Xander wove through the streets of downtown Miami four days after his goodbye to Ezra and Vin. He was given a second cell phone to be used in emergencies that would allow the pair of them to get back up to him as quickly as possible if the Miami-Dade Police Department failed their duty. Smirking at seeing his new home as he turned onto his street, Xander saw that the outside was still in good condition. As he got closer, he also saw that the last owners had a metal roof, and it brought a smile to Xander’s face. Apparently the druggies had wanted to make sure that the outside was sound in structure. All that he had to do now was check the interior.
Stepping up to the house, Xander waved to his neighbor, and smiled as she walked over. She was obviously a Latino from her skin colour, but was curious to why she was coming over.
“Hello miss, I’m Xander Harris. I’m interning with the Miami-Dade Police Department. Can I help you?” Xander hid his confusion at her smile and shook the extended hand.
“I’m Yelina Salas. You’ll be seeing me often, as I am a homicide detective attached to the MDPD labs. I noticed that you’re moving in, you do realize that the house needs serious repairs right?”
“Yeah, but as I’ll have little to do because I’m an intern, I figured that this would be a good side project to keep me busy. That and my friends from Denver will be popping around, so it’ll give them something to do when they get down.”
“You might have heard of the “Magnificent Seven” of the ATF in Denver, yeah, it’s them.” She chuckled and smiled.
“Well, I am glad that you’ll have friends that’ll be coming over to visit. Are you going to need any help?”
“I might a bit later on. Right now I just want to make sure that I can get all the supplies in so that when I start working I’ll have everything I need on hand; why do you ask, if I may know.”
“I have a son, and I was wondering if he could help out to see what it’d be like. He has mentioned that he was looking into construction as a possible job, but I’m wary of having him join a crew.”
“Sure, have him drop by in three days and I can see about putting him to work. It should take me that long to get everything delivered and set up to start working.”
“Since you just drove in, how would you like dinner in thanks for giving my son a chance?”
“I’d appreciate it. Just give me thirty to shower and change. I fell grimy after driving for so long.”
“Of course, just knock and come in. Oh, my brother-in-law will be showing up for dinner as well, just so you know.”
“That’s fine, as long as my joining won’t cause any problems?”
“No, it’ll be fine. I’ll let you get cleaned up.”
“Thanks again Mrs. Salas.”
“Yelina, call me Yelina Mr Harris.”
“Only if you call me Xander.”
Nodding, Yelina went back to her home while Xander entered his new place. The interior wasn’t as bad as they had feared, so Xander was optimistic with his timetable. With Yelina offering her son’s help, Xander might get to do some decorative touches as well. Whistling a jaunty tune, Xander skipped up to the bathroom on the second floor and winced at the sight of bullet holes in the walls. That would have to be fixed first, that and the kitchen.
Pulling out a couple of towels from the box marked linens, Xander sighed as he assessed the damage to the walls and what he could do to fix it. Stepping into the bathroom, he put the towels on the rack and stripped out of the outfit he had been wearing since he entered the lower part of Florida. Xander hummed as he washed away the grime of the road, as well as the sweat from the humidity, and wrapped himself in one of his fluffy towels before stepping into his room to get dressed.
Getting dressed, Xander checked and smirked as he heard the dial tone on the phone in the kitchen. Dialing the number for the office where the seven worked, Xander hummed as he fussed with his hair.
“ATF’s Team Sevens office, this is Agent Dunne, how can we help you today?”
“Xander! Give me a sec and I’ll put you on speaker.” There was a click before JD’s voice came back on. “Can you hear me Xander?”
“Loud and clear.”
“How was your trip?” Buck’s voice came over the line and Xander smiled.
“Good, got here a few minutes ago, and you’ll be happy to hear that the place I got wasn’t as bad as we thought. Oh and I live next to one of the detectives that I’ll be working with.”
“What’s their name?” Chris’ voice came over the line, causing Xander to chuckle.
“Detective Yelina Salas. She’s really nice; she even offered her son’s services to help me with the construction here in the house when I’m not working to give him some experience.”
“What are your plans now that you’re down?” Josiah’s voice came though, bringing a smile to his face at the care that his friends were showing.
“Well, I’ll do a tour of the house to see what needs to be fixed and make a list and tomorrow I’ll be off to the hardware stores to get everything I need. It’s great that I have just over a week to get the main things fixed, like the floors and at least one of the guest rooms. Then kitchen is gonna be the hardest, but that’ll be a good two days of constant work, so I’m looking forward to it. Oh, and Ez, Vin, when the pair of ya get down here, I’ll need help deciding on a theme.”
“Why ask them?” Nathan’s voice was curious.
“Their coming down first.”
“Yes, Mr. Tanner and Ah have already informed Mr. Larabee that we’ll be heading down in one month’s time to help Xander and to us some of our accrued leave first.” There was smugness in the tone, making Xander laugh.
“Now, now, everyone play nice. Also, I can’t get all of you into the house as it is right now, so Vin and Ezra will be conscripted into helping me fix the kitchen, and the upstairs rooms. Those are nasty.” The others could hear the shuddering in Xander’s tone.
“You gonna be ok there pard?” Vin’s quiet question brought a small smile onto Xander’s face.
“Yeah, I’ll be ok. It’s only for a year, and then I’ll be back with you full time. The time away is simply to make my skills even better than before. You’ll be dazzled by what I can do when I get back.”
“Looking forward to it,” Was Vin’s reply to his boasting.
“I’d love to chat more, but Detective Salas has offered me a meal, so I should get going. I’ll talk to you guys on Sunday. You’ll all be at Chris’ ranch, right?”
“Yep, the boys will all be there. You enjoy your meal; these clucking hens need to get back to work.”
With a laugh and a goodbye, Xander hung up the phone and made his way over to Yelina’s house. Knocking on the door, Xander stepped in and smiled at the sight of the beautiful Latino. She was obviously talking to someone and turned once she heard the knock on the door.
“Xander, come in and have a seat. Would you like something to drink? I have tea, coffee, beer, wine, juice and water.”
“I’ll have a glass of water please. Thank you once more for letting me come over.” Xander walked into the kitchen and blinked at the sight of his new boss at the table.
“Nonsense; since you offered to let Ray help you with the renovations of your home, it’s the least I can do. You know Horatio already, and I mentioned earlier that he was going to be joining us for dinner.”
Xander thought back over the conversation and realized that he was her brother in law. Biting his lip, he wondered if he should ask where her husband was. Horatio decided to save his the trouble.
“My brother Raymond was killed in the line of duty, working as an undercover agent to bust a drug ring.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Xander held Horatio’s eyes while he spoke, showing his sincerity, and that he understood what it was like to lose someone as well. Horatio simply nodded his head in thanks.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what are your plans for your home?”
“I plan to fix up the inside. I’ll be here for a year, and while I do have money saved, I agree with my friend; it’s cheaper for me to buy a house, fix it then sell it than it would be for me to rent a place for the year I’ll be in Miami.”
“So, you’re flipping it?” Yelina asked as she cooked at the stove.
“Yep. I built a lot of homes when I was in Africa before I was deleted from the system because of a virus. I was lucky to run into team seven upon my return and they’ve helped me a lot over the past four years.” Xander stuck to his cover story, and he would believe it fully, if he still didn’t have nightmares from his former home.
“You don’t believe that you’ll remain in Miami?” Horatio was curious about the answer.
“I don’t think I will. I’m sure that Miami is a beautiful place, but AD Travis has a spot for me to work with Team Seven as their main Lab personnel. I’ll be dealing with over haul of whatever the team will be bringing in as well as helping with under covers.”
“What if you found a reason to stay in Miami?”
“We’ll see if and when that happens. I’m not saying that it’s a sure thing. AD Travis wants me to do the best I can, and if I have to do another year of work before I can have that, then I’ll do as he wishes. But Team Seven is the one that you’ll have to fight with. Chris already claimed me, as has the rest of the team.”
“Then I will wish you a good year here in Miami.” Horatio smirked, “We’ve all heard tales about Larabee and his ATF team. How true are they?”
“How true are yours?”
Xander gave Horatio an innocent grin and was spared more probing when the door opened with a bang.
“Mom! I’m home!”
“In the kitchen Ray.”
The teenager that came around the corner reminded Xander of a mix between him and Larry. He had a feeling that the kid had it rough because of his late father and the fact that all of his family was law enforcement.
“Ray, I want you to meet Xander, he’s our new neighbor and is going to fix up the house next door. I told him that you were interested in construction and he is willing to let you help.”
“I’ll be paying you nine dollars an hour. That’s about what you’d be making after taxes on a regular site. How much you get per day will depend on how long you worked that day. We’ll keep a total of when you get in to help me and when you leave and I’ll pay you at the end of every week; that good for you?”
“Really?! You’ll pay me?” The kid’s eyes got wide and looked startled.
“You’ll be working for me; I can’t see why I shouldn’t pay you for your time. When my friends come down, they’ll be paid in food, beds and beer. You should have some pocket money for things you like or for dates. You could even invest it, if you wanted to. I’ll pay you to help, and I’ll teach you at the same time, win-win if you ask me.”
“Wow. When will I start?”
“Three days from now.”
“So that means Friday, right?”
“Yeah, I have to make a list and get measurements and all that. Also, I have to buy the materials and have it delivered since I’m on a bike. That and I want to get my ID as early as possible, that way they have a few days to put me in the system, and I don’t get batched with the other interns. Horatio, can I scope out the labs tomorrow too?”
“I don’t see why not; just make sure you have your ID out if you do.”
Yelina put the meal on the table and Xander savoured the meal.
“Delicious meal Yelina, could I get the recipe off of you? Ezra isn’t much of a cook, and something like this would make the nights after he comes back from a bust good.”
“Yeah, I stayed with him while I was in school. He’s Chris’ under cover man. He’s really good, and we conned them good when they bet that we couldn’t get them to think that we were someone else.”
“How did you do it?” Ray asked.
“We dressed up like women and confused them by acting and sounding completely different.”
“How did you do that?”
“Well, Ez has stage makeup for undercover busts and everything, and he did a lot of drama in school. Then we found special tape that didn’t aggravate the skin or pulled too much hair and was able to attach fake breasts and got special padded underwear to hide the fact that we were male. We could have used the tape down below, but I’ve seen people needing the emergency room for doing it wrong.”
“Wow, what else.”
“Colour contacts and temporary hair dye. Three washes and its gone.”
“Cool, can you teach me?”
“We could practice when not working on the walls and during breaks and all. Ez is also coming down in about a month and he’d be more than happy to teach you too.”
“Yep, and to test drive it, Halloween is good, right?”
“That’ll be so cool! Mom, can I?”
“We’ll see when the time comes Ray.” Ray sighed and nodded, getting up to start the dishes and putting the leftovers away.
“We can talk more this weekend. Yelina, I want to thank you for a lovely meal, and I will endeavor to make one for you as well.”
“I simply wanted to thank you for helping Ray out.” She tried to wave off the offer.
“There is nothing simple about it. You didn’t have to offer me a meal, and in return I shall make one for your family. But it’ll be a while since I need to redo the kitchen.” Xander shuddered at the thought of his new kitchen.
Thanking them all once more, Xander left Yelina’s home and checked the exterior a bit more thoroughly to make sure that there would be no problems with the foundation. Smiling at the obvious good work, Xander entered the house and pulled out a pen and pad of paper from his messenger bag. Starting at the main entrance, Xander began to catalogue each thing into two categories; what needed to be repaired and what could be repaired.
The main things, in the house, that had to be fixed were a few parts of the floor, and the kitchen. The walls could do with a coat of paint, that that was an end project more than anything, or something that Vin and Ezra could do on the days he was at the lab. Making his way up the stairs, Xander noted that the banister needed replacing and marked down the fact that the bullet holes had to be filled and painted over on the second story, if not then have the walls replaced.
Wrinkling his nose at the spare room, Xander knew that this had to be the first project done, and marked down that all the bedrooms had to be revamped. There were holes in the walls and charred marks on the floors, so Xander knew that he basically had to redo the upper part of the house. Lucky for him, all the bathrooms were in perfect condition, and there was nothing wrong with the taps or drainage. Nodding, Xander checked the windows and was pleased once more at the good quality work. Seeing that it was only the interior walls that needed to be fixed, Xander walked down the stairs to the main floor and cocked his head at the sight of Horatio in his door way.
“Can I help you Lieutenant?”
“I just wanted to welcome you to the lab now, as I’ll be holed up in meetings tomorrow, and Horatio is fine.”
“Thank you Horatio. Before you go, do you know where I can find a good hardware store? I’d like to see if I can get all this ordered tonight and have it delivered tomorrow morning.” Getting the directions to the nearest and best hardware store made Xander smile. It was close by, and since he was close to the store, delivery should be free.
“Thanks for the help Horatio, and if I don’t see you tomorrow, I’ll see you in a week’s time.” With a smile and a wave, Xander locked up and straddled his blue Ducati and headed towards the hardware store, missing the nostalgic look on Horatio’s face at the sight of the bike.
“Yes, until then Xander, until then.”