Catherine watched Danny stomp around his lab muttering to himself. Stella just gave her a long look then waved a hand. "That's why I called. It's not like we wanna go in there."
"Sure." She knocked then walked in, closing the door when he glared at her. "Issue is?" He growled. She sighed and moved closer. "We all have cases like that. What's the issue?" she asked more firmly.
"There's absolutely nothing at this scene that's not supposed to be there and there's no way it's not a homicide," he complained loudly. "Nothing. No hairs, no fibers, no dirt, no microscopic specs on the clothes, nothing!"
She nodded. "I have one of those." He glared at her. "Seriously. You think in thirteen years I didn't see damn near everything coming through this lab?" She smiled at him. "Get into Don's desk, get the expanding file folder thingy that squishs, and bring back the file marked Hamdermill."
"Now." He stomped off while she looked at what they had. The pictures weren't the same but it was clearly a problem. She checked over the content of the trash that Danny had already done and nodded. Everything looked perfectly normal except the fact that a beheaded body had been found in the middle of it. He stomped back in with the file folder and stood on the other side of the file. "That's one of my four cold ones." He frowned a bit more. "Exactly like this only a different means of death. Let me look this one over while you look that one over. Okay?" He nodded and pulled over a stool to look over that one while she looked over this one. She laid a few pictures aside, something about them was bothering her. Then she frowned and picked one she had laid aside back up, pulling over a magnifying glass. "Damn," she said quietly, smiling at him. "Shoe print?" He came over to look so she outlined it on the photo. "That's a shoe print. Shag carpeting that old isn't very good to get one out of but you should be able to gauge a relative size from that. There's the trail he took," she said, outlining another disturbance in the long-haired carpet. He hugged her and she smiled. "I'll expect you to look over that other one and see if you can see anything I missed later." He nodded and headed back to the scene with that photo. She gathered everything together and put it into the folder for him, putting hers under it.
Mac coughed. "He have one like yours?" She nodded. "Did you find anything?"
"Carpet disturbance in the shag. Footprints or as close as he'll get. He went to look and I'm letting him look over my old one too."
"Good." He came in and closed the door. "She's still bitchy."
"She's probably going to stay bitchy. Why did you get rid of Aiden?"
"I found an opened envelope. She was thinking about planting evidence on a rape case," he said quietly. "There wasn't any and we both knew who had done it, but we couldn't prove it."
She nodded. "Desperation. She wouldn't have been the first." She shrugged. "What do her performance evals look like, Mac?"
"Decent, but she's got to get along better. She and Stella work okay. She and Flack work okay most of the time. She's good, Catherine, but that personal problem is getting out of hand."
"Do you think she could pop on a drug or alcohol test?" He shook his head. "How about on a psych profile?" He shook his head more quickly. "Then she's either got to deal with it and move on or she's got to switch so she's not destroying the morale and cohesion of your team, Taylor. Maybe you should do something odd, like date." He shuddered and shook his head. "Mac, it's only making you miserable and a single date might prove helpful on both areas that hurt you."
"You're not fine," she assured him, walking past him and patting him on the arm with her cane hand. "You're very not fine. You're moping. You gave me that same look when Claire went to her mother's after that fight and didn't come home for a month. If you're lonely, go out with someone. Just a casual thing. No one said anything more than coffee had to happen. It's not like anyone expects you to marry the girl after a first date."
"I tried, it wasn't going too well," he admitted quietly.
She looked back at him, then opened the door. "It never does the first five times, Mac. It's like riding a horse. The first few times you're really sore, even if you had a lot of fun. Then your hips and your butt get used to it again. Go dancing at a decent, upscale place and take her for coffee before taking her home." She smiled at him and he nodded, accepting that advice and the fact that she had just started the rumor going so Lindsey would hear, giving her back a small grin. "It's about time. It's been a few years and Claire would kick your ass for moping this way. Hell, she'd expect the next wife's first baby to be named after her probably." Mac laughed at that, shaking his head. "You sure about that?"
"Yeah, she wouldn't want me single but not naming kids after her. Thank you, Catherine."
"Welcome. Anytime, that's all a part of the job, Taylor." She smirked. "I'm leaving that there for him."
"If there's a problem I'll bring it to my office." She nodded and headed off, going to check in with Stella and tell her what the problem had been. He went back to his office to think. Maybe she was right. A night out could be fun and stress relieving. He saw Don go stomping past. "Don!" He backtracked and came in. "If I wanted to spend a night out at a decent, upscale dancing sort of club, where would I go?"
Don blinked a few times, then grinned and wrote down a few names and addresses. "Clean, nice, quieter than a club sorta club, and definitely more upscale. Horatio drug her to the second one when she insisted we go out. I snuck away and went to our old haunts instead so they could have a real date." He handed back the pen. "Is Danny okay?"
"He's fine. His case has almost no evidence at all."
Don winced. "She's got one of those."
"She let him get the file to look over while she looked over his for him."
"Decent. Thanks." He walked out, going back to finding his original target. "Stella!" She turned and smiled. "S'up with my case?"
"Not a lot. I'm waiting on results." She smiled. "So far we've got toxicology back but not the other stuff. I was waiting to get it all back at once to tell you anything."
"That's fine but her husband's called twice. He's either worried we'll catch him or that she'll be forgotten. I can't tell which yet."
"It should be about another hour. Tell him to call back tomorrow and you'll be able to give him what you can then, not enough to jeopardize the case but enough to tell him how she died." He nodded, heading off again. "Hey, Don, any word on the practical exercise she's running?"
He smirked at her. "Yeah, a lot." He winked and strolled off again.
"Damn it, I wanna know what she's doing for it. So far it hasn't been too bad." She went to bug the techs to get results.
Toni looked over her mother's shoulder, frowning a bit. "Why are you doing that? Are you role playing with the fathers?" she asked.
Catherine smirked at her. "The practical exercise."
"Oh. Joy. Well, at least Danny knows how to get to the resort."
"And he's working that weekend."
"Fuck." She sighed and headed into the kitchen. "Need anything since I'm up?"
"Yeah, one of the pain killers and a soda please."
"Sure." She brought it back. "You all right?"
"Yeah, just a running and jumping day," she promised, smiling at her. "You think that'll go okay?"
"I think it should as long as they don't delve too deeply into your background and end up at yours and Uncle Donny's hangouts," she offered dryly. "I doubt Uncle Horatio's kids would like Hardware or Torque very much."
"Point," she agreed. She sat up suddenly, then grinned. "That gives me one hell of an idea." She opened a new window and wrote an email to someone she knew, who sent back one that he'd look for her. Then she got back to work. "Think we'll get the detectives?"
"Nope. Well, unless Yelina brings Ray Jr. up," she offered. "You did tell him she could. Any idea why?"
"Yup, big idea why. Don't worry about it and we'll call you if we need your help with part of it."
"Yes, mom. So is this something like a scavenger hunt?" She nodded. "Okay. Can I let Danny in on it?"
"Nope. Stella's already pumping everyone for information." She looked at her daughter. "Make sure he's got that Sunday off one way or another, dear."
"Yes, mom." She went back into the kitchen to fix a snack. Something really odd was going on but it was making her mother cackle pleasingly again. Someone slammed the front door. "I'm making microwave mac'n cheese if you want some," she called.
"No thanks," Don called back. He watched her take the pain pill. "I heard the elevator got stuck and you had to do the stairs."
"Three times," she sighed, smiling at him. She let him have the laptop and he smiled at the plans. "Did you call him?"
"I did and he's arranged to quietly come back three days later than everyone else. He said he'll have a formal list of who's coming up the week before." She nodded and stole a kiss, making him smile. "Danny still can't figure out who it was but he's not quite as frustrated, and he's taking your old case home with him."
"Does that mean I'm only getting phone cuddles tonight?" Toni asked as she came out stirring the cheese into her macaroni.
"Probably," he agreed dryly. "He's got one right now that had *no* evidence."
"Ewww. Mom had one of those too. I remember she ranted for months."
"He's looking at hers to see if there's any similarities," Don assured her with a smile. "Call him for dinner, make sure he eats."
"Yes, dad. Thanks." She headed back to her room. "When do we finalize plans for the new place?" she called.
"Soon," Catherine called. "Why?"
"I need a bigger closet."
"Yes, dear." She looked at her boyfriend, who just smirked and nodded. Toni was their clothes horse.
He stole a kiss and sat down to help her, getting a swat when she got an email message back. "What's that?"
"Tell him I said hi."
"I will." She typed that in and copied the rest of the information into her PDA. Then she locked it down for the night and her laptop, smiling at him. "What'm I cooking?"
"How about we go out to eat?"
"Because Dad said so."
"Up to you. It'll be all of us." He called his mother. "Should we bring Toni since the princess is in residence this night?" he joked. He smirked and nodded. "Sure, Ma." He hung up. "Tomorrow night is the dinner. Dad threw out his back." She smiled at that. "I know, but it happens." He shrugged and took another kiss. "Something easy that I can cook since you had to hike stairs all day?"
"I can still cook, hence the pain killer."
"I'll let you use it for later," he said with a wink, getting up to go fix them something. "Pasta?"
"Works for me. Not mac'n cheese," she said before he could think about it. He grinned and got down the real pasta and the jar of sauce he liked out of the fridge. "Thank you, Don."
"You're welcome, princess."
She smiled and went to change clothes, coming down in a set of shorts and a t-shirt, without the bra on. He smiled at that and nodded. "Oh, they're going to be having fun later too," he promised. She blushed and went into their backyard to lounge around. He could eat out there. It was a nice night and they had a huge bug zapper so they wouldn't get eaten. By the time he got out there, she was teasing the stray kitten that had adopted them, making it meow pitifully. He handed her the first plate and went back to get a small bowl of jarred gravy for the cat, bringing it out with his food and their drinks on a tray. The cat strolled over casually and sniffed, then got to work lapping it up hungrily. "Maybe we should take her in."
"I tried that, she hates the house."
Toni came out and scooped up the kitten and the food, carrying it inside and back to her room. "She's going to vets tomorrow."
"Thank you. Watch out for fleas, dear." She sipped her beer then dug into her dinner. "Thank you, Don."
"Welcome, Cath." He relaxed and got down to eating. It had been a pretty easy day. Only three new bodies. Pretty light for a Monday.
Toni smiled at her boyfriend when she brought him his lunch the next day, kissing him on the cheek. "The Sunday of the practical exercise I was told you have to have off."
"Mom said so."
She shrugged. "I don't know. Mom said so."
He moved closer. "Do you have anything you can give me to get Stella off my ass?" he asked quietly, glancing around.
She kissed him on the cheek again. "Think Clue in the backgrounds and lives."
"It's a *practical* exercise, Danny." She smirked at him. "For real sort."
He hissed. "Fun at least?"
"Yeah, and Uncle Horatio is taking a few extra days off at the end, but that's being kept secret so far. Mom said I'd be alone those nights. Oh, come see." She led him out to the car and the small carrier out there. "This is the new princess of the family. I'm still trying to figure out what to name her."
"Is that the stray cat from the backyard?" He teased her through the bars, smiling at her. "You're adorable." He looked at her. "Don't leave her in the car."
"I wasn't going to and she's got water and stuff." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek again. "Dinner tonight?"
"Sure." He smiled as she carefully set the cat down and walked around to drive, letting him close the door. "Thanks for lunch."
"I want you to stay strong and healthy." She gave him a small wink, making him blush before she got into her sports car and headed off.
He waited until she was gone to grin and shake his head. He looked up and found Sheldon Hawkes watching him so he walked over there. "She brought me lunch and introduced the new pet."
"I saw that. She looks really happy, and so do you, Danny."
"Thanks. We're still going really slowly."
"I don't need to know that stuff. So, anything about the exercise?"
Danny smirked. "It's going to be a practical exercise." His face fell. "Literally." He headed back inside with his lunch, going to eat.
"Huh," Sheldon said, considering what that could mean. He went to find Stella. "I got something off Danny since his girlfriend was just here." Lindsey glared at him for that. "He said it's a practical exercise, literally. She brought him lunch and showed off the new pet."
"A practical exercise, literally," she mused, stepping away from her microscope to consider it. "So we'll have some sort of case," she suggested. "Probably outside of our usual comfort areas."
"So that means we'll have limited instructions and clues," he agreed.
She looked at him. "Scavenger hunt?"
"She doesn't seem like the sort," Lindsey said dryly. "Besides, that'd be stupid. We're full grown CSI and this is supposed to be fun and educational."
"Which it could be, depending on how complex it is," Stella assured her. She smiled at Sheldon. "You're going, right?" He nodded. "Who's working?"
"Mac, Lindsey, and Danny. It's over the weekend."
"Good point." She nodded and smiled. "Well, it's more than we had known. I'm going to write the guys in Miami to see if they've got anything yet out of Horatio."
"He might not know."
"Bullshit," Stella said fondly. "With the way they look at each other? He knows everything even before Don does. Don's a 'go ahead and amuse me' sort. Horatio likes to stay in command most of the time. Is she in today?"
"Nope. Gwen had an appointment at ten so she's coming in Saturday instead to lead our CE this weekend." He smirked at her. "How many are coming up?"
"Final list will be in that week. They're coming in Thursday evening, I do know that. I also know that we're supposed to show them a nice night Friday night since the exercise starts on Saturday morning. Friday during the day we've got that CE workshop on DNA that everyone wanted to go over with the guys from the FBI lab." He smiled at that. "You're going? I'm going to be stuck working."
"I'll take notes," he promised, clapping her on the arm. "This could be very fun."
"It could be," she agreed. "If it's something like that, think of the dirt we can get on her and Flack."
"And what they can get on Horatio," he agreed, going back to his break and his sandwich in his pocket.
Stella got back to work with a smile. At least she knew something now. It'd drive her insane for the next three weeks until she knew exactly what was going on, but she could handle that. Curiosity was good for a woman after all. She snuck a glance at Lindsey. "You didn't sign up for this one? There's an open spot."
"No, I didn't want to play along and I've got plenty of hours," she assured her, getting back to work. "Danny could have it if he wanted. He's her protege anyway. This way she could show him off to the Miami crew."
"Maybe. I'll suggest it to Mac." She looked at her sample again, then went to get the reference guide. She had no idea what sort of algae was that color.
Horatio came off the plane with his crew, looking at them. "There's an airport shuttle that can take you to the hotel," he announced. "Tonight we'll rest. We'll hang out there. No going out to find trouble, kids." Ryan beamed at him. "Then tomorrow we've got the DNA lecture and then a night out with the local crew you'll be working with this weekend. Any questions?" They shook their heads. "To the baggage claim area then." He pointed the way and followed, shaking his head and smiling. He saw the look Yelina gave him and smirked. "What?"
"What are you doing?" she asked quietly.
"Having fun and going to see my girlfriend tonight." He put on his sunglasses with a smile, grabbing his bag and leading the way out there to the hotel shuttle. He'd head to her office once he got them into their rooms. He nodded at the single night shift person who wanted to come. She was a transplanted native earlier in her teens. "Can you navigate if they want to go out to dinner tonight?" he asked quietly. She smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Melinda. We're out in Barton and Yelina has the phone number if anything happens."
"Of course, Lieutenant Caine. I hope you have a good few days off with her." She got onto the shuttle, letting him follow her. He showed off their reservations and got a nod, letting Yelina on then closing the door and taking off.
Horatio got off the bus first and headed inside to the desk at the Plaza. "Miami-Dade Forensics," he said quietly. She smiled and pulled up that reservation. "Is everything in order?"
"Yes, Lieutenant. It's noted here that you have a few local contact numbers?"
"Which is where I'll be along with some family," he agreed quietly. She smiled and made note of that then handed over the room keys. He turned to look at them. "The only way to make this work is to do a large suite. There's a separate room for each of you," he ordered, handing over keys. "Melinda was from here so if you need to know how far something is, ask her or the desk people. I'll expect to see you bright and early tomorrow, guys. No hangovers tonight. Save it for tomorrow." That got a grin from Eric. "You especially." He patted him on the arm as he walked past them. "Yelina has her number if you need me." He headed out and got a cab from the doorman, heading to the station. When he got there, he was smiled at by the guys smoking outside. "Bad day?" he asked as he walked past them.
"Every day, Lieutenant. She's somewhere near Messer helping him in the field. Flack's at his desk though."
"Thank you." He headed that way, finding Don grimacing at an older version of himself. "Don."
"Horatio. Dad, this is Horatio Caine."
"About time we met, son," he said, shaking his hand. "How long are you in for?"
"Through early next week," he offered quietly, moving closer. "She's in the field?"
"Yeah, Danny ended up with a case without evidence." He winced at that. "She's had one so she's going over some alternative methods of finding something with him. They hauled out the old broad spectrum lights and things. So we'll be doing a knee rub later." Horatio smiled at that. "Dad wants to look at the house plans."
"Do we have them?"
"We do," he admitted, leaning back to look in his lieutenant's office. "I'm goofing off for another ten, boss," he called.
"Fine, thank you for warning me." She came to the door. "Horatio."
"And I hear you've got a promotion," she said, smiling and shaking his hand. "Your staff?"
"The Plaza for tonight and they'll be bounding around here tomorrow for a lecture." She smiled at that. "Is everything set up for this weekend?" he asked.
"Perfectly set up and Toni knows to play along if they call her," Don agreed fondly, smirking at his father. "He's got a list of what to say to any questions as well, just in case Ryan goes into overdrive."
"Good." He looked at the plans Don called up on his computer, moving closer. "Toni wanted a large closet."
"She likes her clothes," he noted dryly. "His, hers, it'll be needed." He enlarged a section of it. "Our suite." Horatio smiled at that. "The guest room," he said, highlighting that. "Then the other rooms." He showed that floor. "That'll be enough for each of the kids, plus one for Gwen's son."
"Son?" Horatio asked quietly.
"She found out earlier," he offered with a smile. Horatio smiled back. "So it's a Morgan."
His father looked and pointed. "Where's yours going, son?"
Don went back to the master suite. "Here for now, dad." He highlighted an area that was a small nursery. Just enough room for a crib and a window, fully protected. "It's also got an alarm if the baby's taken out of the house and you don't clear the bracelet on it first," he said quietly. "That way we don't have to worry about kidnaping or anything. Plus we'll have a housekeeper and Gwen's having to take six months off thanks to her doctor so she's agreed to watch both kids."
"Why?" Horatio asked.
"The doc said he found something during the ultrasound and he wants to make sure of what it is. He thinks it's a lump of some sort, but he's not sure if it's cancerous or not yet. So he's advised the PD and her boss that she's going to be taking at least six months off and then she'll be coming back with the graduating class at that time." Horatio nodded at that.
"Plus, we've got a yard at this new place." He clicked on his browser and logged into the community's webcam, showing them which plot they were moving onto. "We'll be right there."
"That's got a lot of very strange folk," his father said dryly.
"Yeah, dad, but a lot of them are our former partying buddies," Don noted, staring him down. His father went pale so he grinned. "Sorry, dad."
"You and her and ....." Don nodded. "I don't want to know about that stuff, Don."
"Sorry, dad, but you brought it up." He patted him on the arm. "That means we'll be about a half-hour from you and Ma, plus it's about an hour closer to the resort if we go off for the weekend."
"Good." His father clapped him on the back. "I know you boys are going out for dinner, but can I buy you a burger and a beer? I should get to know Horatio."
"Ask my boss, dad."
"Go, Flack. You're only goofing off today anyway," she said from behind him. "You know Teeth?"
"Yeah, boss. I'm the one who gave him his nickname," he said smugly, grinning at her. "She let me run pretty wild in college, boss."
"I can tell." She shook her head. "I'll expect you to be in tomorrow while she's working."
"Yes, ma'am." He got up and logged off everything, then grabbed what he'd need to go home with that night. "We can take my car." His father smiled and followed them out. Don stopped at the desk. "If anyone asks, my father's taking me and Horatio out for a beer."
"I'll tell her, Flack," he agreed dryly, nodding at Horatio. "With the amount of crap they pulled out, it might be really late before they make it back."
"Knowing how she used ta get sucked into the lab? Yeah," Don agreed with a grin, heading out to his car. Horatio smiled at him. "I know, all CSI do it. Danny's just as bad."
"Is he coming this weekend?"
"Nope. Maybe Sunday. He said he'd be a local source." He winked at him and got everyone into the car, pulling away from the station. "Okay, dad, do you and Ma need directions for Sunday?"
"No, I've got them written down at home, son, or Toni can give them to me. You're sure you want to do it this way? Your mother is still very upset that you're not doing things like she'd want."
"Sorry, dad, but what we want and legal aren't always the same thing."
"Point," he sighed. "So, who is the father of this baby?"
"We both are," Horatio said, shifting to look back at him. "We've decided it doesn't matter to us, Mr. Flack."
"Call me Donny, please." He smiled at him. "You don't want to carry on the family name?"
"I have a nephew for that and I love him dearly. I've been there for him since his father died."
"I'm sorry to hear about that, but I'm glad you've stepped up that way. Is he in?"
"He's flying in tomorrow. His school team has a major event today and he's flying in tomorrow afternoon to join us. Toni's picking him up." Both Flacks smiled at that. "I know they chat now and then so they'll be fine."
"You aren't worried about him and her getting together or nothin'?"
"No. She's dating Danny Messer," Horatio offered dryly. "They're moving slowly but not quite that slowly."
"He's nearly twice her age," he said flatly.
"Yeah, dad, we know. Then again, he understands the little princess," he said patiently. "Sullivans?"
"Please." Don nodded and changed lanes to turn onto a new street. "You three like them together?"
"He centers her, dad," Don said patiently. "He understands about the various ways she's being pulled by her own father and grandfather, plus he's good to her. He's taking it very slowly but he's the reason she started wearing decent clothes and he's the reason she doesn't drive the lam to school most days. She's also the reason he's smiling more and he's more focused at work. They support each other very well. Plus, it's not like Toni's so young mentally. She may be seventeen but she's mentally a lot older. Hell, I know very well she knew each and every time her Ma got hurt by someone wanting her off their case. The same as I know some of the dirty cops she's taken down over the years came after her. Toni's not young."
"She also supposedly faced down Danny's brother twice to protect him," Horatio reminded him.
"She did, and Danny doesn't know about one of them," Don admitted. "She asked that we not tell him that his brother came to her school to try to kill her. Or that she got him down and handcuffed when he knocked out the guard." He changed streets again and found a parking spot, getting out to feed the meter. His father got out and he turned on the alarm once the door was shut. "It's odd, but it works for them. They spend a lot of time talking about history stuff." His father smiled at that. "That's what she likes and what she's doing with her life. He's supporting her fully." He walked them inside, smiling at the bartender. "Hey."
"Flack, Flack. And...."
"Horatio Caine. Miami-Dade. He's up for the CE thing this weekend."
"Ah. I heard about that." The bartender smiled and waved at him. "There's a nice table open up in the back, Don. The boss is back there too."
"Thanks," the older Flack said, heading back that way. He smiled at Horatio. "I'm sure you've got your cop hangouts."
"Not too many in Miami," he admitted. "Most of the time my team goes out clubbing if we go out together, or we have barbeques."
"Yeah, but you guys have beaches and pretty weather all year round," Don said happily. "You guys can cook out all the time if you wanted." He pointed at the open booth. "You want a side or an outside?"
"You two sit together," his father ordered, going to talk to his old friend. "Hey."
Sullivan smiled at him. "Donny!" He got up and gave him a manly hug, complete with back slaps. "What brings you in today?"
"My son and Horatio Caine." He pointed at them.
"I heard." They shared a look. "Your little girl is quite a shaker sometimes."
"And then some," he sighed. "But she's happy and content. And giving me a grandchild," he offered with a smug look. "Finally!" That got a laugh. "We're in for lunch. Who's cooking?"
"That's fine. We'll stick with the burgers since he does so well. Send the waitress our way when you see her." He headed back and sat across from them. "You don't seem to hide things very much."
"I'm too old to hide shit, dad. I could care less what someone thinks about it. Besides, it's not like we announced it or anything. Everyone at the station knew these two were dating and then we're dating so it's a quiet secret." He shrugged. "I'm happy and no one says anything to my face or else."
"One tried with me," Horatio offered. "Someone down there has a brother up here in patrol who told him. He sneered at Eric." He smirked a bit. "Bad idea. He was having a very bad day and went off on him in English and Spanish." Don Sr. smiled at that. "Calleigh had to pull him off." He shook his head. "My team is very protective of each other since we lost Speed a few years back."
Don patted him on the wrist. "I know it still hurts, Horatio. I wish like hell he wasn't dead. She liked the time she had to work with him." He looked at his father. "He's the reason why I do all the CSI ballistic qualifying times every year since this one. Most science guys aren't gonna go for their guns first." Horatio nodded at that. The waitress came over. "Beers and burgers."
"Sure, cheese or not, Flack?" she asked with a smile.
"I'm good with cheese. Who's cooking?"
"Pedro," his father told him.
"Cheese and mustard." She nodded and wrote that down. "He makes a good spicy burger, Horatio."
"Then I'll just take cheese since we've got ketchup on the table."
"Pickle on the side?" she asked with a smile.
"Any brand of beer?"
"Whatever's on tap."
She smiled and nodded, looking at Sr. "And for you, cutey?" she asked with a grin for him.
"You shouldn't flirt, my mother might mind," Don teased.
She giggled. "This is your dad? Then you're going to be a heartbreaker for a very long time, detective." She smiled at his father again. "Cheese?"
"Cheese, onions, and a pickle," he offered. "Mustard too." She wrote it down. "Bud." She nodded and walked off with their order, finishing making her notes on the way. "Son, I don't get flirted with enough, don't discourage her."
"Dad, keep it up, watch me tell Ma," he countered with an evil smirk. His father pouted. "Don't do that. It don't work on me."
Horatio smiled and shook his head. "Did Catherine learn that look off you?"
"Yes," both Flacks said, sighing a bit at the end.
Catherine walked into her house and shut the door, leaning against it. Horatio looked over at her and she smiled weakly. "I found him evidence like you wouldn't believe but we had to pull up the carpet and carry it back. He had flaking latex on." She wandered over once she had dropped her cane off and sat between her men with a sigh of relief. They each kissed her and she let them cuddle her. "Gods, I'm sore."
"Lay down," Don ordered, getting up so she could do that. Horatio got her legs and butt, he got her back, and she was going to be a happy woman. "Toni's with Danny tonight."
"He's home by now," she moaned, arching back into the nice hands. "He needs one just as badly as I do." She turned her head to face the back of the couch. "Please tell me you guys ate."
"We ate with Dad," Don assured her gently. She smiled and he grinned at Horatio, who teased her instead of rubbing. She moaned and moved her legs apart. Of course the phone rang. He got it. "Flack." He listened and blinked. "Mac, are you all right?" He frowned a bit. "You sure?" He nodded. "Okay. No, we're at home. She's just gotten home. You need her there? Danny's just now made it home too according to her. Okay. I'll let her know. You be careful." He hung up. "A car drove into the front of the club he was standing in front of. We're not sure who was driving. He was knocked out by the force of it passing next to him. Within inches. It's a rental, night shift has it and he's telling you because he knows it'll get back to you." She moaned, shifting her legs again. "He said he's fine and so is everyone else. The window shattered but nothing serious happened."
"Good," she mumbled. He came back and moved her head, letting it rest on his thigh. She moaned and turned over, looking at her men. "Is this a subtle hint?"
"It is," Horatio agreed quietly. "If you're up to it."
"As long as I get helped up to the bedroom."
