Family Trees of Destruction
Xander smiled at the man there to meet him for lunch, handing him an envelope. "I know you've heard from Tony to see if any of your contacts had anything."
Paul sat down and figured out what he wanted for lunch. "I don't know if we could do that since we're under contract for the society, Xander."
Xander smiled sweetly. "And you know how many who aren't?"
"That's a point but the FBI want it to get their honor back." The waiter came by and he smiled. "The green plate please? Tea, unsweetened." He nodded. "Xander?" He held up his fork. "Thank you." The waiter took his menu and left, coming back a few minutes later with his salad. Paul ate a bite then nodded. "I never get sit down lunches unless it's a problem."
Xander snickered. "I'm either cooking or brining lunch to the station when I get them." He ate another bite. "How many are they going to be able to get? I've heard they have at least eighteen, in and out of the society."
"They'll be doing good to find six of them," he said. "Another few I know are gone. We've shared what we could."
"The others don't deserve that. It's not right that I sit on my ass when I can help."
Paul ate a bite, thinking while he chewed. "That's a good point. You know that's illegal, right?"
"Hiring private contractors to rescue a kidnaped person?"
"Ethically gray if the FBI thinks they can do it."
"Can we talk with them?"
"Fornell listened and he admitted that they'd be lucky to get the six they know the location of. I gave him everything my contacts had."
"And you found how many?"
"All eighteen." He stared at him. "Some of them are in politically sensitive areas."
"This may sound cliche but they don't have that problem with some covert strike teams on tv." Paul laughed but nodded that was true. "And neither do you guys. Plus, hey, if Soshar needed more guys when you retire, they can look at it as an interview."
"There is that," he agreed, taking a bite. He considered it, then he texted someone. He got back a 'if you know someone, have them go' agreement. He put his phone back. "Let me call around. You know they're not inexpensive, right?"
"That envelope has a cashier's check for three million. I'll add more if you need it or I'll hit Vegas if Don gives me shit."
Paul stared at him. "The scientists aren't being mistreated or they won't work."
"Breaking them works the same as breaking us, Paul. It's still not right."
"Good point." He considered it. "I know a few people. I don't think Gibbs or Fornell would mind much, as long as we weren't going for the same targets."
"Like you said, they might be able to get six."
"We're trying a prisoner exchange with a few countries."
Xander snorted. "That's nice, what about the others? Our people?"
"I know. Two of them are easier to get to. They're trying."
"Yeah, and they'll fail at least one of them."
Paul nodded. "True. They've already failed one." He finished his salad, leaning on the table. "You sure you want to do this, Xander? It could draw attention to you."
"The name on the check isn't mine. I had them put it into Steve's name." He smirked at that. "It's a slight ruse but Steve agreed to it. Miss Gold at the bank wanted to know why so I told her it was to rescue a few of us. Which it is, and the others they have."
"I'll put it around, Xander. See who I can talk to." Xander nodded. "You know, you're not the only one who this happens to."
"No but I'm the one who's most likely to disappear and never be heard from again with who some of mine are."
"Good point. We all panicked when we couldn't find you during the time in New York."
"The battle ring taught me a lot, Paul. Including how to savor what I had. I was doing it before but that cemented what I already knew. Get them back however. Even if we have to take one of theirs."
"That's a bad idea, Xander."
Xander shrugged but nodded. "That's why I'm not planning it." He smiled. "Not like they're going to need us to wage a battle. If we do, I'm there."
"I know you are." He patted him on the hand. "Are you feeling better?"
"I'm fully cleared, had a lot of cuddles. Ryan promised to go out with me and the boys tonight to the club. I still have to get Hubert back from Tony and Greg though."
"I'll tell them you're better when I see them tonight."
"No, this cleared up a few of the most recent missing ones. The other one was the pretty standard snatch and grab thing for someone in Central America who thinks he's a warlord."
"Those sort I seriously want to introduce to Sunnydale," he said.
Paul laughed. "Don't tempt me, Xander. Though, them as vampires would be a bad thing."
"Well, yeah but easy enough to deal with." He gave him a look. "Speaking of, my contact this afternoon. Do we know him too?"
"I've heard of him. He's an asshole and anti-gay." He shrugged. "Money is money to his sort." Xander nodded. "You could charm someone like Soshar's older brother."
"He'd get mad at me. He sent me an email warning me not to."
"Good point. You okay otherwise?"
"I'm fine. Ryan's going with me this afternoon even if he doesn't like it." The guy laughed. "Go, play. Let me pay for lunch." He nodded, taking the envelope with him. Xander paid the check and stood up, heading off, leaving a nice tip for the absent waiter.
The waiter came back, smiling at the hundred dollar bill. The guy had said he needed privacy. The Fed in the corner had told him it was okay and given him three hundred for it. That was good enough for him.
Paul got off the private plane and looked at the man meeting him. "Xander's pulling a move."
"Why?" Gibbs asked.
"He doesn't want any of them left there."
"Neither do we. It's still not practical or able to be done for a few of them."
"For official people." Gibbs stared at him. "Think we can find a team?"
"I know a team. How much did he give you?"
"Three. Cashier's check in Steve's name."
"Hmm." He looked at it then nodded. "We have a team." He handed it back. "Hold that before I get it dirty." They walked off together. "Any good news?"
"He's got a meeting this afternoon with someone about some weapons. We'll have to see how it goes." He smiled at Tony when they ran into him. "Hey." He gave him a hug. "How's the planning going?"
"We've freed the two here in the US. We've got another four we can get to easily. The others are political nightmares we were told. "I've got a quarter of a mil in my retirement fund, Paul. Would it help?"
"Xander donated three."
"That is one benefit of him playing poker," he said dryly, smirking at him. "Have them start on the hard end of the list?"
"That's the idea," Paul agreed. "I even had a nice sit down lunch."
Tony snickered. "We run you ragged, you poor man."
"That's why the woman wants me to retire." He nodded at Soshar. "Update?"
"Adam offered another four if Xander's three wasn't enough. So did Pauline and Hershal." That got a nod. "They're pissed. Their son's on the list for his genetics work and they're on the list because of who they are. Someone came recruiting their son at his work."
"We'll handle it," Paul said, clapping him on the back. "Let's go see what the bigger heads think." That got a nod and they headed to meet to talk about that idea. It would be the only way to get some of them back. There's no way the Army or the FBI could send people to Iran or Syria right now. He made a call on the way. "It's Paul. I may have a need for a quiet team." He smiled. "Lots of us and nerds stolen, big guy. Yeah. Paid. Private. They don't care as long as they get back. The FBI has some, some are in difficult places." He snickered. "Exactly. Gibbs has a team in mind too. We've got at least eighteen, they're saying they can get six. We've gotten two from the US and know one's dead. Exactly. Call me in a few hours once you've talked to them. If not, Gibbs has an idea too. Thanks, Major." He hung up and got comfortable, looking over at Gibbs, who was smirking. "They do covert retrieval work on the 'I don't know you if you get caught' basis."
"I've heard of them. I was going to call their gun person." That got a smirk. "Who is Xander meeting with?"
"The bigot. He's taking Wolfe. I want to take him to the bazaar and drop him in the middle of it, watch him enslave them all, pick what he wants, then let him walk off so they start fighting over who's sending him the better presents."
Tony snickered. "Don't tempt him. You know he would."
"I know. Xander's back in crisis mode. I feel so sorry for the poor arms dealer if the guy tries to upset him today. No one deserves Xander as he was in his past life."
"Oh, I don't know," Tony said dryly. "It keeps the Initiative guys out of my hair." Gibbs swatted him. "It does. Kate's too. She threatened a sneering one with him the other day. He walked off like a kicked puppy. Quit getting in Greg's face because we're gay too. For some reason they won't try me."
"I've stopped two from thinking about it," Gibbs told him, giving him a look.
"We'll end up back to back fighting then," Tony decided. "You know, McGee has geek love over Garcia, right?"
"Oh, that's beautiful," Paul said with an evil grin. "Are you helping?"
"Well, I did send them text messages from the other's phone and flowers. They talked and she told Abby to spank me but she loved the flowers. McGee blushed all day. They have a date tonight."
"I could've sworn we have a case open," Gibbs said dryly.
"Aww, boss, let him go on his date," he complained. "Greg and I can fill in for him. We have all day since he's been having dirty fantasies."
"Don't remind me. Every time he gets too involved his knee hits his pen drawer. Startles Greg, who nearly spills his coffee and squeaks, and startles Kate who growls at him. Then you laugh and I have to get you all working again."
"But it's *cute*," he cooed.
"So's Hubert and his daddy's pouting," Paul told him.
"Abby's going to try to take the dragon."
"Abby can travel to wherever Xander learned how to dance and get her own," Paul said dryly. "The last time Xander went on a full-out pout he stopped traffic in Miami and there were annoying little starlets who wanted to make it all better. Though they said they weren't gay. Just trying to help out their fellow man." They shared a look. "Then he got more presents and it pissed off Horatio, who got to go evil when he had to arrest three of them. Xander hates it when we turn him into a princess but if he does that again we'll have to."
"Point. I'll try to get it away from her. He's in the lab today. She's trying to figure out if we have a species for him on this planet."
