Ye Olde Sunnydale Issues
Don came home the day after Christmas to find the house's door open. "Xander?" he called. He didn't hear anything, not even the ferrets were moving. He grabbed his gun and walked inside. "Spot?" He heard a whimper and headed that way. No ferrets in the cage. His dog was locked in a closet and bleeding. He called Danny. "I'm at home. Someone broke in, Spot's hurt. No ferrets. No Xander. Now!" He hung up and got down to help his poor dog and his broken legs. "Shh, I've got you, Spot. It's all right." Danny came running in. "Check the house?" Danny did, coming back shaking his head. "Get him to the vets."
"I am. I'm the real cop here," he reminded him at the look. "Now."
"Sure. Come on, boy," he soothed, picking him up and taking him out to the hummer, calling it in.
Don looked at the cage. It was closed. If Xander had taken them out, their bottom door would've been open so they could get into a litterbox. He carefully searched the house making sucking noises. Beauty came out of hiding, making him smile. "Hey, baby. George!" He heard a quiet squeak and found him in the bedroom, cut as well. "Damn it, who in the hell hurt you two!" He heard footsteps. "Freeze!"
"Miami-Dade PD, sir?" Don came out with the ferret holding a cloth to the injury, the other one in his pocket. "Is he all right?"
"No, and I found my dog with both front legs broken. He's on his way to the vets with Detective Messer. Our other roommate is gone. Hold on, let me check the basement. I doubt Danny did. Stay here. Wait on CSI. I'm sure another one will be here within minutes." They nodded and went to look around. Don glanced in the bedroom. Something was out of place but he wasn't sure what yet. He headed down there, finding blood in the water. He checked the rooms. Nothing. He came back up and found Eric. "Eric, if Xander had let them out, the bottom door would've been open." Danny walked in. "Spot?"
"He'll be fine. I came to help." Danny handed him the ferrets. "I can do more than the animals."
"Going," he agreed, seeing the look in his eyes. He saw the open basement door. "Anything?"
"Blood in the water." Eric looked at him and he shrugged. "Not like I can tell. Some bastard cut one of the ferrets and broke Spot's front legs. He was bleeding in the closet."
"Sure," Eric agreed. "Take the ferret and then come back if you can, Danny."
"All right but I get to help."
"Speed is on his way, so is Ryan," Eric promised. Danny nodded. "Don, sit against the glass door for now. Anything else you've noticed?"
"Something's been moved or is missing in the bedroom but I'm not sure what. Maybe Ryan can tell since he helped him do the closets last time?"
"I've already told him, he's on his way too, he just had to pick up some hardware." Don nodded, curling up with his knees on his chin. "They'll be fine."
"What sort of bastard hurts the animals?" Calleigh walked in. "There's something wrong in the bedroom. I didn't look too hard in the others or the study. There's blood in the pool."
"On the bedroom," she agreed, heading that way. She came out. "Don, where's the statue your mother gave you?" He shrugged. "Where is it usually?"
"My dresser in my room?"
"Okay. Last time I saw it was in the other one." She went to look, not finding it in there either. She found more blood. She got down to test it, frowning. "Animal. Probably the dog's then." She checked the rest of the room. This must be Don's stuff originally since it didn't match anything in the other bedrooms. She found a few hairs that probably shouldn't be in there and bagged them then went to the main bedroom. Nothing in there either. Only the missing statue and some blood in a space only a ferret could get into. She took samples anyway. She heard a heated voice and leaned out. "Boys, he lives here and is one of us. Let him in!" she ordered. They let Danny in. "Come see if you can spot what's missing." Danny walked in, staying next to the doorway. "I found blood in this hiding spot," she offered, pointing at the open hinge on the bedframe.
"He had some hidden account stuff in there," Danny told her. "Are the keys in there?" She shook her head. "Okay. George can't get in there by himself." He looked around. "The bag's missing?" She pointed at it. "It was moved then. Maybe Xander did I'm not sure. The statue's off Don's dresser and mine's bare of the jewelry box." He looked around again then sighed and shook his head. "There's.... The briefcase he uses when he's got to take a load of crap off to get rid of it."
"Okay. What does it look like?"
"Black samsonite, it's in my trunk," Ryan said as he leaned in, already gloved. "We took most of his hair sticks to be looked over. The gold leafing on them was coming off." He looked around again, nodding at Don's dresser. "That wooden statue. Danny's jewelry box. Are all his clothes in there?" She opened the door and he carefully walked in, watching where he was walking. "He must've just done laundry. I only see a few things missing." He walked over to look in the trunk. "And one pair of leather pants." He looked up again. "Okay, we've got three shirts, his red print one, the spiderweb one, and his blue pocket t-shirt, the lighter one. Plus his light leather blue pants are missing. I can see his boots so it's not that." He scanned again. "Were his sneakers in the living room?"
"I made him put them up last night," Danny admitted quietly.
"Okay, so his sneakers," Calleigh agreed. "The dirty white ones, right?" They both nodded. "Anything else obviously wrong, Ryan?" He pointed at the wall. "What?" He pulled her next to him and pointed. "That looks like liquid soaked in. Danny, hand me my lights?" He handed that case over and she flashed it up there. "What is that?"
"That's Strife's mark but backwards," he said quietly. "With an extra dot." He walked out, heading to get into the library bag. He came up with the bag he needed and then the book he needed, flipping through it. He looked around before sitting down. "Calleigh, we're missing weapons," he called. She came in. "My usual practice sword, Eric's sword, Danny's sword are all out of the case. Xander's katana isn't in the case and it should be." She nodded, coming to get that while Danny processed the bedroom and got pictures of that design. He found the mark and looked it over. "It would have to be in one of the books written in Ancient Greek." He stood up and looked around again. "There it is again," he offered, pointing at it. She shined a light and nodded. "Two dots this time." He looked. "Same figure." He walked out and looked at Eric. "Who do we know that can read Ancient Greek?"
"Adam. I'll call him." He called. "Ray, me. I need your boy. Marks from a book in Ancient Greek. Xander's gone. Someone hurt the animals. Please. They're at the vets. Thanks." He hung up. "He'll be right over. Kowalski and possibly his boyfriend are coming. Let them in too," he called. That got a nod. He went back to lifting the fingerprint. All he could think of was 'Horatio never made it to work today'. He called Speed. "Tell me you're within line of sight of the boss?" he demanded. "Yes it's damn important, Speed. I don't know, why would anyone want to hurt Spot and George and where is Xander?" He sighed in relief. "Adam's coming to translate the book with the mark that was drawn on the walls."
"In napalm," Calleigh called.
"She said it's drawn in napalm." He listened. "Don's here, I've called Adam in to translate. Ray said he'd go wait on the animals. I have no idea. I'm finding fingerprints. No, not Xander's. I've got a reference on him. Thanks." He hung up and looked at it under a glass. "This one's not Xander's either." Ryan came back. "Have you cleaned the cages?"
"Twice." He looked at it then shook his head. "That's not mine, I don't think so anyway. We can check. Give me a sample collection kit so I can do the pool?" It was handed over along with a human/animal test pad. He nodded and went down there to do that.
Adam walked in. "I need to see the original," he said from the entryway. "May I?"
Calleigh came out. "This way." He nodded and let her walk him into the practice area. "There," she said, pointing, letting him see through her diffuser shield.
He looked at it then around. "The three missing, they're .... that's not right. Xander's as much one as the others." He looked again then sighed. "Was it done in lighter fluid or something?"
"Pretty fire to give to their God. Ares!" He walked outside when he flashed in, holding up the book. "Xander's missing. Can you tell where?"
"He's in the city. I'm blocked. They're in their holy spot."
"Charming. You're sure they're in the city?" Ares gave him a look. "Can you tell which direction from here?" He pointed. "That narrows it down. Within distance?"
"That works. Thank you. By the way there was blood in the pool and they harmed two of the three animals."
"Plus took out the protectors," he agreed quietly. "Help them. They know about the others." He disappeared. He sent Strife since he was closer to the boy.
Strife appeared and growled. "Mother fuckers," he said bitterly. He looked at Methos. "You get my boy back or we're gonna have words, Methos."
"I'm trying. Can you narrow it down?"
He concentrated then shuddered. "Eight miles. Holy ground turned and changed over." Methos nodded at that, making notes. "They're going to sacrifice him tonight. He's strong and powerful in the arts. They'll do it again and again and again until he quits healing or she's strong enough."
"One thing," he said firmly. "They've got three days here then they go back there." He faded out. "I'll be around."
"Thank you." He headed back inside, going to Eric's side this time. "This is what we know." He pointed. "Within ten miles that way. It was holy ground, it's been changed over now. Resanctified. Doesn't mean that they know it however. He'll be a sacrifice of power. The removal of the three swords are symbolically removing his protectors. Yours, Danny's, and Ryan's. Xander's was put off to the side as a symbol of his sacrifice status. They'd come back to light those on fire later after the first kill," he finished quietly. "It's not their first time through this. They're appeasing an ancient and dark Goddess. Three days here then they'll move him back to Sunnydale and in that time they'll start tonight at dark and move on until he no longer comes back."
Eric nodded at that. "Okay. Anything else?"
"That's all we have, including them."
"Agreed. Thank you." Adam handed over his notes. "Wolfe, go run this," he ordered, holding it up. "Take Adam in case you need the reference again. Here, take these as well," he ordered, handing over the fingerprints he had. "Danny?"
"Coming. Blood from the pool isn't just blood. More gasoline in it. Blood from beside the pool was animal."
"We're not missing any, right?" Ryan asked.
"Not that I'm aware of but I haven't dredged the pool yet either. They could've brought their own. Goats you think?"
"Small animals," Adam told him. "They got the dog because he attacked. They got the ferret because they're over smaller animals." That got a nod. "Use a net. You'll probably find it."
"Later. This first. Let me help with prints." He grabbed some of Eric's things and went to do that. He had found a whole new level of high on his shit list. He started with Xander's katana. No prints. Their three were in the closet. "Why not Don's?" he muttered. He got a strong feeling and went to look. "Don! Someone find Flack, they're after him too!" The officers went running to do that. He carefully moved the blade with the blood on it, taking the swab and test pad from Calleigh. It was human. He looked up at her, tipping it so she could see. She nodded and bagged it, taking it in to test it immediately. She didn't care who had to stay over this time. She nodded at Horatio.
"Not good," she offered. "This is human blood. There's animal blood in the pool. Ask Eric, Adam told him what he knew." That got a nod and she hitched a ride in a cruiser. She walked in and found both DNA techs at the elevators. "No way in hell, ladies. Xander and possibly Don Flack are now both missing." Valera took the sword and they both went back there. She went to help Ryan with what he had. "Anything?"
"Blood in the water was part gasoline, part rat. Lots and lots of rat. The mark can't be found online when I scanned it in to search. We're doing a search for the group's name before then. Any word from the vet's?"
"Not yet but Ray's there. Did you guys see where Don went?"
"Last I knew he was against the glass doors," Ryan said, looking at her. "Why?"
Methos moaned. "The second sacrifice. They're further ahead than I thought." He started a new search. "They'll make the light kill the dark. Xander by his very nature and where he was born is considered dark to them."
"The power of Sunnydale strikes again?"
"Yes, but they're not trying to appease their Goddess, they're trying to raise her if they're this far along. They can only do this part every few centuries; it takes at least eight victims to raise her by their methodology," he said. He thought back. "Last time they tried this that I personally saw was a massacre. It was back during Roman times." He did the math and sighed. "It's the correct year."
"For?" Calleigh asked.
"To bring back their Goddess. It's a holy year. I thought them all gone when they didn't pop up anywhere last millennium."
"How old are you?" she hissed.
"Five thousand or so," he replied, looking right at her. "I'm also known as Methos, the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse." She shivered. "Also known as Death. This cult was started by one of my fellows. A totally ruthless bastard but Macleod stopped him." He looked back when the computer pinged. "That's them."
"Can we get a site ID?" Ryan asked, looking over it. Nothing. He read it slower this time, then growled. "They're heading back to Sunnydale now that they've got Don."
"It's possible. She can only be born from the darkness."
