Notes: takes place somewhere during season three of buffy, not sure I didn't include some season four eps by accident. I need a new Watcher's Guide. NCIS before Kate was killed. Long before. Another thing that started out as a plot bunny during a different story and a 'what if'.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs walked up to his boss's office, instead of their usual meeting in MTAC. It was an odd meeting place and he was worried about what it meant. He tapped on the door and walked in at the grunt. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes but I doubt you want to hear it," he noted bitterly. "You'll want to sit. This is going to make you have God's own headache, Jethro." He sat cautiously, staring at him. "What do you know about a cross-military special operations group called the Initiative?"
"Not a damn thing," he admitted. "Are we talking covert, like special versions of the SEALs?"
"No, not hardly." He handed over the file. "This group has just recently been started. It's definitely not a good thing."
"This file mentions demons." He looked at his director. "Crackpots with Pentagon money?"
"That's what's going to give you the headache." He picked up the remote control from his desk and used it on the tv screen on their right. They both watched the video and he noticed his officer reacting. He clicked it off, eliminating the picture of the creature being tortured by having its bones broken. "That's why you're going."
"You're going to go undercover in the town where they've set up. Let me amend that statement. Your whole team is going to go undercover in the town where they've set up. It will be a long-term assignment. Don't look forward to finishing that boat this year." He gave him a long stare. "There are two options for you to go, and this is why I'm sending *you* instead of another team." He nodded at the file. "Keep going. It's going to get more enlightening." He watched his best man continue reading and him suddenly stiffen. "I see you recognize her?"
"I do," he admitted bitterly. He looked at him. "She doesn't look good."
"No, but your son does. Which is one way you can go. Either that or you can go in as teachers and the like. That would probably work for Todd and DiNozzo, I'm not sure about that new boy, McGee."
Gibbs closed the file and looked at him. "You want me to do what exactly?"
"Stop that group, Jethro. They are torturing creatures and we have no idea if they're innocent or not. Even if they're not, I don't condone the use of torture and I know you don't. This won't be a week-long case. It won't even be a month-long case. It will be, hopefully, a few months. If not, it could be longer. That's the second reason your whole team is going, so you're not cut off from the agency. The first is that the town you're going to has a very high death, dismemberment, and missing persons rate."
"Thirty percent missing persons." Gibbs just stared. "Seriously. It's a beautiful little town. It's somewhere your second wife would've loved."
"So it's evil?"
"I don't know. I don't know the cause. You can find that out yourself once you're there. I do know that your son," he sighed, pointing at the folder. "Stole a weapon off a military base nearby and used it on a creature in the local mall to kill it. His picture was noted on the security cameras."
Gibbs went back to reading, finding that section. "He's fighting these things, sir?"
"As far as I can tell, yes." He looked at him. "So I'm being a bastard and doing a nice thing at the same time, Jethro. I know you didn't plan on children, but congratulations. He's now sixteen."
"Not my fault. You have a week to arrange matters then I'm putting you all on as covert field work. We'll arrange your checks to be sent out there. We'll arrange for you to have a house when you get there. Put your lives here on hold and we'll keep watch on your boat for you."
"It's not fair to my team...."
"I'm not sending you in alone and we have to stop them. Otherwise it will get worse and they will start experimenting on humans. If they haven't started already. I'm having the full files, that we know of, being turned over to you tonight. Your team will clean out their desks today and go with you, wherever you want to brief them. You have a week to appear in that town. I would suggest you get on your son's good side since he seems to know what's going on," he said more gently. "You may have allies in that area if you and I are right about what he's doing."
"Fine. You're sure it's going to take this long?"
"Quite. You're going to have to document it. I know that new boy can hack computer systems."
"I want Abby and Ducky closer."
"There's a base nearby and I can send them both there, or to the LA office. It's about three hours away from LA. They won't know you're there either. As far as anyone will know, you'll be on a covert field assignment that's going to require an undercover from your team. I won't make you leave your badges or anything this time, but I do expect it will be a long time before you swear at me in person. I would like weekly status reports however."
"Fine. If you're sure this is real."
"We got that directly from a Pentagon feed. I need to know their contacts there so we can work on them as well. Even the President doesn't like this plan."
"If you're ordering, we have to go." He stood up and saluted him. "I'm assuming you're going to arrange my reserve time?"
"Already done, Jethro," he agreed. "Do try not to piss off your only living relative, all right?" Jethro growled and he smiled. "I doubt he knows."
"Fine." He turned and stomped out, going to talk to his team. "Listen up," he ordered. He motioned them closer and they stood up to gather around his desk. "We are being sent undercover. Deep undercover." Tony opened his mouth. "Don't. Not yet. We are expected to be there within a week. Today is your last day in the office until we're either called off or we're done. You will be at my house tonight, at 2000 hours. Make sure Ducky and Abby know to show up as well."
"Where are we headed?" Kate, his only female operative, asked.
"California. I'll explain everything later, once I've got all the files. I've only got a few things and the rest are being delivered. So pack your desks, your lockers, and all that. Head home, clean your fridges and arrange things. Meet me at the house at eight sharp." He looked at Tony. "You too."
"Of course me too." He frowned. "What sort of undercover?"
"Not here, DiNozzo. I want to look over the rest of this information first." He nodded and went to find something to put the contents of his desk in. Gibbs sat down behind his own, then went to get them some boxes.
"Oh, hey, are you being retired finally?" one of the secretarial pool asked with a smile. "We all thought you'd go sometime this year."
"No, not hardly. Unfortunately not right now." He carried them back up, handing them over. Tony held up a metal box. "What's that?"
"The medals I keep picking up for you, boss," he said dryly, waving the box. "It's not like I need to pack them in my stuff." He snatched the box with a scowl and went back to packing his own things. "Thank you. I'll take them back when we get back."
"Fine, DiNozzo. Just pack for now." His phone rang and he answered it. "Gibbs." He winced and wrote down the information. "Sure, we'll be there soon." He went to hand the new case to his boss, who only moaned. "I can't do it."
"Fine. Go. Everything will be at your house around fourteen hundred." Gibbs stomped off, still not a happy person. "I don't like this any better than he does," he said bitterly, going to assign another team to the case.
Tony arrived with a big tub of fried chicken and things, handing it over. "Here, I still need to eat and I don't think Probie has either. What's going on?"
"Go sit in the living room. Wait on the others." He put the chicken in there with him then went to get paper towels. He came back to let the others in, nodding at the living room. "In there. DiNozzo decided we need food." He looked at Abby and Ducky as they walked in. "You two aren't officially coming with us, but you may be moving closer to us. Ducky, we'll figure you and your mother out," he decided, just remembering her. He walked into the living room and started the tape he had been shown. Everyone stared, then looked at him when it got too much for him and he shut it off. "This was a private feed from a special ops group in California to the Pentagon. It is cross-branching. There are all five branches in there." They all nodded at that. "The thing being tortured was not human, or so I'm told. We're going to stop them. We are going to a small town in California called Sunnydale....."
"No way in hell," Abby said hotly. "There's no way in hell I'm letting you guys go to the Hellmouth! Uh-uh! No! No f-ing way!"
"Abby," he warned. "This is a direct order. We're going to stop them and gather information on them. It's not like I like it either."
"Um, hellmouth?" Ducky asked, looking at Abby.
She sighed. "Oh, man." She looked around. "McGee, do you have your laptop on you?"
"No, I packed it earlier. Why?"
"Fine. When you go, I'm going at first," she ordered Gibbs. "Otherwise you'll die." He raised an eyebrow. "Gibbs, there's a good reason why over half the town is walking around without a pulse. Yes, that was a demon. It wasn't a very nice demon but it was a demon. So just get over me being there for at least your first week. The only way you'll ever accept is by seeing it. Therefore I'm going to protect your stubborn ass." She looked at Tony. "You, we've got to talk anyway." She looked at Gibbs again. "So, we're going to stop the Initiative?" He nodded. "Wonderful. It's been going on now for about three months. They've got an underground base set up. They're totally covert, not even the local base knows they're there. Right now they're gathering information and testing results on the town. They'll go to phase two in a few months to a year, depending on when they get done."
"How do you know about this?"
Abby looked at him. "I refuse to answer that question until you've seen, experienced, and believe. Otherwise you'll make fun of me." She looked at Kate. "You're going on something to stop your cycles while you're there. It's dangerous. A lot more dangerous." She shrugged, that was fine with her. "Good." She crossed her arms and looked at him. "How long?"
"The director said long term, like months, if not a full year."
"We've got to do what with our apartments?" Tony asked.
"I'd suggest giving them up for now and renting a storage area," Gibbs told him. "Bring what you feel is necessary and we can have one of you sneak back to gather anything from the storage areas and drive it to us if needed." Kate shook her head. "No?"
"No. Sorry. Too much of my stuff is work related, Gibbs. Besides, I've only got a tiny apartment, unlike Tony and his toys."
"Hey!" he complained. "I don't have many toys."
"What do you call a big screen tv?"
"A necessity. It keeps me from being bored and going to look for trouble."
"You mean all the trouble you get into is innocent trouble?" she asked. He nodded. "Hell, let him bring the tv, boss."
"I doubt we'll have much time for that." He looked at Tony. "We'll see." He looked at Abby, then at McGee. "We will need a communications setup started. We're reporting in every week. We'll be gathering intel and sending it back as well." McGee nodded at that. "Plan for that when you plan what you're bringing of the computer stuff you've probably got laying around your place."
"Actually, I don't. I do it all at work, boss."
"Wonderful. Fine, then I need a list by no later than tomorrow morning. We will be given a residence there. We are due there in a week, as of when I got out of the office this morning."
"Are we going in as a group?" Kate asked. "That might look odd."
"I haven't been told that detail, I think the director's leaving it to us."
Abby snorted. "They won't care. Really. They won't even notice. That town takes no notice of anything." They all nodded. "Any idea where we're living?" Gibbs nodded and handed over the sheet with that information. "It's a nice building and it looks like you can have separate apartments at least." She handed it to Tony. "Say you're doing an online business and they're your staff, Gibbs. Make educational software or something. Send one person into the schools for a firmer cover."
"Because it'll enable you to keep an eye on a group of people that you'll need to get in good with." He opened his mouth. "I promise, second day there, you'll understand everything. Okay?" He nodded. "Good." She stood up. "I'm going to go ready myself for a trip to the hellmouth. You guys pack too." She walked off, slamming the door and muttering.
"Ducky, it looks like there's a base nearby. We may have you popping in and out, I'm not sure yet."
"That would be fine, as long as Mother's not left alone for too long."
"The desert might agree with her," Kate offered with a smile.
"Yes, but traveling with her dogs is a bit stressful." He looked at Jethro. "Do I need to know more?"
"No." He held up the bucket of chicken. "At least eat something so I don't have to." He took a piece and walked out with a smile. Gibbs handed it back to DiNozzo, who took a piece and handed it on. "Do you ever not eat?"
"Now and then, boss, but I think with it." He looked at him. "This is standard recon and evaluate, then end this group?" Gibbs nodded. "Why will it take so long?"
"Because they're covert themselves," Kate reminded him. "They're not in the open. No one else would believe what they're doing. We need evidence that would stand up in court while managing the problems that they're already creating. Is it possible for information that we're being sent to be leaked back to them?"
"They have some Pentagon supporters but we're not sure who yet. That's one thing we're to find out, Kate. It could be much worse." He looked at them. "The rest of this goes no further than this room. Not even to Ducky and Abby," he said quietly. McGee got up and excused himself. Which he did appreciate since he was so new to the team. He handed over the file the director had given him. "There may be a group already working on the problem somewhat. Abby was right, they're teenagers."
"A rebellion in California against the military?" Tony asked.
"I'm not sure yet. All I was told was that they had stolen a weapon off the nearby base and then used it in a mall to stop something bigger that was harming people. One of them is apparently a relative of mine."
"The boy?" Kate asked, handing it to Tony. She got a nod. "Are we using him?"
"I don't know. To be frank, I didn't know he existed until this morning." Tony sat up, staring at it. "What, DiNozzo?"
"The redhead with him looks familiar, boss. I don't know why. She's too young to have gotten much of my attention before."
"Figure it out and tell me when you do." He took the file back. "It's an added stress to this mission. I'd prefer not to make him a pawn but the time may come when they'll be in the way. They may even be part of this group, I don't know yet."
"Okay, so do we take Abby's suggestion?" Tony asked. Gibbs considered it, then nodded. "Then which of us is going into the school?"
"I've got the degrees to teach," Kate noted. "I don't know what I'd teach though."
"Maybe Abby can come and teach chemistry or computers," Tony offered.
"I want to know what she knows first," Gibbs told him seriously. "Long before I let her stay." He looked at them. "DiNozzo, what was your best subject in college?"
"History, any of the social sciences really."
"Fine. We'll work it out so one of you two goes in." They nodded. He looked at the housing arrangement. "It does say we'll have separate apartments in the same building complex. There might be a few other tenants with us, but I can't be sure yet." He looked at them. "So bring what you have to have and then ship the rest."
"I can drive a U-Haul," Kate reminded him. "We can all fit into one, even Tony's tv."
"My tv can be sold. It's a few years old already," Tony offered. "They're coming out with better and lighter ones. I can pick one up locally if I have to."
"Whatever. You two arrange that. I'll only have a few bags I hope." They nodded. "Make sure McGee gets packed and all that too."
"Sure, boss," Kate agreed, standing up. "Anything else?"
"Be prepared for anything. I don't like this. My gut's dancing like someone's moving my strings again."
"Of course," Tony agreed. He handed Kate the chicken. "Take some since I brought dinner." She smiled and grabbed a few of the paper towels to get some of the food, then went to get McGee so he could get some too. Tony looked at him. "Will you be okay, boss?" he asked once they were alone. Gibbs nodded. "Okay. Well if you need help with the kid, I'll gladly help. That's going to be uncomfortable." He handed him the bucket. "I've got another six-piece in the car. Use it to soak up the coffee tonight." He headed out to his car, getting in to drive around for a bit before starting his mental list of what he had to do.
Gibbs flew out alone. Abby was riding with Kate in the U-Haul and Tony would be out the next day. He was the forward scout since he had to talk to his former lover. He found their apartments open and waiting for them, and notes on the table with his name on them. The prior person they had watching had made copious notes, including how he lost his partner, and he studied them before doing anything else. When he got done, it was nearly six, but not that late. He looked himself over then found the address he needed in the file. On the table were apartment and car keys so he went to pick out which one he wanted, heading to the small house that was her present home. He watched the place for a few minutes, watching the boy walk inside and slam the door. "Disrespectful," he said quietly. "Not a trait from my side if he's actually mine." He finally got out and walked over, knocking politely on the door. The boy opened it. "Is Harriet in?"
"Not really. She's here but not quite able to speak. Mom!" he called over his shoulder, not looking away from him. "Visitor."
"If it's the landlord, tell him I'll get him tomorrow," a male voice called.
"No, it's not. I'd know him." He held up a hand and went deeper into the house, dragging a woman behind him and planting her in front of him. "Him, mom."
She blinked at him, frowning a bit. "Do I know you?"
"It's Jethro, Harriet."
She gasped, then wobbled until her son caught her. "How did you know?"
"I got told by someone doing a background check!" he said angrily. "I would've rather heard it from you!"
"Hey!" the kid snapped. "Don't yell at her. She's not the best ever but it's about all I have."
"Actually, not quite," he admitted dryly, looking the boy over again.
"Why? You a perv?"
"No, she used to be mine when she was in ROTC." Xander raised an eyebrow, looking his mother over and giving him a disbelieving look. "She wasn't always like this. But you're the real problem here, kid."
"I was told you're mine."
"Oh, charming." He nodded, then let his mother drop, walking over her. He looked up, then at him. "Inside. Before the shouting starts." He slammed the door behind him, looking at him. "Why should I believe you?"
"I don't believe it personally. I came to get the test and work out things so I can figure you out. Maybe get to know you a bit."
"What makes you think I need it?"
"Boy!" his father yelled. "Where is that bitch!"
"Point taken," the kid noted dryly. "She's out here passed out. Go sleep it off!" He looked at him again. His father lumbered out and he looked at him when he gasped. "Something you haven't gloated over me yet?"
"Why is *he* here?" he sneered.
"Because someone finally got around to telling me since Harriet didn't," he snapped back. The guy glared and he glared back, making him flinch and back down. "Are you going to be a pain in my ass? I can have you arrested for abuse." The boy snickered. "I can."
"I tried that one once." He looked at his father. "Is it true?"
"Hell yes. She found out she was pregnant, supposedly anyway, after we married. I think she only took me because of my reputation and to keep hers intact. She's a slut, always has been, boy." He looked at him. "You want him, take him. He costs too much to raise." He drank from the beer can in his hand. "You want him he's yours." He laughed at the boy. "See how good you do then. He's military. Your pansy assed friends...."
"Can kick your ass," Xander noted dryly. "Or don't you remember Willow tripping you the last time?" He backed off and Xander looked at him. "Look, if you want to do the bloodwork, we can do that. I don't have a problem with that. Like I said, they're about all I've got."
Gibbs looked at him and nodded. "Good. Anywhere tonight to get it done?"
"You're not from around here, are you?" he asked dryly. "You don't want to go out at night. It's kinda dangerous around here after dark."
"I'm a Marine."
"Yay. Can you kill something bigger, stronger, and faster than you if it attacks you?" Gibbs nodded. "Then we'll see. Give me an excuse and we can do the test tomorrow while I'm skipping class."
"Fine. I know someone who can run it priority as a favor. We'll have the results back within a day."
"Good. Sure as hell beats having him," he muttered. He looked at his father again. "Don't you need to get to the bar before it gets dark?" he asked. His father sneered but grabbed his wallet and left. Xander looked at his mother, then grabbed her by the armpits and drug her into the other room. "You can come in." He put her onto the couch and arranged her, then sat down in a relatively clean chair. "Sorry you had to witness that."
"I've seen worse." He sat down, looking at the boy. "Do you have a name?"
"I'm Jethro Gibbs."
"Cool. Southern? Related to one of the Dukes of Hazard?"
"Not that I'm aware of," he offered, almost smirking at the snarky comment. Mean but not cruel, a good sign. "Are you so ahead in your classes that you can skip a day?"
"With my grades, one day isn't going to matter. A whole month wouldn't matter really. I'm about ready to be held back this year." He looked at his mother, then at him. "I'd appreciate you not reminding her of this when you come to see her tomorrow while she's sober. She won't remember tonight."
"I can do that as well. We can go to my new place tonight and pull blood if you want."
Xander snorted. "I don't know you enough to trust you, Jethro. Would you go with you in this situation?"
"No," he admitted. "But I think you could handle yourself." The boy looked stunned but then replaced the look. "You seem like you know how to at least defend yourself, if not others."
"I can but I'm not very good at it," he admitted quietly.
"If it's true, I can help you with that," he offered.
"In return for...."
"Getting to know you. We can work out together while we talk."
"Fine." He nodded. "That suits me." He stood up and looked outside. "You should go now, Jethro. Remember, only go out after dark if your life is in jeopardy. Otherwise you've just committed yourself to a lifetime of death." He let him out, watching as he got into his car and drove off. Then he went to make himself something to eat and call his friends. "I have a real father," he told his best friend Willow. "He just showed up. No, she passed out due to both causes. No, he's gone to the bar. I prompted a bit." He smiled. "I don't know. Apparently she never told him and he just found out a few days ago. We're doing blood work tomorrow. Sure, I can come patrol later. Let me finish dinner. Come and get me." He hung up and went back to his eating. He'd need it.
Gibbs looked out the peep hole, letting the kid into his place. "How did you know where I live?"
"You're the only new person in town this month," he said dryly. "The others are coming when?"
"Within the next few days. You know about us?"
"Yeah." He smirked at him. "So, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, why are you really in the mouth of hell?"
"To find you for one. Why?" he asked, keeping his face neutral.
"Because I'm wondering why the military is here."
"I'm not here about how you stole a rocket launcher if that's what you're wondering, though I do wonder how."
"That's going to take some trust." He held up the vial of blood. "For you."
"Thanks." He went to put it beside his. "You can come in."
"A word of advice, never invite anyone in," he said as he walked in and closed the door behind him. "By the way, my friend who found you said that the person coming with you knows her shit. You should listen to Abby when she clues you in. After that, we can probably talk a bit more." He looked him over. "What do I get from your side?"
"Apparently your smart mouth," he noted dryly.
"I raised myself, feel lucky I speak in complete sentences. It took Willow a long time to get me to do that." Then he smirked. "Anything else you want to share?"
"Let's do the test first. Abby can run it tonight."
"Fine. I agree. My friends and I have to have an intense conversation about you later anyway. So, just the four?"
"Abby may not be able to stay."
"Pity, she'd probably get along well with our group." He shrugged and pulled something out, handing it over to him. "If you were thinking about infiltrating the school, there's two openings. Including a PE spot." He saluted and smirked at him. "With that said, be aware no one in town will do more than be idly curious about you guys. We learned long ago not to pry or wonder. Or to mourn or pay attention. What are you hoping to get out of this? This thing with us, not the other thing because I know you won't tell me the truth there."
"I don't think a kid your age should be involved in things like what I'm here for."
Xander snickered. "You have no idea," he said dryly. "Read those, figure it out. Are you hoping to be a father or just an acquaintance?"
"I leave that up to you, kid. What do you want?"
"I'd like a stable person in my life who has some sense and gave a damn. I'm not so sure that's you however." Someone tapped on the door and he nodded. "Shall I?"
"Fine." He watched the boy walk over and open the door, looking at Tony's stunned look. "We're doing the blood tests today, DiNozzo. Close your mouth. Let them in, Xander."
"Fine." He let them inside, smiling at the pretty ladies. "Abby," he sighed, kissing the back of her hand. "I was told to greet you warmly on behalf of Rupert and his pack of bad luck. If you stay, he wants a visit and a long chat." She smiled and hugged him. "Thanks, dear." He patted her and got free by wiggling away from her. "Sorry, not the mushy sort."
She smiled and ruffled his hair. "You're so cute!"
"Abby, I'm sixteen. I'm not cute. I was never cute. Nor will I ever be cute. No adult male is ever cute."
"Speak for yourself, kid. Some of us count on our cute points," Tony noted dryly. He looked at his boss. "So, you went visiting?"
"Yeah. I figured I should probably do that. Kid, you wanna stay and help fill in some gaps?"
"No," he said with a smirk. "Not in the least. I wanna be far, far away when you find out why no one in this town is curious and will ignore most everything you do unless it's sleeping with a married woman or a sheep. Like I said, when you have answers, come find me." He walked out, shutting the door behind him.
"He's got balls," Kate said dryly, smirking at her boss. "A lot like you."
"I wasn't that big of a smartass at that age," he noted dryly. "I was kept from it."
Tony looked at him. "Was that wise, boss?"
"He already knew we were coming. Abby, some answers please?"
"Tonight, Gibbs. Let's unpack the truck since it'll be safer now. I'll show you everything after dinner." They all looked at her. "It's kinda necessary to the story, guys, really!" She went out to get the truck open and start to heft and tote.
Kate looked at Gibbs. "Was that anger or something else?" she asked.
"His parents aren't exactly role models. I don't know. You tell me, Kate."
She smirked. "I just met the kid. Give me a few more hours with him and you'll know."
"Thanks. I could use the primer." He headed out to get his other things and then help the others. "Is our computer equipment here?" he asked McGee, who nodded and carried a monitor off. "Good. We have five of the seven apartments in the building. Put them the spare for now." That got another nod and they all got to work settling in.
Xander used the back passage to get into the library unseen, sneaking into the office, which scared Giles enough that he jumped. "Just me," he said, closing the door. "We've got an issue."
"What sort of issue? A rising demon? A new master?"
"No, my real father just showed up. He's a Marine. Actually, his whole team from NCIS just showed up. They're supposedly here as a software company." Giles frowned a bit at that. "That means they're undercover, Giles."
"Do you want to pull back from the group?"
"No, I want to know why they're here and I'm being cautious. If I need to pull back, I'll let you know. As of right now, we're doing a paternity test." He heard the outer doors open and got out of the way of the door so he wouldn't be seen. Only a few people ever came in. "I'm not here," he hissed.
