It had been a month and things were back to normal now.  Xander's last present giver had been found and reminded he was gay.  She had accepted back the necklace and was thanked graciously for the chocolate.  No new upsetting presents had been sent. Then again, no one had applied within the department for the lab opening.  So Xander was one again playing welcoming committee.  He squealed when he saw Greg, giving him a hug.  "Hi."

"You're here too?"

"Did you forget I'm dating Danny?"

"I did," he admitted, then he grinned and shrugged.  "It's all good.  Let me get my bags and then we'll go."  Xander nodded and let him do that then they headed out to the corvette.  "Awww, baby," he cooed, petting it.  "Such a pretty baby."  Xander beamed at him.  "Do I have time to get changed?"

"When's your interview?"

"Two hours from now."

"Forty-five to the house.  Thirty-eight to the station, lights willing.  If you do it *really* fast."  Greg shrugged and they got in, heading back to the house. "How is Vegas?"

"Las Vegas is always Las Vegas.  There's no other way to describe the tans from the neon and the showgirls."  Xander giggled. "How have things been down here?"

"You would not *believe* what I got given last time," he said, glancing at him then back at the road.  "An eight-foot chocolate vagina and a six foot white chocolate dildo.  Honestly."  Greg curled up laughing at that, howling at it.  "Really.  They ended up taking an axe to chop it up.  Plus girl jewelry.  We had to tell her I'm gay and she was very understanding."  He looked behind him.  "That stupid reporter bitch," he complained.  He looked then changed lanes like he should, then sped up just a bit.  He was now officially over the speed limit by about three miles an hour.  Of course, a state trooper pulled him over.  "Well, maybe you should change shirts in the car, Greg."

"I will."  He smiled at the officer as he came over.  "Sorry, officer.  Was he speeding?"

"By about eight miles."

"It's sixty-five, I was doing sixty-eight," Xander told him.

"It's sixty in this stretch, sir.  License and registration?"  Xander dug it out with a sigh. "Thank you."  He wrote it out then looked at him.  "Do I know you?"


"Are you sure?"

"Very.  I've never met you before in my life."  He took his ticket and signed it then handed their copy back, putting it on the dash.  "Can we go?  He's got a job interview."

"Fine, you go, boys.  Go slower."

"Sure, if you get the woman following me, I'll gladly do that," Xander said, pointing at her and her cameraman.  Then he started the car and drove off.

"I knew I knew that name."  He looked then stormed over there.  "You start that car and I'm yanking your license!"  She froze, giving him a horrified look.  "Who was that and why are you stalking him?"

"He's the crime lab's flunky.  I'm trying to figure out who he is.  Can I see his ticket?"

"No," he sneered.  "That's against regulations.  Were you the reason he sped?"

"We *all* know this is a speed trap," she sneered back.  "So, who was he?"

"None of your business.  Get off my road."  He stomped back to his car and got in, calling it in.  He got instructions and followed her to make sure there wasn't a problem.  Though he did learn who he had ticketed.  It made him pleased.


Horatio looked up as Xander led his applicant in.  "He didn't have time to change. It's my fault.  I got stopped for going sixty-eight in a sixty-five-supposed-sixty zone."  He held up the ticket. "Since when is that stretch sixty?"

"It's not," he admitted. "I'll check on that, Xander.  Mr. Sanders."

"Lieutenant," he said with a grin.  "I don't want any special treatment because of the group."

"Good.  Would you like to clean up in the locker room?"

"If I could? I didn't want to wrinkle the good clothes on the plane."

"I understand.  Let me lead you down there."  He smiled at Xander.  "Go to my office."   Xander bounced that way.  "Who was following him?"

"Some blonde woman with a camera guy."

"Her again," he said grimly.  "Let's let you get changed."  He opened the door.  "There you go, Greg."  Greg smiled and walked in there, going to clean up a little bit more.  He came out ten minutes later with his hair fixed, in an actual button-up shirt, and no tie, but dress pants.  The others were in his bag.  He was still in his sneakers, but he was just like that.  He found Horatio up the hall and went to lurk in plain sight, getting a smile while he signed paperwork.  "Let's go the one of the interrogation rooms.  Eric's looking up that speed trap."  Greg shrugged and nodded.  So he took him in there.  "How long have you been a trainee for Grissom?"

"Six very long weeks of getting all the dirtiest jobs and trying to live up to Warrick's standards of perfection.  The guy brings enough stuff for three scenes, extra clothes, and keeps it all together beside his bed every night."  Horatio moaned at that.  "I'm realistic.  I'm human.  I'm also not allowed to be myself there.  I'd like to be myself.  Yes, I'm not a stick in the mud guy.  I'm not uptight.  I want to do the job and not lose who I am."

"Which is a wonderful goal.  We're a bit more lax in personnel matters down here," he admitted.  "Though we do have to do a lot more with the higher classes than you probably did."

"I don't care what sort of cases I work on, Horatio.  I like being a guy who has a sense of humor now and then.  Who has hair that can stick up and be a bit crazy on the bad days.  Who can listen to his iPod in the office."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Since I've been under Warrick's tutoring, I've had to grow my hair and make it look like everyone else. I can't wear t-shirts, even plain ones on most cases.  He doesn't like that I have a dating schedule and I'm sorry, I love the lab.  I'm not giving up my life for it."

"I agree.  You shouldn't.  We do spend a lot of hours here but that doesn't mean that you can't date and find someone special.  Especially with what I know about you."  Greg nodded. "You probably realize there's a few of us in town."

"That's fine.  Are they going to study me like Grissom does?"

"I'd hope not.  Xander would get very upset."  He cracked a smile at that. "He would.  What sort of cases have you worked, Greg?"  He heard a commotion start and looked outside, then sighed.  "Wait here."  Greg nodded, getting comfortable. He walked out there, finding Xander yelling at the reporter.  "What is going on?"

"She stalked me here, stuck a microphone in my face outside your office, where you told me to wait, and then demanded I tell her who I am and what I'm doing to help you."

"Go wait in my office," he ordered.

"I can't.  Two bullies just pulled me out of there and decided I should be under arrest for doing what you told me to do."

Horatio glared at the officers around, and one of them pointed. "I told him to wait in my office for me.  Put him back."  They drug him off. "He is capable of walking."  Xander got free and kicked on in the shin.  The guy took a swing, a true, hard, punch at Xander.  Xander ducked and got him in the chest, then in the nuts.  "Xander.  Off."  Xander pulled back and stomped off.

"You're going to let him get away with that?" the guy's partner, the pointer, yelled.

"Yes, I am. I told him to wait in my office.  You had no reason to go up there in the first place and definitely no reason to remove him.  Then you treated him like a suspect.  I will not have that.  He has been an asset to this department time and again.  Am I clear, gentlemen?"  They stepped away from him. "I asked a question."

