Xander came off the plane and found someone waiting on him. "Mac. Are we bringing problems?"
"You are a problem," Mac said, hugging him. He shook Horatio's hand, taking the letter to look at. "Next time, let him kiss the stupid ideas away, Horatio." He walked them out to his car. "You're being escorted by either one of us or Horatio everywhere, Xander. Two of the family members of the man who committed suicide are in town and wailing over their losses."
"They had the chance to protest it in court."
"They didn't want to appear like they were contesting his decision. Now they can complain." He shrugged and looked at the kid. "Now they're looking seriously at taking you hostage since your gayboyness offends them. To return their honor."
"I thought that declaration stopped that," Horatio noted.
"It did, all but a few rogue members of the family. The declaration was given to them as well. They've decided he can't do that, he's not the authority we said he was..... And on and on," he sighed, letting them through the security section. "Bags?" They nodded, leading him that way. "At least you two don't expect me to navigate."
"Not with how often I've been here," Xander joked, grinning at him. He heard a shout and looked around, finding the person running toward him with the gun. He ducked the blow with it, then did a very nice elbow strike into his throat while pushing the gun arm to the ground. Horatio moved forward to remove the gun from the gasping man's hand and he looked down at him. "Are you an asshole with the family of that one guy or just a generic asshole?" he asked dryly. The man gasped.
"Guys," Mac called, smirking and waving a hand. "My city. Thank you, Xander. Where's the baby?"
"Mom. We'll be there tonight." He unbuttoned the man's shirt, pointing at the pitchfork design. "Your old buddies, dear." He got down in his face. "Tell them the Wrath of Caine extends to wherever those things he holds dear are." The man whimpered and moved back so he stomped on his chest, making him gasp and piss himself. "Understood? Because if someone hurts Caine, I get to go off and I'm the worse fate. Like what he can do and keep him safe, little boy. After all, I can end the world." He stood up and walked over to the baggage carousel area, finding his bag coming around. Horatio's came a minute later and he grabbed that too, then looked and found the third. He got a baggage trolley and wheeled it over to lean on, smiling at his mate. "Hi."
"Xander, that's a stupid rumor started by Frank."
Xander kissed him. "It started after Speed died, baby, and no it's not. You do tend to go off when someone touches your team or me or the hummer. And trust me, if they touch you, I'm going to make the world end. Okay?" he asked with a sweet, goofy grin.
"Do I have a choice?"
"Only if they kill us together."
"Fine." He walked over to help Mac and the cops coming running. "So, Mac, how has your city been?"
"Decent until you two got here, Horatio." The man in the handcuffs moaned again and glared so he glared back. "That's right, Miami and New York are working together now."
"Can't you stay out of trouble!" Don yelled as he came up behind the transit cops.
"No! He tried to shoot me. Horatio fusses when I get shot. You know I hate being fussed over." Horatio looked at him. "Not that some fussing's bad, but you get territorial and you lock me in the house and don't let me go to the gym to swim and that stuff and that's bad."
"If you did the reasonable thing while you were injured, I wouldn't have to," he reminded him.
"I'm reasonable." Horatio, Mac, Don, and one of the officers gave him a long stare. "I am, even if it's my special version of reason. It suits me. I think differently than every one of you." He glared at the extra cop. "They're family, you're not." He hurried the other guy off. "See?" He smiled sweetly at his mate. "Can we go pick up the baby now?"
"Sure," Don agreed, shaking his head. Mac handed over the specially sealed letter. "Isn't he supposed to deliver that tomorrow?"
"I was hoping to be ill," Horatio noted.
"Fat chance," Mac said, slapping him on the back. "I've got to be there, you've got to be there, and Xander can be off playing with the baby and being watched by Don."
Don looked at Xander. "You haven't been good since the minute you came into this world, quit trying to look innocent," he ordered. Xander just smirked at him. "Uh-huh. How old's the kid?"
"A year tomorrow and we're having a birthday party whether or not his mother does. I've already arranged it." Two women came up and started to yell about whores. "Excuse me! I never slept with anyone you might know! The only man I've slept with is behind me. If you don't like that, fuck the hell off, bitches. That's why the declaration was made!" They backed off and he glared. "Your husband, or whatever, wanted to kidnap my ass, torture me, castrate me, and you want me to not only forgive him but to keep handing me shit I don't want and don't need so I have to keep remembering and this is MY fault!" They backed off and ran the other way. "Yeah, you take that declaration and you get it approved by your guy. Mine got it approved by the court!"
"Gee, you yell like a New Yorker already. Horatio, are you coming up on the exchange?" Don asked dryly.
"I'd miss the hummer," he said, walking up behind Xander to take his hand. "Calm down, Xander. No beating them." Xander nodded and looked at him, he could see the rage simmering. "Let it go. It's their problem, not yours."
"They're making it mine. They could hurt the baby."
"They will not or we will destroy them," he reminded him quietly.
"Again, our city," Mac interrupted. "If they come anywhere near you three, you tell us, we'll destroy them for you." He looked at Don, who nodded quickly and took the baggage cart before Xander could use it as a blunt weapon. They made it out to the car without any more problems and made it to Diana's shop. There they found the door locked and the lights off. "She knew you were coming?"
Xander nodded and dialed the phone, getting a groggy voice. "It's us, we're in. Can we stop by and pick up the baby like we agreed?" He listened to the background noise and frowned. "Why are you in a hospital and where's the baby?" He nodded and looked up, counting to ten. "Okay. Where are you?" He nodded. "Sure. I'm going to go get him out of the building. Thank you." He hung up and handed over his phone and jacket. "Breaking and entering. She left him at home and went to get drunk, she's at the hospital." He got out with Don behind him. "I can do this."
"Bet me, kid. If he's in danger, we get to note it and you get custody." He looked at the lock, then the alarm. "We can do that, I can call."
"Good, you call, I'm doing Willow things." He laid his hands on the window and chanted, breaking the power lines. He heard the baby scream and broke the door with his foot, heading up the stairs. "Eric," he called. The baby let out another wail. "Keep going. Help daddy find you." The ghost caught his eye and he looked upstairs. "His bedroom?" The ghost nodded. "Thank you." He jogged up the hidden stairs to the apartment, walking past the crashed over furniture and into his son's room. He picked him up, holding him. "Shh, it's daddy, I have you. You're coming with daddy." He put a hand on the wall and reset the power lines so he could look around. "Check on her, Don. She's not usually like this." He sat down in the rocking chair in there, holding and checking his son over. Horatio came in with a bottle. "Thank you. Get me a diaper and stuff too please." He handed the bottle over and his son gulped it like it was his last one ever. "Gods, baby, how long were you here?" A few more people he knew came in. Horatio came out of the bathroom so he got up to change and give him a sponge bath, then reclothe and diaper him. He sat back down again, just letting him cuddle in. "When did she check in?"
"Two days ago," Stella said from the doorway. "There's a social worker here, Xander. We have to call."
"Let her in." She nodded and left, coming back with an older man. "Hey. This is my son. We have bloodwork to prove it and she had custody. We have official visitation."
The social worker looked at him. "I need to check him over. May I?"
"As long as one of us are there. We gave him a washcloth bath and changed him." He nodded at the stuff he had left on the table.
"You disturbed the crime scene?"
"My mate is the lead CSI in Miami, mister. I think he knows how to handle that stuff." He stood up and walked his son over. "Within sight only. I am going to go protective soon."
"Of course. I would as well." He walked the baby over to the crib but he started to scream so he walked him to the changing table to undo the clothes and look him over. "He doesn't appear bruised or harmed."
"Fuck harmed! She left him at least two days ago! That's more than harm enough!" Xander yelled.
"Calm down," Horatio ordered. "This is his job, Xander. Let him do it." Xander sat down and scowled and the social worker went on. "We had to break in to get in here."
"I understand, and I commend the father for not hitting me. A few have in similar situations." He finishing doing up the clothes. "Do you have court notarized visitation? A legal agreement?" Horatio nodded. "May I see it?"
"It's downstairs in my bag."
"I can follow and you can hold the baby, correct?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. Detectives, how may we come out?"
"You usually go around the edge unless there's indication that the perimeter was compromised," Horatio told him, walking that way carefully.
"Ah, then you're his spouse?" Horatio nodded. "Very well. Officers are always given all due respect. Is he?"
"He's in college," Horatio told him, ending that line of questioning.
Xander got up and slammed a fist into the wall, leaving an impressive dent.
"Hey," Don said quietly, coming in there. "It'll be okay. You can have him for this shit. Hell, if I hadn't been busy, I'd been by here last night, Xander. I got here at ten and everything was dark so I thought she was in bed." Xander nodded and looked at him. "You okay now?" He shook his head and hit the wall again then sat back down when the hole was fully there. "You good?"
"Yeah, better." His son came back and he took him back, calming himself down. "As the agreement states, we're in town for an extended visit so we have official visitation now," he noted more calmly. "Is that a problem for you?"
"No, Mr. Harris." He looked at the hole in the wall then the swollen fist. "Thank you for not doing that around him."
"He didn't need to see that. It's not his fault. Any idea what's wrong with his mother?"
"She was admitted for flu-like symptoms and only started to wake up earlier today," Stella admitted. "They said she was basically catatonic when she was brought in."
"When you called, what number did you call?" Don asked.
"The office. It usually routes to wherever she is."
"It rang on her cell?" Don asked.
"It didn't sound like it. Why?"
"That means someone came in and routed the phones. They had to know about the baby if they had access." The alarm started to go off. "What's the code?"
"His birthday, tomorrow, but last year." Don nodded, finding the panel and working to shut it off. "Single, single, full year," he called. Don nodded and hit that and it went off. He kissed his son on the head. "So she was ill?"
"Apparently," Stella told him. "We can check."
"Good." He looked at the social worker, who nodded. "He's ours."
"Of course. How long are you in town for?"
"The week," Horatio told him. "By then they should know what happened and be able to tell you."
"That would be fine. At that time a preliminary decision can be reached. You live in Miami?" They both nodded. "Can you stay longer?"
"Nope," Xander said. "I start school on the sixth. I have to be there. I'm on AP due to a serial killer last semester. Unfortunately the city needs Horatio. He's a Lieutenant with the crime lab. I can promise you we're not leaving Miami. My swim team is there and I'm olympic hopeful at the moment, working on the serious training starting this semester." That got a smile and a nod. "Plus we've got friends and family out the ass down there."
"That's fine, Mr. Harris. I'll try to get a rush on it once we know what happened to the mother. If this wasn't her fault...."
"Then I might consider letting her have visitation," he noted dryly. Horatio looked at him. "We'll see what the cause was," he amended. "When I'm more calm."
"Thank you." He walked out to talk to Mac, who nodded at what he said. Then he left.
Mac waited until he heard the outer door close. "He said you reminded him of a few Don's he's run into over the years, as in the Family ones, Xander. Calm down."
"I am calm," he snarled. "If this were your son...."
"I'd have destroyed the wall," Don admitted, coming in to look at him. "We need ta get him checked over."
"I'm good with that plan. Horatio, go ahead and check in?" That got a nod. "Or help here and then check in, either way," he offered with a small smile and a kiss. He walked out. "Anyone see the carseat?"
"It's usually behind the reception desk," Stella offered. "Come on, I'll go with you two so I can check on what she went in for." Don nodded and led them down to the car. "Is he asleep?"
"Yeah, he's been doing a lot of this," Xander admitted. "The flu?"
"It can get that bad," Don reminded him, waiting until the baby was secure to back out and head off. "This wasn't on purpose, not from Di, Xander. She loves him more than her work. She's been taking time off recently. She's been planning the shop in Miami too. She's been thinking about running it and letting her team up here run this one." He turned a corner. "St. Vincent's?" Stella nodded. "He good? He's not snoring."
"He's fine, I just checked," Xander admitted, stroking down his hair. "The pediatrician we took him too last month said he was a bit anemic but nothing critical. He said she was doing okay with him, that everything seemed to be normal." His son let out a loud snore and everyone smiled. "That's my boy." They pulled into the parking garage and he got out, taking him inside. "Hi, I just came to pick up my son for my visitation and I found him in the house alone for two days," he told the nurse. "We need him checked." She looked stunned so he looked behind him at the guy with the gun. "There's two cops coming, you mind? I've got my son with me." The man sneered. "Don! Can you please hurry the fuck up!" he yelled. He jogged in and saw the problem. "Yeah, exactly." He looked at the nurse again, writing down something. "That's the name of the pediatrician we took him to last month when I wanted to see how he really was. I've given him a bottle and changed him, gave him a washcloth bath." The nurse nodded once Stella got the shotgun away from the guy and took the baby, letting Xander follow. "That doc said he was a bit anemic but his mom was doing okay."
"Do you know why she abandoned him?"
"She's upstairs. That's why the cops are here." She nodded and he sat down to look at the forms she handed him, filling out what he could. "Sorry, I just found out about him a bit ago, this spring. I've only gotten visitation a few times." He did what he could and handed it over, getting up to soothe his son when he woke up. "Hi, Eric." The baby cooed at him. "I know, it's the daddy and it'll be okay. Daddy and Uncle Horatio have you now."
"My spouse." She nodded, making note of that. "Yes the social worker they called knows."
Don came in. "Harding was the social worker who showed up," he offered, handing over the card he had been given. "Hey, Eric." Eric squealed and kicked at him. "Yeah, that's a good football player. Yup, you are."
The nurse smiled. "Guys, I've got to get in there to draw blood and stuff," she noted. They retreated to the head of the bed. "What's the mother's name?"
"Diana Provistal." She nodded and wrote that down, then got what she needed. "Will this hurt him?"
"No, I'm very good at doing children." They nodded and watched very carefully what she was doing. "Do we know his pediatrician up here?" Xander shook his head. "You had suspicions?"
"No," Xander admitted. "I was making sure there wasn't any reason that she couldn't keep him. She was a bit stressed at the time. Her lover had just left and she was having problems at work so I ordered her to bring me the baby and take a vacation in Miami, where I live. I took him to make sure her stress hadn't been bothering him and because he's always been a very sleepy baby."
"Who snores," Don offered.
"Some do." She finished up and smiled at the snoring baby. "He does seem to like to sleep. Let me have this run and call down there for records. Was he at a hospital or in private practice?"
Xander thought back then wrote down a number. "That's Alexx Woods' number. She's my husband's ME. He's a CSI down there. She referred us and would know." She nodded and went to call that one then the doctor when she explained what had happened. He looked at Don. "Was it?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "Stella's checking on it right now, Xander. Then talking to her. I wanna know who came in and switched the phones. They're the ones I want. 'Cause even if she wrecked the place that way and walked out, the other one left the baby there and he had to of screamed."
"Probably." He looked at his son, then at Don. "I'd ask the ghost but I can't hear 'em unless they're in me."
"Not an issue, we have more proven methods that won't get you in trouble with Horatio." Xander nodded and hugged him. "Hey, it'll be okay," he soothed, patting him on the back. "Get off." Xander got off and looked at him. "Good boy." The nurse came back. "We good?"
"We're running the tests. It's going to be about an hour." Both men sighed. "I didn't figure you'd wait very well. There's a coffeepot up the hallway, detective. Feel free to get some for both of you. Mr. Harris, go ahead and sit. Are you sure he's yours?" Xander nodded. "Absolutely positive?"
"I had ClearMed run a second test," Xander assured her. "His mother tried to lie, I had dual tests run that day." She smiled at that. "No one takes my son. She didn't tell me about him and I found out by accident. Since then I've been a bit possessive when someone tries something against my son." Stella came in. "And?"
"She's ill. Very ill. She's still out of it actually. They said she came in with an extreme fever and babbling. I checked, no bruises, no cuts or scratches, Don. She came in in a cab." He nodded once. "So the trashing of the house might've been whoever reset the phones to her room. The nurses up there said yesterday around dinner was the first call they noticed."
"Okay, so that gives us a probable time. Did you tell Mac?"
"Going to do that. I thought Xander would want it first." Xander nodded and gave her a small grin. "I doubt she was in enough of a right mind to realize she had the baby with what they said."
"Then if she gets better I'll think about leaving the baby with her," he noted dryly.
The other adults all noticed the 'think about' but in this situation they'd probably be less open to the possibility.
Xander walked into the hotel and smiled at the people behind the desk. "Has Horatio Caine checked in?" They nodded. "I'm his spouse, can you call?" They nodded and one did that. Horatio came off the elevator a few minutes later, giving him a hug. "He's fine. A bit hungry. We can let him pig out all he wants. He's still anemic so we can have the baby eat hamburger and steak." That got a smile.
"The trashing was done by whoever switched the phones about a day ago," Don told him. "She was so out of it they weren't sure she was going to be lucid again. She wasn't too lucid today either. Stella said she probably didn't have a clue she had the baby when she left."
"That's good to know," Horatio agreed. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, it's gonna be a while. She might not be out when you get ready to go home. We'll have ta see the day before and get the social worker onto it. For now, take the baby upstairs. Make him eat, give him a bath. We'll be back at nine." He smirked and Horatio clapped him on the arm. "Calm Xander down too. Feed him. He had two cups of coffee. Straight." Horatio smiled and they nodded. "Go upstairs. I can leave once you're on the elevator." Xander gave him a hug then headed that way. Horatio smirked and walked that way. He sighed once the elevator door closed, walking over to the desk. He wrote down his cell, Mac's cell, Stella's cell, and the main number at the CSI unit. "In that order," he told them. "They've just had a bad shock. The baby's mother is sick. The baby got left at home when she went to the hospital and she's so sick she still doesn't remember the baby. If anyone, and I do mean anyone, bothers them, and Xander has some people who try now and then, you call them in that order."
"Yes, Detective Flack. Are they a security risk?"
"No, the older one's a cop, the younger's a jock. He's the reason for them being here with the pool." That got a smile and a nod. "They'll be fine, just in case something happens. He's up for an auction of some stuff he inherited." She nodded and typed those numbers into the computer. "Thank you." He walked out, going to check on Mac and them, then go home. Danny gave him a long look. "I didn't hand over your number since your mother works there. I gave 'em mine, Mac's, Stella's, and the main number. The baby's fine. Just hungry. A bit anemic but he said the doctor in Miami found that too. He's back napping safely in dad's and stepdad's arms. Did Stella call?" Mac nodded, looking at him. "Good. I said nine so I'm going to bed. Let me know if you find whoever came in yesterday." He headed back, going home. His phone rang and he answered it. "Flack?" He groaned. "Be right there, Horatio. Sorry." He drove back to the hotel and let them have their stuff, then he went home to go to bed.
Horatio walked up to the Chief of police and coughed, making the press people look at him. He was looking the best he ever had. Xander had made him buy a new suit. "From the Chief of Miami, sir." He handed over the envelope.
The Chief smiled and nodded. "Thank you, Lieutenant Caine." He opened it and looked it over, then looked at the press. "This is why you were called here today. Lieutenant Caine is from Miami and they have come up with a suggestion help both of our cities. He has suggested an officer exchange program between New York's finest and Miami's finest. There have been some very strong ties over the last few years in both cities, joint projects and the like. Both Chiefs think that this will reenergize those officers who need the extra push to be their best again and help cross-train both cities for anything that could happen. Plus, Lieutenant Caine has to deal with quite a few of us who retire down to Miami." That got some smiles and laughs. "So, to begin this experiment, we've chosen seven officers from each borough and they'll be sending the same number. The officers will be asked, of course, and if this first switch for six months works, then we'll take volunteers from both cities. We hope that this project does work and it can help the cities get closer and work better together. If this does work, I don't see why we can't talk to other cities across this fine country of ours about adding in. Any questions?"
"Is Lieutenant Caine coming up?"
"I haven't decided yet. I do have something that would tie me to Miami at the moment but if I do, it would probably be during the summer. The local CSI departments that I've worked with in the past have been top notch and don't need my help, but I am thinking about it." That got some smiles.
"Are you married?" Horatio nodded. "Can we talk to your spouse?"
He shook his head. The Chief looked at him. He leaned over to whisper in his ear, getting a nod. "No, Lieutenant Caine's spouse is off limits. I'm sorry about that." He looked over as Mac joined them. "Better late than never."
"Sorry, sir, the scene had priority," he said simply. The press snapped his picture. "Horatio."
"Mac," he said, shaking his hand. "The official announcement."
"Good. You can come sit on my team."
"Or you on mine," he agreed with a small smirk. "We could change labs."
"We could," he agreed with a smirk. "That would do our crews some good." He looked at the Chief. "Have all the details been set?"
"Completely. Including housing allowances and the grants to cover the difference in salaries and travel expenses. You'd be willing to switch your lab staff with Horatio's?"
"Horatio's team is one of the best in the country. I liked working with them in the past, I wouldn't mind if his team came up and mine went down." He smiled his best politician's smile. "They have a vastly different case load and it would keep both our teams sharp."
"I'll add you to the list," the Chief agreed, smiling at them. "Would your detectives come?"
"I can't speak for mine," Horatio noted. He stepped away and called them. "Frank, would you and Yelina like in on the switch? Mac's suggesting we switch labs completely just leaving us in our spots." He listened to the swearing. "Six months, Frank. Six months." He smirked. "Thank you." He hung up and walked back. "Detective Tripp said he'd have to talk to his wife and the others we work with routinely will have their answer by tonight."
Mac smirked and stepped back. "Detective Flack and the other two agreed already." He smiled at Horatio. "Remember to tell your team how to drive on snow."
"Remind yours about needing sunscreen, they're very pale, Mac," he taunted back. Mac laughed and he smirked at him. "They are."
"They are," he agreed. He looked at the Chief. "If all our staff agree, we do."
"Excellent! I hope other officers take this spirit of cooperation to heart." He smiled winningly at the press. "Any other questions?"
"How many people are in each lab?"
"I've got five I'd be sending," Mac told him.
"I'd be sending an equal number," Horatio admitted.
"Can we have your spouse's name, Horatio?"
"No." He looked at the Chief again. "With your leave, sir? We've got to talk to our labs."
"Go ahead, Lieutenant. And thank you for bringing this personally."
"Always happy to come to New York, sir." He walked off with Mac, chatting quietly about the various people who were going to throw fits. They stepped into the station behind them and both their phones rang. He pulled his out, smirking at it. "They're in my office." He answered it. "Caine," he said smoothly. He pulled it away from his ear. "Yes, I know you're excited, Calleigh. Try to control your enthusiasm."
Mac listened to Stella and Danny throw a fit, chuckling a bit. "It is voluntary but you would have a slight vacation, guys. Of course we want you back. Listen, you'll get to go play with Xander for a while."
Horatio smirked at that idea. "Guys, think about it. We're bringing the baby back for a while since his mother is sick. It'll be in a few months, not this week. Calm down and think rationally about this." He hung up.
Mac snickered and hung up on the screaming. "Coffee?"
"Coffee," he agreed, following him somewhere other than where the screaming lab techs were. "You know, Xander's probably giggling with the baby," he shared.
"Probably," Mac agreed readily. "The baby and he seem to share the same sense of humor." He glanced at him. "He knows?" Horatio nodded. "Good. That'll make it easier to cover it up." They headed out the back door and to the nearest deli and coffeeshop to hide from the other techs.
Xander smiled as he walked into the auction with his son in his arms. He took his program and number, walking over to his agent. "Cheline," he said quietly, making her smile. "We're back."
"I can see that. Hi, little guy." Eric smiled then hid his face. "You're adorable." She saw the redhead walking up behind him and smiled at him. "I recognize you from your picture. I'm Cheline."
"Horatio," he said, shaking her hand.
"Welcome to Christies. Are you going to bid?"
"Only if I see something he must have," Horatio admitted, smiling at his spouse. He looked at her again. "Has there been a problem with that one group?"
"No, not in the least. They tried something and we pointed out he had the legal right to do that and their continued complaining only raided more honor from the family. They gave up after that and tried you at the airport. I heard he yelled?"
"Indeed," Horatio agreed dryly, patting Xander on the back. "But it's a nice thing, we haven't seen them since." He smiled. "We'd better sit. Before we draw press attention."
"I saw that nice dodge you did. Very nicely done. Sit on the left side in case the baby nudges the number." He nodded and led Xander that way. She went to make sure there were no problems. This was the last auction of this year and they'd have to do this now or else Xander would have to pay taxes on these unreasonable gifts he had received. She ran into her boss and the head of the company. "I'm checking for Mr. Harris. Any remaining issues?" They shook their heads. "Thank you."
"Is that the Dubai estate?" She nodded, looking seriously hopeful. "It's fine. The family has relented and said their claim is unreasonable and illegal. He's here?" She gave a discreet point. "He's a charming looking young man. Who's that with him? I recognize him from somewhere."
"That's Lieutenant Caine. He brought news up about the switching program."
"Ah. That was a novel idea." She nodded, smiling at him. "Go make contacts. Does Mr. Harris or his mate have anything else coming up?"
"Not that he's said. I haven't had any phone calls about last-minute entries." She walked back there, sitting beside Xander and crossing her legs. "My boss wanted to know if we should expect repeat business next year."
"As far as I know, no," he admitted with a small grin. "It's stopped and I'm *so* happy about that." She patted him on the knee and the baby grinned at her. "No flirting, Eric," he said, smiling at his son. "He's just such a little me some days." She giggled and kissed him on the cheek then left, shaking her head at some guy in a suit. He looked at Horatio. "Have I missed another present wielding person?"
"Not that I've seen." He stroked his hand. "Give me the son." Xander handed him over and Eric smiled, playing with his tie until he fell asleep.
Xander leaned closer. "I think you're snuggly and comfy to nap on too. Maybe in about six hours?" Horatio smiled at him and they turned their attention to the person walking up to the podium. "You're sitting on it, right?" Horatio nodded. "Thank you." Don sat down next to him and he looked at him. "You put 'em in?"