"Only in mythology," Gibbs said dryly. "Before she can ask, no she can't go on a mystical road trip with Xander and Wolfe. They might warp her further."
"I don't know. Greg apparently got them taken by someone because a lord or someone's daughter was flirting with his horse. They nearly ended up married. Of course, time ran differently there. That's where the princess came from."
Tony moaned. "Oh, God."
"Yeah. Her daddy was going to kill her for not being able to be married by a suitable age. Looked back on him to not marry off his daughter. That's how the boys ended up with her for saving someone's life." Tony snickered. "When they were taken together, Horatio won one in a card game. He politely handed her back. Abby might get along well and keep them from getting women."
"No she won't. She'll lecture the men trying to give them away."
"She'd have to spend the whole time on a horse."
"She'd hate that probably." Gibbs mentally sighed in relief. He could talk her out of it. They parked at NCIS and got out, heading inside.
Abby saw Paul and hugged Hubert. "No. You can't have him."
"You make Xander pout, you go deal with the little annoying hollywood brats who tried to take him this time. Horatio said so." She pouted. "His stopped traffic, Abby. No."
"Fine," she pouted, cuddling the dragon. "I'll miss you." The dragon nuzzled her. "The next time we're nearby we'll stop in to pet you." He huffed in her ear then gave her a gentle lick to the cheek, wiggling down and over to Paul, staring up at him.
"I'll make sure you get back tonight, Hubert." The dragon steamed and followed him to the elevator. She was probably pouting and hugging her farting hippo but her pout was less than Xander's pout and he had to keep Xander from being taken again. They walked into the meeting room. "Had to get him back for Xander since they're better."
"Don't tell Garcia that. She'll storm Miami to get him back," McGee said.
"I won't." He sat down and Hubert climbed up, letting him pet him. "Okay. What do we have new?"
"They won't do the exchange," Fornell said. "The State Department said they basically laughed and said they're citizens now." He looked at the list. "That leaves us with option B, a quiet strike team of volunteer agents."
"Harris is willing to pay," Paul admitted. Fornell gaped at him. "I know a quiet team who does the 'we don't know you but we give you jobs' schtick with someone here in town. They know others who do it too."
"Three mil. We have an offer of up to four more because hunters are still looking at someone's son."
"We don't know who they are?"
Soshar smiled sweetly. "Of course we do but the people wouldn't arrest them."
"Crap, them," Fornell muttered. "Will we end up short?"
"Probably shouldn't be. Usual fees are expenses and about fifty grand when we have to hire a team." Vesvold appeared. "Xander okay?"
"He's fine. The guy complained about Ryan until Xander pointed out he had the mumps last week. The guy challenged him and fell to his knees during it to try to suck him off. He's taking Xander to the bazaar." He took the dragon, taking him to his daddy. Xander cooed and cuddled him, making him a happy dragon. He disappeared again. He was still working to free the two scientists his sort had. He was hoping to be able to deliver one tonight and the other next week sometime. Even if he did have to send in a strike team to stop the foulness that was Wolfram and Hart.
Don Epps walked into a bar, nodding at the cute bartender in short shorts and rollerblades. "The Major?"
"Office." She pointed. "He's pouting."
"I think I have something that'll make him happier." He walked up there, tapping on the door before walking in. "Epps, FBI."
"We're being busted?" he asked dryly.
He put down files and then the money Paul had couriered to him the night before. "The FBI cannot get them. It's you guys or they're hiring mercenaries. Paul said he'd rather not but right now he had two people taken from the same city he was in last night so he couldn't come out himself."
"How do you know about this stuff?"
"My little brother is Charlie Epps, math genius that works at Cal Sci. We got the list and him, his best friend, his girlfriend, and his boss were all on. They knew everyone but two on the list. Those two were people like Paul deals with."
He nodded. "How bad?"
"Three are in Iran. One's in Syria. Two are in Russia. One of the dead ones was also there. We lost another one in Central America last night."
"A few of the people in Paul's group that he protects."
"Hmm." He looked at the checks. "Steve Ellison?"
"The money person for one of them. That one came from Mr. Harris, down in Miami."
He sat up, staring at him. "The one from Sunnydale?"
"Ended up being a level ten and is embedded into the family of the lab down there since he's dating a detective and a CSI."
"The one who walked into the weapon's bazaar last night, had to beat one person off his pet, then two more for touching his hair, but now they're considering him like a Godling?"
"Probably," he admitted with a small grin. "He has weapons so they don't take him as often. An arms dealer was with him?"
"Yeah. He was meeting with him thanks to some contacts. Caine's going to paddle him again when he gets back." He smirked. "He had this nasty habit of playing poker with the thugs and mobsters down there. He was winning to keep them from having money to import new drugs or carry off plans. He made a good portion of the underground's money in the last few years."
The Major moaned, shaking his head. "The other?"
"The mother's GHS, the son's a geneticist and there's still people after them because our Internal Affairs doesn't want to arrest in another agency," he said quietly. "Their son got taken last night but they stopped him on layover in New York. He nearly died. We've had one die when they were taken and then one last night. Paul said if you couldn't, you could call the plays and know who to go to."
"My people are good. I'll bring it before them and then hire if I have to." Don nodded at that. "Bodies?"
"If you can get them, their families might not mind. Their friends definitely wouldn't. This situation has made my brother quit doing math for the last three days."
"I know his sort. I'll see what I can do. Call you or him?"
"If you're local, call me. If you're in DC, call Gibbs at NCIS or Fornell in the FBI. If you're in Miami, talk to Caine."
That got a nod. "I can do that. Thank you."
"We want them to stop this. If they come after my brother IA won't have a problem anymore." That got a nod. "Thank you." He left, heading back to the office.
The major paged his team to the meeting area downstairs, heading down there with the checks and files. They were there by the time he was. He dropped the stack. "Someone higher up has been stealing scientists and GHS members as collateral for intel and trade." That got a shudder. "Some of them are places the FBI cannot or will not go." He pushed the files closer. "This would be a paying job."
"How much?" the female team member asked. He laid out the two checks. "Ellison? Any relation to Jim? He's a cop up that way and he's in the news."
"Steve is the frontman for Harris, out of Sunnydale." That got a mass nod. They'd heard about what had went down up there with the Initiative. "He's a level ten and the same one we heard hit the bazaar last night. We may have to hire some help for this."
"CJ would go," she reminded him. "He's retired but he'd go."
"That's an idea." He looked at the files, sorting them out. "Scientists," he said, pointing at the higher pile. "GHS members." He looked at them. "At least two are already dead that Paul's heard of. They've already fixed the files."
"Standard evil bastards with an idea," the bouncy younger guy asked.
"Yup. You meet any at the convention?" He went pale. "Yeah, some of us realized, Nick. You know any of them?"
"Yeah and I talked to Tony. The one doing the snatching for them was his former director. They haven't arrested?"
"Some. They're doing the interagency dance." That got a nod. "The agent who brought it to me has a brother who's a math genius locally. He said if they show up for him, it won't be a problem."
"Good ta know," he agreed. "Which order are we going?"
"Let's start with the bigger group first," she said. "We have a few on the flight pathway that Gustav's people use." They bent over to plot them on maps. They nodded at that. It was a plan. Gather the ones clumped together first then go after the individual ones. "Do we split the team?"
"We hire a second," he decided, going to call a few people he knew. "Paul needs help rescuing geeks and his people," he said once he had them on conference. "Paid job. I've got cashiers checks. We've got ten targets." He hung up and went back there. Then he went to call someone. "Is Harris still at the bazaar?" He nodded at that. "One of the kidnaped geeks is over there at the bazaar. Have him see if he can get him home?" He smiled. "That'll work. Let me know." He hung up and walked back, tossing that file onto the floor. "Harris is near there. He's already arranging to meet the guy. His past won't let the guy suffer." That got a nod. That left them less targets.
Xander smiled as he got off the plane two days later. "Hi, I need to speak to the Custom's supervisor please?" he told the one coming out to meet him. "I have a few people who were kidnaped overseas that I managed to get free and bring back with me."
The man gaped. "Who are you?"
"Xander Harris. You can call him or the FBI, either one is fine. They know and expected it actually." The man stomped back inside. He smiled and went to get one a bottle of water. "Soon. Give it a few hours for the debriefing." She nodded, sipping it. Someone stomped up the stairs. "Horatio." He gave him a hug. "These nice people were ones who were sold by Sheppard, and one other GHS member."
"How did you find them?"
Xander pinched him on the cheeks. "Moret wasn't what we thought. He's a very nice member of Vesvold's tribe." Horatio shuddered. "He mentioned it to me." He gave the guy walking up the stairs a look. "I found some."
"I heard. Good job, Harris."
"Not like I'd leave them there."
"Good point." He looked at them. "I'm Special Agent Heartstone with the FBI office here in Miami. I'm the one assigned to deal with Mr. Harris when he does stupid stuff or saves people. We do know what Sheppard did. We have stopped her. We're going to take you back to the office, debrief you, get you checked over by our nurse, and let you call your friends and family. We'll figure out how to get you home and keep you safe until then."
"Not an issue," the one sipping water told him. "One of them tried to keep Xander. It was messy."
"It was," Xander agreed. "Took me three bottles of water to get my hair clean." Horatio gave him a look. He gave him one back, getting a frown. "You can spank me later."
Horatio nodded. "Quite possibly. Do you need a statement from Xander?" Xander handed over his laptop. "Wrote a report?"
"In book report format," he said proudly. "It should be translatable to any other report language format. You, well, we have to go visit the warehouse tomorrow night."
Horatio nodded. "We can do that." He walked Xander off once he had Hubert and his bag - the dragon going inside the bag so he wouldn't be found and quarantined. "That was extremely dangerous," he said once they were outside.
Xander gave him a look. "Would you be able to leave them there? One guy had been there for over a year, Horatio."
"I wouldn't. Timothy would yell at me for it though. Therefore I'm saving his throat."
"Have plans for it?" he teased.
Horatio gave him a look over his glasses. "They're at work. You can have smutty thoughts later. Where is Mr. Wolfe?"
"Coming back with the weapons."
"Good." He walked him inside, letting the seething Customs' official stamp his passport. "He saved some kidnaping victims the FBI couldn't get to," he told him.
"He's still pushy."
"That's why I asked for a supervisor and I asked politely," Xander said dryly. "Not my fault you wanted paperwork to deal with this." He nodded at the supervisor coming out. "Hi."
"The agent out there has it, Lieutenant?"
"He does. Xander rescued some scientists who were being held captive where he was."
"That you get a supervisor for," he agreed, looking at him.
"I asked nicely."
"You did," he said. "Thank you."
"I hate paperwork as much as the next person," he said with a grin. "My boys come home late when they have to do it." He turned and waved then left with Horatio. "Are they mad?"
"That you left with only a voicemail message," he said, giving him another look.
"He wouldn't let me call more support." He pouted, fingering his braid. "I did call when I got there."
"You did. That was nice of you. Don took most of my roll of Tums."
"I'll get you both new bottles."
"What did you pick up?"
"Seven new admirers who know they can't have me but they think I'm an emissary from God. Some new rockets and things."
"No, they know they're not allowed to touch me. Vesvold's cousin told them so."
"Good. That'll make things easier. When will they be in?"
"Tomorrow afternoon. Ryan will call when they land."
"Portal. They had to pick up some of it from a demonic storage area. Which I would love to raid. Ryan said no." Horatio shook his head. "Not even just a little bit?"
"No, Xander. It's not ethical."
"Okay," he pouted. They backed out of the parking spot and drove off. "Were they okay otherwise?" He let Hubert out of the bag, letting him cuddle in his lap.
"Don curled up to watch a movie last night. Danny made dinner and they spent a quiet night in." He gave him a look. "Did you do anything else?"
"We saw belly dancers." Horatio pulled over to look at him. "I only did one with them. I even did the belly dancing, not mine."
"Is that why they're looking at you like a heavenly messenger?"
"No, there was a demon trying to rampage the bazaar. Pity about his messy insides too. It ate part of a helicopter."
"You ...didn't buy one, right?" He was trying not to sound hopeful that Xander had some sense but now and then Xander got 'wild hair up the ass' syndrome.
"No, Ryan led me off warning me that I didn't need one until I knew how to fly. Even though I wasn't thinking about it. I did think Don might like to learn someday."
"He might," he agreed calmly. "What else happened?"
"One of them tried to grab my hair so I went off on him too. They decided their friend suddenly having green and purple blood meant I had changed him for daring to touch me. A few were kinda superstitious. We worked it out though. I proved I was a guy to one of them and they all grumbled about men who should have been women. I saw his 'wife' who was one of the GHS taken and we haggled. It came down to I wouldn't call an army down to destroy the bazaar if I got the kidnaped people. Every last one of them and all the GHS members, wed or not."
"I called in a favor with a few demons and they showed up. One ate the brother of the guy who played with my hair. They were highly cooperative and Vesvold's cousin was snickering in a corner by then. One peed on a man and offered for his unmarried daughter but his cousin sent him off with a glare. He agreed I'm neat and if I ever do lose all my family down here and take Vesvold up on his offer he'd act as my honor guard."
"Nothing else happened?"
Xander smirked and shook his head. "I was a good Xander all night, Horatio."
"Uh-hmm." He pulled back into traffic, heading back to the office. "We'll discuss this later. That way we can have a family consensus of if it was good or not."
Xander hugged his arm. "You're a great dad."
Horatio smiled. "Thank you. Was there a disclaimer attached?"
"No. You're a great dad to me. You've been filling in gaps mine left now since you met me." Horatio smiled at that. "You and Speed both."
"I know we've seen you that way for years now." He reached over to stroke over his cheek. "Which is why you're giving me gray hairs."
"I'm going to hire you a secretary next since Speed said it's the paperwork doing it."
Hubert raised his head and looked at him, nodding some, then put his head back down. He grumbled something.
"Did you just say bad?" Xander asked, looking at him. Hubert looked at him. "Did you just try to talk?" Hubert shook his head. "You sure?" He nodded. "Are you going to talk?" He shook his head and got comfortable, letting Xander get the itchy spot between his front legs. "Okay."
"I thought so too," Horatio admitted. "Why is Ryan coming later?"
"They kept wanting me to take this crappy sword with a destiny attached and I said no. Repeatedly. He said he'd make sure I didn't have to."
"You changed syllables," he teased.
"Now and then change is good for a man." He took the exit for the lab. "We're going to the office."
"Okay. Should we stop to get food?"
"We managed to feed ourselves today." He gave him a look. "Though it does cheer people up." Xander handed him his wallet, letting him go through a drive-thru for everyone. They would appreciate it and maybe it would keep Xander able to sit for the next few hours. Probably not, but maybe. He finally pulled into his spot and parked, letting Xander get the boxes of food while they headed inside. The receptionist signed him in and handed Horatio the visitor's pass. "Thank you. Page them for me?" She nodded, doing that. They walked into the breakroom, finding Ryan sharpening his sword. "Done already?"
"Yeah, they found it fairly quickly. So we brought it today." He looked at Xander. "You still don't have the sword."
"Love you for it."
"Did he tell you about how he scared the crap out of the weapons dealers with the new demons?"
Ryan looked at him. "I'm proud. I don't have to nark on you."
Xander grinned back. "Don't make me spank you too."
Don walked in and pulled Xander with him. "Taking over the special bathroom, Horatio." He pulled Xander all the way there, locking them inside so he could push Xander against a wall and kiss him. "What did you do?" he asked between kisses.
"Rescued some of the ones that were taken." He ran a hand into his hair. "I missed you too."
"Good. Should have." He moved down to tease his cock. "I should spank."
"They looked at me like I'm an emissary from God for taking out the demon then bellydancing later on. No one touched me. One started to and I made a mess of him."
"Even better. Because you're mine," he said in his ear, earning a shiver. "Were you a good boy?" Xander nodded, letting Don do whatever he wanted. "Good." He turned him around, dropping both their pants so he could have him. Xander was making the pretty mewling noises within minutes and it was good for him. Very good for him. Xander came for him, letting him lick his throat. "Good. You brought me food?" He finished up, moaning into Xander's throat. "I missed you."
"I missed you too, goofball." He gave him a kiss. "I had a thought." Don smiled at him. "Would you like to learn how to fly?"
"I'll think about it." He took another kiss. "Clean up. We'll go eat before Eric's stomach devours it and the table." Xander got them cleaned up then led him back there, holding hands with him. Frank gave him an amused look. "He was doing dangerous stuff protecting us all."
Danny pulled Xander into his lap, checking him over. "No injuries?" He shook his head, grinning. "You sure?"
"Even when I took on the demon that was threatening the bazaar they didn't hurt me."
"You went to *the* bazaar?" Eric asked. "The one where any gun is available?" Xander beamed and nodded. "WHY?"
Xander cackled. "The guy was Vesvold's cousin."
They all moaned at that. Danny fed him a piece of food. "Here, eat. Should we expect them to try for you?"
"No, he kept them from keeping anyone they had taken," Ryan told him. "We brought back another six, Xander." Xander beamed at him. "Older GHS. One refused to leave so we left your cell number in case they changed their mind or more showed up. We think another one was hiding one of the scientists so I left one of the demons watching for it. It'll bring her here if so." Xander nodded at that. "How are the others going?"
"Paul called someone he knew to help. Did we send the names of ours to Paul?" He frowned, then called him. "Did I send you a list of names and did you get one from Ry too?" He beamed. "I thought I had. Wanted to make sure. Dinner. Have a good night, Paul." He listened to him. "Need help?" He shrugged. "Huh. I don't know. Thanks for the warning." He hung up. "Jorge's mad at me."
"Why?" Ryan asked.
"He didn't know and neither do I." He shrugged and got some dinner, eating, even feeding his boys and Ryan some since he was giving him fond looks. "You can ask, I was good."
"He was very good. Even when he was belly dancing he was very good and stuck to their type instead of his."
"Belly dancing?" Danny said, patting Xander's back until he got given a sheepish look. "We were careful?"
"The only guy who tried to touch him went for his braid and Xander made him messy before I could get off my seat," Ryan told him. They all nodded at that.
"Are you sure we can't talk some of the demons at the storehouse into giving me stuff?" Xander asked, smiling at Horatio.
"It's still unethical to use your hormones for material gain, Xander. For your own protection, yes. To get pretty things, no."
