Ezra looked around the magazine rack in his favorite bookstore. Everywhere was pictures of them as a couple, him alone, Xander alone, and ministers decrying them as a couple. It was enough to make a man blush. He got the magazine he wanted and checked out, stunning the checkout clerk. He smiled nicely and she stuttered but he signed the magazine she asked him to. Then he fled to his car and back to the sanity and safety of the White House. This was going to drive him insane. He walked into the white house. "Have we seen the news?" he asked the press secretary.
"I've seen many stories about your inauguration dance." He smiled.
"There were no magazines without us on the cover."
"That's really a good thing for him."
"It's a bit disturbing," Ezra corrected.
"Sorry. I'll see if we can keep some of it down, Ezra."
"Thank you." He went to tell Xander. Xander was holding his forehead with the palm of his head, staring at the top of his desk, phone to his ear. He sat down to watch him.
"Yes, I heard," Xander said into the phone. "No, that's not what I want to happen." He thought for a second. "No, that's a very bad idea. Thank you, Director, but that's not necessary. Really." He hung up on him, looking at Ezra. "Your director wants to move you all back to Denver since we're all so close and he wants me to sell my house in Denver."
"Hmm. Due to us?"
"Due to the fact that it looks odd that I'm dating an agent of his agency," he said dryly. "Apparently as the VP it was fine but as the Prez it's a no-no," he finished sarcastically. "Chuck, can I have Chris please?" he called. Chris came in a few minutes later, already scowling. "Your director?"
"Just called to say you're kicking us back to Denver?"
"No. He called me to tell me that he was going to move all of you back because it looks bad for his agency and that I need to sell my house there."
"Fat chance," Chris said dryly.
Xander stared at him. "How can I help?"
"I don't know," Chris admitted. "I'll go talk to him in a few minutes. He requested a meeting."
"If you're moving, we're going to have to talk about guards. The Secret Service are back to giving me bad looks again."
"I know," Chris said. "Relax."
"I'm about ready to fire his ass," Xander said bluntly.
"That would be a dramatic overreaction," Ezra said quietly, staring at him.
Xander looked at him. "They're punishing you because of me! Hell no! I won't allow that."
"I agree," Chris said. "For now, calm down. We'll figure things out, Xander." He walked off to talk to his idiot director. He didn't know why the big problem had suddenly started. It hadn't mattered for the last five years that they had been in DC.
Xander looked at Ezra, who sighed and smiled. "You're still mine. I'm fucking possessive and I'll be damned."
Ezra smiled. "I agree fully." He stood up. "Every single magazine this week is focusing on our dance."
"Thank you for giving me those lessons," Xander said with a smile.
"You're quite welcome and it was a bit of fun. Even when you stepped on my foot." He left to warn the others.
Xander sat and seethed and plotted. This was not happening to his boyfriend. The attacks had been bad enough. This attack wasn't going to happen for long.
Xander walked into the NCIS office, the guards falling over themselves as they stood up to salute. Xander smiled and waved. "Guys, relax. I'm here informally." He got onto the elevator, heading up to the fourth floor. He got off and walked into the director's office. He pointed at the door. "He in?" he asked with a smile.
"Yes, sir," the secretary said, eyes wide.
Xander smiled. "Relax, it's not a problem." He walked in and shut the door behind himself. The director stared at him, mouth slightly open. "I'm sure you've heard about the idiot bigot who suddenly decided to possess the ATF director?" he asked dryly, sitting down.
"Yes, sir, I have heard rumors he's trying to get your boyfriend and his team back to Denver."
"Yup. Which leaves me with scared Secret Service guards who don't think that they can handle me again."
Director Vance winced. "I've heard they've had problems with you protecting them instead of doing it the right way."
"Yup." He smirked. "So, the ATF director threw you to the wolves."
"Why?" he asked, still wincing. This could be really bad.
"Apparently I'm being given one of your teams as mine." He handed over the note. "The head of the Secret Service agreed and hopes that they can build some stronger responses as well."
Vance read it then looked at him. "He'd never accept."
"I know. They're going to throw a fit." He smiled. "I'm fighting against the ATF director. I'm about to need a new ATF director actually if you know someone."
"I know a few I'd suggest," he offered. "I can forward names to you."
"Please do. I understand the Secret Service guys' complaints. That's how I was trained and even when I can relax and let them do it, if it's a serious thing I still protect the guards first. I did it to Larabee's team allll too often."
"I heard." He put that letter down. "Why him?"
Xander shrugged. "No clue. Well, some clue. The ATF director wanted me to start dating DiNozzo instead of Ezra."
Vance snickered. "He's a tithound."
"I've heard." He smiled. "So..... How do we handle this?"
"I can lend the team to the Secret Service."
"I'd appreciate that. Even if Gibbs does bark. He can guard Evan since he's got all the women throwing themselves at him." Vance snickered and got them up there. Xander looked over as the door opened and the whole team walked in. "Morning, gentlemen and Officer David."
"Sir!" Gibbs said, saluting.
"At ease, Gibbs. I'm here to fuck up your lives courtesy of the ATF and the Secret Service throwing your agency to the wolves."
Tony stared at him. "There's a rumor the ATF head is being a pain to your relationship, sir."
"He's actually tried to list my house in Denver on me without my authority," Xander said dryly. "He's about to have a rude awakening when he's arrested for fraud." He looked at Gibbs. "You'd be helping Evan since he's got women literally throwing themselves at him. He needs you to glare at them like Chris used to."
"We're being reassigned?" Gibbs demanded. Vance handed over the letter. He growled.
"That was my feeling too," Xander agreed dryly. "I can understand the head of the Secret Service. I realize I'm hard to guard because I'm active, I do protect myself and others, and the occasional apocalypse happens."
Gibbs looked at him. "Do you want this?"
"It'd be bad of me to go on a shooting spree in the ATF director's office," he said dryly. "It's not considered good presidential behavior." Gibbs winced. "Oh, no, he actually called a realtor to list my farm in Denver without my permission. Fortunately they called to confirm that I was listing it."
"Big, gay wedding," Vance said dryly.
"I'm about to. Ezra doesn't like that idea though." He looked at Gibbs. "Even if they do come back, and the Head of the Secret Service wants them back badly before I unmake the ATF, your team would be the secondary guard team. Because Evan is a combat veteran, he's only a few years off combat in Pegasus, he's still got combat nerves. The Secret Service guys would back you guys up but Evan and I are both like John and Jack were. We're used to protecting ourselves and others, with their health being first. Chris used to swear at me whenever I moved one of them out of harm's way."
"I understand why," Gibbs agreed. "I do the same thing sometimes, sir."
"Gibbs, I'm a Xander and I don't have a broomstick stuck up my ass. Use my name unless I'm chewing you a new one."
Gibbs nodded. "I know you're not really happy with the job, Xander."
Gibbs smirked. "I'd feel the same way."
"Evan already does. We're going to find someone decent and campaign like hell for them so we don't have a second term."
"That might help." He looked at his team. "The team has been ordered to be his and the Vice President's guards."
Ziva looked at him. "What about me?"
"You can take Rona's place as my slayer guard, Officer David. I'm used to female warriors. You would be sparring with me and Evan most days."
She nodded. "I could handle that."
"They're talking about a full guard detail," Tony DiNozzo said. "What about McGee?"
"We used JD's computer skills sometimes," Xander told him. "They won't go cold. I will tell you that they will assign another team if you throw an absolute fit. I have. He's not going to be happy at all with me."
Gibbs looked at his team. "Let us talk," he ordered. They nodded.
Vance cleared his throat. "It does look good on NCIS," he said quietly.
"I like NCIS and Gibbs' way of doing things," Xander said. "He's just as plain spoken and blunt as I am. If I was an agent I'd be the same way he is probably. I still don't get politics." They nodded and left to talk. Xander looked at Vance. "Send me those names by tonight?" he asked with an evil smirk.
"Gladly, sir. Who's arresting him?"
"Fornell." He gave him his most innocent look. "Fornell was not pleased either. He thought we might break up and I'd start to date again."
Vance shuddered. "Please don't, sir."
"I'm going to try not to. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing good, sir. I've stepped up my listening and feedback system so I hear more problems. That way I can act sooner." Xander smiled. "Who else would they name?"
"Don't know. Probably your LA team."
