To Find a Real Boy.
Speed sat playing with his food on his plate, thinking while he stared at his mixed vegetables. He finally looked at Horatio. "I'm worried about Xander."
"Why? Is he on an upswing or unhappy?"
"I don't think he's taking some of his future prospects very seriously." He ate another bite. "He's letting Steve and Don handle all his money. He's not even trying to learn. He's drifting again too. They're not paying good attention to him." He frowned then ate another bite. "I'm not so sure we shouldn't try to set him up with someone else."
Horatio shook his head. "I think they'll work it out. Everyone underestimates Xander but he's a lot deeper than most people look. That's usually the problem he has, no one looks."
"Especially not Danny and Don," Speed agreed. "How do we make them see that though?"
"They can only do that on their own," he offered patiently. "They've had hints in Xander's past and when he's had to handle a crisis."
"They're seeing him like he's got MPD," Speed said, realizing it. "Even we do that, H."
He nodded, smirking just a bit. "We do and that's mostly because Xander wants it that way. If he didn't, he'd make all of us see deeper into him. I think the only one who truly has is probably Ryan. Possibly Strife." Speed smirked a bit at that. "He does value him more than most."
"He does. I'm worried that Xander's not taking the future seriously. He's always spending money. He's always spoiling others."
"He's got a deep need to take care of others," Horatio told him. "He's a natural born mother hen. Unfortunately for his fussing nature, we're all very healthy people. Take a longer look at him, Speed. You'll start to see you're worried about a few things you don't have to." He ate a bite then fed his husband one. "Give it a week and we'll see what happens."
Speed nodded at that. "You do read people better than I do," he admitted. He dug in again, thinking about the Xander they knew, what little they knew he realized. "Do we even have a background on him other than the war stories he'd told from Sunnydale and what Cordy told us when she was still around?"
"I didn't feel the need to do a background check," Horatio said with tolerant fondness.
"Half of that probably wouldn't be covered anyway," he decided, digging in again. They both looked over as the ferrets squealed and ran away from where one had tipped over something, getting up to fix it before it created a huge mess. Then again, they were ferrets so that was probably their intention.
Speed sat down on his next free day to think about Xander. He was decent at figuring out who did what, he could put those skills to understanding their friend. After a few minutes he realized that he was seeing the divide. He was seeing him as this or that persona, not the whole. He tried to figure out why that was but he figured it had to do with those girls who had been in his life. They had hurt him greatly. He had nearly been emotionally destroyed by Buffy and Willow and emotionally stunted thanks to Anya. He started to gather all the hints of Xander that he'd seen over the few years he had known him. The quick wit and snarky attitude that could match him on his good days. The hunting and survival training and instincts that let him deal with almost any crisis. The cuddly GHS side was almost a persona he had created he realized. It was almost how he thought they expected him to react. Or possibly some further limit of the nice, sweet Xander that liked to cuddle his former girlfriends.
He went back through the other traits, realizing that nothing they had seen of Xander's personality was really the core Xander. Most people saw part of who they were deep down. Xander, you saw what you wanted to see. Which was his boys' problem most of the time but that was a different long think. He called his husband. "You realized that everything we see of who Xander is is an illusion, didn't you?" he asked. He smiled at the answer of 'you see bits and pieces but never very deeply'. "When did you figure this out?" He sighed at the gentle note that he had seen it all along. "Is this an abuse survivor thing?" he asked quietly. He nodded at the 'it could be'. "Then why can't Danny see deeper? Is he afraid he'll reject him? He hasn't even knowing what's gone on in his past." Horatio made a good point that Xander didn't want any of them to be disappointed but he was also very wary of letting himself be seen because that could lead to pain or even confusion when he wasn't who he thought he was. "So Xander could not even realize he's doing it," he said. Horatio made an assenting sound.
"How do we help him then?" He listened to the words of wisdom about nurturing his inner self and helping him finish the transition to adult. "I don't think that's the transition he needs, H. I think he needs the one that comes when a family nurtures you and shows you that it's all right to be yourself. He never got that and he's probably hid all this time." He smiled at the 'we can help with that too' before Horatio had to hang up because someone was coming up to bother him. Speed sat back, thinking about their younger friend. They definitely had some helping to do if only to make sure that his boys saw the same thing that Horatio had. They were all cops, they should have seen it right off, but Xander was excellent at camouflage in more ways than hunting it seemed. Well, he'd have to make Danny and Don see it he decided. It was about time to get that trio settled into their nest. Now if only he knew where he was starting.
Speed watched Danny work, getting a few odd looks back for it. "Sorry, thinking."
"Why?" he asked patiently. "Problems?"
"I figured out the other day that none of us see the *real* Xander. Never have." Danny stopped what he was doing to stare at him. "We don't. We see more of the *real* Adam than we do Xander."
"I thought he said he was letting it all go," Danny complained. Speed arched up an eyebrow. "Way back when he and Don first got together he decided he was going to quit hiding who he was to make others comfortable. Said we could hate him if we wanted to."
Speed nodded slowly. "He let out the GHS side that way but not the real, deep down, Xander part of him."
"We don't get that during a crisis?"
"No, and you're seeing him like he's got MPD, Danny. I had to stop myself from looking at him that way too."
"I suck as a profiler," he decided, getting back to work. He finally put his slide down. "We *never* see it?"