"Of course not." He got up and opened the door, finding the Principal on the other side. "Did you need something, Principal Snyder?"
"Where is Harris? That no good brat that hangs out with Summers and Rosenburg is usually here and he's gone today."
"Yes, he said he had something medical to take care of. Apparently they're doing some sort of blood work on him. I'm sure he'll have an excuse."
"I see. How do you know this?"
"Willow told me."
"What's wrong with him? Something fatal or just something that'll make him turn into a puddle of slime?" he sneered but he sounded hopeful.
"I don't know. I suppose that's why they're doing the medical tests. I'm sure his friends will take notes for him today so he doesn't fall behind."
"With his grades, what would it matter?" he snorted. "You tell that little brat that he's to hand in an excuse the moment he gets here. Or else he's suspended to the special room for in-school suspension for three days." He turned and stomped off.
Xander waited until the door was closed and the coast was clear. "Should he try to put me in there, expect to see me running away after I bite the thing that's in there to torture the students. The same as I did last time." He crossed his arms and turned to lean his shoulder on the wall. "I don't know what's going on with them yet, Giles. I'm not sure if they're here about the Judge incident or not."
"Hopefully not. It was rather unavoidable. Though I do realize you could be in a lot of trouble for that." He looked at the boy. "I'll help you out however I can, Xander. You know that."
Xander smirked. "I know damn well you're not going to cover my ass, Giles. We both know that. So just stop." He stood up. "I'm going to go wait on the test result and see if I can figure anything out. Tell Wills that's where I am." He walked out and snuck off again. Straight into the sewers and across town.
Giles sat down to consider the implications of this being true. So many things could interfere in Buffy's tasks with the military in town. They'd have to work around them but he wasn't sure how, especially with that boy being related to one.
Xander looked up as his mother came out of her bedroom. "We need to talk before dad gets home."
"Why are you home?" she complained sleepily.
"Because a very nice man named Jethro Gibbs showed up last night, Mom." She stopped and slowly turned to face him. "Just about dinner time. You were already gone and passed out in front of him," he told her. "Dad sneered and told him to take me. Something you wanted to share?"
"No," she said bitterly.
"Fine. He's got some blood of mine to do a test. He said he didn't know until a few days ago." Her eyes narrowed and he stood up, staring her in the eyes. "I'd appreciate knowing if it was true before then. This isn't the sort of news I want to hear from someone I don't even know. I also have to figure out if dad's threat was real."
"It probably was," she assured him. "You're a drain on this family. It's not like you work."
"Neither do you and I'm too young to work. Not even fast food places want to hire people my age. Not for at least another year. At that time, I'm sure I will be working. Not to support the liquor bill, but I'll be working then." He looked into her eyes again. "Is he?" She nodded. "Good, that's what I wanted to know."
"If he wants you, you going?"
"I don't know yet," he admitted. "There's too much unresolved there. I doubt he'd hurt me or molest me or anything. That doesn't mean I trust the suddenly appearing people." She snorted again, crossing her arms over her chest. "You've got a beer on the counter, warm, like you like it. I'm getting a medical excuse for today if it matters to you."
"Not really. You're too dumb to be good in school anyway." She went into the kitchen. "Did you touch something in here?"
"I did the dishes, mom. That way the bugs would quit crawling on them. It was disgusting."
"You can pack and leave now."
"I could, but then again I would also be picked up by social services for me not attending school too," he called, sitting back down with his magazine. She came out of the kitchen, glaring again. He looked at her. "You know they would. Snyder's only looking for an excuse. He's told you that."
"He said it was to kick you out."
"Yeah, that too. But see, kicking me out for no reason would still bring someone looking. He's still got people he's got to answer to. The same as if I leave, your check stops. The foodstamps get cut in half. Little things that'll make your life a living hell." She glared harder. "Truth and you know it. Just repeating what the social worker told you, mom. By the way, he's a fed."
"He's a what?" she asked flatly.
He nodded, shrugging one-sidedly. "He's with NCIS, which is a federal agency that handles crimes involving Navy and Marine personnel. He's a fed."
"Why is he here?"
"Someone told him about me."
"Oh. Maybe you should move."
"Maybe. But I can guarantee he'll turn you in if I do. He's the sort and he had a child psychologist with him." Or something like that, but that other woman had looked like a shrink. He'd seen a few in his day.
"If he wants custody, I'll gladly sign you over," she sneered.
"You do that, mom. Try to live on dad's salary," he noted dryly.
"No." He stood up again. "See, I've already called welfare. They're on their way over. Be thankful I did dishes this time." She swung at him and he ducked, shaking his head. "I wouldn't do that. You're not making me cooperative. After all, if I'm going to *lie* about how great a mother you are, I deserve a reward."
"Fine, I'll let you take all your stuff."
"Good." He went to finish packing then brought down the few boxes and two bags. "Give me ten more to steal Uncle Rory's car too." He grabbed the keys off the nail in the wall and went to pull it around, putting his stuff into it. Then he drove off. There were any number of places he could stay around town. In fact he already had a bolt hole. Jesse's family had moved after he had died and no one else lived in the house. He still had the keys so it was easy enough to let himself inside and put everything down. Then he went to return the car and headed back through the alleys and back streets so no one would see him. Once he was there, he called his social worker and left a detailed, thorough message on her phone.
He hoped they cut her check completely and took all their food stamps away. He unpacked in Jesse's old room. That's when he realized he had left something at the house. He looked outside. School was just starting to get out so he snuck back there and up the outer wall, climbing in his window. His mother came in. "Sorry, I forgot something." He pulled out the dagger, the crossbow, and the case of arrows. Plus another bag he had forgotten. He put them in there, then waved a cheery wave and left. "Heading off again. By the way, I told her everything on her voice mail." He skipped out just ahead of the beer bottle that slammed into the door behind him. He smiled when he saw his friends coming up the street. "I may be late tonight. I'm getting the results of the blood test then." They nodded. "It'll be fine."
Willow noticed what was on his back. "Is that the crossbow you use?"
"The social worker was here today."
"Oh." She nodded and let it go at that. "Have fun?"
"No. I'm going for a wander until it's time. See you later at the library." He headed off, going to the new house. At least they had left all of Jesse's stuff there and some of their old furniture. Plus he did have a few bucks saved so he could buy a cookstove. It's not like it got really cold in Sunnydale. He called his social worker again from the phone on the corner, getting her this time. "Hi, it's Xander." He chuckled. "Yeah, I know she said that. Did she also say that she's been keeping me out of school to take care of her hangovers? That I'm the only reason the dishes were done, and that she threw me out today?" He smirked. "No, I've got a safe place to stay. Yes, I promise they're suitable. It's not a problem. No, it started when my real father showed up. No, she was so drunk she passed out in front of him. Speaking of drunks, did you know they're selling their food stamps?"
He smirked. "I didn't think so. Yeah, I can swear out a statement, no problem with that. Can I get some of my own so I can eat and not make the new family suffer and eat less? No, in my name. Isn't there a loophole? Sure. I can do that too. Thank you." He hung up and swore. Not good. He couldn't get them in his name until he was eighteen. That would mean his father would have to ask for them for him or his supposed family. Well, he supposed he could bribe someone to go for him. Maybe even Giles. He called him, smirking at his cheerful answer. "It's me. I just had a housing change. No, I'm safe, but I need a huge ass favor. No, like the foodstamps kind. They won't let me apply in my own name. Giles, I'm safe, and no I'm not with him. Just know that I'm safe. I'll be in tomorrow. Sure, I'll make sure he's got one. Anything else?" He grinned. "Thank you. Yeah, Willow can probably do it online somehow. Use your address, I can pick them up from you. Not really. No, not really. Thanks." He hung up. Maybe she could convince him it wasn't lying and it would still be okay. He went to make sure the house was secure then went to find his father.
Gibbs looked over as Tony walked back into his apartment, looking confused. "Is there a problem, DiNozzo?"
"Yeah, you had me watch the kid. He just left the house with bags and boxes." Gibbs sat up at that. "He's at a house he had the keys to. I can't be sure if it's empty or not. I did see someone who looked like an official at the house just after he left the first time, but then he came back for another bag and talked to two girls on the street before heading off again. He was in there for a moment then came out to make two calls." He sat down, looking at him. "Do we think this kid is a danger to the operation?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "There's too many variables until Abby coughs up information. I don't know if he's working with them or if he's somehow involved in other ways. For now, I can't let myself get too close."
"Boss, your son just got kicked out. If he is involved, this could be an opportunity to get information from him."
"I don't want to use my own kid, DiNozzo," he said angrily.
"I'm not suggesting that, I'm suggesting you could save him from a worse fate. Maybe make sure he's got a future, maybe even in the Corps, boss. If he's involved it's up to you to decide if he goes down with them."
"I know that," he said, staring him down. "Do you think he is?"
"I don't know, honestly," he admitted. "I know he's got good sneaking skills. He did good earlier and I had to be pretty careful because he was watching for someone to follow him. He did check his six a lot." Gibbs didn't look happy with that. "Then again, he also looked like a kid who just got kicked out and is worried about someone worse coming for him. Do we know anything about his home life?"
"Just that both parents are drunks," Gibbs said bitterly. "I don't know how she let herself go that way."
"Anger, grief, and shame, boss. Anger, grief, and shame," he told him. "I'm going to hook up my VCR and that stuff. Yell if you want me to tail him some more later." He got up and headed across the walkway.
Gibbs considered this new information. Then he called Ducky since he didn't know what was usual for a child of alcoholics. "Ducky, I need some information. No, the kid is mine. He's also got two drunk parents, he nearly lost DiNozzo when he was tailing him, and ...." He listened to the wise words. "Yeah, he said he sneaks very well." He sat up straighter. "Do you think that's possible?" He sighed and nodded. "Sure. Thank you, Ducky. No, I'm settled in. DiNozzo is finishing up. Kate and McGee are doing the computer stuff with Abby at the moment, doing a background on the kid and others. Thank you." He hung up and went up to find out what they had on the boy. "Anything yet?"
"Boss, this kid is showing a lot of the danger signs for disappearing into the system," Kate warned. "He's barely passing each year, he's got a lot of absences. The school reported some strange or suspicious bruises on his arms recently, including one on his neck that looked like someone had choked him. The school's psychologist reported him as having severe anger problems and issues with trust and affection. He's like the textbook case of what the military wants to turn into little programable assassins."
Gibbs stared at what they had. "We know he's got drunk parents. How much of that can be explained that way?"
"Unless he's getting into a lot of fights, they're probably abusing them."
"Not any more. They kicked him out earlier. The kid left with stuff and nearly lost DiNozzo since he was watching him. Anything else?"
Kate looked at the screen, then at him. "I'm worried he's starting down the path to serial killer, Gibbs. It's going to take some intervention, some strong intervention, to help him at this stage but it can be done I think. Again, though, this is based on second-hand information. I need to talk with the kid for a while before I can tell you fully. People are more than their grades and anger issues."
Tony came in, looking at the screen. "I tell you what, that kid's got 'sneak' down pat," he told them. "I was standing outside enjoying the lack of smog when he suddenly appeared over the railing and just grinned at me, asking if I had fun following him. He's in your place, Gibbs."
"Thank you." He headed down with Kate behind him. He walked in and looked at the boy, who was playing solitaire on his table. "Having fun?"
"Loads and bushels," he said dryly, looking at another card. "Any results?"
He looked at the older people in the room with him. "So the bunny died and now what?"
"You could try to be nicer," Kate suggested. "He's not here to hurt you."
"I know that, honey. That's just how I am." He looked at his father again. "Before you say anything about what your spy told you earlier, I'm safe. I'm arranging to get food regularly. I'm fine the way I am." He stood up and walked closer, standing toe-to-toe with his old man. "Now I let you start having a say," he offered quietly. "What do *you* want?"
"I want to at least end up on friendly terms with you."
"I can do that," Xander agreed. "Brady Bunch I'm not."
"Good," he agreed. "I'm not someone who likes fluffy feelings and mush."
"Excellent," Xander agreed with a smile. "So, who's coming into the school?"
"DiNozzo, who was following you earlier," he said, smirking now. "How did you know?"
"It figures. Are you here about me or not, Gibbs?"
"You can use my first name."
"Not yet I can't," he told him. "Maybe soon but not right now."
"Agreeable," he assured him. "No, you're not the primary reason I'm here. I do know that you stole that weapon and then went back to take a few rifles and things. I do know that the local base is looking the other way for some reason. I also know that you've got something to do with what's going on around here, but I'm not sure the part you play. You wanna give me another clue?"
Xander shook his head. "Again, not yet. I don't trust that easily. As I'm sure you found out," he offered with a small smirk. "We'll do dinner sometime soon, once you're settled and the information has seeped in. Until then, I'll see him at school I guess." He nodded politely at the female in the room with him. "Ma'am. Nice to see you again as well." He walked off, heading back to Jesse's.
"Gibbs, that kid needs help," she said quietly. He looked at her. "He's got serious anger in him."
"I wouldn't expect anything else, Kate, would you? I doubt he's had supportive parents."
"And if what we've seen in those tapes is true and he's working with that group, how long before they start to show him how much fun that can be?" she asked.
He shook his head. "He's not working with them."
"How do you know?"
He looked at her. "Abby likes him." She looked confused. "Abby could never get along with someone like that, right?" She nodded slowly. "She likes him. Remember that first meeting? He respects her. We may not get it but he does respect her."
"Am I way off base then?"
"I don't know. He's not giving me enough clues to figure anything out. Abby!" he yelled. She skipped into the apartment. "How much longer?"
"Dinner. Sundown. It's only six. That'll be in two hours. Okay?" They nodded. "Maybe a half-hour walk after that until I can find a good spot." She went back to her helping.
He sat down to finish the game of solitaire. The boy had played himself into a corner from what he could see. "That seems about right," he muttered, picking them up and reshuffling so he could deal again.
Abby walked them into the cemetery. "Before anyone says anything about my goth tendencies, it's important that you listen. That includes you, Gibbs. You too, Tony. Because I'm going to show you why the town is so dangerous. Handcuffs?" Tony looked confused but handed his over. "Thank you." She smiled and trotted off, looking at a few headstones. Until she came to a shiny new one. Then she sat down and stared at the headstone.
They walked over to stand behind her, looking confused. "Abby?" Gibbs asked impatiently.
"Just wait, Gibbs. He's already starting to wake up, I can hear him." Pretty soon they could all hear the scratching noises and an arm finally came up. Everyone jumped back and she stood up, heaving on the arm until a second one appeared. She cuffed him then, then braced a foot on the headstone and yanked. He came out of the hole he had been making, looking up at her.
"What's wrong with his face?" McGee asked, backing away further.
"Welcome to Vampires 101," she said happily, making him stand. "Stand still or else," she warned. "I know a slayer." He whimpered but did so. "This is a vampire, the real thing, yes, Gibbs. Um, McGee, don't back away from the group. It's not like he's the only one in town." He came back. "Notice the ridges and the eyes, plus the fangs. This is one in demon mode." She smacked him across the back of the head. "Turn back to human mode," she ordered. He groaned and did so, making her smile proudly. "Good boy. This is what he looked like as a human. As you can see by his headstone, which was put up really quickly, he died just yesterday. You can come closer. He can't grab you with the cuffs on and I've got a stake." They came closer, checking him over. "These guys are bad guys," she instructed. "They don't have a soul, they like to eat people and either drain them, have nasty, evil fun with them, or turn them to make more vampires." She pulled out her stake to wave it. "A stake, simple, elegant," she noted dryly. "Stake to the heart. Beheading. Holy water. Three weaknesses of this sort of vampire. Now...."
"Hold on, slayer?" Tony asked. "Like hunts them?"
She nodded. "That's Vampire 102 actually. I'll get there." She staked him and the vampire slowly drifted down, tinkling onto the sod. "That's what they look like when you stake or behead them. Holy water just burns." She looked at them again, then pulled out her personal handcuffs, handing them to Tony. "Anything on them, with a few limited exceptions, will go to dust with them when they go. Notice, the clothes, handcuffs, his jewelry, and the stake if you leave it in all disappeared. You can stake and retreat, that's always an option, as long as you hit the target." She walked them on, finding another one struggling to come up. She pulled another stake out of her bag and staked her too. "Not only is this town full of these creatures, they're also full of the other creatures the group we're here about is working on. Some are innocent, some aren't innocent. Some are just cranky." She grinned at Gibbs. "I'm sure you'll end up dealing with a few of them. Also, there's a point of power in this town. It's under the high school. It's called a hellmouth. With the right encouragement it opens a portal so bigger and badder demons come out to eat the world." She stopped in front of a nice headstone and hopped up to sit on it. "Okay, onto Vampires 102. There is a genetic quirk that started *way* back when, like pre- writing days, that makes a certain line of girls stronger, faster, and able to hunt these things. They're called slayers. FYI, they're not related, they just all have this quirk in the genes."
"So, they're mutants?" McGee asked, looking confused.
"Not really. Though some act like it. See, the girls are watched over by a group called the Watchers, I know really original and all, they're mostly British these days. Slayers live and die for the hunting. It's their job, and they've got the special skills to do that. It's supposed to be their job and only their job, but I've heard some interesting things about this present one having some backup now and then." She looked around. "Their job is to hunt the bad among these guys and make them go 'sploosh' like the vamps I staked. They're basically soldiers who fight and fight and fight until one day they end up dying in a fight. Then the next girl is activated by some means I'm not sure of. The point is, she's here. She's not part of that group but that doesn't mean they don't understand and they aren't looking for her. I'd get on her good side."
"Do you have any intel on her?" Kate asked.
"Yes, I know her Watcher. His name is Rupert Giles."
"He's the librarian," Tony said, frowning a bit. "How old is this girl?"
She shrugged. "Usually a teenager. They're at their peak performance then. Most of the girls don't last that long. Giles told me a few only lasted a night, some less than a night. He said one really bad night three ended up being called and they all died before dawn, but the next one lasted a few months. The current one is over a year." Gibbs moaned, rubbing his forehead. "Now, since you're here, there's things you should know. In this town, magic is real." She concentrated and floated over a branch, poking Gibbs with it. "See?" she asked with a grin, letting it fall. McGee picked it up to look it over. She concentrated again and it lifted out of his hands, twirling for his amusement so he could check for wires.
"Boss," he said, his voice starting towards high and squeaky.
"Like I said, *here* magic is real. You're going to be dealing with it." She looked at Gibbs again. "The same as every fairytale you've ever heard of, they're real. You're going to be dealing with them here. Hence my show and not tell. 'Cause let's face it. If I had told you this back at the shipyard, you'd have tied me to my chair while Ducky called the people with the bondage jackets." Gibbs nodded. She smiled. "Do you believe a bit more now?"
"How many are coming up tonight?"
"According to my newspaper search, about five. The deathrate slowed when the slayer came to town and started to work." She hopped off the gravestone. "Now, this community, and it is an underground community, sometimes literally, does have their hangouts. There's a demon bar in town where you can get information if you're lucky or the price is right. Rupert said so." She walked them on, showing them the bar. "Willie's. There's a human bar in town where the vampires and the kids both go. It's a snack haven." She walked them down to show that off to them, paying their cover so they could go in. She even bought them all beers. She walked back to the couches they were sitting on. It was too early for the club to really be noisy or packed yet and it was a school night. She sat down next to Gibbs, handing him his beer first. "Here."
He took a drink and looked around, pointing at someone. "A goth kid?"
"Hey, we're here too. And no, they're a dead goth kid," she admitted quietly. "They also have very good hearing, smell, and speed." The vampire looked their way and she saluted him with her cup, making him move off. She looked at Gibbs, taking a slow sip. "Are you okay?"
"No. How long have you known about this?"
"Rupert came down when I was a teenager to study some of the local myths and legends about vampire. New Orleans, we got plenty. Well, my family kept a pretty good watch on some of that stuff so we talked a lot. He got drunk one night and spilled the beans. We still keep in touch and I'm going to visit him tomorrow after school, as long as you don't stuff me in a suitcase and mail me home to Ducky, to see how he's doing." She took another drink and pointed. "That's one feeding."
"We should stop them," McGee protested.
"Too late," she told him bitterly. "Ooh, turned. So they'll rise once rigor is gone." They all watched as the kid was drug out. She looked at them again. "This is why you don't go out after dark in Sunnydale. Any questions?"
"Any way to prevent it?" Kate asked.
"Holy icons have some power, they'll burn them. Holy water, like a squirt gun. Stake. Beheading. Fire." She took another drink and Gibbs took her beer, chugging it. "Hey!"
"Sorry. This is all a bit much, Abby. Are they around in other places?"
"Of course. There's at least a few in every city in the world, but everywhere there's rumors of strangeness, there's always more there. For some reason Cleveland has a few too." She smiled at him. "Should I plan on introducing you to Rupert?"
"Let us scope out the town first. We're not sure he hasn't been sucked into that group too," he reminded her.
She snorted. "He's not one for torture, Gibbs. Even in his bad old days when he was Ripper he wasn't into torture. Beating things bloody but not torture." He shrugged. "Fine. Whenever you're ready, I'll introduce you. So, am I staying?"
"That would mean giving your lab to someone else," he reminded her. "We can have you both moved to the LA office however."
"Cool with me. I could use some waves and I haven't moon tanned in a while." She grinned at Tony. "You're too quiet."
"Gee, I wonder why," he said, glaring at her. "What you did is dangerous, right?" She nodded. "To us?"
"No I had that covered. I approach Boy Scout levels whenever I have to do something like this." She smiled sweetly. "I would've covered your six."
"Thank you." He looked at their boss. "Home?"
"Home," he agreed. "We can talk privately there." They got up and he kept a firm hold on Abby's arm the whole ten minute trip. At least that was his plan until the vampire jumped out to growl at them. Abby got another stake out and he took it. He had more combat experience. The thing rushed and he got it near the heart. Not quite in it. The thing howled in pain.
"Damn, your aim needs work," a familiar voice noted. The vampire turned to dust and Xander shook his head, dusting himself off. "There, all gone. Abby," he said, catching sight of her. "I was told you knew better."
"They had to have proof. They wouldn't believe me if I told them."
"Fine. Head home. Do you guys need an escort?" They all shook their heads. "That's fine. I'm going to go clubbing."
"Someone was just turned in there," McGee said.
He nodded. "And probably that's happened about every night since it opened, at least once." He walked around them. "Welcome to the hellmouth."
"He obviously has a clue," Kate said, looking at Abby. "Do you know him?"
"Not really. I'm guessing Rupert told him to greet us." She walked on, taking them home. Then she sat them down in Tony's apartment and turned on a really old horror movie that made her laugh while they processed the fact that everything they thought was a myth was real, at least here in this town. She even made popcorn, letting Tony have it every few minutes since his mouth seemed to need to be working for his brain to kick into high gear.
Finally Tony looked at her. "How bad is this problem?"
"There's probably more vampires in town than humans. This town doesn't seem to realize anything's going on though. I always thought it was the hellmouth radiating to keep them ignorant." She ate another piece and grinned at him, winking a bit. "Will you be okay?"
"No. Well, probably but no. I haven't believed in a monster under the bed in years."
"You know, I don't know if they're real or not," she admitted before eating another bite. "They're fairly wide spread and there's demons that are invisible to all but kids. Usually they hunt the kids though so I'm not sure if that's a child's fear or not. Of course, it could be a fear monster, something that eats and feeds on fear." She shrugged and ate another bite. The bowl was taken from her by Gibbs and handed down to Kate, who started to eat, just staring at the screen. She smiled at him. "Are you back now?" she asked at the familiar glare.
"I wasn't gone before. How do we combat this?"
"Stakes, holy water, fire, holy objects." She took the popcorn back and it woke Kate up. "You okay?"
"I'm...decent," she decided. "I could be better at the moment." She looked at McGee, who was really pale. "He looks like one of them."
"He's processing," Abby told her. She looked at Gibbs again. "Now you know why I had to show you instead of tell you."
"Yeah, and I still don't believe."
"That's up to you," she pointed out. "Just know the risks and learn where the heart is in the human body. It's not a very big target you know." She ate another bite and her popcorn got handed to Tony, who nudged McGee and handed it to him.
"Boss, are we going to have to kill people or creatures or whatever?" McGee asked finally.
"Only to save your own life," he ordered. "There will be no random hunting. Not by any of us." Abby nodded. "You agree?"
