The Other Side of Prep Work.

Collin, Pieter's second and temporary head of the retrieval teams until they figured out if they were going to fire Pieter for taking out people, had a nice flight down to Miami.  He loved the Miami team.  Clay had him picked up by Pooch, who was in a good mood so it was a good day.  Until he told them why he was here.  He and Clay met in his apartment with the rest of the team.  "Let me preface this by saying we love how you guys handle your own city's problems very easily."  He smiled and put down a folder.  "An oldie coming back."  He looked at Clay.  "By the way, the GHS board asked to figure out who followed Pieter.  Did you know you're like third in command right now?"

"Not really," he admitted.

"Yeah, by time in and the others are all privately paid by Texas or other things.  Oh, and if you know another team, New York's, who was ahead of you, just got arrested for using one member as an incentive to get intel."

"Charming of them," Clay said.  "They get the hell beaten out of them?"

"Oh, yes.  We let Pieter go do that."  He pointed at the folder.  "This is a very old file.  On Xander no less."

Clay read it over, grimacing.  "How did they miss killing his father?"

"Something stole his father from the torture and we never told Xander.  Paul said Xander was so badly herbed and shell shocked he didn't talk for about a day and a half.  He was convinced that the family down here hated him because of a fight before then."

"Shit," Clay said, looking at him.  He handed the folder to Pooch.  "His mother?"

"Paul's backup shot her.  We're fairly certain she's still dead.  However, we have seen movements toward Xander being taken again and that cult reforming."

"So that's where he got the huge occult library from," Pooch said grimly.  He handed it to Cougar.  "Them?"

"The Sunnydale group is going to keep to themselves.  Athena went to talk to them from what I got told earlier."  He smirked.  "She said they will be staying out of it permanently."

"That's a good point after last time," Clay agreed.  That explained a lot about Xander to him.  "How long ago was that?"

"Before they remade the house from what the mirror house looks like to what it is now.  Back when he still had Greg."

"So it's been a while," Jensen said, taking the folder to look over.  "Have we warned him?"

"I was going to but I haven't seen him yet."

"He's playing poker today," Clay muttered, calling someone.  "Fu, Clay.  Send Xander my way now.  There's an old threat coming back."  He listened.  "Yeah, that one.  Where is he?"  He nodded, taking down that address.  "Thanks.  No, if he shows up, you let Xander kill his ass.  Thanks."  He hung up and handed over the address.  "That's where he was as of about thirty minutes ago."

"That's why we love you guys."  Collin grinned.  "How are things going?"

"Good enough."

"Philip's treatments are shrinking the tumor a lot," Jensen said with a grin.  He put the folder down.  "He's had a lot fewer surges recently and they're talking about removing it.  I did have his doctor talk to Alexx about what happened when they removed Xander's tumor, which was roughly in the same spot, so he could be aware of the possible release issues."

"Good," he agreed.  "For that, we could probably herb him maybe."

"That's what they were suggesting," Jensen agreed.  "Xander's taken him shopping and watched out for him.  That way he doesn't have as many problems."

"Excellent news."  Someone knocked and walked in.  "Xander."  He handed over the folder.  "Sorry."

He read it over.  "Figures something saved him from Ares and Strife," he muttered.  "I was wondering how he survived them being so badass on him."  He looked at Clay.  "I can kill this one, right?"

"If you need to."

"Fine, if I don't, I'll ask Wade or something."  He smirked.  Then at Collin.  "Do we have any idea who took Adam yet?"

"Yup.  They're on their way to Saudi to take him back."

"Huh.  Immie or not?"

"I heard he was but no clue, Xander."

"The current buy list?"

"Is still pretty massive," he sighed, handing it over.  "Have Wade help?  He's sounding bored."

"He is.  Anya's having a few health issues so he can't have sex for a month."  He read it over.  "Thank you for marking the ones we know about."  He looked at him.  "Pieter?"

"Still debating."

"Send him a hug for me."  He smiled.  "Guys, my father's probably fucked in the head.  A lot.  Oh, and get this, Rupert's in Miami."  He smirked.  "Someone warned me.  I assured them I was going to take his fucking head off."  He looked at Collin again.  "Buffy's still in Sunnydale, right?"

"Yup, last we heard.  Willow's in England."

"Why?" Clay asked.

Jensen coughed.  "Because she was a lesbian before being with Roque," he said dryly.  "He didn't appreciate my gift of condoms after it was too late."  Clay gave him the most horrified look he'd ever seen.  "Yeah."

"Yeah, she wasn't on the pill when she was with Oz either," Xander said.  "Sometimes the little things escape her.  She claims it's the fault of being so smart."

"I don't forget condoms," Jensen said dryly.  "And my IQ is higher than hers."

"Hell, I don't forget them either," Xander said dryly.  Collin snickered, nodding.  "Okay, so..."  He took the address.  "I need that, thank you."  He grinned.  "Let me go stop my drunken paternal unit.  You guys have a good confab."

"Horatio could probably arrest him," Jensen said.

Xander looked at him.  "No.  Not after what I went through there.  Sorry."  He walked off.  "And don't sic Wade on me either, Clay."

Clay put down his phone until Xander was gone then texted Anya.  She wanted Wade out of the house for a bit so she could clean and nest.

Collin shook his head.  "Believe it or not, I remember when Xander was just a goofy, fun loving kid.  That kidnaping changed him a lot."

"He's still in warrior Xander mode," Jensen said.  He called him.  "You know, I could help," he offered.  He grinned.  "Well, yeah, but he deserves the really special treatment.  Xander, I am fully trained to shoot people too.  Yeah, I can look into that.  Want me to warn Horatio?"  He hung up before Xander could say no.  Pooch was already calling him.  "That group up by Pensacola has a few left," he reported.

"I heard," Collin said.  "I'm almost shocked that Xander didn't go up there and dance for them until they had an orgy."

"We tried really hard to keep him here," Clay said dryly.

Collin grinned.  "Better than I can do then."  He looked around.  "No Aisha?"

"She's at the spa," Clay said dryly.

"Ah.  Okay.  That's a girly thing to do I guess."  He shrugged.  "Let me know if you guys need more help.  Put around that opening for a new New York team?  The single one they have is already complaining that they're not getting any downtime between things.  Melissa, their level nine, got taken by someone in Japan.  They barely got back on US soil before having to head off again to Canada.  They haven't seen home in weeks."

He snapped his fingers.  "The other reason I came down."  He grinned and pulled out a brochure.  "This year's convention."  He handed it over.  "Most of the teams at least send a few people to help protect the hotel.  We rent the whole thing out so it's more secure.  That one's a bit bigger than we wanted but the usual one got torn down after a fire."  Clay groaned.  "The usual itinerary is on the last page.  Sign ups start in about a week."

"We got to see the regional one," Jensen said.

"Xander's run that one the last few years," Collin agreed.  "This is the national one.  Over two thousand of us in a hotel somewhere nice."  He grinned.  "We'll have the usual agents included.  Including Edgerton.  Epps is on a long-term case so I'm not sure if he's coming or not.  Fornell will be there, Gibbs will be there to guard his people jealously like usual.

"BAU has a few who like to show up and talk.  Spenser Reid, their genius geek, came to the first one."  Clay moaned again, shaking his head.  "But, we're going to be in Cascade.  Convention sign ups start next week.  That gives us seven weeks to work on the security details and who you're sending.  I'm not sure if all of yours are going to attend.  You might check on that."

"I can do that," Clay said.

"I thought they were mostly in bigger cities," Jensen said.  "That's a smaller city."

"Yes, but the board got requested to find somewhere less glamour oriented and more 'getting outdoors' oriented.  There's still shopping and all that but a nice forest to hike in and other things for them."

"Steve's from there," Cougar said.

"We can talk to Steve to see who we need to talk to in the local departments.  We know they have some decent officers.  It's a fairly safe city.  Even if they do have some maniac cop who keeps getting into high speed chases."

"That's Jim, Steve's brother," Jensen said with a grin.

"Charming.  Okay, we can handle that."  He smirked at them.  "Let me know within a week.  That way we can work on the overall stuff.  We haven't had a convention there in about ten years."

"I can do that," Clay agreed.  Collin left.  He looked around.  "Jensen, Pooch, talk to the other members to see who's going and who's staying so we can arrange things.  Pooch, make travel arrangements for whoever needs more than the standard flight."

"Xander usually flies in a private plane if he can't drive," Jensen said.  "So we might be able to help with that."  Pooch nodded, going to talk to Xander first.  Half the family would be going with him anyway.

Clay looked around.  "Jensen, get on that today."

"I am.  I'm making a list of who to hit first.  C'mon, Cougs."  He got up and hauled Cougar with him.  A few liked to stare at Cougar so that would help.

Clay made a list of what they'd need to factor in, including weapons.  They had heard that no convention didn't try to get interrupted.  He also sent an email to Epps and Edgerton to ask about how insane it could get.  That way he could make more concrete plans.  They might not need to bring artillery, just guns.  He also started a list of the major problems Cascade had.  Beyond insane, car chasing detectives related to financial geniuses.


Horatio casually ran into Xander.  "Sign ups are next week," he said in greeting.

"I know.  Steve's not sure I won't ruin Cascade."  He smirked.  "Why are you here, Horatio?"

"Because Anya has Wade tied down."

"That's cool.  I'm sure they're having fun, but I didn't really need Wade."

"I believe you do need someone with you, Xander."  He took off his sunglasses to stare at him.  "I also believe that you should probably not go armed inside."

"That might be, but Giles is in there."

"Hmm."  Horatio shifted closer.  "Do we really want to do this?"

"No but I really want to kill him very hard.  He fucking sold me.  He was like a father figure to me."  He stared at him.  "This is an immie thing."

"It's not.  It's revenge and you know better."

"Are you going to spank me?" Xander asked dryly.

"I don't think I should this time.  Though I believe I should be present."  Xander stared.  He stared back.  "Backup is a fundamentally good concept."

"Fine.  Whatever.  Just don't try to save his ass."  He walked into the crummy hotel.  The manager gave him a scared look.  "I heard."  He waved.  "I'm about to take his head off for things."

"He's the one that sent you to that battle ring?" he asked quietly.

Xander took off his sunglasses to look at him.  "How much did you lose?" he quipped.

"Nearly five grand.  You're a tougher being than I thought."

Xander smiled.  "Yup, been that way since I was tiny."  He and Horatio walked up the stairs.  "You know, I could actually handle the challenge on my own."

"I'm sure you can."  He took Xander's sunglasses and put them into his jacket pocket.  "That way you don't fall on them."

"Thanks."  He kicked the door in and walked in.  "So, you're in my city now."  He stared at the older man.  "Why?"

"I wanted to smooth things over between us," Rupert Giles said calmly.

"You sold my ass to a battle ring and a demon.  There's no smoothing over for that.  Or for what happened with my parents."

Giles swallowed.  "We all know that you level tens need to be taken care of."

