I would love to see someone come and get Xander after he has started working construction, but before he loses his eye.  Kind of like what you did with Aphrodite's Dress Up Doll, but with Willow being the Evil one and Buffy calling the person to come and get Xander to help him.  I would really love it to end up Speed/Horatio/Xander, my favorite
pairings all together.



Savior In A New City

Willow locked the basement door and stomped off.  "You can't do that, it's wrong!" she shrieked as she stomped off.  "I'm not going to let him do those things.  It's wrong," she told herself, calming herself down.  "It's very, very wrong."  She met up with Buffy outside.  "Xander's going bad!  He's wrong!"

"About what?"

"About..."  She turned green.  "The stuff he was doing earlier!"  She huffed off again.

Buffy stared at her.  "Why is that she can date a woman and hate gay men?" she asked herself.  "I've never understood that.  I probably never will."  She waited until Willow was gone to head down to Xander's basement, finding him curled up on the bed clutching his ribs.  "Oooh, broken?"  He flinched then moaned and nodded.  "Relax, like I give a damn.  Hell, I slept with Angel and Spike," she reminded him with a small grin.  She tipped his face up.  "You need help."

"I need to get away from her."

"Yup, that could work.  It'll take a few."

"Can we get me somewhere I can hide?" he moaned, making himself sit up.

Buffy considered it then called her mom.  "It's me.  No, I'm not going to be out too late, but we got a sitch."  She got a damp towel and put it over Xander's swollen eye.  "No, like Willow went psycho because Xander was laughing and happily talking with a guy one.  Like I had to break the lock to get into his apartment, mom.  Yeah, like that.  Yeah, that's what he wants to do and we do have a basement."  She smiled.  "Thanks, mom.  Yeah, might stock up on some advil and bandages.  Thank you."  She hung up and helped Xander up, taking him with her across someone's yard since it was a shortcut to her house.  She knew Willow hadn't went home, just back to the dorm for the night.  She walked him into her back yard and paused.  "Let me check and make sure Mom's okay.  I can hear screeching."  He nodded, laying down on the porch swing while she went inside.  "Mom?"  Her mother gave her a tight look.  "What's up?"

"Willow's screeching," she said quietly, looking at her.  "He's bleeding?"

She looked down then licked a bit off.  "No, that's barbeque sauce," she admitted with a grin.  "Can you distract her and I'll get him into the basement? I don't wanna leave him outside for too long."  She nodded, going to do that, while Buffy went to shoo the vampire trying to bite Xander off, or stake him since he tried to help.  She checked the kitchen door then got Xander inside and down into the basement, shutting the door behind her.  She heard footsteps and picked Xander up, carrying him down to the small cot they had down there.  "Shh.  Willow's upstairs," she whispered.  He nodded.  She got him a towel and turned, finding her mother there.  "Willow?"

"Stomped off to find him."

"I want to leave," Xander moaned, looking at her.  "Thank you, Buffy's mom."

"You're welcome."  She moved to look him over, wincing a bit when she heard the ribs grinding.  "Ow, baby.  Do you want the hospital?"

"No.  She's my emergency contact, they'd call her."  He looked at her.  "I want to leave for a bit.  At least until she's rational."  She nodded, giving him a sad smile.  "How bad is it to have a nice night out with a guy if she's dating women?"

"I know, it's not rational," Joyce soothed.  "I'll call someone and have them help you, Xander.  For right now, you rest if you can. Call Buffy's cell if you need anything.  I'll bring you some soup in the morning."  He nodded, letting her pat him into resting.  She stood up and looked at Buffy.  "Treat the stains.  We should be alone."  She headed back up the stairs, going to find her address book.  She knew some people in LA who could help the boy.  And if they couldn't, they had friends who could.


Xander blinked up at the man above him a few nights later.  "Angel?"

"Willow asked me to find you.  Said you were badly injured by a demon?"

"Named Willow," he groaned as he sat up.  "She didn't like the person I was chatting and happy with in the bar."

"Which bar?"


"Why were you in a gay bar?"  Xander gave him a look.  "Oh.  What was her problem with it?  She's dating a girl."

"Yeah, but she thinks I'm wrong and bad.  Hence the broken ribs," he said, wincing as he moved again.  "I'm leaving.  Can you not tell her?"

"Sure.  I'll tell her you stopped here to get bandaged before leaving town."

"That'll work, thank you."  He stood up, wobbling some, catching himself on Angel's arm.  "Sorry."  He headed up the stairs. He listened, then came back down them.  "She's here?"  He nodded. "Could've warned me."  He went into the bathroom down there.

"Sorry."  He went back up the stairs, shutting and locking the door.  "The scent downstairs had some blood but it looked like he got stitched up or something," he told her.  "You might ask Buffy if he's already left town."

"Damn it!"  She stomped off, going to interrogate her best friend.

Angel looked at Buffy when she came out of hiding.  "Your wash went off while I was down there."

"Thanks.  Willow, yes, we did patch him up.  You did really bad to him."  Willow looked stunned.  "You broke his ribs and stuff, Wills.  For what reason?  If he's bad for having drinks with a guy, what does that make you and Tara?"  She huffed off.  "Reality is calling," she called after her.  "It said your order's ready!"  She looked at Angel.  "Mom knows someone who can help him if we can get his stuff."

Xander snuck out to the living room and sat in front of the comfortable chair so he wouldn't be seen from the window.  "There's three bags in my closet, mostly packed.  Stuff my clothes back into them.  Stuff my tapes and stuff into a box.  Grab the blue lockbox out from under my bed and the green one from the freezer.  Put it all in my car and bring it here?"  She nodded, going to do that.  He looked at Angel.  "Thanks for covering."

"I don't understand that attitude.  I never did, Harris."  He walked off, going to find Willow and keep her occupied.  He found her ranting to another woman who he knew wasn't her girlfriend.  He had spent half a night watching them before showing up. "New member of the group?" he asked.

Willow spun around and glared at him.  "Where did he go?"

He shrugged.  "Not a clue.  I know he called after you left and asked that we send his car somewhere.  Buffy's driving it over so her mom can pack some more bandaids in it and she can drive it down tomorrow."  He looked at the new girl. "You are?"

"Anyanka.  You're Angel."  He nodded.  "Are you and Buffy having orgasms again?"

"No, Willow wanted me to find Xander."

"He's evil!" she shouted.

Anya looked at her, looking confused.  "Xander?  No he's not."

"Yes, he is, and he was cheating on you, Anya."

She blinked.  "Really?"

"No, someone set him up on a blind date to have drinks with a man," Angel told her firmly.  He had recognized the name. "Willow took exception to the guy telling him jokes."

"Hmm.  Well, as long as he didn't *touch* him I can't get my powers back.  Then again, I didn't know he was bi.  If I had, it might've been more interesting in our bedroom."  She shrugged.  "Are we sure he dumped me and left?"

"He had to," Angel said bitterly.  "She broke his ribs.  Buffy's mother had to stitch him up."

"Oh.  That's different."  She saw Buffy driving Xander's car and sighed.  "I'll miss my orgasms but I wonder if this counts as being dumped harshly enough?"  She looked up.  "D'Hoffryn?  Please?" she begged.  "Willow made him dump me."  Nothing.  "Damn it!  I'll have to find some other man to make dump me."  She stomped off. "Thanks a lot Willow!"

She gave her back a horrified look.  "What?"

Angel looked at her.  "She was dating him to make him dump her so she could get her powers back," he said dryly.  "Demons always act in their best interests, Willow.  Didn't you learn that yet?"  He walked off, going to check out the rest of the town.  He turned around to watch Willow throwing a jumping up and down fit in the middle of the sidewalk.  "Someday she'll make a good demon," he decided, going back to his haunting.  He'd have to watch out for her if that happened.


Xander drove out of town to meet the guy Joyce was sending him to.  He could help him sell his car and everything else, including making a new identity.  That way she couldn't find him and come try it again.  Because, as far as he was concerned, Sunnydale was a myth except for Buffy and Joyce.  He found him just out of town and got out, slowly, holding his ribs with a wince of pain.  "Hey.  Joyce sent me."

"You're Xander?"  Xander nodded, moving over.  "What happened to you?"

"My best friend gaybashed me then tried to enlist help," he said quietly.  The man shuddered.  "All I was doing was having drinks with him."  He leaned against his car.   "So, as far as I'm concerned, this is all a really good dream from the pain."

"Sure, kid."  He handed over a packet.  "This is yours.  How much stuff do you have in the car?"

"Few bags, two boxes, my pillows and a few blankets."

"Okay."  He went over to look, then at him.  "You brought weapons?"

"Buffy packed for me.  That's Joyce's daughter."

"I met her.  She saved me once."

Xander looked at him.  "I fought with her and Willow.  I'm that Xander."

"Wow.  Okay, here's what we're going to do. Are you on anything?"


"Oooh, I'm sorry."

"I'll heal."

"Good.  Okay, take out your old driver's license and that stuff, hand them over.  Replace them with the new stuff.  I've got a footlocker in my trunk, most of that will fit in there, except for one carry-on.  There's a ticket in there to get you out of town and enough cash to get you through a few days.  I'll sell your car for you and then western union it from LA in Joyce's name."

Xander nodded, handing him his library card, his social security card, and his driver's license, replacing two of the three from the envelope.  The cash got put in with his.  He had closed his saving account that morning and stopped to talk to his last boss.  He had taken one look at him and sat down to cut his last check, which he had already gotten cashed.  It hadn't taken any explanation.  He also had a letter of reference.  He had let Buffy clean out his weapon's stash already so she had back all the weapons he was mending for her and the few he had bought.  All he had was a handgun in one of his bags.  "I've got a pistol in one bag."

"You'll have to unload it fully, make sure it's carry safe, then put it in the stuff you're checking.  That's airline rules."  Xander came over to help, wincing at each step.  "She did a number on you."

"Yeah and the funny thing is, she's dating a very nice young woman."  He gave him a look.  "But me having a drink with a guy in a bar is a bad thing."

"No wonder you need to leave.  Why come through me?"

"Willow's a hacker," he said quietly.  "She's done the Pentagon and not gotten caught.  She's not even under surveillance by the FBI for it."  He moaned. "That's why we had to go this route."

"Sure, I understand.  Now, note your new name?"

"Peter Philips."

"Good.  Your birthday?"

He looked.  "March 17th.  Hey, I'm Irish?" he joked.

"Could be," he agreed.  "Memorize that on the way to the airport, kid."  He got the footlocker and they packed it, including the pillow and his CD from the player, plus everything in his glovebox but the manual and the registration.  He found a picture on the visor and put that in there last, then locked it down.  They got it back to his backseat and he put the kid in the passenger's seat.  Then he drove him to the nearby airport.  Later on, he came back for the car to sell it.  It looked fairly new. It'd go for enough.


Xander woke up on the plane to someone patting his cheek.  "Huh?" he asked quietly.

"You wouldn't wake up, sir," the stewardess said calmly.  "We had to call the paramedics.  They're on their way.  Are you all right?"

He shook his head.  "Got gay bashed by a lesbian who didn't like me dating guys."

She laughed.  "I'll tell them that, sir."

"S'true," he sighed as he stood up, then he winced and fell back down.  "Am I holding things up?  I can wait inside if I can be helped up."

"Sure."  She got him up, grabbing his bag for him, and walked him out to the terminal, where the airport paramedics were coming.  "He said he got gay bashed."

"My lesbian friend didn't like me having drinks with a guy," he said, hissing and holding his ribs.  They just nodded, making him yelp when they touched his arm.  "Ow."

"Sorry, sir," one said calmly.  "Does he have everything?"  Xander took his bag and held up his ticket stub.  "You can get it later, sir."

"I'm moving."

"Obviously.  That's fine."  They rolled him that way, letting the complaining guy get his trunk of stuff to bring with him.  It would save him later not to have to come back out here.  Plus they could search it for contact information if they had to.  They got him to the hospital and inside.  "He said he was gaybashed by a lesbian friend who didn't like him being gay."

"All I did was have a drink and a few laughs," he complained.  "I'm sorry I passed out that way on the plane. I didn't mean to cause any problems. Just to escape."  That got a smile and they left his trunk in the corner.

The nurses fussed over him, checking his vitals.  "Where does it hurt most?"

"The three broken ribs and the cracked one, plus the bruise on my arm and my face.  For being five-five she's a spunky little bitch, huh?"

"What did she use?"

He looked at her. "You know, I don't know.  I blacked out," he lied.  He couldn't tell her she had picked up a board with magic and beat him with it.  "I look better now, it's been a few days."

"That's fine, sir."  She looked over as the doctor came in.  "Gay bashed, doctor.  Female friend."

"Is she a blackbelt?"  Xander slowly shook his head.  "Really strong?"

"Probably picked up something by the size of the bruises.  I blacked out," he told him.  "I'm not pressing charges.  I passed out from the pain.  I'm sorry."  He tried to sit up but the doctor gently pushed him back down.  "I'll be okay."

"I'm sure you will but we're still taking x-rays and giving you something."

"Sure.  Thank you."   That got a smile.  "I'm moving.  I'm never going back there."

"I noticed the trunk. That's fine, son."  He wrote the orders and the nurse gave him something for the pain, making him grin a goofy little grin.  "It'll be okay.  Miami's good for new residents."  He got him sent for the x-ray and went to make notes in his chart that the boy didn't want to press charges against the person.  Then he went onto the next case.  He came back when the x-rays were read, wincing at some of the breaks on the boy's body.  He walked back in where he was now napping.  He didn't want to wake him but...  He tapped him gently on the forehead until he got blinked at.  Then he held up the x-ray.  "Would you like to explain the multiple injuries beyond what you had?"

Xander looked.  "Huh.  I thought I only broke my arm before."  He shrugged then yelped and curled up around his chest. "No, not really," he groaned, holding onto himself.  "Right now, all I want is a bed, doctor.  Not one here but a bed.  Plus a western union station."

The doctor looked at him.  "I know your drug screen came out without anything in it.  You're what, twenty?"

"Barely," he said, looking at him. "I grew up in a rough place," he said quietly.  "I'm fine and I'm living here now, doc.  Really.  It's not a current worry unless they're broken now?"  That got a head shake.  "Then I'm fine."

"How did you afford to move here?"

"Friend of a friend paid for it."

"I see."  He looked him over, then shook his head.  "Fine.  I should tell someone."

Xander looked at him.  "What're they going to do?  I'm not going to report the gay bashing.  The people there who need to know already know.  The others are all older. It happens."

"Was it your parents?"  Xander gave a half-shrug at that.  "Do you have siblings?"

"No, they stopped their mistakes at me."

"I see."  He frowned.  "I should turn this in.  The statute of limitations hasn't run out yet."

"To them I'm dead," Xander said quietly.  "It does no one any good for you to do that."  He stared him down.  "There's no one there who it'll help. I'm fine."  The doctor frowned at that.  "Or I will be when my ribs heal.  Any of them near to puncturing a lung?"

"Only if you move wrong. Do you have enough money to lay around for a few weeks?"

"I hope so.  I doubt I could do much work like this."

"Fine."  He put the x-ray back into the envelope and wrote him two prescriptions, handing  them to him.  "I'll get your discharge paperwork, Mr. Philips."

"Thank you, doctor."  He got help sitting up then grabbed his shirt to put back on.  Fortunately it was a button-up so no one had cut it off him.  The nurse came in with papers and a wheelchair, letting him sign them.  He managed to get his trunk across the handlebars and went outside.  He got put into a cab with his trunk.  "Moving down here," he said dryly.  "I need somewhere really cheap that does efficiencies.  Please?"  That got a nod and the driver took him to a really rundown motel.  He even got help dragging his trunk up the stairs.  Then he laid down for a nap.


Xander walked into the Western Union office he had found, smiling wanly at her.  "Hi, someone should've sent me money last night?"  The form was pointed to so he filled it out, letting her check.  They found it and cashed it out for him, giving him odd looks.  "I'm moving.  Someone had to cash out something for me and send it," he admitted.  "Thank you."  He recounted it and went back to his hotel room, paying for another month.  Then he took his prescriptions to the cheap pharmacy the girl had suggested earlier, going to get them filled.  The darvocet was a heaven blessed thing in his book.  He got a paper and went back to his hotel room with a soda and something light to eat.  He had a small kitchenette here so it was okay.  He had some money leftover and it got hidden in his things still inside the trunk.  Then he sat down to look over the want ads.  He had to work sometime soon.  Even if it wouldn't be this week.


Xander looked up from his tenth shift at the convenience store, frowning at the guys walking in. His boss had understood and let him have the non-stocking position for right now.  Apparently he'd had broken ribs in the past.  He saw how the guys were joking around and hesitated over the emergency switch.  Two of the guys came in and one went to browse the beers while the other one went to browse the chips.  They came back with what they wanted.  "I need to see some ID please?" he asked quietly.  They laughed.  "Sorry, guys, I do ID.  If I don't have ID I can't let you have the beer."  One of them snorted and pulled a gun. Xander pulled his and put it on the counter, still in his hand but down.  "And?  You've got one, I've got one, impasse."

"Yo, man, that ain't right!" the one who had brought the beer complained.

"Yay.  I've seen badder than you.  Now, you got cash and ID I'll gladly check you out.  You don't, I get to get pissy."  They huffed out.  He put his gun back up and took the beer back to put it up, only wincing a bit now.  The chips went back onto their shelf too.  He turned and found an officer coming in.  "Yes, officer?"  Another followed.

"Two boys said you pulled a gun on them, sir?"

"After they did."  He came back to the counter. "I asked for ID and they decided the gun was their ID."  He shrugged.  "It didn't escalate past there.  They huffed off."

"Do you have a permit, sir?"

"Did you ask them?" he asked blandly. The officer looked stunned.  "Sorry, guys, I'm from a smaller town.  The cops there asked both sides when they produced guns."  He pulled out his wallet to look through it.  He had one but it was still in his last name.  "I got it off my cousin, I've got his permit on me.  Mine's still in processing," he said, looking at him.  "I'm in the waiting period," he said at their amused looks.  "I can give you his.  I got it in the same package as the gun when I left town."

"Sir, we really need yours."

"Then call the office.  I'm in the system, I'm in the mandatory waiting period," he noted calmly.  "You should be able to find it in the system even with that."  He put down his driver's license, noticing the kids outside were laughing.  "So, are you going to check theirs?"  One of them went out to question them.  He looked at the officer.  "I got gay bashed right before I left," he said quietly.  "That's why my cousin gave me his gun."

The officer nodded, taking it out to look him up in the system.  No records or anything under that name.  He frowned and did it again.  He found the new Florida driver's license.  He found mention that it had been switched from California, but nothing came up on their end.  He came back.  "Sir, your license in California?"

"Who knows what they did with it," he said with a shrug then a wince, holding his still sore ribs.  "Sorry, broken."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine.  It happened before I moved.  I even passed out on the plane."

"I see."  He nodded, handing it back.  "I did find the waiting period notice in your file.  You do know you're not supposed to fight back?  They tend to kill clerks who do?"

"They're little punk bitches and I've seen worse, Officer," Xander said honestly, leaning on the counter.  "If they were serious about it I wouldn't have.  They thought this was a joke."  That got a nod.  "He only pulled it after I asked for ID.   They're stupid little punks who need the street cred from the few months in jail."

"You're from where, sir?"

"Near LA."  He grimaced.  "Saw a few in the past."

"I see."  That got a nod and he handed back the license.  "Stay safer, sir.  I hope I don't have to come back."

"Me too."  He smiled.  "Need a slurpee?"

"No thank you, sir, we can't take presents," he said with a small grin.  "Small town?"

"Definitely.  They emptied the pot many nights for me.  Saved me from having to wash it."  That got a smirk and he walked out with his partner to hassle the kids, who was glaring at Xander.  Xander waved a hand and grinned.  One of them flipped him off and he went back to his reading.

Little did he know that things were now percolating through the system.


The officer stopped at his shift commander the next morning, looking at the CSI with him.  "Sir, I had a question."  That got a nod.  "Was California's system down last night?  I got a switched license but I couldn't get a file on his old one from out there."

"Really?" the CSI asked.  "Why not?"

"The system in the car said it couldn't pull one up.  I got his current one."

"Hmm."  The young CSI nodded at that.  "Any hints why?"

"He's just moved down here, sir.  Said he was gaybashed back there.  Said his cousin gave him the gun and his permit but he's in the middle of the waiting period down here where he registered it.  Two punk brats tried to rob him for their beer when he asked for ID."  The commander sighed and shook his head.  "He said he's from a small town.  He apparently pulled his when they did.  The kids ran out and complained to us."  He shrugged.  "He did have broken ribs.  He had the wince/hiss/grab maneuver we've all seen.  You can't fake that sort of pain.  He sounded like he's American.  Had the accent like Smithers down in Traffic.  He's from near LA too."

"Can I have that?  We've had a few people who have gotten IDs with fake ones," the CSI asked.

"Sure, Delko."  He handed it over.  "If it helps.  You think he's one of the terrorists?  He said he's seen worse than the little punks, but then again he said he's from near LA."

"Maybe.  I'll check on it."  That got a nod.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  He seemed like a nice guy.  Pretty calm in the face of danger.  Offered us slurpees."

Eric Delko smirked at that. "Surely you didn't."

"It was right after dinner, of course I didn't."  He grinned and walked off, knowing it was in good hands.

Eric nodded at the commander.  "That all set up?"

"I'll have it finished by tonight," he promised.  That got a nod and he watched the young guy walk off.  "Maybe we did catch another one.  It'd be a coup for the department.  Maybe the FBI would even work with us instead of trying to take things from us."


Eric Delko knocked on the hotel room door, looking at the kid.  "We need to talk, sir."

Xander looked at him and moaned. "About the two punk bitches who tried to rob me for beer?"

"That too.  Can I come in?"  Xander got out of the way, shutting the door behind him.  "Sorry, in your sleep cycle?"

"I can't sleep with broken ribs.  No one can."  He sat down and took his painkiller a bit too early but it was nice.  "In a half-hour I'll be giggly, fair warning."

"Sure."  He stared at him.  "How did you get broken ribs?"

"My lesbian friend decided it was wrong that I was having drinks and laughing with a guy in a bar."  He looked at him.  "She's five-five.  I'm guessing I blacked out since I don't know what the hell she hit me with."  He took off his shirt and the guy winced at some of the remaining bruises.  "I passed out on the plane ride.  They took me to the local ER if you need proof."

"Did you press charges?"

"No use in it.  I moved.  It was easier."  He put his feet up.  "Can I get you anything?  I have some sodas and hot water if you wanted something like tea or instant coffee."

"No, thank you."  He stared at him for a moment. "You don't seem surprised."

"My boss already yelled at me for pulling back.  I'm on probation.  I'm figuring it's got something to do with where I'm in the mandatory waiting time?"

"No, actually, we couldn't pull your ID out in California."  The kid moaned.  "As you know, that's a red flag."


"For terrorists?"

Xander snorted.  "No thanks.  I've seen plenty of bad guys in my day.  If you must know, she's a hacker.  It's possible she took me out of their system."

"She on the FBI list?"

He shrugged, then blinked really hard for a second and forced himself to take a calming breath.  "I need to remember not to do that.  No, as far as we know she's not," he said quietly, looking at him.  "Doesn't mean they catch them all, Detective."  The guy looked amused.  "Your gold shield is very pretty.  I must say, you guys dress better than any of the officers I ran into out there, but how are you wearing a sweater in this heat?  I'm from near the desert and that's insane."

"I'm part Cuban, I'm used to worse."

"Oh.  Sure."  He nodded.  "Sorry I can't help you more, Detective.  For all I know she erased me from out there.  I have not a clue."

"Who's the original owner of the gun?"

"Xander.  My cousin."

"Last name?" he asked patiently.


He nodded, making a note of that.  "You know that was stupid, right?"  He nodded.  "Then why did you do it?"

"They were punks looking for practice and street cred.  If they had seriously wanted to rob me, they wouldn't have went for chips and beer first.  I've been robbed before.  They were punk bitches looking for prison sex for street cred."  The CSI stared at him.  "I'm fairly blunt.  Sorry.  I grew up a bit roughly."

"I can tell.  You a gang member?"


"Are you sure?"

"Yup.  No gangs in my town," he admitted with a small grin.  "Well, we had rumors of a gang using PCP but that was more like a cult than a real gang."  The officer looked amused.  "It was."

"So, a lesbian?"

"Yeah, she got that same issue that some others do.  Lesbians are fine but gay men aren't."  He grimaced. "You should've seen what I looked like the night I was found by another friend.  She and her mother let me hide until I could move."

"How are you affording this place?"

"Sold the old car, cashed out my savings account."

"And if you lose your job?"

"I'm over a month ahead on the rent.  By then I'll be good enough if I have to wait tables.  Maybe I'll go into construction.  I hear it's a growing field down here thanks to the hurricanes."  He stood up and got a soda.  "You sure you don't want one?  Even just to drink on your way back?"

"No, thanks, but that was a cute pointed hint."

Xander looked at him then grinned.  "No one ever said I shouldn't be sleeping."  That got a laugh.  "I should be.  It happens though.  The boss said you could have the videotape if you needed it."

"I'll do that.  Thank you.  Stay where we can find you, Mr. Philips."

"I plan on it."  He let the officer out and went back to bed, letting the pain killer wipe everything else away.


Eric got back to the station and ran into his boss.  "I'm not sure if I have something or not, H."

"With what, Eric?"

"We had a convenience store clerk who pulled back last night."  That got an amused look.  "The kids ran off.  They pulled a gun after getting beer and chips."

"So they weren't really going to rob him, just take the beer and run," he agreed.  "And?"

"When they pulled up his license, his last one didn't come up.  Just the new one."

"Interesting.  Anything else?"

"Yeah, the kid was recently gay bashed, he said by a lesbian friend, and he said he's recently moved.  He also claims she's a hacker and could've erased him."

"Stranger things have happened.  Do we have any names we can associate?"

"One.  He said his cousin, a Xander Harris, gave him the gun he used last night," he admitted. "I was going to run him, see if there was anything on him or around him."

"Where is this from?"


"Hmm.   Keep me informed in case this is someone who's not simply running away from home, Eric."

"Will do, H."  He went to run the name through the computer, blinking at what came up.  "His cousin," he said dryly.  "Yeah."  He read over the file.  It was... oddly blank but it had a large warning that he was known to be part of a group of vigilantes.  "Really?"  He printed it off and called his boss who came back.  "Guess who I talked to today," he said when he showed up.  He held up the file for him.

"Vigilantes.  Even more interesting."  He looked at the names associated.  "Go ahead and run those.  Let's see what we come up with."  He clicked on the associated names, getting their files.  "Suspicion of murder that turned out to be a robot?  Hmm, hacker.  Like he said."

"Which means she's the one who beat him," he said, looking at him.  "He said his lesbian friend beat him and she's a hacker.  That she could've taken him out of the system."  He turned back around. "These aren't official police files, H.  This is their watch list."

"It is."  He shifted closer to read.  "Go back to the blonde's please."  He did that.  "There's a flag on hers?"  He clicked on that link.  "Would that be her mother?"

"Looks like it, and he did say he sold his car."  They shared a look, then they looked over the rest of the files.  If the Feds had raised a flag for the amount of the transfer, why hadn't anyone come to them?  They went back to his.  "I want to talk to him.  Something really wrong is going on."

"Call them first, Eric.  Let's talk to them in person about Mr. Harris."

Eric dialed the phone and put in the code so he could call long distance.  "Hi, this is CSI Delko down in Miami-Dade.  I'm going to put you on speaker."  He put him on speaker.

"What can we do for you?  Miami's a pretty big city compared to Sunnydale."

"Right now, we have one anomaly that may have come from your way.  We have a gun registered to a Mr.  Alexander Harris in the hands of someone who said he was his cousin and who was gay bashed."

The cop on the other side coughed.  "Let me get more private, son."  They were put on hold and he came back a minute later. "Sorry, have an open design out here.  Xander?  That's where he ended up?"

"You know him?" Horatio asked.

"I do.  The kid protected a lot of people until his buddy got him.  Any idea what happened to him?"

"He said he got gay bashed by a lesbian."

"Yeah, we noticed his little friend Willow's been unstable recently.  Anything else?"

"A Miss Joyce Summers sent him a sizeable Western Union transfer," Horatio admitted. "It got flagged by the FBI.  As well as his license not pulling up out here."

"Boys, let me give you some advice.  If that boy is Xander, you leave him alone. You let him do what he needs ta do.  The same as we did.  He's not a terrorist.  He saves lives.  But if those girls of his find him, he's in danger.  Rosenburg will try to fix him the same way she did last time.  We heard they were in a brawl outside one of our gay clubs but we don't handle things out there."

"Out of your jurisdiction?"

"Something like that," he agreed, sounding like he was smiling. "Sunnydale's peculiar.  Xander and his friends helped us. We don't like 'em.  Hate havin' ta deal with 'em.  They lie all the damn time whenever we do because we don't want to know what they had ta do. Love them for doing it for us, because we can't do the stuff they do. But some of the lies are really pitiful."