"I'll get onto the planes and other transportation," she promised, pulling out her phone to call dispatch and warn them they had two missing. Then she tried Don's phone. His had caller ID so anyone with it would know it was her and not answer it if it was at home. No answer. She walked over to DNA. "Anything?"
"It's spinning," Valera told her. "Calm down."
"They could be leaving the area."
"Cheery," Natalia told her. "Do we know why?"
"They want to raise their dark goddess by making Don kill Xander." She shuddered at that. "That's Don's sword. I'm betting it might be Xander's on it."
"Do we have a comparison?"
"Ryan, do we have anything of Xander's to compare?" He walked in and took off his necklace, handing over the locket, letting her pick out a piece of hair. "Since when did you wear that?"
"Since about when we got back. Just in case." He walked off, putting it back over his head again. He looked at Methos. "This is not good."
"This is very not good," he agreed. "Can I call Jace from in here?" Ryan handed over his phone. "Thank you." He found her in the phone book and called. "I need to speak to Jace. It is urgent. Tell her it's Methos." The phone was handed over within minutes. "Jace, it's me. They're back. They have Don and Xander. They're either heading for Cleveland, Sunnydale, or near you. Tell Oz?" He nodded. "Don's sword had blood and Xander's was separated out." He slumped and nodded. "Thank you. They're trying. So far but they could be moved within the hour. Thank you." He hung up and called Oz's number from memory, getting a female. "Hand the phone to Oz. I don't care. Tell him it's his teacher." He smirked at that scramble when she complained about it. "Remember Augenta?" He nodded once at the groan. "They have Don Flack and Xander. Xander was born there." He nodded. "I'm here, I've told Jace. The only other is Cleveland." He nodded. "Dealt with." He hung up and handed it back, taking out his phone to call someone else. "Be aware that some loony group has taken two of us, Xander and Don Flack, to sacrifice. Cleveland. I've got Sunnydale covered and Jace has her part. Thank you, Joe." He hung up and sighed, shaking his head. "This is not going to end well."
"It's not starting well," Ryan pointed out, typing something in. "There's a hellmouth in Vegas?"
"There's a point of power and darkness outside the city's limits. It could be done there but it must be done under cover of dark." He looked at him. "You've sworn yourself to his service?"
"Freely during my training."
"Good. Then we may need you to stop it." Ryan gave him a look. "That was the best way last time."
"This time we've got tear gas."
"True," he agreed, smiling a bit. He could like this young one and his version of violent ideas.
"It's not Xander's and she got a hit in CODIS," Calleigh announced, handing it over.
Methos called Oz back. "Tell me what you know of a young man named Jesse.... How did you know?" He listened. "He's been dead for how long?" He held his head. "Thank you." He hung up. "When was he put in there?" It was pointed to. He looked at the picture. The boy did look like Xander's picture in his wallet. He had talked about him once. "The last Oz knew this one was dead. Has been since he was sixteen," he said quietly, handing it back. "He was Xander's best friend until tenth grade." They both gaped. "Oz isn't sure. That does match the picture in Xander's wallet however, and he was turned before then."
"An alternate him?" Ryan asked. "Xander said something about a wish and Cordy?" Methos shuddered. "You heard?"
"From Oz. Yes, that would be one option at this point. I have no idea how bad it will get." He looked at her. "The last time they popped up, back in Roman times, they ended up taking all the sacrifices out to stop them."
"I pointed out we have tear gas now," Ryan offered. He calmed himself down and got back to work. "That's all I can do," he admitted, handing over the printout. "Tell Horatio if they're going, I'm going."
"Sure." She went to do that, getting the reports from fingerprints and AV since Cooper was still here. "Did you get film from Xander's house?"
"I did, it's very nasty," he offered, playing it for her. "He's just *standing* there," he said, pointing. "I don't know why. They stab him and Xander flinches. They laugh, the injured guy spreads his own blood on the sword, and then they walk out together, him making pretty designs on Xander's body where they took the shirt off him." Someone walked in and he looked. "New tech?"
"Technical support of the library sort," he admitted. "Replay that please?" It was replayed. "Can you get their robes? There should be symbols on them."
"He's got a crappy camera system. I can try." He zoomed in and found some. "Can you make it out?"
"Same as on the walls?" Calleigh guessed.
"No. Not quite." He flipped through the book, finding it. "This one. Not good," he said, walking out and heading back to Ryan. "Have you noticed more than one of yourself today?"
"No, should I have?"
"Possibly." He let him see the book, murmuring quietly in his ear.
"Then let me get my shit and let's go," he said firmly, looking at him.
"They're from there, that doesn't mean they're going back there. If so, it would have to be on that end. Though, how that one's blood was here.... Unless he had passed over and no one noticed. Which is reasonable in Sunnydale." He considered it and sent a prayer to confirm his thoughts. "Theirs is gone. Unsuitable. So they came for one that was more suitable and found both together."
"Then we can go," Ryan reminded him. "Not like the Sunnydale PD is going to stop them."
"Sunnydale's PD doesn't come out after dark," he pointed out grimly. He closed the book. "We'll need to."
Eric leaned in. "Strife just said they're moving them."
"I've alerted all forms of transportation," she offered. "Do we think it's going to be necessary?"
"Yeah, they're going to try to kill them over and over again and make Don do it or else he'll take his spot and they'll drug Xander into doing it," Ryan told her. He ran a hand through his hair. "I need stuff from home. I was out by the stables when the call came. Calleigh?"
"Go," she agreed. He nodded and headed out with Adam right behind him. She watched them go, saying a prayer to her own deity of choice that this wasn't going to happen. She texted a thought to Ryan. Didn't New York have one of those 'dark' areas?
Ryan came out of the apartment with his sword and a backpack of supplies. "Okay." He slid in and looked at his phone, smiling. "Could they be going to New York?"
"No. That one's not dark enough. This would turn it that dark but no." He headed for the airport, making reservations while he drove. "Damn it."
"The whole airport," he agreed.
"Can they move him magically?"
"I don't know."
"Yup," came from the backseat. "At least Xan they can. Flack they can't but they can't touch him either," Strife said, leaning forward. "Flack's at the private terminals. B-2 I think. Can't tell, messy building. Xan's already back there. I popped in on Oz and scared his present girl's little mind out of her head. They're going to start tonight, no matter what. They've got another candidate for the light." Methos growled. "Get there. Get there faster."
Ryan looked at him. "Can we move us through the realms or anything?"
Strife looked at him. "I can't. Hera could."
"Hera might," he reminded him.
"She might. Let me ask." He disappeared and the car quit running. He landed in front of Hera, nodding at her husband. "The other anchor's in trouble. The cross-dressing god's people have him. They're already in Sunnydale. They've got someone from the light who'll kill him. Can we move Ares' warrior and Methos there? Through the realms or any way?"
She considered it. "It'll be one nasty trip through Tartarus."
"Ryan said he'd go ta Hell for Xan before," he pointed out.
"Let me get Hades." She called him and he appeared. "The secondary anchor's in trouble. That Architect one's people."
"Agreed. Who's coming down?"
"Methos and Ares' warrior."
"Agreed," Hades told him. "I liked Ryan and Methos knows me. I'll guide them when I can."
"I stopped their car. They're in Miami together in an SUV."
"Going. Thank you, Strife."
"I'm heading there ta help. We've got people from another universe doing this." He disappeared.
Hades appeared in the back seat. "We can take you through Tartarus. It won't be pretty."
"Won't be the first time either of us has seen unpretty things," Ryan reminded him firmly. "How long?"
"Thirty minutes local time. Maybe a year mine." He snapped his fingers and they were there. They got out and Ryan made sure he had his backpack. "Head to the river and up it. Take the third branch of the Lethe. It leads there." They nodded and headed off, hiking. He sent guards with them so they wouldn't be bothered. He sent a thought to Ares, who sent one to Jace to get her moving too. They would need more than those two to stop this. No matter what weapons they had.
Xander woke up dazed and confused, in pain. He looked at the face beside him. "Jesse?" he whispered. "How? You were turned!"
"Only here. In my world I was taken in when you were killed," he said, stroking his hair. "You will come to appreciate your place, Xander. All of us play our part and we do adore them, no matter how much it hurts." Xander tried to move so he tightened his chains down. "Not yet, brother. It's not time for you yet." He walked off to tell the highers he was awake and prepared.
Xander sent up a prayer and felt himself start to slip. He had to get into a deeper mindset. Being GHS was not going to cure this. Not this time. He heard others in chains and groaned. Other prisoners. Wonderful. He felt something cold hit him and flinched when it ripped some skin off. He kept himself from screaming that time, barely. The next time, there wasn't any way. The third time, he was overloaded and he felt the slip take hold fully. He wasn't going to be here when they came to get him. What they'd face was not what they had expected.
Ryan finally found the exit and panted, walking up the hill. He turned and found Methos right behind him. "Looks like we're here?"
"We're here. I can smell fresh air." They walked out and into the blinding sun. He sniffed. "We're within range of civilization. I can smell gasoline."
Ryan checked his phone. No new messages. He checked the time. "It's been an hour so it's three hours to sundown here." Methos nodded and led the way. "Sure, you've obviously been here before." He followed, sipping the last of his water from his pack. "Find us a convenience store, all right?"
"Of course. I could use a drink as well." They walked out of the woods and found the college. "Wrong side of the town," he admitted. "Bookstore should still be open however." They went to do that, getting some energy bars and some drinks to take with them. He called Oz. "We're here. Come get us. Bookstore. Campus," he said patiently. "Thank you." He hung up and they drank and nibbled while they waited. Oz's van finally pulled up and they got in. "Have you any idea where they might be?"
"Only dark spot in town is under what used to be the high school." He looked at the other guy. "I don't know you."
"Chosen of Ares and one of Xander's protectors."
"He needs them. That boy is Strife's some days," he said thoughtfully.
"Named so by his father when he was five and equal to Jace as an anchor," Ryan said dryly. Oz stopped and turned to look at him. He nodded. "Yeah."
"Fuck," he said simply, turning around to drive again. "Hellmouth here we come." They got there and found it already darker than it was outside. "Huh."
"We found bloodwork from some kid named Jesse," Ryan said quietly. "We know there's at least one realm in there."
"Goodie," Oz said flatly. "Fair warning...."
"So's Xander. He told me. Let's go." He handed Methos his bag. "Tear gas canisters and a small bit of explosive." He grabbed his sword and his sidearm, heading inside.
"I take it he's marked and everything?" Oz asked dryly.
"Left shoulder area." He looked at him. "We walked up the Lethe."
"Joy. Then who's the light?"
"Who knows. In this town?"
"Point." They headed that way, going to help their friend, and Ryan. If he lived he'd probably be a friend as well.
Horatio looked up when the tired looking being appeared in his office. "Strife."
"You saved one. The other's already out there. They moved him magically. I've been holding his mind together. It ain't gonna last long. But that's okay because Ryan's out there."
"Figures," he agreed. "What can I do to help?"
"Pray. Really, really hard."
"Anyone. Ares especially. He'll need it. Ryan's bordering on losing it himself. Oz is one of the other berserkers and Methos rides the line himself now and then. They touched family and Ryan's going to have to get in the way. Maybe even be sacrificed instead to save others. He'll be fine of course."
"Of course. I will. Any particular...." Strife shook his head and disappeared. "Then I can do that." He started one of the longer prayers in his life. Then he called Speed. "They've already gotten him out of the city. Call the block off. Then pray to Ares to help them. Ryan's out there somehow." He hung up and went back to praying. Speed would tell the others and he knew most of them would pray too. He sent one to their patron saint as well. Before Ryan turned his soul away from the lighter things. Then he went back to praying to Ares.
Speed hung up and looked at everyone. "They've managed to get Xander out of the city. Calleigh, call off the block. However they did it, Ryan followed. This is a time to pray."
"To who?" Alexx demanded.
Eric looked at her. "Alexx, Xander's only ability to fight is to lose total control of his mind. He's a berserker. He won't know what he's hitting at. Even Ryan. Pray hard." He went to do that. They had Don and he was in pretty bad shape. Still in pretty bad shape but Danny had him. He texted Danny, getting an okay back. Then he got down to praying as hard as he could. Any deity. Any single one. He felt them go with his energy and nodded. "Take whatever you need."
