Year Three and a half


Gibbs watched his son through the hospital window.  Tony patted him on the back.  "Do we have any idea what it was that bit him?"

"Yup, rattler.  Diamond back."  He handed over the report Abby had worked up.  "I already told the doctor and she sent the exact formula.  They're going to give him another anti-venom dose in a few minutes."  Gibbs nodded at that.  "I know you love your house, Gibbs, but that's the fourth time your neighbor's snake has gotten lose.  It's time to do something about him."

"It is," he agreed patiently.  He went in with the nurse.  "The new anti-venom?"

"It's coming.  They had to ship it in from another hospital and a few more minutes won't hurt him since the general is still working," she promised, soothing him by patting him on the arm.  "We've got him mildly sedated still if you want to talk to him."

Gibbs sat down to talk to his son.  Xander rolled toward his voice, making him and the nurse smile.  "He sleeps on his side," he explained.

"That's fine for now."  She went to tell the doctor that her was still good, his vitals were still good.

Tony was calling someone from the phone in the hall since cellphones weren't allowed on the floor.  He hung up with a 'thanks' and went back to standing guard.  The director came in and he nodded.  "Their neighbor has a rattlesnake collection."


"Some people keep snakes.  His dog's still with the vet and they've given him the anti- venom too."  He leaned in.  "Gibbs, Percy's fine.  McGee's still at the vets.  I told him to get animal control onto your neighbor.  Told him why.  He agreed and is making calls from there back to Kate and the probie."  That got a nod.  "Percy's gotten the second dose of anti-venom as well so he's going to be fine."

"Good.  Thank you, Tony."

"Not a problem, Gibbs."  He retreated, letting the nurse come in with the new shot of milky looking liquid.  He watched as it was injected, wincing when the baby cried. "I'm going to strangle the guy if he's not dead," he vowed.

"You have bigger problems to worry about," she reminded him.  "The team goes back to you if he's incapacitated, DiNozzo."

He gave her a very bad scowl, making her back up.  "Xander is as much my son as his."

"I thought you two weren't together."

"We're not but I've been there since the day he brought Xander home.  I could easily claim custody at this point.  I'll be back tonight, once McGee goes to rip his neighbor a new one.  Kate and Melissa are working on the case.  Kate's handling the stress well enough at the moment.  She'll call to update me when she has something new.  We were nearly at a standstill anyway waiting on reports.  By then Xander should be awake and I can step back into command."  She nodded and left.  He growled once she was gone, glaring at the door.  Melissa came in.  "Not you," he said when she flinched.  "Case?"

"Stranded.  No match on DNA or ballistics.  No match on the sidearm in her possession.  Uniform was standard issue but they don't keep track of who gets what number that way, just what base it went to.  We've contacted the base to see if they know her.  Picture and face recognition are still running, Tony."

"Good.  DNA didn't match?"  She shook her head.  "Check the cadets.  All military personnel have DNA in the database but most academies don't."

"She wasn't wearing the usual cadet uniform."

"But sometimes they don't.  They do have dress whites and that's what she was wearing.   I thought her hat looked wrong."  She nodded, making a note of that.  "Neighbor?"

"You do need a license to handle snakes.  Kate's already stormed out there.  He's dead.  Someone broke into his house and let his snakes free.  They apparently bit him to death but she said she found blunt force trauma signs.  She's called LEO on them."

"Good.  She warned them there were poisonous snakes?"  She  nodded but shuddered.  "I know.  Xander will be fine."

"Good.  He's a sweet little boy."  She looked inside and Gibbs gave her a look back.  "Should I update him?"

"I will.  Head back to check that lead."  She nodded, going to do that.  He walked inside.  "Someone broke in to kill your neighbor, set all his snakes free.  Kate found him on the floor. She's called the right people and warned them about the snakes."

"Good. They kill him?"

"Melissa said Kate saw evidence of blunt force trauma from the doorway but also bites.  Have to wait on autopsy.  As for the case, I'm having her check cadets. Something about that hat still bothers me.  No match for registered sidearm or DNA."

"Two of the lesser local military academies don't do that but their dress whites do mimic the official ones," he agreed.  "That is a plausible lead.  Good thinking."

"She'll do, Gibbs.  Even if she is still scared of you."

"So were you in your first year."

"Yeah but I knew when to be scared of you.  She's still on the general setting."

"She'll learn."   He went back to soothing his son.  "Uncle Tony's here, Xander.  Want him for a few?"  Xander made sucky faces at him in his sleep, earning a smile.

"Hey, squirt," he soothed, stroking over his hair. "It'll be all right, Xander.  We caught the nasty snake and your doggy is just fine.  Uncle Tim is with him right now to make the doggy doctors make sure he's fine."  Xander relaxed again and went back into a deeper sleep.  "I've got it, boss.  Go break in the bathroom."  Gibbs nodded, heading into the room's bathroom to have a moment alone.  Tony sat down to hold Xander's hand.  "I'm here, baby.  It's all right," he soothed.  "We'll give Chad the biggest reward we can, baby boy.  He deserves it for helping you and getting you here faster than any ambulance could."  He heard Gibbs letting go but ignored it for now.  Gibbs wouldn't want a hug.  He was like that.  "Shh, your daddy's just fine and he's going to cuddle you once you're off the IV drip, young man.  Yes he will.  We'll both cuddle you.  We can go back to my place and watch movies all you want."  Xander made more sucky faces so he stuck his thumb in his mouth, earning a smile.  "I know, sometimes you need the comfort. It's all good with us."  He went back to petting him.

The nurse came in.  "Where's his father?"  Tony pointed at the bathroom.  "That's fine.  We need to x-ray his arm again, Agent DiNozzo.  Just to make sure that the swelling wasn't a break after all."

"When his dad comes out."

"Of course.  Within an hour you think?"

Tony looked at her.  "His father's a Marine."  That got a nod and she went to tell them to schedule it in about an hour.  He could sign papers by then.  Gibbs came out to look at him.  "They're going to x-ray his arm."

"Thanks.  Give me another ten?"

"However long you need and you're coming home with me, Gibbs."  That got a nod and he went back in there.  Xander made more sucky faces around his thumb.  "Shhh, he's going potty."  Xander smiled at that.  "Good boy.   We have you in a catheter I guess so you don't have to worry about that."  Gibbs came back out.  "Is he on a line?"

"Yup.  Poor guy."  He pushed Tony out of his spot and sat down again.  "Thanks."

"Welcome, Gibbs.  I'd offer a hug but you'd hit me," he teased.  Gibbs nodded, giving him a look.  "I've got it.  You handle him."

"Go back to the office, get a report on the break-in.  There's been a few out there."

"Of course.  I'll come back in a few hours with lunch.  Or I'll send Abby."  He walked out, heading down to the car.  He drove back to the office, signing back in.   Then he went upstairs.  "Okay, people, update me," he announced.  "Kate, he said there's been a number of break-ins out there.  He wants to know if it's related or not."

"On it already," she agreed.  "How's Xander?"

"The general was helping a lot.  They got the real one into him.  Now they're getting ready to x-ray his arm.  With the way it was swelling they think it might also be broken."  That got a nod and a nod from McGee.  "They get the snakes?"

"Every single one of the twenty-six including the one Chad brought in after it bit Xander and Percy," Kate reported.

"Good.  McGee?"

"He's just fine, Tony.  They think he can be released tomorrow."

"Even better.  Melissa?"

"I've checked with the local schools we have on file.  One is missing a cadet and is faxing over a picture of her.  They do have official looking dress whites.  I asked.  They did say their missing cadet was female and she may have been issued a sidearm.  Her year typically is so they can work on those drills before graduation. That does make her nearly a minor or a minor since it is a high school academy, Tony."

"If it's her, we'll get to tell her parents too."  That got nods.  "Kate?"

"McGee's turn."

"Must I?  I always trip over my tongue," McGee complained.  "They always glare at me."

"Fine, I will," Tony told them.  "Melissa, you'll be coming to help since this is the only way to learn how to do a notification.  When are they faxing it?"

"Within twenty minutes."  She got up to check the fax machine and wait beside it until it came in.

Tony looked at them.  "I said we'd go check on him at lunch and bring him food."  That got nods.  "Coffee might also be advisable.  The nurses don't have a machine on their floor and there's no way he's going all the way to the caf for some."

"I'll make sure he gets some and bring Abby with me," McGee promised.  That got a nod. "The vet wanted a report on the snake?"

"Get with Kate on that."  That got a nod and she handed over her notes.  "Anything else?"  Melissa came back reading something.  "Is it her?"

"Only if she dyed her hair.  They did include fingerprints though."  She took it down to Ducky and Abby.  They would make that determination.  She came back a half hour later with a nod.  "It's her, Tony."

"Then we'll go notify and talk to the school.  Kate, McGee, go do that before you bring Gibbs lunch."  That got a nod.  "We'll go notify the family."  He grabbed his bag of things and headed out.  "Straighten yourself up and button your jacket over the new stain, probie.  Families don't appreciate us if we've got spots."  She straightened herself out and even popped the zit on her forehead in the sunflap mirror.  He parked in their driveway and got out, her following.  He checked himself and buttoned his jacket, going up to the woman at the door who looked very confused. "Mrs. Rivera?"


"Special Agent DiNozzo and Agent Walters, NCIS.  May we come in?"

"Has my daughter done something wrong?  I know her academy is affiliated to the military so you would handle it if she did."

"Ma'am, it'd be best if we talked inside so you could sit," Melissa said quietly.  The woman let them inside and sat down, looking at them.  She glanced at Tony, who nodded.  "Ma'am, we were called to a scene this morning of a young woman wearing dress whites.  We believe it was your daughter."

"Is she all right?  Injured?"  Tony shook his head.  "She's not injured?"  Tony gave her that special look and she broke, starting to cry.  "No."

Tony sat beside her, taking her hand to hold.  "I'm sorry.  We're investigating the cause of her death right now.  We will keep you informed."  She looked at him.  "We will.  I've got my other two teammates out right now at her school.  But we do need you to do an official look at her to identify her."

She sucked in a breath.  "She was talking about dying her hair."

Melissa pulled open the case folder she had carried in, squatting down in front of her and holding the picture up that they had taken of her face.  The mother sobbed and took it to hold, nodding.  "Our ME has her, Mrs. Rivera.  Can we give you a ride down there? He can go over anything special, like anything religious, he has to or can't do.  He can also help you with any arrangements when it's time."  She nodded at that.

"Should we call your husband? Is he at work or is there someone else?" Tony offered.  "That way you don't have to go through this alone?"

"My minister.  I'll call him."  She got up and went to the phone, dialing it.  "Father Paul?" she sniffled.  She started to cry again.

Tony got up and took the phone from her.  "Father Paul, this is Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS.  We're here on a notification, Father."  He nodded.  "That would be helpful.  We've got to have an official identification and she asked to call you.  Down at the office is fine, sir.  Shipyards, yes, sir.  Just tell whoever is driving you to take you to NCIS.  Most of the cabbies know us. Yes, sir, that's us.  We'll meet you down there and give her a ride so she doesn't have an accident.  No, sir, she called you instead of him.  We can do that from the office.  I can fill you in down there.  Thank you, Father."  He hung up and they made sure she had her keys and locked the door, then took her out to the car, letting her clutch the picture.  He looked at Melissa and nodded that she had done good work, but she still didn't look happy.  "It never gets easier," he told her.  She nodded at that and he drove them back to the office.  The guards had a priest there.  "Father Paul?"  He looked and nodded. "You made good time.  We're going to morgue.  Sign us back in."  They swiped their passes and got a nod, heading down there.  He gave Ducky a look.  "Mother and priest."

"That's fine.  We're done with the first round and she's back in the drawer, Anthony.  Though you may want to call the director from the office in a moment."

"As soon as we can get her through this."  That got a nod and he let the family in, letting Ducky open the drawer and get out of the way.  The mother moved the sheet and burst out crying, nodding.  Ducky and Melissa walked her off while the priest said last rites over her.  "Father, I'm going to leave you with Melissa.  Apparently my director wants an update.  If you need to call her spouse, you can use his phone," he offered.  That got a nod so Tony headed for the elevator, heading up to her office.  He walked in and the secretary pointed. "I'm even being good today."  He knocked then walked in.  "Director, she was at an associated but lesser academy.  Her mother's been notified, she's down with Ducky and the family priest.  Kate and McGee are at the academy getting the details.  The owner of the snake was killed and all his reptiles let loose.  Kate found him.  Xander will be fine, they're doing an x-ray of the arm since it was swollen even after the anti-venom injection just to make sure he didn't break it when he fell down after he was bitten.  Their dog is also fine and should be released tomorrow."

"Good.  I'm sure you'll enjoy having them at home with you."

He looked at her.  "Director, I'm sorry if I'm impertinent, but Gibbs needs to be with his son at the moment."

"And I told you repeatedly you can't be on the same team if you're together," she reminded him.

"We're not.  That doesn't mean that Xander's not just as much mine as he is Gibbs', Director.  I've walked him just as many nights as his father.  I was just as worried as his father was.  The kid is the only one I'm having unless I help Abby with her plan to have one this year."  The director swallowed.  "I can guarantee if you try to fire me for being concerned over the little boy who is exactly the same as being my son, then I will sue the agency.  In the press, very messily, and I will win."  She frowned.  "I don't play nicely when it comes to that family's life.  I'd give my life for Gibbs and nearly have in the past.  Our team is a family.  There's plenty of people in this building who think he's sleeping with Kate too."  He shrugged.  "Still not true.  Now, I've got a grieving mother we've got to talk to.  Is there anything else or can I get back to work?"

"Go, but be aware you're on probation for insubordination."  He shrugged and walked out, heading back down to the morgue to talk to her about her daughter and anyone who she might've mentioned recently that was bothering her or dating her.  She glared at the door.  Then she called the legal department to verify what DiNozzo had pointed out.  He could sue her personally and the agency both.  Congress would never stand for that to happen.  She'd have to give in or find a way to sweep it under the carpet.  So she'd have to find a way to get rid of him for his work performances.  She spent the rest of the day doing that.  At least until Jethro came in.  "How is your son?"

"Our son's doing fine and if you go after Tony again I'm going to help him get rid of you," he said bluntly, staring her down.  "He's right.  Xander is just as much his son.  He's been there when I couldn't and he's been there for every step of his life.  So get off your high horse, Jen.  If he had been female you would've been standing there patting her hand.  Your viewpoint is inconsistent.  First you like me being with him and then you don't?  Make up your mind."  He walked off, going to talk to Kate about the case they were wrapping up, hopefully.  "Tell me it's in the final paperwork phase," he demanded as he came down the stairs.

"Small problem, boss.  Jealous people and we think it was the one of the teachers," McGee told him.  "We're tracking it down now."

"Where is he?"

"Still in town.  We have someone watching his house," Kate agreed.  "How's Xander?"

"Awake and complaining about the IV and the hospital.  Tony's with him at the moment.  Her instructor was involved how?"

"She turned down his generous advances," Melissa said with a sneer.  "The bastard has four other complaints in his past postings for the same thing, Gibbs."  That got a look.  "Sorry to swear."

"I'm not.  Some people deserve that name.  I usually call those who seduce vulnerable young woman worse things.  Can we prove it?"

"She left diary entries about him. She has a partially filled out complaint form," Kate offered.  "We think she went out wearing or carrying a tape recorder of some sort.  Her roommate said so."

"Interesting.  I don't remember a recorder on the list."

"It wasn't but Ducky did find hints of tape on her stomach," Melissa told him.  "We're working on a warrant to check his office and home."

"Good.  How soon?"

"Within the hour the judge'll call, Gibbs," McGee offered.  "Should we bring anything over?"

"He brought Abby and dinner."  That got a smile from the others.  "Abby's trying to get pregnant?"  They all nodded.  "More power to her," he agreed.  "If she does, I want to know as soon as someone knows so we can protect her and the child.  I'm not sure the lab's a safe place to be when you're pregnant."

"Sure," Kate agreed.  "She goes in for her first invitro tomorrow."  That got a nod.  "So she'll know if it works in about three weeks."

"Decent.  Keep me in that loop even if we're fired.  Call the judge."  Kate did that. "McGee, did we do a background on him?"

"I did," Melissa said, putting it up on the main screen.  "He's served at three other academies and been released from each one without any legal complaints filed.  They wanted to avoid prosecution and embarrassment probably.  It's not uncommon to force the girl to sign a paper saying she won't sue if they let the teacher go.  We also found a juvenile report of him harassing younger women but back in those days it was laughed off as 'boys will be boys' and left there.  One pressed charges all the way through to get him put on probation for statutory rape. She was fourteen, he was seventeen, just barely made it under the juvie cutoff line."  That got a nod from Gibbs.  "His own service wasn't quite sealed but close enough.  I did talk to his former commander.  He wanted to talk to a male officer so I handed him to Kate, who chewed him a new one and went over his head.  He's now on report as well I believe?"  Kate nodded at that.  "She got information on his service record."

"Pretty spotless.  A few notations of hitting on the women while in uniform.  Nothing past the stage of KP or cleaning duties, Gibbs.  I did ask both commanders if they thought he had an interest in slightly underage girls and the more senior commander got huffy with me.  I pointed out he was being charged with it at the moment and his former commander said he was uncomfortable letting his own daughter near him when she was younger but he had no proof.  That was why he stated he wanted a male officer to ask these questions, because they'd understand about those things.  I called the tip line on them both for being misogynist bastards."  Gibbs smirked at that.  "And I left a detailed message as well."  She looked at McGee.  "You get anything further?"

"Warrant's being faxed now.  The headmaster out there is horrified that she didn't come to him.  He says he has an open door policy.  We asked her roommate who said she tried to talk to another teacher and him and they both told her to quit being so fanciful and making trouble.  The teacher tried to put her on report for it, which was what got her in to see the headmaster.  The headmaster claims she has psychological problems, especially distinguishing between reality and fantasy.  According to her diary she doesn't.  According to the other cadets she doesn't.  We did seal and set an officer on his office door until we could get the warrant and he has orders to shoot anyone who tries to gain entry outside the team."

"Agreed.  It's here?"  Melissa got up to check handing it over.  He read it over, then nodded, handing it to McGee.  "Go get him.  I want him here.  Kate, do the search.  Melissa, escort him back with McGee.  You're a bit hot."  She nodded.  He made her pause.  "Do you need to work on an issue?" he asked quietly.

"No, sir, I already did.  It wasn't me, it's righteous female anger in this case."

"That's fine.  Do not let it color your interrogation later."  She nodded at that, going to join them before the elevator door closed.  Gibbs called his son, getting a happy boy, then he went to talk to legal to make his own complaints against their director.  Her harassment was annoying him.  A lot.


Tony looked up as the director walked into the boy's hospital room.  "Director."  He went back to helping Xander eat his jell-o.  "I know it's ucky but you have to eat it or they won't let you have real food in the morning, Xander."  The boy grimaced but ate it anyway.  "Good boy."  He put the cup onto the tray and rang for the nurse, who smiled when she came in.  "I made him eat the jell-o even if it is nasty.  Is his tube out?"

"It is."

"Then I'm going to take him to the potty for a break."  She helped him get the IV off the pole and Xander into the bathroom.  He came back out when the boy shoed him off. "Okay, call when you're ready for me to come back."  He looked at her.  "Did something else happen?  Gibbs called and said they had him.  Something about McGee having his phone lines cut so no one told him he was under investigation.  That way he didn't have time to dump evidence."

"Are you happy at NCIS?"  He nodded.  "Yet you made dangerous complaints earlier."

"No I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"No, I didn't, Director," he said dryly.  "I've been here since three this afternoon when I relieved Gibbs."  She glared at him.  "You can ask the nurses if you want."  Xander called so he went in to clean him up.  "That happens to the best of us.  Especially when you're sore from the line coming out," he promised. "Daddy won't be mad at that accident."  He got him cleaned up and back into his bed, hanging back up the bag, then tossing him some new undies.  "There you go.  We'll wash the others.  Even daddy and I have done that when they take out that line."  Xander wiggled into them under the sheet, making him smile.  "Good job!"

"Percy dog?"

"We can call the vet's in an hour to get one last update for the night, then in the morning."  Xander beamed and nodded.  "An hour, Xander.  Let them do evening meds and feedings, that stuff."  The boy settled in again and he looked at the director.  "I sincerely doubt that I would have made complaints that way, Director.  If I had made complaints, I would have went to the SecNav's office in person and filled them out there under his secretary's watch since I used to date her."  She went purple in the face.  "I'm still not sleeping with Gibbs.  I'm sorry if you think I am, but Xander is just as much my son as his.  Now, he's tired.  You can tell Gibbs he's fine and healthy again."  She stomped off.  He glared at her back.

"Need to have her eaten," Xander complained.  Tony looked at him, seeing that switch had been flicked again.  "Should ask Spike."

"No, your daddy is scarier than any vampire when he wants to be," he promised, coming over to calm him back down.  "How you feelin'?"

"Aches and itches."

"Yeah, been there.  How's the arm?"

"Sore.  They said I had a bruise."

"You do."  He kissed him on the head.  "You did the right thing letting Chad help you, Xander."  That got a smile.  "Your father's off scaring someone who slept with a student where he works."  He picked up the room phone and dialed the vet's number, letting him ask about his dog since he had the higher thought functions at the minute.  He saw it fade and took the phone back.  "So, Percy's fine?"  He smiled at the barking going on.  "Good.  No, he'll be in here again tomorrow just in case, but he's a guard dog so I don't think there'll be a problem.  If there is he can go nap on my couch."  Xander smiled at that.  He looked over when a nurse came in.  "His dog got bitten too and it's a former police dog.  Can he come guard him?"

"Is he now a service animal?"

"I can be helpless," Tony offered with a grin.

"He can see him for a bit, then he'll have to go home.  He should probably rest anyway."  She tucked Xander in but he kicked the blankets.  "Fine, I won't tuck you in too tight."  Tony said something quietly and hung up.  "How was his potty break?"

"He had a small accident since he's still numb where you pulled the tube.  I left them in there until I could get a plastic bag for them."  She nodded.  "I've had that happen too."

"I've seen it before.  A lot of big boys have that problem."  Xander looked at her.  "Really, they do."  Xander smiled at that.  "Now, if you're still hungry, we have some applesauce if you want some."  He shook his head.  "Are you sure?  It comes with animal crackers," she offered with a teasing smile.

He shook his head. "Not like apples."

"Okay.  How about some juice?"

"He likes tart juices mostly.  Grapefruit, cranberry."

"We have some very good crangrape," she agreed.  "That'll help flush that nastiness out of his kidneys.  If everything's okay tomorrow he can go home tomorrow night to rest with his  doggy."  She went to get him some juice and some for the stepfather too.  "Are you and his father together?"

"I'm his usual nanny," Tony admitted with a grin.  "His dad's my boss and I've spent a lot of time in Bethesda due to hard objects and bad guys being attracted to my head."

"Oooh.  So you got to be his nanny on injury leave?"  Tony nodded.  "Poor thing."

"Him have many booboos," Xander agreed, sipping through the straw like he was supposed to.  "Daddy tease him for many booboos."

"He does."  He smiled at the nurse again.  "When he was younger it was actually my duty to be his nanny while I healed.  That way I still had a paycheck."

"That's a good thing to do," she agreed.  "You do have authorization to treat?"

"In my wallet, laminated."

"Thank you.  Just in case you know."

"Oh, I know."  That got a nod and she left him alone, going to make the notes on his chart.  Just so no one else would have to ask the questions later because his father had made it very clear someone was staying with his son tonight, him or Tony one of them.  She also made a note about his dog on a post-it and stuck it to the front of his chart, getting a smile.  "He got bitten too and he's a former K-9 officer."  That got nods and they knew they could put up with it tomorrow.  Maybe he'd visit a few of their other patients to cheer them up too.


Tony looked up when Gibbs and their former director walked in later that night.  "Director Morrow."  He stood up and shook his hand.  "Boss, she was here earlier accusing me of filing complaints.  I told her I'd go see my ex at the SecNav's office and fill them out there while she watched."

"I did that earlier as well.  After I filed some with our office."  He looked at his son.  "He had some juice?"  There were purple marks around his mouth where he had given up on the straw apparently.  Tony smiled and nodded.  "He good?"

"He's fine and Percy gets out in the morning at ten.  The nurses said he could visit on the way to my couch."

"Sure.  I can do that then.  Tom wanted to talk to you."

"Tony, how bad is it really?"

Tony looked at him. "Did you ever hear me complain about stupid admin decisions you made, sir?"

"No, I didn't," he admitted, looking at him.  "Not that I can recall.  Except when you came up dead."

"We know why that happened now," Gibbs reminded him.

"So far that woman has tried to make Abby wear barbie clothes and heels.  Abby."  The director shuddered at that.  "She hired staff without a background check.  She gave Abby an assistant against her will. One who was discredited for tampering with evidence, and he tried to get me accused of murder.  If it hadn't been for Abby, I'd be in a cell.  She came to get Jethro back because she's got some sort of crush on him or something annoying like that."

"Are you two together?"

"I'm his other father but no, I don't do more than occasionally fall asleep on his arm while we watch movies."

"That's fine, I understand that."  He considered it, looking at the little boy.  "What happened to him?"

"Our former neighbor had snakes that got let loose when he was killed.  One bit him and our dog," Gibbs told him. "I'm sorry, Tom, but she's either turning as unstable as the woman in HR was or she's going to be like Tony's last stalker."

"I hope not, but if she burns your house you're more than welcome to move in again, boss. You know that."

"I do, DiNozzo.  Calm down."  He looked at his friend.  "I don't complain, Tom.  You know I don't complain.  I've never complained.  Tony hardly ever complains except for minor things.  Hell, the man came back a week after being released from having the plague and he didn't complain.  She's unstable.  That's the only way to put it."

"I agree," he sighed.

"She didn't want me to come back," Tony said quietly.  "It cuts her access to Gibbs, Tom.  She stated as much in the middle of the bullpen."

"She did," Kate agreed as she walked in.  "She's also put out a warrant for your arrest for attacking Abby."

"Abby was attacked?" Gibbs demanded.  Kate nodded. "She all right?"

"A bit bruised but nothing too tragic.  Looked like a girl fight.  She insisted it was Tony.  I told the officers responding it couldn't be, he was here the whole time.  He had a whole floor of nurses to prove that.  So they're checking but you'd better stay here."  Tony nodded, sitting down again.  "The kid okay?"

"Just fine, Kate.  Anything else I should know?"

"Yeah, Abby thinks she's pregnant," she admitted. "The doctor's checking for her.  She had a one-night comfort sex fling a few months ago and she thinks it may have worked."  Tony smiled at that.  "She said whoever attacked her didn't hit her in the stomach.  Just the face and the chest.  Sprayed her with pepper spray in the eyes."

"Her stalker out?" Tony asked.  She shook her head.  "Good.  That's one less lead they've got."  An officer walked in.  "Is Abby all right?  We just heard."

"She's downstairs, sir.  She demanded to come here.  You've been *here* all night?"  Tony hit the nurse's call.  "Ma'am, has he been here all night?"

"Oh, yes.  He's been one very attentive young man on his stepson or whatever."  That got a nod from Gibbs.  "He is?"

"He's a might-as-well-be father.  He's spent just as much time with him as I have."  She smiled at that.  "I know DiNozzo didn't leave his side, officer.  He hovers worse than I do."

"There's no way he could have snuck off?"

"No, we've checked on him about every hour," she pointed out.  "The only time I didn't see him I heard him in the potty taking a break.  Xander was giggling about him being a big boy too."  That got a smile and Tony blushed at that.  "It is a natural function."

