Jen Shepard woke up on the ground, looking up at the night sky. She heard a growl and looked around, sitting up and patting herself down. She stood up carefully, making sure she was all right while she checked the surrounding areas and pulled her weapon, not seeing anyone. She turned the other direction and she was pounced from behind. She managed to get away, shooting him, but he just smirked and continued on. "No, you... That was a heart shot!" She hit him again, this time in the forehead, and it didn't stop him. "What are you!" She dropped the gun and prepared to fight him off in hand-to-hand. He was stronger, faster, and better than she was. She screamed when he managed to pin her down. Her hand patted the ground, looking for her gun as a blunt object but she couldn't find it. She managed to get him off and someone put something into her hand.
"In the heart," was whispered in her ear.
She stabbed it, not caring what it was. The creature turned to dust and she backed away, into a hard chest. She screamed as she turned around, preparing to defend herself again. "Jethro! What is going on!"
"Congratulations, you just staked your first vampire, Jen." He leaned against the old headstone next to him. "How did it feel?"
She gaped, just staring at him. At least until she heard another growl.
He spun and threw the stake, then fired at the creature, one of them made him turn to dust. He looked at her again, putting his gun back up. "Welcome to the conspiracy."
"Lived in a town full of them. They're vampires. They've so far eaten two senators, sixteen Marines, four Sailors, four green berets, ten other Army soldiers, two Air Force cadets, and about thirty civilians." She shuddered, backing away. "We knew Harris could do this when we ran into him on that last case. DiNozzo found out because he had to save some locals there," he said quietly. "When they moved here thanks to that thing in the Mall that keeps radiating, a few of us ended up volunteering to help thanks to the dead personnel. Hence the cult, which it is. It's about halfway between a cult and a terrorist cell. We've been using our tracking skills to keep it down and keep people from dying."
"But... but.. They're not real!"
"You saw two of them turn to dust, Jen. If you don't believe me, I can take you back to somewhere else so you can look one over in captivity and stake another one."
"This isn't real! It's not! He's sucked you into that cult."
"You obviously don't know me that well, Jen. I'd never be sucked into a cult." He picked up her gun and handed it to her, then walked her off.
"You brought me here!" She stomped after him. "You risked my life by leaving me asleep out here!"
"Yeah. I had to make you understand and I knew just telling you wouldn't work." He drove her back to the office, letting her into the morgue. "Ducky's got one he said was going to come up tonight and left him alone on my orders." He opened the drawer and pulled out the body, flipping him on the side of the head and making him wake up. "If you cooperate, I'll let you go." The fledge slowly sat up. "She needs proof." He pulled her over by the arm. "Check him for life signs, Jen."
"Those can be faked," she said. "The cooler would lower his body temperature and his heart rate."
"But not totally." He got Ducky's spare stethoscope and handed it over. "Here listen for a heartbeat. It would be there, even chilled." She carefully took it and listened to the vampire's chest, then her own. She heard her heart beat. She listened to Jethro's, then the vampire's again. Still nothing. She checked him for a pulse, nothing in any of the areas she checked. She glared at him. "How did this come to be?"
"I got fed blood. Sir?" He gave him a pitiful look. He knew the rumors about his choices and who was hunting his present kind.
"You wanna hunt, kid, or do you want to live and not hunt?"
"I'd prefer to live but I don't want to hurt my family. I heard a lot of us end up going after our families and I love my kid brother."
"Then go to LA. Look up one of you named Angel. You're already declared dead so it won't be a problem for you to go. There's clothes at your feet." The former Naval officer got the clothes and turned to put them on. He looked at Jen. "Welcome to my nighttime."
"He got bitten and fed the virus. Abby confirmed it is a virus. It mixes with the blood the first one drank from him and then got fed back to him. It mixed with his blood once he died and changed him, letting in the symbiotic demon kernel. I'll expect you to lay off us from now on, Jen," he said quietly. "After all, we're saving lives. They'll be mostly leaving in a few years, heading to New York."
"I can't understand how you got caught up in this, Jethro. Usually you're so sensible."
"I may be, but that doesn't mean I want my team or anyone else to die. This is power politics on a whole new level. We have an underground group of people who want to take over the world and make us all minions and cows for their dinner." The vampire laughed. "Head down through the elevator to the parking garage." He got a nod and the vampire left. "This is what Harris grew up doing. He's been fighting this cell for almost nine years now, Jen."
"This can't be. All that goth crap...."
"Isn't the same thing. Real vampires and the goth stuff have very little in common. Before you say it, Abby does know it's real and did before we ever met Harris. Goth circles contain people who feed those who don't hunt. Some of them are like willing priests to the actual ones. Others just enjoy the lifestyle. Abby's one of those. Harris grew up fighting these since high school. Of course we turned to an expert. He's as close as we can get to one and he's hooked into the network of the people who have been doing this for centuries. This is also what the Initiative was doing. They were trying to turn those creatures into our new military." She shuddered at that. "Using torture, behavior modification chips, and other unsavory ways. They tested them on humans first. We've got them for that, we're just slowly tracking them down and quietly arresting and confining them for it."
"How long?" she asked, staring at him.
"How long have I known about this stuff? Since the Santa Clara case. DiNozzo and I both. The kid hunted in front of us. That town and his town were both full of them."
"This can't go on. You're killing innocent beings."
"I don't consider something that eats others for fun and survival to be innocent, Jen. If you do, I'm sorry. To me, vampires are now creatures. They quit being human once they took their first victim. They're murderers. I don't think about the human ones like that, but vampires aren't human. Humans bleed and break. Vampires turn to dust." She shuddered at that and took a step back. "In a few years, they'll mostly be gone again. They'll be headed to New York and Xander's already working on the group to go up there and stop them. That would be a blood bath and they're trying to turn it back to the California Hellmouth. So far they think it's working. That'll leave everyone else alone with only mild ones."
"We missed this?" she asked miserably. She had worked in intelligence most of her adult life and she had missed this wide-spread group that was going around killing people. She had failed at her job to notice these sort of things.
"There were only about twenty in town before. Not all of them killed. Maybe one out of every fifteen homicides was from them. Another five percent of the missing persons cases annually. Harris's former town of Sunnydale had a population of a thousand people, only six hundred alive." She shivered again and he closed the drawer, looking at her again. "It's up to you, Madam Director, but I need to do this. One tried to attack the shipyards the other week and we had to stop them. Would you rather we have more unexplained bodies and have to explain to their families why good soldiers got attacked on base at their posts?"
"No," she said quietly. "I don't want that." She pulled herself back together again. "Do I need to know?"
"I report directly to the president. That day I got called up there, he had a guard that was turned." She whimpered. "At least he'd seen most of the movies so he was protecting the back access panel in the basement. Enough people know what's actually going on and some know some of it, just that cult. Which it still is."
"I can agree to that. It all makes so much sense now. I could feel you holding things back before but I didn't know why."
"Because you would have had me taken away if I had told you," he said sarcastically. "Speaking of, what's up with Ziva?"
"She's been gathering information for me."
"I thought so, so did Harris. He also said she's dating one."
"We've got to save her," she said, putting a hand on his arm.
"Too late. She's transferring back to Mossad since they use them over there." She nodded, looking down. He patted her on the back and walked her back to the garage. "Let me take you home. You get drunk tonight, forget all about this as more than a nightmare. Let the rest of us handle it since we do it so well. I'm no slouch at hunting and DiNozzo and Harris are a great team. I'm hoping we keep Harris really. He'll be too old to follow wherever it goes and if it goes back to Sunnydale he doesn't want to go." She looked at him. "Yes, that new girl we've been talking about, Eliana, is involved. That's her sworn duty. She's somehow genetically chosen or something. Abby's still working on that part."
"We can describe this with science?"
"The Initiative sure did." She nodded, leaving it there. He got her into the car and drove her home, smiling before she got out. "By the way, your wire and all that other surveillance stuff was gone before I dropped you on top of that grave." He shut the door and drove off, parking her car back at the office and heading back to pick up his car. Xander answered at his knock, wearing velvet pajama bottoms. "Am I interrupting?"
"No, not tonight. Tomorrow night," he offered with a grin. "What's up?" he asked, heading back to the living room.
"I showed her, she's still disbelieving but not as badly. You were right, Ziva was turned and I sent her home after calling someone over there that Willow found for me last week." Xander nodded at that. "I wanted to know what you're going to do if you make it through this and we manage to end this situation?"
"Thank you. You ever think about the academy?"
"I can't with a missing eye. You know that."
"If we can get you into the FBI Academy, would you go and join the team?" Xander nodded. "You're sure?" Xander nodded again. "Then I'll see what I can do if we survive this. Have a good night, kid." He headed home to work on his boat.
Xander sat there with a serious case of the warm fuzzies. Someone liked him for the asshole he was.
Xander looked at Tony, shaking his head. "Abby, he can't go in that," he moaned. "I'd never have a pet that looked like that." She sighed and looked at him.
"I look kinda silly," he agreed, looking at the scarlet velvet shirt and PVC pants with various, unnecessary, straps and buckles.
Xander looked him over. "Do you have any jeans or pants that are nearly pornographic?" Tony nodded slowly. "Go put them on. Put on your favorite clubbing shirt and we'll start there. Abby, mess with his hair." He went to change in the bathroom, coming out with his favorite hunting leathers and a light blue tank top. His black silk shirt went on as an overshirt and his boots were put on. He looked Tony over when he came out, nodding a few times. "You'll do in that." He moved closer. "Now, you're my pet. Mine and only mine. You can tease, you can taunt, but you may not touch," he said, staring into his eyes. "You may not bribe, you may not leave with anyone else. You stay by my side."
"So this is like a D/s relationship?" he asked.
"That and partially parent/child, and part teacher/student. A sire is all those and more. They have complete control over you. We're going to go in like that's our relationship. I am your teacher. I'm teaching you how to be like me. They know me there and about half of the community expects to see you with me anyway." He looked in the nearest mirror to fuss with his hair. "At least I'm not going to collar you." Tony nodded at that. "Good boy. Just think of me as a mentor." He went back to fussing at his hair. "It won't spike," he complained. Abby came over to help him. "Should I change my earrings?"
"No, they're fine. I like how the sapphire one is the main focus of the whole look. Did you get that choker?" Xander nodded, getting into his bag to pull it out and hold it up. She cooed over it. "That's so pretty! Can I borrow it sometime?"
"As long as it isn't broken during this." He slipped it on and she helped him hitch it. He breathed a few times. "That's good. Tony?"
"I don't get pretty jewelry?" he teased.
"I only reward good pets." He looked at himself, then over Tony's outfit. "Those jeans aren't tight enough." Tony groaned. "It'll do for tonight and then we're going shopping." He grabbed him by the wrist. "Grab keys, wallet, not the ID. No gun. No stake. I've got one on me." He pulled Tony out the door and out to his bike. He got on and put on his helmet, then handed Tony his spare one. "Get on."
"Can't I drive?"
"Nope. Get on. Before I have to spank." Tony groaned and got on, putting on the helmet and grabbing him for safety. Xander pulled out, heading for the club, letting Tony get used to being behind him. He pulled up outside the club and parked, getting off his bike. His and Tony's helmets were put into the bags and he turned on the magical security system and the taser one both. He took Tony's wrist again and walked him to the front door. The bouncer gave him an amused look. "Research, babe. How else am I going to train Pretty Boy here?" He smirked at him. "We promise not to hunt in here, but I can't exactly teach him about succuba with my friend." The bouncer muttered into his wrist mike and someone came out. "Research, dear. He needs to know what's okay to hunt and what to run screaming from. This is my Pretty Boy."
The second guy looked Tony over. "You don't dress him very well."
"Forgive us for having better things to do than shopping," he offered sarcastically. "I have many more pleasurable things to do than *shop*. Do I look like a girl to you?"
"If he's yours, prove it," the first guard noted.
Xander pulled Tony closer and kissed him deeply, then let him go, taking his wrist again. "Better? Get your voyeur kick in for the night?"
Someone else came out, a moderately tall redhead wearing a velour jogging suit. "What's going on?"
"I'm showing my Pretty Boy here what he can and cannot hunt. It's research. We have no intention of hunting here but he's got to know with the Hellmouth gaining power. Or else I'm going to be cranky and then he'll regret not knowing when he's got to cheer my ass up."
The redhead looked at them, then nodded. "Check 'em for stakes."
"Just one," Xander offered, pulling it out. "Just in case we're jumped in the parking lot." The guards came over to pat them down then nodded. "See?" He looked at the boss again. "That good with you? After all, you know I used to train the slayers at the Bronze. You were there."
"I was a few times," he agreed. He looked at Tony. "Your toy there is your hunting partner, right?" Xander nodded. "He's not bad for only training a few months."
"Which is why he's ready to move onto the higher levels of demons. I'll probably be bringing our boss in too."
"You work for someone besides Tyr at Pyro?"
"He does and I like him. He's a nice guy who gives a damn about me. He's been doing the reasonable voice thing." He moved closer. "He actually made me sleep on Pretty Boy's couch when I got into that fight at the Bars and Slab." The guy looked impressed at that. "So I gave him that nickname. So, can we move up the training?"
"Fine. Just keep it peaceful, Harris." He let them inside and walked in after them. "They're here to teach what to hunt and what not to hunt," he announced. "He's promised not to hunt in here unless he's forced to." The vampires around turned away and left it there. "Go find a seat in the back," he ordered. "You pay for drinks up front."
"I know." He headed for a back seat, grinning at the succubus sitting back there. "Can we crowd you, baby?"
"Go ahead, Xander. Bethany said you were yummy," she purred, latching onto his arm. She smiled at Tony. "Ooooh, he's adorable!"
"I know. My Pretty Boy is very cute and a good match for me hunting. He keeps up with me," he said proudly, grinning at Tony. "What's your name?"
"Tiffany." She nipped him on the lips then wiggled across his lap. "Beers?"
"Wine," Xander told her. "Red is fine." She nodded, going to get their first round for them. He grinned at Tony. "We haven't gone over sexual demons, have we?"
"No, not yet," he said weakly. He was still stunned from the kiss and the number of demons he'd never seen before in the club. "I know you and Bethany have some sort of stress relief habit."
"Harris, did you get Angel's hunter's crap?" someone yelled.
"Yes!" he called without looking. "Wes was a friend of mine. Why?"
"We saw his bike and it freaked someone out."
Xander looked over. "It's mine now and I warded it heavier than he did. Touch it and lose a hand, literally." That got some nervous laughs. "Remember, I'm training for New York."
"Hey, we'll leave your bike alone," someone else promised. "Not a problem!"
Xander grinned. "Relax. We're here to up his training and knowledge. Otherwise he might run from the wrong things, like you." That got some laughs and Xander let the succubus wiggle back over his lap and hand over their drinks. "Thanks, babe." He gave her a kiss. "If you're good and help me teach him about your kind, then I'll let you nibble me later. Of course, if you're *really* naughty about what you tell him I might have to spank," he said in her ear, making her shiver. "Are we on?"
"We're so on," she moaned. She smiled at Tony. "Okay, sugar. What do you know about succubuses and incubuses?"
"Not much. Beyond Xander having a fling with one now and then in public." She giggled. "Really. I keep walking in on them having sex on the dance floor when we're hunting and I'm late."
She giggled and leaned over to kiss him. "You're so cute!" she cooed. "Okay, demons like me and Bethany, plus our male counterparts, feed on sex. We can feed on energy during sex or we suck up the smut that human bodies naturally throw off. If we're totally hungry we kill during sex. It's like you come and then you go. It's rare that we do that though. That's either because we're desperate, hurt badly, or they've been with us for a while and our feeder is ready to go off because we can't feed off them any longer. If we didn't, they'd be asexual and probably miserable so most of us see it as a blessing and the more kind of us usually eat at the clubs. It leaves us a bit weaker but it's more humane unless we need the energy to heal."
"Would one like you only go for guys or are some of you bi?" Tony asked.
"Most of us are straight but now and then we play on the other side. Of course, there's always a higher demon and he can *make* us focus on a target. His ex used to be one of the Higher's beasts of burden."
"Anya," Xander explained. "The guy over the vengeance demons is over these guys too. Actually, Anya said that sometimes she used the sexual demons to help torture those who were that unfaithful by eating them until they were drained and then leaving them living. Those who raped their spouses and things." Tony looked impressed at that.
"Mostly, we decide it on our own. Now and then I'll go for a female but they don't taste the same to me. Male and female lust and sexual urges taste different to us. The same as I can tell a difference between you two. You taste cleaner, more spicy and high flavors. That means you're a lot less kinky and a lot more pure than this one." She nodded at Xander. "He's got a deep, musky flavor that oozes sex and lust. You can tell he's done about everything at least once."
"That's what road trips to find yourself are for," he noted dryly. "I had a lot of fun trying most everything out."
"I'm sure you did," Tony agreed dryly. "Fortunately I found out what I like pretty quickly." She giggled and he felt a hand move into his lap, making him squeak.
"He's not the sort to play around on me, babe." She looked from Tony to Xander and back at him. He nodded. "My Pretty Boy. Ask him how many times he's heard me going on about his stunning green eyes." She moaned and let Tony go, latching onto Xander's arm instead. "Ask him how often I get to tell him how bright and happy-making his smiles are," he murmured in her ear. She shivered and moved closer. "Are you being naughty?" he teased. She nodded and moaned. He patted his lap. "Over. Now." She laid down, her butt up in the air. He spanked her hard and long, making her shiver and shake. He judged it until she had just about come then stopped and made her stand up on the other side of the table. "Now, go get someone to help you finish you off. I'm not going to get you off tonight, you were a naughty girl playing with my Pretty One without my permission."
She pouted but Tony nodded. "I'm not allowed to play without his permission. He might spank me too." She cooed and gave Xander a pleading look.
"Not yet. He's being a good boy tonight. Maybe next time I'll spank him for our pleasure." She walked off, clearly wet and needy by the way she was moving. One of the vampires pounced her and helped her along, making her squeal. Xander looked at Tony. "That was the quick overview of this class of sex demons."
"Can you protect yourself from one who's trying to kill you?"
"Beheading. Holy water annoys them to no end, as do holy objects. The safest way is still beheading because if your faith is or can be made shaky, you're in deep shit when they latch onto you." Tony nodded at that, sipping his wine. He grimaced and Xander tasted his, looking over. "What is this?" he called. "I serve better crap at the Pyro!" He got up to get them new drinks, bringing their old ones back. "Real wine. Please? He's got a very educated palette and he's helping me learn." The bartender snickered. "Hey, I keep my boy happy," he said dryly. "It makes things easier." He took their glasses after putting a ten down on the bar, heading back to the booth. He handed his over.
Tony sipped and moaned. "Ooh, that's expensive wine. Like six hundred dollars a bottle wine."
Xander looked over. "Did I underpay?"
"No, you earned it by spanking our slut. Thank you!" he offered, grinning and waving. "Good show!"
Xander flexed his hand. "Not too bad of a trade off." He grinned at Tony. "Now, they're the higher, more independent of the sex demons. There're others that are so dependent that they're basically pets and slaves. There's ones who feed the same way but they also have to have daily contact or else they'll start to die a really painful death. Some of them have no will other than their owner's wills. There's some that are usually taken or sold as prostitutes and concubines. Some of those don't feed on sex, but they need it in other ways." He got up to grab a book off a nearby shelf he had spotted, bringing it back. "This is how Wes taught me," he offered with a sad grin. "It was a long night." He handed the book over and sat next to him, showing him what everything was and how it was killed and what he'd spank him for if he ever hunted, and not in the fun way either. Tony was blushing by the time they got halfway through.
Myst, the redhead owner of the club came over, dressed in a suit this time. "You don't have a copy?"
"No, Angel burned his," he offered with a sad grin. "He thought it was perverted to let a succubus feed off you now and then for stress relief. For a vampire, he's really uptight."
Myst nodded. "He is. Are you sending the non-hunters in the military to him?" They both nodded. "Good. They can torture his ass for a bit. I heard Spike got resurrected to help him." Xander burst out in cackles, making him smirk. "Haven't been keeping up?"
"I talked with Giles recently but no," he laughed. "I'm hoping the new girl has news like that. Either that or we've got to bring Spike here to meet Abby."
"His coworker? She's a nice girl." He smirked at him. "You're going over sex demons?"
"Hey, the easiest first. Let's face it, if he can face down an incubus hitting on him, he can easily face down that one type that's purple, eight foot tall, looks like an armadillo with a four foot dick hanging in the open and hard."
"True. Do we have those here?"
"I saw one the other night and he froze in horror and awe. I'm sure you remember how human guys are hung up on sex."
"Oh, I do." He smiled at him. "Are you going to teach him to identify now?"
"You've only got three in here and he's already met Tiffany. Hence me spanking her for touching my boy."
"I saw. It was very pretty how you stopped just before she came. Very nice work. Oh, well, I'm off to torture a human."
"I'd hope consensually and that you're not pushing my vows back in my face?" Xander asked tolerantly. "I don't wanna have to pull a rescue. I'd almost rather plan a shopping trip for him."
The vampire smirked. "I only torture those who ask me for my special talents, Harris. I get plenty without it." He walked off, going to find his leash behind the bar and gather his pet of the evening. He walked his pet past a few minutes later, letting them see him crawling and panting behind him like a good dog.
"He was human, right?" Tony asked.
"Half," Xander offered. "Looked like a water demon of some sort by the undertones of his skin." He looked at him and grinned. "Okay, let's work on some practical identification. Pick out the two succubuses in here. Yes, I know it's difficult, I can't always," he said quietly. He moved back to his own seat and sipped his wine, looking around.
"Well, Tiffany is in the bathroom with someone," he offered. He glanced around and pointed at a raven haired woman. "Her?"
"No, she's a different sort," he admitted. She looked at him and he glared back, making her chuckle. "Fuck you," he muttered. He got up to get another book and put it down, open to the right spot, in front of his partner. "That's what she is. Read and learn. She's dangerous and you're not ready to take her on yet," he said seriously, staring him down. Tony nodded.
Tiffany came back. "Would you dance with me, Xander?" she asked with a pretty little pout. He nodded and walked out there with her, making her moan and have an easy feed from all the lust going on around them. He came back and she wobbled off to get a drink and relax after that large meal.
Xander smirked and Tony shook his head. "Show off."
Xander's smirk got a bit meaner. "Hey, I can make you dance with me." Tony blushed at that and went back to his reading. "Now, where's the other succubus?"
Tony looked around, pointing at one. "Her?" Xander nodded. "I only realized it because she looks jealous of what Tiffany got."
Xander grinned. "They're all pale and easy to mix up with vampires. Now, can you point out the living beings in here?"
"Isn't. Well, he's demonic but not human so I'll give you that one. I did say living." Tony grinned and looked around, pointing out a few more. "The next to last is a vamp. He's just newly fed. I'm guessing we've got another suspicious body coming in," he said quietly. "I nearly got him the other day." Tony nodded at that and looked around, pointing out two others. "Good job." He put the books back and came back. "Now, give me the major characteristics of when you're looking at a willing and needy sex demon versus an unwilling one."
"Usually the unwilling ones are drugged or drug addicts?" he offered.
"That's one way. Any others?"
"There's the two types that are always willing and it's in their community and clans to be sold. So if I see them, then they're always willing. Do their minds process anything but commands and sex?"
"Nope. Which is why they're like that. It's thought that they were bred that way by one of the older clans of higher demons. I've never found a legitimate source though."
Tony nodded. "Okay, so historical supposition." He considered it. "We also know that most succubuses could get away if they were in a concubine or prostitution situation, right?" Xander nodded. "But not always because there's things that can inhibit their powers and natures."
"There are. One of them is heroin. Generally, across the broad spectrum of the demonic, heroin affects them all to negate their powers. There's a few exceptions. In hellhounds it makes them bloodthirsty and go insane trying to get as many victims as they can. The Initiative did that a few times to see what it would do. There's a few that it's like us smoking pot, it gives them a mellow buzz. Fyarl demons it turns into crying blobs of misery, I'm not sure if it's from pain or not."
"Okay. Did they document that stuff?"
"Incredibly," Xander offered. "That was in the stuff you got from us."
"Gibbs went over that, I couldn't stomach most of it." Xander nodded, understanding that. "What about werewolves? I know you knew one who got captured."
"Oz was in a unique spot. There's a way to control the wolf, but it takes meditation and special techniques that they teach in Tibet at a specific monastery. With that control he didn't change on the three days of the full moon but he changed whenever he got too upset and lost his control. Which was how the Initiative got him."
"Which was the primary reason you guys went in there to stop them," Tony noted.
"We has plans of doing it before but that just moved up my timetable and the necessity. I don't let my friends suffer that way and Oz is still someone I consider a friend."
"Where is he now?"
"I don't know. I don't think anyone does," he admitted. "He could be back in Tibet. Willow royally hurt him. He went to learn control for her and after he left her, she didn't wait. She took up with Tara, who was the sweetest witch ever. I loved Tara; if I had a true sister it's her," he explained. "But Oz smelled Willow on her and realization dawned since she never told him she had moved on. She basically led him to believe they could get back together." Tony moaned at that. "So Tara was the innocent and they made peace through a few letters a few years later. I'm guessing she's the only one who knew where he was. Then again, if Tara and Oz had gotten together it would have been a kick-ass couple. They were so suited, Pretty Boy."
"I can tell. What happened to her?"
"One of the human bad guys got mad that Buffy had stopped their plans and shot Buffy but somehow the bullet hit Tara and killed her. Willow snapped when she couldn't bring her back and killed him by flaying him alive. Hence me saving the world by stopping her." He shrugged. "She needed to let the grief out and I made her while she was trying to raise something to kill everyone."
"She didn't stop you?"
"She tried really hard. She threw shit at me that still hurts to this day but I had to get to her. We were best friends for a lot of years," he said quietly, looking in his eyes. "I knew Willow and Jesse since we were kids. I knew Jesse a few years longer, but since we were toddlers basically."
Tony reached over to squeeze his hand. "It's all right, Xander. She's still alive and she can heal."
"I'm sure she will but if we move the hellmouth back there, it won't help her any. She'll end up staying that way."
"She might," he admitted. "But she's got help now."
"Yeah, Giles. Who ignored it the first time until she started doing things like messing with memories." Tony winced at that. "There was a spell you haven't seen in the journals because that one's not on the shelves. She wanted to wipe Tara's memory of a fight they had about Willow's magic use. She did the spell and it worked okay but then the stuff for the spell caught fire and it wiped all of ours. Anya thought she was married to Giles and Giles thought Spike was his son." Tony laughed at that. He'd heard stories about them from him. "Yeah, so he didn't really seem to notice too much until that point. He protested but didn't really start to rant and rave until she raised Buffy a few months after she had died."
"You can do that?" he asked, sitting up. "They're normal?"
"Buffy didn't come back normal," he said quietly. "It let the First Evil into the world and that's why we went into the hellmouth to fight, T...Pretty Boy. Besides, it's been too long for the one you're missing," he said quietly. Tony nodded, swallowing and looking down. "If I could, I would," he promised. "I really would."
"I know." He squeezed his hand again and looked around. "He leaves his office door open?"
"He's in there with his pet for the night." He glanced back there, then at him, winking. "Do you think you're ready to go over sexual demons in the clubs? Can you identify them on the fly?"
"I can but it's hard to tell succuba and vampires apart."
"I still have that problem now and then. Usually the succuba drool on me and the vampires want a nibble, that's how I tell if I can't get close enough to feel a pulse." Tony laughed at that. "We've got to take you shopping."
"Yeah, but I don't know when we would."
"Tomorrow? Never mind, you've got to fly home for the wedding. What're you gonna do when your mother nags you about getting married?"
"Pull out a picture of the boss and say I'm deathly in love with him and that I'm working with a mad scientist to have the kids myself," he offered with a grin.
"Willow could probably do that," Xander said seriously. Tony's mouth fell open and he beamed. "I'm not mean enough to suggest it though. Unless she does it to Spike...."
"No more being mean," Tony chided. "Or else I'm going to use your picture." His phone rang and he answered it. "Yeah?" He winced. "Thanks, Boss." He hung up. "I just got a verbal head smack."
"He likes playing with your hair," Xander joked, smirking at him.
"No, he doesn't believe in leash training," Tony joked back. "He said I should use you instead of him at the wedding."
"Sure, if you want," he agreed with a grin. "Then if she comes down, I'll be the most clingy and cuddly boyfriend ever." Tony snickered at that, leaning sideways to let the wall support him while he laughed. "Love you too, Pretty Boy."
"Thanks, Xander, really. I need more love in my life."
"I could use love in my life but I'm satisfied enough with the succubus I play with now and then. Less chance of bad things happening."
"You sure about that?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I can't imagine bouncing up to the boss one day and going 'guess what, I'm going to be a daddy' and watching him have sudden thoughts of that kid being worse than me and Abby combined. Maybe even calling him Grandpa Boss." Tony started to laugh again. "Even worse if I stole Abby; consider those kids." Tony's face was now red he was laughing so hard. "Her fashion sense and both our skills?" Tony got up and headed for the bathroom before he pissed himself. Xander grinned at the vampires staring at them. "It's why I play with girls like Tiffany and Bethany. So there is no possibility of little Xander's ever coming to be." They shuddered at that and went back to their own fun. He pulled out his phone, calling home. "Willow," he said when she answered. "Did you bring the mapping thing with you? There's a hidden space in my basement and I want to know where." He smirked. "No, the wall under the stairs is in the wrong spot. I want to know if we've got an extra room or something. Thanks. Sure, later. Tell him no, not yet, and to tape the lectures so I can use them later with Eliana."
"Someone's bringing a girl here?" a vampire demanded, stomping over. "How could you?"
"This is a hellmouth, of *course* a slayer is coming," he said dryly. "Shit, man, I'm going to be her Watcher!" That got a look of pure horror. "You'll like Eliana, she's a nice girl. Very bad sense of humor but a good girl. She's one Willow called during the First Evil battle." That got another shudder. "Sorry. You know we only hunt those who're out hunting. Let's face it, some of you have been stupid enough to eat military personnel and one of the guards at the White House! I'm wondering if he's got indigestion still from the senators, does he?" The vampire stalked off. "Wills, we'll talk when I get home. Sure." He hung up and went to find Tony, who was staring at a vampire trying to menace him. "Leave my boy alone," he said coldly.
"Thinks he's a hunter," he sneered.
Xander knocked the guy down, staring down at him. "You're in a bathroom that has two stakes available and enough metal that I could break something to saw your head off," he noted coldly, making him flinch and scoot away from him. "My boy is my boy and only I get to touch my boy or spank my boy, and especially bite him. Now, get off your badly fitted ass and leave him alone." The vampire got up and left. He grinned at Tony. "Hi."
"Not an issue. I was thinking it'd happen when I was on the floor. Most vampires seem to have forgotten what subtlety was when they died." He left so he could finish up in private. "Shot me," he ordered, putting a five on the bar. "Tequila."
"You're going out later?" he asked quietly.
Xander nodded. "Yeah, field exercises." He took the shot and gulped it, making a nasty face. "Thanks." He walked back to the table, rinsing it with the rest of his wine. Tony came out and sat down again. "You ready to leave here and head out somewhere else?"
"Can you drive with whatever you just drank?"
"It was only a shot and of course I can." He got up, leading him out. "My first few years I took a shot before I went hunting every night so I was loose enough. Then I realized I was slowly turning into my parents so I quit. Now I'm down to an occasional drink." He took his stake back at the door. "Thanks. We'll be back the next time we both have the night off to do more educational lectures. It was good for him." He grinned at the bouncer. "See, I told you I could be nice."
"You were, thank you. Even to the one who tried your boy in the bathroom."
"I would have staked him but we did promise," Tony offered dryly.
"Thanks for that too. The boss might not like his baby brother being staked."
Xander grinned and nodded, heading off to his bike. He unwarded it and got their helmets, handing Tony his. He started the bike. "I'm in the mood for Cuban food. You?"
"Sounds good to me." He hung on and Xander roared off, taking him to a salsa club, a gay salsa club. Xander parked and buttoned up his overshirt, then they went inside. Xander even showed him how to dance properly. It was very hot and he was more than hard by the time they were done with the second dance. "Hunting," he moaned in his ear. "There's three in here."
"I saw." He let him back off and smiled at the nearest. "My boy thinks you'll look better against him than I do. Let's see." The vampire smirked and moved to take Tony into his arms while Xander got his former partner, making her whimper in pleasure. They ended up back in a shadowy booth and both of them were staked.
"I didn't know you were supposed to get off while dancing that way," Tony admitted as they walked back to the bar.
"It all depends on how you dance," Xander teased. "If the hips are right then it's more than possible with a willing and wanting partner." He paid for the beers and they sipped, watching the last guy. He was sticking with girls. Xander saw him lead someone off and finished his beer quickly. "I'm heading to the bathroom," he noted, going back there. He waited until the vampire was done loving her then looked at him. "Not hungry?" he asked dryly.
"I work here, I don't feed where I work, but thank you for taking out the competition."
"Don't thank me yet, two more just came in." He peed then cleaned himself up and went back there. "He's not hunting," he said quietly. "Want to go again?"
Tony moaned. "Sure. I'll be sore tomorrow on the flight."
"You'll get used to it," Xander promised, taking him back onto the floor. "I was taught by a very hot Cuban dancer at the strip club. He thought my hips were very good for this." He grinned and Tony smirked back. The other vampires had apparently left. "They saw you and ran?"
"They saw you and ran," Tony snorted. He let Xander lead again, then took control of the next dance since he had the steps down. Xander grinned at him and followed along, making him smirk a bit. "How'm I doin', teach?" he joked.
"Good, very good, Pretty Boy." He took control back and dipped him, then slowly pulled him back up, staring into his eyes. "Remember, this type of dancing is all about heat, passion, lust." He ground their hips together, getting a small blush and let Tony lead again. Tony moaned but started to dance with him again, getting more into it now. Xander grinned when Tony had to excuse himself to the bathroom to take care of something. He shook his head at the offer to dance with the vampire, smirking a bit. "He'd get mad." Tony came back and he nodded. "Ready to head home so you can fly out tomorrow?"
"Sure. Make me deal with my parents," he said bitterly, letting Xander lead the way out. "Can I drive the bike?"
"If you want. Just be very careful." He got onto the back and put on his helmet, letting Tony have his. Tony started the back and carefully walked it backward, turning so he could pull out of the parking lot and head back to Xander's. Where everyone else was. He looked at Gibbs, who was giving him a long stare. "Tell me you turned it off, Boss," he pleaded.
"Of course I did. The mapping thing is working very well. Good idea, kid." He patted Xander on the back. "Nice save as well, DiNozzo. There's pizza in the kitchen." He stopped Xander from heading that way, looking at him. "If you two start to do more than hunt," he said very quietly, "I don't want to know, I don't want details, and you had better not make him late for work, unable to work, or hurt him. Do you understand?"
"Clear as crystal just outta the dishwasher, gunny," he agreed seriously. "I'm not sure if it's an option but I like to tease." He shrugged. "I leave that up to him."
"Fine. Have him use your picture with his parents."
Xander grinned and walked back there. "Pretty Boy, Bossman said you had to use my picture instead of his. He doesn't think you have a picture that won't make your mother drool over him." Behind him Gibbs choked. In front of him Tony and McGee both choked. He grinned at Abby. "I'm good. There's a vamp teaching salsa and Cuban dancing at that club we were at. He's not hunting there though." He got his own piece of pizza to nibble on.
"That's fine. Did you get a good look at the brother of the head vamp?" she asked.
"I did, and I have it on my new video camera," he offered, pulling off his cuff to hand to her. "Download it. The memory stick is on the inner right side." She nodded, going down to do that.
Willow cleared her throat. "Yes, I could let him have your babies, but they'd be a horrible torture on this world so I'm going to sterilize you instead, that way I never have to babysit a baby Xander," she said dryly. She walked off smirking evilly.
Xander looked at McGee. "I'd never steal Abby. She'd never let me tie her down. It shows that she likes nice guys, like you, instead of kinky guys, like me." McGee spluttered a few times but ran back downstairs blushing bright red.
"Xander, maybe you should take some of Wes's smut and go have fun for a few minutes," Tony offered, sitting down at the table and kicking back. "Before you regret what you just said. I'm pretty sure Abby doesn't mind cuffs and I'm equally sure she's talked him into them since he came in chaffed one day."
Xander snorted. "Please. Handcuffs are very minor, yet fun, ways of tying someone down. I like mine helpless to swat me for liking oral sex too much. Anya used to complain a lot about being tied down."
"I heard enough about that subject from her!" Willow yelled. She came up and got the wire, taking it off Tony and back downstairs. She found Gibbs down there. "He's such a pervert after a night like tonight. We should call Bethany and have her show up."
"At least he's not jumping my boy," Abby told her. McGee gave her a horrified look. "Oh, please, you'd look very sweet under him," she offered, kissing him. "Just like you do me. That's why I won't let him have you." He relaxed and nodded, settling back into the bright red blush instead.
Willow shook her head. "I don't know what he did on that road trip but I'm not sure I want to. He came home so perverted at times." She looked at Gibbs. "What did he have at the club?"
"A shot of tequila and some red wine. Why?"
"It's the stupid tequila. Never, ever let him drink it again!" She went up to yell at him, which made Tony send her back downstairs, reminding her he was a big boy and old enough to make that decision, even if he did embarrass himself by getting a vampire off in the club.
Gibbs came up for more coffee about an hour later and found Tony working his way through one of the demon manuals alone. "Where did the kid go?"
"He dialed an incubus up and went to play at a nearby motel," he said, looking at him. "Tequila is bad. I knew this before but now I'm sure."
Gibbs nodded. "Most people think so. Are you all right with what went on?"
"Yeah, I play bait very well, Boss." He looked at him. "The only thing I felt odd about was the lessons in how to make love while dancing I got."
"That's what I was talking about, DiNozzo."
He shrugged. "I can handle it. He's not pushy, he's just teasing, and he is cute."
"If you hurt him...."
"You know me better than that, Boss."
"I do, but I warned him too. He said right now he's only teasing and he left it up to you."
"As he should. I'm good with the level we've got right now. It's close but not that close. We work well together. The same as we do as a trio. We'll have to work hard to integrate Eliana when she finally gets here."
"She's with her mother," Willow called. "I brought her over before I came."
"Cool. When are we going together?"
"Next weekend. He's got every Friday off." He sipped his new cup of coffee. "Are you...interested in the kid?"
Tony shrugged. "I don't know. I haven't decided yet. He's very hot and very smart, and a bit of a smart ass, but he's also kinda hurt and scary at times. He needs someone to help him heal first and then love him. Not the other way around."
"Fine. If you do, I don't want details but make sure you don't hurt him." Tony nodded at that. "Thank you." He went back downstairs. "Can we integrate video into that, Abby?" he asked.
She nodded, synching the two. "That's our new brother. He's a hothead from what Willow's found out about him."
"A very bad hothead," she agreed. "Now, the mapping thing is interesting. It lists a shielded basement. It can't get an estimate of depth."
"A bunker?" McGee asked. "Could he sleep down there?"
"Probably a safe and liquor storage," Tony offered as he came down. "Plus probably anything he wants hidden, like the blood they served. They've got to have regular inspections by the liquor board after all. Wouldn't want them finding that stuff." McGee nodded at that. "Fluffy, can you search from the back side?"
"Only if you can get the mapping device into the kitchen," he said dryly.
"Okay, so can we bribe someone on the liquor board to do an inspection and bring it in?" he asked Gibbs.
"I know someone to ask. Where should it go?"
"How about right inside the back door?" Willow suggested. "Like the health inspector or someone?" She looked at him. "They'd have to inspect anything like liquor and food storage."
"Good point." He continued to sip his coffee. "Why would he shield it all?"
"It's possible it was there before," Abby offered.
Willow did a record's check. "It used to house a minor political lobbying group," she offered. "The building was built in the early eighties, Regan years, and the shielding is listed on the county's record of it." She pulled up the schematics of the building. "It's not the same exactly," she told them. "But as a general idea."
Abby looked and took that picture into the mapping feature, overlaying the new map on top of it to fill in any spots they didn't have. "That's a bit more complete. It looks like one big room."
Tony pointed at something. "Except that. It's listed as a vault area. If he had a mainframe at the club, wouldn't it be in there so no one would question it?"
"Maybe, or he could have explained it as he was letting someone rent a corner for it," Abby told him. "It's not unheard of for secure backups."
"Or he could have it somewhere else," Gibbs noted. "I'm glad you put on that distance mic as well. We got a lot of stuff we hadn't known about before, DiNozzo."
"Where was it?" Willow asked.
"Inside the stake," Abby told her. "It's a tiny microphone." She looked back at them, spinning her chair with a grin. "We have someone on tape planning on attacking a senator. Not that I know why they want to take out the bigoted homophobe, but they do. Do we report this, Gibbs?"
"I do," he agreed. "Get me transcripts so I can turn them over, Abby. Good work, team." He went back upstairs, hearing someone knock. He opened the door, looking at the man there. "Yes?"
"Jethro Gibbs?" He got a nod. "From the President, sir," he offered, holding out an envelope.
He put down his coffee mug to open it, reading the note inside. Then he looked at him. "Is he sure?"
"He said to tell you it's not a hoax and they're sure something is going on. We're not sure how he got the information. That's all he said to tell you and to appear tomorrow at nine for the morning briefing." He nodded. "Thank you, sir. Any message to go back?"
"No. I'll see him in the morning." The agent nodded and left. Gibbs locked the door once it was shut and took his coffee back downstairs. "Abby, find out why there's an attack planned in France," he ordered.
She searched the taped conversations and came up with a blurb.
"The attack will get us the house," a female voice said.
"Yes, it'll be good to go home," Tiffany noted.
"Run that back by about ten extra seconds," Tony ordered, scanning through the pictures Xander's wire had picked up.
"Rum and blood," the unknown female voice ordered.
Tony cued in on a drink, pointing at it. "That's her I think. Keep going."
"Rashell, darling, you haven't been in for a while," Tiffany praised. "What brings you?"
"Just a night to relax from the wickedness that is my life," she joked, sounding happy.
"I can't read her lips," Gibbs complained. "Go back, that doesn't look like a happy couple of women." Tony cued it back further and found an ambiguous figure looking very pleased with Tiffany and them hugging even. "Maybe. Is that a female, Tony?"
He stared, then nodded. "Yeah. Notice the shape of the chin, Boss? No adam's apple. Faint hint of breasts under the shirt." He cued it back to when they met, and Abby reran the tape. The words matched to their actions and expressions. "Nothing else about the house though."
"Well, we know that Tiffany and this Rashell know what it is," McGee offered. "Can we figure out who they are?"
"We can do facial recognition but only so many have their faces online," Abby told her.
"If it helps, Tiffany's a succubus. She doesn't have to go through Customs. She can teleport and smoke up to get into places. They've probably been all over the world. Most vampires avoid customs as well," Willow told them. "Too many biometric scanners these days." McGee nodded at that. "This is where I wish we still had Anya. She used to hang out with them. Oooh, Bethany!" she offered.
"You can't expect her to turn on her own kind," Gibbs told her.
"Have Xander promise her an extra special night," she complained. "They like him for some reason."
"That could get him killed," Gibbs said firmly. "We can't lose any of the team. That's not a productive way of running this operation." He looked at the picture again. "I've seen her before."
Tony stared, pulling a chair over. "Can you get me a full frontal face shot, Abby?" She nodded, searching back and forth until she got her coming into the bar. "Stop it there." He stared, just watching her. "She's a security guard at the Rotunda, Boss." He looked at him. "I saw her working in the Rotunda during that jumper incident."
Gibbs nodded. "That's why I keep you around, DiNozzo, you never met a woman you didn't lust over." He went to make notes about that. "Abby, I need full transcripts by nine in the morning. Speed the computer up."
"It's not like it's got a 'hurry' switch, Boss," she complained, but she got back to work on that. "We need more printer paper."
"In the filing cabinet," Willow told her. "Bottom two drawers." McGee went to get it. She leaned closer to Abby. "He likes Xander?" She nodded. "Why?" Abby just stared at her. "I don't understand how people who don't know him like him."
Tony glared at her. "It's because he's a nice guy and he's easy to like, even when he's teasing you." He got up and stretched. "I've got to head home. I've got that flight out tomorrow." He headed up the stairs, tossing his paper plate away. "Boss, heading home," he called as he headed for the door.
"Be safe!" he called back.
Abby, being a lot more blunt, just patted her on the hand. "Whatever crack you're smoking, it's bad for you. It's rotting your mind and making you mean." She got back to work on the transcripts. "Oh, man. Gibbs, some of this is in Greek!" she yelled.
"I've got a good online translator program," Willow offered, pulling it up in another window. "There." Abby copied and pasted, and it came up sounding like real words. "It doesn't make it sound grammatically correct," she noted. "I haven't found one that does."
"Copy it for me and I'll see if someone can translate it for you," Gibbs said from the top of the stairs. "I'm heading home. I'll pop around your place at eight, Abby, sharp."
"Sure thing, Gibbs. I'll have coffee made so you don't have to drink the White House sludge again." He smiled and left. She got back to work. "McGee, can you please get me another piece of pizza?"
"Sure." He went up to get it, coming back with some for all of them since Willow had been picking the cheese off her paper plate. "Here you go." He sat down and looked at her. "I don't know why I like Xander, since he picks on me and calls me Fluffy, but he's an easy guy to like. Why do you like him?"
"I've always liked him and protected him. I don't know why either. He just seems to need it."
Abby nodded. "That's because all the women in his life have been mean and warped him by ignoring him and shoving him away. Underneath the scary hunter guy is still a nice, goofy kid who just needs love and inspires people to mother him. It seems like you would know that best." She stared her down and Willow slumped. "I don't know why you're being mean to him suddenly but you're hurting my Xander buddy. You need to fix it or forget you ever knew him before you hurt him so bad no one can fix him. It says something that Gibbs likes him; Gibbs doesn't like anyone, not even us." Willow hung her head, nodding again. "Now, once you're better and off whatever crack you're using, hopefully you can beg long enough so he'll forgive you." She got back to work. "I wonder how long it'll be before he gets home."
"I'm not sure. Where did he go?" McGee asked.
"Tony said he called up an incubus and went to have nasty and dirty sex at a motel," she said with a grin. "We should do that for our anniversary this year." Tim blushed and nodded. "Do you wonder who they're going to get to replace Ziva?"
"I'm trying hard not to. I want Kate back," he complained, watching her work. "Can I help?"
"Most of this is the computer's stuff. I'm just correcting grammar most of the time." He nodded, staring at her working. She blushed and looked at him. "I'm going to the Goth Ball this year, Tim. Are you going with me or not?"
"You'd have to help me find something to wear," he offered quietly. She beamed and kissed him then got back to work collating and fixing grammar mistakes based on the original conversations.
Xander looked up as someone knocked on his door, getting up to answer it. "Yes?" he asked the petite brunette standing there. She looked familiar but he couldn't place her.
"Are you Xander?" she asked. He nodded. "I'm Tony's cousin, Meredith." He let her inside and closed the door behind her. "This is a nice place. How are you affording it?"
"An inheritance from a man who was like a brother to me," he admitted quietly. "I'm not after Tony for his money, Meredith. I enjoy hanging out with Tony for a lot of reasons. One of the major ones is that he gets my jokes."
"Are you serious about him?" she asked primly.
"That's up to him. I know my feelings but I'd never rush him that way." He realized it was right, he did have feelings for his hunting partner and he wasn't going to rush him. He cleared his mind and focused on her. "Any threatening on my intentions and all that should wait until he's ready to decide if he wants me that way, dear. I'd never hurt Tony and it's up to him about whether we start going for the long-term thing."
"I see. Why didn't you escort him this weekend?"
"He never asked. Last night I took him dancing at a Cuban club and made sure he got home at a reasonable hour. I've known about the wedding since the day he called up to complain about having to listen to his mother bitch about grandchildren again." She smirked a bit at that. "Any other questions about our relationship, ask your cousin." He smiled sweetly. "I've got some coke and a beer in the fridge if you want something."
"No, thank you. I don't drink either of those."
"Tony drinks a lot of coffee and a lot of water, but I have to restock both those supplies," he offered with a shrug. "We had him and Gibbs over last night plus a few other friends from his job."
"You don't work with him?"
"No, I'm enjoying living a life with little stress by being a bartender at a goth club," he admitted with a smirk. She looked disgusted. "It's fun. I get to watch happy people play all night and I don't have that much stress in my life. Unlike him. I've seen him have some days that nearly killed him with the stress."
"You're how old?"
"Twenty-three nearly. Why? He's only twenty-nine according to him." He grinned at her. "Of course I think he's shaving two years off but he won't admit it." She raised an eyebrow. "Your cousin is very happy with his life. I'm happy if he's happy and I use all my skills as a great masseuse to help him those days when he's not that happy with life."
"Did you know he lost a very close friend recently?"
"Actually it was a little over a year ago and yes, I did." She looked stunned. "I met him when he was working on a case and I was heading a construction site that had been headed by his target. I got to know him then and I heard then that Ziva was a new member on the team due to Kate's death. I learned a lot about Kate since then. We've talked a few times about losing someone that close to you."
"How would you know?" she sneered.
"Because I came from a town that fell in, sweetheart." She looked stunned. "I came from California and my town was basically eaten by an earthquake. I know lots about losing people around me," he said firmly, staring her down. "Now, any other questions? I do believe you're supposed to be getting married today, aren't you?"
"Tonight actually," she said stiffly. "I doubt you're the sort the family would approve of."
"Again, that's up to Tony. The last I heard the family didn't approve of him."
"Some of us...."
"Who the hell cares?" he snorted. "His parents and you and all the others who hated him because he had a need to go out and help others nearly drove him to tears more than once. For all *I* care you can all go to hell. Literally, with an elaborate brass band playing in the background as the portal sucks you in," he snapped. She backed away from him. "Anyone who hurts Tony deserves that same treatment. So before you get snide with me about being with him, maybe you should apologize to him for how you treated him."
"He never mentioned me?" she asked quietly.
"No. He doesn't like to talk about his family. Gee, I wonder why?" he asked, continuing to stare her down. "Until you've made amends with your cousin, you have no right to come here and sneer at me. You have no right to say anything about his life until you've made amends with him."
"And if I do?"
"Then that's back to being in his court," he noted dryly, smirking a bit. "I leave all decisions about how and who Tony loves up to Tony. I can't make him want me deeper and more fully if he doesn't want it. Nor can I make him love me and want to stay with me forever if he doesn't want it." He heard the back door shut. "That's up to Tony and I'd like it more if you asked him those questions."
"He doesn't tell you?" she demanded.
"He does. But anyone can say the 'L' word, honey. I could say it to you and it'd be a lie, but I could say it." She shuddered delicately. "That's why I leave that decision up to Tony. I don't read minds or emotions. I also don't discuss private feelings with strangers, which you are. Therefore, shouldn't you be getting your hair done about now?" She left, going back to her limo. He sneered, watching her disappear. Then he slammed the door, leaning his head on it.
"It's always a wise thing to leave those emotions alone until you know for sure they're reciprocated," Gibbs said from the hallway. Xander looked back at him, and he looked so miserable. "You've got it bad, kid."
"I know," he said quietly, heading back to the living room. "That's still up to him, Gibbs." He sat down and curled up again. "I hold no illusions that Tony wants me or that he's bi."
"Really?" Xander asked, feeling at least a bit hopeful. "That's good at least." He settled down again. "How did the meeting go?"
"Well enough. Someone warned the Senator's secret service agents that a plan to attack him was overheard and that they were planning to attack him during the nighttime." Xander nodded. "Are you okay? I ask because I've been there before a time or two."
Xander snorted. "I'll be fine. It's not the first time I've felt this way." Gibbs nodded. "How's your ex?"
"Freaked. She won't come out of the house. She won't answer the phone. I'm thinking she's sitting in her house with her gun in her hands, back against a wall, staring at the door to make sure nothing and no one is going to come in." Xander nodded, smiling a bit. "I hated to do it but she had to understand this wasn't just a game." He came in and sat down. "Do you have a plan to woo him?"
"I was thinking dates after hunting?" he offered hesitantly. "Like last night?"
"That was pretty good. He was cursing your name for making him that hard by dancing with him," he offered with a small grin. "I need to see Eliana to get her oriented." Xander got up and padded into his prayer area, getting the name and number off the altar. He brought it back and handed it over. "Thanks. Do you know her very well?"
"She showed up just before the Hellmouth assault. She made it through that assault and the chaos afterward. She's a spunky little girl. Last time I saw her she had dyed her hair brick red but she's naturally a strawberry blonde. She's about five-seven in sneakers, about one-fifty with just a touch of baby fat left. She's seventeen." Gibbs nodded at that. "She's got a very bad sense of humor. She still likes dirty limericks and knock-knock jokes. She thought Andrew Dice Clay was all that the last time I saw her, but she can't tell a joke to save her life. She likes anything that makes others laugh. She's a good kid."
"You're not that much older."
"Gibbs, I quit being a kid a long time ago," he said quietly. "I may be nearly twenty-three but I haven't been a kid since I was twelve. Maybe even since I was ten."
"Didn't anyone ever figure out what was going on in your life?"
"You've met Willow. Jesse paid more attention but his life was nearly as bad. His mom was a bit warped now and then. Severely depressed a few times and she was basically bipolar. We supported each other and Willow hung out with us as the person to explain girls to us." Gibbs smiled at that. "That's the reason I didn't want Eliana back here. I don't want her to look at someone and recognize them as they turn to dust," he said quietly.
"I understand and I don't want that for anyone either, Xander. If so, we'll be there for her like someone should have been for you." He stood up. "Didn't Willow grieve with you?"
"No, we grieved privately and she has a few pictures of him. She put some flowers on his grave now and then. We never talked about it."
"Maybe you should."
"Maybe but what good would it do now?" he asked calmly. "The misunderstandings didn't start then, it was when she picked up magic and suddenly became 'special girl' with special girl powers. At times it was like fighting for the favorite sibling role and I knew I was going to lose since I was the normal kid among special ones. It's like being the only non-talented one in a family of musicians or something." Gibbs nodded. "That's when it started and it basically came to a head when she panicked about having a real boyfriend and we made a bad mistake, getting together and kissing a few times. It nearly got my girlfriend killed and she pulled away because she was horrified at what she had done. That and because she and Buffy blamed me." He stood up. "Am I going out with you tonight or with you and Eliana?"
"No, tonight we're all off. No going out alone either," he ordered, staring him down. Xander shrugged. "I mean it. No going out hunting alone. You're in the mood to do dangerous and stupid things and I don't want to lose you too, kid."
"Good boy. Now, what're you doing today?"
"Studying energy flow magic. The warpings we've got going on around here and the energy pollution everything in Sunnydale had has always fascinated me."
"Good. Stay in tonight if you can."
"I'm not suicidal."
"No, but I expect Tony to call for sanity by later tonight." He smirked a bit. "If you need me, call."
"I will," he assured him. He went to get him something and handed over the large box. "For Abby. I saw it and thought of her."
Gibbs looked at it. "Do I want to know?"
"She'll look so hot," he offered with a goofy grin. "Fluffy won't know what hit him."
Gibbs nodded and headed out to his car. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."
"Yeah, have fun." He went back to his book, then got up to get some pizza. Eventually he got up to go shopping. He needed something to do and he had a headache. He made notes of what he thought Tony would look good in. They really had to help him with a look for hunting. He picked up a new shirt for himself and looked at the tattoos available at a shop, ignoring the tolerant looks. He looked at the girl and took off his shirt, turning around. "Do you think anything can cover those?" he asked. "The whip marks."