"Yup, way too fancy for my tastes." He looked at the baby, then grinned. "Ah, sleepy babies." The baby let out a soft snore and Horatio stuck his thumb in his mouth, stopping that noise, much to the amusement of the person in front of them. She smiled at Don then turned back around. "Dinner later, guys?" Xander nodded after looking at Horatio, who nodded once. The auctioneer announced the first lot and they quit moving totally. Just in case they accidentally bid. The one time Xander sneezed he was outbid, so that was good. They didn't really need the gold and rose teapot set anyway. Once they were freed, they stopped by Cheline's desk and she gave them numbers for the next day. Don just wrote down his bank numbers and she tucked that away. She looked at Xander, who grinned. She nodded and Don walked them out, taking them out to his car. "Well, that was boring."
"Some very ugly stuff went for a lot of money," Xander said quietly as he got the baby into the back seat. "How's Di?"
"Still not lucid. Her fever's coming down though." He got in to drive, checking to make sure everyone was buckled in, including the baby. "We good?"
"We're fine," Horatio agreed from the back seat. "Thankfully he slept through it."
"I nearly slept through it," Don admitted as he started the car and pulled into traffic. "When's the house over there going up?"
"Tomorrow at a special real estate auction," Xander sighed. "I so hope it goes. I don't want to have an estate in the Middle East. I don't mind the desert, but not that much." Don laughed at that and punched him on the arm. "So, are you coming down? If you are you can come to my meets."
"I could use the tan and away from my father for a bit. I nearly brought Eric to him and claimed him as his grandkid just to get him off my back, but he would've seen the eyes and realized it."
"Willow's question when she saw him was 'which witch did the spell so I could carry him'; she wanted to check and make sure it was right," Xander shared.
"You have some very strange and odd friends, Xander."
"And she married Ryan Wolfe."
"Oh, hey, so she can come bother Mac for a bit," he said happily. "He's coming, right, Horatio?"
"He agreed already. Calleigh's the only hold out and Mac promised to call and say she didn't have to hide what she and Speed were doing unless they were actually *in* the lab."
"Where did Aiden end up?"
"New Orleans and she hates it. She swears up and down she's going to go medical instead and work in one of the big drug companies."
"That is easier work," Horatio agreed dryly.
"Yeah, much if you can stand it." He turned the corner. "I'm assuming, but the same steak place?" Both of them nodded. "Cool. Stella said she'd join us if we called her. Danny's pouting. Not that he doesn't want ta leave the city but he's pouting."
"Danny pouts very well," Xander agreed. "Remind him he'd be up here all alone with Speed and Eric to pick on him, or he could come with you, get a tan, play in the warm ocean, and see me swim. Plus he could see so many cute girls in bikinis he'd be happy going blind after six months of it."
Don laughed and pulled out his cellphone, calling Danny's. "Hey, got an argument you can't refute. Finally. Yeah, well, if you stay, you'll be working with Speed, Eric, Calleigh, Ryan, and have Willow up here with ya, and she asked Xander which witch helped him conceive and carry Eric, or you can go down to Miami, get a tan, hang with me at the beach and watch the pretty chicks in bikinis or less, and watch Xander swim in his meets. Your choice of course." He laughed and hung up. "He said I was playing dirty."
"No, playing dirty would be sending me to pout at him," Xander teased, then smirked back at Horatio. "Or sending Aiden."
"That would work," he agreed. "Do they have any idea what's wrong with her, Don?"
"No, not a clue that they've told us. All we know is high fever, hallucinations, and lack of insight into the real world. Ya ask me, it sounds like meningitis but I'm not a doc." He looked at Xander. "What happened to your forehead?"
"An officer unwisely tried to gay bash him outside the station," Horatio said dryly. "Broke his car window, took the cellphone from his hand and stomped on it, and then he got stabbed by Xander for it."
"Good job! You can't stay out of trouble even with your mate there."
"No, uh-uh, I was being good. I was in my car talking to Buffy's mom Joyce about the mate and married thing, and he broke my window and tried me. I was only defending myself."
"Uh-huh," Don said dryly, glancing at him. "You get into trouble?"
"Calleigh saw him do it."
"So I only tied him down later and we had a talk," Horatio offered. "It was a later conversation that nearly got him sent to you for punishment."
"Mine or his?"
"Running joke between him and Speed. If I get too out of hand you get me. If Calleigh gets too out of hand, we'll send her to you."
"And I'm supposed ta do what?" he laughed. "Keep you? Not that I wouldn't mind Calleigh but Xander would have to clean his room and stay out of trouble. That means we'd have to handcuff him in the lab for hours on end."
"No, then he makes pitiful faces and noises at Frank and Yelina," Horatio admitted. "Speed tried that."
"Give me some credit, I lasted for an hour before boredom struck that final blow," Xander said with a grin for him. The baby belched then sighed and smiled. "Your next words are going to be 'excuse me' since you have tummy troubles."
"Babies get away with it because they're cute," Don reminded him. His phone rang and he answered it. "Flack." He smirked. "No, he's in the backkseat with Xander, Di. Is your fever gone? No he's fine. We understood but someone went in there and switched your phones around. Them we wanna talk with since your place was trashed and the baby was still there. No, Xander agreed with me....."
The phone was taken from him and Xander cleared his throat. "I'm told you were so delirious with your fever you didn't know your own name. I can forgive that, but if he hadn't been found I'd have bitched the city apart." He listened to her. "Not an issue. If you're that sick, I'm good. I'm more than good enough to watch my son, Diana. Anytime, anywhere, even on the days I've got meets. Those days I might have to get a sitter if someone's not in the stands to cheer me on, but otherwise, yeah, I can. Okay? Now, who went in to forward your phones?" He nodded. "Okay. No, we'll be up tomorrow during visiting hours, the later one. You good until then? No, he's not a problem. He slept through the auction." He grinned. "Rest, Diana, let me handle it." He hung up. "Her former neighbor, Mr. Portman, went in to do that for her. Apparently his family was in and he saw her being brought in so he went to switch the phones for her. She said he didn't know she had the baby, this was before she got pregnant."
"Okay. First name?"
"Even better," Don agreed happily, taking his phone back and calling Mac. "Got a name on who switch Di's phones over. Herbert Portman. Former neighbor. She's awake. Thanks." He hung up. "Herbert?"
"That what it sounded like she said."
"We'll find him and if not, I'll go visiting tomorrow and ask her more questions. Neighbors like that don't usually throw furniture." He noticed Horatio and Xander both staring at the baby. "Even he opened up some teleawhatsis stuff, it could've been him."
"No, probably not," Xander admitted. "Magically either." He stroked over the baby's head. "He would've been screaming from the reaction headache if he had. I'm guessing her ghost has been keeping him company and happy. I'll have to make sure he can move out of there if something happens." He looked at Horatio again. "What else is on our agenda tomorrow?"
"That depends on if you want to see that estate be sold."
"Not really. That stuff's too highbrow for me. I'd be happier going to the park while you helped Mac with the arrangements for the switching thing."
"That's fine," Horatio agreed with a smile. He looked at Don. "Would that bother you?"
"No, not in the least. We'll have someone keep an eye on them since the Noches were so stupid at the airport. Someone in Gangs is trying to figure out why they want Xander, if it's the psycho issue or if they want him because of you."
"Most of the Mala Noche aren't the sort to watch strippers," Horatio said dryly. "Nor are they the sort to tip strippers."
"That doesn't mean they didn't want to own him," Don reminded him.
"And again, I carry hidden weapons everywhere I go," Xander said dryly. "How would we do apartments?"
"Sublet and let the other people use them," Don advised. "That way they're taken care of and you don't have to worry about paying rent on two places." That got a nod. "If your guys agree anyway. I don't mind if someone stays in my hole for a few months."
"That could be workable," Horatio agreed. "I'll offer that suggestion."
"If you go, I'm moving back to dad's," Xander noted patiently. "Though, it'd be better if someone who knew about the strange stuff lived there instead of just anyone if you don't go."
"Also a good point," Don agreed. "Considering one of Speed's neighbors is dayglo purple." He parked in front of the place they were going and got out, letting Xander handle the baby. "Grab the seat?"
"High chair," Xander reminded him. "He can sit up in one. If not, I can come back out to get it." That got a smirk and they walked inside, smiling at the hostess. He looked at Don, who shrugged and gave his name, getting a wink and a seat for them, plus the high chair. "Knew her?" he asked.
"Reservations are only suggested here," he noted dryly. He looked at the baby, who was staring at him. "Hi, Eric." The baby smiled at him. He touched his hand and the baby babbled at him, grabbing on and waving it. "Yeah, you've had a long day," he agreed. "Want some nummies? You can have some of our veggies." The baby beamed at him and looked around again. "Hey, Xander?"
"I'm seeing. Is he is what I'm wondering." He moved over to see when Eric caught sight of his finger, watching him. "He's got one side without?"
"We can have it checked tomorrow," Horatio said firmly. "I'm sure he's fine."
"He'd better be," Don agreed. "We can ask Di in the morning when we go in there." Xander smiled at that. "Like I said, we're all watching over you, just in case."
"Thank you." He looked at his son, then at the menu, then handed it to Horatio. "Find me something." He made the baby look at him, smiling brightly. "Hey, Eric?" His son cooed. "Good boy. Very good boy." He watched his eyes adjust when he covered them with his hand then removed it. "His left eye didn't change," he said quietly.
"Maybe it's something easy to fix," Don offered. He hoped. "We'll ask Di tomorrow. For right now, just calm down. It probably wasn't where she was sick."
"No, that wouldn't be," Horatio agreed. "At his age it's more likely it's a birth defect of some kind. Therefore we can get it checked out tomorrow. Even if I do have to call Alexx and have her fly up suddenly." He caught his mate's eye and got a nod and a sigh. "Good, now, did you want a real steak or not?"
Xander kissed him on the cheek. "Steak. Thinner cut instead of thicker, medium. Just barely pinkish." He smiled. "You calm me down so well. Are you going to be there for tryouts?"
"They're closed. Speed already asked." He looked at Don. "If he makes both teams, we'll set a list of meets in the break room."
"That way you guys can break them up and you don't get fired for having to take afternoons off that often," Xander agreed dryly. Don nodded, accepting that. "They think I'm already good enough to be an alternate. I just need my skull to finish completely healing so Eric can go over the diving stuff with me."
"Fortunately your skull will heal. It could've been much worse, Xander. You could be in a coma somewhere and no one'd know."
"No, we had him out as a missing person's case," Horatio told him. "Even the Canadians would've seen it." He stroked his mate's hand, getting a smile for that. "Relax. We would've come for you, Xander." He saw someone moving their way from the corner of his eye and tensed. Most people around them didn't wear Armani. He glanced at Don then at the other person, getting a blink in response. He had seen him. "Now, what are we feeding the son?" he asked calmly.
The man in the suit coughed and looked at Xander. "Sir, my employer would like to talk to you about one of his employees and the beating he received at your instigation," he said quietly.
"What employee was that?" Horatio asked. The man looked at him. "I doubt Xander ever beat anyone that badly."
"Rick Stetler works for my employer."
"And I'm the one who hit him," Horatio assured him. "I'm also the one who got him fired from Miami-Dade PD for trying to plant evidence and being a rapist." The man grimaced. "You will leave my mate alone. You can tell your boss to check his background and why he got fired."
"Besides, he let Stetler walk off," Don noted, sipping his water and staring the guy down. "You wanna name your employer?"
"No." He looked at Xander. "He would like to talk to you on other matters as well, Mr. Harris."
"He can blow me," Xander said. "I'm having visitation with my son and having dinner with my family and near-family. Now is not the time for this." That got a nod and the man left. "So, park tomorrow after visiting hours?" he asked Don. Who nodded and smirked at him. "Good. That way we can solve this without endangering my temper coming out to hurt people." He looked at his mate. "You can lurk."
"I will be," he assured him. "Mac and I can work out the arrangements there or in the office." He stroked his hand again. Then he looked at the baby. "We should order."
Don smiled at the nearest waitress, getting them some service.
Xander looked up as someone stepped in front of him, leaning back casually so he could stretch out on the bench. "Yes?"
"Every now and then," he noted dryly. "Are you the mysterious employer of the man who came up to us at dinner last night?" That got a nod so Xander shifted down, leaving the baby where he was. "What sort of issues did you have with my spouse beating Stetler for threatening to rape and torture me, or else he'd plant evidence?"
"We made stronger inquiries into his past," the man said, looking him over. "I don't disagree with your mate beating him. I do disagree with the route you've chosen for the gifts you've received."
"I don't see how it's anyone's business. Especially since I can't wear diamonds with the life I live and like to live, and how it upsets my spouse."
"I see. Was he forcing this decision on you?"
"No, we had a talk about it. To be truthful, there have been a few who've pissed me off beyond the point of crying about it. He was bothered because of my past problems with serial killers and kidnapers. I was bothered because they kept sending me stuff that I couldn't use and it was pissing him off because someone might want to step up the action. I don't need or want gifts most of the time. I retired to be with my spouse. I made that very clear my last night. And yet some of them are still getting pushy." He swallowed. "It's like being hunted and knowing that my mate is having to watch it is making me ill to my stomach."
"I understand. You did make quite a few people happy."
"Which I'm glad I did," Xander said honestly. "I'm glad I could bring some light into their lives and into their hearts. I'm perfectly happy with teasing someone to make them forget that they're lonely for a night. Unfortunately most of the people who sent me gifts seemed to want to take it farther than that and I'd never leave my husband."
"Which we do appreciate," he agreed with a small smirk. "I'm here on the orders of one of them."
Xander frowned a bit. "Which stuff did he send me?"
"He went overboard with the car."
"Ah. I talked with his courier down there and thanked him graciously for it. It was a great and shocking present, but I didn't need it. That's why I got something more modest, which suited me more, then gave the rest of my spouse's boss to help with a need they had."
"He liked that idea. He didn't think you'd want the high end sports car, but he did like your choice. He wanted to know why it was in the shop."
"Another officer tried to gaybash me and broke the window. It was in for replacement."
"Understandable." He smiled at the boy, then at him. "You are a very lucky man."
"I know, and I'm holding onto him with everything I have. That guy is the one guy I didn't mind. Yeah, he went overboard, but the courier guy said that I made him happy and content, that he wasn't so lonely. I didn't think that the man you're here for was going to cause me any harm so I didn't mind him. I gave the courier a letter for him."
"He did get it," he assured him, smiling brightly now. "He thought you most gracious and he likes your spouse's protective streak. He said you remind him of his son when he was your age." He heard the coo and smiled at the baby again. "Hey, little fella."
"Eric," he said, smirking at him. "He is made to charm."
"He is." He grinned at him again. "Where is your husband?"
"Case." He shrugged. "Somewhere around here I've got a cop watching me for him since the Mala Noches have started on me as a way to get to Horatio."
"Actually, they want you for you, kid." He pulled out something and handed the envelope over. "My boss said he's going to continue and he understood what you were doing. He said it was very good PR work on the part of your attorney and that you're safe from him taking you, but that he does want to make sure you're taken care of properly." Xander nodded once at that, putting the envelope into his pocket. "There's a check in there. It's making the old man happy to spoil you, so don't mess it up for him, kid. By the way, there's a very good vision doctor down in Miami to take him to and his mother's going to be sick for weeks. They found a mold in her lungs. That's what caused the sickness. He's already arranged for you to take the baby home."
"Is his help going to harm my spouse's career?"
The man smirked and shook his head. "He's not in that business, Xander. He never has been. He saw you when you were Vex and realized you were the spitting image of his son." He winked and walked off, whistling happily.
Xander opened the envelope and glanced at the check, moaning a bit, then at the other stuff. He called Don's phone. "I met with my mystery benefactor's other guy. No, the Maserati guy. Yeah, he sent someone to talk to me. Looks like transcripts and stuff on the Noches," he said quietly. "Well, yeah, and a check. He said I remind him of the mystery guy's son." He grinned. "The park, the same place you dropped me off at." He glanced around. "Don, I'd be able to feel a sniper. Don't worry about it. I do have Horatio's backup." He put everything inside his diaper bag and got up, walking off with the baby. "Fine, we're heading for the duck pond. Can you get us there? Good deal. No, it'll take me about fifteen or twenty to walk. Sure. Thanks." He hung up and looked around, spotting the officer running his way. "Did Flack send you?" He nodded. "He's picking us up at the duck pond."
"Yes, Mr. Harris, sir. What's going on?"
"I just got handed information on the Mala Noches and why they want me." He grimaced. "It's very nice of them." He looked at his son, who beamed at him. "Hi."
"Yup, that's me," he agreed, smiling at him. He glanced at the cop. "If they start shooting, you are to take my son and the diaper bag, understood?"
"Argue with me and I'm kicking you in the shin. I can defend myself. I can't do it if my son's in danger."
"Agreed," he said finally. Mostly because he knew it wouldn't happen. "Why would that gang like you?"
"I'm married to a very effective officer that they hate," he said calmly, almost imitating his mate's speech pattern.
"Wow. Are they coming up on the exchange?"
"I think he's going to be lording over some of the switchers. He's a supervisor."
"Oh. Oh!" He nodded, understanding more after the 'he' part. "That's cool. I heard a lot of you guys down there are excellent officers."
"We are," Xander agreed with a smile. "You'll love the lab crew if you ever have to work with them. Calleigh's sun and light, Speed's got a brooding problem but he's good and lightened by the others. Eric teases and flirts with the others like they're family. Ryan's kinda quiet but he does the job well."
The guy stared at him. "You're Caine's mystery spouse." Xander nodded once. "Oh, shit. We heard there was a hit on him." He glanced around.
"He's with Flack and Mac Taylor on a scene," he said calmly. "And I'm experienced in protecting myself. My former town had a problem with that." That got a quick nod and the officer led him to a sheltered spot by the duck pond. "It's not a problem, officer. Just calm down."
"You don't... well, maybe you do know these guys. They could have a sniper."
"Noches like to walk up and shoot you, not snipe most of the time," Xander pointed out. He patted him on the arm. "Don't spread it around, okay? Please?"
"Of course not! There's rumors your husband castrates people for looking at you funny." Xander shook his head but he was smirking. "You sure?"
"Quite. Otherwise there would've been a rash of them when I quit stripping, before we got together."
"Wow. Yeah, we heard about this dancer guy.... Oh, no." Xander nodded. "Crap! But hey, at least you can keep him entertained."
"Quite," Xander said with a smug smirk. He handed him the baby and dug into the diaper bag, making sure the envelope was still in there and glancing around. He saw the guy watching them and glared back, making him back off. "Know him?" he asked, nodding toward him and going back to his searching. He secured the envelope better and stood up, putting the strap back over his shoulder so he could take the baby back.
"He's a local PI. I wonder if my wife sicced him on me."
"Tell her the truth, you were vexed and bothered by my assignment." He looked over as Don pulled in and parked. "That's my ride. Thank you, officer. Have a nicer day." He walked that way, glancing around. He got into the back, the diaper bag going onto the floor so he could hitch the baby in. "Hi." Don nodded so he handed over the envelope, making him whistle at the check before choking on the new information. "So, why do they want me?"
"The usual. You got the attention of one of their lieutenant's." He backed the car out of the spot and headed back to the station.
"I don't remember any, but that doesn't mean anything," Xander offered, buckling the last strap and grinning at his son, who was cooing and bouncing. "You're a happy baby. Oh, the mystery guy arranged it so we can take Eric home until she's better. It was some sort of mold found in her lungs according to him, and I asked, he's not mafia."
"Good!" He shook his head, flipping on the radio. That got a loud squeal and the baby babbled along with the music. "You've got good taste in music, Eric. Thank you." He glanced back at Xander at a stoplight. "You've got his backup piece?"
"Of course. Did you think I was going to go to this unarmed?" Don shook his head and moved on at the honking. "Damn they're impatient."
"Yeah, but that's just how they are," he said dryly. "Something about the air up here. Guess Calleigh won't bounce so much, huh?"
Xander snorted. "Just hand Speed the small bottle of that lubricant stuff and she'll bounce for days."
"Not an image I wanted to see, Xander," he noted dryly.
"She cleaned the apartment last time."
"Yeah, but I don't wanna know that much about their sex life." He pulled in and parked, glancing around while Xander got the carrier out, taking the diaper bag inside. He handed Horatio the envelope. "From his car buddy."
"Who is not mafia related, but he does have some friends in good places," Xander quipped. "He saw me at the first club, when I was Vex." He grinned at him. "He also said I remind him of his son when he was my age and that we did a very good job of the PR stuff but that he was going to continue this stuff because he wants me to be protected." Horatio shook his head, walking off to read the paperwork once the check was in his wallet. Xander followed. "He also said I was very lucky to have my husband and son. Who I believe you know," he teased with a grin since they were going inside Mac's office. "He told me to take Eric to a vision doctor down there, that there's a very good guy and since it's mold related, Di's not getting out for a while."
Don came back. "Yeah, it was mold related. I checked with the hospital. So this guy has ties in a lot of places."
"I asked if he did something that would harm my husband's career and he said no," Xander assured him. "And I could tell the guy knew the answer and wasn't lying." He handed Don the baby and took off his shirt, removing the wire he had worn and handing it to Mac, who was looking amused. "I'm not that dumb, Mac." He put back on his shirt, but Don stopped him to look at his shoulder. "Fully healed." He buttoned it and grinned at his mate, who raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"Did he swim with it down there too?" Don asked, handing Xander back the baby. "I think he needs changed."
"Quite possibly." Grabbed the diaper bag and carried the baby to the bathroom, making Stella turn and follow him. He grinned at her when she didn't even glance around because she was in the men's room. "One of the mysterious, present-wielding fanclub wanted to talk."
"Ah. Anything good come of it?"
"Some information on the Mala Noches. He said he's not mafia but he has arranged for my son to come home with us until Di's better." He shrugged and cleaned the small butt, quickly putting on a clean diaper. Eric was in the mood to play and he'd pee on them on purpose. He had in the past. He fastened it down then did back up the snaps on his pant. "There we go, all changed," he said happily, tossing out the dirty stuff and moving to wash his hands. Eric tried to move. "Nope, not yet. Let daddy do his hands first." He came back after wiping them off, then picked up the baby and the diaper bag. "We're in Mac's office."
"Okay." She followed, heading that way with him. She smiled at Mac when she came in. "Did it work?"
"It was blocked, he had something that caused interference. So we've got some static."
"Can you weed out the static to get the underlying noise?" Xander asked. "I know the tech in Miami had to do that once or twice. He was bragging something about the blocker didn't get the bottom range?" He shrugged.
"You can?" Mac asked Horatio, who nodded. "Since when?"
"Since that version has two types of recording going on simultaneously. That's why we use those." He looked at his mate. "Who checked that out for you?"
"Ah." He nodded. "Remind me to ask him why later."
"He said with my past history, I'd need it." Horatio snickered but Don and Stella both nodded at that. "That's what the black case at the bottom of the suitbag was."
"I see." He looked at his mate. "Did you ask or did he offer?"
"He ordered. Call him if you don't believe me."
"He's not talking to me. They're still mad about this exchange."
He rolled his eyes and took his mate's phone, dialing it. "Daddy," he said dryly, sitting down while the baby went to hug Mac's arm. "Dear," he said dryly when he got silence. "If you persist in pouting, I'm painting your study pink. Willow t-shirt pink." That got a groan. "So, Horatio wanted to know why you sent me with a wire." He handed the phone back. "It's his day off. I heard Calleigh giggling." He looked at Mac again, shrugging a bit. "We talked about the PR I had done for the sale so I wasn't going to insult anyone, how I was very gracious to him when I sent back the letter with his courier."
"The guy who gave you the car?" Stella asked.
"His employee. Apparently he saw me in Montreal when I was Vex and he said I'm the spitting image of his son at my age. Therefore he's spoiling me. He said he's going to continue because he's not like the other people and he doesn't want to keep me. He said it was a good job with the PR my attorney did for me. He's suggested I take Eric to a vision specialist down in Miami since it's going to be a while before Di gets out of the hospital and can take care of him. I asked him if his job would harm Horatio's career and he said no. I made a comment about the current vexing issue of the Mala Noches wanting me when he asked where my husband was; I said I had a guard because of them but he was on a case with you guys. He said they wanted me for me, handed me the envelope, told me again he was going to keep spoiling me rotten, and then walked off. I called Don, he told me that he was coming to pick me up, the officer joined me on my walk to the duck pond so he could do that and he figured out who I was by rumors," he said with a small grin for his husband. "He did say he wouldn't say anything and I told him he'd enjoy working with the lab when they came up. Then we saw some guy following us, he said he was a local PI. Then Don came."
"Uh-huh. Where was the officer during this meeting?" Don asked.
"Chatting up some hotdog selling woman." He shrugged. "Eric was sitting beside me on the bench."
"Fine," Don agreed.
"Don't you dare yell at him, Don. He didn't know why I was supposed to be protected. You didn't tell him it was a serious threat by the shock on his face."
Don snorted. "It won't save him, kid."
Xander glared at him. Don glared back. He smirked. "If you yell at him, you can't train him to know better and mold him in your esteemed image so you have someone you know can kick ass like you do while you're in Miami."
"That's mean. There's plenty of guys around here who can kick ass."
"Who're all heading to Miami to get a tan," Stella agreed. "Therefore, train him better, Don." She smirked at Xander. "Nice play."
"Thank you. Speed told Eric to do the same thing with Ryan once when he got annoying."
"Ryan's problem was that reporter following him around," Horatio noted dryly. "This man's wasn't."
"He also wasn't told why," Don admitted. "I told him he had to guard Xander, that he was an officer's spouse and that there were hints of trouble possibly coming for him. So I had him track him from the hotel to the park. I should've been more specific." He looked at Mac. "Go ahead and take that to AV so we can figure out who this new employee is." Mac handed it to Stella, who nodded and took it that way with Horatio. "You're in so much trouble," he warned.
