Ends and Rewinds.

Tony answered his desk phone.  It was after normal quitting time and he had been finishing a report so he'd have less to do the next day in case they got a new case.  "DiNozzo."  He blinked and leaned back.  "Father."  He listened and checked the datebook on his computer, ignoring the look Kate was sending him.  "If I can.  I can't promise.  I'm on call this weekend.  That means I have to be able to get back here within regulation time of forty-five minutes."  He nodded and took that down.  "If I can, Father.  No, I hadn't known you heard about anything I did.  Sure.  I'll see you both then.  Have a nice night."  He hung up and his forehead hit the desk.  He dialed Gibbs by feel, getting his cell.  "Boss, my parents are coming to town Saturday evening.  No, to see me and have dinner," he said bitterly.  "He said seven, we'll be in town, but ...."  He smirked.  "Thanks, Boss.  No, if I need to escape, I'll text Abby and she'll call in an emergency.  I'll warn them again that I'm on call.  No, I don't have a clue why.  They said they heard about a few of my cases."  He sat up and looked down the aisle, then shook his head and grimaced.  "It's a possibility, Boss, but I don't know yet.  Thanks."  He hung up and put his head back down.  "Is Xander still here?"

"He went to pick up the dry cleaning," she reminded him. "You're supposed to get dinner."

"Uh-huh."  He saved his report and got up, grabbing everything he'd need to go home and pounce his mate.

"Tony, he was probably trying to help," she said quietly.  "You had semi-decent parents and he probably didn't understand."

"No, I get that."  He walked out, going down to his car and heading home.  He even got dinner.  He walked in and slammed the door, heading back to the kitchen.  "Xander?" he called.

"Bedroom.  Be right down."

Tony tossed the bag on the kitchen table and headed up there, pouncing his mate and holding him down so he could stare into his eyes.  "You wrote my parents?"

"I wrote that one cousin, Meredith," he admitted sheepishly, looking bashful.  "I just wanted them to realize what they were giving up.  Are they mad?"

"No, they're coming down for dinner this weekend."  Xander opened his mouth so he covered it, letting one wrist go.  "You shouldn't have."

"You're mad," he sighed behind the hand.  "I'm sorry."

"It was fairly intrusive, Xander."

"I was trying to help!  I didn't mean to make you angry."

"I'm not that angry, just upset."  He let him go, pulling him up to sit and face him.  "What did you tell him?"

"That you were a great guy and in your last two cases you saved five lives.  That you were mentoring two newbies on the team and were an agent the others looked up to.  That you were well-respected and liked, and that if she had any sense she'd try to be happy with the man you are."  He looked down at his lap but Tony made him look at him again.  "I really didn't mean to make you angry."

"I'm not angry," he promised calmly, kissing him on the forehead.  "I'm upset that you broke in the middle of that very ancient fight.  I'm disappointed that you broke into my stuff to get her address, because I know she didn't give it to you, and I'm upset that you decided I couldn't make this decision on my own."

"I didn't want...."

"Quit.  Now."  Xander slumped and nodded. "They made their choices and it was their job to cover for their mistakes, not mine to reach out.  For all I cared, they could stay away."

"But it hurts you each time you talk about them.  At least this way you get some closure."

"Have you been watching those talk shows again?"  Xander scowled.  "Sorry, it sounded like it.  I didn't need closure.  I had made peace with their problems with my life.  Now they know where I am and they're going to nag."  Xander slumped again, holding his head this time, nodding a little bit.  "Think about it, Xander, how would you feel if I wrote Giles to make him understand you."

"It might make him get the stick outta his ass," he mumbled.  He looked at him. "I'm sorry."

"We will never have to have this conversation again, right?"  Xander shook his head.  "And you're never going to do it again?"

"They got a new one sent out today."  Tony groaned. "This one was about graduation and what happened."

Tony patted him on the head.  "I understand why you did it.  It's still not making me happy.  Forget I have a family, Xander.  Just like you can forget yours most of the time.  The team is my family and they actually give a damn about me. Okay?"  He nodded and Tony gave him a hug.  "Now, go eat.  I got you tacos tonight.  I've got to go finish that report before we get a case and I can't."  He kissed him on the top of the head and got up, heading back to work.  About halfway there he stopped at a redlight and realized if he went there, he'd end up staring at the computer, so he cut someone off and headed in the other direction instead.  Gibbs was home tonight, he was usually home and working on the boat.  He found his house with the lights on and got out, heading up to knock on the door.  Gibbs opened it and looked at him.  "He wrote my cousin to tell him what a good person I am," he said, walking in.

Gibbs shut the door.  "Of course he did.  You had what he didn't, a decent family."  He headed back down to his boat, going back to his new plank.  "He wrote someone there so they could appreciate you the way he does.  He thinks it's a matter of perception on their part."

"Kate told you?"

"She figured it was something like that.  After all, the kid loves you, DiNozzo.  Of course he's going to do stuff to make you happy."

Tony sat on the stairs to watch him work.  "He said he wanted me to have closure."

"More talk shows?"

"No, not that he'd admit to.  Maybe it's a holdover from the last one."

Gibbs looked back at him, then got back to work.  "Have you noticed the kid has regrets and doesn't dwell on them like a normal person?"

"Yeah, and ....   You think he's thinking that my parents are one of mine and life's too short in his opinion to dwell?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Then why my *cousin*?  He wrote to her."

"She came down to threaten him away from you."

"Which showed she still cared and therefore would be able to handle it if it should be handled," he finished, shaking his head.  "I'm seriously pissed at this, Boss.  He apologized every other sentence."

"Of course he did. You're the one good, solid thing in his life, DiNozzo.  After all, he loves you."  He turned to look at him.  "The kid would rather die than see you hurt.  That's why he got in front of you during the last assault we had to go in on during an arrest."  Tony shuddered at that.  "He's so deep in it that he'd die for you to make sure you lived.  So why are you here?"

"Because if I don't talk this out, I'm going to end up snapping at him."

"True, and he'll be hurt.  The same way you are at the moment.  Even though he'll probably blame himself."  Tony looked confused.  "Kate pegged to it the other day.  His only regrets are personal.  Not professional, not slaying, personal.  He'll do what he has to do professionally, including dying, and he considers slaying like his second job.  But it's the personal things that'll end up haunting him. She's also noticed it's occasionally like a case of multiple personalities between his work and personal lives.  At home, he's the goofy kid and the concerned lover.  At work he's this guy who does what he has to do and he jokes some but nothing like off duty."

"That's common in rookies."

"Yeah, it is.  She realized that too.  She said she had an even worse case of it and her boss made her break it.  Now, realize that we're going to have the Initiative trials starting this week.  We're all off official duties until Friday and then we get all weekend on-call.  So, when you're there I'll try not to call unless I have to.  I'll let the kid fill in."

"He might jump in front of you too," Tony said bitterly.  He slumped some.  "I'm not wrong to be pissed at him, right?"

"I would be, but I wouldn't feel betrayed by it.  It's an act of love and compassion on his part.  Usually done by girls."  He got back to work.

"Which he was raised by," he agreed dryly.  "I asked him how he'd feel if I wrote Giles to explain Xander to him and he said it'd take the stick out of his ass."

"It might but I doubt it'd help.  Giles is a book person.  He's idea and thing smart, not people smart.  The kid is people smart and doing smart.  He's an action guy and the more philosophical an outlook you've got, the less you understand action oriented people."  He looked back at him.  "You're usually people smart."

"I know."  He rubbed his forehead. "I wanna be so pissed and if I am, it'll only hurt him.  But if I'm not pissed then I seriously don't care that he broke into my things to find her address."

"I doubt he had to do much breaking, DiNozzo."

"Point, but it's still an invasion of privacy."

"Put it in the larger picture, DiNozzo.  Is this worth losing him over?"  He set a nail in and then looked back at the quiet man.  "Having to think about it?"

"No," he admitted, shaking his head.  "It's not.  He was trying to help."

"Then what're you doing here?  He's got to be torn up and thinking that he made you leave."

"I told him I was going to finish my report."  He stood up and headed back up the stairs.  "Thanks, Boss."

"Welcome.  Next time call Kate directly," he called after him.  "Have her explain the kid to you," he muttered.  Not that he wouldn't be pissed if the kid had done it to him, but the bigger picture it was an act of love and trying to help.  Those usually got forgiven after a few fights.  It was the thoughtless actions you had to worry about.  Things like taking Tony's spot in the assault line so he couldn't get hurt.  Because he just knew some day it'd come down to a decision of which one would die and Xander would volunteer.  Even if they did break up.  He set the next nail and let it drift out of his mind.  He'd deal with it when it happened not before.


Tony walked back into the townhouse and headed up the stairs.  Everything downstairs was dark and quiet.  He found Xander curled up in his customary little ball but not snoring so he knew he was still awake.  He took off his clothes and put them where they needed to go, then climbed in behind him, forcing him to uncurl enough to get an arm around his stomach and pull him back.  "I understand why you did it and I'm still disappointed but I'm not angry, Xander. I didn't leave you."  Xander shrugged.  He moved closer.  "Gibbs put it into context for me. You were trying to help and I like that you thought I needed the closure, but I'm good with what happened."

"Then you'd have told him no," Xander said quietly.

Tony considered that, then nodded.  "True. I would have.  So I'll go to dinner, we'll argue and I'll come back to you that night and tell you how badly it went."  Xander shrugged again.  "You don't think so?"

"Your mother's how old?"

Tony considered it.  "Nearly sixty.  That's why she's begging for grandchildren so often.  Oh, you think she's starting to regret now."  Xander turned over and nodded, hugging him around the chest.  "She might.  She might not.  I didn't see any during the wedding but she wasn't exactly around me then.  She did watch me a lot," he admitted.  "I thought she was trying to see if I was interested in anyone there."  He shrugged and cuddled closer.  "I'm not mad that you did it, just that you went behind my back and you got into my things that way.  That you broke my privacy.  That's what I'm upset about."

"I'm sorry."

"I understand why you did it, but never again, right?"  Xander nodded, relaxing against him.  "Thank you.  And no more taking my spot behind Gibbs.  That's my spot.  Junior agents always take the rear."

"I'm a better shot than you."

"So?  It's still my spot to be behind Gibbs that way.  I promise, if I get hurt you can fuss."

"I don't want you to die," he said quietly.

Tony sighed.  "I could be electrocuted making toast, Xander.  Or on the roads.  Or even sitting in the office.  Hell, I could be poisoned by some of your cooking attempts."  Xander grimaced at that, he could feel it. "You can't be paranoid about that. That's why they don't let couples work on the same team."

"If I knew you were going and wasn't there to watch your back, I'd worry more."

"Which was probably what Gibbs saw and realized that you could keep yourself from super fussing at scenes over hangnails, that's why you're still on the team.  But you can't take my spot.  If something happens during an assault, you're going to be the first medical person on site.  Even if Ducky's right there, he's going to go to Gibbs first." Xander looked up at him.  "Take your rightful spot.  I earned mine.  You move up in the line by earning it."  Xander nodded.  "So no more jumping in front of me.  Or else the director might make you move."  Xander nodded again.  "You're doing good controlling those urges, but you've got to master that one last level.  You also have to do it without developing true MPD, like you're heading.  You can be yourself at work."

"I'm unfocused at home.  That doesn't belong on the job and the victims and cases don't deserve anything less than my best."

"You can do your best and still joke and play."

"I do."  He put his head back down.  "But I still have to be somewhat serious too.  Gibbs expects me to be serious and give each case my full attention and my full focus, which I should."

"You should, but you can still be yourself.  You noticed the rest of us are the same person on and off the jobs?  Even Abby?"

"I'm still new, Tony.  Give me a break."

"Fine.  Just relax at work. You're too tense.  Like you're about to snap."  He stroked down his back. "Next week are the hearings."

"I heard.  They're holding them inside the judicial rooms in the FBI building.  We'll have a meeting room in there to hang out in. They're going to be totally closed and we can be honest because the transcripts are going to be buried so deeply no one's going to hear about them existing."

"Who briefed you?"

"Fornell.  He called.  He wanted me to wear a vest in and out each day.  Plus warned me not to pull any stupid shit while I was in the building."

"That might be a good idea, yeah," he agreed, smiling a bit.  "Why does he hate you?  It's so much worse than what he hates Gibbs for, which is being good but a bastard and a hardass.  What did you do to him?"

"We were on the outdoor range and training fields.  One of the other guy's ex-wives came in waving a gun and I basically got her down and out because I had been running a few minutes late."

"So, you did your job?" he asked, looking confused.

"I usurped his authority to do that as the senior agent on the field that day."  He pulled back to look at him.  "He was in the group already so he was already being held hostage.  He hated that I took a piece of his power for that minute."

"Ah.  Then you kept proving you were just as good, if not better in some areas, than he was and he feels threatened."

"Tobias is nearing retirement age," he said dryly.  "They thought I could be his student, the one who he could look upon and smile in fatherly pride.  Then they figured out I'm not going to the same agency, I do better in heavy violence situations, and I really did need the mentor, but I got his enemy as one instead.  Plus I usurped."

"And five strikes later," Tony joked.  Xander nodded and put his head back down. "Hopefully he'll realize he's being an idiot before we have to work together again."

"I think he's looking for something to make the lasting impression for his name sometimes.  I told him I thought that over beers one night after a the second retrieval/assault sim.  He told me I had no idea what I was talking about and I was a bastard, just like Gibbs.  That I deserved Gibbs and he deserved to be tortured by having to retrain me and probably teach me manners and how to deal with people.  And I was nice about it, he asked me what I thought of his training.  I added that at the end after a 'but', after I said some really nice stuff too because he did try to keep calming me down a lot."

"If he actually sat there and watched you work, I think he'd understand," he offered. "Remember, only your sidearm at the FBI."

"I'm still using the concealment spell on that and my earrings."

"Okay, that's fine.  You'll have to unconceal your sidearm and don't let them find anything other than a pocket knife.  Remember, the metal detectors are used even on us."

"Point.  And hey, I've still got the nipple ring too."  Tony snickered at that.  "Would you help me get my vest tomorrow?"

"Yup.  You need that.  Whose did you use last time?"

"A spare Gibbs found.  He yelled for nearly an hour when he found out Morrow and I don't have one yet."  Tony poked him.  "No one told us to go get one or where.  Her father heard him yelling from MTAC and called down to ask what was wrong.  When he found out he took her that night."

"We'll go tomorrow before work."

"We're due in at eight."

"They open early.  I know the person.  I've had to replace two.  I had a broken strap and the other ended up getting hit with some liquid nitrogen by accident, fortunately I wasn't in it."  Xander gave him a squeeze.  "Remember, I get to do some of the dangerous stuff too and I've been doing this longer, Xander.  You're my trainee, you're not my bodyguard."

"Yes, Tony," he agreed, yawning a bit.  "Did you get the report done?"

"No, I changed directions halfway back and went to talk to Gibbs."  Xander nodded, snuggling in and closing his eyes.  Tony smirked at him as he fell asleep.  It had been sweet but the wrong idea.  As long as Xander didn't break his privacy again, he now was trained better.


Tony looked over at his boss that Saturday, then cleared his throat.  "Boss?"  Gibbs looked up and he gave a pointed look at the clock.  Gibbs winced. "I can cancel."

"I'll have Harris if anything happens.  Go.  Before they come here."  Tony nodded.  "Besides, we're waiting and I hate waiting."

"Call me if we get a break and I'll leave."

"I've got Harris and Morrow.  Go."  Tony nodded and left, going to his dinner date with his parents.  He looked at the two trainees.  "Xander."  Xander looked at him, looking upset.  "You two worked that out, right?"  He nodded silently.  "Good.  The other stuff?"  That got another nod.  "I thought you had, just making sure. Morrow, I think you need more training with Kate on the range anyway.  You keep trying to jump in the lead spot."  She blushed and nodded, looking down.  "We're doing that tomorrow if this is done."  They both nodded. McGee gave him a look. "Yes, you too."

"Of course, Boss.  As long as it's not boxing, my jaw's still sore from the last time."

"Fine."  He got back to work trying to find the kidnaped wife.  He still wasn't sure she was really kidnaped and not playing her husband, there were too many neat bows on the endings already.


Tony walked into the restaurant, letting the check girl take his jacket.  "Keep that handy," he said quietly. "I'm still on call."  She nodded and he turned his phone to vibrate, then up to ring at its most quiet ring.  He walked up to the host and nodded.  "DiNozzo?"

"This way, sir."  He led him back to the back table, handing him a menu. "Have a good evening."

Tony nodded at his parents.  "Hi."  He sat down and put his menu aside.  He knew what he liked to eat here.  He'd glance later to make sure it was still there.  "So, why the meeting?"

"Like I told you on the phone, son.  We got a letter from someone."

"I know who sent it to Meredith."  He looked stunned and Tony shrugged.  "I realized who sent it when you mentioned it, father," he said calmly.  "He wanted me to have some sense of peace.  It was a thoughtful motive on his part."

"The boy that she came down to threaten?" his mother asked quietly.  He nodded.  "You're involved with him."

"I'm very serious about him. I'm with him more often than I am at home and if he had bigger closets I'd probably move in with him."  She looked stunned at that.  "Xander loves me, mother. That's why he wrote.  He thinks this rift causes me pain and he wanted me to have some closure and healing.  So, how is the rest of the family?"  He glanced at the menu, then at his silent parents.  "They're all dead?"

"No," his father said.  "Are you all right?"

"Technically I'm on break from a case."  His father looked stunned.  "We're not so sure she didn't kidnap herself but Xander's taking my spot for a few hours so I can do this."

"Oh.  Um, he said you save a lot of people."  Tony nodded.  "He mentioned five in two cases."

"True.  Since then we've had three homicides, six thefts, and an armed robbery through the office.  I've worked on two of the homicides, the armed robbery, and one of the thefts with my team."  The waiter came over to fill his water glass.  "Thank you.  Are we ready to order?"  His mother nodded and opened his menu.  "I'll have the number six, rare."  He handed it back.

"That looks good, I'll have that with the rolls instead of the potatoes," his father said, handing his over.  "Get us a bottle of wine."

"None for me," Tony added.  His father gave him a long stare.  "I'm not allowed to drink during a case, father.  It could blur my judgement and lead to one of my team members being killed, or me being killed."  That got a silent nod and he smiled at the waiter.  "I'll stick with water."  That got a nod.  "Mother?"

"Oh, I'll have the steak salad, well done.  My husband wants his medium."  The waiter nodded and gathered their menu then left them alone.  "You do dangerous things?"

"Life is dangerous, mother.  I have more chances to be killed driving to and from work than I do at work, but yes, now and then I am forced to pull my weapon and go into dangerous situations.  Not everyone cries and falls to their knees when they see Gibbs, yet."  He smiled at her.  "You'd like my boss. He's a former Marine, keeps us all in line.  He's taught me a lot about being a better officer than I was before.  Not that I was bad before, but I've learned a lot from him."  He took another drink of his water.  "So, you never answered, how is the family?"

"Your cousin Ingrid is expecting her second child," she said with a smile.  "They're hoping for a girl.  Your other cousin Simmy is off playing golf in Florida at the moment with her spouse.  They're on a couple's retreat to sand down his bad habits again."  Tony nodded at that.  "Perhaps her mother should've had him checked out, even though she protested, but it's clear she loves him.  And he did sign the prenuptial agreement readily enough."

"I don't have to worry about that," Tony assured her.

"You could come home, son," his father reminded him.

"No, father, I meant I'd be signing one for Xander's benefit.  He's got money.  He inherited from a very close and dear friend when he died."  His father's face fell.  "He's not worth a lot but more than enough to be comfortable.  He's got a very nice townhouse close to the club district."

"I heard he was a bartender," his mother noted.

"He didn't want to do anything stressful at that time but he wanted to work.  It was fun.  He got to laugh and chat with people while serving drinks at a goth club.  It suited him, the same as being an agent does now."

"Then he does work with you?" she asked.

"He decided, after talking with Gibbs, to go to the Academy to be with me. He's Gibb's trainee, the same as I was, and he graduated second in his class at that time.  Since it was a split class, he graduated tied for second overall."  His father looked impressed with that.  "Not too bad for a guy used to working with his hands."

"What did he used to do?" she asked.

"Construction.  He was subsisting until he figured out what he wanted to really do.  He made good money at it, but he got injured and decided to go toward more formal training."

"That poor boy.  Was it debilitating?"


"That had to of hurt," his father noted quietly.

"It did, but he's good with it now.  It doesn't bother him on the job."  He shrugged. "Xander's an asset to the team.  He's got a good feel for the cases and he's got good feel for the victims.  He's been working on some of our older, unsolved cases to train and to help close some of them.  He and our other trainee have been very helpful."  He took another drink of his water and the waiter came back to refill it, giving him a smile and a note.  He nodded his thanks and looked at it away from view, then grimaced. Kate was being helpful since Abby was asleep.  He put it in his pocket.  "Sorry, change of contact numbers for a few minutes."  He checked his phone, then put it back in his inner sport coat pocket with the note.  "How's the business, father?"

"Doing well.  We had nearly three dollars a share in dividends last year."


"How are your finances looking?"

"I make more than enough to live off of, save for my retirement, and do some very careful investing, plus I'm helping Xander learn," he admitted dryly, staring him down.  "I'm happy."

"I see.  You're happy that you nearly died three times in the last year?"

"Twice in the last year, father, whoever you got to do the background check miscounted months."  He looked stunned. "In one of those I was protecting a young girl that would have died if I hadn't been holding her to protect her with my vest.  Which was the only place I got hit.  The one to my upper arm was mostly a graze since the vest doesn't cover there for movement ability, and the fact that I nearly died of the flu three months back was something non-job related.  So, who did you have do it?  Someone in the FBI or a private detective?"  His father glared at him and he smiled. "I like what I do, father, and I do good work.  I'm happy with my job and how many people I help.  If you're not, then I'm sorry for your loss of a son.  I could care less."  He looked at his mother, who sighed. "I'm not changing, mother, and it's going to be a very long time before Xander or I even think about children.  He's just getting settled into his career and I'm not sure I want any."  She looked heartbroken.  "Even then, he'd probably have us adopting instead of using a surrogate.  That's the sort of guy Xander is.  He gives a damn about others."

"Don't swear," his father ordered calmly.

"Father, I'm thirty-two and I've earned the right to say the word damn whenever I want to."  He looked stunned at that so he looked at his mother again. "I'll talk about Xander all you want, mother, but I'm not going to lie about it. He's a bad cook, he's a very sweet and instinctive guy who loves me enough to take a bullet for me if the option comes up, which we're hoping it won't.  He loves me more than enough to work with me on my self-defense skills and to protect me when one of his stalkers came after me.  He's a weapons person and he's good at being an agent.  He's horrible at spoiling me sometimes. He surprised me with a closet of my own the other day so I wouldn't have to keep bringing over and hauling clothes back to my apartment until I felt ready to move in with him.  He's a bit geeky, but he's got a fun sense of humor.  He dances very well, and he's thrilling in bed.  He's a very sweet guy to me and he makes me happy.  I'm all about being happy these days.  Our only fight to date was him writing Meredith to tell her what a good guy I am."  He took another drink of his water, continuing to stare her down.  "You aren't going to get me to leave him for whatever women you want grandchildren with.  You won't get me to leave him for anyone else.  You won't get me to leave him to come back to the family business or to go into something like law school, which you tried to push once.  I love my life as it stands and I love Xander.  He's part of my life."

"What about your family?" she asked.

"My team is my family.  They've been there for me when I had the plague.  I survived because of Gibbs ordering me not to die.  Where were you?"

"We weren't told," his father said coolly.

"See, Gibbs said he tried to call."

"You're going to believe him over me?"

"Yeah.  Gibbs has never lied to me."  His father looked stunned.  "So I'd ask your secretary and the housekeeper who took the message."  He looked at his mother again.  "In Gibbs I found a mentor who gave a damn what I thought and encouraged me to be the best I can be at the job I love.  In Kate I found a sister, just like I did in Abby.  In Marquez, who hasn't been there that long, I've found a close friend and running buddy.  In McGee I've found a friend, and someone to pick on.  In Morrow, I've found a trainee I can help mold into a brilliant agent, someone I'd feel comfortable taking my place when Xander takes over Gibbs' spot as the hardass on the job.  And in Xander I found a mate that moves me, thrills me, and frustrates me now and then because he had a worse family than being ignored by mine."  He looked at his father again.  "Is there anything else you want to know?"

"Your mother's sick, son," his father said quietly.

"Then I'm sorry, mother.  Can I help?  Bone marrow?"

"Would you come home?"  He shook his head.  "To visit?"

"To visit when I could.  I'm on-call every third weekend and I can't leave the city.  I'll write more often.  If you need bone marrow or blood I'll gladly give it, but I'm not giving up my life to move back.  Not even for you, mother."  She nodded, looking down.  "I'm sorry.  I love my life."

"She is your mother."

Tony looked at him. "I know that.  I've heard about her labor with me many times, father.  Me moving back home won't make her any happier and it won't make her not sick.  It'll probably end up making her feel worse when I get depressed because I'm on sabbatical.  How would that help her?"  He looked at his mother.  "What is it?"

"Breast cancer."

"It's often treatable from what I've seen in Ducky's journals.  They're saying it's about ninety percent survivable. I can ask him for a recommendation of a good clinic if you need one."  She shook her head.  "Then I do hope you get better, mother, and if you want me up for a visit, just call."  He pulled out his wallet and handed her his card.  "That's my cell if you need it."  She smiled and tucked it into her purse.  "Are you in treatment?"  She nodded.  "Then I do hope you get better."

"Thank you.  I would like grandchildren someday."

"Maybe in a few years, if Xander and I are still together, we'll talk about adopting one."  She smiled at that.

"What about the family name?" his father asked.

"What do I care, father?"  He looked at him.  "My kid'll be just like me.  I doubt he'll go into the family business.  I have cousins and a niece who would love to if you asked them instead of demanding them.  At the wedding, one was planning on asking to see you about coming to work for the business when she graduated. You have heirs.  Besides, Xander's last name is easier to spell."  His father glared at that and he looked right back.  "I'm sure we'll come to a compromise on that.  Or you could ask Annabelle's son to take your last name."

"Anthony," his mother hissed.

"I'm too old to be socially polite about that, mother.  He's not the first guy who had a kid with his mistress," he shared.  "Really."  He looked at his father again.  "You know, Xander had a friend who said she could figure out how to let men have children, even down to the hormone cocktails they'd have to take to pull it off.  Before she died, she offered me that chance."  His father's face turned purple.  "Unless I take her successor up on it, we're probably going to adopt."  He looked at his mother again.  "If you're staying overnight and we're done with the case, I can bring Xander to meet you tomorrow for brunch.  I have the feeling we're going to break the case in the middle of the night tonight, sometime.  That way you can meet him and grill him."

"I wouldn't mind, son.  Where is he right now?"

"Probably at his desk, unless they found out where the victim is and went to free her.  At that point, he's right on Gibbs' six and guarding him, like the good backup he is."

"He sounds dangerous, son.  Are you sure he won't get violent with you?"

"Mother, he hates to hurt people.  He's had to in the past but he hates it.  I had to help him through his first shooting a few weeks back."  She nodded, swallowing at that.  "The lucky cops never have to draw their guns," he said quietly, "but the ones who do great things have to do it at least monthly," he offered. "Xander's got it in him to be a great agent.  He's got a spectacular mind for his areas.  He sees links that none of the rest of us catch first time through in the cold cases he's been training with.  He's an asset to my team and my life.  He apologized for making me wince while working out a cramp in my leg a few days back."

"Are you keeping him under your thumb?" his father asked.  "I know that most of the people like you two seem to play around."

"No more so than the average among heterosexual couples father."  He looked stunned at that.  "Actually, I used to be the playboy.  Xander draws more attention than I do, but I used to sleep around.  I had pretty good taste and an eye for beauty but it wasn't satisfying until I got with him.  And I took that very slowly and carefully."

"How old is this young man?" his mother asked.

"Twenty-three, almost twenty-four."  He smiled as the waiter came back with their food, shifting so his plate could be put down.  "Gracias," he said quietly.  "Another beautiful job."  The waiter smiled and nodded, then refilled his water again and left.  "He's from near LA.  He's not much one for school but he learns what interests him and he does it well.  Right now he's trying to take cooking classes and failing miserably most of the time."  She smiled a bit at that and ducked her head to get her food ready to eat.  He cut into his steak, making the first few cuts.  "He burns cookies but he made this really great nut crusted lamb roll with stuffing to celebrate getting second highest in his Academy class and this sinful dark chocolate cake with strudel icing.  It was fantastic."  He smiled at her before taking a bite, savoring it.

His phone went off and he pulled it out to look at it, swallowing quickly. "Yeah, Boss?"  He listened.  "I'm about halfway there, meet me with a vest. I'm fine with how I'm dressed.  Bring my vest."  He hung up and looked at the waiter.  "Box," he mouthed.  "Now."  He nodded and got one so he transferred his dinner into it. "Sorry, but the case just broke and I'm needed on the retrieval."  He kissed her cheek, then clapped his father on the shoulder. "I'll bring him by for brunch tomorrow, mother.  The usual hotel?"  She nodded.  "That's fine, call about a half-hour before you want us there."  He sealed the box and put down his usual money and tip then walked out, nodding back at the table. "I left it there," he told the waiter when he walked past him.  It felt really good to climb back into his car and head off.  He'd rather be shot than have to do that again.  And having brunch with her was a fitting punishment for Xander writing them.


Xander looked up from sliding on his socks, looking at him.  "Are you sure she wants to meet me?"

"Yeah, she looked happy when I offered her brunch."  He fixed his tie then looked at Xander, rolling his eyes at his slowness.  "Xander."  He sighed and got up, finding one of his suits to put on, letting Tony get his tie like usual.  "Your car or mine?"

"Mine, that way you can stab me and I can stitch myself up again," he said grimly, sliding into his shoes and bending down to tie them.  He was pinched and jumped, looking at his mate.  "Hey!  I have to sit on that!"  Tony grinned so he kissed him.  "You did good last night."

"Thank you.  So did you."  He straightened out his tie.  "Hair, dear, and concealment on the earrings."  His sighed and nodded, doing that and then fussing with his hair.  Then he put on his weapon and followed Tony out.  He even handed over the keys to him.  "Thank you.  I don't know if my father will be there or not.  Lock the door."  Xander went back and locked the house, then came back and got in, buckling up.  "Did you know Gibbs complains about how you drive?"  He backed out of the spot on the street and headed off to the hotel his mother had chosen.  It didn't take that long so they were actually a few minutes early.  He smiled at the hostess.  "My mother is here?  DiNozzo?"  She nodded and led them to the table she had reserved, leaving their menus.  He looked at Xander. "Coffee, Xander.  No soda."

"Of course not," he sighed, shaking his head. "They have iced coffee so I'll be fine."  He looked at him. "The buffet?"

"That's usually what I get."  He smiled and stood as his mother came in, poking Xander.  He stood up and smiled, shaking her hand.  "Mother, this is Xander."

"I had hopes since he was sitting so close to you."  She sat down and they sat.  "Very nice manners, young man."

"Tony beat them into me," he said with a grin.  She chuckled and smiled at him.  "We were going to have the buffet.  Should I get the waiter?"

"No, dear, not yet."  She put her purse under her chair and looked at him.  "So, my sister's daughter came to see you."  He nodded.  "She said you told her to ask Anthony about his feelings?"

"It's not my place to declare his feelings or make decisions about his feelings. I know how I feel about him but mind reading isn't among my many skills," he said with a small grin. "At that time, Tony was taking things very slowly and I leave it up to him to announce to his family and others how he feels about me."

"I can understand that but it sounds like you're insecure in his affections."

"To be totally truthful, he had to pound that into my head too," he admitted.  "Then again, I was raised by some fairly uncaring female friends who did quite a number on my self- esteem.  Tony was taking things very slowly until I was ready to be with him and had healed over most of it."

"I see.  Are your friends here or back in California?"

"They're buried there."

"I'm sorry."

"So am I.  Tony wanted to yell at one of them a few times recently when I put polkadots on over a striped shirt."  She chuckled at that as well, a socially polite one.  "He waited until I was ready and that meant a lot to me."

"I understand about that.  I nearly had to beat his father over the head for a proposal."

Xander shrugged.  "I'm not ready for that yet.  Living together whenever we get the closet situation straightened out, but nothing more legal yet."

"Closet situation?" she asked, sounding a bit timid.

"He took me shopping and filled mine so there's no room for his clothes."  She smiled at that, shaking her head. "I'm much too open most of the time to care what people think about me.  You either like me or you don't.  You'll find I'm a fairly blunt person.  Gibbs appreciates that about me."

"He does," Tony agreed dryly, smirking at him.  "It gives him someone else to growl at suspects with.  McGee and I play good cop for him most of the time.  Pretty soon you'll have his 'tell me now or else' stare down pat."  Xander gave it to him and he shivered.  "Never mind, you have it."  He patted him on the back and smiled at the renewed happy grin. "We need to finish buying the dresser, Xander."

"There won't be room for us to walk, Tony."

"There will be."

"You could find somewhere a bit bigger," Tony's mother offered gently.

"I like the present townhouse," Xander assured her.  "A friend found it for me and I paid him back for it.  It's got everything I need but the closets are small and my training room takes up the larger room on the second floor.  I thought about adding a third floor but that'd take time and a lot of mess and inconvenience."

"How many rooms does your house have?"

Xander mentally counted.  "Six.  One bedroom, the other's converted into an area where I can workout and train."

"Oh.  What regimen do you use?  You look very fit."

"Sword practice.  Battle axe practice.  Some self-defense style fighting.  Some weights now and then when I want to think really hard about something."

"Sword?  You fence?"

"Not formally.  I know a bit.  Right now my favorite is actually a long claymore sword."  He smiled at the waiter.  "Is the iced coffee regular flavored today or some other?"

"We have raspberry and orange, sir," he said quietly. "Or plain."

He considered it then shook his head.  "I'll stick with milk.  Tony?"

"I'll have coffee.  Just bring the pot and an extra cup for him.  He hasn't had his morning fix yet," he joked.  The waiter smiled and nodded, taking that down.  "Two buffets for us."

"I'll have some tea and the special," she said, handing over her menu.  The boys handed over theirs.  "Thank you."  He nodded and walked off.  "You like to eat off buffets?" she asked Xander.

"I like to eat a wider variety of foods and this gives me a better choice for whatever I feel like at the moment.  Or as your son puts it, no one quite cooks like I eat sometimes."

"We all eat strange things now and then," she admitted gracefully.  "When I was pregnant, I had this desire for eggs all the time, poached with just the touch of vinegar in the water."

He nodded.  "A few months back I had this thing for turkey with banana peppers for some reason."  She smiled at that and he shrugged.  "My stomach wanted a bit of prompting apparently."  He saw someone come in and looked at them, then nudged Tony.  "Tobias," he said, nodding that way.  He looked at her.  "One of my trainers at the Academy.  He thought I was a smartass."  She blushed and chuckled so he grinned.  "He's not often wrong when I'm in a playful mood."

"I can tell.  Anthony said some wonderful things about your potential as an agent."

"I hope I can live up to his expectations.  It means a lot to me," he said honestly.  "His and Gibbs' opinions are the only ones that really count on the job."  She nodded at that and he noticed Fornell was coming over, letting out a small groan.  "Agent Fornell.  Off today?"

"A bit.  We've got a bad week ahead of us, Harris.  DiNozzo."  They nodded at each other.  "Ma'am, may I borrow Agent Harris for a moment?"

"If you want."

Xander stood up and pushed his chair in, following him off.  "That's my future mother-in- law," he muttered.  "What's wrong?"

"We have an idiot hunting with a sword, Harris."

"It's not me.  Do you need help identifying it?"

"No, I need to look at your collection.  Today.  I can get a warrant if I have to."

"You can look but it's going to be a few hours.  Or I can call Gibbs or Abby to let you in and let you peer at them.  I will warn you right now that all of them will probably test for blood due to training accidents and their former uses."  That got a nod.  "You can't think it's me."

"No, but it's someone who knows what they're doing.  A few little cuts and then one stab."

"You want me to look at it?  Bring me a scale picture and if you've made a cast I can compare it."  That got a nod.  "I'm good with that."

"The museum thinks it may be something longer, like a broadsword."

"There's places you can buy cheap knockoffs of those as replicas off tv shows, Fornell.  Do you have a metal sample?  That'll tell you age and composition.  That and the cast of the wound is your best bet unless you can find an eyewitness about any markings or carvings on the blade or handle.  I tell you what, can you give me three hours?  We can head home directly from here and I've got catalogs from the replica places and others in my desk.  Plus some professional antiques catalogs with some listed.  It'll give you a decent idea and you can look at my collection then."

"I can do that but I've got to make sure you don't lose me."

"That's fine, eat."  He shrugged, grimacing.  "I need to."  That got a nod. "Anything else?"

"No.  Well, where were you last night?"

"We had a kidnaping case and got done with it about one. I got back about two."

"The attack last night happened at eleven."

"I was on Gibbs' six at that time during a car chase of our supposed victim."

"All right.  I'll check to make sure of that.  Don't take too terribly long.  A few hours at most.  I could use a leisurely meal this week."

"Done."  He went back.  "Sorry about that.  He needs to look at my sword collection to compare against a recent case."  Tony looked at him.  "So we have to go home after this and then go dresser shopping."  Tony nodded at that.   "We still need my vest, Tony.  For tomorrow."

"Sure," he agreed. "While we're dresser shopping."  That got a smile and a nod.


"My personal bulletproof vest," Xander told her.  "I've been borrowing one but I need my own."

"Oh.  You have to buy those?"

"If you want something that fits you and only you, yes.  I could continue using one at the office but that means we don't have a spare in case someone needs one.  This way mine's always in my trunk."  She looked at him.  "Along with my EMT supplies."

"You're a doctor?"

"No, ma'am, I took the standard paramedic training a few months back before entering the Academy.  It's something that's often needed in the field to assess victims when we find one."

"Oh.  I hadn't realized."

"We have an ME who we work with but Xander's usually there before he is," Tony told her.  "He's rather impressive.  He had to bandage a knife wound to the throat a few months back on someone who tried to hold one of us hostage."

"Oh, dear.  Are they all right?"

"The hostage?  Of course."  Xander smiled.  "Just some bruising."  His phone rang and he got up and walked back to the window to answer it. "Harris."  He listened and smiled. "Hi, Ducky.  No, we're having brunch with Tony's mom, then I'm letting Fornell into my swords, and then we're picking up my personal vest, but we might be able to stop by afterward if you want."  He listened to the silence.  "Ducky?  Ducky," he called, checking his signal. "Ducky, answer me or I'm calling Gibbs."  He smiled at the genial old man answered him.  "Are you all right?"  He nodded.  "That's fine.  We can stop out for a late tea probably but I've got to pick up my vest with that trial this upcoming week.  Would that be okay?"  He smiled.  "Then we'll see you late afternoon.  Four, four-thirtyish."  He smiled. "You too, Ducky.  Kiss your mother for me."  He hung up and walked back.  "Ducky's mother wants us to come back.  She misses me," he said with a grin.  "I said I'd pop out for a late tea."  He'd keep Ducky's time lapse quiet for a moment until he could watch him and talk to him. "I said four or four-thirty."

"That's fine," Tony agreed, smiling at him. "It shouldn't take too long to find you a vest. You're a fairly standard size."

Xander nodded.  "I'm hoping they have the slimline ones like I saw at that weapons expo last month."

"Maybe but I'm not sure it'd work well enough," he said grimly.

"They shot a mini-cannon at it and it didn't dent; I checked the cannon over first for power and load.  I interrupted his spiel to check that."  Tony smiled at that. "It held."

"If they have one," he agreed.  He shook his head.  "Sorry, mother.  Xander, go get me something to nibble?"  He nodded and got up, going to get them breakfast.  "He doesn't mean to make you worry, mother."

"That's fine.  I realize your job is dangerous.  That's why I didn't want you to do it."

He nodded.  "I realize that too, but I make a big difference, mother.  I help people.  I wish you and father could accept me as I am.  I'm not going to change and I'm not going to follow him into the family business."

"I understand, son."  The waiter came back with her food, earning a smile.   Their drinks were put down as well.  She heard a crash and found Xander clutching his side.  "Oh, dear."

"Crap," Tony muttered, getting up. "Xander."  He looked him over, looking at the thing in his side.  "What is that?"

"It came out of the kitchen."  He pulled the fork out and handed it to him, shifting some.  Fornell and the manager came over.  "I'll be okay.  I just need to apply a bandage."

"I can call a paramedic," the manager offered.

"I am a paramedic," he offered dryly, wincing as he shrugged.  "Let me get a bandage out of the car.  Tony, get me something to eat with ham and I'll be right back.  Sorry to worry you.  He has good aim."

"He was throwing it at a busboy," he manager said, looking pained. "I'll make sure your food is paid for today, sir."

"Thank you.  That's very kind of you.  I'll be right back."  He went out to the car, having to come back for the keys, then went back out to get a bandage and head to the bathroom to apply it.  He found Fornell in there and nodded.  "See, and I didn't do it on purpose.  You can tell Gibbs I said that."  He took off his shirt and cleaned up the small wounds then applied the gauze and tape, putting the rest of the tape in his pocket.  Then he put back on his shirt and redid his tie, growling a bit when it looked dumb.

"Longer over twice then through the loop you just made, kid," Fornell sighed, rolling his eyes.  "Even Gibbs can tie a tie."

"I'm sure the Marines taught him, Tobias."  He did so and then straightened it out.  He cleaned up his small mess and rinsed the sink, then washed his hands and dried them before going back out.  "Sorry about that.  The chef had very good aim," he joked as he sat down again.

"That man is still following you," she said quietly.

"I'm one of the few people he knows with swords and one came up in a case," he said with a small grin.  "I'm both a resource and he's paranoid."  She nodded, leaving it there. He handed back the keys.  "There you go."  Tony gave him a questioning look and he shrugged.  "Two small holes.  They'll be closed by tomorrow.  He had really good aim."

"He did," Tony agreed, smiling at him.  "So, mother.  Did you banish father to the golf course?"  She nodded, smirking a bit. "Thank you."

"I figured you two weren't going to get along very well this morning either."  She looked at Xander. "Thank you for telling us how good he is, Xander."  He nodded his head at that and cut into his steak.  She smiled at him.  "Did he yell much?"

"Only that I got into his address book."  He ate a bite and chewed slowly, swallowing when she was still giving him an expectant look. "It was in my desk but it was his drawer.  It was a breach of privacy and he had a right to be upset about that."

"You don't know our addresses?"  He shook his head.  "Do you even know what state we live in?"  He shook his head.  "Then when he comes to visit next time you should come."

"If I can," he promised.  Meaning if Tony wanted him to.  "He's said you have a lovely garden."

"Yes, but I can't claim most of the work.  I simply enjoy it."  He nodded at that and ate another bite.  "Hungry, dear?"

"I missed dinner.  I was interviewing someone and on my way back to the office when the call came in to go back out.  I had a milkshake for energy."  She rolled her eyes at that.  "Usually he'd complain if I did that," he shared with a grin, making her smile at him.  "Speaking of food, Tony, you left a takehome box in the car."

"I'll get it when we go in," he promised. "It was cool enough last night to not worry about it."  He nodded and Xander ate another bite.  "Drink too, Xander."  He nodded and took a few good drinks before eating again.  Both their phones went off and he groaned. "Sorry, mother."  He answered since Xander was eating faster.  "DiNozzo and Harris.  No, we're having brunch, Boss.  Sure.  What about Fornell?  He needs in Xander's swords and stuff."  He nodded at that.  "Sure.  I'll let Abby do that too."  He hung up.  "We're needed.  Missing cargo coming off a ship.  Sensitive documents," he said quietly.  He smiled at his mother and patted her hand.  "Call whenever you want us to come up."  Xander finished his breakfast and his milk, then put down money for her food with a wink, wiping his mouth and grabbing his jacket.  He said something quietly to Fornell on the way out, getting a nod, and headed out at a jog to the car.  "Man, she's gonna be pissed," Tony said once they had driven away.  "That's twice now."

"It's not your fault."  He belched.  "I have a spare bag in the trunk of real clothes, including a pair of jeans."  He belched again and got out an antacid.  "Well, at least I'm not hungry."

"No, you can't be," Tony agreed, pulling through somewhere since he hadn't gotten to eat.  "You told Fornell Abby could let him look?"

"Yup." He pulled out his phone and called Abby.  "Baby vamp, you need to get with Fornell and let him into my place.  Let him look at the catalogs from the Highlander collection and all the others in the third drawer down on the left and watch him to see if he takes any.  No, some idiot going around with a broadsword stabbing people and I'm the only one he knows who has any.  Thanks, baby vamp."  He hung up.  "She'll do it once she gets his number."

"Good.  You can wear the spare tomorrow."

"It doesn't fit well. It digs into my armpits."

"We'll get you your own as soon as we can."  He changed lanes to take the onramp for the base, heading out there.  "Gibbs wasn't sounding like a happy camper.  How did you get your tie back on?"

"Fornell.  He told me how to do it."  He shrugged.  "I still say ties are evil."  He took it off and hung it over the headrest, then wiggled out of his jacket, putting that into the back seat folded in half.

"Good job."

"Thanks.  Do you think she actually liked me or was she pretending to like me?"

"She was warming to you.  Then you said how dangerous it was with the vest stuff and she's a bit chillier again but you wouldn't have gotten invited if she hated you."  He pulled up to the gates and pulled out his ID.  "Special Agents DiNozzo and Harris.  NCIS.  Gibbs ordered us to show up?"

"Does he have his ID, Agent DiNozzo?"

Xander looked.  "I'm the new recruit.  They're still working on mine."  The man smiled at that.  "Sorry.  Alexander Harris."  The man nodded and wrote that down before letting them on.  "I really do wish I had my ID and badge."

"I'll remind Gibbs that you and Morrow need them.  Fortunately Kate's riding with her at the moment.  She'll be able to get in."  He followed the flashing lights, ending up beside the loading docks.  He parked and got out, heading over to help.  "We're here, Boss, and he still doesn't have his ID or badge."

"And he won't until September," he noted dryly. "How was brunch?"

"Okay," Xander admitted.  "I flubbed and mentioned getting my own vest and the chef threw a fork at me."  He shrugged.  "Other than that okay."  Gibbs just stared at him.  "What?"

"He was throwing it at a busboy, Boss, and it hit Xander through the open door to the kitchen.  He's fine.  Just two little marks."

"Good.  We're waiting to be told what was *really* in that case."

Xander smirked at him. "You?  Wait?"

"Yes, me, wait.  The SecNav's in there.  Which means you may end up back at the office."

"Yay," he said flatly. "If I do, I'll almost start coffee so all you have to do it turn it on when you get there."  Gibbs smirked at that and he looked at the people coming out.  "That looks like voodoo stuff."  The man in the suit looked at him and he shrugged.  "Sue me, I know about that stuff."

"Intern Harris, this is the Secretary of the Navy."

"Pleasure to meet you, sir," he said, shaking his hand. He looked at the mask.  "Jamaican subset," he said, looking impressed.  The man stared at him, blinking a few times.  He grinned.  "It's a hobby."

"I see.  Come this way, Harris."  He led him back inside to the scene of where the documents had been stored.  "What do you make of this?"

Xander looked, walking carefully around the area of the stuff spread on the floor.  "Honor.  They're trying to return honor."  He glanced at him.  Then pointed at something.  "That's a Loa, a higher spirit they're communing with, and this mark is honor," he said, pointing at one.  "So I'm guessing the documents, if that's what the ash is, either insulted their honor or their release would dent their honor.  Or the Navy's honor, sir."

"How hard would it be to find someone who had done this?"

"Find someone that smells like cloves, cinnamon, and basil, sir, that's what's been burned in here.  They might smell a bit of sage as well."  That got a surprised look.  "Really.  Even showering won't take those smells fully off them."  He took another sniff and looked around.  "Blood."  He checked more carefully, including under the desk.  "Spots of blood.  I'd need a test to see if it's human or animal.  Usually the rites call for animal sacrifice."  He looked at him.  "I don't see a problem with processing the scene, sir, if you want Gibbs and the others."

"Is there any chance some of the documents might've survived."

He looked at the cone of ash that had been gathered.  "That depends on how much of that is paper residue and what and how many documents there were.  Pictures don't burn the same as paper and that's a large pile so that's a good bit of paper.  Probably a handful or more if it's just paper.  It could be imported ashes.  If it's to restore the honor of someone dead, it could be mixed in with their ashes. Or even the ashes of something that took away the honor, like a news story, and burning allowed the restoration of the honor."  He looked at him.  "You'd be able to figure out the shaman fairly easily by talking to some of the other guys.  On a ship you wouldn't be able to hide that you're praying to a Loa instead of God."

"Thank you, Intern Harris.  When do you officially start?"

"September, sir.  I just graduated."

"Congratulations then.  I'll get Gibbs."

That got a nod and Xander followed him out. Xander looked at Gibbs and the team.  "Blood just under the desk, the pile of ashes may not be *just* paper, the marks are to the Loa and about honor.  We're looking for a serious practitioner and they're gonna smell like sage, basil, cinnamon and cloves.  Gloves, Boss?"  A pair were handed over. "The blood could be human or animal, we'll need to test."

"Chicken?" McGee asked.  "Like in the movies and things?"

"Can be.  It depends.  If he was serious about the honor and it was his or her honor he was trying to regain, it could be the doer's blood.  It could be a higher animal's blood but that might lend significance to what they were nuded of honor about."  McGee nodded so he followed everyone inside.  "I think the cone was carefully gathered.  It might not be just paper, it could be some human remains if the one they're restoring it to is dead."  Gibbs looked at him.  "What?  You learn these things."

"I figured you did.  Where was the blood?"

"About three inches in front of McGee's right foot, under the desk."  McGee shifted back carefully and squatted down to take pictures with a flash and then get samples.  "Should I start questioning about the shaman?"

"Sure, take DiNozzo since it's so cramped in here," Gibbs ordered.

"Yes, Boss."  He walked out, smiling at the nearest sailor.  "Hi.  Would the ship's chaplain be around?"  He nodded and led him off.  Xander put the gloves into his back pocket for now and followed along.  He shook hands with the Chaplain.  "Father, it looks like a serious shaman of Voodun.  Particularly a Jamaican subsect.  Do you know anything about who might be a shaman on board?  They're probably the best person to find out who did the rite from."

"I don't keep track of the alternate faiths, Agent...."

"Harris," he said with a grin.  "I figured I'd start with you because you probably know at least one link in the chain and most of us hide fairly deeply."  The chaplain nodded.  "Any idea who we should ask?"

"Midshipman Pres."

Tony looked at their guide.  "Where would they be?"

"The bridge, sir.  She's on the comm most of the time."  He led them that way with a nod for the minister.  "He's a nice man."

"He seemed like it, he didn't sneer at the alternate faiths," Xander agreed, grinning at him. "Truth, kid, who's the shaman?"

"Pres is a Wiccan.  Voodoo?  None that I've heard but I'm new this tour, sir."  He was quiet for a minute until they got to the elevator.  "I'd say if Pres doesn't know you might want to talk to Kristen Toblin.  She's really heavy into Jamaican music and stuff.  She might know."

"That's a good lead, thank you, Midshipman," Tony said with a smile of his own.  He got a nod and a smile.  "Can you wait to lead us back?"

"Yes, Agent DiNozzo.  I was assigned to make sure you don't walk out a porthole."

"Always handy."  They came out onto the bridge and he headed for the comm area.  "Midshipman Pres?" he asked quietly. "The chaplain said we should talk to you because you might know who we should speak to."

"It wasn't one of us," she said, looking at the Commanding officer.  He nodded and she took them into the conference room.  "Why come to me?"

"It was a Jamacain shaman," Xander told her, looking at her.  "I figured the Chaplain might have an idea who was alternate and could give me a good link in the chain since we're usually so underground in closed environments."

"They Navy doesn't mind us....."  Xander gave her a long look and created a light, then banished it.  "Oooh, you know then."  He nodded.   "Voodoo?"

"Voodun.  Honor ritual.  Loa markings.  Looked like a Jamaican oriented rite."

"How do you know, sir?"

"I'm Nighthawk," he whispered in her ear.  She shivered and nodded quickly. "So, who?"

"Toblin.  She's a poser, but she's deeply into that area. Lives on the zombie movies when we're off the ship. I can't be sure if she practices it or not.  Did it look like a movie setup?"

Xander nodded.  "Pretty muchly precise. The circle was perfect, no wobbles or slightly off center. Candles set just so.  Looked like a set."  She nodded and rolled her eyes.  "Anyone else you can think of? Anyone smell like cloves and cinnamon today?  Or of cleansing rituals?"

"We have one Native American who did a cleansing ritual but that's definitely not him."  Xander nodded at that.  "I can only think of her.  She was cooking last night and we had this odd cinnamon torte."

"Thank you.  Would you know where we can find her?"

"I can have her brought to you, sirs."  Tony smiled at that.  "May I go?"

"Sure," Xander agreed, heading out with her.  He watched her talk to the commanding officer and him nod, then send someone off.  "We'll be back down there," he told the man.

"That's where I had her sent, Agent Harris.  Thank you for doing this so quickly."

"Not an issue.  I'd rather have it done quickly than have to chase someone all over the ship.  There's a lot of halls and portdoors for me to run into."  The man laughed and nodded so he walked off, heading back to the elevator.  "Back down there please."

"Of course, sir."  He got the elevator coming and waited until Tony got in.  "Do you think she's going to sacrifice people too?"

"No. Wrong tradition for that.  You're thinking Aztec."

"Oh.  Okay."  He nodded and shrugged.  "I don't know a lot about those sorta things.  I'm Baptist."

Xander grinned at him.  "I picked it up off my former librarian."  That got a shocked look.  "He was British."

"Yeah, I've met some strange British troops," he admitted.  The elevator opened and he walked them off.  "This way and watch the bulkheads, Agent Harris.  No sense denting yourself."

"Yeah, that'd be nice."  He walked back and looked at Gibbs, who stared hard at him. "Did she get here first?"

"No.  Where did you go?"

"To talk to someone who had a clue about who to talk to."

"The XO is sending her down, Boss," Tony told him.  "Midshipman Kristen Toblin."

"Good. We tested the blood spatter, it's animal."

"There's a rumor that the Captain's pet rabbit's missing," the guide said helpfully.

"We can see if it came from there," Gibbs agreed.  "Thank you, sailor."  He got saluted and the kid backed off.  He moved closer to Harris.  "Who did you talk to?"

"We went to the Chaplain, who gave me a link in the alternate paths group and she identified someone who knows this area and probably practices it.  We're all underground in these situations, Gibbs.  It's like dropping me in the middle of Oral Robert's home church and expecting me to endure on some ships.  On some it's not so bad, and I'm thinking this one's pretty good about lack of persecution, but the witch trials never really ended for some of us."


"He's right, sir," the sailor offered.  "My last command had two pagans run off the ship with bad evals for being funny and not Christian."

Xander nodded.  "Even with as advanced as we are, it's still around."  Someone coughed and he looked at the woman being led their way, walking over to sniff her. "She smells just like the altar."  The woman looked horrified.  "I'm Agent Harris, NCIS."

"Nighthawk," she whispered.  He nodded and smirked.  "I want a lawyer."

"Then I'd tell that to the boss," he said, nodding at Gibbs.  "He's the one who questions, he thinks I'm too nice."  She sniffled and nodded, allowing herself to be led over there.  He rolled his eyes and looked up.  "Thank you, Goddess," he whispered.

Tony smacked him on the head.  "Nighthawk?"

"Alternate name I go by now and then," he said tiredly.  "I'm surprised you haven't heard it before, DiNozzo."  She looked and then burst out crying.  "Ah, she's heard of us.  Good.  Remember, Gibbs can save you a lot of trouble."

She wiped her nose on the back of her hand and looked at him.  "What do you want to know, Agent Gibbs?  He said you're nicer than he is."

He frowned.  "Not always."  He walked her off with the MP to take a statement and then arrested her for destroying classified materials.  Some were still in her room so McGee went to gather that while Xander and Tony drove the prisoner back.  Since she was so scared of them, she wouldn't dare act up.  Gibbs looked up and said a silent prayer for patience for dealing with Harris.  Some days, he wasn't sure it was worth it, but at least he had the afternoon off now.


Xander stormed into the FBI labs the next morning.  "You took my shit without a warrant," he demanded.  Fornell backed away from him.  "How dare you!"

"I have one," he said, producing it.

"And you never presented it, asshole!  That means that search is illegal!"  Fornell took another step back.  "Now, go put my shit back."

"We're only comparing, Harris."  He raised a hand.  "I swear, we're only comparing.  It's a comparison sample.  Come look."  He got out of the way.  Not even Gibbs would brave a huffy Xander on a Monday morning.

Xander looked at the pictures, finding one to scale.  "That's not a claymore.  That's something else," he said, picking up one of his catalogs and finding it.  "It's one of those," he said, handing it to him. "I told you to fucking well bring me pictures and I'd identify it for you.  Instead you stole my shit! I do not need this this week!"  Fornell backed away again.  "Now, go put all but that one sword back there!  I want them hanging back up in their proper spots, without fingerprints, sweat, or other additives!"

"Calm down," Gibbs ordered as he walked in.  "What happened."

"He stole from my house and *now* he presents a warrant!" he said, hitting the table with a hand.

"That's illegal," he told Fornell.  "He hasn't had caffeine yet."  The agent swallowed and nodded.  "Take it home, put it back.  Now."

"It was for comparison, Jethro.  I know he didn't do it.  He had an alibi for two of the attacks."

"It still works better if you *ask*," Xander growled.  That got a nod and Fornell took another step back.  "Oh, yeah, back into the acid.  Watch me treat your back."  He moved more quickly.  He looked at the other agents standing around then carefully picked up his sword that was the proper model.  "You're looking for one of these," he announced.  "It weighs approximately twenty-to-twenty-five pounds, depending on age and material in the handle.  That means your person works with his hands.  He will have calluses like this," he said, holding up his palm.  "Even if he wears gloves he'll have them in the proper spots.  To properly wield this weapon, you've got to be able to swing and hold it steady.  So your boy is probably in construction, or something else where he has to lift a lot, every day.  We're not talking gym muscles, we're talking use muscles.  He's practiced a lot because there's no hesitation or nicks from the fighting.  You're looking at someone who knows their blade but has bad taste because your picture shows a fault up the front of the blade.  As does your mold."

He picked it up and pointed at it.  "That is an individual fault in the blade.  You can match that."  They all nodded.  He put the mold back down.  "Also, if he's working with one of these puppies, he didn't start here most likely.  Maybe he started with a rapier and fencing, maybe he started in SCA or something like that.  He's been taking routine practice.  Otherwise there'd be hesitation nicks on the arms.  The thrust would always be a two handed," he demonstrated at one, "which would create greater force.  Instead he's using it one handed to thrust."  He demonstrated.  "Got it?"  They all nodded. "Good.  Now go help Fornell put my shit back!"  They ran off.  He growled and walked off with his sword.  "I'm taking it with me," he told Fornell.

"We need to get it for measurements," he said.  "We'll come give it to you down in the court section."  Xander relented and handed it over.  "Thank you.  I'll have that lab tech person put them back."  Xander shook his head.  "Fine. I'll put them back."

"In order, wiped down for anything like sweat and fingerprints."

"I used gloves."

"Your cadets weren't."

"Point.  Thank you.  At least you learned that rule."

Xander smirked and walked off, letting the agent he had nearly walked over lead him back down there.  Tony gave him a look. "They took my shit!"

"Did he have a warrant?"

"Now.  He just tried to present it."

"Then that's illegal," Kate agreed.  She watched Gibbs come up the hall.  "Did you keep him from killing Fornell?"

"Barely.  And the cadets."  He popped Xander upside the head. "Next time, have a soda before you come in."  He handed one over.

"I couldn't.  My power line was cut this morning.  The only reason I'm awake is because Marquez called because I didn't pick her up yet."  He popped it open and gulped it straight down, calming himself until it worked.  "Does anyone else have a very bad feeling about this week?"  Everyone nodded.  "Good, its not just me being unhappy then."  He sucked out the last drops and found a trash can.  "Do we have to wait in the hall?"

"They're using the meeting room," Kate told him, looking him over. "Where's your weapon?"

"They wouldn't let me bring it inside since I don't have my ID yet."  Gibbs groaned.  "Yeah.  Fun, Boss, really."  He paced up and down the halls, trying to calm himself down.  He really didn't like this situation.  It was not one he wanted to be in.  He felt like he was in the enemy's fortress and trying to rescue himself.  He looked up when Kate was called in.  Then went back to pacing.

"Harris, sit," Gibbs ordered.

"Sorry, I'm a bit antsy."

Tony pulled him down and held him down. "Thank you."  He patted him on the back of the head.  Then he leaned closer.  "You're unarmed, aren't you?"  Xander nodded.  "No wonder you're nervous.  Gibbs, can't we get him and Morrow their ID's at all?"

"I'd call but they confiscated my phone," he said dryly.  "I'll talk to the director when we get back."  Xander nodded so he looked at him.  "They confiscated your gun?"  He nodded.  "Why?"

"No ID.  They have me listed as an intern and I had my permit, but they said I could only carry inside the building with my badge."

"I'll have that fixed by tomorrow.  I don't like this."

"I feel like I'm in an enemy stronghold," he complained, leaning against the wall and scowling.  Kate came out and sat back down.  "You okay?"

"Yeah, fine.  The same as usual."  She shrugged.  The bailiff came out and called for Tony, who went in.  "I thought he was going to call Gibbs next," she admitted.  "He linked me to Gibbs at the end to make a smoother transition."  She shrugged and looked at him.  "The defense is shrewd, Boss."

"Thanks for the warning.  Xander, just stay calm and answer in a way that they can't use against you.  Don't let them twist your words and don't stress or get angry.  Got me here?" Xander nodded at that, closing his eyes and forcing himself to relax.  "Hopefully this won't take all day."  He looked at the kid's outfit, then grimaced.  "Who dressed you?"

"Tony put this shirt with this suit," he said patiently.  "That's the way he moved my clothes around for me.  It's not like I would've worn this one.  I'd have worn my blue one."

"Blue?" she asked, looking at the olive green jacket and black pants.  "No."

"Navy," he assured her, looking at her.  "It goes."

"Not unless you're color blind, Xander."

"He said you made me goth when I went for my day at the CIA," he taunted.

"Yeah, so did Abby," she admitted dryly.  "I'm sure you looked cute."  He nodded.  "Did you ever fix the closet and dresser situation?"

"The one he likes would make it so we wouldn't be able to have the bed.  I'm still thinking about adding on another floor, even a half-floor.  Turn the bedroom bi-level and leave the bottom area a dressing room.  Either that or putting a salle in and turning the training area into a dressing room."  Tony came out and Gibbs was called.  He looked at him.  "Bi-level bedroom?" he offered.

"No."  He shook his head.  "I'm not one for lofts."  He sat down again. "I was told I'm on- call for them and to reappear here tomorrow."

"No wonder we're off the case list this week," Kate said dryly, rolling her eyes.  Gibbs came out fairly quickly and Xander was called. "Just relax," she reminded him.  "They're still human."

He grimaced and walked in there, heading to the stand.  The bailiff came forward with a bible and he hesitated but used it.  The judge cleared her throat. "Not Christian but it'll do."

"Thank you, Agent Harris.  Proceed."

"Do you swear to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

"I will tell the whole truth so help me Goddess," he agreed, then sat down.

"State your name for the record please," the judge ordered.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris.  Intern, NCIS."

"Intern?" the judge asked.

"I start formally this fall. I just graduated the academy."

"Oh, that's fine then.  Proceed."

The prosecutor stood up.  "Agent Harris."  Xander looked at him.  "Where are you from originally?"

"Sunnydale, California."

"The hellmouth."

"One of, yes.  Technically the longest lasting and continuously radiating hellmouth."  That got a nod.  He waited.

The prosecutor smiled at him for not adding anything else. "How did you come to know about this problem?"

"Buffy Summers, the called and current slayer at that time, moved into town and I became friends with her.  I overheard her talking with her Watcher, Rupert Giles, in the library at the school.  Then my two friends were taken.  When one wasn't saved I jumped in and told her I was going to save my friend."



"I see."  He moved closer.  "What was your relationship with him?"

"He was my best friend and helped me when my parents got unreasonably bad."

"Then you weren't romantically involved?"

"Not at that point.  Had he lived, it might have happened."  He crossed his legs and glared at the man, making him step back.  "Unfortunately he didn't live."

"Why not?"

"He was turned shortly after being captured by some of the vampire minions of an elder vampire only known as The Master.  By the time we found him, he was already changed and risen.  He was killed a few weeks later during an event known as The Harvest."

"I see. Who killed him."

"I did to save someone else's life," he said coolly, keeping a lid on his emotions.  "It wasn't *fun*," he said bitterly before the man could open his mouth.  "No one should have to do that."

"I see."  He stepped further away.  "Agent Harris, I know this is a difficult period of your life but we do need to know some facts."

"Go ahead and ask.  He wasn't there when the Initiative came to Sunnydale.  That happened shortly after graduation.  Probably because they heard about the Ascension at that event."

"Oh.  Your group wasn't aware of them before then?"

"Not that I was made aware of.  The first I heard about it was some commandos running around town helping us slow and defeat the demon population of hunters.  At that time it was also whispered that they weren't very discriminating and had taken some that didn't hunt or hurt others and even some very young demons, children."  He shifted slightly and looked at him.

"By graduation, what was your staking count of vampires?"

"I don't count that shit."  The prosecutor looked stunned.  "Serial killers count kills.  I'm not one.  I helped save lives from being ended by things that ate people.  I have never considered myself a serial killer."

"And yet, you ended their lives."

"Vampires aren't alive."

"They have souls."

"Only if you use magic to stick one back in," he said dryly.  The man looked horrified at that.  "There's one case, well, two now thanks to his own lust.  Two cases of vampires with souls, both are a curse to their owners.  One is the vampire known as Angelus.  He was cursed by a gypsy curse approximately a hundred and ten years ago if I remember correctly.  At one point in time he slipped it and it was restored by my former group.  The other, known as Spike, thought he felt love and for that love went to Africa and begged a higher primal demon to grant him one so she'd love him back.  As far as I know, when he was resurrected it came back with him."  He crossed his legs in the other direction.  "The vampire virus changes the cells and releases the soul, allowing in the demonic kernel of energy that reanimates and fills the body.  That's how they're technically considered alive since they've moving and talking.  That's also how they change from a human look to the vampire's demon facade."

"I see."  He blinked a few times.  "Agent Harris, you were how old when you staked your best friend?"

"Sixteen.  Before you ask, I'm almost twenty-four."

"Oh, I see.  So you're considered a long-term veteran."

"No, I'm considered a Watcher now since I was named over the local hellmouth when it was opened and I had the duty to help the girls here."


He rolled his eyes.  "Did you do no homework?" he demanded.  The judge coughed and he looked at her.  "Your honor, this has been known about.  For quite a while."

"Explain it to those of us who got shocked by this case please, Mr. Harris."

"Sure.  First, yes, there's only supposed to be *a* girl. But I revived Buffy Summers when she was drowned, making it two slayers instead of one by accident.  Then later, when the hellmouth was coming open due to the First Evil, that reason that Sunnydale fell in, Willow Rosenburg did a spell to activate all the slayers worldwide.  At one point we had over thirty of them training with us.  I had the main girl when this hellmouth opened and then found another one here, and worked with her to train her so she wouldn't die.  Then they managed to switch the hellmouth back to the old one before this one went rogue and started to poison the people with the energy it was radiating."

"Oh, okay."  She nodded.  She looked at the prosecutor.  "Is this pertinent?"  The door opened and someone came in.  "This is a closed trial."

"He's bringing me my sword, your honor," Xander said, getting up to take it.  "Thank you. Was it cleaned?"  He got a head shake and a towel.  "Thank you."  The agent ran and he went back the sword comfortable in his hands. "Special Agent Fornell needed my sword to make a comparison to a recent sword attack."  He sat down and put it across his lap so he could wipe the blade and handle down.  "I can talk and do this."

"Is that sharp?" the defense attorney asked.

Xander looked at him.  "It doesn't do much good to defend yourself against something trying to rip your head off if it's not," he said blandly.  "How fucking dumb are you?"  He rolled his eyes and looked at the prosecutor.  "Go on. I can wipe sweat and fingerprints and think."

"Um, sure.  So you never kept count?"  Xander shook his head.  "Did anyone?"

"I don't know," he admitted.  "I'm sure there's an approximate number in my dossier in Wolfram and Hart's files.  It may not be correct but I don't know.  If I had to estimate, maybe four hundred by now?"  He shrugged.  "Sunnydale had more vampires than living people some weeks."  He flipped it over and wiped the other side, then stood it up and did the handle, wrapping the towel around it and putting it back across his lap, the edge resting on the edge of the witness stand's rail.  "I went out between two and five times a week for eight years."

"Oh."  The prosecutor looked at the judge, then coughed and moved on.  "All right, you knew about the first incarnation of the Initiative?"

"I did.  At first it was commandoes running around town, as I said earlier.  Then it came to Miss Summer's attention that she was dating one and our group came to their attention. It led to much hostility, especially since we had given refuge to Spike when he escaped."

"Who?" the defense attorney asked.

"They called him Hostile Seventeen.  His proper name was William the Bloody or Spike, he was a vampire master and child of Angelus. I mentioned him earlier."  He looked at the prosecutor again.  "Things came to a head when a friend of ours was captured. We went in to retrieve him."

"Why?  You broke into a government facility...."

"Yeah, to save a life," he said, staring him down.  "The government I vote for doesn't torture people just because they turn furry three days a month.  If yours does, I wanna move."  The man looked horrified.  "Considering when we got there, they were torturing him by electroshock treatments on pieces of skin that had the top ten or so layers removed, I'd call that torture.  If you don't, then I worry about your mental state.  Yes, I got them in.  I got them out.  I fired at a few of them for being that fucking arrogant as to torture children and people who were born different.  It's not like some of them asked to be born purple and pussey."  The judge flinched at that.  "They were harming innocent beings, not things that hunted.  They had some of those and they used them to test the limits of the harmless things.  And let's not mention the coeds who were used to test them too, which made some innocent *children* kill.  Let's not mention that Walsh, who was over it at first, was building her own monster out of parts of soldiers and demons.  Or that she was implanting chips in the soldiers and trying to enhance them as well. So yes, we broke in.  The second time we broke in it was to fight the monster Walsh had made.  Don't think we took this lightly, we didn't.  We all had nightmares about what we had to do each and every time we slept.  I still have nightmares of trying to get Oz out of there before they killed him for the crime of being bitten by his nephew, who was two."  The man shuddered. "So, yeah, we kicked their ass and should've held a bonfire."

"Okay," he said.  "Um, your honor, can we give him a chance to calm down?"

"I am calm," Xander snarled.  The man just backed up further.  "And we still have video proof."

"How was the proof obtained?" the judge asked.

"Hackers. It's not like the Pentagon's going to *hand* it to us."  She nodded at that. "We had multiple DVD's of proof of what the first group did.  Tests they ran, tortures they did, forcing creatures to hunt each other for fun and watching what they could do.  Drugging them into frenzies and letting them loose on people."  She shuddered at that.  "Agent Gibbs handed that over to him."

"It's in evidence.  It will be viewed so you can explain what some of those things are."

"Fine," he agreed.  "I can do that.  Can I have a soda?"  She nodded.  "Thank you."

"We're going to take a ten minute recess so he can get that and we can all have a bathroom break," she announced, banging her gavel.  "Can someone else hold the sword?  I don't want you to use it."

He looked at it, then at her.  "Sure. It won't save 'em but sure."  He shrugged and got up, going to hand Tony his sword and take the soda Gibbs had for him.  "Thanks, Boss.  We're doing the tapes," he complained, heading back inside.  Halfway through this version of torture, he came to a sudden realization and smiled. "Sorry, an epiphany about a problem I've recently encountered."  He shook himself free and went back to what he knew.  And then into the second version of the Initiative and how he knew they were reformed.


Xander snuck into the morgue, looking around before going into the office.  "Ducky."  He jumped and looked at him.  "We gotta talk."

"Are you injured again, Xander?"

"No, but you're having moments where you're losing time."   He sat on the edge of the desk to look at him.  "And I know you're worried that you're turning into your mother, but I don't think that's it.  This doesn't follow alzheimers or dementia, Ducky.  This is brain tumor."  He saw the swallow. "Joyce had one.  It came on suddenly. She died a few weeks after the surgery of a blood clot."  He nodded.  "And I'm not letting it happen this time.  We need to get you checked."

"I hadn't even realized...."

Xander popped him on the head like Gibbs did to him, grinning at him.  "You faded out on the phone with me. I had to threaten you with Gibbs to get you back."

"Yes, well, Jethro being used as a threat has been known to bring people out of comas as well," he said dryly.  "He scared poor Anthony enough when he had the plague that he couldn't die."

"Good.  And now I'm going to use him again.  We're going to the hospital of your choice.  We're going to get you checked out quietly. Because I'm not so sure this isn't whatever they gave us when they had us."  He looked stunned.  "I don't remember you having any of these before then.  Do you?"  He shook his head and slumped down.  "So let's go.  I'm driving so you don't fade while we're heading.  Bethesda had us during that. You wanna go there?"

"There's a few very good neurologists there," he agreed, getting up to get his coat and hat.  "We must do this quietly."

"Of course."  He grinned.  "I've finally got my ID.  Not my badge, but my ID."  He grinned and took the keys, walking him out to his car.  He liked Ducky's old car.  It was cute.  Underpowered of engine, but cute.  He drove them off.  "You know, Ducky, it's a young man's role in life to make his momma happy."

"I do try," he agreed dryly, smirking at him.  "What did she want to know when you came over?"

"When you and Dawn were becoming official."

"She's nearly eighteen!" he said, sounding scandalized.

Xander stopped at a red light and looked at him.  "Ducky, Dawn's no more eighteen than I am.  I think it's time she told you why.  It'll ease some of those fears you have."  He turned the corner.  "That place, right?" he asked, pointing at the hospital.

"Yes, that's Bethesda," he agreed sadly.  "Are you sure...."

"Ducky.  Talk with Dawn tonight when you get home.  If there's something wrong, I'll tell everyone after you two talk.  That'll give them time to get there.  Then we'll talk about whatever's going on.  First, let's just make sure I'm right."  He parked the sedan in the doctor's only parking lot, nodding at the guard then at Ducky, getting a nod in return.  He got out and walked around to let Ducky out.  "Two minutes.  Or else I'm coming back."  He walked inside, smiling at the nurse behind the reception desk and pulling his ID that he had finally gotten earlier that day.  "Hi," he said quietly.  "Special Agent Harris, NCIS," he said, leaning down.  "I have Doctor Mallard with me and I think he's having a complication to a drugging he took a few months back.  He wants this kept absolutely quiet though.  We're not sure they're not still around."  She nodded and went to get someone for him and he straightened up, nodding politely at the nurse she brought back.  "Harris, NCIS," he said quietly.  "Doctor Mallard is outside."  She nodded.  "You heard he was in here after being drugged, right?"  She nodded again.  "He's having a few...issues after that and I'm not so sure it's not related back.  Things like bad headaches.  But I can't be sure they're not still around."

"Bring him in, we'll take him right to a room," she agreed.

Xander nodded and smiled. "Thank you."  He jogged out, finding Ducky spaced again. "Ducky."  He patted him on the face, bringing him back.  "C'mon.  As far as anyone knows, you're visiting."  He nodded and got out, letting Xander lock the car up.  He walked inside like a proper bodyguard/escort.  The nurse smiled at him and he shrugged.  "He's my favorite uncle-sorta guy."

"The patient is this way, Doctor Mallard," she said, leading him that way.  She led them into a room and watched as Xander helped him sit, then took his hat and coat.  "What seems to be the problem, Doctor Mallard?  He said it may be related back to your drugging?"

"He's had time lapses," Xander said quietly. "He just had one out there."  She nodded, making notes on the new chart she had grabbed.  He looked at Ducky, then patted him on the face again.  "Hey, back again?" he asked.

"Oh, dear, not again," he sighed.  "How did I get in here?"

"You're visiting a patient," the nurse assured him. "As you have many times."  He gave her a gentle smile.  "I need to get our neuro person down to go any further than a vital's check.  I do hope that it's not what your mother has, Doctor Mallard.  You're one of the nicer guys and you keep Gibbs from growling at us too often when he's here.  Let me do your vitals and then I'll get him, all right?"

"Please.  Is Scott on?"

"I can have him paged specially for you.  Chris is on tonight," she admitted.

"No, he'll do splendidly, Melody, thank you," he said tiredly.  "I've had some tremendous headaches as well, near the back of my head."  She nodded and took that down.  "Xander forced me to come today or else I would've kept ignoring it."

"And spaced out behind the wheel on the way to a body and then I'd have to hold Gibbs sanity for a bit," Xander said quietly.  "Not happening, Ducky, absolutely not happening."  He sat beside him and worked on his shoulders to keep him calm.  The nurse smiled and he shrugged. "Like I said, he's my favorite uncle sorta guy."

"You are the most adoring child," Ducky agreed, patting his hands.  "That's enough."  He let him go.  "You can go wait outside."

"Fat chance.  You need a hand holder.  I would too."  Ducky gave him a reassuring smile so he pinched him. "Behave or I'm telling Dawn."

"If this is like what her mother had...."

"You're going to be so fussed over and I'm going to be over every day to check on you," he agreed dryly.  "Which I will be anyway."  The nurse finished checking his blood pressure with a laugh and walked out.  "If you really want me to, I will."

"No, I'd rather not be alone.  Just in case."

"Ducky, you're not your mom."

"There's every evidence it's genetic."

"And there's plenty it's not and they're probably going to be looking for that too."  He nodded, relaxing again.  "Want me to call Dawn and tell her you're working late?"

"Please."  Xander went to use the room's phone.  "Dial 8."

"I remember."  He dialed Ducky's home number "Dawn, me.  No, Ducky had to stop in and see a patient so he's gonna be a few hours late.  No, an old golfing buddy," he admitted.  "No, they're going to chat.  Nope, I'll drive him.  Because I'm stressed.  We had to go over the Initiative tapes today.  Thanks."  He hung up and looked at him. "Okay."  The door opened and the doctor walked in, earing a cautious nod from him.  "Ducky?"

"No, stay, Xander."  He waited until the door was fully closed.  "I've been lapsing time, Christopher," he said quietly. "Plus I've had some very severe headaches."

"Sure, let me check what I can and then I'll send you right upstairs. I had your chart pulled from the drugging so we can contrast and see what we know about that serum.  Do you know the other victim we had?"  Xander raised his hand.  "Any time lapses or anything?"

"No, not yet. We're not sure how far or how much I got given.  Someone rescued me but he was fully out of it when we found him.  They sedated me and had barely stuck an IV when I got rescued."

"All right.  Well, let's see what's going on with him first.  Then we'll see if we need to check on you."

"Oh, Xander, I hadn't even thought.  If this is related," he said, his voice slurring a bit.

"I've noticed that on and off too," Xander told him quietly.  "I had a friend's mother who had a small tumor and she went through this, that's why I made him come in."

"It's the right thing to do," he agreed.  He finished checking his eyes.  "You're not showing any signs this way but I want to do an MRI and a CT, Ducky.  Can we?  Do you have time?"

"I'm not on call tonight," he agreed. "You have all the time you need."  That got a nod and a smile.  "I do ask that you keep it quiet before word gets back to Jethro and he has to worry."

"Not a problem. It's a routine check after that drugging.  It's about time you had one anyway," he noted dryly. That got a smile.  He wrote the order and went to get a nurse to send them up.  "I won't put a wristband on you," he said, handing him one.  "Carry it instead.  You can walk this time as long as your puppy goes with you," he said, looking at Xander.

"I'm not moving that far away.  Even if I didn't like him, Gibbs would kill my ass."

"True," he agreed happily.  "Do you know where the scanners are, Ducky?"  That got a nod.  "Then head up there. Pretend he's the patient if you must."  Xander nodded.  "Come back to this room when you're done."  He left them alone.

Xander helped Ducky up, earning a smile.  "Less energy used today and I'm too damn full of it."  He walked him up there, letting the nurse come over to look at their ID band.  She had a word with someone and the rooms were cleared of everyone but a single technician and Xander.


Xander walked Ducky into his house and looked at Dawn.  "Okay, truth," he said, seeing her frown.  "Go get the book and explain that to him," he ordered. She looked confused and he stared her down.  "Dawn.  The Book.  Now's the time for *that* talk that you've been *wanting*."  She looked stunned and then blushed, heading up the stairs.  He walked Ducky into the living room and put him in the chair.  "Mrs. Mallard?"  She smiled at him. "Hi.  It's Xander.  Do you remember me?"  She nodded and closed her book.  "Mrs. Mallard, Ducky's a bit ill.  He's home tonight and then he's got to go for a bit of surgery tomorrow," he said, sitting beside her.  "So you're going to have Dawn with you and I'm going to make sure you're okay for Ducky while he's sick."

"It's his head, isn't it?  I've noticed he's becoming like me."

Xander nodded.  "It is, but it's a different reason.  You see, Ducky was attacked a few months back.  When he was in the hospital then?"  She nodded, patting his hand.  "Well, they gave him some drugs and it caused a bit of brain swelling.  They need to go in there and clip the part that swelled.  They said he'll be perfectly fine.  He'll be back in a few days even, but he's got to have the surgery tomorrow.  Because if he waits it can make his brain stay that way."

"Oh, dear.  So they're going to clip it tomorrow?"  He nodded.  "Dawn'll be here?"

"Yes, Mrs. Mallard.  Dawn's staying.  I'm going to check on you and I'll make sure Dawn's spelled by a nurse through the days."

"Not like I'm going to school," Dawn said as she came back in.  "What's wrong?"

"We think the serum they gave us gave him a small fluid tumor, Dawn.  Nothing at all like Joyce's."  She swallowed and nodded.  "He had a revelation earlier.  That's why I think you two should talk now."  He looked at Mrs. Mallard, smiling at her.  "You like Dawn, right?"

"She's a very pretty green ball."

"Mother," Ducky sighed.

"No, she's right, I am.  I forgot Mom could see me when she was sick," Dawn admitted.  She sat in front of Ducky, on the coffee table.  He scowled and she handed the book, opening it.  "That's me, Ducky."  He looked down and read, then looked at her, stunned.  "They changed me from energy so Buffy could protect me from Glory.  They made me her sister, but I'm not eighteen.  I'm millennia old and that explains why I'm so hyper sometimes."  She gave him a shy smile. "It also kinda explains why what I love isn't what most people would expect."

He let the book fall and looked at her.  "No wonder you seem so old sometimes."  She nodded.  He noticed Xander sneaking out and closing the doors then looked at her again, catching her eyes.  "Me?"

"Always. You listened to me and you talked to me and you taught me things. I always loved you, Ducky.  I told mom that once and she thought it was cute that you were my second crush."  He smiled at that.  "Xander was my first.  It was a bad habit to go for just prettiness.  Now I go for brains and handsomeness."  She leaned forward and kissed him.  "You're not leaving me.  I won't allow it.  Not now that you understand."  He smiled and pulled her closer to hug.

"Ooh, a wedding," Mrs. Mallard said happily, clapping her hands.

"Right before I'm allowed to go back to work, mother.  After I'm out of surgery."

"Of course!  She'll be beside you the whole time and my nurse will be here."  Dawn nodded, agreeing to that.  "You can come back to shower when they kick you out. They did it to me so very often when Ducky was a baby and so sick."

"Oh, they won't be kicking me out," Dawn assured her dryly.  "Xander taught me how to kick ass. The nurses won't be moving me."  Mrs. Mallard giggled at that and hugged them both.  "So I guess I should go make tea for everyone?"  He nodded, patting her on the back.  "In a few minutes.  Let me cuddle first."

"You two are so adorable and I'll have grandbabies some day," she said happily, going back to her book. "When he's home we'll work on the wedding, Dawn."

"Sure.  I'm sure Xander will pay as the father of the bride."  She smiled and kissed him again, earning a smile back.  "How long have you loved me?"

"About four months, since I ran into you in the halls in that fluffy, silly little bathrobe of yours and I noticed that you blushed because of your knees."  She blushed and nodded, snuggling back into his arms.


Xander took the dogs out to pee and called Gibbs.  "Get the team, meet me at Ducky's.  It's important but not a case.  And no, don't kill anyone who stops you."  He hung up and started the herding process, having to carry one dog back inside.  Then he went to get the x-rays to put up in Ducky's office, then he went to sit on the stairs and play ball with the dogs until everyone got there. Gibbs, of course, got there first and he slammed inside.  "Calm down," he ordered, throwing the ball again.  He looked at him. "Do you want the overview or would you like the extended version with everyone else?"

"What the hell is going on, Xander."  Xander nodded so he followed him into Ducky's office, watching him turn on a light board to light a scan.  He moved forward, looking at the circled part.  "That's a tumor," he realized, pulling it down to look at the name.  Xander had to catch him when he started to sit down in midair.  "When?"

"He's been having some time lapses," Xander said, putting it back onto the board and turning it off.  "I drug him to Bethesda today, quietly, and had them check.  I thought it might have something to do with the shit the bitch Sheppard gave us."  He looked at him. "They can't be sure yet," he admitted quietly.  "He goes in tomorrow."  He handed him a letter Ducky had written on the way home.  "He's off for the next month, period."  He smiled at the squeal Dawn let out.  "And they're finally together.  She came clean about her origins."  He heard someone pound on the door and walked out to let Tony in, holding up a hand.  "Office.  Exam room, actually."  Tony opened his mouth and Xander shook his head, going out to retrieve the two dogs, with Abby's help since she and McGee pulled up.  "Inside, the exam room."  She nodded and pulled him in there.  Kate pulled up before he could get the last dog inside, helping him.  Marquez followed and closed the door so he led them back there.

"Okay.  Get comfy, it's gonna hurt."  Everyone stared at him.  "Door."  Kate closed the door.  "Ducky's been having time lapses and memory problems," he announced. "I took him to Bethesda today, doing it quietly so no rumors could come out.  I thought it might be related to the drugging we took.  What it turned out to be was this," he said, flipping back on the light board.  He pointed at it.  "It's the size of a chickpea.  It's a fluid tumor, they're usually benign according to his doctor.  He's going in tomorrow at two-thirty to surgery.  Which means he's got to be there at noon to check in and wait.  He's taking a month off to recuperate."  He swallowed.  "The doctor, who seemed very nice, said that there's less than a five percent chance of complications.  That includes further memory impairment, more slurring of his speech, or an infection.  They're going to go through the back of his neck with the little laproscopic cameras and tools to get it. He'll probably be there for three to five days then he'll be back here.  I've already explained it to his mom while Dawn explained something to him.  And now they're happy."

"Um, happy?" McGee asked.

"Fluffy, remember reading about the Glory stuff and what Dawn *really* is?"  He nodded, smiling.  "She's millennia old and she loves him more than she ever has anything in her existence.  Even her sister.  They're happy."

"Oh.  Good.  Then I'll expect to have to move her out of the way to get hugs when he comes out of surgery," Abby agreed. "Is he going to be okay?"

"He should be fine.  The doctor said he's done these before.  He said it's really low risk.  He said he should be fine and he's going to be carefully monitored.  He said we can all go in with Ducky tomorrow and wait with him and be there when he comes out.  We can come bug him while he's healing.  I'm going to be by at least once a day to check on him and his mother, even if he complains."

"Come here instead of coming in," Gibbs ordered, standing up.  "Is it related?"

"They won't know until they do the second, more intense, higher resolution scan tomorrow right before they go in and definitively with the testing of the fluid.  If so, I may be next."  He stared at him.  "If so, they've got someone looking at the various crap that was in his body at that time to see if they can figure out what it was.  The fastest way would be to get their records.  Which are all sealed at the moment," he finished dryly.  "Their chemist died so we can't go torture him until he talks.  He was the redheaded little bastard who tried to run me off the road that day."  Gibbs nodded.  "So, if you can get it, they'd like it tonight."  Gibbs nodded.  "So, he's going in tomorrow. He said to tell Palmer then, have him come up when he's in his room."  Kate nodded that she could do that.  "Other than that, I don't know what to tell you.  That's what they told me."

"What's the chance you have one?" Kate asked quietly.

"Tony stopped them right after they put the IV in.  So it depends on if it's from what was in that or something else they gave us.  If it was some sort of preparatory solution, then it's possible.  I don't know and they won't until they get to look at the fluid in it."  Tony moved forward and held him, letting him relax.  "Like I said, I told Mrs. Mallard already, Gibbs.  She's agreed that we can get her a nurse while he's gone.  Um, also, they're getting married right before he comes back to work."  Dawn squealed upstairs and someone moaned so he chuckled.  "And she's not one to waste time since her mother died of a brain tumor."

"God, that poor girl," Abby sighed. "We can help with the wedding stuff once he's back home."  McGee and Kate nodded.  "What're we doing tonight?"

"Giving them the night alone," Gibbs said.  "She'll hold him and I'm sure he knows the usual pre-surgical instructions."  Xander nodded.  "Did you give them to her?"  He nodded.  "Put it in her pocket?"

"Yup.  I was going to stay to fuss over his mom for a while."

"She can have a nurse in tonight," Tony said quietly.  "We're going home."

"I need a ride.  I drove Ducky."

"Sure."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "Boss?"

"We're all going to your house because I don't wanna be alone," Abby told him.

Marquez hugged her.  "I'd come but my boyfriend is proposing tonight I think."  She got a round of smiles.  "I'll be there at noon tomorrow, Boss.  Should I tell Amanda?"

"I will tomorrow," Kate agreed.  "Gibbs?"

"I'm going to take that and the letter he wrote to the director.  You get Palmer tomorrow and drag him in."  She nodded and left, Abby dragging McGee out. He made Xander look at him.  "This changes nothing. You're still on the team."  He walked out with the scan.

Xander relax and looked up at his boyfriend. "Home?  Feed me?"

"Of course home and of course I'm feeding you."  He walked him out, smiling at the nurse that was in the living room. "Mrs. Mallard, will you be okay with your nurse?"

"Of course.  My Ducky is calming himself down.  It's about time he had a true lady in his life."  She smiled at Xander.  "Go home."

"I am.  I'll be beside him tomorrow and I'm going to be over checking on him once he's out."  She nodded and he looked at the nurse.  "Don't bother Ducky, he's going in for surgery tomorrow."

"Of course, Agent Harris.  Have a good night."  He nodded and let Tony lead him out.


Gibbs walked into the director's office, tapping gently when he didn't automatically look up.  "You got ten?"

"For you, usually."  He put down his pen and noticed Gibbs shut the door and locked it.  "Assassination attempt?" he joked.

Gibbs put the scan in front of his desk lamp, making him gasp and take it.  "That's Ducky's.  He's going in tomorrow to have it removed."

"I noticed he was slurring the other day but I thought it was dry mouth," he complained, holding it up to look at it.  "How big?"

"Chickpea according to Harris.  He drug him earlier.  He's going to Bethesda.  He goes under at two-thirty."  The director looked at him so he handed him the letter.  "From Ducky.  He needs a month off to fully recover and have his honeymoon apparently."


"He's been in love with Dawn and Harris apparently pointed out she felt the same."  He shrugged.  "He was engaging in stress relief earlier while Harris told us."

"I see."  He looked over the letter, then at him, handing it to him.  "You need to see that."  He got up and got a drink.  "What level of complication?"

"Harris said five percent risk.  Said they're going through his neck with a camera and stuff."  He put it down.  "Xander said they're not sure if it's related but we need to know what they did to them in detail, Tom.  We need to know anything that they have on those drugs.  We also know that their chemist died.  Harris said he's the one who was trying to ram him that one day."  That got another swallow of the scotch.   Gibbs walked over to look out the window.  "I'm worried, Tom."

"So am I.  Are you sure you want Harris to stay?  I mean, his eye was enough to keep him out.  If he's got these little things too, that's more than enough."  Gibbs glare at him.  "I don't want him to drop dead some day soon of stress when it could've been avoided," he told him.  "I like the little geek.  He reminds me of a more fun version of you if you must know."  He added more scotch and sat down again. "Who knows?"

"My team.  We're telling Palmer tomorrow so he can come visit him.  Ducky said so.  I couldn't reach your daughter Amanda.  I'll let you tell her."  He turned to look at him. "He said unless it was something that they gave him before the IV, it shouldn't affect him but if they're fairly certain it's related, they're going to scan him tomorrow. So we need off that stupid trial and I need that information sent to his doctor.  Tonight."

"Agreed.  I'll pull what strings I can.  Did you make him leave Fornell alone?"

"Fornell blundered badly.  He didn't present the warrant for his comparison samples before he took it.  You know those are as close as Harris gets to kids.  Hell, whenever he's upset he hugs his battle axe like a teddy bear."  He grimaced.  "DiNozzo has him well in hand tonight."

"That's the third reason to move him, Jethro."

"If you did, he'd follow us," he said dryly, staring at him.  "The kid will jump in front of a bullet for him but he's keeping it professional in the office, Tom.  If you separate them we'll have sex in the break room, the elevators, the parking garage....."  He trailed off at the laughter.  "Besides, you're right, the kid is like my own kid.  He looks up to me like a father.  He's a lot like me, we think alike.  He's staying mine because no one else would ever put up with him."  That got another tired chuckle. "He'll be fine and I've got a handle on it.  The good news is they didn't find any plaque like they do in his mother's scans.  So he's not heading toward alzheimers, no matter how often he rambles."  That got a nicer smile.  "Plus I think Dawn's going to be a beautiful bride so he's going to start coming in later and going home earlier. His mother wants grandchildren as well."

Tom snorted into his drink.  "Baby Duckys," he said fondly.  "When's the wedding?"

"Right before he comes back.  Ya know, I never expected him to marry.  Ever.  At least not until well after his mother died.  Proved I can be wrong."  He looked at his old friend.  "I'm headed home.  McGee drug Abby home so she could cry on him instead of hug Xander to death.  Xander's probably still trying to figure out how to add more closet space to a townhouse."

"That's easy, you move," he said dryly.  "Tell him Amanda loves his townhouse and would gladly buy it off him at market value.  She wants somewhere less glamorous and more homey."

"Sure.  That way DiNozzo can get the closet space he needs since he's such a shopper.  Oh, you missed it.  They made me buy a new shirt and Abby thought I got married again. She got mad I didn't invite her."

"Well, it is rare that you get new clothes, Jethro.  It almost always includes a wife."  Gibbs muttered something and walked out shaking his head, but he felt better.  The director picked up the phone to call his daughter first.  "I need to see you in the office.  No, personal."  He hung up and started making calls to the US Attorney's office and other people who were less subtle.  Including that nice Orion Project's manager, since he could possibly find out what they had been dosed with his way.


A nurse walked up to where Xander was waiting out on the smoking balcony, touching him on the arm to get his attention and whispering in his ear.  He nodded and walked inside to calm Dawn down again, then he followed her down to the radiology department.  "Where do you need me?" he asked quietly.

"This way, Agent Harris."  She walked him off to a room.  "We need you to remove anything metal on you down to your waist, then shirt and jacket."  He nodded and started on his earrings, putting them on the little tray she had.  She looked at him, seeing the tension.  "You can have someone with you."

"I'll be fine."

"Okay."  She put the tray aside once his shirt and nipple ring were off, then checked his vitals.  "Oooh, we'll have to remove your glass eye."

"I can't."

"Is it fused?"

"No, I *can't*," he repeated.

"I can do it for you."

"He usually has to be sedated or very drunk to let anyone treat it," Tony said from the doorway, coming in.  "Sorry, I'm his."

"That's fine, he can have someone in here.  We can sedate him but then we'd have to put him in a room to recover."

"If you have to have it out, you'll have to do that," Xander agreed. "I don't deal very well with that problem.  Sorry."

"No, you're not the only one.  Let me get you something."  She went to get orders signed for that.

Tony hugged Xander, letting him rest against his chest.  "It'll be fine and I'm volunteering if they need a comparison sample, just in case it wasn't them and it was the hellmouth," he said quietly. Xander looked up at him.  "It makes sense and who said it was due to that?  She was around all of us, she could've drugged us at the office and we wouldn't know."  The nurse came back in and started an IV, injecting the sedative into it.  "I'm right here," he said, catching his eyes as he laid him down.  "I'm right beside you. I'll hold your hand when I can.  I'll be there when you wake up."  Xander nodded, letting himself drift off.  "He comes out quickly."

"We'll be as fast as we can."


Abby looked around.  "Where are Xander and Tony?" she asked Gibbs.

"He's in a room to recover from the sedative," he said, staying quiet. "They had to remove his eye to do the scan."  She looked at him.  "The rest of us may need one too."  He finished his coffee and got up, going to check on Xander.  Tony looked up.  "He still out?"

"Just starting to come around to the moaning stage."  He poked Xander on the side, making him flinch and sit up panting.  "Hey, good nap?"

Xander rubbed his eyes.  "Any news on Ducky?"

"He's in recovery," Gibbs said.  "They think it's related to the pre-IV stuff, Xander."  He looked down and nodded.  "You don't have any growths but the nurse said that you have a few grains of hard spots.  She said they're not sure what they are.  They're going to scan the rest of us too, just in case."  Xander looked at him again.  "So far, those are just to be watched."  He moved closer.  "I didn't think you'd want the doctor to tell you."  He pulled out his pocket knife and sliced off the patient ID bracelet, then put the knife back up.  "Pull the IV and let's go wait with the others.  Abby realized you were gone."

Tony looked at his watch before handing Xander the bandage he had gotten him earlier.  "It's been two hours."

"I know.  She's been staring at McGee and thinking."  He made Xander look at him.  "It's just something to watch, Xander."  He nodded and yanked the IV, handing it to Tony and plugging the hole in his hand.  "Can you walk?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine."  He got up and Tony teased an earring so he checked and looked at him.  "You put 'em back in for me?"

"I had to do something."  He kissed him gently.  "Since I can't do that out there."  He smiled and stole a second one.  "When are the rest of us going in, Boss?"

"Tonight, after we check on Ducky.  You done?"  Tony stole a third one, making Xander smile and then nodded with a smirk.  "Good."  He opened the door and nodded at the nurse, who frowned. "He's a paramedic, he can pull it."

"Fine.  He left the IV in there?"  Tony nodded.  "Closed?"

"Yeah, of course."  He held up the hand.  "He's fine."  He walked him off to the waiting area.  Abby stared at them.  "He's fine."

"Are we sure?"

"I'm sure," Gibbs told her.  "But the rest of us will be scanned."  Kate looked at him.  "It may have been related to something else. Morrow found out she tried to drug us all earlier."  Kate nodded.  "You're excused, Kate."

"Thanks, but I can go," she assured him.  "Just in case.  Xander?"

"Little hard grains of sand looking things," he admitted.  "Something to watch for now."  He sat down and Tony sat beside him. "I'm fine.  Any word on Ducky?"

"He came out fine and we're waiting for him to wake up.  Dawn's in with him," Abby told him.  "When do we go, Gibbs?  In any order?"

"No.  They'll figure that out."  She nodded and clutched Tim's hand. The nurse came out to look at them.  "Can we see Ducky yet?"

"Of course.  His, um, fiance has quit crying on him and kissed him hard enough to raise his blood pressure."  She stepped closer to Gibbs.  "He's marrying her?  She seems...young."

"She is but she understands him and she loves his stories and his mother," Xander said as he stood up.  "Shall we?  Since I have no idea where I'm going."   She nodded and led him that way.  "How many did I have?"

"Twelve visible ones," she said quietly.  "The doctor will be in after he's scanned the rest to talk to you about the next step."  He nodded and she let them into Ducky's room.

"Ducky."  Xander leaned down to kiss him on the forehead.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine, Xander," he said quietly.  "A bit of a headache but I do have a wonderful painkiller in Dawn's kisses."  She kissed him again then went back to holding his hand.  "Any word yet?"

"They're scanning the rest of us shortly, Ducky," Gibbs told him.  "It wasn't the only drugging incident."  He looked upset at that.  "So we'll all be able to tell you that later."

"Good.  I'll wait to hear before going back to sleep."  He looked at Dawn, who was glaring at Xander.  "None of that, Dawn."

"Who went with him when they scanned Xander?"

"I did," Tony assured her.

"Good.  Usually he goes alone and gets upset."

"He needed someone with him because they were sedating him," Gibbs told her. He looked at Xander, then back at Ducky.  "Anything you need right now?"

"No.  Did Mr. Palmer not stay?"

"He ran out gagging on his vomit and went to get drunk," Abby told him.  Everyone stared at her.  "What?  He did!  Xander's not the only one that looks at Ducky like an uncle."  She gave him a careful hug.  "We'll see you after we're all done so Dawn can cuddle you and annoy the nurses by being on the bed.  So we'll be back during visiting hours tonight."  He nodded, smiling at her.  "Okay, someone lead me down there to have the pretty pictures taken of the inside of my head."  Tony and Xander walked her down, the rest following once they had said their goodbyes.  Then Tony led Xander back out to the smoking balcony to talk to him.

"You didn't have to go alone."

"I usually do."

"Yes, but before you didn't have me.  Therefore you will not go alone. I thought I made that clear last night."

"I lost brain mass last night," he said lightly.  Tony tipped his face up.  "I'm not used to having someone there with me."

"Well, now you do.  So get used to it."  He looked over as Gibbs came out first.  "Already done, Boss?"

"No, I'm last."  He looked at Xander, then at Tony.  "I noticed you had to sneak after him."

"I don't think someone like Anya could stand to sit there and wait that way," Tony pointed out.  "Now he knows what a jealous, possessive, clinging lover some of us are so he knows better."  Gibbs smirked at that.  "I am."

"No, that's him, DiNozzo.  You're just the careful, watching, stalking one."  He sipped from his new coffee.  "How many scans?"

"X-Ray, CT, then MRI," he offered.  "Right in a row."

"We can come hold hands if we need to," Xander offered.

"You can't if you don't allow someone to do it for you, kid.  Those are the rules."  He went back inside to see if they were ready for him yet. They had made Abby go right before him so she had time to take off all the jewelry.


The doctor looked at the three men in the room.  "All right.  You three, and Ducky, showed the same growths.  I don't know if it was related to being male or not, though I suspect not since Agent McGee's not in here."

"He didn't go out with us all the time," Xander told him. "How do we find out what this stuff is?"

"There's only one good way, to take one out and figure out what it is.  If so, we can figure out a counter or a cure for the four of you."  He looked at Tony.  "You have the only single one and it's the easiest gotten to," he admitted.  "It's in a bad spot if it starts to explode, and you're the candidate I would chose to remove it from."  Xander opened his mouth.  "Yours are in less accessible spots," he noted.  "As are Agent Gibbs' grains.  Ducky's, well, I nearly had one and it seemed to melt under my lights. We collected the fluid but it was in blood and we can't get a match off it.  So we need one that's not mixed and with the least damage possible.  If we go in for Agent DiNozzo's single one, it'll eliminate the problem completely and we can probably find out what it is."

"How hard would it be?" Tony asked.  Xander glared at him.  "Quit," he warned.

"I told you he was the possessive one," Gibbs joked. "Where are they relative to what skills?"

"Most of yours are in the sight and speech areas.  As are Mr. Harris'.  Most of Ducky's are in memory and sight, which are close to each other.  Mr. DiNozzo's is near the brain stem, which is in a dangerous area to tamper with, but it's near the surface.  I can easily go in through his neck and suck it out with a needle."  Xander opened his mouth again and Tony casually covered it with a hand. "He is right to be worried.  It is still brain surgery," he pointed out.  "I'd be worried if your husband wasn't worried."

"We're not that legal yet," Tony told him.  Xander looked at him.  "You told my mother yet."  He looked at him again, grinning.  "Can we do it tonight?  That way I'm not endangering anyone by having to be off the team longer?"

"I can. I had planned to do one extraction tonight anyway.  Mr. Harris, at your request I did also scan Miss Summers and she was negative, but the chart you had sent to me did show some of the same sort of activity as we saw during your MRI.  I'm not sure whose it was?"

"Miss Summer's mother.  She had a suddenly appearing brain tumor just after the people who drugged Ducky and I were defeated the first time."

"Ah, and you think it could've been related.  Is she all right?"

"No, she died three weeks later, we think of a clot.  Her older daughter found her dead on the couch."

"I see, I'm sorry for your loss."

"So am I, she's about the only mother I had."  He pulled himself back together again.  "Are you sure Tony's is the one to go for?"

"Yes, because if they form tumors, his is in a spot that paralyze his body and he'll die.  Yours and Mr. Gibbs' grains are in different spots and you'd probably live.  Mr. DiNozzo's would stop his breathing fairly quickly."

"Then I'm definitely going for it.  I nearly drowned once, that's enough," Tony told him.  "Will I need a wig?"

"No."  He smiled at him.  "Like earlier I'll be using the small cameras we have and then a needle to collect it. You'll be able to be fussed over all night and possibly check out tomorrow as long as you don't get an infection.  Especially since I'm told your...boyfriend is an EMT?"  Xander nodded. "I heard you pulled your own IV."

"I was taught by an underground doc," Xander admitted. "I can stitch too."  He looked amused at that.  "Organs."  The man blinked and Xander nodded.  "Sorry, but yeah, I can easily take care of him and I'm doing Ducky's checking and after-care."

"Good!" he decided.  "You'll know what to look for in case of an infection and things.  I have no problem with that.  I'll go over his care routine when he goes home."  He smiled at them.  "Are we agreed, gentlemen?  If it something we can cure, you'll be in single rooms during that treatment so we can monitor you.  Probably up in quarantine since it's mostly empty and has the best monitors.  Plus the best security and safety in case they come back.  By the way, our guards stopped a flower bomb to Doctor Mallard earlier. He didn't want you told, Gibbs."  He walked out. Then he came back.  "Mr. DiNozzo.  Get a last kiss and we'll do the blood and prep work now."  He kissed Xander then handed him to Gibbs before following him.  "You are very lucky."

"I am, but he tried to go down to be scanned without me earlier," he admitted dryly.  "He's a bit stubborn."


Xander hopped up when the doctor came out of the operating room area, moving forward.  He held up a hand.  "He's fine," he said firmly.  "He was joking with the nurse, we only used a local."

"So he was flirting with the nurse?" Xander suggested dryly.  The doctor nodded. "You're sure?"

"I'm certain, Mr. Harris."  He looked at the new person to the group.  "And you are?"

"Their director.  What's going on?"

"Your lab tech has taken the notes you had us sent and is... helping our lab personnel.  She's quite certain she thinks she knows what it is by description and made a very long international call from the lab to confer with some specialist over in Israel.  They're testing it against the theory now."  He looked at him.  "If she's right, there's a way to get rid of it."  He looked at his pager then smiled.  "Right on time."  He looked over as Abby led the charge waving a paper.  "I take it you found it?"  She nodded and stood in front of Gibbs, holding it up so he could read it, a determined look on her face.

"Truth serum, an experimental one," he said, taking it.  "Ziva?"  She nodded.  "You okay?"

"I'm going to yell and scream, Gibbs.  Ziva said this is why it's not used."  She handed a copy to the doctor, along with how you dissolve it.  "It's too strong for the human body so it deposits little bits of itself in a semi-solid form around the human body in various soft tissues.  You can have it continuously dilute itself until it's gone.  Using what's in his brain mass as a guide to the rest of the body's contamination, Tony's will take about four hours.  Xander's will take about fifteen.  Gibbs' somewhere around ten.  Ducky's going to be trickier probably with the other stuff but she said it was known to cause small fluid tumors.  It probably won't cause another one but it's not unheard of," she said.  "When they tested this during the late eighties and early nineties, they used about a thousand subjects.  This was Russian made, they had the people to spare.  They also tested it in China.  She said that Chinese subjects showed more tendency to regrow a growth like that and if left long enough a regular tumor formed around it. It was suggested it was related to the diet because they regulated everything else they did and some of the Russian subjects were partially Chinese because they're from that border area."

She looked at Gibbs again, her pigtails swinging hard enough to sting when they hit Xander.  "Since this was found out, it's not very well liked around the world. The only use anyone saw for it was someone that you had to continually interrogate every few months. You can do a slow leach, which is weekly treatments for a few hours, and make sure it's gone, or you can do one big treatment and then a few trial ones to make sure it's really gone.  I suggest the big one just because you'd hate having to come back once a week for the next six months but, in extreme cases, like Xander's, it's almost contraindicated.  No one's sure why," she finished. "I'm guessing they couldn't stand that long on the drugs and the combination of that with the crappy hospitals that can be found in some Soviet era testing facilities.  Plus, hey, they probably didn't pick people in their primes and it's said that the treatment may unbury memories that you wanted to forget in the first place.  So therefore, it's up to the doctor to decide which way to do it but we will be forcefully locking you in a room by yourself and making sure any form of communication and/or recording device is banned.  Just for security reasons," she finished with a grin.  "And I am brilliant."

"You are," Gibbs agreed.  "Thank you, Abby."  He looked at the doctor.  "Can we do it tonight?  I'm not letting this take any more time out of my life and we're supposed to be on- call for a trial."

"I told the judge what was going on," the director noted dryly.  "You have all next week off too since they're putting in a long recess for that and for her to find a way to keep the nausea down because there's ten more DVD's to go through on what they did."

"Don't eat, I find it's the best way yet," Xander offered grimly, looking at the doctor.  "Can we?  Tonight?"

"You can and we'll figure out how to guard you three.  We'll do Ducky's slowly starting in a few days.  That way we don't have to worry about it liquefying and causing an infection.  Let me talk to my supervisor and see what we can work out for security arrangements."

"I'm coming with you," the director said, following him.

Xander sat back down, slumping and holding his head.  "Why is it always me?"

"I don't know, kid," Gibbs admitted, patting him on the back and sitting beside him. "Think you should go cuddle DiNozzo?"

"He said I can't embarrass him in front of the nurses."  He looked at him.  "Recovery?"  Gibbs pointed so he headed that way to give him the bad news.

"Aw, come on, can't I have the IV removed now?  He said I get to go home."

Xander knocked and walked in.  "Belay that thought," he said dryly.  "It's truth serum."  Tony looked horrified so he looked behind him, then shrugged and walked in, closing the door behind him.  "They can slowly seep it out of our bodies but they're figuring out where we're doing it for security reasons and they said it could unbury memories if we have any."  Tony groaned and put his head down.  "So even if she removes it right now, you'll have another one soon.  He's already said we're having separate rooms somewhere together without anything to record or communicate whatever we say."

"Good!  Very good!"  He looked at the nurse and smiled.  "Can I have a few minutes."  She nodded and winked at Xander before leaving.  "I, um...."

"I know you flirted.  You do that."  He sat down and looked at him.  "You hate it when I do it and I feel the same way."

"It's a reflex in some situations."

"And you were stressed, it took your mind off it, I'm not going to care in this case.  It's not like you tried to take a nibble, right?"  Tony shook his head quickly.  Xander looked at him and got a scowl back.  "Good."  He smiled at him.  "We're figuring out where we're going next.  The trial is on recess until next week.  The director's working with the docs on the security arrangements.  Abby went and took over the lab to figure it out and Ziva told her what it was."

"I knew I liked Ziva for some reason," he admitted dryly.  "Where's everyone else?"

"With Ducky.  He's the only one that knows you went under.  Which I'm still not very happy with."  Tony started to moan his name.  "It was dangerous.  Even the doc said that was a dangerous part.  And you didn't let me protest."

"Of course not.  Mine was the easiest."

"Dear, if he had thought about it, two of mine are near some nice skull fractures I had in the past.   That's cartilage.  Much easier than slipping and possibly killing you."

"Xander, quit.  I'm allowed to do this stuff too.  He said mine was easiest."  The doctor came in and he looked at him. "Would you please remind him mine was the easiest?"

"It wasn't.  Had I looked at his x-ray first, I would've gone with him.  He's right, three are just next to former fractures and easy to get at."  Xander nodded.  "That's probably what he was going to tell me.  Then again, it's a boyfriend's job to worry. That's what mine does all the time.  That's also why Dawn refuses to get off Ducky's bed.  They're about ready to sedate her and put her in Ducky's car for the night so he can rest and not be held."

"Sedatives don't work on Dawn.  They make her giggly," Xander warned. "So, where?"

"We have a former outpatient center.  We had to close it due to the budget and we're going to reopen it.  The director is already picking staff for it thanks to the group that did this.  He thinks he's found a few who work here too."  Xander nodded. "Do you know who they are?"

"No but anytime they did a sample, it came through your labs," he offered. "I know their chemist used to."

"Wonderful.  Anyway, you won't have phone, cable, or anything like that.  You will each have you own room.  Agent Todd is going to be the one guarding you three with myself and one other doctor.  We think Mr. DiNozzo and Mr. Gibbs will be done by midmorning but you, Mr. Harris, may have to have a few extra hours."

"Like I said, always me," he noted bitterly. "How many doses did they give me?"

"From the information Miss Scuito gave us, about ten.  Probably over the course of a while."

"You're selling the damn townhouse," Tony decided.  "They couldn't have gotten you any other place."

"Unless they got me while hunting," Xander reminded him.  He looked at the doctor again, wincing at the head smack. "Before you made me stop going alone."  He looked at the doctor again, grimacing a bit.  "Any good news?"

"No caffeine for two days."

"Gibbs is going to kill you," Xander noted dryly.

"He'll be home by then.  It'll make him sick if he has any for those two days."

"Can we tell when it was given?" Tony asked.  He shook his head.  "At all?"

"Not that I'm aware of but if we can I will.  Hunting what?"

"Um, that cult," Xander told him, shrugging a bit.  "Tony, Gibbs, and I hunted them."

"Ah.  No wonder the Initiative came for you three," he noted dryly.  He looked at Xander.  "I suspecting you're their expert?"  That got a nod. "That's fine.  I wasn't there but I heard whispers in the break room.  I'll make sure none of those people get in."

"Works for me," Tony decided.  "When are we being moved?"

"Another hour to make sure you're fine, Mr. DiNozzo.  I can have Mr. Harris moved over there now and started off so he might get done sometime near yours.  And I will tell you right now, Agent Todd will not be allowed near you to talk to you and none of you will be allowed in each other's rooms.  I don't want this to cause a rift and neither does Agent Gibbs.  Xander?"  Xander nodded at Tony and got a smile, following him out. "We're going to lay the IV in the ambulance," he said as they walked. "You'll get the medicine when you get there and be locked in by Agent Todd.  She's wearing a communication device to the director and only the director and he's got it tuned so he can hear if she tries to talk to any of you.  I also have to tell you that you may hallucinate with how much you have. If so, I want you to notify us."

"I can take a car and do the IV."

"Fat chance," he told him, shaking his head.  "You can't do your own IV."

"I have in the past.  I can even put one in my ankle."  That got an odd look.  "Hey, I had to do a drain line once.  It happened and was needed."   The doctor handed him to the paramedics, who got him onto the bed and comfortable.  "Let me take off my shirt, guys.  I'm sure we've got blankets or heat there."  They nodded and the back doors were closed.  He sat up and took off the shirt he was wearing, putting it across his lap and putting out his better arm.  "The line's better on this side."

"A past history with drugs?"

"No, goth friends," he said dryly.  "I had to lay a feeding line once because he refused to eat."  They looked stunned. "It worked, it broke the hunger strike."  They shuddered and he shrugged.  "Go for it.  Unless you want a hand vein?"  They shook their heads and the ambulance pulled away, letting them do what they had to do.


Kate listened to Xander rant at 'Jen Sheppard' and sighed, tapping the mic.  "Director, I need to check his room. He's still on her and the others have switched off."  She listened.  "I know but I can't be sure.  Please? I won't speak to him but still.  Yeah and with what he's saying, I'm damn glad Tony's hallucinating about Fornell. Please."  She nodded and unlocked the door, walking in there and checking around.  Starting with the bathroom.  She even checked the vents because that woman had gotten out once before and they hadn't been notified.  "Director," she whispered.  He gave an order and she nodded.  "Xander, honey, where is Sheppard?" she asked quietly, moving closer.  He pointed and she looked. "There's no one there."  He started to chant something and grabbed his head, but finished it.  A bright light went off and his earrings were exposed, and so was the director. "Shit, it is her.  Freeze!"  That's when the bad pain happened to her head, making her take a nap.

Gibbs came out of his room with his gun.  No one had thought to search them so he had kept his.  He walked up the halls, seeing no one in Tony's room.  He walked in and did a quick search but nothing.  He was babbling about bass fishing with Fornell so he had to be hallucinating.  Gibbs had done a bit of that but he had been plagued by his ex-wives.  Tony was much stronger than he was.  He walked into Xander's room and found Kate unconscious.  Xander clutching his head.  And the window open.  He looked toward the bathroom and didn't see anyone but he knew how Xander concealed his earrings and gun.  He walked over and took off Xander's necklace, putting it on himself.  That's when he saw the guy in the bathroom.  "Freeze, Federal Agents."  The man looked stunned and started to turn away so he shot him in the leg.  He became visible really fast after that.  So did someone else.  He pointed his gun at her.  "Jen."

"Jethro.  You're hallucinating.  That's why you came in here to shoot Harris for me, right?"  She smiled at him.

"Wrong."  She shifted.  "Don't move.  What part of that don't you understand?"  She smirked at him and brushed some hair out of her face.  "Yeah, that'll work.  Kate!"  She moaned.  "Kate!  Up, now!"  She sat up, holding her head. "Backup."

"He said it's on the way," she complained, holding her head.  "What the hell?"

"Magic, Kate.  Like how he hides his earrings at work."  He heard footsteps coming up the hallway and nodded her to check. She didn't come back for a while.

"Jethro, Xander's taken control of your mind," Sheppard said quietly, shifting slightly closer.  "You don't believe in demons or vampires or any of that stuff.  Especially not things like magic.  He's controlling your mind through drugs and I'm here to free you."  She moved a step closer.  "He's the one who's controlling you, not me.  You need to eliminate that so you be rescued.  We can't get you out without him going.  Otherwise he could continue to hurt you and Tony DiNozzo.  Remember him? He's on your team."

"Of course I remember him," he sneered.  "It's not working, Jen.  I don't suggest that easily."  She frowned. "I don't."

"You can."  She lunged and he moved, kicking at the needle in her hand.  She managed to stick him with it, catching him when he wobbled.  "See, Jethro, now it's all better," she told him.  "Come on, get up.  We've got to eliminate the threat before he blows up DiNozzo then we can rescue you both."  She pointed him at the bed.  "See, that's the threat.  He's some sort of super-genius in chemistry.  He's given you drugs, Jethro."

"No he's not."

"Yes, he is.  That's the conditioning he's done.  He's had you for *months*," she told him.  "Come on, we've got to eliminate the target and then we can rescue you and DiNozzo."

Dawn walked in and glared at her.  "I doubt it, bitch.  No one touches my Xander or my Ducky."  Jen smirked at her so she threw something small, harmless, and painful at her, a nice hex she had gotten out of Willow's darker books.  It made her scream and flail.  "Back off.  Jethro, it's Dawnie."  He squeezed his eyes shut.  "If you're still in doubt, just sit in the corner and don't shoot anyone.  Remember, drugs wear off and you've got the gun."  He looked at her and pointed it at her. "You do that and Ducky's gonna be so pissed at you," she said with a smirk.  She moved herself, which disoriented him.  It also got her closer to Sheppard so she could grab her by the hair and knock her head into the wall.  Gibbs turned to face her.

"You can't do that, Gibbs," she said quietly.  "The same as you can't shoot Xander.  Remember him, the kid who's just like you.  Even Morrow says so."  She moved closer.  "Just sit down, Jethro.  I'm not going to take the gun from you.  You can keep it and everything."  She moved a chair over and put it in front of him.  "Sit and wait for your head to clear. That's all I ask.  Let the drugs get out of your system."  Kate finally got free and came in.  "Get her," she ordered, pointing at her.  Kate pointed the gun at her.  "Huh, they got you too.  Fuck."  She took a deep breath and thought for a second, then shook her head.  "I hate to do this.  Director, if you can hear me, it's Dawn. Tony's still locked in.  Gibbs and Kate are under mind control stuff.  They wanted them to shoot the Xander.  I'm doing something Xanderish."  She said a few quiet words and created a fog.

Xander beamed and chanted the counter, as Dawn knew he would.  "Pretty," he said happily, then let his head drop again.  "Pretty colors."

"They are," Dawn agreed, hurrying to his side.  Gibbs had on Xander's usual shield but he still had one.  She retuned the one on his earring and turned it back on, then built the shields around the bed.  Kate tried to shoot it anyway and she sighed because it held.  She summoned the necklace Gibbs wore and let it lay on Xander's bare chest.  "It'll be okay, Xander."  Gibbs got up to check on what was stopping them, laying a hand on it.  "He's slightly resistant."  She upped it in that area and restarted the fog, whispering in Xander's ear.  He hiccuped and chanted the next in the progression she had trained him with.  Sparkles, like the after-effect of fireworks filled the room.  She turned it back into fog quickly, almost strobing the colors, and he giggled, doing the last one, which turned it into something denser.  She relaxed and created barriers between the two people so they couldn't hurt each other.  She kissed Xander's forehead and sat next to him, nodding at the director when he came in. She looked and dissolved the fog but Xander pouted and put it back, more solid this time.  She pinched him and then had to stop him from creating a new one when she dissolved that one.  She gave the director a 'sorry' look and shrugged.  "That's how I trained him."  She snuggled down next to him, getting comfortable to hold the Xander.  Tony yelled her name.  "What?" she called back.

"What the fuck did you do!"

"Saved his life?"  She smiled at the director and pointed at the other bodies.  "Did they escape?"

"Not that we heard.  Men, take Agent Gibbs back to his bed and strap him down.  Take the gun too."  Gibbs tried to fight until he caught his chin and looked at him.  "Stop it, Jethro.  That is an order!"  Gibbs quit but he didn't go docilely.  He rolled his eyes.  "Boys, find Agent Todd a bed as well."  Tony walked in and he flinched at the slammed door.  "You should be in bed."

"Yay.  I can still feel magic."  He looked at Sheppard and went over to punch her, just once.  "That's for doing this to us."  He decided to hit her again.  "And that's for my mate!  Don't touch what's mine!"  She whimpered in her semi-conscious state.  He looked at Xander, then at Dawn.  "I'm telling him you're teleporting around."

"She was going to kill him, Tony.  Bite me."

"You'd enjoy it."

"No, not from you."  She got out of the bed and waved at her spot.  "Yours.  My man needs me.  You take care of yours.  That's why I gave you Xander."  She rolled her eyes and disappeared, going back to the other hospital.  A nurse looked at her as she appeared.  "Long damn day," she complained.

"Visiting hours...."

"I'm Ducky's fiance.  Bet me I know what a visiting hour is."  She walked inside and up to his room, smiling sweetly and climbing back into bed with him.  The nurse came in to scowl and she glared.  The nurse wisely retreated.  So she got her good cuddles for a bit longer.


Gibbs woke up tied to his bed and facing the director. "I thought we were in quarantine."

"You were until you broke it and went after Sheppard since she was torturing Harris," he said, standing up and coming over to release him. "By the way, Dawn won.  You'll get a nice day in the hospital on the same floor as Ducky."  He held him down when he tried to move.  "Before you say a word, she had you under some sort of control drug and she tried to get you to shoot Xander.  You'd better buy the future Mrs. Mallard a *very* nice present, Jethro.  She stopped you.  I couldn't.  Not before you hurt the boy."  Gibbs went limp so he let him go. "All three of you are going to share a room.  DiNozzo didn't fully get to detox because the magic woke him and made him yank his IV out.  Harris is still under. In three hours, I'm going to release you three to Bethesda.  Until then, I'm going to be debriefing Harris. Or trying to.  You can do whatever you want to DiNozzo. Just keep him out."  He walked off, going to interrupt Tony telling Xander how good he was.  "Is it helping?"  Tony nodded. "Good.  Go visit your boss."

"Nope.  And if you try to move me, I'm going to sic Dawn on you."

"I need to know what she told him."  Tony tossed him some paper.  "What's this?"

"I already asked.  They're going to find bits and pieces of her."  Xander giggled and he stroked his cheek.  "How about bits and pieces of ice cream for dinner?" he asked quietly.  Xander blinked and nodded, smiling at him.  "You better now?"

"I thought we were supposed to be kept separate," he said in a sleepy, confused sounding voice.

"We are, but I couldn't wait."  He stole a kiss.  "You know you're the most special guy, right?  No one else can do what you can."

"That's not fair to him, DiNozzo."

"I answered anything he asked, he did the same.  He agreed," he said firmly.  "Butt out.  Oh, and figure out where we're moving."  The director moved backward.  "Xander," he said, earning a smile and giving one back because you just had to smile when he gave you that look.  "You know Amanda wants our townhouse enough to buy it for a whole lot, right?"  Xander pouted. "This way we could get somewhere with a *big* bathtub.  One with the nice spots to hitch things to." Xander sighed and pouted worse.  "I know, but you've been broken into and this way, we could have a full lab just for Abby and Fluffy.  I know there's a really nice one up the street."

"Giles bought me that one."

"I know, but this way you can have a place to workout with window and no neighbors looking in.  The Piedmonts are moving."  Xander whimpered.  He whispered in his ear, getting a moan instead.  "You like that idea?"  Xander nodded.  "Then let's see what I can do, okay?  That way it'll be *our* house, not Giles' and Wes's house."  Xander kissed him, making him smile again.  "I love you too."

"Me too."  He pulled him closer to snuggle, then seemed to realize someone else was in there.  "Hi, Director."

"Xander.  I'll have Amanda over later to talk to you about the terms for buying your old townhouse."  That got a smile.  He considered it.  "There's a great place down on Rio, which is about two blocks from you."

"I like my neighbors."

"Okay, we'll see what I can find in that neighborhood then.  Big bathroom?" he asked Tony.

"Walk in closet.  Library/study area.  Training area, lab.  Good kitchen."  He grinned at him. "Thank you, director."  He was still glaring at him with his eyes.

"Anything for my best team and to keep my daughter happy."  He walked out and shut the door, going back to Gibbs' room to sit and read the statement Tony had taken.  "He's very possessive."

"I would be too if the kid was mine," he admitted dryly.  "Coffee?"

"In two days."

"Excuse me?"

"Two days.  Or else you'll be sick and have to go through this again.  They'll give you something to take the edge off when we transfer you back."  He went back to reading.  "Tony just convinced him that he's moving."

"Good.  Tell him to look at the one across the street, the one with the green shutters.  It has potential."  He yawned. "Is he down?"

"No, DiNozzo's doing some self-esteem building."  He handed the statement over, watching the expressive face.  Gibbs slumped again and handed it back.  "You owe her a very nice present for the wedding."

"A boat?"

"I don't think she needs a boat."  He stood up.  "Both the doctors were knocked out and I'm already working on who got them out.  Tobias Fornell is livid that this happened among his people. He hit someone."  He walked out smirking.

"Good.  I hope he saved some for me," he said bitterly.  He got up and went to talk to the kid, ignoring the person trying to get in his way.  He knocked then walked in.  "Hey."

"We're fine, Boss."

"You were under the big meany's spell," Xander said, holding out a hand. "You wouldn't have shot me."

"Yeah, I wouldn't have shot you, kid."  He walked over to check him over.  "You close to being done?  They've promised me something to take away the urge for coffee for the two days we can't have caffeine."

"Boss, have we forgotten what a Xander without caffeine is like?" Tony asked.

"It'll make him violently ill."

"Oh, man."  He sighed and looked at Xander.  "Hopefully everything'll be moved for us."

"Your stuff too?" Xander asked, beaming at him.

"My stuff too but I want a room I can retreat to."

"The one with the addition on the back," Gibbs told him.  "Isn't it up for sale?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "Look at it."

"Thanks, Boss."  He grinned at him.  "Is the director okay?"

"Fine.  So far.  What do you get someone like Dawn and Ducky as a wedding present?"

"I'm working on a swing," Xander told him.  "You can help."

"I can do that," he agreed.  "He could use some for the garden."  He patted him on the head.  "Good idea, kid."  He headed back to his room, he could hear Kate's voice complaining he had snuck away already.


Xander looked at the building then at Tony, who shrugged.  "Are we sure this is the right spot?  It doesn't look like a townhouse."

"I guess it is."  He walked up to the front door to check, finding both their names on the box.   He punched in the code he had been given and the door opened, letting them into the foyer.  In front of them was a hallway with a few doors off it and a staircase to their left.  "Wow."  He walked them into the living room, which was *huge*.  Three times the size of the old one.  It had another door out of it even.  All his electronics and toys were there in front of his couch, and the other tv was on the other end of the room and had its own couch.  They walked down the hallway, finding the laundry room and the kitchen.  Xander looked in everything, finding it fully stocked.  "The pantry fairy arrived," Tony said happily.  They had a very tiny back yard but that was fine with them.  No mowing needed. They found the basement stairs and it was carpeted and finished.  All the computers and the lab stuff were down there. It was set up more like Abby's lab at work and there were a few suspicious boxes down there with Abby's name on it.

They went back and headed up the stairs, going to look at the second floor. Xander's training area, office, and altar were up here, along with the library and study across the hall from them. Xander squealed at the hardwood floors in his training area and the bookshelves already filled in the library, plus an empty set of shelves.  They went up to the bedroom area, finding one huge master bedroom.  Whoever had renovated this had more clothes than anyone they knew.  Each of them had their own dressing area, with mirrors and a vanity.  Their extra closets were all in Tony's section.  The bed was new and was the old metal type that were so good to tie handcuffs to.  They also had a two chair area to read at and a small loveseat to cuddle and watch tv on.  The bathroom had a shower and a nice, big tub with steps up to it.  It was deep enough to cover Tony fully when he sat down and you could see a few discreet rings in the walls.  The toilet had its own little alcove with an oriental screen between it and the shower.

"Wow," Xander said finally, going out to bounce on the bed.  "We need a new mattress, Tony."

"That's fine."  He walked out and went to kiss him.  "How did we get this place?"

"We traded evenly with Amanda.  She liked mine better and her daddy bought her this one when she moved back."  He stole another kiss with a smile.  "Can you see anything else we need?"

"A mini-fridge for snacks in the living room," he offered with a smile.  "Are you happy?"

"Are you?  You have your own closet," he said with a grin and a pinch to the nipple.  "If you need a night off, you can sleep in the study or the living room."

"I can," he agreed, taking a kiss, pushing Xander back onto the bed to enjoy him.  "You're right, we need a better mattress set."  He shrugged and stole another kiss.  "That means I can break this one tonight by making you bounce and squeal."  Xander giggled and flipped him over, making him grin at him.  "Or you can do it to me."

"DiNozzo, we need a map," Gibbs yelled up the stairs.

"Busy, Boss."  He went back to kissing his mate. "You know we're only two blocks from the old place."

"Yup and we've got to pick up the weapons too."

"They're under the stairs."  He stole another kiss, working on Xander's shirt buttons.  "Have I mentioned I hate this shirt."

"You love me in this shirt."  He took it off and flung it behind him then got back to teasing him. Tony shifted but let him do anything he wanted. That's why they were both surprised when Kate and Abby came in to surprise and hug them and then had to back out and run squealing in the other direction.

"Gay boy sex!" Abby complained, hiding her face in Gibb's chest.  "Xander's really big and hangy and he likes Tony all the way down.  I need a new mental image."

He pushed her off and went to get a beer.

"Tim," she pleaded.  He kissed her and led her down to the work area, making her find something new to show him how to do. It usually worked.

Kate pouted.  "I don't have one of those."  She went to find Gibbs in the kitchen.  "They're downstairs."

"Good, they can keep the noise down there."  He went back to the living room and turned on the bigger tv to find something to take his mind off that picture. She came in and sat beside him so he looked at her.  "You'll find your own Xander some day."

"God I hope not.  I couldn't keep up with him," she said dryly.

He laughed and nodded.  "When it's yours, you'll be able to.  The same as I will."  He took another drink.  "They need a mini-fridge in here for snacks for the good games."

"I'm sure Tony will talk him into it."  Someone upstairs yelped Xander's name and she giggled.  "Poor Tony.  But at least he's got his own personal Xander."

"Yeah, and the rest of us have to see it," Gibbs said dryly.  She smacked him on the arm and he smirked at her.  "Happy to be back?"

"Hell yes.  It's much more fun to annoy Tony than to watch him top Xander."  He almost blushed and she smirked at him.  "Hey, I got bored."

"Some day, you'll get your own Xander and I'll remind you of this moment."  He went back to watching the game.  The others could find them when they were done.

The End.