"Yeah, if you're comfortable that way, I'm good with it. I don't have a problem because I've nearly been eaten three times. A girl learns after those things you know." He cracked a smile, which was her intention. "Having said that, I can and will move to LA to be a bit closer. I really could use a new moon tan." Kate smiled at that and McGee looked at her. "It's all right."
"We let that one be taken off, how is that all right!"
"McGee, you couldn't have made it over there to save her. She would've been dead by the time you got there and you'd have scared him off so she'd stay dead. Instead she'll wake up in a few days and not go back to school. You know I'm almost surprised they don't have night classes around here for all the ones turned from the school. The demons around here are catered to by certain elements because the hellmouth draws them and keeps them strong. I've heard the mayor bends over to kiss butt with the demons." She stole a piece of popcorn. "That's why there's an underground sewer system that has really nice walkways that go all over town. It's like catacombs down there. Only without the dead dead, just the walking dead." She smiled at Tony. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I agree, I don't want to hunt either. Boss, can we still do this assignment?"
"Yes. I'll need you each to check in each time you head out after dark. We'll have to lock the doors too."
"Why? The vampires can't get in where someone's living. That doesn't always keep the others out, but the vampires can't come in," Abby said. "Besides, there's plenty of worse things than being a vampire, Gibbs. Some of the other types of demons can make you into their kind as well. You could end up shooting paralyzing snot or having incredibly rank BO." He frowned at her. "Honestly. Should I get a manual from Rupert?"
"They have an identification manual?" he asked.
"They've been doing this for centuries. They wrote all the books."
"What about Dracula?" McGee asked. "The wolves and the flying."
"I'm not sure," she admitted. "The Watchers consider them a myth. Rupert said so. Would I put it past them to have an evolutionary doorstop that deadended in just a few of them? No. It may be a sub-genus or it could just be fantasy, no one I know knows for sure. But if you find one, get me an autograph, okay?" McGee smiled and nodded. "Thanks." She smiled. "Tell me if the wolf is soft too."
"Sure, Abby," Tony agreed. "I know they're soft, my uncle had a stuffed one." He shifted to look at the movie. "This is...." He looked at her and she grinned. "Fine. I pick the next one." She nodded and snuggled into his side, letting him relax. "Do you think it's safe to date around here?"
"Maybe. Just make sure they're not room temperature and have a pulse."
He nodded. "I'll make sure during the date." He looked at his boss, who was shaking his head. "Hey, I'm still me, boss. I can't *not* date a pretty woman."
"Keep your mind on the mission as much as you can, DiNozzo," he ordered dryly. "You too, Agent Todd."
"Of course. I doubt there's anyone here I want to date." She looked at him. "What about the kid, boss?"
"I don't know. Abby?"
"He obviously knows, which puts him in the minority in this town," she noted. "I would definitely talk to the boy. That would be part of getting to know him though. Getting friendly, talking to him about what he wants to be when he grows up. All that stuff."
"True," Kate agreed. "Does him knowing put him higher in the 'probably with them' category though?"
"It could mean he knows Rupert since Rupert sent him to greet me," Abby reminded her.
"If there's more than one group in town, do we align ourselves with a side?" Tony asked.
"Rupert's a pretty decent guy but you'd have to watch to see what his slayer is like," she said, looking up at him. "Which I expect you'll be doing, Professor DiNozzo."
"Instructor, please. I'm teaching gym."
"Oooh, all those girls in nearly obscene shorts."
He snorted. "Too young for me," he reminded her. "I like mine about my own age." He gave her a squeeze. "I'll let Probie watch the bouncing breasts for me."
"Hey!" he complained, hitting him on the arm. "I'm not like that!"
"You're gay?" Kate teased.
"No! But I'm selective and I don't like them that young! I prefer being able to talk to my dates, unlike Tony."
"I talk to mine a lot before I do more than that," he assured him dryly.
"No matter what Ducky's mother thinks?" Kate teased him now.
He stared at her, mouth open to say something then he closed it. "She mostly wanted me for my muscles, not the other stuff she thought I was. Thank you though. I'll have nightmares now," he offered with a smirk. Gibbs smacked him on the back of the head. "She started it."
"Quit, kids." Abby curled up against him and he patted her on the shoulder. "You were right to show instead of tell, but I want you out of this town, Abby. You're too precious of a resource to risk."
"Does that mean we're expendable?" Tony complained. Gibbs reached over and he ducked this one, grinning at him. "Just kidding, boss. I know you'd be lost without us."
"No, you're expendable, DiNozzo. The others can stay."
"Funny, boss. Just remember which one of us can actually *cook*. Remember, no fast food places in town and only one place to get coffee. Since it closes at dusk...."
"Don't remind me."
"There wasn't a deli in town either," McGee reminded them. "I'll miss real deli food."
"You can always pop down on the weekends to see me," Abby told him. "I'm sure there's a deli somewhere in LA. Besides, you'll get better Chinese food. Or Thai food. Or Korean food. Or...." Her mouth was covered by Gibbs' hand. "Sorry," she said from behind it. She heard someone moving outside and got up to go out there, smiling at the vampires. "Shoo!" She pulled some holy water out of her pocket and began to splash them until they ran away. "McGee, they were heading for the computers. We've got to fix that tomorrow." She picked up a phone and dialed a number she had memorized earlier in the day, smiling at the girl's voice who answered. "Hi, is Rupert there? Tell him it's Abby." She smiled as the girl yelled it, and he snatched the phone.
"Hi, Rupert. It's me. No, I'm popping around tomorrow but I wanted to ask your advice on something before then. Sure, I can pop around then. No, I still remember. No, we have a storage area I've got to ward since it's got computers and stuff. What do I do?" She found some paper and a pen, taking notes. "That'll keep all the nasties out or just the undead?" She nodded, making more notes. "Sure. Thank you!" She blew a kiss and giggled. "I'll pop around tomorrow. No, I was here helping someone settle in. Don't worry about it though. Of course I'm safe. You be safe too and I'll see you tomorrow for tea. Lovies." She hung up and went to dig in the bags she had brought, then Tony's kitchen since he had things like salt. Then she went up to the computer apartment to start work on that door and the windows. She went on to do all of them, just in case, then went back to cuddling between Gibbs and Tony. "Okay, all set. They can't get in there or any of the apartments. Just don't invite a delivery guy in."
"The kid said not to invite people in," Gibbs said.
"Yeah, he definitely knows. Tony, Rupert's in the library if you get stuck on something like this. I know Kate was wondering why a guy with a Ph.D. in history and former museum work is doing working in a public library halfway around the world from his home. Surprise, his girl is here. I think she answered the phone."
Gibbs nodded and let her snuggle back in. "Thank you, Abby. You're still heading out tomorrow, before sunset if possible."
"Yes, Gibbs. I'll have everything set up in LA long before I get there tomorrow night. The director already agreed. Ducky's going to be traveling back and forth and he'll be setting up a medical contact out here for you."
"Sure." He went back to watching the end of the movie. "Put in something with guns, DiNozzo."
"Sure, boss." He got up to find a better movie and put that in, coming back to steal back the popcorn and share it with Abby.
"How does one get holy water?" McGee asked.
"You ask a priest for it," Tony told him dryly. "The same as they can bless your crucifix for you. I've got to find mine."
"Mine's on me," Kate offered, touching hers.
"I'll find one tomorrow," McGee told them.
"There has to be faith behind it, McGee," Abby warned. "You have to believe in the power of the faith. Otherwise it's only mildly irritating." He nodded, considering that. "There is a Catholic church in town," she noted for Tony's benefit. "It's downtown and past the Bronze. Where we went to have the beer."
He nodded. "Thanks. I'll stop in once I find it." He leaned against her side to watch the movie. He'd miss having her around to annoy. She stroked his arm, feeding him a piece of popcorn now and then.
Gibbs looked at them, smirking slightly. "Maybe we should head to bed."
"I don't think I'm going to be sleeping," Kate offered.
"Me either," McGee agreed. "I'll go finish those background checks, boss." He got up and Kate followed.
Abby grinned at Gibbs. "I'll stay on his couch since he's so comfy."
"Thank you." He got up and went down to his apartment, trying to find a substitute for the boat he was working on. It was how he thought at home. He found a small present wrapped in Harry Potter paper on his table and smiled, opening it. Abby had gotten him books on making toy boats. At least it was something he could do when he was stressed. He sat down to study it, it wasn't so different, just the scale really.
Xander looked at the group gathered the next afternoon in the library. "All right. I stalked Abby and her posse around last night," he reported. "She took them to a cemetery, staked a few vamps while explaining things, walked them past Willie's, then they went to the Bronze. Since they were inside and safe, I went for coffee, but apparently that had only been a rest stop. I came back and they were under attack. Gibbs tried to stake the vampire, but his aim was off. I stepped up and staked it before it could attack again then walked past them like I was going into the Bronze, making a few quips. I followed to make sure they got home. They all curled up in the middle guy's apartment. No lights on but it looked like they were watching tv from the flickering going on." Everyone nodded at that. "Does *anyone* have a clue why they're here?"
"Maybe they're here to see you, Xander," Willow suggested. "Gibbs is your dad, right? I mean I did the blood test too and it came up positive."
"Yeah, and he doesn't know me, Willow. I'm sixteen, he can't exactly just show up to play daddy dearest now." He bounced a bit on the balls of his feet. "Giles, anything? I know that they hunt down military criminals in the Marines and Navy. Wills found that out."
"They're probably not here about that," Buffy said.
Xander gave her a look. "In case you didn't realize, Buffy, I did take that rocket launcher from the local reserve base. They could very well be here about that, which means I'm going to prison for helping you," he said bitterly. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, looking at Giles. "Do we have anything else military going on in town, Giles?"
"Not that I've been able to ascertain," he admitted, taking off his glasses to clean them. "I've called the Council and they said nothing. Though, Abby did call me and say she's coming for tea. Perhaps I'll find something out then." He looked at the boy. "I do agree, they're probably not here to arrest you."
"He's your father, he wouldn't do that," Willow told him.
"Hello! He doesn't know me," Xander reminded her. "There's no family bond there to make him go easy on me!" She sighed and slumped down and he looked at Giles again. "You'd tell me, right? Give me enough time to hit Mexico and hide?" He got a patient nod. "Thank you. What's the plan now? He brought a full team with him, it's got to be something major."
"Well, there is the possibility that it's related to the base somehow. Perhaps they've gone missing other weapons as well."
"Yeah, mostly because you needed them," Xander said dryly. "Remember, I had Willow hack for a an ordinance list." Giles nodded at that, accepting that reason. "Which again makes me want to go brush up on my Spanish."
"I don't think you should worry, Xander," Willow offered quietly. "I'm sure you're not the primary reason he's here. It may have been why he got sent instead of someone else, but not the primary reason." He nodded but didn't calm down. "Are you okay?"
"Just tense." He looked at Giles. "I hear we're getting a new gym teacher."
"Yes, I met him earlier at the staff meeting. One Anthony DiNozzo."
"Who's one of his guys," Xander noted dryly. Giles looked stunned at that. "He had him tailing me the first day, Giles. He introduced me after I nearly lost him. He's good, I didn't catch sight of him for a few minutes." That got a curt nod. "Any other news about him?"
"No. He seemed very personable. He had a very disarming smile and way about him; he'll probably make friends on the staff easily. He seemed to know what he was doing. He mentioned he used to play ball." He tapped the table a few times with his fingers. "I do wish you would calm down, Xander."
"Would you if you were me?"
"Well, no," he admitted. "I don't think we should be going back to the base for more weapons either."
"Then someone had better start buying bullets." Giles nodded at that. "Since I'm not working and have no allowance anymore, it can't be me." He looked at Willow again. "Can I come eat at your house tonight? I'm tied of ramen noodles."
"Sure. We're having pot roast. Let me call my mom to warn her." She got up and went to call. "Mom, it's me. No, I'm coming home, but can I bring Xander? No, he's tired of ramen noodles." She looked at Xander. "Really?" She nodded. "Sure, mom, I'll ask." She put the phone on hold. "Where are you living?"
"Not at home. I'm safe. Don't worry about it. Why?"
"Your mother bragged to mine that she finally got rid of you when she called to invite you to dinner the other night."
Xander nodded. "And then I turned her into her social worker. I'm safe. Don't worry about it. I can shower in the gym and I can cook, I just end up eating ramen noodles since the food stamps haven't come yet."
"They're in my mailbox," Giles told him. Xander smiled at that. "Are you sure this is what you want to do? Couldn't you go home again?"
"Hell no!" he snapped. He looked at Willow. "If she doesn't want me, I'll be fine."
She nodded and went back to her mother. "He said he's staying somewhere safe and the drunken woman kicked him out. No, he's fine. He was just waiting on his food stamps to start and he's been eating ramen noodles. He wouldn't say, only that he's safe. Of course, mom. Thanks." She smiled and hung up. "She's not happy and Aunt Marge is over tonight. She suggested you come over tomorrow and I bring you leftovers. She said she'll make a shepherd's pie."
"Sure. I could go for that," he agreed happily. "Giles, I'll swing by and get those from your mailbox on the way to my new home."
"Where are you living?"
"Somewhere very safe. It's vamp proof, I promise. It has no drunken assholes, so I'm better off." He smiled and walked out, going to get those. It meant he could go grocery shopping and find himself some chocolate for dinner. Plus he had called Jesse's parents earlier and they had agreed he could stay there so he could openly turn on the electric so he had an alarm clock and microwave again.
"Girls, do watch out for him," Giles cautioned gently. "He is very stressed about this situation. Not only his father suddenly showing up but the fact that they're military police. I'll get what I can about his father from Abby, but she doesn't always tell you what you want to know." They nodded. "For now, just support the boy."
"Yes, Giles," they agreed, getting up and heading back to their homes.
He said a silent prayer and went to get things for tea. Abby would come here, she had said she would be.
Tony looked at his first class, seeing the boss's kid on the sidelines already. "Okay. I have the last instructor's schedule," he announced once he was finished taking roll. "Frankly, I don't think we need to follow it directly. There's plenty of more fun ways to exercise than learning how to play lacrosse." That got some snickers and he grinned. "Therefore, I'm going to blow that off for now. Today, we're going to be doing some mild aerobics so I can see who's going to have problems in here, then next class we'll be starting on soccer. As long as it doesn't rain." That got some nods. "Come down and line up." Everyone trudged down there and he looked at the boss's kid, who was still sitting there. "No immunity today, kids."
"I have a medical excuse," one girl said.
He looked at her. "Where?"
"On the clipboard."
He got it and looked at it, then at her. "It shouldn't matter with what we're doing today. I don't want anyone to stress themselves today, you do what you can, and I'll figure out if you need to sit on the sidelines and how you can still participate. Got it?" She nodded, going to her spot. He looked at the kid, who was wincing. "Injured?"
"Back's out," he admitted. "Give me a minute to pop it." He stretched his back and winced again, then suddenly sighed. "Better." He walked down and got next to Buffy, who smiled at the person who got moved, who huffed and moved to the next line up.
Tony smiled. "You can be ragged lines, I don't mind. For now, let's start with some mild stretching. Link your fingers together and stretch up, going up on your tip toes if possible," he said, demonstrating it. "Good. Now slowly come down and arms out to the sides, then bend down slowly at the waist to touch your toes, then back up slowly and twist a few times." The students followed along. "Good, now repeat it three more times just like that." He went back into the office, coming out with a boom box and the tape he had made last night. He put it on, getting some surprised looks for the techno. "I'm not as old as you think and dancing is a very good way to exercise. It raises the heartrate and gets you moving. Now, let's start with some mild jogging in place, say two or three minutes." He watched, noticing one girl was barely moving. He walked over to her. "Are you okay?"
"I was in a car crash about six months ago and messed up my knees. Sorry."
"That's okay. You do what you can. Can you keep score?"
"I'm very good at math," she admitted with a smile.
"Good. For now go man the radio." She smiled and nodded, going to sit down next to it. He saw the kid wincing and walked over to him. "What happened to your back, Mr. Harris?"
"It just needs to finish settling in, sir," he said. "I need to pop it properly, may I?"
"Go ahead." He watched as the boy moved over to the risers and laid down on one, feet crossed, hands gripping above his head, and that his back was clenching. He knew that technique. He used it himself. He walked over and helped by pressing on his stomach, hearing the popping going on. "Better?"
"Much," he said happily. He sat up and looked at the other kid. "Stephanie, his inhalers," he ordered. She nodded, getting up with a moan to go get them from the kid's locker. He walked over with the teacher, pulling the poor asthmatic off to the risers and sitting him down.
"Which one?" she called.
"Bring both, he'll know," Tony called. "Should I get the nurse?"
"Not unless he can't stop," Xander said, taking them from her. He held them up. "Brad?" The kid looked at him. "Blue or red?" He grabbed the blue one and used it, slowing down. Xander sat next to him, patting him on the back, the girl doing the same. "Just relax, it's all right. Just calm down," he soothed. "Take another one if you need it."
"Once he's had it, Stephanie, why don't you take him to the nurse?" Tony suggested. She nodded and Xander smiled at him. "Brad, in here I want them in your pocket or on your waist. Got it?" The kid nodded. "Good. I don't want you hurt." He went back to the others. "He'll be fine. Let's get back to this. Okay, now transfer to jumping jacks." He did a few and they groaned but followed along. "Good, now do ten more, then go back to jogging for a minute, slowing down as you do so. At the end, let's try some pushups." That got another groan but they did it and he saw who had the problems in his class. They had gotten into the pushups and were about to be ordered to do situps when the fire alarm rang. He cut off the music. "Which door?"
"Either's fine," Xander called. "We meet on the football field." That got some nods and the kids filed out together.
Tony looked at the asthmatic kid, ending up picking him up and taking him to the nurse personally. He put him in front of her. "He had an attack, he's still wheezing and focused on his breathing."
"Thank you." She smiled and checked the boy over. "I'd go back to your class," she warned. "They will act up."
He nodded, going back there. He found a few making out and pulled out his squirt gun, getting a few on the head. It earned an outraged shriek from one of the girls. "Yay," he noted dryly. "That is not a regulated sport, therefore you can't do that in gym class." He looked at the others. "Are we missing people?"
"Miss Summers went to talk to the librarian," one girl offered helpfully, if a bit snidely. "I don't know why, she's not that smart. Then again, maybe Rosenburg is teaching her how to read."
Xander looked back at her. "You read the_ Poky Little Puppy_, Harmony. I wouldn't cast that stone."
"Why? Think you're better?"
"At least I can read the assignments and the homework," he said dryly. "I don't get one of the jocks to do it for me. If I flunk it's because it's my own work." She snorted and stomped off to be with some of the other girls. He looked at the teacher. "I'm surprised. Usually we play dodgeball on days like these."
"I hate dodgeball. It's an exercise in aggression not teamwork." He heard the bell ding three times. "Is that the signal to go in?" Everyone nodded. "Good. Everyone go take a shower and head to your next class. If anyone needs an excuse I'll write one for up to ten minutes late." They headed inside, their little groups chatting. He noticed Xander was alone since his friends weren't there and a few of the kids gave him a lot of room. That wasn't that encouraging in his mind, but it was something they could work with. He followed to get ready for his next group, who came in to get dressed and gathered on the risers. He noticed the basketballs being brought out and shook his head. "No dodgeball and you don't use those for it anyway."
"We do here."
"Not with me teaching you don't," he assured them. "I don't like dodgeball. Get over it already." He flipped to that list, looking at the list of names with excuses, then at his list. He looked at his class, watching as everyone slowly trickled out from the last one. The boss's kid went out last and he was limping so he stopped him and looked at him. "Do I need to fill out an assault report?"
"No," he said quietly. "Nothing unusual and you don't want to bring attention from the principal." He headed to his next class more slowly.
Tony looked at his class. "All right. Today I'm going to be gauging your stamina and things. Then we're going to move onto soccer, weather willing. So let's line up. You do what you can. Anyone who has a medical condition that's severe, don't overstress yourself but let me know." That got some nods and he looked at the girl on the crutches. "Normally I wouldn't make an exception, but sit. Okay, let's start with some easy stretches," he ordered, showing it to them. "You do this before you walk onto my field every day," he ordered. The principal came in and he looked at him. "Repeat those a few more times, then we'll start." He looked at the shorter, nasty man. "Yes, Principal Snyder?"
"You let your last class go late?"
"I made them shower. It's only fair. I said I'd excuse up to ten minutes." He shrugged. "They did sweat in here, no one should have to stay sticky all day." He looked at the kids. "Okay, let's start with some mild jogging in place." That got a few groans. "As I said, do what you can. I need to see who's got the problems doing what in here." He looked at them, then at the principal again. "Was there another problem, Principal Snyder?"
"They're supposed to be playing dodgeball."
"Dodgeball teaches nothing except how to pick on the weaker ones. They already know how to do that. I'd prefer to teach them how to work in teams, like they'll have to in the real world once they graduate and start to work. Next class we're starting soccer. Now if you'll excuse me."
"I run this school."
"And I run this class," he reminded him with a smirk. "I just came from DC, which has a lot more political assholes than you could ever be, Principal Snyder. You don't scare me. Half of my last class were military brats." That got a sneer. "I faced down Marines in a rage because their kid didn't get picked for a team. Go to jumping jacks," he called without looking. "I faced down Navy officers, Rangers, and the other special ops commandos who didn't like the fact that their kids weren't competitive. You really don't scare me. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a class to run and you're taking my time." He got back to work. "Good. Slow back into a slower jog, cooling down for a minute, then we'll move to pushups." He watched the irritating little flea of a man walk out and smirked at him. "Gibbs does that so much better," he said happily, grinning at the kids. He could see who had the problems and it was duly noted. "Okay. Next we'll do a few situps." They groaned but did them. "Try for ten. Then stand up and stretch again." He turned on the music, smiling at their shocked look. "Exercise is the raising of the heart rate. Dancing qualifies and takes good body coordination. It's also how many of you will pick up boyfriends and girlfriends. We'll see who has some good footwork later this month. If you guys do well and keep me happy, we'll do a dance party once a month. Okay?" That got some smiles and nods and the kids went back to what they had been doing. It was a good idea of his.
Tony walked in and flopped down on Gibbs's couch, looking at him. "Boss, the kids are mean and horrible. Worse than when we went to school."
"I went to base schools," he noted. "No bullying allowed."
"The principal wanted me to play dodgeball with basketballs." Gibbs looked at him. "We've got a problem in him and I told him I was running my class my way. He stomped off like Kate in a snit. About the same mannerisms too." Kate came out of the kitchen frowning. "Seriously." He looked at him. "Your boy is an outcast, boss. He's got about three friends, but he's good in a situation. We had an asthmatic kid go off during his and he ordered another student to get his inhalers. He's also got a back that needs to be popped every now and then."
Gibbs looked at him. "Any other good news?"
"Yeah, the kid's a serious outcast. The pretty chicks were sniping at him. He snapped back. That means he's given up on the popularity structure at the school. So apparently he's at least a bit realistic."
"Wonderful. How did he do?"
"I did mild PT today. Just to see how the kids did. He did okay once he popped his back the second time, but we were interrupted by the fire alarm. His next class is Thursday morning and we're starting soccer. Rain willing."
"Any idea where he's staying?"
"Not a clue. I didn't follow him home since he went to the school's library and didn't come out by the time I walked past to come home." He popped his neck and sighed. "Oh, better." He looked at his coworkers again. "He's got some strength in there somewhere. He's a survivor."
"Good. That's always good," he agreed quietly, going back to cleaning his gun. "Anything else you learned, DiNozzo?"
"The names of his two friends so we can do a background," he offered, handing them to Kate. "I'm pretty sure the Principal knows what's going on in the town. He was stomping off muttering about having me eaten." Gibbs smirked at that. "I told him my last post had been half military kids and I had faced down all sorts of people, including Rangers and commandos, about their kids poor performance and not making various teams. He didn't even twitch on the word commando. So I don't think he's involved in that part, but I do know he knows what's going on. The fire drill was a dead body. It was over with in under five minutes." Gibbs looked at him and he shrugged. "I couldn't tell you more, that's all I know. He handles the spin for the school and your boy warned me not to get attention from him when he limped out of the changing rooms and I asked if he wanted to file a report."
