouble in the clubs with."
"Don's a good boy now but you can take us both out."
Aiden giggled. "Honey, trust me, I never wanted to tap Don. I love him like a pesky brother. The same as I do Danny, sweetie." She gave her a hug. "Welcome to the family." She smiled at her. "Some day you can even pounce me like Xander does." That got a grin. Xander pounced Tara to hug now that the introductions were over. He whispered in her ear, making her laugh and hug him. "What?"
"Their bonding is in a week, Mommy."
"Oh, presents," she said, smirking at her. "Always a nice thing. Don, you should go collect."
"I should. Can we unwrap them today?" Everyone nodded. "Thanks, guys. I was never sure if you should unwrap things in front of the other guests or not."
"Not, that way no one can feel jealous," Tara told him. She took his arm. "Let's go look at the presents, guys. With everyone's leave?" They all smiled and waved their hands so she walked Don off, letting Xander and Aiden walk behind them babbling at each other. She stopped and looked at him. "They did what?" she shouted. That area of the room got a bit quieter.
"Committed mass suicide and left me lots of stuff. Mac's making sure I don't run into their daughter this weekend."
"Good! You don't need more stalkers, baby!" Aiden complained loudly. Everyone looked at him. "Miami's got him and New York only has to temp in but this is my adopted son, Xander. If you guys see him in trouble, call Miami or New York's labs please." Xander gave a shy wave and they walked on again. "Now we're covered in case something happens," she decided. "Only a bit embarrassing." Tara and Don both gave her a look. "Better embarrassed than missing him."
"True," Don agreed happily. "Oh, Sonny's out, Xander." Xander gave him a look and snickered, then shrugged. "Just a warning."
"Can I smack him on the head again?"
"Probably shouldn't," Aiden said firmly. She saw Xander staring then go to talk to a young goth girl. "Hmm. Horatio might have some challenge there."
"Yeah, right," Tara snorted. She followed, smiling at the young woman. "Hi, I'm Tara. I'm Don's fiancee."
"Cool! I'm Abby. I work with NCIS, DC. Do you work with a lab, Xander?"
"I'm dating a CSI, but two adopted me." They all smiled at that. "This is my mom, Aiden. My daddy's Speed, from Miami. I'm dating one of them."
"That's really great," she agreed happily. "Are you in training?"
"School, eww. I suck at school." She laughed and gave him a hug. "I should introduce you around. I can do that in a few. We're going to get Tara and Don their bonding presents. Want to come with?"
"Sure. I don't mind if you don't. I'm kind of bored right now." She walked up talking with them about where they worked and cases. She did hug Tara in the elevator because she was a great woman.
In their corner, Horatio moaned after Aiden's announcement but Speed groaned when he saw Xander leading another tech off. "Xander adopted the only goth tech in the room," he announced.
"That would be Abby, from NCIS," Mac told him, taking a drink. "She's a lot like Xander. Is Greg coming?"
"Grissom said he'd try," Horatio offered. "Have they come in yet?"
"I thought I saw Nick but I'm not sure," Stella offered. She looked around and nodded. "There's Grissom." She walked over to get their group and drag them back. "They're here. No Greg?"
"He had a nosebleed on the plane so he's resting," Warrick said, smiling at everyone. "No Tara? I've heard a lot about her from Greg."
"Xander drug them upstairs to get their presents," Calleigh said with a smile. "Hi, Studly."
"Hi, Calleigh. When are you going to transfer away from these boys to give Sara and Catherine another woman?"
"They need the civilizing influence now and then," she said with a bright grin. "Besides, Bobby would mind if I shoved him out of his lab."
"He would," Grissom agreed, nodding at everyone. "No Ryan?"
"Cleaning," Eric told him.
"I did that earlier," Warrick agreed. "The hotel does a great job. I was impressed."
"With so many germphobic people coming in?" Speed suggested dryly. "Some of it'll be spotless when we leave." Xander came back with Abby and Ryan in tow and Aiden breaking off to help Don and Tara carry stuff. "There's Aiden and Ryan, plus Xander and Abby?" he asked her.
"Yup, I'm Abby. The only federally sanctioned goth lab tech." That got a smile from everyone. "I work in NCIS, DC. You guys?"
"Miami," Eric said, pointing. "New York, and Vegas." She smiled and shook hands all around. "How many people in your lab?"
They all stared. "Just you?" Mac asked. She nodded. "How?"
"We don't get that many cases at a time. Plus, Gibbs rides my butt pretty tightly." They all nodded at that. "You've met Gibbs?"
"We know people that he sounds like," Horatio said. "Barks a lot, expects you to be God?" She nodded and beamed. "When you get ready to ask for more, I'll gladly pass on recommendations."
"Thank you. Much better than the one my director hired that was discredited for tampering with evidence in dozens of cases and came in to frame one of our guys for murder. She didn't even check." That got a mass groan.
"I've got a lab supervisor who can pull stunts like that," Grissom offered.
Horatio held up a hand. "We've got it worse, Gil. Sorry. The revamp left us with problems and issues that haven't been fixed to this moment. We had one tech shocked so badly they thought they were going to have to zap him to get him back on rhythm and two fires in ballistics. Plus ten other arcing plugs and other issues. They still have us at work and are holding off fixing it until they hear from the Feds." They all gaped in horror and Abby gave him a hug. "Xander's vowed to make them quit."
"You know, I was thinking, Horatio. Didn't they threaten the State Department and the FBI coming down about that family?" Eric asked.
"They're playing pass the buck," Speed told him. "I checked and chewed a few new ones for you, son." Xander grinned and hugged him. "Love you too, Xander." He kissed him on the head. "Behave." He looked at Abby. "It's usually better but there's Feds involved."
"Can't you call them?"
"Oh, they're coming to Miami," Xander promised. "They're being brought in handcuffs on federal charges of attempted murder. One for every tech in the problematic labs for each day it has drug on." They all stared at him. He smiled sweetly. "I got lawyers who make people piss themselves." Abby giggled. "I do. I need them now and then. Even Grandfather and Gordon are impressed with my legal team." Calleigh nodded at that. "See?" He beamed again then looked at Abby. "Hungry?"
"Starved and they don't have anything but nasty stuff like weenies."
"Honey?" Horatio looked at him. "We're going to go eat. Be back soon. Can I have my wallet back?" Horatio handed it over after checking it. "Thanks." He grinned and they trekked out together arm in arm.
"That's almost scary," Aiden said, shuddering a bit. "A goth tech and Xander, who stripped to goth music." They all nodded at that and took a drink. She smiled. "I need to find Don's present."
"So do I," Stella admitted. "We can search tomorrow while we're blowing off the DNA class." That got a nod and a handshake sealed the deal. "Anyone else want to go?" They all shook their heads. "Then maybe we'll drag Xander."