"It is.  Thank you for the juice earlier.  We shared."  He looked at the officer.  "Abby is like my sister, Officer.  I'm going to kill whoever hurt her.  I'll give you guys until this guy gets out of here but then he's mine and I did homicide for years before joining NCIS."  That got a quick nod and he left.  He looked at Gibbs.  "Should I save you some?"

"Please.  Especially if she's pregnant.  Tom, can you watch them?"  That got nod.  "Good.  Kate?"  She led him down to where Abby was in the ER.  "Shit," he said, coming over to hug her.

"Sir, who are you!" the nurse demanded.

"Her boss."  He glared and she scurried off.  "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Gibbs.  The doctor said the baby's okay too."  She put a hand on his stomach.  "Since I heard you wanted to know."

"I'll get to worry about your health this time, young lady."  He kissed her on the forehead.  "What happened?"

"Someone came up behind me and put a bag over my head.  Then they punched me a few times.  The bag was ripped off and I got pepper sprayed," she said, shrugging some.

"Think back," Kate ordered.  "Were the punches coming at a downward angle or upward?  Or straight on?"  Abby closed her eyes and moved her free hand.  "Straight on?"  Abby nodded.  "So about your height.  You've seen the guys hit the heavy bag and spar, right?"  She nodded.  "Did they hit like Tony, Gibbs, or McGee?"

"McGee.  Definitely not a lot of strength like Gibbs hits or anger like when Tony hits the heavy bag."

"So they weren't that strong?" the officer asked.  Abby considered it then shrugged.  "Or they just weren't angry?"

"No, they were angry.  They were very angry. You know how you can feel if the people around you are really mad even if you can't see them directly?"  He nodded.  "I felt her being mad."

"You said her?"

"Most guys aren't my height and they hit harder.  Kate's right about that."  She looked at Kate.  "Can we take the forensic pictures to see if we can determine force?  I can do the algorithm myself if I have to."

"Are you an investigator too?" the officer asked.

"She's our forensics expert," Gibbs told him.  "She is our lab."

"Oh.  Then she would probably know what to do."  He came in to take pictures but Kate took the camera to do it, earning a small smile.  "Sure, we can help you investigate, ma'am."

Tony stomped in and looked at her.  "Abby?"  She held up her arms and he came over to hug her.  "You poor thing," he cooed.  "I'm going to kill someone," he growled, looking at her.  "Are you all right?  The baby?"

"Is a baby," she said happily. "They did an ultrasound."   She let his hand rest on top of Gibbs' on her stomach.  "So we'll have to be very careful of me."

"I'll make sure the bitch who beat you knows what they did," he promised.  She nodded.  "I've got to get back to Xander but when you get up, you come up with me."  She nodded and he headed back, still growling.  The elevator got a new dent on the way up.  The nurse gave him a look.  "Someone beat our teammate and his aunt.  I'm going to kill."

"Go calm down before you scare the boy."

Tony looked at Xander.  "Someone hurt Abby.  Want to help me search?"  Xander nodded.  "Good, we'll let you hit them too if I can.  If your daddy and I leave them living."  He sat down and pulled out his laptop, sending out a general 'abby's okay and pregnant' notice to the whole team.  McGee sent back a 'why wouldn't she be' so he told him.  He would be down in the ER within ten minutes.  Tony got to work finding out where it happened and if there were any sources of video nearby.  He smiled at Xander.  "Hmm, there's a traffic video system near there."  He sent that information in a text message to Gibbs, along with the fact that the restaurant she had been meeting McGee at earlier had an ATM that might have caught something and was listed as having surveillance video systems.  Gibbs sent back a 'kate went' and left it there.  He smiled at Xander.  "We'll get to beat someone up very soon."

"Does his father approve of that sentiment?"

He looked at her.  "They beat the woman who breastfed him."  She shuddered.  "Abby's like a little sister to the team.  The person who did it is a dead woman and Gibbs said to save him some."  Xander giggled at that. "See?"

"I do.  That's fine then.  Just try to keep it down.  We do have a few children with parents who put them in here."

Tony nodded. "I've busted my fair share of those as an officer and as NCIS."  She smiled and nodded, leaving them alone after she checked on Xander.  "I know you can't sleep in here, Xander.  Try anyway please?"


"Sure."  He put his laptop on the chair and plugged it in then carefully climbed up behind him, letting Xander cuddle into his chest for now.  He smiled when the boy snuggled in and got comfortable, one hand going onto his stomach under his shirt.  It was only a few minutes before he was snoring in his little, tiny way.  The nurse gave him an amused look. "Can you reload my email?" he whispered.  She undid his very plain screensaver and clicked on that icon.  He dug out his phone and paged Gibbs to come back up.  "No one can sleep in here.  I know I can't."

"It's fine. You're not on his IV."  Gibbs stormed in and she pointed at the laptop.  "He had me reload it."

Gibbs squatted down to read it then smirked at Tony.  "Thank you."

"Not the person I thought."

"She probably hired her.  He good?"

"Couldn't sleep."

"Neither can I."  He stroked over his son's head.  "Be a good boy for Tony and I love you, Xander.  I'll be back in a few hours."  Xander grumbled and grabbed his hand, holding it.  "I've got to help Abby."

"You stay, she stay."

"She'll be up in a few minutes and you can cuddle her.  She's going to have a baby."  He kissed him on the head.  "Nap on Tony and I'll be very careful."

Xander blinked at him. "Uncle Tobby?"

"Sure, I'll take Uncle Tobias."  He smiled.  "You rest.  I'll be safe and wear my vest."  Xander nodded and curled in again, going back to sleep.  "Watch him."

"Of course.  Let me know."  Gibbs nodded and got free, heading out.  He ran into McGee and Abby in the halls.  "Let her nap with Xander on the bed.  Tony will watch them.  Grab your vest."

"In my car, boss."  He walked Abby in there and helped her and Tony change spots.  Then he left them alone with Tony surfing online for more information on their target.

Tony looked over when a nurse came in. "She got beaten pretty bad earlier.  Xander's her favorite stepson."

"That's fine."  She checked his IV tubing then got the poor girl some tylenol and an ice pack.


"I don't want it," Gibbs yelled, clearly heard all the way down from MTAC.  "If you try to appoint me everyone's going to be just like me.  I definitely do not want it."  He stormed out.

McGee looked at him.  "I agree, boss, the paperwork would drive you nuts when you couldn't have Tony and Kate do it for you."  Gibbs glared at him so he grinned back.  "They removed her?"

"Pending investigation of the assault on Abby.  Where is she?"

"With your son watching movies," Kate reminded him.  They're probably both in her lap."

"I doubt DiNozzo is, Kate," he said dryly.

"I meant the other dog, Gibbs.  Not your personal bitch."  She got back to work.  "Maybe they'll name Fornell, boss."

He walked off shuddering.  "I'm going for coffee!"

"Sure," she agreed, typing that in an IM for the guys upstairs so they could relax.  Former Director Morrow paused at the end of their row a few minutes later.  "He huffed off for coffee like a girl on a PMS snit."

"At least Xander isn't a girl," he said.  "Or we'd get to see what a Gibbs with PMS was like."  Kate shuddered at that.

McGee pointed at Kate.  "It looks a lot like her when she was in command."  Then he had to duck when she threw something hard at his head.

"You'd better run," Kate vowed.

Tony walked off the elevator, looking at them. "Are we goofing off?"

"No," Melissa said, continuing to type.

"Why not?  It's a paperwork day.  You're supposed to take regular breaks so your mind doesn't turn to mush."  He sat behind his desk.  "Abby and the dog have him."

"Figured she did," Kate agreed. "They'll be good for her today."

"She thought he and the dog were both in her lap."

"Xander's staring at her in awe like she's the only one who's ever given birth and he's getting a sibling," Tony said dryly.  "The dog is in her lap and he's chastising him about getting too close to his baby brother.  He and Gibbs have to have a talk later."

"Probably true," Kate agreed dryly.  "Unfortunately he huffed off for coffee."

"It happens.  He doesn't want command either."

The former director sighed and went up to talk to people.  Before Gibbs upset everyone else in DC.  He heard the suggestion that Fornell could take it and nearly whimpered for his poor agency.  Fortunately they decided to put him in charge for a while until things got calmed down.  He went back down and found Abby, Xander, and the dog downstairs waiting on Gibbs.  "Problems at home?"

"He forgot to pay the power bill," Abby teased, hugging him.  "Hi, Director Morrow."

"Abby.  It's good you're all right."  He looked her over.  "He forgot to pay the power bill?"  Tony shook his head, taking his cellphone off.

"Big boomie outside," Xander said, then he giggled.  "Doggy jump."

"That can happen," he soothed, smiling at him. "I haven't seen you since I left, young man.  You weren't even crawling then."  Xander grinned at him.  "I gave you a ring of keys."  Xander hugged him for that.  The dog sniffed him and then went to sniff the others, stopping to sit next to Melissa.

"Oh, really?" Abby asked.

"My neighbor," she promised.  "I swear it is."

McGee looked over. "That's my old desk and there's cocaine residue inside it somewhere we could never find.  Good boy, Percy."  He pulled out a ball and threw it, making the dog and the boy chase after it to play.  Abby got down to help.

Tony smiled at him then at Melissa.  "You're taking one anyway, just in case."

"That way no one can piss off Gibbs by asking him if you've taken one," Kate warned.

"I'll volunteer," she agreed, going to do that.  HR knew about her desk so they could rush it for her.

Gibbs came back and looked at the empty desk.

"Percy sat down at it, boss.  She went to volunteer for a test, just in case," McGee offered. "Director Morrow just sent out a system wide email that he was in charge while the former director was under investigation.  Abby has Xander and the dog down in the morgue right now with Ducky because a transformer blew by Tony's house."

Gibbs looked at him.  "Why?"

"Stupid neighbor that you said was going to hit his house some day.  He hit the pole and the pole hit his car, the transformer blew on his roof and trunk.  Total wreck.  They said I'll have power later today when they get the new pole up."

"Good.  We still welcome at your place?"

"Hell yes.  Morrow said he wanted to see you but it wasn't immediate, said to make you calm down first."

"I am calm."  He headed up there, finding him in MTAC talking to the same person he had  yelled at earlier.  He sat down and looked at his boss.  "You needed me?"

"Apologize for yelling."

"You wanted me to take command of this mess."

"I'm not sure anymore.  Especially with the fit you threw."  Gibbs gave him a look and his boss coughed.  "You're right, you're not right for the job."

"Thank you, sir, for that spot of reason.  Anything else?  If not, my son's here due to a transformer being blown at DiNozzo's house."

"I heard.  The responders blocked my secretary from coming back from her doctor's appointment on time.  Go."  Gibbs went back downstairs.  "I forgot what a hothead he could be."

"Only when you try to rearrange things on him," Tony said as he walked in.  "Never, ever rearrange his bathroom on him."  He handed the director something.  "The guard on her door just burst in and found her gone, Director.  She left that."

The director read it then let a tech take it to fax it over.  "Looks like she wasn't going to be blamed for the actions of others."  She looked at DiNozzo.  "Trying to blame you again."

"Yes, but if I was going to beat anyone, it certainly wouldn't be Abby since she wanted me to be the donor for her child."  They both gaped.  "She was going to try a treatment this morning actually."  That got a deeper stare from the new director.  He nodded.  "I love Abby like my sister.  Of course I'd help her.  McGee and I were both on that detail if they wouldn't take me due to the plague I had.  Fortunately I had some in storage."  He looked at the SecNav, who was still staring in horror.  "What?  I'm allowed to procreate."

"Please don't," he said weakly.  "Please?"  Tony glared and it was nearly as bad as Gibbs' by the way he flinched.  "Um, sorry, forgot myself for a minute, Special Agent DiNozzo."

"For that I want a damn good raise this year, sir."  He glared at the new director too then stomped off.  "Abby, the SecNav said you can't have my kid."  She stomped up there to go correct him and let him know how bad his world was going to be.  Gibbs was snickering at his desk. "Seriously.  Gave me a horrified look when I mentioned that it was my sample Abby was doing today.  He begged me not to breed, boss.  I'm expecting a good raise this year."

"I would too."

Xander came bouncing over with the dog right behind him.  "You have baby?"

"I was going to help Abby have hers."

"Cool!"  He ran off again, going to bother Kate.  He was babbling at high speed about all the fun he was going to have with Abby's baby when it was born.

"Son, that's her baby, not ours," Gibbs said.  "He'll be like a cousin you see a lot but he's not going to live with us.  He's going to live with Abby and visit us."  Xander pouted.  "No, son.  We're only going to get him to live with us if something happens to Abby.  That'll be her baby.  Just like you're mine."

"Then why do we live with Tony if he's not ours?"

Gibbs looked at his son.  "You're very smart, son.  But you're still a smart ass."  Tony giggled at that.  "We're living with him because we're making sure there's no more snakes at home."

"Oh, okay.  So why can't we live with Abby and her baby?"

"Because Abby sleeps in a very uncomfortable coffin," Tony told him, giving him a look. "You will get to see the baby a lot because I think she's planning on hiring the same nanny as you have."  Xander beamed at that. "Since you're such a big boy you don't need as much care anymore so you'll get to share him and teach him things."

"Cool."  He bounced over to hug him again and Tony handed him a piece of candy, making him smile before bouncing off to hug his father and then going to hug Abby again.  He loved his auntie more than ever now.

"She is?"

"She was the last time I knew," Tony admitted.

"I wouldn't mind.  It'd be as close as a sibling to Xander."

"Being an only child can suck," Tony agreed.  "Though I'd hate to see what a sibling would've turned out like in my family."

"In a bubble," Gibbs assured him.

"Probably true.  Wearing all white so they could bleach it and everything else around them."

"Your mother had problems with germs?" McGee asked.

"Oh, you could say that," Tony said dryly.  "My mother fired a nanny for letting me go outside to play once.  For agreeing I should be allowed contact with other children who might have germs."

"Oooh.  Sorry."

"She's been gone for a while," he said dryly.  "It's all better.  I got over my germ thing when I was in the frat house.  Kinda hard to be worried about germs when you're more worried about other stuff that may be laying around."

"Eww," Kate said.  "More than I ever needed to know, Tony."

"It's true.  Not like college boys are that clean."

"I don't want to think about that either," Gibbs ordered.

"Sure, boss."  He got back to his email, looking around.  "Did they head back downstairs?"  McGee flipped windows on his monitor and nodded.  "Morgue?"

"Yup.  Xander's having Percy sniff a body for Ducky."  Gibbs moaned and went to save the poor body from his son and dog.

Tony just grinned.  He loved Xander when he was in a bouncy mood.


Xander looked at his eggs a few weeks later then at his father.  "Are we eating almost baby chickens?"

"No," Tony said slowly, thinking a lot faster.  "Chickens who put out eggs are kept away from roosters so they can't make baby chickens.  If they've been near a rooster we don't get them.  These are the extra eggs that they had to shed because the rooster wasn't helping them make baby chickens."

"So we're eating chicken girl issues?"

Gibbs considered that then nodded.  "Sort of.  I'm still eating eggs, son."

Xander looked at him.  "Do chickens have PMS like Auntie Kate if we eat chicken periods?"

Tony choked at that and moved his plate aside.  "More coffee, boss?"

"No, that's all right."  He looked at his son.  "Eggs aren't quite like women's period's son.  They don't cramp or bleed when they lay eggs."

"Oh.  That's good."  He smiled at that.  "But it's still the same thing?"

"A lot alike but we're still eating eggs.  Finish breakfast and you can have eggos tomorrow."  His son had thrown an abbreviated tantrum to get eggos this morning.  Abbreviated because the glare still worked on his son.

"Shoot," Xander muttered, but he dug back in.  "I think I found a feather."

"Only if you're sprouting," Tony said plainly.  Xander ducked his head and finished his breakfast.   He got him cleaned up and ready for preschool, taking him over there for the day.  "Who told him eggs were like chickens' periods?" he asked the keeper quietly.

"We watched a tape yesterday on chickens," she offered.  "I don't think anyone made that suggestion.  Then again, Xander is a very smart little boy."

He just nodded. "Let us know if he infects more of them please.  He came up with that question over breakfast."  He walked out, heading back to the car.  He went back home and inside.  "Your son is brilliant," he called.

"Why?" Gibbs asked when he came into the kitchen again and went to make a different breakfast.

"They watched a tape yesterday on chicken and eggs. She said he made the leap himself probably.  She looked real confused when I asked her who compared eggs to periods."

"I'm sure another parent will complain tonight then," he sighed, shaking his head.


Year Five


Tony was wheeled into the house by Gibbs, and gently helped onto the couch.  "Where's the son?"

"School.  That thing that makes him hate others."  He looked at him. "You all right?"

"No.  I wish like hell painkillers worked better on me," he admitted dryly.  "I'll even beg if you knock me out."

"I'll go get the kid.  You nap for the next hour or so."  Tony let out a bitter sounding snort.  "Try."  He left, leaving the wheelchair there.  Though he heard Tony kick it and knock something over.  He was not taking this whole back injury problem of his very well at the moment.  He checked his watch.  If he hurried he could pick Xander up before he got onto the bus.  Then again, he still drove like he was in pursuit so he got there in plenty of time to hear the last bell of the day.  His whistle made a few kids look up and Xander ran over to hug him.  "Have a bad day?"

"My teacher sucks.  Can't you shoot her?"

"No, son."

"Can I shoot her?"

"No, son."

"Crap.  The principal said she wanted to talk to you.  I have a note saying you had to come tomorrow."

"That's fine, we can do that."  He walked him inside to the office, nodding at the secretary.  She called the principal and she came out.  "You wanted to see me?"

"I think we should talk, yes."  She let them into her office, closing the door behind her.  "Your son has been expressing some violent tendencies lately, Mr. Gibbs."

"That's Special Agent Gibbs," Xander said, glaring at her.  "Be nicer."

"Xander," Gibbs warned.  Xander slumped down.  "What did the woman do to him this time?"

"Told him to quit calling her names in Italian, again."

He looked at his son.  "Were you?"

"No, I was talking to the new girl about her braid and warning her to watch out for the cranky thing.  She's being mean to me because I can speak more than one language."

He looked at the principal.  "She does want him to speak only english in her classroom."

"The new girl speaks Italian too," Xander defended. "Plus I speak some Spanish and that's a good thing.   Uncle Ducky's teaching me French and Auntie Abby is teaching me some Creole."

"I think it is," Gibbs agreed. "Then again, she is teaching you in English."

"Which I'm good in," Xander pointed out.

"You are," the principal agreed, smiling at him. "We encourage your son to learn more languages but she does want him to only use his native one in the classroom.  I'm sure you can understand how that can be?"

"I was explaining things during math," Xander complained.  "We were even in the corner being quiet."

"Does this teacher perhaps have a problem with foreign students?"

"Perhaps," she admitted, "but that shouldn't impact Xander."

"Then apparently she can't tell very easily."  That got a nod. "Can we switch him and the other poor children she's tormenting out of her class?"

"She's the only kindergarten teacher we have here, Special Agent Gibbs."

"Can't Tony teach me?" Xander whined.  "He makes it fun."

"He's not qualified to home school you," Gibbs reminded him, again.  They'd had this argument a few times in the month he'd been in kindergarten.  "What did you threaten to do to her today?"  Xander said something in Spanish, making Gibbs smack him on the head.  "Should you do that you'll be in deep crap, son."

"Yes, daddy."

"Thank you."  He looked at her.  "She's holding my son back."

"I'm stupid at math," Xander protested.  His father glared at him and he shrank down.  "She said I am."

"Then she's in deep shit," Gibbs noted.  The principal shuddered at his glare and shrank back too.  "Fix it, lady."

"I'm trying but we do need your help."

"I was a sniper in the service, I'm sure I can do that," he offered.

"Perhaps Xander should go to a better school.  One that has more emphasis on other forms of education.  He seems to prefer hands on learning and languages."

"He does.  We'll see.  He'll be home tomorrow since we just got Tony back from the hospital."

"Cool.  Movies.  Maybe he can do another history lesson."

"Maybe," he sighed.  "Let's go."  His son followed him, letting him yell once he got in the car.  He came home and found Tony ordering a new tv since his was now broken.  "Did you throw the wheelchair?"

"No, I threw the glass vase," he said absently, hugging Xander.  "Want bigger or smaller?"


"Bigger it is."  He clicked on that and ordered it then looked at Gibbs.  "Let me guess, the teacher's a paranoid bitch about immigrant students bringing down her test score average?"

"Yes and quit swearing."

Tony looked at him. "There's three really good schools in the city and we'll look at all of them."  Xander hugged him.  "But it means you might have to wear a uniform."

"Icky ones?"

"In one case yes.  We'll go see tomorrow while Daddy works."

"Can you drive?"

"Of course I can."

"No," Gibbs overrode.  "You can't.  Your doctor said you can barely feel your feet; that means you can't drive, DiNozzo."

"Daddy, hush.  Belief in yourself is important.  You and Auntie Abby told me that."

"We did but in this case it's dangerous."

"We can cab," Tony promised.

Gibbs gave a pointed look at the wheelchair and found Tony searching around for his gun.  "I hid it after you pulled one on the nurse."  Tony groaned.  "We can look later this week when you've had a chance to sleep again since you haven't slept in the last week due to the hospital being noisy."

"Could like that idea," Tony agreed.  He yawned and settled into the comfortable couch.  Xander cuddled him like he used to when he was younger, and it was a good thing.  "Get dinner?" he mumbled as he fell asleep.

Gibbs nodded.  "Of course."  He went to find the sticky thing to clean up the glass mess.  He hated the sticky pads but it did work better on tiny pieces of glass.  He was even nice enough to let the delivery guys in when they brought in the extra large tv.  "I've seen movie screens smaller than that thing."

"So have we," one guy admitted.  "Mr. DiNozzo?"  Gibbs pointing at the sleeping duo.  "Ah.  Sign please?"  Gibbs signed and that got a nod so they set it up and took the broken one with them.  Gibbs shook his head, going to start on dinner while he called Abby to warn her Tony was still cranky.


Tony looked at the perspective headmistresses he had on video conferencing.  "We are here to talk about the last DiNozzo heir, ladies.  His name is Xander."  That got some smiles. "He soaks up languages, which put him in trouble with the immigrant-unfriendly one in the public school his other father sent him to.  He does have some problems with math but has a better understanding if it's shown to him in a practical manner.  He has adopted my love of movies as well.  Now, what can you offer him?"

"Our curriculum isn't very hands on," one of them said.  "It's quite traditional, dating back to the English traditions."

Xander looked over Tony's shoulder. "Would I get recess and play time? I'm only in kindergarten."

"There is a recess but there's not much play time, young man.  You can play at home after your homework is done."  Xander reached over to shut her picture off.

Tony looked at him.  "That was impolite.  You'll write her a letter of apology."  Xander sighed but went to type one out.  It was better than his handwriting.  "Sorry about that.   He is only five and a half."

"We offer some hands-on projects, but we are mostly a traditionally based system," the one on the right offered.  "I'm not sure he could handle it plus you work on the other side of the city from us, Mr. DiNozzo."

"I'm on injury leave at the moment.  Someone shot me in the lower back."  That got a wince and a hiss from the one on the left.  "Exactly.  So we're working on the driving thing.  That is a consideration.  What about your school, madam?"

"We are mostly project based, Tony, as we told you last time."  Xander came back to listen.  "We also do block learning.  He'll have five classes a term but he'll only take three a day.  He'll have recess after the first, a late lunch after the second, and then the third which is a longer one."

"That sounds good," Xander told her, popping up again.  Both women smiled.  "Uncle Tony and Dora taught me how to speak Italian and some Spanish."

"Dora?  Is she the housekeeper?"

"Daddy threw a fit when I said we should get one to clean up after me," he said grimly.  "She's a cartoon."

"I've seen that one," the other headmistress agreed happily.  "It's made quite a lot of our students bilingual.   How much is a bit of Spanish?"

"About his age range," Tony admitted.  "He's better in Italian because now and then I say things in it he shouldn't hear.  I'm learning Russian now to keep ahead of him since he's got two other relatives teaching him French and Creole."  That got a laugh.

"Where's Russia?"

"Remember James Bond yesterday?"  Xander nodded.  "There.  The top of Europe over to Asia."

"Oh.  The big pink country on the map?"   The headmistress on the right nodded.  "Would your school teach me that stuff?"

"We would but it is still more like your last one."  He grimaced at that. "I do believe the other school would be a better fit, Mr. DiNozzo.  From what Xander's said it sounds like he'd like their format better and learn easier from it."

"Okay.  Thank you for your time, ma'am."

"You're welcome and do pass us on."

"Oh, I will.  Our forensic's tech has a son who's three now," he said happily. "We're both working on him."  That got a smile and she hung up.  "When can we schedule a time to come out and visit?"

"You could come out any afternoon this week.  I know his other father still works?"  Tony nodded. "Then that would accommodate his work schedule."

"He can ditch an afternoon for this," Tony promised.  "I'll have him call to set up a time."  That got a nod and she hung up as well.  Tony kissed Xander on the temple.  "Apology letter."

"Why does everyone think you and Daddy are together if you won't kiss him?"

"Because we're very close and we live together sometimes.  That started with the evil director.  She spread that rumor and my mommy decided it was true, which makes you the last DiNozzo heir."  Xander grinned and went back to his letter of apology for being rude.  Tony watched him for a minute then dialed into McGee's desk, making him jump and squeak, then grab his chest.  "Sorry.  Had the sound turned off?"

"Gibbs said so.  What's happened?  Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  Tell the grumpy one that his son's got an interview and meeting any day this week he can free up an afternoon for.  They're project based, they're downtown, they like him learning languages, and Xander got along well with her on the video conferencing.  Much better than the one he hung up on."  That got a grin and McGee made the note.  "But I do have one in mind for Abby's son."  He hung up with a wiggle of his fingers, then put his laptop aside so he could unfreeze his movie and get back to it.  "I love my TIVO."  Xander giggled and came back out.  "Letter.  Print it and let me read it."  Xander sighed and went back to it, bringing out a copy and a pen.  Tony went over it sentence by sentence with him so it sounded better.  Xander went back to make the corrections and then brought out another copy. "Good job.  Sign it, look up her address, and stick a stamp on it."  Xander went to do that.  The phone rang and he used his unneeded cane to pull it over.  "What?" he asked.  "No, I had to bend a bit to get the phone.  Xander's finishing an apology letter for hanging up on someone, Gibbs.  Why?"  He smiled.  "Good school.  Like my mother wanted.  Yes, that sort of good school.  Because I'm sending him there even if you don't like it, Gibbs.  Then you can pay me back some year.  Do I care?" he asked dryly.  "You'd rather I waste it all on U-bags and movies?"  He hung up on the spluttering.  "Good.  Glad he saw sense."


Gibbs hung up the phone.  "We need to get Tony back to work."

Melissa looked at him. "He gets the other part of his inheritance this year, Gibbs.  He might not want to go to work again."

"He does.  He's going insane.  He just said Xander's going to the school he picked out even if I didn't like it."

"Tony probably picked out a very good school," Melissa told him.  "He seems to know what Xander needs that way and he's sure to pick out somewhere that they won't make fun of Xander for speaking three languages like his last one did.  Or call him stupid."

"That doesn't mean he should smart off that way."

Melissa looked at him.  "Gibbs, Tony is lonely.  It's not like he thinks he can date this way and he feels what any of us feel after a catastrophic injury, like he's less than he was before. Take your man out on a date!  It'll make you both feel better."

"We're still not together."