Vance winced. "There's only one."
"I heard but they're tough guys and that's what they want." He shrugged. "I've already told him to snatch from multiple agencies so one's not denuded of the best agents." Gibbs and his team walked back in. "Are you going to yell at them?"
"We can sub for a month," Gibbs said. "Unfortunately we do a lot of the work around here."
Xander nodded. "That's more than enough time for me to make the head of the ATF beg for his sudden bigotted behavior." He stood up. "I'll see you guys tomorrow?"
"Who's on you today?" Tony asked.
Xander smiled. "I'm sneaking. Technically I'm a hologram because I'm really at the white house taking a nap for a migraine." He smirked.
"DiNozzo, go with him," Gibbs ordered, shaking his head. "The head of the ATF?"
"Oh, do ask Fornell," Xander said smugly. "That way he can spread around the swearing." Gibbs snickered at that. They left together. Xander looked at Tony in the elevator. "Need to stop at your desk?"
"Please." They got off on that floor and let him grab some necessary stuff. He followed him back to the elevator. "Did your dogs come?"
"Yup. They're lounging on the couch today. They do try to come down sometimes. A few of the guards hate them. I don't really care though."
"That's fine. We can work that out." He took the car keys from him, getting in to drive him back to the White House. It was a long drive but nice. Not much traffic today. "Anything I should hear?"
"Now and then I have visions or insightful behavior."
"That's fine," Tony agreed. "I can handle weird stuff." Xander smiled at him for that. They finally made it back and found the guards already huffy. Tony got out and a few sighed in pleasure. "We're only here for a month. Gibbs has the Colonel starting tomorrow." He walked Xander inside. "Comm officer?"
Xander pointed. "Down there, three floors. Blair, take him to the comm." That guard nodded, walking him that way. "Dogs!" he bellowed, bringing them running. He smiled, kneeling down to pet them. "Good dogs. Let's go outside to play some fetch." He walked out to the guarded back yard with them. They loved the gardens and ran around sniffing and finding all the nicest plants to water. Then they went back to the oval office.
One of the senior guards walked in. "Sir, your dogs should be upstairs."
Xander stared at him. "Get out of my office and my white house." The guard looked stunned. "They're not destroying anything. They're shaved down so they're not shedding. No one's allergic that I know about. They're keeping me from making plots and plans against agents who want to destroy me." He smirked. "I don't care."
"Yes, sir," he said stiffly, walking off. He went to talk to DiNozzo since he was the one that got pulled in. "Sir," he said.
Tony looked at him. "Call me DiNozzo or Tony."
"Can you teach him to put his dogs up?"
"No. They're keeping him calm and able to handle things. Most other first dogs get to hang out in the office now and then. McGee actually looked that up for someone."
"Oh. I see."
"He's got enough stress right now to need something to play with when he's not busy unscrewing what the politics are causing because he's got a boyfriend. Xander will gut the ATF and any other agency that tries shit with him, and I think the dogs will do a good job keeping him calmer so he makes more subtle plans than dissolving an agency."
"Good point, but they're not exactly *small* dogs."
"They probably know which guards will give in to begging and who will play with them when he can't." He smiled. "Just relax, let it flow. Like all the attacks before he got sworn in, he's got more now and they're politically based."
"He could retire."
"If he does, I'm killing everyone that made him," Evan said from behind him. "Then *I'll* dissolve the agencies involved." Tony smiled. "Agent DiNozzo?"
"Yes, sir." He shook his hand. "Special Agent Gibbs will be on your six tomorrow, sir."
"Good. Maybe he can keep the begging whore society off me. I had two Reps today wanting into my pants who offered me later favors to be my mistress." Tony grimaced. "Both over sixty. I'm not against women that age but neither one was my type."
"The president mentioned those sort of incidences."
"Call him Xander, he insisted," Evan ordered with a smile. "The same as I'm Colonel or Evan if I like you, DiNozzo."
"Instead of sir."
"Yes, Colonel." Evan grinned. "We'll do what we can. Xander also said you'd be sparring with my teammate, Officer David."
"Good. I can't beat Xander and it's making me feel pouty." He looked at the other guard. "Leave the dogs alone. It's good for everyone. That way he doesn't quit and move to Denver." He walked off.
Tony looked at the other guard, smiling. "Relax when we're here. Stress when we're under attack or outside."
"I already do. There's a bunch of scary folks who hate him."
"And he's going to shove back," Tony assured him.
"Yes I am," Xander agreed as he walked past them. "Fornell was most happy to get the film that Dawn set up to watch the militias who hate me for taking it up the ass." He looked at the guard. "Be uptight somewhere I can't see you unless we're at the club, dude."
"Thank you." He looked at Tony. "Ezra's still here. He's the last going back. My horse is at John's farm, which I'm renting until I get to leave this hellhole of politics. Blossom is still there so I don't have to ride alone."
"I can ride," he admitted. "I think Ziva may be able to."
"It's riding or going to Camp David to get really drunk."
"We like riding," Tony said with a smile.
Xander grinned back. "Most of the guards have." He looked at the other one. "We have to go to Belize in six weeks. Figure it out." He nodded, going to report that and make security arrangements. He looked at Tony. "Yes, they're all that stiff sometimes." He walked off, going to call Fornell. He was being a pain but he wanted to know how things were going. It was too important to risk.
Xander smiled at the press people waiting for him in the rose garden. The dogs followed him out and he looked at them. "I thought you two were upstairs." They barked and laid down beside him. "Okay." He smiled at the press people. "I'm going to make some people beg and cry," he announced. A few gasped at that. "I'm really not happy." He read his speech and a few nearly swooned. Then he finished his speech with a nice few questions that they were happy with. No one asked him a thing about Ezra or their relationship. The dogs ran off to sniff the people, growling at one. "Do you have a cat?"
"No, sir, I have a hamster for my daughter." He looked at the dogs, who were still looking mean. "I don't know why they don't like me." Gibbs walked him off to pat him down and look things over. The dogs were growling at the chair so they checked it and Tony got the other reporters out when they found the small blinking box. Not a bomb but a remote device of some sort. Xander joked with the reporters and they relaxed a lot. They figured out the box was a remote microphone. That made everyone relax. Though Gibbs chewed on the people who were supposed to have checked the area before letting the reporters in.
Xander smiled as Fornell walked in. "I'm sorry I was so nagging for information but you know it's important to me."
"I did. I understood that. Your boyfriend calm you down and tell you to quit calling me?"
"No. I figured you had it well in hand when the arrests started," Xander said with a grin. "So?"
"You need a new director of the ATF. You do realize I was never fully confirmed?"
"Yup. I think it's pretty obvious though. Unless you hate us that much?"
"No. I find the job allows me more time with my daughter and to swear at stupid idiots." Fornell sat down. "Sir, you'll still have some problems. A lot of higher ups are saying you're purging the people who protested your relationship. Even after your speech."
"I realize they would. Unfortunately the other five that're going soon aren't that sort." He smiled. "They just want to do other things without me finding out that they're idiots."
"Am I one?"
"No. Or Vance. The head of JAG is in trouble though since he's been funneling money to France, which is going to a Hamas leader's little sister."
"That's his niece, his brother's her father from the rumors I heard."
"I'm going to talk to them first, Fornell. I'm not reactionary. I do have ideas and I do think things through most of the time."
"Is your boyfriend's team back home safely?"
"Yes, and their horses." He grinned. "They're fine. AD Travis out there knows to call me immediately if someone even *thinks* about harming Ezra because of me." He smirked. "Since two of my ex's are out there...."
"Oh, sh...oot," Fornell said.
"For that I'll allow swearing. I would. I don't particularly want one back. The other is...well...problematic but I gave Chris her dossier as a going away present. It's in the barn."
Fornell smirked. "Good to know, sir. Anything else we need to hear about?"
"Not yet. Can we work together?"
"Good. Want the foreign intel fed back to you or just to your analysts?"
"However it's usually done seems to be working." Xander handed over something with a smug look. He read it over. "Why haven't we heard about that?"
"Your analyst said it wasn't important and it was unlikely."
"It happened earlier," he muttered.
"I'll fix that." He stood up. "I want my people to be efficient and work well within the law."
"I like most laws," Xander told him. "I also realize that the FBI is held to the highest standards because you're the head cops in the country. I'm sure your people will uphold it when they can. If not, I would like to be warned before it hits the papers?"
"If I can, sir. Barring fuck ups." He smirked as he left. That folder was very interesting.
Xander thought about some things. The ATF couldn't go under any other agency. It would save money if they did but it wasn't feasible. He texted Ezra to let him know he was still okay and to see if anyone had gotten that file out of the barn yet. Then he got back to soothing foreign fears that he was going to cause a war. Apparently he was back in scary asshole mode again.
Josiah picked up Ezra's phone from his desk. "Chris, did you get a file from your barn?" he called. Larabee came out of his office to look at the text message, groaning as he walked off to drive home. Josiah answered it for Ezra, telling the kid that he was at lunch with his mother at the moment and had left his phone in the office, that he'd text him later. Then he got back to his current case. The higher ups had given them stuff to do as soon as they got back.
Later that night, Chris looked at his team. "After having retrieved that file Xander so nicely left us that someone took, we have a second case." He put down the file. "Ezra, you'll get to meet one of his ex's."
Ezra took it to look over, moaning at what was in there. "Oh, dear Christ," he muttered.
"Xander gave it to us?" Vin asked, taking it from the limp hands. He read it, going a bit pale. "She sold him what?"
"Yeah," Chris said dryly. "Ezra, is that in his armory?"
"No, not in the least."
"Good!" They settled in to figure out how to get her. Xander had been very generous with the information on her. Clearly someone needed to be paddled to death soon. Unfortunately they were two-thirds of the country away from him.
Xander looked up as someone walked in. "Yes, Speaker." He stared at the Speaker for the House.
"You're being a vindictive ass?"
"In part because the man tried to sell my house on me." The Representative gaped. Xander nodded. "That and he decided that being the president it looked bad on his agency so he left the White House partially unguarded and didn't make plans to fix it. Plus he let three arms dealers go recently. All of whom sold to militias. They were released and their files destroyed on his orders."
The other man shuddered. "I understand fully."
"It's not just about me and Ezra, but that was why he did it. I'm not going to let anyone get away with that shit. I don't care if I have to remake an agency from the ground up."
"Agreed," he said, blinking at him. "You used to be nicer, sir."
Xander smiled. "I'm much nicer than this usually but unfortunately I had to listen to someone at the Vatican decry the whole country because of me and tell his people to leave before they were tainted, and then he called me to swear at me for daring to be happy. So my answer at three this morning was 'hey, next time, I won't show up for an apocalypse since it's in Saudi. Let's see how you handle being in a hell dimension when the hellmouth there opens'." The Speaker's mouth flopped open again. "They have plans, Bob. Really."
"Thank God," he muttered. He sighed. "You're looking like a vindictive man."
"I realize that. And tomorrow I'm going to go help on a habitat project for a children's hospital." That got a smile. "I miss working with my hands. Gibbs agreed it was a good thing and Evan can go too. I'm not vindictive unless you screw with me."
"I'll let that be known. He really...." Xander nodded with a grin. "Then I'm very sorry, sir."
"So am I. He was supportive until the people spoke and wouldn't let me run and hide." They shared a look. "Did you get my notes?"
"Yes, sir, and they seem reasonable. One does want to add an amendment to one." He handed that over.
Xander read it over, then looked at him. "I'd so veto this in a heartbeat."
"I know, sir. That's why I'm warning you."
"The Senate won't so it'll have to go to committee to be meshed and they would leave it off." He handed it back. "But thank you for warning me. We all know I don't want to play politics. I'd rather have an easy coast to the time I can run and hide."
"I agree, sir. Your upcoming agenda of bills was fairly skimpy and almost all were reasonable. We didn't like the Title IX bill or the ERA one."
"They're needed. And that's not my best work, but they're still needed."
"I agree. Some people thought it sounded communist."
Xander shrugged. "They're the same ones who expect their wives to be waiting at home in heels, pearls, something sexy, and have their dinners cooked for them. Then to grandly give in to their demented and boring sexual desires even if they're tired and don't want to."
"Yes, sir, quite a few of them are from the fifties mindset," he agreed with a smirk. Xander snickered and nodded. "I'll let that be known. You may have to bow on that one."
"We'll see what happens but if I have to, I can bow on Title IX without bowing on the others. We'd have to negotiate on the other."
"I can see that and understand fully, sir. The others are more important. Though, the education department is in a tizzy?"
"I pointed out that countries who had *one* test to teach to did better than ones who had *fifty* tests to teach to. Because there's a lot of difference between them."
"Hmm. So maybe the high school graduation ones should be standard?"
"I'm thinking one per schooling section. One elementary, one middle or junior high, one high school. That way we can measure them all on the same stick. Even if it's only given once a decade."
"That's not a bad idea," he decided. "I'll let that be talked about by the people on the education committee. Would we be borrowing another country's so we can compare against them?"
"Actually I was told that we're comparing SAT from foreign students to ours. For some reason I didn't understand. I do know no student should suffer through a craptastic system like I grew up in."
"Fully agreed with, sir. I'll talk that up to them." He smiled and left.
Xander got back to the pointless paperwork, looking at his dogs. "Let's go play." They ran out with him to go play. Not like he couldn't work late. He had nothing else to do tonight.
The Press Secretary looked out there to watch them walk past then made a call. "Before anyone says anything, it's just a break and without Ezra he's not getting enough hours of sleep at night," he said quietly. "Yes, again," he admitted. "He'll be fine but that's why he looks so tired and why he's taking so many play breaks." He hung up and got back to his next speech's wording. Xander really needed a professional speech writer.
Ezra watched the dratted entertainment show Xander had gotten him hooked on, seeing how his boyfriend was pouting and miserable looking. He looked tired. He was unironed, even with the white house valet, and he was miserable. He sighed, staring at him. In truth, Chris Larabee had asked him if he was depressed earlier. He wasn't sure why he was so afflicted.
Somehow Xander had wiggled his way past all his armaments and levels to find the buried treasure of his heart. Which proved to Ezra he had to do something since he was thinking in poetic narrative. He called him. "The blasted reporters say you're tired and look depressed." He smiled at the tired response. "I can understand that. How much longer before it's fixed?" He got comfortable, listening to him tell him what was going on. They really did have to fix this DC to Denver problem they had.
"Sir," one reporter asked. "What do you say to reports that the Vatican wants it's millions of followers to leave this country to the, quote, ungodless masses?"
Xander stared at her. "Most of what I would say isn't fit to print," he said dryly. He took a deep breath. "Let me preface this particular answer with the fact that I have never had any disrespect or ill intent toward any of the priests or nuns I have worked with at the Council and here. I respect their right to their beliefs. I congratulate them for finding a faith that suits them. Their heads.... I can do without. The whole country can do without. If they're that adamant, then perhaps we should cut diplomatic ties with their pseudo monarchy and all that bullshit they put out." The reporters all stared in horrified awe.
"We all know I'm a man of action instead of talking. I'm not the sort to talk a problem to death. I'd rather be out handling the problem. This problem... Does the Vatican itself do anything but hoard art that they stole, and bribed their way into? Hide knowledge in their ancient archives? Anything at all? Because I haven't seen a single thing that they've done. The main church in this country and others, the local churches, they do for the people. They help those in need, they help people who are troubled, all that.
"I respect the Church fully. Just not their supposed king, who is not infallible since I had to take a slayer away from him three years before I got elected to be VP. They were going to torture her because she was a slayer and going after a pretty high ranking demon who was hiding among some of that precious artwork." He stared at them. "I welcome each and every church in this country who wants to stay, to help me make a difference, to help people. The rest... I hear France is nice."
He shifted his stance. "Other than that, I think it's incredibly rude for him to do that just because of who I'm dating. Did he want me to commit suicide the night before I got sworn in? No, that would be a mortal sin to them so I couldn't. So, even though I thought about it, they wanted me to run and not see the people of this country, and theirs, protected? I may not have wanted this job but you guys wanted me and I'll do the best damn job I can while I'm in here. If some old guy in a robe doesn't like it, I welcome him to find reality among the people instead of sitting on a gold throne that was built with blood and bones of millions of people."
"Sir, a priest here in this country said that your winning was an act of mind control by one of the Council," a female reporter asked.
Xander snorted, shaking his head. "I know exactly two witches who could do that. One was my former best friend, who married into Sheppard's project. I doubt her spouse would like that and if I even thought she had a hand in it I would've beaten her to death. She knows I would. We've had a talk about her magic use in the past when it started to edge toward harmful and I promised her I'd kill her if she stepped over that line. She agreed."
He looked around again. "The other is like my little sister and she knows how miserable doing this job can make me because I'm not fully suited for it. I'm not the suave, well spoken, politically intelligent, friend making guy that Sheppard was or Evan Lorne is. I'm a soldier. I've been one a *long* time. We all know I'm more comfortable with a weapon than I am at a diplomatic table. I'll still do my duty because you guys elected me, but I hope I don't screw up too much. I really do. She knows this and she'd never do that to me. You can tell the crackpot bishop in New York I said that."
"Sir, have you and Agent Standish broke up?" another one asked to make him lighten up.
He snorted. "No. It's just a long distance thing now because he's back at his posting. I wish like hell he was here. I try really hard to live up to his standards for my manners and to keep calm like he would want when things like this happen. I'm probably failing at it but he hasn't done more than tell me to calm down recently." He shrugged. "Anything else?" No one said anything. "Then have a better afternoon, people." He walked off, taking the dogs down to the gym to go for a run on the treadmill.
Tony followed him until he locked himself in then went to Evan Lorne's office. "Evan." He shut the door. "Should we consider a suicide watch on Xander?" he asked quietly.
"No. We all know he's miserable but until all this shit stops Ezra can't really come back to DC. I'm sure they talk each and every night."
Tony shook his head. "No, he's more than miserable. He's down in the gym with the dogs."
Evan nodded. "Like I do, he'll work off stress down there."
"There's weapons in there."
"Yeah, I know. He knows this is his duty. It'll keep him longer than we'd all expect. He's the sort to fulfil his duty even if it kills him."
Tony licked his lips but nodded. "You know he has a letter in his desk addressed to you? Chuck found it."
"Yeah, I heard. Chuck told me first about his resignation letter. That's an in case, not a certainty, Tony. I'll talk to him."
"Please. The last time I saw anyone looking that upset they didn't wake up the next day."
"I know." He got up and went to talk to Xander. He locked them in the gym, walking over to the weight bench. "It helped John more when he ran."
"I twisted my ankle when I came down wrong," Xander murmured. "Go away, Evan."
Evan stared at him. "I was just asked if I should put you on suicide watch," he said bluntly.
Xander dropped the weights, staring at him. "You know damn well...." He sat up.
"That you're miserable, that you can't sleep at night, all that? Yeah." He stared at him. "If I could, I'd let you go take a vacation but I can't. It's too early."
"Is he saying things that aren't working out?"
"No. He's on a surveillance case right now." He slumped, then looked at him. "I need something and someone there to help me. This is *so* not my area of expertise. Frankly I probably just caused a huge ass diplomatic mess."
"Possibly but I think we can do without the Vatican. I'd like to keep ties with Italy though."
"I have nothing against Italy." He looked at him. "I don't know anymore."
"I know. Calm down and we'll see what we can work out."
"It's hurting his team. I can't upset them by having them dragged back here just so I can have Ezra closer."
"They were your friends, Xander. I'm sure they'd see it as more than just wanting him."
"No. Because it's hurting their careers too. They're down to the shit jobs in Denver."
"Let me do some checking, okay? Can you get Ezra out for a weekend?" Xander shook his head. "You're certain?"
"Yeah. He's got surveillance every day for the next two fucking months on a gang that's running drugs and weapons. Which has a high risk of getting his whole team dead. We're too early in the term to go on vacation already so I can't casually show up to make his nights all better."
"I know. Let me see what I can do." Xander nodded. "You should ask Ziva to spar with you."
"I'd be mean to her and probably would end up hurting her," Xander said. He shrugged a bit. "I know myself a bit too well and I'd never pull punches once I started to let the anger out. I'd hit the pool but Doctor Lam didn't want me in water for a while since I had that unfortunate taint regrow after some sushi the other night again."
"Okay, so anything else that can relieve stress?" Evan asked.
"The dogs are tired of playing."
"I understand." He patted him on the shoulder. "We'll handle it." He smiled. "You had better never need that letter in your desk." He walked off.
"Someday it'll be too much," Xander warned. "I'm going to fuck things up majorly and it'll end up with me quitting to save the US pain."
Evan stopped to look back at him. "Not even Sheppard can do that, Xander." He went back to his office to grab that letter and shred it. Then back to his own to call Larabee and talk to him. Maybe Tony wasn't too far off. Xander was having a serious self esteem dip into the negative pool again.
Gibbs watched the president move through his day like he was on automatic. He didn't even flinch when he had to move him away from a suddenly appearing camera that could've been a weapon. No jokes, no smiles that weren't fake, nothing. This was getting bad. Maybe they could smuggle him somewhere? Snatch Standish and smuggle him to the same place?
The press were having a field day with all this. Saying it was a bad break up and he was moping, that he was depressed, that he was actively suicidal and had called the American people idiots for electing him. That one got countered at least by his history of speeches saying he'd do what he had to do even if it wasn't comfortable for him. Finally they got him back to the white house and Xander went up to his apartment to rest. Gibbs went to call Larabee to see if they could arrange something.
Because Gibbs wasn't sure they weren't right about him being depressed and that was bad for the US. And the kid.
Xander woke up a few mornings later to the snuffling of the dogs. He looked around and frowned, then got up and went to check. "What the hell?" he muttered, grabbing a fire extinguisher to put out the lamp that was on fire. He hit the emergency button. "Outdoors!" he ordered. The dogs ran. Guards came rushing in and another grabbed another fire extinguisher to put it out. The couch was starting to smolder so they wet it down too. A fire crew had to be called in case the couch would flare up later. Xander got led off by his guards to his office. He sank into his chair, looking at them. "The dogs woke me."
"Sheppard reported problems with that lamp before he left office, sir." The press secretary ran in. "That lamp Sheppard said kept going out? It just lit on fire. They're making sure nothing else is going to burn, including the couch next to it."
"Thank god. Are you all right, Xander?"
"Yeah, I'm good. The dogs woke me." He coughed. "No smoke inhalation or anything." The press secretary nodded, going to make some preemptive calls to make sure everyone knew things were all right, it was just a lamp that had a short. Xander looked at his guard. "The dogs?"
"Digging in the rose garden." Xander smirked, getting helped up to go out there. "Sir, I'm going to be blunt," he said, shutting them in the oval office. "You've lost weight again." Xander stared at him. "I know you're eating because half the time I'm the one who delivers your dinner upstairs. I don't know what the hell is going on between you and Standish, sir, but it needs to be fixed before you get sick and he has to come visit you in the hospital."
"I've been eating."
"Sir, sometimes eating isn't enough." He looked him over. "You've lost a good ten pounds." He looked him in the eyes. "If you were my baby brother, I'd be pressing you to see a shrink."
"I'm not depressed. I never get any sleep. This is all exhaustion."
"Uh-huh. Then perhaps you should have a stress free weekend at Camp David?"
"I can't. It's too early in the term." He shrugged. "Thank you for being honest with me. It's not the relationship stuff beyond not being able to sleep anymore."
"I had that when my wife and I split for six months because I was a dumbass," he said bluntly. "I ended up on medicine and then in therapy to fix it."
"I can't do either. The job won't let me." He shrugged. "I'm working on it."
"I know, sir. Work faster?" He walked him outside. News crews were already there. "Sir, reporter leeches."
Xander waved. "It was just a lamp that had a short," he called. "The fire crew is making sure the couch next to it didn't get set on fire." They relaxed and he went to check on the dogs. They were being good, they had dug up something one of Nixon's dogs had buried by the plaque. He put it back and played with them, making them happy dogs. "Thank you, guys."
The guard watched them, calling in their position to the comm officer. That way no one worried too much.
"All wounds heal given enough time, except wounds of the heart," Josiah said quietly, looking at Chris. "I think our brother has a fatal wound that will not heal."
Chris nodded. "If I could, I'd smuggle him back to DC. It's not possible until we're off this case."
Josiah looked at him. "Do you think either one will last that long?" He turned it on the entertainment station. They had been worried for days about the president's sudden weight drop. The picture of him in that thin t-shirt and sleep shorts had shown just how thin he was getting. He watched Chris watch it. "That, plus the dark circles, all that?"
"Ez is the same way," Chris agreed. "Our hands are tied while we're here and the old higher ups are still in effect."
"You didn't hear that Bancroft from the Portland office just took over as temporary head?" Josiah asked with a grin.
"At least he'd know militias," Chris agreed. "Is he being nominated?"
"I think Xander's going to watch him for a month, see how he does, then either appoint him or whoever he suggests." He leaned against the wall. "I don't know how to help either of them, Chris. Ezra is out there staring at his cup of cocoa."
"Since when does Ez drink cocoa?" He went to talk to him, sitting in the desk beside his chair. "Cocoa?" he asked quietly.
"Xander told me once it had the answers to all life's problems at the bottom of the cup." He looked at him. "I'm persevering."
"Yeah but you're not living," Chris pointed out, staring him down until he looked away. "I can arrange schedules, give you a weekend off."
"I fear the person behind all those moves won't hear of it." He took a large gulp then got up to make himself some more.
"I don't care what some higher up idiot wants," Chris said bluntly. "You deserve to be happy, just like the kid does."
Ezra looked at him. "Ours or the one in DC?"
"Both." He stared at him. "Go home for a few days, Ez," he said quietly as he stood up. "We could all use the days off your moping. Plus you should make him eat. That brain rotting infotainment station said he's losing weight rapidly."
Ezra nodded. "I saw that picture. He huffed that his guards thought he was depressed." He took a drink. "That's not what's worrying me. The new text a while ago annoyed me and I was trying to think like him to calm down before I flew back to the east coast so I could perpetuate violence like he would."
"Why?" Chris asked, leaning back. "What got you that upset that you went to cocoa?"
"It's very fine cocoa; rich, dark chocolate, tiny marshmallows that aren't hard little pucks. Made with some of the finest chocolate there is." He gave him a grim smile. "Xander sent it to me when I had to leave the first time." He took another sip as he sat down. "As for who upset me this way...." He closed his office door then looked at Chris again. "Xander went to talk to my mother earlier."
"You're mad at him for talking to her?"
"No, I'm mad at her for persuading our present director to do things her way for the good of my career, which she still abhors. I'm calming myself down before I make it back there and turn her into kibble for the dogs." He took another drink.
Chris stared at him. "You have all weekend off. Come back happier, Ezra." He stood up. "And if you tear her apart, you have an alibi." He left. He could take some of Ez's shift himself.
Ezra smirked, finding out where his mother was at that moment. He had been making plane reservations when Chris had come to him as a friend. It was heartening to know that they loved his relationship as well.
Ezra walked up to his mother in the tea room she was in. He sneered at her. "You are no longer my blood, Mother. No real relative of mine would ever do such disastrous things to my life because it didn't suit her current paramour. Who, by the way, I have already talked to about your history of plucking wallets from the men you desire instead of their hearts." He sneered at her guest then back at her.
"You are not allowed anywhere near me or mine, Mother. I would suggest you leave this country. Before I turn in the ATF's present director for the bribes you paid him to keep us apart." He walked off. A few people cheered. He walked out and got back into his rental car, heaving a sigh of relief. He was proud of himself for not punching her. He drove off before she made it to the door. He had a boyfriend to soothe. He parked in his usual spot at the white house, getting out.
"Sir, that's Colonel Lorne's spot," the guard said.
Ezra stared at him. "I believe he'll not complain since it was mine first." He walked inside. "Where is he, Paul?" he asked dryly. "Also, make sure the young thing out there quits huffing because I parked in my spot."
"He's on a call with England, sir."
"That's fine." He walked that way after signing in. He saw the relieved looks. "DiNozzo. They called your team?"
"Yup. They said a month."
"They told us a year," he said dryly. He walked into the oval office, seeing the jittery general waiting. He stared at him. "Problems?"
He stared at him then smiled. "Finally!"
"Do blame my mother for that since she bribed the current director of the ATF to keep us apart." He looked at Xander, who was staring at him. "Finish with Prime Minister Cole so we can chat?"
Xander smiled. "Cole, I have to go. Yes, that was Ezra. No, he's finally back for a few days." He grinned. "Thanks, man. Yeah, Monday. Call if it's an emergency before then." He hung up blindly, standing up. "General, is it an emergency?"
"Three points, sir. Afghanistan?"
"Get them home asap. I'm tired of our blood going to defend people that don't always want it." He stared at him. "I'm all for peacekeeping but the populace doesn't want it. They have a year and a half to get their asses in gear."
"Nominations for Joint Chief, sir?"
"Pick someone who's either blunt like I am or not an asshole and not an ass kisser."
"Third, sir, that program Sheppard and O'Neill kicked together."
"I want reports soon on how it's going so they can help me twitch anything that needs it. Give it to Jon O'Neill."
"Yes, sir." He saluted and smiled at Ezra before leaving.
Xander stared at him. "She told me you didn't want to come back," he said quietly, staring into his eyes.
Ezra shook his head. "That is not my feeling on the subject. Not in the least." He moved closer and kissed him. "Come, we'll talk. Where are the mutts?"
"On the bed." He walked them up there, grimacing. "The couch was toast after the fire. It was so old it didn't have fire retardant foam."
"We can talk and rest at the same time." They walked into the bedroom, stripping off their jackets and shoes so they could sit next to each other and he could cuddle his boy. "I know they're being mean," he said quietly.
"Damn I hate this job, Ez," he said quietly.
"I understand perfectly well why. I thought it was nice you told the Vatican to find reality." His boy grinned at him. He took a kiss and just held him for now. When the valet came in he blushed and backed out. "It's all right, George. We're not doing anything beyond contemplating a dinner out."
"Yes, sir, should I tell the kitchen?"
Xander looked at him. "A date?"
"Unless you'd rather we go out to eat tomorrow?" he asked with a smile.
"I'm comfortable and I don't want to move," Xander said, smiling shyly at him.
"Then we'll have dinner in tonight. Ask them for something we can eat from here since there's no couch?"
"Of course, sir. Should I take out the dogs?"
"Well?" Xander asked them. They hopped up. "Go use the bushes, kids." They ran out to do that, one of the guards letting them out. Then they came back in with muddy paws to climb back in with them. "Is it raining?" he complained.
"They were watering the lawn when I came in," Ezra said. George had slipped off and he was alone with his boyfriend. This made up for the last two months.
Evan Lorne pulled back in and paused since his spot was filled. He rolled down the window. "Who parked in my spot?"
"Sir, I don't know who the uppity ass was but he said it was his first before heading inside. They all seemed to know him and he called me uptight."
Evan considered it. "Southern accent, dressed in Armani?" The guard grimaced and nodded. "That's a godsend. Don't have his car towed." He parked in a free spot and went up to Xander's apartment. The guard gave him a dirty look. "Ezra's finally back?"
"Yes, sir, they're cuddling and talking. He hung up on the PM of England and told the general to come back Monday or bother Lieutenant O'Neill."
"Good! Tell Ezra I told them not to tow his car. I'll take anything too big today." He walked off happier. He had a report waiting on him about the showdown in the tea house and decided to have a chat with the head of the ATF. "Sheila, get me the full regalia, I'm going visiting and I'm gonna kick some ass," he told her. She called the car lot to get the limo for him and guards to go with him. Gibbs smirked at him. Evan handed over the report.
"Unfortunately I married women like her three times."
"Not exactly like her since she tends to be a wallet emptier and then disappears." Gibbs grimaced. "Ezra turned out a hell of a lot better than she did. Gibbs, do me a favor and go run her out of DC and off this coast, and tell her to stay away from Denver?"
"Gladly." He went to do that. Evan went visiting. He had some laws to lay down. He did not want to see Xander that miserable ever the hell again! Fortunately he wouldn't get a chance to meet Maude Standish and beat her to death.
AD Travis, out in Denver, walked into Chris' office. "Where's Ezra?"
Chris stared at him. "Because I caught him drinking cocoa after his mother bribed our boss to keep him here."
Travis winced. "That's not good."
"No, but I'm told that he only disowned her."
"Thankfully. That would create a hell of a mess."
"Yes it will. He had to tell Xander that as well."
"So they're... together?"
"From my spies there, they're cuddling and talking." He smirked. "Why?"
"The head office wanted me to raid the farm he has here."
"I think he'll be in for a rude awakening in about an hour then." His phone rang. "Yeah, Larabee." He listened and smirked at his boss. "That's good to know, Vin. Thank you." He hung up. "The higher up who told you to do that, his boss just got arrested for taking bribes that were stolen from someone else." Travis shuddered. "It's going to be a mess."
"Thankfully I don't want to move up."
"Me either," Chris said.
"So are you going back to DC?"
"For the wedding. I'm not sure about the guarding things."
"You were happy enough there and Nathan's girlfriend can get a job out there. I know the others have been worried about him."
"Everyone's worried about him. He lost weight and quit sleeping."
"Good point." He smiled. "If you do, I'll miss you for the next three to seven years, Larabee."
"I hope not. By then I'll be ready to retire." Travis walked out laughing. Chris went to talk to the others. "Vin said our second-in-command for the agency just got arrested for taking stolen property as bribes." They all smirked and JD clapped. "Also, Ez is in DC."
"Thank God," Josiah said. "Now they can straighten each other out."
"From my sources, yeah." He looked around. "You know they'll ask." They all sighed and nodded. "Start making a choice now in case it goes for another seven years." JD whimpered. "It's possible."
"Not likely since Xander said he'd protest and campaign for someone else," JD offered.
"Then it'd be three years." He shrugged. "We'll talk tomorrow. Finish up this damn case and arrest them." They made plans for the arrests. This surveillance thing was annoying. It was well past time for arrests.
Fornell walked into the white house Monday morning. "I'm told I was to appear today about a few agents that got arrested in Denver?"
"Agent Standish is waiting for you in the dining room in their suite, sir," Chuck said with a grin. "He has the faxed information from his team."
"He's back? Finally!" He went up there, the guards nodding and letting him in. "Are you going to feed my coffee habit?" he joked. The president still looked too thin in what he was wearing. You could almost see his ribs through the t-shirt.
"Of course. Ezra only drinks gourmet coffee," Xander joked back with a grin. Ezra handed over the notes and a cup, pointing at the pot.
Fornell filled his cup before sitting down. He went over the information, wincing. "Shit, that was a plot to take you out again."
"Incredibly so," Ezra agreed. "We really must find more work for some agents." He sipped his coffee.
"I thought they had plenty," Xander quipped back with a grin. "I've been proven wrong a few times though."
Fornell looked at him. "The good agents have way too much to do because of these slackers, sir." He went back to reading. "I always did."
"Do you want me to confirm you, Fornell?"
"Might as well," he sighed.
"I'm still taking nominations for who's going to take over the ATF boss's job."
"Perkins. He's from the Miami office and is on the Mafia task force."
"He was on Vance's list too," he said, looking at Ezra.
"He is a royal pain in the ass, by the book sort that can hamper undercovers. However he is not very hands on at the lower levels. On that same task force is Abigail Divertia. She is very good, has went undercover, has served in city offices, on task forces, and is presently avoiding being named to a higher position."
"Any relation to the ambassador?" Xander asked.
"Granddaughter. That's why she's avoiding it. She is technically an Assistant Director but she has never claimed her office or anything."
"She's a royal bitch but she'd do things like Larabee would," Fornell agreed. "Any emergency and she'd use them as S&M toys." Xander grinned at that. "She has the position and the clout."
"I'll interview her then." He smiled at Ezra. "Can I have another sweet, flaky pastry thing you had the chef spoil us with?" Ezra handed over one with a smile. "Thank you, Ez."
"It's no problem."
"You could use the weight back anyway," Fornell quipped, giving the president a dirty look.
"So could I," Ezra admitted dryly. "I almost had to shop myself into a new wardrobe."
"At least you won't have to find the pretty ballgowns like Buffy did," Xander quipped. He ate a bite and moaned. "I think I love you even more for having them spoil us, Ez."
Fornell cleared his throat. "Let me handle this bunch of arrests. I'll call Larabee in about an hour," he told Ezra, heading back down so they could talk some more. It was nice to see the president in goofy lover mode instead of angry soldier mode. He ran into Evan Lorne, shaking his head. "Standish had the chef make pastries this morning. They're moaning over the extra calories to gain back that ten pounds."
"Good!" He smirked. "I was going to get the dogs."
"They're outside, sir," one of the guards said. "Have been for the last hour." He pointed.
Evan rolled his eyes, going to let the muddy things in. He took them up there. "Xander, they need a bath. They're doing fertilizer on the plants again." He let go of the collars. "Happy scrubbing."
"They like the shower." He pointed. "Shower time." They ran that way with a bark and tongues hanging out. Xander closed them in there after turning on the water and tossing in a chew toy to fight over. They got to play for a half hour before Xander went to rescue them and dry them off. "We need to shave you guys down again," he teased.
"Definitely," Ezra agreed, taking a towel to do the other dog. "We'll take them to the groomer later on then have dinner out?"
Xander beamed. "I'd love that." He let his dog go, letting it run off. "Stay off the bed until you're dry." The dog headed for his favorite reading chair instead, getting a head shake. "Shoot, food on the table." He went to put it up before they inhaled it on them.
Xander looked around the restaurant. "We wanted to try this one."
"We did," Ezra agreed. "I'm told it has excellent reviews." He led him inside, making the host gasp. "Problems?"
"We don't usually get couples like you here, sir."
"We can go somewhere else," Xander decided. "Since we'd make you uncomfortable."
"I... The chef is one who believed it was a crush and you'd get over it," he said quietly, glancing inside. "I don't want to offend, sir, but he will not do the food justice for you."
"That's fine. We know there are narrow minded individuals who cook," Ezra assured him, taking him to another place. They wouldn't mention it on more than the gay friendly lists. The other place Ezra wanted to try was friendly, in a lower class neighborhood, had excellent food, was rated well on the gay sites, and run by the fattest, blackest, motherly-figure drag queen ever. That was perfect and they didn't care if Xander occasionally fed him a bite of his dinner. They came out to press attention but only a single reporter.
"You're back?" she asked Ezra.
"For a visit. Soon it will be for good." He smiled, helping Xander into the car and walking around to drive. "Did you doubt I'd be back?"
"Yes, sir. We all thought you broke up."
He gave her a dirty look. "No, that was the fault of some unscrupulous people who have become problematic for my life and happiness. I'm afraid that one was found to have a problem with handing out bribes. Thankfully they are no longer in my life." He slid into the car and shut the door. He drove them off with a little honk.
"Are you sure you want to cut her out that way? I know she's your mom and there's usually some sort of bond there."
Ezra smiled at him. "She will beg for forgiveness some year. She tends to show up to plague me for a bit and then leave again rather quickly, though never fast enough." He took his hand to hold. "Quit worrying. You'll fidget off that excellent dinner we had." Xander nodded, leaning over to put his head on his boy's shoulder. "That's nice."
"We need boyfriend stuff," he said quietly.
"I believe I can procure that," he agreed dryly. A quick stop at the pharmacy and he was back in the car, bringing his boyfriend home.
"Sir.... is he spending the night in one of the guest bedrooms?" the on-duty receptionist/guard said.
"No, I have a place for him to stay," Xander said dryly. "Thank you for asking."
"Sir, the head guard wanted to talk to you about such things."
"I'll see him tomorrow."
"I believe he wanted to see you tonight."
Xander stared at him. "I do not give a damn unless it's an emergency," he said bluntly. "Anything else?" He shook his head, looking down. "Then have a pleasant night." he walked Ezra off, shaking his head.
"They are entitled to their opinion," Ezra reminded him. "Even if it differs with yours." He was sure the young man had heard him and was probably embarrassed since others had heard him as well.
"Yeah but it doesn't mean I have to put up with it in my face," Xander said dryly.
"True. It's best to leave them to their little minded pursuits while we pursue our own goals for the evening."
Xander grinned. "You have some of the best ideas, Ez."
"Of course I do." He winked. They ran into the head guard, who was scowling. "Problems?"
"Sir, this is the White House," he said bluntly. "Such behavior....."
Xander held up a hand. "Get out of my face, you fucking bigot, and out of my white house." The man gave him a horrified look. "You do not talk that way to my fiancee and you will not talk to me that way again. Am I fucking well clear?"
"Yes, sir," he mumbled, looking down. "I'll...go to the comm office to watch things."
"Thank you and have a good life!" He walked off. "Ez, I need a back rub. I was in a great mood before."
Ezra smiled. "Of course. Fiancee?"
"Well, yeah. I was going to propose later," Xander offered with a shy smile. He kissed him. "Please?" he whispered.
Ezra stared at him then smiled and nodded. "As long as my ring befits my style and I get to pick out the wedding attire. That way you're in something I wish to watch you walk toward me in."
Xander grinned. "Of course you're doing all the clothes, Ezra. I'd have us in jeans and t-shirts on a beach."
"No, I dare say we can do better than that since everyone will be expecting something."
"A quiet ceremony and then a lavish party?" Xander offered.
"That may work," he decided. "We'll talk about that after breakfast." He smirked and Xander squealed, hugging him. Xander dragged him upstairs and pulled a box out of his bedside table, glancing inside.
"Did you have more than one?"
"Yeah, my cufflinks are in there," Xander admitted. He went on one knee, holding up the box. "Mine?"
Ezra smiled. "I already said yes."
"I had to do the formal things."
"I know." He sat down to open the box, gasping at it. "Xander, this is much too much."
"It's supposed to be two months' salary," he quipped. He pulled out the square cut diamond on the platinum band. It had slightly smaller oval cut rubies on either side of it. It shone with a set of good facets so it looked like the stone pulled in the light and turned into a rainbow almost once it was settled into the stone.
Ezra put it on, admiring it on his hand. It was the perfect size. "Where on earth did you find it? I've never seen anything like it."
"Harry Winston." He sat beside him. "I found an emerald ring with two flower looking diamonds on each side and thought of your ruby ring. I showed them a picture of it and asked them to find me something to complement it." He grinned. "It's a classic emerald Winston cut diamond, three-point-one carats." Ezra moaned. "It's got nearly perfect clarity and only one small inclusion." He smiled.
"That was almost the full two month's salary," Xander admitted sheepishly. Ezra gave him a hug. "I went with the two oval cut rubies to make it look like it's tapering off as your finger bends." He put his head on Ezra's shoulder. "Harry Winston was very proud of that and I'm very happy with them. They got it done in three weeks. I was going to sneak out next weekend and propose when I woke you up."
"Is that why you went to see my mother?"
"Yup, so I could have help being sneaky." He gave him a shy smile. "You like it?"
"I adore it, Xander." He took a deep kiss and pulled out his phone to send the picture to Vin's phone. "There will be some celebrating in Denver tonight." He turned to take a proper kiss, laying Xander down so he could reward his boy for such an awesome gift.
Vin looked at his phone, frowning. "Why is Ezra sending me pictures of girlish rings?" he complained.
Chris snatched it and smiled. "The kid did a good job." Vin's mouth flopped open. Chris handed the phone back with a smile. "It'll go well with the one he always wears. Fits his hand shape well too."
Vin swallowed his drool and shut his mouth. "So we've got to find wedding presents?"
"Huh. What do you get those two?"
"Shopping gift certificates to Armani?" JD quipped. He was still working on his ropes. Fortunately they had put them in the back of the van together without a guard and hadn't searched them very well. "Xander's ex is crap at kidnaping. No wonder he didn't keep her."
The others burst out laughing and Buck got JD free. "We can brag about the ring." He took Vin's phone to look at it, whistling. "That's definitely expensive."
"The diamond people say an engagement ring should be two months salary," Nathan sighed. He took it to look at. "That probably was really expensive. How many carats do you think that diamond is?"
Josiah looked. "Maybe three? The rubies being about two each?" They all nodded and Vin took his phone to put back in his pocket since the van was slowing down. They'd have to show Xander's ex the picture of Ezra's ring.
When the van finally stopped, the back door was open. A woman walked over to them sneering. "Where is the other one? He's the one I want to talk to since he *dared* to dump my pookie!"
Vin pulled out his phone with a sigh and held it up. "He sent me this one earlier."
She snatched it and sniffled. "That's perfect!" She handed it back with a pout. "So he's off the market?" They all smirked and nodded. "Shoot. What do you buy a boy like Xander beyond artillery and gun cleaning kits?"
"Ezra likes fancy things, gourmet coffee, and Armani," JD said. "You can shop while you're on bail."
She waved a hand. "I have diplomatic immunity." She smirked. "My father is the Ambassador from Albania."
"You're still going in," Chris assured her, coming out to arrest the idiots. Clearly Xander had done something bad to their brains. He'd have to make sure Ezra's mind wasn't so ruined. What sort of scary arms dealer takes you hostage to complain that you dumped her ex?
Xander gave Ezra a kiss. "Be safe," he whispered.
"I will be. You as well. Let them guard you," he ordered. He walked off smiling and happy. That had been in full view of the press corps.
Xander walked in. "I'm told my press secretary is sniffling in his office so what did we need questioned today?"
"Are you back together?" one asked with a smile.
"We never broke up. There was an unfortunate asshole higher up who wanted us apart and made his team have a really bad case."
"Sir, I saw his hand. He was wearing two rings instead of one."
"Yes he was," Xander agreed happily.
"Is that because you gave him one?"
"No comment. Wait like everyone else to find out if there's going to be a huge, extravagant, gay wedding." She pouted. "Tough." He smirked. He pointed at another. "A question about real news?"
"Would you two consider adopting children?"
"I have no idea how he feels about kids. I may or may not mind. I did adopt a bunch of the slayers as my sisters. We'll talk about that some day." He pointed at another. "Yes? Real news?"
"Sir, the Pentagon said that you're updating the programs that President Sheppard had started?"
"Well, the trial run is completed. We're looking to see how they did, see what needs tweaked or forgotten about. We're going over that later this week."
"Sir, did you really hang up on the Prime Minister of England?" another asked.
"Um, I was kinda shocked and he said he'd call me today." He shrugged. "It wasn't anything critical that couldn't wait a weekend and Evan might've already figured out what was going on. I had a thumping headache at that point."
"Did he cure it, sir?" one quipped.
Xander smirked. "Yes, he helped me bathe the dogs too," he shot back dryly, making her cackle.
"Sir, are you going to make a speech soon about the diplomatic ties that seem to be wary of your relationship?" one asked.
He stared at her. "Are you from Fox News?" She nodded slowly. "Figures. Did you not hear the last one?" The other press people snickered. "I'm a very blunt, take me as I am because I'm not changing, person. It took me a while to realize I was worthy of the love and happiness he gave me because I had sacrificed most of my adult life to one apocalypse after another. Personally, I don't care what *anyone* thinks about my relationship. As human beings, we should be beyond the point where we give a damn what someone's doing in bed unless it's a dog or a kid."
"Oh," she said flatly. "Then are you planning on some sort of joining ceremony?"
"Probably. It is legal here in DC. The Chief of Staff used to love parties from what he told us earlier." He smiled. "If so, we'll probably not invite any press people. I'd want some things to be private, even from E! News." That got a few more laughs. "Anything else?" he asked her.
"Sir, the reports that you were depressed, were they right?" she asked.
"I was upset a bit but I don't think I was fully depressed. All the stress was leading to me not being able to sleep very well, which was screwing with my other body systems. That caused the weight loss and all that other stuff you guys tried to make news out of for weeks on end."
"Sir, would you have less stress if you weren't in a homosexual relationship since not all other countries would accept that?" the Fox News person asked in a chipper voice.
"No. I'd have less stress if stupid things didn't happen, like having seventeen agents arrested in Denver last Friday." She gaped. He stared at her. "I do keep up with all those things plus I have to appoint a new agency head, possibly two, and three judges soon. I'm interviewing, reading their past decisions, learning more about them, and all that at the same time as dealing with the idea that the war we're presently in is still ongoing, the usual stresses from Congress, and a few other things."
"Sir, what do you think about the war?" another one, usually an entertainment reporter, asked.
He considered it for a second. "I think it's been going on a long time. I think that I would like to see them start taking some responsibility because I don't want to spill any more blood from any more soldiers for a people that, frankly, don't always want the help. I understand why we got into the war. I think it's important that we win or at least stop that particular group for good. I think that the people there should be working towards going 'no, we have it now' instead of us doing the majority.
"I have been talking with the generals about realistic options to have them back on their feet and starting toward progress, and not a civil war, so we can get our boys and girls home. I hate every single death we have overseas. Even if it's helping I hate that we're losing good people to this fight. I want them to live, have kids, do great things. Be the next generation of generals who annoy any kids I might adopt," he finished dryly. "But I'm taking realistic advice from the people on the ground."
"So you're going to be announcing a scheduled pull out?"
"I think we're going to be announcing a scheduled cut back first and then slowly handing things over. Though there's still concerns I have about the populace and things reverting or causing problems. Personally, I hate like hell the way the Taliban treated women. I'd like to shoot some of them over it considering I had to rescue one of the slayers from there when she managed to escape to Pakistan. But that's not my job and the soldiers can only do so much. I think we'll win but it's not for us to be there permanently."
"So you're definitely going to cut back," the reporter said.
Xander nodded. "Yes. When I can. I want them home and so do their families. Don't you?"
"I'd rather see them accomplish their goal."
He snorted, smirking at her. "Groups like that, they're always going to have another member. The more we barge in and take away what they thought they knew was the right way, the more militant the younger generation becomes. The ones who grew up that way and are right now teenagers, so over-reactive and hyper to be on the right side and to do the right thing." She gaped.
"Like the gangs from Central and South America that formed out of all the civil wars and guerilla actions; there's always another member who's been pissed off, feels pissed on, and who is downright angry enough to join. Even if we wipe out this whole generation, another will be coming. We have to learn to adjust our tactics of fighting them from an all out war to ways of getting them out of there without making more people want to join. We're working on it. We have some of the best minds ever working on it."
"Couldn't we use that thing that zapped you to that Ancient city for that battle to get them?" another one asked.
"We have to have a location on them. Some way of telling them from a rock or a tree. Or so I'm told. I can ask Dr. McKay that later. I'm not against it if that's the best way to do it."
"So you're in favor of more covert methods?"
"I'm more in favor of ways that doesn't spill as much blood and doesn't destroy as many lives. Anyplace there's a war, people start to go hungry, lives are destroyed, things happen that make people hate both sides. I've seen plenty of wars where both sides were equally evil. I've helped defend towns and villages from those sort of things. I'd rather we use methods that cause the least amount of harm to the locals while still getting the job done. Why do we need another enemy?"
"I guess I can see that point."
"I'm hoping we can work on methods of using it to quicken this present war into being over with."
"To lighten the mood some, what about jobs?" another asked. "Are you working on a job creation plan?"
"No one's said anything to me about jobs outside of the news. I've asked a few times but my economics panel said it's fine. I've been thinking about that being a problem and the cost of food but I'm going to ask some others to see if we need to step in and create some help around there. Because like I said, the minds that study that stuff and tell me said there's not a huge problem yet."
"So you've been wondering but no one's said anything," that reporter said.
"I think McKay and his sort are working on that," he quipped. "I'm hoping it's safe, effective, not expensive, and it's good for the environment."
"How do you feel about coal?" another asked.
"I know it's important. I also know that mining it is dangerous, messy, and creates environmental issues. I'd rather we use a method that isn't finite. Because even if we have some pressing from the middle ages, it'll be centuries before it's turned into coal from graphite from what I remember from geology. I'm not anti-coal but I'd rather it be a lesser used resource so we don't have to worry about running out. Like oil. I feel the same way.
"We need to find another way. There's people working on it who have the education and the experience to tell me when I'm being stupid about it and what we can and can't do. I'm waiting for them to tell me that when I have an energy conference in July. We've just started to plan it." They all smiled. "I'm thinking August will have an education one."
"We heard you wanted a national level of standards?" the entertainment reporter asked.
"As I found out later, the stuff they tested in Sunnydale's graduation exam was what other schools test for in the eighth grade to get into high school." A few moaned. "I'd like to see us find a single test so we can legitimately compare from one state to the next. That way we're comparing to the same things. I was thinking most of them have a standardized test, but it's not the same test. I was hoping we could work out a way to make it the same test since the kids have to take it anyway."
"So not really a national set of standards but a national test," she said.
"Yeah. Like having everyone take the SAT. That way we can compare kids based on the same things, the same questions."
"I guess that's reasonable."
"Then again, I was the victim of a poor education and didn't really do all too well sometimes, so I'm going to let the smarter education people tell me if I'm stupid or not," Xander said dryly. "Though I have been told that all the countries who do *really* well in the international rankings, they all have set national standards. Everyone's teaching to the same test. So we'll see. Probably in August sometime."
"You do rely heavily on advisors," the Fox News person noted.
"I'm smart enough to know I don't know everything, my ego has never been big enough to even consider that I'm omnipotent, and any smart being would seek out advice from smarter people. That's why you ask your doctor what you should do when you see them." That got a few snickers from the crowd. "I'll let the people who do things their whole lives tell me about what they do. They know more than I do, even if I did it for a few years. Then I'll make a decision based on what made the most sense to me and which way would seem to work best for the majority of the people."
"How many advisors do you have?" she asked.
"Well, the Pentagon wanted me to have a military advisor who could liaison with them when necessary. He knows how I was trained, he knows how they were trained, so he's a translator." She smirked at that. "I have two economic ones, one judicial one that I can ask stupid questions to about any upcoming laws and what the language in it means to current law if I don't understand. I have two education people who nag me about my speech patterns. A lot." He smirked. "They're actually with the Teacher's Association and have been helping me think about how to do that testing thing."
"So not really that many." He shook his head. "Who is your doctor? We noticed you don't go to Walter Reed or Bethesda."
"I go see my liver doctor a few times a year to make sure that the damage I took from that one apocalypse, the one where you guys voted me into the VP-ship from my hospital bed, isn't causing me any problems. It's basically a maintenance visit. I see a doctor from the SGC because she thinks I have fascinating problems." He smirked. "She didn't like my doc at Bethesda who told me to quit exercising."
"Is that a perk?"
"Actually, John sicced her on me," Xander said dryly. "Over the liver thing and the other damage I took over the years."
"Is that about the taint that you got exposed to?" the entertainment reporter asked.
"She does find it fascinating and annoying. She's the one who helped me the last time it decided to come back. Then again, I also got exposed to a few long dead diseases in Sunnydale plus anything I picked up in Africa...." They all groaned. He smirked. "She had a crush on my blood I think. She used *huge* needles and sucks off a lot every time she takes some." That got a mass laugh. "Anything else?" They all shook their heads. "Then have a good day. Let me call England." He walked off happier.
Chuck looked up as Xander walked up to him. "Doctor Lam heard, sir, and she said she does have a crush on your blood but she never tested you for anything else."
"She might," he said dryly. "Was that live?"
"No, sir, she's in your office."
"He said he'd call back about two when he called at six am. He realized the time difference then and said you were probably snoring on your dogs."
"Actually, I tend to hide under the blankets and snore into Ezra's bellybutton. He said I drool too." Chuck blushed but he grinned. "Relax, Chuck. I'm the same Xander I was before."
"I know, sir, but that's still leading to nasty thoughts."
"Imagine Russian female shotputters?"
"That cured it," Chuck agreed happily.
Xander grinned. "Does for me too usually." He walked in. "Hi, Doc from the land of big needles." He rolled up his sleeve.
"What did you get exposed to?"
"Smallpox. A dead strain of syphilis. That one I made sure I don't test positive for it."
She gave him an odd look. "In Africa?"
"Um...." He thought back. "A swamp demon bit me and gave me a really nasty fever. Um..." He shrugged. "Two of the cuts on my back infected and the traveling Docs Without Borders people thought it was something deadly."
She stared at him. "How did you get the first two?"
"Ghosts. Native spirits actually on Thanksgiving. We accidentally broke into a burial chamber."
She shook her head quickly. "You're right, I'm going to suck off a good deal to make sure you can't infect anyone else."
"I thought you already knew."
"No!" She drew blood from him and put it into her bag then took out the scanner, programming it for that use as well. What she saw did not amuse her. She looked at him then showed him the results. "That's a poisonous venom."
Xander shrugged. "Was that the clawing or the biting?"
"Clawing probably. It doesn't bite."
"Huh. Okay." He shrugged. "How would I know? I'm not a doctor."
"You are to report for a full body scan in the next week, Xander."
"Thank you." She called for the beam out, going to talk Keller into helping her figure out what was going on. And to get some notes from Willow about how *ghosts* had given dead diseases. Keller stomped off to interrogate her because not even O'Neill could do something like that!
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