She ran a gentle finger over them. "They're still raised. We could do something on and around them but it might not minimize them. Depending on what you chose, it could actually make them stand out more."
"I was thinking something subtle, like vines or something harmless. I don't like snakes," he told her, turning back around and putting his shirt back on. "Maybe something tribal at the outer edge of reason."
"You'll want something like vines. Either that or an all encompassing picture across your full back to cover all of it."
He nodded. "I'm not sure I want to go with something that extensive. My Taz is covering another scar." She nodded, smiling at him. "Just for my information, how much pain and money are we talking?"
"Just doing something like vines up and down the scars, probably about two hundred and maybe three sessions depending on how well you take pain."
"I lasted through three hours of torture before breaking to get those," he admitted quietly. She looked horrified. "My ex girlfriend set me up with him. He said he was doing it whether or not I liked it and either he paid me for it or he killed me. I'm still here."
"I'm so sorry. Did you have him arrested?"
Xander smirked a bit. "No, but the next time he took someone home, the cops found out he had killed people and buried them at his house." She smirked at that. "I'm not that sneaky but it felt really good. Do you think vines?"
"I'd almost suggest a full back picture instead. That'll hide all the scars and with all of them hid none of them will stick out that much. If you just cover them, then the eye'll be drawn to them. Not necessarily that they're raised scars but that they're there."
He nodded. "That's what I thought. Thank you." She nodded. He left, having to come back to get his bag with a sheepish grin. "I'm an idiot," he offered, heading out again at her giggle. He ran home to put the shirt up, then went to dinner. The house was really quiet. On the way his phone rang. "Yeah?" He parked his bike and stopped to smile. "Hi, Abby. Yes, I did. I saw it last night and thought of Fluffy blushing bright red and stammering." He chuckled. "No, I went to talk to someone about covering the scars on my back with vines or something. No, she wasn't sure it wouldn't make 'em stand out more. Did he enjoy it?" He beamed. "You're welcome. Don't worry about it. No, don't worry about it. Because I said so. So hush! No, I'm good. Going out for dinner. I don't know. I've got tonight off too. Sure. Love you, Abby. Have fun playing with the dress." He hung up and looked behind him before starting his bike and pulling back into traffic.
Once at dinner he called Angel. "Old buddy, old pal. No, I need a favor for a very goth friend who's got a ball coming up. I figure you've got tons of crap from Dru and Darla...." He smirked. "Yeah, that's a good thing. Please. Magic or not. She's got about a month. Danka. Love you, man. No, no more recently. Oh, wait, the boss here sent one to you. Another Marine. He said he didn't want to kill his family, that he loved his little brother a lot. I don't know, I wasn't there. No, Eliana's here and I'm her Watcher. Why? Anything on France or in Greek?" He grabbed a pen off a waitress and made notes on a napkin, then grinned. "Thanks, man. Love you. I mean it." He hung up and handed the pen back with a wink and a grin. "Thank you. A sudden idea that required notes." He tucked it into his pocket and went back to his dinner. He heard a cleared throat and looked over at Director Shepard. "What brings you to my table? Sit, order something and eat with me."
She sat across from him, staring at him. "You're not the usual sort I work with," she said quietly. "I don't understand this. I don't want to take part in this. And I definitely don't want Jethro to take part in this."
"First, no one asked you to take part. We've been keeping you out of the loop for a reason; because we knew you couldn't handle it," he assured her, grinning a bit. "I'm realistic, this life isn't for everyone. It's not even for the greater minority of people. This job is for a very select few who've seen what can happen and know what'll happen if they're not thinned and stopped if possible, which it isn't always. Secondly, Jethro makes his own decisions, as does Tony. I don't make decisions for anyone but myself. They came to me when the situation cropped up. They volunteered and I accepted. I trained them to the best of my abilities," he assured her quietly. "The same as they know they can back out whenever they want to or it gets to be too much for them." She glared at him. "That doesn't work on me, Director. I laugh at the boss's glare. Yours isn't nearly as bad or as scary."
"What about what happened to Ziva?" she hissed. "You're responsible for that!"
"I'm not. She chose to date that man. She knew what he was and chose to date that man. She probably knew long before she ever met me since her old boss used to run some of them as agents." She looked startled at that. "I feel really sorry for her, and she was turning out okay in the field, but she was taking stupid risks. She dated him knowing what he was and what he could and probably would do to her. She took that risk and it bit her." She nodded, looking down. He reached over and tipped her chin back up. "Nothing says you can't ignore this until the end of your natural life. The boss can tell you how to defend yourself should it become necessary. I've dated people that didn't get involved and I've dated ones who only helped in the most major crises. It's up to you what part you play but I would talk with the boss first.
"I can't see you breaking a nail in the field to be perfectly truthful. I can't see you coming home covered in icky stuff like slime and guts. I can't see you forgoing a party for it." She grimaced. "It's all up to you. The only person I make choices for is myself. As I told a few people earlier today." She straightened up and nodded. "So I'm sorry if you had the rude awakening, but they were here long before us. I saw up close and personal what happens when no one stops them. So, talk to someone who knows you and can tell you what you need to know to base your decision on. Until then, don't try anything stupid to see if you can do the job," he sighed. "Others have done that and ended up being bitten. Like Ziva and McGee their first week knowing."
She nodded. "I'll talk to Jethro tonight." She stood up and smoothed down her dress. "Thank you for clearing that up for me." She walked off, going to call her former helper and teacher.
Xander took the direct route, calling him now. "Boss, incoming call and possibly a visitor tonight," he warned. "I just had a redhead showing up to help me eat." He hung up and went back to his dinner. When he was done he paid his tab and got up, heading back to the townhouse to see what he wanted to do that night. The president was speaking so he sat down to listen to him yammer on about the economy and the war, but fortunately he didn't say anything about the present crisis or the cult. Then he tried to go back to his studies but it wasn't working. It wasn't holding his interest. He tried to meditate in front of his altar but it wasn't working either. He wasn't used to being alone anymore. He was used to noise. He turned on the local NPR station to hear someone babbling about anything and tried again but it wasn't working. He went to check his email and nothing was going on there either. Then he called work. "Boss, could you use me tonight? I'm going insane in a quiet house." He listened and sighed. "Are you sure?" He sighed again. "Thanks, Boss. Sure." He hung up and went back to trying to study but it still wasn't coming for him.
He heard the phone ring and smiled, answering it before the first ring stopped. "Hey." His smile picked up. "Tony! Meredith was here earlier asking me about you. I told her off, told her she had to make amends with you first, and to ask you anything about how you felt about me. That I couldn't speak for anyone else. Yeah, early this morning. Gibbs was here, he walked in on the end of it. How's the wedding?" He winced. "Do you need rescued?" He laughed. "No, I'm going insane in a quiet house. Yeah, I'm not used to lack of noise really. Nothing on tv, nothing on the radio. Sure. Thanks, man. Yeah, when you get back. No, Gibbs didn't want me to go out alone tonight so I'm honoring my promise to try not to. Well, if the walls don't quit shrinking in on me soon I might but I'm trying. Sure, have fun and avoid the women. Flash my picture all you need to and tell them about the plan to have babies and all that." He smirked at the laugh. "Be safe and call if you need saved. No, I found Abby a dress last night guaranteed to make Fluffy blush all over for the next month. PVC and red with a few extra buckles and a zip-up back slit. No, definitely not office clothes. Sure. Love you, man." He hung up and sighed, looking at the phone. He had told him and Tony had laughed. Maybe that was a good sign. He ended up going upstairs to polish and sharpen all the weapons, making sure they were ready for use.
Gibbs walked into Xander's kitchen the next morning, smirking at the sleepy man who came out of the bathroom. "That was mean sending her to me to train. I'm nicer to you than that, kid."
Xander raised an eyebrow and stared at him. "It's not like I could train her. She didn't want to know and I told her you'd give her the usual precautions. Then I reminded her that Ziva made her own choices when she tried to push that in my face. By the way, Tony's not having a ball at the wedding. His cousin and mother conspired to invite every single woman over the age of consent they knew so one of them could trap him and bring him back to the fold. He said he was catching an earlier flight back."
"I heard. He called me this morning when he went to the airport." He looked the boy over. "Are you all right?"
"Just tired. Nightmares. They happen." He went to pull out a soda. "If you want coffee, you can make it and drink it. Just don't leave it in the pot to turn into sludge again." He went back to the living room to watch the cartoon channel with his soda. He heard a thump and looked out at the hallway as three trunks appeared. "Thanks!" he called. He felt the magic recede and got up to look them over. There was a letter on top and he smiled at the fact that Spike was enjoying the hell out of the soldiers they had sent and Angel was still pissed at him and hated him. This was all of Dru and Darla's stuff that they didn't want to keep. He grinned and called Abby, getting a sleepy McGee. "Tell your baby girl that Angel relented and sent over Dru and Darla's crap for her to find something for the ball." He hung up and went to make breakfast. Gibbs was working on coffee. "Older vampire gear," he said wisely. "For Abby."
"I'm sure she'll appreciate that. Who answered the phone?"
"If I say anything it might be taken as a breach of the fraternization rules," he said smartly, smirking at him. "By the way, Angel hates us for sending him the military vamps."
"Yay," he noted dryly. "I'm not thrilled with what I heard about him from your journal either."
"Which would be a biased view," Xander reminded him. "There's no love lost between the two of us. Remember that." He finished warming up some cold pizza and went back to his cartoons. "I need to find a better type of noise when I'm here alone," he called. "NPR isn't enough."
Gibbs came out with his coffee, walking around the trunks. "Did it get too quiet?" Xander nodded, chewing on a bite of pizza. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," he offered once he swallowed. "I'm not used to living without noise and people anymore." He shrugged and got back into his breakfast. He heard brakes squeal and looked out. "Abby's here." Gibbs got up to let them in, and she fell down on top of the trunks, hugging them. "Now, remember. Dru was a Victorian era vampire and Darla was only about two hundred herself." She nodded and opened the top one, glancing at the letter then putting it aside so she could dig through the things. "They were also both British vampires and Dru had a thing for velvet." He ate another bite. "Morning, Fluffy."
"This isn't the wakeup I wanted," he complained, sitting down in the chair across from him, making Gibbs sit near Xander. "Hopefully I can find something to match her."
"Go corporate goth," Xander offered. "Vest, pants, loose shirt. Attitude." McGee snorted at that and shook his head. "No?"
"No thanks. That's her world, I just escort her so she can be the belle of the ball." He looked over as she squealed and pulled out a short skirt. "Don't you already have one of those?"
"Yes, but not in this pattern," she pouted. "Ooh, and a girlschool jumper!" she cooed, pulling it out.
Gibbs looked then shook his head. "At least it'll look good on you."
"Are you sure they won't want them back?" she asked.
"Darla is twice over dust and Dru got set on fire," he offered. "If she's still alive and talking to the stars somewhere I'm sure Spike's about to stake her again." She nodded and dug back in. "I was hoping for something for the ball."
She smiled and blew a kiss. "You're so sweet."
"Abby, are you all right? You sound hoarse," Gibbs noted dryly, taking a sip of his coffee as he stared her down.
"We were singing karoke last night," she said before Xander could ask if it was from too much screaming during sex. "That's the only reason I'm hoarse. I'm too good a girl to do the other stuff to make my throat hurt."
Xander looked at McGee. "Sorry about that, man," he offered quietly, making him blush. "How did you like the dress?" The blush got brighter.
"I was the queen of the club last night," Abby assured him happily. She came over to hug him then got to work digging in the second trunk. She pulled out a long scarlet velvet gown and held it up against her. "Wow."
"I know she had a blue one but I don't think it's in there," Xander told her. "That was her favorite and Spike probably kept it." She nodded and went back to digging, coming up with a very Mediaeval gown that made her coo. "That'll look stunning on you."
"You don't think I'll show too much cleavage?" she asked, holding it against herself.
"Only one way to know. Get it fitted to you," he retorted. "If you have to, add some lace up top. Besides, no one would do more than glare at your beauty because you had McGee on your arm."
"They'd better not," McGee ordered, looking at his girlfriend. "Try it on?"
"It's about a size too small," she complained. "Dru or Darla must have been pretty tiny." Xander nodded. "I can try but I don't want to rip it."
"Go try it on in the bathroom," Xander ordered. She nodded and headed that way, coming out to let him tie it up for her. He hitched her into the dress, looking her over. "A bit too tight," he offered, getting up to move her further away so he could look. "Turn around." She turned slowly. "Yeah, it could use a few inserts in the seams." She nodded and sighed. "Fluffy?"
McGee wet his lips. "If you wear that, we'll never make it out of the house. You're showing way too much chest and I'd end up playing with them." He almost slapped himself for saying that, especially in front of their boss, but it was the truth. She blushed and went to change, coming out in the other dress. He purred at that one. It was a high- necked velvet gown with gothic batwing sleeves, but it fit her figure fully to the floor, where it pooled gently. "I like that one. It shows you off beautifully."
"You'll need jewelry if nothing's in there," Xander ordered. "Plus something to put your hair up in a classic bun or something."
She looked at Gibbs. "What do you think?" She turned around.
"I think you look stunning in that dark shade of green, Abby," he admitted. "It does highlight your figure wonderfully." She smiled at him. "Can you dance in it?"
"I'll need some heels and possible a bit of a hem lift, but I should be able to." She pulled Tim up and moved into his arms, then looked down. "Two inch you think?" she asked him.
"Wear those boots that you wore last night," he offered with a smile. "They're black, they'll go." She smiled back, blushing just a bit. "They're two and a half or three inch I think." She nodded. "Can you dance in them all night?"
"I did last night." She lifted the skirt and danced with him, making him a happy boyfriend. "Ooh, I like this one." She went to change back and folded it back into the trunk, then went back to searching that one and the bottom one. She found a few hair sticks and a bun crown, plus a simple jet necklace and a cross. "I think this shouldn't have come," she said, holding it up.
"They wouldn't have put it in there if it wasn't meant to show up," Xander assured her.
"It was tucked into the lining."
"Pick up the phone and hit the speed dial marked Angel."
She sat down to do that, smiling at the cheerful voice who answered. "Hi. I'm Abby, Xander's friend, the one he asked for the loan of a dress for." She glared at Xander and swatted him. "I didn't know you asked for that." She grinned again. "Thank you very much. No, I like the scarlet tie up one but it's just a bit too small. I could lose the five pounds to make it spectacular easily. No, I was going to go with the green, high necked one, but when I was looking I came upon an jet cross. Yeah, that one," she said happily. "I didn't think you meant to include something that special and spectacular." She listened. "Are you sure you don't want it back? I mean it's got to be special if she was buried in it." She nodded. "Sure. Thank you *so* much. You guys are so great! I knew knowing Xander would mean I'd get to meet some very nice people."
"Tell Spike to start writing you," Xander suggested. "That way we can keep up on the gossip."
She giggled. "He said to have Spike write me so we could keep up on the gossip and the news from out there. Sure! AbbyS at NCIS dot gov. Sure. Anytime. Thank you again. Some of that stuff is so great! I love you guys already." She squealed and hung up. "Willow's cleansing herself of magic there and she said she's going to get back to normal." She hugged Xander across Gibbs' lap, making him lean into their boss' body. "Thank you. McGee, help me get this to the car." He nodded, going to help her heft and tote.
Xander rested against the older man's side. "I like making her happy and Angel was always complaining about it taking up space in his attic and always having to move it whenever he moved."
"That was very nice of you, kid." He gave him a pat on the back. "What did you do last night?"
"I ended up polishing the sword collection and making sure everything was sharp. It got really quiet in here last night." He looked up. "I've got to take Tony shopping for special hunting clothes." Gibbs gave him a smirk. "I know, I'm pathetic," he said quietly. "It happens to the best of us." He sat up when the duo came back from kissing next to their car. "Abby, I saw in the news that a minister in Cambridge is doing a church service for goths."
"Really? I'll have to check that out." She hugged him again, then kissed Gibbs on the cheek. "You keep him out of trouble." She took McGee off, going to make him watch her try on her new clothes.
Gibbs looked at his buddy, which Xander was now. "You need a hobby for those long nights."
"I thought polishing the swords was one of those."
"No, you need something a bit more involving. Like my boat."
Xander grinned. "I like wood but I don't think I could build a boat. Toys I can do. Some mild furniture stuff. But not a boat. We'd have to move the computer stuff." Gibbs laughed at that. "We would."
"We would," he agreed. "You still need a hobby."
"Well, I was thinking about doing a tatoo on my back to cover up the whip marks," he offered. "They thought just covering the marks themselves would make them be more noticeable so it was suggested I get a whole back picture, which would take me a long time."
"You don't need them, Xander."
"I don't like looking at them."
"I don't like looking at mine either but it's like ignoring everything that happened if you try to get rid of them," he said wisely. "How else can you prove you've lived and learned?" Xander looked confused. "Your scars, the same as mine, prove that you've done a lot of things. They're badges of experience and knowledge. You learned from each and every one. You can hopefully tell how you got each one."
"Most of them. A few I can't." He slumped. "I don't like going without a shirt with those there."
"I understand. Tony doesn't wear shorts thanks to a few on his calves." Xander nodded at that. "Trust me, Xander. They're not scaring anyone away. All they are is raised pieces of flesh that represent a memory, and probably not a good one. But if you get rid of them, then you still won't forget. You just won't have anything to touch or look at when the memories get overwhelming again."
Xander swallowed and nodded. "I try very hard not to acknowledge them. It makes the nightmares worse," he said quietly. "That's why I didn't sleep all last night. After dinner I kept thinking about Jesse."
Gibbs gave him a shoulder squeeze. "We all mourn someone, some more than others," he said wisely. "Jesse would want you to have a life."
"Actually he probably wouldn't. He'd pout and complain that I was forgetting about him. He was always scared that he'd be forgotten when he died."
"That's a common fear," Gibbs agreed. "You know you can never forget him. Hopefully Willow can't either." Xander shrugged at that. "You could try talking to her about that."
"I could try but it won't help anything," he offered quietly. "She hasn't given a damn about me since she quit using me as her security blankie and found a boyfriend. I'm the teddy bear she put down when she put on big girl clothes and became a young woman."
"I had one of those. I lost contact with him a few years after I graduated high school," Gibbs admitted. "Sometimes it's for the best and others not. Remember, anything you regret can make you haunt me, kid." Xander grinned a bit at that, which was what he was intending. "Why don't you let Tony sleep and then you go shopping with him? That'll give you something to do today and maybe he can take you to a hobby shop to see if anything there sparks your interests."
"I'm not good at crafts and stuff. I pretty much suck at 'em," Xander said bitterly, curling up against him again. "I'm not the most well-rounded person, Gibbs."
"None of us are. You acknowledge your strong points and work on the weak ones. It's all you can do." He looked at the clock. "Aren't you heading to church today?"
"I don't do church."
"Sorry." He patted him on the back. "Get off. I'm not dating you and those are the only people I cuddle." Xander sat up with a groan, looking at him. "You'll figure it out. Remember, this phase of your life will be mostly slowing down from here on out. You need to find out what you want to do with your life and then figure out something to do with your new spare time."
"Maybe I'll take a fighting class or something," he offered.
"That could help but then you'd be calm," he taunted with a smirk. Xander snorted and shook his head. "Yes you will."
"No I won't. I'll never be totally calm." He grinned outside as someone pulled up outside the house. "Tony's here." He got up to let him in. "You missed Abby and Fluffy."
"I heard. She called to make sure I was back." He patted Xander on the head. "What did you do last night?"
"Polished and sharpened the swords." He closed the door. "Gibbs is in." He walked back into the living room and looked around. "Gibbs!"
"He went out the back," he offered, looking at Xander. "Did you know she taped it?" Xander grimaced and shook his head, but sat down. "She did." He sat down across from him. "I'm not the profiler Kate was, but I'm sensing the heavy emotional turmoil going on. Want to share?"
Xander shook his head. "No. You don't need my nightmares."
"Uh-huh. You need to talk to someone so you can heal, Xander. Especially before you even think about jumping into a new relationship." Xander glared at him. "Seriously!" He held up a hand. "Otherwise whoever you're with would end up being sucked into your nightmares. It's hard and I realize it's hard, but you've got to start to heal before you can start anything new. It's holding you down."
"It's making me stay real."
"It might be, but it's only causing you more pain," he said gently.
"Tony, my life is pain. Every day I wake up to pain and I let it soothe me to sleep every night where it haunts my mind and memories until I kiss it good morning the next day. There isn't a minute of my life that isn't pain anymore. Even the happy moments have some."
"If you start to heal..."
"Then who am I?" he demanded, getting up. "I know you can't understand, but for some of us, the pain defines us." He walked away, going to change into something else. He came back down and found him on the couch. "We should find you something to hunt in. That way you don't have to worry about ruining your other clothes from slime and things. Plus it'll help you fit in better at some of the clubs."
"We need to finish talking."
"We are." Tony opened his mouth and he held up a finger. "You have no idea what you just stepped into, DiNozzo. Not even my greatest love can dictate something like that to me. Since I don't think that's you, you don't get to either." Tony grimaced a bit. "Now, we need to get you something to wear clubbing. Shall we?"
"I'd rather talk."
"Yeah, well, I'd rather not. You've read my journals."
"Which is why I'm so damn worried about you," he said, standing up to face him down. "Think about it, Xander. When was the last time you were happy?"
"Earlier today when I got the stuff from Angel and Spike for Abby and I watched her try on the perfect dress for the Goth Ball," he said honestly. "After everything I've done, I learned to take my happy moments and cherish them. Just because I have pain doesn't mean I don't have happy moments. I have plenty of them. They'll never overtake the horror of having to stake my best friend. Or of losing people during graduation that I'd known since I was five or six. Or of losing others due to their own stupidity. Nothing can. No amount of talking or therapy or anything else will ever change those or make them leave me alone. I made my decisions and I've lived with them. I'll continue to live with them until either some vamp gets really lucky or I end up breaking up the wrong fight at work some night. This is who I am. So either accept me or have Gibbs be your hunting partner. There's no middle ground."
"I just think you'd be happier if you worked some of that anger out."
Xander sighed and looked at him. "Tony, I'm not that angry. Really, I'm not. I'm a bit hard, but I'd expect anyone who had lived through what I had to be that way. What did you expect me to be after Graduation? The fucking tooth fairy?" Tony shivered and stepped back. "Be a bit more realistic, DiNozzo. Think about my life and tell me why I'm not normal." He opened the door again. "Are you coming?"
"Sure. Where are we headed?"
"That depends. Are we going to hunt in the goth clubs?" Tony nodded. "Then you'll have to fit in a bit better. You can do it in jeans but you'll need some accessories. Are you driving or me?"
"I'll drive, you navigate. Got the keys?" Xander ducked back inside and grabbed his keys and wallet, and the rest of his breakfast to eat. "That's not good for you."
"It's food and I get enough calories and nutrients for continued life. That's my definition of good for me."
"I was only trying to help, Xander," he said quietly.
"I realize that and I appreciate that, but you have the totally wrong idea about me, Tony. I'm not like you think I am. You're not looking past the facade. Not a lot of people do." He got into Tony's car and finished off his breakfast, waiting on him.
Tony finally got in and looked at him. "I don't think you're shallow."
"I know that. That's not what I said. I said you're letting the facade fool you. Big difference."
"Then let me see the real you," he offered. "That way I quit worrying and quit losing sleep because I'm seeing you going out on your own and dying during a fight."
Xander shifted to look at him. "Tony, were I to die that way, that would mean I was making a difference up until that moment. No one can ask for more than that." Tony nodded. "You don't have to have nightmares about me. Well, not unless you're desperately in love with me and then I'm sure we could work out a way to fight each other's nightmares."
Tony shook his head but he was smiling, which had been the goal. "You're not ready for that yet," he taunted. He put the car in gear and pulled out. "You've got to become the nicer, goofy guy again before you can do more than watch my six."
"Yeah, well, I still am. It's just that having an eye pop and traveling into hell to fight insurmountable odds does change one."
"Point, but I see hints of him. You let him out to play now and then but not often enough."
"I can't always let him out to play, Tony. Sometimes I've got to be serious. If you watch me at work, I'm more like that." Tony nodded, pulling out into the gap in traffic to head them off. "Go somewhere we can look at really good clothes." He looked him over. "I can't see you in the baggy clothes or the bondage gear, or really even the leather I wear. You can do loose shirts and tight pants though. We should focus on that. The only problem I'm seeing is decoration."
"Yeah. Goths wear jewelry that have a few different themes. Religious artifacts, satanic ones, things that relate back to magic, dragons, fire, or some limited bondage collars and spikes, things like that." Tony nodded once. "I know you need a new crucifix and I know you need it blessed. You should consider that today as well. I was thinking that dressing you in dragons and magic would be good. Maybe elemental symbols, not the darker magic like pentagrams and those things."
"I can see me wearing stuff that showed fire," he offered. "Or water." He changed lanes to get into the turning lane. "I've never been one for dragons."
"Dragons are a symbol of strength or of force. Some say purity because that's what they hunt for, but they always say power."
"Gibbs after his sixth cup of coffee?"
"Is a good example," Xander agreed with a smile. "He definitely reminds me of a dragon now and then. I've seen that same back-to-the-wall strength in you as well," he said gently. "I'd probably never put you in a collar unless we were going to that sort of club, but I don't see that happening anytime soon." Tony smirked a bit at that. "So let's look at dragons and elemental symbols. You can still feel magic, right?" Tony grimaced and nodded. "You could probably learn if you wanted."
"I don't need any more strangeness in my life."
"Fine. I don't push in that area." He shifted some, looking out the window. "Should we look at leather pants?"
"I had a pair but they chafed whenever I wore 'em," he said, turning another corner. "Do they have to be tight pants?"
"If we're hunting in clubs, you should look like you're there to at least try to pick up someone."
"So clubbing pants, a loose shirt. Silk?"
"Only if you want to pay the dry cleaning bill," Xander noted dryly, smirking at him. "Personally, I like me some cotton." Tony snickered at that. "That looks like a promising spot." Tony pulled over and they got out, heading into the store. The teenager working the register looked at them and he smirked. "He needs clubbing stuff." He walked him back to the racks, looking him over before pulling down some shirts to hand to him. He pulled down a few for himself, then went to the pants, again glancing at him before handing a few pairs over. "Try those on." He smiled at the helper, getting his own ticket to try on the shirts he had found. He came out in the first one to look at himself in the mirror. "I don't like the pirate look. Maybe something more simple," he said, going to try on the next one. "Pretty Boy!"
"Coming." He came out and Xander came out of his, making him shake his head. "You need something a bit looser than that."
"The other one made me look like a pirate." He walked around Tony. "I like the shirt. Do the pants feel comfortable? Can you defend yourself in them?"
"I'd like them a little looser," he said, looking at himself in the mirror. "I can see me wearing the shirt. Tucked in?"
"Not unless we're going somewhere preppie." He pushed him back into his changing room. "Try again." He went back to change shirts, coming out in his usual style. He liked this style, it was uncomplicated. The salesgirl walked past him and handed him one, making him look at her. "I looked like a pirate."
"Try it on," she encouraged. He nodded and did so, coming out to find her helping Tony find another pair of pants. She looked at him and nudged Tony. "I like that look. He looks more romantic and sensual that way."
Tony studied the boy and nodded. "I do like it, Xan."
"I still say it's too loose and flowy."
"But that can be an advantage. You look more delicate," he offered. Xander considered it then nodded, going back to get the other one and hand the rest over once he had changed back. "Get some in another color than black, red, and blue. You look good in green and buy something lighter now and then."
"Then I'll stick out at work."
"Where do you work?" the salesgirl asked.
He grinned. "Pyro." She walked over and handed him something, letting Tony back into his changing room and taking the things he didn't want. "Are you sure about this?" he asked, holding up the leather vest. She nodded. "Buttons instead of zipper?"
"I like the zippered look on women, it accents their chests better. You don't need the help, you need something comfortable that'll move with you." She got him another style and changed it out, smiling at him. "Try that." She went back to finding Tony shirts. "Do you think he'd like something in silk or velvet?"
"No, but I wouldn't mind velvet now and then," he offered, taking a few to add to his stack. He went to try on his vest, coming out in it. He looked and shook his head. "Not really me." The first was handed over so he tried it on. He still didn't like the way it looked on him. He handed it back and went to get a coat, coming back in it. She purred and smiled, leaning over to lick him on the cheek. He grinned and looked at himself. "I do look hot in this. Pretty Boy, come see." He came out and looked at Xander and Xander stared back. The black pants fit him perfectly. Tight enough to highlight his good parts but not get in his way. They were stretch denim it looked like and they ghosted so prettily over his cock. The shirt he was buttoning up was plain cotton, just a green shirt that matched his eyes when he was feeling lusty. It set off everything very well and Xander wanted to purr. "I like that. Now all you need are shoes."
"I have a pair at home. I like that jacket." He came out to look it over, running a hand over the back of it. "That's good quality leather, it'll last you for a long time." He looked him over. Xander was already dressed like he belonged here. Tony looked at himself next to Xander, seeing the heat coming from the brown eye. The glass one just glittered a bit, but everything on him said heat and passion. He swallowed and looked at the girl. "I like this one. How much are these pants?"
"Forty. Though if you sign up for our special discount card, you'll get ten percent off today." She smiled. "With that body, I'd take every pair that fit me." She walked off to get him some other colors, bringing them back with the proper shirts. "These, and you can always tuck them in for more mundane matters," she said with a wink. He nodded, going to change back into his regular clothes.
Xander put everything he had into her arms. "Lead me to the register, my dear. I'll take one of those discount cards. Oh, he needs some prettiness. I was thinking dragons and elemental symbols."
She nodded, going to find him something. She drug Tony to the belt buckles, letting him pick two he liked, and then to the other jewelry. He picked out a pendant and a bracelet, plus one pendant to change out on his new one. He held it up to show Xander. "Um, that can mean you practice," she said gently. She glanced around. "I've heard it said that people are using those to show which side of the magical divide they're on."
"He can feel magic but he doesn't do magic," Xander said dryly. Tony held it up and he smiled. "That would so suit you."
"I thought so." The little claw holding the black crystal did suit him.
"Go ahead. You can always refute." He winked. "Or send them my way." She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. He glanced around then opened his hand and produced a small glowing spot in the palm. He closed his hand and it disappeared. She walked over something and put it in front of him. "Thank you. What's this?"
"A locket. The old type where you put a picture and hair."
"Oh, a portable resurrection kit minus the blood. Cool." He added it to his pile and filled out the form for the discount card, then paid for it, wincing at the total. That jacket was just too good to pass up. He passed his card to Tony, who patted him on the back. "We should show everyone your new look."
"They can see it the next time we have to go out," Tony said patiently. "For right now, we're going to pick up lunch and head back to your place so we can talk and all that good stuff."
"Yeah, we must." He smiled at her, taking his bag and his credit card back. "Thanks." He walked Xander out, taking him back to the car. Once they were settled inside and moving again, he glanced at his buddy. "I still say you need to heal a bit before you could start another relationship, Xander. You're still being haunted by demons and no one can banish them but you," he said gently. "No matter who you take up with, they'll have to live with the taint of Anya's past greediness and bad deeds if you don't and that's not fair to them."
"I don't intentionally make comparisons."
"No, you don't. But you're still grieving for her and all that you lost during the final battle. Besides, you've got to *trust* someone to truly love them. You don't trust me enough to tell me stuff, just show me. Which is good," he said at the non-hidden grunt of displeasure. "But showing is something you can do with anyone in some ways. They'll know *something* but not the real you. The real you comes out in the telling."
"What did you want to know?" Xander asked quietly, staring out the front window.
"It's not like that, Xander," he promised, reaching over to touch him. "You've opened up a lot more than I thought possible, but...."
"All you have to do is ask, Tony. I don't just blurt out shit like that."
"True," he agreed calmly. "I don't take you as someone that uncareful with your past." He turned the corner. "Where are we driving through for lunch?"
"There's still some pizza left."
"I'm tired of pizza. Sandwiches?"
"That's fine. Pick somewhere. Maybe Subway or that nice deli near the old club?"
"Sure, I liked that place," he admitted, heading that way. It wasn't that far out of their way really. They were silent until they pulled in and gave their orders, Xander pulling out his pickle to eat immediately while he drove. "Tell me about your last birthday party."
"I was six. There was a clown who jumped out and scared the hell out of me. I was afraid of clowns until the 'nightmares became real' episode back in high school." He looked at him. "Jesse got me something I had wanted. Willow's mom took some pictures, which I do have a copy of, and later that night I ended up breaking my newest toy because I tripped and fell."
Tony winced. "I didn't want to bring up another bad memory," he sighed, parking and looking at him once the engine was off. "Do you have *any* happy memories?"
"Now and then. Jesse and me playing pranks on Willow. Or Cordy. Some afternoons in the park. The Christmas Jesse and his mom demanded I come over to their house instead of sleeping out in the back yard." He shrugged. "I don't know what you want me to say, Tony. My childhood wasn't exactly ideal."
"Neither was mine but it was only emotional neglect at the worst of times." He kissed Xander on the forehead. "It'll be Christmas in a few weeks. What do you want to do for it?"
"Have a quiet night where nothing attacks and I'm surrounded by people who actually like me."
"What did you do last Christmas?"
Xander snorted, shaking his head but grinning a bit. "I ducked Dawn most of the day so she couldn't nag me to find out what her present was. I watched her sister and Spike dance around each other. Giles was royally drunk that night with some bad memories. Willow was still grieving and just watching things. We watched a few movies. Claymation Rudolph and Santa stuff. Dawn curled up against my right side, stealing my popcorn while she watched, slowly falling asleep in my arms." He blinked a few times. "I think she's the only one I miss from that whole damn town."
"Where is she?"
"Staying with Angel. I talked with her the other day. Her sister basically committed suicide by demon a few weeks after we closed the hellmouth because it was her being brought back that let the First Evil out and she felt guilty. She and Willow fought the night before while I was working on the housing situation then Buffy stomped off. She walked into a nest and cleared most of it out. Two out of the thirty-eight survived and a few that took her down went with her."
Tony patted him on the cheek. "Grieving is natural."
"I know that! I'm just tired of it!" He shook his head. "Can you even imagine losing everyone?"
"Only in my worst nightmares," he admitted quietly. Xander nodded, looking down at his food. "I'm sorry, I only wanted to hear about the happy stuff. I wanted to make you laugh and smile."
"Yeah, well, happies are always linked with stuff that isn't," he admitted, looking at him. "The only one I miss out of all of that is Dawn and she's still alive. I'm going to try to make her come to wherever I am for college."
"Gibbs said you might stay once the hellmouth goes."
"It's not like I wanna head back there," he noted dryly. "What do I have there? A slow supply of girls who go out and die on my orders? Threatening various boyfriends? Looking forward to a few of them having babies?"
Tony gave him another kiss on the temple. "When you've finished grieving, we'll go back to this point," he said quietly. "Until then, you need a security blanket, someone to hold you and tell you it's all right. Which I suck at." Xander snorted at that, shaking his head. "Yeah, I kinda do."
"I don't need one."
"You do, Xander. Until the grief has lessened, there's no room for any more happy memories. It's filling all the empty spots so you've got to ease up on some of it so the happy memories can take root and grow in the waters they left."
"Some griefs never end," Xander said firmly.
"True, but those are the sort that don't keep you from finding a new future. You never have to let them go totally, but they can't be why you're doing this. If they are, you'll join them a lot sooner than you should." Xander shook his head quickly. "You will. Grief is like anger, it makes you do stupid shit. When we lost Kate...." He paused. "When we lost her, Gibbs went totally on automatic with rage and grief. He didn't sleep, hardly ever ate. All he did was hunt down the bastard who shot her, night and day, until we got him. Ziva got handed to us during that," he offered quietly. "That's part of the reason why she didn't fit in very well." He gave him another cheek pat. "You've got to move on from the active grief and settle some of that in your heart to make room for the newer, happier memories. Life's gotta have both, otherwise you end up some bitter person who can't stand to be around people and who hates yourself. I don't want that for you."
Xander nodded, looking down at his food. "I need to take a walk."
"No. We're going to go back to your house and if you want, we'll talk," Tony told him. "Me, Gibbs, Abby. We'll all listen. Ducky probably would if you wanted. I do know that Gibbs is worried and that Ducky thinks you're still so deep in anger and grief that you're a loose cannon and you're likely to do something stupidly heroic and get killed."
"I've done those before," Xander admitted, glancing at him. "A few times. Starting with the zombies."
"I read that." He stroked the dark hair. "Had we been around then, Gibbs would have made you break, one way or another, and let the anger out," he offered. "All we can do is work on it now so you can heal and move on. Hopefully to find someone who'll love you in spite of your bad sense of humor."
Xander snorted. "I have nothing on Eliana."
"I heard. Now, let's go eat lunch and we'll talk if you want."
"Good, boy." He drove them back to Xander's and sat down with him, letting him curl up next to him. "Why did you give me that journal?"
"That's the only way I knew of to make anyone understand me. I'd seen the looks Gibbs gave me," he admitted quietly, not touching his food. "I'm not good at explaining these things."
"Damn I wish...."
Xander reached up and covered his mouth. "Don't you dare."
"Sorry." He patted the hand and put it back next to the warm chest. "Just think if one of us was your dad."
"I don't think Gibbs would have missed the fact I was out hunting. I think the amount of ash and slime I came home wearing regularly would have tipped him off within a week. My mother told me it was a good thing I was finally quiet."
Tony gave him a squeeze. "Gibbs would have ...." He shook his head. "I can't even imagine that yelling match. He probably would have taken you and Willow in and trained Buffy military style to be more effective and efficient." Xander snickered at that. "You can't see it?"
"I can't see Buffy doing military anything. She was a pampered princess before she was called. We're talking had everything before her parents divorced."
Tony nodded. "From what I've heard, it doesn't surprise me." He gave him another squeeze. "What do you really want to do for Christmas?"
"Have a quiet party without mention of anything unhappy, like hunting. We can talk about work but not that. Then maybe a nice night with whoever I end up with afterward," he said quietly. "Which means that it's far into the realm of not happening."
"Well, we can't do quiet, but I can see the party at least," Tony offered. "We usually have some sort of dinner together. Give minor gifts to each other since we're about our only family."
"Fluffy and Abby are going down to visit her family," Xander noted dryly. "She swears up and down they're cool, but normal, but he's freaking out. He wanted to know how you met someone's parents and Gibbs just looked at him and said 'endure it', then got back to work."
Tony laughed. "I guess he wasn't too fond of any of his ex-wives' families. I can't imagine doing that myself." He looked down at him. "Eat." Xander took a half-hearted bite. "What do you want for the holidays?"
Xander shrugged. "Peace on earth that doesn't require everyone to die to have it?" He ate another bite. He put his sandwich aside. "I'm not that picky. Get me a gift certificate to somewhere."
"That's too impersonal." He frowned down at him. "What're you getting for Gibbs?"
"A new pocket knife. Abby and Fluffy are getting a joint gift of stuff for their house since he's talking about moving in with her, or so she can add some of herself to his place. Ducky's getting a gift certificate to a bookstore. A nice bookstore not one of the chain places."
"What about me?"
Xander looked up at him. "I was thinking about doing a certificate to the clothes places you like."
"I'm good on clothes, but I'm techie at heart. Gadgets especially."
"Does that mean you want the MP3 player I won in that raffle?" Tony laughed and shook his head. "Are you sure?"
"I have one at home."
"Oh." He nodded and went back to resting against him. "How about you, what was your last Christmas like?"
"Pretty tiring, we were on a missing person's case and then we had dinner at the office over takeout and talked. The one before that we all had dinner somewhere decent that required ties and got loud and slightly tipsy." Xander grinned a bit at that. "You would have loved Kate, Xander," he said quietly. "We could've driven her nuts together, but you'd have loved her." Xander nodded, letting him cuddle him now. "She had this streak of naughtiness in her but she was always right beside me whenever we were in the field. I counted on her to save my ass many times and she was always there." Xander nodded, taking his hand to hold. "She'd have been driven nuts by you and your past, but she'd have been asking questions every few minutes to find out something new about demons and vampires and things." He looked down at him. "Last Christmas we were trying hard not to look at her desk. McGee and I went and got drunk together afterward. She'd have adopted you like a sibling."
Xander looked up at him. "I'm sorry I couldn't meet her. She sounds like a special lady, like Buffy's mom. Joyce was a lot like the mother to the group. Once she found out, she was there for us. Late night snacks while researching. Help getting slime out of clothes. Babying injuries if we wanted to whine about them. She fed the vampires cocoa to talk about their live life. We lost her to a brain tumor." He sighed and shook his head. "Somewhere they're probably staring at us wanting to smack us both."
"Probably," he agreed dryly, smiling at him. "She'd be bitching about me, just ranting that we were still grieving and not going on with our lives. There's days when I still feel her there."
"Sometimes spirits do hang around," Xander reminded him. "Just to watch over those they knew and loved. So she's probably watching Gibbs sand his boat and ranting about a seventeen-year-old redhead that just came into his life."
Tony laughed at that. "Yeah, she might be. Either that or she's watching us and just rolling her eyes and going 'not a girl, Tony'. She always picked on me about chasing women." Xander looked up at him. "I do a lot of chasing of women."
"A lot of them chase me but that's usually because they want to kill me."
Tony gave him another squeeze. "Some day we'll find normal people to be around. Now eat, I caught you not eating and planning on moping. You can't do that."
"Fine." He picked up his sandwich and dug in again, eating quickly. It was a good sandwich, something he could enjoy. Just like the cuddling was.
Xander looked up as Abby bounced up to where he was working, giving her a grin. "What can I get you tonight, my dark beauty?"
"You to get your lunch break." He shook his head. "I'm sure you get one."
"Not until midnight, then I get a half hour." He shrugged. "Sorry, Abby. Not yet."
She pouted and stomped a foot. "But it's your birthday!"
"Yeah, and?" He shrugged. "It's not like I usually celebrate it."
"I've got Gibbs coming in and you can't disappoint him." She saw the manager and bounced over to him.
"Abby, don't, you'll get me in trouble," he called after her.
"Why didn't you tell me it was your birthday!" he boss yelled from his spot. "What are you doing working today!"
"I don't usually celebrate it," he defended, pouring another bloody mary martini and taking the money, then grinning at the woman who purred 'happy birthday' before strolling off. He looked at the duo as they came over. "I haven't celebrated in years, guys. Really. I'm fine with working on my birthday."
"Tough!" Abby said firmly. "You can't! I have Gibbs and everyone coming in. Therefore you must at least take your lunch to be with us."
The boss checked his watch. "It's only nine. Hell." He looked at him.
"Sue's out of town," Xander reminded him dryly.
"Pior," the boss called, bringing one of the bouncers over. "Xander forgot to mention his birthday." The bouncer hissed and shook his head. "You can sling drinks, right?" He gave him a grin and a nod. "Good. Take over for Xander so this dark little Princess can drag him across the club." She squealed and hugged him, then ran around the bar to get him and drag him off and over to the table. He grinned at the bouncer, she had set this up earlier with him. She told him Xander wouldn't ever take his birthday off because he didn't consider anyone family enough to celebrate with him. "Tell me if you need help."
"Sure thing, Boss. Thank you." He smiled at the vixen walking over to him. "What can I get you, m'lady?"
She smiled. "No Xander?"
"It's his birthday and the boss caught him working on it," he noted, smiling brighter at her. "One of his friends narked so they're across the floor in the corner." She looked then growled, but smiled at him. "What can I get you?" he asked, lapsing back into his native Southern Texas accent.
"Get me some blood wine," she ordered, putting down a twenty. He took it and gave her a glass, and she walked away. It only made him a dollar tip but that was fine with him.
Xander was pushed into the seat and Abby sat next to him, giving him a hug. "I like that shirt on you. Where did you get it?" She looked at the tag, then smiled. "I like that store too. Is that where you got Tony those pants?" She wiped off her mouth. "He looked *so* hot today at work. Claims he was laundryless."
Xander chuckled and nodded. "That is where I got them. You really didn't have to do this, Abby."
"Of course I did." She smacked him on the arm. "Complain again and I'm letting Gibbs give you your birthday spankings."
He blushed and shook his head. "No thanks. I don't think he'd enjoy it half as much as you would."
She giggled and nodded. "I would. I just wanna see the look on his face." She saw Tony come in and squealed, getting up to drag him over. They found Xander shifting over and she sat Tony next to him. "Keep him in there. He can't leave."
"I was going to put my jewelry back on," he defended. "It's in my locker."
"Nope." She got up and took the key off his neck then went to talk to the boss so she could get it for him. She came back a few minutes later with his jacket and rings, plus another necklace. She put them on him, but put his jacket on the hook beside him. "There." She smiled and waved. "Tim! Gibbs!" They came over. "Where's Ducky?"
"Late," Gibbs said. He pulled a chair over and sat in it backward, looking at the kid. "You never told us when your birthday was."
"I don't usually celebrate it."
"Gibbs, you need to give him his birthday spankings," Abby told him, sounding quite firm. "That way he knows not to hide these things. He came to *work* on his birthday," she said, leveling a look in his direction.
Gibbs shook his head. "I don't like to spank people, even naughty ones like you, Abby." She giggled and bounced a bit. "How many Caf Pows have you had since you got off work?"
"Only one," she said happily. "Xander, I'm getting first round. What do you want?"
She pouted. "The reverse is the gift that keeps on giving, not that side. To drink, dear. What do you want to drink?"
He shrugged. "I'm good with a glass of red wine or something. Just not a martini."
"Okay. Gibbs? Tony? Beers?" They nodded and she looked at Tim. "You're having what I am." She got up and went to get them something, letting the bartender help her carry them back. She wiggled back against McGee's side and got comfortable. Ducky finally came while they were watching the club start up for the night and got his own drink. It was finally time for her surprise. She pulled out a blood red envelope and handed it to him. "From a very close friend."
Xander frowned and opened it, looking at the name on the last page. He looked at her. "Dawn? Dawnie wrote you?"
"Well, I called over there to see if they had any more Initiative files and she answered and we chatted. I gave her my address and your address so she wrote me that for your birthday, which was how I found out tonight is your birthday, and told me to give it to you during the night." She grinned. "She sounds very nice."
"She is. She's about the only family I have left." He read it slowly, savoring the 'miss you's spread throughout the pages of the letter, and laughing at what Spike had done to some of the new military vampires. "Spike's torturing the military vamps," he said proudly. "He had one dress like Snape and help him hunt down a demon like that, pointy stick for a stake and all." He folded it back up and put it into his inner jacket pocket. "Thank you, Abby. That meant the world to me."
"You're welcome," she said happily. She looked at Ducky. "Don't you think Gibbs should give him his birthday spankings for coming to work tonight, Ducky?"
Ducky spluttered and wiped his mouth, looking at her. "Abigail, you just sent my mind places it would really rather not go," he said patiently.
"Probie, I think she needs diverted," Tony said with a smirk, saluting him with his beer. "Maybe you should before she forces us all to watch that." Not that he would watch. He wouldn't, he definitely wouldn't. He wouldn't be jealous either.
"No, Anthony, I think that should be a treat reserved for you since you're his partner," Ducky said, making Tony and Xander both splutter. "Or did we change the hunting groups yet again?"
"No, they're together and Eliana and I talk about boats and helicopters whenever I go with her," Gibbs admitted dryly. "She'd be here but she's too young to get in."
"I wondered why she called me earlier to wish me a happy birthday," Xander said, looking at Abby. "Should I beware of succuba jumping out of a cake?"
"No," she snorted. "I didn't call Bethany at all. I don't even know if she's in town." Xander shook his head. "Ooh, I'm sorry."
"I haven't seen her in nearly a month, Abby." He took another sip of his wine. "Breathe, McGee," he ordered tolerantly.
"You're just so different when you're happy."
"McGee," Tony complained.
"Sorry, but he is. I usually don't see him this way. I usually see him when we're all there at the house working on something."
"Good point," Xander admitted. "That's just a side of me, Fluffy. Like Tony, you haven't bothered to look any deeper." He took another sip of his wine. He looked at Gibbs. "You know she's determined, right?"
"You haven't done anything yet to warrant being spanked by me, kid," he shot back with a smirk. "I'm seeing if you do."
"No, I'm going to be a good boy before Abby pulls out a whip or something."
"Last I knew she only had a riding crop," Tony said, looking at Abby. "Or did you buy something new to use on McGee?"
Gibbs smacked him across the back of the head. "I don't want to know those sort of details, DiNozzo."
"Sorry, Boss," he said happily. Xander snickered into his wine glass and shook his head. "What else did Dawn's letter say?"
"She's teaming up with Spike to annoy Angel into letting her go to college out here and him paying for it so she'll go away," he offered with a small smile. "Technically Willow has custody of her with Giles, but since she's still in LA Dawn's been staying there. Dawn doesn't always get along well with the other girls and no one has time to take her to school and stuff so she's been staying there." He took another sip. "Is this next round my round?"
"Since we didn't know in enough time to get you a present, I'll get the next one," Tony offered. He stared him down. "You didn't even mention it, not even give me a hint."
"Gibbs knew I was turning twenty-three within a month and a half of getting here. Ducky was around for one of my other birthdays, so I'm assuming he remembers some of that night."
"Bits and pieces," he admitted dryly, smiling at him. "I had no idea taking a young man to the bar for the first official time could be so much fun."
"You did the background on him and didn't look at his birthday?" Abby asked Tony.
"I didn't realize it was that soon. Gibbs had me searching for financial stuff and other stuff that could be used to make Xander do something. I didn't look at his social security number either."
"Point. Sorry, Tony," she sighed, shaking her head. She smiled at Xander. "You should have fun tonight."
"I should," he agreed, smiling back. "Would you dance with me?"
She giggled and nodded so he wiggled his way to standing and climbed over the back of the seat to take her out. Everyone else watched them for a moment then Gibbs looked at Tony. "What does he want for Christmas?"
"Peace on earth that doesn't require everyone to be dead."
"Big order, anything smaller?" Gibbs asked patiently.
"He mentioned a quiet party with all of us there, but Abby and Probie are going to be down with her family."
McGee paled at that. "How do I deal with that?"
"Be yourself," Ducky said patiently. "Meeting the parents of your spouse is a time honored tradition, dating back to when arranged marriages were the norm everywhere...."
Tony tuned him out, watching the pair dance. She looked good in his arms. He was smiling at her but Tony knew something was off about that smile. It was happy and bright, not really a Xander smile. Gibbs kicked him under the table so he looked at him. "What?" He finished his beer. "Are we ready for round two?"
"Sure, I could use a beer," McGee said.
"She'll yell at me. I'm not being yelled at for you," Tony told him, going to get another round and bring it back. He came back in time to meet the duo coming back, letting Abby take her drink from his hands and Xander sit down again. "Boss, since Abby and McGee won't be here, what're we doing for Christmas? Another dinner?"
"We can't go back to the last place we went. You and Kate got us tossed out, DiNozzo," he said, staring him down. Tony just gave him a shit-eating grin. "I guess we could sit around and have a real dinner. Do the present exchange and all that. Xander, can we borrow the grill?"
"Sure," he said, looking a bit stunned. "You want to come over? I mean, spend it with me instead of other, more family-like people?"
"This team is most of our family," Tony reminded him. He looked at Gibbs and saw his eyes widen at the look in his. "Boss, I just had the strangest thought the other day. If Kate were here, she'd have tried to date Xander because she was so mean and dangerous."
Gibbs spluttered on his sip of beer. Ducky patted him on the back. He looked at Tony. "That's not funny."
"No, but it's probably true," Abby admitted, grinning at Xander. "She wouldn't have tried to kill you, like the normal women you date, but she was more than dangerous enough for you. Plus very protective of what was hers. I couldn't even sneak and borrow a cute t- shirt she had." She took a drink of her drink, leaning against her boy's side.
Gibbs looked at him. "Were she here and had she started to date you, I'd have to have the long, involved talk with you about not hurting her or tying her down too hard so she wasn't able to work the next day."
Xander blushed at that. "I only tie people down so I can indulge in my oral kinks," he complained. "I'm a good lover most of the time. I don't need to tie someone down. Unless they want it that way."
"That's good to know, Xander," Ducky said happily. "When you finally start dating we'll have to listen to make sure whoever it is doesn't complain overly much about such things."
Gibbs looked at him. "You're not helping my mental image problem, Ducky. Please quit."
"Sorry, Jethro, but some day he'll want to date someone. I assume they'll be introduced to the group at large since he spends so much time with us and may even end up helping us in our appointed rounds." He looked over as most of the club went silent. "I do believe that's for you, Jethro. No one else among us ever seems to be followed by the Secret Service."
Gibbs got up and went to talk to him, accepting the note. The agent left quickly and he read it then groaned and went back to the table. "I've got to deal with Jen. Our Director just flipped out on someone. They think she's going to have a breakdown. Happy birthday, kid, and if you don't behave I will give you those birthday spankings later." He walked off, going to find her and beat the snot out of her.
Xander shrugged. "I always *try*," he defended. McGee snorted and shook his head. "I do."
"You need to work on that innocent act," he assured him with a smirk. "Especially since most of us saw you working out with your battle axe the other day." Xander giggled at that and nodded. "How heavy is that thing?"
"About twenty pounds. It's pure silver."
Tony shifted to look at him. "Why did you pick that thing up?"
"It was the last weapon in the usual box of weapons. Only Buffy could lift it and she said it was too manly for her so she always handed it to me. Eventually I decided it was mine. I trained myself in how to use it."
"I saw that and you do it very well," Tony assured him with a grin. "What else did you want to do tonight?"
"I'm pretty satisfied right now," Xander promised. "Really." A song he liked started and he moaned. "I love this one." He looked at Abby, who shook her head and nodded at McGee, who shuddered and shook his head. "Tony?"
"Sure. Why not? After the Cuban club and all." He took him out, letting himself be led. Xander had good rhythm here too. The boy fit against him. They were nearly the same height, Xander's body fit well against his in all the right spots, and Xander was a very good dancer. He saw someone rushing them and turned them, letting them speed past, making his partner laugh. "Sorry."
"Not a problem." He dipped him then hummed the last few bars of the song, walking him back to the table. "Thank you."
"Not an issue. You dance very well."
"It took me a very long time to learn how," he noted with a smirk. "It also took about six strippers to finally teach me what rhythm *was*," he admitted with a sheepish grin, "but it was a night well spent, even though I did have to pay for all the liquor and the jukebox."
"I don't think I've ever heard that song," Abby said, looking at the DJ. She got up and went to see what it was, then came back with the name and title of that particular song so she could look it up. She smiled at her boy. "Would you dance with me?"
"I can't dance that well," he complained.
"It's all about having fun and moving you hips," Xander counseled like the wise man he was. "Show her what you're going to be doing to her later, Fluffy. That's what it's about." He raised an eyebrow but his girl did pull him out onto the floor. He grinned at Tony. "They're so cute when she's corrupting him."
"You never know, he might be corrupting her."
Xander snickered. "Not unless he's got some wickedly kinky hidden past. Which I kinda doubt." Tony nodded, smirking a bit at this. "You guys really didn't have to do this."
Tony reached over and smacked him across the back of the head. "Enjoy it. It's not often someone other than Fluffy riles her protective and mothering instincts."
"I was saying thank you."
"Then I'll accept that," Tony offered with a smile. "We could go again."
"No, I'm a bit sore," he admitted. Tony turned to fully stare at him. "I'm fine, just my ankle acting up."
"Why is your ankle sore in the first place?" Xander wouldn't look at him. He made him look at him. "Where did you go alone?" he asked patiently. "For that matter, why?"
"Because I usually do a turn after work. I just kicked someone wrong last night. I'm fine. I treated it well all day. It's only a little stiff."
"Dancing didn't aggravate it?" Xander shook his head. "Then I'll let it go this time but you know we're under orders to go out in teams."
"No, you're under orders to go out in teams," Xander reminded him. "I'm the experienced one here."
Tony pulled him up and took him out onto the floor so they could talk without being eavesdropped on. That way Abby and McGee wouldn't know he was chewing him a new one for being so stubborn, stupid, and going out to possibly get killed. He made all his points and finished up by making Xander feel guilty, which got some protest. "I don't want to lose you too," he said between songs. "No more. Promise me."
Xander looked at him, seeing the fear in his eyes. "I'm more than capable...."
Tony pulled him closer. "I don't care. It's dangerous and I don't want you going out alone, Xander," he said in his ear. The music restarted and they moved again, him leading this time. "I can't take losing another person this decade. Okay?" Xander looked into his eyes and nodded. "So just quit and if we have to we'll go out more often. I'll get up early or something."
"No, I'm fine. Eli's not fully ready yet so I'm still doing some filling in."
Tony stroked over Xander's lower back. "I understand the urge, but you can't, Xander. Promise me," he ordered. "Or I tell Gibbs."
"Fine, I won't go out alone unless there's a good reason or I see an attack," he said as quietly as he could.
"Thank you," Tony said, starting to relax again. He kept him out there for another song then went back to the table, where Abby claimed him and Tony finished off his beer.
"What'd he do?" McGee asked, smirking at him.
"Bet me," he snorted. "Ducky?"
"Well, I had noticed him limping a bit tonight," he offered. "He kicked someone wrong?" Tony nodded. "Is he all right?"
"Fine. He babied it all day."
"That's good at least." Ducky smiled as Xander came back and hauled him up. "I don't do that sort of dancing, Xander."
"Oh, suck it up, Ducky, it's my birthday," he said with a wicked smirk. "Before you say anything, I'm fine," he said once they were alone.
"How often do you go out on your own?"
"Every night after work."
"Ah. Jethro will not be pleased."
"I'm not his underling and I'm capable of taking care of myself."
"Yes, but think about his pain if you die."
"Which was Tony's argument," he admitted. Ducky smiled at him. "Fine. Just don't tell Gibbs."
"I shan't. However I will want to look at your eye again. It's looking a bit inflamed."
"Tomorrow, Ducky, or sometime other than tonight. I can't stand to have that thing pulled and cleaned."
"Very well. The next time I come over. Shall I bring anything?"
"Tequila and red wine."
"You chase tequila with red wine?" he asked, looking a bit disgusted.
"Hey, I got taught how to drink it by a guy who chased his with milk," he noted with a smirk. "I like that combo. It soothes the ache afterward."
"I guess I can't say very much about that. We all have our poison of choice." The waltz ended and he was escorted back, this time Tony got pushed over and Xander took the end of the bench. Ducky cleverly took Gibbs' former chair so he could watch both couples. The children were trading unheated barbs with each other and laughing, so he was happy. He just hoped he didn't have to explain gay sex to Anthony. That thought alone was enough to make him pay for the third round of drinks.
Xander woke up to someone poking him with a blunt object, throwing the stake under his pillow at them. Gibbs ducked and he glared when he realized it was him. "What?" He looked at the clock. It was seven in the morning. "I've only been asleep for two hours."
"Was that because you went out alone?" he asked, sitting on the end of the bed.
"No, that's because Tony and I talked for a few hours," he admitted. "He said he wouldn't tell you."
"He didn't. Abby did." He stared the kid down. "Do you know how damn stupid that is?"
Gibbs swatted him, hard. "I don't care!" Xander slumped and laid back down, pulling the covers up to his chin. "It was still stupid. You're still human and mortal. You could have been ambushed. You could have been hit with a lucky shot. Another one could have entered the fight while you were working against one vampire and gotten you down or turned you! I don't even want to think about you being turned!"
Xander swallowed. "I'm sorry, Gibbs," he said quietly. "I was just trying to help."
"No, you weren't trying to help. This was to prove how macho you still are and to take some of the pain away." He saw the brown eyes blink and sighed mentally. He really should at least stay upset about this. "I want your promise. You may have told Tony...."
"I promised him I wouldn't unless I had to or I saw an attack happening."
"Fine. Doing it to him would make you keep it longer," he said, standing up and staring at him. "You could have died, Xander. You know that. That would have destroyed Tony. Part of being a team is thinking about the other person and how they'll react to some things, like you dying. It's almost as important as trust, it's the bond between you guys."
"I'm sorry!" He sat up. "I'm not used to this stuff, okay? I've been alone way too long without anyone who gave a damn! You can't expect me to suddenly change overnight!"
"I don't. I expect some common sense. That's why we go out in teams."
"I thought that was because you guys needed the help and because you don't know what most of the other demons out there are," he said dryly, staring back. "I can handle myself, Gibbs."
"I don't care if you think you can or not. You're still mortal and I'm not going to allow this, Xander."
Gibbs held up a finger. "One more word, Xander, and I will start yelling. The next time you want to do something so damn stupid think about Tony and how he'll feel. Especially if it means you could die."
"I could die leaving the house! Hell, I could die in the house!"
"Not the point." He forced himself to relax. He knew the kid wasn't doing it on purpose and he just didn't understand but this was getting to him. He had never had this problem. "The point is that your actions affect everyone else on the team. Especially if you die or you get turned. If you get turned, one of us will have to stake you."
"If I get turned, I'm leaving before any of you find out."
"I doubt it. You'd have to move the books." Xander sighed and slumped, shaking his head. "I'm serious, Xander. Think about Tony the next time you want to do something so stupid. Because it was and you knew it was."
"I've been doing this now for eight years, Gibbs."
He sat down again, making the boy look at him. "I understand that. I understand that you're probably one of the most skilled hunters in the world today. I get that. That doesn't mean you can't die. That doesn't mean you won't destroy Tony if you die. That doesn't mean it won't hurt Abby, Ducky, and me either. This is what having a family or a team is, Xander. You're going to have to start adjusting to this stuff. We're not leaving you, no matter how dumb some of the things you do are. Teammates and families don't do that."
"How would I know?" the boy asked angrily, getting out of the bed in his flannel pajama pants. "I've never had one. How in the hell should I know this shit, Gibbs? Do you suddenly come with a fucking manual?"
"Don't swear at me and quit yelling," he ordered calmly.
"No, I won't! You guys expect me to know all this shit! It's like being dropped in a country where you don't speak the language and you don't look like anyone else around you. I'm still muddling back at the introduction level and how to ask for food and water."
Gibbs nodded. "I understand that. You can ask us questions. We can guide you if you want and you let us. The main two points is that there's got to be trust and that you've got to consider more than yourself. Seriously. Come sit." Xander shook his head. "I'm not going to hit you or yell," he assured him.
"Yes you will!" He backed up another step. "You will and I still don't understand this shit! It's not me!" He turned and stomped off, going to the practice room to lock himself in there.
"Hell, I fucked this up," he muttered, calling Tony. "Abby told me," he said in greeting. "I came to talk to him and I think he's upset. Well he's locked in the practice room, DiNozzo. That and the yelling back were my first two clues. You wanna come help me here?" He snorted. "Don't say things like that. I know exactly why I'm calling you and why I'd call him if it was you, DiNozzo. I mean it." He hung up and went to try to talk him out of the room with the weapons. "Xander?" He tapped gently. "I won't yell or anything. Come on, we'll talk and I'll explain it to you."
"Go away! You hate me!"
"I don't hate you. Come on out." He checked the knob, the kid had installed a new one the other day and this one was lockpick proof and it had a guard so he couldn't use a card on it either. "Xander, come on. I didn't mean to upset you that way. That's as good of an apology as I can do. I don't normally give them." Tony or someone opened the bottom door and he looked down the stairs, finding a Tony with bed hair and still sleepy eyes. "No tickets?"
"No cops out yet." He came up the stairs and knocked. "Let me in, Xander."
"Why? So you can gang up on me?"
"Have I done that yet?" He looked at Gibbs. "What did you say to him!"
"I was explaining how he's supposed to think about how others will react when he does stupid shit, like going out alone."
"Who told you about that?"
"Abby. Who else knows?"
"Pretty much all of us found out after you left," he admitted. He looked at the door, then suddenly kicked it in, walking inside but shutting it in his boss's face. "I've got it. Head to work, I'm going to be late."
"Fine. Thank you." He headed back to his car. This was just odd. He hadn't meant to do it but maybe it'd help those two a bit more.
Tony sat down next to where Xander was hugging his battle axe, making the kid look at him. "He didn't mean to yell. That's just how he is."
"He really didn't. He was probably thinking he was explaining stuff. He's done it to me before too."
"I don't understand this stuff, Tony. It's like a foreign language I've never even heard of."
"I know." He pulled him closer, letting him cuddle. "Do you trust us?" Xander looked up and nodded. "Even to take care of you if you're hurt and those things? To have your back?"
"Isn't that like marriage?" Xander asked hesitantly.
"I wouldn't know, never been married," he admitted. He considered it for a moment. "Yeah, those could be marriage vows," he decided. "Well, a team or a family is like that too. We're that sorta close without all the sex." Xander leaned against him again, carefully, slowly. "I won't hurt you."
"I know," he admitted quietly. "I still don't understand."
"That's because you had parents that should've been killed, Xander. You should've been taken and given to someone who actually wanted you." He stroked the tense back. An idea came to him. "Do you remember the good days, back before Buffy came and it was you and Jesse taking care of each other and Willow playing nurse?"
"How did you know about that and the medical texts she used?"
"All little girls play nurse. Big girls do it too but they wear costumes." Xander snorted at that, relaxing a bit more. "You used to take care of Jesse right?" He felt the nod. "Didn't Jesse take care of you?"
"Every now and then he gave me a place to hide or stay."
"When you got bruises who gave you the ice packs?"
"Who babied the bigger injuries?" Xander looked up at him. "Did you have chicken pox?" Xander nodded. "Who took care of you?"
"The hospital. I had them in my ears and I made one bleed. My mother freaked since she was drunk and called the paramedics."
"They kept you?"
"They found a few in my throat if I remember right. Something like that." He looked down again. "I've been taking care of myself for a really long time, Tony. I took care of Jesse and Willow too. I've always been the strong one."
"Well, now you have others who are just as strong who want to take care of you and help you. They're strong enough to help you when you need it, just like they expect you to help them when they need it. Sometimes there's some yelling and complaining but mostly they do it because they care about you. Like Abby and I do."
"Abby said she wouldn't bandage a skinned knee."
"I remember that argument against her ever having kids," he admitted with a small grin. "Still, I think she'd help you with a scrape." He shook his head. "What's the worst injury you had, before your eye?"
"A few concussions, a few bruised ribs, a broken arm."
"You were damn lucky."
"I know." He let himself rest against him more. Tony shifted and he tensed up, pulling away but Tony pulled him back against him. "Sorry."
"I just had to move. My feet are asleep." He stroked his back again. "You understand what trusting someone is, right?"
"Yup, I think so."
"You can talk to people you trust, you can let them know when you need some backup, or even just a hug. That's what the trust is and it builds on you being honest when you need help. Because if you don't trust someone enough to admit that you need a bit of help when you're hurt, then you don't trust them. There's no real middle road of trust. Do you trust me and Gibbs to help you if you got injured?" Xander hesitated but nodded. "He really wasn't yelling."
"He wasn't. That's just how he is, Xander." He went back to petting the tense back. "If you got hurt, he'd yell. He has at me whenever I get hurt, but I realize he's doing it because he cares. You should've seen it when I got the plague. He ordered me to not die. Didn't ask, didn't beg, ordered. It worked because he knew what I needed." Xander looked up at him and he grinned at him. "I promise, he wasn't mad, Xander. He really wasn't. He's in awe of the stupidity you showed in doing that, and the bad judgement in risking yourself. You know that you're one of the generals in this war, risking yourself was extremely dumb. Think about what would've happened if you were killed. Who would help the rest of us when we got stuck?"
"Fat chance. Gibbs would have ripped him a new one," he said with a smirk. "In case you hadn't noticed, he doesn't like Giles very much." Xander nodded, he had noticed that. "Eliana doesn't have the knowledge to help us if we got stuck. If you died, it probably would have meant at least one other of us would have died from an attack by something we didn't know about."
"I don't know them all."
"No, but you know where to look to figure out what something was."
"The big blue and brown book."
"Good to remember." He gave him a gentle squeeze. "I know it's hard, Xander. I understand that. I know it's very hard to understand at times. As long as you trust us, you'll understand that we're there to help you as much as you're there to help us. If not more at times since I got woken up this early."
"You have to be at work at eight."
"Fuck work," he muttered. "He said I could take a few personal hours," he said more clearly. He looked down at him. The boy was such a contradiction. He was hugging his battle axe like it was a teddy bear. He was all but huddled against him seeking comfort and he bet the boy didn't understand why he wanted the comfort. He so wished that someone, one of them preferably, had been there for the kid instead of his parents. He was smart enough not to say it out loud, but he did wish it. He looked down again. "Do you want something softer to cuddle?"
"No, he's comforting. He's seen me through a lot of things." He glanced up at him. "Who takes care of you when you're hurt?"
"That depends on how hurt I am. If it's something minor, like your ankle yesterday, I'd do it. If it was something major, I know I can ask Gibbs and he'll complain about it but help me. He'll complain even more if I was doing something completely stupid and got hurt, but I know he'd help me if I needed it. McGee would. Abby and Ducky definitely would." Xander nodded. "Now, what happened to your ankle?"
"A chest like a brick wall." He snorted and pulled up his pants leg, letting him see the bruise. "I bounced off."
"That looks like more than a turned ankle."
"I'm fine. It's nothing."
Tony leaned down to check it, finding that it was just swollen now. He stood up and pulled the boy with him, taking him back to his bed. Then he went to get him an ice pack. He heard the door open and looked out. "What's up, Ducky?"
"I came to look at his ankle and his eye. Since I have no bodies waiting on me or anything." He took the ice pack and went up to put it properly in place after checking it. "Did you dislocate it, Xander?"
Xander shook his head. "No, just turned it funny. My foot went sideways a bit too far." He sat up. "I didn't need medial attention."
"You did say I could look at your eye and I don't have any bodies waiting on me."
Xander stared at him, then at Tony. "Can, I, um...." He shook his head and laid back down, pulling the covers up to his chin. "Never mind."
Tony laid down next to him, on top of the covers. He took both of Xander's wrists in his hands, holding them in place. "Close your eyes. Don't watch him," he whispered. Ducky smiled at him and bent down to lift the lid, a glass dish ready for the fake eye. He winced at the sucking noise but it did come free with a pop. He wanted to be sick and his thumbs were tracing circles on the tense wrists. "It's all right," he soothed. "Let him work on it. I'm right here." The phone rang and he stretched over to get it. "DiNozzo." He listened to his boss rant. "Boss, Ducky just removed his eye. I'm not going to be in for a few hours." He listened for a moment longer. "Boss, he needs me for the moment. Because he's back under the covers again." He hung up and pulled the covers back down, taking Xander's hands to hold. "I'm still here. Shepard jumped on his ass about me being late. He had to call for show." He watched Ducky clean the glass. "That's really nasty looking," he admitted. Xander peeked and grimaced, turning a bit green. Tony let him go, watching as he ran to be sick. "Is that normal?"
"It can be. This is probably the first time it's been removed," he admitted, finishing the wiping off. "I'm afraid I'll have to do an eye wash as well. That'll probably be just as bad for him. It tends to make people queasy I'm afraid." Tony nodded and went to help Xander, wetting down a washcloth to clean his face off. Xander was rinsing and spitting by the time Ducky made it in there. "All right. I still need to examine the hole. From the soot on it, I'll also need to do a rinse, Xander. Are you up to it?" Xander shook his head quickly. "If I had the materials, I could sedate you." Xander pulled open the bathroom cabinet and pulled out something that looked like a makeup kit, putting it on the sink so he could open it. "Oh, my," he noted, coming over to look. "That's got more than I do."
"That's our field kit from back home," Xander offered quietly. He lifted off the top tray of vials, showing the stitching kits, the gauze and tape, the vials of holy water with the red top. "This used to be in my car."
Ducky looked, finding two sedative choices. "You're allergic to one," he admitted, putting that one back. "The other is expired." He looked at him. "We'll have to fix that, won't we?" He bundled it back together again. "What do you usually drink when you want to forget everything?"
"Tequila and red wine."
"That's an...interesting choice," Tony noted, making a grossed out face. "Eww."
"Yes, well, I doubt I'll be able to manage the rinse without him in a much more pliable mood," he noted. "Slouch in front of me, Xander. Let me look in the orifice." He gently pried open the eyelid and grimaced. "Yes, that'll take some cleaning." He looked at Tony. "Go scour the kitchen." He nodded, going to do that. "You really should be doing this once a month."
"I can barely stand to look at it in the mirror, Ducky," Xander said quietly. "I can't touch it, I can't rub that eye, even when I get the phantom pains and it burns. I just can't handle this."
"I understand." Tony came back with two bottles. "Hmm, both very good years," he noted. "All right, drink it however. Stop when you're mildly buzzed. I can't move you around if you're totally drunk."
"I'm usually pretty good about following orders."
"Yes, but the tequila will have memory properties that won't let you remember what I had to do." His pager went off. "That had better not be Jethro." He looked and sure enough it was. He went to call in. "Jethro, I need to do an eye wash on him," he said in greeting. "I've just gotten his eye out and he's barely quit throwing up. He's presently getting drunk so I can do what I need to. He's got soot in there." He listened. "I noticed Anthony's pager didn't go off. Oh, I see. Can she do that?" He smirked. "Thank you for that tidbit. Fine." He hung up. "Xander, quit drinking for a bit."
"I can't sleep like this." He came out of the bathroom. "I can't. I couldn't do it with the eye patch, that's why they put in the fake one so quickly."
"I understand, and it shan't take me long. We just got a body that we got called out. We're not sure if it's one of ours yet or not. Anthony, you're to stay here. The director approved of you taking a day. She insisted even. I'll write you a legitimate medical excuse." He looked at Xander. "Let him finish that and by the time I get back, we'll see what I can rig up." Tony nodded so Ducky gathered everything and headed off again.
Tony looked at Xander. "I'm staying right beside you all day," he promised. "At least until Ducky's done and you're calm again. Go ahead and drink. It'll make it easier later on. You'll probably still be drunk when he gets back and wakes you up." Xander shuddered but continued to drink from one bottle then the other. Tony came over to move the eye off the bed and put it in the bathroom, then he helped get Xander into bed, laying on top of the covers next to him. It was all he could do. He didn't want to look at the deflated eyelid or anything else, but the boy needed comfort. Even if that was an injury he hoped he never received.
Ducky came back from his treatment with Xander, looking at Jethro. "He is to have that area cleaned once every two months. Even if we do have to sedate him," he ordered quietly. "I've called in an antibiotic for him and Anthony's already picked it and lunch up. The thing took me six washes to get the orifice clean, Jethro. It's a wonder he didn't die of a brain mold disease." Gibbs shuddered at that. "Also, Anthony is quite unhappy at the moment with certain people. He was upset enough to nearly break the no wish command." Gibbs nodded at that. "Somehow you would've ended up there as the boy's father."
"I'd have damn sure stopped half the problems he had with those girls," he said acidly, glancing around. "How is he?"
"Fine now. I did see his boss and give him a medical excuse. A simple showing of a gauze pad with some of the crud I removed from his eye socket was enough to convince him. I'm going to have Abby run it to make sure there's nothing especially worrying if that's all right?"
"Sure. She can do that while she's waiting for your samples." Ducky nodded. "Watch out, she's still on a rip," he muttered when the director came down the stairs from the command center. "We have an ID on our dead midshipman. His name was Harold Renais. His records do report some medical problems. Apparently he had a bad heart in his earlier years but it was thought to be corrected." He handed over the file. "By the close of the day if you can so we know if we need to investigate."
"Of course." He walked off, going down to his lab. Abby came in for the samples. "Run those please, Abigail. I need to make sure it's nothing too out of the ordinary. I only gave him a broad-spectrum antibiotic. I'll have more samples for you soon." She nodded, skipping off while he got to work on his post mortem exam. Someone came in and he glanced at them. "Madam Director." He checked the body. Someone had already looked it over for samples that needed to be taken and his assistant had apparently washed the body.
"Where were you?" she asked, watching him pick up a scalpel. "You're very late and you were late to a scene. Not to mention you left the scene and didn't come back with the body."
"Yes, well, one of my private patients needed a bit of care for an older injury. If you must know, I was doing an eye wash and rinse. A fairly nasty case. I had to rinse it six times to get all the debris out." He made the first cut and she stared at it.
"Is it bleeding?"
"No, but there is blood in the skin walls. That's all that's leaking out." He made the other side of the 'y' cut, meeting it and drawing down the torso. He made the lateral cuts so he could open up the flaps he had just created, looking inside. "Well, that's rather nasty of them. He had a blow out." He went to get the medical records Jethro had handed him, looking them over. "Yes, that explains everything so very neatly." He called up there, smiling at the gruff answer. "I'm afraid his heart blew a hole in itself. It was fairly nasty and it looks like it disrupted the chamber so only a third of the blood is inside the body cavity. Of course I shall." He hung up and went back to finish a cursory exam to make sure nothing else popped up as well. He looked at the director. "I think my job is fascinating but I never knew you had a like of watching autopsies. Or is it just watching me work today?" he asked with a gentle smile.
"Which personal patient?"
"Without their authorization I can't even divulge that. I shouldn't have told you what I was doing for him."
She moved closer. "I think you were working on the Harris boy," she noted coolly. "Which is not military personnel."
"Actually, he's listed as being a specialist I do believe," he noted dryly. "After all, he helped take down a special operations project that was torturing others. As he's one of the last two survivors of that action....." He let it trail off. "You'd have to ask Jethro about that. I'm sure he had it found by Anthony when he did the background search. As for who I was working on, I'm neither confirming nor denying your suspicions, simply stating the facts of the boy's case," he said at her triumphant look. "And should you try for him, I would hate to see him react to taking away the only people he still trusts within the military. It would be a *horrible* thing should he decide that we're trying something similar again. Especially if one of his other friends were involved."
"He's sucking you all into some deluded fantasy...." she started when the doors opened. "Jethro."
"That's Agent Gibbs at work, Director." He looked at Ducky, who pointed at the hole. "That is huge."
"Yes, it apparently stopped the heart fast enough to not bloat his body but you can see how much blood is flooding him already. I suppose it could have been worse. Do we know what he was doing?"
"He was apparently out with a few friends getting a drink," Gibbs noted. "He said he felt ill, headed back to his house. The cab driver we found said he dropped him off there, but he wandered off. He was found about three blocks from the house in an alley, which you saw. We think he was moved out of someone's way."
"Yes, well, they probably thought he was drunk or some such," he said bitterly. "I haven't found anything else but I'll finish the examination anyway, just in case something else should pop up." He smiled at him. "Have you heard from Anthony?"
"Yes, I did. He emailed his reports that I wanted done today. Thank you for helping him earlier."
"Not an issue, he needed it," he admitted, glancing at the director. "Do you need a report today?"
"By tomorrow morning's fine since it's not a homicide," he offered, heading back upstairs. She caught him in the elevator and turned off the motor, stranding them. A trick he had taught her. He looked at her. "You needed something further?"
"I'm ordering you to stay away from Mr. Harris, Jethro."
"I don't think you can tell me what to do in my off hours as long as it's not illegal. Forgive me if I'm wrong on my recollection of the code." She glared at him. "That won't work on me. You know that. What's crawled up you this time?"
"This is all some elaborate fantasy being played out!"
"It's not. If it was, McGee and Abby wouldn't have bite marks. Ziva would still be here. How is she doing?"
"She said she's perfectly normal."
"Did you ask if she had a pulse?" She glared again. "She didn't have one when I found her. I'm sorry if this upsets you but she dated that man knowing what he was. She took that option knowing the risks. She was as fully trained as I am and I'm not that dumb. Now, is there anything else?"
"You went over my head!"
"You became irrational. Of course I did." He turned to fully face her. "Jen, I don't know what's wrong with you. You saw it with your own eyes."
"That was some sort of hallucinogen that he slipped me."
"You didn't meet the boy until the next day. How would he have done that? Telekinesis?" She was going to blow, he could see it coming. "I don't care if you can ignore what's in front of you, Jen. I've already had one agent eaten. I had one who nearly did due to his own stupidity. For that matter, Ziva got bitten before she got turned and it still didn't stop her. They made their choices and the rest of us have to live with them." He realized that was the argument he should have used that morning.
"What?" she asked cautiously.
"I was trying to explain team behavior to someone before I came in this morning and I should have used Ziva as an example." He looked at her again, smirking a bit. "Whatever you think it is, Jen, you're wrong. Still wrong. You saw it, you examined one, and you still can't believe? That's fine. That's why we kept you out of the loop in the first place."
"Don't you dare go over my head again or I'll see your retirement party within the day," she threatened.
"You can try, but I have a whole drawer full of medals in Tony's desk. Including a Bronze Star. Who do you think they're going to listen to? Someone ranting about vampires or me?"
"How dare you!" she screeched.
"You're the one who dares, Jen. Not me."
"I'll have you up for sleeping with DiNozzo," she sneered. "That'll ruin both your careers."
"That'll also enable us to sue the department and the Navy for slander. After all, you have to have proof that we're consorting sexually for those charges to stick and we're not. He's my second-in-command on the team. Off duty he's a friend. Nothing more, nothing less. You and some other women may fantasize about the two of us in bed, but it's not happening. I have it on good authority that he's slowly making his way closer to someone who deserves the sort of love Tony can give them and they'll love Tony in return with everything in them. I'm hoping like hell they make it."
She glared. "I can still accuse and it will come back to haunt you."
He pointed at the camera above them. "You just threatened blackmail in front of a secure system, one with people who watch it and it's automatically downloaded and saved for a year on a computer somewhere in Arlington. The guards won't erase it on your say-so either. Now, the choice is yours," he said quietly. "You can either back down and accept it. Or you can try something and be ruined. I'm not the nice one in this elevator." He restarted it and they reached his floor. "You have a nice day, Madam Director." He got off and called security from Tony's desk since it was closest. "This is Gibbs. The Director will be calling to have some tapes wiped. Don't let her. She just tried to blackmail me. Use special copies and save them in the safe. Please. Thank you." He hung up and McGee was staring in horror. "What?"
"You said please."
"I did, it's polite in certain circumstances when you don't want to threaten. My mother did teach me that word and I use it where appropriate, McGee. Do you have anything on who moved the body?"
"A bit, Boss. One of the local store owners admitted one of his neighbors probably did it since he sort of saw the body, but he wasn't sure if it was a drunk or homeless person sleeping in the doorway. I have his name but he's out to lunch."
"We'll interview him in about an hour." He sat down behind his desk, staring at him when he continued to stare. "Do I have something on my face?"
"No, Boss. Where's Tony?"
"The director thoughtfully gave him the day off so he could help Xander with the eye cleaning he needed. Apparently he had some sort of soot."
"And then some," McGee said, bringing over a copy of the lab report Abby had made. "That's what they found. I was wondering if this was germane to the after-hours case?" he asked quietly.
"It may be," he admitted, looking it over. "Sulphur?"
"I figure it came from when they had to go *there* and fight. Abby thinks so too, Boss."
"Fine. Does Ducky know?" He nodded. "Good. Keep this until later. I'm heading over then. DiNozzo should be about ready to jump through the walls without his XBox."
McGee smiled. "I didn't know you knew what an XBox was, Boss."
"It's hard to miss with how many ads they have for it and the games, McGee," he said dryly. "Get back to work."
"Yes, Boss." He sat down and went back to cleaning off his desk. He had let it get messy while they had been so busy. He had a thought and pulled out a CD Willow had sent, checking on anything coming up. He frowned at something. "Boss?" Gibbs looked up. "Come look at this." He came over to look, then frowned. "Has that already happened?"
"Not in that exact manner," he admitted. "Send that to me. I'll get it to Harris later." McGee nodded, copying and sending it to his PDA over the wireless stream they had. It was more untraceable that way. He logged into his private email account, a web-based service, and sent it to Willow as well. "Boss," he asked finally, "are we being paranoid?"
"You can't be paranoid if they're really out to get you." He looked over. "In this case, I believe it's a good idea." He checked the time. "Lunch, McGee?"
"Sure, Boss. Where did you want me to pick you up something from and what did you want?"
"A sandwich is fine. Rye, roast beef. No pickle or cole slaw."
"Sure, Boss." He grabbed his jacket and headed off to find the nearest sandwich shop.
Gibbs sat back and pulled out his cellphone, calling his ultimate boss. "Sir, it's Gibbs. May I talk to you sometime today? There's a few things we think you should know." He smiled. "Thank you, sir. Of course I'll even be on time." He hung up and went to make sure he was presentable enough for the White House.
Gibbs walked into Xander's house, hearing the moan. "Should I leave?" he called.
"I'm giving him a backrub for holding my hand earlier," Xander called.
Tony came down the stairs, smiling and happy. "How was your day, Boss? That battle axe means he's got really strong hands."
"I'd suppose it did." He handed over the file. "Our new team member. She's coming next week."
He opened it. "Do I know her?"
"You met her at a conference last year," he assured him. He headed back to the kitchen to get some coffee, finding Xander in there. "How's your head?"
"Better. Thank you." He gave him a shy smile. "I'm sorry I didn't understand."
"Not a problem. It came to me earlier that I should have used Ziva's actions as a demonstration model." He clapped him on the back. "There's a small prophecy coming. Someone raising power for, and I quote, 'unholy power and wealth raising' rituals."
Xander nodded his head a few times. "I saw that email. I'm guessing someone wants a senator of their own. Isn't that every rich boy's dream?"
"Probably," he admitted. "You'd have to ask DiNozzo about that." He looked at Tony as he came in. "Do you think she'll fit?"
"If I remember her right, maybe. She was giggly at the convention but I heard people say she was a hard-ass on the job. Her records and reviews all say she's a hard-ass and overly determined. That'll be good. Does Probie know she's coming?"
"I was going to announce her tonight at our meeting. Along with the good news that Director Shepard is being moved to the CIA over Acquisitions."
"Is that she buys the toilet paper or like she goes out to make double agents?" Xander asked.
"She'll go get agents and recruit," he admitted. "Buying toilet paper is purchasing over there. They're not happy people."
"True. They did ours for a few months after I joined. My first day I got a memo from them, in the stack of other stuff, that said I could only use three sheets of tp a day."
"Dumbass there sent in an anonymous suggestion in retaliation saying that since toilet paper was such a short supply and in danger of becoming extinct the department should put in bidets."
"They had to look it up and it shocked their narrow little minds," Tony said with a fond smirk. Xander snickered at that. "If I remember right, Kate laughed her ass off and suggested that they pay for drugs that removed women's cycles as well since that was something that had the need for more tp and to also hand out constipatives." Xander ended up leaning on Gibbs' arm while he laughed. "That's about when they gave up and handed our purchasing to the navy, right, Boss?"
"I think it was the bidet that started it, but it got implemented then," he agreed.
"I can just see explaining their use to a roomful of new recruits," Xander giggled. "The clueless looks, the one guy who knows the other uses for it, and..." A new peal of giggles. "And the one homophobic guy who complains that anything going near that hole was unholy and wrong and he'd rather wear shit."
Gibbs did snicker a bit at that. "I can see doing it during boot camp," he admitted.
"Recruits," Tony mimicked Gibbs. "There's many things they don't teach you in this man's Marine Corps. One thing we will be teaching you is hygiene. In case you hadn't noticed, we have showers, soap, shampoo, and towels. We expect you to use them daily, if not more often when needed. We also have new devices that the Corps just put in." He stopped to snicker. "These are *only* for cleaning up after you've made a disgusting mess in the bathroom. They are not a drinking fountain. They are not to play in. They are not for sexual gratification. They are not something to send pictures home about. Due to the shortage of toilet paper, you now use something called a bidet whenever you visit the latrines." Xander was clutching Gibbs' arm by now to hold himself up. "I will not be leading a practical demonstration of this as I don't think you need to see my naked ass. Basically, you turn on the water, squat, count to five hundred, get up, turn off the water, and pretend you didn't enjoy it. We do not want to hear about it if you do. Remember, don't ask/don't tell is still enforced on this base and all others, especially about such matters. I suggest you practice this action repeatedly to save those on report from doing your nasty drawers." He couldn't finish, he was laughing too hard.
"I'd have made the most timid and shy person there get up to give the demonstration. It'd do 'em good," Gibbs smirked. "It'd give them self confidence." Xander fell over and rolled around laughing.
"All those guys ready to jump on the first moan," Xander howled, holding his stomach. "No, that wasn't a moan," he said, trying to make his voice lower. "That was a grunt, yeah a grunt. Of misery. Really horrible torture they're making us go through."
"Especially with dinner in the mess," Tony finished.
"Portable ones for exercises. Assigned bidet carriers and people to move between units taking it with them." Xander burst out in more giggles. "The MRE version is a bottle of water."
Gibbs laughed at that. "At least it'd make some of those more edible." He shook his head. "When is everyone else coming?"
"Within the hour, Boss," Tony said with a grin. "He needed that. Thank you."
"You started it," he reminded him. He shook his head. "What's for dinner?"
"I don't cook," Xander offered weakly from the floor. The front door opened and closed. "We're back here." Ducky walked in and gave him an odd look. "Bidets," he said, cracking again.
Ducky gave Tony a fond look. "You told him that story?"
"Gibbs did. We just embellished," he said with a grin. "Personal bidet carriers between units." Ducky did laugh at that mental image. "How did things go without me today?"
"Quietly," Gibbs told him. "It was nearly silent all day."
"Ah, then I was missed."
"No, we got a lot of work done. McGee even got to clean his desk."
Tony frowned at him. "Make me feel more unloved, watch me shack up with Xander for good."
"As long as I don't have to hear details," Gibbs noted dryly. "Anything new on that body, Ducky?"
"Not a bit I'm afraid. It was what it looked like." He helped Xander off the floor. "Did you take your antibiotic?"
"Yes, Uncle Ducky, your Xander was a good Xander," he offered in a childish voice but grinning brightly. "I was a good boy *all* day. I slept off the tequila and I did my battle axe practice, then I took a shower. Uncle Tony made sure I was a good boy and made sure I took my pills on time so no more nasty crap can eat my brain *ever* again."
Ducky smiled and patted him on the cheek. "Were you my nephew, you'd never belch at the table and you'd be related to Rupert, so therefore wearing tweed. Remember that, my dear boy." Xander shuddered. "Exactly."
"Okay, you can be an honorary uncle. The sort who comes over to visit mommy when the daddy's gone," Xander offered in his normal voice but with a wicked smirk.
Ducky chuckled and shook his head. "I'm afraid I'd never do that very well. I tend to get a bit clingy. She'd have to give him up to even taste my lips."
"Then do you come to visit daddy when mommy's away?" Tony joked.
Ducky looked at him. "Had I visited your father, you'd have better manners as well," he noted dryly. Tony smirked at him. "Did you drink with him?"
"Just a bit but we're both sober now," he admitted. "We can be happy. Happy is normal."
"Happiness is a medicine that has been lauded for centuries," he agreed. "Even by the Greeks and Romans."
"During the Dark Ages, it was considered a sign of possession if you laughed out of turn or at odd things, or if you couldn't laugh," Xander told him, smirking at him. "Then they drilled a hole in your skull to let it out."
"Are you reliving that?" Ducky teased.
Xander snickered. "No. I was a good boy if I was alive back then. They probably got me for sleeping with the wrong sheephand."
"Or sheep," Tony offered with an evil smirk. "You know how people are out in those lonely fields."
"I have better taste than that, even if I did date Cordelia and Anya."
"They were both very pretty girls," Ducky agreed. "Even if their personalities lacked a bit." He looked at Tony. "I heard we're having a meeting tonight?"
"As soon as the wonder couple show up," Tony agreed. "Boss, make some coffee?"
"That's what I was trying to do," he said, moving around Xander to start the coffee maker. Ducky dove into the refrigerator. "He says he doesn't cook, Ducky."
"Yes, well, it's good that I do." He came out with some meat, going to defrost it in the microwave then cook it. "Even non-growing boys need a real dinner and I did promise Mother that Xander and I would both eat well tonight since I told her I'd be dining with him."
"I'm coming over Sunday for tea, remind me," Xander told him.
"Oh, she'd adore that," he agreed happily. "If you aren't there by two, I'll call." He got back to work gathering the other ingredients. "Xander, spices?"
"You ask like I know more than they come in little plastic bottles and metal cans."
"Good point. Where would they be?"
"Um, cabinet next to the glasses? I'm never in there and I haven't seen any in the other cabinets."
Ducky got in there and found the rest of what he needed, adding them to the pan. Then the meat came out, still a little bit frozen, and got put in as well. It wouldn't harm anything. He browned it and then transferred everything into a baking dish and put it into the oven. He pulled down some rice, noticing the other men were staring at him. "What? I do cook for mother and myself."
"He does and he's a very good baker," Xander said, grinning at Tony. "He makes very good cookies."
"I've noticed that." He came over to help since he *could* cook, he just didn't do it often. Gibbs came over to pitch in and Xander set the table.
"I was going to call and ask if we should bring pizza, but I figured it was a given," Abby called as she walked in.
"Ducky's cooking," Gibbs called back. "We'll eat the pizza later, Abby. For a snack."
"Good. We'll just take the leftovers home." She grinned and kissed Xander on the cheek. "How was the rest of your night?"
"Pretty good. Tony and I talked for a while, then I went to sleep. Only to be poked away by Gibbs really early. Then Ducky came to work on my eye, which does feel better." She smiled at that. "What?"
"I ran a sample. You had crud from that battle in there." She handed it over after putting the pizzas down on the counter. She counted place settings and went to get another one. "McGee is coming, he's just running late. The director pounced on him. She's ranting and mad, Gibbs."
"She's getting moved to the CIA, for Acquisitions."
"Which is a prestigious job, but fairly dead end," she agreed happily. "I heard. So, any news on the new person on the team?" Tony handed over the folder. She looked at it, then snickered. "I've met her. She's a nice lady. Not the least bit techie at all, can't actually do a thing with computers. She's very determined. I've heard her compared to one of those little terrier dogs before."
"So, if McGee and Gibbs had a kid it'd be her?" Xander asked.
There was a moment of silence. "Sorry, Boss, it was the tequila he drank this morning so Ducky could treat him," Tony offered. That was a scarier mental image than Xander wearing Abby's schoolgirl skirt.
"That would be one f-ed up relationship," Abby said, shaking her head. "My McGee, he has to get his own," she reminded Xander. Who was giggling against the counter again. "Are we including her?" Gibbs shrugged. "That's fine. When is she coming?"
"She's doing the intro lectures starting tomorrow. That means she'll appear Monday," he announced. "We've got to give her a chance, and the new director, whenever they get here."
"Ooh, I know something about that," she said happily. "They asked Morrow to come back and he's unhappy with the paranoid people over in Homeland." She bounced a bit, beaming at him. "So we've got him back, Gibbs."
"Good. I could use someone above me with a clue," he admitted, pouring himself some coffee. Xander had even gotten him his own coffee mug. "Any idea on that prophecy, kid?"
"Just a few," Xander admitted with a smirk. "It is human, I'm guessing they're going to try to influence someone in Congress. I had a sudden talk with a Secret Service agent the other day while I was buying new candles and he said that they had the White House covered magically against influence. It has been now for years. That doesn't keep it from being influenced in other ways, like money, but it can't be done magically, not since Jefferson's time." Gibbs nodded once at that. "So I'm guessing someone higher in the Admin that doesn't work there or Congress, which would get them the most bang for the buck. Now all we have to do is decide if they're going for subtle, meaning they pick someone they can use for years and who can subtly get others behind their ideas, or if we're going to be looking at one of the major power players being used."
"Personally I'd go for subtle," Abby offered. "That's a lot of work for a one-shot thing."
"But it depends on what they want," Tony reminded her. "They may only think they need the single shot to get whatever they want. Besides, once influenced, won't they be open again?" Xander nodded at that. "How would we tell?"
"Again, depends on subtlety. Someone non-subtle would announce they've got a great new idea and that it had to be done for the good of America. Someone subtle would start to poke and prod those around them to go their way when they brought it up. So we've really got to warn someone about sudden changes in agenda. I don't think this is something we can hear or deal with ourselves. It's going to have to come from an insider."
"So the Secret Service working with us are going to have to deal with this?" Gibbs guessed. Xander nodded. "That's fine. Any idea what they wanted?"
"Money and power. That's not in short supply around here but it could be something as simple as getting a spot in the Administration. Something like an ambassadorship? Something like a court position maybe? I'm guessing they're feeling a block above their head and they're going to get past it this way."
Gibbs nodded at that. "It makes sense to me. Political power and the politics of getting it aren't what we deal with. You think they have some and they want more?"
"Yeah, I would say with the way it's worded that it could be. But by them doing this, it'll expose all this to the outer world. Unless we get them for being a mistress or lover and claim their influence is from that instead of magical. By the way, I took out the three bugs I found earlier." He got them out of the freezer and handed them to Abby. "I just remembered those."
She looked at them. "They're not ours or the ones the FBI uses. CIA?" she asked, passing them to Gibbs.
He looked at them. "NSA actually." He put them into his pocket. "Freezing them was a good idea." He patted Xander on the back and smiled. "Ducky, when's dinner?"
"A few more minutes. The pork roast has nearly cooked enough. We do eat it in a civilized fashion and not overly done, correct?"
"That's how I get my pork chops out of the microwave," Xander agreed. Ducky gave him a long stare. "I can't cook! Don't give me that look, I'm a guy! I focus on my fighting skills, not cooking and cleaning. Tara was the neat freak of the group and Joyce and Tara cooked."
"I wish I had been able to make it back for their funerals," Ducky sighed. "I do miss those young women. Joyce was the sort I'd have dated, Buffy beside the point." He checked the meat again with a thermometer. "It's done. Oven mitts, Xander?" He handed over two towels. "Another thing we'll have to work on." He pulled it out to let it rest on top of the stove and turned off the oven, checking the other dishes. "Nearly done. Everyone clean up and get drinks." Xander and Abby got their sodas out and then went to wash their hands and call McGee.
He came rushing in and leaned against the door. "Boss, she's ready to rip you a new one," he announced. "She knows you got her transferred and told the old boss that when he showed up. She went off on you and I was trapped." He came back to the kitchen, loosening his tie and taking off his jacket. He sat beside Abby. "She went off on the vampires too. He just looked at her and said 'I knew that already'. She gaped and threw a massive fit in MTAC." He nodded at that. "He had her sedated and sent home, and then I was still trapped while he called over there to warn them she knew." He looked at Xander. "She wants to have you arrested."
"We found bugs earlier," Xander admitted. "I'm wondering if they know already or not."
"They do." Gibbs passed down the rice, watching as Xander dished himself out a little bit. He glared and the boy added more to his plate. "Thank you." He passed it to Tony. "You need to eat better."
"I'm fine." He took some meat with a smile for Ducky, who smiled back. "Thank you." He dug in, eating heartily. He was hungry, this was breakfast for him. "Am I off work or should I hurry up and change?"
"No I called you off tonight, Xander. Your boss said that your eye must have been throbbing for months and that's how you understood that suicidal girl's pain."
"Yeah, been there, done that a few times," he agreed, eating another bite. Gibbs smacked him on the back of the head. "Sorry, Gibbs."
"Not a problem, Xander. What're you going to do if you get that bad again?"
"Call you and make you sit up and talk with me?"
"Or me," Tony reminded him.
"You can call me too but McGee might get cranky with you the next day," Abby assured him with a smile. Gibbs looked at her, one eyebrow raised. "What?" she defended.
"Are you saying he's moved in, Abby?"
"No," she snorted. "He won't. However he does sleep in my coffin now and then." She beamed at her boyfriend, who blushed. "What else did she say?"
"That you're a freak and that you and Xander were teaming up to pollute the rest of us normal people," he shared. "That you're probably the reason that Xander came, since we all accepted you it'd be easier for him to get his hooks into us. She wasn't sure if you were a willing conspirator or not. The old boss laughed at that."
"He's the new boss now," Gibbs told him.
"Good! I remember before he left and things were normal. No suddenly appearing people being forced on us or anything."
"Ziva's replacement starts on Monday," Tony told him.
"From what they say it's a love child between you and Gibbs," Xander told him.
McGee got up and went to get an antacid, then came back to get back to eating. "Thank you for that mental image, Xander. Boss, Abby and I are going to be tired tomorrow."
"Why am I going to be tired?" she asked.
"Because if I can't sleep, I'll need someone to keep me company," he assured her with a smile. "You'd keep me company, wouldn't you?"
"Hey, I'd even try to help you get to sleep. I make a good cup of warm milk," she said proudly. "With just enough bourbon to make happy dreams." McGee smiled at her. "Sorry if we're cranky tomorrow, Boss."
"Fine, Abby. McGee, I'll expect you to be nice to the new agent. I've never met her before. Tony's only seen her at a conference."
"She's non-technical but very serious about the job," Abby told him. "Plus she's got a sense of humor."
"Sounds like she'll fit in well then," he agreed. "I'm always nice to the new people, Boss. You know that. It's Tony you usually have to warn."
"I won't crack dirty jokes the first day," Tony promised. "Unlike yours, when you walked into my teasing contest with Kate."
Xander subtly leaned closer to him. "It'll be fine. You guys can tell me if she needs the lessons too. Boss, how's Eliana doing? She was asleep when I called her earlier and her mother wanted her to have a few more days back before starting again."
"She's okay. She's supposed to get the cast off the day after tomorrow. With her healing how long will the therapy take?"
"No therapy and I'm sure her bones have already healed," he told him. "They're all like that." Gibbs nodded. "So we can take her out this weekend? If I'm not working on my day off?"
"Sure," Gibbs agreed. "How trained is she?"
"She probably got the last lessons from Faith before she came," he offered. "She was working on her basics during the Hellmouth battles. Since then she's been training hard. She didn't want to stay in the group, she always stated she wanted to come home and hunt locally if there were any here. Giles said he was pushing her to get her ready to come home when this one opened and we got sent. I'm guessing she'll be fine with some mentoring and monitoring. She was a pretty steady personality. A bit whiny as only a seventeen-year-old girl can be. She got snatched the night after her prom and had rescued herself from the Bringeres before any of the other slayers or Watchers found her. She graduated high school while she was in Sunnydale and I know she was thinking about college. That might be on hold for another semester but I'm not sure." He ate another bite of dinner and realized he had eaten it all when he looked down to stab more food. "Wow, Ducky, that was so good I scarfed it." That got a smile and more food put onto his plate. "Thanks. Are you sure your mother's okay with just the corgis?"
"She's fine, Xander. She's undoubtedly heated up some soup for them and her." He smiled at him. "Bring some flowers if you could. Mother's been missing her garden."
"Of course. Daisies?"
"Would be lovely," he assured him. "Her childhood garden had a good bunch of those right where she used to sit. It'll thrill her to no end." Xander grinned at that. "Did anyone else want to come over this Sunday for tea? Mother's always looking forward to company since she can't get out much these days."
"Sure, Ducky, call and remind me too," Gibbs assured him. "I can even put up with her dogs."
"Thank you, Jethro. I'll try to keep Contessa off you this time." He smiled at Abby. "Would you like to come as well?"
"Maybe next weekend, Ducky. This weekend I've got to call my mother and remind her I'm bringing Tim home and not to show my baby pictures. I expect it'll take most of the day with how she likes to chat and give gossip." Tim got up to take another antacid. "It won't be that bad!" she assured him.
He smiled at her. "If you say so. Remember, if we're still together next year, you're going to get to meet mine."
"Will they like me?"
"Probably not. My father thought I should be on Wall Street or doing corporate crimes." He ate a bite of dinner. "Nice job, Ducky. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Timothy. It's so easy to please this group."
Xander grinned at him. "Usually I toss some garlic salt on top of a pork chop and put it in the microwave when I want pork," he told him.
"You eat many strange things," McGee assured him happily. He was finally starting to understand Xander and relax around him since his birthday had shown him a deeper Xander.
"Yes, but this morning was probably the strangest yet," Ducky told him. "His field box of medical supplies didn't have an anesthetic so I could clean his eye so he ended up getting drunk on red wine and tequila."
"I don't like the taste of the tequila and I'm not much one for beer, which enhances the aftertaste of the tequila. The red wine washes it down nicely," Xander defended. "Plus I like the taste."
"You always drink red wine at the bars too," Tony agreed. "Does it actually take out the aftertaste?" Xander nodded. "Is that why you like the red wine?"
"White wines are too dry, the flavors aren't as deep and mouth-affecting for me. I like red wines for the taste anyway so I tried it one night before going hunting with my formerly usual shot and it worked well. I eat hot peppers on my turkey sandwiches too."
"That I will admit goes well together," Abby agreed. "Banana peppers especially." Xander nodded.
"Children, some of us eat normal food," Gibbs noted. "I don't need to think about that or what I ate in the field when I was younger." Xander giggled, he had been planning on mentioning that.
Tony looked up as the new girl walked in that Friday, earlier than she should have. "Welcome. We heard you weren't supposed to be here until Monday." He pointed at Ziva's desk. "There."
"Thank you." She put down her box and came back to shake his hand. "Adrian Marquez."
"Tony DiNozzo. Gibbs and McGee are down in autopsy at the moment. They'll be right back." He smiled at her. "So, where are you from?"
"Here and there. I was raised by a big brother who was in the Army." She smiled at him. "You?"
"North East, but I used to be a cop in Baltimore."
"I did Special Victims in LA and San Francisco before transferring to the FBI."
"Then you're fairly knowledgeable about the crimes you'll be seeing here. Do you profile?"
"Some. It's not my favorite skill but I'm pretty decent." She gave him an impish grin. "Or so my reviews state."
He smiled back, and felt that he could get to like her. "We all have reviews we wonder about. I often wonder why someone said I was a serious, calm person." She giggled at that. "You should get settled in. A word of advice. The boss is 'boss', not sir. Never sir. He barks, a lot. Ignore it and concentrate on what he's saying. Do what you can and be honest if you can't."
She nodded. "Of course. I was already warned about the barking thing. They said he's the doberman on the block." She went back to her desk, starting to unpack. The elevator dinged and she looked up, standing straighter. "Special Agent Gibbs, I'm Adrian Marquez," she said, shaking his hand. "Agent DiNozzo said I could have that desk, is that all right?"
"Sure," he agreed. "The last person went back to Israel." He looked her over. "You got done early?"
"No, frankly I walked out on the lecture about misuse of company resources because my being stuck in there doesn't help you any. I figure if I mess up, you can tell me." He nodded at that, smirking a bit. "If you'll give me ten minutes to set things up on the computer I can help you with whatever you want or need. I'm not good on the computer, but I can help," she offered with a small grin.
"What're your past postings, Marquez?" he asked.
"Rookie in LA, moved to Special Victims when I made detective. Moved to San Fran a few years later to be with the guy I thought I loved. Did Special Victims there, ran into the FBI there as well. Transferred into them, learned a bit of profiling along the way, and then here. I'm also the little sister of my big, Infantry brother who was Army and drug me everywhere but Desert Storm."
"You know we deal with Marines and the Navy?"
"That's fine with me, sir. My first boyfriend was a Ranger candidate and I kicked his ass. If some jarhead gives me lip, I can do the same. Unless it's a victim of course," she offered sweetly, making Tony snigger a bit. "Only when the situation calls for it though," she amended at his long stare.
"Good. Get settled in. We're nearly done with this case anyway. DiNozzo?" he snapped.
"Boss, nothing on his background check. No reason for him to be in that bar. No prior hints of being tied to criminal activities. Not even a hint that he had misspelled his name on a form. So either it was an accident he was there at the mafia bar and got shot during one of their things or they were trying to get him to work for them. Not a clue why," he admitted, looking at him. "This guy starched his boxers every day, heavy starch according to his dry cleaner. The stuff you have to mix and spray on, not the canned stuff."
Gibbs looked a bit amused at that but let it drop. "Fine. Who was he there with?"
"A former high school friend. His friends on base said that he was heading back to a reunion in a few days and he was catching up with someone he had been friends with during that time. Possibly hoping to hook up by the way they said he looked when he talked about her. It's possible she was the crush he had back then."
"Good. Any other good news?"
"No, Boss. From this end it's wrong place, wrong time."
"What about the friend? Is she tied?" Adrian asked. "Not to intrude."
"No, I already checked her," Tony admitted, liking her more now. "She had no known ties. She married an Ahmed Azik last year. He's a computer tech at the Pentagon, a data pool guy. She's a homemaker with a part-time baby sitting job through some of the mothers her kids play with. They have a babysitting circle going. Nothing in hers except that sometimes she doesn't remember her coupons."
"Wrong place, wrong time works for me," Gibbs noted. "Unless you found anything on his computer, McGee?"
"Not a thing, Boss. Not even porn. I didn't think that was possible but there wasn't even a hint of anything on there. There was an email from someone teasing him about being a virgin but he replied that he was waiting and didn't need the stimulation."
"A bit repressed?" Adrian suggested. McGee nodded. "It seems to fit that same personality. He probably didn't even realize it when women looked at him on the street."
Tony nodded. "His friends mentioned that."
Gibbs nodded. "That's fine. Close the case. Hand me the reports." He looked at the new girl. "Welcome to the team, Marquez."
"Thank you, Boss." She smiled and got back to work straightening out her desk. Next to her lamp she put a small crucifix and a miniature stake glued together, then a voodoo doll. McGee looked at her. "The voodoo doll is of my brother's oldest kid, who's a brat. He made it for me so I could poke him for dating stupid cheerleaders and only going for football. It's a running joke in the family. The other is from my grandmother. I had to stay with her in Santa Clara during Desert Storm."
"Really?" McGee asked. "We had a case there."
"Grams said so. She told me all about the nice guy who came to take over for the slimy mother fucker who was hurting teenagers. She's a great gossip."
"You know, he's in town," Tony noted. "We know him."
"Really? That's kinda cool. I wonder how he and Frick and Frack at the comic store got along."
"Pretty well from what we saw," Gibbs noted, looking over at her. "You know?" She nodded. "Since when?"
"Since Director Morrow suggested me personally to apply," she said with a smirk. "I didn't do much when I was with Grams, but I learned a lot."
"Good. Xander's upstairs."
"Why?" Tony asked.
"Morrow wanted to talk to him, couldn't take the time for lunch," Gibbs noted dryly. "Or so he told me when he called in a blind panic." He shook his head and got down to his own reports, making notes of what he had been told. Everyone else's reports would back him up. A half-hour later Xander came down the main stairs and over to his desk, standing in front of it. "You're blocking the light."
"I know." He grinned at him. "I just got ordered to make you take the weekend off, even if I had to handcuff you and keep you hostage."
"Why?" he asked, looking up at the kid. He saw the devilish smirk. "The director?"
"Said this weekend, we're all to stay in. We're to invite Eliana over and work with her and the new girl." He looked at her. "Miss Marquez?" She nodded, smirking at him. "I got told all about you, my dear. Have Gibbs show you where I live." She nodded. "I also got warned not to let you near the computers." She giggled at that and he looked at Gibbs again. "I don't know why we're all supposed to stay in this weekend but he said to tell you the bugs were related to that prophecy, they already knew about it, and it was being fixed this weekend by the makers of the bugs. Therefore we all stay in and sleep. Especially you."
"Fine. I'll be over tonight."
"Cool. What'm I ordering for dinner?"
"We can pick up Mexican on the way home," Tony assured him. Xander grinned at him. "Since Miss Marquez is from LA I'm sure she's eaten some."
"Excellent. Get it from the good place?" Tony nodded. "Tell me how much my share is later." He saluted Gibbs. "I'm not fired but there was a suspicious fire at the club. The boss wanted to know why. Would you happen to know anything about that?"
"What did the director say when you asked him?"
"He said it was the Initiative people trying to shut me up." Gibbs stared at him, standing up. Xander nodded. "That's what he said. No idea why. Who are you hunting on that?"
"Piers. He was one of the scientists."
"Ah. Is he involved in the UN project?"
"No, but we did send them an inquiry about that stuff and noted there was an active investigation about those kids you found," he offered quietly. "Most of them were gotten after that and they've agreed to turn over anyone who was involved." Xander nodded at that. "Stay safe."
"My bike has wards," he noted dryly. "If someone touches it while I'm not on it, it'll fry 'em and turn 'em crispy with the magic Wes and I laid over that bike through the years. Not to mention the taser system on it." Gibbs nodded. "You guys stay safe. If they know about me, they know about you."
"Of course. Go right home."
"Sure." He headed for the house, sure he wasn't the real one in danger. He found someone outside his house trying to light it on fire and called up an imp to scare the bastard, making him shriek and cry. He didn't dismount, just called it in from there. "This is Xander Harris, at 10025 K Street. I found someone trying to set my house on fire. He's presently restrained. I need someone to come get him before I kill him." He hung up and found the cuffs inside the house, bringing them out with him to handcuff the guy to the bars on his window. Two cop cars sped up and stopped on either side of his bike, hurrying over. "I haven't bruised him yet. Can't I hit him a few times?"
"No, sir. What was he doing?" Xander pointed at the materials. "Where were you?" he asked, leading Xander back. "And why do you have regulation handcuffs?"
Xander looked at him. "Because I like them. I rode up and found him trying to light the wick. I scared him and he burst out screaming and crying. He's a damn woose."
"Thank you, sir." He looked him over, noticing the look he was wearing. "Sir, do you know of a club called Pyro?"
"I work there. I was told it had a fire. You think it's related?"
"I don't know, sir. Do you?"
Xander shrugged. "I only heard about the fire today. If I hear anything I'll gladly call, officer." That got a smile and he handed over a card. "Thank you. Please take that trash away before I kill him."
"Of course, Mr. Harris." He looked at the bike, then at him. "That's a very pretty bike."
"Thank you. I inherited it from a man who was like my brother." That got a nod and the officer went over to unhandcuff the guy, then recuff him with his cuffs. Xander took his handcuffs back and the officers called someone to get the materials littering the little bit of lawn he had. Xander sat on the stoop to watch. He never got to see what Tony did and he had wondered. That's why he noticed the car coming up the street. "Um, guys!" he called. Pointing. Then he ducked when the first shot was fired. "Fuck me," he growled. He started to reach for a weapon, but instead he went to go check on the officers and noted the license plate as it sped off. "They're so going to pay for going against me," he assured the officer on the ground. He looked at the guy who had just tried to burn his house, who was also moaning. He grabbed the officer's radio, noting the name on the tag on the shirt. "Officer Delgado needs assistance at prior call. Drive by shooting. Officers down, one perp down, need medical backup, now!" he ordered letting it go. Hey, he watched cop shows for fun. Then he went to grab his med kit and came out to help. Ambulances always took too long. He was on the second officer when the ambulance and a few more cop cars pulled up. He looked at the cops running toward him. "Write this down," he ordered, staring at one. "License plate, Maryland, ACJ 991." He looked stunned. "Write it down!" He nodded and wrote it down. "That's who shot at them. I was on the stoop watching when he came up." He went back to what he was doing. "I know what I'm doing, get the others," he told the paramedic.
"Are you licensed?"
"I'm a fucking combat veteran from near LA. I've field bandaged before!" The paramedic just left it there, they had too many to get at the moment. He finished tying that one off and let himself be led off once his kit was closed. He took a few deep breaths and sat down again. "I was here. Well, first I pulled up and found the idiot in cuffs trying to light my house on fire," he admitted. "Those two answered. We talked for a moment, they cuffed him in their cuffs. They called for someone to pick up the materials off my lawn. They showed up. I sat here to watch because I have a friend in the Feds and I always wondered what he did. That's why I saw the car. I yelled, I pointed. We all ducked at the first shot. They got hit, I was behind the planter," he said, nodding at the one behind him that was now full of holes. "And I work at Pyro," he told them. The officer taking this down looked at him. "We had a suspicious fire. I found out about it earlier today."
"That's fine, sir. You live here alone?"
"Yes, but I'm expecting friends later." He took his medical kit back from one of the officers. "That's mine, I ran in to get it after calling for help. You guys always take time since you're never right around the corner." He looked at the cop again, hugging the box. "I'm fine."
"I can tell. You hid behind the planter?"
"I know I'm not bulletproof," he noted dryly. The officer smirked a bit at that. "I'm just glad nothing's fatal," he said as he watched them being carted off. He saw the car again and pointed. "It was one of those. Is that the same license plate?" The officers looked and the car did a sudden u-turn before speeding off in the other direction. A few cars chased him. He relaxed and sighed. "Okay, I'm calm again," he noted tiredly. The officer looked at him. "I grew up just outside of LA, officer. Gunshots weren't so usual but I saw plenty of injuries. Hence me knowing how to field dress and stitch when my friends needed it."
"Were you part of a gang, sir?"
"Hell no," he snorted. "No time for it. I'm just calm in the face of danger most of the time. I laugh in the face of danger then run away like a little girl." That got a small smirk and a nod as he made more notes. "I should head inside. I need to get things ready for later. I have a few friends coming over."
"Are you sure you want to stay? They could be targeting you."
"If so, they're in for a rude shock," he offered, pulling his gun and his permit to carry. "I damn near did shoot back but I thought they needed help more." The officer looked stunned, looking at the permit. "I'm also a crack shot. They needed help more than I needed to endanger more lives by blowing their tire."
"Good thinking, sir. Very good thinking. You'll be safe?"
"Just fine." He put the gun back and the box inside. Then he came back out. "Don't forget the arson stuff," he ordered. "I don't want that here." He sat down with a phone, calling Eliana's house. "It's me. Be careful when you come over tonight and this weekend, dear. Because someone just tried to burn my house and then shot at some cops. No, I'm fine. They'll live. I saw the car coming." He moved the phone away. "It was going really slowly," he told the cop nearest him. He got a funny look. "Drivebys are usually faster. They don't slow down to gawking speed. This one was. I had time to read the license plate." The cop noted that and he went back to his conversation. "Just be careful tonight, dear. Yeah, we'll be safe here. Of course. Thanks." He hung up and tossed the phone back inside, hearing an 'ouch'. He looked. "Wills. Someone just tried to shoot us." She handed over a paper then went back inside shaking her head and disappearing. "What? I check my email once a day," he muttered, reading the note. He snorted and put it inside to show Gibbs later. He'd need that more than he would. The cops were gone by the time everyone got there, leaving some tape around his lawn. He answered the door at the pounding, giving Tony a calm look since he looked so panicked. "Someone was trying to commit arson then someone tried to do a driveby on the answering officers." He let him inside. "I've already warned Eliana and Willow popped around to give me a note for you and Gibbs." He went back to his playing solitaire in the living room. He needed to stay calm or else his anger would make him do something stupid.
Tony dropped the food and came back, pulling Xander up to look him over. "Are you all right?"
"The planter got mine. I'm fine," he assured him quietly. "I also got the license number. They were going really slow." Tony hugged him, crushing him to his chest. "I'm fine," he soothed, patting him on the back. The door slammed open. "I'm fine." Gibbs stomped in. "Letter on the chair, Boss. From Wills." He hugged Tony back, patting him a bit. "I'm fine. I ducked. I didn't even shoot at them." Tony pulled back to glare at him. "It's not like I'm not armed. We all know I carry concealed. Magically concealed at that." Gibbs looked at him so he shrugged. "I'm a good boy most of the time. I helped instead of shooting back. Speaking of which, I need to refill my med kit tonight and redo my CPR card." He shook his head and went to check on the food. "Hey, where's the nachos?" he called.
"In the car," Tony said, calming himself down. He looked at Gibbs. "Is this what the director was talking about?" he asked quietly. He nodded. "You're sure?"
"It's probable. They think it'll be solved by the end of the weekend. Xander, did you call Eliana?"
"Yeah. I warned her to be careful and told her what happened. That's when I realized that the car was going too slowly." He came out with a drink for both of them. Then he went back for another soda, sitting back down to his card game. "I'm fine, Gibbs. I ducked behind the planter. The cops are all probably fine. They were wearing vests and only one got a lucky shoulder shot in." He noticed them relaxing. "I'm okay. Go look if you want to." He got stymied and gathered up the cards, shuffling and redealing.
Tony sat down beside him. "Why were you outside?"
"I had no idea what you did for a living so I was watching them work on the stuff the arsonist brought with him," he admitted, looking at him. "I'm a curious little kitty." He grinned and got back to work, listening to Abby's car squeal in and park, hoping that the slight metal-on-metal noise wasn't his bike. "That had better not have been my bike!" he yelled. She came rushing in and hugged him. "What did you hit?"
"McGee's car." She pushed him back to look him over. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I was behind the planter. I do need to refill my medical kit though." She nodded, hugging him again. He sat down again, putting her next to him. "Here, you can both help me play this hand."
Tony pointed at one. "Four onto the five."
Gibbs went to go look, finding McGee standing there as well. "He's fine."
"Let me guess, he was behind the planter?" he asked, pointing at the concrete thing that now had holes in it. Gibbs nodded. "Any scratches?"
"Not that we found. He said someone was trying to set the house on fire then there was a driveby."
"I've got my overnight bag in the car, Boss. If we have to, we can camp." He headed inside, going to check on Abby. Tony came out a moment later and headed for his car, then back inside. Gibbs gave it one last look then went inside, shutting the door. McGee looked at them. "Should we eat out here? You can see outside."
"I'd rather see than have it sneak up on me," Xander offered. "But sure, go get food and we can eat in here. We can watch tv until we're all calm again."
"No news crews?" Tony joked.
"Not that I've seen. I guess they're at the hospital."
"Or headed off. They'd still have someone here to film the scene," Gibbs noted. He went to get his flashlight and head back to the scene to look it over. The cop cruising the street parked and walked over and he pulled his credentials. "He's a friend," he said quietly.
"Tell him all the officers are all right. Is he one of you?"
"No. Just a friend. Why?"
"He mentioned his job had a fire," he admitted. "We were told to watch the area."
"There's three other federal agents inside with him. If they come here, you're going to be picking up swiss cheese," he noted dryly.
The cop smiled. "That's fine. What're you looking for, Special Agent Gibbs?"
"No news crews showed up."
"Only one at the hospital and they were turned away. We weren't told why but we were warned to watch the house. The cops were impressed that he helped instead of shooting at the cars when he noted he was carrying and produced his gun and permit."
"Usually he would have." He looked around and found something, picking it up with the plastic bag he had picked up with the flashlight. He held it up. "What's this?" The officer looked and shrugged. "I'll give it over tomorrow, officer. I want to make sure that it doesn't relate back to us somehow."
"Of course, sir. He has a card from at least one of the officers earlier if anything else comes to him." He ducked back under the tape, holding it up for him to come out too. "You have a safe night, Special Agent Gibbs. Keep him safe too." He walked back to his car and got in, heading back onto his route.
Gibbs walked inside and shut the door, locking it. He headed down to look up the symbol on it. He knew that symbol from somewhere. Fortunately this system was set up about how MTAC was and he knew how to work theirs. What he came up with made him frown and scared him a bit, but nothing that would make him panic. He walked upstairs, showing the now bagged card to Xander. Who only shrugged. "The order of Taraka?"
"Oh, hey, the assassins. They came after Buffy once," he said thoughtfully. "We got three of them and they suddenly disappeared. They work on my side of the fence."
"They work on both sides, Xander," he noted. He went to call it in, see if the director had any idea about why the boy was targeted. That had been an elaborate show earlier and he wasn't sure the card was authentic. He came back and found everyone eating in the living room, the curtains still open. He looked at the boy. "That's dangerous."
"I'd rather see it coming than suddenly smell smoke." He ate another bite, staring at him.
"Good point. That was theater." Xander nodded, chewing. "You knew that?"
"I realized it right after I realized the car had been going at gawking speed. Drivebys slow down, but not that much. I got the license plate clearly." He ate another bite. "I'm guessing someone's trying scare tactics since I *caught* him *trying* to light the fuse on the molotov."
Gibbs nodded and Tony looked at him. "You're too damn calm."
Xander looked at him. "I don't scare that easily, Tony. I might be scared, and I am, but I'm not going to stop doing what I'm doing. I don't give in to fear tactics. I didn't when I turned invisible. I didn't during the Hanzel and Gretel demon. I don't give into it. If I did, I'd have died long ago cowering in my closet as my parents argued outside my door about selling me to someone to cover their debts." Tony looked stunned. "It only happened the once but they didn't quite manage it." He ate another bite. "I'm not giving in to them. I'm not the sort to do that. If I cowered each time someone wanted to kill me, I'd never have made it out of tenth grade. Shit, every vampire who's ever met me wanted to kill me, along with most of the women in the world. I'm not letting myself be paralyzed, even though I'm shaking inside." Tony gave him a hug. "Thank you," he said quietly. He patted him on the arm. "It's all right. This is drama. That's all this is. A scare tactic." Tony nodded and let him go. They both looked at Gibbs. "What do we do now, Boss? Huddle in?"
"I think that's a good idea. McGee, didn't you dish me up any?"
"I left yours in the microwave, Boss, that way it would be warm."
He nodded and went to get it and another beer. This was a moment to celebrate and think. He could tell the kid was scared but he approved of his stoicism. It's the sort of thing he'd do. He sat down, looking outside to watch the cop car cruise by again. "Don't you have neighbors?"
"Yes, and two came out to watch the cops being bundled up," he admitted, scraping his plate and putting it down, then relaxing again. He turned on the tv, flipping channels. "Sports, non sports? Anyone got any options or am I putting it on animal planet again for Funniest Animals?"
"I could use the laugh," Abby said, sniffling a few times. "Can I be scared?"
"Of course," Xander assured her. "I'm surprised Fluffy hasn't dragged you home to make sure you're not in danger, or downstairs to make sure you're not in danger."
"She'd hit me," McGee assured him. "You didn't even get a scratch?"
"No. I can curl into a really little ball when I need to." He looked at Gibbs. "Are you thinking that they would have been shocked if I had shot back?"
"Possibly. Especially if they're going on your reputation."
Xander sighed and nodded. "Quite true. I'm not known to be one who attacks usually. Not unless I catch you hunting. I so wanted to fire back," he admitted. "I just wanted to pull and raise up and blow all their tires out then the gas tank."
"You did the right thing helping and calling for help," Tony said firmly. "Anything else could have gotten you hurt or involved a civilian. The police probably would've been looking at you like you were a drug dealer or something."
"There was only one news crew at the hospital," Gibbs noted. "Probably called by a neighbor so they didn't know about the ban that got around to the rest of them." He looked at Tony. "The cop told me they were told to not pay attention to that stuff, but to patrol this area heavily. He also said they were all okay, Xander."
"I figured they would be," he admitted. "What about pyro guy?"
"No clue. He wasn't mentioned."
Xander looked at him. "So, which way is this going? Taraka go supernatural a lot of the time. One of the ones after Buffy was this big pile of maggots that worked together to have a human form."
"Eww, trying to eat," Abby said, putting down her mostly full plate. "I'll come back to that later." She snuggled into Xander's side, letting her feet curl up between her and Gibbs. "Could this be related to the vampires? Trying to scare you off?"
"Then why torch Pyro?" Xander asked her. She looked up at him and he nodded. "Someone broke in and torched the dance floor."
"So, she only saw you on your birthday or it's not directly related to you?" Abby suggested.
"Why she?" Gibbs asked.
"Because he draws scary women, Boss. He doesn't usually bring scary men home, just scary women." A hint of a smirk started. "I'm generalizing, okay?" She looked at Xander again. "Was anywhere else lit?"
"Not that I saw when I went in to check on working tonight or not," he admitted. "I saw the taped off area around the dance floor and the cops and firemen standing around. I walked over to the boss, who was behind the bar gulping a scotch. He gave me this look and said he had no idea what was going on but it'd take a few days to figure out. He did warn me to stay calm and suggested it had something to do with the Initiative, which Morrow hinted at as well."
"Marquez has the address," Gibbs noted. "She was getting dinner then coming over. Eliana?"
"That's fine," Gibbs agreed. "We're staying over."
"Sure. We've got the two couches, I've got a sleeping bag and those mats upstairs. You can borrow the stuff in the shower if you want."
"We all have overnight bags packed in the trunk," Tony told him. "We have to because we can be called out of the city on a moment's notice."
"I can borrow a t-shirt or something," Abby promised. Xander nodded, grinning at her. "Shouldn't we tell Marquez?"
Gibbs pulled out his cellphone and found her number, dialing it. "Marquez, Gibbs. We're all spending the night at Xander's. His house was attacked earlier. You might want to bring clothes, yes." She made that jump immediately, it showed a lot of promise.
"And pillows, I only have the ones on the bed and down here."
"And he said to bring a pillow if you want one. Fine." He hung up. "It'll take her about an hour. She's out near where you live, DiNozzo."
"That's fine, Boss. We can handle it if something happens for a while longer." Xander smirked at that. "Was she transferred in just because of this?"
"No, she was the one Morrow wanted to replace Kate," he admitted. "Jen wouldn't listen to reason and got us Ziva instead."
"Yeah, but then you would've went to her instead of me," Xander pouted, smirking a bit finally.
"She probably would have come to you, kid. Either that or you'd have run into us in the clubs while hunting."
"Actually, I was thinking about sending Tony more candy at work to annoy him the day before you showed up at work," he admitted with a grin. "I need a playmate."
"You do," McGee agreed, smirking at him. "Thank you for picking him."
They all heard him groan and a car door slam, then someone stomping up the stairs before a knock on the door. Gibbs got up to get it, looking at the redhead standing there. "Eliana?" He let her inside. "Why are you here already?"
"Auntie Jen called Mom and told her to send me here. I cracked my cast open earlier and Mom said it'd be fine when she demanded." She put her hands on her hips once she had dropped her bag, staring at him. "What the hell is she going on about? Auntie Jen used to be normal and now she's some psychotic bitch who's ranting about vampires and wiping them all off the map along with those who hunt them and all the goth clubs too. Did you have something to do with that?"
"We broke her," Xander called. "She was snooping on us and we told her, and she broke."
"Ah." She nodded. "I knew you were capable of it, Xander." She looked at Gibbs again. "What happened?"
"Someone tried to set the house on fire and then shot at the officers responding."
"Wonderful!" she said sarcastically. She went into the living room and sat on Xander's lap, straddling it so she could look down at him. "Can't you stay *out* of trouble? Just for a whole week?"
"I was good. I had nothing to do with this. From what I heard it had to do with the Initiative shit." He patted her on the back. "Get off, you're heavy. You've had way too much chocolate today." She snickered and got off his lap, sitting across Tony's lap instead. He looked at her. "Ask, Eliana."
She smiled at Tony. "Can I use you as a couch?"
"As long as you don't get any funny ideas. You're much too young for me."
She smirked. "You never know."
"Oh, I do. I definitely do."
She giggled and hugged him. "Relax, studly. I've got a boyfriend. He's a very jealous gang member. Which I kicked his ass over." She let him go. "What're we doing now?"
"Well, I'm going to go check the house for explosive devices," Xander offered. He stood up. "I have this nasty suspicion that she's teamed up with the remains of the Initiative with what she's said and done." He went to find his tool kit and took Gibbs' flashlight out with him, going to look for the thing he was pretty sure had been hidden during the day. One of the cops had spent a lot of time looking around the end of the house, but Gibbs had still found that card. He did a thorough search, finding it hidden against one of the recessed, basement windows, the type that were near the ceiling and were partially covered by a bush and a drain funnel. He squatted down to look at it. "Hmm." He heard the cleared throat and glanced back. "Officer, could you please tell Agent Gibbs inside that I need my electronics wire cutters. These are too big."
"I'm more than qualified. Just do it," he ordered calmly. The officer rushed off and he got to work unscrewing the plastiglass box around the explosive, making sure nothing was hitched to it. They hadn't put any of the wires around the screws so he was safe so far. He did find one under the box's side and used the end of the screwdriver to lay across it. He knew it wasn't part of the electrical circuit, it didn't connect to anything, which meant it was a trip switch. He tossed the box behind him and held a hand up when he heard footsteps. "I need the thinner ones," he ordered. A pair were handed over. "Thanks." He used the tip to carefully shift two wires out of his way then snipped the one he needed, handing it over once it was safe, taking back his screwdriver as well. "More drama," he told Tony quietly. "They knew I could do that. I blew their doors with one." He walked back inside, slamming the door. "I hate them!" He went into his dining room, going to kneel in front of the altar and pray for patience. Or else he'd do something stupid.
"Harris!" Gibbs yelled.
"I used one just like that on the doors, Gibbs," he called back. "They knew I knew it."
He came into the room, closing the door. "Thankfully the cop was outside and didn't hear."
"I figured he was pissing in the other bushes," he admitted, looking back at him. "That's an exact copy of the one I used on the Initiative's doors," he noted calmly. He turned back around. "I'm praying for patience before I do something stupid."
"You mean like disarming a bomb! Especially without telling us?"
"Yeah, probably," he admitted tiredly. "At least I knew what I was doing." He went back to praying for patience. Otherwise he'd scream and then do something stupid.
Gibbs stomped out, going to help Tony search. Either he had missed it or someone had snuck up and planted it anyway. "Find any more?"
"Two boss. He's already called bomb squad," Tony reported. "The cop's fine. A bit shaken but fine. He wants to know what's going on."
"So do I," he said coolly, staring him down. "He's praying for patience before he does something stupid," he said acidly.
"You mean like disarming a bomb and not telling us there was one?" Tony asked.
"I'll go talk to him." He went inside, going to talk to the boy. He walked in and shut the door. He looked at him for a moment, trying to control his temper and his fear. He wasn't sure which was stronger, the anger, fear, or his desire to make sure he was still okay. "Anything else you want to mention that they know you can do?"
"I fried their computers," he admitted quietly, not looking at him. "I basically stuck a screwdriver in their mainframe at the wrong spot." He took a deep breath. "I disabled the security cameras in the elevator shaft by rerouting them. I got us onto the base and back out. I got the cells open with a key card I stole off someone's jacket once they had fallen. I knocked out some of the scientists working on Oz. I lost my temper during both assaults. The second time I was the power they were sucking on for the spell to call the First Slayer. We all cast it but I was the power behind Willow doing it. I fought with a few of the hyped soldiers. I got injured," he said quietly. "I didn't think I was going to make it out of the second one. I wasn't sure any of us would, and when the spell started to reflect back to us, she ripped out my heart in my dreams, a few times. It was a warning and a sign. I'm not sure which of us fucked up the spell, I think it was me since I didn't know what the hell I was doing when the others did." He looked back at him now. "It showed us all a lot of what could be coming. And none of us listened," he finished.
"Even if you did mess it up, it wasn't something you could help."
"Neither were the nightmares we got trapped in," he agreed. "It doesn't make it any easier." He stood up and faced him. "I did things that were necessary and not always nice, Tony. You read the journal with the soul sticking. I told Buffy Willow wasn't going to try because I knew she couldn't fight him and win. She was ignoring that fact. I got hell over that but it was necessary."
"Now, it's not. We can help with this stuff. Not that any of us can disarm bombs," he admitted. "At least that I know of." Xander nodded and slumped some. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Did they find more?"
"Three. Two out front and one out back."
"So they knew we were all in the living room and wanted the building to fall that way?"
"They probably figured it'd cover the books and artifacts," he noted quietly. "Plus the weapons. Where are the real weapons?"
"You should be able to feel the magic covering them."
Tony concentrated and nodded finally. "Still in the attic?" Xander nodded. "Just hidden?"
"Concealed. Magically concealed, like my gun." Tony nodded and he moved closer. "They're attacking me and I want to fight back. It's not in me to stand there and take it, Tony," he said quietly. "That's not me."
"Just be a bit patient, Xander," he said. "The director only said this weekend."
"That doesn't mean it'll be safe Monday for you guys."
"It will be. Gibbs is mad as hell. He gets that way when someone attacks his team." He opened his arms and Xander moved closer, letting him hug him. "It'll be okay. I promise it'll be okay." Xander nodded, relaxing against him. "No more hero stuff, okay? Let us help."
"I knew what I was doing."
"They're still dangerous. Anything could have happened, Xander, and we don't want to lose you."
"You or everyone?" he asked quietly, pulling back to look at him.
"Both," he admitted quietly. "Okay?" Xander nodded, hugging him again. Tony sighed and hugged back. "Thank you." He just held him for now. He could feel the shaking. Not crying just shaking. "You'll be fine."
"They wanted to blow you guys up," he said quietly. He pulled back and looked at him. "I find that unacceptable."
"Don't, Xander," he warned. "They want you more than us."
"Someone wanted us all here. Is the director in on it?"
"No. I knew the man for two years, at work at least. He's not in on this." He stared him down. "You can't move us for our own safety and be the bait," he said quietly. "Gibbs won't let you."
"No, he won't," Xander agreed. He forced himself to calm down again. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine! You were the one playing with the damn bomb!" he said hotly. "You could have been blown up!"
"That was more drama, like the driveby," he noted, but he was still feeling pretty shaky. He moved closer and Tony looked at him. "Can I...." He shook his head and backed off again. Tony pulled him closer, giving him another hug. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'd need one too."
"DiNozzo!" Gibbs snapped.
"In here, Boss." He unlocked the door and opened it enough to let him inside. "He's fine," he said at the stare. "Just a bit shaky. He said that's the same bomb he used on them and it was more drama."
"It was. They were also all duds." Xander pulled back to look at him. "If you EVER do something that stupid again I will kick your ass, Harris, do you understand!"
"Yes, Boss," he said weakly. "I knew I could do it."
"I don't care!" he shouted. "Do not touch bombs!"
"Yes, sir," he said, looking down. "I'm sorry."
"You should be. You worried him sick." He looked at Tony. "We're setting up patrols and Harris is not going alone. You're taking every other hour. We've also got a cop sitting on the house. Morrow is livid that they're doing this here. We're under orders to protect the civilians here. The FBI was told that this was an action against Goths and since he works in the club, he was a target. Since we're friends, we're being used to protect him and this house so that they can concentrate on the people doing these things. And they do know. Morrow's contacts in the Secret Service have briefed the contacts over there who know what's going on and they're hunting for them right now." Xander opened his mouth. "Not one word, Harris." Xander shut his mouth and looked down again. "We are therefore guarding this house until it is done with, even if that takes all next week. I'll be releasing you in pairs to gather clothes. For obvious reasons, McGee and Abby can go together. I've already told Marquez so she knows to bring more. She's on her way here now. I caught her finishing dinner and getting ready to leave."
"I've got clothes here, Boss. You can leave Marquez and I here and go with the duo," Tony assured him. "Plus he's got a washer."
"Why do you have clothes here, or don't I want to know?"
"I've collapsed here after hunting before and I left some work clothes here. Plus some spare hunting clothes since we ran into that chaos demon."
"Fine. We'll work out rotation. Do you think you can be reasonable and follow directions, Harris?"
"Good. Then you'll be patrolling with one of the two of us. I don't know how good Marquez is so I'll be practicing with her later."
"I can test her," Xander offered. "I've got to work with Eliana anyway."
"Fine. You do that. If she's any good, pair her with McGee. If not, I'll take McGee and her while you two pair up since you're so used to each other. As long as you think you can continue to follow orders and quit being so damn stupid."
"Yes, Boss. Sorry, but I knew I could do it."
"I don't care! I know how to lay dynamite but I don't." Xander nodded and looked down again. "Good." He stomped out.
"You got off pretty light," Tony said quietly. "He must still be scared you're going to be hurt." He made Xander look at him. "We're talking after all this is done with."
"About what you told my cousin, the brat." He walked out, leaving a smiling Xander behind him. At least it would give his mind something to work on while he worked and waited. He hated stakeouts and these sort of things because you had to *wait* to do anything. Xander came out and curled up next to Abby and Eliana, who were looking at clothes for clubbing and hunting. He saw Marquez pull up and went to let her in, nodding her inside. "You brought your spare and bullets?" he asked, closing the door.
"Of course. Half my bag is weapons." She walked into the living room, making Xander look at her. "My grams was most impressed with you," she said dryly. "You've survived this long and she's proud of you for it." He grinned at that. "Frick and Frack are living in her garage apartment and they said hi too since she was feeding them." He chuckled a bit. "Let us handle it?"
"Hell no," he snorted. "I'm still helping, just in a more limited capacity."
"Fine." She put her bag down. "Don't touch that, it's got my weapon in it."
Xander stood up and pulled Eliana up. "We've got to see how good you are anyway, dear. Up the stairs to the training room."
"I wanted to see your bedroom," Eliana teased.
He spanked her. "No girls in my bedroom, you'll turn evil. Then I'd have to stake you once you got turned." He followed them up the stairs, watching them look around. "Come on, let's go so we can set patrol and watch schedules." Eliana laughed and pounced at him, but he ducked and knocked her down. "I know you can do better than that, Eli. I trained your ass. Up and try it again."
"Crap, this is one of those," she complained, taking off her sweater and lunging for real. He ducked and she fought on, using her sweater as a weapon. He managed to get it from her and toss it away. She did a backflip to get away from him and he followed, pinning her against the wall. "Shit!"
He sighed and backed off, shaking his head. "You can do better. I know you can. I trained you better than this. Now, let's go!" he ordered. She nodded and got back into it. "Thank you!" he said when she finally tried to kick his ass. "Do you do that in the clubs?"
"No, I act cute and helpless and then attack when they think they have me," she reminded him. "It works with my looks. Like your sex baiting does." She got in a good kick and he used her foot to throw her. She giggled and got up again, trying him again.
Gibbs came up to watch, finally seeing how good the kid was. Tony snuck up behind him to watch too. He knew he was amazed so he thought for sure his coworker was but he saw the smirk on his face. "Seen it before?" he hissed.
"A few times, Boss," he hissed back. She finally managed to get him down and pulled a stake off her back to get him. He clapped. "Nice job. You too, Eli." He grinned at Xander. "You know, for a non-slayer, you're very good." He smirked at Marquez. "How good are you?"
"Basics. I never got to hunt when I lived with my Grams, just stake a few that came to the door." Xander got up and waved her on once he had wiped his sweat out of his eyes. She attacked and she realized she was faster. "What is this?"
"You were called when Willow did the spell," he said grimly. "I'm guessing you had some major stomach cramps since then, especially that night." She nodded. "We'll work on you two together then. You two can pair with Gibbs."
"Agreed," Gibbs noted. It'd only protect him more and help the girls. He watched Xander put her down a few times, then came in to work with her. "This is what he's doing." He showed her in slow motion. "The counter would be...." He tried it again and this time she countered him, smiling. "Good. You'll learn it. I did." Xander backed off and waved a hand for him to continue. "Tired?"
"A bit," he admitted, leaning down to pant.
Tony came in to lead him to his bedroom, checking him over for injuries. Like McGee, now that he was thinking about it, there was no way Xander could have hidden behind that planter. He found a few scratches from debris but nothing else. "How did you hide?"
"Instinctive magic," he admitted. "It's what saved me from Willow when she went bad." Tony nodded so he smiled. "Let me catch a shower and change."
"Go for it." He looked around the bedroom once Xander was in the bathroom. He hadn't taken the time to do that the day they spent alone. He was already starting to notice a few things. There were only three pictures in the whole house, all of them downstairs, all of them group shots. There were two mirrors in the house outside of the expected ones in the bathrooms. The glued-on one in the dining room that he was pretty sure came with the house and the one over the dresser. He looked in the closet. It wasn't organized but the colors were blended together. All the brights on one side and the darks on the other. With a few notable things out of place. He closed that door when he heard the shower go off and walked back into the hallway so he could come out and find clothes without being stared at. He still had a good view, but nothing that would embarrass the kid. He looked at his boss when he came out. "How're we doing patrols and watch, Boss?" he asked quietly.
"I'll take first one with Marquez. We'll let Abby, Eliana, and McGee get midnight to four. You two will take four to eight. Then we'll start over at four hour increments." Tony nodded, accepting that. "Is he really okay?"
"No injuries I saw," he admitted, looking in there. Xander's back was to him and he was naked, bending over slightly to pull on some pants. He coughed and Xander turned to look at him, showing him a lot more than he had known. "We're taking four-to-eight am watch and patrol."
"That's fine. I need to run a load of wash." He finished pulling up the sweats and gathered up his laundry basket, heading down to his washer, which was next to the kitchen. "Marquez, come eat. You need to."
"In a minute, Great One."
Xander snorted. "No I'm not." He dumped everything in, only checking pockets, and turned it on cold. Then he added detergent and closed the lid, leaving the basket there. He headed back up the stairs to get a t-shirt and socks. "Sorry, out of underwear," he explained as he walked past Gibbs again.
"It happens to the best of us. Do you have enough food?"
"Not sure. Go check. If not, we can always order or something," he offered.
Tony walked in to sit next to him. "How big was the trust Wes left you?"
Xander grimaced and looked at him. "About six mil," he admitted quietly. "Plus the estate in England, which is worth probably nearly as much with all the antiques." Tony nodded at that. "I don't need to work, I work so I don't get bored and do stupid shit, like learn another language." That got a grin. "Were you watching me?" he whispered. Tony nodded. "Liked what you saw?" he asked, sounding a bit hopeful.
"All but the scars. They made me want to hurt someone for hurting you." He glanced out in the hall since he had the better view, then stole a quick kiss. They smiled at each other. "We're talking after we get done with this. Nothing until then."
"Deal," he agreed. "I don't want Gibbs to look at us funny anyway."
"Good." He glanced out then stole another kiss, realizing this was going to be habit forming. "Come on, let's go."
"Yes, sir." He finished pulling on his socks and followed him. He found Abby looking through one of his kink catalogs and McGee blushing bright red since she was chuckling at something she was looking at that. "I got that at work the other night." He sat down next to her to look over her arm, grinning. "Those are too easy to get out of."
"He wiggles," she said happily. She flipped back a few pages. "What did you think about this?" she asked, showing him a dildo gag.
"I think I have one of those upstairs and Anya used to like it a hell of a lot," he admitted dryly. "I really do have to go clean out those things." Tony gave him a look and nodded. "Wanna help?"
"Not really. I might get scared and run away." Gibbs walked past him and smacked him. "What was that for?"
"For passing up an opportunity to snoop. Are you feeling sick?" He sat down and looked at the front of the catalog. "Interesting reading materials."
"Someone was handing them out at work. I need a new pair of handcuffs," he admitted.
"The ones on the table seem to be okay," McGee noted.
"I don't want to keep anything I used with Anya," he told him. "If you need a spare set, I can get you the keys." He stood up and went to get both sets of handcuffs and keys, handing them to him. "There, spares for the office." He went back upstairs to his bedroom, going to work through the toybox under his bed. Abby came in a few minutes later. "Gibbs send you?"
"No. He suggested I could come bum some of these off you so I didn't have to spend forty bucks on a new toy."
Xander looked at her. "Don't you have a big toy sitting down there?"
"Yeah, but sometimes...." She blushed a bit. "Sometimes you've got to play."
"True. No one knows your body better than you do." He pulled out both flat containers and opened them both up. "The blue box is mine and only mine. They're my personal collection. The red box was hers." He looked through his first, finding three he definitely didn't want. He didn't like them that much. He closed that and put them aside. Then he dug into the other one, making her blush and giggle loudly about what he pulled out. "Anya was very particular."
"I know. I saw that one in the catalog and it was like two hundred bucks because it came in fifteen speeds," she said, picking one up. "Are you sure, Xander?"
He pulled out one and put it on the bed. "I'll keep that one to remind me of her."
"Is that gold?" she asked, picking it up to look at it. "It is! It's solid gold!"
"Yes, it is," he agreed, pulling out another one. "That one's silver. I had to talk her out of the platinum one because she'd have to steal it." She gaped and he nodded. "Really." He dumped the rest of the box out, letting her see them. "I really wasn't surprised she cheated on me. Not with how much she liked me to play with toys." He got up and went to get her things, finding them in the attic. He brought them back down to the bedroom and put them beside her. "Her crap. Definitely not goth." He sat down to go through it, finally, finding a few pictures and letters that he wanted to keep. Tony came in and looked at the mess. "Anya's stuff."
"You brought it with you?"
"Angel clearly didn't want to store it for me," he said with a half-shrug. "The gold one and the silver one are staying," he said when Tony looked at the toys. "To remind me of her." He found a sweater he had bought her and put it on top of them. "I'll make a box for them later," he said quietly. She pulled out something and held it up. He looked at it. "Wedding lingerie. Never worn that I know of." She tucked it in beside her with the stash of toys she had chosen. He got through that box and found the next one, which had a letter to him. He opened it and read it, then snorted. "She said I'm not to give this stuff to some floosy that I date after her unless it was real love and then she could have it all if she wanted, but that I should sell her sex toy collection to get back the money we spent on them." Abby giggled at that. "So anything of hers you want, you can have, Abby. Give the rest to Eliana and Marquez. Whatever they don't want can go to a charity. Which she would've hated but oh, well." He dug through that box, finding her hidden stash of toys. He looked inside and pulled out the platinum one, putting it aside. He nudged through the rest. "Here, pick out the handcuffs." He handed them to Abby.
"You can buy new cuffs," Tony reminded him, lounging on the bed to watch. He didn't want to touch anything of Anya's. He was still really mad at how she had used Xander so badly. "Is that silver too?"
"Pure platinum. Solid, pure platinum. There's a small core drilled into it for the vibrating motor, but otherwise it's solid." He handed it over.
Tony weighed it, then looked at him. "How much did this cost you?"
"Not me," Xander said dryly. "I didn't have the six grand to buy that for her. I'm assuming she either took it from someone who bought it after sleeping with them for it, or she called in a few favors to earn some major dough." He went back to looking, finding another letter to him. "Gods, Ahn," he complained, reading that one. "Abby, you can't date me if you're wearing her stuff."
"Oh, I don't think it'll be a problem," she promised with a grin. She looked up. "We're only really close friends, Anya. He's like my dorky little brother. I'm going to use them to good purposes on my man. You mind much?" She smiled at him. "I think she'll be fine with it. She might show up to watch, but she'll be fine with it."
"Watch what?" McGee said from the doorway, looking scared. "What're you doing? Do you crossdress too?"
"No, this was Anya's stuff, Fluffy, calm down," Xander ordered, smirking at Tony. "I'd look horrible in a dress. You?"
"I couldn't stand the shaving." He looked at his stunned coworker. "Xander's finally going through his former fiance's stuff and giving Abby whatever she wanted, including her toys."
"Toys?" he asked, swallowing. "What toys?" Abby held one up and turned it on, making him flee. "Boss, Xander's making Abby perverted," he complained. Gibbs looked up at him. He noticed the amused look. "He's going through Anya's stuff and giving Abby all her sex toys."
"I suggest you take those back to her place when you take her home to get clothes, McGee," he said dryly, going back to his watching the yard. "Watch out for her decorating with them."
"Boss, if one of those becomes a lamp, I'm never going to her place again," he said dryly. He went back to watch her, taking Eliana with him. Abby handed over the two boxes of stuff with a smile and picked up her box, taking it downstairs to her car. He groaned and followed her to make sure no one hurt her while they were outside. "Did you have to take all that?"
She smiled at him. "Yes, McGee, I did, and I heard the lamp comment. There's a wonderful twelve-inch purple jelly one that would work wonderfully for that. Thank you for the idea." He groaned and let out a small whimper. "Don't worry, you'll like it. It'll go next to the coffin." She closed her trunk and took his arm, walking him back inside. "Besides, I got all the handcuffs and straps I could ever want," she said happily. "I won't need anything in that catalog."
"Good," he assured her. "I could never buy anything in there." Gibbs spluttered. "Sorry, Boss."
"I don't need details, children," he said firmly. "Of anyone's sex life."
Tony came down to get a plastic bag, pausing in the living room. "How would you make a shadow box to put some memories of Anya in it?" he asked quietly. Gibbs looked at him. "You had wives, one must've had one."
"For her wedding dress. She bought it."
"Oh, good idea. I didn't know you could. At least that'll mean I don't have to look at the solid gold, silver or platinum dildos." He went back up the stairs. Eliana was dragging her stuff into the training room so Marquez could help her go through it. Xander presented him with another box. "What's that?"
"The stuff I only used on me," he said, smiling at him. "I never used them on her and I never used them on anyone else."
Tony looked at him. "Really?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because she was greedy and those were for my personal times, things she didn't want to see. That's why we got separate ones when she found mine. Though she did ask what I had cut it off of since it was dark blue with sparklies." He shrugged. "She was kinda odd that way."
Tony looked in the box, seeing the simple things. "You don't go for kinky stuff?"
"Like I said, I only tie someone down so they can enjoy me giving them oral sex without fussing about it. She was that kinky, not me."
"Xander, did you realize you left the bullwhip in here," Eliana called, then giggled. "Or that riding crop?"
"Give 'em to Abby if you don't want them, girls. I don't need 'em." He looked at Tony again, shrugging. "That was her thing, not mine."
Tony smiled at that. It did ease a worry. He hadn't wanted to go *that* kinky with anyone. So far. He handed over the bag. "Here, for the stuff we're going to keep of hers. Gibbs said you can buy boxes for that stuff."
"Cool." He settled in to pack the few things neatly away. "I should probably sell the platinum one."
"I don't know anyone who'd want it," Tony said. "Unless someone wants to melt it down." He shrugged. Who'd want a solid platinum vibrator - especially a used one? Xander looked up and grinned at him. "I have no idea why anyone would want one. They'd be cold."
"They all warm up pretty well and stay warm once they start. Plus, the cold sensation isn't so bad at first." Tony shivered at that. "You never played with ice cubes?"
"After this is done, Xander, not now," he ordered calmly. "I need to stay focused now." Xander nodded, leaving it alone for now. Tony went into the bathroom to calm himself down before they needed to hide from everyone else for a few minutes.
"I'm going to email Angel," Xander called through the door. "The bag's back under the bed with my personal box." He headed down the stairs, checking his laundry. He switched it into the dryer, then headed down the stairs. No one was down there so he got to work, emailing Dawn that he had finally gone through Anya's stuff and had parceled it out to two slayers and a very good friend, who had appreciated her taste in toys. To tell Angel thank you for passing it on, since he knew Angel hated computers, and to tell her he was safe and what was going on. He hit send and relaxed, going through his building email. He found a few things he printed off, mostly jokes from Dawn. Marquez would appreciate them with him he was sure. He closed down his email and carried them upstairs, going to hand them to her. "From Dawn," he said happily. Eliana looked and giggled. "Yeah, more jokes. She finds some really cute things." He sat down, looking at the boss. "Anything?"
"Not yet." He sipped his coffee, glancing at him. "You okay with that step you just took?"
"I'm fine with it. I mourned her long ago, Gibbs. Besides, I'd look really bad in her flirty little skirts and tops. Or her heels." Gibbs inhaled his coffee wrong and started to choke. He grabbed the coffee cup while Eliana helped by sitting him down. "Sorry, Boss."
Tony yelped then came down the stairs rubbing his arm. "Another magic gram from Angel." He glared at him. "You didn't say she was *that* bad."
"What? She had more stuff? Abby?" he called.
"She went home," Gibbs gasped. He finally got his breathing under control. "Go check it, kid." He nodded, taking the girls and Tony with him while Gibbs got himself back under control. That was just too much. He called Abby. "More of her stuff appeared," he offered, then hung up. He went back to watching the yard. It was safer that way.
"You didn't say she was some nympho," Tony complained loudly. "How would you even *use* something like that?"
Gibbs groaned and shook his head. He really didn't want to know.
"Boss," Tony complained, coming down the stairs.
He held up a hand and shook his head. "I don't want details, DiNozzo. I really don't need them."
"Sorry." He went back up to look at the casket of toys. Literally. A coffin full of toys. A child's coffin at least, but still a coffin of toys. Including some really odd things. He picked up something, a hard rubber snake and realized it had stuff on it. "Eww!" He dropped it and went to clean his hands.
"I agree," Xander called after him. "I never saw most of these. It's all new to me."
"New to you!" Eliana complained. "Shit, I only have plain, vanilla sex. My boyfriend doesn't even believe in spanking or doggy style."
Marquez looked at him. "I'm so sorry for you."
"Thanks. I have the only man in existence who doesn't want to see two lesbians go at it."
"Is he gay?"
"No, he gets it up just fine for me," she quipped.
Xander looked at them. "I got enough of that type of discussion from Anya. Take it back to the training room." They grabbed the casket and drug it off with them. Marquez came back for the snake, holding it by the very tip of the tail, squealing when it came to life. "I don't want to know what she did with that," he decided, laying down and pulling the pillow over his head so he could imagine Tony tying him down. Which he didn't let anyone do, but it was a nice thought. Someone came and took the pillow from him, making him smile at Tony. "I just realized you'd be the only person I ever let tie me down," he noted quietly.
Tony looked at him. Then he gave him a kiss. "Slowly, Xander. Slowly. I'm not that used to this side of things. Only a few encounters in bars." Xander nodded. "Thank you." He gave him his pillow back. "You might want to disarm that before Gibbs sees," he said, nodding at the hard cock.
"Why is there a snake in the house!" Gibbs yelled.
"Anya's toys," Xander called back. "I think the switch is under the chin."
"Wear gloves, Boss! It's slimy!"
"My neighbors have got to be complaining by now," Xander quipped, but he got to his knees and pulled him closer for a real kiss. "I'll disarm this but your first night back, I get to disarm yours for you. Deal?" Tony swallowed and nodded. "Thank you." He went into the bathroom. He found one of his personal toys in there and smiled at Tony before closing the door.
Tony reopened it and closed the bedroom door. "We're keeping the snake out," he noted. He sat on the bed, nodding at him. "Please?" Xander stripped down and got onto his knees, first sucking on it, then using it to slowly open his body. Tony moaned and Xander shifted sideways so he could see. He put one fist in his mouth to keep himself quiet, riding it for all he was worth. He wasn't quite enough and he didn't have a spare hand. Tony got up to lock the door then came in to help him, kissing him to keep him quiet. Xander got off with a moan into his mouth and he pulled back to smile at him. "I definitely should not be doing this," he noted quietly. Xander nodded and leaned forward, kissing him again, then making him stand so he could take care of him. Tony clutched the sink, biting his lip to make sure he'd stay quiet, but Xander's mouth was so good! It was just what he needed. The person knocking on the door wasn't. "Boss, just checking something on Xander's back for him," he called. "One of the scars was itchy and I'm checking for fluid swelling." He bit his lip again as Xander swallowed hard and he came, clutching onto the sink. Xander stood up and he heard the toy drop before the warm lips were back on his. "We can't."
"I know. This isn't the time," he promised. "Later it will be and then you're mine. No toys for at least a month, unless you want me to prepare you that way," he whispered. Tony smiled and nodded, kissing him again. "We need to clean up."
"I'll be fine." He turned and turned on the tap, using it to rinse his mouth out. Xander handed him the listerine and he grinned, gargling with it before heading out so he could clean up. Gibbs gave him a long stare. "He thought he had water retention and it was making a scar swell."
"Uh-huh. Do you need to run home for anything?"
"No, I'm good with what's here, Boss. I can always do laundry. I do need to run out to get my bag."
"McGee can get it when he comes in and takes that other box of perverted crap back to her place." He went back to looking outside. "Maybe you should take a quick nap, DiNozzo." He heard the shocked silence and looked back at him. "I've been there before. I was married three times."
"Good point. Once he's back down here. That way we can't go too far during this."
"Fine. Thank you for that consideration. Take the chair instead." Tony sank down and put the footrest up, getting comfortable. Xander came down to cover him and he looked at the boy. "Remember what I said?"
Xander nodded. "I'd never make it so he can't be ready for work and I won't hurt him."
"Good. You'd better not. Don't use those perverted things on him either."
"Not a problem, Boss," he promised. "I'm not that kinky. That was all Anya's stuff." He gave him a hug for a moment then let him go and stepped away. "Where's the cop?"
"Up the street. In a normal car. I'll show you when you come on shift in a few hours. Go get a drink."
"Yes, Boss." He went to do that. He did need a drink. Though, Tony was stronger than tequila for his senses. He might not have to drink ever again. Well, he might have a glass of wine now and then but Tony was definitely stronger and better for him than any liquor he had ever had.
Gibbs came into work Wednesday, after having finally gotten the person trying to blow them up or fry them at Xander's house. They were in custody and screaming and pleading for mercy. Not that he was offering any, but they were begging nicely for it. Including the new head of the Initiative, one Jen Shepard. She had reorganized those who were left into taking up where they had left off. Nearly as soon as she heard about the cult from what had been told to him. He nodded at the director when he ran into him in the elevator. "Morning, sir."
"Good morning, Jethro. Is your team coming in today?"
"Yes, sir. We're all well rested after last night. Why?"
"I just wondered. Someone had noticed how close DiNozzo and Harris were when they hunted."
Gibbs stopped the elevator and looked at him. "Sir, there are cameras in here now?"
"I had them taken out, Jethro. You know I could care less. Are they?"
"Yes, sir, but it's only from this last weekend."
"I owe someone ten dollars." He restarted the elevator with a smile at the shocked look. "I was a young man once myself, Jethro, and my sister used to be one of the girls. I knew about this long before now. When the threat is gone, Mr. Harris will be going to the Academy. I've already arranged it for him. You'll just have to make due with an extra field agent on your team since they seem able to work well together and the boy trusts you." He pulled something out of his pocket and handed it over. "Here. For you. On him." He got off on his floor and Jethro punched his button, heading back down to his floor. He sat down behind his desk to read the enclosed notes. It was on Xander's family. So now he knew. He looked over as Tony came in, considering handing it to him.
Tony looked at him. "If it's about Xander, he'll tell me himself, Boss. I pointed out that proved trust more than letting me tie him down did," he offered quietly. Gibbs nodded and put the letter into his desk, locking the drawer. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Get the kid to study an area that'll help him in the field. Morrow has arranged for him to go to the Academy in a few years time. Without me asking," he said at the opening mouth. "I'm told he's joining us here so see if he can fill in any remaining gaps."
"Yes, Boss. Thank you."
"I didn't do it and he said he didn't care what you did after hours," he noted.
Tony smiled at that. "Thank you." He went back to his desk, doing some paperwork. "Do we need to do statements from this weekend?"
"No. They've all confessed and I've handed over the information we had. They decided they're part of the cult going around killing people. They also took over the investigation of what happened to those other goth kids. It's done and over with, DiNozzo. Relax about it."
Tony smiled. "Giles called when I was leaving. They did figure out how to close this one and move it back. Possibly even sooner than expected."
"Good. I'm tired of this strangeness in my city. The sooner it's all gone, the better I'll like it and the faster we can get back to a normal life." Tony nodded, going back to his paperwork. "Anything else you want to tell me?"
"No, Boss. Though, he did want to know if I wanted to go to England with him once it was done to look at the Estate he inherited. Or possibly around Easter, whichever comes first."
"I'll let you out of touch at that time," he agreed. "You'll have to file for vacation days for any weekdays but I won't yell about you being gone over the weekend or being out of touch."
"Thanks, Boss. It means a lot to him."
"I realize that." He got down to his own work. "Where is McGee?" he asked finally.
"Abby, um, may have kept him up last night, Boss. She was saying something about survival being an aphrodisiac?"
"I ignored that conversation." He called McGee's phone. "McGee, you're late. Do you have a good reason?" He pulled the phone away from his ear to look at it, then put it back. "Excuse me?" He listened to his quiet complaint again. "Fine. Come in once you're released and you can sit on desk duty." He hung up and shook his head. "I don't want to know how she made his ears bleed and his rear sore."
"Maybe he sat on something, Boss," Tony joked. "She did bring home a lot of stuff."
"Point. Not one I wanted to consider, but it is a point. Hopefully an accident." Tony snickered. "You, no details."
"Of course not, Boss, and I promise I'll be able to walk when I come in. Unlike McGee," he giggled. Marquez came off the elevator. "Oooh, new girl's late."
"I had to tell off the cop who stopped me for coming out of my apartment building." She handed her excuse to Gibbs. "I'm sorry, Boss. He decided that since one of my neighbors had died in her sleep none of us could go to work. I had to call his supervisor and listen to them yell at each other before I could get that and get away."
"That's fine. Those things happen rarely, hopefully never again."
"I hope not too. She was a very nice old lady." She sat down behind her desk, then looked at McGee's. "I didn't know he lived in my building."
"He doesn't. He's at the hospital," Gibbs said dryly. "Somehow he managed to fall and hurt his ears and hind end." He stood up and went to file something and get more coffee. He missed the good stuff at Xander's.
Tony grinned at her. "Well, you survived your first weekend on the job and managed to survive the first stakeout as well. What do you think of the job?"
"I like it. It's much nicer than dealing with rapists and much easier than dealing with my desire to kill those who hurt children. Besides, I like Xander." She smiled and got back to work. "How soon before we get another case?"
"Depends on when the next soldier dies an odd death."
"Ah. Sometime today?"
"Probably." He held up something as Gibbs walked past. "That report I had due last week."
"Thank you, DiNozzo. About time." He sat down to look it over, then threw it back at him. "Yoda you are not. Fix the grammar."
"Yes, Boss, sorry." He reopened it and grammar checked it. "Boss, it says it's perfect."
"Don't rely on the checker, it's almost always wrong," he replied. "Do it yourself. You went to college, you should write better than that."
"Boss, I was a jock," he reminded him. "I didn't write many papers." He got back to work anyway. The grammar checker had made him sound like a moron in places.
She came over and typed an address into his explorer window. "I use that," she whispered. "Copy and paste then click check." She went back to her desk.
He smiled and did that, reading the results. He copied it back into his document and reprinted it, handing it back in. "There you go, Boss. How long before we get another one?"
"No leave last weekend," he noted. "It could be this weekend."
"Wonderful." He went back to his desk, cleaning up all the files that he had pending. As each one was done, he put it on the floor, stacking them up. Then he lifted the stack and brought them over. "Since I have energy this morning," he said happily, going back to dust and reorganize his drawers.
"Boss, can I go kill someone so he doesn't start to vacuum?" Marquez asked a few minutes later.
"Maybe after lunch." He looked them over, then at her. "What site did you show him?" She came over to type it in for him, making him smile. "You put classified materials online?"
"It's a government site and they don't store anything. I made sure before I used it at the FBI. We were encouraged to use it." She went back to her desk.
He let it go. If they used it, it was probably secure. He did write a memo to make sure it was all right to use, and got a reply of 'please. Your reports read like you type with your toes'. He bookmarked it for future reference. Then he went to deliver the stack to his boss, who just gave him a dirty look. "No dead Marines or Sailors today," he said smugly. He went back to his desk. He hated not having anything to do. That would be solved very shortly. DiNozzo's phone rang on his way down the stairs and he heard him giggle. "No private calls at work, DiNozzo," he ordered.
"It's not, Boss, it's Abby. The doc at the ER said to take McGee home. She's bringing in his excuse and cookies to make up for it." He hung up on her laugh. He had added the cookies but she'd do it anyway. Along with telling him what Fluffy had done this time.