"Looked like some minor shoving. He was limping a little on his right ankle. By lunch he wasn't. I'm guessing he twisted it somehow." He stood up with a moan and went to get some coffee, coming over to sit at the table. "He's got some strength hidden in there, boss. I don't know if it's from his parents or being picked on. He looked a bit worn out today and I had him for second period."
"That's fine. I almost expect he'll be around sometime in the next few days. You can make friends with him if you want."
"I wouldn't mind. He's got a sense of humor. He kept looking around at the bouncing breasts during the exercises." He sipped his coffee with a smile. "There's still a definite divide against him and the jocks are still a separate clique."
"Bring back good memories?" Kate taunted.
"A lot of them," he agreed happily. "A kid like Xander would've been picked on since he didn't have a good area, but I think he could hold his own if he had some self-esteem." He took another drink and relaxed. "At least I don't have to grade homework."
"That is a good thing," she agreed. "You'd never get it done."
"Funny, Kate, really," he said, staring her down. "Who had more open files on her desk?"
"Kids," Gibbs ordered patiently. "Any other clues?"
"Yeah, Summers and Rosenburg spend a lot of time in the library with Rupert Giles too by one girls' sniping. So I'm thinking there is a second group. A very small group but a second one."
"Good." He put his gun back together again and slapped the clip back in. "Any good news?"
"Not yet. Should we hunt down the kid later to talk to him?"
"No. Let him come to us," Kate ordered. "He's got to be shy of this situation."
"I'll give it two days and then go find him," Gibbs noted. The agents nodded, leaving that in his hands. "Kate, any word on the commandos?"
"A bit. I think we managed to locate their base through the town records. They really do cater very well to the demon population. There's a set of underground condos just outside town under the woods. I was going to hike that way tomorrow with McGee while you went to do a search at the library." Gibbs looked at her. "Or McGee can do that and we'll go search."
"I like that idea better. I don't have the patience for library work." He stood up. "Anything else?" They shook their heads. "Then why are you hanging out here?"
"Wondering how you'd replace the boat, boss," Tony said honestly. "I found out where the lumber company is for you."
"Thank you. Abby left me a book on toy boat building and toy building too." That got dual smiles. "Wipe it. She's hinting for Christmas presents again."
"I say we tie a big bow on Probie and send him to her," Tony said with a grin. He got smacked by Kate, making him wince. "Ow! Be more gentle, I had to deal with a hundred kids today. Fortunately the squirt gun breaks up necking couples too." He finished his coffee and got up to wash the cup then went back to his apartment. "Going to shower, boss," he called as he walked.
"Fine." He looked at Kate. "Anything else on the kid?"
"I need to observe him," she reminded him. "Preferably talk with him. It'll give me the best picture." He nodded. "Think I could sub?"
"You probably could," he agreed. "You can sign up for that. It shouldn't take away from the job." She nodded, going to write a letter to the school board.
Tony smiled as some of the kids drug their parents into the gym to meet him seven weeks after he had started. His parents had hated parent/teacher nights. They hadn't attended and he wanted better for these kids. He smiled and shook hands, saying polite things about their kids and answering questions about his background and what they were doing. He did mention that he allowed them to have a dance class once a month, since it was such good exercise and something that would interest them - a bait for good behavior - and most parents agreed that was fine. One didn't so he pointed out they had the option of sitting out that day without penalty. That had soothed his temper. He did make note on the name. He had been worried about the girl for a while now. When most of his students had cleared out, he went to wander around, finding himself by the library. He smiled at the pretty woman with Buffy. "Miss Summers?" She jumped and looked at him. "Sorry, didn't mean to sneak up on you. Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I got roped into helping again this year," she said bitterly, grimacing a bit. "Mom, this is my gym teacher, Mr. DiNozzo. Mr. DiNozzo, this is my mother, Joyce Summers."
"A pleasure to meet you," he said, smiling and shaking her hand. "Buffy did very well when we did soccer. Especially in the game against the jocks." She smiled at that. "If she ever wants to join the team, all she has to do is ask."
"I don't have time," she admitted. "Sorry."
"That's okay. I remember being at teenager, vaguely," he offered with another smile, getting two in return and giggles. "Mrs. Summers, I also must admit that I do a dance class once a month as a carrot for good behavior. Your daughter has helped me teach a few of the kids some of the more popular moves."
She looked at her daughter. "She always did move well on her feet." She smiled at him again. "Are you done for the night?"
"I was wandering around to see if we were done. I was going to do some research online tonight. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, I haven't seen the troll yet."
Buffy coughed and pointed discreetly. "Back by the science classroom, threatening the geeky kids."
"Ah. Always a treat for him I'm sure." She nodded. "Are you about to disappear?"
"Not yet," she sighed. "This runs until ten." She looked at her watch. "It's barely eight- thirty. Mom, would you like to hang out in the library or go home? I can always get home."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. "Oh, I'm perfectly sure, I can get myself home. Or I can always catch a ride with a teacher or someone."
"Gladly," Tony agreed. "I've ferried a few students home. It helps me learn the town." She nodded at that. "If you need me, come find me. I'm going to wander on. Nice meeting you, Mrs. Summers. Miss Summers, perhaps you should start having a word with some of the females in your class about laundry. I'm sure you could get the point across more delicately than I could, especially with your friend?"
"The other one."
"Oh. She's been busy," she admitted. "I'll remind her tonight." He smiled and bowed, then left, going to find Giles. He liked the older man. He was pretty decent. "Ah-ha, this is where you're hiding," he said, making Xander jump. "Good, you can come help me do inventory. It'll keep you out of sight since...." he glanced around. "Since the troll is picking on students in front of their parents."
Xander looked at him. "He ask you to do this?"
"No, I'm bored. We can play poker." Xander grinned at that and shut the big, dusty book he had been reading. "Unless you've got something serious to do?"
"Not tonight. I was searching for a future problem. Giles?" He came out of the office. "Mr. DiNozzo needs help with the inventory. I'm going to do that."
"That's fine," he said with a smile. "Are we done already?"
"Quite possibly. Most of the parents have snacked and left." He grinned. "I promise to keep him out of trouble."
"I'm sure you will. Is his father coming tonight?"
"He wasn't sure of his reception. He told you?"
Tony smirked. "I think we should do the same. Don't you?"
"Perhaps. We'll see." He went back into his office. "Do behave, Xander."
"I usually try." He followed his teacher out, stopping to get some snacks.
"Those are for the parents, Harris!" the principal yelled.
"Who're all gone already!" He took them with him, nibbling the whole way. "He didn't want to come?"
"No, he wanted to come talk to you but he wasn't sure you wouldn't just walk away." He let him into the gym, looking at the parents. "Wow, there are still people left."
"We're just reminiscing about doing our dances in here," the father admitted, taking his wife's hand and walking her out with their daughter. "Have fun, Xander."
"You too, Mr. McGreer." He ate another chip and looked at him. "She's the year behind me."
"I remember. I'm pretty good with people."
"You should be with your usual job," he joked. He followed him into the office. "So, inventory?"
"Balls, hoops, lockers. Already done. I wanted to talk to you, get to know you a bit better since I work with your old man. You seem like a pretty neat kid." He shrugged. "I'm like that."
"Then you're going to report to him?"
"If you want me to. If not, then no." He looked out as the door opened. "The Principal is here," he muttered. Xander finished his snack. "Okay, so we're going to make sure all the lockers are here and match the numbers and their condition, all right?" he asked, pulling out his list. "I want to thank you for helping me tonight."
"Not a problem. How else would I get into the girls' locker room?" he offered with a goofy grin.
"You won't get to open any."
"So?" He took the list and got up to start checking the outer areas. "Principal."
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
"I got bored waiting on Buffy to be done so I volunteered to help with the inventory when Mr. DiNozzo came looking."
"Really? Why would a worthless slug like you volunteer?"
"You know, the kid could be worth a hell of a lot more than you think, but you and the others keep putting them down," Tony said from the doorway to his office. "It doesn't exactly inspire confidence or respect." He stared him down, and the man backed up. "By the way, Xander, should I call the person in question?"
"Please. Let's let him meet some of my teachers," he said dryly. His father versus the principal: an event that would be too short for pay-per-view, unfortunately.
"What? Another uncle?" Snyder sneered. "They're all worthless."
"Actually, I know his biological father." He pulled out his cell and opened it, hitting the speed dial button. "Gibbs, DiNozzo. No, Xander was wondering if you'd like to come to parent teacher night. Yeah, we're here. No, the principal is breathing down his neck for helping me do an inventory. Thanks." He hung up. "It'll be about ten minutes. He's got to change clothes." He grinned at Xander. "Do the men's."
"Sure." He headed that way, making sure the outer door was locked first. He cleared the room then got to work on the inventory, which was already done. It had some details he didn't notice so he started to look at things, noticing the scratches and dents. The agent was much more observant than he was. He heard the doors bang open and walked out, looking at his father. "Jethro."
"Xander." He smirked at him. "Helping?"
"Boredom. It was either this or play poker."
"Usually I play poker," he admitted.
"You gamble?" Snyder sneered.
Gibbs knew why he had been called now. Tony had said how bad this one was. "Yes, in my off hours. Occasionally on duty when I'm manning an out of the way post. I never play for more than pennies though." He held out his hand. "Gunny Sergeant Jethro Gibbs." He was supposed to be undercover, he couldn't out himself or DiNozzo, even if he wanted to see the man's face when he found out just how deep the hole he was burying himself in was.
He shook his hand weakly. "Principal Snyder. We should talk about your boy and his bad habits."
"I know about his bad habits. I also know which of his teachers have ridden him unfairly and who's been bullying him. I had a friend who was a federal agent do a *thorough* background check on everyone in this school when I learned about him." He noticed the man starting to sweat. "The same as I know the kid could do homework but you're not engaging his attention often enough. The family's been Marines for generations, usually in the weapons areas instead of Special Forces or Infantry." Xander snickered at that. "I think he's got a talent for it if he wanted me to give him a hand into the Corps."
"Him?" he asked, looking incredulous. "He slouches, he has no discipline, and he's a fuckup."
"He's human, he can learn better posture, and I'm sure that's because of his surroundings and the people around him. After all, the kid proved to me he can do things when he started to mumble in Latin the other day in math class." Snyder looked alarmed. "What did you think he was doing, Principal?"
"Goofing off. Again. He's always slacking."
Gibbs snorted. "He's a teenager, they do that." He moved closer, looking very deadly by the look on his agent and son's faces. "How can you, an education professional, not realize what teenagers are like? I find that very odd. Then again, my friend in the Feds said that there was some question about your license," he noted dryly, very quietly. Snyder fled. He smiled at them. "I feel better now. I haven't gotten to threaten anyone for days."
"Good work," Xander said, clapping a bit. "Teach, you've got to remember to close those outer doors and lock them. Remember, public building with an invitation written on it."
"I did." He frowned. "It wasn't?"
"It was closed but unlocked." He handed over the clipboard. "I'll check the others." He looked at his father. "Actually, I am a fuck up." He headed off, going to do that. He found a vamp in the girl's locker room and staked him. "Don't you guys ever learn?" he complained. He checked the room, including floor and ceiling. Then he sighed and checked the other two outer doors. "DiNozzo, one got into the ceiling. Got a ladder?" He called the library. "Giles, me. There's a creepy idiot in the ceiling. Someone opened the locker room doors. Sure. Have her do a check." He hung up and looked at his father. "They're going up but I know the library doesn't have a ladder that tall." He accepted it and carried it out then came back, dusting himself off. "Okay." He grinned again. "All set. Poker?"
"Poker's good," Gibbs agreed, going to get the cards from Tony's desk. He always kept them in the same spot. They settled in on the risers to play, him putting in pennies for him and Xander. "How long does this thing last?"
"Ten, boss," Tony said dryly. "It's not quite nine."
Xander chuckled. "Hey, no attack so far this year. I'm impressed."
"You had an attack last year?" Gibbs asked. Xander nodded, taking his cards and arranging them. "By?"
"Mostly dead things now. I think they got the point." He looked at him. "What do you want to know?"
"How about we start with you and go to the harder things?" Gibbs suggested. "Do you have any subjects you like?"
"Lunch." He grinned at the snort from the younger agent. "I'm a hands-on guy. I suck at lecture-based learning." He looked at them. "I need two." He put down two cards and were handed them. He shook his head. "Fold." He put them down.
"You're a cautious player," Tony told him.
"Always with someone else's money." He looked at his father again. "My turn for a question. Are you here for me?"
Gibbs looked at him and shook his head. "It's mostly an army reserve base. I have nothing to do with that. I know it was noted that you did it but I think it was for a good reason. No one's asked me anything about it." Xander nodded and subtly relaxed. "You can quit worrying about that, kid. That would be JAG."
Gibbs smirked. "Do you have any pets? Ever?"
"I adopted a stray dog once but it got hit by a garbage truck a few days later. Willow has fish."
Gibbs nodded. "Do you help take care of them?"
"Every now and then I get to feed them." He looked at him. "Where do you live? I know DC is split? Just a general area. I don't need the physical address."
"I'm on the Virginia side and I'm well out past the suburbs. I've got a house on a wooded lot."
"With a boat in the basement," Tony added, putting down three cards. "Three, boss." They were dealt to him. "Thanks." He tossed in a few pennies. "Call."
Gibbs looked at his hand, then dealt one and raised. "Raise by two."
Tony considered his hand, then called it.
Xander watched the easy friendship. "I'm surprised you didn't ask."
"I know where you live," Gibbs assured him, looking at him. "The same as I know he was your best friend when he was younger. I don't know why they left. You could tell me that since apparently they're like family to you."
"Jesse's parents used to let me sleep over whenever I wanted," he admitted quietly. "They tried a call to social services but I was threatened if I didn't lie. It was still noted and they still protected me until their son died."
"How did he die?" Tony asked, laying down his cards. Gibbs took the pot. "Bastard."
"Yay." He looked at his son again. "How did he die?"
"He was turned."
Gibbs nodded. "I'm sorry. They sound like they gave a damn about you, kid." Xander nodded. "I take it they know you're there?" He nodded. "That's fine then. I understand why you didn't come to me. You didn't want to burden me and you didn't want to risk rejection. I get that fully, Xander."
"Welcome. I don't like it, but I understand," he said, staring the kid down. "If you're still a minor when I leave, do you want to come with us?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure I can leave the town and I'm not sure we'll get along that well. You're a bit of a hardass."
"Point," he agreed with a smirk. "I admit to that virtue readily."
"The new people at the office are warned about his bark," Tony said quietly, making Xander chuckle. "What's your favorite food?"
"I don't really pick a favorite. All foods are good foods."
Gibbs smirked at that. "Do you want to try a dinner some night? DiNozzo can cook."
"With all of you?"
"McGee might bug out," DiNozzo agreed. "Order in, boss." He handed the cards to Xander. "Here, you deal. I have a better chance of winning."
"I doubt it," he admitted with a smirk, shuffling professionally and dealing. "Remember, I have a drunken, gambling stepfather." He dealt them cards then put the stack down. "Two penny ante." He put in his two. Tony looked at his and put in his two.
Gibbs looked at his cards, then at his son. "I haven't seen a deal that rigged since Dubai."
Xander just smirked. "Prove it."
Gibbs snorted. "At least it's a friendly game."
"Yeah but it's a skill that comes in handy sometimes."
Tony patted him on the back. "Did he offer you to someone?"
Xander looked at him, losing his smile. "I don't know you that well and I don't even tell Willow those things. Back off."
He nodded. "Backing off. Just wondering if we could hurt him for you."
"No thanks. He's suffering by being alive and poor." He went back to his hand. "Anyone need anything?"
Gibbs put in his two cents. "Three." He put them down and Xander grinned, dealing them to him. "Gee, another great one. Thanks, kid."
"Welcome, pops." He looked at Tony, who was snickering. "You?"
"One please," he offered. "We should let him play against Kate, boss."
"We should but she's a shark," he admitted. The doors opened and a small blonde girl walked in. "Hi."
"Hi." She smiled and put the ladder in the office. "Thank you for the lending, Mr. DiNozzo."
"You're welcome, Buffy. Buffy, this is Jethro Gibbs, an old friend."
"She knows," Xander noted. "Buffy, bio-dad, bio-dad,Buffy." He waved a hand. "Raise." He put in three more cents. "At this rate I can get a candy bar on the way home."
"Go steal the one from my desk drawer," Tony complained. He called while the boy was off to get that.
"Feeding Xander sugar, chocolate, or caffeine is a bad thing," Buffy told them, sounding perfectly serious. "He bounces and he does stupid stuff, plus he trips over his feet more often." She watched Xander come out with the Reeces Cups. "Oooh." He broke one in half and gave it to her. "Thank you, Xander."
"Welcome, Buffy. When's our next group night?"
"Friday. Why?" She nibbled on the treat. "Did you need to not come?"
"We can have dinner anytime," Gibbs assured the kid. "Just not this Tuesday."
Xander nodded. "Okay. Thursday good for you?"
"Yeah, and if you forget we'll come get you," Tony said with a smile. "What'm I fixing for you two and the rest of us in my place?"
"Something easy," Gibbs told him. "Chicken, Xander?"
"Chicken works. Baked?" Gibbs nodded. So he looked at Tony, who shrugged and nodded. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, kiddo. Buffy, you wanna play?"
"No, Xander always beats me and Giles wants me back for practice." She waved and walked off, going to report.
"Nice job making sure she knew what I looked like and that I'm not a real threat, kid," Gibbs noted. "It'll get through your group within the hour?"
"If not sooner." He looked at him. "Who are you here for? Just generally. I figured it was military and my small problem with needing stuff was the only one I knew about."
"There's a covert group working out of the area," Tony said quietly. "We're here for them, not you, kid. The base commander never reported it. The only evidence was security camera footage. It was merged with what you used it for in our files. I think someone higher decided it was necessary."
"Good, it was." He shrugged. "It said he couldn't be killed by anything made by man at that time."
"Well, you certainly turned it into little blobs of blue stuff," Gibbs said dryly. "Good work."
Xander grinned. "I can blow things up too. It's pretty."
"It is. Then again I was a sniper." Xander tipped his head a bit so he looked at him. "Yes, me."
"I wondered where I got the ease from. How long did it take you to get over the first one?"
He glanced at his son, seeing the pain in those eyes. He knew, and it was a very personal question, but one he probably needed to talk about. "I haven't. I do what's necessary. The same as you do. I still have nightmares."
"Mine are still pretty much nightly," he admitted. He looked around. "Are we at the showing stage?"
"Sounds good to me," Tony said, flipping over his hand.
Xander grinned and flipped his. Gibbs groaned and flipped his, so Xander got another handful of pennies to add to his stack. At the end of the night, he handed them back to Gibbs, who just gave him an odd look. "I don't need 'em, I had a candy bar." He walked out one of the side doors, heading for his new house.
"Boss, is it just me, or is he nearly as hard as some of the vets we've seen?" Tony asked quietly.
"He is," he admitted. "I want to kick his mother's ass."
"Are you sure that's the cause?"
"Yeah, he slipped too easily." He looked at him. "He's a good kid. He'd make a good cop."
"He would, but he wouldn't get to blow anything up." He looked at him. "He'd also have to calm down."
"You think he'd go military?"
"At times I think he's already *been* military, boss. He does Army PT." Gibbs looked at him. "I don't know. I asked, he just smirked." He shrugged and walked off with him. "So, chicken and what? I'm doubting the kid's been eating full meals except at school and that's been slop recently."
"Whatever's fine with me, DiNozzo."
"You'd probably poison the kid, boss." He closed and locked the gym doors then followed him out. "It went well."
"It did, but it left a lot more questions than it answered." He noticed the library's lights were still on and peeked in. "This normal?"
"He's probably in the office." He opened the door and walked in, smiling at Giles. "Rupert, allow me to introduce Jethro Gibbs."
"Ah, Xander's father," he said, shaking his hand. "Nice to finally meet you."
"I'm taking it slow." He looked around, noticing the cage with weapons, then back at him. "I'm going to be blunt." Giles nodded. "I've got questions. You know the answers and Xander's still very cautious. I feel like there's something that he's still hiding from me. Is there something I need to know or should know?"
Giles considered them for a moment. "Would you like some tea? We could go back to my place."
"Sure, Ducky keeps trying to make me drink tea," he agreed. "Meet you there?"
"Of course. Give me about a half hour to clean up around here. The children left a mess when they didn't shelve books."
"That's fine." Gibbs nodded. "That small apartment complex with the courtyard, right?" Giles smirked and nodded. "See you soon." He walked out with Tony. "Finally, answers."
"You don't want to ask the kid?"
"He's still got a lot of boundaries I'm not sure I want to cross yet," he admitted. "Besides, I don't think they're involved in the other problem."
Tony shook his head. "No. Not that I've seen either." He held the door open. "After you, Gibbs."
"Thanks. Did you drive?"
"No, I jogged. I needed to get out and run. Oh, I met Buffy's mother earlier. She seemed very nice," he said as he followed his boss to his car.
"She a redhead?" he joked.
"No, light brunette. But still very nice. Charming, cultured. Well-dressed. Too old for me, but very nice." He got into the car once his side was unlocked, looking around. "Snyder was listening, I was right."
"I saw 'im. Little toad," he muttered, starting the car. "Thank you for calling me," he said as he backed out.
"Not a problem, I thought it was a chance you'd like." He watched the town go by. "He's headed to Willow's," he noted as they passed by where Xander was walking.
"He hopefully wants to talk."
"Boss, there's a subtle rift there that I don't understand. Not just the 'boy/girl' thing either. He was serious, he thinks he is a fuckup."
"He's not, DiNozzo."
"I know that, you know that. Do his friends know that?"
"Probably not. Hopefully we'll find that out tonight too. Did you want to stay?"
"I like the kid. Maybe some day he'll take my spot on the team." Gibbs smiled at that. "That would mean getting his grades up however. He's a straight D student, boss."
"It happens. Some people don't learn very well from being lectured at. I didn't; I learn better by being shown and then being allowed to do it a few times."
"He definitely can do that. Plus he's still got a good streak of leadership when he feels like speaking up. He'll make an excellent agent if he wants to go that way."
"I'll see if he does. He seemed like he could use some confidence work."
"Oh, yeah. That's putting it mildly," he noted dryly. They parked and he looked at him once the car was off. "What'dya wanna bet Snyder thinks you're my lover and starts on that tomorrow?"
"Possibly," he noted dryly. "Never happen. You're not a redhead." He got out and looked around.
"Boss. You know better," he called.
"Relax. That Buffy girl is headed this way." He leaned against the side of the car, scanning the area around them. He noticed she was doing the same. Someone had trained her to hunt. "Buffy," he said, nodding politely.
"Are you going to bug Giles?"
"Yup." He smirked a bit. "He'll be here shortly."
"Okay, tell him everything was quiet so I went to do the stupid history paper on queens. Not that I can find anything on ancient drag queens, but...." She looked at him when he snorted and smirked again. "So, you're the Xander's father." She looked him over, then into his eyes. "If you hurt him, I will break every bone in your body, slowly. I'll have fun doing it." She smiled sweetly. "I don't care what sort of Fed you are. I'll have a lot of fun doing it. I'll get my ex to help. He'll have even more fun than me." She walked off, humming happily.
"I think we just found the girl Abby mentioned, boss," he noted as he got out, watching her walk away. "That would explain why she's so good in my class." He looked at his boss, smirking a bit. "You okay? It's not often you get a serious threat from a five-foot-four blonde girl."
"Fine, DiNozzo. At least she's protective of him." Giles pulled in and parked. "I saw your charge. She said everything was quiet and said she'd break every bone in my body if I hurt the kid."
"Buffy can be a bit overzealous now and then but her heart is usually in the right spot," he admitted. "Come inside, it's dangerous out here."
"I saw." They followed him inside and he looked around. Books everywhere. "This reminds me a lot of Ducky's place."
"Only no demented mother calling me a furniture-moving gigolo and no yappy dogs," Tony agreed.
Giles looked at them. "Abby's mentioned him a few times. What sort of dogs does his mother keep?"
"Corgis." Gibbs took off his jacket and sat down. Tony sat on the other end of the couch, where he had a clear view of the door and the hallway. "Relax, DiNozzo. He could have hurt us anywhere if he wanted to. Abby said he knew that branch floating stuff."