Inside the others were saying their own while they wrapped up what they could. This was going to get messy and be one of those things that not everyone would end up knowing about. Speed left to sit with Horatio and wait on information. It was all he could do.
The handlers came for one of the other chained ones and Xander growled. "No, you'll take me."
"We need her first," he sneered. "You'll get your turn."
Xander finished freeing a wrist and turned, abrading the other one on the old, rusted manacles to get free. Then he grabbed that one's head and twisted. He looked at the other one. "Me first. You don't get that choice."
"The light must go first!" he shouted. "Give her to me!" Xander backhanded him and let her go, dropping her onto the floor. He heard her 'ow' and knew it was familiar but not why. Not that it mattered to him at the moment. He managed to free an ankle before they came back, it was enough to let him get off the table and release the chain on the other one. He used the freed cuff to hit the ones coming for them. Two ran away with injuries and the others backed off. "Give her to us, darkness."
"I am not!" he shouted. "I'm not a creature of darkness. I never was. I fought on the light for years," he sneered. "You obviously can't see very well. Need glasses?"
"Your quippage leaves much to be desired," the female said firmly. "Can you maybe help me up now?"
"No. You're safer down there." He hit the next one coming in with the cuff too, gouging it into his eye. Then he laughed at that. "Good. Now go spill it for your weak Gods." They rushed him and he got most of them, but one still managed to get her and drag her off while the others tried to hold him. He managed to get free and pulled her back and inside, then he slammed the door. Not the wisest of things with some of them still in there but it would take them a few minutes to undo it. He hunted the others down, leading to the altar area. He sniffed. "Smells like death. Needs air freshener. Maybe you should invest." He hit the next one. He felt the cuff come off and kicked it free, then ducked and picked it up as a weapon. Eventually the give in the line ran out so he had to drop it.
"Xander," someone shouted. Then they tossed a sword. He picked it up off the ground and faced his enemies with a pleased snarl. "Come on. You wanted to play," the new warrior said. They lunged and he started to take care of them. The others ran in to help. He ended up in front of one but they ducked out of the way. "The others?" someone panted behind him.
"Room. Locked." That one headed off. Xander yelped as something hot got him. He swung at it, knocking the branding iron from their hands. Then he knocked their hands off. Then their head. He moved on and came to one last one, finding him there. He knew him. Deeply. Something in him was screaming at him that he knew him. That he couldn't hurt him. "Move."
"No, Xander. Not now. You are ours. There's enough light here to take you. We can use them," he said firmly. "Come here. Be my sacrifice. Be my soul giver." Xander stepped back. "Come." Xander took another step back, his eyes narrowing. He slipped on some blood and fell, knocking his head on the floor. The voice, the one he knew, screamed something as another body rushed past him, pulling out a sword to fight with him. "He's mine! His soul is the darkness we need! You'll die in his place and then he'll still die!"
"I'm really hard to kill," Ryan promised, going after him. This kid was just as formally trained as he was but he had learned how to fight dirty from Adam. He whistled and a canister of tear gas was set off. The other hostages were led off by Oz while Methos dealt with any others who might come in to interrupt. Ryan got the choking, normal person down and stood on his chest. "Told you so."
"NO!" Xander shouted.
"Stay!" Ryan shouted back. "He's the bad one. He's the one trying to kill you, Xander."
"I know him!"
Ryan looked down and nodded. He knew who he was too. "Jesse. Sorry." He sliced his head off and backed off, watching the quickening rise up. "I didn't feel him."
"Baby immies, sometimes you can't," Methos panted, trying to move Xander. Xander knocked him on his ass. "You'll pay for that next sparing session, young one." He stood up and Xander rounded on him.
Ryan finished and turned, jumping between them, looking into Xander's eyes. Then he kissed him. Xander dropped his sword with a whimper, clinging to him. "It's Ryan and Adam," he said quietly. "The hostages are safe. Come back, Xander." Xander growled and lunged so Ryan pinned him and kissed him again, ignoring the pool of blood they were in. Xander flipped him onto his back, then he yanked on his braid, making him yelp. "Mine, bitch, answer me."
"Ryan?" he whimpered.
"I am. Come back. Now. Right now," he said firmly. Xander blinked, his eyes undilating. His whole body relaxed. He kissed him again and Xander went limp against him. "Shh, I have you. You're safe now."
"Jesse!" Methos grabbed him before he could move and turned him away. "No!"
Ryan stood up and grabbed their swords, grimacing at them. "Eww. That's going to take forever to clean tonight."
"I killed him? Didn't I, I killed him again!"
"No," Adam assured him. "It wasn't your blade that killed him, Xander." Xander frowned at him. "Yes, I'm a bit older than I seem."
"You're..." He tipped his head to the side. "Methos?"
"I am. Come, we'll leave this here and let their God clean it up."
Xander turned back, not looking at the body. Then he took his sword back, ignoring the blood. He walked up and swung at the altar, breaking it after a few blows. It caved in and the whole temple started to tremble. "Now we can go." He looked at Jesse. "Maybe there's another of you around," he said quietly, heading out with his friends. They walked out of the wreckage and more of it fell in to cover the collapsing alternate realm. Xander looked back there but Ryan made him turn around. "If I didn't, who did?"
"I did. He was going to kill you," Ryan said quietly. Xander stared him in the eyes. "He was."
Xander nodded and rested against his shoulder. "You had to. Maybe there's another one."
"I hope so. Maybe the next one will be Jesse as he was supposed to grow up so you have your friend back," he soothed, stroking over his messy bare back. "We need a lot of soap," he said a few minutes later, making Xander break and laugh. "Come on. Maybe we can borrow Oz's shower." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No. Oz doesn't have a shower. He said so."
"I do now, but it's a garden hose from the sink," Oz called. "Come on, guys." They walked that way. "Try not to get any music messy, okay?" They nodded and got in, heading for his place. The hostages were free and the vampires wouldn't be out for another hour. He looked back, finding Xander with his head on Methos' shoulder, looking miserable. "There's an unlimited number of universes, Xander," he said quietly. "In one there's another Jesse somewhere." Xander nodded at that, just taking Ryan's hand to hold. He pulled into his driveway and parked, letting them head inside. Only one piece of music got hit and Methos did it on purpose, he hated that song. Oz hooked up the hose and got the water adjusted, letting them have it. He was even nice enough to toss out the bottle of dish washing detergent. They would really need it with the amount of blood on Xander. He saw the healing spots and winced, looking away before he got sick. Then he called the PD to make sure they went to get the hostages from the school's courtyard. It was only humane and they could get them home if they were local, or keep them safe if not. He got them towels, noticing Ryan was cleaning his sword. "You've only got another ten minutes of hot water. Do yourself and then the sword." Ryan gave him a look. "He'll understand, trust me." Ares appeared, shaking his head. "He will or I'll remind him how he used to wear this pink thong now and then when his sister taunted him," he said firmly.
"Fine, clean the swords later," he agreed. He shuddered. "She made me."
"I'm sure she did, Ares." He went back into the house. "Almost no food but noodles okay?" They all nodded and he settled in to cook. Xander wandered in half clean and Oz turned him around, sending him back there. "No trailing blood and stuff inside."
The water was cold but Methos and Ryan still got Xander cleaned up and stripped down. Then they got him in to nap on the couch and finish healing. Then they worked on each other's backs. Then the swords. They all needed it. They ended up wearing towels and Ryan said a sincere prayer of thanks for imbedding those cues into Xander's mind so he could bring him down if he lost it again. He went to check on him, finding Oz staring at him. "He having nightmares?"
"I think he's so far down in his head that he's not coming out. He's thinking." He got up when the door was pounded on, looking at the officer. "What?"
"Evil things trying to sacrifice others. They had Xander, retrieved him from Miami."
"I won't tell the Summers woman he's here. The others?"
"If they weren't outside, it's slim." They nodded and headed off. Oz closed the door and locked it, going back to fussing a bit over them. They needed it and he wouldn't think for a while longer.
Horatio got the text message from the strange phone number, smiling at the content. He forwarded the message to Speed and relaxed, sending one of thanks. Then he got up and went to check on his people. He heard the cheer and smiled. He knew Speed had slipped out to do something constructive instead of just wait. He walked into the breakroom. "He'll be fine. It'll be a few days before they get home." He looked at Don and their pets, who were in the corner. "Are they all right?"
"Spot hates his casts," he offered. "Are we talking fixed in a permanent manner?"
"According to the text message it just said fixed. You could try to call Ryan if you wanted details." Danny did that, walking off with it, Eric following. "I'm sure they're fine."
"I'd hope so," Don agreed, petting the ferret. He got a sleepy squeak from the other one. "Yes, I still love you too," he promised, petting her too. She settled in to nap on her buddy's back and make sure he was all right. "We're moving. Soon."
"I'm sure Aiden could find you something," Horatio agreed. "Until then I'm sure we can make sure you have a few days off, Don. Danny as well. Wherever they went." Danny peeked back in. "You can have a few days off."
"I might need it. They're at Oz's for the night. They're hoping to avoid Buffy's mother then come back through LA. So it'll be a few days. With any luck, we'll have the new house set up and moved or in the process of being moved." Don nodded at that. "Also, Xander doesn't have his wallet. So no ID."
"Jace can get them back," Don assured him. "If not, maybe the bouncy one would take his wallet to him?"
"Maybe," Danny agreed. "Plus his phone so we could talk to him. Right now he's laying and staring into space."
"He'll be fine," Horatio reminded him. "He's a strong man who's been through a lot before now. He's probably processing. Also, you might ask Mr. Wolfe. I believe he has one of his emergency cards in his wallet at the moment." He looked at Speed. "If you need our help, tell us."
"I will," Don promised. He looked at Speed. "Need me to take Xander's place helping you shop?"
"I can do it," he promised quietly. "I'll be fine." He smiled at them all. Things had been too insane before the holidays with the cases they ended up with. He could get Horatio's present now and he'd love it just as much. Horatio smiled. "I'll go tonight. You guys need a spare room? We've got one and the furry things would be welcome." Don smiled and nodded, looking at Danny, who shrugged. "Good. Come on, I'll let you guys in." They went with him, going to rest for the night and let the animals rest as well.
Horatio looked at the others. "Go home. They'll be home in a few days." They nodded and filed out, talking together. Horatio said another prayer for the strength of his team and got a hug from Alexx. "Hearing prayers?"
"Only sometimes." She kissed him on the cheek. "They'll be fine. Even if Xander did end up in trouble."
"If he is the system is severely cracked and I'll help him get the best defense attorney out there to help him," he assured her. "Since he was a victim he shouldn't be in trouble." He heard a cough and looked back to find a familiar vampire lounging in the doorway, shaking his head. "Detective Mystick. He's not?"
"Nope, not on our side. The other was a cult and were being expelled from their home realm. The fact that Xander went primal? Not an issue with us," he promised. "Don't let them move to Seagrove? It's a nice, dangerous area for those in the know. Like the fact that the heathen who was destroying magical stores is back." He winked and left with a smirk.
"Good to know," Horatio agreed.
"Who was that?"
"That is a member of the Demonic Police department, Alexx," he said honestly, looking at her. "He's a detective and they've had to rescue Ryan and Xander before."
"That makes so much sense," she sighed, walking off shaking her head. "Let me know when they're back so I can bake some brownies or something."
"I will." He walked off smiling. Two points of noted interest that he would have to keep in mind and more good news.
Xander woke up in the morning and stretched, then winced. "Shouldn't I be healed by now?"
"Probably," Ryan said quietly. "Then again you did have a few that were down to the bone in spots."
"Spot," he said, sitting up. "He hurt him and George."
"George got a few stitches in his side. Spot has two broken legs. He's limping around Speed's bedroom trying to figure out how to jump up onto the bed according to Danny," he said quietly. Xander slumped and held his head. "Xander, think you can eat?" Xander shook his head. "You should try."