"What, he your boyfriend?" the hurting officer sneered.

"No, though he is seeing an officer in this building.  Anything else you wanted to know?"  He heard a polite cough.  "Get them out of my precinct, Rick.  Now."

"What happened?"  The reporter turned to look at him.  "Turn it off and give me the tape."

"I don't..."  Horatio took it and handed it over.  "Thank you, Horatio.  And the problem is?"

"Xander was nice enough to do us a favor and retrieve one of the job applicants for the open trainee spot.  He knew him from his last trip to Vegas, where they met."  Rick nodded slowly at that.  "He's part of their crime lab."

"Okay, so he's the trainee applicant."  He looked into the interrogation room and Greg grinned and waved. "Him?"

"Yes.  Xander got him here in time, but there had been a problem.  Namely this woman stalking him, again."  He glared at the reporter, his hands on his hips again. "Erica doesn't even know who he is.  She accosted him somehow outside my office, where I asked Xander to wait to talk about the speeding ticket he got in that speed trap by the airport."

"I've heard about that.  Technically it's due to construction that hasn't started yet.  It's an iffy situation."

"Which is why I asked him to wait.  So I could see if it was or not when he asked."  He looked at Rick again.  "Apparently his trying to get away from her resulted in some officers coming to drag him off like a suspect.  When I told them to put him back, they tried to drag him off again.  Xander did kick one in the shin for intentionally pulling his hair.  The officer took a swing.  Xander hit him twice.  Once in the chest and once in the genitals."

"Where is he now?"

"My office, where he should be.  I have further need of him later on to pick up more applicants.  He's bored and it means the department doesn't have to reimburse for more than gas if he asks.  Which he probably won't."

"That's nice of him.  Who are we talking about?"

Horatio stepped closer.  "The one with the hair, Rick."  His eyes went wide.  "He knows a number of the applicants already.  He's a good choice to greet them.  He's personable, fun, and outgoing."

"He is.  Plus it gets him out of the house," he agreed.  "Is he all right?  Going to press charges?"

"No," Xander called, coming back with Danny.  "I'm not."  He looked at the officer. "It's against policy to pull anyone around by their hair, even when it's as long as mine."  The man growled and took another swing at him.  Danny shoved him into a wall.  "I don't know what your problem is. I don't care.  I don't know you or want to know you. I was doing as I was told.  If you don't like it, yay.  You countermand Horatio."

"You're a ...."

"If you open your mouth it will be held against you," Rick Stetler warned patiently.  The man glared at him.  "Messer."  Danny nodded back. "Please calm him down before we have an accident."

"Xander."  Xander brooded but that was normal.  "By the way, the speed trap?"

"Iffy.  It's construction related but hasn't been started yet."

"Huh.  And the fact this is one of the guys who ....."  He glared at the reporter and took the camera, ejecting the digital backup and handing it to Horatio then the camera was put down against the wall, safely out of the way of things.  "He's one of the guys who calls him penance?"

"He said he didn't know who I was.  He thought he recognized my name, nothing further.  They're entitled to their opinions.  I could care less if you hate me or not until you try to act on it and I have to defend myself.  Taking a swing at me is dumb."  He looked at Horatio.  "Who else was I supposed to get?"

"You might want to borrow Don's car.  There's three coming in on the same flight from New York.  Then there's one later tonight from LA and one from Chicago coming in.  I can have them escorted to their hotels since their appointments are tomorrow."  Xander nodded. "Thank you."

"I like you, Horatio.  You treat me like a human being, even when you do fuss now and then because I'm out on my own."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Don's car?  You're sure?"

"Take mine," Danny said, handing over his keys.  Xander grinned and skipped off. "Hey, corvette's keys?"  Xander tossed them back, letting Horatio catch them and hand them over.  "I'll treat it like you would if I've got to drive it."  Xander beamed and waved, heading off again.  He pocketed the keys and looked at Stetler.  "He have an issue?"

"Not if he's not going to press charges."

"I am," the officer assured him.

Danny looked at him and snorted.  "You do that. Xander will as well.  You took a swing at a civilian while in uniform."  He got given a glare.  "Like it or not, there's gay people in this city and in this department.  A hell of a lot of us.  So back off it or go to another city."  He stomped off again.  "Sorry if I overstepped, I hate bigots.  Bigots deserve retribution."

"Your reward should be being happier than they are," Horatio ordered.  "Thank you, Danny."

"Welcome. Next one I pop myself."  He walked off, going back to the lab to tell the others it was okay again.

Horatio looked at the Internal Affair's officer.  "So," he said dryly.

"Let me.  That's wrong.  I'll see if I can get him some counseling.  There's a clear anger issue there.  What about the reporter?"

"She'll be staying since Xander's file a restraining order against her.  Since he's not a public figure."

"He has tapes out," she said firmly.

"Only to a select few people."

"He's a porn star," she sneered.

"Not by his choice.  Those were private tapes that were aired.  They've been stopped to my knowledge.  He is *not* a public figure, Erica.  I would let you go but you won't honor the restraining order."  She huffed and stomped off with her cameraman in tow once he got his camera back.  Horatio went back in there.  "Sorry you had to see that."

"It happens to the best of us.  We've got bigots out there.  Everyone but Grissom thinks that I only know one of me."

Horatio smiled and shut the door.  "That can happen, even here. Most of the people around here are very tolerant and we do have an official anti-discrimination policy that does include sexual orientation."

"That's good. I like that.  That and how you stuck up for your guys.  I liked that a lot, Lieutenant.  I'd be honored to work with you and have you train me."  Horatio smiled.  "Then again, I'd also be honored to have two days off during spring break."  Horatio laughed at that.  "I know I'm not the best qualified. I came at it through an odd route.  I realize that, it's been told to me before.  I also realize that I'm hyper and intelligent and that can be an annoying combination.  The same as I realize you're probably going to yell at me for wanting to wear t-shirts on the job as well."  Horatio pulled out a picture and slid it over.  "Oh, momma.  A grunge tech.  We do exist."  He smiled at him. "That's like the holy grail for me."

"I know, Greg.  Now he's more of a button-up and jeans sort, but still fairly scruffy. I don't mind your hair.  I don't mind Ryan's hair and it's gone through some odd phases as well.  Trying to be someone else won't make you a good tech and you'll end up suppressing all that guides you to find the truth."  Greg nodded at that wisdom.  "Then again, I thought Warrick was as OCD as Ryan Wolfe when I met him."  Greg grinned at that.  "I have a copy of your evaluations from Grissom.  He did say he didn't want to see you go but you might feel more comfortable down here."

"There's an ocean.  I surf.  There's people like me and I can hang with them.  Our lab's a family but it's one strange one.  They're tight with some and then the techs are like pariahs. I'm in the middle and I hate it, Horatio. I want somewhere they're going to value me as more than a trainee and an extra pair of hands."

