Three years later Xander had reached his full growth. He was a man now. He was sixteen. He was bored as hell. He slipped away from the black tie event, heading off into the night. He waved at his bodyguard. "Going for a drive," he called, sliding into his car. His bodyguard could follow him. As he usually did when he went for drives. Xander found a club he liked more, parking and heading inside. The tux he was wearing got an odd look. "I got tired of the society event," he said, taking off the bowtie so it could go into his pocket. Then he opened the top few buttons on his shirt. "Better?"
"Much," the bouncer said, taking the fee to let him inside. He nodded at the silent bodyguard. "He paid for you too."
"Thanks." Mortran walked in, watching Xander get down and funky on the floor with some pretty coed. "For a gay boy he does seem to draw bad girls," he muttered. Xander was making the all girls hot. A few tried to drag him off but he shook his head, grinning at them. He had learned how to be a gentleman from his grandparents. Too bad one of the girls got insistent. He timed it and Xander came back out looking a bit rumpled but she wobbled out and came for a drink.
She glared at him. "He's straight," she sneered.
"I'm his bodyguard, ma'am. He's also only sixteen," he said quietly. She went pale. "Shoo," he said just as calmly. She fled and he went to get Xander, nodding. Xander pouted. "Now," he ordered. Xander waved 'bye' to his dance partners, letting him lead him out. He shook his head at the bouncer. "Can't go anywhere without the whore patrol," he told the bouncer, who laughed. "One decided to bounce him into the backroom." He got Xander to his car. "If you need to go out that bad, we'll hit somewhere on South Beach or one of the higher class places. Not somewhere you'll pick up every disease known to womankind." Xander sighed and nodded. "Where are you going?"
"That'll work. It's a good mixed club and it's got a decent floor upstairs." Xander smiled and got into his car, heading that way. "Why did I let him convince me to tell his grandparents he needed a car for his sixteenth?" Mortran walked over to his car to follow the young guy. The bouncers at Picture were a bit more picky and tried to check his ID. "It's this or he'll go get into trouble. He's not going to drink. I'll make sure of it. All he wants is the music."
"Fine. We've heard you're a good boy, Xander." He let him inside the VIP entrance, watching as the bodyguard got him a water and walked him to the dance area. He shook his head. The kid was old enough to go out on his own. Too overprotective of parents. The kid would end up breaking out in bad fun.
Xander wobbled in that night, grinning at his grandfather. "Hi."
"Where did you go?"
"Clubbing. I was bored stupid," he said bluntly. He winced as he moved. "Sorry. Had a small crash."
"Are you high?" he demanded.
"No," he said patiently. "I cramped, thank you." His grandfather glared at him. He walked outside, dragging his bodyguard inside, cigarette and all. "Tell him."
"The ER did drug and alcohol test him after he ran into the curb and the mailbox. It turns out he's got some minor intestinal cramping from whatever he ate earlier. He had a cramp and it was bad enough that he lost control of the car." Patrick scowled. "He's fine. A bit sore where he hit the airbag."
"Need I remind you guys that I'm drug tested after each and every single meet?" Xander said dryly, leaning against the banister. "Yes, I'm going to fix the car myself. Out of my allowance. Before you ask, no, I didn't eat my own cooking. The shrimp at that stupid party got to me. I ended up puking it back up in the ER. They're the ones who figured it out. I've already called the local Vo-Tech. The car's waiting there. The night teacher agreed to call me later today with an estimate so I can make payments and it'll stay there while I make payments, but I am not going to apologize for not wanting to be hounded by the heathen bitch patrol who wants in my panties!" he finished. Patrick backed off. "I know they're important to you. I could care less about their petty lives, Grandfather. It's like a soap. I'm sorry I couldn't deal with it tonight but maybe I'm not built for polite society events." He went up to his room, slamming the door.
"We went to a club. He was dancing and having fun. One girl enticed him to give handjobs in the bathroom. I asked later. Then I took him to a better club, Picture, and he got down on the floor. He was feeling nasty so we came back early, which was when the cramps started apparently. I noticed he wobbled a few times and then he crashed within about a block before I could get him pulled over to see what happened. The ER heard he had been driving a Jag and had him tested for every drug and alcohol, Father. You know Xander's a good boy."
"I still needed him there."
"He didn't need the people who're trying to force their daughters on him again," he said bluntly. Patrick winced. "Sorry but the truth. Xander doesn't like people that much. He never has. He's not going to suddenly like people because he's sixteen. He might like sex but he doesn't like being surrounded by people, especially not those hunters you were with earlier. As he put it, he's not a prize to be hunted down and mounted." Patrick nodded. "Let him cut back to charity events. You don't need him at those."
"It's growing again," he said quietly.
"Then make Don go," he said. "At least he likes people. Xander's very wary of people and their motives for getting close to him." He walked off, heading to his room.
Xander came back down the stairs in boxers, leaning on the banister railing. "He's right. Those hunters in there creep me out. I'm not going to marry one of them. I've made that pretty clear. Most of the time I can't really stand the people in the circles you run. I'm polite because I have to be. It'd look really bad on you if I wasn't. It's always the same discussion. Nothing I do is interesting to them. Nothing in their lives is interesting to me. I could care less about Cara's heroin crop of the year. Or about the Morgan's horses. Or about how pretty Sophina was at her prom. I'm not going to my prom. What do I care?"
"It still has to be attended now and then, grandson."
"Hey, I suggested a sibling," he said dryly. "You decided not to take it." He gave him a look. "I'll go to what I have to go to. I'll be pulled out of my room to schmooze at polo. I'll go to my charity events. I'll go to the gay charity events. I won't go to anything less than those or something that'll create a social snub. I'm sorry, I hate people. I hate sitting in the small classes of people I have because ten is too many. Especially in a room as small as tonight's was." He walked off again.
"You're right, it was too small," he admitted, following him. "Didn't I say to wear clothes downstairs?"
"I was changing, Grandfather."
"Fine." He followed him into his room. "We'll work on what events you have to go to, Xander."
"Thank you. Just try to keep me away from the Morgans and those people."
"Did you turn in Cara?"
"Yeah, I texted Horatio. He sent back an 'I'll check into it'. I left it there." He looked over at him as he pulled on a pair of pajama pants. Then he turned around. "I'm sorry as hell I crashed the car. Next time I won't eat shrimp."
"As long as it wasn't drugs or alcohol I'll pay for it," he promised.
"Why? It's my car," Xander told him.
He pulled his head over so he could kiss him on the forehead. "We'll talk about it after school tomorrow." He walked out, finding Raphael in the doorway looking confused. "Xander had some stomach cramps due to some bad shrimp tonight and had a small wreck," he said quietly.
"He's fine. The girls were hunting him again."
"He's a good looking boy."
"I'm never going to date!" Xander called from his room. "People suck and I don't like them enough to sleep next to the same one for more than ten minutes!" He slammed his door.
"Ah, one of those nights."
"They're getting more frequent," Patrick said quietly. Raphael looked at him. "I will need someone to take over for me, Sire."
"True." He gave him a hug. "We'll have his car fixed."
"I told him I'd pay for it and he said it was his car." He smiled at him. "Do you think we should consult someone?"
"I don't know what normal teenager behavior is." They walked back inside together, closing the door and heading to talk to someone who would. Mortran answered his door in a bathrobe. "Cute look," Raphael said. They walked inside. "This hatred of people...."
"He's had it since before you got him," he said quietly, sitting on the foot of his bed. "Xander's never liked to be surrounded by people. Tonight's event was claustrophobic even to me. Watching over him means that you see him hating to be cooped in. Not that he wants to be outside, but he wants to be in a bigger space and not crowded. Also, those girls are going to make sure he never touches another one and maybe start to hurt them if they don't leave him alone. They're making him pull out his hair."
"They want him because he's cute," Raphael said.
"No, they want him because they're gold digging brats and they have mothers who have an agenda. Xander may be bi but he's not going to date any of them. They're princesses and he's not like that. He's never been a prince of the realm. They can only deal with minor things and Xander thinks and does and does more than drugs. They don't understand more than he's cute. Their mothers understand that some day Xander's going to take over for the Father. That gives him a hell of a lot of money but he wants a lot of deeper things."
"He said he hates people enough to never have sex."
"He can't stand being cooped in by people. He likes to cuddle when it's his idea. His ideal mate is going to have a long haul up a very steep hill. They're going to have to understand him, they're going to have to like him, they're going to have to appreciate him. He knows that none of them will ever do it and those are his dating pool. You guys told him no meaningless sex."
"Would him getting out of the city for the rest of the summer help?" Patrick asked. "I can send him up to Don. He can live in the townhouse."
Mortran considered it. "As long as he didn't have to do more playing socialite."
"There's one event I was planning on flying us up for," Patrick admitted. "He can do that one in my stead. It would also give him the opportunity to do some shopping and find a style we all appreciate."
"You're going to fund that?" Mortran asked.
"I can," he decided. "At a reasonable level, not at a debutante level."
"If he has to spend ten grand on a single piece of clothes I'd stop him unless it was made of spun gold," Mortran assured him. That got some smiles. "He might appreciate it. The last of his makeup days for the jocks is tomorrow. He stayed extra hours," he said at the confused look.
"Take him and go," Raphael agreed.
"I can do that. You might want to call and warn Don."
"We will," they promised, heading to send him an email in warning. Patrick also wrote the group holding the opening for the new 'gay' high school and told them he couldn't attend but his grandson would be attending in his place, and gave them his address for the invitation. He finished up and went to glance in at the boy, finding him sprawled out in just his boxers.
Xander looked around the city his first day free. Mortran had a family emergency. He was free! He nearly danced up the street. He decided to pop in on his 'family' up here, going to see his uncle. He was even nice enough to bring him a snack. He smiled at the sign-in desk. "Is Detective Flack in please?"
"At his desk, kid. He order lunch?"
"I'm his nephew. I'm up for a visit so I'm saying hi quickly." That got a nod and he went that way, finding Don nearly face down on the desk, looking like he had a headache. He put the food and coffee in front of him, moving to work on his neck. "Want to hit dinner, Uncle Don?"
Don smiled and looked back at him. "I could stand dinner sometime soon. I thought you were coming up in a week or so." He looked around then pulled him around. "Bodyguard?"
"His brother's wife just walked off in a huff taking their six-month-old daughter but leaving the other three kids." He sat down in his interview chair. "I promise I'm a good boy in Miami and I can keep doing it up here." He smiled and stood up when Stella walked in. "Stella."
"Do... Xander!" She beamed and hugged him. "Not a problem, right? We've had a bad week."
"No, I'm up to escape the hunting bitches of Miami's society," he said honestly. "Before I plug them all."
She smiled. "You're nicer than that."
"No I'm not. They see dollar signs and they see cute or they see someone they think they can taint. Their mothers see discrediting Grandfather. I'm going to plug every single last one of them. Either that or would the stuff you use on the tub seal body orifices so they can't use them?"
"Probably not for long."
"Pity." He sat down. "I brought Uncle Don some cruelers. You can have one if you want."
"Sure, I'm always up for sweets." She plucked one out, smiling at him. "You're going to behave, right?"
"Of course. I don't drink, I had bad examples, and I don't do drugs. I'm not the wild one in the family, that's Raphael." Don laughed. "I might club now and then but not really." Someone walked in and he waved and smiled. "Hi, Danny."
"Xander." He came over to give him a pat. "Visiting or problems?"
"Visiting until late August." He looked at Stella. "I was ordered to find a sense of personal style that wouldn't upset anyone in Miami."
She smirked. "I'll see when my next day off is, Xander." She ruffled his hair and walked off. "Don, suspect was found. When you're done."
"Go," Xander said, grinning at him. "I'll pop around to say hi to Mac and then head to window shop."
"Let me call first. He was growling at Sheldon," Danny said, dialing Don's phone. "There's someone who wants to say hi. You too busy for him to pop around?" He grinned. "Sure." He hung up. "He said go ahead but it has ta take less than thirty minutes."
"I can do that." He got up and skipped that way, signing in over there. "Just saying hi. He's expecting me."
"He said someone was coming to brighten his day." She gave him a visitor's pass. "His office doesn't move."
Xander went that way, going to lean around the door. "Hi, Mac." Mac smiled at him. "I give killer shoulder rubs if you think it'd help." He walked in, coming around to give him a hug and do that, earning a small moan. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Xander. Thank you. Who's up with you?"
"Me." He beamed and quit working on his shoulders since he was patting his hands. "I was told to find a personal sense of style and I'm avoiding the hunters with an agenda and usually drugs in Miami before I plug them one way or another. Do you think the stuff they use on the tubs would seal body orifices? Stella said not permanently. Rubber cement?"
"That's mean, Xander. Your grandfather taught you torture was wrong."
"That wouldn't be torture. They could still pee." Mac laughed. "They could. I'd be nice about it. I just don't want them near me. They're disgusting." He gave him a smile. "Wanna talk it out? I'm a good sounding board. Yelina did the last time I saw her and she had a bad case."
"It's fine, Xander. Do you remember Aiden?" He nodded. "She was found dead earlier this week."
"I'm sorry. When's the funeral?"
"Then I'll go pay my respects." He gave him another hug. "I'm sorry you lost her, Mac." He pulled back. "Remember, I'm good at hugs. Gymnastics and diving do great things for my arms."
"They do." He gave him a gentle smile. "That's Lindsay. She replaced Aiden when she left a few years back. Aiden, this is Xander Benis. We helped save him from a kidnaping a few years ago."
Xander waved, grinning some. "Hi." He looked at him. "Wanna come to dinner some night soon? I won't cook and poison you."
"I can probably do that," he agreed, smiling at him. "I heard about your cooking, Horatio warned me when you sent him those cookies."
"I figured he could figure out what I was doing wrong and the asshole was trying to crawl into his suit with him," he said dryly. "That's why I sent Horatio the professional cookies too." Mac laughed. "I'm going to go browse, see if I can find something I like to wear that won't make Grandfather shudder in horror. He hates my t-shirts." He waved. "Laters." He smiled at Lindsay. "Nice to meet you too. Have a better week." He walked out, frowning at someone. "I haven't seen you since you bandaged my hands."
The guy looked at him. "You look familiar."
"Xander Benis. Kidnaping about five years ago?"
"OH!" He smiled and hugged him. "New problem?"
"Saying hi. I'm up on a vacation."
"Good. I'll see you around then, Xander. I've got to get back to work."
"Of course, I don't want to keep you." He grinned and walked off, heading out to hand back his pass then go shopping. They had decided he'd have two thousand a week and he could call for more if he found something he absolutely had to have. He strolled around, looking in the nearby shops. Everything was so...boring! He walked on, taking a bus to the Village. They had to have hipper clothes. They were an area for hip-ness. He found a few stores that had things he liked to look at but when he tried them on he looked crappy. He handed them back and walked on, frowning as he found a store. "Vampires," he said dryly. "Interesting." He knew about the goth movement. Raphael liked to giggle about it. He walked inside to browse.
"Dear, you're a bit nice for us."
Xander looked at her. "I doubt it since I live with two vamps." He smiled at the shocked look. "Thanks though, just browsing. I was ordered to find a non-offensive personal sense of style." He went back to looking. He gave the leather pants a puppy eyed look. "Grandfather would have kittens." He wobbled but she handed them over, giving him a nudge toward the dressing room. He went in there to try them on, coming out in them. "Do I look like a dork?"
"No," she aid, blinking at his ass. "Let me get you something else." She went to find something in the back, bringing it out. "Try those on. They're more expensive but they'll look better." Xander came out in them and she nearly melted. "They're three hundred," she said weakly.
He smiled and paid with his debit card, letting her bundle his old pants and the other set into a bag. "No pockets." She got him something and handed it over. He looked a the small leather pouch. "Okay." He hung it around his waist, off to the side, and stuffed thing into it. Then he grinned. "How much more?"
"Nothing. I'm having plenty of fees from watching your butt in those. Too bad you're wearing boxers."
"I have to try on other things."
"Come back when you're not on a shopping mission, Xander." He grinned and nodded, heading out. She leaned on the counter, moaning a bit. "Ooh, Goddess. Thank you for that vision of the future."
Xander kept going. He found a nice place to get a haircut. They were showing some hipper fashions. He walked in and sat down, politely waiting. He got an odd look. "I was taught manners."
"What'cha need, fishie?" he asked, his accent pretty heavily Queens.
"A new do to make me pretty." The guy blinked. "I'm from Miami. I'm sixteen. I'm all alone in the city," he said happily. "I'm shopping."
"I can get you in a few." He went back to his current client. The guy paid him and Xander got up, walking over. "Slow it down when you walk. We all hurry; it'll set you apart." Xander slowed down. "Better. Need to be commando."
"I found them twenty minutes ago and I'm supposed to be finding non-offensive clothing." He sat down in the chair. "I dive and I do gymnastics. I need something that's easy to care for but that looks kinda hip."
"You a club boy?"
"Now and then I manage to slip the bodyguard and go out."
The guy looked at him. "Your daddy a CEO?"
"No, my daddy's a drunk and in prison for trying to kidnap me." He grinned. "My grandfather's big in gay rights."
He ran a hand through his hair. "You want to be pettable?"
"I'm not sure. I'd rather be pettable only when I offer instead of everyone and their mother doing it. Matrons are horrible about that."
"Okay." He ran his hands through it again. It was thick and heavy hair. He had some good length. He picked up his comb/scissors and got to work on the back. "I'll give you something that's more polite down but you can spike it up when you want or wear it as messy bed hair."
"That'll work," Xander said, slumping some so he wouldn't have to wiggle. "Sorry, wedgie."
"That's why you don't wear boxers under those. A thong maybe."
"Grandfather would definitely have kittens but I guess that means I'd get lap cuddling siblings." The hairdresser laughed and got back to work. At the end Xander looked. He had left it at the messy bedhair look. "I like that. Use any sort of gel?"
"If you want soft spikes, you use anything. You want harder spikes you use a super hold. You want this look you use mouse." Xander grinned and paid him, including a tip. Then he grabbed his bag and headed out. "Wow, haircuts are more expensive than they are here. Not that I'll complain." He pocketed the thirty dollar tip and cleaned up all the excess hair.
Xander found another shop that had some richer, softer looking shirts, going in to look. He found a few he liked and bought them, then headed back to the house. He did stop somewhere that sold underwear. A thong would make the boxers quit riding up his butt. He got home and sighed, closing the door behind him. "I'm back," he told himself, heading upstairs. He sent Don an email with his temporary cellphone number and changed into the thong and one of the brown shirts. It was a shiny-ish dark chocolate brown silk shirt, but it was a bit loose on his skinny frame. The pants came back on and so did the pouch. He looked at his shoe choice. "No sneakers." He found his shoes in his bag and looked. He decided on his dress boots. He hated dress loafers so his grandsire had suggested those. They also helped when his ankles hurt from too much standing. He slid into them, sitting down to do them up. "Hey, no wedgie." He bopped back down the stairs. A quick trip to the deli up the street and he was ready to go have some fun. He found a few loud clubs but nothing he wanted. He walked up to one bouncer. "Is there a good mixed club around here? I don't want to wander too far tonight."
He considered it then nodded. "Mixed as in gay and bi?" Xander nodded. "Penguin. Up the street. To the left. Or the Pony down in the park."
"Thank you." He grinned and headed off, going to check that club out. It was loud. It was playing a lot of techno music. The bouncer let him in without checking his ID as long as he had the cover in his hand. He slid into the crowd, feeling the music pounding though him. He slid into the middle of the floor and got down to it, smiling at his dance partner when someone joined him. He lasted a few songs and then someone else came over. It was good. He was getting appreciated for being skinny, geeky, but muscled and cute. The new haircut was definitely a good purchase. One of the guys nodded at the back and Xander winked but shook his head. He muttered about virgins and Xander nodded, smirking now. That got a nod and he bowed out. Someone else came to get Xander, leading him back to the bar. "Hi, can I have something fruity and virgin. No alcohol." The bartender gave him an odd look. "I'd get my ass killed. Besides, liquor tastes nasty." He paid for it and grinned at the guy who had pulled him out. "Hi, Xander."
"I'm Paul." He shook his hand. "Do I know you?"
"You could've seen me somewhere. Now and then I make it into the papers for my school's gymnastics team or my diving."
Xander grinned. "No comment." That got a splutter. "I'm on my first solo vacation."
"Should you be in here?"
"I'm not drinking." He sipped his fruity drink, smiling at the bartender, getting a grin back. "Thank you." He strolled off. "Coming again?"
"Probably a few times," he admitted, following him back onto the floor. The cups here had lids and straws so the kid's drink was safe. "Kid, you chosen a side?"
"I'm bi," he called. "But I'm tired of stupid women who only want me for being cute and having relatives."
That got a nod. "Then why aren't you up with the pretty people?"
"I wanted to stay closer to home tonight." He turned, dancing back against him. "Besides, first day in town. Wouldn't know where to go."
"C'mon, I'll show you." He walked the kid out, taking him to the cab and up to the club. Xander finished his drink by the time they got there. He walked him out, undoing another button on his shirt. "Better." He walked him up to the door. "Tell him who you are, Xander."
"Hi, Xander Benis from Miami. Grandson of Patrick Benis." The man gulped and let him in. "Cover?" The guard shook his head. "Thanks, man. Come on." He drug his friend inside, going to the bar. "Got anything cold, virgin, and fruity?" he asked. The bartender nodded, fixing him one. He paid the ten for the drink and got his friend one like his then went to wander around. He found someone he knew and paused in front of her table. "Marry."
"Xander!" She stood up. Her look of shock was very pretty but he was unsure if it was a bad or a good thing. "What are you doing in New York?"
"I'm on vacation. Mortran had to go help his family. Grandfather was thinking I was little. Again. The women down there were using me for target practice." She whimpered so he sipped his drink. "Before you start to nark, no alcohol. You know how I am. Can you help me shop sometime this summer if you're up here for a while? Grandfather said my t-shirts were disgusting again."
"Sure," she said, sitting down. "Guys, this is the grandson of Patrick Benis. He sits on the boards of a lot of gay charities. Your friend?"
"Paul. I just met him at a club far uptown. He said relatives like it was a bad thing in relation to hunting women so I thought he should probably be up here."
"He's one of us. He's actually one of the darlings of Miami society," she said happily. "Come squeeze in, Xander. You can too, Paul." Xander wiggled next to her. "How long are you up for?"
"Before school. Uncle Don's up here so he's watching over my shoulder."
"You have another relative?"
"Yeah, Grandfather's second wife had a little brother and he's got two kids. We don't like the daughter but both Flack men are really nice. I'm taking Uncle Don to dinner sometime soon." He finished his drink and relaxed. "Is it always this quiet? I expected a lot more life in New York."
"It's early, Xander." She gave him a pat. "Staying with your uncle?"
"Grandfather's townhouse." That got a grin. "I can cab back later." Someone came in and the press went wild. "Eww. I don't want that."
"I know, dear." She looked at her curious friends. "Xander's grandfather got custody of him at five?" Xander nodded. "We've seen him around the right circles in Miami since he was eight or so. He's grown up with us."
"Which is why I'm avoiding the hunting matrons and their daughter," Xander agreed dryly. That got some giggles. He shrugged. "It's just not my thing. I like deeper women or men who can think."
"Thinking is good," Paul agreed. "Most boys your age go for trophies."
Xander shrugged. "I could've had a lot of those. Why bother." The starlette stopped in front of them. "Mistress," he said dryly. She shivered and he looked at her. "I'm jail bait by city standards," he said sweetly. She walked on. He looked at her. "Do you want to hang with people like that?"
"Not really. They do stupid things. You get into the press for the wrong reasons." She looked at him. "Aren't States soon?"
"I hit my head during my last match so they said I can't go. I didn't score high enough."
"You all right?" one of the friends asked.
"I'm fine. I had a concussion. I'm better now." He grinned. "I'm a two sport guy but it's not polo, which is the Miami sport of choice."
"You dive and do what?" one of the guys asked.
"Gymnastics." He grinned. "I'm on my school team. We've went State all but one year since I joined and I've made the all-state team for nationals last year." They gaped. "I'm a lot better than when I started. I learned physics really fast by realizing how fast I was going and what it meant to my trajectory when I did a release move." They all laughed at that.
"Oh, no. I've heard he's went three feet once," Marry said dryly.
Xander nodded. "Sprained my knee too." They all laughed at that. "You missed the time I dismounted and broke my leg in fifteen places. Eight pins, six weeks later, and now my knee aches most of the night."
She gave him a hug. "You're a good boy, Xander." She looked at his present clothes. "You look adorable."
"Thank you." He beamed. "Grandfather said to go find clothes that weren't disgusting and t-shirts." Someone stared at them and he looked over. "Do we know her?"
"She's some huffy model type," one of them dismissed. "None of us are that pretty."
Xander grinned. "I'm very pretty," he quipped, cracking her up. He pouted. "You don't think I'm pretty."
She reached over to swat him. "Behave, Xander."
"I try so hard now and then." They all laughed. He looked at Marry. "That last event, wasn't that your mom's?" She grimaced and nodded. "How many others got sick?"
"About half the event. You?"
"Yeah, I cracked the Jag," he said grimly. "I had a stomach cramp and ran into a mailbox. It's still being fixed." The model came over. "Yes, Miss?"
"Do I know you?"
"Probably not since I'm on vacation from Miami's social circles." He sat up, holding out a hand. "Xander Benis. Grandson of Patrick Benis."
"I've head of some of your grandfather's work," she said, shaking his hand. "Do you model or act?"
"No, I dive and tumble." She gave him an odd look. "Diving and gymnastics."
"Oh." She looked him over. "I know someone you should meet. Come on." He looked at Marry, who nodded. "I promise I won't hurt him."
"Ma'am, I have two second level black belts and one third degree black belt. I don't think you could," Xander said honestly, making her gape. He walked off with her. The women he was leading them over to stopped gossiping to look at him.
"Emma, this is Xander Benis. He's from Miami's circle of friends."
"Pleasure, ma'am," he said, shaking her hand. "Are you in polite society as well?"
"Benis.... Do I know that name?"
"My grandfather's Patrick Benis. He sits on the board of a number of gay charities," he said quietly.
"Oh, that's where. You went to the nationals on your state's junior gymnastics team." Xander beamed and nodded. "You are adorable. Have you ever thought about modeling?"
"No. Is it hard?"
"Not if you're any good at it," she said. "Sit, dear."
"I can but not for long. I brought a date here and I don't want to abandon him with some friends from Miami."
"That's fine." She pushed out a chair with a foot and he sat down, staring at her. "You're very intense," she said, staring at him. "You have beautiful eyes and a very nice haircut."
"Today," he admitted sheepishly. "My grandfather told me to come up and go shopping."
"I can see why. You have a wonderful body, Xander. You're how old?"
"Sixteen three weeks ago."
"A good age." She wrote something. "Meet me here tomorrow. Be on time."
"Of course," he said, looking a bit confused. "Doing otherwise is rude."
She smiled. "Good boy."
"I hear that a lot," he said with an impish grin, making her beam. "I'll see you then, Emma." He got up, heading back to his friend, tucking the address and time into his shirt pocket. He sat down again. "I got an interview tomorrow," he said proudly. They all congratulated him and bought him a drink of his choice. He stuck with the fruity things and they all smiled at that. Yes, Xander was a good boy.
Xander bounced into the station the next night, pouncing Don when he ran into him. "I've got a modeling job," he squealed, hugging him. "I get to be in pretty pictures and people will stare at me and tell me how cute I am beyond the ones who like to pet my head."
"Whoa!" Don said, holding him down. "Slow down the babble, Xander. You have a modeling job?" Xander beamed. "When?"
"Earlier today." He beamed, bouncing around again. "I met her while I was out last night. Her name is Emma. She does fashion shoots." Don smiled. "She said I'm a good boy too, very, very good boy, bordering on goody goody boy, but I have pretty eyes and an ass of doom." He hugged him again. "So I got pictures taken today and they're going in a magazine next month." He beamed. "Dinner?"
"I was gonna go with the guys to Sullivans. It's a cop bar."
He nodded. "Okay. Tomorrow?"
"If you're not busy," Don teased.
"Not as far as I know. Did you get my cellphone number?"
"I did." He gave him a hug, walking him outside. He saw the limo waiting. "Yours?"
"Emma's. She said I should tell you on the way home." He beamed. "I'll go home and be a good boy. Call when you have time. I've got to tell Horatio. He'll be green!" He got into the back and the driver walked around to get in and drive.
Don smiled, looking over as Stella came out of the other entrance. "Xander got a modeling gig today."
"Wow. Already? Some kids try forever."
"Apparently someone spotted him out last night."
"Isn't he in town alone?"
"Xander doesn't drink," he said patiently. "Horatio gets a lot of tips about the society drug circuit from him too." He took her arm. "He's going home and we're going to Sullivan's." She nodded, walking off with him. "He was bouncy and babbling."
"Good! It's good he's happy!" She smiled. "I caught the national's match. He looked really good on the high bar."
Don smirked at her. "You missed his first few months of gymnastics. He found out the law of speed and trajectories in person." She moaned. "Went three feet one time." That got a snicker and a head shake. "Then about a month later he stuck a dismount from a high bar thing. He had too much momentum and kinda sunk into the floor. Broken leg in fifteen places. Eight pins. Six weeks in bed." Stella winced. "Yeah. That was Patrick's feeling." He got her into his car. "C'mon, I'll drive." He walked around to get in, taking them to the bar. A few minutes later he got to park and walk her inside. "Hey, Mac, Xander got a modeling gig today," he called as he went to get them drinks. He heard Mac splutter. That deserved a smirk of evil from him. He walked their beers over. "He got seen last night while he was out somewhere and got to do some magazine stuff today with someone named Emma."
Mac shook his head. "Maybe we should put a GPS on Xander?"
"His keys have one," Don told him. "Mortran told me in case it ever came in handy." He saluted him. "My nephew, one day in the city and already getting the hotty looks." They all laughed at that.
"I can see why. He wears spandex for gymnastics stuff," Stella admitted, punching him on the arm. "That boy's butt is granite."
"Runs in the family," Don quipped. That got more snickers and Mac spluttering again. "It does. Wanna see?"
"No thanks," Mac said with a smirk of his own. Danny walked in and flopped down. "Xander did some modeling today."
"As long as it's not porn, I'm happy for the boy," he said. He went to get them a pitcher since technically he owed them all a round.
Patrick stormed into Horatio's office three weeks later. "Someone has got to go calm Xander down."
"What did he do?" Horatio asked calmly. A magazine was put in front of him. He blinked at the picture. "He's definitely not ten anymore." He looked at the fuming grandfather. "Is he in any danger?"
"No," he said, starting to pout like his grandson would.
"Then he's getting positive attention from people who don't want him for your money, Patrick. Xander is one of the most sensible boys in the world."
"He's only sixteen. He said modeling, not wearing his diving suit and a watch!"
"I'm sure it's not going to his head." The magazine was flipped and a picture of Xander on a dance floor in leather pants that were probably more revealing than the spandex bathing suit was handed to him. He blinked at it. "He's still very level headed. He doesn't drink and you know that." He looked at him. "He's not running that wild and working is a good experience for him. Most boys his age have some sort of summer job if their parents are wise."
"He has a drink in his hand."
"Speed?" Horatio called. "Eric?" They came in together. "What's that drink Xander's holding?"
Eric looked, blinking at the picture of him. "He's well built from sports." He took Horatio's magnifying glass. "Something like a fruit slushy." He handed it back.
"The kid drinks those down here but he does it virgin," Speed agreed. He looked at the picture. "He looks good in those pants." Horatio flipped back to the other one. "It's good attention for him. Every boy needs to have someone who wants him for his body." He looked at Eric. "He looks better than you did when you dove." Eric punched him on the arm. He grinned at Patrick. "What did Don say?"
"That he's been mostly good. A bit of wild shopping with another model. They've went to dinner at least once a week and he's taken Mac and Stella a few other times. I should send one of the other bodyguards."
"Let him be," Horatio advised. "He's a young man and he's having fun. Only send someone if he gets into trouble. Which I'm sure you'd hear from him or Don."
"He's nearly naked."
Calleigh leaned in, smiling. "Something happen to Xander in New York? I saw the pictures last week in Time." Patrick whimpered. She went to find it and brought it back. "See?" He looked and handed them over, looking miserable. She gave him a pat. "It's all right. He's a smart boy."
"His last email did say he was having fun," Horatio admitted. The one he was staring at was for the same watch. It was Xander pouting at it like his date was late. He was dressed in a higher class suit and tie, leaning against a wall, legs crossed at the ankle. "I like the new haircut.
"Me too," Patrick admitted. He took them to look through. He stopped at one and handed it over. That one had him lying practically naked in a tree, only one strategically placed branch in front of his pubic area, and him reaching up to play with a cat, smiling at it like it was his baby. The caption said 'discover the naked joy of owning a pet'.
Speed looked. "He does like animals and the ASPCA will definitely get some better attention with that campaign." He took them and walked out. "We should start a scrapbook for him."
Horatio smiled. "It'll be fine, Patrick."
"Sire doesn't know yet."
"Hand him the watch picture," Calleigh offered. She smiled and walked out. She wanted that one back. She liked the suit picture.
"Want to call Don and check on him?" Horatio suggested. "Or even Mac?"
"No, I'll call when I get home," he decided. "Thank you for calming me down, Horatio."
"Not a problem." He smiled as the older man walked off. He did call Don himself. "How many times has Xander posed? We've seen four and one club picture. Watches and the ASPCA." He heard the shudder. "Seen that one? Patrick was worried about him." Don told him the boy was having fun and being good. The club picture he was actually across the room from him. Xander wasn't picking up loose women, he wasn't drinking, he wasn't doing drugs. He was being a good boy and he'd call Patrick himself. "I'd wait. He said Raphael doesn't know yet. He was panicking in my office," Horatio admitted. "Give him my love, Don. Tell him I'll see him when he gets back and nothing too risque or his grandfather will have a heart attack." He hung up, leaning back, smiling at some of the information. Xander was young, he should be off having fun at his age. Even if it did mean he had thoughts he shouldn't have about his friend.
Xander looked at Stella. They had just bought him a few new good shirts and were browsing pants. "Should I plan on getting bling?"
She looked at him. "I didn't know you were artistic that way."
"I'm not," he said with a shoulder nudge. She smiled. "It seems like the thing to do."
"Maybe something subtle, Xander." He nodded. "No body piercings this trip. We'd get in trouble. Your Grandfather called Don at two this morning about the cat ASPCA ad."
"Gee, he'd really be freaked if he saw the one of me playing with the puppy on the billboard, huh?"
"Yeah, putting it mildly," she agreed, giving him a head nudge. "Where are all your checks going?"
"Into the bank." He grinned. "I'm responsible that way." He held up a pair but she shook her head. "Huh. The model I got sent out with suggested a pair in that color with a black shirt or a darker purple."
"Light eggplant and then darker eggplant? I'd have to see it on you, Xander."
"It's at home."
"We can do that when we make it back there." She handed him a few more. "Go try on." He nodded. She smiled at his back, shaking his head. "He went shopping with a model?"
"Yeah, they wanted me to have better slutty clothes," Xander called. "So they sent me out with Her Buxomness." He came out in one pair, getting a nod. He looked then smiled and went to change, letting her have those. "I need new underwear too. They want me to wear thongs and I've only got the one."
"Sure," she agreed. "I know a good place."
"Any with good sales?"
"A few." She turned and found someone there with the cashier being held hostage. Xander came out before she could warn him. "Call someone."
He gave her an odd look. Then he strolled that way, leaning on the guy's back. "What'cha doin'?" he asked in a mimic of Danny's accent. "It looks like you want to play." The man shook him off and pointed the gun at him. Xander kicked him in the stomach then grabbed the gun and tossed it back toward Stella, kicking his ass very well. When the man was down and sobbing he looked at him. "I was right, you are a fun playmate," he said with a wicked grin. "Stella, these are too tight when I'm kicking. Do they make my butt look big?"
It took her a minute to process what he had said but she looked. "No, Xander. Not at all." She called it in. Don came in with the patrol guys while he was still trying on. She pointed at the changing room. He rolled his eyes and Xander came out with his selections. "I'm going to go look for more," she said, taking the clothes.
Don backed Xander back into the changing area. "Repeat after me. I am not a cop, Uncle Don."
"I know I'm not a cop, Uncle Don." He gave him a hug. "He had a gun. He was mean and Stella shouldn't have to get sweaty. Besides, I haven't had a good workout in weeks. I'm getting slow." He grinned. "I gave him a chance to freak out and run."
"You're in so deep when I tell Uncle Patrick." Xander pouted. "Don't even try." Xander turned up his miserable knob. "Uh-un. Not working on me. They taught us to withstand that at the academy." Xander shrugged, looking sheepish. "You're not a cop."
"I know that."
"You're not even fully trained in self defense."
"Yes I am."
"No you're not."
"Yes I am. Mortran's former Army Special Forces and he's been training me with his buddies. Plus I've got two second degree black belts and one third degree black belt. Yes I am." Don gaped. "I had to do something. I'm hyperactive, Uncle Don. It was offered at school until the Judo coach was involved in that little kidnaping thing then I went to private lessons."
Don gave him a hug. "Don't be so stupid again. Stella's a cop. She can get sweaty and we appreciate and pay her for it."
"Then she'd have to do paperwork all day and I wouldn't have anyone to have fun with."
Don pulled back to look at him. "You need fun?" Xander nodded, resting against his shoulder. "Okay, we'll go have fun tomorrow. I've got it off. We'll go have good boy fun." Xander squealed and hugged him.
"No sex in there please," a female voice called.
"He's my uncle, woman, EWW!" Xander shouted back. He walked out, glaring at her. She gaped then backed away. He pointed. "That's my Uncle, Detective Flack. I can squeal and hug him when he promised to take me out to have good boy fun if I want to. I'd appreciate not being accused of incest!" She whimpered and nodded, slinking to the other side of the store. He grinned and went to help Stella. "We're going to go out tomorrow."
"Good." She kissed him on the cheek. "Be a good boy, Xander. No more clubs where you end up on the pole."
"Someone gave me liquor and I never realized," he muttered.
"EXCUSE ME!" she demanded. Don came over. "Someone fed him liquor while he was out and he didn't notice?"
"I was hoping that was the reason he was go-go dancing in a cage and stripped," Don told her. He looked at Xander. "Fortunately it was too low brow for cameras." He walked the ladies out to the car once Stella had let Xander pay. He waved as they drove off, then relaxed against the building. "I want a smoke," he decided. The saleswoman leaned out. "He forget something?"
"No. Who is he?"
"Xander Benis. Grandson of Patrick Benis. He's from Miami." She beamed. "Yeah, that guy on the billboard with the puppy and the bare butt. Him." She giggled and went back inside. He shook his head. He decided he was going to get Mac and him lunch before going back, bringing it to him in the office. "I saw the shopping twins."
"They okay?" he asked, taking his coffee and lunch.
"After Xander kicked the ass of the guy who was trying to rob where they were shopping." He flopped down at the stunned look. "Did you know he has three upper level black belts?" Mac slowly shook his head. "Me either. I knew his body guard was special forces but not that him and his buddies had been working on Xander's self defense either." Mac whimpered. "So apparently he *can* take care of himself." He saluted him with his coffee. Danny walked in and stole his chips, walking off. "Hey! Messer, I'm hungry!"
"Come over for dinner tonight."
"Can't, I'm eating with Xander. You can come with us."
"Sure, we can talk about his naked butt above Times Square," he called back, walking off nibbling the chips.
"He's naked above Times Square?" Mac asked.
Don nodded. "Another ASPCA ad. I thought about sending it down there but Patrick's freaking out about the modeling stuff. His first one was the diving watch ad."
"That was tastefully done. I haven't seen that billboard."
"It's cute. He's playing with a puppy on a lambskin rub. Like a baby picture only he's cuter 'cause he's family. Dad about shit purple elephants when he saw it. Oh, I'm going to take him to do fun stuff tomorrow."
"Sure, I'm sure he could use it." He dug into his lunch. He would definitely have to look at that ad. "Who was he seen shopping with in the Post?"
"Some model. Xander claimed they wanted him to have more smutty clothes so they sent her since she's got big hooters and dresses to show them off."
"Ah," he said weakly.
"She made him get more leather pants."
"Patrick's going to yell."
"Nah, Stel was getting him real clothes before the butt kicking and the girl fit he threw after that."
"Good!" He ate another bite. His phone rang and he answered it. "Detective Mac Taylor." He smiled. "Just talking about you two, Stella. Don brought me lunch and he said he's eating with Xander tonight and possibly Danny." He looked at him. "You can but he'll be late. His last pictures turned out bad so they want to reshoot."
"As long as it's not too late."
"He said as long as it's not too late. Sure, bring Stella with you, Xander. She could use the fun and it'll give her a better idea of how to dress you." He smiled. "He'll see you then." He hung up. "He said it shouldn't be later than seven. As long as they don't get eaten this time for being ugly." He dug in again. "Any other ASPCA ads?"
"Yeah, him in a bathing suit and goggles with koi around him in a tub. I think there's one of him in spandex jogging shorts in a hamster wheel with a picture of one for him to stare at like it's an idol." Mac smiled. Those sounded cute. "He said there had been a snake one but they decided it looked evil. It didn't go with the theme of 'discover the naked joy of owning pets' they were using. He's got it in his portfolio."
"Good." He finished his lunch, sitting back. "He's not running wild."
"No, he's been a good boy," Don agreed. "I'm happy he's been such a good boy. Obviously I'm not paying enough attention to him but he's been a good boy."
Mac smiled. "It'll be fine. Patrick can't blame you."
"Yes he can."
"No he can't. He's a fair man. He can't blame you." He stole one of Don's cookies to nibble. "Didn't bring me dessert," he said at the upset look. That got a snort and a grin.
"I'll know better next time." He finished his lunch and his cookies, getting up. "Gotta go back to slave for the department. See you later." He walked off, heading back to his desk.
Mac decided to go look at that billboard. He was clear and being there was probably closer to his next case. He parked and stared up at it. Then he burst out giggling. It was very cute.
Xander walked into the house lugging his four suitcases. "I'm home!" he yelled. He dropped things and went to find people. He smiled at his grandfather napping just out of the sun but close enough to feel the warmth. He gave him a gentle hug. Patrick yawned up at him. "I'm home."
"I can see that. Did you remember to leave those evil leather pants up there?"
"No." He grinned. "You said no t-shirts." He gave him another hug. "I had fun. Thank you." He got a back pat. He pulled back. "Now I can pay you back for fixing the car." He bounced off, finding the guys hiking his luggage. "I can do that. Not all at once but I can do that."
Gordon grabbed him by the ear and walked him off. "Come talk to me, Xander."
"OW!" he complained. "I was good! Someone slipped me liquor that one time. I made sure it couldn't happen again!"
Gordon stopped to look at him. "You drank?"
"Not of my own free will. I couldn't taste it." He rubbed his ear. "That's not what this is about?"
"No," he said patiently. "It's about your twelve foot naked behind in Times Square." He walked him off again.
"I like supporting the pound," he defended. "Their pet adoptions went up nearly thirty percent with the new ad campaign. Other cities are going to use it too." Gordon went pale and grabbed his chest. "Guys, I think he's having another heart attack!" he yelled. Guards came running to help him. His bodyguard pulled him away. "Hi." He hugged him. "I had fun. How's your brother doing?"
"Better." He looked at him. "Were you good?"
"One time someone slipped me some evil liquor I didn't taste. I ended up cage dancing. Don was not happy when I called him to come pick my semi-naked butt up. Other than that I was good. I modeled watches and for the ASPCA, which is a charity I support, and two other things."
"I saw the runway show on tv."
"I made tv?" he asked, looking stunned.
"Oh yeah. What happened to Gordon?"
"He wanted to talk about the pound ads and I told him that they gave other cities permission to use them since their adoptions went up thirty percent."
Mortran moaned. "Is this the same ad as the one in Times Square that Don faxed down a picture of?"
Xander beamed and nodded. "Probably. I love the pound. They're great people. I've always supported the pound." He gave him another hug and went to see his grandfather. "Gordon's going to be okay. They said so." His grandfather reached over and smacked him on top of the head. "Ow. I didn't deserve that."
"Will I have to look at your naked behind on a billboard down here?"
"I don't know. They're going to LA next."
"Sire's out there," he moaned. "Someone warn him!"
"Tooo late," someone said in a sing-song voice from outside. He brought in a book. "Your portfolio, Xander?" He nodded, so he let Patrick see it. "That's a better view than Don had of the billboards."
Patrick looked at them, letting out a small whimper at the one of him in the hamster wheel. The others did get a faint smile. They were cute. He only had to swat him for one of the pictures. The book went onto the table. "Well, you're very pretty, Grandson." Xander beamed. "But I do wish they wouldn't focus so much attention on your hind end. You have other good qualities."
"It's visual art," Xander reminded him. "They can't see my personality."
"True." He closed his eyes. "I'm going to go back to my nap so I have energy for dinner."
"You can nibble me."
"I will for dinner, Xander. Go put up your clothes and hide the leather." Xander gave him a hug then went to do that. He sighed, shaking his head. "Someone invite Horatio for dinner?" he suggested. He let himself drift off, making sure he didn't have dreams about Xander's butt coming out to attack him again. He did not want to watch it devour billboards.
Horatio smiled at Xander when he flung open the door and gave him a hug. "Did you have a good trip?"
"Yup." He drug him inside, walking him to the dining room. "Here he is. Only a bit late," he said. He sat down. "Grandsire hasn't called about the ASPCA ads yet. They got sent to LA too."
"I'm sure they're very cute, Xander." Xander bounced out to get his portfolio, bringing it back. He smiled as he accepted it. The thought that kept hitting him was 'Xander's not ten anymore'. He got done and smiled. "I'd like to see the fun pictures too."
"They're on the laptop. I splurged and bought myself a digital camera." He handed down the food. "Tell him the hamster one and the one with me in body paint isn't that bad."
Horatio looked down. "It could've been pornography."
"That's a worse thought," Patrick agreed, saluting him with his glass of blood. "Eat, Horatio. You too, Xander. You're both growing boys." They grinned and dug in, talking about where Xander had been in New York. Apparently Stella had made him go shopping with her a few times to counteract the leather trend he was starting. "Uniforms, Grandson?" he asked.
"Um.... I need at least three new ones," Xander admitted. "It's a free clothes day the first day, I'll wear something and then go shopping that afternoon." He grinned at him. "Don't worry so much. It makes you feel older. We need to go have fun so you remember being my age and you feel my age. Before I have to ask and bribe Ethan into making you a youth potion." He got a snicker and a head shake. "Ethan?" He came out of the kitchen. "Can you make a youth potion for Grandfather?"
"I can. I can make a permanent one or a temporary one. I used a delightful one on Ripper." He looked at him, getting a shiver. "It won't cure the tumor but it might make it smaller. That's not a bad idea, Xander. Thank you." Xander beamed. "Behave."
"I try so hard," he teased.
"Yes, we heard." He walked off, taking the portfolio with him. He wanted to look at a few of them and so did some of the other guards. Patrick had this habit of confiscating anything with Xander's pictures in it.
Xander walked into his first day of school in his favorite dress pants and shirt, looking very good. He had went for messy bed hair today. He strolled to his locker. He had learned the art of hurrying without looking like he was hurrying. "Hi, guys," he said when walked past most of his gymnastics team. They all stared. He turned and grinned. "What? I kept in shape all summer."
"We saw you in the watch ads," one of the guys said. "Coach wanted to spank you. You missed two practices."
"Oops. I didn't know we had any before school." He went to his locker, getting what he needed out of the stack he was carrying. He went to home room and waved. "Can I track down the coach?"
"Do it during lunch, Xander." He strolled in and sat down, earning a look. "What are you wearing?"
"We were told it was a free clothes day."
"It is, but what are you wearing?"
He looked at himself then at her. "Clothes. Unlike a few ads." She blushed. He grinned. "I had tons of fun doing those." He sat up straighter when the headmaster came in, giving him a look. "I've been good."
"I doubt that. I saw your billboard in Times Square in person."
"I've always supported them. They're one of the charities I'd do anything for."
He let out a small growl. "Any more upcoming shoots?"
Xander shrugged. "Emma didn't do more than pout when I said I had to come back for school." He walked off shaking his head. "Tell the coach I'm sorry and I'll see him at lunch!" he called after him. "I didn't know we had practices over the summer." The others trooped in, not looking that happy to be back. "Come on, guys. It's not that bad. We all need recuperation time from our vacations. This week of school is that." He got a few evil looks and a few of them turned appreciative. He grinned. "I had fun." The bell rang and they were given their schedules. He frowned, waving his. "No way in hell." The teacher gave him an evil look. "I can't take Advanced Chem. I haven't had a science class since eighth grade."
"See the headmaster, Xander."
"Going." He went that was, waving his schedule as reason for the secretary to let him in. "Advanced Chem? Me? You do remember which one I am, right?" The scheduled was taken and frowned at. "I'm hoping it's a printing error. Though I don't mind Accounting Four and Five or the two gym classes. I need the practice time. I've got State in a few months for diving."
"You have to take one more science before you graduate."
"Why?" he asked, looking miserable.
"State rules. Geology?"
"Okay. Whatever's easiest."
"Geology." He fixed his schedule. "What's this elective?" Xander shrugged. He looked then groaned. "You took a research elective?"
"I did? Okay. Is it hard or can I write papers?"
"You would have to write papers."
"That's fine then. I can do those on trips to State. This is my last year in the Junior class and I've got to decide if I want to go on."
"Up to you, Benis." He printed it and handed it back. Along with a note saying he had changed it. "Here." He handed it over. "Go. Shoo. Wear pants that don't look like that tomorrow."
"I'll try really hard." He bounced off, going to grab a soda on his way to class. The teachers all knew he needed them. He waved the slip in explanation to the teacher, who sighed. "Someone put me in Advanced Chem."
The teacher burst out laughing. "No, you're better in here, Xander. Sit please. No soda on anything."
"Just like always," he agreed, accepting his copy of the book. The teacher looked at his schedule so Xander shoved it closer. "Research?"
"Ah, the pussy cat." He shook his head. "We'll deal." He took the worksheet and filled in what he remembered from his other physics and science classes: the faster you're flipping around the bar the further out your trajectory is, if you're going too slowly and miss you're a law of gravity, the sudden stop at the end of inertia hurts, the force to slice cleanly into the water seems to burn from friction, the force to put a pin into a bone chunk is directly proportional to how big the chunk used to be, chemistry and Xander do not get along, he and cooking are in similar disassociated states commonly referred to as an alternate reality. The teacher came back to look over his shoulder, snickering quietly. "They are," he said quietly. "Do I get to cook stuff in here?"
"Hell no!" one of the students in the front proclaimed.
"Sing it, sister," another one agreed.
"I doubt your grandfather wants to rebuild this classroom like he did the chemistry classroom, Xander," the teacher said, patting him on the back. He took the paper. They were practical application of some of the laws of the universe. "What's the sudden stop at the end of inertia called?" he asked his favorite student, who looked clueless.
"Ow," Xander told him. The other students cracked up at that. "It's translatable into any language too." The teacher gave his soda a nudge and he took a sip as ordered. He went to collect the other papers. Xander looked at the science nerds. "I know someone, or two, who work in forensics if you guys wanted to see if you wanted to go that way," he offered. "I can ask if either would be willing to talk to you." They smiled and one nodded. "Let me know. I'll call later tonight." The teacher coughed so he looked at him again. "It's a good field."
"It is, and a growing one. For now let's work on Geology. That's the study of the earth and the parts that make it up." Xander's hand inched up. "Not too much physics, Xander, and you already quoted most of them." His hand went back down. It was going to be a fun year.
Xander walked in that night. "I made two teachers make passes at me and one wasn't gay before he did. He's not sure why he hit on me but apparently I'm recruiting. When do I get my toaster oven?" Someone in the house choked, another groaned. He grinned at his guard. "I did."
"I know you did. It's because of those ASPCA ads."
"They did bring them down here?"
"They did and they left a message for your continued support, grandson," Raphael said as he came down the stairs. "Close the door so he can't escape this time."
"I love the pound."
"I know you do. You're still in deep for the twelve foot high ass that went up across from my apartment in LA."
"I didn't tell them to put it there." He got motioned closer so Xander fled the house, snatching his keys out of Mortran's hand on the way around him. "I'll be back at curfew; I have to do some school clothes shopping since leather's not on the allowed list!" He dove into his car and headed out again.
"Remind me to spank him later," Raphael complained, heading for the study. He turned and looked at him. "Two teachers?" Mortran nodded, looking a bit smug. "Why?"
"I'm not sure why the math teacher hit on him. Or why the other one did since he's been married for twenty years to his high school sweetheart and they have three kids." He shrugged. "He's not sure so I guess it's good Xander's recruiting and showing how many bi men there really are." He walked off. "I've got his debit card."
"I'm sure he'll go to the bank itself," Patrick said, coming out of his study. "Did he ask when he got his toaster oven for recruiting men?" Mortran nodded. "Uh-huh. What's his schedule like?"
"They took him out of Advanced Chem, put him into Geology. He's in there, a research class, two accounting classes, and two gyms. The gymnastics coach chewed him a new one. There were summer practices. He got to show off today to prove that he hadn't lost any fitness by posing in lewd positions with animals." He went to get a drink and go to bed with his headache. Sometimes being Xander's bodyguard was fun. Sometimes it wasn't. Today it had been tiring scaring off the people who wanted the boy.
Xander grinned at Speedle as he came out. "If I begged really prettily do you think you could arrange for someone to come talk to our science geeks?" Speed frowned, pausing on his way to the hummer. He handed over the list he had made earlier. "They wanted to know what you do and they're all science geeks."
"I'll have Eric go. He'll charm them into it." He grinned. "Cute picture with the hamster."
Xander grinned. "Thanks. I got really sweaty doing that. Well, I'm off to find school clothes since I can't wear leather. Or spandex." He grinned. "I said I'd ask. Be safe." He gave him a look but grinned and walked off, heading to go shopping.
Speed tucked it into his case. He got into the hummer with his scene kit, calling Horatio while he started the engine. "Just saw Xander. He said he'd ask us to come talk to a few of the science geeks at his school who wanted to know what we did. I've got the list in my kit, Horatio." He frowned. "The engine won't start." He got out, taking his kit with him. He looked. "Um, bomb," he said, hanging up. "BOMB!" he yelled. The area cleared out and he was pulled back. "It wouldn't start. I'm not sure if that means they didn't hook it up right or not." Horatio came jogging out, getting down to look. He sighed, slumping against the front of the building. "Okay, I need a ride to a homicide," he announced. One patrol nodded, leading him over to his car he had already checked over. "H, going to work." He got the list and handed it over. "Here, Xander's list." He went back to the cruiser and got in, checking his case. "Okay, we can go." He handed over the address, getting a nod and them backing out. "I'm hoping it was at the lab and not me," he muttered.
"Everyone likes you, Speed."
"No they don't."
"Okay, most everyone likes you. It wasn't aimed at you." He pulled onto the main road, heading off. "You know everyone who hates the lab is aiming at Caine's hair. That's why he's the only redhead in the lab."
"I'll tell him that's the common consensus." He thought. "We might have a witness." He called Eric's phone. "Tell Horatio that Xander was waiting on me when I came out. He might be a witness and therefore in danger." He hung up, relaxing. "Horatio got it off and disarmed. A wire wasn't connected."
"Never mind. We all know he's a goody goody."
"Now and then but you should've seen some of the pictures he did this summer while he was modeling." He looked at him. "When the pound gets new ads down here, look really closely."
"I heard," he said with a grin. "His grandfather must've had cows."
"Possibly." They pulled up at his scene and he got out, waving a hand. "Thanks." He walked up to the tape, holding up his badge. "CSI." He signed in and was let in, letting him put down his case and put on gloves so he could get to work. "Be careful. We had a bomb on one of the hummers at the lab itself." That got a shudder. "They didn't connect it right thankfully."
"I'll let the others know," he said, pulling down his radio to call. "Do we have an update on the bomb at CSI?" he asked. The dispatcher screeched. "Speedle said one was just found. Any new ones or are they missing a hummer?"
"Negative. No new bombs found. We do have a witness possibly. BOLO a silver Jaguar SE. Plate "Flippr"."
Speed shook his head. "I still say that plate was a bad idea. He's going shopping. He's a possible witness."
"Speedle reports that the witness may be heading shopping." He let go of the button.
"Got it." She told the others.
Xander was led into CSI, waving. "What? Did I do bad things?"
"Guys, he's a witness, not a suspect," Frank said calmly. They let him go. "The bomb?"
"I cut one of the wires. It was stupid and mean to put it on the hummer but I couldn't figure out how to get it off."
"You couldn't tell anyone?" he shouted.
"No, because if I had it'd have been worse. You guys didn't see the sniper?" Frank's jaw fell open. "I saw him come out of his nest when I disarmed it and the hummer. I did try to point out that a guy was running off with a gun shaped object from the park and they ignored me."
Frank took a deep breath. "Who did you tell?"
"The dark haired guy that I accidentally poisoned with cookies. He scoffed and walked off."
"Stetler!" he bellowed. He came up the hall looking confused. "He said something to you about a guy with a gun?"
"He's a punk brat."
Xander looked at him. "No I'm not. Who do you think I am, man? I'm known as a good boy." He looked at Frank. "I thought it better to disarm and then tell, as well as disable the hummer in case since he had slapped and run. I wasn't sure it wasn't going to restart, if there was a backup, whatever."
"How did you spot the sniper?"
Xander moved closer. "My bodyguard is former special forces," he said very quietly. Frank shivered. "As soon as my parents showed up I asked him to start training me in case anything should happen. That's also how I knew which wire to cut." That got a nod. "On both things. As for the guy, he was wearing huge 'bug' sunglasses and a cap. He walked up casually, whistling and glancing around. He bent down and came up suddenly then walked off a lot faster. I heard a small magnetic sound. I went to look; two slices with my pocket knife and it was safe. The sniper started to run when I straightened up. I pointed him out and I'm not really sorry I accidentally poisoned you anymore." He looked at Horatio. "Nobody listens to guys my age. You know that."
"I do. What did he look like?"
"Big, bug eye sunglasses. Tan cap. Medium brownish hair. Looked like bad highlights or a sun-in job gone wrong. His shoulder came up just past the sticker on the hummer's window. He was whistling off key. He acted like he dropped something and I heard the magnetic connecting sound. I looked. Two slices of my pocketknife and it was disarmed and so was the hummer, just in case there was a backup or if they had some other way I hadn't seen him plant. When I straightened up I saw a guy running with a rifle shaped object. I told him," he said, pointing at Stetler, "and he proved my hypothesis right. No one listens to guys my age. Even good ones."
"Can you work with a sketch artist?"
"I can try but I'm not the best at art stuff. I have a horrible eye for form. Didn't the cameras catch him? There was a cruiser that pulled in as he was hiking off."
"Get me that tape," Frank ordered. A patrol officer nodded, going running. "How long was his hair?"
"Brushing the tops of his ears. Looked like a bowl cut all the way around. The same length really." That got a nod. "The shirt was a tan with a really small pattern. Looked like spots maybe. I was on the other side of the hummer. I think he had on dark pants and sneakers."
"That does help, Xander."
"You're welcome. I knew it wasn't going to hurt Speed. That's why I felt comfortable leaving."
"Who has been training you?"
"Some of Mortran's friends. Former work buddies." Horatio stared at him. "You know where he served?" Horatio just nodded and walked off. "I still need to get school uniforms."
"You can go in a while," Horatio called back. "I'll arrange to have someone go to your school to talk to those kids." He went to calm himself down. He wouldn't tell Patrick or Mortran. It was a skill Xander was clearly trying to hide. Eric gave him a look. "Xander disabled it and the hummer."
"How? He's a society kid."
"His bodyguard is former special forces."
"Ah!" he said, nodding. "That makes more sense. He learned stuff." Horatio nodded. "Why didn't he tell Speed and why did he leave?"
"He told Rick and Rick did not listen." Eric gave him a look. "He said he disabled the hummer so he wouldn't be hurt."
"That'll work," he decided. He went to call Speed and tell him. "Xander disabled it and the hummer," he said then he hung up. Speed called back a minute later - after he had gotten done yelling and screaming. "He did. He told Stetler. He said he disabled the hummer so you couldn't get hurt." He smiled. "He probably decided we wouldn't believe him." Horatio nodded as he walked past him. "He's here. We got him. We may have him do a sketch." He smiled. "Sure." He hung up. "Speed said he sucks at art stuff and has horrible depth perception now and then. It's why he learned the laws of physics by falling in gymnastics."
Horatio smiled. "He did learn them very well," he agreed, going back to Xander. They had the film processed and he was handed photos. "Okay, Xander. Who was it?"
Xander looked at them and pointed. "That's the guy who slapped and ran." He kept flipping. "The guy who ran glanced back and I think it looked like him." He handed those back and the rest to Frank so they stayed separate. Frank looked through the rest and held up another picture. "Same guy?" Horatio looked the nodded. "Can I help any more, Lieutenant?"
"You're staying," Stetler growled.
"If you had listened it wouldn't have mattered," Xander shot back. "Next time get off your high horse. Actually, you know what, next time I'll tell a real cop who has an idea how to do his job." Stetler turned purple and Xander stepped up to him. "I'm not scared of you, you fucking pussy. Even a kid can tell a gun. You willfully ignored information that endangered the station. You didn't even ask me how I knew or where. You scoffed and walked off *grinning*. Yes, I disarmed a bomb. Oooh, go me. You put hundreds of lives in danger because you're too stupid and stuck up to listen to a teenager. Congrats, man. I wonder if there's a Razzie award for bad cops." Stetler took a swing and Xander casually grabbed it and rammed him into the wall. "Next time maybe you should listen, even to teenagers. We do have a reason to talk now and then." He looked at Horatio, dusting off his hands. "Do you have somewhere I can wash my hands? There's no telling what sort of skin diseases he might carry," he said quietly.
"He assaulted a police officer," Stetler said.
"You threw the first punch. I was simply defending myself," Xander said, flicking a hand up. "What did you want me to do, let you hit me so I can sue you and the department?" Stetler stomped off. He looked at Horatio. "Do you need me further?" he asked calmly.
"We should talk. Your violent urges are coming back out, Xander."
"I hate being threatened, Horatio. The same as the last time." That got a head tipped in a nod. Other officers came back. "Are you going to arrest me for not letting him hit me?"
"No, sir." He looked at him. "You're still young and cocky."
"And so far I haven't been wrong in what I can do. I'm realistic about my skills, Officer." That got a smirk. "I am." He shrugged. "I've had to protect myself for a while now. My bodyguard can't always be with me. By the way, what was your time through the sim since I saw you there the weekend before I left for New York?"
He narrowed his eyes. "You're Mortran's duty." Xander tipped his head. "He took a swing at you?"
"After I pointed out that I had told him about the sniper and he didn't listen. He scoffed and walked off grinning. I ended up in his face about it when he sneered back. He took a swing, I propelled him into the window." That got a smirk. "I'm sorry I hurt his ego. I'm really not sorry I accidentally poisoned him with my cookies when I was younger." Horatio coughed to cover up a smile. "I'll gladly apologize but if I'm arrested I will defend myself then too."
"Nope, but you're telling your guard yourself."
"Must I? He'll nark to Grandfather."
"Yeah, you must, Xander." He smirked at him. "Or else I tell the Captain."
"I'll tell the Captain," Xander said dryly. "Not a problem there, but if I have to tell my grandparents I'm going to hide." He looked at Horatio. "Need me?"
"No, go. Behave. Tell whoever. If we need you more...."
"You have my cell number. Call! I'm a teenager, of course I have it with me." He walked off, being escorted out. The officer handed over his phone and he looked at the number. "Captain, sir. Xander." He smiled. "Yup. He's making me tell you myself so my guard can't tell my grandparents. Well, I disarmed a bomb on a hummer and the hummer. I told an officer there was a sniper and he didn't listen. He scoffed and grinned. Then he got into my face when I pointed that out. He took a swing and I shoved him into a window with that move your son taught me a few years back. Yeah, that one. No, Bob's here. He said I had to tell you or Mortran. Telling you means he can't tell my grandparents. School shopping. Yeah, I do. Uniforms. No, I got leather and stuff in New York. Did you like the animals?" He grinned. "Thank you. I'm free until curfew. Someone put up the one of me with the puppy in LA across from Sire's house. He woke up to a giant image of my butt. Hell yes I ran, he spanks really hard!" He grinned. "Let me pick up my school uniforms."
He checked his watch. "I can probably do that." He hung up and handed it back. "I'll see you sometime soon I'm sure," he said, heading to his car. He walked into the uniform shop and sighed. "Pace?" She pointed. "I need to do this quickly." He wrote down his sizes. "That's me at the moment." She nodded, going to grab things. He grimaced at the tie. "Must I? I still have the others I bought since I hate wearing them. Half the time they end up in my jacket pocket or not worn at all." She handed them over and he paid, walking out with the bag. He went to get some new shoes. That took longer. A few more stops and he was at the Captain's shop. He parked and locked the car, heading inside. He was grabbed and he flipped the guy, looking down at him. "Hi," he said, grinning and waving. He walked over his bodyguard, going to talk to the guy who was over his training. "Sorry. All I ever said when asked how was Mortran was former special forces and he was teaching me with a few of his friends for my own safety."
"Fine," the Captain said. "I got a report on what happened." He held it up. "Including a transcript of the tape." He smacked him on the head. "Smartass does not suit you."
"Actually I do it very well," Xander said, shrugging a bit. "He got in my face first, Captain."
"What was the first rule we told you?"
"No exposing the group and I didn't. I did not mention anyone by name except my bodyguard. I told Horatio, who knew he was special forces. All I said was some of his friends. That I had asked after my parents had shown up."
"I heard." He put the transcripts down. "I should spank you."
"If you feel you must," he said grimly. "I tried to tell him."
"You disarmed the bomb first?"
"I don't know if it had a counter! I couldn't get a clear view without crawling under the hummer; if I had done that I would've spent the night in jail before anyone listened to me. Possibly with it exploding anyway!"
"Point. Are you free?" Xander nodded. "How did you know Bob?"
"I saw him doing a sim run. I asked him what his time on the sim run was. That's how he knew where. Since I recognized him...."
"That's reasonable," Mortran said. "Your shoulder still hurt?"
"Today. There's a storm coming in and the bullet wound hurts." He rubbed it, looking at the Captain again. "I had no options other than to scream like a little girl and I didn't know about the sniper until I was done. My instincts said to handle it and then talk."
"Caine may not be able to cover for these things forever," Mortran said, coming over.
Xander looked at him. "I didn't call him. For that matter, I left before Speedle found the bomb." He bit his lip, looking at the older man then at him. "I don't go to Horatio to cover up what you taught me. I talk to Horatio all the time without this stuff ever coming up."
"You called him after your first kidnaping."
"I was scared, alone in an alley, ten-years-old, and he's a police officer. They're supposed to help you when you've been taken and now you're lost. The same as I only told the NYPD dispatch to call him because I knew you'd have called him for the case. That led to a direct link they could trust and I didn't know which detective had it."
"Point," he decided. He looked at him. "You're not telling me stuff, Xander."
"Duh! You'll worry Grandfather by telling him." He looked over as Horatio walked in, then at the Captain. "It's not my fault."
"No it's not. Lieutenant."
"I wondered who taught him the easy way to disarm that. Captain." He looked at him then at Xander. "He taught me when I was on bomb squad." Xander let out a small chuckle. "Your grandparents are blocked on your phone?"
Xander looked and groaned, then got into his ringer setting. "No, I put them on vibrate a few days back at the movies and I didn't turn it back up." He called them. "I'm okay." He hung up and looked at Horatio. "Because I missed dinner?"
"That and your bodyguard got called out to talk to someone. I did tell them it was because someone had planted a bomb at CSI and you may have seen him. I didn't tell them you disabled it."
"Thank you. I hate to worry Grandfather. He'll die faster if I do. Grandsire will follow because I'm not enough to hold him. Half the guards will follow," he said grimly.
Mortran gave him a hug. "It'll be fine, Xander. I promise it will be."
Xander looked at him. "No it won't. You know damn well I'm going to be left alone in that house within a day of Grandfather dying. Do you really think I'm ready to do that? I don't think I'm going to be ready for a hell of a long time, Mortran. If I have to keep stuff from them to protect Grandfather's health I will. That's why I don't tell you things. You nark because you're supposed to."
"Then tell me," Horatio offered.
"See, my beloved guard here has decided I run to you for cover. I don't want to do that to our friendship, Horatio. We're friends, you're not my manhole cover." That got a small smile and he took off the sunglasses. "The only way to keep Grandfather from worrying is to not tell anyone. Remember, I asked to be taught so I could handle things if I was in trouble and no one was there. I knew even back then that I'd be alone someday."
Horatio walked closer, pulling him into a hug. "You'll still have some of us," he reminded him.
"You're not family, Horatio. You're a friend. A damn close one, but you're not blood."
"Sometimes family isn't about blood."
"If they die I'm an orphan with friends. Does that make more sense?" Horatio nodded. "I don't want that. Not for a very long time. I need some sort of connection to who I am and who I was. With them gone I'm stuck without that and doing a lot of shit I don't want to do. Including tapdancing about how he died."
"Alexx knows about their kind, Xander," he said quietly, staring him down. "You don't have to take all this on yourself."
"If I rest on someone then they're burdened too. Maybe if I was married that'd be easier to do but I'm not."
"No, you're sixteen," Horatio agreed, patting him on the cheek. "You can rest on me."
"A lot of others do. You don't need my weight. You'll collapse some day soon because of all the weight on your shoulders." He gave him another hug. "For right now I'm handling it."
"Xander, do you remember the girl who you said was going to snap?"
"Yeah. Hers was too much from her parents. I'm not anywhere near that stage. When I am, I tend to point it out loudly. Right now I'm not anywhere near that point. I'm very good at leaving the past behind. Probably too good at it." That got a mass nod. "This isn't that. This is the fact that Horatio already carries a lot of my secrets. He doesn't need to hear about the lady in New York who wanted to own me. She offered Emma a hell of a lot of money for me. Emma laughed and walked away then had security arrest her. You notice Uncle Don didn't say anything about that?"
"Sire found out. We all do a lot of protecting of Patrick," Mortran assured him. "We've all hid a lot of stuff from him. I didn't tell him that someone tried to run us off the road on the way home today."
"They were drunk. I texted that to the dispatch number." He looked at Horatio. "I don't ever want you to think that I'm using you. You're my friend. That's the third most important relationship in my life. Right after the grandparents and that lunk," he said, nodding at his bodyguard. "I'm not. I swear I'm not, Horatio."
"I know, Xander. I never thought that. I've always been like a favorite uncle of yours." He smiled at him. "Now, tell *me* what you've learned here. Please. That way I know who I can come to if I need something."
"Assault and retrieval. Minor bombs and weapons work. Strategy. Lock picking for handcuffs and cell doors." Mortran looked at his boss, who shrugged. "He does need to know."
"I've learned a bit of hacking off one of the kids in school," Xander said. "I'm not very good at it."
"That's fine. It's a dangerous thing to know."
"Not if I don't use it for shits and giggles." He smiled and pointed at a nearby gun case. "I have one of those hidden at home."
"Sire found it," Mortran told him. "Threw a fit until Thomas covered and said that we had authorized you to have one in case something bad happens."
"How many times do bad things happen?"
"Horatio, Patrick's very public about being involved in gay rights. There's all sorts of people who would want him to shut up," Mortran pointed out. "They get weekly hate mail from those groups and sometimes individuals. Xander is a very sweet target for them. The same as half the society matrons want Xander to be straight to correct the issues Patrick brought out into the open. He gets his own hate mail."
"That guy from South Dakota wrote back. He wants me to be his wife." Xander grimaced. "Not my favorite way of bonding to a future husband." Horatio looked at him. "I'm technically bi but I hate women. The society matrons have turned me off ever being around women. I loathe women most of the time. With very few exceptions, like Stella. Even if she does mess up my hair. She's a good shopping buddy and she's easy to talk to. She answered all sorts of questions about sex this summer."
"Question, how far have you went?" Mortran asked.
"Blowing, fingers." He shrugged. "Stress relief, not sex." He looked at Horatio. "Grandfather hammered in the point about casual sex being bad for me very hard." Horatio smiled and nodded. "So I haven't. Some day I'll find someone I want to *date* and then it'll be okay."
"Prom's year after next," Mortran reminded him.
Xander gave him an odd look. "And? That's for girls! I may be half gay but I'm not a girl! Besides, even if I was dating I couldn't bring a guy with me. Especially with how my tastes run toward older men since they don't discount me and what brains I've managed to keep through all the falling off the high bar and hitting my head on the board." The Captain swatted him again. "I have. Concussions have to lessen your intelligence." He looked at Horatio, who swatted him too. "It does."
"It doesn't." He stared him down. "You never said you preferred older men."
"They'd actually talk to me and appreciate me for more than my body. I'm not meant to be a boytoy. If and when Grandfather dies I've got to take over for him. Do you know how vast that empire is? Especially if everyone else dies too? Even with Uncle Don helping I'm going to be lost in a sea of boards and social events I don't like, and paperwork, and legal matters, and all that stuff. I need someone who can help me, not play with me. I'm a good toy and I like the attention I get from modeling, but I need more than that from my future lover." Horatio nodded. "The same as you need someone who understands about the weights you wear on your shoulders, so do I."
"I'm sure you'll find one, kid," Mortran offered. He looked at Horatio. "Speedle all right?"
"He's fine. He agreed with Xander when he found out why. Though he did say he would've liked to be warned and then he would've yelled. Finding it is going to give him nightmares."
"I'm sorry. Can I make it up to him? Send him cookies or something?"
"I'll tell him you didn't want to worry him, Xander." He stroked his back. "You needed the attention?"
"I like it when people see more of me than Grandfather's wallet or my skills in sports. Yes, I want someone to pay attention to how well I've kept my body. It's selfish but that's the first step to finding someone who might want to hold it every night, even though I snore and I'm a bed hog."
"How would you know?" the Captain asked.
"I fell asleep on Don's shoulder and ended up running him off the couch."
"Ah." He nodded. "Bed hogs are usually cuddlers." Mortran nodded. "He is?"
"If you sat on the bed when he was younger you had a lapful of Xander."
"Cuddles are nice. I don't want to be a pet but cuddles are nice." He let Horatio cuddle him. "You're a great cuddle." He grinned. "Thank you for putting up with me all these years."
Horatio smiled. "It's never been a problem, Xander." He kissed him on the head. "Now, you should probably go home." He heard a noise and looked around. "Check your phone."
Xander did that, looking at the number. "Sorry, Mac, dialed in my pocket." He hung up and turned the phone off. "Oops. At least it went to someone who'd understand." He looked at Horatio. "Did you know Aiden died?"
"I did hear that," he admitted, smiling at him. "Come on, we'll go home with you. I want these threatening letters."
"We handle them in-house, Horatio. Always have. That's why so many of us are in intelligence work. Thanks, Captain." He walked them back outside, finding Detective Tripp against the hummer. "Is he in trouble after all?"
"Making sure Horatio's not in trouble."
"Were they aiming for him or Speed?" Xander asked.
"Speed. It's about a case he's about to testify in." He looked at Horatio again. "I didn't tell Speed that. Don't wanna make him panic."
"Thank you." He smiled at Xander. "Did you pick up everything you need?"
"I did. Do you have the list?" He patted his pocket and nodded. "A few were looking really interested. The teacher agreed it'd be a good thing too."
"You're in science?" Horatio asked. "After your grandfather had to rebuild the other classroom?"
"I had to take another one before I can graduate. I'm in geology."
"Rocks for jocks," Mortran agreed. "Though his has a high concentration of science geeks who needed an easy year before pre-college classes." He looked at the kid then at Horatio. "If you want him he yelled he'd be back at curfew when Sire tried to spank him for the naked butt that went up across from his apartment in LA."
"I didn't pick where it went and it helped the pounds," Xander said. "It's not my fault they put a billboard there."
Horatio looked at him. "It's not something you want to see every day."
"Adoptions went up thirty percent."
"I'm sure they did," Tripp agreed. "I saw them putting one up down here. The fish one's going up near the Causeway." He grinned. "Good work. It's very cute."
"It is," Xander agreed happily. "I like the watch ones." He looked at Mortran. "Emma thinks she found someone down here who could use me."
"That might be nice," he admitted. "But you've got to clear it with Grandfather and your schedule."
"I'm not sure if I want to dive next year or not. I'll be out of the junior bracket and in with all the college kids."
"Which is a good reason," he admitted. "At least until college."
"Must I? I've suffered through ten years of education so far. Do I have to go on and torture another school with my presence?" Horatio burst out laughing. "It is!" He looked at his guard. "Please? I'll even play *polo* if you don't make me go to college. I've already taken most of the business classes I'd get there and I'll have to hire an accountant and all that stuff anyway!"
"We'll see. Sire was hoping."
"Not like I'm a rocket scientist, no matter how much he might want me to be. I'm sorry but I'm not. I can't be. I hate disappointing either of them but I'm not. I learned physics by falling off the gymnastics stuff."
"What about that one? You'll be out of the junior class there too," Horatio said.
"The coach said I'm good but I'm not olympics good. I might be in diving but most of the guys in the older age group are *older*. They're college age or just after. Besides, my coach is retiring and moving to a college next year. I'll think about it in a few years, after I graduate. Right now I'm at the right age to be and have fun. I want to have fun. I want to sneak off and go to amusement parks. Go make out in the park. That stuff. Fun." Frank smiled. "I'm shallow now and then. I want to be appreciated and liked for who I am, not how well I twist and flip. I want someone who pays attention to me and lets me cut loose now and then but not always and tries to keep me from doing stupid shit. I need someone who keeps me from having those recurring problems. Especially after I have to take over."
"I gotta ask, how did you start modeling?" Frank Tripp asked, coming over to join their group.
Xander grinned. "I went out clubbing my first night up there. I had found this really great pair of leather pants and a few nice shirts. Grandfather said to find a personal sense of style that didn't offend anyone. The salesgirl drooled so it wasn't offensive. I went to the nearest mixed, gay and straight, club by the townhouse. I met a nice guy and we were talking. I said something about those society hos who hunt me for my relatives. He figured out I was in the wrong section of town." Mortran moaned and Horatio nodded. "He got us out into a cab and up to the brighter section. He put me in front of the bouncer, told me to introduce myself. Apparently someone had heard of me up there because we got in without any cover. I ran into Marry there, Mortran."
"I know. She's the one who told Father you were modeling. Got him the magazines she knew about."
"Can you imagine what would've happened if he had only seen the billboards?" Horatio asked. "At least Patrick had *some* warning."
"Yeah, the watch ads," he said dryly. "But yes, I can see Father Patrick finding out his beloved grandson was modeling by first seeing one of the billboards. Especially the one with the puppy or the kitten." He took Xander's phone to turn it back off. "Someone's forcing it on." He called Thomas from his. "If that's you guys, stop it." He hung up and looked at Horatio. "Patrick was ranting that if he had heard that way he would've skinned Xander and then bathed him in holy water." Xander nodded. "You could've told him."
"I did, he was half asleep." He looked at Frank. "Anyway, while we were there this model sort came over, said I was cute, introduced me to Emma. Who took me in hand the next day and made me do watch ads. One of them was shown to the ASPCA people because they were going through the same ad agency. An offhand remark about the naturalness and innocence of having pets got the ad campaign started and they liked my looks. I wasn't known but I was good. I was clearly a wide-range guy because I could do more than pout and grin. I was still young so I could do the silly pictures like the fish. I was adult enough to do the others without a parent or some social group screaming. It worked out well. I'm very proud of them. I've always supported the pound. Even when I refused to go to events, had to be drug out nearly in handcuffs, I still went to the stuff for the pound." Mortran smiled and nodded. His phone rang and he answered it. "Quit turning my phone on, Thomas. I was talking with Detective Tripp. He wanted to know how I got hooked up with Emma."
He listened, then nodded. "A goth place?" He considered it. "I'll have time this weekend if they can do it then. Oh, tell him my diving coach is quitting to move to a college next year since I'll be out of the junior rankings and I wasn't sure I wanted to compete with guys nearly twice my age." He nodded. "The gymnastics coach said I'm college level but not olympics level. No, I'm not planning on going to college. Because school is a torture to me and any college will be very frustrated trying to get me to learn anything. Remember my first school down here?" He grinned as he hung up. "I have a modeling assignment this weekend. There's a goth place that needs someone to look evil. Apparently someone thinks I'm good at evil." He grinned sweetly. "Even though I am known far and wide as the good boy of Miami society. Even in New York they knew I was the good boy of Miami society." Horatio laughed, giving him a hug. "You hug better than nearly everyone I know," he praised.
"You hug very nicely yourself, Xander." Horatio smiled at him. "You should probably be doing homework."
"You know, if I'm not on the team, I don't have to try as hard." Horatio gave him a look. "Please?"
"Xander, you'll still have to try your best," he said gently.
"Yes, Horatio." He rested his head on his shoulder. "Do you want to see the new pictures when I get them? Or do you want to wait?"
"I'd like to see them. Some of the places you got chosen for were very interesting. Especially the body paint one."
Xander gave him a wicked grin. "It was fun too, even if the brush did tickle." He let him go and walked over to his car. "I'm going to get dinner."
"I have your debit card," Mortran said, holding it up.
"That's okay, I had them remove one of my CD's from rotation since it was nearly up." He slid into his car and waved, starting it and backing out.
"He hasn't calmed down much since he was five," Frank said. Horatio shook his head, putting back on his sunglasses. "We caught the idiot and his friend. No word on the sniper. They claim they didn't know."
"It's probably that dweeb from South Dakota," Mortran said grimly. Horatio looked at him. "If we need police help, we'll call."
"Thank you. I do like protecting the boy as much as you do."
"He's not a boy anymore," Frank said. "You're not after you've disarmed your first bomb."
"No, that was a few years back," Mortran admitted. "In practice anyway." He went to get into his car. "I'm going home to nap. I watched Xander at gymnastics practice and he wore me out." The two cops waved so he left.
Horatio looked at Frank. "You would've called with that news. What else is going on?"
"The sniper wasn't aiming for Speedle from where we found his nest. It was your office window."
"What do we know about him?"
"We'll figure it out. We always do." He walked around to get into the hummer, heading back to the lab. Being with Xander had lightened his mood considerably. It always did. Though he couldn't imagine the boy looking evil. He was going to have to sit down tonight and make himself see that Xander wasn't a boy anymore. He realized he was reacting differently to some of his photos and he didn't want to upset the friendship they had.
Mac turned off the tape recorder and called Don's desk. "Are you busy?" He heard the irritated grunt. "Xander's phone dialed in his pocket while he was talking to someone and I think you should hear it. In my office. Thanks, Don." He hung up and rewound it, hitting play once Don had come in and closed the office door. Don sat down, leaning on the desk while he listened. He finally turned it off. "It's nice that he thinks Stella's a nice woman and not worthy of destruction."
Don looked at him. "We're all guilty of that, Mac. I didn't tell Patrick anything about what Xander did up here. If he worries he'll die sooner and then the kid's stuck."
"You're a relative too, Don. Some of it would be on your shoulders."
Don nodded. "I haven't wanted ta ask," he admitted. Stella tapped then walked in. "Come on in. Talking about Xander."
"Did the little bouncy goofball get into trouble?"
"No," Mac said. "His phone dialed while he was talking to someone and I recorded it when I heard the topic." She nodded, taking the tape recorder to rewind and replay. "I thought Don should hear it."
"I like the guy. He's a neat, good kid. He's right, I did answer a lot of sex questions." She sat down. "Are you going to talk to them?" she asked Don. Who nodded. "Patrick?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "He doesn't need to know that Xander's feeling pressure to destroy his legacy. I doubt he realizes that Xander gets hate mail or that he's got what sounds like a stalker." He called down there on Mac's desk phone. "Hey, Thomas, it's Don. Is Sire around? No, just him. Not grandfather. No, nothing Xander related. Just something I overheard and it's been nagging me." The phone was handed over. "It's me." He grinned at the happiness to hear from him. "Xander's phone dialed Mac while he was talking to someone. Did you know some of the society wenches were trying to make him straight so they could destroy Uncle Patrick's legacy? Or that he's getting hate mail? Oh, ask Thomas about the guy from South Dakota if you don't know." He did that and Thomas growled something. "I'm with what Xander said about not worrying Patrick. That's a lot to put on his shoulders. Or both of our shoulders. Yeah, I do need to talk about it. What part does Uncle Pat want me to play when he finally fades? Because if he doesn't make those plans it all lands on Xander. The kid deserves some life and you know his society stuff's going to drive the kid nuts." He smirked.
"Exactly. So yeah, if he wants me to I'll take a role. It might have to be small since I'm in New York, but if he wants me to I can. I need ta know so I'm prepared. Springing it on me one day out of nowhere means I'll need time to catch up and things could happen. All I know about what he does is that he sits on boards. I'm guessing that's like taking in meetings?" He nodded. "Exactly. Does Xander know what he does beyond doing that and going to social events?" He sighed. "Listen, Xander had a valid point. No, he was talking with Mortran and Horatio. Xander won't have hardly anyone but me, Mac, and us up here, and Horatio and them down there when Uncle Pat dies. He knows he's not enough to hold you. The other guys are going to follow he thinks. That's going to leave him stranded. Which is hurting him. He doesn't know what to do. He won't have anyone at his back to smooth the first few weeks over. He's going to be deep in grief and having to handle things that most adults never have to. Or hope they don't have to.
"Someone needs to make plans soon. Or now, even better. I need ta know what you want me ta do. Do you want me to help Xander with that stuff? Do you want me to take over a board position if there's one up here? Are you setting up some sort of trust for the kid and will I have to watch over it? Yeah, I do. Even if Uncle Pat is a procrastinator of the highest order and he doesn't want to think about it, he's got to. The same as the guys who're gonna follow need ta make some ahead plans. Wills and stuff. That way we know where ta bury 'em and all that." He leaned his head on the desk, letting Stella pat his shoulders. "It's not something fun ta think about, Sire, but it's got to be thought about. Can you imagine Xander, sensitive little Xander, arranging your funeral, Uncle Pat's funeral, and everyone else's funerals all at once? He'll have ta if we don't make plans.
"At least some plans. I'm all for not worrying Uncle Pat. Please don't worry Uncle Pat. I want him to stay around as long as possible, the same as Xander does. No, I'm honestly worried that Xander might follow. Accidentally but he might follow. Who's going to support him, Sire? Beyond me who's going to support him? It's going to take me a day to get down there when it happens. That's going to be a day of dealing with the ME, the funeral homes, all that stuff. Remember, Xander's not that organized. There's days when he's good to match clothes, his words. Not every day and even he admits that but sometimes." He smiled. "Thank you! Yes, that's what I wanted. I need a clear cut set of orders to follow for when it happens. What do I tell Xander. What do I do with Xander. What do we do with the bodies. What do we do about the house. The wills. All that stuff. Make us some rules of what we're doing. Tell us what Uncle Pat needs us ta do. We don't have a clue what sitting on a board means. Unless Xander learned it in school since he's in a place where other kids' parents do the same thing."
He nodded. "That's what I wanted. He told Horatio he was feeling some pressure but not totally yet. That'll change. Also, he doesn't want to go to college. He told me Uncle Pat told him torture was wrong so torturing him after twelve years of torture is really wrong and it means he's got a dirty soul." He laughed. "Exactly. No, he was a good boy. Beyond that one time someone gave him liquor without him knowing he had a lot of fun. We went to visit an amusement park upstate. We did a few things. Stella answered a lot of sex questions. I guess she's as close to liking boys as he's gonna get up here." She hit him. "Ow! Wench." He grinned at her. "He said Xander suggested that Patrick marry you and have a surrogate donate sperm so he could have a sibling to do all the nasty social stuff."
"No thanks. Not ready for kids."
"They'd be pretty," Mac told her.
"So? I'm not ready for kids." She took the phone from Don. "Raphael, no more bad thoughts. Yes that was. No, I won't give Xander a sibling. Within ten years he'll have his own kids to spoil and torture by making them go to school." She listened. "I think it's a good idea. Otherwise no one has any idea what to do and the people he helps will be lost in the shuffle of the tax people and the state and the ME. All those sort that come when there's the scent of death. Especially if more of them go with him. Can you imagine Xander having to deal with that if a lot of you went at once? The police would hold him for days and hound him until they found out who had killed who." She smiled. "Exactly. So make some plans. Even if Patrick doesn't like it, he's got to see some sense. I'm sure he's got a will somewhere. Add to it." She hung up and looked at Don. "It was a good choice."
"I know." He stood up. "I should get back to the paperwork."
"Go home, Don. It's been a long day," Mac said quietly. He nodded, heading to do that. He looked at her. "They would've been very pretty kids. Xander would've spoiled them rotten and protected them from everyone."
"He'll have that some other day with his own kids," she said wisely. She stood up. "Any other traumas?"
"A long day of Danny and Lindsay fighting."
"I saw. It's not even him this time. It's her. I'm about to smack her." She walked off, going to interrupt the latest fight, getting them both. "It's been a long day. Shut up, go back to work or go home." They stared. She glared and Danny backed off quickly. Lindsay didn't know to do that yet. She started in on her attitude, backing her against a counter in the breakroom. Hawkes and Mac finally came in and pulled her off, Mac walking her off and putting her into a cab so she had to go home. Danny fled once it was clear. Lindsay sniffed and went back to work. She still had another six hours.
Xander winced as soon as he hit the water on his last dive. He came out, looking at his coach. "I'm sorry," he mouthed, taking his towel.
"What was that?"
"That was sport dissonance," he complained. The judges motioned him over. "I'm sorry. I forgot which one I was doing. Though, it was kinda like some older ones." He found the dive grade book and flipped. "Not that one." He kept going, scanning the pages. "See?" He handed it over. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Benis." The judges looked then at the replay, then nodded. "It is. It'll be a variation of that one." The coach walked Xander off. "It was harder than his planned one."
"We could make him do his original," one offered. "That way there's no complaints." They replayed it.
Xander flopped down. "Sorry, guys, forgot which sport I was doing," he admitted at the heated glares. "I've got a big gymnastics meet next week and my mind was there since I had this one done."
"Whatever," one down the row of divers sneered.
Xander looked down at him. "Just think, I'll be out of this class next year and taking a few years off until I get to be college age." He sat back, blinking when his scores came up. "Damn," he said in awe. His coach looked then smiled. He looked at him. "So I'll call when I'm of about college age? We'll talk about who's going to coach me then?"
"We can do that." He shook his hand. "You're one hell of a guy, Benis." The last few people went and second got a tie.
Xander bounced up with a loud 'whoo-hoo' and danced around, getting a few hand shakes on his way to the podium. Xander skipped up the few steps, shaking the hands of the guys around him. "Just think, next year only one of us up here is going to be eligible." That got some nods. The judges came over with the medals and he bent down to let them put his on him. He shook their hands. "Pleasure diving for you guys. Hope to see you in a few years when I join the regular rank," he said politely. At the end of the ceremony he walked down, grabbing his bag, his water, and his coach. One of the reporters stopped him. "Erica, I didn't know they had you covering sports."
"You're one of our up-and-coming socialites, Mr. Benis."
"Xander, please," he said with an easy grin.
"Xander then. How do you feel?"
"Content. Winning gives me this feeling of inner peace because I proved to myself that I could best myself." He took a sip of his water. "Sorry, missed breakfast. Nauseous."
"Hangover?" she teased lightly.
He looked at her. "Wrong kid for that." He took another drink. "Grandfather had a bad night and I was worried."
"I noticed most of your family wasn't here."
"Some of them couldn't make it, Grandfather really couldn't. I did have someone who taped it for them. And of course I'm going to have a huge dinner waiting on me when I get home tomorrow." He grinned.
"You're phasing out of this group, right?"
"I'm aging out," he agreed. "I'll be taking a few years off because I don't think I'm ready to compete against guys who're college aged. Diving's one of the rare sports where you get sixteen and seventeen-year-olds competing against guys in their late twenties and early thirties and I don't think I'm ready for that." He grinned at his coach. "Plus he's taking a job at one of Miami's college's."
"Congratulations. Are you going to recruit him when he's graduated?" she asked, tipping the microphone his way.
He grimaced. "Benis doesn't want to go to college right off. If he does he'd better apply for my team."
"I'm not a school person. Lectures make me sleepy. Besides, I'd hate to put a college through the stress my present teachers have."
"What was your last dive?" she asked.
He giggled. "Sports discordance. I was going over my gymnastics meet next week and got confused," he admitted, shaking his head. "I expect to be spanked later." His coach nodded. "Still it worked out okay. If it hadn't I wouldn't have minded. I should've had my head on the dive not on the match next week."
"You've won this event four times since you started diving." Xander grinned and nodded. "When are you coming back?"
"Probably not before I'm eighteen. I need to graduate."
"What about your other sport?" she asked.
"I'll be out of the junior class there too, but I'm on the school team so I can compete on that level. Which is where I'll stay. I know I'm not olympic quality there." He grinned and walked off. "See you back in Miami, Erica." His coach followed. He walked outside, smiling when his coach got called over to talk to someone. The next thing Xander knew a baseball bat went across the back of his head and he was out.
The coach heard something and looked outside. "Someone get a paramedic!" he yelled, heading out there. "Xander?" He checked him over, frowning at the injuries. "He got the crap beaten out of him," he told the paramedics. "Why didn't you fight back this time?" he complained. Xander moaned, trying to lift his broken arm. "No, don't move."
"Toes," he mumbled.
"Your toes? Can you feel your toes? Try to move them for me, Xander," he ordered. He shook his head but his feet moved. "Good boy. You rest, I'll call everyone."
"I'll call him too," he promised. He grabbed the bag and followed the guys into the ambulance. "I'm his coach. His family's not up here this meet." He went off with him, not caring that Erica had that film now too.
Xander blinked awake, looking at his Grandfather. "Gay bashed?" he asked tiredly.
"No, this was about where you were born."
"Them? They got away. We'll deal with it, Xander." He smiled at him. "I am incredibly proud." Xander gave him a small smile. "The doctor said you got hit on the head." He nodded slowly. "First?" Xander nodded. "Did you see them?" He shook his head, letting his rest on his grandfather's hand. "That's fine, we have other ways to figure it out."
"Your former town."
"I researched when the 'rents showed up," he said quietly.
"The hellmouth. Someone there needed blood from a pure hellmouth baby," he said quietly. Xander just nodded once. "We know why; we're finding out who. Let us handle it."
"If I have to go kill someone can I visit Willow?"
"Of course," he agreed. "I tried to get her out." He tucked him in better. "There you are. Your things are already at home with Sire. You are going to have to miss the meet next weekend."
Xander shrugged. "I can petition if it takes too long." He yawned. "Good drugs." His grandfather smiled. "Tell Horatio?"
"I did and I'll tell him you're fine. That you asked about him. You'll be home in a few days." Xander nodded, curling on his side, falling back asleep, trapping his hand under his head. He shifted his seat slightly closer so it wouldn't hurt but that was fine.
Xander walked up to his gymnastics coach when he got back Tuesday. "Preliminary?"
"Cheeper beat your score." He looked at him. "I filed your petition. Will you be healed in time?" Xander nodded. "Fully healed? Able to perform? This year is another junior national team."
"My arm's not broken, it's sprained. The concussion will be fine by then. The ribs may be sore but I've worked with worse."
"I filed it, we'll see." Xander nodded, heading off. "What about next year?"
"I'm still on the school team," Xander called back. "I can stay at the state school championships." He patted his award case as he walked past it, getting a few grins. "What?" he asked dryly. He walked into home room. "I'm back and I'm magnificent."
"You are," one girl laughed. "You're also high."
"No, no pain killers. I haven't had any since I got out of the hospital. I did make sure it's nothing that could get me into trouble with the drug tests." He sat down, getting comfortable. The teacher for home room came in and he waved. "I'm back."
"Faxed from the hospital."
"Thank you. Congratulations. Eighteen?"
"It's unfair to make thirty-year-old guys compete with kids my age. We're still really flexible." That got some giggles. "We are." He grinned. "Oh, I've got a meet this weekend I've got to go to." She nodded, making note of that. "Even as a mascot I'm part of the team. We'll probably leave around fourth on Friday."
"That's fine." She looked up, taking roll once the bell rang. "Three announcements. There's a pep rally this afternoon for the soccer team. It's after school if you wanted to stay. You have to stay, Xander. I was told to tell you. There's a free clothes day Friday." That got some talking. "Please remember the rules. Also, there's a career fair coming up for you sophomores and up. It'll be in the gym next week. It was suggested that day you wear good clothes to make a good impression. They will remember you in two years when you're out. They can also answer questions about college classes."
"Is the PD coming?" Xander asked.
"They are. CSI Delko was here last week to talk to a few of the kids who wanted to. You were in the hospital."
"Well, yeah," he admitted. The bells rang so he walked off, looking at his next teacher. "No one ever sent me homework? Was I kicked out of class?"
"No, Xander I've got it on my desk. The headmaster should have." Xander shrugged, sitting down at his desk. "We're still going over minerals. Xander, you're going to have to catch up. We started this last week."
"Of course," he agreed dryly, taking his assignment sheet to look over. He wouldn't need books until third so he pulled out a pen and got to work on the pop test he had missed. He handed it over on the teacher's next pass by his desk. He went back to listening.
Xander looked at his team. "Okay, guys. We have two meets before those of us who're going to State have to qualify or go home. Then we've got one more meet and the school championships. Then State, then Nationals if we're lucky. I know I'm injured. If at all possible I'm going to State." He looked at the coach as he came in. "I need to practice. My shoulder's stiff." He looked at them again. "Even when I'm not eligible for State next year I'm still going to be pushing this team for the school's honor. Are we clear?" They all nodded. "Good. This weekend we have Holliwell for the girls and we boys have Tristan from upstate. We beat them into the ground last year." The door opened and he looked over. "Come on in. We're having a pep talk." He looked at his team again. They all had the same gym by design. "We can smash Tristan into the ground again this year. It's fun to make them cry. They're all soft little rich boys who might as well have their butlers do their routines for them. We are smarter. We are better.
"They haven't had a kid going to State in seventeen years. We've had at least me and one other every single year since I joined and the ladies have had one or two every year before that. We will be making the guys from Tristan cry. I like seeing them cry. If at all possible I'm going to at least play alternate. So make *me* proud. Remember, they can cry and be babied by their butlers. They still don't have the skills or style we have. Go stretch and warm up. Ladies, I wish you luck. It's a hard team but I know some of my style, sass, and attitude have rubbed off. They can cry too." That got some smiles and they wandered off. He smiled at the coach then looked at the new boy. "Hey, you just transferred in from Texas, right?" He nodded. "Xander Benis." He shook his hand. "Sophomore."
"Chad Rocker. I'm a freshman." He looked at the coach. "I wanted to try out, sir."
"You do know this is gymnastics?" The boy nodded, toeing off his shoes and chalking his hands, moving to the rings. He hopped up with Xander's help and did a few turns. He watched. "We're low on rings and you could use some work. You're in this gym?" He nodded. "Good. Lets get you the uniform, Chad. Good talk, Xander. Go change?" Xander held up his arm. "You need the practice." He stripped down to his t-shirt and shorts. "Jogging?"
"Next period. If I can't get excused." He took off, doing a tumbling run when the girls paused. He winced as he landed, rubbing his wrist. "I may need to wrap it, coach." A bandage was tossed over and he let the females help him wrap it. Then he did another pass. It was better. Since he was warmed up he took his turn on the high bar, going into a gentle practice. He still ached and his head was giving him a headache. He landed, stumbling some. "It'll be better by Friday," he decided. The coach motioned him over, smacking him on the back. "Ow!"
"You have a concussion. No getting dizzy. It's Tuesday, we'll work you all day Thursday if we can." Xander nodded, going to do something that wouldn't make his head hurt. He was good on the high bar, he could skip a few days of practice there. He still sucked on the pommel horse. The coach watched the teams work. "Marigold! Watch your back, tuck that butt!" She changed her position, trying it again. He nodded. "Start on the vault, Chad." He nodded, going to do that. "Boys, let's work on the vault. We were weak during the last match." Xander moaned. "You too if you can."
"Why were we weak, guys! We've nailed our vaults for months now! Do I need a whip even if I'm not there?" They laughed, going to show off. Xander gave them a look then snorted, shaking his head and taking his turn. He did something very showy, sticking the landing, even though he did hold his forehead. "Brain bouncing." He walked off, going to go back to the pommel horse. He needed work over here.
Chad gaped at the coach. "We do those?"
"We do those. We've had Xander since he was thirteen." Xander waved "Even though he used to fly off the high bar." Xander simply grinned at him and kept going. "Benis, back." He straightened it and winced. "Tough!"
"Trying, coach." He hopped down and got back up, going over that part of his routine again. Leaning over was a deduction.
Xander walked in that Friday wearing his new favorite leather pants and a t-shirt that showed he did situps every day. The Headmaster gaped. "Sorry, had a very early call for a photo shoot. I got up at four." He went to get a soda and headed for home room, waving at the teacher. "Early photo shoot, no time to change if I didn't want to be late." He opened the soda, taking a drink and putting the can in front of him. "I got up at four."
"I'm sorry. It must be rough standing around being stared at."
Xander nodded. "They wanted sunrise pictures on the beach. That new goth place." He took another drink. "I'll nap on the bus ride there."
"Your grades?" she prompted. He frowned. "You're behind."
"No I'm not. Not now." He grabbed his backpack and went to hand things out. He looked at the source of his lowest grade. "If you flunk me I can't go to State."
"If you do well on today's test...."
"Um, gymnastics meet today. We're leaving during third." He groaned. "Gimme." He held out a hand and took the pop test, grimacing at it. "I'm still a few days behind but let's see what I can do. Why am I low? Did I miss something?"
"A paper." Xander pointed at the stack. "You went missing it before the swim meet, Xander."
"I know, you gave me an extension due to the swim meet. Or don't you remember saying 'yeah, give it to me the day you get back'?" He finished the quiz, only leaving two blanks. He handed it over. "We went over those two?"
"It was in last night's reading," he said patiently.
"Chapter six?" He pulled out his book to look, then looked in the index. "Uh-uh. That's in chapter nine." He let him see. The teacher pointed at the additional reading on the syllabus. "That's not in here?"
"No, that's in the small book." Xander gave him a clueless look. "I didn't give you one?"
"No," he said cautiously. "What small book?" The teacher moaned and held up his copy. Xander looked. "Misty has a copy but that's the only one I've seen. Do the others have it?"
The teacher sighed. "Maybe not. I'll adjust your grades." Xander beamed. "Go away."
"Didn't have time. They wanted sunrise pictures for the new goth place's ads." He walked back to home room. He looked at Misty since she was in there. "We have a tiny book in Geology?"
"I have a tiny book but I thought it was suggested reading." Xander shrugged. "Okay, I'll talk to him soon." The bell rang and they filed out. "Have fun and good luck,"
"Thanks." He headed to his research class, he had that first today. "Hey, teach."
"Xander, leather is not on the approved list."
"I didn't have time to change. They wanted some sunrise pictures for the new goth place's ad." He flopped down. "Did I just hand you things?" She nodded. "Please don't tank my grades until after State."
"I'm not. It looks well written this time." She looked at him. "You have one more paper due." He gave her an odd look. "This semester."
"It ends in three weeks."
"I know that." He whimpered. "I expect an eight to ten page paper, properly annotated, and all that, by the time the final bell rings on this semester. Am I clear?" Xander nodded. "Write it on something historical." He nodded again. "Good. That should help you in the history class you'll have to take next semester." He shook his head. "No what?"
"I'm not due to take another history until next year." She nodded. He shook his head. "No I'm not. An english. A language. I'm a sophomore."
"You are?" He nodded. "You should be a junior by your age."
"I got taken out of Sunnydale's schools when I was five and had to start over down here because of the cutoff rule. So I got a half-year free to learn how not to be a heathen brat."
"Then you shouldn't be in this class."
"They originally had me in Advanced Chem. Whoever did my schedule screwed the pooch. Up to you."
"I only accept juniors and seniors in here."
"Hey, talk to the headmaster," he said dryly. "He kept me in here."
"Come on." She walked out with him. The headmaster was having some breakfast in his office. "You put a sophomore in my research class? I thought Xander was a junior."
"No, he's a...." He looked at the leather. "You can't change here?"
"I could but I don't have any clothes." He looked at him. "All I've got is the gymnastics uniform and you told me if I did that again and the janitor tried to pinch me I couldn't hit him."
"Fine, you're leaving soon for the meet." He looked at her. "Someone screwed up his schedule at the beginning of the year." He ate another bite. "That was the elective chosen."
"I don't know how."
"Unless it went on age," Xander said dryly. "Or do I have extra credit hours from the diving stuff maybe?"
"No," the headmaster told him. He looked at her again. "Are you kicking him out? If so, he's screwed on grades this semester."
"No," she complained.
"Well, there's one way," Xander admitted. "Count my diving as another gym." They all looked at him. "Not like I haven't been in the pool all semester. Even though I'm done now it doesn't mean you can't count it. I spent five hours a day there until the meet. The state knows I'm a jock. The team gym isn't counted as a gym class, that's why I had to take the other one twice now."
"You should've been given a pass on that," the headmaster said.
"Someone hates me. I did take it." He shrugged. "I don't care if I look like a football player who can't read. Let's face it, I'm probably not going to be going to college. I hate school. I really hate lecture classes and that's what college is." They nodded at that. "So arrange it as a special topic class or whatever and transfer this class's grade to next year. I'll probably need it to stay on the gymnastics team." The headmaster smiled. "I can't hit the nationals match most likely but I can still do it for the team." He shrugged. "It gives me something to do after school besides get into trouble or watch Grandfather get sicker."
"I'll talk to the board, Xander. That's not a bad idea." He called someone. "It's ... It is. The Benis boy." He smiled and then sighed. "No, whoever did his schedule screwed up. We didn't realize he was in a junior/senior elective." He ate another bite. "The teacher's adamant." She nodded, sitting down. "Right now, he's suggesting we use his diving as a special topics class. He did win the junior championships yet again this year," he said patiently. "We can ask his coach about his hours. He's not going to college. He doesn't like lecture classes. We've had this problem his whole time here. Also, whoever does his schedule didn't let him out of gym even though he's on a school team. Exactly. That's what he's suggesting then using this grade for next year. That way he can claim the hours and not have the extra class." He nodded. "That'll work, thank you." He hung up. "We can do that. Finish whatever you still owe her. Next year you'll have a blank study hall." Xander nodded, standing up. "No more leather in the school, Mr. Benis."
"I'll try." He walked out, going to his next class. The bell had rung while he was in the hall. "Hey, Prof," he said, sitting down. His clothes got a look. "Early shoot, I didn't have time to change. I got up at four."
"If the Headmaster hasn't grounded you...."
"I was just in his office about a scheduling screw up. I got a warning."
"Good." He sighed. "Which english did you want next time?"
"Do I care?" Xander asked. "It's all boring. Not like anything we read will appeal to me."
He held in a sigh of disgust. They all knew the boy was bright, he simply couldn't stand learning in a classroom environment. "We have one with classics and one with modern classics." He looked at him when he shrugged. "Do you read anything in your family's huge library?"
"I've read most of it," he admitted. "What's on which?" The syllabi were handed over. He counted. "The classics one I'll only need to read one." He handed it back. "It's what period?"
"Damn." He nodded. "Well, there's fantasy lit. That's sixth." Xander perked up at that. "I've seen some of your reading but I don't like to lower myself that far."
"I'll take that. I have two years to take tax and payroll accounting." That got a nod. "This is reading for jocks?"
"Unfortunately. Half the soccer team will be in there with you."
"Prof, I don't like lecture classes. Can you seem me torturing some college by attending?" he asked dryly.
"Unfortunately I can. Never mind, we'll stick you on the jock and business track." Xander nodded. "How many years?" Xander held up two fingers. "You're seventeen at the end of this year."
"When my grandparents got me I couldn't enroll in Miami because of the birthday cutoff rules. I had to start over since I only took two months there. They wouldn't skip me into first where I belonged. The examiner thought I was odd."
"So you're a sophomore?" Xander nodded. "Then why are you taking this class?"
Xander snorted. "Ask the idiot who did my schedule the last time and put me into Advanced Chem!" The teacher shuddered. "Exactly. Right now I'm taking a mix of sophomore and junior classes. I'll catch up next year." That got a nod. "Still eligible?"
"Fine." Xander wrote that down. "History?"
"Next year," he said dryly. "I'm almost thinking costuming to get away from Middle European or Asian history."
"That's a jock's class," he admitted. The others finished coming in. "You're late."
"We were letting you two work out his schedule."
"Gee, thanks," Xander said, waving back at them. "What's on for today that I can do on the bus?"
The teacher looked at him. "Go away." Xander grinned and skipped out, heading to warm up in the gym and make sure he had everything he needed for the meet. "Sorry, he's tired."
Xander walked into the gym, finding the coach in there with the new boy. "Hey, coach, I got told to go away," he called as he walked past him. He walked into the locker room, finding them all open. He came out and looked, pointing. "Drug search?"
"Nope." He looked at him. "We'll be down a senior."
"I knew he was an idiot. Okay. We can do that. We beat Tristan by nearly sixty points last year." He looked at Chad, then at him. "I can handle it."
"Yeah. I can handle it. Bring tylenol and remember to bring the forms from the hospital this time." That got a nod and a pat to the folder. "Then I'm going to pack. Can I have a new uniform since mine's not in my locker?" The equipment room was pointed at so he went to get something to wear during the meet. He came out changed and put his clothes on top of his gym bag. "Come on, Chad. Let's see where you can do the best good. We have some time to warm up." He came out. "Let's start easy. Floor? We need you showy and point heavy." He nodded, going to do his favorite routine. "Make that a double," he called at a single flip. The boy went to do that, making him nod. "Use the floor better, sway or something. Entice them if you have to." He did that and Xander nodded. "Good!" he said at the next tumbling run. The third got the same nod. "Good. Keep that, add to it, use the floor better. Vault." He went to do his favorite one. Xander grimaced. "No." He did one to show him. "Do that." He grimaced. "Now!" He nodded, letting Xander and the coach spot him. "Even if you hop it's still higher," he said more gently. "We need the points." He nodded, doing it again. This time without spotting. He stumbled on the landing. "Arch your back when you layout." He tried it again, getting a nod. "Good. Rings are your speciality, right?" The boy nodded. "Do your best there, it's one of my weak areas. Pommel?"
"Silver in the Texas juniors. Gold on rings."
Xander grinned. "Even better. High bar?" He went to do what he normally did. "Can you add in another release move?" The boy came down and started over, adding in another one. "Good!" He stuck the landing. "More difficult one?"
"Not if I don't want to fall. It's a weak spot."
Xander considered it and made him move, hopping up there. He spun around a few times, then dismounted. "Try that one." He helped him up there, spotting him when he came down. "Helps?"
"It does." He smiled. "Thank you."
"Welcome. That's the first one I learned. I broke my leg in fifteen places the day I screwed it up."
"He had eight pins," the coach agreed. "Go change, boys." They went to change back to street clothes, Xander coming back out in the leather. "You're wearing underwear, right?"
"Thong. Anything else rides up and I have a panty line. People don't want to see my magnificence spoiled by a panty line." He sat down, lounging really. The other guys came in. "We are missing a stupid person," he announced. "They did a drug search!" One of the other boys moaned. "Don't make us miss you too."
"No, you won't have to," he said. "I wondered why I got a random drug test. You didn't?"
"I'd never take drugs and I was given pain killers in the hospital," Xander reminded him. "I have an out for that." He leaned forward. "Straight talk, guys. We're going to have Chad and no alternates. We lost our best vaulter. We need you guys to pullout the 'tude tonight and make them sorry." That got nods. "So pull out your point ho sides and let's make them cry." They smiled. "Go pack." They went to do that and a few others needed uniforms. He looked at Chad. "Maybe some day I'll be a motivational speaker." The new kid laughed. "Hey, Coach Bradley, the point has been coming up today. You know I'm a sophomore, right?"
"I can count," he agreed. "Who couldn't?"
"Headmaster, math teacher, english teacher...." That got a small groan. "By the way, I'm going to the jock track since I'm about out of business classes."
"You might do good in a college but you'd be hell on the team's tutors." He checked outside. "Okay, bus is here! Let's go!" They walked out, him counting heads. Xander slumped in his usual seat, closing his eyes. "Long night?" he taunted.
"Got up at four for a sunrise shoot," he said grimly. "Hence the leather. It was for the goth place."
"I figured you wanted to be pinched," one of the guys teased.
"No, if the janitor pinches me again I'm going to pop him one. You can drool if you want. I don't mind drool as long as it doesn't warp the leather." They all laughed. "Let me sleep, guys. Please." He put on his headphones and yawned, drifting off against the window.
Chad ended up sitting next to him and squeaked when he got grabbed. "Um...." he said, trying to wiggle free.
"Awww, you're a Chad bear," the teasing kid teased. "Relax. He's bi but he thinks you're a pillow right now." The coach came back to get him free, making Xander grumble in his sleep.
"The rest of us know not to sleep next to Xander," the coach told him. "Also if he's babbling, grumbling, sleepy, or violent, hand him caffeine. Soda works best." He let the kid have his spare seat and got comfortable. It was a long trip.
Xander walked in Saturday afternoon, slamming the door. "I'm amazing," he called. He heard the laugh and headed that way, backing out to give his grandparents time to cuddle. "I'm going to go do a shoot." He went to do that, sliding his score sheet under the door. He went to change and called his photographer. "Okay, I'm back and I'm actually rested. What am I wearing and to where?" He nodded, finding something that fit that. He headed out again, finding the spot they were using. He walked in and took off his shoes. The pants were part of his fees for doing the ads. He took his spot, running his fingers through his hair to make it messy and more sexy, taking the apple the prop guy handed him. "Bare hand, flat?" He got a nod and did that. The others came in and he practiced his look, making the photographer give him an odd grin. "You wanted enticing or evil?"
"Evil. Temptation, Xander."
He gave him a come hither look and it got snapped. The ladies got arranged around him and he gave them a smug, sexy look, staring down the camera.
Horatio saw the pictures in his mail a few days later, smiling at the return address. He took them back to his office to open them, which was a good idea considering the Xander inside was stirring some very inappropriate thoughts. Now he knew what he meant by evil. The official ad was included. It was a shirtless Xander holding an apple on his open hand, his free hand stroking his stomach and side, and his expression smug while his eyes were drawing you in. The ladies behind him were all kneeling and facing away from him. He shivered, turning it over so he could look at the others. Some were just as enticing and one was clearly too evil even for a goth leather place. One was almost cute looking. He was dangling a cherry above a mouth. All you could see were the lips and tip of the nose. Xander had another of those 'beg me for it' looks but he was almost smiling down at him like he was a good pet. He found the note. //Grandfather would freak so I'm showing you first and hiding when he sees this in the local paper. Use them to taunt Speed about me being so little since he called me a kid the other day. Lovies, Xander.//
Speed came in when Horatio paged him, getting handed the pictures. The ad was the last one. He had rearranged them so they went from cute to breath-stealing. Speed gasped at the next-to-last one. That one had Xander wearing a snake around his waist, stroking the head gently as it moved up his chest and two women kneeling at his side petting it too. The ad got a whimper. Horatio handed over the note, earning a sad look. "He is still a kid. He's only sixteen." He handed them back. "His grandfather's going to scream and rant."
"It does him good to get excited," Horatio said with a small grin. "Do you remember being sixteen and sure you weren't a child anymore?"
"Yeah," he admitted. "Which means I nearly turned into my parents. I'll have to thank him for making sure I stay hip and cool. Think we can see if Wolfe and Eric drool at those?"
"I want to see them when they see it in the magazine."
Speed snickered. "I knew you had a mean streak now and then, Horatio." He walked off smirking because he knew something. Wolfe gave him an odd look. "Xander got a new spot."
"Really? Another pound ad?"
"No, this time for a goth shop."
"Not that you could see. Definitely didn't need it." That got a nod and he went to find reports.
A few days later Xander strolled in with a big box, smiling at the receptionist. "Is Speedle or Caine in? It's a birthday present."
"For which one?" She knew neither one had a birthday anytime soon.
"Detective Salas." She smiled and nodded, paging Speed since he was in. He handed over the box carefully. "For Yelina. It's edible so don't smoosh it, Speed." He kissed him on the cheek. "Did you like the ad?" he asked with a grin.
"It made me realize I was saying the same things my parents used to when I was your age. Did your grandparents see it yet?"
"Nope," he said smugly. "Because I'll hide." He nodded and waved. "Give that to her. No peeking either. It's not dirty." He winked and walked off, heading out to his car to go home. His bodyguard shook his head from the gate. "No what?"
"He saw. Go hide. Call later." Xander nodded, backing out and heading off again. He went back inside, going to calm Patrick down. "You know Xander's not like that usually. It's a photo, Father. He's not really evil." He got given a glare. "He hasn't been since he was seven and he wouldn't sleep for three weeks." That got a small smile. "Really. He's a good boy. It's for a goth shop; of course they wanted him to draw people to him. You should see the other pictures."
"Do you have copies?"
"I think Don does. He told me that you'd be screaming. I think Horatio does too." He grinned. "You could call Don."
"I could." He got up to do that, his guards going back to their posts. Now that he wasn't screaming and throwing things they could get back to their usual jobs. "Don?" he asked gently. "Do you have copies of the other photos that were taken for Xander's latest set of ads?" He smiled. "Only Horatio had them all? That bad?" He smiled. "I saw. I wailed for almost an hour about my poor grandson being tempted to the wrong side." He laughed. "Yes, we can do that. Of course. No, Xander has a meet in two days. He won't be able to. We think he got into State." He smiled. "Thank you, Don." He hung up and looked at Mortran. "Where did you send him?"
"I told him to call in a while from a good hiding spot. Remember, you still have to tell Sire. Then he'll have to go to bed with a headache so you can fuss over him."
"I would like that," he admitted. He called Horatio. "I would like to see all the pictures, Horatio. No, he's hiding. Thank you. That would be fine." He hung up, shaking his head. "Xander's playing in a park. He saw him drive past and called to ask him." He went to wait on Speedle since Horatio was going to send him with them. Horatio was on his way to court so he couldn't come until later. Speedle pulled up on his bike, earning a smile. "That looks very fast."
"It is," he agreed, dismounting so he could pull the envelope out of his shirt and hand it over. "In the order Horatio gave them to me." He smiled at the guards. "I take it you saw the ad?" Patrick moaned and nodded. "Wolfe gaped and nearly choked. Eric whimpered and drooled then had to remind himself he's straight." That got a wicked grin. "Your boy does good recruiting work."
"He once asked when he got his toaster oven for recruiting." He smiled. "Are you off, want some tea?"
"I wouldn't mind." He followed him inside. "Hey, guys. Patrick, Xander even bought Yelina a cake for her birthday. A picture cake of Ray Junior being a boy in the park. It was cute." He smiled at that. They were served tea by Cook and he sipped while Patrick looked over the pictures. The last few got a whimper. "Eric made that same sound," he teased.
Patrick put them into the envelope. "That was for all the fussing I'll get in when Sire sees because he'll take to bed with a headache. That snake one...."
"The title of the ad campaign was 'temptation'. Xander is."
"Yes, Xander is surely a temptation to many. Thomas, Gordon, Mortran?" They came in and he let them have the envelope. "Make us copies and one for Don please? That way Horatio can have his back?" They nodded, going to do that. Speed grinned. "I never told him Xander was modeling at first. I was worried about what he'd say. Then they put that billboard of the puppy across from his apartment. He woke up to it." Speed snickered. "Xander ran before he could spank him for making him stare at his twelve foot rear end." He sipped his tea, shaking his head. "I love my grandson. At least he's not getting into frivolous trouble."
"No, not your grandson. He's one of the straightest kids ever, Patrick." He finished his tea. "It'll be okay." More was poured. "Keeping your temper?"
"Yes," he admitted. "Otherwise we'd have to hunt the boy down in the park and have him baptized again." He handed over a plate. "Cookies?"
"Sure." He took one to nibble.
Don got handed an envelope as he walked in two days later, looking at the return address. "Hey, Xander's new spot." The guy at the desk gave him an odd look. "The one on the ASPCA billboards is my nephew." He went to Mac's office, finding him having a meeting. He walked in and sat down, opening the envelope to look over. What he saw made him gape, eyes wide. "Damn," he said finally. Stella snatched them. "Xander's new photo shoot for a goth place. I only saw the top one so pass them back."
Stella whimpered, weakly handing the top one on. They kept getting more and more... bad. "They named it right," she aid when she got to the ad.
"Isn't that the Xander boy that showed up this summer?" Lindsay asked.
Mac took them, nodding. "He's Don's nephew." He looked and blinked. He stared. "Definitely different than the innocent ones for the ASPCA." He got handed the others from Sheldon, who was rubbing his eyes. The ad gave him a pause. He looked at Don. "Stalkers?"
"Not that I've heard. Only this one guy in South Dakota who saw him in a gymnastics meet and decided he wanted him." He took them back to look through, whimpering some. "I'd say it ran in the family but I can't look like that in leather pants. If I could, I'd have a harem."
Danny looked over at Don. "Remember, he's gay and doesn't believe in meaningless sex."
"Oh, yeah, that'll work," Don said, putting them back into the envelope. "Thought I'd share. Anything for me in this meeting?" They all shook their heads. "Then...I'm gonna go take a cold shower." He headed to do that, stuffing the pictures in his locker.
"Hot love letter?" one of the other homicide detectives teased.
"No, my nephew Xander's new pictures for a goth place."
"Isn't he the one on the billboard?"
"Yup," Don agreed as he walked into the shower area. "Go ahead and look." He heard the whimper and smirked when the other guy joined him. "He doesn't believe in casual sex either." That got another whimper. "Yup." He stepped under the cold spray, cooling himself down. He was sure that place's sales were going through the roof soon. He came out and dried off, going back to his desk once he was redressed. He sat down at his computer. Xander had sent him two pictures he was trying to decide between for his portfolio. He looked at them. Xander as Cinderella on the hearth and then a closer shot. He flipped back and forth between them, then sent his opinion. "At least Uncle Patrick won't scream at those." His captain gave him an odd look. He called up the website of the place, watching the new graphic. It was Xander. It was zooming from the apple back to his face and that half-smirk and the eyes. Then it went to a full view of the ad's picture. He reloaded it for him, turning his laptop so his boss could see. "That's only one of the ones that won't make you take a shower."
"That's your nephew? The one with the dog?" Don smirked and nodded. "He looks different there." He walked off rubbing the back of his neck. He came out. "Isn't your uncle gay?"
"He's on a number of boards for gay rights charities."
"So your nephew is recruiting? When does he get the Mary Kay car?"
Don shrugged. "I don't know. If he actually wanted to use it to get tail, he'd never get out of bed. Thankfully he's a good kid who doesn't want casual stuff."
"Wish my kids were that way." He went back to his office, getting one of his sodas to drink.
Don played around on the site, finding a 'dress me' button. It led to a Xander lying on a pale cream silk bed in a very seductive pose. He had on a thong that was either stuffed or his nephew would scare a lover some day. He saw the clothes on the side. He dragged one over, watching as it popped onto his nephew's body. The cyber Xander purred. He put an ugly shirt with it and got a pout. So he double clicked on the shirt to remove it like the instructions said. Xander gave him an interested look. He put on a better shirt and the Xander moaned, stroking his stomach. That's all it was programmed to do but it was fun. He sent that link to Stella with the remark 'at least you taught him to pout at the ugly clothes'.
Danny came up an hour later and smacked him on the back of the head. "From Mac for distractin' Stella and Hawkes, who still says he's straight." He walked off again while Don laughed.
Don sent the link to Miami. His phone rang and he could hear ranting in the background. "At least it's a good picture of him. Play with it, it's cute. He pouts if you put him in an ugly combo. He purrs or he moans and strokes his stomach if he likes it." Thomas did that and Patrick went on another rant. "Remind him Xander's still pure too. Maybe we should encourage him to end that problem?" He laughed at the 'it'd make it worse' before Thomas hung up.
Xander leaned into the headmaster's office. "What did I do this time?"
"Your ad and that website, Xander. We had to block it."
"I'm sorry but I was paid to advertise their clothes and get clients for them. It did." He grinned. "Besides, I've never been evil before. It was fun. They gave me the pants too and a dark blue pair that make my ass look holy." He closed the door and went back to class. "Sorry, the headmaster complaining he had to block the website for my newest ad." He sat down, looking at the teacher.
Who shook his head. "I saw it in the paper."
"The website has a 'dress me' doll of me."
That got a nod from the teacher and a few giggles from the girls. "Let's get back to the numbers, shall we?" He pointed at the board. The glances at Xander continued. "Ladies, keep it up, get a pop test." They quit. He would be complaining to the headmaster that the boy was a disruption to his classes. Especially since he couldn't get the picture of Xander as one of those cutout dolls out of his head.
Horatio picked Xander up that day, giving him a look. "We had to block the website from the PD servers," he said in greeting.
"They had to do it here too." He grinned. "I've got gymnastics practice or I can skip."
"I can watch. I'm off today."
"Yet you came to watch me flip around?"
"I did. I haven't seen you at one in a while." He walked him back that way, nodding at the headmaster. "You do know that a set was sent to Don? Who showed it to everyone in the lab. Apparently they had to block it up there. Stella giggled while playing with the doll and Lindsay wouldn't quit staring."
"I like making Stella happy."
"As do I," Horatio agreed, holding the gym door open. "But making Lindsay stare for four days is not a good thing. Neither is making half of Miami doubt their sexuality." Xander blushed but giggled. "It was uncomfortable for some."
"I'm sorry but I did what I got paid to do. I made people want to shop there."
"You made people want to steal you, Xander." Xander gave him a sheepish look. He nodded politely at the coach. "We've uncovered three different plots to steal Xander."
"The ad for the goth place," Xander said. The coach looked at him oddly but one of the girls' team pulled it out to show him. He squeaked. "They wanted evil and temptation. I like the one with the snake or the one with the cherries." He went to change quickly, coming out in his spandex pants. He chalked his hands, taking a running leap onto the spring board under the high bar. He went over his new routine, which was flashy and awe making in one spot according to Chad. He decided right before he went off to change his dismount, sticking the two backflips. He held up his hands and two of the girls clapped. "Thank you, ladies. Need help?"
"Come tumble with us, Xander," one begged. "Please, Coach?" He waved a hand weakly.
"Okay. What're we doing?"
"Back and forths." Xander nodded, taking off at a small run to start off with a forward flip into a twist midair into a back handspring and then a look over his shoulder when he landed before he back handspringed into another series of flips, landing on the edge of the mark. "Oooh, nearly out of bounds," she teased.
"You do one," he panted, resting against the wall, grinning at Horatio. "Try a cartwheel on the way back," he called. She amended it on the way back to finish with a cartwheel, which ended up in a split. He grinned. "Good! I like that one!" He patted her on the head once she was standing, turning around to start off backwards. Three back handsprings across the floor then into a flipping, twisting move mid-air, then down into a split, which he moved out of to a handstand then sprung from there to gain momentum to finish off again. He gave her a smug look. "Your turn."
"Bitch," she complained, trying to outdo him. On her return pass he had to catch her because she nearly ran him over. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. That's why it's called practice and I'm so strong," he quipped. "Ladies, like to join us?" he called. They shook their heads. "Okay but remember, State championships for the schools does have that show off period for each school. Chad, Macy, we're using you two. Uppers and freshmen." They nodded. "Floor or bars?" he asked the girl next to him.
"Okay. I haven't played on your bars in years. That good with you, Coach?" He waved weakly, going back to staring at the ad. "Cool." He chalked his hands and took off running, using the board to vault over the bottom bar to grab the higher bar. He did things the girls usually do with his usual moves, going down to the lower bar then back up with a release move. He spun faster, doing a release move up there from one hand, then he caught it and did another release move on the next spin, then two more spins before a challenging dismount. "Beat that," he challenged with a wicked smirk.
"Bitch," she said in awe. She took off to do the same thing. She couldn't do the one- handed moves but she put some flash into her own routine, dismounting and landing beside him, leaning on his arms. "Now the next generation can match us and overcome us or they aren't worthy of our places," she said with a wink for those two. They got out of the way, watching as the girl did her own routine, then Chad did one, landing beside her with a courtly bow for her. "That'll do for our show off time," she agreed, grinning at Xander, getting a wink back. "Who's your friend?"
"Lieutenant Caine of the crime lab. He's my best friend."
"Ooh." She went to introduce herself. "Hi. Sheila Cotton." He shook her hand with a smile. "It's good someone understands Xander. We don't." He laughed so she walked off. "Coach?"
"Huh?" he asked, looking up. "Xander, go away. You can practice tomorrow since you've got a friend."
"Go away." He nodded, going to shower and change quickly, coming out with damp hair. "Remember, we're leaving at ten tomorrow morning."
"I know, I brought my uniforms with me so I can do laundry," he called as he walked out with Horatio. "Sorry. At the state school meet we all get a show off period. It's a taunt to the other schools. They often snarl at ours." He grinned. "I like watching them snarl. It puts them off balance."
"Hopefully it works again this year." He walked him out to the hummer. "I heard your car was in the shop."
"Yup. The engine was sounding the like the geology teacher when I got a problem right the first time on the board."
"Me too, but it was a trajectory problem." That got a laugh while Xander got into the hummer and buckled up. "So why else are you here?"
"We did find three officers who wanted to kidnap you."
"They'd have to date me for a long time before I gave in, Horatio."
"You do need to date more often."
"I'm surrounded by shallow kids for the most part and the ones here think I'm a mascot. Who would I date?"
"Point." He drove him off. "Are you going right home today?"
"I'm free if you wanted to do something. Did Yelina like the cake?"
"She did like the cake," he said with a smile. "Who took it?"
"We were shooting in that park for part of the ad that wasn't used on the website. I saw him and asked the photographer to catch him for his mother. He did say Ray Junior was very cute and could someday take my spot."
"I'd hate for him to have stalkers."
"I have stalkers? I thought I had stalker, singular, that guy from South Dakota."
"Not from what I've heard." He glanced at him, heading out toward the beach. Xander gave him a confused look. "My place."
"Okay." He smiled at him. "They're moving me onto the jock track since some people couldn't count years of school on me. I've taken most of the business stuff for Grandfather's things so I'm running out of things. I do get to count one class I'm taking this year for next year. She only allows juniors and seniors."
"You're a sophomore."
"Yup, whoever did my schedule got that wrong too. We only found out before the match at Tristan." He got out once he had parked, following him up to the door. "The grades will count for next year with the hours and they replaced it with a jock special elective from my diving." They got inside and he closed the door, locking it behind him. "Now what's really up?" He looked at the man coming out of the kitchen. "Hi, Speed."
"Hey, Xander. We're guarding you since one of the police officers is determined to steal you."
"Did they hurt someone at the house?"
"No, but we're dealing with it in-house and not telling Patrick." He handed him a soda. "Has your Grandsire ever seen those?"
"Not that I've heard. Oooh, did you see the billboard with one of the other pictures?"
"I did," Horatio agreed. "It's on my commute." He smiled at Xander. "How much are you making?"
"That one I made a six grand gift certificate and another two hundred per hour." They gaped. "It was worth it and the top guys get more. They can get two or three grand per hour." He sat down, opening the soda. "Do I know this cop?"
"No, not yet," Horatio said. He sat beside the boy on the couch. "How have things been at home?"
"Good. Grandfather's getting a bit stronger again. Ethan figured out something new to try on the tumors. Sire's back in LA so I'm calling him all the time. Ooh, I got one that I did the other day. Same company but an angelic line. No one will be able to complain about them or think I'm too tempting, I think." He dug into his backpack, handing them over to Horatio. "That's my copy of the good shots for my portfolio. I sent the link to Don. Online it's me being changed from Temptation to Sacred."
Horatio looked through the pictures. It had another young man and a young female model taking the apple from him and his clothes bleaching back to white pants a few pictures later. Then Xander looked up and grinned that same wicked grin with his hands on his white-clad hips, the wings just starting to sprout from his back. The next picture they were fully out and the other two were stroking them while he looked like he was moaning, head tipped back slightly in pleasure. The last one had him surrounded and above some angelic figures. He looked at him. "Very nice." He handed them to Speed. "Does it end with that elevated picture?"
"No, it ends with those angels taking off their robes to show clubbing clothes and them bowing to me." Horatio just nodded. "I'd show you but I don't have my laptop on me. It's got another 'dress me' doll too."
"No new apple?" Speed teased.
"We thought about cherries or grapes but it didn't work right." He grinned as he took them back, putting them back into the envelope. "I'm going to use the wings one in my portfolio I think." He shifted, dropping his bookbag on the floor. "Are we expecting him to attack me here?" Speed nodded. "Why?"
"He was at the school," Horatio told him.
"The new janitor?" They both nodded. "Huh." He nodded. "Okay." He smiled at Speed. "We need to go have good boy fun."
"I'm not a good boy," he teased back. "Horatio is."
"He won't ride the roller coasters with me." He grinned at him. "I'll go with you if you want to come with me. I'd like that."
"If I can, Xander. You still have school."
"I have a whole week coming up when I'm off." Speed looked confused. "The school's doing a contract renegotiation so we're having the week off. That way the teachers don't feel like walking out or snapping at us for making them work for crappy pay. The Headmaster announced it. The weekend proceeding it is State."
"How did you do in States last year?" Speed asked. "I know it's your last year in the junior class?" Xander smiled. "All around our just high bar?"
"My only gold for all around," he said proudly but quietly. "Highest in three events." Horatio patted him. He smiled. "Grandfather cheered himself hoarse. My shelf in the study got expanded to include that one and a great picture of me doing a release move behind it. He even agreed that I should stay on the school team so we had a chance at staying higher in the state's standings. Though he doesn't like that I don't want to go to college. He thinks it's a good thing for me. I'd rather travel with him." Horatio smiled at that. "I know our time together is precious but I can't simply take off now and go to Europe. I have too many obligations. When I graduate I won't and hopefully we can spend a good portion of his remaining life making some good memories for me to hold onto." Horatio stroked over the back of his head. "Thanks, Horatio. I know you'll be here." Someone knocked on the door and he looked at him, getting a nod. "Want me to answer it?"
"No, I will," Speed said, going to get the door. "Hey," he said, looking at the officer. "What's wrong?"
"I'd like the boy please," he said, pulling his gun.
"Rude people do not get my virgin ass," Xander said firmly, standing up to glare at him, arms crossed over his chest. "I'm sorry but no. I intend to only date and sleep with people who have some manners. They'd also better take *good* care of me and pointing a gun at a very close friend does not do that." The man's face fell into a pout. "Now, put it away and come in here." He trudged in. "What makes you think that taking me is the thing to do? This isn't the old days where you'd ride through a village and snatch a bride."
The man looked at him. "Virgin?" Xander nodded. "With those pictures?"
"My grandfather was a priest," he said dryly.
"Oh. So you need a ring?"
"I need a commitment," Xander corrected. "Someone I've dated, been wooed by, and who likes *me* not just the pretty face. I'm more than my hot ass."
Xander glared hotter, making him flinch. "That is a picture," he said coldly. "Not who I am and not my name." He swallowed and nodded, bowing his head. "You're definitely not worthy if you don't know that." He walked off, heading for the bathroom. "I'll be in here, Horatio."
"Sure, Xander." He looked at the man, shaking his head. "He was happy until you got here." The man let out a sob. Speed hung up his cell, nodding. "When the officers get here I expect you to cooperate to make it up to Xander," he said quietly. "He will appreciate that." The man swallowed, letting Speed walk him outside. "He's gone, Xander."
Xander came back out with a damp cloth. "Here, to wipe your hands off."
"I didn't need to hit him."
"You got a bit dusty in the gym." He grinned and went into the kitchen to look around.
"Oh, no!" Speed called, coming in to drag him out of there. "You're toxic. No going in the kitchen." He went to check on the prisoner, nodding at the patrol guys. "Yeah him. Tell them, now." The guy mumbled something. "Louder." He recited his sins louder, including wanting to take Temptation and help him turn angelic. "Someone already did that. It'll be on the site soon." The man swallowed, nodding a bit. They took the guy back to the cruiser and off to book him. He came back in, finding Horatio and Xander staring at each other. "Seeing who blinks first?"
"Wins the rights to order dinner," Xander told him. Horatio blinked and he grinned. "Middle Eastern or Thai? I need a bit of spice tonight."
"Middle Eastern," Horatio said with a smile. That got a nod and the boy went to call from his cellphone on the back porch. "He's asked if we wanted to go to his meet tomorrow night."
"A whole lab road trip?" Speed suggested, flopping back down. "Did you tell him about the other one?"
"I said three at the school." Xander came back in. "How long?"
"Forty minutes. Who's the other person?" He settled in beside Horatio, not quite cuddling but close.
"Eww. Unless it's Stella?"
"No, not Stella. I will tell her to look at the new section to see if she likes it better." Xander grinned and nodded. "Mac did groan and whimper at the first set."
"I looked good," Xander said modestly.
"They should've named it Lust or Sin," Speed told him. "What else is going on tomorrow?"
"They're announcing who made it to State as individuals." He grinned. "I had to petition but I think I did. Only one person beat my score that I know. Tomorrow's the deciding match. Any ties are broken by tomorrow's scores."
Horatio stroked over his hair again. "I hope you make it, Xander. You've worked very hard to get there."
"I'm still hyperactive. I have to do something to take my extra energy."
Horatio swatted him. "Don't put yourself down again." Xander gave him a sheepish grin. "You have put a lot of energy into gymnastics and your training. It shows." Xander grinned. "You've come a long way since you were proving laws of physics," he teased.
"Thankfully. Broken bones hurt. So does hitting the mat." Someone knocked and he checked his watch. "Huh." He got up to answer it, frowning at his bodyguard and the food he was carrying. "Did my card decline?"
"Yup." He handed it over. "Your grandfather said you're grounded."
"Horatio said I've got a possible kidnaping. But I have new pictures he'll like more." He brought the food inside, going to hand the pictures to him. "I'll be home in a few hours or when it's done?"
"That'll work. I've got DiRosa sitting on the house."
"Yes, for some reason he saw the Temptation ad," he said dryly.
"Grandfather babying his headache?" Xander teased.
"Oh, yes. He stormed in nearly screaming and panting in anger." He walked off shaking his head, nodding at DiRosa. "We heard right. Speedle and Caine are inside with him. New pictures." He leaned on the car so they could share them, smiling at the innocent ones. "Those might calm down the huffing Sire's doing." He took them back to the house, handing them to Patrick. "From your grandson, who's being protected from a possible stalker. Those are much sweeter. They go full circle."
He took them out to look, smiling at them. "Those are much closer to the sweet boy we have." He went to show his sire, smiling as he curled next to him on the bed. "The rest of the series."
He looked through them. "Is he back yet?"
"Horatio has him, he's got a stalker."
"Crap." He handed them back and yawned. "I'm tired, childe."
"Let me take care of you for a change," Patrick soothed, pulling out his finest fussing rituals. When he was down he logged onto the website to look at this new one. Now you got a front page of 'temptation' or 'sacred' as gold words in the middle of sacrificial altar fires. He clicked on that one, watching the movie transformation to angelic. The end scene was nearly as bad but he cleared it off his computer and decided it was that shop. He knew his grandson was sacred. Mortran leaned in. "Did it go off yet?"
"Nearly but Xander's finishing dinner. You do remember State is tomorrow?" He nodded. "Good." He grinned at the computer. "I looked at it too. That shot of him looking up when you get to the main clothing page is a great one we should get a copy of." Patrick went back there, skipping the intro movie. There was a picture of Xander with the wings and low riding white leather pants looking up through his lashes, a small, shy smile on his face. He moaned and Raphael looked over his arm. "I like that one. He should have that one in his portfolio." He left them alone, closing the door behind himself.
Raphael huffed. "At least he looks angelic." He put the laptop onto the bedside table, kissing him. "He's not naked either. I suppose it's all right."
"Did you see the other movie? He does live up to the temptation name." They heard the main door close but no one came upstairs. Xander did come up a half hour later, climbing in on Sire's other side to cuddle him. "Bad night?"
"Both of them thought I was the picture. I feel like pouting."
"It was visually stunning, Xander," Raphael said. "Where are the others?" He went to get them, both sets, and let him see. He climbed back in. "We liked that one of you looking up."
"I'd use that one but that's proprietary. I only get the ones they're not using." He put his head on his shoulder, curling up beside him but on top of the covers. "The wings itched." Patrick laughed. "When I graduate, if you're both still with me, what do you think about doing some traveling to spend some time together?" he asked quietly.
"I think it's a grand idea," Patrick said, smiling at him. "Where did you want to go?"
Raphael handed them back, kissing him on the head. "We'll see what we can plan for becoming globetrotting vampires, Xander." Xander beamed and snuggled in. "Still no boyfriend?"
"No. I should pout. The teachers are drooling over me. The coach got stuck on that picture in the magazine. I got to cut practice short." That got a soft chuckle from Patrick. "Horatio was there. Then two people decided to call me Temptation even though they wanted to love me like I deserved according to them." He nuzzled his cheek then looked at him. "Is it just the pictures or some other reason for me to draw them that way?"
"It's you, grandson. You are very alluring. That innocence sheathed in a body that speaks of sin and desire," Patrick said, reaching over to stroke over his hair. "Didn't fix it after practice?" He shook his head. "What's coming up?"
"There's another pound ad. They want to do a new one with a dog going back to the innocence thing. Individual State if I make it right after that. Figuring out how to spend the other four thousand of my gift certificate I got for modeling."
"They gave you what?" Raphael asked.
"Two hundred an hour and a six grand gift certificate."
"Why is the car in the shop?" Patrick asked.
"It spluttered like you do when I hit on someone in public."
"It's supposed to be a good car," Raphael complained.
"It is," Xander agreed. "It simply hasn't been the same since I got food poisoning and ran into a mailbox." That got a small laugh. "It hasn't. I thought about replacing it with some of my recent earnings but I don't know what I want. If I get something low and sporty it'll seem like I'm bragging or compensating."
"Not with that picture of you as the doll," Patrick said dryly. Raphael gave him an odd look so he pulled them up. This new doll did the same thing as the other one so he let him play with it.
"I thought your diving suit was tiny," Raphael complained, but he smiled at the pouting reflex the doll did. "Did you keep the white leathers?"
"Yup and I got a pair of baby blue ones." He selected them to put them on him. "Those."
"What's the cutouts?"
"Netting. I look holy in them."
Raphael patted him on the back. "You look holy in many things. Except your school uniform, grandson."
"Yeah but they're to make us all look like dorks," Xander complained. "That's why my tie ends up hanging out of my jacket pocket like some strange hankie code for 'I'm bored and not uptight'." Patrick laughed so hard he choked, letting them help him. "Anyway," he sighed once both vampires had calmed down. "I need to get to sleep tonight. It's going to be a long day and I've got the show off spot again this year. We are coming, right?" They both nodded. "Good." He climbed out of the bed. "Commence with the squeaky, squealy, comfort noises." He went down to his room.
Patrick kissed his sire. "Do you need to make those?"
"I could like that." He pulled him down to kiss him properly. It was good between them.
Xander finished his routine for the show off portion of the event, waving a hand at his female counterpart. "Prove it or bench it," he teased just loudly enough to be heard, getting some laughs from the crowd. She hopped up to do her routine, landing facing him. She leaned against his arm, motioning the new kids over. "Oooh, newbies. Better be good to be on *our* team." Chad jumped up to do his routine, then she did hers, smirking back at him before walking off. Xander did trip on the way off the mats, but that was fine. He sat down. "Can I have a bandaid?" One was handed down for his scrapes. "Pants tore too. These new ones are cheap, coach."
"I know." He got some needle and thread from someone, letting Xander patch his own knee. One of the other coaches gave him a worried look. "When the mat bit him he scraped his knee and tore his pants." He took it back once Xander broke the thread, going to hand it to the original owner. "Thank you."
"Welcome." She shook his hand. "May the best team win."
"Of course we will," he agreed smugly, making her laugh. The rotation order was announced. Rings first. "Chad, you're our best, go." He nodded, going to get himself ready. He chalked his hands, let himself be spotted. He grimaced and shifted his hands but got to work on his routine. He was flawless until the dismount, then something happened and he fell on one shoulder. He rushed out there. "Chad?" He got a moan and a point. He felt along the injury. "It's dislocated. Get us someone." One of the judges went to do that while he looked at him. "It'll be okay, Chad. We all slip." He shook his head. "It's all right." Paramedics came with him. He walked back there, looking. Xander nodded for him to go. "You sure?"
"I'm sure. His family's not in. What was it?"
"Dislocated. You're next."
Xander nodded, heading out there. He dusted his hands and let himself be helped up. He hopped back down. "We need an equipment check please? One of the grips is loose." The spotter came over to check, nodding he was right. Some tape was used and Xander grimaced, going back up. He tried to shift and ended up leaving his hand grip up there. "Nope. Please fix it?" he requested, pointing at his grip.
"We'll have that one replaced," the judge announced. "Do you want to wait or come back to it?"
Xander looked at his team. "Whichever's better for the other coaches." That got a nod and they were asked. The judges announced there was a problem and the rings were being switched out, that they were pulling all the teams until that Pace could complete their rotation. The other teams finished theirs with Xander watching. "Delian?" He looked over. "See the redhead?" He nodded. "He got an 8.7 on the floor. His teammates all got in the mid-nines. The one on vault got high nines. The ones on the pommel got low nines. That's the grading curve." He stood up, moving the kids closer together. "The coach is with Chad. He got a dislocated shoulder. You guys are going to win this one for him since he can't be here. Am I clear?" They nodded, grinning at him. "Good. Coach'll be back in a few. His parents aren't here. Do not do things that will make me yell at you in front of the other schools or parents. We're mature beings, even those of us who're fourteen."
He counted noses and sighed, heading to find the other two. He found one girl under the stands, pulling her out by the back of her neck. "What part of 'do not embarrass the school' did you not get!" She flinched. "I don't care if you haven't seen him in years. You can wait until after the match. Use the match to impress him but you are not allowed to make out here. Especially since your parents are watching." He gave her a shove. "Go sit down. We're waiting to complete our round." She slunk that way and Xander glared at the boy. "You know better. Keep it up and I'm reporting you for being over twenty and sucking face with a fifteen-year-old." He walked into the back hall, finding his other player, Chad, and the coach. "Chad, how's the shoulder?"
"Sore," he said grimly. He grinned at the other boy. "Thanks for coming to see if I was okay."
"I was trying to figure out what was going on."
"If you had waited I would've told you," Xander pointed out, pointing at the bench. "Go sit on Tiffany since I caught her sucking face with an older guy." He followed the coach out. "The grip was loose."
"That's what he said. We're on hiatus?"
"Until the ring's changed out. They taped it on me and my grip stuck." He counted noses and groaned, going to get both girls this time, walking them out by their ponytails. "We seem to be having girl issues today."
"Yes, you have PMS," one of them told him. He smacked her on the shoulder. "Hey! Coach!"
"No hitting the girls even if they deserve it, Xander."
"You sure? I'm told I spank very well." They all stared at him. "One of the shoots for the watch." He grinned and shrugged. "Okay, Delian, since Chad's injured he's our alternate. I know you're new. You'll handle it well because we know you will. We have confidence in you doing great things today. Don't try to be me, but at least try to be as good as Mercy is." That got a grin and a nod. "Good." The ring was put up and he walked out there. "Test?" He was handed his grip, letting him check it. "It's sticky. Coach?" Another one was tossed over. Thanks." He chalked it and hopped up, giving it a test. Then he nodded and got down. "It'll do." The judge nodded. "I guess I'm up next." He centered himself and got back up there, testing the grip first.
Then he started off, aware everyone was staring at him. It was good staring, he hoped. Like when he dived. He finished up with a good, solid dismount and nodded, holding his arms up as was proper. He walked back to the bench, taking out some water to sip. "The new ring's got a stiff line, the older one's looser," he said quietly. That got passed down and the next kid went, his scores good. It was their low score for the match, they hoped. Their next one was vault. The others went first. Xander went last because last place people got higher scores. He could vault very well. He winced when Delian almost fell, giving him a pat as he walked past. "We'll work on it next week," he promised. That got a smile and a nod. The kid in front of him went and he watched the scores. Low. Not good. It had been a decent vault. Xander upped the one he wanted to do, looking at the coach, leaning over to talk to him. "Show my ass or not?"
"Not. You can't stick that landing."
"It's higher anyway."
"Not. We can place second."
Xander snorted. "No we can't. It'll waste a pep talk." He stepped up into position, checking his hands. He took off at a run, gauging it. At the last minute he sprung forward, using his hands on the board to launch himself. He hit the horse right, then flipped and landed, wobbling a bit but didn't step, hop, or fall. He grinned and waved, heading back to the coach. "Told you so." He watched his scores, nodding. "Not bad." Delian gave him an awed look. "What? You should try doing a handstand dive off a ten meter board." He sipped his water, it had his mark on the top so it was his. Then he coughed. "That wasn't orange flavored before." He put it down, shaking his head when the coach looked. "Someone made me koolaid." He looked at Chad, who shrunk down. "Have it if you want. I don't have bad mouth germs." He took it to drink and Xander got another one. "We mark the caps, Chad." He nodded. The team's cumulative scores were put up. They were in second. "I hate having to come from behind, guys. What's our next one?" The pommel horse was pointed at. "Okay, I suck here. Someone else lead the pack. I'll go second." Their third best pommel person went to do his first. He got a decent score. Xander went and he got a semi-decent score. Their others went and the next best after Chad went last so they got the best score there. It put them two points behind the top team. "Come on, floor," Xander muttered.
"Do your own routine, not the girls'," the coach warned. Xander nodded. He knew what he meant. "You go last, Benis."
"Got it." He finished his water, watching their team go. The girls were waiting on their turn so they were watching and cheering at the moment. When it was his turn he walked out there, avoiding the spot he had tripped on earlier. He stretched up, checking his hands. A bit more chalk and he stepped into the square, nodding at the judges before moving into his first move. He concentrated on making it like a kata, moving like water, rushing like rapids over a waterfall when he tumbled, then going for a calm spin underneath. He stopped when he was done, nodding again and walking off. He flopped down. "Tell me I didn't do four?" he asked the coach, who smacked him on the head. "Sorry I got lost! It's better than me doing a dismount for a dive."
"Not by much." Xander's score went up and he was very high. It put them in the lead. "I'm going to drill you for weeks, Benis."
"Yes, coach." The high bar came up and he grinned. "Oh, can I? Please?" he begged.
"Pretty please? It's my last year to make State. This is the deciding one."
"Come on," he begged. "I need the score if I'm going to State. You enjoy me going to State, it gives you time to schmooze with the college guys. Plus, it's a national team year. Please? The one I do in practice when I'm goofing around?"
"Hell no," he growled.
"The other one? It's even higher."
He sighed. "I don't know how you're not spoiled with as much as you beg."
"My grandfather used to be a priest. Why do you think I don't have a harem. Pick between the two or the new one."
"Do the new one. It's safer."
"Only if I don't fall on the landing. Can I do the one I goof off with? It's more fun. It's a lot better." Their next-to-last person walked up to do his. "Please?"
"Let him do the second one," one of the girls said. "If he falls on his face again, oh well."
Xander glared at her. "Gee, thanks. Really." He looked at the coach. "Please?"
"Do the new one."
"I'll have to improvise, it's only three moves long."
He sighed. "Do the new one, add in the goofing off moves at the end, then do your hardest, fastest, meanest dismount and I'm spanking you when we get back, Benis."
Xander grinned. "If you want," he said with a cheeky grin, going out to take his spot. He looked at the bar, then at the board, shifting it back. "Need the air space." The spotter gave him an odd look so he backed up and took his usual running start. He hated a dead start at the bar. He never got up good momentum fast enough. It made the first release move harder. Xander caught the bar with both hands, swung twice, went into the move where you're passing your legs between your arms, then popped a switch of direction. He swung a few more times. A one-armed swing and a release at the high point from that. Then one more swing and a release from the middle of that. He felt it. He moved onto a release backflip and caught it again. He did it frontways, then caught it, swung twice, did the last move he knew he had forgotten to put in, then he dismounted from that, sticking it barely. He held up his arms and gave them a smug look, seeing the shock. He looked at the coach, who was tapping a foot. He walked back there. "Did I forget an element?"
"No, you showed off."
"It's the school championships, I'm supposed to show off here." He shrugged, grinning at his score. "Yes!" he hissed, beaming proudly. He looked down at the captain of the girl's team. "I want that score on at least yours."
"I do try to please."
"And I heard you do it well," Xander teased back, earning a swat from the coach. "Her teachers all say she tries very hard to please them." The girls took the floor for their sections, letting the guys cheer. They even had small pompoms. The girls had lost their alternate to a car wreck and a concussion/broken ankle mixture. They couldn't afford mistakes. Someone came over and Xander looked at them. "Judge Phillips. Is it about my petition for State?"
"You showed off very well, Xander."
"It's the championships, of course I did. This is the place for it." He grinned. "Am I going to pout all the way home?"
He sat down next to him, letting him see the score sheets. "You're tied with Cheeper. There's only one open spot by scores." He looked at him. "I should make you an alternate. Are we going to have problems with your drug tests?" The coach handed over the records of what Xander had been given. "Someone showed some sense then." He looked at him. "I want to talk to you and Cheeper. This is the last year for you both."
Xander looked then pointed. "He was in the car with our alternate," he said quietly. "It's her boyfriend. I'm not sure he's alive. I know she's got a broken ankle and a concussion." He looked stunned. "Go ask his team but I'll gladly work it out with Cheeper if I must." He nodded, going to check on that. The coach looked at him. "I'm fair. You know I'm fair." That got a nod and he cheered on the girls going onto the floor exercise. "Kick their asses like I did!" he yelled. The coach swatted him again. "What! We get a day off if both teams win." The judge came back and he looked at Cheeper. "Was I wrong?"
"He says he can compete but he's sick and has a concussion. We called," Cheeper admitted.
Xander nodded, nodding for the coach's benefit while he walked out. "I heard he had died."
"We did too but he was in the ER for a long time." He looked at him. "Showoff," he said smartly.
"Well, yeah," Xander agreed. "This is the place for it." He grinned. "So we're down to one spot and an alternate?"
Cheeper looked at him then at the judge. "What's our chances of making it to the nationals?"
"Only if you compete," Xander said grimly. "Can we have a competition among us? That would be fair. Get the top ten and weed us down?"
"We like the average scores method. It accounts for bad weeks."
"Like it was my fault I was in the hospital after being attacked." He looked at Cheeper. "You have a rivalry with Tyron. I have a rivalry with Rocko and then there's the new guy, Juan." That got a nod. "That leaves out the sick alternate and a few others. Want to call him?"
"I can do that." He called his buddy's house. "Hey, it's Cheeper. We're talking about States. Benis and I are tied for the last open spot and alternate. We're making sure you're going to make it." He looked at Xander. "You've rubbed off on him. He said if you could do it with a concussion he can do it with a concussion." He listened. "Yeah, that's what we're doing."
"He could be the alternate," Xander offered. The judge shook his head.
Cheeper listened then nodded. "That'd work." He hung up. "He agreed with Benis. Make him the alternate. He's not sure what they gave him in the ER but he was floating and he said it was morphine good."
"We'd have to drug test him anyway," he pointed out. He walked off. "Let me talk to the others, boys. Go back to your seats. We'll announce it."
Xander looked at his old rival. "May the best gay man win?" he joked lightly.
"Even with that ad I still wouldn't let you do me, Benis," he joked back, walking back inside smiling. The coaches were together. "Hey." They both looked over at them. "Carl's thinking he might need to be an alternate due to some medication issues and his head's still throbbing. As of right now, one of us will be on the team and one of us will be alternates unless they move him back. He did agree it would be okay. Which would solve some bad rivalries we both have." That got smiles and nods. "They'll announce it." That got nods and the two teams split, though Xander did go under the bleachers and walked one of the guys and his girlfriend out, handing her to her coach on the way to their bench. Cheeper laughed. "Goody goody."
Xander sat their boy down, staring at him. "Didn't I yell at the girls for that?" He nodded, looking miserable. "Your parents are watching."
"They want me to marry some future CEO."
"Dude, do what makes you happy. If they're that uptight, they'll die of it before it becomes an issue." He sat down to watch the girls going, looking up at his section, smiling and waving. Horatio gave him a look so he pointed at his wrists and to the bracelet he used to wear from States. That got a nod. He understood. Xander looked at the scores and sighed. "I did want that extra day off, guys. Come on! You do better than that in practice."
"People are watching," one of the new girls said.
"Duh!" Xander shot back. "You're in sports, people are going to watch you. You don't want individual attention, join a team sport not an individual sport." She blushed but nodded. "Even if they're watching they're staring in awe because they can't do what you do."
"I feel like they're staring at my ass," she muttered.
He moved over to sit next to her. "They're not. If they are they're doing it to make sure you're staying tiny. Remember, female gymnasts are supposed to be tiny little skinny dolls. You are one." She smiled at that. "Now, whet's the problem?" She mumbled something and he sighed. "Even with *that* finally starting they're not staring at you unless you're bleeding through, okay? Go out there and use all the conflicting hormones to push it back in their faces. Yes, you're a real woman, you can be delicate and gentle, and still spike a release move that makes jaws drop. Then we'll get you chocolate on the way home, like we will me in celebration. Okay?" She nodded, going to take her place in line for the vault with the others. He looked at the coach and shuddered. He got the point. It was a guy code for female cycle issues. He grabbed another water and settled in to watch and cheer, smiling when the girls did as he said and pushed it back in their faces. The girls ended up taking second place, which wasn't bad with most of them only being on the team a year.
The teams moved to get their medals, Xander accepting the trophy as captain for their team, shaking hands with the judges. Pictures were taken, school theme song was played, and then the girls got their turn. Everyone packed things and stared at the judges, who were conferring. One judge tapped on a microphone until it came on. "We're going to announce the athletes going to State in all the classes." The first list went up. "This is the senior class going to State for the men's." A cheer went up. A new list came up. "This is the ladies' senior division." The crowd hushed. Most of the people here were in the junior division. A new list came up. "This is the ladies' division." It paused and the new list came up. Xander let out a squeal. He had made the team. Cheeper was the alternate. "This it the list for the men's junior division. We wish all the athletes luck and I hope that some of you make the nationals bus as well. Have a good day and thank you for being sportsman about things. Congratulations to all of you for getting this far." The microphone went off and the crowd clapped.
Xander got pounced by his family, hugging everyone. "I made it! I made it! My last year and I made it!" He hugged Horatio. "Are you coming?"
"If I can," he promised, smiling at him. Speed got his own hug then both grandfathers again. "How are you getting back?"
"School rules state he has to ride back on the bus," the coach called. "Benis! They can dance you around later." Xander wiggled free of his grandfather, winking at him, grabbing his bag on the way back. "He'll see you in an hour, people. Plan the party on the way home." He clapped him on the back on the way to the bus. "You're still being spanked for showing off."
"Work on the new high bar routine, kid. You need it."
Xander barked and grinned, getting a mild swat. He piled into his seat, getting comfortable. He looked around. "Who's got Mercy?" She ran onto the bus and he did another head count. "Who are we missing?"
"The coach?" the girl next to him suggested.
"No, there's a teenager missing." He stood up when the coach came on. "Are we missing someone?"
"Sit down, let me count." He did that, groaning. "Xander, go get her. She's clearly making out somewhere, again." Xander sent her a text message, bringing her running. "Sit!" the coach snapped. "We will be going over those rules tomorrow, children."
"Does this mean we get the day off they promised Xander?" one of the girls called. "We did come in second."
"I'll ask the headmaster," he sighted, nodding at the driver to go. He sat down holding his head. Sometimes dealing with Xander was a pain. Sometimes it was nice. Today it was just weird.
A few days later Xander was called down during the pep rally. "Xander has done more to revive our athletic tradition than a lot of teams," the headmaster announced. He waved at the other two going to State, one on and one alternate. "These two are joining him this year in going to the State Individual gymnastics competition in the junior class." The crowd mostly cheered but a few booed from the soccer team. Their coach got them with a folder in his hands. "I know we wish them all good luck and new precious metal for their collections." He smiled at his team. "As long as they don't show off." Xander gave him a wicked grin, getting more laughs. "So congratulate them, they're leaving Friday!" The crowd cheered and the pep rally ended, letting the kids go work out at the gym.
Xander walked in and found Horatio. "Pleasure, personal, or family?" he asked. "I've got to work on my new high bar routine."
"Pleasure," he said, smiling gently. "Congratulations."
"Thank you. Want to help me pick out a new car? The Jag's never coming out of the shop. The insurance company said to total the sucker this time. It's a twelve thousand dollar repair." Horatio gave him an odd look "Someone decided to gay bash my car when I got it back."
"I'm sorry." He sat down. "Go ahead and change, we'll talk between routines." Xander nodded, going to change into the uniform then coming out to stretch and work on his hand grips. "New?"
"Yeah, I had to replace one when it stuck," he reminded him. He finished getting it just right and grinned. "Be right back. Tell me what you think." He mounted and got to work, enjoying the movement but something didn't feel right. He hopped down and started over, changing that move. It flowed now and he finally did a layout flip dismount. He looked up. "Easy?" He looked at Horatio who waved his hand back and forth. "Easy." He got up and did another one. "So, what car?"
"Pay attention." Horatio watched him go through that one. "Do what you did at State, Xander." He got down and bounced up to do that, making him smile. "Now release, the backward one!" He did that, moving into a new element. Then he dismounted. "Is that long enough?"
"No. I'm missing three things. I'll work it out on paper," he decided, coming over, then he turned back and did it again to set it in his mind. This time he worked them in. He dismounted and climbed up again to do it exactly the same way. It felt good. He dismounted and nearly stumbled. "Ankle's bad today," he quipped, coming over to rest. The coach came in. "I think I worked out a new one. I'm resting my ankle."
"Sure. Caine." He headed to his office.
Xander looked at him. "So you came to see me?" he asked with a shy smile.
"I did. I haven't seen you in a few days." He patted him on the arm. "What do you want to get?"
"I'm torn. I don't want to get a hormone alarm car or anything but something small and sporty would be nice. If not, I was thinking something like a luxury ride. Maybe a pimp caddy?" he teased.
"Eric would steal it from you," he teased back, giving him a nudge. "No hummers?"
"I'm not tough enough to drive a hummer, Horatio. Plus it won't fit in the garage." He laughed about that. "Caddy? Mid-sized?"
"Sports car. Something that handles well at all speeds, says your personality, and you look good getting out of."
"I'm not that fast."
"You're not usually but when you forget to take caffeine...." he let it trail off with a smile.
"Good point. I'll have to get the bouncy, hyperactivity car." Horatio laughed, giving him another nudge. "Let me do that again, make sure I have it right. Coach?" He came out and Xander went back to it. He did it for him, landing facing him. "Well?"
"Do a flip for the third release. Front or back. You'll need the points. Also, work on your rings, Xander."
"I will tomorrow." He got back up there, trying that move. He heard Horatio's phone ring and finished, dismounting before he could hang up. "Body?"
"Wolfe." He hung up. "Not a body." He smiled. "You looked rushed."
"He did," the coach agreed. "That's a good way to refind his trajectory again." Xander stuck his tongue out. "I should still spank you." Xander took his usual running bounce up onto the bar, going full speed for the routine. The release move went well. The second one too. The third he almost didn't make the bar but he did catch it. He had to add an extra spin before the dismount and it was a bit more showy. He landed with a wince. "Knee?"
"Ankle. I'll be fine." He walked back over there. "Let me change." Horatio nodded, relaxing while he did that. He came out, looking at the coach. "Which one?"
"The last one. It looked good. Pause longer at the apex. Do it technically correct, you know that." Xander nodded, heading over to walk Horatio out. "Full practice tomorrow during gym, Benis."
"Yes, sir. I know that and after school too."
"Good." He went back to his office. He'd have to replace some of the team next year when three graduated.
The happy duo ended up back at Horatio's office so he could pick up something that Ryan had left him. There, Xander found a guy who decided to kiss him. "Wow," he said, blinking at him. The guy backed up at Horatio's growl but Xander pulled him closer to kiss him again. "I'm an ice prince, my love. You have to do some wooing before we go past this stage. Am I clear? Because if you're mine we're going to date and you're going to have to earn my trust," he said quietly, staring into his eyes. "I'm not just the pictures."
"I know." He grinned. "Do you think picnics are romantic or, um, dinner out?"
Xander smiled and nodded. "I do. Either's fine."
"Do you have somewhere you like? I mean I can splurge...."
Xander pinched his lips shut. "Find somewhere you like and take me. I don't get out to eat that much," he said with a small grin. "Okay?" He nodded and beamed, dancing off. Xander frowned then looked at Horatio. "Was it just me or did he forget something?"
"I'm sure he'll get your number off one of us," he said patiently, shaking his head. "I think he's a bit old for you, Xander."
Xander gave him a hug. "I like older guys. They try to understand me. They want more than sex." He let him go. "So, dinner tonight? I'll buy if I can get my debit card to work. If not...." He pulled out his wallet. "Yup, I've got money." He grinned. "So, dinner?"
"Dinner's nice," he agreed, walking out with him. "Are you sure? I mean, he's Eric's age."
"That means he might actually get to know *me* and not the pictures. Not just the sports stuff. The actual funny, shy, sometimes scared me."
Horatio stroked his back as they walked back out to the hummer. "I find no reason for you to be scared, Xander. You're fairly worldly."
"Um, Horatio, still pure," he said dryly as they got onto the elevator. That earned a smile. "You know Grandfather would beat me."
"I do." He smiled at the officer in there with them. "Where did you want to eat tonight?"
"I didn't know your nephew was that old," the officer said.
"I'm not his nephew, I'm a Xander. We're friends," Xander said with a smirk. "It's my honor to be his friend." They walked out together, heading to the hummer. "So, where for dinner?"
"How about that one place you showed me." Xander looked at his clothes then at him. "Fix your hair on the way over. You can use your celebrity status to get us in," he teased.
"I can," he agreed, fixing his hair. "Then again I could've done that at ten, Horatio. Want me to drive?"
"Not a department vehicle. I'd never hear the end of it." He started the engine and backed them out, heading to the place they both liked to eat at. It was upscale but good food, decently priced, and they didn't allow cameras inside the restaurant. Xander smiled at the hostess, who moaned. "Just us," Horatio told her. "He doesn't need to be seen either."
"Are we talking date, gentlemen?"
"Friends," Xander told her. "But if you want to put us into a date nook you can. I wouldn't care. We've got to figure out what sort of car I'm getting next." He looked inside. "Horatio, your boss. Mandatory sucking up?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "The man got on my last nerve earlier." He followed the hostess, watching as Xander casually brushed some lint off his boss's shoulder, smiling at him and getting one back. One of the women in there dropped her wineglass but that was fine as well. He and Xander sat down, looking over the menu. "How much do you have on you?"
Xander looked at his wallet. "Three-eighty and the credit card only Thomas knows I have." He put it back. "So we can have dinner." Horatio smiled and nodded, deciding on what he wanted. "You think a sports car? I don't want to look like I'm compensating."
Horatio looked at him. "I saw the dress up doll, Xander. Anyone who saw that won't think you're compensating." Xander grinned. "Eric does tell everyone that's stuffed." Xander shook his head. "No?"
"No, you can tell him it's good camera angles if you want but no. The only enhancing they did was to remove scars. The coverup I use on them still leaves a small pucker over the old gunshot wound." Horatio patted his hand, getting a smile. "It's okay. I'm good at dropping the past."
"You are," he agreed, giving his hand another pat. "Diet?"
"Is a horrible, dirty, nasty swear word, Horatio," he teased. He finally found what he wanted and smiled at a nearby waiter, getting him over to them. "Can we order?"
"Of course, sir. For your date?"
Horatio smirked. They got that a lot when they were out, it was an ego stroke for people to think he could get a gorgeous young man like Xander. "Friend. I'd like the number twelve, medium. Baked potato, no sour cream." That got a nod. "Water to drink."
Xander looked again then at the waiter. "I'll be good tonight," he complained. "Number eight, baked instead of fried please." That got a nod. "The coach will yell if he smells grease on me tomorrow. The fries are fine however the chef wants. With the bacon." He handed it over. "Coke?"
"Pepsi," he said quietly.
"No ice." That got a nod and he went to place their orders. "Did you get to hear one of the matrons decided I was retarded because I didn't want to drink at her party?"
"No I hadn't heard that. Did you get to snub her?"
"Forever more," Xander agreed happily. "She's the one who dropped her wineglass. I told her I didn't need to be an alcoholic at my age, or any age; I cared for my body." He grimaced. "Sports car?"
"Sports car," he agreed. "Fast, lithe, attention getting. Just like you." Xander grinned. "I'm sure we can find you something." His boss came over. "Yes, Chief?"
"Horatio. Xander." Xander smiled at him. "Business or pleasure?"
"Horatio's helping me decide on a new car since the Jag got gay bashed at school."
"Was it reported?"
"Yes and I'm very lucky the headmaster didn't expel me when I took care of the soccer playing problem. I was nice about it, I only bloodied his nose for him. He still went whining to mommy and mommy made him buy me a new car once I decide what I want." The Chief walked off laughing at that. He shrugged. "He did."
"Are you going to bankrupt him?"
"He's not that rich. I need to keep it under sixty thou or pay the difference. That was what my Jag was worth to replace it."
Horatio sipped his water when it came, shaking his head. "Any other problems you haven't admitted to?"
"One of the classmates is a wannabe stalker. The headmaster knows. He's the one who pointed out she was following me to class instead of going to hers. She's a senior too." Horatio shook his head. "Sorry. Not a big problem just an annoying one now and then. Her teachers yelled at me for distracting her. It's not my fault I'm distracting."
"You wore those midnight blue leathers to class from what I understand."
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "I had a sunrise shoot and didn't have time to change. I left after third period too."
"That's probably all that saved you from being kidnaped, Xander. I know a few officers stared when you walked around Saturday after the shoot. One was on traffic duty and nearly got written up but he tracked you down and made his boss stare at you too."
Xander gave him a sheepish look. "Sorry."
"It's not your fault you're pretty," he teased. The waiter brought their food and disappeared again. "I like that about them."
"The last time I was in here in a bad mood I had to write a letter of apology for snapping at the waiter who totally goofed. The owner sent back a thank you note." He dug into his dinner, eating heartily. He looked at Horatio. "That blue/silvery one at the lot by the station? I'd have to make up some difference but I do have the money in savings."
"I don't know how it handles but that could work," he said, considering it. "It'd be fitting since your billboard went up there." He gave him a look. "Even the angelic picture."
"There's a mixed one going up above the shop. They did a lot of wing maintenance so it looked like I was teasing myself with them." He ate another bite while Horatio gaped. "It'll be going up Thursday."
"I'll have to see." He smiled. "And warn traffic." Xander gave him a sheepish grin. "As advertising it's a great idea. It's very alluring. Have their sales went up?"
"Yup. Way up. Website hits too." He grinned. "Stella liked the angelic me but wanted the second doll to do different things. She wanted to know if I I got the 'sinfully soft lambskin' leathers."
"Did you?" he asked.
"Yeah but I can't wear them out of the house." He took a drink of his soda. "If I did, you'd have to rescue me from a riot. They wouldn't even let me into the good clubs, said I'd be stolen. Even with Mortran there."
"Did he fall back?"
"Yeah, I don't need him as much anymore so he's got a general distress setting on me." He grinned. "Which is how I knew my car had been gay bashed. The alarm went to him and he got there before the kid was finished." Horatio smiled. "He picked him up by his arms and carried him and his bat inside. The headmaster was quite amused." He ate another bite, waving at someone when they came in. Then he went back to eating. "You think something that light?"
"That color does look very good on you."
"I know. The other pair of pants I can't wear in public is that color." He sighed and stuffed his mouth again. "If my black and midnight blue ones make me look holy, those two make me look unholy according to Grandfather. Grandsire said he got inappropriate mental images of me in them." Horatio snickered. "Then he pounced Grandfather to take it out of his head. So I got an extra fifty on my allowance for the good deed of the week." Horatio snickered louder, shaking his head. Someone stopped beside their table. "Jacque. Out tonight?"
"I am. Date?"
"I see." He smiled, holding out a hand. "Jacque Delian."
"Lieutenant Horatio Caine," he said, shaking it. "You're on his team?"
"I am. I'm one of the new boys," he said with his version of Xander's impish grin. "I thought I'd say hi since I'm with the 'rents." He waved and went back.
"If he keeps at it he'll probably be captain in his year if we lose Chad. I talked to him earlier. His shoulder's totally messed up for the time being. They're talking a surgical solution at the moment. I'm hoping he can come back. He's got the skills in the areas I lack and we need them."
"You do wonderfully as the captain, Xander." Xander beamed. "I think they all look up to you. Even if you did have to keep dragging the girls' team from under the bleachers." Xander nodded, taking another drink. "Is everything else all right?"
"Grandfather's finally starting to make plans and it's a bit depressing. He told a few guys to watch out for me and they pointed out they might be following too." He took another drink of his soda. "He broke down crying because they love him so much," he said quietly. Horatio gave his hand a squeeze. "I know. It's well past time to do this but it doesn't mean I want to deal with it this week. This week is a happy week. I made State my last time in. My rival didn't make State at all." That got a smile. "Cheeper made State and he's a good guy. His rival made it too but his rival's kinda slow. Then there's the new guy Juan that no one likes. It's not that he's good or that he shows off or anything. It's that he has to shove it back in your face. I heard he walked around his school for weeks with his last medal like he was the whole team.
"That's not how it's done and it's not low self esteem before you say it. He's a smug bastard. I show off but I have fun. Most of us have fun. He does it to have something to show off. He pushes a lot of stuff back into everyone's faces. He even thought about trying to transfer down to Pace since we win so often but the Headmaster said he couldn't stand him. He and the coach were talking. The headmaster was back on his hippie 'I like everyone' kick; Juan broke him out of it and made him have a bad month." He ate another bite. "So I'm hoping I can knock him out of nationals at the very least. The others of us are agreed, he's not going." Horatio smiled. "He'll make the rest of us look bad. The girls are going to go. Mercy is good. She'll make it. The senior I showed off with is going too. I think she'll hit the higher levels this year. She's worked her ass off for it."
"Are you going to support her?"
"Hell yes I'm going if she does. I'll bring signs and Pace's school colors on pompoms." He grinned "We'll have a lot of fun."
"You can send me postcards," he teased.
"Nationals are in New York, want me to send them from there too?" he teased back.
"If you want." He smiled. "Say hi to Mac and all of them for me."
"Sure I can do that." He finished up and looked at his plate then at Horatio's plate. "Dessert?"
"Only if you don't bounce," he ordered. "Get something sinful that'll make your coach complain you're getting fat."
"He said I'm twenty pounds underweight." He looked at the dessert menu they had on the table, frowning. "I know." He stared at him. "Eat. You're too skinny and I know you probably missed lunch." He nodded, digging in. "Then we'll go see Mistress Elvra and her sinful fingers of dessert holiness." Horatio moaned and hurried up, letting Xander get the bill while he got the tip. They did stop by to look at the car and Horatio agreed, Xander looked good next to it.
Ryan came out of the station and nearly got pounced by a kissing patrol officer. "I've got a date with Xander and I forgot to get his number," he said quietly, glancing around.
Ryan gave him an amused look. "We saw you kiss him, Peter." He pulled out his phone to find it, letting him have his phone so he could write it down. "What're you doing?"
"Picnic or something more fancy?" he said. "I don't know what the kid likes."
Ryan laughed. "Xander's really a good, simple guy most of the time. As long as it's good food he won't care if it's hamburgers." The guy relaxed. "Before you ask there's very little he won't eat and that's usually a daily issue. He doesn't feel like eating that day. It means he's worried about the sports stuff or his grades." He took his phone back, getting out of the phone book. "You do know that if you treat him wrong, you're going to be beaten, killed, and then most of the lab will hide your body?"
"Yeah. Caine growled at me." He glanced around again. "Is there anything he absolutely adores?"
"Chocolate but he gets bouncy," Ryan said. Eric came out. "Ask him for tips. I don't date that often. Delko?" Eric walked over, grinning at them. "He asked Xander out."
"Good luck. He's not high maintenance in the least. Feed him, rub his back, and he's a happy boy."
"Still a virgin too," Ryan said. "His grandfather used to be a priest; it's not going to be on the first through tenth dates, Peter."
"He is?" Eric asked.
"Yeah. Speed and he were talking about going farther than hand jobs." He shrugged. "We're not buddies that way and I was walking past where they were sitting."
"Wow. If I drew like him, I'd have harem," Peter sad. "He's really the good boy he presents, huh?" They both smirked and nodded. "I'll try to be very nice to him, guys. I promise. You think a picnic, Delko?"
"I think it's a good plan. Then maybe a walk or something to burn off some of his energy. He won't have an outlet for it after next weekend for a whole year." That got a nod and the officer walked off. He looked at Ryan. "He was asking you?"
"He forgot to get his number. I guess Xander sucked his brains out in that second kiss."
Eric grinned. "It shows promise, even for a pure little kid." He walked off, going to his car. If the guy hurt the kid, they'd have fun watching Horatio destroy him. It was going to be a good show.
Ryan went to his own car, heading home grinning. His former partner needed someone to calm him down and make him focus. He'd definitely be focusing on Xander. After nearly getting fired for screwing up a traffic spot by watching Xander, he'd figure it out.
Xander walked into school the next Monday, smiling at the secretary. "Can I have the keys to my trophy case?" She stared at him and he nodded. She handed them over and followed him, the Headmaster coming out to follow as well. The home room bell rang while Xander was getting the case open. He placed the three medals next to the year's state cup. Then he placed three very nice photos of them accepting them. He locked the case and turned to look at the people watching him. "Sheila's is going to Nationals!" he announced, getting a cheer. "I made alternate. We're only sending two and me, guys." That got a louder cheer. He grinned at the headmaster. "Sheila's off destroying her diet in celebration with her grandparents and aunt. Mercy's not coming in today either. She sprained her ankle getting off the bus last night."
The headmaster smiled. "We should rename this trophy case as yours, Benis. Go to class."
"I need work. I'm going to gym." That got some laughs. "There's some scary guys at nationals who make me look like ... Julian when he was screwing around last year." He grinned at his teachers. "So can I have the day off too?" They nodded and he headed to practice. He walked into the gym, smiling when his coach came out of his office. "How's the new baby?"
"Good. Healthy. How did it go?"
"Sheila made second on the team." He about did a happy dance. "I made alternate. Mercy sprained her ankle getting off the bus. She came in fifth overall so she's an alternate." He got hugged and danced around. "Now, I need to blow those suckers out of the water. We're only sending two guys and me as the alternate. Sheila's destroying her diet with her family. Mercy's pouting. Put me down?" He got put down. "Let me change. I need something spectacular if I get called. One of the guys ahead of me is concussion boy and you know that kid from Utah is great." He went into the changing area, coming out in the school's pants and his own t-shirt. He chalked his hands, going to his weakest start, the rings. "How's Chad's shoulder?"
"He went in for surgery this morning." He watched him. "Hold it. You have to hold that one. You're too impatient, Benis." Xander nodded, starting over, letting him correct the bad faults. State was one thing, he could win state easily. Nationals was a whole new ballgame. "Why did you get alternate?"
"Phillips was judging floor and he hates my playful side." He looked at him. "Also the gay thing came up and the drug issues. I had to fight to get onto the team at all. They had to call in someone to make sure what I was given wasn't what he was thinking and illegal. They verified it wasn't and he said something about 'you gay boys give us all a bad name'. I nearly killed him. I did flick him on the forehead so I'll take alternate. We're only sending two and an alternate this year."
"Good point. You, Henders got good?"
He looked at him. "Doug."
"Damn. At least it's not the hotshot."
"No, that's me," he said happily. "Henders might not make it. He's still dizzy. He spent the whole meet trying not to puke from the dizziness. I talked to him and told him about my last one. He said it helped a little bit but man he looks rough. Like bender that ended up in Tijuana rough." He dismounted, then looked up. "I suck."
"You do not."
"I do so. At least at this and the pommel."
"You'll do fine, kid. Are you calling your relatives?"
Xander grinned. "Haven't even told Grandfather yet. They went on vacation with my blessing." He found his cellphone and called a number he had. "Fair warning, Mac Taylor. I will be in your neck of the woods for Nationals as an alternate." He heard the soft congrats. "Thank you. You can tell Don so he squeals and dances around. It's my last year in my age group. I'd be on the team but one got pity points for his concussion." He smirked. "Thanks, see you in a few weeks. Working my ass off in the gym. Thank you." He hung up. "Oh, can you email the headmaster to tell the idiot on the soccer team I found the car he's buying me? Horatio helped me pick it out."
"I can do that. Do that again. Concentrate. You know what you're doing."
Xander nodded. He got helped back up there and then the coach went to send that email. He heard the thump and looked out. "You okay?"
"Grip slipped." He got up and dusted his hands again, coming back to it.
Don met him at the airport, grinning. "Welcome back."
"Thanks." He gave him a hug. "Let me get my bag. Guys, this is my Uncle Don. He's a detective." They both waved. "Let's get our bags. Are we all riding with you or just me?"
"All of you." He smirked. "I arranged it with your coach, Xander." That got a nod. "No coach for you two?" They pointed at someone. "I'm giving the boys a ride to their hotel. You need one?"
"I'm going to wander. I have a few friends locally," he said, smiling at him. "I'm sure they'll be good for you, Detective. Two of the three went last time so they know how to behave."
"I'd hope so. Xander spanks really hard," Don quipped back, getting a giggle from one of the guys. "He does." He walked the boys out once they had their bags, taking them to his car. "The hotel, right?"
"Yeah, we've got to check in," Xander agreed. "Then we're going to the Garden. We'll get to sightsee the day before we head home, guys." They nodded. Xander turned around and buckled up. "So, how's people?"
"People are people. Mac's been tired recently. Things have come up with a crappy case for Danny. He could use a hug when you see 'im."
"Of course." They headed off once a clear spot in traffic opened up enough for Don to pull out. Xander turned on the radio, smiling. "Even preset to something we listen to."
"Of course. I'm not that old," Don said, reaching over to ruffle his hair.
"Hey! The hordes of women who drool on him will mind," one of the guys in the back teased.
"They like the messy look," Xander quipped back with a grin. Don snickered, nodding. "We had one last year that got me with some GHB after a society event and the officer who pulled me over was very understanding when I passed out on him. Don had a lot of fun going to beat people to death." They smiled at that. "So, are you coming?"
"We all are, Xander. Uncle Pat an' them?"
"If they can. Grandfather got some bad food. He's been puking for days. Sire's with him to take care of him. Mortan will be. Horatio and Speed said if they could they'd be in late tonight for it." Don smiled and nodded. "Even Lindsay's coming?"
"I think she's going for the girls' events. Lost dreams and all that. So, new judges?"
"Olympic judges," Xander agreed. "Really tough ones." He looked back at Henders. "Tell me early if you can't do it, okay? That way I can rack up the point ho side."
"If I can," he promised. "I think I'll make it."
"If you're sure." He got a nod. "Okay. Remember, don't die in front of a national audience. No one will ever follow in our hallowed footsteps." That got a smirk. "I'm already working on my follower. Someone's got to follow me."
"You're Captain, right, Xander?" Don asked.
"Yeah, I am."
"You're a sophomore," the other guy said. "No seniors?"
"Three, they voted me in," he said with a grin. "I get the girls motivated too."
"Kisses?" Don teased.
"Not those girls." The guys laughed.
"At the States for the schools each school has a warm up period they use to show off to the other schools, Detective. Xander's school decided to play on the girls' uneven bars. Xander came out and looked around then jumped on them like he was goofing off. He landed and gave a cheeky wave at one of the ladies, who did hers. Then they dared the new kids to beat them. Our school did the parallel bars. We didn't have those at State."
"Three of the schools won't do them so they removed them to be fair," Xander said. "We'll have 'em tomorrow and I'm still fantastic."
That got smiles. "We're sure you are," the two in the back agreed.
Xander jogged out when the guy who wasn't with concussion fell. "Hey." He looked at him. "You okay?" He shook his head slowly. "Paramedics please," he ordered a judge. They summoned them. They got him loaded and Xander looked at the judges. "As alternate do I step in since he wasn't anywhere near finished? He'd barely mounted the equipment."
The judges conferred then nodded. "You may," they agreed. "We'll wipe his score."
Xander nodded. "Let me get my grips and take off my jacket." He went to do that, taking his grips from Henders. "Wish me luck."
Xander grinned. "We'll see." He went to chalk his grips, looking up. It was his bitch. He loved the high bar. He looked at them. "Running starts? I don't like flat starts."
Xander moved the spring board and took his running start, doing his new favorite routine. It had all the right pauses to show off his skills. It had release moves that made people gape in awe. He nearly didn't catch the bar again after a turn release move but it happened. He finished with his showiest dismount, barely wobbling. He put his arms up and gave them a smile, going back to his seat. He sat down, taking his water back. "Do that," he challenged to the guy next to him, who punched him on the arm. "Ow." He rubbed his bottle over it.
The guy glared at him. "I hate you."
Xander blew a kiss. "No you don't, it's the repressed lust you have for me, baby."
Henders burst out laughing. "If you say so, Benis. At least we got one of your good events."
"I've been kicking my butt on rings," Xander told him. "Plus we've still got the unevens and the vault. It'll be fine." That got a nod and their next event was called. They took their stuff over there and waited their turn. The parallel bars were fun but just above the pommel horse for him. Then again, he had been practicing his weak areas. His turn was called and he went up there, checking his grips before mounting. He got off and chalked then got back on. "Sorry, sweaty," he called. That got a grin and he got to work to the beat of the music someone's floor exercise was playing. He dismounted and landed, putting his arms up as was proper. Then he nodded and went back to his seat. He heard his cheering section go off at his 9.8 score. It was good. He looked at Henders, waving a hand. "Go for it."
"Smug bastard," he complained, heading out to play on the bars. His score was slightly lower but he came off clutching his head. "We're not winning gold this year," he complained as he sat down.
"Bite your tongue." Xander finished his water, looking at him. "If I can do it with a fractured arm, while lying to my coach, so can you."
"Hell yes! Last year at State." He grinned and they prepared to move. He watched their state's score, frowning. "We're in fourth by two points. Vault's next. Can you?"
"I can if you can."
"I can pull something outta my butt," Xander agreed as they headed over. They didn't have to move this time. It was next to them. Henders went first this time and he watched. He wobbled a little bit. So Xander pulled up his inner extrovert and did the one he did at State, getting some blinks when he stuck it. "What?" he asked a staring coach.
"Guys aren't supposed to be able to do that one."
"I dove. I can do better." That got a nod and he let his 10.0 score stand. It didn't get any better. One other tied with him and he nodded at him, shaking his hand. "Good form."
Xander walked into school on Monday and the Headmaster handed over the keys. He could see the three medals he was wearing. He called the others to release the students for a pep rally in the halls, following him out. Xander hung up two pictures on the wall. State went onto the shelf, National went onto the wall. One was of him. One was a team shot. One was of him getting his individual. Xander carefully hung the medals on the pictures. "Let's hope we don't have an earthquake sometime soon." He locked it and turned around, smiling at the expectant looks. "We started out low ho on the totem pole this year. Florida only got to send two and an alternate, me." That got some claps. "One of the guys fell early on into his second piece of equipment so I did get to play." He smiled. "Henders still has a really nasty concussion. He spent last night in the ER." That got some laughs.
"Seriously. He shouldn't have been up there. Yet, Florida took bronze in the Nationals and I, personally, kicked ass in the vault and the high bar." That got a lot of whoops. "Next year, gymnastics needs a bigger case." That got a loud cheer and they headed to go play in the gym for a while. He bowed to the coach. "Henders is going to have to retire. His skull is cracked. He's been doing this with a pretty good skull fracture." He moaned. "The other guy nearly broke his neck. He got flown back earlier. I deserve a *great* candy bar for this so I'm going to go find the band." He grinned and went to do that. "Yo, I need some chocolate. Who's doing candy sales this time?" Two of the band kids grabbed their boxes, letting him buy a few for himself. They'd put up with him being bouncy today.
The headmaster looked at the coach. "Want us to store some of it?"
"Not until a year after he graduates. That's the standard we use." He walked off smiling, giving Xander a pat on the back. "Sheila?"
"She can do her own." He smiled as Sheila walked in from the outside gym entrance, taking the keys from his hand. The crowd cheered and followed her. The girls had taken gold in Nationals and she had a few for individual events and one silver around her neck. It was definitely a party day. Even the cheerleaders were happy.
Xander walked in that night. "I'm home!" he yelled from the door. "Should I hide?"
"Get in here!" his Grandsire yelled. Xander closed the door and strolled that way. "They're at the school?"
"Yup. They need the incentive. I need someone to follow in my hallowed footsteps." He hugged them. "I so rocked Nationals." They smiled and took him to dinner that night, including a very nice present. He looked at the ring of keys. "Am I going to regress so you have a baby in the house again?"
"Bite your tongue," Sire said, shuddering. "Colic."
Xander grinned. "But I was adorable."
"Perhaps," Patrick agreed. "Those are to the other houses, Xander. We think it's time you knew what you were inheriting." Xander sniffled. "It'll still be a few years, grandson." He stroked over his hair with a smile. "This way you can finally find a boy who takes you out and does naughty things with you."
"I have one of those coming up this weekend," Xander said happily. "I've already warned him I'm an ice prince and he ain't getting more than kisses for a good, long time." They both smiled at that. "Where are the houses? Beyond the townhouse in New York."
Patrick pointed at the box. "You have the addresses. Including the emergency plans." He gave him another pat. "Are we celebrating your next birthday?"
"We could. Now that I can slack for a while." Both vampires laughed. "Up to you guys. Do you really want to throw me a birthday bash?"
"Do you want it to be a social event or a school event?" Sire asked.
Xander looked at him. "I don't know." They smiled. "Let me give it some thought." They nodded. "We are talking about my one in four weeks, right?" They both nodded. "That's what I thought. Society events are horrible to put together and I'd have to stipulate there will be no drinking and drugs. Or I could throw a bash for my buddies and half the school over the age of sixteen and stipulate the same thing."
"If you do a society event you can consider it a coming out party," Sire offered.
"I thought girls did that. Guys were just there." He shook his head quickly. "Sorry, the picture of me in the big white dress." They laughed. "Let me think for a few days." They smiled. "So, why doesn't Uncle Don live in the townhouse?"
"He's stubborn," Patrick said.
"Ah. That reason. You should've heard him snarl at Henders for endangering his life by doing gymnastics with a skull fracture. Then he called his coach on him. He went home to be spanked." They all laughed. "It was great that Horatio got to come up. He took us sightseeing the next day. He and Mac had a great dinner and some games of pool. He finally got a weekend off."
"He does work very hard," Patrick agreed. He stroked over his hand. "I do not want to bring this up, Xander." He got a look from his sire. "We need to arrange for you to have helpers when something finally happens to me. People to take care of the taxes, the accounts, all that." Xander nodded once. "I would like for you to start thinking about who you'd like. Perhaps give us a list before you go to cheer on your teammate in Spain?"
"Okay, I can start that list. Basically to give me someone like Thomas, Gordon, Mortran for me? One accountant to deal with my trust?" That got a nod. "I can start that list. My new car will be mine in a week."
"You finally picked one?" Raphael asked. Xander grinned and nodded. "Horatio help?"
"Yup. He wants to see me in the leather pants that match it too."
"No, then we'd have a riot, grandson," Patrick said blandly.
"Mortran might be happy to go get you when you're kidnaped," Sire said, looking at his childe.
Patrick bopped him on the arm. "Hush." He looked at Xander again. "Around the house only, dear. You know the rules."
"I do. Can we invite him over to dinner to show him what I look like when I'm unholy?"
They both smiled and nodded. "Soon," Raphael agreed. "Now, you still have food on your plate?"
"I was chatting and it's rude to talk with my mouth full." He gobbled the rest, and they ordered dessert. He did deserve to break his strict diet. Xander held up his glass of wine. "To me, because I do not have to train again until next August and it won't be critical training any longer." They laughed and clinked their glasses with his, digging into the sinful cake they had been served.
Xander walked up to the crime scene a few days later, frowning at the people working. He looked at the hummer and opened the back door, sliding in the box, closing the hatch again. Horatio turned so he shrugged. "Our band is selling candy bars. One of the guys looked at me like I'm a God of Gymnastics. I'm a sucker but there's a case of chocolate in there in the four flavors. Share it around. Let the little, blonde, squealy one have some too so she's happier today. This way no one has to save others when I eat them all." He walked off, heading back to the house.
Horatio went to look in the box, shaking his head. He closed the trunk, looking at the officer. "He's a friend."
"I noticed that," he said dryly. "Candy bars?"
"That's the Benis heir," Ryan called. "He's at Pace Academy." He looked around. "Cal, Xander just dropped some chocolate one of the band kids begged him into buying by sucking up to him. He said to make sure you get some."
She looked over at him. "I heard what he said. Thanks." She got back to work. "The crisps are mine," she called.
Horatio laughed, nodding. "That's fine, Calleigh. You can share with Frank." He came back to get to work. He'd be taking half the caramel ones himself. Speed would be stealing the rest. Eric and Ryan could fight over the plain and the ones with almonds with the rest of the lab. Plus Frank, Yelina, and John Hagen. A few of their favored patrol officers. Then he got a thought. How many had Xander bought? He called. "Xander, how many did you buy?" He winced. "No, Xander. That's cruel. You can have *one* case, not four. Bring me the other three and we'll give them to the department. I insist. No, dinner tonight isn't possible. I'm eating with Yelina and Ray Junior. She's been off today and has probably cooked all day so I can't insult her or make them come with me. I can try tomorrow, yes. Thank you. Yes, bring me the other three cases, Xander." The officer snickered at that. "Before you can destroy the house. Thank you. Yes, I'll be here for another twenty minutes." He hung up, hanging his head. "We'll have to share, people. The boy who looked at him like he was a god of gymnastics talked him into buying five cases." Ryan whimpered.
"The last time he was hyper from chocolate didn't they do it for a shoot and he destroyed half the building?" Calleigh asked. Horatio nodded. "Sure, we can share very well so Xander doesn't have five cases of candy." Ryan looked at her. "Last time it took three candy bars. We're doing an important public service."
The officer guarding the tape walked off laughing, helping Xander get the boxes out of the trunk when he got there.
Horatio showed up the next night for dinner, getting a smile. "Xander invited me."
"That's fine. We like you, Horatio. I'm going to eat the boy that made him buy a hundred candy bars but we like you." Patrick let him inside, closing the door behind him. Sire came out of the study. "Xander invited Horatio."
"When you go, take the rest of the chocolate with you."
"I took the first four cases," he said dryly. "Calleigh's still on a sugar high."
"So's the boy," Sire said grimly. "Come into the study for a minute?" Horatio nodded, following him, letting Patrick get the door. "We've asked Xander to start making lists of people he wants us to put around him when Patrick finally goes," he said quietly. "He will need someone like Thomas, someone with intelligence ties, and he will need a private bodyguard. Mortran's ill."
"AIDS?" Horatio asked quietly.
"His liver's failing. Something he got exposed to way back when and he's been getting sicker since then," Patrick admitted, sitting down. "I've heard Xander has been talking to people but we need and want him to have good people, people he can trust."
"If he wanted you for his personal bodyguard we wouldn't mind but he said he wants you doing great things for the world. I would like you to advise him."
"I can gladly do that. So can Mac."
"He's one I'd like to see in Thomas's job," Patrick told him. "We're also going to be setting him up a new house. While we've been making plans Sire's talked to most of the guards. To be blunt, half of them said that they'd likely follow me."
"Xander wouldn't be able to live in the house," Horatio said. Raphael nodded. "I know he's got some training in that area but I'll gladly advise him if he comes to me. Plus put out feelers for the type of person you need. Are we thinking within a year?"
"When he turns eighteen he'll get the foundation we've set up," Raphael said quietly. "He will need board members. We are going to ask Don to co-chair it with him. It's good practice for the other things. Then we'd ask Mac and Stella plus your Timothy and possibly Ryan to sit with you down here." That got a nod. "After dinner we also have to go over the emergency plans we have, Horatio. He's got a true stalker. Not one we can stop by scowling or getting them subtly arrested. This one is in society and she's going to be a problem."
"Xander would naturally come to me so I need to know," he finished. They both nodded. "I can do that as well." Someone knocked and Thomas leaned in. "Good evening."
"Horatio. Good to see you again. I've drawn up a short list of names for my job, Father. Xander won't care if they're gay or straight, right?" They all shook their heads. "Then I've got four names and two are from the same agency." He closed the door, going to find Xander. He took the candy bar from him. "That's number what this afternoon?"
"The same one you tried to take earlier," he complained, taking it back. "They're not asking Horatio to give up his career, right?"
"No. They're asking him to advise you in who you need." That got a small smile. He sat down. "Also, we're going to be going over the emergency plans with him tonight. You have a real, pitiful, untouchable stalker in local society." Xander sat up, looking at him. "Sociopathic and rich, Xander. We can't touch her because of her family and she's been subtle. She's the one who rearranged your schedule. She paid a hacker." Xander growled. "Exactly. So all of us, including Horatio, are going to go over it." He patted him on the leg. "Also, think about your own home."
"Xander, when Father dies, it'll probably be here since he doesn't go out much," he said gently. Xander's face fell. "Along with a few others. Do you want to stay here?" he asked gently.
He looked at him. "This has always been home. I'm sure others have died here."
"They have but can you stand the pain of knowing that spot right there was where whoever died every single day?" He shook his head. "Then we'll be setting you up your own household when you're eighteen. So start thinking about houses. Make a list of what you want. How many rooms, how much entertaining you'll be doing. A gymnastics capable room and a pool for diving practice." Xander let out a small grin. "Also, Gordon and I have been going through everyone we know to give you lists of who you should interview for our jobs for your household." Xander nodded. "You can ask Horatio's advice if you want. He said so."
"I know. Thank you, Thomas." He gave him a hug around the throat. "I know we have to make the plans but I hope we don't have to use them for a long time."
"We all hope that, Xander. You know that." He nodded. "Good boy. Now, get ready for dinner." He swatted his leg as he got up, heading back down to his office to gather what they'd need for the after dinner meeting.
Horatio looked up the stairs when Xander came down, gaping at the silvery leather pants.
"Must you?" Sire asked.
"He said he wanted to see me in them." He grinned. "See, I do match my car," he said proudly.
"You definitely do, Xander." He gave him a gentle pat on the back. "Come on, we should eat." That way he couldn't fit into them anymore. The boy had been right. The pants went past sinful and lust-creating to unholy. He had to stomp on the inappropriate thoughts he was having. He saw the smug look and shook his head. "Thank you for not letting him out of the house in those."
"We don't want to have to retrieve him from some far off land," Patrick said dryly. He leaned closer. "If you two did make a go of it I would expect you to treat my grandson very well, Horatio."
"I know his age."
"As do we. I would still expect him to be treated like the priceless gift he is. We wouldn't mind." He let him go and took his seat, looking at the crying woman in the kitchen. "Cook, did you hurt yourself?"
"No, my favorite character died." She brought out food, sniffling a bit. "Sorry, I'm being silly." She put blood and food down in front of both vampires. "Don't make me make Xander spank you. Don said he spanks very hard." She went back to the kitchen while they looked stunned.
"I do," Xander agreed dryly, sipping his milk.
"When did you spank Don?" Horatio asked.
Xander grinned. "I spanked Lindsay for staring at me and nearly getting shot."
"Good," he decided. Xander grinned and dug in once Patrick had said Grace. They made it through a few rounds of dinner and then went back to the study to go over the problem female.
Xander walked into the New York lab, signing in. "Is Mac here?"
"He's in a meeting. I can get Stella."
"No, I need Mac. I can wait. Have him call me when he's free?" She nodded, making that note into his system. His phone rang a few minutes later. "It's not a problem but I was referred to you for some advice, Mac. Sure, when you're done. I can do that." He hung up. "He said Danny needs some gymnastics help?"
She paged him, getting him coming out of the lab. "Detective Taylor said for you to get help from him?"
"You needed gymnastics help?"
He looked at him then nodded. "I could, yeah. Give 'im a pass." He brought him back to where he was working on the recreation of something. "Okay, we have this guy who did this Lara Croft stuff."
"Which isn't that hard," Xander agreed, looking at it. "What path did we take?"
"Trying to figure that out."
"I'd need to see the room unless that's to scale?" Danny nodded. "All the wall art, all that?"
"It's all there. It's marble and wood. The wood was the art looking stuff."
"Okay." He looked then considered it. "Do we know point of entry?" Someone coughed and he looked. "Yes, Lindsay?" He got back to work once Danny pointed out point of entry. "Going through the skylight would've been easier. Pressure sensors are in red?" Danny nodded. "Okay, you can ..." He took the stylus to trace the route. "You'd have to have a way to get around this spot. Either off the wall in a Kim Possible move or go this way and then detour back." He let him have it. "It still would've been easier to go through the skylight ala Mission Impossible."
"Yeah but they went for flash." He looked at him. "Think you could do it in person?"
"Yeah, I do. It's not that hard. I need markers to show where things are in the room." That got a nod. "Then probably within a few minutes of studying things." He straightened up with a grin. "He's like Juan down in Florida, who's on another school's team. He's there to show it off. He wears his medals for *weeks* after each win to prove he could do it. It's all about getting recognized but it's not low self esteem."
"So he's a glory hog?" Danny asked. Xander nodded. "Huh. We'll see after you talk to Mac. What's up anyway?"
He leaned down closer to his ear. "Grandfather's only got a few years left. We're setting up the after plans," he said very quietly, getting a nod. "Including replacing some key people like our head of security and those for me since most of them will probably follow Grandfather." He straightened up again. "So I got told to come get good advice on the list Thomas made me. I'm also getting my own house when I turn eighteen because they set up a foundation thing for Don and I to run until Grandfather succumbs."
"Does he know?"
"That's the other reason I'm here." He shrugged. "I'm getting an excused absence and I'm clear for the year anyway." He smiled when Stella walked in. "Beauteous one, why will you not come down and give my grandfather a new lease on life?" he teased.
"I doubt your Grandsire would like to share," she teased back. "Problem?"
"Got sent to Mac for practical advice," he said. "Then to Don because Grandfather has set some things up but I'll see him later."
"He's got a date," Danny said.
Xander looked at him. "Serious, like sex date?" Danny shrugged. He pulled out his phone to call him. "We've got to talk and I'm only in town for two days. Setting things up for later," he said bluntly. "I just heard that from Danny. No, I have to be at school Monday. Finals start then. Not that I have one Monday but I'll be brained by the headmaster. Are we talking like 'going to get some' date or just dinner? The townhouse. Sure." He hung up. "He'll come over after his date." He grinned at Danny. "I can do that tomorrow if you want. Or possibly later this afternoon; I'm not sure yet." Mac walked up the hall and he waved. "I need to do it in person to make sure but I think I figured it out for him."
"Thank you. That was driving him nuts," Stella said.
Xander grinned. "Sometimes it takes someone a bit flexible and bendy." He patted her on the arm. "I have no doubt you're going to see me tomorrow night."
"We are?" she asked.
He looked at her then nodded. "Probably. Depends on what Don says tonight." Danny gave him an odd look and he looked at him. "We're thinking." He looked at Mac. "Got time for me?"
"I do. You got me out of a boring staffing meeting." He walked him to his office, Stella following. "Stella, this is about some plans his grandfather has to make."
"So why might I be involved?"
Xander pulled her into the office. "When I turn eighteen Grandfather is turning over the greater minority of his good works to me in the form of a foundation. Which will need a board of people with sense." She gaped. "You have sense and we all like you. We trust you not to have a hidden agenda against gay groups, all that stuff. Yours is one name that was suggested to sit on the board."
"Wow. I'm honored. So Don?"
"He has no clue yet. I'm talking to him after his date."
"Ah. So after plans." Xander nodded. "Then Mac...."
"My bodyguard's sick, Stella. It's his liver. That along with the fact that at least half the guards and staff is going to follow Grandfather, including Grandsire, means I've got to make some of my own." She just nodded and gave him a hug then left him alone. He closed the door again, handing over the lists from his pocket. "From Gordon and Thomas."
"How many are thinking about following?"
"I'm going to count myself very lucky if the guard dog and Cook don't follow," Xander said honestly. He sat down. "Along with the foundation we're setting me up in my own house. There's also a complication of a very highly placed and nearly untouchable stalker I've now got in polite society down there."
"Crap," he muttered, sitting down to look at the lists. "The new house?" Xander shrugged. "You don't have it yet?"
"Not yet. Right now we're finding it. Plus my future staff of helpers. I would suggest either you or Horatio for the head of security role but I know you need to do what you do to help people." Mac nodded. "But, half the people on the list are people you'd know or have heard of according to Thomas. His qualifications are on the back of each sheet. The third page is the plans we've got outlined so far."
Mac glanced it over, looking at him. "How long?" he asked gently.
"I'll be lucky to make it to graduation," he said quietly. That got a nod. "So two years. That should be plenty of time to find people and a house."
"Is doing a lot of advising and he suggested I come to see you about the head of security role. You'll be honest with them about what a shit I am sometimes and how active I am, what I do in my spare time, the social roles I have to play now and then."
Mac nodded, looking at that list. "I do know about half of them." He looked at him. "Are you thinking about me interviewing them?"
"I don't know what Thomas was thinking. Maybe weeding it down? Not a clue, Mac."
"Okay." He looked them over, making notes around them. "You want people you can count on, right?"
"I'd like people I can get along with and it'd be easier if they understood me. Can you see someone who doesn't understand me on a chocolate high dealing with me on a chocolate high?"
"Unfortunately," Mac said with a small smile. "Foundation?"
"Yeah. You're on the board. You, Stella, maybe Danny or Hawkes but I haven't really interacted with either of them the way I have you two. Don and I would co-chair. Then Horatio, Speed, and maybe one other. Stella's our token woman."
Mac snickered. "I'm sure she'd have fun with that." He went back to looking. "Okay, I can call around, make some discreet inquiries. Some of these will know someone to suggest if they don't feel like they can."
"Which would be acceptable. I'm looking for the best fit. They've got to keep up with me. I won't be in school but I'll have to do society crap, I might be going back to diving, and the foundation stuff, plus some modeling now and then."
"Agreed." He looked at the next list. "Lawyers and accountants?"
"Yeah. People who can chew asses if I need it. Especially right after the death. There's some who will suicide. Which is the other reason I'm going to have my own house when I graduate. Thomas pointed it out to me, I won't be able to look at the house no matter how many good memories I had there," he said quietly. "I know Horatio had a talk with someone about the after scene being like Jonestown when they went back to find survivors."
Mac nodded. "We'll help you through it, Xander. You know that." The boy nodded, looking at him. "You're handling this pretty well."
"What's my option? Sitting down to cry about it? I do that when no one sees. Too many people count on me to be calm and know what I'm doing. Including Grandfather."
"Give me a few hours, Xander." Don stomped in. "Don."
"About what?" Don asked, looking at Xander. He took the envelope the boy handed him, sitting down beside him to read. "Excuse me?" Xander looked at him. "This...."
"We'll be doing it together, Don; I'll take most of the administrative duties. This is the beginning phase of the after plans." Don groaned. "We're down to counting down months instead of years. Even Ethan said so and he's been draining the tumors again recently." That got a single nod. "So yeah, I was going to go over that tonight."
"Why come see Mac?"
Xander looked at him. "Do you really think most of the staff won't follow Grandfather?" he asked quietly. Don hugged him and he choked up but forced it back down. "Thanks." He sniffled and looked at him. "We'll go over that later." Don nodded, handing it back. "Plus who'll get to come down for vacation board meetings and the other emergency plans that're in place." Don frowned. "You have some too. Oh, I've got a real stalker. One we can't touch."
"How bad?" Mac asked.
"Mayor's daughter and her mommy's a senator," Xander said bluntly. Mac moaned. "I'm figuring if he goes early it'll be her doing." He looked at Don again. "We'll go over it later." He nodded, leaving it there. Xander got up to close the door again, sitting back down. "I need to give myself a cushion to lean on for a while."
"I'll talk to the top three on the security list," he said. "They might have other names for the other list too." That got a gentle smile. "Go cheer yourself up, Xander. What're you doing tomorrow night?"
"Cranky people event." He stood up. "I'll be at the townhouse with the ice cream." He shook his hand. "Thanks, Mac." He walked out, handing in his visitor's pas at the desk, heading home. He sat down in front of the tv with some ice cream, spacing out while he thought. He still wanted to travel if he could after graduation. It'd be good for the family to go together. He ate a bite of ice cream, watching a show about some ancient tribe.
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