"Point, but still." He smiled as Giles came out with a tea pot. "Abby told us some stuff the night she explained the town to us."
"I'm sure she did. She's a very nice young woman," he agreed, pouring out the tea. He handed off cups and sat back with his, getting comfortable. "Now then, what did you want to know?"
"My son. I figured out a few minutes ago that Buffy is your slayer." Giles nodded once, taking a sip. "How is my son involved?"
"He goes with her?" Tony asked. "Xander's not uncoordinated but he's not one I'd expect it from."
"He's recently hit a growth spurt," Giles remarked. "Not that he's ever been graceful, but he was better before then." He rested the cup on his knee. "He's also an asset, most of the time, to the job. He does research, he makes a mess in my library, but he keeps her mood light when things go wrong."
"Yet, he's hurting, in pain, and scared senseless of being rejected," Gibbs noted calmly, sipping his tea. "Why?"
"They've had their fights and I'm sure you've realized what his former parents were like."
"Former?" Tony asked.
"They've announced they never had a son."
"Ah." He nodded and sipped his tea, then added a lump of sugar. "I know where he's living."
"Then you're one up on me. He did ask me to lie to the authorities so he could get food stamps. Where is he?"
"A former friend's house." Giles looked confused. "Jesse."
"His death did affect Xander quite strongly. I suspect there was more than affection between them but I can't be sure. Would that bother you?"
Gibbs shook his head. "No. I don't have the right to say who gets with who." He took another drink, formulating his next question a bit more tactfully. "We've both noticed the boy shows signs of abuse. One of my fellow agents is a profiler as well and she pointed it out. She also suggested that he's in a bad spot and probably needs some guidance, which I don't know how to give without upsetting him."
Giles nodded a few times. "He could use some, yes. I must remain focused on Buffy's well being and Willow's been dabbling in magic so I'm determined to watch her. Unfortunately that has left the boy out of the inner circle as it were. I know he's suffered some time in the past. I know that he's done things we don't know about. I also realize you're still reassuring him that you're not here about those weapons?" Gibbs shook his head. "Good. Then he won't be heading for the southern border anytime soon. Xander is very much a man already," he said quietly. "He's already grown up a great deal since I first met him. Then again, I was gauging him against my own friends when I was his age. He's lost a lot of the fun and easiness he used to have."
"Do you think me being closer could help?" Tony asked. "I have a pretty good rapport with the kid. I can also work on some of his training so he learns how to deal with his new body."
"That would be wonderful," Giles agreed with a smile. "He could definitely use it. He's fallen into graves recently. He has this distressing habit of hitting his head."
"The school's reported bruises. Backing up your girl or his folks?" Gibbs asked, finishing his tea and getting comfortable.
"It could have been either," he admitted. "I do know the bruises on his neck were from fighting. I helped treat them that night." Gibbs nodded at that. Giles put down his cup. "The boy could use a solid male role model. I believe I've been the only one in his life so far. The problem is that he's scared of coming to you. He's scared of rejection and of ending up worse than he was before."
"Which is typical of abuse cases," Tony agreed.
"Yes, but there's something deeper and I can't get that deep. Even if he were my slayer I fear I couldn't crack his inner thoughts and feelings." He looked down for a moment, then at them. "I do know that the boy will do whatever's necessary, even if it isn't always the right thing," he offered quietly. "Last year, Buffy's boyfriend lost his soul. He returned to the torturing vampire he had been. It came down to a point where Willow was going to resoul him and Buffy had to stop him. Xander saw she couldn't, and lied to her. The soul stuck just before she banished him to hell." Gibbs winced. "Needless to say, the girls weren't pleased with him, but I knew why he had done it. She hadn't to be able to beat him. I suspect there's been other incidences. I know that he hunts while Buffy's gone. She ran away for a bit near the end of last school year. We all went out and he still went out more often I'm sure. He's like that."
Gibbs nodded. "That's a trait he does get from me."
"In this case, I believe it's what's enabled him to survive," Giles said quietly. "I have no illusions that his parents were good to him. I've studied too much psychology to not see the injured soul he has. I do not know how deep it goes. I don't know if it was sexual abuse, but I suspect someone has in the past," he noted calmly. "The boy is most odd about women. Only the worst are drawn to him. He's nearly died a number of times due to the women he's allowed close."
"I've got three ex-wives," Gibbs admitted. "All bitter bitches. That could be a family trait too."
Giles shook his head. "Not in this case. He was equally drawn to their darkness. Xander has a very strong moral code, but sometimes it doesn't always mesh with everyone else's. As I'm sure the stolen guns note."
"Do you think he could be helped by finding a future?" Tony asked. "I've seen the kid's grades. He's smarter than that."
"I believe that's a smokescreen," he agreed. "I don't think he cares. I'm not sure if deep down he isn't borderline suicidal with how he acts. I was told that, due to his family, he slept outdoors most Christmases. Even last Christmas. He's known now for two years. We're into our third year together." He picked up his tea cup and took another drink. "I do believe he and Jesse were closer than friends. I didn't have the opportunity to watch them interact that often. I do know that Xander staking him changed him drastically and nearly broke him."
"He staked him?" Tony asked.
"He had been turned. He was going after Cordelia Chase," he said quietly. "Xander saved her."
"And in her ever-so grateful way she's now trying to destroy what's left of him?" Tony demanded. "Rupert, they're dating." Giles shuddered. "Seriously snogging in the closets dating."
"With his destructive love life in the past, I'm not surprised," he admitted. He looked at the silent man. "Had I been closer, I would have let Buffy do it," he assured him. "Or I would have. None of us realized. Willow got told later that he had been dusted. I'm not sure if she even realizes he staked him," he offered. "He's changed since those first few days but I thought that was the act of killing, until I heard him having a nightmare one day in the library before a study session." Gibbs nodded, forcing himself to relax. "He's very good at it, but sometimes I do worry that he could be going out on his own and he could be getting seriously injured. I know he did when Angelus had me to get me free." Gibbs nodded at that. "I really do hope you can help the boy. He's the most charming scamp about half the time. The other half he's annoying you to death but he's usually very sweet and gentle. Frankly, Willow's expressed her doubts about him staying when you leave because she doesn't want to see him hurt or swallowed up by this."
"She's got a bit of 'I'm a special girl' attitude problem," Tony told him. "Her and Buffy both."
Giles nodded. "I know, and I can't stop it without destroying their self esteem. I keep pointing out that others can and have done the same thing, and even more important things. It hasn't worked yet. It will be a hard fall when they fall and I fear for their sanity, but I'm at my wit's end trying to get them straightened out, and Xander has honestly fallen by the wayside while I try. In all our eyes."
"That's fine. I wouldn't mind him coming with me," Gibbs said, standing up. "Is there anything else you know?"
"Last month, Xander was sent away from the group," Giles admitted. "We thought it for his own safety. We all pushed him away, harshly even when necessary to keep him out of a certain fight. He wasn't there, but the next day he was very cold, very distant, and there was a bomb found in the basement."
"You think he did it?" Gibbs asked, looking down at him.
"No, but I think he stopped the person who put it down there," he offered. "I think he knows and I think he realized something important about himself at that time. He's been quieter since then. Even Buffy's noticed."
Tony stood up, putting down his cup. "Thank you. Leave Xander to us. I'm going to volunteer to help him with his hand-to-hand. He's having dinner Thursday with Gibbs."
"Do you think he'd come with us?" Gibbs asked.
"I honestly don't know. I'm not sure he could leave the girls or this town. Then again, I'm not sure the hellmouth would allow him to leave. He was born here. His mother was in the school working when he was born." He finished his cup and put it back down. "I wish you all the luck you need, gentlemen. Xander is a very special young man and he deserves the best, but I'm sorry I haven't been able to give it to him."
"We're a family in our team, Mr. Giles," Gibbs assured him. "We've adopted others." He walked out, Tony right behind him. He got into the car and pulled out, going for a drive. "Do you think he knew?"
"I think he's seen the signs but he's right, he's not that deep into the kid. I remember the bomb incident but I didn't see him until the next day. He was really quiet and not at all jumpy, which he usually is. That's when I went to Kate to see if the kid might be suicidal, boss."
"What did she say?"
"She said it depends on the reason he suddenly got quiet. If it was something like love, then no. If he was working on a problem or trying to figure himself out, probably not. If it was an incident and he got hurt, then possibly. That's when I started to get closer."
"Thank you. When's his next class?"
"Tomorrow." He checked his watch. "Yeah, tomorrow." He looked at him. "Just the standard?"
"Please. You might wanna start with everyone though."
"I thought I should," he agreed. "Where are we on the other leads?"
"We've found them. We've gotten into their surveillance. We need another hacker. Abby's coming this weekend."
"Get Rosenburg, boss. She hacks the city all the time from what I've heard." Gibbs stopped at a stop sign and looked at him. "Seriously. It can only help them since they're obviously not involved."
Gibbs nodded. "We'll discuss that at the afternoon meeting tomorrow. Do you need Kate to help?"
"Please." He waited until they got back to the house. "Boss, if Giles was right and it was sexual...."
"No wonder he can deal so well," Gibbs said bitterly. He got out and headed to his apartment, slamming the door.
Tony locked both doors and headed up to Kate's apartment, tapping gently. She came to the door in sweats and her hair pulled back. "I need help tomorrow. I'm teaching self- defense."
"Sure. We can do that. Any particular time?"
"Sure. All week if you need me. We're stuck without another hacker."
"Rosenburg. Don't bother the boss," he said quietly. "We talked to Xander." She let him inside, sitting down with her ice cream again. He sat across from her. "Xander's quietness, we think it was something. We also think that the abuse he went through when he was younger was bad. Possibly sexual according to Giles and he was trained to deal with young girls." She put down the ice cream, staring at him. "His job is to finish raising them and support the present slayer."
"Abby said that."
"Buffy's his slayer."
"Oh. Her?" He nodded. "Wow. I never would've guessed her. Now, that Chase girl I could almost see."
"She's dating Xander. I caught 'em in the locker room the other day."
She shook her head. "Totally wrong. She'll destroy him."
"She already is. We talked tonight over poker. He's killed vampires. He's her backup." She hissed. "What?"
"He's in danger of slipping deeper until he likes it, Tony."
"I know. I suspect he's using it as stress relief. Gibbs thinks he'll make a good agent."
"He would. He's got the skills from what I've seen but not the confidence."
"Which we can help with. By the way, we're having a dinner Thursday and Gibbs is eating with him. We're having chicken. Any particular veggies you want?"
"I'll make stuffing, you make potatoes. McGee can make dessert."
"The kid does have a sweet tooth," he agreed with a smile. "Buffy protested because I let him have a candy bar earlier." He scratched the back of his neck. "Kate, he had to lie to get Buffy to do her job," he said quietly. She looked confused. "Buffy had to go against her boyfriend, who had went bad. Giles said he lost his soul. He said he and Xander saw that she couldn't beat him."
"Emotional ties are like that," she agreed.
"So he lied to her to make her do it. Willow was going to replace his soul and he never told her that."
"So he's doing what's necessary?" She picked up the ringing phone. "Yeah?" She listened. "Sure, Gibbs. We were just talking about that." She listened to him. "No. No, he's not too far gone, not yet. Close, but not yet. Let him move as carefully as he wants. Any snapping from you and he'll think it's a trap. Sure." She hung up. "We're working on his hand-to-hand?" Tony nodded. "It sounds like he could use it."
"He's been tripping and Giles said that he's hit his head a few times. Standard growth spurt stuff," he offered.
"Wonderful. Better and better, Tony. He's savable but he's got to want it. Don't push."
"I think a gentle push could help."
"It could crack a barrier and let you deeper but it can also make him run."
"Fine." He stood up. "Tomorrow, nine."
"Of course. I'll see you then." He nodded and left, going back to his place to shower and lay out his clothes for the next day. He came out and found the boy in his apartment. "You can pick locks?"
"No, but you can credit card that one." He stared at him. "I'm not suicidal, thank you."
"I wasn't sure. That's why we asked Kate. She profiles." He put on some pajamas and sat across from him. "I want to work on your hand-to-hand. I've been meaning to ask you for a few weeks. Until tonight I didn't know how necessary it was."
"You sure that's a good idea? Will father approve?" he asked dryly.
Tony nodded. "Yeah. Neither of us thought you were doing more than cheerleading before tonight, Xander." Xander gave a one-sided shrug. "What happened to your arm?"
"Vampire." He rolled up the sleeve to show off the new bruise. "I've had worse." He put his sleeve back down. He looked at him. "Do you actually want to help me or is this because you love my dad?"
"For you. You have the same potential I saw in myself. My parents ignored me all the time, that was bad enough. You've managed to live with worse and still stay sane and mostly healthy. I think you'd make a good replacement for me on the team someday," he offered quietly. "I know your father said that if you wanted to go military he'd talk to someone to make sure you got a good DI."
"I couldn't stand having someone tell me when to piss."
"Me either," Tony admitted with a small smile. "That's why I was a cop before. Nearly as hard but you get a bit more freedom and downtime."
Xander stared at him. "You should know I do hunt."
"Giles thought so."
"No, I stole one of the bugs you've put in Jesse's house and a monitor out of your car," he admitted dryly. "Can I actually talk to you, Tony? Like a human being? Giles was right, he can't handle me and them. They're heading for a hard break soon. Buffy had one and she ran, but then things started to go right for her again."
He nodded. "Of course. I'm only watching you for him. I never had to make friends with you, kid."
"First, don't call me that. They used to."
Xander smiled. "Thank you." He stood up. "I take it the hottie upstairs is coming to help all week?" Tony nodded. "Good, it'll give me someone else to stare at." He grinned. "Yes, I know Cordy's not very good for me. She's still ripping into what little self esteem I have. I also know that she's not exactly the most faithful person in the world. I've had worse."
"Do you want to talk about who molested you?"
"It was a poker debt. I was thirteen. He tried to make it good. It wasn't *so* bad," he admitted. "It's not what hurts me, Tony."
"Jesse." Xander nodded. "I'm sorry you had to do that. I can't even imagine plugging one of my friends or coworkers, not even McGee," he offered quietly. "I have had to shoot others if you want to talk about it."
He shook his head. "No. I'm tired of thinking about it."
"But going out to do stupid shit doesn't solve that problem," Gibbs said from the door. He closed it. "I heard you up here and came up to see if there was a problem. You could talk to me too."
"It's...hard," Xander told him. "Very hard."
"I've had to talk to others."
"Not that part."
"Point. I feel the same awkwardness you do, Xander. Trust me here, kid." He saw the wince. "Okay, I won't call you that." He moved closer. "Every time I look at you I see some wild animal in a very small cage fighting to get free."
"No, that's a former possession too," he admitted. "Along with the Halloween of our tenth grade year when I became PFC Harris, Army."
"Ah, how you got the codes," Tony said, smirking at him. "I wondered where the military background came from."
"Yeah, basically," Xander agreed. He looked at Gibbs again. "I'm going to be cautious for years, Jethro. I'm also not leaving. They need me here. They'll die without me here."
"We all die someday," he reminded him. "What happens if you die first?" Xander slumped and sat down again, not looking at him. "All I want is to give you a chance at a life that can make you happy. I'm not the sort to push, Xander." He sat down, looking at him. He steadfastly ignored Tony's incredulous look at that statement. "Do you understand the difference?"
"You haven't had kids?"
"I had one with my first wife, she died fairly young." Xander looked at him. "It was about five years ago. I've went through two other wives since then." Xander smirked a bit. "Nearly as bad as I heard yours were."
"Cordelia's not great but it's human contact."
"Ask Kate to give you a hug, she gives good hugs," Tony offered. "Or Abby."
"I like Abby," he admitted. "I feel...it's like she'd understand where I've been and what I've had to be."
"She probably would," Gibbs agreed. "Unfortunately we work in DC most of the time. That's a long commute for cuddles." Xander grinned at that. "Be honest with me, Xander. I know we're not going to mesh on everything. You can't possibly understand the Marines because you've never been there. You can understand my sense of duty and honor. Which can be bent if the circumstances are bad enough. Just like you stealing those weapons was." Xander nodded. "The same as I understand about the hunting. I've done that a time or two myself. Only I went after squirrels and turned them into a mess of fur and blood. DiNozzo goes clubbing and gets laid. We all react the way we were trained to react."
"You were trained to be a slut?" Xander asked him.
Tony nodded. "I started life as a rich kid."
"I'm so sorry."
"So am I. I got kicked out for wanting to be a cop." He grinned at him. "I made my way with my handicap of my name. You make yours with your past. Personally I think you'd make a great agent. I think you'd be wonderful at it. I think you could empathize with the victim. But you need better grades because you've got to have a degree to get into the Academy." Gibbs looked at him. "Laying it out, boss."
"I have problems studying," Xander admitted. "I never had a reason to and I don't learn well in the subjects I'm taking." He looked at them. "I learned Latin in a month because it was important. I can't see history as that."
"History can predict what'll happen next," Tony told him. "Look at how history keeps spiraling around. It's never exactly the same but it's damn close."
"Good point," he said thoughtfully. "Are we talking an agent like you two? Like crime scenes and stuff?" Tony nodded. "I'm not that observant. You noticed stuff I never did on that inventory and I've looked at those lockers for years."
"That's a matter of training," Gibbs assured him.
"Oh. You can train that into me?" Gibbs and Tony both nodded. "Easily?"
"Maybe," Tony admitted. "Sometimes that depends on how much you want it."
"Okay. I'll accept that caveat." He stood up. "I'm going to go think."
"You could stay here on the couch tonight. It's warmer than the house without heat," he offered.
"They came back earlier," Xander admitted. "I was talking to them before. They know what went on and they came to check on me." He shrugged. "I'm not sure if they're planning on selling the house or not. They moved to Florida."
"That's a nice place if you can stand muggy heat," Gibbs told him.
"I can't. What's snow like?" he asked suddenly.
"Cold and wet, but fun," Tony said with a grin. "We can show you if you want. But we do need to talk to Rosenburg in a few days."
"During the dinner. You guys can have her while I get Gibbs." He shrugged and grinned. "Deal?"
"Deal," he agreed, standing up. He moved closer. "I feel like I should pat you on the back or something."
"Eehh, I'm not ready for hugs yet." He grinned and left, heading back to the house. He found Jesse's father waiting on him and gave him a sheepish grin. "I was talking to my father."
"That's fine, Xander. Are you going with him?"
"I don't know yet. I'm not sure if I can leave Willow or not." That got a knowing nod. "Are you okay? You were never a night person before."
"I'm fine." He looked at the boy. "You know what happened to him."
Xander nodded. "I do. The same as I know what goes on around here after dark."
"I've seen some of that. One of them got Jesse?" Xander nodded. "Immediately?"
"No. He was turned," he said quietly. He swallowed and moved closer. "Jesse... I tried to go retrieve him the next morning when we realized we didn't get him to safety. I made Buffy take me with her to go save him."
"Too late?" Xander nodded, looking down. "So where is he? I know what happens when they get turned. Buffy?"
Xander looked up at him, shaking his head. "There was an attempted massacre at the Bronze a few days later. Do you remember that?" He nodded slowly. "Jesse was there. He was one of them and hunting."
"You?" Xander sighed and nodded. "Personally?"
"I didn't want to. I tried to talk him out of it, to get him to leave," he said quietly. "I wanted nothing more than to not see him there. Gods, Jesse was my sanity!" He ran his hands through his hair. "In the end he kept trying to bite me. That same thing that happened when I slapped that one guy came back and got me that time," he admitted bitterly. "Willow doesn't even know. She knows when but not who."
He nodded. "I understand. It was a necessity to save lives."
"That doesn't mean I don't mourn him every day."
"I know. At the service you were the only one crying." He pulled him closer to hug. "Maybe you should go with him, kiddo. Find a normal life far from this."
"He's asked but it's still going to be a while." He looked up at him. "I'll leave if you want."
"Not now. What about your parents?"
"Dead as far as I'm concerned. They've stated repeatedly that they never had a son as far as they're concerned." He shrugged. "They kicked me out because Gibbs showed up."
Jesse's dad nodded, giving him another squeeze. "I understand. Your dad was a bastard. A royal bastard." He walked him inside and to his room. "You should rest, kiddo. You've got some thinking to do. We were going to put the house on the market after this trip."
"Sure." He went into his room, looking at his stuff. Most of it could be hidden in the library with only a bag of stuff in his locker. That would only leave sleeping issues. He laid down and forced himself to relax, not listening to the whispering going on in the other room. He didn't want to eavesdrop. Not this time. He pulled the pillows over his head and got comfortable. It was going to be a long day tomorrow. He heard the door open and looked up at his mother. "I'm sorry."
"I figured it was something like that," she soothed, coming in to hug him. "I know you and he were together, Xander." She sat behind him, letting him curl up against her. "I just don't know what to do about this."
"Me either. I can store my stuff at Willow's or in the library."
She sighed and shook her head. "We'll figure that out."
Tony watched Xander the next day, watching how clumsy he was. "You okay?" he asked quietly.
"Long night." He moved back and wiped off his forehead. "Isn't it time to go?"
"You wanna talk?"
"Not yet. I had to tell them," he said quietly. He headed for the locker room, going to shower now. He heard the others come in and ignored it, going back to soaping his hair. He felt someone shove him from behind and looked back. "What?" He rinsed and turned around, facing the bully. "I'll be done in a minute."
"I hear you've been staying at your little *friend's* house," he sneered. "What's wrong, mommy and daddy kick you out?"
Xander calmly put everything down then grabbed him by the arm and swung him into the wall. "Shut up. Leave me alone. I'm not in the mood for it today." He finished his shower and left him there, moaning. He came out to find total silence. "Anyone else?" They all shook their heads. "Thank you for not continuing that petty shit." He got dressed and slammed his locker door closed, going out to put on his shoes out there. "Mr. DiNozzo?" he called. "Peter fell in the shower and hit his head."
"How bad is it?"
"He was groaning when I stepped over his body." He got up and grabbed his books heading out to his locker.
Tony walked into the locker room, closing the door behind him. "What happened?"
"Harris attacked him!"
"Why?" Everyone glared at him. "Things like that happen for a reason. Why?"
"Peter's been gay baiting him," a deeper voice said, coming around the lockers. Larry. The very out captain of the football team. "Apparently Xander had a bad night and slammed him head first into the wall. Not that I blame him. You guys know better than to pick on Xander about Jesse. The same as we all know not to ask him about that bomb."
"That wasn't him," Tony told them. "I found out who it was but it wasn't him." Everyone looked impressed with that. "Does he need the nurse?"
"He could probably use some x-rays."
"Then take him down there once he's dressed."
"You're not going to warn us not to tell?"
"No. Because you know if you do, what he did is going to come out. So are all the times he's picked on Xander and Xander's come out limping. Or bruised."
"What's he to you?" Larry asked.
"Someone who could use a mentor. The same as you could, Larry. I'm a teacher, that's what I do." He walked out, going to call the nurse to warn her. "Hi, it's DiNozzo . We had a bit of a fight in the locker room and one of the kids hit his head. No, his friends are bringing him once he's dressed. Thanks." He hung up and called Giles. "Is Xander there? No, he and Peter Brack got into it again. No, Xander preemptively struck. Knocked his head into the wall. Yeah. I don't know, he walked off. He apparently didn't sleep that much. Let me know if he skips, okay?" He hung up and nodded at the nurse that they were still in the locker room. This was something he'd be telling Gibbs in person. You didn't break that news over the phone, especially not to him.
Xander walked in Thursday night, looking presentable and clean. "Hey."
"Hey. Are you enjoying your suspension?"
"Every last minute of it," he noted sarcastically, sitting across from him. "Big break in the case?"
"No. Someone sent me an email about you." He handed it over. "You want to explain?"
Xander looked at it, then at him and shook his head. "No." He handed it back. "Nor am I going to."
"I will leave," he warned. Jethro glared. "That doesn't work on me either. I've seen worse."
"You ...what did you do?"
"You could have ...."
"No, I can't." Xander stood up and looked at him. "I'm not ready to live with you yet and you sure as hell aren't ready to live with me, Jethro. I did what I had to do so I could continue to survive. It wasn't that bad. It's been much worse. Now I'm safe and it won't ever happen again. Jesse's family can sell their house with a clean conscience. I was safe when I did it."