"We all want that, Greg.  We'll see who else applies and weigh you against them."

"That's what I want," he agreed, shaking his hand.  "Thank you, Lieutenant."

"You're welcome, Greg."  He smiled.  "Are you staying at a hotel or with Xander?"

"I didn't even remember he came from down here.  So I'm booked at a hotel."  He grinned.  "Free cable."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Thanks.  Cabs are where?"

"They can call you one at the entry."

"Sure. Thank you."  He shook his hand again and left, heading down there with his bag.  It had felt good to him.  Like he had a shot.  He nodded politely at the officers when he passed them then smiled at the guard.  "Can you please call me a cab?"

"Any particular company?"

"Nah.  I'm new in town and I came in for a job interview."


"The crime lab.  I'm a CSI trainee."  That got a nod and the guard called him a cab.  Not the most clean or sweet smelling cab but still a cab.  He got in and let him take him to the hotel, hoping he didn't pick up the stench.

Ryan walked over and looked at him.  "What's against the lab now?" he asked.

"Harris hit one of us."

"Harris hit one of you who took a swing at him.  You should feel lucky the rest of us didn't hit him too."  The guard shivered.  "Also, Xander can protect himself in some situations.  We also know that those three particular officers were switched to another precinct due to gay bashing another officer."

"Who?" he asked quietly.

"Me."  The guard swallowed.  "So, no, not heros by any stretch of the imagination and I'm going to remind some others that they were sent away in disgrace due to that.  Xander is like my brother. You hurt him, you deal with me.  Understood?"  That got a nod.  "Horatio stuck up for him because Xander was doing what he was supposed to do. They interrupted that.  The reporter *someone* let into the lab interrupted that.  Not saying who, but there's a restraining order."  That got another moan.  "So, quit fucking with the lab."  He walked off, going to talk to the boss and remind him of that.  "Hey."  Horatio looked at him. "Did you recognize them?"

"Two of them from the locker room a few years back," he admitted, giving him a look.  "Pointed that out?"

"Crims was the guy who broke his hand on my locker and who Xander got in the nuts.  Yeah, I did to the guard.  All three were there, Horatio."

"That's fine, Ryan.  If they continue this pettiness, I will lodge a complaint."

"That's great but they just got Greg the smelliest cab in existence."

"It'll be handled."  Ryan nodded and left it in his hands.  Horatio turned and found Stetler standing there.  "You heard?"

"Of course I did and I did see my own notes.  He will have counseling for that.  Give it a day, it'll blow over.  It has in the past."

"This has been ongoing," he admitted.  "Calling him my penance for doing good deeds."

"I've heard that as well.  That's mostly the people who believe he's turning you gay."  Horatio snorted. "Remember, I do know."

"I know you do, Rick, the same as I know what Miss Summers told you."  Rick nodded at that.  "His friendship is a reward, not a penance.  He's one of the most loyal people in this city and he protects me like family."

"I've noticed he mother hen's you."   He smirked.  "I'd say that's the real penance for doing it to others."

"Yes, but I don't mind it from him.  Was there something else I can help you with?"


"Xander's loved me.  They are loving little creatures.  Anything else?" he asked smugly.

"New trainees?"

"No one locally applied."

"That's because they're afraid of turning into Wolfe.  Who's suddenly very scary."

"Thanks, I'll mark my journal with hearts that you said that," Ryan said from behind him.  "Boss, Xander said one of the ones from New York either caught a different flight or didn't find him with the others.  He even tried paging her and Mac said he hadn't heard anything either."

"Thank you, Mr. Wolfe.  One less stress on my day."  Ryan smirked.  "You will be helping with the new trainee?"

"Sure.  Not an issue.  Oh, he said to warn you one has clothing issues?"

"Interesting.  Thank you."  He went to watch for them to come in.  He wanted to see which one hadn't shown up and which clothing issues that would be.


Xander parked and got out.  "This is the crime lab building.  Just remodeled a year or so ago from what I was told.  If you'll follow me, I'll take you to the locker rooms so you guys can freshen up or change clothes if you want."  He smiled and led them inside.  "More trainee interviews."

"That's fine, Xander.  Let me see some ID's please?"  They let her sign them in and then handed over visitor passes.  "Xander, it's shift change.  Give them ten minutes?"

"Sure.  I'm sure Horatio won't mind."  He smiled as he led them off.  "This is the lab's floor.  We share a changing room with the patrol units.  It is a unisex changing room or so I'm told."  That got some nods and Xander saw the 'women changing' sign up.  Since they were two women and a guy, he pulled the guy out of the way.  "You might want to check."  They went in boldly and he only heard one person ask.  He looked at the guy.  "Give them a few then you can have it.  Or I can lead you to the bathroom if you'd rather."

"Might be better.  I think I had the earlier interview time."  Xander smiled and led him that way, coming back to find one of the women was done but still in a skirt that was going to give him nightmares.  He recognized her now.  She was the one Stella had taken the gift card to fix.  He shifted some.  In the right light, her face did kinda look like Ares.  Maybe an offspring somewhere in her line and she got the bad genes?  He shook himself when Danny walked past.  "Danny, this is...."

"Donna," she said, smiling and shaking his hand.  "I replaced you in New York."

"Well, welcome to Miami.  The trainee's replacing me here when I go back ta Mac," he offered with a grin.  Though it did seem a bit fake.  "Xander, Horatio's in his office. I'll tell him you're back?"

"Sure.  The other one's in the bathroom up the hall."  He nodded and fled.  Xander smiled at her.  "So, how did you find New York?"

"Decent enough.  It was rather fussy.  Mac's a bit strict about his clothing as well."

"We get that down here too.  Ah, another of your possible coworkers.  Eric Delko, this is Donna, she's applying for trainee.  She's formerly from Mac's team and he couldn't bring her."

"Hi," he said, forcing himself not to look.  "Welcome to Miami.  I hope you like heat and humidity.  That's the weather down here.  Xander?"  Xander grinned at him, giving him a 'save me' look behind her back.  "Dinner?"

"Dinner's good but I won't have time to cook."

"Okay, I'll start, you'll come home and help."  He shrugged.  "Anything in particular?"

"I don't care. There's leftover pizza."

"Even better," he decided.  "I've got to figure out what to get Ryan for his birthday on the way home."

"Eric, as long as it's sincere and it's not a sword in a big red bow, he'll be fine with it," he said, grinning at him.  "And yes, I did mean yours."

"I know.  I'd never do that.  I like my sword."  She gave him a look.  "Xander's learning sword fighting with another tech and I.  Ryan's pretty good with a blade.  So's Xander."

"Thank you."  He grinned.  "Just think, that dancing is actually self-defense."

"That I wanna see."