Don smiled at her. "Dad didn't like our new neighbors. He thought they were weird until I told him they were old clubbing buddies. He's blocking it out of his mind and said it's nice." She smiled at that. "I admitted I gave Teeth his nickname." He stroked over her hair. "You just wanna soak for a bit? It's still early."
"You can help me if you want and then Horatio can tease me in a bit." She smiled at him. "Unless you want him to get later?"
"I like that idea better. I like it when you're wet and relaxed," he offered before leaning down to kiss her. "Let me lock the house." She smiled and he went to do that. "What is the little furball doing?" he called a moment later.
"It's Toni's," Don called back. "A former stray. Why, is it making a mess?"
"No, but it's napping on her pillow." He came back shaking his head. "It gave me the dirtiest look too." He helped Catherine up and up to the bathroom so they could climb into the tub. "Is our next one bigger?"
"Very and it's got nice spa attachments," she purred against his chest, kissing where she came up to, then pulled his head down to kiss him. "It's big enough for all of us," she assured him happily. "Don and I climbed in to make sure." He smiled and nodded. "We have to decide on the design for the one down there."
"I say we make it symmetrical and just follow the same plans," he offered as he stripped them both. She moaned as his hand brushed her breast, giving him a deeper kiss this time. "Rest first and then kissing, Catherine," he said gently. He got in and let her sit between his legs, letting her be surrounded by his warmth. He smiled when she fell asleep that way, it'd be a short nap and he did enjoy soaking with her.
Don came in once he heard the quiet snore, smiling at them. "Everything's set for Sunday, Horatio. Including the stuff we talked about with Dad earlier. Are you *sure*?"
"I'm sure. I don't have any parents to disappoint and I'll be there with you both, just not quite as legally." He nodded. "Are you sure?"
"I'm getting the better end of the bargain," he teased. "My dad'll quit nagging." Horatio smiled so they shared a kiss and Don sat down next to the tub so they could talk. He had missed his husband. "You know, she used ta go by her Ma's name," he said quietly. "Her father took his wife's name to piss his own father off."
"I'd heard something about that," he admitted, stroking over Don's fingers. "The new tub can fit all three of us?"
"Very easily. So can the hottub." Horatio smiled at that. "Did you find a spot down there for the house?" He nodded. "Will it fit the same plan? I liked your idea."
"It will but it will have beach access instead of a backyard."
"Works for me," he promised. "I can't believe I'm going to be retiring in a few years." Horatio smiled at that. "She's right, twenty it is unless I get hurt again or put behind a desk." He stole another kiss from each of them, smiling at his mate. "You're sure you want that issue on your end?"
"I'm very sure. It'll be the three of us, but not legally." Don smiled at that. "We've got all the paperwork done, right?" Don nodded. "In what name?"
"The one from Miami has yours, the one from here has mine. The priest knows though." He smiled at that. "She said everything else was set for the picnic she had planned." She moaned and shifted onto her side, one hand curling up in Horatio's chest hair. "She's so sweet when she's like this. Too bad she's such a brat at work sometimes." Horatio laughed at that. "I know, you're all like that. That's why I'm not a science geek. But it still works for us. What're we doing afterward?"
"She and I will be consulting for both labs and Vegas if they need us," he said quietly, stroking down Don's cheek. "At least until you retire and then we'll see." Don smiled at that. "That'll give us plenty of time to play and still some work so we don't go insane with boredom. Whenever you're tired of it or at your twenty, you'll join us." Don nodded, smiling at him, then at their wife. She was still snoring. "I wonder what she did today."
"The desk guys said they brought out the old broad spectrum light gear." Horatio shivered. "Exactly." He smiled at him. "When is Ray Jr. going to come up and make Danny jealous?"
"Tomorrow evening." They shared a smile. Danny was being cautious and edgy still. It was frustrating their daughter. He had even stopped it when she had tried to take things further. Then again, it wouldn't be a family event without his nephew.
Danny smiled at the group as he walked up to them with Toni and Ray Jr. He liked the kid, he was pretty neat, but he was pouting in his head. She was bouncy and smiling at the both of them. He was feeling pathetic for being jealous of a sixteen-year-old Caine. He sat down next to his lady, smiling at her. "Soda?"
He got their first round and smiled at Yelina, who he adored after having talked to her over the phone a number of times. "How was your flight?"
"Good," she assured him. "Not too much turbulence around DC, no scares. The air marshal spent the whole trip flirting with me." She smiled and took a sip of her wine. "Son, how was yours?"
"Good," he promised with a grin. He handed his mother a note. "From the school. They said this was most awkward and they did not appreciate my education having to be cut short today because of your job. I think they're getting huffy."
"Eh, the nuns hate me," Toni assured him, patting him on the back. "I had to remind my chem teacher I'm leaving in a few months. He looked up and said a very loud prayer right then and there for the patience to get that far." The whole table laughed and she smiled. "For those of you who don't know, I'm Princess Toni, the twin of Gordon." Everyone smiled and waved. "And this is Danny, my guy." Danny blushed a bit and ducked his head. "And unfortunately I've got to cut things short in about an hour with him so enjoy us while we last." Calleigh laughed at that. "Uncle Horatio showed me pictures of his kids, so let me see if I've got this right." She bit her lip and looked at Eric. "You're Delko, the playboy. You're Calleigh, the bright and sunny one who likes guns, and you're Ryan," she said, pointing at the last one. They all nodded. She smiled at the last one. "You're new?"
"No, I'm Melinda. I'm night shift," she said, shaking her hand. "I've only worked with your brother a few times when we needed a translator. Are you going into the family business or languages?"
"No, I'm a history person. I want to do museum work," she offered with a shy smile. "I could've already been there, but being a prodigy in that field makes them give you even more funny looks than you get for being female." That got a nod from the women at the table. "So, DNA lectures went how well?"
"The FBI tech was very dry and boring," Delko admitted, "but it went. There was a lot of new stuff they're working on and your mom and he got into an argument about one of the method's probable fail rates based on her thesis and continuing follow-up work." He grinned at Danny. "So, you're Danny, her favorite mentoree right?" That got a nod. "She said someone would say something about you following in her footsteps and taking her job some day, right after Stella had it."
Danny smiled at that. "I wouldn't mind, but that's far in the future. I've still got years before that could happen." He noticed her checking her watch. "What did you have ta do tonight?"
"We, dear, and we've got about a half hour." He grimaced. "Tough. Not like I'm going by myself to this event. I can't. It's not allowed." She stared at him. "And yes, before you ask, everyone at home knows. We've got everything all set up at a nice hotel room for the night so I can get ready."
"Something for charity?" Calleigh asked.
"Kinda," she sighed, shaking her head. "Long story. Longer than I have before I have to do my hair."
"I had no idea we were going out tonight," Danny said stubbornly.
She kissed him until he moaned, then she smiled sweetly. "Suck it up, dear. Or else I've got to make you go with me tomorrow night when I've got to go kick the asses of some of my father's friends during his death party at the museum." He winced. "Yes, both fathers already know. Mom's staying far away. Gordon?"
"I'm going," he noted dryly, taking a drink of his soda. "You?"
"I need to," she agreed. "Uncle will be there and he's got that last letter for us." That got a nod. She looked at him. "It was suggested I bring you to that but you'd be bored senseless. If you want to come you can but I need to kidnap you tonight for something worse or else I'll go insane."
"How bad?" he asked quietly. She just smiled. He groaned. "Fine."
"Thank you." She kissed him again and checked her watch. "You can come back later. We'll be done at midnight." She handed Ray Jr. her car keys. "To the lam. It had better be in *pristine* condition, Ray. I mean it."
"Ooooooh," he said, weighing them in his hand. "I shouldn't."
"You shouldn't," his mother agreed. "But it's the only time you'll get to drive one, son. You will have an adult with you at all times however."
"Just as long as it's in pristine condition," she repeated, getting up and taking Danny with her. "He'll see you later. I'll see you guys tomorrow when you come to me for help." She smirked and winked at Calleigh. "Read the laptop when you get in. That's mom's first instruction." She walked off, Danny's hand held in hers. She nodded at the driver standing there. "Right on time, thank you." She got into the back once he had opened the door, letting Danny follow her. "Enjoy it, it's borrowed all weekend."
She smiled. "You'll see soon. It is actually mandatory. They made it a rule this year." She sighed and shook her head, picking up the hairbrush back there to get to work on it. He took it and she turned, letting him brush her hair. "Thank you, Danny," she said quietly.
"We'll see if you owe me or not. Do I have a tux?"
"Of course. Mom's friend made it for you. She said you'd need it over the next few years. Like when Mom retires after her twenty." She looked back at him and smiled. "Horatio's retiring right after his, once his lab hits a quiet spot. They've got a major problem case right now and he can't quit until after it's gone. They've got a mole." He winced and she nodded. "I'm winding it up tonight." He nodded and got back to work. "I don't do it to make you uncomfortable, Danny, but I'm presenting the right image tonight. I'm sorry if you're uncomfortable."
"Not a problem," he assured her quietly, stroking across the back of her neck. "Are you taking a shower first?"
"No, I took one before I picked you up. I checked into the hotel before coming over. That's how I know everything is there already." He nodded and kissed the skin he had exposed. She shivered and turned around to kiss him for real. He pulled back to pant and she stared into his eyes. "It's up to you, still," she promised quietly. "I know what I want, Danny." She stroked his cheek. "I even got a nice electric razor so you could do a touch up. I used it earlier." He smiled and nodded. "Don't worry. We'll be perfectly handsome together and it'll be fine." The limo stopped and the driver got out coming around to let them out. She took his arm once they were out and led him up to their room with a nod at the desk. A message was handed over at her quizzical look. "Thank you." She read it in the elevator, then snorted and tucked it into her purse. "Mom said I forgot something at home. She had it sent over. It's in the room thanks to the security guys." He smiled at her. "It'll be fine. I promise." She let them into their room and picked up her dress bag and makeup kit. "I'll be right back." She went into the bathroom to change. She came back out to get her hair sticks. "Did you need to use it before I hog it for the next hour?"
"Please." She smiled and got out of the way, letting him in there. He wanted to look in the dress bag but he knew what this was about. He knew what time of the year it was. "They made it mandatory?" he called, finding the razor and checking the screen. He got to work taking off the new stubble that he didn't want.
"Yup, they made it mandatory last month when two girls said they wanted to come together. Everyone has to come with a date of the opposite sex. It's mandatory to go and mandatory to bring a date." She got to work in the lesser mirror on her hair. By the time she got the french twist perfect, he was done and out. She smiled as she slid past him, heading in there to put on her makeup and then her dress. Though she did put on the special underwear and stockings she had gotten for tonight as well.
He had gotten into his tux and was working on his shirt when she came out, making him swallow. The dress was very well fitted. It had a small collar but a cutout to show most of her chest and part of her cleavage that ended in a sweetheart neckline and tapered down to closely mold to her body until it gently fell off her hips to the floor. She sat down to slide into her shoes, buckling the straps. He swallowed and got back to work on his shirt. "Your jewelry, princess?" he teased.
She stood up and checked her appearance in the normal light out there, then smiled at him. "Mother sent over something of Grandmother's." She opened the small velvet case on the dresser, lifting out the sapphires that matched her dress perfectly. She put it around her neck and he moved closer to hitch it for her, smiling at her in the mirror. "Earrings or not?" she asked quietly.
"Earrings are how large?" She held up the two sets. "The smaller drops." She nodded and put those in. He slid into his jacket, smoothing it down over his chest. "This is nice."
"Mom had me get it for you since there's the Police Officer's Ball this year that she said you have to go to since they're honoring her. She said the whole CSI unit is going in tuxes except Taylor." She took his bowtie and slid it around his neck, stroking his collar gently over it before she tied it for him. Then she smiled at him. "Do I look okay?"
"You look marvelous," he assured her, kissing her hand. He could barely smell her perfume and it suited her. "Shall we?" She nodded and curtsied. He smiled. "You don't have to do that."
"I do. If I'm a princess, you're definitely a prince." She smoothed his jacket down and looked him over. Then she picked up her purse to restuff it. The room key, her ID case with money. She hesitated over her gun. "Danny?"
"Dad said I'm never to go anywhere without one."
"There'll be bodyguards there," he said quietly in her ear. She nodded and tucked it into the jewelry case, then took his arm and walked out, letting him get the lights and the door. "Why did he say that?"
"Danny, did I not show you a picture of who my father was?" she asked quietly. He shook his head. "Shit, I meant to." He gave her a look for her language. "Sorry." Once they were in the elevator, she pulled out her ID case and flipped to the last vacation photo she had. "That was me a few years back," she said quietly, leaving him there since he was stunned.
He stared, and suddenly everything she had told him clicked in his head. He followed her, getting into the car just seconds behind her. He handed it back. "No wonder." She nodded, glancing at him while opening the bottle of champagne. "You're not old enough."
"Bite me, sweetie, I'm not getting drunk." She popped the cork and poured them each a glass. "I've had wine with dinner since I was twelve. Dad let me get drunk when I was fourteen and he told me exactly what his life consisted of and what my grandfather's life consisted of. He told me then handed me the bottle of very old bourbon then left me in his office. I ended up calling mom a few hours later sobbing horribly." He gave her a hug, kissing her on the temple. "I thought for sure I had shown you the picture I brought back from Miami," she said quietly.
"No, you didn't. Not like it makes much of a difference." He kissed her again, smiling at her. "I knew you were connected anyway, Toni." She smiled and relaxed against him. "What's tomorrow night?"
"Museum party with a few of his friends who're doing one in his honor. Gordon and I are going to meet our uncle and a few of his former friends, then we're leaving and sending up the alarm. They expect it of us since neither of us joined his life."
He smiled at her. "If you want, I can go."
"No, it won't look right." She stroked over his thigh as she sipped her drink. "Mom said she can't go because there's going to be about twenty thieves in the room. She said Internal Affairs would fry you both."
He shrugged. "If you want me to, I'll go."
"No, don't. But can we have a picnic afterward? We'll be out of there by nine. Maybe at the beach?" He nodded, smiling at her. "Thank you for understanding."
"You're welcome." He stroked a stray hair off her cheek. "I can't believe they made it mandatory."
"Yeah, well, they made it mandatory to attend long before mom and Uncle Donny went. That's why mom had a sudden accident that night." She shrugged.
"Who are we borrowing the limo from?"
"A former friend from my last school. I checked, she's out of town this weekend and she said I could borrow it. Their prom was in Paris." He gaped and she nodded. "Yeah, the whole prom went to Paris thanks to a few parents of the senior girls. And silly me, I'm at a normal catholic school." She took another drink. "Why?"
"You didn't want to be looked at as your father's daughter," he reminded her gently. She nodded and handed him his glass. "Think I'll need it?"
"I will. I go to school with a bunch of stupid bitches," she said sarcastically, finishing hers and getting another glass. "Last one until we're done, I promise." He nodded and sipped his, then looked at the label. She smiled. "My father would haunt me if I drank the cheap stuff," she pointed out dryly.
"Good point." He finished that glass. It wasn't often he got to taste the two-hundred- bucks-a-glass good stuff. He took another glass and managed to finish it just before they got to the school. He smiled and got out when the driver opened the door, helping her out. She got out perfectly, making some of the watching girls and teachers glare at her for her gracefulness. "Come on, princess. Time to make them sorry they didn't get to know you for who you are," he said quietly.
"True." She smiled at the driver. "You can finish the open bottle if you want," she said quietly. "We'll be done at midnight and be going back to the hotel." He nodded and closed the door, getting back in to drive the limo off and park it. She walked Danny up to the doors, curtseying to the nuns standing there. "Madams. This is my boyfriend, CSI Danny Messer of the local Felony Crime Lab."
The oldest nun looked him over, then nodded. "Welcome to our school."
"Thank you, sister," he said with his most charming smile. He kissed the back of her hand. "May we pass? Or do we have to do confession like we did at my school?" She cracked a smile.
"Well, she meets dress code, but we did state that no one should wear more than ten thousand in gems," another said bitterly.
"Yes, well, my grandmother inherited them from her mother and on down the line. It's not like I have many other places to wear it," Toni said dryly, shrugging a bit. "Besides, they match. May we pass?" They got out of the way. "Thank you." She walked him inside, nodding politely at the headmaster. "Headmaster, this is my mate, CSI Danny Messer."
"Welcome to our hallowed halls," he said quietly, shaking his hand. "You've been a very good influence on her. She's settled down and quieted down a lot. The prom is being held in the dining hall, Toni."
"Thank you, monsignor." She walked him that way. She smiled at him. "One last obstacle," she offered quietly. He smirked at her. "I'm enjoying showing you off," she teased, making him blush a bit but chuckle. They made it to the doorway and she paid for their tickets, getting a long stare from the girls gathered there. "Ladies, may we pass?" she asked patiently.
"Who's he?" one demanded. "Your bodyguard?"
"This is Danny, my date. My boyfriend. The one who helped me pick out my dress. And that dress you liked so much you got jealous and threw the fit," she said blandly. "Now, if you'll excuse us." She walked past them, staring at one until she moved. She nodded at the nun. "Sister."
"Weapon?" she asked quietly.
"Not tonight. Danny said I shouldn't need one. Danny, this is my History teacher, Sister Arabeth."
"Sister," he said, shaking her hand. "She's said a lot of good things about you."
"As she has about you, Daniel. Do have proper behavior tonight. Nothing too risque on the floor and no sneaking off."
"I'm not the sort, sister," Toni reminded her dryly. "Danny's not the sort either."
He smirked at her. "You'd be surprised. I snuck outta mine." He smiled at the nun and walked her out onto the floor, letting her settle into his arms for the first dance of the evening. "Not as bad as I thought."
"Yes it was. The girls were horrible. They give me headaches nearly every day. The real girls with power have nothing on this group." He smiled at that. "I know, they're exercising what little power they have, but it's annoying. She literally threw a fit about my green dress being better than anything she owned."
He shrugged. "She's jealous. You get a lot of that." He looked across the room. "Looks one of your former classmates."
She glanced, then smiled and nodded at him, smiling at him. "That's Terese. She married the Headmaster's son last year. I'll introduce you after this dance." He nodded and let her settle in against his chest. "I don't care if I do get busted for PDA. I need a cuddle. They're still staring."
"Shh, you've got me and more class than the whole group of 'em," he offered quietly, smiling when she gave him a squeeze. When the song ended, she stepped back and smiled, making him smile back and let her walk him over. He nodded at the couple standing there.
"Terese, ciao," she said, kissing her on each cheek. "You look marvelous."
"You as well," she said, her speech embossed by a heavy Italian accent. "Who is this one?"
"This is Danny, my boyfriend. Danny, this is Terese. One of my former study buddies from my old school."
She smiled and kissed him on each cheek, saying something to him. He smiled and answered in her native language. "It is nice to know that some people keep up their old tongues," she said with a smile for him. "This one only reads it," she said with a smirk for Toni. "Dear, this is Antonia Cavanaugh, the one who got me through all my sciences and History."
"Charmed and thank you for helping her," he said, shaking her hand. "The same Toni my father gushes about on the AO team?"
"Academic Olympics is only one of my many talents," she said shyly, smiling at him. "I heard you had married in Venice. How was it?"
"Beautiful," Terese said happily, smiling at her husband, getting one back. She smiled at her friend. "We have a table if you'd like to sit with us."
"I wouldn't mind," Danny agreed at her look. He led her that way, chatting with them and getting to know his girlfriend on a whole new level.
"Toni, I don't know why you're here when you had enough credits to graduate out there," Terese complained. "You should come for graduation."
"I've been told I could attend," she admitted quietly. "I haven't discussed it with mother yet. You know Grandfather Flack wanted me out here since she and Uncle Donny both went. Oooh," she said, leaning forward to hiss at her in Greek, making her friend giggle and blush. "Really. This weekend."
"A threesome, how droolworthy! They make it work?" she demanded quietly, but with a bright smile.
"She's very happy. Horatio had her heart for many years but he's in Miami and Uncle Donny has always been special to her." She squeezed Danny's hand. "That's how I met this one. Mom's QC over the labs now."
"Oh, congratulate her for me!" She smiled at her. "You really should come to graduation. I'll be there since I finished my classes *finally*."
Toni smiled at Danny. "Do you think I should?"
"Were you taking classes out there?"
She nodded. "I was. Just enough to stay enrolled and through their online sources mostly but I have been. I loved it out there, Danny. It was the school I wanted to stay in if it wasn't for those girls."
Terese snorted. "Please, they are mostly gone now," she assured her. "Two got pregnant last year and suddenly married. One switched to Switzerland when she had a sudden attraction to her gardener. The last one, well, she is still very bitter, but she won't cause any trouble. The Headmistress herself said that she won't when I asked about her and her problems. Tell her to go, Danny."
"If she wants," he promised, smiling at her. "I'll be there with you." She smiled and nodded. "When is that?"
"Tomorrow afternoon," Terese told them.
"I'm already on the list but she said she'd skip my name if she didn't see me beforehand," Toni admitted. "Mom and them are out of town."
Danny pulled out his phone and called his buddy. "Flack, did you know your last child is graduating from her other school tomorrow?" He smiled. "See you there." He hung up. "You can't get anything past them."
"No, probably not. That's why they're detectives," she noted dryly. "They're attending?" He nodded. "Good. Then I've got to find my stupid uniform tomorrow." She grimaced. "I look like a dork in it but it's home." He nodded, kissing the back of her hand then entwining their fingers again. "Go again?" He nodded and nodded at the other couple before walking him out there.
"They are so in love," Terese told her husband, squeezing his hand. "She is good for him."
"I think they're good for each other, dear." He walked her out there to dance with her as well. "Are we going to the museum tomorrow?"
"No, she said a few of her father's friends were going to be there. I'd rather go out to dinner."
"Very well." He stroked her back. "If you want." He smiled at her and danced her on.
Danny led Toni back into the hotel room, kissing her once the door was closed. He helped her out of her necklace, putting it back into the box, then sat on one of the beds. "I should go home."
"No, you can stay. It's late, Danny," she said quietly, kissing him. "It's up to you which bed you sleep in. I'm taking the one you're sitting on so I'm not next to the door." He gave her a long look. "Up to you totally." She undid the collar then the buttons on her sleeves. She stole a kiss. "Let me change in the bathroom." He pulled her down for a real kiss, making her moan. "All up to you."
He pulled her hair down and ran his fingers through it. "Is it?" he asked. She nodded, giving him an intense stare. "Even if I I think it's too soon?" She nodded again. "Then you go change. I'll change out here and we'll talk." She nodded, taking her bag into the bathroom. She came out a minute later and handed him a pair of sweats then went back in there. He shivered and said a quiet prayer for strength. She was still letting him lead but she had just dropped a major temptation into his lap. He got into his t-shirt from earlier and his new sweats, having to take the tag off. Then he pulled down the covers on his bed and got comfortable on his back, hands behind his head as he studied the ceiling. She came out in a pair of pajama pants and a tank top, making him smile. Not too much temptation there. He'd seen her wearing less in the past. She got into her bed and he turned off the lights. "Tell me about your school?"
"The other one?" He made an assenting noise. "Well, first thing, Terese was three years ahead of me but she slacked off her last year and nearly flunked." He let out a small snort. "The school has a lot of girls who travel through part of the year so most of the classes can be gotten to online if you want to keep up with your studies. There's a whole group of girls who are only killing time until they marry. Some arranged and not." She heard him turn over and she got up to open the curtains just a bit. "Sorry, I'm not a big fan of total darkness." She climbed back in and laid down so she was facing him. "I didn't want to leave, Danny, but I had to. Dad understood that and he paid for me to continue there when I confessed I wanted to go back after my first week at the hellhole we attended earlier. I fit in better out there; I've been there since my first day of school. Grandfather Flack was so upset that she sent me there instead of the catholic one. Kept saying it was good enough for her and Uncle Donny, but Mom pointed out both Gordon and I had proven that we have massive brains and Gwen needed somewhere less judgmental since her old one had tried to call Social Services on her for swearing."
"Gwen's second day at the other school, she started there, the nun asked each child to get up and say something about their father. Gwen said that her father was in prison for beating her mother nearly to death and that her Uncle was her father, and he was a great daddy; he took her to the park and taught her stuff and helped her with her reading. The nun said surely her father couldn't be in prison. Gwen looked at the old biddy and told her he was because mom nearly died thanks to her being born. The nun took her into the office and claimed she was tainting the other kids and called Social Services from in there. Gwen went off when she heard the nun saying stuff about mom being a bad mother, just ripped her a new one as only a six-year-old with a big mouth can. Mom and Uncle Donny got called down to talk to the headmistress of the elementary school about it. Needless to say the headmistress wasn't impressed and blamed mom. Mom pulled her out of there that day and told the social worker what had been said and presented the tape. That nun retired after that and so did the teacher." He let out a small chuckle.
"Anyway, Gwen should've started in first grade instead of kindergarten. Mom went to the local school board with the educational testing she had done. She pointed out that she had graduated at sixteen and that her kids were showing the same promise. They gave her a list of private schools. Mom said St. Bart's spoke to her. The Headmistress and the Sisters, because we were to call them Sister even though they're not nuns, agreed that we children would be as smart, if not smarter, than mother had been. They agreed that we needed prompting and pushing but not shoving into our educational expectations. Gwen used to love to read but she hated to do it out loud. I used to prefer coloring to reading. Gordon was a smartass as a little kid. They knew who my father was, we've got, had, a former half- sister and she went to an associated school. He signed her in under his name that he used with us. She was pretty much a brain too."
"What happened to her?" he asked quietly.
"Dad said accident and to drop it," she said coolly. "Personally, I think one of his enemies got her. That's when I got the intense drilling in weapons and so did Gordon. Our other uncle was still alive then and he put us through every weapon he could teach us on. We were ten when she died." She sighed. "Mom knew about her, Danny. She was a great chemistry prodigy. Dad sent her to mom to talk about what she did to see if she'd want to go that way. She was starting her internship year at Scotland Yard after doing her Master's. She was twenty when she got it." He shifted some. "She was so beautiful. Long, dark hair that just made me want to play with it. These bright blue eyes, like Uncle Donny's but always giving you this look like she was measuring you for mischief potential. She's the one who taught me to scale walls actually, taught me how to sneak out of the house and off the estate in Miami." He let out a small snort. "Dad wasn't happy but he said it showed promise that only she set off the alarms. I miss her, Danny, but it's not something I can change. I got warned not to travel in Europe and Asia without a guard thanks to that stuff. The Inspector who came to Miami about the will said it was dangerous for me to go. Too many people hated my father for showing them up."
"Maybe we'll go one summer," he said quietly.
She smiled. "I'd still need a bodyguard. You'd be with me at all the ruins and things," she teased.
"Probably," he agreed happily. "Where's the school?"
"Out on the island. It's a small, private academy. Lots and lots of trees. It just feels like a comfortable home and place to rest. It's technically coed but there's almost no boys that go out there and almost all of them are little brothers to someone who was attending. I've never seen one that wasn't at least the son of a graduate. It's one of those places, ya know? There's only four male teachers, one of them the drillmaster for the archery and rifle teams. I opted out of rifle team thanks to my background. I didn't want anyone to know and say something to the others. Too many of those kids live diplomatic lives and it could upset their parents. I was so concerned about that stuff when I was younger," she admitted quietly. "I was the princess of the school anyway. The day we started, we started kindergarten, Gwen started second grade. It was three days after Mom got the last nun fired." He let out a small chuckle. "They thought we had what it took and Gwen was pushed a bit. She had some fears about being liked since her mother wasn't well liked by the other cops. That undercover thing was still haunting mom now and then. Every once in a while IAB would come up to her and ask her to make sure of a few people. That's how the mentoring got started. She started finding kids that had families they wanted to get away from and they were being given suspicious looks like she did, so she took over their nurturing and training."
"The same as she did for me."
"Yeah. IAB quit about her sixth year. Her fourth year she got Timmy because a few of them tried to kill all of us by blowing us up. Internal Affairs wasn't going to back her up, they were using her as bait. Mom talked to Grandfather and then Grandfather Flack. I think that's the first time she went to Grandfather about anything work related. He had some of that himself because of who his father and the rest of his family were. He arranged for Timmy to suddenly start showing up since he wanted to stay straight and Grandfather Flack got him into the Academy once they got mom out of danger. That's also the year Mom bought the resort and hid us up there for almost a year with a true bodyguard and a nanny. It was tough but we knew then that someone wanted mom dead for being born and being a good CSI. Since then, Gwen and I both saw it when she came in bruised from one of the guys playing too rough or when things started to go hard before a trial and someone would start shit. We kept Gordon out of it since he's the gentle one in the family," she admitted quietly. "My dad provided our nanny and came up to the resort to stay with us most of the time we were hidden up there."
"It's good he was there for you."
"It was. He really didn't know who mom was when he met her. He just knew that she was smart, funny, and liked to laugh at his jokes. They hit it off. She might never have found out about his career if she had introduced Uncle Donny to him. He said he checked his background because he hadn't met him in the six months they had been dating and he got worried."
"They're that tight," he agreed. "Plus he probably got jealous."
"Not really. They didn't really sleep together until she was pregnant with us by what he said when I asked him last year." She pushed some of her hair back behind her ear. "Before that they were cuddle buddies and trouble buddies. Anytime they went out, they had each other's backs at the clubs and stuff. Though, Uncle Don had a horrible addiction to breast milk thanks to Mom and Gwen," she offered in a lighter tone. "He said he ended up trying some by accident one night and got into trouble with her bottles. Mom used to pump for us." Danny let out a small chuckle. "Don't tell him I told you that."
"I won't. That is a really funny picture though. Don sneaking into the kitchen to grab one of her bottles and heading into a closet to drink outta it."
She giggled. "Mom said he used to put it in his coffee. Said Grandfather drank after him once and spluttered then carefully made sure no one else ever drank after him ever again, even to this day he makes sure no one does." He let out a quiet chuckle at that. "I wonder if the new one means he'll go back to that."
"If so, I'm not saying a word. I wanna see Stella drink out of his cup by accident some day." She let out another giggle. "How ahead are you, Toni?"
"A year or so into college credits. I told Columbia about my classes out there and they said only a few would count. Plus you get some extra credits for Academic Olympics training there. That's why mom went there instead of Harvard or NYU. Though, she said NYU was kinda nasty back in the day. She called it Disco Hell a few times too." His snickers were a bit more high pitched this time. "I did the science stuff already. I'm taking my final scores the day after graduation so they can figure out if I can claim anything else. I know some of my courses at the catholic school count and I know two at St. Barts count but I'm not sure otherwise. Every now and then I still snuck out there to hang out with my friends and tutor. Dad was so proud of me," she sighed.
"So's your mom, I know she is."
"Yeah, but it's not the same. Mom's proud because I'm smart and strong and I make my own choices. Dad was proud because I was the princess of the smart kid at St. Bart's. He was proud that I was the deb of the group and that people deferred to my senses and common sense at times. They were both proud that I mentored some of the younger kids, but dad was proud that the older kids listened to me."
"I'm proud that you managed ta go to two schools and pass both," he noted dryly.
She smiled at that. "It's not that hard. I'm bored as hell at the catholic school. The reason the chem teacher hates me is because I've corrected him for the last three years and I took over this year when he had to go into surgery. The Headmistress at the time hated it too, but yay. I got the kids ahead and they had good test scores on that stuff."
"You sure you don't want to teach?" he offered.
She shrugged. "Maybe some day. Right now I want to go out and do and experience. I like teaching," she assured him, "but I want to be given free reign to *study* for a bit. Not that I can do that at Columbia. I'll still have people telling me I'm too complex and my ideas are nice, but I'm including too much into my papers. I got that a lot in the past. My history teacher hated it because she'd assign a paper topic and I'd come in with a thesis length paper and be really happy with it. She'd hand it back and tell me it's not supposed to be over seven pages."
"Can you use them at Columbia?"
"Yeah, and I've already talked with my future Chair. I handed him the whole box when he asked about my papers. Then I told him how I kept getting cut back down in length and complexity, how I hated it. He told me I'd get that again but that I could do whatever I wanted for my Ph. D. and Masters."
"You're going all the way?" he asked.
"I'd like to," she offered quietly. She reached over and he took her hand to hold. "It won't take me that long. Gordon got his at fifteen. When the headmistress at St. Barts saw what he was doing she was so pissed at herself and arranged for him to do extra classes. He got his masters in five years including classes at St. Barts, Danny. I'm already ahead and there's no reason I can't do the same thing."
"True," he agreed quietly. "I think you could go all the way if you wanted to. As long as you don't end up like Gwen with an accident."
She shook her head. "No, I'm firmly on the shot because of dad's genetic quirk. My doc isn't sure it won't transfer to any kids I might have. So I'm very firmly on birth control and I have been since I had my second period. Mom thought I was panicking but she agreed I could just in case I got tempted before I had a bout of common sense. I assured her a great many times I wouldn't just go out and try it out some night because I wanted it to mean something but she just gave me this look." She gave his fingers a squeeze and let them go, shifting closer. "Mom said she never took advantage of what she could have back in her wild days. That's why she was still pure when she married. She thought it should mean something and turned down the quick and easy sex she was offered back in the day. Uncle Donny apparently never met a girl he didn't want in those days," she offered dryly. "I want it to mean something but I don't want to wait so long that I'm a damn spinster, and no that's not a hint, Danny."
He smiled at her, she could barely see it in the dim light from the window. "It's supposed ta mean something, Toni. Not just be something in the back of a club or the backseat."
"Not like my car has a backseat."
"Not the point," he reminded her.
"I know." She gave him a weak smile. "Really, I'm scared shitless that I'll be so bad that I'll turn you off for life."
"Won't happen," he promised. "When there's stuff between the people, it's always good, even when it's not the best. Besides, your first time I wouldn't expect you to know anything. It's not like you've got a rep as the girl in the back of the bus on band trips who gives out handjobs and stuff."
"Only twice," she admitted. "I don't do it very well. Too limp wristed. I got told the gay guys gave better ones."
He snickered, shaking his head. "It happens. I had one girlfriend who decided she wanted to be gay after me." He shrugged and shifted closer to the edge of his bed.
"I kissed a few girls at St. Barts. They knew I was trying it to see if I liked it and they let me. It was okay. Even the couple that brought me between them was *okay* but it wasn't great and apparently I wasn't very good."
"Feelings mean a lot," he reminded her, barely getting it out because of that mental image.
"Yeah, I guess. It's just a stupid fear that I'll have to get over some day."
"Toni, with the way you kiss me, there's not going to be any disappointment," he promised dryly. "Trust me."
"If you're sure, but you can't tell me how bad it was afterward."
"I'd never do it anyway." He reached over and she took his hand. "What else did you do out there? Besides nearly shooting someone with a bow?"
She smiled. "I only did that to the equestrian and clothing teacher. Same woman who used to plague me about my skirts being long. I used to be the queen of long skirts. She thought I was hiding and asked me once if I had been molested because I didn't like to show off my body. When I finally started showing it off she smiled and said it was a good thing I had finally realized she was right but that I had went too far." He nodded at that. "Sorry you had to witness that awkward phase."
"S'okay," he promised quietly. "At your age all I ever wore were jeans and a dirty t-shirt. I was a jock."
"I heard you played baseball." She squeezed his hand. "I should tell you something."
"What?" he asked quietly.
"Your brother came up to tell me all about you."
"When?" he asked calmly.
"About two weeks ago, Thursday of two weeks ago."
"And I listened and then I told him 'thank you for telling me that' and then I told him to go away before I shot him in the nuts and made sure only the good genes got carried on in the family some decade. Then I let the officers take him away since he had knocked out the guard and came for me."
He snickered, getting up to hug her. "Thank you, princess."
"You're welcome." She kissed him gently then let him go. "So if you want to tell me about your days as a wanna-be thug, I'll listen but I pointed out my lineage was more impressive and evil, that I'd take over your family and make them beg for mercy." She smiled sweetly and he grinned back. "He wasn't impressed so I told him to ask my grandfather who my father was. He called later that night to apologize very politely and said he'd never bother me again. To please take care of you properly and if I made you my bitch to please not hold it against your family if you couldn't stay in role." He hugged her. "Sorry."
"No, you're just adorable." He kissed her again, laying down on top of the covers. "No further," he ordered, kissing her again. "Don't expect it."
"I'm ready whenever you are." She kissed him this time, making him pull her closer. "Set the alarm," she said between kisses. He groaned and did that then turned back around to go back to kissing her. "How are you coming to graduation if you have to work?"
"I'll tell Mac I've got to go. He wanted to know why I wasn't going to the practical thing." He took a deeper kiss, making her moan and shift closer. "Easy, Toni. No farther tonight."
"If that's what you want," she agreed, taking a deeper kiss. "I've got hands and you've got hands if we get too hot." He moaned and pulled her against him, taking charge of her mouth. She whimpered and clutched at him, giving him whatever he wanted. He did keep it at kissing and over-clothes groping but neither one went to sleep needy that night.
Danny walked into work the next morning, taking off his clipon sunglasses and looking at his boss, who was coming toward him. "They in yet?" He shook his head. "Can I have this afternoon off?" he asked quietly.
"Because she's got one of her graduations this afternoon and I want to be there for it. I know I'm off tomorrow because I'm going to the anniversary thing between her and Horatio, but I wanna be there for her, Mac."
He nodded. "Catherine asked me for you last night and Don begged." Danny smiled. "You have until one and then she'll be here to pick you up. Got it?" Danny nodded. "How was the prom?"
"Interesting. I met one of her friends from her old school, the one she's graduating from this afternoon. She's been taking extra classes there," he offered with a smile. "It's where she started."
"I heard St. Barts is a good school. Exclusive and expensive, but a great school."
Danny nodded. "Her dad paid for all three kids ta go." He shrugged. "She's off at the house getting her uniform." He looked around then slumped. "God, Mac, it's serious." Mac smiled and clapped him on the arm. He handed him the picture from last night, making him smile at the cuteness and hand it back. "She looked fantastic and it was just...special, ya know?"
"I do. Claire and I went to a few Marine Corps balls and got the same thing. If it's love, Danny, just make sure she feels the same way and she knows what she wants."
"She wants a lot more than I'm ready for," he admitted quietly.
"Danny, a woman always matures faster than a guy does," he said patiently. "Besides, she was there through some of her mother's hardest years. She's not the young little thing you'd expect. Now, you've got test results waiting on you. You can think with them." He nodded, heading that way. "Are you going tonight?"
"She said I'm not," he called back, turning to look at him. "She said IAB would be heaving on me or her mom if either of us went. She said she and Gordon are going to meet with one of their uncles and make it clear that they're not following in his footsteps. Then they're leaving and letting someone know."
"Good. I was worried you'd spend all of tomorrow in an interrogation room instead of at the resort with your family." He smirked just a bit. "Let her know I'm not mad I wasn't invited, okay?" He nodded, and Mac walked off, heading outside.
Danny went to his lab to get to work. He had no idea what he meant. All he had been told was an anniversary party when they found them.
Calleigh walked into the meeting area last and shut the door. "Okay, Toni said to read the laptop," she announced. Everyone stared at her. "We had Danny and Toni with us for a few minutes last night," she told those who didn't know. Eric smirked at her. "She's a nice young lady!"
"She is, but her brother's still got a mouth on him," he reminded her. He canceled the screensaver. "Okay, we need a password."
"I have that," Stella said, digging it out and handing it over. "Horatio emailed it last night."
Eric put it in and read the screen, then smirked. "Your exercise, which you will accept or Don will be kicking all of you later, is to find the missing couple. The pertinent details of their present life are in the file behind this message. There is a ransom demand in for two million dollars. You have until tomorrow at one to solve this and have to have them in visual contact, if not within touching distance, by two on Sunday or else they will die. Their ransom will be paid by their daughter Toni, who may be used as an information source at the end of things. As an additional challenge, Calleigh is not to do anything with ballistics, though she shouldn't have to, and I'm not to do Trace. Hit the button to print out the information file and get to work, kids. Signed Don, Horatio, and Catherine." He looked up and hit the button, watching as the information sheets printed. "Which of the trio is it?"
"Couple," Melinda reminded him.
Stella looked at her. "Those three are a trio, dear. We all know. The only issue is that Horatio is still down with you guys instead of here." She took her sheet and looked it over. "Okay, it's Horatio and her. So apparently Don's the unlucky little brother who got taken too or her special gardener buddy this time since he'd never play bad guy, even in fun." That got some laughs from the women. "He won't," she assured Eric and Ryan.
"He won't," Danny said as he leaned in. "By the way, when you get there, remember, she's from a very *old* *Italian* family and he's not. Toni said to give you that hint over breakfast and to remind you guys to have fun with this. It's to take you out of your usual areas, use some of what you've learned in some of the CE stuff, to make new friends, and make sure you can work with multiple people. Hence Lindsey not being here." He shut the door and headed back out.
"Mine says that we can use her office and the lab up here for this," Calleigh said. "Where do we start?"
"Mine's got information on the ransom demand and where that file is," Ryan admitted, taking the laptop to pull that up. "Usual printed paper with cut out letters. It says here it's in the lab. Who has the passcode?" Eric raised his hand. He smiled at Stella. "Since you're senior on your team, how do we want to break this up?"
"I'll take you and Calleigh. Eric, you take Sheldon and Melinda?" He nodded. "Good." They split up, going to look at the ransom demand and the other lab stuff.
Calleigh smiled at her team. "Hi. So, where are we?"
"It says that they're being held on their properties," Ryan admitted. "We should start a background to see if we can figure out what they hold."
"Good idea. Can we do that in here or on her computer?" Stella asked.
Ryan looked, then smirked. "Her office. This one just lists the case file. And a cute picture of them together." He looked at Stella. "What's tomorrow? Horatio's taking an extra three days but it was never announced he wasn't coming back with us. Yelina didn't even know and she just came up without being part of this. That speaks to a family event."
"I don't know. We could ask Danny, he's got to know since he's dating Toni."
"I'll do that," Calleigh promised, heading down to do that. The other two went into her office to use her computer, noticing the pictures that were laid around.
Stella looked at them all. "Most of these are new. A few are older and from her home. There's only two original pictures that're usually in here." She pulled those down to look them over. One was subtly different and she wasn't sure. "Ryan, did you take the picture class?"
"No, Calleigh and Eric did."
"Eric!" she yelled. He came in. "There's something that's been done to this picture. It's not usually like this. It's one of two that're original to the office. The rest are a recent plant." She handed over the other one. "That doesn't look changed."
"Okay." He took them back to the lab, looking around. "This is nice," he told the local person. "Is this her private lab or something?"
"No, this is our bio-hazard lab," Sheldon said happily. "Since we're a federal level lab, she had the CDC put one in with some grants she got when she remodeled the lab a few years back. I was still an ME back then," he said with a grin for him. "I came in the year before she retired." He opened the autopsy report on the table and sighed. "Okay, so we're to assume Don's dead," he announced, dialing the office. "There's a totally fake autopsy report in here for Don," he announced. "Said he died of a broken heart. Hammerman really wrote this too," he said with a smirk. "I'll have to tease him later." He and Eric shared a grin as they hung up. "You'd like him."
"Alexx said she wanted to come smack you but her husband had to be out of town."
"Wonderful. Glad I missed that part. I love Alexx but not enough to stand there and not duck."
"You and the rest of us, Sheldon. She said these two are original to the office but they've been changed."
Sheldon looked at the ransom note then switched with him, taking them to examine since he'd seen them before. "His face isn't right." He took the picture out and put it into the magnifying system, looking at it. "There's writing on the overlaid face," he said, enhancing the magnification. "It's a date."
Eric looked at it. "It's tomorrow's date." He unenhanced it. "That's Don's face under Horatio's hair."
"It is," he agreed, frowning as he stared at it. "They're really yanking us on this."
"They said to have fun," Eric reminded him with a small smirk.
Ryan opened the door. "This is nice."
"It's our bio-hazard lab for the CDC," Sheldon told him. "It's open to us if we're doing private research and she's let Danny work in here on a case that was personal and a former cop who got assaulted."
"She seems like she's good to work under," Eric admitted. He looked at him. "So far we've got tomorrow's date and Don's face on Horatio's body."
"We've got a house in Barton but that's too easy. They said their properties but she's only got that one listed under her name."
Sheldon frowned and leaned against the table. "I've heard Danny and Don both say something about some woods that was near a house she owns somewhere. I have no idea where and I'm not sure under whose name. I do know that her name was changed by her father when he handed her to Flack's father to finish raising because he had to go back to his old life to protect them from it. Mac told me that when I asked about why some mafia cases were diverted around her."
"Okay," Ryan admitted. "Any idea what other names it could be under? I have a feeling that's what Danny was hinting at."
"No," Sheldon admitted, shaking his head. "We should go ask him."
"We should," they agreed, heading down there to do that.
Eric got back to work examining the ransom letter for any clues. Again, he found the date micro-printed on some of the letters and one wasn't stuck very well but nothing came up under magnification. So he ran it through the trace system to make sure nothing on it was unusual.
Ryan tapped on the wall of Danny's lab when he found him, walking in. "Can we borrow you for ten minutes?"
"Sure," he offered with a smile. "What's wrong? Need the computer passcode?"
"Stella got in hers and I got into the lab's," Sheldon admitted. "What other names could Catherine's properties listed by?"
"Ah." He sat down and looked at him. "Sheldon, as a word of advice, I can tell you her father is a Don."
"As in Donald?" Ryan asked.
"No, as in Palmentero, Don Palmentero," he said, locking eyes with Sheldon. "She never went by *his* name, but by her mother's name because he changed his name to hers to piss off his family."
"Okay, we can search for his marriage license," Sheldon admitted, frowning and biting his bottom lip a bit. "What's his first name?"
"Antonio. Toni's named after him. It got changed to Cavanaugh when he joined the force to distance himself from his family so he wouldn't get shit about it."
"Understandable really," Ryan admitted. "I would've if my family had been connected that way." He grimaced. "How high up is he and should we worry about running into his people?"
"No, Toni assured me when I asked if it might come up that she told him it was an exercise."
"Good. Thank you. Any idea what her mother's name was?" Danny shook his head, still smirking. "Any other ideas where the other properties might be?"
"They're building a house closer to here but there's no building there yet. They break ground in another week. Horatio's finding them a property in Miami and it's going to be an identical house down there." Ryan smiled at that, nodding a bit. "When they retire, they're going to be consulting in both labs."
"I'd like that," Sheldon admitted. "Anything else you know?"
"Yeah, her father left the family with their blessing but his brothers all died before their father did so he had to go back. The name change was partially to protect his future kids from that life as well. Her mother's from another family line. Toni's got a full pedigree including who her father is."
"Okay." They headed back up there to get back to work on that.
"Any luck?" Stella asked when they came back.
"A lot," Ryan admitted. "Could she have listed it under her mother or father's names?"
"It's possible," she admitted. "I don't know their names though."
"I know her father's," Ryan admitted, leading her back to the office with Sheldon behind them. "He's Don Palmentero."
She gasped and turned to look at them. "You're shitting me." They both shook their heads. "Oh, damn! No wonder she changed her name!"
"And her father changed his to his wife's when they married to protect the kids. The Cavanaugh name came when he joined the force to distance himself from the family," Sheldon told her. "Danny said Toni had a full pedigree, including who her father was."
"Her father was Horvats, a jewel thief," she agreed, sitting down to open the NY Times database and search back through it for a wedding announcement under the father's name. "What's his first name, guys?"
"Antonio. Toni was named after him."
"Okay, the last Palementero that got married was Dougie. Before that was an Anthony. How old is she?"
"Thirty-eight," Ryan said, consulting his sheet. "Just barely."
"That's too soon, must be a nephew." She went back farther and found it. "Here it is, he married a Arabella Mastracano."
"Which is a very old family as well," Sheldon said quietly.
"It is," she agreed. "Though they died out with Arabella from what I remember. Her old man was the last son." She shrugged and searched under that name. "Wait, there's an older title for a Catherine Mastracano. There's an old deed too but it's not listed in the system, it's listed as a bequeathal to her family." She clicked on that link. "To Antonia Cavanaugh and her future children." They shared a look. "It's upstate, Sheldon. Anything else?"
"Everything seems to come up with tomorrow's date," he admitted. He went back to the lab. "We think we may have where."
"So we need why?" Sheldon nodded. "Any idea?"
"Not unless it's related to her past since her family was heavily in the mafia." Eric gaped and he nodded. "Her dad had to go back to the life to protect the girls. Apparently he was the last in the family line and had to. He's a Don."
"This is supposed to be fun, they wouldn't do it for that reason," Eric decided, shaking his head. "Anything else?"
"Stella, Eric said her past isn't a reason since this is supposed to be fun."
Calleigh came back. "Look at Don's past," she called as she walked past the doorway.
"What past? His family's been cops forever. He's a third generation guy."
"Yeah, but he's got secrets," Stella said from the doorway, smirking at him. "A lot of secrets and I know that because Toni once said she had blackmail on him from his youth."
Sheldon accessed the system and emailed Mac. He got one back almost immediately to leave him out of it. He wasn't a valid source of information. He called instead. "Mac, we were told that it had to do with Flack's past. Anywhere we should look?" He grimaced. "Oh, come on. We've already used Danny once to find something." He sighed and nodded. "Thank you, Mac." He hung up. "He said he used to be a bit wild but only Catherine would know since it's a pact of silence between them."
"Not totally true," Calleigh said, waving her information sheet. "It says their special friend Don Flack used to be known to club at somewhere called Torque? And that his birthday present was presently down there so it would save his life if it was brought when we save him." She looked at them. "We need all the information sheets." They were all gathered and the information was combed over for more clues. They would get this and it was kinda fun. It wasn't the least bit serious but it was making them think and stretch a bit.
Horatio turned when the car pulled up behind him, then looked out across the harbor again. He heard quiet footsteps and turned to look at the young man, noticing how much he looked like his former second-in-command and friend. "Brad," he said quietly.
"You must be Horatio." He shook his hand. "Tim told me a lot about you before I ran away."
Horatio nodded. "Thank you. I miss your brother, a lot, that's why I wanted to talk to you."
He nodded. "Toni thinks he'd probably be screaming somewhere about my life." He sighed. "Tim would be very disappointed. I'm aware of that, but the life suits me, Horatio."
He moved closer. "What you like is the power and the rush of the control," he said, staring him down from behind his sunglasses. "You can get that in other jobs that come with a longer life expectancy. Ones that would make your brother proud."
"Law. Be a prosecutor. You have someone's life in your hands and it's your decision what you do to them for what they've done. The only people who have more power in the system are judges and most of them are former prosecutors." Brad shivered and nodded. "It's hard, but if you're half as smart as Speed was, you could do it easily. If you wanted something to take the place of the financial dealings you're doing right now, there's analyst jobs on Wall Street. They decide what's hot. They have the whole world's money in their pockets and decide whose is worthless. Personally I can see you as one of those prosecutors who enjoyed the rush of putting away the truly bad and staring them down first, looking into their eyes as they're led away to begin their time in jail for doing horrible things." Brad moaned a bit. "Think of the power and influence you could have there, Brad, and no one has to know more than you used to work for a wealthy businessman as his assistant. Catherine's already talked to her father and he said he'd gladly send you if you wanted to go. To any college you want to go to. Columbia held both your brother and most of your employer's children and grandchildren. Or you could go to Princeton or Harvard. Yale if you wanted to," he finished quietly. "Full ride, Brad. I think Speed could be very proud of you and he'd quit screaming in whatever version of the afterlife he believed in."
"You think he's really disappointed in me?"
Horatio nodded. "He only mentioned you twice, Justin, and he hoped that you were doing all right since you wouldn't write him back the second time. He also noted that he heard you were going by another name to protect yourself from something. He came to me for my opinion on coming home to see if you needed his help getting free. He was going to offer you a spot with him in Miami while you finished school."
Brad nodded. "I didn't think he even mentioned me. He left us behind."
"I know and I know why, Justin." He tipped the boy's face up to make him look at him. "All we ask is that you think about it, kid. No one says you have to, but it would make sure you lived. Her father could easily be killed for handing over the family's assets upon his death. People have killed to get less more quickly." He took off his sunglasses and stared at him. "It's up to you, all we want you to do is think. Think about your future. How long will you last in this life? How long before your parents bury their other son?"
Brad slumped and nodded again. "I'll think about it." He looked at him. "You were one of his best friends and he looked at you like a pseudo-father, Horatio."
"I know. I wish with everything in me I had made sure he was cleaning his gun, Justin. He had a failure a few months earlier and I talked to him but I didn't follow up on it. I should have and it's a guilt I carry. I'm not here for that reason but because I liked Speed, he was my friend as well. If he had known while he was alive, I would've helped him cover up the kidnaping." Brad smiled at that. "You will think about it?"
"I will," he agreed. "Are you going to graduation?"
"I am. She's got her video camera for your employer."
"Thank you. I'll talk to Antonio tonight. Tell the children I miss seeing them but they're happier this way and safer." He nodded and went back to his car, heading for a long drive.
Horatio watched the water for a few more minutes, then put back on his glasses and headed for the graduation. By now they were wandering around the grounds and he wanted to see the place his future children would be attending. They had done a fantastic job on the first three, the next one would be going as well. He followed the directions she had written out, smiling at the peace and calm he felt when he got closer to it. He found the gate and pulled up, rolling down his window. "I'm Horatio Caine, attending for Antonia Cavanaugh," he said calmly.
"I have you on the list, Lieutenant, and she said to tell you they're waiting in front of the grounds. That her other spouse hasn't been here before either and they're taking the tour for the parents when you get there." He nodded so the guard let him onto the grounds.
Horatio drove on, following the signs. It was a well-planned campus and it looked very safe. He found the parking area and let the valet take it since that was the only option given to him. He followed some other parents to the front of the school, finding his wife and husband standing there chatting with someone who was beaming at them. He walked up behind her and put his hand on her stomach. "He'll be going?" he asked in her ear.
She smiled and nodded. "Oh, yes, he will be going here too." She smiled at the woman they were talking with. "Headmistress McClaine, this is Horatio Caine, our third."
"Delighted," she said, shaking his hand. "Welcome to St. Bartholomew's. Please, let me show you young men around. You should know what we offer." She smiled and led them inside, showing them the classrooms and the dorms in case they had to be out of town on a case but none of the older children could sit. They came out in the gardens, where a large pavilion tent was set up. "This is where we're holding graduation. I must say, Catherine, Toni and the others have been a wonderful credit to our name. With her plans and future now set, I'm very proud of your girls. I'm sure your son will live up to the last one's legacy with ease and happiness." She smiled as Toni came over. "Dear." She kissed her on the cheek. "We shall miss having you here, Antonia."
"I hope one day to be able to come back and teach, headmistress, when I'm tired of studying and want to make others just as good as I am."
"Oh, darling, I look forward to that day," she assured her, squeezing her hands. "I heard your dearling was coming. Is he not here?"
"The limo's on the way and I put something for him to change into in the back," she promised with a smile. "He's going to be surprised, he's never seen me in this uniform, just the slutty one from the other school." She looked down at the black mid-calf gauze skirt and black blazer with blue silk shirt, silver buttons, and silver thread crest. She smiled at her mother. "Thank you for not saying anything, mom, but can you quit letting me think I'm sneaking stuff past you?"
Catherine kissed her on the cheek. "It's an important part of adolescence to think you're getting stuff past your parents, dear. I'd never rob you of that." She looked her over, then nodded. "I'm surprised you didn't go for pants. Gwen did."
"Where was I for graduation?" Don asked.
"Having your tonsils out," she said dryly. "For Gordon's you were in a shootout. I only told you it was important, not why."
"Oh, I was wondering what I missed and why he pouted at me." He gave Toni a hug. "I'm impressed, princess. You kids blow my ass away every single day." He kissed her on the cheek and pulled something out of his pocket, handing it to her. "These are yours once the new house is built. It's in your name."
She opened the box and frowned at the set of keys. "To where?" She looked at her mother. "Mom?"
"We're not selling the house and you and Danny will need one." She shrugged. "Gwen's moving in with us for six months but you've still got some yearning to live on your own." She kissed her on the forehead. "Do we at least get pictures from last night?"
"They're in the limo with Danny." She blinked at them. "You're giving us the old house? No strings?"
"No," Horatio assured her, smiling at her. "You're more than mature enough to know what you want and don't want."
"Besides, this way we don't have to move all your clothes," Don teased. "You'll have a room in the new house but the old one is yours."
"Oh. My. God," she breathed finally, hugging all three of them, then running over to hug Danny when he came in. "They gave me the old house as a graduation present," she breathed in his ear. He gave her a squeeze around the waist. She pulled back and smiled at him. "Yes, this is where any children of ours are going." He smiled at that and she led him back over. "Excuse my exuberance, Headmistress, but this is my boyfriend, Daniel Messer. Danny, this is my headmistress, and I'm sure you remember Horatio."
"Hi," he said, shaking her hand. "You did an amazing job with these three kids."
"I look forward to seeing yours in a few decades, Danny." He smiled at that. "Not too soon I hope but in a few decades. Excuse me, Terese's parents are here and complaining about something," she sighed, heading off.
Don nudged him. "Yeah, we gave her the old house so we don't have to move her closet. It's up to her and you if you move out there or not." He led them to their seats, looking at his daughter's outfit. "I remember that uniform a few times."
"I usually changed on the way in, I hated the jacket," she reminded him. She smiled at Danny when he looked over her clothes. "It's this or pants."
"I like you in that," he offered with a smirk. "You look very demure."
She kissed him again and smiled. "I can be at times, but for now, I've got to join the other girls." She gave him a longer, deeper kiss, moaning at the end. "Picnic later, right? After I go get the final letter?" He smiled and nodded. "What'm I doing for lunch?"
"You didn't plan it?" he teased back.
"I thought I'd let you tell me where I'm taking you." She gave his hand a squeeze and walked off, going to talk to her friends. "Yes, I've been taking classes online," she noted at the shocked looks.
"You're graduating already?" one demanded.
"I should've gone last year but I refused." She smoothed out her skirt before sitting and crossing her legs properly. "I wasn't ready yet." They smiled at her and she glanced back, getting a smile from her family, then at her friends again. "You ladies hit on my man and I will prove that I'm the better brawler between Gwen and I."
They looked at Danny then at her. "He's older," one admitted.
"What's he do?" another asked. "Your father's business?"
"Mother's," she said dryly, looking at the first friend. "I don't mind older. He understands all the complexities and stresses in my life and he loves me," she said simply. That got a mass 'awww' and a few went back there to introduce themselves and squeal over the prom picture Danny had brought in.
Toni nodded at her teachers as they were led in and the other girls came in and got their spots. "Terese's supposed to be here."
"She's getting a bit ill," one girl tittered quietly. When she came they made room for her on the bench.
Toni lifted her chin and listened to the speeches made for their benefit, smiling at the hints of who they would expect to see back to support the school. At this academy there was a difference between alumni, who returned to help, and those who merely graduated. She fully intended to come back and teach here and mold another generation of greatness.
Danny looked around the restaurant she had decided on when he said he didn't care for the fifth time, straightening out his tie. She smiled and took his hand to walk him back to their table. She nodded and said something to the waiter in French. He looked at her. "This is the place you ordered from," he said.
She smiled and nodded, letting him help her into her seat. "Of course it is. I deserve it. I've graduated my real school and my other one is a cinch. I could not attend for the rest of the year and graduate with a 3.9." He gaped and she shrugged. "I'm a very good student, Danny." She stroked his hand. "Some day I want to go back there and teach. When I'm ready."
He smiled. "I think that'd be great. I like how she said some decade."
"She knows I'm scared of cursing a child to the problems Gordon had," she said quietly. "Not much makes it past the Headmistress." She stroked his hand again then held his fingers. "Do you want the same thing as last time?"
"I liked it, but I should treat this time."
"Danny, shut up. Next weekend is your treat. I'll be expecting comfort food since I'll have to deal with the cranky students at the other school and won't have my sanity and escape hatch of my real studies."
He nodded. "I can do that. I do comfort food pretty well." He squeezed her fingers and smiled. "What else do they have here?"
"They have some of the *best* seafood gumbo but I'll be belching all night if I have it and I always need a bib," she offered with a shy grin. He chuckled at that. "Thank you for being there."
"I want to be there for the important stuff," he reminded her. The waiter came back with a bottle of wine, letting her nod and taste it. She smiled and he poured glasses for them. "They know you very well here."
"Dad brought us here all the time. Gordon always thought it was pretentious and pouted the whole meal but I love it here. It's got the same quiet, calm, peaceful atmosphere that the school's library had. Did you get to look around?"
"I did. I got there early enough to take the last tour through the school. It's a nice place. If and when we have kids, we can send them if we can afford it."
She leaned closer. "Danny, I'm, to put it mildly, loaded out the ass," she said quietly. She sat back up and sighed, pulling open her purse. "Mom said I should show you this sometime this weekend. My last big secret."
"You don't have to tell me what your father left you."
She snorted. "You'd be surprised. Mom's now worth about 300 million with the houses selling." His jaw dropped. She opened her checkbook and showed it to him. "That's my draw account for shopping and things. Mom gave that to me earlier. She had kept it for me until today. She said I'm old enough to handle it now." He looked at the number on it, then at her. "That's my father's child support for me over the years. That's not counting what Gordon and I split for the three condos we inherited and the private accounts he set up for our education and our trusts from our grandfather," she said quietly. She took it from his limp fingers and put it back into her purse. She nudged his wine glass closer, watching as he drank from it then looked at her. "The kids, if and when they come, can go there."
"Okay," he agreed. "You still want to live on a salary?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I might take a small allowance from it to double my salary if it's that tiny. I know a first-year person at museums in the city only make about twenty-five a year." He smiled at that. "So I'd probably double that and reduce my allowance until my salary made it to that point."
"Wow." He blinked at her. "So this weekend was really nothing to you."
"To put it mildly. Grandfather provided each of us kids with a three-quarters of a million trust for our education and comfort once we graduated. Father's trust doubled that on top of that, plus the sale of the condos." He blinked and took another drink. "So, yeah, I can dress you in Armani every day for the rest of your life and still live comfortably on my salary. Mom said I should tell you this so you don't worry when my innate spoiling gene starts up again."
"Innate?" he asked, smirking at her. The waiter came back. "Whatever you want," he promised. "Since I'm getting chicken next weekend."
She smiled. "I like it when you get me comfort food." She smiled at the waiter. "Henri, the usual please. He adored it last time." He nodded. "With a special dessert. I graduated."
"I heard that was today, Antonia. Our owner and the chef both congratulate you and for keeping up the ruse of the other school for so long, and so do I. You are one very special lady."
She smiled. "Thank you, Henri. It means a lot to me. This is my man, Danny Messer."
He nodded politely. "You have excellent taste as she is most special to our staff." He walked off, going to put in their order and tell the chef about her boyfriend. The first she had brought to them. The chef peeked and giggled then went back to fixing them a very special dessert.
Toni smiled and took off her blazer, hanging it on the back of her chair. "I shouldn't wear that anymore until I go back to teach some year."
He picked up her hand to kiss the back of it. "You have any more surprises to shock me with? Just so I can have a heart attack in public?"
She smiled and shook her head. "No. I'm a good girl. Though my dress tonight is red and very drool-worthy." She winked. "You can help me get dressed again. We're in the same room. I still can't believe they gave me the house once they move to the new ones."
Danny nodded and sipped his wine, then poured more from the bottle that had been left. "It makes sense. It was always your home, Toni, and it's in a fairly safe neighborhood. Are you going to move upstairs?"
"Yes, but I'm buying a new bed. I don't want to know what mom and them did on it. And I might remodel the bathroom. I prefer the older, cast iron tubs instead of the big jacuzzis like Uncle Horatio likes. He's the one who helped Mom remodel the bathroom the last time she did." He smiled at that. "And then I'm painting everything in shades of blue and tan." He chuckled at that. "I am." She coughed. "When you're ready to move in, I'll remodel one of the old bedrooms downstairs to an office for you." He nodded, squeezing her fingers again. "I'm not being pushy."
"I know. When we get to that point, not before." The waiter came back with their dinner and he smiled. "Thank you, it looks wonderful." The waiter smiled and left. He let her fingers go so he could prepare his food to be eaten. He snuck a look at her. She looked so adult in that outfit. He glanced outside and grimaced. "Um, Toni?" He nodded as he ate a bite of dinner.
She looked and sighed. "If they come in, you call."
"I'm the cop."
"And they'd want me more, Danny. Remember, I'm the princess with money." They shared a look and he shook his head. "Tough."
"What I was thinking." The first one came in and he called the station. "Mac, it's me. We're at Haras and there's a few thugs with masks and shotguns. Thanks." He hung up and put his phone back. "If you do something stupid....." She stared him down. "I will spank you until you beg for mercy if you do something stupid and get hurt," he warned.
She nodded. "Of course." She crossed her legs and went back to eating. "Nonchalance," she ordered calmly. "It's one of those things that got trained into me, Danny. Eat. Just in case." He nodded and dug in again. Someone fired a round into the ceiling and she glanced back, grimacing. "The filth they let in from the streets," she sneered at him when he walked that way. "It's a shame that such a distinguished place allows things like you in."
"Hey," Danny complained, kicking her under the table. "I used ta be there too."
"Yes, dear, but you grew up and used your brains," she reminded him with a gentle smile. He grinned back at that compliment.
"You, shut up!" the guy yelled.
Toni sipped her wine and looked at him. "Before you say another word, I should tell you that I'm a Palmentero by birth," she said quietly. The guy backed up, eyes wide. "And a Mastracano on my mother's side." The guy walked off to tell one of the others. He drug another of the thugs back and she gave him a grimace of distaste. "Did you need something before I destroy you to the very core of your being and every fiber of your life?" she asked blandly.
"Who're you?" he sneered. "Some pampered princess?"
"I'm Antonia Cavanaugh." The man hissed and backed off. "Granddaughter to Antonio Palmentero." They backed off farther. "Now, you're spoiling my lunch date. I would prefer to be able to eat instead of having to huff your stench of corruption and soul decay. Do you mind terribly standing downwind?" she demanded, pointing in the correct direction in case they were that stupid. They moved that way. "Thank you." She took another sip of her wine. "Now, why were you sullying the carpets of this place with your stench and dirtiness?" she demanded calmly. It was a pity her father was dead, he'd enjoy this show and be egging her on. "You may speak, you were spoken to," she noted when they stayed silent.
"Um, we're here to rob you," the first guy offered. "Please, ma'am? We're just hard working guys who need a few more bucks."
"Then attend one of the institutions of higher learning and find a better career," she ordered quietly. "As my mate Daniel has." She pointed at him. "He came from some very downtrodden roots and managed to become one of the finest men in this city, not only because of his looks or his brains, but because he didn't resort to stamping them down further into the oily soil of this city." Danny smiled at her for that. She smiled at him then gave them another bland look. "Now, you are nauseating the many fine dinners of this establishment and making my special graduation dinner not quite as good as it had been. Do you mind terribly? If you're serious about this life, some of my father's confederates will be at the Museum of Modern Art later tonight. I suggest you see them if you're serious about this career divergence."
"Huh?" the first one asked.
"I said some of his accomplices will be at the MoMA tonight. You should see them if you want to be a real thief."
"Oh, shit, you're that daughter's daughter," the head guy said, then whimpered. "Damn it, why me!"
"And I'm one of her guys," Danny offered, smiling and wiggling his fingers. "Anything else, guys? Before I've got to find some cuffs?" They ran out, taking the third guy with them and into the patrol officers pulling up out there. He looked at her. "That was so naughty."
"I know, but they were so stupid," she complained. "If you're to be a thief, you should at least be able to think on your feet and counter any problems you encounter. They didn't even talk back!" The waiter looked at her. "Sorry. I was channeling my father," she excused, taking a bite. "Can we have another bottle of wine?"
"Of course," he agreed, going to get her some from her father's private stash. He handed it to Danny once it was opened and left again, still smiling and shaking his head. He remembered her father and her fondly.
One of the officers walked in and blinked at who she was facing. "They said you scared them off?"
Toni smiled at her. "I'm the daughter of CSI Cavanaugh and this is CSI Messer."
"Oh. Okay." She walked off, going to ask the older guys about that. They just moaned and told her to get into the car, that was explanation enough. She demanded an explanation so one of them told her to go see someone about that. When they got back to the station she went to the other one to talk to CSI Taylor and see what she should report about that. "Excuse me," she said, stopping the young woman of about her own age at the front desk. "I was told to ask CSI Taylor a question about a report. Is he here?"
"He's in his office. Let me call him," Lindsey said, paging him from her cell. "What happened? One of our cases?"
"No, ma'am, just a strange situation and I ran into a CSI who apparently scared a few muggers into not robbing a restaurant." She smiled at CSI Taylor. "I was told to ask you what I should put in my report, CSI Taylor. I just ran into CSI Messer and the daughter of CSI Cavanaugh at Haras and the morons trying to hold it up said that she scared them off robbing the place. I'm not sure how to put that in my report and my senior officers said to check with you. How should I put that and what would she have done? Or he have done possibly, I'm not really clear on that."
Mac rubbed over his face and led her off to talk to her in private. "CSI Cavanaugh's daughter is very much a smartass. I've seen her confuse the common criminal enough that they gave up and huffed off pouting," he offered gently.
"CSI Cavanaugh's distantly related to the Palmentero family and Antonia has been courted by them but she's turned them down a few times. She's a hacker," he said at her confused look. "She just graduated her very exclusive academy today. Her father's also a jewel thief."
"Oh. And she's having lunch with CSI Messer?"
"They're dating," he said blandly. "Just put it down that Antonia Cavanaugh scared the robbers off verbally and then whatever they said." She nodded and smiled then walked off. He groaned and went back to his office to take something for his headache. He ran into Stella. "How's the exercise going?"
"Toni just scared off some thugs trying to rob where she and Danny are having lunch," he offered.
"Oh, good," she said, smiling. "Is the gun coming in?"
"No, she verbally assaulted them," he assured her, sitting down and taking the needed pain killers. "Why are you confused?"
"We can't find the motive for the kidnaping she set up."
"Ah." He got into his email and printed off the one she had sent. "It's to do with Don's past. They wanted him back." He handed it over. "I have no idea why Don would be down at Torque or Hardware."
She blinked a few times. "Hardware?" She looked at the email then opened her mouth.
"I don't want to know," he ordered, holding up a hand. "I've got a headache." She nodded and left. He put his head down to take a quick nap. He had to remind himself she'd be retiring in another year, just after the evaluation.
Stella walked into Torque and found someone she recognized, heading over to hug her. "Aiden," she said happily.
"Stella!" She hugged her. "I miss you guys!" She pulled back to look at the people following her. "I don't know you guys. Did Mac go on a major hiring spree?"
"No," Stella said, getting them all a pitcher of beer and over to a table so they could talk. "Catherine set up a practical exercise for Continuing Education stuff. A mock-kidnaping. We were told part of the reason was here."
Aiden beamed and nodded. "I'm part of that. I'm the holder of his birthday present."
"Oh, good," Calleigh sighed, smiling at her. "Then you're our perp, right? You kidnaped the couple to steal Don back and you're holding his birthday present as an incentive for them to hand him over?" Aiden nodded, beaming at her. "Where are they?"
"I can't make it that easy. You guys can't go up until tomorrow." She poured out glasses of beer, taking one for herself. "I'm riding his present up tomorrow when I escape custody and you're following me if you don't have directions from Toni and Danny." She took a drink. "How old is Toni?"
"Seventeen," Stella said fondly, pulling out a picture. "That's Toni after her birthday. He's so happy, Aiden," she assured her. "She spoils him horribly. They were at Haras earlier for lunch and she scared off a thug posse." Aiden giggled. "Yeah, but it's necessary." She smiled at the others. "Aiden used to work in the lab with us. She's Don and Danny's best buddy." Aiden smiled and nodded. "These are Ryan, Eric, and Calleigh from Horatio's team, and Melinda from the night shift down there. Guys, this is Aiden Burns."
"Horatio said he worked with you briefly," Calleigh said, shaking her hand with a smile. "He called you a real spitfire but very good."
"I am," she agreed happily. "But for now I'm supposed to play as your perp and you're supposed to ask me what this has to do with Hardware and Torque. Yelina's probably at Hardware by now," she told Stella.
"Why would she go there?" Sheldon asked. "I don't know anyone who goes there."
"Yes you do. Don and Catherine used ta go all the time," Aiden told him with a smirk. "Got their pictures on the wall and everything. There's one with Gwen in a walker clapping and cheering her mother on." She took another drink. "Drink up, guys, your night is nearly over with." She noticed the person coming in and looked at Stella. "She playing?"
"No, she's stalking." They shared a look then shrugged. If Lindsey wanted to eavesdrop that was her time wasted. "So what does this have to do with Hardware?"
"Oh, her birthday present is there and he hid it with Yelina. She's to bring up that one while I bring up Flack's." She beamed at Lindsey. "Hey. Are you part of the exercise?"
"No. I wondered what was going on."
"That practical exercise," Ryan told her, smiling at her. "It's a mock kidnaping. Aiden's a suspect and probably the perp. She used to be a CSI. She's a good friend of the missing people."
"Oh. Okay." She nodded and went to the bar to get a drink.
Aiden looked at Stella. "I'm so sorry," she said quietly.
"It's okay." She winked at her.
Eric looked at Ryan. "You've seen her around today. That's about how we feel about your problems at times," he said quietly. Calleigh swatted him. "Sorry, but truth." He looked at him. "The same situation but Speed died, Ryan. Can you *please* dump that reporter?"
"We're not together."
"You were seeing her the other day," Calleigh reminded him.
"I broke her recorder, I'm paying her back for it."
"Oh." Eric grimaced.
"Guys, you could try asking." He took a drink. "Really."
"We have that same problem with Danny now and then," Stella admitted. "A bit of his bad old days came back to haunt him and we just assumed."
"Hmnm, especially since I'm working on the mole thing," Ryan told his coworkers. They looked stunned. "I'm easier at ferreting that stuff out."
"Crap," Calleigh sighed, taking a drink of her beer. "Okay. So we learn a bit about everyone this weekend."
Eric stroked her arm. "It's all right, Calleigh. I know it's the anniversary today."
"Yeah, I was trying to forget it."
"Anniversary?" Stella asked.
"Her ex was a detective who shot himself behind her in her ballistics lab," Eric said quietly.
"Oh, honey," Aiden said, standing up to hug her. "I'm so sorry. God, it's guys like that you wanna pull back to smack the hell out of." She nodded. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. The actual anniversary was an hour ago." She shrugged and patted her back. "I'm okay. Thank you, Aiden."
"You're welcome, honey. I've dated some guys who have committed suicide and blamed me but not like that." Calleigh gave her a small smile. "Seriously. Two of them. And three that decided they were gay." Ryan choked at that. "Sorry, sparky."
"Ryan," he said, smiling at her once he wiped his mouth. "New Yorkers are a lot more blunt than I'm used to."
"Of course we are. We have guys like Mac around to drive us to drink," Stella assured him. "Someone should go get Yelina. Go ahead, Sheldon."
"I resent that implication," he said, glaring at her. "Why me?"
"I'd go but I'm not supposed to slip custody until tomorrow," Aiden told him with a grin. "Besides, I doubt Eric or Calleigh want to go to that sort of place. Take Ryan. He looks like he could handle Hardware and all the people there."
"Are we talking leather club?" Eric asked.
"No, that's this place," Aiden assured him. "Leather and bikes. Hardware is kinda a kinks-only place. If you've got one you can find someone there with it too. One of the top guys there is Teeth, who is a biting guy and is into gags. He's going to be Don's new neighbor," she told Stella.
Who giggled. "That's so cute!"
"Very cute. They're moving into a whole gated community of people just like Teeth and Donny." Stella let out a cackle and Aiden beamed. "Exactly. No one there will say one word about the trio."
"Poor Gwen's moving in with them since she's on bedrest," Sheldon sighed, standing up. "Who wants to go with me?"
"I'll go," Eric decided. "I've never been to anywhere like that." He followed him out, mostly to protect Yelina. She had to be shocked by now. Of course when they got there, Yelina was giggling madly at a few of the guys' stories and hanging onto the arm of another one. "Yelina?" he asked, looking shocked.
She beamed at him. "Eric. And...."
"Sheldon Hawkes, ma'am," he said, shaking her hand. "CSI level one locally. I'm part of the exercise this weekend."
The bartender looked him over. "They got some *fine* meat down in CSI," he purred. "Maybe I should go back to school for a second Masters."
Yelina frowned at him. "You would probably do better than me. All the ones I know are playboys like Eric or gay. All I get is sisterly affection."
"That's a shame," Sheldon said with a long stare at her. "If I was closer I'd more than give you play." He smiled at her. "We've found Aiden and she's claiming she's the perp. But we were told you were part of the wicked past that got them taken?"
She smirked. "I am. I'm also the holder of the keys to their salvation." She waved the small box from her pocket. "This has to be in their hands by two tomorrow afternoon or else they'll die."
"Okay," Eric agreed. "Gentlemen, can we have her back so we can escort her to a safer location and protect the antidote?"
"What's going on?" a very cute woman asked, simpering at Eric. "We're not used to so many guys not in the life being in here."
"Catherine set up a practical exercise for some Continuing Education and it's a mock kidnaping of her, Don Flack, and Horatio Caine," Eric said, smiling at her. "Yelina's part of it. It links back to their past."
"Cath and Donny both have quite a past in here," she assured him, leading him over to the wall to show off the pictures. "That's Catherine, and that's Donny," she said proudly. "And that's Horatio. He got drug in here the last time he was up by his lovers for not calling when he came in on a case."
"Whoa," Eric said, blinking at that one. "He makes one good dom." She giggled and hugged his arm. He smiled at her. "Thank you. We're learning a lot about our coworkers this weekend."
"Which was probably Catherine's point. She's making you guys a stronger team since you're fighting among yourselves. She said to tell you the hole will never be filled by anyone but a new piece of the puzzle can come in on the other side and only warp the picture a little bit, and it might even be a good fit if you let it and get to know him. After all, he could be here with us." She pointed at a picture. "The Revel last year down in your end of the world, baby." She pinched him on the cock and strolled off, kissing Yelina on the way past her. "I'll miss you."
"Maybe I'll write," she promised, taking Sheldon's arm. "Eric."
"That's Ryan," he said quietly, bringing her over. She looked and nodded. "What's he doing?"
"It looks like he's into endurance," she said quietly. "You could ask," she reminded him. "You need to get to know him as something other than Speed's replacement."
Eric looked at her and nodded. "I should. Thank you." He walked her back to Sheldon's side and let her be walked out by him. "What's the cure?"
"I don't know, it's locked." She handed him the box. "I can't pick it."
He looked at the lock. "Neither can I. Gordon could."
"He's hiding tonight. They have something to do with their father's friends tonight. Making their choices clear or something. I didn't understand." She took the box back and it went into her bra.
"Gordon and Toni's father was Gilliam Horvats, the jewel thief," Sheldon said as they walked out.
"Okay, they're gone," the bartender called. The more wild things came out and started again. Catherine had warned them that she'd be okay but they weren't going to take that chance.
Danny looked at Toni as she came out of the bathroom, gaping at the red dress. It made her look HOT. Very hot. It clung to her generous figure like a second skin yet it hid the small imperfection where she had a small lump to her stomach. She looked up and he swallowed, moving closer to kiss her, making her moan. "I should confess what I'm thinking," he murmured before kissing her again.
"Danny," she moaned. She leaned against his chest, letting him do whatever he wanted. "I don't have to go."
"Yes, you do. You have to make it clear you're not following him." He stroked his thumb along her chin. "Go armed since I won't be there."
She pulled aside the slit up her right side and showed off the holster, then slid her small gun into it, hitching it down. The gown went back over it and he moaned because he had seen the stockings. She gave him a shy smile. "I told you you'd drool."
"I'm doing more than that," he promised, kissing her again. One of his hands moved from her back down onto her ass to pull her closer. "God, Toni."
"I'll be home in a few hours and we've got a picnic tonight," she reminded him. He swallowed and nodded. "It's up to you whether or not I wear this."
"I'll bring you something so I can think," he moaned, swallowing again. He took off his glasses and kissed her again, pulling down her hair to run his hands through it. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," she promised between kisses. Someone knocked and she growled. "Five more, Gordon!" She went back to it, making him whimper when she finally pulled away. She pulled up her necklace bag, giving him a hot look. "I'll see you at nine, Danny. Wait on me." He nodded and put on his glasses when she opened the door.
"Toni, hair things," he said, handing them over.
She smiled at him and winked. "Soon." She walked out with her brother, who was in a classic black tux. They walked down to the limo together, heading to the museum, letting her have time to calm herself down and redo her hair. She put on the necklace and he nodded at that. "You're sure he's there?"
"I'm sure. He came over specifically for this. Our uncle the lawyer said so. We have to do this or else I'd let you be ravished by him." He smiled at her. "You're lucky, Toni. I envy you finding him." She smiled at that. "Do your makeup again." She pulled out her compact and fixed her lipstick and made sure her mascara hadn't ran. When it came time to get out, he got out and held out his hand to help her, escorting her up to the door.
The guard looked at her. "Ma'am, sir. Invitations?" She presented it and he blinked then at her. "Um ...."
"We're his children. I have a permit for my piece," she said, presenting it. He nodded and they passed through security with that. They paused at the top of the stairs to let everyone know they were there, then headed down to the gathering of thieves and assassins. A few people made way for them. Their uncle stepped in front of them. "Uncle," she said, moving forward to kiss him on the cheek.
"Antonia. Gordon," he said quietly, looking them over. "You're seventeen." He looked at her, sighing a bit when he saw what she was wearing. "Are you sure?"
"Very, Uncle. I'm dating one of Mom's CSI and I plan on working here some day," she said with a sad smile. "I'm sorry if we disappoint you or our missing uncle."
"He knew," he assured her. "Come, know the threats to your jobs. Gordon, what are you doing?"
"I'm a linguist for the Miami-Dade PD. I work as Uncle Horatio's assistant," he offered gently, smiling at him. "I'm up to language six, Uncle."
"Good." He clapped him on the back. "Antonia Elizabeth, this is...."
"I know. Inspector." She shook his hand. "You came as a tribute or to see us?"
He looked her over, focusing on her necklace. Then he looked into her eyes, then Gordon's. "As a tribute, kids. I don't have to worry about you." He sipped his drink. "You did a wonderful job."
"Thank you." She smiled at her uncle. "I graduated St. Bart's today, Uncle. Full honors." He smiled at that. "My boyfriend was with me and then we went to lunch, where I got to taunt the thieves trying to rob Haras."
"I heard, Antonia. He was probably laughing at how you did it." He stroked her cheek. "Are you *sure*? We'd never accept you back."
"I can't do that to him and I don't want the risks," she reminded him. "I run a big enough risk of him leaving me if he ever found out Dad taught me how to hack the Swiss banking system." The Inspector choked on his drink. She smiled at him. "He did. I've gotten into the Pentagon's satellite system a few times." She looked at him. "I'll keep up with my practice in case I need it to help mom or Danny. Danny is my life. He understands."
"I've heard of him," he admitted quietly. "We've checked him out fully. We approve of him. He's walked the road you're about to."
"And he knows that, I told him that before we got too involved. I told him today about the money I have." She shrugged. "It happens, Uncle."
"It does. He is a good choice, even for his age." He spotted another woman coming their way and moaned. "Not now."
Gordon looked and nodded at the woman, taking her hand to kiss. "Auntie." He walked her out onto the dance floor to dance with her. "I hope you respect our choices," he said while they moved. "We're happy with our lives and father agreed with our choices."
"He agreed with your twin teasing a guy twice her age whose penniless?"
"She's not teasing. She loves him, Auntie," he said quietly. She snorted. He glared at her. "She loves him enough to endanger him by telling him everything so he could leave her if he needed to so he could protect his life and his career. Messer has my respect, he stayed. He loves her enough to not have bedded her yet." She looked stunned at that. "It was only tonight he seriously dove into her mouth and I had to interrupt that so we could get here." He stepped back and bowed at the end of the dance. "I do hope you'll respect our choices, Auntie. Father did."
"If you say so." She walked back to her 'niece', looking her over. "You certainly dressed to impress someone," she greeted.
"My man. He drooled," she said with a shy smile and a small blush. "Danny loves me, Auntie, even if you don't believe in it. He loves me enough to have wanted to come tonight and be here for me, even though he knew you'd all be here." She nodded, looking pleased at that. "Please don't try to break us up."
"I'm not that low," she noted bitterly. Toni stared at her. "I'm not."
"You are. You tried to break up daddy and mom once or twice if I remember right."
"True. I'm sorry about that. Is she happy with them?" Toni nodded. "You're sure?"
"I am. Mom loves them enough to be weak around them. She's finally relented and is taking something for her knee and back because she knows they'll be there if something happens and she has to save us." Her uncle looked pleased at that. "They've got a celebration tomorrow for her and Horatio's anniversary at the resort."
"I saw the cops she's been frustrating all day," her aunt noted calmly. She looked at Gordon. "Have you succumbed to lust yet?"
"I've had a few young women I've dated a few times. I can't see myself getting intimate until I figure out how to fix that situation I'm in, Auntie. It's not like fixing my genetic quirk will help me any. It won't get hard if I do get one put on to fix it."
His uncle pulled out an envelope and handed the one with his name over. He handed the other to his niece. Then he took the necklace off her. "He was very proud of you and your choices. He said so when he came to bother my sleep last night with your other uncle." He smirked at them, putting the necklace into his pocket. Then he took their aunt's arm and walked her off. "Read those then mingle before you leave, children. I will try to pop around to check on you when I can without tainting your lives."
She looked at him. "As long as you don't make IAB look at Danny funny, you're welcome whenever you want to come over, Uncle."
Gordon nodded. "I agree. Miami already knows who my father is. Stetler asked me point blank and got an honest answer. Then I pointed out I didn't want that life, that I had chosen to follow Uncle Horatio." He smiled and nodded. He led her out onto the floor, dancing with his sister until they were ready to read their letters. When she nodded, he walked them over to an alcove bench and sat with her to read his letter, then hers. He blushed at the blunt speech. He looked at her. "I haven't gotten anything from the twin's bond in a while but I'm getting drunk tonight so I don't feel anything if it happens." He handed hers back and tucked his into his pocket. "I love you, and I like him. I'm proud of you too." He kissed her on the cheek.
"He's right, that could give you what you want so much, Gordon," she offered. "Mom and I will both support you."
"Ask Daddy Horatio tomorrow." She stood up and he stood, taking her arm to walk her back once hers was down her bra. She checked her watch, then smiled at him. "I'm leaving at nine."
"I saw a light stack outside when I looked. What time is it?"
"Ten til." She looked at the gathered people, taking her glass from the waiter. She sniffed it and nodded for him to take one. "To our father, may his afterlife be as filled with pleasure and laughs as his life was," she toasted. They all drank and the twins left, heading away from the old life. Danny was waiting on her and she walked into his arms, smiling at him. "I love you. Gordon, are we giving you a ride?"
"No thanks, I can take a cab." He smirked at Danny. "You behave with my sister and take damn good care of her. She's not the deadly one in the family, I am. I just need a really good reason." Danny nodded at that. "I'm off to drink myself into a stupor." He strolled past the cops.
Danny kissed her again. "Are you ready?"
She looked back at her uncle and aunt, nodding at them. He looked and nodded cordially then she let him help her into the limo. He stared for a moment before getting in and the driver took off. "Thank you."
"If you had wanted, I'd have been in there with you."
"I doubt you'd want to be surrounded by fifty thieves and assassins who were his confidants and partners over the years," she said, handing over the letter. "From daddy."
He curled her fingers around it. "He wrote it to you."
"Part of it was to you," she said dryly. "My father knew of my crush before I did." He took it and scanned it until he came to his part, then blinked at it then at her. "I don't know. I'm still scared senseless of it happening and it's a moot point until I'm done with my education at the very least." He smiled and handed it back. She tucked it down her bra again and he smirked. "Not like I'm carrying a purse."
"What happened to the necklace?"
"He gave it to me when I was fifteen and told me when I was seventeen he'd have a ball. If I was joining him I was to wear anything but that one. If I was leaving the life, I was to wear that as a sign. My uncles and he would be watching for it. It came from his mother. He knew Gordon wouldn't even dream of it. He was very firm about joining Horatio long before then. Me, I wobbled. That gave me two years to finish growing into my thoughts and make my decision. It's in my uncle's pocket, as it should be."
He kissed her hand. "You made the right decision," he promised. He smiled at her. "Still want a picnic on the beach? I got us some sandwiches and stuff."
"Please. Am I changing?"
"When we get there. That way I can give you a bit of privacy, Toni."
"I'm wearing decent underwear under this."
He put a finger over her lips. "If I watch you change, you won't make it to dinner." She blushed and nodded. "When we get there." He pointed at the small pile of clothes. "Those?" She nodded, smiling at him. "Thank you for spoiling me this weekend."
"Tomorrow's special and you deserve it." She kissed him, curling up against him to get closer to his heat. She shivered when his arm went around her shoulders.
"A bit nervous."
"We don't have to....."
"Danny, I want more than anything for you to take this really hot dress off me and we send the driver on that picnic," she assured him gently. "But I'm still nervous. I'm still afraid I'll make you hate it."
He took her hand and put it over his heart. "If I go much harder, I'll pass out soon. You won't disappoint me. Like I said, I don't expect much. I expect to do some teaching." He smiled at her. "It'll kinda be nice not to have to correct assumptions for a change." She nodded and blushed again. The car parked and the driver got out. He got out when the door opened. "Change. I'll set up dinner." He closed the door and got the stuff out of the trunk.
She wiggled until she could get the zipper undone, sliding out of the dress and bra. She hated strapless bras, they were always uncomfortable. The stockings weren't that comfortable either so they went. She checked the clothes, he hadn't added any new underwear so she took off the smoothing panel, leaving her in her little bikini bottoms then slid into the jeans and t-shirt. She put on her sneakers without socks and pulled down her hair. It had pulled a bit earlier when he had taken it down on her. Now he wouldn't have to. She saw a small pack of wet wipes and pulled out her mirror to take off the makeup too. She didn't need it, he had seen her this morning and said she was beautiful before she had taken a shower and with bedhair. She finally got the last of the mascara off and checked again, using the last one in the pack to do one last swipe. Then she got out and walked down there to join him.
He blinked at her. "Bra?"
"Strapless bras are horribly uncomfortable. They're like a cage to keep you from bouncing out of your dress." She sat down beside him. "Besides, I hate bras if I'm not in the public spotlight." He blushed at that. "Sorry. I can go back and put it on if you want."
"No, that's all right." He stroked down her cheek. "Eat, Toni. I need my strength and it's rude to eat in front of someone."
She smiled and sucked his thumb into her mouth to nibble on. "I'm not really that hungry." He moaned and pulled his thumb out. "Sorry."
"No, don't be." He kissed her again. "Please eat? We'll both need the energy for later." She nodded and picked up a sandwich that was clearly his, holding it up so he could bite into it. He moaned but he did take a bite. She licked his lips clean then ate a bite of hers then fed him another bite. "I can do that."
"You shouldn't have to."
"I don't need a body slave, Toni. A real woman can only feed her guy if he feeds her too. That's breakfast." She blushed and nodded, letting him eat while she tucked in. He smiled at her. "When are we leaving for the resort?"
"Ten since Ray Jr. has the lam."
"Are we taking the limo?"
"No, she's coming in at midnight. Once he drops us off, he's heading back to his post."
"Okay. So we can't be out here all night." She ate another bite and looked at him. "It'll be okay. Whatever you want and no further." She leaned over and whispered in his ear, making him shift and moan, pressing his lips together. "That might take all night," he promised once he had calmed down again, eating another bite. He'd definitely need energy for that. But he'd do it because he wanted her more than anything and it'd make her happy. First times were supposed to be special. She licked his lips clean and he kissed her, making her run her fingers into his hair. He dropped his food and did the same, taking advantage of the need to breathe to go deeper into her mouth.
"We can eat it for a snack," she promised. He chuckled. "Spank me, I'm a wanton beast for you, Danny Messer."
"I can see that, Toni Cavanaugh. Okay. We'll go back and see what happens." She gathered up the food and let him get the blanket, even letting him walk behind her so he could stare at her ass in those jeans. "Is that a tattoo on your back, Toni?"
She grinned back at him. "Yup." She got into the limo and folded up her things so it could be carried in with the food and basket. He turned her around and pushed up the bottom of her shirt to look at it, swallowing a bit at what he saw and traced with his index finger. "I got it about three weeks ago," she offered quietly.
"It's beautiful work," he assured her, letting it go. The Celtic knot formed a thin ring with their initials merged in a fancy calligraphy script. "You were that sure?" She turned and nodded. "What's that knot pattern?"
She smiled and kissed him. "Family."
He smiled at that. "Not love."
"You're tighter to me than that, Danny. Love can change but family is unchangeable and everlasting." He nodded, pulling her into his lap to kiss her again. "You don't mind?"
"I don't mind, it's the truth as far as I can tell. It would take something pretty bad for me to leave you." He kissed her again. "Any other secrets?"
She shook her head. "Not unless you want to know what I can do as a hacker."
"Are you saying you can take down the world?" he teased.
"No, but daddy taught me to hack the Swiss banks and the Pentagon to get into the satellite systems." He pulled back and stared at her. "Sorry."
"You're not doing that, right?"
"Only when I want a really pretty shot of a sunset across the world or if you and Mom need something."
"Good. No doing it for pretty pictures. Look at National Geographic or somethin'."
"Yes, Danny, but I've still got to keep in practice."
"Then hack my computer at work or something."
"Yes, sir." She gave him a sheepish look. "I'd never use it for *bad* stuff."
"Good. It can still get you into trouble." He pulled her closer to kiss her again. "Any other confessions?" he asked quietly. She shook her head. "You're sure? Nothing in your past?"
"If I told you anything I had done, you'd have to tell."
He looked at her. "I'm not going to."
"Dad ran me through a few real life sims. B&E, a few minor shoplifting things, and a small heist that I sent back later since I had done so badly and it was ugly stuff." He groaned, resting his forehead against hers. "I'm sorry. I was fifteen."
"You were young and stupid. I get that," he said, looking at her again. "I've been there and done that too." She stroked over his tattoo and he nodded. "Yeah, that."
"At least mine didn't mark me. You've had to live with that mark speaking before you even opened your mouth. I promise, I gave it up, I don't even get the urge to do it."
"Good. There's got to be legal ways of letting you keep in practice."
"Yeah, I can do computer stuff for you guys at work." She smiled at him. "Do you want me to tell Taylor?"
"I'd like that if you think you want to. If not, your Ma could send it up the chain."
"No offense, but I don't want to work for mom. I will work as a contractor for the PD to stay in practice. Not mom and not Taylor."
"Agreed." He kissed her. "Any other deep, dark secrets?"
"I dreamed about nasty, kinky sex last night?" she offered. He smirked at that. "Anal sex."
"Isn't that kinky. I thought you meant handcuffs, chains, or feather dusters." She giggled and pinched him, shaking her head. "You sure?"
"If you're into that, you'll show me and I'll see if I like it. Just not tonight."
"No, not tonight." The limo pulled up and stopped and the driver got out. "Make sure we've cleaned up our mess, Toni." She wiggled off his lap and got everything together again, having to retrieve one of her shoes, which made her bend over and gave him a very good view. He spanked her, making her yelp. "For having dirty dreams," he teased, taking half the stuff to walk her inside.
She smirked at him. "That was only last night. You wanna hear about the others?" she teased, walking inside with him on her arm, like usual and as was proper. The clerk handed her a message and she smiled, reading it in the elevator. "I'll get my uncle back later."
"The one who just tried to take my trust fund away from me. He'll be paying in about twenty minutes since I boobytrapped it. His hacker will be very sorry." He gave her a look and she smirked. "What? I'm protecting what's mine. Expect that if you ever get hurt."
"I will." He kissed her before they got off, then led her to their room and let her inside. Everything got put onto the dresser and he sat on the end of a bed, pulling her closer to sit on his lap again. She stood up and kicked off her shoes, then wiggled out of her jeans before sitting down again. "That's dangerous."
"No, that's more comfortable." She kissed him and he groaned, his hands going up her back, feeling the tensing and releasing of the muscles as she moved. He ended up scooting back so she'd have a better seat and she wrapped herself around his waist, legs linked behind his waist.
"Dangerous," he warned.
"No you're not. Not to me."
"I meant the position."
She kissed him and smiled. "I don't mind it." She wiggled a bit and he hissed, tensing up and grabbing her hips. "Sorry, too much?" she asked with a smile.
"Only if you want anything more ta happen," he warned. "Otherwise it'll be about an hour."
"However long you need," she promised, diving in again.
Stella finally figured out how to get up to the resort listed as being held in trust for Toni and Danny's kids, handing it to Ryan. "Here, you drive. That's the hardest place to find."
"Are we gonna be late?" he asked, checking his watch. It was barely eight in the morning. "Where's everyone else?"
"Coming." The rest of everyone piled into the van they had found waiting on them when they had checked for morning messages. Aiden's said she had already escaped with Flack's birthday present. Yelina was the last one down and she had the small box in her hand.
Ryan checked and mentally counted. "We don't have to pick up anyone else, right? No more clues?"
"No more clues. So let's go," Eric ordered. He yawned. "How long do we have to nap?"
"By mapquest, about three hours if he doesn't make any wrong turns," Stella offered. "If he does, we're heading into the boonies upstate." That got some laughs. "Seriously. Mapquest couldn't find the zipcode." That got some more laughs from Calleigh. "You wanna drive?"
"When we get to the boonies, I'll take over. I'm used to 'em." That got a smile and Ryan started the van. "What about Ray Jr., who's riding with him?"
"I let him go on his own," Yelina admitted. "He went up last night. He was pouting that none of the pretty girls would dance with him and wanted to have Horatio tell him he'd be a fine, manly stud some day soon." They all laughed at that. "Fortunately he said she left a note in the glove box saying he was driving her car with permission if he got into trouble."
"Ryan, turn on some noise so I can sleep," Calleigh ordered. He let Stella do that while he pulled away from the hotel. "Thank you, sweetie." She closed her eyes and leaned against Eric's shoulder, making him smirk and shake his head, but slump down so he could get comfortable and sleep as well.
Yelina waited until they were snoring to share a look with Stella, who just grinned back. "I wonder what they were doing."
"We were talking," Ryan admitted. "What about you and Sheldon?"
"Talking," she said just a bit too quickly. Stella winked back at her. "He is a very smart man."
"I am," Sheldon agreed from the back, not opening his eyes. "I take pride in my brains and my skills, thank you, Yelina."
"You're welcome, Sheldon." She smiled back at him and looked at the last member of their party. "Are you all right, Melinda?"
"Can I switch to dayshift? Nights are so *boring* and you guys have fun!"
"Maybe. Horatio's talking about retiring after the current crisis," Ryan offered. She smiled at that. "We'll still be there and fun but Calleigh would probably be in charge."
"Bite your tongue," she mumbled. "Before I cut it out for you."
"Sorry, dear." He made the turn the map said to, heading the wrong direction.
Stella looked then looked at him. "Pull over. Let me drive." He did that and they switched places, letting her go in the right direction. "Mapquest hasn't updated where we changed onramps yet. It's only been two years." He laughed and she turned up the radio a bit more. "Should I pull in for coffee in about two hours?"
"Please," everyone awake requested.
"Melinda, change with me," Yelina ordered quietly. They switched and she sat next to Sheldon, earning a smile. "I'm a bit tired myself and you look like a good pillow. Do you mind?"
He put an arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer, kissing her on the top of the head. "Of course not. I know I've got some soft spots under all the muscles."
She smiled. "It's your heart." She leaned on him, getting comfortable on his chest so she could take a nap too, even letting him pet her hair to help her sleep.
Ryan glanced back after a few more miles, smiling at Melinda since she was the only one awake. "Tell us if you need a break," he offered quietly. She nodded and snuggled in, sleeping against the window. He took his jacket off and tossed it at her for a pillow, earning him a smile. He turned back around to watch the scenery go past, then looked at Stella. "We should hold these get-togethers more often," he said quietly.
"We should. Even Lindsey could use some loosening up."
"What is wrong with her?"
"Ambition and she wants to wear Mac's dog tags."
"Ah. Bummer. Doesn't she know that he's not going to date an employee?"
"I've pointed that out to her, she hasn't gotten the point yet."
"Nor will she," Sheldon called quietly. "She's that blind. I'm going to start putting it more bluntly."
Ryan smirked at him. "You're good to her. She needs it." He turned back around to look at her. "You think they're really be on hand for consults for both labs?"
"Yup, plus she's going to be running our CE stuff as well. That's why they're building houses in both cities. From what I hear, identical houses in both cities."
"Where he's been looking for land is very pretty," he told her. "What about up here?"
"He's going to have a lot of neighbors from the clubs last night." He chuckled at that. "So they won't say a word about the trio."
"Good. They don't deserve that. They deserve to be kinda happy." He patted her on the knee. "You do too, Stella."
"Ryan, if you're hitting on me, be more blunt. I'm not used to subtle anymore."
"Sorry, but I'm not. You're a great woman but you live way too far away for me to get clingy and possessive on. Now, if we were one city maybe. Or working together more often, but I need to get clingy and possessive. Sorry."
"Don't be. If you move up here, we'll see what happens." She winked at him and took the next exit as she was supposed to.
He looked around. "It's like the city disappeared."
"It does that when you head upstate. There's a few smaller cities but nothing like ours."
"Then again, there's no city in the world like New York City," he pointed out dryly.
She smirked. "We wouldn't have it any other way."
"Think we could get vacation time up at this place if it's nice?"
"Only if we suck up to the bosses. But then again I'm taking her job when she retires and Don likes me."
"Horatio likes me and I can beg and wheedle with the best."
Eric snorted. "Whine and beg, it's what you're good at, Ryan. Capitalize on the boyhood charm thing you've got going. It's how I used to get women. How many more hours?"
"Thanks." He closed his eyes and cuddled Calleigh, resting on her head now. He growled and unbuckled both their seatbelts and laid her down, then laid on top of her. "She'll slap me later," he said at the laughter from the front seats. "It's more comfortable to lay this way."
"I had better wake up in all the same clothes and they had better be in the same damn spots," Calleigh said quietly.
"Not an issue. I love you but not that way at the moment."
"Thank you. Sleep. You're the pillow on the plane."
"Yes, dear." He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.
"Men," she complained once he was snoring, accepting Sheldon's tossed jacket as a pillow. "Thanks, sweetie. Don't grope her unless she asks."
"I'd never do that. I'm a polite young man."
"Good. Move to Miami, she could use another polite young man. Her son's just not right for her." She let herself drift off on the motion of the road and the quiet music. Classical was a nice choice for napping to.
Horatio smiled as the van pulled up, heading out to meet with his lovers in the woods. "They're here."
"They can track." Catherine smiled at him and winked. "Are they wearing clothes?"
"They are. Thought they do look a bit rumpled."
"It was all the napping in the van. Eric slept on me, Horatio," Calleigh complained from behind him. Catherine smiled at her. "We found you! We saved you! Where is the evil villainess with the birthday present?"
"Not here yet. She's taking an extra long time."
"Ah. Yeah, I would too if I had one of those to ride up."
"Huh?" Don asked, looking at his lovers. "I know my birthday's next week."
"The evil villainess has your present that she's using at collateral to drag you back to your old life," Yelina assured him, handing over the box to her brother-in-law. "I believe that's your antidote?"
"Yes, but you're very early," he told them. "Go wander for the next three hours or find a couch and the kitchen."
"I'm for lunch," Ryan admitted. "I'll make sandwiches."
"Don't touch the cake," Catherine ordered. "Under penalty of me losing your paperwork." They all groaned and went to do that and wander around. She looked at the box. "That wasn't part of my thing."
"No, that was part of ours," Don assured her. "You're marrying Horatio today and then we're bonding as a trio." He stood up and kissed her, going to call their villainess to see what his birthday present was. He saw her pulling up and stared, then squealed like a teenage girl and ran over to hug her. "That had better be my present and I love you!"
"Get off!" She swatted at him, grinning at his hurt look. "It's your present. Can I borrow it for another few hours?"
"No," he said with a pout. "My present."
"Can I ride behind you?"
"Only if my wife handcuffs you. You know she's jealous, right?" She sighed and nodded and they watched as Toni and Danny pulled in, and Danny got out and took the keys. "When did you two leave?"
"Two hours ago," he said dryly, pocketing the keys. "No Jr.?"
"He's already parked in the garage. Her baby doesn't sit anywhere else," he noted dryly. "My birthday present," he said, pointing at the motorcycle Aiden was straddling.
"Mom got you a CSI of your own?" Toni teased, hugging him. "And here all I got you was some very spiffy cufflinks." She handed over the box, earning a hug and a smile. "From the both of us."
"Thank you. You too, Danny."
"I just suggested, she's in full spoil mode. So, she got you Aiden?"
"No, she got me the bike. Aiden's on my present and has to ask my wife if she wants to borrow it again."
"Pussywhipped," Aiden teased.
"And more than happy to be. Have you seen my wife?" he teased back. "Now off, wench!" She huffed and got off, letting him stuff his other present in his pocket and take off for a leisurely ride around. And to break a few local speed limits of course.
Toni kissed Danny gently. "He taught me how to drive out here. He can do it in an hour and a half." He groaned and kissed her until she went limp then walked her off.
"No fair, I need one of those," Aiden pouted. She followed, heading up to the old building. It was a nice place and she found a hottie in there looking out the window. She stared at his ass for a minute before walking closer and goosing him. She hadn't wanted to realize the real estate potential on him last night, not while they were playing the game. "You taken or free?" she asked bluntly.
"I'll never get used to New York women being so blunt," he said with a smile. "But I'm free. Spoilable too."
"Cool. I can spoil sometimes. Wanna take a walk?"
"Okay. Remember, don't touch the cake or we're fired." That got another groan so he walked out with her.
"They're so cute," Ryan said, shaking his head and looking at Calleigh. "You're not diabetic, right?"
"No, no sugar shock here. She moves faster than he does." Yelina nodded at that from where she was reading next to Sheldon. Who was also reading. "You know, Sheldon, Alexx all but demanded a visit from you soon."
He smiled at her. "I don't need the encouragement, Calleigh. Do you guys have an open spot?"
"I don't know. I'll have to check with Horatio when we find him again later." She looked at Ryan. "Think the box had rings?"
"Yup, I heard Don tell her that she's marrying Horatio and then they're bonding as a trio afterward. Apparently this is news to her."
"They were only going to have an anniversary party," Toni called from upstairs. "This was all the dads' fault. Yell when Gordon stumbles in with Gwen please!" Then a door slammed.
Calleigh giggled. "Young love is so cute."
"It is," he agreed happily, taking a peach to nibble on. She swatted him so he cut it in half and handed it to her. "Sorry." He went to look around. "The map says they've got a pond."
"I wonder if they have ducks this time of year." She came over to look and they wandered off.
Ray Jr. came down the stairs with a yawn and a stretch. "Toni's noisy, mom."
"That happens when you're in love and having sex son." She looked at him. "Get presentable."
"Sorry." He headed back up to shower and change clothes, hearing her squealing in pleasure. He came back down when he was done. "Some day I'll make girls make that squealy noise."
"I'm sure you will," Sheldon promised. "If Eric can you can." That got a smile and he headed for the kitchen. "Catherine said if we touched the cake we're all fired."
"Okay. Wasn't going to. Cake is not a breakfast food, it's a brunch food." He checked the clock on the wall. "Damn, it's brunch."
"Raymond!" his mother snapped.
"Yes, mom." He got down something else to eat, looking at the two people coming in. "Another cute couple?"
"She's my big sister, I kinda doubt it, Ray," Gordon complained.
Sheldon looked at her. "Are you okay, Gwen?"
"Yeah, I started having Braxton Hicks last night. Practice labor sucks ass."
"It does," he agreed, waving her over. He felt her stomach. "You still feel okay. It'll be fine. Sit and put your feet up. Gordon, your sister wanted to know when you got in."
"Not like I'm going to interrupt her. They've got a window open and you can hear them in the parking area." He went to help Ray fix coffee and other stuff, looking out there when he saw the bike. "Speaking of spoiling rotten," he called.
"Hey, my birthday present!" Don called back. "Don't touch it either." He came inside, looking at Gwen. "You okay?"
"Practice labor sucks ass."
"I'm sure it does. Thankfully I'm not a girl." He stroked her stomach, making her smile. "Gotta get in some practice. Kate won't let me pet ours."
"She's what?" Yelina demanded, hopping up.
"Ditto," Sheldon said, holding up a finger.
Don looked at him. "You didn't know?"
"No! I never hear the good gossip."
"Yeah, she's pregnant," Stella yelled from the room she was borrowing. "It's a boy."
"I thought she was finally eating again," Sheldon said, pouting at him. "You didn't announce it."
"That's because everyone knew. Hell, I had to take the stuff away from the chem tech so she couldn't run the test to see which of us is the father." Yelina opened her mouth. "We don't care."
"Fine," she pouted. "Make my poor son responsible for carrying on the family name."
"Mom, weren't you the one saying you'd make a fine grandmother the other day?" her son called from the kitchen, making Gwen giggle. "She was!"
"I didn't mean right now!" she shot back. She glared at Don. "Who are they going to be named after?"
"My father since he's such a nagging worrywart. He's pushing for a fourth generation Flack in a badge." He grimaced then kissed her on the cheek. "I'll treat your brother-in- law very well, Yelina, but he'd look really horrible pregnant." He walked out whistling.
"I just had a mental image that will haunt me for weeks," she said, looking at Sheldon, who kissed her. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." He smiled at her. "Want to take a walk."
"Nope, I get to threaten you first," Ray called. "Or else I'll just pounce you and beat the shit out of you for debauching my mother, dude."
Sheldon looked at him. "I'm not like that."
"Do I care? Uncle Horatio, Mom kissed Sheldon!" he yelled.
Horatio walked into the house from the back porch and looked at them. "I'll see if we have an opening coming up, Sheldon, and I will expect her to be deliriously happy so I don't have to cover up a homicide. Do I make myself clear?" he asked quietly.
"I'm a nice guy and we're still talking. I haven't done more than kiss her yet, Horatio."
"Good. Though that's up to her, but I do expect her to be respected. Or else." Sheldon shivered at that stare and nodded. "Excellent. Gwen." She stuck her tongue out at him. "Why don't you go swim in the pond?"
"The doctor said I can't. He's a bastard by the way."
"I know. Can you sit in the hottub?" She shook her head, still pouting. "Want to take a nap?"
"He's keeping me up."
"Go take a nap. We'll figure out how to soothe him later."
She nodded and went to her room. "Shut the fucking hell up, the baby's trying to sleep!" she called a few minutes later. "Go out to the damn guest house if you two wanna make that much noise! Shit, I've had to bust orgies that didn't scream as loudly as you do, Toni!"
"Gwen!" Don yelled from outside. "No more cranky pregnant hormone swings today!"
"Toni, go out to the guest house!"
"Yes, Dad," Danny called just after her, making her giggle.
Don walked in. "What in the fricken' hell did I do to deserve that this time?"
Horatio kissed him. "Just being your loving self, Don. You know how young love is. You used to complain about her giggling at me too. You have a very low giggling tolerance level."
He growled and pounced him, giving him a hot look once he had him pinned to the floor. "I think there are better noises ta make."
"As do I, but she'll get mad if you pounce me and make me take a nap now."
"Damn it." He got up and helped Horatio up and back outside. "We're doing this at two, so you'd all better be on time," he called. "It's noon now."
Ray finished his food and brought it out to eat on a couch, looking at Sheldon. "I would be the one committing the homicide he'd have to cover up. Sit, talk, explain how much you love my mother to me," he encouraged. Sheldon swallowed and sat, looking at him. "You do what?"
"I'm an ME but I recently switched to level one field tech."
"Okay. Why? You had the good and easy job."
"I wanted to see the whole case, not just the end result."
"If there are more kids, would you go back to being an ME?" he asked, then took a bite. "Mom needs someone to fuss and coo over that won't make disgusted faces at the tenth attempt to smooth down his hair."
He smiled. "I'd have to be in the situation first, Ray."
"Good answer. I'll have to remember that when I face down a father." He ate another bite. "Does Alexx know you?"
"I did my residency with her."
"Good. Then she can tell me how good you are. I'll look forward to her lunch with all of us." He ate another bite, looking at his mother. "I love you."
"I know, son, and I know that's why you're being such a pain in the ass." He smiled and nodded, going back to his eating. Toni and Danny came down the stairs. "Are you two all right?"
"Just fine," Danny said, noticing her blush. "Don't do that. They knew even before we got noisy," he assured her. She nodded and led him out to walk around in the woods. "Don't go that overboard for my birthday."
"I wouldn't dream of it," she promised with a smile. "By the way, I checked this morning, everything's back where it should be and I had a very nice note of apology in my email this morning. And a dirty picture from one of the guys last night who wants to sleep with me. I sent back a copy of the prom picture and he's still probably pouting." He smiled and kissed her, making her pinch him on the butt. "I'm not ready to be watched yet."
"We'd never watch," Horatio called. She walked him that way, sitting on the ground in front of them. "Are you happy?" She nodded. "Are you serious about him?"
"I am, dad." He smiled at that. "I'm serious enough to tattoo myself for him. I'm serious enough to rein in the naughty tendencies I had last night when I found out someone was trying to hack my trust fund and didn't hit them back." Horatio nodded about that. "I'm serious enough to give him this," she said, taking something out of her bra and handing it to her stepfather, who smiled and handed it back. "Whenever he's ready of course." She put it back and Danny took it to look at then stare at her. "It's the one my natural father was going to give my mother before he realized what he'd do to her career."
"Oh." He looked at the ring, then at her. "We're definitely not ready for this yet."
"I know, when you're ready." She took it back and he snatched it and put it in his pocket. "I was going to give it to you once I had it resized."
"You just did. When we're ready and talked and all that stuff, I'll start wearing it."
"Good for me," she decided, kissing him again. He forgot Horatio was there and pulled her into his lap.
Horatio and Don shared a look as he joined them. Don coughed. "Guys, there's people present."
"You had sex in the front room of clubs," Toni said, panting heavily and diving back in.
"Good point," Horatio agreed, kissing him and walking him back to where Catherine was lounging. He smiled at their nearest neighbor, Doctor Mike. "Doc," he said fondly, shaking his hand.
"Making it official?"
"All three of us," Don agreed. " You mind much?"
"Nah, you're good," he assured them. "It's been clear to the rest of us for years now. When's the main event?"
"Two." She smiled at him. "We'll have seats for you guys."
"Thank you, dear." He kissed her on the head. "You'll make a stunning bride. Now what's this I hear 'bout the old lil' pumpkin being expecting?"
"Oh yes, seven months along and she's having false labor," she said fondly. "Toni, we took our birth control this time, right?" she called.
"Yes, mother, I'm still on the shot," she called back. "Hi, Doctor Mike." Toni smiled as she came into the clearing, hugging him. "Doctor Mike, you remember Danny, right? We're together now."
Mike looked at him, then nodded. "You're good for the girl. She's calm and making sense again." He shook his hand. "How's your throat?"
"No lasting effects. Thank you for taking such good care of me, and her over the years."
"Not a problem. I love these kids like they're my own. My own went stupid, these ones are better'n that." He patted Danny on the cheek. "Next time you get hurt, she's gonna fuss, boy. Like you've never seen before." Toni nodded and smirked at that. "She's a bad one about spoiling too. Used to make me and my wife all sorts of cookies all the time when they came up." He patted him on the cheek with a smile. "You could stand a few pounds but don't let her make you fat, son, even if she promises to help you exercise it off later." Danny blushed bright red at that so he chuckled and went back to the house. "Where's my lil' pumpkin at this time?" he asked.
"Gwen's in bed," Ray told him. "Her room. Are you some of her family, sir?"
"No, son, I'm Doctor Mike, I retired to the other side of the woods."
Sheldon stood up and smiled at him. "Sheldon Hawkes, sir, I saw the work you did on Danny and Don and I was very impressed."
"Thank you, son. You a doctor?"
"You don't get complaints then I'm sure," he offered with a smile. "You practice the normal stuff too?"
"I'm reupping my full certificate this time and I'll do triage at a scene if I have to. I'm doing field tech work now as a CSI."
"Why?" he asked, looking confused.
"I wanted to see the whole thing, not just the outcome."
Doctor Mike patted him on the cheek too. "You're a bit confused, son. There's easier ways of doing that than going out and getting shot at like they did. Now, come help me check the pumpkin over. She's gotta be having problems at her age."
"Of course. Excuse me for a minute, Yelina, Ray."
"Go, be a doctor, I can amuse my mother yet again by whining about the pretty women who wouldn't have sex with me last night," Ray assured him.
"They were smart, son, they knew I'd kill them," she assured him.
Mike laughed. "I like her, son. She's a keeper and then some." He led the way up to Gwen's room, knocking a bit. "Pumpkin?" Gwen opened the door and hugged him, crying. "Shhh, now. I know it's hard, let me look, dear. Can this young one help? He needs to remember his roots."
"Sure." She let them inside and closed the door. "He won't go to sleep! My doc says I can't swim and he won't nap, Doc."
Sheldon blew on his hands to warm them up then put them around her stomach, rubbing gentle circles with his palms. He got one good kick and then the baby settled down. He smiled at her. "It worked on my sister's daughter all the time." She hugged him, letting him pat her on the back. "It's all right. Let's check you over just in case something happens while we're up here, Gwen."
"Yes, sir." She laid down and bared her stomach, letting them press and play with the baby all they wanted since they were making him stay asleep. She might name the baby's middle name after them for that.
Ryan walked into the station and smiled at Frank, holding up a video tape. "You are to go to kick the AV tech out of his lab for the next half an hour and bring Alexx and only Alexx and some kleenex with you."
"Why?" he asked patiently, taking it from the grinning young man. "Why her anyway?"
"Horatio said so."
"Is this going to get us more Feds who won't go away?" he demanded.
"No, but it'll get you cried on. Horatio said you two and only you two were to watch it."
"Fine," he sighed, walking off to gather Alexx and kick their AV tech out of his lab for a bit.
Ryan went to the locker room to change, finding Calleigh in there. "Hey, I gave Frank the tape and the instructions."
"Good. Wonder how long it'll be before it's all over the station."
"Where is that man!" Alexx yelled.
"Not long," Ryan admitted. "You know, Eric's going to be the first one she sees."
"He's come and gone. In here, Alexx," she called. She stomped in and slammed the door shut, making them wince. "He'll be back in another two days."
"He got married!"
"I noticed that, I was crying in the background," she assured her, giving her a hug. "It was kinda cute. She gave him this impish look and said very quietly 'maybe' and got pinched for it."
"I saw that." She frowned at Ryan. "Did you know about this?"
"No. We had no idea it was going to happen until that day."
"Uh-huh. So what was it?"
"A mock kidnaping. We had to find those three up at this resort she owns."
"Ah, I see." She kissed her on the cheek. "Did you meet any nice boys?"
"No, but Yelina did. She and Sheldon were cuddled up all weekend."
"Really? My Sheldon?" Calleigh and Ryan both nodded, smiling at her. "Anything good?"
"Ray interrogated him and Horatio threatened him," Ryan offered.
"They were so cute!" she cooed. "She curled up on his shoulder to sleep in the van on the way up and they sat and read together and all sorts of stuff," Calleigh assured her. "Horatio said if they're going to get serious, he'll find him a spot down here."
"It had better be back in the morgue," she snorted. "Fine. They're on their honeymoon?" They both nodded. "Where's the other one?"
"Eric came in early and already left," Calleigh assured him. "We gave Ryan the tape."
"Uh-huh, now I know why. Frank just cried on me because he finally married his bitch," she said blandly, smirking at them both. "Anything else happen?"
"Yeah," Ryan said, coming over to sit her down. "Speed's got a younger brother who was working for Catherine's father but he's going to law school instead. Her father's getting ready to retire and handing the family business to someone else so Brad's coming down here to go to law school. Horatio pointed out he could get his power fix the same way." Alexx just gaped. "And he looks almost exactly like what I remember seeing Speedle look like Alexx," he finished quietly. "Eric found his phone number and talked with him for a few minutes. He got a few new pictures too."
"You tell Eric I wanna see 'em when he gets in here," she said firmly, standing up. "Is he a good boy?"
"He ran away and got into trouble," Ryan assured her. "He liked the power but Horatio told him how much more fun he could have as a prosecutor and have lives dangling off his fingers." She snorted and nodded at that. "So he's coming down here. Speed told him about you guys. He knew who Horatio was."
"Good! Then I'll expect to have dinner with the boy. His brother's name is Brad? I thought it was Justin."
"It is, but he changed it since his father disowned him for whatever reason made him run away. Catherine said to tell you."
"Uh-huh. Good idea!" She frowned then patted him on the cheek. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. I met some very nice women up there, but they're too far away for me to get cuddlesome and spoil them or get all protective and possessive over. Unfortunately."
"So we're doing a tech switch?" she asked.
"Not unless they come down," he offered with a grin. "I love Miami, I'm not leaving."
"That's fine, sugar. You be a good boy and thank you for telling me gently." She went to find Yelina and pump her for more information on all three topics, finding Frank already there talking about the wedding. "Did she mention my former resident Sheldon and she were cuddling?" she demanded.
"Ooh, cuddling?" Frank asked with a bright grin. "I remember Sheldon, he was a nice boy."
"He's a field tech now," Alex said sarcastically, looking at her friend, who was blushing. "Should we even bother finding him a place to live when he comes down?"
"We're still talking," she defended.
"Uh-huh. And what's this about Brad or whatever he's going by now?"
"Speed's little brother?" she asked. "He'll be down here this coming semester to start pre- law. Horatio's mentoring him."
"Good! I wanna meet this boy soon as he gets down here and you and I are gonna have a long talk with Sheldon soon as he comes too. Now, give, I want details! I didn't even know they were planning it."
"Neither did she," Yelina snorted. "She planned an anniversary and early birthday party for Don. The guys planned the wedding part and surprised her. Did you watch all of it?" They both smirked and nodded. "It was so cute. She got Don a motorcycle for his birthday." Alexx giggled at that. "Horatio got him some bath stuff for some reason."
"Horatio has this thing about cuddling in the hottub with them," Frank complained. "Last time they were down and anyone called, that's where they all were." He sighed. "He doesn't want anyone to know?" She shook her head. "Why not?"
"Ah." He nodded. "Okay then. Any other good news?"
"Their son's a boy."
"They're having a son together? Which one of the three is pregnant?"
"The usual one," Yelina assured him. "They don't care which is the father but they're all going to be Flack's so his father quits whining for grandchildren." That got a round of snickers. "It's a boy, she's about six months along. Gwen is about seven and having a few issues but she's hanging in there. They're building matching houses here and there so she can retire and go to consulting with both PD's."
"Then Horatio will retire since he's nearly got his twenty in, and then Don when he gets tired of it?" Alexx suggested. Yelina nodded. "Good. I like that idea. It'll make 'em happy and unbored most of the time. Any other good news?"
Yelina pulled out a picture she had gotten a copy of. "Toni is dating him, Danny Messer, one of Taylor's CSIs."
"They're cute together but he's way too old for her," Frank complained.
"Look at the look in her eyes, Frank," Alexx sighed. "She's in love and nothing and no one will stop her."
"She officially gave up her father's life for him, made and announced her final decision," Yelina said quietly. "No going back." Frank smiled at that. "He's good to her and makes her make a lot of noise. Even Ray complained about the noise. Even Horatio complained about the noise on their honeymoon night and they were across the resort from the rest of us."
"She owns this really old hunting resort upstate," Yelina said happily. "A lot of woods, a pond, about twelve rooms really. It's a beautiful place. That's where the tape came from." She smiled at them. "Horatio did say that we could beg to have some vacation time up there now and then."
"Good. I wouldn't mind. Sounds peaceful." He handed back the picture. "Any other good news?"
"You missed it. We left at eight in the morning to get up there and have some time before whatever event was going to happen. Eric ended up using Calleigh as a pillow. Made her lay down to do it and everything." They both snickered at that. "Did he already leave?"
"Yup, caught him running off when I came in," Frank said dryly. "Ryan gave me the tape."
"That's fine, at least you got it."
"Next time I'll know to take the invitation even if I do have to send my kids to some stranger's house for the weekend." Alexx walked off, going to think and talk to her bodies so she could figure out what she wanted to do about Justin and Sheldon.
Don strolled back into work his first day back and his boss glared at him. "What? I just barely got here, how did I earn that look?"
"Why did you need that time off?"
"Because we got bonded together?" he offered. She looked flabbergasted and he grinned. "Yeah, Sunday. Most of the family was in on the CE stuff anyway so we planned it with my early birthday party. She got me a bike," he said proudly, showing her a picture of him on it that Horatio had taken. She rolled her eyes. "What? I look good on it and I get to take her for rides whenever I want."
She hugged him. "Congratulations. Is it legal?" He shook his head. "Damn it. The Chief said you're in trouble if it wasn't."
"She legally went to him since I had her longer. The same as we worked out all that stuff so my dad would quit nagging, finally!" She smirked at him. "Seriously. The baby'll be a Flack since he's got a nephew, and she'll be Horatio's officially." That got a snort and a punch on the arm. "Dad can tell the Chief to kiss off. I needed the vacation to recover from my birthday party."
"Fine. Too sore from riding?"
He blushed a bit. "Did you really want those details, boss?"
She nodded. "If you're willing to share. It'd brighten up my life." He blushed brighter and shook his head. "Fine, make me imagine it, Flack. Where's your daughter?"
"Gwen. Her boss is looking for her."
"She called Cragen last night."
"She's at the house on the couch when I left this morning."
"Good. I'll call and tell him. Any other good news?"
"Hawkes found himself a very worthy woman in Horatio's sister-in-law."
"Damn it, I liked him! I don't want to lose him to Miami too."
"We're going to be slowly retiring as we hit our twenty year marks and then consulting as a team to this city and Miami-Dade." She beamed at that. "I'm the last to go."
"Sure. Makes sense to me. That way you can still help catch bad guys." She went back into her office. "I'll let you report that since he wanted to know."
"Sure, I'll have my dad get him drunk again," Don agreed, turning to go to his desk and finding Mac standing there. "Hey."
"Hey. I understand why I wasn't invited and I'm not hurt. At least you didn't bomb me or anything."
"No, Toni said she wouldn't since you're trying to be nicer again." He grinned at him. "Got stuff for me?"
"Yeah, but Timmy filled in while you were gone."
"Good! Excellent even. Any other good news?"
"Yeah your wife walked in and puked on the floor."
"She got morning sickness from five to seven months last time."
"She's what?" Timmy shouted as he came in. "Since when? Aren't I still family?"
"You didn't know she was pregnant?"
"No! No one tells me shit anymore!"
"Oh, okay." He got up onto his desk. "Yo, everyone, since the news hasn't quite gotten around yet, Catherine's pregnant, it is a boy from the tests, and she's in late morning sickness. She's about six months along. Fair warning. Also, she and Horatio have officially married." He saw the speculative looks. "For those of you who think there's other stuff going on, it was worked out as well." He got down and looked at Timmy. "Sorry, man, I thought everyone knew."
Timmy pouted. "You're mean."
"You want pictures of Toni at the prom? The nuns made it mandatory she take a date so she had to drag Danny." He grinned and took a copy of the picture, cooing over it. "She did look hot, hotter the next night when she went to announce her choice with Gordon." He smiled and handed over a copy of the tape. "Here, for you and Mirin, and her dad if she'd give it to him."
"Thank you." He hugged him. "Congrats." He headed down to watch it.
Don looked at Mac. "I got a bike for my birthday," he said proudly, showing off the picture.
"You look good on it. She spoils you very well." He smiled at him. "Any other news? Or should I tell Horatio to find Sheldon a spot?"
"They're still at the talking phase. Danny might be walking funny today since she spent all weekend in his lap, but Sheldon's pouting. He drove everyone to the airport." That got a smile. "Ray Jr. drove Toni's lam all weekend and liked it a lot, but he still couldn't pick up any girls. So we'll see."
"Sure." He nodded. "I'm going to go hide in my office."
"Mac, point out very strongly that you'd never date an employee," he said quietly. "Point it out at a staff meeting, watch her transfer." Mac nodded and walked off happier. It would work! He sat down and called his wife. "You okay? Need a soda?" She sniffled. "Need a hug?" he asked. He ignored the grins. "Sure, I'll even buy lunch since you're sick. That's fine. Love you too, get back to work, dear." He hung up and suddenly had a thought, calling her back. "Kate, um, when's our eval? And you're due when?" She swore and hung up. "Crap, she's due the week of the eval." He went to find the MEs and talk to them. "Sheldon, my man. Come with me." He walked him down to the morgue, looking at the ME down there. "Hammerman." He looked up and frowned at him. "Yeah, I know, you never see me. Small situation." He looked at them. "She's due during the evaluation week. Last time they counted off for the ME delivering the twins and her going into labor."
"Oh, hell," Sheldon said, shaking his head. "Okay, warning is good." He looked at his replacement. "Catherine's six months along."
"Congratulations, Detective. Why do I have to be alerted?"
"Because the last time she came to work in labor with the twins. You can't miss on evaluation day or they count off on it, even for unavoidable things like labor and delivery."
"Oh." He winced. "Which ME delivered her last one?"
"Two guys before me," Sheldon admitted. "He looked at her funny for about a year and then left her with a really ineffective and creepy guy," he admitted.
"Yeah, well, she delivered on a scene in the back of a cruiser," Don assured them. "Since she's not often out of the building....." Both MEs moaned at that. "Exactly, guys. So let's be kinda aware. She's due that week. She's already swearing about it and she's going to try to go after it. She won't make it to her twentieth anniversary party, hopefully, since it's two months later, but she'll try not to go that day."
Hammerman nodded. "If so, call Hawkes first. I don't really want to go back through another delivery section. I did that in medical school and all those women yelled at me."
"Of course they did. You should've heard her yell with the twins," Don assured him. "And me."
"Didn't she take any time off?" Sheldon asked.
"Not until afterward and that's because the doctor wouldn't sign the paper saying she was fit for duty. She wanted to come back a week later. She was working the day of, the day after, and kept going with Gwen. Of course she was undercover," he admitted.
"Okay, I'll bone up on delivery tonight, just in case," Sheldon agreed. "Sid?"
"Me as well," he sighed. "Now shoo, I need to give the fair Stella a good reason why this one died." They nodded and left him alone. He shook his head and looked at the body. "At least you've never had this problem, my dear young man. It's a troublesome thing, childbirth. Fairly painful I hear as well."
Horatio walked into his department and found a very nice vase of flowers on his desk. He looked at the card and smirked. "I wonder which one told him," he sighed, sitting down to see what had piled up on him. He found a folder marked 'sign me' and a folder marked 'fill me out' and that was it. He smiled and got into the 'sign me' ones. Someone had done all his paperwork for him. It was very thoughtful and he appreciated it. He only had to make one correction and that was a spelling error, so it had been Eric. He always spelled that word wrong. He got finished with those and got into the other one, finding paperwork from Catherine in there. He groaned and started to work on it. For some reason, hers always had small, tiny boxes that required big, long answers. Then again, it was federal paperwork so he should expect it.
Gordon walked in. "Dad, the Chief is on like four and he's huffy. Alexx is about to whip your ass for not telling her in advance. Oh, and Mom's due during the eval week in New York." He moaned and shook his head. "Also, I want to talk to you. They want to move me."
Horatio looked at him. "Technically you should be with the other translators."
"I don't want to be with the other translators. They don't do a thing all day to help stop crime."
"But if you want to stay, you have to do your CSI mandatory classes, Gordon. You know that. We talked about that last month." Gordon sighed and nodded, pulling out something and handing it over. "What's this?"
"From dad. He found a way for me to fix the stupid ambiguity and still work. It'll take me a month and a half to recover. I'll have to travel to do that. I can do three of my online classes during that time if you can get me leave."
Horatio looked at him. "You're sure?"
"About which one? The surgery or the classes?"
"The surgery? Yes. Hell yes. I want to work, Horatio. I really wanna work like I think I should. I need to work like I should because I can't see the point of dating this way because all I'd get was laughed at." He nodded silently at that. "The classes? If I want to stay and that's the only way I can stay, then I'll take them. You'll have to do some nudging with me because only the girls in the family are good at science. It proves I was meant to be a son." He took the letter back. "Can we arrange it?"
"We can," he agreed. "You need to make arrangements for the summer months. There's less crime since there's less tourists. I can talk to the Chief and tell him you're starting the classes while you're out getting that fixed." That got a smile. "Which line?"
Horatio tapped that line as he picked up the handset. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Chief, I was getting my morning briefing from Gordon." He leaned back, frowning a bit. "Yes, I got the flowers, they're beautiful. Thank you." He smirked a bit. "Well, no, we were talking about a personal matter for him. You know of his ambiguity, correct, sir?" He smirked and nodded at Gordon. "Yes, well, his father found a way to formally fix that before he died and he received a final letter from him while we were all in New York. Yes, there was an exercise. We did it at the end of it. That way she could have most of her family around her. Yes, sir. No, he'd have to take about two months off to have time to do the surgery and recover. Where, Gordon?"
"Switzerland. It's experimental and he'll accept me as a candidate. I faxed over all my records before picking up Gwen and we talked yesterday. He said I'm the reason why he did this."
"Did you hear that? Yes, he's been accepted and he's only got to schedule and leave time, sir. Well, it would fix that and it would also make sure he worked correctly, plus he has broached the subject of starting his CSI training during his downtime as well." He smirked. "No, I don't think he'll need tuition reimbursement or to have the surgery covered under our health care plan, sir. His father did leave him some money for this issue." Gordon smirked and held up his fingers in a 'little bit' sign. "Well, sir, he was left a condo downtown," he noted dryly. "Yes, that was his condo before it was sold. That's why we cleared out that information first and handed it over, yes, sir. I'd suggest this summer since crime statistically goes down with the lack of winter vacationers." He smirked a bit. "Whenever you think would be a good time, sir. I'll try to muddle along without my assistant and trainee CSI. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir, and thank you for your kind words on my marriage. You have a good day, sir." He hung up. "September. You come back by Thanksgiving." They shared a look. "You start classes this summer or else he said he will move you."
"Yes, dad." He stood up. "Any other orders?"
"Pray your mother doesn't go during the evaluation. The last time they counted her off for going into labor with you two and the ME for having to deliver you two."
"Ewww. Gwen's going to be due before then too." He walked off to make that call to the doctor and schedule it, then handed Horatio the date of his surgery so he could figure up the leave paperwork, taking the other paperwork to send where it needed to go.
Catherine grunted and held her stomach, wincing in pain. "Oh, shit," she complained when she could breathe again. She took a few shallow breaths, slowly fading back out to a deep one. Then she noted the time, making a note of it on the paper beside her. She knew she had to wait until they were ten minutes or less apart before she went to the hospital. "At least I'm going almost a month early," she sighed, calling her doctor. "This is Catherine Cavanaugh, I just had my first labor contraction and I'm three and a half weeks early. No, I'm sure they're real. Dear, I've had three others. They're real." She put her on hold and got the doctor. "Hey, it's Catherine. Yeah, first one about five ago. Total bitch of pain too. Short, sweet, to the point. Yeah." She hissed. "Oh, shit." She grabbed the end of the desk and held on, listening to the calming voice. "No, I'm at work," she ground out. "Please." She hung up and randomly hit buttons until she got a voice instead of a ring. "Get me Don, Stella, or Danny," she ordered. The voice told her to calm down. "You fucking well calm down, I'm in damn labor!" The voice gasped and said someone would be right up, to just calm down and they'd find her someone. Then they hung up.
Mac went running down the halls, finding the ME downstairs before anyone else. "Catherine's in labor, Don, Danny, and Stella are on a scene together. What do I do?"
"Ambulance," he ordered, stepping away from the body and going to clean up a bit so he could go up and help. "Where's Sheldon?"
"It's his day off! I don't know a thing about this! Claire didn't have any!"
"Calm down, Mac," the ME said patiently. "It's not like it's yours." He dried his hands off and went upstairs to check on her, finding her on the couch at least. "Ah, the naturalness of pain." He looked at her. "How far apart?" She held up eight fingers. "Your OB said hospital or not?" She nodded. "Mac, call her an ambulance," he ordered patiently. He scrambled to do that. "Do you want me to check you over, make sure it's not an issue?" She shook her head frantically, grabbing his hand to squeeze as the pain crested. "Just breathe, my dear. Try to breathe. I know it hurts. Please don't break that wrist, I rather need it." She let out a scream and kicked the couch.
Mac swallowed. "We need an ambulance at the twelfth, top floor. No, she's in labor, about three weeks early, her contractions are eight minutes apart?" Doctor Hammerman nodded patiently at that. "Please. Because she's scaring people!" He hung up. "It's going to be a few. There's a few accidents."
"I'm having deja vu," she yelled. "Where in the fuck is Don!"
"A scene," the doctor said patiently. "Perhaps I should check?"
"No offense, Doc, and Sheldon really likes you, but I don't want you to be my OB today." He smiled at that. "Thank you for understanding."
"It's not a problem. I didn't much like the OB rotation when I had to do one," he agreed. "Call the front desk so they know to route them up here, Mac." Mac looked at him so he got up and got free, grabbing the phone. "Sergeant, this is ME Hammerman. No, not a thing broken in the morgue. Catherine Cavanaugh is in labor. We're expecting an ambulance hopefully any minute now. Can you send the necessary parties up here, including her spouse should he come back in time? Thank you." He hung up. "Now call Don."
Mac nodded and called him. "Don, she's in labor." He pulled the phone away from his ear at the shouting. "I can't do that!" He hung up. "Sorry. I'm going to hide now, okay?" They both gave him disturbed looks so he left. He didn't know a thing about babies, especially not delivering them, and he certainly didn't want to see her in pain.
Hammerman looked at her. "He may finally appreciate you."
"Yay, I'm four months from retirement, he does it now?" She squealed and grabbed his wrist, holding on for dear life. "I hate men!"
"I know, dear. I know. You rant and rave all you want. As long as the ambulance gets here in time, we'll all be fine and not needing a drink tonight to clear out the nasty thoughts." She tried to laugh but it hurt. "Sorry." He stroked over her forehead. "Would you like some water?" She nodded so he grabbed her bottle of water off her desk, helping her sit up to drink some. "Just sip slowly or else you could vomit again." He heard the elevator moving and sighed. "Hopefully that's the paramedics." No, Sheldon came off at a run. "You got here before them?"
"There's a massive wreck on the bridge," he told him, looking at her. "It may well come down to me or him, Catherine."
"I was drugs!" she snapped.
"You have painkillers where?" She pointed at her desk so he found them and let her have two after seeing what they were. "That's the best I can do, Catherine. Sid, you or me?"
"You. I'll comfort until her spouse gets here. She sent Mac into a blind panic."
"I don't think he's ever had to see anyone in childbirth," he admitted, finding a sheet to cover her. "Okay, Catherine, truth here, we're going to have to get you ready now. That means sheet, lacking clothes, all that. You good with that?" She shook her head. "Did you want to try to wait?" She shook her head so he smirked. "I'd wait for Don but they maybe on the other side of the bridge too."
"Fine. Let me do it."
"I'll have to check you anyway. Where's the glove supply?"
"Lab," she moaned, holding onto Sid's arm again.
"Easy, I need those. Remember, crushing them puts me on workman's comp," he said gently. She let out a snort and wiggled. "Just relax. It'll be soon, I know it will. God likes me too much to torture me by making me help deliver your next child." She gave him a helpless look. "I know." He stroked her hair. "Get to it, Sheldon."
"Sorry, had to find the gloves and scrub," he called as he came back appropriately gloved and his shirt sleeves pushed well out of the way. "You're out of all the other sterile gear." He got her undressed and looked at her. "Deep breath, let me check." She nodded and took one, holding it, whimpering through it. "Okay, you're at four. We've got time." He covered her fully with the sheet, smiling at her as he took off the gloves. "Let me call Don and update him. Should I call your OB as well?" She nodded. "Is he on your phone?" She nodded faster. "Okay." He found her cellphone charging in her drawer by following the cord, finding her OB first. "Hi, this is Doctor Hawkes at the PD. No, an update on Cavanaugh. The ambulance hasn't arrived yet and I don't think it's a good idea to take her by car with the way she's going. All right. I've given her two of the pain killers she takes for her knee, yes that one. Her contractions are still eight minutes apart and she's dilated four at the moment. I just checked. Of course I brushed up on it. No, technically I'm an ME but I did brush up on it again. We do have the other ME up here as well but he doesn't want to have to play OB today. Of course I remember. Thank you."
He hung up and called Don. "Calm down. She's fine so far. She's still having contractions eight minutes apart. I just checked her since the ambulance isn't here yet, she's dilated to four centimeters." He listened to the frantic talking and then Danny took the phone. "Calm him down, she's got a while to go. Where are you guys?" He listened and groaned. "Okay. Here's what we're gonna do. Is Stella driving? Oh, you're driving. Okay, that's fine. Turn on the lights and siren. Get your asses back here. The ambulances are mostly tied up with a wreck on the Tri-borough. Yeah, that thing. So we need you back here. If we have to, I can. When you get here, I need you to get me some sterile gear from the morgue and bring it up to me. I also need a sterile set of forceps and a set of scissors at least. Tell the morgue tech that we may have to deliver a living baby and have him sterilize a full surgical set if he has to. Get me some sterile gear. Just point Don this way and tell him to go, he will run. She's already scared Taylor. Yup, fully. Okay. I'll call Horatio and them. You just get here." He hung up and called Horatio's number, getting Gordon. "It's me, your mother's in labor. So far she's at eight minutes apart and dilated four." She screamed. "That's her now. Keep him calm, Gordon." He hung up and came over to help her through this one. He looked at his coworker. "I'd really like Stella right now."
"Me as well. She'd handle this so much easier." Both men nodded and did what little they could to ease this.
Don's father peeked into the room Catherine was in, bringing in the teddybear and flowers he carried. "Where's the newest Flack?"
"Basinet, dad, he's pretty healthy. He's a good weight and all that too." He smiled at her. "You want some ice cream?" She nodded so he grinned. "When I walk him out I'll get you some."
"Thank you." She yawned.
"He's got dark hair," he said happily. "He is a true grandchild."
"Dad, Horatio's brother and father both had dark hair," Don said patiently.
"Son, quit bursting my bubble," he ordered, picking the baby up. He immediately started to cry. "I'm sorry, I'm the grandfather. It's all right." The baby let out a healthy wail, which brought a nurse. "Sorry, first grandson." She rolled her eyes and took the baby to the mother, who let him nibble on a nipple. "That still amazes me."
"I'm not a cow," she said firmly. Both men looked away, at each other basically. "Thank you." She looked at her son. "You done? Ready to go back to sleep maybe?" He yawned and went back to sucking. She nudged Don and handed him over, then redid her shirt. "Put him carefully into your father's arms." Don nodded and handed him over gently, letting his father have his seat.
"What's his name?" Sr. asked quietly.
"Tim. After a great CSI that Horatio lost to faulty gun maintenance."
She looked at Don. "You and Horatio were supposed to figure that out when I went along with Tim."
"We're still arguing." He shrugged. "I like Rodney?"
"Do you also like our couch?" she asked blandly.
"Okay, well his was Craig."
"Timothy Craig is good and firm," Sr. offered hopefully. "Or he could be a Timothy Don." She gave him a look and suddenly he understood why so many criminals begged at her feet. "Or not," he agreed, looking at his grandson again. "Mary'll be in later. She had to go see her friends and brag. She's still not happy about the trio thing but she'll let you baptize the baby in the church with our priest." They shared a look. "Even if you don't like it."
"Fine," she sighed, knowing she wasn't going to win that argument anyway. Don smiled at her behind his father's back. "Where is Horatio?"
"Stuck," Don said dryly. "The Chief said he has to be there tomorrow. He said it's a momentous occasion but he has to have him there tomorrow for the whatever it is that's going on. Then he can fly up. He's sending Eric tonight to be his mouthpiece."
"Oh, wonderful." She glared at the door when it opened. "Let me guess you saw him get out, dear?"
"Yup. Why is he keeping him there?"
"They're building a new lab and he needs him there at the groundbreaking believe it or not," he said dryly. "We're getting a full building to ourselves next to the old one." He came over to look at the baby. "Hi, Tim. I'm your Uncle Eric." He took him and the baby just looked at him. "Hi. I know, we big people are strange and odd and keep making you wake up." The baby yawned so he put him against his shoulder with a grin for the older man. "I've got four sisters with kids. We're a large Cuban family."
"That's understandable. I picked him up and he screamed." He stood up and let him have the chair. "How long before we get to babysit?"
"You get him the evaluation day definitely," she assured him. "'Cause I gotta be there and we're having meetings a lot before then. Fortunately he can come to work with me."
"Is that dangerous?" Eric asked.
"I work up in the office you guys used."
"Never mind. It'll be quieter up there too." He patted the baby on the back. "He's really paranoid that Horatio be there since he's going to be spending his last year designing it."
"I know, I sent him the designs I was looking at for our next upgrade in a few years," she said dryly. "I didn't know it'd be that soon though." Eric nodded, patting the baby again. "He can sleep in the basinet."
"Yes, ma'am." He got up and put him down, smiling when he yawned and drifted off immediately. "My sisters kids spent their first day screaming to get back inside," he said quietly, looking at her. "What can I do to help tonight?"
She waved him over and kissed him on the cheek, then handed over five letters. "To Taylor, he gets delivery boy since he panicked when I went into labor."
"He panicked?" Eric asked with a grin.
"Full out screaming, dragging the ME upstairs panic," Don agreed. "I have a right, he's my kid, but he literally scrambled out of the way panicked."
"Wasn't he a Marine?" Eric asked.
Sr. nodded. "Doesn't mean he can handle a strong woman like her screaming in misery from giving birth to something that size," he said dryly. "I like the boy now and then but he was bad." He looked at her. "I'll bring Mary by later." She nodded. "You rest. You'll need it with Gwen going into treatment or whatever the day after she delivers." She nodded and he left.
"They found a small lump on an ovary during an ultrasound, they're not sure why yet," Don said quietly. "That's why she's on such extreme rest conditions. She's being induced this week." Eric nodded at that. "Taylor should still be in."
"Sure. Can I squat at your place tonight?"
"Not an issue. We're in the new house," Don assured him with a smile. "Guestroom is upstairs. Have Gwen show you." That got a nod and he left, going to deliver the messages.
Stella looked up as she was paged, coming back to the desk, smiling at the guy there. "Hi, Eric. What's up?"
"From Catherine. They needed Horatio for the groundbreaking tomorrow so he can't fly up until afterward." He handed over the letters. "She said Mac has to deliver those."
"He's at home with a migraine."
"Sorry to hear that. I heard he panicked."
"Oh, yeah, big time," she agreed happily. She looked at the names then nodded. "I can do this. She all right and little Tim?"
"Tim's adorable and she's fine. Grumpy but fine. Perfectly normal from what I've seen out of my sisters." She smiled at that and nodded. "The baby cried at grandpa but settled in nicely to nap for me." He grinned at her. "I'm heading out to her place. Which is where?" She wrote down directions. "Thanks. He'll be flying up tomorrow."
"That's fine. Have a better night. They'll kick Don out around ten probably." Eric nodded and headed that way. "Oh, Eric, watch out for the neighbor with the spots who's a nudist," she called.
He smirked. "Seen 'em before. They've got their own resort in Miami." He turned back around and headed off again, going out to her place. At least it'd be a cheap layover this time since the department had paid for his ticket. Or else Horatio was going to blow up the main headquarters in a fit of rage. With or without the bomb was still a question that he hadn't answered. When he got there, he signed in with the guard at the gate, telling him what was going on. He smiled and made a note on his computer, then let him in and turned off her security system from a distance for him. He drove down the street, noticing the guy with the leopard spots tattooed everywhere on his body who wasn't wearing any clothes and blinked a few times, nearly hitting a mailbox. "Never mind, they get stranger folk up here than we ever could." He parked and headed inside, smiling at the nice house. Wood, open areas, it smelled clean and fresh. He liked it. Some day he'd end up with a house and he hoped it was this nice. He looked around. "Gwen?" No answer. He searched the house, finding the two empty rooms. Only one had a bed so he decided that was the guest room and parked his overnight bag and jacket in there, then went to peek in the kitchen. He heard a door slam and walked back toward the front door. "Hey," he said, making Toni jump and hold her chest. "Sorry they sent me up until Horatio could escape. The room with the bed is the guest room, right?"
"Technically my room but the other one doesn't have a bed and I live at the old house now so it's all good to me, Eric." She smiled at him. "Dad called to tell me. Is she all right?" He nodded, going back into the kitchen with her following. "We're sure?"
"She looked fine to me when I was there. She had me deliver a few messages for Mac, but he wasn't there so I gave them to Stella instead. The baby rested on me and he was perfectly content."
"Good, I'll go out with Danny later tonight." She smiled at him. "I know, the house is cushy but mom's still decorating since the other house isn't finished yet." She patted him on the back. "The good junk food is in the freezer."
"I noticed. I was going to make something that Don could heat up later."
"Ah. Well, that would be the good junk food really." Eric laughed and went back to fixing dinner. "You're a nice guy. Some day you'll find someone you want to settle down with and stay there." He nodded, smirking at her. "I know, I found mine really early." She patted him on the back. "I'm doing some laundry since mine is broken yet again." She went out to her car to get the basket and bring it back in to do the wash, calling Danny once it was in. "I'm at the new house doing wash. Have you seen the baby yet?" She smiled. "No, I was going tonight. Sure. No, Eric's fixing dinner so tell him to look later when he gets home and tell him I'll be out later. No, Gwen was lounging on the couch. Love you too, Danny." She hung up and sighed, looking at her phone.
"It's normal, most women have it," Eric called. "It's called Baby Envy and it's the main reason why so many women get pregnant when their girlfriends do. Don't make that mistake at your age."
"Thank you." She got off the washer and went to help him cook. She did a very good job at it, even Danny said so.
Catherine looked at the baby next to her, then at the supervisors around her. "Okay, we're at crunch time. We're set on everything except for the evaluation day. We know when they're coming and that's the only mercy we have." She looked around. "This is going to sound harsh, but I'm sorry. These are their rules, I do not make these rules, nor do I make these rules up." That got a groan. "No one, and I do mean no one, no matter what the reason, is to be off that day. Unless they get shot at a scene, they are not to be off." One banged her head on the table. "I told you not to accept any vacation time during that week."
"I couldn't help it, it's her honeymoon."
"Then you've got an appeal form already, I'd start filling it out. Either that or do a quick shift change or something temporarily." That got a nod. "Also, you're going to hate this. No sodas, no coffee, no drinks in the labs anywhere. Out of the way or not. Nowhere near anything. No chewing gum, no mints, nothing. Each and every single violation of that rule is five points off, each lab gets one violation before they flunk. Seriously." That got another groan. "Lunch is only supposed to be twenty minutes."
"That violates federal law," Mac noted.
"Yeah, and the Feds wrote the book so therefore they can violate away in this case. It's for a single day, guys. Not forever. The other really bad thing is that there is *a* five minute break allowed during the day. So juggle lunches and stuff to get it out. Along with the fact that if they're not a lab tech, or fully trained and accredited in that area, none of the field techs may be in the labs working and running samples. Again, their rules."
"So, someone like Danny....." Mac started.
"Can't. Absolutely can't. So we either need a very easy day where no crime happens, which means you'll all catch up reading your forensic journals because they like that, especially their three, or we're going to have a day where we're all out on scenes. One way or another, got me here? I do not want to appeal every single violation. It's a five page form for each and every one. That means if there's six coffee cups in the labs over the city, I've got to type thirty pages of the same crap." That got a slow nod from everyone. "Also, anyone with hair long enough to tie back, it's tied back. If it's like Stella's, it's tied back and put up in a way that means she can't shed." Stella let out a complaining noise. "I can show you the book if you doubt me, people. This is directly from them. They've counted people off for having grief leave. They've counted people off for having their periods and having to go to the bathroom more than once during the day and their lunch break. Even if you have a medical excuse you can't get past that because they believe you shouldn't be in the labs. There have been labs that have flunked and went down into negative numbers for coffee and soda. Not to mention what else they do. This is my last eval and I want us all to pass, no matter what."
"She's not kidding, I've seen the book," Stella admitted. "It's got things on what women are not to wear. Including sweaters that might contain fuzz. Their words." She tossed down the book. "Strangely enough it doesn't say anything about male attire besides being neat, presentable, and clean shaven."
"Yeah, which is going to piss some people off. You can arrange your schedules to have whoever you need to off. Make it a temporary schedule change. If you absolutely have to, suspend them for a day. Send them into the field and keep them in the field, but be aware they can and will show up on a scene, usually at the worst time. They've counted labs off for having their examiners shot during scenes because someone didn't clear it and later events happened. But remember, this is only for one day. We can live through one day, right?" That got some muted complaint noises. "Look at the book, people. We need this one day flawless. Absolutely by the book flawless." That got some nods. "Any questions yet?" No one said anything. "Then study the book. That's the only copy they sent us. If you need to, remove the staple and make copies. I only got it yesterday." She glanced at the baby again then back at them.
"Where is he going that day?" the Bronx manager asked.
"His grandfather's. They're going to coo and wish I wasn't in my relationship and that I'd have married their son instead and done it in the Church. His mother is still miffed at me." Everyone smiled at that. "Any other questions?"
"Who gets this spot after you?" one of the women asked.
"Next on for promotion is Stella since Mac fell so far behind on his paperwork. She's been training to take over the duties and that'll give you guys a steady, trained hand for at least five more years. That way she knows what to expect during her next eval period and how to fix all the problems that'll crop up."
"Then what're you doing?" Mac asked.
"As we retire, we're moving to a consulting status for the labs here and in Miami. Horatio's retiring within a year as well." He smiled at that. "Calleigh gets his spot."
"That's a nice thing though," he agreed. "She's good. What about the ME's?"
"They've got their own section. Sid's been through a few, Sheldon was here his last one. He can't work in DNA and he's not allowed anywhere but the morgue that day. You can have him out gathering bodies, but I want him in the morgue. They failed and tried to close a small lab in Kansas who had an ME who moved to the field. Sanders in Vegas had to move back to DNA because of it. If he were higher up the chain, yeah. Since he's not, no. Have him out gathering and bringing 'em back, Mac." That got a nod. "Arrange things and make sure you have the intense staff meetings, with drills. Have them do a mock one so you can check things like coffee cups, rings from coffee cups, monitors that blink. They hated Vegas for that and cited them for it. They had to appeal because it wasn't there fault the power went out and the back up generator was over extended. They made it above the federal level line but not to pass." That got some hisses and a few winces. "So we need to do this. I want a clean eval, one I don't have to appeal. Got it?" Everyone nodded. "Good. Then get back to it. Tell your people I'm really sorry but it is only one day." Tim started to yawn so she watched him. "Have fun and make sure I get that copy back, all the pages. I'll need it if I have to quote a section for appeal." Mac pried out the staples and they got to work copying it.
Stella came over to look at the baby. "He's going to be a terror in the lab when he finally signs on," she offered.
"Oh, I hope so. His grandfather wants him to follow in daddy's footsteps but I want him in the safer job," she offered quietly. She looked at her. "I threw fits at Gwen for wanting to be a normal cop."
"Could she do CSI?"
Catherine nodded. "Yeah. She was an Honors Science student." Stella gaped at that. "Toni's the weaker one in science and you saw her last Academic competition. Mac was pausing the tape to see if our techs could answer some of those and they had to look up one of her answers. Gwen wanted to be a normal cop, not a CSI." She shrugged. "I don't know why."
"Me either. I like being a cop but I prefer being a CSI." She looked at the baby again. "Hey, Tim, are you up?" she asked, picking him up to hold. He made a burbling noise and sucked on her neck. "I think he's hungry."
"He's always hungry," she said, taking him back and finding his bottle. She searched again and sighed. "I've got to get onto Don about that," she complained. "Guys, I'm heading into the office to feed him since his bottle has disappeared again." She went that way, closing her blinds and settling in her desk chair to feed him. She dialed Don's desk, getting a happy guy. "I only bring in three bottles, steal one from the house," she ordered, then hung up. Her videophone system rang and she swore, turning it on but not on visuals. "Yes?" she asked patiently.
"Are you doing things I shouldn't see?" their chief asked. She hit the video button and went back to feeding him, making him go bright red and turn it off on his end. "Never mind. His bottle disappear?"
"Yup. So either we've got someone with a breast milk fetish or he's mysteriously eating more often than I think." She pulled him off to let him breathe then he dove back in. "That hungry, son?"
"How is the evaluation going?"
"I told them the rules today that they insist on and gave them the book to look over.
Mac knocked on the door. "Catherine, does Danny have to shave?"
"Yup. Either shave it or braid it."
"Okay." He closed the inch that he had opened the door and walked off to give him the bad news. It's not like he couldn't regrow it over a week's time.
She smirked at her son. "This is going to cause mayhem. It does every year."
"At least it's only for one day in each lab. How is Gwen doing?"
"Okay. The baby's doing good too. He already likes his uncle, likes to suck on his fingers since Tim's a bit more active than he is. Tim likes to flail and he ends up grabbing one and gnawing on it. I can't believe we made it to the eval."
He chuckled, a happy, warm sound. "When are you retiring?"
"Two days after my twenty since my anniversary is a Wednesday. Stella starts on Monday, right?"
"Yes, dear. As agreed, Stella starts on Monday. You put Messer back on the promotion grid?"
"Yup. He deserves it. He busts his ass for this lab and he's still got one of the better clearance and conviction rates. He already deserves his next promotion by the way."
"I do all those in three months, dear. We just got done with a set or else I'd do it retroactively."
"Fine. Oh, if he does, expect him to need the next morning off. Toni's going to squeal and be happy and bouncy since her upcoming college courses are looking boring to her. How she managed to test out of a lot of her stuff I'm not sure, but she did. The History chair at Columbia is very impressed with my baby girl."
"Are you thinking about another one?" he teased.
"At least the MEs didn't have to deliver him."
"Point, but barely. We need more ambulance staff in the city, Chief. Please."
"I'll see what we can do, Catherine. How many more years does Don have?"
"Four," she said with a small pout.
"You'll make it."
"Yup, and we're going to Jamaica next year. So he'll need some vacation time saved up."
"Of course he will. I'll see what I can work out." His voice sounded like he was smiling. "Is he still going?"
"Oh, yeah. He's got the baby Buddha belly already and all that. He's a hungry little slurper." Someone tapped on the door. "I'm feeding the baby!"
"Not like I haven't seen it before," Danny said as he walked in, handing over the bottle. "It wasn't Don, he takes the one at home. This one was down in Chem and it's a fairly scary thing since it was in the open." She moaned. "Can I bring this to Mac?"
"Please. Did you do fingerprints?"
"Oh yeah," he agreed happily. She pulled him off and handed him over. "Hey, Timmy, my man. You done?" Timmy burped and he grinned, taking the cloth to clean him up. "Ready for more? Let your Ma change sides."
"Mr. Messer, how far up were you thinking about going?" the Chief asked, sounding fond.
He looked at the phone, then smirked at her. "I want this office some year, sir. About the same time as I'll be having kids."
"Ah, so you do want to run the lab?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't mind. Hell, I'd do it just like she does since she trained me."
"Good. Excellent even. You do know you're up for a review this upcoming promotion time?"
"I hadn't, but thank you for letting me know, sir." He handed the baby back once she had gotten the other side ready. "I hope I can live up to expectations and surpass them, sir. Oh, Catherine, your four cold cases? Down to two," he said proudly.
"I love you. You are more than worthy of my seat, Danny. Thank you."
"Not an issue." He walked off, heading down to Mac's office. He tapped and leaned in. "You got ten?"
"Only if you promise not to do anything to give me a headache."
"I can't do that." He walked in and put the sheet he had printed off. "We found the suddenly missing baby bottle in Chem on a table. I dusted for prints since Don said it wasn't him this time." Mac let out a small whimper. "That's whose prints came up, Mac, and this isn't the first time the bottle disappeared ya know. I'm not happy and Don's definitely not happy. He said only he and the baby get those. So, we might wanna do something before Don finds out who took 'em."
"I'll talk to him once I take something for my headache. Thank you, Danny."
"Welcome. Thanks for putting me back on the promotion grid."
"It was overdue," he agreed with a small smile. "Get back to work."
"Can't, got court today on one of her cold cases that I got through." He smirked and walked out.
"He'll do very well some day soon," he agreed happily, making notes on the paper about what he'd be talking about with him. Then he found his tylenol and called the lab. "Can you send Spenser up to me please?" he requested quietly. "Thank you."
Horatio came off the plane and found Toni waiting on him. "No classes today?"
"Nope. School's shut down due to a bomb threat." She smiled and hugged him. "Come on, I'm driving us both out."
"That's fine." He smiled at her. "How are classes going?"
"Bored. I'm very bored. I'm so bored I went and started doing backgrounds for Danny recently and did about half of the AV tech's job for him. Mac figured out it was me about thirty minutes after I got done for the day and called to ask why. So I told him. He said he'd put me on as a consultant and helper." He grinned at that. "I know, but I'm bored!" she whined. "Even helping with Tim and Morgan isn't keeping me from boredom." He nodded, letting her walk him out to the baggage claim. "When are you retiring?"
"When the current caseload goes down."
"Fine. Mom's pouting you know."
"I know. We need to find our mole and then I can retire to be with her." He patted her on the cheek and let her take the smaller bag, then heading to the parking garage. "The lam?" he teased.
"I haven't gotten to drive my baby recently. Danny's getting teased by some of the techs when they found out what I drive."
"Drive it anyway, let him shoot back. He likes to quip and make smart remarks."
"He said to lay off for a few days because one of them insinuated that he was dating me for my money and he got into a slight brawl."
"That does happen as well," he agreed dryly. "Fine, I'm more than happy to let you drive me home as long as you don't wreck and I don't have to talk someone out of a ticket for you."
"Yes, daddy." She got in to drive, letting him get the trunk once she had popped it open. He closed it and got in, buckling up. "I drive like Uncle Donny taught me," she teased, starting the engine.
"That's what I'm afraid of. Slowly, Gwen."
"This engine isn't meant for creeping along."
"I know, but still, please." She sighed and pulled out at a moderate, for her, speed. Fortunately traffic wasn't bad in the direction they were going. He only had to grab onto the door handle once and that was really someone else's fault since the kids cut her off and tried to drag race her in their pitiful corvette. She smirked at him and he shrugged. "They should be reported but I'm sure Hammerman will be seeing them on his table some day soon."
"Probably." She took the offramp and shifted down to a normal street speed, for her, and headed for the house. He gave her a sideways look so she sighed and slowed down another five miles an hour. "Yes, dad." He smiled at that. She pulled into the community and the guard waved, signing her in automatically. He knew who lived at the house and who was over all the time. She pulled into the driveway and found Danny sitting on the trunk of his car, so she parked and got out, bouncing over for a kiss. "Bad day?"
"Suspended for a day for the brawl." He shrugged. "I got off early today too." He smiled at Horatio and went back to kissing his girlfriend. Around there, they were considered the odd ones for having normal, heterosexual sex, but that was fine with him.
"Mommy, he's kissing *her* again!" one of the kids down the street complained.
"Some people do kiss their women," Toni called back. "Get used to it, kid, they make up the majority in your school!" The mother laughed at that and nodded, leading her staring son inside again. Toni smirked at his smirk. "So, whatever shall we do with the night off?"
"Your Ma's making dinner and then we're going to the movies if there's time, then home."
"Your home, my home....."
"Our home." He kissed her. "You're helping me move my crap over tomorrow." She squealed and hugged him, bouncing a bit. "Easy, babe. Easy. I need that neck in working order." He patted her on the lower back and got in a small grope, sliding off his trunk to walk her inside.
"I take it you told her you're finally moving in?" Don teased. Danny smirked and nodded. "Good. Then you two can split the bills and you can help her shop for a new washer."
"This weekend good for you?" he asked her. She smiled and nodded. "Okay." He walked her into the kitchen. "What can we do to help?"
Horatio looked up from his kissing. "Cook. She's a bit busy." He led her back into their suite to have his special time with her. He hated their separations.
Don came in and washed his hands. "Kate was planning steaks, they're marinading in the fridge. I was gonna grill so you two do veggies and stuff." Toni nodded and found what she needed, letting Danny clean up and help her. He smiled at the cute duo and grabbed the steaks. They'd be making out once something was cooking he was sure. He heard one of the two kids send up an SOS and sighed, heading inside. "Make sure they don't burn, Danny."
"Yes, sir," he snapped back, grinning at his lady before going out to work on the grill. It wasn't something he was great at, but he could handle this much. Don came back down with both boys in their carriers, putting them down out of the way but still within line of sight. "They doing okay?"
"Yeah, just bored. Seems they take after their just older sister." They shared a smirk at that. Danny had learned the hard way not to let Toni get too bored. Well, the hard part had been finding a chiropractor open at six in the evening who could fix his back that night, but still, the hard way. Catherine wobbled out and grabbed something out of the fridge then took it back into the bedroom, slamming the door again and locking it just in case. Don shrugged. "I can open that one easily enough if they're not done when I'm tired of waiting for my turn."
Danny shook his head. "I woulda never figured you for the kinky and odd sort, Flack. Stella maybe, but not you for the touchy-feely threesome thing."
"Ehh, I hid it really well," he taunted back. "Just like you and your lust for young things."
Danny smirked. "As I kept getting told, she's not that young mentally." He went back inside to help Toni since her adorable look of concentration was drawing him.
Don shook his head. "My family is just as weird as I am and I have hopes you two'll be just as bad as I was," he told the kids cooing at the grill.
Horatio finally signed the last folder on the last case he was going to be doing for the Miami-Dade PD and handed it to Calleigh with a snort of disbelief. "About time," he complained, standing up and grabbing his jacket.
"At least they pushed back the trip for you to finish this and the court case," she offered sweetly. "And Sheldon's down now too so we won't be short-handed. Oh, when can we get in touch with you guys again?"
"A month," he said with a fond smile. Someone knocked on his door and Frank walked in, giving him one of those looks. "Frank, not now."
"Not my fault, Horatio. The Chief's here. So's your family. He's pouting at them for stealing you." He gave him a sweet smile. "I just want a ringside seat, okay?"
Horatio nodded and headed to where his family was waiting for him, kissing Catherine, then Don. "I'm done. Calleigh has the last folder signed and completed." Don beamed at him. "You do have the entire month off, correct?"
"Minus two days. Remember, I had ta take 'em off for her being in labor with little Danny there. Danny truly screwed his with his drinking binge after delivering him."
"I had forgotten that." He looked at his soon-to-be former boss. "Chief. Nice of you to see me off."
"Horatio, I have a proposition," he said smoothly, smiling at him. "The Academy's top spot is coming open next month and you're eminently qualified for it. You're always complaining about how the officers have to be taught on their first scene, this way you could make sure they all know what to do on an active crime scene. It does come with a step-raise to Captain and a very nice pay raise. The next class won't start for two months so you could even have that time off," he promised with a winning smile. "Please?"
Catherine looked at him. "Chief," she said gently, patting him on the cheek, then slapping it. "We're on call to consult and do classes at the Academy. I promise we are. But right this moment I'm going to be taking my husband to Jamaica and I'm going to be topless for the next month and playing on the beach."
"I'll let him tell me after you get back."
Horatio looked at his spouses, then shook his head. "I hate the separations we have because Don's still working, sir. Sorry. My family wins this round." He handed over his badge and gun, then took his son to hold. "Hello, Danny. It's daddy." He nuzzled noses with him and smiled. "Come on, let's go to the beach and see mommy topless. It'll make it easier for you to eat." He walked off with them around him.
"But Horatio," the Chief complained.
"Sorry, sir, but they need me more. We'll be back in a month if either Miami or New York need our expertise or help. We'll call for a cookout then, Frank." The elevator came and they got on, letting him smirk at his other family before waving and disappearing.
"Drama queen," Ryan sighed, shaking his head. "He had to go for the dramatic exit. Now Eric will have to top him."
Eric gave him a shove. "Quit, Ryan. I don't have the flair for the dramatic H does."
Calleigh looked at him. "Nor do you have a wife going topless for a month in Jamaica."
He looked at her. "I could but you'd say no." He shrugged and walked off, leaving her gaping behind him.
"What?" she shrieked, turning to watch him walk away. "You didn't just say that!" she demanded, following him. "Eric! Wait up!" She broke into a run to catch him. He finally turned and caught her, kissing her until she moaned against his lips. "All you had to do was ask," she complained.
"Okay, I'm asking. The beach, two months from now?" She smiled at him. "Good." He grinned. "You want to tell Alexx?"
"Alexx, Eric just popped the question," Ryan called.
"You're an irritating little brother, Ryan," Eric complained, walking Calleigh off. "We're off to redecorate her office, Chief."
The Chief pouted at Frank. "I lost Horatio and gained Sheldon?"
He nodded, clapping him on the arm. "At least Horatio will come back if we need him, Chief. We can start sending some of our cold cases, like New York does to her." That got a smile. "I can't believe old Reggie is retiring from the Academy."
"He had to, he can't remember what day it is or who he is. So now I need someone," he sighed, shaking his head. "Horatio would've been perfect."
"You know, you have a very good alternative in some detectives," Ryan offered. "Yelina is very good and so is Frank. They've trained a lot of detectives in how to be good ones and kept some rookies from bothering the CSI working on a scene."
The Chief smiled at him, patting him on the cheek. "I like that suggestion, thank you, young man. Which one are you?"
"Ah. Yes, the last rookie CSI we hired since Gordon grew up on it." He smiled at him. "Frank, who has more time in, you or Yelina?"
"I do by about six months I think," he offered. "I'd be honored, sir, if I meet up to standards." He grinned at him. "It's hard to ride the line between giving 'em hell and making sure they're all good cops, but I think I can do that and my wife's got baby envy over little Danny Flack anyway. She'd love to fuss over the boys and girls at the Academy."
The Chief smiled. "Let me do some checking, Frank, but we'll see. Good suggestion, Officer Wolfe. Expect a small something for it." He walked off, going back to his office happier.
Frank waited until they were alone then smirked at Ryan. "Suck up."
"You bet. Some day I want the glass office." He grinned at him. "Besides, this means that really hot detective from Vice can have your desk and I have someone new to flirt with." He walked off smiling. He ran into Alexx, giving her a hug. "Alexx, Eric taunted Calleigh into accepting his proposal and Frank might be moving to head the Academy."
"Huh?" she asked, just staring at him. "Taunted her how and where is Horatio?"
"They came to pick him up for a month of topless wife in Jamaica. Horatio turned down the top spot at the Academy to go with them." She smiled at that. "Calleigh teased Eric about not having that. He said he would but she'd tell him no and walked off. She ran after him."
"Awwww." She went to impose herself in the office to break up the kissing and cuddling to congratulate them.
Don walked back into his office after his month long vacation tanned, fit, smiling, and ran into Mac's slumped form. "What? You get hurt again?" he demanded as he sat down. He hated his desk job. He only had three years of this but he still hated it. Mac gave him a hurt look. "What happened?"
"Stella grounded me to my office," he said bitterly, sitting up straighter. "I don't see why I can't do it with a cane, Catherine did. She did it for years and still went on calls."
"Well, first because you're not female. Secondly, my wife built up this horrible pain tolerance thanks to her back randomly going for years on end because of the requirements of the job. Thirdly, sit back and mentor, Mac. You've got two really good level threes and one really needy level one guy. Catherine did it by only going out for special calls, when her expertise was needed and wanted. She didn't try to go out on *every* call by any stretch of the imagination. So cut back and fall back to teaching and promoting. You keep saying you want to recruit more, do it. It's not like Stella wants to go out and talk to college kids. That's a function of your job too so let's have you do that and run the lab itself. Remember her last month before they moved her to Homicide?"
"Yeah, she spent it sitting on a stool in DNA and Chem," he admitted. "Fine, I can do that, but it's still not right. Danny's getting overworked again."
"Danny's doing what he loves, Mac, and his wife is more than smart enough to realize that. Now then, pick a successor and start training them as well. That way they get all the little details in that Stella used ta have. Also, decide on Monroe coming back or not. She's next up for a lab supe spot in Brooklyn."
"Not. My team works well right now," he said firmly, sitting up. "How did she get that high up already? Danny was a level two when Catherine retired. He's just now making level three and I'm about to assign him a newbie."
"That might help, yeah. Let Toni pick for you." He found something on his mess of a desk and handed it over. "That's your budget. Notice it went up since we lost three to the shootings last year. Also, since we're back, CE workshops are starting again if you need us, and I'm still doing the qualifying ballistics lectures this year."
"Yes, Don." He stood up and grabbed his cane. "You think I can make it to another year this way?"
"That depends. She went into a few scenes where I honestly thought she was planning on going with her badge on. Are you going to do that to me? If you do, I'm grounding you to the office. If not, work select cases, Mac. It's the only way to keep you in your spot instead of moving you to homicide. Because the Chief called me last night to ask if I should."
"I'd retire first," he promised. He looked down at his leg, which had been injured in the assault on the station late last year, then at his friend. "I'll do it as long as I can, Don, but I hate desk work."
"Me too, but I've only got three years and two months left," he said with a smirk.
"Where are you guys going for your retirement celebration?"
"Hawaii." He grinned and leaned back. "She's got a friend out there she can borrow their vacation home from." Danny came jogging in and slammed the door, leaning on it. "Problems with the wife?"
"No." He looked at Mac, then at Don. "Bigger ones. Our new level one just went sniper downstairs. Stella got him from behind but it's a mess. We need SWAT and another unit to come in and clean up."
Don picked up the phone, calling over there. "Monroe?" He smirked. "Good. No, we just had a level one lose it and go sniper in the labs. Need a clean up and team here now." He hung up and looked at them. "Okay. Mac?"
"I'll handle it, Don. Danny, you're getting a mentor on the new kid when they come in."
"Sure, I look forward to it," he said, beaming at him. It proved that Mac really thought he was doing good. "Don, we'll probably need SWAT too. Stella didn't want to pop his locker."
"The clean up team can scope it and let them know." He stood up. "Come on." They headed up there together, going to see the damage. He found Stella crying and hugged her. "Shh, it's all right."
"It's not!" she said, staring at him. "I had to shoot him!"
"And you did what you had ta do, Stella," Don reminded her gently. "Come on, let's get you laying down somewhere before the shock hits." She nodded and let him lead her off while the other team came in to deal with the mess this had left.
Danny looked at the people coming in. "We've got an injured tech on the way to the ER already. He was up there," he said, pointing at a spot where the ceiling was exposed. "We're not sure about his locker being trapped or not. Stella got him, Don's got her and led her off to lay down for now. He was aiming for Trace." Lindsey nodded and looked around. "He climbed up the air ducts and over." He pointed at the opening. "Tell me if you need anything from us. I'm checking on everyone else to make sure we're all okay." He looked at Mac. "I'll take this floor, you take yours, that way you're closer for when the Chief storms in."
"Agreed." He headed that way slowly.
Danny went to the labs, checking each one for damage, finding all the techs huddled together. "He'll be fine. Don's had a worse wound," he assured them, moving carefully closer. "It'll be okay." One of them lunged at him and hugged him, letting him pat her on the back to get her calmed down. "Shh, it's all right." His phone rang and he pulled it out, looking at it before answering it. "I'm all right," he answered. "It was the new kid who went sniper on Trace. Yeah, he'll be fine. Chest but not critical according to the paramedics. Sure, I'm here. Monroe." He smiled at his wife's snort. "Yeah, well, we're all good s'far as I know. Right now I'm being cried on. Come over for lunch, I could use the break since IAB will be here by then." He smiled. "Love you too."
He hung up and put the phone back in his pocket, sitting down with her to let her finish calming down. "It's all right." He looked at the other techs. "You guys all good?" They nodded. "Good. Monroe is handling the scene. Someone get some paper and pens from a lab and let's start with the things that we're all seeing in hindsight." The woman crying on him got off, nodding and wiping off her face as she went to gather that stuff for him. "It'll be okay," he told another one, hugging their ballistics tech. "I promise, it'll be okay. Even Stella will be okay." He nodded and let it go, crying on him. "Shh, I know. It's been a bad few months." He looked over as Don leaned in. "We're going over our hindsight observations before IAB can get here."
"Hillborne's downstairs already bothering Mac." He got out of the way of the tech, patting her on the back as she walked past. "The counselors are coming too, guys. It'll be a mandatory session, that's PD law, but you know you can talk to any of us, even me and Kate and Horatio, right?" They nodded. "Good. Make sure your labs are sealed down for the day. This lab is shutting operation until the scene is cleared." They got up to do that and he and Danny shared a look. "Toni call?"
"Yeah, I told her I'm fine and to bring lunch because we'll need a break by then."
"That's good. You need me, you yell. Was he this shift?"
"Night shift guy," Danny offered, standing up. "The ballistics tech was dating him."
Don nodded. "Then I'll have a quiet word with him about extra days off." He left to do that. It was hard enough when you only knew the guy. If you were dating him it was worse. The Internal Affairs captain stopped him and he gave him a look. "What?"
"Where were you?"
"My office. I just got back from vacation and I got here about ten minutes later. Taylor was waiting on me and Messer told us both at the same time."
"Oh. Where is Messer?"
"With the gathered lab techs on this floor." He moved closer. "Go easy on the ballistics tech, all right? They were buddies."
"Fine. Were they dating?"
"Not like I listen to gossip."
"Thank you." He headed that way. "Messer?" Danny looked over. "Where were you?"
"Covering the downed tech in case he tried again. I was in the corner of the trace lab working on a sample."
"Fine. Why did Bonasera have to shoot him?"
"He fired a third shot toward her. She reacted." The ballistics tech's breath caught and he looked at him. "It's all right. Come on. We're doing hindsight reviews if you want to bother Monroe. She came with the clean up crew, and Stella said we're not opening the locker without it being checked."
"How would he have gotten up there?"
"The air ducts. I noticed someone's left a cover off one of the ones in Chem. You can climb up that one to the rafters then make your way over. We had to hunt that bird that got in last year that way."
"Very well. I'll be back. Work on those reviews for now." He walked off to intimidate her.
Danny looked at the ballistics tech. "We'll shield you where we can," he offered quietly. "Up to you to say if you were dating or not." He nodded at that, sitting down to think and see why he didn't see it happening. Danny did the same. He had worked with the kid a lot. Mac came to the doorway. "Stella okay?"
"No. Don gave her his medicinal bottle of scotch from his desk. We'll get her home later." Danny nodded at that. "This is a bad time but right before you came in, Don told me I'm hiring, Danny. I need you to help me with that."
"Have Toni help, Mac, she's the best judge yet. She didn't think he could handle the stress. I thought he'd make it after the first few tough ones."
"If you want. We're doing it by committee this time anyway." Danny nodded. "Stella said we can move this to the break room or the meeting area upstairs."
"Whatever they want," Danny agreed, looking at the techs, who shrugged. "Break room so there's a bathroom nearby?" They nodded so they gathered everything and headed down there. "You okay, Mac?"
"Being a normal human sucks, huh?" he teased with a small smirk. "You hate being anything but perfect."
"I do, but I've always been human."
"Could've fooled us," Danny assured him. "Horatio's at the house locally if you need 'im." He followed the techs, going down to get a drink and use the bathroom before he got back to the review.
"I'll call him later," Mac promised himself. "And her to see how she did it." He looked up. "Please don't let this run in threes. We can't take another one." He went down to sit with his staff. They counted on him to remain calm and in charge. He heard a quiet voice and looked that way, finding Catherine and Horatio hugging Danny and her checking him over. "We're gathering in here," he ordered quietly.
"The Chief said it's our scene," Catherine assured him. That got a nod. "Stella?"
"Drunk on your old couch. She had to shoot him."
"Okay." She and Horatio walked off. "Mac, your cane is too short. You're leaning too far."
"Thank you." He sat down and moved it up to the next notch, which he thought was too high. Danny took it and walked off, going to the ballistics lab to drill a new hole, then bringing it back. "Thank you, Danny."
"Not an issue. She also had a knee brace. You might see if one would help you." He sat down again, looking over as their other level three ran in. "We're in here!" he called. She backtracked and came in to help and hug everyone. She was a hugging person and the techs liked her for that. "Sit down, Ma. We're doing a hindsight review."
She frowned at him. "Who was it?"
"Craig," Mac said quietly. "Thank you." She nodded and sat down to help with that, hugging the poor guys who needed it most. He watched her work. She was his best decision after Stella. She was the mother of the department. She might be young and childless, but she was the one you went to when you needed to talk or get advice. She looked at him. "Stella's drunk already. Don handed her a bottle."
"Good! It's necessary. Did anyone call her boyfriend?"
"I did," Don called as he walked past the doorway. "Hilborne's coming back." He stopped him. "Ma just came in."
"That's fine. Nice work with Bonasera." He nodded at that. "Your wife still able to do the work?"
"You think she doesn't stay in practice? She and Horatio both spend at least three days a week still working on older cases for both cities. Feel lucky they weren't in Miami yet." That got a nod. He heard a shriek of outrage and looked that way. "That's Gwen, let her in, and Toni too," he yelled. That got a nod from the rookie on the door, who let Gwen in. "Hey, baby." He kissed her on the forehead. "Your mom and Horatio have the case."
"That's fine." She held up something. "It got mailed to Stabler today, his first day on the job as Captain."
He took it to look over, then sighed and handed it to Hilborne. "Different guy but just as problematic. Please do it quietly?"
"If I can." He looked at Gwen. "Who handled it?"
"Elliot, me. I bagged it." That got a nod and the captain went to deal with that situation as well. She looked at her dad. "Are you okay?"
"I just barely came in when it happened. I didn't even heard the gunshot."
"Good." She patted him on the cheek. "I can do some of the questioning, Elliot said so."
"If Hillborne says it's all right." She nodded and went to check, finding him in the locker room with the idiot in question. Don went to check on the techs, fussing in finest fashion. Mac grimaced so he went to talk to the desk guys, getting the correct version out before the gossip got overwhelming.
Danny walked into the house later that night, letting Toni get the door behind him. "Yo." They all looked at him. "We found his journal finally." He handed it to Horatio. "He was badly stressed and not letting cases go."
"I figured he had to be," Catherine admitted, looking at her daughter. "Are you all right?"
"Just scared," she admitted, sitting down and clinging to her mate's arm.
He looked at her. "You know it's not the average one, Toni. Most people don't shoot at us. They shoot at Don and Gwen."
"They shoot at anyone with a badge," she countered.
He kissed her gently, staring into her eyes. "If I let them get me that scared, then who'll stop 'em before they hurt someone without one?" he asked quietly. She nodded and just clung to him. "Tonight's not a good night to be alone. Where's Stella?"
"Her boyfriend came to pick her up," Don offered, getting up to get them all drinks. It was a night for drinking and the kids were already down. He handed over the bottles of beer and sat down with his head in his wife's lap, his feet in Horatio's once he moved over. "Anything new?"
"The Chief liked the idea that Toni was going to help us with the hiring," Danny offered. "Stella's gun's still gone, right?" Everyone nodded and Horatio pointed at it since it was on the table. "Good. I don't want that to happen to her."
"I told him if he couldn't deal, to bring her over," Catherine assured him. "Been there, done that." He nodded, smiling at her for that. "But, I do have some hope. We were at the Academy and Horatio saw three guys who could do the job with the way they think. Two of them have a decent enough handle on science to take the courses and update within a few years." He grinned at that, giving her a sideways look. "Plus my old trainee, Milgrew, is wanting to transfer back. He's a level two and stymied in the Bronx."
"Excellent," Danny agreed. "I hear he's good but he's not political so he's not moving up over there. We could use him." He looked at his wife. "You remember him?" She nodded. "You like him?" She nodded, giving him a slight smile. "I'll tell Mac tomorrow. Any word on ones with the training?"
Catherine smirked and pointed at her briefcase. "My old program even," she said proudly. "Oh, and Aiden's pregnant by her current guy. I heard from her today."
Danny beamed at that. "I'll have to get the kid CSI stuff for a baby warming present." He got the briefcase and found the transcripts in there. He found three he was seriously impressed with. "Who's this?" he asked, waving one.
"Speed's, for comparison," Horatio said quietly.
"Ah." He put that one aside, gauging the others against his own education and background. He narrowed it down to two. "These two, Catherine."
"She looked at him. "The other guy wants it badly, Danny."
"Then we'll see, and I wouldn't care to interview him. He's not sure he wants to go to the Academy though. He'd have to."
"I was thinking he could go Fed," Horatio admitted. "Or possibly just straight tech. Calleigh could use a few new techs this upcoming year." He took it and went to fax it to Eric's house since she'd be home by now. He came back and put it back into the stack, then looked at the others. "When did you talk to him?" he asked, holding up the last one.
"Last night. His teacher called me because he wanted to know the kid's chances. I gave it to him very harshly, gave him the worst case scenario, and he made it with the answers he gave. He's smart, he thinks on his feet, and he's got a strong connection to the BDSM community as well if it matters. He's also married with a year-old son and a foreign wife. He said she's Chinese and was in as an immigrant student. He wants it too, Danny. Enough to ignore his family to do the work."
"I'll talk with him," he promised.
"We," Toni reminded him.
"We," he agreed, smiling at her. "You all right now?"
"No. You could've been shot."
"Yeah, well, I wasn't. Remember that."
"It won't let you be able to walk tomorrow," she said smartly. He grinned and kissed her, making her relax again. "Yes, dear, I'll calm down."
"Thank you." He looked at Catherine. "Stella might try to quit," he said quietly.
"Won't happen," Don told him. "Mac can't do oversight, he's hated by three of the other borough supes. They won't listen to him and we'll fail our next eval."
"I'm walking them through it this upcoming real evaluation. It's nice, the real one is every three years, the fake, important one is every five."
"Makes sense to me. We change full staff about every six years," Danny pointed out. "Speaking of staff changes, Monroe?"
"Not a happy person but she was working under my direction and I called her on three bullshit moves she pulled," Catherine assured her. "Horatio caught her with another few."
"I also called a person I know at the FBI labs who is looking for a tech and suggested her name," Horatio said dryly. "Told them she was arrogant and could stand toe-to-toe with their worst field agents, to send one up to interview her to make sure she could bully them back. Something about a Deputy Fornell....." he said dryly when she started to snicker. "Exactly. If she can pass his muster, she'll be there and in a very prestigious spot."
"Which is very nice of you," Danny agreed with a grin. "Don, any word from the Chief?"
"No, not yet. He was there when I left but he looked ready to cry." Catherine nodded at that. She had left last and come home to basically collapse like her strings had been cut between them. He sat up just enough to take a sip of his beer and then put his head back down. "Movie night?"
"Sure," Catherine agreed, stroking through his hair. He smiled at her. "The kids are safely asleep."
"Good. It's a nice change." He looked at Danny. "If and when you two have some, remember to separate the one that gets sick first, before it ping-pongs back and forth." Toni smiled at that. "How're classes, princess?"
"Boring. I corrected the teacher again today. He hates me, told me to teach the class. So I did lead the lecture and he stomped off in a snit. The Chair called me on it and I told him why. Hell, I've been taping lectures and I told him why." She smirked. "We're getting a pop quiz tomorrow because we're all majors in that class and he's making sure we know our shit."
"I'm sure that'll make you very popular," Don said dryly.
"It won't, but the Chair is doing it to all the upper classmen their next classes. It seems a few of our recent graduates haven't been up to snuff. Oh, Danny, I've got that meeting tomorrow with the MoMA director." He smiled and nodded. "So I may be coming home very pissed about that."
"I understand," he assured her. "If they hold your father against you, you can always go teach at St. Barts. I'd like that."
"We'd have to move closer."
"It's a nice drive but you're right. We'll figure it out. We've had three break-in attempts at our house recently," he told the trio. Who all glared. "Not my fault. I put the nice, big sticker in the window that says we're members of the FOP and everything. The local patrol guys out there hate me for some reason."
"I think that was because you corrected how he was filling out a form," she said, patting his hand with a smile for him.
"Someone tried that at Dad's house, he got an ass full of bullet," Don agreed, taking another sip.
"Since when?" Catherine demanded.
"Um, did I not tell you about that?" he asked hesitantly. She poked him and took his beer, putting both of them aside to make him look at her. "He didn't want you to worry and shoot someone, Kate. He handled it. He's thinking about retiring to Florida again, but that's about it. He said the little punks learned their lesson when they had to have a butt cheek rebuilt in prison."
"Fine." She grimaced and looked at Horatio. "You and I both know who's behind this shit." He nodded. "We need to do something about this."
"We are retired," he reminded her calmly.
"So?" She looked at her daughter. "Get Gwen here. She can bust the assholes."
"Elliot said she's to keep to her caseload and no further since she's going after the guy in her neighborhood who wanted her son. But I'll try." She smiled sweetly. "Can Gordon and I help?" She nodded. "Good. I'm bored."
"Hey, you can babysit more," Don noted dryly. "Or have a few."
"Not until after I have to be called Doctor," she said firmly. "No way in hell I'm having babies yet. They're like potato chips, you never end up with just *one*. Look at how Danny came to be."
"It was merely a celebration of her being honored at the ball," Horatio defended with a small smirk.
"At the ball," Toni agreed dryly. "In a closet."
"At least no one tried to steal my namesake's food," Danny teased her.
"I still think that guy needs help," Don complained. Someone had taken his treat and Catherine had restricted his habit to home use only for his coffee. Even when Horatio had said he found it cute, but a bit disturbing. Even when he had managed to hook Horatio on the taste of breast milk too.
"I'm sure the local source I found for him to buy it from helps him control his addiction," Catherine soothed, patting him on the head. She shook her head. "Thankfully, I can't have any more." Horatio smiled at that. "Seriously. Remember, tubes tied? No more need for birth control or forgetting it?" He nodded. "I remember you going wild that night, Horatio." He smirked a bit more evilly and she shivered. She knew that look. It's the same one that had gotten her pregnant with their last son.
Toni stood up and pulled Danny with her. "We're staying over so we don't get popped for having sex in the car again." He let her drag him up to her room in the house and to bed. Even though it was only ten.
Horatio leaned over Don's body to kiss her. "We should follow suit."
"Sex in the car?" she teased. "That would mean you'd have to get something bigger than we've got, dear."
"No, just the sex part," he assured her. She shivered and nodded, and he made Don move so he could take them both to bed so he could prove they were his.
"Hey, Horatio, we're going this weekend to pick up your birthday present. Can I get it on tape when you squeal like a little girl and send it to Eric and Calleigh?" Don teased as he was led off.
"I don't squeal, Don."
Catherine smiled at him. "I already picked it up," she said with a wink. "It's in the garage beside the lam. If the lam fit." Horatio let her lead them that way and he did indeed squeal and managed to keep up the neighbors. He had been missing his hummer.