"It's still wrong!"
"And! It's my life!"
"Whoa!" Tony yelled as he came in. "Calm down. I don't feel like playing referee again today. I had enough of that earlier." He put the food down on the table. Then he looked at Xander. "Did you know what you were doing?"
"Yes, I was protecting my damn life. This way I didn't have to depend on anyone; I could use the time to get to know Jethro without imposing and without breaking into your case. I'm more than safe enough, I was safe when I did it because I demanded that. All in all it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Now I have everything that I need set up for me so I can continue this school year in safety and security. It's not going to happen again. I may never touch another person ever again, but it won't happen ever again. This was a matter of necessity."
"You could've asked for the spare apartment, Xander," Gibbs reminded him.
"Then I'd be in the way. You'd have to work around me and worry about what you said around me since some of that's probably classified. This way you can do your shit, I can finish this year of school, and I can make a decision that's not based on necessity or panic. I can make one based on what I learn about you. Which is how it should be in my mind." Jethro calmed himself by force and nodded. "I'm sorry if I upset you. I'll go."
"Sit!" he barked. Xander turned and looked at him. "Now. It was still stupid. I understand the reasons you're using but that was the dumbest damn thing ever done in the history of the world!"
"And I'm not discussing this after the fact."
"You could have come to me to talk to me about this. Or to Tony. Or hell, even to Kate or Abby."
"Talking about something I know I need to do doesn't make it any easier. I'm sorry if you're disappointed. I did what I had to do, yet again, to survive through this year."
"I could have...."
"For the same reason I won't let you buy me candy, I'm sure as hell not going to let you rent me an apartment." He stared him down. "Think about it. If you were me, what would you have done?" he asked more quietly.
Gibbs nodded. "Okay, I agree. It was a moment of crappy options. I'm not going to deny that, Xander. I'm not happy about it either. How did my boss find out?"
"Oh, he's out of your LA office and he got caught. You might wanna yell at McGee for that."
"McGee!" he yelled. He came in a few second later. "You broke up one of the agents in the LA office having sex with someone who was technically underaged?"
"Uh, yes, boss," he said, looking confused. He spotted Xander and frowned. "Oh, shit," he said, shaking his head. "I'm sorry, was it a setup? Did I ruin the mission?"
"No," Xander assured him, walking over to pat him on the arm. "It's fine. He got a nice email from the director about it and needed to hear my side." McGee swallowed. "You did good. Good instincts." He got a nod and looked at Gibbs, who waved him away. "Don't worry about it."
"But he was, ah....."
"McGee, think about it and ask Kate. I'm sure she can explain it to you well away from Willow." He nodded and ran out. He shook his head. "Sorry, Jethro." He sat down again staring at him. "Up to you."
He sat down. The decision wasn't hard and the kid would walk away, he could see it in his eyes. "It had better never happen again." It was the best he could do without bursting out into swearing, which could wait until he was alone.
"Not unless I'm trying to save my damn life."
"In that case, die."
"Look at it this way, I can shower at home and I can do laundry, plus eat real food."
"Did you report the food stamps?"
"Yeah, I reported it as I liquidated something of my mother's that she handed me the other day to make me go away. My case worker understood. She might even know." Tony nodded, patting him on the head. "I'm fine."
"I'm not doubting it, it just sucks that you had to do it." He looked at Gibbs. "Do you guys want me to stay?"
"No, I can walk out if he starts to shout at me," Xander promised. Tony looked at Gibbs, who made another 'go away' motion. He left them alone. "I'm sorry, but I felt it was the only liveable choice."
"It wasn't but I understand why." He uncovered the food. "Tony's a good cook."
"Good. I'm starved." He accepted his plate of food and looked at him. "I really am sorry if I disappointed you, Jethro."
"You didn't. I should've realized it was that sort of desperation. How did you hook up with him?"
Xander considered telling him then shook his head. "McGee knows part of it, the end part of it. But the source who connected us is going to remain anonymous until you're at least out of town. He was trying to help me."
"You think I'll hurt him?"
"I think you'll kill him," Xander said honestly, staring him down.
"The same guy who was the poker debt?" he asked. Xander nodded. "Let me connect some dots here. Let's see, you were *with* Jesse. I know that. So, one of his parents?" Xander didn't move. "I won't hurt them."
"They were trying to help me. He knew damn well my father would hurt me worse if I didn't. At least I was a teenager."
"That's a fucked up view of that subject," he noted bitterly. Xander nodded. "You can still be more normal."
"It's better this than me going out and trying everyone in the clubs."
Gibbs put down his fork before he put it through his plate and the table and nodded, appearing calm. His training was working overtime tonight. "That's true. I can agree with that. That's another ususal outcome. I would still prefer it hadn't happened, but it was better than it could have been. You were safe?"
"I was very safe. I always was, even when it was me and Jesse."
Gibbs nodded. "Never again?"
"Not unless my life is in danger."
"Fine. Should I look at that report?"
"Probably not. I'm sure Tony has by now."
"Yeah, he has. He wanted me to take something to keep me calm tonight."
"Might've been a good idea, Jethro."
"True. Have you ever met Ducky?"
"No, but I've heard an awful lot about him. Is he nice?"
"Very nice. You'd probably like him. He's like Giles, only genteel and tells stories." Xander grinned at that. "A lot of very long stories." He dug into his food again. "Eat. What're you doing tonight?"
"Soaking in the bathtub." He gave him a hard stare. "He didn't hurt me. I've only been able to shower in the gym for the last little while. Oh, tell him to quit locking the doors. Sometimes we come in covered in slime and need them. She hates breaking those locks." He ate a bite and smiled. "So... you have a boat in your basement?"
"I'm building it," he admitted, digging in as well. The change in subject was safer and easier, he could deal with the hard things when the kid was ready again. Otherwise he'd lose him from his pushing. "How was school before the fight?"
"What fight? I grabbed him by the arm and ran him into a wall. Everyone in that school knows not to pick on me about Jesse. They can pick on me about my uncoordination problem. They can pick on me about my clothes, my grades, anything but him. The last time I was in one of those, I got in-school in the special room. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have killed whatever creature that is." He ate another bite and his father looked at him. "Snyder's pet. One of the former swim team I was briefly part of. Fortunately I found out why they were turning into monsters so I didn't."
"You swim?" Xander nodded. "Which one?"
"Freestyle, one and four hundred meters."
"Maybe you should try out for the team if you move with me."
"Maybe," he agreed. "They offered to let me move with them to Miami."
"Fat. Chance." Xander grinned at that. "I mean it. You can keep in contact, though I'm going to be watching very hard for them to hurt you again."
Gibbs held up a hand. "Even if you are old enough, it was still a betrayal of trust and it did do innate harm to you. It had to. He knew how vulnerable you were. So you can stay in contact, but I do not want you going to see them in person alone. Got me?" He didn't really want him in contact either but at least this way he could keep track of them and possibly hand on information to the local law enforcement people, plus help Xander see how bad they were. Then he could arrest them and watch as they were beaten to death in jail for letting his son be hurt.
"That's reasonable," Xander decided.
"Thank you. Miami is very pretty and very trendy. Maybe you can visit next year when one of us can go with you."
"You'd send one of them with me?"
"If you wanted them instead of me." He looked at his son. "I figured you'd be old enough to sneak into the better clubs and that's more DiNozzo's thing." Xander nodded, accepting that. "Do you think they're doing it to others? Even if you accepted it the others probably didn't consent."
"I don't know," he said honestly. "I'm not going to call anyone down there to find out."
"Fine. We'll figure that one out together. I hate child molesters. Even if you are older than a child." Xander nodded at that. "Agreed?"
"Agreed. My life was already fucked up, I made that choice. They probably didn't."
"Good, thank you. That was a lot easier than I thought."
"I expected to walk out and be chased later."
"McGee bought ice cream cake." He ate a bite of chicken. "Eat."
"Yes, sir." He dug in, eating heartily. "How did he do this with the orange stuff?"
"I have no idea. While we're here you can ask him to teach you how to cook. Or just come over more often."
Xander nodded. "I can do that. I have a secure spot that I can go back to if needed."
Gibbs nodded, realizing that it was big step for the kid. He had to feel like he was still independent and not asking for help. It showed when he wouldn't take four cents the other night at a store for a soda and had put something back. "When do you get to go back?"
"Monday. I'll be fine. This year's grades are already screwed beyond hope."
"There's still half a year."
"We're about to come up to our quarterly apocalypse and the books are hinting at something worse next year."
"Next year?" he asked. "Xander...."
He held up a hand. "Depending on what it is, Jethro, I may need to be here. You may still be here for that matter."
"Point. We've got stuck on our case. I checked into the weapons with the local commander. He saw the blue thing. He knows what's going on and he figured it was because of that. That's why he never reported it." Xander smiled and ate another bite. "Try the stuffing. Kate made some last Thanksgiving and it was really good."
Xander ate a bite and moaned, sipping his water. "It is good. Are we doing something for that?"
"We were all going to eat together. You can join us if you want." Xander smiled. "You and Willow and Buffy if necessary."
"Willow's upstairs to help with a hacking question."
"McGee's good at that so they're probably babbling in geek speak with Abby." He ate another bite. "Anything interesting happen before we got here?"
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "Ethan Rayne showed up again this year. He had this candy that mentally deaged you to your teen years. Giles and Joyce Summers got it on, freaked Buffy out majorly." He choked and Xander grinned. "We got punk bastard Ripper instead of Giles for a few days. Buffy's mother thought she was too tense."
"She told me she'd break every bone in my body and enjoy it if I hurt you and have her boyfriend help."
"Really?" Xander asked with a smile. He got up and went to call Giles. "Since when was Angel back? No, Buffy threatened my father with bone breaking and promised Angel would have fun too. Yes, that would indicate he's back, Giles. Hmm, which is what I wanted to know. Thank you." He hung up and came back. "Sorry. If he comes back, I may be hiding behind you since I had him sent to hell." He ate a bite of food.
"That was a situation where I agree, you did what had to be done, no questions or demands made," Gibbs assured him. "I'd have done the same thing if it was Kate." That got a smile. "Eat. I'm tired of telling you...." He trailed off when he saw the stiffness. "I'm sorry, Xander. I was joking."
"I know. It's a trigger. I'm okay," he promised, taking a drink of his water then eating again. "We brought a classification manual with us for you guys and Giles said he thinks we may be able to help you gather information."
"It has to be admissible in court. That means no magic."
"Good point. Do they know that?" He nodded. "Okay. Then they'll talk Willow out of scrying. Then again, it could give you a place to look. Which would help since you're stuck." Gibbs smirked at that. "Are we okay?"
"We're fine, Xander. Save room for dessert."
"Xanders can always eat chocolate or ice cream." He finished up, even licking his fork.
"There's more, have some. I'm sure he made enough for leftovers upstairs." Xander dug in and ate more. "How did your self defense lesson go?"
"I was kinda tired and cranky. I wasn't really focusing."
"Hopefully the next one will be better." Xander nodded at the implied statement in there. "Only if you want to take it."
"I probably should. It'll help when I hunt."
"You're still hunting alone?"
"It's not like she does," he muttered. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Buffy's not always the most diligent person about her duties, Jethro. I realize this. So sometimes I go when she doesn't."
"What about that other girl you mentioned to Tony? Faith?"
"Flake," Xander told him. "Absolute flake. She works on the 'want, take, have' principle." He stared. Xander nodded and ate another bite of the stuffing. "Do you think she'd teach me how to make this?"
"Maybe. Kate's a very nice woman. Very deadly when need be but very nice." Xander smiled at that. "Have you thought about a career?"
"Nope. I'm looking forward to survival. Anytime I make long-term plans they get crushed and stomped on." He ate another bite, not looking at him. "Can I kick your director's ass for telling you that way?"
"The Secret Service guys around him might mind but it won't stop me," he offered. "I plan on hitting him so hard he pisses himself for this assignment."
"Then you wouldn't have found me."
"He knew about you. That's why he said he sent me instead of someone else. He wanted me to use you. He's decent enough at the job and I respect the man but sometimes the bottom line gets in the way."
Xander nodded. "I've had days like that. I find that lying to Buffy seems to come out of them." He ate another bite and chewed. "So, do you really want me to live with you?"
"Hell yes. I want you away from this town. Even if you do end up taking an extra year of high school at a good school so you can get into college."
"College very much expensive."
"You can't do anything but menial labor without a degree, Xander." Xander nodded, he knew that. "I can see you doing something with your hands, like a plumber or something, but that'll still take vocational school."
"Good point. I could kinda see that. They make good money." He ate another bite. "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up except alive." He finished his water and got up to get some more.
"There's a pitcher in the fridge," he called. Xander dumped out that glass and got cold water. Then he came back. "What do you like to do?"
"I don't mind building and fixing the weapons. I'm pretty decent at it. I definitely don't want to work fast food." He took another sip. "I don't know. I have no idea what you do besides figure out who did what. I'm guessing here but you're cops?"
"Sort of. We're also the crime lab. We investigate and solve cases but we also collect all the evidence and Abby runs it."
"Oh. So like the shows on tv, you do both sides?" He nodded. "Interesting. Are they all like that?"
"I don't know. You'd have to ask Tony. He used to be a cop." Xander nodded. "He told you?"
"Yeah." He finished his meal and scraped his plate, licking off his fork. "Where's this mythical cake?"
"The freezer, where good ice cream should be. Give me a minute and I'll get it." He finished his plate and took their dishes into the kitchen, putting them into the dishwasher. Then he got out the cake and sliced a few pieces off, putting it back into the freezer for later. He brought them out, then came back for the bottle of chocolate syrup and spoons. He had noticed Xander had this thing for chocolate. Xander's eyes lit up and he smiled, handing over the bottle. "The whipped cream on it is usually a bit bland to balance out the ice cream." Xander made his piece messy then handed off the bottle with a smile. He sat down and fixed his own, digging in. He didn't indulge often but this was a good occasion. "You know you have a math test coming up, right?"
"Don't remind me. I suck doubly in there. Or maybe exponentially. I have no clue what the difference is."
Tony bounced in and smiled at their half-eaten cake. "I'm getting some of that for everyone else."
Xander pulled him over to hug him. "You make good chicken and tell Kate that's the best stuffing I ever had. Pass on the hug." He let him go. Tony beamed and patted him on the head, going to grab the cake and take it upstairs. "I hope he doesn't let Willow eat it all."
"No, he won't. DiNozzo needs ice cream to live some days. So does Kate." He finished his piece and watched the boy finish his. "You look tired."
"I am. I moved in today." He yawned and finished his last bite, then his water. "Can I help clean up?"
"Dishwasher, Xander. I don't do dishes by hand unless I'm on report." That got a small smile. "Go curl up on the couch. You can wake up later." He nodded, going to do that. Gibbs watched him fall asleep then went to do the dishes. Or at least rinse these before putting them in to be washed. He heard his cell ring and went to find it, noticing the kid wasn't waking up. "Gibbs," he said quietly, going into the bedroom. "I should punch you, you know that, right?" he said firmly. "Yeah, well, expect it when I get back." He listened to him. "So?" He rolled his eyes. "No. He's fine. Because he was in a bad spot and he made a decision without consulting anyone. I had no idea until you told me. Which is why you're going to need your jaw wired shut for a few weeks." He listened. "I don't know what we're doing about him coming back yet." He hung up and closed the bedroom door, then looked up an old friend's number.
"Hey, it's Gibbs. You got a few? No, I just found a kid who consented to underage sex here, but the people who helped set him up are from down there. Sixteen but we're in California at the moment so the legal age is seventeen. No, caught with one of the officers in the LA office by one of my team. Long story, don't ask. Really, don't ask." He smirked. "I thought not. No, Reynolds, I think. They had a son named Jesse who was special to this kid and that's the name on their mortgage. Sure, I'll have McGee send you what he can. No, the kid here is staying the hell out of it. He was in a bad spot and it got him to safety. He's decided he's old enough to consent and knew what he was doing. They were the middle man. There was an earlier incident, back when he was thirteen. No, poker debt. Yeah, he's refusing to press charges and I'm not going to force him to since it'll hurt him. No, I'm in Sunnydale. Not funny, Delko."
He smirked. "Yeah. I know. Trust me, I know," he sighed. "Undercover. Just check into them and keep them in the back of your mind. I'll have McGee send you what I can without implicating this kid. Because he's a special case. No, I'm not telling you. He agreed we could tell you guys so you could look for less than willing victims. Therefore I'm doing my duty and protecting him at the same time. It's..complicated, Delko. Just leave it there, okay? Thanks." He hung up, then called upstairs. "DiNozzo, tell McGee to black out a copy of that report and send it to Delko in Miami. Because the middleman lives down there, DiNozzo. Yes, and I promised we wouldn't hurt them but he agreed they could look for other victims. Got it?" He smirked. "I wanna go blow them up while they're very conscious of what's going to happen to them, but he did agree we could look for other victims. As long as he wasn't mentioned, implicated, or noted anywhere. Got it? Yeah, to him. Thanks." He hung up and went to open the door, finding Xander snoring. It was almost cute. Which was a thought that made him go get some more coffee and sit down to watch the night come out.
Xander made it through a whole month without problems before the next one cropped up. Then it was a bad one. He had been jumped on patrol. He barely made it home. He crawled into the kitchen, resting against the wall, panting hard. He tried Buffy's cell but it was turned off. He tried Willow's and it was turned off. He put the phone against his chest, just breathing for now. Could he go to them for this? He dialed slowly, his hand starting to shake. "Kate? I need help. Home. No, like major medical. No, no hospitals," he demanded. Then he coughed, gasping a bit. "Just come over. Please?" He hung up and dropped the phone, staying there. There was no way he was moving. He had forgotten his door locked automatically behind him. He heard the knock and coughed. "Open!" he croaked. Not very loudly. "Dad!" He tried to move and moaned. He fell back against the wall. "Just kick it in!" he called weakly, clutching his chest and arm. He heard a kick and nothing, then a gunshot. The door opened and he looked over. "Tony." He held up a hand. "Buffy lost me on patrol."
Tony came over to look at him. "What the hell happened!" The boy just stared at him. "Fine. I know what happened. Can you walk?" He shook his head. "With help?"
"Hell no. I crawled in here." He tried to move and ended up coughing.
"You're going to the hospital."
"You do that and I end up back there."
"No you won't. We have our own doctor and he's on the other coast," he realized. He stood up and got a towel, putting ice in it. He heard footsteps coming cautiously up the stairs. "Who is it?"
"Get your asses in here." He knelt down, handing Xander the makeshift ice pack. "One of my students called me. He got jumped."
"No hospital," Xander insisted, staring hard at Tony. "No."
"Fine." He stood up. "Help me get him down to my car. I'll take him back to my place. Maybe I can talk him into it."
"Did you fire a gun?"
"Into the lock."
"Locks automatically," Xander said, wincing a bit as he shifted again. "Help me up." They helped him up and he swayed, eventually grabbing onto Tony's neck. "No hospital," he told the cops.
"I know you, kid. They can't make you go back."
"They can, I'm not seventeen yet."
"Fine. I understand, Xander. Can we at least get a paramedic here?" Xander shook his head. "Fine. Let's get you to his car. Who was it? Did you know them?"
"I swear if I had seen 'em they'd be dead," he promised. "No proof of it." The cop nodded and helped get him down to the car. "Go get the door?" he asked. The officer nodded and went to do that. He looked at Tony. "Angel," he whispered. Then he passed out.
Tony got him buckled in and walked around. "Thank you, officer."
"You're welcome." He closed and locked the bottom door, watching them go. "What the hell is going on?" He went back to the station to report this to his boss. This wasn't the normal Sunnydale thing. Then again, Xander wasn't the average Sunnydale kid and he had suddenly gotten some money somehow. Hopefully it wasn't from drugs. With his parents though it wouldn't surprise him.
Tony parked in his usual spot and got out, walking around. "Kate!" She came running and he opened the door. "He passed out, he said no hospital, repeatedly, and glared. Worse than his father." They got him out and carried into his apartment, less stairs on the way, then she went for the first aid kit while he went to call the father, who was back at the base for a meeting to present their findings so far. "Gibbs, Tony. Get your ass on a plane with Ducky and be back here within an hour. Because you son got the hell beaten out of him and he thinks it was Angel." He hung up and went back to help. "Anything broken?"
"Yeah, four or five things. He should be in the hospital."
"He's underaged, he thinks they'll make him go back to his mother's."
"This small of a town, they've got to know, Tony."
"The cop does. I had to blow in his door." She looked amused. "It wouldn't kick in and I could hear him coughing." He came over to help. "Ribs?"
"Broken. Wrist, nose. What if we went with him?"
"The cop knew who he was."
"Oh, good point. Gibbs could say he has custody. I'm sure the town knows he's his dad by now."
Tony patted Xander on the face, waking him up. "You've got broken ribs," he said slowly and clearly. "We can get around them sending you back there with Gibbs. That'll protect you. We have custody papers already signed. Would you go?"
"Hospital kills people," he said weakly. "Blood bank for anyone too bad."
"Okay. I get that." He looked at Kate. "Where's the next nearest hospital?"
"University," Xander moaned, shifting his legs some. "'Bout an hour north. LA."
"There's go to be one." She went to do a quick search online, coming up with one. "University is not the nearest."
"Other's maternity," Xander said, trying to move again.
"You move you could puncture a lung," Tony warned. "Then we have no choice."
Tony came around to look at it, finding the words carved on him. "Fuck." He looked at Kate. "We need somewhere good."
"We can get the ambulance to take him there." Xander shook his head slowly. "They have to if you demand it." He shook his head again. "It's the law, Xander."
"Nope. Nearest if in that much danger. If we can get me able to sit, we can drive."
"There's no way!" she said, coming over to look at him. He stared her down and nodded slowly. "Fine, we'll try." If they had to, they could get him outside the town and then call an ambulance to take him somewhere better. Sunnydale did get odd about those things and she was aware of the 'procurement' system in the town. She got to work splinting and taping what she could. "This would be so much easier in DC with Ducky nearby. He'd just ride with him and stay with him."
"Can't do that here. Locals don't respect that." He winced and hissed, grabbing onto Tony's hand. "Ow."
"Calm down. Slow, deep, even breaths, Xander. Okay?" He nodded a bit. "Good, now, breathe with me. Who's got the bigger car?"
"Gibbs, and it's in LA. So's McGee's while they work on the hacking codes."
"You've got a four door, I've got a two door. Which do you want?"
"Yours, it can go faster." They helped Xander up and she remembered to lock the door, follow him down to get into the back seat. Tony could do a mean Gibbs' impersonation behind the wheel when he needed to. "Xander, can you tell me what happened?"
"Buffy lost me. Jumped from behind. Smelled like Angel's cologne," he admitted quietly, closing his eyes. "Can I nap?"
"Sure. I'm going to be checking your pulse and waking you up every quarter of an hour." He nodded once and swallowed. "Tony, do you know where we're going?" she asked as he backed out.
"No. Which way?"
"North. Onto the interstate. Six exits up, go to the right. It should be marked." He nodded and got them headed in the right direction, hitting fifth speed and taking off. She just held on for dear life and checked on Xander. There was a cop car but he made a quiet call she didn't hear and they peeled off. It was the longest thirty-eight minutes of her life she decided as they pulled in.
He parked and got out, motioning a guard closer. "He was beaten, we need a gurney, he's got broken ribs. He's a minor and his father is on his way back, we're his guardians. Now." The guard ran inside and he opened the door, helping her shift Xander closer so he could be lifted. The nurse came running. "He was jumped in Sunnydale."
"You drove from there? They've got a hospital!"
"With a reputation for killing patients," he said shortly. "He was out and got jumped. He's got broken ribs, a broken wrist, a broken nose. There's marks on his back that I'm not sure what they are. His father's on his way back, we're his temporary guardians."
"Do you have paperwork to treat?"
"I can call him." She nodded helping lift the boy out. They ran inside and he went in to fill out the forms so Kate could park the car. At least the kid had trusted them enough to call. He had to keep that firmly in mind. He used the courtesy phone to call Gibbs, then snagged a nurse. "The boy's father and personal physician." He went back to the forms. He had no idea if the kid was allergic to anything. He took Kate's phone and called Willow's house, getting her. "It's Tony. Xander's at University...." He looked at the nurse. "Harris, Xander Harris. His custody has been switched to his biological father. Willow Rosenburg said you have his file here."
"I'll look." She listened to the man on the ph one. "Yes, sir." She hung up. "He'll be in within three hours." She rushed off to find that file.
Tony went back to Willow. "Find Buffy. Ask how she lost him," he ordered, then hung up, handing the phone back. He handed over the forms. "They said his file's already here. Harris?"
"I heard, I called down and they did pull it. His usual doctor is here. It's in storage." She looked at them. "Relatives?"
"Friends of the father's. He's in DC."
"That's fine. Should we call anyone?"
"No, his father has sole custody."
She nodded. "From what I remember of that family, that's probably a good idea, sir. Go ahead and sit. They're doing x-rays since he's stable. You drove from Sunnydale?"
"He demanded. He said that hospital has problems keeping patients alive."
She nodded. "Yeah, they do. Many of them. Good job, sir." She went to check for them. It was a slow night.
Gibbs ran in and Tony held up a hand. "Where is he?"
"Surgery. They had to go in and wire two of his ribs and take out debris." He walked him over to the desk. "This is the boy's father. Can I have that chart with the pictures?" She nodded, handing it over. He picked out one and held it up, making Gibbs growl. "He refused to go to Sunnydale. They have a problem keeping people alive."
Gibbs nodded. "Fine. Our personal physician is coming in now. I want him briefed so he can tell us."
"Of course." She smiled at the older man coming in. "Doctor...."
"Mallard. Donald Mallard." He shook her hand and let her lead him off. "What happened?"
"We're not sure. We know he was beaten very brutally but he refused to let us call the police. There was some markings on his back. Like someone drew on him. They have those pictures up front. They made good time from Sunnydale and it probably saved his life." She opened a 'personnel only' door and led him inside. "Who is that?"
"Federal agents, my dear," he said in his gentle British accent. "The boy's father is one as well. Do not ask what you cannot know in this case." She nodded and he followed her, presenting his credentials. "I serve as the group's personal physician as well," he assured that nurse. "I've treated his father for over twenty years."
"That's fine, Doctor Mallard. Are they...."
"Fine." She led him back to where he could overlook the surgeons. "They're also going to close his back and see if they can repair his nose."
"Dear Lord, what happened?"
"All he said was Angel, Buffy lost me on patrol, and sorry." She shrugged. "I don't know. He refused to file a report. Thankfully they brought him here instead of there. He would've died in Sunnydale."
"I see." He tapped on the glass and the doctor looked up, nodding at him. "Where do I wait?"
"Right here's fine. There's a direct door and you can turn on the monitors to watch him if you need a closer look. It looks like he's nearly done. Should I send them closer to recovery?"
"No there's fine until he's in a room." She nodded so he smiled. "Thank you. I know they're trying on the best of days and this isn't one."
"They've been pacing and she's been growling. He got up and hit a wall. The nurse thought she'd have to cast his hand."
"No, he's usually a bit more careful than that." He smiled. "Thank you, my dear."
"Not a problem, Doctor Mallard. The boy's got good instincts and strong protectors, he'll be fine." She walked off, going to tell the others that it looked like he'd be out soon.
Xander woke up, blinking at the unfamiliar face above him. "Who?" he whispered.
"I'm Doctor Mallard, Xander. I treat your father."
"Ducky?" he whispered.
The older man smiled. "Indeed. Now, let's check you over and get you some water." Xander nodded. "You may feel a bit nauseous, you swallowed a good amount of your blood when your nose was broken."
"Just mine?" he asked. He patted around, finding the button to raise the head of the bed. "Less dizzy."
Ducky smiled. "Ah, I see the stubborn streak was inherited." He checked him over quickly, including the stitches, then got him a little bit of water to sip. "There, slowly." Xander sipped through the straw. "Good boy." He smoothed his hair back. "You were in rather nasty shape. Would you like to tell me why?"
Xander slowly shook his head. "No."
"You might want to reconsider that. I had to nearly sedate your father."
"He'll know why."
Ducky nodded. "I thought he might. At least you're opening up to him. That's an important step. Especially that you trusted them to help you." He patted him on the cheek. "Let me get them before Caitlyn scares another nurse or Anthony puts his fist through a wall." He walked out and made notes on the chart, handing it back to the nurse. "Thank you. Have they drank all the coffee yet?"
"And a second pot." She smiled at him. "He seems like a nice young man."
"He probably is. He's been newly found you know. A difficult situation. I'm just happy he felt comfortable enough to call." He walked into the waiting area, and had to hold Tony off him. "The boy is awake. He wouldn't tell me what happened but he said you'd know, Jethro." That got a curt nod. "He's not feeling any pain at the moment with the pain killers he's on. He can have calm visitors, Anthony."
"Fine." He walked that way, heading in first. "What did you do?" he asked.
Xander motioned him closer and patted him on the cheek. "You drive like a maniac but I love you for it." Tony smiled at that. "They know," he said quietly. "Angel said he was doing this for fun, even though he got paid."
Tony nodded. "Good to know. Gibbs!"
"I was asking Ducky about his injuries," he said as he walked in. "Xander. You okay?" He slowly shook his head. "Good pain killers?"
Tony grinned. "I thought Caffeine was your personal god."
"Okay, Caffeine God, Morphine Goddess."
Kate smiled as she came in. "It certainly is." She kissed him on the forehead. "Thank you for calling, Xander." She stroked his hair down. "Can you tell us what happened?"
"They know. Can I have some water?" She nodded, going to get him some more. "Angel. He was paid. He said he'd do it for fun anyway." Gibbs nodded, his face set. "What's on my back? I can feel bandages."
"He scratched some rude words. They're closed," Ducky assured him. He came over to let him see the pictures. Xander glared at one, then held it up for his father to see. "Um," he started.
"I've already tracked down that angle and you're right, he was told somehow. I don't know how yet, brat, but I'm going to find out and stake him my own damn self. Repeatedly." Xander smiled at that. He moved closer. "You'll be fine."
"Yeah, since I'm not in Sunnydale, I'll live."
"So we heard," Ducky offered. "They wouldn't have kept me from you, Xander."
Xander nodded, taking the cup Kate held out to sip from. "They have."
"That's against the law!" he told him.
"No law in Sunnydale but the Mayor and the hellmouth," he said quietly, shifting some. "I hate bed numbs." He shifted again then sighed in relief. "Better." He looked at Kate. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." She patted him on the cheek. "I'm going to go kill someone." He smiled and she went to make a few calls, including to Rupert, who was hopefully still yelling at Buffy.
Gibbs sat on the side of the bed, looking at his son. "I want you to give up the apartment and move in. It'd be safer." Xander nodded. "Are you going to complain?"
"I won't be moving right for weeks, Jethro."
"Then we'll see."
He looked at him. "No, we won't see." He patted him on the hip. "Go back to sleep. You've got a few days here and we'll be standing guard. Abby and McGee are on their way up to take tonight while we go work on this new angle." Xander nodded, allowing him to drift off. He looked at Ducky, then at Tony. "He didn't scream in pain when you moved him?"
"Moaned a few times." He looked at him. "Can we trace this back?"
"I started McGee on that from the plane. I figured it had to be one of those two problems. He said he found the payment. It gave them a new in and Willow's fuming while she's working on our system."
"So we're nearly done?" Gibbs nodded. "Then what, boss?"
"You come home," Ducky reminded him. Tony pointed at the boy on the bed. "Surely..."
"He hasn't decided," Gibbs told him.
"Ah. Well it would be a hard decision." He came over to check on him again, shifting the casted wrist some. "There, probably a bit more comfortable for him." He looked at his friend. "You can convince him. I'll look up good schools in the area for him. Surely he'll see it's not safe?"
"They're his only friends," Tony told him. "Next year he may have to come back to help."
"No." Gibbs glared at him. "Don't even mention that possibility."
"He might just take off to help if they needed him that much, boss," he pointed out gently. "The kid's more stubborn than you."
"His mother used to be one stubborn bitch," he agreed, looking at Ducky. "Remember Harriet?"
"Oh, yes, charming girl with a bad habit of biting her fingernails. She tried so *hard* to make the cut."
"He's her son. She's now drunk. The guy she married instead of me is just as bad."
"Ah. I had wondered where he came from." He looked at the boy. "He looks more like her."
"Thankfully?" Tony teased.
"Keep it up, DiNozzo."
"Boss, it's a good sign, he called us. Third but he called us. He called me dad when I tried to break in."
Gibbs smiled at that. "You're not usually the one to find the silver lining in the cloud, DiNozzo."
"No, but I think you've got a fight on your hands so you'll need the encouragement."
Gibbs snorted and nodded. "I probably will."
"Yes, you will. I'm not going to DC to be stuck in a school," Xander complained.
"You wouldn't be. You'd be going to a school near where we work." He looked at his son. "That way I can make sure you go and are doing your homework." Xander stuck his tongue out. "Catholic school?"
"They're still good schools."
Xander held up a single finger and gave him a meaningful look. "Even if you drag me there, I'm coming back for the ascension. They'll need the help." He looked at Ducky. "Can you make him growl more quietly? I'm trying to sleep here."
Ducky smiled. "I haven't met anyone yet who could make him growl quietly, Xander. Or do you prefer Alexander?"
"I'd hate to have to hit you, Ducky. Abby says nice things about you."
"Xander it is then," he agreed happily. "Go back to sleep, let the pain killers work their magic until we have to take them away." Xander nodded and closed his eyes, kicking his father on the side until he moved. Ducky smiled. "I do believe you've nearly found your match, Jethro."
"It figures it'd have to be your kid," Tony teased. "He's probably the only one who can out-stubborn you, boss."
"No maybes about it. I'd have been complaining in pain by now."
"Morphine Goddess," Xander repeated. "Shhh!"
"Sorry." They took it outside to let him rest, but stayed next to the door. Abby came running up with McGee behind her. "He's been awake."
"Oh, good!" She went in to hug him, kissing him on the cheek.
"Eww, girl germs."
"Sorry, Xander, but you need a kiss to heal." She kissed him again then smiled and backed off. "You rest. I'll be back in a few minutes to guard you while you nap." He nodded, his eyes still closed. She went out there and glared at Tony. "What the hell happened!" she demanded.
"Angel. I thought I told you that."
"You did! Why?"
"Long story," Gibbs told her. "Just accept for now, Abby." He looked at Ducky. "Any future problems?"
"He might need a bit of therapy for his wrist but they managed to reconstruct his nose. Those scars won't be so bad on his back. He might even be able to have them cosmetically removed. His ribs will hurt for a good few weeks but they'll eventually heal as well." He smiled. "Within two months he'll be perfectly fine, Jethro. Your cub is safe. You can growl at those who deserve it now."
"True, I can. Abby, we'll be back in the morning. Watch him carefully. McGee, with us." He stomped off.
"Kate!" Tony yelled, following at a jog. There was no way he was being left behind and out of this. He had even found the link between the mayor and Snyder, plus the Initiative. "Can I torture the troll, boss?"
"Fine, DiNozzo, you torture Snyder."
"Thanks, boss, you just made my week." Kate met them at the cars and they took off, heading to go get their gear and bring down the bad guys.
Xander woke up on the plane two weeks after getting hurt and looked at the roof. "Gee, this doesn't look like an apartment."
"We got 'em so we're heading home," Tony said from next to him. "Gibbs is asleep so you can scream at him later." He handed over a bottle of water and a pill. "Yours."
"I'm fine," he said, sitting up straighter with a wince.
"This is a lighter dose. Take it even if you don't want to. Or else he'll growl at you again. Like the last time you refused a pain killer." Xander sighed but took it. "Thank you." He pulled open his backpack and handed something to him. "Schools in the area. The ones in yellow are near the office. The ones in pink are on the way. The others you'll have to drive."
"I can't afford a car with that hospital bill."
"Covered by Angel, who is one damn sorry vampire. Apparently there's a version of Gibbs in hell and he tortured him for a few years." He smiled. "Look at the schools. He wanted a chosen list to look at."
"So you can graduate and do something besides flip burgers, Xander. Trust me, this is one battle you won't win so just give in a little bit. Pick somewhere you can be for the next year and a half. You can still go back for the Ascension if they need you. He's already said so." Not that Gibbs wouldn't tie the kid to the bed if he tried to go, but he had agreed in theory that the kid may be able to go back if it was going to be absolutely necessary.
Xander nodded, looking at the choices. "Why did he rate them by ROTC programs?"
"Because he's a Marine," he noted dryly. "No obligation, kid, even if he does get pushy," he shared. Xander nodded, smiling at him. "Look at the third one down. It's one of the top schools in the city in basketball, they've got a good academic olympics team, and they've trained a lot of people who go into government or military service. If you want to follow in our footsteps, that could be important."
"I'm not Catholic."
"No one said you had to be, but it's not that bad of a school anyway. We had a kid who was snatched from there. They know about military families. The teachers try, the classes are small, and you could catch up on those bad grades since they do a lot more projects than they do lectures." Xander looked at him again. "Seriously."
"That would be nice." He looked at that one. "Do we have..." Tony handed him an information packet. "Do you have all of them in there?"
"No, just the ones I liked," he offered with a smile. "Plus one Abby liked because they've got a high goth population."
Xander laughed and didn't wince. "Wow."
"Painkillers are good," Tony reminded him. "Even after the primary crisis is over with." He patted him on the arm. "Study those. It'll give you a reason to fall back asleep just about as we land."
"Where am I going tonight?"
"Your rightful spot, beside the boat." Xander snickered a bit, holding his ribs now. "Read, don't laugh. Finish the water too." Xander nodded and finished the water, tossing it in a nearby trash bin. "You ever think about playing basketball?"
"That one school has a team. Only a few others do." He handed over a few more. "Those. Including Abby's choice."
"A goth swim team?"
"Oh, yeah. Black speedos and all." Xander smiled at that, looking them over. A few got handed back but three remained in his hands and got reread. Abby's choice, his choice, and Kate's choice. Gibbs hadn't done anything but sorted it by ROTC capability.
Xander looked up at the house. "Wow. How are you getting a boat out of here?"
"When it's done I'll figure that out." He parked and got out, going around to help his son out, but he was already standing and leaning on the door. "Need help?"
"Can I have a dog?"
"We'll see," Gibbs said dryly leading him off. He opened the door. "Come on."
"You don't lock doors?"
"Everyone who can find the house knows I'd shoot 'em." He walked the boy into the dining room, finding balloons and a banner. "I'll punch him Monday." Xander giggled. "Okay, can you do stairs?" Xander nodded. "Can you live on coffee for a few days?"
"I might need *some* food."
"That I can do but there's no soda." He looked at him. "We do have house rules. No friends over without consent. No annoying music played loud enough it drowns out the game. No sex in the house. You do your own wash and don't whine when I'm on a case unless it's necessary."
"Sure. I can do that."
"Good. You want to face the woods or the road?"
"Woods. That way I can see if you have wood demons."
"They're not coming in or no dog." He walked him up the stairs, showing him to one of the bedrooms. Xander smiled at him. "All yours. Bathroom's on the other side of the hall. I'm downstairs, directly under you." Xander nodded. "Tell me if you need anything important."
"How am I doing the school thing and the looking?"
"We'll go together. The three you like are on the way for me so we'll see about driving privileges in the near future." Xander nodded at that. "Get settled in. I'll get your bag from the car for you." Xander nodded and walked over, laying down to roll around on the bed. He smiled and went down to get the bags and take down the banner. He found his son asleep so left is bag beside the bed and went down to check on his boat. It was still there and untouched. He picked up his planer and found a rough spot, getting to work on it. He heard the yelp a few hours later and went up to check on him. "Xander?"
"Tripped. I'm fine." He came down the stairs. "Food?"
"Food's good." He went back to the kitchen to look at everything. "I see DiNozzo snuck in and left again." He handed over the bag of tacos and got out something to drink. "He also brought you soda."
"I love that man."
"He's too old for you, son." He handed him some soda and sat down to take his fair share of the tacos. "When did you want to look at the schools?"
"When's convenient for you?" he asked before biting into his first one.
"Anytime this week. I'm not due in until Monday." He ate a bite, watching him think.
"Tomorrow afternoon. That way I can find out if I need to get anything special, like uniforms." Gibbs nodded, accepting that. "Will I have to wear one?"
"If you choose a school that uses them, yes." He ate another bite.
"Damn. I'll miss my usual clothes."
"You can wear them after hours." He ate another bite and Xander nodded, finishing his first one and digging into his second one. "When was the last time you ate?"
"Doesn't matter. I'm always hungry."
Gibbs sighed and let it go at that. He remembered those days and his father complaining. "Eat as much as you want, Xander. We want you to stay healthy."
"Cool." He scarfed his second one in three bites and started on his third.
Gibbs got him a napkin but didn't say anything about how he ate. He always pigged out the day after getting out of the hospital too, especially if he had been sedated like they had done to the kid.
Xander walked into the unit Monday afternoon, dressed in his uniform. "The guards downstairs said I was a mythical creature," he told his father.
"I had you put on the allowed list. Apparently they didn't understand. I'll yell later." He looked at him. "How was your first day?"
"I got an A in Latin but my pronunciation sucks. Math is still evil and sucks so much that it should have it's own category of suckage. English was nasty older poets who made me nap. The teacher decided it was the painkillers but she was too nice to tell the truth to." He smoothed back his hair. "The swim coach said I'm too fat. The PE coach took one look at me and laughed. The science teacher looked at my transcripts and put me with the jocks, who tried shit. Unfortunately for them. Twice. No, wait, three times actually. Lunch. The history teacher put me with them too and said that Sunnydale should be taken over and run by someone with some sense. But I did have a good grasp of some of what she was talking about. Why am I in a jock's study hall by the way?"
"It's the only one that worked out," Gibbs admitted. "Were you expelled for picking on the jocks?"
"No, but I was warned not to make them cry again." Tony choked and he looked at him. "What? He started in on me. One called me gay!" he said with an evil smirk. "He's the sorriest of them all. I have a swim tryout in two weeks, when I get my cast off, Jethro."
"Fine. We can handle that. Date?" Xander handed over the slip. "Thank you. Now sit at the empty desk and do something useful."
"You mean like study?" His father gave him a look so he sighed and trudged to the empty desk to get to work on his homework.
"Boy, get me some coffee!" someone yelled.
"Slavery was abolished approximate a hundred and fifty years ago and human males have had feet for millennia longer than that. Use them," he called back. "I'm no man's servant unless he buys me pretty jewelry and begs nicely at my feet for a special night." Someone in that row choked and so did Tony. "Sorry, Jethro."
"No, I agree. What are you doing in math?"
"Algebra, again. Since I flunked it three times already." He looked at the problem in front of him. "Who was the damn moron who put letters in math?" he muttered.
McGee came over and looked then wrote out the first problem. "Like that, Xander. Before you set it and the desk on fire."
"Thank you, McGee. I try very hard not to set things on fire." He grinned at him. "Emphasis on try." He got back to work. Gibbs' phone rang. "If that's the school, I'm invisible."
"I doubt it," he complained, answering it with a muted, "Gibbs." He listened and smirked at his son, who shrugged. "I see. How badly did he hurt him? Really? With a cast on one arm and broken ribs, my son whipped the ass of three football players?"
"One was a kicker," he muttered. "He doesn't count." McGee looked at him so he shrugged again. "He called me gay!"
"I'll remember that."
Gibbs laughed. "Sure, lady, you do that. Thank you." He hung up. "Xander."
"You also nearly staked one."
"Hey, he sucked like a vampire," he defended. "Instinctual reaction since he snuck up on me. He won't be doing it again and I didn't break the skin!"
Kate looked at Tony. "Pay up."
"Uh-not until we hear the rest." He looked at Xander. "Go on."
"I wasn't expelled, though I do have to talk to the school shrink about my PTSD from my recent assault. She's fairly goth and started out by asking if I believed in vampires so I showed her the bite marks. We understand each other very well. The principal, or headmistress, whatever she is, thought I was just adorable and yelled at the jocks for picking on someone with broken ribs and a cast, and the Tai Kwan Do coach wants me more than the swim coach. We apparently have a fencing club and I was asked to join that by the SCA people. They asked if I knew anything about swords and I pointed out I did but I preferred daggers. One drooled on me," he said proudly. "I got asked out by three taken girls, two non-taken smart girls, and one pretty girl who wanted me because I come from near LA. I said I'd have to check since I didn't have driving privileges yet. The other jocks have decided I'm cool now. The gay kids wanted to make sure I wasn't homophobic and I pointed out I wasn't, and why, and that went over real well with the jocks, who decided I was a quasi-member since I did things like swim instead of their real sports. I got offered a joint in the bathroom by one of the cheerleaders. I got a lot of 'you poor baby's from a lot of girls and a few of the gay guys once it got around. It has been decided I am cool enough to hang out, but that no one there can help me in math, even if I can help them in Latin. Oh, and I've got a detention tomorrow since I was late this morning," he told his father.
"Ha!" Tony crowed. "Pay up, Kate! I told you he'd be fine and wouldn't get into real trouble his first day."
"Bastard," she complained, walking over the ten. "Ducky could help you with fencing."
"Unless he can do my math homework and write a paper on the history of the Witch Trials, I don't think it'll help. Am I fat?"
"No, not in the least. You're big boned and you've got a stocky set of muscles, but your dad's the same way."
"Yeah, the swim coach wanted to know if he was gay." Gibbs spluttered and he smiled. "He wanted to know, I told him I'd ask since he wanted to know if you'd take him out to dinner this Saturday."
"No. Hell no. I like women. I have three ex-wives."
"Okay." He shrugged and made note of that answer, then got back to his math homework. "Why are there letters again?"
"To confuse you," Tony called. "Like the switching negatives."
"Eww. Don't mention that shit." He got back to work, grumbling the whole way. He couldn't get through algebra with Willow tutoring and doing his homework for him. Why would he be able to now?
"Think of it this way," McGee offered. "The letters is the number of M&M's you can buy out of how many bucks. Solve for how many M&Ms, Xander."
"That at least makes more sense." He got down to work, erasing a number of times. He brought it over so he could check it. "Close?" he asked.
"Do they let you use calculators?"
"Yes, but my dear, sweet father told the witch of math that I couldn't."
"Use the calculator. Simple math error." He circled it and smiled. "There, try it again."
"Damn." He went back to his seat, trying it again. At least this time the answer made sense to him so he moved onto the next one. McGee came over when he got up to hand in something, then leaned over to work over the next one with him, and he got it this time. "Thank you."
"Welcome. I had to tutor jocks in math." He went back to his seat. He looked at Tony, who was eating a candy bar. "No fair, share!"
"Not with you. You stole my coffee this morning."
"Kids, there's not enough pain killers for Jethro to deal with you today," Xander called sweetly. "Remember, I'm taking all his patience by whining for a dog."
"If you pass Algebra, you can have one," his father assured him.
Xander looked at him. "Blackmail is illegal, so is bribery. Besides, I've flunked it three times, even with Willow doing half of my homework and tutoring me night and day. Can we be a bit more realistic? How about if I pass Latin and History?"
"Math. Only math. I know you can pass Latin." He looked at Tony. "If you get that whole sheet right, you can frisk DiNozzo for chocolate."
"That's mean," Tony complained, but he was smiling. The kid wouldn't dare and even if he did, he wouldn't be good at it.
Xander got out a sheet of paper and went to work, correcting all his mistakes. He presented it to McGee, who corrected one and handed it back. He leaned down to redo it, then got a nod. So he went to stalk DiNozzo, hauling him up and throwing him against the wall to pat him down. "None here." He rifled through his desk, finding his stash. "Thank you. I needed this even if I am too fat to swim." He went back to his homework.
"You do it harder than your father does."
"Think about what you said and where, DiNozzo. You might want to qualify that for the quiet people around us," Kate noted smugly.
"He frisked me, he's learning how," he announced. "He is *definitely* Gibbs' son."
"He was very thorough too," Kate agreed, smiling and tossing Xander another candy bar. "There, you deserve it."
"Thank you. I didn't even grope." His father glared at him. "I didn't. The last time I got frisked I was groped." He settled in to eat his chocolate and work on his history homework. A few minutes later he looked up when someone blocked his light. "I know light is bad for my eyes, but really. Move."
"That's the director," McGee said.
Xander looked at him. "Really? Did Jethro hit you or is that my privilege today?"
He got a smirk. "You're safer, you're well liked, and you have a bright future."
"Only if I pass Algebra and if I go to the Academy, and if you're still here I'll go somewhere else to start." That got a laugh. "Did you want to proof my paper on why the witch trials were really about sexual torture and gratification for the male populace?" He laughed and walked off. He decided to call Willow later. That man needed hemorrhoids if anyone ever had.
"Be nice," McGee said. "Remember, your father is paid by him."
"And manipulated. I don't like that. I've never been one to play nicely. I'm more a handcuff and spanking guy." McGee blushed and spluttered. "Don't worry, I won't hurt him. Personally. Openly. Today." That got him calmed down so he grinned. "You think if I do join the SCA he'll let us joust in here?"
"No," McGee said, shaking his head. "Please don't. Abby would wanna help."
Xander beamed. "What a good idea, McGee!" he squealed, getting up to hug him.
"Oh, shit," he said, watching the boy go back to his homework to make notes. "Remember to quote sources, teachers like that."
"They're in Sunnydale. I don't have a mystical book exchange going yet." He finished making notes and looked it over, grimacing at some spots. "I'll correct it when I type it tomorrow," he decided. His father walked past his desk and took the paper to look over. "I need to grammatick it."
Gibbs looked at him. "That too. You also need to show proof."
"It's an opinion paper, Jethro. All I have to do is justify myself."
"Sorry, not cutting it. Show proof." He handed it back. "You can email Willow later."
"Gee, thanks. Just get the mystical book exchange program started." He took it to look over, adding in spots to see 'this book' and named it. Then he made a note of which books and what passages and pages he thought they were on. Then he pulled out his English book so he could take a nap. He could use a nap. It was time for a nap. He was asleep within minutes and snoring.
"I did that same thing in Ancient Civs," Tony joked. "The teacher flunked me because I snored off key."
"I'd do the same thing, Tony. You snored loud enough to wake me up some nights." She looked over and got up to move the book and make him quit. Xander swatted at her and she glared, shaking him again. She ended up in his lap with his face against her neck, being used as a teddy bear. "Xander!"
"I thought he liked boys?" McGee teased.
"I guess she's guy enough for some," Tony responded. She shrieked and got free, which woke Xander, who frowned at her. "You were sleep groping, mini Gibbs."
"Sorry, haven't done that in years." He put his head down and went back to his nap.
Gibbs came back from downstairs and watched what everyone else was. "What happened now?"
"He grabbed me when I tried to wake him up."
"He tried that with me too," he admitted. "Just stay out of grabbing distance and poke him with something. That's how I do it. He throws things too." His son may not be the most butch but he was probably the most dangerous. It gave him the warm fuzzies. It really did. He sat down to finish up his reports, then threw something at the desk, hitting the bottom edge. Xander snapped awake. "We're leaving in twenty if you want to visit the head."
"Bathroom," McGee told him. "Navy term."
"Ah. I thought he was a Marine." He got up and went in search of the bathroom, scaring someone in there. He looked at the door, then at her. "Am I in the wrong place?"
"No, we're out of towels and since you guys don't wash your hands, you have them." She hurried out.
He went to use the bathroom and did wash his hands. Otherwise that was just nasty!
Gibbs called his son a few weeks later. "You're to go back to the office and wait on us. We're about three hundred miles away at the moment and it'll be a late night." He grimaced. "No, I want you back at the office," he ordered. He listened to his son's suggestion that he could bribe someone to drive him home, that way he could do the novel thing and *cook*. He was about to say no but his son reminded him that it was a damn long shot for anyone to be able to take him out, therefore he would be safe and not annoying others who were trying to work. "Fine. If you can find someone to drive you home, go ahead," he allowed. "Jen's in town. You can call her." He listened to the derogatory comment and snorted, shaking his head. "No, kid, you can't drive her insane. I like her, that's why. I have good taste." He hung up and rolled his eyes.
"He doesn't like the woman you went out with?" Kate asked.
Gibbs shook his head. "He called her 'she who barks'." Tony snickered at that. "Break him of that habit, DiNozzo."
"Sure, boss. We'll go out clubbing or something so your son can find his own girl or boyfriend."
"He's got a curfew of ten."
"That's mean with how far out you live," Kate pointed out. Gibbs looked at her. "Really, it is. He'll never have time to do anything."
"That's the point. I don't want to be a grandfather this century." He got back to work.
Xander hung up on Jen Sheppard, shaking his head. "That was a really good idea," he muttered, "but I'm telling Dad you said that." He found his wallet and special checkbook that dad didn't think he carried on him, taking the bus to the bank first. "Hi." She smiled at him. "How much is my daily limit?"
"Six hundred," she said after checking. "Did you need more?"
"I'm going to go buy a car. I'm tired of being ferried like a prisoner every day and not being able to date." She giggled. "Okay, go ahead and give me that much," he offered, writing out the check. She smiled and ran it, then counted out the money. "If I have to, I'll bring the car guy back here and write it out in front of someone so he can have it cashed. Got any good places I can go?"
She nodded and found a paper she was reading earlier, turning it to the classifieds. "Here," she said, pointing at an ad. "Not too expensive and not too slimy. They've also got a mechanic on site for evaluations."
"Thank you," he said with a bright grin. "I like you guys." He tucked his money away and walked out, zipping up his backpack. He saw the guys getting out of the van and nudged the rent-a-cop, pointing at them. He went to check and call it in. Xander took the bus to the car dealership, only getting on the wrong one once. He was still getting used to mass transit. He finally got there and looked around. There were a few in the lower price ranges. A middle aged guy came out, giving him a curious look. "It's time for a car," he offered. "I live way out in the middle of nowhere and my father hates to ferry me on dates."
"What's your budget?"
"I've got six hundred on me, I can get another seven from the bank if I need to, but I'd like to be able to afford my first two months insurance too." He wanted to save some of his money for things like road trips after school and possibly college stuff. He walked closer. "I'm not exactly a car guy. I am licensed," he admitted, producing it and getting a smile. "My dad's a Fed and, well, he works, a lot."
"I see. So, basically for dates and getting back and forth to school?"
"And swim meets and SCA events and ...." He grinned. "The occasional weapon storage."
"Sure. How 'not a car guy' are you? I've got two really good ones in your budget range that we haven't had the chance to get to yet. One's a better choice in my opinion but it could use a tune up." He pointed at one car, letting Xander get in and start it. He got out, frowning a bit. "That's my second choice. It's good on fuel costs and it runs very well, or will once someone changes the oil and tunes it. This way, Mr. Harris." He nodded and followed him to the other car. "This is my first choice for you. It's a bit sportier, which will get you more dates," he said with a grin for him, "plus it'll give you some extra speed on the beltway. It's got a more powerful engine. It's a few hundred more, but again, all it needs is the oil changed and a tune up really." He let him have the keys and the boy got in to start it, having to adjust the seat. It got shut off after a few minutes and the boy got out, stroking down the roof. "It's got no body rust, it's just not a popular model. They're very safe cars, but they never took off in popularity."
Xander nodded. "What's the MPG?"
"30 and 38. It's also American made which your father should appreciate."
Xander looked at the interior. "It'll go with none of my clothes or my uniform."
"Repainting can come later and pretty cheaply," he pointed out. "I know the Vo-Tech program downtown has a repainting class that could always use demonstration models." Xander smiled at that and nodded. "I can do the paperwork for you today so you can get insurance on the way home."
"Sure. How much?"
"Eleven-fifty-nine," he said, pointing at the tag.
Xander nodded. "I've got six on me and if we can go to the bank I can write you out a check there."
"I can do that." He smiled and walked him inside to do the paperwork. "Now that is with registering the title for you and all that stuff. You'll have to pay taxes on it but that'll be like ten bucks or something small since it's not worth that much." Xander nodded, signing where told and filling in his address and things. The man smiled and shook his hand, handing over the keys so they could go to the nearest bank branch.
Xander walked in and smiled at the receptionist. "I've got to write out a check for him," he said. "But I have a daily draw limit. I was told I could have someone witness it?" She nodded and got a bank officer for him. He sat down and filled it out, letting him put the name he wanted on the check. The bank officer signed it and cashed it for them. Xander got his copy of the paperwork so he could pay his taxes. "Thank you." He shook their hands. "I just bought a car," he offered with a smile. "That way dad doesn't feel like a taxi."
"I understand and, of course, we had to alert him that you were withdrawing so much but Mr. DiNozzo was very kind about it. He said it was fine."
"I knew he would. He understands needing your own car for dates." That got a giggle and he walked out, going to find a good insurance company. He would comparison shop but there were too many insane drivers on the beltway for him to leave it more than a few minutes in his paranoid mind. He found the nearest State Farm office. They seemed nice in their commercials. He walked inside and smiled. "I just bought my first car."
"Is your father with us?"
"No, I think he's got special Federal Agent insurance and I'm going behind his back." She giggled at that. "Sorry, but we live in the middle of nowhere and I don't want to make him be a taxi service for dates. I'd never get kissed again." That got another giggle and he sat down to fill out the paperwork with her. It was costly, but good for him. He arranged to have it automatically drawn out of his account each month, then went to use the ATM to have enough money for dinner and gas in the morning. Even though the guy had used a gas card to fill it up for the first tank.
Gibbs parked and looked at the other car, then at the house. There were only two reasons to have another car in his driveway and one of them had better not be that his son had bought one. He walked inside, slamming the door. "Xander!"
"Kitchen." He came to the doorway. "Before you say a word," he warned. "It was She Who Bark's idea and it was a good one. Now I can *date* and get to classes on time. That way you don't have to make special trips, and it's got good fuel economy. It just needs a tune up, which I'll be figuring how to do this weekend when I change the oil." He went back into the kitchen. "There's food coming in about ten minutes if you wanted to change."
He went in to change and calm down. His son was rash, impulsive, and stupid at times. He came out and found his favorite meal waiting on him. "Sucking up won't get you out of trouble."
Xander smiled sweetly. "My money. You can look it over if you want. I've already filed for insurance and all that stuff. I'll go after school tomorrow to pay the taxes on it, which the guy said was going to be about ten bucks since the car was under twelve hundred."
"How much did you pay?"
"Eleven-fifty-nine including registration fees for the title. I used my PO Box for that and the insurance."
"You didn't have to."
"I don't want to spread your address around so anyone could find it. Sue me, I'm being nice."
"You're being a smart ass," he retorted, cutting into his steak. He looked at the insides then at his son, switching the plates. Xander gave him a sheepish look. "I'm going to look this car over."
"Of course you are. You can tell me what a tune up involves."
"I'm not the biggest car guy. That's DiNozzo. He can probably help you."
Xander ate a bite of his steak and looked at him. "Is that a wise idea?" His father looked at him. "Even McGee's noticed my crush on him, Jethro, and that would be enabling it since I know you don't like it."
"I don't, he's too old for you, but I like him helping you with stuff. I figure you'll like him less when you get to know him more." He ate another bite, then looked at him. "Jen suggested this?" That got a nod and a smirk. "Why?"
"So I wasn't a drain on you. That way you could kick me out for a night so she could get some. Which I must say, very nasty thought. As in I need a brain wash and you have better taste."
"She's an ex, son."
"So? You still have better taste. I have better taste and most of my dates so far have been with people who wanted to kill me."
"She could kill me," he offered dryly.
"And probably will some day on someone's orders. I don't even want to think where she's been for assignments."
"Son, I'd like to eat dinner," he noted patiently.
"Fine. Sorry." He stuffed his mouth instead. "It's not the best, but it runs okay and it's good on gas, and I was told I could paint it sometime in the future."
"It's also a Ford Tempo, son."
"Which means it's cheap on parts when I need some," he noted dryly. "The other one he was showing me was a Civic. A bit cheaper but worse engine sounds."
"Fine. Does it have air bags?"
"You know, I haven't had a wreck yet," he mused. "I'm not sure." His head rocked as he got swatted. "Sorry, Jethro."
"We'll look at it after dinner. It was still stupid and I wanted you to leave off driving for a little while longer."
"Jethro, think about it. I can't date with you ferrying me around. We live so far out the busses don't come this way so I can't get to dates easily, which means they either have to pick me up or you have to take time out of your life to drive me. One has seriously eliminated my possible dates since we live so far out, and the other means I'm never going to get laid again." His father grimaced. "Which I know was probably your point, but I'm sleeping with guys, no grandkids to worry about." That got a small smirk and another bite being eaten. "I'd also like you to reconsider my ridiculously low curfew considering I can't even go to the movies without having to leave early to get home. That means all I can do is have sex in the backseat."
"Ten is a good hour."
"It takes forty minutes to drive home. That limits my dating options, which also cuts down on my choices of date locations other than the backseat."
"You could have it taken away, son."
"I could but then again I can also ambush you during the night and tie you up again too," he retorted sweetly. "Not to threaten, but just a negotiation to move it back to eleven."
"Then you won't have time for homework."
"I do it before I go most of the time."
Gibbs looked at him. "We'll see about the weekends."
"I'm good enough with that. I can continue to have sex and only sex on the weekdays."
"Again, the car can now be taken, son."
"Dad, I can hotwire. Who do you think got McGee into his when he lost his keys?"
"You did what?" he asked, looking amused.
"Yes, I picked his car door open and then I hotwired it for him so he could take it to the dealership and get new keys. By the way, the Director was amused when he caught me doing the door." Gibbs snorted at that. "So, taking the car won't work. Unless you want me to drive yours," he offered with a very sweet grin.
"We'll see. Mine doesn't have much of a backseat."
"Yeah, Kate said that."
"Keep it up, kid."
"Hey, at least you can point out I'm not in lust with most of your team and Kate is a good maternal influence."
"She is, but I'd still rather your crush on Tony got dissolved by reality."
"It's slowly getting worse with reality. Which is why I'm not sure you really want him to come help me tune my engine." Gibbs raised an eyebrow at that. "I like the noble sort and he's not that much older. I need someone older and calmer, but with a sense of fun, so I don't go off and do stupid shit. By the way, the whole school is thinking about a spring break trip to Ireland. Can I go? I'll even pay."
"That depends on your grades."
"They need confirmation within a week. It's only five hundred and I like to travel. Besides, the accents are so cute," he cooed.
Gibbs rolled his eyes. "I'll think about it."
"Thanks." He blew a kiss and finished up. "I've got a date tonight and so do you. She Who Barks is coming over in about an hour." He smirked and got the kitchen cleaned up, since he had cooked, then went to change.
His father sat there for a few more minutes, then shook his head and finished his dinner. Those two would have to work something out so they got along if Jen was moving back to DC. He did his own plate, watching his son bounce down the stairs. "I don't like that shirt."
"Ask me if I give a damn," he called back. "If you wanna see the car before the cold light of early morning, I'd come with me now. I've got to leave in about thirty minutes."
"Fine." He walked that way, going to check out this car. He wasn't happy about it but you couldn't really take it back. He got in to start it, wincing at the engine noise. "It definitely needs some work."
"I know," he sighed. "I've got the manual inside to figure out how to tune it up. That way I don't have to drag it somewhere else." He leaned on the open door, watching his father. "I can hook my discman into it for CD's, it's got a radio, a heater, defroster. The standard stuff. A/C too."
"I can see that." He turned off the engine after revving it, handing him the keys as he got out. "You will be careful."
"I will be careful, I've got my new cell with me, and I've also got the revolver under the front seat already. It's not a problem."
"You're going armed?" he asked, looking amused.
"Hell yes! Have you seen what I used to date!" He walked around him, looking back as another car started up their road. "Looks like your bitch is here." He got in and readjusted the seat, starting his car and buckling up so he could back down the driveway. "I'm going to block her in if she's here when I get back," he called before leaving. There was only so much room in the driveway and his father had to be able to get out without driving on the lawn.
Gibbs looked at his date for the evening when she parked and got out. "I'm not sure if I shouldn't kick your ass for telling him to get a car."
"He's a young man and he needs one to date and things. That's what young men do, Jethro, or don't you remember?" she teased.
"Yes, and I remember *why* I needed a car at that age."
"I'm sure he's not that dumb."
"Oh, I don't know, his boyfriend seems to think so." He walked inside, letting her follow once he had seen her disgusted look. "I accept my son as he is, you should too," he called as he walked.
"I'd rather not," she muttered. She didn't like the kid anyway, that was just another strike against him. "Why did you move him in with you?"
"Because leaving him back in Sunnydale was wrong and he would've died," he noted dryly. He headed down to work on his boat. He wasn't going to help her any with her plans to seduce him again.
She came down to help, shaking her head. "Do you two get along?"
"Most of the time. He's pretty quiet and does what he's told. The only thing I like about this car is that I don't have to watch another SCA event."
"He's in the SCA?" she asked dryly. Yup, the boy was gay. "As what? A jester?"
"Actually, he's a damn good fencer. He's to the point where he beats Ducky." He smirked at her. "He also passed his range qualifications with Kate the other day. One point off perfect his first try." She looked a bit impressed at that. "DiNozzo still owes him lunch for beating his score." He got down to work. "So, why were you coming over tonight?" he asked as he sanded a rough spot.
"I thought we could do something nice or fun," she offered, moving over to help him. "You looked stressed out the last time I saw you. Fatherhood is giving you more gray hairs, Jethro."
"At least he doesn't need me to change his diapers." She gave him a horrified look. "He's showing good skills in becoming an agent too. We've been talking about college for him." He mentally smirked at her horrified look. "Take the other end and meet me back here, Jen." She took her own sandpaper and went down there to work on the edges of the newest board.
Xander looked up as Tony came out of his apartment, giving the car an amused look. "It runs but Jethro said to bum some of your time when you had some to teach me how to do a tune up and watch me change the oil."
"Okay. Turn her over." The kid got in and started it, making him wince. Xander turned it off and got back out, leaning on his door. "It's not so bad. It'll take a few hours to fix it. Or you could pay a professional."
"Sheppard had suggested I should get my own car but I like the idea of doing it myself."
"She did?" he asked smugly. "Does he know?" Xander nodded so he smirked. "Did he go over there?"
"No, but she came over tonight to get some." He chuckled evilly. "And I'm getting my curfew raised on the weekends to eleven." He beamed. "It's not too bad for just under twelve hundred."
"It's not," he agreed. "For a first car it's really good. Sunday afternoon good for you?"
"Whenever you've got time. It's not like I'm allowed to work."
"Good point," he admitted with a small grin. Jethro had shouted at the kid in front of everyone when he had suggested he should get a job. "Sunday afternoon. You buy the pizza."
"Sure. Thank you. I'm off to club and find me a willing bit of ass tonight." He slid back in, mentally smacking himself for saying that out loud.
"Just be safe and careful," Tony ordered.
"I am." He started the car and backed out, heading down to his favorite club.
Tony went back upstairs, penciling it into his datebook. Just in case he got too busy the night before.
Jethro looked at the clock, then at the kid when he came in. "You're late."
"I had a flat, I called, and it's Friday," he noted dryly. "Which means it's technically not a school night." He kissed him on the cheek. "Will I run into the redhead in the bathroom or is it safe to shower?"
"Go take a shower. Why do you smell like aqua velva?"
"Hmm. Clubbing?" he offered, grinning at him. "One of the people I was dancing with must have it on." He walked around him, heading up the stairs. "Tony said if he's not busy he could come help me on Sunday afternoon but it was my turn to buy the pizza."
"That's fine." He shook his head. "I want the information on the Ireland trip." It came flying down the stairs, letting him catch it. "Thank you." He sat down to read it. It was a fully chaperoned trip and it was a good learning experience. Plus it'd give him the whole house to himself for a week and three days. They left on a Thursday and came back the following Saturday. It was a good learning experience but he wasn't sure he trusted the kid to go to a foreign country yet.
Xander came down and leaned on the back of the couch, looking at him. "It's a good learning experience, the men are cute, we'll have chaperones, not even *I* can make the Irish pissed at the US more than the government has, and hey, cute guys with really nice accents." He grinned at him. "Beer for dinner too. We're going to a mixed pub one night."
"You're not to drink."
Xander patted him on the back of the head. "Sure, dad, I won't drink and you'll invite the bitch over for the whole week."
"I was going to enjoy having a quiet house."
"I have enough money to get an apartment in town," he said seriously.
Xander looked at him. "I'll be good. That way I won't be a drain or a burden on you."
Gibbs pulled the kid around and made him sit. "No way in hell, kid. I mean it. You're not a drain or a burden, though the car was a good idea. That way I don't have to listen to your SCA buddy Craig go off about mediaeval armor again." That got a small grin. "Seriously, I like having you here. Some of your music and your shirts are annoying, but I like having you here. No matter what Jen says."
"She just wants to kick me out so she can untaint you and have babies."
"Probably true," he admitted. "I told her you had a date with a guy and she gave me the most disgusted and horrified look, so be careful about her, okay?"
"I'm not that fragile," he pointed out dryly. "I can get her in her sleep too." That got a fond snort and a gentle cuff on the head. "So, can I go?"
"As long as you don't drink and you don't sleep with half of Ireland," he agreed, handing it back. "We'll split the costs so you have some of that left for college."
"No jobs. It's too much with the new school and all your studies."
"Okay, I wasn't going to suggest it, but I was going to suggest this," he said, handing over something. "Someone wanted me to join. Came up to me in the club to talk to me about it."
Gibbs looked at it, then at him. "That's pre-agent training for teenagers. You want to become an agent?" Xander shrugged. "That is one way to find out. I can check into this for you."
"It comes with a stipend too. Even though it is through the CIA and I personally think they're looking for their next assassin candidates. Which apparently someone thinks I'd be good at it since that part's highlighted." Jethro looked again and glared at the paper. Xander shifted so he calmed himself down. "I know I could but I don't want to. I don't mind what you guys do, but I couldn't be a sniper like you were."
"That's fine, son. I agree with that fully. I'll check into this program and have a talk with them about why you and see what they wanted you to really learn. If so, I can let you gopher around the office now and then instead of making McGee help you with your math homework."
Xander got up and found his backpack. "The real reason we had steak," he offered, handing it over with a smirk. "And American Uni wanted me to take an extra year instead of graduating on time when I asked them. They said it'd help with my grade issues."
Gibbs took a deep breath. This was his first report card. He opened it and looked, then looked at his son. "You passed Algebra with a C?"
"Yes, and now I'm owed a dog," he said with a smirk. "Pound tomorrow or Sunday before Tony comes?"
"Tomorrow morning then you're helping me on the boat and with the lawn stuff." He went back to the grades. Then he looked at him. "Why did you go to American University to ask?"
"They were closer and more exclusive than something like the state college. Just general 'what should I take next' sorta questions. They suggested an extra year with massive science and math stuff, and I pointed out I had a lot of trouble in math. I brought in my old report cards for them."
"I see." He looked at it again. A in Latin, C in Algebra. B's in History, English, and Gym. C in science. "Well, if you want to do what my team does, you do need more math and science," he admitted, handing it over. "But I'm proud." Xander relaxed and grinned at him. "I did promise you a dog but you're taking care of it."
"Of course I am. You're never home." He mock-scowled but then let it dissolve into a grin. "I'm thinking something medium sized so it'll cuddle on laps but won't need the running that a great dane would."
"That's a good idea," he agreed dryly. He ruffled his hair. "You can call McGee and brag tomorrow."
"I scanned and sent him a copy of it," he said happily. "He said he'd start to teach me computer stuff if I passed."
"I can agree that it's probably a good idea," he agreed. "Do you want to do the extra year?"
"If you're going to make me go to college, I probably will have to, dad."
"Good point." He smiled and leaned back. "You did good."
"Good enough to get an earring?"
"Damn." He grinned again. "Good enough to have ice cream for dinner tomorrow?"
"She's coming back tomorrow for dinner."
"She could probably use ice cream too."
"We'll have ice cream for dessert," he promised. Xander grinned at that. "What's for dinner since you earned it?"
"You know that casserole you made two weeks ago?" He smirked and nodded. "Anything but that." He blew a kiss and went back up to his room.
Gibbs shook his head, amused beyond belief. It wasn't like he had planned on making Spam and Cheese casserole, it was all that had been left in the house that day. But the kid did deserve a treat. Maybe Chinese takeout.
To Part 2