"Why? Because I told him if something happened to take the baby instead of guarding me?"
"No, that I expected," he noted dryly. "Does Horatio know you have his backup?"
"Well, no, but he said he wasn't going to use it today when I asked him." He grinned at him. "I figured he would've gotten the point." Don shook his head. "Oops."
"And if it's not in plain sight, it's carrying concealed. Did you upgrade your license?" Xander nodded. "Is it valid in New York?"
"Unless and until we move up here. I checked and your officer in the Chief's office said that yes, they were good if you were only visiting for a few weeks. She did say that she hoped I wouldn't have to use it to protect myself, because I did tell her I had a death threat against me, and suggested that the department handling the case notify you guys that I was coming up here. I told her I had a friend up here in the PD who I had notified. She asked who, I said Danny to keep you out of trouble." He smirked at him. "That way you don't get another visit by the Chief."
"Thanks, he tends to call while I'm trying ta eat," Don said dryly. "Let's see the permit, kid."
Xander sighed and pulled out his wallet, handing it over. "See?"
"Yeah, I do," he admitted, handing it back. "Whose idea was that?"
"Horatio's." He put his wallet back and looked at his son. "I think you're a teddy bear, Mac."
"I noticed." He carefully got free and Don picked up the baby, letting him nap on his shoulder. "Baby evny?"
"Now and then. This way I don't have ta have any for a while longer." Eric lifted his head to look at him so he turned the baby's face, getting a grin. "Hi, Eric." He got an open- mouthed baby kiss and then the head got put back on his shoulder. "Thank you. Good boy." Horatio came back and he looked at him. "You know he's got your other gun, right?"
"I thought he might with the way he phrased his question this morning." He looked at his spouse, who handed it over for him to check. "Fine." He handed it back and Xander put it back on his back waistband. "You did upgrade your license, correct?"
"Yup," Don assured him. "I already checked." The baby patted him so he looked at him. "What? Am I too loud?" The baby cooed and put his head back down. "Here, you nap on daddy." He handed the baby back, wiping at the small spot of drool. "Teething still I guess."
"Apparently," Xander agreed, wiping his son's mouth on the tail of his shirt. "So, when's visiting hours?"
"They start at one," Horatio assured him. "We can see her then. Or you can and I'll visit later." Mac gave him an amused look. "For some reason," he said blandly, "I make her nervous."
Xander snickered. "Gee, I wonder why, dear. You didn't happen to *threaten* her or anything during the visitation negotiation or anything, right?" Horatio gave him a smug look. "That's what I thought. I'll call the social worker later to make sure everything's in order for us to head home in a few days. Was it a Miami case?"
"Miami citizen," he admitted. "I can take you to lunch." Xander got up and grabbed the diaper bag, kissing him on the cheek. "Are you sure?"
"I'm going back to the hotel for a quick nap with him, then we'll go visit. That way you're not bored." He smiled at the guys. "I'll see you guys later. Are we having dinner tonight?" Mac nodded. "Cool. Tell me where if I'm out with him." He walked out with the baby, Danny stopping him to tickle him. "He's been a good boy."
"I'm sure he has. He's saving up his energy to run Speed nuts when you bring him home." He grinned at him. "Going where?"
"Good. Call and tell us where you're going when you leave." Xander nodded and walked out catching a cab outside. Danny walked into Mac's office and shut the door, leaning on it with a smirk. "Horatio, your threatening nature is spreading." Horatio moaned and shook his head. "He's blocked out the static if we wanna hear. No one's got a working pager."
"The blocker was in the bag," Horatio said, going to listen to this. Stella was still in there so he got smirked at again. "What?"
"Did you have to buy back the gold castration sheers Xander got sent?"
"No. Not yet." The others came in and the tech smirked before replaying what he had weeded out. He had to turn the volume all the way up so they could hear the first part, and then Horatio moaned and shook his head at the later stuff. "I'm going to kill Frank for starting that rumor," he complained.
"Xander said it started after Speed died," Stella assured him. "It's from the way you avenged him and all that stuff."
Horatio looked at her. "Yes, but then Frank starts spreading it to the rookies as they come in. I don't harm people for touching my hummer or Xander."
"You just give 'em dirty looks that make 'em wet their pants," Don agreed happily, smirking at him. "I need a rep like yours, Caine." He patted him on the back. His phone rang so he stepped out of the lab to answer it. "Flack." He heard the panting and groaned. "Xander?" Horatio came out. "Where are you? Yeah, we'll be right there." He hung up and looked at the worried spouse. "Someone came up to him and tried him because he's your spouse. They're sorry, that's how he put it." Horatio headed for the door with Don right behind him. "I'm sure he and the baby are all right."
"Yes, but he said he's going to be worse than me if I ever get hurt. If they threatened me, he probably went off on them." He got into the passenger's seat, buckling up as Don started the car even before he had his door closed. "Was he all right?"
"Panting in anger it sounded like," he admitted, flipping on the lights as he pulled out. He made it to the hotel in record time, finding Xander calmly sipping a soda and smiling at his son, who was cooing at the guy in handcuffs on the floor at their feet. "What did you do?" he asked.
Xander looked at him, then at his mate. "He came up and said he was going to shoot me and my son for being, and I quote, Caine's pussy bitch, and then you. I rather...went off." He glared at the man on the floor, and he tried to inch backward. "Try it some more," he encouraged. The man whimpered when Horatio moved into his line of sight. "Now, tell the nice Lieutenant Caine what he wants to know and I don't get you again for trying to harm my son." The man looked at him, then at Caine, then at him again, before wiggling over to Caine and trying to hide behind him. He stood up with Eric in his arms, his soda now gone. Don took the bottle and tossed it, earning a smile. "I'm going to ice my knuckles upstairs. Did you need a statement, detective?" Then he smiled sweetly. "That way I can rant and scream in the bathroom while my son claps."
"You beat him up," Don said dryly.
"Yes he threatened my son and mate. That's what I do. That's why whoever hurts my mate will die." He stared into his eyes and Don took a step back. "I'm going to calm down now and pray to the Powers That Be that my son learns calm anger from my mate." He too his son upstairs, going up to rant and scream in the bathroom while he son watched some cartoons.
The hotel security officer coughed and handed over a tape. "Complete with sound, gentlemen. We thought it might be needed. Whenever you rehandcuff him, just give us back ours please."
Don nodded. "Sure thing." He looked him over, then into his eyes. "How long were you on the force?"
"Eight years and then I blew my knee. This pays well, has less paperwork, and I still do the same stuff, only without the gun most days. My wife likes it," he offered with a grin. "You?"
"Nearly fourteen now," he offered, shrugging a bit. "My dad made sure I went right in." That got a small grin and a nod. "Any witnesses?"
The guard pointed at an older lady sipping from a china tea cup. "She was stalking the boy to hit on him and the baby. She took the baby when Xander put him down in the chair, sir. He said to call him Xander," he noted at the other cop's look. He knew they were together, it was a cute family. "He put his son into the chair he was sitting in and shoved him away from your son, Mr. Caine, and then the other guy pulled the knife that's embedded in the reception desk's front panel. Xander broke his wrist and threw it at that so he couldn't use it again from what I saw on the tape. Then he beat the shit outta him."
"Yeah, the kid's a bit possessive about what's his," Don admitted dryly. "Let me get a car ta come get him and get someone here to look for any evidence and clean it up for you." That earned him a smile and a nod from the guard. So he called Mac. "It's me. One of the idiots threatened Xander while he was holding Eric. No, Xander told him he'd tell Horatio or he'd deal with him again so he's still trying to hide behind Caine. Thanks. No, but there's a knife and we've got a tape. Thanks, send a car." He hung up and looked at the suspect. "Horatio, I'd let you have him but you know the rules." He nodded and sat down, letting Don have their suspect. He bent down to look at him, pointing at Horatio. "Did you think New York wasn't just as scared of him as you guys are?" he hissed.
"Don," Horatio warned.
Don smirked back. "It's nice ta have a rep like that, Horatio. Calm down. He won't tell anyone. After all, who wants to be known as being beaten by Caine's boy in the circles he runs in?"
"It's still not funny." He glared at him. "What were you planning on doing to my husband?" The man started to cry. "That's what I thought you'd say." Danny and Mac came in, with a uniform behind them. "I'm going to check on Xander."
"Don't bitch yer boy out for this, Horatio," Danny warned. "He was protecting his son."
"I know. I wasn't going to yell, just help him calm down." He headed up to their room, finding Eric staring at Nick Jr. and Xander still in the bathroom. He tapped before walking in, looking his mate over. "Are you injured?" Xander shook his head. "Are you sure?" Xander nodded, giving him a 'hopeless' look. "Come here, Xander." He came over and hugged him, relaxing once he was in his arms. "Good job. You didn't get hurt and you protected yourself and the baby." Xander looked up at him. "Seriously, but you're not leaving my side ever again." Xander gave him a weak smile and went back to cuddling. He kissed him and Xander moaned, pressing against his body. "Take off your shirt, let me check for injuries." Xander nodded and took off his shirt, then his pants and boxers.
He turned around slowly, arms out, and Horatio grabbed him once his back was to him, undoing his pants and checking his boy's body to make sure he was still wet from earlier. He found it barely slick and decided it was good enough, bending him over the sink and having him so they could both calm down. Xander was biting his arm to stay quiet. "Let it out, Xander," he said as he worked himself deeper into his mate's body. Xander let out the noise, making him one happy alpha male. It was short, sweet, and good, what they both needed so Horatio cuddled him afterward, kissing him gently and holding him. "Shower, Xander," he said quietly. "Then join me and the baby." He looked himself over then decided he had to change too, grabbing his spare suit out of the closet. He noticed Danny was in there and nodded at him, but went back into the bathroom.
Danny shook his head, smiling at the baby. "Some day you'll find someone who makes you that insane too, little fella. Then your daddies will have ta sniff tails or somethin' ta make sure he's good enough for you, and then you'll be fine." The baby beamed at him so he ran a finger down his nose. "I should probably change you since ya stink, but I'll let daddy do that. Daddies, he needs changed," he called.
Horatio came out to grab their son, taking him back to Xander, who stripped him down to shower with him. He came back out doing up his shirt. "They're splashing in the water." He looked him over, then into his eyes. "Statement time?"
"No. Don said he had enough from downstairs and the tape. The guy was drug off pleading for mercy and Mac said he'd talk to him in a moment since we didn't have much ta do on this case." He punched him on the arm. "Some day, Eric will find himself a guy like you or his dad. Then you two can sit back and watch him being overprotective."
"I'd rather he had someone who spoiled him," Xander called from the bathroom. "Diaper?" Horatio got one and handed it over. "Tank you." He grinned at his mate. "Pants? Or should I go out in a towel." Horatio kissed him, making him moan and Eric giggle. "You'll get some of that some day, son." He grinned at him. "Pick out something for me to wear?"
Horatio nodded, going to pick out his mate's attire and dress him however he wanted.
Danny shook his head. "You think you could make me one like you two?" Danny teased.
Xander stuck his head out of the bathroom. "According to half the station, you have your own guy who'd beat anyone senseless if they touched you." Danny blushed and shook his head. So Xander nodded. "Yeah, they do say that."
"Fuck," he muttered, shaking his head. "Not like that between us."
"I'd hope not," Don called. "Let me in." Horatio let him in and handed Xander his outfit. "Thanks." He looked at Horatio, then at Xander, then at the baby, who was wandering toward him in just a diaper. "Were you messy and sweaty too?"
"No, just messy," Xander said, closing the bathroom door so he could change. "I'll be right out. Am I under arrest?"
"No. He's refusing to file charges against you. Someone unwisely asked him and he pissed himself, literally." He looked at Horatio, who shrugged. "You good?"
"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" Eric smiled at him so he picked him up. "There, is that what you wanted?"
The baby patted his cheek and smiled. "Pa?"
"No, he's not up here. You'll see him in a few days, Eric." That got a mischievous grin. "I bet you learned that off your grandfather, didn't you?" The baby cackled and hugged him around the neck. "I love you too." He patted him on the back. "Let's figure out what you're wearing." Xander came out and got him clothes, handing them over. "We're dressing him like you today?"
"Of course," he agreed with a grin. "Baby pack and all." He looked at Don. "I'm sorry I had to mess up the lobby."
"We're not and the hotel said it was a good thing you're such a good aim." He patted him on the back. "We going to see Di?" Xander nodded and sat down to put on his sneakers, then get Eric some shoes as well. Xander was in all blue, his shirt the color of Don's eyes and his pants the color of Horatio's. He looked at Horatio, who smirked at him. "I hope you're with him today?" Especially since the clothes were some of the stuff from the design show.
"I probably should be." He finished dressing the wiggling little boy, who squealed when he saw the backpack. Xander stood up and shimmied into it, letting Horatio put the baby in and secure the last few straps. Xander grabbed his wallet and gun. Horatio grabbed his wallet and gun, and they both grabbed keys, following the cops out.
Danny just shook his head. Some days, Xander was like a younger Horatio and some days he was worse.
Diana smiled at her son as he toddled in by himself. "Baby," she cooed. He beamed and tried to climb up so she reached down to grab him, pulling him into her lap. "How have you been? Have you enjoyed playing with the daddy? Did he take you swimming again?" she cooed, poking him on the belly. He grinned and covered it, then beamed at the doorway. She smirked at Xander. "At least you dress in my clothes since my son's dressed like a Gap ad." Horatio and Don walked in as well, making her smile. "Wow, all for me?" They nodded, coming closer. "Thank you for finding him, Xander."
"Not an issue, Di. You know I'll always take my son if you need me to. All you have to do is let me know." He kissed her on the head, then patted his son when he reached up. "Talk to the mommy. Tell her about the dog you saw earlier in the park." The baby babbled at his mother, waving his arms and bouncing.
She smiled. "I'm glad you saw the doggy, Eric. Doggies are good for you to play with." She smoothed down his hair. "You're such a good boy." She looked at Horatio. "Has he been a bother?"
"No. He's been charming and decent the whole time. Did you have anyone look at his left eye?"
"His pediatrician was going to refer us but it never happened." She looked at Xander. "They're saying it's going to be a month."
He nodded. "Okay. I can arrange it." She smiled at that. "Hey, it's not like Willow's going to have anything to do for the next few weeks. Plus she needs the practice since she's stuffed up too."
"Excuse me? The bouncy, squealy one?" Don asked. Xander sighed and nodded. "Wow. By who?"
"She married Ryan."
"Oooooh," he said, smirking a bit. "So Mac'll get her when they come up?" Horatio nodded, smirking a bit. "Good!" Xander laughed at that. "So, they're going back to Miami in a few days, Di. Any idea who trashed your place since that guy says he didn't and he needs a cane ta walk? I doubt he could've turned your coffee table. Much less the sofa."
"Not a clue," she sighed, shifting some. The baby curled up on her stomach, making her smile and pat his back. "You nap if you need it. I'm sure you had a big morning."
Xander nodded. "There was some old lady in the hotel who wanted to adopt us." She smiled at that. "I need his medical stuff and official authorization to treat, Di."
"Of course. Do you have the papers drawn up?" Xander handed over the fax he had gotten that morning from his attorney. "That was quick."
"The same guy who did the visitation agreement," he admitted, handing her a pen. She smiled and read it, then signed it and filled in the information on the other sheet. "Thank you." He took it back and put the papers into Horatio's jacket pocket. "You have better pockets than I do and I have no doubt the social worker will be tracking you down later." He snuck a kiss with a grin, making Eric giggle again. "He likes that."
"He does, but I still can't think smutty thoughts with him in my office." She looked at Horatio. "I wouldn't be nearly as understanding as you've been, Horatio."
He shrugged a bit. "Xander is my family. The rest of my family loves Xander as well. Eric is his son, that makes him mine." She relaxed and nodded, smiling at him. "You don't have to worry that he's an imposition, Diana. I have nothing against your son or you. You two were over long ago." She nodded, smirking just a bit. "Now, are you coming to Miami?"
"I might. I've been thinking about it. My team up here can run this office and Miami is the place to go for clubbing clothes and clubbing. Most of our clubs up here are a different sort, meant to show off the celebrities. Yours are more for having fun and dancing, even badly." He smirked a bit and nodded. "You sure you could stand me?"
"Diana, I'm the one with the low self esteem, learn your spot," Xander noted dryly. "If he had minded, he would've said something. Horatio has no problem telling you when you're bugging him or upsetting him. Even me when I'm being annoying. Understood?" She nodded, swallowing a bit at that. "Good. Now, get with the program." She smiled and nodded, relaxing again. "A month?" She nodded. "I can handle that. Stella took pictures of his birthday party and we'll do one of Christmas if you're not out yet. Good enough?" She smiled and nodded. "Good." He kissed her on the cheek. "Play with your son." He took Horatio's arm. "We're going to find you something cute to brighten up this gloom. We'll be right back."
"Thank you, guys." She smiled at Don, then down at her son. "You're napping again?" she asked, patting him on the back. "Poor baby. Did the doggie wear you out? You never sleep like this at home."
"He sleeps like that all the time around Xander," Don offered, coming over to sit next to her. "Maybe he's got that protective instinct down and he wants ta protect you but the daddies are stronger so he lets them or somethin'." He shrugged and grinned at her. "So, mold?"
"Yeah, serious mold. I don't know from where yet, but someone's got to find out." She stroked the baby's back. "So, he hasn't been a problem at all?"
"No. He giggles when those two kiss but otherwise he's been wonderful. He slept through the first auction and today they went to the park. One of the normal members of the Xander fanclub showed up but they weren't odd in the head at all. Just the employee of some old guy who said Xander looks just like his son so he was pulling some strings for him. He's the one who told us about the mold and got the social worker to agree that Xander could take him back to Miami, and all that."
She nodded. "I had some guy in here earlier about that." She looked at her son, then at him, letting her voice get quieter. "Don, I'm scared he'll take Eric and not let me see him."
He kissed her on the cheek. "You're being dumb. You're not that blonde." She smacked him on the shoulder so he smirked a bit. "The only reason they'd take him from you was if you're a bad mother. Horatio and Xander agreed on this during the last visitation." She nodded, looking more happy now. Still not greatly happy with it but happier. "Besides, this'll give Horatio an excuse to get out of work early some days. And hey, he can watch Xander swim." She nodded, smirking a bit again. The duo came back, showing off the balloons they had bought for her room. "Those're bright and cheery."
"And hey, none say 'sorry you're dead' like the one Delko got Ryan when we had to pull the bomb out of his chest."
"Bomb in his chest?" she asked.
Horatio nodded. "They wanted samples of Xander's sweat and to figure out how he drew people. Ryan and Eric Delko are working on that as private research and they attached an explosive device to his ribcage while we were up here for the show. We found it the day we got back and got him free of it by that night."
"Hence me skipping the auction today that's selling the house in Dubai." He frowned and pulled out his phone, checking for messages. "Damn." He listened then smirked. "House went, two things didn't," he reported. "One's jewelry. One's a horse." Horatio blinked at that so he shrugged. "I don't know." He dialed his auctioneer back. "Sorry I missed you earlier, Cheline. What's this about a horse?" He groaned and rubbed his forehead. "Why would I care?" he moaned. He nodded. "Sure, sell them at whatever price you can. What piece of jewelry?" He blinked a few times. "I didn't see that on the invoice. Yeah, this is Xander. What.... Huh?" he asked when she described it. "That wasn't mine. No, it wasn't mine. I don't remember it being on there. Please, check. Yes." He looked at Horatio. "Sapphire pin?" He shrugged, he hadn't been paying attention to that. So he looked at Don, who shrugged too. His auctioneer came back. "Are you *sure*? Was it in that estate?" He turned and hit his forehead on the window. "Who sent it?" He moaned. "Thank you. Yes, please sell the horse and the track. I don't need a horse track. Thank you." He hung up and hit his head again. "They sent it directly to Christies. The horse track was another late addition present. Apparently they thought I needed a thoroughbred mare and a horse track."
Horatio came over and hugged him. "It will stop," he reminded him quietly. "I swear it will stop some day."
Xander looked back at him. "Promise?" He nodded, letting him cuddle in. "I don't mind horses but really!"
"She got a good record?" Don asked. Xander shrugged. "Maybe there's a horse sale."
"She said she's checking into that but the sapphire piece was too big and chunky so no one wanted it. So we still have a pin unless we give it to someone."
"And a horse," Don joked.
"And a horse and a horse track," Xander agreed, looking over at him. "Not helping, big brother." He went back to his cuddle, looking into his mate's eyes. "Why me?"
"You're loved and desired by many," he said calmly, kissing him gently. "That's all this is."
Horatio nodded. "It is that as well." He took another kiss and Xander moaned, wiggling closer. They had to break for air but then started again, earning a giggle from the baby but they didn't really hear him.
"Jesus, guys, go back to the hotel and do that," Don complained.
"I think that's very hot," Diana said, smiling at him. "I'd offer but I'd start coughing soon." He laughed, shaking his head. "Who's joking? You obviously need better sex more often."
"I've got ways around that," he reminded her smugly. "As do you."
"She left," she pouted.
"I heard, what did you do to Beatrice?"
She wobbled, then shrugged. "Treated her like the mommy." She shrugged again, grinning just the slightest bit. Horatio moaned and she looked back. Xander had both hands in Horatio's hair and Horatio was pulling his boy closer so they could rub together through their clothes. "Guys, my blood pressure can't raise or else I'll cough," she complained. "Come back and do that the day I get out." She handed him the baby and threw her pillow at them, hitting Horatio on the back. He looked back at her. "Thank you for stopping that. I personally think it's hot as hell to watch you two go at it, but I'm not supposed to have my blood pressure raised. Can I have my pillow back?" Xander picked it up and tossed it back, then stole a very quick kiss with a smirk and a grin for his mate. Horatio smirked back. "Thank you. So, Xander, how does it feel to ride in the hummer on his lap?" she teased.
"He won't drive while I'm doing anything sexual. He claims he'd crash." He came over to kiss her on the forehead. "Some day you'll have someone who makes you sweat too," he said with a bright grin. "And they'll tie you down and fuck you until you either love them or beg for mercy and them to go away until you're not sore." She blushed but giggled, bringing the nurse running. "Sorry, dirty joke."
The nurse scowled. "She doesn't need jokes! She needs rest!" She looked at the baby. "He shouldn't be on the bed." She started to go for the baby and Xander casually caught her by the throat.
"Xander," Horatio warned. "She's not going to harm your son." Xander let her go and stared at her until she left. "Thank you."
"He's still on edge from where someone tried ta kill him and Eric earlier for Horatio being a good cop," Don told her. He looked at the security guard, pulling out his badge. "The nurse went for his son."
"Ah. She said he tried to kill her."
"No, that was a warning," Xander assured him. "Someone tried to come up and kill us earlier today for who I'm married to."
"I'm sorry about that, sir, was it reported?" Don nodded. "Good. Now, the nurse said the baby can get sick from her?"
"I doubt it," Di told him dryly. "Considering the doctor said I couldn't pass this on when he came in without a mask last night."
"That's fine then. I'll tell her it was a big misunderstanding and you thought she was a threat to your son, sir." He walked out, going to talk to the nurse, who huffed off. He did his report for his boss and everything was good again in his world.
Xander walked into the tryouts a few weeks later with the baby in his carrier. The coach gave him a dirty look. "You're the one who said it's closed. His mother's got moldy lungs." He sat the carrier on the bleachers, handed his son a bottle, checked to make sure he couldn't wiggle free, then went to change. He came out and coughed when he found people around his son. "He's going to sleep." That got some knowing grins. "He sleeps everywhere. Even in the mall. He can sleep through this too." He leaned against the wall to stretch, glancing over at his son, who beamed at him. He strolled over, unconsciously strutting. "You, my son, will nap for the daddy and in a few hours we'll let Horatio make us a nummy dinner. Good for you?" His son babbled and flailed a bit, then went back to his bottle when his daddy smiled at him. "When you're two more years older, we'll teach you how to swim too." He kissed him on the head and sat down, listening to the coach's orders. "What position am I going in?"
"Second. If he screams, he's going into the office."
Xander looked at his son, then at him. "He didn't scream when we had to shoot someone who was trying to kill us a few nights back, coach. The starting pistol isn't anything compared to that."
"Fine." He looked the kid over. "How's your head?"
"I'll make it through tryouts."
"Good." He looked at the team again. "That's Harris, he wants on so he can train and see if he's got what it takes. He's good, but don't cut him any slack." They all nodded and he nodded at the starting blocks. "Let's go." He sat down, looking at the happily napping baby, then at his swimmers. "Go!" he shouted, using the starting pistol. The baby let out a snore and tried to wiggle onto his side. "Wow."
"Definitely," Xander agreed, watching the guys swim. "Is the one in lane six your other distance guy?" The coach nodded. "Cool. Which stroke am I starting on?"
"Breast." Xander nodded and got up, swinging his arms. He noticed the baby was more alert. "You might wanna calm him down."
"Eric, daddy's gotta go swim. You go back to sleep. I'm just gonna be in the pool, baby." He kissed him on the forehead and moved down to take his spot since they were doing this relay style. The only spot was behind the distance guy, and the coach smirked at that. He shrugged, he knew he was fast. The first guy touched and his next point took off. His guy touched nearly last and he took off, doing his best sprints to date. Four laps. That's all he had to do this time was four laps. He made the first turn and sped up even more. The second turn. He heard the buzzer and glanced over between strokes. The coach motioned him to go on so he did. Third turn and then back for one last lap. He hit the wall and climbed out once the guy had jumped over his head. "Buzzer test?"
The coach nodded. "Yeah, sometimes you've got to." He walked over to him. "Is your shoulder bothering you?"
"No, my lower back. Why? Was I that slow?"
"No, just wondering. No sex last night?" Xander grimaced and shook his head. "You weren't up to full potential. Next laps, I want you to do breast stroke again, then we'll do distance swimming later, kid. This time, really try." Xander nodded and stretched some more, working out the pains in his back. He let his mind drop into the right spot, forgetting the rest of them and the expectations, then dove in when his person touched the wall. This time, it felt more natural. He reminded himself, only four laps. He only did four laps this time. First turn and going strong. Second and getting there, his body starting to burn in that comfortable way. Third and it was good. Turn and head back, putting on that extra burst of last minute speed that won races. He touched the wall and looked up at the coach. "Did I fuck up?"
"No, not in the least. The baby threw up."
"Wonderful." He got out and walked over there, taking out a diaper wipe to clean him up. "What? You didn't eat my cooking, you shouldn't have to throw up, son." He kissed him on the forehead and checked his forehead, then the tips of his ears. "You still okay?" The baby scowled so he kissed him. Then he shifted him in the car seat. "I know you like to sleep on your side but you can't do that in the car seat. You'll strangle yourself." He smoothed down the hair. "Okay? We understood?" The baby smiled and took his bottle back, going to sleep. He sat down beside him, looking at the coach. "He compressed while trying to roll over."
"I hear it happens. You wanna go for distance?"
"Sure. Crawl?" He kissed the baby on the head and walked back over, swinging his arms to make sure he had good blood flow in them. "Block or dead start?"
"Block. Ten laps." Xander nodded and took his position, giving the other guy a friendly grin. He used the starting pistol, watching the kids who did distance going. He didn't have anyone to do the longest race and this kid could.... He heard the baby sniffle and looked over there. "It's gonna be a few minutes, kid." The baby settled down, much to the amusement of the others. "He's got a lot of uncles." He saw one sneaking in and raised an eyebrow. "Tryouts are closed, Mr. Wolfe."
"I came to get the baby." He watched Xander outpace the other guy and nodded, grabbing the carrier and diaper bag, getting a coo. "Hi, Eric. It's Ryan. Wanna go see the other daddy?" The baby babbled and kicked. "Good, tell Xander it was me before he can freak." He left, going back to the station. Everyone had forgotten today was tryouts until Frank had asked who was watching the baby during them. He walked out to the hummer, seeing the amused look on the security guard's face. "An officer's spouse is trying out so we're babysitting as a favor." He got the baby strapped in and took off.
Xander touched the wall and looked up at the scowl. "What? One too short?"
"One too many, Harris, and your time is still better." He nodded so the kid got out, following him over. "Good times, even when you're sore. Before you ask, Wolfe came to get the baby."
"Oh, okay. Why?"
"Not a clue. Told him he was going to see his other father."
"That's cool." Xander sat down with his towel, drying off his hair. "So, am I making the cut?"
"Probably. That'll be announced tomorrow after diving tryouts. For now, get that knot worked out of your back."
"Horatio can do that later," he promised. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, kid, improve your times just a bit more." He showed them to him and Xander looked happy. "You're happy with that?"
"It's faster than it was a month ago. I didn't expect to beat the school record today, coach. I am realistic."
"Good point." He smirked at him. "Yes, I think you will make the team. No more bringing the baby to practice. The school has a daycare."
"Which is full, expensive, and full of people I'd have to do a background check on," he noted dryly. "His mother's getting out of the hospital in two weeks. We think we'll be sending him back within the month. She got some funky mold infection and it gave her a high fever and pneumonia." He shrugged and winced. "Ow. Tension."
"Yeah, which your mate should've dealt with for you."
"Long case yesterday. He came in and went to bed."
"Oh. Sorry, kid."
"They happen. I guess." He looked at the others, motioning them over.
"Guys, for those who don't realize, this is Xander Harris." Xander waved. "The baby's not a regular fixture, he's in for visitation while his mother's ill."
"My son's adorable but he loves his mommy more than me." That got some laughs. "Unfortunately she's ill at the moment, and then I'll go back to visitation." He yawned and looked at the coach. "Any other instructions, coach?"
"Yeah, have Delko watch you tonight."
"Can't. He's chasing down a guy who kidnaped his kids."
"Oh." He blinked at that. "That's gotta take priority," he agreed. "Fine. Did he go over it with you?" Xander nodded. "Good. Try your best. That's all we can ask of you, kid." He stood up. "Good first day back today, guys. Some of you didn't suck as badly as you could have. It's clear some of you ate a lot over the holidays." He looked at Xander.
"Don't look at me, Eric put me on a proper diet and I bulked up. I've been going back down."
"Good." He looked at them again. "Results will be out tomorrow after dive team practice. Go shower and change, then leave. No personal practices tonight." They nodded and even Xander headed that way. He shook his head. The kid was going to be looked at oddly. He didn't have an open spot so someone was going to have to leave and the kid's scores put him in the middle of the pack this time. Xander came out first, pulling on his shirt. "You did good."
"Thank you. I don't mind being the alternate, coach," he said quietly. "Two of your guys are seriously depressed in there. One's staring at his straight razor." He grabbed his bookbag and walked out, leaving it in his hands. His car was still there so apparently the CSI babysitting fairy had taken the company car. He found his cell in there with two messages and listened to them first, smirking at one. "Of course Horatio forgot you had the baby, Ryan." He started the car and headed for the crime scene, giving Yelina a look when he got there. "The babysitting fairy stole my son?"
"Yes, he's sleeping in the hummer," she agreed, pointing at it.
"He was perfectly fine where he was," he noted dryly, going to get his son, who was napping. "Hey, Eric." His son blinked at him and smiled. "Hi. Wanna go home?" The baby let out a tired coo. "Yeah, you can nap there." He got the carseat undone and into his car, coming back for the diaper bag and putting that next to his son. Then he turned on the a/c so his son wouldn't roast. It was hot out here today. He beeped before taking off, making Ryan smirk at him. He'd yell at him tomorrow. He picked up stuff for dinner and got it and the baby inside, having to come back for the carseat. He saw Ray Sr. lurking and nodded, making him nod and head inside once Xander got the car locked again. He found his son on the couch, asleep, and went in to deal with dinner.
"Are you supposed to cook?"
"Horatio showed me how to make this one and he said I did it okay the last time."
"Oh, that's good." He looked back at the baby. "Is he all right? He feels warm."
"Ryan had to leave him in the hummer for a few minutes. Give him ten more to cool down from that and then I'll check." That got a nod and Xander lifted out the pork chops. "Are you staying for dinner?"
"Not that I know of. I was bored. They're still deciding if I'm coming back or not."
"I guess that happens." Someone pounded on the door. "Get that for me?" He dropped the pork chops into the pan, letting them brown. He heard the loud bang and turned off the heat, grabbing the only weapons in the kitchen, a very sharp knife. He found Ray on the floor bleeding. Someone standing over him. "Out of my fucking house, asshole," he ordered.
"I've got a gun," he sneered.
Xander threw the knife, making him duck, and came up with Ray's gun since he was smarter than the guy thought. "And now so do I." He pulled out his cell, calling his mate. "Honey, there's a blond man, approximately six foot tall, with a luger pointed at me in our doorway and your brother's bleeding on the floor. Might I get someone here?" he asked politely. "No, he'll live. He's not bleeding that hard, Horatio. Thank you." He hung up and looked at Ray, then at him. "You've got two choices."
"I stay he still dies."
"And I know someone who can heal. Think she won't bring him back?" The man looked stunned and he heard sirens. So Xander smirked. "Up to you, dear." The man took off and he got to work pressing on Ray's wounds. "Hi." Ray moaned at him. "Of course you'll live. Your son still has to kill you." He looked over at the officers responding. "Blond man took off to the right, around the house toward the beach. The shot hit his lower shoulder area." The paramedic pushed past the cops and one took off to see if they could find the suspect. "Didn't get a chance to put direct pressure on for a few minutes."
"That's fine, sir. Not dying is always the better option." He took over for Xander and Xander backed up, going to clean his hands in the kitchen and check on his son, who was sleeping and cooled off. He came back and found them moving Ray. "Who should we call?"
"I've got it. Where are you sending him?"
"Thank you. I'll let his family know." They nodded and Xander pulled out his phone, calling Ray Jr.'s. "Don't freak, just stop whatever you're doing." The kid said he turned off the microwave. "Your father was just shot, it's not a fatal wound. He's headed to General. No, I'm calling you first. I figure Horatio called your mother. General. Yeah. Sure, come take my car." He hung up, those two didn't live that far away. He nodded at Eric as he came in. "Hi. Find the kid?" he asked hopefully.
"Earlier this morning," he said with a small grin. "So, what happened? And why was Ray here?"
"He said he was bored." He shrugged. "I was in the kitchen, the little guy was sleeping here. Someone knocked on the door. I was cooking so he went to answer that. I heard the shot, turned off the stove, grabbed a knife. Came out to check. Ray was shot approximately here," he said, pointing at his own shoulder to show it. "He was on the floor. The guy still had his gun on him. He laughed because I had a knife so I threw it at him, which gave me enough time to grab Ray's gun and we had a standoff until the sirens got loud." The patrols brought someone back and he nodded. "Him or someone just like him." That got a nod and they drug him off. He looked at Eric again. "Cops got here, I gave them the bare description and which way he had run. Paramedics came, I turned Ray over to them, then I went to wash my hands."
"Okay." He came closer. "How were tryouts?"
"One guy was staring at his straight razor. The coach thinks I'm a bit slow today but I was still pretty good according to him."
"Then you made the team." He grinned.
"I offered to take an alternate place so he wouldn't have to deal with a suicidal athlete."
"That's fine. You're that sorta guy," he agreed. "He was where?"
"Doorway, barely inside."
"Good deal." He went to search, bagging the knife. "Speed's gonna yell that you used one of the knives he gave you as a weapon."
"Let him. It's not like I keep a gun in the kitchen."
"True, we'd worry if you did." He heard a moan and looked over. "What's up?"
"Baby." He sat him up, looking at the blinking eyes. "What's wrong?" The baby threw up on him. "Okay, that's two. That means it's time to call someone once we get you cleaned up." He walked him back to his bathroom, going to give him a quick sink bath and new clothes. Then he came out and called the pediatrician. "Hi, it's Xander Harris. Yup. Throwing up pale stuff that looks like gravy. He had some milk while I was trying out. No, he was in the stands taking a nap. He threw up there, but he was trying to wiggle onto his side so I thought it was stomach compression. Then he just now did it. He did spend about ten minutes in a warm car at a crime scene since the babysitting fairy came and stole him out of the pool area. No, he didn't drink the pool water." He put his lips against the baby's forehead. "No, he's cool to the touch. Yeah. Thank you." He got up and grabbed clean clothes. "Has Ray Jr. gotten here yet?" he called as he put them on.
"No. Your car's still here."
Xander came out with the backpack system and the diaper bag. "That's fine. I'm taking him to the ER just in case." He headed out, putting Eric in the back and watching Ray Jr. as his cab pulled up. "Come on."
"You're going to see dad?"
"No, the baby's puking gravy looking stuff." He shrugged and got in to drive. "Tell Horatio it's nothing," he called. "Food's still on the counter, including half-cooked pork chops."
"Sure," Eric called back, shaking his head and getting back to work. Xander knew he couldn't do anything in the kitchen. It was against protocol.
Horatio looked up as the boys were found, smirking at them. "Is Eric all right?"
"Yeah, they said it was the milk. His belly hated it. How's Ray?"
"Good. He'll be fine. Waiting didn't harm it any, Xander. Good job." He kissed him on the forehead, then hugged Ray Jr. "Did you want to see him?" He nodded so they walked that way, him taking the baby. "Why didn't you like the milk?"
"We switched to a different milk on him. The caf only had skim and that other stuff."
"Ah. So we went with the soy milk?" Xander nodded. "Good. I'll remember that."
"The doc suggested we get him tested for a soy allergy. He also said he might continue to puke for a few hours more," he offered, handing over a towel so he wouldn't have to explain why his suit had baby puke to the dry cleaner. They got onto the elevator and he hugged Ray. "It's all right."
"I know it is. Mom would've screamed at someone if he wasn't."
"She did that earlier," Horatio noted. "They didn't want to give her any information in the OR." He looked at their son, smiling at him. "Eric, did you have a good day?" The baby cooed quietly and sucked on his finger. "I know, it's been a long day."
"I was starting to make dinner when the guy so rudely interrupted."
"Eric called and said you had." He looked at him.
"The dish you taught me," he defended.
"Fine. Did you remember to turn off the stove?"
"Right before I grabbed a knife. Eric was very amused that I didn't keep a gun in the kitchen." They came off the elevator and into a shouting match. "Hey!" he yelled. "People are trying to rest and heal, they can't do that when you're screaming. Take it into the stairwell!" He walked past them, heading for where he could hear Yelina laughing. He walked their son in and waved. "Baby puked gravy looking stuff."
"Bad milk?" Xander nodded. "The poor thing." She took Eric and the towel. "There, you rest on me, Eric," she sighed. He snuggled into her chest, like he liked to do, and fell asleep sucking on his finger. "Do they know why?"
"The soy milk I gave him earlier didn't agree with his stomach. They want to do a test." He looked at Ray. "So, who was that guy?"
"Peter Rodriguez. An old friend." He looked at his brother. "I didn't mean to have your house shot."
"You didn't. The only bullet was in you." Ray snorted, then groaned and held his shoulder. "No pain killers?"
"No. If the kid can do it, so can I."
Xander snorted. "I was once staked with my own stake, Ray. They give me funny looks because I don't take many pain killers." He took his son back, earning a swat and Yelina stealing him. "Hey, my son! That's why he goes for the breast snuggling of the dangerous women!" She laughed and had to hand the baby off, so he got his son back and an amused look from the Caine brothers. "You didn't tell him about some of my exes, dear?" he asked with a grin for his mate.
"No, I'm trying to forget them."
"I've heard some and I'm still wondering why the bad guys love you and the bad girls want to kill you," Ray Jr. noted dryly, patting his mother on the back. "I would've been up earlier but I was sitting with Xander."
"That's fine, son. I can agree with that," Ray Sr. said quietly. "It probably kept him from pouncing someone."
"No, he was pretty calm today."
Xander looked at Horatio. "Can I trade backrubs later? I've got a knot in my lower back again and it slowed me down."
"How were tryouts?" Horatio asked.
"Good. Not my best time ever but faster than I was the last time he watched me. I won't know where I place until tomorrow after dive tryouts. He did tell me I probably made it." That got a smile. "Since one guy was looking suicidal I offered to take an alternate spot for now."
"The coach hopefully saw through that," Ray Sr. complained
"Why? I'm new to this. Those guys are better than me if only because they've had longer training. I may not be able to get much faster and this way he can figure that out before the first match in a month and a half." He looked at Yelina. "I figure you guys could split up meets so Horatio didn't get into trouble taking off all that time."
"We'll figure that out among us," she agreed, patting him on the cheek. "Now, hand back the baby." He shook his head so she stole him again. Eric grinned before snuggling back in. "He doesn't do this to Alexx?" Horatio shook his head, smirking at her.
"Only you and Calliegh so far, mom," Ray Jr. said with a smirk.
"There are days when you look just like your uncle," she complained, frowning at him. He smirked more. "Or your uncle's husband." Xander giggled at that. She got a kiss on the cheek from the boys. "We should go."
"You can stay," Ray Sr. promised. "That way Horatio can eat dinner. You can switch out later if you want to."
"We can do that too," Horatio agreed. "Steal the baby back, Xander, and let's go."
Xander looked at him, then at Ray Jr, handing over his car keys. "Make sure I get it back by in the morning." That got a nod so he stole the baby back, replacing him with a kiss on her cheek and followed him out. "Shit, car seat." Horatio held up his set of keys. "Oh, good. Thank you."
"Welcome. I figured you had forgotten about that." He looked back at his spouse, he was tired. "Same spot?" Xander nodded. "I'll work on it later, after I see how bad the kitchen is." Xander frowned a bit. "You had to leave food out."
"I did and it's pork chops. I told Eric."
"He couldn't put them up, Xander. Not while he's working on the crime scene." He got the baby seat out of the car and relocked it, going to put it in the hummer and take his boys home. He found Speed in the kitchen and looked at him. "Party?" he asked dryly.
"No. Checking on the baby." He looked at his grandson, who gave him a sleepy smile. "You need a bath, little guy." He patted him on the head and got back to work. "There's food cooking, it's gonna be about an hour. Get him ready for bed and down." He watched Xander head that way and looked at Horatio. "How's your brother?"
"Good." He watched his mate go, then nodded that way, getting a smirk. "It's only fair." He headed after them, taking over nighttime duties this time. Xander did the majority of care for the baby and he didn't mind doing more. He'd have to make him see that. He found Xander nearly asleep and took the baby from him, stopping the bath water from rising any higher. "Go nap on the couch," he whispered in the pink ear. Xander nodded and stumbled that way, leaving him and the baby. He looked down at the shit-eating grin and smiled back. "Yes, it's me again." He tested the water then put the baby into it, getting out of the way of the first splash. So instead he took off his jacket and shirt, getting back down to help him play and get clean. Eric liked the foaming soap a lot. When the baby was done playing and had finally let him do his hair, he got him out and dried off, then dressed and into his crib, smoothing down the soft hair with a smile. "You nap, Eric. I'm going to take care of the daddy." Eric giggled. "I know, he needs it. He needs a backrub." He left him there, the door partially open, and headed back down to the living room. "Calleigh working late?"
"Her mother wanted to see her." He looked at his son. "He does need a backrub." Horatio nodded and said something in Xander's ear, getting a moan and him flipping onto his stomach. "Want me to quit fixing dinner?"
"No, it's fine." He worked on his mate's back for him, making him limp and sleepy long before he was done. The knots were gone and Xander was one limp boy. He left him there, just covering him for now. Xander would come to bed when he woke up in the middle of the night. He walked into the kitchen, taking the plate Speed held out to him. He grabbed the baby monitor and a beer, taking them both out onto the porch, letting Speed get the door behind him. "You only came over to cook?" he asked.
"No. I wanted to talk." He sat down, watching the ocean, then looked at Horatio. "Are we pushing Xander too hard?"
"No. I barely push him except when he asks to be pushed. You don't really push him except in school." He ate another bite. "Why?"
Speed dug into his dinner. "I feel like I'm pushing him and that he's doing the college thing to humor me."
"He is," Horatio assured him. Speed grimaced at that. "But that is something that he understands why you get pushy. He understands that he needs it for a better career later and that it's got benefits, but he still loathes school." Speed nodded at that. "He's able to strike a balance. Personally, I think you were just pushy enough once we got him back. The first time you sent him down here, that was pushy." He ate another bite at the smirk.
"I couldn't figure out how to do that one more subtly. Aiden and I talked about it and I started telling him more about my friends, but he was busy with the ascension stuff so he may not have listened." He cleared his throat. "I got a call earlier from Cordelia."
"Ah. The reason for the feeling?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Because she called me pushy and said she should know. She was of the bitch cheerleader patrol." He ate another bite then leaned back again, getting comfortable. "She's coming down over spring break to talk to him."
"Should we take a sudden vacation?"
"No, hopefully not. She won't be scared of you. She might even laugh at you for trying to be scary. She's working with Angel." Horatio growled at that name. "Ah. Did he tell you why he hates him that much?"
"Some. Angel sounded jealous to me, but then he lost his soul and stalked him for a bit."
"Angelus took Giles once. Xander rescued him. Xander should've been in the hospital that night but Willow took care of him and neither one will say a word about that night. They've got journals somewhere. Giles made them start them as an addendum to Buffy's Chronicle. He says he has no knowledge of them."
"Which means either Willow memory charmed them or they really don't want to let anyone know."
"I'm betting the second, but I don't know for sure," Speed agreed. "This is one of those 'take your pick' moments. I want to see Xander's personally, and I know you would. I also know if you ask, he'll tell you."
"Probably," Horatio agreed.
"No probably about it," Speed assured him.
"He has refused to talk about that time in the past," he said quietly. "I agreed that he could. I have things I don't talk about with him."
"Point." He sighed and shook his head. "I wanna know why he's so traumatized by school. Was it his parents? His school itself? I'm not sure if this is something that Willow knows. He said his first day he was worried that either his former principal was coming back to haunt him or the hellmouth was going to open under his classroom."
"That would be bad," Horatio agreed, finishing his dinner. "Is there one nearby?"
"It's been inactive but we have a place that could open down on one of the smaller keys." He smirked a bit. "I asked Rupert that when I sent Xander down here." That got a smile. "Hey, I wanted to keep my boy safe."
"Yes, but sometimes we can't always do that, and sometimes we do have to back off," Horatio reminded him gently. "I'm sure if it was trauma induced, we'd know." That got a nod. "He would tell us, Speed. I know he would."
Speed looked inside, then back at him. "He's just so fragile sometimes."
"And then he does something stupid, like throwing a knife at the gunman today so he could get Ray's gun."
"Why was Ray carrying a gun?"
"I do not know. That is a question to ask him," he said blandly. Ray wasn't presently licensed so he shouldn't have had one on him. "Xander said you'd forgive him for using one of the knives since he didn't keep a gun in the kitchen."
"Ever," Horatio assured him.
Speed grinned at him. "If you say so." He finished his dinner. "Thanks, H."
"Not a problem, Speed. It's part of a supervisor and a friend's job. How are you things with Calleigh?"
"We're having a small argument but nothing that's affecting our work. She's being odd thanks to her dad starting to drink again. I've told her she can come to me and she won't."
"I'll talk with her tomorrow."
"I was going to see if she'd like to talk to Xander. He's been there too."
Horatio nodded. "As have I." Speed looked at him so he nodded. "My father wasn't exactly the most sober always."
"Wow. Another point of commonality. Were you into sports too?"
"Only to watch. A jock was not my preference." He smirked a bit. "My father thought I was thug actually." Speed laughed at that. "Shows how bad his judgement was. Xander will be fine and you could suggest it to her or I will."
"You do it. She said I'm harping on it. That's why I'm sleeping alone tonight." He glanced at Xander then back at him. "Like I think you will be, H."
"He'll come in later, when he's cold." The baby sniffled so he turned up the volume, getting a full-blown wail a minute later. He went in to check on him, finding the teddybear on the floor. He handed it back and the crying stopped, earning him a happy grin from the baby. "Next time, don't toss it out." He stroked the little back until the baby went back to sleep. He heard someone knock on the door and frowned, glancing at his watch. It was too late for the casual person to be here. He started to move down the stairs when he heard the gunshot. Instead he closed the door as quietly as he could, put the baby in the closet with his bear and covered him, then called for backup. Because his gun was downstairs. He heard a second one and moved to the doorway, trying to see. He found Xander standing over someone, gun limp in his hand. "Xander?" He jogged down there. "Speed?"
"Out." He looked at the person standing there. "Never wake up a cranky person." The paramedics ran in, followed by officers. "Hi again." He looked at the paramedics. "He hit his head when he got shot, trying to move out of the way. Side of the head to the counter." That got a nod and he handed over the gun to Horatio, who had gloves on and a bag out. "I'm going to start mining the damn house with weapons if they're going to keep coming for Ray."
"How do you know it's related to him?" one of the patrols asked.
"He got shot here earlier and the dumbass there demanded to know where he was." He sat down and held his head. "Is dad all right?" he called.
"He's fine." The paramedic looked around, then at Horatio. "Baby?" He went to get the baby and hand him to Xander to keep him calm.
Frank rushed in. "What is this? Third time's the charm?" he demanded.
"It's only the second today, Frank," Xander said bitterly, hugging his son. "Is that one dead?"
"No, unfortunately not," one of the patrol guys noted. "Um, sir, I mean Lieutenant, maybe you should stay in a hotel tonight and your guests should go home?"
"He's my husband and yes, we're going to a hotel tonight. Frank?"
"I'll handle it and night shift is already on their way," he noted dryly. "Who got the earlier one?"
"I can wake Delko up too," he noted dryly. "Hopefully there's a connection." Xander got up and went to pack a few things for them, then came back to do it for the baby, not letting go of him. "He good?" he asked.
"He's pissed," Horatio assured him. "I'm not sure if he's pissed at himself or not."
"I'd be pissed at the idiots. Did he really threaten the nurse trying to move his son?"
"No, Frank, he really grabbed her by the throat and squeezed," Xander said as he came back down, putting that bag on the couch as well. "We need more diapers." Horatio nodded at that. "I still dive tomorrow."
"That's fine. Willow can babysit," Frank reminded him. Xander gave him a cautious look. "What?"
"Willow's got cranky person syndrome. And morning sickness and a sore back from Ryan celebrating. I doubt she's going to want to babysit."
"Well, maybe not," he agreed dryly, smirking at the boy. "We'll have to see." He looked at Horatio, who shrugged. "I'll give you guys a ride."
"What's wrong with my car?" Xander demanded.
"I can take the hummer, Frank," Horatio noted at the same time.
"Everyone in town knows both of your cars," he said dryly, smirking at them. "It's safer this way. Now, go get the babyseat out of wherever it is. Xander, where is your car?"
"I let Ray Jr. have it for the night," he admitted. "He was still at the hospital with his parents."
"Guy apparently knocked. I vaguely heard dad moving past me since I was napping on the couch after getting a cramp worked out of my back again, and then I heard a gunshot. Which woke me enough and I stayed still while listening. The guy sneered at Speed for knocking himself out so I reached for the one under the couch and came up, shooting him when he turned." Frank nodded, writing that down. "I heard him say something about Ray while he was taunting Speed's unconscious body. I wasn't listening particularly closely at that point."
"That's fine. I've got it and night shift is starting to pull up." That got a nod. "I'll have the hummer driven back, Horatio."
"Don't let anyone mess with his seat position," Xander joked lightly. Frank smirked and shook his head. "Okay, the babyseat's in there." The baby belched and he looked down. "Is your stomach still upset?" He cleaned off the mouth, then sniffed. "Horatio, mothballs?"
"Some scent left in the clothes I hid him in, not actually present," he assured him. He took the baby to look over. "Come on. Let's go." Frank nodded and had a patrol officer take the bags and help them to a hotel. "I'll want my hummer back in the morning, Frank," he called as he walked away.
"Yeah, yeah," he said quietly, getting out of the way of the paramedics. "He be okay?"
"He'll be fine, Detective. Knocked himself witless and a bad graze to the arm." Frank nodded and took that down. "We're going to General."
"I'll call and see if Salas is still there." That got a nod so he did that while he watched the night shift CSIs do their jobs. "Guys, Horatio and Xander took the baby to a hotel. His Hummer is to get back to the station for him tomorrow, and I was warned not to adjust the seats any." He listened to the laughter. "Are you still there? Someone tried for your husband again. Got Speedle on the arm and he cracked his head moving out of the way. No, they're at a hotel with the baby. Hey, I figured you're already there," he offered with a smirk. "No, but the bad guy's looking pretty grim at the moment. Xander got him." He moved out of the way of the suspect going to the ambulance. "Sure, thanks. No, he didn't say which." He hung up and looked at the night shift supervisor, who had just come in. "It pretty well happened here and next to the kitchen."
"Good. Anything else we should know?"
"No, Horatio and Xander are both fine and the baby belched at them."
Frank looked at her. "You haven't seen the ring?"
"I have seen the ring," she noted dryly, smirking at him. "I heard he got a little stripper boyfriend."
"Xander. Speedle's son Xander."
"As in Xander-tight?" she asked. He beamed and nodded. "Fuck. Which one was it about?"
"He said the perp said something about Ray while he was taunting Speed's out-cold body. Not a clue otherwise yet. Like he said, it happened all around this room. Xander was on the couch so he fired from there. I'm not sure whose gun was under it." He shrugged. "Horatio bagged it."
"Good!" She went to check that, then the areas. "Which blood is which?"
"The big puddle was the guy who shot Speed. The little puddle was Speed's."
"Decent." She got to work with her team. "Can we snoop?"
"Yeah, sure, I wanna be there when Caine finds out you went through his things," he noted dryly. She blushed and got back to work. "I'm still waiting to see how Xander talks him into leather pants again."
One of the male CSIs looked at him. "Caine? In leather?"
"We've seen it once," Frank told him. "Xander bought him a second pair. It could happen."
"Never happen where we'll see it," Eric said from behind him. "You mind moving, Frank?" He got out of the way and came in, nodding at the night shift people. "Hey, I was here earlier for another one."
"Wonderful. Do we have that suspect in custody?"
"Oh, yeah," Frank agreed happily. "Xander called Horatio with a description when he called for backup. The patrol guys caught him trying to run up the beach with someone's dog after him too. Good instincts on that dog." Eric laughed at that. "Was Speed upset about the knife?"
"No. He said it was a very Xander thing to do." He looked at the supervisor. "Need me to go over today's?"
"Give me ten more. Sit and wait, Delko. Or check the rest of the house to make sure it's sealed." He nodded, going to do that.
Xander snuck out of the bed and put on his clothes, checking on the baby. He snuck out of the room and downstairs to the payphones, dialing a long-remembered number. "It's me. Would you like to tell me why I've had two people busting into my place today?" He listened. "Yeah, so? He's still my brother-in-law." He smirked. "Dear, think about it," he said condescendingly. "Would *you* want to mess with my mate, his wife, AND me at this moment in time? Considering both incidents today were near my son and in my house?" He listened and smiled. "Good!" he agreed happily. "Well, I tell ya what. You send the idiots to my boy tomorrow, make them confess to whatever bad things they did, and *I* won't be down there tomorrow afternoon. Because you fucked with my family," he explained. "I shouldn't have to point that out to you. You're usually much smarter than this." He sneered at the wall. "Good. And they're going to do what? Good!" he said, happier now. "Then I won't be on your doorstep tomorrow. As long as all this shit stops around my mate and my son, you'll continue to live peacefully. We good now?"
He nodded once. "I thought so. Thank you for your cooperation." He hung up and glanced at the curious desk person. "Someone shot near my son. I was giving them incentive to turn themselves in before I had to kill." He looked around. "I'm going for a short walk. I'll be right back if Horatio notices." He headed outside. He noticed the two officers across the street, one of which followed him. That's when he mentally beat himself for not grabbing a weapon. He knew better than that. He stopped at the newstand that was still open, getting a magazine and going back to the hotel. The nightshift clerk looked at him so he shrugged. "Light reading. I'm having nightmares." That got a nod so he headed back up, letting himself back in.
"Where did you go?"
"To threaten an old friend so the people shooting near you and my cub won't ever think about it again unless they wanna die." He stripped down then got back into the bed. "He said they're going to come in and confess tomorrow so I don't have to be on his doorstep for lunch." He flipped the page and continued reading. "He also said that Ray's former drug contacts are very sorry now and that someone's going to die if they keep this up. Apparently he realized I was telling the truth."
Xander kissed him. "Shut up, Horatio. No one threatens what's mine that way. It could've hurt you or the baby, and no one hurts you or the baby." He grinned at him. "I would've taken Willow with me."
"Hmm." He pulled his mate closer, tossing the magazine onto the floor. "I can handle this."
"So can I."
"It's my job, Xander."
Xander kissed him. "You're off duty and they're targeting you. That means it's my job, Horatio. Not yours. You can't work a case that involves you. Those are the rules, remember?" He glared at that so Xander smiled sweetly. "Otherwise we'd still be at home while you finished collecting evidence." He stroked his cheek. "If you must know, I called Philip. His dealer is Alejandro Run, that's the name he goes by on the street. Alejandro saw me hunting and he respects me. Alejandro is kinda a little bit scared of me most of the time. He's the one who saw me going bitch on the last person who threatened you."
"Who threatened me?" he asked quietly, stroking the tense cheek. "You never said anything."
"That's because they weren't serious and it wasn't going to happen. One of my former fanclub wanted to take you out so I'd go back to dancing. I pointed out the fallacy of that argument with my fists. They got the point." Horatio grimaced so he kissed him again. "I only hit him three or four times. He couldn't fight worth a damn and no one's going to kill you to make me go back to dancing. Consider it a bar brawl that got out of hand, okay?" Horatio shook his head. "Why not?"
"It's still wrong."
"Yay. You're not dead. I'm not dead. He's not dead. He's sorry and he knows better, but he's not dead." Horatio let a small smile out at that. "I only blacked his eye and got his nose and mouth a few times," he assured him. "Nothing past the bar brawling stage, Horatio." He snuggled in closer and his mate hugged him, letting him know it was okay overall, he was just a bit pissed at his actions. "Alejandro was there when I beat him that way. Philip told him who I was and after my last night, he came up to me and talked to me about you. I pointed out that I protect my mate, whoever they are, as fully as I can. That no one touches what's mine. He understood. He said the same thing about his mother and his mistress." That got a small smirk and Xander kissed it away. "Therefore I called Alejandro and pointed out someone had touched what was mine and if they weren't at the station by noon I was going to be on his doorstep and then he'd have to help me find him because I saved his mother's life."
"Few weeks back. It wasn't really anything. Someone driving erratically and I got her out of the way." Horatio nodded so he stole another kiss. "Therefore someone's going to be confessing tomorrow. They may cite or you as the reason, but they're coming in so Alejandro doesn't have to deal with me hunting in his areas."
"Fine, but I still don't like it. You do not do things like that without telling me, Xander. It's dangerous."
Xander snuggled in closer and gave him a squeeze. "Two cops followed me down to the news stand," he said quietly. "I definitely felt menace from them."
"Did you get the car number?"
"868 but one looked almost exactly like Hernandez, the new patrol guy you chewed a new one the other day, but he had lighter hair. He was driving. I didn't see more of the passenger than the end of his cigarette."
"Were they still down there when you came in?" He nodded. "I should go check." Xander let him go and he smiled, taking a kiss before getting dressed and going to check on their 'escorts'. He walked down to the desk and whispered in her ear, getting a nod and one of the security guys leading him to their surveillance room. "Do we know who they are?"
"They said they were Majors and Rogers, your dutiful guards for the night. Can't say as I've seen them before, Lieutenant." He pulled up pictures from when they came inside. "That them?"
"No, Xander said he saw someone different. Same car though." He looked at him. "Thank you." That got a nod and he went back upstairs to leave a message on Frank's voicemail at work. That way he'd have it first thing in the morning since the car wasn't out there anymore.
Xander came off his final dive, knowing he had done it as well as he ever had for Eric, and hit the water with nearly no splash, which was better than he usually did. He came back up, feeling a bit dizzy, and allowed the coach to help him out. He sat down with his towel, working on his hair, then his arms and shoulder, looking at him. "How long before scores?"
"Two hours, Harris." He looked him over. "You okay?" Xander shook his head. "Dizzy?" That got a nod and Xander hung his head, groaning a bit. "You gonna pass out?"
"I hope not. The Chief would yell if more of the team ended up in the ER," he said dryly. "Frank said so." He looked at him. "Those were the three Eric made sure I could do."
"Good. We can teach you the harder ones." He clapped him on the back and watched as the boy laid down. "Fine, you nap. We'll wake you when we get scores." He walked over to the other coaches. "So?"
"Harris doesn't look bad. Who's been working with him?"
"Delko." That got some smiles. The guy had vexed them but he had been a hard worker. He had earned their respect. He glanced over, then back at them. "He has a healing head injury. He doesn't want beyond alternate since this is the first time he's ever dove."
"I saw him on his swim trials," one of the guys noted. "He was middle of the pack for time." That got a smirk from the diving coach. "He made it here too."
"He did," the others agreed.
"The kid's got the drive. He was swimming with a shoulder wound," the swim coach admitted as he came over. "Delko said to watch out for him, he's stubborn and has no pain limits most of the time." He looked at the kid. "He pass out?"
"He's hopefully taking a nap. He came out dizzy from his third dive," the diving coach admitted, looking at him. "Where's he on your team?"
"Bottom of the pack since he's the newbie. I can't make him an alternate, he scored too high." He looked at him. "Yours?"
"Delko's work ethic shows," one admitted, handing him the forms. "Is he going to be taking one of the scholarships?"
I can offer. Is he on financial aid?"
"Barely," the diving coach said with a smirk. "The kid's got money." He saw Xander get up and wobble over. "Go lay down again."
"Oh, quit. I've fought with worse headaches." He looked at him. "Well?"
"You're on as the bottom newbie," he admitted. "Do we have to talk about scholarships with you, Harris?"
"No. I don't need one. Give it to someone who does, coach. I'll take the spot but not the money." That got smiles and nods. "When's the first practice?"
"Tomorrow you come in for the mandatory drug test," he told him, handing over that information sheet. "You have the right to declare any drugs that might be legally in your system."
"Tylenol. Some mylanta," he noted dryly. "No cold medicine. I haven't sniffled since I got here." That got a smirk. "Do I have to claim poppy seed muffins three weeks ago?"
"Probably not. I would mention it just in case," the dive coach offered. Xander nodded at that. "Good boy, Harris. Now, go home."
"I can't drive like this." He wobbled back to his spot and laid back down. "Let me have a nap and I'll drive."
"Fine," they called, shaking their heads. One went to call Delko, and suggested he bring in the proper chain of contact for Harris. Because there was no way the kid was using drugs or steroids.
Eric hung up his phone and looked at Horatio. "He made both teams but he's dizzy. They need someone to pick him up and bring in the appropriate chain of contact."
Horatio looked around the scene, then at him. "Go get him for me, take him home." Eric nodded, hurrying to do that. He got back to work. His poor boy was going to get yelled at later for still having a headache.
Ryan looked over. "Good news?"
"He made both teams. His head still hurts."
"Skull fractures can do that," Ryan reminded him. "We lost that one patrol officer because she never quit being dizzy after her accident." He held up a folded piece of paper. "I can't tell if it's garbage or not, Horatio. I'm not seeing a trace of ink."
"Bag it anyway, Mr. Wolfe. We can weed it out later." That got a nod, he knew Ryan had just been checking to make sure. He moved over to start in his section again, getting back to the real work he did every day, instead of worrying about Xander. He'd be fine. Even if he had passed out at the pool. He'd just have to make sure he was fine later.
"Hey, Horatio?" Calleigh called, carefully walking over. "I don't know why but the dogs are going spastic. They think someone sprayed dog scent on the area."
"It could be," he agreed, looking up at her. He stood up to look around. "Just that one area?"
She shook her head. "All around the perimeter."
"All right, take them five hundred feet off and try it again."
"We did. We tried it from the other side of the parking lot. The scent's still there."
"Damn." He nodded. "All right, release them from duty." He put a hand on her arm. "You do know that you can come to Xander or myself about your father?" he asked quietly. "We both have been there."
She nodded. "I know, it's not what's stressing me out. That's my mother. He's just worried about other stuff." She shrugged and went to tell the officers. It was a sweet offer. That's why she wasn't upset with Speed for telling on her. So she wouldn't smack him quite as hard when she saw him after work tonight. "Guys, Horatio said if the dogs can't track over it, go ahead and take 'em home," she called. That got a nod and they left. She got the electronic nose from the truck and went to analyze the scent to see if it was natural or not. This was just too weird. "Horatio?" she called. He came over to look at the reading. "That's not dog scent."
"No, it's not." He looked it over, taking it to analyze another section. "That's not either. Mr. Wolfe, where is your wife?" he called.
"Home, should I call her?"
"Yes, now." He handed it back to her. "I suspect Willow could tell us what it was. That way we can weed it out."
"Xander probably could."
"He's asleep after his diving practice. He got dizzy."
"Ah. Did he make it?" He nodded and went back to his search. A young woman's life was hanging in the balance and he wasn't going to cut any corners.
Ryan hung up and came over. "Willow's on her way, Horatio. I mentioned dog scent and she said she's bringing something that'll let us know what it was definitively. She said they used it a few times and Xander could probably track the thing."
"He's getting a ride home because he wasn't fit to drive, Mr. Wolfe."
"Wonderful. He okay?" Horatio looked up and nodded. "Good. Maybe she'll know whether it wanted something pretty to look at or a snack." He went back to his area, walking the perimeter of it. By the time his wife got there, he was involved again and only nodded at her.
Willow was led over to Horatio by a patrol officer, who coughed to get his attention. He looked up and led her over to the electronic nose. She smiled sweetly at the patrol officer. "Thank you. Can you back off some?" He nodded and left. She looked around her feet. "Can I set this down here?" He nodded so she set it down and pulled out a small tea candle and a small packet, dusting it over the candle before she lit it and put it on the ground. It burned bright blue so she raised it, watching as it changed to purple, then lurid green. "It's about four foot high and looks like a Rosach ink blot test. It can eat people but they're not known to. They do live in wooded areas, they hide in the shadows and tend to live inside trees, but they can magically expand the space." He nodded once. "They've been known to take in stray and wandering kids now and then. We're like pets to them. They're smart, their native language is scent-based but with some writing mixed in. For them, scent is like our body language." She looked around, seeing the clumps of trees. "He'd probably prefer to be in the darker areas. So the bigger the clump the easier it'll be to find him."
"Why would the dogs go off like there was a bitch in heat here?" Calleigh asked as she came over.
Willow pulled out her reference guide and looked in it. "That scent corresponds to delight and joy. So apparently he loves his new pet." She snapped it shut and blew out the candle, waving it around to cool it off before putting it back. "Step back, let me magic sense so we can get a direction." She concentrated, feeling the magic around her. The little blot-like demon wouldn't interfere but he'd be a speed bump in the native magic. She stopped, finding him and the humans with him. "There," she said, pointing. "That way. Not too far but he's got more than one human." She walked that way, her bag going over one shoulder and around her neck to rest at her other side. "Ryan, stay," she called when she saw him move. "I kinda like these guys, they're kinda nice," she told the two CSI with her. "One of them knocked out Buffy one night on patrol by making her trip over him and invited me in for tea to remind me that not all demons are bad. Some of them just are." She felt the magic moving and smiled. "I'm not here to harm you, just to talk about your pets," she called, finding him easily in the gloom. "There you are." She walked over, kneeling in front of him so she was on his level. "Hey."
"Rosenburg," he said grimly. "I will not let you destroy my pets."
"I'm not here for that. I had a long talk with one of you in Sunnydale."
"You brought the mate of Nighthawk."
She nodded. "He's a CSI. He's been assigned to find your pets. Their families and friends miss them."
"They have no family."
"They do, the last one did," Calleigh assured him, stepping closer. The thing moved closer, looking at her hair. "You like blondes?" she asked, grinning a bit. This was just too odd. He nodded, touching some of her hair. "Listen, we need to talk to them and your last pet can come back if she wants, but she's got to talk to the people in her life and tie up some loose ends first. You scared the people in her life." It stepped away and looked at her. "Please?"
"For you but the dangerous one stays here."
Horatio took off his sunglasses. "I'm not dangerous to you and neither is Xander. I've made him quit hunting."
"Actually, Xander is kinda dangerous to them. One of them wanted him as a pet and he's got a thing against them," Willow offered. She looked at the demon. "He made Xander quit hunting vampires. He mated with him so his hyena would calm herself and be content with the cub someone had for them. He will not harm you. I vow it to you he will not harm you unless he is attacked."
The demon looked at Horatio, then at Calleigh, who nodded. "Very well. He may come. You have really stopped him from hunting?"
"I really have. It's dangerous and he couldn't hunt in a pack down here," he noted patiently as he followed the demon to its lair. "He has no permission to hunt unless he sees someone in danger or someone comes up to ask him to hunt something, like the kraken he did."
"Good! It is good! He is a fragile human." He looked at Horatio. "You knew that already, I can sense you know his fragileness."
"I have seen it, but he won't tell me why."
The demon snorted. "You know why, as does the witchly one. His weakness is the same as hers, just without being pregnant." He opened his tree and let them in.
"Miami-Dade PD," Calleigh announced. "We got called about a kidnaping," she said, looking at the woman they were there to find, then the others. Then back at her. "Someone in your family reported you missing."
She sighed. "I hate my family."
"Then go home, wrap up your loose ends, and come back," Willow told her. "That way you're not being hunted." She looked at the demon, who nodded that he would accept that. "He can even stalk you around your home for a few days until you can quit your job and tell everyone off, all that stuff."
"I wouldn't mind. He actually cares what I think." She looked at Calleigh, then at Horatio. "Do I know you?"
"I'm Lieutenant Caine, of the crime lab."
She nodded. "I've seen you working a case at my bank before." She smiled weakly at him. "Would that be okay?"
"It would be fine," he agreed calmly. "It would be your choice to come back or not."
She nodded. "I understand. Thank you." She looked at the demon, reaching down to stroke his head. "You would watch over me?" He nodded. "What of the other pets?"
"They can be here without me for two days. I have been assured the hunter will not bother me." She smiled and nodded, going to grab her jacket and follow them out. He stopped Horatio. "There is a menace that needs taken care of. I will tell the witchly one of it?"
"Or you could tell me. Then we'll see what we can do," he offered.
He looked him over, then into his eyes. "You are not the hunter Nighthawk is, mate to him. It is his right to hunt and your right to protect the cub and lair this time." He looked at Willow, bowing to her. "With all due respect, there is a Higher Court member in town egging on some of the more violent people."
"So we've heard. I haven't been able to track him. Do you know where he is? I'll point Xander at him and have his back."
"Not while you're pregnant you're not," Calleigh said firmly. "I will tell Ryan and he will handcuff you to the bed."
"I can break handcuff locks, dear, I did the other night when he fell asleep before he could let me out." She looked at the demon again. "Where and which one?"
"Tovasan, from Brazil. He is the Keeper for the rainforest." She nodded. "He is upset at some for their treatment of his people and has taken it out on them."
"Very well," she agreed. "Do you know of his location?" She got a nod and the demon whispered it in her ear. "Thank you. Have a safe and good journey helping your pet." It nodded and blended back into the shadows. She looked at them. "Which house are we gathering at?"
"Mine," Speed called, catching up to them. "What is going on? Xander was throwing a fit."
"He doesn't like this type of demon, even though they're harmless. It brought back some bad memories." She looked at Horatio. "If he's here and pushing some people to react, we can have him removed and see if you can stop the rest. It won't take too long." He nodded once. "So, Tim's house? Your house? Pick a house."
"My house," Speed told her. That got a nod and she strolled off in the opposite direction. "The parking lot's the other way."
"I'm going to the fountain, thank you."
"What fountain?" Calleigh asked. They all followed her because there was no fountain in this park. When they found her, she was beside a fountain with Xander and the baby, smiling and happy. "Where did this come from?"
"The Ethan plague and a few others made this hidden area," Xander told her, handing over the baby to Speed since he wanted to get to him so badly and didn't have shoes on. "It's for meetings and important things. Only those attuned to the local magic can find these spots." He looked at Willow. "I won't go after the little psycho-blot test demon. Good enough?"
"Much. How's your head?"
"Sucks ass. Why?"
"Tovasan's in town. He's pushing some violent action."
"Yeah, I've seen him down by the college. I'm guessing he's hanging out with the gang down there or with the scooter boys frat." Speed looked amused at that. "They all ride scooters. It's one of the foreign frat houses." He looked at Calleigh. "Take five steps back and the headache will end." She did that and was locked out of the glade. "Sorry, magic and she don't get along. Miami's magic and the Delta magics are diametrically opposed." He looked at Willow. "Should we hunt him?"
"Are you able to hunt?"
"Yeah, I have in the past. Hell, Angel nearly caved in my ribs and I still made it after saving Giles."
"Kid, can we look at the journals?" Speed asked.
"What journals?" Willow and Xander asked together, sounding fairly creepy with the new, harsher inflection in their voice.
"You know what journal," Speed said dryly, moving closer. "The one Rupert made you do." He looked at Willow. "I figure yours would fill in some gaps but there's some things I want to know about and I think Horatio should see."
"Then my mate can ask me."
"All right, then why do you react so strongly to the phrase 'pet'?" Horatio asked, sitting beside him. "Was it that demon?"
"No." He looked at Willow and nodded her to take Speed and go. She nodded, taking him out of the glade and locking them in. "My father's plan to sell me to that guy in LA wasn't the first time. The first time I became someone's dog. Slept in the doghouse, ate alpo, had a collar and chain. Jesse saved me."
"Are they still alive?"
"No. Like I said, Jesse saved me." He stood up and held out a hand. "That's why no one owns me, not even you, Horatio. I'm possessable but not ownable."
"I never thought you were more than mine to hold and protect."
That got a gentle smile. "Thank you." He gave him a hug. "Can we drop the journal thing?"
"I wish you would tell me."
"I don't." He looked at him. "Really. It's my distant past, Horatio. Leave it there like I do." He stole a kiss and grinned. "Yo, Ethan Plague." Ethan Rayne walked in, looking confused. "Two things. My mate," he said, pointing at Horatio. "Secondly, I need someone to check the baby to see if he's been tossing stuff magically."
"You can't ask Rosenburg?"
Ethan blinked. "Really?" He sat on the edge of the fountain while Xander got Willow and Speed to drag back inside. "Oh, my, you are. I'm quite impressed, Miss Rosenburg."
"Thank you. Not my idea to screw up a fertility spell, but thank you." She shrugged. "Is my magic supposed to get weaker?"
"No, it's transferring into him."
"Her. The Powers said her," Speed noted.
"Not this time. Not unless the magic changes that." He pulled her closer, running a hand over her stomach. "No, definite male leanings in magic and power." He looked at her. "So perhaps your lesbian tendencies are also transferring." She glared and got free. "If it is a girl, she will not be the delicate little flower you were."
"Delicate? Her?" Xander snorted. "She hides it well, Rayne, but she's not delicate. She kept up with Jesse and me throughout everything. Even the times they had to rescue me." Ethan looked at him so he smirked back. "Really. She was even there when Jesse lost his blood innocence. She didn't scream, didn't faint, just unhooked me and brought me to her place to clean up."
"Interesting." He nodded. "Then perhaps she'll have that touch of steel. I would do an ultrasound just to make sure." Willow nodded at that. "Now, baby?"
"A friend had him and didn't tell me," Xander admitted, taking his son and sitting next to Ethan. "This is Eric."
Ethan shifted to look at the young boy, smiling at him. "You are much like your father," he said quietly, stroking his cheek. "He's not magically active. But he does draw spirits. That will fade as he becomes more aware of the adult world."
"He's just over a year," Willow told him.
"Infants under three live in their own worlds, adults only intrude on it to take care of them. That's why they can still see unicorns and dragons," he said with a fond smile. "After that age, adults have warped them away from that and adults have to train themselves to access those states." He looked at Horatio. "Which is why this town has a high number of children that have been sacrificed for power over the years."
"I've noticed but we've caught most of them."
"Good." He looked at the boy again. "The trashing of his mother's apartment was done by a human hand, Harris." He looked at him. "The fountain lets us connect." Xander nodded. "You knew?"
"Of course I knew." He grimaced. "Did you think I wouldn't research when I stumbled onto the one in Sunnydale by the beach?"
"You did?" He perked up at that. "When?"
"Two years ago or so. Right before Tim got sent back."
"Ah. That explains so much." He slapped him on the cheek. "You need to heal."
"Yeah, well, I'm doing it the normal human way. Slowly." He shifted his son. "No magic?"
"Not what I said," he cautioned. "He is every bit your son. Chaos will love him and order and neatness are not his life unless someone provokes severe mental problems in him." That got a small smirk from Horatio. "Not you, his future stepmother on his mother's side." He looked at the baby again. "Yes, you will be quite generous when you grow up. Your father's drive, your stepfather's coolness in the face of danger. Your mother's artistic eyes and mindset. Plus your father's brains." He patted him on the head and the baby grabbed him to chew on. "Do I taste good?" The baby smirked at him. He looked at Xander. "It is as it should be. His mother is good, if a bit ill at the moment. Once she's better, you can go back to being a longer distance father. It will help him more to not see your insecurities at work most of the time," he said quietly. "Horatio cures yours but you can still project them."
"He's not going to hear a thing about my problems in school."
"Not that one." He stood up and smirked at him. "You have others that can be seen. Or else you wouldn't feel the need to mark your mate so grandly. Very nice choice by the way, Xander." He nodded at Horatio. "If you need me, call."
"I will." Ethan nodded and walked out of the glade, disappearing. He looked at Xander. "Which ones?"
"Probably his fear of losing you, H," Speed said, coming over to take the baby again. "You good?" Xander nodded, standing up. "Good. Talk to your mate." He pushed him over into Xander's body, then walked out with Willow, who sealed it temporarily so they could talk.
"I'm not really insecure."
"We all have insecurities," Horatio pointed out, sitting next to him, making Xander move closer. "I have one about our age difference and how you'll handle it when I'm gone." He gave him a gentle smile. "I know you've thought about that." Xander nodded. "The same as I know that your instincts will shout at you to follow or to stay strong but alone. I leave that fully up to you but I do not want you to be miserable." He made Xander look at him. "Do you understand me?" Xander nodded. "Good."
"Then what're you going to do if I go first?"
"Avenge you and live as best I can until I follow," he said simply. "The same as you will." Xander nodded and hugged him. "I understand, Xander. I really do." He patted him on the back. "It's an insecurity we all have about whoever we chose to marry and mate with." He stroked his back, giving him another hug. "You should be aware that I will not leave you."
"Good. And that I'd only send you away in the most dire of circumstances."
"Which means I'll sneak back and help you from behind," he assured him patiently.
"I realize that as well. That's why I'd send you to Don already sedated." He patted him and grinned. "Anything else we should clear up while we're here?"
"You're magically active. Calleigh was in contact with you, not Willow, when you walked in."
"I dabbled when I was younger," he admitted quietly. "It was the 'in' thing at the time."
"Is that how you know Ethan?"
"No, he found me just after I found the book on hiding in plain sight and tried to kill me. I stopped him and he helped me where I hadn't quite covered myself." He stole a quick kiss and stood up. "I don't use it."
"I only use it to find my keys when the fairies take them," he noted dryly. "We've got to do something about that sapphire broach."
"Did the horse sell?"
"It did. The second they had a horse auction and it sold there. Someone wanted that track a lot and I was more than happy to give it to them. The stupid broach still won't sell. I don't know why."
"Can we look at it?" Xander nodded. "Tonight?"
"As long as you drive, I'm still dizzy." He took his mate's hand and concentrated, landing them back in the parking lot as they walked out. Then he let his hand go and grinned. "That's a neat feature of those things."
"It is." He walked over to his team, who were cleaning up. Yelina gave him an odd look and an open mouth.
"We traveled to Willow land," Xander assured her with a pat on the arm. "Where's my son?"
"Speed has him," she said, patting him on the cheek, noticing the wince. "Headache?"
"Yeah, I feel like I cracked my skull again." He rubbed the top of it. "I need protective head gear."
"It might help you," she agreed, kissing him on the cheek. "Willow land?"
"Long story," Xander told him, smirking at Ryan. "Has she told you about the meeting spots?" He shook his head. "You should ask, they're very comfy." Ryan walked off grinning a bit, pulling out his phone to talk to his wife. "Okay, I'm going to go collect the baby and cab home."
"Ray left your car at the house," she assured him.
"I shouldn't drive with how much my head hurts." She nodded, accepting that. He looked at Horatio. "Who'm I riding with?"
"Me or them," he assured him, walking him off to his hummer.
"The Chief said he's not to ride with you, just in case," Yelina called.
"Dear, I have a headache," Xander called back. "Even if I wanted to it won't be happenin' today." He got in, smiling at Ryan since he was in the backseat. "Chaperone?" He nodded. "Good enough." He buckled up and slumped down, getting comfortable. "I can hang in the break room until you're done."
"Thank you, Xander." He drove that way, heading back to work for a few more hours.
"What was wrong with his eye anyway?" Ryan asked.
"The doctor said the optic nerve wasn't firing correctly. That it's only firing about a third of the time. He said it is something he could grow out of but at the moment there's no real treatment. So we're on the wait and see schedule. I told Di that and she was not a happy woman. I should go to the gym tonight."
"Not with a head injury, Xander," Horatio said patiently, pulling onto the street for the station. He glanced at him. "Maybe you should nap on my couch in the office."
"With your luck, the Chief would come in and nag. Again." He gave him a wry look. "I'll be fine."
"You're admitting you're in pain and dizzy. You've never admitted you were sick before," Ryan told him. "Of course he's worried you have a new fracture."
"I'll ask Alexx to take a break and look him over," Horatio agreed. "Thank you, Mr. Wolfe."
"I know if it was Willow I'd be dragging her somewhere by now," he noted dryly.
Xander considered something up until they parked, letting Horatio go first. "Ask her about Jesse."
"We talked about that some," he admitted. "How you three were really tight and Jesse was your best friend ever. She thought you two would've made it if he hadn't been turned."
Xander nodded. "He was very, very straight so no. Also not the part I was talking about. Jesse and us, well, we ran the town together a lot. We saw a lot of things we shouldn't." He stared Ryan down. "Do you still think she's that gentle, nice, bouncy Willow all the time?"
"All women can change."
Xander nodded. "She hunted with us, Ryan. She's just as deadly as I am." He blinked at that and Xander nodded. "She is. She doesn't like to admit it, but she is. She was there when Jesse stabbed someone to save my ass from someone keeping me as their dog until I grew a bit more." Ryan shuddered at that. "She didn't do much blinking or crying either. Also, Willow told you she can hack computers?"
"Yeah, she told me about that," he admitted, smiling a bit. "You're sure she's still like that?"
"Are you sure she's not hunting?"
"No. How would you tell?"
"Ashes. Lots and lots of ashes." He clapped him on the arm. "The deeper you know Willow the more you know that the inner core of her is that bouncy, nice, sweet Willow and the rest is the scary part. She's got her protective layers backwards." He walked off, leaving him there to think.
"Huh. Okay." He nodded, deciding to talk to his wife that night instead of tying her down to celebrate some more.
Xander carefully handed the baby back to his mother, waving at him. "You be good for the mommy, Eric, and call the daddy a lot." The baby smiled and waved, then beamed at his mother, hugging her. "That not-talking thing was me," he told her. "I didn't really start to speak coherently until I was three, then I began to babble." She smiled at that. "So, shop down here?" he asked hopefully.
"Of course. I got it set up while I was recovering." She dug out a card and handed it over. "Here. Spread it around so I make a ton of money." She kissed him on the cheek and walked back to her car, taking her son with her.
Xander sighed and watched his baby boy go. Horatio walked up behind him and gave him a pat on the back. "At least he's local now."
"That is a good point," he agreed quietly.
Xander grinned at him. "This means we can have loud, noisy sex. Right?"
Horatio smiled and nodded. "If you want, Xander. Did you want to go with us to pick up Don and the others?"
"Yup." He let out an evil chuckle. "Let's go." He snuck his mate's handcuffs with an innocent look for his husband when he got caught. "What?"
"No, Xander." He took them back and let Xander climb into the hummer first, getting in to drive. Since the lab was going to be under his control.... "Mac is already begging to have Stella back but Calleigh apparently spanked him," he shared. "He said he knows why I'm insane."
"You're not insane, just slightly warped toward fun, which he doesn't seem to have anymore."
"He lost his mate a few years back, Xander."
"And he's still not over it," Xander said dryly. "Don said they had that friendship sorta marriage. Besides, he's fighting his mind. I caught him looking a few times and he's in firm denial that he wants the new girl, Lindsey."
"That would be a poor match."
"He thinks she's cute."
"She is, in a Willowish way," he noted, pulling into the street. He'd have to share that with his friend the next time they talked. When they finally got there, he parked in the 'officers only' spots and walked Xander inside, past the security system with his badge.
"Again?" one guard noted.
"We're picking up the new lab staff," Xander said with a grin. "The guys transferring down."
"Oh, joy," he said sarcastically. He looked at the guard next to him. "Is he a cop?"
"Caine's spouse," he said quietly. "He's just as possessive of his husband as Caine is of him and his hummer." That got a small smirk and they got back to work.
Xander smiled at the people coming out, having managed to steal the hancuffs this time without Horatio realizing it. He saw Danny and hugged him, then hugged Don, then locked them together before hugging Stella. "Welcome to Miami."
"Xander!" Don complained.
Danny laughed and pulled out his keys, handing them over. They all used the same sort of handcuffs. "He's in a playful mood."
"The baby just went back to Diana," Horatio noted as he moved closer. "Stella, Danny, Don, Lindsay," he said with a nod of greeting. "Sheldon, I didn't think you'd be coming."
"I just got moved to field work," he admitted.
"Interesting. Xander?" He came bouncing back. "What?"
"We were on with the employer of the guy from the steak house, the one he met in the park," Don said dryly, glancing at the happy, bouncing ball of manhood, then back at its mate. "We had a long talk about Xander."
"Wonderful. Do we have to stop at the bank?"
Xander came over and nodded, grinning a bit sheepishly. "Yeah, I got a good reward for winning two of my first three races." He showed it to his mate. "And more information too."
"I got some too," Don agreed. "So, work? Or apartment and then work?"
"You're not expected to start work until tomorrow but we're doing an orientation and 'this is how you find the breakroom and bathrooms' lecture today," Xander told him. "Then Eric and Dad are taking you guys out for the local speciality, fish tacos." He walked between his two big brothers. "Did you remember to ship your stuff with everyone else's?" They all nodded. "Then it's down here. We had a liaison officer and some cadets hauling and toting. All you'll have to do is unpack." He grinned at the other two. "Sheldon, if you didn't have one, yours probably went with Don and Danny's to Speed's place. We can call and ask if you want."
"No, I found a place among those offered," he assured him with a smile. "Thank you, Xander."
"Then we're going to the station?" Stella asked. Horatio nodded. "That's fine. I heard you guys got a remodel a few years back."
"Now it looks like a glass canyon," Xander shared with a grin for her. "Don, you're in the same precinct, just up the hall from the labs. I worked with the liaison officer so you guys have GPS in the hummers and Don's car out of the motor pool. I also got you guys maps, real maps, of the city. Complete with dots for the good places that we like to eat and order from. The good clubs are marked in a different color and most of the beaches are nice, but you might wanna watch out for some of the friendlier beaches in South Beach since you can usually find at least one couple having sex in the open." Lindsay looked sick at that. "It's okay. They're usually couples on their honeymoon."
"Or local gay couples who couldn't wait," Horatio agreed. "Does anyone need their bags?"
"I do," Don admitted. "I did a bag for today." That got a nod and they went that way so he could retrieve them. He rejoined the group once his tag had been checked against his ticket and they walked on. "Can we all fit in the hummer?"
"No, but there's cabs," Xander said with a grin. "I'll go with whoever gets the cab. The hummer can fit three, possibly four."
"Three, there's no middle seat belt back there, Xander," Horatio noted.
"Okay, three. So whoever isn't in the hummer gets me." He smiled at them. "It's a pretty drive in."
"Are your cabbies insane?" Danny asked.
"Not all of them but I've learned a lot of Spanish talking to them over the last few months." Horatio nodded at that, not all of it had been polite words either. "Hey, she deserved it," he defended.
"It still wasn't nice, Xander," he said patiently, glancing back at his mate. He saw a few cops come in and looked at them. "Gentlemen."
"Lieutenant, there's a bomb threat in the parking garage. We saw your hummer and were told to come find you."
"Thank you. Do we know where or what type of device?" he asked, hands on his hips.
The lead officer swallowed and shook his head. "No, Lieutenant, and I'm sure it's nowhere near your hummer." He saw Xander quickly shake his head and turn to talk to Don. "It shouldn't take too long to clear the parking garage, Lieutenant. So if you wanted to, you could cab in with the new lab personnel."
"I'll do that," Xander offered, smiling at him. "Thank you, officers. Have fun keeping the press out." That got a nod and they headed off. "Dear, go glower and glare." He patted him on the back. "I'll get everyone back. My wallet?" It was handed over. "Thank you." He grinned then back at everyone. "Come on, guys. We're going to do the orientation." They nodded and followed so he led them to the cabstand, counting heads. He grimaced and looked at Don. Then around. "Fuck. Well, we can share or not share, but if we share it's going to mean I'm sitting on someone's lap. If we take two, people are going to call the press."
"If we get a bigger car, they'll still probably call," Don admitted.
"Point," Xander agreed. He walked over to one guy who had a Caddy behind him. "For hire?" He nodded so Xander pointed at all of them. "All of us."
"I can fit you." They nodded and got into the small limo, letting him close the door and take off. "Where to?"
"CSI Precinct," Xander ordered.
"The hummer one?"
"Yup, that's us. These are some of our transfer officers." That got a smile and the window went up so they could go. "Okay." He grinned at them and tossed Don his wallet. "Pay the nice man when we get there since we're closer. Today, we're going to basically introduce you to the techs, show you where everything is. Let Speed threaten you guys so you know not to mess up his trace lab. Let Alexx fuss over you guys, and then show you where the pertinent places are. Bathroom, break room, interrogation rooms, good place to sit and soak up the sun during lunches. That stuff." That got a grin from Danny. "You guys brought sunscreen, right?" They all nodded. "Good. Use it, daily. You'll need it. The sun is about a mile off Miami's Eastern shore most of the time. Also, sunglasses good. Horatio even wears his inside some days." That got some laughs from Stella and Danny. "Any questions so far?" They all shook their heads.
"Okay. The orientation and show and tell are first, then Speed and Eric are planning on taking the whole group out to dinner tonight to get us working well together, then they're leaving at ten tonight. Everyone else is already up there. Horatio wanted you guys to know three things. Yes, Diana did move down here so Eric's around now and then. We do not mention the Wrath of Caine rumors because it upsets my husband. Third, if you say anything at all about him being my husband, expect to get your ass kicked. Not only by me, but by some others," he told Lindsay and Sheldon Hawks. He hadn't worked with them. "There's also some basic rules for Hummer use. Night shift gets really jealous if we don't leave the two main ones there, but it's happened in the past that we kept them out on a scene after hours. There is no sex in the hummers. The chief has threatened to take them away from dayshift totally." He grinned a bit. "Before you say a word, Danny, it wasn't just our fault." Danny and Stella both laughed at that. "Third, in the back of the hummer is about everything you need to send information back to the lab. Speed and Eric are going to show you where that is while they're doing the orientation lecture."
"So, you guys have scanners and stuff in the hummers?" Lindsay asked. Xander nodded. "That must've cost the department a hell of a lot."
"Which is why we do not even *think* about traffic accidents in the hummers. Technically there are now four. Horatio's and three others. Remember that important distinction and never touch Horatio's hummer unless he tells you to. It took him a long time to get everything just perfect for him to drive. The other ones, adjust mirrors, seats, have sodas that don't spill."
"Can you even drink a soda in Horatio's hummer?" Don asked with a smirk.
"Nope. Not me. Not him. That is the one thing he is most fussy about. The next is lab protocol. I'm pretty sure you guys already have that down." They all nodded. "Good." They pulled into the station and Don paid the driver, getting them all out and inside. "Guys this is our door guard of the month, Peter. Peter, these are the lab transfers from New York."
"Bomb threat in the parking garage his hummer is in," he noted dryly. Peter let out a low moan so Xander nodded. "Yeah. If you need him, call and leave a message."
"The Chief was looking for him earlier."
"I'll call the office," he sighed. He walked them down the halls toward the elevators. "Okay, this is the main stopgap area. To your right is holding. To your left are the elevators that only the privileged few and you guys get to go up." He ran his pass. "This is the only spot you need this." It opened and he got them on there. "Okay, one is the morgue. Toward the back and the rest of the holding cells. Two is the detective's floor and three is the lab. Got it?" They all nodded and he hit two. "We use an interrogation room whenever we need a meeting area. The lab doesn't have one." They got off the elevator and he waved around. "This is our bullpen. Don, you'll be at Frank's desk since Yelina stayed. This way." He walked him over, smiling at the other detectives. "Hi, guys. This is Don Flack, the transfer guy from NYPD. He's using Frank's desk." He pointed at it. "There, Flack."
"Thanks, Xander." He checked it over, finding the password and user name already on a postit for him. "He's good."
"I stuck that for you earlier," Yelina offered with a smile. "Frank always forgot his." Don grinned at that. "Ready for orientation?" Xander nodded so she got up. "Rookie, your calls." She led them to the interrogation room they used as a meeting area. "This is our interrogation area," she announced. "It is very pretty and the nest office is the one usually preferred by the CSI," She said, pointing at the corner, office-like interrogation room. "We're using room four since it's the largest." She opened the door and let them in, smiling at the men in there. "Bomb threat at the airport."
"In the parking garage," Xander agreed dryly as he walked in.
"You guys really go for light and open. Ours is in the semi-finished basement," Flack noted happily. "This is nice."
"Thanks," Eric said with a grin. "We've still got the less open rooms but this is the biggest one and the one you want when you've got someone who'll go nuts. The table's bolted down and the windows are bullet and hurricane proof. Plus about half of the officers on the floors can see in here." He grinned at Xander. "Staying?"
"That depends, why did the Chief want Horatio?"
"You were in the hummer," Yelina told him.
"We were going to airport to pick these guys up. That man needs to get over it." Everyone in the room nodded. "Okay, for those of you who do not know the locals here. This very pretty and nice female-type person who makes *good* cookies is Detective Yelina Salas. She is Horatio's sister-in-law and her son is a lot like his daddy in looks. He comes in now and then. He's got dark hair." He pointed at Speed. "This is Tim Speedle, the one Aiden's yammered on about a few times. He does a lot of work in Trace and shall be threatening you not to mess up his lab. The other is Eric Delko. You...just get used to Eric." Eric snorted and swatted him, earning a grin. "You do!" He grinned at them again. "I'll be doing the walking tour with them so you don't just get the dry and boring stuff but if you'll excuse me I'm going to go bitch at someone for thinking I'm that big of a slut." He escaped and found the Chief coming up the hallways. "I was going with him to pick up the new guys. Did we have a problem with that?"
"Your conduct in the hummer...."
"Has always been kept out of plain sight and has only happened twice. Thank you," he snapped back. "Always after hours as well I might add. It's not our fault the officer followed us into the everglades. Especially not that deeply." The Chief blushed at that. "The time on the beach, I'll give you. It was poor judgement on my part. But if you don't quit with it, I'm going to buy him his own for company use and stock it with better stuff than you've got."
The Chief smiled. "If you would, that would help alleviate a lot of problems, Xander. Including that one problem of the night shift supervisor accusing you of going for a ride today."
Xander snorted. "She still jealous?"
"Probably," he assured him with a smile. "Are they here? I heard there was a bomb threat to Horatio's beloved hummer."
He nodded and pointed at the room. "In there with Eric, Speed, and Yelina."
"Ah, excellent." He walked in there, smiling at everyone. "Hello. I'm the Chief of Detectives, Martin Graves. I'm the coordinator on this end of this exchange." He looked at the three locals. "Aren't you three supposed to be up there?"
"I'm not going," Yelina told him. "These two are needed down here to finish a case."
"Oh. Then you're going when?"
"Tonight," Eric told him, grinning a bit. "Don't worry, we'll make you proud, sir."
"Thank you. I know you will." He smiled at the officers. "Orientation?" Everyone nodded. "That's fine, do you need the standard Miami lectures as well?"
"Horatio flew up ta give 'em," Danny assured him. "We've already gotten all the paperwork and that stuff outta the way."
"Good! Excellent in fact. Then I look forward to your tenure here." He walked back out, finding Xander on a phone. "Harris," he noted dryly.
"You told me to," he shot back with a smirk.
"Thank you. It would make things easier. I'll make sure it's got official plates and decals." He hurried off to do that. It was a simple bit of paperwork and the mayor wouldn't mind that much.
The Chief strolled in a week later, smiling happily. "How is it going?"
"Very well, sir," he said, standing up to shake his hand. "They're adjusting nicely and they're as professional as I could ever expect."
"Good! Excellent in fact." He smiled. "May I have your hummer keys, Horatio?"
"Because you're upgrading, son. Come outside with me." He took the keys from his limp hand and walked him out, looking around at the new one sitting next to the old one. "It's a bit larger," he admitted. "But it's also got all the of the equipment and a new processing system." He handed over the new keys. "We had your old one measured inside so we could approximate where the mirrors and seats were set already." He gave him a little nudge. "Go ahead and look, Caine."
Horatio walked over, opening the back to look at the gear. It was all recessed and out of the way, leaving him a bed area for evidence. The back seat could fold down as well. He moved up to the front and climbed in, wiggling a bit. He had to move his seat up a notch. The mirror had to be tweaked just an inch or so. He closed the door and rolled his shoulders, settling in. This one had more comfortable seats as well. Then he got out and closed everything, looking at his boss. "Who donated it?"
"I'm not allowed to tell you but it was so the night shift supervisor would quit accusing you of having sex in it every day for the rest of her tenure."
"Ah. Where is my mate?"
"It was done on his behalf, Horatio."
Horatio stared him down. "I see. Which one of his present fanclub was it?" he asked smoothly, moving a bit closer.
"I'm not allowed to tell you, Horatio," he said with a grin. He clapped him on the arms. "Make sure it runs, that way I make sure I gave you the right keys." Horatio went back to start the engine, making him smirk at the deeper sound. "He thought you needed more power too." He walked off, bouncing the other set of keys in his hand. Since it was registered in Horatio's name, he could do whatever he wanted in it.
Horatio looked for the registration, finding it in the visor. He noticed it had *his* name on it, not the department's and groaned. He called into the lab. "Stella, do we have anything? No, I'm going to talk to someone. Thank you." He started the engine again and backed out, heading for the college. He knew where his mate was hiding and it wasn't going to work today. He parked outside the building and walked in, putting his sunglasses in his jacket pocket. Xander was found in his Therapeutic Massage class and he glared at him, making his mate slip out into the hall. "Is there something you wanted to confess?"
"No. Why?" he asked, looking so cute and confused and innocent.
Too bad Horatio had seen that look before. He walked Xander down the halls to the bathroom and inside, giving him a little nudge toward the windows. "Xander."
"You bought me a car."
"Don't even try to lie to me."
"It was suggested strongly since the night shift supe was riding your ass about me even being allowed to breathe on the hummer. This way she can get your old one and huff the cologne all she wants." He moved closer, fussing with his mate's lapels. "It's fully yours, just for use of the lab. That means you can camp in there if you want and she can't say a damn thing and the lab could use it anyway."
"I didn't need the present."
Xander kissed him and then hugged him, leaning fully into the solid body. "You did. She's trying to have you fired for sleeping with me and not her," he said quietly, giving him a squeeze. "The evil bitch can ride her spot of high morals and still not get what she really wants, which is what I have." He shifted some to rub against his mate's hard body, making him moan. "Plus you have equipment you didn't have before, Horatio," he said quietly. "You have enough stuff in there to survive if you have to during a bad scene or a storm." He rubbed again as he shifted some, looking up at his mate. "Besides, you needed one of your own. Stella was going to try to steal one to bring home with her." He grinned, just the hint of one. "Blame the chief, he all-but ordered me to, baby."
"You had me up until the pet name," he said, pinching him on the butt. "Behave."
Xander stole a kiss and shook his head. "I can't. You give me naughty, naughty thoughts." Horatio shivered at that. "Too bad I've got practice today, huh?" Horatio growled and nodded, taking a firmer kiss. "Horatio," he moaned.
"No more presents, Xander. I don't need presents."
"It was on sale." Horatio gave him a look. "Seriously. The FBI tried it out and didn't like it. Said it was too bulky for their main headquarters in DC." He shrugged. "It's got about five hundred miles on it so it's used. It came fully equipped and I had the computer tech division make sure it'd speak to your systems here." He rubbed against him again. "See, I'm a thoughtful spouse. This gets everyone off your ass but me. And tonight I'm going to lick and nibble it to prove that it's mine, and then you're going to pound me into the mattress."
"Not in the hummer?" he teased.
"No, not until after I win my next race." Horatio shivered and nodded. "We good?"
"We're fine but it was still too expensive."
"I got more than enough from the present guy that flew down with Don. The note said I should probably be using it buy you one anyway." He stole another kiss. "I wanna suck you but I've only got five minutes left before class ends." Horatio nodded and let him go, letting him calm himself down. "Tonight?"
"Definitely tonight, Xander."
That got a smirk and Xander went back to his class, slipping back into his seat. The teacher gave him a look so he shrugged. "Small issue with the car."
"Fine. Wait next time." She noticed Horatio walking past the doorway, then looked at him. "Your father?"
He held up his ring, getting a shocked look. "Mine, mine, mine, all mine. Every day mine." The other students laughed at that.
Xander walked into their house and found Horatio shirtless on the couch, in front of the fan. "Did the a/c break again?" he asked, moving closer once he had dropped his bookbag. He took off his own shirt and pants, then licked across a trail of sweat that had worked its way down his mate's chest. That got a moan so he straddled him to clean him up, licking up each stream of sweat, noticing more was coming up. He leaned up and licked across his mate's top lip, feeling the hair that he'd shave in the morning. Horatio pulled him into a deep kiss, making him moan. "Are you running a fever or is this an invitation?" he asked once he pulled back.
Xander smiled and got back to work, teasing the spot on his neck until he groaned and arched up, his lips clamped together. "Let it out," he soothed, moving down to tease a nipple. "Let it go, baby." He switched to the other one, dragging his tongue between them. That one got bitten and then suckled on, the last one as he pulled away so it snapped back. He continued on, making Horatio shake with need. His stomach had delicious spots so he stayed to snack a while, feeling what this was doing to his husband. He sat up and looked at the pants, sweats, not his usual choice. He pulled them off and looked over his body, licking his lips. He looked up, catching the ice blue eyes with his warmer, chocolate ones, then he went down to tease the hardness he could smell and wanted so bad. Horatio moaned and arched up so Xander went with it. Riding the waves as his tongue teased and tempted, not making Horatio calm down or stop moving. Just making him grip the back and side of the couch to hold on for dear life. He kept it at licking for now, knowing that if he even thought about sucking his cock like usual he'd come and Xander would have to wait for what he wanted.
Horatio grabbed him and pulled him up, taking control of his mouth. "Mine," he growled in his ear, going to tease his mate.
"Yours. Very yours." He wiggled free and went back to his teasing, making his husband hold onto the couch again and hiss air in through his nose at the sensations he was causing. Someone knocked on the door. "Give us an hour," he yelled.
"Fucking delivery guys," Xander muttered, getting up and yanking the door open, snatching the package and scribbling his name on it. Then he slammed the door and put the package on the table before going back to his mate, who was laughing. Since he landed on his legs and already had his mouth open, the laughter was cut off with a strangled sounding moan and Horatio was soon back in that same mindset. Xander shifted back, going to tease him like he said would. Horatio tried to clamp his thighs closed so he bit him on it. "I did promise."
"Not necessary." He pulled his mate back up, grunting with the strain of the limp body in his hands. He forced Xander to straddle his waist and pulled his head down to kiss him, taking what he wanted. "Tease."
"I deliver for you, that means I'm not teasing." He kissed him again and his mate's urgency was translated into the first time Horatio barely lubed him and just shoved it in, making him howl. His back stiffened and Horatio took the opportunity to sit them up, then shift them around so he could have his husband this way. "Babe," he whispered, taking it and loving it. "Oh, more!" he shouted when Horatio slumped down to get deeper. It still wasn't enough so he pulled off and went onto his hands and knees, earning a deep growl and his body being covered and the hard cock pushed back in. This was what he wanted. His mate was claiming his body as his and all he could do was hold on. The couch didn't have any handrails but that didn't matter. He clutched at whatever he could. An arm was shifted up and he grabbed onto that as a lifeline, that and the back of the couch, and just played resistance to the hard thrusts. He couldn't keep time with them and Horatio was going as hard as he ever had. Xander had to come, and soon.
He tried to let his mate know, getting bitten on the shoulder for it, and he came from that. Horatio growled in his ear again, speeding up, going harder and faster than he had been. He finally let himself come and nuzzled the bite mark, licking over it gently. Xander collapsed under him and he followed, laying spread out across his back. Horatio kissed the back of his neck, his free hand trapped under Xander's stomach, his other one moving to stroke the sweaty flesh. He cleaned him up, pulling out gently to make sure his mate was all right. No blood. He sighed in relief and laid back down, making Xander lay on top of him. "I didn't mean to be that rough," he said quietly, stroking his back.
"I'm good with some roughness now and then. Like beard burn, it's worth it in the morning." Horatio chuckled and took a real kiss. "Why were you so sweaty?"
"I just got back from my run." He stroked down the relaxed back, cupping the perky, hard cheeks in each hand. "I was thinking about what to do to you tonight when I felt the first lick."
Xander moaned. "You still taste good sweaty." He licked up a small spot on his shoulder, then grinned at him. "Sorry about the UPS guy if he gives you a funny look."
"I don't care." He stole a long, deep kiss, using his tongue to continue what they had just done. "You make me feel like a teenager."
"You recover like one," he teased, shifting so he was rubbing against the hardening cock. "Faster than I do." Horatio smiled at that. "Let me guess, someone dosed all the water bottles with viagra today?"
"No. Just desire." He squeezed the cheeks, making Xander let out a small whimper. "Sore?"
"Fuck sore," he complained. He kissed him again, getting all he wanted and needed. "Can we add just a bit more lube?" he pleaded when he felt the finger teasing his entrance. Horatio smiled and grabbed it, spreading some directly into the open hole. Xander smiled and gamely spread out for his pleasure, letting Horatio do whatever he wanted this time. "Want me on top?" he asked after a few minutes of just teasing.
"If you want. I might have to play rough again if you go back onto your hands and knees."
"Then how about I go onto my back or I stay on top?"
"You on top works for my back." Xander grinned and climbed back on, showing his body was starting to get into it again. Horatio stroked him, licking the taste of the spilled semen off his hands before going back to add some extra slippery stuff for now. Xander moaned and threw his head back, just enjoying the sensation. Horatio's other hand stroked up the flat stomach, tweaking and teasing the hard nipples, teasing his stomach muscles, then up to cup the back of his neck and pull him down for a kiss. Xander's breath hitched and he shifted rhythms, going with one he knew drove him insane. He was squeezing and riding him and it was good. So very good. Xander whimpered and shifted up, then suddenly he came again and it was all over with. Horatio came pulling down's hips down to fill him as deeply as he could. He panted a bit but Xander kissed him and now he couldn't breathe at all. "Rest," he panted. Xander nodded, laying on top of him, his head on his shoulder, one arm between his side and the back of the couch, the other flung over the rest of him and hanging over his chest and the side of the couch. Horatio stroked the sweaty back. "Now you're as sweaty as I am."
"I like you sweaty," Xander said tiredly. He let out a small yawn. "I still have practice tonight."
Don walked in and stopped. "Whoa, sorry, I knocked, I thought it was okay." He backed out. "Ignore me I'm not here." He closed the door.
Horatio snickered. "At least he wasn't five minutes earlier."
"Possibly true." The phone rang and Xander got it, listening. "Hold on, Don." He put the phone next to Horatio's ear, letting him listen to it. Listening was a low calorie burning activity that one could do after great sex. At least until Horatio moaned and hung up the phone, letting it drop onto the floor. "Problems?" Xander asked quietly.
"No, not really. Don said he finished the case we were working on yesterday and a new one popped up but it's a crossover case. He'll be back in an hour." He gave his boy a squeeze. "Which means we need to shower and flip the cushions." Xander gave him an amused look. "It would be mean to make Danny sit in the wet spot this time. The same as it was to do that to Eric and Speed last time, Xander."
"I'm amused because you think I have energy to make it to the bathroom."
Horatio smiled at that and sighed. "Me either." He gave them another ten minutes, then they had to get up and head to their various duties. Xander showered and ate something, then went to swim and diving practice. Horatio barely managed to flip the cushions before Stella walked in, she caught him doing the last one. "Give me a second."
"He should rub your back if you're that sore," she told him.
He looked at her. "He's the reason I'm sore."
"Awww, did your boytoy jump you?" she cooed, pinching him on the arm. "Did you tempt him?"
"No, I was resting after my jog and he decided to lick the sweat off," he said dryly, heading back into the bedroom to finish getting dressed. At least he had on a shirt, all he needed was his jacket this time. He came out to find Don checking out the package on the table. "UPS got here before you did."
"If he saw what I did, I hope his girlfriend appreciates it later," he noted dryly. "Or his boyfriend." He moved closer, handing him the package. "So, what'd he do to earn that ride? The new hummer?" he teased.
Horatio shook his head. "I was resting after my jog, he thought I needed a bath."
"Ah." He nodded. "I've used that a time or two myself," he admitted, going into the living room. "Is the couch safe?"
"I flipped the cushions," he promised. He looked at the box, then opened it. "Hey, Don?" He came back and looked inside.
"Whoa. It's a head." He jiggled the box some. "The last present wielding guy's employee. The guy from the park," he explained at the curious look. He called Alexx. "Beauteous One, I have a head in a box that got shipped to Xander and Horatio. Nope, at his house. Thanks." He hung up. "Where's Xander?"
"Practice," Stella told him. "It's his day for it." She got up to look at the head in the box. "Wasn't that the guy on the plane who gave you that information?" He nodded and put the box down. "I'll go outside and see if there's more." She headed out to do that, calling Xander's cellphone on the way. "Be careful. That box had a head in it. Thanks." She hung up and found a small box, carrying it inside after taking a picture of where it had been laying. "This was behind the hummer."
Don pulled his knife to open it, then groaned and put it down, walking outside so he wouldn't be sick.
"I'm guessing it's a statement on how bad he was for wanting Xander?" she offered.
Horatio shook his head. "He didn't want Xander. He never has. He's in the employ of someone who wants Xander." He heard a knock and headed for the door, letting Alexx in. "There were two boxes, she found the other one behind the hummer."
She looked at the second box, then at Horatio. "I don't wanna know, do I?"
"He was in the employ of the car guy," Don called from the porch. "I'm gonna be sick if I have ta look at that, Alexx."
"I'm surprised Horatio can," she called back. She picked them both up. "Anything else?"
"Not so far," Stella told her. "I'll be back in a few hours to see if DNA has anything." She nodded, leaving them there. She looked at Horatio. "Should we call him back from practice? All I told him was that the box had a head."
"No, they won't come for him," he said quietly. "It was my name on the boxes."
Don came back in and shut the door. "Maybe someone decided to spare you having ta kill the bastard by doin' it for ya," he offered dryly. "Figuring the Wrath of Caine rumors and thought the guy liked your boy."
Horatio shook his head. "Anyone who would've watched them would have noticed it was more of an information pipeline." He went to get a bottle of water and think. "Don, has anything we've gotten from this guy had any sort of contact information?"
"No, sorry, Horatio. Nothing that I've seen."
"No," Horatio said, shaking his head. "He would've told me." He went to find Xander's address book, finding the name Alejandro Run in it. He remembered what Xander told him. And he called. "Alejandro?" he asked. "No, this is not Xander, this is Xander's husband, Horatio. I'm not sure, that's why I'm calling." He listened to the man complain. "No, he doesn't know. You know about his last present giver? The only one he accepts willingly?" he asked quietly, keeping his voice even. "No, his head and personal objects were just delivered to me by UPS, Alejandro. Since I know he was local part of the time, I thought you could tell me where to go to find who he was so we can warn someone else if necessary. Or so we can find out if it's against Xander or myself." He listened to the man babble. "No, the box was in my name, Alejandro." He made mental notes, nodding a few times. "Thank you. No, I won't tell him we talked. If you find anything out, I want this kept away from Xander. He doesn't need to hear about this. Come directly to myself or any of us on days in the lab. Or him, yes. Xander considers him like a big brother." He smirked a bit. "I thought you might be. Thank you, Alejandro." He hung up and resisted the urge to hit something, turning to look at Don. "You knew him."
"I did?" he asked. "The source or the guy?"
"The guy. They said you're tied to him and it was done as a warning to those who spoiled *his* Xander."
"So, another psycho," Stella noted. "Only this one's after his other stalkers." Horatio nodded and came out. "Will he be mad that you did that?"
"No, but Alejandro doesn't know that."
"How do we know this guy is straight with you?" Don asked.
"He owes Xander. Xander saved his mother," Horatio said calmly, looking around. "Somewhere there are remains of his body. Did we take fingerprints off the papers you gave over?"
"I did, but they didn't match anywhere in AFIS," Stella offered.
"Run it through the PD databanks and the federal ones," Horatio noted. She nodded, calling the lab to have them do that, then heading in to see what she could do to help. He looked at Don. "If this goes bad, you are to take Xander and protect him. Keep him from avenging me if possible. He will implode."
"And if they're after him for tainting the others?" Don asked patiently.
"Then you're still to watch him, Don. I need my boy watched if something happens and I'm not there to protect him." He finished his water, found his shoes, badge, gun, and keys. "Let's go."
"Can I ride in the hummer?" he called, following him.
"Yes, you may." He got in, then went back to turn on his security system. He checked the hummer over, noticing it didn't have a scratch on it, but that was good. He got in to start it again, backing down the driveway.
Xander looked up from his coming out of the pool as the pool's doors banged open, blinking at the guy walking in with the shotgun. "Hell." He finished climbing out and grabbed his towel to dry off. So far the guy hadn't used it in a threatening manner. He noticed two of the local security guys at the door and glanced at the guy, seeing him watching him. "What? You want me to be itchy? I seriously doubt that'll happen."
"You fucking prissy bitch," he shouted, raising the gun.
Xander flicked the knife that had been on top of his bag at the guy, getting him in the stomach. "Yay, I like being the bitch in my 'ship. Get over it," he said dryly, waving the security guys in. He walked over and took his knife back, wiping it off on his towel. "Coach, I think my other job is calling," he called as he headed for the locker room. One of the guards followed. "Sparky, I'm going to shower and get dressed. I'm married to a local cop. I'm not running."
"I still need to keep you in sight, sir."
"Fine. I'm still showering and changing if that bothers you." He grabbed his stuff and went in to shower, holding down the nausea. He came out and looked at the guard. "That wasn't about me."
"No, sir, it was about having gay athletes," he said honestly. "We've been tracking him. He went and threatened the gymnastics coach as well."
"Glad I could help stop him before he shot one of us." He went back to his shower, coming out clean and refreshed, then went to put on clothes. The swim coach came in and he waved. "Hi, coach."
"What the hell are you doing carrying a knife into practice!" he yelled.
Xander looked up. "Okay, first, I've had approximately sixty-three stalkers over the course of my life, varying in intensity from won't leave me alone and whining about it, to 'going to kill the Xander'. The greater majority have been the latter. That included about ten or twelve serial killers." He stood up and stepped into his sneakers, then looked at his coach again. "These are the same people who send me shit. Of course I go armed. I go armed when I'm taking a shit! I don't go to bed without a knife under my pillow and I'm still married to a cop. I don't take stupid chances and knives aren't often fatal that way. I'm a very good knife thrower and a very good shot. It's saving my ass, thank you." The coach backed off and he calmed himself down again.
"I'm sorry if that bothers you but I did tell you about my fanclub." He pulled on a shirt and checked his locker, pulling back out his knife and wrist harness to put on, then his weapon. The guard made a noise. "I have a permit. It's in my wallet." He grabbed his wallet and handed it over, then looked again. "Where in the hell is my driver's license?" He took his permit back, then searched around the wallet. "It's not here." He checked his locker. Not there. "Hopefully it's in the car after that time I got popped for speeding." He grimaced and shrugged, then gathered up what needed to go home to be washed. "I'll be back tomorrow, coach, unless you tell me not to." The locker room doors burst open and he tensed, then calmed himself. "Suzie."
"Xander. Are you all right?"
"Knife to the stomach. It was a good throw. He was still bringing up his shotgun." He shrugged. "It's a standard in my life."
"Okay. Should I call Horatio? Let him know you're in trouble?"
"I'm hopefully not in that much trouble," he said, glancing at the guard, who shrugged, then back at her. "Besides, we had a head delivered to the house by UPS. I don't think I'm more important than that."
"Okay," she said, nodding a bit. "A head? My husband said you got some crazy gifts."
"Yeah, Stella didn't say it was a gift," he noted dryly, making her shudder. "I think it was addressed to him instead of me, that's a nice change." He closed his locker, then locked it. "Keep an eye out for my driver's license, could you?" She nodded. "Thanks." He headed back with the guard, his bag over one shoulder. "He hasn't gotten to the ambulance yet?"
"We called, they're backed up with a wreck," the other guard noted.
Xander looked at him. "Get me some gauze and a towel," he ordered. They went to do that and he got to work making a very handy pressure bandage. "The skills you learn in Sunnydale," he said dryly, looking at the rifle. He looked at the guard. "The safety's not on."
"What?" He grimaced and sighed. "Thank you, Harris."
"Not a problem." He looked over as a patrol officer came in, smirking and waving. "Do they automatically send you if it's me?"
"It seems like it, Harris. What happened?"
"He's been threatening the coaches about the gay athletes," the first guard noted. "We tracked him here. Harris was getting out of the pool, if that's who this is, and the guy pointed the gun at him, smarting off. Harris smarted back, then threw the knife at him."
"Effective and non-lethal in most cases," the patrol guy agreed. "Ambulance is on the way," he admitted. "How deep?"
"First joint of my finger," Xander said. "I used a towel and gauze, it's pressure bandaged."
"Thank you. At least you know those things." He looked at the kid. "How do you know those things?"
"Ever been to Tentacles?" The patrol officer shuddered but nodded. "I used ta hunt those things. My town was full of them."
"Oh!" He nodded quickly. "Understood, sir. Are you still...." Xander shook his head. "Your spouse?" Xander nodded, looking like he was trying not to laugh. "Even better. It's probably protecting you, sir." He looked at the paramedics as they came in. "Harris put on a pressure bandage. He said it's about first joint of your finger deep."
"Knife," Xander offered. They nodded and got to work checking as best they could. The bandage was holding down bleeding. He looked at the security guy, then the patrol guy. "Who gets me this time?"
"They do," the guards said together.
"PD always gets anything violence related." The second guard shifted a bit. "Thank you, sir."
"Not an issue. I didn't want to be shot again today." He waved a hand and the patrol guy smirked so he shrugged and walked out first. "I was being nice."
"You try very well. Any other weapons on you, Harris?"
"My gun, my knife. I think I've got a pocket knife in my bag." He shrugged. "The standard really. Can we stop at my car for a minute? I couldn't find my license in my wallet." That got a nod and they stopped there, Xander not finding it in there either. "Damn it." He slammed the car door and locked it with the keychain remote, then followed him back to the patrol car. They had just backed out of the spot when his car blew up. "Uh-huh. Someone's playing dirty." He pulled out his phone, dialing his spouse. "Dear, why did my car just blow up?" he asked dryly. "No, I'm in a patrol car at the moment. A guy came in complaining about gay athletes and decided I was one. I ended up proving I can throw my dagger. First joint of your finger deep. Lower stomach. He'll survive and be sorry. Sure." He handed the phone to the officer. "Horatio."
"Lieutenant," he started, then shut up and listened as ordered. "Yes, sir!" He hung up and tossed the phone back. "You are to appear there immediately, sir. Someone's after you again." He watched fire trucks pull up and signaled to the other patrols coming to call him, getting a nod from one. Then he took Xander back to the station, walking him right to the Lieutenant's office. "Here you go, sir. Your spouse, unharmed."
"Thank you." He looked at Xander. "You did what?"
"He had a shotgun. He was pointing it at me."
"I see." He looked at the patrol guy, who wrote out what he had been told, including the missing driver's license, and handed it over. "Thank you, officer. What about the explosion?"
"I let Mr. Harris search his car for his missing ID. He locked it with the keychain remote when he didn't find it, then got into my car with me. We were backing up when it exploded."
"Type out the formal reports for me, officer. Just in case." That got a nod and he hurried off to do that and check in with his supervisor about his orders to leave the scene with the witness. "Xander."
"I didn't feel like being shot again today, Horatio."
"I'm happy to hear that," he noted calmly, pulling him closer. He showed him the picture of the head. "It was addressed to me."
"That's the guy from the park. He works for the guy who sent me the car that I exchanged for this one." Horatio nodded. "Okay. Um...." He blinked a few times. "I'm creeped out. Can we find that present sending guy? Just to warn him or talk to him?"
"We were hoping you'd know," Don said as he came in. "It's starting to rain like we need an ark."
"We get those now and then," Xander noted dryly. "Usually during hurricane season." He looked at his mate again. "What?"
"Do you have any idea who he is?"
"He saw me in Montreal at that first club. I didn't do a whole lot of crowd prowling."
"Are you sure it was there?" Don asked.
"Yeah, that's the only place I used Vex as a name." Xander sat down, looking at them. "He said I reminded him of his son, or that's what that guy said," he noted, pointing at the picture of the head. "From the tone it was told to me at, he added an 'at your age' but it could've been that he's dead." He shrugged. "There was that courier guy down here as well. Remember, I gave you his picture from the jewelry store," he reminded his mate. "Or was that dad?"
"It must've been him, I haven't seen it, Xander," Horatio told him.
Xander pulled out his phone and called New York. "Mac, is dad there?" He waited while he was transferred over. "Dad, where did you put that picture I got you of the courier guy? Yeah that one. Because the guy from the park had his head delivered to Horatio in his name. Well, practice was cut short by the guy with the shotgun who was threatening coaches about gay athletes," he offered. "No he pointed it at me, I tossed the dagger at him. Not very deep. First joint deep. Thanks." He hung up. "He said it's in his locker in the case file on this stuff. He said he's been working on it for a while now and he was keeping it all in his locker. He said you can pop the lock if you need to."
"I think I shall," Horatio said, grabbing Yelina to help him with that.
Xander looked at the label, frowning a bit. "The writing looks familiar, Don." He took it to look at. "I don't know from where."
"That's not conclusive," he noted but he did study it. "That does look familiar." He reached over to page Danny, bringing him running. "Whose handwriting is this?"
"The rookie kid that works with you and Yelina," he said, looking at him.
"It's easy enough to get a sample from him," Don noted, going out to the desk to do that. Half of the odd forms still got filled out in pens. He found one on his desk, then a few more just in case, and headed to questionable documents. Fortunately that tech was still in. "I know it's late." She sighed and sat down, holding out a hand. "Did Horatio give you the label off the box with the head?"
"Alexx and Danny did. Run these against it?" He nodded and she looked, then at him. "That's the...." Don held up a hand and she nodded. "Okay, give me ten, Detective Flack."
"Call me Don, most everyone does," he offered with a wry grin.
She smiled and uploaded the two samples, hitting the right keys to let the computer compare. "Not a match on the first one so let's go back." She went to the next one and this one matched, and so did the third. "Okay, these two are, this one isn't," she said, holding them out separately. "It's not enough to do more than give him funny looks."
"Yeah, but it's a starting spot," he noted, smiling at her. "Thank you."
"Not a problem, Don. We hate it when Xander's threatened. It tends to make Horatio cranky." She stood up and put back on her jacket, heading out with her purse.
Don went back to Horatio's office. "These two," he said, putting down that stack, "are a match to the shipping label. The other wasn't." He put that down separately. "I got them off the same desk." He glanced at Xander. "He noticed they were similar," he said, looking at Horatio again, "and Danny ID'd it. The gremlin in QD, who is a very attractive and smart woman, said it matched those two."
"Interesting," Horatio noted, looking at that other form. "That's in Frank's handwriting. He just signed it." He put it down and looked at the other one, then at him. "Do you think it's him?"
"I think she's right and it's going to take more than this to give him funny looks."
"Well, Speed's folder on this issue was missing." Xander groaned. "But he said he put a copy of nearly everything onto his personal computer at home. Which you have the password to, Xander?" Xander nodded. "Then we should do that."
"Lead on, boss," Xander assured him, standing up. "If it's him, I want him far away from everyone decent in the world." Horatio nodded and stood up, leading the way out to the hummer. Don got in his own car and followed. He had ridden over with Stella to Horatio's. Xander nodded politely at the manager as he slid past her. "Need something for Tim off his computer."
"That's fine, baby." She smiled at Don. "You were so thoughtful this morning, thank you, dear."
"Not an issue, ma'am. It's the guy my mother raised me ta be." He gave her his version of the goofy grin and got a poke from Horatio. "It was turned off." He got them into the apartment and tracked Xander back to the study, finding him staring at the screen. "What?"
"He used my middle name as a password and he spells it funny." He typed again, this time getting in. "Okay, you're in." Horatio sat down and found the right folder, burning it down to a CD. Then making another copy just in case. That one got handed to Don and then Horatio started to browse the file. "Go back," he said suddenly. "That's the courier guy and he's meeting with someone? I didn't take that photo."
"It's marked as one of our cameras," Don told him, pointing at the imprinted logo in the bottom right hand corner. All their digital cameras did that now. "When was it taken, Horatio?"
"According to the directory, about three weeks after the car showed up," he noted patiently. "Take that file and Xander back, Don. Let's see if we can figure out who the person in the car is. It might give us another link."
Xander studied the guy. "I still know him from somewhere else."
"You should, he was in the geology class with you," Horatio told him, glancing at him. "His hair had been cut, but he sat in the back." He printed that picture and got up, going off once Xander had been taken by Don. Horatio was going to the school.
Horatio knocked on a door, getting an older woman. "Ma'am, is your son here?" he asked, showing his badge. "I need to ask him about one of his classmates." She nodded, letting him in the door and going to get her boys. He looked at the older one, who flinched. "Outside. Please." The guy nodded and followed him, so he closed the door behind him. He held up the photo. "Is this your employer?"
"I'm not allowed to say, Lieutenant."
He switched photos to the one he had Don send him over the computer in the hummer. "His head got mailed to me earlier." The boy got ill over the side of the porch. "Now, we do need to warn you and warn your employer. And any other employees he might have," he said quietly once the boy was done. "To do that, we need his name."
The kid looked at him. "I'll call around for you, but I'm not allowed to tell you, Lieutenant. He's paying my way through school and I can't jeopardize that. But I will call him. I can get you his file probably. Do you know where the rest of him is?" Horatio shook his head. "Damn. He was a nice guy. The boss, he saved him from going thug." He frowned then looked at him. "Let me call. I'll see what I can do." He walked back inside, leaving the door open, which meant he was coming back. He dialed, ignoring his mother for now. "Hey, boss, one of the guys is gone. They mailed the Lieutenant his head. Yeah, Roger." He glanced outside. "No. Someone got a picture of me talking to Eggbert. Yeah, him. I don't know how he tracked me at all, boss."
"You were in Geology with my spouse," Horatio said from the doorway. "We're fairly sure they're targeting Xander's ...fans as they're usually called around the office."
The kid listened to his boss's orders. Then he nodded. He hung up after making an assenting noise and looked at the other man, seeing why Xander would want him, even at his age. "I'm protected. He's sending someone to protect me, Lieutenant. He's also sending one of his security people down to talk to Detective Flack tonight. Apparently he knew Detective Flack when he was younger. Also, he told me to tell you that he wasn't the boss, I just called his third-in-command, who is the only contact I have outside of Roger, who you've met, and Gordon, who hands out paychecks." Horatio nodded at that. "He's sending a system-wide alert."
"Very well. When can we expect this messenger?"
"Within two hours. He has to fly in from Sanibel Island." Horatio raised an eyebrow. "Our boss has friends all over. That's where Gordon lives and works from. I'm told I'll have protection within the hour. So I thank you for warning me, Lieutenant."
"How will I know him?"
"You'll know him. You used to work with Gordon. A lot of his guys that I've met used to be in law enforcement." He smiled. "And that's the only hint I can give you about who the actual boss is, sorry."
Horatio nodded. "Thank you and call us if you need help."
"Your husband's on my speed dial, Lieutenant. By the way, my boss didn't like that his car blew up."
"He can afford another one."
"So? He said that money's to go to spoil himself." He bowed and smirked. "Have a nice night, Lieutenant."
Horatio looked less than happy but he did leave. Once he got back into the hummer and underway, he called his office, where Xander was sitting. "Hand the phone to Don," he ordered. "Xander," he warned. He got a sigh and Don came on. "Within the hour, we're getting someone in with information and they're coming to you," he noted as he drove. "I'm on my way back. No, he only knows a few people in the chain. The head's name is Roger, the man coming is Gordon, and he lives on Sanibel Island. Apparently I used to work with him. You used to know the boss when you were younger and a lot of his people come from law enforcement were the only clues I was given." He nodded as Don thought out loud. Then Xander called out a comment and he smirked. "That could very well be," he agreed. "For now, keep him there. I'm on my way back." He hung up and drove faster once he hit the main thoroughfare. This had been irking him for a while.
Horatio looked up as Don led a man he knew into his office. "Gordon Prescott," he said, smirking a bit. "You were the one I hadn't guessed."
"Yeah, well," he said, then he grinned and shrugged. "Surprise." He handed over three folders. "Roger's. Harold's, your local courier who you talked to earlier, and then Regina, who is Roger's second-in-command and will be down here soon." He handed Don another folder. "Proof. Also proof that your boy is being baited by someone else. When did his license get stolen?" He sat down, watching Don frown at him. "Yes, you knew the boss when you were younger."
"Got a decade even?" Gordon shook his head. "This is gonna drive me nuts."
"He's an older man, Detective Flack, and he'll be dying soon. You'll all find out then."
"Please tell me he's not leaving Xander his estate," Horatio said calmly.
"Part of it but no. I'm getting the house on Sanibel. By the way, he registered under dummy corporations and names. That's a fruitless search, even for the Feds. I helped him set it up right after I left the Prosecutor's office."
"I see." Horatio calmed himself again, that gave them another timeline clue. "What does he want with Xander and myself?"
"For you two to be happy. Like his son should've been. By the way, he adores Eric and Diana. He has their picture next to yours and Xander's on his desk."
"Okay, so he's stalking the boy?" Don demanded.
"No, Detective, he's not. Xander reminds him of his son, who he lost years ago. I think sometimes his mind goes and he believes Xander is his son, but most of the time he knows his son died back in the fifties due to being gay."
"So he thinks what, that Xander's the reincarnation or something?" Don asked, sitting down now.
"No. I asked him once and he said he had no way of proving it so he wouldn't even dwell on that thought." He looked at Horatio again. "My employer has severe cancer, Horatio. It is his dying wish that Xander be well taken care of. He said you do that but the time will come when more aggressive approaches may be needed. He did say that Eric's optic nerve problem came from Diana's father. Who she never knew. It usually does heal itself as the body ages. He also said that he'd adore it if you considered having another one with her. Yours or his." Horatio shook his head. "I said he was too young to think on that yet. That his future is still too unwritten." He shifted and crossed his legs.
"Two other things he's mentioned recently. Xander's a very good swimmer and he thinks he may be the bottom of olympic quality but he didn't think he had what it took to get the gold. Make the team, but not get the gold. He did say it would take about a year of training to see, which would put him up for the next summer games. He encourages him to try if that's what he wants, but you probably should talk about the press attention that could bring." Horatio nodded slightly at that.
"They're sports casters but they're still reporters. He was worried Xander wouldn't want his past shown to everyone. The second thing he said was that Speed going back to Sunnydale was keeping him very alive for a very long time, long after you all ceased to exist. So if he quit going, he'd be back to a normal life expectancy, which no one knows how long it is. That should be his choice to stop whenever he's ready to start aging again. The same as it's your choice to go with Xander when he's given that option. The hellmouth misses him greatly and the new Xander it had made wasn't quite the same." He smiled a bit. "Did you notice that every now and then chaos is drawn to him?"
"I hadn't," Horatio noted.
"I have," Don complained. "Oh, that Ethan guy he told us to watch out for was hanging around the other day, Horatio. I scared him off."
"That's always wise, but Ethan sometimes works for my employer as well." He smiled at him. "Don't worry, all will be made clearer when he dies. Which won't be too long from now." He looked at Horatio again. "He wants you and Xander protected, no matter what, for a very long time. From those cases that come back to try to kill you. From the department because the next in line for Chief won't like you having Xander, and the one after him has Nazi-like tendencies about how white the police force should be. He wants your boy to have every advantage possible to be the best man he can be. And he wants him protected when you finally die, that way he doesn't go out and do something stupid. That's why we came up to him in New York. My boss knew that he and Don are close, like family, and that Don and Danny Messer would be helpful to hold him together when that day finally came, far in the future we hope." Horatio nodded once at that, looking comfortable with that idea, but you could see in his eyes he was seething. "It was not meant to usurp, Horatio, just take one worry from your shoulders so you and your boy could be happy and carefree. Because the Chief's wife was right. Xander is your reward for doing such a good job." He stood up. "Now, with that said, I'm going to go back into hiding."
"No you're not," Don said dryly.
"I've done nothing wrong and you can't charge me with anything."
"Yeah, we can." Don stood up, looking at him. "You're a lawyer, right?"
"Former prosecutor," Horatio said quietly. "Let him go, Don."
"You sure?" Horatio nodded. "You're just going to accept this?"
"My issues aren't with him." They shared a look. "My issues are with his employer."
"Good point." He glared at him. "Xander doesn't need this stress."
"I'm not the one applying stress over this. Nor does my employer plan on adding stress. The stress comes from what Horatio thinks about my boss's actions toward what he considers his. Horatio has always been very territorial, as proven by most of Miami knowing you don't touch the hummers without retaliation." He smirked at Horatio. "Those rumors have been going on since you were in the bomb squad, Horatio, and you beat up on McMillian's girlfriend for trying to beat him. It just changed when you got here." He smiled at Don. "By your leave, detective?"
"Fine, go. Leave a phone number so we can contact you directly."
"The one Harold called is good enough. It's a tossaway cellphone." He nodded politely then left.
Horatio picked up the 'proof' folder and handed it to Don. "Please fetch them for me."
"Sure. Do I have ta call IAD in?"
"They'll hear on their own." Don smiled, happier with that, as he walked out to get their guy.
Horatio compiled the list of clues and started an internet search through the program Willow had written for him. She hated this person just as much as he did and worried just as much as he did about the man's intentions. The son's murder came up and he looked at it, seeing the resemblance. It wasn't exact but it was close. He printed that off and got up to join Don since he heard someone complaining as they were drug up the halls. They switched folders and he went in there, looking at the rookie detective. "You were at the college earlier," he noted calmly, putting down that photo. "You sent me a head in a box." He put down that photo. "Where's the rest of the body, Philip?"
"He's distorting the act of love!" He stood up. "You're letting him! It's like you're pimping him for the presents!"
"He's sent back every single thing he could," Horatio said coldly. "Where is the rest of the body, Philip?" The man backed off, shaking his head. "You will tell us. That man was a former officer in New York. All he did was deliver information to Xander. Information on people like the Mala Noches."
"He sent him money like he was a whore!"
"He was in the employ of someone who sent Xander gifts," he overrode. The man looked scared at that. "Yes, we talked to someone higher in the chain." He moved closer, looking calm and collected, inside he was going to explode soon. "Now, where is the rest of the body?" he asked quietly, staring into his eyes. "Before I bring IAD in here." The man started to stutter. "Now, Philip," he ordered.
"His cabin," he sighed, sitting down. "It's not right! Love isn't about presents! He was tainting you by tainting Xander and Xander was teaching Yelina's son bad habits too!" He looked at Horatio. "Why don't you understand!"
"I do understand. I also understand that Xander sent back everything he could every time he got anything. I also understand that Xander has been very diligent about doing so and telling me. The same as I know exactly why that killer was going after Ray, his girlfriend. She's the one who got him onto the stage the first time."
"Was to draw the killer out. The other two were officers in case you hadn't noticed." Don came in and handed back the folder with more information. "Thank you, Don."
"Welcome. IAD is standing out there holding Xander back. Xander's about three minutes away from going back to profiling so the department doesn't get more of these." He stared the guy down. "Do you really think Xander wanted this shit? I've seen him in tears over it." The man slumped, just looking at him. "I've talked Xander out of leaving Horatio so he wouldn't have to deal with the presents and the impact on his job and this department. The kid hates these things."
"He still accepts...."
Horatio put down the picture of the murdered son. "The man who's still sending him things is the father of this young man. He said Xander reminds him of his son." Philip burst out crying. "Do you know more about him?"
"No, Horatio, I swear. I was just trying to remove the taint. The department can't afford to lose you if they decide you're dirty over this."
Xander walked in and made the guy look at him. "Every single time something like this happens, I've went and handed over all the information I had to the Internal Affair's guy. That way they can't blame Horatio. Otherwise I would've left a long time ago. That was Don's suggestion to keep him out of trouble. Do you honestly think that they're still looking at him oddly for me?" The man sniffled and nodded. "Then you'd be really surprised. Half of them down there knew who I was before. The same as some of the higher ups in the mayor's office and other places do. I sent a present back to the deputy mayor last month," he said quietly. "Don and Internal Affairs both assured me that this was not going to impact Horatio any." He let him go and stood up. "Maybe I should go back into profiling," he complained, turning and walking out.
"Go," Horatio ordered to Don, who nodded and followed the kid. The Internal Affairs agent Xander worked with walked in and shut the door. Horatio picked up that boy's picture, but left the rest there. "There's also proof that someone's taken Xander's license. I'm sure you saw Gordon Prescott in earlier. He's working with this one."
"I heard. By the way, can you move that statue Stetler bugged away from the air conditioner? The noise is really annoying."
Horatio looked at him. "I'll make sure it's gone later."
"We know it's not you. Prescott was right though. The next in line wants you gone. So I wouldn't have sex in your office."
"I haven't yet."
"Good point." He smirked. "Your conduct has been very good, Caine. We appreciate that you mostly keep it out of the office. Do encourage your boy to go back to profiling. Even if it is harder, it'll soothe his nerves more. Oh, second child?"
"Not on the planning table," he noted dryly.
"Sure. But we think it'd be cute. Xander makes an adorable father." He grinned at him. "Now go chase your boy and calm him down as only a husband can. By the way, big wedding? Might not be such a good idea. Two other officers are suing the city over being fired for it." Horatio nodded, leaving them alone, but still listening. Just in case more was said. Don handed him the earpiece when he found him and Xander outside.
"He's fine, just creeped out," Don assured him. "Oh, I found out from the file. The father had a paternity test done post-death, it's not his son."
"So we're dealing with the actual father?"
"Who probably knew," Don agreed. "Possibly was the cause as well."
Xander looked up from looking over the information. "Tell Willow to drop it. This isn't my usual psycho posse." He went back to looking, frowning at a news article that printed. "Why was this in the file?" He handed it back and got back to reading. The son had been a musician. A drummer. He had been killed with another man in a hotel room. It had been a huge scandal and it was proclaimed the first killing due to 'perverted' tendencies in the city of Miami.
"Somehow I doubt it was the first," Don said from over his shoulder. He took that page to reread.
Xander's eye caught on something and he read it over more slowly, clearing his throat. "Here." He handed it to Horatio. "His father."
"Did he kill 'im?" Don asked, looking over Horatio's arm to read.
"Nope. He protected his remains and that of his lover." He turned to face his husband. "Which means he's either the spouse of my present giver or my present giver. The only one who protected him had to be family. Only family protects you like that."
"That is true," Horatio agreed, memorizing that name. He could search on it later. He listened as Philip confessed to everything and told the agent where the bodies were, and then him ordering him to come along with the night shift crew. He looked at Don. "They're going for the other bodies. They're taking night shift."
"Good. Does that mean we can go mope on your couch?"
"Sure," Xander agreed, standing up, gathering everything together. He noticed something fell and picked it up, holding the small charm bracelet up to look at. "That's adorable, but it's a girly thing."
Don took it and then blinked. "Oh my god," he breathed. "My former science teacher had one'a these. He wore it on his necklace. When one of the girls asked if it was from his daughter he said no, his son had given it to him but he was dead!" He looked at Horatio. "I was really young, that was Junior High. He was an old guy then!"
"He's probably ancient now," Horatio agreed.
"Or a vamp," Xander sighed, shrugging a bit. "Had to be said. Sorry. Past history and all," he noted at the funny looks he got.
"That is a possibility," Don admitted, handing it back so it could be included in the file.
"It's odd how lives sometimes tie together," Horatio said quietly, leading them back inside so they could solve this riddle. He wanted to talk to the man face-to-face about this. Horatio didn't like dealing with minions, it irked him.
Xander looked up as someone came into the drawing room he was sitting in, standing up. "Father Benis," he said, smiling a bit, shaking his hand. "Nice of you to see me."
"I knew Prescott had a big mouth," he admitted, sitting down and looking at the three men. "A trio suddenly, Mr. Caine?" he asked dryly.
"Don's here to protect Xander in case I can't. As Xander very well knows."
Xander looked at him, then at Don. "I'm not sleeping with you."
"Good. You're not my type. Behave."
Father Benis laughed and shook his head. "I doubt he ever could, Donald. I see you did fulfill my expectations. You've surpassed your father." He smiled gently at him, then at Horatio, then back at Xander. "You do strongly remind me of my son, Alexander." That got a nod. "I meant you no harm."
"Which was why I didn't throw a fit about yours," he offered. "Are you really a priest?"
"I was in my youth. Then the teachings of the Church started to counter what I saw in life. My doubts and weaknesses came back to shine a spotlight on me. So I left." He smiled at Don. "His was the last class I taught." He looked at Xander again. "Yes, that boy was my son. You will make a very good profiler some day, young man."
"I know," he offered gently. "The main problem is the quality and style of teaching." He snapped his fingers and a butler came over with a silver tray. "You shall go here. They can teach you better." He handed it to Xander. "Still within the college but under a different track. Understood?" Xander nodded, glancing at it then putting it in his pocket. "Thank you." He gave him a gentle smile again. "You will do many great things, Alexander. I have mentored others who have. Donald was the last one before I had to leave the city of my birth over my fights with the Church. I mentored a few others over the years as well. You are my last mentoree. You'll be my finest yet. And possibly my happiest. Horatio does soothe you like no other." He gave Horatio that same gentle smile. "Please let me indulge my fantasies," he ordered quietly. "I only have months left, Horatio. And you'll need the support later in life. After all, only one of my students remains alive," he said, pointing at Don. "The others have all died due to their choices and the horrible choices of others."
"I've never found a thing wrong with someone mentoring or looking out for my husband, but I do think you've been overly generous."
The old man snorted. "What do I need with the money? I'm soon to die and there's no one to leave it to other than my employees. By the way, Prescott changed my will." He handed over the original copy off the tray to him. "It's your choice which gets put into the official records."
"Which is your choice?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted, smiling a bit more happily. "His idea was more generous and would protect Xander more. But it would rob others of things that they probably don't want anyway. This one is less generous to your husband and more to them, but again, they probably don't want it anyway."
"We'd rather keep you," his butler said quietly.
He smiled up at him. "As I would rather stay, Paul." He stroked his hand. "I would rather stay and be young like you, but I cannot. That is not how human lives are supposed to go. Not even Ethan can prolong me much longer." That got a nod and a dripping tear. "Shh, calm yourself." He pulled him down to hold. "You will move on and find many wonderful adventures," he whispered. Then he said something more quietly and Paul nodded, leaving them. "He's been here since I saved him at fifteen."
"You always did take in the kids who needed it," Don agreed, looking at him. "I still don't understand why."
"Because you and Xander both needed the hand to get past your history. Yes, Timothy could have helped him greatly and has. But for him to do even bigger things and not have to indebt himself to do so is a greater gift. The same as I got you thinking about what good you could do and how you could come out of your father's shadow, even in the same field. I knew then that you'd never be happy doing anything but being an officer. So I helped you see how you could carve out your own name. You haven't been Don Flack's boy in years, have you?" Don shook his head. "Then I was correct?"
"You were," he admitted.
"Good. Then when you retire, you'll come down and help Eric." Don nodded at that. "Because that poor little boy will need some if he's not going to turn into his mother. Who I do like," he assured Xander with a smile. "It's just that the boy could be much more."
Xander nodded. "I'm hoping he's better in school than I am."
"That can be handled easily," he pointed out with a smile. "You can afford a good education for him and for Ray Jr. Who you're already mentoring in my esteemed image," he noted dryly.
"I'm his big brother."
"Yes, and that's how I always saw myself as well. Make sure Ray goes on to do whatever he wants that he's good at. The same as you will. The same as your son and the others around you have. Then, some day, you'll be in this chair facing down a nervous young man and his spouse of choice far, far in the future, Xander." He smiled at him. "Now. I've sent something to your house because you and Horatio should celebrate your anniversary. Wear it in health and love, and don't rip it later, young man. Donald, you are their friend and guardian. Even Timothy has not the ties you do," he said quietly, staring him down. "They may have been joking when they ordered you to protect Xander. I am not. There are still those who want him very badly. In the future, should he go into profiling, there will be those who want to stop him. Eventually you'll be the glue holding him together when he loses Horatio. I expect great things of you and I knew you'd be here today long before you met Xander." He stood up. "With that said, I have another episode of draining to go through. Be well and be happy, Xander. You are like my own son. Horatio expects you to be happy and good, I expect great things." He walked out, leaving them alone.
Xander looked at his mate. "He's a seer."
"He always was," Don agreed bitterly. He looked at the couple. "Let's go?" They nodded and followed him out to the hummer, him getting into the back. He leaned forward once they were heading out. "Xander, you okay?"
"Yeah, it's things I don't want to think about," he admitted. He looked at Horatio. "Did she ever figure out I paid for his tuition?"
"Yes, and she thought it was sweet." He glanced at him, then pulled over to park at a beach, turning off the engine and unbuckling to look at them. "It changes nothing, Xander. It's who you are naturally."
"Yeah, but he was saying it like I was going to be sitting *right there* in a few decades."
"You could be," Don admitted. "Can I see the will?" Horatio shook his head. "I just wanna scan for my name."
"It's mostly blank," he said. "It'll have to be exposed under UV lights." He looked at Xander again. "Nothing and no one says you have to take it, or go to profiling school, or any of it, Xander. This is still your decision."
"What do you...."
"No, it is your decision. I can only advise," he said firmly, staring his mate down. Xander nodded and looked at the papers he had been given. "Would that help?" Xander nodded and handed it over so he could see it. "That's a different.... ah. He works with another school as well and they have a better program," he noted dryly. Xander nodded. "You talked to him?"
"Tim showed me to him. He said he helped the department in the past." He curled up on his side in the seat, looking at his mate, then back at Don. "I don't care if he does die, I'm still not sleeping with you as more than nightmare deterrence." Don grinned at that. "Horatio?" he asked quietly.
His mate stroked his cheek. "Whatever you decide is right for you, I will be behind you, Xander. I can't make the decision but unless it's to jump off a very high building, I'll stand behind you." Xander nodded, pressing back against his hand. "They already know about this so it won't impact my job. If it does, then I'm going to sue the city." That got a weak smile. "It's not right that they hate me because I'm with you. I work harder now that I'm with you."
"I noticed the long nights recently." He leaned over and took a kiss, ignoring the moan from Don. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. He wasn't doing it to steal you, just to give you options and to guide you. Later on I'm going to call Prescott and tell him I've got this will and tell him what the old man said."
"I...I'd rather he used this one, Horatio. I don't need anything else."
"I'll tell him you said that," he promised, stroking his cheek. "That's not our decision to make either." Xander nodded, giving him the same adoring look. "Now, you should eat since you have dive practice later."
"The coach said I can't come back until I have another CT and an MRI since I got dizzy again last time."
Horatio sighed and nodded. "I can agree with that. When's your appointment?"
"Tonight. I already told him that. He gave me permission to skip. I didn't wanna go alone this time."
"Good. Going alone is not to be done," he reminded him, getting a small grin. "Good boy, Xander. Now. Lunch? Or are you forbidden?"
"No, I'm good on lunch, I'm hungry," Xander admitted. "Don, got a choice of places for food?"
"Somewhere not Mexican? Or Cuban? Nothing with fish?" he offered dryly. "A deli maybe?"
"Homesick?" Horatio teased as he turned back around to start the engine.
"Yeah, a bit. Mostly for the variety of food we had." He looked at Xander. "I'm nothing more than your big brother."
"Good, since Danny still pants after you."
"He does not!"
"He does, even Delko noticed," Horatio said dryly, backing out and heading for the deli he went to when he was homesick. He parked and they got out, letting Don walk in first.
"Oh, hell yeah, this is perfect," he said happily. The guy behind the counter smiled at him. "I'm in on the transferring program."
"Eric says he can't get good Cuban food up there," Xander noted as he came in. "Oh he said to tell you that your parents came looking for you and he reminded them that you were down here for six months, so they've adopted him to feed for a bit since your sister likes him." He grinned at the deli guy. "A real pastrami sandwich, no mustard?" he asked, grinning brighter.
"Sure, kid." He looked at Horatio. "Homesick too?"
"Bringing Don," he admitted with a smirk. "Xander, this is Roy. Roy, this is Xander."
"Your Xander? Like the one that's up there with your hummer?" he teased as he made Xander's sandwich. Xander handed him a fifty with a grin and a wink, heading over to a table. "He's cute. Young, but cute."
"Yeah, and gonna kill him in bed some day," Flack said dryly, smirking at him. "Trust me." That got a laugh. "You know the Game Day Special?" That got a smirk and a nod. "I thought so from the accent. Give me one and a half? The other half ta go."
"I called Danny, he's coming," Xander called over.
"He can eat it out of the bag," Don assured him, then grinned at the old guy. "I'm guessing Xander's buying lunch."
"He's in a spoiling mood," Horatio agreed dryly. "The usual."
"Of course." He handed it over as well, then gave him the change. "Your boy's cute, Horatio. You surviving?"
"Most nights," he agreed, going over to sit down. Danny strolled in a few minutes later and beamed. "Don got you food."
"I love you guys!" he said, hugging Roy. "You're gonna see me a lot. Mexican and Cuban food gives me gas." He went to sit down and eat with his buddies, stealing the other half of Don's sandwich as well. "Thank you. Stella found this diner like at home that she's at right now with Lindsay."
"Girl needs help anyway," Don agreed. "She's still too quiet."
"So's Willow and look what she got," Xander said dryly.
"Nah, she's not that sorta quiet. She doesn't babble." Danny nodded at that. "Horatio, we gotta fix Lindsay up with someone decent."
"Mac was checking her out," Danny offered.
"Eww, trying ta eat," Don complained, taking another bite. He chewed and swallowed. "I can't imagine my mother taking Delko home and nagging him ta eat."
"I can. Eric thinks with his stomach sometimes," Xander countered. "I wonder how Calleigh and Speed are getting along."
"I checked last night, they're fine," Horatio assured him. "She's still getting lost but they're fine. How is Sheldon doing? I haven't seen him in a few hours."
"He's just finished up that case and headed back to the lab," Danny admitted, grinning at him. "Alexx is treating him like a long-lost and slightly odd son. She's trying to talk him back into the morgue." He ate another bite and moaned. "Ooh, this is so right."
Don nodded. "It is. It's real food."
Xander grinned. "Don't look at me. We had Thai, West Coast Mexican, TexMex, and Japanese food in Sunnydale. Sandwiches were something little kids ate at home." He ate another bite. Roy laughed and he shrugged. "I'm from near LA. Deli out there would be a bad word. It's got *fat* in the meat." That got a louder laugh so he grinned. "Really."
"Yeah, I can't see most stars going to a deli either," he assured him. "You been down to West Ridge St?"
"Yup, lots and lots. It's like home down there," Xander agreed happily.
That got a smile from Roy. "I thought you might've, Mr. Harris." They shared a look and he smirked. "Buffy is where?"
"Far, far, far away from my husband or else I'm going to kick her ass," he assured him. "But tell Travers that Willow's pregnant." Roy grinned and nodded. So Xander looked at his mate. "Former Watcher, he used to be New York's. We've talked a few times but I didn't know he ran a deli or else I'd have brought you home food." He ate another bite.
Don and Danny both laughed at the look on Horatio's face. It wasn't often his boy flustered him but when he did it was cute!
"You'll be making up for that later," Horatio assured him finally. "For quite a while."
"Hey call in sick tomorrow," Xander quipped back with a grin. "See if I complain when I can't sit." He finished his sandwich and sipped the water he had gotten. Horatio gave him a long stare, making him know he wasn't going to be sitting for a very long time, and it made him happy.