Tony smiled at the bouncy ball of boy and fur that ran out to hug him.  "I like the dog.  I take it you either begged, whined, and threatened his latest girlfriend or you passed Math?"

"With a C."  He showed him his report card, bouncing just a little bit while he waited for his comments.

Tony smiled at him and gave him a hug. "You did good, kid.  Pizza here yet?"

"Inside.  Along with She Who Barks."  Tony snickered at that.  "She so is a bitch," he complained.  "Okay, I've drained the oil and I'm about to plug it back up and put in new.  I've changed both the filters.  What do I now?"

"You're further along than I was my first time."

"I had to change the oil on Uncle Rory's car a few times and it was nearly a boat."  He and the dog, a black Pomeranian crossbreed, went back to his car so he could plug the oilpan.  Xander came back out and then went back under to check it, then came back out and smiled.  "All plugged."

"Good.  Put the pan back, just in case."  Xander shoved it back into place and Tony handed him the first bottle of oil, watching as the kid tipped it in like a pro.  "Good work. I  splashed mine."

"I did too and I had a bruise to show for it."

"Did you get to hit him back?"

"Uncle Rory?  No, but he passed out under the car with it running a few days later.  I was nice enough to open a window but nothing else."   He grinned.  "He was sick for days and could only blame himself for his stupidity."  He jiggled the bottle and when it was empty got down to check the pan, finding it not dripping.  So he poured in some more.  "Next time I change this I'll need to put in a new plug.  They didn't have one at the store and it was going to have to be ordered during their next ordering time."

"Which was...."

"Another week.  It'd take a few days to get in.  They said they usually carry them but they had just sold it a few days back."  He shrugged. "So I'll do it next time unless I spring a leak."  He tightened down the nut on the air filter and looked at him. "Now what?"

"How are your other fluid levels?"

"I need to add more transmission fluid, I think.  I bought a bottle but I'm not sure where it goes and the manual didn't tell me that yet."

Tony smiled and looked, pointing at a spot. "It goes in there."  Xander nodded and pulled that dipstick to check it, then got the bottle to add to it.  Tony went to get his tools, sure the kid and Gibbs didn't have anything like wrenches and sockets, bringing it back.  "How are your brakes?"

"Good. As the idiot on the beltway proved last night when he tried to ram me and I had to brake suddenly.  Oh, I got approached in a club," he said quietly, moving closer.  "There's apparently a CIA pre-agent training class for the kids of present agents?"  Tony looked at him and he nodded.  "They came up to me in the club.  They didn't do their homework since they sent a blonde girl, but they did come up to me.  I made her pretty fast, three songs, which isn't bad.  So we sat and talked.  He's got the brochure."

"I'm sure he'll figure out if it's a good thing or not.  Do you want to go?"

"That depends on what they want to teach me.  I can't be a sniper and I'm realistic about my skills."

"You have been," he agreed, clapping him on the back.  "Relax, it'll be okay.  They won't kidnap you."

"They tried, that's why the guy was trying to ram me on the beltway."  Xander stared him down.  "They also shot at me.  Which is why I had you pick up that small jar of stuff before Jethro can see."

"Yeah, fat chance I won't tell him.  Did you pull the bullet?"  He nodded, getting in and handing over the sandwich bag with the bullet.  "When did you pull it?"

"This morning. I had to use some forceps that Ducky left over here."

"Let me go talk to him."

"He'll freak and Sheppard's in there," he said dryly.  "She's been in there since last night."  He checked both bottles, tossing the empties into the trash can he had drug out for this stuff, adding another bottle of oil.  "Three or four of these?"

"Test it after this one."  He looked at him. "He still needs to know."

"So tell him tomorrow.  I doubt I'm the only one."

"Good point."  He shrugged and put the bullet in his pocket, then got to work looking at the bullet hole.  "It can be filled pretty easily."

"That's what I was thinking.  I also picked up a touch up pen when I went to get the oil yesterday, after we got back from the Pound."  He smiled at his dog.  "Huh, Blackie, yes we did."  The dark barked from his warm spot on the driveway.  "Yeah, you rest."  The dog went back to his lounging.  "He makes a good lap comforter."

"I bet.  Has Gibbs yelled about shedding yet?"

"No, but he warned me I was brushing Blackie every single day until the day he passed on," he said smartly, smirking at him.  "It was this or something really huge and I'd have to take up jogging to exercise with it."

"Jogging is okay."

"No it's not! Joggers are stupid people who run in the snow in shorts!"

Tony chuckled and patted him on the back again.  "That's what treadmills are for and if you want to join the team, you've got to be in very good physical shape, Xander."  He came over to help him with the engine.  It wasn't too bad of a problem, yet.  They'd have to watch and wait for the first major breakdown to see how bad of an engine it really was.


Tony looked around later that night as he went down to the basement.  "We alone, boss?"  He got an odd look and a nod.  "Good."

"You're not going to try to kiss me or something, right, DiNozzo?"

"No, boss, I'm not into you."  He pulled out the bullet and held it up.  "The same people who approached your son last night according to him.  I helped him fill in the body damage.  They tried to take him on the beltway."  He moved the bullet back from the attempted grab.  "He thinks they're going for more than him.  He said that the person who approached him was a very pretty blonde girl."  He handed it over with a look.  "Why do they want the kid?  He's got language skills but I'm not seeing the rest."

"He's got weapons skills," he said, looking at the bullet.  "Pretty standard.  I'll have Abby match it tomorrow morning."

"I called to warn her and McGee is doing a search from his home computer.  He thinks they're trying to recruit the kid."

"No way in hell my son's going to become a spook," he said firmly.

"That was my feeling on the subject," Xander called from upstairs.  "Can I have a beer?"

"NO!" they yelled in unison.

Tony looked at him again, shrugging a bit.  "If he's not the only one...."

"And they're going after other agent's and military personnel's kids, it'll become a case.  I'll warn Morrow in a few."

"Thanks, boss.  He didn't want to say anything with Sheppard here, he doesn't want to involve outsiders."

"He hates her, I realize this, DiNozzo."

"No, he said he doesn't want to involve outsiders into what would probably become a family matter," he told him.  That got a nod.  "By the way, his insurance program is very vast.  I checked into it for you."  He handed over that printout. "He's covered for everything."

"I thought it was a good idea," Xander said as he came down, bringing beers and a soda for himself. "I've had beer before."

"You're underaged," Gibbs reminded him.

"Point.  So just a pint in Ireland when we hit the pub?"

"You're going to Ireland, boss?"

"No, his school is going," he noted dryly.  He took his beer and sat down in his comfortable chair, looking at them.  "I want you to be extremely careful, son."  The dog came down and he let it into his lap for a moment, giving him a pet before putting him back onto the floor.  Xander sat down on the stairs, letting the dog into his lap.  "Thank you."

"Hey, he likes you too," Xander said with a smirk.  "I'm not involving anyone outside this family and your team, Jethro.  I don't want this spread around.  I don't know who told them I exist."  That got an appraising look. "Or who told them I could shoot so well for that matter.  Since she did mention my skills with weapons.  She suggested I could learn bombs and stuff, plus more languages and computers since somehow she knew that McGee was going to teach me."

"Which means we've got a mole," Tony noted, looking at the kid.  "You have good instincts."

"I should.  I've lived by the survival principle for a while now."  He went back to petting his dog.  "I don't want to have to defend myself on the beltway some night, Jethro.  I will, but I don't want to have to.  Consider this fair warning."

"I'm checking into the program tomorrow.  For right now, you're not going."

Xander nodded. "I can agree to that."

"Good. You could've told me this the first night."

"They came back last night.  The first night was just a chat, last night was the blonde who wanted a chat and for me to take her to a nice motel.  They didn't do their homework very well about me."

"Oh, someone's going to be sorry," Tony promised him.  "On a lighter note, boss, his car is tuned up, the oil was changed, along with all the filters, and the body damage fixed.  His brakes do work and I took his car for a spin, it'll do if he's chased."

"Of course I'm chased," Xander said smugly.  "Craig thinks I'm cute.  He joined the SCA to get closer to me."

His father looked at him. "So all those rides were your way of letting me vet the new boyfriend?"

"I didn't realize it then.  But if you want to consider it that way...."  He grinned.  "He's still not the sort I like but he's cute and happy and good."

"Good?" Tony asked, looking at him.  "Do we have to have a talk about safe sex and all that stuff?"

"No, I've already had that talk and I buy my own condoms so I don't have to worry about the breaking ones the health department and the school nurse give out.  We're not that far yet, he's still pure and taking it very slowly."

"Good," Tony agreed dryly, rolling his eyes. Gibbs snorted, shaking his head.  The dog looked at him and barked quietly.  "No, he doesn't need another cuddle, Blackie.  Cuddle the Xander Master."  The dog settled in to be adored and loved by his human. "I noticed he doesn't like cars."

"He was a hit and run," Gibbs told him.  "We checked how he got to the pound."  He finished his beer and stood up again.  "Okay, I'm going to do some quiet checking on this program, see what they want.  I want you to take every precaution, Xander."  Xander nodded at that.  "Which may mean hourly phone calls if you're out of town on a team meet."  That got another nod.  "I'll try not to have you shadowed unless I can't discourage them."  That got a third nod.  "Is your homework done?"

"Early Friday afternoon. All but the paper I need books for.  I was going to head to the main library tomorrow afternoon for that since it's due in three days."

"You should leave yourself more time," Tony pointed out dryly.  "Just in case you get stuck or your sources aren't available."

"I only need three sources and it's a generalized topic, fairly broad.  I've already done a lot of it online during study hall.  I only need some non-internet, verifiable sources."

"Good," Jethro agreed.  "Keep bringing home the grades you did this time and try to get a better grade in math and science."

"I'll try," he sighed.  "I still suck at it."

"Sometimes it's the way you think about it," Tony told him.  "What's the next science course for you?"

"Chem one.  I don't like this 'whole class in a semester' thing they've got going, even if it is like college classes.  I feel like I'm being rushed and I won't remember."

"So keep your notes," Tony told him.  "Put them in a binder and leave them on a shelf for when you need them."   Xander nodded at that. "What about Math?"

"Geometry."  He shuddered.  "Eww."  He looked at his father.  "The Latin teacher wants me to continue on but I didn't schedule it this semester since I had to pick up a music elective for some reason."

"Well rounded education," he pointed out.

"So?  Can't I take art?"  Gibbs shrugged.  "Fine, I'll check.  I may need permission to rearrange my whole schedule."

"If it's necessary," he agreed patiently.  "History?"

"Laying off it until next year.  I've got enough in that area."  He looked at his dog and smiled then back at his father.  "So far, it's English, English, Science, Math, and Music."

Tony shook his head.  "Why two Englishes?"

"I'm behind," he said bitterly.

"Sorry, kid.

"Yeah, me too."  He looked at his father again.  "Do you want me to take Latin 3 or Spanish 1?"

"Take 'em both if you want," he offered.  "Take one English, a Science, your Math, and the mandatory music crap."

"Gee, thanks.  Can't I drop music?"

"If they let you put something else in its place," he offered.

"I'll check on that tomorrow when I go in to formally register.  I've got a preliminary written out and accepted but they want you to sign it.  I was going to sneak it in over breakfast, along with the slip to change it."

"It's your education but at least get the basics and the mandatories," Jethro instructed.  "Then we'll talk about that extra year the college seemed to think you needed."

"Extra year?" Tony asked.

"I went over to American to talk to them about entrance qualifications.  They said I'm doing good now but I need an extra year to make up for the bad ones before and to branch out more."

Tony shuddered.  "I'm sorry.  At least you could take college credit courses."

"Yeah, maybe," he sighed, standing up and taking the dog and his soda with him. "I'm going to bed after a shower."

"Sleep well," Jethro called, looking at Tony.  "I'm calling the sources tonight.  Give me ten and then we'll figure out where we're going from here."

"Sure.  You following him to school tomorrow?"

"Were you two followed earlier?"

"I didn't see one but I wasn't aware I needed to be that cautious.  No one came up the road after us, but around town I wasn't watching."

"Fine.  From now on, watch."  He went to make a few calls.

Tony saluted the empty spot.  "Yes, boss," he said dryly, going to look at the boat.  He heard a bark and the dog came back down, making him smile and sit down to pet the soft, thick fur.  "You're going to be good for the Xander," he told him.  "He could use you to learn how to love someone."  He went back to his petting, hearing the happy growls. "Good boy, Blackie."  That got another quiet bark.


Gibbs looked up as his son stormed in and dropped his bookbag in front of his desk.  "What happened?"

"I got pulled out of class by someone in the Secret Service," he said coldly, staring him down.  "They think I'm suddenly a threat and they want me in *their* program now."

Gibbs winced. "I didn't know they had one."  He looked at Kate, who shrugged.  "Have you ever heard of that?"

"No.  Who were they?"  Xander handed over the cards and she looked at them.  "I've never heard of these guys and I didn't leave that long ago, Gibbs."  She logged onto her old account and did a name search at her former job.  She shook her head.  "Neither one come up listed in the directory."

"So they were spooks too?" Tony asked as he came in.  "By the way, Cossgrove's downstairs, boss.  I don't know why."

"Would that be the bald guy who followed me over from school?" Xander asked dryly.

"No, that was Fornell," Tony told him, shrugging a bit.  "I don't know why."

"Let's see.  He's downstairs," Kate noted, calling down there.  She looked at Gibbs.  "Why do they want the kid?"

"I can hear you," Xander said dryly, staring at her.  "Three guesses."  He put his backpack onto the desk. "Chem, Geometry, Music, Latin 3, Spanish 1, and English from hell."

"If that's what you want.  That's going to be a lot of homework, brat," Jethro reminded him.

"Gee, what a shock," he said dryly.  "By the way, it wasn't my choice to go into Russian Lit either."  He stared his father down, crossing his arms over his chest.  "Was it yours?"

"No.  I'd never presume to pick your classes for you.  Russian Lit?"  Xander nodded. "Under who?"

"Some sub professor.  He's coming in to teach that and Spanish."  He dug out those syllabi, handing them over.  "I nearly threw a fit earlier when he paid me special attention."

"Calm down," he ordered quietly.

"No!  I have the right to roast their asses if they come near me!" he said hotly.  The bald guy getting off the elevator got a heated glare as well. "Did you have a really good reason for following me today?"

"Yeah, I did.  Your father asked."  He handed him a piece of paper.  "What they want you for.  I had a contact over there."

Xander looked at it, then snorted. "I'm just barely learning and they want me to do what?" he demanded, handing it to his father.  "Can you kindly decline for me?  I might not mind working here with my father, but I'll be damned if I'm going to kill people in the service of the people who started the Initiative."

"I told them your father wasn't going to be happy."

"Gee, ya think?" Gibbs demanded.  He handed it to Kate.  "Find that out for me."

"Yes, Gibbs."  She got to work on her computer, shooting a look at Tony, then glancing at the kid.

"Xander, let's go get you some chocolate," he said. "Let your father and the suit talk."  He stood up and Xander gave him a dirty look.  "They can work this out without you."

"No they can't."  He looked at Fornell again, staring him down.  "I won't go.  They can kidnap me and I won't go.  They've already tried.  They're about to be sorry mother fuckers when I involve Willow and her stuff into this since she can and will outlast McGee in the hacking department."  He shuddered at that.  "So let's not go there, okay?  You can discourage all you want."

"The more you react, the more they want you, kid," he said honestly.  "If you looked weak and tired, or like you were a fainter, you'd be safer."

"I can't act that well," Xander noted dryly, smirking at his father.  "Can I?"

Gibbs shook his head.  "No.  He can't."  He looked at the form again.  "Who's over this idiocy?"

"Morrow knows.  He doesn't agree and he's trying to calm it down, but he knows.  He doesn't want you to go kill people."

"He's not the one they have to worry about," Xander said dryly.  "Any idea who the information source is?"

Fornell nodded.  "Not that I'm telling you but I have already had a talk with them about leaving you alone.  How much it'll upset your father if they tell anything else or encourage this."

Xander stepped closer, still staring into his eyes.  "The bitch?" he asked, sounding amused.

"Did spill some over drinks," he admitted. "It made them look for a closer contact."  He looked to the right and nodded.  "One of that team."

"Ah."  Xander nodded once and strolled that way. "Excuse me," he said, smiling sweetly.  "For those who don't know me, I'm Gibbs' kid, Xander.  Whichever of you got the CIA onto my case so they can recruit me, please quit before I have to blow you up and then hurt you, a lot."  He glared at the person who flinched, making her back up.  "Was it you, dear?"  She nodded.  "Then I'd stop. *IF* I become an agent, it'll be like my father is now, like Kate and Tony and McGee are.  Not like a CIA agent, not a toy for them to send at some target to seduce them, and sure as hell not as a sniper!" he finished at a yell.  "So, leave me the hell alone and tell your little friends to do the same!  I'm not going to be intimidated by someone who wants to use a sixteen-year-old kid as a sex toy to get information!"  She nodded and backed against her corner.  "Good.  I'm glad we had this talk," he said more calmly.  "Because if I see another one of them trying to shoot at me, I now have the right to shoot back."

"Xander," Gibbs called.  "No threatening."

"Just stating a fact, Jethro."  He turned and walked off.  "I'm going to see Abby."

"Please."  He took a deep breath, then looked at Tony and nodded.  "Go get them, I'd like to talk to them."  Tony nodded and took McGee with him to capture the crying woman and bring her down to interrogation.  "Stop them, Fornell, or else I'm going to have to help him stop them."

"Are you sure you want to let him go to Ireland with this going on?"

"No.  I'm not sure I want to let him go to school."

Fornell nodded.  "That's probably a wise idea considering his Russian Lit teacher is a spook too."  He handed the paper to Kate and walked off, going back to his other duties now that this one was done.  He almost wished for popcorn when Jethro went to talk to someone out there, but it'd be too dangerous to get that close.


Xander woke up, which was strange.  So was the headache he had.  He held his forehead as he sat up.  "My car had better be in pristine condition," he said when the door opened.  He didn't bother to look at them.  "Whatever you want, I'm not working for you."

"Why are you here?" he asked.

Xander looked at the man.  He was about Tony's age, well dressed in an expensive suit. He looked like a lawyer, or a State Department guy.  He noticed the dark hair and then the eyes.  Then he noticed the cell and the guys in military uniforms outside it.  "I'm not sure.  Why am I here and are you with the State Department or the CIA?"

"State department, but I liaison with JAG all the time."

Xander waved a hand.  "I'm the son of Gibbs."

"Ah."  He walked in and helped the kid up.  "You're not supposed to be here. Not yet."

Xander looked at him. "Try at all," he said dryly.  "I will never work for the people who started the Initiative project out of my old town.  Nor do I need to.  If they kidnaped me, I'm expecting property damage to happen or I'm going to cause it."

"Calm down.  What are you talking about?"

"The CIA have been trying to take me to work with me and recruit me.  This isn't part of that?"

"No," he said cautiously.  "You were here at JAG and your car was shot up.  You were knocked out and found a few minutes later by the guards responding to the gunshots.  What's your name, kid?"

"Alexander Harris.  Son of Leroy Jethro Gibbs at NCIS.  I was coming to JAG to deliver a file for him."

"Okay, that explains that," a new voice said from the doorway.  "Who shot at you?" she asked.

"Probably the CIA guys who want to recruit me.  They've slipped a new teacher into the school, rearranged my schedule, and have started to 'talk to me'," he said, doing finger quotes, "about a summer program for pre-agents."

"I see," the guy said.  "Okay.  I know of your father and I'll call him.  Want to come upstairs?  Get a soda?"

"You're the right hand of God, man.  Thank you."  He followed him out.  "You got a name?"

"Clayton Webb."  He shook his hand.  "What do you usually go by?"

"Xander.  Where's my wallet?"  He patted himself down.  "It's not on me."

"It's in your bag of things.  We couldn't be sure you weren't wanted so we put you down in a cell by yourself until we could talk to you," he admitted.  The woman went in another direction and he picked up the kid's things, handing them over. "Your car's still whole, it just needs body work now.  What file?"

"Pertry?  Something like that.  It was in the front seat."

"I'll have someone check."  He walked him up to the break room, noticing the kid scanned the room like a pro before sitting down. "Has this happened before?"

Xander looked at him.  "I'm from Sunnydale, Clayton.  I've handled some dangers before," he said quietly.  "I'm not as stupid as I look."

"You don't actually."  He sat across from him, looking at him.  "Are you okay?"

"Headache.  Did I hit my head on the steering wheel?"

"They blew your tire and then one of their cars crashed into yours, which rammed you into the fence.  Your airbag went off but I'm guessing you hit it pretty hard."  He smiled a bit.  "I can ask for something for you if you want."

"No, I'm good.  I'm used to pain."  He got up to get them each a soda, handing one to him.  "So, what's going on now?"

"Well, she went to call your father and check on that file.  I'm hoping he's got more information."

"Fornell and Morrow both know about this," he said quietly, shifting in his chair so he could put his feet up on the free one and get comfortable.  "They started last weekend.  A casual conversation in the club.  The next night it was a blonde girl who tried to get me to take her home and we talked more about it when I realized she wasn't the normal club whore."  He took a sip and contemplated. "That night on the way home someone tried to shoot me on the beltway.  I reported it to Jethro and Tony the next day, though I had told Jethro that they had approached me when I got home that first night."  He took another drink. "Monday I come in to make my schedule and find it changed into Russian Lit and things with a suspicious teacher.  I told Jethro when I got off that night. He had Fornell tail me home from school, just in case, and he had more information."

"Good," Clayton told him.  "Any other contacts?"

"Just the creepy teacher who keeps hitting on me and winking at me," he said dryly. "Apparently someone realized that the blonde wasn't going to work on me."  He looked at him.  "Jethro's got to be freaking out."

"I would be.  You call him by his name?"

"He only found me recently," he admitted quietly.  "During an undercover to my town.  Morrow found me and told him."

"Oh.  Interesting.  You mentioned a project called the Initiative?"  Xander nodded.  "Who was doing that?"

"Pentagon, super black ops, like NSA black ops only military."

"Okay."  He took out some paper and made notes.  "Does your father know if they're connected?"

"Not a clue.  You'd have to ask him.  Though I'd expect some yelling."

Clayton smiled at him. "Your father's known for it."

"Yeah, well, I'm about to be known for blowing the fuckers up," he muttered, taking a longer drink.  "It's still Wednesday, right?"  Clayton nodded. "Good.  I have a test tomorrow.  My bookbag's in the trunk."

"You can get it on the way out, kid." He stood up.  "You stay here, let me check to see if he's gotten here yet."  Xander nodded.  "You'll be okay?"

"I'm a decent enough hand-to-hand fighter," he said dryly. "Oh, revolver under the front seat in case they were wondering."

He nodded, going to inform the people searching the car of that.  He ran into Gibbs out there and held out a hand.  "Clayton Webb.  I've been talking with your son.  He's safe and awake. He's in the lower break room."

Gibbs shook his hand.  "He okay?"

"Just fine.  He told me what's been going on."  He showed him the notes he had made.  "Did you think it was them?"

"I don't know.  Do you guys have the case file?"  He looked at the closer guard, who shook his head.  "Then it could be related to that instead.  There were weapon running connections in that case."  He looked at the building, then at him. "Anything else I need to know?"

"He's worried about his test, he said there's a revolver under the front seat."

"There should be," Tony agreed. "It's not here, boss.  No case file either."

"His bookbag's still in the trunk," McGee admitted.  "Should I go sit with him?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Is he all right?"

"Pissed," Webb told him.  "He promised they were going to know him for blowing them up."

"He probably could," Tony agreed, moving around to check the back seat.  "They forgot the videotape," he said, handing it out to his boss.

McGee moved inside, flashing his badge and ID.  "I'm supposed to sit with the Harris boy?"

"He's in the lower break room.  Up the hall and to the right."

McGee nodded.  "Thank you."  He headed that way, smirking at him.  "It looks like it was related to the case instead of the other problem."

"They're related though," Xander reminded him dryly.  "The Petty Officer married into the CIA field office locally just two months ago.  Kate said so."

He sat down, frowning at him. "You were listening?"

"Anything's better than Russian Lit and the teacher who keeps hitting on me," he said blandly. "Do I get to file harassment charges against him?"

"I would," McGee offered, smiling just a bit.  "Are you okay? You've got a bruise on your forehead."

"I hit the steering wheel apparently.  I'm fine. I've got a very high pain tolerance before I ask for drugs."  He finished his soda and tossed the can into the recycling bin.  "I'm wondering if they're not after me to keep Jethro and you guys off that case."

"That is something I hadn't thought about but I didn't know about the CIA connection either," McGee offered.  He called out there. "Gibbs, Xander's been listening while we worked that case.  He said Kate pointed out that Pertry was married to a CIA field agent or someone in their local field office, and that it was possible they were moving on him to keep us off that connection and paranoid."  Xander nodded.  "He's nodding that he is."  He looked the kid over. "Bruise on the forehead.  No others I can see."

"Sore wrist," Xander said, wiggling it a bit.

"His left wrist is sore, boss.  No, he's fine.  He said his headache's manageable and didn't need pain killers or Ducky."

"No, I don't need Ducky to look me over," Xander said loudly.  "Thanks anyway, Jethro."

McGee smirked at him. "He said tough, he's doing it anyway."  He went back to it.  "Sure, boss."  He hung up.  "Come on, I'm taking you back to the office."

"I need my bookbag, I've got a test tomorrow."

"That's fine.  We can stop and get it.  It's still out there."  He got up and walked Xander out there, letting his father look him over.  "He said he needs his bookbag for his test tomorrow."

"He probably does," he agreed.  Kate handed it over without having to be ordered to.  "Go back to the office, directly, without stopping for dinner.  Have Ducky look at your head.  Then wait there for me and study."

"Are we sure that's safe?" Xander asked.

"The leak about you was plugged and has transferred to LA."

"Good."  He put his bookbag on.  "Are they going to fix my car?"

"That's what you have insurance for, kid," he reminded him.  "I'll make sure they fix it quickly for you."  Xander nodded, going to be driven back by McGee.  He looked at Tony and Kate.  "Could this be them going after him to keep us off-balance?"

"Highly unlikely," Tony offered.  "They've shown way too much interest in him, boss."

Clayton coughed. "If it was just to keep you off-balance and figured out the kid was good enough to meet their stiff requirements or for a special job, they'll still go after him."

"Hence the special teacher that's hitting on him," Kate agreed.  "Can he file charges against him?"

"That brings more attention," Gibbs reminded her.  "I'm not sure he should yet.  What's he been doing?" he asked Clayton.  "Since you seem to know so much."

He coughed and looked at him.  "I have my own contacts.  They want the kid now that they know he exists and is good.  This was about the case as far as I could tell.  Them hunting him won't stop until he goes for that program, which means they want him to go be a bait and information source for someone coming into town."

"No way in hell," he said firmly.  "Let me guess, they saw that report from the LA office?"  That got a nod.  "It won't be happening again."

"They want him bad enough to pay his way through college," Clayton said quietly, moving closer.  "Even if he chose not to go to them, they'd still get to keep him for *special* things."  He stared him down.  "As I'm sure you've run into in the past."

"He can't kill."

"He wouldn't need to unless it was to protect himself.  They want him for other reasons, Gibbs.  His language skills and his ease with flirting with older, powerful men."  That got a subtle nod.  "And they're not going to take no for an answer easily."  He glanced at Tony, then back at him. "Someone told them about his tastes."

"I'll kill her myself.  How do you know?"

"I was younger once," he noted dryly, smirking a bit.  "Now I liaison with JAG for the State Department."

"Fine.  Tell your former masters my son is underage, he's not doing it, and if they want him for something like that, they come to me.  They don't haunt my kid."

"Any idea of the target?" Tony asked as he joined them.

Clayton nodded. "My sources say there's a sheik's son who might be involved in a cell somewhere in the Middle East as their funding source.  He's about thirty-five and has a taste for very young men.  The kid's a bit too old but he can pass plus he can protect himself very well.  Of course, it'd be for the majority of the summer, and then he'd be coming back to school like it never happened."

"I'm not using my son that way.  They have other ways."

"They do but they think he's the best way," he noted bitterly.  "Personally I don't see him in the field.  He's a bit too hard."

"Survival can be like that," Gibbs noted dryly.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  I'm going to tell them that the kid can't play the game they want.  I can't promise it will send them packing."  He walked off, going to call his keepers over in the CIA to talk to them for a bit longer.

Gibbs called Fornell.  "What do you know about a Clayton Webb?  Yeah, we just had a talk about why they want my son to seduce some sheik and find out information from him."  He smirked coldly at the spluttering. "He doesn't make a secret of it.  Yeah, by the time I get back."  He hung up and looked at his team.  "Are we done?"

"We are, and McGee just text messaged saying he's pulling up copies of the reports and information we found," Tony told him.  "He's sending it over with another agent.  Ducky said Xander's head is fine and Xander told Ducky he didn't want to be there because he wasn't a whiner.  Ducky assured him he wasn't according to the third message, and Abby's gotten him an ice pack and is keeping him with her."

"Good.  Thank you."  He looked at his son's car.  "Have it towed back to my house.  We'll do the body work ourselves, that way I make sure no one plants anything like a tracking device."

"Sure, I'll pick up some more bondo, boss," Tony agreed, going to call the wrecker to do that for them. "I'll ride with them, boss.  You head back to be with the kid."  Gibbs and Kate nodded, going back to the office.  He noticed a guard watching him and shrugged.  "It's a new thing."

"That can be a good thing at times," he agreed.


Gibbs walked into his house the next night, finding food already cooking and no sign of his son. "Xander!" he yelled.

"Gods, Jethro, shut up!" he called back.  "I'm trying to study and you made me mess up my graph!"  He came down the stairs.  "I can't erase on that test."

"Sorry.  You okay?"

"Yeah, and I noticed that the new teacher suddenly left so I no longer have Russian Lit, but I still have Spanish 1 because another teacher can teach it."  He shrugged and went to the crock pot to stir the stew.  "It's been cooking all day, so whenever you're ready."  He was hugged. "What's that for?" he asked, moving carefully away from him.  "Were you drugged?"  Gibbs gave him a look and shook his head. "Are you sure?  You're not the sort to hug for no reason."

"I didn't see you or hear you."

"Oh. Sorry.  Blackie is wearing my headphones and listening to Black Sabbath for his nap.  By the way, the bitch called back and I told her quite plainly that you were very busy tonight and slammed the phone down.  So expect to hear that I'm rude."

Gibbs nodded.  "That works for me.  What did she want?"

"Sex.  What does she usually want?"  He shrugged and found bowls, handing his father one.  "How goes the CIA case?"

"Well enough.  We managed to break the Petty Officer easily enough. He gave up his contacts over there.  Others are chasing them down.  It shouldn't be too much longer."

"I'm sensing the big, hairy but."

Jethro nodded, smirking at him.  "They still like you for that special training class.  They swore up and down to me as they were hanging out their windows that they weren't going to use you as a sex toy until you were of age and had agreed to join, but they wanted to give you some training now so they could *guide* your education."

"Uh-huh," he said dryly, looking at him.  "You hung someone out a window for me?"

"No, Kate shot out the window and started to push him out.  Apparently you're as close to having kids as she wants to get."  Xander grinned shyly at that, digging into his dinner.  "Bread?"

"Crackers?" Xander suggested, pointing at the cupboard.  "I went grocery shopping."

"I noticed.  Alone?"

"No, I had the dog in the car," he snapped back, looking at him. "I was fine. I was very careful.  Oh, and we're invited to bring Blackie to play with the corgis this weekend.  Ducky said so."  He ate another bite.

"That's fine.  We can do that."  He dug in after getting his crackers, nodding.  "Good job."

"Thanks.  I bought a book with recipes too," he said with a smirk. "I'm thinking that they're not going to try again."

"My gut says the same," Gibbs admitted.  Xander finished his bowl and got up to get more so he shook his head.  "Hungry?"

"Skipped lunch. Craig needed his hand held.  His father found out and tried to kill him so I took him to the nurse.  Well, okay, I *forced* him to the nurse," he admitted with a smirk, "but he went and I held his hand while she took pictures and made the report, then called his aunt to have her come down.  He's staying with her for at least tonight."  Jethro nodded at that.  "He needed stitches and the nurse was not amused when I did some for him."

"You can stitch?"

"Who do you think did ours on patrol, dad?"

"The ER hopefully."

"There's no way I'd let them go anywhere near me.  Half of them were fucking morons and the other half were hunting victims for the demons and vampires.  I wasn't going to give them an easy way to get me or Willow or Buffy.  So yeah, I can stitch.  So can Willow."  He blew on his next bite and stole a cracker.  "She used to play nurse from actual medical books.   She stitched me when I got staked on my own stake by a vamp."  He ate that bite then nibbled on the cracker.

His father sighed and shook his head.  "You kids needed help, more than Giles was giving."

"He was only there for Buffy.  She's his duty.  He tried really hard on us but Willow's parents weren't often around and well, you know about mine," he said dryly.  "Giles taught me how to stitch wounds."  He ate another bite and stole another cracker.  Jethro poured out a few for him then added the rest to his bowl of stew so he could get some more.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  Since when did we have a crock pot?"

"Since Willow gave me her spare one.  She thinks you're making me live on take out for some reason.  I guess it was where I bragged about all the good pizza places."

"There's a new Middle Eastern one near the office," he offered as he sat down again.  "We can go Friday after work."  He looked at his son. "It's up to you whether or not you go to that summer program.  They have promised to mostly leave you alone until you're eighteen."

"Would it help me later?"  Gibbs nodded. "Do you want me to go?"  He shook his head and ate another bite.  "Do we think I'm going to be in danger?"

"I know you're going to be in danger.  If they like you that much, they're going to get more pushy."

"So, if I go in saying I only want to work with you?"

"That could help," he admitted.  He looked his son over.  "You would have to start working out more. You need to be in better physical condition, Xander."

"I'm in good condition."

"The Academy makes you run at least ten miles."

"Fuck," Xander sighed.  "Okay.  Anything else?"

"Better science grades," he said dryly.

"I'm trying! Chemistry is killing me."  He dug in, eating quickly.  "I have a Spanish oral test tomorrow on the first chapter."

"You can practice on me."

"No I can't.  My accent sucks."  He finished his food and put the bowl in the sink, running water.  "I'll wash it in a bit."

"I can do dishes tonight. You go study."  Xander nodded, heading upstairs to play with the dog while he practiced his Spanish and Latin on him.

Gibbs finished up and got up to put away the remains for his lunch tomorrow, then did the dishes.  His kid would make one hell of an agent, but it would drag down his sunny nature.  He wasn't sure he wanted his kid to follow him into the family business.  He knew he wasn't going to the Marines, that was so far out of the question it wasn't even considerable, but being an agent was a hard job.  He decided to let the kid ask him questions first.  That way he would have an idea of what he wanted to know.  And if not, then there were some people who knew he was going to kill them if his son got hurt.

"Damn it!" Xander yelled.  "McGee just pulled a pop quiz on me by sending me a damn virus!"

"You're learning hacking?" he called, heading up to check on him.  "Why?"

"It was my reward from him for passing Algebra," he said dryly, working on debugging his computer.  He passed the virus onto Willow so she could deconstruct it and play with it, but his computer was free.  Then he sent an email back with his time and what he had done.  His 'good job' made him happy.  "He said I passed."

"Uh-huh.  What is Kate teaching you?"

"Other weapons," he said absently, pulling up the CD for his Spanish class.  "This sounds bad on my speakers."

"You have speakers?"

"I hooked my stereo into it, Jethro."

"You can do that?"

"Yeah, and I hook it into the tv now and then so I can watch DVD's on it."  He looked at him.  "That's why I went for *this* laptop instead of the smaller, lighter one."  He grinned.  "Shoo.  Take Blackie to help you."

"Fine.  Dog."  It got up and shook itself and followed him.  He heard a heavily accented voice come through the speakers and shook his head.  It did sound odd.  "If you pass Geometry and Chem you can have new speakers," he called.

"Bastard, there's no way I can pass Chem at the level you want."

Gibbs smirked.  "We'll see.  A B or better this time, kid."  He let the dog out into the back yard, watching him pee a few times, then got his food down.  Then he went to work on his boat and think.  Xander would have to make his own decisions about that training program.


Later that summer, Xander let himself in, looking at the man with the gun in front of him. "Don't make me hurt you, McGee.  Where's dad?"

"He was injured.  He's in the hospital.  I can take you."

"I knew he was injured, the person who did it is begging and chained on Fornell's doorstep," he said dryly.  "Which hospital and how bad?"

"His arm."  He looked at him, putting his gun back up. "You chained him up?"

"Yeah, after I beat the shit outta him for it."  He went to get something for his father to put on, coming out with it. "Come on."

"They're going to keep him overnight."

Xander snorted. "Yeah, I'm sure, McGee.  Have you not seen my father's attitude about the hospital recently?"  He followed him out.  "Even if Ducky does drug him and make him stay, he'll be able to wear it tomorrow when they release him."  He got into McGee's car, buckling up.  McGee got in and started the engine.  "You okay to drive?"

"I'm good. By the way, that virus was mean."

"Willow sent it for you," he offered with a grin.  "My instructor was not happy when I snuck in and got his computer either."  McGee snickered and started the car, backing down the driveway. "Where's my dog?"

"The basement."

"Shit."  He got out and went to let him out, realizing that his dog had an accident.  "I'll sand it off tomorrow," he said as he came back.  "Blackie's in the backyard."  McGee nodded and took off again, taking him to the hospital.  He walked into his father's room, looking at him.  "Did you torture my dog by leaving him in the basement all week?" he asked dryly.

"Crap, I forgot about him."

"Yeah, well, he used a corner of the boat.  I'll help you sand it off."  He handed him the clothes.  "In case Ducky hasn't nagged you to death yet."

"No, he's already done that."  He put it beside him. "Tomorrow morning.  What happened?"

"My instructor walked into my classroom earlier and asked if I wanted to kick his ass. We kindly chained him to Fornell's front steps on his knees and begging.  I'm thinking he's going to get the point this time."  He smirked at him.  "My instructor hates me by the way.  He wants me to be a field agent and I told him no repeatedly.  He doesn't like that."

"I refuse to let you go to the CIA, son."

"Good, me too.  By the way, they want me to go to Sri Lanka for my practical exam.  I told them if they took me out of the country I was killing whoever was with me.  He was impressed."  He grinned at Tony.  "They realize now that I'm not for them and that I meant what I said about coming in to work under you when you take over the team."

"Not for many years."

"Yeah, but I've still got to get through college and the academy."

"Good point.  Yeah, that'll be at about the right time," he admitted, considering it.  "Fornell called about ten minutes ago about the person on his steps, but he said he confessed and begged nicely so he let him be arrested. He thought you were mean."

"No one touches my father," Xander snorted.  "I'm possessive about some things.  My car, my music, my computer, my dog, and my father.  Which is why Jen Shepard's still not back in town yet."  His father swatted him.  He grinned at him.  "Love you too, dad."  He looked at the pad. "Is that all it was?"  That got a nod.  "Good.  My instructor wanted me to tell you that he was going to spank you for worrying me since I somehow managed to magic the computers into blowing all over the Langley complex."  That got a tired chuckle. "So you're under orders to never get hurt again. And I'm under orders to learn some self control and come back next summer."

"What were you studying?" Tony asked.

"Computers this week.  I already passed my weapons and explosives were earlier in the week.  They want me to work in the computer espionage district; I already blew a raspberry and walked off laughing heartily."  He smirked at him. "He said when I finally make it to NCIS, I'm going to be fully trained and only need the field training lessons that dad should already be giving me because it would calm me down.  That's why Morrow wants me to intern the rest of this summer on your team, dad."  He looked at him. "I told him to ask you first."

"He visited?"

"Yeah, he did.  Another of us got offered one in the LA office.  Two went to the Secret Service, and the others either stayed CIA or went to the NSA."

"Wonderful.  We'll see, kid."

"Sure."  He tucked him in.  "Now, I'm done with my fussing for the night. Blackie's in the backyard for now.  Should I go sand down the corner you made him pee on?"

"No, I want to see it first. The damage has already been done."

"Cool.  Anything else I can do?"

"Go get me some coffee?"

Xander nodded and headed down to do that for him.

Tony shook his head. "He's a ball of energy, boss."

"He fusses very well," McGee agreed from his position.  "I'm wonder what's wrong with his arm this time."

Tony looked at him. "I noticed the padding.  You think that was the pain killers talking?"  McGee nodded.  "What was he on?"

"He didn't come in with his bag.  I'm guessing it's still in the trunk."  He shifted as the door opened.  "What happened to your arm?"

"Slight slice during knife fighting drills," he admitted, handing the cup to his father.

The nurse stormed in. "He is not to have that."

Xander looked at her. "My father has a coffee habit that rival *some* people's cocaine habit. It's cruel and unusual punishment to keep him from his drug of choice since it's not dangerous for him.  It's also cruel to make the man suffer because you're too busy playing solitaire at the desk. By the way, you missed the move of eight onto a nine."  She backed up.  "Now then, my father will have *excellent* care while he is here.  Am I understood, woman!" he snapped.  She nodded and backed out. "Good!   She ran off.  He shook his head.  "Student nurses," he muttered, turning back around.  His father motioned him closer so he sighed and sat on the edge of his bed, letting him look at his arm.

"Take the shirt off," he ordered.

"I'm fine."

"Off, kid.  Now."

Tony came over when the boy didn't move, taking it off him.  He blinked at the other bandages.  "Were you using real knives?"

"Of course."  He looked down at his stomach and chest.  "I have a problem believing I'm invincible," he admitted, taking his shirt back since he heard Ducky coming up the hall. "I'm fine and they've already been taken care of."

"I doubt it," Gibbs said.  "Ducky!"  He stuck his head in and smiled at Xander. "They were teaching him knife fighting and only bandaged his chest and stomach."

"Oh, dear."  He walked in and forced the shirt off Xander again, handing it back to Tony.  He looked at the bandages and sighed, shaking his head. "We'll have to check them for needing stitches, Xander."

"I'm fine.  Fuss over dad.  I had people who took care of them for me."

"Yes, but apparently not competent people.  Did they give you anything?"

"No."  He shook his head.  "They're only scratches."

"And one burn," Tony noted, pointing at it and getting out of the way.  "Boss, it's mean to make him suffer too," he complained.

"If I have to suffer because I got shot, he can suffer because he got stabbed.  It'll be some odd family bonding moment."  He took another drink of his coffee.  "Did they teach you to torture others or just do it because you pissed them off?"

"It was one of the other kids and no, I exist so therefore he's pissed."  He shrugged. "He's going to be their new darling assassination and torture expert.  He's a fully psycho bastard who hated me for being smarter, better, and faster than him.  Plus gay."  He shrugged and winced.  "Ducky!"

"Tough."  He finished cutting off the bandages and looked at the one on his back.  "You could've died."

"I was asleep and it woke me up," he complained.  "Besides, it's a few days old.  They all are.  I woke up to him attacking me and I kicked his ass.  He's still in the infirmary and I got bandaged. Everyday since then too."

"Still, Xander."  He went to get some supplies from the nurse and came back with her to help him.  "We'll need to move a second bed in here for him," he ordered.

Xander looked at her.  "The psycho brat didn't like me because I'm gay."

She looked at him. "I don't like you because you're mouthy."

He smiled sweetly.  "That's okay, I don't like your gender anyway.  I find you pretty much useless in my life with very few exceptions."  She smirked back.  "I don't need stitches.  It's been three days."

"Shut up, son," Gibbs ordered.  He looked at the nurse. "This is lack of pain killers."

She smirked back. "I can fix that."

"I don't need....."  Ducky stuck a needle in his arm and he winced. "Ow!"  He rubbed his arm and nearly caught himself before falling over.

"He's got a low tolerance for drugs," Tony said happily.  "I'll have to remember that for the next time he gets hurt."  He came over to help move the kid, taking the pants when Ducky took them off the boy.  He looked at his lower back and shook his head.  "Better him than me."

"Yeah, the psycho brat probably wanted him too," Gibbs noted dryly, smirking at him.  He finished his coffee and put the cup aside, looking at his son's body.  "He didn't do too badly if he was unarmed."  Most of the cuts were minor scratches, barely noticeable now.

"No, he probably didn't," Ducky agreed.  "He's quite a lot like you at times, Jethro.  Including how stubborn he is."

The phone rang and Tony answered it, listening to the voice on the other side. He chuckled and hung up.  "The little brat did want him, he was scared of wanting him because that might make him feel again.  Xander did defeat him weaponless and then drug him down to the infirmary with the knife still in his stomach.  They want him to intern this summer, boss, and then come back next summer for advanced field lessons.  They agree, he's not one of them.  He's not ruthless enough and they don't need someone with his skills.  They did say he'd make a good CSI guy."

"Who was that?"

"The guy who called last week to complain about your son and the training room."

"Oh.  Him."  He nodded.  "Fine.  Any other news?"

"Yeah, his stipend is still coming in and he got a bonus for making the interrogation techniques teachers break and cry.  He can also defeat truth serum, they wanted to make sure you knew that.  They're sending you a report through Morrow."

"Wonderful," he said sarcastically. "I'll make sure he deposits the check when it comes."  He looked at what Ducky was doing.  "How is my stubborn offspring?"

"He'll be fine.  There shouldn't be many scars when I get done with him.  The doctors should have secured most of these but I'm doubting the boy didn't protest and threaten them as well."  He stared at the father.  "Just like you do on occasion."

"He knows how to stitch too," Jethro assured him.

"Wonderful.  Did he do a section on field medicine?"

"With Giles," Tony told him.  "He and Willow both."  He looked at his boss.  "Should we get Willow into the agency too, boss?  She's a good hacker and LA could probably use her."

"She's better than me at hacking," McGee admitted.  "She sent me a virus through Xander that I can't even start to decode."

"We can suggest it," Gibbs agreed.  "They still keep in touch."  He looked at Tony.  "Head back to my place to email her and let the dog in."

"Sure.  Anything else, boss?"

"No, he'll probably be home with me."  Ducky nodded.  "Will he have to stay?"

"He can sit vigil but I want him here in case something goes wrong."

"That's fine.  We can still bond over our injuries."  The nurse gave him an odd look.  "He was doing CIA training."

"Ah.  It must run in the family."  She looked at Ducky and got back to work when he smiled at her.



Xander took a picture of the carnage and sent it back to his father's phone with the text message of 'I lived, be happy' then he turned off his phone before he could be bitched at.  "Ladies," he said, walking over to walk his lovely women of destruction away.  "I say we did good work today."

"Me too," Willow agreed, grinning at him. "Did you bring those books back?"

"No, they're still under my bed giving dad nightmares."  He grinned at her.  "We should celebrate before I have to sneak back home.  Or I get returned home by some well meaning federal lackey.  Duck, that's Fornell."  He ducked around a fire engine and away from there, leading them off to somewhere more private to sit and chat.  He hadn't seen them really and last night had been too busy to catch up.  They sat down on the grass and he put an arm around each of them.  "We survived," he sighed, shaking his head. "Unbelievable really."

"Are you going to college?" Willow asked, curling up against his side.

"Yup, but I'm going to be restricted to the DC Metro area so I can't sneak off to Cancun."  Buffy laughed at that.  "Senior trip.  Dad forgot and called ordering them to return me.  He had even signed the permission slip.  So I was told I'm going to one of the ones in DC."  Buffy laughed again and hugged him.  He heard a cough and looked at Giles.  "See, he lived too."

"I do try very hard to," he agreed with a smile.  "How are you, Xander?"

"Graduated with a decent enough score thanks to Latin and McGee.  I won't need that extra year after all."  He grinned at him.  "You?"

"Rather tired, and your father called during the battle."

"I just text messaged him to let him know I was fine."

"I doubt that'll work.  Did you know there's an FBI agent around here?"

"Yes, and I know that he can't catch me since he can't even catch me around the office.  I'm thinking we deserve a celebration."  He looked at Willow, then at Buffy.  "We should take the last bit of my ill gotten gains and go to Tijuana for the night.  That'll be fun and fitting since you guys didn't get a senior trip except to the zoo."

"Just don't drink," Giles cautioned.  He rolled his eyes.  Xander was wilder than ever since hooking up with his father.  The man obviously had no idea what his son did when he was working.  "My books?"

"Still under the bed.  I left from school. Sorry. I'll mail 'em back next week since I have the feeling I'm going to be grounded."

"Hopefully for the rest of your natural life," Tony said from behind them.

Xander looked back and grinned.  "He sent you?  I text messaged that I was going because I was needed."

"I'm on the injured list.  Of course I got sent."

"Cool.  We're going to Tijuana for the night.  Wanna come?"

"No!  I want my ass in one piece. He even snapped at Abby. Get hugs and kisses. You know the new director hates you and you're putting more stress on him."

"Fuck," Xander muttered.  He kissed each of them and got a hug, then stood up.  "See, and Fornell's here."

"Yeah, he tried that first.  Then he realized you've been ducking him for over a month.  Since I'm injured...."  He smiled.  "No tequila."

"Eww.  Tequila bad," Xander assured him. He pointed at the school.  "We won."

"I can see that.  You're also a threat to public safety and sanity.  Did you want to go to school in Alaska?"  He walked the boy off by the arm.  "Rental car?"

"Um.... Willow's."  Tony sighed and took him that way so he could get it and drive them home.  "Did you cab?"

"Helicopter.  They said there was an attack on the local school."  He looked at the kid.  "Turn on your phone."

Xander sighed and pulled it out, looking at the message that came up.  "Home. Now.  See, not even stylized growling this time.  He knew I was going to have to come.  I just didn't expect it to come during Senior Skip day."  He shrugged and went back to driving, heading for the local airport.  Tony sighed and got comfortable.  "Sorry."

"No, it's okay.  We'll deal with it and I'll get out of the way very quickly when he goes for you."

"He won't. He knew."  He pulled into the Sunnydale Airport parking lot and parked, getting out.  "Come on.  Since I can't go to Mexico I might as well buy plane tickets."

Tony walked him inside, looking at the person taking Xander's card.  "DC and only DC," he ordered.  She looked at him so he pulled his badge.  "His father wants him."

"Ah."  She changed the destination and smiled at him. "Sorry, sir.  I have to."

"I know."  He took the tickets and his card back, winking at her.  "Thank you."  He walked off with Tony escorting him, showing his permits at the security desk.  "Targets."

"We can hand wand both of you," the old guy agreed.  Tony presented his badge and gun and they were passed through.

Tony looked at the kid. "You so screwed it this time.  Cancun was a mistake, but really."

"He signed the slip."

"He said he didn't."

"It's not my fault," he muttered.

"It is since you forged it and Abby can prove it."

Xander looked at him. "I doubt it," he said sweetly.  Tony laughed at that.  "Come on, we're nearly there, one-arm."

"It's not my fault I got shot again."

"No, it's not.  The same as it's not Kate's fault I had to knock her ass down when they started shooting next to my school."  He looked at Tony.  They had nearly lost Kate.  "Is dad still mad about that?"

"Yeah, just a bit.  You took his fun away."

"I only injured him."  He presented their boarding passes, getting a smile.  He walked on and found his seat, getting comfortable.

"This is nice," Tony noted.  "Why?"  He took a seat across from the kid.

"Special service for the commercial people who fly in and out of the college to LA and Las Vegas."  He pulled something out of his pocket, leaning over to hand it to him.  "They're back."

"Fuck," he muttered, reading it over.  "How did you get this?"

"Willow.  She's supposed to email it all to McGee and Abby tonight if she remembers.  If not I'll call."  He buckled up when the door closed.  "You should buckle up."  Tony buckled his belt and looked at him.  "Let's hope we don't have to come back here."

"There's no we, Xander."

"Uh-huh. Do you think he's going to leave me there, even if he does let me live in the dorms?"

"Not after the party you had in Cancun."

"That wasn't my party, I was just attending.  Besides, I was actually with a girl.  It made Director Sheppard proud that she changed me back."

"She'll get over it."

"Not in my lifetime."

"Only the good die young, Xander."

"And I'm a sweet, innocent angel, Tony, didn't you know that?"  He smirked at him and looked at his phone as it rang.  He answered it.  "We're taking off, go fast."  He listened to the growling.  "We won, you knew I needed to come.  I just got the summons at a bad time.  I'll make it back for my own graduation.  Calm down before the bitch decides you're sexier growling and jumps you again."  He hung up at the stewardess's look.  "Sheppard was in the background going 'I'm sure he's okay, Jethro.  After all, he's your son, he's very good at what he does.  Just ask Kate'."  Tony snickered at that, shaking his head. "Can we have a layover?"

"Hell.  No."

"Fine.  You know I deserve some fun."

"Yeah, but you were in the middle of a floating orgy cruise in Cancun.  You got royally toasted down there."

"I passed Trig and Physics, plus my College Level Chem, I earned it."

"Uh-huh.  Start making up ones that are more convincing.  I'm sure you'll need to defend yourself again."

"It's not like the time I got McGee drunk."

"Good point," he decided. "Mention that.  Maybe he'll give you a half hour to nap in the next week."

"Listen, I'm a good kid most of the time.  I only go out and do stupid stuff every full moon. Usually by telling him he needs to take something for the headache first.  He really did sign the slip for Cancun.  It was his handwriting.  Ziva saw it while she was here.  By the way, where did she end up?"

"Not a clue."

"Wonderful.  Let's hope she's not part of the new Initiative."  Tony nodded at that.

"We had some people flying the other day who were talking about that project," the stewardess offered from her seat.

Tony smiled.  "What did they say?"  She pouted, he pulled out his badge and smiled brighter.  "Please. It's important.  It's supposed to be shut down."

"They were saying something about some good little kids and they hoped they didn't run into them this time too."

"There's a college in Sunnydale," Xander noted dryly.  "Can I use my phone?"  She shook her head.  "Fine.  I'm sure I'll hear it when we land."  She nodded, smiling at him.  "Do you work for my father too?"

"No, the Pentagon."  She smiled at Tony.  "That won't work with me, Agent DiNozzo."

Xander unbuckled and stood up, walking over to whisper in her ear, making her stare at him in horror.  He nodded.  "Just now, sweetie.  That was my life.  If they restart,*I* have to come back, not dad.  I'll be the one they call.  Since that was just my battle plan?"  He smiled even more sweetly.  "Let's see how long this game of chicken lasts.  Now, where were we landing?"

"DC.  At the special Pentagon strip."

Xander sat down and text messaged his father, then Willow.  She sent one back saying she had already sent it on.  His father sent a yelled, all caps, complaint.  He replied and noted what was going on.  Then he smiled at her.  "Thank you for taking his mind off me for a while. It'll give me enough time to sneak away."  Tony shook his head.  "Yes, it will."

"No it won't.  I'll handcuff you too."

"Meany.  I stick up for you against Kate."

"Yeah, and I duck and hide when your dad's mad at you.  No way I'm letting you go.  And don't think about making the plane land either, Xander.  You're good in electronics but that'll bring the FBI.  Do you want to wear a suit every day?"  He saw her move and glared.  "Sit!"

"I was going to get sodas.  It's my job."

"Tough," Xander said, getting up to do that for them.  Tony got the coffee.  He got the soda.  She got strapped in and he put one with a straw in front of her. He sat down, taking a careful sip then spitting it back out.  "Truth serum."

"Mine's fine," Tony assured him.  He saw the boy give in and grinned. This was his chance at blackmailing the brat so he didn't have to babysit!  Though, going to find him in Cancun had been pleasant.  "Who signed the slip so you could go to Cancun, Xander?"

"Dad," he said sullenly.  "The big meany."

Tony got up and found the recorder she had hidden and turned it on. "Can you repeat who signed that permission slip?"

"The big meany one did.  He who threatened to shoot the dog."

"Why did he threaten the dog this time?"

"He locked him in the basement and didn't let him out for a bathroom break so he went on the boat.  Just on a corner though.  I sanded it clean."

Tony grinned and continued on his gentle quest in search of blackmail.


Tony walked off the plane and yanked on the leash holding the handcuffs together, handing the end to Kate.  "Here. For you."  He went back to get Xander, who was handcuffed alone and walked him out, presenting him to his father.  Then he played the first minutes of the tape.  He got a glare.  "Truth serum in the coke, boss.  She planned it.  By the way, they work for the Pentagon, not such which branch, but is that General McMillan?"

Gibbs looked at the general, then pointed at him.  "Get him too!  He's wanted for questioning."  He turned back around and his third-in-command was gagged and in his handcuffs and his son was gone.  He removed the gag.  "Which way, DiNozzo?"

"Terminal, boss.  He wanted to go to Tijuana."

"He's earned it.  Those were his battle plans."  He undid him and walked off going to talk to the good general.

Kate looked at him.  "He's letting him go?"

"For now.  Do you like Mexico?"

"I haven't been in years and you always get to go find the kid."

"Yeah, blame me for being *injured*, Kate."  He came over to help lead the prisoners off.


Xander looked up from sipping his daiquiri, watching the procession miss him totally.  He did wave at McGee when he looked at him.

"Boss!" he called.  "He was in the bar. He waved at me."  He had learned the hard way to report when Xander was in the wrong spot.  Like Waldo, sometimes finding him was a challenge.  One that made his father's blood pressure spike alarmingly and yell even more.

Gibbs went in to talk to his son.  "Where are you heading this time and I know you can defeat truth serum."

"Not this stuff, it's something I've never had."  He grinned.  "You still signed it.  In front of Ziva."

"Crap," he muttered.  "Fine.  You still shouldn't have been in the orgy."

"Hey, it got the boss off your back because I was with a woman.  Feel lucky.  Thirty minutes earlier and I was on the bottom of a lot of guys."  He took another drink and handed over his ticket.  "If you go back, I go back.  There's a college there."

"No way in hell."

"Tough shit, dad.  Deal with it and move on," he said dryly, staring him down.  "No way in hell I'm letting my friends deal with some psychotic wench trying to make the perfect army.  You know very well Buffy will get sucked in and Willow will get hurt and make the world end."

"Fine, if we have to go, you can do a semester or two out there but I want you in a decent school, Xander.  Somewhere you have a future."

"Yay," he said blandly.  "What am I majoring in again?"

"Languages, computers, electronics, criminalist stuff.   Anything you want."

"Really?  Because Miami's got an opening coming soon.  Someone's retiring."  He looked at him.  "Which would give me enough experience by the time you take over.  That way I could come in and work under Tony."

Gibbs considered it.  "If you want," he agreed.  "When are you going to be home?"

"Two weeks.  That'll take the last of the original stash of mine."  Gibbs nodded at that.  "Can I get a tattoo?"

"No," he said dryly.  "No tattoos unless it's in a clean place and I go with you or Abby goes with you."

"Yes, sir."  He sipped his drink again.  "You're going to let them have all the fun?"

"Most of them were army.  JAG's going to get it."  He shrugged and looked at him.  "I'll feed the dog while you're gone."

"Thank you.  That would be a nice change."  Gibbs snorted and cuffed him on the head.  "Love you too, dad.  So, will you mind if I bring home some Latin hotty from Miami?"

"As long as he speaks intelligently, is afraid of me, doesn't touch the boat, doesn't want Kate or DiNozzo, and he treats you well, that's fine."  He smiled.  "Anything else?"

"Yeah, I had a lucky day.  Buy me three lottery tickets.  This number," he said, digging it out. "And two random please."

"Fine.  Anything else, highness?" he asked sarcastically.

"Be careful.  You know those wackos won't hesitate to bomb buildings."  Gibbs nodded and headed off.  "'Cause if you die I have to take your place and get to run around Tony for a bit."

"I'll make sure he knows that."  They all knew Xander had a crush on Tony, but that Tony was straight and humoring him.  He wouldn't have cared, Tony would be good for the boy.


Two Years Later:

Xander walked up to the front desk at the police station, smiling at the woman behind it.  "Hi. I'm here to start my internship with Lieutenant Caine?"

She smiled and called up there.  "Lieutenant, did you have an intern coming in today?"  She nodded. "Yes, sir, he's here.  Of course, sir."  She hung up.  "He's sending one of his people down to escort you to his office."

"That's fine."  He leaned on the desk.  "So, what do you do for fun around here?  Any good clubs that aren't too high-end and snotty?"

"There's a few good ones," she admitted.  "I'm more a Latin Dance fan though.  You should ask the guy coming to get you.  He does that a lot."

"Even better," he agreed happily.  He looked over as the elevator doors opened, nodding politely and moving forward to shake the guy's hand.  "Xander Harris."

"Tim Speedle."  He shook his hand.  "You're the new intern?"  He looked him over.  He had longer hair, was wearing dress pants and a t-shirt, and sneakers.  "You're not the usual sort."

"Yeah, I get that a lot," he sighed, still smiling.  "Shall we?  She said you might know where good holes of stress relief can be found."

"Oh, I know a few."  He walked him back into the elevator.  "So, where are you in school?"

"Summer of my second year.  I decided to come early."  He followed him off the elevator, smiling at the pretty blonde woman walking down the hall.  "This is much nicer and quieter than the labs at school."

"We like it that way," he admitted.  He walked the kid to the office, treasuring Horatio's look at him.  This one's cockiness was about to come down quickly.  "Our new intern, boss."

Xander walked in and shook his hand.  "Lieutenant, nice to see you again."

"Xander.  Sit, please.  I see you came prepared to work today."

"Of course. I'm always prepared to work.  Do you think I could be anything but prepared?"  He smirked at him.  "While I'm here, there's some things that you're probably not going to like but I was ordered to tell you since you passed the security check."

"Security check?" Speedle asked.  "Why?"  This kid was on the fast track to pissing off Horatio and he so wanted to see the ego get busted.  It would do the kid good to not be so cocky.

Xander looked at him, holding up a finger.  "Give me ten to make sure you can know."  The guy just nodded and backed out smirking.  Xander typed a message into his phone, then pulled out an envelope.  "The first thing is that my father is the top team leader of NCIS, DC.  Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  He said you'd hate that fact more than most things I'm supposed to tell you."

"I remember your father from a case we worked jointly.  I can't say as I remember him *fondly*, " he admitted.  "What else?"

Xander checked his phone, then whistled and motioned the other guy inside.  "I'm told you can know so that someone else knows, just in case."  He looked at his boss.  "Jethro told me to tell you I was gayer than any play he ever saw in France.  He also told me to tell you that I've recently had a stalker but they're in jail awaiting trial.  He said it shouldn't be a problem and if they do get released, he'll tell me immediately."

"Good to know.  Do you often attract people like that?" Tim asked.

Xander nodded.  "Now and then.  Them and CIA agents.  Which is the third thing.  There's things I couldn't put openly on any application or resume.  Including the fact that I did take CIA training for three summers running.  In the envelope are my evaluations and skills checksheet.  I also do have to admit I know a bit more hacking than they think.  It doesn't usually come up but last Carnivale I was in Rio and one of them tried to get me to work for them.  He desperately wanted you warned, hence the security check.   Dad's a bit paranoid about them wanting me enough to try to kidnap me again instead of me joining him in NCIS."

"So, you've got some skills already?" Tim asked, totally thrown now.

Xander nodded. "I've basically hung around the office and helped since the first summer after my CIA training.  Besides being a gopher and helping Abby down in the forensics lab, and helping Ducky in the autopsy lab when his assistant was out; I have had to go out on bad cases to help map scenes and things.  Dad thinks I'm ready for field lessons and I think I need more time in a lab setting, especially in a higher stress lab setting.  He said he understood and wouldn't make me report in to the local office."

"That's good," Horatio agreed.  "Anything else?"  He put down the forms.  "Those are fairly impressive, Xander."

"Thank you," he offered, smiling back. "I'm told to warn you I'm a smart ass with a sarcastic bent and when threatened I will fight back.  I tend to be a handler of things.  Last month my stalker was holding my dog hostage and that's how they found him later that night, begging and pleading for his life on the steps of the local courthouse. Dad says I got violence trained too early from my time in Sunnydale and seeing the odd things out there."  He grinned again.  "I do try to keep it down but Tony ordered me to tell you that."

"I want him as mine," Tim noted quickly.  There was no way the rest of the team could work with this kid, but his attitude toward life seemed to match his own pretty well so far.  Besides, this way he could make sure the kid didn't bring anything down onto their heads.  They all hated it when Horatio had to threaten Federal Agents.  It made him cranky.

"Fine."  He handed him the forms.  "Explosives, computers, and languages?  I'm impressed, they're very strong fields."

"I know.  But hey, they paid me to learn over the summer.  They keep trying to get me back too," he admitted dryly, shrugging a bit.  "They don't like me that much but they want me to be a field agent and go sex people up for information.  Apparently they're not admitting they have other gay field agents so they need a new one."  That got a small smirk.  "I do try to stay away from them."

"Good.  What are you looking for out of your internship?" Tim asked, handing the forms back to his boss.  "Our copies?"  Xander nodded.  "It sounds like you've got the basics down."

"Yes, but I need experience, refining of my skills, and learning how to work with varied personalities.  There's about three types at NCIS, DC.  Dad, Tony, and Abby.  Gruff, playful, and goth.  The others kinda straddle the lines and I got tired of the power politics anyway.  So I came where it's warm, sunny, has an ocean, and I can expect to pull my own weight, be evaluated for competence, and for an ongoing learning session that you can't get in college.  Some day I'd like to work with my father but that's not going to happen this week and probably not until after I'm done with my masters."

"You have ambition," Horatio offered.

"I try," he said dryly.  "Considering I started high school with a 1.2 GPA?"  He shrugged.  "I'll do my best to be silent and follow him around respectfully and do whatever I can. I can't promise not to ask a lot of questions.  I expect to learn and to be treated like a trainee until I prove that I know something.  That's all I want."

"Good.  We like that," Tim agreed.  "I'm not going to cut you a break because you've gophered around the office, kid."

"Excellent."  He smiled at him and stood up.  "I've already got a hair thing, Horatio told me t-shirts were okay, and these are the only shoes I brought with me since they're comfy.  Can I start now?"

"Sure.  H?"

"Go ahead.  After a week I'll talk to you both to see how he's doing.  Xander, I did know that you're gay and I personally don't care, but don't hit on anyone.  The station is fairly intolerant."

"Sure, but the first guy who tries to bash me will need stitches.  I don't put up with racial jokes either."  He shrugged.  "I'm not built that way."

"That's fine.  Tell me first before you act."

"Agreed.  Thank you, Lieutenant."  He pulled a hairtie out of his pocket and pulled back his hair.  "Shall we, oh, great training one?"

"Try Speed, kid.  Do you go by Xander?"  He nodded, following him out.  "I'll introduce you around later.  Let's get you back to Trace to see what you know how to do.  That way I can make you do stuff you haven't."

"That might be a pretty short list, but I'm up for it," Xander agreed.  "We have *a* forensics tech and she does everything.  I spent a lot of time watching her because dad would get paranoid whenever someone tried for me again."

"Does that happen a lot?"

"Not down here.  Langley isn't down here.  The guy who just retired over covert ops was hot for me and his replacement took my ill-growled complaints at heart after his new secretary reminded him I knew how to blow up cars and make it look like a static gas tank explosion.  He decided dad could have me."

"Good.  Don't do that down here."

"No, I can scare off any spooks down here," he noted dryly.  "Dad's kinda helped me threaten them over the years."  That got a smirk so he shrugged and looked sheepish.  "It helped.  They inserted teachers into my school before my training started to try to make sure I went to them.  They started out with a blonde chick in a club and it just didn't work that well."

"Don't say that word around here."

"I like women most of the time," Xander assured him patiently.  "Just not near me."  He nodded politely at the blonde from earlier. "Hi, Xander Harris, the new intern."  He shook her hand.  "I'm really not afraid of women or anything like that."

"Good."  She looked him over.  "Expecting to be on the beach today?"

"No, but I didn't want to have to break out in show tunes either," he quipped back. She smiled at that.  "You have nothing to fear from me unless you try to attack me.  I'm just kinda like that.  Besides, my two best friends are females and they're all chicks to them."  He shrugged.  "Blame them, they told me to call them that.  Said it was better than being a girl.  You can help teach me better, I'm here to learn."

"I'll do my best.  Do you know anything about ballistics?"  He nodded.  "A lot?"

"I'm a sharpshooter with sixteen different types of rifles and I scored perfect my last twelve range times.  Including the walk through."  She blinked at that.  "I trained at NCIS, DC."

"Oh.  Interesting.  Anything else we should ask you about?"

"I know a bit about computers and hacking, my best friend is one, and..."  He looked at the sudden laughing. "Willow is.  She's the author of that greenleaf virus.  It was an accident."  He looked stunned so he smirked.  "Seriously."  He looked at her again.  "I also know a bit about explosives thanks to some of the cases.  I've been haunting and learning up there for a few years now."

"Then I look forward to helping you finish your field education.  Are you almost graduated?"

"Second year of school.  I'm planning on interning each summer to gain experience.  I'd like to go back up there when I graduate, probably.  As long as my dad's team isn't the one I'd be placed on.  We work in different ways and it creates friction at home."

"Sure," she agreed, patting him on the arm.  "Try women, Xander."

"Women?  Okay."  He looked past her and rolled his eyes.  "Who is that stupid in a police station?"  He snuck that way, then punched the guy in the kidneys, making him drop his gun.  "You fucking moron!  They were going to shoot you!  Feel damn lucky!"  The man whimpered and he glared down at him.  "You don't pull a weapon unless you're ready to die for using it.  Learn better next time!"  He walked back to Speed's side.  "So, you said Trace?" he asked.

Speed nodded. "Yeah, this way.  See you later, Calleigh."

"Sure."  She watched them go, Speed muttering at the kid not to do things like that if he didn't want everyone to know.  She turned and found their boss behind him.  "He's a fed?"

"With experience ducking the CIA because they want him," he admitted.  "What did he do?"

"Rabbit punched the guy in the kidneys."

"Good.  Where are they now?"

"Trace.  Don't yell at him."

"He's not supposed to be pointing out he knows these things," he told her.

"And almost none of us know who he is.  It'll be fine.  He'll say 'classified' a few times and they'll get the hint."  She hit him on the arm with the file she was carrying.  "Ballistics from the Valpraiso case."  She handed it to him.  "Can I teach him too?"

"Yes.  Especially how to be discreet," Speed said as he came back out.  "Boss, he wants to know if he can bring in some of the toys he has with him.  Things like an explosive sniffer."

"If he wants, he can put them in my office closet," he agreed.  "Why would he need them?"

"I'm working on the car bomb."

He nodded. "That would be fine.  I'm sure the bomb squad still has theirs if you need it today.  Get him his badge and ID too."

"Of course."  He walked off, going to help the kid get his gear.


A week later, Speed looked at Horatio.  "He's got some rough edges and very little common sense.  That's the only fault I can find in the kid's training."

"Then give him the experience he wants," Horatio agreed.  "How did he do on that scene this morning?"

"He started with the pictures without having to be told.  He was careful where and how he walked.  He gathered samples from the pool of vomit without making a face.  He shied away from Alexx, which was odd.  She thinks the kid's an abuse survivor."

"He is," Horatio agreed.  "I called his father to update him.  He told me that the boy was until he took him with him.  They didn't meet until he was sixteen and his parents drank."

"Oh.  Okay.  So he doesn't understand being mothered at all.  I'll warn her."

Xander leaned against his back.  "Just warn her not to hug me.  I don't like people hugging me."  He looked over his shoulder.  "You summoned, bossman?"

"I did.  We're doing your first week evaluation."

"Cool."  He walked in and smiled at him.  "What else did dad tell you?"

"Enough.  He wasn't sure you could work an abuse case."

"I have.  I helped Tony with his last two since they affect him so much.  I doubt Jethro was told, but I have. I got lost after my first one and I won't insult you by lying and tell you that I'm not still affected.  I handle it when I'm done."

"Good.  Was it sexual or physical?"

"I was thirteen, I knew what I was getting into and the second time I made that choice since I was in bad spot and needed the money," he said honestly.  "I was just barely sixteen then."

"Technically underage for California," Horatio agreed.  "Physical?"

"I had drunken parents, what do you think?" he asked dryly.  "The time when I was thirteen I was payment for poker debts."  Horatio took a deep breath.  "Sorry, I'm known for being a bit blunt. It's the past."

"True.  What about that hunting your father talked about?"

"I don't usually.  I try very hard not to really."  He sat down.  "I know more about the strange, unusual, and demonic in this world than I should and every now and then I'm forced to go back to that world to deal with it.  By the way, the Bruja near Eric's family, she's protecting them. You might want to get him off her case," he told Speed.

"He doesn't believe in it."

"So?  It's still protecting his family.  She called me two days ago to talk to him about it.  I haven't figured out how yet, but I'm supposed to get him up to speed on what she's doing by protecting the house.  His younger sister broke out in skills and drew something," he explained at the clueless look.

"Speed, go get Eric."  Horatio looked at him once they were alone. "You practice witchcraft?"

"Not always.  Sometimes it happens when I'm really upset.  The last time Langley lost their computers for six days."  That got a small smirk.  "My father had been shot."  He looked at Eric.  "Close it."  He closed it.  Xander concentrated and the blinds closed, startling them all.  "I was called to talk to you about the Bruja protecting your youngest sister, who has skills like mine.  You're keeping her from keeping out the thing coming for her.  It's going to take me another two days to hunt it."

"I don't believe this," he said, starting to laugh.

Xander coughed and flicked a finger at him, muttering something.  Suddenly he was without his clothes, only in his boxers and his belt.  "Really?" he asked dryly.  "No one asked you to believe, they just asked you to quit endangering your sister's life."  He made the clothes reappear when the guy let out a whimper.  He stood up and faced him down.  "It'll take me two days then you can go back to denying it and leave it alone again.  For now, just ignore her and her protections around the house, before your little sister is taken and eaten.  Okay?"  Eric nodded slowly.  "I didn't mean to traumatize you and I promise I didn't peek, stare, or drool," he offered with a grin.  Eric punched him and he ducked, pushing him against the wall.  "I don't care, I didn't look.  It wasn't for my fun, but flame charms still get away from me.  I use that one on my father when he's been injured or he's too tired to make it under the covers.  It meant nothing to me, you're way too straight for me, Eric."  He let him go at the quiet cough.  "Okay?"

Eric nodded.  "Two days?"

"Two days.  Providing I don't get called out tomorrow night."

"No, you're off then," Horatio reminded him.

"That's what I was hoping for.  I've got the stuff at home, I just have to bless it and hunt him down, Eric.  She'll be fine.  Just quit moving the stones with the runes on them. You're endangering your whole family.  I couldn't figure out how to tell you earlier without making you hit me.  That's why I've waited for the last two days and just added to the protections around your family's house."

"Thank you."  He looked at him, patting himself down again.  "How did you do that?"

"Practice.  Lots and lots of practice," he offered dryly, grinning a bit.  "Don't worry about it.  It doesn't happen very often."

"Okay.  So I can ignore all this?"  Xander nodded.  "Good. I'd like that."  He left, going back to work.  He stopped in to see Speed.  "He's really odd."

"He is but he's a good kid who knows his shit."  He looked at him. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I guess.  Everything's back, right?"  Speed looked clueless.  "I'm not missing anything?"

"Not that I can see."  Eric nodded and left again, going to the bathroom to check himself over.  Speed shook his head.  It would take a few days for Eric to calm down but he would be back to normal soon enough he supposed.  Xander came back.  "You good?"

"I'm just fine," he assured him, putting his soda out of the way and capped.  He took the two vials.  "What're these?"

"Dried fluid samples.  Not semen but the same consistency."

"Cool."  He went to run them through the machines, coming back with a report a few minutes later.

"Thank you.  What're you doing tonight?  I was heading out to the clubs."

"Tonight I'm blessing a weapon and tomorrow I'm going hunting for a few minutes.  It shouldn't take me that long.  Where were you heading then?"

"I don't know yet.  How about you call when you're done so you can explain the cryptic shit?"

Xander grinned.  "I worked with vampires.  And I don't mean goth kids."  Speed moaned.  "New York has a really good population."

"I saw once or twice.  You hunt them?"  Xander nodded, coming over to help him.  "Why?"

"I grew up in Sunnydale with the slayer," he said quietly.  "Willow and I both hunted with her."

"Oh.  No wonder Eric was so freaked."  Xander nodded. "What did you do?"

"Removed his clothes for a few minutes."

Speed laughed, shaking his head.  "Did you look?"

"No.  I told him I didn't."

"Good idea.  Eric's so straight he squeaks."  Xander nodded at that. "Have you been going out to any of the gay clubs?"

"Oh, yeah," he said happily.  "And I've found a few who were my type, which is slightly older and careful."

"Why go for older guys?" Calleigh said from the doorway.  "And what did you do to Eric?"

"Proved a point."  He grinned at her. "I've always had a thing for older guys.  Sometimes I need someone to be a voice of reason.  Or else I end up working with SWAT again."  She shuddered. "Sorry, it's not like I *intended* to be there."  He shrugged.  "It's my bad luck to have lunch."  He looked at Speed, who had moaned.  "You didn't hear about that?"

"I was ignoring it, kid.  You really need to quit that before everyone knows about your special training."

"What special training?" she asked, coming in and shutting the door.  "Is that why he's a marksman?"

Xander nodded.  "And I can't tell you or else I'd have to bury your body in the Everglades."  She giggled at that. "I'm serious."  She stopped and looked at him so he nodded.  "I took pre-agent training for three summers running, Calleigh.  Let's just say I'm a bit more skilled than I should be at my age and leave it there unless you want us to do a security clearance for you too."

"Does Horatio know?"

"Me and him," Speed assured her tiredly.  He looked at the kid.  "Give me more nightmares and I'm making you work with Eric."

"Yes, sir."  He got back to work.  "Need my brilliance today, Calliegh?"

"No, I'm pretty much okay at the moment.  I was brighter than the sun earlier."  He grinned at that then went back to work. "Are you going out tonight?  It's payday."

"I'm not getting paid," he reminded her dryly.  "I'm blessing a weapon tonight so I can hunt tomorrow night.  Then I'll go out."

"You're not getting paid?" Speed asked, looking at him.  "Most interns do."

"I'm still in school."  He looked at him.  "Since when would I get paid?"

Speed opened the door and went to the office. "He's not getting paid?"  Horatio looked amused.  "The kid's good, H."

"I know he is and he is getting paid.  I never told him that, but he is getting paid.  Tripp thought he had graduated already."  He smirked at him.  "After breaking that one suspect for him, he's very nice to the kid."

"Good! Is he getting paid with us?"  That got a nod.  "Thank you."  He went back there. "You are getting paid."

"I don't need paid."

"So?  It's money, use it," he said dryly.

Xander rolled his eyes. "I'm not here for that, yet.  I'm here to learn, not get paid."  He went to complain but Horatio had disappeared.  So he turned to his next target, Detective Tripp.  "Hi," he said, stopping beside his desk.  "You know I'm not supposed to get paid, right?"

He looked at him.  "You're doing the work, you get paid for doing the work.  Graduated or not.  You're the only person who's ever complained about getting paid for work."

"But I didn't need it.  I'm here to learn and sand down my rough edges."

"So? You're still doing the job."  He stood up and turned the kid around, giving him a shove. "Get back to work.  Slave for the department, kid.  We expect if of you. Next summer too if you're free."  The boy gave him the most hurt look and he sighed, shaking his head.  "It won't work.  Try that with Horatio though.  I wanna see how he reacts."  Xander stomped off.  He sat down shaking his head.  "Only that kid could complain about not working for free."

Xander finally found Horatio and gave him the dreaded puppy eye look.  "I didn't come to get paid. I came to get my rough edges sanded down."

He clapped him on the back. "Tough. You're still getting paid, Xander.  We pay our people instead of making them slave for no money.  Even the interns."  He walked away.

"But it's not fair to the others."

"What others?  Everyone else gets paid too, Xander."

Speed came out of his lab and came to smack some sense into his intern.  "Quit whining, suck it up, and get on with the program.  You're slacking and I don't put up with it.  We're paying you and if you continue to whine, I'm going to ask someone to give you a raise.  Now get back to the lab before I look up your father's office number and tell him you were whining about being paid."

"Yes, Speed," he sighed, heading that way.  "Meany."

"What's he complaining about?" Eric asked as he walked up to where Speed was watching the kid mope off.

"Being paid."

"We're not paying him?"

"No, we *are* paying him, that's why he's complaining."  He went back to work as well, after getting a new soda.  Sometimes he didn't understand the kid.  He really didn't.  Most kids were really happy to get paid internships.

Eric shook his head.  "I knew the kid was strange."  He got his own drink and a snack before leaving for his next scene.


Five More Years Later:

Xander rode up to the precinct, looking up at it.  "You're a very white building.  They must want you to glow."  He got off and put the security system on his bike, then headed inside to the desk.  "Harris, reporting for CSI duty," he offered, holding out a hand. The receptionist smiled and shook back.  "Where and who?"

"Lieutenant Caine is in with a perp but let me call and see."  She called up there.  "Lieutenant?  No, there's a CSI Harris down here?   Yes, sir, reporting for duty."  She looked at him.  "Early?"

"I figured I'd have to do the badge stuff."  He shrugged.  "Shoot me, my father's a Marine."

She giggled.  "Yes, sir.  I'd love to keep him here for a minute."  She hung up.  "He'll be down in a minute.  He's got to notify someone you're here."

"Probably my father since I rode down."  He looked at his phone, still silent.  He sent one to Tony to make sure he knew he was okay and at work now.  The elevator behind her opened and he nodded at the man standing there.  "Speedle."  He came down to get him each year.

"Harris."  He smiled and shook his hand. "You're early. Three days early.  Not even Gibbs is that prompt."

"Yeah, well, I rode and there weren't any interesting guys on the way down."

"You might wanna watch that."

"Watch someone try to gay bash me, Speed.  See what happens," he noted dryly.  That earned a chuckle.  He winked at the receptionist.  "I'm known to make exceptions."  She blushed and he smiled, following his mentor into the elevator.  "So, how's the boss?"

"Tired.  We just had a pedophile show up."

"Hmm, the one that dad turned over to you?"

"Again.  How did you know?"

"Well, I was sixteen about then."  Speedle looked at him. "I knew what I was doing," he noted dryly.  "I was formulating a survival strategy."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm not.  It's how I got to Mexico, Paris.  London.  Cancun.  Rio during Carnivale."  Speed smirked at that.  "What can I say.  Ten grand for that one time and I was homeless and kicked out and just starting to work my way closer to dad."  They stepped off the elevator, meeting the others.  "Damn, a welcoming committee of pretty people.  Thank you, Lieutenant.  I needed that after my ride down."  The ones who knew him chuckled at that.

Horatio Caine looked amused at least.  "It's good to see you too, Xander.  Are you ready to work?"

"Sure, but I can't work the pedophile.  I'm the reason you got the case."

"I thought it might be something like that.  They kept saying they only did willing ones."

"I was.  I was also kicked out, barely had met my actual father, and homeless. It made sure I survived and got to run away a few times."  That got another amused look.  "So I'm yours except for that."

"That's fine.  Let's get your ID redone.  Everyone, you remember Xander, our former intern, right?"  Xander grinned and waved.  "Good.  Come along, Xander.  And remember, you may not beat up on the cops who don't like you being yourself.  Not this time."

"Damn.  Take all my fun and educational ass whoopings."  He followed along.  "I'll see you guys soon!"  He sighed as he followed him.  "I should probably change."

Horatio looked at the tight jeans, biker boots, and tucked in t-shirt, then nodded. "At least put on dress pants and a lab coat. Or you could get your ID and then come back once you've got a spot to live."

"To be totally truthful, Horatio, former Director Sheppard gave me her condo down here as a thank you for saving her stupid ass the last time as long as I left DC for at least two years.  Unless something happened and I get to go back."  He looked at him, seeing the curious look.  "The woman hired an international terrorist and assassin as a consultant and when dad tried to point this out she suspended him.  Had him arrested when he continued.  Had most of the team arrested.  He made a play on her and I had a sniper scope thanks to Dad's preplanning.  Since he had a gun on her and was about to kill her I had good timing."

"That's fine.  She gave you her condo?"

"Yeah.  Nice place too.  Got a hot tub and all the amenities to get me some lovin' soon."  That got a warm chuckle.  "We all know I need it.  Otherwise I go odd."

"I'd hate to see odd with how you are most of the time," a male voice called from behind them.

Xander turned and smirked at the detective.  "Detective Tripp.  Are you going to let me bait you this time and make you purr?"

"Hell no. My wife might mind," he said with a smile.  "You back again?"

"For at least two years, barring an accident in DC.  Dad's second-in-command again.  I've got the nice spread as a thank you.  So come over to visit."  He smiled and turned around to go with the boss.  "Sorry, he's just so much fun to bait."

"I noticed.  I also noticed you seem to prefer older men, Xander.

"Yeah, well, you still don't know my full past, Horatio.  It's a nicer thing in my book.  Not quite a daddy figure but security and safety.  Someone who can occasionally reign me in and make me see sense."  He smiled at him.  "You'd be proud to know dad suggested you and Speed.  He said Eric would get me in trouble."

"Unfortunately not an option at the moment.  I'll keep that in mind when I give him progress reports though."  He opened the door.  "After you."

"Ooh, good, IAD.  What've I done this time?" he asked as he walked inside, making the detective in there choke and gag. "Oooh, you *remember* me," he cooed, smiling at him. "Yes, I'm back until I get into NCIS.  Love you too, Ricky."

"No, not him!" he gasped.

"Do you need an ambulance?  Or Alexx maybe?" Xander asked.  "I can call one.  I'm very good at it.  As you very well know."  The man wheezed and Horatio went to make the call.  "Here, let's try good, old fashioned CPR."

"No, please," he said, moving away from him before he could do the heimlich on him.   "I'll quit if you leave."

"Sorry, but nope.  My dad wants me to date Speed or Horatio."  He grinned.  "He thinks it'll be good for me.  What'd you think?"

"That's mean, Xander," Horatio called.  "Get over here.  We'll do your badge and ID while we wait."  He shook his head. "You're horrible today."  He saw the look in the boy's eyes and wondered at it, but kept silent for now.  Xander liked him enough and was secure enough in his leadership to come to him if there was a looming personal problem in his life.

"There were no guys on the trip down.  Why do you think I'm three days early?"  He stood in the proper spot and let his picture be taken, including a smile.  He fluffed out his hair, which was longer now, it barely reached his shoulders.  "Do we need another one with my hair up?"

"No, down's fine. You will tie it back in the lab."

"Yes, dear."  Rick Stetler started to cough and choke again.  "Awwww.  Poor baby!"  The paramedics came in.  "Hi, guys!" he said happily.

"No wonder he can't breathe," one of them noted.  "You're in for how long?"

"Good or at least two years."

"Crap," they muttered, taking the poor man off and away from the insanity.

Xander ran his hands through his hair again.  "Whatever shall I do now, Horatio?" he asked melodramatically.

"Go say hi to Alexx, before she hears from Speed."  He handed over the new ID and old badge.  "You're insane," he said, smiling some.

"Yes, but my insanity is a clever cover for my quick intellect and wit, plus my brilliant mind and body."  He grabbed his backpack again and followed him back down to the morgue.  "Hola, beauteous one."

"Xander!" she squealed, coming over to hug him. "Already?"

"Yup, already.  No cute guys on the trip down," he sighed, giving her a hard squeeze.  "Oooh, there, from Ducky too."  He kissed her on the cheek.  "I can see you're ankle deep.  I'm here for a while so we can get together soon?"  She nodded.  "Good."  He grinned. "I'm off to torment others and make the world safe for my special brand of genius."

"Go fix one of Calleigh's machines, sweetie.  It's sparking at her."

"Of course."  He headed back up there, sneaking through the halls.  He wanted to surprise Yelina.  She loved him.  He walked into ballistics and looked at the machine that had the large 'do not touch me, I bite' sign. "Hmm."  He found some tools and got to work taking it apart, then soldering in the new connection wire.  He closed it up and plugged it back in, then turned it on.  It made a fizzing sound and he rolled his eyes, taking out something and cleaning the soda out of it.  "No more Mountain Dew in the lab," he said when Calleigh came in.

"He did what!"

"Yeah, he did what," he agreed, putting that back together again.  He turned it back on and it didn't make any wrong noises.  "Okay, calibrate."  He stepped back and looked at her. "Since I don't have a case yet."


"Was with them once."

"Ooh.  Sorry.  Are they the ones that paid you?"

"Put me in contact with them."

"Ooohkay.  Then you're why we know them?"  He nodded.  "Okay."  She kissed him on the cheek and got to work calibrating her machine again.  "I will stop my boy from doing that."

"If he's cute I'll spank him for you," he offered.  He didn't even see the guy behind him who was now choking.  He looked back.  "Oh, hey, Wolfe.  You were on vacation the last time I was in."  He smiled and waved.  He watched her work, nodding at the results.  "No other problems?"  She shook her head.  "Any other fixing stuff that needs done?"

"Speed's whole lab.  They had a chemical fire on night shift and it got foamed.  Nothing works."

"Sure."  He gathered up things and headed over there, pulling Speed with him.  "Tell me what needs fixed.  Make me out a list."

"Someone's coming tomorrow."

"I don't have case yet, Speed.  That means I'm idle, I'm bored, and I still have computer access."

Speed considered it then got to work on the list.  Before they were all insane from a bored Xander.  "How's your dad?"

"Good.   Second-in-command again.  The new director is a bastard though. We're thinking he'll be in charge within two years so I can go back up.  Otherwise I'd end up on his team and I can't do that. I can work with him but I don't think in the same linear fashion he does.  Once he's in charge, I'll either be under Tony or Kate."

"You wish," Speed teased, smirking at him.

"Well, yeah," he agreed.  "Dad thinks you and Horatio though, so at least he knows my tastes."

Speed stopped writing and looked at him.  "Excuse me?"

"Yeah.  Dad thought you or Horatio.  Or you and Horatio," he admitted. "He wasn't sure if you two were together.  I told him no but you know how well he listens about that stuff.  Oh, did you get the clippings about stepmom number four?"

"I did.  Is she nice?"

"Enough.  Hates me. She says I drive him insane.  Fortunately the dog stayed to bite her a few times."  Speed laughed and went back to writing.  "Since I'm here, I've got to work on picking up a damn man.  It's been too long."

"How many days?" he teased.

"Six months."

"MONTHS?" he asked.  "Like those things with thirty days?"  Xander nodded.  "Why?"

"Tony and I broke up.  I wasn't in the mood for a while.  Dad finally came in one day and hauled my pasty ass out of bed and drug me outside to toss me in the pond.  Then he yelled at me to get over it, repeatedly, and gave me one hell of a lecture.  So we can work together again and we're cool with each other, but it won't go back there."

"Wow.  I'm impressed.  I've never known you to go more than four weeks."

"Yeah, I'm thinking that's what scared dad.  Tony found out I hadn't been going out and I turned down going out with McGee and Abby.  He called, I told him I was fine and over it.  He called Dad and within an hour he was there."

"Wow.  Well, at least you got your heart's desire for at few months."

"Nearly a year," he admitted quietly.  Speed patted him on the arm.  "Thanks.  It still gets me sometimes, which is why I need to go pick up a man badly.  So I can shake this."

"Watch out for the new guy coming up the hall.  He likes to gay bait."

"Hmm.  Can I prove him wrong?"

"No. He's disgusting, if you touch him I'll lose all respect for you."

"Fine."  He looked at the officer coming in.  "You needed something?"

"Are you the repair guy who's going to make this one work again?" he sneered.

"No, bastard, I'm CSI Harris.  Specialist in trace, field, electronics, hacking, and bombs.  You?"  The man backed away.  "By the way.  The next time you pick on my mentor, I have the right to shoot you.  Because there's no one in this building who will stick up for you against me.  Don't believe me, go ask your partner so the others know I'm back."  He ran off.  He looked at Speed. "I hate little minds.  It's bad enough I still suck at math but really."

"That's why smarter people than you created calculators."  He handed over the list. "Have fun."

"Yay.  Plug in the iron, would you?"  He went out to his bike to get his kits, bringing them back in.  Someone tried to stop him and he found his badge, holding it up.  The button was pushed for him.  "Thank you."  He headed back to Trace putting everything out.

"Xander, we have people on retainer for that," Horatio said from the doorway.

"I love you but I'm bored."

"Next case is yours then."

"Goodie.  Let me at least fix the mass spec."  He opened things and got to work on the machines.  They needed these things.  Fortunately McGee had shown him how to do electronics and hacking as a reward for passing all his maths.  That had been a good few weekends.  He got two of them fixed by the end of shift and shrugged off the hunger pains, going on with it.

Speed walked in and pulled him out, unplugging his soldering iron and closing the door, locking it even.  "Keys?" Xander patted himself down and found them.  Speed let him go back in there to get his ID and badge, then he relocked the door and drug him out to his bike.  "Home, Xander.  So I know where you live the next time you forget to set your alarm."

"I only did that once in six months."  He got on and started his bike, putting on his helmet.  Then he headed off, his mentor following him. He knew where the place was.  He had dropped off the rest of his stuff earlier.  He pulled into the parking garage and to his assigned spot.  He smiled at him.  "Come on.  I've got some takeout."

"Sure.  Beats trying to eat real food tonight."  He followed him up, noticing the view.  "This is nice."

"It's not my first choice but it was free."  He grinned at him.  "Sheppard's old place."

"For saving her?  We heard you got an award for it but you never showed up.  Someone said your father does the same thing."

"Yuppers."  He went into the kitchen, bringing back a beer and some Thai food, earning a smile.  "Call H, let him know where I am."

"He already put a tracker on your bike."

"Good idea.  Why didn't he think of that last time?"

"He didn't think he needed it until you took off after that Harley thief.  Speaking of, bike?"

"Yeah.  Graduation present from the whole team.  I'm under orders that it is to be in the same shape when I go home."  He saluted him with his beer.  "You can call him."

"He's got a date."


"No!  Eww!  Remember, Delko likes girls.  Mostly girls with big chests, but girls."

"Hey, Horatio could do drag for him."

"That's why most people don't hang out with you, Xander."  Xander just blew a kiss.  "How soon before I'm up?"

"Three more machines.  You can calibrate around me tomorrow."

"Good.  I could use having my own lab back."  He ate a bite of pork and nodded.  "The old place. You remembered."

"Of course.  How could I forget that heartburn after last time?"

Speed laughed.  "I still think it's funny that someone said that belch echoed."

"You're the one who had me eat it."

"Good point.  So, where was the last trip?"

"Here.  Tony said it was too dangerous for me to travel there for a bit so I couldn't and I didn't feel like it after we broke up."

"So the last trip was Paris?"  Xander nodded.  "Wow. Restraint.  You're growing up."  Someone rang the doorbell.  "Expecting?"

"No."  He got up and went to answer it, looking at the man standing there.  "Yes?"

"Where is Jennifer?"

"DC.  She gave me her pad since I moved down here."

"Who are you?"  He looked him over and sneered.  "You look like a fairy."

"Alexander Lavelle Harris-Gibbs."  The man stepped back.  "Anything else?  Before I call your keeper on your ass?  Because I can spot a spook when I meet one."  He backed up.  "I'd run.  Really."  The man turned and ran so he hit the button on the console.


"There's a CIA spook running down the halls in desperation.  You might want to get him either calmed or drug off."

"Yes, Mr. Harris.  Thank you, sir.  He's shown up a few times."

"Give him that number so a message can be passed onto her."  He hung up and came back to finish his lunch. "Sorry about that."  His phone rang and he opened it, listening.  "What?" he asked, sounding cranky.  "No, I sent one for a run just now. I gave him your number since you know where she is."  He smiled.  "Thank you, Clayton.  You too."  He hung up and shook his head.  "I hate the CIA.  Only bad part of DC besides beltway traffic."

Speed nodded.  "That was pretty bad when I had to go up with you."  Xander nodded. "You okay now?"

"Just fine. Ducky managed to save the feeling in that hand."  He moved that hand to show him.  "Thank you for helping me that day."

"Not a problem. It was mean to put a tripwire on your door.  We never did catch the guy."

"We did," he assured him dryly. "Pentagon.  Hated me for ruining their op in Sunnydale."  He shrugged and dug out another bite.  Then he got up to find the remote for the stereo, tuning in a station he knew Speed liked.  "There, noise," he noted, coming back to sit down again.  That got a smile.  "No date tonight?"

"No, not in a few weeks.  I'm at this odd plateau where I don't know who I want to date.  It's like there's no one around for me, that I've gone through them."

"That's because you're not looking on the right side of the road, Speed.  We all know who you want and he lets me flirt with him."

"Yeah, I guess.  But I can't endanger our working relationship to do that."

"So don't.  No one said you had to."  He ate another bite, staring him down.  "Trust me, you can keep it professional. Except maybe those first few days when it's all touching and happy orgasms."

"Maybe," he agreed.  "I still don't want to risk it though."

"Risk is all about going after what you want.  Either that or it was about waking up.  Something like that," he said, then shrugged and grinned before eating some more.  "I'm going to be so damn fat soon."

"No you won't.  You still swim and jog."

"And fence and disarm bombs and build bombs and run away from jealous boyfriends," he agreed dryly.  "Wanna go out with me tonight?"

"I wouldn't mind.  Where?"

"Pick somewhere.  Maybe we can relieve at least your dry spell."  He got up and went to search through his clothes, finding the perfect outfit.  "I'll be right out."

"Shower.  I've got to run home anyway."

"Sure.  I put all you guys on the visitor's list."

"Thanks."  He headed home with his food, going to shower and change.  He came back and Xander was waiting on him in midnight blue leather pants and a black t-shirt.  "You're certainly hunting," he said in appreciation.  "Get on.  I'll drive."

"Sure."  He got onto the back of the bike, using his helmet.  They sped off and Xander breathed the air.  It was smoggy but it had the salt breeze.  He missed the ocean sometimes.  They stopped at a club next to the ocean and he gave Speed a hug.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome, I know you're an ocean baby."  He parked and got off, helping Xander off.  "It's even your sort of club since you look so pitiful."  He walked him to the door.  The bouncer looked at them and whimpered.  "What?" Speed asked.

"I promise I'm going to be good," Xander told him.  "I just broke up."

"Fine.  Go in."  Speed rolled his eyes and walked Xander inside.  The bouncer looked at the other one and they both groaned.


Horatio Caine opened his door at the knock, looking at the man there.  "Already?"

"Yes and no. To be truthful he needs experience and to calm down."  Tony walked inside and closed the door behind him.  "He also needs to move on."

"I saw the haunted look in his eyes," he admitted.  "You're starting a new field office?"  Tony nodded. "You need him part time?"

"Yeah, we do.  Since that's all he's doing for you we didn't think it'd be too big of a stretch."

"I could've sworn we hired him full time."  He was looking amused.

"Not according to your Chief."  He shrugged. "I didn't even ask."  He moved closer. "He needs to calm down a lot, Horatio.  He needs someone who can steady him.  I love the boy but I'm not in love with him and I definitely can't be the male figure he needs.  You can at least do half of that.  Can you try?"

"I already do," he agreed.  "The boy actually calms down in my lab.  Oh, that's why you're here," he said, suddenly getting it.  "I'm not ...."

"Involved?  I know that.  We allll know that.  You're married to your job.   He's married to his job but its not good for either of you.  More than anyone I know how the boy thinks and how he acts or reacts.  I know what the kid needs."

"Yes, but I'm..."  He glanced toward the kitchen.  "Actually I'm on a date."

"Wonderful.  Right now he's down at the ocean with Speed at Bria.  Speed won't and can't be what he needs."  He moved closer.  "If he comes to you, if you're not attached to anyone, would you?"

"You think he will?  I'm nearly twice his age."

"You and I both know what he needs and why," Tony said quietly.  Horatio nodded, he knew.  "All I'm asking if he comes to you is you think about answering."

"If I'm not attached and he comes to me, I will think about it.  I'm not promising anything."

"Thank you."  He pulled something out and handed it over.  "You can give this to him tomorrow.  I don't think he's ready to see me yet and I can't stand the puppy eyes."  That got a small smile.  "You don't know how bad it got.  He spent six months moping around the house.  Jethro had to throw him in the pond to shock him out of it.  He didn't date, he didn't have fun, nothing."  That got a small moan.  "He's just now getting on with his life.  It's not time for him to see me yet and Kate got DC because she's got more experience with the politics.  We're setting up a single team office.  We'll only need him part time.  For right now, have fun having him fix things.  If you need us, I'm more than willing to help."

"Thank you."  He held out a hand and Tony shook it.  "If and only if."

"Of course.  Good luck with him.  He's broken it but now he's trying to refind himself.  He's going to swing.  Thankfully Speed took him out tonight."

"Speed told me you two had broken up after nearly a year."

"Ten days shy."  He shook his head.  "It was months longer than it should have been, Horatio.  Anyway, I'm down by the office at the moment.  Give him that tomorrow.  Tell him to watch the noise there, she was always complaining about the walls being thin."

"He could always buy somewhere else."

"Yeah but that was a gift and Jethro said he had to use it for at least a year or until he got broken into.  Then he can sell the elephant and buy somewhere better."  He grinned.  "You just take care of the boy for us.  Jethro is really upset with New York at the moment and he doesn't have time to deal with Xander this week.  New York just busted a wide open smuggling ring that was hiding in plain sight through the shipyard.  We're talking *reams* of emails.  Even Abby's complaining."  Horatio nodded.  "We think it'll be heading down here too.  Hence our part-time office down here.  So I'll see you in a few days with hopefully some better news.  It will cross into your world too.  They're getting them off some cruise ships."

"Oh, joy.  Just let me know before you need him if you can."

"Agreeable. Thank you, for everything."  He let himself out and went to his car.  He hoped the boy would be okay with this.  If not, things were going to be rough on his team for a good, long time.

Horatio went back to the kitchen, getting a small smile from his date.  "Sorry, I didn't mean to let it intrude."

"That's all right.  Who is this boy?"

"A CSI we've worked with on and off.  He was our intern for a while, then we hired him but he got hurt.  He's finally back home.  Just a bit more hurt."  He stole a kiss.  "It was just a request."

"I know.  It happens to the best of them."  She went back to cooking.

Horatio went back to thinking about the request made, while still keeping her entertained.


Horatio snagged Xander's arm as he walked past.  "It can wait for ten minutes."  He walked the boy into his office and shut the door.  "First, you're not in trouble even though you came in with a massive hangover this morning.  I'm surprised you can walk."

"Which mean Speed told you or Tony showed up.  Which?" he asked, staring him down.

"Both."  He handed over the letter.  "They're setting up a temporary office. You're going to them part time and us part time apparently."

"I asked for full time."  He opened the envelope, reading the official appointment letter.  Then he looked at his boss.  "What else did they tell you?"

"Speed told me about your breakup.  About the depression."  Xander sighed and leaned against the desk.  "Are you better now?"

"I'm trying to be."

"You're overcompensating for the time you lost. Calm down and *experience* don't just breeze through it."  Xander nodded.  "Good boy.  Now please finish fixing the trace lab.  The official repairman will complain but we've got others who can use the machines."

"Sure, boss.  Always happy to help.  I take it I can't go out until they're fixed?"

"We'll figure out the hours later.  Once we get this figured out."


"This," he said, motioning between them.  "Tony paid me a visit while I was having a date."

"Wonderful.  Just what the fuck I need.  What else did he say?"

He moved closer, watching the boy's eyes.  His eyes are were the most expressive of all of him.  He saw the flash he needed.  "I promised him, if you came to me, I would at least consider it."  He held up a hand.  "But I'm not going to make a move.  I'm nineteen years older than you, Xander."

"Oh, whine, Horatio."

Horatio smiled and nodded.  "If and when you want, you come to me, be up-front.  Then we'll talk again.  Until then, please go slave for the department and ignore him complaining about the warranty and service contract.  They're not going to be canceled."

Xander nodded.  "If it comes to that and I decide that you're the best."

"I know what you need and want, and it's pretty much me around here.  Unless you go outside the department.  They'd never understand."

"Speed," he said quietly.

"He could.  He's still wobbling on that stuff.  Go work.  Think."  The boy nodded, taking the letter with him.  Horatio took a deep breath.  He was getting the boy thinking instead of feeling.  It was about time and it would keep him calm.

Xander walked back into Trace, handing Speed the letter.  "Did you know I was part- time?"

"No.  You are?"

"Apparently."  He got back to work.  "Where's the repairman?"

"Stomped off to check some microscopes."

"Wonderful.  You wanna help?"

"I can't do that.  I have no idea about that stuff."

"Whine, Speed.  I need help."

"Fine.  How's your head?"

"Sucks donkey ass.  I would love something to make my head quit hurting."  He got back to work, cleaning out that machine of the nasty anti-fire foam.  "We need to switch from foam to something else.  Water would have been cleaned out already.  Give me the suction."  It was handed over.

"What are you doing!" the repairman shouted from the door.

"Doing your job.  Now get over here and help me.  They got fire foamed.  I've already fixed some of the others."

"The mass spec still arcs," Speed noted.

"I'll check it after this one.  I may have forgotten to put the ground back on.  I was tired and sore when I did it."  He shifted over with a groan.  "I hate hangovers."

"Are you qualified to do that?"

"Yes, I was taught by a Federal Agent and took it as my minor in my undergrad," he said dryly.  "Just get to fucking work, man.  We've been without the trace lab for way too long.  We're losing evidence and suspects."  The guy grumbled but looked at the mass spectrometer.  "Tell me what I did wrong.  Think you could hit the switch to turn on the suction now, oh great mentor person?"   Speed smiled but flipped the switch.  "Thank you.  Who's doing lunch today?"


"I need food.  Something subtle and not dog, goat, or sheep."

"I'll tell her and see where she's ordering from."  He went to do that.  "Valera, Xander needs to know where you're ordering from today.  He needs something subtle."

"Bad fish tacos?"

"He doesn't like 'em.  He was celebrating being back."  He grinned.  "He's got a bit of a hangover.  Beware of the growling."

"I remember."  She handed over the menu.  "There."

"Thanks."  He brought it back.  "Xander, the deli around the corner."

"Corned beef on italian.  Italian dressing. Fries or chips, plain. Coke."

"Sure."  He grinned and wrote that down.  "Wallet?"

"Locker.  Key's on my ring."

"Sure.  You buying mine?"

"You took me out but you didn't kiss me, Speed.  I only buy breakfast to those people who at least kiss me."  He flipped the temporary switch and looked at the area he had just cleaned. "This stuff is corrosive. We need to complain about this being used around delicate equipment, especially the computers."

"I'll tell H you said so."  He went to tell her that and make his own order, then winked and paid for it.  He'd get it back from Xander within a few hours.  "H!"  He came out of his office to meet him. "Xander said that the foam is corrosive.  He was complaining about it getting near computers."

"It's not supposed to be that way."

"Then we need to test it.  You saw what it did to the trace lab.  We've got to change that."  Horatio nodded so he stepped closer.  "I saw the letter," he said quietly.

"It was news to me too.  He showed up at my house last night."  He looked in the trace lab, then at his friend again.  "You know what Tony wanted," he said quietly.  Speed nodded.  "I need to know if you're going to be in the field."

"No.  I love the boy but it's all cuddling with me.  I'd never put up with the playful nature.  Besides, I'm not that steady influence he needs."  He gave him a pointed look.

"If it happens it does," Horatio agreed.  "I just needed to know."

"You're free and clear on my end."  He grinned.  "Valera's doing orders."

"Thank you."  He went to check and put in his own order.  He went to check on the work being done, finding the cellphone on the table dancing.  "Xander, phone."  The boy got up to answer it.

"Yo, Harris."  He listened.  "Right now?  No, I'm elbow deep into a foamed machine. Sure.  Where do you need me?  Let me clean my hands and I'll be on the bike."  He hung up.  "McGee's down here?  Abby let him?"

"I don't know.  No one told me that."  He nodded. "Go.  Come back to get lunch if you can."

"Have Speed break my lock and save it for me. I'll buy a new lock for my locker."  He grabbed his stuff and headed out.  He waved at Calliegh.

"Is it fixed?" she called.

"No, it's the first case for the new NCIS local office and I'm on part time there."

"Poor baby."  She went to check with Horatio.  "They've got him part time?"

"They're a single team office.  A very minor branch."  He looked at her.  "There's a bad smuggling case going on that may cross over, including into the cruise ships."

"Wonderful.  I'm sure that'll make people happy."

"Take a sample of the foam and test it. See if it's what it's supposed to be.  Xander said it's corrosive.  It's not supposed to be."  She nodded, taking the suction chamber off Xander's wand and taking it to test.


Xander came back and got back to the trace lab, nodding at Horatio.  "I'm back. It was a suicide.  Complete with note.  Where are we?"

"It's not the fire foam.  Someone replaced one of the containers with an acid."

"Oooh, fun.  Do we know who?"

"No.  We've examined it but it's still being worked on.  Go ahead and get lunch."

"I will soon."

"Now."  He stopped the boy and turned him around, taking his case from him and putting it back onto the lab table.  "Food.  You need to eat. You've lost weight and Alexx is going to fuss."  He gave him a shove and watched him trudge off.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Meany.  I want to get back to work."

"Once you've eaten."

Xander walked into the break room, looking in the fridge.  "Valera?" he called pitifully.

"Crisper," Wolfe called.

"Thank you."

"Minus the chips.  They exploded."

"Wonderful."  He found his food and sat down to eat, checking to make sure everything was okay.  He looked up, nearly not taking a bite when he saw Tony there. "You can watch me eat."

"Thanks."  He walked in and sat across from him.  "You're on call for us.  Your primary job is the Miami PD.  Got it?"  Xander nodded, eating a bite.  "Hungry?"


Tony looked at the clock, then at him. "It's nearly four in the afternoon."

"Uh, yeah."  He ate another bite.  "Sorry."

"No it's okay. I had lunch and breakfast."  He looked at him.  "I'm sorry, Xander."

"It's not your fault."

"It is."

"It's not.  You're not what I need, just what I wanted."  He put down his food and leaned on his elbows.  "I understood that then, Tony.  You were the culmination of all my fantasies.  You did it as long as you could but I know I'm the world's most obnoxious lover to date.  I'm good with that."  Tony gave him that same gentle, sad smile that had first drawn him.  "I can easily work with you. I have been, right?"  That got a nod.  "I still fucking miss you.  The bed's too damn cold."

"You'll find someone."

"I know I will, but you two need to quit meddling.  Last I knew, certain people were straight."

"Not totally, more scared of your age."  He grinned, leaning on the table.  "Eat.  You're still in shaky health."


"Not unless you take better care of yourself."  Xander started to eat again. "Thank you.  Your father had to shoot six people earlier.  The suicide was related to that racket."  Xander nodded.  "McGee isn't staying, he's helping train."

"Sure, I can see that.  You, me, and who?"

"You, me, and you're my second at the moment.  We're going to be borrowing Speed and Horatio now and then.  We're working it out so we share staff and cost."

"Hmm.  Interesting.  The Chief knows?"  Tony nodded.  "Then I'll only get one paycheck?"

"Yup, sorry."  He grinned. "Not that you need it."

"Well, I do," he pointed out.  "I never did anything with that stupid ring I got given."  He ate another bite.  He was really hungry.  "Why couldn't we do this months ago?" he asked finally.

"It was too raw on my side.  Every time I saw Gibbs I flinched.  I heard from Clay.  You okay?"

"He ran when I told him who I was."

"Good.  I want you be careful, be safe, and take care of yourself.  Because I will tell Horatio what Ducky said."

"Yes, Tony."  He ate another bite.

"What did Ducky say?" Horatio said from the doorway.


"Handled," Tony told him.  He looked at him, noticing the protective glare of death.  "During his depression he conveniently forgot to eat for two weeks."

"I noticed he had lost weight.  Eat, Xander.  Or else I'm bringing in Alexx."

"Ducky said to kiss her on the cheek for him."  He looked at Xander.  "Not even my fault."

"Bull shit. You could see him coming."  He looked at Horatio.  "I'm fine."

"As long as you finish your lunch.  Is that all you're eating?"

"Ryan said my chips exploded.  Besides, this is enough."

"It's not."

"It's more than I had yesterday.  Get off my ass, Horatio, unless you plan to bury yourself in it."

"That is still up to you," he reminded him quietly.  "Eat.  Now."

"Fine, I'll finish my breakfast."

"Breakfast?" Horatio asked.

"Slept in.  Thank you."  He finished his sandwich and got up to get a soda. He came back.  "Come sit and talk about the office that we're all working for."

"We are?"

Tony nodded, handing over the note he was carrying. "I just got that when I got back to the office. It was the only way they could make it work."

Horatio sat down to read the letter, then looked at him.  "If it comes down to it, you're going to have to tell us what's different."

"It's the same thing," Xander told him.  "Only military personnel.  So you've got to be a bit more subtle and aware of how vets are."

"We can do that.  We have in the past."  He looked at Tony.  "Whose bright idea?"

"The guy who's technically in charge."

"Ah, the fake head of wood."  Xander sipped more of his soda.  "When are we doing the meeting about this?"

"Tonight.  Just this shift?"

"I don't know the others or trust them.  I know how your people work, Horatio."  That got a nod.  "So just your shift and those you personally vouch for."

"Okay.  I can do that."  He stood up.  "In the fridge is another sandwich.  It's on the top shelf in the back.  Eat it, Xander."

"I'm not hungry, Horatio. My stomach shrank.  I'm good."  He stood up and headed back to work, taking his soda with him.  "Ah, I'm back."

"I can see that," Speed said, getting back to work.  "He fixed everything but one thing."  He pointed at it.  "Please fix that before it shorts and catches on fire.  Then we'll have to do this again."

"Sure, I can do that."  He went to get under the machine.

Ryan Wolfe stopped in, seeing the feet sticking out.  "Is he in Oz?"

"No, if I was, I wouldn't have a headache," Xander called.  "What the fuck did the moron do?"

"I don't know.  That's why you're under there.  Just fix the damn machine," Speed ordered.

"Yes, mother."

"Keep it up, kid."

"Speed, remember why we do not call Xander 'kid'?" he said patiently.

"Sorry, Xander.  I need to give you a cute nickname."

"Uh-huh.  I only answer to my own name," he called in a sing-song voice.

"Fine, son."

Xander came out from under the machine and walked away, finding those two still talking.  "I need to clear the mental image in my head.  I was picking on Speed and called him mom.  He called me son.  I just had this image of him and dad."

Tony reached over and smacked him across the back of the head.  "Don't go there.  I don't need that image.  I'll have to tell Gibbs that."

"Just get it out of my head!"

Calleigh walked in and kissed him, making him blink.  "Better?"  He nodded.  "Now go fix the machine.  Speed's stuck without it."

"Yes, ma'am."  He went back to work, shaking his head.  "Hi, Eric," he said as he walked past him.

"Where were you earlier?"

"Ask H."  He got back under the machine.  He looked then came back out.  "This has bubble gum holding a few wires together."

"Ah, that first moron fixed it.  Good to know.  Just fix it better, Xander."

"Yes, dear."  He got back under there.

"Wouldn't that be incest?" he joked.

"Speed, I'm still having mental images of my father bending you backwards and kissing your neck.  Or more.  Do you *really* wanna go there?"  Eric laughed so Xander came out to look at his face.  "Point taken?"

"Hell yes.  Your father's a scary bastard.  I'd never let him bend me over a table that way."  He shook himself a few times then got back to work.  "Hurry up, shift's nearly done."

"Yes, dear.  Should I mow the lawn too?"

"Neither of us have lawns. Thankfully."  Eric walked away laughing and he held his down to quiet chuckles.  He had missed the Xander.  He really had.


Xander walked up to Horatio a few days later.  He cleared his throat, looking at Detective Tripp.  "Hi."

"Hi.  Case related?"

"Not yet but I'm going to kill the new intern.  Then it will be."  He looked at his boss.  "I will not put up with gay jokes around me.  We all know this.  Did no one tell the brat this?"

"I did twice."

"Next one, he's going out a window."

"Xander," he warned.

"Do I care?  He's going out an unopened window."  He walked off, going to get back to work.  He and Eric shared a look.  "You might wanna get him some protection," he noted grimly.

Eric walked into the lab where the new kid was, slamming the door. "Wolfe."

"I tried to stop him."

"Stop what?"

"Kid, Xander is very gay.  Very, very gay.  As in there's not a member in the community that doesn't remember him from the last time he worked here, before he got injured.  Xander is also very, very highly strung and he tends to hurt those to make racial, sexist, or gay jokes.  That would be you."

"Eric," Horatio called, walking in.  "Let me handle this."

"If he's that sensitive...."

"It doesn't matter," Horatio told him.  "You don't know how many people in this office may be gay.  You are upsetting a number of them.  Xander may be the loudest, but he also hits the hardest.  He's just said you're going out a window the next time."

"The last time he made that threat, I ended up in traction," Ryan said wistfully.  "It was almost a vacation, but one that itched."  Eric laughed at that.  "I know, I shouldn't have tried to save the idiot patrol guy who was baiting him. I thought I was being good.  I learned."  He looked at the new guy. "In this precinct alone are at least ten other gay cops and six bi cops.  Get over it already.  Xander will go after you if you upset him that way.  He doesn't need this shit.  Ever.  Remember, he works part time as a fed and he knows more than enough to be able to hide your body from all of us."   He had heard the rumors that the kid had some secret, covert training from some federal agency or another, possibly CIA or NSA before he had even met the kid on his first day.  It had only intensified when he had saved Speedle at the scene by yanking the bullet and doing some temporary stitching in his shoulder wound.

Horatio nodded.  "The kid, while injured and off the job from here, took down a sniper trying to take out an NCIS team and their director.  With a very badly injured wrist.  Xander is the one you want to be on the good side of because people like him.  Everyone likes Xander, even those who don't like his lifestyle.  Because that boy protects those he likes."  The kid nodded.  "Now, I would apologize and ask him to politely give you the very nice anti-discrimination speech again. Apparently you slept through it the first time."

"You all protect him and he's that dangerous?"

Xander walked in and drug the kid off, taking him for a walk down the halls.  "Kid, I'm not dangerous.  I grew up in a town where humans were in the minority and people ended up dead.  I've got a background in explosives and combat for a very good reason.  I'm here instead of NCIS because I needed some experience and because it was felt I was too high strung.  Now, saying that, and noting that I have more combat experience than a number of people in this building, and that I am the *one* person you do not want to piss off.  Do you want to continue to upset me?"  The kid shook his head quickly and Xander stared into his eyes.  "I don't care if you hate every gay person in the world.  That is your personal opinion.  That is not something you share at work.  The same as you don't share bout being a Klan member.  And you don't share about being a child molester.  To me, they're about equal on the scale of 'needs to die'.  Got it?"  That got a nod.   "Good, now then, your jokes have upset others besides me. I was asked to intervene since that would possibly out a cop into a not-always friendly atmosphere. I know I can take it because I've proved myself.  That's why none of the cops around here try that shit."  He took a breath and forced himself to go on, going with one of the more painful moments of his life.

"Six years ago, when I was first interning during my undergrad, there was a gay bashing case.  Some of the cops came up with the idea that we shouldn't even investigate.  I've never hidden what I am.  They got upset with me when I pushed to be on the investigation and pushed myself hard to solve it within a week and tried to take me out.  By the end of that kidnaping attempt, there were three dead cops and four in emergency surgery."  The kid swallowed.  "And me.  They tried to say I took them out because of their views, but one did crack under Horatio and Speed.  Others started to come forward as well.  They very nearly got the department sued.  Their lawyers called in federal profilers to say I went after them.  The profilers refused to step in.  When the feds finally did step in, it was well after the fact.  It was to make sure I was fine.  There is not a cop in this city who doesn't know what went on.  They used to warn all the new rookies but apparently they stopped while I was gone.  So now I'm warning you.  A police station is like junior high. The only real difference is that all the bullies here carry guns and know how to use them better.  You are the cause of two officers transferring and another three thinking about quitting. All because you've made their work environments a living hell.  Are you proud?"

"No, sir."  He looked at him.  "I don't want to be the cause of someone else quitting the job they're good at."

"Good.  Then change your attitude.  You can think whatever the hell you want.  But the moment you lose your ability to see everyone as an equal person, even if they're gay, pink, polka dotted, sleeping with their dogs or their children, then you should retire.  You've lost your objectivity.  You cannot let your personal prejudices interfere in your job.  That's harder than it sounds, I know very well it is.  We all slip at that one.  You've done more than slip.  You took the sled down the mountain.  I would suggest you work on a public apology.  A real 'to whom it may concern' one.  Because if I hear one more gay joke out of your mouth, you will be going through an unopened window.  You can ask Wolfe what traction is like.  He tried to stop a cop that attacked me for telling him off.  He got between us.  I didn't realize I had nearly killed them both until I was done. He's still in jail for what he tried to do.  Wolfe can still walk.  You're heading there.  Got me here?"

"Yes, Xander.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to.  I so didn't mean to."

"Good, then move on and learn better.  You're here to learn, this is an important lesson. Just like learning from Speed and Eric is.  It's up to you how bad you fuck this up for yourself.  Fix it.  Before it gets fixed.  Because there are still cops around here who will end up panicking and taking you out quietly to protect their secrets.  It's happened in the past.  That NCIS guy today got sent plague once because of something like that.  We've had good cops go to jail because their minor secrets were getting pushed into the open.  Remember where you work and what you're doing.  Your professionalism and how well you learn will determine where you end up."  The kid nodded. "Now go back to work."

"Yes, sir."  He hurried back.

Xander calmed himself down.  He would have it put around that he had the special talk with the boy, threats and all, and if he did it again to tell Horatio.  There was no way this could happen in this precinct without tearing someone up.  He went back to work, shaking his head when Horatio joined him.  "I'm not done with the analysis yet."

"That's fine," he agreed, closing the door. "You told him?"  Xander looked at him and nodded. "Honestly?"

"Including the fact that I didn't stop when I saw Ryan jump in," he admitted tiredly.  "I gave him the full talk."

"Good.  Thank you.  Some day, far in the future when you've calmed down, you'll make a good supervisor."  Xander grinned a little bit at that.  "You used to smile so much more, Xander.  Are you sure you're ready to be back?"

"Yeah. I need to work, H.  Otherwise you'll end up throwing me into the ocean this time."

"Well, Eric has been complaining there's nothing to dive after recently."

"Yeah, use me as a training exercise," he said dryly.  He looked at him.  "What?"

"You used to smile more."

"I'm not eighteen, Horatio.  I'm not the same guy I was."

"You're not.  I'm wondering how much of that is the depression though."  Xander opened his mouth.  "No, let me finish.  You weren't eighteen before you left either.  You were still happier then."

"I just feel like I should be more grown up by now!"

"Be yourself, Xander.  All those 'I should be this way' feelings are people trying to impose their nature on yours."

"Like you telling me to calm down?"  Horatio looked stunned, then nodded.  "Ah-ha, caught you in a faulty argument.  Finally.  I knew the day would come."

"Before you would've been dancing around the office."

"I need someone to help me shake the last of Tony out of my system," he admitted. "Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Horatio moved closer, making the boy look at him. "I'm still here for you to talk to, Xander.  No matter what your father and ex think.  That's part of my job as a friend.  Remember those things?"  He got a silent nod.  "Then we can talk.  We'll talk tonight, after you get done.  I'll make sure you eat dinner too."

"I ate."

"You're supposed to eat three meals a day, not one.  You used to be a bottomless pit."

"He was every fantasy I had from the time I was sixteen, Horatio.  Of course I'm still affected."

"I understand how strong that can be," he said gently.  "I'll even cook tonight."  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Come get me when you have results."  He walked off to check on the rest of his evidence.

Xander got back to work, wondering how bad this was about to get.


Horatio opened the door at the rapid knock knowing it wasn't Xander.  Gibbs stepped off the front porch.  For some reason, the overprotective father showing up tonight didn't really surprise him.  "He's still at work, I checked."  Horatio smirked a bit.  "Your team," he said, handing over the official notice.  "Delko didn't make the background for some reason, I don't know why, but that gives you at least one good man if you're on another case."  He pulled open his bag and handed over three binders.  "The standard 'welcome' lecture series and all the forms you'll need.  Copy them as needed but only to the authorized personnel.  Nothing in there is really classified.  Also, we're going to abuse Alexx as well as the rest of you."

"I'm sure she'll be pleased."

"Probably not."  He smirked a bit.  "Any questions?  Xander can do the orientation lectures.  He did the last few for our teams in DC.  The blockhead above me is a moron who thought Xander was already on the team.  Instead he's very wary of my specialist and of Tony.  He hates that Xander has a sex life and he doesn't."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Do you remember what he was like when he was younger?  The first summer he came to help in the labs?"

"I still have nightmares about that perp."

"Do you remember what you asked him in the hospital?"

"Why didn't he call for backup?"  Jethro nodded.  "He still has that problem?"

"In every facet of his life," he said clearly.  "That's his last protective barrier and he'll panic for a few minutes but not that much.  I suggest you push instead of wait, or you'll be really old and so will he.  I'll also expect him back for the holidays."

"He told me earlier about your new wife."

Gibbs frowned.  "He's paranoid."

"I heard she was poisoning you."


"He said to ask about his dog when you showed up for this."

"Another accident."

"Sounds coincidental to me," Horatio noted.  "Besides, she hates him.  You know she hates him."

"True.  I don't know what's wrong with her.  He's the only kid she's getting.  She should be happy that he's so strong and smart, even if he is a smart ass and he did nearly ruin the wedding by being shot at by a jealous boyfriend."  Horatio looked at him, nearly smirking - that was such a Xander or Eric thing to do.  "Ran into the church, screamed that Xander couldn't have his boy, then shot at us.  Kate and Tony both got him and Xander walked back to pick on him since I wouldn't let him carry openly at the wedding, no matter how much he begged."  Someone knocked on the door and he got out of the way.

"Xander.  We have official news."

"I thought we might.  Hi, dad."  He hugged him.  "How's my dog?"

"It ran under the car."

"Dad, Blackie hated cars and hated her," he said dryly.   "He used to run from toy cars.  He used to run from your car and my car and my bike.  There's no way in hell my dog ran under her car and she accidentally hit him. The same way as the rat poison wasn't next to the baking powder the last I knew and it was a square, metal container, not a round, cardboard one."  He moved closer.  "She tries one more thing and I'm going to go Tony's Family on her.  Again.  And this time I doubt McGee will save her."

Gibbs smiled and shrugged.  "I'm handling it."

"No, you're getting some and skewed by that.  The same way you keep saying my judgement is."  That got a laugh.  "Sure, you laugh now.   Do you want me to call in that favor Clay owes me?"  Gibbs got silent at that.  "All right then.  Then let's just have someone investigate.  Even a background check."

"You already did one," he noted, staring at him.  "What did you find?"

"Two other dead husbands.  She's not very smooth."  Gibbs quirked an eyebrow up.  "Really, she's not.  It wasn't that hard to find.  Tony found a lot more than I did and you didn't listen to him or Kate either.  If I bury you, I bury her under you.  Possibly alive, but under you."

There were days when his son was exactly like him and it made him proud that Xander was his kid.  This was one of those.  No one else had ever threatened him, especially not over a woman he was married to. "Fine, I'll let them do a background search for me and listen to them this time.  Would that make you happy?"

"That and you quit trying to sic Horatio on my case."

"Has he eaten today?" he asked Horatio.

"A deli sandwich and I'm making dinner."

"Good.  He needs it."  He looked at his son.  "Make you a deal.  I listen to Tony and Kate about what they've found and let them see if she's a bad person.  You actually ask for help that you need and to be held now and then."

"What I *need* is someone quick to take him out of my system," he said firmly

"Someone quick will never get love out of your system, son.  You know that."

"Eww, I had that mental image again," he said, holding his head.

"He was picking on Speed and called him mom, so Speed called him son.  Apparently he saw you two together."

"Speed's cute but I like redheads."  He smacked his son on the head.

"Ow."  He rubbed the sore spot.  "Sorry, dad."

"I'm sure you are.  I also know that you turned down New York and Vegas for Miami for summers each and every year and I heard why all too often."  Xander blushed and looked down.  "Yes, I'm prodding.  It's not like you ever *ask* for help when you need it.  If you did, I wouldn't have put you into the pond.  By the way, you nearly got Tony beaten by Kate and Abby."

"I told them it was my fault."

"And they're smart enough to realize Tony smartened up and realized he didn't feel the same way.  So therefore, McGee and I saved his ass that time."  He made his son look at him.  "All you have to do is ask.  You know he won't make a move."   He kissed him on the forehead.  "If you get hurt again in the next year, I'm letting Willow come destroy Miami.  Have fun in the temp office and no more building bombs in the basement.  Also, you can sell Jen's condo if you want.  I remembered what she used to use it for."

"That's why I'm in the guest bedroom."  He shuddered.  "I don't even want to think about her nastiness."

"So sell the place and find somewhere more like you next to the ocean.  That's why you're here instead of DC.  You missed the ocean. If you're *good* I might even assign Willow as your hacking support."

"Instead of me?"

"Or with you.  She's still better at it."  He patted him on the cheek.  "Behave.  No more midnight calls from the hospital."

"They weren't my fault."

"True, they weren't.  Except for the one in Paris."

"They ran me off the road!"

"It was one of your former girlfriends."

"Which was why I'll never sleep with another woman again," Xander noted dryly.  Both older men laughed at that.  "Fine.  If and when I need help, I'll ask for it and no more calls from the hospital unless I'm in critical condition and I got shot on a scene."

"You get shot one more time, son, and I'm going to kick your ass," Gibbs assured him.

Xander nodded.  "Yes, daddy."  He hugged him again at the snort and light growl.  "Quit poking and pushing," he whispered.

"Tough," he whispered back.  "It's what you need and want."  He patted him on the back. "Behave and I still expect daily emails."  He looked him over.  "Cut your hair too."  He walked out, heading to find Tony and talk to him.

Xander looked at Horatio. "My hair's fine, right?"

"It looks good on you."  He led him back to the kitchen.  "Let me finish the salad and I'll put the steaks on."

"I can cook.  McGee and Kate made sure of it when I moved off campus my sophomore year."  He grinned and took over the salad making.  He was a bit hungry.

"How do you like yours?"

"Medium.  Somewhere between totally pink and totally done."

"Not that hard to please," he said, going over to put the steaks on the indoor grill on his stove.  He watched the boy work, noticing he was working on a salad dressing too.  "Ducky?"

"Yup.  He's a nice old guy.  His mother's a kick too when she's in the mood."  He found a whisk and got to work on the dressing, then put it and the salad into the fridge to rest, with the whisk in the bowl. He washed his hands again and came over to help.   "What else can I do?"

"I bought brownies."  Xander grinned at that. "I know your thing for chocolate. I'm surprised I haven't seen wrappers yet."

"You guys stock crappy chocolate in the machine," he defended.  "I didn't have time to stop off for any."  He watched the steaks cook.  "Time to flip?"

"Not yet."  He pulled him closer to give him a gentle kiss and felt the boy open under him and relax.  "Thank you.  Set the table?"  He got back to work, watching him out of the corner of his eye.  He looked happy, like he had before he had gotten hurt and went home to recuperate for two years.  "You mentioned a ring earlier?"

"Yeah, one of the Saudi diplomats had his wife kidnaped and the Secret Service were stuck.  They do diplomats, but they thought there was a military tie in.  We found the guy doing it and I was still on sick leave, but my wrist was healed.  I was doing PT for it at the time.  This was about the same time as two dead midshipmen in a bar so the team was splintered.  I agreed to take Kate in with me so they could answer that call.  We got there with the Secret Service and we find out one of their guards was in on it.  He starts to go for the wife with a knife and I shoot the guy in the thigh.  Kate got the other guy.  He rewarded us both. I have a sixty carat emerald cut diamond ring at my house and she got a very pretty set of earrings and necklace.  That's about when the director realized I wasn't actually *on* the payroll and put me on as a trainee for form's sake and from political pressure.

"He also told me that I could not work with my father anymore and broke the team to take dad back as second-in-command.  The way it is now, Kate's got DC, McGee's got New York's temporary field office, and Tony's got Miami and the south.  So we'll have cases from Texas to I think Tennessee.  Or Kentucky one of those two.  We're taking over for the Atlanta office that got closed due to the budget last year.  DC gets from our top border to New York and New York gets the stuff up that way, including West Point, which has a serial killer working on and around it.  So we'll have mild traveling to do now and then but we'll only have cases maybe two or three times a month unless it's something serious. LA still overlords the regional offices for everything west of Oklahoma except for Texas.  DC overlords the East coast regional offices."

"I didn't realize we'd have out of town calls."

"Yeah.  We only deal in Navy and Marine cases.  So you'll also get to do a lot with JAG.  That's part of the reason I didn't come back immediately.  Sorry."

"No, it's not a problem.  It's what you wanted to do, even if it was only in name only."  He flipped the steaks and moved closer.  "Are you okay with this splitting?"

"Sure.  Though I wonder why Eric didn't pass."  He frowned a bit.  "I'm wondering if someone got a stick up their ass or if it's due to Dad having to restrict the team."

"He was suspected of using drugs, Xander. Nothing came of it...."

Xander looked at him. "You've seen my record.  They accepted mine.  Hell, I have six different shooting board investigations plus that gay bashing and the serial guy that came after me.  There's no way they blocked him for suspected drug use.  Even with a positive set of tests."

"Good point.  It could be that he needed to limit the team's size.  That does give me someone to stay here if we have to go out of town."  He looked the boy over.  "You're okay after your first week?"

"I'm good.  I am going to sell the condo since I have permission.  The neighbors are really noisy and it's a lot more modern than I want."  Horatio nodded.  "Wanna help me look for a house?"

"A house?" he asked, smiling a bit.

"Yeah, one of those nice homey places by the ocean."

"That'll be expensive."

"Horatio, I have a condo downtown in a secured building with parking.  A notice was put around that one of the upper condos was up for grabs and it was going for 2.2 mil, starting.  The CIA uses this building.  Shepard was one of them."  That got a half-smile.  "I'll get full asking price and I can set it at or around 1.3.  I'm three floors down from that one and I'll leave most of the furniture."

"Are you going through the building?"

"No, I was going to let dad announce it in DC.  Say that all the spooks still keep coming to the door and he wants me safer, so even though it was a gift it wasn't really a place I was safe.  Speaking of."  He grabbed his phone and called someone, muttering quietly as he walked away.  He came back a minute later.  "I told Kate."  He grinned.  "She said she'd put it around and I can probably find a house."  He moved closer again.  "How far out is too far?"

"About this neighborhood. Within a half hour, including normal traffic."  Xander nodded.  "What sort of house are you looking for?"

"Just a housey sort of house.  One that feels comfy and like a home instead of an apartment."

"A loft?"

"No.  I don't mind stairs but nothing that modern.  A real house.  Maybe a townhouse, but a real house."  His phone rang and he looked down but hit ignore.  "A JAG officer I know.  He can leave a message."  That got a smile. "I was in and out of JAG both years.  Even while I was injured I was given 'go deliver this' tasks so I wasn't too bored.  I was also in and out of the FBI building for about six weeks on a case over there. Then in and out of CIA headquarters a few times.  They still scare me.  They're the problem with DC, all the spooks."  He moved closer and blatantly got into his personal space.  He got a smile and stole a kiss.  "Can we talk later?"

"Of course."  He got the steaks off the grill and let Xander get the salad, watching him whisk the dressing again before bringing it over.  He sat down with him, smiling at him as he dug in.  "How is Sunnydale?"

"Still standing.  I heard my original parents disappeared. I about did a snoopy dance in the middle of the FBI's hallways. The house and that stuff will go to pay off their debts and as far as Sunnydale's concerned I don't exist.  Not since I helped blow up the high school."

"That was you?"

"That was also my battle plan.  It was necessary.  They called me during Senior Skip day to come back and help since they couldn't stop it beforehand.  I got there the night before, scanned the area and the news, then got them moving.  We emptied the library but it was my plans and my explosives.  We saved most of the kids.  We only lost ten and two later casualties."

"I'm impressed."

"Me too.  Dad sent Fornell and Tony after me that time.  That's how we found out abut the Initiative the second time.  That's also when they hired Willow to be an on-site hacker and she's the one who broke their encryption and all that good stuff.  She's in the LA office."

"Do you work well with them?"

"Nope, their regional director smirks too much.  It's the same guy who....."  He let it trail off.  Horatio knew about that case.

"Since you didn't press charges, it's just an open secret and they're watching him," Horatio finished, digging into his food.  "I like this dressing.  What is it?"

"Balsamic vinegar and oranges from a can."  He grinned and started to eat again.  "Every time I see the director in LA he smirks at me.  I don't regret making that choice but I regret letting him live and work with it.  Did Jesse's parents go away again?"

"For much longer and someone did slip that they knew someone from Sunnydale.  Rick mentioned you."

"Can I plague him?"

"No.  Sorry. He backpedaled when Speed almost took his head off."

"Why was IAD there?"

"They thought you were involved in that."

"Ah, so now he knows."

"Yeah, Speed was very forthright about that.  He told him that what you had done you had chose to do and hadn't told anyone about it but that your father had called in the information once he heard about it thanks to that undercover sting.  That you had refused to press charges or say anything about your life. Then he reminded Rick that your father is a real bastard at times."

"Especially about me."

"Especially about you," he agreed.  He reached over to touch his hand.  "What did you do with the rest of the money?"

"Paris, London, Mexico, Cancun."

Horatio smiled at that.  "Good learning experiences?"

"All except Cancun.  Dad forgot he had signed the permission slip for the senior trip.  He had me drug out of an orgy.  I had fun until then," he offered with a smile.  "It got Sheppard off his back since I was with a woman or three when I was found, but otherwise it was okay."  Horatio laughed at that.  "What can I say?  I like sex.  A lot.  Every day.  Dad doesn't have my temper for it but he said my mother was like that when they were dating."  He sipped his water.  "Hopefully stepmom will be gone soon."

"I hope so too.  I'd hate to have to visit you in jail for homicide."

Xander looked him in the eyes.  "Like they'd catch me."  That got a smirk.  "Remember, I can always call up one of those nice people-eating creatures dad thinks only lives in Sunnydale and give her to them.  No body, no evidence.  Or have her attacked by one and mangled so there's a body and evidence.  There's no problem with me getting rid of the body."

"And since only those from Sunnydale and New York ever seem to see them they can't go looking for the cause.  Very nicely thought out."

"I told Sheppard that too when she tried to jump dad a few times.  I pointed out she had her chance and dad didn't do leftovers.  She wasn't appreciative of me being around him, even before then, but afterwards?  No.  Let's just say it's a good thing she retired so the block of wood could take over."  He cut into his steak and ate a bite.  "Very nicely done."

"Thank you."  He started to eat again.  "Why did she really give you the condo?"

"She wanted to get rid of it subtly.  She was retiring from the CIA duties at the same time she retired from NCIS.  They weren't happy about that.  I know one of them broke in the other day and got into the hidden storage areas with the tapes.  I'm not sure I want to know what's on the tapes."


"Probably sex.  Then I'd never be able to sleep anywhere in the apartment."

"That would also be blackmail material, Xander."

"Good point."  He grinned at him and ate another bite. "I'm not really used to this dating stuff."

"How did you and Tony finally end up together?"

"Post case recovery and stress.  We were both jumpy after nearly being blown up.  We went out separately and ran into each other at the same bar and it just clicked since we were partially drunk.  The next morning I left the hotel room and went back to the cabin I built out behind Dad's house and he moved in that afternoon.  Nearly a year.  I don't know why I miss it really.  We fought half the time."

"It's hard to let go of the fantasy," Horatio reminded him.  "Even after you've already lived it, there's still that feeling that you left something undone that you could have tried or done.  Or that you didn't try hard enough to keep it."  He took his hand to hold.  "We've both seen people who couldn't let go of the fantasy and watched it ruin them. You're starting to turn into one of them.  Sarcasm is fine but you showed bitterness earlier with that suspect when you brought this up."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm not. You need to get this out to get over it.  I'm sure you were working it over in your mind while you got depressed but it probably got stuck in a bad spot and that made it worse."  Xander looked at him and nodded.  "You can talk to me about this stuff.  I used to be married, very long ago.  Then I married the job."

"So, are you like the nun of the crime world?"

"Quite possibly," he agreed.  "Me, Grissom in Vegas, a few of the guys in New York.  You passed them up to keep coming to Miami during your summers?"

"Yeah, they don't have an ocean."

"Technically, New York does."

"Not really.  Besides, I don't like New York.  I got drug along on a few cases and sat in the lab to help.  The guys were nice and they understood what I was doing there, and I helped a lot, but they've got attitude up there."

Horatio smiled.  "They do.  Indeed they do.  Some of them were probably nice."

"Very nice and I worked with them on a few things since I had other skills at those times.  Including two demon killings.  I also found them a local source.  I still talk to one of the detectives up there now and then."

"Good.  So why not Vegas?  Besides the ocean."

"I didn't want to tempt fate.  Yeah, I'm a good card player.  But I know my own personality and I know the addictions that used to rule my family.  I thought it'd be safer.  Even if they are a nice lab.  I did end up out there thanks to the LA office.  I was on Spring Break at Lake Meade and they found out.  They needed some extra help and called Dad, who gave them permission and told them to watch out for who I was sleeping with."  He shrugged.  "They showed up at the party and drug me out of there by the arm.  Told me in the car what I was going to be doing, and I went back to hack their computer for them.  The lab was full of really nice people, and a few really cute guys.  One of which I was late back to classes because of," he admitted sheepishly.  "Pissed dad off to no end that I came back two days late.  Every time I talked to him for the next month it got brought up until I pointed out I had went back to enjoy the rest of my spring break and the test I missed I made up, that I was a nearly perfect student, and that he hadn't even heard the rumors of drunken dorm parties or apartment parties.  He agreed, I was discreet and it would never happen again."

"Until the day you forgot your alarm," Horatio reminded him.

"Yay me, I had the flu."  He smirked at him.  "I'm sure you've been late at least once."

"Usually for unavoidable reasons. Thank you for getting away from the evidence that day as well."

"Welcome.  Besides, I wasn't being paid then."

"Good point.  Who were you staying with?"

"Um.... don't ask."

"Why?" he asked patiently.

"Because you'll scream and yell and it was another good reason to stay off the pedophile case.  I did send in an anonymous tip when I saw them going for another kid."

"Thank you.  I thought it had been you."  He stroked the back of his hand.  "Why were you with them?"

"Their son Jesse was my sanity, Horatio.  Before he died, we were the tightest thing.  He was literally all that kept me sane and going at times.  Then he got turned."

"He was?"  Xander nodded.  "Is he still around?"

"I staked him," he said quietly.  He was pulled over and held.  "It was a long time ago, but he was my first staking and it's just like everyone I actually gave a damn about leaves."

"Which is why you're still moping over Tony," he agreed, kissing him on the forehead.  He slowly let him go, watching him sit down again.  "Are you okay with this?"

"I'm fine with this.  Dad complained that he heard your name a few times over the years in the middle of the night."

Horatio blushed at that.  "Really?"  Xander blushed and nodded.  "Interesting.  Is that why you kept coming back?"

"Some. I was offered the LA office for my summers off but I didn't want to be there and I didn't want the Northwest office either. Way too much rain.  I'm used to sun and surf and fun.  Which is Miami."

"True."  He stroked his hand again.  "Eat.  Before the steak goes cold."

"Cold steak is good," Xander assured him.  "I like cold steak."  Horatio looked at him.  "I do.  It's fun to pick up and rip into with your fingers later. Or make into fajitas for breakfast."

"You need to eat better.  Finish up the salad and we can eat them cold while we chat."  Xander nodded and dug into that.  It probably had been a bit much if the kid wasn't eating all that often but he knew it was one of the kid's favorite dishes.  "Has Yelina pounced you yet?"

Xander snickered and nodded.  "She did.  Late the second day I got hugged from behind and a kiss on the back of the neck and told not to hurt you.  Then she invited me to dinner the next night, but I was on a case."

Horatio shook his head.  Everyone was conspiring to put them together these days. He got up to get them a glass of wine and brought it out to the couch with Xander, sitting down and letting him curl up however he wanted.  The boy ended up next to his side, feet curled up on the couch.  "Comfortable?"

"I can move if you're not."

"No, I'm just making sure you are.  If you move I'll have to complain and ride your ass at work."

"I told you, you can only ride my ass if you plan on burying yourself in it.  You know I always do my work and do it well."

"You do. That's what impressed me about you that first summer.  That and you were doing internships long before you needed to.  You already had a good idea and your skills sheet was longer than some of the techs we already had. Then you came in a cocky kid and looked at Speed, shaking his hand and repeating your qualifications; he spluttered and said he wanted you, that you had attitude.  Should've went to New York."  He stroked his arm.  "You proved him wrong by being a faithful puppy after him. Even the day you came straight from the club still buzzed."

"I'd only had two drinks. I was in that mellow, coming down phase."

"I saw that. I also remember that as the reason for the 'no leather in the office' rule."  Xander grinned at that.  "I remember Eric asking where you had been and you telling him that you had been at the Flaming Quarter and him just standing there shocked so you said that was your last stop of the night and it had been an early call-in.  Before that you had been at Rhodes and Sepia.  Two places he didn't go because they wouldn't let him in."

"Yeah, and then I took him and Speed the next night.  I ended up abandoning them too if I remember right. That stupid stalker bastard."  He sipped his wine, and rested his cheek against the warm side.  His wine glass got taken.  "You were so mad when you heard I had abandoned them and then I was late the next day.  At least until someone came in and noted I had been drug off.  Then I came in dragging someone a few hours later and presented him to you as my excuse for being so late and went back to work."

"Who eventually ended up coming to take a statement?"

"Speed.  He wanted to know what happened. Banged open the lab's door, making me jump and pull my weapon, and that's when he realized it hadn't been fun and games.  You had him out on a scene so he wasn't here to listen to you rant about me being missing."

"Good point. So he got you calmed down and got a tape recorder, taking it for you?"  Xander nodded.  "He's the guy who did the arrest paperwork too.  Did you go back out with them?"

"Yup.  Eric made me about two days later.  Said it was criminal that I was hiding.  So he made me change and drug me to the club he wanted to go to.  He thought I was straight until that night for some reason."

"Sometimes the obvious can escape him," he agreed.

"I heard Calleigh had to walk up to him and start yelling at him about being so clueless.  She told me he wanted to know about which case.  Then she said she pulled him in and kissed him before stomping off."

"She did.  I had to reprimand them for it, which got them a day off without pay.  They both came in dragging the next morning.  It went back to the old ways from there."

"I saw."  He stroked over the stomach next to him, earning a shift toward his hand. "Not ticklish?"

"Not there."  He stroked through the dark hair.  "We still have a lot of talking to do, Xander."

"Yes, Horatio."

"Good boy."

"I'm not the dog."

"True, you're not a dog.  Though you do like ear scratches from what I've seen.  Petting and all that."  He stroked down the pale neck. "You need some sun."

"Yeah, I know.  Once I find the house I'll take a day on the beach."

"You know you're going to be welcome here."

"I know.  Not a problem."  His phone rang again and so did Horatio's so they both sighed and looked at the number.  "That's Tony."  He hit the 'send' button.  "What?  No I'm cuddling and talking.  What case?"  He listened and nodded.  "I remember that one.  No, he's here beside me.  Would you like me to pass on a message?"  He handed the phone off.  "Here, he won't tell me."

Horatio listened then nodded a few times. "I will. That's another good reason to sell the condo.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Remember that guy from your high school?"

"Yeah.  He out?"  Horatio nodded.  "At least I stopped him from raping a few of the girls then.  Hopefully someone is tracking him. Did he escape?"

"No, full sentence."  He put the phones down next to the wine glasses and kissed him.  "That place is sold tomorrow.  You're not safe there.  I'm alerting everyone tomorrow that this is something to worry about possibly.  Your next day off is Thursday; we'll go house looking then."

"You want to go with me?"

"I think I'm going to be spending a lot of time there and this'll give you someone to talk to."  He kissed him.  "Good enough?"  Xander smiled and nodded, snuggling in again. "So, tell me about high school in Sunnydale?"

"You mean my straight D average?"

"Really?  I know your ones from DC were excellent."

"I learn better by doing than speaking and I was a bit distracted in Sunnydale."

"Good point."


Xander found the house he wanted and walked around it after work Sunday, smiling at the feel of the wood and the aura of the house. "I like this one," he told the realtor.  "This is what I want."  He looked at her.  "How soon?  My former condo was already sold and I'm supposed to be out within three weeks."

"Well, the sale of the condo will cover the full cost plus redecorating costs.  It shouldn't take me too long. You may have to spend a few days in a hotel.  Are you sure this is close enough?"

"Yeah, two of the cops in the precinct live up the road a bit farther out."  He called his boss, then Speed.  Horatio answered for them both.  "I found it.  No, I'm looking around now.  Nope, right beside the beach. A real house.  Sure."  He hung up and smiled at her.  "They'll drive by it later."

"That's fine."  She led him into the kitchen and looked around at his look of joy.  "Like your former one?"

"It's kinda like dad's, but it doesn't have a boat in the basement.  It's also not as rural as his is."  He looked up.  "That's a very high ceiling."

"It is but you won't have to paint it hopefully."  He smiled and nodded so she walked him around the upstairs.  Someone knocked on the door so she went down, noticing the man standing here. "I didn't realize this was an open house today."

"Come on in," Xander called.

"Thanks," Tony called back.  Xander came down to look at him.  "Guess who sent me."

"I know who sent you. Come see."  He led him back up the stairs.  They were still friends.  "Horatio's coming to look at it later."

"Good.  I like that you finally moved on."  He patted him on the back and looked out at the view.  "Very nice."

"Yeah, it is," he sighed, smiling at the realtor.  "Paperwork?"

"Is this your boyfriend?"

"No, my boss on a special task force I work with.  An ex boyfriend.  My present one will be driving by later."  They walked her back to the cars, getting in to follow her, but Tony going home now that he knew where the kid was going to be living.  It did feel like Gibbs' house to him too.


A few days later, Xander picked up the keys and took Speed and Horatio out, making them smile at the house.  It was a home and it felt like it to them.  This was the sort of place Xander needed.  "So boat in the basement?" Speed teased.

"I make toys, not boats."

"That is something you could do in the basement," Horatio agreed, looking out from the front porch.  The front of the house faced the ocean.  There was some grass between it and the beach but not much, and it wasn't a very public beach because they weren't downtown.  He'd probably have it mostly to himself.  As close as you got to a private beach in Miami without spending millions of dollars.  He went back to the kitchen, where they were working on lists of stuff he needed to buy on his next night off.  He looked at and made a few extra notes on it, then went to look off the back porch, which faced the hill that shielded the house from the road.  It wasn't a true hill, someone had built it up as a privacy shield years ago.  It was just steep enough that you had to pull off the road to see the house's back yard.  Still easily mowed.  He felt someone come out and looked at Speed.  "I like this place.  It feels like a home."

"Which he needed.  He's always edgy in modern and stylized places like most of us have."  He looked at him.  "I'm good with you two."

"When are you going to get off your ass and talk to the other two?"


"They know."

"How?"  Horatio glanced back inside, then back at him.  "He told them?"

"Eric asked him. I heard him ask.  He noticed you staring.  Just don't do what Calleigh did, all right?"

"Yes, H, I won't kiss Eric like that in the station," he offered with a smile.  "I wonder who told Eric?"

"She did.  I heard her telling Eric that you'd been watching him again," Xander said from the doorway.  "Are we thinking grill?"  He looked up at the roll-out awning then at them.  "And a gardener?"

"A gardener might be a good idea," Speed agreed.  "This is going to be a problem during hurricane season."

"We've got metal shutters on the windows," he said, coming out to pull one out.  "They lock too.  The house has steel construction.  The weakest point is the roof and the inspection I had said it was about four years old, probably for a reason."  Horatio smiled at that.  "We'll be fine.  We're in a small cove area.  Usually if they come, they head for downtown like they're attracted to all the plastic surgery.  This isn't plastic surgery row."  He walked back inside and looked around the kitchen, adding FOOD to the list in big letters.  "Okay, the list is done.  I've decided I'm only moving my stuff from the condo.  That'll take me all of forty minutes once I've rented a car.  Since I can move in today, I figured food first?"

"You can borrow the hummer," Horatio told him.

"I don't need that much room."

"So?  It'll be easier and you can stop for food.  Or, we can stop for food really.  That way I make sure you take that tv."

"They make bigger and better and the cable will be on within a few weeks," he said dryly, smiling at him.  "But if you want, you can help me go furniture shopping and food shopping.  I was going to do food and electronics tonight since I don't really like silence. Quiet is fine but I can't stand true silence."

"Sure," they agreed, going to help him.

If they were surprised by his choices neither said anything.  It fit the house and his style very well.  Comfortable, soft, good to nap on.   Horatio got to pick out the beds, Speed got to pick out the food, and the big things were mostly going to be delivered the next day.  Once the groceries were up and takeout was called for, they settled on the front porch to watch the ocean and relax.  Xander was resting against Horatio's side and Speed envied them that so much.  His phone rang so he looked at the display before answering.  "Speedle."  He listened.  "No, I'm with H and Xander at his new place.  No about six blocks from H, but toward those older homes.  He picked the one you can't see from the road. Sure."  He hung up.  "Calleigh was just chased out of the lab by night shift, H.  They said some really disgusting things to her about her and Xander."

"I'll deal with them," Horatio promised quietly, stroking Xander back.  He looked at him and grinned.  "He's asleep.  Tell them, Speed.  You need them."


"Tell them or I will.  If his father and Tony can come and push us together, I can give you the same nudge."

"Fine."   He watched the ocean again.  "This place just radiates peace," he said quietly.

"It does. I'm wondering when the wood working stuff will be coming in."

"Tomorrow.  He ordered it while you were doing the beds."  He looked at him. "Not at all subtle and Stetler is looking over your shoulder."

"Rick can blow me, Speed.  He knows that.  The same as he knows that nothing and no one can force Xander to do anything.  He's tried in the past."

"Good point."  He grinned and got up to flag down the car slowly heading their way.  They pulled down the driveway and parked.  "This one," he said, pointing at the house.

"Wow.  It feels like a home," she said, getting out to walk up onto the porch.  "Long day?" she asked, tipping her head to look at Xander.  Horatio nodded.  "Does he have furniture?"

"Not until tomorrow," he said quietly.  "We have pizza and beers inside."  She smiled and went to get something for her men.  Who were so damn clueless.  She came out and handed Speed his, Eric his, then kissed them both before heading back inside.

"You realize she's running you over, right?" Speed asked Eric.

"Yeah, but I find that strength to be a good thing now and then.  How long?"


"Why is it that I can find the smallest clue on a scene, but in personal stuff it's like I'm blind?"

"It's how you were raised, man.  Really.  Do your parents like her?"

"No.  My mother hates her."  He grinned.  "She wanted me to marry some nice Cuban girl from the church.   I made it plain she's putting up with it, grandkids are far in the future, and she'll deal with my job at the same time.  Then she mentioned you and I just gave her this clueless look so she stomped off to cook.  Apparently she thinks we're a trio too."  He sat down on the porch, next to where Speed was.  "Everything here?"

"He left all the furniture there and got stuff that'll be here tomorrow.  Including stuff to make toys in his downtime."

"Well, they say his dad's got a boat he's been working on now for a few years."

"I asked, he said he's ready to take it out of the house so he can do the interior," Horatio told him.  He smirked.  "Nothing in the labs, Eric."

"Yes, H.  You know that's not me, it's her."

"Uh-huh.  I saw you pulling her into the storage closet the other day."  Eric just grinned at that.  "Do be careful, Speed reminded me that Stetler is still haunting us."

"Yelina will be pissed if I kill him," Xander said quietly, sitting up to yawn and stretch.  "He asked me if I was hoping for a promotion the other day and I slugged him for making the insinuation I was sleeping with you for that.  Wolfe walked him off and handed him to Tripp, who had a good yell."  He looked at him, then at the duo, shaking his head. "He's going to give up soon.  NCIS won't like it.  I also don't know why you weren't covered too, Eric."

"Not a clue here but that just means that I can be here when you guys are off on a case.  How is it going?"

"Fine.  Our last case was two nights in Texas at an affiliated academy for an ROTC cadet.  The son of a state senator.  Gay bashing that wasn't.  His father was not impressed and came down on the academy very hard."  He shrugged. "Most of ours are cleared fairly quickly."

"Good.  Stetler asked if you were looking for a promotion?"

"Hoping for one."

"Ah."  Speed smirked at him.  "Bastard. You should've waited so I could see you hit him too."  Calleigh came out and stared at him.  "Did you get to see him hit Stetler?"

"I did, and I got the security camera footage to copy it," she said proudly.  "Horatio has a copy in his email."  That got a laugh.  "By the way, he's being moved to a different precinct.  They think he's a bit biased."

"Ya think?" Xander asked dryly.  "That guy could be with the Fed IA departments he's so biased."  That got another laugh.  "Calleigh, I was a good boy, I even left the blackmail sex tapes there."

"I saw that one you were testing to see what it was.  Who did you give them to?"

"I know a good spook through a mutual JAG contact and I told him they were there.  He showed up last night with boxes. There were over three hundred of them.  He found the second hidden area too."  She giggled at that.  "Let's just say I'm really glad I slept in the spare room.  He did agree to hand dad any that had him on it.  After all, no one blackmails my dad for very long."

"Good point."  She kissed him on the top of the head. "You need to eat."

He yawned again. "I need a nap.  Eating comes after sleeping in my book."

"Fine.  Horatio, take him back to your place so he can sleep on the couch. We'll close up the house here and see you tomorrow."

"Sure, steal the pizza," Xander joked.

"I was thinking more about stealing the beach," she assured him happily.  "When are you having the formal house warming?"

"Few weeks."

"Cool."  She hauled them up.  "Shoo.  Go make him rest. Otherwise he'll be cranky tomorrow on some perp."

"I'm off tomorrow," he pointed out.

"Well, then the next day since you'll be supervising the moving people."  She made a shooing motion and Xander whispered in her ear, making her blush. "Thank you."  He went inside to grab his ID and gun, plus his keys, then let Horatio take him back to his place.

"He tell you where he hid the lube?" Speed asked.

"Yes, he did," she agreed, going to get some and handed it to him.  "I wanna know how you use that, so get to it."

"Pushy," Speed taunted.

"Desperate!  Now!"

Eric blushed.  "It's times like these that you just gotta go along with it, Speed.  Trust me.  She's more powerful than a hurricane."

"I can tell."  He put everything aside and pulled Eric closer to kiss him, making him moan.  It was something he had been needing to hear.

The End.