She snorted. "And I'm the queen of glam fashion, Gibbs!  Get a clue!"  She got up and walked off shaking her head, going to complain to Ducky, who backed her up on this point  all the time.

"I thought Kate was mouthy before she retired, boss," McGee quipped.

"Back to work."

"Yes, boss."  He got back to work, handing over the note Tony had made him make.  Then he sent over the video capture of the call.  Gibbs moaned and shook his head.  "He's going to pick a great school, Gibbs.  You know he's doing for Xander what wasn't done for him."

"That's what worries me.  The high drug rate at those places."

"Gibbs, your son is hyper but he's got it under control most days.  This place might be able to help him with that without drugs.  Especially if they let him do *things* instead of sitting there staring at a teacher for hours on end."

"Point."  He got back to work, considering it in his mind.   He'd talk to Tony tonight when he got home.  That thought made him pause.  Since when did DiNozzo's house become home?  He had his own home he never saw anymore.  Now he understood why DiNozzo used to joke about not being his wife because he was missing out on some of the fringe benefits.  He felt the same way. He shook his head to clear that thought for later tonight. When he was alone and his son was in bed.


Tony wheeled himself around the halls, letting Xander walk beside him.  "These are really good murals," he said, smiling at them.

"One of our former students did those.  Though there is one room where some of the parents give odd looks.  Apparently they never got along so he painted a rather large bear trying to frighten a human figure."  Tony snickered at that.  "Do you have any idea where his father is?"  Tony flipped open his phone and pointed.  "Ah, he slipped past us."

"He is up the hall, Xander.  Go search out the big idiot."  Xander ran off to find him, finding his father watching a class from a hidden room.  They both rolled in there.  "First grade?" he guessed.

"It is."  She smiled and shook his hand.  "I'm Headmistress Kristina Sommers, Mr. Gibbs.  Welcome to my school."  She smiled down at Xander.  "I think you'll fit in here very well, Xander."

"He loved the kindergarten class when we peeked in," Tony agreed.  "We had to yank him out of there to finish the tour."  Gibbs looked at him.  "He did."

"I'm impressed we picked the same school."

"Why?  I know what I was looking for.  Not like I was going to send him somewhere like Nottingham."

"I've heard about them," the headmistress admitted.

"I went to schools like that."

"Ah.  No wonder Xander is going to be friendlier place."  Tony nodded. "What haven't you seen yet, Mr. Gibbs?"

"The cost."

"My grandmother's trust is for that," Tony said patiently.  "Xander, do you want to go here?"

Xander bounced on the balls of his feet.  "Please, Daddy?  I'll be a super good boy and the teacher thought it was great I could already speak languages.  She said we'd get to work on that during school hours even.  Please?"

"It's how much a semester?" Gibbs asked again.

"Four thousand."  Gibbs winced at that.

"To put that into perspective, the one I attended kindergarten at was seventeen thousand a  year, Gibbs, and that was in back then money, now it's closer to twenty-five a year.  My parents wanted me to help you pay for his education.  I will."

"I can...."

Tony glared at him and then smiled sweetly at the headmistress.  "We'll talk tonight."

"Daddy," Xander begged.  "Please don't make me go back where they called me stupid?"

"Oh, you're not," he promised.  "I'm not sure if we can afford this without Tony."

"Gibbs, shut up," Tony said bluntly.  "It was written in the wills; I'll lose everything if I don't, and even if I was forced not to you'd still get help for his education from me, so just shut up and suck it up this time.  He's going here.  He loves it here.  I'm paying for him to go here and if you don't like it I'm filing for custody."  Gibbs glared back.  "Now fill out the paperwork."

"I'm not your wife.  The same as you're not his mother."

Xander coughed. "Daddy, remember when I was younger and we had that talk about wrists?"  Gibbs glared at him and he stared back.  "As Uncle Ducky says, perhaps we should revisit that topic?"

"Grounded," Tony said immediately.

"Yes, Daddy Tony."  He sighed and looked at the headmistress.  "Can I bonk him on the head?"

"It's not considered polite."  She watched the two men stare at each other until Gibbs finally bopped Tony on the head.  "Gentlemen."

"He does it at work too," Xander assured her, walking her off.  "Can I go back to my classroom?"

"If you want."  She smiled.  "Do remember, Mr. Gibbs, this is also a tax deduction."  She led him off.

"I can't afford here, Tony," he said quietly.

"I can."

"He's not your son."

"My mother put him into her will as her grandchild and only other heir.  That makes him a DiNozzo by adoption at the very least.  I will literally lose everything if I don't help you pay for it.  Also, you're not thinking, boss.  Xander *loves* this place.  He nearly threw a fit when we tried to get him to leave the kindergarten room the last time."  Jethro groaned.  "Please, Jethro.  It's good for him and he loves it here.  The teacher even explained math to him in a way he got the first time.  There's only sixteen kids in his class.  The teacher's a nice and good guy who has time to help Xander when he needs it and they're doing projects based on animals this year."

"I'd still have to sell the house."

"Gibbs, are you going to go back there?" Tony asked bluntly.  "And no you don't.  I told you I'm supposed to pay for all of his education."

"He's still not your son."

Tony looked at him.  "Your choices are me paying for this, me paying for this behind your back, or me paying for this behind your back and having a child of my own to torment you with and making him Xander's little brother or sister."

"I thought you had adopted baby Malaki as yours," he said dryly.

"He might be mine I have no idea.  Abby is thinking about a second one, boss."  He shook his head.  The pregnancy had been hard on her.  "So, am I paying for his schooling openly or not?"

"Fine.  I'll let you pay half.  Even divorced couples only have to pay half."

"Actually one parent usually gets stuck with all the education and the other with the afterschool activities.  Now, our son just went back to his classroom so maybe we should watch in there?  Before we give the poor first graders a few more lessons they shouldn't have?"

"I was told it was sound proofed."

"Good. This way."  He turned the chair around carefully but Gibbs did it for him. "Hey!"

"Let me steer.  You probably can't even feel your hands, DiNozzo."  He wheeled where Tony pointed, finding his son playing with two kids, which he never did at his other school, and a few others giving him wary looks.  "Son?"  His son pouted at him.  "What's going on?"

"I'm going here."

"You are.  You'll start Monday," Tony agreed.  Xander rushed over to hug him as hard as he could.  The teacher smiled. "This is his other father, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs."

"Ah, a pleasure to meet you.  He spoke highly of you when I asked what you did."

"What did he say I do?"

"You make people sorry for being bad people and hurting others."  That got a small smile and a nod.  "Plus that you had half of DC scared when you didn't have any coffee in your hand."

"Now and then," Gibbs agreed.  He looked at his son.

"You do."

"You kinda do, Gibbs," Tony agreed.  "Okay, let's go back to the office so we can fill out the forms, young man, then we'll see what else we have to buy."

"Do we have to?  Shopping is for girls!" he complained but he did let Tony wheel him out after waving at the kids.  "See you guys Monday."  He snuggled into the welcoming lap.  "I like it here."

"They like you," Tony agreed, smiling at him. He looked at the headmistress.  "Did you need the payment today or do I have time to set up an auto payment out of my trust?"

"I really should have it today," she admitted.  "Plus we do have some paperwork and board approval must be gotten.  That shouldn't take too long.  Does he have any violence notes in his files from the other place?"

"That he may," Gibbs admitted.  "He and his teacher there got into it often because Xander can speak some in multiple languages.  I know he was helping another young lady in her native Italian during a math lesson they were both struggling with and she claimed he had threatened her in it."

"Ah.  I know that teacher.  It may be in there but I'm sure we can get over that objection."  She glanced at Tony, who nodded.

"Why do I think a bribe was just paid?" Gibbs asked.

"Occasionally the board needs a shove, boss."

"You two work together as well?" she asked.

"Only if I get out of this chair."

"I understand."

"He's been my senior field agent for years," Gibbs admitted.  "Plus the nanny."  Tony gave him a cool look.  If they had been married it was a 'go sleep on the couch' look.

"Tony's mommy was kinda funny in the head," Xander told her, looking over Tony's shoulder. Tony pulled out his phone and deposited him on the ground before rolling off for a minute into the bathroom.  "She decided daddy and Tony were together and made me the heir since I was the only grandchild she was getting.  But it's kinda neat because Daddy Tony's better at some things than Daddy is because Daddy doesn't always understand people.  Daddy Tony explains people things to me and Daddy does all the other stuff."

"I try," Gibbs reminded his son.

"I know, Daddy, but sometimes those people things slip by you.  Like how Daddy Tony used to sleep at his desk all the time during the long cases.  Or how Uncle Ducky said it was his loyalty to you that made everyone think that you were together back then."  Tony came out of the bathroom looking calm and collected.  "Besides, if I didn't have Daddy Tony you'd have shot yourself years ago when I was teething.  You told him that."

"I did," he agreed. "But you were supposed to be asleep when I said that."

"So was he," Xander agreed with a giggle and running off after the headmistress.

"I heard you say that too, boss.  Abby said his record with the school board is clean."


"Really.  Only the one detention for mouthing off to the teacher that first day."  Gibbs looked at him and Tony smiled back.  "She's also checked into her license and said it's not very steady at the moment.  Apparently the Major's sister is watching his daughter, his little Italian speaking friend, and she threw a holy fit on the school about the teacher."

"Good.  Which one?" he asked quietly.  Tony just gave him a look and turned his chair around.  "We'll be talking about this later, DiNozzo."

"Of course you will.  I'll be watching movies and seeing what we need to buy."  He rolled into the office.  "Sorry, thought I'd check to make sure.  His records have one detention on them and the last teacher has more complaints than ours against her."

"The records I asked for the other day confirm that," she agreed.  Gibbs blinked at that so she smiled at him.  "They didn't include any of the threats as more than a personal note from the principal and yes, she did say he had threatened the teacher but no she wasn't including it because she knew it was prejudice-based."

"They have the daughter of a Major who had been stationed in Italy for a while on a joint project.  He's deployed somewhere so her aunt, who is a Congressional Aide, has her.  The old teacher has been heard about by the education committee."  That got an understanding smile.  "So, can we get him approved today?"

"I've already faxed over what we had and how much he loved the kindergarten classes.  I did not tell them that you were a gay family because one member of the board would have vetoed you immediately."  That got a nod.  "I also fudged a little on Gibbs' job, stating him as second in command in the agency."

"Actually it's more like fourth but true," Gibbs admitted.  "They tried to hand it to me too."

"Which is why half the city is still ducking when they see him," Tony offered. Xander giggled.  "He sounded like you when I made you quit feeding the dog your spinach the other night."  They looked at the fax as it spit out something and she got it, giggling.  "They corrected a point?"

"They said you're a very cute couple, they knew you were a couple, and Gibbs is third in command, not second."  She handed it over.  Then she dug out more paperwork, making Xander happy.  "Let's see what we still need, boys."  They sat down to work on it with her. Then they went home to celebrate with little Malaki the Futurely Evil Genius as his Mommy and Uncle Tony called him.


Gibbs looked at Tony.  "I can swing his education costs," he said quietly.

Tony hefted the vase beside his hand.  "Don't make me use this, boss."

"You wouldn't."  Tony threw it at his head and glared at him when he ducked.  "Okay, so you would.  What was that for?"

"For you being an asshole.  No one's ever told you this before but shut up and get over it."  He went back to watching the news.

Gibbs calmed himself.  Xander was in bed.  "You know he's not yours."

"Not this again," he complained.  "Gibbs, shut up.  Just shut up before I shoot you and bury you somewhere you'll be eaten by wild animals.  I'd hate to do that to Xander but I will at the moment."

"Want your pain killers and sedative?" he asked dryly.

"Well, yes, but I'd do it anyway."  He went back to watching the news on the trial about where he got shot.  "Who was testifying today?"


"When is it my privilege?"

"Tuesday they think.  I'll help you get dressed."

"I'm not helpless," he growled.

"No, you're injured.  You're not helpless."  Now he was starting to see the problem his son had pulled him outside after dinner to talk about.  "I don't think you've been helpless since you were Xander's age."  Tony snorted at that.  He shifted closer.  "You're not.  Right now you're impaired but they said it'll get better."

"I still can't feel my feet."

"They said that'll come back with work, Tony."

"Which they won't let me do.  What?" he demanded.  "Did they just say his charges had been dropped?"

Gibbs called Ducky.  "How did court go today?"  He listened.  Then he shook his head. "Mistrial."

"Why?" he demanded.

"The guy stood up and corrected him about the type of weapon he had shot you with.  Have them call me tonight, Ducky.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "The judge declared it a mistrial."

"Where I come from, that's a confession."

"Me too.  Idiot judge," he soothed.  He called Morrow.  "Is there protection on Tony's house?  Is he free?"  He nodded once. Then he groaned.  "If he comes here you're going to need another team.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "He got bail when he was rearrested.  We have Fornell's boys coming this way," he said calmly.

Tony looked at him.  "I'm not the dog, Gibbs, quit talking down to me.  It's my legs that aren't working right, not my head.  Now, where's my weapon?"

"Under the couch."  He got it and handed it over.  "You sure you want that?"

"Yup, very."  He checked it over. "Clip?"

"It was in there."

"It's not now."  He let him see it.  Gibbs got down to look then shook his head. "Yours?"

"Has been on me all day," he said, going to get it from his bedroom.  They used the same make of gun so he brought Tony his spare clip, prefilled.  "Here."

"Thank you."  He checked it then slid it in halfway.  Something was in the way so he looked then groaned.  "Xander hates bubble gum, right?"  Gibbs nodded, they both knew he said it turned to glue tasting after a few minutes. Tony showed him the inside of the clip holder. Gum.  A big wad of gum.  "It wasn't Mal."

Gibbs called Fornell directly.  "Come to DiNozzo's right now.  I heard.  His gun was tampered with.  Gum.  Xander doesn't chew gum and Abby doesn't allow Mal any either.  Now.  Yes, I'm here and so is the son.  Now, right now, Fornell."  He hung up and looked at him.  "We'll protect you.  You know that."

"Get me another gun please?"

"You have another gun?"

"I have one in my sock drawer."  Gibbs nodded and went to check the house before getting it, making sure everything was locked up tightly.  While he was gone he called Morrow. "Why wasn't I told?" he asked bluntly but quietly.  "Do I sound like I'm freaking out now, Director?  Gee, I don't know.  Who would have put gum into my gun," he said bitterly.  "Again, it's my legs that don't work, not my head.  And I'm still the damn victim of his, Director," he said a bit more forcefully.  "I should have been told with the others.  Even if you thought Ducky would, he didn't!" he snapped.  He calmed himself.  Anger was not going to help.  "Director, do not make me get angry tonight," he warned.  "You will not like the consequences.  Now, why wasn't I told?"  He smirked at that.  "Really?  Because he had to call Ducky to find that out.  You wanna try that again?"  He tapped a foot.  "Good.  I'm glad.  We'll be talking tomorrow."  He hung up and turned around on the couch, finding someone in a mask standing there.  "And you would be?"

"Your worst nightmare," he sneered.

"No, that's Gibbs sprouting a second head to scream at me.  He sounds like Kate with PMS.  Now, again, you would be?" he demanded.  The man snickered.  Tony slowly got up.  "I'd quit now."

"You're too damn pitiful..." Tony pounced and started to hit him, no matter what he did to block it.

"DiNozzo!" Gibbs yelled, coming down the stairs.  He had to pause to look at what was going on before pulling him off but oh well.  Sucks to be the criminal in this case.  He pulled off his hood.  "Huh.  Not him."   He sat Tony down in a chair.  "Are you stupid!" he demanded.

"No.  Where was he?"

"I don't know.  I didn't see him."

Tony rubbed his forehead. "Get him off my floor, Gibbs."

Gibbs called Fornell. "Would you like the person Tony just had to beat?  No, not him.  That's fine but his other gun was taken from the house, Fornell.  Yeah.  That's what I'm saying.  Exactly."  He hung up.  "He'll be here in ten minutes.  He was still briefing our detail."

"Hmm.  Too little too late this time.  Thank God I'm not the normal victim."  He glared at the moving body.  "Did your cuffs disappear?"

"No, those I got from Xander's room but I couldn't find your spare gun."

"That leaves two choices.  Sheppard or the idiot who shot me."

"We'll find out." He called McGee.  "Find Kate if she's in the city.  I want her to interrogate the guy who broke into Tony's house.  Because Fornell dropped the ball, McGee.  Now."  He hung up.  Then he sat down where he could see the groaning body on the floor.  "I realized at the school I haven't seen my own house since Xander got bitten by that snake."  Their dog Percy came down the stairs.  "Guard."  The dog sat and stared at the body.  "Good boy."  He looked at Tony.  "I suddenly understood the wife cracks you used to make when he was a baby."

"I didn't think you were that dense, boss."  Gibbs smacked him on the head.  "I'm in enough pain, can you leave off with the head smacking for tonight?  Please?"  Someone stomped in.  "See the body on the floor, Kate?  I had to pounce him and someone dosed my sidearm with gum."

"They stole his backup too," Gibbs offered.  "I can't find my spare either."

She looked at them.  "We know I'm retired, right?"

"You got here faster than Fornell and no one told us," Gibbs told her.

"I called Morrow.  He said he assumed Ducky would.  My BS meter went off the charts."

"Ducky would have told us unless someone told them they would," Gibbs agreed, looking at him. "You okay?  You look like you're cramping."

"That's because I kinda am, boss."  He got helped up and onto his stomach on the couch while Gibbs helped him work out the knot that was forming.  "Why am I doing this again?"

"Because you'd go insane in full-time retirement," Gibbs reminded him.  "Percy, help Kate."  Kate drug the body into the kitchen.  It was easier to clean up in there.  Gibbs got back to work on the knot, looking at his watch when Fornell stomped in.  "A half hour after Tony beat the suspect since I was upstairs.  Whose bright idea was it not to tell us?"

"I can't tell you that."

Gibbs looked at him.  "You can and will or I'm letting her interrogate you."

"Her?  Your probie?"

"No.  Kate."  Kate came out of the kitchen.  "Where he got shot or Sheppard?"

"New case, Gibbs.  New terrorist cell who believe you're in their way.  They're trying to take your lover there from you to throw you off the game."

"So, Ari take two?" Tony asked into the couch.

"Possibly," she agreed, looking at Gibbs.  "He all right?"  Gibbs looked down then shook his head.  "Okay."  She came over to check the stitches Tony still had.  "Yeah, you ripped one."

"Yay me.  Gibbs was upstairs," he said bitterly.  "So's Xander."

"I know.  Let me get this minor and annoying bleeding stopped," she said patiently.  Gibbs handed her a towel to use and then went back to talk to the person in the kitchen.  She glared at Fornell.  "Using a guy in a wheelchair as bait is a bad thing."

"It's not my decision," he offered. "I got locked in my office when the case got thrown out."

"It did?"

"Mistrial, he confessed by correcting Ducky on the type of gun he used on me," Tony said bitterly.  "I'm going to kill."

"Want the painkillers?"

"Why be giggly and high when they come to kill me, Kate?"  He turned his head to look back at her.  "Not like it's going to make them any less likely to shoot me.  It'd make them more likely to torture me."  He looked at Fornell.  "You had better have a person on Abby's house."

"I do.  Morrow's hands are tied.  This came down from higher in Homeland, guys.  This is not our doing."

"I can hurt them too," Tony assured him.

"You're not going to PT tomorrow if you're not seen first," Kate told him.  She looked at Fornell when someone started to cry in the kitchen.  "Gibbs?"

"He's incredibly sorry," he called back.

"I'm more worried about the car with the lights on across the street."  Fornell went to look.  She looked at Tony.  "Someone will pay," she promised.  "No matter what."

He looked at her.  "If it comes down to it, my will is in my top desk drawer here.  It leaves everything to the two sprouts."  Kate nodded.  "Smack Gibbs until he accepts it."

"Sure."  She lifted the towel.  "Tony, this isn't wanting to stop."

"The painkillers thin my blood a bit.  It'll stop."

"I'd rather have paramedics."

"Not like we can't make sure it's not them, Kate."

"Point."  She grimaced at Gibbs when he came back out.  "Can we get Ducky here?"

"I called.  He's locked in his house by the FBI.  Even pointing out Tony needed medical attention can't get him here. They said to take him to the ER.  That way this assignment would be over with more quickly."

Tony looked up at him.  "If we have to go Rambo on someone, boss, I'm still going to need another gun."

"We need to find out who moved the guns," Gibbs offered.  He went to check on Xander, finding him peacefully asleep.  Then he came back down.  "Abby's locked in her house by Fornell's boys.  We should send Xander that way."

"It would endanger Mal and Abby," Kate told him.

"Then you take him for the night, Kate."  She nodded, letting him have that while she went to wake up Xander and take him home.  She could protect him very well.  "We'll deal with this, DiNozzo," he said when she was gone.

"Yes, we will," he agreed.  "Help me up?"  Gibbs shook his head.  "Now."  He was helped up off the couch and helped to stand.  "Then we go with plan B.  Do you want to bait them or not?"

"That's suicidal."

"At the moment, maybe.  But I want the asshole behind this," he noted.  "The only way to do that is to draw them out, boss, and make them confess."

"Fornell knows who's behind this in Homeland."

"So?"  He shrugged. "Are they behind the attacks as well?"  Gibbs gave him a horrified look.  "Only one reason not to put watchers on your bait, Gibbs.  Even fishers use bobbers for that."  He slid into his wheelchair, his back was killing him.  "Maybe the bullet shifted so they can take it out this time."  He rolled himself toward the door.  "Fornell, I want that filth out of my house or I'm killing."

"You want your painkillers?"

"I'm sure the ER will have some," he said bitterly.  He rolled back that way and took his gun. "Thanks, since ours don't work."  He rolled off again, heading out to the car.  Gibbs followed after a minute of talking to Fornell.  They even took Fornell's car since he had lifted his keys too.  Then again, Gibbs' keys were inside and Fornell could still call someone to come pick up the asshole in his kitchen.  "Any particular place you want to make a stand?"

"Georgetown.  They've got the records of what happened to you."

"Good point.  Bethesda?  Then we'd have back up."

"I have the feeling I'm presently suspended.  I don't know why.  Could be because I couldn't get into my voicemail."

"Hmm.  That could be the system's down again."

"It said it was locked."

"Then yeah, you're suspended."  He looked at the phone in his hands then called someone. "Mike, it's Tony DiNozzo.  Can I borrow you?  Please.  Injured.  Being used as bait by my agency, man.  Yeah, well, they didn't tell me first either so I'm going to do something drastic at the moment.  Headed to Georgetown ER.  My back reopened.  No, shot there.  Mistrial," he said bitterly.  "The guy confessed and it got declared a mistrial. Yeah, system sucks.  Thanks, Mike."  He hung up.  "He'll cover our backs from outside."

"Who is he?"

"One of my former partners.  He switched to the FBI.  Counter-terrorism.  So if anyone knows he would."

"That's a good contact to have," Gibbs decided.

"Hey, boss, can you be director now?"

"I'd hate it."

"You or me, boss.  Someone's got to run the stupid agency right."

"You do it.  I'd hate the paperwork and hanging out with senators."

Tony looked at him.  "Not like I want to."

"You've got the background they'd like."

"Point."  He called Mike back.  "Hey, tell whoever tried to keep us from getting help from Fornell or anyone else that I'd really love to be director of NCIS, okay?  Yeah, that situation.  Me.  Injured little ol' me.  Shot in the lower back.  They're using my wheelchair- bound ass as bait and didn't let me know, Mike.  Yup.  Oh, yeah, I'm a bit pissed.  Not often anyone sees me this angry but someone's going to pay.  No, I'm madder than I was at the dirty cop who let the rapist go. Yeah, that was bad when he got off and got his badge back.  No, I'm much madder than that.  We're talking nuclear levels.  I didn't think I could be this mad sort of mad.  Really?  Well, tell someone I'm mad enough to make you duck and run because I'm about to become part of your caseload, okay?"  Mike repeated that to whoever had just told him he wasn't allowed to back them up.  "Also tell him I'll see him tonight but that I don't hurt kids, like he was going to."  Then he hung up.  "ER," he said, pointing.

"Not Georgetown."


Gibbs sighed and pulled in.  It might be better to get Tony treated now before he made more threats.  He had never seen Tony so angry he was calm.  He wasn't sure he wasn't playing.  They parked and he walked around to get the wheelchair out of the backseat and help Tony into it.  Then he wheeled him inside.  "He was shot the other day and just had to pounce an intruder."

"You have weapons on?" she asked.  Gibbs showed his ID.  "Oh.  Why are you here then?  I mean instead of Bethesda."

"Because I'm being used as bait," Tony said dryly.  "The painkillers have thinned my blood.  I'm bleeding from a torn stitch."

"Okay.  Let's get you two somewhere secure."  She led them to a hallway and up it to the security office.  "We need you guys to sit in here with them."

"Of course," Tony sighed.  "Just get someone to stop this."

"Let me see."

He leaned forward and moved his shirt, making her wince.  "Yeah, and I'm homicidal with the pain.  Please fix it," he said with a gentle smile.  She nodded, going to get someone.  "Hi, guys.  Did NCIS say to let us hang?"

"Yup.  You okay?"

"Nope.  They're using us as bait without my permission."  That got a wince from one guy.  "Former beat cop?"  He nodded.  "Yeah.  So I'm feeling wonderful at the moment.  The pain isn't helping any."

"Agreed.  Let's get you more comfortable, sir."

"I'm DiNozzo, this is Gibbs."

"Sure."  They got him comfortable and a doctor was brought in.  "It's his lower back, sir."

"Thank you.  Why are we in here?"

"Because their agency is using them as bait, sir," the regular guard offered.  "With them being armed and Agent DiNozzo in such pain, it's not a good combination for the ER."

"Good point."  He checked the wound then looked at him.  "What do they have you on?"

"Some new lesser version of morphine that's synthetic.  Starts with a d, just came out last year," Tony told him.  Gibbs handed over the prescription bottle.  "That stuff."

The doctor looked. "Have you taken any?"

"Four more hours, doc," he said plainly.  "And right now I can't double dose.  My life's kind a in a bit of danger.  I did that stopping the person who broke into my house."

"Okay."   He looked at the guards, who nodded and shrugged.  "They do this to their own?"

"There's ruthless bastards above us," Gibbs admitted.  "They're going to have problems later."

"Sure.  I can understand how that happens.  Complaints can be heard."

"Especially when you know someone who knows the SecNav well enough to wake him up at two in the morning," Tony agreed.  Because he knew Ducky would be for him when he got this done.  It wasn't going to take him that long.  "Plus the president."  That got a smile and the doctor finally got the bleeding stopped and made him bend over so he could replace and reinforce the stitches.  "Can you tell if the bullet shifted away from my spine yet?"

The doctor prodded then shook his head.  "The hard lump is right here," he said, circling it with a finger.  "Where was it before?"

"See the purple dot?"  That got a nod. "There."

"Then it's shifted a centimeter or so but probably not enough, Agent DiNozzo."

"That's fine, thank you, and thank you for your help, boys."  He let them bandage him then help him back into the wheelchair.  "Have a better night."  He rolled himself out.  "I'm driving."

"Fat chance."

"I'm still driving."  He got around Gibbs then glared at him.  "Stay."

"I'm not the dog and you're not going alone."

"I'm not.  I'm going to a bar you should not know about."


"Because you shouldn't.  So stay!"  He rolled along, hearing him following.  When he got to the car, he rolled around to stand up using the side and get the wheelchair into the back.  Then he slid in, Gibbs in the front seat.  "I can't take you in there, boss."

"Then you're not going."

