Notes: again, as usual, many thanks to Intertran for the Latin!  I was nice enough to put the basic translations behind them.

You're One Of A Kind, Xander Harris

Jim looked at his address book, mentally fighting with himself over sending out an email to a few cops he knew.  Some of them had gifts similar to his, or something else that made them pretty special.  They also usually had bosses who covered for them, but then again this was the government he was concerned about.  People who got paid a lot of money to be paranoid and read between the lines.  He looked at Simon, who shrugged, knowing what he was thinking.  "They'll need to know, just in case.  They'd be the sort to help people move."

"Then tell them but keep Blair's thing out of it," Simon suggested.  He still wasn't really comfortable with the word 'magic', it seemed so odd to him.  No matter how many times Blair had done little things around the house it was still something that he stared at in awe.  It was easier for him to accept Jim's things than it was for him to accept Blair's.

Jim opened up his email and clicked on the addresses he wanted to use this time.  Then he wrote a short message.  "Would you come see if this makes sense?"

Simon stood up and walked over, reading over his shoulder.  "The usual Ellison brevity I see.  I think they need more than 'you might be in danger, the gov wants people like us', Jim."  Jim grimaced at the screen.  "Let me."  Jim gladly let him have the seat and Simon sat down to rewrite the short missive.  "The government has proof that people with strange gifts exist and are looking to prove it to the press and others.  Be careful and watch your back," he read as he typed.

"Leave out the gifts part.  Most of us consider them a curse."

"Okay, the government has proof that there are people with extra abilities?"

"Nah."  Jim moved him out of the way.  "The government has proof we exist," he typed, going over Simon's first sentence but leaving the last half and the second one.  "How's that?"

"Good enough," Simon agreed, giving him a smile.  "You'll feel better later."

"Hopefully," Jim agreed, sending the message before he chickened out.  "I wonder if Blair wrote Naomi yet."

"Probably.  Her name was probably in the first email."

"And I bet some of them are wondering why they can't do those things," Jim sighed, putting his head down.  "I don't want to worry, Simon."

"You and me both, Jim, you and me both," Simon agreed, going back to his book.  He knew they had pissed off too many Feds in their days, but he hoped that wasn't about to come back and bite them on the butt.  This trip was nice and relaxing, he had gotten to read a lot of books he'd been meaning to, but he liked city life.   He missed his twenty-seven ways to have coffee.  The weather was a bit nicer, but still.


Greg looked up as Blair walked into his office.  "Giving tours here now?" he asked dryly, going back to his sample.

Blair gave him a hug.  "Watch the news today?"  Greg shook his head.  "Someone from the BBC overheard our Prez talking about witches in the hallway before a briefing.  Got it on tape even.  Asked him about it and the press conference was cut short by laughter."

"Maybe that's a good sign?" Greg asked.

"We're hoping it's a good sign."  He stood up, tightening his ponytail.  "Actually, I'm here more about some of Jim's friends. They're coming here on a case and to testify about something undercover.  One's kinda like Jim without being official.  The other two are Chicago city boys.  They bring trouble."

Greg snickered.  "Fun.  Worse trouble than you?"

"Yeah," Blair admitted, grinning at them. "They've also just had their room reservations canceled because it's a mafia trial.  I was wondering if you remembered that place that was rent-by-the-month.  The safe complex."

"Um," Greg said as he rolled to his rolodex.  "Yeah, here we are," he said, tugging out a card.  "Mentioning me won't get them any money off, but it is a referral service we offer around here."

"Thanks, Greg.  Have fun with your samples."  He heard a high-pitched squeal and his head went up as he sniffed the air, looking very alarmed.  "Cassie's here?"

"She and Sarah are friends," Greg said, wincing at her continued squealing.  "She's been here now for two days.  And you can't apparate from in here, something in the room makes everything tip over whenever we do."

"Dirt," Blair said, shuddering.  "Cassie wanted me for the longest time."  He walked out, whimpering a little.  He waved at Grissom as they passed in the hall.

"Sandburg," he said with a nod.  "In town for a chat?"

"I came to greet Benny, Ray, and Ray," he said with a small shrug.  "They're friends of Jim.  They just had their hotel rooms canceled because it's a mafia trial."  He continued to trudge on, muttering about how he should cast an 'ignore' charm before Cassie could spot him.

"Sandburg?" a loud, brash voice called from behind him.  She saw him stiffen and laughed, running over to hug him.  "What are you doing here?"

"I came back for a weekend," he said, smiling at her.  "Jim and I have a few friends who are in town due to a case and a trial.  He's picking them up and I came to get a recommendation for housing."

"They don't have rooms at a hotel already?  That's going to cost their department a pretty penny," Cassie, one of Jim's hometown CSI's, noted.

"Yeah, but they're thinking it's going to be a long trial so they're thinking apartment."  He shrugged.  "It happens.  One of the techs is one of my friends so I came to get a recommendation from him."  He waved the card around.  "Gotta go, Cassie, they'll be in any minute now."

"Poo.  Will you have time to go to dinner?"

"Probably not.  We're flying out in the morning," he said, sounding regretful.  "But don't worry, Simon and Jim are coming back next year.  You can bug them for all the British stuff they've been learning."

"Cool."  She kissed him on the cheek, then bounced off.  "Hopefully their friends don't bring problems like Sandburg does," she told her friend Sarah.

"Hopefully," Sarah agreed.  She looked around.  "Did you see Grissom?"

"He's back in his office," Warrick called from a lab down the hall.  Locked in of course because Cassie set his teeth on edge.

"Thanks," she called, walking Cassie that way.  The woman wanted to switch departments and the best way would be for her to corner Grissom and let Cassie talk to him. "Hey, maybe you'll even get to do an informal interview today," she offered.

Everyone who heard shuddered, especially Greg.  "If she does," Greg told his latest sample, "then I'm moving to Cascade."  Catherine laughed from the doorway so he looked at her.  "I am.  She won't be there."

"Trust Grissom.  He knows his staff," she promised.  "She might make day shift but not ours."  She accepted his paper and then went back to check the results against what she was seeing.


Blair leaned against Jim's side once he made it back to the airport.  "Cassie's visiting," he hissed.  Jim shuddered.  "I pleaded off dinner.  Said you'd be back next year."

"Maybe she'll have switched departments by then," Jim said hopefully.  He waved at his friend, getting a nod in return.  "Must have been a bad flight."

"I still don't like this plan of the NTSA to use any cops on flights as temporary Air Marshals," Blair groused.  "We don't get paid if something happens and our health insurance won't cover it."

"Yeah, but they'll never get enough people otherwise," a blond man said as he walked up to them.  "Jim, Sandburg," he said with a nod and a slight grin.

"Ray, I fed you food you couldn't pronounce, you can call me by my first name," Blair teased.  This was old hat between them.

"Yeah, sure, whatever," Ray Vecchio noted as he walked up to them.  "Benny, come on."

"I still have to pick up Diefenbaker," he reminded them, heading that way.

Ray Kowalski shrugged.  "We think it's gonna be a *long* trial."

"And the good news is, your rooms were canceled," Blair told them, grinning at them.  "So we called your boss and had you set up in a small apartment in town.  He said it'd be cheaper anyway."

"Goodie, who gets to sleep in the tub?" Ray Vecchio asked.

"Nah, it's a four bedroom.  That way the wolf can sleep on his own," Jim said, smiling a little.  The wolf had slept with him whenever he had the chance while they had worked together.  Apparently he was a member of his pack now.   "Benton, come on," he called when he saw him walking slowly.

"He's probably got a cramp.  The seats were smaller than we remembered," Ray Kowalski groused, picking up his bags again.  "Come on, let's find a rental car or two."  Blair handed over keys.  "Damn, you're good."

"Yes, I am," Blair said proudly.  Ray K laughed and hugged him.  "Thanks, man.  After this is over, you should come visit us in the homeland.  Scotland is really nice."

"I bet," Benton Fraiser agreed as he joined them.  "Why are you over there?"

"Blair's doing some time at St. Andrew's," Jim said dryly.  "So he dragged us along.  We're doing one of those foreign exchange programs."  He turned, leading the way to the cars.  He, Ray V, and Benton got into the first one; Blair, Ray K, and the wolf got into the second one.  He started the car, heading for the place he had programed into the on-board computer.  This was a piece of technology he liked.  "It's been really strange."

"We got your email," Ray admitted.  "How bad is it?"

"Does it have anything to do with the witch comments at the press conference?" Benny asked.

"Definitely," Jim told them.  "Simon had a call from one of our guys, someone was nosing around my old cases as well.  We think it's related."

"Better safe than dead," Ray agreed, looking back at Benny.  "You, no tastin' stuff this time."

"I'm sure it'll be okay.  Blair's got a friend in the local CSI.  Greg's pretty nice, if a little on the young and impatient side."

"So, he's like Blair, only a scene tech?" Ray asked.

"No, he's their DNA tech on night shift," Jim said.  "Other than that, yeah."

The cops shared a laugh.  Sandburg was a prototype that had been slowly infiltrating all sorts of departments.


Blair looked over at Ray, then back at the wolf.  "Did you get my mail?"

"Yeah, and the one from Jim," Ray admitted, slumping some.  "Why us?"

"Because they're asses, Ray, nothing else."  He reached over to pat him on the knee.  "Any luck with big, clueless, and shiny?"

"Nah.  He likes his girly girls."  Ray sighed.  "How bad has it been on your end?  Scotland?"

"Yeah, Scotland," Blair said happily.  "I did high school over there.  It's really pretty country."

"I'm sure.  So was Canada, but there was snow," Ray pointed out.  Blair snickered.  "I'm serious.  I nearly got frostbite peeing."  He shifted some to look at his friend.  "Any good news?"

"No, not really," Blair sighed.  "Simon's antsy about going back to city life.  I told him he could offer to switch to Scotland Yard.  He thought he'd look dorky in that sort of hat."  Ray chuckled and punched him on the thigh.  "Hey, still taken, thank you. And if not, then I may have to do something drastic, namely kidnap Jim.  I like it over there."

"Hey, maybe he does too.  You said he likes woods."

"Yeah, but there's more strangeness in my life and it's freaking him badly.  You know him, staid and common man.  He can't get Jags games and he's been pouting because of it."

"Eh, Ray taped them all this season and has them in his bag.  Did you guys bring your own VCR?"  Blair nodded, following as Jim took a turn off the main strip.  Only that car had tele-location services, this was the 'we're all sold out but one we've got in the back' car from the rental place.  "Then expect him to be doing the dance of joy."

"I'm sure Jim will appreciate it," Blair said with a smile.  He wished he could share this part.  He and Ray were cool together.  They were bestest buddies.  He wanted to tell him but he knew it'd only cause trouble.

"So, why did Morgana Lieftson have me say hi?" Ray asked.  "Oh, and she told you to tell me.  Said she wasn't that brave right now."

"Morgana Liefson?" Blair asked, frowning as they pulled up to a gate.  "You'll need your badge."

Ray wiggled as he pulled it out of his back pocket.  "Yeah, said she knew you from school.  Said her name used to be Ralston-Murphis."

"Oh, *Morgana*!" Blair said, much happier with life now.  "We'll chat while the boys find a sports bar.  There's a lot she could have meant."  He pulled up to the gate.  "This is the other one," he said, pointing at Ray.  "Detective Kowalski."

"Hey, howyadoin'," Ray asked with a grin, holding up his ID.

"Good afternoon, detective," the guard greeted, sounding Arabic though he looked like an Iowa farmboy.  "Your assigned spot is spot 154 and here's the parking pass for this car.  It's also your key to the gate if no one's here."  He handed it over to Blair, who hung it on the mirror.  "Your keys are waiting on you and your needs have been assured by your generous friends."  He lifted the barricade and let them through.  "Have a nice day, Gentlemen."

"Thanks," Ray said, nodding at him as they drove past.  "This is really nice."

"It's a visiting businessman place," Blair explained. "It's got good security, has a grocery store not a block away, and most of the resorts are far enough away that they won't irritate Benny's delicate sensibilities.  Also, the pro's don't work out here unless you call them.   I doubt Vecchio was anywhere near this neighborhood when he was stationed out here."  He parked and turned off the car, handing over the keys.  "Here you are."  He pulled something out of his jacket pocket and handed them over.  "This is also yours.  It's the door key and the security button.  It works like a card reader."  He got out, holding the door so the wolf could get out too.  "Hey, Jim, did you know these guys work with someone I went to school with?" he called.

Jim looked back at him.  "That doesn't really surprise me with the amount of trouble they find."

"It's all Benny's fault," the two Rays said in semi-unison.

Benny chuckled.  "I'm sure it is.  After all, you never lead the way, either of you."  He waved a hand.  "Shall we go inside?  It's rather warm out here."

"It's nearly winter, this is about as cold as it gets during the day," someone told them, coming down the stairs.  "Hey, guys."  He grinned at Blair and Jim.  "Emilia sent over a fruit basket.  She's heard of Benny too."

"Emilia Dorekson is living here now?" Benny asked, looking very pleased.

"She's my wife," Greg told him.  He shook Ray Vecchio's hand.  "Hi, I'm Greg, I'm the DNA tech who they know locally."  That got a small laugh from Ray K.  "What did Blair tell you?"

"Nothin', I was laughin' because the wolf decided to try and eat me."  He got free of the licking tongue.  "Stop that."  He handed the leash to Benny.  "Yours.  I'm not a pastry."

"Nah, those are upstairs," Jim told him, grinning as Diefenbaker took off with only a quick sniff at Greg's pantsleg. "I think he knows the way."

"He's got pastry homing sense," Blair agreed dryly, shooing everyone inside.  "Come on, Greg, since you're here and all."  He leaned closer.  "Problems?"

"Wife.  Protesting.  Threw a fit."

"Ah."  Blair nodded, patting him on the arm.  "They do that.  Trust me."

Ray K looked back.  "What's wrong with her?"

"She's four months pregnant and apparently I'm too touchy at the moment," Greg told him.  He shrugged.  "She's having an odd day anyway.  Someone tried to follow her earlier."  Benny looked back at him.  "Use the little key thingie on the door plate."  Ray V did it and the door opened, letting them inside.  "She's fine, just pissed and my hugging didn't make her feel better this time."

"Expect a crying apology later," Blair said wisely.  "Tipsy did that last month."

"It'll take more than a day, she'll accuse me of sleeping with you first."  Jim turned to stare at him.  "She overheard Dawn while she was playing 'who'd make a good couple among the group' with Luna."  He grinned.  "She's jealous."

"She should be, you're a very nice man," Benny told him.  He pulled his wolf away from the donut box, handing them back to Ray, who tossed one down for the wolf.  "Ray!"

"It'll knock him out, Benny.  He had a worse flight than we did."  He looked at Jim.  "People coming to get married on budget rates.  A whole Iranian family who did that calling, trilling thing on the plane most of the trip from O'Hare."

Jim winced. "I'm sorry."

"And to make up for it, Ray's got you a present," Ray K said slyly.

"Oh, yeah.  I had them mailed so they wouldn't have to go through security."  Jim patted the boxes on the counter.  "Cool.  The one with my name on it's the entire Jags season."

Jim pulled him over and hugged him.  "I love you," he said, sniffling.  "That's the worst part about Scotland.  No basketball and I can't get into Blair's sports."  He picked out the box and sat down to open and touch the tapes.

"He's sports deprived," Blair shared with a grin.  "As a matter of fact, Ray and I decided you should take him to a sports bar tonight.  That way Jim can regain his sense of masculinity."

Ray Vecchio snickered.  "Sure, kid.  C'mon, Jim, we'll hit the town."  He looked at his other best friend.  "Benny, wanna come?  I can't promise Curling, but maybe some hockey.  Season's started."

Benny looked at Ray K.  "Would you mind staying here?"

"Go," Ray said, waving him off.  "Go play.  You'd probably never come to Vegas on your own."  Benny smiled and left with them, then he sighed.  "Finally."  He looked at Blair.  "What's this about magic?"

"I'm a wizard," Blair told him.  Ray blinked a few times.  "Really."

"I was talkin' tickets to a stage show, but okay.  Is that what Morgana said to tell me?"  Blair and Greg both nodded.  "Wow."  He sat down, looking at Greg.  "You're a normal guy, right?"

"For the most part," he said with a grin.  "Not every day though."

Ray K looked at Blair.  "Promise me you won't tell Benny.  He'll go nuts and ask questions forever."

"Not a problem.  It's a secret identity," Greg said as he stood back up.  "I'd better get back to work.  Have fun.  Run my way if you need desperate help."  He shook Ray's hand.  "Have fun.  Blair, dinner?"

"Nah, I think I'm gonna take Ray to may favorite place to eat.  He should appreciate it."

"Cool.  I'll be at work for another few hours.  Unfortunately, night and day have gotten a bit mixed up due to half of day shift having to quit."  He rolled his eyes.  "And Cassie's hinting that she'd like to take someone's position if they leave for days.  I don't know which is worse, Hodges or her."  He strolled out, heading back to work once he had found a shady corner.  He had agreed with Morgana that Chicago had to have someone who knew and could deal with people like them, but that didn't mean Ray had to know about him personally.


Benny looked at Jim once they were in the car.  "I've never sensed magic around Blair in the past."  Jim looked back at him in the mirror, thankful they weren't moving yet.  "He smells of the common herbs."

"He's been practicing defensive herbology," Jim told him.

Ray groaned.  "No, please, not plants.  No tasting stuff, Benny.  We don't need busted out here for being weird."

"I'm not planning on it, Ray.  I simply wanted to know when Blair had decided to go Wiccan."

"Back in his school days," Jim said, starting the car.  "Since we're back there, he's picked back up his studies."

"Hmm.  I'd like to start emailing him about that.  I know some of our local healers in Chicago and I'd like to compare the viewpoints."

"You'd have to talk to Blair about that," Jim pointed out.  "Right now, he's teaching Anthro at St. Andrews, helping out at his old school, and helping a few old friends of his."  He pulled out of the complex, heading toward the strip again.  "Small sports bar or large one?  I found both last night."

"Large one," Ray decided.  "It shouldn't be too crowded right now."

"Ray, this is Vegas, people have a different sense of business hours," Jim reminded him.  "Greg's night shift now runs from four to around three in the morning because their shifts got screwed up.  Apparently one of the higher detectives got found tampering with evidence and half their crew left suddenly."  He smiled.  "If you get a chance, have him introduce you to Catherine.  She's a nice lady, a wonderful mother, and she makes Blair calm down."

Ray chuckled.  "Wonderful.  She on the prowl?"

"No, not at all.  She's been helping a few friends of Blair's with some younger kids they're training."  A sudden thought popped into his head.  "Speaking of which, if you see the smirking blond boy with her or Greg, stay out of his way.  He's a nasty little kid some days."


"No, old-school pureblood," Jim told him.  "The sort your mother could have been."

"We've still got some of them in the community," Ray admitted. "I'll be careful around him if I run into him."

"Should we be?" Benny asked.

"Greg's wife Emilia is mentoring Draco.  There's every chance you'll be running into each other at the police station."  He pulled onto the strip and headed for a resort he had liked the looks of last night.  "This one is more for locals than for tourists," Jim told them.  He let the valet take the car, not knowing how parking went around here, and led the way inside to the sports bar.  "Ah," he said, smiling in giddy joy.  "I missed these places."

"How many more months do you have?" Benny asked.  "I've often thought about doing something of the sort."

"You are, just unofficially," Ray pointed out, holding up three fingers to the hostess.  "He likes hockey and we want b-ball."

"Street, college, professional, or that new one on trampolines that's on Spike tv?" she asked, dimpling cutely at them.

"Professional or college," Jim told her.  He didn't even want to know about trampolines.  Was it ball for white guys who couldn't jump?

"Right this way, please."  She led them to a table in a quiet corner, but it had two tvs facing it.  "Here's your game menu," she said, handing over a photocopied listing of all the games and which channels they were on.  "Here's your regular menu."   She smiled at Benny.  "I noticed you were a little stunned by the noise.  This corner stays pretty quiet.  Especially since the bookies aren't here tonight."  She walked off, heading back to her station.

"Gee," Jim said, looking at Ray.  "That was nice of her."

"Definitely," Ray agreed, taking the game menu.  "There's three games going right now.  All college."  He looked at Jim. "Got a favorite team?"

"Is Duke playing?"  Ray nodded and flipped that game on one tv, then handed the menu to Benny.

"Thank you kindly, Ray."  He took off his hat and laid it on the bench next to him, then looked it over.  "Edmonton is playing in an hour," he said thoughtfully.  "I suppose I could watch equestrian events until then."  He turned his tv to it, smiling at the peaceful sport.

Jim and Ray shared a look that said 'that's a sport?'.  Then Jim shook his head.  "I'm living in the land of dog shows and racing.  I can't say anything about the gentler sports anymore."

"Also jumping and hunting," Benny offered.  "While I can't agree with how the foxes are killed, the actual hunt itself is rather thrilling from what I understand."

Jim shuddered.  "I've seen all the horses I want to see, thank you."  He looked at the game, wincing at the uneven score.  "Poor Duke."

"It's only the first half, they can catch up," Ray said, patting him on the hand.  He understood, he had been sports deprived while he had been undercover.  His new identity hadn't even gambled.  For being so dangerous, it had been really boring.  "I wonder what the wonder twins are doing."

Jim shook his head.  "I'm not.  Those two and trouble are nearly synonymous.  I only hope Blair doesn't get kidnaped tonight."  He waved the waitress over.  "Can I have some Fosters?"  Ray looked at him.  "I've grown to appreciate it.  I'm in the land of stout," he explained.

"I'm really sorry," Ray said, patting him on the hand again.  No beer and no basketball?  How was Jim surviving?


Blair led the way into his favorite bohemian place, smiling at the waitress.  "The last time I saw you, you were twelve," he told her.  She laughed and hugged him hard.  "Mona, this is Ray, he's in town for a long time.  Ray, this is Mona, her parents let Naomi and I stay with them for a few weeks."

"Of course they did.  I don't think there's many people your mom doesn't know," Ray told him, smiling at her.  "What sort of food is this?" he asked as she led them to a small table near the bar.

"Mediterranean.  Arabic.  This that and the other," Mona told him, handing over a menu.  "We do have a small bar if you'd like some, or we have some wonderful Turkish coffee with any sort of syrup you could want."

"Got chocolate?" Ray asked.

"We've got almond fudge, milk chocolate, and our special, homemade, white chocolate one," she said proudly. "I made a new batch this morning."

"Let's try the fudge one," Blair said, handing back his menu.  "What's on the special tonight."

"Trout from the lake."  Blair took his menu back.  "Would you like some seafood?"

"Please?" he begged, smiling at her.  "Something with clams and lobster, or even just shrimp?"

"Of course, Blair.  Pasta or not?"  He shrugged.  "I'll tell Mom that when I tell you're here."  She looked at Ray.  "Any particular meat animal you like?"

"Beef?" he asked.

She shook her head.  "Sorry, Mom and Dad have a rule about animals.  If it's cute they won't cook or eat it.  I'm sorry."

"That's okay," he said, flipping open his menu. "Can I start with this bread thing?"  She nodded, taking their order on the way to the kitchen.  He looked at Blair.  "Are you a regular?"

"Nah, but I do write every now and then to have them send me full meals.  It keeps me from doing all the cooking."  He looked at the menu, smiling as he pointed at something.  "That's pretty close, even though it's deer and turkey."

"I think I'll stick with pork or chicken," Ray told him.  "I got nibbled on by a caribou and  we ate that sucker for weeks."  He grinned as their appetizers and coffees were brought.  "Thanks.  Can I have this pork chop dish?"

"Are you sure?  It's pretty big," she warned.  "It's got like five sides and comes with dessert."

"We were on a plane all day," he told her, handing back the menu.  "I think I can handle it.  And if not, I can take home the rest, right?"  She nodded, giving him another smile before walking off.  He sipped his coffee, his eyes going wide.  "What is that?"

"Real coffee from the people who figured out how to do it first," Blair said, sipping his.  "The fudge is a little strong," he noted.  He dropped a bit of milk into it and handed it over. "Here, you'll probably want it."

"Nah, I'm good with that.  I've never had a coffee that was supposed to be that strong."

"Have the other Ray make you *real* espresso once.  You'll learn to like it."  He took another sip.  "Just right."  He heard a squeal and looked up like a dog caught in the headlights.  "Cassie?" he asked, sounding fearful.

Ray glanced around.  "No, some girl who just got asked that important question."  He grinned. "Is that the same Cassie who bugs you?"  Blair nodded. "What's she doin' here?"

"She's interviewing," Blair said, slowly calming down.

Ray shook his head.  "I hope she finds a place where the people like her," he offered.  Blair snickered and hit her.  "What?  That's important."  He tasted the bread and had to gulp his coffee and most of Blair's, plus their waters.  "Hot," he said, fanning his mouth.

Blair nipped a piece and nibbled on it, then shook his head.  "Not really.  I've seen it hotter."  Ray looked at him.  "Really."

"This whole native cultures thing you've got going is odd, Blair," Ray said firmly, making sure his next piece didn't have any of the peppers on it.  "Much better."  The waitress brought them new glasses of water and some soda with a wink.  "Thanks."

"We did have to put a warning on it once for those with tongue piercings and split tongues," she shared, then she wandered off.

"Why do people split their tongues?" Ray asked.  Blair shrugged.  He hadn't heard of it outside of some goofy kids either.   That was definitely not a native ritual.


Blair walked Ray out to their car, glancing around.   "Ray, who's that kid?" he asked casually, nodding behind them.

Ray looked over his shoulder and pulled his badge, holding it up.  The kid ran off.  "Geez, even here you get into trouble," he taunted, grinning at him.

"No, I don't.  You're the one with the cash."  He opened the door, looking in the back seat.  "I don't know why I'm so paranoid today."

"Because you're here and they might want to keep you," Ray pointed out.  He climbed in to drive, he'd better get used to the city.  He looked over but Blair wasn't getting in, the door was open, and Blair was laying on the pavement.  "Shit."  He pulled his gun as he stepped out, looking around as he carefully walked over there.  He found the dart and pulled it out, stuffing it into Blair's jacket pocket for now.  Then he glanced around again before putting him into the car and slamming the door.  He walked back, getting inside and locking them in.  He picked up the car phone and dialed.  "Hi, this is Detective Ray Kowalski, in on a joint case from Chicago, and my guide just got darted.  Yeah, I said darted," he sighed.  "Not a clue.  He's presently unconscious.  No, we're in the parking lot of Mariana's Family Eatery."  He snorted.  "That's what the sign outside says."  He listened.  "Yeah, he's breathing all right and all that.  How do I get there?"  He started the car and backed up, hitting someone.  "Um, hold on."  He let down the window, looking out. "Hey, I just hit the guy with the rifle.  Sure, we'll wait," he agreed, hanging up and getting out to handcuff the guy to his bumper.  "Next time, don't mess with us," he warned when the guy groaned.   He heard clapping and looked around, pointing his gun at the guy walking toward him clapping.  "And you are?"

"An old friend of Ellison's."

"Yeah, well, he's with my partner right now," Ray told him, not moving his gun in the least.  "Go away.   The cops are on their way."

"Oh, but I've got one better.  I'm a Fed," he said, pulling out his badge.

"Yay.  Bad Feds are still arrestable," Ray promised.  A cop car pulled up, lights on, and one of the cops stepped out with his gun drawn.  "I'm a cop," he called, holding up his badge with his free hand.  "This guy darted the guy I was having dinner with."

"No, I had nothing to do with the dart.  You'll find that's my colleague," he said, smiling at him.  "Who is no longer where you put him."

Ray glanced back but the handcuffs were empty.  He looked at the Fed again.  "He's still injured.  That's really hard to hide."

"Yes, it is," the Fed said dryly.  "But we've got our own people."

"Sir, please, let me handle this," the officer pleaded.  "You're not on duty."

Ray shrugged and put his gun away.  "Technically, I kinda am," he offered.  "I'm here on a joint case.  Oh, Sandburg," he said, pointing at the car.  "The dart's in his jacket pocket."  The officer rushed to check him as soon as others pulled in.  Ray crossed his arms, glaring at the bastard.  "You hurt Blair over your dead body."

"Oh, you are so delightful.  I'll have to tell Ford that I met you."  He smirked.

"Ford can blow me," Ray said with a sneer.  "He and you both."  Someone coughed and Ray looked at the balding guy joining them.  "Hey, howyadoin'?" he asked.  "Ray Kowalski.  This idiot had my friend darted."

"And the handcuffs?"

"They had a person in them originally," Ray told him.  "He was there, I swear."

"I have no doubt about that," Detective Brass agreed.  He got out of the paramedic's way.  "Dart?"

"Dart.  It's in his pocket."

"We've got it in a baggie, Detective," the paramedic assured him.  "Is he a local?"

"No, he flew in to see us.  He's friends with one of your techies."

"He's a friend of Greg's?" Brass asked.

"Yeah, him.  Nice guy.  We met earlier."

"Are you two friends?" Brass asked.

Ray shrugged.  "I only just met the guy."  He grinned and looked at the Fed but he had disappeared.  "Whatthefuck!" he shouted, glaring at the empty spot.

"Don't worry," Brass soothed, "we know all about them.  They'll be caught."  He led Ray back to his car.  "You were going to come in tomorrow anyway, want to start this now?"

"Sure, why not," Ray said, shaking his head.  He patted himself down then went to get his wallet from the car seat, pulling out the carphone and the card he had for Jim's cell, calling him.  "Hey, it's me.  Blair got darted.  He's on his way to the hospital, I'm on my way to the station, and the guy in handcuffs disappeared, as did the federal agent."  He snorted and held up the phone.  "It's for you.  It's Vecchio."

Brass sighed.  He had met that detective in the past.  But he took the phone anyway.  "Hello, Detective."  He smiled.  "Yeah, it's me.  Anything strange falls in my lap.  Sure."  He looked at the paramedics.  "Dessert Palms.  He's got records there according to his friend and partner.  He's a helper with the Cascade PD."  They nodded and rushed off extra fast.  He listened to the conversation on the other end.  "Sure, come on down.  I'm sure someone would be happy to see you again," he admitted, handing the phone back.  "Two of them are coming down to get you, one's on his way to the hospital to be with that guy," he said, smiling at him.  "Want to follow?"

"I'd think it'd be evidence," Ray offered.  "I did hit the guy."

"I noticed the dent.  Okay, let me give you a ride, the CSIs can bring it down and hand it back after they've scraped the paint and stuff."  He walked Ray back to his car, getting in and taking him back to the station.  Almost as soon as they got there, a dead body was found and he had to go back out so he left Ray in his office waiting on Ray and Benny.   He looked down at the body.  "Dressed in black, handcuff marks.  Does he have injuries like a car hit him going really slowly?"

The coroner looked at him.  "How did you know?"

"Because he's the one who darted a helper to the Cascade PD earlier," Catherine told him, looking at Brass.  "Right?"

Brass nodded.  "Looks like it.  I guess he failed."  He shrugged.  "We're meeting with Vecchio, Kowalski, and Fraiser tonight.  They're all headed for my office."

"Tell him I still want to hurt him," Catherine told him, heading down to do her job.  "Then smack him across the face for the ass-pinch."

"He was undercover, sometimes you've got to be odd," Grissom reminded her with a faint smile.  "Do you think we'll find fingerprints?"

"No."  Brass took the polaroid from someone's hand and took a picture of his own.  "Okay.  I'm headed back since my brilliance isn't needed.  Have fun.  Let me know what hit Sandburg."  He headed back to his car, going back to his desk.  He liked his desk.  It was comforting when things got too weird.  He walked into his office, nodding at the other men.  "This him?" he asked, handing it over.

"That's the guy I hit and handcuffed," Ray agreed, handing it back.  "He looked dead."

"That's because he is," Brass admitted as he sat down.  "Hi.  Constable, Detective.  Sit."  They sat.  "Oh, Catherine said she still wants to slam you into a wall and hit you for that pinch thing."

Ray Vecchio shrugged.  "It was the part I played, not my real intention.  A woman like that shouldn't be disrespected, she'll shoot you."

"Very true," Greg said from the doorway.  "The dart from Desert Palms is here and it's herbal.  I can't tell with the machine."

"Is there another way you can tell without it being illegal?" Benny asked like the Mountie he was.  "Something admissible?"

"No," Greg told him, shrugging.  "We're not really set up for that.  I can guess by the color, the smell, and whatnot."

"Still not admissible," Brass pointed out.

"Yeah, but will this actually hit a courtroom?"

"Give me what you think and save a sample," Brass told him.  "Do it your way on one and we'll figure it out with the other."  Greg nodded, heading back to his lab.  "That was Greg."

"We met Greg earlier," Benny said calmly.  "Another herbalist?"

"Something like that," Brass agreed.  Apparently these guys didn't know everything.  He saw Greg's headshake from down the hall and his held-up sign about one of them knowing about Blair.  Then Greg disappeared.  "Okay.  So we've got your case, this Fed thing, the trial, and did you three have anything else planned while you were here?  Just in case we need the riot gear perhaps?"

"Benny's our trouble magnet," Ray K told him.  "Sandburg's leaving tomorrow sometime."

"Good.  I like that situation."  He smiled at Benton.  "What sort of trouble do you draw?"

Ray V snorted, shaking his head.  "Don't ask, just don't ask.  You might want to cry."  Brass gave him a look so he elaborated.  "Last week, he stepped into the middle of a gang fight without a weapon and hit someone with his hat when they got mouthy," he told the native detective.  Brass groaned.

"He's one of those good guys who people resent for being so good," Ray K added.

"They do not," Benny said, frowning at him.  "The only person who resents me for doing what they thought they should be doing was that one instance with Mr. Zuko and he turned out to have motives for his generosity."

Vecchio waved a hand.  "This is why my Lieutenant sent you the whiskey," he assured him as he stood up.  "I can hear Jim complaining so they must have released Sandburg."

"Ya know, he's tired of people not using his first name," Ray K reminded him.

"Yay. He's like a friend's kid brother.  If I had another annoying nickname, I'd use it," Ray V told him.  He looked over as Jim walked in.  "Hey, the gang's all here," he said, letting Blair have his seat.  "Feel better yet?"

"No, for the third time in my life, I'm feeling rather homicidal," Blair told him, looking very serious.  "The last time I felt this way, I had to save both of us from Lash."

"Lash?" Ray K asked.  "That was you?"  Blair gave him a smug look and a nod.  "Damn.  Ellison, do you wear armor at home?  I've always wondered if there was more comfortable stuff out there."

Jim shook his head, breaking down to laugh.  "I probably should.  It's been nice, no one's shot at us in nearly a year now."

"Tried to kill us, sure, but no guns," Blair agreed, grinning at Jim.  "Thank you for saving me from the needles of doom."

Greg walked in with a small vial and handed it over, then gave Blair a hug.  "Mood affecter," he told him.  "It'd give them a reason to pick you up."  He looked at Jim.  "We're not sure."  Then he looked at Brass, handing over a paper.  "After careful distillation, we've found out it's like a negative version of Prozac."

"Joy," Brass said, waving a hand.  "Go away."


"No, I meant run away, kid," Brass told him.  "They're in town."

"Yeah, they were," Greg agreed, smirking at him.  "Your other Fed, Ray, did he look about six feet, thinning light brown hair, sneer permanently etched onto his gamey face?"  Ray nodded.  "Wearing all black and a blue tie?"  Ray nodded again.  "He just got caught."  He grinned, looking at Brass.  "He tried to break into my house.  Emilia made him sorry."  He bowed.  "So said the patrol people who went to pick him up for her.  He's in holding two with the special handcuffs on."  He grinned at him.  "But you're right, I'm leaving after tonight.  Emilia's already headed over here to join me.  We'll take Blair and Jim back with us.  We'll probably be back this weekend for a bit."  He strolled out, going to tell Grissom that since he was coming in.  "Hey.  Our house got broken into by the Fed buddy of the one you just picked up."  Grissom and Catherine both gave him a look.  "You remember what Emilia did when she came for me?" he asked with a grin.  Catherine burst out laughing.  "She did it in reverse for him.  He's in some pain right now, sitting in Holding two with the special handcuffs on.  The dart was a negative affecting herbal Prozac.  I've made an antidote and it's sitting in the fridge in the mason jar.  Use two tablespoons per ounce held by the dart.  Sandburg's down the hall in Brass' office.  Brass has the chemical analysis.  I'm leaving tonight.  I'll check in this weekend."

"That's fine, Greg.  Go as soon as she gets here," Grissom ordered calmly.

"Nah, I've got a few more samples to run and we'll be fine here.  I know the Feds take some with the IQ of a roach, but they're not quite that dumb."  He waved and went to his lab to finish up the work laying around.  He'd miss this place if he couldn't come back.  His wife was escorted in a few minutes later by one of the twins.  "Hey, Fred.  Thanks."

"I'm George," he lied, "and it's not a problem.  I'm keeping Tipsy from coming to help," he said with a faint grin.  "My woman's a fierce beast today."

Emilia looked at Greg.  "Did you give them the basket?"

"And some donuts I picked up on the way over," he said, giving her a hopeful look.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Greg," she sighed.  "I'm not that vulnerable."

"To me you are," he said firmly, staring her down.  She looked away, blushing.  "Don't argue, it's a natural imperative for me to want to protect you, to coddle you, and to make you wish I would leave you alone.  If you don't like it then I'll simply have to whine and complain to Tipsy and get her to sic the twins on you."  Fred snorted, shaking his head.  "Or do it herself."

"Fine," she sighed, giving him a hug.  "You can be a big worrywart.  I'll quit complaining about it."

"Thanks."  He gave her a gentle kiss.  "Go sit in the lounge.  I'm nearly done."  She nodded, heading that way with Fred.  She could tell the difference, Fred reacted differently, more carefully, around her and Tipsy's stomachs.


Vecchio opened the front door, yawning at the officer standing there.  "Yeah?"

"Detective, I'm here to escort you to the courthouse," he said calmly.

Ray nodded him inside.  "Just got up.  How long?"

"Ten minutes?  We can drive through somewhere to get you some coffee if you want."  Ray grunted and nodded, heading to take a quick shower and do what little hair he had.  Benny had worn out his frustration last night by ironing everything they had brought with them, including his suit for today.  In fifteen minutes he was ready and heading out the door.  He noticed the unmarked car and looked at the young cop.  "For safety reasons, sir.  Do you have a cellphone on you?"  Ray shook his head so he handed a prepaid one over.  "Here, just in case you need to call for help.  The night shift Detectives were very concerned about your safety.  You can refill the minutes at any 7-11, Wal-Mart, Target, and many other convenience stores.  Just in case."

"That's because on of our friends got attacked last night," he noted, climbing into the passenger's seat.  "I did rent a car."

"Yes, sir, we know, but we figured they'd be doing something soon since you're first to testify."  He backed out of the spot and down to the gate, waiting while they were let out.  "Is regular fast food all right with you or did you need something stronger?"

"Starbucks," Ray told him.  "I'm good enough with that."

"All right, Detective. If you say so.  Ours is a bit strong though."

"Eh, I had beer last night before the attack.  It'll eat that stuff instead of my stomach.  Besides, my sister makes coffee that can make a grown man cry and plead for mercy.  The whole unit has to drink it because she lords over the machine."  The cop chuckled, pulling into the nearest Starbucks drivethru.  By the time they got to the courthouse, the prosecutor was sweating and muttering.  "Calm down, I'm here," he announced as they walked up the hallway.  "We had a long night."

"I heard.  Was it related?"

"Nah, not in the least."  He sipped more of his coffee as he was lead to the special waiting room.  This would be his day for the next little while.


Greg trudged up the front stairs of Alex's house, knocking politely.  Aunt Cordy opened the door and immediately pulled him in for a hug.  "We weren't attacked, Blair was," he said quietly.  "They tried the house."  He let himself and his wife be pulled inside and put in front of a warm fire, snuggling against her side.  "Can't we fix this?"

"Sorry, I can't think how," she offered, stroking over his hair and down his arm.  "It'll be okay.  It'll be done with soon."

"What happened?" Des asked as she walked in with mugs of stuff for them.  "Drink first," she warned.

Greg swallowed some cider, then looked up at her.  "Thanks for taking us in again."

"It's not a problem," she promised, giving him a short pinch to the cheek.  "Now, what happened?"

"The Feds came after Sandburg," Emilia told her, sipping her own cider.  She noticed it was only cider, not hard cider like Greg's was.  His smelled really good but she understood.  "They darted him with something and then they left when they were caught.  I got the main guy trying to come into the house."  She sipped more of her cider, then rested a hand on her stomach.  "He'll live, so will Blair."  Greg leaned closer, giving her a kiss.  "I know, but I didn't want to have to move."

"We'll go back," Greg promised.  "They're not driving us off for very long.  I like my house, my job, and my coworkers.  If they try something, they're going to go down.  Even if I have to ask Alex for help."

"Carnage himself?" Des said dryly.

"Carnage?" Emilia asked.  "I've never heard him called that."

"Between his training and his graduation, the boy took a year off.  That's when the name made it into the popular press," Des said, sitting down in a nearby chair.  Her joints were aching again.  "The boy got into a lot of fights.  People kept coming up to him to test themselves against the great Dumass dueler.  And of course he won all but one of them."  She smiled.  "He forfeited one against some young girl, told her to come back when she was old enough to date without a chaperone.  She nearly destroyed the inn they were dining in.  Had to rebuild it too because Alex didn't participate in her tantrum."  She looked at them.  "The nickname Carnage was coined by his brother Justinius, the one we banished for demonic activity.   He called him that because Alex was nothing if not destructive in his youth.  The boy destroyed nearly everything he touched for the longest time.  It continued into his first year then it suddenly stopped.  Then it came out after he graduated."

"Did he play too roughly?" Emilia asked.

Des chuckled.  "No, dear.  He leaked magic constantly.  He and Harry have that in common.  I think his sexual nature is that same energy coming out in a more adult and acceptable manner."  She stood up with a slight moan.  "Greg, if you wouldn't mind, could you make me something for my joints tomorrow?"  He nodded.  "Good boy.  Thank you.  I've had you put into the room Tipsy used the last time.  You two behave and don't keep the rest of us awake."  She headed up to her room, a warm bath would help her aches and pains.

Emilia looked so sad.  "I think Xander's going to lose her again soon," she said quietly.

"It's the natural order of things, love," Greg reminded her.  "We'll help him through it if Draco needs us."  She smiled and him, then kissed him on the tip of the nose.  "Thanks."  He grinned.  "Want a bath?  I'll run you one."

"Greg, that's what elves or my own hands are for.  You can spoil me by giving me a backrub."

"Okay," he agreed, happy with that arrangement. As long as he got to spoil and fuss over her he'd be happy enough.


Xander looked up from his reading as the Hufflepuff door opened.  He had been waiting on Dawn because she had a new lesson to go over tonight from Wesley.  Instead, he got his cousin.  "Hey, Severus."  He put down his book and put up his feet.  "What's wrong?  Did Dawn get snatched by Ron again?"

Snape groaned and shook his head.  "Not recently.  Thankfully she wasn't touched when she went to the village in that dress."  He sat down next to the feet.  "I came to ask if you'd like to restart the dueling club I started to irritate Lockhart.  It would give you a chance to help the students with their fighting skills, but also a chance to fight a bit without getting into trouble."

Xander snorted.  "Did you hear about that challenge too?"

"Indeed," Snape said dryly, relaxing.  "The demented boy was bragging around the Slytherin common room.  He has been convinced he was an idiot and has withdrawn his challenge."  He glanced around then back at his cousin.  "It could be very helpful."

"Sure, I'm all for a bit of fighting," Xander told him, giving him a naughty grin.  "What happened to Sandburg?"

"He was hit with a chemical-laden dart and knocked unconscious.  They didn't know what that sort of thing did with our unique body chemistry.  Greg and Emilia are also headed for your house.  He called to tell me."

"Good.  Can I go do something about that?  Maybe kick someone's ass or memory charm them?"

"I doubt it would work, Alex."  He stood up.  "See me tomorrow night about scheduling."

"I'll even remind Draco not to cast snake charms at Harry," Xander agreed in his driest voice.

"That would probably be nice, yes," Snape agreed, looking amused.  "We'll try to keep those two from going against each other."   He left him there, going to tell the Headmaster of his desire.  The man would agree, it could only help.  He found him enshrouded in a green cloud and gasped, rushing forward.  "Albus!"

"I'm fine," he noted quietly.  "Simply meditating."  He looked at him.  "Was there a problem?"

"No, I came to tell you I was restarting the dueling club with Alex as my second."

Dumbledore nodded. "That is fine, Severus.  Have fun."  Snape nodded and left him there. Albus uncovered his crystal ball and scrying pool, going back to what he had been doing.


The next night found a large group of students in the Great Hall, looking at the teacher and the student.  "As you know, we tried his once before," Snape noted.

"Yeah, with the fake," Ron snorted.  Snape glared at him and Ron grinned.  "He was."

"He may have been, but this is not the venue to air that opinion.  Ten points off Gryffindor for it."  He looked at the other students.  "Since that time, I have been wanting to restart it, but could not find anyone as a worthy opponent.   Since we have an *expert* at it," he said, sneering at Xander for show, "we can proceed again.   Shall we, Mr. Dumass?"

"We shall," he agreed, taking off his robe.  "It is important that you be somewhat comfortable and not confined while you duel.  Any person with a touch of class and fair play in mind will at least allow you to take off your outer robe if you're wearing one, or a jacket if you're not.  If they don't, then expect them to play dirty," Xander instructed as he stepped onto the stage.

Hermione raised her hand. "Is that why all our robes are so tight across our shoulders?  To discourage us from dueling?"

"Indeed," Snape agreed.  He looked at opponent, taking off his own outer robe.  "It is also a good thing to keep that in mind when you choose your daily robes.  While I can fight in mine, I find it easier not to have to."

"And while my uniform was actually created with dueling in mind, because we did a lot more of that in our day, the robe is still a liability that you'll have to learn to overcome."  He raised his wand to salute his opponent with it.  "Ready?"

"Ready," Snape said, turning around.  They went back to back, then paced off the three steps, then turned.  He cast first.  "Somnulus!"

Xander stepped aside.  "Thanks for that but I didn't really need a nap," Xander countered with a grin.  "Ictus!" (Eat).  Snape ducked out of the way, glaring at him and he bowed in his best courtly manner.  "You wanted to make this a play duel?"

"Not any longer," he sneered, standing up straight.  "And the outcome?"


"Fine.  Pulsus!"(push).  Xander moved back a bit but stopped himself.  "Rutila!" (Shove).  This time Xander didn't move, simply stood there smirking at him.  "Forfeiting?"

"Not hardly."  Xander flicked his wand, a careless, graceful movement, as opposed to Severus' full-body movements.  "Vires Manus Ledo, Rutila!" (Hit with hand of power, shove)  A few of the kids 'ooh'ed as Professor Snape went flying backwards.  Some more clapped.  Xander bowed to them.  "Occularis!" he cast, making his cousin groan and try to clear his eyes.  "Did I win?" he asked.

"No," Snape ground out, pointing his wand in the general direction of Xander.  "Morsus Manus!" (Eat hand).  Xander laughed as he blocked it.  "Finite Incantanum," he hissed, clearing his own eyes.  He walked back up onto the stage, seeing the content, pleased, and smug look his cousin had on his face.  "We'll see who buys how many rounds, shall we?  Incidere nasal!" (Cut nose)   Xander ducked that one, coming up looking offended.  "You wanted a real duel," he noted.

"Yeah, I did.  Does that mean I can be myself?" Xander quipped, regaining his good humor.

"Fine, do whatever you wish.  I'll still beat you."

"If you say so, cousin.  Genu Adstringo!" (Bind knees).  He quickly followed his advantage with two more funny curses.  "Restituo Pedis Aurum!  Evictum Seata, Restituo Ferrum!" (Replace a foot with gold; remove hair, replace with iron)

"Extorqueo Venter!" (Dislocate stomach) Snape cast at the same time.  Then he let out a wordless shriek.  Xander had blocked his with another curse.

"Premo Auris!" (Squeeze ear).  Xander waved.  "Didn't like that?"  Snape growled so he gave it one last shot.  "Verto aurum pes quod ferrum saeta!" (Exchange gold foot and iron hair) He even used his showiest swish and flick at him for it, crowing his achievement.   Snape stomped forward, his iron foot clumping on the stage.  "You know, you look halfway decent as a blond," he noted.  Draco burst out in giggles and the rest of the students followed suit.

Snape faced his opponent and bowed.  "Fine, you win.  I'll buy you a butterbeer next trip into the village," he said coldly.

Xander gave him a gentle pat on the arm. "I warned you I was gonna be funny," Xander whispered.  Snape gave him a look, then down at his iron foot.  "Pedis Aurum!" he cast.  "Now they're matching," he said with a grin and a wink before bowing to the crowd.  "Come on, we performed beautifully, you can bow too," he encouraged. Snape gave a sketchy bow then face him again.  "Do you yield?" he asked formally, loud enough to be heard over the giggling.

"I yield," Snape said bitterly, but his eyes showed that he was enjoying this a bit.  There was actual mirth shining from them.

Xander winked. "Just think, we know all these things and they don't," he told him.  "They were in our books and not theirs."

Snape did smirk and chuckle at that.  "Very true."  He looked down.  "Mr. Weasley," he said, smirking at him.  "Come be our test subject."

"Yes, Professor," Ron said, giving Xander a look before he climbed up onto the stage.  "What are you going to do to me this time?"

"Aurum Manus!" Snape cast, pointing his wand at Ron's wand hand. "Now cast something simple," he ordered smoothly.

Ron tried to cast but nothing was coming out of his wand.  It was still normal but his hand was blocking it.  "Bloody hell," he said in delight.  "So that's why you do that!"  He looked at Xander.  "You mean we can change their wand hand and it'll block it?"

"Only if you change it to something denser that's not magical in its own right," Xander admitted.  "Verto Ferrum."  Ron's hand changed from gold to iron and he sagged with the extra weight of it.  "Now, do we need to have a talk about taunting your enemy?" he whispered.

"No, Xander," Ron said firmly.  "Even though you and Buffy do it."

"Yes, but we do it *during* the fight.  It's a distraction tactic to make them lose control *during* the fight."

"Yes, Xander.  Please let me go?"

"Fine," Xander agreed.  "Reverto ut viscus."  Ron sighed in relief and slid back into the student mass.  "Okay.  That was an advanced showing.  That is for serious battles, even though Professor Snape and I were playing.  Those are thing that you do when you're in deep shit and the world is going to end for you personally if you don't win."

"In other words, when you're going to die," Snape supplied at some of the clueless looks.  He looked at Xander.  "Be gentler with their little minds," he ordered.

"Fine."  Xander bowed to them.  "I know some of you have the basics, so let's move you up to the point where you can do your own formal duel.  Remember, duels are about honor, usually something saying you besmirched theirs or they've insulted yours.  This is not hexing in the hallways, nor is it for a real fight.  Real fights you don't wait and give your opponent an opportunity to respond."  They all nodded, seeing the sense in that.  "Who has done this before?"

Draco and Harry both raised their hands.

"We do not want to see another snake incident," Snape sneered at Harry.

"Then I won't," Draco noted as he hopped up.  "When were you going to teach me those?"

"When you showed how Slytherin you were and got into my old books," Xander said with a kind grin and a short kiss.  Some of the girls 'aww'ed.  "Thanks.  I think he's cute when he's stunned too," Xander told them.  "Turn, face your opponent."  He looked at Severus, who was behind Harry.  "You wanna switch, that way you don't break out in hives?  I've noticed you seem to be allergic to Harry."

Snape gave him a look.  "It's a mild reaction at best," he noted coolly, but he was trying so hard not to smile.  This cousin of his was rather entertaining.

"I've got some allergy medicine if you need it," one second year Hufflepuff offered.

"That won't be necessary.  I have some in my desk," he assured the clueless one.  He looked back to see Xander and Draco nearly breaking out in laughter.  "Shall we?"  Both boys bowed then turned and paced off.  The teachers got out of the way, knowing how explosive this one could be.

"I don't think that's a wise idea," McGonagall said from the doorway.  She walked in.  "Mr. Malfoy-Dumass, please pick on one of the Slytherins.  Harry has to go upstairs right now.  There's news he needs to hear."

Harry nodded and bowed at Draco again.  "I'll save it for the next insult," he said, hopping off and walking up to the office.

"Did you want to help, Professor?" Ron asked.

She looked at him and blushed a bit.  "No thank you, Ronald.  I remember Alex's dueling skills very well.  While we were in school, he defended the honor of every young woman who was not joined with a boyfriend."

"Which means I got into a lot for her," Xander shared, making her blush further.  "It's not *my* fault all of Ravenclaw wanted you, Minerva.  You were one hot chick in your day."  The girls blinked a few times, looking very shocked.

"I wasn't always old and wrinkled," she reminded them.  "I was your age once."  She looked at her coworker.  "That is a nice look on you, Professor Snape.  You should think about white gold.  Or perhaps rose gold next time."  She hurried out before he could retort.
Xander broke down in laughter.  "Oh, that was so cute," he howled, pounding his fist on the stage to control it.

"No, I don't think you'd look good in either color, Professor," Draco noted, not laughing because he had self-control.  "You in pink hair would be most distressing to the students."  He pointed his wand at the professor's heavy foot.  "Reverto ut viscus!"  Snape lifted his chin and looked at him.  "I don't know how to uncurse your hair," he admitted.  "I'm sorry about what my consort did."

"Things like that happen in duels.  Mr. Weasley, perhaps you should duel with Mr. Malfoy."

"No thanks," Ron told him, grinning at him.  "I don't like gold that much.  I'm much more a platinum and silver person."  Snape looked at him.  "Let Pansy.  She wants to kick his bum."

"Men should not duel girls unless there is no recourse," Draco told him.  "It is unmanly."

Ron looked at Pansy.  "Since when did you become a *girl*?"  She flounced off, huffing in disgust.  "Thanks."  He grabbed his wand and hopped up there.  "One less person standing on my foot."  He bowed to Draco and they moved back to back, pacing off.


Dumbledore looked up as Harry walked in.  "Good evening," he said kindly.  "I've got a floo call for you from LA.  Would you like some privacy?"

"No, that's all right," Harry said as he knelt in front of the fire.   "Hi, Cordy."

"Hi, Harry.  Tell the big dork that the house elf is very nice and thank him.  Angel's not having nightmares about her anymore."

"Okay," he said slowly, not understanding that one in the least.  "I will.  What's going on."

She grinned.  "The flea-bitten thing wants a word and only I could get this thing to work since I'm now part demon."  She moved and Sirius' head floated up.

"Hey, Harry," Sirius said, looking slightly tanned, a bit fit, and kinda happy.  "How are things going there?"

"Pretty well," Harry admitted.  "Xander was just showing us how to duel with Professor Snape.  They were going over some of the more advanced things.  Professor Snape still has gold hair and a gold foot."

Sirius laughed.  "If you can take a picture of that, please do."  He glanced at the head next to his.  "You can't go?"

"Nope, sorry.  It'll shut down if I do since your wand is still gone."  She grinned at Harry.  "Dueling?"

"Dueling.  It's an honor thing," Harry told her.  "Apparently my great-uncle is very good at it."  Dumbledore snorted something and got up, leaving them alone.  "Do you like LA?"

"I like it a lot," Sirius admitted. "There's no Ministry over here.  There's also not much in the way of things to do when you don't have a wand."  He gave him a begging look.  "Would you *please* tell Remus to send me my wand if he has it?"

"Sure.  I'll talk with him tonight," Harry promised.  "How's the hunting going?  I heard a few of us were moving now.  Greg and Emilia had to evacuate earlier."

"Dirt!" Cordelia sighed.  "We haven't heard anything yet but I'm sure I will."  She looked at Sirius.  "Would you please tell him that fashion is important.  It's like armor."

"It is," Harry agreed, stunning his godfather.  "Your appearance can be quite a lot of what impact you have on your opponent," Harry reminded him.   "You can change their view of how talented and competent you are with your clothes.  Xander uses it a lot to fool people into thinking he's a harmless klutz."

"He is a harmless klutz," Cordelia told him, giving him a look.  "Even if he becomes Merlin-like, he'll always be a harmless klutz."

"Who won the duel between your great-uncle and Snape?" Sirius asked.

"Xander.  He needed to play more but I think Professor Snape seemed to like it a lot.  He looked happy while they were dueling.  Xander is a lot better than Lockhart was.  Xander actually used something called a hand of power to shove him."

"That's all he used it for?" Sirius asked.  Harry nodded.  "Then he was just toying with him.  It's good to know that Snape's found someone who can beat him again."

Harry snickered.  "They're cousins, Sirius.  Xander's from the generation before Professor Snape but it's like two cherries on the same stem.  Besides, my cousin Holly can do that if my great-uncle doesn't.  You'd like Holly, Cordy, she's like an ungeeky version of Willow, only good."

"And she likes Snape?" Sirius asked.  Harry grinned and nodded.  "Why?"

"Because they suit each other."  Harry shrugged.  "I don't understand otherwise but she helps him in class, she's really nice.  Tara knows her I think."

"Hmm, we'll have to call Tara to get the lowdown on this new chick," Cordelia said thoughtfully.

"I can't believe Snape likes women," Sirius put forth.  "He always seemed very asexual."

"No, I believe they're having hot monkey love to use a Dawn phrase.  Speaking of which, she and Ron are having a bit of a spat."

"Really?" Cordelia asked, sounding casual.  "Why?"

"One of the guys copped a feel and she didn't hit him, only yelled.  Ron's still under the illusion that girls are really different than guys and that they shouldn't look like he still does sometimes."  He remembered who he was talking to.  "Please don't tell Buffy.  She'll kick his bum."

"And then some," Sirius agreed.  "Gold hair?  How did he get gold hair?"

"He originally turned it to lead and gave him a gold foot, then he switched them, and then he replaced the lead foot with the gold foot," Harry told him.  "I can ask Xander if you want.  I doubt it's a very practical skill."

"Actually, the lead thing might be," Cordelia pointed out.  "It'd probably slow something up very well."  A wobbly line went through the floo.  "What was that?"

"Interference," Sirius said.  "We'll let you go, Harry.  Pass on that message for me?"  Harry nodded, grinning at him.  "We'll see you soon, somewhere neutral."

"Bye, studly," Cordelia said, waving at him.  The link dissolved and Harry stood up, finding the headmaster watching him from a student seat on the other side of his desk.  "I didn't think the Americans had someone to interfere with the floo."

"They don't, but we still do," Dumbledore reminded him.  He gave him a little smile. "Is it what you had hoped for when they breached time?"

"It was the only way to save all the people in the city," Harry reminded him.  "Besides, it wasn't my plan.   I didn't have a thing to do with it.  Are they still in the Great Hall?"

Dumbledore nodded, standing up again.  "I'll walk you down, I'd like to see Professor Snape as a blond."  He walked the young man down the stairs and through the school, opening the door quietly and sneaking inside.  Professor Snape was standing beside it.  "Well, you do look good as a blond," he said happily.

Snape glared at him.  "It is only temporary.  Alex will be uncursing me later."

"That's fine.  Though I suppose you could cut it and cash in the gold if it's of good enough quality," he offered.  Snape sneered at him and his smile got brighter.  "Or I suppose you could ask Minerva to do it for you."

"That is a good idea, she can't be too busy tonight.  Alex is having fun teaching the children to be violent."  He left the room, going to have that done quickly.

Harry walked over to where Xander was standing.  "Why was Angel having nightmares about a house elf?"

Draco burst out laughing, leaning against Goyle to hold himself upright.  "Xander," he panted.  "So bad."

Xander sat on the edge of the stage.  "You know how there are some house elfs whose contracts get picked up by not-so-nice people?"  Harry nodded.  "Well, some of them have run away and there are people who capitalize on that.  In this case, I paid a bit extra to free her so she could be Cordy's housekeeper.  Otherwise we'd have to eat off dirty dishes the next time we visited."

"Yeah, but why was he having nightmares?" Harry asked.  Some of the other students were looking at them.  "Cordelia seemed really pleased, she said the house elf was great and thank you."

"I decided to be mean to Angel's poor mental condition again," Xander admitted with his usual sneaky grin, leaning closer.  "Did you know that you could rent a house elf to deliver a strip-o-gram?"  Harry went pale.  "So I paid a little extra to free the darling.  She was very nice when I interviewed her."

"Xander, you didn't," Harry said, looking disgusted.  Xander winked and stood up.  "That's just nasty."

"That's why he's having nightmares," Xander said proudly.  "It's even better than my Lockhart impersonation over the holidays."  He grinned at his consort.  "He helped me find the agency, they'd moved since I sent one to Bill for his birthday."

Ron looked up at him.  "What did you do to the poor, pitiful wanker of a vampire this time?" he asked with a slight smile.

"House elf strip-o-gram," Xander said proudly.  "She was freed right after."  Ron burst out in giggles, along with most of the rest of the students.

Harry shook his head.  "You're one of a kind, Xander Harris."

"I know," he said proudly.  "One of these days, you'll be just like me, Harry."

"Not if Dawn has anything to say about it," Dawn pointed out from her position.  "Xander, you didn't worry that it might make Angel happy?"

"No," he admitted, grinning and winking at her.  "Why would it?"  She shook her head, starting to laugh as well.  "Okay, who's next," he called.  "Up onto the stage and let's do this."

The next set were a pair of girls and they sighed at him as they climbed up there, giving him dopy smiles.  "Yes, sir," they told him.

Draco walked up and spanked Xander.  "That's for the badness.  Gryffindors don't do things like that."

"No, but Slytherins do," Xander reminded him.  "We'll work together on our next prank against Angel, dear."

"We'd better.  Otherwise, Spike might like some of it."

"Not if he knows what's good for him," Dawn said as she joined him, giving Xander a quick hug.  "You are so bad."

"Yes, I am," he agreed proudly.

"This is why I didn't want you to teach," Dumbledore pointed out from the doorway.  "So you wouldn't give the students any such ideas, Alexander."  He left them alone, sure that Severus was coming back.  Though he was laughing as he walked down the hall.  He ran into Minerva and Severus.  "House elf," he told them, still laughing.

"I sense Xander's hand in this," McGonagall pointed out as she led the way into the Great Hall.  "What did you do now, Mr. Dumass?"

"I just heard that the house elf strip-o-gram I sent to Angel worked like a charm," he said, obviously pleased with himself.

"House elf strip-o-gram?" Snape asked.  Xander nodded, still looking a little bit too happy.  "You are an odd duck."

"Harry says I'm one of a kind."

"Yes, because the mold was thankfully tossed out," Minerva told him.  "That poor thing."

"It freed her," Ron said, still grinning.  "She's now their housekeeper and general slime cleaner."

"Still."  She pursed her lips and walked out, laughing herself.  That was too good to miss.  If only they had a viewing portal to capture it.

Snape looked at his cousin.  "You are rotten," he told him.  Xander gave him a smug look so he left him with his delusions of being a 'good boy'.

The End.