"Are they going after people your system slipped?" Eric asked.  He was looking very confused.

"Son, I can't go into that.  Around here, that's politics.  Just leave it at the fact that the Harris boy isn't trouble.  He's never been trouble.  Even for the way he grew up he's never been trouble.  In trouble but mostly that was from saving lives.  He and his buddies out here made a hell of a difference.  Xander's the sort you cherish in your town.  Got me here?"

"Yeah, um, but his new ID is in another name?"

"I wouldn't have given Rosenburg a chance to find him if she did what we think she did either.  She's a hacker.  Even the FBI don't know her."

"Thank you, officer," Horatio said.  "Have a good day."

"You too, guys.  I hope you catch some real criminals soon."  He hung up.

Eric hung up on their end and typed in the name of the town, finding it locked.  "What?"

Horatio looked then frowned.  "That's not a good thing.  Try through the judicial links."  They found the other PD listed.  They had their statistics, hours, phone numbers.  The fact it listed hours made both of them look.  "They're only open during the day."

"He said it was a small town but wow," Eric complained.  He and his boss shared a look.  "Do you want me to drop this?  It's going to drive me insane."

Another guy leaned in and blinked.  "I've heard of them.  Huh."  He looked at Horatio.  "Frank brought in your guy, H."

"I'll be right there, Speed.  Come here for a moment."  Speed walked in and looked.  "We have a small quandary.  They're only open during the day?"

"It's said the town's so bad at night the cops can't risk it.  They can't hire for the night shift, they can't keep people if they switch them.  They have someone on call probably for the random human things."  He shrugged.  "Why?"

"Random *human* things?" Eric asked.

Speed turned and typed the town into another database, coming up with the statistics.  "Random *human* things," he said, pointing at their crime numbers.  "We studied them when I was in training since they're such an anomaly.  Why?"

"We have a person who's trail leads back to his cousin, who is there and on their watch list.  He looks just like the guy I questioned today," Eric said.  "Their people said he did what was necessary, he saved lives, they didn't like him for doing it but it was necessary, and to leave him alone.  He wished us a lot of catching real criminals."  He showed him the profile.  "He looks just like the guy I talked to this morning, whose old ID doesn't come up in the California system."

He looked it over then at the two men.  "Ask Alexx."  He walked out.  "Don't forget Frank, Horatio. He's salivating."

"Thank you, Speed," he called, looking at the crime numbers.  "That's higher than Miami's," he noted quietly.  "They have how many people?"

Eric looked that up.  "Ten thousand including the local colleges when they're in session.  About two without."  He looked at him.  Then he shrugged.  "I'm having odd thoughts.  Why ask our ME?"

"I do not know.  We'll ask her together."  He walked off, going to talk to his suspect while he thought about it.  Something was definitely not adding up.   He hoped it wasn't something like spies training to be americans.  He really did.


Xander looked up from his dusting when the door jingled, nodding at the officers.  "Hi, guys."  He took another few swipes then went back behind the register.  "I'm only allowed to give you guys free sodas from the fountain stuff.  Sorry."

"That's okay," one offered, getting one and coming over to pay for his candy bar.  "Quiet night?"

"Oh, yeah.  Did I step on the button?"  That got a head shake.  "Good.  I didn't mean to.  It's got a cover and everything but it's still not something I want to do.  You guys have more important things to do than be here."  That got a smile and he rang him up for his candybar, handing him the change and a receipt.  "You have a good night, officer.  Is that all?" he asked the other one.

"That depends, kid.  Did your boss pay us this week?"

Xander shrugged, looking clueless. "You'd have to ask him.  I don't handle that stuff."  He rang him up.  "Three-twelve please."

"I think you're going to be paying me," he said with a smirk.

Xander considered it then shook his head. "I can't open the safe.  The drawer got emptied before I came on shift and I'm not the cooperative type.  So if you two want paid, go talk to my boss."  They laughed.  "Anything else?"

"Give me the register drawer, boy."

"I'm not a boy and no."  He leaned on the register.  "If you don't go I'm going to hit the emergency switch."

"It's under glass."

"Yeah, but I can get it open," Xander pointed out dryly.  "I've worked convenience stores before, guys.  That's why I respect most cops.  Just take the food and go. I'll tell my boss to expect you."

"Give me the register," the second one said, unhooking his gun.  "Now.  Or else I'm bringing you in."

"You do that," he said dryly.  "Won't help you any.  Then the register will be locked."  They heard a click.  "The minute I press this the register locks."

"We have the code."

"You might but the register and the safe will both be locked.  Now, go."  The one officer pulled his gun.  Xander looked at him, staring him down.  "Do you really think I'm scared of that?"  The officer backed off, staring at him.  "Really, boys.  I've seen worse.  Now, if you want to talk about payments, that's my boss.  Not me.  I don't pay protection.  I'm a protector.  Get out."   They took their things and he closed the small flap once they had pulled out.  Then he cleared the register.  He called his boss and pulled the tape for later use.  "Hey, boss, I'm changing the video tape.  Because I had two cops just in here to try to shake me down.  No, I didn't.  I told them if they wanted money to talk to you. No, I didn't hit it, seconds away from it.  Does this thing have audio?  Thanks."  He hung up and went to copy it.  Then he put the original on the boss's desk.  The other went into his bag and he went back to his mild cleaning.  A few hours later another officer came in for a coffee refill. "Hey."  He grinned.  It was the officer from the other night.  He pulled something out and handed it over.  "Can you hand this to the nice detective who came to talk to me?  He might need that."

"Sure.  Which one?"

"Don't remember if he introduced himself.  He said he was half Cuban when I asked him how he could wear a sweater in Miami's heat."

"Oh, Delko.  Sure. They ever get you figured out?"

"The person who bashed me is a hacker," he said with a grin.  "She removed me from the Cali system.  Take it.  I can give any coffee or fountain drink to you guys."  That got a smile and the guy nodded and left.  Xander went back to his work.  It was good to get on the good side of the cops.  His boss stormed in.  "I put it on your desk, boss."

"Thank you, Peter."  He went back there to watch it, groaning.  "Peter!"  He locked the door and went back there. "You've seen worse than a gun in your face?"

"Yeah, I've nearly been killed a few times, boss."  He grinned sweetly.  "It's all part of that past I told you not to ask about.  The one where I got gay bashed."  That got a groan.  "Sorry.  Oh, the last of the coffee got taken by an officer.  I gave him a freebie since it was the bottom of the pot."

"That's fine.  Good idea.  You get these twos names?"

"Um, something Spanish and something Russian."  He shrugged then winced.  "Hey, I'm finally hurting less."  He went back to open the door, smiling at the guy standing there.  "Good evening, sir.  Sorry, the boss needed me in the back room for a minute."

"That's fine," the redhead said, looking at him.  Then he went to get a drink and bring it back.  "Long night?"

"No, just some mild horseplay around here."  He rang him up, smiling when he saw the badge.  "I'm only allowed to give uniforms fountain drinks, sorry, Detective."

"Lieutenant actually."  He stared at him.  "You talked to one of my people the other day."

"The guy in the sweater?"  That got a smirk and a nod.  "My buddy that gay bashed me is a hacker."

"So I heard, Mr. Harris," he said quietly.

"No, that's my cousin," he said, staring at him.  "The same as Sunnydale is my past," he said calmly.

"I see.  I would like to know more about him."

"Hmm.  I don't know that much about what he used to do at night, Lieutenant."  His boss came out.  "It was one of his guys who figured out my gay bashing friend ate my ID in the system, boss.  This is one of the local lieutenants."

"I know.  He's been on the news before.  Lieutenant Caine."

"Mr. Mitchells.  When the officer arrested the two boys who tried to hold him up some questions got asked about his past."

"He have a record?"

"No.  Nor does his cousin.  No, someone took his ID out of the California system.  We wanted more information on the person."

Xander shook his head.  "She saved my life a few times.  I've known her since the first day of school," he said quietly.  "I'm sorry but I can't help you with that.  They should be able to trace her if she did it."

Horatio looked at him.  "That would mean actually catching her."

"Good luck to you, sir, but I am loyal.  Since I can't hack, you can't even call me an accomplice.  Especially since I'm the victim."  He stared at him, watching the amusement in his eyes.  "Sorry, wish I could help you, Lieutenant Caine.  That'll be two dollars even."  They got handed over. "I hope you have a better and less stressful night, Lieutenant.  I do know you don't have to worry about them coming down here unless someone told her."

"I'd hope not. Tell me something, that vigilante group...."

"With a forty percent homicide rate in Sunnydale?  Of course there was.  The police's hands were tied," he agreed then he grinned. "They were slowly running them out of town.  That's why it dropped around when they were in tenth grade, when they started."

"Interesting.  Thank you, Mr. Philips."  He walked out.

Xander looked at him. "Before you ask, yes, Sunnydale had a forty percent homicide rate thanks to this group of kids who believed they were vampires.  Yes, my cousin and his friends were involved and yes I did see some of that and some of the combat action."


"So I didn't die."  He gave him an odd look.  "That's why we all did it.  Really.  Three classes before mine graduated with twelve students when over a hundred started.  Mine was one of the largest with sixty something."  His boss shuddered.  "So no, boss, I've seen stranger and worse."

"So you know that vampires are real?" he joked.

"Yeah, saw them all the time.  Up close and personal a number of times.  It was only the cops that didn't get to be open 24-7."

"That's insane."

"No, they kept dying.  It was so they could keep anyone on the force," he admitted with a small grin.  "One of my buddies nearly got arrested for killing a murdering robot, boss.  Sunnydale was just like that."  His boss went pale.  "My cousin was Harris," he said quietly.  "Hence the questions."

"Are you...."

"With broken ribs?" he asked dryly.  "Or even by myself?"

"That's fine.  Don't stake any in here unless they try to attack."

"Sure.  But I won't promise not to react if I get another mugger."

"Fine, just don't get dead.  I'm not calling back there to tell your cousin."

"I really hope you'll forget most of tonight, boss.  It was Rosenburg who gay bashed me."  He shuddered. "Please. Just forget and move on."  That got a nod and his boss went back to the tape.  He looked out as a bike pulled up outside at the pumps, moving over to turn one on.  "The pumps are prepaid at night, sir.  We do have thugs around here."  He let go of the microphone and moved back to smile at him. "Sorry."

"That's okay.  I need forty on premium."  Xander took the money and nodded, flipping on the switch for him.  "I'll be back for the change."

"Sure."  He went to pump his gas while Xander watched, and as soon as he was done Xander rang him up and had his change waiting.  "There you go, sir.   You have a nice night."

"You too, kid.  Speaking of which.  Do I know you?"

Xander shook his head. "Just moved, sir.  Probably not."

"Oh, okay."  He walked off, heading back to his yellow racing bike.

"Though, if you wanted to I'd introduce myself," he muttered, watching him walk away. "Because that is one nice ass.  Talk about broom and bike butt."   His boss laughed. "Sorry but it is."

"It is.  It's a nice bike and we see his rider all the time."  He looked around the store then back at him.  "You good to stock?"

"Maybe.  Slowly."

"Do the beers."  Xander nodded, going to do that now since he was there. He shook his head, waving at the detective when he left.  He wondered what the lieutenant was doing tonight since he'd seen two of the top people in the crime lab right after each other.


Xander groaned when someone tapped on his door, getting up to look at the landlord.  "I'm not behind."

"You're not.  You have a phone call."

"Crap," he muttered, heading out there in his boxers and socks.  "Don't let it close and lock," he called.  He picked up the payphone.  "What?" he moaned.  He scratched his chest.  "Yes you did wake me up this time.  I'm finally able to sleep.  What?"  He listened then nodded.  "Thanks, Joyce.  Love you.  No, I'm okay.  I'm finally almost all healed.  I can sleep now and I'm off the pain killers for my ribs."  He winced at what she said.  "I'll lay low.  Thank you."  He hung up and went back to his room, muttering about stupid people who had checked into his background and Willow had seen.   Hopefully she wouldn't find him in Miami. It was a big city.  He couldn't stand another confrontation with her at the moment.  He snuggled in and got comfortable again, falling back asleep.

The officer watching him took off his headphone, looking at the guy taping it.  "That mean anything to you?"

"No.  Why are we tapping him anyway?" he asked.

"Strange things about his ID.  That's all I know."  He shrugged.  "Delko said so."

"I guess.  You think he's one of those terrorists?"

"Nope.  He's not Muslim.  He doesn't wear the robe thingy."

"That's prejudicial," his partner complained.

"Yeah, well, he still doesn't.  He wears normal jeans and t-shirts most of the time.  He's no more one than my son is."

"No, your son is a terror," he corrected.  His partner swatted him for it. "He is.  Keep him away from my daughter before we're in-laws."

"Definitely."  He went back to watching the kid's room from across the street.  They'd hand that tape to Delko or Caine later.


Xander looked up from his cleaning and grinned.  "So we meet again, Lieutenant.  I really should thank you for tipping her off to where I was," he said bitterly.  "What can I overcharge you for tonight?"

The older man looked at him.  "You're in danger?"

"Do you think I got the broken ribs from myself?"

"It could've been a fight."

Xander snickered.  "No offense, Lieutenant, but I was gay bashed by her.  She didn't like that I was having drinks with a guy in a gay bar.  Even though she's with a very nice young woman.  If she comes after me this time, I'm going to be more aware.  Last time I didn't realize what she was going to do.  This time, you'll have a body."  He walked back behind the counter.  "I just put more milk in.  You should check for coldness if that's what you're here for."

"No, I'm here to talk to you."

"I don't care, Lieutenant.  If she comes for me this time I'm going to end up fighting back and it's going to be messy.  You'll have a body, hers or mine."  He stared at him. "I didn't let her last time, I was unconscious before I knew more than a few hits with a board."  He winced at that.  "So no.  Anything else?  Because if I have to run and hide, I'm going to use your name instead."  He smiled sweetly.  But it didn't reach his eyes.  The same bike came back and parked out there, the rider came in. "Did you spring a leak or take a really long ride?"

"Really long ride."  He put down a twenty.  "Hey, H.  Premium again, kid."

"Sure."  He flipped the switches for him.  "Go for it."  That got a smile and he went to pump the gas, while Xander looked at him.  "Do I care that you tipped her off to where I am?   Yeah.  I do.  Do you need anything else, Lieutenant?"

"No, Mr. Harris, I don't."  He stared at him. "That was not my intention."

"Intentions are a great thing but they don't pay medical bills."  He heard it kick off and rang the poor guy up, giving him back his two cents with a grin.  "Need anything else tonight?"

"No, I'm okay.   You all right?  You don't look as happy.  Usually Horatio's not that mean."

"He tipped off the person who gay bashed me to my new location."  That got a hiss and a wince. "Yeah, I've done that for the last month thanks to my broken ribs.  You want him, have him."  That got a nod and the other guy glared at his boss.  "Thank you," he offered once he was outside to pump his own gas.  He shook his head but he was using a card.  He flipped on the switches when it registered then looked at him.  "So, you're an officer?"


Xander smiled.  "So that's like the guys on the Discovery channel instead of the guys on Law and Order?"  That got a smirk and a nod.  "I bet that's fascinating, if a bit icky now and then."

"It can be."  He grinned. "I'm still straight."

"Can't blame me for drooling," he offered with a grin.  The other guy laughed and shook his head, going to get a soda.  He rung him up and handed him his change.  "Have a nice night, CSI guy."


"Speed then.  I'm Peter.  Come in anytime you need to be drooled on."  That got a grin and he headed out.  He took the receipt for the other guy, handing it over. "Have a nice night, Lieutenant."

"I did not mean to bring her down here."

"Yay me," he said dryly.  "She'd better hope they don't need her at home while she's searching for me."  He shrugged and leaned on the counter.  "The world will go to hell.  Then I'll get blamed for running by both of them.  Anything else?"

"No.  I'm sorry."

"Yay.  Have a better night, Lieutenant."  That got a nod and he walked out.  Xander put his head down with a groan, looking up when someone else came in.  "Officer," he said dryly.  "What can I do for you tonight?"

"Your cash drawer."  He heard the click.  "I will shoot you," he warned, pulling his gun.

"You do realize two cops were just in here?"

"Now!" he ordered.  Xander shifted so the camera was seen.  "Yay, like they're going to care," he sneered. He cocked it and Xander opened the register, getting out of the way and stepping on the button.  "What did you do!" he shouted when the register closed on his fingers.

"What I'm supposed to do," he said dryly.  The gun came back and he moved under the trajectory, coming up behind his hand, grabbing his with the near hand and his throat with the other one.  "Don't start."  He handed him over to the lieutenant when he came rushing back.  "He decided he needed to enhance his paycheck."  He let him go and walked back to the register, then pointed at the camera.  "Need the film?  He and someone else were in here the other night."

"I saw.  Thank you for sending me that tape.  Need back into it?"  Xander shook his head. "Are you sure?"

"I'm doubting it's going to be less than few minutes.  If you don't mind, I'm going to use the rest room while you beat him."

"That's fine."  Two cruisers pulled up and officers jumped out.  "Him," he said, handing him over.

"The cashier?" one asked.

"Bathroom."  He looked over as Xander came out with a tape.  "Copied it?"

"Of course."  He got back behind the register, then tapped in the code.  The register opened and he closed the drawer again.  "There, all set for the next influx of business," he said dryly.  The officers all laughed at that.  "Get a fountain drink, guys.  The boss said I could give those or coffee free, but only if I claim it's the bottom of the pot."  They went to do that once the guy was in the car.  He leaned on the counter, waving at his boss when he came in.  "Hey, boss.  The officer came back to try it again."

"You hit the button?  I got a call."

"I did.  Right after he made me open the drawer.  He was in it when I pushed it.  It slammed it on his fingers.  The Lieutenant has the tape and the one from the other night."

"You copied it for him?" he asked, looking horrified.

"I'm a CYA guy, boss.  Not like I'm being blamed for him doing shit."

"Fine.  What's done is done."

"Hey, I told him to go to you if he wanted paid.  I'm not paying protection money.  That's the boss's job," he quipped, getting a grimace.  "I left you the original on the desk."  That got a nod and he went to watch it.  "Thanks, guys."  They smiled and Horatio sealed the tape in a bag with his name on it, handing it over with a quiet word to someone.  That got a nod and they went back to work.  Xander looked at him.  "You are useful for a boss."

"I also do more than paperwork."  He saw Speed pull back in and waved him away, getting a nod.  "He probably heard the call-in too."  He looked at Xander.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  I've seen worse."  He looked over as his boss came out, looking horrified.  "What?"

"Rosenburg's coming *here*?"

"Blame him," Xander said, pointing at the lieutenant.  "He looked into my records and it brought her."

"Then I'll expect you to take her out back.  The blood's more easily hosed off."

"Sure. I can do that."  He shrugged and smiled at the new customer.  "Hi."

"Are you open?"

"We are.  The gas pumps are prepaid after dark, everything else is open."  She smiled and went to get what she needed and he looked at the lieutenant.  "Needed anything else, sir?"  Horatio shook his head and walked off. "Have a nice night, Lieutenant."  She came back up and he looked at the wine. Then at the clock.  She moaned. "Boss, is wine available now?"

"No, Harris."

"Sorry, ma'am, only beer after eleven.  Stupid blue laws ya know."  She nodded and went to put it back, coming back with a few beers.  "ID?"  She produced it and he checked it then her, then rang her up and took her debit card to run.  He watched her sign the slip and handed back her ID with her copy, then bagged it up for her.  "Have a nice night, ma'am, and that time limit is eleven and on Sundays."  She nodded and went out, walking off.  He put the slip up and went back to leaning on the counter and reading.  It was nearly an hour later when two punks came running in panting, wearing ski masks, and brandishing shotguns.  "Nice pea shooters," he said, looking at them.  "Late night hunting?"  One growled and pointed it at him.  "I don't read minds, boys.  I'm also not fair game."

"Give me your money, bitch!" the second one shouted.

"Loud, aren't you?" he asked.  "Compensating?"

"Harris," his boss warned.  Xander opened the register, getting out of the way.  A new cruiser came in this time while they were grabbing the money.  He looked at his boss. "It must be you, boss. I never get more than one of these a night," he told him while the officers drug the two kids out.  He looked at the mess on the floor then at the money.  "Eww.  Do I have to pick that up?"  His boss nodded, smirking at him.  "Do we have gloves and spill powder at least?"  They were gotten for him.  "Gee, thanks, really."  He got to work cleaning up the mess and the money that had fallen into the bodily fluids. "Ewww."  One of the officers came back and he looked up at the boss again.  "Ask him, he heard.  I've got to clean this up before someone falls in it and sues us."  He finished putting the money onto the papertowels then cleaned up the rest of the mess with the powder and the remaining towels.  He dropped it into the back wastebasket, the one for the bathroom.  Then he grabbed the mop and the 'wet floor' sign, going to clean it up.  The money could sit there for a few minutes longer. Lieutenant Caine came back and he shrugged.  "Two stupid kids with shotguns.  One pissed at the sight of your boys.  You should be proud.  We laughed at our cops."  He got back to work wringing out the mop to make another pass.

"While you're doing that, do the rest of the floor," the boss called.

"Only if you're going to lift the bucket to drain it, boss.  Remember, I'm still healing from broken ribs," Xander called.  "I'm not spreading someone's piss all over the floors.  That's gross!"  He rolled it back into the bathroom.  "Not like I can lift it, boss.  If you would, I'll gladly do the rest of the floors."  He got an eyeroll and came to drain the bucket, then handed him the hose. "Thanks, boss."  He got back to running new water with bleach.  Then he went back to the front to work on the rest of the floor.  "Problems, Lieutenant?"

"No.  Are you all right?"

"I'm fine.  Do you need to confiscate the money they had and dropped as they fled?"

"We do."  Xander pointed at the wet bills.  "Thank you."  He went to get a baggie for it, leaving a small wet spot on the counter.  Xander came back and got one of his personal stash of lysol wipes to go over the spot, then the rest of the counter, then he went back to mopping. "Are you all right?"

"I'm to the stage where it hurts if I try to do too much but I can sleep finally," Xander admitted.  "So, did he pull my ER report?"

"He did.  Who did the other breaks?"  Xander gave him a look and shrugged. "You don't remember?"

"I remember a compound fracture of my arm.  Nothing else.  So either I wasn't aware it was more than a bruise or it was before I have good memories."  He started across the back.  Another customer peeked in.  "We're still open, just cleaning."  He smiled at her without looking. "It's all right."


"No, I think you have me confused, ma'am," he said dryly, going back to rewet his mop and wring it out.  He walked around her.  "There's no Xander here, ma'am."  He went back to mopping, ignoring Willow.

"Don't do that!  I know who you are!" she yelled.  "You're my best friend!  I'm sorry, but you're wrong and you had to be fixed."

"Lieutenant, since this is your duty, why don't you take her with you?" he suggested dryly. "Before I press charges for gay bashing."  She growled and stomped toward him.  "The floor is wet.  Boss?"  He came out from talking with the officer, pointing at her.

"Out back.  It's easier to hose the blood off."

"Sure."  He put the mop back and went out the back door.  "I'll be right back," he offered.  He glared at her.  "What the hell do you want?"

"You to come back!  Your place is at home dating skanky and dangerous women!" she yelled.  She saw someone else park and get off his bike.  "What?  You need guards now?"

"No, that's Speed.  He's a regular."  She shrieked, he had no idea why, and came at him with her nails out.  He grabbed her wrists and squeezed, making her shriek for whole different reasons.  "Go away, Willow.  You're not wanted in Miami.  I've already had a crappy night and now I'm going to be moving thanks to you."  He let her go with a push back and headed for the door but she apparently picked up something.

"Freeze, Miami-Dade PD," Speed ordered, pulling his gun.  "Now, miss!"  She dropped whatever she had picked up and Xander looked at him, nodding politely.  "Will you press charges?"

"Only if she doesn't get on a plane and head home," he said with a small shrug.  "If she stays in Miami, yeah.  I will."  He headed back inside, going back to his post.  He used the lysol wipes on his hands.  "Lieutenant, Speed's outside with her."  He hurried back there and Xander went back to mopping.  His boss gave him an odd look.  "All I did was stop her from getting me this time.  They stopped her from picking up something and hitting me again.  I'm fine.  Though I will be buying something to take home tonight."  He stopped mopping to wring it out and come back.  "I said I wouldn't press charges if she left and never came back," he offered quietly.  He went back to finish the last row.

"Go home, kid."

"No thanks.  I'm going to finish my shift."  He looked at him.  "Unless I got fired?"

His boss shook his head.  "No, but you need to make sure she didn't damage your stuff."  Xander nodded, handing him the mop.  He grabbed his backpack and book, making sure it was all in there.  Then he grabbed a bottle out of the cooler and checked himself out, paying for it and heading outside to hike home.  It was only a few blocks and it was a good night for a walk.  It'd help him clear his head.  He put the mop back and went to talk to the officers out back.  "He's gone home."

"I know where that is," she sneered.

"That's fine, ma'am, I'm sure they can arrest you until you're escorted out of the city," he shot back.  "I'm not letting you take my only decent worker."  He went back inside, finding someone new in there. "Hi.  How can I help you tonight?"

"I'd like to have the register if I may," she said, pointing at small gun at him.

"What is this?  Rob this store night?  Officer!"  He and Caine came back in and she moaned.  "Can't you stop her?"

"Close for the night," Horatio ordered. That got a nod and he locked the door once she was outside and in handcuffs.  "The boy?"

"Home.  Walking. Got a bottle of Boones Farm Sangria."

"Thank you.  Which hotel?"  He pointed up the street.  "That's what I thought I was told.  Thank you."  He went back to talk to Willow.   She was down on the ground and in handcuffs while Speed nursed a new bruise.  "You all right?"

"I'm fine.  She took a swing at me.  The kid?"

"Home.  Got something to drink the pain away."

"Sounds good to me," he said sarcastically. "Just look what you made him do.  Officers?"  One came around and he pointed at her. "She hit me.  Mr. Philips said he won't press attempted assault charges if she leaves.  Boss?"

"Up to you, Speed."

"If she leaves today I won't either."  That got a nod and they took her off.  He waited until they were alone.  "How do you get friends like that?"

"I don't know," he admitted quietly.  "Go ask him.  Figure out the rest of this so Eric's not distracted."

"Fine."  He got onto his bike and went to track the kid down.  He found him walking up the stairs to his hotel room so he parked and got off.  "Kid."  He walked up to join him.  "We need to talk."

"No, I need to pack and move so she can't find me again."  He opened his door and looked around.  "She wasn't here yet."  He let him inside and closed the door after him, sitting down in his usual chair, looking at him.  "What did you need to know?"

"How did you get friends like that?"

"First day of school," he said quietly. "Don't wake the neighbor.  She's recently escaped."  That got a nod and he sat on the foot of the bed. "Want one?"

"I'm driving."

Xander nodded, getting up to get a small glass of wine.  It's all he would allow himself tonight.  "For three dollar wine it's not bad."  He sat down again.  "We've been friends forever."

"Then what's her problem?"

"Gay men apparently bother her."


"I don't know since she's dating a really nice young woman."  He took a sip and shrugged, then choked.  "Eww. That was tampered with."  He got up to pour it out but he took the glass from him, putting it down and settling him down.  "I should probably hurl that up."

"Do you know what it was?"

"Drain cleaner."

Speed called the paramedics, getting them nearly immediately.  He found baggies and put the wine one, the contents of the glass in a small container, and the glass in another baggie, following the kid out to the ambulance and to the hospital.  He flashed his badge.  "We were talking. His first sip of this," he said, holding up the container, "he said it was tampered with and said it was probably drain cleaner."  She ran off to run it.  When his boss ran in he handed him the others.  "It's either the glass or the wine."

"I'll test it."  He took them out to his hummer and came back.  "Did she?"

"Someone did."  He looked up when the nurse came back.  "What was it?" he called.

"He's right!"  She whispered it in the doctor's ear, getting a nod and them pulling out what they needed to dilute and disarm the strong chemicals.

Speed looked at him.  "I'll stay."  That got a nod.  "My bike's at his room."

"I'll send Eric over."  He went to make the call, getting him out of bed but oh well.  Eric stopped to get the glass and wine from him, plus a sample of the fluid just in case.  Then he went to process the room. Horatio came back once he had confirmation of officers securing the scene and Eric getting there.  He came back inside.  "His things weren't touched but the neighbor did come out and complain about the noise.  Eric told her what had happened and she made sure it wasn't her husband."

"The kid said she escaped," he said grimly.  The nurse came out and he caught her.  "How is he?"

"He'll be fine.  We got it in time, CSI Speedle.  Lieutenant, he'll be up to questioning soon."

"I know what happened, I was there," Speed admitted.  "We need to make sure he's protected."

She nodded.  "Talk to security, gentlemen."  She walked off, going to put that note in his chart.  She came back. "Did he put it in there?"  Speed shook his head.  "Good."  She went back to make that note as well then tell the doctor they would still want to check on the boy.  She came back ten minutes later.  "We're moving him upstairs for observation, boys.  Go on up."  They nodded, heading up to the observation ward with the boy.   "Aww, they're friends," she said, getting it.  It was a nice thing.


Xander blinked as he woke up.  "Damn, I hate hospitals."  Someone next to him laughed.  He looked at the lieutenant.  "Did she?"

"No.  It was the husband of the neighbor.  He got the wrong room."  He leaned forward.  "How do you feel?"

"Like I drank drain cleaner?"  He sat the head of the bed up and gagged, taking the bowl from his hands to get sick into.  "Eww, charcoal," he said between heaves.  The nurse hurried in to help him.  They got him calmed down and stopped, taking the pan away.  He panted and sipped the water one was holding for him, getting a nod.  She smiled and wiped his face off with a damp cloth then left them alone again.  "Sorry."

"I've seen worse," he admitted quietly. He stood up and came over, looking at him.  "I don't want you to worry but we're not sure if she did get onto the plane or not.  The officer didn't escort her to the gate and when I checked they didn't have her boarding pass."  Xander moaned.  "I'm going to put a guard on your door.  You're in no shape to deal with her."

"I wasn't before.  That's why I didn't kick her ass," he said, giving him a look.  "I need to switch hotels."

"Your manager will let you do that."  He pushed back some of the sweaty hair.  "It'll be all right, Xander."

"Quit calling me that."

"That's your name."

"I'm not him anymore.  So just quit."

"Fine.  Peter then."  He gave him a small smile. "Eric said you had good taste in guns."

"He would.  Did they turn down my permit?"  That got a nod. "Because someone checked?"  Another nod.  "Damn it. I need that."

"I know you do and I'm having a word with someone later about it.  For right now it's back in your things."  That got a tired nod and a yawn.  "Go back to sleep.  When you get up there'll be an officer here.  By then we'll know for sure if she got off the plane."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"Good boy, Peter."  He stroked over his hair, watching him fall asleep.  He walked out, nodding at the nurse. "He's resting."

"That's fine, sir.  It's a nice change from him trying to escape earlier."  An officer came up.  "Is he in danger?"  Horatio nodded. "All right, we'll work around him.  Beside the door, sparky."  He nodded and Horatio had a quiet word with him when he took up his post, getting a nod.  Then he left.  She looked at him.  "Someone fed him drain cleaner.  Tell us if you hear him throwing up again."

"I can do that," he agreed, looking a bit grim.  No wonder Delko had him listening to the kid's room.  He wasn't a dangerous guy, he was in danger.


Horatio walked back into work, running into the boil on the inner cheek of his ass, IAB.  "What?"

"You were there when he tried to rob the store?"

"I had just left," he admitted.  "I may have seen him pulling in, I'm not sure.  A few others had also just left."

"Fine.  You and the kid got into a fight why?"

"He's running from a friend who gay bashed him.  I had accidentally let slip where he was.  I was apologizing.  She showed up last night."

"I saw that in the later tape."  He stared at him.  "Where is this boy?"

"In the hospital.  Someone broke into his hotel room and put drain cleaner in his glasses."  That got a horrified look.  "His neighbor was a young woman who had escaped an abusive family. It was one of them.  However we're not sure she left. So I have him under watch."  That got a groan.  "It is safer.  Just in case she shows up to try again.  Since he's nearly sedated thanks to the treatment."  He walked off.  "Is he gone?"

"He is, his partner is from the first tape.  When did you get that?" he called after him.

Horatio stopped to look back at him and smirked.  "The kid sent the tape to Delko without telling the officer what he had."  He walked off again, going to check with them and make that call to the gun permit office.

"I want to know about this boy!"

"He's not an officer or an investigation, Rick."  He waved a hand. He ran into Speed first.  "Did you get any sleep?"

"Thirty minutes.  He okay?"

"He woke up, threw up, went back to sleep.  I told him about her," he admitted.

"Good.  No, she didn't get off the plane."  He handed over the report.  "We have no idea where she is."

"I have an officer on his door."  He walked off again.  "Anything else?"

"We found her fingerprints on his door," Speed called after him.  Horatio came back.  "We think she was in there but I don't know where since most of his stuff was still packed and they undid it last night.  Nothing that shouldn't be in there.  Nothing in the drawers or the bed.  We also repacked the stuff in the drawers and the closet.  All the dishes were tainted.  Eric went to arrest the guy after getting a statement from her."

"Good work," he praised.  "Anything else?"

"Yeah, he's going to run."

"He can't.  We have his wallet," he said dryly, holding it up.  Speed smirked at that.  "What is with his past?"

"Not a clue.  Ask Delko.  He has a better one."

"Fine.  I can do that."  He took the reports with him on his way to his office.  He called Eric.  "Let me know what you have if you're somewhere you can talk."  He got a quick rundown.  Apparently he was driving.  "No, he's woken up and he knows.  He's also insistent that his last life isn't his current one."  He listened and sighed at what Eric had found out.  "So, when he said he had seen worse things...."  He snorted at one thing and Eric pointed out that was what was reported about him.  Not that they had to believe in monsters, but there was a video waiting in his inbox that showed something they should see according to the source of information he had found out there. Then Eric hung up as he parked.  Horatio logged into his email, finding the video.  It was the only large file he had.  He clicked on it to watch it, blinking hard.  He hit the button on his phone, bringing Speed at a jog.  "Watch."  He got out of the way so he could.

"Damn," he said, blinking at that. "What is that?"  He looked closer.  "Costume?"

"Not according to Eric's source."  They shared a look and he let the tape play on.  It shifted to another fight and the kid doing it with two others.  "There's the redhead from last night," he admitted. "Plus the blonde from the file."  They watched, blinking hard as the kids took down something, including something that didn't show up on the film but was apparently strong enough to knock someone down.  "Hmm."

"Vampires too?" Speed hissed.  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "No reflection means no pictures."

"Point.  I hadn't thought of that."  They watched a new fight.  This one was much more brutal.  A very large something was attacking a group of teenagers.  Behind them they could barely make out a banner that said 'congratulations'.  The rest of it was torn.  A minute later, a piece of paper of some sort flipped by.  Horatio paused the tape and backed it up, making it go slower over that section.  "Graduation?"

"His. That's the right year."  He hit the key to make it go forward.  This one had sound and they could hear the kid giving orders.  They could see the very large something take off after the blonde and the kid they both had met defending the others as they fell back.  Then a retreat was sounded by him and they did, then the school exploded.  "Huh."  It shifted to a later fight, showing exactly what Willow had done.  "She's not touching that board, is she?"

"No, she's not," Horatio said quietly.  "It does explain why his x-ray was so bad when he landed."

"It does.  Ow!"  He checked.  "Do we have a date code?"  He found it.  "That's a week before he flew down, Horatio."

"Which was a good reason to pass out on the plane," Calleigh said from behind them, making them both jump and glare at her.  "Sorry."  She smiled.  "Hmm.  Rosenburg.  Harris.  And?"  She looked at them.  "What?"

"You know about this?"

"Yeah, one of the slayers was my cousin.  Her Watcher and husband told us about the team in Sunnydale when I was younger."  She shrugged.  "What about it?"

"That's Peter Philips," Speed said, freezing it and pointing at the kid.

"I know.  I realized that when I saw the film Eric was watching yesterday.  He said he was gay bashed and I figured that's why he was under an assumed name and down here.  Again, and?"

"Rosenburg came back to finish it."

"Hmm.  Well, she's a strong witch but she's got little brains for being a genius.  Definitely no sense.  The only reason she got Xander was because she caught him off guard and picked up the board with magic so he didn't see her doing it."  She shrugged. "Again, and?"

"Can we protect him from her"

"Depends on what she did to him.  I know a Wiccan down here who could remove it if she did something new to him."  That got stereo looks.  "Yes, I do have friends," she said dryly.  "Please, guys.  Really."  She walked off, going to call her friend.  "Hey, it's Calleigh.  I had someone I needed you to check.  Well, because Harris is hiding down here from Rosenburg after she beat the crap out of him," she admitted.  "She came to town last night to finish it off.  No, gay bashing. I know, and that just makes it stupid, but she's twenty, he's twenty.  Who knows what's going through her head.  Nope, he's up at St. Luke's.  Observation.  Someone drain cleanered his plates and stuff," she admitted.  "Thank you."  She smiled.  "Yup.  Let me know.  Thanks."  She hung up and found Horatio lurking nearby.  "She'll go check on him during visiting hours."  She smiled. "I would suggest a better guard, guys.  I really would.  And maybe a call to Giles.  He's gotta be worried sick if he's realized the kid's gone."  She walked off, leaving it there.

"Who?" Horatio asked.

"The old guy in the films, Horatio.  Rupert Giles."

He went to look that name up in the online phone book, calling him.  "Mr. Giles, Horatio Caine, with the Miami-Dade Crime Lab.  We seem to have a small situation.  No, Miss Rosenburg is down here to finish killing Mr. Harris.  Both of whom I'm told you're well acquainted with."  He gave the phone an odd look when he told him Xander had been back there.  "He's been here in Miami for a little over a month, Mr. Giles.  No, a Mrs. Summers helped him I do believe.  As of this moment, we have Miss Rosenburg loose in my city and determined to kill him.  I would like her stopped but to do that I need some information."  He listened to him, making some notes.  "Thank you. If I can find him.  He's hiding.  Thank you, Mr. Giles."  He hung up and closed his eyes, leaning back in the chair.  "No wonder the kid left," he muttered.   Eric walked in and he looked at him.  "What?"

"He's already confessed.  She left me, she didn't have that right.  She's mine.  Blah. Blah.  Blah.  The usual for spousal abusers.  What's going on with Harris?"

"He wants to go by his new name," Horatio told him. "Now I understand why.  Miss Rosenburg did not get on the plane.  Mr. Giles, who was apparently part of the group, didn't know he had been hurt or left."

Eric laughed.  "You're kidding, right?"  Horatio's look made him quit.  "He didn't know he'd been gone over a month!"

"Apparently not.  He tried to convince me he was home until a young woman out there told him he had dumped her when he left due to Willow beating him for being gay."  Eric sat down hard, just staring at him.  "He did say he would try to contact her and then tell us where she is."

"Good.  What about when he gets out?"

"He's going to be in protection, Eric.  That woman is in no way sane."  He sat up again.  "Did you ever figure out what she had done?"

"No.  Did Calleigh?"

"She's apparently called a witch she knows down here to go help him."  Eric grinned at that.  He reran the tape, going to the last one so he could see it.  Eric gaped.  "She's not holding that board."

"She's...  Then how....  Never mind."  He grimaced and walked off.  "Eww."  Speed gave him a long look when he walked into the lab he was in.  "How are we protecting the kid?"

"One of us probably should stay with him."  He considered it.  "Maybe Horatio would be better since he drooled on me."

"On you?" Eric joked.

"Okay, about me."  He smirked.  "He even started to ask me out."

"You should go, Speed.  It might make you happier," Calleigh said from the doorway.  "He's not at the hospital.  He escaped."


"The guard got called to help with someone trying to kill their child down in the ER.  He snuck out."

"They don't have security?"

"They do.  They thought he was a patient out for a smoke. He even had a wheelchair."  She felt someone come up behind her and smiled at the boss.  "He escaped."


"Probably so she can't get him."

"We have his things here," Eric reminded her.

"I already told his landlord to have him brought here if he showed up.  That he was a crime victim and we needed a statement, he had managed to make it around an officer. My friend went to visit him and his things, she's bringing them here to meet him.  That way we know if she did more mean things to him."  She smiled and walked off.

"You know, I wouldn't have pictured her knowing anyone on that side," Speed said, looking at Eric, then at Horatio.  "Who's got protection detail tonight, H?  I know the kid's comfortable with me since he tried to drool on me and I interrupted his very nice asking out."

"He asked you out?" Horatio asked, smiling a bit.  "Well, it has been a while since you went out, Speed."

"Still straight, boss."

"Are you claiming tonight?"

Speed shrugged. "I've got a couch.  I'd have to pick up some but I've got a couch."

"That's fine.  We'll put him with you tonight.  If we still need to watch him I'll take tomorrow."  He walked off again, going to find an officer waiting on him with the man in question. "Mr. Philips."

"Lieutenant.  You have my wallet?"

"I have all of your personal effects from last night as evidence," he admitted, walking him off. "You could have stayed and rested."

"No I can't.   Hospitals aren't secure.  Not that you guys will be able to stop her if she's doing things her usual way."  He looked at the room he was led into.  "So I take it she didn't get on the plane?" he asked as he sat down, barely wincing at the cramping his stomach was still doing.

"No, she didn't," he admitted.  He looked at the boy.  "One of my CSI has a friend who's down here and can help you.  We were just talking about how best to protect you."

"Make my identity more real?"

"That is one thing we might try," he agreed.  "For right now we're thinking more along the lines of physical safety."

Xander stared at him then he smirked.  "What got sent to you by who?"

"One of Eric Delko's contacts sent a mixed tape of you fighting.  Including the night you got assaulted," he admitted quietly, watching him shudder. "Including your graduation."  Xander stared at him and he could see the knowledge and power in his eyes now.  "We both saw how she wasn't holding the board when she hit you with it."

Xander nodded. "If I can find a group down here to shield me it'd help me.  I don't know what she did with my things."

"We couldn't find anything that she did or touched, but we did find her fingerprints on your door," he admitted, sitting across from him.  "What do you think is for the best?"

"Me running and hiding in another city."

"That may not stop her."

"But if you stop her and put her in jail then the hellmouth will fall someday soon and the world will go to hell, literally," he said quietly.  "We don't get that decision to make, Lieutenant.  Otherwise I might've pressed charges on her for beating me that way since she probably nearly killed me and locked me in my basement apartment in a way that meant I couldn't get out and get my own help, I had to wait for it to come."  Horatio shuddered at that.  "So, for right now I need to go check out of my hotel room and get my refunded rent.  I need to find a good wiccan or coven who can help shield me and take off whatever she's done, and I need to find a new hiding spot, all before work tonight."

"Your boss doesn't expect you back until the day after tomorrow, Xander.  I told him what happened and the ER gave you an excuse."  Xander blinked at him.  "It was my fault she showed up," he said quietly.  "Also, I talked to Mr. Giles about her."

"Let me guess, he was ranting I was there?"  Horatio's look told him everything.  "Hmm, someone had to tell him I left.  Goodie," he said flatly.  "Anything else I need to get up to speed on?"

"We're going to be protecting you until we can deal with her."

He snorted and looked amused.  "Lieutenant, all she'd need to do something would be the herbs of her faith and a candle.  They do still that in jail," he said with a smirk.  "Then I'd be toast.  I'll call Buffy and tell her to pick her up when she's on that plane.  Even then I'll never be safe.  I can't even guarantee she won't hurt those around me trying to get to me."

"Sunnydale is a long way from Miami, Peter."

"It's not always distance it's what she has of mine.  She had my blood and hair before I left.  She probably took a picture of me that she didn't have before. That, some herbs, a candle or three, a few of the books she's got laying around her dorm room?  Yeah, I'm going to be toast from a long distance source.  With what she had she could've called something to harm me.  The only thing that's saved me so far is that she's trying to fix me.  She still thinks it's my place to go back there and date horrible women for her and Buffy to crack jokes about and to be their gopher."  He stood up. "Any idea where her friend is?"

"On her way here."  He looked at him.  "Let us do what we can.  She's intent on physical harm at the moment."

"That's because she thinks she's my mother now and then," he said with a small shrug.  "You got me a medical excuse?"

"It was the least I can do, Xander."

"Cool.  Let me go find that wiccan and see what we can do about protecting me for real.  I'll show back up here later tonight?"

"You could stay."

"No offense but I doubt the building's good for doing magic in and you'd be smelling herbs for weeks."  He gave him a gentle smile.  "Not that it's usually a bad smell."  He walked out, finding the blonde woman waiting on him.  "Hi," he said cautiously.

"My friend will be here in about ten minutes.  You can wait," she ordered.

"I know.  We'll need to work protections against her doing things like setting me on fire from a distance."

She gave him an odd look. "Okay, I've seen the floating stuff and her work minor healings and things.  But fires?"

He nodded.  "She's damn handy at it too. Comes in handy when you're outnumbered and the things attacking you can be killed by fire."  She gaped.  "If you know who I am, then you know we were both trained by combat, ma'am."

"I do," she agreed quietly.  "Okay.  I'll wait with you."  She walked him outside and onto the steps to wait.  "Are you all right?"

"A few stomach cramps.  Charcoal and I do not get along well."

"Yeah, the last time I got exposed to something and had to have it, it was like my stomach exploded."

"I've already crapped out the lining of mine.  Gotta love drain cleaner for that alone."

"How did you know?"

He grinned.  "I could lie and say it was something innocent, like an accident, but it was a dare when I was eight from my father."  She gaped.  He shrugged and grinned again.  "I'm obviously fine."

"He got you to drink drain cleaner?"

"Yeah, in whiskey.  Couldn't stand the smell and he was determined I was going to drink with him that night."  She let out a small swear.  "I'm twenty, I have no siblings.  They stopped their mistakes with me," he assured her.

She glared at him, hands on her hips.  "There is no way you're a mistake!  If they told you that, then they're the problems!  Doing that to you was wrong!  They should have been put in jail!"

"No laws in Sunnydale except the Mayor and the hellmouth."

"X...Peter, it's still not right!"

"Now they don't have anyone to hurt but each other and the Mayor's gone.  Some day they'll get each other and it'll be solved."  She gaped.  "I take a very practical view of the world, detective.  I escaped by starting to hunt.  That's one of the many reasons I'm good at it."

She walked off and kicked a planter, muttering.

"Sorry!" he offered, shrugging a bit when the officers coming in gave him a dirty look.  "She didn't like my parents."  He saw a very fuel efficient car pull in and nodded politely at the witch getting out.  "Ma'am."

"Xa...." she started, looking awed.  He shook his head quickly.  "I'm Sophia."

He grinned.  "Peter Philips, Sophia. I'm assuming here but the blonde, swearing and muttering detective called you to help me?"  She nodded.  "Good.  Get her calmed down since she went off on my parents, and we'll go see what we can do in the removing and protection stuff."  She blinked.  "I've known her for fifteen years," he said quietly.  "She's needed back at home."

"Sure."  She looked at Calleigh, who was coming back over looking more calm and collected but not totally.  "Are you all right?"

"No."  She pointed at Xander.  "Know him?"

"A bit, by reputation."  She grinned at Xander, then at her friend.  "Will you be all right?"

"I'll be fine."  She gave Xander a careful hug.  "Bring him back here when you're done.  We're protecting him tonight."

"Sure."  She took Xander's hand, looking at him.  "She did lay stuff on you, didn't she?"  He sighed and nodded.  "Then let's go deal with that and put on some protection for you, Mr. Philips.  I'll see you later, Cal.  Drinks?"

"Drinks are good," she agreed, smiling at her friend leading the young man off.  She waited until they were gone then went back inside, going right to her boss.  "He just told me that this wasn't his first exposure to drain cleaner," she said as she walked in.

"He identified it either by taste or smell," Speed agreed.

"His father apparently decided he was going to get drunk with him when he was eight and used drain cleaner to do that in his whiskey."  They both glared at her for that.  "He was ...."  She forced herself to calm down.  "He was like 'doesn't it happen to everyone' about it.  Said they had stopped their mistakes with him and now that the mayor was gone they could off each other and someone would do something."

"We have his ER records from where he passed out on the plane," Speed admitted.  "We could turn them over to the Sunnydale PD."

"He's twenty," Horatio reminded them.  They shrugged. "Statue of limitations?"

"On attempted murder?" she asked. "Even drunks have got to know drain cleaner's bad for you and can kill you."

"Point," he said, smiling at her.  "Get the records from Eric."  She nodded, looking happier when she went to do that.

"The kid might mind," Speed pointed out.

"Whenever abuse was suspected, a report has to be made, Speed. That is the law," he said, smirking at him.  "Even if there's a child outside the age of consent."  That got a nod. "We'll send it back quietly."

"Why didn't they get them for the drain cleaner?"

"I don't know."  He found the number for Sunnydale again and dialed it.  "This is Miami- Dade....  Sure, I'll hold."  He put them on speaker and the same voice as last time came back. "This is Lieutenant Caine with the crime lab," he said.

"I heard your voice last time.  The boy okay?"

"He's fine.  Miss Rosenburg is presently down here."

"Chains.  Iron or lead, boys.  Best and only advice I can give you on that."

"I'll try that when we finally get her," Horatio agreed. "For right now we've got him in protective custody working on some injuries.  No, the reason for the call today was that the young man in question admitted his parents gave him drain cleaner when he was eight?"

"Huh.  Must've been why he was in the ER that week."  You heard the sound of some cracking and shifting.  "To be honest Lieutenant, we're just now clearing up a bad department.  He was one of the ones who got hit by that.  Sunnydale's not like Miami."

"I'm aware, partially, of why.  Someone sent us some film, including his graduation and where Miss Rosenburg beat him."

"Really?  Can we have that?  Because we'll charge her and make her do the work anyway."

"I can forward that to you, along with some very telling x-rays.  He passed out on the flight down and someone did do x-rays of his ribs and things."  Eric leaned in.  "Eric, I need what we got on him, including the medical records."

"Sure, H."  He went to get them and bring them back.  "I've never seen that many breaks.  Not even on someone who got beaten by a mob."

"Interesting," the voice said.  "The boy would hate it if he knew we were having this conversation."

"True," Horatio agreed. "But attempted murder has no time limit and you don't always need victim cooperation."

"I like the way you think, lieutenant.  You're sneaky.  Wanna move out here?  We don't even have a lab.  We send stuff up to the state boys."  Another cracking sound and the sound of a sigh.  "Sorry, my neck.  Wife came home dead last night and tried for me."

"Dead?" Speed said.  "Oh, never mind.  Do you think you can take the x-rays and that report and make it something so it looks like it got reported through the system?"

"Sure.  We got a judge out here who hates the boy and his family for not killin' him.  We can do that."  That got a round of smiles.  "Go ahead and Fed Ex it to me out here.  Me or Paul Hendrix.  Just in case I end up one of the walking dead thanks to the wife.  I'll let him know."

"Can't you do something?"

"Well, I could point the itty, bitty blonde girl at her but that's just mean.  I almost liked her.  Was thinking about a divorce and all but still."

"They can ward the doorways so she can't come in again," Calleigh told him.  "Ask her."

"That I'd be more than happy to do.  Oh, you might warn him, his girl did get returned.  She's not real happy.  He'll understand.  Also, tell him he needs to long distance kick Giles' ass again.  Didn't appear to take the last time."

"We called him to talk to him about Willow," Horatio admitted. "He didn't know the boy was gone.  The girl with him had to tell him."

"That was probably his ex-girlfriend.  Well, hopefully whatever you're doing down there can protect him from her too.  Gotta say, having a vengeance demon here in town again is kinda neat.  She's got a lot of work from where we were forced not to act. Go ahead and send that stuff to me and we'll see what I can do."

"Thank you," Horatio said, shaking his head. "Be safe."

"I do try."  He smirked. "Been here most of my life, Lieutenant.  I've already passed the average age of thirty-two.  Later all."  He hung up.

Horatio looked at Eric, handing it back.  "Get his current medical records as well in case it could help."  That got a nod and he went to do that.  He saw Calleigh looking up the number and hitting the key to dial it.  "Vengeance demons?"

Calleigh opened her mouth.  "Sophie."  She laughed at that.  "No, you need to tell him his ex returned?  The cop out there said he'd know what that meant.  Mentioned vengeance demons."  She heard the quiet words when he took the phone.  "No, we've coordinated with them so something helps you when we finally get her back there.  Well, we do have tape of it and he thinks he can put her on permanent community service," she admitted.  She smiled.  "That might work.  No, he said your ex returned?"  She listened then shuddered.  "Are you going to be okay?"  She smirked.  "That might not matter now, Peter.  Sure.  Thanks."  She hung up.  "They can handle that too but his ex-girlfriend was broken up with a while back.  Before he left.  He said he wrote her a long letter and they've talked since then so she's probably not going to be able to come after him.  She's the one young women call when they're horribly dumped or their husbands mistreat them was how he put it."

A sparkling form appeared in the middle of the room.  "Yes, I am.  No, he's not safe.  He was trying to figure out if he was gay while he was with me," she sniffed.  She looked at her.  "I might leave him alone as long as I get future orgasms.  We'll have to see.  Right now, Willow is a bigger problem.  She can draw on the native energy out there."

"Sophie said something about hellmouths," Calleigh agreed.  "I think they've got it."

"Fine, spoil my fun," she pouted. "Is my orgasm pookie all right?" she asked her.

"Pretty much.  Someone snuck into his place to put drain cleaner on his plates and glasses," she admitted. "He's healing and they're doing spell removal today.  You could go talk to him and make any deals for later sex."

"True."  She smirked at the men around the room, focusing on Speed.  "I almost got called about you once."

"I'm usually very nice to my women."

"She said you loved your work more than her.  Then she decided it was easier to break up."

"Thanks for letting me know, I'll quit dating."

Anya smirked at him then at Eric.  "Strangely enough I haven't been called about you yet.  I'm shocked. Usually I get calls about guys like you the most."  She looked him over then into his eyes.  "Maybe it's because you have skills.  Show me?"

"Sorry, I'm dating someone right now," he told her.  "I don't cheat when I'm seeing someone."

"Pity.  If not, call out for me and I'll gladly let you spoil me," she offered with a cute grin.  She ignored Horatio all together.  She looked at Calleigh again.  "She's by the park, heading that way.  No idea which one.  I haven't had to come to Miami in a while.  Oh, well, tell Xander I love him and he's still an asshole who can't perform well enough.  I mean, only seven orgasms our last night together?  A girl's got more needs than that and he just couldn't keep up.  Plus he was making pitiful paychecks so we were living in a hole."  She looked up.  "Ah, a call.  Later all, tell him I love him."  She faded out with some more sparkles.

"No wonder the boy is gay," Eric said, looking at Speed.  "Are you all right?"

Speed looked at him then at Horatio.  "I'm never seeing another woman again," he said, standing up.  Calleigh gave him a hug.  "At least it was because I was working too much."  He shook his head quickly.  "If he stays, someone's got to introduce the boy to real people who give a damn."

"I'll let him have a few of my exes," Eric promised.

Horatio looked at him.  "Not much better, Eric.  If he stays, we'll watch over him to make sure he finds someone who'll treat him better and who wants to be with him."

Calleigh nodded, looking amused.  "I don't know how she got seven a night."  Speed pinched her.  "Ow!"  She swatted him.  "I don't!"

Horatio coughed, hiding his smile.  "Let's get back to work on the other cases?"  They all went back to work and he considered it.  Because that was making him want to date the boy out of pity.

"Hey, Speed, maybe you should date the kid," Eric teased from down the hall.  Then the sound of a smack.  "Ow!"

"Good, you deserved it."

Horatio smirked and got back to work, letting the back of his head work that over for him.  Because most abuse victims did get stuck into a rut like that one but that was a deeper rut than he'd ever seen before.  He clamped down on the thought that seven orgasms a night was an interesting image.  The kid was just twenty, he didn't need him having those thoughts.


Xander came back into the station looking a bit happier and content.  He smiled at Speed. "Hi.  Still can't find her?"

"Not yet.  Did your ex show up there?"

"Yup, made Sophie make me lunch too.  She thought it was unfair that Anya was complaining about only getting seven orgasms a night when she only made it to one."  That got a smirk. He shrugged. "She nagged in public when I couldn't keep up.  What you guys heard was probably nothing compared to what she told the others in the group.  So, did they tell you out in Sunnydale they couldn't charge them?  I realized on the way to her house that the nice blonde detective probably tried to get them turned in."

"No, there's a judge out there who hate them for letting you live and he said he'd see what he could do with the x-ray and other files we have down here," he admitted honestly.  "He also thinks he can get Willow permanent community service."

"Better her than me.  I've staked enough things in my life."  He nodded politely at the guy coming up behind Speed.  "So, what's up tonight?"

"Tonight, you can have my couch.  It'll be safer we think."

"Are you sure?"

"I am.  Because that way I can kill her this time if she tries something like trying to burn you.  We had to get your stuff last night anyway to see what else had been touched so H is bringing it over to my place in a few.  That'll let you take a shower and change clothes.  The couch is comfortable.  I'll make dinner."  Xander blushed and looked down.  "Not a date, but your ex showing up at work did show me that I never want to date another woman again.  How did you put up with her?"

"Believe it or not, she was the best one I dated.  Outside of the money demands and the sex demands?  She didn't try to kill me.  Cordy, my last one, tried a few times and put me down.  Anya only put me down.  All the other women I've dated just tried to kill me."

"Stick with men, Peter," he said, shaking his head.  "Come on.  H?"  He came out of the building and put his sunglasses on.  "You can ride in the hummer since that's where your stuff is.  Did you want anything in particular for dinner?"

"No, I'm okay.  The charcoal nastiness quit happening a few hours ago," he offered with a grin.  "So whatever.  I'm a hoover for food."  That got a grin.  "Thank you for trying to help."

"It's what we do, kid."  He walked him over to Horatio's hummer.  "See, all your stuff.  So, did you get your rent refund?"

"I did and I found a new spot starting in a few days.  Maybe I'll go to construction if I can't stand the store again."  He looked at the lieutenant.  "Hi again."

"Hi."  He smirked at him.  "That is quite an ex you have."

"Yeah, well, she was the best of the lot so far," he admitted.

"He said the others tried to kill him."

Horatio stared at him.  "Tell me you're kidding?"  Xander shook his head.  He sighed and shook his head.

"Don't worry, we don't have many like that and Eric's dated most of them so he can tell you when they're not good," Speed said, patting him on the back.  "Get in."  Xander got into the hummer and Horatio gave him a look.  "See you at home.  I've got to get something to drink.  All I've got is water."  He headed for his bike, finding the detective standing there. "What's up, Frank?"

"Who is that kid?"

Speed sighed.  "His former best friend gay bashed him.  She's now in town and the little lesbian's still hunting for him."  Frank gave him an odd look. "Long, involved story, Frank. Get Eric to tell you most of it.  He started this off."

"Uh-huh.  So who's got him tonight?"

"I do."  He grinned.  "I'm sure he won't touch my books."

"Sure."  He just nodded.  "So the rumors going around that there's an assassin after him?"

"Not quite.  Just a five-five lesbian Wiccan with delusions of fixing him."

Frank cracked a smile at that. "Really?"  He nodded.  "Poor kid."

"His best friend, Frank.  She locked him in a basement so he couldn't get help.  He passed out on the plane ride down from the three broken ribs.  Plus multiple other bruises."  He gaped.  "She picked up a board or something and beat him."  He waved as Horatio pulled out.  "Then his ex showed up today and said he was inferior because she only got seven orgasms most nights.  That on top of where his former neighbor's husband drain cleanered his place by accident?  The kid needs some protection."

"Sure."  He just nodded and stepped away from the bike.  "He'll be okay?"

"I hope so."  He started his bike and put his helmet on. "If not I feel kinda sorry for him."  He backed his bike out of his spot and took off, stopping to get something from the store up the street from his condo.  He nodded at the manager.  "Peter's out of the hospital."

"Good!  Can he come back tomorrow?"

"I hope so.  If not, the day after," he promised, smirking some.  "We've got him in protective custody thanks to the redhead."  That got a laugh.  "We know, he was working on that earlier.  Anyway, he's protected at least for tonight."  He put down the milk.  "Miss him?"

"A lot.  I had to cover his shift last night and tonight."  He checked him out then gave him a look.  "Think you could tell me where so I can send him an amended schedule?"

"Nope.  Sorry.  Can't tell you."  He looked at him.  "Has she been threatening you?"

"No, I haven't seen her since you guys arrested her," he said.

Speed noticed the look in his eyes and put down cash for the milk and soda.  "If you do, call us.  We've got more than enough to arrest her on and they've got warrants at home for her too."  That got a shudder and a nod.  He got his change back and the things were bagged.  He felt something brush a hand over him and turned but nothing was there.  He concentrated, blocking the feeling.  He shook himself and looked at him.  "Interesting.  New air conditioning system?"

"I guess," he said, looking confused.  Speed grinned and took his bags out to the bike, putting them between his chest and the bike.  Then he headed home.  He looked at the kid since he came out to help him.  "Did you know your job has a new air conditioning system?  Also, your boss is looking forward to having you back."

"That's good."  He looked at him and smirked, touching his cheek and looking into his eyes.  "Go away, Willow."  He slapped it hard enough to shock him, which broke her concentration.  "Fastest way to get rid of temporary spells, break their concentration."

"You still going to be safe here?"

"Did you think your address or look at your address?"  Speed shook his head.  "Then we're fine."  He took the bags inside, letting him follow.  "Should I worry about scary tweed outfits coming out of the closet in your off hours?  Because the only person I've ever seen with this many books was Giles."

Speed looked at him oddly. "I have better taste than tweed.  Jeans are more comfortable.  Though, I did hear Horatio talked to Giles."

"I heard."  He gave him a look.  "I called earlier.  He's still claiming he saw me two weeks ago but he's sending me books."  He shrugged and handed over the bags.  "Can I help with anything?"

"Go sit.  Don't touch any of my current books.  Did Horatio stay?"  That got a nod.  "Good.  You could shower."

"I did it at Sophie's and got a new t-shirt and jeans for after we were done," he admitted. "But thank you anyway."

"You're welcome, kid."  He looked at him.  "You know, denying who you are won't keep her away."

"No but it might keep others away from me.  People like Sophie who see me as some sort of hero."

"Did you save people?" Xander shrugged at that.  "That's the definition of a hero, kid.  Sit."  Xander sat at the table to watch him.  "That's why they call cops and firemen heros.  We save lives in the course of normal business."  He looked at him.  "If you did the same thing then you are."


"No buts. If you had reasonable people around who were watching out for you they would've told you that before now."  Horatio came out of the bathroom.  "It clog up again?"

"It did."

"The last person put kitty litter down it," he said bitterly.

"Got a snake?" Xander asked.  "And some drain cleaner?"  Speed nodded, getting them from under the sink.  He went up to work on it for him. It was the least he could do.

"At least he's more handy than my apartment manager," Speed sighed, getting back to work.  "I'm doing simple stuff. Baked chicken, new potatoes."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Staying for dinner?"

"I could if you wanted."

Speed put down the brush he was using to brush the chicken breasts.  "He didn't think he was a hero for saving lives."

"Speed, he was clearly abused.  He doesn't see a lot of worth in anything he does," he offered quietly.  "You often have to show these kids that they're making a difference."

"I knew I was.  The amount of vampires in Sunnydale went down," Xander called.  "Doesn't mean I consider it heroic."  He came down.  "Got a rag you absolutely don't want anymore?"  Speed looked then handed him a sock he used for dusting.  "Perfect."  He went back to it.  He needed to scrape the sides of the pipes, not just force open a small section.

Horatio and Speed shared a look.  Speed nodded and went back to cooking.  Horatio knew the sort of problems the young man had and how bad they could get.  He went to watch him, finding him watching the water go down again.  "Did it work?"

"Almost.  We've still got some slowness."  He maneuvered the snake over a bit and started again, smiling when he felt chunks coming off and no more resistence.  He moved it further around the pipe and did it again, then nodded and pulled it out, leaving the sock in there. He flushed it and it went down, sock and all, and the next one too.  "There.  All clean and clear.  Someone may wonder at the sock but with how many kids stuff things down the toilet probably not."  He wound the snake back up and drain cleaner went down the sink just in case.  Then he walked out.  "Done and I'm loosening up the crud in your sink too."  Speed smiled at that.  "I used the sock to scrape the inside of the pipes.  That way you had a few more years before they had to be fixed."

"Thank you, that's very helpful," Speed said, giving him a careful hug.  "I've been stuck for months on that.  Now, what's wrong with my sink?"

"I don't know but it's got a slow drain.  Probably just crud.  In a few I'll go up and run hot water down it to finish the flush."  That got a nod and he washed his hands in the sink, then got to work on the dishes.

"I can do those."

"You're cooking."  He looked at him.  "I can help.  Really.  If I was still with Anya, I'd have cooked, cleaned up, spoiled her, then slept with her for at least five hours before getting up and going to work construction.  This is nothing.  I've had a vacation even with the pain from my ribs."

Horatio gave him a pat on the back.  "It's very helpful, Xander.  He's fussy."  Speed gave him a look.  "You are.  You wouldn't even let me help in the kitchen."

"That's because I'm not sure you can cook, Horatio."  He went back to it.  "Mind chicken?"

"Like I said, I'm a hoover.  Whatever's fine as long as it's not poisonous."

"It's not."  He grinned at him and got back to work.  "So, you worked some fast food?"

"Oh, yeah."  He nodded, getting back to work.  He noticed he had run a rinse sink and shook his head.  "Sorry, old habits."

"Works for me," Speed assured him.  "As long as they're clean."  Xander nodded, going back to it.  "So, how were your last two years in Sunnydale?" he asked after a few minutes of silence.  He always felt like he should be saying something when he had guests.

"Boring.  Mostly.  About seventy jobs in that time until I hit on construction.  I worked at every fast food place in the surrounding areas.  Then we got the construction job and it was better.  Even if we did break in on some ancient remains and I got ghostly syphilis.  Fortunately they took it with them when they moved onto the higher plane."  He shrugged.  "Anya was not amused."

"How long did you date her?" Horatio asked.

"About a year and a half.  I took a roadtrip after high school and she pounced me a few nights after I got back.  She never left after that.  It was good sex.  I was thinking deeper thoughts but then again I started to have doubts about my sexuality so I went on some careful dates.  Very careful because if I cheated and she heard or found out, she'd get her powers back and I'd be a toasty mouse snack for a vampire at best.  At worst, well, she used to tell me a lot about torturing men while we were together.  Reminiscing about the old days and the like."  He shrugged and got to work on the glasses.

"Did she work?" Speed asked as he turned the chicken in the oven.

"For Giles. So she's got some savings built up somewhere.  I know she never spent any of it on anything, she always got me to pay for everything.  I even paid for her pills."

"That's cold," Speed complained, looking at him.

"Yeah but she didn't try to kill me," Xander sighed, giving him a sideways look.  "After a while, you learn to settle for the minorly bad things.  She was decent in bed, even if she did need less energy, and she didn't try to kill me.  I settled."

"Never settle," Horatio offered.  "It'll make you miserable in the long run."

Xander glanced at him. "Experience?"  Horatio hummed and nodded.  "I guess it was okay.  I mean, she didn't try to kill me outside of too much sex."

"Real women spoil you as much as you do them," Speed said, patting him on the back.  "Give me the black pan when you're done?"  Xander nodded, putting that glass down and going to do the pan.  "I could've waited."

"It needed to be done anyway."  He let it soak for a minute while he moved the glasses out of the rinse water and then put the pot in there.  It got fully rinsed and Speed looked at it to make sure, rinsing it again to make sure all the bubbles were gone before filling it with water and putting it onto the stove for the potatoes.  Xander looked at them.  "So, um, are you two together?"

"No," Horatio said, shaking his head.  "Speed's always enjoyed the company of smart women."

"Oh, sorry."

"That's okay," Speed assured him. "After four minutes with your girlfriend earlier I about swore of women."

Xander gave him an impish grin. "Does that mean I could talk you out for a nice dinner at a mediumly nice place?"

"We'll see," he offered with a grin.  "I know a pretty nice salad bar that's kinda quiet and calm most nights."  Xander blushed a bit but smiled and nodded.  "If we survive your friend, Xander."  He opened his mouth.  "You're safe here."

"But I'll forget the new identity."

"It'd be better if you did anyway," he offered.  "She already knows you're here."  Xander sighed and nodded.  "Besides, Miami doesn't have a high demon concentration.  I've never seen one."

"It may be that you ignored it," Xander offered, turning to catch a glass that was falling.  "Sorry."  He blushed and dried it, putting it up with the other glasses, the rest too.   "I wasn't going to let it be broken."

"Chill, Xander.  They're from the dollar store."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "They are. Eric's broke more than one.  Including by using my apartment for a date and breaking a lot of stuff in the strainer."  He came over to help him put things up, smiling at how methodical he was.  "Ever think about a higher, more intense calling?"

"I sucked in school."


"Because school sucked."

"Not all school sucks."  Speed gave him a shoulder squeeze, making him squeak and drop a plate.  "Okay, that one was a bit more expensive but I'm still not mad. My fault," he said, trying to calm him down. "It's all right, Xander.  I promise."  He got the broom and dustpan, putting the pieces into the office.  He could fix it later.  He came out and found the kid on the back porch squeezing the railing.  He walked out there.  "It's all right.  It was an accident and my fault.  I startled you by touching you," he offered.

"I'm clumsy, I know that," he said without looking at him.  "I'm sorry."

"No, don't be.  It was my fault."  He patted him on the back, wondering how in the hell anyone could ever not like this kid and cherish him.  He had only known him for a few days and he could feel himself slipping him into his personal circle of friends.

Xander looked at him.  "I'm a klutz.  I always have been.  Even Giles yells about that.  It's all right."

"You're not a klutz," Speed said firmly.  "You were startled by me touching you.  That's not being a klutz.  That's being startled."  He patted him on the back again.  "Come back inside, Xander."  Xander nodded, coming back inside.  "Thank you."  He jumped when something hit the table, looking at the small box.  "What's that?"

"Hmm.  Magic gram," Xander said, coming over to look at it.  "From Giles and the Magic Box."  He opened it, grinning at the nice letter inside and the check.  "Aww.  He remembered my birthday."

"When is it?" Horatio asked.

"Six months ago."  He got back into the box, looking at the magic books.   He came to something at the bottom, making him grin.  "Buffy sent me a card too."  He looked at it then laughed.  "She wanted to make sure I wouldn't date down here without someone around to make them go away."  He piled everything back into the box, including the check, and put it into his trunk. He looked over the things.  "I was right, she got the picture out of the car."  He shrugged and arranged things, then closed it again, coming back to wash his hands again.  "Maybe I should try for a construction job."

"You could. They pay better," Speed offered.  "You do the magic stuff?"

"Very little.  Mine's more a lack of control when it's around me.  Speaking latin to some of Giles' books makes them burst into flames."  He got back to work on the rest of the dishes.  "You're never home, are you?"

"Not really.  I work a lot.  H is the same way," Speed admitted.  He noticed the kid was calm again.  He and Horatio shared a look.  "Horatio, come get stuff to set the table."  That got a nod and Horatio got between them to grab plates and glasses, going back to the table.  "So, what're you going to do with the check?"

"Start a bank account.  He put it in my old name so I'm guessing I'll have to sign it over to myself or something."

"Be yourself, Xander," Horatio ordered.

Xander looked at him. "Then more of the problems out there will be able to find me and we'll be doing this every few weeks."  Horatio dropped the plate this time.  "Need the broom?"

"Please.  Sorry, Speed."

"It happens," he agreed philosophically.  He watched them clean up the mess, stirring the potatoes.  He checked on the chicken and took it out to rest, turning off the oven.  "How many things do you think will come for you?"

"Depends on if it's things who want me to make Buffy suffer or things who want to hunt me because I'm from there or if they're after me just to kill me, like I've been dating again."

"Let's work on getting you settled somewhere," Speed offered. "Then you can start dating and see that Miami women and Sunnydale women don't have much in common."

"That's true, you probably don't have many mummies that've come back to life and fell in love with you," he admitted.  Both older men stared at him.  "What?  She's gone now.  She wouldn't kill me when I told her she couldn't kill Buffy without killing me and they got her sealed in again.  She was an ancient sacrifice and things happened because she came back to life when the seal got broken."

They both shuddered but got the rest of dinner ready.  "Maybe you should write horror stories," Horatio offered.  "That way you could use what you know."

"Yeah, but it'd be like Goosebumps," he complained.

"Not with your life," Speed assured him, sitting down once he had the food out there.  "Horatio, grab the milk and soda?"  He did that and he pulled Xander down.  "Really.  Stephen King has scary things but you might be worse."  Xander shrugged and blushed a bit at that.  "Try it."

"I sucked in English class."

"You get better with practice and it's practical rules, kid," Speed assured him.

"I'm not that young."

"You're not that old either.  I'm older than you."  He grinned. "More than old enough to be a big brother."

"Sure.  Thanks," he said, looking embarrassed.  Speed patted him on the head, making him flinch.  "Sorry."

"It's all right.  Calm down.  Neither of us are going to hurt you, Xander," Horatio said quietly.  He patted his hand.  "You know we won't."  Xander nodded, relaxing again.  They dug in.  "Good job, Speed."

"Thanks, Horatio.  And thank you, Xander, for doing the dishes.  I had let them get backed up."  Xander blushed and shrugged, eating another bite.  "You think the sink'll be okay?"

"Oops."  He hurried up there to run hot water down the drain to flush the system.  It was working now and it hadn't eaten through the PVC so it was okay.  He came back down.  "The sink's running like it should."  He sat down and took a drink of his milk.  "Sorry."

"A leak?"

"No, I checked.  It didn't eat through it."

"Then you have nothing to be sorry for, you saved me a lot of nagging of my building manager, Xander."  He looked at him.  "The guy was supposed to fix it weeks ago and hadn't.  You saved me a lot of nagging."  Xander grinned at that.  "So eat."  Xander dug in again.  He smiled at him then at Horatio.  "Any word yet?"

"Not yet.  I've checked with them but nothing yet."

"Willow's hiding somewhere with magic stuff around her.  It'd need to be fairly quiet so she's not distracted.  It's got to be a flat, solid surface because of the candles."  He gave him a look.  "She's probably not outside.  Too much noise would distract her."

"Would she stay at a fleabag place like you were?" Speed asked.  Xander shrugged.  "She wouldn't go 'eww bugs' too much?"

"She might've cleaned it up first but she's not really the most dirt-oriented person.  She did chastise me a lot for coming in sweaty after work."

"You worked construction; you're supposed to be sweaty," Speed assured him.

"Doesn't mean she wasn't a girl about it and swatted me for being sweaty.  Anya did the same.  She refused to hug me until I showered and changed."

"Some women are like that," Horatio agreed.  "What about Buffy?"

He snorted.  "Mess up her clothes?"  He shook his head.  "Not happening.  She's not like that unless she's got to kill something and then she went 'eww' all night about it and complained loudly.  So if there was something slimy everything else in town knew where we were and stayed away from us.  Getting her clothes ruined put Buffy in a very bad mood.  The only one who can taunt her about it is Spike."

"Who's he?  Her boyfriend?" Speed asked, eating a bite.

"Vampire we had to save because the government put a chip in his head to make him harmless and unable to hunt humans, but her toy more than boyfriend.  Not like they went on *dates*.  It was more like 'hey, bint, it's a good night, we survived, let's screw' with him.  He said that a few times."  He looked at him and grinned.  "I got babysitting rights now and then.  Tied him up in my recliner while I was trying to sleep."

Horatio moaned.  "You all killed things?"

"How do you think you stop vampires from feeding on people, Lieutenant?"

"I hadn't," he admitted.  "How experienced is Willow and how likely to attack the officers hunting for her?"

"About as much as I am.  She usually used floating spells, it was safer because she wasn't as close to the vampires and she could hit a few before her head started to hurt.  We all started back in tenth grade."  He considered the other part of the question.  "How likely is she to attack?  That depends on if she's rational.  If she's in the middle of something she usually has a barrier of some kind between her and distractions.  Her circle.   A locked door.  Maybe it reinforced by magic.  If they burst in and she was in the middle of something, didn't see who they were because she was only seeing and feeling the magic?  She could conceivably burn someone to a crisp.  She almost got me once when I burst in on her."  Horatio got up to go outside. "That's only if she's actively in the magic though," he called.  He frowned.  "I don't want her to be hurt."

"They won't," Speed assured him. "That's to make sure they're more careful," he explained.  "Because if she kills an officer, she's going to prison down here."  Xander slumped and nodded.  Then he got up to get a book, heading outside to a corner of his small porch.  He found what he was looking for and got to work humming and muttering, looking up at the stars.  Speed joined them with his glass of soda.  "Will that stop her?"  Xander nodded, his voice raising up a half-pitch.  He and Horatio shared a look.  They watched Xander do whatever it was and then he stopped, bowing over the book.  "Can you find her?" Speed asked.

"She's in a hotel.  Nicer room, fairly large.  Bigger than mine was but not a suite."  He looked at them.  "It wasn't a ground floor room but she wasn't that high up.  It looked like things in there were fairly new, not all worn out on the comforters and things."  He concentrated and pointed.  "That way, a few miles away."  He looked at them.  "Please don't hurt her."

"I won't let them," Horatio promised.  He headed out to help the search now that he had some idea.  There were only a few hotels in that radius.  It was away from the usual tourist areas.   He walked into the shift commander's office, finding his map.  He marked Speed's apartment with a thumb and knew how it was oriented.  Then he marked out an area.  "She's somewhere in here."  That got a nod.  "She's not on a ground floor but it's not a very old or trashy place," he offered.  "A bigger and nicer room but not very high off the ground."

"Sounds like Mathilda's place," he admitted.  "A lot of the strange folk like you said she was go there.  Should've went there first."  He called two of his guys to go there.  Horatio left while he was doing that.  He hoped they found her.  The kid had seemed happy and nice, plus he treated his officers who came in for refills nicely.


Horatio got the keys to the room Willow was in.  He handed them to the officers.  One of the officers knocked semi-politely.  "Miami-Dade PD, open up," he called.  Nothing.  He opened the door and got out of the way.

"Willow Rosenburg," Horatio said firmly.  She shrieked and threw something at his head.  He ducked and remembered what Xander had said, reaching down to grab her by the hair, which broke her concentration and the lamp fell.  He pulled her up and put her against the wall.  "Handcuffs, now."  They cuffed her and led her off.  "Keep her silent."  He looked around the room.  They had her.  He called Eric and Calleigh.  "We found Rosenburg.  Mathilda's.  Room 237.  Thank you.  I'm heading in with her."  He hung up and went out there.  "We're processing her and returning her to the others who want her," he ordered.

"Sir, that lamp...."

Horatio looked at him and shrugged.  "I have no clue," he admitted.  She started to shriek and struggle in the back seat.  "However you want to think about it, officer."

"Thank you, sir.  So, that stuff is real?"

"Apparently for some.  I'll meet you back in the office.  Do be careful of her."  That got a nod and they got in to drive her off.  They suddenly stopped and both got out, watching as the car was lit on fire but they got her out.  He came over to get her, calling Speed. "I have her. She lit a cruiser on fire."

"Did not!" Willow complained. "That was Xander!"

He looked at her.  "I doubt that.  He's begged all night for us not to hurt you."  They got the cruiser put out with the fire extinguishers they grabbed from the motel office.  He looked down at her again.  "You're going back to Sunnydale, even if I have to deliver you personally."  She sneered and he smirked back.  "Let's go.  Boys, let me know."  That got a nod and he walked her to the hummer.  "You burn this one you're going to prison down here, young lady.  Plus paying the million and a half it costs to replace it."  She settled in at that.   He looked back and she was unconscious.  "Now, that was Xander," he said dryly, going to take her back and call out there. He got her booked in as a running prisoner, which put her in solitary in a watched and safe cell.  Then he went to make arrangements to get her back to her own kind.  Frank walked into his office, looking confused.  "She did it, Frank, I don't know how."

"Sure.  So, a suspect without any matches or anything burned a cruiser?"

Horatio looked at him.  "Ask them about the lamp."

"I heard. What is going on?"

"She did it."  He got back to the paperwork.  "Apparently they can do that where she's from."

"Are we talking like the big mirror thingy that opened a few years back and we got two elves that sneered at us for weeks?"

Horatio put down his pen and took an aspirin.  "I had forgotten about them but no, she's from Sunnydale, out by LA."

"That explains it.  Everyone in LA is weird.  That where that boy is from?"

"That is the lesbian who gay bashed him, Frank," he admitted. "The same way she threw the lamp at us tonight."

"No wonder he needed protection.  So, where is he?"

"With Speed."

"That's one protective person.  We send Alexx over yet?"

"He might run, Frank.  His parents...."  He paused and looked up at him again.  "Calleigh asked if we could get around the statute of limitations to charge them with the evidence we  had, without needing his statement."

"Crap.  Figures."  He sighed. "Think he'll join the department?"

"I don't know, Frank.  He claims he hates school."

"That can be a drawback," he agreed.  He shook his head.  "So, we're doing what with her?"

"Taking her back to her people.  They've promised to keep her out there and away from him."

"Sure.  I hope they can.  He seemed like a nice kid and I saw Calleigh having the urge to baby him like Alexx does Speed."

Horatio reached for the phone, calling Speed.  "Alexx," he said simply, then hung up.  Frank laughed and walked off.  "It'll help him," he called after him.


Speed hung up and looked at the phone.  "That was cryptic."  He looked at Xander, who was reading one of the new books, then at the phone, dialing Alexx.  "Hey, it's Speed."  He grinned. "I'm at home with the victim Horatio and I were protecting.  No, the reason was caught and she's safe," he admitted.  Xander sighed in relief.  "I don't think it's a problem but he's here."

"I can head to my new motel room," Xander pointed out, standing up and locking his trunk again.  "That way you can have your house back."

"Sit, kid.  Alexx wanted to come meet you.  Calleigh told her about you."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "No thanks.  Women are scary.  Thank you for protecting me."  He grabbed his things and hiked out, going to find a cab.  Before he tainted another one.

Speed listened to her.  "No, he decided to leave.  We know where he works, Alexx.  Nope, just up the street actually.  So yeah, it'll be fine.  Sure, come on over."  He smiled and hung up, going to clean up the mess from dinner and glue that plate back together again.  Wasn't the first time.  The thing liked to be dropped for some reason.


Horatio looked over when Willow woke up.  "One word and I'm sedating you again," he warned quietly.  "You will behave all the way to Sunnydale or else I will give them the sedative."

"You won't keep Xander.  He'll have to come home," she sneered.

He pulled out the needle and injected her arm, watching as she passed back out.  "I warned you.  And yes, we will, Willow.  He's safe with us.  He knows this."  The stewardess looked at him so he capped the needle and put it into the paper bag she held out. "Thank you.  Time for a new sedative."

"We've had other prisoners and medical patients who had the same problem, Lieutenant.  Can I get you more coffee?"

"Thank you," he agreed with a small smile.  She smiled back and got him some more coffee, handing it over after he checked her straps.  She went to make another round of the cabin.  He was a very nice man and he had already stopped one couple from arguing simply by glaring.  It had been very sweet, plus he didn't hit on any of them.  They adored that about him.  They got off in Vegas and she was sad to see them go but also sad that a woman so young had already screwed up that majorly. She had been pretty too.

Horatio smiled at the officers there to help him. "She's sedated."  That got a nod and he was led to the security office, where he checked with Eric.  "It's me.  We're in Las Vegas.  We have an hour layover."  He smiled at the words he heard.  "He did what?"  He snorted.  "That proves what we already knew, Eric.  Everything else all right?  Tell him I'm transporting a prisoner personally due to the dangerous nature of her arrest.  Then point out she's the reason the cruiser caught fire.  Thank you, Eric."  He could hear the spluttering and complaining in the background as he hung up.  He checked Willow's handcuffs, then the belt around her waist, which woke her up some.  "Sleep, Willow," he said softly, making her nod and shift onto her side, but go back to sleep with her hands under her cheek against the wall.   He smoothed down her hair before standing up.  Then he looked at the amused officers.  "She's only dangerous when she's angry."

"That's fine, Lieutenant.  We can watch her if you wanted to make a pit stop and get something to eat," one offered.  That got a nod and he went to do that.

He came back ten minutes later to find them both on the ground and Willow wide awake.  "What did you do?"

"I don't like strange men touching me."  She yawned.  "Quit sedating me.  You won't keep him."

"We will, Miss Rosenburg.  He's safe with us."  He stared her down.  Then he handed her one of his burgers.  "He's very safe and he's got people there who'll watch him for us if necessary.  Plus, we're not going to let him date women who'll kill him."  She snorted at that.  "For all I care, he can date all the men he wants."

"It's still wrong."

"It's no more wrong than you and your girlfriend, Miss Rosenburg," he said firmly.  She glared at him.  "It's the truth.  Get off your high horse."

"Why am I not in jail?"

"Sunnydale has said they need you more and it's a better punishment than putting you into a standard jail cell."  She went pale at that.  "They were talking permanent community service."  She slumped and nodded.  "I've already informed them and Mr. Giles we're on the way."  She swallowed at that.  "Feel free to rant or cry but the first spell I hear, you're going back under.  Especially on the plane."

"Yes, sir," she said meekly.  She looked at him.  "Is...Giles mad?"

He nodded.  "I'd say."  She slumped and nodded, eating her burger listlessly.  He sat down across from her, nudging an officer with his foot.  "Have a good nap?"

"She did...something!"

"I know.  That's why she went sedated most of the trip."  That got a shudder.  "You're released, boys.  I can handle her from here out.  Thank you."  They nodded once his partner was awake and they left them alone.  He looked at her.  "You're lucky they're not making you pay for that cruiser you torched."

"I didn't.  Anya did."  He rolled his eyes.  "Seriously.  She thought it was fitting since I was trying to take her orgasms away from her."  She ate the last bite and chewed.  "Community service?"

"They are very aware of what your group does, Willow," he said, staring at her.  She blushed at that.  "They're also very aware of things that should've been fixed earlier.  Including his family.  You might offer to help with that."

"I've got evidence if they want it," she admitted.  She stared at him.  "You'll protect Xander?"

"I will.  If you try to force it it'll only hurt him," he noted when she had gone quiet for a few minutes.  He felt the magic drop around him.  "Thank you."

"No one wants to protect him."

"There, Miss Rosenburg.  There.  In Miami he's already got people who like him, even if he does have to go by another name to avoid detection."  She swallowed and nodded. "I would suggest you leave him alone.  When you're ready to talk to him again, go back to the place you were before you nearly killed him.  Because he did nearly die at your hands."  She went pale and stared at her hands.  "Am I clear?"

"You are, sir."

"Thank you."  He stood up when the security guards came in.  "Time?"  They nodded.  He helped Willow up, taking his coffee with him.  "Thank you for your hospitality."

"Not a problem, Lieutenant Caine.  Good luck getting this one where she should be."  He glared at her.  "Try not to cause more problems on the plane.  The FBI wouldn't like that."  She sniffled and nodded.  He snorted but led them back to their new plane, letting him on first.  He got her settled and settled in beside her. "Have a good flight, Lieutenant."

"We'll be fine.  Thank you, officers."  They smiled and walked off.  He looked at her.  "We're going straight to the airport by Sunnydale, where you'll be picked up.  Do I need to give you another dosage?"

"I'll behave," she promised quietly, looking at him.  "You're a Lieutenant?"

"I run the dayshift felony crime lab."

"How did you come to find Xander?  I mean, he hates books."

"His ID wasn't as solid as the person who made it wanted it to be.  After he had to pull a gun on a thug...."  She burst out laughing.  "Indeed."

She nodded. "Gotcha.  I can firm that up.  Or erase his old one if I have to."

"I'll leave that up to him.  That would be a felony I'd have to tell the FBI about," he noted calmly.  She nodded at that, looking more serene.  "It would be one way to start making amends."

She looked at him.  "He'll forgive me within a year, Lieutenant.   Xander's like that.  He even forgave his parents.  He hates them but he forgave them.  Life's too short for him not to."  He nodded gravely at that.  "Also, bad things are drawn to Xander.  If he's still working in that store, you should probably sit a car outside it just in case.  When he was doing that in Sunnydale he staked more vampires than any night on patrol.  He took down a good sixteenth of the population when they came in to hassle him."  He quirked an eyebrow up at that.  "Seriously."  He just nodded once.  "Also, don't let him date.  Ever.  Only the dangerous ones are attracted to him."

"Apparently the men he attracts aren't."

"I wouldn't know and I'm blocking that thought out."

"Even if he does end up married to one?"

"Then I'll puke in private," she said honestly.  "Tara's going to beat my ass when I get home, isn't she?"  He shrugged.  "Do me one favor?  Keep the blondes and Buffy's mom off me?"

"If possible.  Assault is still wrong."

She nodded. "Thank you. I'm not scared of much but Joyce is like our mom and Tara's scary when she's an upset witch.  It doesn't happen often but she'll beat me then cry on you."  She looked out the window as more people came in, trying to hide her handcuffs.  "Did you have to bring me like this?"

"You'd prefer the jumpsuit?"

"Well, no," she admitted.  She looked at him again.  "Find Xander some support. That's the most important thing.  Otherwise one of the women after him will kill him."

"One of my officers wants to mother him."

She snorted. "Good luck.  I'm the only mother he admitted to having a few years ago.  I make cookies and he likes that.  He's not used to fussing people like I was."  He shrugged.  "She's got an uphill battle.  Expect her to get frustrated or cry over him."

"She's already turned his parents in for abuse."

"Even better.  He'll still run.  The boy doesn't understand why people like him. Even when we're frustrated at him for screwing things up or being in the way."

"Did you ever think that's why you survived this long?" he countered dryly.  She gave him a horrified look.  "She has contacts in the Watchers' Council.  Ones who don't hear from your Mr. Giles, who didn't realize he wasn't there for over a month when I first called him."  She swallowed.  "We got a very nice report on what the boy can and can't do, plus what he has done."  She went more pale and nodded at that, looking down.  "I think if you actually took the time to contemplate the boy, you'd see that you weren't seeing him as he was, but as you wanted and projected him to be.  He was living down to expectations.  He might've even been very good in school if others hadn't forced him not to be, but part of that is probably from his parents."  She nodded and grimaced.  "Therefore, I think maybe you should take the time and see the reality.  After all, I was told he's saved your life many nights.  He's also went out alone.  He's saved your friends lives.  He planned the battles when you needed them.  He's the one who made the explosives from what I was told."  She went very pale at that and he smirked. "Now, that's a friend I'd count on, not one I'd put down and warn not to let him date."

"Not my fault he draws psycho women.  Seriously, Anya was the best.  Cordelia nearly got us all killed a few times when he cheated on her."

"With you, Miss Rosenburg.  Who started that?"  She blushed.  "So he acted like a teenage boy and got blamed?"  She nodded, hanging her head again.  "I think a good, long look at the reality would have been better than you being put on permanent community service but hopefully you'll have time for that as well."

"I'll, um, try," she sighed once they started to move the plane to the runway.  She looked at him.  "Do you have kids?"  He shook his head.  "You're damn good at chewing hineys."

"Sometimes it's necessary.  The same as the first lesson you learn as an officer is that not everyone is as they appear."  She nodded and slumped some.  "Sit up."  She sat up, wiggling some.  "Thank you."  The stewardess smiled and he smiled back.  "How long is this flight?"

"An hour and a few," she offered.  "Will she need any special care?"

Willow leaned over.  "A straw with my soda?" she asked.  That got a look sent her way. "Sorry.  I screwed up and I beat my best friend for liking guys.  I'm bad.  I know I'm bad."  She went back to watching out the window. "Tara is going to use me as a sacrifice to stop something," she muttered.

Horatio snorted at that. "What makes you think you're a fit one, Miss Rosenburg?"  She burst out crying at that.  He looked at the stewardess again.  "She probably could use a straw."  That got a smile and a nod.  By the time she finally got calmed down she had her soda and he was looking down on the desert.  It was very pretty but not his thing.

Willow pointed.  "We held magic rites there sometimes," she said quietly.  She looked.  "I think that's Joyce's car down there.  Maybe she and Buffy are together and I won't be beaten at the airport."

"I doubt it," he told her.  He got comfortable, waiting while they landed a little bit later. They got to get off last, it was protocol so she couldn't escape in the bustle of people.  He finally unhitched her and got her up, nodding politely at the stewardess.  "Thank you, miss."

"Welcome, Lieutenant.  Have a good time dropping her off."  She started to clean up the small messes they had made.

Horatio walked Willow out, finding a fashionable blonde girl and an officer waiting on them.  "I believe you wanted this back?" he suggested, pulling Willow forward.

"Can I hit her now?" the blonde asked.

"Wait until she's uncuffed, Buffy," the officer ordered.  He looked at Horatio.  "She any trouble?"

"No, he chewed me a new one on the flight from Las Vegas," Willow said, looking down.  "I'm sorry."

"You will be.  Judge Perkins got your case, young lady."  She shuddered.  "Night court even."

She looked at him.  "Does that mean I can carry a stake?"

"I will be," Buffy promised. She looked at the tall redhead beside her friend.  "Who're you?"

"Lieutenant Caine, Miami-Dade crime lab."

She just nodded and looked at Willow.  "Like the Discovery Channel, Buffy. The stuff with forensics."

"Oh. So like magic and chemistry and that stuff put together with what we do?"  Willow nodded at that and she smiled, shaking his hand.  "Thank you for watching out for her for us and bringing her back, Lieutenant."

"You're welcome, Miss Summers.  I should also tell you that we protected your other friend from her."

"Good.  Someone should protect the Xander.  He's always in trouble.  Or he's tripping over something.  Or he's dating some skanky ho who wants to kill him."

"Perhaps some of that is your perception of him?" he suggested.  "After all, I was told he did quite a lot more than that."  She burst out giggling, shaking her head.  "Including make your battle plans and saved your life a few times."  That got her stopped.  He stared at her.  "Sometimes people can project their own inadequacies onto others."

Buffy looked confused.  "We made Xander be the goofball he is," Willow told her.  "Because we didn't appreciate him because he's not powerful or a girl."

"Oh.  Well, maybe.  Mom said the same thing once, but as long as he's safe down there in Miami I won't have to come rescue him and rip up your pretty city."  She smiled sweetly at him.  "Agreed?"

"He'll be as protected as every other resident in Miami is, Miss Summers."

"How did you know who I was?"

"Your profile was linked to his in the police files."

"Oh.  The robot thingy.  Yeah but he was mean and trying to hurt me and my mother.  Couldn't let that happen."  The officer gave her a look.  "The Ted thingy."

"Oh, that.  I came in right after that, Miss Summers.  Lieutenant, would you like to stay long enough to see her sentenced?"

"Please."  He walked out behind them, nudging Buffy to give her the baggage claim ticket.  She beamed and went to get it, coming back with both their things.  He took his with a nod of thanks and she grinned at him and followed along.  Outside they were met by a small blonde woman, wispy and delicate looking.  Who hauled off and slapped Willow hard enough that everyone looked, then she stomped off crying.  "Go," he ordered quietly.  Buffy handed him Willow's bag and went after her. "Your girlfriend?"

Willow rubbed her cheek and nodded. "Yup, that's my Tara.  It was better than I thought.  She didn't stab me or anything.  Or stake me. Or even sic Anya on me."  She got put into the back of the car.  "Buffy, ride with her?"  That got a nod and the two officers got into the front after the bags were put into the trunk. "Um, should he really be in Sunnydale overnight?"

"He'll be fine," the officer assured her.  "We'll make sure he's in a safe location.  Buffy's mother said he could have her spare room."

"Oh, that's fine then."  She settled in, watching the landscape go past.  "Why Judge Perkins?"

"Because he volunteered."

"Oh. Can I ask to have it changed?"

"You'll have access to a lawyer once we're back at the station, Willow," he said patiently. "Not that you're probably not smarter than he is.  Your parents aren't in town either."

She snorted. "Big shock there, Rudy."

"True."  He glanced at the silent officer.  "Her parents are psychologists who travel and give lectures."

"Interesting."  He glanced back at her.  "No wonder you ran around all hours of the night."

"Xander and I raised each other.  In some ways I guess I do still look at him like the little kid I used to fix the scrapes on."  She shifted and curled up in the seat.  "Then again, he's a big boy now.  He's had the sex.  Many times if what Anya was complaining about was true."  Rudy shuddered.  "She did."

"Still.  She was complaining to the detective in the coffeeshop."  He changed roads.  "Sorry, the biker gang ripped it up again."

"I'll sic Buffy on them tonight after we're done," Willow promised.  He smiled at that.   "So, how's the less corrupt PD going?"

"Better," he admitted.  "We still won't run a night shift."  He paused the car and looked back at her.  "Faith?"

"It was an accident," she admitted quietly.  "He popped out while she was fighting.  That's what made her go bad and go help the mayor by hurting others."  He nodded and turned around, going again.  "I hear she's in real jail."

"Good.  She's probably taken over her cellblock and is protecting a bunch of young women for favors."  Horatio looked at him.  "She's like Buffy."

"Oh."  He nodded at that, then looked at the car behind them. "She's either singing or chatting."

Willow looked back and waved, grinning at them, getting one back.  "Chatting.  She's trying to cheer Tara up by telling her about the new sales and her new clothes."  Both men groaned at that.  "Hey, it works for us.  Has since tenth grade."  They pulled into the PD parking lot and she was let out by Horatio, who walked her inside with the officer and their bags behind them.  Horatio took his and Willow's was dropped next to her in the cell, where her handcuffs were taken off with the wrist belt.  Then Horatio signed paperwork.  "Buffy, your mom promised to feed and put him up," she called.  "Keep him safe.  He's one of the guys protecting the Xander."  She nodded and led him off, taking him to see the town since it was a few blocks to walk.  She looked at Tara.  "I'm sorry.  I'm a stupidhead."

Tara nodded.  "That's putting it mildly, Willow.  We'll be talking after you're sentenced later.  Want your lawyer?"

"Please.  Just to get it away from Judge Perkins since he hates me for nearly staking him last year.  And Xander for nearly getting him a few weeks earlier."  That got a nod and she went to find him.  Willow settled in.  It wasn't so bad.  Sunnydale knew they needed her so she wasn't in *too* much trouble.  Hopefully.


Horatio watched the town around them. Everyone seemed extremely happy.  It was like a town full of prozac addicts.  He looked at her.  "Is this normal?"

"Yup.  Everyone here passed Denial 101 a long time ago and takes the refresher course ever year," she assured him.  She waved at one woman, who smiled and patted her on the head before going on.  "Only a few will realize you're not native and they'll gossip about you later over ice cream or drinks.  This is Giles' shop.  He wanted to meet you."

"If you want," he agreed, walking in after her.  He nodded politely at Anya, who pouted at him.

"Why did you bring the resistant one here?" Anya complained.  "He's no fun and he won't make me money."

"He drug Willow back from trying to hurt Xander in Miami."

"I tried to burn the car she was in but they got her out," she pouted.  "Giles, Buffy and some resistant guy are here," she complained, pouting at Horatio.  "You can't make Xander more gay," she demanded, stamping her foot.  "I'll never get orgasms from him again if you do and I nearly had his training where I wanted it too."

"Anya, go make tea," Giles ordered, rolling his eyes.  "Lieutenant Caine I presume?"

"I am."  He shook his hand.  "Miss Rosenburg is presently in a cell down at the station."

"That's fine.  She's got an attorney on the way to help her."  He smiled at Buffy.  "Call your mother from the office to warn her."  She nodded and went to do that, taking a piece of candy from the jar on the way. "Come, sit and tell me how our boy is doing."

"He's being too gay and I won't get orgasms," Anya complained. "Even if seven wasn't enough it was still some!"

"Do ignore her," he said quietly, leading him to a nearby reading couch.  "Is Xander well?"

"He's doing much better than when he appeared. His broken ribs and all the other injuries Miss Rosenburg gave him have healed.  His manager at the convenience store is very pleased with his conduct."  Giles smiled at that.  "As far as we can tell he's doing fine."

"Good, very good."  He took his tea from Anya and handed one to Horatio.  "Thank you, Anya.  Could you please do the inventory."

"Can I play with the magically blessed sex toys?"

"Later.  As long as you clean them promptly this time."  She nodded and went to do that.  He rolled his eyes.  "She's formerly demonic and returned again.  Her mind's a bit stuck," he offered.

Horatio sipped his tea, not wanting to comment on that.  "He did get your package," he offered instead.

"Oh, good.  They're all protections and things in case the boy gets into trouble again.  He's dreadful about that.  Never let Xander date.  It's always a problem.  I'd almost assume that's where his wondering about men started."

"He didn't share that with me," Horatio admitted.  "He did say the thoughts started while he was dating Anya."

Giles leaned closer.  "She's enough to make any sane, heterosexual man give up women," he shared then leaned back again.

"I heard that.  Just for that I'm calling Ethan Rayne back," Anya called from somewhere in the back of the store.

"Should you I'm cutting your paycheck by half," he called back.

"Poo.  I never get to have any fun here at home," she complained, stomping off.

"Don't worry, they'll have the high school back up again soon," Buffy called. "Then you'll get all the teenage girls with boyfriends who make them pout."  She followed her to make her calm down and eat some chocolate.

"Every now and then I start to doubt my own sanity," Giles sighed, taking a sip.  "Do drink up.  Joyce won't be free for lunch for a few more minutes, Lieutenant.  A convenience store?  Not construction?  He was doing so well there."

"He's under an assumed name down there.  That way others couldn't track him."

"Ah."  He nodded at that.  "That is understandable.  You never know when something that wants to harm the group will come after him.  It's happened before."  He sighed and took another sip.

Horatio decided that this town didn't deserve Xander then and there.  He had known before but now he would actively try to stop the boy from coming back here ever again.  He sipped his tea, not letting his face show anything of his inner thoughts.  A nice looking woman came in and he nodded politely at her.

"Ah, Joyce.  This is Lieutenant Caine from Miami.  He escorted Willow back."

"Thank you.  Personally I think a hairbrush would help the girl," she offered, smiling and shaking his hand.  "Rupert, if you don't mind, I'll take him home now.  You can have Buffy all you want this afternoon."

"Oh, good.  I do need to do some rearranging. It'll do her good and keep her from worrying too much."

"That's fine.  Call when it's time to go to the hearing."  She kissed him on the cheek. "Buffy, help Rupert today," she called, walking him and his bag out.  She smiled at him.  "Don't worry, you're still sane.  It's them.  That's why I helped the poor thing get away from here."

Horatio smiled at that.  "He's already a credit to Miami, Miss Summers."

"Joyce, please."

"Then call me Horatio, please."

"Of course."  She smiled at him. She pointed at her car.  "So you don't get pinched by the old ladies up the street from me."  That got a smile from him and he slid in.  She looked at him.  "Yes, they ignored the boy horribly.  I heard Rupert being confused about why Xander left.  He called me.  There is some reality in the problems they probably told you.  Do not let the poor thing date.  It's safer on your city.  He does seem to draw the very evil ones most of the time."

"Perhaps that's why he was starting to think about men."

"I'd hope so.  Can't be any worse than the Incan Mummy or the bug woman."  He gave her an odd look. "I'll let you have my journal when we get back. It'll help you understand Xander a bit better."  She drove them home and got them inside.  "Go ahead and raid the refrigerator."

"I ate in Las Vegas."

She gave him a look. "I am the scary mother of this group, Horatio.  Eat."  He smiled and put his things on a chair, going to make a sandwich.  She went to get her journals for him, handing them over.  "There you go, dear."  She patted him on the cheek.  "You'll keep me informed of how Xander is doing?"

"Of course."  He smiled.  Mother hens were everywhere.  It wasn't just Alexx.  "Did he let you mother him?  He ran from our department's mother hen."

She laughed and nodded. "Often.  He used to give me this look like I was doing alien experiments on him. Then again, Willow was basically his only mother."  She patted his cheek again.  "TV's in the living room.  The spare room's the blue one at the top of the stairs, Horatio.  Have a rest and read."  She smiled and picked up her keys, heading back to work.

He settled in the living room with the music on quietly once he had dropped his bag and cleaned up a bit.  He picked up the oldest looking journal to start at the beginning.  Eventually he got up to take photos so he could finish reading it.  He would never get through all of them by the time she got home.  He could blow them up on the computer at home - that way he, Speed, and Calleigh could all read it.  He did remember to call home. "I'm in Sunnydale."  He smiled at Calleigh's questions.  "A lot of warnings not to let him date."  He smiled at her assurance it wasn't a problem.  "Well, Buffy's mother is very nice.  A lot like Alexx.  She ordered me to eat.  I'm in her living room.  Yes, quite nice.  She and I had a talk.  Also, note that his ex Anya burned the cruiser, not Willow.  She was trying to get Willow back for taking her boyfriend away from her.  Yes, her, Calleigh."  He relaxed at Speed's questions.  "Tell him I'm fine and I took pictures of the journals that were given to me."  He listened to him. "Of course I'm being careful.  I'll be home soon.  Yes, late tomorrow.  You can tell Rick to sit and spin for all I care, Calleigh."  She repeated that and he huffed off, he could hear the door breaking when he slammed it. "Bill that to his department to get it fixed."  He smiled and hung up, going back to his reading.  That way Speed could have the pictures first.


Xander looked up when Horatio came into his store the night after he got back. "How is she?"

"Fine.  She was ordered to serve ten years doing whatever the town or the police department deemed was necessary or expedient.  No matter which skill they wanted her to use.  Though the judge did warn her not to hack his personal computer again."

"Ah, Perkins."  He nodded.  He put down his book.  "He's a fussy vampire judge."  He grinned at him.  "So, anything else come of it?"

"Joyce let me read some things she wrote about you and the group.  The rest of them...."

Xander laughed.  "So, you ran into Anya and Giles I take it?"

"Indeed.  I do hope you find better and closer friends here in Miami, Xander."

Xander shrugged. "They were all I had, Lieutenant.  It's about what I expected.  At least they cared enough to rescue me from dating."

"You are much more than your dating history, Xander."

"Yeah but if I can crack jokes about it I won't mourn all the people I lost."

"Point."  He looked at him.  "I heard you found a place to sublet?"

"I did.  A sorcerer living here wanted to do some traveling with his imps so he let's letting me rent his place from him.  It's a nice place, still has cable and a few imps who clean, but it's farther away.  I have to invest in a bus pass."  He leaned on the counter.  "It's not too shabby and I have free run of his library if I need it when something comes after me."

"If," Horatio corrected.

Xander snorted. "When, Lieutenant."

"If, Xander.  Think positively."

"I did, then I got really involved with Cordelia.  Kinda took all the good thoughts from me."  He looked over as someone pulled in, grabbing the microphone.  "Speed?"  He pointed.  "He's back."  He flipped on the switches for him.  Once he was finished pumping gas he came in to pay for it and smirked at Horatio.  "He probably felt like Alice."  He gave him his change with a nudge.  "He's seen my new place."

"It's a horrible mausoleum," he complained.  "With a lot of magic books on how to summon things to eat people or you.  But it's cheap."

"It is not," Xander complained.

"It is so."  He looked at his boss again.  "So, Wonderland?"

"Twilight Zone," he complained, shaking his head.  He got a drink and paid for it, leaning his hip against the counter so he could look at him.  "Everyone said not to let him date."

"We found that out last night.  Eric took him out to the club."  Horatio moaned at the look on his face.  The smirk said it all.

"Not my fault the assassin wanted me," Xander complained, going to get the mop and bucket.  He came back out at the door jingle, watching the two guys with guns stare at the two people wearing badges.  "Bad night?" he suggested.  They turned and ran.  He shook his head and went back to filling the bucket up.  Then he brought them out to start on the floors.  "I used to stake the vampires when they came in to try to rob me.  Miami apparently doesn't have so many of those."

"Thankfully," Horatio agreed.

"A few years back we did have some sort of shiny spot that opened and two elves came out," Speed offered.  Xander shuddered.  "You too?"

"Two princesses that Buffy babbled about clothes with.  I about died of estrogen poisoning."  He went back to mopping, nodding at his boss when he came in.  "Speed, go move your bike before someone crashes into it."  That got a nod and he went to drive it in front of the store, next to the crime lab hummer.  Xander came over to flip the switches back off then went back to mopping.  "Hey, boss, if they crash into the pumps, it's not my fault," he called, watching as the out of control car crashed into the pumps and broke three.  His boss came out and stared in horror.  "Hey, I had them turned off.  I turn them off every night unless someone's using them."  That got him a pat on the back and Horatio went to check for injuries.  Xander made the call since Speed was just staring in horror.  Xander hung up and nudged his boss, who went running out there.  He nudged Speed, who reached for his phone. "Already called 911."  He headed out there shaking his head.  "Hey, at least I told you to move it," he muttered, going back to his mopping.  His boss came in and gave him an incredulous look.  "It's gotta look pretty when the news crew comes by to film it, boss."

"Point," he decided weakly, going back to his office.  "Thank you for having those turned off, Harris."


"Tough!  Deal with it!"  He came out.  "Not like I didn't know."  He went back into his office to call the district manager and tell him.  He came out ten minutes later.  "After the camera crews are gone, we're closed for the night."  Xander nodded at that.  "Sorry about the paycheck, kid."

"Not an issue.  Put it in the Philips name," he sighed.  "I'm still trying to hide."

"Plenty of us know you're here.  Especially with how the two people came in here and collapsed two nights ago and one offered you his house."  He gave him a smug look.  "How many convenience stores in Sunnydale?"

"Including the ten surrounding miles?  Fourteen."  That got an amazed look.  "Hey, the vampires need ice for the blood now and then."  He shrugged and finished moping the front, putting out the sign at the first news crew.  "That was fast.  Must be a slow news night.  Want me to be an idiot on camera, boss?"

"Tell them to talk to me, Mr. Philips."  That got a grin and a nod.  "How'd you know?"

"Funny feeling.  Now and then I get one."  He grinned at the first officer who came in.  "Hi."

"What happened?"

"Fortunately I keep the taps closed when not in use at night.  He came up the street from that way," he said with a subtle point so the cameras outside wouldn't see it.  "He smacked into them.  Fortunately Detective Speedle had moved his bike just before then.  He had been pumping gas."  The officer shuddered at that.  "We were in here chatting when they came up the street and drifted in.  It wasn't a turn, it was definitely a drift.  Oh, we'll stay open while you guys are here then we're closing for a bit."  That got a smile.  "We like you guys."

"Thanks, sir. I'll ask them and make subtle hints about you guys closing after we're gone."  He walked back outside, going to tell his boss to question the other boss. Plus that they'd be losing the store clerk who saw when the officers were ready to go.

Speed looked at him.  "I'll make sure he gets home."  He looked at his bike.  "Poor thing.  Nearly got crashed into by some dead driving guy."  Xander came out with a nudge, handing him a soda and a package of tylenol.  He handed him back a buck and got a grin, going to pay for it.  Then he took the drugs and went back to checking his precious racing bike over.

Horatio shook his head. "That's why I drive a hummer, Speed."

"You've got a scratch, Lieutenant," one of the responding officers told him.  That got a groan.  "I'm sure the autopool can fix it easily enough."

"True."  He got back to work marking off the scene and taking pictures.  Before he started to wonder about Xander some more.


Xander flagged down the bike riding past him, watching as it came back.

"I'm free for a vacation," Speed said happily.

"Free is always better than expensive for attractions but don't get too far away."  Speed came down and glared at him.  "Also, if you need to, you can come rest at my place."


"You're going to be shot," he said, patting him on the cheek.  "Willow called.  She foresaw it."


"So wear your vest, clean your gun, and make sure your health insurance is okay."  That got a nod.  "But it's in a few days so enjoy."

"Thanks, kid.  I'll try to be safe."

"You don't ride a bike like that to be safe," he teased with a wicked grin.  That got a smirk back.  "So, once you're back on your feet, would you go out with me?  Maybe to that salad place?  Even as a thank you?"

"Sure."  He grinned and winked then put down his visor and sped off again.

Xander grinned and went back inside.  Blackmailing into dates wasn't nice but it got him one with a really nice guy.  Maybe it'd be a sign that the rest of his dating life would pick up.  He went back to mixing the healing potion Willow told him to make.  It would help.  A lot.  Now all he had to do was figure out how to get it into the Lieutenant's pocket. Then again, he'd come in tonight to get his usual drink on the way home....


Xander leaned on the counter when Horatio pulled up, giving him a look.  He got a raised eyebrow.  "Milk's a bit warm, you might need to check, Horatio.  Or I'll check for you in a minute."  That got a nod and he went back there.  He checked the others out, noticing he had waited.  Xander pulled his backpack up, holding up the vial once they were alone and Horatio and his diet soda were on the counter.  "This is for Speed.  Willow saw it happening.  If he's injured, you pour this into the wound and it'll keep it from bleeding as much.  It'll give him more time.  It'll also help strengthen the muscles around the hole."

"He's going to get hurt on the job?"

"No, she saw him getting shot on the job."  He went pale at that. He tucked it into his hand.  "Remember it.  Every day. It's good for four months and it's specifically for him.  It's keyed to blood type so it might not work on others at all.  She called to have me make it."

"Thank you," he said quietly.  "Any idea when?"

"Shortly after his vacation ends.  I already told him to wear his vest, clean his gun, those things."

Horatio stared at him. Then he nodded. "I'll make sure it's clean, Xander, and that he's wearing his vest.  Thank you."  He put a hand on his cheek.  "I'll call you if it does happen."

"I told him he could come rest at my place if he needed a minder."

"Thank you."  He paid for his drink and went out, heading over to Speed's.  He wasn't home but he knew where his gun was kept.  He'd clean the damn thing himself if he had to. The vial was in his pocket and would be transferred over every single day until the four months was done.  He found the gun dirty and groaned.  He'd have to spank Speed for this one.  He was going to enjoy it too.  Right after he found out why he wasn't cleaning his gun.


Xander listened to the news, watching, nibbling on his bottom lip when they reported an officer had been shot.  They were wheeling him out into an ambulance and running IV lines.  That was a good sign.  So hopefully the potion had worked.  He said a silent prayer that it had helped.  Then he went to clean up the spare room. He wasn't sleeping in the main suite, it creeped him out, but there were a few nice guest suites.  He heard the phone ring and ran down the stairs to answer it.  "It's me."  He listened.  Then he smiled.  "Thank you, Eric.  No, Willow told me to make it and make Horatio carry it.  Thank you.  No, I've got a spare room if he needs one and you guys can come fuss.  Thanks.  Let me know if he wants me to come visit."  He hung up and went back to puttering around the house.   It'd keep him sane until he heard more later.  It also killed time until he got to go to work that night.  His boss gave him an odd look.  "What?" he complained.

"I saw the potion."


"I heard.  Who made it?"  Xander hesitantly raised a hand and he shook his head.  "Good.  People like that one and our lab."  He went back into the office.  "Visiting hours end in an hour, kid."

"I'll go see him tomorrow.  Let his friends be in there tonight."  He logged into the register and put his things down, pulling out his book so he had something to read.  Two hummers pulled in and he swallowed, smiling when Calleigh and Eric came in.  "He's all right?" he asked quietly.

Calleigh walked around and hugged him. "Thank you," she whispered, giving him a hard squeeze.  "Give that to Willow for seeing it too."  She pulled back and wiped her eyes off.  "Sorry but they nearly lost him."  He gave her another hug, letting her cry on his shoulder.  He even pulled a stool over so he could sit and hold her.

Eric went to get a drink from the cooler in the back, bringing one for her too when she stopped.  "So, Willow foresaw it?" he asked quietly.  Xander nodded. "What was that stuff?"

"Something to slow the bleeding and make the muscles around it tense up."

"It helped but the doctors yelled."  He paid for the drinks and handed Calleigh hers.  "Thanks, kid."

"Welcome.  If I hear another one, I'll call."  That got a smile and a nod.  "I use it on paper cuts."  That got a brighter smile.  "Remind him if he needs it I've got a spare room with a fluffy bed.  That way you guys don't have to worry so much about him."

"You want to cuddle him," Calleigh teased.  "This way you'll get to spoil him."  Xander blushed but shrugged.  "I'll tell him, dear.  Go see him tomorrow. He's expecting you."

"Yes, Detective."

"Calleigh, sweetie."


"Peter then."  She patted him on the head and looked at Eric.  "Did you already pay?"  He nodded.  "Thanks."  She walked out, calmer now.

"She wouldn't cry on me," Eric admitted.  "You okay?"

"I've been shot before.  I know how much it hurts."  Eric gaped in horror.  "Sorry but I have.  It aches like hell for many weeks.  Like a localized version of the broken ribs pain."  He just walked out nodding.  Xander got back to work cleaning up behind the counter.  She had knocked a few things over.  His boss gave him a look.  "What?" he defended.  "I'm thoroughly trained to hold a crying woman."

"Good.  It's a good skill for when you marry."

"I only date evil women.  The next one would take over Miami.  I'll stick with guys, boss."

"Fine, you can fuss over some of them.  You'd make a good wife."  He smirked.  "You can be an hour late tomorrow if you need to."

"Thanks, boss."  His boss nodded and went into the back.  Xander started to work on the stocking part of his job.  He came out of the beer cooler when he heard the door jingle, looking at Horatio.  "Beer?"

"Please."  He came back and got one, heading back to the counter.  He looked him over.  "Calleigh?"  He nodded, not brushing at the wet spot.  "He said to come see him tomorrow afternoon."

"I will," he promised, looking at him.  "Are you okay?"

"It clipped just above his vest," he admitted, leaning on the counter.  "Thank you."

"It's what I do, Lieutenant."  He grinned at him. "Plus maybe I'll have a house guest for a few days and it'll be less quiet."

"Get a cat, Xander."

"I can't.  The cleaning demon would eat it.  He warned me it ate his wolfhound."  Horatio shuddered.  "So it's a choice between silence and a maid or no maid and having to clean but a pet."

"Keep the maid."  He stood up again.  "You'll go?"

"Tomorrow.  When are visiting hours?"


"Then I'll be there."  That got a smile and Horatio walked out without paying.  Xander gave him a look when he backed out, patting the register.  Horatio came back and paid for his beer, shaking his head. "It happens. You were distracted by my pretty hair," he teased, handing him his change.

Horatio played with a piece.  "It's not bad."  He walked out a bit happier now.

Xander sat down on the stool, considering that.  It had been...nice.  Really nice.  Huh.  Who knew.  He went back to his stocking, making his boss laugh.  "Not like I won't be bored later."

"Do that later, Xander."  He came out to look at him.  "No robberies, I'm impressed."

"We just had three cops in here.  They're waiting to see if there's any more.  Speaking of, the district manager still have a headache?"

"Yup, but he's thankful.  Especially since they didn't damage the sixty grand racing bike the one rides or the million and a half hummer the other one drives.  Then he would've died."  He went back into the office, then came back out when two familiar kids came in.  "Aren't they the ones from that first robbery?"

"Yup.  And hey, I even have my permit on me," he said dryly.  The two kids came in and stared at him.  "We *do* have ID tonight, right boys?"  They swore and stomped off.  "Good.  Works for me."  He settled in to read.  He could stock and mop later.


Xander walked up to the nurse's station. "I was told Detective Speedle was up here?" he asked quietly.  "I've got a card for him."  She smiled and pointed. "Thank you."  He walked in and saw him flipping stations.  "Sixty.  Sci-Fi.  Or sixty-three, Food network."  He put the card down on the table in front of him and smiled.  "I knew you'd be okay."

Speed pulled him down to kiss him.  "Your house is still creepy."

"It's not my house," he said, looking dazed.  He blinked then stared at him.  "Damn you're good at that."  Speed just smirked.  "I've been shot before, Speed.  It hurts like broken ribs do.  That way you don't have to worry about books your first day out."

"Sure, Xander."  He smiled at him.  "No cats?"

"The demonic maid would eat them. It ate the owner's wolfhound."

"Oh.  Okay."  He nodded at that and shifted, but Xander came over to adjust his sling for him and it was much more comfortable.  "Thanks."

"Been there, done that.  I had one on my side."  He grinned and smoothed down his hair.  "If you need me all you have to do is call, Speed.  This is home now."  He patted him on the head.  "So get better.  Eric's going to mope.  So will the lieutenant."

"Horatio doesn't mope where others can see," he assured him.

"I'll see.  He still comes in for a diet soda every night."  He grinned.  "The insurance guy was very thankful I told you to move your bike.  The boss said he would've stroked if your bike or the hummer had been hurt when the guy crashed into the pumps."

"Him?  I would've died from the fit I'd be throwing."  He grinned and patted his cheek.  "I hear Alexx chatting.  You might wanna run.  She'll cry on you."

Xander nodded. "Get better.  I put a small piece of chocolate in the card for you."  He winked and walked out, going around Alexx since she was in the middle of the hallway.

"I saw that, Peter."  He stopped and winced, giving her a sheepish look.  She gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  "Thank you, baby.  You saved my boy's life with the stuff you use on papercuts."  She let him go and he ran off, looking embarrassed.  "Someone has *got* to take that boy in hand," she complained, walking into Speed's room, finding him sucking on something.  "He bring you a treat?"

"Small piece of candy.  There's nothing on tv."  The nurse came over to check his sling.  "Don't, it feels better."  She nodded and left it at that.  "Thank you.  He's had a few, he adjusted it for me."

"We wanted it in tightly to your chest, Detective."

"I don't care.  It hurts."   She nodded, making note of that.  He looked at Alexx.  "I'm fine."

"Uh-huh.  I can see that."  She kissed him on the forehead and looked him over. "It is a bit loose but not too bad."  She stroked over his forehead. "So, do we like the young one?" she teased.

"He's nice and he saved me, Alexx.  I don't know.  I've only had the one surreal meal with him and then the stops in for gas where he works.  Horatio sees him about every night he's working.  I only see him every few days."  The doctor came in. "It feels better.  It's not making my shoulder joint ache."

The doctor tested it and adjusted one strap, getting a small sigh.  "Better?"  That got a nod.  "Was the other one a doctor?"

"He's a had a few."

"Ah, that sort of experience.  We still need it immobilized so you don't tear the stitches, Detective."

"And I haven't.  I've been a good boy, eating my slop, being bored by the lack of decent tv, and well, one piece of candy he brought me."

"This is a saint for him," Alexx assured the doctor, getting a laugh.  "Need a book?"

"I will kiss you if you bring me a book."  She smiled and went to find him one at the gift shop.  He looked at the doctor.  "How long?"

"At least another week, Mr. Speedle."  Tim pouted at him.  "Perhaps sooner but you'd have to have someone who would take care of you."

"The guy with the papercut solution said he could come stay with him," Eric offered as he walked in.  "He lives in a really nice place too.  Has a guest room so Speed won't have to cuddle."  He handed over the forms.  "From Horatio," he said with a smirk.  "Temporary disability, incident reports, and insurance forms.  Oh, and expect Stetler later tonight since you can have visitors."

"Why?" he asked the nurse.

"Because Miss Woods was going to shoot us if we didn't allow you visitors," she soothed, patting him on the good shoulder.  "We'll help you fill those out, Detective."  She looked at Eric. "Is that all of them?"

"So far.  Horatio's not looking too happy today though."  He and Speed shared a look.  "Something about paddling you black and blue?"  Speed swallowed at that.  "I'm not even going to try to save you.  I'm not that brave and neither is the kid, but Calleigh did go cry on him last night."

"Thanks.  Are you okay?"

"I wasn't shot."

"Point.  Are you okay anyway?"

Eric smirked at him.  "I wore my frustration and worry out, Speed."

"Twins or triplets this time?"

"Twins," he admitted then he laughed and walked off.  "Stetler should be up in a hour or so," he called back.

"Can't I pop a stitch and need emergency surgery?" he begged.  "Please?"

"No," the doctor said.  "Sorry, I did a very good job on you, young man."

"You did.  Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Sleep, he won't wake you up."

"He's internal affairs.  I'll be lucky if he doesn't bring a cattle prod."

"We'll frisk him for harmful things," the nurse promised, finding a pen and pulling a chair over to start helping him with the reports.  "Doctor?"

"We'll see in a few days about when you can go home."

"Thanks, doc."

"You're welcome."  He ran into Alexx.  "He's working on the paperwork someone brought him."

"Wonderful," she said dryly, going in there.  "Who brought that stuff?"

"Eric.  With the warning Stetler's on his way."

Alexx looked at him.  "Let that man upset you while you're in that bed!  I'll see his head in autopsy!"

Speed grinned at that. "Can I watch, maybe see where the soul is missing?"

"Sure, baby.  For now, you do that and rest, I'll sit here and help."  She got some of the paperwork for the insurance claim to start working on for him.


Xander looked up as Horatio came in, looking upset.  "Speed not okay?  Did I upset him too much?"

"No, Internal Affairs did," he admitted.  "Speed ended up smacking him and it's not looking good for him."

"Can I have something eat him for you, Lieutenant?"   Horatio laughed at that and looked much happier. "He's in extreme pain and on medications that make his world fuzzy.  He didn't need the stress."

"True, he is," he agreed, smiling at him.  "How was your day?"

"Willow babbled at me for hours on end."

"Ah.  She back in trouble?"

"No, but she and Tara are making up."

"I saw Tara for a few minutes."

"She told me Tara slapped her.  I'm glad she didn't stake her or something but Tara's nice and sweet.  She might be coming down for the next spring break."  Horatio smiled at that.  "That all tonight, Lieutenant?"

"Use my name, Xander, and it is."  He got an odd look. "I use yours."

"True.  What about gas?"

"Gas would be helpful," he agreed, paying for what he had and then going out to put it on the PD card.  Xander smiled, handing over his receipt when he came back.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem."  Two officers came in and he nodded. "Just made the coffee, guys.  The decaf is older."

"That's what sugar's for," one quipped, refilling his mug.  He looked at Xander's boss, who just shrugged and rolled his eyes, going back to his desk.  "Sorry if I got you in trouble."

"With how often you guys are in here to pick up stupid people, I can afford a package of coffee a night," the boss called from the office.

Xander grinned at that.

"Aren't you still on probation, Harris?"

"Yes, boss, but if you fire me I have to go work construction and draw evil people there by my manly and sweaty chest.  Then they might try to take over the city."  The officers all laughed, including Horatio.  "They might.  I've dated some scary women."

"So I got told," Horatio assured him. Xander gave him a horrified look. "Joyce told me."  He put his head down, shaking it.  "Have a good night, Xander."

"Meany," he called after him, pulling up his head so he could ring up their snackfood for dinner.  That got a smile and a wink from one, making him grin.  "See you guys later.  Ooh, look across the parking lot."  They looked and waved and the two guys with the visible shotgun stomped off.  They got into the car, making sure their coffees were secure before going after them since they weren't running.  You could even see the blue lights when they stopped them up the block.  Xander checked the pumps and flicked the switches. "Hey, boss?  It won't shut off."


"The pumps won't shut off, boss."

"Crap."  He came out to look at the pump control box, then at him.  "You're not seeing anything, right?"

"No but I always keep them off unless they're in use."  He pointed at one.  "That one seems to have a leak.  It's moving."

"Crap."  He went to check the pump then came back.  "Pull the main breaker."  He went to do that.  The boss went back to check it once that was done, then he called his district person.  Because that was one of the replacement pumps.  He came back in.  "Put a bag over that one."  Xander nodded, taking one to go do that.  He waited and then flipped the main breaker back on, watching as the pump controls reset themselves.  He looked at the numbers and moaned, going to check the gas receipts for the day.  Too many cars had filled up during the day if that was correct.

Xander looked up when he finished ducttaping the bag over the handle and spout, then hung it back up.  It was a pretty night.  He looked around the side of the store, groaning when he saw the two guys with guns.  He called inside.  "Boss, side of the store."  He hung up and checked the others so he wasn't caught inside.  He found another one leaking and put the extra bag he had brought out to put on there.  The other replacement pump, wonderful.  A cop car came back and he pointed at the guys with a nod, getting a nod back.  The cops got out and went to look at the fence between them and the apartment building next door.  The guys took off so they gave chase and Xander went back inside.  "The officers are on a foot chase, boss."

"That's why I'm not a cop," he admitted as he came out, finding the flags being put on the pump controls. "Both premium?"

"Yup.  The other's leaking worse."  That got a moan and he went to notify his guy of that.  Xander looked up to watch the lot for more activity, blinking when one of the guys came back. "Oh, please don't," he begged. "Boss, one's back!  He's getting into the cruiser!"  He groped for the phone, dialing it by feel.  "Hi, this is the Sit-Go on eighth.  One of the guys the officers just went on foot chase after is trying to break into his cruiser.  Do you want me to go stop them?  Thank you."  He walked out there and pulled his gun. "I shoot things for a hobby and I'm a fucking marksman, get away from the cruiser!"

The crook looked up at him.  "What the fuck?" he complained. "You're not supposed to interfere, just scream and beg for your life!"

"I'm from near LA.  Bet me!  Get away from the cruiser!  Now!"  One of the officers came back and the guy dove in.  He looked at the officer. "I tried."

"Thanks, Peter.  Get out of my car!" he ordered, pointing his gun at the non-bulletproof window on the side.  "Now!  Right the hell now!"  The car started and backed up, then they had to duck as the pumps went up in a pretty fireball.  "Hell," he muttered. "I'm going to be filling out forms for weeks."

Xander patted him on the arm.  "Go get a soda.  Is your partner okay?"

He pulled his radio off his shoulder.  "Dispatch, this is Kearns and 151.  One suspect did get into our cruiser and got it started.  We need fire department support since he drove into some pumps."

"They wouldn't shut off or else they'd be able to pull him from the wreckage," Xander offered.  The officer looked at him. "I keep them off so no one can steal gas while I'm stocking.  They wouldn't shut off tonight."  That got a nod and a pat.  His partner came back with the other guy in handcuffs.  "Sit him down, guys."  He put his gun back and went back inside, making his boss sit down.  He hung up the phone and stroked and patted him.  "It's okay.  The suspect did it, boss.  It's not your fault it was leaking and wouldn't turn off. You reported that, remember?"  He went into the office when his boss started to cry, hitting redial.  "Hi, this is Peter Philips on eighth.  No, he's presently crying into the floor.  We had officers who parked to go after the guys with guns on the lot and one got into his cruiser and rammed it back into the pumps.  Yeah, it might be a good idea.  No, he's sobbing into the floor.  Well, the leaking ones were the replacement pumps on the premium hoses," he offered.  He hung up on the new crying, heading back out there.  He knew both officers and got them drinks, getting smiles.  "Least I could do.  Remember, we sell tylenol too for the wrist cramps."  He waved at the shift commander, going to get him a coffee how he liked and handing it over. "I tried to stop him, sir.  Since the officers were on chase I did try to stop him from getting in."

The one sucked a drink in.  "He did, sir.  I came back while he was trying.  I got here and he got inside and backed it into the pumps."  He looked at Xander.  "Why won't they turn off?"

"The two replacement pumps are leaking and it won't turn off with the pump control by the register while one's moving."  That got a nod.  "The main breaker was thrown for a while but only so I could come out and bag two of them."  Calleigh pulled in and he smiled at her.  "He backed it into the leaking pumps."


"I didn't want to shoot the car, sorry, Duquesne."

She looked at the fire then at him. "So the suspect stole the cruiser?"

"Even with me and Philips here trying to get him to stop.  My partner and I had been on foot chase when someone called in that they were trying to break into the cruiser.  Philips here came out to try to stop him for us."

"Two of the pumps were leaking. The replacement ones.  Or else they'd be off."  The fire department pulled up and he sighed when he saw the district manager.  "If anyone asks, the boss said we could give you guys the bottom of the pot and free fountain drinks," he reminded them.  That got nods and they all took a drink while they waited for the fire to go out.  "He was behind the counter, sir.  I came out to give a statement."

"Sure.  Thanks, Philips."  He looked then at him.  "Which ones were leaking?"  Xander led him inside to show him the pump control and the flags.  "Both replacement pumps.  I'm going to sue someone."

One of the officers leaned in.  "Is the main breaker to the pumps off?"  Xander went to check, then came out nodding. "Thanks. They think it's leaking."

"Two nozzles of premium were. That's why the pump control box wouldn't shut off and we had to do it at the breaker.  Also, lots and lots less gas when we flipped the switch," he told the boss.  "Bob went to check the gas tallies."

"Good to know.  You having fun working the night shift?"

"Actually, I like working nights.  It's calmer, more peaceful.  I get more things done and ready for the morning rush.  I have to deal with a few drunk assholes but that happens now and then."  He saw one cruiser pull in sloppily and sighed, shaking his head. "Speaking of."  He went out to talk to the shift supervisor, going back to his statement and nodding at the guy, getting a groan.  "Six nights in a row, sir.  Beer."  That got a nod of do it so we can get him and he went to ring him up for the seventh night, his beer, his soda, and his hostess cherry pie.  "Five eleven like usual."

"That's more," he slurred.

"No, it's the same as last night.  Really."  The guy grunted but paid him a ten and he handed him back proper change, getting it thrown back at him. "Thanks but I don't really accept tips.  I'm not a stripper."  He put it carefully into his shirt pocket then handed him the bag with his stuff. "There you go. Are you going to work the scene too?"

"What scene?" he demanded.  Xander pointed at the fire crews and he went purple. "Ooooh, that looks like someone's in trouble since that's a cruiser.  Glad it's not me.  Did I pay you?"

"You did," Xander said patiently.  He got a grin and the guy wobbled out. "You forgot your food," he called.  He came back for the bag, going back to his car.  Then Xander put his head down, shaking it.  "That's the only bad part of this job.  The drunks," he muttered.

The district guy patted him on the back.  "We all have to deal with them now and then, Philips.  It'll be fine.  One of the females out there is going after him since he's walking toward the fire.  Must be a detective."

Xander got up and rushed out there, stopping Calleigh.  "Peters!"  He looked up.  "Fire! Dude, move!  Before it explodes!"  He wobbled back.  "You do not run into a fire, that's a good way to end up in the hospital up the hall from Speed," he growled in her ear, walking the officer back to his boss and handing him over.  "Here, he said he wants to work the scene," he offered then he went back inside. "Duck!"  Something went up and they all ducked.  "Hey, still got it," he said happily.   One of the officers came in for a refill.  "It breached the sewer."

"So we can smell.  Wanna join the department?"

Xander gave him a grin.  "And give up the exciting job I have here?"

"Point.  Plus you don't have to wear a uniform."

"You guys make more to make up for the lack of fun."

"Thanks, Philips."  He walked back out.

The manager looked at him. "The boss said we could give away fountain drinks and the bottom of the coffee pot."

"Sure, it fosters good will.  Especially with as many officers as we get in here for dinner."  He went to check on his manager, seeing him asleep on the couch with a hand over his eyes.  He closed the door and came out.  "Okay, from the top?"  Xander wrote it out and handed him a copy, then went to hand it to the other guys, making him smile.  "Smartass," he said when he came back.

"That way you can give it to the insurance company and the lawyers when you sue them."

"Sure.  Will you testify?"

Xander considered it.  "With one small problem."

"He told me Philips wasn't your real name and you were running from a gay bashing friend."

"Oh, good.  That would be the problem."

"I'll let them know.  Let me call the other guys."  Xander handed over the phone.  "Thanks.  I'll call in the morning shift and tell them they can be a bit late.  We'll probably have to close."  Calleigh came in.  "Detective."

She smiled then glared at Xander.  "Don't grab me!"

"I could smell the methane in here, Calleigh.  It was going to explode and then you'd be on the burn ward."  She was still glaring. "Fine, next time I'll shoot you in the foot so you can join Speed in his room!"

"Fine."  She went to get something to chew on, letting him ring her up.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome.  But you get to tell your boss.  Lieutenant Caine so loves hearing these."

"Don't worry, you'll get to see IAB soon."  She beamed back.  He pointed at the statement in the Shift Supervisor's hand. "That won't cut it for him."

Xander gave her a look.  "I'll have him eaten, okay?"  She walked out laughing. "Why does everyone think I'm kidding when I say that?" he whined.

"Because you're a good guy and good guys don't do that, Philips," the district guy said patiently.  "The crime lab comes in?"

"Speed lives up the street so he gets gas.  The Lieutenant stops in most nights to get something to drink on the way home, usually a soda.  We chat a lot."

"Oh.  Interesting. Sorry to wake you, Paul.  No, actually, you'll want to sit.  No, a suspect that an officer was chasing on foot doubled back, stole his cruiser, and rammed it into the gas pumps here on eighth that wouldn't shut off thanks to the leaking replacements we just put in."  He heard the thump.  "Paul?  Are you okay?"

"You told him to sit," Xander offered, going to get him a cup of coffee.  "Cream?"

"Just two sugars, thanks, Philips."  He handed it over and went to stock the other things, getting a smirk.  "Yeah, it's his shift.  Not his fault, boss.  He even tried to stop the suspect from taking the cruiser.  He did it anyway.  No, he's stocking.  No, store's clean."

"I'll mop when everyone leaves," Xander called. "It's not my fault.  They have more problems when Chad works my shift."

"That is true.  Chad, the afternoon second guy, brings in more problems when he works Xander's shift.  Well, if the pump hadn't been leaking, it'd just be a replacement instead of a fireball.  Yeah, turn on the news. There's channel four, three, and eight that I see."   He smirked when he shrieked.  "That's okay, one very drunk officer tried to walk into the fire to help so he saved one detective's life by stopping her from following and that one's life by getting him to come back."  He waved at the shift guy then the news crews and the suspect in cuffs against the window.  That got a nod and they put him into the spare car and let one of the sober ones drive him back to the station.  He nodded at the unamused man who came in scowling.  "No, Bob's taking a power nap to recover from his headache, Paul.  No, Philips is stocking things.  Sure.  I'll be here.  All night probably."  He hung up.  "Yes, sir, can I help you with something?"

"Who saw what happened?"

"The shift supervisor has my statement in his hand," Xander called from stocking milk inside the cooler.  The door got opened by the unamused looking man and he looked at him.  "He does.  You can have that.  Are you the dick that they said was going to go bother that poor, injured detective Speedle?  He's always in here for gas and sodas.  He's so nice and sweet to us guys.   Much nicer than the drunk officer who nearly walked into the fire."  He stomped out and Xander pushed open the door again. "Can I escape?"

"Go," he agreed, watching the kid come out, log out of the register, then grab his gear and head out the back door.  He heard a gunshot and Xander, an uninjured one, brought the guy in.

"He shot himself in the foot in fear on seeing me."  He walked back out the back door and disappeared into the night.  He was good at that after all.

The district supervisor looked at the officer. "Did he scare you?" he taunted.  He walked him outside. "He saw Philips and shot himself in the foot.  Anyone want him?"  Calleigh raised a hand so he handed him over.  "There you go.  I released him."  He went back inside to count the till and make notes for the owner when he came stomping in past the fire department and officers.  "Hey, Paul."

"Where is Philips?"

"I let him go when the cops came in to scowl at him. He was in a taunting mood and it saves us a little bit of money."

"Point.  Every penny helps.  Bob!" he bellowed.  He came out of the office.  "Run this shit down for me!"

"Sure."  He came out to look at the statement that had been written out. "That."  He went back to his office to lay down again.  He still had a migraine and an upset stomach.  He came out and used his employee discount to get some pepto and some advil capsules plus some milk, then went back to his office again.

The two higher ups sighed and went over the statement together.  It was concise and to the point even if the kid didn't use full sentences.


Xander jogged down the stairs to answer the door, smiling brightly. "Speed!"  He gave him a gentle hug and led him inside.  "Do they need you to be watched?"

"Yup, but I can go home later, when Horatio's checked to make sure I'm fine."

Xander snorted and led him up to his room, tucking him into the bed.  "Stay."  He grinned.  "Want some toast?  I'm making toast for breakfast. Or cereal.  I have to get groceries."

"No, I'm good."  He pulled the kid down to sit with him. "You grabbed Calleigh?"

"I had to, the sewer line was about to go too.  She would've went boom with it and been up the hall from you."

"Good point," he admitted, smiling at him. "Rick Stetler is going to have someone hunt you down to get that statement from you."

"He has one.  I wrote one out and gave it to the shift guy."  Speed snickered and shook his head. "I'll behave if he finds me."  He grinned and pushed him back down.  "Rest.  Come down when you're ready to eat."   He bounced up and headed down the stairs, finding someone else knocking. He looked out the peephole then opened the door for Eric.  "Up the stairs, first room on the right."  He headed back to the kitchen, going to finish his toast off and nibble on it.  Eric walked into the kitchen, giving him an odd look.  "What?  It's not like I'm eating taco hell cold for breakfast today."

"No, toast is a good breakfast," he agreed.  He sat across from him.  "Calleigh ranted for two hours that you had grabbed her."

"The sewer line was going to explode."

"She got that part.  You still grabbed her.  She even said you cuddled her."

"I won't do it again."

"Might be a good idea.  She'll thump you.  She thumped me when I stuck up for you."  Xander pouted at that.  "Just apologize."  He pushed the phone over.  "Hit the three until it dials."

Xander did that and listened to the chipper voice. "I'm very sorry I grabbed you, detective. I didn't mean to upset you or make you seem less competent, and I definitely did not mean to make it seem like I was cuddling you.  You're not near dangerous enough to be mine and everyone there knows you're not evil so therefore can't be mine.  No, Peters did run off one woman who was hitting on me with her whip in hand."   He grinned. "I'm sorry.  Forgive me?"  He grinned. "Thank you.  No, he came to chew me out for you.  He's here.  First bedroom upstairs on the right.  Sure."  He hung up.  "She'll be over at lunch.  I'll be buying groceries."

Eric smirked.  "Good idea."  He stood up.  "I'll go bother Speed.  Make out your grocery list and I'll even drop you off."  Xander got to work on that and he went up the stairs, with a stop to let Alexx in.  "He's upstairs."

"The one who saved the drunken idiot?"

"No, he's hiding from the scary women. Speed's upstairs."  She went to see Speed and he checked before closing the door and heading up too.

Xander waited until they were both up there then snuck up the back way to get his wallet then headed out to the store.  He ran into Horatio out front and suddenly felt like he got caught playing hooky from school.  "He's upstairs, first room on the right."

"Thank you, Xander.  Where are you going?"

"Groceries. I don't have any."

"That's fine.  Come right back so you can give that statement for Detective Stetler."

"So I should be jumping a bus to New Jersey maybe?"

"If you do he'd make me hunt you down again."  Xander sighed but nodded, going to catch the bus on the corner and head off to pick up his paycheck and spend some of it at the store.  Horatio walked inside, finding Eric looking amused. "He went grocery shopping."

"I made him apologize to Calleigh again so she'd quit complaining."

"Thank you."  He went up to check on Speed, handing him the book he had gotten from his house for him. "Try to keep the boy out of trouble?"

"Not his fault."

"I know, try anyway."  He smiled and patted him on the head. "How are you, Speed?"

"Better.  Not good enough to spank yet but better."  Alexx glared at him.  "He's going to."

"I am.  Your gun was cleaned by me, Speed.  Would you like to offer an explanation?"

"I don't know.  I cleaned it after I got it back."

"Did you forget again?" Eric demanded. Speed moaned and nodded. "Then you'd better be sending Rosenburg a card, Speed."

"I did."  He gave Horatio a pitiful look. "I'm sorry, H.  I forgot for a few weeks."

"I'm going to put you on a schedule, Speed.  Every single week on Sunday night since you have it off.  That way it's ready for Monday morning."  He paused to answer his phone.  "Caine."  He smirked at the voice.  "No, Xander.  You may not run away from the scary officer with the gun.  Oh, in your face....  The drunk one from last night?  No, put him down gently if you have to put him down but do not get hurt."  He hung up.  "I'll bring him right back."  He headed out to get into his hummer, heading to where Xander worked.  He had heard the guys he got coffee from in the morning talking about the size of the gun in the background.  He walked in and the guy was still pointing the gun at Xander and ranting how he had been put on suspension pending an investigation.  He put his hands on his hips.  "Do you wonder why?" he demanded, glaring at him. The officer glared back.  He moved his jacket out of the way to show his badge and gun.  "Put it down, Peters."

"No!  He's a fairy bitch!"

Xander disarmed him and put him down, kneeling on his throat. "I'm probably bi but I've never had a man, so I can't honestly say with complete certainty that I am bi or not.  I know that men are interesting and nice but I can't say with proof that I'm going to go slutty for the men the way I pleasured my women for hours on end until they gave up and passed out.  Even Anya could only stand four hours of oral sex and that was a shame because I would've done that all night.  Then again, she did complain about only having seven orgasms a night instead of the ten or so she wanted."  He stared down at the purple, gasping face.  "So yes, I'm probably bi, and no, I'm not a fairy. I don't have a wand, I'm not wearing the really pretty and eccentric ball gowns, or the heels, or even the hair they have in Disney films, or well, Tinkerbell's outfit was a fluke but cute for strippers.  Which isn't me.  Tried that, didn't do too well," he told him.

The guy was batting at him.  "What?  Problems with how this bi boy took you down?"  He let out a gasp.  "Oh, air."  He shifted and let him breath and pant for a moment then went back to it.  "Then again, fairies from other cultures get to wear other things. The Japanese versions of fairies get to wear *really* stunning kimonos and they're honored, did you know that?"  He grinned down at him.  "Then again you can start crossing the line to kitsune and other troublesome demons as well because some fairies are like that.  Though Brownies seem to be helpful and most British fairies are really nice, even the elvish ones that they got confused with fairies.  They're kinda neat but it's a bit trying to keep up with them.  Went drinking with one one night.  Wasn't happy the next morning, let me tell you," he said, grinning down at him.  "Then again, I'm pretty good at drinking now.  Don't do it *often* since I had drunks as parents, but I can hold my own.  Unlike you, who can't remember if you paid me or not when you come in drunk."

"Get off him," the officer coming in behind Horatio ordered.

"He pointed a gun in my face.  Why should I?"

"Please," Horatio ordered, coming over to help him up.  "Very nice take down, Peter."

"Thanks, Lieutenant.  You know I love to please others."  The officer on the floor gasped and choked. He looked at the new one.   "Unfortunately when he came in on my shift last night he was so drunk the shift supervisor caught him at it when he tried to walk into the fire.  He's on suspension and he came to show me how displeased he was by pointing a gun in my face."  He watched the guy hack and choke between pants.  "Less smoking, man.  Less smoking.  It's bad for you you know."  He went back to his shopping, putting everything on the counter and paying for it with a grin.  "Hi, Chad."

"Hi, Peter. So, *whet* happened?"

"Two cops came up to chase the two guys with guns who were on the side of the building.  Foot chase since they took off running down the path behind the store.  During that we were checking the leaking pumps.  I went out to bag them and that's when I saw the guys and told the boss. I get back in here and see one of the guys creeping toward the cruiser.  I call, I go out to order him away from it.  With my gun, which is registered.  Then one of the chasing ones comes around the side of the store and joins me.  He dove in, backed it up, and hit the leaking pumps.  Whoosh, instant fireball.  I get them drinks while we call it in.  Bob collapsed in the office with a migraine.  This one pulls in last night before the sewer was breached and wobbled in to get his normal beer and stuff, I check him out, reminding him he had paid when he had to come back to get the stuff again.  The boss said I had to give it to him, even drunk, because the local cops can get us in more trouble if we get mean with them.  I suggested he go help the other officers since he was clearly too drunk to drive.  He headed for the fire.  I had to stop one of the CSI from stopping him because the sewer was going to go within minutes by the stench of the farts.  We got him away from there and all duck when the sewer goes up and apparently the shift supe decided he was *really* drunk and of course since it was a stolen cruiser IAB got here and saw him being too drunk to slur."  He shrugged and took his bags. "Then I asked the district supe and he said I could sneak and go home since I had written a statement out."  He grinned and headed back to the bus stop.

"Hummer," Horatio ordered.

"Are you sure I can't run for the Jersey border?"

"Very.  Hummer now, Peter."  Xander trudged that way.  Horatio got his usual coffee and diet soda, checking out.  "The night officers all like him.  He lets them have free bottom of the pots of coffee and free fountain drinks," he said quietly.  "There's almost always a few nearby for refills."  That got a grin and a nod.  "Thank you.  Is he due back tonight?  He's taking care of Speedle for us today."

"Bob wanted a call about that," he admitted.  "The owner was switching the schedule around some."  That got a nod and Horatio left.  He looked at his coworker, then the officer.  "Want a soda, Officer?"

He smirked at him.  "Suckup."

"Yeah but I want the officers here whenever I get robbed the next time," he said.  "They're always here within two, three minutes when someone comes after Peter."  He smiled at the two boys coming in.  One headed for the beer, the other for the chips.  They came up to the register. "I need to see some ID please?"  They pulled a gun and he pointed at the cop. "With one in here?  Are you really that dumb?"  The officer coughed and the guys glared at him.

Bob came out of the office. "Usually Peter runs them off.  Officer, I'll watch him if you get them."  He pulled out his cuffs and one started to run but found the door behind held shut by Horatio, who only smirked at them. They swore and put down the gun, letting themselves be arrested. "Thank you, Lieutenant.  Tell Peter he's got tonight and tomorrow off.  Regular shift after that."  That got a nod and he went back to the hummer.  He looked at his guys.  "Any officer in a Miami-Dade uniform gets a free fountain drink."  He went back into the office. They made too much money on coffee during the day to give it away that way.

"So, hey, if you want one, get one for the car," Chad offered, making his coworker laugh.  "What?  He'll need one while he's writing reports."

"I probably will."  He drug them outside and put them all into the back of the cruiser, coming back for a soda and heading out again.  He'd have to spread that around.


Horatio walked Xander back inside, taking half the groceries.  "We're back."

"What took you so long?" Eric demanded.

"Someone there wanted another statement about what happened last night," Horatio said blandly, following Xander into the kitchen to put things away, then he walked him up to sit with Speed, finding Stetler in there. "You didn't get enough at the hospital?"

"I came to see the other one."  He glared at Xander.  "That was not right to sneak out."

Xander gave him the sweetest and nicest smile.  "Get out of my house before I have you eaten by something horrible with bad breath."  He laughed.  "Perdi!"  The cleaning imp showed up, making him and Alexx scream.  "Out!" he snapped.  He ran and slammed the door behind him. "Perdi, I put new groceries up.   Make sure we don't have that mouse problem?"  It nodded and disappeared, going to kill the thing. He looked at Alexx.  "Sorry, the maid.  It's why I don't have pets."  He smiled again.

"He's a bit warped from Sunnydale," Eric said, getting her sitting down again. "Not nice, Xander."

"He can't charge me with it.  If he starts talking about harmless imps, who's going to believe him?"

"Point," Speed admitted. "Can we borrow him the next time he comes to stalk Horatio?"

"Sure.  I don't make enough of a mess for him."  He sat down across from Alexx. "You okay?"

"Fine, dear. I know they're harmless but still a shock."

"Sorry, Alexx."  He looked at Speed. "I got you cocoa puffs."

"Thanks."  He grinned and patted him on the hand.  "So, what happened?"  Horatio moaned and walked off shaking his head to get his coffee out of the hummer. "That good?"

"Did you see the news last night or this morning?"  Speed and Eric both nodded slowly while Alexx laughed.  "That was my shift and I did try to stop the guy who got into the cruiser and backed them into the leaking pumps.  I really did."

"I believe you," he promised. "I meant today."

"Oh, the officer that Calleigh almost got blown up trying to get out of the fire showed up to protest me getting him suspended for not letting him drive that drunk and suggesting he help with the scene."

"Calleigh...huh?" Speed demanded.

"While the fire was going on apparently one very drunk officer came in to get more beer and stuff," Alexx said, stroking his good arm.  "The guy was so drunk they said he couldn't remember his bag of stuff or if he paid or not.  Threw his change back at Xander, who said something about strippers from the comment I heard."

"I'm not a stripper to throw tips at," he protested.  "I did that a few times on my roadtrip. I sucked at it and only got money thrown at me to get off the stage."

"So, this drunken officer does what?" Speed asked, ignoring that statement for now.  Before his mind went places it probably shouldn't.

"Xander apparently suggests he work the scene so he doesn't get to drive," Eric told him.  "He started to walk *into* the fire because it had to be pointed out to him."  Speed cackled at that.  "Xander has to stop Calleigh, who's trying to stop him, because by this time it's pretty clear the sewer's about to go up.  So he grabs her from behind and stops her, cuddling up to her back to growl in her ear while he calls the other guy back, and gets him to the shift supe, who suspends him pending an investigation.  Then Xander hands out refills and goes back inside."

Speed looked at Xander. "I knew you were a brave, bold man, but that takes balls."

"I apologized for stopping her.  I didn't want her up the hall in the burn unit. I can only imagine the fits Buffy would throw if she got burned from an exploding sewer line."

Horatio turned to cough and laugh in the halls, nodding at that thought.  "That would be loud.  Calleigh's wouldn't be quite as bad," he offered when he came back. "She wouldn't fuss about her clothes or her nails.  Maybe her hair but not her clothes or her nails."

"Oooh, Tara's coming down next spring break," he said proudly. "Maybe with Buffy."

"Sure, we'll help protect you," Speed promised. "Maybe Eric can take Buffy out clubbing one night."

Eric gave him a look.  "Is she at least pretty?"  Xander got up and went to get a picture, bringing it back.  "She is pretty."  He handed it back and shook his head.  "We'll see.  Who's the redhead?"

"Willow."  He put it back and came back to sit down.  "So, I have some groceries. Want grilled cheese for lunch?"

"I should probably go home for lunch."  Alexx burst out laughing and shook her head.  "I can."

"You move, sugar, and I'm spanking you.  I'll let Horatio beg for mercy for you."  She stared him down and he sighed, sinking back into the bed. "Good boy, Speedy."  She patted him on the hair, smoothing it down.  "Now, I should get back.  I'm sure someone's found me a body by now."  She got up and smiled at him. "You behave and I'll check on you tomorrow when I go home."  He nodded.  She patted Xander on the head, weathering the looks she got.  "You'll learn.  I do I to all the boys."

"Women are scary and strange things and only evil ones like me," he said firmly.  "Unless you plan on taking over the city as evil wench of the universe you won't like me too much."  She laughed as she walked out.  "Did she think I was kidding?"

"Probably," Eric said, taking her seat. "So, Speed, what was more important than cleaning your gun?"

"I don't know," he sighed. "I'm sorry, Horatio."

"I know and we will fix this, Speed.  I mean it."  That got a nod and Speed yawned.  "Eric, why don't you head back to work? I'll make sure Xander knows how to care for a gunshot wound."  He saw the odd look. "Just in case."

"Don't get any demon goo in it, it hurts a lot worse."

"That's always a good thing," Eric agreed, getting up to hug Speed.  "Be safe, Buddy, I'll be back tonight."  He headed off again.

Horatio took the seat with a sigh.  "Speed."

"I'm sorry, H."

"I know you are."  He saw Xander sneaking out.  "Xander."  He came back. "While he's with you I will expect you to go over how to clean a gun with Speed again.  Every day if you have to until he can do it in his sleep.  Understood?"

"I know how...."

"Xander, am I clear?"

"Sure, Lieutenant."


"Sorry, Horatio."

"Good boy."  He smiled at him.  Then he looked at Speed.  "You'll listen and heal.  Otherwise they're threatening to move you to IAB.  They said they need a criminalist down there to see who's guilty and who isn't."  He shuddered.  "Exactly.  So you'll do as I say, Tim."

"Yes, Horatio."

"Good."  He smiled then at Xander, who was trying to sneak out again. "You do that very well."  Xander blushed. "I did tell you Joyce let me see her journals, correct?"  Xander moaned at that. "Every single one of them, Xander, and I have photos.  Therefore you're going to be a good boy and watch Speed for us."

"Yes, Horatio."

"Good."  He stood up.  "Now, cuddle him.  He could use the cuddle.  Alexx didn't fuss as much as she should have."  Xander gave Speed a look, getting a shrug, letting Xander crawl in on his good side to cuddle him.  Horatio stomped on the pit of jealousy that sprung up without his consent.  "Even better."  He walked out, going back to the office, sure they would keep each other out of trouble.

Xander looked at him.  "You're very comfy."

"So're you.  I don't want to turn evil though."

"So far I haven't attracted any evil men."

"Even better.  Grilled cheese?"

"I cooked fast food, Speed, not real food."

"True."  He gave him a squeeze and Xander went limp in his arms, making him smile at that.  "I can come help make lunch."

"No you should rest."

"I can cook.  Cooking is restful."

Xander looked at him.  "No it's not.  It's work.  Work is not resting.  Therefore cooking is not resting and you shall rest or they'll make you go back or go to IAB."  He gave it another few heartbeats then got up and went to make grilled cheese sandwiches.  He even brought it up himself instead of letting the imp do it the way she begged.


A few hours later Horatio got out of his hummer and carried his kit inside with the evidence from his last crime scene.  He ran into Calleigh out front. "What's wrong?"

"Where's Speed?"

"With Xander."

"Who's upstairs with Stetler."  She blinked at his shocked look.  "He had officers go fetch him since he wasn't a cooperative witness and decided to search into his background again."

"Is it fixed?"

"It is.  I called the number we had out there when I saw him being brought in and they assured me the issues we had before were fixed."  He nodded at that, relaxing some.  "He still had him drug in since he was a witness to the cruiser thing, and got an officer arrested for being DoD, plus how he had to take him down earlier for being drunk on duty."

"I'll check on him."

"He told me to leave the building, Horatio."

"I'm coming in from a scene.  He can't do that."  He went inside, signing back in and heading to log in evidence.

"Get off the floor," Stetler called.  Horatio held up an envelope.  "I'm sure it can wait."

Horatio turned to glare at him. "I'm sure the victims wouldn't say the same, nor their families, Rick."  The man turned red in the face.  "What are you doing to the very helpful civilian?"

"I'm taking a statement."

"Good.  Then you'll need mine from this morning. I went for coffee and found Officer Peters threatening Mr. Philips with a gun.  I also distracted the officer while Mr. Philips got him down onto the ground."  He stared at him.  "I'll be right back, let me log in evidence."  That got an evil glare.  "Deal with it, Rick."

"Are you two seeing each other?"

"Every night for the soda I get on the way home," he quipped back, heading off again.  He nodded subtly at Frank Tripp, who went to lurk and watch.

The kid looked like he was bored.  By the time Horatio got back, Stetler was giving him dirty looks too.  Horatio came back and he pointed.  "Is he always like that?"

"No, he's very helpful and playful with us, Frank."  He knocked and walked in, seeing the exhaustion in Xander's eyes.  "You should be resting since you should probably go in tonight."

"Boss said the schedule was in flux but yeah, I should.  Just in case they decide to move me to a less volatile shift."  He stretched and looked at him. "Do you have anything else?  I'm tired.  I should be sleeping right now since I work nights."

"Are you in a relationship with either Speedle or Caine?" he demanded.

"Friends.  I'm letting Speed stay over so he has someone there to monitor him while he's just out of the hospital.  I see Horatio every night I work because he comes in for a diet soda before going home."  Stetler glared at him.  "If your smutty mind wants to imagine them topping me that's your fantasy.  I'm more than willing to be someone's fantasy guy.  Makes me happy that people want me.  That means I've got a good ego.  Am I actually going onto my knees to suck Horatio's cock every night while he's getting his soda?  No," he snorted. "There's cameras at work."  He stood up.  "Now, he's right, I should be resting and I'm exhausted.  Anything else?"  That got a silent glare. "Then I hope your investigation goes well.  I do know that my manager Bob will gladly give over the night shift tapes so you can tell Officer Peters bought beer six other nights in a row.  Last night was his seventh.  He was too drunk to wobble so yes, I sent him out to the other cops.  That way he wouldn't drive and you guys wouldn't have to explain to someone's family how a highly drunk officer slammed into their relative and killed them."  That got a shudder. "The same as I'm the one who pointed out the fire to him the first time because he was too drunk to notice it and then got him away from it before he got toasty.  Anything else?"  That got a head shake.  "Then I'm heading home.  Horatio, I'll see you when I get back to work."  That got a nod and he walked off muttering under his breath.

Horatio watched as the statement burst into flames, looking impassive.  "Hmm."  He sat down once it was out.  "What did you need to know about this morning?"

"Are you fucking him?"

"One, he's a civilian and over the age of eighteen.  Two, my sex life is none of your business unless it is something illegal.  As point one means it's not, it's not any of your business.  Three, I don't believe that's relevant to what happened this morning."

"You just *happened* to be picking up coffee?"

"No, in the scuffle, Xander's cellphone dialed the last number, which was mine.  He was checking on Speed.  I heard the problem with the officer and I went to make sure it was handled appropriately."  He stared him down.  "Then, I saw Xander take him down.  Very efficiently.  I'm working on getting him to join the department."

"Over my dead body," he sneered.

"That has been known to happen when it's said, Rick," Horatio pointed out.  "Many other officers have said that and then gotten injured in the line of duty.  Speed said that before going into the jewelry store."  That got a gape.  "Now, is there anything I can fill in for you that the tapes didn't?"

"He was babbling about fairies," he sneered.

"He was.  Officer Peters called him one because he's bisexual and never hit on him."  The IAB agent went bright red at that, mostly in anger.  "I do know he has asked a few officers out.  He sees a great many of us since they offer free fountain drinks to officers."  Stetler got up and stomped out.  He looked over Xander's statement, smirking at it.  Then he rewound the tape and played it when Frank came in.  They both got a chuckle out of it.  The kid had out-worded the experienced detective.  He shut it off. "Speed's fine."

"Good.  He staying with someone for a few days?"

"With him."

"Good.  Even better.  He seems like he's seen a bit of combat?"

"He's from near LA, Frank."  He stood up.  "Of course he has."  That got a nod.  "That is a long story that is best told over beers.  I'm off the clock now."

"Me too.  Let's go.  I wanna know what's been going on."

Horatio smiled and nodded, walking out to go out with him for a few hours of relaxation and make him gape in wonder.  Someone had to watch out for the kid when they were all busy after all.


Xander leaned into Speed's bedroom before he went back to work three days later.  "I wanted to let you know I'm not going to make you go out with me, Speed.  It was wrong of me to blackmail you into it.  Tara's chewed me a new one so I'm letting you have an honorable way out."  He headed off, going to catch his bus.

Speed considered that, then he pouted.  At least the kid hadn't said it was him.  Whoever this Tara person was needed to be spanked for ruining his plans. Then again he could ask Xander out anyway.....  He smiled and got up, going down to watch some tv.  He hoped the kid had an easy night.  Someone walked in and he looked at him.  "Hi, I'm Speed.  Xander's taking care of me."

The guy just nodded at that. "That's fine.  Where might he be?"

"Headed to work."

"Excellent.  Tell him I'll see him next year.  I'm going to Barbados and then Haiti."  He grabbed a few books out of the library Speed was scared to go into and then left again.  "Be good to him.  Remember, using his virginity as a sacrifice could cause others pain since he's from the hellmouth.  They're never fully innocent because of where they're born."

Speed blinked at that, staring at the door, then shook his head.  He went back to watching the tv, waiting for a news update.


Xander pouted when Horatio didn't come in that night, going back to his mopping.  Maybe he was mad at him?  Maybe Speed had told him so he was really mad at him?  He hadn't seen him in a few days since he gave him the opportunity to escape the slug in a suit.  He looked up when a few guys came in.  "Watch out, the floor's wet," he called.  He came back to the register, pushing the mop out of the way.  He looked up at them.  "Cigarettes?"  He saw the gun and opened the register when it was pointed to. "Sure.  Take it."  He hit the button but it didn't close the drawer this time.  Someone must've clipped the wires or turned it off.  One of them drug him into the back room. "Guys, I cooperated.  I'm not going to let you kill me."

"Shut up," he sneered.  He cocked his gun and gave him a shove, blinking when the boy moved and his balls suddenly exploded in pain.

"No, I never shut up."  He grabbed his own gun and walked out. "Out!  Now!" he yelled.  Two of them laughed.  One of them shot him, he wounded him, on purpose, and then went after the others by hand since they weren't openly carrying guns.  He got the last one down when officers rushed in, panting at one. "One's in the back room holding his nuts," he said calmly.  "I had to hit that one," he said, nodding at one.  He put his gun onto the counter. "I cooperated.  I did, I swear I did."

"I know you did, you always do," the officer soothed, radioing in for an ambulance.  "Let me look at your arm, Peter."

"It's just a graze," he said, pulling away. "I've had worse.  Get the one I had to shoot and the others.  Handcuff them together or something.  I'll be fine and here."  He leaned on the counter, watching the one on the floor with the stomach wound.  "I cooperated.  If you hadn't been so stupid you would've taken the money and ran."  Paramedics rushed in. "I had to wound him.  They were going to shoot me."  That got a nod and they got to work on him.  One came over to look at his arm and he pulled away. "I'm fine.  All I need is some neosporin and a bandage."

"Then let me bandage it, sir."  He sighed and took off his shirts with a wince, letting her have his arm.  "It's not that bad."

"I know."  He watched as they rolled the other guy out and Eric walked in.  "I cooperated."

"I know.  Tape?"

Xander pointed with his free hand.  "They were going to shoot me."

"Relax for right now, kid.  Just calm down."  He went to rewind the tape with the officer and watch it.  Then he took it outside to copy it.  He put the original on the desk and put in a clean one when Xander pointed at the stack, getting a nod of thanks.  "You okay?"

"Fine.  I was mopping and they came in together.  I warned them about the floor and noticed they weren't going back to get anything so I came up to get their cigarettes.  We get a lot of gang kids that come in this time of night for smokes.  I saw the gun.  They grunted and pointed.  I opened the drawer, hit the switch, and walked where one pulled me.  One pulled me into the back room.  I pointed out I had cooperated and shooting me was a bad idea. He cocked it and I got him in the balls."  He looked at Eric again, blinking his eyes back into focus.  "I had mine on me and I used it on the guy who shot at me.  After he shot.  I wounded him on purpose.  The others I just took down."

"I saw.  It's all right.  Just stay there.  Need to have that looked at?"

"I'm fine. It's just a graze.  I've had worse," he assured him quietly.  The paramedic looked at him.  "I come from near LA."  That got a nod and she finished tying off the bandage, then made him sign a form that listed his injury on it and said he wasn't going to the hospital.  He signed it and took his copy, then hopped up to sit on the counter beside the gas machine while Eric did everything else.  The officers came back.  "Need my gun?"  That got a nod so he pulled it, emptied it and the one in the chamber, handing it over once he put the bullet back in the clip.  Then he pulled out his permit and handed it over. "I'm not going to be shot for anyone unless the world will end if I don't."

"I agree," one said calmly.

The other stared at him.  "You're too calm."

Xander smirked at him. "I'm from near LA.  Do you think this is the first time I've been shot at?"

"No," he admitted.  He looked at the scars on his chest and arms, then at him.  "Really rough place?"  Xander nodded.  "I'm sorry."

"So am I but my parents stopped their mistakes at me."  He took his permit back once they had noted it down.  He looked at Eric.  "Should I move?"

"No.  I want you there.  It's out of the way.  Call and have the store closed."

Xander grabbed the phone with a grunt and called his boss. "Bob, me.  No, no new explosions, gang thugs.  I had to shoot one back when....  Gee, Bob, I didn't know the world was ending and I was supposedly to stand there and blatantly let them shoot me after I cooperated.  That wasn't in the handbook," he said sarcastically.  "No, I wounded on purpose. I'm a damn good shot, Bob.  Small graze.  I'm fine but CSI Delko wanted the store closed so he could work."  He handed it over.  "'Tis the boss."

"Hey, this is Delko.  No, we had five kids come in to rob him and one of them decided to eliminate him.  We've already seen the security footage and copied it, sir.  That's fine. I'll be here."  He hung up and handed the phone back, shaking his head. "Go back to construction."

"Yeah, maybe I will," he complained, flexing his arm.  They all stared at him. "It's stiff.  That's normal."

"He's worked in other convenience stores," Horatio agreed as he came in.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Lieutenant."  He looked at him. "One of them drug me into the back to shoot me.  Another one fired on me when I came back and his guy didn't.  I wounded him."

"That's better than being dead," he agreed calmly, coming around to look at his arm.  "Graze?"  Xander nodded.  "Need stitches?"

"No, it's fine.  It's only an inch deep. I've had worse and no stitches.  You missed your regular soda run."

"I was headed home to rest.  It's been a bad day," he admitted quietly.  He helped him down.  "Come on, let's go outside to take an official statement, Peter."  Xander nodded, carefully walking around Eric's position.  He got him outside and watched as Xander walked around the side of the building to get sick then came back.  "You all right now?"

"I don't like hurting humans."  He sat down on the curb.  "This is one of those times I wished I smoked.  I could use one."

Horatio shook his head. "It's a bad and expensive habit."

"True."  His boss pulled up and he waved.  "Hi, boss.  It was the pitchfork guys.  Again.  Third time this month."

His boss came over.  "They were going to kill you?"

"Just like they did Chad yesterday morning, for cooperating."  He stared at him.  "By the way, when I hit the button, the drawer didn't close."

"I'll have it checked.  You all right?" He looked at the bandage and the small bits of blood.  "You sure you don't need the ER?"

"It's a graze, boss.  It was from the guy who I had to wound."  He stood up. "I'm fine.  I'm pissed I had to hurt a human being."  That got a nod. "When I got drug back, they were stuffing it into a small bag."  Horatio nodded, going to tell Eric that.  He looked at his boss. "I'm sorry, boss."

"I know you are, Xander.  Sit down and relax.  It's going to get more stressful for a few minutes.  At least you managed to save yourself."

"I'm not the running sort and they would've killed me if I had tried," he said, sitting down again. He saw the guy pulling up.  "I didn't know the guys with the pitchforks were cops."

"They're not.  You're an ongoing investigation."

"Why?  Because I was gay bashed back at home?"  Stetler sneered.  "I've already had a really bad day.  Get out of my face, okay?  I don't need your shit and you still stink like it.  Get out of my face," he ordered a second time when it wasn't followed and all he got was a sneer.  "Lieutenant, can I have permission to stomp on this one?"

"No, Peter," he said, coming out.  "Rick.  No officers in this one.  Why are you here?"

"You're shielding someone who's going under an assumed identity."

Xander stood up and dusted his pants off then looked at him.  "The person who gay bashed me was a hacker.  Not like I was going to give her more chances to do it again."

"Her?" he joked.  "You got beaten up by a girl?" he sneered.

"I'd like to see you go two rounds with the girls I ran with."  That got another sneering laugh.  "Unlike you, I don't often hit girls."  That got a glare and he shrugged. "It was pretty clear to me and I'm still watching Speed.  Of course I heard, Sergeant.  Now, this is a robbery where I had to wound someone or else I would've died.  If you don't like that, then piss up your own ass.  No one touches mine for a very long time."  The sneer came back.  "Aww, what's wrong?  Are you having fantasies about me and the Lieutenant inside again?" he shared.  "Your imagination must be pretty broken considering we're both handsome men and you're still not looking happy.  What's wrong? Can't imagine kinky enough for your own pleasure?"  The guy took a swing and he ducked it then blocked the next two and knocked him down, standing on his chest.  "You through?  You don't come up to combat veterans like that, Stetler.  You just don't.  Especially with witnesses like the officers inside."  He got off him and went back inside, grabbing his backpack so he could get his wallet.  Then he got himself a drink, going to sit outside again and drink it.  Horatio came out.  "He swung at me."

"I heard and saw.  That was not nice."

"It's his shit.  He needs to quit pissing up his own ass and treat his woman better.  Then maybe he'd get some instead of letting the repressed urges for sex turn into violence since he can't get it up.  Maybe I should help her find a strap on for you, Sergeant?"  He stomped off.  "Good."  He took another drink.  Then he looked up, seeing the amused look. "It's clear he hit her because he's inadequate."

"He is.  In every imaginable spectrum."  He squatted down in front of him. "Walk me through this, Xander," he ordered quietly.  Xander pointed.  "What?"

"I was mopping in the bread aisle.  By the bagels.  Just past them since I spotted them and thought about bringing some home since Speed complained about the jelly this morning.  I heard the jingle, I looked up.  I warned them the floors were wet while I gathered up the rest of the fluid off my mop.  I put the mop up on my way around the counter.  When no one moved I asked if they needed cigarettes.  We get a lot of gang kids recently who get some about now.  They're usually pretty polite and joke with me.  I look at one and he's got a gun.  I cooperate without any smart remarks.  I swear I did.  I opened the register, I hit the floor switch, I'm drug back to the stock room. I protest I cooperated but I'm not begging.  I'm not like that," he admitted, taking another drink.  "I heard something muttered, I think.  I hear the gun cock, I turn and I got the guy in the balls with a heel strike.  Heel of my hand since he was trying to force me onto my knees."

He took another drink.  "He ordered me to shut up before I attack so I quipped then that I don't.  I pulled my gun, I came out.  The one guy at the register shoots at me, hitting my arm. I get him in the stomach as he turns to run since he sees mine.  The others didn't have one so I put mine back while I open up a can of Sunnydale-style whoop ass."  He grinned a bit. "I haven't hunted in a while but it was still just as good."  He finished his soda and put it down beside him.  "The officers came in when I was finishing.  They called the paramedics.  I made them handle the guy I shot since all I've got is a graze and it's only going to itch," he finished quietly.  "When Delko got there, he watched the tape first after making sure I was okay.  He took it out to the hummer to do something to it."

"We can copy tapes back there," he admitted.  He stood up.  "We'll need you to make an official one at the station.  Can you do that?"

"Can you keep the piss drinking bastard away from me and my past?"

"I can," he agreed.

"Am I going to be charged?"

"No, Xander.  Probably not.  The only thing they could say is that you could have run."

"The guy back there with me would've shot me, Horatio.  There's nowhere to hide back there and no way I could've made it into the scrub brush before he got up. He came out after I shot and I had to kick him back into the room."  He allowed himself to be helped up.  "I'll gladly go make my statement.  I'm hoping I'm not in trouble."

Bob looked at him.  "If they do the system's broken."

"Yeah, well, last month they charged that girl up in Jacksonville for having to defend herself from the same sort of thing," Xander pointed out.

"Jacksonville isn't Miami," Horatio noted calmly.   He leaned into the store.  "Eric?"  Eric looked over.  "I'm taking him to do his statement."

"Sure, H.  It won't take me too much longer.  Tell him they can't charge him for this."

"I will."  He walked out.  "Bob, please keep that tape separate so it can't be copied over  until we can check the copy."  That got a nod and Eric held it up since it was bagged.  "Good."  He walked out and took Xander back to the station.  Eric would bring his backpack and shirts in.  He got out once they were there, walking Xander inside the officers all gave him horrified looks.

"I had to fight back," Xander told them.  "Sorry, no free drinks tonight, guys.  One of them was going to kill me like they did Chad and I fought back."  He rubbed the back of his neck.  "I'm feeling really naked.  Or like I should be on Cops."

"Eric will bring your shirts and backpack in," Horatio said, leading him up to an interrogation room.   He got the video camera, looking at Xander, who nodded.  Once he had it running and he had checked it he came back, sitting off screen.  "This is Mr. Peter Philips, night clerk at the eighth street Sit-Go convenience store."  Xander waved.  "Don't."

Xander shrugged.  "Sorry, Lieutenant.  It's a stress break."

"I know.  Don't anyway."  He faced him.  "From the top, Peter.  Where were you?"  Xander stated to speak, making diagrams of the store with his hands.  Halfway through someone knocked on the window.  He held up a finger and let him finish.  Then he turned off the tape and walked out.  "What?"

"What happened?"

"He's a convenience store clerk.  Someone pulled a gun on him and he had to fight back to save his own life."

"He couldn't hide or run?"

"Not in that area."

"I know where he worked.  Why did he have a gun?"

Xander leaned out.  "You could come in here and ask me yourself since you're screeching loud enough to rattle the glass.  I'm in a reasonable mood for the moment."  He went back to the table and sat down, looking at him.  "I had a gun because I'm licensed to carry one, including concealed.  I work graveyard at a convenience store.  Of course I carry one nightly.  Half the clerks in the city do.  If my coworker who got killed yesterday morning, probably by the same guys, had one he might've gotten away.  Then again I have self defense training Chad didn't."  The detective looked green.  Xander shifted to sit more forward and lean on the table.  "The truth is, I'm from California.  We have worse people out there.  We have kids who carry derringers to kindergarten.  I had two in my class and I grew up in so white-bread of a town it wasn't funny.  We still had white picket fences and people who didn't lock their doors and we still had two five-year-olds with derringers in my kindergarten class."  The detective moaned at that.   "So, yes, when they drug me back to the stock room and the gun cocked, I did fight back.  There was no way I could've run and reached safety.  I had to fight a hell of a lot and I know how to fight in a street battle."

"You a gang member?"

"Do you see tattoos?"

He looked him over and pointed at one.  "That one could be a laser mark."

Xander looked then at him.  "No, actually it was a sword.  It skimmed the skin.  Sorry."  He shrugged.  The detective gave him a horrified look.  "I even know how to use one.  It came in handy now and then.  I have a beautiful battle axe I had to leave at home when I escaped due to being gay bashed.  By the way, the next time Stetler starts in on me about being beaten by a girl I'm so letting Buffy have him, Lieutenant.  I'm so sick and tired of his ass.  I'm not one of you, Internal Affairs shouldn't be on my ass."

"They shouldn't," he agreed.  "Siccing Buffy on him would be too mean however."

"Let him be beat up by the five-four delicate blonde girl," he snorted.  "Let's see how he likes it."  He looked at the detective again. "Yes, I fought back to save my own life.  One of them shot me," he said, pointing at his bandage.  "I hit him in the stomach.  As I aimed for.  I'm a damn good shot, Detective.  I have been for years.  It was necessary.  I can even do it with a crossbow."  That got another horrified look and shudder.  "Now, I'm sorry if you don't like me defending myself.  The only time I willingly lay my life down is to save the life of my friends or if the world's going to hell.  Neither of those were in that store tonight."  He stood up.  "I'm not going to die for some gang kids to come get maybe a hundred bucks from the register and to shoot me because I cooperated."

"Calm down," Horatio ordered.  Xander flopped back down.  He looked at him.  "Then at Xander.  "He's not a detective, Peter, he's with the District Attorney's office."

Xander waved his injured arm.  "Hi.  Am I being charged?  If not, I need to find a shirt.  It's not polite to walk around half-naked in front of others unless I intend to sleep with them."

"I..."  He cleared his throat.  "I want to see the evidence first."

"We also have security footage," Horatio assured him. "Delko has the scene."  That got a nod and he went to call him.  "Calm down," he said quietly.  "Now."  Xander nodded, curling one knee up so he could cuddle that leg.  "Thank you."  He went to check on things, leaving him in there.  A few officers gave him odd looks.  "It appears one of the local gangs decided to kill him tonight.  They got his coworker last night," he said quietly.

"I remember, I found him," one female officer told him, standing up.  "That kid's a good kid, Lieutenant."

"I know.  I see him almost every night on my way home."  That got a small smile.  "A soda for my drive.  He's also the one watching Speedle.  I wouldn't let him do that if I didn't think he was a decent young man."  He saw Stetler storming that way and glared at him.  Maybe Xander had a point about him being beaten on by Buffy Summers.  He followed him, finding him glaring at Xander.  "You needed something with this civilian?"

"He's not.  He's got a record."

"No I don't."

"Yes, you do."  He put down the sheet in front of Xander.  "Mr. Harris."

Xander looked at it and pointed at the part that said 'prior arrests'.  "Nothing's under that.  That means it's not a prior record.  That means the group I was part of was watched by the cops out there because we were doing part of their jobs for them."  He stood up again.  "Yeah, I did change my name.  Rosenburg's a hacker.  If she found me, which she did, I was going to die this time.  That's why Lieutenant Caine had to hand her back to Sunnydale."  He got an amused look.  "Also why my ex girlfriend decided to torch the cruiser she was in because Willow made me leave Sunnydale.  That's not an arrest record.  That's a statement of watching the group.  There was a higher homicide rate out there than there is in Miami.  What did you expect us to do?  Sit and be killed?  Twiddle our thumbs waiting to be killed maybe?"  He got a horrified look and Xander shrugged.  "I've never hidden that I had to do some fighting out in Sunnydale.  All of Lieutenant Caine's team already knew this.  One of them has even seen a journal by someone about my past exploits.  I'm sorry if you don't like it, but with a forty percent homicide rate and the cops aren't allowed to work at night?  Yeah, we did some patrolling."  Stetler backed up.

"You can even consider me a four year combat veteran, Stetler.  I still never beat my women, even when all the ones I dated were so bad they tried to kill me.  Hell, Willow was my best friend since the first day of school and she still turned on me. You're as much of a bitch as she is.  Doesn't surprise me you turn on your own."  He stared him down, moving closer.  "Did you want me to lay there and die, Stetler?  I don't lay down and die for anyone.  Not unless one of two things is going on.  Since none of my friends were in danger and would be getting out of it by my death, and the world wasn't going to end without it, then no, I'm not going to sit down and let some punk bitches shoot me.  I'm not like that," he finished coldly.  "So unless you plan to charge me with something, I'm going home since it's impolite to be naked in front of people who fantasize about you unless you're offering and I've got better taste than that."

"You're using an assumed name and social security number."

"Duh."  He looked at Horatio.  "How did he make sergeant?"

"I'm not sure," he admitted. "Sit, Xander."  Xander sat back down.  "Yes, Rick, he is here under one.  He's a victim of a violent crime and hiding.  It's not like he's hiding from a criminal past.  I'm not going to let him be arrested for that.  The same as I don't let spouses who've been abused be arrested if they do that."

"He could have done it another way," he said coldly.

"Sure, but one guy still had a gun.  He shot at me."  He pulled his pocket knife out and opened the bandages.  "See?"  He showed him the open spot, making him back away.  "Yeah, that's a real injury."  He undid his pants and moved them to show his hip.  "That was a worse one.  That's why I'm not curled up and crying at the moment."  He did his pants back up and sat back down.  "They were going to kill me.  One of them had me back in the stock room to shoot me.  Had the gun cocked before I did a damn thing.  I cooperated just like I'm supposed to.  Like Chad did last night."  He went pale at that.  "Why wasn't that being investigated?  Hmm?  Officers involved in the Mala Noches?"  He turned and stomped off.  "Don't come back either, bitch, I'm not part of your job!"  He looked at him. "I swear the next time I see him I'm calling something to have him eaten," he growled.

"Calm down," Horatio ordered more firmly.


"Now," he said more calmly.

"No, sorry.  Nope, no way.  Am I being charged?"  Horatio shook his head. "Then I'm fucking well going to get my backpack and go home.  Right before I think about moving again."  He stomped off, heading back to the store on the bus.  It dropped him off and he headed for the tape. "Can I have my backpack and shirts yet?" he asked politely.

"Sir?" the officer asked, looking confused.

Xander looked around then pointed at the hummer. "Delko still here?"

"In the office, sir.  Delko?"  He stuck his head out. "He wants his backpack and shirts?"

"Just a minute, kid."  He disappeared then came back out.  "You okay?"

"I'm about to kill Stetler for figuring out I had an older identity and picking one me for being beaten by a girl."  He snatched them. "I may be leaving the state as well."  He hiked off, putting his shirts back on as he walked.

Eric looked at the officer.  "He's the clerk this happened to."

"Oh."  That got a nod.  "Okay.  Shouldn't someone have looked at his arm since it's bleeding?"

"I'll make Speed do it.  He's watching him for us."  He called him. "Me, Speed.  Xander got robbed again and he had to hit one.  No, he's pissed.  Stetler again.  I know he's not a cop.  He sneered at him about being beaten by a girl and other things.  No, but check his arm?  The officer noticed his graze is bleeding and I don't remember seeing any bandages.  Thanks.  I don't know, he took off walking.  I know we're in the bario, Speed.  It'll be fine. This is Xander we're talking about.  Who knows."  He hung up and went back inside.  "Sorry. They picked on Xander and he stomped off."

"I'm surprised that one guy isn't in the hospital with the way he was taunting him," he admitted.  Eric gave him an odd look.  "Yeah, I know.  The same as I know his rep out there.  He was a hunter of bad things, CSI Delko.  He protected this store very well."  That got a nod.  "He's the one who started the free fountain drinks but it has gotten us a lot more business on night shift from the officers.  I like the kid but I'm not sure he's going to be home tomorrow."

"He will be.  Speed still needs some care and he's taking care of him for us."

"The one who got shot?"  That got a nod.  "At least he'll understand.  Is he going to be charged?  That's idiocy."

"Probably not.  It's clearly self defense."  That got a nod.  "The one in Jacksonville they were trying to prove a point with and she still got off."  He got back to work going over the tape.  One of the cameras had been out.


Xander stormed in just after dawn and headed up to his room.  He threw his pack on his bed and looked around then let out a groan of frustration since he couldn't scream without waking Speed up.

"Let it out," he ordered from behind him.  Xander let out a shriek and he winced.  "Feel better?"  He came in and looked at his arms, finding the one with the blood trail.  He pushed that sleeve out of the way.  "Didn't go to the ER?"

"It's a graze, Speed."

"It could probably use stitches."

"It'll heal."  He got free of him and looked around again then at him.  "You know what?  Have Calleigh or someone move in here.  The rent's four eighty a month.  He takes care of everything else.  I'm going to go where no one knows or cares who I am."  He pulled the trunk out and got to work packing but Speed stopped him.  "Let go," he said calmly.

Speed gave him a yank back, making him look at him.  "Are you in trouble?"

"Probably and I'm going to have Stetler be eaten."

"Not a bad idea.  I don't think anyone would care."  Xander blinked at that. "What? I'm a practical man for the most part.  He's a pustule on the nose of humanity."  That got a nod and Xander calmed down some.  "Now, what happened?"

"Chad was killed yesterday.  They tried it with me.  I ended up shooting one."  Speed moaned and sat on the bed, staring at him.  "So, as far as I know, all they can charge me with is using a false identity.  It's not like it's anyone's identity that I'm aware of so it's not even identity fraud."

"Actually it could be," Speed admitted.  He pulled him down next to him.  "Stay, Xander.  Stay in with me, we'll see how things fall out."

"I don't want to stay in Miami.  I adore some of you guys.  You're a neat step family and things, but I don't want to breathe the same air as Rick Stetler.  He's going to use me to get you in trouble."

"He can't."  He gave him a hug but Xander stiffened. "Sorry."

"I'm too worked up right now," he said, getting up to pace again. "I'm sorry, I'm not good company at the moment."

"Hey, if I had been nearly killed I wouldn't be either. I growled at people in the hospital the whole time I was there."  Xander nodded, leaning his head against the wall, shaking it some, then bouncing it off a few times.  "They can't charge you.  They can ask where you got it."

"Not a clue.  Someone called someone who called someone for me," he said into the wall.  Someone pounded on the door.  "Oh, what now?" he complained.

"Stay," Speed ordered, going down to get it.  He let Eric in.  "What?"

"I dropped some of the evidence into his backpack."

"It's on the bed in his room," Speed offered.  Eric jogged up the stairs and by the time he was up there he was searching for it.  "What did you drop?"

"The bullet that we pulled out of the wall that hit him."  He found the envelope and held it up to look at it.  "How is it not in there?"  He checked, no holes.

Xander looked up.  "Anya, if this is to get back with me, they're going to arrest me and you'll never get sex again while I'm taking it up the ass in prison," he said sweetly.  The bullet appeared and Eric put it into a clean envelope, marking it the same.  "Anything else you'd like to give back?"  The imp appeared and handed him a letter.  "From?"

"Master," she ground out.

Xander read it over then nodded and looked at her.  "Do you swear eternal fealty to me?  No other master?  No other Lord?  No other Lady?"  The imp whimpered. "If you don't I can't release you and you'll be in this house all by yourself when I leave."

"I swear," she said through clenched teeth. "Even my lords are no longer mine."  She shrieked as pain went through her and Xander cut the thing binding her to this plane, letting her go.

Speed clapped.  "Nice show."

"His."  He handed over the letter.  Then he looked at Eric.  "Stetler's going to use me to get you guys.  Don't let him when I'm gone, okay?"

"If you leave someone will definitely charge you.  It's the rule of the universe," Eric said.  "Talk to Horatio."

"I did last night.  He kept trying to get me to play more faint than I am in front of the putz.  I don't play that way and I can't act that well."  Eric nodded at that.  "Need anything else?"

"You're staying for at least another few days," Speed ordered.  "Then we'll see what happens.  Anyone charging you would be very stupid."  He went to answer the new knocking, finding Calleigh down there.  "Hey."

"Is he all right?  They killed the clerk yesterday who was on his shift."

"No he's mad," he said, letting her up the stairs.  He looked at Horatio when he pulled up.  "He's still thinking hard about leaving."

"It would be a mistake to run," he said grimly, heading up there.  He got him free of Calleigh, looking at him. "If you run it sends the worst signal to them," he said quietly.  "If you don't the only thing they can charge you with is using a false identity to get a job.  Your boss will back you and so will the law.  With the situation you were in others have chosen the same path."  Xander sat, staring at him.  "For now, relax and let us handle it, Xander.  You're making the wrong moves."

"I'm fucking cornered, Horatio.  It's not like I have options.  Well, I guess I could've let myself be killed last night or used the mop instead.  Then I'd probably still be dead."

"No one wants that," Horatio promised, stamping down on the pit of anger he was trying to control.  He had been trying most of the night.  "Let Speed take care of you for a few days.  Half the station knew you were attacked and quite a few figured out why when we had to find Willow for you to be safe."  Xander slumped and covered his face with his hands.  "I know.  It's hard and it's counter to what you've been trained to do."

"No, ya think?" he asked sarcastically.  Calleigh swatted him.  He glared at her and she backed off.  He looked at Horatio, who was looking a bit amused. "I'm not going to go to prison for protecting myself, Horatio.  I'll call something to eat me first."  Horatio nodded at that.  "I won't care if others use it to get away from their horrible fates either."  He stood up again.  "Am I clear here?  I did nothing wrong and some people are still blaming me."

"You're right, you did nothing wrong and no one wants to blame you."

"Yeah, tell that to the slug."

"I would but I'd only hit him."  He made Xander sit down again, getting down into his face.  "Take a nap.  After we rebandage your arm."

"It could use a few stitches," Speed said.

Xander got up and took off his shirts, making Calleigh hiss and turn away.  "No, it doesn't.  I've had worse.  It's like a scrape, only a deep one."  He sat down again, looking at Horatio.  "Am I in trouble?"

"Only if you give up.  If you do, nothing more can be done, Xander."  Xander nodded, looking miserable.  "The evidence supports that it was self-defense."  He looked at Eric.  "Why are you here?"

"The bullet he was shot with got taken by someone and put into his backpack.  The little imp thingy that had been cleaning had it."

"Do we have it back?"  Eric nodded, holding the envelope up. "Good.  Match it now, Eric."  He headed off to do that with Calleigh.  He looked at Speed, who shrugged but looked helpless.  He looked at Xander. "For now, let us handle this.  Let Speed bandage your arm."

"I can."

"Let him anyway."  He made Xander look at him.  "Please?  Let him take care of you for a few days."  Xander nodded, slumping fully.  "Thank you, Xander."  He stroked down his hair.  "Just relax.  We have it handled.  They're clearly guilty.  I saw the copy of the tape myself."  He looked at Speed.  "Are you well enough to?"

"Sure, I can do a lot more than he lets me."  Horatio nodded and left.  Speed looked at him. "Come on, all the bandage stuff is in my room."  Xander nodded, following him, looking defeated.  "Trust H, Xander.  We all do because he's never wrong."

"He's not human?"

"No, he is and he's bee wrong in the past, but not about something this important."  Xander nodded, sitting down on Speed's bed so he could bandage his arm.  "Didn't you guys bandage each other back there?"

"Sometimes.  Not always."  He leaned forward to scrub his face with his hands.  "Sorry.  I'm not good company today."

"I understand why.  I'd be pissed as hell too."

Xander looked back at him.  "The last time he had me down there he asked if I was in a relationship with you or Horatio.  I told him if that was his fantasy fine but to quit sharing."  That got a smirk.  "He's a disgusting, diseased slug, Speed."

"He is.  He hates Horatio because Horatio's brother was an undercover cop when he died.  They thought he was dirty even after they figured out what he was doing."  He finished spreading cream over it and then put the pad on top, then gauze around it.  "You didn't go to the ER?"

"For that?"

"Yeah, for that.  Most people would have been screaming in pain."

"It aches some but I've had worse."

Speed touched the flat scar.  "What's that?"

"Skinned by a sword."  He closed his eyes, enjoying the touch.  The finger hit another one.  "Claw.  Slime demon of some kind."  Another one got touched and he shivered.  "Um, knife. I was, ah, practicing with Buffy and she got me by accident.  Pretty deep too."  He controlled his blush.   Another one was touched.  "That's not a scar area, but you can keep doing that?"  He looked back, seeing the smile.  "I could use the cuddle and comfort."

"I know you could.  Come on, curl up with me."  Xander nodded, curling up on his good side, still fully clothed and so was he.  He could feel the misery and he knew the cause. He hoped Horatio managed it this time.


Horatio came out of the Chief's office with Stetler, giving him an evil look.  "Are you satisfied with what I knew about him now?"

"No," he sneered. "I still think you're fucking him."

"No, but he knew to have a cold soda waiting on me when I got there every night," he said coolly.  "We are friends, Rick.  If you weren't so worthless you'd know what those are."  Stetler stomped off and he turned, finding his boss standing there.  "That explained your questions as well?"

"It did.  Is the boy all right?"

"No, he was going to kill Rick earlier today and then flee," he said honestly.  "He very surely stated that if he went to jail for having to defend himself he'd be found dead.  Stetler has destroyed an innocent life that only came here to escape the horrors of his last one."

"I heard your earlier speech, Caine.  Save it."  He stared at him.  "Who is this kid?"

Horatio walked him back into his office.  "In Sunnydale there's apparently something that kills people at an alarming rate."

"I looked up the statistics.  It horrified me.  That and their department only works during the day?"

"They can't keep living officers on at night."  That got a moan.  "You remember those elves a few years back?"

"Unfortunately."  He took an antacid.  "Are you saying this Sunnydale has them?"

"Not exactly but the same sort of problems as brought them here.  That's why so many deaths are there.  There's also rumors of vampires and things."

"So, a slayer's there," he said dryly.  Horatio gave him a look.  "I heard about the girl in LA, Faith."

"She's the other one.  Xander hunted with Buffy.  The one in Sunnydale, and probably some with Faith since I was told she was there by Buffy's mother when I went to drop Miss Rosenburg out there.  Xander hunted things like that for four years."

"So of course he reacted when his life was in danger.  I'm not going to see the boy charged, Horatio, relax."  Horatio frowned but forced himself to look relaxed.  "What's your interest in the boy?"


The Chief snickered.  "And I'm the God of War, Horatio Caine."  He stood up, staring at him.  "Do you think perhaps you might want the boy as your own to protect and cherish?"  Horatio's eyes went wide and he sucked in a breath.   "That's all the answer I need, son.  What about where he's taking care of Speedle from what I've heard?"  He sat down again.

"I don't know.  Speed's closer to his age."

"Technically, he's closer to yours than the boy's."  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "It's the truth and there's been rumors for years about you and Speedle, Caine.  Then again there's rumors about you and Duquesne too.  That'd be kinda cute.  She'd be girly and giggly again."

"I doubt it."

"She would.  A woman in love is always happy and giggly.  Same as young men are, Horatio.  If you love him, or them, then handle it.  As long as nothing inappropriate happens in the labs.  Am I clear?  I've seen you pushing the envelope plenty of times."

"Crystal, sir, but I don't think it's an option."

The Chief gave him a look.  "Son, don't make me find a crossbow to hit you in the ass.  It'd hurt more than that boy's graze does his soul.  Now, go see the boy, comfort the pair of injured ones you have under your wing.  The boy's got emotional damage on top of that graze.  You said so yourself earlier.  Speedle's probably got some too."

"Yes, sir.  I'll talk about it with them."

"Caine, if you don't come in bouncy and happy within the week I'm giving them both a very unsubtle hint.  You're a miserable bastard.  You deserve the love and affection.  Now, go get it, son."  Horatio smiled at that and left.  "One week," he called after him, making it sound like he had been chewing the boy a new one.  Then he called the District Attorney's office.  "Billie, me.  Yeah, she's fine.  Thanks for asking, my dear."  He smiled. "No, about the Sit-Go robbery last night actually.  No, we have one who defended himself.  I'm hoping we don't get a problem like they had in Jacksonville.  No, the boy's down under an assumed name because he was gay bashed."  He nodded at what she said when she found the briefing sheets.  "That's what we're worried about.  Caine said everything backs the boy's story."  He smiled and relaxed.

"Actually I think if you didn't Caine might just owe you, dear.  Sure, I'll let you get the time to look it over.  No, nothing like that.  The Mala Noches were going to kill him like they had the guy the night before.  This one came armed to work.  Permit and all."  He smiled. "Yeah, he defended himself and got them down before the officers got there.  Impressive from what I heard but Stetler hates the boy because the boy caught him thinking inappropriate things about him.  Smarted off; I heard he's about as bad as Speedle at that.  Sure.  Thanks, dear.  Let me know."  He hung up and relaxing planning his 'help' for Caine.  Because he was a stubborn bastard and wouldn't do what he had ordered him to do.  He'd worry it to death first.  "Flowers?  Candy?  Minor trinkets?  Dinner out?"  He started to make notes. A good romantic dinner was what the head of his crime lab needed.  He was a guy like any other, he just brooded more than most.


Speed walked into the lab later that night, finding Horatio holding his head in his office.  "Should I tell him to run to Mexico?"

"Speed?"  He looked up at him, shaking his head. "No, he's fine.  Billie cleared him."

"She's one feisty woman. She probably appreciated it."

"She did."   He leaned back.  "No, I have a headache for a different reason."  Speed came in to work on his shoulders, making him moan in pleasure.  "You shouldn't do that."

"I'm not presently on shift.  You have a headache.  I can count this as therapy."  He grinned down at him.  "What's up?  Which case?  Can I help?"

"Not a case, Speed."  He patted his hands and looked back at him. "Some...rumors have gotten back to me."


"Us.  The Chief thinks we're together for some reason."

Speed looked at him.  "Am I putting out 'I'm gay' signals?  First Xander and then him?"

Horatio smiled.  "We think it'll take a man to treasure you the way you should be, Speed."

"And the problem is that you really like Xander," he said wisely.  Horatio sat up, blushing some. "Kinda obvious, Horatio.  You're as much a knight as he is but you don't usually ride to the defense of other knights."  He made him look at him.  "So tell me."

"Not here."

Speed went over and closed the door then came back.  "Go ahead."

"He gave me a week to come in like I had a wonderful date or he was going to meddle."

"Huh."  Speed shrugged.  "Well.  There's worse places to be."  He sat on the edge of the desk facing Horatio.  "What do you want, Horatio?"

"I don't know."  He looked up at him. "You've been one of my best friends for years."

"Uh-huh, and the virginal little pure knight is like watching a younger you if you had grown up differently.  We hit different parts of you."

"You're a bit too smart for your own good."

Speed leaned down.  "He loves to cuddle.  He's a bed hog."  Horatio shivered at that.  "He about strangled me earlier.  But my shoulder doesn't feel quite as bad now."  They shared another look.  "We had that one time, Horatio.  I was drunk and I came onto you."

"You did but I still stopped you at the kiss, Tim."

"I know."  He kissed him again.  "We need to make his first time special.  Very special. Those journals and what you found out about his former life?  It needs to be something to make him want to cry."

"I don't want to see him cry."

"Then bring dinner over tonight.  Start slow and work your way up, boss."  He stood up.  "The only real question is are we fighting over him?"

"I don't want to, Tim."

"I know."  He grinned. "Neither do I.  Why do you think I drank so much that night?"   Horatio gave him a gentle, pleased smile.  "You've got more experience wooing than I do.  Come up with something."

Horatio nodded, watching him walk out.  "Wooing?"  He saw Eric lean in.  "Yes, that was Speed."

"They both okay?"

"Fine but a bit confused."

"Boss, hate to mention this but Calleigh and I were wondering if you were going to start seeing the kid."  He came in at the shocked look.  "Really apparent with the way you rode in on the platinum hummer to save the fair squire in distress.  Ya know?"  Horatio blushed at that.  "So, does that mean you and Speed are over with?"  Horatio gave him an odd look.  "H!  Please tell me you didn't turn him down when I got him nicely worked up and loosened up for you!"

"He was too drunk, Eric."

"And then he chickened out and you graciously forgot it except for really late at night when you were alone," he said dryly, weathering the glare.  "You're a guy, of course you whack off now and then."  He rolled his eyes.  "So, the problem is fighting Speed for him or not?"

"No," he said grimly. "It's the age and what he's used to."

Eric pulled Horatio to his feet.  "Get in your hummer.  Go make brownies.  Speed likes chocolate and Xander loves chocolate.  Go make brownies and bring over something nice to eat.  Work your way up to it.  We know the boy isn't adverse to it.  He nearly came in his pants when you hugged him earlier."  He smiled and patted him on the back, giving him a shove.  "Make them, don't buy them.  Even if they're from a mix.  They'll appreciate them more."  He shook his head at the stupidity of some men.  "No wonder I get half the women in Miami!  The rest of the men are lame and stupid," he said in Spanish, dropping his report on his boss's desk and going to talk to Calleigh and tell her so she could help.  She was a girl, she knew how to woo one of them from the other side.  It could only help Horatio.


to part 2: