Shopping It

Xander walked in and stomped his feet off on the mat, shivering a bit before he could close the door.  "I never knew snow meant being so ball-numbingly cold."  He heard a few quiet chuckles and headed back to the kitchen.  "Coffee, Gibbs must be here somewhere," he said, pouring himself some and sipping as fast as he could, both hands around the mug.  "Ah," he sighed, starting to feel warm.  Then a moment later, "Shit, pins and needles."  He stripped off his mittens and coat, going back to his inhaling warmth.   Tony came up the stairs, giving him a long look.  "No one ever said snow was more than pretty.  It's also damn cold!"

"Yeah," he said patiently.

"He's from the desert, DiNozzo," Gibbs yelled from downstairs.  "I doubt he's ever seen snow."

"Once and it was a freaky thing that made me invisible," he called back, getting more coffee and heading down the stairs.  "What's going on?"

"Reports from one of the battleships that they've got a vamp on board," Abby said, smiling at him.  "No wonder you're cold!  You're wearing a t-shirt!  Don't you know how to layer?"

"Not really."

She sighed and looked at Gibbs, who shrugged.  "He comes from the desert, it only gets cold there at night."  He looked him over.  "Just off work?"

"Yet again, and *why* am I working in a Country bar?"

"It's a job?" Tony suggested, bringing down a sweater.  "Here, one of mine."

"Thank you."  He put it on and it was a bit big but nice.  It smelled nice too.  He smiled at him.  "I love you."

"I know."  He patted him on the back, looking at the reports.  "Any word on what we're doing?"

"There was a severe bout of flu on board?" Xander suggested.  "It got the eaten people and the vampire?"  He drank more of his coffee, looking at the numbers.  "No dead?"

"No, but the infirmary wanted to know who the goth person was," Gibbs said grimly.  "I've referred it up and they said that whatever we came up with was fine."

"Flu works for me, Boss."

"Good.  Abby, send that message to the hunter on board."

"We have a hunter on board?"

"I know one of the medics," Gibbs admitted.  "He heard about the cult, called about the attacks on the ship."  He sipped his own coffee, then looked at Xander.  "You can quit."

"I know," he muttered.  "I miss Pyro."  He finished his coffee and went to get more, taking Gibbs' cup too.  He brought it back and sat down to look at the numbers more closely.  "We've got a secondary problem, Gibbs.  This exhaustion."

"They all got laid on leave," Abby told him.

"Yeah, but not by succuba," he said, tracking it back.  "You have someone with sirenic gifts near there.  That could be a problem."

"Huh?" Tony asked.  "I don't remember that in the book on sex demons."

"Don't talk while I'm typing," Abby complained.  "I nearly put that in there."  She backspaced and fixed it.  "There."  She looked at Xander, then pulled up a special file, letting them all see it.  "That's what he's talking about."

"Yeah, that stuff," Xander agreed.  "See, sirens are real and they do feed, but they can feed on the body as well.  Succuba feed on the energy, the emotional output.  Sirens feed on the energy too, but on the core energy.  And a few have been known to drain until death.  They use sex to do it, but they're not technically sex demons."

"Which is why they weren't in that book," Tony finished.  Xander smiled and nodded.  "So, how do we fix this?"

"Run them off.  There's no proven way of killing them.  You can trap them somewhere airtight but they will eventually get out.  They're basically immortal as far as anyone knows.  They've tried everything.  They're not allergic to holy objects, they don't mind swords made of any metal, they could care less if you're married, they could care less if you want it.  They can summon prey like a succuba but they can also take it without doing more than shaking your hand."  He looked at the readout.  "Where were they?"

"Could she be on the ship?" Abby asked.  "One was reported as feeling really tired two days out."

"They can do it long distance as long as they've keyed a line into their victims.  Where was their last port?"


"Figures.  There's an enclave over there," Xander admitted, pulling up his email and writing Giles.  He got a response from Willow saying they were myths so he pulled up the pertinent file and sent it back, making her send back a groan and an 'I'll tell him, we've got former Watchers in the area'.  "Thank you, Willow," he muttered as he typed.  He shook his head and drank his third cup of coffee straight.

Gibbs looked at the cup, then at Tony.  "That's cup number how many?"

"Three, Boss.  Xander, no more, or you'll bounce."

"Sure."  He got back to work figuring out who was where.  "Oh, shit, they've got to go to Africa again next month."


"We had a slayer come from one of the tribal areas, one of the heavy-conflict tribal areas," he admitted.  "I went to get her actually.  It looks like she's being summoned home so she'll need someone to go with her.  Looks like they're briefing a former Watcher who wants to go somewhere warm.  Ooh."  He got a bright idea and logged onto the new Watcher's chat room.  "Ah, here we are.  Willow said she set this up last night."  He typed in his information and already had a screen name for himself.  "And of course, she's on the ball."  His name appeared and so did Willow, Giles, and a guy in England.  He typed slowly, watching what he was doing.  The conference on the siren issue got finished and Xander asked about Africa, noting he couldn't go.  Giles told him he was staying there.  So Xander told him he had found a second girl here, one who had just transferred in, and he was working on her as well.  She came in knowing, so she wasn't really behind any.  He noted her age and name.  Willow asked if it was the same Marquez and he sent back a 'yup'.  She promised to add her to the secret, passworded database.  Xander noted that Eliana was doing all right and that her college courses were starting in a week.  Giles congratulated him on holding down the city so well.  Then told him to quit his day job because he shouldn't work around Country music, it depressed him.

Tony snickered at that.  "I guess he heard your sad music a few times?" he joked.

"More than once," he sighed, typing in that he shouldn't.  Giles sent back a strongly worded order to quit his day job.  He noted that he didn't want to use what Wes left him for daily expenses, that it was for emergencies.  Giles put in a 'brb' and called.  He answered the phone he had installed down there.  "Yeah, Giles?"  He listened to the reasonable ass chewing.  "But...."  He looked up and sighed.  "Fine.  You're right, but still.  Then what'm I supposed to do all day, Giles?"  He grimaced.  "I know that but I can't live like that.  Fine.  Yes, sir."  He hung up and looked at Gibbs.  "I'm to quit my job tonight.  I'm also to get more in depth with my study on energy warping and things."  He got back into the chat and told Willow he was now jobless anyway, that his boss had just called and told him he wasn't working out.  He didn't want to make her feel too bad for being such a flake now.  She pouted and reminded him that he was going to be earning a salary once they finally got the Watcher's funds released from the banks in England.  "Oooh.  Nice."  He put in a cute remark that snow was both pretty and cold, and that he had almost wrecked earlier.  Giles 'THAT'S WHY NORMAL PEOPLE USE CARS INSTEAD OF MOTORCYCLES IN WINTER' was in all caps and quite funny if you knew the man.

Gibbs nodded.  "It is," he agreed, finishing that cup of coffee.  Xander looked back and stuck his tongue out at him.  "Keep it up.  You wanna go to Athens?"

"Hell.  No.  They'll like me nearly as much as the succuba do in the clubs."  He got back to work, noting what he had on the energy warping and it made everyone there wonder if he had switched out, but he pointed out his was a situation where you could study these things.  Then he signed off and leaned back, shaking his head.  "Bastards.  Even if I do write it officially in the Chronicles, you're not going to believe me."  He called the bar.  "Boss, no, unfortunately I can't.  Why?  Because I'm being sent to Africa with one of the teenagers my former mentor lives with.  No, she's going to visit and learn.  I'm going to watch her ass unless I can get out of it, but that'll still be at least a month from now.  Yeah, I'm sorry too.  I wish I could've given you more notice.  No, seriously.  You want his number?"  He recited it.  "Yeah, Cali.  Well, you knew I'm from there," he noted dryly.  "Sorry, Boss.  I'll come get the final check in three days or so."  He hung up and looked at the phone.  "I hope Giles will play along."  He shook his head and got up, stretching a bit.  "Okay, now what'm I doing today?"

"Working on the Chronicle," Abby reminded him.

"Oh, yeah.  I forgot I'm supposed to suddenly take up diary writing for mass consumption."  He grimaced and headed up the stairs to moan and complain over the old fashioned diary-like book that he had to hand write in.  Giles had said he couldn't print it off the computer, it had to be handwritten and then printed.  So he gathered his first few months' reports back to him and settled in to work at the kitchen table.

"Can't you type those?" Gibbs asked.

"For my own use.  Not for the official Chronicles.  Those are handwritten, translated into multiple languages, and printed."  He looked at him.  "Tradition."  He looked at the first report and got to work on the opening of this hellmouth and how they hadn't gotten here in time to stop it, going back to Santa Clara.  Then he looked at it and went to get his journals, ripping out the first page and going back further.  "Fuck it, I'm doing my own Chronicle," he muttered, sitting down with everything in front of him.  "He can bite me.  I'll do Eliana's with mine.  Since Giles conveniently *forgot* to do his."

"Each Watcher has to have one too?" Gibbs asked.  Xander moaned and nodded.  "Why?"

"So you can have two viewpoints.  There's stuff that can't go in the girls' Chronicles.  Things like hunting reports, training reports, and new creatures go into hers.  Things about her personal life if they intersect.  The Watcher's Chronicles are more in-depth and more detailed.  Slayers' Chronicles read like a report, Watchers' read like a journal."

"Wonderful.  They've done this for each and every girl?"

"Yeah, and a few were only days' worth," he noted dryly.  "There's a few where they put them into the same book.  Fortunately I'm going all the way back so I can fill in some of Giles' and Buffy's Chronicles too.  I know Giles hasn't done his duty yet."

"Should I tell them?"

"Nope.  If you do, he'll try to stop me from outing Willow's and Buffy's problems.  I have to formally present them and that's when he's getting them."  He got back to work, translating his handwriting to make the narrative easier and less personal.  "I'll be on volume two by the time I become a Watcher," he complained.

"Maybe," Gibbs agreed, going to stare outside for a few minutes while he thought.  "Do we have to keep one?" he asked finally.

"You're not obligated.  I started keeping them to work through things and to show my kids if I should ever have any so they know what they're doing," he said, looking at him.  "At least I don't have to use a fountain pen."  He grinned and got back to work.

"Or a quill," Abby offered as she came up, handing him a soda. Gibbs put that one back and handed him a non-caffeinated one.  "Sorry, Gibbs.  How would you study the energy warping?"

"Keeping track of the assaults for one," he said as he wrote.  "We could do energy and air quality studies there.  There's magical means of doing it too.  I'll end up doing the first and third probably.  Unless you wanna help, Abby?"

"No, not really.  I don't understand it."

"Neither does anyone else, sweetie.  It's okay."  He turned the page and kept going, talking about how he had met Buffy.

Gibbs drug Abby off.  The boy had a lot of work to do and he probably needed more quiet than a babbling Abby.  He did turn on the stereo since Xander liked noise. Tony gave his selection an odd look but he shrugged.  "It's what it was on."

"Yeah, I remember.  He was trying to teach me a new dance step."  He went to change the station.


Xander finished his first Chronicle and closed it, chanting the spell to make it unchangeable, before he changed his mind, then got out the special inks Giles had made for him to write on the front.  He had considered most of last night what to title it.  He knew the official formula, and it wasn't going to quite work this time.  He dipped the special quill into the ink and put it onto the front of the book.  "The Journal of the Hunter Alexander Harris of Sunnydale."  Underneath he wrote in smaller type, "His tenure with the Vampire Slayers Buffy, Kendra, and Faith and the Watcher Rupert Giles during their time in Sunnydale until the death of that Hellmouth."  He put down the quill and blew across it, saying the last few words of setting in.

He stroked over the now-embossed cover, getting up to put it in the middle of the table.  He called Giles.  "Giles, I need a second Chronicle book.  No, I have Eliana and Adrian's together, Giles.  You're the one who said I was a Watcher," he noted dryly.  "Please.  No, I didn't mess up my spare one," he noted dryly.  "Huh.  Gee, I don't know," he said, looking at the book.  "Fine, I'll be right there."  He hung up and wrote out a quick note, then chanted the teleporting spell he had learned off Wesley and Willow, landing back in Giles' office.  He walked forward.  "I formally present this Chronicle to the Watcher's Council in the name of Alexander Harris, hunter.  His Watcher's Chronicle will be presented when his slayers are dead and his duty is done," he intoned dryly, handing over the book.  That was the formal ceremony, passed down for ages.

"You did what?" he asked, taking it to look through.  "Oh, my."  He looked at him.  "Xander...."

"I kept a journal to help me work it out now and then and I *know* you're way behind.  That's a supplemental Chronicle.  Get over it.  That's why I need another Chronicle book."

"Yes, of course," he agreed, going to get him one from the supply room.  He came back and sat down to look at the title.  "You reported faithfully?" he asked formally.

"To the best of my memories and according to my hunting journals," he replied.  "Up to and including the end of Buffy Summers, to the point where I was named Watcher over the current Hellmouth."

"Very well," he agreed, settling in to flip through it.  He looked up and the boy was gone.  He sighed sadly, looking through the book.  It had so many memories, and the boy was a very good writer.  It held his personality and his pain.  Even Giles' own pains were in here.  He put it on the desk and stroked the cover.  "So shall the Council agree to house this important book," he said quietly.  The old Council might have hidden it or refused it, but he knew they needed to rebuild the knowledge.  He got up and called his printer, smiling at him.  "Yes, Philip, I do.  We have a Hunter's Journal from Sunnydale.  No, a complete Chronicle.  Supplemental.  Xander's.  No, Willow hasn't done one yet."  He stroked the cover again. "Yes, to be copied, printed, and distributed to the appropriate places.  Thank you."  He stroked over it again, he could feel the spell in the ink.  Xander had made sure no one could change it, not even himself.

He called Willow.  "Dear, did you ever think of doing a Hunter's journal?"  He sighed and nodded.  "Even a small one on your magic addiction would be fine," he agreed.  "No, Xander formally presented his today," he said quietly.  "Bluntly.  Full of his personality, as any good Chronicle is, but very real and very blunt," he assured her.  "Up to and including when the DC hellmouth opened and you transferred out there."  He smiled.  "That would be fine.  Could I at least get you to work on the one for your magic addiction?  In case it should happen again?  I understand.  No, he couldn't include your thoughts and feelings, Willow.  I know it's hard, but it could help you finish your grieving as well.  Of course.  Let me know, all right?"  He smiled and hung up then went back to stroking the book.


Xander reappeared and found Tony in the kitchen.  "Morning."

"Where did you have to go?"

"To present my formal first Chronicle," he admitted bitterly.  "From Sunnydale."  Tony gave him a hug.  "I'm fine now.  It just brought up a lot of bad memories at times," he sighed.  He sat down, looking at his boyfriend.  "Why aren't you at work?"

"I got today off since I worked Saturday and the Navy hates overtime.  They've threatened to put us back on salary and give us a twenty percent pay cut if we have any more overtime."

"Wonderful.  Did you want to help me work out?"

"No, I was going to take you to find a car."

"I need a car?" Xander asked, looking a little bit confused.  "Why do I need a car?"

"Because, Xander, you're going to wreck the bike soon."  He sat down across from him.  "You said you nearly wrecked the other day.  This way you can get something that shouts who and what you are.  You don't have to, but you don't like to ride in the rain either."

"Good point."  He considered it.  He had the money.  He had more than enough money.  He liked cars.  They were nice things. "I still have problems driving."

"Ducky said that it's a matter of practice, which you've gotten on the bike, and lack of fear, Xan.  He said the last time you tried you probably were either high on pain killers or scared."  Xander nodded, that had been true.  "Whereas you're driving on the bike all the time."

"Point.  We can try but that means I've got to redo my license.  I only got the motorcycle one when I came out."

"We can do that," he reminded him, standing up.  "Ducky's even got a letter for you so you won't have to parallel park."

"That would be good, yeah," Xander admitted with a grin.  "Can you help me buy a sweater too?"

Oh, yeah!  It was payback time for the time Xander had taken him to find hunting clothes and put him in nearly pornographic pants!  Yes!   "Sure.  You need winter clothes."  He pulled him closer to give him a gentle kiss.  "Come on.  Car first.  That way you can put stuff in the trunk."

"I need to call someone and pull the special stuff out of the study," he said, going into the former dining room where his altar was.  He called from in there, getting the bank in England.  They authorized the card for him and he pulled it out of the envelope, putting it into his wallet.  Then he took Tony's hand and let him take him out and call a cab.  "We're going to get it today?"

"Yes.  No ordering.  Anything that needs changed you can work on."

Xander frowned at him.  "You can do that?"

Tony nodded.  "I worked on my old Z for nearly three years before I had it the way I wanted it.  Then it got stolen and wrecked."  He let Xander get into the back, climbing in after him.  "We need to go to that car lot on Q."

"Sure," the cabby agreed, driving off.

Xander looked back at the door.  "Did you lock it?"  Tony nodded.  "The keys are inside."

"I can get into the house, Xander."

"Okay."  He relaxed and watched the city go past.  He still wasn't used to DC.  "Is this a big car lot?"

"No but I didn't think you'd want just any car.  I can see you in something classic, something that screams power and sex."  He stroked his cheek.  "Which you do ooze."

Xander blushed and nodded.  "Thanks, Pretty Boy."

"It's the truth."  They pulled up and he paid for the fare, taking Xander out.  He watched him head for a low-slung sports car. "No, not the fiberglass, middle-age, age-reduction machines."  He took him by the wrist and drug him back toward the classics. "One of these."

Xander looked at them, moving closer.  He grinned at the salesman.  "He thinks they'll suit me."

"They could."  He looked him over.  "They usually go toward those who have a need for speed or for those who like danger."

"Which he likes both.  He rides a motorcycle most of the time," Tony told him.  He came over to look, leading Xander back to one of the older Mustangs, letting him look.  It was black.  It had blue leather interior.  It was probably perfect.  He popped the hood and whistled.  "That's nice."

"Is it?"  He looked.  "I don't know much about cars.  I leave that to the professionals.  I can change my own oil and stuff, but I never got past that stuff before I switched to the bike."  He went to open the door and settle in, pushing the seat back.  He wiggled and closed the door, then got out and shook his head.  "It's not comfy."  He walked over to another one.  He knew you could paint a car.  He heard the hood go down and Tony followed him.  At least until his phone rang.

"DiNozzo."  He listened.  "Boss, you said I was switching Saturday for today since I worked Saturday," he said patiently.  "Yeah, you did.  Remember that memo, Boss, the one on *overtime* that threatened a pay cut?" he asked dryly.  He smirked.  "I thought so.  No, taking Xander to find a car for the winters and rainy days."  He snapped his fingers and shook his head, getting Xander away from the car he was looking at.  "No."  He listened to his boss.  "That's where we're at, Boss.  Is there a case?"  He smirked as Xander came back.  "You did say to, Boss. Boss, did you want the twenty percent pay cut?"   He smiled.  "Me either.  Sure.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "He forgot," he said, sliding the phone back into his pocket.  He walked him toward a middle aged Mustang, not the first few models and not the newer ones, which he considered blasphemy.  "How about this?" he offered, pointing at it.

Xander looked it over, then nodded.  "Maybe."

"That's one of the other salesman's cars," the guy following them around noted.

Xander looked at him.  "Would he mind if I looked?"  He shrugged and went to get the guy's keys.  "Thank you."  He walked around and turned off the alarm, then got into it, wiggling a bit.  "This is more comfy," he announced.  He got out and relocked the door.   "Okay, do you have any more of these?" he asked, tossing back the keys.

"Not at the moment.  Let me see what we can find."  He went into the office, pulling out a book.  "Ah, there is one for sale locally.  Let me call the owner."  He did that, watching them.  "Hi, this is Peter at .... Yes, there.  Ah, caller ID.  No, I have someone here interested in a model of Mustang near yours and I was wondering if you were still selling it."  He listened.  "No, I know they're rare.  Thank you anyway."  He hung up.  "Unfortunately he's not selling his any longer," he noted as he walked back over to them.  "We have a few other models of the same car."

"Yeah, but the first one felt cramped," Xander told him, looking totally serious.  "I'm tall and so's Pretty Boy here."  He nodded his head toward Tony.  "That one seemed like it had less leg room."

"It did.  They didn't plan for bigger men in those days.  Just younger boys."  He looked around the lot.  "We have a beautiful Italian model," he offered, pointing at it.

"No, that's a receding hairline alarm," Xander told him.  "I still have all mine."  He ran his hands through his messy hair.  "Which I should get trimmed and wash it today too," he noted for his own benefit.  He looked around again then looked at Tony.  "Do you see anything else?"

"No."  He walked him off, playing with his hair. "You could use a haircut and less gel."

"I like the gelled look."

"So do I, sometimes, but not today, Xander."  He led him off to do that first while he looked up other muscle car lots.  Xander needed something he could lavish with his excess attention - it'd give him something new to learn and a new hobby.  When they were done with Xander's hair, he led him to the other one he found in the phone book, watching as Xander headed right for the Mustangs he liked.  He smiled when the boy walked around a black one.  He walked back to pop the hood, looking.  "Underpowered."

"Can it be fixed?"

"With some effort and money," he admitted, putting down the hood.  He looked around, going over to one that looked more promising. The hood had been modified for some reason.  He popped it and looked, then whistled.  "That's a street racing engine."

"No."  Xander came over to look.  "I don't need that much power."

"True, but it's pretty."

Xander stroked his back.  "I know, you need a new toy," he said with a wicked smirk.  "You can help me with mine."

"I am going to be helping you with yours," he assured him, carefully putting down the hood and walking him back to the other black Mustang on the lot, putting up the hood.  "This one went for the options package," he said happily.

"It's also nearly show quality," the salesman said with a smile.

"He's looking for an everyday car, not a showpiece," Tony told him.  "What's the radio, Xan?"

Xander looked.  "Radio only."

"Ooh."  He came back to look.  "Pretty and it is probably for showing."  He stood up.  "Do you have one with that engine or slightly better?  He doesn't need to street race and he isn't showing off his prowess with the engine."

"I do actually," he admitted, leading them to a second remake of the Mustang, which Tony was iffy on.  He patted one.  "V-8, upgraded to ten cylinders.  Custom engine.  It's a very baritone car."  He got in and turned it over, watching the couple shiver.  "Come, try it out."

Xander slid into the seat and wiggled, then smiled.  "I like this.  Even if it is in baby blue."  He stopped the motor and looked at Tony, then at the salesman.  "How long would a repaint take?"

"Depends on where you go.  We don't offer that here, but there's places you can get it done the by the next day."

Xander stroked the roof, looking at Tony.  "You wanna try it?"

Tony smiled.  "The look on your face is enough, Xander.  If you want it, it's your car.  What sort of stereo we looking at?"

Xander looked, then at him.  "Tape deck."

"We can upgrade to a multi-cd system and satellite," he promised.

"With GPS please, 'cause I still get lost now and then.  I ended up outside the CIA the other day."  He closed the door and looked at the salesman.  "Let's go sign paperwork."  He got a smile and the man walked him into the office, taking the debit card to run when Xander insisted.  He looked a bit impressed but Xander ignored it.  He walked out with the keys and Tony chatting about what he could do it upgrade it.  Paint, new stereo.  Recover the seats since they were fabric.  Xander just smirked and went to get his license upgraded, which didn't take too long.  He had to retake the driving test, which wasn't that hard once he had presented Ducky's letter.  Then Tony took him clothes shopping.

Tony parked in the parking garage next to the better mall, taking Xander inside.  The mall at the Pentagon was really nice and upscale, but it had good places to shop.  He walked Xander into one of the stores and handed him to a salesman.  "Watch him.  He's from near LA and they didn't have winter."

"Ah.  Well, we do have a sale on sweaters," he noted, leading the boy that way.  His friend came with him but peeled off to look at other shirts.  He looked at him. "Yours?" he asked with a grin.

"A very good friend," Xander offered shyly.  "I need something to go with my leathers.  Usually I ride a bike."

"Ooooh, I see."  He watched what the guy was picking out.  "You have a workplace dresscode?"

"I do?  Pretty Boy, what're you doing?"

"Finding you clothes.  Sometimes you do have to look more classy than your clubbing leathers, Xander."

"Yes, dear."  He shrugged a bit.  "I like comfy stuff.  I've been wearing one of his soft sweaters and I think he wants it back," he shared.  The salesman laughed and started letting him feel them.  "I like that one," he said.

"Cashmere is very soft."

Tony walked over and handed him another one.  "Chenille.  Cheaper and nearly as soft.  Also washable instead of dry clean only like cashmere."  He went back to his looking, coming back with two turtlenecks and a few pairs of pants.  "Yes, I'm dressing you like me," he offered with a smile at the look the pants got.  Ha!  Payback was his!  A preppie Xander!  Maybe even a geeky Xander if he had his way for long enough!  "That way the director doesn't have to swoon at the sight of your leathers again the next time he catches you in the office."  He handed them to the salesman.  "Those are the right sizes."

The man smiled and gathered some of each type of sweater the boy had lingered over, taking him to the dressing room.  Then he looked at Tony.  "Should I warn the clothier upstairs, sir?  The suit maker?"

"No," Xander called.  "No suits."  He came out and turned around.  "I knew today was the wrong day for the thong."  Tony burst out in giggles.  "It is."

"Probably, but I don't think there's ever a really *good* time for one, Xander."

Xander stuck his tongue out.  "I'll remember you said that, Pretty Boy."  He looked at himself again.  "This?"

"You look good in it," Tony said patiently.  "Try on the red one."  Xander went to try on that one, coming out in the same pants.  He looked at it, then at the salesman.  "Too bright a red?"

"Much.  He looks good in goth red."  He went to get one and bring it back.  Xander went to change and he nearly drooled.  "Ooh, I like that one," he admitted.  It was just tight enough to show the muscles Xander had.  "I like that one a lot.  Hell, I almost wish I were gay," he muttered.

Tony smirked.  "I think that's a good one."

"I look cheap."

"You don't look cheap or like you're easy.  You're getting it.  Or else I'm telling Abby."  He went back to change and came out in another outfit, this one a nice button down shirt.  "I like that one," he decided.

Xander looked at himself, then at Tony.  "I look like I belong in a higher social class."

"Which can be a good thing," Tony reminded him.  "Remember, estate trip coming up?"

"It's England and it's around Easter."

"It'll still be cold in England at Easter, Xander."

"No wonder Giles wears tweed all the time," he muttered, going back to try on the others.  He came out in a big, fluffy chenille sweater and smiled. "I like this one."

"You look like a girl," the salesman noted.


"Do you have one just like it that buttons?" Tony asked.  He nodded and went to get it.  He agreed, the deeper turtleneck did look like a girl's sweater.  The salesman brought back three - green, deep blue, and black.  Xander beamed and changed into the green one, making Tony smile.  Xander had shown a definite affinity for green since they had started to date.  When asked he said it made Tony look just as good as him.  It was sweet of him.  He nodded, those looked less like a girls' sweater.  Not much, but he doubted the boy would be wearing them clubbing.  Once Xander had paid he walked him off, taking him to the next place.  The salesman let them put their bags behind the counter and Tony once again dragged him where he wanted him to go.  Xander wasn't really used to the upper scale preppie shopping but sometimes.....  He looked at him.  "You really do need a single jacket, Xander."  That got a shudder.  "Just for nice dinners and things."

"We're going to dinner?"

Tony smiled.  "If you want," he promised.  "That would mean you'd have to wear a suit coat."  Xander shuddered again. "They're not that bad."

"Yes they are and ties are worse."  Tony smiled at that but let him at least have some say.  He picked out a few of the knit sweaters in a cream and a light tan color.  Jeans in the right size and just tight enough to club in.  Socks since the last place didn't have any.  Tony handed him a pair and he looked at him oddly. "Argyle?"

"Soft.  Warm.  I have some pairs."

Xander relented at that and put them into his basket.  He went to look at the t-shirts, he needed some of those.  Tony walked over and pulled down a few, handing them over.  "Your usual."  He let Xander check out then grabbed their bags.  "Back to the car to drop these off."

"Yes, Pretty Boy."  He followed him back to the car since he was now lost.  This is why he hated malls, he always got lost.  The designers did it on purpose to make you stay for longer.  He did stop to get a pretzel on the way back inside.  "Where to now?" he asked between nibbles.

Tony took some for himself and smiled.  "Suit coat."  Xander grumbled something so he nudged him. "I'll make sure you look hot. You know that.  You've seen me wear one with a turtleneck and things."

"Yeah," he complained, following him to the escalators.  "Shoes?"

"You could use a pair of shoes and some new sneakers," he agreed.  "Did you make the arrangements for the trip to the estate?"

"Yup.  Plane tickets all filed, first night's hotel in London done.  Passport filed for since I had to change information."

"Good."  He led him into the suit shop he used and the salesman smiled at him.  He pulled Xander forward, taking the remains of the pretzel but letting him have the napkins.  "His first real one.  He only needs the coat for now."  He handed him over.  "He's escorting me to a nice restaurant sometime soon and we're going to England around Easter."  He finished off the pretzel while the man showed Xander some styles.  "Not that one.  I want him to match me for hotness."  He pulled out his phone when it started to ring. "DiNozzo."  He listened.  "Now, Boss?  No, I'm in the mall with Xander."  He rolled his eyes.  "Pentagon Mall actually.  Why?"  He smirked.  "Sure, Boss.  Grab my backpack and I'll meet you there."  He hung up.  "Xander, it's a case."

"Can't they not die today?"

"Kidnaping.  At least it's nearby.  You behave, call later to see if I'm back.  You can even bring lunch."  Xander smiled at that.  "Be good and let the salesman actually *help* you."  He hurried off, going to catch a cab and head over there.

Xander patted himself down and called Tony.  "You have my wallet," he announced.  Tony came jogging back and handed it over then left again.  He looked at the salesman, slipping them both into his pocket. "Okay.  Apparently I'm taking him to dinner soon.  He got me some dress shirts and sweaters and stuff."

"What colors?"

"Greens, some blacks, some lighter tans and off whites, blues, dark reds.  Most of the dress shirts were either black, shades of blue, or off-whites."

He looked him over and led him to one he had been thinking about showing him.  "Do you have a budget in mind?"

"Under a grand?"

"I can do that," he decided, taking him to his second choice.  He pulled that one out and looked from it to Xander and back.  "Do you have on a t-shirt under that?"  Xander nodded and took off his...Tony's sweater, letting him hold it while he tried on the coat.  He put the sweater down, smoothing over the shoulders and down the arms.  "It's very warm."

"Will that matter?"

"Possibly not."  He took that one back and went to get him something from the spring and fall collections, bringing three back. "Here, try this.  It's lighter weight so you'll have to wear a jacket over it in the winter, but it's very durable and very soft."  He had noticed the good quality cashmere of the sweater.  Apparently the boy had good taste, even if he did wear his sweaters a bit bulky. He looked at the boy then went to get the next size up.  With his arm muscles, it would be kinder.  He switched them out and Xander looked again.

"I look like a I cap people," he noted dryly.  "All I need is bling and I'm a rapper."  The salesman laughed.  "Really."  He looked at him.  "This?"

"That is very hip," he noted dryly.

"I'm not the hippest.  I'm a homebody sort.  I club now and then...." he offered.  "I ride a motorcycle.  Tony just made me buy a Mustang today."  The man raised an eyebrow and went to get another jacket, handing it over.  Xander stroked it.  "That's expensive."

"A bit," he agreed. "It'll go with nearly anything though."  He let him try it on, leaving that last jacket nearby.  Just in case.  This one was more classic and the boy looked dashing in it.  He could see the indecision.  "Get this one and the other one," he suggested quietly.  Xander looked at him.  "The two alone will break your budget, sir, but it does suit you.  Especially if you add in the other two with it.  Twice your budget, but very good for your wardrobe."

Xander considered it.  Did he really need a blood red jacket?  Or one in midnight blue?  Or even two black blazers?

"No matter which you choose for that upcoming date, you will look stunning," he promised gently, seeing the indecision.  "You're sure to woo him and have him smile at you."  That broke the indecision and Xander nodded, letting him bag them for him.  He noticed the debit card and looked at the boy before running it.  He had the money, but he was clearly a made man since he still worried about the cost of things.  He handed over the slip and the card, watching him sign them.  Then the bag of coats.  Xander smiled and walked out, answering his phone.

"Harris."  He listened.  "Yup, that's me.  No, Tony decided I need to do a bit of shopping.  Because it's cold in the winter time in DC," he complained.  "Yeah, but LA wasn't," he said, hearing the laugh.  "Did you know snow was *cold*?  Very cold.  Yeah.  Thank you."  He smiled and hung up.  The bank had been checking on him to make sure his card hadn't been stolen.  He found the sneaker shop and walked in, shaking his head. "Cross trainers, or mild jogging.  Black and white please."  He sat down, letting the guy fit his feet.

"Is there any brand you like?"

Xander shrugged.  "Good quality.  I won't be getting another pair for a year, no matter how many times I end up washing them."

"All right."  He went to get him some that he liked.


Xander ran home and changed to show Tony how good he was being, even putting on a jacket, then drove through to get lunch for him and everyone else.  Real food even.  He walked into the building a few minutes later and the guard smile.  "Tony suggested I do a car when it's snowing so I don't wreck the bike," he noted dryly.  "Bringing lunch."

"They just came back," he promised. "Gibbs is probably still yelling at someone."  He checked him for metal, finding the usual spots.  He put the pass on his lapel for him and called the elevator. "Have a nice delivery, Mr. Harris."

"Thanks, Frank."  He got into the elevator, stopping in Ducky's lab first.  He put his lunch on the table.  Ducky looked over and smiled.  "Lunch.  I put Abby's in with yours."  He winked and headed up the stairs, waking out of the elevator.  "Adrian," he said, handing her hers.  "Fluffy.  Gibbs."  Theirs got handed to stunned men.  "DiNozzo," he said, handing him his.  "I left Ducky's and Abby's with them."  He smiled at Gibbs.  "That way you don't get coffee poisoning like you say I had."

"I like that," he noted.  "Good job, DiNozzo."  Even if it did look like the kid had raided some uber-geek's closet, or possibly some odd combinations of McGee's and DiNozzo's closets.

"Thanks, Boss."  He looked Xander over, noticing the sneakers.  "That works.  It's going to be a late night."

"Sure.  I've got to start on the second Chronicle anyway."  He shrugged and waved, heading out.  His pass went back into the box.  "You should just have a frequent visitor's one," he joked.

"We should," he agreed.  "At least for some people.  Did you give Doctor Mallard anything?"

"Yeah, I dropped his and Abby's off first.  I figured they could use some Greek food and the rest I went to the deli for."  He looked down at himself.  "Do I look okay?"

"More than, Mr. Harris.  I like the sneakers.  It makes it more casual."

Xander smiled.  "Thanks, Frank."  He headed out, going to find someone to paint his new baby.  It was going to take a few days so he decided to wait until the spring, when he could ride his bike all the time.  Instead he went to get the stereo changed out and buy some new music.


Tony trudged in around ten that night.  "Feed me?" he pleaded.  Xander got up and went to get him his dinner, handing it over with a smile.  "Thank you. You're very sweet, Xander."  He got a kiss and earned a smile.  "Long, bad case."

"They happen to the worst of us," he soothed, turning Tony around so he could work on his shoulders, once he got him out of his shirt.  "You liked that outfit?"

"Yeah, I did.  It went together very well.  Oh, Ducky said thank you and Abby squealed."

"I thought they could use something more substantial," he said lightly.  In truth, he decided Ducky needed spoiling and it made McGee jealous so he'd have to do sweet things for the next few days.  He dug into the tense muscles, making Tony moan as he ate.  "Are you staying over tonight?"

"I should," he agreed. "Just to get more of that."  He tipped his head forward, scarfing his dinner quickly.  He put the plate and pickle aside, smiling when it was snatched and slightly damp fingers got back to work on his shoulders and upper back.  He moaned, nearly growling in pleasure.  Xander leaned forward to plant a kiss there and got back to work.  "No sex tonight.  I'm too tired."

"I figured you were," he agreed. "I'm good with lack of sex tonight."  He moved lower, letting Tony relax fully.  It must have been a really bad case. "Kids?" he guessed.  Tony nodded.  "I'm sorry."

"It happens.  Custody dispute.  Hostage situation.  He kidnaped her from her post and them from school, then held them hostage in the house. We got the kids out and then she turned on him to beat the shit outta him."

"Good for her," Xander said. "It's good that she's protecting herself."

"It is, but they both nearly died.  I'm predicting the boat will have a few new planks by tomorrow morning."

"If he needs one, I'll do his shoulders too," Xander promised.

"I doubt he'll ask."

"That's okay, I'll get Ducky onto his case," he assured him.  He patted his back, then kissed it again, giving him a hug.  "Go shower.  Ease the rest of that."

"Yes, Xander."  He got up and smiled at him.  "Thank you."

"Any time. You know that."  He watched him go, smiling at his good work.  Tony was walking right again, not hunched over.  He went to make him a cup of tea and took it up there, then went back to his fussing over his new dagger.


It only took three days for things to snap.  Instead of Ducky calling, it was Abby who called him.  He once again headed to the office, smiling at the new guard.  "Hi.  I have shrapnel in my right shoulder and a nipple ring on the same side," he said quietly.  The guy nodded and used the hand wand.  He smiled at the other guy coming out.  "Ducky called," he told him.  "Gibbs."  The supervisor nodded quickly.  By the look on his face it hadn't just been Abby that had gotten yelled at.  "That's why I'm here."  He took his visitor's badge.  "Frank's day off?"

"Yeah.  What happened to your shoulder?"

"An assault gone wrong.  Debris from the building instead of from a bullet.  Thankfully the guys weren't trying to hit us that much."  He shrugged and headed upstairs, walking up to Gibbs' desk.  He pulled him up and forced him to turn around, then forced him to sit down.  Gibbs tried to move so he slapped him across the back of the head.  "Shut up and behave for five minutes.  It's bad enough I had to do this on those damn teenagers who thought they were immortal and could kick *through* the brick wall.  You're too damn stubborn for your own good."  He got to work on his shoulders and neck, making him wince and groan, but relax.  "Next time, ask," he said more quietly.  "Don't make Abby call because you're growling at her."  He got back to work and within five minutes the major knot was gone.  He worked on a few minor ones, then patted him.  "Good.  Much better.  I'll note it to Ducky that the massage therapy he ordered is good for you."

"Now you know why I moan when he does mine, Boss," Tony smarted off.


Xander smacked him just like Gibbs smacked Tony.  "Shut up. You're on lunch.  You're not working on anything at the moment.  You're off the clock since it's lunch.  Don't argue with me.  I know every damn thing.  Didn't you know that?"   He stared him down.  "Next time, ask!"  He walked off, finding the director in the elevator.  "Director."

"He better now?"

"Yeah.  He had one large knot that was impeding his movement.  Ducky called," he lied.

"Ah.  You know we track calls, right?"

"Really?  You can do that from a cell?  I know he was in Abby's lab when he called.  You might check there."

"You're a qualified massage therapist?"

"Halfway to fully qualified.  I also have a large background in training. Especially with stupid teenagers who believe they're all-powerful and immortal. Gibbs was just too stubborn to ask.  I do Abby's wrists all the time."

"Wonderful."  He smiled at him.  "At least you made it fast."

"I'm very good at that," he noted.  "When you've got thirty girls whining about sore shoulders, you tend to be."  He got off the elevator and handed over the pass with a grin.  "Laters."  He headed out to his car, then to pick up some ice cream for lunch.


Tony walked in that night, smiling at him.  "Good job.  He doesn't want to kick your ass anymore, but he said you're never to do that again.  If he came tonight he'd yell."

"Why?  He can move, which was an improvement.  Before if he had to pull his gun, he'd have frozen in a back spasm."  He licked his spoon and used it to point.  "He can't let himself get that bad.  He doesn't take the time to go have a real pro do it.  Therefore I had to step in."

"Who called?"

"Abby's lab."

"Ah."  He sat down, turning on the tv.  "Is that dinner?"  Xander handed over the ice cream.  "I wasn't begging, I was going to complain."

"I had dinner.  That's dessert."  He took it back and ate a bite, then Tony stole it back and got his own.  "Is that *your* dinner?"  Tony smiled and nodded.  "Naughty."

"Very," he agreed.  "I got to annoy him all day about being relaxed."  He ate another bite, glancing outside when someone knocked.  "Speak of the bastard."  He got up to let him in.  "No keys, Boss?"

"You locked it again," he complained.  He walked in and glared at Xander.  "Not at the office, kid."

"Then next time, come to me," he said simply, staring him down.  Tony closed and locked the doors.  "Don't make Abby's lab call me again."

"Fine.  Can you do lower backs?"

"Very well.  Come hog the couch."  He got up and went to get some oil, coming back to find him laying down.  "Shirt off, Gibbs.  Otherwise you'll have to explain friction burns from the cotton."  He sat up with a groan, taking off his shirt.  "Good boy."  He pulled the coffeetable closer and got to work on his back, starting at the top and working his way down.  "Long week?" he asked quietly.

"Very.  Thank you."

"Not an issue.  I used to have to do the slayers' training injuries and I did take the first few classes."  He dug in harder, earning another hiss but a few minutes later it was a deeper growl of a groan.  He got him to the point where he was ready to sleep.  "Go take a shower and you can borrow the couch," he said quietly, getting a head shake.  "You'll fall asleep behind the wheel, Jethro.  Take a shower and crash on the couch.  It'll finish setting in the lack of knots."  He got up and walked off, smiling at Tony.  "Can I have you do my right shoulder?"

"Sure."  He listened to Gibbs heading for the shower as he took Xander upstairs to work on his arms.  "Were you lifting today?" he asked.

"No, awkward angles while I was working on something for Eliana."  That got a nod and he took off his t-shirt, letting Tony get whatever he wanted.  They heard the door shut and they both shook their heads at the stubborn nature of some people. At least until they heard a few quiet words floating up the stairs in Eliana's voice.  Then the door closed again and they heard someone moving around in the living room.  So he could take advice.  Tony gave him a gentle kiss for being so good, smiling at him when Xander leaned back to get another one.  They'd be cuddling tonight too.


Gibbs looked up as Xander came back, smirking at him.  "Do you know what you started yesterday?"

"A bout of mental health reviews since you were so tense you couldn't pull your gun?" Xander suggested, handing over the coffee and food he had been ordered to bring in.  Gibbs paid him and he grinned.  "Did you tense up again?"

"No, but two of the other teams tried to say something," Adrian noted as she came to get her lunch.  "Thank you, Xander."  She handed him a five and took her lunch back to her desk.

"Welcome, Adrian."  He looked at McGee, who was typing.  "Willow?"  He nodded.  "Wonderful.  Tell her I said hi."  He looked at the guy walking toward him, mentally sizing him up.  "Yes?  Did you place an order too?"

The man looked him over.  "You're a delivery guy?"

"Only sometimes.  Usually when asked politely.  Why?"  Then he smirked at him.  "Let me guess, you're one of the imbeciles who decided that being so tense you couldn't move, much less pull your gun if you had to, was good for the job?"  He smirked back and nodded.  "Uh-huh.  You do realize that being that sore and tense is not only detrimental to your life expectancy but also to that of your teammates, which I'm told is one of those important things around here."  He saw Tony kicking back with a smirk.  "I can also tell you, as someone who has had to do some sports training in the past, that being that tense leads to auto accidents, higher blood pressure, the occasional stroke, and debilitating injuries that can permanently disable you if not treated promptly."  He stepped closer.  "When you save the world like Gibbs does nearly every day, then you too can earn special privileges.  I'm sure the director would allow you to run out on your lunch break, like I was here yesterday, to get your tension knots worked out.  Since they had solved a case that saved lives, including the lives of some children, I think he deserved it since he couldn't move properly.  After all, we want Gibbs and his team to continue at peak performance so they can do your job too."  The man glared at that and he smiled sweetly.  "If I were you, I'd go try to save the world some more.  After all, there's a whole big world out there that needs protected from *some* of the people in uniform and the rest of the Marines and Navy need protected from them too."  He looked the guy over.  Then back in his eyes. "Not that I think you'd know that from personal experience."

"You think you're so hot?" he sneered.

"No, honey, I know I'm hot.  That's why you're drooling."  The man swiped his mouth and he grinned meanly, as evilly as he could.  "Now then, have you saved the world and some kids this week?  If so, I might, if asked *politely* do some limited work on your shoulders.  If not, then I'm sorry, I have more important things to do, like trying to figure out what shoes to wear to dinner tomorrow night."  The man backed off.  "Did you actually solve a case this week?"

"Not all cases are that easy," he said firmly.

Xander walked him off.  "Then take me there, let's see if I can help you too!  It's not like I don't help those guys now and then!"  He looked at the file of the man hunched over his desk.  "Ooh, curve?"  The man nodded.  "I'm sorry."  He got to work on his shoulders, unable and unwilling to see anyone in that sort of pain.  "You've had this lump checked, right?"

"Twice now."

"Good.  It's got a squishy center."  He worked around it, staring at the file.  "Which is your suspect?"  The man tapped a photo.  Xander shook his head and pointed at another one.  "Is he dead?"  The man shook his head.  "The look he's giving the camera and the notes stapled to his picture say he knew something more than that.  Sometimes people can lie poorly but it's all in the body posture.  Even with the best liars."  He heard the moan and went back to work.  He felt the back loosen and tapped the spot. "May I?  I'm used to be surrounded by teenage girls."

"Go ahead.  They said it's one of those cysts with the zit in the center."

Xander looked at it, then poked it a few times.  "It is.  Ducky could aspirate that for you ya know.  It shouldn't even hurt as much as popping it would."

"I don't like needles."

Xander snorted.  "Give me two minutes to get some gloves.  I can fix that, then you'll need to put heat on it later."  The guy looked at him. "I used to live with thirty-three teenage girls," he told him. "I got really good at back zits and things."  That got a smile. "That's also why I learned some massage therapy.  Think about that guy."  He went back to autopsy, going to find some pads and a set of gloves.  He found the tape too.  "Ducky, one of the guys has one of those neverending zits in the center of a cyst.  He hates needles so I'm going to pop it for him."  He found a dental pick and took it too. He did know how to remove those.  He grinned at the other guy.  "Hi, Mr. Palmer.  I'm Xander, the current bane of his existence."  He waved and went back, settling in to deal with that.  "Turn the chair around so you have something to support your chest."  The guy did so, giving him an odd look. "Yes, I'm more than qualified," he noted dryly.  He moved the shirt out of the way, then put on the gloves and unwrapped one of the sterile pads.  The zit was easily popped and absorbed, then the pad tossed and he went back to squeezing it dry.  When nothing else came out he picked up the small pick and put a hand on the back of his neck. "Do not move.  It's going to pinch."


"Nope."  He stuck it in the right spot, twisted, then yanked, making him yelp.  He put it in front of him, then the pick next to it, grabbing the last pad and the tape to cover it.  "There you go.  Warm heating pad on it later, watch it for infection, have Ducky check it later today," he ordered.  "If you're in doubt, take that to your usual doc to have him test it for cancer."  He patted him on the back of the head and took off the first glove properly, using it to pick up the dirty pads, then putting the second glove over it, handing it to the guy.  "Biowaste please."  He went back to Gibbs' desk, looking at him.  "You were being bullied?" he asked with a smirk.  "You?  That's almost as bad as me getting it in high school."

"You were bullied?" McGee asked, looking confused.

"Total outcast, McGee," he admitted with a grin. "Uncoordinated, bad clothes, hung out with Buffy.  The only cool thing I did was date a cheerleader and she was constantly putting me down to her friends.  She didn't even want to be seen with me most of the time.  She was in it for the smoochies," he offered with a wicked grin.  "Okay, anything else I can help with?"  That guy came back.  "Yes?  Did you need something else?"

"You're DiNozzo's apprentice, the guy he's working on to help you start here?"

Xander looked at Tony.  "You told them?"

"Yeah, that and gopher and general helper," he admitted dryly, shrugging slightly. "Sorry."

"S'okay."  He looked at him.  "I make a better sounding board but I'm also a very good people hunter.  I watch people and I know people.  That's what my special talent is."  He grinned, a gentle, soft, friendly grin.  "If you need help with that, ask Gibbs where I am.  If he can't find me, maybe he can help.  He's taught me some stuff too."

"Sure, kid.  Thanks for his back and all.  I know it's been bothering him."

Xander waved it off.  "I removed a nearly fist sized one two years back from someone's thigh.  That wasn't that bad.  Just annoying and worrisome now and then.  He should probably have the tissue tested, just in case if he's worried."

"I'll make sure he does that during lunch.  Gibbs was on lunch?"

"Yeah.  I'd never come up during work unless he called me to.  I don't want to interrupt their saving the world and making it safe for the ninety-five percent in uniform who're decent folks."  He shrugged and grinned again.  "I'm a good boy."  He looked at Gibbs.  "How's your back?"

"Still good.  Thank you.  I can drive again."

"You're welcome.  Do you want pictures from England?"

"I wouldn't mind.  You're going when?"

Xander pulled out his calendar and showed it to him. "This weekend and into this week, which means I'll be back Monday and you're in charge of Eliana."

"Fine.  Thanks for lunch, kid."

"Not an issue."  He grinned at Ducky as he came in scowling.  "Hi, Ducky."

"Mr. Palmer said you removed a cyst?"

"I've removed bigger ones.  It was one of those with the zit."  He walked him over to let him see.  "See?"

"Dental pick?  An odd choice."

"Sunnydale," he noted dryly.  "I removed a fist sized one two years ago."  He hugged him. "There, for lunch since Gibbs didn't ask me to get you anything."  He wandered off again.

The guy looked at him.  "Can you test it or should I send it to my usual doc, Doctor Mallard?"

"I'll have it tested for you."  He took the sample and the tape, letting him dispose of the pick and glove package in the nearest biohazard container.   He walked off shaking his head.  He knew the boy knew field medicine.  He had seen him do too much of it already.  He'd check the agent's back later, once he had run the tests.  Right after he called to yell at the boy.  Even if he had been taking EMT classes most mornings.


Gibbs looked up as the meeting started, looking at his director.  "What's going on this time?" he asked.

"Where's the kid?  No deliveries today?"

"No.  He's got his own thing today.  We managed to make it out for lunch," he said smartly.  "At least he's not on the payroll."

"He'd better not be.  Was he qualified to do that cyst removal?"

Tony raised a hand.  "He's most of the way through his paramedic training and he's already very good in field medicine.  He had to be since he's from near LA, Director.  That's why he could do that.  The massage therapy classes he's taken on and off were to help with the girls he was training out there.  They apparently needed the help and he was the best at it so he took the training."

"Fine.  Don't let it continue, Agent Gibbs."

"No, sir.  I'll make him quit picking up our lunch orders for us."

"See that you do.  Was it cancerous?" he asked the head of that team, who nodded.  "He's where?"

"He took the results to his doctor, who's sending him to see someone tomorrow.  I've got his leave forms in your inbox, Director.  It's a good thing he removed it."

"Very well.  I won't complain about that.  Agent DiNozzo, are you *training* that young man?"

"Now and then, Director.  He's got good instincts and I know he said he wanted to go to the Academy."


Gibbs coughed.  "He's already been approved, sir."

The director looked at him and Jethro nodded that he was still Xander.  "I see.  I hadn't realized.  How soon before he starts?"

"He starts part-time next month," Tony told him.  "He'll be breaking between sessions in England, then coming back for another one."


"I think his first is the mandatory lessons.  I know I went with him when he qualified for his weapons rating.  So the first is probably R&R, rules and regs."  He looked at Gibbs.  "At least it was in the Academy I went to."

"It is there too," he agreed.  "He'll be doing the intense training this summer, director, then he'll be deciding if he comes here part time or not.  At which time he'll be a Probie on my team since he works so well with us."

"Fine.  I'm sure the boy's useful."

"Director, are you feeling all right?" Gibbs asked him.  "You knew all this last month."  He got a harsh look and shrugged.  "You did."

"I've got some tylenol if you need some, Director," the other head offered.

"I'm fine," he assured them.  "All right.  About the overtime."

"My team's had none," Gibbs reminded him.  "Not since that memo came out.  Even when we had a case over a weekend.  I made DiNozzo switch out a day."

"Can we have it back, director?  It felt really odd to be out on a Thursday and I got called back anyway."

"No.  We're going to reinstitute salaries.  There will be no salary decrease and the overtime compensation will cover it nicely.  That means I want each and every team to be at full staff and full morale."

"We're there," Gibbs said patiently.  "With Marquez...."

"She's being recruited by someone, Gibbs."

"She doesn't want to go, sir.  She likes where she is."

"Then Harris gives you an extra hand."

"Who'll be part time and we work more cases anyway," Gibbs reminded him.  "He can train on some of our cold ones."

"We'll see."  He stared at the other team leader.  "Your team, how are you going to deal with the missing member?"

"We're stuck in a long-term smuggling and drugs case," he admitted.  "We spend a lot of time talking with the other offices just trying to track people down and figure out if they're involved.  Gibbs, can I borrow McGee?"

"Sure.  Until I need him again.  Backgrounds and computer searches?"  That got a nod.  "Fine.  Before you ask, Harris isn't a computer person."

"Thanks for the warning.  Will you need to rebuild his like you did Marquez's last month?"

"Not quite that bad.  Anything the kid searches for comes up porn," he admitted dryly, smirking at him.  "Even if he types in something innocent like cat breeds.  I've seen him do it."

The other team leader laughed. "I'm sure our computer use people will love him then."  He looked at DiNozzo.  "What's his area?"

"Weapons, strategy now and then.  Xander's an instinctive person.  He's learning more modern weapons and I fully expect him to sign up for the bomb disposal classes as well."

"Good, we could use one now and then."  They all looked at the director.  "When he comes up, can we borrow him too?"

"If necessary.  He may be filling in your lack of personnel."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Where are your reports from your last case?"

"You handed them back two days ago," Gibbs noted.  "I handed them in that evening."

"I don't remember that."

Tony stretched and looked at his watch, then the director.  "I can run down to find the file, sir.  It'll take me about ten minutes."

"Good.  Do that."  He watched the boy leave.  "Do you really think it's in Harris' best interests to keep him here, Gibbs?"

Gibbs nodded.  "Yeah, I do.  He's made himself more useful than some full agents."  He looked at the other guy.  "You're still working on that guns and drugs case?"  That got a moan.  "I'll see if anyone has any clues for you.  How many in the chain?"

"Fifteen so far, with a spider web of contacts and information.  We're using the new DEA software too."

"Go back to the bulletin board and then type it in," Gibbs advised.  "You solved faster that way. They won't have jurisdiction."

"True.  I tried that and I'm already lost."

"I'll send McGee over after he fixes my PDA again."  That got a smirk.  Tony came back with the files and set off a small flash bomb, making them all blink.  "DiNozzo, what made you think I needed to see spots today?" he asked.  He stood up and looked at the director.  "Nice work.  Get Ducky to make sure it's not medical."  Tony went to call Ducky and he looked at the other guy.  "I don't care if you start hollering from the hallways."

"No, he was acting odd.  So, what is Harris?"

"Human," Tony said.  "Palmer, send Ducky to the MTAC meeting room.  No, the director's been acting odd and just collapsed.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "Right up, Boss."  He came to check him over, noticing the marks on his neck.  "Gibbs?"  He moved the collar.

"Get the camera."

"McGee's outside."  He went to get his kit from him, nodding him inside.  "Only let Ducky in."

"Sure."  He guarded the door while Tony took pictures and put a bit of holy water on the odd spots.  They fizzed so he added more, moving really fast when something came out of one of the spots.

McGee looked back at the yelp.  "What is that?"

"Looks like a brain worm," the other lead noted.  "Eww."  He went to get a glass and Tony used some tweezers to pick them up, dropping it into there.  "That's really nasty."

"But a good reason for the personality change," Jethro noted, nodding Ducky closer. "That came out of his neck," he said, pointing at the glass.

"That's disgusting."  He got down to look him over, finding him sleeping.  "We should get a CT scan, Jethro.  Just in case there's more.  Identify that for me.  I'll have him taken to Bethesda."  He went to call for an ambulance.

"Probie, run the picture really quick," Tony said, handing over the camera after taking one last shot.  "Then email it too."  He nodded and took it. "Ducky, he has your cell, right?"  That got a nod.  "Good.  Holy water fizzed."

"Why did you use holy water?" the other lead asked.

"Holy water has salt, that makes it saline solution," Tony told him.

"Oh.  Okay.  Usually I use stuff for contacts."

"I do in the field," he admitted with a smile.  "It's all I had on me."  He got out of the way, watching as the paramedics looked at the worm.  "Just be careful, Ducky."

"Of course.  I'll call when I have something."

"Wonderful."  He looked at the other guy. "Go back to the board and strings."  That got a nod.  "Have someone type it in once you've got it set up.  I find one typer makes the most sense anyway."  The guy nodded and disappeared.  Gibbs looked at the worm.  "It's got teeth."

"I noticed.  I hope it's not trying to breed in there.  I'd hate to see who we got next."

McGee jogged back in.  "Boss, Xander has no idea what that is, but he's got the manual down and he'll call Tony's or your cell when he does.  He said if it reacted to holy water they should probably try a saline treatment and have the priest there bless it in the IV bag."  He got out of the way and watched as the creature was taken down to the lab.  The other leader grabbed him and he followed along.  "Computer problems again?"

"No, we need some help.  We've got a guy out with a new tumor.  You're our designated typer, McGee.  You know that new program since you made it work in our system.  I also need you to pull files on all these people and do quick backgrounds."

"Sure.  Let me get my soda."  He went back to his desk to get it then came back to help.  Since Tony had told him Gibbs said it was okay.


Xander was standing beside the director when he woke up.  "What day is it?" he asked quietly.


"Good.  What year?"

"2006."  He blinked a few times.  "Why am I in the hospital, Mr.  Harris?"  He held up the now dead demon spawn.  "What's that?"

"An Ostris.  It was using you as a host.  It's a baby."  He put the air-tight bag down again and leaned on the railing.  "You're damn lucky.  It would've eaten you inside out.  By the way, it's been in you for nearly a week so you need to see what got screwed up.  Gibbs has already done some," he said quietly, "but he wasn't able to get into some of your files."  That got a slow nod.  "You're going to be here for a few more days.  They thought it was a leach who got through the cracks on the back of your neck, but that might've come from that too."  That got another slow nod. "You'll be fine now.  They did a full PET scan for others and didn't find any.  You're going for an MRI tomorrow just in case as well.  You've got a very pretty nurse and your secretary is outside pacing."  That got a small smirk.  "Try to take it easy for a few days.  You're going to have a headache."  He stood up.  "The building will be fumigated starting tomorrow.  Gibbs' team will be working from home and Abby can borrow my lab.  Ducky's morgue will be sealed as well.  The others know that there were bugs, not what kind.  Your wife's already agreed to have the house fumigated.  Fortunately it's just like doing smoke bombs for roaches.  They react to the same stuff."  That got another smile.  "She's down the hall waiting patiently.  Gibbs will be in tonight with a report.  I'll let your secretary in if you don't have any questions."

"What if it left eggs?"

"They leave slimy little live babies.  The MRI will pick them up and the staff here can go in and get them.  The saline solution will make them easier to stop and catch. They aren't very mobile.  The one in your head took about a day to crawl inside.  You might wanna figure out where it could've come from besides those two spots."  He got another nod.  "Yes, the water was blessed," he said quietly.

"Thank you, Mr. Harris. You'll be an asset to the department when you finally get around to joining."

"Not an issue, sir.  Have a good rest.  Gibbs has control of MTAC for you."  That got another nod and Xander let the secretary in.  "I told him the pertinent details I got from Gibbs, including the fumigation."  She nodded and he left, going to smile at Ducky.  "He's awake, I passed on Gibbs' messages about the fumigation and him having it."

"Thank you, Xander," he said, hugging him.  "Now go eat."

"Yes, Ducky.  Actually, I have a date," he said proudly.  He went to change and had to decide between two outfits, but he decided on the simpler one, then grabbed his fancier jacket and keys, heading out to pick up Tony, since he didn't know they were having a date.  He walked up to his door, tapping gently, smiling at him.  "Get dressed. You said I was making you eat real food at someplace that required a coat."

"You know I was joking, right?" he asked.

"So?  Change.  Now."  Tony shook his head but went to do that, coming out dressed better than he was.  "Should I put on a tie?"

"No, you're good."  He looked him over.  "Very good."  He made sure he had everything then followed Xander downstairs and to the car.  He'd only had the one ride in it so far and it was very comfortable.  He turned down the music, smiling at the new stereo, then at his date.  "Nice choice."

"Thank you.  I liked it," he said happily, buckling up and starting the engine, then backing out and heading downtown.  "I asked for a private spot because we had to discuss some business stuff.  I need to have stocks and bonds explained sometime soon and I figured it was a good enough cover."

"It's a good cover, Xander.  Very good."  He smiled at the restaurant as they pulled up a few minutes later, then at Xander.  "This is nice."

"Am I dressed okay? We've got a few minutes."

"You're fine."  He gout out and smiled as Xander got out and locked the car, arming the security system. "No wards?"

"I'd have to redo them when they paint it."  He walked him inside, nodding at the host.  "Harris."

He checked the book and smiled.  "This way, sir."  He led them to the back of the restaurant, handing them menus once they were seated.  "Your sommelier will be with you shortly."  He left them alone.

Tony smiled as he opened the menu.  "You have stocks and bonds?"

"Apparently Wes was investing some of his inheritance and I'm not sure what's going on.  I got a notice from the lawyer that I had to make a decision about that stuff."  He handed it over.  "That's what I've got.  I've got about four days left and I was hoping you could come over Saturday and help?  That way I could handle things first thing Monday morning?"

"I can do that," he agreed, looking at the list.  "He's well diversified," he admitted, looking at the boy, noticing the clueless look.  "That's a good thing."

"Oh, good.  Wes was way smarter than I am," he said, shaking his head. "Wine with dinner?"

"Sure.  Get a bottle.  I like the roasts here."

Xander looked at his menu and considered it.  "I like the beef dish in number eight but we all know I like red wine."

Tony smiled at that one.  It was a good choice.  He looked at the sommelier when he came over.  "We'll need something midpriced to go with number eight and the roast dish."

"There's three good choices.  What sides were you thinking about?"

"The usual," Tony admitted.  "Without gravy."

The waiter nodded and noted the choices.  Tony pointed at one and he nodded, going to get it so he could test it.  He noticed Xander's fascinated look and smiled at him. "It's not a hard art to learn."

"After I finish my paramedic and massage therapy classes," he said dryly.  "About the same time as cooking classes."  Tony smiled and nodded that the wine was fine, so he poured them some and left the bottle.  "You're really good at that stuff."

"It's all training, Xander.  I got trained to deal with this stuff from an early age.  Am I getting the wine and you get dinner?"

"I can get dinner."


"It's only fair."

"I'll get the wine and dessert."  Xander nodded but he was smirking a bit.  "Taste that.  It's a good wine."  Xander tasted it and moaned. "See?"

"It's got that aftertaste."  Tony sniffed his glass and frowned then sniffed his.  "I'm right, aren't I?"

"You are.  It does smell different."  He managed to catch the glass before Xander passed out, looking at the nearest waiter.  "I think he could use some help."  The man ran off to get the manager, who was someone he didn't recognize.  "Fuck me," he muttered, pulling out his phone to call Ducky and Gibbs, who were supposed to be together.  "We're at Perry's," he said in greeting.  "No, Xander tasted his wine, said it tasted funny, then passed out.  Bitter and peaches.  No, just smelled.  Thanks."  He checked Xander again, getting up to let the paramedics get in there.  He handed over that wine glass, then took a sample bottle from him to get some for their labs.  "I'm a Fed," he said quietly.  He paid for the wine and they left, him following right behind the ambulance.  Which was how he realized it wasn't going to the hospital.  "Fuck."  He pulled out his cell with a sigh.  "Gibbs, Tony.  No, follow my signal.  They're not taking him to the hospital.  I left a sample of the wine in the car.  No, sample collection bottle from the paramedic."  He put the phone down, hoping it'd get closed within the hour.  Too many minutes this month, really there was.  He could hear Gibbs yelling about the same time as a cop stopped him.  He pulled out his credentials.  "My friend's in the ambulance and they need his medical history."

"Sir, you can't go in there."

"I'm still a Federal Agent and yes I can."

The cop pulled his gun.  "No, you can't.  Get out of the car, sir.  Also, hang up."

Tony closed his phone, but he had to push the button to hang up.  He hoped it had been long enough for Abby and McGee.  The guy took the phone and made sure by taking out the battery and tossing both parts back into the car, then moving him away from it while another supposed cop searched it.  "What's going on here?" he asked.

"Shut up."

"That's almost impossible. You know that right?"

"I said shut up.  You're nothing to us, not even a useable hostage.  So I'd follow orders."

"Fine.  What was he dosed with?  He's got allergies."

"It won't matter."

"It will matter to some people," he retorted.

"They'll never find you in time, kid, so just quit trying so hard.  Use your last few to pray."  He glanced back and the guy shrugged.  "Where's the sample?"

Tony looked at him but kept silent.  The guy shot at him and he snickered.  "Xander's better than that."  This time the gun was pointed at him and cocked.  He crossed his arms over his chest and pulled his best Gibbs impersonation up.  "Go ahead.  My boss'll hunt you to the ends of the earth."

"He won't be able to."

"You take out a whole team and watch how long you last."

"We'll last long enough."  He glanced back when the music came on and Tony grabbed his gun, taking it from him and knocking him out.

Tony pointed it at the guy.  "Move away from the car.  Now!" he ordered.  He moved closer, pulling his own gun since it was more comfortable for him to use and he was sure it was all right.  He saw the smirk and kept them both anyway.  "Move, now."  He hit the button for the car alarm and let it run.  The company would call him, and if they couldn't find him, Gibbs.  He saw another person come out and mentally groaned.  "Ah, Ms. Shepard.  Charming to see you again."

"Stand down, DiNozzo."

"I don't take orders from you, Ms. Shepard."

"You do now.  I'm the only one who can save your little friend's life."

"Really?" Willow said as she appeared.  "Fat chance, bitch."  She raised a hand and something hit them both, knocking them out.  "You gave them my number third?"

"Gibbs' second.  You got called?"

"Yeah.  I did.  Get your phone."  He grabbed both pieces and put it back together, then called Gibbs himself while she looked around.  She glanced at him.  "No answer?"

"No.  Not him or Ducky.  I did get McGee and he's heading to check on Eliana and Marquez."

"Good.  They're Initiative right?"  He nodded.  "Let's go."

Tony took off his jacket and checked both weapons, then got Xander's out of the special compartment in the trunk.  He knew the kid had one put in.  Two guns with ammo and a throwing knife later, and he shut the doors, following her.  They snuck up to where the rest of them were, watching what they were doing.  "He's going to hate that, he liked that shirt," he muttered in her ear, making her snort.  He checked behind them, wishing for a bulletproof vest, but nothing was coming out of heaven.  They moved in closer, her taking out two of the soldiers.  He winced as the IV was stuck and walked in.  "Freeze," he ordered.  "Remove it.  Now!"  The IV was removed.  "Bandage it."  It was bandaged and he kicked the gurney, making Xander moan.  "Xan?"  He sat up and rubbed his head.  "Come on.  We've got to go."

"Not yet, Tony," he moaned, holding his head.

"Xander, soldiers."

"Fuck."  He came off the table and looked at the blurry people.  "Which way?"

"Behind me."  Xander moved behind him and he backed out.  One tried to rush for him and he shot him in the knee, backing out further.  Willow was behind him with Xander.  "Back to the car, kids," he noted quietly.  Willow took off with him and he followed, walking so he could keep track of them.  Every few seconds he'd glance around.

"Tony, stairs," she called.  "Two feet to your left."  He nodded and turned, jogging down them and then back around to get one of them in the shoulder.  He didn't want to kill them, not until Gibbs got to torture them for a bit first.  He made it to the car and got in to drive, letting Willow have him.  The keys were in his pocket so it took him a moment, then he backed up and headed for somewhere safer.  His phone in one hand, his eyes checking the mirrors.  "McGee, please tell me you've heard from Gibbs or Ducky?"  He listened.  "Shit.  No, the Initiative creeps.  Including Shepard.  Yeah.  Where?  What happened?"  He frowned.  "I didn't know you could do that.  Sure."  He hung up.  "You can fireproof spell the house?"

"Yeah, I have," she agreed.  "I did it last week.  That place won't fall no matter what happens."

"Good, I like that."  He changed lanes and sped up, heading off.  Halfway there he stopped and got out, trying Gibbs' again.  Then Marquez.  He got her.  "Where are you?  Meet us at Xander's.  Keep trying Gibbs and Ducky.  Yes, now.  Because the Initiative came back, Marquez.  They had Xander.  I don't know.  I stopped 'em from putting an IV in his arm."  He waved at a familiar car and it turned, stopping behind him and Gibbs getting out.  "He's here.  Yeah, meet us there."   He hung up.  "Boss."

"What the hell is going on!"

"Shepard's out.  She had Xander knocked out in the restaurant and then brought to a warehouse.  He's still out of it.  Do you have Ducky?"

"No, they have Ducky!"

"Okay."  He tossed Willow the keys.  "Get him back to the house, Willow.  I'm going for Ducky."

"You can't!"

"I can, don't argue with me," he said firmly.  He followed his boss back to his car and got in, nodding at the person in the back seat.  "McGee, didn't I order you to get Eliana?"

"She's already headed to Xander's house.  Marquez is picking her up.  You need more bodies here."

"I overruled you, DiNozzo," he said as he turned around.  "Where?"

"Straight back, Boss."  He nodded and headed that way.  He pointed and they pulled in, following him to the right warehouse.  He did take the vest with a grateful smile, slipping it on as he walked.  He kicked in the door, heading in first.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

McGee came in and looked around.  "They had equipment here, Boss.  There's skid marks and things."  He checked something glittery he saw, picking it up with a pair of gloves.  "Dopamine?"

"Sedative," Tony told him.  "Xander's got some in his field kit."  They searched the rest of the area, finding the cages and a few people.  He shot two of them, his boss got one, and then they found Ducky, who was unconscious. He went in to check him.  "He's got a pulse, Boss."

"Ambulance is on its way," he replied.  He went to search the rest of the area with McGee.  Tony could guard Ducky and their prisoners.  He came back and shook his head.  "Nothing."

"We'll get 'em, Boss," Tony assured him coolly.  "Even if I have to do it myself."

"Calm down, DiNozzo.  This is why they don't let lovers work on the same team."

"Bite me."  He checked Ducky again.  "He's feeling stronger."  The paramedics from earlier came in.  "Not them."

"We were paid to bring him here."

"That makes you accomplices to kidnaping," Gibbs said.  The other main team rushed in and he waved.  "They were told to kidnap Xander Harris to here for someone and these people tried to stop us," he noted.  "Ducky needs medical."

"Where's the Harris kid?" the other team leader asked.

"His place.  He was unconscious but probably all right.  They had him sedated at a restaurant and then brought him here."

"I saw them stick him with some sort of IV and McGee found a bottle of dopamine," Tony reported.  Ducky moaned and he went back to patting his cheek.  "Come on, Ducky.  We need you back, man."  He looked at the back of his neck.  "None of the cracks like on the director, Boss."

"Good.  I'd hate to see Ducky with brain slugs."  A new set of paramedics rushed in.  "We're not sure what happened after he was kidnaped.  We know at least sedated."  They nodded and made Tony move.  "There's another case but we think he's only sedated."

Tony called the house, getting a very worried sounding Willow.  "It's Tony.  How is he?  The lab's downstairs.  Yeah, Abby uses it."  She dropped the phone and went running.  "Willow?" he called.  He rolled his eyes at the bang of the door, then he heard Eliana's voice.  Willow's babble came back and he heard Xander moan.  He hung up.  "They're pulling blood, Boss."

"Good."  He follow the gurney out.  "Once they're back at the office, call the director and speak to only him," he called as he walked.  "I do mean only him, Peter."

"Sure, Gibbs."  He watched the other two follow.  "What the hell is going on?" he asked his resident 'strange stuff' person.  She was into Voodoo or something as far as he knew.

"Something very bad," she noted quietly.  "Do as he ordered.  He apparently has it in hand, Boss."

"Fine."  They started the clean up and gathering, including confiscating the field kits in case they had something in them that might prove useful.


Xander woke up in the hospital and looked at the man leaning beside him.  "Did I have brain slugs?" he asked quietly.  Tony shook his head.  "Are you sure?  It feels like something's in there with my brain."  He reached back but Tony captured his hand.  "What?"

"The Initiative got you."

"So I was tortured?"

"Kicked in the head a few times."  He smoothed back some of the dark hair.  "How do you feel otherwise?"

"Crappy, but I don't ache."

"They sedated you and were about to put some chemical mix into you.  We think it's a control serum with the way Ducky acted when he woke up.  Willow said you knew something about that?"

"They used it on a few of the vamps.  It hooked into the chip," he said, giving the hand a squeeze.  "Ducky?"

"He's detoxing but it'll take a few days at least.  You'll be home before he will.  I stopped them from doing more than sticking you with an IV."

"Thank you."  He made himself sit up and let go of Tony's hand, but it was held again.  "More bad news?"

"No.  I thought it was sweet that you took me out on a date," he offered with a grin.

"What else could I do?  You're so sweet and gentle," he teased back.  "Anything for my fam...favorite Pretty Boy."

Tony gave his hand a squeeze.  "Let me let Abby and Gibbs in.  They should be pacing."  He let him go and walked over, opening the door and wisely getting out of the way since Abby rushed in and would've run him over. "Thank you for the patience."

"Share, you greedy bastard you," she complained, hugging Xander.  "I was so worried!"  She let him go since he was wincing.  "Are you feeling okay?"

"Well, I was fine but now I seem to be squished," he noted, shifting further up in the bed.  He kissed her on the cheek.  "I'm indestructible.  You know that."

"Bull."  She hugged him again then Gibbs pulled her off and turned her around so she was looking at Tony.  She shrugged and hugged him too.  "You did good."

"Thank you."

Gibbs looked at him.  "You're not indestructible or immortal.  Remember that, okay?" he noted.  "Before you finish off the ulcer Ducky started giving me many years ago."

"Sorry, Boss."

"I'm sure you are.  Do you want to know what they gave you?"

"Not really.  Not unless it's going to make me start to quack or shake or break out in pink- vomiting hives."

"That's a cool image," Abby noted, bouncing back over to sit on the foot of his bed and rub his ankles.  "Willow's still here and we're doing tag-team hacking to figure out what's going on."

"If I remember right, the control syrup was something that got hooked into the control chip and they used it in unison, but the syrup they tried to feed them wasn't calibrated properly and made them lethargic but nervous and twitchy.  They had some way to give commands over the chip."

"We saw the chip's schematics," she agreed, thinking about it.  "I don't know how they'd do that."

"Chemical or electrical impulses probably," Tony offered.  "We have no idea where they are," he admitted, making sure the door stayed closed for a bit.  "If we did, they'd be raided since they're officially federal escapees.  The director is not a happy person," he said dryly.

"I'm not a happy person," Gibbs assured him.  He looked at Xander again.  "How do you really feel?"

"I feel like I have brain slugs because it feels like there's something crawling around in my head."

"That could be some bleeding," Tony noted, going to tell the nurse that.  "He said he feels like there's something crawling around in his head?"

"I'll have him sent for a scan immediately," she noted.  "We were worried that he might start bleeding.  I take it he's awake?"

"And been hugged to death," he agreed, going back.  "You get to go back through the big, whirly machine again, Xander."

"What a prize I get," he noted dryly.  He noticed Abby looking at his shoulder and moved the gown to look.  "They took out the metal?"

"No, the people who had you were taking out the metal," Gibbs told him.  "For some reason Willow freaked."

"That's because they can use that in a sympathetic spell or to test things on me without me being there.  They probably took plenty of tissue with it."  Tony nodded.  "Did they take all the tatoo?"

"Nearly. It's not quite a big, gaping hole.  Hence the continued pain killers."  Tony got out of the way of the orderlies, looking at them.  "New?" he asked.

"They work for us," the nurse called.  "They've been here for years, Agent DiNozzo."


Xander grinned at him.  "I'm good with paranoid right about now.  Thank you.  Abby, gotta move that foot, sweetie."

"Fine.  I'll be back as soon as you are.  I'm going to call home and tell them you're awake and fussing."

"Yeah, well, I'm expecting to have many cookies since that's how Willow fusses."

"We've already had about four dozen," Tony assured him, following him down.  The orderlies gave him a look.  "He was kidnaped, if you think you're getting that far out of my sight, you're sadly mistaken.  Don't make me pull my weapon on you."

"Yes, Agent DiNozzo," one said, hitting the button for the elevator.  The nurse and he shared a look but he let it go.  Lovers were always so fussy.

Gibbs just shook his head.  At least Xander wasn't going to be hurt anytime in the near future.  Not even allowed to stub his toe probably.

"Man, Xander will *never* be allowed to get into another bar brawl," Abby sighed, shaking her head.  "I wish Tim was that over-protective sometimes."

"Do stupid stuff, Abby, watch it happen," Gibbs assured her.  "Call home."  She went to do that.  He went to check the room again, just in case one of those brain slugs had gotten in.  Then he went to report to the director, who was just upstairs.


Tony helped Xander inside and to his couch a few days later, then took the blanket Willow was holding ready and tucked him in.  "There."  He backed off with a smile.  "How's that?"

"Good.  So, what's going on with the investigation?"

"Why?" Willow asked.  "You can't help."

"Yes, but I often get things the rest of you don't.  Remember, Xanders view things from a very different viewpoint now and then."

"Yeah, but your usual viewpoints are being covered by Abby and Gibbs," Willow assured him.  "We're working on it, Xander. Would you like a cookie?"  She held out a plate.

He looked at them, then at her before taking one and nibbling.  "So, what're you hiding?"

"They've got Ethan with them."

"Ethan....." Tony prompted.

"Rayne.  Will, he won't work against me."

"He will, he hates you."

"I doubt it since he taught me fire and chaos magic," he noted dryly, nibbling on his cookie.  He pointed at his phone.  "Hand it over."  Tony tossed it to him and he looked up a number, dialing it.  He listened to the gruff greeting.  "If I find out you had something to do with the people who kicked me in the head after kidnaping me, I'm sending something to rape you and then eat you," he said in greeting.  "Gee, yes, Ethan, this would be.  How nice of you to remember.  Ethan, here, now," he ordered, then hung up.  He looked at Tony.  "Look for a guy with dark hair that's about Giles' age."  He looked at Willow.  "And the rest of the guilt?  Since I've heard about twelve dozen cookies have been made."

"I was supposed to track him and I didn't," she admitted quietly, looking at her cookies.  "Giles thought he might show up here to take advantage of the situation."

"Uh-huh.  And the rest?" he prompted.  She glared at him so he stared back.  "Willow?"

"I saw Oz," she sighed, handing him the plate of cookies.  "I don't know why."


"Your former job."

"Abby, go to Pyro, looking for the little redheaded werewolf Oz.  The guy in the picture on the right."  She looked then nodded and bounced out.  "We can handle that too.  You can be downstairs."  She nodded and he rolled his eyes.  "Her ex.  The one that made her lose it."

He sat under Xander's feet.  "So I read.  Pass down the cookies."

"You were looking a bit thin," he agreed, handing them down after taking a few more.  "How many times did he have to pry you away?"

"Twice.  The second time Abby threatened to use her stun gun on him if he didn't quit."  He grinned.  "I liked the date until the drugging part.  Next time it's your treat since I got the wine."

"Sure.  Picnic in the park?"

"Very open."

"That depends on what part of the park you're in," McGee said as he joined them, taking the cookies.  "Why is Willow bouncing?  This time I meant."

"Oz is being fetched and he's her ex.  One of the ones who broke her," Xander told him, shrugging a bit.  "It's part of why she baked so many cookies.  Two or three dozen is a get well.  More than four and a half is guilt.  More than eight and make her confess because it was something other than she's trying to date again."

"I'll remember that."  He took the cookies with him, but stopped to let Abby back in with her guest.  "Hi.  Cookie?"

Oz looked before taking one.  "Willow?"

"Downstairs."  He headed that way with Abby.

"Come on in, Oz, just shut the door.  We're expecting others."

Oz shut the door and walked in, taking off his jacket and looking at him.  "You rang?" he asked, sitting across from him.

"Willow was feeling guilty since you're in town.  I was kinda wondering why you came here."

"I heard you were and wanted to stop in.  Then I heard you're still hunting."  He stared at Xander, who only grinned.  "You okay?"

"I'm the two present slayers' watcher," he said dryly.  "Giles is back in Sunnydale."

"Cool."  He got comfortable, looking at Tony, then at Xander.  "That's different."  Xander just nodded and smirked.  "Good.  You could use it."  He took another nibble, then looked at it.  "She was deep in guilt, there's bourbon."

"I noticed that," Xander agreed.  "Is there any good news in your life?"

Oz shrugged a half-shrug.  "I'm officially girlfriended."

"Congrats.  Who?"

"Aniko.  She's a female were."  Xander nodded.  "She's pretty cool.  Plays bass."

"So, new band?"  Oz nodded.  "Good band?"  Oz nodded again, taking another nibble.  "Can I meet her?"

"Only if you're going to be better by the full moon.  We don't have a cage and she's still shaky on the meditation."

Xander considered it.  "I think I could rig a set of ties in the woods if the boss wouldn't mind," he offered, looking at Tony, who only shrugged.  "Can you ask?"

"Sure.  I'll let you two chat."

"He's a quite guy," Xander said with a grin. "This is a long Oz conversation."  Oz snorted, then shook his head.  "Does she talk more?" he teased.  Oz shook his head.  "Less?"  Oz nodded.  "Wicked."

"Only sometimes," he said dryly.  "Others she's an angel.  Speaking off....."

"LA, still.  Cordy and Wes died, along with Fred, who I don't think you got to meet," he offered.  "I inherited from Wes."

"You and Wes were getting close the last time I knew," he reminded him.  "You did him good, Xan."

"Thanks.  It's just such a trip, I'm a *watcher* now."  Oz cracked a hint of a smile.  "To two slayers."

"That is a trip," he agreed.  Tony came back.  "We a go?"

"The boss said it'd be fine as long as neither of you got free."

"I can make sure of that.  I usually do."  He looked at Xander again.  "So, this is new?"

"This is very new," he agreed happily. "But Tony makes me happy and doesn't demand that I spoil him or that I buy him crap he doesn't need or anything like that."  Oz opened his mouth.  "You missed it, Oz.  I nearly married Anya."

Oz shuddered.  "I'm so sorry, man."  He stood up to give him a hug.  "That's just wrong."

"I left her at the altar after D'Hoffryn had me shown what it'd end up like.  It wasn't happy."

"She around torturing again?"

"Dead.  Hellmouth battle."

"Sorry to hear that.  Tara?"

"Shot.  Right in front of Willow minutes after they made up.  Hence her trying to end the world."  Oz groaned at that.  "You know, Giles could use you."

"Giles could use sanity," Tony complained as he sat down again.  "So, you went to school with Xander?"  Oz nodded.  "And you used to date Willow?  She talked about you a few times recently."

"I did."

"He was her first boyfriend," Xander told him.  "They were headed for long term things when the wolf got overpowering and he left for Tibet."

"It was nice," Oz agreed.

"Tibet or Willow?" Xander teased.

"Both.  Tibet was colder, but Willow was softer."  Tony cracked a smile at that.  "So....I've heard of other hunters?"

"The slayers are hunting with the boss," Tony told him. "One older, one younger." Oz nodded at that.  "Then us, plus McGee and Abby."

"Abby was the girl who fetched?"  Xander nodded.  "She seems cool."

"She is and she's a big, huge geek," Xander assured him happily.  "She hugged me until I squished at the hospital."

"You probably needed it," Oz agreed.  "What happened?"

"The Initiative has reformed.  We're presently fighting them," Tony told him.  He noticed the sudden stiffness.  "They're focused on getting the blocks out of their way," he said, nodding at Xander.  Xander nodded at that, rubbing the back of his head.  "No other things yet."

"Good.  If they catch sight of me, expect me to run very far and very fast."

"They're going through Intelligence circles," Tony told him.  "Run back to Giles or Angel, they've got hiding spots."

"Decent."  Oz looked at Xander.  "Sooooo.  A guy, Xander?" he asked, sounding almost smug.

"He makes me happy, playful, and he lets me tease him.  He lets me, but doesn't demand, I spoil him, and he's nice.  He even yelled at me for disarming a bomb."

"Huh," Oz said, nodding a few times.  "Good job, Tony.  He needs someone to stop him now and then."

"I've noticed that.  Do you have any good blackmail stories?"

"He cheated on Cordy with Willow once, nearly got Cordy killed by Spike."

"Really?" Tony asked, looking at Xander.

"Temporary insanity," Xander said slowly and clearly.  "She was panicking, I was eighteen.  It was only kissing.  Besides, it's not like Cordy was the most *faithful* person," he noted dryly.  "I'm still damn sorry she ended up shived on that rebar, but we didn't exactly plan any of that or to be captured by Spike."

"Uh-huh," Tony noted dryly.

"Hey, it only happened with her.  Not with anyone else.  I was more serious with Anya and I didn't cheat on her."

"You also aren't usually suicidal," Oz reminded him.

Xander looked at him. "If he dumps me because you brought that up, I'm going to kill myself so I can haunt you," he said, staring him down.

"Learn how to play something for real and join the band," Oz said with a shrug.  He looked at Tony.  "He's not usually like that.  Momentary aberration."

"I know he'd never cheat on me.  Though I have caught him eyeing Gibbs' backside a time or two."

Xander shuddered.  "Eeewwwwwwww!  No, bad.  Eww!  Nasty."  He kicked him.  "Don't say shit like that! You know how good I am at imagining mental pictures!  Eww!"

"You did," Tony reminded him.

"That was more checking to make sure his back was still in place."

"Uh-huh.  That was before his back went out."  Xander stared him down.  "All you have to do is tell me," he reminded him with a smirk.

"Keep it up.  Watch me cook and make you eat it," he retorted.  "I don't want him.  He's like a daddy person and a good leader.  I'm not one of those who gets hot for the power."

"Fine.  As long as you're sure."  Xander kicked him again, more gently this time.  "Hey, no abusing me."

"If I was abusing you, you'd still be tied to the bed," Xander noted, smirking back.  Tony only smirked at that.  "Besides, how many times have I caught you staring at his ass?" he reminded.

"Good point.  I can leave it there if you can."

"Consider it left," Xander agreed.  Then he grinned at Oz.  "Thank you."

"Welcome. Always happy to help others have good, claiming sex that night."

"Not with his head injury," Tony said bitterly, shifting further down the couch.  "Not for at least a week."

"Bet me," Xander snorted.  "Expect pouncing later!"  Tony blushed at that and he looked over since the door was opening.  "We're in here," he called.  Gibbs brought Ducky in.  "They sprung you early?"

"They couldn't find it in my system any longer so they thought it should be safe, but I'm off my duties for the rest of this month, just in case," he admitted as he came in to check Xander over.  "I hear you got kicked in the head?"  Xander nodded.  "I'm sure you'll be fine, Xander.  Anthony, any pains?"

"I didn't get hurt, Ducky.  Except when Xander just kicked me."

"Good.  Very good."  He smiled at them.  "Shall I start dinner?"

"That depends, should we go get your mom?" Xander asked him.  He blinked a few times.  "Ducky, who's with your mom?"

"I sent two of the Probies over," Gibbs assured him.  "She's fine, Ducky, I made sure of it."

He relaxed and smiled.  "I had hoped someone had.  With all the stresses I completely forgot.  I've tuned out the sound of the dogs for so long," he offered.

Gibbs nodded.  "If you want, I can take you home, Ducky."

"I'd rather make sure I'm normal first, Jethro.  I don't want to snap at the poor dear. I shall call her though."  He went to use the phone in the study, sitting behind the small desk to call home.  "Mother?  Yes, mother, it's Ducky.  Yes, me.  No, I'm just about to get out of the hospital and ....."  He smiled at her insistence he not leave too soon.  "No, I'll be back by tomorrow morning, all right?"  He nodded.  "Are you all right?  The dogs all right and all?"  He listened to her story about the dogs dancing around.  "Mother, the servant watching you, may I speak with him?  Of course, I love you too, mother.  Yes, mother, this is Ducky.  No, tomorrow morning, mother.  I've been in the hospital you know.  No, they'll be releasing me tomorrow, mother. No, not the sanitarium," he said, rolling his eyes and holding his head.  "I promise, mother, I'll be perfectly healthy when I come home tomorrow and I'll even bring someone over for tea, how about that?  No, mother, not a date or a girl to meet you.  No, mother, it's still Ducky.  Yes, mother.  Of course.  No, let me talk to one of the servants so I can make sure they're treating you all right."  She handed the phone off.  "What did you give her?" he demanded calmly.  "Because she was even less in her right mind than usual.  No, she's got dementia.  Thank you.  Tomorrow morning.  That's fine.  Of course."  He hung up and got up, going to talk to Jethro.  "They gave her some new medicines.  Was she at the doctor's?"

Jethro shrugged.  "Not that I'm aware of."  He went to check on that through the office.  He came out.  "She was.  Was it helping?"

"No, she's now forgotten who I am."

"Oh.  You wanna head home tonight?  I'll stay with you."

"Please.  Xander, would you like tea tomorrow?"

"Sure, Ducky, call."

"Of course, dear boy."  He smiled at him.  "You as well if you'd like, Anthony. You can bring Abby or Willow with you.  Mother always appreciates having women around to chat with."  He grabbed his jacket and let Jethro take him home so he could rip those irresponsible people to shreds.

Jethro nodded.  "I'll be with him tonight, boys.  Behave."  He walked out, slamming the door behind him.

"And that was our boss," Tony told Oz, who snickered.  "That was Gibbs."

"That's kinda cool.  He seems much more together than Giles."

Xander nodded.  "Yeah, we work on the Marine schedule at times," he admitted.  "But he accepts each of us however we are."

"Good.  You could use that."  He saw the shivering.  "Maybe you should put on a sweater, Xander."

"I should.  I'll be right back."  He got up and headed up the stairs, finding his comfy green chenille sweater and pulling it on over his t-shirt, then padding back down the stairs.  He curled up on the couch again.  "Ah, warmth. What'm I ordering for dinner!" he yelled. "Even I'm tired of pizza!"

"German food," Abby called back.  "Tim's going to get it."

"Thank you!"  He shrugged and looked at Tony.  "That's sausages as hotdogs, right?"

"Some, and beer, which you can't have," he reminded him.

"I hate head injuries.  You'd think I'd be used to them by now," he told Oz.  "But *no*, Xander had to get another one, and I wasn't even conscious or tripping this time!"

"It happens to the best of us," Oz reminded him.

McGee paused in the doorway.  "Eliana wanted bratwursts.  Did you guys want something else since he can't have beer?"

"Neither can Eliana," Xander reminded him smugly.  "She's still only eighteen, Fluffy.  I don't know, what did Abby want?"

"Food.  She's good with wherever as long as it's not a person and it can contain some veggies."

Tony shrugged, looking at Xander.  "Italian?"

"Sounds good.  I haven't had good lasagna in a while."  He considered it.  "Or Middle Eastern and I make a lasagna tomorrow?  It's the only thing I can cook."

"He does a mean one," Oz agreed.

McGee looked at him.  "Sorry, I didn't even see you there."

"McGee, this is Oz, a friend from high school and Willow's former boyfriend."

"Hi."  He walked in and shook his hand.  "Staying for dinner?"

"No, my lady might mind," he offered, standing up.  "I'll catch you Sunday, Xander.  That way Willow can calm down and quit humming."  Xander rolled his eyes.  "Be safer.  There's only one of you."  He stared Tony down, knowing he got the implied threat.  "You're good for him.  I like that."  He nodded at McGee.  "Nice to meet you too."  He grabbed his jacket and headed out to talk to his lady.

"I didn't mean to drive him off."

"Oz isn't comfortable in crowds sometimes," Xander told him.  "Besides, his girlfriend is probably still waiting."  That got a grin, McGee knew not to keep Abby waiting.  He probably still had the mark where she bit him the last time.  "Italian or Middle Eastern, Tony?"

"Italian.  You can make a lasagna tomorrow anyway."

"Cool.  Then you can pick whatever we're having.  I'll pay."

Tony looked at him.  "This isn't our date."

Xander grinned.  "I know that.  I'm in a good mood, quit complaining."

"Fine."  He got up to find the Italian place's menu, picking out what they'd have.  Since Xander had ordered and all.


Xander straightened out his jacket as he walked up to Ducky's front door, Tony right behind him.  He knocked and smiled at the older man answering it.  "Hi, Ducky.  Should I run out and get flowers?"

"No, that's fine, Xander.  She realizes it's winter.  She might think you're courting her."  He smiled at Tony.  "Anthony, thank you for coming as well."  He let them in and showed them to the study.  "Mother?" he called loudly.  She looked up from her book.  "We've got friends over for tea, mother."

She looked at them.  "Do I know you?" she asked grandly.

Tony smiled at her.  "I'm Tony, Mrs. Mallard, I work with Ducky.  Remember, you had me helping you brush the corgis last time I was here."

"Oh, yes, the gigolo."  She giggled and patted him on the arm.  "I'll still stab you if you look at my bosom, dear."  She looked at the other one.  "And you?"  She stared at him, frowning a bit.  "Are you a knight?"

"In many ways," he agreed, bending down to kiss her hand.  "It's good to see you again, Mrs. Mallard.  I'm Xander.  I brought you the flowers last time."

"Oh, yes, such pretty flowers."  She smiled at him and patted him on the cheek.  "Ducky, where is that dratted server?"

"I'll go get the tea set, mother.  You two settle in," he ordered.  At least they were willing to humor her.

Ducky's mother looked at Xander.  "Have we met many times?  I realize I've met you but I don't remember where or when."

"Well, I've been here for a few times for tea.  I help one of the teams Ducky works with, Mrs. Mallard.  Usually I help Tony's team at NCIS."

"Oh, yes, he told me about that."  She smiled at them and whistled, bringing her wandering dog to her.  "There you are, naughty girl.  Contessa, this is Xander and Tony."  She looked at them and growled.

Xander let her sniff his hand, then patted her on the head.  "Hi, Contessa.  You're a very good guard dog."  He got up to help Ducky when he came back.

"You sit," he ordered.  "You're just off a head injury.  I don't want you stressed."

"Me either but it's polite of me."

"When did Gibbs leave, Ducky?" Tony asked.

"Early this morning.  The police called and said someone tried to break into his house.  He's called a few times to say he's all right, just cleaning up some mess."

"I can help," Xander offered quietly.

"He's got most of it done.  They broke a window or two and he said spray painted some symbol on the house.  Stupid teenagers I'm afraid."  He sat down and poured his mother some tea, holding it out.  "Mother?" he called.  "Tea?"  She smiled and took it and he smiled back.  Then he poured another cup.  "Tony, you take sugar, correct?"

"Please."  He accepted his cup and took a polite sip.  Ducky made very good tea.

"I shouldn't have to ask you, you take sugar in everything," Ducky teased Xander.

"Not in tea."  He poured in a bit of cream.  "Giles taught me and thought it was blasphemy."   He took a real sip and smiled at Mrs.  Mallard.  "So, how has your week been, Mrs. Mallard?"

"Oh, quite splendid. The people helping around the house while Ducky was gone took me for a long walk in the woods with the dogs and we went out to plan next year's flower garden.  Do you garden?"

"I try very hard not to," he admitted with a shy grin.  "I kill plants a lot."  She giggled like a young girl at that.  "I'm more of a fixer.  I like to fix things."

"Oh, that's charming!  Maybe this summer you and my poor baby boy can build me a nice swing for the garden."  She smiled at her son.  "Are you ill, son? You look very old today."

"I am old, mother," he reminded her gently.  She sighed and looked up.  "Sorry, mother."   He fixed his own cup of tea and took a drink, then looked at Xander.  "We could work on a swing."

"Not an issue.  I'm good at that stuff," he reminded him with a grin.

"Oh, dear," Mrs. Mallard said.  "Are you one of those nasty little boys who likes to hit on poor, innocent young men like my son?"

"No, Mrs. Mallard.  I promise I'm not hitting on Ducky.  I like Ducky as a friend.  He's a very nice young man. He's very reasonable when he tries to keep me from doing naughty things."

"As he should be.  My son is very sweet and delicate," she agreed, sipping her tea. "He doesn't like to do naughty things, that would make him a naughty boy."  She blinked and looked at Xander.  "Do I know you?"

"Yes, Mrs. Mallard.  I'm Xander.  Your son is helping me learn how to act when I travel to England this summer to visit my new estate."

"Oh, are you royal?" she asked.

"Inherited from a very good friend, and I do believe there used to be a title but I'm not sure any more," he offered.  "I'm still fairly new to it and you raised Ducky so well that he's been helping me."

"I would like to see the old homeplace," she told Ducky.  "Just once more before I go."

"If I can arrange it, mother," he agreed. "Where is the estate, Xander?"  He pulled pictures out.  "Well, that could be about half the countryside."  Xander flipped one over, it had the address on the back.   "I was near there for a conference one year," he said happily.  "Very pretty country.  Hunt country really instead of farming mostly, but quite picturesque and darling."  He handed them to his mother.  "That's his new estate, mother," he told her.

She smiled at it.  "I know who used to live there.  I remember playing there.  The Wyndhams lived there."  She looked at Xander.  "You're one of them?"

"Wesley was the last son in the family and he left it to me," he told her.  "Wesley was like my brother."

"Yes, I remember Wesley.  He was such a scamp.  All bright green eyes and running around playing."  Xander smiled at that.  "You do look a bit like him.  Are you sure you're not related?"

Xander shook his head.  "No, ma'am, not fully related.  We were very close.  He's the reason I'm the man I am today."

"Ah.  No wonder he left it to you."  She handed them back to him.  "When are you going?"


"That's a wonderful time, but watch out for the rain," she warned regally.  She seemed to notice her tea and took a sip.  "Oh, son."  He smiled at her. "Are those servants coming back?  The dogs didn't like them at all."

"I don't know, mother. Did you want them to?"

She shook her head.  "They upset the dogs horribly."  She went back to playing with the dogs beside her.

Ducky gave the boys a sad smile.  "You're going to spend the whole week there, Xander?"

"The first night I'm going to recuperate from the flight in London.  Giles wanted me to look at the old Council building, see if there was anything left."  He finished his tea and put his cup down.  "He thinks I'm some sort of miracle worker and can find the hidden library."

"It's in the basement, under the back servant's stairs," Mrs. Mallard told him.  "Are you a member of the Council?"

"I'm the current Slayer's Watcher," he agreed.  "I trained under Rupert Giles."

"Ah, another young scamp who wasn't meant to be one of them."  She shook her head.  "Such a poor child, with his parents."

"He was Buffy's Watcher, two slayers ago," he told her. "He's still in Sunnydale."

"Ah, yes.  I remember hearing about that town while I dated one of them."  She smiled at her son, then at him.  "Quinton was such a darling boy."

"Until he got power," Xander agreed with a smile.  "Then he tried to make poor Rupert go insane, repeatedly."

"Yes, well, Rupert never was one for the rules," she said grandly.  "Always ignoring some byline or code.  It's a pity I fell in love with my baby boy's father all those years ago.  Quinton was a good man when he was younger."

Xander reached over to touch her hand.  "He died doing what he loved," he assured her.  "In the middle of the Council's chambers during a meeting."  She smiled sadly at that and nodded.  "He felt no pain and I'm told he's not haunting anyone."

"Good.  That's always good."  She patted his hand then looked at her son.  "You almost ended up being the son of Mr. Travers, Ducky dear."

"I'm sure I would've had a bright future, mother."  He sipped his tea and looked at Xander, who only grinned.  "Are you planning on moving to England full time some year, Xander?"

"Maybe.  I don't know.  Giles has made offers on the estate to house the new Council.  I'm not sure I want that to happen.  I don't mind sharing the information in there, but it's not what I think Wes would want.  His father definitely, but not Wes."

Ducky handed him a cookie, getting a smile for it.  "Do nibble, boys."  Tony took one of the little sandwiches.  "You don't think he'd want it?  He did give his life for the cause."

"Yes, but not for the ideals," Xander reminded him.  "Wes and Giles had both been forsaken by the Council for giving a damn.  Giles was being fatherly toward Buffy and Wes wasn't experienced enough when he came in.  So they fired them both.  They hunted Wes for a few years because he was working with Angel," he told him before taking a bite of his cookie. "I'm just not sure that's what Wes would want."

"I can understand that hesitation," Ducky promised with a smile.  He looked at his mother, noticing she was asleep. "That's been happening a lot."

"We can go into the kitchen," Tony said quietly.  Ducky nodded so they gathered up their things while he got the tray and followed them back there.  He looked at Xander, then at Ducky.  "You heard I'm going with him?"

"I had and I think the vacation will do you both good.  You never take one and I doubt Xander's ever had a real one."  He settled them at the kitchen table, pouring more tea.  "That was something I never knew about her," he admitted to Xander.

"Everyone wondered why Travers became an asshole according to Giles.  I'm guessing it was your mother getting taste and dumping him, Ducky," he said with a small smirk.

"Indeed.  My father was a brilliant man and quite kind to her.  It was undoubtedly the better choice. Especially since I can't see myself as a Watcher."

"It's all a matter of training," Xander noted dryly.  "You'd have been trained in the system and in their schools from day one.  Of course, then you'd be like Rupert."  Ducky shuddered at that but he was smiling some.  "But on to happier topics.  What do I pack for April in England?"

"Warm clothes," Ducky told him.  "It's not particularly hot there year round but I would bring a few nice shirts, a few sweaters, and a few pairs of pants. Maybe a suit if you plan on going out."

"See, I told you you needed the sports coats," Tony teased.

Xander nodded.  "I apparently did."  He looked down the hall as someone knocked on the door.  "I'll go let Gibbs in."  He walked out there, smiling at Mrs. Mallard since she was coming out of the study.  "It's all right, dear one.  That's just Ducky's boss."  He let him in and winked at him.  "Come on in, Gibbs.  We're back in the kitchen so Mrs. Mallard could go back to reading peacefully."

"Thank you, dear," she said, patting him on the cheek.  "Such a nice young knight."  She went back to her book, looking at her tea cup.  "I was using the good china?"

"Ducky thought you needed to see it and smile," he promised, taking it from her.  "Let me get you some more tea, Mrs. Mallard?"  She nodded so he went to do that, carrying it back.  "Here you go, Ducky fixed it special for you."

"Thank you, dear."  She took it and sipped.  "Are you going to go joust now?"

"No, you said you wanted a swing in the garden and we're deciding on a style."  She smiled and he left, going back to take the seat next to Tony since Gibbs had taken his.  "She's reading."

"Always a pleasant thing," Ducky agreed happily. "You're serious about the swing?"

"I can be.  I've built some furniture before for Joyce and Giles' backyards."

"It would be most appreciated, Xander.  We'll work on it this spring."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Was it stupid teenagers?"

"Yup."  He got himself some water and sat down again.  "Broke three windows, painted their damn symbol on the front of the house."  He handed over a picture.  "That doesn't mean anything, right?"

Xander looked at it.  "One of the local street gangs."  He handed it back with a grin.  "The cops should've recognized it."

"They probably did but no one said anything.  They wouldn't even look at me.  One of them did want to make sure I'd be safe out there all alone.  So I pulled my badge and they all agreed to come pick up the bodies if they come back."  He sipped his water, looking at Ducky.  "How is she?" he asked gently.

"Today's not been a bad day.  She told us about how she used to date a Watcher. Apparently she used to play with Xander's friend Wesley's family at his house so she recognized it."  He shrugged.  "It's not been bad, though I did hear how I nearly ended up being a Watcher's son."  He took another drink of his tea.  "Xander's been charming her since he got here."

"I heard her ask if he was a knight."

"According to many people," Xander said dryly.  He drank another sip and stole another cookie.  "You make good cookies, Ducky.  Nearly as good as the bourbon guilt cookies we've got at home."

Ducky smiled at that.  "She's still baking?"  Tony nodded.  "Wonderful.  Why now?"

"Ethan has the slayer's scythe," Xander said dryly.  He looked at Tony.  "Did you have fun chasing me this morning when I snuck out?"

"No, I lost you twice.  Where did you go?"

"To talk to Ethan.  He's being blackmailed.  Since the Initiative was handed him at one point in time by Giles, they've got a good file started and since Ethan's the sort to cause chaos for a profit....  Let's just say they have something on him."

"Transit strike in New York?" Gibbs asked.

"No, nothing quite that bad.  That much magic would probably kill him.  No, more like causing mass panic by popping something into a subway station or something, or so he thinks."

"Imagine if one of the more nasty demons suddenly appeared during rush hour in one of our subway stations," Ducky said, shaking his head.  "Mass pandemonium."

"Yup," Xander agreed, finishing his cookie.  "But without him I wouldn't be nearly as good with guns as I am.  After all, it was his thing on halloween that gave m the soldier's memories."

"Eat a sandwich, Xander.  You have a horrible diet," Ducky ordered.

"Yes, Ducky."  He looked and picked one up, nibbling on it daintily.

"You can eat like a normal person in here, kid."

"I always use company manners when I'm in public.  It's the only time I use them, feel thankful," Xander said sarcastically.  "You've seen me eating out of the chinese food container at home enough times."

Ducky got up and went into the library, coming back with a picture album.  He looked through it and then smiled, handing it to Xander.  "Is that Wesley's family?"

Xander looked, then tapped on one, letting him see it.  "That's Wes's father.  Wes was the second son of him and his wife."  He handed it back.  "Who're the others?"

"His older brothers."  He considered the pictures.  "And a sister I believe."

"Wes said he was the only descendent," Xander said with a shrug.  "Giles said no one contested the will."

"No, I doubt they would," he admitted.  "Isn't it interesting how lives connect?" Ducky asked Tony.

"It is," he agreed. "But I still can't see you being a stuffy, tweed wearing watcher."

Ducky snickered.  "Me either, Anthony.  Me either.  Jethro, would you like me to put on some coffee?"

"No, I'm good for now," he said, looking at him.  "How are you feeling?"

"Decent enough.  Still a bit fuzzy headed, but nothing too terrible.  Mostly like the morning after Caitlyn's thirtieth birthday, only without the headache."  Tony and Gibbs both grinned at that.

"I wish I had known her.  You guys always say such nice things," Xander told them.

"No saying the 'w' word," Tony reminded him.

"There's no good synonyms for that one," Ducky noted bitterly.

"According to Anya, I'm to be left alone by the wish demons," Xander noted.  "But they're usually pretty open about it.  It's more like never saying it in the open of a club, to a stranger, things like that," he offered.  "Besides, I know three-quarters of the old ones thanks to Anya.  I do miss Hallie though.  She was trouble incarnate but she did what she could for the kids she was Vengeance for."

"She was over what?" Gibbs asked.

"Lost innocence," Xander told him. "Children.  She was Anya's best friend and the only one who could tell her to shut up on occasion.  She was a decent person to me too."  He picked up another sandwich triangle and nibbled.

"Did she die during the assault?" Tony asked.

"No, there was a wish rescinded and when that happens, the demon dies.  It was actually Anya's client backing out but D'Hoffryn punished Hallie instead."  He ate another bite.  "She was the only one who seemed to think I had done the right thing for myself when I left Anya at the altar."

Gibbs looked at him.  "Being married is horrible, kid."

"I may find that out some day, but I leave that up to others to tell me if they want to be that serious.  I treat them all that seriously."  He shrugged.  "It's not for me to decide for others about their emotions."

"As you pounded into my cousin's head," Tony agreed.  "Thank you for that, she wrote me a letter saying she had no right to come face you down that morning and apologized for her rudeness."

"Not an issue.  I hear real families can be like that."  He looked at Tony.  "You do realize that if Abby and Fluffy break up and she starts to date someone else *we* get to threaten them?" he asked with a wicked grin.  "All of us here?"

"That reminds me, I've got to give that talk to McGee," Gibbs said happily.  Tony snickered, turning away so he could laugh.

Xander grinned.  "Need some handcuffs, Boss?"

"No, I'll borrow some of hers.  Besides, I thought you gave her all yours."

"I bought a new set just in case they were needed."

Tony looked at him. "When?"

"Last week when I got bored.  That's right, you haven't been in the study in a few days," he noted dryly.

"I didn't see anything last night," Ducky noted.

"You wouldn't have.  I'm hiding them so Abby can't make her Fluffy go hunt and steal for her."

"She'd beg," Gibbs assured him.

Xander snorted, shaking his head.  "Not for these.  She'd steal."  He finished his tea and stood up to stretch.  "So, Ducky, what's up for the rest of the afternoon?"

"Well, we could work on that swing design," he offered.

"Let me get some plan books first, that way you can see what elements you want and don't want. Then we can discuss woods and all that stuff."

"That would be nice, Xander."  He smiled at him and looked at Jethro.  "Are you feeling all right?"

"Just fine, Ducky.  Why don't you take a nap and I'll take the boys home?  That way we can keep Xander from corrupting you with his boredom."  Ducky smiled.  "Come on, boys."

Xander hugged Ducky.  "Feel better."  He went to say bye to Mrs. Mallard, finding her on the couch.  He walked in and smiled at the dog, petting her gently.  "We're going," he said quietly.  The dog whimpered and looked at his mistress.  Xander moved closer, looking at her. Then he went to get Ducky.  He didn't want to wake her up or startle her.  "Ducky, the dogs are worried and staring at your mom, man," he reported.

Ducky got up and hurried out to check her.  She yelped so he headed back that way, helping him off the floor.  "Thank you, Xander.  She's having some problems."

Xander smiled at her.  "Can I check your pulse, Mrs. Mallard?  I'm going to do both your neck and your wrist, okay?"  She nodded and he settled in to check them, glancing at the clock.  Then he looked at her.  "Are you feeling okay?  Your head hurting maybe?"

"Just a bit," she slurred.

"Okay, can you smile for me?"  She tried.  "Ducky.  Try it again, Mrs. Mallard."  She tried it again and he sighed, going for the phone.  "I think you're feeling a bit off so we're going to take you to the doctor's.  All right?"

"But my Ducky is one."

"Yes, ma'am, but we want the very *best* care and you're his mother so he'd worry instead.  This way he can fuss while your usual doctor handles it."  She nodded.  "Good woman.  Now, are you going in that?"  She nodded.  "Okay.  Let's get your jacket.  Would it be in the hall closet usually?"

"Usually," she agreed.  "Can I wear my cloak?"

"Sure, if I can find it."

"On it," Tony said from the doorway.

Ducky hung up.  "The ambulance will be here in about ten minutes," he told his mother, patting her on the hand.  "Don't worry, we think it's nothing, Mother, but we need to check on it.  All right?"

"Who'll watch the dogs?"

"Ducky can call me later and I'll come back to feed them," Xander assured her.

"Do I know you?" she asked, looking lost.

"Yes, Mrs. Mallard, you do know me.  I work with Ducky.  I work with your son at the office."

"Oh, all right."  She closed her eyes.  "I feel a bit faint."

"That's fine, Mrs. Mallard, you rest and we'll get you into the ambulance and to the doctor's."  He looked over as Tony came back in, handing over the cloak.  "Go herd the animals out of the way," he ordered quietly.  "That way the paramedics don't have to trip and we don't have to chase them."

"Go open the food, Jethro."  He nodded, going to do that.  He looked at Xander.  "You're very good."

"And I passed my practicals with a 98," he said proudly. "I missed a childbirth check."

Ducky smiled.  "That's fine, Xander.  How about the written?"

"Perfect.  My certification test for my massage therapy license is next week.  I've already passed the others for the program."  He checked her pulse again, frowning a bit.  "She's fading, Ducky.  It's down to forty-seven."

"Hell," he complained, checking it himself.  "Anthony, watch for the paramedics."

"Tony, go get my field kit outta the car," Xander ordered.  Tony nodded, going to do that.  Gibbs came back with one of the dogs and Xander nodded so he took her back into the kitchen and shut the door.  Tony came back and let Ducky dig through his kit.

"We've got to get this refilled, Xander," he complained, finding something.  He found a needle and extracted some, then nudged the case away as he rolled his mother's sleeve up and injected her.  "I hope this isn't a stroke," he said quietly.

Xander made him look at him.  "If it is, you'll deal, Ducky.  The same as you have up until now," he said quietly.  "Not alone and we'll all help.  If she fades totally today or tomorrow, you know she's has a full, loved life and an active one."

"I know, but she is my mother."

"And for that reason we'll all help you," Xander reminded him.  "Got it?"  Ducky nodded.  "Good.  The paramedics are here."  Tony got the field kit and put it aside. Xander looked over.  "In here."  They headed that way.  "Hi," he said, smiling at the guy he had done his ride-along hours with.  "This is her son."

"Doctor Mallard," the other paramedic said, shaking his hand.  They moved Xander and he out of the way.  "What's her usual problem, Doctor Mallard?"

"Dementia I'm afraid," he said quietly, watching them work.  "She's been drifting off suddenly and without warning for the last few days I was told, I was in the hospital myself until last night.  Today she drifted off and Xander checked on her before they left.  When she tried to smile it wasn't unilateral and it wasn't very strong."

"She also seemed more confused today than the last time I saw her about two weeks ago," Xander told them, holding onto Ducky.  Ducky nodded, he had noticed that she seemed worse when she came home.  "What did you give her?"

"Oh, I gave her...."  He handed over the bottle.  "This, IV, ten miligrams," he said, handing over the needle as well.  "I knew it was possible, she had a stroke about ten years back."

"That's fine."  The paramedics got her onto the gurney.  "Did you want to ride with us, Doctor Mallard?"

"Go ahead, Ducky, we'll follow," Gibbs assured him.  He nodded and grabbed the cloak and his own jacket to hurry after them.  "You guys start and I'll let the dogs out of the kitchen."  They nodded and he went to do that once the doors were closed.  He did a quick turn to make sure the house was locked up then followed, heading out to catch up.  Ducky shouldn't be alone at this moment.  He called Abby and smiled at her cheerful tone.  "We're taking Ducky's mom to the ER," he reported.  "Meet us."  He looked at the way they were heading.  "No, General it looks like.  Ducky's with her.  Yeah, give me a few."  He hung up and called Ducky's phone.  "Which hospital so Abby and McGee can meet us?"  He listened and nodded.  "Sure, meet you there."  He hung up and called her back.  "George Washington."  He hung up and headed there, unhappy at the moment.  Very, very unhappy.  Ducky didn't need this.


Xander walked into is townhouse and flopped down, looking at the worried Willow standing there.  "Ducky's mom will be fine, we got her to the hospital in time.  The stroke was fairly mild."

"I wondered where you were."  She leaned down to kiss him on the top of the head.  "Want dinner?"

"Not really."  Eliana came in with a mug and he smiled.  "Cocoa or soup?"

"Soda.  The dishwasher needs to be run."  She sat next to him, snuggling into his side.  "She's all right?"

"About the same as she was.  They're putting her on a different medicine.  They just switched it while Ducky was in the hospital and they think it may have contributed."  He took a drink and put his soda down, hugging her.  "She's a very nice older lady and nearly married Travers, Will."

"Wow.  Small world.  Then again, Ducky is Giles' uncle."  She shrugged.  "I hope she gets better."

"She's ninety-six, Wills."

"Oh."  She nodded.  "Then I hope she's at least okay enough to not be suffering."  She went back to the kitchen, going to fuss.  She grabbed the phone when it rang, smiling at the voice.  "Hi, Dawnie."  She listened.  "I don't know, why?"  She raised an eyebrow.  "Are you *sure*?"  She nodded slowly.  "Okay. Thank you."  She hung up and went to talk to Xander again.  "We need the scythe in LA.  Angel swears he saw a Bringer."

"Fuck me.  Ethan said he's not handing it to anyone.  He's protecting it from both sides."  He stood up and went to call him again.  "Ethan, Xander.  No, we have Bringers.  Yeah, the vamps from the First Evil.  I don't know, man.  But you've got the only weapon.  Yeah, that thing.  Please.  Ethan, you know damn well I don't play that way, even if I am a Watcher in name.  Oh, yeah, Rayne, let's see how often I've followed the dictates of anyone but me before," he said dryly.  "Thank you."  He hung up and looked at her.  "If he can sneak it away from them, since they found it and confiscated it from his personal altar and shrine, he'll give it.  I need the maroon book Fred was staring at before the last battle."  She nodded and went to find it while he went to type in an email to Gibbs to watch out for them and to have the team briefed from the manual.  Then he went to gather the book and go into his study to read in private.

Eliana stuck her head in.  "You either need a wife or an answering machine, dear.  Tony just called.  Someone tried to break into his apartment.  He thinks it's still stupid kids."

"Gibbs had a bout of that and he knows he can stay over," he said as he read.  She left, going to talk to him some more.  Xander sat up, going over another passage.  "There's another weapon?" he asked, rereading it to make sure.  "Willow!"  She came in and looked over his shoulder so he pointed.  "There's another weapon?"

"There's no such thing as a male slayer."

"Yes there is," he said, looking at her.  "Robin Woods, myself, Gibbs, and Tony.  We do slay and we do have the speed to do so effectively."  She frowned and shook her head.  "Notice, Willow."  He turned back a page.  "Anytime they talk about the Slayer, it's in caps.  This passage isn't."  She shook her head again.  "It could be."

"It can't be.  Slayers are genetically chosen."

"You can't prove that," he reminded her.  "No one's sure how the Council took girls out of succession or how they managed to miss girls like they did Buffy.  They picked them *long* before DNA was even hypothesized."

"Still, it's got to be in their blood, or else every woman could be one."

"Willow, did you think maybe it's a specific gene that doesn't just come in women?"  She frowned.  "When you did the spell to activate all the slayers, I got faster and my eye healed faster, right?  You told me that.  Joked about me being in too much proximity?"

"I remember, but that doesn't mean...."

"Have Abby check it, Willow."

"Fine."  She knew enough not to argue with that man when he was in one of these moods.  She headed to call Abby and talk about the possibilities.  She just wished Fred were still alive, it'd be nice to have another expert in the field around.

Xander called LA.  "Angel.  Sorry, Gunn."  He checked the front of the book.  "Do you guys have a copy of Froust's _Slayers and Hunters_?  I know I have Wes's copy, I'm sitting here reading it.  No, it talks about a weapon that can be *gifted* to a male slayer.  That it will take down all the Bringers.  Man, I'm wondering why they're back.  That hellmouth is sealed, this one doesn't have anything like that and we don't have any resurrected people here."  He frowned.  "I can have her check," he agreed, writing down the name of the book.  "You think another one happened?  But it took months the last time."  He sighed and nodded.  "You're right.  Okay, thanks.  Oh, I'm so going to monitor that thing magically.  Because it's in the Mall, which is the space between the Smithsonians.  I can't get any sort of device there to read the energy output, even if I had one.  Thanks, call Giles, man."  He hung up and considered the implication.  This was definitely an all new ball game.  He got up to find that magic book, then brought it back to the study and closed the door, locking it too.  He found what he needed, all but one thing, and went into the supply closet to get that.  Tony walked in, looking exhausted.  "Give me twenty minutes and I'll give you a backrub," he offered with a smile.

"What're we doing?"

"Angel thought he saw a Bringer so I'm doing a check for resurrection being done around here.  It'd take something like that done wrong to let the First Evil out like last time."  He shrugged.  "If so, there's a hope of another weapon.  Just give me twenty to do the spell, okay?"  He stole a kiss and went back to the altar to get down to work.  He did get up to close and lock the door, just in case, but then got back to work.


Xander bounced into the headquarters building, smiling and giddy.  Frank did a quick hand wand, one hand holding him down, then handed over his usual pass.  Xander wasn't often in these moods but apparently it was good news, unlike last time when he was waiting on exam scores.  Xander bounced all the way up to the bullpen, making the security guards just shake their heads and smile.  Gibbs could use some lightening up today.  Their present case was making him bitchy.  Xander came off and strolled over there, standing in front of Gibbs since he was glaring at McGee from the edge of his desk.

"What?" he sighed.

"It's closed."

"Excuse me?"

"It's closed," he repeated quietly.  "Fully closed and switched back.  They managed it this weekend.  We're now in mop-up operations."  Gibbs smirked and nodded at that.  "Also, we've got one extra girl coming in to deal with that area for Eli since she's doing so much homework and you make Adrian work so hard.   So it's nearly over with."

Gibbs patted him on the cheek.  "Good work, Harris.  Any other good news?"

"I passed."  He beamed and hugged him.  "I passed so high it's not funny!"  He bounced off, grinning at Tony before disappearing.  He came back to the end of the aisle.  "Oh, Willow's staying out there to talk to Angel about the special weapons stuff they might be needing.  I'm not sure what's going on about that."  He ducked back out and headed home, still bouncy and happy.

"See, if you can make my day that way, I'll reward you later too," Gibbs ordered McGee.  He looked at DiNozzo.  "You get out early tonight if we're done early."  That got a shy grin and a nod.

"Thanks, Boss."  He finished what he was searching.  "Boss, he was listed on multiple personal sites as being a bad date," he offered, putting that up on the main screen, laying them so they could look at each one.  "Could be motive for kicking his ass and then chopping him into big chunks."

"I've seen people do it for less than that," Gibbs admitted.  He looked at McGee.  "Get back to work."

"Yes, Boss."  He got back to work cracking the guy's computer.

"DiNozzo, find out who his last few were from his very chatty coworker that was trying to hit on you earlier."

"On it, Boss."  He got up and went to do that, it always worked better in person.


Xander looked up as someone seemingly appeared next to him, raising an eyebrow.  He should be in the house alone.  Willow had been in LA for over two weeks now to check on the rumor of Bringers.  "Dawn," he said cautiously, backing away from the smiling girl.  He had seen that look on Buffy's face too many times to not be wary of it. "What're you doing in DC?"

"I'm here to help," she said cheerfully.  "Angel's paying my way fully so you only have to help me prom and clothing shop and then send him the bills, and I'm to take over for the girl that is coming to do mop up, which is pretty decent.  Since the Sunnydale hellmouth reopened, things have been going weird and Giles wanted me out of LA again."  She shrugged.  "Guess what you get to do," she said happily.

Xander walked off muttering uncomplimentary things about the vampires in his life, going to call everyone to come over to dinner, peeking his head out of the study.  "When is Taylor getting here?"

"An hour ago; she's with Eli pigging out on ice cream and crepes."

"Wonderful.  Thanks for the warning, Dawn."  He went back to his call, hearing a growl.  "Bad day?" he asked dryly.  "Yup, a reason.  New girl's here for mop up and Dawn's in if you guys wanted to meet the hyper one. Yes, worse than me, Gibbs.  Trust me on this.  No, I was thinking dinner actually.  You know that thing where you all come over and eat?  That thing?  As in I'll splurge and buy since I'm stealing Tony for six days?"  He grinned. "I thought you might remember that sensation, yes.  So, sometime tonight. Any idea what you want?"

"Roast," Dawn called.  "I can cook."

"Fat chance," he yelled back.  Then he giggled. "Sorry, she just threatened to cook.  No, a roast."

She came to the doorway of the study.  "I *can* cook, Xander.  Really."  He gave her a look.  "I promise.  If not, you can order tacos or something.  'Kay?"  she smiled sweetly.  "Are they rice, pasta, or potatoes people?"

"Gibbs said potatoes and it'd be about eight by the time they got back to the office," he offered as he hung up.  "Who taught you how to cook?"

"Gunn's last girlfriend."  She smirked and walked back into the kitchen, then came back.  "Money."

"For?" he asked, looking amused.

"Well, for starters, wine and herbs?"

He walked her back into the kitchen, opening the cabinet with the stash of wine and then the cabinet Ducky hid the herbs and things in.  He waved at them and smirked.  "No need."  He got into the freezer and pulled out something marked 'roast', handing it over.  She looked then shook her head, putting it back and picking out another one.  "There's six of them and they missed lunch, Dawnie."

She yawned and shrugged, then went to get a second one.  "That was a pork roast, not a pot roast.  Pig, not cow."  She finished fetching and hefting to her work area, then got to work defrosting and getting things ready for her to actually cook.

Xander sat down to watch, having a very bad feeling about this.  "Where are you living since I only have *a* bedroom here?" he asked.

"Your attic.  Angel said so," she said smartly.  "By the way, no Catholic school for the love of the Goddess," she moaned.  He rolled his eyes.  "Goth school, cool school, punk school, even a gang school, just not a damn Catholic school.  Angel tried that and I nearly punched the nun for being a stupid bitch about history.  She tried to tell me that Jesus was there during the Battle of Chancellorsville."

"So you got expelled?" he asked with a smirk.  She grimaced and nodded.  "Angel's reaction was....?"

"You're seeing it.  Since she also claimed Joan of Arc was reborn as Hillary Swank, let's not go there."  She looked down the hallway when the door opened.  "Hey, back here, cutie."  She got back to work, magically defrosting the meat when the microwave wasn't doing it fast enough.  Xander just snorted.  "Hey, I'm like you only I learned from someone other than Wes."  She turned the roast into the pan, letting it brown with the herbs and wine she had been heating up while she worked on the defrosting.   She stared at the guy in the doorway.  "I'd shake your hand but I'd have to wash them first," she quipped, smiling at him.

"Who are you?" McGee said slowly.

"Dawn," Xander said, shrugging a bit.  "Dawn, this is McGee.  He's Abby's before you even think about it."

"He's too old for me, Xander.  I love you but I don't need a daddy figure.  I need a boyfriend who'll take my bad ass dancing and be happy with me in the teen clubs since I'm not old enough to get into the real ones without my fake ID."

"Um, I'm a fed, you might not want to mention that around us," McGee said, looking confused.

"Buffy's little sister.  Willow had custody of her and she was staying with Angel.  He sent her out here after she got kicked out of Catholic school for nearly hitting the nun."

"Ah."  He nodded and moved closer.  "I'm Tim.  I work with Tony."

"I've talked with Tony and Gibbs," she said happily, grinning at him.  "I'm not here to replace Willow.  I'm here to study under Xander.  I'm going to be a watcher some day and I'll be damned if I'm going to clothe my fashionable ass in tweed."  He smiled at that.  "So, yeah, I'm here for my last year of high school and then...well, we'll see about college."

"Yes, there is one if your future or else I'm going to beat you," Xander said simply. "We're still going to have to do something about you having a room.  There's very little heat in the attic."

"I can have a minor room down here," she offered.

"Which would be my study," he noted dryly. "We'll figure it out later. You can sleep on the couch tonight.  Altar's in my study."  She nodded and finished browning the meat before putting it into a pan and pouring the juices with it. Then it went into the oven and she got to work on the vegetables.  "Who was Gunn dating?  A chef?" he asked as he watched her work.

"Yuppers.  She runs a small, down-home place near the shelter."  She shrugged and went back to cleaning the food.  "I thought you guys were going to be here late," she said, looking at McGee.

"They are, I took today off since I don't feel good."

"He and Wills were close, Dawnie.  We just heard about Willow's death last night."

She nodded.  "Understood.  I took a great many of those days after mom and sis died."  She hugged him, carefully keeping her hands away from him.  "It'll be okay.  Now she can be a guardian angel and really mess things up for you."  She grinned when he laughed and got back to work, looking down the hall as the door opened again.  "Wow, more real people.  Good.  Come on back."

"Who're you?" Abby asked.  "And why were you hugging my boyfriend."

"First, *way* too old for me, sweetie," she said with a smirk.  "Second, I'm Dawn.  I'm here for magic support and to learn to be a watcher under Xander so I don't have to wear tweed.  I'm also helping with tracking the girls who were released from the slayer line when Willow died and her spell went with her. Which means Eliana and I are working together a lot.  By the way, the new girl for mop-up is there with her."  She grinned.  "You are?"

"Abby."  She shook her hand.  "It's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you too.  He was having a bad moment and needed a hug.  I'm like that.  So was my mom."

"So Ducky said."

"Ducky's here?" she asked, starting to bounce.  "Where?  I haven't seen him in *years*!  I missed his stories and he gives the *best* hugs!  Is he coming over, Xander?"

"I can call and ask," he noted dryly.  He called the phone over to his hand and dialed, smiling at the gruff voice.  "Dawn's cooking dinner and wanted you over sometime tonight so she could cuddle and hear more stories.  No, for good.  Apparently Angel didn't like that she got kicked out of Catholic school for disputing the nun and nearly hitting her for saying Hillary Swank was really Joan of Arc. Yeah, as in she's here for at least a year," he offered with a grin.  "No, right now she's bouncing around and putting out the 'I hugged your boyfriend' fires she started when McGee needed one and Abby walked in."  Both women looked at him so he grinned.  "Sure, whenever.  Drag Gibbs too.  He thought I was bad?" he offered with an evil smirk.  "Thanks, Ducky."  He hung up.  "The case included a dead body so he'll be in with the rest of the group."

"Cool."  She got back to work, bouncing around the kitchen like she was on springs.

"Do you eat pen springs for breakfast?" Abby asked.  "I've never met anyone more hyper than me."

"Get Xander up on about six candy bars," Dawn said with a grin.  "He's worse than me.  I calm down on chocolate."  McGee got up and found the stash, handing one of the bars to her, making both women giggle and share it.  "Thank you, teddy bear."

"Man!  Not another one," he complained.

"I call him Fluffy," Xander said with a grin.  Dawn and Abby both snickered at that. "It's not like I don't have a problem with names," he complained.

McGee looked at him.  "How hard is mine?"

"He once called Cordy Buffy," Dawn said.  "It comes for a very good reason, trust me.  The wicked bitches of Sunnydale hounded him for weeks about that and that was the start of the wishverse incident where we got to see the vampire Xander and Willow.  Trust me, not of the happy making for most of us, though it did make Willow see she could appreciate the girl lovin'.  She called herself scary and kinda gay."  McGee cracked a smile at that.  "You can remember her how she was, including fussy, cranky, and chronically starved for attention.  I do.  I have the same thoughts about Buffy and Mom.  Only my mom was nice and well, Buffy was Buffyish.  Oh, Xander, Faith said if she's going to be coming in you've got to take her out."

"I'm dating a guy." She dropped her knife and stared at him, so he shrugged and nodded.  "I am."

"Uh-huh.  This is news I should've heard long before now so I can threaten his ass.  Where is he?"  She tapped a foot, crossing her arms over her chest to get the maximum effect.

"He'll be here with the rest of them tonight," Abby offered with a smile.  "You never told her?"

"I never hid it.  I mentioned it a few times I know.  I guess Angel never told her."

She snorted.  "Please!  Angel thought I was a damn infant!  I wasn't even allowed to wear baby heels and we all know I can manage an all nighter at the club in three inch ho-heels.  I couldn't wear a belly shirt.  I couldn't wear a skirt shorter than my calves. Not my knees, my calves," she said bitterly.  "I was going to be as insane as Dru in a few more days and Spike was worse!  Hello, do I *look* like a dominatrix?  Because that's all he got me when I needed clothes and then I had to listen to Angel choke, splutter, rant at Spike, and tell me to change.  Though I did look good in those leather pants," she admitted after a second's thought.  "Them with my heels?  I looked damn hot."  She shrugged and picked up the knife to toss in the sink then got another one and got back to work.  She tested the meat, then closed the oven and pulled out a pot for the vegetables to start on.  The potatoes went into the roast with the carrots a few minutes later, but the rest was fixed on top of the stove.  "Do you not eat anything but takeout?"  she demanded when she saw the inside of the fridge.

"It's not like I cook," Xander reminded her.  "Besides, single guy.  I occasionally cook for Tony but otherwise, yes, I live on takeout."

She and Abby shared a look.  "Some days, you just wanna smack 'em for being so damn stupid," she muttered.  Abby grinned and nodded, getting up to help her.  "Find another bottle of that wine," she ordered Xander.  "We're having it with dinner."

"Yes, mother," he complained, going to do that for her. Hey, it got him out of the house!  By the time he got home, the rest of the crew was there.  "Got out early, Boss?" he asked as he moved past Tony with a wink.  "She just showed up, it wasn't my idea," he noted.  He walked into the kitchen and handed over the two bottles of wine.  "For you.  Anything else?"

"Set the table?" she suggested.  He rolled his eyes.  "Whichever of you is getting the Xander-lovin' had better appear in here now or else I hunt your ass down to give you the threatening speech and prove I can use the knives in here!" she called.  Tony stuck his head in and she smiled.  "Well, he has good taste.  Come on in, sweetie."  She looked him over, then at Xander.  "Very nice taste."

"He likes my bike too," he said smugly.  "Plus he cuddles."

She looked at him.  "Got a younger brother about my age?" she asked.  He shook his head quickly.  "Damn.  Okay."  She looked in the drawer next to her and pulled out a cleaver, then threw it at him, hitting just beside his head.  "Now imagine what I can do when I take that to your, notably, hot bod if you hurt him," she said with an evil smirk.  "I *am* his family and if you hurt him, you won't have to worry about the pink pony vampire Spike or any of the others who like Xander.  I'm first in line and I'll be last in line and it'll take *months*."  She moved closer, staring him down.  "Are we clear?"  He nodded quickly.  "Good."  She took the cleaver out of the wall.  "Help him set the table."  She looked at the other guy. "Hi.  Who're you?  Or is he hiding some really hot threesome?"

"Gibbs.  We've spoken a few times, Dawn."

She squealed and hugged him.  "Hi."  She bounced back to the stove, checking the meat. "Where's Ducky?" she asked with a pout.

"He had to check on his mother then he'll be over," Gibbs assured her. "He said he missed you too."  He walked into the kitchen now that it was safe.  "How was LA?"

"Cranky.  Lots and lots of cranky people.  Then again, I kinda got expelled for nearly punching the delusional nun, but that's okay in my life.  My sister once burned down her school's gym."  He blinked a few times.  "Remember, I'm Buffy's little sister."  Xander shuddered at that.  "I saw that!"

"Dawn, calm down.  Don't scare Gibbs.  We like Gibbs.  The same as we like Tony, we gang up on McGee all the time," Abby told her.

Dawn smiled at her.  "Can you help me find a *cool* school to go to?"

She nodded.  "There's a few good choices, including a Catholic school that's nearly full of Wiccans."

"Wow.  Much more liberal than LA."  She hugged her and then went to check the meat.  "Thermometer, Xander?"

"Upstairs in the field kit?" he offered.

"Meat thermometer?" she tried again.  Gibbs found it and handed it over.  "Thank you."  She stuck it brutally into the rear end of one of the roasts.  "Hmm.  Meat butt is done."  She pulled it out and put it on the counter to rest, then got to work finishing off everything else.

Gibbs walked over to stand next to Xander.  "Tell me you didn't adopt her," he muttered.  Xander shook his head. "She's studying to become you?"  Xander nodded.  "You sure you can handle a teenager?"

Xander looked at him.  "I can, the question is where is she going to sleep?  Unless she wants to sleep with the weapons...."  He shrugged.  "I have not a clue, Gibbs."  He pulled Tony over to kiss him.  "I missed you last night."

"I missed you too."  He grinned at him.  "How long?" he mouthed.  Xander shrugged.  He groaned.  "We're leaving for England when?"

"Two days," he said happily.  He grinned at Gibbs.  "You can borrow Dawn to crack jokes around the office and she's made more than one man give up and tell her all their secrets.  Of course, the last time I knew about that I had to save her skinny butt."

Gibbs shook his head. "I think I can manage to scare them."

"You're not scary to me," Dawn said with a grin.  "Scary is Spike at noon when he's got insomnia and he's arranging your clothes for you so he can play with them.  Or when Angel can't sleep and you find him wandering around like a zombie on crack.  Which aren't too unhappy of zombies to be around," she offered happily, finishing off the corn and putting it aside.  "Okay, who carves?"

"I do," Gibbs told her.  "Being the leader has privileges."  She handed him the knife she had been using and got out of the way while she found serving dishes and put things out on the table.

Tony looked at the food. "I'm glad I missed lunch today," he noted finally.

She snickered.  "Xander is known for being a bottomless pit," she told him, going to get the meat, ducking under Gibbs' arm since he was carrying something else.  She got the vegetables out and put into another serving dish then brought that over, sitting down in the empty spot.  "Do we need another spot for Ducky?"

"He might be a bit longer," Gibbs told her.  "If so, we can always get him a plate and a chair."  She nodded and said a quick grace, then dug into the food, handing it off as she took some.  "So, you're here for how long?"

She smiled. "Until Angel needs me or until Xander kills me.  I refuse to be a watcher like Giles and wear tweed. So I'm taking 'how to be Xander' lessons.  How'm I doing?" she asked with a grin.

"Pretty good actually," Tony admitted, handing Xander the food with a smile.  "She's a lot like you."

"Hey, I try," she said with a smirk for him.  "So, you're the boyfriend.  What do you do?" she asked before taking a bite of dinner.

"I work with Gibbs at NCIS.  Most of us are his team and then Ducky's the unit's ME."

"I guess that's cool.  So, you do what?" she asked again.

He smiled.  "We investigate crimes against and from marines and sailors, Dawn."

"Oh, cool."  She looked at Gibbs.  "I knew you were military but not what sort."

"Marine," he said smugly.  "You thinking about joining?"

"The day they get spiked heel boots and decent clothes," she shot back.  He laughed at that.  "Xander, would you mind really a whole  lot if I actually got a job?"

"No, you're going to get a job," he assured her.  "A nice part time, after school job.  I'll be damned if you're turning into your sister, the princess."  She squealed and got up to hug him.  "Thanks. Where's your stuff?  Since I haven't tripped over the numerous suitcases?"

"Eli's."  She sat down again. "Sorry, but Angel thought jobs went along with skirts shorter than thirty inches, no-nos for Dawns that would make me be a naughty girl."  She ate another bite and looked at him. "Do you know the good teen clubs?"  He nodded. "Will you show me?"

"After I get back from England."

"Oh.  Sure.  Want me to house and book sit?"

"Someone would have you check on you," he reminded her.  "I doubt Giles would allow it any other way."  She nodded at that.  "If someone will at least call to check on you, then yes, you may stay while we're in England."  She beamed at him.  "If not, we'll talk to Eliana's mom."

"Sure.  She already said I could squat in Eli's room since she's going to start living on campus next semester."

"Which is this fall, dawn," he reminded her.

"Oops.  So I should've waited to abuse the nun?"  He nodded.  "Damn."  She sighed.  "Sorry, Xander."

"Not an issue.  We deal.  Even if you do end up living in the basement.  Because I don't want you overtop of my bedroom at night.  There's no telling what I'll hear from you having fun."  She blushed and ate another bite of food. "Hey, I'm realistic, but the first time you bring someone home, expect me to at least beat their ass, if not kill them, if I find you having sex in the house.  And by the way, there had better at least be one type of birth control in your system.  I'm not raising Dawn babies."

She nodded.  "I'm using two and they're pretty foolproof but I haven't liked anyone that much yet."

"Waiting is good," McGee assured her.  "That means you know what you want."  He looked at Xander.

Who snickered.  "Man, Faith jumped my ass.  It was over so fast I didn't get to blink.  It was also fairly non-consensual.  She just grabbed me and went then kicked me out."

"TMI," Dawn told him.  "Really, really TMI."

Tony smiled at Xander.  "It's better now."

"It is, it's much better. I like the better that it is now," he agreed happily.  "You're helping me pack tonight."

"I was going to go back and paint."

Xander pulled him in for a deep, sucking kiss.  "You're helping me pack," he said slowly and clearly.  "Then if you can walk you can go paint."  He smiled and Tony chuckled, kissing him again.  "Thank you."  He looked at Gibbs, who had just groaned.  "Sorry, Boss."

"No, it's okay.  That wasn't really graphic.  Thank you for that, Xander." He looked at Tony.  "You really should stay over, that way you're happier tomorrow since we've got to do that shooting review."

"Crap," he muttered.  "I forgot.  I'll be in at eight, able to walk, Boss."

"Good.  Though if you aren't, can I stand in the corner to see the director's looks at you?" Abby asked.

He gave her head a shove.  "You'd enjoy it too much."

Dawn looked over as someone knocked on the door, pouncing up and running to hug him.  "Ducky!"  She launched herself at him, wrapping her legs around his waist and clinging.

"Oh, dear, Dawn," he said, walking the girl inside and closing the door behind them.  He patted her on the back.  "I've missed you as well, Dawn. How have you been?"  He let her down but didn't let go.

"Angel was mean.  I couldn't wear heels, skirts at knee length, and I couldn't go clubbing."  She pulled back to smile at him.  "And I'm here for at least a year.  I'm taking 'how to be a Xander' lessons."

He smiled and hugged her again.  "Mother would be so happy to see you, Dawn.  You must come over."

She kissed him on the cheek.  "I made real food since Xander only cooks for Tony.  Did you know about Tony?  He never told me, the big meany."  She walked him back there, hand on his arm, and gave him her spot, but gave him a clean plate so she could sit next to him on the stool she pulled over.  "So, how's your mother?  I haven't heard any stories about her in so long that I nearly forgot them all."

He smiled at her.  "She's doing as well as could be expected, dear.  Though, whenever Xander comes over for tea it seems to excite her a great deal.  She always tries to be pretty for him."

Tony looked at Xander.  "Something you wanted to tell me?"

"No," he said, shaking his head.  "I could never go for Ducky's mom.  I like Ducky too much to ever be his stepdad.  So I guess you're stuck with me," he said, then ate a bite of his roast.

Ducky looked at Gibbs.  "Did you just have the horrible mental image of me with earrings and a nipple ring so that we could bond?"

"No, I was trying not to," he admitted, shaking his head quickly. "Tony, make your boy behave."

"I try, Boss, but you know how hard training a puppy is."  Xander kicked him.  "Ow!  You can be puppy-like. You lick in your sleep."

"Ooooh, it's better than it used to be," Dawn assured him.  "He had nightmares and slept on our couch for three days straight," she told Tony.  "Xander ended up outside my mom's room, laying across her door like he's guarding her virtue, but he's so dead to the world Buffy steps right over him.  The second time she tried it he bit her on the ankle.  I mean *seriously* bit her.  Like the ER doc wanted to know if she should have rabies shots, seriously biting her.  Buffy and Willow tried for years to house-train Xander and they were getting close but then Anya took over and made him a lap dog.  Then the slaying ruined his training totally."  She looked at Xander.  "We won't even mention the hyena's instincts."

"Good idea," he said smugly.  "Besides, she deserved it.  She stopped over me the second time so all I could see was up her skirt, which was pretty muchly skin."

"Yeah, Buffy had that bad habit."  She ate another bite.

Tony leaned closer to Xander's ear.  "I like the training now instead of your former training," he whispered.  Xander grinned at him and dug in.  "So, Boss, anything other than the shooting review tomorrow for me?"

"Paperwork, DiNozzo, since you're going to England for a week. Or was it six days?"

"We're leaving midday Saturday, coming back the next Friday night but I'm going to be suffering from jetlag most of that Saturday," he admitted.  "So I'll be back in contact by Sunday, Boss."

"Fine."  He looked at them, then stared at Xander, but spoke to Tony.  "I'll expect to have no emergency phone calls from the hospital, Scotland Yard, the local NCIS office, or any other authority figure.  Nor will I want to hear stories of drunken parties around the antiques."

"We're spending the first night in London since we get in so late, then driving out the next day.  We'll be goofing off around the house for the next four, then taking the reverse trip and heading back."

"Fine.  No getting into trouble, boys."

"I'm a good boy," Xander protested.  "I didn't even get drunk with glee when the hellmouth snapped back to Sunnydale."

"True, you didn't."  He smirked at Tony. "You think you can handle him in a foreign country?"

"Yeah, Boss.  Not a problem since he's been to them before."

"Yup, Xander and Faith were the slayer retrieval system," Dawn said cheerfully.  "Let's see.  He's went to Belgium, Russia twice, Germany, one of the African states that I can't remember off the top of my head."

"Kenya," he supplied.  "Then straight to Japan.  Talk about a long damn trip," he complained.  "Driving two days to get back to the airport with the nervous, superstitious slayer with multiple questions and basically a guide book of phrases between us.  Get on the plane, take her back to Sunnydale, which made her freak out and I had to sedate her when we took off.  She'd seen a helicopter but not an airplane.  Get to LA, Giles is there to pick her up, hands me my next set of tickets, which leave in thirty minutes for an eight hour flight to Japan. Two days there then back to LA via South Korea to pick up something from one of the retired Watchers in that area.  Which turned out to be a six- year-old that he called 'girl' or 'thing'.  She didn't have a name.  So now I had two language barriers.  Fortunately the stewardess spoke a bit of both and translated now and then.  We nearly got busted by Immigration over the little girl until I told them what was going on, that her natural mother was over here and her first husband had stolen her.  That they could call the stepfather and have him verify it because I knew Giles had a passport for the kid.  He had a stash of blank ones somehow."  Gibbs moaned.  "So they call Giles and he comes to pick her up.  Doesn't realize it's not just the Japanese slayer but he brought an extra one when, he claimed, he heard me talking to a child.  Just in case or so he said."

Dawn shook her head.  "He walked back into the compound, the girls pounced him and he ducked making most of them fall on the floor so he could trudge into his bedroom and fall face first on the bed.  The little girl comes in and curls up with him, fingers tangled in his hair and *screams*, absolutely hollers at the top of her lungs enough to bring cops running to check on her, whenever we try to move her.  Joy is presently still clinging to the bear Xander bought and put his t-shirt on."

"I wish I could've stayed but things were starting to get tense again," Xander reminded her.

"I know.  It's not your fault," she promised, smiling at him.  "Joy likes Faith too.  Considers her scary, but a good protector."

"She needs one?" Gibbs asked.

"Not that I know of, but some of the older girls are a bit rougher," Dawn admitted.  Someone rang the bell so she hopped up and went to answer it, smiling at Eliana.  "Hi.  Sorry, I meant to come get my stuff."

"That's okay.  Have you two worked it out yet?"

"Kinda almost.  I'm house sitting while they're in England if someone can call to check on me. We're nibbling if you want to come in."

"No, let's get your stuff out of the car.  Dad came back," she muttered.  Dawn nodded wisely and went to get her stuff.  "Pogo's at the nearest motel to here.  We dropped her off a few minutes ago," she said once the car's trunk was shut.  Dawn got the bag out of the back and they put them inside.  "Are you sure you're okay?"

"I think the better question is are you?" she asked.

"I'll be fine," she promised with a small smirk.  "If not, I'm calling Gibbs."

"He's in the kitchen if you wanted to warn him."

"Yeah, I probably should."  She walked in there, giving Xander a hug.  "My father showed up again."  Gibbs looked at her.  "Yeah, if it gets that way again, I'm calling you first.  You can be the scary guy."  She grinned.  "That way Xander doesn't have to commit homicide.  Because I know he would."  She hugged Xander again.  "Have fun in England and bring me back pictures."  She looked at Dawn.  "Be careful."  She headed back to the car.  "All set."

"She's staying there, right?" he demanded.

"Xander's her protector and guardian.  Her family's all dead, father."

"Don't take that tone with me, Eliana."

Xander tapped on the window, so he lowered it.  Xander grabbed him by the throat and squeezed.  "I would not harm Eliana again.  Ever again.  She may have been able to get out of her duty but that doesn't mean we don't watch over her."  He stared into his eyes.  "Eliana is now like my little sister and I will rip your ass to shreds if you *ever* hurt her again, even by yelling at her.  If you don't believe me, ask her mother what happened to her boyfriend."  She groaned.  "So, I'd be a bit nicer.  After all, she's got her many protectors."  He let him go and nodded at Eliana.  "I'll bring you pictures from the trip.  Call Dawnie daily so I make sure you're fine.  Or else I'm coming back and I'm going to storm your house like the fed I'm training to be."  He stared at the father, who shuddered.  "Got me here?"  He nodded and sped off.  "Good," he noted, heading back inside.  "I hate bullies."  He sat down and dug back in.  "I was wrong, Dawn, you can cook and you did a very good job."

"Thank you," she said proudly. "Did you threaten him?"

"Yup, sure did.  Gave him a reference too," he noted dryly before eating his last bite of roast.  "Do we have any more or are we digging into one of the batches of guilt cookies?"

McGee shook his head.  "Guilt cookies are fine for now.  Have leftovers after you make Tony help you pack."

"True, I can," he agreed happily, grinning at Tony.  Tony shifted away some, he knew that look.  "I promise you'll be able to walk tomorrow," he offered.

Which meant he was going to be topping, which was good for him, but that didn't mean Xander wasn't going to ride him into exhaustion and then some.  The others dug out the cookies and milk, going to move Dawn's things into the study for now.


Tony looked around the entry to Wes's former house, whistling at the immensity.  "This is nice," he said in awe.

"Isn't it?" Xander agreed, smiling at the family portrait hanging up.  "That was Wes right before he was sent over," he said, pointing at him.  Tony looked, moving closer. "He was Giles and Willow smart."  He took Tony's hand and walked him around the house, then out into the gardens.  "This is so nice," he said a while later.  "Peaceful.  Someone must've cleaned his father's aura out of here."  Tony looked down at him.  "His dad was harsher than a drill instructor during your first three days of Boot Camp."  Tony shuddered at that.  "Wes told me that he had gotten the highest grade in one class, but it wasn't a perfect grade so his father yelled for a few hours and locked him in his room.  For basically getting a 96 percent."

"That's just wrong," he agreed quietly, pulling Xander closer to kiss the side of his head.  "You like it here?"

"I do like it here," he admitted quietly. "Are you going with me tomorrow to see the lawyers to see what they wanted?"  He nodded and Xander snuggled into his arms.  "We should have horses here.  That way we can ride around."

"If you decide to come back, we can look into that," he promised, leading him back inside.  It was starting to drizzle and he didn't want to be wet and cold.  He got Xander into the kitchen, smiling at the housekeeper.  "Do you have any tea or cocoa?"

"I have both, Tony," she said happily.  "Were you two moving back?"

"I don't know yet," Xander admitted, sitting down to watch her move around the space.  "I'm just starting my training at the FBI academy and Tony's part of NCIS.  All our friends are over in DC."  She nodded.  "I don't want to sell the house," he admitted.

"I heard there's still some Watchers left," she offered.  He nodded.  "Do they want the library?"

"Giles wants the whole estate and he's the present head," he told her, leaning on his elbows.  "I don't know what I want.  I know Wes had his differences with the Council."

"He was a willful child."

"Yeah, but his ways saved lives," Xander reminded her.  "A lot of lives."

"He was working with the other side," she countered.

"Angel has a soul," he shot back.  "The Powers themselves chose him to atone and protect LA."  She looked startled at that.  "Wes gave up his life to save and protect Angel's team and some innocent lives.  He lost a lot of people that way," he pointed out.  "It took him years to be able to get close to someone because of the Watcher training methods and how his father treated him.  Wes is the reason I'm the man I am today."  She nodded at that.  "All I know is that Wes wouldn't have wanted the old guard to have it and I'm not sure where Giles is headed.  Some days it's almost as bad.  Some days it's not.  Hell, I was doing Watcher duty on the DC hellmouth while it was open and Tony was my hunting partner.  We had two of the slayers with us."

She put down the cups of cocoa, looking at them.  "There's many things that can be done, young man.  You don't have to sell the estate. You could rent it to them.  Or you could sell it to Mr. Giles to make the new Council here since a good portion of the library is copies of the other one.  To be truthful, Wesley hated this house.  Even when his parents weren't home he thought it was haunted, which it is, and he said it made him have nightmares, which it does to many.  There's been enough nastiness in this house to compromise souls, including that of Wesley's father."

"Is that why Wes told Xander he was such a bastard?" Tony asked.  She nodded.  "What about the Wes you used to know?"

"Wesley was an odd duck in this family.  He was a research person.  He never cared for the magic the family had but he practiced because he had to and he knew that some day he could be needed to do something magically to help the cause.  He believed in the cause but not the methods and not the recent directives of the Council.  He was against them taking the girls from their families by whatever means were necessary.  He was against some of the creatures that were routinely hunted since they weren't necessarily bad, just demonic.  He was also against the tampering with natural forces," she said, looking at Xander.  "Which you just did."

"Actually, Giles moved the hellmouth," he noted, sipping his cocoa.  "It's safer away from people.  Sunnydale's still radiating the dark and chaos magics and it won't ever stop.  Moving the hellmouth back made sure more people aren't radiated by it and that less innocent lives were lost.  After DC it was going to New York."  She shuddered at that.  "So, yeah, we decided as a group to tamper."

"What would the group want, Xander?" she asked patiently.

"Mine wants me to be happy," he said with a small smirk.  "Would you mind changing back?  Just so I can see which one you are?"

"Huh?" Tony asked.

Xander pointed at her.  "Wish demon."  He looked and she changed back, making him smile.  "Millicent.  A pleasant surprise."

"How did you know?"

"We never introduced ourselves," he noted dryly. "You weren't here when we got in."  She scowled but nodded.  "What's up?"

"The house needs to go to the Council.  Not only D'Hoffryn, but the others say so."


"The gifting room," she said honestly, leaning on the counter.  "It's ancient magic that Wesley's family protected.  He didn't know about it, his father knew he wasn't going to be able to hold it.  That's why he kept trying to make a grandson and failing."  Xander nodded, he had been told about that.  "All I know is that the Oracles agree in this case.  Giles already knows why."

"He didn't say anything."

"He wouldn't.  He's enjoying his power.  That's the way it usually happens," she reminded him.  "He'll calm down within a few months, once he realizes how massive this undertaking is."  She looked at Tony and smiled. "I can hear the wish your heart is making.  It's possible, but not from me."  She looked at Xander again.  "The same as yours still aches for someone else to take charge for you," she agreed.  "That's not up to us.  That's up to the Powers.  Only they can bring someone back and not have them wrong."  He nodded once.  "There's a way to them in London."

"There's a way to them through the old stables out back," he noted dryly.

"That's dangerous.  It could fall in."

"I worked construction. I think I can handle that."  She nodded, smiling at that.  "Anything else?"

"Yes, there's some things you don't know.  The lawyers are going to lie to you.  They're Wolfram and Hart.  Demand the actual paperwork."  She smirked.  "We don't like them at the moment.  They're a bit out of favor."  He smirked back.  "Secondly, Anya likes him.  Said he's better to you and now she understands what was wrong with your relationship together."

"She's back?" Tony asked.  He sipped his cocoa.

"No.  She's watching," she promised.  "She's moved on and now she's being a messenger for the Powers, which leaves her a lot of time hanging around LA for some reason.   You don't have to worry that someone will take him from you or that he'll lose interest.  There's nothing more stubborn than him.  Not even your boss."  She looked at Xander again. "She said to be happy and she understands love is worth more than money and sex now."  Xander nodded, finishing his cocoa and handing the cup back.  She smiled at him.  "Thirdly, the family's vault is still yours.  No matter that they'll be *buying* the house or not.  Even if they bring Wesley back, he won't be the same man.  He'll probably go by his middle name of Aaron."

"He used to go by Thrack," Xander joked.  Tony quirked an eyebrow up. "It's like a frat name, only from the Watcher's boarding school's dorms."  Tony nodded, understanding that.  He looked at the wish demon again.  "Any other messages?"

She nodded.  "A few.  Ask, ask soon, and if you have to, beg.  You can have what they need but only if you ask."  He nodded and stood up. "Good boy.  By the way, we're including your mate in your immunity to us."

He grinned.  "Thank you.  How did you know?"

"We watched you, Xander.  Remember, you attract demons like silver attracts the holy."  She patted him on the face.  "Go ask, dear.  You, mate, behave.  There's a good book in the library for you to read on prior possessions."

"It's got inaccuracies.  Wes gave me a copy," Xander said with a grin. "I may remember and she may be part of me, but that doesn't mean I have to live in the pack.  Even if I am the pack leader."  He held a hand out and Tony finished his cocoa before taking it and following him out.  "Tony, the Powers like to play some games.  So call Gibbs, just in case."

Tony pulled out his cell and called.  "Gibbs, DiNozzo.  No, we're here and everything's okay, but we just ran into one of Anya's coworkers who said that the guiding powers over Angel and their group wanted to talk to him.  I don't know.  They said that Giles needed a balancing influence."  He looked startled.  "You're kidding?"  He smirked and let out a small snort.  "Well, apparently she and Ducky get along very well then. I'll tell him.  No, they were talking like Wes might come back, Boss, but only they could bring him back so we didn't have Bringers.  We don't know, that's where we're headed."  He shrugged and followed Xander into the former stables, looking around. "No, we're about to be cut off so I'll let you go.  If anything strange shows up, let me know.  Immediately."  He hung up and took Xander's hand again, holding it as he walked back to where he could feel some sort of glowy magic feeling.  "How long will I feel magic?"

"Forever and ever."  He grinned at him.  "Some people have the gift and some don't."  He found the doorway and leaned against it for a moment, then forced it open.  They stepped into a place filled with mist and bright, blue lights.  "Hi," he called.  A person with blue skin and eyes walked out, looking at them.  Then his sister came to join him.  "Greetings," Xander repeated.  "I was told to come to you.  That you have some limited answers for questions I didn't know I had."

"You are Xander," the female said, moving forward.  "Your mate will not be harmed."

"He keeps me from doing stupid shit," Xander offered.  Tony swatted him.  "Sorry, didn't mean to swear."

She smirked at him, touching his cheek.  "Ah, you are he.  You have inherited the gifting room."  Xander nodded.  "It is not yours to lord over."

"I know that.  The Wish Demon Millicent said I should come talk to you about that and about the house surrounding it, plus the new Council's needs.  She thinks that there's a solution possible for both problems without being too complicated."

She nodded and moved back to her brother's side.  "We don't want them," the male said.  "They should be returned.  Their use to us then and now is done with and it is their choice to come back or not," he told him.

Tony clamped down on his feelings.  "Is it something that would hurt others unnecessarily? Or do the world great harm?"

"No," the female said, looking at him.  "You are wise where he is brash, yet you share the same underlying feelings."

"It is interesting how mates do that," the male said, sounding sarcastic as he looked at her.  "As was fated."

"Anything else I should know or do?" Xander asked.  "I don't want to take your valuable time when you could be tormenting Angel."

They both stared at him.  "The three it is up to may come back if they choose.  Their choices will be asked for tonight.  If so, they will appear in the present Hellmouth."  He looked at Tony. "This is not your decision to make."

"I know.  I don't make other's decisions for them," he agreed calmly.  "Is there anything else he must know?"

"The new Council must find balance.  Brashness must equal wisdom and caution.  Action and care must be meted out together.  The girls are not to be harmed but to be tracked.  You have a good start but there is a reason why it is a Council, not one man."

Xander nodded.  "Which was why Millicent suggested I ask for Wesley back."

"He is one who the choice is given to," she agreed. "He would have a new life, no longer his old one."  Xander nodded more deeply at that.  "Any others you question?"

"Doyle?" Xander asked.  The man nodded.  "He's one?"  That got another nod and a sneer. "Good.  The world could use some common sense."  He looked at Tony, then back at them.  "Was his sister-by-bond one?"

"Xander," Tony breathed.

"Just asking."

"To her family came great tragedy," the female said, looking at Tony.  "She would be a fourth."  She looked at Xander.  "The other was closer to you."

"Jesse or Tara?"

"Tara."  The male walked off.  "They will be asked."  She looked at Tony again.  "Should she agree, you must guard her better this time.  Humans are fragile beings, especially one who remembers."  She walked off and they found themselves back in the stables.

Tony looked at Xander.  "You asked for Kate?"

"I asked if she was one," he reminded him.  "I didn't specifically ask for her to be one of the ones chosen.  I knew damn well one of them wasn't related to me.  Tara's the fourth.  You can't have a Council of Watchers that only includes people from one town.  You get more stagnation and more desperation, especially when it's from Sunnydale."  Tony slumped.  "She makes the choice, Tony.  That gives them two Watchers, two involved in the demonic and magic elements, and a fifth voice of common sense.  Tara will provide the care and nurturing.  Wesley will provide new ways while Giles has flashbacks to the old ways now and then. Doyle used to teach before his heritage came out. He worked with Angel and Wes.  Tara worked with Giles.  There's got to be another dissenting voice for balance.   All of nature has to have a balance or else things get skewed."  He took his hand and led him outside, into a glorious night.  "Check your phone for messages."

Tony pulled out his phone, looking at it.  "One."  He dialed into his voicemail, listening to the message.  "It's Giles."  He hit the key to replay and handed it over. "He's not happy."

"Of course not.  Think about it though.  It was her or Dawn."  He smirked at the ass- chewing he was getting.  "Oh, really?"  He handed it back and called Giles from his phone.  "Millicent said Anya said hi, Giles."  He smirked at the stars.  "Yeah, well, you know the rule of balance the same as I do. You're the one who taught it to me."  He listened to him splutter.  "Because, Giles, you're turning into Travers.  No, I won't take that back.  Look what you did first thing.  You had us go round up the remaining girls instead of talking to them.  At least I let them have a choice.  Yes, I did," he noted dryly.  "Most of them came when they realized their families could be in danger from things drawn to them."

He walked off rolling his eyes.  "Because, Rupert, there's something special in this house that only a member of the family, a strong member, can hold. That's not me.  I'm not really related to Wes.  So tell him I said hi and if someone named Kate shows up, call me immediately and then Gibbs.  She was his second."  He hung up and looked at Tony.  "Wes and Doyle are already back.  We're not sure about Tara yet.  There's a patrol out."  His phone rang and he smiled at the much missed voice.  "Wes.  No, I'm at your house.  Well, he died, Wes, and since he left everything to his heirs, which was you, it came to me too.  Yeah, I'm out in the gardens with Tony.  Sure."  He hung up.  "Wicca transport."  They looked over as Wesley appeared, Xander grinning at him.  "Wesley, this is my mate, Tony.  Tony, this is Wes."

Tony walked over and shook his hand.  "Thank you for watching out for him."

"It was my pleasure.  Xander was always good."  He smiled at Xander, letting him have a hug.  "I've missed you.  Watching over you lot has been so painful," he said quietly, soothing him.  He pushed him back to look at him.  "Tara won't be coming back physically."

"I didn't figure they'd let a fourth come," he admitted quietly. "That means Dawn sits?"  He nodded.  "You know what they said?"

"Cordelia told them and us at the same time. There's something to be said for having such a big-mouth as The Messenger."  He looked at Tony again, smiling at him.  "You need have no worries.  Xander is like my brother and student.  Not someone I want *that* way."  Tony relaxed and nodded.  "I did see your friend.  I'm not sure what she wants to do.  If it wasn't her, it'd be someone else.  Someone with less of a clue.  She said Doyle reminded her of you so they were playing poker while we were together."  He looked at Xander, giving him a sad smile.  "Thank you for helping Willow as much as you could.  I'll take over Dawn's training."  He nodded.  "She's still staying there.  I want her off the hellmouth.  We can conference call with her and Caitlyn if she comes back."  He stroked his cheek then handed him to Tony.  "Well, since I'm dead," he noted dryly.  "The Council will be buying the house from you, Xander, but you're to keep the vault. It's not like I want the nancy stuff my mother collected."  He looked at Tony.  "We're all going to the lawyer's tomorrow.  I have a few words for Wolfram and Hart yet again."  He rubbed his throat.  "They took the scar?"  Xander nodded.  "Bugger."  He frowned then shrugged.  "Oh, well."

He walked the boys inside.  "Come along.  It's been a long day and it'll be tomorrow over here before a final decision was reached, and then we've got to face down Rupert."  He showed them to a room then went to find his old room, still the way he had left it. Spotless and without a hint of personality.  He looked out the window.  "As you called, so shall I answer, Anthony," he whispered.  "It's a selfless wish that brings a past lover to your present one's side to help them.  The same as his was to you."  He smiled and relaxed, feeling the world settle in around him again.  She had answered. He sat down on his bed and pulled the phone over.  He had to talk to some people before the lawyers.  He smiled at the old man answering.  "Ducky, what a charming surprise," he said happily.  "No, it's Wesley, sir.  Yes, him.  Yes, I know I'm dead.  No, the Powers.  Ask your mother, dear, but I'm going to be assigning you a fairly hard task.  Keep track of Dawn and keep her in DC as long as possible.  It's important she not go back to Sunnydale, even though she'll be on the new Council.  Yes, I'm quite sure.  No, the Powers That Be.  They're meddling to make sure the world balances out again."

He smiled.  "I knew I could count on you.  No, just be the father she never had.  Her own was the worst sort of trash.  Didn't come for his own wife's funeral, didn't write back when he heard the girls were orphans.  Nothing like that."  He smiled more gently.  "Good.  I knew I could count on you.  Yes, well, I'm here to provide a bit of that balance and some common sense.  So is she. No, she can call in.  We'll make sure she's got a cell for that.  Good man, Ducky.  Thank you.  No, they're fine.  Having sex up the hall but fine."  He smiled.  "That's fine, but they only allowed three.  One of yours is coming home as well.  Remember, she's newly back and easily scared for at least a few weeks.  So don't let the girl pounce her.  All right?"  He chuckled.  "I know you don't.  You will soon.  Yes, tell her I'll talk to her tomorrow during our first Council meeting.  Thank you."  He hung up and called Angel.  "I'd run, I've seen what you've been doing," he said dryly, then hung up.


Gibbs looked up as the couple walked into the bullpen early that Saturday morning, giving them the once over. "Jetlag?" he asked dryly.

"Yeah, but I had to come, Boss.  Is she here?"


Tony sighed and shook his head.  "Never mind."  Xander tugged on his arm and pointed at the woman up the row. "Kate!"  He ran over and pulled her up to hug her.  "I'm sorry."

"I'm not.  You're one strange guy, Tony."  She kissed him on the cheek.  "It's all right," she said, staring into his eyes.  "I promise.  I made the decision.  The same as you asked for Wesley back."  She patted him on the cheek.  "Let go before I get you for harassment."  He chuckled and gave her a squeeze before letting her go to look her over.  "Yeah, I'm the same.  You know, my parents weren't really happy with that. Fortunately for some reason they seemed to understand."  She looked at Xander.  "If I'm going to be your sister-in-law, you could greet me, kid."

Xander walked forward, holding out a hand. "Tony's said a lot about you."  She shook his hand, looking him over.  "Yes, I know you can kill me multiple ways.  I've already had this talk with Gibbs."

"Good."  She smiled.  "I'm worse."

"I doubt that, but okay."  He grinned back.  "Has Dawn pounced you?"

"Oh, yes.  The little leather wearing squeal factory did pounce me, and Abby and then Gibbs, who swatted her and told her to go away.  Do you have some sort of explanation?"

"Nature corrected an imbalance and created an oddity.  Like the platypus."  She laughed, shaking her head.  "We didn't have a choice," he reminded her.  "I asked if you were one."  She nodded, smiling at him.  "You don't mind?"

"No.  Tony needed me.  You make him horny and gropey instead of fun and joking.  That's not natural Tony behavior."  Xander nodded, looking calm.  "Therefore someone's got to be his balance."  Xander nodded again.  She patted him on the cheek.  "You two should be sleeping.  I remember the flight from England."

Tony nodded.  "I'm headed to do that now.  Then probably the painting I was putting off."

She nodded.  "I heard you got broken into and they took your tv."

"Insurance is good," he agreed.  He hugged her again.  "Come over for beers tonight?"  She nodded and smiled.  "Good."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Tomorrow?"

"I'll call if something comes up, DiNozzo.  Go sleep.  Take Xander with you.  At least his place is quiet."

"Did Wes steal the books?" Xander asked.

"Only his smut collection," McGee offered.  "We went to play on your computers and saw him."  He smiled.  "You two have fun?"

"Loads," Xander said dryly.  "Seven meetings with lawyers for Hell.  But the rest was fun," he offered with a happier grin.  "I'm going to nap.  Later, guys.  Kate, like everyone else you're welcome at my house anytime you want to drop by."  He walked out with Tony, noticing he wasn't touching him.  So either he was still mad or they were breaking up.  "Am I dropping you off at home?" he asked once he handed in his visitor's badge and they were outside again.

"No, I can cab.  I need to pick up some groceries anyway.  I haven't been home in a while."  Xander nodded and smiled.  Tony looked at him, sensing something was wrong but not what.  "Tomorrow, reshelving?  We still on?"  Xander nodded, looking happier. "Good.  Now go sleep."  He gave him a light head nudge with a smile.  Xander headed off and he summoned a cab, watching him go.  He looked at the person walking up to him.  "Couldn't stay away?" he joked.

"Not that.  He thinks you just broke up with him.  You really should read the book on mates and animal possessions."  She clapped him on the back.  "I'll come over to his place tomorrow night.  We can hang out then?"  He smiled and nodded.  "Good boy, Tony.  Sleep and then chase him.  He could use some of those wooing skills you used to show to the ladies.  After all, so far he's been doing all the chasing and courting."  She pinched him on the cheek and walked back inside.

Tony got into his cab when it finally pulled up, muttering his address to the cabby just loud enough to be heard.  The cab took off and he put his mind to work on how to woo a Xander.  If he was a woman he wouldn't be working this hard, but he knew she was right.  Kate was almost always right about these things.  Other things she was always wrong about but relationship stuff she was really good at.  Once he got home he went straight to bed, deciding he would think better once his head quit hurting and feeling like it was stuffed with a sweater.


Tony knocked on the door for the second time and decided he had enough so he let himself in.  He closed the door quietly and looked around.  No glow from downstairs.  No person in the living room.  He snuck back to the kitchen to put stuff out on the table for their dinner, then headed up to check the bedroom.  He found Xander curled up in a ball under the covers, smiling at him.  He always slept like that when he was alone.  If you slept with him, you had a Xander-blanket but alone he was a little ball of miserableness.  Xander wasn't meant to be alone for very long.  He sat down beside him, reaching down to tease the hair that barely came out of the blanket.  No response.  He carefully moved the blanket, seeing the slack-jawed, drooling look and smirked.  You knew you had it bad when they drooled cutely.  He stroked over the slack forehead and a hand came up to bat him away.  He captured it, teasing the fingers.  This was his favorite game, see how long it took for Xander to wake up for real.  If it had been anyone else he'd have snapped awake and tried to hurt them.  Gibbs had told him Xander threw a stake at him the day he woke him up.

Xander blinked up at him.  "Are you a dream?"  Tony shook his head.  "Must be."  He yawned and closed his eyes, smiling at the kiss he received.  "Still a dream," he mumbled.

He was going to have to wake him soon or else his surprise would be too warm.  He reached down to tickle him, making Xander yelp and jump up.  "No, I'm not a dream."

"But you...."

"Yeah, I heard what you thought.  You're wrong.  Hungry?"  Xander nodded slowly, staring at him.  "Come on, get cleaned up so we can eat."

"You brought me dinner?"

"No, I made you dinner."  He kissed him again.  "Up."  He stood up and hauled Xander's limp body with him.  "Did you take something to make you so sleepy?  Usually you wake up faster."

"No," he said, heading into the bathroom.  He came out a second later, staring at him.  Tony waved.  He went back in and quickly went to the bathroom, washed his hands and face, brushed his teeth, and fussed with his hair, then came back out.  He was still there.  He walked out and Tony pulled him closer to kiss him again.  "Keep that up and we won't make dinner."

"Good point."  He walked him down the stairs, taking him into the kitchen.  He flipped off the lights, letting the candles set the mood.  Xander looked at the table, just stared.  He gave him a nudge.  "I remember you liked it when we had it in London."

Xander swallowed and looked at him.  "Is this like a date thing?"

Tony nodded. "Yup, sure is."  He walked him to the table and sat him down, dishing him up the soft, silky dessert he had liked in the hotel, then sat down and dished up his own.  "You can eat.  I didn't poison it."

Xander looked at him and you could see his hand move under the table.  "Are you sure you're real and not a torment or some demon?" he asked finally.

"I'm sure, Xander.  Eat. Before it gets too warm."  Xander nodded and dug in, sneaking looks at him.  "Did no one ever take you on dates?"  Xander shook his head.  "Then they were really dumb.  You should be wooed."


"That thing where you date and spoil your partner horribly?  Like all the lunches and things I get given?" Tony shared with a grin.  Xander nodded once and ate a bigger bite.  "Good.  Now keep that up.  You'll need the energy for later."

"Later?" he squeaked.

Tony smiled. "Yes, later.  That time in the not-so-distant future where good things come to good boys who wait."  He could see Xander trying to pinch himself again and reached over to grab his hand.  "Only I get to pinch you."

"Okay," he said slowly.  "Now I know you're not Tony.  You told Dawn to pinch me before we left."

"It was still on my orders, that's the only time she's allowed."  He picked some of the food up with his spoon and fed it to him.  "Eat, Xander.  That's what you do when someone nice brings you dinner."  Xander nodded and started to eat again. "I knew you weren't used to dating but I really should yell at your former girlfriends for not treating you right," he said, squeezing his hand.

Xander pulled away from him.  "Are you like Anya?  Over men scorned or something?  Tony never says things like that to me."

"Then I've been stupid," he told him. "I promise, I'm still me."  He stroked his cheek.  "You have this cute little mole in between some of the scars on your back," he told him. "Whenever you blush or during sex it darkens."

"It does?"  Tony nodded, rolling his eyes.  "It's not like I can see my back."

"Didn't Wes ever mention it?"

"No.  We only did that a few times and it was always after a fight.  It wasn't like we were serious."

"Well, I am.  Get used to it."

"You read the book didn't you?  Because it had stuff that wasn't really good or right in it."

"No.  Not yet.  I will be by tomorrow, right after I force-feed you dinner."  Xander ate another bite and he smiled.  "Good boy."  He kissed him, then decided to pull Xander into his lap, merging the two plates so he could feed him.  "Open," he whispered in his ear, making him shiver and open his mouth.  "Good boy."  He scooped up a bite and ate some, then fed him the rest of the spoonful.  Xander moaned and shifted some, but got into it.  When he was finally done, he pulled him up and into the living room, laying him stomach- down on the couch and retrieving the oil he had found.  He warmed some in his hands and attacked the bare back, making him shift and arch up against his hands.  "Just relax.  I've got you."

"You do that so well."

"Thank you.  Sometimes I try."  He grinned as he worked, turning Xander from the attack dog he could be into a big lap cat.  He stood up and pulled off the pajama bottoms carefully, getting to work on his legs.  "Why are you so tense?"

"I don't know."

"Hmm.  Maybe you should relax," he suggested, getting back to work.  By the time he had him flip over, Xander was a puddle of purr, but he wasn't hard.  He looked at him, smiling at him.  "What's wrong?"  Not that he didn't know but sometimes you had to get these things out into the open.


"Still think this is either a dream or a really nice goodbye?"  Xander swallowed and nodded.  "Not happening.  I don't leave, others leave me."  He stroked over his chest and stomach. "I don't get romantic too often, Xan.  When I figured out what you were thinking, it poked me enough that I did some actual cooking.  Which is very rare so you should enjoy it."  Xander let out a small smile at that. "Can you just enjoy it?"  Xander nodded, sitting up to steal a kiss.  Tony laid down on top of him, letting him have as many kisses as he wanted, but he kept it there.  Xander moaned and arched up to rub against him and he grinned, sitting up to straddle his lap and get more oil to warm in his hands.   He attacked the chest muscles next. Xander wiggled and arched up into his fingers, making him smile.  "Just relax and let me work, Xander. You'll get there soon enough.  Don't be so impatient."  He shifted back some, making him moan and suddenly push up again.  He grinned and got back to work, making his boy a purring puddle again.  He was hard too so he knew he was doing it right.

Xander reached up lazily and pulled him down to kiss him again. "Can we move this to another spot?"

"This isn't about sex, it's about pleasure," Tony reminded him, stroking his neck.  Xander shivered and tipped his head to the side.  Tony grinned.  "Like that?"  Xander nodded quickly.  "Relax," he said quietly.  He leaned down to kiss and nibble on him, making him pant.  He moved to the other side, finding a spot he hadn't found before.  Xander bit his lip and whimpered.  He licked that spot then nipped it.  Xander suddenly arched up and came and he chuckled into the neck.  "That was fun.  Let's do it again."  He went back to playing with that spot, slowly moving down.  He found another spot just above the edge of his collarbone, but Xander wiggled so he let it go.  He did leave a mark before moving down.  The sparse hair on his lover's chest got teased and played with but Xander shifted so he went to play with the nearer nipple instead.  That hand came up to hold his head still.  It gave him the chance to play and tease, which he knew Xander didn't like, but he liked to tease.  Xander started to play with his hair, but he ignored it and continued to play.  He switched over suddenly, getting a mild hair pull in the process but it was okay with him.

He teased that one until he could feel the tension coming back, slowly moving backward to find new spots on his stomach and lower chest.  He found one just under his right pectoral.  It made him shriek and giggle, but it was a happy sound.  He teased it until Xander tried to shift away then went to find another one.  He found a ticklish spot.  Xander did move away from that so he let it go and moved down.  He hit a few spots he knew were good for Xander, making him pant and wiggle again.  He could feel him getting close and smiled at him.  Now was the time to just cuddle him.  So he did.  Xander let out a whimper of complaint but he just squeezed him.  "I told you it wasn't about sex tonight, Xander."  He stole a kiss and gently stroked over the hard stomach.  "Relax and let me play with you, Xander. You're my toy tonight."

"I'm not used to being a toy."

"I noticed, but I'm enjoying it.  Plus I'll still be able to walk tomorrow if we get a case."  He glared at the phone as it rang. He grabbed it.  "It had better be *very* good," he snapped.  "No, Dawn, he's under me, panting, hard, and needy while I play with him.  So, you're interrupting. Is it a good emergency?"  He listened to her babbling.  "We know.  We know, Dawn.  Tomorrow, Dawn."  He hung up.  "They just told her she's on the Council and Wes and Doyle were back."  He stole another kiss.  "She needs better timing."  He went back to stroking and teasing his mate.  "I should find that book and read it to you."

"I got read to when I was sick," he offered.  "I'm not sick though."

"No, but you are needy."  He teased the hard cock, making him arch up and make a pleading noise.  "Not yet."  He kissed him gently, slowly, making him grab him for more.  He let him, knowing he had most of the night.  If they got a case on Sunday he was going to kill whoever it was.  Xander got off and he smiled down at him.  He stole a gentle, soft peck of a kiss.  "I want more. I like watching you go off," he said quietly.  He started over, making him whimper and arch up.  "We should go take a bath."  Xander gave him an incredulous look so he grinned and stood up, pulling Xander against his body to move with him.  "If it wasn't so late, I'd take you out tonight to that salsa club again."  He led him up to the bathroom, sitting him down so he could run it.  While they were waiting he cleaned him up the old fashioned way, by licking the drops of come off his stomach and chest.  Xander tried to hold his head down but he captured the hands and held them.  Xander let out a soft moan of complaint so he got up, checking the water before heading out to find the stuff he knew Xander had bought.  He brought back a set of cuffs that had a long, stretchy cord between them.  He stopped the water and tossed the cuffs over the towel rack behind the bathtub.  He stripped and stood Xander up again, climbing in first and letting Xander into his lap before handcuffing him.  He saw Xander test them and looked at him.  "That good?"

"I'm fine," he said quietly.  "I'll tell you if I'm not."

"I know it's a big step but you keep trying to ruin my fun.  I *want* to play, Xander.  This is more than enough stimulation for me."  He rubbed his cock between his cheeks, making him wiggle. "See?  I'm getting off and having fun enjoying your body.  So let me play."  He shifted so he was straddling him and got back to his playing.  Xander's body was a fine instrument and it showed that he took good care of it.  Of course, he wished there were less scars, but that was fine with him.  He loved Xander for the man he was, past horrors and all.  He got back to his teasing, making Xander take it this time.  He saw him start to try to move and realize how long the cuffs were, smiling at him.  "I'm not hurting you," he said quietly.

"I know.  Keep going, I'm okay."  Tony stared in his eyes and he nodded.  "Cuffs are there to wiggle against."

"They are," he agreed happily, going back to his fun.  He was so close, this teasing and watching Xander figure out what being a toy was for was making him get off.  "Where should I put this one?" he asked, stroking himself.

"In me?"

"More like on you."  He decided to do the simple thing and got off on his stomach, making him moan.  "That's good."   He rubbed some in then let the water wash the rest away.  He gave his lover a gentle kiss then moved down to start the massage on his feet instead.  Xander giggled and wiggled and tried to kick but oh well.  It was still making him happy.  He moved up, testing the calves.  They weren't tense but they did have very strong muscles.  "Are you jogging?"

"I have to do something when I'm not in class."

"Good point. I like the fact that you took some classes."  He got back to work, making him a happy Xander.  A very happy Xander since he could see him getting hard again.  Of course, someone knocked on the door.  "That's either Mormons or Abby."

"Probably Abby," Xander said with a small shrug.  "I'm not answering it.  I kinda can't."  Tony grinned and got back to work, making it back to his hips a few minutes later and he moaned, arching up against his teasing touches.  "If I beg harder, please!" he moaned when a finger brushed him.

"Sex is for breakfast.  Tonight is for touching and feeling."  He made Xander shift so he could get under him, settling him back in his lap so he could rub against him and could drive Xander insane by ghosting touches across his body.  He got off first, but Xander let go when he felt him go, letting him have the best moan that night and the shaking afterward.  "Shh, I'm here," Tony soothed quietly, stroking his stomach.  Xander calmed down and went limp against him, turning his head for a kiss.  Tony smiled.  "That's why I like to play and why you're my favorite human toy," he said quietly.  "Let's get up and clean you off, then we'll go back to bed to sleep."  Xander nodded again, using the edge of the bathtub to help him stand.  Tony stood up between the straps, undoing one and putting it over the shower rod then rehitching it.  He let the plug go with his toes while he fiddled with the water, smiling when he turned it on.  Xander moaned, arching back into it.  Tony found the sponge Xander hid so no one would know he had it and got to work cleaning his body for him.

"If you ever end up with a harem, I'm going to beg to join," Xander groaned, arching back into the touches around his crack.

"If I ever get a harem, I'm going to wonder why and yell at certain people for using magic."  He pinched him lightly then made him turn so he could get his stomach. Once Xander was done he cleaned himself up and stopped the water, then got them out and dried off, but leaving Xander cuffed to the shower rod for now.  He looked him over, smiling at his shivering.  He undid the cuffs and pulled him into a deep kiss.  "Go to the bed.  I'm going to make sure the house is locked up and then I'll be right up."  He nodded and padded out there, climbing under the blankets.  Tony found his bathrobe and headed down the stairs to see who had come over.  He found the kitchen cleaned and everything put up, which was nice since he had forgotten.  The couch's usual slip cover was missing.  The light downstairs was on though so he headed down there, surprising McGee.  "Bad night?"

He looked at him and nodded. "Yeah.  I couldn't sleep so I thought I'd work instead of making Abby cranky."  He smiled. "I promise I'm not listening."

"It's fine, McGee.  I know you're not listening.  That's Kate."  He grinned.  "We're headed to bed so make sure to lock the door behind you."  He headed back up, closing the bedroom door just in case.  Xander was already asleep but not in his usual little ball.  He took off his robe and slid in beside him, getting a cuddly Xander blanket, which was his favorite bedtime accessory.  He had missed it earlier.


Dawn snuck into Xander's room, putting the covered tray on the dresser, right where someone should see it.  She turned and found Tony awake so she nodded at it.  "Gibbs is downstairs," she whispered.  "We all are, and we're ignoring you guys."  She left, closing the door behind her as quietly as she could.

Tony smirked, having evil thoughts, and got to work waking up his boy.  He had promised him sex. He kissed him, nothing.  So he moved down and nipped one of his nipples.  Either he was acting or he was really deeply asleep this time. He moved further down to lick up the hardening cock, getting a moan and Xander shifting toward him.  But no telltale hand coming down to play with his hair like usual.  He decided to play with his treat; he didn't do it often because he wasn't that great at it yet, but he did enjoy it when he did it.  He was moving up and down when the hand came down to play with him, nearly ready to start preparing the sleeping body and wake him that way.  He pulled off and looked up.  "Do you think we can do this quietly?"  Xander nodded, staring at him.  "Good."  He got back to it, starting to prepare the way for himself.  He paused when he heard the phone ring but no one yelled.  A few minutes later it rang again but he didn't care, he was starting to sink into the relaxed, purring body under him. Xander gasped and grabbed at his arms, scratching him a bit.  "Let me."

"I'm a good toy," he agreed, wiggling his hips.  "I learned how."

"Good."  He got to work making it good.  Making Xander want to scream even though he couldn't.  Maybe he'd make him break this time, maybe not.  There was always sex in the supply closet at work to make him yell in the inappropriate place if he wanted to risk it.  He did make Xander moan.  Then he got down to the harder and faster working, making him let out one long scream of pleasure.  He grinned and came, kissing him gently. "Noisy," he teased.

"Couldn't help it," Xander panted, pulling him down to kiss him again.  "Can we take another nap and have more?"

"We'll see.  Dawn brought us breakfast before we woke up."

"Is it just her?"

"Probably not."  He grinned.  Xander stared at him.  "I woke up and she mentioned Gibbs."  The phone beside them rang and he sighed, picking it up since it was his cell.  "It had better be a case, Boss," he said in greeting.  He groaned and got up, heading into the bathroom.  "Give me ten to find clothes, Gibbs."  He hung up.  "Can't someone manage to not be kidnaped today?" he complained.

Xander giggled and got up to give him a hug and a proper good morning kiss.  "You go to work and I'll bring lunch whenever you call."  He cleaned himself up then found pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.  It's not like he was going to be wearing more today.  It was Sunday!  He opened the breakfast tray and handed Tony his, which fit nicely on the toast Dawn had made.  He walked out eating it, heading downstairs.  At least he could ride in with Gibbs this morning.  Xander brought his down, smiling at Dawn and Kate.  "You don't have to go?"

"I'm on probation until they figure out if I'm working or not."  She shrugged.  "Are you okay?"

"Just fine," he promised with a grin.

"First time?"

"No."  He ate a bite and grinned at the women around him.  "What?"

"That was loud, Xander," Abby reminded him.

"It was good!"  He ate another bite, grinning at Dawn.  "You have some of the worst timing."

"Sorry.  I'll try to learn better."  He nodded.  "Ducky wants me to stay with him.  Even before Wes ordered he wanted me to stay with him.  Would that be okay?"

"I'll expect you to treat Ducky well and properly and help out with his mother," he ordered.  "She's a very nice lady."

"She is," she agreed.  "She likes me too.  She was helping me put up my hair."  She turned to show the braid with ribbons, then back around.  "So you're okay with it?"

"As long as he is, Dawn.  Because if you hurt Ducky or his mom, your ass is so very dead and buried as fertilizer in her garden.  Got it?"  She nodded quickly.  "Good.  Then if he wants you to stay with him I accept.  It's not like Giles can say anything either."

"He told Ducky to take me shopping for *real* clothes and he'd pay so he didn't have to be embarrassed by what I already had."

"I can take you shopping," Kate told her.

"No, Ducky said my clothes were fine but nothing too clubby or risque in front of his mother, like all the leather stuff Spike bought me.  Though, she liked it when she helped me unpack.  She thought it was cute."  She grinned at her.  "Spike wanted me to look like a domme."

Kate giggled at that.  "I heard about Spike a few times."  She looked at Xander, who was scraping his plate.  "So, what're we doing today?"

"I've got to pick up the car from the painters.  Tony and I already went over all the inheritance stuff and what Wes wanted back.  Tony and I were going to reshelve and organize the library today too."  They laughed at that.  "I know, we have magic books all over the house."  He shrugged. "It happens."  He looked at them.  "I guess I can go shopping with you three if you wanted.  I used to get drug by Buffy and Willow often enough and I managed to find Tony really hot hunting clothes."

"I saw," Dawn said.  "Those jeans were nearly pornographic, Xander."  He just smirked.  "I can't believe you went hunting in the clubs.  Naughty, Xander.  Did you make him hot too?"

"Yeah.  We went salsa dancing and all that."  She giggled and Kate blushed.  "Sorry, don't mean to share too much."

"No, share away.  Tony's like my brother," she assured him happily, smirking just a bit evilly.

"She and Tony pick on each other," Abby agreed.  "This morning she picked on him about eating bratwurst for lunch."

"No, I said I'd bring lunch to him, not have sex in the office.  Gibbs might mind that."

The women all giggled, nodding at that.  Even Dawn knew he'd throw a fit over catching them having sex in the office.

"Go change into something respectable," Kate ordered.

"Yes, mom."  He got up to do that, coming down in a pair of jeans and a tight white t-shirt, but with the sweater being carried. "Just in case I get cold."

Dawn looked at the chenille sweater, then shook her head and took it from him, going to get him something better.  She came back down with one of his off-white knit ones, handing it over.  "There, that goes and won't make you look femme, because I SO don't want to get into a fight at the mall with some butch idiot who thinks you're a flaming queen."  She took his arm.  "Come on, ladies.  We're off to pick up the car."

Xander had to get free to grab his wallet, phone, and keys, but then let her call a cab so they could go.


Tony looked up, giving Xander a look like he was God when he got off the elevators with bags.  Since his desk was first in line he got given the first two bags, one of which was a clothier.  "The girls went shopping?"

"Yup, and they like the color of the mustang too. They thought the midnight blue with sparklies in it was very pretty."  He walked the next set to Gibbs, smirking at him.  "Your coffee wasn't featured today so I put in a new canister of the good stuff so you could make it here."  Then he handed some to Marquez and McGee, making them both smile.  "Just minor lunches."  He turned to look at Gibbs.  "I was told to tell you to tell Ducky, since he's not downstairs, that Dawn is back home with Kate and they're having tea with his mother today.  Dawn did get some *respectable* clothes at Kate's insistence but that she and Abby bonded over skirts.  Also, Kate made Abby get some new clothes too, and Abby dressed Kate.  Kate was going to come in but she needed to find a place to live first so she's doing that and she's got my cell if you need her."

"Thank you.  Good reporting.  Ducky's not downstairs?"

"He wasn't when I popped in."

"Hmm."  He picked up the phone and dialed Ducky's cell. No answer.  He looked at Tony, who hurriedly ate and got up, heading to check the morgue.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome, Boss.  I'm making lasagna tonight if you're making it back, which can be warmed up if it's a late night."

"Even better.  We'll see you later."

Tony came back.  "Boss, his desk is a mess."

"Ducky's a borderline neat freak," Xander told him.

"I know.  There's a mess of papers."

Xander picked up the phone and called Dawn's new cell.  "Is Ducky there?"  He listened.  "Thanks.  No, no worries, he stepped out for lunch and we're wondering."  He walked over to the free desk and pulled off his necklace.  "Get me a map and something of his.  Something he's worn or held a lot."  McGee got a street map, Tony got him something and he did the tracking spell.  "Here," he said, pointing at a spot.  "Somewhere in that block."

"Let's go," Gibbs said. There was no reason for Ducky to be there.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome, Boss."  He cleaned up his mess, tidied up the other desks, and smiled at the guys who came over to steal him to help them for a few minutes.  He didn't know how the other team had adopted him too but they were generally nice guys.  "How's his back?" he asked as he was drug.

"Just fine.  They're doing the final treatment this week then doing tests to make sure it's gone."  They put him in front of the computer.  "Can you type?"

"About thirty words a minute."

"Good enough.  You fill in the boxes.  It should be self explanatory."

"Okay.  I'll save them under a different name so you can check them before integrating them."  He looked over the blank form then started to type in stuff from the information sheets beside him.  He had done the same thing with their database and it wasn't much different.  He looked up a few sheets later, seeing the director staring at him. "I got asked to type for them."

"Ah.  I was wondering why you were here when Gibbs' whole team was gone."

"They drug me over.  I don't mind but I've got to head home in a bit to fix lasagna since I promised.  I'm waiting to make sure Ducky's fine."

"Good.  How's the first Academy class going?"

"The first one went okay.  I thought a few of them were stick-up-the-butt rules but they went okay."  That got a smirk.  "No way in hell I'm wearing a tie daily, director."

"We don't require it here.  Just there."  He nodded at the forms.  "You do that very well."

"We use a similar database."  He shrugged and got back to work.  "Any word on Ducky?"

"He's fine and they're bringing him back within a few minutes."  He stared at him.  "How's DiNozzo?"

"Recovered from the jet lag.  We had dinner last night and it was a happy time.  This morning we woke up to the full team in the house."  He looked at him again.  "Kate's got my cell if you wanted to talk to her."

"I'll remember that."  He left him alone, listening to Xander correct a few entries before he saved that one and moved on.  He was handy to have around.


Xander looked up as his house was invaded by his friends, smiling and pointing at the oven.  "Ten more minutes."

"You got back late," Gibbs said, yawning a bit.  "What happened?"

"The other team needed help inputting records. So I did that for two hours to clear their backlog."

"Good.  I'm sure they needed the help."  He watched as Tony kissed him on the head and checked on the food.  "He said ten minutes."

"Sorry, Boss, but lunch was a while ago."  He got himself and Xander a soda, then sat down.  "Ducky's fine but he's spending the night with his mother and Dawn."

"I figured he was or else I'd have gotten a call to join you guys at the hospital with Dawn and Kate."

"Good point."  Gibbs got himself a beer and McGee got a soda, handing half of it to Abby since she held out an empty glass.  He smiled at their antics.  "When do classes start again, Xander?"

"Next week, Boss."  He put down his book and stretched back. "Then I start the intense training times.  One guy did ask me about my eye but his boss called him off.  Who pulled what strings?"

"The director did," he admitted.  "Since it doesn't affect your daily routine."  He sipped his beer and got the lasagna out when the timer beeped, testing it with a knife from the drawer.  He put it back in for another five minutes.  Tony moaned. "Give it a few more, DiNozzo."

"Yes, Boss."  He looked at Xander.  "Is that all we're having?"

"There's a salad in the fridge," he offered with a smile.  The door was knocked on. "If you belong in here, get your ass in here!" he yelled.  Kate walked in with Marquez.  "Hey.  We're about to eat.  Clean up.  Abby, get the salad and stuff.  Tony, set the table.  Gibbs, clean up, you too, Fluffy."  They went to do their assigned tasks while he checked dessert.  Abby saw and hugged him.  "I figured we should celebrate," he told her.  "Anyone who wants wine, it's in the closet beside the cabinet," he said, pointing.  "We're having lasagna."

"Soda's good for me," Kate told him.  She got one and looked at the cake, then smiled at him.  "Thank you."

"Eeh, you're family."  He pulled the food out of the oven, letting it sit for two minutes so it'd be easier to cut and wouldn't burn him quite so badly, then he got to work dishing up portions.  "I need a bigger table," he joked, squeezing in between Abby and Tony.  Everyone nodded.

"Doesn't this one have an extender?" McGee asked.  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Because I bought it way back when we moved here and it was only going to be me, Willow, and Eliana."  He ate a bite.  "More than big enough for that and the occasional guest slayers."


"Besides, he'd have to put it in the dining room and that means moving his desk and the altar," Tony joked.

"Well, we aren't using the training room as often," Marquez noted.  "Though I am still using it, Xander."

"You'd better be.  If the current ones die, it'll go back to one of you who got uncalled."

"Eliana's next according to Dawn.  I don't know how she knows, but she said so.  She also said that there'd be dual slayers for generations."

"That's fine with me," he agreed.  "Less work and stress for them both."  He ate another bite and smirked at her once he had swallowed.  "How's the mop-up going?"

"Good. We're back down to about twenty vamps in town that we know of.  There's only been two vampire deaths, one demonic related death, and one chaos sorcerer who committed suicide."

"Yes, it was Ethan," Gibbs said quietly.  "We think Jen and her happy group made him."

Xander nodded.  "Understood.  She'll get hers when Ripper finds out.  I thought they had been picked up or blew themselves up or something."

"No bodies found in the rubble and she's good enough to get around that," Kate told him. "So they're not sure, which is now my new job, Gibbs."  He smirked at her.  "Since you're involved and all."

"If I knew then what she'd turn into I wouldn't have done it," Gibbs noted dryly.

"Yes you would've," Tony told him.  "She was pretty, a redhead, and there all the time.  How could you have resisted?" he noted smugly.  Gibbs reached over to smack him across the back of the head again. "Thanks, Boss, I missed that while we were in England."

"I tried, but I just can't do it the same way you do," Xander told him with a grin.  Gibbs leaned over and got him too.  "Aww, now I feel loved."

"At least Dawn isn't here to ask if we're a threesome," Tony joked.

"Again," Xander finished.

"She's too young and she's a brunette, kids," he said, shaking his head.  "I missed the stress relief while you guys were gone.  McGee doesn't tell good jokes."

McGee looked at him.  "You never asked, Boss, but you're right.  A comedian I am not.  I'm much more focused on the drama than the humor."

Abby kissed him on the cheek.  "Which is why I love you, McGee.  You understand my darkness."

Xander looked at her.  "Would that be the coffin darkness or the other darkness?  Or the band Darkness with the guy who sounds like the love child of Tiny Tim?"

She burst out in giggles and so did Kate, who had to lean on Gibbs' shoulders to hold herself up.  "Now I see why you like him, Boss.  He's like a miniature Tony," Kate laughed.

He pushed her off, smirking at her.  "Plus he does paperwork and helps around the office.  He even tried to organize my desk for me."

"No, I did organize your desk for you.  Get it right, you're still using my filing system."

"Good point, I am."  He smiled at them.  "I don't know how we're going to handle it when you come in to work, Xander."

"Well, Gibbs, the director asked if I wanted to move to the other team," Marquez offered gently.  "I told him I'd talk to you about it because I wasn't sure."

He looked at her.  "Up to you.  You fit well and you and Kate seem to be able to get along well enough.  We've got room for you."

"They've been complaining about favoritism, Boss," McGee offered, then ate a bite of salad.  "You got her and Kate, plus Xander helping out whenever he's in.  They're jealous."

"They took me today to upload information sheets," Xander offered.  "I saved them in a separate file so he could look them over and then integrate them after he's checked through them."  He got a nudge so he started to eat again.  Abby could be so forceful sometimes.

"So, what were you guys doing last night when Dawn interrupted?" Abby hissed.  "She looked shocked then giggled really loudly."

"I know, that's when I hung up on her," Tony assured her.  Gibbs looked at them.  "She wanted to know what we were doing when Dawn called that made her giggle."

"No details," he reminded them.  "Either couple."  They all nodded.  "Thank you."  He looked at Kate.  "You missed it.  Harris would pop up with food randomly there for a few weeks.  The guards all know him by name now."  She grinned at that.  "Then about a month ago, he decides to pull a Ducky."

"Hey, it was a minor cyst with a zit.  I've taken them out before on the girls," Xander defended.  "Besides, Ducky was busy.  And it's a good thing I did."

"It was," he agreed. "You still removed a cyst with a dental pick in the office."

Kate looked at him.  "One of those cone cysts with the zit?"  He nodded.  "Dental pick?"

"Dig in and twirl, it comes out," he offered.  "Right in the middle of his back.  I came in to force Gibbs to relax first and I got asked to help the other team too."

Abby and Tony giggled.  "Seriously, Kate," McGee said at her shocked look.  "He walks in, hauls Gibbs out of his chair before he can complain, turns the chair around, makes him sit back down, forcing him to sit back down, then got to work on his back and shoulders since he was having trouble moving.  Someone called him from the lab when he couldn't pick up something.  Ten minutes later you hear this really deep growl of pleasure and Xander lets him go."  He looked at him.  "Can I have one for my birthday this year?  You can have Abby and Tony in the room," he offered at the hesitant look.  "I'd never cheat with you.  I couldn't play with your hair."  Abby blushed at that.

"Sure, Fluffy, I can do that," he agreed happily.  "I did pass my practicals and am fully licensed now to do massage therapy."

Kate smiled.  "We're going to love having you around the office on the bad weeks."

"And on the good weeks, he and Tony will pick on you for a change," McGee finished, making Tony and Xander chuckle.  "Please?"

"If we must," Xander sighed.

"Why do you call him Fluffy?" Kate asked.

"I'm horrible with names.  After calling my girlfriend by Dawn's older sister's name, everyone got a nickname.  Except Gibbs.  I couldn't come up with one that wasn't overtly sexual and he wouldn't kick my ass for."  Gibbs nodded at that.  "Since the first time I met McGee he seemed really fluffy and light, plus a bit pudgy at that time, he got to be Fluffy while this one didn't introduce himself for two days so he became Pretty Boy.  The boss came out to handle the case when McGee brought the prisoner back from Santa Clara so they both watched me hunting and decided I was only partially insane."

"You seem mostly sane to me," she offered.  She looked at Gibbs.  "Who replaced me?"

"Ziva David, Mossad," he said, looking at her.

"Was that Shepard's idea?"  He nodded.  "Damn.  Who was it supposed to be?"  He pointed at Marquez.  "Hell, at least you finally got someone good."

"Ziva was good, but she was very lone wolf," Tony told her.  "Not used to working in a team at all.  Couldn't stand being teased."

"She had that problem with american slang too," McGee reminded him.

"Plus she thought she was immortal and bulletproof on occasion," Abby added.  "She was decent enough but she wasn't you and we didn't give her a real chance."

"That was mean," Kate told her.

"Yeah, well, she wasn't you and she was covering for Ari there for a bit," Gibbs told her.  "She ended up shooting him, but I don't think any of us forgave her for that."

"He's dead, right?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Good.  Very good."

"Next to the boat.  Ziva shot him," Tony told her.

"Even better!" she agreed happily.  She looked at Xander.  "So you met them just after Ziva showed up?"  He nodded.

"Within weeks," Tony told her.  "This old case of arms dealing got broken open.  It came from our office so we got to find the leads in the other territories.  This one guy was a total shitbag."  Xander nodded heavier at that as he ate another bite.  "We found him working construction. He had been doing really creative accounting, still dealing arms and some limited drugs, plus sleeping with young teenagers.  Plus helping in an insurance scam on this last job of his."

"The same day they got there," Xander said, licking his fork off, "my company sent me to fix the site.  So it was my first day.  After a few minutes I realized what the problem was and handcuffed him to a fence while we went figured out how to fix everything and how deep it went.  They spent a week haunting the site and finding all the civy and military connections since it was a joint case.  I fed you then too," he reminded Tony.

"And made me paranoid.  First night there, Kate, and this one has to go handle some vampires on the beach at the request of the cops.  Now, I'm there alone because McGee brought the prisoner back here.  Gibbs didn't get in until really early the next morning.  So I followed him in case it became pertinent to the case.  I saw him sitting on the hood of a police car shooting vampires with a crossbow.  Then I spent the rest of the night huddled in my motel room with my gun in hand."

"I wasn't about to come over and tuck you in," Xander told him.  "A bit of paranoia is good now and then.  Gets the blood flowing to handle quarterly apocalypses."

"Your blood flows just fine without going back to help," Tony assured him firmly.

"Unless they need me."

"Fine.  I'll agree with that.  If they need you, you can go."  He looked at Kate again.  "Gibbs comes in the next morning and I'm still awake.  So I hear him knock on Xander's door.  Because I told him I had seen him hunting and killing things.  My mind was just running around in circles at that and seeing the vampires turn to dust instead of bleed and scream.  Xander here isn't intimidated by Gibbs. Told him he'd seen more scary things that were pink and four feet high."  She giggled at that.  "Then he heads off to work and we've got to go back to the site to get more of the records and have him explain a few of the forms to us so we know where he's been hiding money."

"Then Ziva showed up," Xander said dryly.  "Hell's mistress."

"Yeah, he threw her off the site a few times," Tony said proudly.  "He couldn't let her into the trailer since we had the only key and it was being considered an active crime scene.  She tried to threaten and boss him around in front of his crew.  He kicked her ass and kicked her off the site.  The second time we were there, he knocked her down and drug her off, then picked the lock on her car and shoved her into it before going back to work. She had no idea how to deal with him."

"Which is why I sent her back," Gibbs agreed. "Xander was mostly respectful to me and DiNozzo, but he mouthed off to him every chance he got."

"I needed a playmate to take my mind off the magic radiation sickness I had," Xander defended.  "You two were the pervs who tracked me and the succubus around the boardwalk and watched her work."

"No, that was him," Gibbs assured him.

"You're the one who wanted to interrupt them, Boss.  I fled when I saw what she was doing.  Then he made me dance with Bob, her incubus cousin."

Xander just grinned at him.  "At least you weren't that wary of dancing with me when we went out hunting."

"Until the salsa club when you nearly had me there on the floor," he complained.  Xander just kissed him gently and grinned.  "Was that a date?"  Xander nodded.  "I thought so."

"Yes, that was his plan to woo you, Tony," Abby told him.  "Dates after hunting, or special moments during hunting, special lunches at work, special treats between the two."

"I nearly got tickets to Six Flags," Xander agreed. "I wasn't sure if that would count as being too far away or not."

Gibbs nodded. "It would.  You'd have to take a weekend and let me know first."

"Then again, with this team's luck, you'd find a body down there," Kate added with a grin.  "We did when I took the day to visit Williamsburg."

Gibbs nodded. "You did.  I was impressed with that."

"Me too."

"I was just happy that you didn't call five minutes earlier this morning, Boss," Tony said dryly.  "How many times did you try to get me in England?"

"I started to twice.  No going back?"

"Wes said to give the house to the Council.  But they paid me for it.  Wes took something from underneath it to live on and he had full access to the Council's funds in his name.  So he's straightened out their stuff.  I'm nearly done with my energy study, and then I get to present the official Chronicles of the DC Hellmouth."  He looked at Marquez.  "Which means, Adrian, I need some input sometime this week."

"Yes, Xander."

"Good.  How is Eliana's father doing in traction?"

"Not very happy but he knew better than to try to hit her.  The DA decided not to press charges since she was defending herself, even if she did carry on.  Especially with his past and the former restraining order.  She's moving onto campus this fall and she's working this summer."

"Good for her," Xander agreed. "Dawn's job?"

"Taking care of Ducky's mom when he's not there," Gibbs told him.  "He's paying her a bit but not a lot."

"It's a job and something she needs," Xander said with a shrug.  "I didn't expect her to make Enron money doing it at her age."

"What about you?" McGee asked.

"Starting next week I start the intense, sixteen week, hardcore lessons at the Academy," Xander told him.  "Fortunately it's not a live-in program and I've already passed my range and computer tests.  They're going to be letting me out of those for specialist classes.  We're still trying to figure out what I'm taking."

"Bombs are good," Gibbs offered.  "We could use someone with those skills.  Watch out for the instructor though.  The first day, listen.  You'll be disarming the one under your chair."

"Decent," Xander agreed.  "I may already be able to do that but good."  He grinned at him.  "What else do I need to take?"

"We've got computers and that stuff covered," Kate told him. "Adrian and I do profiling.  No one does cults but we don't really need them."

"I've studied a bit on that," Xander admitted. "You have a lot of them formed on this side of normalcy."  They all nodded, accepting that.  "I'll let them guide me then."  He shrugged.  "They don't like my earrings.  I already told someone to stuff it."

"You can't wear them at work," Gibbs reminded him.

Xander looked at him.  "The director said I didn't have to wear a tie.  He never said a thing about the earrings or the hair when I talked to him earlier and it's not like they're unnoticeable."

"Regs state you can't," Kate told him.  "I can't for that matter."  Xander nodded.  "So put them in after work as you walk out."

"Oh, I do now and then," he admitted.  "At least they quit teasing me about my nipple ring.  Frank, the guard Frank, got onto the new guy about that when he caught him."

Tony choked.  "For what reason?"

"Said it was unfair.  The regs say no earrings, said nothing about other ones.  Then he pointed out plenty of people had multiple piercings these days. The guy admitted he had one too but that he didn't expect agents to.  So Frank assured him he knew about at least seven genital piercings in the building at that moment and another dozen or so nipple rings, plus some discreet earrings and piercings in other places.  The guy looked stunned and he said they might need them to relax after a long day.  Then the new guy asked about Gibbs' team and I had to shrug and say I knew Abby had some but otherwise he'd have to ask."  Gibbs choked on that.

"I wondered why I got handwanded," McGee said dryly.

"If he touched you, I'm going to smack him," Abby assured him.

Gibbs went back to coughing and choking.  "You can tell him we don't, kid," he said, calming himself down.

"Speak for yourself," Adrian and Kate said in unison.  Xander just beamed at them.

"Hey!  You said I could go with you!" Abby complained to her buddies.  "Where was I?"

"Trying on that blue dress," Xander told her.

"Oh, well, that's good then," she admitted.  "But the next one I get to go."  Adrian looked at her.  "Trust me, they're like chips.  No one has just *one*."  She smiled at Kate.  "I went with her when she got the tattoo."

"I need to redo the Taz on my chest over the scar tissue," Xander said, pouting a bit.

"They said they wanted the scar tissue to smooth out some more,"  Kate reminded him.  He nodded at that. "What happened to your back?"

"Don't.  Ask."

"Okay."  She left it there.

"He's got exes that make a few of mine look sane," Gibbs told her. She moaned at that.

"Hell, I had a few casual ones that made Cordy look sane," Xander quipped.

"I met Cordelia," Kate assured him.  "I didn't think that was possible."

"Did you get to meet Anya on the astral plane?" he asked.  She nodded slowly. "I nearly married her."  She got up and hugged him.  "Thanks. I left her at the altar."

"It was the best decision of your life," she assured him.  Then she hugged Tony.  "You're much better for him."  She went back to her seat, but got up to get more lasagna.  "Xander, want some more?"

"Please."  He handed over his plate and she dished it up.  "Thank you."  He smiled at her.  "If you need my help, you know where I am."

"I'll call."  Gibbs' phone rang.  "Another one already?"  She sat down to dig in.

Tony finished his meal and stole a kiss when he got up, McGee doing the same with Abby and his plate.  Then they followed him out, Marquez right behind them.  "Why can't Kate start coming, Boss?" he complained.

"She's on probation until they do the paperwork," he said plainly.  "It'll be early next week."  He closed the door behind them.

Xander grinned at her. "Does that mean you get to make fun of the orientation lectures again?" he asked.  "They told me the bidet story."

She giggled and nodded. "Yup, all next week."  She ate another bite.  "You do this pretty well."

"Which is good considering I don't cook," he admitted.  "This is the only thing I can make."  He ate another bite.  "I did do good this time."  He grinned at Abby.  "When do you get called in?"

"It depends on what's going on." Her phone rang and she sighed. "I guess I am needed. I'll see you guys in a few days."  She hugged them both and bounced out.

Kate looked at him.  "Need help picking out stuff for classes?"  He nodded.  "Can we eat in the living room?"

"I do most of the time."  He got up and grabbed another soda for himself, heading out there.  He saw the person on his lawn and sighed, going to get something from his office, handing her his spare gun.  "Here.  See, Initiative," he said, pointing at her.  He lifted his gun and blatantly cocked it, staring down Jen Shepard. She backed up.

Kate did the sensible thing.  She called Gibbs.  "You'll never believe which of your exes is on the front lawn."  She winced at the squeal of brakes. "Don't crash.  I can't put up with you in the hospital this week, not that and orientation again, Gibbs."  She looked at Xander.  "Handcuffs?"

"Sure."  He walked her upstairs to get the toybox out, letting her pick what she wanted.  "I gave my old ones to Abby and McGee.  I didn't want to use what I used on Anya on Tony."
She smiled at that and found some things that would do for now, then took him outside to help her.  "Federal agents, freeze!" she ordered, pointing her gun at the group laying the bomb.

"Um, just for future reference, the house is warded so it won't explode," he noted happily, waving at them.  "I am that good most of the time."  He pounced one and got them down, then got the next one while Kate got a few.  He looked at the bomb and remembered what Tony had ordered him to not do.  He considered it for a second, then carefully lifted it up and took it into the middle of the street, leaving it out there.  Then he moved his bike and his car.  A few neighbors came out.  "Bomb," he called, pointing at it.  Most of them moved their cars too.  A few apparently wanted new cars, and one moved hers closer.  He smiled at that and grinned at Kate, shaking his head. They both ducked when it went off, dusting the little bits of road and car off themselves while they waited.  Gibbs pulled up and Xander pointed.  "Bomb," he called.  "I didn't do more than move it this time. You can't yell at me for disarming it."  He knocked one of the moving people down, then looked at Tony again, who was scowling.  "I was a good boy and I warned the neighbors."

"Uh-huh."  He came over to start rehandcuffing people, letting Xander have the sex toys. "Clean those before you put them back, Xander."

"Yes, Tony."

"Are you cops?" one of the neighbors asked Gibbs.

"Federal agent, ma'am.  NCIS."  He flashed his ID.

"Oh, we were wondering why such a nice boy had these sort of problems."  She moved closer.  "You might want to make him move the claymore launcher away from the window," she said delicately, pointing.  "My grandson saw it and asked."

"I'll have him do that immediately, ma'am.  Thank you."  He walked over there and glared at Xander.  "The window isn't covered."  He looked up and Xander 'eeped' and went to move the weapons away from the windows.

"Abby and I were looking at them, Gibbs," Kate told him. "Its our fault."

"He should've checked," he muttered as he came over to lend some cuffs.  He walked around Jen's limp body.  "She alive?"

"Unfortunately, Boss," Tony agreed dryly.  "I think someone punched her."

"Yeah, once or twice," Kate agreed happily. She smoothed some of her hair back behind her ears.  "Is someone coming to take them away?"

"Yeah, they're behind us.  McGee went to start the other case, with an excuse that we were in the middle of one ourselves so we'd be there as soon as possible."  He looked at her.  "He moved the bomb?"  She nodded.  "Why?"

"He said something about not getting yelled at for disarming it this time."

"Yeah, he disarmed one a few months back without telling us there was one," Tony admitted.  "The first thing we knew, there was a cop asking for his smaller wire clippers for him."

"Ah."  She nodded.  "Good.  We could use someone like that. He can train to be Gibbs, the next generation."  She smirked at their boss.  "But we love you anyway."

"I warn people when I run into explosives, Todd.  You know that."  He handcuffed the last one and looked at the SWAT truck as it pulled up.  "He put it in the middle of the street."

"And someone's car didn't get moved," Kate told them.  They nodded, going to look at the remains of the explosive.  She looked at Gibbs, smiling at him.  "She moved it closer," she told him.  He shrugged, they didn't deal in insurance fraud.  The companies had people for that.  Xander came back out and she smiled at him. "You move pretty well for just starting your training."

"Practice.  Lots and lots of practice."  He hugged her.  "Are you okay?"

"Just fine, Xander. I'm one tough girl."

"Yeah, but they have hard heads."  He let her go and looked at Tony.  "I didn't disarm it and she already knew it was here."

"You're still in trouble for moving it."

"Sorry."  He went to tell the guys that he had moved it, letting them fingerprint him just in case for a comparison sample.  When asked why the bomb had been planted he grinned and referred them to Gibbs, then escaped back inside to finish his dinner. It was going to be a good night.

The End.