Disclaimer: See Chapter One
Beta: Queen Sereya
Chapter 8: Families Created
Reid Garret paused as he stepped into the diner where he was meeting Mac for their weekly breakfast. After their initial meeting, Mac had treated him like a long lost son and every Friday they would meet and talk. That morning, however, Reid was worried about Mac. Mac had called him the night before to confirm he’d be there in the morning. The man had never double-checked that he would be there before and Reid found it a little worrying.
Already worried about Mac, Reid stopped in the doorway when he saw the man sitting in the booth. His shoulders untensed, only to tense again when he realized Mac wasn’t alone. There was a child with him! Mac was splitting his attention between the child in the booster seat and the clock, apparently anxiously waiting for Reid.
Reid slowly approached the man. “Mac?”
Mac looked up abruptly, standing up to greet his stepson, he said, “Good, you’re here.”
“Yeah,” Reid said as he eyed the child warily. “Who’s the kid?”
Mac glanced at Xander who was clambering down the side of his booster chair. Daddy sure was funny, putting him in this nice chair, so easy to get out of. Not like Papa and that high chair. Nope, you were stuck in that thing until some big sized person helped you out. Xander hated to be stuck. He had more important things to do than to be stuck sitting in one spot. Xander blinked as Mac picked him up and settled him standing on the booth by Reid so that he could have a better view of the young man.
“Xander, this is Reid,” Mac said, “Reid, Xander. . .”
Reid stared at the child who stared curiously back. Reid looked at Mac questioningly before the man finished, “. . . my son.”
Reid’s eyes widened. He stared at Mac. “What? How?”
“I don’t know.” Deciding not to mention Hawke’s talk of magic, Mac shrugged. “All I know is that the test came back as him being mine.”
Turning to stare at Xander, Reid asked, “He’s Claire’s?”
Mac looked down sadly. “No. His DNA says he has another father.”
Reid looked away, disappointed. The child wasn’t his mom’s. Wasn’t Claire's. Wasn’t his brother. Not really. He was even more disappointed that he wouldn’t get to spend more time with Mac. It was nice having a father figure in the same city. Even if Reid would never tell Mac that. But with his own son now, Reid could see his time with the man disappearing.
Suddenly, Reid gasped in surprise as he felt small arms wrap around his waist. He looked down to see Xander hugging him, a big grin on his upturned face.
“Bruder,” Xander said happily.
Reid looked at Mac, startled.
Mac smiled, a light pink tint coming to his face. “We talked about coming to see you at bedtime last night.”
Reid started to protest, “But, I’m not—“
Mac put up a hand, halting Reid’s words. “You are Claire’s son. As far as I’m concerned, that makes you mine. Blood or no blood.”
Reid blinked, not sure what to think.
“Xander lives with his other dad in Las Vegas for most of the year. I was hoping, when he was here, you could be a big brother to him,” Mac said hopefully.
Reid stared at Mac and then looked down at Xander who was looking up at him with big puppy dog eyes. Looking back at Mac, he gave them a small smile. “I’d like that.”
The next day Reid showed up at the entrance to the city zoo where he had agreed to meet up with Mac and Xander. He watched the people milling about the entrance, but had yet to see Mac. One toddler with two men had caught his eye and one of the men seemed familiar to him. Each man held the child’s hand, helping the toddler walk along with an occasional swing between them.
Watching them get closer, Reid finally recognized the toddler when he let out an excited, “Bruder!”
Reid laughed as Xander dragged his two companions determinedly toward him. Now that they were closer, he recognized the dark haired man as one of the detectives that Mac worked with. Crouching down, he opened his arms wide to accept the toddler’s pounce.
“Hi, you work with Mac Taylor, right?” Reid asked.
Don Flack nodded. “Yeah, I’m Don Flack, call me Don. This is Greg Sanders from Las Vegas Crime lab,” Don pointed at Greg. “He works with the kid’s other dad. Mac is stuck in the lab for the next hour. But he and Danny said they’d meet us here at the carnivore section.”
Reid frowned. “Are you sure?”
“Bruder?” Xander said plaintively.
Reid looked at Xander’s expectant face. “You wanna go in?”
Xander nodded hopefully. Reid sighed and nodded his head. “Let’s go.”
They had seen a number of animals, including the arachnid exhibits which was a big hit with Xander, when the group came to the carnivore section. They sat down at a nearby bench, Xander between Greg and Reid, and rested.
Twisting his wrist to see his watch, Reid saw that it had only been an hour. “You said that Mac was going to meet us here?”
Don nodded pointing out the sign about the section on carnivore animals. “That’s what he said. Near that entrance.”
“Okay. While we’re waiting, I’m going to get a drink. I saw a food stand a little ways back.” Reid left to get his drink.
Greg glanced at the nearby restroom. Then he looked around. Not seeing Mac, he stood up. “I’m gonna hit the restroom. Can you handle him?”
Don glanced down at the toddler whose head was swinging back and forth watching the crowd of people and nodded. “Yeah. No problem.”
Greg quickly left.
Don scanned the crowd. No Mac, yet. But he should be there soon. Suddenly, Don noticed a commotion going on further down the path. He stood up. People were screaming and running his way.
“What’s going on?” Greg asked having just gotten back.
“I don’t know,” Don said. He grabbed a passerby. “What’s happening?”
The man looked back fearfully. “The animals got loose.”
He shrugged off Don’s hand and began to follow the moving crowd away from the area.
“Wait!” Greg said, “What animals?”
The man glanced back. “The lions, tigers and that new hyena exhibit.”
Letting the man go, Don and Greg looked at each other.
“Stay here with the kid,” Don said, “I’m going to check it out.”
Greg nodded, watching as Don started to leave. Glancing down at the bench his eyes widened. “Uh, Don?”
Don turned around. “Yeah?”
Gesturing toward the bench, Greg asked, “Where’s Xander?”
Don blinked. He looked at the empty bench. “Uh, oh.”
The two frantically searched the nearby area for the child. “Xander!”
Reid came back sipping a soda. He looked at the two frantic men. Frowning, he looked around. Calmly, he asked, “Where’s Xander?”
“Uhm,” Don hedged, “he uh . . . he uh. . .”
Greg sighed. “He wandered away from Don while I was in the restroom.”
Slowly Reid placed the drink on the bench. “He did What?!?”
“He wandered off,” Don said, “There was this panicked crowd and I only took my eyes off him for a second, not even a minute. I don’t see how he could have gotten so far away.”
Greg snorted. “You’d be surprised. Xander’s really good at taking off.”
“Could he have been swept up by that crowd?” Don looked in the direction the crowd had gone. Then he looked in the direction the crowd had come from. “You don’t think . . .?”
Just then, a couple of zoo security guards came running past. The three men looked at each other before following.
They were stopped at the entrance to the carnivore exhibits. “I’m sorry sirs. You can’t go back there. This part of the park is closed.”
Don flashed his badge. “I wanna know what is going on?”
“Some of the big cats escaped,” the guard said.
“Was anybody hurt?” Greg asked.
The guard shook his head. “No, fortunately we got most of the park guests out and have been able to tranq the lions and tigers.”
Greg studied the guard as he glanced behind him, his teeth gnawing on his lower lip in worry.
“What aren’t you tell us?” Greg asked. The guard’s head jerked around, his wide eyes focusing on Greg in fear. Greg pressed him, “You said most of the guests got to safety. Some didn’t?”
The guard gulped. “The hyenas are circling a toddler that wandered in.”
Reid gasped. “Xander!”
He pushed his way past the guard, his companions right behind him.
“Hey! You can’t go back there!” The guard yelled, “It’s not safe!”
“They’re with me,” Don called out as he hurried to catch up.
He found Greg and Reid pouncing the group of zoo officials who seemed to be doing nothing but talking. One of them held a tranquilizer gun.
In a soft heated voice, Reid berated the man with the gun. “What are you doing?!? Why aren’t you shooting them?!?”
He grabbed the man’s shirt, shaking him vigorously. “That’s my brother! Do something!”
Greg and Don managed to pry Reid’s fingers off the unfortunate man. The man stepped back, rubbing his throat. One of the others spoke up. “Those darts are for the big cats. Not hyenas. We don’t have a dosage that won’t kill the animals.”
Reid stared at the man as if to say ‘So? Kill them then.’
The man explained, “That species of hyena is on the endangered list and we were extremely fortunate to get a whole family.”
Reid, Greg, and Don glared.
The man gulped. “They don’t appear to be harming the child,” he offered. “In fact, the matriarchal hyena seems to have accepted the boy as her own.”
The others turned to look at the pack of hyenas. Xander was sitting in the center of the pack, happily playing with one of the hyena pups. The mother laid nearby while the other adults circled the pack, protecting it from outsiders.
“Sir,” one of the men stepped forward. “We were discussing ways to get the child safely. If he’s your brother, maybe you could get him to come to you.”
Reid looked at the man and nodded. He turned to Xander. He walked forward until the guarding hyenas began to growl. Stopping, he crouched down. “Xander? Can you look over here, bro?”
Xander turned to see Reid and grinned. His brother was here. Yay! He could come play too.
Reid smiled in relief. He held out his hands. “Come to me, Xander.”
Xander smiled and waved before turning to push the hyena pup playfully.
“No!” Reid cried out. The hyenas began growling louder. The zoo officials dragged Reid back before the hyenas attacked.
Xander looked up in concern, his brother sounded worried. As he started to get up, the mother hyena got up with him. Reid held his breath as the hyena gently bit down on the back of Xander’s shirt and pulled back. Xander fell on his bottom and pouted at the hyena. The hyena gave a short bark. Xander stared at her before she licked his cheek, making him giggle.
“You see our problem. The matriarchal hyena refuses to let him go,” the man said. “Where’s your father?”
Reid blinked. “Uh . . . Mac Taylor? He should be arriving at the entrance to the carnivore section.”
The man nodded and went to talk to one of the security guards. The guard nodded and began talking into his walkie-talkie.
“I wanna know something,” Don asked, “How come you don’t got any tranqs for those hyenas?”
The official looked nervous. “You have to understand, the hyenas just came in within the last week.”
Don, Reid, and Greg stared at him.
He gulped. “And well, the appropriate tranquilizers haven’t come in yet. They’re due tomorrow. The tranquilizers were supposed to come last week, but there was some sort of mix up with the mail.”
Don frowned. “And you opened up the exhibit?”
The official nodded. “Yes. We had already advertised the arrival of the hyenas and it was felt that holding back the unveiling of the exhibit would be detrimental to ticket sales.”
The trio glared at him.
The man paled and backed up a step.
“What is going on?” A brisk voice barked out.
Everyone turned to see Mac and Danny standing beside a zoo guard. The situation was quickly explained as Mac glared at the zoo people. He turned toward his son. He called out to him, “Xander.”
Xander looked up and beamed. Daddy was here! He waved happily. “Daddy!”
The hyenas stared at Mac. One of the guarding animals let out a short bark and the matriarch's head shot up, her gaze focusing on Mac’s face. She nudged Xander to stand by her flank. Walking slowly, the duo made their way to Mac. They stopped a few feet from the bewildered man. The hyena took a big sniff, her nostrils flaring and then whimpered. Xander tilted his head, watching the hyena. He finally nodded and smiled. The hyena gave him one last lick before head butting him Mac’s direction. Xander toddled over to Mac who immediately scooped the child up and held him close. After looking the child over for any bruises or scratches and finding none, Mac raised his eyes to see the hyena’s staring at him. Finally, the mother hyena picked up her nearby cub by the scruff of its neck and allowed the park officials to lead her group back into their enclosure.
One of the officials nervously approached Mac. “I hope you won’t take any legal action against the park. After all, everything worked out all right, didn’t it?”
Mac’s head swiveled to glare at the man. The man gulped and quickly took his leave.
The group of detectives and Reid looked at each other.
“What just happened?” Reid asked.
Xander who had been playing with Mac’s shirt spoke up, “Mommy nice.”
Mac looked down at the boy. “Mommy? You mean the hyena mommy?”
Mac shared a glance with the others. “Why was she nice?”
Xander looked at his daddy seriously and said, “Mommy p’otect. Fo’ Daddy.”
“She protected you for me?” Mac asked. His son’s nod had them all looking at the child in shock.
Xander squealed as Greg parked in front of a familiar building. Grabbing the boy, Greg quickly headed for the door and knocked.
Xander squealed loudly and made grabbing motions when the door opened. The man who opened the door smiled and took Xander in his arms. “Hello, Xander. Did you have a good time with Daddy?”
Xander nodded and went back to hugging his Papa. Grissom looked at Greg. “Any problems?”
Greg shook his head. “No, not since I last called you about that zoo incident.”
“Good. How’d he take to Taylor?” Grissom asked. “Did you want to come in?”
“Fine.” Greg answered shaking his head. “I can’t. I’ve got work tonight and have to get some sleep before hand.”
The two turned to see a well-dressed man standing on the porch, holding a clipboard. Grissom asked him, “Can I help you?”
“Are you Gilbert Grissom?” The man asked.
“Yes, is there something I can do for you?” Grissom said.
The man offered the clipboard with pen attached to Grissom. “Could sign here please.”
Giving Xander back to Greg, Grissom looked over the paperwork and quickly signed it. The man handed him a certified letter and then left.
Greg watched as Grissom opened up the letter and read it, frown lines deepening as he continued reading.
“What is it?” Greg asked.
Grissom looked up, he gaze falling on his son briefly before he looked at Greg. “I’m being sued for legal custody of Xander.”
Next time: Battles Won.