"Xander only has to get a holiday present for Speed and Horatio," Aiden told her. "He said so."
Speed looked at her. "I'm hard to buy for unless you buy me books."
"You're getting some from others," Calleigh said, patting him on the arm. "Trust me." He grinned at her. "Maybe he'll find you something rare and special."
"Maybe," he agreed. He looked around. "Anyone else bored?"
"Yup," Ryan agreed. "Wish Willow could've come." He looked around. "By the way, I'm going to be a very scary father in five and a quarter months. My child will be loved like Xander is now but without the whips and canes." They all laughed and headed out to find something to really eat. "Did you guys see about the formal dinner?"
"I'll get a burger," Speed assured him.
"It's the awards banquet," Horatio said patiently. "You can borrow a suit, Speed."
"To quote the son, eww," he said blandly, making Aiden cackle. "He does."
"He does. He even told Abby 'eww, school' when she asked if he was studying to be a CSI too." They picked up Greg and he smiled at Horatio, taking his free side. "Xander found a goth tech and they're having dinner."
"They're at the chinese place on the next block." That got nods and they decided to join them. Xander got snuggled between his boys and Abby cooed at that. They settled in to catch up and fill the others in what Xander had been doing already. Abby bounced off once to make a call then came back announcing that they had quit passing the buck and the guy who was coming down was grumpy and didn't like Gibbs because he had married his ex-wife. They figured they could deal with it if they could deal with Speed and Xander without caffeine. But everyone decided that Greg babying and fussing over Xander and Xander trying to get away was too adorable and made him stop. So he fussed over Horatio instead.
Abby walked back into her room and found her boss waiting. "Did you pick the lock?" she demanded. He nodded. "Meany!"
"Where were you?"
"With the New York, Las Vegas, and Miami labs, plus Xander and a CSI from home." She bounced on her bed. "It was pretty cool. They're in awe of me doing it all by myself. They're very nice people who don't mind me being a bit strange. Greg, from Las Vegas, Xander, and I all compared music. Xander's the adopted son of two CSI and the lover of another one."
He held up a hand. "Breathe." She huffed and shook her head. "You had fun?" She beamed and nodded. "Where's this guy Fornell's going to be debriefing?"
"With Miami's crew."
"Okay. Where are they?"
"In one of the suites."
"Then I'll go start that. Hold on, the same Xander we met in Cyprus?" She considered it then nodded. "You didn't recognize him?"
"I didn't get much time to talk to him. I only saw him for a few minutes. At least I'm not one of his stalkers, Gibbs."
"You're not. I'm proud of you for that." He went to find Miami's lab, finding someone he knew walking up the hall. "Speedle." He turned to look at him. "Gibbs, NCIS."
"I remembered you and Abby, just recently actually," he admitted, shaking his hand. "What's up?"
"Starting the debriefing. We're not sure they're not related to terrorists."
"Xander has no clue who these people are. The first he knew they were drugging him and the suits were taking him off a plane."
"Wonderful," he sighed, letting himself be led to the suite. "This is nice."
"Less expensive too," Speed agreed happily. He walked in. "Xander, visitor."
"Is it someone I'll want to shoot?"
"It's Gibbs." Xander came out of their room, frowning at him. "He's doing the prelim on the debriefing."
Xander shrugged. "Fuck me, but I don't have a clue, Gibbs. All I know is that they drugged me, kidnaped me. The FBI got me on a plane and stranded me in New York the first time. They died and left me crap no matter how often I complained. Then the family killed a few more and I complained when they bought a judge to do the quickie wills. Then the head guy realized he wanted me so he torched the family from what I heard. All but a daughter that Mac's keeping away from me. All I want them to do is to leave me alone! Them and the rest of humanity most of the time."
"Okay," he agreed, walking over to meet him. "Let's go talk."
"Sure. We can do that. Ice cream in the cafe?"
"Why not. I can have coffee down there." He walked the kid down to the in-hotel eatery, which was more like a cafeteria. He got his coffee. Xander go this sundae. They sat in a corner booth so he could record the interview. It wasn't long or informative but it was funny. Xander was making some very disrespectful comments on them and his so-called fanclub in general. He had Abby send it to Fornell. Maybe it would save him some grief. If not, he'd be warned what Xander was like. Though he was surprised when someone tried to mug him and Xander made them beg, kneel, then crawl after him to the security guards. It was funny and one of the best highlights of the first day. Then Xander bounced off to their suite to have some cuddles, or so he said.
Fornell showed up the next morning, finding Gibbs having his breakfast. "Where's the brat?"
"He's not a brat, Tobias. He's seriously confused about why people are doing this to him."
"He got rescued off a plane twice. The second time with a boyfriend."
"I know. I met Horatio in Cyprus. I heard about the other one too." He shrugged and went back to eating. "He makes Abby giggle and they're palling around today. It's almost cute."
"I don't do cute." He went to find the boy, finding him being sleepy and clingy with someone he called 'daddy'. "Sir, I'm Deputy Director Fornell." Xander waved limply and yawned, closing his eyes again.
"Sorry, no pool he can go naked swimming in to wake up," Speed offered. He nudged Xander awake again and gave him his cup of coffee. "Suits are here, Xander."
"No suits. Not like suits. Suits bad except on R'tio."
Horatio looked over and tipped his head. "Xander," he said quietly. "There's an agent here to stop the bad people who keep giving you things. Drink the coffee, Xander." Xander gulped it and still went back to sleep. "Sorry. Short night."
"Those sort of things happen at conventions."
"He was up playing Uno and poker with Abby," Ryan said, moving around him. "Xander!" he snapped. Xander snapped awake so he pointed. "Fed suit here to talk to you about the stupid people?"
"Hi." He stole Eric's coffee and gulped it as he led him off. "What do you want to know that I didn't tell Gibbs?"
"A few things, sir. Are you awake now?"
"Mostly. I'll nap in a while. After I find Dad a holiday present."
Someone glared at him. "It's Christmas, young man."
"I'm Pagan, it was our holiday first, shove your holiday." She gave him a horrified look. "I'm being inclusive by giving yours a right to celebrate near mine. Feel lucky. Happy Solstice and may the Goddess grant you a wonderful year." She stomped off pink and stuttering. He looked at Fornell again. "I don't like being sleep deprived. I get mean. Sorry," he called after her, waving a hand. Fornell led him off to talk to him away from people. He was nice enough to get him a refill before he got more mean. Xander looked at him. "Can you stop them?"
"I'm not sure yet. There've been some questions asked about terrorist ties?" Xander shrugged. "How did they know about you?"
"As far as anyone told me, like Lady Death did, Fornell. Can I call you that? Title's a bit long."
"Fine, Mr. Harris."
"Xander." He sipped his coffee. "All I know is that somehow they saw me doing one of a few open pole nights I did for fun out in Las Vegas while I was training as a Master with Lady Heather. The next thing I knew, I had Lady Death stalking me to marry me for an hour and a half. Then this family spread out. A friend of that family tried me and Horatio to see what made me so special. You guys had to pull us off the plane twice now. Then the head guy feels that he's being sucked in by whatever curse I represent because I'm gay and cute so he sets fire to his family after amending the will so the daughter that's at NYU gets a quarter and I get the rest. I offered it to her through my family and those who have contact with her since she's adamant that I am a family curse. Her father put out a prepaid contract on her if she ever met me. She didn't want it, claims it would taint her too."
"So the first you knew was presents?"
"The first I knew about this family I was being carried off a plane by the Feds up here after they had to rescue me. Your guys did a great job even if I was stranded up here for almost five weeks." That got a nod. "There were two agents the last day. Mac was dealing with them while I was helping Tara settle in."
"I'll get with Detective Taylor later, Xander." He made a note of that. "Okay, do you know anything about them?"
"My grandfather's people researched them."
"Your grandfather has...people?"
"I'm the grandson of Patrick Benis."
"I've heard of him. He's mentored a few gay agents over the years and hired a few when they retired." He made that note as well. "Would you know where they are?"
"At their house locally." He wrote down a number. "That's their home number up here. Or if they're in Miami or on their cells it'll flip to them or Tara. She's my Uncle Don's fiancee and she's staying at the house."
"Good to know." He added that underneath. "Have they told you anything?"
"They have but I honestly don't remember much more than thinking about the first will making me want to go drink."
"I understand why, sir." He looked at his list of notes then at him. "How many more are coming?" Xander shrugged. "How many do you have right now?" He shrugged again. "Do we know the cause?"
"According to family legend this stuff happens for about four years after one of the males in the line find a true and good mate. That's how it was written a few places in various family journals. My grandfather had that same problem when he found his husband. I read my great-grandfather's journal and he had it when he found his wife. Your guess is probably better than mine. They all said the same thing, it lasts about four years. Apparently I'm the worst we've had since one back in the Middle Ages according to some of Grandsire's research. I have no clue." He finished his coffee and looked at them. "Can you make them give it to her?"
"I got briefed last night by the State Department. The Yemeni government would like to meet you but they're worried you're a danger to them." Xander gave him a look. "Apparently your Grandsire's legal team over there showed them a picture of you, one where you looked cute according to the envoy. They didn't twig to you." Xander sighed in relief. "They're trying to make them reverse the court's decision but they've got clerics on their side who agreed it was a family curse and refused to even look at your picture because they're paranoid they might be gay. We've talked to he daughter but so far she's refused. We checked with her again. She refused and stomped off to hide with her new husband. She's refused to talk to any agent since then unless they're with Immigration. They don't know of any other relatives. They're doing a record's search. We're doing one. The one thing everyone is worrying about is whether or not they had ties to terrorists." Xander shrugged again. "Would your grandfather's people know?"
"Maybe. They had a complete family tree done too." That got a small smile. "They know it happens but it cheeses Grandsire off to no end about these things. Especially when it upsets me so much I want to drink."
"My father walked away from his grandfather for grieving. I met them on my roadtrip after graduation. My adoptive parents, and that's in quotes, sent me up here to deliver some messages and stuff."
"Oh. Interesting. Is that how you know Detective Taylor?"
"Yeah, Mom wanted them to mentor me and make sure I was safe. They mostly didn't like that I was training to be a Dom. Freaked a few out. That and that I'm holding a collection of weapons for someone else since he's a bit odd. He hunts vampires out in California." Fornell gave him a look so he grinned. "I'm originally from Sunnydale."
"I know about that town, kid. You're *her* Xander?" He nodded once. "Your collection?"
"Is watched over by myself, my boyfriend, a few of my subs now and then."
"Okay, I can't argue with that. I'm sure you hide the bad stuff."
"Actually, I've got a contact who I do some minor translating work for and he pays me in older weapons. I got a flamethrower last time. I got a bazooka once. Got a shoulder mounted surface-to-air missile. Horatio made me give that to Calleigh for her destruction radius and style tests. She's trying to make a database."
"I'll let someone know so she has access to ours." He made a note of that. "You...like this country, right?"
"I want them to protect me from assholes like these guys but yeah, it's nice. I don't like the control over the press, the government, or the industrial base by a handful of people with money. Willow told me about those." That just got a nod. "Do I protest, no. I sigh in private and complain at the tilted news. That's why I watch European sports and news most of the time. I like the BBC, it's less tilted but still tilted some." Fornell stared at him. "At least I'm honest, Fornell."
"You are. You won't hurt anyone with them, right?"
"No, you have a better chance of my cult hurting someone than me playing with my artillery and hurting someone."
"They're watching me to see how to stay pure and not kill."
"Why?" he asked slowly. Xander looked around then lifted up the front of his t-shirt, making Fornell look away. "Never mind. You have your reasons. Are you?"
"Horatio and Daddy helped me a lot. Grandfather and Grandsire both help when they can and I have doubts or urges. Daddy makes me find other ways. Fortunately being a master isn't anything like what I went through or what I did at home. That way I can't associate."
"Good," he decided, smiling at him. No wonder Abby liked this kid. "You're how old?"
"I'll be twenty in about four weeks."
"Even better, Xander. I'll report this. There shouldn't be too many more problems. If they do end up sending it all over where should we send it?"
"Grandfather or Grandsire. Horatio. If it's a house or something I've got someone at Christie's who deals with those. I also have a detective who fronts for me to track down the people who send me stuff." He pulled out Mayper's card and took his pen to write on the back. "That's Horatio's email and Grandfather's email. Write either one to let them know?" That got a smile and he took it. "At least it's not another suicide ring and that one got stopped."
"Ask Don Flack Junior, it was his case. Really odd but I got sent body parts."
"That's not pleasant."
"Especially not the one in the stuffed animal." He stood up. "Can I go find Dad a holiday present now?"
"Go ahead, son." Xander grinned and headed off. He called in his report. "It's Fornell. The boy knows nothing. His grandfather may have some information. No, he's the grandson of Patrick Benis. He said this stuff happens as a family curse but he's the worst case in years." He listened to his boss babble. "Exactly, sir. He is, he's dating a CSI out of Miami. I do have email addresses so I can update them. He wanted them to take it back. Did we hear anything about a suicide cult?" His boss hung up on him. "Not a great answer," he said dryly. Gibbs came over to sit across from him. "That's the kid who Lady Death married?" Gibbs smirked and nodded. "Why him?"
