The CSI Slayer: Prologue
Miami-Dade Crime Lab
It was almost time to go home. There was an air of anticipation surrounding the CSI family of the late Timothy Speedle.
Today, Buffy and Joseph Speedle were coming home.
It had been over two months since they had left. And while their Miami family understood, it was still much too long of an absence, and they were deeply missed. Their visit over Thanksgiving had been too short in everyone's opinion.
But they were coming home today (hopefully for good) and everyone was excited about that. There was even a small 'welcome home' dinner in the works set for later that evening.
Walking a circuit around the house once more, Dawn Summers checked to make sure everything was in order for Buffy and Joseph's homecoming.
The house was clean, the dining room was set and ready for dinner with everyone – although the exception was the food, which would be delivered at 7:30 – Horatio and the rest would be here by then. Buffy and Joseph would be teleporting in at about 7:45pm.
For Dawn, it would be a relief to have her sister and nephew home. She didn't know if she could take anymore of the calls and questions of when Buffy and Joseph would be coming home. Dawn had way more patience than Buffy, but even hers had its limits, and she had reached her breaking point days earlier.
The next person to ask her when Buffy and Joseph were coming home, Dawn was going to transport their ass to another dimension for a prolonged amount of time.
Seeing that everything was set and ready, Dawn went to shower and dress for the evening.
Horatio rang the doorbell, as the others stood with him on the front porch of Buffy and Speed's house, waiting for either Dawn or Faith to answer the door.
The resounding chiming of the doorbell sounded through the house, looking at her watch, Dawn figured it would be her newer, extended family at the door, as the food had already arrived.
Walking briskly to the foyer, she opened the door, and sure enough, there stood Horatio, Calleigh, Alexx, and Eric. Smiling warmly, Dawn motioned them into the house. Enthusiastic choruses of "Hi Dawn" greeted her, as she took their coats from them.
"So, is everybody happy about Buffy and Joseph coming home?" she asked, mildly sarcastic since she already knew the answer to the question.
"Oh yeah, it feels like it's been forever since we last saw them," Eric answered.
"Well, they should be home any time now. In the meantime, drinks are in the fridge, just help yourself to whatever you want while I go put your coats away," Dawn said walking away.
"Ladies and Eric, shall we head into the family room then?" Horatio inquired.
"I'm going to go grab a drink, anyone want anything?" Calleigh asked.
"Nah, I'm good. Thanks anyway, Cal," Eric said.
"I wouldn't say no to bottled water," Alexx said.
"I think bottled water sounds good too," Horatio agreed. "Do you need a hand, Calleigh?"
"Nah, I'm good, Horatio. I'll be back in a few," Calleigh declined.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway, as Dawn reappeared with Faith in tow. Horatio, ever the gentleman, stood as they entered the family room. "Ladies, how are you this lovely evening?"
"Yo, H! What's up, E, Lady A? Where's Cal? Haven't seen a whole lot of you guys as of late," Faith commented. "What's up with that?"
Before anyone could respond to the mild accusation in Faith's tone, Calleigh returned with drinks in hand. Seeing Faith, Calleigh smiled, before greeting the brash young woman. "Hi Faith, how're you doing?"
"Doing five by five, Cal… Need a hand with those drinks?"
"I'm fine, Faith. Thanks though," she replied. "So, how was patrol last night?"
"Lame, only dusted three vamps; they weren't even a challenge either. They were beyond stupid. Had to get my kicks other ways, ya know?" Faith smirked at the southern belle.
"So, what you're saying is clubbing and a distraction of the male persuasion?"
Faith shrugged, "Hey, whatever works."
Calleigh and Faith's conversation was interrupted by a sudden whooshing noise – which caused everyone to turn towards the direction of the sound – only to find Buffy, Joseph and Xander standing there.
Upon seeing Buffy and Joseph, the two younger members of the team clamored forward to hug them, while Alexx and Horatio held back a little. As Calleigh and Eric hugged Buffy, Horatio discreetly scanned Buffy over, looking to see if anything was amiss. Although her hair was a shade darker, and there were faint dark circles under her eyes, she otherwise seemed to glow.
Horatio marveled at the size of the pregnancy bump she was sporting. He knew that she was just about six months by now, but on her petite frame, she looked more like the full nine. When Eric and Calleigh let her go, Alexx swooped in to hug and fuss over Buffy, in true maternal fashion. Horatio waited until everyone else had gotten in their hugs and fussing, then she turned to him a slight smile on her face. "Horatio…"
Returning the smile, he walked up to Buffy, enveloping her in a warm hug, he whispered in her ear, "Welcome home, sweetheart. We've missed the both of you."
"We missed you guys as well…it's good to be home," Buffy replied, getting misty-eyed.
Taking a few steps back, he looked down at her pregnant belly, and grinned. You're looking wonderful, sweetheart. How are you feeling?"
Smiling ruefully, she joked, "Aside from being the size of the Goodyear Blimp? I'm peachy with a side of keen."
"You are beautiful, young lady, don't you even think otherwise," he insisted.
A tugging sensation on Horatio's shirt drew his gaze downward, seeing Joseph staring up at him with an expectant expression. With a fond smile, he lifted his nephew into his arms. "Hey there, champ. How are you doing? Been looking after your mama for me?"
Joseph nodded his head seriously, "Yes, Uncle H. I've been taking good care of Mama while we were at Slayer Central."
"Good man. That's what I want to hear," Horatio praised. Tickling Joseph, he asked, "So, little man, are you and your mama hungry? I heard a rumor that there was dinner waiting around here somewhere if you are."
At the mention of dinner, Buffy let out a pleased groan, "Oh that's great, I'm so hungry that I could eat a horse."
Sitting around the dining room table, talking and enjoying the wonderful food, Horatio relaxed.
He hadn't realized until now just how off-center he'd been feeling with two members of his unconventional little family being gone; though if appearances were anything to go by, the time away had proved beneficial for Buffy.
She wasn't the same vibrant young woman she used to be when Speed was alive; however, she wasn't the broken soul he'd seen at the funeral either. So it could be considered progress.
"I have to say that one of the things I missed while we were gone was the food. You just can't get good Cuban food in Cleveland!" Buffy declared with a contented sigh.
"Damn right. Aside from Cuba and my mama, Miami is the best place to get authentic Cuban food," Eric concurred.
"How was Cleveland, Buffy? What did you do while you gone?" Calleigh asked.
"Well…aside from the obvious grieving process, I spent a bit of time supervising the training of the newbie Slayers; meditated some; had quality time with baby boy; finished some IDC paperwork, you know, the usual stuff," Buffy recounted.
"Are you serious? You did paperwork? What…did you lose a bet with Giles or something? Because we didn't hear any reports about an upcoming apocalypse," Dawn joked.
Scowling at Dawn, Buffy stuck out her tongue, "Ha, bloody ha, Dawn. You are so bloody frickin' hilarious, maybe I should start calling you Carrot Top!"
"Hey! My jokes aren't that bad! There's no need to be so mean!" Dawn exclaimed.
Buffy just smirked in response, as Faith and Xander looked at each other, before putting in their two cents.
"Oh no, she's making with the tweed-speak," Xander shuddered.
"Somebody spent too much time around Giles," Faith sing-songed. "Are you sure there's not an apocalypse on the horizon, Xand?"
Feigning seriousness, Xander answered, "I didn't hear anything about it, but you know it wouldn't hurt to contact G-man, just to be sure. After all, the Buffster using the tweed-speak is definitely one of the signs."
"You guys suck! Making fun of me like this…you're all so mean!" Buffy pouted, though her eyes twinkled in amusement. "Not feeling the love here, people."
Amused, Alexx scolded the others with the 'Knock it off or else' mother tone of voice, "Now children, that's enough. Quit teasing Buffy."
Triumphant, Buffy once again stuck her tongue out at the Scoobies, and crowed, "See? Mama Alexx loves me, even if no one else does!"
Joseph chimed in, "I love you, Mama!"
Leaning sideways, Buffy gave Joseph a big, smacking kiss on the top of his little head, "I know you love me, baby boy. I'm just teasing your aunts and uncle."
"Oh, okay then." Pausing a moment, head tilted to the side, Joseph asked, "Can we have dessert yet?"
The adults laughed at the question, as Horatio ruffled Joseph's hair with affection. "That's up to your mama, little man."
"What dowe have for dessert anyway?" Buffy asked.
"We have a Cuban Opera cake for dessert," Dawn said.
"Nice! Have I bothered telling you lately how much you rock, Dawnie?" Buffy exclaimed, "This has been the best homecoming dinner yet!"
Smirking, Dawn replied, "I know. I'm the man…woman…You know what I mean!"
"So enough with the talking, let's get with the cake having, already," Xander declared. Everyone chiming in agreement, as Dawn went to get the dessert from the kitchen.
Once dessert was over with, everyone moved back into the family room, to have coffee (or in Buffy's case, tea) and just to relax and talk.
Buffy sat on the loveseat with Joseph's head in her lap, stroking his hair as he slept while she talked with Horatio, who was also sitting on the loveseat with Joseph's little legs in his lap. "So…how are you doing, H?"
"I'm fine, just fine; working hard as usual – trying to make Miami a safer place, one case at a time."
"That's not what I meant. How are you doing, Horatio? Have you bothered talking to a therapist at all? Or are you still carrying around the guilt?"
"So, when was the last time you saw the doctor? Have you found out the sex of the baby yet? Have you even considered what to name him or her?"
Understanding what Horatio was doing, she let him change the subject. "I saw the IDC healer last week, and she said that I'm having twins, although I don't want to know the sexes. I want to be surprised… Though as far as boys' names go, my favorites are: Benjamin, Killian, and Nathan. As for girls' names, I liked: Aidyn, Kaleena, Lynleigh, Delaney, and Shannen. And even though it's technically a boy's name, I really liked Luka too. I want something that's unique, but not too out there."
"You mean like Buffy?" Horatio teased. "Because let's face it, Buffy is definitely out there."
"Hey, you're one to talk buster. 'Horatio' doesn't exactly scream common, either. So there!" she retorted, blowing a raspberry at him, making Horatio chuckle.
Then Horatio got serious again. "Why did you stay away so long, Buffy? I was starting to think you weren't coming back."
Sighing, Buffy thought about the best way to explain her reasons. Opting for the blunt truth, "I wasn't ready, to be honest. I thought I could handle being surrounded by memories of Tim, but then I'd be hit with a case of 'What Ifs' and 'Should Haves' and I just knew it wasn't the right time. And that's why Giles recommended talking to a therapist. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but it has helped me to come to terms with his death to a limited degree. And while I'm still not totally okay, I'm working on it."
"I understand. It was just hard. I started feeling like maybe you blamed me for what happened to Speed."
"I would never think that, Horatio!" Buffy denied vehemently. "I'd never blame you for that! If I were to blame anyone, it was the so-called owner of the jewelry store, but never you. I'm just grateful you were there with Tim for his final moments. If I couldn't be there, I'm glad that you were, so that he didn't die alone."
Overcome with emotion, Horatio couldn't speak for several moments. "Thank you, Buffy. I really needed to hear that from you."
"Not a problem."
With a huge yawn, she announced, "I think it's time for me to put baby boy to bed, and call it a night. All this excitement has done me in." Awkwardly, she rose off the loveseat trying to maneuver around Joseph in her pregnant state; when Horatio lifted a sleeping Joseph into his arms.
Feeling a pang of deep affection for the gruff Lieutenant cradling her son, she said, "I suppose you'll want to help me put Joseph to bed then, yeah?"
Looking first at the little boy in his arms, and then at Buffy, he half-shrugged, "If you don't mind, yes I would."
"Alright, give me a few minutes to say goodnight to everyone, and then we can put Joseph to bed."
Horatio watched as Buffy hugged Eric, Calleigh, and Alexx goodnight, thanking them for coming over, before walking back over to him. "Shall we then?" Buffy asked as she looped her arm through his free arm.
"We shall," Horatio agreed. And in that moment, something more than friendship was taking root in both of their hearts…