"Tell Danny, he told me not to show off in public again."

"True."  He nodded and made the mistake of looking down, covering by looking at his file.  "Okay, well.  Jewelry?"

"Are you two going to be together *that* way?"

"No," he said, shaking his head. "Event tickets?"

"Mexican wrestling?"

"That is funny.  Sure.  Thanks."  He grinned and walked off, forcing his mind away from the picture he had seen.  He ran into Stella.  "You worked with her?"

She glanced around the corner and waved, then went back to her conversation.  "I told her to burn that skirt," she offered.  "It's gotten worse," she whimpered, heading out there.  "Xander."

"Stella."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "I'm sure you remember Donna, but did you know Steve?"  Steve nodded politely.  "He's in from one of the non-felony labs from... was it Queens?"

"It was," he agreed, shaking her hand.  "I was most impressed with your lab's stats and cheered when you kicked the mayor in the nuts for closing your lab."  She smiled at that.

"It did feel good," she quipped, patting him on the cheek.  "Who else came up."

"Haybert from my lab.  She's fussing over her hair or crying to relieve the stress I would assume."

"That can happen.  Let me check on her."  She smiled at Donna. "You guys all know Miami's like August in New York ten months out of the year, right?"  They all nodded.  "Well, at least you'll be able to wear t-shirts down here."  She walked into the changing room, shuddering in horror.  "Haybert?"  She came out of the changing room with one bobbypin in mouth and another in her hand.  "Need help?"

"Please.  It's not cooperating."

"Sure."  She came over to help her put her hair up.  She looked her over.  She looked professional.  "Don't call Horatio sir," she said quietly.  She nodded.  "Tell Steve?"

"Xander did.  Was she the one that...."  Stella nodded.  She shuddered.  "No wonder I heard she left bits of herself at a crime scene."

"Sheldon found it," she offered, making her giggle.  "Okay, there you go.  I can tell you he's seen one so far.  The trainee out of Vegas wanted somewhere he could be himself.  Greg was a DNA genius."

"It's good to know my competition."  She shook her hand.  "Nice shot with the mayor.  Would've done it a second time were it me."  She winked and grabbed her briefcase, walking out.  "Sorry, hair wouldn't stay up for anything with this humidity.  Thank you, Stella."

"Not a problem.  The lab here is a very tight family."  She smiled as they walked off.  "Um, Donna?" she called.  She looked back.  "I can see pale skin.  You might wanna pull it down in back," she mouthed.  She pulled down her skirt in the back but it didn't help much.  She shuddered once they were gone and texted Horatio.

Who Danny had already warned.  So at least he managed to keep his face neutral when he saw them. "Xander," he said, hugging him.  "Thank you."

"Welcome, Horatio.  Are you guys coming for dinner or is it going to be a quiet night in?"

"Probably a quiet night in. You should have a few more of those with your men."  Xander beamed and nodded, going to find his men and see if they were ready to come home yet, plus to get his corvette's keys.  He smiled at the three trainee candidates.  "Welcome to Miami.  Xander's not on the staff but he is dating in the lab and bored. That's why I let him pick you three up.  This way?" he led them back toward his office, then into the break room.  "Let me start off by saying this is a felony lab.  The position is very hard at times.  For those of you without any field experience we do work some long hours but the reward is in putting someone away.  My lab is also like a family.  So the whole lab will be training you even though you'll be assigned to a single mentor."  Donna raised her hand. "Yes?"

"We do have gay officers?"

"Miami has a very strong anti-discrimination policy.  For the most part there's not any problems, though earlier today we had one officer with an issue.  Those of us in the lab have usually met any boyfriends or girlfriends within a few months if they're serious because we do gather for group events."  He saw movement and looked.  "Yes, Frank?"

"I managed to break Henderson somehow.  He's crying and said he did it even though the evidence is against him doing it.  Where's Danny?"

"Page him.  Xander may have stolen him home already."

"No, he's with Flack.  Danny made him pout."

He paged Danny and he came out.  He nodded at Frank.  "I broke Henderson."

"Was it hard?" he asked.

"No.  He's confessing."

"He's trying to cover for his son it looks like.  Let me get one last report and I'll be up there in twenty."

"Sure.  Thanks."  He walked off.  Frank looked at the others.  "Hi, I'm Detective Tripp, one of the homicide detectives.  Welcome to Miami.  If you come down, you'll see a lot of my smiling face too."  He grinned and two of them smiled.  "Is the group doing anything tonight?" he asked, trying hard to block that image out.  Now he knew why they called her Hirsute Woman.

"Quiet nights in, Frank."

"Sure."  He walked off.  He'd get with a few others to have a beer and pick on that one girl.  He accidentally caught sight of her again when he was waiting on the elevator.  No wonder they called her Hirsute Woman!  It looked like her legs and what was between them had longer hair than Xander!  He ran into Stella.  "You tried."

"I did," she complained.  "A lot.  Even Lindsey tried a few times, Frank."  She gave him a hug. "It'll be okay.  He won't hire her.  Hopefully.  If he does, I'm handing her hair clippers."  She saw Calleigh coming. "She's down," she mouthed.


"Hirsute Woman."

"Really?  Where?"

"The break room.  I can't stop seeing that.  She has more hair than Xander."

Xander looked over from Don's desk, where he was being petted.  "I noticed.  I'm gay and I got stuck.  It's that bad," he complained quietly.  "I almost want to drink to forget it.  I got stuck alone with her for twenty minutes while the others got their bags and had to stare because she sat down and didn't cross her legs."

Don got up and had to see this.  Horatio was moving them one at a time to his office so all he had to do was go in and get Xander a soda.  He had to stop outside and collect himself first though.  He was about to shudder.  He walked in.  "Hey, guys, how ya doin'?" he asked, slipping change into the machine and hitting the soda button.  Wrong one.  "Damn."  He sighed and did it again.  Calleigh would appreciate the soda and they were on a case together.  He walked back there, handing her hers.  "I got stuck," he moaned.  "I want to shave myself now."

She gave him an odd look.  "That bad?"  Xander nodded quickly, letting Don pet him again.  "Sure."  She walked off.  "Beers tonight, guys?"

"Please," Ryan called.  He popped out and looked around then shuddered.  "Eww.  How did Eric not react?"

"He's seen some skanks at the bars?" Xander suggested.

"True."  He looked around.  "Incoming boss," he said.  They all got to work, all but Xander, who was still being petted.  "Having trouble with the case?"

"I am but he's very helpful letting me think.  Hey, Chief."

"Must you do that?"

"He helps me think."

"Gave me a damn good idea on one of the ones I was stuck on when I petted him too," Frank admitted.  "Nearly as good as the dragon."

The Chief sighed and walked off.

"Um, no," Stella ordered.  "Don't.  The trainees are in to interview in the break room."  He shrugged and walked that way. "I warned him."  He came back twenty minutes later looking normal.  "She must've been gone already."

"I saw her walking," he admitted.  "You did try, CSI Bonasera.  I thank you for that."

"I tried to get her to change up there too.  Didn't work.  I even took her shopping."  She shrugged.

"You tried.  Fortunately I know Horatio has more taste than that."

Speed came out of the labs, looking horrified.  "If he hires her, I'm going to have to hold her down and shave her, then hand her underwear.  No wonder Sheldon said he found one of her pubic hairs on a scene.  The other two are in there dissing her behind her back too."  He shuddered.  "That's one skanky woman.  Who looks a lot like Ares from the show, anyone else notice that?"  Stella nodded.

Xander's head popped up.  "I think maybe there was some mingling of the genes and she drew the lucky ones."  His head went back down and Don moaned.

"Do I want to know?"

"He's petting him," Frank offered. "It's safe to come over."  Speed came over.  "We know Horatio has a good poker face.  Beers with us after work?"


"Even I wanted to drink to forget that," Xander said quietly.  Don gave him a hug and he grinned.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  You get the corvette's keys back?"

"I didn't because Danny's hiding on me."

He paged Danny with the word 'keys'.  One of the patrol officers brought them and shrugged.  "He'll be this way in a few minutes."

"Thanks."  He handed them down to Xander and went back to petting him, reading over the file. "I keep sticking on this brother-in-law and there's no reason for it."

"Gut instinct?" Frank asked.

"Maybe.  He might be guilty of something but not this one.  The evidence said female or weaker."

Calleigh leaned down to look, petting Xander too since his head was in the way.  "Personally I think he's a con artist.  He seems like that to me."

"Maybe."  He typed him into the database, finding him.  "Yup, three arrests for fraud.  Huh.  Do we think maybe he was covering something up?"

"Could he have been shamming his new family?" Xander asked.  They smiled at him and got up to go talk to him.  "Welcome."  He sat at Don's desk and put his hair back together again.  "That's why they like to pet me."  The Chief just moaned and walked off.   "It is," he defended at Frank's amused look.

"I know.  Who was King Hair Gel earlier?"

"The vampire was here?  Dark, brooding, wears a trench and silk?"

"No, the blond, Xander."

"Oh, that's Greg.  He's from Vegas.  His trainer out there is perfect."

"Ah.  Yeah, we've seen some of those around here.  Who was training him?"


"He was down on a case a few years back."  He shrugged. "He seemed really happy and bouncy...."  He looked at him and Xander just grinned. "Another one?"

"Members do not talk about each other, Frank.  It's a bad thing."

"I know.  Still."  Xander just gave him a look.  He sighed.  "Well, is he good?"

"He's a DNA God."

"Self-described?" he teased.

"No, his college paper for his masters covered his thesis and they called him that."  He grinned. "He's a nice guy.  A bit playful but a nice guy.  Think a happier version of Danny with a sense of humor who occasionally likes to play 'what ingredient am I' as a game."

"Sure."  He smiled at that.  "He sounds like he'll be a good tech."

"He's getting there but Grissom's got him with someone who reminded me a lot of Ryan when I first met him."

"Yeah, I noticed he had actual wrinkles."

"Frank, there's times when you're traveling that you can't bathe," Xander said dryly.  "When we got taken together that first time it broke some of that."  He grinned at that.  "It does."

"I'm sure it does," he agreed.  He looked over as Horatio came out and got into Yelina's drawer.  "Aspirin's on the other side.  She moved it when Ray came in wearing paisley."

"My fault," Xander admitted.

"She knew that, Xander.  Trust me."  He grinned.  "Did you take Ray shopping?"

"I did.  He helped me a lot."

Horatio looked at him.  "We'll start going together again, Xander."  He took four aspirin and went back to get the other tech, stopping in Speed's lab when he saw him with his iPod on.  "What?"

"We're going for beers later."

"Works for me," he agreed, going to get the last one. She was reasonable. She wasn't trying to flirt with him.  She told him she had a family and a son, he appreciated that since the job did call for some long hours now and then.  Halfway through Eric knocked and walked in.  He smiled at her and excused himself to go handle the issue.  Eric smiled and chatted with her about some of the recent cases, getting some good feedback and getting to know her.  He liked her, even though her skills and evaluations weren't what he thought was needed.  He found the drunk officer slurring that sometimes you had to line all the distracted officers up and have them until they calmed down, then move onto the next one.  That one he drug to IAB personally and handed over then stomped off with a 'you should look into my trainees'.  That should traumatize him fully so he'd be left alone for weeks again.

Stetler came out of the break room with the cup of coffee for the intoxicated officer, his eyes wide and his hands clutched to the cup.  He didn't care if he burned.  Burns were better than the image he couldn't quit seeing.   He knew this was punishment now.  Damn it!  He didn't want to see her!  Horatio might have to hire her if she was the best qualified and then he'd have to see her daily!  They might even make him give her personal hygiene lectures!  He was going to have to leave Horatio alone for a few days.  He was getting mean again.


Horatio looked at the team.  "There's two more interviews and one who called later to say she had been in a car accident and couldn't possibly make it."  He sipped his beer. "The two best skilled are Greg out of Las Vegas, and Donna."

"Can we strike her off the list for being a skank?" Speed asked.  "Just right off the bat drop her down for that?"

"It's bad when even I can't find a compliment to give a woman," Eric agreed.  "I know Stella took her shopping."

"I even got her pants."  She poured more beer from the pitcher.  "Sheldon did find one of her pubic hairs at a scene, Horatio.  There's a good reason to put her down the list."

He nodded.  "That does downgrade her for me.  Then again, they've all made mistakes.  Greg's a good choice but there might be a small issue."

"How high was he?" Eric asked dryly.

"Four."  He took a drink.  "Without a keeper."

"We know a few single women and men who'd make good keepers," Speed pointed out.  "Plus a few officers who would."

"We do," he agreed.  "Greg wanted to go somewhere he could be himself.  He said Warrick's a bit uptight about his expectations."

Ryan looked at him.  "We all know I've got cleaning issues.  Warrick carries two to three kit's worth of stuff in his vehicle, all the forms there, filed and alphabetized, plus spare clothes, spare water, and he's got copies of all his case files with him.  During his off time, he puts his main scene kit together with his clothes and some water so he's all together if he gets a call.  Warrick is Super CSI."

"Greg's not?" Calleigh asked.

"Greg's a lot like Speed," Ryan admitted.  "Very individual.  Greg's a lot more goth rock than Speed is."

"Thanks," Speed said with a grin.  "Greg's a happy, bouncy, smart guy.  He'll be a great tech if he finds a mentor who won't grind him into their image."

"Which was what he said," Horatio agreed. "I showed him the old team picture of you in your band t-shirt.  He prayed to the Grunge CSI gods."

Speed grinned.  "He'll find a style somewhere between me then and me now, Horatio.  We talked at the convention and he knew what he was doing.  He needs a mentor to stop him from making rookie mistakes and from chasing wild hairs up his ass."  Danny walked in and plopped down.  Speed pushed down the beer and he got a glass, plus paid for the next pitcher.  "A second run in or Xander?"

"Second run-in.  What was Mac thinking?" he asked Stella.

"She had good references.  She had solved a few really good cases.  She wanted it.  They interviewed over the phone once and once in person.  She's got skills with face modeling.  Plus she scares some suspects into breaking."

"I'm already scared," Danny said.  He looked at Horatio.  "I'll stay, please don't make them work with her?  Even Monroe said some stuff."

"She and Lindsey did not get along that well.  Even worse than you and Lindsey did," Stella agreed.  "Donna tried.  Lindsey used to call her the Abominable Snowman behind her back."

"I'm going with the shorter yeti tag," Danny agreed.  "What about the others?"

"I had one that doesn't have the skills but wants it and Greg so far.  Steve's nice but he's not very clear what being in the field means.  I went over a few cases and he turned rather pale."  Horatio sipped his drink, looking at him.  "You talked with Greg?"

"A few times.  He was a nice guy."  Horatio smiled at that.  "By the way, Xander left stuff in Vegas.  It came today.  They cashed out the last of his chips for him since he hid some in the bottom drawer too."  Speed moaned and Eric laughed. "Heard about that?"

"I didn't but I heard about the boat trip," Eric told him.

"No, Xander spent two weeks gambling at the baccarat and high stakes poker tables," Speed sighed, shaking his head. "He lost for nearly a week straight in there somewhere.   The rest of the time... well.  He said he was evil."

"The day we got there they made him cash out," Danny told him.  "They said he had too many chips in the room.  Considering it was filling two bedside tables and the safe?  Just a bit."  He sipped his beer.  "He spent what at Armani with you, boss?"

"Nearly twenty thousand on all of us," Horatio admitted.  "Including the next gift certificate he'll have stored."  Danny moaned.  "By the way, you're getting clothes for your birthday too."

"Figured I was."  He shook his head.  "He took 'em two other places too.  Spoiled Tony horribly!  Let him cut loose and be a goofy kid again. Even got him a 'smart look'."  He grinned.  "Then he danced a second dance to teach it."

Frank looked at him.  "I still wanna see."

"Sure.  We'll handcuff everyone down and let him show off.  He's been meaning to, and then he can show us how it's really self-defense in disguise."  He took another drink and looked at him.  "Your wife will think you got dosed with something."

"Yeah, but I'll have fun," he offered with a grin.  They all laughed and those in the know gave him very telling looks.


Horatio knocked on Xander's door the next day, making him a bouncy happy person because he wasn't alone.  "Good morning."

"Morning."  He gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  "What's wrong?"

"Well.  I'm in a dilemma.  I like Greg."

"But you don't think he'll fit?"

"I'm not sure he can handle the field without a keeper."

"Then talk to him, see how he's handling it up there.  He's got more stress up there."

"I plan on it.  No, I'm having another sort of dilemma.  How do you get the ferrets when they're comfy hiding where they're at?"

"Jingle balls.  Food treats.  My hair.  Want me to go try?"

"If you wouldn't mind.  Caesar's hiding."  He handed over his keys.  "Also, can you stop my nephew?  He called and said he's skipping today too."

"There's a reason for that.  It's called harassment."  He gave him a knowing look.  "Sometimes it's not easy being the son of an officer.  Especially not the nephew of a great one who makes the papers."  Horatio just nodded at that.  "The kids are ragging on him badly and he's unable to concentrate at the moment.  Even the teacher's called them on it during tests and things and it hasn't helped."

"What would you suggest?"

"Another school."

"I'll talk to his mother.  Keep him with you today?"

"Sure.  I can do that."  He grinned.  "Anything else?"

"No, that should do it. Thank you, Xander.  Yelina and I will talk later."

"It maybe should come sooner than that.  I think he told the principle he wasn't going back about a week ago."  Horatio looked at him. "He's been here most of it on the computer.  I found him out the first day while I was getting groceries and brought him back to talk to him."

"I'll talk with Yelina this morning after I do the interviews.  Thank you, Xander.  Caesar's in the kitchen closet in Speed's bag in there.  She won't come out and she bit both of us."

"Sure."  He smiled and left.  He went to call Ray.  "Someone finally told your uncle you weren't going?"  He smiled, listening to him. "I've got to get Caesar out of the kitchen for him.  Wanna help?  He said I should keep track of you today."  He beamed.  "Meet you there."  He hung up and went to put on sweats and to pull his hair back.  He'd probably be crawling around.  He headed out with the dragon, who the ferrets all liked, and went to pick up some treats on the way.  The dragon got a new rawhide, making him a happy lizard, and Ray got breakfast when he got there.  "Okay.  Kitchen closet."  He smiled and waved at Horatio's neighbor.  "Helping with his pets today."

"That's fine, boys.  Raymond, shouldn't you be in school?"

"No, ma'am.  I'd slug someone."  He nibbled a bit.  "Uncle Horatio knows."

"That's fine, dear.  I'll watch over you two today."  She smiled as they let themselves in and she shook her head.  That boy had such a promising future but only if he went to school.  Well, she was sure Horatio could handle it.  Maybe she'd get one of them to change the lightbulb she couldn't reach later on.

Xander wiggled his braid in front of the bag and the ferret made a grab so he grabbed her, looking at her.  "If you hide from the daddies, they worry."  She squealed and tried to get free so he handed her off, looking in the bag.  "No wonder.  Sure, we'll move them into the soft cube, Caesar."  He carried the bag out there, then came back to check for any fallen ones.  He found one baby ferret shivering and warmed him in his hands on the way.  Then he put her and the babies into the soft, hollow, sleeping cube.  She ran in there to check them over, nuzzling them all.  He sat down to check the bag, finding one last one to put in there.  Then he put the bag onto the counter with a note saying it needed washed and called the pet store.  He grinned at Ray.  "Stay right here."  Ray nodded. "Thanks.  She'll need some special foods."  He went to get it and came back, finding Ray gone. "Ray?" he called.  He found a note and sighed, then looked up and growled something in the most common, gutteral demon language.  Ray reappeared looking horrified.  Xander got him calmed down.  "You all right?"

"I'm fine.  He didn't touch me or anything.  Just checked me out like I was a cow."

"To him, you probably were," he said bitterly. "It's the downside of being GHS.  It comes with the gifting."

"He said I was too young yet, but it was clear the harem was raising me correctly.  You have a harem?"

"By demon protocol my family and those I gather around me are considered my harem."

"Ahh.  Does Uncle Speed growl at that?"

"Now and then he thinks it's funny but not usually."  He let Ray help him set things up for the momma ferret.  At least until Speed got home for lunch.  Xander pointed and grinned.  "Daddy!"

"No, if you were mine, you'd be a better kid."

Ray laughed.  "Wouldn't he be grandpa since it's his ferret whose a momma?"

"Excuse me?"

"Caesar's a girl."

"I guess she's getting fix then.  What is it with us and adopting pregnant things?"

"I don't know," Xander admitted.  "Fortunately Beauty's fixed."

"Want some more?"

"Ask Danny."  He grinned.  "Ray's successfully fought off his first kidnaping."

"Yay," he said flatly, glaring at Xander.  "Weren't you supposed to watch him?"

"I ran out for ferret momma stuff.  He was gone when I got back.  They sent him back."

"They said I was too young but you guys in the harem were raising me right," Ray offered with a smile.

Speed snorted and shook his head, heading into the kitchen.  He saw the cupcakes and smiled.  "Good thing I brought a hummer home."  He made himself a sandwich and hugged both boys.  "Talk about school stuff today?  That way Horatio and Yelina have an idea."

"I told mom it was bullies who decided I was fair game due to her job."

"She blew it off?" Speed asked between bites.  He nodded.  "Oh well.  Got another one in mind?"

"Yeah, but I'll have to beg majorly."

"Where?"  Ray leaned over to whisper in his ear, getting a look.  "That's mostly thugs, Ray."  He finished his sandwich and dusted off his chest and mouth.  "We'll see though."  He shrugged.  "What do you like about it?"

"The more project oriented nature."

"Okay.  I'll keep that in mind while we talk to your mom later.  She was livid this morning."  He went back and picked up the cupcakes, taking them out with him.  "Thanks, Xander."

Xander shrugged.  "At least it's a start."

"It is.  Mom's not the most understanding at all times."

"Ray, you could probably pass a GED right now but you'd never do anything above that."

"Point.  I want to go to college.  I don't know for what, but I want to go."

"If you can log onto Horatio's computer, we can look at the schools in the city."  Ray smiled and took him to do that.  Horatio had left his computer on for them.  With the Miami School Board's page already pulled up.


Speed walked into the breakroom since Horatio and Yelina were there.  He put down the cupcakes.  Horatio looked at the '6 girl symbol, 2 boy symbol' listings on the cupcakes then at him.  "Caesar's a girl.  Xander found out."

"Wonderful," he said, slowly shaking his head.  "Anything else happen yet?"

"Two things.  Ray was momentarily taken to be looked over.  He was told he was too young but the harem was raising him well."  Yelina choked at that.  "Secondly, Ray has an idea what he wants but it's a bad school."

"My son was what?" she demanded.

"One of the ones who want Xander," Speed reminded her.  "According to them, those he gathers around himself as family, friends, and helpers are considered his harem.  They told Ray he was too young but being raised right."

"What's old enough?"

"Sixteen," Lindsey called as she walked past the door.

"She's apparently run into that issue," Horatio noted blandly. "They're talking about school things now?"

"Yup.  I heard Xander suggest they try to log onto your computer."

"I left it on with the school board's page up."  He ate a bite of cupcake and smiled.  "Well, we're grandparents."

"Xander looked at me and called me Daddy."  Horatio moaned at that, shaking his head.

"He'd have less problems if he was," she said.  "Is he fine?"

"He's fine.  They were laughing about it."  She rolled her eyes.  "He's safe and protected as part of the family until then, Yelina. It'll be fine."

"Have you noticed most of the demons are gay?" Horatio asked.

"I had.  I was wondering if it was a true representative sample."  He shrugged and took his own cupcake, heading out to check on results for his case.  Valera pouted at him.  "Xander only bought us two since we have baby ferrets."

"No, he can't have any," Danny yelled from up the hall. "Four are more than enough."  He walked out holding onto one of them.  "Snuck into my case somehow."  He walked off, waving it at Horatio, who only nodded.  Danny drove home with one hand on the furry menace, walking him into the house and to the cage, putting him inside.  He looked down at the pouting dragon.  "Quit letting them into the work stuff.  They can't got to the office and neither can you."  He walked off after grabbing something for lunch, eating it on the way back.  Then he went to clean and sterilize his kit again.  He considered it before going back to DNA.  "One of the furry things escaped and was in my kit.  Fair warning."  She opened her desk drawer she kept her snacks in, then at him, nodding.  "Crumbs?"

"Yup.  We'll find it, Danny."

"Thanks.  I've yelled at the dragon to keep them in there."  He walked off, feeling a bit surreal at the moment. The very fact he could honestly utter the phrase 'Xander's dragon likes to play with his ferrets' bothered him.  Then again, he knew the root cause of the issue.  Don Flack.  He had taken Xander in and introduced him.   He had a semi-normal life before this, well as normal as a sword-wielding immortal could have.  That decided him.  Next life, Ryan got Don and his pets, including his pet Xander.


Ray looked up when his uncles got home.  "When do I learn to pout like Xander?"

"I hope never," Horatio admitted. "Why?"

"Because today he used it to keep his head. That's a pretty neat power."  They stared at him.  "What?"

"He took a challenge in front of you?" Speed demanded.

"No.  We went to pick up stuff that wasn't chocolate like the email asked of us.  Xander barely knew he was there and gave me a shove to get me inside when the guy had him pinned from behind.  He pounced very well and pinned him.  He raised his sword and Xander pouted back at him, getting free of him and making him go away.  He told him to meet him tonight."

"Crap," Speed muttered, calling Eric.  "We have a pouncing immortal in town?"  He listened.  "Yeah, one pinned Xander at the grocery store in front of Ray Junior, Eric.  What did he look like?"

"Xander asked him his name once he had him stunned.  He said it was Holden?"

"Holden, Eric.  He issued a challenge for tonight.  I don't know. Where, Ray?"

"Park, canal.  Usual spot."  He went back to reading.  "I still want to learn how to pout."

"That's a higher level skill, Ray.  You have other means available," Horatio assured him with a pat to the head.  "Did you find anything you liked?"

"I did and there's a list of three possibles on your desk. I figured you'd want to eat first."  Horatio smiled at him.  "Xander put the casserole in the oven, all you have to do is turn it on and make sure no flies got in there."

"Thank you."  He went to check, shooing out the one fly that was in the kitchen by trying to kill it.  He checked the oven, smiling at the nice looking casserole, then followed the directions written on the stove with a dry erase marker.  Speed came in.  "Is Eric going to supervise?"

"Yup, and take his head if he takes Xander's.  Could that make Eric a lower level GHS?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "I don't know how it affects the person taking in the soul."  They shared a look. "Not much difference."

"No, not really," he agreed.   He looked at the casserole then at the directions, smiling.  "We can do that.  Ray, go get your list and whatever you have on them.  Your mom's on her way over."

"Sure."  He brought it into the kitchen with the printouts from the schools.  "They're all more project or vocationally centered but I like things like that."

"As do most of us," Horatio agreed. "Did you talk about future plans as well?"

"He got me onto Miami University's site to look at the various majors.  That let me take out two of the ones that need tests to get into.  They're both math and science intensive and I like science, but normal levels are fine for me."  Horatio smiled at that. "They are."

"I felt the same way at your age. I also helped your father with his science homework all too often."  Ray grinned at that.  Speed went to let in whoever was knocking.  "What do you like about these?"

"I like how they're structured.  They sound good to me.  I'll gladly look at them, see if they're as good as they sound.  One's nearer to the house too.  Less commute in the morning and it's on the way to work for Mom.  One other's only a block out of the way.  The other's got a special bus."

"Which is thoughtful and a good reason," Horatio agreed.  "Anything else?"

"They're cheaper, I don't have to see another nun, and the kids who decided I'm either going to be a gangster or a goody-goody, their words, due to yours and mom's job won't be there.  I won't get my ass kicked in the library again because I can't possibly like normal things like them."  He hopped up to sit on the counter when Speed walked Xander in.  "Pouted at him again?"

"No, the officer who brought him here saw him being attacked and arrested the other guy."  He made Xander sit down.  "He said no one was home over there and he didn't want him to be attacked again."  He looked at Xander.

"I thought we were out of plain sight," Xander defended.  "He's the one who pounced with a battle shriek like Xena."  Ray giggled. "Didn't he?"

"He did, I wanted to ask him if he was Annie reincarnated."  Horatio smirked at that reference, letting out a small laugh.

"I called Danny, he'll swing by to pick him up.  Eric said he'd handle that guy.  Protect Ray better, Xander."

"I was trying to. I got him out of the way."

"He did," Ray agreed.  "It's not his fault the guy jumped him in the middle of a supermarket parking lot.  I mean, we weren't even on the *edge* of the parking lot.  We were in clear view of the street, the store, everyone looked at him when he pounced with his yell."

"Then he's an idiot, good to know," Speed said, looking at the list.  "I like the middle one.  I had a missing kid case there a few years back.  Remember that one, Horatio?  The Downer girl?"

"A bit."  He took that sheet to look over.  "What's your first choice, Ray?"

"The list is in order."

"Thank you."  Yelina knocked then walked in.  "Kitchen."  Xander reached over and switched the oven's temperature. "Thank you, Xander."  He looked at her.  "There's an idiot immortal after Xander who tried to pounce him in the parking lot of the grocery store earlier."

"I want to learn that pout.  Maybe it'll help me get out of trouble."

"When you move out, son," she said firmly. She patted Xander on the head.  "I heard someone had attacked you.  The officer said you nearly fell into the canal."

"No, I bent backwards and was doing to drag him with me and toss him in.  Using his momentum against him."  He looked up at her.  "I got Ray out of the way when I felt him, Yelina."

"I know you did, Xander.  Earlier?"

"I was getting ferret supplies.  Come see?"  He grinned and took them into the cage, and the new addition to it, letting them look inside the furry cube.  "Did you eat one?"  He pulled the cube out so Horatio and Speed could pet the mommy ferret and count babies.

"Aww.  They're like little worms with feet," Speed said with a grin.

Ray looked at his mother and shrugged.  "I'm having vicarious relative feelings. I don't like kids."  She smiled at that.  "We made a list."  He handed it over.   "In order of preference."

She looked it over.  "Did you find anything about them?"  He got the sheets and handed them over. "This middle one is close to the house."

"Yes, but the top one was doing things that I was interested in.  That one was great but the project list they had up didn't float me the same way.  The third is a good general school."

"We'll call them tomorrow. I took it off so we could go look."  She looked at her son.  "You could have mentioned the problems."

"I did.  You blew it off as 'they're being boys, ignore them'."  He gave her a look.  "Considering the last one pulled a bootknife on me?  No, I'm not.  I told the principal that I wasn't safe and she agreed.  Since it was a choice of carry something and get into trouble or leave, I left."

"It's a reasonable thing but you didn't tell me about that."

"I told you about the other one and you blew it off.  I ended up running into Ryan first and we talked.  I know he arrested the kids for trying to stab me.  Their parents probably weren't amused."

"I wondered why he had done that," Horatio offered.  "I'll have to remind him to tell me those sort of things."

She sighed.  "We had a communication break-down.  It happens.  Now that we do know, we'll be talking about what happened while we look at schools tomorrow."  Her son nodded.  "Thank you."

"Welcome, mom. I expected you to ask.  Remember, asking is the anti-drug."  She rolled her eyes at that stupid slogan.  "Can I have one of the baby ferrets when they're weaned or whatever?"

"We'll see."  He grinned at that.  "Xander?"  He put them back inside, making sure he had them all.  He even took the one from Speed's hand and the momma from Horatio's, letting them back into the cage.  "Thank you.  Babies are fragile.  They can play with them later.  When should the casserole be done?"

He sniffed.  "Any minute now."  Speed went to wash his hands and check.  He grinned.  "Since I got delivered I have to wait for Danny."

"It should be within minutes," Speed offered. "Someone set the table."  Horatio came in to wash his hands and do that.  "Did you notice the habitrail section that our cage sprouted?"

"I had.  Apparently we have magical ferrets as well."

"As long as we don't get our own dragon who likes to pull them out to play with them."

"I don't foresee that being a problem," Horatio admitted. "Xander, don't forget to feed Hubert tonight."

"He ate earlier.  He was crunching up goat when you came over."  Yelina looked at him.  "He eats meat.  He is a dragon.  I got him a hank of goat and he was very appreciative.   Danny knocked so he let himself be taken home with a wave for everyone.  Danny gave him a look.  "I had us out of sight.  He's the one who yipped like Xena."

"I heard.  He's a young idiot."  He drove him home, finding Don staring at the living room.  "Something happen?"

"There's blood but we're not missing anyone," he said, looking at Xander.  "Hubert's hiding."

"I told him to take it outside."

"Ah."  He lifted the skirt on the couch and pulled the dragon out by his tail, holding him up to look at him.  "No more eating in the house, Hubert.  Blood's nasty.  Next time clean it up."  He put him down and pointed.  The dragon licked up the blood then gave him a pitiful look.  "You eat outside unless it's scraps from our plates, like the dogs."  He walked off, going to change.  That's when he realized he was treating the dragon like a human.  This had to be Danny's fault somehow.  He was supposed to keep Xander in check and it was Xander's pet.  Next life, Ryan got the dragon.


To Next Part:

To index: