Horatio looked up as Calleigh stomped up to his office the next morning.  "He was handling things last night and wore himself into passing out," he said quietly.

"Which is probably why he looks like hell and said he's not moving off his lab stool," she told him.  He groaned, shaking his head.  "No, my fit was with Stetler, who decided that his drug test had been *too* clean because it didn't even show tylenol.  At which point Xander gave him a confused look and said it doesn't work on him and why take it for minor things, they go away.  Then he pointed out he didn't have any when he had so many stitches after the thing in LA, as he called it, and Stetler huffed and demanded a hair sample."

"Technically he can question any drug tests."

"Chem is running it and he suspended my lab tech until it's done with."

"Is he taking a nap?"

"I had Max tuck him in.  He grinned a silly grin and said if he ever spawned she could straighten them out."  Horatio smiled at that.  "My problem is that my lab is seriously overloaded today for some reason.  Stetler saw this and smirked that 'perfect timing evil villain smirk' at me for it."

"Why is it backed up?"

"I don't know but even Xander was complaining, Horatio."  He came down to look with her.  "Was he off last night when someone got a major bust?"

"No, I was here when he came in to pick something up."  He looked at all the boxes.  "How many haven't been done?  It looks like a quality control pull with these dates."

"I think maybe none of them were done and this is a quality control pull.  He decided these samples could wait over others and never quite got to them."

"I see."  He considered the pile.  "How about today's?"

"Six bullets so far.  From one case.  Eric and Speed are out on one at the moment."  She looked at him.  "Xander's already started on some, Horatio, but we're going to be pulling some overtime."

"Let me call the nightshift supervisor to see why these were laid out."  She nodded, settling in to get to work on the sample Xander had been working on when he had been sent for a nap.  He came back from the call with a grimace.  "Marla heard that some irregularities have been going on.  We gave her copies of those reports when they were done.  She said that he should probably work on the samples he had conveniently pushed aside as unimportant.  Apparently he went home sick shortly afterward."

"Leaving my shift to do the work," she complained.

"Marla agreed it wasn't nice of him."

"Can I make Stetler go eat him instead of Xander?"

"You can try."  He went to find him in chemistry.  "Is it clean?" he asked the tech.

"Squeaky, Horatio.  No trace of anything."

"Good, because I need Rick for another reason."  He walked him off by force, even though he was growling.  "It appears the nightshift ballistics tech has decided to ignore samples and when ordered to stop it, went home with a sudden illness."

"That boy can't be that clean."

"Rick, he didn't even let them give him local for his last set of stitches," he said blandly.  "John is much the same way.  He got a small graze the other day from Calleigh's stalker and barely grunted at it.  He handled it before we knew it had happened and tried to hide it so we couldn't fuss."  Rick glared at that.  "Xander has been taught that he has to take care of it himself because the hospital where he was raised was pathetic and killed a lot of people."

"The state would shut it down."

"The state didn't take over the town and it had a fifty percent homicide rate for a few years running," Horatio countered.  "The high school had a forty percent mortality rate the year he started it.  Only twelve the year he graduated, excluding the gas explosion at his graduation ceremony.  There's a reason my ballistics tech knows how to do his own stitches.  Now, can we focus on the real problem or should I just fire him?"

"I'll look into him.  The one she sent packing for being an idiot?"

"And doing the same thing as I've recently learned."  He pointed at the stack of boxes.  "All cases he felt could wait.  It means justice will have to wait on our present cases and backlogs like this cause overtime that the Chief will scream about."

"I'll look into him.  What did happen to your wonder tech?"

"He's ill.  He came in anyway because he's that sort of man."  He walked off to help Calleigh if he could.  "Can I do anything?"

"Pull up the case files to make sure the ballistics report is redundant?"

"I can do that."  He settled in to pull those up while she matched.  Xander wobbled in an hour later and got back to work, only flipping on the radio a bit.

Speed walked in.  "Please tell me someone pulled QC?" he begged.

"Idiot on night shift was missing samples," Xander told him.

Speed stared at him.  "If you're that sick, go home."

"It's exhaustion, not sickness.  I had to do something last night that wore me out."

"Succuba?" he teased with a grin.

"I wish.  Horatio, where did Dawn go?  She wasn't there this morning."

"She was helping the young man that suddenly appeared get home and went with him."  Xander looked over at him, giving him a pointed look.  "By then you were unconscious," he said, still typing and not looking at Xander.  "A pale blond boy, very British, very floppy wristed too."


"Yes."  He grinned at the boy.  "She was helping him get home and went with him for some reason.  Her sister was not amused."

"Neither am I.  Is she all right?"

"He seemed politely rational.  She asked him if he was an evil one.  By then she was able to stand and walk."  Xander nodded, relaxing again.  "I'm sure she'll be fine, Xander."

"She'd better be or I'll have to invade and kick their asses."  He got back to work.

"Do we know this British guy?" Speed asked.

"In another life," he replied blandly, giving him a look, getting a shudder back.  "Dawn's like that now and then.  I hope she's having fun."  He sent a text message to her phone.   She had said she had magiced it to reach her anywhere.  No matter what.  So if he needed help she or someone could come help.  He got one back that started with a smiley face and went on for another three texts.  "Huh."  He let Horatio see them, making him laugh.  "She's finally found a guy who can equal up to the crush she used to have on me."  He let Speed read it.  "She's like my little sister."

Speed read through them, shaking his head quickly.  "You're insane."  He handed it back.

"No I'm not.  The voices are just loud now and then."  They piped up and he imagined oral sex.  They quit.  "Better," he said with a sigh.  He grinned.  "If you had bullet's it'll be Monday."

"I can understand that.  Late Monday?"  Xander looked then nodded.  "If I don't hear by Wednesday I'll be back."  He walked off to tell Eric and Ryan that since they were in the same lab.  "They're so backed up in ballistics."

"Why?" Ryan asked.  "He had a clean lab when he left."

"The nightshift guy got told to pull out all the samples he had deprioritized."  Eric moaned, leaning on the table.  "So it'll be early next week on ours."

"That's fine.  Alexx is backed up too so it'll be tomorrow before we get the autopsy results," Eric said.  He looked over.  "Is that the same weenie that she kicked out of her lab?"

"Yup.  There's so many boxes in there it looks like a box handout day."  He sat down once he had on gloves and his lab coat.

"You are exhausted and you will eat lunch, young man," Maxine yelled from the hallway.  "I don't care if you don't like it, come eat.  I made enough to share."

Eric grinned, waving at her.  "She's a good mother hen.  A bit forceful but it works with him sometimes."

"He does look rough.  Flu?"

"He said he had to do something last night.  Apparently an old friend who was like a little sister showed up last night and ended up leaving with some British kid who reminded them of Draco Malfoy from the books."  Ryan giggled.  "Saw that?"

"Saw them.  Looked just like how I imagined him."  He got back to work.  "She was a bit sore and achy herself."

"Fuck," Xander snarled up the hall.

Speed leaned out.  "No language like that in the lab, young man."

Xander looked up.  "Wherever Dawn is, is a bit warped.  He thinks she's perfect for his wife and his mother agrees."


"Her sister's going to invade and kill them all.  She didn't even want Dawn dating."

"Again, so?  She can't run her sister's life."

"She can't run her own all the time but she'll want my help getting there."

"No.  Say it often.  Apparently you need to learn how to tell that word to women."  He went back to work.  "Poor girl.  She was how old, Wolfe?"

"College aged."

"Way too young to get married unless she's knocked up," Eric said.

"How traditional of you," Speed said dryly.  "Do you make them not wear white too since that started out as a symbol of being wealthy enough to have a dress that you only wore once?"

"It is?"

"Yeah, it is."

"Huh."  He shrugged.  "I don't care what they wear.  My mother would beat them into agreeing."

"Times have changed," Ryan told him.  "Not everyone likes marriage and plenty of single women have kids from a dish these days."

"It takes at least three people to raise any kid, and at least one good spanking a year," Eric said patiently.  "Why overwork them?"

Speed snickered.  "Only your nieces and nephews, Delko.  Wolfe, you have any kids?"

"Not that I know of."

"Good.  Then we don't have to have the 'don't be a slut' talk we had with Eric when he started to date things that looked bad on the department."

"Not funny, Speed," Eric warned.

Speed looked at him.  "You're the one who dated the serial killer.

"I didn't know that and when I did I turned her in."

"And I thought Xander's were bad."

"They are," the two friends said in unison.  Eric smirked but stuck out his tongue at Speed.

"You're not my type, Eric.  Go hit on Xander.  He could use someone nice.  Your mother could fuss over him for years."

"Momma wants heirs.  I can't date a guy unless he can give her grandbabies.  Poppi said so."

Ryan shook his head.  "You two are insane."

"He did it to me.  I was perfectly sane before I started to work here," Speed told him.  "You're next."

"I'll let Xander warp me like you two warped each other."  They smirked.  "Apparently all the salespeople we saw on Saturday thought we were very cute when Xander was dragging me from store to store."

"I noticed the shirt.  Good job," Speed told him, getting a grin back. "Comfortable?"

"Fairly so once it was washed.  He made me get a few suits for court too."

"Even better.  Your last one was itchy and you kept wiggling on the stand," Eric told him.  "Are these more comfortable?"

"Mostly.  One's a bit tight but I can get that tailored to fit better."  He shrugged and got back to work on his microscope.  "That makes no sense."  Speed shifted over to look.  "It's a saline/quartz/white volcanic sand compound."

"You're right, that makes no sense," Speed agreed.  "Run it through the GCMS."  Ryan handed over the report.  "Then that really makes no sense."  Eric came over to look.  "Where did we find it?"

"Shoe tread."


"Could be some sort of expensive sand mix for landscaping," Eric offered, looking at them.  "Slightly shiny from the quartz to draw attention and highlight it at night."

"It might be."  He looked again.  "Call one of those places, see if it is," he decided.  Ryan went to find a phone book.  They shared a look and Speed sealed the sample up for him.


Xander trudged in that night and laid down on the couch next to John's thigh.  "Don't expect me home at a reasonable hour anytime this month."

"What happened?  Another big bust?" he asked, going back to reading.

"The night shift guy that I replaced was picking and choosing which bullets to do first.  We came in to nearly a hundred boxes of guns plus a lot of bullets he didn't match.  And one I came up one that matched to an officer's gun."  John reached down to pet him.  Xander lifted his head slightly into the warm hand.  "Plus today's bullets and guns.  We're going to be backed up for weeks."


"Probably.  I'd have to kick his ass out of the lab if he showed up."

"You'll handle it."

Xander looked up.  "Are you still possessed?  You're awfully chilly today."

"No," he said, looking down.  "Though I do think it's time you learn to lean a bit more on yourself again."  Xander winced as he stood up.  "Did you hurt yourself?"

"Residual soreness from last night."  He got something and came back, handing it over.  "I'm surprised you haven't busted me for that yet."  He yawned as he laid back down.  John read it then glared down at him.  He could feel it even with his eyes closed.  "It gets it out of my head."

"Shouldn't be happening anyway."

"Hey, I got a good idea on how to take over a cell and make them beg for mercy."  John swatted him.  "Thank you.  You know, even if I don't need you all the time, you're still like my dad, John.  So whatever freaked you out, get over it."  He yawned again, letting himself drift off now that he was home.

"Did you drive?"  His answer was a snore.  He looked outside and there was the car.  "You know better than to drive while you're this tired."  He flipped through the book.  Yeah, he should've felt this and swatted the boy hard for any of these thoughts.  Though some were amusing and might make nice fantasy novels.  Calling a dragon to Miami and siccing it on the shallow, petty girls who thought they were too special was very amusing.  He looked down when he felt a bit of wetness.  "It's been a bad day if you're drooling."  He started to move but Xander clutched his leg so he relaxed.  The boy relaxed again too.  "I'm not leaving, idiot," he said quietly.  "I'm getting something to wipe your mouth since you look like a teething toddler."  Xander snuffled and shifted to lay on his thigh.  "I'm not a pillow, kid."


"No, I'm not one of those either.  Though it's nice; I haven't been called that since Sammy was almost a year old."  He petted him again, making the boy have happier dreams and quit drooling.  Sometimes the boy was a pain but he was a cute kid when he was asleep.  He'd have to send him with lunch and dinner tomorrow in case he was late.  Maxine would make sure he ate something.  Now if only he'd eat dinner...  Nope, no chance the kid was getting up anytime soon.  Someone knocked.  "Who is it?" he called.


John looked.  "Open."  He walked in and paused, grinning at Xander.  "That bad?"

"The idiot on night shift left over a hundred guns plus a whole tray of bullet envelopes to do.  He decided they weren't as important."


"Send him in with food.  I'm sure Maxine will make him eat."  He grinned.  "I was going to see if he wanted to do anything.  I'm guessing that's out."

"Probably.  Ask him when he's out of backlog?"

"Of course."  He grinned, locking the knob on the door as he left.

John looked down.  "Friends are good for you.  He has sense most of the time so he's a good choice to keep you out of trouble."  The boy snuffled him again so he petted him, making him purr in his sleep.  "Are you a kitty?" he teased.  Xander purred and meowed.  "Goof ball."  Xander just drooled some more on his thigh.  Fortunately he washed.  Pity he couldn't take a picture of it.


Xander looked up as someone walked into his lab.  "Ah, the reason I'm working overtime.  Get out of my lab."

"Who are you to say anything!" he demanded.

"The person you overloaded since you couldn't do your job."  He walked over and shoved him out.  The guy tried to come back so Xander threw him this time.  He saw a few people looking.  "Unfortunately, we on day shift are having to work overtime because he screwed up."

"Who're you?" a woman asked.

"Winchester, dayshift ballistics.  I came in the other day already feeling like crap to find over three hundred things that needed to be done and then Quality Control found he mismatched three things, Marla."  She shuddered.  "So he can go somewhere else while I actually do the work in my lab."  He turned and walked back in there, kicking the door shut.  He called Horatio.  "I just kicked the guy out of my lab when he showed up whistling.  Gee, Horatio, I don't know why I'm still at work."  He hung up and went back to it.  Marla tapped the walked in.  "I don't eat people who know what they're doing and don't make me do their work too," he said dryly, glancing back at her.

"Three hundred?"

"Ninety-six guns and a whole tray of bullet envelopes was what he left out for us."  He looked at her.  "Or didn't you catch his sick out?  Or the fact he hasn't processed anything in the last two days either?"  She shuddered.  "I'm working on my shift's bullets from that first day right now thanks to him.  I've still got the rest of ours, all of his since then, and there's rumors that Vice is going to bust an arms dealer tomorrow.  That and three mismatches?  Hell no I'm not having him in here while I'm working."

"I can't fire him.  We'll be short, Winchester."

He looked at her.  "Looks like we're already doing his job anyway."

"I'll talk with Horatio.  No more physical violence with my shift."

"The rest of your people know their shit and don't make me more work unnecessarily.  He has neither of those skills.  Everyone else outside of those categories is pretty safe."

"Thank you.  Did you call Horatio?"

"Yes and he wondered why I was working overtime."  He grinned.  "Shoo.  Go talk about me behind my back.  Don't call Calleigh, she's got a date."  She walked off shaking her head.  "Dates are important and with the week we're having she deserves some fun time."  He got back to work, turning on the radio for the news broadcast.  Horatio walked in an hour later with Marla.  He held up a report.  "Speed's wrong about the shooter.  The one he thought did only beat apparently.  The gun was registered to the other guy and fingerprints agreed with who shot it."

"I'll let him know."  He took it to look over.  "You included the price of grass."  Xander groaned, moving to correct that and reprint it.  "I know you're tired."

"I'm just now getting to our shift's bullets from that first day, Horatio.  And there's rumors of a gun dealer being busted tomorrow."  He looked at him.  "There's no way I want him in here with mismatches and this problem.  I'll work overtime.  I'm used to it."

"Calleigh had her phone off or I would have called her."

"She has a date."  He grinned.  "She needed it.  She's been moping again."

"That's reasonable I suppose.  You still shouldn't have attacked him."

"I didn't.  I told him to get out of my lab, then I shoved, then I threw him out when he tried again because he's a huffier girl than I am."  He handed over the reprinted one.  "Make sure none of the others have one please?"  He got back to work.  "I'm too busy to put up with people who do these things on purpose.  If it was a mistake and he had misplaced one maybe.  I can even see a mismatch now and then if it's close.  None of his were.  That and Stetler had me come in early this morning to rematch the officer's gun and I realized I had seen him the night I took Dawn to the clinic."  He looked back again.  "So I've had a wonderful day and I'm not in the mood for morons.  He can go do something useful, like cut the grass outside."  He got back to work.

"When did you get in?" Marla asked.


"Did you eat?" Horatio asked.

"Max made sure I ate lunch and again before she left, and she left a bit late.  Crap, I hate this."  He put it up on the screen.  "That's not a bullet but it was clearly fired somehow.  Any idea since it's got friction marks from the firing but no striations?"

Horatio came over to look at the microscope, shaking his head as he straightened up. "I have no clue either, Xander.  Leave that one for Calleigh?"  He resealed it and put a post-it on top of it.  "You still shouldn't have shoved him."

"I might like to train an intern, boss, but he's not one.  He should know better by now.  Unknowing because you're still learning is one thing.   Blatantly trying to discredit this lab?  No.  Not in my ballistics lab.  You can suspend me when we're out of backlog if you want but I'm not letting him touch our samples and he'd only give us more work anyway.  This way maybe we can be a bit closer to being caught up by the time I go home tomorrow."  He looked at Marla.  "I'm sorry that I caused your team some gossiping, but I am the protocol bitch about my lab, Marla.  I shoved a member of the inspection board out because he wasn't wearing a coat or gloves.  I put up with students and those who are still learning.  Not with those who're blatantly stupid and trying to discredit us."

"I can agree to that.  Still rude."

"I fell asleep on my uncle's thigh the night all this started because I was so exhausted.  I'm still tired.  I may be rude, but I'm polite if you deserve it.  I am to you, right?"

"You are.  A bit forceful."

"I don't kiss ass," he told her bluntly, making her laugh.  "I don't play politics, I don't kiss up to the higher ups.  I do my job, I do it well, and I expect at least the minimum level of competence in those around me.  If I have to go back to check his work every morning, that's not him."

"I agree.  We'll still be short."  He held up a bullet envelope for her to look at.  "I did collect that three days ago.  I was going to see if it was done tonight or not."

"I do most of mine the same day, Marla; at the latest the next day."  She whimpered.  "Calleigh too and she's a field tech too.  I'm sorry they stuck you with him.   Maybe you should poach?  I came up with a few who had a lot of promise in the class I was in and one who was looking really good in the class behind me.  I can offer their names so you can go look them up."

"If we didn't have a hiring freeze, I might take you up on that."  He wrote them down for her.  "Thanks, kid.  When I can.  So what're we going to do, Horatio?"

"You watch over your boy after he gets back for overloading my tech?" he suggested.

"I can help by doing some of it in here but I'm not great."

Xander waved a hand.  "I'll do it.  Don't worry about that, Marla.  By Sunday I want to be out of backlog."  Horatio gave him a head shake.  "Yes I will be.  Even if I do have to work overnight tonight and tomorrow night."  He looked at her.  "With that gun dealer, we'll need it done quickly.  Let me work tonight while he goes and does something more useful, like jumping in front of a bus, and I'll leave reports on the desk for people to come get.  Or in a box outside the door instead if they want.  I know your secondary lead field guy is scared to death of me for some reason."

"I'll take that offer for tonight but the Chief will paste us all if you work forty-eight straight through, kid."

"He's working on seventy-two right now I think," Horatio said.

"No, I went home that first night.  Last night I got home at midnight but I went home.  I'll go home again tomorrow after my shift."  He turned around and got back to work.  "How bad is that arms dealer?"

"We're thinking it's mildly bad."

"Over a hundred guns?  Artillery?"

"Probably about sixty and he only handles rifles and handguns."

"That's wonderful.  If and when it comes, let Calleigh do those and I'll handle this?  That way we work concurrently and we don't get farther behind?"

"I can see that happening," he decided.  "As soon as you are tired tonight, you go to the break room or the couch in the morgue and take a nap."

"Yes, Horatio."

"And eat something by midnight."

"Yes, Horatio."

"Good."  He looked at Marla.  "What do you want to do with him?"

"I want an official report on those mismatches."  Xander looked around and found one, handing it over.  "Thank you.  The other reports?"  He pointed at the box under the printer.  "You weren't kidding."

He grinned at her.  "Calleigh and I did twelve thousand guns and about two hundred pieces of artillery in about a week and a half," he said quietly.  "We work fast when we have a backlog.  Now, shoo.  Can I have a soda on the desk?"

"For tonight.  Do not let it mess up anything," Horatio ordered.  Xander beamed and went to get one, coming back sipping it.  It and it's spare cohort both went onto a clear spot on the desk.  He and Marla left to go over that report with the idiot.  The box of reports got put in the hall outside the door.

"I was looking for this," someone said when he found his case's report.  He looked in the lab.  "Are you filling in for George?"

"No, I'm Winchester, the guy he overloaded on dayshift," he said with an absent wave.  "I'll drop reports out there as I get more done.  Right now I'm doing ours from three days ago thanks to his backlog."

"Sure, I get that.  Thanks, Winchester."  He went to deliver reports for him.  "He'll drop more as he gets them done," he told the second-in-command on this shift.  "He's got a stack in there."

"George was missing some stuff because he didn't think it was an important sample.  Winchester nearly threw a fit when he saw it from what gossip I heard."  Xander walked in shaking his head.  "No?"

"Moaned and groaned but I felt like crap that day so I didn't have the energy for a fit.  Who had this case?" he asked, holding up the bullet.  He pointed.  "You can't match those. It's a coated bullet.  The coating would have the rifling.  That's so the bullet goes farther and cleaner.   Do we have the coating?"

"I can check.  Should I give it to you?"

"Please.  Or leave it with a note.  Calleigh will be handling our new incoming while I clear this up."  He handed over the bullet.  "If there was another I'll give that over when I find it."  He left, going back to his lab.

"Huh, he's not the drama queen we heard," the second-in-command said.  His underling smirked at him.  "I did hear he was."

"He probably is now and then.  Let me check for that coating.  Teflon?"

"That's the most usual."  He went to check on the boy, nearly whimpering at the stack of things that needed to be done.  "Let us know if you need more stuff, Winchester."

"Remind me about midnight that Horatio said I had to eat?"

"I can do that."  He left him alone, closing the door most of the way.  He told the rest what was going on and where their reports would be when he got to them.  The kid worked like a slave for them.  He should get some thanks and left alone for a bit.  He did warn the one woman who would try to hit on him not to do it until he was clear.  That was him being nice.  He didn't think the guy would be too receptive to her flirting tonight.


Calleigh looked as Vice walked in a rolling cart.  "Oh please make it stop?" she begged.  "Night shift made us backlogged."

Xander looked over with a yawn.  "Horatio and I agreed.  You're handling anything new.  I'm handling the backlog."  He grinned.  "How many, guys?"

"About a hundred all together.  Fifteen shotguns.  Eighty-three handguns."  She sat down with a whimper.  "We heard you're backlogged, Duquesne.  When you can since he was caught with them."

"By Monday," Xander told him.  "Even if I have to work all night Sunday to help her."  That got a nod and they left it with her once she had signed the evidence statement.  He looked at her.  "I'm down to his from the next day."

"I'm glad.  How many more do you have to do?"  He pointed at his work stack.  "Ow.  Go take a nap?"

"I'll go home at the end of this shift."  He got back to work.  "The reports, if anyone comes looking, are all in that box.  They can sort them out."

"That's not bad this time."  She went to look over the guns.  "Oooh, new model."  He came over to look, earning a grin.  "It's pretty."

"It's a custom.  That one's painted."  They looked them over, then Xander got back to work.  Ryan walked in.  "All the reports I've done since two are in the box.  Sort and make sure I didn't include things like song lyrics this time.  If so I'll reprint."

"I can do that."  He pulled the box out to a layout room to go through all the reports.  He found two with lyrics and one with rambling sentences, putting them aside.  He found his cases and put those in another pile.  Eric's got sorted out for him.  Speed's for him.  Calleigh's for her and Horatio's for him.  Then the rest got put back into the box and put in the hallway.  The maintenance guy gave him a dirty look.  "Backed up reports.  Don't touch the box."  That got a nod.  He gave Xander the three.  "These two have lyrics, this one has no punctuation."

"I had to fix my period key," he admitted.  "Thanks, Ryan."

"Welcome."  He left to hand out the other reports.  Speed smirked at him for it.  "Xander's still working.  One of us should make sure he makes it home tonight."

"We can figure that out later.  Eric's in the morgue."  That stack got put on the table out of the way.  "I'll let him know.  Anything good?"

"A whole box for night shift."

"I'm sure they'll be thrilled."  He texted that to his counterpart and got down to seeing what had happened with his bullet samples, and one knife sample as it turned out.  He grinned at the goofiness because that boy was not being taken from them unless he majorly screwed up a lot of stuff.

Ryan walked down the hall to give Horatio his, running into Eric.  "Your stack of reports from Xander is next to Speed."

"How many?"

"He's down to two days behind.  Calleigh's doing all the new stuff."

"That'll work.  Thanks."  He went to look, taking them from Speed's hand.  "Anything good?"

"We have a shooter in common."  He let him see that report to compare them.  It was noted in both that it matched to the other's case and a few others.  "Let's start with that one?"

"Sure."  They went to start searching for that girl.  A bit of a difference but they did have female gang members in Miami.


John looked up at the knock, going to answer the door.  "I take it he finally passed out?"

"Nearly in the car home."  Speed walked him in.  "Here you go, one tired ballistics tech who hasn't been home in days according to H."

"Has he eaten?"

"Max nagged but he managed to forget as soon as she left at least once."

"How many more days of this?"

"He's down to under a hundred samples backlogged.  Calleigh has more than he does with the recent arms dealer arrest."

"Good."  He put the boy on the couch then looked at him.  "I did meet your dad when I first started to hunt."

"I told him you were down here and he nearly choked himself to death."

John smiled.  "He was a bit of a cold, standoffish guy.  Said his girl was being fussy."

"Yeah, Mom does that now and then.  Can you handle him?"

"Of course.  I did after that large bust series in New York."

"Cool."  He handed over a note from Horatio and Maxine.  "They nagged well in your absence.  If you need us to help, yell."

"I will.  Thanks, Speedle."

"Not a problem."  He left, going home in a cab.  He had rode in with Calleigh that morning because she said she'd be too tired to drive home.  They had already dropped her off.  Xander might wake up in the next day, and if so, he'd come finish slaving for them.  He hoped.


Marla looked at the large box of reports that had some sliding onto the floor.  She looked in ballistics once she got the door unlocked.  "Well, I'll be damned."  She relocked it and carried the box of reports off to be sorted out for her crew.  "Winchester is nearly clear."  They smiled.  "Looks like you can almost see the table top again."  Her people were very happy with him and her once they had cleaned out the box.  The other stuff was day shift's so she put it in Horatio's office for the night.  He could hand his own people theirs.


The Chief walked in the next morning.  "Horatio, I got a strange, enlightening call from Payroll a few minutes ago.  Why did your prize ballistics tech not log out or log in for two days?"

"Because he didn't go home, sir."

"Why not?  Was it an emergency?"

Horatio licked his lips.  "Actually, it was a problem with the night shift ballistics tech.  Due to him we've had a severe backlog."

"Why?"  Horatio handed over the report.  He read it and sighed, looking at him.  "Were we aware of this problem?"

"You'd have to ask Calleigh, sir.  She had him transferred out of her lab originally.  That's when we got Xander."

"Interesting."  He walked down there with Horatio following.  He paused in the doorway to smile at the tech napping on top of the gun box.  "Is that good for him?"

She spun, giving him a scared look.  "Don't sneak up on me today please, Chief.  I'm tired and apt to say something mean or rude."

"That's fine.  I understand we've had a problem?"

"The tech I had transferred for skipping evidence skipped more on night shift and when Marla caught him he left it all out for us before pulling a sick out.  We came in to nearly three hundred guns and bullets that needed processing, sir, plus ours."  He moaned, looking defeated.  "Xander's been killing himself with overtime to get us caught up.  I can't wake him up.  It's mean.  Even if he is calling the gun a unicorn and petting it in his sleep."

Horatio walked around the Chief, looking at Xander.  "It's not hurting the gun, right?"

"He's not drooling so far.  If he was I'd be mean because he'd get mad at himself."

"Good."  He moved closer, hearing the quiet muttering about 'good 'corn'.  He smiled.  "Is it a unicorn or a bicorn, Xander?" he asked quietly.

"Unicorn.  Bicorns are mean," he mumbled, shifting some and smacking his lips.  "Mean and horn you up the backside.  Unicorn good pet.  Pretty baby unicorn with horsies.  Need horsies."

"Maybe you should go nap in the break room so you can go riding sometime soon.  I'm sure John would take you."  Xander shook his head, hugging the gun box tighter to him.  "It'd be more comfortable on the couch."  He touched him and Xander whimpered, swatting at him to leave him alone and go away.  "I can't do that.  You're napping in the lab, Xander."

"Bad people!" he complained.  "Go 'way before I have to stake.  Not yours, Spike, don't touch.  Not nummy for you."

"I hate to do it, but no."  Calleigh whistled loudly, making Xander flinch and wake up looking around for the problem.  "Sorry but you were asleep and starting to have a bad dream, Xander.  Go take a kitty nap in the break room.  You can come back in a half-hour."

He yawned.  "I'm fine.  I'm sorry if I said anything to embarrass myself."  He looked back at Horatio.  "Sorry, Horatio."

"Not a problem, Xander.  I was trying to wake you a bit more gently.  You were certain that gun was a unicorn."

Xander blushed and ducked his head.  "Really sorry I said that out loud."  He checked it and made sure it was still sealed.  "Is this my current one?"

"I think perhaps he should have a full day off, Horatio," the Chief said.

Xander blinked at him.  "If I do I'll never get caught up, sir.  I'm only a day behind right now.  I'll go home at the end of my shift."

"Speed drove both of them home yesterday," Horatio told him.  "That arms dealer's stock is being handled by Calleigh along with all the day shift evidence.  He's doing the backlog that the person on night shift left us.  Though the first night he stayed over he did shove him out of the lab and nearly threw him up the hall."

Xander yawned again.  "Let me get caffeine."  He walked around them then came back for his wallet.  "Sorry about the overtime, Chief, but I'll be damned if I let this happen and discredit this lab."  He walked off again.  Maxine saw and pounced him to look him over.  "I just took a nap," he defended.

"Horatio, I'm making him eat."

"Please do and put him on the couch for an hour as well.  He can afford an hour of nap time."  He looked at his boss.  "I've checked on the cameras for his nap times, sir.  He spent two hours on the morgue's couch this morning.  Alexx woke him up when she came in."

"I think that's all you can ask of the human body.  How much longer do you see needing this overtime, Caine?"

"He thinks we'll be caught up by Sunday," Calleigh told him.  "I'm going to be more conservative and say Wednesday unless we get another major bunch of evidence."

Maxine walked in.  "Can I download him napping to show John?"

"No.  That's mean," Horatio told her.

"But he's so adorable!" she cooed.

"No, Miss Valera.  If you want to see him nap that badly, offer him your couch."

"Fine.  He's asleep again.  He got a thing of soup out of the machine and put it in the microwave then sat down at the table.  His head hit it and he's drooling and snoring."

"At least he didn't drool on the gun box," Calleigh told her with a grin.  "He was petting it and calling it a nice unicorn."


"Miss Valera, you're which tech?" the Chief asked patiently.

"DNA, sir, and his mother hen."  She smiled sweetly.  "The boy forgets to eat and hasn't slept in days.  He was exhausted the day this all started too.  He's going to get sick.  Then I'll really have to fuss but the boy'll try to run."

"I'd like him to have a day off soon."

"He won't go until he's clear, sir.  That's the way he is," Calleigh told him.  "Then he and I are both taking a day off.  Different ones so we don't get backed up again, but we're both taking one."

"I can agree to that.  Horatio, correct his time card to exclude napping times."  That got a nod.  "Try to make him go home at night.  He's already on overtime for the week and it's only Thursday."

"I'll try," he promised.  "Thank you, sir."

"Not a problem."  He left, glancing in the break room.  Speed was staring at the boy.  "Let him nap.  He needs it."

"I heard why."  He gave him a look.  "He's very sure he can get it done soon, sir, then no more overtime."

"Good.  Horatio, I want the official report into that tech's misconduct."  Xander whined.  "Not you, Winchester.  The bad one."  Xander purred and patted the table.  Speed handed him a book to pet, letting him cuddle his head on it.  "That is too cute to be manly," he decided, heading off.

Speed smirked, puling the soup out to put next to him.  "Eat when you get up, Xander."  Xander mumbled something unintelligible that might've been 'not hungry' or 'need horsies'  but he wasn't sure.  He walked off to see if they had more reports for him.  "Are we up to mine yet?" he asked Calleigh.  She pointed at the printer tray and the box of reports.  He dug in to find anything of his.  "I'll bring this around to the others."  The ones in the tray got stapled together and dropped in as well.  One of Speed's was in there so he carried it off in his teeth.  Eric took the box from him to look for his.  "He's a day behind."

"He's breaking himself to do it too," he pointed out.

"He's napping on the table in the break room."  He heard a glass shatter.  "We good?" he called.

"I was trying to get my door unstuck and my wall broke," Cooper called from AV.  "I'm really sorry.  I wasn't pulling that hard."

Speed went to get him a broom and dustpan plus the forms since Horatio was helping Calleigh.  "Here."

"Thanks.  That was really thin glass, Speed.  I only yanked twice and it fully broke."

"We told them the glass was a bad idea," he pointed out.  "Wolfe, come help him get this glass up," he called, spotting him.

"Sure."  He came that way to help.  "Door stuck again?"

"Yes.  Damn thing," he muttered.  Ryan grinned.  "Xander's asleep in the break room."

"I saw that.  One of the patrol guys is guarding the doorway since he just bit someone when they tried to get a soda."  Cooper laughed.  "Got the sticky pads for the glass dust?"

"Not yet."  He went to get some, bringing them back.  "I told Horatio, he only moaned.  I'm guessing the budget was blown by overtime this month."

"Xander hasn't went home in two days, DC."

"Damn he is Superman."

"I joked about that.  He said he was Batman but capes are for guys who're trying to cover up a flabby butt or compensating for something."  DC giggled, swatting at him.  "He'd have to be the anatomically correct Batman."

"I'm guessing he's got good muscles too since he can move artillery cases by himself."

"He does.  The salespeople who measured him all got very happy when he dragged me to buy new clothes.  Sometimes literally because I thought I had enough.  He was right though."  They finished cleaning it up and Ryan went to get an body tarp to hang up instead.  That way it would keep the wind from the open doorway up the hall out.  Then he went back to Trace.  "Xander bit someone."

"I'd bite if they woke me up too," he agreed.  "They need stitches?"

"Nope.  Just yelped and backed away.  Alexx got called to look at it."  Speed smirked.  "Are you driving him home tonight or am I?"

"I will."  That got a nod and they got back to work.  Horatio paused in the hallway to look at AV, shaking his head as he walked off to check on Xander.  "That poor kid.  I left your reports on your desk."

"Thanks.  I'll look at them once we're done with this evidence."  They saw Horatio walking the boy outside, Xander stumbling but partially awake at least.  "How many more does he have?"

"Sixty I think."

"That's got to make him happy."

"Which was why he was calling the gun box a unicorn."

Ryan laughed.  "That's cute."

"Valera wanted film."

"I'm sure she'll manage to get it from someone."  He got back to work, shaking his head.


John opened the door at the sound of the hummer.  "He fall asleep finally?"

"He's taken a few naps but he bit someone who tried to wake him up in the break room."   He put the boy on the couch with help from John.  "Let him sleep.  He got two hours on the morgue couch last night."

"Sure, he can nap."  He stared at him.  "Anything I should know?"

"He was cute while napping in the lab.  Miss Valera might have film by now.  He said something about wanting horses."

"I'll let him go riding and be really sore."  That got a smile.  "How's Calleigh?"

"She's fine so far.  She's nearly done with the arms dealer's things.  That leaves the last few morning's worth of evidence.  He thinks they'll be caught up by Sunday."

"There's always hope, Horatio.  He eat?"

"He put soup in the microwave and chose to sit down.  He fell asleep doing that."

"I'll make him eat real food for dinner then.  Thank you for bringing my boy home."

"Not a problem.  Watch out for him.  We're not sure he wasn't sleepwalking on his way down to the morgue last night."

"I've seen that during finals."  Horatio smiled and left.  John looked down at the boy, taking the throw to cover him.  "There, you nap, kiddo.  You really deserve it this time."  Xander snuffled so he let him sniff his wrist.  It got a little lick then Xander went back to snoring and drooling.  John went to make dinner.  The boy would eat tonight.  He had lost ten pounds it looked like.


Speed got there first the next morning since Horatio got called to a scene with Eric and Wolfe was stuck in traffic.  It was a benefit of having a motorcycle.  He stared in the ballistics lab, calling Calleigh by feel.  "How close are you?"  He listened to her cheerful voice.  "Calleigh, I just called out to God.  How close are you?"  She muttered something then answered.  "Good.  Call your little evil helper too."  He hung up and looked at the mess, calling Horatio.  "You're needed back at the lab ASAP, H.  No, I'm staring at ballistics.  The door was open.  It's a wreck."  He hung up and stood there staring.  Ryan stomped in so he waved him over, watching him swear and mutter too.  "Get DC to do the tapes.  I want to know who did this, when, and if they left with anything," he ordered quietly.  Ryan jogged off to get into AV to do that since Cooper wasn't in yet.  Horatio stomped in with the Chief.  He got out of their way.  Horatio muttered a swear word too.  "Wolfe's looking at the hallway tapes."

"Mr. Wolfe, do we have it queued up yet?" he called as he stomped that way.

"Nearly.  I'm scanning starting from when I left.  I'm at ten and counting."  He kept going until he found it.  "There we are."  He let it run at normal speed once he had it back at the beginning.  "Only some guy in to empty the trash before then and he only reached inside the door and took the can to dump then put it back."  He looked at him.  "Xander's going to kill him."

"I'm going to kill him," Speed told him.  Calleigh let out a shriek.  "We're watching the tape."  She stomped that way and shoved them out of her way to rerun it.  "Did he leave with anything?"

"A folder it looks like."  She straightened up.  "He's mine.  I will hand him over once I've beaten him to confessing and begging."  Xander walked in and stared.  "The idiot."

He just nodded.  "He should be a good dog and clean it up while in a leash and collar."  His phone beeped with a text message.  He wrote John back, getting an order.  "He thinks I'll slip and kill him.  Can you go leash our new doggy, Calleigh, or would you like help?"

"I won't need help."

"I'll be going with you anyway," Horatio assured her.  "We'll go now.  I want his address.  Call it in."  He walked off with her.  He ran into John Hagen staring into ballistics.  "The tech she sent off for skipping evidence."

"The one who went to night shift?" he asked calmly.  She nodded, looking pissed.  "C'mon, we'll go arrest him so you can bruise him all you want, Calleigh."

"You can help Horatio pull me off him.  He took a folder out too, John."

"I'll do an inventory," Xander told her calmly.  "Go.  I'll have John pick up a collar if you want."

"It's fitting but I doubt they'd let us."  She walked off, the two men following to keep her under control.

Xander looked in his lab.  "Speed, I think I need some forms."

"I'll get 'em for you," Ryan promised, going to do that.  He brought them back and a new box of pens, getting a tired smile.  "Want help?"

"I'm good and you're up for next case."  He walked in and turned up the radio once he found it.  It was on, just playing under a former work bench.  He started there, noting everything he had to pick up and clean off and what was broken.  Then he pulled down their exemplar catalog to go over the guns they had.  He wouldn't put it past the moron to have taken one too.  By then, Calleigh was up the hall ranting at someone.  He checked their desks, not finding anything missing in his or hers that he knew of.  He walked out with the list, handing it to her.  "Both computers are broken, one microscope too.  The other's got a blown bulb and I'm not sure if it'll work or not.  The first one sparked when I tried it so it's gone."  She slumped, sitting down holding her face.  "He poured something on the firing pen floor.  It's sticky.  The exemplar is all there.  Your desk looks all right but I don't know everything in it.  Mine's still together too.  Our chairs and the main work table are all broken."  She looked up at him.  He nodded.  "Broken from underneath by the way the stress fractures go."

"There's other news," she said quietly.  "He found the people that want to kill you."

"I'm more worried about the watchers.  Terrorists wouldn't attack here unless they had a good plan.  Watchers are sometimes idiots and sometimes not.  They hired mercenaries to attack the lab in New York because they thought a case had gotten sight of the slayer in training up there doing something wrong while hunting.  Watchers also have money so they can hire if they want to.  Or do like they did with John."  He texted that to him as a warning.  He looked at her.  "I'm not moving this week.  I'm too tired to give a damn.  I'll stand there and shoot every last one if they show up."  He got himself a drink and went to put the rest of the trash in the bucket so it could be taken out.  He looked around the better cleaned lab, going to get a mop and bucket. It had to be done.  He did swab up some of the stuff on the firing pen floor to be analyzed.  Ryan ran it for him, making him grimace.  "Maple syrup?"  He rolled his eyes but added something to cut the sugar so it'd be easier to clean.  Not like vinegar would hurt the floor.


Horatio walked in that night.  "What stinks?"

"I had to mop three times with vinegar to get the maple syrup off the firing pen floor," he said, looking at him.  "Can we redecorate now?"

"I can definitely replace things."

"Not glass?" he asked hopefully.

"That would probably be more expensive."

"I'll pay for it, Horatio.  Calleigh and I will pick it out.  It'll be useable, useful, and tasteful."

"I get final approval."

"Yes, sir."  He went to find his boss.  She still had a headache and was having tea while filling out the damage reports.  "You, me, a place to find a new worktable tonight?"

She looked up. "The department only goes through certain suppliers, Xander."

He shrugged.  "I don't care if they do.  I'm going to buy something that works and won't break."  He grinned.  "You can pick out the colors and styles.  As long as I can clean it easily."

"I doubt we can do that."

"Horatio said he gets final approval."

She blinked a few times.  "Then I might take you up on that offer.  When did you want to go?"

"After I hit home to get into the money stash.  That way we can pay for extra speedy delivery."

She smiled.  "Some things will still have to be ordered, like the computers."

"Bullshit."  He smirked.  "They do make good commercial grade computers, Calleigh.  We'll say we're hyping our personal research lab."  He took a form to fill out, handing it over for her to sign.  "C'mon.  I'll drive."

"Fine.  If Horatio said it's fine."

"It's fine," Horatio said as he walked past the door.  "Give me those forms tomorrow, children."

"Yes, Dad," Xander called.  He grinned at her.  "C'mon, they'll close soon."  She got up and followed him out to his car.   He kept the music on quietly on the way home, stunning John when he walked in.  "Need into the vault.  We get to replace things or wait a month for the PD to do it."

"You have that small lab there.  Want it?"

"It's better quality but I might need it.  We can get the same thing.  I can count it as a charitable donation on my taxes."  He walked over to the sanctuary house and into the library.  "Hey, Bobby."  He paused to give him a hug.  "A jealous bitch destroyed my lab because we caught him being a moron."  He got into the vault and pulled out some money, stuffing it in his pocket.

"What is this place?" Calleigh called as she walked in.

"It's where I set up my sanctuary."

Bobby hurried out to stop her from heading into the armory.  "You must be his boss.  Bobby Singer, Miss Duquesne.  The boys said nice things about you."

She smiled.  "I am.  Nice to meet you.  Xander's said some sweet things about you."  She shook his hand.  Xander came out of the library so she looked in there and moaned.  "Book nerd," she teased.

"And if I'm really nice I might let you tell Speed so he can want to borrow."  He winked at Bobby for the help.  "Thanks.  Need help?  John's at home."

"Not at the moment.  You good?"

"Still a bit tired but I'll sleep tonight."  That got a nod and a clap on the back.  "C'mon, I can hear expensive stuff calling to be bought."  He walked her out.  "John, Bobby's in the library."

"I'll talk to him in a few.  Have a good trip, kids.  Xander, no more clothes."

"I need more underwear but I can get that the next time I drag Ryan with me."  He gave him an insane grin as he closed the door.

John relaxed.  "Thank you for keeping her out of the armory, Bobby.  Want some coffee?"

"Sure, could use it and a muffin or something."  He came over to get it then went back to his studying.  John followed to help him.  He loved the library.  It was quiet and Xander wasn't babbling or bouncing around in it.

She looked at him once they were back on the road.  "Was he keeping me out of your exemplar?"


"I looked you up on some of the odder sites."  Xander grinned at her.   "Would Horatio complain?"

"Yes, and so would others."

"Uh-huh.  Is it all registered?"

"Everything that can be registered is registered."  She gave him a stare.  He grinned.  "All my guns are, Calleigh."

"Do we think the car is bugged?"

"No clue.  I left the bug detector at home."

She sighed, looking at him.  "Are they nice?"

"And useful.  If you don't fuss too much about my personal collection I'll let you come pet and help me clean them now and then.  Dean does when he's here."

"I might take you up on that.  Nothing too huge that might take out a building or bigger?"

"Not that I know of.  Unless someone gave me something."  He shrugged.  "You can see as long as you don't scream or want them."

"I can do that.  I know you're not going to take out civilians or make me covet them too much."  He grinned.  "Where to first?"

"Science lab place.  It closes first."  He pointed.  "There for the tables if they don't have any, then pick a computer maker."

"We can do that."  They parked and got out, walking into the lab store.  It was very quiet in there.   She ran a hand over a table.  "That's nice but it's got a texture."

"Not long enough either," Xander told her.  The salesman gave him a look.  "Hi, I'm Xander Winchester, a ballistics tech with the local lab.  I'm funding our lab's remodel since it's now trashed thanks to someone."  He looked at the money and groaned, uncasting the spell on it by muttering.  She looked then at him.  He shrugged.  It was normal now.  He let her hold it.  It changed.  He changed it back subtly while she distracted the guy and he ended the magic around them.  It stopped and the money changed back.  He called John, who undid the security system for him.  It changed back to money.  "Sorry, we have a field generator that does that," he said in her ear.  She looked at him.  "Security system."  He looked at the man.  "My lab is like this," he said, taking some paper to draw it out.  "We're missing this table and this equipment area.  Including our comparison microscopes."

The man led them to what they needed, not finding much in the way of longer tables.  Xander paid for what they needed and wanted then headed to the nearby kitchen/bath remodeling place.  Calleigh smiled.  "We're with the lab."

"Is there a problem with all the glass?  We don't really do glass unless you want to replace some with glass blocks."

"Actually, there is a wall that needs replaced in AV, but our ballistics lab got trashed."  She winced.  "Including our main work table."  He pointed at the diagram.  "We need this replaced and we really need some more storage for things that need to be done or a good table to pile samples on."  He looked at her.  "We use acid now and then to get serial numbers back and we'll have a lot of GSR so we'll have to wipe it down constantly and do sanitizing washes."

She looked at it.  "It's not what we usually do but we do have a number of things like countertop materials that might help.  They're used to mild acids, like vinegars, and can be easily cleaned."  She led them to the area of the store.  "This is our wall of samples.  How did you want to do the top?  Like a table?  Room for feet?  Some shelves here and there?"

"We could use a few shelves but we don't want to have to crawl to get into them," Calleigh said.  She pointed at something.  "That desk area is nice but we usually have work stools, like bar stools."

She looked at the picture then smiled and showed her something.  "Like this?"

They both nodded.  "Only less fancy and not in wood?" she agreed.

"Of course.  Do you want a laminate or do you want a solid surface or possibly something like a corian countertop system?"

She shrugged.  "Show me options.  The longer it takes to fix this the longer crooks go free."

She smiled and pointed at some.  "What's your budget?"  Xander handed her three thousand dollars, making her gasp.  "Well.  For that we can definitely make you a few tables."   She pointed at some of the nicer materials.  Calleigh liked one.  Xander liked a different color.  "We can order either of those but it might take a few weeks since that's custom made to size and shape."

"What do you have on hand that you can hopefully set up this week?" Xander asked her.

She went to look then came back, pointing at something.  "We have this in pink, white, and blue."

"The lab is kinda mostly green," Xander admitted.

She pointed at one.  "It's horribly more expensive since it's new and a recycled material.  It's a solid surface, recycled plastic mixed with granite and marble leftovers then poured into a mold.  We can mix it on site for you once we have the forms and the underpinnings up."

Xander added more to it.  "Please.  Calleigh, wood or metal for the underside?"

"Metal would clean easier.  Wood's prettier though."

He pointed at something.  "That's a patterned metal that's usually used for accents.  It has a slight texture but we don't usually wipe down the table legs.  They can get it less textured than that."

"We have this one in stock thanks to over ordering for a proposed bathroom," she said with a point at another one.  "Since we can tint the top any color....."

Calleigh looked then nodded.  The dark green would look nice.  "Make it a coordinating shade?"

"Of course we can.  When can we go look?"

"Do you want to go tonight or come in tomorrow?" Xander asked.

"I can come in first thing tomorrow."  She started the order.  "I'll be bringing in my construction head."  They nodded.  "I'll see you then."

He wrote down his number.  "Call me."  She nodded at that.  They left, going to the computer store.  "It will look pretty and be very functional."

"I hope so."  She smiled.  "We don't need all this."

"Consider it a charitable donation for my taxes," he told her.  "That way we don't have to work with substandard stuff that's a few years out of date until they order us new stuff."

"They might," she agreed.  They walked into the computer store.  "Hi, MDPD crime lab."

"You don't usually shop with us, ma'am."

"Unfortunately we're in a problem.  Our lab got trashed," Xander told him.  "Computers too."  That got a nod.  "I'm donating."

"It's good that the lab has some supporters among the normal people."

"No, I'm her gun geek," he said with a grin.  "We'll need three stations that can log onto the intra and internet for searching.  We'll need it to handle high end graphics for searching samples.  We'll need a good set of hard drives.  They'll need to be somewhat shielded since we're the ballistics lab and there's gunpowder floating around now and then.  Sound is nice but we're not allowed to put music on company computers."

"Let's see what we have.  Any particular brand?"

"Works and works well.  If we're down for long, people go free," Xander said simply.  "With a maintenance contract just in case."

He nodded at that.  "There's a few of the off brands that local companies use.  They're very reliable.  Will it need to synch with anything like a laptop or a PDA?"

"Now and then I do for court," Calleigh agreed.  She touched a monitor.  "Our new ones are that size."

"And a bit small for me," Xander told her.  That got a nod.  "We're used to flat panel monitors."

"That's fine."  He led them to the system they should have.  They'd have to upgrade a few things but they could do that in the store and hand them over the next day.  Xander paid for them and they took them to be upgraded.  "Such nice people."  He told his techs who it was for and how it had to do certain things.  They agreed they could do that and the guy had paid to have their information switched from their old machines.


Horatio came in late the next morning thanks to court, finding someone measuring.  "What did we decide on?"

Xander pointed at the samples.  "We're debating table top color and extending the table around the wall in that dead space."

"I wouldn't care but your desk will be awfully cramped," Calleigh told him.

"It's already cramped.  I can use that section for storage."  She smiled at that.  "We can put all those forms that we never use in a small set of shelves there."  The guy drew out what he thought and Xander made a small correction, getting a nod.  Horatio chose the color for the table top.  "How soon?" Xander asked.

"As soon as we get a better payment."  She held up a bill.

Xander rolled his eyes.  "John," he muttered.  He pulled out a card, making her happier.  "Calleigh?"

"I checked earlier to make sure things were all right.   He must've turned back on that field security system of yours."

"It's sprayed to look funny when it's on," Xander admitted.  "That was the test batch.  I completely forgot."  He texted that to John.  It went off and the money looked normal.  "See?"  She smiled thinly but the card ran.  "Did the other stuff come out of the other bundle?"

"I think I did.  That was underneath."

"That figures.  We'll sort that out later.  I think washing will take that off."  She nodded at that.  "We're mad chemists too," he said with a grin.  She smiled at that, handing over the invoice.  He signed it and she left to make their new table.  "Sorry, guys."

"It's fine, Xander.  As long as the others don't have that problem," Horatio told them.

"That's why I checked when I noticed it looked funny," she told him.  "I was going to say it was foreign."

"Technically that is a Yen," Xander told her.  He looked at Horatio.  "The computers will be here later today.  The microscopes are in my car."  He went to get people to haul them up there.  "Want to pull in card tables until it comes?"

"If we must."  They set things up so they could get it done once things got there.  The computer people showed up after lunch with everything.  Xander ended up paying extra on his card but that was fine.  John had brought real money to them and taken the funny looking stuff back.  They got set up enough to go back to work until their new table got there.  Someone even came to replace the AV wall with something better.  Horatio gave Xander a questioning look, getting a shrug back.  He got back to work.  He'd still make his Sunday deadline even if he did have to stay overnight again.


Xander looked up as Marla walked in that night, shutting things down.  He handed over a key.  "We had maintenance change the locks."  He waved a hand.  "The new table will be here in two days.  They'll need it closed off for a day thanks to the tabletop needing to cure."

"What happened?  I was off yesterday."  He handed her copies of the reports.  "I'll kill the little brat."

"He's already begging but I suggested a leash."  She smiled at that.  "It's all coming.  These are all brand new."  She nodded at that.  "The monitor on the left is set a bit brighter because she wanted it that way."

"I can handle that.  Thank you, Xander."

"You're welcome."  He grinned.  "I'm done."  She walked him out and shut the door, locking it with her key.  "I left the new stack of reports in the break area so everyone could grab on their coffee breaks.  They were fixing the AV window."

"I can see that.  Those blocks go a lot better."

"And they're set so the glare is rainbowed above their heads and monitors."

"Even nicer.  Thank you."

"That wasn't me.  I have no idea who did that."  She nodded at that.  "So if you hear, Horatio would like to thank them too.  So would Cooper."  He grinned. "I'm headed home now.  Have a good shift.  Protect our new stuff since it's still shiny and has new stuff smell."  He walked off to log out.

She smiled, going to check on AV.  "Winchester said the glare goes above your head now in a rainbow."

"I saw that.  It's nice.  They did a nice job.  Fixed the sticking door problem too."

"Winchester said that wasn't him.  The ballistics lab was.  When did it get trashed?"

"Two in the morning two days ago when you went home early by the tapes."

"Wish I had known.  I would've told Horatio so he didn't have to come in and find the surprise."

"I think Duquesne hunted him down and dragged him back by his balls, Marla.  It's good now though."

"Good."  She left to check on the stack of reports on the table.  She found her few and told the others to go find theirs.


Xander came in the first day with their new table, running a hand over it.  "Do we need a sealant coat?" he muttered.  "It was smoother there."  He called them.  "This is the lab.  Do we need a sealant coat?  No, it's a bit rough and I thought it was a smooth finish."  He listened.  "I can do that.  Used to work construction.  Thank you.  It looks great."  He grinned as he hung up, calling John to pick up stuff for him to seal it.  Calleigh came in and ran a hand over it.  "It needs a sealant coat.  They didn't tell us that so John's picking it up for me.  If I get it soon it'll be dry by lunch time."  He looked at her.  "Then we'll set things back up."  She nodded, going to work in the field while he got the things he needed.  "Did that coating come off?" he asked when he took the bucket from John and the bag with brushes.

"On most of it.  A few are still odd looking.  Thankfully the bank stuff's down."

"That's good since I ended up putting it on my Visa."  He grinned.  "Thanks, John."

"Need help?"

"I might.  Let me ask."  He looked around.  "Horatio?"  He leaned out of trace.  "I need to do a sealant coat.  Can John help?"  He nodded so he signed him in and took him to show him the new lab.  "See?"

"It's very nice looking."  They settled in to topcoat the top and edges of the new table.  It was dried fairly fast with a heat gun from Trace and then a second coat got applied.  John ran a hand over it once it was dry.   "A few small brush ridges but otherwise very smooth."

"If I have to I can sand those down."  He grinned.  "We're not using them again."

"I can agree to that."  He patted him on the back.  "Coming home on time tonight?"

"We managed to work for the last few days," he offered. "I should be fully caught up by late tonight.  Or early tomorrow."

"The boys are nearly back."

"I'll try to be home on time then," he said with a grin.  Calleigh leaned in.  "Except for a few overlapping ridges, it's smooth and ready for use."  She came in to run her hand across it.  Then she gave them both short hugs.  "Thanks, John."

"Welcome, kid."  He smiled at them before leaving.  Horatio stopped him.  "I made sure that it could stand up to someone spilling acid or gunpowder on it by telling them what I remember he had to study to learn to use."

"Thank you for the help, John.  It's very appreciated.  I wanted to ask you about the chance that the tech had told someone he was here," he said quietly.

"He told me that.  So far we haven't seen anything showing that they're in town.  My boys just got back in the state.  I called my contacts in town.  If I hear, you'll hear from one of us almost immediately."  That got a nod.  "So far things are all right."

"Damn it," Xander called.

"Problems?" John asked.

"Found out who replaced the window."  He came out and dropped a bag in front of them.  "I have an admirer."  He walked off again.

John squatted down to open the bag, frowning at the cash inside.  "Did you want the IAB guys down here to discourage this one?"

"I'm not sure Rick wouldn't sell him."  The demon appeared, staring at him.  "Xander is mine and John's.  You may not have him."

"Tough, you die.  He won't."

Xander leaned out of ballistics.  "Don't make me come out there."  The demon fled.  He grinned.  "Someone decide what we're doing with that, guys."  He got back to work.  "Or make Speed negotiate with them.  Ow!"

Calleigh strolled out.  "I reminded him that he likes Speed too much to traumatize him that way," she said with a smile.  John laughed.  She looked in the bag.  "Oh, my."

John zipped it back up.  "Are we certain it came from that source?"

"It appeared with the little mushroom headed thing," she told him.  "I'm sure it wasn't evidence, John."  She pointed.  "Rick, come here for a moment please?"  He sneered but came over.  "You heard about the ones who wanted my young ballistics tech as their own up there?"


"One just showed up again," John said, handing him the bag.  Rick opened it and shuddered, handing it back.   "The guy up there demanded he donate half of it.  Are you going to?"

"You can't accept that."

"He dropped it and left.  I'd give it back if he showed up."

"He did just tell us we could die and he'd still get him," Horatio said.

Xander strolled out with the little creature.  "I don't want you in my lab.  People can say bad things about my work."  He walked off again.  "The other's waiting in your office, Horatio."  He waved.  "Tell me what I'm doing with that one, guys.  John, can we have steaks for dinner?  I'm really hungry."

"Eat something," he called after him.

Calleigh patted him on the arm.  "He won't really drive you nuts and you appreciate him more than the little insanities he causes."

"I know."  He looked at the demon then at the squeaking officer.  "We should probably take this to the office."

"We should," Horatio agreed, walking that way with the demon.  He opened the door and smelled a very subtle perfume.  Of course, he couldn't see out the windows and the room looked like it was draped for a tent effect.  "Undo it," he ordered.

"Master say be comfortable while talk."

Horatio looked at him.  "This isn't comfortable."  The demon huffed and changed it to look more like an English sitting room.  Complete with horsehair sofas and a tea set on the bookshelves that had a lot well-read looking books.  "This is still not my office."

"Is comfortable.  All that matters."  He looked at him.  "You have Master's boy."

"No, I have Xander because he's ours.  He doesn't belong to anyone but himself.  Especially not to someone named Master."

"How did it do that?" Rick demanded.  The demon changed his clothes to fit in better, making him gasp and nearly cry at the new clothes that made him look like a footman.  "Undo it."

"You is his servant."

"No, he's a coworker," Horatio said.  The man's clothes was changed again.  He sat down, staring at the demons.  "Xander is not going to date anyone or anything that he does not choose, gentlemen."

"He can choose between us," the little mushroom headed one said.  "We will be quite kind to him.  As my underling said."

Horatio stared at him for a moment.  "He said he could kill us."

"No, he pointed out that the boy would not die with us.  His grasp of your harsh, guttural language is slim."  He created tea, handing it around.  "Perhaps we should talk to the boy himself?"

John shook his head.  "No.  I'm the boy's guardian.  The boy is not dating a demon without me having to take him out due to a compulsion on me."  They stared at him.  "There is no way around that.  I nearly got him for playing with a succuba once.  I would end up hating myself when I killed him over this."

"We offer much," the larger demon told him.

"I'm sure you do," Horatio agreed.  "Xander is still his own man."

"Xander?" the larger one asked.

"He had to change his identity because of the price on his head."

"Can eliminate that," the larger one said with a hand wave.  "Boy be safe with master."

"You won't be," John said.  "I'm John Winchester."  They flinched back at that.  "Xander is like one of my boys.  You won't get him and you won't get Sammy.  Actually, now and then they have each other."

The demons stared.  "It would be beneficial to have them both," the smaller one said.  "Still, it is not seemly for ones such as the boy to be running around without a keeper.  Anyone could eat him.  That taint does remain to mark him."

"If he wasn't so tired I'd let him go play with another succuba tonight to get rid of it.  Unfortunately he's got to work."  He texted his sons to show up.  Then he looked at them.  "No one owns the boy but him.  No matter what the bribe is, no matter what the price is.  I'd have to rescue him and your lives would be forfeit as well as everyone else's in my path."

"Xander has a wonderful arsenal to lend him," Calleigh agreed.  She smiled at him.  "He said I could come over to help him clean it sometime soon.  That way you don't have to block me out."

"I'm not sure you'd want that.  Mac nearly choked."

"Unlike Mac, I know what the boy can really do."  She looked at them.  "Boys, you're not getting him.  I need him too much and so do the citizens of Miami."  She heard the alarm and winced.  "Oh, please no.  Not now."  They ran out to see what was going on.  Two officers were struggling with an armed suspect.  The boy pounced him and knocked him down then out by hitting his head on the floor.  "Xander!"

"Better to pounce than have a shooting review, boss."

"Get up here once you've cleaned up."

"Are you injured?  There's blood!" Maxine said, looking him over.  "I'll be damned."  She swatted him, making him yelp.  "Changing area.  Now."  She gave him a nudge.  "Someone tell Alexx he's bleeding?"  One called her and she shoved him that way again, making him trudge.  "I can be as fussy as you need me to be, Xander, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let you be injured and not fuss."

"I'll quit getting injured," he offered.

"Ma'am, ME Woods is out on a call."

John coughed.  "My boys are coming.  Dean and Sam.  Both tallish, dark hair, green eyes.  Let them check him over.  We can all do stitches if we have to."

"Hmphn," Maxine said.  "He could have the ER."

"Why have to take off work?" Xander quipped.  Sam came off the elevator.  "Sam!"

Sam looked at him.  "Go sit down so I can look at that injury, Xander.  Right now."  Maxine smiled when Xander groaned but continued his trudge.  Dean came up on the next elevator.  "Get me his first aid kit just in case?"  He followed, shaking his head.  "Pain in my ass," he muttered as he walked.

Dean laughed.  "Sammy's kinda girl like now and then," he told the amused looking officer.  He ducked into ballistics, coming out with the deluxe first aid kit.  Sam was looking at the two open spots.  "Need stitches?"

"I think butterflies should work."  He applied one.  "No, his skin's making it slippery."  He swatted Xander, cleaning it off with alcohol then applying them.  "Why did Dad call?"

"Two demons are here wanting to own him," Maxine said.

"The same two?" Dean asked.

"One, the other's a little mushroom headed demon."  He hissed.  "Sam, that hurts."

"Shut up, Xander."

"Fine."  He let him finish.  "See, I'm okay, Max."

"Uh-huh.  Next time, shoot the asshole non-fatally."  She kissed him on the forehead.  "Get a candy bar on the way up since you're hungry."  She walked off.  Ryan stopped her.  "He's fine.  A few big scratches Sam put butterflies on.  They'll handle the ones who want to own the boy and then it'll be fine."  She smiled.  "Even Sam fussed this time."

"You're going to be a scary, loud mother, Maxine," Ryan told her, getting a cackle back.  "Let me see if I can help."  He found Xander picking out his candy bar.  "Need help?"

"Only if you can make the demons go away."

"I never figured out that trick," he admitted.  Xander spun to look at him.  "Xander."


"Um-huh.  Ares said they're not supposed to be here."

"Is Dawn still with whatever Draco that was?"

"Yeah, she's fine.  They're kinda happy.  They snark at each other then shop or have sex."  He walked him up there and looked at them, arms crossed over his chest.  "Ares is not happy," he said in the demon tongue his Xander had taught him.  "He said to leave this version of Strife's high priest alone.  You're causing problems along the world matrixes."  They faded out.  He grinned at Horatio.  "No, I'm not your Ryan."

"He comes from the one with the hair," Xander said.

Ryan smiled, patting him gently.  "Behave."

"Am I causing these fluxes?"

"No.  Ares was this time.  The demons are causing them actually.  The higher ups are pissed beyond belief.  Though I might see if Xander can do a temporary wing spell.  They look like they're soft."  Xander blushed, making him smile.  "I'll take that as a yes.  Behave."

"I can put mine away."

"They want you for Sunnydale taint, Xander."  He looked up and disappeared again.  He looked at his Horatio.  "He's a cute, younger Xander.  He's working in ballistics."

"For some reason that doesn't surprise me."

That Ryan walked off happier now that he had done his good deed for the day and made his God happy.


The native Horatio looked at Xander.  "At least we know why and all these visits aren't your fault."

"Still kinda sucks.  Though I like the new office decor, Horatio."  He looked at John, then Dean and Sam.  "I'm okay."

One of the demons appeared, sniffing him.  "Hellmouth baby."

"I could've sworn I wore that out."  He turned to look at him, seeing the horrified look.  "Yes, I'm still me.  If I had a sword or my axe I'd prove it."  The demon fled.  "And don't tell them either or else I'll have to destroy both sides!" he yelled, looking up.  He looked at the horrified looking Stetler.  "In my youth I hunted the bad among their kind.  It's why I'm so good now."  He ate another bite of his candy bar.  "So, boss.  Nearly out of backlog."

"Thankfully.  Is the new table top doing all right?"

"Yup.  There's only a few brush ridges and they're just enough to keep things from sliding.  It works really well and I already dropped some acid on it to test.  It won't eat it like it did the glass."  He grinned, giving the boys a hug.  "Can we have lunch?"

"Go ahead."  Xander walked out with them and John.  He smiled at Rick.  "And you thought the boy was what?"

"Insane and now I know he is."  He stood up, looking at his clothes.  "Can't I have mine back?" he complained.  "I can't work in this."  It didn't change.  "Whatever."  He stomped off.

Horatio looked at the bag that suddenly appeared in the middle of the floor.  "I'm not sure if I want to open that or not."  He got up to do that anyway.  Inside was ... nasty.  Very disgusting.  "Speed?" he called.  He came jogging up the stairs.  "Here, take this to the morgue?"

He looked.  "Human hearts."  He put on some gloves, looking at the inside of the bag.  "Seven or eight it looks like."

"That's still disgusting.  Get it out of my office?"

Speed looked around.  "When did you redecorate?"

"When the demon who wanted to own Xander did it."

"Oh, that reason.  Well, at least they fixed the AV window."  He carried the bag off, finding Alexx coming back from her last call.  "Someone gave this to Horatio."

"What is it or do I not want to know?"

"Seven or eight human hearts."

"Where's the rest of them?"

"I have no idea.  We just had something up there to redecorate H's office into an English drawing room and offer Xander money to be owned."

"Huh.  That's a very nasty courting present if it's the same one."  She opened it to look.  "Is that a note?"

"I wasn't going to touch it."  He let her and shuddered.  "Well, that'll please the boy."  He bagged it and walked it up, holding it up so Horatio could see it.  He got a hum and a quick head shake.  He walked it out to where the Winchesters were eating, putting it in front of their ballistics tech.  Xander read and went pale.  "One less thing to worry about, Xander."

"Yeah, I guess.  The bigger price on my head is apparently over with."

"It was in the bottom of the bag with human hearts," Speed said, carrying it off again.  He logged it in.  They'd get the bodies eventually.  Under details he put 'psychotic stalker who wanted Ballistics Tech Winchester as his concubine' and left it there.  No way was he putting demons into the system.


to part 16

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