"By being forced to fight for my damn life!" he shouted.  "And what gave you the right to fucking sell me to someone who wanted to kill my ass anyway!  Beyond that, that's what boyfriends are for.  You just turned me into a slave that time."  Giles gave him a scared look.  "It's a damn good thing I've gotten better since then.  And found out I have a temper.  It's on.  I don't want to stay on the same planet as you anymore.  Not after all the hell you put me through, Giles."

"I thought it was for the best."

"Making someone be raped repeatedly is never for the best," Horatio said.

"You're an officer, you're going to allow this challenge?"

"I do wish Xander wouldn't kill you, but I cannot stop an immortal's challenge without cause."  He went to stop the two officers stomping in.

Xander looked at one.  "He sold me three different times.  Because he thought I'd be protected."  He sneered at Giles.

"Sir, perhaps you should take the fight somewhere less open," one said.  Xander looked at him then at the kid next to him then back at him.  "He knows.  He caught me healing a graze."

Xander looked at the other officer.  "I'm like him.  So is this fuckhead."

"There should be a designated spot for challenges," he said.

"We usually use the warehouse district but the cops down there get kinda uptight," Xander said dryly.  Giles tried to move but he pulled his sword.  "No.  No way in hell."

"Xander," Giles said, staring at him.  "You didn't used to be this way."

"Yes, but then I got sold to a battle ring," he said dryly.  "Where I had to fight all the time to stay alive, in and out of the ring."  He stared at him.  "Then you sold me to a demon who *still* tries things now and then and who castrated me.  Who tried to rape me repeatedly.  Then you sold my hormones to a demon for your own gain when my mother's cult decided to try to make me the old Xander again.  Which was just as bad as the other two.  So no, you're not leaving Miami.  You chose to come to your death and you're getting it."  He stared at him.  "I'll still deal with Connor some other time."

"I argued with him to make him only start with the one you were with.  He was an innocent."

"Bull fucking shit," Xander said dryly.  "No one can argue with either Macleod when they're in their right minds."  He stared him down.  "Let me guess, you were hoping I'd do something for the greater good?" he sneered.

"Well, there is a situation you could help with."

"Sure, Dumbledore, let me get right on that."  Giles gave him a horrified look.  "You discounted me for years.  Still think I'm normal?"   Giles tried to run but Xander pounced him and started to beat his ass without the sword.  "The things you learn when you're ten and you're witness to half the gang beatings in Sunnydale, Giles."

Horatio pulled him off.  "You cannot physically rip his head off.  It's impossible to do," he said calmly.  "Let him leave, Xander."

"Hell no."

"Please."  He stared at him.  "At least until Buffy dies.  That way what little of his life he got to live has meaning and perhaps he can get right with whatever version of God he believes in."

Xander shook his head.  "Why would I care?"

"Because if not, you'll have to go back to Sunnydale to stop the problems," Horatio said calmly, looking at him.  "Wait until she dies.  It could be any day now.  Then he's yours and a legal target."

Xander huffed.  "I hate it when you're reasonable."

"I know."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Please?"

Xander swung his sword, cutting Giles on the throat.  It'd heal but leave a scar.  "That's what a real father should be, Giles.  Too bad you failed on that level too.  The day she dies, start running.  I do so love to hunt."  He walked off.

"Thank you," the immortal officer said.

Xander looked at him.  "He leaves Miami or the deal's off.  Be damned if I want that reminder."

"That's fine, sir.  Is he the only one involved in that?"

"No, I'm going to talk to my father in a few moments about his and my mother's cult to fix me and turn me back into the asshole they thought I was.  You guys can have Horatio though."  He smiled.  "Just make sure he leaves.  Because I'll be back after dark."  He walked off.

Horatio looked at Giles.  "Xander used to be much sweeter and nicer before all that," he said.  "There's many days I miss the old Xander.  I would follow that advice.  Some of us can tell people who would adore doing his dirty work for him.  That way Xander doesn't have to suck up part of you."  He put on his sunglasses.  "Leave our city, Mr. Giles.  Permanently.  Anything that happens here, we can handle it."  He nodded at the officers.  "I'm trying to set up a place for challenges but most of Miami is peaceful."

The immie officer grinned.  "We adore that about the family and others, Lieutenant.   That one guy?"

"We have no idea but everyone around here knows."  He smirked, walking off.  "You can make sure he goes."

"Yes, sir.  Beats a traffic stop any day," the normal officer quipped.

"Yeah, it does in this part of town," his partner agreed.  "Less likelihood of being shot too."  He stared at him.  "Thanks for making him the one who'll outlast all of the rest of us.  Want a ride to the airport?"

"You're going to let him get away with that?"

"Yeah.  You're damn lucky the Lieutenant managed to talk him down.  Challenges are honorable combat and no one should interfere."  He stared at him.  "Thank God for his family calming him down after that too.  I'd hate to see how scary he'd be without them."  Giles got up and went to pack then let them drive him to the airport.  "Have a good life, sir," he said smugly.  "However long it lasts."  They drove off and went back on patrol.

"You know, I thought Harris was a goofy, sweet guy until that."

"Being somewhere like a gladiator thing would change a guy.  Most of the time he is but I've heard he's a berserker and things."  His partner shuddered.  "Beyond that, Caine has him well in hand."  That got a nod and they went back to talking about sports.  It was always fun to argue about the local college teams.


Horatio had barely made it back when his boss stomped into his office.  "Sir."

"You were with Harris when he was threatening someone?"

"I stopped him from killing the man who sold him a few times."

His boss stared.  "I know he's special, Caine."

"The man was like a father figure to him."

"He was still going to kill him."

"Yes and some day I'm sure he will.  Eric?"  Ryan leaned in.  "You'll do.  Come in and close the door please."  Ryan did that.  "Ryan was stolen with him one of those times he got sold to a battle ring."

"Like gladiator?" the commissioner asked.

"Yes," Ryan said.  "That's when I came across."  He pulled out a pocket knife and cut into his forearm, letting him see it.  The commissioner shuddered, looking away.   "I heard Giles was in town.  He get him or is it our fun?"

"I talked him into letting him have until the day Miss Summers died."  Horatio smiled.  "Barely."

"I doubt Xander wants him in his head."  He looked at the commissioner.  "What we are does come with challenges.  The others of us aren't always friendly.  We tend to take each other's heads to thin the pack.  Fortunately Miami is very peaceful.  The family group keeps it that way.  We only have one problem one in town now.  We had a few head hunters who were unethical but they moved."

"So this fight today was that?" the commissioner demanded.

"Partially.  Partially because Rupert Giles had Xander tortured and sold him to people."  His boss shuddered.   "There's another that aided in one of those times.  He's in DC."

"Do we just allow this?" the commissioner demanded.

"Really, there's nothing that can be done to stop it," Ryan said.  "The others will attack if they want to.  If I don't defend myself and fight as hard as I can, including killing them, then they'll take my head and I'll be permanently dead."

"Only that way?" he asked.

"Yes.  Only that way."

"How many are in town?"

"Sixteen?" he said, looking at Horatio.  "Ten in the family including students."

"Eleven in the family," Horatio corrected.  "But I know under twenty.  New York has dozens."

"Almost as many as Paris does," Ryan agreed.  "You can go about three blocks before you run into one in New York or Paris from what we've been told."

The commissioner stared.  "Does everyone else know about this?"

"There's people who deal with it, an organization that tracks us, makes notes on us, occasionally put out an inner cult who want to kill us because they're terrified of us, and all that."  He shrugged.  "They have some people who handle taking care of the bodies and doing the paperwork.  We've only had about nine challenges in the last two years in town.  About eight or so in the 'Glades."

"What do they do with the bodies?" the commissioner asked.

"They bury them.  They have special cemeteries just for us who lose a challenge."

"The NYPD has some officers who are part of that group to help with those problems," Horatio told him.  "I know the ones in this department and they do tell me if there has been one.  There hasn't been one for nearly a year I believe."

"The head hunter that tried to get Dean when he came over," Ryan corrected.  "Xander got him in the morgue trying to cut Dean's head off before he woke up."

The commissioner gaped.  "Excuse me?"

"Head hunters are those who don't use ethics, don't play by the rules, and don't do things in a way that leads to honorable combat.  That one was trying to take out a newly brought over immortal before he woke up, thereby taking his quickening, the soul energy basically, without having to fight.  Xander was guarding his student until he could wake up because one of them nearly got him when they brought him across."

"So you people just consider this perfectly normal?"

"No.  But I'm not going to die either.  There's ways of hiding on holy ground, we can't fight there by the rules.  Bad things happen we're told.  Something about cataclysmic events...."  He shrugged.  "If I'm challenged or attacked, I have to fight or die.  I'm not going to die, sir.  Between those two, it may be revenge but everyone's agreed that Xander has the right to take that asshole's head since he sold him into slavery a few times.  And me too."

"You're not...."

"He was like a father figure to Xander," Ryan said bluntly.  "That comes before my claim.  Now, if Xander dies before then, he's mine.  The one in DC too."

"You sound like you're vampires."

"No, totally alive, sir."  He smiled.  "Immortal but not that way.  Though, that's the field he and Xander worked against in the past."

"I don't want to hear about those things.  I'm told they're Winchester events," he said dryly.

"Yeah, Dean and Sam are more active than Xander now is.  On the west coast it's known as Sunnydale things.  Which is where Xander grew up."

"So you do grow up?"

"We're perfectly normal until we're killed the first time.  Then usually a hunter or a teacher find us.  If we're lucky, we survive for centuries.  If we're not, we have a life until we lose our heads.  Just like you do only longer and we can't have kids."

The commissioner stared.  "How old are you?"

"I only died the first time when Giles sold us to that battle ring, sir.  Xander's twenty-six.  We are some of the most powerful fighters in the whole thing, but that's because the kidnaping thanks to Horatio let us train at a temple of Ares."

"How did he get you kidnaped?"

Horatio coughed.  "They had very few redheads and thought they were next to the Old Gods," he said.  "I was talking to them when they came for me so they took all of us.  Xander and Ryan got us free because that's when I blew that disk."

"I remember hearing about that injury."

"It allowed us time to train fully since we couldn't open the portal for two years, that realm's time."

"It ran differently?" the commissioner asked.

"Yes.  Each realm has their own time code," Ryan said.  He smiled.  "It was a few hours here."

The commissioner squeezed his eyes shut then rubbed them.  "What about things like their families?  Some probably have spouses."

"The Watchers, the ones who creep us out by following us around, handle all that and insurance, those things," Ryan said with a small grimace.  "Most spouses probably know.  If we marry normals then we probably would tell them I'd think.  At least if we had to change lives or something."

"Change lives?"

"I can't look this young and pretty forever and say I'm fifty, sir," Ryan said dryly.

"So you won't age at all?"

"We can get new laugh lines, sun wrinkles, those things.  Otherwise no."

"So how do you handle that?"

"Personally, I plan to die in the line of duty doing something heroically stupid to save someone if possible."  The commissioner nodded at that.  "Others have had car accidents, just disappeared while hiking.... then the will is probated and we leave things to ourselves mostly as nephews, nieces, stepkids, whatever."

"Do others know about this?"

"Some have figured it out I'd suppose," Horatio admitted.  "Some of us learned the other way when some people kept breaking their ankle yet could mysteriously walk twenty minutes later.  Or papercuts that healed mystically."

"So what do you do if you run into a body?" the commissioner asked.

"Usually, by the time I've heard, the Watchers have handled it.  Since I do know the majority of them in the department, and they would know it was one of them, and probably noted the fight, they tell me.  That way we can close out the files."

"The ones who did it should have to pay for the death."

"Even if they would've killed us instead?" Ryan asked.  The commissioner sighed.  "This has been going on forever, sir.  We have rumors of people who're over five thousand."  That got a shudder.  "There were older ones but he ended up taking them down when they tried to take over the world."  The commissioner looked at him.  "Most of us wouldn't fight if we weren't challenged but there are those who do want to thin the herd.  We're not going to lay down and die."

"Can't you do it another way?"

"No.  That's the only way we go.  I wish some days I could just fire and kill 'em.  It'd make things easier than keeping up with sword practice."

"That's why you have the sword," he said.

Ryan smirked and nodded.  "And why I'm a chosen warrior of Ares.  That's why I have that tattoo.  I'm also on hand to help when Winchester things happen in Miami."

"I suppose that's useful.  I heard rumors that John Hagen came back to life, Horatio?"  Horatio nodded.  "How?"

"Demon.  They wanted to use him as a vessel to get Sam Winchester.  They all handled it together and he's trying to figure out what he's now doing.  Xander and I have been working on things with him."

"Is Xander our new head Don?"

"No."  Horatio smiled.  "Though some people are deathly afraid of pissing him off.  He's mostly...outside the power structure but he has his pull.   Don Cheva is still in charge.  They have mutual respect.  Now and then things happen that require Xander to go threaten people in the poker circuit so he gets scary looks for a while."

"So he's like a warlord who's kinda of in the underground and kind of not?"

"He's more a King that's kinda of in the underground and kind of not," Ryan corrected.  "He's got a white knight personality."

"Then earlier...."

"The man helped destroy who he was," Ryan said quietly.  "If I could've spared him that, I would've taken it instead."

"I suppose I can understand that.  You're not with him, correct?  I know he has two boyfriends, one in the lab."

"No, I'm one of his backup helpers."  He smirked.  "I'm like his protection patrol really.  Whenever he gets stolen, I get sent to get him."

"I thought we had a team for that."

"We do.  They handle most everything.  Before we got them, I got to go save Danny from China, Xander from seventeen other countries, and twelve demon planes, and a few other things.  Plus planned trips when I couldn't come back from a noticeable injury too soon."

"I see."  He considered it.  "So this is very underground?"

"Very few know," Horatio agreed.  "Some of the agents who got read into GHS found out because a few are members of both.  A challenge happened at a convention basically."

"I'm sure that pleased them to no end."

"No," Ryan said dryly.  "But they dealt with it and talked to some Watchers of our group, and accidentally some of the other group that goes by that name who's over people like Rupert Giles, and figured out they couldn't do a thing about it really.  We've served honorably in the militaries, we've fought for our countries.  Some of us are shitheads but most of us just want to live as well as we can."  Someone knocked so Ryan opened the door.  "Hey, Danny."

"Fu wanted to know if Xander suddenly had the mercy disease?"

"I talked him into letting Mr. Giles live until his friend Buffy died," Horatio told him.  "He's leaving Miami however."

"Good!  That'll probably wreck him for weeks on end when he does take his head."

"That's all normal to you?" the commissioner asked.

Danny looked at him then snorted.  "I'm about to go out there and torture the guy myself," he said bluntly.  "I'll enjoy it more than Xander would though.  Maybe I'll even bring Wade since he likes to torture."

"Ask Roque, he's still in LA hanging out with Buffy," Ryan offered with a grin.


"They're trying to figure out what Willow's going to do."

"Why?" Danny asked more cautiously.

"Because it managed to escape her supposedly genius brain that birth control is a good idea.  That's why she got sent to the coven in Devon, so they could make sure she didn't slide and kill people."  He smirked.

"Aw, damn," Danny muttered.  "Is that who he got morning sickness off of?"

"Could be.  Not real sure," Ryan admitted.  "I know he doesn't know yet.  Jensen told me because I wondered why she was writing me an email to apologize for something."

"Damn it," Danny muttered.  "He thought he had gotten rid of her."

"Yeah, well, she did almost raise him," Ryan said dryly.  "So it'd be like a sister to him."

"Figures.  So, any word?"

"Not yet."

"Fine."  He shrugged and shifted, looking at the commissioner.  "So you know?"

"I found out earlier when someone told me that the head of my crime lab was going to stand there and let someone kill someone else."

"I was trying to calm him down," Horatio said.  "Though there has been a suggestion for an approved area to take challenges since the warehouse district has become problematic."

"My last one was some guy from Tennessee," Danny said.  "I took him in the 'Glades."

Ryan nodded.  "My last one was some guy from China who traveled all the way over here to see what I had learned.  I gave him the option of backing off but he was apparently old enough to remember Alexander's push and hated the ones who trained me.  I took him in the 'hood.  That's where he jumped me in the middle of a street.  I got us out of the way," he told Horatio.  "Our watchers were on their way before I let him attack me again."

The commissioner nodded.  "How do other areas handle it?"

"New York had a few known areas that were good for challenges.  No cameras, no witnesses, that stuff.  It was a rumor within the department, told to you in the academy by someone or your rookie ride along if they didn't.  There's a few abandoned factories that got used as well.  A lot of times, Watchers will pick an area that's safer so they know where to monitor.  They spread it to an immie that knows about us so we tell the others."

"I heard Mac's last one took out half a fashion week show," Ryan told him.  "And then caused a lot of other problems."

"Yeah, he took out Connor too."

"Huh."  They looked at the commissioner again.  "Connor was going to rescue me from that battle ring and leave Xander there.  Xander had been his boyfriend and student before he got with Danny and Don."

"That doesn't seem good."

"No," Danny said.  "Which is why we agreed, Connor was his.  But his cousin needed it to handle something so he took his head and then went to smite their enemies."  He shrugged.  "It's very mediaeval at times."

"Xander swore up and down he was going to use a laser gun one of these days when his wrists were sore," Ryan quipped.

Danny snickered.  "My boy'd do that," he agreed.

"He's still not supposed to have those," Horatio reminded him.  "They're mostly classified."

"Yeah, you tell 'im that," Danny said dryly.  The commissioner was looking confused.  "He don't know?" he asked Horatio.

"He should know.  All of the upper branch of the department knows."

"This is the same Harris," he said.  Horatio nodded.  "Is that how he has weapons?"

"No, that's the poker circuit and demons," Danny said dryly.  "Some are very nice presents."

"Some are kinda tacky though," Ryan added.  "The chocolate vagina statue," he said when Danny gave him a dirty look.  "I won't even go into the bazookas with gems."

"Or the skull that frustrated the ME's in the next county for over a week," Horatio said.  "Or the tiger cub and mummies."

"Yeah, them too, or the two virgin pros that one of them hired him so he could have his last het sex before Xander became his wife," Danny added.

"The insanity of a level ten," Ryan quipped.

"Nah, only that one.  Most of them don't come out of the house," Danny sighed.  "But we work too many hours, he's bored at home all day, and if we made him quit playing poker again we'd never hear when someone wanted to attack the lab."

"Or us," Horatio agreed.

"Hmm," Ryan agreed, grimacing.  "Xander told me that one of them wanted to pounce me recently.  I told him she'd have to be a good girl, I only dated good girls."  He shrugged.

"Andrea still has that crush on Sam," Danny said.

"Sam could use a nice girlfriend.  One who was just as overprotective as Dean is," Ryan quipped.

Horatio gave him a dirty look.  "Enough."


The commissioner stared at them.  "Why did I agree to take this job when the last one quit?"

"You wanted the higher office?" Ryan guessed.  "Thought it'd be easier since we like you more?"

"Probably," he sighed.  "Fine, you have it all covered up?"  Horatio nodded.  "Will anyone say anything?"  Horatio shook his head.  "Let me know when they do happen.  Because if one gets into the open, I'm holding you responsible, Caine."  He left.  He had a headache all the way down to his car.  His nice, new car.  Straight from the dealership that morning.  He got in, stuck in the key.  Turned the key, fiddled with the volume on the radio when it went on.  Put the car into reverse.  Turned to look behind him.  Then he and the pretty, shiny new car exploded.

Horatio flinched at the sound, him and the others rushing outside.  "That was the commissioner," he said.  The others were getting fire/rescue there.  Trying to put out the car.  Horatio grabbed one of the extinguishers and worked around the back end of the car, near the gas tank.  The engine had exploded, not it.  "Move people back!  The gas tank hasn't went up yet!"  They all moved.  The fire trucks got there.  "He doesn't have a driver."  They checked, he was dead.  His head was in the backseat.  His body looked like hamburger.  They got the fire out before the gas tank went up.  Horatio was scowling.  "Ryan, tapes.  Now.  Danny, check with our guards.  I am going to check the other cars."  He stomped over to work on that.  Just in case there were more bombs.


Xander found his father in a bar.  Which wasn't really shocking.  He nodded at the bartender.  The place was a dive and someone there knew him.  Xander kicked the stool out from under his father, staring down at him.  "Fancy seeing you in Miami."

"I see you grew back that gay hair," he sneered.  "My son...."

"Has two boyfriends.  Yeah.  They love the hair.  It's all sorts of fun for them," he said smugly.  "Why are you in Miami."

"It's a free country," he sneered.

"Not while we have Homeland Security," another guy quipped.  "He your daddy?"

"Stepfather," Xander said dryly.  "Thankfully I have better genes."  The old man stood up, still sneering, hands balling up into fists.  "You didn't learn when people got you back for helping kidnap and torture me?  I mean, seriously.  Most people wouldn't have come near me again."

"You're ours and you're coming back to fulfill your destiny!" he shouted, lunging to hit him.  Xander kindly kicked his ass for him in about six moves.  He lay on the floor panting, holding his chest.  "How did you do that?"

"Training.  I could do that at eight though.  One of the thugs in Sunnydale taught me."  He stared at him.  "Of course, he wanted to fuck me but we talked him out of it when I set his balls on fire."  He smirked.  "Now, why are you in Miami?"  Officers stomped in.  "Hi, guys."


Xander looked at them.  "That's my stepfather."

"Shit," one said, looking at him.  "Don't look much like him."

"No, I don't.  He wants to kidnap me again to bring me back to the cult my mother started so I could go fight for the good guys."

"You do plenty of fighting destroying those who want to kidnap you," one of the officers said.

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, some weeks."

"I want him in jail!" his father shouted.  "He nearly killed me."

"You threw the first punch and I'll gladly go," Xander said dryly.  He shrugged.  "It'll be my first offense so I'll probably get probation."

The officers nodded.  "Probably.  And he has a good mental claim if that kidnaping was true."

Xander nodded it was.  "They even cut my hair."  That got a shudder from the officers.  He grinned.  "That was back when I had Greg."

"I remember when it got chopped off."  They hauled the older man up.  "Want to come with us please, Harris?"

"Sure.  Can I ride in a different car?  I drove."

"My partner rides with you."

"Fine.  That's reasonable."  He handed him the keys.  "Don't look in the glove box."  The officer nodded, walking them both out.

The command sergeant came out of his office when he heard the gasping going on.  "Harris?"

"My stepfather.  He wanted me back in my mother's cult to me as a figurehead of fighting for the Light.  Apparently I'm Xena."

"You're gay enough to be," his father sneered, trying to hit him.  Xander let the officers handle it.  "You're too weak to fight, boy!  You have to come back!  We can fix you so you can fight again!"

Xander stared at him.  "No, I'm not going to beat your ass in front of officers.  I'm smarter than that.  As for fighting, I get into plenty every month.  I spar all the time and keep in practice too."

The sergeant sighed.  "What happened?"  He needed to know how much migraine medicine to take.

"He walked into the bar, knocked his stepfather on the floor," the officer with Xander reported.  "The old man apparently tried to hit him so Harris kicked his ass.  He agreed to not fight it if his father wanted to charge him.  I drove his car down so we didn't have to have them in the same cruiser."

"That's reasonable.  We know Harris knows the law."

"Damned if I want him in Miami after they tortured my ass the last time," Xander said bluntly.  He leaned against the wall.  "If he wants to charge me, yay.  I'll take it.  I did kick the stool out from under him.  I did defend myself.  Because I know what he's going to try to do."

The sergeant sighed.  "Let's get Caine...."

"No, sir, someone blew up the commissioner in their parking lot," someone called.

The sergeant looked at him.  "When?"

"Twenty ago."

Xander pulled out his phone to call someone.  "Were you that mean to Horatio's station?  He might have to repair more things the city can't afford."  He listened.  "Huh.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Tell Horatio it got put on at the dealership.  The one I talked to had no idea why."  He nodded, calling over there.  Xander put his phone back with a small shrug.  "That'll stress everyone out for weeks on end."

"Probably," the sergeant agreed.  "Thanks for that intel gathering."  The boy grinned.  "You're still in trouble if he wants to press charges.  You know the DA's hate your boyfriends."

"Yeah, I know."  He shrugged.  "What're they going to do?  I have no record."  The sergeant moaned.  "I have past trauma from the last time."  More people rushed in with knives and headed for them.  Xander blinked, protecting the officers when they got close to them.  "What the hell?"

"You're our savior!  You'll save us from the dark things!" one shouted.  "You have to come back!"  She attacked him.  "Or else we'll have to go with you."

Xander pulled off something and tossed it at the group.  It went off with a 'fmomp' noise.  "Knock out," he called.  People were already coughing.   The cult members fell down.  A few officers did.  Their buddies pulled them out of the way.  Xander looked at the sergeant.  Then he handed over the pin since he was getting a strange look.  "Sorry?"

"Practical," he decided.  He put the pin down.  "Where are you carrying that?"

"Special weapons bag in case I get taken again?"

"Huh.  Take it off."  Xander handed that over too.  "Any special precautions?"

"It gets punctured and things disappear for good?"

"I can make sure it won't."  He put it carefully into an evidence bag and put it in his desk drawer then came back.  "That was handy, thank you.  Next time, some warning?"

"Sorry.  Two had guns."

"Yes, sir, I'm seeing four guns in the open from fallen hands," one officer reported.

Xander pointed.  "I saw hers and hers."  They watched the officers pat the cult members down and disarm them, then put them into cuffs.  "Guys, only lasts for about thirty.  It's a new fast acting formula."  They finished up, smiling when the moans started.  He looked at the sergeant.  "Sorry to usurp."

"No, I like that," he decided.  He called the higher ups, who were already pulling their hair out.  They could come yell at the kid.  Though it was starting to look reasonable.

"At least it wasn't the cult in Pensacola," Xander quipped.  "They nearly blew up the family heirloom bed."  A few officers snickered.  "It's the only family heirloom we have."

"You're dirtying it by doing gay things on it," his father shouted.

Xander waved.  "Whatever.  Considering your mother had her own girlfriend on it a few times, I'm not going to think that."  He glared but didn't struggle.  Xander looked at the people who came in.  "Sorry."

Don stared at him then at the old man.  "Isn't that your worthless parent?"

"Yup, the one that's still alive."

"What happened?" Don asked.

"Someone told me he was down here.  The rest of these nice prisoners were part of the cult."  The Chief of Detectives gave him an odd look.  "My mother started one.  She wanted me to be a fighter for the Light.  To save them."

"I remember hearing that you were missing because of something like that."

"My father escaped the people who decided to torture him because of what had happened.  These nice cult members wanted to get us both free so he could drag me back.  I admit I walked into the bar intending to kick his ass over the last time we saw each other.  I kicked him off the stool and sneered.  He tried to kick my ass and I made him sorry because of it."

"Once here, the cult members tried to break in so he pulled out a knockout gas container," the sergeant said.

"Special rescue bag?" Don guessed.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Nice job.  Very helpful."

"I need to make a few more.  I used the last one today and the last few went to when I had to get myself free of the embassy in DC."

"You can deal with that from the house since I want you there for the next two weeks," Don assured him with a smug look.  Xander glared.  "Tough."


"You let Giles live?"

"Horatio talked me into letting him live as long as Buffy does.  Pity."  He shifted again.  "Longer story but part of this one," he told the watching people.

"Is nothing ever easy around you, Harris?" the Chief of Detectives asked.

"No.  I wish but no.  This is all old Xander drama, from before the hormones, and my parents wanting me back there.  That's why they started the cult."

"You mean you didn't always have them?" one of the officers asked.

Xander shook his head.  "My old life kept them so pushed down I didn't notice.  Anya helped with that a lot, plus patrols and things.  They didn't come out until I made it to New York on my second road trip."

"Wade's Anya?" the sergeant asked.  Xander grinned and nodded.  "Huh, that's interesting."

"I didn't know he was seeing her until I had to go over one day," Xander said with a small shrug.  His phone beeped with a second text message.  He pulled it out to look at it.  "No, Wade, I don't really have any torture victims for Anya and you to enjoy," he muttered as he typed.  "They're talking about arresting me for kicking my father's ass at the moment so it'll be hours.  Summon a succuba or incubus."  He sent it and handed Don his phone.  "I think she wore him out again."

Don read the message, snorting.  "Yeah, I think so too."  He put it into his pocket.  "Is my bitch being charged for helping or for kicking his old man's ass?" he asked the sergeant.

"He wanted to press charges, Flack."

Xander looked at his old man, who was looking scared.  "I can easily take the charges.  Even if I do end up in a cell for a few days."

"That might be a bit dangerous," Don pointed out.  His overlord, the Chief of Detectives, gave him a strange look.  "Hormones."

"Oh, forgot for a minute."

Xander smirked.  "Danger does hold it down some."

"Yeah but not for two weeks," Don said dryly.  "Which would mean you'd end up hormonig the whole prison and then we'd all be in trouble."

"Not like they can have little sociopathic babies," Xander said.  "And half of them would be trying to do that anyway."

"Good point," the sergeant said dryly.  "You're definitely unique, Harris."

Xander grinned.  "I try really hard, Sergeant."  His stepfather got up and tried to tackle him but Xander moved him and the sergeant out of the way.  "Why would the Light need a drunk like you?" he asked him.  "If they did, I'm sure they can find former commandos who drink a whole lot instead.  I know about three."  He stared at him.  "Still think I'm too soft because I'm gay?"  His father growled.  Xander walked over him to stand next to Don.  "I'm going to be safely over here fighting my urge to kill him."

The Chief of Detectives looked at the elder Harris.  "Do you really want to press charges?"

"If I'm going to jail for that fight, he's going to jail for that fight since he started it by being gay!" he shouted, trying to get up again.

"I'm not pressing charges over the fight," Xander said, giving the overlording boss an innocent look.  He got an evil smirk back.  "I just want him gone and to stay the hell away from me.  Before I lose my temper and burn down his whole cult camp with them in it."

"I think we can arrange a restraining order," he said.  He looked at him.  "Would that suit you?"  The old man sneered but nodded.  "You're free to go, Xander.  You and Flack have a nice talk."

"Nope, I'm going to escape," Xander said.  "Necklace?"  The sergeant went to get it for him.  The officer handed over his keys.  "Thank you, guys.  Have a better day."  They walked out, Don having a hand on his back.  "I'll be good."

"Shut up, Xander.  Before I spank."

"You try, you're sleeping on the lawn," Xander assured him.

"It might be worth it tonight."

The Chief of Detectives smiled.  "There is still the matter of the invasion of the precinct and your attack on him here."  The elder Harris started to struggle but the guys were very happy to put him in with the cult members.  "Harris needs a long vacation," he told the sergeant.

"Hiring freeze, sir.  We could all use one."

"That's gotta stop," he muttered, walking off to talk to the other higher ups.  They seriously needed less overtime to get the budget balanced again.  Before hurricane season.  Or Spring Break.  He was even nice enough to pull statistics on how much the overtime was costing them.  The labs' overtime alone had broken the monthly expectations.  Apparently they never went home.  Which thinking about it, was probably why Harris was being such a pain in the ass.


The pro-tem commissioner, formerly the Chief of Detectives, looked at the City Council.  "We can't afford not to.  We can't pay the overtime bills.  It would cost less to hire a hundred new officers and upgrade another two hundred than it would for our overtime budget to continue at this level for the next year."  He handed over those statistics.

"Why do they have so much overtime?" one of them demanded.

"Because people still rob, kill, and rape others in the middle of the night," the mayor said.  "As Caine says, Miami never closes."  They all groaned.  "He's really using that much overtime?"  The commissioner nodded.  "How?"

"He was already understaffed by about one person in each felony lab and two in the non-felony labs before the hiring freeze.  Right now he could use double that.  Which would still be cheaper than letting their overtime go that mad.  They might still have some but they'd also have days off again.  Because I know Caine hasn't taken a day off in a month.  He hasn't been able to.  Taylor's only had one and that was for his annual physical."

They looked at the numbers then at him.  "We can't really afford either option," the mayor said.

"Then, sir, we have a massive problem.  The Union contracts are going to hinge on that being removed.  They've already warned us of that.  Which means they have the right to go on strike."  That news earned a mass shudder.  "While that may save on overtime costs," he said dryly.  "That won't help the city.  We'll have an surge of crime and those loyal enough or the ten percent they decide to keep on the job will be overworked.  Which means less tourists as well."

"So less income," the mayor said flatly.  The commissioner nodded.  "Is there any way around all this without having to take off the hiring freeze?"

"If you commit to increasing staffing by so many officers.  To fill in the present needs, but keep the hiring freeze otherwise.  Perhaps.  That would solve the union's problems.  That would solve some of the overtime.  You'd still be looking at hiring at least another class worth's of cadets and upgrading a lot of officers who deserve it to higher positions.  Which would still leave a street gap.  To be honest, we need those new three hundred officers so we can move up and protect the city."

"If we added a hundred?" one asked.

"That would help but it would mean we couldn't let anyone advance in their careers.  No new detectives, which we need just as much.  No higher officers.  We have three critical vacancies that have temporary holders that we have to have filled soon or we'll lose out on a grant.  Which means less budget by about two million."  One hissed and winced.  "Which we also can't do because of the hiring freeze.  Also, the replacement levels in other city fields is lower than it should be.  That's why trash isn't being collected until the day after it's supposed to be."  The mayor muttered something because the news had twitted him about that recently.  "The rumors say that they're thinking about striking as well."

"So, if we reopen hiring for a limited time," one female on the board said.  "To fill all the vacant spots."

"It will reduce overtime.  It'll still mean a lot of hiring though."

"At the overtime rates, it'd be cheaper to hire anyway," one agreed.  "Overtime is time and a half, right?"  The commissioner nodded.  "When is it not?"

"After going over sixty hours in a week with some exceptions.  In the lab it's ninety because sometimes cases mean you have to stay over."

"Can we remove the overtime pay?  Put them on straight salary?"

"They'd never permit it and you'd have the labs striking," the commissioner said.  "The union would throw fits as well."

"Why do we have a union?" she asked.

"Because we have to," the commissioner said.  "We voted them into being."  She slumped.  "They protect us from some very bad things, and do negotiate our benefits for us."

"Benefits, can they be trimmed?"

"We've already trimmed city employee health care," the mayor said.  "Right now it's not even fully covering being shot in the line of duty."

"Which is another point the union had.  They do dangerous things and most normal people would freak out the first time they did it and got shot at."  That got a groan.  "They're trying to protect their people, and it is reasonable.  I know an officer who got grazed the other day, had to have minor surgery to close it, got told that the insurance wasn't going to cover it because he was on a foot chase and not near his vehicle.  We advised him to appeal that and tell the hospital that."

The mayor huffed.  "This is going to be too expensive."

"How expensive do you think a strike will be, sir?"

"The budget would have to go down," one said dryly.

"Yes and then you'd have to shoot your own stalkers," the commissioner quipped back, earning a dirty look.  "We would also have a wonderful upswing in gang violence."  That got another groan.  "I'm told they're planning on keeping it down somewhat right now.  We have a truce situation going.  If there's not enough officers or they don't feel cowed by us, that'll end within a day.  We'll have multiple shootings, stabbings, muggings, break-ins, car jackings, rapes, all that within days.  Then it would leave another gang to stop them or someone like another thug.  Or someone like a vigilante."

"We have one of those already," the mayor said dryly.  "How is he doing since I heard he had been arrested?"

"His stepfather was in town to try to get him back into the cult he and his wife dreamed up to turn Mr. Harris into Xena.  Only less gay."  The mayor whimpered.  "When the cult invaded to get their leader and supposed savior free, Mr. Harris pulled out knockout gas.  Which I appreciated a lot.  So did the officers since it was fast acting and wore off within a half-hour.  He's also the reason that Caine has a place to start with the bombing investigation.  He called someone."

The mayor nodded.  "I want to help.  We can't afford it."

"Sir, we can't afford not to."

"The lab repairs," he said.

"They have that grant and work is already beginning."  The mayor smiled.

"Who gave the labs a grant?" the female member asked.

"Mr. Harris.  Since his boyfriend's in there and he's deadly worried about his safety, he let Horatio have a grant to fix that and Taylor's problems that almost cost him insurance."

"It never ends," she sighed.

"The construction crew is being looked at for shoddy practices and a lawsuit," the mayor admitted.  "I want to."

"Sir, I can't hold Miami safe if we don't.  We're already understaffed and outgunned.  We aren't replacing officers when they go down.  We're at a critical level right now.  We can't keep going on this way."

"We can put detectives back in uniform," the mayor said.

"No, sir, we can't.  They're just as overworked as the uniforms.  Especially in places like homicide.  Flack's desk has over thirty files he was finishing up and Tripp's had a larger pile.  A quarter that aren't solved yet."

"Why is the paperwork so backed up?" the female member asked.

"Because they don't have time to do that when they're always on the go for other cases," the commissioner said.  "Though, paperwork is always the last thing to get done.  Caine's over a month behind on his paperwork at the moment.  He's also got two very high profile cases with the bombing earlier."  That got a nod from the mayor.  "I'd love to say we can keep this up, sir, but we can't.  We absolutely can't.  It's only going to get worse when spring break hits in a few months because that's all overtime.  Thankfully weather predictions say that we'll only have one more hurricane this year."

"Can we try to reduce overtime?" one of the older men asked.

The commissioner shook his head.  "How?"  The man gaped.  "The cases have to be solved.  It's not like all of them have set shifts.  They're supposed to but things like the lab, you can't always take a set shift.   Crime happens when it does.  If a case comes in an hour before you're due to leave and you're up, you can be there for hours processing a scene."

"We've also had highly important cases, like snipers and things, that have meant the lab staff didn't leave for days on end," the mayor sighed.  "We have two right now."  The commissioner nodded.  "Have you talked to Caine?"

"Not today.  The old commissioner was talking to him before he got blown up."

"Damn.  All right....  A thought, convention?"

"I'm seeing leave paperwork for Cascade, Washington.  We're off the list for at least another year.  I think the national head was considering Dallas or somewhere in Texas for next year."  The mayor beamed at him.  "They're good for us and most of the officers never have a problem.  The few anti-gay ones we send to another area to keep them out of trouble."

"They also boost shopping a lot," the mayor said.  He looked at him.  "How many can we get away with at the least?"

He figured it out.  "Two hundred to cover the open street spots and the people moving up."

The commissioner sighed.  "That's two cadet classes."

"Yes, sir.  Three would be better but two can work.  We could also place openings for detectives from other cities."

"They'd start with a higher salary," the female said.

"Yes but we wouldn't have to train them so they could start sooner," the commissioner said.  "Without the thousands spent to train them.  That's how we got Taylor's lab from New York and it has worked very well for us."

"I'll consider that," the mayor decided.  "Us moving some up would probably be cheaper."

"They'd still get a pay raise," the commissioner said with a smile.

"Yes but not quite as much as one who's been working for ten years."  He looked at the statistics.  "We'll discuss it and let you know."  The commissioner nodded and left.  "We are apparently over a barrel."

"Why can't they reduce overtime?"

"Do you want to wait an extra month to find out who killed someone?" the mayor asked him.


"Then they can't."  That member slunk down in his seat.  He looked at the others.  "He's right, other necessary city services need some too.  We can remove it for six months to get us back up to full staffing, which would reduce the budget at least slightly."

"I'd rather hire the new officers than have to wade through years of clean up after a police strike," the female member agreed.

"They won't," that one idiot said.

"Yes they will.  Just like doctors did a few years back and ER's had to be shut," she reminded him.  "By law and the union rules they'd have to keep ten percent on but the rest could picket or get a vacation.  They'd take volunteers from those who had to have their paychecks.  By the way, that would be street officers.  There's nothing in there that says they have to include detectives or specialists in that ten percent.  So no SWAT, no crime labs, no Vice...."  The mayor shuddered.  "When is the new contract due?"

"Two months," the mayor said quietly.  "We have two months."

"If we're making good progress, they won't screw us," another one said.  "They wouldn't want the strike any more than we would.  That's a terrible last resort."  They all nodded that was true.  "How likely is it really?"

The mayor called someone.  "Detective Flack, it's the Council and we wanted to ask a question."

"Hold on, sir, I'm questioning a suspect."  He said something to someone else and left.  "All right, what did Xander do this time?"

"Nothing yet.  How likely is a strike?"

"Very.  We've all been warned to prepare for one if possible and they're already taking names of volunteers.  The head of the union and our local union rep have both said it's much too bad to let go on because we can't work like this.  I can't keep cases straight because I've got twenty open ones and sixteen cold right now.  I haven't made it home before a twelve hour shift any day in the last two months.  They're also worried that the city's going to start making us go on green flu status, sir."

"No, we want to avoid the strike," the mayor said.  "The commissioner said we could hire some and it would help?"

Don snorted.  "If you moved up all the people who deserve to move up to a higher badge at the same time, you'd need something like two, three hundred people, sir.  That's just new rookies or newly stolen from other cities."

"We could hire some first year officers," the female agreed.  "That would save training costs for them but their paychecks would be at about the same rate as our new cadets."

"That may work, but I doubt we can poach that many."

"There's three boards that have police department openings," Don said.  "I have no idea what they are but Horatio would since that's where he posts lab openings."

"I'll ask him to give me the addresses so I can look, Detective.  That may be a huge help."

"Sir, none of us *want* to go on strike but we can't keep doing this.  Shit, someone's trying to break out."  He hung up and went to help.

The mayor hung up, looking around.  "We need to fix this."

"Remove the hiring freeze to implement a full staffing but not beyond," the female said.  "We can try to poach some first year, or maybe even second year, uniforms."

"That would be less expensive in the long run," the mayor agreed.  A few didn't look happy but he couldn't help that.  "What about the other city services like the garbage workers?"

"Please hire at least another six," she said.  "That way trash is no longer backed up."

"They still can't strike," that one idiot said.  "It's against the law."

The mayor shook his head.  "No it's not.  They've done it in other cities.  They've striked in Miami about fifteen years ago.  It's not against the law as long as they leave a skeleton staffing effort."

"They can even rotate some of them out," another guy said.  "That's what they did then.  For about the same reasons if I remember right.  I was building my business then and had to hire private security in case something happened."

The mayor nodded.  "I looked at that time, it was about the same reason plus cost of living had went up but paychecks hadn't.  The health insurance wasn't covering families."  He shrugged.  "Well?"  They considered it.  Better to hire than a riot and violence upswing that would keep tourists away.

A few voted no but they were hardheaded assholes.


Speed looked up from typing up a report.  "What?" he asked the council member.  "Horatio's busy.  He's telling the commissioner who bombed the last one and showing him why."

"I want to speak to him now."

"He's busy," Speed said again.  "You can wait.  If it's that important I'm second-in-command.  I can probably start things moving if we have to."

"Fine.  Then you tell your boss he has to reduce overtime somehow."

Speed felt that little mental voice snap.  He calmly stood up, grabbed the folders on his desk and handed them over.  "Then you have fun solving those."  The man spluttered.  "I'm already out of hours for the week.  So those felony level crimes will have to wait until next week."

"No, you're out of time for the month," Ryan reminded him from his desk.  He looked over.  "You're on overtime for next month, Speed, the same as the rest of us are."  He stared at the idiot.  "We can make sure you have what we know so you can go question on those, sir.  That way you can take some of the pressure off us."

"I don't know what you people do!" he shouted.

"That's not our problem.  I'm sure someone can teach you to use the machines," Speed said dryly.  "If you want us to go home, then we have to follow the dictates of city council."  He sneered.  "You have fun with that.  Ryan, tell the others the City Council rep here is going to be doing some of our work for us since he wants us to quit having overtime."  He gathered up things.

"I've got that kid case," Ryan muttered.

"Bring it, we can help from the cookout area so we finally all eat.  Because I haven't since yesterday."  He grabbed things and locked his computer and desk, walking off.  Ryan brought the folder with him.  Speed smirked at the others.  "City Council member Tylers has decided our overtime is over for the week, people," he announced.  "Apparently he thinks he can solve cases for us.  Which I know we all appreciate."  He pointed.  "If you're on overtime he's ordered us to go home."  That left about two people and an ME in the lab.  He looked at Ryan.  "I'm ordering."

"I think Xander has a full freezer probably.  Bum his grill?"

"Could," he agreed.  "Did he ever replace the sitting areas?"

"Yeah, I think so."  That got a nod and they left.  Ryan saw the reporter and waved at them, the folder in his hand.  "City Council Member Tyler said to quit doing overtime even though we're understaffed and have critical cases."

Speed smirked.  "It was nice of him to order us off until we're no longer in overtime.  Which for some of us is next month."  He got onto his bike and roared off.

Ryan got into his car.  The camera crew was following him.  "Anything truly vital, we'll still be talking about while we're resting and recuperating from the last month and a half of twelve and sixteen hour days.  You might want to make sure that doesn't hold true for the rest of the city's officers."  He slid in and closed the door, heading to Xander's to make sure they didn't need anything.

Horatio heard the screaming start and stomped out of his office.  "What are you doing in my lab?" he demanded.  The man dropped the folders in his hands and started to rant.  Horatio stared.  "Well, you did order him to quit doing overtime," he said dryly.  "That's your own fault."  He looked at the commissioner.  "I'll try to get them back by tomorrow."

"Please.  I'm going to drag him somewhere and shoot him."

"Peas," Horatio said with a smirk.  "That company has the new lime pit we've already found a body in."

"Not a bad idea."  He walked down and dragged him off.  "Horatio, it looks like they're all gone."

"Everyone was already over hours."  He went to get his sunglasses and hummer keys, locking his office.  He did pick up the files, noticing they were all his husband's.  He put them onto Speed's desk and headed out to talk to his people.  It was like Speed to lead a revolt.  The reporters ambushed him outside.

"Sir, did City Council honestly say to stop working if the officers were in overtime?" one shouted.

"One city council member did.  We are making sure it is a full order.  If not, we will be back in the morning.  Shift change is only in an hour and most of my people probably brought files home with them."  He put on his sunglasses.  "The commissioner was in my office when that representative did say that to, apparently, my second-in-command.  I'm going to be getting an update within an hour from the commissioner.  Before then I'm going to talk to my lab's people."

"Lieutenant, are you in overtime due to the budget keeping the hiring freeze?"

"We are," Horatio agreed.  "My people haven't been able to work less than a ten hour shift in months.  It has put undo strain on them but we all know that crime must be solved.  I'm told that the mayor is aware of the problem this is causing and that the council is talking about it today.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to talk to my people and then the commissioner."

"Will this affect other departments?"

"That is what the commissioner is finding out.  As of this moment, no one is certain.  It is up to the individual commanders to make that call to him and then tell their people."  He walked around them and got into his hummer, driving off.  He was going to paddle Speed later for walking out that way.

The reporters hurried to city hall to get the mayor or someone to talk to them.  Other departments had already heard and were staging their own walk-outs.  This was huge news.


Xander looked up from his poker hand, still hiding from Don, when the news hit his phone.  "Aw, shit," he muttered.  Everyone stared at him.  "People, let's stay a bit calm but someone in City Council made the lab go home tonight because of the overtime."  A few shuddered.  "Horatio's probably livid."  A few nodded.  "So let's not have the gangs doing things tonight please?  I really don't want to have to avenge any family.  It's been a long month already."  Someone paid him out of their current winnings, heading to tell the higher ups that news.  Even Don Cheva wasn't looking forward to what would happen if the gangs decided to act up during the strike.


Jensen leaned into Clay's apartment.  "Some idiot in City Council told the lab to go home, they were out of hours."

Clay shuddered.  "That's going to be messy."

"They're all gathering in Xander's yard."

"Figures.  He'd cook for them and half of them have only eaten at their desks probably."  He looked up.  "Thanks for the warning."

"Xander's not home."

"Call him?"

"Phone keeps reading as busy.  Someone's playing with it."

Clay found the little neck thing and used it.  "Xander, Clay, the lab's all heading for your house."

"They need to buy more lawn furniture.  I only have enough for about six people.  Thanks for the warning."   He hung up and saw the curious looks.  "Special emergency gear."  He grinned.  "Let me hit Home Depot."  He cashed out and went there.  Plus somewhere to pick up food.  The freezers were practically bare.  He tried to call Ryan but his phone wasn't working.  "No wonder he used that."  He found his little thing and hit the one for Ryan.  "Someone with a truck needs to meet me at the butcher because we're nearly bare, Ryan."

"Can do," he said.  "What's wrong with your phone?"

"Don't know yet.  Thanks."  He hung up and called the butcher shop.  "Hi, it's Xander."  He grinned.  "I'm okay but I'm heading your way in about thirty, forty minutes.  Apparently I'm hosting a cookout tonight and didn't get told.  Yeah, that'll work.  Thanks."  He hung up and hit Home Depot.  They could deliver.  They were good about that.  He got what he wanted and had it sent to the house then stopped at the butcher to let someone pick up the huge boxes of meat.  They wouldn't fit in the corvette.   Ryan was waiting on him.  "Hi."  He kissed him on the cheek and they walked inside together.  Xander paid in cash because he knew if someone was playing with his phone they probably could get his cards.  The butcher was even nice enough to help haul things out to Ryan's car.   Then they drove home.

Speed looked up from his browsing.  "That's a delivery truck."  He went out to get the furniture off the truck, smiling and tipping them.  "Thanks, guys."  They set it up around the grill area and Speed went back to scrounging food.

"Ryan's here," Eric called.  "So's Xander.  They hit the butcher."

Speed came out to start the grill.  He took the first box of meat to clean up and put on.  "Thanks."

"Welcome."  He kissed him on the cheek.  "How many more are coming?"

"Most everyone.  Some needed to change."  Speed smiled.  "You didn't have to buy this much."

"Yes I did.  I have to fill the freezer."

"I noticed."  He gave him a one-armed hug.  "Go clean up.  You're carrying thug germs."  Xander laughed all the way inside.  Speed went back to laying things on the grill.  Danny and Don pulled in together.  "You guys come out too?" he asked.

Don nodded.  "Yeah, most of them didn't even ask Frank, just left.  Ray's still finishing one last thing since Adam's not back from wherever yet."

"Saudi," Xander called.

"Good to know."  Xander came out with pitchers of lemonade.  "Thanks," Danny said with a grin, taking a kiss.  "Should we talk about earlier?"

"Nope."  He put things on the table.  "Don, can you please put up the umbrellas?"  He nodded, helping that way while Danny helped Speed.  Xander made different sauces to coat things with and a large salad, plus some pasta for a pasta salad.  That would go best.  When he came back out, Horatio was there glaring at Speed.  Xander gave him a hug.  "If you try to spank him he'll make your ferrets sleep with you tonight instead of him."

Horatio looked at him.  "It was still bad."

"Hey, he wanted us out."

"Not that way I'm sure."

"Then next time he should learn not to be an idiot."

Horatio felt his stomach clench.  "I know it's been hard, Speed."  Speed nodded, turning back to the grill.  "It's going to be fixed soon.  The commissioner said they're talking about hiring enough to fill in the larger gaps."

"That probably won't help us any," Ryan said from his seat.  "Unless we can add about three people?"

"I'm hoping we can at least add one."

Calleigh shook her head.  "One will dent some of it, Horatio, but not a lot."  He nodded he knew that.  "I'm sorry.  I love the labs.  I really do.  I can't keep going on this way though.  I'm not even getting sleep now."

"I have an herbal thing," Xander offered.

"No, I just need a full night at home, Xander.  Thank you anyway."  She looked at Horatio.  "We can't."

"I know.  We're still working on it."

Speed nodded.  "We need to.  No one even complained."

"Some of us brought our files," Ryan admitted.  "I have that kid killing," he told Calleigh.

"I forgot.  How is that going?"

"Poorly.  I'm stuck."

"We can talk about it over lunch," she said.  "Like the lunch meetings we used to have."

Horatio nodded.  "We can."  He looked at Speed again.  "We'll work on it."

"We'd better.  I'm exhausted, H.  I can't.  Not without a lot of help now."

"I know."  He gave him a hug.  Mac and Stella pulled up with most of their lab behind them.  More of the homicide departments showed up.

"Xander, anything vegan?" Stella called.  "I know we have at least one."

"There's some tofu in the box but I'm not touching it," Speed told her dryly.  "He's also making pasta salad and regular salad."  She smiled, working on that beside him.  Horatio went to get a drink and sat down.  "Horatio and Calleigh said we can go over anything we brought with us," he announced.  They all nodded.

Xander looked out.  "If I need more chairs, someone call Home Depot.  Someone screwed with my phone."  He went back to his fussing over things.  He came out with bowls.  "If we want more veggies, go raid my fridge," he told the vegan with a smile.

"Thanks, Xander."  She went to do that and came back with a nice veggie salad she had sauteed.  His kitchen was fantastic to work in.  The first things of meat came off the grill with her tofu and they sat down to talk, bitch, complain, and work through the backed up folders.


Xander stopped at the bag room at Fu's, then went to the butcher shop the next morning.  Two precincts were having a demonstration and needed his special brand of insane help.  He stopped and got two smaller grills and gas canisters then drove to the stations.  He parked behind them and got out, looking at one of the guys smoking.  "It helped Don's unit and the lab last night clear up a lot of backlog."

"You cooked?" he asked, looking hopeful.

"I went to the butcher shop, got two grills and gas."

The man went inside to tell his boss, who got people to come help him.  Xander handed someone a fifty.  "Go get me some ice since your freezer isn't big."  He nodded, sending one of the rookies to do that at the corner store.  They set up in the garage and let the guys put their own food on.  Xander made marinades and sauces for them, plus unearthed the other stuff.  The commissioner came by to glare but oh well.  "It helped last night."

"I heard your boyfriend had arrested a lot of his backlog today."

"They sat down and talked about the cases, getting some fresh eyes," Xander said.  "Beyond that, these guys have been overworked for weeks now.  They deserve the food."

"They do deserve it."  He patted Xander on the back.  "How are you blowing this much on us?" he asked quietly.

Xander smiled.  "I stopped in my poker winnings.  Why?"

"Someone said that you're being looked at?" he hissed.

"No.  That's Faust's thing since I got him in trouble for doing that to me and sending those idiots at me to be destroyed.  He's going to be in big trouble later."  He smiled.  "I'm not known to be nice when people try things against me."

"Someone else?" the officer helping him asked.

"When I got taken last time with some of the retrieval team it was CIA and spook wannabe emperors who wanted to beat me so they could prove their worth.  I was their testing ground.  Well, I destroyed them and the guy who sent them at me I'm working on."  He smiled.  "He's not happy.  He really won't be happy in about three hours or so."

The commissioner winced.  "Will we see fallout?"

"We're not DC."

"Thank God," he muttered as he walked off.  He got a hotdog and went back to talking to the others.  The police officer's union was staging the demonstration.  The head of the union glared at his food.  "Harris."

"I like that goofy gay guy," he decided, going to get some of his own food.  "Did we get enough for the protestors, Harris?"

Xander looked at him.  "I meant to treat the poor guys here who've been overworked but the protestors probably have as well.  There's another two boxes of stuff in the ice chests and local precinct boys and girls get first grab."

"I guess that's reasonable," he decided.  He smiled.  "You do spoil the lab and your boy's homicide unit terribly."

"That's because it's the only time I get to see them," he quipped.  "They're always working."

"We're trying."

"I know."  He left to make sure the local guys got their food first and then the protestors could decimate the rest.  A few of the other spouses showed up with bottles of water and sodas to be put into coolers for everyone and it was nice.

One woman smiled at Xander.  "Thank you for thinking of the vegetarians of us, Harris."

"You're welcome."  He grinned.  "I know a few vegans and one macrobiotic person."  She giggled, walking off nibbling her tofu burger.  Someone had put a sign in front of that part of the other grill so they'd know not to put real meat there and the vegetarians could nibble without worry.

Danny parked and got out, walking over with another two boxes and put them on top of a cooler.  "More hotdogs and burgers, guys."  He went back to get more water and soda, hiking it back with some help.  "There."  He grinned at his boy.  "C'mon.  I got burgers for us at the lab's lunch."  Xander waved and left them alone.

"The grills?" that officer called.

Danny looked at him.  "Store 'em for the next hurricane time when the electric's out."  That got a nod.  Danny followed Xander's SUV back to the lab and they parked and carried in burgers.  The detectives had ordered pizzas.  The lab had ordered burgers so Danny had picked them up.  They all gathered to talk about things.  Plans had to be made if the PD did go on strike.

Don came trudging in.  "Mine jumped off a pier and drowned," he announced.  Xander gave him a hug.  He grinned.  "You showed up ta help?"

"I did.  I was helping feed the guys at the precinct they're having the demonstration at."

"That's wonderful."  He took another kiss and they sat down to eat.  He looked around.  "No Frank?"

"They ordered pizza," Danny said.

"Huh."  He went to get his and put into the pot for it then came back to eat with them.  When they turned to lab things, he brought Xander back with him to talk with his people.  Frank grinned.  "Danny found him spoiling another group."

"I heard.  Nice work, kid."  Xander grinned.  "The protesters get any?"

"After the local ones got their fill.  That's what I said."

"Even better.  You know, one precinct while you were gone asked if you'd feed them."

Xander grinned.  "I did that Friday."

"Thanks," Don said, taking a kiss.  Xander grinned back.  "You should eat."

"I ate a burger while we were grilling."

"Good.  Hate it when you forget sometimes."  Xander shrugged.  "This thing that's going on with the phone?"

"Faust.  He's not a happy boy.  He's going to be not a happy boy later too."

Don looked at him.  "Are you in evil mode?"

"Yup."  He grinned.  "But only mildly evil mode."

"Is Jensen helping again?" Frank asked.

"Nope."  He beamed.  "It's all good, Frank.  He's in New York and most of his people are in DC."

"Good!"  He sat down to eat his pizza.  It was good and they got to talk while Flack got his cuddles in.  Then Xander left to go play some poker or something and they got back to work.

Frank's phone rang and he answered it.  "Tripp."  He listened.  The man on the other end sounded displeased yet slightly amused.  "You know, he said he wouldn't if you didn't attack him.  He's like that."  He let Don take the phone.

Don smirked.  "Faust, how you doin'?" he asked dryly.  He smirked at the wall as he complained.  "Well, you did try to use my boy.  You knew he was going to take them out of that.  You helped so...."  He snickered.  "No, I don't think so.  Well, because Xander could easily win it all back in the poker circuit," he said dryly.  "He's off doing some of that right now.  Beyond that, all those suitors who love him so?  I'm sure they'd love to help him get rid of you."

He texted Xander from his cellphone, getting one back.  "So, Xander wanted to know how Marjorie was doing?"  Faust went quiet then let out a scream.  "Huh, that sounds bad.  You should have that looked at, man."  He hung up.  "I don't know what Xander did that caused that girlish scream of fear."  He sat down and got back to work.  He texted that to Xander, who sent back a kiss.  "Huh, well, maybe I'll work really hard later tonight to get him out of evil Xander mode."  He put up his phone and went back to work.

"You'd better," Frank ordered.  He checked news servers out of DC and New York.  A small raid of a shipping company probably wasn't related.  Pity it wasn't covered yet.  He could use the stress break.


Xander looked up as someone stomped up to him that evening.  He was still playing cards, though not at his typical place.  He was hanging with some of the gang kids and wannabe gang kids.  "What?" he asked quietly.

"You did what to that evil overlord wannabe?"

Xander grinned.  "He fucked with me, Don Cheva.  What did you want me to do?  Pet him on the head and tell him good doggy?"

"No," he said patiently.  "Xander, you really should learn subtlety.  Especially by your age."

"I'm only twenty-six."

Don Cheva stared at him.  "Most men are married by your age."

"No, the average age for marriage for guys is now twenty-eight.  For girls it's twenty-six."  He grinned.  "He sent those people at me.  He's also been trying stuff since I beat them."

"Perhaps if you were more subtle he wouldn't."

Xander snickered.  "Don Cheva, I doubt he knows half of what I did to him yet.  He's probably still fussing that the doll business his sister runs got busted because he uses them to ship things like weapons overseas."  Don Cheva and a few others whimpered.  Xander smiled.  "Really, he'll be finding things I subtly did for *years* if he lasts that long."  He checked his cards and threw in a low chip, letting the others move on.

"Any discards, Harris?" the dealer asked.

"One."  He tossed down a high card, which no one expected.  He got one back and it was better.  He grinned at the don, putting his cards down.  "I promise I'm being mostly subtle.  I can be when I need to be."

"Did that Jensen boy help you?" he asked.

"Some.  Garcia, Abby, and McGee helped more though."  Don Cheva shuddered.  Xander smiled.  "They're some of Hubert's favorite geeks.  He considers Abby and Garcia part of his harem."

"I'm sure he does."  He looked at him.  "Should I know anything?"

"Depends, how do you like Honduras?"

"The way it was earlier?" he suggested dryly.

"Mostly.  Just some people don't want to work together anymore."

"Oh, dear."  He crossed himself.  "They could start another civil rebellion."

Xander smirked.  "No, they're just fine without that."  Don Cheva stared until he grinned.  "They'll have some wonderful marriages to make peace."

"I don't want to know, do I?"

"I don't think you have very tight ties but I might shop for a few just in case wedding presents."

"Can you undo whatever you and Wade did?"

"I'm sure they'll be very happy married together, Don Cheva.  Wouldn't that be better for the locals?"

"I suppose," he sighed, walking off shaking his head.  He called Wade.  "Your boss is being unreasonable.  Can you undo whatever you helped him do in Honduras?"  He listened to the confusion.  "You didn't?  Oh, dear.  Thank you, Wade."  He hung up and went to church to pray.  It seemed that Xander having to deal with things sent him to an altar a lot.


Wade hung up and looked at the phone then called someone.  "What's going on in Honduras?"  He listened.  "It took me ten months to set that up, Xander.  Why are you ruining it?"  He listened.  "Yeah, I guess them being found fucking each other might cause some marriages with their sisters to save their honor.   What will that really help though?  No, I'm not the population control fairy," he sighed.  "Fine, is it going to cause more peace or less?  Sure, yeah, more peace is always good for the world.  I guess.  What else did you mess in that I might be asked about?"  Xander snickered but hung up on him.  "Oh, shit," he muttered.

Anya hugged him from behind.  "It'll be okay."

He looked at her.  "What do you know about this?"

"The three top warlords are going to be having some fun times together, probably found.  Xander knows they might try to kill them but it's going to be obvious it's a new chemical weapon being used so they're going to salve their honor by marrying each other's sisters in a 'I slept with your brother, might as well sleep with his sister' thing."  She smiled.  "Which should bring some peace to the region as they all work out and merge groups."

"Somewhere Max has got to be having seizures over this," he complained.

She kissed him on the cheek.  "That's because he was lacking in all the things that make a man a real man.  Cunning, strength, protectiveness, hotness."  She nibbled on his ear.  He looked at her.  "You are."

"I'm not usually described as protective."

"You nearly killed that boy who wanted to pat my tummy."

"I did, yeah," he realized.  He took a kiss.  "I should undo that."

"Why?  Xander said Faust has a lot of ties to them."

He whimpered.  "That's so evil."

She kissed him again.  "Yes I am, and wicked, and sexy," she teased between kisses.  "That's why I should get that hormone bomb thingy that the chemist he has worked up and use it in here so you can go wild some night."

He patted her stomach.  "After you're better."

She sniffled.  "Thank you."  She hugged him.  "Can I still have oral sex?"

"If I must."

She smirked.  "If you don't, I'll bite when I give you some."

"Then I probably should," he agreed.  She had already given him two new scars doing that to him.  He didn't need a third.  She might bite through it next time.  She did taste different but still nice.  He tasted more of himself than her at the moment, which was making him happy.


The next morning, the shadowy figure of Faust linked up to his computer system to check on his compadres.  Some of them weren't answering.  A few had sent announcement emails about family marriages.  Those worried him.  Why were those three suddenly getting along?  They shouldn't be.  He checked other things.  They were fairly normal, just a few twitchy sorts.  He always had those.  One was predicting doom, like usual on a Monday morning.  Though, it was Thursday he realized.  He paid more attention to what was going on around him.  His own hacker went looking for reasons for the doom prophecy.

What she didn't find would amuse him later when the agents in Homeland Security, his coworkers, burst in to deal with him.  "That hacking team," he sneered.

"No, no hackers needed.  We went to them after we caught you doing something, dumbass."  His partner pulled him up and out to the car.  Maybe he'd shoot him, maybe not.  He hadn't decided yet.  When their computer techs came, he noticed two that weren't theirs.  "Ladies," he said bluntly.  The other of the trio walked up behind them smiling.  "The last time I knew, none of you were employed by Homeland Security."

"Yes, but we're all responsible for the protection of the US," Garcia said, pinching him on the cheek.  "You scowl like a toddler.  Now, let us at his systems since his hackers are pathetic and below.  And so are yours."

He called that in but let them.  They had been responsible for breaking a lot of problems recently.  Agent McGee was smiling a goofy, happy grin that made most of the agents want to smack him.  Of course, they all feared Gibbs if they did so they wouldn't.  Because Gibbs might send Sanders to work a case with them again.  They never wanted to see that again.

McGee got the main desk terminal.  "Awww, that lust bomb Xander's chemist was working on made sure that the three Honduran generals are going to intermarry, Garcia.  I owe you a dinner."

"Sure, cutie, let me know when."  She winked at him.  What she found amused her.  "Abby, switch with me, dear.  I ran into weapons and they're not my best field."

"Sure, Garcia."  They switched and got back to work.  "Aww, someone wants to build a national arsenal.  How sweet of them.  Gibbs will be happy to see it."  McGee and Garcia both snorted, McGee shaking his head too.  They found all that they needed to.  Then they found the stuff that linked back to treason and terrorists and all the other neat stuff.  Abby looked up with a grin.  "Can you get me a caff-pow while I finish taking down this terrorist cell out of Libya and Senegal?  Please?  I'm a bit dry."

"Sure," the agent said weakly, calling for one of the rookies to find her one and tell the boss that.  Their boss arrived ten minutes later with one and came to ask what they were finding.  It was all sorts of unpretty.

"Hey, I think I found him sponsoring some people who are trying to recreate that GHS formula again," McGee said.  "Though the last two vials are still in the safe."

"Excuse me?" the head agent asked.  "GHS formula?"

"Faust was wanting a female version of Xander," Garcia said with a smile.  "Since he was adamantly not gay.  So he had a lab in Las Vegas create a formula to make someone suddenly spike their hormones.  Basically switching on their GHS troubles.  Xander found out and had most of it stolen but he already had two vials.  That way Greg could rip it down for the society and make sure no one else did that.  McGee, same group?"

"One researcher in common but no.  These are in New York.  They're using a different GHS to see if their body chemistry is easier."  He went back to typing.  A printer started to work.  "That's their lab.  It was listed as having a chemical leak last night.  Not sure which one since they're also listed as doing some bio warfare things, SSA Perkins."  He smiled.  Then he got back to work.  "Hmm.  That's really mean, Xander.  Xander gave all Faust's cash in the US to Anya and Wade's baby."  The girls cooed.  "I'm hoping they're adopting the little thing out."

"Wade?  Max's Wade?" Perkins asked to make sure.

"Someone brought him back to life and gave him to Xander to warp and help him in Miami," Abby said cheerfully, taking a drink of her high octane soda.   "They're doing very good together and no one wants to steal Xander anymore."  She got back to work.  "Shoot, the Senegal portion of that group doesn't have computers.  How stupid."

"Probably don't get regular electricity to charge them," Garcia quipped.  "On the other hand, I have three very nice groups, one out of Belgium, who want to donate to our national arsenal so they can then destroy it."  Perkins looked over her shoulder to see.  "That one's in Belgium."

"Where are the others?"

"South America somewhere.  I'd have to ask someone who's been down there."  She smiled at him. "Hotch might have their numbers if you ask him."

"SSA Hotchner, BAU?" he asked.

She smiled and nodded.  "My boys are working on a new case today."  She got back to work.  "You know, it sucks.  Xander said there's only one other after this guy goes down.  Then we'll have to retire and just be buddies, Abby."

"Of course we are," McGee agreed happily.  "Gotcha, bastard.  He was having someone try to hack in and delete his files, Perkins.  They're very sorry and in your agency."  Perkins looked then called in to have them arrested.  McGee got his full files off his system.  The ladies were dismantling things nicely.  They left to have lunch and go back to their real jobs.


Six hours later, Perkins walked up to McGee.  "Who's the last one?"

"Xander hasn't fully given us a name.  He only knows he's there and lurking.  He's another wannabe Faust and Max."  He handed over what he knew.  "We've seen hints of him.  He calls himself Serpiente or snake."

"I've heard theories about him being someone's kid."

"We're not sure who it is.  Wade might know.  You'd have to ask him.  Xander's still seeing hints and the guy's not bothering him yet."

"I'll go to Miami and ask someone to ask Wade.  This Xander...."


"The one in Miami?"  McGee smiled and nodded.  "Is he doing the same thing?"

"No, they screwed with him."

"So he's not building his own underground anything?"

"He's not clear headed enough for that.  So unless Wade is for him, probably not."

"Thank you for that information, Agent McGee."  He went to talk to his boss.  The director knew about Harris.  They had his full file.  It had taken a hacker to get the damn thing unlocked but that was fine.  Faust had a fairly comprehensive one on the guy.  It seemed he was a decent sort, just mixed up in things.  They made arrangements to go to Miami the next day to talk to the one the file said the boy would listen to.


Horatio looked up as two VIP agents were let into his office.  "Yes, gentlemen?"

"Is Harris building an underground movement of his own?" the director of Homeland Security asked.

"Not that I'm aware of.  He does have friends in lower places, and some upper laces, but he doesn't want to be Faust or something similar."

"He has a chemist on his payroll?"

"The man was going to be forced into the open market.  With what he knew, he could have been dangerous.  Xander's been having him work with an engineer to design things like the implanted communication equipment and the organic tracker the locals use."

The Director considered it.  "I saw reports on those."

"They're very handy."

"I noticed."  He huffed.  "He seems to be manipulating things outside the US, Caine.  Why?"

"Because they were causing him or Miami problems.   I know he's had some groups consolidating so there was less native strife growing.  Which then slowed down the rate that the young men down there joined gangs.  Which then showed up in Miami running weapons, people, and/or drugs."

"Then I guess that's a good thing," the director said.  "Can we talk to him?"

"I have no idea where Xander is this morning."  He called Wade.  "Where's Xander?"  He smiled.  "I could use both of you in my office immediately, Wade.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Xander's getting ice cream.  It'll take him about thirty minutes to do that.  I know he was reacting recently because Faust used him as a proving ground, which made Xander destroy them.  All."

"Yes, he did a lovely job with Faust yesterday," the lesser agent assured him with a smile.  "The trio he sent to us did a wonderful job getting us all sorts of information no one's had for years and making little connections for us."

"They are good at what they do."  Wade walked in first.  "Xander?"

"Heading home with the ice cream.  Give him another twenty."  He looked at the two.  "What?  The generals in Honduras screwing got in the way of plans?"

"No," the director said with a smile.  "Not in the least actually.  How did he do that?"

"No clue," Wade admitted.  "He didn't tell me."  He smirked.  "You want to ask, so go ahead."

"Is he the same sort of boss?"

"No, he's much more sane," Wade assured him.  "Doesn't want to fund or help terrorists, doesn't want to make plays, nothing."

"That's good," the director agreed.

"We do like Xander for that," Horatio agreed.

"There's one left," the lesser agent said.  "Serpiente."

"Little bastard of Max's?  Yeah, Juan Raul Hagton."

"Ah," the director said, typing that into his system.  What he got was 'classified' and Max's fingerprints.  "Any ideas on him?"

"He was born before my time.  When I got given to Max, he was in school in Austria or Germany I think."  Xander strolled in.  "That was fast."

"It's in the freezer downstairs."  He looked at them.  "Yes, gentlemen?  How can I help you?"

The director looked at him.  "Thank you."

"For?" Xander asked.

"Not being a power player."

Xander grinned.  "People like that like to own people like me for fun.  They also cause my family and poker buddies stress.  Which I hate.  I only go into battle bitch mode when people make me.  Or when I'm really pissed off at someone."  They both nodded.

Wade patted him on the back.  "That's very nice of you.  What did Don Cheva want?"

"Me to learn more subtlety."  He grinned.  "I explained that I'm very subtle sometimes.  When I want to be.  Sometimes though I have to be less than subtle."

"Yes you do," Wade agreed.  He patted him again.  "Why does she want butter pecan ice cream?"

"Sweet, slightly salty protein?" Xander guessed.  "Get her a small pint and she'll be happy."

"If you're sure."  He looked at the agents, smirking.  "It would be nice for Miami if there was a tiny bit more peace so some of the drug pipelines could be shut down by officers."

"It might," the director agreed.  "You don't want to make takeover plans?"

Xander made a scoffing noise.  "Why would I want to?  That's a whole lot of work."

"It is," Horatio agreed.  "What did you do to those three generals?"

"Mark, my chemist, came up with a lust grenade, like a smoke grenade?  Since they're causing such tension I decided they needed a tension break.  Because them intermarrying would be good for the people.  Wouldn't it, Wade?"

"It'd be very good for the people.  Have you been talking to the recent refugees again?"  Xander smiled and nodded.  "That makes more sense.  Did it work?"

"Very well.  They had a nice, long, destressing orgy.  Their sisters caught them at it and they agreed they could unscrew their honor by intermarrying."

"Which will join their various peoples and mean one larger problem instead of smaller ones that no one can fight.  Serpiente might mind."

"Who is he?"

"Max's brat."

"Huh.  Garcia and them can help.  They said they would."

"I'll let them know later, Xander."  He patted him again.  "Why don't you take the ice cream home and fuss stuff into the freezer."

"Because I'm bored?"  He shrugged.  "There's too much danger with the impending police strike for me to stay in GHS Xander mode."

Horatio sighed.  "You're not the only one with that problem," he admitted.  "Did you remember to sign up for the convention, Xander?"

"Yup, last night.  Steve's going to talk to some of my poker buddies' friends out there to make sure we won't have any problems."

"That's very wise," Horatio said, smiling at him.  "Go home and fuss for a few hours.  We'll be over tonight."  Xander nodded, leaving them alone.  "Wade, please tell the hacking trio what you know about him?  That way he's not a worry for Xander?"

"I will.  It's not a problem, Horatio.  He's an arrogant little shit who needs to learn a few important lessons."  He smirked.  "I'll tell Jensen too, that way he can help.  He was pouting he didn't get to help with Faust."  He left them alone.

The director of Homeland Security stared at Horatio.  "You have a very strong defense team down here."

"We do," he agreed.  "It's kept Miami very safe.  Is there anything I need to know about Faust since he had bugged some of us and was bothering Xander?"

"They fixed all that and sent him back all his money, took out the investigation, all that," the lesser agent said.  "Though it was noted he had a temper."

"When he needs to."

"We don't mind that as long as he's helping you protect the city, Lieutenant."  Horatio nodded he was.  "Then you can handle it."  He handed over a folder.  "All his dealings in Miami."

"No, some of those are Xander's," he said.  "He was trying to take credit for them."

"You allow that weapons stash?" the head asked.

"Yes.  I have direct oversight.  So does our retrieval team."  That got a sigh and a nod.  "I'd rather have it in safe hands then in the open underground.  Xander is very reasonable and does let us borrow if we need things.  Plus it keeps him from being stolen."

"I heard.  Fine.  I know the director of the ATF signed off on it so I can't say much."  He stared at him.  "Your upcoming strike?"

"We're hoping they can mitigate it.  Hopefully by hiring some officers."

"I hope so as well.  If not, we'll have agents helping and filling in."  They left, going to finish the reports.  That young man had sense and was being protective of his family.  They could like that.  That's what their agency was supposed to do too.

Horatio read it over again, calling people to come see him.  "Faust was trying to take credit for some of Xander's things," he told them.

"Faust.  The idiot wannabe emperor?" the commissioner asked.  Horatio nodded.  "Interesting.  Which is Harris' stuff?"  Horatio marked them and that gave them something to deal with.  Plus money they could confiscate.  "Do we have a hacker?"

"I can see if the retrieval team's hacker is busy," Horatio offered.  He got a nod so he called Jensen to see if he was busy.  If not, perhaps his sister wasn't?

The End.

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