He gave him a fond smile. "Maybe the next one who likes you will give you weapons."
"As long as it's not that one sword. You know, that probably should go to Buffy," Xander said, looking at Ryan.
"Vesvold's cousin said they got free last week and were dropped back in Sunnydale. He agreed with you last night when you said that."
"They're back?" Frank demanded.
"They were warned to leave Xander alone unless they had actually learned their lesson," Ryan told him.
"I don't care if they have or not. They're still wanted here for tryin' ta blow us up," Don told him. "Plus the escape."
"Giles?" Xander asked.
Ryan shrugged. "No one knew. We can check somehow." That got a nod. "You don't worry about them. If they show up, you have them start here."
"We'd have to arrest on sight," Eric pointed out.
"A good reason for them to start here," Ryan told him, giving him a look. Eric nodded at that.
"If she's back there and working, she's doing important work saving the world. She can stay back there so I never have to go help," Xander said calmly.
"But," Don started.
Xander shook his head. "I can't be a slayer and we're on the wrong coast, Don. We need her skills. It's bad when the agents start to shudder in horror at the name of Sunnydale. If she's doing her job, we leave her alone. Please. It's important and she's keeping the end of the world from coming. Because if she can't I'll have to step in and you guys would kill me if I suddenly flew back to Sunnydale to prevent the end of the world."
"We would," Eric agreed.
"If you do I'm going too," Ryan reminded him.
"Give me some warning so I can use proper paperwork. Today you had to take a sick day," Horatio told him.
"Not like I usually need them," he quipped with a grin.
Horatio stared at him. "Warn me anyway, Mr. Wolfe."
"Yes, H." Xander leaned over to give him a hug.
"Or you, warn me when you take off with him."
"Yes, Dad." He put his head on his shoulder. "Who has Hubert?"
"He waddled out a minute ago. I thought he was going to find a bush." Frank went to check. He found him staring in computers, nearly pouting. "What's wrong, Hubert?" DC jumped. He pointed. "He wandered away from dinner." He picked him up with a groan. "You grew in DC, little guy." He carried him back. "He was staring in computers with a pout and a hurt look.
"Awww, do we miss the Abby and the Garcia?" Xander cooed, taking him back.
Danny looked at him. "Gained some weight in DC, good job, Hubert." The dragon smirked at him. "Were they good to you?" He nodded. "The ladies cooed and petted, huh?"
"Tony said everyone but Kate did; she was in a huff that there were really dragons," Don told him. He petted him. "We can maybe see Garcia and them after the holidays. Xander might be going up to do some shopping." The dragon perked up at that. "As long as you don't kidnap them for your harem. Your dad there would get pissed."
He shook his head, putting it down to cuddle. His human petted nearly as well as the hyper one, the squealing one, and the funny one. Even the one who smelled good. So home was nice he guessed.
"Where's the next convention?" Xander asked.
Ray smirked. "LA then DC."
"Oooh," Xander said, looking at his family. They nodded they could go. "I want to see Deadboy's face when he finds out there'll be a whole hotel full of us in his town since he was mildly freaked out by me."
They all snickered. That would be funny. Too bad it was hard to find a way to take their pictures.
Xander settled back in his bed that night, petting his dogs and ferrets. They had come in to play with him while his boys took showers. Vesvold appeared, smiling at him. "Am I in trouble from you too?"
"No, my cousin was a gentleman and you were very careful." He kissed him on the head. "Even the demons who were there said you were very careful. They thought it was cute you'd call in that favor that way until they understood why." He stroked over his hair, then petted one of the George ferrets. He kissed him on the forehead. "There may be a problem at the LA convention." He handed over a photo. "Of Angel's face." He winked at Don when he came out. "Are you all right with him possibly picking up new admirers?"
"I don't like it but it's better if they admire him from afar than try ta take him."
"They shouldn't. They know he buys weapons to keep himself safe. By the way, I got you a birthday present." Xander beamed. "I got you the thing you couldn't afford." Xander hugged him. "You are still my favorite distraction and love." He faded out, heading home. His cousin smiled at him and handed him a drink. "Thank you for protecting what's mine for me."
"Not a problem, Vesvold. He's a sweet boy. We thought he'd be oozing lust and things but he was generally trying to help when he did that."
"Xander still protects people. That's why he was playing poker and kept going back even when they tried to kill him a few times." He sipped his drink, settling down in his favorite chair to talk to his family.
Xander showed Don the picture once he had looked and giggled. "Vesvold said it was Angel's face when they told him the convention was coming."
Don snickered at that. "It is a comical look on him. Hell, he's nearly blushing even if he does look horrified." He kissed Xander, moving the ferrets out of the way. "How do you feel?"
"Not backed up. I don't know why."
"We think Ryan's still a bit tainted," he said quietly. Xander frowned at that. "If so......"
"He was subtly feeding off me all weekend. Would he know?"
"We're not sure if he realizes it or not. We need to know for sure."
Danny came out. "I think it'll be fine. It's not like he's stopped eating."
"No, he's only eating little bits though," Xander said, frowning. "I'll pull out the books tomorrow, see if there's a way to finish detoxing him." He kissed them both, then gently moved the ferrets out of the way. "Spots, move, daddy wants human cuddles too." They moved to the end of the bed and Xander pounced, making Don laugh. "Why don't you feel me to see how I feel?"
Don felt him. "I think you feel like you could use some fun." He tickled him and it was good, Danny blocked Xander from moving too far and it always got him pounced the best ways. Then Danny could finish Xander off. "You didn't even bring me back a present," he teased.
"You wanted a belly dancer?" Don got him extra hard, making him squeal. "Okay! Next time I'll find you a t-shirt!" Don licked up his throat. "I got you nice stuff for the holidays."
"Good. Did you hit the charity ornament sale?" Xander nodded. "Did we find stuff we liked?"
"We found some gorgeous blown glass ones. I bought multiple colors and some metal ones too. So we'll need lights and tinsel. I'll work on that and get a tree next month." They both smiled, playing with him now. Hubert climbed up to and waddled up to sit on his chest. "Aww, did you need lovies too?" Hubert sniffed then groaned and laid down on Don. Don smiled and petted him until he fell asleep then put him down with the dogs. They snuggled around him to keep him warm and used him as a pillow. Xander felt Don up. "You feel like you need to play."
"I do need ta play," he promised, kissing him. "What are you getting Adam since he keeps saying no shiny stuff?"
"A tinfoil hat to block out the voices."
They both laughed and hugged their boy. His mind was very unique sometimes. Well, a lot of the time really.
Xander finished up the last bookshelf and put it aside then made sure his tools were safe. He bounced out of the storage area and went to Home Depot, knowing he was going to be in trouble if he didn't put the workshop near the house. So he was going to find ways to do that. He found his usual guy. "My storage place wants me to put on a workshop."
"That's a bit harder than your usual project."
Xander smiled. "I did work construction for eight months." That got a nod. "So I can add onto the back of the garage since it's already got electrical service and I need to fix one of the separating walls and the roof anyway."
"You do know it's supposed to rain most days?"
"I know and it's dripping onto my SUV." That got a small laugh. "I can fix that easily enough under a tarp. The wall too. The new building out back won't be that hard either."
"So you need framing supplies and wire, right?"
"Right now I need framing supplies. A giant tarp for the roof." They went to get him what he wanted. "The garage is stucco, I've never worked with that. Is it hard to apply?"
"No, it's put on like joint mud only it's textured."
"Hmm. That might not be so bad then." They found him what he needed. "Since my boys are gone next week at a law enforcement conference we can frame it then. It'll give me some uninterrupted work time. Can you deliver it next week?"
"Sure. To the house this time?"
"Yeah, they won't fit in the SUV even with the seats down." That got a nod. "But I did finish the last bookcase." He showed him a picture on his phone. "That's the first one I tried. The lopsided is because of the floor, not it."
"It looks solid." Xander beamed and they checked him out. "Let us know when you're ready for more stuff."
"I will." He took the tarp with him so he could spread it now. He drove home, finding the guards for the community at the gates, like usual. "Hey, guys, I'm putting a workshop behind the garage and fixing the garage."
"More construction people, Mr. Harris?"
He grinned. "No, I'm doing this one myself. I like working with wood."
"Insulate your new workshop very well please," one told him. "The people on your right hate the noise of people doing menial things like working. They complained the whole time about your fixing." Xander rolled his eyes. "I know. Still."
"I'll soundproof and run a phone line too."
"Might be a good idea, sir. Or maybe an emergency switch?"
"I might. Thanks, guys. I'll start when the boys are gone at the police conference. They'll deliver stuff for framing next week." That got a nod. "Thanks." He drove on, parking in his garage. He went up to cover the roof with his blue tarp and then got his handsaw to trim the branch that had caused the problem.
"What are you doing!" someone shouted. "That's my tree!"
"Your tree broke a hole in my roof, woman. I'm only trimming this branch so I can fix the roof next week." He went back to it.
"You can't do that, it's *MY* tree!" she shouted. "Help!" Guards came running. "Stop him!"
"Ma'am, it's on his property," one of the guards said. "He has the right to trim it if it's harming his property. The same as we can trim his apple tree if it hangs over the fence again."
"Let me know and I'll trim it," Xander said. "I told her about this one and she sneered. Pity." He finished cutting the limb in question off and tossed it down then looked at her. "That's all I have to trim but you've got rot." She huffed off. He nodded at the limb. "Look at the center."
"That is ash rot," one said. "We've seen a few of them before." He went to reason with her and get her to call someone to look at her trees before they all died. Her landscaping would cause them no end of problems for weeks. Xander's had been nice. Right in, get to work, plant things, then right out.
The other one looked at him. "You have a nut and an apple tree hanging over again, Xander."
"I can fix that," he promised, going out with him to look at it. "Hmm. Should I paint the trimmed end with something?"
"Please. Though it was nice, I got lunch from it before." Xander grinned and shrugged at that. "Thanks." A regular police cruiser pulled up. "She called the cops because he trimmed a branch that was on his property?"
"Yup." He got out and came over. "You need to prune that down."
"I'm wondering if I should paint them with tar," Xander said, looking at him.
"No clue," he admitted. "What happened?" Xander walked him to the point where he could see the garage and pointed. "It's on your property."
"It poked a hole in the roof too. She's really going to hate it when I have to fix the roof now. That's all I trimmed and her tree has ash rot. The whole core is rotten on that limb. It would've fallen in and if it had fallen and hit our vehicles she would've been paying to fix them."
"It's well within your rights," he said tiredly.
Xander looked at him. "Are you getting to go to the convention? I know my boys are."
"No, I can't. I'm on that weekend." Xander gave him a short hug. "Thanks, I think."
"Detectives Flack and Messer live with him," the local guard said.
"Oh! Yeah, you're him." He nodded. "I'd ask a tree person about trimming those and keeping them from regrowing over the fence if it's not allowed."
"We don't want things dropping onto the sidewalk," the community guard said. The other one came back with her. "She call someone to see to her tree?"
"She doesn't believe it has rot." He went to get the branch and brought it back to show her. "That's ash rot, Mrs. Federea. Like your front tree had a few years back. Remember all the problems you had then?" She huffed and turned away.
"If it falls and hits our vehicles or garage, you're going to be paying for the damage," Xander told her. "My insurance company will be more than happy to charge you." He looked at the officer. "Tree service?"
"People who come out to take care of your trees for you. Like the lawn boys, Mr. Harris."
"Oh!" He nodded. "I usually do it." He shrugged and looked at the guards.
"Mrs. Peterson has one coming in tomorrow, Xander. We can ask if they'd talk to you about trimming yours."
"Please." He grinned. "That way I don't hurt them and they don't get rot like hers." That got a nod and they went to make a note in the guard shack. He looked at the officer. "Am I in trouble?"
"No, sir. It's within your rights to trim an annoyance branch on your property." She huffed off again. "That is the law, ma'am," he called after her. He looked at him. "Will the garage hold up if it falls?"
"No, or the wall," Xander said quietly. "I've got to fix the roof where it poked a hole and another weak spot. I'll see if I can make it a lot stronger when I put on my workshop."
"You work with wood?"
"I do. I just started again." He showed him the same picture. "Ignore the tilt, it's from the floor and it broke a screw. I've since replaced it. They're going to Ryan Wolfe for the holidays."
"That's a thoughtful gift." He gave him a smile. "Make sure she doesn't retaliate."
"She tries and I'm a vengeful bitch."
He laughed as he walked off. "Have a good day, Mr. Harris."
"You too. Want some of the last apples? We have a few that need to be picked and Don's appled out."
"I wouldn't mind." He went to find a few good ones and picked them, smiling at the perfection. "Thanks, sir."
"Welcome. Have a good, easy patrol." He walked back up to the house. He really needed to fix the garage so it was more sturdy. His SUV barely fit in it. Don's bike was sitting in a modified stable. Well, he didn't mind the stable look but they needed automatic doors.
Xander looked at the tree guys. "Hi. Are you the people who trim trees?" The one driving nodded. "They said they can't hang over the fence but I don't want to stunt their growth any other way. I wasn't sure about painting the cut ends with tar or making them ugly."
"We can trim the overhanging branches," he said, getting out to look. "You have a beautiful cultivation."
He grinned. "Thank you." He pointed. "I know the one over my garage has rot."
They shuddered. "We hate those." They went to look at the ones over the fence. "We can trim those and make them look pretty natural. That way it doesn't look like someone took an invisible saw and cut overtop of the fence all the way down." Xander beamed at that. "What do you have?"
"Some apple, some nuts, some citrus. Oh, damn," he sighed, spotting her. "I had to cut one of the branches that poked a hole in my garage roof. She's still pissed." They nodded. "I've been doing pretty good with the fertilizer around the base in the spring and putting down tree food."
"We can check for you, sir. We do charge fifty an hour." Xander handed over two hundred bucks and they nodded, coming to look at what they had. He tapped one a few minutes later. "This one's got some shallow roots."
"We buried it as deeply as the others."
"Some trees don't want to sink in deeper," he said. "It's something to be aware of." That got a nod. They checked the others. One other was a bit shallow too but not dangerously so in either one. They got their tools to trim the trees, and the guards nodded it was fine. "Now, next spring you'll want someone to come in again to trim off any buds that're going to grow this way too."
"Okay, I can see that. Fertilize like I have been?"
"It looked good. The wood chips especially."
"I figured that's how they do it in the real woods."
"That's a good idea. Your soil looks fairly well balanced. This spring you'll want to have it tested again in case the winter rains washed any nutrients too far down." Xander nodded at that. "We painted them with things to discourage bugs."
"I need to do that on the hottub deck," he said. Then he shook his head. "Sorry, train of thought."
"That's okay." One of them patted him on the arm. "It shouldn't hurt any of your production." That got a nod. "Anything else we can do?"
"Do you think they'll bloom this winter?"
"They might do a minor one. You'll want to watch out for buds. Or, there's an idea, you can plant a few cherry trees and get some staggered growth." Xander beamed at that. "I know the nursery down on eighth has some nice ones. The other side of the gate would be good and they'll grow into useful trees." He nodded. "Since we still have time left, want us to look at the one over the garage? It's starting to lean."
Xander looked then sighed. "It started to lean last night during the storm. Like I said, if it damages stuff she's paying for it." That got a nod. "Do we think it'll fall?"
"We can look. Ma'am," he told the lurking, watching, sneering woman. "Your tree looks like it's going to fall. This one overpaid us so we can look at yours for free if you want."
"It's where he cut that limb. It needed it for stability and now it's leaning toward the injury!" she said.
Xander looked at her. "I can find emotions in many things but not trees." She sneered and stomped off. "Can you look from my side?" They nodded, going to do that. They both gave him looks. "It's going to fall?"
"It's already half rotten and it's going to fall soon."
"I'll let the community's people handle her," Xander said. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir." They handed him a card. "If you need us back this spring, call." Xander nodded and they left, much happier. He had a well tended set of trees and had a clue when to call a professional. Well before it became a real problem for others.
Xander put the card in the office then went to talk to the guards. "They said hers is going to fall any day now."
"Hell," one of the guards said.
"If it hits my garage, I'm making her sorry. They said it's half rotten and the tree people would know. They even offered to look for free since I overpaid them."
"When did it start to lean?" one asked.
"Last night during the rain storm."
"Can you move the vehicles?"
"Don's bike," he said quietly.
"Oh, damn," he muttered. The detective babied his bike. "Move his bike back by your hottub?" Xander nodded. "Move yours into the driveway, just in case, Xander. That way you don't have to take her to court to fix it." He nodded. "Let's hope it doesn't cause more damage."
"She told me it was leaning to cover the injury."
"She's a bit strange," one admitted. "She has a daughter who takes care of her."
"Can we talk to the daughter?"
"We have last night. We'll let her know it's still a problem." Xander nodded and headed home to pull Don's bike out and cover it with a waterproof tarp. Then the two cars down the driveway. He called his boyfriends first. "Detective Messer, Dave at the gate. Not a real problem. Just an FYI. Did you see your neighbor's tree this morning? That one, yes. Tilted at a forty degree angle at the moment. The tree people Xander hired to trim yours where they were over the fence said it's going to fall soon. Exactly. That's what he's doing now but I was thinking you might warn Detective Flack to put his bike into a storage area for a few days? That way it isn't hit when the tree falls on your garage and it caves? He's moved it but it still might be hit with some of it. Thank you. Yes, there. He's fine. The tree people were very complimentary about his skills.
"They trimmed it so it's still beautiful from this side. They looked over the fence at hers. They offered to look at it for free since your boy overpaid but she stomped off in a snit. We've told her daughter. They did say you'd have to watch two that were a bit shallowly rooted. Other than that it looked fine and they suggested some cherry trees on the other side. That's where he suggested, yes. They said you might get a shallow second crop too. We will, but Xander's pissed at her at the moment. We figured warning you before it fell would give you time to find a way to calm him down when he threw a hissy as he usually says." He smiled. "You too, have a good day, sir." He hung up and called the woman's daughter who took care of her.
"Ma'am, Dave at the gate of your mother's community? No, the neighbor she's been complaining about... That is within his legal rights, ma'am. It's on his property and damaged his garage. As long as it's on his property he's allowed to trim it. The officer she called told her that. That is the law. No, he had some tree people out to trim some of his today and check them for the same sort of rot hers has. They said it's going to fall any day now. Which will cause more problems because it's going to hit his garage and then your mother would have to pay for the damages. Again, that's the law, ma'am. His insurance company would make her pay for it. Well, there is the idea that it could be cut down since it's leaning at a forty degree angle at the moment.
"Yes, it's starting to fall now. I'm more worried it'll hit the house and hurt people, ma'am. That's still within his right and he only trimmed that one branch." He rolled his eyes. He hated Miami Spoiled Brat syndrome. "Yes, ma'am, just a warning that it's going to fall and then there's going to be more problems. Especially if it hits the house and damages it or someone. After all, people do live there and it would hit their kitchen." She hung up on him. He made a note of both calls. His boss called. "Sir." He listened. "I did warn Detective Messer that the tree was going to fall so he could figure out how to calm down his lover when he threw a fit about it taking out his garage, and then her daughter to warn her the tree was still a problem and becoming worse.
"Sir, we had tree people out earlier. Mr. Harris had them looking at his to trim where it was over the fence. They said it's dead. It's coming up. It's at a forty degree angle at the moment and it could hit the kitchen. Which means hurt residents as well as the garage. Yes, he's already warned her he's going to get his insurance company into it and make her pay. She's still complaining he trimmed that branch. Her daughter is too. Personally? I think they're spoiled and they both have issues, sir. Exactly. No, Mr. Harris is going to be fixing the garage so it's more sturdy and adding on a workshop behind it as well. I've seen some of the ones he built for the house and it's beautiful work. I did warn him to insulate very well. Yes, sir, he knows. Thank you, sir." He hung up and groaned. "I hate dealing with him nearly as much as I do them."
His partner patted him on the back. They waved at the insurance guy Xander had in to look at the house. He paused at the end of the driveway then came over. "Someone looked at her tree?"
The guard handed over the card from the company. "They looked over from Xander's side. They offered to do a free look at it since Xander overpaid them."
"That's nice of them." He went to look. The damage to the roof was already bad. The tree was clearly going to fall any good wind now. He looked at the house, calculating the trajectory of the top branches. "It'll hit the new third floor, Mr. Harris."
"I know. It's all rotted too." He showed him the branch. "Even the tree guys said it was going to fall over soon. She huffed. I want good documentation. I'm covered for that, right?"
"You are. You're covered for everything." He gave him a short pat and moved to take pictures. "Do you know her name?"
Xander wrote it down. "I know the gate guards said that she has a daughter who takes care of her. I don't begrudge her trees. I don't want them damaging my stuff though. I like trees, trees are nice. I simply can't put up with that."
"No, I agree. That's dangerous." He took another picture and then got his video camera out when it started to sway with the new breeze and rain. He looked at the cars. "Move your SUV back farther. That way it won't hit it." Xander went to move both cars farther and Don's bike around the side of the house. He nodded at that, watching as the tree slowly slid a bit closer to horizontal to the ground. He winced, watching it finally give up and fall. Then he filmed the damage. He looked at Xander. "Do you want to call the contractor?"
"I disliked the last one by the end. He stuck up for the guy who tagged the house with anti-ferret and anti-gay people paintings." He looked. "I can put up a new garage." The insurance guy gave him a look. "I worked construction for eight months. It's not that hard." Don pulled into the driveway and stopped. He grinned. "Your bike is next to our bathroom."
"I love you for moving it." He got out and came over, nodding at their insurance guy. "We paid on time, right?"
"It's taken out automatically so you're always on time. It'll be faster if we find the contractor for you, Xander."
Xander shrugged. "I can."
Don looked at him. "You can what?"
"Redo the garage."
Don gave him a look. "Bookcases and tables are one thing," he said cautiously. He got the pissed look back. That's why he was cautious. "Are you down enough for that, Xander? I remember you hitting yourself on the foot with the hammer a few times last year."
"Yeah, Ryan's helping with that right now. I can probably frame the new garage and workshop while you're gone at the convention, Don." Don gave him a look. "I can." He gave him a kiss. "The tree people were very nice. We have to watch two of them for being a bit shallowly planted. Do you like cherries?"
"I love cherries and if you wanted to plant a few cherry trees I'd like that." Xander beamed at him and bounced a bit. "Contractors can get it done faster."
"They'd drive me nuts."
"I'd have to spend that week out of the house."
Don grimaced. "Did we maybe wish the tree down?"
"I was here. It started to wiggle in the wind," the insurance guy told him. "I have it on film. You can wish things down?"
"No, but there is that law of be careful what you wish for."
"Good point." He went closer to tape the damage to the garage, the wall, and the picnic area. "You'll be able to get a new patio set too, Xander."
"Thank you." He looked at Don. "Your turn to choose since Danny picked the picnic tables."
"I can do that." He gave him a kiss. "You good?"
"I'm fine. I was standing here watching him tape when it fell over."
The neighbor started to scream. "What did you do to my tree!" she wailed.
Xander shook his head. "Can't I hit her?" he asked quietly. Don shook his head, giving him a look. "If I get batty, cure me or let me go?"
"Definitely. You'd drive me more nuts than Ma does." He gave him another kiss, looking at the neighbor from the other side when she huffed over. "We knew it was rotten."
"More construction work?" she demanded.
Xander beamed and nodded. "Yup, plus I'm busy making presents for the family. I did plan to insulate my workshop very well but, well," he said, waving a hand at the garage. "It was going on the back of it." She groaned. "So yeah, I'll insulate as soon as I can."
She walked off in a huff. "Don't be too loud or I'll complain."
Xander looked at Don. "Think she's a sentinel?" he asked quietly. Don snickered. "Can I buy them out?"
"Fine." He looked at the guards when they came back with an officer. "I may be pledged to Cupid, Ares, and Strife, but none of them made the tree fall," he told the officer from the day before.
"No, it was starting to lean when I left yesterday, Mr. Harris. Your insurance guy is screaming back?"
Xander looked. "Want me to get pompoms?" he called. His insurance guy laughed but shook his head. He looked at the cop again. "He was here when it fell. I called him when the tree people said it was going to fall soon. It got a bit windy before the rain started. Thankfully he had me move the cars and Don's bike farther away."
The officer smiled. "I've seen his bike around town." He looked at the detective. "She's coming over."
"I saw." He looked at his insurance guy. "How long do you think it'll take Xander to fix it instead of a crew?"
"Probably about twice as long," he admitted.
"I can have that framed in the weekend they'll be gone. A few days to roof, a few to put on boards for the walls. The doors being put on. Want automatic doors this time, Don?"
"I could like that," he agreed. "Your workshop?"
"Behind it." He looked at him. "With a lot of insulation so sentinel woman next door doesn't hear." The insurance agent snickered and coughed. The cop laughed too. He grinned. "Are you sure you're all right? You still look tired."
"I've been on for the last three weeks thanks to some sick time."
Xander frowned then went inside and came out with something. "They're going to run out before I can get there."
"I can't take gifts."
"Oh, fuck the rules, dude. I'm the wife of two officers. If Stetler climbs on your ass, tell him that and to see me in person." The officer gave him a horrified look. He stared back. "I am, basically, the wife of two officers. The best friend of others. Horatio's like a dad to me. I can spoil other parts of the department too."
"Welcome. Let them make you feel better. It's not too macho. I got Frank Tripp to go with me and he said he felt much better afterward. A bit of spoiling is good for you." He nodded, putting them into his shirt pocket. "And if she says something about the bribes, well, I'm about to stick my foot up her ass."
The officer coughed. "No violence in front of me," he said quietly.
"If I must." He walked over there. "So, when are you going to put back up the fence and fix my garage? I'll need it done soon," he said, making her stop shrieking and staring at him. "It was your tree that did it. That makes it your fault. That means you're responsible. I know that's a strange word to most of Miami's upper society, but *really*, woman! Even I know you fix these things before they inconvenience people. I'm sure you'll be paying for wherever we have to park our cars too. After all, my SUV is worth more than your house. Don's bike is worth more than your house in it's present condition. We don't want them damaged too and if you have rats or something please keep them over there." She started to cry. "Now, when can we expect the people to come fix this shit?"
"Let me handle it, Mr. Harris," his insurance agent said.
Xander shrugged. "As long as it gets handled." He walked off again. He went to hug Don. "It didn't hit the top floor," he said quietly. "It fell off center."
Don gave him a squeeze. "It would've come down during a hurricane. Which ones are too shallow of ours?"
"One of the orange and one of the pecan trees. I'll see what I can do about that." He nodded, stroking his back. "They were very nice and they said they'd come out this spring too. That way they could fix the problem of it hanging over the fence."
"That's good." He petted him gently. "It'll be okay." Xander nodded, letting himself relax since he was there to handle it. He called his boss. "Hey, Cap? It's Flack. Our garage just got smashed in by the neighbor's tree. Keeping Xander from ripping her head off at the moment. He got our cars out. Even my bike. Can you ask Frank if I can use a corner of his garage? Or Speedle? Thanks. I'm here. Probably. The insurance guy is here. Flattened the garage. The back patio area. It's brushing the hottub. We're damn lucky it didn't hit the new top floor, Cap." He looked up and said a silent prayer of thanks for that. "I can do that. Sure, I have a great new desk to do paperwork on." He smiled at Xander. "Send it home with Messer or someone. Thanks, Cap." He hung up, going back to hugging Xander. "Did you thank them for not letting the tree fall on the house?"
Xander looked up and said his own prayers of thanks. Even if they didn't change the angle he was still thankful. He watched the insurance agent work. "He has the tact I'm missing. I always wondered who it had went to." The officer walked off laughing. "Do I need to file a report?"
"I can, Mr. Harris. Detective, keep him calm?"
"Oh, he'll be calm. Thanks, man." He shook his hand. "Going to the convention?"
"Nah, I'm on this weekend. I had a few weeks of sick time recently." He left, going back to the station. By the time he got there, there was pizzas waiting on everyone. He smiled as he met the delivery guy, holding the door open for him. "Who ordered?"
"Um, it said for the patrol guys," he said, letting the receptionist take them. "I've got another six in the car, ma'am." He went to get them.
He walked off smiling, leaning in his boss's door. "Remember the tree call?" He grimaced but nodded. "It's Flack's boyfriend."
"Harris?" He nodded. "He okay?"
"It fell today. Totally smashed his garage. His insurance guy came over before it fell because Xander wanted it documented. Oh, he ordered us pizzas." That got a smirk. "And I got spa passes from him. He said I'm tired and if someone fussed to get into his face because he can so spoil more than the lab."
"Good of him." He came out to look at the food. The guy from K-9 shook his head. "No drugs?"
"Normal pizzas." He went back to nibbling on his piece. "It's a good place too." He looked at the delivery driver. "Need a tip?"
"Just someone to sign the slip. He did it by credit card."
One of the guys called Messer. "We're forging your name on the slip where your boy ordered us pizza. Yeah, him." He hung up. "Messer said we could."
"We're used to the lab doing it." He let him sign it for him. "Thank you, sir." He handed him a copy. "Make sure he gets that please." He walked out, happy with making them happy. They had looked tired. It wasn't even hurricane season yet.
That one guy smiled. "Ran into Flack's boy with the last two days of tree calls. He said I'm tired looking."
"You are," his boss agreed. "Use those passes." He got his own and nibbled, heading back to his office. The others grabbed theirs and got back to work. Those in their cars ate on the way to their route. The ones at their desk were lucky enough to get seconds and night shift even got some when they came in. The night shift supervisor gave his swing counterpart an odd look. "Harris. The tree calls one of my guys had was him and his neighbor."
"His tree the problem?"
"Hers was and it flattened their garage. I'm hoping Flack's bike wasn't in there. He'll pout for weeks."
"Probably wasn't if the kid was home." He went to get his own slices and came in to go over what had happened.
Danny got home that night with Horatio and Speed. "Man," he said, looking at the mess. "How are we cleaning this?"
"Chainsaw," Xander said bluntly, giving him a look. "Are you guys taking Don's baby?"
"We are," Speed said, going to talk to him. "I've got a corner of the garage you can put her in, Don."
"Thanks, Speed. I'm very glad Xander wasn't off shopping or something. The mess would've been outrageous. She's still complaining he bewitched her tree by cutting off that limb. She got one of the judges who lives up the street into it and he agreed the rot on the branch and the report of the tree people stated it was her fault. He had every right to cut the branch. She was going to be paying for the damage. Then he gave Xander a look. Xander just shrugged and said 'I didn't call, she did; I was more than willing to go to someone who was at work and the cops told her the same thing'. The judge smiled and took one of the last few apples. Do you like cherries?"
"Love 'em. He planting cherry trees?" Don smiled and nodded. "They'll grow up and be pretty then."
"He swears he's fixing the garage himself."
"Uh-huh. Tables and desks are one thing, garages are another." He walked inside, finding Xander cooking so he pinned him against the stove. "How about we toss Eric's dad a bone since it's their thin season?" he asked in his ear. "He's got a lot of guys with kids who could use the nice check right before the holidays." Xander pouted at him. "You can help. It's not a big job but it'd help them."
Xander pouted. "I wanted to do it."
"You can work on the inside of your new workshop. That way you can show us all the finishing work. Right now, it's going to keep storming so we'd rather have it done fast. One guy can't work as fast as ten."
Xander nodded. "I understand the reason....."
Danny kissed him. "Please?"
Xander sighed and nodded. "Fine. I'll call him."
Speed walked in calling Eric. "Hey, me. Danny just talked Xander into throwing your dad a job to fix the mess the tree created. New garage and workshop behind it but Danny said Xander gets to finish the inside so he can show them how good he is. Yeah, real mess. Tree's still here."
"I've got the stuff for framing the new workshop coming late next week," Xander said.
"He said he's got framing stuff coming late next week. Sure. Please. If he's not busy he can. We're here. I'm taking Don's baby home to protect her." He smiled. "Thanks, Eric." He hung up. "He'll talk to his dad, see when he can come out." He gave him a hug. "Eric's dad needed the job anyway, Xander. There wasn't that much hurricane damage this year and they've been short on jobs. He could even rebuild the ugly stone wall." Xander nodded. "That's my good boy," he said in his ear, getting a small smile back. "I see you that way anyway, kid." He gave him a squeeze and let him go. "Are we staying for dinner since Horatio's asleep on the couch?"
"Sure. I'm making a glaze for the ham I started earlier."
"We love your cooking fingers," Danny said, stealing a kiss. "Nearly done?"
"Nearly. Go clean up while Speed picks out veggies." He went to do that. Speed got the bags of frozen vegetables from the freezer and got to work on what they wanted. "How do you tell when a ham's done?"
Speed looked then tested it. "Needs about another forty minutes but pull it out now to put on the glaze. That way the flavor bakes in." He tasted it. "Sweet, I like that." He watched Xander pull out the pan, then nearly drop it with a groan. "Shit." He caught the pan with Xander's mitt, putting it onto the stove. "Xander?"
"Oooh, back." He let himself be walked out to the living room and be sat down. "I'll be fine."
"Sure." He went to glaze the ham for him and put it back, finding Danny do that. "I think he blew a disc or something." Danny let him have the ham while he checked. Don came in too. Eric peeked around the door. "Xander hurt his back pulling out the ham."
"We heal." He came in to look, helping him put it back. "He's been doing a lot of physical stuff recently." He went to check on his student. "Guys, we still heal."
"We can baby him until then," Don said, scowling at him. "He wrenched a muscle." He helped Xander up. "How long, Speed?"
"Half an hour, forty minutes."
"We're putting him in a warm bath." They walked him that way, going to start the soaking and spoiling process.
Eric looked at Horatio then smiled and headed for the kitchen again. "He didn't even shift in his sleep."
"He's had a few nightmares recently," he said quietly. He called Ray Junior. "Xander just blew his back. That's fine. Girlfriend time is good for you. We'll either be late or staying over tonight. The garage is *history*," he told him. "That tree fell. While the insurance guy was here. He got them out first. We'll be housing Don's bike for a few days. Sure. We're here if you get done." He hung up. "He's with his new girlfriend."
"This one nicer?"
"I think you dated her," he said dryly, giving him a swat. Eric's father tapped then walked in. "Hi, Mr. Delko. The rest of the family is in with Xander since he threw his back taking the ham out of the oven to glaze. I'm sure you saw the mess."
"I did and the wailing woman trying to set it on fire."
They moaned and went to stop her, with the police this time. One of the nightshift officers had to pounce her since she had the gas can and was pouring it on the remains of the garage as well as her tree. She screamed and ranted and fought but oh well. The officer walked over. "Speedle, what's her issue?"
"Xander cut a limb that tore a hole in his garage roof. Found out it was rotten. Got tree people to look at it. They said it was rotten. It fell today after they left. The insurance guy was here when it did because Xander's a CYA person." That got a nod. "One of you guys stopped her earlier. And yesterday."
"That's what got us pizza," he said happily.
"Xander got you guys pizza?" Eric asked.
"He gave the guy who came out spa passes too. Said he couldn't use them before they expired." Eric grinned at that. "Anyway, he does look tired." He looked at his car. She was still struggling. The car was rocking. "Does she have family?"
"They're just as batty," Don said as he came out wiping his hands off. "The daughter agrees with her mother that cutting the single limb caused it to fall. We heard she asked the judge up the street when he got home." That got a groan. "Yeah. Been going on now for a while. We complained about her tree. We complained to the guards about her tree so they could complain to her about community regs. Xander finally cut it so he could fix the garage roof. It was starting to lean last night and apparently was about forty degrees toward horizontal when we left this morning. I saw the insurance company's tape. The wind picked up, it started to rain, and over it went. We're damn lucky we got the cars out and it didn't hit the house."
"You are," he agreed. He looked at the mess then at Eric again. "You'll need to take some precautions with the gas she poured."
"I know," he agreed. "He's hiring my dad to put up the new one." That got a smile. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome." He walked back to his car, sighing before opening his door. "If you keep doing that, ma'am, I'm going to add a charge of resisting arrest and damaging public property!" he snapped. She whimpered and went still. He got into his car and then got back out, heading for the younger crazy woman with matches. They all had to move when the fire started. Gas was a good conductor of fire. The fire department got there before it spread more than halfway to the house. "Gas," he called, waving. "She spread gas on it!"
"We couldn't get to the breaker and there was electric in the garage," Don called at the same time. That got nods and they passed that on. Don sat on the back step into the house, looking at Speed. "Is it wrong to go with Xander's plan to buy them out and tear down their trashy house?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Not hardly. Gives you a good orchard area." Horatio came out, earning a smile for the messy hair. "The daughter started the fire after we stopped the mother from doing it." He heard the car's window be broken. "She's trying to cut herself!" he shouted, heading that way. The patrol officer called in for help.
"She's insane," Danny said from behind Horatio. "Has been for years." They watched the fire be put out, then looked at Eric's father. "It makes clean up easier."
"Definitely." He shook his head. "How bad is her house?"
"No updating, hasn't been taken care of," Danny said. "One of the gate guards told us that no one's done any maintenance in *years*."
Eric's father smiled. "One of my former boys started his own company. They're good workers but they need good proof jobs. Think he'd mind?"
"I think Xander likes helping guys like that as long as they're good," Danny promised.
"I'll call him." He went to do that. His crew could use the work but that guy was going to go out of business if he didn't have something to do soon. It was a small, easy job to get their foot into the field until hurricane season came again. "It's Pavel. I'm with a friend of my son. His garage got knocked down by a tree. Then the tree was set on fire by the former owner of the tree. I am. Police scanner?" He laughed. "Exactly. Garage with a workshop out back. The fire department is finishing up soon. He's even got some framing supplies coming next week. He was going to add on the workshop himself. Please. Now is good." He hung up and checked the oven. "Eric, I think this is done."
Danny came to look and nodded, hauling the ham out. "Yup. Speed, the veggies done?"
"Only need warmed, Danny." He came in to finish that job.
Don went to talk to Xander. "The daughter set the tree on fire." Xander whimpered. "They've got it down now. Eric's father knows a good contractor who used to work for him but they're company's about out of options for work because we've had a mild hurricane season. He called him because his people desperately need work."
"If they're good I won't care." He held up a hand. "Help me out? We can cuddle later and soak?"
Don smiled, helping him up and helping him towel off since he still couldn't bend. He looked at his back. "It's still swollen, Xander."
"It's going to take hours, if not days," Xander said. "Horatio was down for six weeks after his surgery and they said he could've been retired if they didn't do the surgery."
"Good point." He helped him into some lounging pajamas then out to the living room. Danny gave him a plate. "Xander's still swollen there." Danny handed over a second plate. "Thanks." He took a kiss and went out to eat beside his boy. He looked at the tv. "Still haven't replaced it yet?"
"Haven't had the time to." He found the phone book and phone, using magic to call them over. "I'm glad I can float a remote." He found the nearest Best Buy. "Hi. I need to replace my tv tonight. How late are you open?" He beamed. "Thanks." He hung up. "They're open until ten." Don grinned. "Take the money out of the safe and go get something big enough." He took a kiss and Don finished dinner quickly before bouncing out. Xander sighed, wiggling some. Horatio handed him a pillow. "Thanks."
"Mine felt like crap for months," he assured him. Xander nodded he remembered, putting the pillow behind him. "Don?"
"Ah." He sat beside him, watching the news. "Well, the news crew couldn't get into the gates. That's something."
"I still want to beat them both."
"They're blaming you for breaking the cruiser's window and making them want to cut themselves on the glass too," Speed said as he came in. The fire truck pulled off. "They're going to cite her too since the patrol guy caught the mom with gas and the daughter had the matches." He sat down on Horatio's other side. "Back?"
"Still. It'll be days." He dug in, eating slowly. Danny sat on his other side so he leaned against him.
"I found that letting Horatio lean forward helped a lot," Speed said. Danny nodded, shifting them around so Xander was leaning forward onto his shoulder. Xander gave him a kiss and went still when the pain stopped. They looked a the small bulge. "He blew his worse than yours, H."
"He did. Mine was higher up too." He moved to work on the pained area, getting a few whimpers but he quit tensing around the hurt area, letting it heal. Adam walked in. "Heard on the news?"
"I did. What happened?"
"Psycho neighbors," Xander said into Danny's shoulder. "I love whoever's fingers those are." Horatio smiled at that. "I'd bear you babies but hey, infertile." Horatio laughed. "Thanks, Dad."
"Welcome, Xander. We still have to look at the warehouse."
Ryan walked in wearing tight jeans. "I heard over the scanner. We not going?"
"He blew his back taking the ham out of the oven," Danny told him.
"Oooh. Ow." He came over to take Horatio's place. "You eat, H. I've got it." He nodded, letting him have it. "Hi, Eric's dad."
"Ryan. Going clubbing?"
"We were going to go with Xander and his boys tonight," he said with a grin. That got a nod. "Are you going to fix the mess?"
"One of my boys owns his new company and they need work. I'll pass this onto him."
"As long as he's good," Xander agreed.
"He's very good, Xander." That got a slow nod and Ryan finished putting him to sleep. He smiled at the poor boy. "I threw mine once picking up the remote for the stereo."
"Don't remind me," Eric groaned. Speed snickered. "He complained for *weeks*. My mother was going to sacrifice him."
"It was a near thing. She was calling some satanists she said she knew."
Ryan looked over. "I don't think she knows any real satanists. She thinks everyone not catholic is one. She still thinks I'm one."
"Well, yes," he admitted.
"Xander's as pagan as I am."
"We'll keep them from talking religion then."
"Might be good since Xander had some strange people in his past," Danny agreed. Don pulled in driving Xander's SUV. "Is it a bad thing he has a box sticking out of the trunk of the stretch Range Rover?"
"Probably," Speed agreed. "Eric? You're good with electronics?" He nodded, going to help him haul those inside before they got too wet. Speed was even nice enough to mount the new tv. "Do I want to know how much that was?"
"No," Don said with a grin. "Probably not."
"Am I going to need to play poker again?" Xander asked quietly.
"No, no need to play poker again. It was under three grand."
"Good. That works." He turned his head to look at it. "That's huge."
Don grinned. "It has a great picture too. They had the one at the store hooked up." He finished hooking in the cable lines and plugged it in, letting him and Eric handle the color, brightness, and other settings.
"Suddenly a Weird Al song starting to come to mind," Speed quipped.
Horatio looked at him. "No more Weird Al. Please?"
"You like _Frank's 2000 inch tv_."
"Yes, but you were humming _Harvey the Wonder Hamster_ on the way to work this morning, Speed. Please?"
"I-pod," Xander said, blinking at them. "I got him new music." Speed smirked and went to get it, coming out giggling while he listened to it. He gave Horatio a hug. "You'll like them."
"I'm sure I will." He let Xander go back to resting against Danny. Don finally got the settings right and the sound was up too. "That nearly messed up my hair," he said dryly. Don turned it down further. "Thank you."
"He needs those eardrums to hear me yelling his name," Speed told him.
Xander looked at him. "Do you two need my special brand of help again?"
"Nah. We're good," Speed promised with a smirk. "I have plans." Xander grinned and went back to resting while he healed.
"Am I going to know about these plans?" Horatio asked patiently.
"Soon enough." He smirked evilly at him then took a kiss. He looked at the tv. "Don, the red's the wrong shade for that show."
Don nodded, getting back into the settings to adjust the red contrast. They ended up going back to the default settings and then back from there. Eric called technical support to find out what the values should be for American cable tv. They set it at it then had to adjust the brightness down but that was fine. Speed shared one song with Horatio, earning a moan. Don looked over. "If that's about Mounties or Carrot Juice, I don't want to hear it."
"Carrot Juice," Horatio sighed. He put the i-pod down and kissed Speed again, making him forget about funny songs and his strange mood. "Come on, we'll drive behind Don so we can give him a ride back here." They nodded.
Don looked at Speed. "Won't wreck it?"
"Hell no. You wouldn't wreck my baby on purpose either." Don handed him the bike's keys. "I'll take good care of her. Want me to bring the bike cozy?"
"It's good for her." That got a nod and he went to pack it and the tarp in the back of the hummer then drive Don's bike back to his house. They had a nice nook in the garage that the harley could sit in for a few days.
Eric's father went out to talk to his former guy, letting him see the mss and explain what had happened and what he knew about what they'd need. That got a nod and they went inside to talk to Don. Don handled the money, kind of, in the family. The check was written out on a hidden, overseas account but it meant that the local guy couldn't have touched it. Then he called Steve to warn him. They decided to wire the money in the morning, getting the guy's agreement. Steve had to be told the story and moaned, saying he'd put the check from the insurance company in the account. Plus to press full charges before he hung up. Don got to pick out the garage doors, keeping with the former theme since it was quirky but their house. They liked their house the way it was. That got some nods and the workshop's plans got pulled up when Don found them on Xander's laptop. That got a smile and a nod. They could do that. Don put in that Xander might want to finish some of the inside himself and it'd have to be well insulated because they had cranky neighbors.
"Storage area," Danny called.
"Oh, yeah, and a storage area for whatever he's building this time." He ran a hand over the desk. "He built this for us."
"It's a beautiful desk," the contractor said with a gentle smile. "Countertop?" Don nodded. "Good choice but nice." They went to look at the mess again. It'd take them a few days to do that and the ground to dry enough under a tarp to lay a new foundation for the concrete.
to part 56: