From Fluffy to Badass in Point-Two Seconds.

Xander finished his working out by dance and bent over to stretch his back with a moan of pleasure.  "Been too long.  I'm getting out of shape."  He turned and found someone lounging against the corner of the house.  "Who are you?"

"I'm one of the new people in the poker circuit, Mr. Harris.  That was... very nice to watch."

"Thank you."  He stared at him.  "Why come see me?"

"Some of the people in the circuit have said that you're very wise about common sense things and that you know about some of the people who've retired down here."

"I know a lot of people who've retired down here, especially the agents."  The man smirked.  "Why?"  That smirk showed he was an agent instead of underworld.

"I wanted to know if you could hook me up with someone."


"A retired...agent named Marks?"

Xander stared at him.  "Didn't he die last year?"

"His wife."

He found his phone and took a picture.  "I'll see if they want to talk to you.  Which games are you hanging at?"

"The one at the docks usually for the moment."

"I'll see if she's around and talk to her.  I know someone who might know her."  That got a nod and he strolled off.  Xander waited, catching Wade in the doorway.  He pointed, getting a head shake back.  He showed him the picture

"Hell no," Wade said quietly.

"Let me shower and then I'm going to the Gables."  He went to shower and clean off all the sweat.  That was very creepy.  A thought hit him and he walked out, conditioner in his hair.  "How did he get past the community guards?"  Wade shrugged, not staring at him.  "Sorry."  He went back to his shower.

Wade shook his head quickly, looking out toward the gate.  The guy was probably still out there.  Wade went to check the cars over for tracking bugs.  Xander might not have seen it while dancing.  He found one on the SUV and his car but not the corvette.  That sealed which one they were taking today.  Though he had been warned not to go down there.

He called someone instead.  It was a good intermediate.  "It's Wade.  Someone just came to watch Xander dance and ask him to find a friend for him down here.  Please.  At home.  They even tried to put trackers on the car.  Thanks."  He hung up.  Xander came out doing up his belt.  "One's coming here."

"Even better.  Thanks."  He made sandwiches because he was starving now.  He'd been dancing for the last two hours.  He handed Wade one, letting him put on whatever condiment he wanted.  One of the female spooks walked in and he held up the bread.  "Want one?"

"Please, Xander.  Have ham or turkey?"

"Both," he said with a smile, letting her pick what she wanted.  He handed her the photo he took.  She beamed it to her phone.  "He was a bit creepy.  I stopped dancing and found him watching and he wasn't reacting, which is really odd and wrong in a lot of ways."

"I can't watch you for ten minutes," Wade admitted.  "So I'm sure something's wrong with him."

"Yeah, he's like the walking plague of death," she admitted, taking a bite.  "Hmm.  Which deli do you use?"

Xander smiled.  "I bake my own."

"You're a great cook, Xander."

"I have fudge," he offered with a smile.  She took a small piece and wrapped it up for later.  "He wanted to talk to Marks' wife.  I pointed out I heard he was dead last year."

"I'll warn her.  That's probably a bad thing."

"Remember to warn Horatio if there's going to be a shooting car chase or something," Xander said.

"I will.  We like that we can get his help with the serious things."  She ate another bite.  "If you leave your boys, think you'd ever go for an overworked, slightly retired woman?"

He grinned.  "I think they promised me to Ryan."  She cackled and nodded, taking her lunch with her.  He smiled at Wade.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  We'll see how bad this turns out.  All the retired spooks give me the creeps."

"Some of them aren't retired by choice."

"I know, and they're doing good things most of the time, but still.  The higher up spooks are like ghouls."

"Or dementors," Xander said.

"Or them," Wade agreed with a smirk.  "I stole your copy by the way."

"That's fine.  As long as I get it back.  It was a present from the boys."

"Sure.  Not an issue."  He ate another bite.  "I checked the cars."


"Are we doing anything today?"

"I have no idea."

"It might be safer around people."

"I'm feeling uneasy and can we call the farm to make sure they're on alert?"

"You pay two guys to live on the road to the farm and handle the security," Wade reminded him.  That was something new that had solved Xander worrying about his horses.  He was right, they were something someone might try to hit.  "I've already texted them to warn them a new spook is in town and being creepy."

"Thank you," Xander said quietly.

"C'mon, let's go to Fu's."

"No game today.  It's a Chinese holiday."

"He plays where?"


"Let's go to Franco's then."  Xander nodded and found weapons.  Wade watched.  Xander was paranoid, and that was a good instinct to have.  He wasn't sure about the weapons though.  He knew he was proficient, but Xander never went with more than one gun/knife/stake combo.  Now he had two guns, an ankle gun, three knives, all magically hidden, and his more noticeable usual carries.  Plus a stake.  "I doubt the stake will work.  He doesn't suck that way."

"You never know.  Wood kills a lot of things."

"Good point."  He turned on the security system and the extra one as well.  He had upped it on the kid, only telling Danny and Don.  They were happy with it and Xander only needed to know one code.  They took the corvette, him driving.  This was getting really creepy.  Xander was never *this* paranoid.  "Want to stop in and grab Jensen?"

"They're out of town on a mission as a favor."

"Damn.  Okay."  He knew Franco's was a tough place to play at, it was loud and crowded.  It wouldn't want him armed.  It had highly overprotective bouncers.  When they got there, something was clearly wrong.  "Stay," he ordered.  He got out and looked.  It was silent in there.  That was wrong on so many levels.  "Pasquale?" he called.  He shut the door and moved a step toward the building.

"No!" a female voice called.  "Don't, Wade!"

Wade looked closer, leaning in the doorway to check then stepping more clearly into view.  "Fiona?"

"Bomb," she said quietly.

"Xander!" he called.  Xander bounced over.  "Can you disarm that?"

Xander looked then nodded.  He pulled out his knife and carefully checked the floor around her then moved in.  "Do not move, Fiona.  It's got a balance switch."  He found the timer and disconnected it from the explosive then the power supply.  "Okay, one last one.  Wade, we need SWAT.  I just found a backup and I don't know the chemical mix.  I can't disconnect it and it has a pressure switch under her feet leading to it.  Tell them to send someone *light*."

"Sure," he agreed, moving farther away so anything from his phone might not set it off.  He got the bug jammer from the car and put it in there once he hung up with Horatio.  He'd know who to tell to get there fastest.  He leaned in to put it down.  "Bug jammer.  It should jam any remote signals too," he told her.  She nodded.  "We'll have someone within five, Xander."

Xander looked.  "She has fifteen."  He looked at her.  "We'll do it.  You know we will."

She swallowed.  "I know."

"Who did this?" Wade asked.

"Some new guy."  Xander held up the phone picture.  "You know him?"

"He showed up to today.  He didn't react at all to my dancing."

She shook her head slowly.  "I've seen guys who had it blown off who got it up for your dancing, Xander."

"Yeah, exactly.  Which is why I'm a bit paranoid right now."  Someone parked.  "Guys, we have pressure switches on the floor!" he shouted.  Someone moved Wade and stood in the doorway.  "I'm fairly certain the black spots are pressure pads," he told the officer.  "You're not SWAT."

"No, Harris, I'm not.  Are they on the way?"

"Yeah," Wade agreed.  "She's got a bomb in her lap."

"Did she do this?"

"No," she said dryly.

Xander tossed Wade his phone.  "Same creepy guy."

"I'll make sure Horatio gets it," he promised.

Xander looked at the officer.  "Tell them?"

"Definitely."  He moved back.  "Do we have a crime scene?"

Xander looked in the main room then back at him.  "We have a fucking mess worthy of me losing my temper," Xander admitted.  "Only without gunshots or cuts that I can see."

"There was a fog.  I don't know why I survived," Fiona said.

Xander nodded.  "Probably nearer to an air vent.  We'll check for survivors in a few."  She nodded.  Horatio came.  "Chemical bomb?"

"They are at a call at the docks."  He took off his sunglasses, looking around.  "Pressure sensors."

"Horatio, no," Xander ordered.

"Let me look, Xander."  He moved in carefully, making sure he didn't step on any of the dots.  He squatted down to look at it.  "We can't disconnect that.  We'll need to keep constant pressure on the plate and keep it absolutely still as we move it into the containment box.  Wade, please get the box out of the hummer," he ordered.

"Speed is going to gut me," Wade ordered.  "Let me, Horatio.  I'm a lot less vulnerable than you are," he reminded him.  "The same as Xander is."

Horatio nodded, carefully moving out of the way.  "Keep that plate against her legs at the same level and keep it level, boys."  He got out of the way.  The box was readied while they checked it and moved the bomb for them.  "Officer, move," Horatio ordered.   He nodded, getting out of the way.

"It's not fully pushed in," Xander told him.

"I can see that.  Sorry if I tickle or grope, Fiona."

"Who would've thought you were a nice guy," she said weakly.

He smirked.  "I have a saner boss now."  He and Xander put a piece of styrofoam Horatio tossed in around the pressure plate to make sure it wouldn't compress more.  They had no idea how sensitive it was.  "On three," Wade said.  Xander nodded, swallowing.  "I can do this."

"Shut up, Wade."

"Yes, sir," he quipped back, earning a smirk.  "Three."  They lifted it off her.  They carefully walked out, paying attention to the pads on the floor.  They put it into the case and fled while Horatio put the cover down.

Horatio called in that it was done and that they had a compromised scene with possible other bombs plus victims for the ME.  He walked back to the door.  "Fiona, can you move?"

"Yeah, I'm just a bit shaky.  I'm used to being shot at, not blown up."  He nodded, holding out a hand.  She walked out carefully, but managed to hit one of the spots.  A canister exploded in the bar part and spread gas.  "Shit."  She hurried out and Horatio called in Hazmat too.  He had no idea what that was.  Xander pulled Fiona over to rest against the car, looking at her.  "I'm fine, Xander."

"Want me to call someone?"

"I can."  She looked.  "Of course I don't have my phone."  She took a calming breath.

Xander took his phone back.  He had a few numbers that might be found in her phone. "Madeline, Xander Harris.  There's a problem.  Is your son there?" he asked once he found the number.  "Please."  She handed the phone over.  "Michael, Xander.  Fiona was at Franco's and it's been gassed.  She had a bomb on her lap.  We're not sure if she's got a lot of chemical exposure beyond that.  Where do you want me and Horatio to send her?  She's very shaky.  Horatio, is it a poison gas?"

"Yes.  It smells like rat poison," he called.

"Yes, it's probably poisonous.  Where?  I can send her with Wade if I have to.  Where?  She's not going to be able to drive.  Because Wade and I pulled a chemical bomb off her lap.  Exactly.  Please."  He looked at Wade.  "Falla?"

"Know her."

"I'll have Wade get her there.  Thanks."  He hung up.  He looked at her.  She was glassy eyed.  "Want an ambulance instead?"

"No, he'll have everything and will turn me over if I'm contagious or something."

"We can handle that," Wade promised.  He walked her to her present ride, having to hotwire it.  She was too sick to protest.

Xander looked at Horatio then showed him that picture.  "Him.  He wanted to talk to one of our retired spooks.  He did not react at all when I was dancing.  I stopped and found him on the side of the house."

Horatio copied that picture to the hummer's computers and sent it to the lab.  "Which place does he play?"

"He said the docks.  Said he was new."

"All right.  We'll put out word.  Have you talked to Fu?"

"It's a Chinese holiday."

"We can find him then."  Xander nodded.  The bomb went off in the box, making them stare at it.  The officer flinched.  Hazmat pulled up.  "The dots on the floor apparently go to gas canisters," he told the one getting out.  He walked over.  "The victim who had the bomb on her lap set one off a few minutes ago.  She's going to an underground doctor."

The officer nodded, putting on his safety suit so he could go take readings.  He came out a minute later.  He cracked his hood.  "They're all dead.  It's poison."  He let Horatio see the readings.  "We'll have to either disarm them or set them all off."

"We need to make sure there's no possible chance of them surviving but sedated."

The officer handed him a suit, letting him go check.  He wasn't going to argue with the head of the crime lab.  They had protocols to follow too.  He waited until Horatio came out to get the video camera from the hummer.  He followed to gather the gas canisters they could.  The officer was busy locking down the area.  The civilian was leaning against his car looking pissed off.

Xander found someone finally at home.  "Dave, Xander.  I need a call in to Cheva, Fu, and Chuck's son ASAP.  Franco's was attacked with poisoned gas and a bomb.  On my cell. Yeah, that's me.  Thanks."  He hung up and waited.  Within minutes, they were connected to him on a conference call.

"Guys, I'm standing here at Franco's.  Gas canisters.   Traditional bomb that had a chemical weapon component.  I helped get it off Fiona's lap."  He listened to the orders.  "Wade took her to a doc her buddies like.  No, I'm here, Horatio's here, Hazmat's here.  I have a picture of the guy Fiona said it was.  Spook.  Yeah, one of them, Don Cheva."  The officer gave him an odd look so he shrugged back.

"That's what I'm thinking.  No, he made me paranoid.  Like I'm fully armed more than most people.  I'm more armed than most commandos right now because he didn't even react to me dancing.  At all.  Yeah, Fiona ID'd him.  Horatio!" he called.  He came out.  "Conference call."  He handed over the phone.

Horatio took off the hood and took the phone.  "Horatio Caine."  He listened.  "That is what we think happened.  Please do.  I want him.  There's at least seventeen bodies in there.  I haven't made it to the back rooms yet.  Including Franco, yes.  No, he's waiting here.  I'm sure he's frustrated and paranoid, I am."  He got a smirk from Xander and a nod.  "Please do let me know.  I have no idea why they picked her."

"He wanted to talk to Marks' wife," Xander told him.  "Who was CIA like Fiona was CIA."

"Xander said they shared an agency."  He nodded at Xander.  "Please do.  Thank you."  He hung up and handed it back.  "Thank you."

"I don't want to see any more things like this."

"Good.  I want you safe."

"Wade told the guys I hired to protect the farm."

"It might be an hour or so.  Call someone?"

"Out of town as a favor."

"Damn it."

"I'm good.  I can stay since you'll need a statement."  Horatio nodded, putting back on the hood and sealing it so he could get back to work.  Xander relaxed against the car as another cruiser pulled up.  "Officer?"  He looked so Xander pointed.  He walked over.  The officer shot at him.  The one with them went down.  "Shit," Xander muttered, pulling his own.

"Horatio, problems!" he called.  The person in the car shot at him, going wide.  Xander shot him and he didn't miss.  The man groaned.  Xander walked over to the officer that had been with them, pressing on the wound.  "Hi," he said.  He looked.  "Horatio!"  Still no answer.  It was up to him.

He toggled the radio switch with his pinky.  "Dispatch, this is Harris at Caine and Hazmat location.  We had an officer shot by someone in a uniform and a fake cruiser.  Officer GSW is just below the lung.  The other one I hit on the shoulder."  He let it go.

"Harris, hold on.  EMS rolling, ETA two minutes."

"Thank you," he said then let it go.  He shifted to put better pressure.  "So, come to scenes like this often?" he asked gently.

He shook his head.  "God, I hope not.  You're ...kinda weird."

Xander smirked.  "Most of the time I'm a goofy, happy guy.  Thankfully I know a good bit of field medic routines."  Horatio came jogging out.  "Check him.  He shot him and at me.  That one hit the window."

Horatio moved to look at the officer in the car.  "He's not one of us.  That's a rental uniform."

"The car's proportions on the stripes is off too," Xander said.  An ambulance and two other cruisers rolled up.  "Guys!" he called.  One of the paramedics rushed over.  "It's right below his left lung.  He's not burbling."  The paramedic nodded.  Xander shifted once he had gloves on and bandages out.  Xander patted him on the wrist.  "You'll be okay.  You can tell someone that you were at the worst CIA act in the city ever when you have kids."

"I have two," he said weakly.  "Thanks, Harris."

"NP, dude."  He got out of the way, standing up.  He handed over his gun to the staring officers.  "That cruiser pulled up next to the tape, I was waiting against my car since I found this hellhole of a situation," he said calmly.  The officer took the gun to look at.  "I told the officer since he was tying the tape."  He pointed.  "He walked over, the guy in the cruiser shot him and I ducked behind the car.  He shot toward me and hit the window," Xander said with a point.  "I hit him in the shoulder."

"Sir, how well do you know weapons?"

Xander smirked.  "I'm a gun god to some groups.  I do range twice a week."

"Good to know," the officer with his gun said.  He pulled one and pointed it at him.  "Too bad you won't get to tell anyone."

Xander cut his wrist and held it up, letting them see it heal.  The guy glared at him.  "I doubt it."  He kicked him, kicking into the gun.  That one fell back and his partner attacked.  The other stepped back in after he caught his footing.  A knife came out of one's back suddenly and the other Xander threw down and stomped on.  Horatio got the last one.  Xander looked.  "Hi, Roque."

"Xander."  He moved closer.  "Wade called."

"That's cool.  Make sure he gets to the ER?"  He pointed at the officer and paramedics cowering.

"Guys, head," Roque ordered.  "We'll cover you."  They nodded and got the officer loaded.  He looked at Horatio, who was scowling.  "You good?"

"I'm fine.  Thank you for the assist."  He looked at Xander.  "Why miss you and the car?"

Xander shrugged.  "Maybe they're scared of what I'll do if they hit my car?"

"Perhaps," Horatio sighed.  "Or perhaps it's something else."

Xander nodded.  "Could be and if I find out you'll hear.  Like usual."  Horatio smirked at that.  Xander smirked back.  "I've reached my point of I'll be damned."

"Thank you, Xander."  He looked around.  The Hazmat worker wasn't really an officer, he was a chemistry geek.  Horatio went back to finish that problem.  "Watch over him please."

"Sure," Roque said.  He looked at Xander.  "You look a lot better than I'd think from hearing your profile."

Xander smirked.  "Sunnydale.  I spent four years staking vampires and hunting."

"That figures."  He looked around.  "How bad?"

"Bad.  Very, very bad."  Xander called Speed.  "Horatio's fine.  The guy with the gun didn't even point it in his direction.  Make sure the officer that was here with us will be okay?"  He smiled and hung up.  "That way Speed doesn't worry."

"Are they...."  Xander smiled and nodded.  "Interesting."

"They've been married now for about eight years."

"Huh."  He nodded, leaning against the car with him.  "I'll miss that knife."

"Horatio will give it back probably."

"Cool.  I got it off a general I killed."

Xander nodded.  "I have a dagger I got off someone who was going to sacrifice me to a hell god."

Horatio came back.  "Xander, did you call Speed?"

"Yes, so he'd quit worrying and so he could check to make sure that officer got there."

"Thank you."  He went back to finish up.

"I think he got chewed," Roque said.

"Horatio has a white knight streak too, Roque.  That's why he's like my dad sometimes."  He heard a yelp and walked that way.  "Horatio, you good?" he called.

"I'm fine, this one isn't."  He shoved him out.  "Cuff him please."

Xander pulled a gun to point at him.  "On your knees."  He fell and put his hands behind his head.  "Who's ordering you?"

"Don Cheva said that we'd need to figure out who did it."

"Are you with the shooters?"

"No, sir."

Xander stared at him.  "Do we know anything about them?"

"Yes, sir."


"It's related to the same problem you saw earlier, sir, but he's not sure why.  This could be a diversion or something else."

"Why not hit him?" Roque asked.

The man looked at him.  "They're not that stupid, sir."  He looked at Xander.  "The shooters were related to another problem.  I'm not sure if it's related to the bomb and gas or not, sir."

Xander nodded.  "Don't move."

"Yes, sir."  Xander relaxed against the car again.

"What were your orders?" Roque asked.

"To run the analysis instead of the lab on the gas canisters, then hand them over for things that I cannot run at Hazmat's lab.  Don Cheva was not sure that this wasn't related to more than the retired agents down here."

"Did Don Cheva tell you before I notified him?" Xander asked.

"Sir, he heard a rumor and that's why I came instead of another team.  You called him after I got here."

Xander nodded.  "So what do you already know?"

"I know that the gas canisters are professional and probably stolen from the military."  He swallowed.  "They were wired professionally.  I know that whoever did it probably knew enough to at least turn on whatever bomb it was."

"I know explosives," Roque said, heading that way.  "Horatio, let me look how they're wired," he called.

"Watch the pressure spots," Xander ordered.  He looked at him.  Another cruiser pulled up.  "Was he sending anyone else?"

"No, sir.  I play here so it wouldn't look too odd for me to show up for a lunch break game if it wasn't anything to the rumors.  If it was, I could alert people after gathering enough evidence to determine at least a pipeline."

"Tell me and I'll tell him."

"I can't do that, sir.  I owe him a lot of money."

Xander smirked.  "He owes me a little bit."  He shifted, looking at the cruiser.  He knew that one.  "This Hazmat officer is not quite acting the right way.  He was sent to investigate.  Horatio is inside with a former commando who knows about the gas canister types that were used.  There's a shitload of bodies," Xander said simply.  "Horatio said to keep him."

The officers nodded and got him arrested, putting him into the cruiser.  They checked the boundaries and cleaned up the rest of the problem out there for when Horatio came out.  Alexx and her team showed up.  "Ma'am, Lieutenant Caine is still in there," one reported.

Xander looked at them.  "I found it."  Alexx nodded at that.  "You might need a breather, I'm not sure, Alexx.  Roque, Alexx is here," he called.

Roque and Horatio walked out.  "It's breathable barely," he admitted.  Alexx got her own suit out and handed the others theirs.  "Alexx, I have not yet checked the upstairs, the office area, or the half-floor storage area."

"That's usually storage and housing of the illegals that work here," Xander said quietly.  One of the officers stared at him.  "Poker circuit place."  That got a nod.  "Upstairs, all three floors, are rentable.  A few pros who work here, a few short term people."

"We can check once we clear this area," Horatio assured him.  "Stay calm."

Xander looked over his shoulder as another car showed up.  "Sam.  How is she?"

"She's going to General.  She's having problems breathing and he agreed with her going.  She's also going sedated."  He looked at Horatio.  "General needs to know what it is."

"I've got a sample running in the Hazmat system," the guy said from the cruiser.

"Thank you," Horatio said, getting in to check it.  He came out with the report, sending it from the back of the hummer then handing it over.  "Xander had the person she identified's picture."

Sam looked at it.  "I know about him."

"She identified him," Xander said quietly.  "He was looking for Mrs. Marks."

"Fabulous," he muttered.  "I'll make sure she's heard."

"I told Gretchen."

"Even better."  Sam smiled at him.  "Thanks, kid.  Sorry if any were friends."

Xander nodded at the cruiser.  "We're trying to figure out what the hell happened.  So if you hear?"

"I'll let Horatio know."  He nodded at Horatio.  "I hadn't even heard a rumor yet."

"If you do, please do let me know."  Sam nodded and got in to go to the hospital then talk to his contacts.  He looked at Xander.  "You're back in scary mode."

"Yup," Xander agreed.  "There's some psychotic fucker running around Miami who's worse than that guy on the show Dexter."

Horatio smiled.  "The Mayor wanted to make sure it wasn't a thinly veiled biography."  He looked at the soon-to-be-former officer.  "What else do you know?"

"Nothing, sir.  Don Cheva had me check on the rumors of an attack because I play here."

"Thank you."  He looked at Roque.  "Take him home or somewhere safer."

Xander shook his head.  "I'm good, Horatio.  I'm paranoid right now so I'll be fine.  I do need to check the warehouse."

"I sent Ryan to do that."  Xander nodded at that expediency.   "Go home?"

"I'm not sure how he got around the gate guards."

"Roque, check the house for him.  Xander, go to the station?"  Xander nodded, getting in to do that.  "Please," Horatio ordered Roque.

"I can do that.  He'll kill someone if they violate his kitchen or the pets."  He left to check that and the community guards.  Wade was already doing that.  "He sent the kid to the station."

"Probably the safest place for him.  The house is secure, he didn't leave any presents.  I put the trackers in a bag for him and fed the ferrets, plus Hubert."

He looked.  "Think they'd be safer in the mirror house?"

Wade nodded.  "Probably."  They moved them over there, letting Hubert ferret wrangle in the mirror house for now.  They closed them in and left.  The alarm system went back on.  "Why Marks?"

"I don't know," Roque admitted.  "She's a nice older lady who makes cookies for the tea shop."

"Yeah."  They went their separate ways, Wade going to help Xander.  He was in the parking lot making calls when Horatio got back.  He got out and walked over.  "The one he wanted to talk to is safely out of the way.  She's not sure what it's about unless it's about her books.  Apparently she's doing a Clancy under a penname but they're not that specific.  I read the first chapter of one and didn't recognize anyone."

"So, not compromising," Horatio said.  "That's odd."  He walked in, Wade following him.  Xander was at Don's desk playing solitaire on his system.  "Where is Don?"

"With Danny and Ryan at the other poker scene that someone tried to bust in on.  It was a stupid wannabe gang kid and they had heard so they were paranoid.  Apparently Ryan needed a mop."  He looked up.  "Frank took my statement for you."

"Thank you."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "We're still looking.  Though it bothers me that no one wants to bother you."

Xander shook his head.  "No, a few of the poker buddies saw me last week."  Wade moaned, shaking his head.  "When someone ran up on me outside of Fu's.  Again, wannabe gang kid who was doing his initiation.  He shot me in the arm, I capped his ass in the stomach and then stomped him until he begged for death.  I heard the gang that he was applying with got *real* scared that he tried me since he was going to join the Bloods and their leader owes me some money, plus used to be friends of Jorge."

"That's a better reason than I could hope," Horatio decided.  "Do we have an incident report on that?"

"Yeah.  Um... Stugart answered it, out of the twelfth.  He agreed it was self defense."

"I'll look that up.  Did Frank find out who the shooters belonged to?"

"Yes, another spook."  Frank looked over from his desk.  "Idiots were stupid and trying to cover up for their fellow retirees.  The one who sent them thought it might get more of them back into the bad notice category if they didn't hush it up."

"I talked to some of the people down there," Wade said.  "They do not want to bother Xander.  At all.  He's not going to be hushed up and no one's going to make him this paranoid again after we reminded them that he has an apocalypse closet, which he pets every week."

Horatio smirked.  "That is handy to have, yes."

"Watch me use it if I have to," Xander agreed.  "Of course I'd tell you right before I fired it, Horatio."  He smiled sweetly.

"I think that would be a problem in the Gables," Horatio said dryly.  "Call as you're picking out what to sacrifice to your temper."  He walked off.  Frank followed with the reports.  Wade wrote down his notes to hand over.  "Thank you, Wade.  Is the house secure?"

"Yes," Wade reported.

"Then take Xander home."

"We can do that."  He let Xander stand up and walked him off.  "Good job," he said quietly.

"Thank you.  My temper's still pretty high though."

"Of course it is.  We put the pets in the mirror house in case something happened."

Xander grinned.  "Thank you, Wade.  That's important to me."  He walked over to the corvette, staring at the other car.  "Did you rent?"

"I picked up mine so I didn't have to risk a cab.  I'll follow."

"I'm hitting fast food tonight."

"That's fine.  I can still follow."  Xander nodded, sliding in to drive.  Then he got out to check the car.  "I was sitting right here since an hour after you got here, kid.  The protectors are good."  Xander shrugged and checked anyway.  He smiled at one of the frowning cops.  "We walked into a massacre at a poker circuit location."

"Damn.  Debt?"

"No, CIA," Xander said dryly.  He got in to drive off.  Wade followed and that made him feel safer and let him calm down again.  It was nice to have someone watching his back again.


Horatio got called to a park and walked into it, taking off his sunglasses.  "Michael, how is Fiona?"

"She'll be fine.  Thank you."

"They were already working to get her free before I got there."

"I didn't know Wade knew bombs."

"Xander knows some.  He needs to finish updating his knowledge in that area."

"Good to know."  He smirked and pointed.  "He's in my trunk.  I'm being very calm and I didn't kill him."

"Do we know why?"

"The poker circuit wouldn't let him in without a reference, so he was insulted enough to make it a diversion.  Him going after her was because she's writing novels about fictional spies and the higher ups are worried that she'll accidentally identify coworkers."

"Ah."  Horatio nodded once.  "Are they on drugs?"

"With half of them, it's possible they're just psychotic schizophrenics."

"That was what I thought you'd say."  Michael smirked.  "May I?"

"Please.  I'll have to fumigate the trunk.  Fiona wants to kill him."

"So do many in this town.  What are the chances they'll remove him from the jail?"

"None.  They've burned him for it.  They said he's too big of a liability."

"Good.  Who?"

"The one who nearly got killed for wanting Xander."  Horatio smirked evilly.  "Between you and the kid, the CIA doesn't like us all retiring down here.  They've asked a few to retire to Orlando instead.  Then again, one of them still thinks Disney is a subversive cult teaching system."

"He has daughters?"

"She has three daughters, yeah."  Horatio laughed but nodded.  They walked over to the car and Horatio got him out.  He was duct taped hands and ankles, gagged, and knocked out.  "As you can see, we were very nice.  He's still breathing."

"Thank you for that restraint.  There's a lot of people looking forward to him going to prison."  He hauled him over to the hummer, sitting him in the back.  He shut the door and walked around to drive him back so they could get him checked into the jail.  Then he went to talk to the head person in the city who might go after the idiot.  He got let in and took off his sunglasses, following the butler to the office.  "Don Cheva."

"Lieutenant Caine.  What do I owe this visit to?" he asked, letting him shake his hand.

"We have arrested the man who created that tragedy at Franco's."

"Excellent.  I heard they cleaned up their own trash."  He smiled.

"They did.  I wanted to make sure that anyone who tried for him would do so after his trial.  That way no officers could be harmed?"

"We'll have years of fun with him in prison, Horatio.  What happened to that shooter last year won't happen again."

"Thank you.  That was what I was worried about since we lost a few officers to trying to fix the problem."

"I know.  I'm sorry they lost their jobs."

Horatio nodded.  "I am open to hearing concerns.  Even though Xander.  That way none of our officers get injured.  We don't have enough as is with the hiring freeze and budget cuts over the last few years."

"I agree.  We can make sure you hear instead of handling it because we now realize you know what discretion and quick action is."  Horatio smiled and nodded, taking his leave.  He smiled at his sons.  "That man has honor and balls.  We respect him for that."  His teenage sons all nodded at that.  That would change their plans for when the person was in jail but they had plenty of contacts who might like a new bitch in the cells.


Horatio faced down the Chief of Detectives a few hours later.  "Sir, you wanted to see me?" he asked, shutting the door.

"I've heard a bad rumor that you went to talk to one of our *family* people in town, Lieutenant.  Why on earth would you endanger your position that way?"

"I went to request that if he wanted to attack the person who attacked the place where his sister used to work, that he do it in a way which would not endanger officers' lives."  His boss stared in horror.  "Like last year with that assassin on trial, sir?   I wanted to make sure it would not happen again.  As I know someone who plays poker with some of his people, I thought it more polite and easier if I outright asked.  That way he would know that we would be on alert for it but if he would agree to hold off we wouldn't have to worry about burying anyone."

"I guess that's a very good reason," he decided.  "Harris set up the meeting?"

"No.  I know Mr. Harris knows him.  He informed him of the problem so he was able to tell the other circuit locations to be on the watch for the issue."

"Did we arrest him?"

"Yes.  Some of his own people handed him over."

"Thank you.  Will they try?"

"I'm told he was burned, sir."

"Even better!"  He stared at him.  "That took balls."

Horatio smiled.  "I'm not known for being shy, sir."

"True.  You usually do a lot of things that make me cringe, Horatio.  Does your husband like that?"

"No, but he agreed it was a safe action this time."

"Hmm.  Good."  He stared at him.  "Fine.  Thank you for protecting the city from further harm during his trial."

Horatio smiled, putting on his sunglasses.  "Were I him I'd beg for a deal.  That way his punishment could commence by all injured parties."  He left.

The Chief of Detectives shook his head.  "He should've acted," he muttered.  He made notes on that.  It was a good plan of action to keep officers out of the crossfire.  Even if it was attacked, they probably wouldn't hurt the officers more than necessary.


Xander looked up from his monthly inventory when the warehouse's door opened.  "Hey, Jensen."

"Xander."  He walked in.  "How was things while we were in Uruguay?"



"Wade probably sent Clay a report when it was all done with."

"Possibly."   He settled in beside him to look at what he was doing.  "Did someone pay you in artillery?"

"No, someone wanted to know if I'd accept some so I'm going over what they want to give me versus what I have already."  He smiled.  "That way I don't duplicate or get something too huge I'll have to hand over."

"That's sensible."  He looked around.  "Did we lose some?"

"We restacked."  He gave him a dirty look.  "We had a baby alligator given to me and it got loose so we had to restack and rearrange."

"Where is it now?"



"Yeah," he sighed.  "I have to do that storage area next."

"I can help."  Xander beamed at him for that.  "That bored?"

"Yup.  Horatio said I couldn't play poker until people calm down.  Even went to tell Fu that himself.  The one time I tried we ended up comparing guns during the game and it got back to him so he freaked out."

"I can understand that."  Cougar walked in and looked around.  "He had to rescue the pet alligator someone gave him." Cougar nodded and headed for the rifles he could see hanging up.

Xander looked.  "One's new and I haven't had a chance to check it for more than broken parts yet," he said.  He went back to the list.  "Why does he want to give me something that cheap?"  He let Jensen see.  "That's not even a nice weapon."

"No, they lock all the time," he agreed.  He handed it back.  "What else happened?"

"One of the Beauty ferrets got lost in the mirror house for a few hours but we left the door open and she came to nest in my hair that night."  He shrugged.  "The horses are fine and spoiled.  That spare house is done.  I'm bored crapless but I was going to the Turkish thingy downtown today after I got done with this."

"Pooch could use some calming down time," Jensen offered, calling him.  "Xander's working on the inventory and then going to the Turkish cultural event downtown.  Sure, if you want to sweetalk Jolene in the present warehouse, he might not mind."

"Not in the least," Xander assured him happily.  "Make sure they check for more living things."

"He said to check for anything living.  Thanks, man."  He hung up and looked Xander over.  "Change."  Xander grinned and grabbed stuff from the trunk, coming in to change behind a stack of crates.   Jensen looked at himself, then at Cougar.  "Turkish thing?"

"Gama del arma (Gun Range)."

"Sure."  He watched Xander come out, nodding.  "Hair?"

"Going up," he said, quickly braiding it.  He changed shoes and they left together, going in the corvette.

"Armed?" Jensen asked.

"Yup.  Wade thinks one of my past wanters is in town."

"How many?"

"The usual nine, stake, and knife."

"That's cool."  They parked and Xander paid for it then they walked off.  The Turkish embassy was hosting the cultural event.  It had a lot of very good food.  It had Turkish dancers, toys, clothing, and was very full of happy people.  They walked around nibbling on interesting things Xander hadn't eaten before.  Jensen had to explain what a few were but Xander just grinned when he did.  They were staring at the dance troupe when someone grabbed Xander by the hair.

"Let go!" Xander shouted.  It drew attention.  "I'm not yours."

Jensen glared.  "Let my protectee go before I have to pull a weapon," he warned.  "Now."

"One such as him will be mine," he sneered.  Xander kicked him and then elbowed him in the throat.  "How dare you thwart me!" he shouted, lunging at him.

Xander got out of the way and moved a woman who was near him.  "He's insane," he told her.  She nodded and got further out of the way.  The man tried to attack Xander again.  "I don't know what your problem is, dude, but I'm not yours."

"If he is Islamic, it is against Allah's laws to be gay anyway," a priest said, stomping over.  "Stop it."

Jensen guarded Xander.  "He grabbed my friend and said he'd own him."

The iman sneered at Xander.  "It is clear what he is."

"It is clear that your person thinks I'm a pet and I'm not," Xander said.  "Don't judge on the hair.  Judge on the fact that I'm in a relationship and he still attacked me."

"One such as you should never be in our people."

Xander snorted.  "Then I'd stop the people who keep stealing men and women like me.  There's been sixty of us rescued in the Middle East in the last year alone."  The iman gaped.  The other man lunged again and Jensen hit him.  "I could've."

"That's what you travel with me for," he quipped back.  "I didn't know the event was closed to people with bodyguards."

"It's not," the iman said.  He looked at Xander and said something.  Jensen nodded.  "You are right, those ones who do such things are wrong and should be charged with the kidnaping."

"Yes but then you'd blame the victim," Xander said.  "Like the last one that got blamed."

The iman nodded.  "I had heard and he got chastised greatly by the higher learned Imans."  He crossed his arms and glared at the man.  "Desist or I will have you sent home to be charged."  The man slunk off.  He looked at Xander.  "If we could end it, we would."

"Please do," Xander agreed.  "I don't like sand that way anymore.  My last one was in Saudi," he said more quietly.  "They tried to blame me too."

"That is not right.  We Iman must talk on that target but I will make sure he does not try it again while he is here."

"Thank you," Xander said, holding out a hand.  "It's not contagious," he quipped when it wasn't shaken.  The man shook it and walked off.  They walked off, picking up dinner to go.  "Can you teach me more hacking, Jensen?"

"Sure, Xander."  They got into the corvette and drove off.  "That was strange."

"There's been a push by some of the European GHS groups to have them put out a Fatwa against stealing us."

"That'd be handy."

"It might help.  It'd definitely keep them from stealing us again.  The last time I had to get free of a prince's guards.  They were not amused."

"I wouldn't be either."  Xander parked and they got out, going inside.  They passed Pooch and Jolene.  "Want us to watch the baby?"

"Sure.  Go ahead," she said with a grin, handing Jensen the baby and Xander the bag.  "Don't bounce him, Xander."

"I won't.  I'm wonderful to my pets and I learned how to protect things from them plus be a good parent."  She patted him on the cheek.  "If you're going to the Turkish thing, the Iman stopped the guy trying to take me."

"He agreed, the others needed to talk about stopping it since they're so paranoid of gay men," Jensen quipped.

"Try to stay out of trouble," Jolene ordered.  They left together, her shaking her head.  "How does he do that?"

"Most likely, someone realized who he was and decided they wanted a new human pet," he told her.  "We've seen a few."  He got her into the car and walked around to drive.  The present warehouse would make her laugh and relax again.


Xander cooed at the baby, getting cooed back at.  "Hi, little guy."

"Ma!"he shouted, beaming at him.

Jensen looked over.  "How long have you been talking?"  He called Pooch.  "Your son just talked?"  He grinned.  "That's cool."  He hung up and texted the others to let them know.  "He called Pooch that last night."

"Ah, that's so good," Xander cooed.  The baby cooed back and grabbed for the hair.  Xander had to sit him down, making him fuss, so he could disarm it.  "Hold on, let me pull out the pokey things so you don't get hurt."  He finished disarming his hair, letting Jensen get one he had forgotten, then let the baby have the braid back. "I'm going to tell your daddy that you need a cross between his hair and mine.  We'll get you that long ancient chinese ponytail from the back of the head when you're older."

Jensen shook his head quickly because, yeah, he could see him talking the kid into that some day.  "Chocolate's in the fridge, Xander."

"I had some for breakfast."

"Not even I get away with that unless it's something like chocolate pebbles."

Xander smirked.  "When you're the cook...."

"Good point, yeah."  He shook his head again then finished checking his email.  The baby was having fun petting, yanking, and waving the hair around.

Clay walked in and stared.  "At least he disarmed it for you, kiddo."  He picked him up.  "Come watch football with me so you learn manly sports."

"Hey," Xander pouted.

Clay glared.  "You might make him strange, Xander.  He'll start to crochet or something."  He walked him off, talking to him about football.

Jensen snickered.  "He does the same thing to me.  Even with my niece.  He thinks I'll teach he to be bouncy and hyper."

Xander snickered.  "We have got to take that girl school shopping."

Jensen gave him an evil smirk.  "I was hoping you'd say that."  Xander cackled back.  They had a plan going now.  "C'mon, let's teach you more so you know how to use your computers better."  Xander bounced over to learn more from him.  This way they both weren't bored anymore.


Xander found what he needed and went to the apartment building.  Jolene was out.  Pooch was napping with the baby on the couch when he snuck in.  He stuck the braid on.

"What are you doing?" Pooch mumbled.

"Stealing the baby so I have something to coo over since Don still hasn't replaced our dogs."

Pooch glared at him.  "Why can't you do that?"  He adjusted the crooked knit cap the baby was wearing.

"They're Don's dogs.  I figured he's not ready yet."

"Uh-huh.  We're fine."  Xander pouted and turned up the pitiful until Pooch sighed and handed him over.  "Stay in the building, Xander."

"Yes, Pooch."  He cooed and took the baby down to the gym.  He was about ready to crawl probably.  That had a large area to do that in and Cougar was down there.  He got down on the floor with him, showing him how to do it.  The baby laughed and wiggled, nearly getting it.  Cougar was muttering something and shaking his head.  Then the baby took a single move forward and flopped, fussing.

"Aww, it's all right.  We all go boom sometimes.  Even me.  I used to trip into open graves on patrol."  He helped the baby back up, showing him again.  "C'mon, we can crawl around together."  The baby tried it again.  Then again.  Then again and soon was back in Xander's lap, earning a squeal and a hug.  "Such a good boy!"

Cougar stopped his running on the treadmill to take film of it.  Pooch would want to see it.  Xander put the baby down and crawled off.  The baby followed.  They went all around the area, Xander making sure he couldn't get free of the room when he tried.  Xander picked him up and rode the bike a bit with him, making him happy since that kind showed a 'road' movie so you thought you were going down one.  That amused the baby a lot.  He clapped and squealed at it.

Xander grinned at him.  "Someday when you're older, we'll get you a motorcycle so you can take a great road trip.  You can tease Uncle Don about his that I bought him."  He tickled him and the baby wiggled so they got back down to crawl around again.  This time Xander let him head for the indoor 'hospitality' area.  That had windows for him to look out of.  The baby patted the windows and squealed, making a few people give him odd looks but he was happy.  Then he got bored so they crawled off to the stairs, Xander right behind him so he wouldn't get hurt.

Cougar followed silently, taking film of this.  Jolene was going to be amused for days.  Xander looked back and waved with a grin.  "Say hi, Uncle Cougar."  The baby looked and squealed, waving at him.  "That's such a good boy!  I knew Uncle Jensen could teach you to wave."  They kept going.  Clay was out at happy hour hunting an easy girl to get laid and bruised by.  Jensen was home, his door was slightly open.   The baby cooed all the way in, going right to the uncle to pat his leg.

Jensen jumped, staring down at him.  "How did you get all the way up here?  You're not allowed on the stairs yet."

"I was right behind him so he couldn't get hurt."

Jensen looked at Xander, then at the baby.  "Did he teach you to crawl?  That's a very good job."  He picked the baby up, moving the computer out of his way so he could share his chocolate milk with the baby.  He enjoyed that but got bored so they crawled off again.  "Why is Xander crawling?"

"He's on his level," Cougar said with a shrug, following them.  The baby wanted to go down but Xander wouldn't let him.  He picked him up and carried him down instead.  They went back to the gym, letting the baby explore all the equipment and pat it.  Plus the baby in the mirror game was fun for a good long time too because there was a whole wall of babies in the mirror for him to pat and coo at.

"Who has my son now?" Jolene called.  The baby squealed and crawled to Mama, chanting that name.  Xander crawled after him, making sure he was all right.  She watched them come up the stairs, giving Xander a dirty look.  "Babies do not belong on stairs, Xander."

"That's why I'm right behind him, Jolene.  So he can't fall."

"Uh-huh."  She picked the baby up, adjusting his hat again.  "I'm very proud."  She walked him off.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome."  He ducked around Cougar and headed back home.

After dinner, Jensen and Cougar both hurried down to Pooch's apartment when Jolene started to rant and scream.  Jensen saw the Chinese braid and cackled.  "Oh, that's so cute," he cooed, picking up the semi-naked baby to cuddle.  "Do you have hair?  Unlike your daddy, you have pretty hair, kiddo."

"How did he stick that on him?" Jolene demanded.

"I don't know," Pooch said.  "It wasn't on the tape Cougar made."

She huffed.  "I hope it won't hurt him."

Jensen looked.  "Spirit gum.  It won't hurt him at all."  He carefully handed the baby back, but he had found his braid and was playing with it.  "That's very talented.  Some day you can show your daddy why he should have hair."  Jolene swatted him so he left them alone giggling all the way back to congratulate Xander by email.   Cougar wisely retreated to cackle in private too.  That was a good prank from Xander.


Don got woken up by his phone, blinking at the message.  "This is why you need to spank your boy," he read, opening that message.  He saw the baby's head and the braid, snickering.  "Nice one, Xander."  Xander, worn out from earlier, hummed and cuddled nicely.  Don sent back a 'he had fun I'm sure' and left it there.  Xander cuddles were nice and making him comfy enough to go back to sleep.  Yeah, that was a good Xander influence.

The End.

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