Speed looked over from his microscope. "We see the real him now and then. Or hints of him." He grinned a bit. "It took me two weeks to figure it out but it's never the body language with Xander. That's a big clue but the eyes is his tell. Which is why he never looks up at you unless he's sure he's got a good hand in poker. That look that he gets when he's waiting for you to open a present is the core him as far as I've seen."
Danny considered that. "We see that now and then at home. Usually when it's quiet and we're all watching tv, he's cuddled in and snuggling Don usually."
"You don't like to cuddle the same way," Speed said before he could go off on the tangent about not being good for him.
"True. He usually curls up with Don without bothering to check to see if I want to cuddle." He considered it. "How long did it take you to realize this?"
"Two weeks to figure out when we see it. It came to me about a month ago and I started to look after I figured out that we never see the core him. I've been worried about him because it doesn't seem like he's been making plans."
Danny frowned. "He doesn't." He tapped his fingers on the table a few times. "We should probably beat that subject again soon. He tends to stomp off."
Speed smiled. "Horatio thinks he's got some plans."
"The farm?" Speed nodded. "But we can't...." He frowned at that then sighed. "We could live there I guess. It'd definitely take us out of this circle of life and into a different one. Plus give Don time to go to school." He considered it. "What about the money stuff?"
Speed shrugged. "He lets Don and Steve handle that."
"Good point." He looked at his current sample and got to work on it, then he walked off once it was done to take a quick break and call Washington State to see if Steve had any ideas. He ran into Ryan. "When you guys were gone for two years, did Xander act strange?"
"Xander was mostly in crisis mode," he admitted quietly, glancing around then at him. "Why?"
"Speed realized he's holding up a facade to us all."
Ryan nodded. "Yeah. He's had to protect himself for a very long time. Not like anyone back there really wanted the real him. We all do that though." He shrugged a bit. "He's probably been doing it since day one with his parents."
"Point," he decided. "Did he say anything about future plans?"
"I think he wants to go on the riding circuit," Ryan teased with a grin. "He's been practicing his riding and jumping." He walked off. "Then again, with Xander you never know. No one does."
"That's half the point," Danny complained. He decided to call Steve anyway. "Hey, it's Danny." He smiled at the happiness. "Is Xander making any future plans?" He listened to him talk about a few investments he had made for him. "Beyond that. Like a career or those things?" He listened to him say that the farm was the next career. "I know he can hide there....." He nodded. "Good point. Thanks, Steve." He hung up and went back to work. "Steve thinks he's got one beyond the farm but he's not sure what."
"Interesting," Speed said, frowning some. "Xander doesn't like to plan."
Ryan leaned in. "Did we forget that Xander did the majority of the tactical planning out in Sunnydale?" he asked. They both stared at him, mouths open, Danny looking a bit horrified. He grinned back. "Thought so." He walked off again, going back to his own case. He so loved flustering them. It was so cute when they got that confused look.
"So he can plan a battle but he can't balance his checkbook?" Speed asked Danny.
"Yeah," he admitted. "He can." He shook his head quickly. "We'll see." He got back to work. "We'll be talking tonight."
"Good luck with that."
Xander looked over at the man who had been following him for a few days. "Yes?" he asked when he caught him staring back. "You needed something?"
"This week. Why?" he asked drolly. "Unless I have to hide from you like I do some of my former poker buddies."
"Um, no sir." He got up and came to his table at the coffee shop. "I'm here on behalf of a mutual client."
"Who is?" Xander prompted.
He pulled something out and handed it over. "Him, sir. I think you remember him."
Xander looked at it then at him. "I do. He was a very nice man who never really tried to get into my panties. And?" he asked, sliding it back.
"That's your copy, sir. He died a few weeks back. I don't know what arrangements you had with him upon that time but his will stated that it was as you had agreed."
Xander studied him. "In his will?"
"In his will, sir. His wife was not happy when she found out what that meant."
Xander grimaced. "I didn't know he was married. He told me he wasn't. Is she going to fight me over it?"
"No, sir. She's in her eighties. Her sons might." Xander grimaced worse. "Wrinkles," he teased.
Xander looked at him. "It adds character. You can tell them to come to me in person about that," he ordered, standing up. "Please."
"Agreed, sir. Thank you for staying calm."
"I've had a lot worse recently," he pointed out, walking off with his coffee to sip and think. Someone grabbed his braid but he glared and the kid let go with a grin. "Not for you until you're old enough to appreciate the hair, kid." He looked at the horrified mother. "He's not the first. It draws attention." He went to the nearby park, sitting down among the bushes to think in private. He felt something move next to him and looked at the senior demon that appeared. He leaned on his shoulder. "Hi, Vesvold."
"Hi, Xander. Big think?"
"Remember the nice guy who used to take me out for dinner while I worked at Devi's?"
"I do. Why?"
"He apparently died."
"Your agreement with him stands?"
"I don't remember an agreement. I remember a tease that he'd make sure I had a hiding spot if I was his."
Vesvold sighed and patted him on the back. "Many people consider you theirs, Xander. As I do." Xander grinned at him. "His family?"
"At least a few sons and a former wife, which he swore he didn't have." He shrugged. "I told the guy who came to talk to me to tell them to come talk to me in person and we'd get it straightened out. I have no idea what he's talking about."
Vesvold kissed him on the temple. "I'm sure it'll be fine, dear one." He smiled at the grin the boy gave him. "Now, you've worried two of your harem. They've been thinking deep thoughts about you recently."
"I know and Don's hiding something from me. I don't know what though."
"Don is probably hiding another challenge," he offered gently. Xander scowled. "I know you're the better fighter but sometimes he's got to take his own. Even though he has much to learn. He'll win this one. It's been foreseen that he'll be around for a long time yet." He kissed him on the temple again. He knew what the will was talking about and wanted film of Xander's first day there. "Are you going shopping soon? You did damage those leather pants with the last demon you fought off."
"I probably should," he admitted quietly. "I was thinking about bringing the boys with me so they could enjoy watching me try on leather pants." He grinned up at him. "It'll make them hot."
"It would. It does everyone else." He winked and kissed him for real. "I hate boring meetings."
"Did you get my email?" he asked with an impish grin.
He smirked at the young immortal. "I did and it had some very naughty thoughts about turning some of my adversaries into goo. Very, very naughty, Xander." He gave him a squeeze then disappeared.
Xander got up and took his coffee off to call Don. "So, this challenge I heard about? Need help warming up? Want me to come with you?" He smiled. "I would if you wanted me to. No, I know you need to do it on your own. Well, if you win, I do have to find a new pair of leather pants," he offered dryly. "I ripped one getting away from something." He finished his coffee and tossed the cup out. "That is an incentive. Watching me try on leather pants? Getting a bit warm in the changing area?" he teased lightly. "Whenever you want. Sure. I'll go home and make the chicken salad you like?" He beamed. "Okay. You be safe and call when you're done. Driving like that sucks." He hung up and headed home. Don would be fine, Vesvold had said so and he was ancient and a very high demon since he sat on the High Demonic Council.
Don faced off with the immortal. He was older and cocky. "Why did you want Xander anyway?" he asked him, checking his sword over. "I know why most people want him but most of them want to snuggle and cuddle him, not take off his head. So why the challenge?" He looked at him when he was silent. "Hmm, afraid of the gay thoughts?"
"No," he sneered. "When you get to be my age, you've tried about everything," he said dryly. "He's warping us. He's made this little group down here. He doesn't take solo combat."
"Um, point of order," Don offered, holding up a finger. "Xander's a berserker." The man gaped. "It's not safe if he takes single combat. We *always* send a cheerleader with him and most of the rest of us in case something happens. After all, most of us are cops." The man groaned at that. "I'm a cop, the dark blond guy is a cop. The redhead's a cop and so's his husband. The blond with the glasses is a cop. Ray's a cop."
The man shook his head. "That would create less problems."
"Exactly," he agreed with a small smirk. "Besides, it's nice to have a cheerleader. Makes you win more often." He slid off his suit jacket and stretched some. "You sure you wanna do this?"
"Are you?" he taunted back.
Don looked at him. "Yeah, I am. I'd go through hell for Xander. Took me a bit to realize that but I would. So you want him, you take me. And if you get past me, you've probably got Ryan in your way too." The man snorted but lunged, letting Don block him. The man snarled when he added in a dance step. He couldn't do the same dance/self-defense style that Xander could but he knew a good bit of it. He had been working with Methos, Ryan, and Eric to blend it with more traditional sword work. He flowed around his opponent.
"Stand still! What are you doing!" he demanded.
Don smirked. "Xander found it on one of his many trips abroad. It's a dance and self- defense style."
"Looks like it's good for sex," he sneered. "But sword work?"
Don ducked his swing and came up against his side, pinning him with a foot and his sword already swinging to take his head. He backed up when it fell, looking down. "Yeah, it's good for more than sex. Then again, it's great for sex," he said, squeezing his eyes shut as the quickening flowed into him, falling to his knees as it got worse. He panted and heaved but managed not to throw up this time. He slowed calmed it down until he was panting and sweaty. He looked at the body. "One less who wants what's mine." He called Alexx directly. "Alexx, it's Don." He smiled, she was concerned because his voice was rough. "No, I took a head," he admitted quietly. "Yeah, that's where I am. Please. Holden's student. Pissed Xander had his teacher arrested." He hung up, making himself stand up and grab his jacket. He used the other guy's shirt to wipe off his sword before putting it back. The warehouse's door opened and he looked over, stiffening when he didn't recognize the person. "Challenging me too?"
"No," he said gently. "I'm Dominic. I'm Eric's Watcher, Don." Don relaxed. "You all right?"
Don nodded. "He wanted Xander. Can't let the prettiness be bothered." The man looked stunned. He grinned. "We'd go through hell for Xander. Some of us have literally been there with him. You should talk to Ryan about how he came across." He looked at the body again then at him. "I'm sorry and all but he challenged me."
"I know," he promised. "You okay to get home?"
"I cabbed," he admitted. "I knew I shouldn't drive. Xander threatened to come and cheerlead so he could drive me home." He grinned and walked out, heading out to catch a cab so he could head home. He finally trudged in and Xander pounced to cuddle him. "I'm fine. He didn't even nick me," he promised quietly.
Xander kissed him. "As long as you're okay." He gave him a full-body cuddle, making him a happy boyfriend. "Why did he want you?"
Don tipped his face up so he was looking into the soft brown eyes. "You, dear. Not me." Xander scowled. "No one's taking you out. He was a slightly easy opponent and you didn't need a challenge." He kissed him.
"We're saving you for the bad ones," Don said gently. "Remember, you can still lose it."
"Ares trained it so I wouldn't."
"As much as I like the big guy, I've seen you slip in training, Xan." He took another kiss. "If I didn't think I could take him, I would've made Ryan do it. He volunteered and growled when I wouldn't let him. Okay?" Xander nodded. "Now, anything big happen today beyond this?"
Xander snuggled in again. "One of my former clients left me something in his will. We might have to talk to his family. Not sure yet but I told the guy who told me to send them to me personally if they wanted to be upset."
Don tipped his face up again. "You haven't worked in years, Xander."
"I never slept with that one, Don. He was one of the guys that I went out to dinner with while I was working at the brothel."
"Twice and that was before you let me do more than cuddle. He never wanted sex so I saw them as dates."
Don nodded. "Then it wasn't cheating and if he wasn't wanting sex, it wasn't working. It was date." He took another kiss and cuddle. "Any idea what it was?"
"He was always saying if I was his he'd give me a sanctuary where I could hide from others who wanted me."
"Interesting. So, house?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure. The guy said his sons weren't pleased. He told me he was single and didn't have a family." He shrugged. "I told him to send them down here if they were going to be fussy."
"That'll work. We'll talk with them together." He took another kiss. "Shower?"
"I can scrub your back," he offered.
Don smirked. "I'd like that." He walked Xander that way, letting him check his sword before they got into the shower to play. Xander was great at helping him wear out the extra energy he had. He came out twenty minutes later squeaky clean and tired. Xander was even nice enough to tuck him in and pet him until he fell asleep.
Danny strolled in about half an hour after Don drifted off, looking at Xander. "He okay?"
"He took a challenge for me," he said quietly, looking at him.
Danny nodded once. "I know Ryan has. No one wants you to lose it."
"I got that trained out of me."
"Uh-huh, and you still nearly lost it on Meth a few weeks back," he pointed out. Xander grimaced. "So we'll keep it down but there's not that many in Miami anyway. Who?"
"Holden's student Piers."
"Eric's going to be pleased. He hated the guy." He shrugged and got undressed, putting on something comfortable. "We should talk."
"Future plans." He looked at him. "I know the farm is the next life. What were we thinking? Breeding, showing? Just giving lessons?"
"Hiding and riding?"
"That could work too," he admitted. He sat down on Xander's other side, earning a grin. "Anything else?"
"Well, Don could go to college. There's a small one near there. You could too if you wanted to. Ryan will have to come visit often."
"True," he agreed. "No other concrete plans?"
"I figured we'd work on that then."
"Are we financially secure? I know Steve said he was doing some longer term investments for you now."
Xander looked at him. "You called Steve?"
"Yup." He stared back. "He's the guy handling your fortune. I figured he'd know if we were on good footing or not."
"We're fine, Danny. When we go, we're selling the house to Methos and Ray, or Horatio and Speed. Probably at a loss but that's fine with me. We'll move out there since the family out there probably won't last more than a few more years. The mother's sick now too."
"Something in the water?"
"Nope. She smoked."
"Oh. That's reasonable," he agreed. "So we can move into taking over the farm from them when he decides he's got to leave." Xander nodded. "Then what?"
"I was thinking you might want to find a small bookstore or something?" he suggested. "Speed would keep you in business."
Danny grinned. "I like books," he agreed. "Don can hit college. You can take a few classes here and there if you want or do some mild show circuit stuff locally." Xander beamed. "We'll have to see. How's the foal?"
"He's being a snot this week. He keeps trying to make Princess 2 do his bidding and she's giving him 'buzz off' glares. My stallion's watching with interest but they'll be fine. The girls already do the younger one's bidding when he wants their sunny spots." Danny shook his head at that. "They won't have a dominance fight. It'll be fine." He stole a kiss. "I made that salad with chicken that Don likes. It needs dressing."
"We'll get some in a few," he promised, giving him a hug. "Anything else?"
"One of my former clients."
Xander pinched him hard. "I haven't seen him since about the second day Don let me have cuddles. He never wanted sex either, just going out to dinner and talking. He needed someone who listened."
"What about him? He pop back up?"
"Died," Don said quietly, stretching and yawning. "Left him something but his family might protest. Xander told whoever to tell them to talk to him in person if they're going to get fussy."
"Okay, I can accept that," Danny decided. "Any idea what?"
"He was always talking about how he'd protect me if I was his," Xander said with a small shrug. "I saw Vesvold today after that talk. I went to think in the park and he came to break up the never-ending meeting he was in." They both smiled, the demon was a nice guy. "We got a bank statement for some reason."
"They come with interest statements for the IRS about this time of year," Don told him.
"Oh. Really?" They both nodded. "Huh. Well, at least I've been mostly good this year," he said with a grin. "Should I get us dinner?"
"We'll come eat with you in the living room so we can play with the animals. Speaking of...."
"Both dogs were taking up the couch with Hubert being their pillow and the ferrets were playing in their cage." He got up and went to dish up supper for his men, bringing out plates and drinks for them to share. He smiled at the lump of pets that Don had gotten to move. One of them was now using him as a pillow. "Awww."
"He's comfy," Don agreed with a grin. He took his plate and drink. Danny took his. Xander went to get his own and they settled in to watch tv and cuddle. Danny looked over, watching them. Don gave him a curious look. "Watching him be relaxed."
"Don gives very good tv cuddles," Xander assured him, grinning at him. "What?" he said when Danny continued to watch him.
"Speed pointed something out. Even at home you're pretty guarded, Xander."
Xander frowned at him. "I am?"
Don nodded, licking his fork. "You can be. This is about the only time we see something other than cuddly, sex-kitten, GHS Xander or crisis Xander." He looked at him. "Then again you've been guarding yourself for a really long time."
Xander considered it. He shrugged. "I guess it's a habit now. I'm relaxed and me." He laid back down, leaving it there. It was settled in his mind.
Danny and Don shared a small smile. They'd peel off Xander's outer layers slowly so he was just Xander with them. Even if cuddly Xander was a fun bedtoy sometimes they wanted the 'guy' Xander. The one underneath who was all of it together. It made him more interesting. A new show came on and they went back to watching tv. It was a nice, quiet night in. Even when Horatio's nephew Ray came over and flopped down in the extra chair. They all stared at him.
"Crappy date," he explained simply. "Uncles are going at it so I wasn't about to bother them." They all nodded and went back to the tv watching. Ray grinned. It was good to be among those who understood and loved you anyway.
Don walked Ray up to Horatio the next morning, presenting him. "He came over after a bad date." He walked off, heading inside.
Horatio looked at his nephew. "You could have come home."
"I started to but I could hear you guys outside and I wasn't about to interrupt the important stuff. Xander always has spare rooms."
"True." He smiled. "How bad was she?"
"Didn't get that far. She had a panic attack at the sight of lettuce in her burger. Then it got worse from there."
Horatio sighed. "I've had a few like that. Soon you'll have better dates, Ray." He gave him a hug around the shoulders. "Go home and change? You look nice in Xander's clothes but they don't fit you very well."
"I was going to." He gave him a grin. "Then heading to the arcade."
"There is school, young man."
"It's spring break, Uncle H. No school allllll week." He bounced off, heading to change and then go play. Someone else gave him an odd look. "Spring break."
"At least you're not drunk," the officer muttered, watching him go. They knew who he was and he was sure someone was going to be watching over the kid today. Even if it was that gay boy that Caine senior protected.
Xander looked up from his lunch when he got pounced, smiling at Ray. "Hi. Done with the showering and that stuff?"
"Yup. All done and now I can go play," he said fondly. "Arcade?"
"I need something more active."
"They've got a Dance Dance Revolution system."
"That's very active," Xander agreed, following him once his trash was tossed out. The arcade up the mall was fun and a cheap entertainment for them. They were both very good at video games and Xander did have some stunning dance moves. That's why he outpaced Ray by eons at DDR. Some of the teenagers in there gave him odd looks so he grinned. "I'm only twenty-four, guys." They whimpered, he was critically old to them. "Beat me," he told one. The kid came over and put it on challenge mode once Xander had paid. He was good. He had the third highest score in the system. Xander was still better and the kid sulked all the way out to the ice cream place about being beaten by an old fart.
Xander grinned at Ray and nodded. "Come on, I'll treat." Ray nodded and walked out with him, heading to get a snack. He wiped off his sweaty forehead. "I need more time in the clubs."
"You've got two men, bling, leather, and a hotrod. Go for it," Ray said fondly.
Xander smirked. "Just for that, you're going jewelry shopping with me and then we'll go work on your self-defense some more."
"Yes, Xander." They took their treats down to look at the jewelry stores in the mall. Xander was highly picky but they had some nice stuff. They made it back to the corvette with a few bags and headed home, finding someone at the gate waiting on them. "Rich guy car," Ray warned.
"I saw. I know what it's probably about," he said dryly. He opened the gate and left it open as an invitation, heading up to park and then get out and talk to them. "Hi. He honestly told me he was single and didn't have a family."
The boys stared at him. "Did you sleep with our father?" one asked.
Xander shook his head. "No, he took me to dinner. We talked. I listened to him talk about his fishing and his turtles and his investments, though I had not a clue what he was talking about in that area. We talked about sports a few times and a few other things. He never wanted sex."
They both frowned. "This does put us in an awkward position, Mr. Harris."
Xander nodded. "He always said if I was his, he'd find me a sanctuary where no one would come looking for me. I had no idea he remembered me until that guy yesterday."
The boys sighed and pulled out some papers. "This is what he left you."
Xander looked then at him. Then he grinned. "My passport is from the Antilles Islands, boys." They gaped. "Do you know how much out-of-country taxes are?"
They both shuddered. "We were advised that the taxes had been horrible on it," one admitted, frowning some. "We wouldn't be adverse to settling with you as long as you gave up the other assets."
"What other assets?"
The second one pointed at a clause. "Here, Mr. Harris."
Xander looked at it then grimaced. "That is like Chinese algebra to me. Ray?" He came over. "A friend's nephew," he said at the odd looks. "I'm working on his self-defense skills. Translate, please?"
Ray looked then at him. "A house, two ponies, and a car. All on an island."
The boys looked then the second one nodded. "I was more concerned about the next one down," he admitted.
Ray looked then at Xander. "Poker night on a mediocre night."
Xander shrugged. "I don't need money, boys. Really, I've got a lot already." He pointed at the house. "I played high stakes poker. Often." They gaped and he grinned. "I was bored. I had to do something." He considered it. "How about this? Since he deeded me the island and I'll get the lower tax debt, I'll take the island and whatever's on it. Ponies and all if you want. I have an Arabian and a Fresian colt that I adopted last year." Ray beamed at that. "Yes, when we move to the farm full time some year, you can have the baby horse, Ray." He patted him on the back and grinned at them. "I don't need money. Money's nothing to me."
They walked off to talk, then came back nodding. "We'll have the papers drawn up immediately," one agreed. They shook his hand and headed off to do that once they had Xander's card with the fax number.
Xander looked at Ray. "Don't."
"I won't tell them. Just that it's a small house down where you've got your passport and a few ponies running loose." Xander gave him a hug and drug him inside to work on his self-defense again. Ray didn't want to be kidnaped. Ever. It didn't look like it was much fun.
Ray let himself be drug into the station and up to his uncle's office a few days later, waving at Speed. "Got caught out on the beach," he called as he was pulled.
"Excuse me?" Speed called. "Front and center, Ray." The officer gave him an odd look. "Horatio's on a conference call with the budget nazis." He got handed his nephew. "He was....."
"Beating the crap out of some older guy," the officer told him. "Said the guy had propositioned him and offered him drugs."
"He did!" Ray complained.
Speed looked at him, getting a half-shrug. So he looked at the officer. "The reason Horatio knows what to do with GHS members is because Ray is," he told him quietly. "Very low level. The guy okay?"
"No," the officer admitted. "We did find about a gram of meth and another two grams of weed on him." Speed nodded slowly at that.
"Dude, because of my father I'll *never* do drugs and I hate drugs," Ray told him.
"Good," the officer said. "How did you learn to beat up people that way?"
He beamed. "Xander."
"The...froofy little gay boy with the hair and the dogs and the ferrets who bounces in with food to spoil the lab?" the officer asked, looking confused. He could do more than shop and look pretty?
Speed nodded. "Yeah, him. He had to learn it too. His protector and keeper still work."
The officer walked off shaking his head. "The guy's not pressing charges since it was pointed out your nephew's not legal by Florida standards, sir. Remind him that it's still seventeen in this state. Please?"
"Sure." He looked at him. "Xander's been working on your self-defense? We would have."
Ray gave him a hug. "Why? He's very good at it. He's bored. It works out well for both of us and we go to the arcade all the time." He beamed and headed up to his uncle's office, leaning in. "I'm not being charged. They found the drugs the guy had offered me to take me away and do him. Xander's self-defense lessons have paid off very well."
Horatio looked over at him. "We'll be making sure of the last. Even though I know Xander knows what he's doing. Why is whoever not pressing charges?"
"Legal age in Florida is seventeen. I'm sixteen. The officer reminded him that was propositioning a minor and he'd be a sex offender." He beamed. "He decided he could buy someone cheaper than the meth and weed he offered me. Three grams total."
"Interesting. I'll hear more about this over dinner," Horatio told him.
"Sure, should I tell Xander that we're using his practice room too?"
"No, I can. Sit and behave in the break room, Ray." He nodded and bounced down there to get a soda and sit down with some of the magazines laying around. Horatio put his head down, letting his mind whimper for him. He felt someone come in and they stroked his hair. "Speed, we've got to make sure he knows what he's doing." He didn't get an answer so he looked up. "Thank you for petting me, Rick, but I'm not yours. Get off." He backed up, looking horrified. "Go away. Calm down. Come back later," he ordered. "Ray's fine. He defended himself." He was nearly crying. "Go calm down, I'll forget you did that." He rushed off. Horatio went to wash his hair, finding a confused looking Speed and Eric in the hallway watching Stetler retreat. "I think I'm on a surge," he said quietly.
"He made a pass?" Eric teased.
"He petted me," Horatio said.
Speed looked at him. "Shower, Horatio. Now. I'll join you. That way I won't beat him senseless for touching you."
"He was horrified."
"Good!" He walked him off, making him take a shower, with his help to wear out some of those pesky pheromones. The quick hand-job was appreciated and happy making for both of them and hopefully it'd mean things like that wouldn't happen again. Not that he wouldn't be watching Stetler for the rest of his miserable life, because he was never leaving them alone in the same office again, but it would help Horatio to keep those worn out more. Speed realized he was mentally babbling and sighed, checking the locker room before attacking his mate again to make sure they were both worn out.
Calleigh walked in and leaned into the shower area. "Eric called Frank to warn him you were surging, Horatio. He'll expect you back in an hour. I'm locking the door behind me and we'll watch Ray for you." She left, doing as she said so no one could interrupt them. Ryan gave her an odd look. "Small surge."
Ryan just nodded once. "Okay then. I'm free."
"Good, take Ray down to the gym and work on his self-defense. I heard someone tried him earlier."
"I can do that." He went to find the kid, grinning at his choice of magazine. "Come on, we're going to make sure you're up to it in the gym."
He looked over. "Xander's been working on it."
Ryan smirked. "While he's good, I'm better at normal methods. Come on. Your uncle's busy. He had a small surge."
"Poor man." He put down the magazine and followed him down to work out with him. It was good for him and Ryan did have a different style. His training showed a lot more than Xander's did. He was more forceful and up-front about his attacks. "Xander does snatching scenarios with me."
"Good," Ryan agreed. "He'd know." That got a giggle. "He would." He attacked again and Ray managed to get away. "Even better. Now what?"
"I scream and rant and keep going," he said happily.
"Good idea." He waved him back and Ray came back, letting him try to catch him off- guard this time. It didn't work. Xander had done a good job working with him. Horatio and Speed came in, Horatio stepping in to act as a second assailant. Ray managed to get away twice but the third time he was tired and Horatio managed to hold him still. Ray went limp. Horatio suddenly moaned. "Good job," Ryan praised. "Surging on purpose is a last resort but it can work."
Ray beamed, then at his uncle. "That's the right way?"
"That's the right way," he agreed, letting him go after a gentle squeeze. "Lock it back down." He did that and beamed at Speed. "Xander's doing very well, Ray. Ryan, any traditional ones?"
"He's not real great yet at throws but he's good at breaking holds. He could still use some practice and I'd want him to practice with others. Xander does scenarios with him, but I attacked and he was a bit confused for a minute. The more varied teachers in this case the better."
"I can agree with that and the group does have a training session coming up Sunday."
"He's more than welcome to come work out with us and be a training diversion," Ryan promised. That got a smile and a nod. "So are you two."
"We'll be over," Speed agreed. He let Ray have a hug. "Good job."
"Thank you." He beamed at him. "Am I in trouble for earlier?"
"You got away, even if the officer did have to step in when the guy complained about you not taking him up on his offer and getting away. I'd say that's a no, but why were you on the beach?"
"It's my spring break. Where else would I be? It's a bikini watching day without getting in trouble for it."
"Good point," Speed decided, smirking at him. "Come on, time for dinner?" he asked Horatio.
"I'll be a bit late. I have to finish the arrest report with Frank." That got a nod and Speed walked their nephew off, leaving him with Ryan. "Thank you, Mr. Wolfe."
"Calleigh ordered," he said with a grin. "Plus it's good for him."
"And for you." He smiled as he walked off, heading back to his office. He found his boss in there. "Yes, sir?"
"Your nephew all right?"
"He's good. Xander's been working on his defense with him."
"Excellent. He's not being charged?"
"The man refused to when he found out Ray was underage."
"Even better." He looked at him. "You all right? You seem a bit tired."
"I unknowingly had a small surge earlier we think."
"I heard from Stetler, Horatio."
He sat down with a sigh. "I'm more than willing to forget that he walked in and petted me, sir. I didn't want it. As far as I could tell, I wasn't radiating at all."
"Are you sure it was a surge?"
"Why else would he pet me?"
"Point," he admitted. "Is it down?"
"It's lower than it was earlier, but I didn't feel the surge," he said quietly.
He held up a hand. "I'm not worried about that part, Horatio. You'll figure that out. I'm more worried that Stetler admitted to me that he petted you. For no reason."
Horatio shook his head. "I had my head down and I was groaning about what happened to Ray. I thought it was Speed. I looked up and it wasn't."
"Can you test it to see?"
"I can. I'll have someone draw blood for me."
"Good. Because if you're not surging, we've got an issue."
Horatio nodded. "Let me get Alexx." He paged her and she came in a few minutes later. "Draw blood please?"
"Stetler walked in and petted him," the Chief told her.
"Uh-huh." She went to get the necessary materials and have Eric run it, coming back twenty minutes later, shaking her head. "You're down, Horatio. You're reading as a level five today." She let him have it. "I had Eric run it for you." She looked at him and shrugged. "Who knows."
He frowned, looking at the results. "I am a bit down and wearing me out earlier wouldn't cause that." He handed it over. "I don't know if it wasn't a surge, sir. I have no idea why. I was more than willing to forget it this time."
"He horrified himself, Horatio. That's why he ran to me and told me. How do you read this?"
Alexx came over to show him. "This is divided by the one below it to get a level," she said quietly. "It's actually part of the new standard bloodwork we run for toxicology and CBC. We added it to the standard test list in the machine." He smirked at her. "I've had a few that've died from things like herbal issues. This way I know if there's a reason or not." He handed it back and nodded at that. "If it wasn't a surge or him broadcasting, what was it?"
"Not a clue. Figure it out, Horatio. Before something else happens. I'll agree to ignore it this time. If it happens again, I want a reason."
Horatio nodded. "So would I." He got a nod and walked out. He looked at Alexx. "We added it to the machine?"
"Yup. I've caught two others with heightened levels in the last two months alone, both around level one or two, both mistresses." He groaned a bit at that. "One was an herbal thing. She had the ginseng extract at astronomical levels in her blood stream. The other was an OD." She shrugged. "Not a clue why. I didn't hear that part." She looked at him. "I can't tell the difference."
"Me either. I knew I wasn't surging." Eric walked in. "Anything else come up?" He handed over the form. He looked at it then at her. "How did you get his blood to do a drug test?"
Eric smirked. "He dropped a hair when he fled." He strolled off much happier.
Horatio called the Chief's office. "I have an explanation. Bring him back, sir." He hung up and looked at her, letting her have the form. "That would open him up to even the slightest thing and does release inhibitions."
"Which is why we're not supposed to take it if we take a county paycheck," she pointed out.
"I'm not sure it's him taking it at this level," Horatio said. He stood up as his boss and Stetler walked in. "Shut the door, Rick." He slammed it. "You shed and Eric found a hair to see if it was you or me that affected you just now." He waved his bloodwork. "I wasn't surging but you've got something your system that lowers inhibitions and would open you up to even the slightest hint of pheromones. It's been used in a few rape cases as defense strategies." That got a scowl. He handed it over. "At that level, it's not therapeutic."
He looked at it then at him. "I'm not taking anything but a blood pressure drug."
"Then let's run some bloodwork for you quietly," Alexx told him. "If someone's drugging you, we need to know who." He nodded, letting her lead him off to take the blood and wait around while it ran. She caught it coming out of the machine, frowning at it. "Ooh, it's about triple what it should be," she said, handing it over. "Any idea?"
He looked then shook his head slowly. "Not really."
"Dating anyone?" Eric asked from the doorway. "I've had that happen. I've also had it happen when someone accidentally switched lunches with me in the break room. I got someone's anti-anxiety meds for a few days. He had it crushed and mixed into his soup since he has problems with pills."
Stetler looked at him. "You were drugged and you're admitting it to *me*?"
"Both were over a year ago."
"Whatever," he said, looking at it again. "What's this one?" he asked, pointing at one that came out high.
She looked. "LDL cholesterol. Even that can be too high." She patted him on the back. "For right now, we've got to get that out of your system before you run into Xander when he brings lunch or something." Rick growled. "Calm down. We can get it out of your system. I need to look up how. It could just be a lot of juice." She walked off to get one of her medical reference books to look it up, then brought it up to Horatio's office, finding him ranting in there. "It's not a lot of juice but it does take time. It takes about eight hours for a single dose to wear itself out of your system. With repeated dosings it can take up to a week." She looked at him. "I'd suggest you go on medical leave so you can determine where you got it and give yourself time to wear it out. The therapeutic dosage is fifteen milligrams per day. You're at ninety right now, Stetler."
He looked at Horatio. "This would make me open?"
"This would make you open enough that a woman in the right part of her cycle would get the same reaction," he agreed.
The Chief coughed. "Okay, I'm going to agree, Rick. I want you home and only at home. Figure out where you got it from. If they need arrested, you call one of us and we'll do it for you. We'll test you in a few days to make sure it's coming down and once it's out of your system you can come back."
He nodded. "I can do that."
"If you're taking anything herbal, look for this," Horatio said, writing it down. "That's the same thing only in herb form."
"In other words, it's a good reason to live on pizza," Alexx said with a small smile. "Lose the diet, make sure no one's giving it to you. I'll come see you in a few days to draw new bloodwork and then we'll figure out if it'll be a full week or not." He nodded. "Want driven home? It does say it can up aggressive tendencies."
"I'll cab," he decided, heading out to do that. Someone was going to die for doing this to him. He did not want Horatio Caine! Especially not to pet!
The Chief looked at them. "How likely it's in herbal form?"
"He'd have to be sucking it night and day," Alexx said quietly. "All the time at that level."
Horatio shook his head. "He could be ingesting some and not realize it. When Gregory was doing some of the supplements for his allergy testing he found some were very out of balance. He found two that had lethal levels of that in them. Three others had smaller amounts." Horatio sat down, looking at them. "Like I said, I'm not going to hold *one time* against him."
"Thank you, Horatio. Calm your boy down later," he ordered, heading out to make a note about this in his private files.
Alexx went to do the same. This was not something she wanted running around. She found her copy of Greg's report, sitting down to look through it. They did find a lot of herbal supplements in the bodies around here and it was good to know what was in them. It went onto her reference shelf in case she needed it. The boy had done good work. She hoped the people in DC appreciated him.
Xander looked up from his cooking as his boys walked in. "Hi, dinner's not close to ready yet."
"Got lost in the pool?" Danny teased, kissing him.
"Making sure the will didn't give me things I didn't need."
"So, no house?" Don asked, taking his own kiss.
"Small house. Two ponies running loose near it," he admitted, grinning at them. "Down near where I got my passport from. Totally able to go on without my intervention but I might go see what it looks like." That got a nod and they cuddled him, watching as he finished off the pasta for their dinner. Danny got some bread to make cheesy garlic bread. Don made some fresh lemonade from their lemon trees out front. Others came over so Xander added stuff so they'd all have food. He looked at Ray then at Horatio then back at Ray. "You all right?"
"I'm fine. I got away from him and he complained to the cops that I wouldn't take his drugs in payment."
Xander gave him a one-armed hug. "It happens to the best of us. Just means you'll have a brilliant future, Ray." That got a grin. Methos and Ray came in. "Okay, if you guys want to eat, grab something out of the freezer and put it in the oven. I only made enough for four." He dished up food, letting Ray have the other plate, making the others get their own. Not that they minded. It was family and they all knew that. At the end of dinner, Horatio took Xander and Ray into the training room to work with him some more, making sure they could both handle themselves. Methos came in to help after a short talk with Speed. Ray wasn't as effective against him but Methos did have a lot more experience than anyone else on the planet. Except maybe Richard since they weren't sure how old he was. The others brought in drinks so they could sit around and talk, catching up on the personal stuff they didn't talk about at the lab. Speed mentioned Stetler and got a glare.
"He was drugged," Horatio told him.
"I heard. Doesn't mean I won't be watching him."
"Yay." He looked at Ray. Then at Xander. "Define small house?"
"Small house. I'll bring pictures back," he promised with a grin. "I'm going in a few weeks." They all nodded. Xander could handle himself for a few days of vacation somewhere warm, sunny, and isolated. They hoped. Then again, Vesvold would be watching over him for them and he'd rescue Xander if something terrible happened. That was one of the great things about having a senior demon in love with their lover and friend. He could get a bit possessive if something happened to Xander.
to part 46: