He Needs It.
Xander looked at Ron, who was pleading. "We're leaving in two days, Ron!"
"Yeah, but I want to see Charlie before we go. Just to make sure he's all right and all that," he pleaded. "Please, Alex? I'm already packed but the last of my laundry. It shouldn't take more than a few hours? Please!" he begged. "Besides, it would get you out of Draco's hair so he could finish off the healing potions."
"Fine," he complained. "Back yard, now."
"Yes, Alex. Thank you." He gave him a long hug then headed to grab his jacket and boots, heading down the back stairs to the back yard.
Xander looked up. "Why me?" he complained. He headed out into the back yard, going to take Ron to the preserve. He took his hand and moved them, sending them to the welcome center. He nodded at Ron. "He wanted to check on his brother to make sure his head's still hard and intact."
"You must be Charlie's brother," the woman in the office said happily. "Let me call him for you. Apparated?"
"Kinda. I'm in deep because we apparated away from a dragon and they suspended my license," Ron said bitterly. "All political bullshit. They called me dangerous and reckless." Xander slapped him across the back of his head. "Sorry, didn't mean to swear in front of a lady," he said with a shy-boy grin.
"It's all right," she promised with a grin of her own. "They all do it now and then." She pushed a button on the board in front of her. "You should be fine if you wanted to wait outside. That way Charlie doesn't have to be mushy in front of me." She winked and they grinned, heading out to wait. She shook her head. "Poor Charlie, being caught up in politics. No wonder he came back even though he was on bed rest."
Ron beamed as Charlie came out of the woods, looking a bit confused. "I thought I'd check on you before we went to the city." He gave him a hard hug, back-slapping and all. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Ron. Hey, Alex." They shook hands. "Wanna come back to my hut?" They nodded, following him back. "I'm still on medical leave but that's fine. It's not much but it's home and no fussing people are around." He opened the door, waving them inside. "Don't mind the mess. I never clean. It gets trampled by a baby when I do." He shut the door, then opened it and let a small lizard looking creature out. "You know better," he called after it. He flopped down on his couch, looking at his brother. "Why'd you bring Alex?"
"Because the Ministry decided to yank my apparation licence after we got you out of that mess with the dragon," Ron said bitterly. "It's all political. They hate Alex and that he can do things they can't and don't know how to even detect." He sat down beside his brother. "How's your head? Mum'll want to know."
"It's fine, Ron. Still a bit of ringing in my ears but I'll be fine. I've had worse." He patted him on the arm. "How long before you go?"
"Monday, after Dawn's game," he said with a smirk. "She's gonna be great. We talked Oliver into teaching her some stuff last weekend. She still thinks it's only a game," he offered, "but she's learning quickly. Besides, she's the more experienced keeper in the school. They're playing Gryff. We're all going."
"Which side you gonna cheer for?" Charlie teased.
"Her, she'd kick my ass, man."
"You're probably right," Alex said dryly. He nodded. "I'm going out onto the porch so you guys can catch up. Call me when you're done, Ron."
"Sure, Alex. Thanks." He grinned at Charlie once he was gone. "Draco's been wanting left alone anyway. He's making our healing potions."
"I'm sure he's happier now," Charlie said sarcastically. "So, what else is going on?"
Xander looked around the porch of the small hut, then felt the familiar tingle start in his spine. He glanced around. "Here? Someone put a tomb here?" he complained quietly. He glanced around again, trying to get a directional signature, but he was too surrounded here. The woods had seen things die inside it and it was blocking what he was feeling. So he got down off the porch and headed in the direction he felt like, it was usually at least close to where he should be going. He finally got among the trees and felt it clearly, heading that way instead. He passed another tamer, or at least another guy wearing jeans and a sweaty t-shirt. "Where's the tomb around here?" he asked. The guy gave him a really odd look so he shrugged. "I'm a curse breaker, I was delivering Charlie's brother for his amusement."
"We don't entomb the former dragons. Why?"
"Because there is a tomb around here, I can feel it," he said with a small frown. "Never mind, if I find something I'll make sure you guys get part of whatever I find." He continued off, heading for the power he could feel. It was dark and evil, nasty and slimy feeling really. He found a few trees in his way but walking around them wasn't too bad. He passed by a dragon and warded himself quickly, remembering where he was. It wasn't just the thrill of the hunt this time, it was the thrill of not being hunted by something that could eat him. He passed by another tamer. "What's in this direction?"
"A few more nests," the woman asked, frowning at him. "Who're you?"
"I delivered Charlie's brother for a visit, but there's an evil something that way," he said, pointing in the direction he was going. He looked at her, seeing her confusion. "I'm a curse breaker, it's my affinity."
"Oh." She shrugged. "Not a clue unless it's one of the dragons."
"No, it's not something living. I'd be able to tell that," he said thoughtfully. "Fine, I guess I'll figure that out." He took off at a jog. It was very powerful if he had felt it that far off and things like that usually made people uneasy or desperate. If the tamers and the dragons weren't reacting to it, it had been here a very long time and was only radiating now and then. That was probably not a good sign; most things that radiated like that were calling out for new food sources. He wondered if they had lost a lot of dragons in that area. He continued on, passing by a few more nests that were drawing him but not like that tomb. No matter how much of a jewel affinity he had, the one against evil was stronger. He could ignore pretty things that got him paid to deal with this issue. He found a small lump of ground, a mound really, and a stone door leading into it. Yup, this was it. He looked around the mound first, trying to see if any other curse breaker had left a sign of being there. If so, he'd leave it alone. They did have some honor, or at least he did. Some of the curse breakers would cheerfully rob from each other for better pays. Those were also the ones who died faster, which meant he got to meet them at a whole different point in their life.
He couldn't find a mark anywhere, nor could he feel a magical 'sign' that some of them put up to claim spots. That would have given him a summary of what this thing was. It was intriguing but he could feel the evil oozing out now. Whatever this tomb held was starving for fresh meat and it had focused on him. He cast a 'reveal' charm on the door, the usual first step in any investigation of a new tomb. The words that came up were some he was vaguely familiar with. He pulled out his translating glasses to look them over. An invitation. "Enter ye who might visit with the God of Darkness for ye shall know no sweeter pleasure than his company," he read slowly. "Not good. Definitely not a good sign," he muttered. "It's either a pretentious wizard or something that a Slayer should handle." He considered it and cast a second charm, this one to reveal any preservation spells. Things that were keeping this 'God of Darkness' asleep or in stasis. Nothing. Not a single other spell on the door other than the invitation. At least from this side. Doors like this had a nasty habit of having all the spells on the inside, like the one that made it disappear once he was inside. He put a hand on the wall of the tomb, overgrown with plants in the time it had been here, and shivered in fear. This was wholly evil. Very evil and very old. He set a small fire and pulled out some of his emergency contact floo powder. "Gruinth, Paris Gringotts."
A goblin's head appeared in the small fire. It looked at the spot behind him, then at his favorite curse breaker. "We've been meaning to get you to get into that thing. Do so. You can keep whatever doesn't need to be stored."
"What is it? There's no markers or signs."
"That's because none of them have come back out," he said grimly. "We need this one gone, Mr. Dumass. It is your job since you are so good."
"Oooh, flattery," he said sarcastically. "I'm happy you finally learned that. How many decades did it take?"
"Seven. Now get inside and figure out what that is. It's dangerous. I can tell that from here and you're the best we have at handling dangerous things." His head disappeared, leaving a very dissatisfied Xander in front of the tomb.
Xander tossed down another bit of powder. "Charlie Weasley." Nothing. "Ron Weasley." Again nothing. "Damn it!" Where was his apprentice when he needed him? He looked at the door again, casting every reveal charm he could. Hopefully it would show him any spells that might be on the other side.
Charlie and Ron walked back into the welcome center/office, smiling and happy. "What's wrong now?"
"That one who brought your brother is a curse breaker?" Charlie's boss asked. He nodded, sighing a bit. Ron was groaning by now. "He met a few people and asked where the tomb was. He was wandering back toward where the flying ones were, but he was shielded from dragons noticing him. I'd like a copy of that spell if possible."
"We found it after the one that trapped us," Ron told him. "Which way?" Charlie pointed behind him. "Okay, we should probably find him. If it drew Xander like that it was either focused, unholy, or Druscilla." Both older men stared at him. "A vamp who likes him. Don't ask. She tried to break in the other night while Xander was gone," he said dryly. "Thinks he's hers and all that rot. Let's go, Charlie. We can chat on the way and you can see a bit of what I do," he said with a smirk for him. "Since I saw what you did."
"Sure, Ron." He waved at his boss. "We'll find him." He led the way out, heading to where the boss had said, back where the mountainous flying dragons lived. "What do you think it was?"
"I'm hoping it was a rich haul we can give you part of," Ron admitted. "It wouldn't be fair otherwise and maybe then you'd get a new couch that didn't double as a bed." Charlie snorted but gave him a little shove. "Sorry." He grinned at him. "True though."
"Brat," Charlie said fondly. "No broom?"
"Nope. It's packed already," he admitted. "Dawn is going to be pissed if I miss her first game of the year."
"Yeah, and she can probably kick your ass," Charlie agreed dryly.
Ron smirked at him. "Only if she gets sneaky and I'll withhold her chocolate and sex rations."
"That'd just make you suffer, Ron."
"Not really." He beamed at him. "She's having her cycle at the moment. Luna's keeping her moon potion in her things, just in case."
Charlie patted him on the back. "It's good that you appreciate her friends, Ron. Remember, no playing with Lovegood's demons. Mum would get really upset."
"I don't want to play with her hellhound anyway. It's got terrible gas. It farts more than Fred."
Charlie burst out in giggles. That was just so bad!
Xander finally gave up tapping his foot and decided to open the door slightly, just in case something popped out at him. He had been ordered but he still didn't like this one bit. If he didn't the goblins may make his life miserable for a few years and he'd get bad prices on everything. Nothing popped up as he pushed open the door a bit farther so he opened it all the way, leaving it open. There were torches, he could see them in the dim sunlight. He lit one with his wand and looked around from the doorway. No traps that he could see. A sarcophagus, but no traps. There were bits and pieces of art here and there in the room, nothing too grand though. No jewels, just some art, some vases, a few tapestries and a few chairs. He peered around the edge of the door, still not walking inside fully. He knew the door would seal itself once he was in there. He didn't want to take that chance. He backed up and made his own marker out of a piece of wood, sticking it prominently on the right side of the tomb, in the middle of some rocks. It gave his name, an evil marking, a dead person marking, and two warning markings. Not that Ron would follow those if he found it. Ron wasn't the most careful of people. He looked around again. Nothing had changed. "I knew I should have brought a weapon," he complained. He patted himself down, finding a shrunken carrier in one pocket. He pulled it open and smiled, sniffling a bit. "I love Draco. He tucked shrunken weapons in my jacket. He understands me," he said happily, choosing his katana. It grew in his hand and the rest were put into his pocket.
He walked inside. The door shut behind him.
"Oh, bloody hell," he complained. The torch had went out.
Ron's head popped up, making Charlie give him an odd look as he headed off at a dead run for the evil he could feel. Xander had sensitized him to it. And of course, that's where Xander would be, right in the center of it. He heard Charlie coming behind him and waved at him. "Slow down and follow. If it's an attack I don't want you up front," he called back before putting on a burst of speed. The evil feeling had ended. Either Xander was trapped or Xander had killed it. He found the tomb and paused to look at the marker Xander had left. "Wonderful," he said bitterly. "Alex?" No answer. "Alex? Come on, no more playing. If you're alive, give a shout!" He noticed the reveal charms were still active so that meant he had to be alive, spells like that wouldn't last past the person's death. He walked around the tomb, giving Charlie the time to catch up. "He's inside," he said as he joined him at the door.
"I never knew this was here and I worked here for five years when I first started," he complained.
"It's also not as strong now as Alex marked down," Ron said bitterly. "I'm guessing it's one of those that traps people and then slowly devours them somehow." Charlie looked a little green so he shrugged. "Some traps are like traps to catch dinner. Since it's not as strong as Alex marked and the evil feeling stopped when, I'm guessing here, the door closed, it's got him. I've got to go in." He hit himself on the head. "I don't have a weapon!" he said impatiently. He patted himself down, finding a stake. That was something at least. He found another one and handed that one to Charlie. "In case it comes out." He found his knife, which was very nice but still only about eight inches long. At least it was some sort of weapon. He looked at the doorway again. "God of Darkness. Another one?" Charlie gave him another odd look. "By Xander's stories about every seventh tomb is marked as 'here lies the God of Darkness." He shrugged. "A lot of people had very overblown egos." He pushed open the door, looking around. He couldn't see Xander at all. "Stay out here, Charlie."
"Fat chance, Ron. This thing is endangering my charges." He looked around too. "I don't see him."
"Which means there's a cloaking spell. He's in here but we can't see or hear him until we step inside, which is part of the trap. Xander, if you can hear me, move something." Nothing moved, which did start Ron to worrying. Or as Draco said it, turned him into a mother hen from Hell. He walked in and waved at Charlie to stay. Of course his brother didn't listen. As soon as they were both inside, the door shut and a trap door opened, sending them down to where Xander was browsing around. "The casket upstairs isn't the real one?"
"No, it probably is," Xander admitted, grinning at him. "I found the way up a few minutes ago. How long has it been?"
"I felt it shut off about ten minutes ago," Ron admitted, checking his watch. It seemed to be running at the correct speed. "I don't think there's a temporal component," he said with a small grin and a shrug. "So, God of the Darkness?"
"Yeah, I'm figuring it's either some sort of demon or some jumped-up wizard." He led the way back upstairs, pausing to look at the casket. "My glasses aren't working so some magic has been damped down."
"Is this Dracula?" Ron asked, staring at the coffin. "It's about the right part of the world."
"Nah, Buffy dusted him a few years back. Bugs taste gross," he admitted with a small grin. "No, this is a sheep of a whole different color. Vlad was annoying, lonely, and a bragger. This is evil."
"Aww, shit," Ron complained. "Goblins?"
"Apparently they want him dead so they can have his nasty, gaudy crap," he offered, pointing at a vase on a shelf.
"Oh, no, I want to be far gone if you're going to fight this thing," Charlie complained, backing away.
"Go ahead," Xander said, pointing at the blank wall. "If you can find it, you're stronger than he is."
"He'll have to die so we can open it," Ron told him, giving him a impatient look. "Has he been snacking regularly on the dragons or people?"
"We've always got some deaths, usually to old age or fighting. Nothing with *fang* marks." He leaned against a wall, then yelped and moved when he felt something behind him moving. "What is that!"
"I'd say it was skin," Xander admitted, coming over to touch the wall. "Yeah, that's covered in skin. There's probably bugs underneath it. That's what you felt. There's a chair so you can sit and wait if you want." Charlie gave him another odd look so he grinned. "He'll probably be up soon, he's got to be hungry if it let all three of us in. Otherwise we wouldn't have felt the tomb at all."
"So sit down before you become a snack," Ron added with a bright grin. "I'm going to be a full meal for it, but you'll be a hearty dessert or something."
"And I thought Bill was odd," he complained, sitting down as ordered.
"Alex warped him too," Ron said happily. He looked at his trainer. "The goblins really ordered us to?"
He nodded. "They said they'd been trying to get someone down here, but I'm doubting it for some reason," he said dryly. "Gruinth was not a happy goblin. He did say we could keep most of the nasty, tacky crap since they only wanted the unholy stuff." He pointed at some pictrograms on the wall. "Go for it, Ron, you need the practice."
"I hate the language lessons," Ron complained as he walked over to start working on them. These were pretty standard ones. "Let's see. Male, people bowing to him. We have a knight on a horse with a lance through his chest. We have a few more battles. Apparently this guy fought a lot of them." He looked at another section, frowning at it. "We have demon, making a deal. He's blowing it, or at the right height to do that. He's got a halo in the next one. Then he stands up and is taller than the people. A few more knights. A few maidens screaming and being carried off," he interpreted.
"Huh?" Charlie asked, getting up to look at them. "He is."
"Earlier people didn't always read so they wrote out their stories in pictures. It was more universally accepted," Xander reminded them, going back to looking at the sarcophagus. "We've got a name of a demon and it's unpronounceable. Not a prayer to him, but a warning against him." He looked back at the walls, looking at the end of them. "Find a way to kill or maim, Ron."
"Sure, Alex." He moved down the wall, finding the section with the last battle and the last maiden. "Apparently he stole one last woman and took her to his castle, which was near here. He was ...debauching the virgin by the picture when the villagers came in. The usual farm implements are drawn. Pitch forks, shovels. The guy tried to run, the woman stabbed him in the chest with a pointy wood thing, or at least it looks like a pointy wood thing instead of a pointy metal thing. The knife from earlier looked different. Then he was drug here by a team of horses without a carriage and dropped in here, where they sealed him in so his hunger for young woman would go away. When they came back, the cave was empty but the coffin, which held a sleeping him." He looked behind him, noticing the top had moved. He coughed and pointed at it.
Xander looked at the new crack, grinning and wiggling his fingers. "Hi. Let us go. Before I have to kill you. I should tell you I am an excellent demon hunter. I perfected my skills on a hellmouth." He moved back as the top came off and a beautiful woman came out. "Why are they always pretty?"
"To draw and tempt," Ron reminded him. "She's not half as pretty as Dawn or Draco. Even he's prettier than she is."
Xander looked this creature over, then nodded. "Good point. Let me guess, you're one of his women? Or are you a flaming transvestite demon?"
She let out a moan and rushed at him, fangs bared and mouth dripping with saliva. Xander side-stepped her. "Hold still!" she ordered. He chuckled and hit her, knocking her down. "You hit a woman?" she demanded.
"Well, yeah, when she's trying to eat me. I gave up on chivalry in the last century, lady." He grabbed the sword Ron tossed him. "Thanks."
"Welcome. Wood or metal?"
"Hmm. Not sure," Xander admitted. "What sort of demon are you, lady? Are you one that wood kills cleanly and mostly painlessly or steel?"
"Neither," she sneered as she stood up. "Only those of my blood can kill me."
"Well, we're all human and to some that means we're all related," Ron said cheerfully. "If not, I'm sure we can work around that."
"Ron!" Charlie said, giving him an odd look. "What's gotten into you?"
"Seven years of practice fighting with Harry," he said with a smug look for his big brother.
"They taunted Snakey too," Xander said dryly. "Ron told him if he was as ugly as Snakey, he'd kill himself."
"Ron," Charlie moaned, shaking his head. "Mum's going to kill Harry for making you this way. You know that, right?"
"Welllllll," Ron drawled. He grinned again. "She already knows. She's known since the final battle." He suddenly turned and punched the demon coming for him, sending her into a pile on the floor. "Only my lady gets to nibble on me, bitch. Get over it. Xander's gay, I'm taken, and my big brother's got better taste than *you*."
She moaned and crawled away, looking at them. "I'm sorry." She ran up the hidden stairs, going to wake her master.
"She's going for the big guy now. Ron, search and destroy down here." He headed up after her, looking down in the coffin at the guy in there, then at her. "He doesn't look very inviting. Why did you take up with him?" He staked the demon, but it screamed and reached for him. "Huh, not wood. So let's try steel." He swung and cut off the arm, then looked at the guy. "Hi, how are you?" The man moaned as he got up, holding his stump. "I'm Alex Dumass, you're wanted dead. Sorry about this." He attacked them both, driving them against a wall where he could feel a trap waiting. It grabbed them for a moment, and he got them both in the chest, then swung at her head. It came off and she shriveled up, falling to dust as she rapidly aged. He looked at the struggling man, then backswung at him, having to take another swipe just as he got free. His neck was really hard! He chased him, getting in another one. This demon crumbled and the door disintegrated, along with everything else in the tomb, leaving them with an empty pit and a mound overtop, with an open hole. "Someone will have to clean this before a dragon claims it," he told Charley. "It still reeks of unholiness." Charley just numbly nodded at him. "Did you fall and hurt your head more?"
"No," he said weakly. "I was watching you. You're very good with that sword."
"I could make a crude comment that I'm good with many swords," he said with a smirk, "but I'm nicer than that to you Weasleys." Ron snorted. "Keep it up, *apprentice*, and see how many nasty jobs I can find for you. Remember, someone's got to tend the outhouse and latrine system."
Charley laughed, giving him a hug and a clap on the back. "You're mean, I like that about you. Especially when you do it to Ron." He looked around. "We done?"
"Not quite," Ron admitted, pointing at the pile of stuff in the corner. "What's that?"
"That would be," Xander said, walking over there to pick it up, "ah, the assorted crap off his victims. Not much jewelry, some clothes and stuff." He bundled everything up into a cloak and gave it to Charley. "There, hold that." He looked up. "Have I ever taught you the rope ladder trick?"
"Is that like that Indian trick with the rope that stands upright?"
"Not quite," he admitted, casting a quiet spell. A rope ladder shot out of his wand, hooking into the wall around the opening. "There we go. Very handy in emergencies." He wandered up, finding a few people standing there. "The evil, unholy, nibbling thing is gone." He helped Charley out, then Ron. "There you go." He uncast the rope and looked down in the hole, then at Ron. "Forget something?" Ron sighed and summoned the sword he had taken from him, handing it over hilt first. "Thanks, Ron." He checked his carrier then summoned his katana, going to clean it off on some nearby grass. "Ah, better now," he admitted, sticking it on his back with a sticking charm. "You'll need to clean it of the unholy stink before you let anything burrow in there," he told the nearest tamer. "Otherwise I'm not sure if the thing can be tainting and that'd be a shame." He walked Ron off. "You done with your visit?"
"Sure. Later, Charley!" he called, turning to wink, grin, and wave. "See you soon. Come to our village if you can for a few days."
"Sure, Ron," he called dryly, waving at him. He saw one of the bosses and handed him the bundle. "The stuff the demons stole off their meals." He walked off, shaking his head. Now he knew his brother was insane. He was learning it from Alex!
"What just happened!" one tamer yelled after him.
"That was Alex Dumass," he called back, not turning around. "There was some demon in there with his girlfriend."
"Fine," she sighed, shaking her head. "I didn't know they were *all* like that." She wandered off muttering as well, taking the bundle of stuff with her back to the office to drop it off.
Halfway around the world in Las Vegas, Greg Sanders, grinned at his boss as he came in. "Hey, Grissom, what's wrong?"
"Two things," he said, looking at him. "I'm still missing a sample." A paper was handed over with a flourish. "Thank you. You applied to do field work and you're not following anyone around?"
"I got told to go away by Catherine. She's got a headache."
"Ah." He nodded. "That's fine. Grab your kit, I'm heading to an older scene. We're looking for new evidence." Greg beamed at him. "How many more samples?"
"Eighty billion," he said dryly.
"Then you should probably do that one first. The next scene when you've got time, you'll go with me." Greg hugged him. "You're welcome. Get off me." Greg let him go, grinning at him. "You'll do fine. Find yourself an apprentice for in here if you're serious. We'll need someone's name almost immediately if you can hack it. For now, I'll keep you as training now and then." Greg nodded, understanding that. "So, get to work. The sooner you're done, the sooner you can follow me around." He walked out with his sample, then came back. "What's this?"
"What the sample said. I sent it to Hodges once I saw that it was feline DNA."
"Thank you." He went to talk to Hodges, who would have something for him probably. He was good about that and liked to brag.
Greg plugged in his ear bud, calling the house. "Honey, guess what, I get to follow Grissom around for field training," he said proudly. He sighed and rolled his eyes. "It won't be that dangerous, I promise. No, it won't be, Emilia. I promise it won't, Mil. Please?" he begged. "Sure, later tonight." He grinned. "Love you too. Laters." He hung up and turned up his CD again, going back to grooving to his samples. It was going to be a long night but maybe tomorrow he'd get out of the lab. He'd do research on his choices for a new DNA tech when he got home. There were a few wizards in the field and he could use another one around here, maybe.
Tipsy Ramvette walked into the shop in London, looking at her husbands. They were giving her sheepish looks. "What did you break?" she teased.
One handed her a present. "Our promise to not celebrate your birthday," he said sweetly.
The other handed her a present wrapped in opposite colors with the same shy grin. "We thought you needed it anyway. You can say they're just because presents if you want."
"You two are such big goofballs," she said, but she was smiling. She sat down to open them, smiling at the Canadian maple sugar candy in one, and the Canadian weekend away in the other. "Think I'm missing the snow?" They nodded, beaming at her. "Who's babysitting?"
"Mum," they said in unison, smirking wickedly.
"She's already said..."
"They'd adore it."
"So we're set," they finished together. They smiled as someone came in. "Welcome..."
"To Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes."
The girl giggled. "You two are so cute." She went to browse in the section marked for her age. "What's this do?" she called, holding something out the end of the aisle.
Fred looked and smirked. "Makes you blow lit farts."
"It's a real blast around Hufflepuff from what we hear," George offered.
"I'm sure Dawn thinks so," she agreed. "Her game this weekend?"
"We already told her," George promised.
"She agreed," Fred finished, kissing her on the cheek. "Now go plan naughty things to blow us up." She chuckled but went back to her lab. They beamed at each other and he went to help the girl pick out things. She probably didn't want the boyish stuff. He motioned her over, pointing at a section of 'girl' pranks. She punched him on the arm and dug in, picking out a lot of stuff from in there.
She brought her selections up, including a package of the fart lighting stuff. "My sister's bringing her new boy home tonight for the first time and he's a stupid git," she admitted. "Gotta show my bum," she said fondly. George grinned and handed her something with a wink, ringing her up. "Ooh, this'll be fun," she agreed, tucking the zombie patches into her bag. Her mother had told her to get some party favors for tonight. She decided to put one of the zombie patches on now, just to see the effect.
The twins listened as the sister and mother caught sight of her. "Mother, make her take it off!" a younger woman screamed. "She looks like she's a nasty, rotting corpse!"
"Dear," the mother said patiently. "That's not the sort of favor I meant." Her daughter obviously handed her something. "Well, I do like this one. I'll have to remember this for the next one. By the way, those *do* come off, correct?" The daughter grinned and nodded. "Good girl."
"Why is it I bring home a perfectly nice boy and you two sabotage him?" the older daughter said angrily, complete with a delicate foot stomp.
"Because you've got crap taste in men," the younger daughter said patiently, just like her mother. "Why can't you date a guy we might like?"
"Why would I want to give you any ideas?" the older sister sneered.
"Like I need your pitiful men," she snorted. "I'll have them all begging when I'm at Hogwarts."
George walked over and stuck his head out the door. "Ladies, the best way to find good men is to let your friends pick them for you. That's how we found ours." He grinned at the daughter with the zombie patch. "Those take alcohol to release, ma'am, just press a cotton ball to the center." The mother nodded, pinching him on the cheek as she led her girls off, still fighting. He pulled back, chuckling madly.
"See, you should let Hortense find you one," the younger daughter agreed. "She's got a cute guy even though she's fugly. Plus he's got a job. It's a great change from yours."
"Enough," the mother said patiently. "Chad is a wonderful boy. I wouldn't mind one like him a bit as a son-in-law."
"Fine, I'll go steal her guy," the older daughter said, flouncing off to go shopping for a new dress.
The younger daughter leaned against her mother's side. "Don't worry, mom, I have better taste," she promised, grinning up at her.
"I know you do, dear. I gave you mine, even though I was momentarily stupid to marry your father." She walked her into the dress shop, wincing at the scream. "The Weasleys made them."
"I should hope so!" Madam Rosemerta shouted. "Boys!" They both stuck their heads out the door. "What is that?"
"Zombie patch," Fred said with a grin.
"Comes off with an alcohol ball on the center."
"Fine." She slammed her door, going to get that poor child a pad of alcohol. That was just disgusting. You could almost see worms crawling in the sore. You could see them moving underneath the muscle showing.
The twins high-fived. "Another successful product," they said in unison, going to tidy the shop for a bit. Their wife needed some time to be brilliant before one of them went in there to give her naughty ideas.
Xander looked up as Draco joined him after the game, grinning at him. "You still think Dawn can't play?"
"I think she still needs training," he admitted. "She's getting better, but she's still not at yours, mine, or Potter's level. She's below Weasley's really," he said dryly. "She'll learn and soon outpace him." He nodded at his head of house. "We're leaving tomorrow for the desert. Wish me luck finding a well."
Severus Snape snorted and shook his head. "I doubt you'd find one in such an ancient city.
If there was one, it'd be in use today. The native cultures are like that in those sort of areas." He looked at Alex. "Are you sure you want to take those three into the desert?"
"Easier to bury them when they annoy the hell outta me this time," Xander said dryly, smirking at him. "Like going off in multiple directions in a bazaar in Brazil." He glared at Draco, who only beamed. "Next time, listen."
"Of course. I figure there'll be traps and things there. Hopefully we won't die from them?"
Xander shrugged. "It's more than possible. Traps are like that you know." He smirked. "That way I'm sure you'll follow orders." He waved at Snape, strolling off to talk to Professor McGonagall.
"Your grandson would be horrified at how you want to treat us," Draco called after him. He looked at his former mentor and shrugged. "He would, as I am. Did you manage to get those serums done?"
"I have," he admitted. "I have them ready to administer whenever he's ready to make you all suffer."
"Oh, pleasant. Wonderfully so. Since he's in a bad mood anyway. Alex, he's got those serum's done for our inoculations!"
"I'll come watch them in about twenty minutes," he called back. "Get the other two boys."
"Oh, now I'm the butler too?" he asked sarcastically. "See if you get laid tonight." He pulled his wand. "Accio Potter. Accio Ron Weasley." They both flew at him and he neatly sidestepped so they fell on the ground near his feet. "We're ready to do the inoculations. Alex said to gather you," he noted dryly, following Snape inside. "Do you find the Tintanbaum healing syrup difficult to make around here because of the ambient moisture in the air, Professor Snape? I chose it because we're going to a desert and all the ingredients are desert ingredients, easily available down there."
"I do," he admitted quietly in his usual near-hiss. "I find that the Incula is usually easier and most of the time you'll find that the ingredients are common enough to find in any good herbalist's shop."
"Yes, but I'm not sure where the nearest store would be to that city," he admitted. "We'll be about six hours from the nearest town by the maps Gringots sent, and I want to be able to grow them or find them locally if I must."
Snape nodded, considering that. "There's a particular version of Incula you should look at then," he decided. "It's not well known, but it is very strong for things like scorpion's stings and the like. I'll pull the book with it down so you can look it over while we inject you with horrible things."
"Thank you. I'd like that," he agreed dryly. "I know you'll enjoy giving us shots."
"No, I'll be watching. Madam Pomfrey has that honor. I'd never take away her fun," he said as he opened his classroom door to let them inside. He found that book and handed it over while he summoned Poppy and the boys. So what if they hit a few walls on their flight down to the dungeons? They probably did something new to deserve such treatment. Even if they hadn't, he did enjoy a spot of torture now and then, he had learned how to enjoy it from Draco's father.
Greg looked up as Nick stuck his head into the lab. "You didn't hand me anything yet," he said at the opening mouth.
"No, not that. There's some mail for you outside. Small package. Grissom said the owl can't come in this time."
"Sure." He popped another life saver and walked through the nearest side door, running into Hodges on his coffee break. "Nice night," he offered, whistling lightly. The owl flew over and landed on his arm, dropping the package into his hand. "Thank you," he cooed, scratching her head gently. "Do I have to make a return?" He pulled some owl treats out of a pocket and let her have them from the palm of his hand.
"I still say your kind should be able to find a better way to do the mail, something faster that wouldn't have animal rights activists up in arms."
"Some of us do use email, but most of us are a traditional lot," Greg said dryly. "Most homes don't use electricity, they use candles."
"Eww," he said, shuddering. "Something from the school?"
Greg looked at the return address on the package. "Nope, the Ministry." He looked at the owl. "Why don't you head to the local owlry and rest, sweetling?" She hooted and flew off, going to do just that. Greg opened it, taking the note out but leaving the other things inside. "Hmm. Someone over there knows I work on cases and things and wants me to figure out what's wrong with the sharer." He walked back inside, taking it back to his lab, taking the time to glance over the full details. "Not much sent," he complained. He touched his tattoo and sent a quick message to Severus that he needed the full details of what had happened, including patient and healer facts, that way he could make a full investigation of the accident's causes.
"On a break?" Ecklie, the lab supervisor said from the doorway.
"Yeah. I'm running too many things at the moment to start something new," he said dryly, going back to his reading.
Greg looked at him. "Something I got sent to look into. A bit of private research." He tucked it into his pocket, then looked over at his printer. "I don't think you gave me anything to deal with tonight, Ecklie. Did the dayshift guy say he left you something?"
"You're a smartass," he sneered.
"No, I'm a Sanders. You're a lab dictator. Get it right," he said snidely, glaring at him. "I'm not your dayshift guys, Ecklie. I'm one of Grissom's crew, and I'm working on nightshift cases. If you *hired* a person to do swing shift, we wouldn't get so backed up all the time."
"What did you call me?"
"What you are," he said, smirking at him. "By the way, how's Ethan?" The man went pale. "Ah, I take it he's good then?"
"How did you know?" he ground out.
"I know Luna."
"Then you...." Greg shook his head. "How do you know her then?"
"We share an association in the same organization, we knew her before she even heard of Ethan." Ecklie swallowed. "So, unless you're here for results, out!"
"You're him. You're the one doing the research," he said coolly. Greg shrugged but didn't deny it. "You think you're going to stay in this lab?"
"No, I think I'm starting my field training so I can be a real CSI," he said dryly. "Out. Now. Before you contaminate the samples by shedding sweat or hair." The director stomped out. "Bastard." He looked back at his printer as things started to print out, putting them with the proper samples. He started the next batch and pulled out the device to look it over, checking for any non-standard wiring or anything. He glanced around before using his wand to open the sharer's panels, staring at the mass of wires. "You're not usually this complicated," he complained, looking for scorch or singe marks. He didn't find any so he glanced around before putting it back together, finding Grissom in his doorway. "Sorry, boss, bad night for him?" He handed over the pertinent results for him. "Plus, Cat's and Warrick's too," he said fondly, grinning at him.
"It's called a sharer. Healers use them. This one fried the healer using it and since someone over there realized what I do here, they sent it to see if I could figure out why." He let him see it. "One part's the patient's. The other's for the healer."
Hodges stuck his head in. "You might want to whammy Ecklie again," he said sarcastically. "He's complaining to the sheriff about you."
"Yay," he said dryly. "Want to help me test this later?" he offered. "It won't hurt, much."
"What is it?"
"It's called a sharer. It's so a healer can see and feel what's wrong with a patient when they can't respond."
"Like they're unconscious?" Hodges asked. Greg nodded. "What does it do?"
"It mimics the pain the patient would be feeling so the doctor can see exactly where it is and how bad. It's a neat little device."
"I'd say it'd be helpful," Grissom said, handing it back. "Do it on your own time, Greg."
"Of course. I only have half a billion samples left," he said with a grin for his boss. "Want to help, Gris? We need someone with a young and flexible mind."
He smiled. "I'm not that young, Greg. Ask Nick, he's stumped and it may give him a few clues."
"Sure," he agreed happily, smiling as the sheriff came in. "Sir, did you have samples leftover from Dayshift?"
"Because I'm presently doing their overrun. Just wondering."
"What's that?" he asked, pointing at the device in Greg's hand. "Some new lab equipment?"
"No, actually it's experimental," Greg told him. "It's a pain mimic for when doctors have an unconscious patient. That way they can easier diagnose and treat more quickly."
"I see." He smiled. "That's very innovative. Yours?"
"No, a friend's. I'm just testing this one. The other few he's testing didn't have a problem but this one did. He wanted to know why. I need two fairly open-minded people to help me after work tonight. I've asked Hodges, but I'm not sure if he'll be done in time either."
"Not with my backlog," he admitted, heading back to his lab. Greg was being mean and it made him so pleased that the young kid was taking his advice.
"What's it do again?" the sheriff asked.
Greg held up a hand and popped the backs off the devices, putting them in the sterilizer just in case. "One is put onto the patient," he said, holding up that part. "The other is put onto either a nurse who's going to be standing in a corner giving a report, or a doctor who's doing first responder stuff. The device mimics the pain the patient's in on the doctor's body, just like they're feeling it, so they know what's wrong and where. So you could bring in someone unconscious from a car accident and know exactly what's hurting him before ordering specific x-rays, medication for pain, or anything else. He's got a few in use in England."
"That's...." He smiled. "That's a very good idea. Are you getting partial credit for this?"
"He may use me as a source if asked about any problems. He's an old friend. I went to school with him."
"Very interesting. What sort of person would help you?"
"I need someone with a low pain tolerance, so we only have to do gentle things, like stubbing a toe sort and the like, and someone with a fairly open mind. They've got to be receptive to the idea that it would work. Like a lot of other devices that are considered fantastically magical and innovative, you've got to believe that it'll work for it to have the most impact on you."
The sheriff smiled and nodded. "I see. You wanted Hodges?"
"I did, but if he's that backed up, I can't take his time away from the lab. I need someone who can give concise reports on what they're feeling so I make sure that the mimic is in the right strength first. See, I figure the problems were caused by one of three things. Either the person doing it was using some sort of amplifier, probably because he couldn't feel the mimic very strongly, and got overloaded. He could have been using it on a problem that shorted out his mind, like a man feeling a woman giving birth. That's not something that the body's used to and it can shut down in the face of unusual stimulus, or I figure someone was using it at the wrong time and as the wrong sort of receptive person. Some people can still have bad reactions to pain."
"Why did you insult Director Ecklie?"
"Because he was hanging around my lab," he said dryly, smirking at the man. "I asked him if he needed test results from a late case from dayshift, then I noted that the labs wouldn't be so backed up if we worked with a swingshift person. Sure, there are slow days, but I only work eight to ten hours a day and so does the dayshift person. When there's a big scene or a lot of crimes that day, we're backed up, which is slowing the efficiency of the other CSI team members and making them stand around waiting on us. Director Ecklie is responsible for deciding not to hire a new swingshift person and to keep us overloaded and under peak efficiency. Just ask Grissom."
"I did think we should have hired one," he agreed. "Even if they were only part time. But then again, Greg's getting ready to start field training so he'll have an apprentice in to help him," he said, staring him down.
Greg beamed. "Also, I'm amazing enough to have a possible list of people for you to offer an interview to," he admitted smugly. "When I called home, I had her look up the current standings and made my shortlist from the list she sent me." He handed them to Grissom with a flourish. "The top three are a lot like me in some ways. The bottom three aren't at all but they're all rated very well and all have published in the field. As you can see, some of them come from the same areas. Personally, I want to meet that one in Chicago first. I've heard about her and she's pretty neat sounding."
"Thank you, Greg," Grissom said, shaking his head. "Only twelve?"
"I had thirteen but I knew that one and called him. He yelled and said he didn't want the pressure. He's in a small, back woods department so he doesn't get a lot of pressure."
"What about a student?" the sheriff asked.
Greg shook his head. "I wouldn't take the chance on that, sir. Even if I could finish their training and they could do their internship here, it'd take me from my field training to watch over them and mentor them. Now, for a swingshift person, I'd agree to that. That way there'd be some overlap and both myself and dayshift DNA can watch over them. Also, having someone coming in to do the swingshift as an intern would save the lab a lot of money and time. Even on the slow days, they could study and learn more things from the rest of us."
"I like the way you think, Sanders. Grissom, help him with that. Good luck in the field, son. I hope you can hack it. You sound like you're excited about that." He walked off, going to tell Ecklie that he was going to be helping Greg test that device, that way he could claim some glory for himself, and about the idea to hire an intern for swingshift. It was a good idea, wouldn't cost them anything, and would get them some notoriety for training such an excellent new lab tech.
Grissom checked the halls. "How many of these are wizards?"
"The top five. The one in Chicago I know is, I know she's disgruntled because she was yelling at Kowalski the last time I called him, and she was complaining about the cold winter that they're starting." He grinned. "She's also rated very high, has published, is female so you'd have a better balance in the lab and Sara might find a girl she might like, and she's used to the odd and freaky because of who she's been dealing with."
"Talk to her first," Grissom agreed. "I want a final list of five on my desk in three weeks." Greg beamed. "Who did you want to help you torture Ecklie with that?"
"I suggested Hodges, but he was too happy about me being mean," he said with a small cackle. "I'd ask Nick, but that's mean too."
"It is," he agreed. "I'll offer the position around and let them know it's a small pain in the making." He looked at the printer spitting out more papers. "Any for me?"
"Dayshift," he complained. "I'm still working on some of last night's and most of day's samples. I left and we only had two left to run. I started them when he came in. He left me about three hundred samples." Grissom winced. "So, like I said, billions and billions."
Grissom nodded. "I understand, Greg. Do whatever you have to do to catch up as long as it's legal and ethical." He went to talk to the others, hoping to find someone who'd want to help Greg torture Ecklie, just so he could watch and smirk fondly at him.
Ecklie stormed up the hall and leaned into Greg's lab. "Do you still need help testing that device?" Greg nodded, glancing at him. "Good. Find an intern as well as your replacement. I don't have time to do the interviews." He stormed off, going to complain to Grissom about how slow his people were.
"Hmm, should he be giving or receiving tonight?" he mused as he worked.
Greg looked at Hodges, then at Ecklie, grinning at them both. "Okay. I've checked the devices, they're in good working order. The mimic was set at the appropriate strength."
"Doesn't that cause confusion?" Hodges demanded. "People feel the same pain differently."
"Not really," Greg said. "It's a mimic. So, while you'll feel pain, it's not your pain, it's their pain that you'd be feeling."
"That sounds like telepathy," Ecklie snorted.
"Did you want receiving or patient?" Greg retorted.
"Sure." He walked over to the devices he had put out on a sterile tray. "Take off your shirts." Hodges gave him an odd look. "It goes on the back of your shoulder," he told him. "I can put it on Ecklie's stomach or chest." Hodges groaned but did as ordered, taking off his labcoat and shirt, putting them aside. Greg stuck the patient's box on Ecklie's upper chest, then let Doc Robbins, the ME, put on the EKG's leads to make sure that he'd be fine. He had gotten a big thrill out of this experiment too. He walked over, putting the other box on Hodge's back. "It's sterile. I did the pins myself to make sure," he offered at the odd look he was getting. He put the device on the pad of muscle between Hodge's shoulder and spine, then flipped the blue switch, making him hiss. "Easy there, it's not a problem. It's even got quick release on your side," he said quietly. Hodges sat down and let the ME put the EKG leads for him on his chest. "Okay. So let's start small." He walked over and picked up a brick, going to drop it on Ecklie's shod foot. Both of them yelped in the same key. "Hodges, what did that feel like?"
"A brick or something on his toes." He looked back, they weren't facing the same direction. He then looked at Greg, noticing his small smirk. "I usually feel it much more strongly when I do that to myself."
"Then you're feeling it at his level, which means the mimic is indeed set at the right level." He went back for a reflex hammer, going to bang on Ecklie's knees. Then he pulled out a real one, cracking him a good one on the knee cap once he had established that Hodges' knees were also reacting properly to the reflex hammer. Both men yelped again and he nodded. "That, Hodges?"
"Hammer?" he groaned, rubbing his knee.
"It sounds like it's set correctly," Doc Robbins agreed. "What next?"
"Small 9-volt with leads," Greg offered, grabbing it before Ecklie could move and putting it on his stomach. Hodges only giggled a bit but Ecklie wiggled to get away. "Hodges?"
"I've done that to myself before. I had an electric razor that used to give off shocks. Felt about right though." This was kinda fun if he could ignore the small amount of pain. The next pain was larger and came after Greg's 'oops'. "Ow!" he complained.
"Sorry, I meant to drop it on his foot, not hit his calf," he offered. "You okay? Doc, any change on the EKG?"
"No, not at all." He looked at both of them and shook his head. "Not a bit out of the ordinary."
"How much longer?" Ecklie ground out.
"Only one more test and I can't use you for this one," Greg offered. He sighed and looked down at the device. "Flip the blue switch, push the red button on the back." Ecklie did so and tugged, wincing and making Hodges yell. "Hold it. Hodges, was that more intense than pulling on this thing?" He got a nod. "Interesting." He gave it another yank, glancing at the EKG's. "Doc?"
"Definitely more intense." He came over to watch Greg disengage their boss. "You should probably rest," he said, taking off the leads. Ecklie grabbed his shirt and limped off, favoring his sore leg.
"What was that?" Hodges groaned, holding his stomach.
"He didn't take out all the leads at once," Greg said, looking at the device. "Hmm, center pin's bent." He flicked that one with his finger and Hodges stiffened. "Hurt?" He got a nod. "Then I know what's going on. It removes the same way, doc, if you wouldn't mind?" He shook his head and went over to undo him. "There's two red buttons."
"Ah. That's why it only halfway came out." He undid the other button and let Hodges go, letting the other CSI staff help him to a chair and get him calmed back down. "What was it?"
"The middle pin holds the spell that makes it work," he said, coming over to look at it in the light. "Yeah, it's not only bent, but the use of that single one would have been worse." He looked over as Brass walked in and tossed him an envelope. "Floo?" He nodded. "Cool." He opened it up to read it, then nodded. "It was used on someone who had just underwent what I did that time." He looked at the device, then gathered them both up, going to sterilize them and check the spells.
"Huh?" Hodges asked.
"That same thing that hit him in the hallway that time," Brass told him. "It hit the patient part of the equation. So, how did it go?"
"Ecklie limped out," Grissom said fondly.
"Next time, I'll take patient," Hodges complained.
"At least they know now," Sara offered gently. "It could have been worse, he could have needed the long series of tests."
Hodges gave her a hurt look. "I treat you guys better than that."
"And Greg gave you the easier job," Grissom reminded him. "You did good. Helped him figure out the problem."
"Ah-ha!" Greg shouted, coming back into the room. "It is that middle pin being bent. Even the manuals say not to only use the middle pin and never to use it if bent. So that's what happened, it amplified the pain mimic off someone who was in extreme pain." He beamed at that. "Solved."
"Will they accept that?" Sara asked.
"Yeah, I can prove it," he assured her, beaming at Grissom. "This is a really neat device for the healers to have. I was hoping I wasn't going to have to prove my second hypothesis by going to the local hospital and barging in on a pregnant woman." He grinned at Hodges. "Ecklie would have had that one so you didn't freak at the sight of the baby coming."
"That's a small blessing," he complained. "Am I all right?"
"You're fine," the ME assured him. "Nowhere near my office." Hodges gave him a dirty look so he smiled. "Your heartrate has evened out and your pulse is still a bit high, but you should be fine. Go home and rest."
"Take tonight off," Grissom offered. "You deserve it after that." Hodges gave him a solemn nod and walked off, coming back to grab his shirt and labcoat.
It was Sara who started to laugh once he was really gone, leaning on Catherine's shoulder. "That's so bad, Greg."
"Hey, I only accidentally hit him with the sledgehammer," he complained, but he was grinning too. "My next one was going to be with the zappy electrode thing that we use to simulate someone having a heart attack. Just in case it was someone who was having one."
Doc Robbins shook his head. "You are bad, Greg. I would have stopped you after that one. Are those generally available?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "I don't even think the Canadians have them yet. Wish they did, but sorry."
"Not a problem. It's a neat little device. Very handy in an ER." He patted him on the arm. "Happy to be of help. Someone roll these back to where they belong."
"Sure, I'll help," Brass offered. He popped the tape out of the camera and waved it. "I'm confiscating this before anyone else sees." He walked one machine out, letting the doctor get the other one. He'd get to enjoy seeing Ecklie in pain again and again and again.
Greg clapped his hands. "I'm off to visit my first choice in Chicago. Wish me luck. Oh, Gris, Ecklie dumped it on me to find an intern too. Should I?"
"I'll put a notice up at the local schools," he offered dryly. "Go, Greg, before Emilia misses you." He got a wicked grin and pulled his wand, leaving them there.
"Intern?" Sara asked. "Why?"
"To take over the DNA lab during swingshift," Grissom told her. "They've been backlogged now for days. Greg pointed out that they could mentor the right candidate between them and watch over their few hours of work, all without costing us very much."
"I wouldn't mind helping either," Catherine offered. "Is Greg going into the field?" Grissom nodded. "So he's finding his replacement?"
"Hopefully so. He made a list of ten hopefuls and is going to visit his first choice. One who works with Kowalski so she's used to the strain and stress of high profile cases." He grinned at her. "We'll see. I told him to have the final choices to me within three weeks so I could call them for an interview." He walked off, taking the device Greg left back to his office to store it safely. It was very interesting. He knew some people who would sell major body organs to get this sort of device.
Greg appeared in the back parking lot of the station in Chicago, looking up at it. "Ah, the Windy City that smells bad," he said fondly, hurrying inside and up the stairs at a trot. He walked into the bullpen and everyone stared at him. "What? I'm dressed," he said with a grin.
"Hey, kid, what's up?" Vecchio asked, staring him down.
"I come to try to steal one of your CSI techs," he said fondly. "I'm getting to go out into the field. Couldn't you just die!" he gushed, beaming madly at him. "Plus I just got to test a neat device on Ecklie and Hodges." Kowalski cracked at that, chuckling some. "So, where are they? Specifically the one who was yelling at you, Stan?"
"Downstairs. I'll take ya," he offered, getting up to lead him down there. "Good job," he praised. "How's Alex and them? And Blair?"
"I haven't seen Blair in a few days," he admitted. "He's on someone's couch but no one knows where. Since Jim dumped his helper to get married, there's been some bad things in his life."
"I'll keep an eye out for him," Ray Kowalski promised. He tapped on the door before opening it. "Sasha?" She looked over at him, looking startled. "This is Greg Sanders, he works in Vegas, and wants to steal you."
"Vegas is hot," she complained.
"Yes, and we don't get snow and I'm about to hit the field training so we'll need a new full time DNA tech," he said, walking over to grin at her. "Your name came highly recommended by the Academy." She looked up at him and he winked. "Plus we're kinda alike. I went to school with Margaret."
"Oh. Oh!" She perked up at that. "You're serious?" He nodded. "Sanders? You're American."
He leaned down to her ear. "I'm the Wizard of Blood, dear. I was a transfer student." He stood up again and grinned at her. "I heard you yelling at Stan, telling him the early snow was his fault. I thought you might like Vegas. There's lots and lots of neat stuff out there."
"Comparable. My first year was at fifty."
"Whoa, you make that much?" Ray said in awe. "Why?"
"I have a master's in Genetics," he said dryly. "It's expected of us, dear. You can go back to college and get dual degrees in Chem and Biology, and then a masters in Genetics too."
"Eeeeh, no thanks," he said with a shudder. "Too much math for me."
"Yeah, he hates using his brain," Sasha noted dryly, staring up at him. "Why are you going into the field?"
"I always wanted to. My boss is really cool. I'm out to him totally. We've got all the great specialty shops and stuff that you might be missing here. Grissom is really cool and the whole graveyard is really great to me. Every now and then I get people with wishful thinking but not too bad. We're backed up at the moment but I just talked someone into hiring an intern for the swingshift hours. The last guy retired and we were only covered for sixteen hours during a day. Unfortunately it's the busy season for us at the moment," he said dryly. "Also, I'm allowed to play and sing to my music all I want as long as I get things done. Griss's even used to me taking off for long lunches with my wife if there's nothing going on. We've got a diverse crew, there's some female lab techs and two female CSI's on our shift. If you swing towards guys, we've got some cute ones among us and at the station we work out of, even cuter than me, and if you swing the other way, we've got some of the prettiest women in the world."
He beamed. "Our dress code is 'it has to be clean and presentable, and actually there'. They made that one after an accident I had in the lab one night. The benefits are great. Vecchio, Kowalski, and Fraser all came out to spend some time with us and hung out with me, my wife, and my first daughter a lot." He pulled out his wallet and handed Stan a new picture of all of them. "The twins are great," he said with a bright grin. "Crawling and helping me at home in the lab." He looked at Sascha again. "We're all a bit insane but it's in a good way. Gris is a bug guy. He's got all sorts. Catherine's his second in command at the moment and she's really cool. Her daughter's away at school in Canada. Nick's from Texas. Warrick's local and Sara's from Frisco, but she's a bit uptight. Her hobby is her work," he finished. "You'll love it, you can tan all year round, you can do pretty much whatever you want in personal research. They've never minded mine at least. A few of the other techs are a bit uptight but we get on well enough with the work stuff."
"You're laying it on a bit thick," one of the other techs complained.
"You hush! It's nice to be wooed." Sasha looked at him. "You're serious?" He nodded. "Eight hour shifts?"
"With the possibility of overtime, especially when it's critical or there's a lot of crime or a lot of bodies. This week, we've been slammed," he admitted. "We had one big scene with about six bodies and no obvious cause of death from the college. We've had about sixty break-ins and robberies at places like convenience stores, or so it seems, and we've had a ton of rapes recently. Me personally, I'm pulling ten hours at the moment daily. That'll change when I find an intern and I'll be helping you and the dayshift guy mentor them."
"Sounds promising. What happens when I miss snow?"
"Ehh, then you can go up into the mountains for a few days or a week. Tahoe's near there. There's a bunch of small towns up in the nearest mountains that do some tourist stuff and some that don't. We do get county-wide cases at times. We've had some shipped from further away as well." He shrugged. "We're one of the top labs in the country and we're pretty diverse. The only thing we can't do is the bone marrow DNA that you have to send to the Navy."
She looked up at him. "I may not be qualified then. I do simple DNA. We farm most of it out. I've published but I'm not in practice." She considered it. "I've got a few days off, I'll come visit, check it out, talk to your boss and see what he thinks. Get a feel for the town as it were." She patted him on the arm. "If I can't, who's next on your list?" He pulled out a copy of his list and she looked at it, then crossed off a few names. "They died recently, honey." She looked up at him then put another name down. "She's older, but she's good. She's a teacher at Marshall. They just got a full forensic's grad degree. Accredited and everything with emphasis in DNA, Computer crud, and a parentage testing service along with their link into CODIS." He looked startled at that. "It's a new thing, first in the country really. Other places have a track in their degrees, or as a certification, this place only does Forensics as this major. I hear it's pretty decent. They also do some outreach training for those already in the field and the like. She's also like us and she went there to teach. If she can't, she'll know who can."
"I thank you, m'lady. When should we expect you to come out?"
"Maybe next weekend," she offered with a small grin. "It's getting cold too soon this year and I'm already aching."
"It's only cold at night where I am," he said smugly. "And it's a dry heat. No more swampy air."
"That would be nice," she sighed, looking wistful. "Who hides everything?"
He grinned and mouthed their overlord's name, making her shiver. He winked and patted her on the back. "When you do, I'm in the DNA lab or you can leave a message for me at home or with the PD. I get to start field training as soon as I find someone." He yawned and stretched. "I'll let you get back to work. Come visit and I'll talk to this other one. Thank you." He grinned and walked out, going to grab Kowalski and treat him to breakfast. He looked like he could use some more coffee and Greg was nothing if not entranced by *good* coffee.
Greg trotted into Grissom's office, closing the door behind him with a grin. "I got to talk to my first choice. She's coming out this weekend to ask around about the program. She thinks she might not be fully qualified since they send out their DNA work." Grissom nodded, looking patient. "But, I did get some information. Have you heard about Marshall University?"
"Marshall University. In West Virginia. They've just recently started to graduate forensic's program. A fully accredited program for both DNA, Scene Techs, and Computer stuff. Works with their State Troopers, works with CODIS to add to it." He grinned. "Not only is one of us out there teaching, she was recommended to talk to if I couldn't get any of my choices. Not only would they be a good source of interns, fully trained and everything instead of just doing a certificate in it, but they'd be the people to start looking at the program over. So not only was I a good boy and talked to my first choice this morning, I got some good new information to pass along."
"You did. You only got to talk to one?"
"Even I've got to sleep, Grissom," he whined. "Especially with three kids who decided to scream all day."
"Point," he offered with a small smile. "Your wife called and asked that we let you take a nap here before you come home. She thought you were going to bounce her out of bed."
Greg snorted. "Sorry, but nope. I did take Stan out to breakfast," he offered with a grin. "She did also correct my list. A few have recently died."
"That's fine, Greg. Like I said, give me the final interview list with three to five people within three weeks." He nodded. "How was the lab when you left?"
"Doing nightshift stuff at least," he offered dryly. "I was basically done for the night. That's why I stayed the extra hour. Why? Didn't the day guy show up?" Grissom nodded. "Were they busy?" He nodded. "Oh, no," he moaned. Grissom nodded. "How far?"
"About half of dayshift's samples," he offered. "Not as bad as it was last night."
"I'd hope not. Does he not do anything?"
"No, he did a lot," he offered. "He left you some rape kits and the like." He shrugged. "He tried, Greg. Find the intern first."
"I'm calling that woman while I'm processing, from the office," he complained, heading to his lab to get down to work. He scrubbed his hands then gloved up before looking at the samples waiting on him. He groaned and shook his head, looking at the stack of files from earlier, picking up the first one to look at it. He blinked. "GRISSOM!" he yelled. He heard running footsteps and looked over at Catherine. "No, not you. Grissom," he said firmly, handing the file around her. "Take a look at the tests run." He looked at Catherine. "Did you hear there's a true Master's in Forensic's available in West Virginia?" he asked conversationally. "Computers, DNA, and Scene stuff."
"Good," she agreed patiently. "What's wrong?"
"The tests run were for a different case," Grissom said, putting down the file. "The whole stack?"
"I only looked at that one," Greg admitted. "I'm almost afraid to look." He looked at the very large stack, then picked up the next one down, wincing as he looked at it. He shook his head and handed it over, going to the next one. He groaned and shook his head, getting up and heading across the hall. "Who's not busy?" he called. Everyone stared at him. "I mean it. I need a file review of today's files. Seriously need a review to see how far back we're going." One of the techs raised their hand slowly. "Good, come on. It'll be fun," he said with a wry look. He stomped back to his lab and picked up the entire stack, grabbing those three to hand it over. He handed them to the tech. "Look for the unusual and odd tests."
"Sure, Greg. How far back?"
"As far as I know, that's all of today's. If not, then we'll have to unfile later." She whimpered. "Not you, you're getting Quality Control today." She nodded, heading to the break room and the larger table. He looked at Grissom. "Can I be there when you talk to him?" he asked sarcastically.
"No, Greg, let's find out how far it went back. Pull ten randoms from yesterday." Greg nodded, going to the piles of folders and results waiting, letting out a whimper and holding it out.
"Could this be someone other than the tech?" Catherine asked. "Like the CSI asking?"
"There's ten different cases," Greg said, looking at the random files he was pulling. "Eight are odd." He looked at the last two. "The other two are mine." He put them back and pulled two from the day before. He looked at Grissom and shook his head. "Not mine." He handed it over. "And I'm not impressed now."
"We'll handle it, Greg."
"I'm going to Crucio someone if I have to redo all this work," he said calmly and quietly. "I'll have fun doing it too."
"Calm down. We'll figure it out without you getting violent," Catherine offered, going back further. For those, she had to go to Ecklie, and it was better if he and Grissom didn't run into each other. "I'm doing a Quality Control check on the dayshift's lab stuff."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because there was a questionable test found from the day before yesterday. We're doing a review of today's and a random check for the last week. Which you have to sign off on."
"Fine," he said, waving at the pile. "I haven't gotten to a few of them."
"Good." She picked up the full pile and carried it off. "Warrick, come help us," she yelled as she walked. He came out of the garage. "Are you doing something right now?" He nodded. "Damn it. We need help."
"Call in a trainee," he offered.
"For Quality Control?"
"Oh, no," he hissed. "Nick's not busy."
"Sure. Find him, send him our way. We're in the break room." He nodded, hurrying to go find Nick. It was his night off, but he was probably not out partying yet. He called him and he showed up a few minutes later. He pointed at the breakroom and Nick went that way.
"What's up?" he asked, leaning in the doorway, bracing himself on the frame.
"Quality Control," Catherine said grimly. "Wrong tests run in the dayshift lab." She looked over at him, noticing how pale he was. "We're trying to find a spot where it started."
Greg walked under Nick's arm. "Three days ago the rush started," he offered. "We had free time before that."
"That's a good place to start," Catherine agreed, watching him pour himself some coffee. "How are your current ones?"
"Being kept separate and done as fully as usual. I'm going to kill someone if this was stupidity though." He ducked back under Nick's arm, heading back to his lab. He had a spot all picked out for his coffee cup. Nowhere near anything he was working on. He dialed the phone while he worked, smiling at the happy sounding voicemail message he was hearing. "Hi, this is Greg Sanders, DNA tech for Las Vegas PD. We're looking for a sudden intern in the very near future and I'm thinking about switching to field work so I'm looking for a replacement DNA tech. You were highly recommended by Sascha in Chicago so I thought I'd start with you instead of beating my head against a wall. You can call me back here any night...."
"Hello?" a female voice answered.
"Hey. Greg Sanders, LVPD."
"Las Vegas?" she asked, sounding amused. "How are you, Mr. Sanders?"
"I've been put in charge of finding us an intern for swing shift and a new DNA tech if I go into the field. Needless to say, we're in our busy season," he finished dryly. "Sasha in Chicago's CSI recommended I call you guys after informing me of your new program."
"Interesting. How goes your work tonight?"
"Quality Control of the dayshift and we're backlogged because our swingshift guy recently retired," he admitted. "He was a great guy, and I'll miss him greatly."
"I'm sure you will," she said fondly. "How soon do you need someone?"
"Can I fly out tonight and steal someone?" he joked. She chuckled at that. "Seriously, the intern would be mentored by me, even when I'm doing field training, and by the person taking over for me and the dayshift person."
"Greg, two days back," Catherine said from the doorway.
"Great. Which case?"
"Um, Peterson. Why?"
"Makes a difference what time of day it was," he said in a sing-song voice. "I've got someone from Marshall with me on the phone."
"Actually, I'm not the person who this voice mail belongs to but I am the one who would send you applicants, Mr. Sanders. What are you looking for?"
"DNA interns," he said firmly. "Possibly someone who would want to take over my spot, or someone who can switch off with me now and then and do field and let me come back to the lab to think."
"Hmm, a switch hitter. We don't have many of those, but I do know of one young lady."
"That's fine," Catherine agreed. "We like women around here. There's two female CSI and a few more of us in the lab." Greg pointed at the filing cabinet so she went to pull the files from that case forward to look them over, even Greg's. "How soon can we get letters of interest?"
"With qualifications if they've worked in the field already, GPA if not, and any specialities they might have?" Greg added. "That way we can pick someone who'll fit. Grissom already does bugs."
The woman chuckled again. "I can announce it tomorrow and hopefully fax you a stack of them by this weekend."
"That would be wonderful," he said earnestly. "I love you." She giggled at that. "Thank you so much. Do you need our number?"
"No, dear, we have it on file. We keep a list of all the bigger departments for our people to call around about internships. You be calm. It'll be fine. I'm sure you'll pass Quality Control easily." She hung up.
Greg looked back, finding Ecklie in the doorway. "That was the person who'll be sending us letters from people in the Graduate Forensic's program out of Marshall University."
"No, a full degree program," he said happily. "One of the people on my short list told me about them." He hung up on the dialtone, then turned to look at him. "Want the website so you can look it over?"
"No, that's fine. Did you?" He nodded. "Good?"
"Very good. They're helping up the CODIS system. Fully accredited. Good teachers. Works with the State Troopers out there." Ecklie nodded at that. "She said she'd have letters of interest to us by this weekend, and I did mention about finding someone to split the lab with me so I can start field training. They do computers, DNA, and scene tech teaching. Plus they do outreach training for things like nurses doing rape training."
"Good! That sounds good. Where is this school?" Greg handed over the card from his pocket. "Fine. Where's the break?"
"For the last three days, we've been going non-stop. I'm guessing he got them doing the tests for the next set of samples," he admitted. Catherine nodded. "She pinpointed the first one."
"Even better. How long ago?"
"Two days," Catherine offered. "About halfway through the day it looks like." She looked at Greg. "You'd share?"
"With the right person," he said with a cute grin. "That way you guys could have someone more experienced and I could get some training and mentoring myself. Plus, I did agree to help mentor this new intern," he told Ecklie. "That way there's no problems."
"Fine, Sanders. Did you report on that device?"
"Sent it before I went to bed," he said proudly. "Along with the device. It's probably the fastest he's ever heard back from one of us over here."
"Yeah, he's a Brit," he said dryly. "I went to boarding school with him."
"Oh. Like the guy with the mine?" Greg nodded. "Did you know that you didn't list your high school on your application?"
"Yeah, the boarding school wasn't technically considered a high school. Foreign schools run on different ages. I went there from age eleven on."
"Oh. Interesting. The name?"
Greg just grinned. "Grissom has that form refilled out for you already."
"Thank you for making my life easier," he said, going to bother him.
Catherine smiled at him. "Nice job," she whispered, pulling anything that had been filed. "We found a few with your name on them but his signature."
"Possibly," she sighed. She closed the drawer with her thigh and headed back with these new files. Grissomn was calling the poor dayshift guy in to talk to him. Ecklie had apparently overheard enough and was now yelling at someone. Not Grissom but someone. Grissom was back in the breakroom looking at files. "Greg wanted to know if his name was a forgery or not."
"Probably," Grissom admitted with a small sigh. "He's going to hate us. We're going to have to rerun all these samples if we've got any left."
Greg closed his office door and turned on some music, putting it on the speakers on his desk instead of his headphones. He dialed the dayshift guy at home. Busy. He hung up and tried again a few minutes later, getting a ring. "Hey, me," he said when the guy's wife answered. "I'm sure it was just a slipup. It's all right. Grissom's handling it and tell him he is before he freaks. We traced it back to a time and case. Send him in and don't expect him back for a while."
"Which one are you?"
"I'm Greg, I'm his night counterpart. Just let him know those things before he comes in." He saw Ecklie heading back and turned off the speaker phone, going back to his tests. Ecklie stormed past and he sighed, shaking his head as he moved on. He heard a knock and nodded Hodges in. "You get called in?"
"Yeah. How bad?"
"Back to the Petersen case, man. Bad. Looks like he got one's orders mixed up with the samples." Hodges winced. "That's only two day's worth and he's on his way in."
"Good. Where should I start?"
"Ask Grissom and Cat. They're handling it." He nodded, heading that way. He called his wife. "Hey, honey, we had a small accident here in the lab with some samples on the other shift. I'm not gonna make it home for dinner tomorrow night."
"Excuse me?" Emilia asked patiently.
"Yeah, we've got about two days of stuff to rerun at the moment. So I probably won't make it home for dinner."
"That's a triple shift, Greg, then working your normal one."
"Oh, no, I'll catch a nap," he assured her. "Even if I have to do it on the lumpy couch in Gris's office. I just probably won't be home until the day after tomorrow. If I'm lucky. Love you." He hung up and got back to work, putting samples on top of results and moving to the next one. "I miss the old swing shift guy," he muttered. "Hey, Gris, get back Denali!" he called. "He can help!"
"He's in Hawaii," Catherine called back.
"He should be back by now. We'll need him if any of us are heading home in the next three days."
"That's not a bad idea," Hodges agreed from his lab. "Plus, he got home last night and is probably already moping."
"Fine, I'll try," Catherine offered. She leaned in Greg's office. "Got anything for Gil's migraine?"
"Blue vial, in my locker, in my green and black bag," he said patiently. "Should smell like vomit, but it works."
"Thanks, Greg." She headed off to break into his locker and get that. She came back a few minutes later. "There's no bag in there, Greg."
"There should be three."
"There's not." He put down his sample and headed off to check, groaning at the empty state. He checked the number and looked at her, then opened his actual locker, which didn't have the lock on it, and it was empty as well, with a note in the bottom. "Ecklie," he said dryly, going to talk to him. He walked into his office and grabbed his things, heading back to his lab. "Don't touch my stuff again without a warrant," he called back. "I will sue this time!" He found the vial and handed it over. "Smells horrible," he warned. "Take it anyway." He carefully set everything down in his desk chair and searched through them, then put the bags into his desk. The former swingshift guy was walking up the halls whistling. He could hear him. "Thank you, Goddess!" he shouted. "Denali, see Catherine first," he called.
"That bad?" he asked her, looking miserable.
"Two days of misrun stuff," she offered pointing at the stack of files. "We haven't replaced you yet and Greg's working on getting us an intern."
"Fine program. I know two of the teachers, we used to date," he said with a smug look. "Okay. Where's the samples?"
"In the usual spot. All over," she said dryly. "Nick's in Evidence with the file name list to find you everything he can."
"Decent of him. Greg?"
"Working on today's backlog," she admitted. "Hodges is helping you."
"Even better. I can do that." He carried the stack into the office and sat down behind the desk to look at them. "Rookie mistakes," he said dryly after the first one.
"We've been doing at least three hundred samples a day," Greg offered. "For the last three days. I just told my wife I wouldn't be home for dinner tomorrow. She's not pleased." He grinned at him. "But I get to start field training."
"Good on you, Greg. Good on you." He smiled and got up, going to help. That's also when he fell down, no longer breathing.
"Shit," Greg moaned, pulling his wand and zapping him. "Enervate!" The man spasmed and started breathing again. "Someone call someone to see him!" he yelled. "He's having a heart attack!" His wand went back into his pocket as people came running. Sara gave him an odd look. "Works better than a defibrilator."
"I can see that." She got down to check him over then got moved out of the way as the ME came in to help. "Greg shocked him."
"Good!" he agreed. "Good, fast thinking. Probably saved his life." He got down to examine him, listening to his heart. "He's got that slurp going. We will need paramedics."
"On their way," Nick agreed, carrying in a large box. "That leaves you," he said quietly. "I'll help where I can."
"Hunt and gather for me, Nick. We'll get further behind after I do these rape kits." Nick nodded, going back to look for more bags of evidence and the samples they would contain. He kept working as the paramedics came in.
"That's cold, man," one of them complained.
"Hey, I got him restarted and we're backlogged. You want rapists to not get caught?" he demanded coolly. The paramedic backed down at his icy stare. "Thank you! Do whatever you need to for him, I'll call his wife once you're gone." They nodded, loading him up.
"Already done that, Greg."
"Thanks, boss. How's your head?"
"You're right, that stuff tasted sickening, like regurg."
"Yeah, it does," he said dryly. "Been there, done that a few times." He continued to work, putting everything carefully together and out of the way, writing case names and CSI of record on the reports. Just in case. So they wouldn't have to do this again. "This sucks," he decided. He looked around once everyone had gone, then sat down for a minute to sip his cool coffee. He looked at the stack of files. He looked at all the evidence bags. He looked up in time to see Nick walking his way and had to make sure he didn't mix up any samples as he walked past the table. "Gris, come take these, they're done," he called. He looked at his partner. "How many more?"
"That's all I could find, Greg."
"Fine. Now let's see what I can do."
"You can't magic the samples," he said flatly.
"No, but I can damn sure warp time. I'll need a very good nap after this and you might want to check my blood sugar. Bring me my coffeemaker and my coffee so I can make another pot. Bring me the sugar too if you can steal it back." Nick just gave him an odd look. "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing." He got up and went to hand out those reports and grab the good coffeemaker he had imported, along with his coffee, the sugar he had brought in, and a few snack cakes. He leaned into Grissom's office. "I'm warping time now. I'll need a nap and be prepared for me to have a sugar crash when I come out. I'm closing my blinds and the doorway. You won't be able to get in until I'm done." He left before he could do more than gape, kicking Nick out so he could do the complicated spell. Fortunately the electricity would still be flowing and the machines still worked. Gris could make up an excuse for why it all got done so promptly. Finally, he felt it take hold and went to start a new pot of good coffee. He was definitely going to need it.
To Part 12