Xander trekked into his house with a weary sighs and smiled as Ray came out of the kitchen.
“Hey Xander, I was wondering if we were working today? Since I wasn’t sure when you were getting home, I was doing the stenciling to hide the cupboard under the stairs.”
“That’s fine Ray, but I don’t think we’ll be doing much today. You’re uncle is coming over to help plot out a route to deal with some things for work. Then I gotta get the guys settled for the night, since they flew in from Denver and the time change is murder around here. But you can keep working on it until your uncle shows up, and I might be able to find enough food to feed the eleven of us.”
“Nah, mom wants me home for supper tonight. Now I know why. I’ll take you up on the work until Uncle H shows up though, thanks!”
“I was your age too once and just needed to get away once and a while.” Xander chuckled and waved the rest of team seven in, showing everyone where they could store their things for the time being, before Horatio showed up.
Taking this as an invitation to snoop, everyone whistled at the obvious beauty of the home in front of them, and they all shared a smile. Xander did love construction, and it showed in each room that seemed to glow from the changes done to it.
“The one thing I’m glad about is that the windows don’t need to be fixed, and the outside was perfect. It’ll need painting in about six or seven years, but other than that, it’s fine.”
Josiah moaned at the sight of the kitchen and everyone laughed until they saw it as well.
“Damn kid, you think you could fix up my kitchen if I paid ya for it?”
“I’ll have to look everything over and see exactly what you want, or it’ll have to wait even longer. Besides, you can pay me in food as well as sleeping quarters while I fix it up.”
“That’d be great kid, I really do appreciate that.”
“No worries, but I’ll need help to do the kitchen. Putting up cupboards is a three to four man job. Two people hold while the other one, or two, screws everything into place.”
“Yep, it’s cause it’s an awkward thing to hold in place, and you normally do the above cupboard before you set up the lower cabinets and granite top. Also, you have to measure everything out perfectly, and leave breathing room for the electronics, or you are so screwed.”
“I can see why. But still, Xander, this is a wonderful job. I can see why you were a foreman.” Josiah’s praise made Xander beam in joy, and was then shocked as he was kicked out of his own kitchen.
“I will cook, now shoo!”
“But, but, Josiah!” The group laughed at Xander’s pout and he then steered them to the living room.
“Oh my God! Now that is a TV!” Xander cackled in delight and flopped down onto his favorite chair, smirking as the group looked over the room.
“Shit, you got one case of Movies, on for Books and the last for photo albums, frames and knick knacks.” Vin’s voice was in awe, and Xander simply sighed in pleasure as he watched his friends touch and stare at everything in awe.
“Hey Uncle H! Give me a few minutes and I’ll be gone so you can go over your case stuff. Thanks again Xander!”
“No problem kid! Come back tomorrow after school, we’ll finish off that other room tomorrow.”
“Sweet, bye Xan!”
With that the door closed and Horatio blinked comically as he entered the living room where the group, sans Josiah, was leafing through the things scattered around the room. Xander took pity on the stunned boss, and motioned him to sit down.
“Josiah’s cooking supper and he should be done in about twenty minutes if you want to wait until after we all eat? It’ll help half of us think properly and give the other half to relax so they aren’t bouncing off the walls like Tigger on crack.”
“Hey a poker table!” JD’s voice came from the far corner of the room, and the rest of team seven looked at Xander, who was busy buffing his nails on his shirt, and biting back a smirk.
“You were planning on using that table, were you not, pard?”
“Maybe, maybe not; I know that it was going back with me to Denver, as are a lot of the items that I put around the house. I paid good money for them, and I plan on keeping them even when I go across state lines. I’m just happy that Ezra’s holding my exemplar for me, I’d hate to try and lug my guns across the US, and not get arrested. There is stupid, then there is just plain dumb; and I am neither.”
“Will we be playing on your poker table?”
“That depends on if my poker table wants to be played on. It has a stubborn set of wheels, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was grumpy that I live alone and have very few people staying over for long periods of time.”
“Boys, dinner is done!”
“Thank god, I was hungry.”
“There is a bathroom right before the dining room if you want to wash up before you sit down.”
Xander spoke as he walked into the dining room and began to set the table for ten people. Stacking the extra chairs in the purposefully empty corner, Xander set the table with the regular dishes, and smiled upon seeing the reactions to how this room was viewed.
“It’s very nice, Xander; how long did it take you, and young Ray, to finish this room, and everything that went with it?” Ezra’s voice filled the room, and Xander smirked.
“It took us about three days to do, since the floor and the walls took the most time.”
“What’s left upstairs in the non-finished rooms?”
“Well, that would be the floors, the walls, the painting of the walls, the lighting, the wiring, the furniture, and then drapes. But, we’re lucky we have extra hands; it takes a full day to do a room. It’ll take us two afternoons, maybe a bit of a third, if it was just the two of us. When we work, Ryan is delegated to cleaning and cooking. His eye isn’t up to construction yet, and his meds make him too sleepy for the fast pace work that we’re doing, since he’s not used to it and all.”
“Still, what you’ve gotten done is still fantastic in the amount of time that you’ve had.” Ezra gave a sincere smile, and Vin nodded.
“I know a few community centers in Purgatory could use a helping hand like this, and they’d listen to what ya got to say. Since it’s for the kids, and they want the most money to help them as possible, I know all they are missing is a good foreman. You’d just be working on weekends and days off, ‘cause Chris will demand that you get the days off that we do.” Chris nodded at Vin’s statement, and Xander smirked.
“Well, I met a few of the kids, and would be happy to help. All I ask is that when they start making a good thing out of it, that they send me a note so that I can congratulate them.”
“They’ll be willing to do that. Maybe even get you to come to a barbecue or two. A lot of those kids make good chefs, so I know that the food will be good.”
“Excellent, now, Josiah has made us a meal, so let’s enjoy it before it goes to waste.” With that the ten men dug into the simple meal that Josiah had made, and Horatio watched them interact with a silent gaze.
Horatio knew that there would be a chance that Ryan would go with the team back to Colorado, but he didn’t want to lose the one man that made him want to live more than Speed ever did. Looking back at his actions, he could see why it was taking the team so long to smarten up. Only after Xander arrived did he begin to treat Ryan with any semblance of respect, and so far only Alexx had shown any sense. Calleigh was slowly warming up, and Eric was still a sore point to go into since the man didn’t even trust him with the news of his sister’s illness.
Speed’s death had hit them hard, and he was shocked that it had hit Ryan, of all people, the hardest. He understood why it was so hard on him, and once more began to berate himself for not seeing it sooner. Before he had left, he had checked to see who had made the recommendation for Ryan to join, and there, in black and white, was CSI Level Three Timothy Speedle. Right now, all Horatio could do was wait, and apologize for his actions.
“Damn Josiah that was a fine meal. Can I steal you and keep you here to cook for me? You’ll get sun and beauties.” Xander tried to cajole his old friend.
“No Son, I’d never want to leave if I stayed here too long, and then I’d get bored.” Xander shuddered at that, causing everyone to laugh.
“Bad things happen when Josiah is bored.” JD nodded solemnly at Ryan and Horatio’s confused look.
“Before we begin, Ryan, could I speak with you for a moment?” Getting a nod in reply both men stepped out into Xander’s back yard.
“What is it H?”
“I wanted to apologize to you. While I may use the excuse of grieving, the team and I had no right to treat you the way we did. I know that Calleigh and Eric will take time to see things the way I do, and for that I can only offer that I’ll do what I can to tail their reactions to you.”
“You saw that Speed was the one that recommended me, didn’t you.”
“Only before I left the office for the day, and I had planned on making this apology when Mr. Larabee had finished saying his piece to me. While I do not want you to leave Miami, I will understand that if Eric and Calleigh don’t change their attitudes by then, it might be safer for you in the long run. I truly don’t want to lose you, you are a credit to the lab and the team, but I do understand that your sanity is much more important.”
“Thank you for understanding that H, I admit that I love the lab, and I do enjoy working with you, but sometimes I just want to get up and leave. The days that Eric and Calleigh gang up on me are the worst, and even though they might try to help me, they can’t stop the snipping that Speed did it one way, or that he did it faster.”
“I wish that I could offer you more than platitudes, but I will be making sure that they stop this behavior.”
Inside, Chris was smirking at getting Horatio to grovel and watched Ezra, Vin and Xander as they plotted in a corner.
“What are you boys up to?”
“Nothing yet Chris, why?” came Vin’s innocent voice.
“You keep looking at me.”
“But you’re so pretty!” Xander’s sarcastic statement brought silence before everyone began to laugh at the blush rising up Chris’ cheeks.
“Damn you Harris!”
“Now, now Chris, the kid hasn’t seen us in over a month, I bet he’s just lonely and you were the first target that allowed itself to become opened.”
“Like you wish it was your pants?” Came the innocent reply.
“Yes, jus- HEY!” The group laughed louder at that and Xander smiled sweetly at the pout that both men were sporting.
“We still love you guys. Now, I have a map on the TV, and it shows the lab and the industrial incinerator that we use. How long do you think H and Ryan will be?”
“Another good ten minutes. Horatio has a lot to explain and apologize for, so he’ll be a while.” Chris spoke softly, just in case the pair came in sooner.
“Okay then, we could play poke while we wait.” JD offered.
“For chores while you guys are here?”
“How long are you guys staying?”
“Five days, why?”
“Five days of dishes, two days of laundry, and one day of cleaning.”
“So, eight games, dealt straight up, and we draw for the chores.”
“Ezra, could you shuffle the deck, for us, and deal out the cards.”
“Of course, it’ll be my pleasure.”
Eight chores were put into the hat and each person was dealt five cards each, all facing upwards. Vin lost the first hand, pulling out “dishes, day 3” on the slip of paper. Buck lost the next two hands, getting “Laundry, day 2” and “cleaning, day 4” on his slips of paper. Nathan lost the next hand, pulling out “Dishes, day 2” on his piece of paper. Ezra lost next, “Laundry, day 4” stared back at him. Chris lost next, getting “Dishes, Day 5” on his paper. JD lost the last two games, getting “dishes, Day 1 and 4” as his work load.
“Score, no extra work for the Xan-man!”
“And I will take over the kitchen. It’s like it was planned.”
“Sorry, nope! It’s one of my old decks, and even if Ezra could have stacked it, he didn’t have enough time. So it wasn’t planned, it’s just the way the cards fell.”
“You believe that I’d stack the deck?”
“No, but I’d try if it meant getting out of chores.” Xander shuddered as Horatio and Ryan walked back in. “I hate chores.”
“Hey Ryan, Lieutenant, ready to plot our course?”
“That would be best.”
It took them two hours to get three possible routes, and three fall backs for each route before Horatio left for the night. Thanking Chris for coming down once more, Horatio left in his hummer, leaving nine tired men behind.
“Alright people, bed!” Xander called out.
Grumbling that he was thankful that he didn’t have to work tomorrow, and that neither did Ryan, Xander bit back a yawn. Sadly, that meant that Ray would be down by nine the latest, since it was a Saturday. Leading Ezra, Vin, Chris, and Buck up the stairs, Xander was happy that he had more than one bathroom. Each room had its own bathroom, and the bedrooms would match the theme set by the said extension. He was just glad that none had a Cupid or love room theme, or he would have a bathroom to redo as well.
Waving goodnight to Chris and Buck, Xander slithered into his bed and curled up in the middle before he heard Vin and Ezra shuffle about.
“King size, fits three.” Was his only response as he finally felt both side in around him, letting their breathing and heartbeats lull him to sleep.
By the time that Saturday came to be, Xander wanted to hurt somebody. Eric was being a prissy bitch, but Calleigh had finally gotten her head on straight. Because of her budding friendship with Ryan, Eric began to lash out at the blonde, and Xander had enough. Dragging the man behind him, Xander forced Eric to sit down in Horatio’s office and cuffed him to the chair.
“You are going to listen, and listen good. You can be upset with God all you want that your friend is dead, but taking it out on the people who had NOTHING to do with it is not only wrong, but sullying the memory of Timothy Speedle. Now, I’m going to leave you hear, and Horatio is going to get through your fucking thick skull. Just because everyone else pulled their heads out of their asses doesn’t mean that you have to shove yours in deeper.” Glaring once more for emphasis, Xander gave the bound man a chilling smile.
“You think you have the market on pain? I’ve lost all of my friendships from before I left for Africa. My girls, my sisters, were killed. I lost the closest thing to a mother from a brain tumor; my best friends were killed by Satanists; my first love developed migraines so bad she ended up dying in a coma. So don’t think you got the market on pain covered. Pushing your friend’s unfortunate death into everybody’s face is disgusting, and letting your sister’s illness cloud your judgment can get you fired. So choose, do you want to keep your friends and help in the lab like a good a decent person, or do you want me to go get IAB to get them to fire your sorry ass?”
With that said, Xander nodded to Horatio and left the room, slamming the door behind him and going to help Alexx and Ryan in calming Calleigh down from Eric’s verbal lashing. He didn’t care anymore that the Cuban’s sister was ill, the fact that he was using it as an excuse was bad enough. Upon entering the morgue, Xander got an evil idea that should bring Eric’s emotions in check.
“Alexx, do you know the number to Eric’s mother’s home?”
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Call her and tell her what he’s been up to. H doesn’t need to have a loose cannon about that wants to rip the team up because he can’t see up from down.”
“That’s cruel, Xander.” Calleigh’s voice was soft and scratchy.
“No, it’ll get his head out of his ass. From what I’ve heard, his mother won’t stand for the behavior that he is showing. It’s one thing to grieve, it’s another thing all together when you nearly got one teammate killed and basically attacked a good friend because she got her act together first.”
“I’ll go make the call, you should calm down yourself and head back to the lab. Calleigh can clean up down here.”
“Alright; Calleigh, H is talking to him, and hopefully his mother can bring the last bit of sense back into him.” He got a watery laugh, so he gave her one last hug before going back to working in the ballistics lab.
Xander was simply glad that the guys were at his place and not in the labs or Eric would have been beaten to a pulp for doing what he did. You do not insult someone that just apologized for being stupid. He was grateful that he had little work to do when he got home, since the team had been working on Josiah’s and JD’s spare room. Ryan was going to his home today, and that gave Nathan his own room.
Sighing as he snuggled into the warm bed, a bit earlier than usual, Xander let himself be dragged into a dreamless sleep. Thank god tomorrow was Saturday, was Xander’s last thought, never noticing that he had been joined by his two friends.