Understanding the Nature

Xander looked up from his pleasure, finding Don standing there, hands on hips.  "What?" he asked in a breathy moan.

"Time to get out."

"No!  Not yet!"

"Now."  He hauled Xander out of the pool and up to the bathroom, putting him in a cooling shower, letting him finish himself off.  Xander went limp against the wall and he got in to scrub him down.  "Xander, did you do anything today?"  Xander nodded. "Besides rutting?"

"Called the bank."

"That's nice.  Anything else?"  Xander moaned and shook his head.  "Remember when I had ta throw you in the shower the last time?  You're doing it again."  He finished and turned the young man to rinse him off.  Fortunately his hair was up.  Greasy but up.  He considered it and pulled it down, wincing at the tangles.  Well, he'd have to deal with those later.  He shampooed it for him and got his front clean, then walked Xander out to hand him clothes.  "Get dressed."  Xander gave him a mutinous look.  "Now."  Xander slid into the pajama pants and got walked out to the living room, even being made to sit up in the chair instead of lounging.  Don went to get him something to eat.  Xander was looking pitiful.  He came back with a sandwich and milk, handing it over.  "Eat.  It's another pleasure."

"I had lunch."

"What day is it?"


Don snorted.  "Try Saturday.  So you called the bank on Tuesday?"  Xander nodded, sipping his milk.  "Eat or I'm sticking you in the ER with an IV."  Xander gave him another heated look but did eat.  "Thank you."  He sat down across from him.  "We've got to solve this.  Did you surge?"  Xander slowly shook his head.  "No?"

"No.  I'm fine."

"You're not fine."  He shifted closer.  Xander ate and finished his milk.  "C'mere.  You can cuddle."  Xander came over and sat in his lap, curling up against his chest.  He sighed.  He was fully released of all the hormones.  "I knew we weren't enough but this was going a bit far."  Xander clutched his shoulders.  "Where's my dog?"  Xander waved a hand.  He looked out, his dog was staring at him from outside.  The garage was open if he wanted to go in there.  "You know, puppies chew on things.  He could've gotten any of the bags."

"He doesn't chew on anything but your socks," he said tiredly.  He yawned.  "Is napping allowed?"

"Sure, napping is good."  He put Xander onto the couch and let him curl up on his side while he went to check on the garage and pet his dog.  Everything was still all right.  Though the dog fur on his seat showed that his dog loved his bike.  "You know the bike is daddy's," he teased.  He let the dog back inside once he had shut the garage door.  The dog sniffed at Xander then went to lay down.  "Has he been ignoring you too?"  He sat down and pulled the dog into his lap.  His dog barked and lapped him, but he seemed tired.  "You're tired too?  Did he play with you?"  He pulled over Xander's foot and the dog licked it then looked at him.  "Good boy, Spots.  Where's the ferrets?"  He looked over.  They were curled up together so either napping or dead.  He grabbed the phone when it rang.  "Flack."  He listened.  "This is his residence too.  No, I'm watching him nap at the moment.  Why?"  He looked at his dog then smiled.  "No, Xander's feeling a bit ill and the dog's tired.  Spot's napping in my lap."  He smiled at the praise for his pooch.  "I'll do that.  Thank you, ma'am."  He hung up and looked at Xander.  "Not doing anything, huh?"  Xander shifted.  "Xander?"  Another shift.  "Xander, I know you're up.  Get up."  Xander shifted and kicked at him.  "Xander!"  He woke up.  "That was someone from the dog training classes.  They wanted to know if you were going to make it tonight?"

"He's been going to obedience school.  It's Saturday?"  Don nodded.  "Since when?"

"Midnight last night," he said dryly.  "Okay, truth.  What do you usually do on Saturdays?"

"Take him to the park.  Let him run with the other dogs."  He pulled Spot over to cuddle, getting a bark but the dog settled in with some wiggling.  "Good boy, Spot."  He put his head on Spot's shoulder.  "Then we go see some older people at the nursing home because I'm trying to get over my fear of old people."  He yawned.  "Then we come home and play here.  He goes outside until my Danny-sensing radar goes off while I play with myself."

"Uh-huh.  What did you do today?"

"The park."  He yawned again and closed his eyes.  "Sleepy, Don.  Go be mean to someone else."

"Fine.  Even though I'm not being mean to you."  He waited until his boy was snoring.  "Want free, Spot?"  His dog growled when he tried to pry a hand off him. "Okay. You guard the boy very well."  His dog put his head on top of Xander's.  "Good boy, Spot."  Spot's tail wagged.  "After you two take a nap, we'll play."  His dog wiggled free and got his ball, making Don smile.  "Sure.  Inside or outside?" he asked, moving it around.  His dog barked so he threw it up the hall, watching as he ran after it.  The next throw he got up to play with him outside since he was being energetic for the minute.  He looked in when the dog started to be less bouncy.  "Let's go find the boy again.  Track the boy!  Track Xander!"

The dog sniffed and went inside, going to find the other one who played with him.  He found him curled up in bed around Danny's pillow and smiled.  "Aww.  Go ahead and climb in with him."  The dog hopped up there and wiggled in place of the pillow, getting his apparent usual spot back.  Don got Danny's camera and took a picture of the two of them.  Then he went to padlock the door to the basement.  He called Danny. "Did you know a certain long-haired cutey took my dog to the park to wear him out every Saturday and then went to let him play with older people in a home?  Neither did I."  He grinned.  "Wearing himself out in the pool.  He and the dog are napping and it's adorable. I used your camera.  I'm sure we can pull it off there before Horatio can complain, Danny.  He might even think it's cute too.  No, totally worn out."  He smiled.  "Sure."  He hung up and went to check on Xander.  Maybe he'd nap too.


Danny walked into the boss's office and closed the door.  "Horatio, got a few?"

"Of course.  What's going on with Xander now?"

"He's either falling on the scale or he's doing something to take it out of him.  He's napping with the dog.  Don found him in the pool earlier but he's fast asleep by the snoring in the background."  Horatio looked at the clock.  "Then again, he's also losing weight.  About ten pounds now.  Not that he's hurting yet but Don and I thought he was rutting."

"There's a few things that can do that, Danny," he said honestly.  "We need to pull some blood to run."

"I can do that," he agreed.

"I can have Alexx do it."

"She'll admit him and they'll decide being GHS is a mental illness.  His doc did in the past."

"I'd be more comfortable if you all went to my guy," he admitted, leaning back.  "Go draw a vial of blood.  Bring it in. I know what to test for."  Danny nodded, going to do that while Horatio thought.  There were some recreational drugs but Xander didn't do those.  There were also herbal supplements and Xander did do those.  Including his new vitamin mix.  He called Danny.  "Bring in that new vitamin mix he's taking as well and anything else new he's had recently.  Unless you're suspecting him of taking heroin, yes."  He hung up and went to prep the machine to run the bloodwork.  Because this was not looking good.  Danny came back with a small paper shopping bag and a vial of blood.  He took them both, readying the blood for testing.  While it ran he looked over the stuff.  He groaned, highlighting something on the vitamins.  "This.  It's banned GHS wide.  It lowers us momentarily, makes us feel better because of all the clouding.  Prolonged use has made us quit eating and it actually snaps.  We can't feel it but it drives our hormones off the scale after a few weeks of usage."  Danny groaned and grabbed the table.  He went over the other things, highlighting that in other things.  He came to a bottle of pills.  "Go run this, I can't find the ingredients on the label."  Danny nodded, going to run a pill to find out what it was.  Horatio took the bloodwork and sighed.  "He's so overdosed on it I'm surprised he's eating at all."

"He is?" Danny countered. "Don had to force him to eat earlier."  He stiffened and looked at him.  "That tea stuff.  Where is the stuff he gave Speed?"

"His locker.  He's at home."  He went to pop Speed's lock and get the teabags out.  He saw the tag and mentally shuddered, closing it and walking back.  He handed it to Danny.  "This is illegal for all GHS.  If we find it, we're supposed to report it.  This can kill us.  It starts to slow our reflexes and makes us lethargic.  People have used a dose of this to kidnap others it's so potent in our systems.  There's also the other ingredient in there."

"So, without knowing it, Xander's poisoned himself and Don?"

"I haven't had any but I have had a few sleepy days," Horatio complained.  He pulled out his phone and called.  "What was in the pill?"  Danny held it up.  "Adam, it's Horatio.  Did no one tell Xander he wasn't to take certain herbal remedies that might be pushed on him?"  He heard the gasp.  "We've got four different forms of that one that's made from orchids.  We've got the other one as well.  Plus that one that's banned.  I doubt he does.  He's given it to Don.  He wouldn't do that to Don, or me.  Yes, we need you here today.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "We can detox it from the systems."  He called Alexx.  "Come draw blood from me.  Because I need to make sure of something."  He hung up and looked at the blood report again.  "Damn it.  He should've known."

"Adam didn't train him, Horatio.  He admitted him into the group and gave him his card the last night at the brothel."  He called Don.  "Ask him where he's getting his herbal stuff?"  He nodded. "That's where?"  He shuddered.  "Sure.  Thanks.  No, don't touch *anything* herbal in the house, Don.  You've both taken stuff that's dangerous for GHS guys.  So just lay there and cuddle him and the dog.  The dog's hyper protective of him now for a pretty good reason I'd bet."  He hung up and looked at Horatio, then at Alexx since she was coming in.  "Would this be on the page?  Don and Mac got him onto the page."

"No," Horatio admitted. "It used to be and then someone hacked that page so it was removed and never put back up."  He pushed back up his sleeve.  "There's things that are dangerous for GHS members," he said quietly.

"I figured there were.  Probably things to reduce hormones or pheromone output?"

"Definitely," Danny said, looking at the things on the table with it in there.  "Are they addictive?"

"They make us feel better, Danny.  It's a false better but it takes the backlog away.  Now and then I've seen a few level nines use it in a carefully controlled manner if they're creating a backlog like that.  That's in carefully measured amounts.  Not in mass quantities like this."

"It could be the boy was told and then figured a bit more than advised would help," Alexx offered, sticking his vein.  "If so, someone should spank the kid."

"He doesn't even take aspirins, Alexx," Danny protested.  "I'm pretty sure the herbalists suggested it."

"We'll go together," Horatio said firmly.  "And call Speed if it's in my system.  Run the last test again, Alexx."  She did that and he rolled down his sleeve, looking over as Frank leaned in.  "Problems?"

"I tried to call Flack, he's not answering?"

"There's things that GHS can take that wipe them out," Danny told him.  "Xander's had some and gave some to Don without having a clue."

"Don't you guys get warning sheets?"

"It was taken off the website, Frank.  It's usually told from mentor to student.  That's why so many of us go on the mentor system.  I thought Adam had and he didn't."  Alexx gave him a look. "I am," he said quietly.

"I knew that.  Put it in plain english for the kid, okay?"  She handed his over.  "It's in yours too."

"That tea," Danny said dryly.

"Has both," Horatio agreed.  "Take Speed, go see what the man sold it to him for?"

"Sure.  You go rest at our house.  Frank, drive him, okay?"

"Sure.  He gonna be okay?"

"It wipes out any store of hormones and it makes us lethargic and tired," Horatio offered. "I'm fine to do paperwork."

"You're also next to go on a body call," Frank reminded him.  "Take yourself off call, Horatio Caine.  Now."

"I'll do it," Alexx promised, calling the desk to do that and Dispatch.  She gathered things up and looked at one.  "I had a victim who had this in their blood the other day.  Eric and Calleigh's last case.  I thought it was harmless."

"It probably is," Horatio agreed. "Unless you're a GHS member.  Was he?"

"Not that we've found.  No card in his wallet.  I'll have Eric check the registry."  Horatio nodded, letting Frank lead him off.  She went to find Eric, locking that lab for a few minutes.  "Eric, baby?"  He looked over and smiled.  "Don't do that.  It's not happy stuff.  You know that herbal remedy we found in that vic?"  He nodded, coming over.  "In GHS members it's something that clears out any backlog and makes them lethargic and sleepy."

"Which would probably explain how he died," he agreed thoughtfully.  "I didn't know they had group allergies."

"Yeah, apparently.  Horatio just told Danny so.  I want the full list but Danny brought in a bunch of stuff from home.  It was in Horatio's blood from that tea Xander gave Speed."

"Since Xander didn't know he spread it around," he sighed.  "H gone for the day?"

"Heading over there to help.  Frank said Don's not answering his phone at the moment."

"Which means it got him too. Wonderful.  Let's go look.  Let me bag this."  He did that and retaped his sample, then ungloved and followed her.  He opened the door with his keys and walked in, looking at everything on the table.  He noticed the highlighted ingredients and the other tests.  He whimpered. "Xander's got to be near comatose if this is that potent."

"I noticed he was getting skinny again," she offered.

"Lethargic people often don't eat," Ryan said from the doorway, waving a list.  "Faxed to Horatio's office and he's not there.  A full list of what GHS members should never eat or take.  With a humorous note about chocolate on the end."  He walked it in and looked.  "I went with him.  The guy at the herb store said it'd be good for him, keep him balanced and happy.  Help relieve his headaches since he was complaining about it."

"Well, it's on the list," Eric said, shaking his head.  It wasn't a long list.  He looked at both runs of bloodwork and groaned.  "Xander's spike of this one is nearly off the paper."

Ryan nodded. "Now we know."

"Xander didn't?"

"Not that he told me.  He did ask if it had ginseng in it.  Seems he's having funny reactions to it."

"Female ginseng is what one's labeled," Eric told him.  Ryan took the list back and nodded as he went down it.  "Fax that to their house.  I know they've got one."  Ryan went to do that and he called Danny.  "Pull over.  There's a whole *list* of things Xander shouldn't take."  Speed took the phone.  "Have you seen that list?"  He nodded.  "Well, it's about fifteen things long, Speed.  In this bag, we've got another three on the list."

"Tell him Frank took Horatio to Xander's," Alexx said.

"Alexx said she had Frank take H to Xander's because it was in his blood too.  Speed, did you tell Xander?  H said he didn't.  Would Adam have?"  He smirked.  "That's what we thought.  The full list got faxed to their house.  Adam faxed it here.  Sure.  When I get it back from Ryan."

"I texted it in two texts to Speed's phone," Ryan called as he walked.  "Before I faxed it."

"He said to check your own phone.  You should have two text messages with everything on it."  He smiled.  "Yeah.  Well.  Now we know.  Yeah, including that tea that Xander gave you.  The baggie's in here, Speed."  He smirked.  "Yeah, so without knowing it....  Afterward.  Find out if it was maliciously done or not."  He hung up and shook his head. "If I *ever* want to be like them, just fucking shoot me," he told Alexx.  "In the nuts, wherever.  Just shoot me so I quit wanting it."

"I'll remind you of this," she assured him.   "It does mean we need to check your case to see if he is or not."

"True.  I'll have Calleigh do that," he promised, calling her.  "Calleigh, me.  Remember our case and the herbal stuff Alexx found?  It's bad for GHS members.  It makes them lethargic and things.  Yeah.  That's what she was thinking.  No, there's a list.  Xander apparently never had it given to him.  Horatio ingested some without knowing.  Speed and Danny are. Yeah, but now we need to check if our case was."  He grinned.  "Sure, thanks."  He hung up.  "She's on her way over, she'll check.  This is a wreck."

"It is."  She patted him on the arm before leaving.  She took a copy of the list from Ryan, going to hang it in the office.  She wrote a note on it for the other ME's to check if their victim was GHS, if so it was something the detective needed to know.

Ryan walked back in with a small stack.  "I put one on the back of Horatio's door."

"Good idea."  He folded one and put it into his pants pocket.  Just in case it became necessary.  He looked at Ryan.

"I've got it in my phone.  I saved it as 'things no one I know should take one and two'."  Eric smiled at that and waved a hand.  They grabbed different color highlighters and went back to Horatio's initial project.


Speed walked the guy into the office, waving at Frank.  He shoved him into Frank's chair for suspects.  "He gave it to Xander knowing he shouldn't take it.  Said he's an affront to God and should be fixed.  That now he was normal."

"And the fact it was slowly killing him?" Frank asked.  The man snorted.  "It was. Since he didn't know it wasn't good for him, that makes you selling harmful or illegal substances considering two of those were on the 'don't sell' list by the FDA, pal."  He smiled and opened a new arrest report for him.  "Danny okay?"

"Still swearing.  I drove.  He wanted to crash the hummer."  He walked off.  "Do we have the full list?"

"Everyone's got one.  One's on the back of Horatio's door.  Alexx has one," he muttered.  "I've got one in my desk.  I put on in Yelina's...."  Speed laughed.  He looked up.  "We *all* know and Eric was having a talk with Valera for some reason.  Might wanna see."

"Sure.  Thanks, Frank."  He walked off again.  He ran into Eric.  "So, how bad is it?"

"Horatio sent over pictures for Alexx and we ran a better bit of blood work on Xander and Don, plus him.  Horatio will be fine when it's out of his system.  Don will be fine within a few days probably too.  He definitely needs to eat.  Xander...."  He hummed.  "He needs to do more than eat."

"We'll baby him and go over the list with him," Speed promised.  "Valera?"

"Ran the last few tests for me.  Plus the one for my present case.  He was a bit starved too."

"Well, it gives you a lead.  I can get you into the database."

"Please."  He followed him to the office.  He pointed at the list, getting a smile for it.  "Ryan handed out a copy to everyone and said that Xander is not to have these ever again and never to spread it around."

"Good.  It'll help.  It's not like most everyone doesn't suspect Horatio is."

"Actually, most of us think you," Valera said from the doorway.  "He is?"  Speed glared at her.   "Just saying I wouldn't have pegged him and I can keep a secret, Speed.  I saw the tattoo four years ago."  She smiled.  "Okay, so the list, it's official?"  Speed nodded. "How bad is it?"

"You saw Xander's blood work?" Eric asked.  She nodded.  "Ryan and I found multiple forms of six of them in the bag of stuff that Danny brought in from home."  He pulled up the picture from his phone.  "Horatio took that of Xander."

"Damn it."  She covered her mouth.  "Sorry."

"It happens," Speed promised.  He took the name from Eric and typed it in, getting a nod.  "Level three."  He printed off the file and handed it over. "Please be discreet."

"More than ever."  He walked out shaking his head.

Speed looked at her.  "How did you see it four years ago?"

"Decontam shower."  She smiled.  "Sorry."

"No, I like this discretion.  Better than some have done, Valera.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'll make sure I don't put anything into anything I bring in.  Where were they getting it?"

"An herbal guy who decided Xander should be fixed.  He's at Frank's desk being arrested."

"Good," she agreed cheerfully.  She handed over the report.  "Horatio's blood work.  I think you need to see that more than anyone else?"  He smiled and took it to read over. "He could probably eat too."

"Oh, I'll be cooking a lot for the next week."  She smiled and walked out giggling.  He called Horatio.  "What am I making for dinner?"  His 'something soft and soothing' made him smile.  "Quiche it is."  He hung up and made a list of what he'd need at the store.  Then he went to get it, calling the Chief from the car.  "Chief, Speedle.  Yeah, small problem.  Might wanna sit down. Yeah, those.  Not a surge.  No, there's things that should never be given to any member.  There was an herbalist, who Frank is doing the booking on, and he decided Xander should be fixed and made normal.  Xander hadn't been given the list.  He spread it to Don Flack and Horatio.  No, he didn't know as far as we know.  In the short term, it cleans out any backlog, makes you feel a bit better. He probably gave it to them hoping they'd feel better too.  No, in the long term it leads to lethargy and lack of eating."

He started the car.  "I'm already off today and I'm going to the grocery store so I can cook for all three of them.  Xander's lost about ten pounds.  Sure.  Thanks.  I'll let you know, sir.  Of course.  No, I'm going to make sure that list is put on there even if I have to put it up there myself."  He hung up and called Adam. "You had better be on a plane.  We have the full list now and we're going to put it back up if we have to, Adam.  Yay, have you asked Ray if he's been eating with Xander yet?"  He smirked at that question. "Oh, can he start early?  Well, Don, Horatio, Xander....  Yeah, Adam.  Thanks."  He hung up.  He headed off to the grocery store.  His boy needed to eat.  Badly.


Speed walked into Xander's house and into the kitchen, finding Aiden in there.  He kissed her on the cheek. "They tell you?"

"No, I popped around for our usual Saturday with the dog."  She shrugged.  "Then I found the wasted one, I found him sharing the dog as a pillow with Don, and I found your boy napping on the couch.  Why?"  He handed over the list.  "What's this?"

"Things none of the GHS members we know should ever take."

She looked it over then took it into the office to copy it, then brought it back for him.  "I'll post it on the fridge.  It all looks herbal."

"It mostly is.  One's a pretty rare preservative."

"Okay."  She put it into her purse.  "I'll post it in my kitchen."  She put another one on the fridge and wrote on it 'take it and end up back like this', then tacked a picture of Xander next to it.  "That should get the point across."  Speed drew an arrow, making her smile.  "He's not usually that clueless."

"Don can be."  She giggled and they got to work cooking together.  "We're making a quiche," he said at her curious look.  "Horatio said subtle and soft."

"Okay.  I'll learn from you."  He grinned and handed over the veggies.


Speed's 'aww' made Xander wake up enough to glare at him.  "Hi.  Did you know you were poisoning yourself, Don, and Horatio?"  Xander grunted and put his head back down.  The dog lapped him and got a frown too but he let him go, making Don grunt at him.  "Don," he called quietly.  Don grunted and flipped onto Xander, using him as his pillow.  Xander smiled and wiggled deeper under him.  "Guys.  Food?"

"Bad," Xander scowled into Don's neck.  Don licked him on the ear.  "Good doggy."

Speed smiled.  That was so cute.  He looked at Aiden, she nodded she was getting it on film.  "Boys," he called more loudly.  Don groaned and flipped him off.  He laughed.  "Not your type, Flack.  Get up!" he snapped.  Don snapped awake and looked at the person under him.  "Yeah, that's your boy.  Up.  Time for food."

Don started to get up but Xander pulled him back down and flipped him onto his back, wiggling all over him until he got comfortable again.  "Can't, Speed.  Sorry," he said with a yawn.  "What happened?"

"You know that tea he said was so great?"  Don gave him a light glare.  "It's herbal and all GHS members are allergic to it."  Don muttered something.  "I read lips, Flack, and I have sensitive ears according to Ray.  Get up."  Xander turned and glared at him. "The guy who turned you onto it did it maliciously.  He's going to jail.  Yours was unknowing stupidity.  It's time to go eat."

"Not hungry."

"Which is a problem," Don admitted. He put his hands on Xander's hips.  "You used to be a bit bigger than this."  Xander glared at him.  "Don't give me that look, Xander.  Get up.  Now."  Xander sighed but got up enough to let him out.  Don got up with Speed's help and pulled Xander up and into the bathroom.  "Look at yourself, Xander.  You're skinnier than you were.  Keep it up, I'm calling my Ma and making her come feed your tail.  Now, let's eat."  Xander continued to stare at himself.

Speed nodded so Don went to eat.  "The way those things work is they clear the backlog," Speed offered quietly, walking up behind Xander and giving him a hug from behind.  "They clear the backlog, that makes you feel better.  You can't tell when you're surging or not though because it mutes all the senses you have for that stuff," he offered quietly.  Xander slumped.  "Then it starts to make you lethargic and forgetful, sleepy and too tired to eat.  Until you die if you don't quit using it.  When Danny brought stuff in, we found six different things on the list in what we had, including that tea you gave me for Horatio."

"It made me feel better," he said quietly, looking at him in the mirror.  "I wanted him to feel better on the bad days."

"He does," he assured him, giving him a squeeze.  "But that's not the right way.  Yeah, it helped but that stuff is really dangerous, Xander."  Xander turned to look at him.  He kissed him on the forehead.  "Now, listen hard.  There are higher levels who end up going to them when they're critically backed up, like you would end up enslaving the city," he said quietly.  "If you ever get to that point again, you will come to me or Horatio.  We'll watch you, we'll administer it.  We'll make sure you don't lose more weight.  Because you have.  Way too much weight."

"But I still felt it.  I was still in the pool and everything."

"What you were doing would've cleared Ray's body out and probably killed him at the levels you were taking, Xander.  You're stronger because of your past - your body's more used to hardship than his - and you're a higher level.  Now, honestly, were you back to feeling confused?"  Xander nodded.  "Are you now?"  He gave him a helpless look.  "Fine, we'll do this the clinical way.  There's a very ancient home test we can do to find a relative level from a blood sample. I know it. I used it on Horatio in the past.  For now, you'll go eat two servings.  All of it."

"I'll get sick again."

"Then you'll finish a plate and keep it down and we'll go again."  Xander shook his head. "You can't keep anything down?"

"I managed some milk and a sandwich."

"Good.  I made quiche and some veggies stir-fry style.  It'll stay down. I know it will.  Then we'll do the test and we'll see."  Xander nodded.  "Now, look at yourself, Xander.  See how much weight you've lost?"  He turned him back around.  "See?  Your hips were wider than this before.  Now you really look like a girl."  Xander elbowed him but he was happier. "Can we do the test now?"  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Come on."  He walked out and found Adam and Ray there. "We need to test his level, Adam."  Adam nodded.  "Did you get the list of what we found that Danny brought in?"

"The list was expanded from the last time I saw it," Horatio offered. "Come here, Xander."  Xander sat down beside him, looking scared.  "I know you didn't know.  It was an easy fix."

"It felt good! I felt like myself again, like I was when I was younger."

"I know.  I've been there.  It's seductive.  I've felt stronger and more capable recently," Horatio assured him.  "I'm not, but I felt like it."  Xander snuggled into his side.  "Now, this is the list.  We don't take anything on the list."  Xander took it to look over, smiling at the end note about 'eat all the chocolate you want to take their place'.  "Did you see any of that?"

"One of the people on the bulletin board suggested I try the ginseng stuff."  He handed it back.  "Said it was good for headaches."

"She's a higher level and she's used a cup a month to clear what wasn't being met," Adam said, coming over.  "I did fail in teaching you some things I should have, Xander.  I'm sorry about that."  Xander shrugged.  "I thought it was still on the site and you'd find an experienced protector or keeper.  I know Connor knew not to let you have any of those.  The same as Oz did.  Don should have."

"I forgot all about the list, Adam. I was so suppressed nothing bothered me except for cat fur."  He looked at the ferrets.  "Are they dead?"

"No, they were up and playing a minute ago," Ray assured him, opening the cage door.  George ran out and ran right for Horatio's foot, up it, and into Xander's lap, squeaking at him.   "Even they were worried."

"I'm sorry I worried you guys."

"When did you first go there, Xander?" Danny asked.

He yawned.  "A few months ago?"  He looked down at his baby.  "I've been horrible to you recently, huh?"  The ferret squeaked and curled up on his lap, making him smile.  "You're my baby, it's all good," he agreed, stroking him gently.  At least until he fell asleep.

Horatio looked down and rolled his eyes.  "Did we book the herbalist?"

"We did.  Eric's case was a lower level as well," Speed offered.  "He was feeding it to him too.  We've sent Frank to check on the others who he admitted to seeing and I called the other members in town to tell them what had went on.  His funeral will be well attended."  He stroked over Xander's hair.  "He's not keeping food down?"

"We've been working some hellish hours," Danny admitted.  "You've said so too, Speed."

"We have been.  It's sucked rocks recently."  He looked over, Beauty was gone.  "Loose ferret."

"She's trying to get inside my pants," Ray told him, bending down to pick her up.  "Hey, pretty one.  Let's clean those litter boxes, huh?"  He went to do that, finding them clean.  "Did it maybe make him hyper?"

"Xander had ADHD as a kid," Aiden told them all.  "He said so."  Adam smiled and took Xander's hand to prick his finger, getting an angry ferret trying to bite him.

"Hey," Horatio warned.  "He's helping the daddy.  Behave, George, or back into the cage."  The ferret settled down to watch him run the blood test in a saucer.  "It's clear?"

"Perfectly clear.  So he's at least riding above an eight," Speed offered.  "Can you do Horatio's too?  I think he's slipped.  Our shift is gone or else I'd go run the real tests in the lab."  Adam smiled and pulled out a small tester.  "Oooh, the new one?"

"The new one."  He tested Xander's finger, looking at the number.  "It's reading error."  He tested Horatio's.  "It's reading eight."  Speed groaned. "So maybe they're both on a high."

"Don't look at me, I'm just tired," Don assured him.

"Eat first, Flackey," Aiden ordered, handing him and Horatio a plate.  She flicked Xander on the forehead when she came back with his, getting a grumpy person.  "Eat.  Then nap again."  Xander nodded, sitting up some so he could eat.  "Good.  Otherwise it's to the ER with you, dear."  Xander shuddered and tensed up, eating slowly but eating. "Good boy."  Spot barked from his position on top of the middle ferret cage.  "How did you get up there?"

"I tossed his ball up there," Horatio admitted dryly.

Ray came over to lift the dalmatian down and tossed his ball up the hallway for him, watching him run and get it.  He sat down against the living room wall to bounce, roll, or toss it for the puppy, getting a happy puppy again.  "I need one of these."

"Talk to your man," Aiden reminded him.

Adam looked at her.  "Don't make me decide.  I'm not one for beasts."  Xander pouted at him and petted George some more.  "Please don't do that," he begged.

"Ray needs company when you're being an asshole.  That way he doesn't have to get so many frequent flier miles every month."  He took a kiss from the shocked man.  "You have PMS.  He shows up the same time every month."

Adam burst out laughing.  "He's right, I do," Ray agreed.  "Oh, I'm moving down here as their detective.  You can come if you want.  I'd like that but you seem to be pouting a lot.  Am I not wearing you out?"

"No, Ray, you're doing that quite well," he assured him.  "We'll talk tonight."  Ray shrugged.  "You know I wouldn't mind moving down here.

"Let me add an amendment, I am moving down here close to Xander but not in with Xander," he said plainly.  Adam gave him a look.  "I don't mind the occasional play as long as we both agree, but really."

"I'm not like that," Xander complained.  "I don't want to break you two up or get between couples or anything.  I know that part of the problems Eric and Ryan have are my fault too."

Speed gave him a look and shook his head.  "No, Eric's problem is that Eric likes to have multiple lovers and Ryan's not like that," he said plainly.  "It's not you.  You're actually the one keeping them together because Ryan's got an outlet for his frustration."  Xander shook his head.  Horatio even nodded. "See?  Eric's a whole different sort of slut.  Trust me.  Eric and Ryan's problems aren't that you like to play with Ryan.  It's that Eric and Ryan aren't that well suited to each other. Ryan's a homebody and Eric likes to go party a lot more than anyone but a current frat boy.  And yes, before anyone says anything, I've said this to both of them before."

"He has.  I've heard him tell Ryan the same thing," Aiden assured him.  "Yeah, Eric and Ryan's problems are that Eric and Ryan mean different things when they say the word 'boyfriend'.  The same as I'll have that problem with Eric too but I think Ryan's really cute."

Don looked at her.  "Did you get to see when Xander threatened to turn Cordy into a lesbian?"  She giggled, leaning on Horatio's other side.  "Yeah.  Ryan's a bit more uptight.  That's not you and Ryan being cuddly or whatever, Xander.  That's Ryan needs a homebody sort and Eric needs another person who wants to go party with him most of the time.  Since Aiden likes that too, they'll work it out."   She looked at Xander.  "Eat."  Xander ate another bite.  "If we have to nag you about it, I'm driving you to the ER myself."  Xander ate a bite after that too.  "Good, keep it up."  She looked at the others, then at Horatio, who was yawning.  "You eat too."

"I did."

Speed took his and Don's empty plates, going to refill them and hand them back.  He brought a treat for Xander, making him look at the bowl of mousse hesitantly.  "It's good."

"It's thick and heavy."

"It's my mousse, Xander, not pudding.  Eat the rest and you can have that."  Xander finished his dinner and dug into the treat, eating it slowly too.  When he was done, he was back to yawning and leaning against Horatio's side, falling asleep just like Don was against Aiden's side.

"Awww," Ray said, taking a picture.  "Now all we need are billions of repetitions of this scene."  Speed nodded.  "How long do you think before he's back to normal?"

"A few days until it's out of his system then the time to regain the weight," Adam said quietly, looking at Ray.  "You know I have no intention of taking him in permanently, Ray."

"No I don't.  The same as I can't seem to get you to consider me anything but innocent."

"You are innocent in many ways and I'd like to keep you that way for a great while," he said firmly.

"Yeah, but I'd like a bit of variety now and then."

Speed looked at him.  "Ray, do you really want to end up like Xander?  Having stories about how you screwed half the demons in a city?"  Ray shuddered and shook his head.  "Or stories about how it was so big it was impossible to swallow, but you sat on it?"

"That's not my thing."

"Yeah, well, that's part of not being totally innocent as well.  Granted, some experimentation is good," he reminded their national president.  "Remember what happens to bored GHS?"  He pointed at Xander.  Adam shuddered and grabbed Ray to hold.  "So work it out, guys.   Horatio's the counselor and I'm the blunt one.  I've told a number of keepers to pull their heads outta their asses and grow up.  Including Danny."  Danny nodded at that.  "Work it out or hire the society a marriage counselor."  He looked at the sleeping people.  "Aiden, can you wiggle out?  Horatio won't mind being a pillow this once."  She wiggled free and Don snuffled, but ran into Horatio's arm.  He shifted until he was pillowed on Horatio's thigh and had hold of the end of Xander's braid.  Aiden took some film of that too while the others got their own pictures. When the dog came over to lay on top of Don they took more.


The day Horatio and Speed came back, Yelina cornered them.  "What happened?"

"You got the list, right?" Speed asked.  She nodded. "None of the GHS, ever, are allowed to have anything on it.  It's deadly for them and it's why Xander's still got to pack on another ten pounds.  He lost seventeen from his normal weight."  She gave him a horrified look. "Horatio lost six.  He's regained his and we've all been making Xander eat until he's sick of food."

"Is this like drugs?"

"It mutes the senses GHS members have about our hormone levels and clears out the backlog initially, but it leads to lethargy and lack of eating," Horatio explained.  "No one had told Xander any of that however.  He spread some tea and other things to the rest of us  he knew. I've spent the last four days napping and being used as a pillow or a plate."  She blushed at that.  "Not like that," he assured her.  "Only one person gets that right."  Speed smirked.  "He's about to be spanked however.  Xander's fine, just a bit skinny.  Don's all right as well.  We needed the extra day to get Xander back onto a proper schedule.   The boys had gotten a bit lax with the schedules that we've all been working. Xander's also been going out guarded only by their dog."

"We're lucky Don doesn't know he was taken again," Speed agreed.

Horatio looked at him.  "Four times, Speed.  The dog stopped three and Xander himself got the other one."  He smiled at Frank when he came over.  "How did things run while I was gone?"

"It didn't.  It had sand in the gears again.  You need more people."

"Talk to the chief about the budget, Frank. I'd like more people.  Ryan's come along amazingly well."  He headed for his office. "It's fixed but Xander needs to eat."

"Good.  He okay?"

Speed nodded.  "Yeah, they're all fine now."  He pulled out his favorite picture of the three of them cuddled together, showing him.  "After a long day of being forced to eat," he explained.

"Man, Xander's lost some weight," Frank complained.

"That's part of the lethargy, Frank," Speed said, shrugging a bit. "He's regained some of it already.  He'll be fine. His appetite jumped back yesterday and he's eating everything in sight."

"Good.  He could use it," Yelina said, smiling at the shirtless Horatio and the two other boys.  "They are adorable napping like that.  Is that the dog?"

"He's been fiercely guarding Don and Xander.  The first day, we walked in to find Xander and Don both clutching the dog like the teddybear and using him as a pillow.  We'll have to pull stills off the film Aiden made.  When we do, there'll be a single picture floating around."  They smiled at that.  "Kept in my careful possession.  How were things really?"

"Please go take my case from Wolfe?" Yelina begged.  "He's got three open, he won't care."

"Three?   You guys could've called us yesterday."

"No, we couldn't have.  The Chief said to leave you guys alone when we complained.  And did we complain!" Frank assured him.

"Then please whine about the budget.  He's nitpicking over gas costs last I knew."  They shared a look.  That meant another election year budget review.  "I'll see what we can pull up."

"Thanks, really."  He walked off, going back to his desk.  He found Don at his.  "Next four calls are yours."

"Sure," he agreed quietly.  "Guess you guys got told?"

"Yup," he said, giving him a look.  "I noticed you were slower."

"Yeah, a lot slower.  I'm back to my normal perky self though."  He stood up.  "That bad?"

"Eight new cases."  Ryan stomped his way. "What?  Yelina told Speed to take her case."

"They're related."  He put down proof then pointed.  "Hair strands at this and these three, plus another five cases we've already done.  So either we've got a voyeur...."

"Or it's one of you guys," Don offered.  "Or it's a mysterious anomaly which defense attorneys can use."  Ryan looked over and nodded.  "You could've come over."

"The Chief told us to leave you guys alone."  He showed him the hair profile.  "They're doing mitochondrial DNA to see if there's a match.  I've already verified a strand match."  He looked at Frank again.  "I'm hoping it's a voyeur."

"Me too!  I hate serial cases, Wolfe."

"Good.  As soon as we have it I'll get it back to you but we've got to start watching for it."

"Next four are mine," Don assured him.

Ryan smiled.  "Won't help on our end any.  Even if Horatio, Speed, and Danny take the next four too, I've still got too many open files."  He went back to the lab, leaving those there with them.  He went to do another round of gathering reports, smiling when most of them were separated out by case for him.  "Thank you," he told Valera.

"Welcome.  The DNA on those strands will still take a day."

"I told Frank and Don so they can be aware."

"Good."  She smiled.  "Good luck."

"Baptism by fire," he sighed, heading back to his work lab.  He found Eric in there and looked at the one he was sharing with him.  "Reports."  He handed those over, then put the others with the other case files he had open off to the side.  "With those strands of hair, I'm looking at any other commonalities."

"It's probably one of the ambulance people, Wolfe, calm down," he ordered.

"On three of the ones with the hair found, no ambulance personnel had been noted as being there yet."  Eric rolled his eyes. "Eric, a defense attorney can use these things to discredit the case and us."   He got back to work with these new things, frowning.  "Hey, a suspect, finally!"  He smiled and worked it over, then suddenly nodded and gathered that case together, making notes as he walked out.  He walked around Horatio when he saw him standing in the halls.  "Found a suspect."

"Mr. Wolfe, these hairs?"

"Not a clue yet," he offered, hitting the elevator button before looking back at him.  "We're doing the mitochondrial DNA testing to make sure they're the same person.  I did a strand match and they were.  I'm hoping we can rule it as one of us."

"I hope so as well.  What did Frank say?"

"He and Don are both hoping it's a voyeur.  Don's got the next four cases."  Horatio smiled.  "Later." He got onto the elevator and headed down, going to the auto pool and checking one out for a while.  It was going to be another long day.  He came back with a suspect in custody, he had been using drugs when he went to talk to him, and food waiting on him.  He smiled.  Xander was definitely back now. He ate while he watched his suspect fidget, looking over as Yelina walked up to him, handing him a drink.  "Thanks.  Found him shooting up.  I thought I'd give it a bit to come down."

"That's fine, Ryan.  You're doing fine."

"Those hairs are going to drive me insane.  For some reason I wanted to make sure they're not mine.  I tested it and everything so I know mine aren't a match but I can't help but feel...."

She covered his mouth and looked at him.  "Worry about that one when you have the report.  For now, finish eating and let's make this one sorry for killing the people on their porch."

"Car.  Other case."  She moaned and went to get that one.  He finished up and tossed what he should of the packaging, putting the fork into the sink.  He even finished his drink and brushed his teeth before going in there.  "Are you down yet?" he asked as he walked in.  The suspect glared at him.  "Good.  Then let's talk."  He let Yelina in and closed the door behind her.


Xander looked up from cooking when he felt the quickening, walking out to where Ryan was now laying on the lawn.  "What happened?"

"We have a person somewhere who's shedding a hair on a great majority of cases.  No one in common on the investigative teams."  He looked at him.  "I need sanity."

"You need dinner.  Come inside and help me cook."  Ryan smiled and got up with his help, coming inside to help him cook.  Don came home a few minutes later. "I'm cooking."

"Good.  Did we get groceries too?"

"Yup.  So I'm making those croquette things Stella showed me."  He flipped those over.  They were a bit too brown but still not burned.  Don kissed the back of his neck and Xander beamed.  "Thank you.  Did you guys get overloaded?"

"Yes," Ryan moaned.  "It was murder valley the last few days."  Xander gave him a hug.  "Thank you."  He pinched Don on the arm, earning a smile.  "At least yours was still there."

"Yeah, that was nice."  He took the spatula and pulled things off the heat, smiling at the cuddling Xander.  "He's still pretty sleepy."

"That's fine. I can help make these.  It's a good way to calm down."  He sent Xander to the couch and they cooked together, chatting quietly. One thing made Ryan hit himself in the head and hurry off with an 'I'll be back in a few, that gave me an idea'.   He ran back to the station and signed back in, going up to find the case he had been working on earlier.  He was right, that was a legitimate suspect and motive he had missed earlier.  He took it with him, going to talk to the suspect again.

"Didn't you leave?" Calleigh called from the other side of the parking lot.

"Yes, then I got an idea."  He heard something and looked around, then dove behind a car at the first gunshot.  "Hell, not my night.  I need to make notes."

"You'll remember it later," Speed said from behind him.  Officers were rushing off to deal with the issue.  "Ryan, are you hit?"

"No, not yet."  He looked at himself, then at him.  "Why?"

"Go find your suspect."  Ryan got into his hummer with the file and headed off, thinking hard to get back his last few thoughts.   It finally came to him again and it was like lightening.  Or maybe a quickening.  He sped up and turned on the lights.  This was not going to be pretty.  Good but not pretty.

Speed looked around at the chaos, then over at Calleigh, who was pouting.  "Go."

"I can't."

"You can.  You were a victim.  You can't work it."  She beamed and got in to go home.  He called the night shift ballistics tech in to warn him about it.  It was a thoughtful gesture on his part. They came back with someone in custody.  "Right into a room, boys.  I'm right behind you."  They nodded and drug him up there, struggling and trying to kick.


Ryan walked in later that night.  "I'm down to four open cases and that hair investigation," he said proudly.  Danny clapped.  "Thank you.  I deserve it since someone took a potshot at either Calleigh or me."  He flopped down next to Xander, looking at him.  "Thank you for being a good idea giver."

"Welcome."  He gave him another hug.

"Awww.  Is it worn out?" he teased.  Danny nodded at that.  "Good.  I like that.  That means I'll have the bouncy ball of boy to go shopping with soon."  Xander laughed and gave him a squeeze then let him go.  "So...."  He looked at Danny.  "Thank you for coming back."

"If we had known it had been that bad we'd have nagged from a distance yesterday.  Horatio's already talked to the chief about that rule."  He finished his snack and put the plate down.  "Hungry?"

"No I had a burger, thanks though."  He looked down at Xander, stroking over his hair.  "Don and his dog gone?"

"Dog's on the bed.  Ferrets are on the bed somewhere," he said with a small smile.  "Waiting on their boy to join them.  If he wants to."  Xander nodded, going that way.  "He's been good today."

"Good. What can I do to help?"

"For now, make him eat a lot more than he had been."  Ryan nodded at that.  "By the way, I got you lunch."

"Thank you, I probably wouldn't have eaten without it."  Danny smiled.  "He need me or just cuddles or just eating support?"

"Cuddling him is good.  He's almost fully worn it out.  Oh, and Ray will be starting in a few days."

"Good.  We could use another detective." Danny grinned at that. "Too bad he can't do lab stuff."

"Yeah but the Chief is wary of Horatio's budget."

"If we had more techs we'd work less overtime."

Danny nodded at that.  "As long as they were decent techs."

"True.  Horatio wouldn't let any other type work though."

"Very true," Danny agreed.  Don came in and he smiled.  "Ray's starting soon."

"Good.  I'll let him work with me until he's gotten used to the city.  Frank's desk will thank him for it."  He sat down next to Ryan and gave him a hug.  "It's all right.  Xander will be back to normal in no time."

"That's fine.  Watch out, there was an attempted sniper attack in the parking lot."

"Oh, I will be," Don assured him, giving him a squeeze.  "You be careful too since I heard it was aimed your way."

"It was?"

"It was," Danny agreed.  "Changing lives sucks so be very careful."

"I will be."

"Good.  Though maybe you can become a masseuse or something."  Ryan smiled at that.  "We could use one around here."

"We could."  He let Don snuggle for a bit, smiling when he heard the snore.  Danny snorted but came over to help get Don to bed as well.  Then he and Danny went to check out the downstairs area and make sure it was still all right.  Plus what else Xander had done down there.

The furry spots were very nice and soft when they ran hands over them.  A great place for their boys to play with toys when they weren't available.


Frank smiled at the new guy. "Ray.  Welcome to Miami."  They were in the station and it was time to get the stories straight for the gossips.

"Thanks.  Do you guys ever turn off the sun?"

"Not hardly and then it's a hurricane," he offered with a grin.  "So, why did you choose to come down here?"

"I'm a friend of a few people down here."


"Xander's," he said honestly.  Frank moaned. "Sorry."

"No, that's okay.  We're getting used to friends of Xander around here.  Anything we should know since we do know about Don and that stuff?"

Ray grinned and nodded.  "You knew I was.  Also, my boyfriend's the national head."

"Good to know.  So if we've got problems with that stuff, we'll call him."  He smiled.  "You've already got a desk and I can guarantee you'll have a case within hours."

"Yay me."  He found the empty desk and put his bag down, starting to unpack.

"What did you work before?  I never asked."

"Violent crimes."

"So, some homicide, some robbery?"

Ray looked up at him.  "Basically whatever the patrol guys didn't feel like dealing with that day," he agreed.  "A lot of it was still paperwork, Frank."  That got a smile, it was the universal cop gripe.  "Just promise me I won't have to work with a Mountie."

"Nah, none of those here unless they're on vacation," he swore.  Ray grinned and relaxed, settling into his new desk.  Don walked in.  "You're late, rookie."

"I'm not a rookie, Frank.  I'm also not late.  I'm not due in for another hour."  Ray looked at him.  "Finally.  Xander was pouting because we told him he couldn't feed everyone for your first lunch here."

"Awww, let him," Frank complained.  "We all ate good the last time."

"Frank, he's still a bit too underweight," Don said quietly.

"He'll be fine and Alexx will mother the boy.  Just like she does Speed and Ryan."  He saw people going running past.  "What's going on?"

"Someone shot Wolfe," someone shouted.

"Oooh, damn."  They hurried out too.  Ryan was alive, which was nice, and bleeding, which was normal.  Ray beat them over there, whispering in his ear, getting a nod and a pained look.  "Huh.  I thought that was just Delko and you, Flack," he said quietly.  Don glared at him.  "You cut your hand on the paper and I noticed it."  Don groaned.  "I'm a good detective."

"You are, Frank, and I'm not sure why I still work in law enforcement."

"You'd be bored and angsting that you didn't help."  He walked over to help Ray and Eric with him.  "Guys, out of the public view before those become any more visible?"  Eric gave him a look.  "I've caught you doing it before too, Delko.  Get him out of the public view."  They got him into the ambulance and off.  Those two could handle it and Horatio probably already knew.  He turned and found him giving orders to the patrol guys.  "So, another person with the little blue lights?" he asked quietly.  Horatio looked at him.  "Noticeable when it fixes paper cuts too, Caine."

Horatio nodded. "Mr. Wolfe is," he agreed quietly.  "Why?"

"Well, at least he'll have fun on his mandatory time off."

"Indeed and we'll get a clean ballistics sample."  Frank smirked at that. "His body will force it out.  He'll be fine."  Their boss came running and Horatio nodded at him, looking at the search teams as they came back.  "Anything?"

"Three shell casings, already tagged and bagged by Duquesne," one reported.   "We found their nest, she's got it now.  Will Wolfe be fine?"

"He'll be perfectly fine in a few days, gentlemen.  Ryan's a very strong man and I know he'll go to his own doctor instead of the ER.  He'll make sure he heals without a scar if possible."  They all smiled at that.  "Anything else to report?"

"My team found tire tracks, sir, and they know.  Messer is taking pictures of them now since there were at least two kinds."

"Thank you," Horatio said.  "Let's up the building's security again, shall we?"  They nodded and went to do that. He looked at his boss.  "Ryan will be fine."

"Good!  How long should he have to be off?"

"Average is a few weeks," Frank told him.  "When I got hit in the outer arm, a graze, I got three days plus mandatory counseling."

Horatio nodded.  "My last one was a few weeks since it was more serious."  The chief moaned.  "What?"

"Can't he come back early?"

"I'm sure he'll try but he'll need medical clearance first, sir."

"Then again, Wolfe's out of training mostly, so they could use another few new techs," Frank offered.  He got glared at for it. "Not like they're going to be bored, sir."

"On the very bad days, I borrow from night shift," Horatio reminded him.

"Yeah, but doing that leaves them stuck and then they complain to the detectives," Frank assured him, patting him on the back.  It got a small smirk.  "The last time you did that was the plane crash, Horatio."

"I remember."  He looked at his boss again.  "I could use a few new techs however. Especially with that memo about certain people getting ready to lose leave time."  He groaned.  "I know Eric Delko alone has over a month saved up.  Speedle has at least three.  I have more."

"You three leave us like that again, I'm going to go on strike," Frank assured him. "Please, boss?  Even a part time one?  Or one who swings back and forth.  Or even a swing shift like I heard they've got in Vegas?"

"I have been looking at the swing shift idea," he admitted.  "I'd rather promote from within for that senior position however."  He gave a pointed look at Speed's back then at Horatio.  "I don't think the logical choice would go over well however."

"Probably not," Horatio agreed. He called his night counterpart.  "I'm here with the chief about the manpower issues.  Another attack in the parking lot.  Wolfe's arm.  He'll be fine."  He smiled.  Then he nodded.  "That's what I was thinking.  Would they need...."  He laughed.  "That's agreeable to me as well.  Thank you, Connie."  He hung up.  "She and I agree, Chief.  We can handle their paperwork too."  The Chief smiled.  "Also, it'd save on the overtime my people get."  He and Speed both worked enough overtime that their checks were more than healthy enough to take the pay cut.   "Poach, but not my team."

"But...."  Horatio glared.   "Fine, we'll see if any of the night shift wants to move.  I'll have to post it anyway.  You know that."

"Thank you, sir.  You might also post it in the journal.  Even a half-team would help."

"That's not a bad idea.  I'll let you and Connie handle that.  Give me a report today on how many openings you two decided on.  No more than half a team."

"Agreed."  The Chief walked off. Horatio smirked at that and did a happy dance inside.

Frank cleaned closer.  "Line dancing or picking your boy up to spin around and squealing inside?" he whispered, making Horatio splutter and give him a look before walking off to tell the others.  Frank grinned.  That would be a nice thing.  And maybe they'd move Ray to be their detective too.


Ryan stomped into Xander's house, making him look alarmed.  "I'm off for four damn weeks of pointless rest."

"Yeah, that's what normal men would have to have," Xander agreed.  "So?"

"It's pointless!"

"It means no one else will realize that you've got blue lightening syndrome, as Ray said Frank called it."  Ryan sat down with a groan, rubbing his face.  "So we'll go have fun for four weeks, Ryan.  You're stressed anyway."

"Your idea of fun and my idea of sanity, two different things, Xander."  Xander pouted at him.  "No traveling."

"There was that offer to go learn that other self-defense style."  Ryan gave him a look.  "It'd be beneficial."

"It might be but you need to gain the rest of that weight back."  He pulled him over and into his lap to look him over.  "You're doing good. Nearly there."  He took a kiss and let Xander cuddle him. "You're still keeping it worn out?"

"It's an impossible task," he offered with a teasing grin.  "Want to help me finish my holiday shopping too?"

Ryan moaned.  Xander needed reined in for that.  "Sure, I can do that.  I'm supposed to be on bedrest for the next day though."

"So you'll be on bed rest in the gust room."

Ryan smiled. "I like the way you think, Harris."  He took another kiss, only interrupted by little teeth nibbling on his hand.  He looked down.  "Hi, Beauty."  He stroked her gently.  "Such a pretty ferret.  You live up to your name."  George snuck over and pounced too.  "Good pounce, George."  That got a laugh from their father and Xander slid off his lap, getting him the tub of kitten chow, what they ate. It was a good thing to play and treat the ferrets.  "Where's the dog?"

"Outside.  He's laying in the grass watching the water for pirates."

"Sure.  He find any?"

"One.  Came up from the beach.  He walked over to him and barked happily, getting petted."  Ryan laughed.  "He did!  Then, when the guy came out with a box of stuff, he set off another unholy racket that made Don get up and check.  He's watching for him to come back."  Ryan laughed at the image of Don fighting pirates with his trust doggy sidekick.  "Also, Danny and Don both said we've got to do something about the money laying around. Christmas presents do that."

"They do," Ryan agreed, smiling at him.  "We still need to get into the rest of the bags."  Xander handed over the binder he had worked up.  "Hmm.  Are we sure Tumie doesn't want his stuff?"

"I called to talk to him a few days ago, checking on him, making sure he's all right and things.  He said he's fine now, better, all healed where they did have to take the one ball. He said if he never saw it again he'd be a happy GHS and to please sell it or whatever.  I've already separated out the first stack, including hair things I don't want.  Some of the other stuff was clothes that I was going to donate somewhere. It's not too far off ours."

"We can do that.  Did you make an appointment?"

"Yup.  We keep a list of places that're used to us."  He went to get that bag and bring it out.  It was even a normal one.  "Much easier to carry than the one footlocker Don and I drug into one."  Ryan gaped at him.  "Tips from when I was working."


Xander nodded.  "I had a client who was an earth demon."  He shrugged and they went to pick out what Xander should wear.  Ryan could play guard.


Xander smiled at the jeweler helping him.  "I got your name off our lists.  It's not vitally important but I'm rather tired of looking at them."

"Where did you get these?  Some of them are exquisite and some not too much.  Plus all the hair sticks?"  Xander pulled around his braid.  "Ah, a reasonable reason for you to collect them."

"People like to play with my hair.  Mostly those were presents or what my kidnapers gave to me."  The man looked confused.  "Sorry, I'm a member of GHS."  He put down his membership card, getting an understanding look.  "We keep a list of stores that know about us and cater to our peculiar natures."

"I've heard others complaining about gaudy kidnaping presents as well," he promised, looking in the rest of the bag. "The cash?"

"Going to the bank," he sighed. "My keeper was not happy when he found my emergency stash laying around."

"That could be dangerous," he agreed. He went back over them.  "To be honest, we can't take all these."

"I know.  That's why I made an appointment at the other place for two hours from now," he offered with a small smile.  The jeweler laughed and nodded, separating out what he wanted of the grouping.  He made out a check for him.  "Maybe you can sell the hair sticks as holiday presents.  They mostly would be very nice."

"They would be," he agreed, packing the rest away again.  "Thank you, Mr. Harris. I'll do some lovely things with the loose ones.  Any time you have to deal with that issue, please, come to me first."

Xander beamed. "I will.  I had one in New York I went to and I'll put you up there with his name."  He winked and gathered everything together, heading out to the car.  Ryan gave him a look as he took the bag.  "I'll have to start another safety deposit box."

"Probably true."  They headed for the other place and Ryan got a very bad feeling about it.  He called Horatio.  "Hey, boss.  Playing bodyguard for Xander.  Doing what his men ordered and handling those bags, boss.  Yeah, doing that.  Do we have anything on McCauley Jewelers?"  He froze and took a deep breath then nodded.  "Sure, boss."  He hung up.  "No, Xander."

"Why not?"

"This is where Speed almost died.  No."

"Okay. I'll cancel the appointment and go to a real one."  Ryan relaxed.  "Sorry."

"No, you didn't know.  It's all right."  He patted him on the arm.  "Let's do that now and then find a better place."  Xander stuck in his earbud and typed in the number from the window, then drove off, talking quietly.  He found another store and they both went in, Ryan with the bag in his supposedly uninjured hand.

"Sorry this is such short notice," Xander said with a small smile.  "I'm GHS and these are annoying me."

"Members of GHS often have these issues, sir.  What did you bring me?"  Xander took the bag and poured it out, then shook it a few times to get the last few stones.  Ryan took the bag back and searched it, putting them onto the counter as well.  "My," he said happily, picking them up to look over.  "Second stop?"

Xander leaned closer.  "I'm interviewing to see who I want to deal with some other things.  I'm a level ten."  The man moaned.  Xander pulled something out of his pocket and put it down, making him drool.  "I get presents like this usually.  Another member and I were taken together and he's decided he didn't want what they gave him.  So I'm setting it up in an account for him just in case and I'll be doing the rest of mine shortly."  He smiled.  "So a small test to see who I like best."

"I'm surprised, most of you go to McCauley's."

Ryan coughed and tapped his badge, getting a horrified look.  "I'm with the lab so there's a severe conflict there.  Xander's a great friend to most of my shift.  Never happen."

"Understandable.  That was a deplorable thing."  He smiled and went back to looking.  Then he picked up the emerald Xander had pulled out of his pocket.  "I adore this.  I could get a few great pieces out of this one if you'd permit me to recut."

Xander shrugged.  "I don't have any attachment to it."  The jeweler smiled and nodded, handing over the check he found with the baggie of cash as well when he came to it.  He took the rest and paid very well for it.  GHS members often brought in some of the best things.  Xander smiled.  "You're bonded, right?"

"I am, fully."

"Good, I need someone to do appraisals for his and my stuff.  Could I get you to do that?"

"You can.  Would you want to do that here?"

"Not really.  Not with that much stuff.  I'd feel kind of odd."

"I understand perfectly, sir, and I'll gladly do that for you.  Call me when you've got everything pulled out and ready for me and I can take that day off.  I'm only one salesman here and the boss will appreciate the future business."  Xander smiled and took his personal card, tucking it into his wallet.  "Thank you, sir, for trusting us."

"I like you guys.  You guys have always been good to me when I came in for presents before."  He winked and walked out with Ryan, handing him the check.  "I like him."

"So do I.  He seemed really happy to get all that."  He kept his mouth shut about it being a bit lower in value than he thought it should be.  Xander probably didn't care about that. He walked Xander into the bank as well, watching as he set up the separate account.  Then they went to have ice cream and plan their strategy with the remaining money.


Don walked in and found Xander gift wrapping.  "Already?"

"Yup, holiday stuff," he agreed happily.  "I've got a release from Tumie to do whatever with his stuff in the office.  I found a nice jeweler who'll appraise it for us. Plus I only have to help Speed shop now.  Horatio asked that I did when we called to see if they needed anything."  He grinned and finished the last bow, putting that one aside.

"You're more on the ball than I am, Xander," Don promised, patting him on the head.  "Doesn't that mean we have to sort through the bags first?"

"Already done, it's in a binder."  Don came back to take it when he held it up, sitting down to look through it.  He grinned at the moans.  "Including Tumie's stuff.  I sent him the lists and the stuff he wanted to save and the rest is still in the box in the garage."

"That's fine."  He read over it again.  "Where's the stuff from New York?  I was looking at your bank statement to see if I could tell where the problem your ATM card had came from and it's less than it should be."

Xander looked at him.  "All that's still up there, Don.  Not like I changed lives."  Don moaned.  "What?  I was supposed to move it?"

"Yeah, Xander.  You were."

"Not like I care. I'm not going to need access to it immediately."

"We should still consolidate it."

"I set Tumie's stuff into his own account."

"That's reasonable."  He went back to looking, then decided to call Danny.  "It's me.  Do you think we should pull his accounts down from New York? Yeah, he left that all up there.  Including the safety deposit boxes?"  Xander nodded.  "Yeah, Danny, including those."  He smiled at the groaning he was doing and the head thumping on the desk.  "That's what I thought but he gave m this 'duh' look when I mentioned it."  Xander stuck his tongue out.  "Now he's flashing me some tongue."  He grinned.  "Sure.  When you get home.  Is Ryan still here?"

"I dropped him off with his groceries."

"He's at home, Danny.  Sure."  He hung up.  "After dinner tonight we're going to go over all of that, Xander."

"Yes, sir.  Can we take your car to the clothes bins?"

"We can," Don agreed.  "We have it all in normal bags?"  Xander gave him a sheepish look.  "Xander?"

"There's too much for suitcases."


"Please?  I'll shake it in and everything."

"Fine," he sighed.  Xander bounced in to get the bag he needed and came back out with it.  They headed off together, going to the clothing donation center that one of the local churches ran.  Xander walked up to the outdoor donation bin and opened the door, opening the bag and thinking about emptying it.  Then he upended it and watched the clothes rain out.  Silks, satins, a few pieces of leather he hated.  Including one vest from his stuff as Ryan's consort but he had been told he could give it to charity.  He gave the bag a few more good shakes and looked inside, getting the thing in the way out. A belt.  The rest fell in and he had to move some out of the way, but it was fine.  Finally the clothing stopped and he backed up and let the door close, smiling at the nun watching him.  "Stuff given to me that I don't want," he admitted, smiling and walking off.  "Have a nice day, sister, and if you can't use it, get it to someone who can."

"I will," she agreed, opening the door.  She blinked at all the clothes.  "That was empty an hour ago," she said, heading back inside to get one of the men to bring in the bin for her. He gave her an odd look but when he saw why he did do that.  She held up one shirt and smiled.  "Silk is always nice but a bit upscale for our clientele."

"Maybe we can give it a consignment shop," he offered.

"That's not a bad idea but I'll have to check," she admitted.  She got to work sorting into what they could use and what they couldn't use.  Someone had very expensive tastes. A few had stains so she put them into a separate pile to see if they could be removed.  If not, perhaps they would go into the scraps pile for quilts.  She would love to use them for quilts.  Some of the stains were big enough to use as blocks as well. The leather vest went into the 'going' pile immediately.  Some people had very expensive and odd tastes.  She called her supervisor.  "Monsignor, we've just had a very generous donation but it's not things we can use.  Yes, down here in clothing. Silk shirts and a leather vest mostly."  She smiled.  "Yes, those things.  Some silk pajamas pants as well."  She looked at one.  "And a few that are made from the same silk but are like regular pants.  Please.  Barney suggested we might take them to a consignment shop if we can't use them."  She smiled.  "I caught the owner, he said if we couldn't use them to give them to who could. I can't think of any thrift shop that could truly use this much silk.  I'm surrounded by it.  Nearly filled the bin, yes, sir."  She smiled.  "Feel free to come down."  She hung up and looked at those pants again.  "That's much to thin to wear like normal pants."

"Some women do," he offered.  She held them up and he shrugged.  "Maybe the guy was gay?"

She pursed her lips.  "I would hope not but I suppose he's doing good works to try to become right with God."  Her supervisor came in and she waved a hand.  "You see?"

"I do."  He looked at the pants then shrugged and put them into the going pile as well.  The first few got looked at and he nodded at the vest that had Ares' sign on it.  "Pagan.  Probably his working attire."  She pursed her lips.  "They do just as much good works as we do, Sister. It's part of their creed as well," he chastised. "Now, a consignment shop would be more than acceptable.  The money would go into the same fund.  Bag those up and I'll find one."  He looked at the last pile.  "Those would make some beautiful quilts if you wanted to use them for it."  She nodded, going to find bags for him and taking her things to her room when they were done.  He smiled at Barney.  "Who was it?"

"Young guy, dark hair, braid down his back.  I thought he might be gay."

"It's a possibility. We do have a number of them here," he agreed.  He took the bags out to  his car and went to the shop he usually went to when he needed decent clothes.  It was more upscale than not.  "Ah, my dear," he said, kissing her on the cheek.  "A most timely donation today but mostly in things we couldn't use."  She looked happily.  "None have labels but they're mostly silk."  She took the bags into the back to look them over, smiling at what he had brought her.  "I was hoping you could use them?"

"I can.  I have a client who would adore them, Monsignor."  She gave him a hug and wrote out a check for the entire batch, leather vest and all, then called her contact once she was gone.  "Unlabeled silk shirts and pants," she said simply.  "Church donation bin.  They couldn't use it so they brought it here.  I'll be here."  She hung up and went to hang things up for him, using her standing presser to take out any wrinkles.   The leather vest got a look and she put it in the window.  Some goth kid would want that probably.  Her contact came in and came to look at the new things, taking what he wanted.  He paid well for it.  The rest went onto the 'goth' rack since they looked like poet shirts for the most part.  They were more into that look and she did cater to them as well.


Danny finished looking over the stuff Xander had been keeping on the bank accounts, then at him.  "Is this all of them?" he asked, patting the stack.  "Demon bank and all?"  Xander nodded, giving him a sheepish look.  "I'm not mad.  You're doing fine with it, Xander."  That got a smile.  "It's way too complicated though.  Having everything in one city is nice."

"But the bank up there really does appreciate me."

"I know that but you're down here now," Danny reminded him patiently.  Xander nodded at that reasonable point.  "Good.  Then we'll definitely have to move this stuff."


"I'm not sure," Danny admitted.  "Which bank are you using down here?"

"The same one we do."  He pointed at that.  "The new one is from Tumie's stuff."

"Decent."  He looked at that again then at Xander, shaking his head.  "Take the rest of this in tomorrow to the local bank down here.  See what they can do.  Especially about that safety deposit box.  Some banks wouldn't like that."  Xander nodded at that.  "Tell the other bank that you appreciate the hell out of them but you've decided to move down here permanently and it's easier and safer to have it all in the same city.  Let them handle it between the banks."

"Yes, Danny."

"Good."  He smiled.  "You did a great job without us on this."  Xander preened. "Where did the gambling money go?"

"Treats and presents.  I got done with the holiday shopping."

"Congrats.  I'm proud.  I haven't even started yet."  Xander grinned at that. "Did you want to hint?"

"Spa time's good."

"I'll do that or some music or somethin' then."  Xander relaxed again.  "It's all good but it's time to deal with that.  What about the rest of the stuff?"

"All Tumie's stuff is in one bag out there.  All mine is in one bag in here.  I sent Horatio's stuff to him the other day.  Ryan picked up his before we went grocery shopping so it might still be in the trunk of the car."

"That's fine," he agreed, shrugging a bit. "It happens."  He leaned back.  "Are you about shopped out?" Xander nodded.  "That's even better.  You're cleaning out your closet tonight because your clothes are now in mine and Don's closets."  Xander gave him a sheepish look. "I know, you didn't have any before now you're making sure you do.  Still too much."  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Let's go do that for now, okay?"  Xander got up and headed that way with a soda, Danny giving the stacks a look then walking off shaking his head.  Everyone had thought it was cute that he had worn Xander's shirt today.  He had defended it as he couldn't find his own with all his clothes.   It was cute how Don settled in to do his too, but Xander pouted him into keeping his favorite things.  Once the Ares' consort outfits were covered with some tissue paper, the rest of the new trunk in the corner was filled with the other leathers, and lo and behold, the closet was halfway done. Danny wasn't sure if he should moan or laugh at that.  Don settled it by hugging him for being so understanding.


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