"I can't." He looked at him. "He came after *me*?"
"Their you was dead. They needed someone who was born in the darkness on a power point."
"Which is me and he knew me, knew my darker side," he said bitterly.
"Yup." Ryan shifted over to sit next to him. "There's untold realms and dimensions, Xander. There's got to be another Jesse somewhere who grew up right." Xander looked at him. "Or slightly kinked maybe but still managed to make it to grown up and not in a cult." Xander nodded, cuddling him. "Now, we've got to do some minor stuff."
"If Joyce hears I'm here, she's going to come after me with a torch again."
"She won't. She's already tried to storm in and Methos cut her down grandly. She was sneering that you had her daughter arrested for no reason. She knows better now. I even got to point out we had her on film doing Danny's car. She said the lawyer that they had assured her it could be tossed and I pointed out it wasn't going to be because it was from your home security system. Plus she was a failed ADA. She was not happy and stomped off. Probably going to talk to your mother."
"I don't want to talk to my mother so maybe it'll give her some comfort." He looked at him. "I don't have my wallet. How are we going to get home?" Ryan pulled out his and held up the credit card. "Thank you. ID?"
"Not likely," he admitted. "I could pretend you're my prisoner and drag you back in cuffs," he offered with a small grin. "Or we could get a new copy of your one from here."
"Wouldn't they have canceled it since I don't live here anymore?"
"Actually, maybe not," Ryan admitted. "I've seen others do it and we can check." He grinned. "Now, we need food, you need food and clothes. Ours were washed and dried already. You're in skinned and cut leather. We definitely can't go anywhere in them." Xander looked down then blushed and looked away. "Yeah, we figured they were torturing you there too." He shrugged. "Not like we haven't seen it before and Oz didn't look." He leaned forward. "Let me activate this one?"
"Please. I can."
"Sure." He handed him his cellphone and the card so he could call the number to activate it. He looked toward the kitchen, finding Oz making tea. "He's up."
"I heard. I also know he's a grump in the morning. First period was never his friend." He walked tea out and handed Xander a cup of coffee. "Instant."
"Thank you, Oz." He smiled at the voice on the other end. "You're sure? No, I'm out of town and lost my other wallet. A friend carries that one for me. Thank you. Yes, starting today. California. I'll be home in Miami within a week. I thought I called and told you guys I moved." He nodded. "Yeah, that's us. Thank you." He hung up and shrugged. "Okay." He handed it back with a wince for the pulling in his back. "Am I not healing at all?"
"Other, more important, things heal first," Oz assured him, looking at his back. "That'll be gone within an hour. Trust me on this. Had worse."
Xander looked at him. "How did you end up turning furry?"
"Low quickening. I take bouts like that. Took nearly two years to get it out of my system." He kissed him on the cheek. "It's abnormal. Not even you could do that." Xander relaxed at that. "The same as nothing that bled into you yesterday is something to worry about."
"Oh, Danny said you're moving. One way or another he's packing up everything and moving all three of you somewhere better. With less security gaps and better play areas for the ferrets."
Oz looked at him. "Ferrets?" Xander grinned and nodded. Ryan produced pictures. "Are you two sure you're not together?"
"I'm his backup protector and buddy," Ryan promised. "That's Xander, Spot, and George and Beauty are the ferrets."
Oz looked and smiled, then handed it back with a head shake. "I envy you sometimes, man, but not with the ferrets or the hormones."
"Gee thanks," he said dryly, sipping his coffee. "Thank you for helping us, Oz."
"It's what I still do. Any idea where they sent the wonder twins and Giles?"
"Some realm far away was all that got told to me. Somewhere they could do their time and straighten out. No liquor apparently." He took another drink. "Buffy was a redhead."
"Wonderful." He sipped his tea and held it up for Ryan, who shook his head. "Joyce might still be in town but I could probably give you a lift to the Walmart or the better stores if you know what sizes he is."
"The last time I bought for him we were in a realm where elastic hadn't been invented yet," Ryan admitted with a small grin. "By the way, Horatio said we had to be back within a reasonable amount of time."
"That's great, but flights from LAX and surrounding areas were stopped because there's a hellish storm coming in," Oz told him.
"Literally?" Xander asked. Oz shrugged. "Like Santa Anna storm?" he guessed. Oz nodded. "Damn. It may take days and then they'd have to honor those tickets first. Plus, isn't American going to strike soon."
"Yup." Oz put down his empty cup and made Xander drink more of his coffee. "You guys could Amtrak to Vegas. Jace was worried sick. She couldn't get in, that's how we know about the flights." Methos came in with a bag. "Groceries?"
"Of course, Oz. I know how dreadful you are about forgetting them." He handed them over and flopped down. "Amtrak is overcrowded with the flight shutdown as well." Xander groaned. "We can definitely get to LA however. That would be safer, especially for Mrs. Summers should I run into her again." Oz came back with a pair of boxers, handing them to Xander before going back into the kitchen. "I couldn't find anything else at the supermarket and nothing else was open."
"No, this is great," Xander assured him, smiling a bit. "Now I'll look like a grunge rocker instead of a slut." He went to put them on and take a quick washcloth bath in the bathroom, coming out in the same torn leather pants again. "Ryan has my emergency card."
"That's even better," Methos agreed happily. "Oz, could you get us to LA?"
"I do need to attend class tonight, Meth."
"Sorry, forgot you're in a college phase." He looked at the boys again. "That would be the best bet."
Ryan looked at Xander, then at Methos. "If he got the gift certificate number, could he use that in LA if we can find the stores? I know he still had the second Armani one."
"He could," Methos agreed. "They might even be able to pull it up for him." Xander relaxed at that. "Then again I'm not sure where those would be."
"Study. Bottom drawer of the desk," Xander said quietly. "Red and black laquer box." Ryan grinned at that. "Did you know Aiden's used half her chocolate gift certificate?"
"How do you spend ten grand on chocolate? Or even five grand in under four months?" Ryan asked, making a face. "Not even you can eat that much chocolate, Xander." Oz snickered at that. "He can't. The boss can't either." He called back there. "It's us. He's awake. Say hi, Xander."
Ryan grinned. "Eric said hi back. No, but we will need a few things. The only one I've got is his emergency card, Eric. The red and black lacquer box in his bottom desk drawer. It's got the gift certificates and things. LA is shut down due to a set of pretty nasty storms coming in and the train's overcrowded according to Adam." Xander leaned against Methos' arm. "He's fine. He's back to cuddling Adam's arm. Want to talk to anyone?" Xander shrugged. "He's back into the silently staring thing." He leaned forward to hand it over. "Don's coming."
"Hi," he said quietly. "No, I'm okay. It's just a bad day. Yesterday was worse and we're trying to get it better." He smiled at Don's voice. "Let me have bouncy boy please?" He smiled at Eric calling him that and Don snatching the phone. "Hi, Don. How are the babies?" He grinned. "Good. No, I'm okay. A bit torn up and healing. No, still healing. We're working on that now." He smiled and nodded. "I'd like that. Can we have a pool this time?" He grinned. "Thanks, Don. I don't care if I go bankrupt at the moment, Don. Find us something. Thanks, babe. No, I'm okay. Tired, sore, a bit upset. Because it was Jesse. Remember, I told you about him." He slumped down some. "I know. Are you okay? They were saying something about taking you too." He relaxed again. "Good. One emergency card. Yeah. Ryan thinks we can get my old California one restarted." He grinned. "Thanks, babe. Of course and pat down Danny's hair. I'm sure he's been running his hands through it. Love you too." He hung up and tossed the phone back. "He'll tell Horatio that we're stuck. I'm guessing he's probably working through the websites to see when we can get back soonest."
"Probably," Ryan agreed. He stood up. "How far is town?"
"Two miles that way," Oz offered, pointing. "Want a ride?"
"Since my horse isn't here," he offered with a smile. Oz smirked back. "It got given to me," he defended. Xander nodded. "He said you'd understand."
"I kept a horse from the same line for nearly a millennium," Oz offered. "I do understand." They headed out together then he came to check the tag on Xander's pants. "Just in case." He walked out again. "Medium?"
"Let's hope that translates from leather to other clothes." That got a smile and they headed off. "So, did you get a hint of Xander's ability with electronic games?"
"Wish I had really. Could use the dough. I took a sinking in the stock market crash of '29." Ryan shuddered. "That's how I learned to diversify. I really need to yard sale some stuff though." He looked at him when they had to pause at a stop light. "If you have the choice, keep all your present electronics and anything collectible, keep them somewhere safe and rot proof, and then retrieve them in fifty years or so. Do not put everything into things like furniture."
"I don't have much furniture but I do like movies."
"Good, keep those." He went on, heading through the quiet town. "For being evil, it's pretty."
"It is, very pretty." He took some pictures from his phone. They'd appreciate those at home. "Now all they have to do is find Xander somewhere to live." He called Horatio back. "Boss, am I going to be in trouble on leave time for the convention?" He smiled. "Morning to you too, Horatio. No, he's just gotten up. He talked to Don and I talked to Eric. Just now. Yeah, we're working on that. I'm sure it shouldn't be a problem. Thanks, man. No, as soon as we can. With that storm, the American strike being threatened, and the trains being filled with the overflow...." He smiled. "That's fine. No, we're going to try to resurrect a copy of his old ID. I'm not sure if it will or not. We'll have to see. Yeah, that's my plan. He'd need it for Amtrak too, right? If not, we'll probably Amtrak to Vegas and fly that way. Heading to LA later. I'm getting him clothes. Because he has one very ripped pair of leather pants and the boxers Adam got him from the grocery store. His emergency card. Thanks, boss. Of course I'm going to guard him. I plan on making sure he's fine, Horatio. Of course I'll behave and not let him near the slots if we have to stop in Vegas." He grinned. "Thanks, man." He hung up. "We're good on leave time. It was explained to the chief as me being kidnaped with him again. That they almost got Don. Did you get to meet Don?"
"I stopped in New York. I trained Danny and know Connor." Ryan snorted at that name. "I heard. Trust me I heard both sides, Connor said he was trying to save you guys."
"And I believe it too."
"Yeah, well, he's usually an honorable man. Maybe Giles infected him somehow. Anyway, I saw Don a few times and the night he came across. I also got to threaten Taylor once too." He parked and looked at him. "She should be inside and able to help you."
"Not an issue. We miss Xander around here. No one else plays Twinkie Theater about the new menace of the week." Ryan laughed as he slid out. "He thinks I'm kidding?" he mumbled, leaning back. He sneezed. "Hmm, cops." He rolled down the window when one walked up to him. "I'm waiting on a buddy who's shopping."
"I heard Harris was back."
"Kidnaped back. He's good enough at the moment and leaving again."
"That's fine. He need anything?"
"His old ID. His wallet from Miami?"
"Go to the local DMV, Oz. They'll be able to pull it up and get a copy of it. He had it renewed when he hit twenty-one, it'll be good for a few years." Oz nodded at that. "Any other problems?"
"Can't help you there but the local bank may be able to call his and get a check cut or something."
"Not a bad idea. Thanks." That got a smile and Oz called Methos' phone. "It's me. Tell Xander to call his bank and get them to see if they can forward cash to Sunnydale for him. Yeah, that stuff. Thanks." He hung up. That would help some things. Ryan came out without bags. "Emergency card didn't work?"
"Need Xander's permission." Oz handed over his phone. "Thanks, I left mine back at your place." He went inside and called there, getting Methos. "Can you hand the phone to Xander? I need his permission to use his card." He handed it to the woman working the register.
"Mr. Harris? This is," she agreed happily. "Yes, that's what I needed. Thank you, dear. We know. It's her daughter so she's in pain. We all understand that," she promised him. "You behave, young man." She hung up and handed it back, letting him sign the slip. "Thank you, young man."
"I try really hard," he said with a grin and a wink, making her blush. "Think this'll fit Xander?"
"The last time I saw him he was a bit bulkier. If not, have him bring it back with the tags still on, dear." He nodded and headed out with the bags. "Such nice young men they have down south. Maybe I should move there," she told herself, watching his butt as he walked.
Xander walked into the hotel with a sigh of relief. "I hate traveling," he told the desk clerk. "We need a room for the three of us." The clerk looked at them then at him. "Yes, a double room would be fine," he assured him with a small smile. "Really." That got a nod. "We'll be here until we can get a flight out."
"Unfortunately all our lesser rooms are taken up by the storms, sir." Ryan put down the card. "I can see what we've got on our upper ends," he offered. "That would be at least a hundred and fifty a night, sir." Xander shrugged. "That's fine then." He typed it in and nodded. "We do have a junior executive suite. They're saying four nights?"
"Make it five in case and if we have to we can refund the last night," Ryan told him. That got a nod and he ran it, frowning. "Try it again. It's had that issue all day." It was ran again and he smiled, handing Xander the slip to sign. "Sorry, they've been fussy."
"It happens around LA for some reason."
"Too many electromagnetic things," Xander told him. "Must be worse in silicon valley." That got a smile and he took their room keys. "Thank you."
"Were you stranded due to the storm?"
"No, I was recently kidnaped and brought to Sunnydale," he admitted. "These two are my big rescuers." He pinched Ryan on the cheek. "Aren't they adorable!" he squealed. The man smiled and nodded. "Thank you." He headed up to the room, calling Horatio from there. "We're in. Do you have caller ID?" He smiled. "That's us. We're all here. Four days, maybe five if we're unlucky. We're trying, boss. I promise we are." He smiled and let Ryan have the phone. "Here you go."
"Hey, Horatio. No, we're fine. Do you have the number on caller ID? We're in under Harris or room 2214. Yup. Thanks. No, tell them we're all fine and it's going okay. Yup, Xander has real pants at the moment. Thanks, boss." He hung up and laid down next to Xander, getting cuddled. Adam smiled and got his own bed. "You can have him to cuddle tomorrow night if you need him, Adam."
"That's fine, Ryan. I'll let you both know. If I must, I'll head to the local branch of Devi's establishment."
Xander looked over at him. "There is?" Methos nodded. "If you go there, I'll lose all respect for you." Adam looked over at him. "I had full support for that place before he kept trying to get me back. Even when I said no. Blackmailing me, using me, trying to take me himself." He shuddered. "Coming back from my first real, scary, kidnaping and they had to put me there. He told me I never should have left and then one of the other boys comes out with the brilliant line of 'can't rape the willing','" he mocked. "Because we all know I'm going to let anyone and everyone have it."
"Had I known, I would have stopped going last year," he soothed. He came over to get his back to hold him. "It was you, the one he sent to deal with the blackmailing demons?" Xander nodded. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Not like I want to remember it," he said quietly. He looked back at him. "He stopped thankfully."
"Not totally but Ray and I did manage to convince him that selling those tapes of you during your work hours was a very unwise idea. He's since gotten the point." He stroked over his hair. "It'll be fine and unless he calls about a member I won't go there again. There are many more liberal establishments around the world than his." Xander nodded and relaxed. "Shhh, now let's rest."
"Not sleepy," he mumbled.
"It's been a long few days, Xander," Ryan said quietly. "You rest." Xander nodded and closed his eyes. "We'll go to dinner after this." Xander nodded again and shifted his head some, letting them soothe him into sleep. "I didn't even know about those. Probably only Don or Danny did."
"I'll talk with Don when we get home. Perhaps there's a new way to torture them." He smiled and went back to his own bed but Xander grumbled so he came back and let the boy feel surrounded and comforted. "Sorry."
Ryan shrugged. "Horatio has pointy toenails that stab you in the middle of the night. It's fine, Methos." He stroked over Xander's hair. "We've got to have that card straightened out."
"I shall. Something soothing tonight for his dinner. He'll need it." That got another nod and Methos called the desk to have something sent up. They could eat in when he woke up. Then he called Steve. "Please straighten out the people over his black stripe MasterCard?" he said in greeting. "Yes, Xander's. We're in LA, Steve. Kidnaping. Sunnydale." He smirked evilly. "Exactly. Yes but the airport is still closed. No, I suspect there's going to be a great bit of flux since they need a new house. Thank you, Steven. Yes, of course. He's sleeping. Ryan, poke your napping buddy." He handed the phone over.
"Steve, Ryan. Yeah. Just what he said. Group of other-dimensional cultists who wanted to sacrifice him and Don Flack but they were able to keep Don from being removed from Miami if you want to get technical about it," he offered. "We are. We're going to see if he can use the gift certificates that're in the desk at home. He does. He's got a five thousand dollar one for Armani and a few others. Including some other Visa gift cards I'm sure. Well, if I could magic them here, I would, but I can't and Xander's not that strong. Yeah. Didn't you set up the thing through the bank in Sunnydale?" He smiled. "That's fine. That'll be enough to fly but I don't want to risk it. Thank you, Steve. That's us. 2214. Thanks. We're in under his name." He hung up and threw it back. "He'll work on them to see what's wrong and his bank has a branch out here plus he still didn't move everything from the demon bank."
Xander lifted his head to look at him. "Why? We can get home."
"In case we have to do something impressive to get there," Methos said quietly. "Or the card is maxed out by us staying here." He got up to get the door, signing the slip and waving off the room service waiter. He brought the cart inside. "Here, this way you don't have to go out and deal with people." They moved to the small table and settled in to eat, Xander mostly eating the mousse, which was as he had planned.
Xander got off the phone with his usual credit card company, smiling as he walked into the first store he wanted to use. The salesman sneered. "I got stranded due to the storm in a little up-country town. Feel lucky it's not Walmart." The man shuddered at that. "I have a gift certificate at home, in Miami." The man smirked at that. "For five thousand dollars. If I give you the number can you look it up?"
"I can, but I'll need ID and it has to match the name on it."
"I have my old one. I was rather kidnaped at an inconvenient time with this storm." The man gaped and he shrugged. "I'm a GHS member." The man's eyes went wide. "Xander Harris," he said, grinning and shaking his hand. He handed over the sheet. "That's the one that's in the box at home. I got it in Vegas if that helps."
The man walked over to the computer to look it up. "I do see one was purchased in that name but no name was filled in."
"It was meant to be a present. I gave him a choice of that or ten thousand to a very good chocolatier." The man moaned. "Another member and his keeper." That got a smile. "So, may I use it? I really do dread wearing this for another day."
"I'll have to check to make sure, sir."
"That's fine." He went to browse, finding a few things that were tolerable. He cleared his throat so he walked back out. "Bad news?"
"We would prefer to have it in our hand so it can't be double used."
Xander smiled and pulled out Ryan's wallet. "My keeper's coworker. He came out to save me," he said quietly. The man's eyes bulged. "Mr. Wolfe is sleeping in because I tossed and turned all night and kicked the hell out of his legs for him." That got a small smile. "I can prove who I am."
"That's fine, sir. Then we can do that as long as we get proof it was cut up."
"Go through the system, it can give you a running tally. The other one I bought has been used about ten times."
"I can see that." He smiled. "It was meant to the same person?" That got a nod. "Some people do have wonderful taste. What can I help you with today?"
"I feel and look best in all natural fabrics. I'm hoping we can do pants and shirts? Maybe some boxers? Like I said, this is about all I have."
"I can understand fully, sir. Let's go see what we can do. Full suits?"
"Not really. Not my thing. I prefer slightly loose silk pants and silk button-ups. Or regular t-shirts with them."
"That's a very popular look. "What do you do?"
"I'm a bed toy." He spluttered and Xander beamed. "I am. A number of GHS members are."
"I've only heard of your organization."
"There's only about three thousand of us." He grinned. "I'm spoiled, pampered, and kept like a princess. Hence the hair." The salesman laughed and leaned on a rack, smiling at that. "Now, shirts? This one itches, it's polyester. Ryan did the best he could.... But it was Sunnydale."
"I understand fully. I don't much like polyester either." He led him to where he needed to go. Within a half an hour everything he'd need for the next few days was gotten, including a bag. He rang him up and Xander handed over his card for the extra sixty dollars, getting a call.
"Xander Harris." He listened. "That's me. Because I was kidnaped, not like clothes are usually on their list to bring with you, especially when they plan on killing you and taking your heart out," he admitted, taking the bag with a smile. "That's fine. Of course, dear." He hung up and signed the slip. "My emergency card is so fussy!"
"I guess it's a good thing. Security and all."
"Yeah, but I want it to work for me in these sort of situations." He grimaced. "I'll pay them off later and get a new one." He handed back their copy with a smile. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir." He crossed their number off Xander's list. "I must say, you have good taste in presents."
"I do try. I got nagged for too long about my hawaiian shirts." The salesman laughed so he shrugged again. "The officer who got the other gift card I bought that day made me go with him so I had decent clothes that wouldn't embarrass him."
"It's nice to have friends," he agreed. "Have a nice day, sir." Xander nodded and bounced out with his new suitcase of clothes. "That poor man. He must be bored stupid most of the time." He called his manager back. "It's me again, sir. We did go through the system and it did get cashed out. Fully. Plus sixty dollars of taxes that he paid on another card. I did see his state ID, it was an older one. Apparently he's just recently moved from a small town called Sunnydale to Miami. No, he said his keeper, whatever that is, is an officer down there. Yes, so it's unable to be used again," he assured him. "Thank you, sir. You too, sir." He hung up and went back to watching the store. It was a slow Wednesday with the storms coming in.
Xander came back to the hotel room with two suitcases of clothes, handing over one of them to Methos and Ryan. "Your sizes, approximately." They smiled and dug in, finding something clean to wear. "Also, I hate my credit card company." That got a clap from Ryan. "I did use a lot of your minutes talking with my personal banker and she's assured me they can fix that and pay that one off immediately, as long as Steve agrees, and that the EFT they've got planned will go through today to the bank here in the hotel. So I've got to check on that in about an hour." He grinned. "Also, Danny did file paperwork for a mortgage for some reason. I have no idea why he didn't just take the rest. She did put my name on it since he went through her. The pictures of what happened to the house and the one Ryan sent back of what I looked like were more than enough to motivate her. So, we've got everything we should need for the next three days. Or four, depending on the weather, because the storm is going to hit any hour now."
"Go check on the bank draft now," Ryan ordered.
"I checked on my way up. They said it was coming through and it'd be about an hour."
"That's fine," Ryan agreed, smiling at him. "How much is coming?"
"A few thousand. Enough to live on and get home on. Even if we do have to rent a private flight to make it there. We should layover in Vegas."
"If we could get a train out, I wouldn't care to," Methos offered. "I haven't seen Jace in a few months."
Xander shrugged. "Only if I get to go play cards and slots this time."
"No slots," Ryan reminded him. Xander pouted. "No."
"Fine." He smiled. "Not even one?"
"No, not even one," he said firmly. "That's too much like cheating." Xander sighed and nodded. "Good boy. Cuddle?" Xander snuggled in and got comfortable. "I like you in silk. Comfortable?"
"Very." He grinned at Methos. "Is that too small? I meant for that to be Ryan's. Yours was all on the left side." Methos got out of the shirt and got into another one. It was looser. "I guessed based on your favorite sweater."
"It's perfectly comfortable," he assured him. Someone knocked on the door and he got up to answer it. "Yes, officer?"
"Is there a Mr. Harris here?"
Xander sat up and looked over that way. "What? More problems with my emergency card?"
"No, sir. I was asked to escort you down to the bank." Xander shrugged and grabbed his wallet, Ryan following. "You are, sir?"
"CSI Wolfe, Miami-Dade," he offered, shaking his hand. "I'm Xander's backup protector." The man looked confused. "Not too many members of GHS here?"
"Oh, no wonder!" he said firmly. "We do have a few and I used to work up in Beverly Hills. My boss asked for me specifically for some reason, now I understand." He smiled at Xander. "You're fairly young."
"Found out last year," he offered, shrugging a bit. "I'm okay with being a level ten." The man moaned. "Yeah. Only one good slip though. I made him crawl after me after he threatened to shoot me." Ryan hugged him. "I live about ten minutes from the PD at the moment."
"He was suicidal," Ryan offered. That got a nod in understanding. "This time was just cultists who wanted to kill him in a sacrificial rite."
"Someone cursed you to an interesting life, didn't they?" he teased.
"Quite possibly but the more interesting it is the less I get bored." Ryan pinched him, making him yelp. "Sorry! I do get bored now and then."
"I heard. We'll work on that next, Xander." Xander gave him an impish grin. "Behave." Xander sighed and nodded. "Thank you." They were escorted into the bank. "Hi."
"Which of you is Mr. Harris?" Xander raised his hand. "And you are?"
"Ryan Wolfe. I'm on his accounts as well. All we could get for ID for him was a fairly old one," he admitted. "Being kidnaped during a storm like this sucks."
"Yes, I suppose it would." He smiled and looked at the picture in the file. "They did send over an identification file, Mr. Harris. If I can have your signature?" Xander signed the computer box, letting him compare it. "Not too far off. Mr. Wolfe?" He found his name listed. "If you'd sign as well, just as a second precaution?" Ryan nodded and signed, his was spot on. "Very nice, thank you, gentlemen. And you as well, Officer." He got the envelope from his desk. "This is what Miss Gold said to send you, Mr. Harris. Please count it?" Xander took it and sat down to count it, then shrugged. "Is it correct?"
"I asked Steve for a few thousand. It's more than I expected but that's fine with me." That got a smile and he signed the other forms, letting Ryan sign as well. "Thank you."
"We pride ourselves on our services. Especially during the trying times. Have a good day, boys, and you as well, Officer."
"Thank you, sir." He walked them back to the elevator, looking at Ryan. "How stressful is your job?"
"Very. We don't have set hours. We get the crime scenes and are more responsible for putting people away than any other department. I wouldn't trade working with Horatio for the world, but there've been plenty of eighteen and twenty hour days and no days off for a few weeks in a row." The officer moaned. "It's got its rewards."
"I'm sure the overtime check is nice."
"It is but it's also the feeling that you put someone away when they deserved it for being a dirtbag." The officer smiled. "Plus no more ironing my uniform." That got a laugh and they got onto the elevator, him giving Xander a hug. "How much did they send?"
"Steve added zeros to a few thousand."
Ryan took it to count, then looked at him. "I'd say. We'll call Steve later and you can pay my phone bill this month." Xander smiled at him. They were escorted back to their room. "Thank you, Officer Jenkins." That got a smile. "Got a spot on your shirt by the way." He looked down and licked a finger, getting off the sauce. "Go hide from the rain."
"Yes, sir. You be careful as well." He walked off, barely beating the rain back to his car. He hated these storms. But they had been a very cute couple.
Xander hung up with Steve. "He said he did it because the accounts were going to be locked until I got back due to the mortgage thing going over. Apparently the house they found is very nice and about what I've got in the present one. A bit further out. The problem became that they couldn't sell the old one with the damage on the walls. Or while Horatio and you guys had it locked as a crime scene. I told him to take it out of the accounts but he said they couldn't do that from most of them. He's switching stuff around which is why it'll be locked for a few more days. Hence us having some major cash on hand." He shrugged. "Danny just got paid so they'll be all right. Spot may be healed by the time I get home and he'll probably hate me, but we'll get home eventually."
"We'll be fine and your dog loves you, Xander."
"I couldn't protect him. I had to sit there and watch while they did it. I couldn't help him at all. He's got to hate me."
"He knows you didn't hurt him, Xander," Methos said quietly, lifting up an arm. He snuggled up to him. "It'll be fine. Where are we moving you to?"
"Somewhere called The Grove?" Ryan smirked at that. "Good?"
"Very nice estates. Barely within call-in distance. But you'll be closer to me now." Xander shrugged. "Not happy with that?"
"You know I don't care if you move in, Ryan."
"Good point." He kissed him on the forehead. "Let me go to the bathroom then we'll talk about dinner, okay?" Xander nodded. "Good boy." He went to do that, saying a prayer to Ares and Strife that the sale go through and that they go home sooner instead of later. Xander needed to make sure everything was the same at home. Plus this was going to drive him nuts. This storm was grating on his nerves. Strife appeared and gave him a hug. "Sorry."
"This storm grates on everyone's nerves," he said quietly. "The house is going through okay. It's got privacy and a security patrol. They eased the call-in radius for those two by a few feet. It'll be fine," he promised. "I'm keeping down the tension and the things that could go wrong." Ryan relaxed against him. "It's the storm. Relax and let it flow, Ryan. In and out. In and out." Ryan took a few deep breaths. "Good. No stopping to gamble. He'll lose this time and it'll look worse when he goes to the convention." He kissed him on the back of the neck. "Order in a movie. Have him put some of that on the tab." Ryan nodded so he disappeared.
Ryan finished up and washed his hands then came out. "Put some of that on the tab. We'll watch a movie tonight?" Xander smiled and nodded so they handled it that way. It was a good and relaxing thing. Even if Methos did order porn after that and had Xander yelping in pleasure within minutes. Ryan could only shake his head and smile. You had to smile when two great lovers went at each other and it lasted for hours longer than the movie that started them off.
Ryan pulled Xander away from the slots in the airport. "Strife said no gambling this time, Xander. You'd lose and it'd be harder during the convention." Xander sighed but let him lead him to the McDonald's inside the airport so he could get him breakfast. He brought some back for Methos as well since he was half-asleep waiting on their flight to be called. Xander flopped down and waved the coffee they had gotten specially under his nose, earning a grunt and a snatch. Then some hissing because it was next to lava in hotness. Ryan handed Xander his food and sat down to eat, watching the board. Their flight was on time. It was going to be a good day to get home. Even if it did take most of the day to get home. Their flight was finally called and he let the other two proceed him, smiling at the stewardess when she checked their tickets. He settled into his first class seat, smiling at Xander since theirs faced each other. "I like this design."
"So do I. Especially if you're traveling with someone." Someone came to get their last seat in the grouping and he nodded cordially then looked at Ryan again. "Which one do you think will be picking us up?"
"I'm hoping it's not Eric and him going 'you have a case right now, Wolfe'." He grinned. "As long as that doesn't happen, I'm okay with it." Xander beamed at that. "Don't forget to cut up the gift certificates when you get home."
"I will. I already sent the list of used ones to Danny and he promised he did." He buckled up when the door closed, looking back, then at Ryan and giving him a 'sorry' look. Ryan looked and groaned. He adjusted his badge out of sight.
The stewardess came on and told them not to resist, that everything would be all right as long as they didn't resist. Then she was forced back into her seat.
"We're going to San Salvador," he said firmly with only a hint of accent in his voice.
"We won't have enough fuel for that," someone called. He glared and pointed the gun in their direction. "Never mind. We'll die a fiery death."
"That so sounded like something Speed would say," Ryan admitted, dialing home. He put the phone beside him once he heard noises.
"I want no interference from anyone," he ordered. "This plane is going to San Salvador. Then you will be allowed to go back to Miami."
Xander looked. "Can't we just drop you in Mexico? Or let you hijack a flight in Miami? There might even be one going your way there."
"I said shut up," he said, sticking the gun in his face. "I will be leaving from this city! I am going to San Salvador!"
"Sure," Xander agreed. He turned up his hormones. Methos and Danny had both taught him how to do this correctly instead of by instinct so he didn't enslave everyone on the plane. He gave him an interested look. "What's your name?"
"Ricardo," he sneered. "Whatever you're trying won't work."
"I'm not trying anything. I'm trying to make this a pleasant kidnaping experience, unlike my last one." The man gave him a horrified look. "What can I say, the cultists thought my heart was big enough for their needs." He looked even more horrified. Xander let it spike suddenly and he wobbled. "Here, perhaps you should sit. Get a bit comfortable?" He glared at the person sitting with them, making him move very quickly out of the way. Xander got him seated and patted him on the knee like he was a child. "It's all right. I know how stressful kidnaping can be. Especially on the kidnapers. You always have to worry about something like rescue missions. Then again, I hear the Vegas SWAT team isn't as pretty in action as Miami's is." The man swallowed so he sent another surge, making him pant. "Do you need medical attention? Ryan, you know CPR, check his vitals? I'm horrible with that."
"Sure, Xander." He checked him over, nodding. "His pulse is a bit high. Maybe you should consider a later flight to get that under control."
"No, I must go now. They need me," he said urgently. He looked at Xander. "You understand, don't you?"
"I do," he agreed. "I know all about urgent need. But if you're ill they could quarantine you when you land. That won't do anyone any good." The man nodded at that wisdom. "Plus they'd quarantine us and within minutes there's going to be a screaming baby that'll make someone want to commit homicide in four days when he won't quit screaming." He smiled. "It's a rule of air flight travel. There's always one person with a cold and one screaming baby. If you bought the cheapest tickets, they're in close proximity to you." The man laughed. "Now, I really do think you should be examined by someone. You're still pale and shaky, Ricardo. It won't do whoever you're going to see any good if you collapse." He smiled at the hesitant nod. "You should. Really."
"I don't have time."
"I wish we had the time to argue." He spiked a third time and he slid to his knees. "Put it down, Ricardo," he said firmly. "Hand Ryan the gun." He handed him the gun and Xander stroked his chin. "Good boy, Ricardo. Very good boy. Now, apologize."
"I'm...I'm sorry," he announced, staring at Xander, who smiled at him and nodded. "I do not mean to inconvenience anyone."
"We understand," Ryan assured him, patting him on the head like he would Xander if he was under stress. "Now, what's your real name?"
"Ricardo Estovan." He gave Xander an adoring look. "Will you write to me in San Salvador?"
"If I have your address." He wrote it out for him. "I'll write you there. Thank you, Ricardo. Now. I do believe the military is here. They're not going to be happy. You should say you're ill." He nodded. "Tell them that, believe it, have them extradite you. They'll send you home."
He nodded and got up, going to open the door and tell them that. "I'm ill, I need to go home to San Salvador."
"Come with us, sir, and we'll see what we can do to help both problems," one of them said, holding out a hand. "Come on." He nodded and stepped across, letting them capture him. "Thank you. What's your name?"
"Ricardo Estovan," Ryan called. "I've got his gun, guys." One of them came in and he flashed his ID and hung up his phone. "Got a sudden call from Miami?" he asked at the amused look.
"I did, sir. Remember you can't use the cellphone during the flight. Good work, do you teach that technique?"
"I'm still learning it off Xander," he admitted, pointing at him.
"Understood. Sometimes the best cure is a psychological one." He walked out, then came back. "We'll need statements." Xander pulled him down and whispered in his ear, getting an odd look. "Huh?" Adam handed over a card with the website's address. "You are, sir?"
"The national head," he said grimly. "His trainer."
"Okay. I'll make note of that and if we need anything I'm sure we can find Officer Wolfe."
"Call the felony lab. I'm usually there on dayshift," Ryan promised. "All the lab knows Xander."
"Even better, sir. Have a better flight, everyone." He walked off, telling his boss what had been said. That got a moan and a nod. "You understood that? I got given a web address."
"Look it up, the convention's here this upcoming year," someone called from inside the plane.
"Aw, crap," the leader said. "That's something we'll have to let everyone know about. At least it was bloodless and explosionless. Let's check the plane anyway, boys." They nodded, going to take the bomb sniffing dog inside to do that. Then around the cargo containers and the luggage.
Horatio hung up his phone and put his head down, shaking it. Someone knocked and walked into his office. He looked up at his boss. "Wolfe is on his way back but he's going to be delayed a few more hours. Someone tried to hijack it to San Salvador."
"I heard on the news and I figured Harris had to be on it." That got a nod. "They all right?" Horatio nodded again, grimacing some. "They got him?"
"Good. Hopefully this one crawled as well." He grinned. "Who on your team is going to the convention?"
"Speed, myself, Danny, Don Flack, Ryan wants to go. No one else should have to go. Ray might want to go. He's dating the national head after all."
"I'll make note of that. Is he working out all right? I just passed him and he was balancing a marker on his nose."
"Computer services came back to screw up his computer more. He's waiting on Cooper to come in on his day off and fix it for him again so he can do productive things." That got a smile. "He's bought my tech flowers and candy for fixing his computer, boss. They need their butts chewed again."
"I'll get on it tonight, Horatio. Any idea what the problem is?"
"The nightshift person who uses his desk is trying to download files and the system shuts down as a security precaution."
"Even better. IA know that?" Horatio shrugged. "I'll make sure. He should just print them out like the rest of us on a vendetta." He shrugged. "Anyway. Wolfe didn't get any vacation time taken away for this. I figure he was on duty guarding Mr. Harris. Did he work with the department out there?"
Horatio snorted. "They have no idea what a CSI is probably. They're a small, rural department without much of a night shift from what I understand. They're supposed to be very nice. Xander had to deal with them in the past when he was accused of raping his best friend while he was in New York and she was back there."
"Parental retaliation for him not being there?" Horatio nodded, pressing his lips together. "It happens. We've all seen it happen, Caine. Hopefully she's learned better?"
"Her daughter certainly didn't when she came to blow up his SUV and Detective Messer's car," Speed said from the doorway. "I just caught a news report. San Salvador?"
"They were on that one. Xander got him down and out of danger with a small surge. He's in custody. He'll be a few hours late, you might want to tell Don and the rest."
"Don heard it and started to thump his head on his desk. He was playing the radio while he did reports." He shook his head when the chief looked at him. "Only Xander."
"Ryan was there and so was Adam," Horatio reminded him.
"True, but still, only Xander. Maybe he'll get you a new gift certificate to take the place of the one he had to use, H."
"Maybe." The Chief looked interested. "When he went to Las Vegas to visit the person out there after the kidnaping, mostly because she had information they needed to put it behind them, he gambled and won quite a lot. So he got various gift certificates. Including one from Armani for me and another one for this year." His boss smirked at that.
"Five thousand worth of Armani goes a long way when you shop the end of the season clearance," Speed offered.
The Chief looked at them. "What did you get for Christmas?"
"Another five thousand to a different suit maker; this one does custom suits and keeps your measurements on file. I got one to spoil Speed and his bike fetish," Horatio offered with a small smile. "He knows us very well."
"Yeah, the ten grand to the chocolate makers was very appreciated," Speed agreed. "Speaking of, I called Fed Ex and them to bitch Fed Ex a new one for letting the last group melt. They're sending a new one since I sent that one back." He walked off again. "It was them," he announced. "They're all fine. They're going to be a bit later than expected."
Eric moaned from his lab. "Do I want to know?"
"Two words, Eric. San Salvador." Eric thumped his head on the wall, shaking it. "Attempted hijacking."
"Only Xander," Eric moaned, looking at him. "If Ryan comes home with a tan, can I spank him?"
"Go ahead. Works for me." He walked off happier now that he had made someone groan. Danny came out of ballistics. "They're fine."
"I'm sure they are. Otherwise I would be kicking ass, not letting Eric spank it later." They shared a look. "He went to do real shopping too."
"I know. He spent the other gift certificate he got for Horatio." He smirked. "You did cut that one up, right?" Danny nodded. "Is the new house all set up?"
"All but his bed. That had to be moved all by itself. It's heavier than hell," he said dryly. Calleigh slammed the door. "Sorry. I'll watch for delicate ears." He looked at Speed again then shook his head. "Don done yet?"
"No but he's giving anyone who walks past this desperate 'come save me' look."
"I can do that. I have a suspect." He grinned and walked off to talk to him. Don gave him that look too and he waved the folder, making Don grin and snatch it. "Let's go, puppy dog eyes."
"Coming." He got up and grabbed his jacket. "Do I do it as well as Xander?"
"No. No one else can talk a hijacker down like he can," he offered, giving him a look. "You, me, lunch, the gym?"
"Works for me," Don agreed happily, heading after him.
"I don't know which is more bouncy: Don, Xander, or the dog they both claim is theirs," Yelina complained.
"I've discovered it depends on the reason," Frank said lightly. "See a tennis ball and it's the dog. See his men and it's Xander. See Xander just out of trouble and it's Xander. See Xander in a spoiling mood and it's Xander but Don bounces later." She laughed at that. "He does. Then he wears it out with the dog." Ray laughed at that. "What're you getting Cooper this time?"
"He can name it."
"Know any pretty girls? He could use a date so he's bouncy too," Frank offered.
"Some," Ray said with a grin. "Danny knows a few too."
"Stella's made to be worshiped, not dated. Monroe's too mouthy, and their new one up there is like Ares as a cross-dresser from what I've heard," Frank said, looking at him. "Beard and all from what I got from Stella." Ray laughed at that. "I think the nicest I've heard her called was 'the Goddess on steroids'." Yelina laughed at that. "Really."
Danny came back nodding. "Yup. Ares cross-dressing as Artemis. Including the leopard print stuff. Forgot the keys." He found them and headed out again.
The detectives all howled.
Ares scowled at even the thought of that image. He'd never be able to fit into Artemis' favorite leopard skin skirt. That was just wrong! He pouted at Strife when he came in.
Strife replayed the last conversation and pulled up a picture of her, nodding. "She is, Unc, she looks like you without the beard most days." Ares looked and whimpered, then stomped off shaking his head. He shrugged. "Not my fault," he called after him. "Maybe I should get 'Dite to tell Stella about makeovers...." He went to talk her into it. She liked Stella, thought she was a great woman.
Mac looked up at the giggling he could hear. "Do you mind, I'm trying to do paperwork here," he complained quietly. "Bad enough I had to chase down Methos rumors again."
Strife appeared, grinning mightily at him. "Awww, does the big, bad Methos still need hunted down with his butt buddy Theo?"
"They're still alive?"
"Yeah, very alive. Xander knows 'em both but doesn't know he knows Theo. You've seen Theo actually and not known." He grinned evilly. "We're tryin' ta talk Stella into helping a certain Amazon in your unit into a makeover. That way people quit calling her the cross- dressing Ares. Let's face it, a God'a War poutin' ain't fun for no one."
"Sure. Please do. Then again she does scare suspects that way."
"She scares me and that says somethin'," Strife assured him. "Listened to the radio yet?"
Mac moaned and turned it on once he was gone, shaking his head at the report of the siege and the attempted plane hijacking being over with thanks to civilian help. "Xander," he complained. He looked up. "Are you Xander's biological father, Strife?" he complained. "If not, are you sure? We can do the paternity test if you want."
Strife, who was upstairs, bowled over laughing, making Stella give him a fond look. "Mac thinks I'm Xan's dad," he chortled and gasped. "Said he could do the test."
She reached down to pet him on the head. "I'm not so sure you're not. Then again, I'm not so sure you're not his twin some days. You'd look cute in the hair." He cackled harder and started to vibrate then disappeared. She heard a faint explosion before the pop of him disappearing was gone. She looked over when Monroe came in a few minutes later. "How's it going?"
"Can we please make her wear pants? I can already tell you she doesn't shave up there."
Stella nodded. "I'm going to handle that, Lindsey. All I need is a bit of Xander magic." A card appeared next to her. "Is this one Xander needs or used recently?" she asked. She got a 'no' feeling. "We're sure since I know he had to use some in LA?" It was replaced by a Visa giftcard. "Sure." She smiled and called to check the balance. More than enough! She called Mac. "I'm handling it. Anything in particular...." He said something. "That. Yeah. Thanks." She hung up and went to find her target, coughing. "Don't bend over that way." Their new tech gave her a hurt look. "We can all see and there's been a few complaints about your clothes. Come on, we'll work on it together over a long lunch." She held up the Visa card. "It was donated to help you become more professional looking."
"I'm perfectly..." she said in a deep voice.
Stella looked at her. "We can all tell you don't shave the hair between your ass cheeks, Elizabeth. Let's go. Before Mac has to hear another patrol officer whine or another DA whine." She followed her out, letting herself be taken shopping. "Besides, you can't crawl on the ground in that and it's going to be those cases soon. Even though we have snow at the moment. Then the spring mud season. You'll want them. Pants are a lot more practical and depending on what style and fabric you get them in, they might even highlight you better."
"If you say so," she said petulantly.
"I do and if I don't, Mac's going to have to put the complaints into your file," she said firmly, getting in to drive. "Considering two of them said it was unnatural to have that much hair sticking out of your skirt, I think it's going to look bad and you don't need that and we don't need that to come up during a trial." She started the car and took off with her, taking her to get some tasteful clothes. Because this girl.... she'd seen prostitutes with longer skirts than she was wearing today.
Xander came off the plane and ran over to hug Don. "I missed you. You're okay."
"I missed you too and of course I'm fine. They only had me for a few minutes. They had you for hours." He pushed him back to look at him. "Spot's not mad. He's been looking forward to being spoiled by you." Xander gave him a hopeful look. "I promise. Just don't touch the casts, he hates them and growls whenever we try." Xander nodded. "Bags?"
"Checked." He smiled at Ryan and Methos as they came off. "He said Spot doesn't hate me."
"I knew he wouldn't," Methos assured him. "Come along, let's see the new house."
"Only thing not there yet are the ferrets we can't find and the bed. The bed's being moved today. The ferrets, they'll probably show up in the lab in a few minutes." He smiled at Xander. "George has been miserable without you. He hates the cone on his head so he can't chew his stitches. He hates the stitches. We've had to keep Beauty from chewing on them for him. Or on the casts for Spot." Xander grinned at that. "So, what did you bring me?"
"I'm not enough?" Xander teased.
"Of course you are."
Xander gave him a cuddle and a squeeze. "I brought you back a gift card."
"Cool. I like gift cards. Will I use this one?"
"I hope so." He pinched him on the butt and let Methos get the bags this time since Ryan had gotten them from the hotel. He smiled at Don. "I was a good boy." He saw Ryan shaking his head and glared at him. "I was so."
"Until the third day of the storm you were," Ryan assured him. "After that we were all a bit nuts and you went with us." He patted Xander on the back and looked over at Methos. "Let me guess, one of them opened?"
"No, they're both out but one's tags are stuck on the conveyor." He caught it when it came around again and this time it came off. "Ah, there." He walked it over, letting Xander have his. "He showed restraint and taste."
"Good. We like those two niceties." He walked them out to his car. "Yours is already there," he assured Xander. "I drove it over personally. Ryan, Danny checked on your horse. She's doing fine. Lonely since she's in heat but fine." Ryan smiled at that. "Adam, your boy's insane and heading further down the slope. His computer's back on the blink. Computer services even locked his ID." That got a moan. "So we've been keeping him sane and centered with backrubs and stuff. It's not been working greatly but once the new pool got put in it was a better time."
Xander beamed at him. "Cupid moved it?"
"Moved it and we let Eric clean it since he was frustrated," he promised with a smile. Xander hugged him again. "Come on, in, boys. Let's go show you the new house." He walked around to get in and drive, letting them arrange themselves however. He ended up sitting next to the extra cuddly boyfriend, making him smile. He had missed Xander cuddles. He even managed to drive with only one arm and hand since Xander had the other one, no matter how Ryan coughed for the first few minutes. He pulled up to the gates of the community. "This is the older section of Miami. This is formerly gangster territory." Xander oohed at that. "That means it's still secure and safe." He pulled into their gate and it closed automatically behind them. "There's a neighborhood watch patrol and they're pretty nice. They said one of you guys named Marianna used to live out here?"
"She died a few years back," Adam said. "She was about ninety-three and starting to go senile as I remember her, but fairly a nice and charming woman who wouldn't hesitate to peel the hide off someone. From older, dirty money. She lived near the gates if what I remember was correct."
"You do. This one was a drug seizure property. Horatio found the listings. He had it checked to make sure it was safe and no new drugs were around." He finally parked behind the house. "See, garage. It fits everything, and the last one is specifically for the bike, not Ryan's horse for all that it does look like a stable." Ryan smiled at that. "Come on." He let them in the back door, and Xander pounced Danny since he was in there, bringing him to the floor to cuddle and kiss. Don laughed. "Sure, love him more'n me, Xander." Xander tripped him and cuddled them both, kissing and stroking them. "You're home. Spot?" He came hobbling in and looked, then whimpered and limped over.
"My poor baby! Daddy gets kidnaped right after you're hurt so no one can baby you," he cooed, picking him up to cuddle him. His puppy growled but then licked his face once he was settled. "My poor baby!" He gave him a hug. "Daddy's home and it'll all be better. We'll take care of those nasty things all we can. Yes we will." The dog licked him and whimpered. "You were such a good boy, trying to defend the daddy. You should have a treat." Ryan handed down the can of treats. "There's one." He plucked one out and let him have it, making him wag his tail half speed. "Ooh." He plucked out another one and let him have it. "Are you sucking up?" he teased.
"He has been for days," Danny assured him, reaching over to pet his side. The dog growled. "I'm not touchin' the casts, dog." He went back to petting him. "I know, Daddy's home and everything's right in the world." The dog barked and got down, hobbling back to his window seat. There were birds out there and he wanted to chase them. "He's been a good boy," he promised, flipping onto his stomach to take another kiss. "Your bed just now got here. The movers hate your bed." He grinned. "Especially since we needed to air it out." Xander laughed and got up, making them both get up and show them around. They had an actual formal dining rom with a real table in it, not that they'd use it but they had one. They had a real living and a real tv section of that living room. They had sitting area with all the books shelved. Even the magic books were shelved. In the same order they had been put back into the bags he had noticed.
They headed to the back of the house, finding the master bedroom. Xander squealed and bounced on his bed, making the mover in there give him an odd look. "It's his family's heirloom bed, guys." That got a nod and the invoice being held out. Danny looked at it. "That's reasonable." He paid him and they left, going to have a beer and relax. "Upstairs are four guest rooms. All by themselves. Plus another room if one of us needs some privacy. Horatio and Speed stayed over last night. We're still not sure where the ferrets are at their house. Ryan, yours is upstairs, last one on the floor. It's got the balcony. That way you can shove Eric or Aiden off it. Horatio's probably going to keep hogging Don's old bed since it helps his back. Notice, we've each got our own closet," he said, pointing. "Keep your loud shirts outta mine." Xander grinned and pulled him down on top of him to kiss him again.
Don put the suitcase that had Xander's stuff on the trunk of clothes from Ares' temple, opening it. "Xander, why is there a crown in here?" He held it up. "Not even a great one, it's a teeny bopper, wear to the prom crown."
"Because I'm Xander, Queen of the Amazons," he said firmly, grinning at him.
"I thought that was Gabrielle on the show," Methos noted dryly.
"Yes, but she made a horrible one. You can't be a queen if you're always traveling. You can't even be a princess if you're always traveling. Much less traveling like she did way back when they couldn't get hold of you for months on end. And hey, even giving it to someone temporarily wasn't really good for the people. It leads to instability. Besides, I make a much better amazon than she did and I'm cuter too. She never bathed, she had nasty hair, and she wore a headband. I mean, be a bit more creative since you won't be washing your hair except for once a week. She should've given it over a real amazon and saved them the embarrassment of having to claim her. Jace agreed with me. I'd make a good amazon and I'm as much of a queen as she ever was."
Danny pulled out his phone and called his old friend. "Jace, Danny. Quit warping my boy Xander. Please. Before I have to come out and kick your ass again." He hung up and kissed Xander stupid. "You obviously need worn out again."
"Yup," Xander said happily, grinning at him. "Jace told me I was like Jett's revenge child. He had a kid that was mostly like Joxer to get revenge on him for picking on his baby brother." Methos bent over howling in laughter at that. Xander shrugged. "She did. But she did say I'd make a fine queen of the amazons. So much better than her namesake would've."
Danny moaned and kissed him. Don crawled up to help. This was going to take some serious straightening and wearing out to make Xander right again. Don looked at Ryan. "You couldn't fix this?"
"He came back like this after I was asleep and we were running late this morning. Sorry, guys. Let me hang stuff up."
"I'm back!" Ray shouted.
"Bedroom," Ryan shouted. "With Xander, Queen of the Amazons."
Ray leaned in. "Maybe I should go for a beer?" Methos pulled him closer to kiss, making him moan. "Missed you too, studly. Bedroom. Now."
"Lead on, my prince." Ray beamed and drug him off to their adopted bedroom.
Ryan called Eric, hanging things up and ignoring the trio on the bed. "We're back and we're at the house. No, Xander came home with a crown from Claire's and pronounced himself Queen of the Amazons." He waited while he choked on that image. "He even rationalized it to Jace, man. Seriously. Tell that to the others who watched the show. That and Jace said he was like the child Jett would have in revenge for picking on his baby brother Joxer." He grinned. "Seriously." He grinned and bit his bottom lip. "Well, they are trying to calm him down again. Anyone ever find the ferrets?" He grinned. "Sure, you tell Speed that." He hung up and went back to hanging things up. Then he went to check the upstairs bedroom that would be his. He saw Spot and came back down to carry him out, letting him use the plants instead of him whimpering that he was going to be bad and use the window bench. He got a relieved dog who tried to chase the birds. "Not yet, dog. When the itchy things come off." He got the dog back inside and smiled at him taking his spot back. He went upstairs to roll around on this bed. It was a great bed.
Eric hung up and looked at Speed, who was out in the hall. "They're back."
"I figured that was Ryan. How are they?"
"Xander came home with a cheap girly crown from one of those fashion stores and pronounced himself Queen of the Amazons." Speed choked on that. "Jace apparently told him he was like the child born for revenge on Jett for picking on Joxer from that same show. Ryan sounded like this was perfectly rational. I need to bury myself in him and make him sane again, don't i?"
Speed walked out and headed upstairs, finding Horatio in his office. "Please hit me or something to take this image out of my mind?"
"What image?" he asked, putting down his pen.
"Apparently Xander came home with a cheap crown and declared himself Queen of the Amazons?"
"Well, he'd be better than Gabrielle was. She was always traveling. Not like she could handle community emergencies or the breeding or farming issues they'd have." Speed stared at him. "Then again, Xander is a lot like a child between Jett and Joxer."
"Jace said he was like the revenge child born from Jett for picking on his baby brother. I knew letting you watch that show for so long would warp you. No more Xena and Hercules DVD's, Horatio. I should sell the whole collection."
"Do it and I'm selling your Doctor Who collection," he warned, giving him a look. Speed gave him a look back. "Seriously. It could be worse. He could be the son of Autolycus and Joxer."
"No more, Horatio. My word is law in this. You're warped and it's not healthy for you or for the cases. Some day soon you'll show up dressed like Joxer and then who would comfort the victims and scare everyone else." He walked off pouting. Valera and Calleigh stopped him. "Xander came home and declared himself the Queen of the Amazons. Horatio said he'd make a good one."
"Horatio's a closet Xena fan?" she asked, looking confused. "Wow. Does he read the stuff online too?"
"Don't you dare get him started on that again!" Speed ordered. She kissed him on the cheek and went to talk to the boss about his love for Joxer. He looked at Valera. "Stick up for Eric and I, please?" he begged.
"That was not my version of Sci-Fi," she promised. "I'm much more a Xanth person. I like Anthony and he's a native to the state." He nodded, sighing at that. "Now, calm down. It's not like we'll really see Xander in the short skirt and sports bra she wore in the later pictures I ended up having to see from a boyfriend. All you guys made sure he has more taste than that." Speed nodded, letting her pat him on the back. "If it helps, I've got DNA from the skin on the rope. It was the victim's."
"It does," he agreed. "Thank you, Valera. I needed that bit of cheering up."
"Go tell Alexx. I'm sure she's never heard of Xena."
"Maybe." He walked down there, going to talk to his 'mom'. "Alexx?" She came out of the office. "Xander came home with a crown and named himself Queen of the Amazons."
"The amazons I know might be a bit upset at that." She gave him a hug and sat him down to feed him some of the cookies she had leftover from lunch. "I take it's he's back?"
"Yeah, they're probably trying to straighten him out right now."
"Good, the boy could use it." She poured him some iced tea out of her fridge and let him calm down again. Her poor baby had been traumatized and the other one probably wasn't much better off. She looked down. She could've sworn she saw a movement. She hoped it wasn't a new batch of rats.
Ryan found the special pool later that night, in the basement of course. It was all cleaned up nicely and it was pretty, and it had Ray in it playing as well. He kissed him on the head. "Want something to drink?"
"Please," he moaned. "And my man if you can get him?"
"Sure." He walked back upstairs, finding Methos in the kitchen looking confused. "He's in the basement in the pool and would like you to bring him something to drink."
"Of course he would." He grabbed some juice and headed down there.
Ryan looked at Xander as he bounced in and hugged him. "Good playtime?"
"Very and I'm a happy boy even if I can't sit." He stole a kiss. "They're asleep. Am I cooking dinner?"
Ryan sighed. They hadn't worn Xander out. He walked him back there and leaned him over, taking him again, making him yell and wiggle, but he did get off and was a lot calmer. He patted him slowly, putting him down in Don's arms so they could cuddle. "I'll cook. You nap." He went to clean himself up then went to cook, as promised. Even when Speed brought in some food. "Hey, that means this can be a side dish." He got to work shredding the beef he had cooked and adding it the potatoes he had made. "I had to help wear Xander out, he was still bouncing. Any luck on the ferrets?"
"We caught Beauty in the morgue. She was trying to steal the cookies Alexx and I were sharing," Speed offered. "George.... well... He was inside Horatio's desk pigging out on the nuts he had in there." Horatio blushed at that. "He never looked inside his desk. He had put his gun in there after putting his jacket on the back of his chair. George somehow managed to cling to his jacket all the way in, even on the bike, and then hid in there to nibble himself sick. Horatio heard him throwing up, that's why he looked." He handed them over from his jacket pocket.
"Aww, were you two helpful again? Daddy's home. Let's go see the daddy." He walked them back there, letting them run across Don's head to nest in Xander's hair, which made Danny look then snort and close his eyes again. "Beauty could probably use a cuddle. She was in the morgue."
"Yay her," he said flatly. "Later." They filed out so he did look at the ferrets, seeing their curious looks. "Yes, peoples need to sleep. You two behave. For now. Your cages need to be set up probably." He yawned and shifted closer to Xander, getting nibbled on. "Quit, George." The ferret quit trying to eat his nose and settled on bothering the sleeping daddy instead. He was drifting off again when Xander was waking up, that's why he got to miss Don giving Xander's head a shove for the squeal of joy.
"Awww, you finally came home to see the daddy. Daddy's so happy the furry babies are home." He petted them both, making them happy ferrets. They knew who played and treated them the best. He slid out of the bed and took them to the bathroom with him to clean up, then walked them out into the kitchen. He kissed Speed on the cheek. "Thank you for watching my babies for me."
"You're welcome. Next time I'm bringing one of the cages or a corral. Something. It was very strange to wake up, go down to start breakfast, and find a ferret in on top of the eggs. The other one came to help me make pancakes so Beauty was really white that day." He petted them both. "Cages are being set up now. Go help." Xander grinned and skipped off with them, making him smile. Things were much easier with Xander around. And more fun too because no one else would ever get Ryan Wolfe to make that girly of a scream again. Xander went running past with Ryan after him, making him and Horatio smile at the silliness of those two. Horatio came back without the ferrets. "Ferret down the pants?"
"Yes, he did go there," Horatio agreed, stealing a hug. They watched as Ryan pounced him and they rolled around on the ground, the dog going out to help. "He's a good helper."
"He is. We'll have to check for cracker crumbs this time."
"I told everyone to let me know if they saw signs of the ferrets. I'm wondering why no one saw Beauty. Especially with as much glass as we have in the lab. How can you miss a white ferret?" He heard a squeak from his shoulder and looked over. "Hi, Beauty. How did you get out?" He went to find the other one too, just in case.
Speed opened the door. "Ferrets are loose again. Go help." Xander wiggled free of Ryan's grasp and headed inside, smiling and walking the dog's speed so he didn't feel left out. Yup, there was definitely more to life with Xander around.
"Don't you think I'd make a good queen of the amazons, Horatio?"
Speed moaned. Then again, was it a good life? Ryan came in and groaned too, patting him on the back. "Be strong. Remember, he'll move onto something else tomorrow."
"I hope so."
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