"If I take you anywhere near there you're a peace offering."


"Out!" Tony ordered.  "Now! I'm not taking you from Xander!  Now get out of the car!"

"You're not thinking rationally.  Let me drive."

"I need to be on this side, thanks."  He pulled his gun and pointed it at him. "Out.  I will injure you."

"No you won't."  Tony lowered the gun and shot him just badly enough to graze him, then opened the door and shoved him out. "DINOZZO!"

"Sorry, boss, but it's for your own good this time.  This way you're safer and Xander's still got a daddy.  Think of it as the new way to handcuff you to your desk."  He shut the door and pulled out, heading for the bar he learned about undercover.  They would let him in.  Someone in there owed him their life.  At least one other owned him their soul.  And hey, the owner was an ex he was still on good terms with.  When he got to the gate he used the handprint pad and the speaker came on.  "Tell Harley it's Tony."


"He'll know.  Tell him I'm alone and I need to talk."

"Fine."  The speaker cut off and the gate opened a minute later.  Tony rolled through and parked, then got out slowly.  One of the guards came to frisk him.  "Can you get the chair out of the back?  I have problems with that part still."  The guard gave him a horrified look but found the new bandage.  The wheelchair was pulled out and unfolded for him.  "Thanks."  He closed the door and hit the alarm switch from the keychain remote, letting the guard lead him inside.  He nodded at his ex.  "I need help."

"I heard."

"I want to know who I'm running from and who's behind this."

"I can't."

"You can.  You will because I saved your present boy's life.  You also can because John owes me his soul.  Plus you will because it's only a back injury, Harley."



"I heard it was permanent."

Tony shook his head.  "Nope.  A bit of numbness but I'm in physical therapy for it.  As soon as the bullet shifts they'll take it out and I'll be better."

"Oh."  He led him into his office, which was up three small steps.  Tony walked up them slowly and the guard brought the chair for him.  "Thank you, Mikhail."

"Anything you need, boss," he stated and backed out, closing the door behind him.

"You have loyal people."

"I know.  Which is why I can't turn them over to you."

"Can you tell me which group?"

"Hamas.  You're right to think the person after you is one."

"I figured that much out.  Can I have proof on that single member?"  His former boyfriend considered it.  "There's a child to consider."

"You married?"

"Gibbs' son is five," he said quietly. "They broke in earlier while he was sleeping.  I didn't even get told about the mistrial."  That got a shudder of horror.  "By the way, if you can get it in the right ears, I want NCIS."

"It's a headache."

"It is.  But damned if I can't apply a hammer and fix the lump."

"That might help," he admitted.  "Some of this dates back to Sheppard's time."

"Which wasn't that long ago."

"Early days.  She was trying to form an alliance with some other countries' operatives."  Tony nodded, he had known that.  "Your team was in her way."

"Figured that much out already.  Gibbs was her trainer and partner."

"Poor man."  He shuddered.  "Eww."  He crossed his feet and looked at him.  "What do you really want?"

"To stomp on them like I'm making wine.  I'm that mad."

"I can tell."

"Really?  Gibbs couldn't.  He thought I was acting until I grazed him on the leg."

Harley smiled. "I heard.  That was cute."

"I wasn't about to bring him here as a peace offering."

"Good point."  He looked Tony over again.  "So, how injured are you?"

"My back was just bleeding.  I tore a stitch pouncing an intruder."

"Poor baby.  You'd let me take care of you?"

"For an hour and then I need to head.  He'll have the car tracked by then."

"I can get you backup."

"Will I need it?"

"To bust that cell and him?  Yes.  That's the only way to solve this but it'll be messy."

"I've got a buddy in counter-terrorism."

"Who was just arrested and put into protective custody.  No one in the system will help you, Tony.  Not tonight."

Tony just nodded.  "Then I'd appreciate it, Harley."

"Agreed.  Only one hour?"

"Not like it usually takes that long."

"Also true," he agreed quietly.  "One later this week?"

"If I can get away from Gibbs and his son."

"A date should wake that man of yours up," he offered dryly.

Tony smirked.  "Didn't before. Probably won't this time.  Not like I'm going to worry about it.  Though I may call you if he takes Xander away from me for good."

"For that I would help without the usual fee.  He is your son just as much as he is Gibbs'.  Now, let's see what I can do for your back."

"Already had pain killers. A real doc stitched it back up and reinforced the others."

"Pity."  He came around to wheel him into his private chambers, closing the door after him.


Tony pulled the totally nondescript and not-his car into the warehouse district.  Harley had planned this already, he just needed an operative to play the part.  Tony was perfect at the moment.  They had others in place, taping what was going on inside the warehouse.  He had a small feed to it too and smirked at the weapons the section head of Homeland was playing with next to the terrorist.  He pulled up to the doorway and honked in the pattern that had been taught to him, rolling inside once the door had opened enough.  It closed and Tony got out, hitting a button in his pocket.  "Good morning.   You need to take me to your boss."

"And if I don't?" he sneered.

Tony shot him in the leg.  "That.  Or worse."  He shrugged.  This time he hopped. Crutches were better and he wasn't going to hamper himself with the wheelchair.  He hopped into plain view.  "NCIS.  Would you mind not pissing me off anymore by trying to undermine several intelligence and investigative agencies?"   It was important he had identified himself as a fed.  Otherwise it could be entrapment.  The section head of Homeland began to laugh and say something.  So Tony shot him in the back, in the same spot his operative had shot Tony.  "Let's see how you like your chair," he sneered.  Other guns came up and he looked around.

"Ooh, yay," he said flatly.  Then he blew his car.  That brought people running but by then Harley's boys had him out of there, had managed the scene, and a copy of the tape was left for them.  That would be more than enough to implicate him in weapons dealing and start a very long reaching investigation.  On the way back to Harley's, Tony called Abby.  "I'm fine.  There's shit coming down the pipe.  Duck.  Literally.  And tell Ducky it's being fixed, to let someone know, okay?  No, I'm fine.  Hiding for today.  Because I want pain killers, Abby.  Thank you.  Tell Gibbs I'm fine.  I know he's growling; I shot him in the leg to protect him.  Like the time I handcuffed him to his desk, Abs.  Thanks."  He hung up and shook his head.  "If I still liked women I'd gladly have her and her son as my other family."

The guy driving glanced back at him.  "Why don't you like girls anymore?"

"Did you hear how Gibbs' original house got burnt?"

"I did," he agreed.

"That was my ex.  After that, I gave them up.  Went from bi fully over."  That got a few smiles and one frown. "She tried to claim Gibbs' son as her own," he told him.  That man shuddered.  "Exactly."  They pulled back into the club and he was helped up to Harley's private quarters again to watch him go over his wardrobe and act for his drag show.  He was pretty decent but the poor guy always needed wardrobe help.


Gibbs stormed into the office the next morning.  The director's secretary screamed in fear and backed away from him.  The office door's broke.  "Where the hell is DiNozzo?" he demanded.

"Jethro.  Calm down."

"No!  Where is my senior agent!"

"He's fine.  That's all I know.  I know he's hiding with whoever helped him last night and the investigation is starting to snowball.  My hands were tied, Jethro.  He had the director's ear and the director thought it was justifiable by the end."

"It's not!  It nearly got me and my son killed!"

"It was not my decision," he said more calmly.

"Really?" he sneered.

"They had my phones and office bugged, Jethro. I couldn't help you that time. You managed to find a way out of it."

"Yeah, by DiNozzo shooting me in the leg and going to some other agency because he couldn't trust his own people anymore.  Why in the hell do I still work here?"

"She begged you to come back?" he suggested.  Gibbs growled and he rolled his chair back some.  He knew that look in his eyes.  "Calm down, Jethro.  It's all fixed now."

"Yes, because we can't trust you or anyone else in any other agency to help us," Jethro sneered.  "You hung us out like bait.  You endangered my son's life."

"I'm going to be lucky if I walk away with my pension after he made me do it, Jethro.  I had no choice."

"We always have a choice."

"Not when it's this or jail."

"I would've chosen jail, Tom.  At least then you would've been in the clear and I wouldn't be aiming for you now."

"You want this chair, have it."

"Actually I think DiNozzo wants it."  That got a strange look.  "What?  Heard differently?"

"No," he said, staring at him.  "You think he'd take it?"

"I think if he did he'd retire within the year but yes.  Just to make sure this never happens again."

"It won't be.  There's going to be a lot of empty offices in this city.  Including Fornell's."

"He wasn't involved.  He got stopped."

"Yes, but he didn't stop you."  He stared at him.  "I would've thought Ducky still managed to get word to you."

"How could he?  The FBI put him into protective custody.  That put my son in danger!" he snapped.  Morrow flinched.  "Good!  I hope like hell you go to your grave with that knowledge, Tom.  Because if my son had gotten hurt that way I'd have killed everyone involved."

Tony rolled in.  "Mostly too late, Gibbs.  Out, Morrow.  Now!"  He gave him a dirty look so he presented the envelope.  "I do believe they need you elsewhere."  Gibbs looked at him. "What?"

"Where were you?"

"With an ex."


"I'll let you know when this is settled down.   Now, can you please remove him and his chair from behind my desk?"  Morrow stuttered.  "I'm going to have you thrown out," he offered.  The man nodded and gathered up his materials, heading out.  "I used to respect you, Tom. You've got a hell of a climb ahead of you.  Especially if you want help from my agency ever again!"  He slammed the doors and looked at Gibbs.  "When this is settled.  When there's dust."

"All I want is an explanation."

"They decided you're a speed bump, Gibbs.  We all are.  Even Xander. That's what last night was about.  By the way, the rookie CIA guy, very sorry and flunked his training."  That got a nod.  Gibbs was still staring at him.  "We're still bugged in here," he said quietly.  "Later.  When there's dust.  There's going to be one hell of an earthquake today, boss, so sit on the couch and buckle in.  Xander's on his way in with Kate.  Abby's bringing Mal, and McGee's bringing coffee."  He rolled back to the door, seeing two FBI agents standing there.  "You have the letters?"  They were handed over.  He checked one and handed it back. "That's Fornell's.  This is yours, Gibbs."  He tossed it over.  "Thank you, boys.  Wait out there.  The earthquake will begin about nine."

"Yes, sir," they agreed, going to sit down.

Tony looked at his secretary.  "Hi, Julia."

"T...tony," she said, stuttering a bit.  "You're the new director?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"The President said so.  He appointed me off session at four this morning."  She gaped in horror but both agents nodded.  "The thing with us yesterday?  We were bait without knowing.  Someone in Homeland was dirty."  Both agents winced and so did she.  "Very dirty.  To Hamas and a new start-up organization he was running dirty.  They found plans to overthrow the president dirty."  She whimpered.  "So, yes.  At four this morning I became the new director of NCIS.  Gibbs is my second in command if anything happens and I'm not here.  The whole team is coming in including Ducky and Mal.  Please make coffee even though McGee is supposed to bring some.  Expect a lot of phone calls but only take messages unless it's from Harley, Xander's school, or Fornell.  The rest take messages and bring them in.  They're going to be here all day," he said, nodding at the agents.  "Along with IAB."

"Sure," she agreed.  "Should I get something from the caf for the kids?"

"If you want.  My wallet's back at home."

"Sure.  We have a slush fund, I can get milk and muffins later."  Tony smiled at that.  "Should we go over the schedule and how we want things done?"

"No.  Not yet.  Let the earthquake happen.  By five tonight there'll be dust and debris in a few spots."  She nodded.  "We'll do that tomorrow if we all survive."  She nodded at that and he went to move the chair from behind his desk, but Gibbs did it for him.  "Thanks."

"Think you can handle this pile of crap?"

"Yup.  But we're going to go back to the way we were before Sheppard."  Gibbs relaxed at that.  "We all know I know how badly things happened around here, Gibbs."  He looked at him.  "Sit and buckle up.  It's almost eight.  Some people are coming in to rude awakenings today."  Gibbs went to get some coffee and came back inside while Tony checked his backup email.  "I called Xander off school today, told them we had a break-in last night and his first day could be tomorrow.  She agreed."

"Thank you."

"You're still staying, Gibbs."

"Don't you want Harley there?"

Tony looked at him.  "No."  He went back to his email.  At least until a little boy came pelting in and climbed into his lap to kiss him.  "Hi, Mal.  How is my little one?" he cooed, rubbing noses with him. "Want to play with Xander today?  He's going to be here too."   Mal bounced and hugged him then slid down to go cuddle his other uncle.  "Up here, Abby, not the lab," he called when she walked out.  She gave him an odd look.  "I mean it."

"Where's Morrow, Tony?"

"Gone.  Probably back to Homeland. Sit.  You'll understand in about an hour."  She sat down to help Gibbs keep her son occupied.  He was easily bored if something wasn't entertaining him.  Then he got into trouble by taking things apart.  Tony turned on the tv, splitting it so they had picture in picture with the news on the second picture.  The baby squealed at the cartoons and came over to watch Strawberry Shortcake.  Tony looked at him.  "Are you berry berry nice?" he teased.  Mal smiled and nodded.  Then he went back to watching it.

"I hate that cartoon, Tony."

"It's what's on the cartoon channel.  I can do many things as Director of NCIS, I cannot make the cartoon channel quit playing the happy people cartoons, Abby.  The kids like them too much at that age."

"Excuse me, Director?" she demanded.  He just grinned and nodded.

"Apparently since four this morning," Gibbs told her.  "I have no idea what's going on either."

"Which is safer for you, Gibbs. The more you know the more likely you are to end up in the investigation when it starts."  That just got a nod.  "Because they will ask you."  He looked at him.  "Trust me, the less you know the better off you are in this case.  I wasn't joking about a plot to overthrow the president," he offered quietly.  Gibbs shuddered at that.  "Exactly.  So for now, just sit and feel the need for Prozac.  I've got the closed captioning on the news station."  He went back to reloading his email, smiling at the new message.  "It's started early.  Oooh, two senators were already questioned.  I didn't think it was going to be this messy.  Just messy in our world, not theirs."

"Who are you getting updates from?" Abby asked.

"Fornell.  He nearly got shot last night for trying to help us.  My friend who helped me helped him and Fornell called the Prez this morning at three-thirty to wake him up and alert him to the problems going on.  Fornell is presently all but in charge of the FBI.  He's the director that's not the officially appointed one, but he's the guy who does all the real work.  That deputy director be him now and I'm here.  Homeland is seething and boiling at the moment and the CIA isn't much better.  NSA is cowering in a corner.  The dirty guy was one of theirs originally.  Morrow knew a lot more about this than he said and didn't blow the whistle before it got this far because they were trying to get the cell.  He might get to keep his job.  Not sure yet how that'll work out."  Someone tapped on the door.  "What?"  Julia leaned in.  "They had to go already?"

"They did, Tony.  Or should I call you Director?"  He waved a hand and grimaced. "Okay.  They said something about Kate Todd investigating the people involved?"

"When the cell went down last night a few other agent's names came up.  Fornell's the guy under the titular head at the FBI and he nominated her to the president.  He agreed she could handle the investigation."  He looked at her. "It's going to get bloody.  I want you at your desk all day if possible.  The less time you spend in the water the less likely you are to be bitten.  Because some of this dates back to an op Sheppard set up that got twisted on her."  She just nodded and left, coming back with the coffee carafe.  "Thank you.  Sugar?"

"Top desk drawer, Tony."  She got him a cup, then Gibbs a cup, looking at Abby, who shook her head. "Okay."  She smiled at McGee when he walked in.  "That's for in a few minutes.  This is their first cup of the day."

"Always better to drink that first," he agreed happily. "Xander?"  He came jogging in after him, squealing and hugging Tony then pouncing Mal.  "Yours, Mister Director, sir," he said, handing Tony his.  "And yours, second-in-command, senior agent in the US, Gibbs."  He handed him his.  He handed Abby a Caf-Pow.  "I already got Kate hers.  She's using your car today, Tony, since hers is in the shop."

"Sure. Thanks.  Sit and wait.  Do not go down to your desk for anything."

"Are you going to be in trouble for last night?" McGee asked.

Tony looked at him.  "I told the president I shot him in the back to repay the one I've got.  He thought it was fitting and it left him alive for questioning."  He shrugged.  "He saw the tape of the bust."

"Tape?" Gibbs asked.

"Tonight, boss.  The less you know..."

"I heard you the first time, DiNozzo, but I don't like playing that game."

Tony stared him down.  "This time I don't like it either but I'm not having you put in front of a firing squad, Gibbs. They're going to come ask you what you know.  This is not our IAB.  This is IFU, the bastards who do Internal Affairs for the covert groups."  Gibbs stiffened at that.  "Exactly.  So I'm not giving you any more information until they're done with you.  Which should be by tonight at quitting time.  Even though I trust you, I can't this time.  The same as not taking you last night saved your life.  I'm not saying anything else in front of the boys."

Gibbs nodded. "Fine.  What about MTAC?"

"We're all going to be in here all day.  IFU said to report here, gather the ones I knew were clean.  Someone might want to call Ducky, I need him in here by nine."  Abby did that.  "We are not moving.  The whole agency is under suspension until they get done with us."

"But we're loyal and you know we weren't involved so we're safely tucked away so we don't have to see the sharks feed," Tim McGee finished.  Tony nodded, looking at him.  "How bad is it?"

"One of the section heads at homeland was trying to stage a coup, McGee.  He was using Hamas to get what he needed and forming his own organization and cells."  That got a small whimper.  "There's other agents involved."  Gibbs whimpered at that.  "In all agencies.  They've already found a few senators who were quietly backing them so they could move up the food chain.  Even Fornell is hiding in his office and he loves watching carnage."

Gibbs just nodded, seeing the sense in what Tony was doing now.  Even a bit of knowledge could get you accused.  Being accused in this case was as good as a guilty verdict, even if it wasn't true. "Kate's helping IFU?"

"No, she's heading the investigation for the President.  They're sharing resources and information."

"You called and woke us up this morning," Xander said.

Tony smiled.  "I did because I had a very special assignment for Auntie Kate, Xander."

"Cool.  Is she gonna get to shoot someone?"

"Quite possibly," he agreed.  Gibbs nodded at that.  Ducky was walked in by two agents. "He that late?"

"His car broke down," one of them said.  "I'm Hendrix, head of IFU.  Where's Todd?"

"Julia, yell for Kate please?" he called.

"She'll be right up, Tony."

"She'll be right up," he offered with a small grin.  "So, how did you like the videos?"

"I didn't.  The body staging was nice however.  How is Harley?"

"Okay.  Pretty as ever."  That got a smirk.  "This is my team.  I've given them limited information.  Gibbs was involved when I was bait last night until I shot him in the leg.  Go ahead and clear them because I'll need at least one team working later on."

"Agreed.  We've already talked to Doctor Mallard.  Special Agent Gibbs?"  Jethro stood up.

Xander looked at him.  "I don't like you.  You're suspicious and need drugs.  If you hurt my daddy I'll hurt you back."

"If he didn't do anything wrong he has nothing to fear from me, Xander."

Xander smirked.  "But you think everyone's done something wrong."

"They all have at least once in their lives.  Or didn't you snatch candy and grapes last week while shopping?"  Xander just smiled and nodded.  "See, bad things.  Let's go.  We're using the conference room."  He led him out to talk to him, stationing one agent in the waiting area.

Gibbs came back looking pale. "Now I know why I couldn't know."  Tony nodded.  "Abby, go ahead. Then you, McGee."  That got a nod. "You might've run into it with that one case that got snatched from us."

"Sure, boss. What about our probie?"

"She's at home," Tony told him.  "She's still got the flu."

"She okay?" McGee asked.

"Yeah, just fine, simply throwing up her toenails."  He looked at him.  "It'll be okay, Probie," he said quietly.  "Just be totally honest."  McGee nodded.

"Being accused in one of these is as good as committing suicide," Ducky agreed sadly.  "There's going to be some good agents going down."

"We had most of them in the files but they're trying to find out how it managed to slip through so many hands," Gibbs told him.  Abby came back and cuddled up to him and McGee gave her a worried look before leaving.  "You left out the part with the explosives  under this team's houses, DiNozzo."

"I know, boss.  The same as I left out the one in your car.  Harley found it."  He quit typing to look at him.  "They think we would have caught them," he said simply.  "Last night was a way for them to get us out of the way easier."

"Those who got repressed from helping?" Ducky asked.

"Depends on what they knew, Ducky.  This dated back to Sheppard's second year on the job and an op she had going that got twisted under her because she was watching the wrong target."  He looked at him.  "It will get worse.  They're cleaning out those who knew and never said anything.  The silent supporters.  McGee did run into a side of the plot and he tried to turn it in.  He and Gibbs both have documentation of that on their computers.  That's why Homeland took it."

"And they're tracing everything back to who knew over there," Abby finished tiredly.  "There's going to be some advancement opportunity if you know anyone who wanted a desk chair in a nicer office," she told them.

"I do but they may be in trouble as well," Ducky sighed.  "Tobias is really in charge at the FBI?"

"The guy doing the real work under the appointed guy," Tony agreed, smirking at him. "There'll be no more shit coming from that direction ever again."

"No swearing in front of Mal," Abby complained.  She watched the smaller picture on the tv.  "Can you switch out so we can watch a round of the news?"  Tony did that and they watched the announcement of the bust last night.  "Oh, fuck," she said quietly.  Then she covered her mouth. "Mal, don't say that bad word.  Mommy didn't mean to, it slipped out."  Xander giggled and hugged her.

"It suits the situation," Tony promised. McGee came back.  "You have to pull up files?"  He nodded. "They get what they needed?"

"Yes, they're done with our team.  They're heading to the next team on their list.  They said only a few teams ran into the project's borders."

"Natalia's team ran into the gun smuggling," Tony agreed.  "She was complaining about that one being taken from her too."

"So that means Marcus will have one too," Gibbs said.  "He was complaining that Homeland took theirs too."

Tony nodded.  "Yup.  Plus we might be losing a guard.  There was a hint he was a plant."

"We're getting off pretty lightly then," Abby offered. "Any overseas?"

"Yup, but they've got people for that too.  We'll have some missing people later today but not as many as Fornell will or Homeland.  Or the CIA.  They're going to be recruiting for years.  So will the NSA probably."  Tony shrugged.  "They'll tell me when it's clear for you guys to go down."  He looked at the tv and turned up the volume.  "Julia?"  She came in and he pointed at the screen, leaning back in his wheelchair while the first tentative newscast about the terrorist cell started.  She stared at it then at him.  He nodded. "That's why they're here.  They were in Homeland."

"Oh, crap," she mouthed.  "How long?"

"Probably not longer than the morning.  Then we can casually go back to work and ignore it."  She nodded.  "Did the official fax get sent over?"

"It did."

"When they leave you can send that off."   She nodded, going back to watching it.  He shook his head.  "Someone's trying to spin the story.  They're going to be sorry later."

"They might let the senators quietly retire," Ducky offered.

"As long as they were silent supporters, maybe," Gibbs agreed.  "If not, there's going to be a huge stink."

"Yup and the sharks are starting to gather now," Tony assured him.  "They're smelling the blood that's dripping.  Someone's going to be twisting the knife by noon to give them a better scent trail."  They kept a watch on it until IFU cleared out with Kate.  They knew the system had leaks.  The first crack in the dam appeared on the ten-thirty HNN section.  It was a bad one too. Another crack filled in more information within another hour.  By noon they knew about the assassination plot.  They stared in fascinated horror as the director of Homeland made an announcement that said none of his people had been involved.  An hour later he was forced to recant that through the White House Press secretary's emergency session.

It was climbing up the ladder and the people who were managing the leaks were good.  They heard a person here, a person there, and then at four there were six top people arrested but no names given.  Tony frowned and looked hesitant but watched for another half hour to see if they got the right information.  When it switched to the new one, they had it being a crisis but one that was now fixed and found.  Then it broke that the director at Homeland was stepping down.  So was his deputy if anyone could find him.  He had called it in.  The two senators had been quiet that whole day and would later say that they couldn't stand to be in Congress while this was going on so they wouldn't run for reelection.  Another one joined him and he had been talked about as a presidential candidate.  The six-o-clock news had a follow up on the shakeups of the day.  Then the FBI director came out and said due to this we were more vulnerable to attacks.   Tony snickered at that and shook his head.

"We are," McGee warned.

Tony shook his head.  "No we're not.  It freed up a lot of information that had been hidden.  Kate's job is to make sure it gets to the right hands.  Some people are going to come in tomorrow to some formerly covert information files sitting on their desks."  That got a smirk from Gibbs.  "Including some NSA stuff since some of them were involved."

"How high up did this go in the administration?" Ducky asked.

Tony shrugged.  "Not a clue. They think they was a mole on the White House staff somewhere but they're probably still looking for her.  In the morning we'll have an official briefing in MTAC, Gibbs.  Make sure I make it?"

"Sure.  You okay?"

"Tired of sitting."  He shifted.  "Okay, let's pack it in."  He sent a message to Fornell, getting one back with a complaint but an agreement.  He turned off his computer and rolled himself around the desk. "Mal, want a ride to the elevator?"  He jumped into his lap, Xander not far behind.  "Cool.  I'll be the ride home today."  He wheeled himself out. "Julia, business as usual tomorrow.  How many did we lose?"

"Two and a guard, Tony."  She smiled at the boys.  "Should I send out the announcement now?"  He smiled and nodded. "Did Morrow get promoted?"

"He's the pro-tem Deputy Director over at Homeland and might stay there," he agreed.  She smiled back.  "Good girl.  Now, send out that announcement while I go home and do some stretches. I'll work out ways of having my PT come up here for the next few weeks."

"It's your office."

"For however long I can stand the paperwork," he agreed happily.  He rolled the boys out and to the elevator, letting everyone else crowd around him.  "It's been a long day.  Are we having dinner together?"

"Can Auntie Kate come?" Xander asked.

"Not until she's done with her investigation, it'll look bad," Tony told him. "Then she'll come visit."

"Okay."  They got out at the garage and the boys ran for their respective cars.

Tony wheeled toward Gibbs.  "Can I get a ride home, or am I going to cab tonight?" he called.

"I should take my son and go home," Gibbs said dryly.

"Daddy, do you really want your wrists to ache tomorrow with ouchies?" Xander asked patiently.  "I love Daddy Tony too.  You're being a stubborn butt about it."  McGee and Abby snickered behind Ducky, who was smiling and nodded that the boy was correct.  "See?  They agree with me.  Get to kissing! That way I know how to do it when I get a girlfriend!"

"This is not the time or the place for me to spank you for this, son," Gibbs said dryly, scowling at him.  "We'll discuss this at home."

"Okay."  He pointed at the car.  "Do the beepy thing."  Gibbs pulled out the remote and undid the alarm and doors so Xander could get in.  He was even a good enough boy to help put the wheelchair in so Tony could have the front seat.  "Can we have steaks?"

"We'll see what's in the freezer," Gibbs said patiently.

"I could use something firm too, beef sounds good," Tony admitted.  Gibbs looked at him.  "What?"

"Would that be because you skipped dinner, breakfast, and lunch, DiNozzo?" he asked sarcastically.

"Yeah. Probably."  Gibbs rolled his eyes but they went back to Tony's house for dinner.  They'd be talking later, at least until Xander wore Tony out and Gibbs had to put him to bed too.


Tony looked up from his desk the next morning, smiling at Abby.  "What's wrong?"

"Dress code?"

"Read it," he sighed.  She opened his copy and read it, then smiled.  "That's right.  Yours is staying the same.  Team leaders have the ultimate authority to determine if you're violating, just so I don't have to have that conversation you had with Sheppard over your purple tutu skirt. You're staying the same, just make the skirts legal and not street hooker."

"Thank you."  She hugged him and went back to her lab.

Tony smiled and finished up his other two memos of the day.  "Hey, Julia, can you proof something for me?" he called.

"Of course."  She came in to lean over his shoulder and read, then nodded.  "He'll like that one."  She flipped through the other memos.  "Even better."  She smiled at the last one and hugged him around the neck.  "Thank you, Tony."

"Welcome, dear.  Now, get off before someone accuses me of sexual harassment."  She laughed and walked out, letting him print them and roll them out to her.  "Going to MTAC if anyone wonders."  He rolled himself that way.  "This is great for my arms," he complained,"but I want a motorized one."  He did the eye scanner for MTAC, though he had to brace on the wall because his chair wasn't high enough and it rejected him once.  Then he finally got in and wheeled carefully down the ramp.   "I want crutches," he complained.

"Then next time don't get shot in the back," Fornell complained from his seat.

"Not like I planned it, Fornell."  He finished parking and sighed in pleasure, getting out of the stupid chair and into a regular one. "There, better."

"How is the physical therapy going?"

"Okay but they're worried about the bullet shifting further in again."  He grimaced.  "It's a crap shoot at the moment.  They're starting to give me the 'so, what sort of wheelchair would you like to upgrade to' talks."

"You'll survive and be fine," Gibbs promised as he walked in, folding the wheelchair with one hand and a kick on the bar holding it down.   The seat folded in the center and it obligingly went in the corner. Then he sat on his other side and handed him a mug of coffee.  "Will this run long?"

"Probably," Fornell agreed.

"Thanks, Gibbs," Tony moaned, sipping the coffee.  "I needed this."

"Obviously," Fornell said dryly.  "Had to fix many things?"

"Devolved what was appropriate back to team leads.  Three more coming down authorizing the local offices to restart coffee service however they feel like since she stopped that, ordering agents to give HR input into the raise situation since none have been given this year, and one about staffing issues that'll have to be fixed.  We have three offices that get one case a year or less."  Gibbs gave him an odd look.  "They're in the middle of nowhere."


"One's in Greenland."

"Oh."   He nodded.  "Closing them?"

"Contemplating it.  I wanted HR and the agents there and here to give me information and suggestions for revamping some of the smaller stations into more workable units.  I did suggest that if it was a necessary area, like Greenland's, that they could probably work from home and be listed as part-time agents or if they wanted to go to consultant status and work with the locals.  I mentioned six of the units aren't as productive or as necessary as they were before and I'd like to fill in the staffing issues some other critical offices had with well trained, already in the office, agents.  It's a long, rambling one but it got the point across."  The main screen came on and he waved at the SecNav.  "Sir.  Good morning."

"Director DiNozzo, good morning.  Gibbs, Fornell.  No Morrow?"

"He's conferencing from his office," Gibbs offered.

"That's fine.  I'm sure you still want to hit him with what went down."  Tony and Gibbs both nodded.  "Nice back shot, DiNozzo."

"Matches mine, sir."  He took a sip of his coffee.  "What's on the agenda today?  I've already devolved some command pissing issues back to their owners so they wouldn't feel stepped on."

"Thank you, I've gotten copies from your assistant.  Did you want to change assistants?"

"No, I like Julia.  She's a good woman."

"Yes, but your former tastes...."

"After my one stalkers, sir, I changed sides.  No way is that going to be an issue and she knows that.  Besides, I slept with her nearly six years ago now.  It was fun for a few weeks and a harmonious breakup.  We work well together."  He took another sip of coffee.

"Good, then I'll leave it alone, DiNozzo.  You let me know what you need and I'll see that you get it."

"The third memo...."

"I saw.  It's a good idea.  Gather ideas, plan ahead, and then tell me.  We'll lay it out that way, son."

"Sure.  Thank you, sir."

"Welcome, DiNozzo.  Any other concerns?"

"Not yet.  Are you seeing any, Gibbs?"

"Not yet," he admitted.  "Fornell?"

"I've got a few I'm not sure weren't missed," he admitted.  "Not so silent supporters, sir."

"We have them under surveillance, Fornell.  Do not worry about that."

"Thank you, sir."

"Welcome.  DiNozzo, do you need anything changed in your office so you can work easier while you're in therapy?"

"Not yet.  A pillow solved the numb butt I get when I sit in the chair too long and the height of the desk.  I got McGee to fix my monitor so it's how I like it with the way I'm sitting now, and I had someone put better curtains on the window I'm sitting in front of."

"That's fine," he agreed.  "Anything else?"

"I had to stand up to get into MTAC but you can't really move that sensor around any."

"Okay, figure that out and I'll let the changes be made."

"Thank you, sir.  Are there any changes you want made?"

"I don't want another episode like Sheppard."  Tony giggled.  "I know, you're not like that, but you seem to have the same trigger, son."  He nodded at Gibbs.

"No, sir, I only go into random bouts of unreasonableness when Gibbs tries to take the kid away from me.  I've spent way too long being his alternate daddy for that to play with either of us."

"That's fine.  If you need a personal ear I'm sure someone there can help."

"Ducky usually tries," he agreed happily.  "By the way, I'm ignoring the mandatory retirement age unless it's a necessity.  In Ducky's case it's not."

"Agreed.  He'd go find somewhere else to go tell stories to the dead.  We want him telling stories to ours.  You'll use it to retire some who need it?"  He nodded.  "Harents?"

"Is one," he agreed. "He's a great agent even though his arthritis is out of control.  He can't work in the field, he hates the desk.  If I had a way to put him on training I would. I've already called him at home this morning and told him if he had a higher position he should probably apply soon.  That I could accept him as one of the new openings in HR.  He'd do great training and evaluating agents.  But we did have a talk this morning on the way in about him being able to hack the field anymore.  Pointing out I couldn't at the moment either.  I told him to come see me after lunch and we'd see if we could move him up so he wouldn't have to retire.  I'm seeing it as a mandatory retirement from field work if you're in poor shape or from the agency if you're a poor agent, but not in the case of good agents."

"Even better.  I hope you can find him one."

"Me too."

"Good.   Now, Fornell, did you have any qualms?"

"I've worked with this team before, sir.  I can handle Gibbs and DiNozzo on the job now."

"You come to me directly and openly.  No more midnight calls saying something's going on without information if you can give it.  Also no more just randomly showing up with issues and warrants."

"Agreed.  Less dramatic but less headaches if I call ahead."

"Decent.  I'll even have Julia put on coffee for you."  That got a smile and a nod.  "That work for you, Gibbs?"

"It does.  Field investigations?"

"Whatever comes up comes up," Tony assured him.  "I'm not going to push the agency one way or another. If we get a terrorism case, we get one.  If we don't, then there's plenty of other crimes for us to deal with in DC.  Some other offices would get more of the terrorism cases."

"Homeland is saying Sheppard stepped on their toes, they want them back for this new dance," the SecNav agreed.  "That also works for me but you'll handle it if one does come up?"

"Of course.  I'm wearing a WWGD bracelet."

"I thought it was WWJD," Fornell said dryly.

"I've never heard of Jesus being on an undercover assignment so in this case I'll go with the next highest authority," Tony said dryly.  Gibbs popped him one on the head.  "Thanks, boss.  Wanna see the bracelet?"  Gibbs gave him a look and he smirked back.  He looked at the SecNav.  "I'm not changing."

"That's fine.  Have fun with this, Agent DiNozzo, and let me know."  He hung up shaking his head but smiling.

Tony looked at Fornell, then at Gibbs.  Then at his staff.  "In approximately three hours we're going to conference call all the section heads.  I want them warned, available, and somewhere we can see them all at the same time," he ordered.  The techs got to work notifying people.  He looked at Gibbs.  "You can sit in on that one if you want."

"Not really.  That's why I made you attend those meetings for me."  He got up and walked off.

Fornell smirked.  "Have fun, DiNozzo."  He headed off too.  Tony slowly got back into his chair and headed back to his office.


Year Eight


Xander walked into his Uncle's house.  "Can I move back in here since my father's an idiot?" he asked, sitting down next to him.

"What did he do this time?"

"Told Abby she shouldn't have a second baby."  Tony gave him a hug.  "She want a *girl*."

"Some mothers do.  Did she go to ask him to have it with her?"  He nodded.  "Well, it'd have been a sibling."

"I've got Mal.  I think Mal is enough for anyone."  Tony snickered at that.  "I know you guys used to tease him about being a mad genius but he took apart Daddy's alarm clock while they were talking."   Tony's laughs got louder.  "Yeah, so dad's out for coffee and dropped me off."  He looked at him.  "Please can I move back, Tony?  I'll be a good boy but we don't even have a tv out there.  We live like we're Amish.  I'm expecting to come home and see Daddy in the funny clothes."  Tony was snickering really loudly now.  Xander smiled.  "I know, it's a funny mental picture but I'm serious!  I am!"

"You are what?" his father asked when he came in.

"Wondering when you're going to fully convert and become Amish, boss."

"You don't need a tv in your room."

"How about one in the *house* then?"  His father gave him a look.  "I don't have access to the news except for online and you won't let me get onto anything but Yahoo's news server, dad.  The tv blew six *weeks* ago and it still isn't working and how am I supposed to do more reports like the one I got an A on that made you proud?  I got that from a movie."

Gibbs sipped his coffee.  "You need to play more and watch less tv.  You'll start to get out of shape."

"Dad!  I can run farther than you can!"

"Is he still having troubles sleeping without the noise?" Tony asked.  Gibbs nodded.  "Replacing the tv might not be a bad compromise, boss."

"Yes it is.  I'm tired of that noise."

"Dad, I'm not going to become Amish.  You'd look really funny in the clothes and beard.  I can't grow one so therefore we can't."  Gibbs smiled a bit at that bit of kiddie logic.  "I don't understand what half of my classmates are talking about," he complained.  "It's like I'm in a social void.  Again."  Tony gave him a cuddle and he relaxed.  "Thank you.  Can I come live with you for a while?"

"He's getting ready to go on vacation for the first time in two years, Xander."

"Then can I housesit?"

"No," Gibbs said.

"You can *both* housesit," Tony offered.  "But you can't stay home alone."

"Can you make Dad tell the teacher I can't do the TV assignment for science?"

"Sure.  Gibbs, go talk to his science teacher about the assignment to find evidence of science on regular tv shows."

"Fine," he muttered, heading into the kitchen to call her. "It's not like he's deprived."

"You're making him an outcast, Gibbs."  He looked at him.  "I'd let you come to Vermont with me but you'd have to miss a whole week of school."  Xander grimaced and shook his head.  "You sure?  I'll try to talk him into it if you wanted to."

"He'd never let me miss that much school, but can we go next summer?"

"Sure."  That got a smile.  "He could use the vacation.  So can I."

"At least you only have the cane now," he soothed, patting him on the knee.  "Can I please watch tv?"

"Did you play today?"

"That's all I've done for the last six weeks.  If I have to move one more foot, I'm running away from home.  Even Uncle Ducky said I've had too much exercise since I was limping the last few days."

"I heard.  Pick something without explosions.  That anniversary's coming up."  Xander grabbed the remote and went to the news station to catch up on stuff.  "I'm such a bad influence," he sighed.  "At your age I still would've went for cartoons."

"They're old and silly this time of day."

"Oh.  Okay."  Gibbs came out and rolled his eyes.  "He headed right for the news."

"He still can't take the week off school to go to Vermont with you, and I'll replace the tv."  Xander cheered.  "Your teacher thought you were being punished, not deprived.  Now she's bordering on calling social services for deprivation."

"Well, it is depriving him socially, Gibbs.  TV and movies are what the other kids are talking about," Tony reminded him. "If all he can do is stand there and nod, they're going to start shunning him. That's not good for him and it'll lead to more stress at school, which means falling grades.  Like last year when he couldn't shake that one girl and she kept trying to help him with his homework."

"Fine, we'll replace the old tv with a new one."  Xander gave him a hug.  "We can go to Vermont next summer."  He looked up since they were doing an anniversary story on the ship that had exploded due to terrorists.  Both he and Tony sighed.

"It's better now that Daddy Tony's in charge," Xander reminded him.  "Now you're listened to.  Because Daddy Tony scares others."  Tony smiled at him for that.  "You do."

"Fornell knew not to bother me directly after physical therapy.  I was always in pain and cranky.  Not like it was an emergency."

"Still, putting the gun in his face probably didn't make him a happy man," Xander teased.

"Probably not but he suddenly remembered I had just been in therapy and got me a damp cloth and a heating pad."  He shrugged.  "Besides, that's just him.  There's a person at JAG scared of me for totally different reasons.  She deserved hers."  He looked at Gibbs, who looked tolerantly fond.  "So, am I going to hear Abby being sulky and pouty or am I next on her list?"

"I laid out some very good reasons why Mal should be an only child.  Including the fact that her health has been shakey since last year when she got sick."

"Gibbs, they told her to do it this year or next or not at all," Tony told him quietly.

"I know that.  She told me that, DiNozzo.  Doesn't mean that I don't think this is panic.  I told her to think about it for a few weeks.  That long wasn't going to make a difference.  I'm not doing it to be mean, I just think she's doing it for the wrong reasons."

"Maybe but it's a fundamental drive we all feel."

Do you now?" he asked dryly.

"Now and then I miss that one being cute, cuddly, and fun to walk around with in the park."

"You did?" Xander asked.

Gibbs nodded.  "He used to take you out and let you ooh and ahh at the jogging women and try to grab some for him.  That's also where your love of horses started, the mounted patrol officers.  Got away from him once to go visit a few who were taking a break together."  Xander smiled. "You were barely crawling."

"Which was about the same time we told you you weren't allowed to have a miniature horse for a pet."

"They're nice but you can't ride 'em," Xander complained.

"You were ten months old, Xander.  You could have at that age."  He smiled and went back to watching the news.  When that half-hour was done, he flipped to find a crime drama.  Both his fathers gave him fond looks but went back to their talking.  "Do I?  Now and then.  They're still saying it might not be safe."

"Plenty of people had kids after they had the plague in the old days, DiNozzo."

"Yeah, but not genetically improved versions.  They took some blood and could distill it back down to the virus," he said quietly.  Gibbs looked at him.  "They were talking about special funeral precautions."  Xander hugged him.  "I'm okay."

"Do I care?"  He went back to watching them.  "Can I do my science project on these sort of shows?"

"As long as you don't do it on the CSI shows, nothing on the science or Discovery channels. Nothing on the food network," Gibbs ordered.

"That'd be too easy."

"It is," Tony agreed.  "Especially with that one show.  Do you have to present it?"  Xander grimaced and nodded.  "Hmm.  Do it on the computers?"

"I have that one due later this year," he admitted.  "She said not to do it because we were doing computers in popular media.  One girl's doing it on *books*."

"Did this one specifically say tv or can you do movies?" Tony asked.

"Tv."  He looked at him.  "Someone joked I should do it on cartoons."  He pouted but went back to his show.  Tony stroked over his head.  "Thanks, Daddy Tony."

"Welcome, squirt."

"I'm not that little any more."

"You're not."  He smiled at him.  He looked outside.  "Mal's here."  Xander flipped channels to the food network and the boy came in to stare in awe.  "Hi, Mal."  He wiggled up next to Xander and waved, going back to watching food being made.  "Maybe you'll be a chef."

"As long as he doesn't cook in a school cafeteria," Abby said when she came in.  "We're making sure Xander doesn't turn Amish?"

"Helping him with a school mandated project of science use on tv."

"I'll replace the old one," Gibbs complained.

"Can we stay over tonight?" Xander mouthed at his father.

"We'll see."

"I am strangely telepathic, I promise I won't take apart anything of Uncle Tony's," Mal offered.

"I have to get up really early for my flight to Vermont," Tony told him.  "Like four or five."

"In the afternoon?"

"In the morning," Xander said.  "You're more of a vampire than I am and I sucked on the cut in my mouth until no more blood would come out."  Mal just smiled at that compliment.  Xander went back to watching tv.  "Hey, Alton's coming on."  Mal turned back around, he loved that show best.  That and Emeril.

The parents shared a look and went back to the kitchen to leave the two strange little boys alone.


Xander frowned at the news on his radio.  He raised his hand.  "I need to go to the office."

"Why?"  He waved her over and she listened to his earbud, which he wasn't supposed to have.  She looked at him.  "That's in Vermont."

"Where Daddy Tony is," he said quietly.  She nodded and he rushed to the office.  "The news?"  The secretary gave him an odd look.  "Turn on the damn news!"  She frowned but did that, and they were covering the small plane crash.  "That's where Daddy Tony is," he said when the headmistress came out.

"You still can't swear, Xander."

"Sorry.  Don't care at the moment but sorry."  He watched it and dialed the desk phone, getting his father's.  "Log onto a news server or turn on the news."  His father did that and gasped.  "They're not saying anything."  He listened to his father calm him down.  They were saying it was after takeoff, which meant Tony hadn't been on the plane.  "Probably," he corrected.  He looked at the pictures from the crash.  "Daddy, I'm on channel eight.  Get onto there.  They're rerunning the surveillance cameras from the tower."  His father changed over.  "That's not a bird, is it?"  His father hung up and he dialed back.  "You're not leaving me here.  I don't care if I am!  Yes and I still know those woods better than you do, daddy.  Tough shit!"  He hung up and looked at his headmistress.  "I'm going to have to leave for a while.  That was Daddy Tony's flight."  He went to grab his jacket and wallet from his locker, then headed out to get a cab.  He made it back to NCIS and inside past security without having to sign in.  He headed right up to his father's pod, finding McGee typing frantically.  "It looked like a missile," he said.  Everyone stared at him, including his father.  "It did."

Gibbs looked at him, seeing the memories were back.  "I hate when you do that."

"Yay me.  I know those woods better than you do.  He was traveling without guards.  Now, I'm going even without you.  Your choice, Dad."

"Fine.  You can come.  You will stay at the house."

"That's fine."  He nodded.  "That was still a surface-to-air missile."

"It was," Gibbs admitted.  He looked at McGee.  "Anything on the passengers?"

"He wasn't in the airport.  He could've left, Gibbs.  Tony wouldn't have hung around, he'd have had a car waiting on him."

"He rented through the local rental place."

"Do we know which one that was?" McGee asked.

"Look up Hertz first, they're at most of them, see if they have output there."  He shrugged. "Or see if the airport's online."  That got a nod and he looked at his father.  "Where's my special cellphone?"

"In your locker I thought."

"I brought it here the other day."

"Let me see if it got put...."  It got tossed from McGee's desk. "There apparently."  He handed it over and Xander tapped in a message, getting one back from an unfamiliar number.  "No, he's not there."  He handed it to his father after tapping back he was his son.  They left a good ransom note while Gibbs was waiting.

"We can track these, right?"

"It bounces off a satellite, boss," McGee offered.  "Tony had that set up so Xander could always get him anywhere in the world."

"Fine.  We have a ransom demand for the head of NCIS."

"And I'm the only one who can get into his trusts," Xander pointed out grimly.  "Another reason you can't leave me here."  His father glared at him.  "Yay.  You knew I was annoying when you adopted me."

"Yes but now and then you go past simply annoying, son."

"You can't."

"I can."

"You can't, Daddy.  You can get into my trust but you can't get into Daddy Tony's.  Only I can."  He stared his father down.  "I'm the one he put in as his heir."

"He did that when?"

"Um, the day after he got it."

Gibbs rolled his eyes.  "I don't like this, son."

"Dad, suck it up."  He walked over to McGee.  "Is there a closer airport to the house?"

"No.  A few smaller ones."

"Then we can fly into the main airport and then helicopter?"  His eyes held a glee of delight.  "That would get us there fastest."

"We can," he agreed.  "Boss?"

"Do that. We go now."  That got a nod.  "You're still in deep crap, son."

"Yay me.  Someone get my dog," he called.  "We need him to track someone!"

"Agreed," Gibbs called.  "Meet us at..."

"Regan, boss."

"Regan airport!"  Another agent went running off.  He got up onto the desk.  "He wasn't on the plane when it exploded, people.  The people who made the plane explode do have DiNozzo.  We're going up to deal with that.  While we're gone, business as usual.  Am I clear?"  They all nodded.  They knew if anything happened, command devolved to him. "No one says a single word to the press or anyone!  Or the Sec Nav.  I'll tell him myself.  Back to work."  He got down and walked upstairs to MTAC.  One of the techs dialed the office immediately.  "Tony wasn't on the plane," he said in greeting.  "The people who had the shoulder mounted surface-to-air system have him hostage.  We're going up to deal with that."

"Who will have your son?"

"Me.  They wanted a ransom and he made sense, sir.  He's the only one with access to Tony's money.  We're heading up immediately, staging at his house since it's within an hour and there's no closer friendly agency."

"The locals are nice up there."

"They are and I'll let them help.  I'm also bringing his dog with us."

"Good idea.  At the very least he can help and at the worst he can keep your boy out of trouble."

"If he's at the house, Xander knows those woods better than anyone."

"Keep me informed."

"We have an older teleconferencing system set up at the house."  That got a nod.  "Transfer the numbers we'll need to McGee," he ordered.  "I've ordered business as usual while we're gone.  I'll call Kate on my way out so she can handle any emergencies."  That got another nod from their boss. "Thank you, sir."  He pulled out his phone on the way out.  "It's me.  DiNozzo wasn't on the plane when it exploded.  Yup, tag you're it.  We're heading now.  No, he's being held hostage.  They knew what they were doing."  He hung up and jogged down the stairs.  "McGee....."

"Got the numbers, boss, your dog is on the way to Regan; I've tried Kate, she had a busy signal.  I'm assuming someone else was calling her about the crash."

"Fine.  Angela?" he asked the new probie.

"Should we really take the kid, Gibbs?" she asked.  She pointed at her handcuffs now being on her.

Gibbs tossed her his keys.  "Yes.  He can help."  He looked at McGee again.  "Get the car."  She tossed over the keys and they headed out.  He stopped his son.  "I don't care if you do think she's a plant from the demonic community."

"No, I know she's a plant demon.  Big difference."  She glared at him and he glared back.  "Buffy was my auntie.  I'm Dawn's son Xander."  She went pale.  "We good?"  He smiled sweetly.

"Hell no."

"You can transfer on the way back," Gibbs told her.  "We can use that skill."  They headed down to the car, letting Xander get into the front seat since he was being pushy.  "Son, these memory spikes of yours..."

"Shut up, Dad.  Sometimes I need that other Xander's memories.  Sometimes I don't want them.  Today I need them.  Then I'll have nightmares while they fade again."  He looked at him.  "Can I do more weapons training this summer too?"

"We'll see about teaching you how to hunt."

"Thank you."

"I do mean squirrels."

"I didn't figure you meant vampires, dad."  They backed out once McGee got into the back with his needed computer gear.  "My dog?"

"Will be there," McGee agreed. "How old is Percy?"

"Sixteen," Xander admitted.  "He's still good to track and hunt.  I had him tracking me the other night around the house.  He found me all the time.  It's as close to hide and seek as I can play with myself."

"I'm not having a baby with Abby, son."

"But, dad!"

"Tough.  You can play with Mal more often."

"Dad, Mal likes to lick me.  Said I taste good.  I'm strange but he's stranger than Auntie Abby ever *could* be.  Mal wants to redecorate his casket weird.   Mal wants to make blood pudding for the blood weird."  McGee giggled at that.  "He does!  He also likes to pet stuffed former animals and talk to them about how they died.  My headmistress was creeped out by Mal, guys.  That says something since she saw a memory surge one day and thought it was going to be okay.  Maybe if she has another one it'll be a normal kid I can play with.  Before I have to go play with the girl up the road again.  Because eww, creepy girl who likes pink and thinks I should marry her.  Now I know why Uncle Tony said he gave up women."

"Son," Gibbs said firmly, shaking his head as he drove, trying not to laugh.  "She's a very nice, normal girl."

"She's creepy and was talking about invitations and cakes the last time I saw her.  Her parents were beaming proudly at her for choosing her future victim so early, Daddy.  Really.  I'd run away to be a Mountie first."

"Did Tony let you borrow his Due South videos again?" McGee asked.  Xander beamed and nodded.  "I can almost see you with a half-wolf that was deaf."

"Don't encourage him," Gibbs said firmly.

"Dad, even you said you could see me with a deaf half-wolf who likes to eat donuts."  They pulled into the airport and he jumped out first, taking control of his dog.  "Hi, Percy.  Daddy Tony is missing.  We're going to track the Daddy Tony once we get in the air."  The dog sat and looked at him.  "Good boy."  He looked at the agent.  "Thank you."

"Welcome, Xander.  I hope he can protect you."

He smiled.  "I'm pretty tough.  After all, I live with Dad and get to whine and annoy him."  He walked inside with the others.  His dog was in his harness again.  He loosened a strap.  "Too many milkbones, boy.  Getting a bit chubby."  He patted his dog on the head while McGee got them checked in for their flight.  He looked around. "Hi, Uncle Toby."

"Don't call me that in public, kid."  He walked up to Gibbs. "We have field agents on the ground.  They have no idea where he is."

"Hostage," Gibbs said simply, showing him the demands.

"Then leave the kid with me."

"Fat chance," Xander said dryly.  "I know those woods better than anyone but Daddy Tony.  Percy and I are going and you need me there because I'm the only other DiNozzo heir and can get into the funds."  He looked up at him.  "Help or not."

"Taylor's the lead guy in that area."

"Cool.  Haven't seen him in ages."

"They know where he was taken from?"

"The airport.  So far the tracking dogs haven't been able to find a scent."

"Percy's not any dog and he's good at tracking."  Xander took his ticket and nodded at the woman.  "Thank you kindly, ma'am."

"No more Mounties, son," Gibbs complained.  "Coming with us, Fornell?"

"No, I'm letting Taylor handle it."  He glanced at Xander then back at Gibbs, who rolled his eyes.  "Let me know if you need extra help."

"I will.  I'm assuming here but the same airport?"

McGee nodded.  "We're listed as incoming specialists to handle it, boss.  That's the only people allowed in."  He headed for the gate and Xander followed with Percy.  The security system made them go through, giving Percy an odd look.  Xander stared back.  They let them through.  "It's his son," he said quietly to one.  That got a nod.  When a director of a federal agency went missing, there was a lot of hell to pay.


Xander came off the plane last.  "Percy.  Track the Daddy Tony.  Track the Daddy Tony."  He let go of his leash, unclipping it.  The dog sniffed and followed a scent trail.  The others followed a dog, leading to a roped off area outside.  The dog barked and looked at him and his father.  "Here?  More trail?  Hunt the trail."  The dog sniffed some and found it in the reserved car rental area, stopping in one empty spot.  "I'm thinking that's his."

"Me too.  Thanks, son."  He went to find out what sort of car had been in that spot.

Xander looked around.  "There's Uncle Taylor, McGee."  He pointed.  McGee waved and he came trotting over.  "Hi."

"Hi.  What are you doing here?"

"If there's a ransom to be paid you need me.  Plus Daddy Tony trained me in these woods."

"So you're better trained in the native environment than anyone but a local.  Okay, what's here?"

"Tony's rental," McGee told him. "Percy tracked him."

"That's the nice thing about only having three gates," Taylor agreed.  "Gibbs?"  He got pointed at. "They wouldn't give me any information."

Xander walked in there.  "I am Alexander Lavelle Gibbs-DiNozzo.  My father was kidnaped from one of your shoddy ass cars.  I will know the make and model and I will know if it has GPS or I will buy your company and fire you."  The man laughed.  "I'm the last heir to the Central Bank Corporation, dufus."  The man quit laughing.  "That was my grandfather's company.  My father is Director of NCIS.  That is a Federal level investigative agency.  I would cooperate unless you wish to find yourself in a dank cell in a foreign country.  I'm sure his second in command, my other father, can arrange it."  He gave him a look that he had learned off Abby.  "Well?  I'm waiting."  The man got the information and handed it to Gibbs.  "Thank you for your cooperation."  He walked off with his dog protecting him.  "Okay, now, are we heading toward his house or do we have a command post set up locally?"

"The locals would've seen someone being snatched around here," Angela offered.

"We thought so too," Taylor admitted.

"Here, GPS code," Gibbs told McGee, who opened his laptop on the trunk of another car and got to work tracking it.

A few minutes later.  "Got it, boss.  Ten miles up the road, off to the side."  They went to the van the FBI was using, Xander and Percy in the very back.  They got out and Percy tracked Tony's scent to another set of tire tracks.  "Here," he ordered.  "This one, Xander?"

"He sat down here."

"Tire tracks are handy," Gibbs agreed, coming over to start processing that part of the scene.  Local officers came up to help but stayed out of the way.

McGee looked at them.  "Where's the nearest traffic camera or redlight camera?  ATM?"

"ATM...  About four miles away."

"Any turn offs?" McGee asked.

"Two.  Both are to older farms though.  Easy enough to check if they were used."  That got a nod and he sent people to do that and get the ATM footage.  "You think he's okay?"

"They've asked for a ransom and haven't called back yet," Gibbs admitted.  "Xander, send another message saying 'cash, auto draft, or something else'.  Let's see if we can GPS them again."  McGee got ready for that, nodding when he was ready.  Xander sent it and got back one a few minutes later.  "Anything?"

"Bearer bonds," Xander said.  "How cheesy spy movie."

"They're untraceable, son."

"Nothing's totally untraceable, Daddy.  McGee?"

"He's by his house, Gibbs.  Or at least that's where the satellite link is."

"Of course.  No one would think to go to the victim's house," Taylor agreed.  "Especially since I heard it doesn't have electricity?"

"Generator," Gibbs told him. "He's still complaining about the amount of gas it uses and upgrading it to a propane generator instead."

"He said they were very expensive and outside his salary, dad," Xander told him. "But we can sneak up on the house.  That first turn-off to the farm.  It goes to the neighbor on the west, right?"  Gibbs looked at him and nodded.  "That's only two miles if we go to the new farmhouse.  It's all screened by the woods.  I'm doubting they're woods-friendly.  They're probably cursing the lack of electricity."

"Probably," Gibbs admitted.

"You've had some good ideas today, Xander," Angela offered.

"No sucking up to the son," Gibbs ordered.

Xander grinned at her.  "Thanks.  Sometimes it's like I'm channeling my auntie or some past life."  She got the clue and gaped then nodded and walked off to get back to work on Tony's car.  "Should I call the bank?"

"Please," Gibbs ordered.  "Make it look like it."

Xander sat in the van and called the bank over the video conferencing system.  "Hi, this is Alexander Gibbs, the DiNozzo heir.  I need the manager.  My other father has been kidnaped."  That got a nod and he was transferred over.  "Hi, Mr. Toddy."

"Hi, Xander.  What's wrong?  The receptionist said it was an emergency?"

"Daddy Tony was kidnaped.  They made his plane explode with a shoulder mounted rocket and kidnaped him from his rental car."  That got a shudder.  "That was his flight returning to base," he admitted.  "They've asked for a million in bearer bonds."

"I'll need your father to authorize such a large amount, young man."

"Of course.  Dad?"  He came over.  "He didn't leave any other instructions yet."

"We can put a lock on a million of it," he promised. "Mr. Gibbs?"

"Tony has been kidnaped," he agreed quietly.  "Do you need proof of ransom?"

"No.  Not with who you are."  He shook his head.  "I'm anticipating you don't think the ransom will be necessary?"  He nodded.  "Then what I can do is lock down a million of it and prepare it for transfer to a bank in New York, which would be the closest place to get you bearer bonds."

"Is Boston closer to us?" Xander asked the local guy.  Who shook his head.  "Okay."

"They're both about eight hours away, kid," the local officer offered.  "About an hour by plane."

"That's fine," the banker agreed. "I can authorize a withdrawal to be made like that.  I'll need a full hour to get it ready."

"Agreed," Gibbs said.  "That's a last resort."

"Of course.  I'll let others know.  This is how we usually do it."  That got a nod.  "If it does, I'll need you to send me a copy of an ID of whoever is going to pick it up.  I don't suggest you send Xander.  Kidnapers in the past have tried to hit the ransom pickup to decrease their danger of capture."

"Sure," Xander agreed.  Percy nosed him and he smiled, petting him.  "We'll play ball in a few."  The dog barked and went back to sniffing around.  He barked a few times then sat down, looking at Taylor.

"He's a drug dog, right, Gibbs?"

"Yeah, he was a narcotics dog," he agreed.  He looked at the banker again.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  Keep me informed, Special Agent Gibbs, I hope we can solve this one safely.  I'd miss having Tony around."  He smiled and hung up.

"Are those two dating?" Gibbs asked his son.

"Not like you stepped up, Dad, and Daddy Tony needs a lot of love and affection.  Or at least someone *there* in the middle of the night when the nightmares come back."  He hopped down and went to take his dog on the rounds with the other guys.  "He's my dog."  That got a smile.  "We got him when he retired.  Percy, sniff the drugs!"  Percy took off to sniff around, finding another butt of a joint.   They got picked up and put together.  "Good boy!  Anything else?"  Percy sniffed the car and stopped on the trunk.  They opened it and let Percy look inside, letting him paw at something until they got him back out.  Then they dug it out.  "That's not Daddy Tony's.  He can't even take pain killers."

"The tape on the bag is old, I didn't figure it was," the local guy offered, smiling at him.  "Take him back and play with him.  We've got the road blocked."  Xander did that, going to find Percy's ball and play with him for a few minutes.  It did make for a happy dog.  "Hey, Feeb man!"  He held up the baggie. "Older tape so I know it wasn't your boy's."

"We can still confiscate it and investigate the old renters," he agreed.  "Get that too."  One of his boys came over to confiscate it and bag it for their labs.  "Thank you."  He looked at Xander and Percy.  "In the van," he ordered.  Xander sighed but threw the ball into the van, letting Percy go first.  He shook his head.  "Okay, next move, Gibbs?"

"If the GPS is coming from his house...."

"How far away is it?"

"Four hours.  About.  Xander navigates with Tony.  The last two trips I slept on the way in.  The first he was just a toddler and it was after the explosion."

"I saw the deer tape," he admitted with a grin.

Xander leaned out.  "He's out by Bethel, then take a right instead of a left.  Head two hours or a good game of tetris back toward the middle of the state into the mountains.  Daddy calls it ski country, then don't go to the resort, go left instead.  There's a small village about forty minutes after that and he's five miles from the Cumbie's on the edge of town."

"He even gives directions like a native," one of the locals joked.  "Haven't heard an 'aye- yupt' from him yet though."  Gibbs gave him a look but he was shaking his head.  "Can you read a map, son?"

"No.  Not yet.  I know what it looks like though.  I came up last summer."  He came over to draw out the first one.  "Coming out of Bethel off the interstate and through town, right here's the bridge."  He pointed at it on the crude stick figure drawing.  "We usually stop here," he said, pointing at a small square.  "It's a nice little store and they stock the candy poles, like lollipops but not, and maple syrup candy."

"The ones you used to get at the barbershop," Gibbs told them.

One of the guys called one of his people to ask him.  Then he nodded.  "That works.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "We know where we're starting."

"Good.  Where does that put us in two hours travel on that road?"

"In the summertime or winter, kid?"

"Xander and summer usually.  This daddy throws a fit if I take off school."  That got a smile. "The resort is just at the end of two hours or the good game of tetris."

"Which would put it here," someone said on a bigger map.  "There's two resorts there."  He let Xander look and he pointed at one.  "Then go another forty miles away?"  Xander nodded, pointing at a town name.  "There?"

"That's the sign of the village before the town with the Cumbie's.  By then I usually need a  potty break and it's another ten miles to the next place so I make myself wait now."

"We got a town, boss," he said, letting him see.  "Has to be this one."

"We can make sure."

"He's got a PO Box," Gibbs admitted.  "I didn't even..."

"That's why you don't let victims help, boss," McGee noted dryly.  "You're right, that's the right town.  Postal Service doesn't like to give out that information but Fornell is leaning on them."

"Head of the FBI?"

"Non-appointed," McGee said with a smile.  "The appointed guy is annoying."  That got some laughs from them all.

"He talks down to me all the time," Xander offered, patting him on the back and lifting his wallet.  "Can I have a soda when we get somewhere, dad?"

"Only if you put his wallet back, son," he ordered without looking.

"I'm just practicing.  Maybe I'll be a spy instead."

"No way in hell, son."

"Fine."  He handed it back with a grin, getting a bop on the head for it.  "Ow, meany."  He got back into the van with his dog.   He listened to them make plans to helicopter into the next town over.  It was far enough away that it wouldn't look strange.  It had the regional hospital and they could land there. Xander leaned out.  "If we start with the neighbor on the west, her new farmhouse is only two miles away.  He's five miles from the village and the next nearest one is ten miles on the east.  It's really quiet there."

"That's not a bad idea," the local guy admitted.  "One up the road?"

"He'll hear," Gibbs agreed. "That place is totally silent.  If they don't have the generator on, you can sometimes hear the main road four miles back."

"I've been in towns like that," one guy agreed. "You guys think you can handle the woods?"

"Xander grew up playing them.  I'm a former Marine.  My team keeps up with me."  That got nods.  "Taylor, your team and woods?"

"We can do it."  He gave a pointed look at the van and Xander, getting a shrug.  "That's dangerous."

"He's the only one who can get into the top floor without alerting them and inside.  Besides, I want the dog with us."  That got a nod and a helicopter was called for.  They airlifted to the nearest town then drove the back way into the next town over with the help of the local officers there, who all smiled at Xander and Percy.  They remembered him from the time he had decided to wander off when he was four and made it to the next village the hard way.  "Has there been any activity?  Any strangers?" Gibbs asked.  A town that size you noticed anyone who came in.

"Some more strange than others.  Your distant neighbor was bought by some freaky witchlings who think they can ride brooms and talk to fairies.  Don't mind the normal ones but those girls got bats in their belfries," he joked.  "Today?  We did have a car we didn't know go out that way.  We figured they were going to bother the ladies.  Looked like feds.  Your sorta car, Gibbs.  Dark sedan with tinted windows."

"That's fine.  Did you count how many?"

"Full backseat.  Two or three in front.  We figured it was a Lincoln with bench seats."  That got a nod.  "You boy okay?  He was still limping around last I knew."

"He still is," Gibbs admitted.  "The cane's permanent."  That got nods.  "We'll sneak through from the McGreevy farm.  That's closest.  Xander goes up to the second floor with a video feed, a pocket knife, and handcuff keys just in case."  That got a nod from everyone.  "We wait while he does a quiet search."

"Because I can sneak out without even Daddy Tony realizing and he's got bat ears," Xander agreed.  "I'll leave Percy with you at the edge of the oak and maple, dad?"

"That works.  That's still with in the cover but within sight of the house.  Can't see there from the back porch."  That got some nods.  They got off at the neighbor's farm, him and Xander both nodding at the neighbor before they took off into the woods.  "With us," he hissed at his son.  "No running ahead.  They could have guards."

He stayed with the group, in the protected middle spot.  McGee got him outfitted with a good knife, his own handcuff keys, and handcuffs, plus the camera and voice system.  Then he snuck around to the wood pile carefully.  He got up the chimney and onto the roof, then checked the window with the camera, getting a nod from his father.  He looked then slid down the drain pipe until he could get there.  It was never locked so he slid it open and inside, closing it behind him.  He checked that room, then used the video system down the stairs first.  His father's voice on the earbud told him where everyone was and who was looking.  He glanced when they quit looking.  He even caught Tony's eye.  His dog yelped outside and he growled.  Nobody had better have hurt his dog!  Most of the guys went to check so he snuck down and behind the couch, then inside the couch.  It was a junky old thing with holes.  He found Tony's hands and followed them up.  He cut the plastic ties, handing him the knife and the handcuffs.  Then he got back under cover as ordered.

"You know, there's a few strays in the area," Tony said casually, working his fingers to get feeling back.  "It could've been the McGreevey's dog.  They let her loose during the summer so she gets used to animal scents for hunting season."  They glared at him and someone growled at him to shut up.  Tony sighed and felt something going into his hand.  He sneezed and bent down to pant.  That had hurt to force that.  "Hate doing that."  He felt the three clicks so as soon as someone came over to make him sit back up again, he stabbed them and went after the next nearest one. "Gibbs!"  The team came rushing in and got the others.  He flopped down on the couch, hearing the muttered 'ouch'.  "It's safe, Xander."  He wiggled his way out and into his lap, making him smile.  "Very good job.  Who hurt Percy?"

"No one.  I told him to yelp and he did," Angela told him.  "Are you all right, Director?"

"Hands are a bit sore.  Someone go turn on the generator?  I should have a can of gas out there."  Xander went to do that and blessed light and air flow started with the fan.  Tony sighed in pleasure.  "Better."  He smiled.  "Hi, Gibbs."

"Tony.  You all right?"

"Pretty okay.  The plane?"

"Gone," he admitted.

"I'll send a message of condolence to the families.  By the way, they knew I had the plague."  He looked at Xander.  "Go ahead and cancel the ransom, kiddo."  Xander nodded and used McGee's laptop to do that.  He looked at Gibbs again.  "Sorry."

"I'm not.  You're alive."  That got a grin.  "Need medical?"

Tony shook his head.  "Backrub.  They had me on the floor of the car the whole way here.  My back's a bit stiff."  That got a nod.  "I'm okay, guys.  Stand down except for the one guard who went to town to get lanterns."  The local cops called that one in and he was arrested in the store.  "Okay.  You wanna take them to town and I'll yell at Xander for being pushy and smart?"

"He had good ideas," McGee offered.  "He's the one who sent for Percy."

"Percy can track the family better than any other scent dog," Xander said from where he was chatting.  "Daddy Tony, Mr. Toddy wants to know if you want dinner when you get back."

"I'll see."

"He said he'll see, Mr. Toddy.  Thank you."  He smiled and hung up then came back to cuddle him.  "Of course I got pushy.  No one else knows these woods like me."

"Except for the McGreevy's oldest son," the patrol agreed.  "He's in the local jail for six more weeks for trying to rob Cumbie's."

"He's still only eight," Tony reminded him.

"He's a good hand at this stuff," Taylor admitted.  "Didn't get in the way.  Did what he was told.  Tried to lift McGee's wallet."  That got a look from Tony to Xander, who slumped down.  "You've got a good boy there, guys.  He's a real good hand at this.  Maybe you should honor him for doing it."

"Ewww," Xander muttered, glaring at him.  "I used to like you."  That got a laugh.  He shuddered. "Eww, daddy!"

"Guys," he complained.  They relented and left him alone.  "Not like Gibbs picks up his when he gets them," Tony reminded them, making them laugh.  "Okay, someone dial me into the SecNav and work."  McGee did that on the big screen, letting him wave.  "I'm okay now.  Just a bit sore.  They knew I had the plague.  They wanted to strain my blood down to get it."

"Did they take any?"

"They were waiting on their doc, who'll be in to Boston tonight at eleven.  Flight to New Hampshire immediately afterward, then driven here.  He'd have gotten to me about dawn."

"Where is he coming from?" Gibbs asked.

"Not a clue.  His flight comes in at eleven-ten if it's on time."  McGee got onto the laptop to find that out.  "That narrows it down to how many?"

"Three flights.  Which airport?"

"Don't know.  Ask the guys groaning on the floor."

Xander walked over to one and stepped up onto his crotch, then jumped, making him shriek.  "Who was going to hurt my daddy by making him bleed?" he asked.  Gibbs grabbed him and handed him back to Tony.  "Hey!  I can help more!"

"No. You can't," Tony told him. "Woodshed, Gibbs."  He drug that guy out there, making him scream a few minutes later.  "He hates snakes," he told McGee.  "There's always a nest out there."  Xander nodded at that.  The SecNav smiled at that.  "There is."  He shrugged.  "It's a comfy place for them to lay eggs."  He looked at the dog.  "Hey, Percy, come cuddle."  He hopped up onto the couch to cuddle with them, head in Tony's lap. "Good boy.  You were such a good boy."  The dog let out a tired woof.  "I know, it's getting late for you, boy.  Remember, you're very loved, Percy.  The boy and I both love you.  So does Gibbs."  The dog fell asleep and he looked at Xander, who gave him a sad look. "You know he was old when we gave him to you," he reminded him.

"I know.  Dogs don't live as long as peoples.  He's been a good dog."  That got a nod and he looked at him.  "Can we bury him up here so he can chase squirrels in his afterlife?"

"Sure.  We'll put him out by the old cemetery."  That got a nod.  They both petted the dog.  "So, boss, I'm on vacation," he said dryly.  That got a laugh and the SecNav hung up.  "Put me onto MTAC, McGee, please."  They came up.  "Yes, I'm alive.  Julia, dear, please put out a letter of condolence for the pilots and the steward?"  That got a nod.  "Thank you.  Let everyone know I'm fine and his school know he's fine but he'll be back in a few days."

"Sure, Tony. Anything else?"

"Kate make it up from Bermuda yet?"

"Just now.  Came in still brushing sand out of her hair."

"Then let her handle any emergencies.  I'm recuperating."  That got a nod.  "Also, have someone run a check on who got into my Y. pestis file.  They knew."

"On it and I'll send it to Gibbs tonight," she promised, going to hand out those orders. McGee turned it off.  "Thanks."

"Welcome, Tony."  Gibbs came in.  "Do we have a name?"

"We have a description."  He handed it over.  Then he looked at the dog.  "He's a good boy."  Percy's tail moved some.  "We'll bring him home, son."

"Daddy, I want him up here so he can chase the squirrels."  Gibbs nodded at that.

"There's the old cemetery out in the woods.  I don't think the family would mind watching over him for us," Tony agreed.

"That's fine.  He can have a few days."

"Then we need more gas."

"We do."  They all frowned.  "Someone give me a lift to get some supplies and a rental car?"  That got some nods.  "McGee, turn over whoever that is to Taylor, let him go beat them."

"Of course, boss."  He handed over the narrowed list.  "Two flights."

"Works for me.  We'll run checks on what they do."  He sent that to his home base and told them to let him know *immediately*, he was heading for Boston right then.  "Been fun, boys.  Xander, I'll see you soon, sport."

"Of course.  Be safe."

"I will.  You behave and quit being so pushy.  Enjoy being a kid."

"I do most of the time now that daddy bought a new tv."  That got a laugh. "Six weeks without one."  That got some more laughs and the cops left.  Gibbs left with one to get supplies for them.  "He can go in his sleep, right?"

"If he's going to go that way, he's not in any pain."  That got a nod and Xander snuggled into him.  "I know it sucks."

"It is.  It's one of the things I hated about my old life.  All the death and destruction," he admitted quietly.

"Are they getting stronger?"

"Some.  Oh, the hellhound puppy came back.  I think Willow needs to redo the thing on my stomach."

"I did that."  Xander looked up at him.  "My mother's father was a Watcher."  That got a gape.  "I blew raspberries at them when they came to test me, but we did have the stuff in the library.  He left it to go into banking."  That got a nod.  "So I did the blessing on your stomach.  But Willow might like the fairy witches on the other side."  That got a giggle.  "Heard about them?"

"Yeah, even the officers think they're a bit odd."

"They are."  He nodded.  He kissed him on the head.  "Good boy."  They went back to petting the dog and watching tv for now.


Year Ten


"Dad?" Xander called as he walked into the shared house.  Both fathers had retired the year before and Xander had been the reason they had moved in together again.  He had gotten mono and Gibbs hadn't been able to handle him being that sick alone, but Tony understood about being sick.  Plus Tony had a better handle on how to do the educational stuff he was missing.  Tony leaned out of the kitchen of the old house that Gibbs had kept through everything in their lives.  "Can I be gay?"

"Why?  Feeling urges?"

"Just to run away from the girl up the street.  She's back on her kick and apparently off her meds again," he complained, coming in to make a snack for them.  "She cornered me on the walk from the bus stop.  She wants to take me to some preteen club this weekend.  I told her I had a lot of homework so she said her mother would make me go."

"Fat chance," Gibbs said as he came up the stairs.  "You can be suddenly grounded, son."

"Thank you, Dad."  He sat down with his plate of snack food.  His father looked at him so he held it up so he could take a few of the cakes and so could Tony.  "I know Mal's scary, but she's worse, dad.  The nightmares I have about bug ladies and Anya are nothing next to this kid's issues.  I told her I was gay and she laughed and said they were myths."  He ate a bite of his first snack cake.  Tony took another one, making him frown. "I'm a growing boy and I work it off."

"I'm hungry."  He shrugged.  He tucked into his cupcakes and swiss cake rolls.  "What is she doing?  I've had a bit of experience with stalkers."

"You remember when we had to stop her from following me *everywhere*?" he asked.  Tony and Gibbs both groaned but nodded.  "That only worse.  When I tried to walk away from her after telling her I was gay, she was going on about how she'd be a real woman within a few years and then we could be together fully.  I pointed out I liked boys more again and that's when she laughed and said they were mythical."  Tony shook his head.   Gibbs patted him on the head.  "I'm scared.  I'll take on another hostage taker.  I'll take on another mugger.  I'll be kidnaped while I'm so sick I feel like I'm dying.  Just get me away from her?"

"We've called Social Services on her family before," Gibbs reminded him. "They made her go to a therapist."

"Yeah, well, not helping," Xander said, stuffing the rest of that one into his mouth and guarding his plate so his father couldn't take another one.  "Mine!  Greedy!"

"You unwrapped nine, son," he complained.

"I've only had two!"  He went back to his nibbling.  "I'd ask Mal to scare her but she might coo at him and screw him up more."

"Mal's a nice little boy," Tony said patiently.  Both Gibbs stared at him.  "For a mad genius and future engineer."

Xander nodded.  "At least he got the plasma screen monitor back together again, Daddy Tony."

"True. That was nice of him and it still works."  He nibbled on his last snack cake. Gibbs managed to steal another one.  He snatched the last one on the plate.  "Okay, do we want to file a restraining order?  Do you want me to act like my high society self?  Tell her you can only date people from good schools since she's in a public school?"

"Would it help?" the elder Gibbs asked.

Tony shrugged. "Might piss her off, not sure.  Could go either way."

"Or it could make her transfer schools," Jethro reminded him.  He sat down.  "I want you to write or type out every single encounter you've had with this girl and what bothered you about it."

"I still have homework tonight.  That's an all night project, Dad."

"Start on it tonight and we'll keep going tomorrow," Tony promised.  That got a nod and Xander went off with the last snack cake to do that.  They had kept him down to four.  They were proud parents at the moment.  Tony ate the last bite of his third one.  "We know she's disturbed."

"She clearly is," he agreed.  "She's also too young to fit the normal stalker stereotypes."

"Point."  He frowned and called the office.  "Hey, McGee, it's me.  When Xander's done with something he's sending it to you tomorrow.  Can you get your pet profiler to glance it over during a free moment?   He's attracting his first stalker.  Yeah, that girl up the block again.  No, she was talking today about how she'd be a real girl soon so they could be together and shit.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "He'll have what's-her-name look it over when he's done."  Xander came in to lean on him.  "Stomachache?" he teased.

"She's outside with a radio," he said quietly.

"She hear?"

"No, all the windows are closed that way.  I'm not going back out there, dad."

"Let me," Jethro said, heading that way.  He opened the front door and looked at her.  "Selling radios for Girl Scouts?" he asked.

"No, silly," she said, smiling at him.  "I came to see if Xander would come play with me.  We're going on a picnic tonight."

"He's grounded, Melody.  He can't."

"Oh."  She pouted.  "But Mommy really wanted him to."

"I don't care.  He's still grounded and he's grounded all weekend."

She stomped her foot.  "You can't do that!  Mommy said he's coming with me this weekend!"

He stared her down and she backed up a step so he clearly still had the skills.  "No.  I also think I should talk to your parents about breaking this dependence you have on Xander's friendship, Melody."

"You won't take him from me," she vowed, heading off at a run.

"Bet me," he snorted.  "Heading out."

"Not alone you're not," Tony called.  "Change too."  He went up to his room to change into something less casual and something more 'former director of a federal agency'.  He came down in the dress pants and button up shirt, looking at Gibbs.  "Change, boss.  You've got sawdust again.  Not the proper threatening image."  Gibbs rolled his eyes. "Xander, do not open the door unless it's an emergency or McGee."

"Of course not.  I'm still working on this.  Then the stupid history homework I have to rewrite."  Tony looked back at him.  "I was told it was too simplistic for someone in my grade even when I complained I didn't understand half the crap she was talking about this semester.  What do multi-national corporations who underpay their foreign workers have to do with World War II?"

"They were formed afterward by the rules put forth in the treaties.  Especially the ones in Asia."  That got a nod and he went to look those up.  It'd help him.  Gibbs came down in a different shirt.  "No gun?" he teased.

"I hope it's not needed."  They walked out and up the street, Tony tapping on the door.  "Mrs. Laurel.  Jethro Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo, Xander's fathers.  I think we need to talk."

"About what?" she asked, letting them inside.

"About your daughter's unhealthy regard for Xander," Tony said, looking at her.  She looked stunned.  "She was talking earlier about how she'd be a real woman soon and how they could be together soon.  She scared Xander to hell, ma'am."

"My daughter Melody is a charming young woman," she said firmly.

"Who has mental issues," Gibbs told her.  "This isn't the first time she's bordered on stalking him, Mrs. Laurel.  She's tried to hurt him in the past."  Tony looked at him.  "Yes, I heard how she pushed him out of the treehouse even though he didn't want me to know," he admitted.  "The same as I know your daughter is presently seeing professional help.  I think this issue needs to be addressed there as well since she just told me I can't ground my own son."

"Well, I did say he could go with her to the pre-teen club this weekend.  Surely you don't mind."

"Yes I do," Tony assured her.  "I do mind.  I also mind that Xander said he didn't want to go, even if he weren't grounded."  She gave him a glare.  "Mrs. Laurel, I didn't want to point this out but Jethro and I are both former Federal Agents.  We've both seen stalkers in the past, and with your daughter's recent behavior it is mandated that we turn her in for this sort of behavior.  It's considered harmful to our son and others since I know she's been tormenting a young woman who does like Xander and is a very nice young woman."

"She's a harlot," she said coolly.

"She's eight.  She's too young to know the definition of that word," he said blandly. "Now, we're bringing this to you in hopes that you'll straighten your daughter out so we don't have to turn her in.  At the next incident we will have to.  I would also suggest that whoever is working with your daughter be informed of this incidence.  Because the law is very clear on these matters."

"I think you should leave."

"As you wish," Jethro agreed, "but I think you should be aware of the situation and that we are required to turn her in for this sort of behavior if it continues."  He looked at Tony and caught the view of the hallway.  "Is that my son's picture?"  She went pale.  "I believe we'll be waiting for some backup, Tony."

"Sure."  He pulled out his phone.  "Our team or local PD?"

"Local is fine."  Tony dialed.

"Get out!" she shrieked.  "You cannot come in here and demand that I stop my daughter from admiring your son!"

Tony put the phone against his ear.  "This is Director DiNozzo.  No, not good.  Remember the stalking last year, Reggie?  We're there and it's starting again.  They've got a shrine with what looks like violent materials.  Gibbs, stop her, she's trying to escape."  He went to get the little girl and walk her inside.  "We know she's tormenting another child.  We're there now and she's getting huffy.  Please."  He hung up.  "There'll be an officer here within ten minutes, ma'am.  Might I suggest you call your husband?"  She stood up and tried to slap him.  He ducked and looked at her.  "Try it again and I'll hit back."  She gasped and sat back down.  An officer knocked and he went to let him in, showing him the shrine.  "Her daughter is ten, Xander's age.  She was talking earlier about how she'd be a real woman soon.  Her mother called the girl up the street a harlot for having a crush on Xander for saving her dog last month."

"These are violent materials.  He's all right?"

"Freaked.  He's writing out the incidences for us and our profiler.  I know there's been a call to CPS about her before."

"Agreed, DiNozzo.  Let us handle that and we'll come talk to your son."

"That's fine.  Jethro had the miniature stalker."  That got a nod and he walked him out.  "I do hope your daughter and you get help, Mrs. Laurel."  He closed the door gently behind him.  "Boss, send her inside."

"They've got her in the back of the car.  She tried to stab me," he admitted.  "Good thing I changed into a shirt I don't like."

"Don't say that, boss.  Xander bought you that for your last birthday."

"Oops.  I'll fix it.  It's not that noticeable."  He nodded at the officer when he came out.  "I want my son to have a restraining order."

"Agreed. It's probably warranted.  Your son?"

"I called, he's at the kitchen table."

"Thank you."  He headed down to talk to him.  Jethro and Tony followed but stayed out of his way while he questioned Xander.


Tony met with the headmistress the next morning when he drove Xander in.  "Sorry, something to add to Xander's file," he offered, handing over the envelope.  "Our neighbor's daughter went stalker again.  There's the restraining order, their pictures, and a copy of the report in case your own guards need it."  She gave him a horrified look.  He nodded.  "Also, Xander needs a one day extension on his history rewrite.  The cops had him most of the night and I'm helping him on it but he didn't get to bed until midnight."

"I'll tell the teacher," she promised, staring at him.  "Is he all right?"

"So far.  We're anticipating backlash.  This isn't the first time.  They've had her turned in before for this.  Her mother was helping.  She had violent materials on the family shrine to him."  That got a sigh and a sad look.  "So far he's fine, just a bit jumpy.  I would suggest no one grab him for the next day."

"Good point.  I'll put this into our records.  Usually it's someone who wants the family's money."

"They don't know I have money."  He grinned. "Or that Xander has an unbreakable trust."  She smiled at that.  "She's been after him since she met him at four and he hates her.  It's devolved into this over the years.  Last time she got turned in she had intentionally hurt him and then said no one else could have him.  Including us."  He grinned.  "Fat chance of that happening.  Anything I need to sign?"

"No.  It'll go into his file here," she promised.  He nodded.  "Let me check them?"   He nodded and stood up, waiting while she did that.  "Oh, dear.  Um, the girl's father is our PE instructor," she admitted.

"Can he be excused?"

"He can be.  I'll call a quick staff meeting.  Thank you."  He nodded and left.  She called her secretary.  "Staff meeting, now.  There's a young woman and her family that is stalking  young Mr. Gibbs."  She hung up and handed the package to her guards when they came in.  "We already have a problem."

"He's the PE teacher and she's subbed in," one of them agreed.  He looked at her.  "How violent?"

"There's a copy of the report in there."  The others walked in and crowded around.  "Someone make sure Philip doesn't come in."  Someone went to do that.  "Thank you.  We have a small problem.  Philip's daughter has been stalking Xander Gibbs.  They ended up turning her over to the police last night because she was having violent fantasies about him."

"More than that.  The report states that a child psychologist came in to talk to her," the guard admitted, looking at the group.  "She's having sexual and violent fantasies about him.  There was a shrine at the house.  Not in her room, but in the house, with violent materials and depictions."

"She's hurt him in the past," the headmistress agreed.  "She's been turned in before for this problem.  There is now a restraining order.  Also, Julie, he needs an extra day on his history rewrite.  Tony said he was up until midnight with the officers going over the incidences."  That got a nod.  "He said he's helping him with it because you're still going a bit over his head."  She looked at the people around her.  "I need your help keeping Philip away from young Mr. Gibbs."

"He can do a study hall in the library instead of gym," the guard suggested.  "That's the safest place for the kid and where we send them when they've got doctor's excuses."  That got nods.  "Is he involved?"

"I'm not sure and I'm going to be talking to him in private," she announced.  "For right now, try to keep them apart.  Tell myself and Officer Carl if you do see it.  Or if you see the others.  Apparently the mother was here as a substitute a few times."  The papers got handed around.  That got nods from everyone.  "Thank you and have a good day in classes, ladies and gentlemen."  They left, the guard taking back the file.  The father was let in.  "Mr. DiNozzo was here," she said.  Carl excused himself.  "I need to know your side of what happened.  We do have to conform to the restraining order."

He nodded. "It's my wife and daughter, ma'am.  I haven't been home in four months. I was included as a matter of form but I wish that little boy nothing but luck getting away from them.  I put this problem into my divorce statement when I filed it.  Is he okay?"

"Apparently it's escalated to violent fantasies and your daughter talking about sexual relationships with him.  His parents handled it and called someone official because he was so upset."

"As is proper for good parents, even if they are together."

"Actually they're not."  She looked at him.  "I've asked Xander.  It's not a carnal relationship, it's a relationship of convenience so they can each see their child."  That got a nod.  "Have you talked to the police?"

"If you'll tell me which one I'll let him know about the divorce paperwork."

"Give me your attorney's name and I'll pass it on."  He handed over his card then leaned back again.  "Because the restraining order he'll have to be excused from gym."

"Of course. He's in great physical shape anyway.  He helps the one father with his therapy for his back and the other's a Marine.  His father removed the tv from the house for six weeks once to make sure his son wasn't becoming a vegetable.  Xander's probably more fit than I am for all that he doesn't do well in sports."  That got a smile.  "I can see him doing track or swimming when he's older."  He stood up.  "Not a problem, Headmistress, please protect that boy from my wife."  That got a nod.  "Thank you."  He left, smiling at the boy since he was out there.  "Not me, kid.  Let your parents know it was in the divorce papers."

"I will," Xander agreed.  "I'm sorry you married her mother."

"So am I now," he admitted, smiling at him before walking out.

Xander called home from the secretary's phone.  "Dad, the gym teacher is her father and he said he noted this in his divorce papers in case it helps.  Yeah, they're already doing that and I'm in the office since she's my sub homeroom teacher.  Thanks."  He hung up and looked at the secretary.  "I take it I'm not going to math today either?"  She shook her head.  "Okay.  Make me miss the subject I can't get."  He shrugged.  "Sorta like having Doctor Fox teach me history.  I'm lost."

She smiled.  "I'm sure your fathers can help if you'd ask."

"I have.  Tony's not sure what Doctor Fox is talking about most of the time.  We're going to flunk this year's history test for the state.  It's like the Defense teacher at Hogwarts."  She giggled at that.

The Headmistress came out.  "That bad?"

"What do multi-national corporations have to do with World War II?  Tony said they got started afterward.  That and she was talking about the poor Guatemalan garment workers?  I didn't know they were making shirts down there for thirteen cents a shirt then.  Wasn't everyone working for that wage?"

"Nearly," the headmistress agreed.  "Back then you could buy a car for what a cheap laptop costs now.  I'll sit in on her lectures, Xander.  Why are you here?"

"Her mother's the sub in home room and math," he said dryly.  "I came back here instead of going in.  I haven't even hit my locker."

"Carl, please take Xander to his locker," she called.  He came in and smiled.  "Thank you.  Watch her today."

"Of course.  I didn't even realize she was here."  He walked the boy that way.  "You good?"

"Freaked.  She had pasted my picture onto a Ken doll's face and then put it in bondage stuff.  It's freaky, like the stuff I snuck and found online."  That got a smirk.  "Daddy Tony caught me and we had a long talk."

"Good.  Your other father?"

"Daddy Tony told him and he said if I ever went past handcuffs he'd spank me until I begged."

"Good."  He checked the locker then let him open it, but he had to pull the boy out of the way of the smoke that came out.  He called it in and the nearby rooms were evacuated to the gym.  The boy was right behind him the whole time.  He knew his precautions.  An officer came in.

"Hi, Officer Doug," Xander said, peeking out at him.  "That's my locker."

"I'm sorry.  You okay?"

"Smoke bomb.  Pretty cheap," he admitted.

"Also, her father said the stalking thing was part of the reason he filed for divorce," Carl told him.

"I'll have it noted," he agreed, checking the locker.  "Looks like she burnt something, Xander."  He held up a picture.  "What's that?"

"That had better not be of mom."  He looked and sighed.  "It is."

"Do you have other copies?"

"Yeah, Daddy Tony made sure I made copies to bring in for my locker so I couldn't lose an original."  He looked at the officer. "I'm having the desire to run away."

"I don't blame you, kid.  Let's clear your locker out.  Was it this messy before?"  He looked and nodded.  Carl gave him a look and he shrugged.  "He's only ten.  They're all messy at that age."

"It's the only place I can create a mess.  Dad's a bit strict about that," he said dryly.  Both older guys laughed at that.  Tony strolled back in, looking casually unconcerned.  "She burned mom's picture."

Tony gave him a hug.  "Want to head to Vermont for a few days?"  Xander looked up and nodded.  "Yeah, me too.  The bad part is trying to convince your father."

"I'm going even if he wants to stay," Xander said dryly.  "But let's pack up the important stuff first," he offered.

"All the pictures and things are in storage," Tony agreed, smiling at him.  "Very heavy storage."  That got a smirk.  "I've been here before."  He saw Mal bounce up the hall.  "Did you sneak out?"

"Yeah, I had Doctor Fox and she's an idiot who's babbling about Disney being bad when she heard one kid was going down there.  Something about making their people make stuffed animals for mere cents an animal."

Carl snickered. "She's a firm believer in minimum wage all around the world."

"Yeah but their economies would mean that making eight bucks an hour over there was an indication of being like our millionaires. When your whole average yearly income is only six hundred dollars and most people can live on that in that area, having them make that much a month throws the economy out of whack and creates a stunning separation of the poor and then you're stuck with it like we are."

Xander looked at him.  "Have I mentioned recently I'm scared of your brain, Mal?"

"No."  He grinned sweetly.  "But thank you.  Wanna come camp in my room tonight?  I'll let you have my coffin."

"No, that's okay," he said.  "We're talking about a sudden vacation."

"Yeah, mom said that it's a good idea.  Uncle Tim got the tapes of her statement and it was not pretty.  The profiler was going off about abuse and whichever parent had screwed her up deserved to be in jail and things.  Mom was *way* pissed at your stalker chick."

"I came home freaked beyond belief.   I mean, the occasional dog that shows up stinking to hell and all that is one thing.  This is something else."

Tony looked at him.  "I thought that thing quit showing up."

"Quit swearing, young man," Carl warned.

"Mutley?" Mal called.  The hellhound, no longer a puppy, showed up and sniffed him then Xander, licking Xander. "Him.  Mutley, Xander's being stalked."

"Just don't eat her," Tony ordered. He looked at Mal.  "I'm so telling your mother," he promised.  He squeaked and shrunk down.  "Won't work, Mal.  Really."  He patted his son on the back.  "Go ahead and clean the thing out, just in case."  The dog dug his nose in and came out with a dead snake, which Xander backed away from.  "Is that poisonous?"

"Yup," Mal agreed.  "That's an asp."  He took the dead thing. "Hmm.  Baby asp."  He handed it to the officer.  "Mutley killed it."

"Thanks, kid."  He put it into a bag and got back to work on the locker with Xander.  He looked at Mal.  "You know Xander's parents?"

"My mommy's Abby."

"Ooh!  I've met Abby," he said with a smile.  "She's nice."

"Thank you."

"Back to class," Carl said tolerantly.

"Must I go listen to her babble?  Can't I have detention instead?"

"She's doing detention," Xander said grimly.  "Has for the last month and kept volunteering."

Mal smiled sweetly.  "I'll volunteer for suspension then, Officer Carl.  Can I go take apart another computer to do that?"

"Don't," Tony groaned.  "Your mother hates having to replace the things, Mal."

"He's family, she might threaten him too," Officer Doug offered.  He came out with a canister.  "Um, DiNozzo?"

"Hold down the pin," Xander said firmly.  "Do not let it come out if it's already partially out."  That got a nod.  "That could've been the smoke.  That is not mine, guys.  I like explosives and all but not mine.  I'm not into gas canisters."

"We know," Carl agreed.

"Good," Tony assured him, calling home.  "Hey, Jethro?  We just found a baby asp and a gas canister in Xander's locker, plus a burned picture.  Oh, tell Abby Mal's with us.  He snuck away from Doctor Fox's lecture on why Disney was bad."  He listened.  "He wants to hit Vermont.  You?"  He nodded.  "We can do that.  Pack anything precious just in case, like when he was crawling, Gibbs.  Meet you back there.  Sure, we can take him too."  He hung up.  "Wanna hit Vermont, Mal?"  He squealed and hugged them, just like Abby did.  "Cool.  Officer Doug, I'll let you deal with this.  We're taking the boys to our house in Vermont for a few days to a week."  That got a nod.  "Thanks.  Carl?"

"I'll tell her and sign them both out.  Much too dangerous with her being the math sub today."  That got a nod and Tony led the boys out to the car. He looked at the officer. "We got the news after she was already here."

"I know that happens."  He finished clearing out the locker and stacked it more neatly this time.


Gibbs sent the boys outside but Mal pouted. "Outside, Scuito."

"But it's sunny!" he complained.  "It's bright and sunny and cheerful.  Eww."

"Tough, go play in the woods," Tony ordered.  "Xander, show him the old graveyard."

"Okay."  He led him out the back door and down that way.

"At least we have electric," Gibbs offered.  "How long did Abby complain for?"

"Four hours," he said blandly, looking at him.  Then he flopped down on the couch.  "She wants to stab Momma Stalker and scare the little one."

"At least it was easy to let the local guys know."  He sat down too.  They could unpack later.  "Mal sleeping in his room?"

"Yup.  They can work out who gets the bed and whatever later."  The boys came back. "It get removed?"

"There's someone who bought the McGreevy's farm and they fenced it off better.  I told them my dog was out there too and they smiled but said it was better to leave the dead sleeping.  So I had to drag Mal off before he started to talk about ghosts."

"That's fine, kids.  Go play in the yard then," Gibbs ordered.  They went to do that.  He looked at Tony.  "If we put him in some of her clothes, he'd look almost exactly the same.  I have no idea who his father is but he's nearly a clone."

Tony looked at him.  "You never figured out that Mal is Ducky's son?" he asked quietly.  Gibbs stared.  He nodded.  "Yeah.  But you're right, he is."  He got up with a groan.  "Let's go get the groceries before something spoils."  They went to do that, bringing everything inside.  Then they flopped down again.

"My father's a Marine and he's going to kick your ass!" Xander yelled.  "Get off our land!"

Tony got up and went to the door.  "What is going on?" he demanded.  He saw the guy in the truck.  "You are?"

"This is your place?"

"It is.  Though I share with my son and friend.  Why?"  He leaned in the doorway.  "You have about four seconds before I pull up my authority as a federal agent."  The man gave him a horrified look.  "Anything else?"  He shook his head.  "Then shoo.  Leave the boys alone."

"Fine.  Don't need your kind anyway."  He drove off in a snit.

Tony got handed the phone.  "Hey, Sheriff.  Guy in a blue pickup?  Yeah, that sounds like him.  What's he want?  No, Xander and I both just sent him off."  He listened.  "Then he's really going to hate us. Are they hurting people?  Then I don't care.  I'd check the water quality really.  That's the easiest place to poison someone, or if they've all had a recent ground crop from the same farm?"  He nodded.  "Could be.  Yeah, we're here.  You got the copies?"  He smirked.  "We're talking violently done dolls on his shrine and her mommy liked that idea.  Gas canister into his locker, baby asp in his locker.  Yeah.  No, he doesn't like snakes.  He got bitten when he was younger.  No, can't be his smoke bomb either.  He likes explosives, considers gas canisters beneath him.  Thanks, Sheriff.  Let me know if you need help."  He hung up.  "He's trying to get the witches to go away because there were a few cases of food poisoning."

"And he can't look for more logical explanations?" Xander demanded.

"Apparently not.  Behave and yell if there's a problem."

"Can I have a new dog?"

"Sure," Gibbs agreed.  "You're more than old enough to take care of one, son."  He smiled.  "Good idea."  He went back to the couch. "Think we can find another K-9?"

"Been looking.  There's a refuge up in Wisconsin or somewhere.  I've been talking with them.  We'll see."  That got a smirk. "The hellhound showed up at school.  It killed the asp."

"Wonderful.  Like that thing more and more each time it shows up."  That got a nod from Tony, who yawned and drifted off right there.  Gibbs smirked and watched over the boys.  Not that his son couldn't fight off someone trying to snatch him but he shouldn't have to.


"Ah-ha!  I did manage to remember how to work the stupid thing," Tony said in triumph, getting a smirk from McGee.  "How goes it?"

"Badly.  Bad case all the way around."

"Sorry to hear that.  Need help?"

"Sanity.  Sleep.  Help you probably can't give.  How's Vermont?"

"Mal's bored.  There's no video games."

"Ah."  He nodded. "You're still using the old system?"

"I couldn't claim it to get it upgraded," Tony taunted.

"You have six million dollars, Tony.  Go buy a new camera.  Yours has spots."

"Xander sneezed on it earlier.  Any word on the stalker?" Gibbs called.

"Tell him no.  They're still debating what sort of home both of them need."

"One with jackets that have the extra long sleeves," Xander said as he came in.  "Hi, Uncle Tim."  Mal ran in and waved, bouncing up and down.

Tim smiled.  "Sometimes you are so like your mother, Mal."  He looked at Tony again. "I'll let you know once they've gone away. We did catch the father in your house.  He said his baby girl was miserable and he had to make her happy again.  It's not burned this time."

"Go us," Tony said happily.  "Even better than mine."

"Do you realize that that's her sister?" he asked with a smirk.

"I hadn't," he admitted.  McGee nodded.  "You're kidding?"  He shook his head.  "Hey, boss?"  Gibbs came out of the kitchen with the dish he was drying.  "Tell him, McGee."

"His stalker's mommy is the sister of the one that burned your house, boss."

"You're kidding," he said flatly.  McGee smirked and shook his head.  He walked off muttering things quietly enough that not even Mal or Tony should be able to hear.

"I did tell the prosecutor about that.  He was amused too," he said with a bright grin.  "So, spend a few more days.  I've got their homework to send up later tonight in an email."

"Thanks," Xander said flatly.  "Really."

He grinned. "It'll give you something to do besides run in the woods."

"Yeah," Mal snorted.  "There's not even any computer games, Uncle Tim."

"You poor thing.  It's not that bad," Tim promised.  "Most people consider places like that good for you to get away too."

"I'm too young for that sort of vacation."

"You pout, boys.  It'll be fine.  I'll send up their homework tonight, Tony.  The headmistress understands and all.  Abby's coming."

"Bye, McGee.  She can call later when he can't sleep again."  That got a nod and Abby waved with a smile.  "Later."

"Of course.  Be good, son."

"They're making me play outside, mom."

"It's what other kids do.  Try it and see if it suits you.  Then you can go back to living at night."  He grinned and hung up.  She looked at Tim.  "You tell them about her sister?"

"I did.  Gibbs walked off swearing," he said with a smile.

"Cool.  Only Tony's ever gotten him to do that before."  Their new director came down to  stare at them.  "DiNozzo and Gibbs checking in, ma'am."

"Good.  They okay?"

"More or less," McGee offered.  "The boys are bored so I'm emailing them their homework tonight."  That got a smirk.  "It'll help."

"It will.  Do we have anything?"

"A need for a nap."

"Take eight then come back to it, McGee.  You're not Gibbs and I don't expect your team to rack up forty extra hours this week."

"We're already working on forty-two," he admitted.

"Then go take twelve and come back.  You're not due another killing today."  She went back to her office.

"You know, the rules state after thirty hours of overtime in the same pay period you go to double overtime," Abby said, smiling at him.

"I'm going to love this check," he agreed.  "People, we've just been ordered to stand down for twelve.  Go home, sleep, get back here in exactly twelve!"  His people fled.  He grinned at her.  "See you tomorrow."  He skipped out, heading home.  He hadn't seen home in four days.  It was time to see home.  And his bed.  His bed was much missed and loved.

She shook her head.  "You as well, Abby," the new director called.  "You've already had your thirty-three hours of overtime this week alone."

"Yes, ma'am, but I'm missing my son."

"So go clean his room and do his laundry.  He'll be home as soon as the stalker issue is fixed."

Abby pouted but went home.  She was really tired and she missed her coffin.

"How did DiNozzo run this place for five years with this sort of overtime?" she complained as she went back to her office.  Julia looked at her.  "How did he handle overtime?"

"He used to be on Gibbs' team, ma'am."  She gave her assistant a horrified look but got a nod back.  "Gibbs trained DiNozzo and McGee.  He understood that sometimes it was necessary but if he caught you doing it to talk to your son with the MTAC computers he put you on dog turd detail as he called it."  She smiled.  "It worked very well."

"Sure.  Maybe I should do that."

"Cases like McGee's team's only come up every few years."

"Good!"  She went back to her office, going to take something for the headache.  Now she knew why Sheppard had went insane and turned traitor and why DiNozzo had only lasted five years and retired at such a young age.  It was the budget!


They landed and got off the plane, meeting Abby and McGee, both of whom looked sheepish.  "Do we need hotel rooms?"

"Might, yeah," McGee offered.  "But the house wasn't burnt this time," he promised quickly at Gibbs' growl.  "Spray painted all over the inside."

Tony just nodded. "When did this happen?"

"Earlier today.  When I went to check it over it was still wet."

"My insurance people?" Gibbs growled.

"Have seen, heard, and groaned too," Abby promised, hugging her son.  "You have a tan!"

"I know.  They were mean and made me play in the sun, Mommy."

"Aww, it's all right.  It'll fade soon."

"It's good for him," Gibbs reminded her patiently.

"So?"  She walked her boy off to talk to him, dragging Xander with him.

Gibbs looked at McGee again.  "Any idea if the spray painting was related?"

"I'm not sure it wasn't related back to his old life."  He handed over his camera so he could flip through the pictures.

Tony looked at one.  "There for a bit I almost thought his ex Anya was Melody," he admitted.  "Can we prove it was her?"

"Keep going until you get to his room."  They did and found it was indeed Anya.  She had been caught on tape.  "We had her arrested.  I pounced her and cuffed her.  She complained it wasn't in the fun way.  Told the guys again about the whole 'her boyfriend disappeared about the same time Xander was born so she thinks it's him' story.  Gave them Dawn's number so they could talk to her too.  She said something."  He glanced at the boys then back at the two adults.  "He'll get his memories back at the same time Buffy came into his life, Boss," he said quietly.  "So he'll be sixteen."  That got a nod.  "They're sure he will and he'll be throwing a big fit according to Dawn."

"Not really," Tony admitted.  "Or at least not at us."

"When would this anniversary be?" Gibbs asked quietly.

"Third week of tenth grade."  He handed over the note Dawn had faxed down.  "Then."  That got a nod.  "If it were me, I'd keep him off for a few days then.  He'd have to be confused.  She did say they wouldn't mind if he came up to see them afterwards, but only if he feels like it."

"Understandable.  Thanks, McGee."  That got a nod.  "How long before we can go home?"

"She used the sort of spray paint you can't clean off, boss.  You'll have to paint everything," McGee assured him.

"Which we can do," Tony assured him.  "Want to hit the place by the house?"

"We probably should.  Unless he wants to stay over with Mal?"  His son looked at him.  "That is an option, son."

"Mal, they're trying force more cohabitation on us."

"Uncle Jethro, I love you but your son is strange and he likes sunlight waaaaaaay too much to ever be mine and I'm much too young for a boyfriend so he should probably go home with you and stay at the hotel.  Or go stay with the cute one at Uncle Toby's house."

Jethro smirked a bit.  "Good to know, thanks, Mal.  Okay, son.  Let's get the bags and we'll head to a hotel for the next few nights."

"My uniforms?"

"Still in your closet but you'll have to wash them.  All your clothes have stuff on them, Xander.  Sorry."

"I was outgrowing most everything anyway," he sighed, coming over to grab his bag, handing Mal his.  Then he patted his uncle on the arm.  "It's all right. You managed to survive a few minutes with Anya.  You'll be okay."  He led his parents off.  "Can we stop off for supper?  I'm hungry."

"I could've sworn you just ate before we got on the plane," Tony complained.

"That was three hours ago.  I'll even get a burger from the airport."

"Not at those prices you won't," Gibbs promised. "We'll get something for the hotel.  Then I'll go look at the damage while you and Tony deal with how you're getting to school in the morning and clothes."

"Sure," he sighed.  "Must I?"  Tony looked at him.  "Fine.  I'll go be tortured by Doctor Fox."

"Thank you."

"You do know she found out who your father was and ranted about their policies of lending to foreign countries and multi-national corporations?"

"Remind her I got kicked out of the family for not being a banker.  I became an officer instead."

"I did, she said you became a thug."

"I'll talk with the bitch myself then," he agreed.  Xander snickered.  "I was never a thug, thank you.  An asshole, a bastard on occasion, but never a thug.  Or hey, Auntie Kate's bored....."  Gibbs smacked him on the head.  "Ow.  She is."

"That's more than she deserves."

"Not necessarily.  Xander, can you bring my dictaphone with you tomorrow and record her lectures?"

"Sure.  I can do that.  I can slip it to Mal too for his."  That got smirks and they went to check into the motel by their house.  Xander looked at the guy behind the counter. "Our house got spray painted by some rude woman who wanted sex from me."  He shuddered.  "Exactly.  Can I have my own room?"

Gibbs looked at his son and shook his head.  "No.  You can choose to sleep in mine or in Tony's. That's it."

"Crap.  I'm nearly a teenager....."  His father stared at him.  "I'll stay with you.  Tony snores more."  Tony shrugged at the snickers, putting down his debit card.

"Two double rooms, sirs?"

"With adjoining doors if possible," Gibbs agreed.  They were given keys and signed in.  "Thanks, we'll come back for more days in the morning, when we know how long it'll be."

"We have a weekly rate that's reduced," he offered.  That got a nod from Tony so he ran it that way instead and took back the keys, handing over another set.  "That way you also have a kitchenette."  That got nods and they headed up.  Gibbs went to check on the damage and get paint.  Tony went to take Xander clothes and uniform shopping.  They both came back with dinner but that was fine.  Xander was starved and ate everything.


Xander looked at his history teacher, handing her the reports he had written.  "Here you go."

"Thank you.  Did you have a fun time skiing?" she taunted.

"Ma'am, I was hiding from a family that wanted to kill me.  I wasn't skiing.  I spent a good majority of the time in the woods actually.  I've never been skiing.  Your idea of what rich kids do for fun is seriously warped."

"I bet it was this big house...."

Xander held up a hand with a smirk.  "Three bedroom a-frame that only got electricity two  years ago when the generator finally gave out.  Again, your warped sense of the rest of the world is very strange."  He took his seat, putting his backpack down beside him. "Anything else, ma'am?  That's also got my hallpass from the Headmistress.  An officer wanted me to sign a statement about them."  She looked and shook her head, putting it onto the desk.  She went into one of her babbling rants and he sighed, leaning on his hand, ignoring her for most of it.  He finally had to raise a hand.  "Did I miss an assignment or are we still in the Korean war?"

"We are."

"Thank you."  He went back to his reading the textbook.

"What are you doing?"

"Reading up on the subject, ma'am, because you haven't mentioned anyone in that conflict yet."  He looked at her.  "We do have to pass that standardized test thingy in another month and I know my father will be disappointed if I don't at least try to learn the subject."  She looked stunned.  "Now, you were saying something about Nike being in the region.  Was that part of a battle or a root cause?  You lost me again while I was reading the backstory."

"Go to the office."

"Sure.  Gladly.  Thank you.  By the way, Nike wasn't around then if anyone was wondering."  He grabbed his stuff and headed off, letting the headmistress hear the ranting going on.  "Daddy Tony wanted me to tape my lectures for the next few days.  She called him a thug."

She looked at him.  "You were mouthy."

"Good!  I'm tired of being depressed by her views of the world.  I think very well for myself.  Mal had a point.   You can't set a world-wide minimum wage."

"You can't," she sighed.  "I don't know what to do."

"Give us a prep test," he suggested.  She looked startled.  "I hate tests as much as the next person but give us a prep test.  I know I'll drag down the math section but we'll all flunk the history."

"I can do that."  She smiled.  "I should still put you in detention for mouthing off."

"I was quietly reading the textbook."

"You were."  She handed it back.  "I agree, slip that to Mr. Sciuto.  Let's see what his class is like."

"Done."  He went to lurk and do that, giving it to Mal with a wink.  "Switch tapes or whatever."

"Can do."  He grinned and blew a kiss.  "Have fun in math.  She's putting hard stuff up."

"Tony was helping me."  He walked in there and sat down, sighing in displeasure when he saw the formulas on the board.  He was still a bit behind.  "Are we up to those?"

"We're learning them today, Xander.  Do you have homework for me?"  He dug it out and handed it over, getting one thing back.  "That's history."

He looked.  "Social studies.  Not much different at this point."  He put it back and settled in.  Then he came up to go over something with her while the others filed in.  One of the girls spanked him to get his butt to move so he frowned at her.  "Ask next time.  I'm not spankable."  She went back over the steps again but he was still clueless as to *why* it was that way.  "Why?"  She looked at him.  "Why do I do *that* *there*?"

"Oh."  She drew it out in a longer format and he nodded slowly, getting it this time.  "Like that?"  She smiled and he grinned, taking that back to put it into his book so he could go over that later.  That made a bit more sense.   "We all in?" she said, looking around.  "Is Mary absent?"  Everyone nodded.  "All right then we can move onto the next type of equation."  She was going over it in the long form, slowly since this class and math had different languages most of the time, when Mal came stomping in.  "Malaki!" she snapped.

"Sorry, need Xander."  Xander slid out of his seat and walked him back into the hall.  "She's just said that I'm abnormal and wrong."

"Well, you're odd and only abnormal if you can find an average person, Mal.  You're a genius, we've known that for years.  Your momma's a goth person too.  What caused this talk?"

"She saw mom's new piece of artwork."  He held up his social studies book with it taped to the cover.

Xander looked at it.  "Blood splatter?"

"Yeah, from a 2X4 during a recreation."  He put it back under his arm.  "She said she's calling someone on mommy and I wanted to kill."

"I deal with that feeling a lot.   Good job walking away."  He gave him a hug and leaned in.  "Walking him to the office.  Doctor Fox nearly got her head split open for saying his mother's a bad mother."

"Go ahead."

Xander walked him to the office, hearing her ranting.  He looked at Mal and smiled sweetly.  "Wait here, Mal.  Don't take anything apart."  He walked into the office and slammed the door.  "You hypocritical bitch!" he shouted.  "Abby is one of the nicest, sweetest people on the face of this earth.  She's a better mother than you'll *ever* be!"

"Xander!" the headmistress shouted.

"When I suddenly got given to my father, Abby took meds so she could breast-feed me.  My father didn't know it but she did!  They had a major fight that nearly ruined their relationship because she did that!  So what if she wears black, doesn't like the sun, and is a forensics technician!  She's a hell of a lot better mother than you are!  She's never tried to impose some false sense of what being a boy in today's world is, nor has she tried to feed us shit that has no relevance to our studies, or our lives.  If you don't like it, take your kids and move back to your unpowered house in Oregon!"  He glared at her, moving closer.  "By the way, multi-national corporations have only been around for the last thirty years or so.  Your generation let them do this and you didn't stop them when they started.  When this started, you and the others of your generation were so happy that it was helping those villages.  You made your bed, now live in the world you created.  You aren't going to change shit until you can buy the company and make it change.  The same as the poverty index happened because of what you wanted to do to other countries.  Think about it, woman!  You can't impose a universal minimum wage!  Now, get out of the office, get out of the headmistress' face, and stay the hell out of mine and Mal's.

"He's a sweet damn kid.  I don't care if he does like his steaks rare and used to suck hickeys on my arm until they bled!  All you're doing is venting, not teaching, venting.  Until you can *teach* the subject, which is *history* you shouldn't be here.  You really shouldn't be picking on kids like Mal, who're geniuses and allowed to be a bit odd.  I'm all for Mal being odd and being able to take apart every piece of electronics in this school.  If you're not, then suck it up and move!"  She flinched.  He hung up the phone as well.  "There, now your pansy assed, whimpering, pseudo-hippy whining isn't heard by the rest of us who do real work.  Until you do, bugger off as Uncle Ducky says!"  She stomped off.  "Good!  Stupid bitch."  He looked at the headmistress. "I will NOT have anyone hurt or upset Mal and he was nearly crying.  I will not let Mal be hurt that way.  I don't care if I am expelled."

"Calm down, Xander.  Mal?" she called.

He walked in and looked at him.  "Wow.  You think I'm only a little strange?"

"I breast-fed off your mom, Mal.  Besides, I've met Anya and them.  Nothing's stranger than Uncle Angel."

"Point."  Because even he had to consider Angel a little strange.  What sort of *real* vampire used hair gel?  He gave him a hug.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome."  He patted him on the back.  "No sucking, Mal."  He quit sucking on his buddy's throat.  'Thanks."  He looked at the headmistress.  "I don't give a damn.  I am going back to math though because I might actually be able to figure out this sort of equation."  He walked Mal off, dropping him at the library once he had his books.  The teacher and he glared at each other but that was all.  Then he went back to math.  "Sorry, she decided to complain that Abby was odd as well," he said calmly.

That teacher smiled and patted him on the head.  "It's all right.  People come in a wide variety of means and ways, Xander.  Abby is a very sweet and natural woman."

"She is.  She took meds to breast-feed me when I showed up."

"That is an incredible gift," she agreed with a smile.  "Let's go over this one."  He nodded, bringing his notes up so she could go over it with him while the others tried to do a worksheet.  He worked out his first problem and she smiled.  "Good job."  She handed over the worksheet.  "Go do that.  As many as you can and let me check it, then finish the rest at home."

"Yes, ma'am."  He went to do that.  Right before the end of class she came to check and pointed out a few minor math mistakes so he got to handle those but she gave him another pat and smile, letting him go with that.  The rest of the day no summons to the office came.  However his father and Abby were both waiting on them when they got out.  "You got called for a conference?"

"We've already had it," Abby agreed.  She hugged him.  "Thank you for sticking up for Mal, Xander."

"You're welcome.  She's an evil bitch who nearly made him cry."

"Language," the guard complained.

"Sorry, but Doctor Fox is.  She nearly made Mal cry by calling him abnormal."

The guard looked at him.  "We heard the rant, Xander.  Trust me."

Gibbs looked at his son.  "I'm impressed.  You turned some of her arguments back on her."


"No buts.  You're grounded for the rest of the month.  I'm still proud but you didn't have to do it at the top of your lungs.  You didn't have to lose your temper that way either."

"No buts?"

"No."  He gave him a hug.  "I'm proud you stuck up for Mal, Xander, just not that you screamed at her or that you told the headmistress to expel you."

"Am I?"

"Three days in school," he admitted, looking at him.  "I'm sure that'll be a worse punishment than not letting you help me paint."

"Can I help paint?"

"We'll see."  He smiled at Mal.  "You okay?"

"I'm good."  He hugged his mother.  "Half the school thinks you're Supermom because you let him eat off you."

"I did it because it was good for him and he needed it."  She gave him a cuddle and he grinned back.  "I love you."

"I love you too, Mommy.  Am I in trouble?"

"Nope.  I'd rather you walk away from a conflict than get into it with the teacher."  She nuzzled his hair.  "She was also calling social services to report me and they heard Xander's rant too.  We've already talked and it's all right.  They said you're a very good genius."

"Mad genius," he said proudly.  "The secretary let me take apart her phone while Xander was yelling at her."

"Cool!  Did you get it back together?"  He beamed and nodded.  "Fixed it again?"  He nodded again, looking even happier.  "Good!  Now, let's go get pizza with fungus!"

"Okay."  He walked off with her, waving at the Gibbs' family.  "Bye, guys.  See you later."

"Sure," Xander called, looking at his father.  "I'm really not in major, screaming at me trouble?"

"No," he said calmly.  "I'm not like the other parents."  Xander hugged him again and he gave him a squeeze.  "It'll be okay.  Now, get in.  Pizza with mushrooms doesn't sound so bad."

"I could eat."

"You usually can, son."  The guard snickered at that.  "He's at that age."  They headed back to look at the house, finding Tony still working on the living room.  Xander got sucked in once he put the pizza on the table.  "He's grounded for the rest of the month and has three days in-school suspension."

"I think that's fair for screaming at a delusional teacher," Tony agreed with a grin for their boy.  "Good arguments as well.  Used a lot of hers back on her."  He got back to work.

"I feel odd because no one's screaming at me."

"That's because those partial memories are coming back," Tony said patiently.  "Forget about it, Xander.  We're not like they were."

"True. You don't drink or hit me."

"Very true and if I ever find your original parents I'm beating the shit out of them," Tony assured him.

"I'll lend you my handcuffs," Gibbs promised.  They shared a smirk and then they got to work on the other wall together.  Xander did very good on trim work.  Someone knocked so he leaned out.  "What?" he called.

"It's me," Kate called as she walked in.  "That was worse than McGee said."  She looked at Xander, then smiled. "Are you okay?"

"Hungry."  He got another piece of pizza and went back to his trim work.  "Did you come because I yelled at the teacher too?"

"No.  You yelled at a teacher?"

"Doctor Fox," Tony said dryly.

"I did a check on her.  She was a sociologist and she had to keep leaving schools due to her radical viewpoints.  She's gotten a lot of death threats and worked with radical movements in other countries."  Gibbs looked at her.  "She wants to be a revolutionary."

"Let her go to Mexico."

"She's been."  He groaned but got back to work.  "Need help?"

"Sure.  You can do the trim on my side, Kate," Tony agreed.  She put her hair up and came over to help.  "Why are we painting the walls white, Gibbs?"

"Because they're walls?"

"Why not blue or green or any other color is what he's asking, like more designer."

"I like white walls.  Tony can always move to his own house again."

"My house got demolished by a road project," he reminded him.

"I remember."

Xander patted his dad on the lower back.  "If he did I'd have to decide custody."

He got back to work, taking the rest of his son's piece of pizza to nibble.  "Less eating, more work.  Unless you enjoy living at the hotel?"  Xander got back to work, he had troubles sleeping anywhere that bright.  So did he.

"Hey, boss, can we go rent a power sprayer, it'd go faster," Tony offered.

"No, DiNozzo.  I rolled the walls the last time.  I can do it this time."

"But it'd go faster."



"No.  Back to work."  Tony pouted but got back to work.  "Rollers worked for quite a while.  We don't need fancy power sprayers."

Xander tugged on his sleeve.  "They're fun, functional, and good.  They do good work."  That got a grimace.  "Really.  We could've already done this room, all but the trim."

"See, the sprout agrees with me," Tony said proudly.

"He agreed that you needed that DVD copier too and you still don't use it," Gibbs pointed out.

"Yes I have.  I've copied a lot of discs, boss.  Most of them went to Mal actually."  He handed Kate his paint brush and went to get the power painter out of his trunk, bringing it back in.  He and Xander went into the kitchen to work together, the precious food being covered by a tarp as well as the table.  By the time they got done with the living room they had the kitchen and the bathroom done and were starting on the hall.  "See, not all advancement is bad."

"No, not all advancement is bad," he agreed, going to check the trim and the windows.  A few splatters, but about as bad as he and Kate had done.  "Fine."  Xander cheered and showed him how to use it.  It was a nice tool to have.  Made things go a lot faster.  "This a rental?"  Tony nodded.  "How long?"

"Three days total, Jethro."  Kate got her turn while he and Xander got to work on the trim.  They pointed Kate at a big wall that didn't have any trim work and let her go at it.  Just in case she screwed it up.  The guys shared a look and Tony went to start around the doorway, where he had to use a brush.


Year Sixteen


Xander looked his mirror, seeing the wobbling images.  He had the memories back and it wasn't making him happy.  Well it wasn't making him unhappy, but now he had a dilemma.  He walked down the stairs and found both his fathers in the living room.  "I remember."

"We heard you would," Tony agreed, putting down his book. "You okay?"

"Not really.  I've got a serious dilemma going.  I feel like I should back and help them."

"Before you step foot out of this house, you need to read the intelligence file," Gibbs said, lowering his magazine.  Xander looked at him.  "We've kept track of things for you and you need to read it first."


"Well, for one thing, Sunnydale fell in when you were a year and a half," Tony offered blandly.  "The ones who're still alive are in Cleveland."  Xander looked confused.  They pointed at the file on the table.  "There, kiddo."

Xander sat on the floor, his back against the tv cabinet, while he read the news stories and the reports Dawn wrote to him.  "She wrote them to me?"

"For when you remembered or got old enough to really be told," Tony agreed quietly.  Xander looked at him.  "We did the best we could for you, Xander."

"I never said you didn't, dad.  Chill.  You're more insecure than I am."  He got back to reading then looked at him.  "When did Buffy die?"

"Which time?" his father asked.

"Oh.  Willow?"  That got a nod.  He grimaced and went back to it.  "Joyce died?"  They both nodded.  "Oh."  He kept going, seeing all the things he hadn't been part of.  He still kept in touch with Dawn. But now he knew why she always looked so sad when she saw him.  Her own two kids didn't understand.  It took him hours to get through the stack then he looked at them.  It was about one in the morning.  "I should still visit," he decided.

"You're allowed to go up for a weekend this first time, then slowly moving up," Gibbs offered.  Xander opened his mouth. "You're still sixteen and by law have to be in school, Xander.  Besides, it's going to be awkward."  He nodded, accepting that.

"Let the awkwardness pass," Tony agreed.  "A weekend this first time.  As a matter of fact, you've got a train ticket in there for Friday."

"I saw.  Thank you."

"Wrong dad to thank," he admitted with a small smile.  He accepted his hug anyway.  "Thanks, Xander."

"Welcome.  You did a great job.  Shit, I'm so much more mentally and emotionally healthy than I was before," he assured him.  "Not like I can complain how I was raised, except for the raisin incident."  He hugged his other father too.  "I'll be back."

"You had better be living when you come back," Gibbs agreed.  Xander looked at him.  "Not like your body's used to those moves anymore, son.  You're out of practice for more than track and swimming."

"Um, if I decide to..."

"We can help you get back in shape," Tony agreed quietly.  Xander nodded and gave him another hug before going to bed.  "Do you think he's going to want to go back?"

"I'm not sure.  The same as I'm not sure that they'd have a spot for him.  It's been a long time since he was their Xander and they've had to move on and fill in part of the spot with someone else."

"I'm not going back to Anya," Xander called down the stairs.

"Good!" they called back in unison.  Then they smirked at each other.  At least their son had better taste in women now.


Xander walked into the shop that he usually went to when he came to see Dawn.  He used to think only Giles had moved and she came out to see them both at the same time.  "Mom, Dawn?" he called, heading toward the back.  She came out and looked at him.  "Yeah, I have my memories back. I think we should talk."

"We should," she agreed, smiling before hugging him. "Welcome back."

"We'll see."  She nodded, taking him into the kitchen to go over some things.  Willow came in partway through and he looked at her.  Then he shook his head and sighed.  "I'm not sure if I should scream at you or not, Willow."

"Xander," she sniffled, hugging him.

"Get off!"  She got off, looking at him.  "Have you learned anything from this?"  She sniffled and nodded.  "Are you sure?"

"She learned a lot, Xander," Dawn said quietly. "Giles spent his last few years teaching her how to not make mistakes."  He slumped at that, looking at her.  "She did."

"Good.  I'm glad she did."  He stared at them.  "I'm still hellishly pissed."

"I think you have every right to be," Dawn agreed.  "The same as I know your fathers were keeping track of things for you and probably handed you the file to read."  He nodded.  "Which is what you needed to make some decisions."  She squeezed his hand.  "We adore you, Xander.  You're like a myth to us."  He looked at her.  "You are.  We'd love nothing more than for you to help but for right now, you've got to think.  We're not the same as you remember us.  You've seen us grow up too."

He nodded. "I have," he admitted.  "It's still just so strange!"

"It is," Dawn agreed with a smile. "I remember being your age," she teased.  He snorted at that.  "I do."  He looked at her.  "No matter that your instincts are screaming at you that you should be here, you don't have to come back if you don't want to.  You were given an incredible gift for a rerun of life.  You can go to college, go do something special for the world.  We'll still be here."

"What would I be doing here?"

"Probably not a lot," Dawn admitted.  "Faith's doing training.  She's feeling ancient too."  That got a nod.  "Here you'd have to face the constant threat of death and uncertainty.  You'd also have to fight your memories and to get rid of Anya.  There you have your new life, a family that cherishes you, and all that good stuff.  This is why we agreed to censor anything Sunnydale from you."  He nodded once at that.  She smiled. "It could be worse."

"Not really."  He looked at her.  "Can you even imagine the confusion right now?"

"Some.  I had a concussion and had to regain some of mine for a while.  It took me nearly a year to remember delivering the son.  That's why I had a daughter.  I forgot all the bad parts."

"Dad had one of those," he admitted.  "I was barely walking."  He looked at Willow then back at Dawn.  "I should think."

"You should.  Are you staying with us this time?"

"I...  I think I should get a hotel room so I can think without being pounced by your monsters."

She smiled.  "Understandable.  Gwen's just barely able to walk and talk at the same time."  He groaned.  "She'd pounce you for stories."

"Probably a lot of them."  He looked at Willow again.  "That good with you?"

"Of course it is."   He stood up and walked out, heading to find a hotel and feed his belly dragon.  "Dawnie?"

"It'll be fine, Willow.  It's his decision to make.  We couldn't have expected him to suddenly be the Xander he was sixteen years ago.  For one thing, Gibbs is a good father.  For a second thing he's only sixteen.  We've got time to heal."

"We may not.  We're having that next apocalypse next weekend."

"Then he'll be in DC and I'll send the kids off with Angel again," she said quietly, standing up.  "Am I clear?"  That got a nod.  "Good.  Now, let's go over the plans."  They settled in with tea to go over the plans they had made for next weekend.  Losing Xander had made both of them learn strategy fairly quickly.  Spike came strolling in after dark.  "Xander's at a hotel."

"How's he doin'?" he asked.

"Confused.  What we'd expect," Dawn said, looking at him.  "He's a cutie, he's still only sixteen."

"He be here then?"  She shook her head.  "You sure that's wise?"

"He hasn't staked a vampire in sixteen years, Spike, I want him there and safe," Dawn told him.  That got a nod and he joined them at the table.


Xander paced back and forth in his hotel room, contemplating the cellphone on the bed.  He finally growled and picked it up, calling home.  "Dad?"  He smiled and relaxed, sitting on his bed to listen to his father's opinions on things. Tony was off dealing with money things today, he had told him he would be.  That way he could talk to whichever want he wanted.  He went to his father for harder decisions but Tony for moral ones and this one was going to be a difficult one, not a moral one for him.  "You're right and so are they, but I ...  I don't know. It's like I expected them to suddenly turn back into who they were."  He nodded.  "I don't think I have a place up here.  They said as much.  Faith is doing training."  He leaned backward, letting his feet dangle off the end of the bed.  "I know.  I know," he sighed.  "Yeah, exactly."  He looked at his phone.  "That's a call waiting beep but it's coming up Abby.  I'll call her back."  He went back to listening.  "I don't know, Dad."

Another beep.  "That's still Abby.  I should."  He flipped over.  "Hi, Auntie Abby."  He listened to her talk about Mal's vision.  "Huh?"  He sat up.  "Since when?  Yeah, that's their number.  Who answered?"  He listened to the description of the accent.  "That's Spike.  He's a vampire.  You can talk to him.  Thanks."  She hung up and he flipped back.  "Huh.  Mal has visions.  Abby was way too calm to not know what they were too."  He listened to his father complain about the strange stuff.  "Dad, this is Abby and Mal," he pointed out.  "They probably enjoy it."  He smirked.  "Thanks, dad.  Yeah, of course I am.  I'd hate to be put in juvie for skipping school.  Tony would get a bit pissed at that."  He heard the laugh.  "He would.  I don't know. Right now I want a beer."  The 'no' was automatic.  "But, JE....  Sorry, Dad.  You're right.  I know.  Thanks."  He hung up and leaned back again, one arm over his forehead.  Because he was officially feeling weird now.


Xander walked into the house Sunday night and looked at his parents.  "I'm back."

"I can see that," Tony agreed, handing over his plate.  "Get me more food?"

"Sure."  He went to do that and get his own, then came back. "I called Uncle Ducky for advice."

"Where is Waldo now?" Tony teased.

"Bora Bora."  He sat down in his usual spot on the floor, looking at them.  "He pointed out it was supposed to feel weird, that I was still only sixteen, and that I had time to make that decision, barring the apocalypse that'll be happening this weekend if they can't stop it."  He ate a bite.  "They do have that one well in hand though."  He looked at his parents. "So if it's okay can I stay sixteen for a while?"

"Sure," Gibbs agreed.  "You still can't have an after school job.  It's too much with sports."

Xander looked at him.  "I used to..."

"That was a long time ago, you still have to keep your grades at an acceptable level, and no," Jethro told him.  "For the same reasons I told you three weeks ago.  Summers, holidays, yes.  Not until your training season is done with, Xander."  That got a sigh and a nod.

"The physical conditioning you're doing now will help you if you go back," Tony said quietly.  "But we do want you to have more options than you had before, Xander."

"I liked construction."

"Which is great," Gibbs agreed. "It's not something you can do after school however.  I'd rather have you running track than working at Burger King."

"I remember working fast food and feeling less than manly because of it," he admitted, eating a bite of the pasta and stuff that was dinner.  "I could work in a store."

"For the holidays," Gibbs agreed.  "As long as your grades stay up."

"That's fairly reasonable," he decided.  He looked at them.  "I expected you guys to change too."

"We've known about this stuff," Tony reminded him.  "That's why Mutley used to come play with you too."  That got a smile.  "We came to terms with this day long ago."

"It's not like you lost me, Dad.  I'm still here," Xander pointed out.

"And I saw hints of this man in front of me quite often but you're still not the same Xander you were before then."

Xander looked at him.  "It would be easier if I wasn't."

"It would be," he agreed. "For you as well.  But life's not like that and don't you dare make a wish."

"Wasn't considering it at this moment."  He ate another bite and looked at them.  "So, to you I'm still sixteen?"  They both nodded.  "Even though I've nearly been married?"

"You have bad taste in women," Tony assured him.  "But yes."

"Oh."  He frowned.  "What happens when I reach my old age?"

"Then you've got no old memories to counter it," Jethro said, shrugging a bit.  "You may feel a bit lost.  You may not.  I don't know.  We've got four and a half years until then, son."

"Point."  He looked at him, then at Tony.  "Why did you two never get together?"

"He won't bottom or cuddle," Tony told him.

"It's enough to have someone here.  I didn't need the sex," Jethro agreed.

"You do realize I remember hearing you two when it was a need?"  They both nodded.  "Damn you two are realistic."

"Of course we are.  We knew it then," Tony agreed.  "One time I tripped."

"The other time he got really loud," Jethro agreed.

"And the third I caught you two the next morning," Xander said with a grin.  He looked at Tony.  "Who in the heck is Harley?"

"The intelligence contact I have.  He's a drag queen so I go over to help him with his routine now and then."  Gibbs stared at him.  "What?  I do."

"I thought you were doing more than that."

"I'm not telling you those details, Jethro. You never wanted to know."  He looked at their son again.  "You're going through what he did when he was exploded, Xander.  He knows that feeling of knowing but not quite knowing that you've got."

"That's when we first went to Vermont," Xander said quietly.  Tony nodded.  He looked at his dad.  "Does time cure this one?"

"I got almost all mine back but in your case it'll only make the weird feeling go away."

He grimaced then looked at them.  "I'm not sure I can go back to being the same Xander again."

"You can integrate them," Tony offered.

"I'm not sure I want to.  Half of everything I had before was pain and hunting.  I was really violent."  They nodded.  "Even more than you know, guys.  Really.  I used to take some pleasure from hunting."

"You still do when you kill snakes," Tony offered.  Xander nodded at that.  "It's up to you.  We can be here to talk to you, let you know what we think, help you however we can, but I can't make you integrate them or make it less hinkey."

"Point.  Does this mean you'll help me pick up girls?"

"I swore off girls after Claudia, but I can give you advice on which ones are going to turn into stalkers."

Gibbs looked at him.  "I still can't believe you went totally cold turkey on women."

"I had one since then and it was a momentary fling with Kate," he admitted.

"After she got shot the last time?"  He nodded.  "Understandable.  I almost slept with her then."  They looked at the smirking kid again.  "No blackmailing Kate, she gets mean and evil."

"I remember."  He looked at them, and he knew he'd never be happy going back.  "I wish I hadn't regained those memories fully, I'd rather be like I was before I got them back."

"Damn it, no!" Anya shouted, appearing. "You can't do this to me. You're mine!  You've got to come back to me!"

"No I don't," he said quietly, staring at her.  "I...  It was like I was settling for the best I could get, Anya, but it wasn't real love.  It wasn't what these two in denial have for each other," he said quietly, staring at her.  "I loved you enough but it wasn't meant to be.  Go, be happy."  She growled and another two vengeance demons stepped in to take her away.  "I'm sorry," he called.  "I'm not that Xander anymore!  I can't be him!"

"Then don't be," another voice offered quietly, appearing.  "Are you sure, Xander?"

"I'd rather have the flashes I had before.  They confused me but this just hurts everyone," he admitted, staring at her.  "I can't hurt them, or Anya, or Dawn and them."

"True."  She smiled at him.  "Things will be different this time."  She stroked his cheek and nodded. "Wish countered."  She disappeared.

Tony and Jethro looked at each other then went to hold their boy while the memories got repressed again.  They ended up sleeping on the couch that night, curled around their boy, but they each felt some relief he had chosen this path.  That way they weren't losing their son. In the morning, Xander got up to go to class, even though he had a headache.  He had a test and he had to pass it to stay on the track team.  It was the fourth time they fell into bed together, this time out of celebration and desperation. But it was still good.  Their son was still theirs and everything would be okay in the world again.  Even if Gibbs couldn't get his son to join the Marines and Tony couldn't get him to join the academy.  Even if Xander's biggest worry was presently feeding his belly dragon so it quit being so demanding and if he liked Emily Fornell.

The End.

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