"Nick, come with me please," Horatio said leaning into the break room.
"Is everything okay, H?" Nick asked. He quickened his pace to keep up with the longer-legged lieutenant.
"We've got a call and I'm going to need you to take lead on it," Horatio replied. He slipped on his sunglasses as they crossed the parking lot.
"Okay," Nick said. "What's going on?"
"I don't dare let Speed take this one, I can't and I don't want to call in Gil," Horatio said. He pulled out into traffic and flicked on both lights and siren. "We won't be able to keep our emotions in check while working."
Nick glanced at the red dragon. "Are you sure you want me to take lead on this and not Calleigh or Eric?" he asked. "This sounds bad and possibly political."
"It is and that's exactly why I want you on this," Horatio said. "Eric and Warrick are going to meet us on scene and I know the three of you will work well together."
"Okay, you're the boss," Nick said. He looked around and realized they were in a part of the city he hadn't visited yet. Nick spent the next few minutes studying the area and memorizing landmarks.
The crime scene was in a small park and Nick was a little surprised to see the ME's van already on scene. He put his kit down and started taking pictures while Horatio made his way carefully to Alexx and their victim.
"What are we looking at, Alexx?" Horatio asked softly. He planted his feet, took off his sunglasses and put his hands on his hips.
"You're looking for a monster, Horatio," Alexx replied just as softly. "This little angel isn't more than three-years-old and should be at home with his family; not left all alone in a park like this."
"Do you have a time of death?" Horatio asked as Nick joined them.
"Between eleven and one last night," Alexx said. "I don't think the body was moved after death but they could have kept him in the same relative position so the blood only settled once."
"So this is our secondary crime scene," Horatio said. "How about a cause of death?"
"Nothing obvious, I'll know more once I finish my post," Alexx replied. "Do you know who his parents are?"
"No but Frank is checking into the reports and also surrounding houses," Horatio said. "Nick will be taking the lead on this one, Alexx; he'll be joining you for the post."
Alexx looked a little surprised but didn't say anything. Horatio put an arm around Nick's shoulder and led him off to the side. "You see why none of us can work this, Nick?"
"Yeah, your protective instincts would kick in and you'd kill the suspect before any of us could react," Nick sighed. "We'll figure out who did this, H. I'll keep you updated."
"Thank you, Nick," Horatio said. "Let the others know not to talk with Jim and Speed until it's done?"
"Sure, but they're not going to be happy about this and you know it."
Horatio smiled. "I'm going to stop and see Gil on my way back to the lab and let him explain the situation tonight after supper," he said. "There are no secrets in the community after all."
"Right," Nick said. "See you back at the lab."
"Count on it." Horatio slid his sunglasses back on. "Thank you, Nick."
When Horatio got to the community houses he went around to the beach on a hunch and found what looked like a large black rock in the ocean. He knew that Gil was still trying to come to terms with the idea that there was another world with aged dragon lore masters; and that when Gil wanted to think he Changed into dragon form and rested in the water. Horatio was glad at that point that their homes were isolated and no one would see him talking to rocks. "Gil, we've got a problem," he said. "Can you Change and join me on the deck?"
A large black head lifted partway out of the water and a blue eye opened to study him for a moment. The alpha of the Miami Community had been mistaken for rocks a number of times, including a stalker sitting on his head. Gil snorted into the water and Changed. "Hand me my towel please, Horatio," he said. "What's wrong?"
"A case that none of the dragons can touch," Horatio replied. He took off his sunglasses with a sigh. "A young boy was found dead in a park about an hour ago and I've put Nick on lead for it because I know he'll be able to keep the team focused where I can't."
"You don't know about his background, do you?" Gil asked.
"As far as I understand it was never reported but Nick was molested when he was nine," Gil sighed. "You want something to drink?"
"No, thank you," Horatio said. He sat down in the chair he'd brought over a few nights ago. "Will Nick be able to stay focused on this or should I pull him?"
"He'll be driven but he won't mess up," Gil said. "Nicky just hurts a little more than most of us do when a child is involved. I'll keep an eye on him."
It was Horatio's turn to sigh. "I'm concerned about having any of us too close to this case," he said. "Especially Speed right now because he's getting close to his time to blend and I know how shaky emotions can get."
"And you're worried we might rend someone apart," Gil asked with a smile. "I suppose it would be a little hard to explain to the directors, not to mention the police. I can keep an eye on Nick from here without too much effort; I was planning to spend the day thinking over some of the things I learned last week."
"Is it really so hard to believe Chrysalis and the others exist?" Horatio asked. "Especially now that you've seen them?"
"It's just a lot to come to terms with," Gil said. "So do you want me to talk with the others tonight and let them know what's going on with Nick's case and exactly why they can't help?"
Horatio nodded. "I could do it but I think because it's a fear of the dragon coming out and not their talents or skills as CSIs it's better to hear it from you," he said. "I'll be sure to stress that I still trust them but I had to assign where I thought best on this case."
"But you'll still be lurking in the background?"
"Nicky said he'd keep me informed," Horatio said. "I trust him to do what's right with this."
"So do I and I doubt anyone will be too hurt," Gil agreed. "I'm constantly amazed at the level of trust and care at your lab, Horatio. We never had anything like this between us in Vegas."
"I know exactly how lucky I am," Horatio said. "And speaking of the lab, Miami never closes so I have to get back. Nick should be in the lab if you want to talk with him for a bit; make sure he's okay."
"I will," Gil said. "After I get back in the water. It's amazing how calming it is to just lie there and have the waves buffer you while you think."
"But isn't it louder with the dragon's ears?" Horatio asked.
"Not if you keep most of your head under the water," Gil replied with a smile. "I'll see you when you get home tonight. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know what's going on, Horatio."
*Hey Gil, I guess Horatio talked things over with you* Nick replied. *I'll be fine*
*I know you will. I just wanted to touch base and see if you needed help with anything*
*Not right now, I've still got to check in with Alexx for the autopsy and then start running through evidence with Warrick and Eric* Nick said. *It's hard to think that anyone could do something so evil to a child. The little guy never had a chance*
Gil sighed. *I know, Nicky, I know* he said. *And you feel this so much more deeply than the others will. I trust you to make the right decisions while working this case and I have faith in you to find the answer*
*Thanks Gil* Nick said. *And you're only a thought away, right? But you know why Horatio wanted to keep you and the others away from this case*
*He doesn't want us killing the monster who would harm a child* Gil said. *We dragons are so much more protective than most humans ever think to be and that has an effect on what cases Horatio and Speed will be able to work in the future. They both know this but its going to be hard on them for a while*
*So tell me who gets to play the bad guy on talking with the community about this* Nick said. *Horatio told me he was going to visit but he's such a command presence here at the lab*
*I know but he wants this to come from me as alpha* Gil said. *You'll hear all about it tonight. Go focus on the job and I'll talk with you later*
*Okay, love you Gil*
*I love you too, Nicky*
Nick grinned and pushed the heavy door to the morgue open. "Hey Alexx, I'm not late, am I?"
"Of course not, Sugar," Alexx replied with a small smile. "I'm just a little surprised Horatio isn't here, that's all."
"It has to do with that special condition they told you about," Nick said. "He's just doing what's best for everyone."
"As always; that boy needs someone to watch over him so he doesn't give so much of himself that it kills him," Alexx said. "I worry about him sometimes."
"I promise we're watching him," Nick said. "And he has someone close to him who loves him the way he needs to be loved."
"That's good to know. I just can't help worrying about them," Alexx said. "Especially with all the things we see in the job every day; I know it can just eat you up if you don't have family to support you."
Nick nodded. "And even then it still can," he said. "I wish we could tell you more than we have, Alexx, but it's just too dangerous for your family."
"Oh that's okay, Sugar, just knowing that you're watching out for each other is enough," she said. "This little angel was smothered with something; I found soft blue fibers in his throat and lungs."
"His baby blanket maybe?" Nick asked.
"That's a possibility," Alexx agreed. "But it wasn't an accident. I took some pictures with filters and there's deep bruising around his mouth. It's shaped like an adult hand."
"Can we get any measurements off it?" Nick wondered as he looked through the pictures.
"I'd say it's a man's hand," Alexx said. "Or a large woman. I didn't find any other external injuries and was just about to take X-rays to see if he's been beaten."
"Case like this I can't imagine he hasn't," Nick said. "I need to go check in with Tripp, Alexx; can you call me when you're done?"
"Sure thing, Nick," she said. "And I'll make sure all the evidence gets to the lab too. We need to find out who did this."
"We will, Alexx," Nick promised. "We will."