"I don't know. The one time I talked to him about it he had flashbacks to a nympho who not even DiNozzo could put up with and a cranky cheerleader ex-girlfriends. I have the feeling his exes are about as bad as ours."
"I'd say so!" He shifted. "The kid knows nothing about this. Any idea where his grandfather lives?" He slid the address over. "Did you talk to them?" Gibbs nodded, smirking. "Anything useable?" That got another nod and he handed over a thumbnail drive. "This the information file they had?"
"It is. Plus the family tree. They're very worried about this but their nephew from Father Benis' second marriage is getting bonded next week and then married on Solstice according to them. They're letting their people stress, and they are. Did you ever run into a DA Patterson?" Fornell nodded, looking happy. "He's working for them. Got a few Special Forces types and former agents in their security details. Xander's got a detail down in Miami. That's also a partial list of who else has given him crap."
"Charming. Any names I know?"
"Yup. Including your boss." Fornell dropped the drive and his notes. Gibbs smirked and nodded, getting up and walking off.
"That's not funny."
"Look it over, Fornell."
Fornell looked at the drive. "Now I know why he acted so funny just now." He went to find Detective Taylor and debrief him, getting handed a set of notes since he was about to go into a seminar. He looked them over. They were concise, to the point, and helpful. It was good getting cooperation from the locals.
Horatio went looking for Xander for lunch. He ran into Gibbs looking for Abby for the same reason. They shared a look, then moaned. "Was she sneaking off with the spouses or with someone else?"
"My senior field agent, DiNozzo." He called him. "Where are you?" he snapped. "Is Abby with you?" He groaned. "No. Stay." He hung up. "She and Xander came back three hours ago." He looked at him, seeing the worry. "Is your boy likely to play around?"
"Not without coercion." He headed up to their room. No one but Ryan, who was more interested in the ones that afternoon. "Have we seen Xander, Ryan?" Ryan looked up and shook his head. "Keep an ear out for him. I can't find him."
They headed down to Abby's room, finding her sprawled on her bed mostly naked and asleep, but bruised on her arms and wrists. Her mouth was a bit swollen. They looked around the room and found Xander on the floor beside the bed. "This is not good," Horatio said, squatting down to look at him. "Xander?" Xander blinked at him, looking confused. "Do you know where you are?"
"Glowy, alien women gone?" Horatio looked confused. "Don't let them touch you. They're bad. They do bad things to you."
Horatio checked him over. "I've got two different needle marks."
"I've found one on Abby too." They shared a look. "Who do you trust in the local lab?"
"Everyone but Monroe. I've never worked with her." He texted Mac, he was sitting on a panel but should be done about now. Sheldon came in a few minutes later with one of the security personnel. "Did we see anyone come in here?"
"There were two women in silver from the cameras, Lieutenant. Are they all right?"
"Those are definitely injection marks," Sheldon agreed, getting down to take pictures of them. "Xander?" Xander blinked at him. "What did the women in silver do?"
"Bad and mean things." He saw Horatio again and then teared up. "I didn't want to. You know I don't want to."
"Shh, I know," he soothed, pulling him closer. "Whatever it was, I know you didn't want to do it, Xander. It's not like you to do things to hurt me on purpose." He pulled him closer to hug. "Let us process you and then we'll talk once you've rested." Xander nodded, letting him help him up and into the bathroom. He looked at Abby, then frowned. "I'm not sure I want to know."
"I am," Gibbs admitted. Someone else knocked. "Busy!" Tony walked in sliding his card into his pocket. "Out."
"Go get the tape from the security system."
"Why?" He looked at Abby then at him. "Where's the guy she was with?"
"We found at least two injection sites on Xander," Horatio said quietly. "He was talking about alien women."
Tony nodded. "I was there once. Okay, let's go get the tape, see what we can see." He followed the guard down, running into Mac, pulling him aside to have a word with him. "I don't know who else was up there. Someone was in the bathroom."
"I'll go check." He headed up that way, knocking politely. Horatio answered it. "Is everyone okay?" he asked as he stepped inside. He noticed how Abby was resting. "Not them," he moaned. "Sheldon, pull blood."
"I already am, Mac. He's throwing up at the moment." He came out. "We need to do a kit on her. There's been four or five of these cases where two women in silver nurses uniforms show up out of the blue, drug two friends or people who're talking, and then we have to run a kit. Most of the time they don't leave much trace. They're not in the system. Twice they've found traces of semen, the others not. It looks like they pick them at random."
"Of course Xander draws bad luck like that," Horatio sighed, rubbing his face. "Will he need a trip to the ER?"
"No, they gave him some goofy drugs. He'll sleep and it'll be fine. It always has in the past, wore off in about three hours. Since he's awake it'll be about an hour, he won't remember. She shouldn't remember, they use a lesser amount on the women. We probably should take Abby though. Just to do the kit and give her any information she wants."
"Xander's clean, Sheldon. He still tests every other month." That got a smile. "Let me know?"
"If she'll let me." Mac called someone and Gibbs wrapped her in the sheet. It would be taken at the hospital. The paramedics came in. "The alien nurses, guys. She's drugged and starting to moan."
"I'm going with her," Gibbs ordered. He looked at Horatio. "I don't blame the kid."
"I don't either. He was drugged." He watched them go then went to gather Xander and walk him upstairs. Ryan and Speed were up there now and Eric came in a minute behind him. "Alien nurses."
"Stella called for ideas on that," Speed admitted, coming to get his son. "He all right?"
"Drugged we're fairly certain of. So was Abby." Speed gave him a look. "It seems to be their MO, Speed. I don't know. I can't blame him but I'm wondering if this is part of the curse or not."
"No, this is Sunnydale bad luck, Horatio. If it can be found it'll be attracted to Xander or Willow." He got him into bed and sat down behind him, letting Xander snuggle in. "I'm on lunch. Aiden's got the first one free this afternoon." Horatio looked at him. "You're on the panel."
"I know. Thank you."
"Xander's family and we're not going to blame him."
"No, we're not. I'm going to blame those two women once I help Mac catch them." He went down to help process the room.
Speed looked up. "If he has one now, Patrick dies before he's ready," he whispered. "So let's not, okay?" Ryan walked in with a glass of water. "Thanks."
"It'll be fine, Speed. You know that. Abby will probably be the best mother ever if it does happen." That got a nod. That would be one very Xander baby. "We'll have to see." He left them alone, making sure the door closed behind him. He ran into the other guy from Abby's team. "Agent DiNozzo."
"How's the other guy?"
"Passed out and not waking up. His adoptive father has him."
"Good. Gibbs called. Abby woke up for a moment and they said they ate some chocolates at some strange store."
"The two guys handling it are down in her room." That got a nod and they walked down there together. "Horatio, Abby woke up." He and Mac both looked over.
"Gibbs managed to wake her up for a minute. She said they were at some strange alien and goth shop, they had some chocolates then they felt strange so they came back. After that she said she was in a haze. She had no idea what happened." Horatio nodded at that. "Is your boy going to be all right?"
"Until he can apologize and he'll still beat himself up a bit."
"She'll forgive him. She's like that." That got a simple nod. "Can I help?"
"No, I've got two of my guys and Horatio," Mac said with a small smile. "That's more than most serial cases get." That got a smile and Tony walked off, going down to call Fornell and warn him something else had happened. Mac looked at Horatio. "Are you all right?"
"It depends on what they knew about the chocolates," he admitted quietly. Mac nodded. "Aliens and goth together with chocolate?"
"This is New York, Horatio," Sheldon said. "There's probably at least two that fit that description. But they do have a few bags of shopping stuff here." He held up one bag that had an alien wearing a mohawk and an eyepatch on the front. "You think?"
"If not, they might know," Mac agreed. "Either that or the place they call Rodeo Ride." Sheldon and Horatio both gave him an odd look. "I have to know these things, guys."
"I can't imagine you in a goth shop, Mac," Horatio said with a small smile. "Xander, I definitely can."
Gibbs stomped back in. "Any idea where this shop is?"
"Looking at the bags, we've got a few good leads," Mac offered, looking back at them. "How is she?"
"Tired. The boy?"
"Out on his father's chest," Horatio offered. "This is not Xander's normal thing, Gibbs."
"I know. I spent a few hours talking to the boy. He felt the same way about drugs and school, even regular medicines."
"His parents were evil," Sheldon told him. "Did we need to process Xander?"
"Speed's with him, if we do he can," Horatio promised. They all heard Aiden yell at someone. "Someone go stop her."
Gibbs went to do that. He was more used to loud women than they were. "Hey! People are trying to work."
She glared at him. "Why? Did someone get robbed?"
"No, your son and Abby got drugged." She moved closer and he backed up. That was one angry mother. "He's in his room, she's in the ER, we're figuring out what happened." She stomped that way.
Danny came out of hiding. "You're a brave man, Agent Gibbs. I knew her for a few years and I didn't want to tell her. They need me?"
"The one guy said they had him, Sheldon, and Horatio. That was more than most serial cases get."
"Yeah," he agreed. "Then I'll check on the kid and Aiden." He headed that way, glancing in. "Going to check on Xander. Gibbs told Aiden." They all shuddered. "Anyone up there with him?"
"He can calm her down," Danny decided. He went up there to check, finding her hugging her boy and Speed patting her on the back. "You guys need anything?"
"Xander squeaked when she hugged him but otherwise no." He grinned. "They have anything?"
"A goth shop that sells chocolate," Xander moaned, holding his head. "Alien bimbos selling chocolate in the goth shop. Said it was to give you extra energy. Said it was herbal."
"Uh-huh, but we found injection sites on you, Xander." Xander looked at him. "We found two, plus a few more on Abby." He sat up, making his mother move. "She's woken up once."
"Is she all right?"
"It looks like you two may've had sex." Xander went pale and rushed for the bathroom. Aiden climbed off the bed to follow him. Speed looked at Danny. "I'll process his clothes." That got a nod and Danny went to steal him gloves and supplies plus a camera. He took them into the bathroom. "Okay, Xander. We're going to process you, see what happened, all right?" Xander nodded between heaves. "You keep doing that. You're going to lose those."
"I like this shirt but I'll find a new one." He gasped and Aiden stroked his hair. "I can't have hurt her, mom. Please?"
"We'll find out, baby." She soothed him while Speed got his clothes off him then took some pictures of the bruising on his back. "When did you get hit?"
"I don't know," he said, looking at Speed, who showed him a bruise. "That's a few fist bruises or one big round thing." That got a nod and Speed made him stand up so he could get his chest and stomach. He gave him a look and Xander swabbed his own penis then let him search for more bruises or shot marks. Then Speed nodded at the shower and went down to hand them to Horatio. "Mommy?"
"It'll be fine, baby. You didn't know," she soothed. She got him into the shower and went to pick him out something to put on. Gibbs was in there looking at the bags. "Abby?"
"Tested positive for semen," he said quietly. "But not natural lubricant."
"We took a swab off Xander."
Xander came out in a towel, looking at them. "Maybe it's like the guys the first time I got kidnaped?"
"It could be," Aiden agreed. "I pulled you out some jeans and another t-shirt, Xander." He nodded, coming over to pull them on so he could get rid of the towel. Then he went out to sit in the living room, curling up to hold his knees and nibble on his bottom lip. "It'll be okay."
"I asked Abby, Xander. She said she thought it was all natural."
"They said it was to give us extra energy and it was herbal," Xander agreed, looking at him. "It was .... shit I can't remember the name of the shop. I bought something on the goth side, a new CD." That got a nod and Aiden called that down to Mac. "Is she all right? Can I talk to her?"
"She's coming back in about an hour," Gibbs promised. "Your uncle went to get her and take a statement." Xander nodded at that. "Do you remember anything else?"
"We got recommended to that place from the herb shop I visited. I needed a new focus crystal and I can't find one I like in Miami. So I went in to find a new crystal and they noticed Abby's clothes, gave her a coupon for the chocolates." That got a nod and Aiden reported that. She hung up. "Did they drag us back here?"
"We're figuring that out now, baby." She sat down to hold him. "It wasn't your fault, Xander."
"I still hurt her and she's a friend," he said, looking miserable.
"I think Abby will forgive you, kid," Gibbs offered.
Xander looked at him. "Doesn't mean I can forgive myself! I cheated on my boys! I hurt her and them!"
"Shh," Aiden soothed, hugging him. "They won't be hurt, Xander. You were drugged. Not exactly able to beat them off this time." He shook his head but she pulled him closer, letting him cry on her shoulder. She nodded and Gibbs nodded, leaving them alone. "Shh. I've got you. Horatio's finding out who did this and is going to kill them for it."
Horatio came back late that afternoon. He let Abby in and she walked over to look at Xander, then hugged him, whispering in his ear. He blinked at her. "It's not your fault. That chocolate was evil." He nodded, still looking pitiful. "Hey, it's all right. I'm not hurt. You're not hurt. It was not your fault. You were just as attacked as they did to me." Xander gave her a hug and she hugged back. "Good boy, Xander. Now, we still have to find a present for your father." Xander nodded, giving her a squeeze. "That's my buddy." Xander relaxed but looked at Horatio, and Greg, who came in behind him with Mac. "See, they're not mad. They think we're adorable together."
"I still hurt you."
"No, sweetie. If it had been *you* hurting me I wouldn't have been drugged and I'd have beaten your ass." He nodded at that. "You and I *both* got hurt this time. We'll get better and it doesn't mean we can't be friends. I like you. You're neat." He cracked a smile at that. "Now, your boys apparently need cuddles too. Go cuddle them so I can watch the cuteness." She gave him a little shove and he got up, going to look at Horatio and Greg, both of whom hugged him.
"It wasn't your doing, you didn't cheat on us, Xander."
"Did. They made me."
"You didn't. They took samples and injected her. You two never touched and even if you had, you were drugged," Greg reminded him. "It's all right, Xander. I promise." Xander nodded, letting them hold him. Someone tapped on the door so Greg reached back to open it. Tony leaned in. "We're fine."
"Good. Abby, we're switching you to my room and I'll take my couch."
"I'll be fine, Tony."
"Your room is a crime scene, Abby. It's me or Gibbs and he doesn't have a couch."
She looked at him. "Could be both of you but that'd be one snuggly bed." He blushed at that, shaking his head. "Is my stuff packed?" He nodded. "Then let's go see the bossman." She walked over, giving what little of Xander that wasn't covered a hug. "I love you. You will see me at breakfast, young man." He nodded, looking at her. "Good boy. We'll go find your father a kick-ass present." She smiled and walked out, taking Tony's arm. "It was done by sampling?"
"You'd have to ask Detective Taylor. He's waiting on you." She nodded, letting him lead her to his room and put her inside while he guarded the hallway until she said he could come in.
"Abby," Mac said, looking her over. "You all right?"
"I'm peachy. The drugs are gone and I feel really bouncy. What happened?"
"We found out that they're nurses trying to register a new fertility medicine. They were very upset that some of their others used condoms so they decided to take samples. Before you ask, Don made them both cry. He didn't hit them but he did make them both cry."
"So they milked him and did a warm transfer?" He nodded. "Wow. Too bad I think I'm infertile."
"We'd like to know if you do turn up pregnant. Xander's grandparents would want to spoil you as well." She smiled at that. "He wants to make sure the line's carried on and he thinks a baby will calm Xander down. He's been pushing now for a few weeks for them to consider it. Just a head's up in that case." She nodded, still smiling. "If you are, we can amend the charges against them, which is why I wanted to know."
"I'll send you an email."
He smiled at that and passed over one of his cards. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine but why did Xander flinch when Greg hugged him?"
"They took video. Even drugged Xander tried to fight back so they slammed him into this padded area on a pipe. He's got a bruise on his back. His boys will baby him."
"He was so scared they were going to reject him."
"If it had been consensual, probably. He was just as drugged as you and they gave him an extra dose." She nodded. He handed over a folder. "This is your bloodwork. The drugs they used and the sedative." She looked at it then at him. "In case you or your doctor need it, or in case you get popped for a random drug test in the next month or so. I believe in keeping the victims informed and that's your copy." She smiled at that. "I've already given Horatio a copy for Xander and he's having this same talk. Any questions?"
"Sealed. They both took deals when the DA offered, after Don made them cry, so it won't have to be shown and I've pointed out to the DA that he shouldn't show it in open court."
"We like to keep our people from getting victimized a second time by the system. As I'm sure you've seen." She nodded. "Now, is there anything you can think of?"
"Not yet. Was it in the chocolate?"
"The sedative was. We found a whole tray of it. They were starting to pick random people who came in around the same time. You and Xander walked in together."
"Too good to pass up for their sick and sad experiment," she agreed. He nodded. "Did they mention long term side effects?"
"No. They said it was a new fertility drug the FDA said they had to test. They couldn't get grants to test it the normal way so they decided to do it this way. You and Xander were the sixth couple they did this to."
She nodded. "Then I'm good with this and Tony will help me if I have nightmares about alien bimbos doing medical experiments."
"They said they did that so you'd think it was a reaction to the sedative."
"Because no one would believe the alien abduction and exam story," she finished. He nodded. "Can I hit them just once?"
"Gibbs said when they got out they could be charged with assaulting a federal agent. That's why they took the deal." She smirked at that. "You and Gibbs can work that out."
"Thank you, Detective Taylor."
"Not a problem, Abby. Let me know if anything happens because of this and I'll do what I can to make it better." She nodded, but smiled. "If Gibbs can't."
"The director's going to be peeved."
"She can rant all she likes, Abby. Not like you were due at that seminar." She nodded. "Now, are you coming down to dinner tonight? If so, it's in about two hours."
"I don't know yet. I have a really pretty dress so I should." He smiled and gave her a shoulder pat before leaving. She read the file, frowning at it. "That was way out of whack for a human body. Tony!" He came in with Gibbs. She handed that to Gibbs. "My copy of my bloodwork. Am I going to dinner? I'm starved."
"If you want," he agreed. She nodded and found her dress and new necklace, going to change in the bathroom. "Are you all right?" he called.
"A bit energized but still kinda tired feeling if that makes sense."
"Like you've been up for two days but you're on a Caf-Pow high?" Tony suggested.
"Exactly." She came out dealing with her hair. "What?" She slid on the chain belt and they just nodded. She looked at herself then at them. "We don't like?"
"No," Tony said, shaking his head. She sighed and grabbed the new bag, taking it into the bathroom. She came out in a different dress. This one was a bit showier and flashier. It cradled her body and caressed her legs. "I like that," he admitted. "Let me change and I'll walk you around."
"I'm fine, guys. If the alien bimbos come back I get to hit one, but I'll be fine since they're in jail."
"They took a plea at their arraignment," Gibbs promised. "It was rushed through."
"See? I'll be just fine and if I have nightmares one of you two can cuddle tonight." She slid on her shoes and headed out to mingle with the others for dinner. A few gave her odd looks. "I'm fine. They drugged the hell out of me. Dressed up like alien bimbos too." Aiden came over to talk to her and they walked around together. Aiden was in something slinky and dark red. It went well with Abby's blood red goddess dress. She saw Horatio come down without Xander and pouted. "He's not coming?"
"Most spouses aren't," he said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "He snuck out for fast food and he's in front of the tv and the computer." She rolled her eyes. "Really, Abby. He's fine. He knows we don't blame him."
She smiled. "Good! Then why are you here?"
"Someone in my lab is up for something."
"Ah. The good reason." She saw Tony stroll in wearing his tux and smiled. "He does that so well."
"It's breeding," Aiden said, looking at her. "Unless he's not born to it?"
"They sent him away."
"Then they were stupid and they'll die some year."
"They will," she agreed. Tony came over and she smiled at him. "You look great."
"Thank you." He tucked that same piece of hair back in. Stella walked over to fix it for her, then winked and walked off again. "She's good."
"That's why Mac swears she's a Goddess herself," Abby quipped. They all laughed and they decided to sit with the Miami and the New York labs close together, the Las Vegas lab a bit off to the side with Greg over there when his boss demanded. They hadn't known Ecklie was here. She came over to fuss with some of Greg's hair. "It's not fun hair, Greg." He grinned at her and she hugged him. "It'll be okay."
"It will be and I'll go cuddle Xander once I've eaten. Speed's going to skip since he doesn't own a suit."
"Some guys don't." She went back to her seat, Horatio rising, earning a smile. "Such a gentleman."
"My mother did try," he admitted, helping her back into her seat then sitting down.
"You can't steal her," Tony said, smirking at him. "She's our only one and you can't have her. We would hunt her down and take her back, plus let Ducky tell you a four hour story."
Abby giggled and swatted him. "Who would buy me Caf-Pows down there and besides, they've got tons of techs to take the place of me."
"It takes many people to replace one of the great ones," Calleigh assured her as she joined them. "Horatio, Speed won't come down. He said he's not wearing a suit, fast food is better, and if he moves he'd have to dress Xander up. So they've snuck out to have dinner together and maybe hit a comedy or other sort of club." She sat down with Don's help. "Thank you, cousin-in-law."
"You're related?" Abby asked.
"Nearly. Don's marrying my second cousin next week."
Don nodded. "We are. We're doing the bonding then. She's being shy so she's not here. She's off babying Uncle Pat and Uncle Raph until they quit swearing at the alien bimbos."
"Cool. I still get a hit in."
"Sure," he agreed. "I'll lend you a pair of cuffs so you can hit 'em as many times as you want, Abby." She smiled at that. "Mac may even let you borrow his new sword." Horatio coughed. "He figured it was a present?"
"For his help with the situation in Yemen the first time," Horatio agreed. "Xander asked Stella's opinion." Stella grinned at that. "Did he like it?"
"He destroyed a chair. He thought it was decorative and not sharp. He found out differently when he swung it at the chair." He sipped his water and grinned when Mac came in. "I said Abby could borrow your sword if they got out."
"If she wants. It is very sharp." He slid an envelope to Horatio. "Thank you letter for your boy. I saw him and Speed sneaking out."
"Speed hates suits," Calleigh said, fussing with his bowtie. She looked at Ryan when he walked in. "Either he's drunk, he was mugged, or Willow's up here." She got up to straighten him out. "What happened?"
"Willow made it up after her test," he said weakly, sitting down. "Please let there be food soon."
"Very shortly, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio said, looking at him. "How is your wife?"
"Out of morning sickness, what little she had, and into the celebration phase." That got a knowing nod from most of the table. They'd at least heard about that phase. "Horatio, I'm really sorry if I die."
"You won't, Ryan. Fathers have survived that phase for millennia."
"If you say so." He looked at Calleigh. "If you ever get pregnant, I will not say a word about anything but the really odd food cravings." She patted him on the head, then smacked it harder.
"See, you have to cup your hand to do that properly," Tony instructed, showing her how it was done. "Gibbs does it to us all the time." Everyone laughed.
"He does," Abby agreed, nodding. "Then again, Tony's always on his six so he should just collar and leash him." Tony choked at that. "You'd make a cute puppy."
Ryan looked at her, then shook his head. "Don't give my wife ideas. Please?"
"Fine, I won't." She smoothed down some hair Calleigh had missed. "There you go, better." She smiled. "Where is your wife?"
"Napping," he admitted with a grin.
Eric looked down at him. "She'll start to fall asleep at odd times next. Just endure and don't let her drive for a while if she can't fight it off." Ryan gave him an odd look. "I've got three sisters and five nieces and nephews from two of them. Trust me."
Ryan nodded. "Okay. You'll become my pregnancy survival book." He grinned. "Nursery decorating?"
"Diapers," he said dryly. "Lots and lots of diapers. Ten a day, Wolfe. Clothes too. Some bottles. We'll get a list from my sisters." That got a smile and a nod of thanks. He looked at Horatio. "I heard you're moving....."
"Probably this winter," he agreed. Ryan gave him a look. "Don't you have a lease?"
"No. I ended up moving into her place and he's supposedly coming back in four months. So that would be about perfect.... If you'd let us rent or buy it off you, Horatio."
"I was thinking about letting one of you rent it, Ryan." He beamed. "We'll talk about it later this month." He nodded and smiled at the waiter when he brought the salads. "Thank you," he said. The waiter walked on and he read the note that hadn't been tucked in at all, just laying on top. "The boys are at a club dancing to wear out stress and worry. He said he's got someone watching them. I don't know who." He handed the note to Calleigh. "They promise they'll be good."
"That would be nice," Stella offered. "I'm hoping this is the only incident."
"Me too," Mac agreed. "The daughter of that family was warned Xander was going to be in the city this weekend so she's staying in." That got some smiles. Abby gave him a funny look. "You heard about the first kidnaping?"
"I did," Tony admitted. "Same family?"
"Did more than that," Horatio sighed. "They decided he had infected all of them thanks to the father's mentioning him."
"The whole family's gone?" Abby asked. Horatio nodded. "Wow."
"All but one daughter who's going to school over here," Mac admitted. "Do we think the boys took Tara with them?"
"Probably not," Don said with a grin. "She's not exactly a club sort. I took her out dancing and she was very embarrassed. She claims she trips a lot." That got a grin from everyone who knew Tara. "They could've taken Uncles Raph and Patrick." Horatio gave him a look. "As chaperones. What happens when he goes to the club down here?"
"I use him to lure away the dangerous ones so I get the slutty girls," Eric said with a smirk. Horatio gave him a look. "If they're drawn to Xander I wouldn't want them. They might send me tacky jewelry too."
"What was the 'massive' present?" Mac asked.
"He hasn't shown me," Horatio said. "Greg? What was the supposedly massive present from up here?"
Greg smirked at him. "So tacky even Liberace would've screamed at the gayness of it."
"What was it?" Stella asked, giving him a look.
"A diamond dusted statue of a woman on all fours. Anatomically correct. No real stones, just ground diamond dust." They all shuddered at that. "It's about seven inches long. They've promised to send the male next month. Apparently them getting together is what opens the hidden compartment in her stomach and there's supposedly something in there too."
Horatio moaned and sighed, shaking his head. "Where is he stashing it?"
"The sub-basement work area. He's trying to figure out the lock mechanism."
"Some people have very bad taste," Abby complained. Stella and Calleigh nodded. "Do they send him many things?"
"Many, many tacky things," Horatio agreed. "By the way, someone sent him some new working equipment. He thinks it's from the same person who sent the letters and cash for the labs, Mac." Mac smirked at that. "He said they're high quality and heirloom quality whips but he's still not sure who it is."
"How are the new hummers?"
"Very good and the motorcycle patrol got four new ones. They were very happy since they needed to replace ten of the older ones."
Ryan smiled at him. "We can even leave the cursed on at the auto pool now."
"If they had kept replacing parts maybe the part with the curse would've been exchanged," Calleigh quipped. "We replaced everything but one quarter panel and the seats."
"Not true, we had to replace the driver's seat after the firetruck hit me," Ryan reminded her.
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that." She looked at him. Then at Mac. "I don't think even Willow could find that curse."
"She did, the auto pool wouldn't let her remove it," Horatio said with a small smirk. He dug into his salad because he saw the waiters going around again. The food was better than at most conferences. No rubber chicken or overcooked beef au jus.
Patrick knocked on the suite's door. When it was opened by Eric he handed over Speed. Then he grabbed Xander and handed him over. "I believe these are yours."
"They are. Were they any trouble?" he asked, smiling at him.
"Not a whole lot. They're both worn out. They fell asleep in the car on the way back. Security gave me a panicked look but I assured them they had fallen asleep in the car." Horatio and Greg came out to take Xander from Eric, then Speed got handed to Calleigh for her snuggling purposes. "Horatio, he was mumbling something about the laundry attacking him while he slept?"
"I'm making him do it the right way," he said with a smile, picking Xander up to carry him into the bedroom.
"I remember when I could do that," Patrick sighed. "All right." He pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Eric. "That was in Speed's pocket. Not sure if it's to the rental car or not." He pulled out a baggie from his other one. "From Xander's pocket." He walked off with a smile, nodding at the young woman walking up the hall. He stopped at her scent, staring at her back.
"We were drugged," Abby complained. She turned to look at him. "I'm fine."
"You're definitely pretty," he said with a small smile, walking back to her. "Patrick Benis, Xander's grandfather." He shook her hand.
"Abby Scuito, NCIS, DC. Are you a tech too?"
"No, I give to gay charities."
"Awww, that's so sweet," she said, pinching his cheek. Then she patted it. She took his wrist to check his pulse. "Wow."
He nodded. "Indeed. Though I'm ill at this time."
"Poor baby." She kissed him on the cheek. "Someone said you might be finding me to talk to me."
"If you're pregnant, definitely. You were drugged?"
"Yeah, the alien bimbo nurses got us at the goth and chocolate shop."
He blinked at that. "Goth and chocolate shop? Aliens?"
"Ask Mac, he had the case," she said, walking him away. "So, tell me everything! I want to know what it's like! It's so cool that you're a vampire! Hi, Gibbs. This is Xander's grandfather and he's the original goth, undead version." She kept going, asking him all sorts of questions about being a vampire. A few Patrick had to refer to his sire, connecting them by phone and telling him that Abby was a friend of Xander's. Once she was finally done he went to find Mac, finding him in the observation lounge. "Knew I was here?"
"Figured you would be sometime soon, but then I heard Abby had found out what you were." He looked at him. "She's a good tech."
"She's a beautiful girl too. It'll be a beautiful grandchild if it's Xander's." Mac nodded. "How? Aliens now?"
"They were dressed in fantasy alien hooker costumes. That way none of their sedated victims would be believed about the alien abduction and medical exams."
"Ah." He nodded slowly. "I would like to know more."
"They took a deal, Patrick."
"I'm sure they did. That doesn't mean I don't know someone inside. No one should hurt anyone that delightful. She and Tara would be so much fun together." He smiled. "Is everyone all right?"
"Hopefully. They were both very drugged. We're waiting to see if she does get pregnant or not." He shrugged. "It was handled. Xander was reassured that his boys weren't mad and Abby wasn't mad at him."
"They would be adorable children," he sighed.
"Little goth babies?" Stella teased as she joined them. "Who is Anya pregnant by?"
"Oz. He's went totally silent and hits walls instead of her. She's ranting that she got the wrong one."
"Pity, but she shouldn't be such a ho," Stella told him.
"Sire told her that to her face. She screamed back she doesn't get paid. Oz told her she's still a hooker because she expects presents." Stella nodded at that. "If we can't convince Abby to have a baby for Xander, would you, my dear?" he asked, taking her arm to walk her off. That way he could bribe her without Mac growling about him asking that very personal favor out of his woman.
Mac stopped himself from following. "It is her body, not mine. We are not together," he told himself, heading back to his room. Where Danny pounced and cuffed him to the bed to show him he was theirs. It was definitely distracting him from his resolve. Stella came in blushing bright red.
Danny looked at her. "Did Patrick tempt you to give Xander a baby?" he teased.
"Definitely. Including a hefty motherhood payment and all my medical costs paid, plus an endowment to the lab." Mac moaned and she wasn't sure if it was because Danny was teasing his cock or because of that. "I told him we'd talk." She stripped off her dress, smiling at how both men were watching her. "What? I have to be naked to play too." She got down to tease Mac with Danny's help. One of these days he'd have to realize that they had snared him and he was their toy now.
Horatio walked into the office Monday morning and stared at the walls. They were being ripped down. "Finally," he sighed, going to find his boss. "How long will it take to fix it?"
"Months," he said, glaring at him. "So you're going to have to work out of another lab."
"We can do that. We've already talked with the other lab and they'll accept us as a separate team temping in for them." That got a nod and a discontent look. "What happened?"
"Your boy's lawyers filed to have the whole station condemned. There's other issues as well."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Chief. Would you like me to oversee the corrections?" He nodded, handing over the paperwork. Horatio looked at it then at him. "That still doesn't fix three problems."
"The bathroom problem is fixed by a single stall, multi-sex bathroom in the back hallway. The problem with the weak glass is fixed by better glass. The other problem they said was structural to the building." Horatio nodded, going to get with the head of the construction crew to talk to him. He put his head down. "This is going to kill our budget this year." His secretary brought in the mail so he gave her a weak smile. "I'm not taking calls unless it's an emergency or my wife." She nodded, going to make a note of that. He looked through the mail, finding one from the Benis household. He opened it to read the letter, then smirked at it. "That boy twisted their arms," he said dryly. He looked at the check. It was enough to cover the redo. It was very nice of them. He paged Horatio back and handed him the letter.
"Patrick said if you got it fixed he would give a small grant to the lab," he agreed, handing the check back. "But only it if was being fixed. He doesn't like to lose what little family he has left." He went back to the plans. "Will that cover it?"
"All that and a few other things," he agreed.
"The redo first, Chief."
"I know. Go away."
Horatio left, going back to make sure things were going to meet up to codes this time. This was not going to happen a third time or he'd kill someone. Xander would help him. Speed would handle the clean up.